First of a two-part series
In this age of heightened security, global uncertainty and climatic change, many spiritual teachers and guides continue to lead the human race toward conscious evolution. Leonard Jacobson is one such awakened soul who urges us to temper the desire of the ego for power and control, and to “integrate awakened consciousness into everyday life, enhancing every aspect of life and relationships.”
Jacobson, 65, has been guiding people on the path of awakening for more than 20 years through three previous books [Words from Silence, Embracing the Present, and Bridging Heaven & Earth] and workshops in the U.S., Europe and his native Australia. In 2007, he brought to us the book Journey Into Now – Clear Guidance on the Path of Spiritual Awakening (Conscious Living Publication) in which he shares the details of his six remarkable awakenings, or peak experiences, and guides the reader out of the mind and into the present moment.
“Most of the conflict, abuse and injustice we experience is based upon the fact that the ego, with its self-serving attitude, and its need for power and control, has become too dominant in our lives,” Jacobson said. “For the most part, we are lost in a dangerous world of illusion, made real through the power of belief. Our beliefs separate us and lead to all kinds of cruelty and abuse in the name of our beliefs. The more rigid our beliefs, the more we are willing to wage war upon each other, and the more we will exploit each other and our environment.
“Quite frankly, we have become too technologically advanced to continue living unconsciously upon this planet. The only viable antidote is for millions of us to experience a spiritual awakening…an awakening out of separation and illusion into the Truth of our Oneness.”
The author and spiritual teacher, founder of The Conscious Living Foundation, spoke to us about the Journey Into Now from his home just outside of Santa Cruz in Northern California.
What’s the primary message of Journey into Now?
Leonard Jacobson: Well, it’s really a comprehensive guide to spiritual awakening,. When I speak of awakening, we have to ask what are we awakening from? And what are we awakening to? Essentially, we are awakening from the world of the human thinking mind. It is a world of the past and the future, a world of memory, idea, imagination, concept and belief. It is a world of never ending thought.Â It is a world of separation and illusion, and for the most part, humanity is imprisoned within this limited level of consciousness.Â When we awaken, we emerge from the past and future world of thought into the world of now. We open into the truth of life revealed through the present moment. We awaken from illusion into truth and from separation into Oneness.
From the perspective of most people on the planet, they would call “reality” the part of life that you say we’re awakening from.
LJ: Yes. They would say it’s reality – and that’s the problem. That’s where the world has gone astray. It is not until you awaken that you realize that it is all an illusion. You have to wake up from the dream to realize that you were lost in a dream. Let me sum up my entire teaching and the book in one sentence, which is this: In Truth, there is no life outside of this moment. How can we possibly live outside of this moment? It’s not possible, and yet we all miraculously manage to do so. How do we do that? We literally think ourselves into the past and future. We think ourselves out of the present moment, into a memory of the past or a fantasy of the future. We think our way out of the truth into our concepts, ideas and opinions, which have nothing to do with the truth. Then we become so absorbed into the world of the mind that we cannot find our way back to the present moment.
Some people, like yourself, have had peak experiences where you’re moved into that present moment. For other people, it has occurred more slowly over time. Why does it occur differently from person to person?
LJ: It has something to do with the soul’s journey and past lifetimes. What I would say is that those who have peak experiences and those who go through a process of gradual awakening all finish up in the same place, which is here, now. This is the whole point of the journey.Â In fact, many people who have had those peak enlightenment experiences often get caught up in them and…
They think that they’re special?
LJ: That often happens. After the experience has subsided, the ego identifies with it and thinks that it’s enlightened. It is very difficult to awaken out of an enlightened ego or an ego which has become spiritualized. The truth is that a peak enlightenment experience is just like any other experience. It’s something that arises within your consciousness and it passes. The real question is, â€œWho is experiencing?â€ Experiences come. Experiences go. This includes the peak experience. But the one experiencing remains the same. To realize this is to realize your true and essential nature.
How do you compare the terms “enlightenment” and “awakening?”
