“To be present is to awaken into that dimension of your self and that dimension of life which is transcendent of the thinking mind. You are silent and you are fully present with what is actually here now. If you are fully present, there is no moment other than this moment. That is what it means to be awake in the truth of life. You are so fully present that you exist in this moment, and only in this moment. You are awake in the eternal now.” – Leonard Jacobson
Leonard Jacobson, founder of The Conscious Living Foundation, has been guiding people on the path of conscious awakening for more than 20 years. He is author of Bridging Heaven & Earth, Embracing the Present, Words from Silence, and Journey Into Now. The native Australian is a modern mystic who holds the energy of Presence for all those who attend his seminars and teachings.
Leonard will appear in Minneapolis for the first time on Friday, July 31, speaking at 7:30 p.m. at Old Arizona.
Eighteen months ago, The Edge spoke with the author and speaker about his book, Journey Into Now, and he revealed much about the soul’s journey. He emphasized that every human on the planet is “awake,” that each of us has an awakened dimension within us, but the challenge is liberating ourselves from control by the mind and ego. He cautioned that no one can understand awakening with the mind, by using words to describe a specific way to enlightenment.
“To be awake,” he said, “is as simple as being fully present in the moment of now. If you’re fully present with something that’s actually here in the moment with you, your mind will fall silent, thoughts will stop, and you’ll be awake in the truth of life. You’ll be fully here, now. And that is always instant and immediate. There’s no practice, there’s no delay, there’s no gap.”
Jacobson, on a speaking tour through Europe, was interviewed by email while in Copenhagen about his forthcoming visit to Minnesota, sponsored by the creators of the first Twin Cities Awakening Conference, an event that was considered a success for organizers in late May.
We hear of living in the present moment a lot today. How is simply being present in the moment different than awakening?
Leonard Jacobson: If you are fully present in this moment, you are an awakened being, but it does not last beyond this moment. When we speak of awakening, it refers to that state of consciousness where you are fundamentally established in the present moment. A shift has occurred so that prior to awakening you experienced life from within the mind, whereas after awakening you experience life primarily from presence.
How does one become grounded in the reality of the present moment?
Leonard: To become grounded in the reality of the present moment requires two steps. First you learn the art of being present, and then you bring consciousness to all of the ways you are involuntarily pulled out of presence. What are the obstacles to Presence? This second step leads to mastery of the mind and ego. When you arise in mastery of the mind and ego, you can remain grounded in Presence even when you are using your mind and participating in the world of time.
It seems so many people want the formula or steps or system that will awaken them. Does the answer relate more to personal intent and attention, as opposed to “doing” something? For those who seek a more conscious way of being, can you recommend the first steps?
Leonard: We are all so deeply habituated to thinking that it is very difficult to find our way to silence. Thinking is a deep addiction within human existence. Because it is such an addiction, it requires a strong commitment and intention to be present if you are to free yourself from the habit of thinking.
I teach a way of freeing yourself from the mind in a way that brings you instantly into presence. It is as simple as bringing yourself present with something that is already here in the moment with you. If you can see it, hear it, feel it, taste it, touch it, or smell it, in this moment, then you can be present with it. And the moment you are truly present with something that is here in the moment with you, your thoughts will stop and your mind will fall silent. This is not a practice or something you do. It is not even meditation. It is a gentle remembering to be here rather than not here, and you are not here when you are lost in the past and future world of the mind. The gentle remembering that I am speaking of needs to be supported by a deep intention to be present, moment to moment.
What is the greatest hurdle for people who are seeking to awaken and live a more present and conscious life?
Leonard: The greatest hurdle that we must overcome is the resistance of the ego. The ego is more than happy for you to pursue enlightenment and engage in all sorts of spiritual practice. But if you suddenly find yourself at the doorway to true awakening, which is the present moment, the ego will immediately resist.
The reason for this is that when you are present, thoughts stop and your mind falls silent. But the ego exists within a framework of thought. It exists within the past and future world of the mind. When thoughts stop, it feels to the ego like it is dying or disappearing, and so it resists any movement into presence. It wants you to continue seeking. It wants you in the past or future, where it is in control and it is extremely skilled at pulling you out of the present moment.
If you are to awaken, you will have to recognize what the ego is, what is its role and purpose, how it functions, and how to overcome its resistance.
During the process of awakening, many people end up making the mind their enemy. What relationship do you have with the mind, and how does one garner that relationship?
Leonard: If you make the mind your enemy, you will never awaken. If you try to stop thoughts, thoughts will continue. If you try to defeat the ego, the ego will triumph. The only kind of relationship with your mind and ego that will lead to awakening is a relationship of love, acceptance, compassion and allowing. And this kind of relationship is only possible from Presence.
Another trend today is an emphasis on emotional intelligence. How do you suggest that people get in touch with their feelings, and how does this relate to the awakening process?
