Donna Quesada: Leonard, is it necessary to have a spiritual teacher?
Some people are naturally like that, but what about those who want to wake up? Is it possible to self direct?
Leonard: Well, I had my first awakening without any spiritual teacher. Of course, this meant that I was not prepared for what happened to me. My journey really began after this first awakening. I wanted to know what happened to me because it was so amazing. It was so wonderful. But I didn’t know what it was. So, then I began reading books by spiritual masters. I visited a few different teachers, a few different masters to try and discover what had happened to me. And slowly it became clear. I had experienced an awakening, and I was able to open up to that level again in a much gentler way.
Donna: Could you share something of your journey with us? Would you be willing to?
Leonard: I will briefly, but it’s just my story. It began in 1981. I had decided to attend a retreat. I didn’t know the teacher. I didn’t know any of the other participants, but I thought it would be a nice way to spend a few days. I was overdue for a vacation. During this retreat, I went through some very powerful emotional healings and I noticed I was becoming more and more present throughout these seven days of the retreat, although I didn’t know what it was at that time. I could see auras around trees, I could see auras around people. There were all sorts of mysterious things that happened. And then at the end of this retreat I had a significant awakening experience. I was completely and utterly intoxicated with love. I was in the Oneness. I felt very much like I imagine like St. Francis of Assisi would have felt. It was a multi-dimensional experience. It felt like I was in the company of saints and sages in other dimensions. I was being taken through a healing of my own childhood, my own past. All sorts of revelations were coming through about what had happened to me and how I’d gone astray. And then, it generalized into what has happened to all of us and how we all had gone astray. It was as if a way of awakening was being revealed to me. Suddenly, the energy noticeably changed! I could feel the Presence of God within me and all around me. I was in the presence of God. Don’t ask me how I knew that. I just knew. Before this moment, I was somewhere between an atheist and an agnostic. I had no interest in religion, and I had rejected the notion of God as it was presented by the mainstream religions. However, in an instant, I was in the presence of God and all sorts of amazing things happened. It was a life changing experience.
That awakening lasted for about three or four weeks. I was in an altered state of consciousness during that time. It gradually subsided and I was able to return to a more functional level of consciousness, but I had been transformed by the experience. A few months later, I began teaching and sharing the way of awakening that had been revealed to me.
Three years later, I had a second awakening more powerful than the first. During this second awakening, I experienced the Presence of God in everything and I felt immersed into the moment of now. I experienced Heaven on Earth. It was unmistakable. I also experienced many insights and revelations about Jesus including the true meaning of his words. I had revelations about what had happened to him on the cross and what has happened to him since his death upon the cross. It was overwhelming and it was a departure from traditional Christian belief.
Three years later, I had a third awakening, more powerful than the previous two. As I reflect upon these awakening experiences, I would say the first one was a massive opening into love, the second was an awakening into Christ consciousness and the third was an awakening into God consciousness. I describe these experiences in more detail in my book, Journey into Now.
Donna: Thank you for sharing that. And you know…it’s interesting. You mentioned that you felt a kinship or a closeness to Jesus and his experience during one of your own experiences. And there is an expression I like, that “all rivers lead to the sea.” And as a seeker and someone who loves all of these wisdom traditions, I love it because it reminds us that all these traditions or religious paths are not antagonistic to one another. But rather, behind them there is a similarity…there is a pearl…there is a jewel that is the same. And truth that stands regardless of the facade. Would you speak to that?
Leonard: I agree with you. And at the very core of all spiritual traditions and religions is a very deep truth that was revealed by the founders of those traditions or religions. Whether it’s Buddha, Jesus, Krishna or Mohammed, there is a core of essential truth which had awakened within them. But they were sharing truth based upon their own awakening experiences. These truths emerged from the center of their beings and were not coming from the mind. The problem arises when you take those truths that are expressed from within an awakened state of consciousness and try to understand those truths with the mind. You will become lost in false belief, and you will lead many astray. This is what has happed with religions. Religion is an attempt by those who are not awake to practice the truth of those who are awake. It will not work.