LJ: I prefer the term “awakening.” We all go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning. We know what it means to “wake up.” When we wake up in the morning, we are awakening from a world of sleep and dreams and unconsciousness. We then proceed through the day, believing that we are awake. What we don’t realize is that when we wake up in the morning we are not waking up fully. Just as in sleep, there is a dream stage, as we open our eyes and are in the process of waking up, there is alsoÂ a dream stage. To the extent that we are lost in thought, or caught in some past memory or future imagining, or identified with our concepts, ideas, opinions and beliefs, we are still dreaming! To awaken fully in consciousness is to complete the process of awakening past the dream state. It is to awaken out of the past and future, and out of thought so fully that your mind is silent. In the awakened state, you are fully here, with what is here and you are nowhere else. You are not partially here, and partially lost in some past memory or future imagining. You are fully here and awake in the truth of life.
Enlightenment is more complex. Ultimately, enlightenment is a concept and all concepts keep us in the mind. It is very easy for the ego to become involved in the quest for enlightenment, which is a very powerful obstacle to awakening. The quest for enlightenment tends to keep you in the future., where as true awakening is about being present, and you can only be present now.
I have a very simple view of enlightenment. Most of our thoughts, beliefs, and repressed feelings function with us at an unconscious level. So much is hidden and buried within the darkness of our unconscious minds. As a part of the awakening process, all these things must surface into consciousness. As Jesus said, â€œAll that is hidden shall be revealed!â€ As these things surface, we are becoming enlightened, in the sense that more and more of that which was hidden and unconscious is being revealed into the light of consciousness. We are becoming present and conscious Beings, rather than absent and unconscious Non-Beings.
Are most people in various stages in the process of awakening?
LJ: We are all equally awake, in the sense that the fully awakened dimension of consciousness exists at the very center of each one of us. It always has and it always will. In truth, we are Eternal Beings. We exist in a state of Oneness. However, this awakened consciousness is only available to us when we are present. To varying degrees we have disconnected from our true nature as we became more absorbed into the past and future world of thought. Some of us are more grounded in Presence than others. Some of us are more lost in the mind than others. It is only in that sense that there are various stages in the process of awakening.
How does the experience that we have in our daily life, our relationships and our challenges and our problems and all that, relate to the process of awakening? Some would say that we are here in body to experience that and to learn from it.
LJ: Everything that occurs in our lives is designed to propel us towards our own awakening. It could be a difficult relationship. It could be emotional or physical pain or it could be a difficult experience like loss of a loved one. There really are no exceptions. Life is a mirror reflecting to you what is in need of healing, or important lessons that you need to learn as a part of your process of awakening. But you have to know how to look into the mirror. Once you realize this, then all problems and difficulties are transformed into opportunities for awakening.
Is it sometimes difficult to explain the process of awakening through words?
LJ: No one can really understand what awakening is with the mind. The awakened state is always beyond understanding. Jesus referred to it as “The peace that passeth understanding.” This does not mean that I can’t speak of the awakened state and share the awakened state of consciousness with others. If I am speaking from Presence and members of the audience are hearing from Presence, then we will all experience the awakened state and open into Oneness.
The problem arises when I am speaking from Presence and a member of the audience is trying to understand with the mind. That audience member will miss what is being conveyed. To know the awakened state, you must experience it yourself. My Presence and my words spoken from Presence facilitate that experience. But just because you have experienced the awakened state of Presence does not mean that you are awake. To be awake is to be fundamentally grounded and established in Presence. This involves arising in mastery of the mind and ego. To this extent, my words can also be useful in revealing a way of awakening that leads to Presence and Mastery.
Do you find that the process of awakening is like other things we do in life where we need to practice, where we need classes, where we need to read about it to move toward that space?
LJ: It’s a combination of all of those things you mentioned. Reading about it is helpful initially, of course. We need guidance. We need clarification of the way of awakening. Practice is good, to a point, but eventually practice has to be left behind. Visiting teachers is, of course, very useful, as long as you don’t project the awakened state onto the teacher. In other words, if you experience silence and Oneness in the presence of a teacher, it’s because silence and Oneness is arising within you. A true teacher will not allow that projection.
Do you use any practices to become present? Does it require any effort on your part??
LJ: No, not now. I might have many years ago, but now I am fully established in Presence. There comes a point where you no longer live from within the mind. Your home is the present moment. You think when it is appropriate and when you are done thinking, you naturally and spontaneously return to the present moment. Even when you are thinking, you don’t really disconnect from the present moment. Eventually,Â the ego relaxes it hold over you. Its role is transformed as it learns to trust the flowering of Presence from within.
Most of us don’t really understand the ego, that it actually serves a good purpose in our lives.
