Leonard Jacobson moves in accord with the flow of life, with the movement of energy in relation to the work he does. By profession, he is a teacher, and an author. For the past 25 years, he has been helping others break through to the joyous experience of living in the now. He teaches how to become fundamentally present and how to arise in mastery of your mind and ego, so that you are no longer involuntarily pulled out of Presence.
Leonard teaches that the fully awakened state of consciousness is available now. It is not something that occurs in the future. It is not something that we can arrive at through spiritual practice. It is already here, waiting to be revealed. As you awaken into the present moment, your thoughts will stop, your mind will fall silent, and you will awaken to an inner silence and peace that is beyond understanding. You will begin to encounter what the mystics and masters have been speaking of for centuries.
One of the most significant aspects of Leonard’s teaching is his unique insight into the nature of the mind and ego. Leonard teaches us how to come into right relationship with the ego in a way that helps the ego to relax, and he teaches us how to integrate awakened consciousness into everyday life and relationships. He is the author of four books, Words from Silence, Embracing the Present, Bridging Heaven & Earth and his latest book, Journey into Now.
Leonard, a native of Australia, arrived in America 14 years ago, and he’s lived his life responding to invitations. The latest came from a group of Minnesotans anxious to learn as much as they can from him about mastering the art of spiritual awakening. Thus, he is relocating from Santa Cruz, CA, where he has been rooted for the past nine years, and settling in to the Twin Cities. He will base his teachings from Lake Harriet Spiritual Community in South Minneapolis.
“I was first invited to New York to run a workshop,” he said in a phone interview with The Edge. “It was my first event in the United States and it was so successful that I began to receive invitations from all over the country. I moved from New York to Massachusetts, then to Maine, Michigan and Sedona, AZ. I stayed in each place for several months, and eventually settled in Santa Cruz. My teaching was very well received there and I attracted a large number of students who I have grown very fond of. It has been a very rewarding time as I have watched so many heal and grow and awaken.
“Of course, I love California and the weather. However we recently presented a number of events in Minneapolis and there was such a positive response that it became apparent to me that many people in the Twin Cities are interested in awakening. I then received a strong invitation from a number of people who had attended the events. Pursuant to my tendency to accept invitations, I decided to make the move. Not only that, we had a wonderful invitation from the Lake Harriet Spiritual Community offering us the opportunity to base ourselves in their premises and present my teachings there. There seems to be a genuine hunger not only for a very clear teaching on awakening, but also for a conscious community where people on a path of awakening can come together.”
Leonard Jacobson spoke with The Edge about his plans for teaching in the Twin Cities, as well as about the journey to awakening.
What type of events will you be offering in the Twin Cities?
We will be beginning sometime in mid-January with teaching sessions on Tuesday evenings. These sessions focus primarily on being present. The whole point of the evening is for those in attendance to have a really deep experience of the awakened state. It is really a communion in Presence, where we come together in silence, peace and a sense of Oneness. Each session is unique, as people ask questions or share of themselves in a way that leads them into deeper levels of awakened Presence.
We are also planning events for Thursday evenings. These will be four- or six-week courses, focusing on specific topics like Deepening into Presence, Overcoming the Resistance of the Ego, Healing the Past, The Soul’s Journey, Creating the Future You Want, Conscious Relationships, and Conscious Communication. The advantage of these ongoing courses is that participants will receive more intensive guidance from me and they will get to know each other, which develops a sense of community. In addition to the Tuesday and Thursday events, we will be offering day-long Presence Intensives one Saturday each month. Of course, all of this will evolve as we go.
I’ve heard that you are interested in creating a community among the people who share this focus and interest. Is that one of your goals in coming here?
Absolutely. Community is important. Awakening brings with it significant change, and family and friends don’t always understand what you are going through. We want to provide a place for people who sincerely want to awaken to come together. This can obviously occur in the context of the various events we are offering, but we would also like it to be a place to meet socially.
Towards this end, we will be sponsoring film nights, music and other events and we invite creative people who are interested in awakening to contact us with their ideas. We are a non-profit organization and would greatly appreciate anyone who would like to volunteer their services.
What changes have you noticed in communities where you have presented your teachings?
Primarily, it has an effect on those individuals who are involved in the teaching. Becoming more present enables people to free themselves from limiting beliefs that have developed in their childhood. They heal and release emotional traumas from the past. They are more emotionally balanced, and they are free from feelings like blame, guilt, and resentment. They are more empowered, less anxious, and less judgmental. They don’t lose themselves by seeking acceptance and approval from others. They are more spontaneous, more open, more loving. Presence makes all of this possible for the individual involved in this teaching.
Now, from a broader perspective, if enough of us awaken in the way that I am describing, it will impact at the collective level. From a community perspective, I am hoping to have the opportunity to introduce the Presence Teachings to schools, parenting groups and other institutions which would benefit from becoming more present. I would like to teach in prisons also. We will see how it all unfolds.
I imagine that when you move to a new location, there are things that you want to do that you haven’t done before?
Yes, that’s true. The outreach aspect of the work is new for us. So too is presenting the work as a four- or six-week course based on specific topics. I would love to run a course on the Teachings of Buddha, or The true Meaning of the Words of Jesus. I am sure people would be very interested. Nevertheless, my focus is always on being present and arising in mastery of the mind and ego. I know from working very closely with people for 25 years that being present is the key to transforming our lives, and that Presence and Mastery of the mind and ego is the key to true spiritual awakening.