Donna: Or preach, themselves…
Leonard: It cannot work and it just creates more separation and more division. Then the religions are at odds with each other, or worse at war with each other. It’s all insane. But because they are lost in their beliefs, which have nothing to do with truth, it is creating an energy of separations and conflict. It has thrown us all out of balance.
Donna: If I can jump into the process now…if you’ll allow me. You spoke of a two step process of Awakening. I’m interested to know more about that and also the ego’s role as an obstructer. Why does the ego dislike presence so much? And how does that fit into your two step process, if you would?
Leonard: When you’re in the mind, you’re somewhere in the past or future. That’s a simple statement of truth. All thought takes you into that world of the past or future, because all thought is past or future. And if you believe in those thoughts, opinions, beliefs, then you get imprisoned within the world of the mind. Almost the whole of humanity is imprisoned within the world of the mind. In truth there is no life outside of this moment. To come out of the illusory world of the mind, out of the past and future, you just bring 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, smell it in this moment, then it’s of the present moment. It’s really here! You’re not imagining it. You’re not remembering it. So you can bring yourself present with it, and the moment you are truly present with something that is here in the moment with you, you must come out of the mind. Now you are present, and as you become present, thoughts stop and your mind becomes silent. Each moment you are truly present, you are an awakened Being, at least for that moment.
Donna: So that is the first step? To get into something here that the senses can perceive?
Leonard: Exactly. The moment you adjust your focus and tune into something that is here, you come out of the mind. Now you are present. No practice. No trying. It’s very gentle. You just bring yourself present with something that is here in the moment with you. You could close your eyes and bring yourself present with the body breathing. Or you could be present with the sound you hear, moment to moment. If you are present with the sound you hear in this moment, I could ask you, ”Who is present with the sound in this moment? Who is hearing the sound?” Or if you are present with your breathing, I could ask you, “Who is present with the body breathing in this moment.?” The answer from Presence is simply “I AM.”
It is the I AM Presence that is the awakened you. It is the true master. It is that dimension of you that is of this moment and only of this moment. Now here is the irony. Everyone on the planet is already a fully awakened Being. Always has been. Always will be. But to the extent that you have become absorbed into the world of the mind, then you disconnect from the truth that is ever present within you. So, awakening is not about creating something that is not here. It’s about finding your way out of the world of illusion, into the simplicity and life revealed through this moment. You are the revealer of truth. You are the redeemer of Oneness. You are the revealer of heaven on Earth. That’s who you really are. I could say that to everyone on the planet. That’s who you really are. Have you forgotten who you are? And the truth is, yes, we’ve all forgotten. We’ve all become disconnected as we’ve become more and more absorbed into the past and future and the world of the mind. We have disconnected from the present moment. We are the dreamers, dreaming that we are awake, and we do not realize this until we awaken out of your dream.
Donna: So are there degrees of unplugging from the center of I am? Are some people further lost than others?
Leonard: Oh, absolutely. The further you are lost in the mind, the more insane you are. And I think that’s been demonstrated over and over again in our world. I won’t mention any names.
Donna: So presence would be the first step then?
Leonard: The first step is to master the art of being present. You simply notice when you are thinking and then very gently adjust your focus so that you are present with something that is here is the present moment with you. Even if it only lasts for three seconds and then the thoughts come back in. That’s okay. There are so many ways to be present. You can be present washing the dishes. You can be present going for a walk. You can be present having a shower, or brushing your hair. What I say to people is that when there is no need to be thinking, then be present. When it’s appropriate to think, then think but don’t get lost in that world of endless thought. Do not go so far into the mind that you get lost there. Always come back to Presence.
Donna: Is that the same as being mindful? That’s become a buzzword these days. Is that mindfulness?