LJ: The ego came into our lives as our friend and protector. It came in at a very young age to help us cope with the pain that arises from having to live in a world where no one is truly present. The painful feelings of separation are too much to bear at such a young age, and so the ego literally pops into our existence. It is the custodian of the separation. It’s first job as our protector is to repress all those feelings that are too difficult to deal with. Once it has accomplished that, it assumes control of our lives with the explicit purpose of managing and controlling our lives in away that will minimize or at least manage the pain of separation. It will do whatever it takes to help you feel loved, accepted and acknowledged, and avoid painful feelings like judgment, rejection, failure and isolation.
The problem is that all these ego survival strategies are based in the past. The repressed feelings are based in the past, and so the ego’s dominance in our lives keeps us in the past. This is a profound obstacle to awakening into the present. It is only when we awaken that we realize that the ego has us imprisoned in a painful past so that it can maintain its role as our protector. It is not until we awaken that we realize that the separation is based in the past, and that if we will just become present, the separation dissolves and we open into Oneness. For most people, however, the ego has them imprisoned in a painful past, or a hopeful future, and it has no intention of releasing them.
There are six billion people living on this earth, each of us living in our individual worlds of separation. We get along with those who share the same set of illusions and we declare war on those who have a different set of illusions, and we are very destructive in our unconsciousness.
That’s not very pleasant to think about if you look at it that way.
LJ: It’s not, but that’s what’s happening in our world. You see, the basic position of the ego as it develops within us is this: me, me, me; mine, mine, mine; I’m right, I’m right, I’m right; what’s in it for me; how can I use this; how do I take advantage. Now, if you have six million egos living in this way, what kind of world would we find ourselves living in? The answer is, the world as it is today. I’m not being negative or judgmental, but it really is time for us to awaken as a species. We’re the only species on the planet that is not awake.
We’re the only species that is not fully here. The monkey is here, the gorilla is here, the donkey, the tree, the mountain. They are all fully here. I have never met a tree or a donkey or a mosquito that is lost in thought. Everything is here in its Being-ness, except us. What happened to us? We got lost. Where did we get lost? We got lost in the past and future world of our mind, filled with our memories, our thoughts, our ideas, our concepts, our opinions, and our imaginings – none of which has any relationship to truth.
Do you think that humans at any time were here, awake?
LJ: Throughout history, there have always been aÂ small number of humans who have been awake. History has produced great teachers, like Buddha, Lao Tzu and Jesus.Â In our time, we have had teachers like Krishnamurti, Gurdjieff and Ramana Maharshi. And yet very few of us have awakened. There has been too much resistance and not enough to motivate us to collectively awaken. Until now! Perhaps it is a question of timing. The need to awaken has never before been so urgent. Our survival is at stake.
Because the potential for destruction is so great?
LJ: Exactly. We have become so technologically advanced that we now have the ability to destroy ourselves and most of the species living on this planet. You can’t kill that many people with a sword. You can’t cut down that many trees with an axe. You couldn’t create so much pollution 200 years ago that it would become a threat to our survival. But with the advancement in technology, all that has changed. The advancement of technology is a function of the mind. The mind has created the problem, and we need to balance that with an awakening in consciousness, transcendent of the mind.
How would you describe the current state of human consciousness in terms of its level of awakening? Is it easier to awaken now than in the past? Are more people awakening?
LJ: Absolutely! I’ve been doing this work for 25 years, since my first awakening. In those early days of teaching, I would have to work with people for a year or so, for them to really open into Presence and Oneness, but now that process is rapidly accelerating. In just one day or a weekend, people can have a very deep and lasting experience of the awakened state. People are much more interested in being present today than they were 25 years ago. The problem is that as more and more of us truly awaken in consciousness, it is met with a corresponding movement into unconsciousness. It’s as if the forces of consciousness and unconsciousness are battling it out within a dual realm. Of course when you awaken, you transcend duality and open into Oneness. In Oneness, there is no opposition. There is no resistance. There is no opposing force.Â We just need enough of us to awaken individually to impact at the collective level, and then it will become easier and easier and easier. That’s really our only hope, and I’m fairly optimistic.
Leonard Jacobson’s next book, Liberating Jesus, will be released in 2010. It is based on profound revelations about Jesus that Leonard had in his second awakening experience. He also will release a book for children, In Search of the Light. For more information on Leonard Jacobson and his work, please visit www.leonardjacobson.com