What does the awakening journey entail? Are there stages to the process?
The first step in awakening is learning the art of being present and there is no process in that. Being present is always instant. It is immediate, and I share with people a very simple key that enables them to free themselves from the mind and the world of thought and become present in the simplest way. That does not mean that they are able to remain present as they live their lives, go to work and participate in their relationships.
Most people attending one of my events will easily experience deep levels of Presence and silence, but when they leave it is not long before they are caught back into the mind with its never-ending thoughts, and limiting beliefs. That is why I teach a two step “dance of awakening.” The first step is all about being present, and deepening into Presence. The second step involves bringing to consciousness all the ways that we are involuntarily pulled out of the present moment, all the ways we are caught in unconscious emotional reactions, all the ways we lose ourselves in others, and all the ways we are limited by our own egos.
What role do emotions play in this process?
Most of us have emotions repressed within us from our childhood, and those repressed emotions are constantly being triggered by people and events in our lives. When those repressed emotions are triggered, we project a painful and limited past onto the present moment and distort our experience of life. If in childhood, you felt unloved or unappreciated, you are very likely to project those feelings onto others no matter how loving or appreciative they are. To become more present is literally to free your self from all of that. As a part of the awakening process, we must come into right relationship with our feelings and learn how to experience and express our feelings responsibly. A painful and unhealed past will continually project onto the present moment, distorting it.
Having viewed your DVD, it appears that you work with individuals where they are right now in their lives and help them to move into the present.
That is exactly right. A key to healing and awakening is acceptance. We have to learn how to accept who we have become on this long and sometimes difficult journey called life. Who have you become? Are you critical, controlling and judgmental? Are you limited, afraid, a victim? Are you angry, blaming, and resentful? Do you feel unloved or unworthy? We all feel these things to varying degrees. Many people are in judgment of themselves. They are trying to escape their feelings or fix themselves, or they are in denial, and that is not an approach that leads to true healing.
To awaken, we must be willing to encounter every aspect of ourselves, without judgment. My teaching provides an environment of Presence where there is no judgment, and it becomes easy to overcome these limitations that we have lived with since childhood.
Does that mean that somebody who will come and attend one of your events needs to be brave enough to accept where they are at this moment?
At some level, that is true. I describe the path of awakening as a path for champions. To awaken you have to be willing to encounter every aspect of yourself. As Jesus said, “Everything that is hidden shall be revealed.” From my perspective, what he is saying is that everything hidden within us, and everything that is unconscious within us, must be brought to consciousness.
Now, the good news is that my teaching regarding all of this is very gentle. Nothing ever arises that you are not ready for. But, I don’t want to give the impression that this is a kind of therapy. It is not. For the most part, it is simply about being present and deepening into Presence. That is what transforms our lives. It opens us up into a level of peace that we have rarely experienced. It makes life and relationships much easier and more joyful. It gives you an entirely different perspective from which to view yourself and your life.
But to truly awaken, you have to heal and release the past, so that you are more available to the present. My guidance in accomplishing this is very simple, direct and effective.
When people think about awakening into the Now moment, into Presence, Eckhart Tolle immediately comes to mind. For those familiar with him, how does your approach to teaching about Presence compare with what he is doing in a more visible way in the media?
At the recent weekend event here in Minneapolis, someone described me as an Australian version of Eckhart Tolle. Now the irony is that I have never read his books or listened to his audio or viewed his videos. And yet, I know enough about him to know that our teaching is very similar.
I’ve been teaching people how to be present since 1981 when I first had my awakening. When I first started teaching people how to be present, very few were interested, but now it is entering the mainstream and this is very encouraging. Being present is becoming a priority for more and more people, and this is due largely to the popularity of Eckhart Tolle’s teachings, and of course, Oprah, who shared his teachings with millions of people on the webcast with Eckhart. Of course, I have my own way of guiding people into Presence and working with emotions and the ego that is unique to my teaching, but essentially the outcome is the same. The outcome for anyone on a path of Presence is liberation from a painful and limited past, and an anxious future, into a joyful, peaceful and unlimited present.
So, when you are in the present moment, do you somehow transcend the past and future and the dominance of the ego?
To awaken into Presence is to be free of the ego’s control and all the limitations, pain and trauma of the past. It also frees you from anxiety about the future. When you are truly present, your mind is silent and so there is no past or future, at least not in those moments of Presence. This does not mean that you are present all the time. It does not mean that your past and future disappear. It does not mean that you cannot use your mind to think. It simply means that you reach a point on this path of awakening where you are no longer living in the past or future. You are no longer caught in the mind and lost in thought. You are fundamentally present. When you need to think, you think, but you do so consciously. When there is no need to be thinking, you are present and your mind is silent.
It is very peaceful and relaxing when you live this way, and you tend to think much more clearly and creatively. All true creative expression comes from silence, not from thinking.
For a schedule of Leonard Jacobsonâ€™s upcoming events, including ongoing courses, one-day intensives and longer retreats, call 612.920.3730 or visit www.leonardjacobson.com