Leonard: The remarkable thing about Presence is that as you become more present, it tends to bring up all that is unhealed and unresolved within you. Most people have feelings from the past repressed within them including the feelings of anger, hurt, sadness, unmet needs and fear. To the extent that these feelings are repressed within you, you cannot be fundamentally present, for the simple reason that these feelings are constantly being triggered by people and events in your life. When the feelings are triggered, you are no longer present. You are caught in a painful past and projecting that past onto the present moment.
As a part of the awakening process, it is essential to allow these repressed feelings to surface into conscious and responsible expression. Whenever feelings are triggered, just be present and pay attention. Allow the feelings full and conscious and responsible expression. Gradually you will empty out those reservoirs of repressed emotion. You will release the past from you and you from the past, which will make you much more available to the present moment.
What is your perception of public interest now in what you have to share?
Leonard: There is a growing interest and awareness in the value of being present. Many have become aware of this through the widespread popularity of Eckhart Tolle’s teachings. To become interested in being present is an essential first step in awakening, but to complete this journey of awakening, you must encounter yourself at every level. You must learn the art of being present. But you are not completely free until you arise in mastery of your mind and ego.
Being present is always instant. You cannot practice your way into Presence. You can only be present now. But arising in mastery of the mind and ego is a process that unfolds over time.
What are the most common questions you get and how do you answer them?
Leonard: The most common questions have to do with how to be present and how to overcome the obstacles to remaining present as you live your life.
I teach a simple two-step approach to awakening. The first step leads to Presence, the second to mastery of the mind and ego. These two steps are interdependent. As you become more present, it enables you to bring consciousness to all of the ways that you are pulled out of presence. This leads to mastery. As you arise in mastery, you deepen into presence, until one day you are completely free. You are fundamentally present, and you are no longer involuntarily pulled out of the present moment. You are no longer a prisoner within your mind.
I also receive questions about the true purpose of our existence. My response is always the same. The true purpose in being here is to be here. I also speak about the origins of our existence and how we become lost and how to find our way home.
When you come to the Twin Cities at the end of July, what will you present? What would you like participants to do in preparation for the event?
Leonard: Anyone attending this event will have a direct experience of the awakened state of Presence. I will also offer clear guidance – not only on how to be present, but also on how to remain present as we live our lives, go to work and participate in our relationships. Many people have the experience of “coming home” when attending one of my events.
By way of preparation, I suggest that people begin to pay attention to the emotional patterns and reactions that have been with them since childhood and the limiting beliefs that have adversely affected their enjoyment of life. Start paying attention to how the mind works and how thoughts lead them out of the present moment.
What is your feeling about “working on yourself” through self-inquiry versus a more extreme spectrum of Advaita Vedanta. For example, a participant at the recent Twin Cities Awakening Conference mentioned that she was very much into Advaita and was just waiting for the 100th monkey syndrome to kick in so that she would wake up. Conference leaders suggested that the idea that there’s no self to awaken becomes an “excuse” for people to keep their inertia and conditioning in place, and they don’t ever seem to move towards awakening. They don’t get the sense that there is actually something they can commit themselves to or look at to wake themselves up. Your response?
Leonard: If we are to awaken collectively, we must first awaken individually, and to awaken individually is to encounter your self at every level. To dismiss everything as illusory in nature is unhelpful, even though ultimately it might prove to be true.
If you are to free yourself from illusion you must bring the illusion into full consciousness. You must reveal it, own it, acknowledge it and confess it with love, acceptance and compassion. You must accept responsibility for every aspect of the illusion that you are lost in. Only then will it dissolve and reveal your true nature and the true nature of existence.
You use the term “God” often in your book. Can you speak to your definition of “God” and how “God” is relevant to the awakening process?
Leonard: When I speak of God, I am speaking as a mystic. For me, God is the silent Presence at the very heart of all things present. God exists at the very heart of silence within each one of us. God is eternal silent presence. God is eternal Is-ness. God is the present moment revealed. God is real. God is here now, but we are not. We have separated ourselves from God and truth and love by going too far into the past and future world of the mind. We have disconnected from the present moment.
If we want to experience the living presence of God, we will have to come to where God is. We will have to become fully present. To know God with the mind is to believe in God and to believe in God is to create God in our image. It is all an illusion. If we surrender our belief in God, and become fully present, we will begin to feel the living Presence of God in all things present. That is what is meant by “Omnipresence!”
How do you truly know if you have awakened?
Leonard: You know that you have awakened when you are able to be present at will. The true test of awakening is very simple. You are present and your mind is utterly silent. There are no thoughts and you experience a subtle sense of oneness with whatever is here with you. Sometimes it is extraordinary and sometimes it is ordinary. There is an overwhelming sense of peace and well-being and a deep sense of acceptance of the moment as it is.
Leonard Jacobson will present “Embracing the Present: Living an Awakened Life” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 31, at Old Arizona Studio, 2821 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis.Â Donation is $15. For more information, call 651.330.5658.