“Not knowing how near the truth is, people seek it far away -what a pity! They are like him who, in the midst of water, cries in thirst so imploringly.”
I set out up the path, deep into the forest, pausing every few moments to locate myself in my body, in my mind, in the trees in the sky and in the earth. I stopped dead still to watch a chipmunk rooting away in the soil, its quick movements interrupted by every little sound and movement, deeply aware of the imminent danger of their portents, until a footfall hastened its lightning departure. I embraced the trunk of a large maple, stroking its bark, caressing its rough bumps and grooves and sighting up through the uppermost branches where the treetop terminated in sky. Further up the path, I knelt and dipped my hand into the creek, scooping up a handful of icy water and sand, letting the sand run between my fingers. I dreamed of gold nuggets and the Yukon River and sluice buckets and prospectors. The skeleton of an old sweat lodge stood beside a fire pit, a light breeze dancing through the knotted saplings, the voices of the Grandfathers still lingering in the hemisphere. I sat on a rotted log and held silent communion with a bleached animal skull (a large squirrel, perhaps) I held in my palm, whose dirt-filled hollows, seemed, I mused, to have some secret to impart, but though I listened attentively, no messages appeared. And always the trilliums: white and red and even violet, lighting up the forest floor with their splashes of springtime reverie. On my return to the meeting hall, just as I was about to mount the wooden stairs, I felt a few solitary raindrops landing on the pinna of my ear – ting, ting, ting – they seemed to whisper, “I am here, I am here, I am here”.
A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to be able to attend my second Enlightenment Intensive at the Ecology Retreat Centre near Orangeville, Ontario. The Ecology Retreat Centre is a beautiful natural setting in the Hockley Valley, an hour northeast of the city of Toronto. Woodland forest, a bubbling creek, meadow and pond, flora and fauna nestle at the foot of the Niagara escarpment. It is an environment that reaches deep down into the soul and provides a truly awe inspiring container for a quest into the ultimate truth of who we are, what we are, what life is and what is love is.
Thirteen brave explorers (six men and seven women) had come together to travel the inner and outer banks of consciousness and to witness what was there for us to uncover and discover about ourselves, about each other and that mysterious space which we inhabit together. Russell Scott was our guide on this journey into the heart of darkness and light. Russell has been mastering Intensives for over thirty years and he is a natural facilitator whose lighthearted humour and genuine passion for the process, as well as compassion for those who brave the path, puts participants at ease and helps them to trust and unwind. Two wonderful monitors who helped to counsel and guide and facilitate the work joined him.
As we gathered on the first evening and faced off against our partners in our first dyad (paired contemplation involving a speaking partner and a listening partner), I found myself dropping into a deep silence as I contemplated the instruction my partner had given me: “Tell me who you are”. This was my second enlightenment intensive in as many months and I was both excited and afraid at what lie in store over the next few days.
When Charles Berner sat down in 1968 to muse on how to help his students make progress with their co-evolution, little did he expect to discover a process that would accelerate an individual’s ability to discover the truth of who they are, to experience enlightenment – not in decades, but in days:
“In 1968, I had four or five hours one afternoon with nothing to do. I was in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California, staring at the trees in a nice quiet area. I had been pondering a problem related to my teaching experience. I had noticed people who didn’t know who they were had a hard time making progress and people who made rapid progress knew who they were. I was just musing, “How is it that we could help people to accelerate this process of self discovery?”
What would happen if he combined the ages-old Zen koan “Who am I” with the paired communication work his wife Ava had been working on and structured it in the format of a Zen session or retreat? He set about putting together the first of many what would be called “Enlightenment Intensives”. The results of his first intensive were surprising and unexpected:
“I had expected it would take five, ten Enlightenment Intensives for some enlightenments to start showing up. But to my amazement, people were having these experiences and it blew me out as much as it did them. In fact, about forty percent of the people who attended had a direct experience by the end of the intensive.”
Since that time, thousands of people around the world have been able to discover the truth of who they really are by attending an Enlightenment Intensive.
I have written previously of my first Enlightenment Intensive (http://www.personal-development.com/miles/tell-me-who.htm). That experience shook me to the very core and transformed my life in wholly unexpected and delightful ways. The discovery of “Who I am” was both shocking and so incredibly and ridiculously obvious that I could not stop laughing… I still am.
It is difficult to put into words just exactly what this enlightenment experience is, but self-realization is the source of true happiness. As the Indian saint Ramana Maharshi puts it so eloquently:
“Happiness is inherent in man and is not due to external causes. One must realize himself in order to experience his unalloyed happiness. All spiritual scriptures are meant to make man retrace his steps to his original source.”
The Enlightenment Intensive affects everyone in their own unique way, and even if one is not able to point to a direct experience, it is impossible not to be touched in some way by the profound truth of who we really are, both for ourselves and for each other.
At the very end of one dyad, I was working on the question, “What is life?” I wasn’t able to finish communicating with my partner when the dyad ended. Everyone had drifted away to go for lunch and I stayed behind with Russell, sitting quietly with my eyes closed, communicating with Russell whatever thoughts or feelings or sensations arose. In my mind, I was back in my childhood when I was five or six years old, back in the neighbourhood where I grew up and I could hear my mother calling my name to call me home. It was one of those endless summer days… the sun was still high in the sky, the evening like a warm, cozy blanket, birds still singing in the trees… I heard my mother call again and again and finally, tears welled in my eyes and I replied, “I don’t want to come in. It’s so beautiful out here. I want to stay out here. This is it! This is it!” And suddenly, in that moment, life in its entirety came crashing in! I had been looking for signs of life everywhere: In chipmunk scratchings, in maple bark and blue sky, in sand and stream, in sweat lodge, in chipmunk skull, in death and in dreams… I finally understood what the raindrops had been telling me… Life is not hidden away somewhere out of sight. It is always right here, right now and THIS IS IT! This is really it!
To find out more about Russell Scott’s personal development work and the Enlightenment Intensive, visit his website at http://www.truesourceseminars.com/
Miles Murphy works in the field of learning and professional development. An independent scholar, he has a wide range of interests including the humanities of East and West. He is a devotee of Buddhism and a t’ai chi ch’uan enthusiast. His poetry and other writings endeavour to poke about in the rich soil and empty sky of the human condition. Miles can be contacted at email@example.com