Leonard: For me, it’s not the same. If you’re mindful in this moment, than I have to ask, “Who is mindful?” Who is aware of what is arising within the mind? The answer is I AM. The I AM presence is the awakened you. In this teaching, the goal is not to be mindful, the goal is to awaken into the truth of who you are. And then, of course, you are mindful which means that you are aware of what is in the moment. But who is aware? When a thought arises, who is aware of that thought arising. “I AM.”
The whole point of awakening is to become grounded in the I AM presence. There is nothing beyond that. Or, shall I say, there is nothing or nothingness beyond that. At the very deepest level, you are pure consciousness beyond form and beyond contact. You can’t think about that. But that is who you are at the very deepest level. One who is present is mindful, but to be mindful does not necessarily lead you to the realization of who is mindful. It might, but that is not the primary goal of mindfulness. It does not necessarily lead you out of the mind into Presence and the truth of who you are beyond the mind.
Donna: I see how it takes you deeper than what is usually referred to as mindfulness. It reminds me of something I heard once…let’s see if I get it right…that mindfulness is not concentration; it’s the awareness of when you’ve lost concentration. So, it’s almost like a lighter level of watching and awareness. But you want to bring us deeper than that.
Leonard: This is the first step. It’s all about becoming present and then the enquiry is “Who is present?” “Who am I?’ Awakening leads you into the realization of who you really are. Then you open into the mystery of your own existence. Many people who are seeking enlightenment are looking for bliss or ecstasy. Or some kind of liberation from the pain that’s in their story. As far as I’m concerned, that’s still the ego involved. What’s in it for me? I want bliss. I want enlightenment. As you become more present, you go beyond the ego and the sense that there is something in it for you. Now you are just here. The main reason we would choose to be present is very simple. I would rather be in the truth of life, however ordinary it is than to be lost in my mind, which is a world of illusion, no matter who extraordinary it promises to be. It is not about bliss. It is about truth.
Donna: What is your idea of bliss?
Leonard: It’s very likely that bliss will arise when you are present, but that is not what it’s about. If you are feeling bliss, I would ask “Who is feeling bliss?” “I AM.” What is beyond the bliss? Perfect, infinite, eternal, silence. Perfect, infinite, eternal, peace. Acceptance, compassion. At the deepest level you begin to sense the Presence of God in all things present. You begin to open into Oneness. You become immersed in the Is-ness of the moment. God is real. God is here now. But we are not. We are lost in the past and future world of the mind. If we want to experience the living presence of God in all things present, we will have to come to where God is, which is in the present moment. God is the present moment revealed. Do you have to call it “God?” No. But, I don’t know what else to call it. Whenever I call it “God,” it seems to open up the mystery even more.
Donna: I like the word.
Leonard: Most people have to go through a process of decontaminating that word before they can experience the word God in it’s pure form. Religion has contaminated the word, God.
Donna: I like that! “Decontaminating it.”
Leonard: What I say is that, believing in God is for those who don’t know God.
Donna: That’s beautiful. I read that in your book.
Leonard: And you can know God directly if you become present enough. Then you come into God’s world. I call it God’s world, the world of here and now.
Donna: And so…Step Two.
Leonard: You will discover that it is very easy to be present. But it is not so easy to remain present as you live your life, go to work and participate in your relationships. Step two involves bringing conscious awareness to all the ways you are pulled out of Presence, and all the obstacles to you being present. We are so habituated to living within the mind and we are so addicted to thinking that it is not long before we are involuntarily pulled back into the mind and back to that limited level of consciousness. Step Two involves bringing conscious awareness to to how that happens.
Step one leads to Presence. Step two leads to mastery of the mind and ego. Both steps are essential for true awakening. Step one is simple, clear and direct. I’ve also made Step two very easy and simple, just four things to watch out for.
Read Part I Here: Awaken Is Heaven revealed on Earth
Read Part III Here: How Do We Come Into Right Relationship With The Ego?