When I first saw an ad for an Enlightenment Intensive back in 1991, I was pretty sceptical. “An opportunity to experience the change in state of consciousness traditionally known as enlightenment” it said—and in just three days? There had to be a catch! I thought it was supposed to take decades, lifetimes even, to reach such a state.
I gathered that the format was like a cross between a zen meditation retreat and an intensive therapy group, combining non-stop contemplation with one-to-one communication exercises. Participants spend the entire three days contemplating a question like ‘Who am I?’, and from time to time communicate to partners what they became aware of as a result.
The communication bit worried me. As a newcomer to the growth field, I had no experience of counselling or therapy (despite being a psychologist), and I was unused to sharing my thoughts and feelings with complete strangers. I did like the idea of contemplating who I am, however.
At that point in my life I was literally anxious to know myself. Outwardly I presented a well-rehearsed “cool dude” persona. But inwardly I saw myself as a shy, nervous oaf, with a very dark shadow. I’d been in an identity crisis since my teens, and now, approaching my thirtieth birthday, I reckoned it was time I stopped playing games and ‘found my true self’—if I had such a thing. I reckoned I’d probably benefit by diving in at the deep end and doing some really heavy work on myself. I had nothing to lose …
I found myself, like everybody else, going through all manner of stuff during the three days—anxiety, amusement, boredom, frustration, happiness, grief.
On the first day I was mostly affected by the orderliness of the situation—the lack of everyday distractions, like TV. It’s amazing how interesting wallpaper can seem once the inward search begins to bite! Without the support of the group structure as a constant reminder, I know I wouldn’t have had the will-power to stay with the technique. Some people soon wanted to leave, but the master assured us that resistances will come and go all the time. I just resolved to see it through, give it my best shot.
On the second day it was more like taking the lid off my unconscious. I had all sorts of spontaneous memories, feelings, images, fantasies, as did others in the group. Seeing others taking risks to say what was really going on for them was, for me, incredibly inspiring, and I began to feel very close to several in the group, despite (or because of) the formalities. That second day was the noisiest—there was screaming, shouting, hysterical laughter, yet all the time we remained sitting respectfully in our neat rows!
On the third morning there was a calmer, more ‘studious’ atmosphere. A warm trust had developed within the group, and almost everyone was by now well into the process. Then … whenever I closed my eyes and asked myself Who am I?, I kept ‘seeing’ this gravestone. As I looked more closely at the gravestone I realised that it had my name on it. It was as if my unconscious was getting me to accept that one day I’m going to die, something which I found terrifying. The last thing I wanted to do was to confront that fear—so here it was, bang on cue.
I started shaking and panting as I communicated it to my partner, but I finally got it out.
Then it was time for lunch, and the whole thing was behind me.
But it was during lunch that I had the most amazing experience of my life. Right out of the blue, as I lifted a piece of lettuce to my mouth, there came a timeless moment at which I just knew who I was. I knew it because I was it. I had caught myself in the act of being. “Here I am!”
Part of what I got is that, ultimately, who I am is integral to the very fabric of reaity.
It was as if I had always known my being, but had simply forgotten. It was so obvious, yet so marvelous!
I started laughing uncontrollably, until a passing monitor got me to communicate it to her. As I did so, I understood why communication is the key to this process. In communicating, that moment of knowing returned, leaving me so awestruck and humbled by its reality that my rational mind could never deny the experience.
I had read of people having spontaneous and totally unexpected mystical experiences. One moment they are out walking the dog, the next moment they are in blissful union with … well, whatever. Then moments later they are back to normal, only now their lives have been changed for good. I knew I had just experienced something of this sort.
Despite all my efforts I hadn’t made it happen, it had just popped out of nowhere, like an act of grace. I later learned that almost a third of the group had had direct experiences of varying intensities, some more clear than others, and that this is par for the course on Enlightenment Intensives.
Since that first one, I have taken numerous more Enlightenment Intensives. As a result of being blessed with more and more encounters with truth, my initial scepticism has given way to a developing spirituality and self-knowledge grounded in absolute reality.
Enlightenment Intensives – my overview article
My first Enlightenment Intensive, by Isis the psychic