Discover who you really are

If you have ever wanted to experience for yourself a moment of genuine spiritual awakening, or if you simply want to know who you truly are, then an Enlightenment Intensive could be for you.

Enlightenment Intensives are residential group retreats with a single aim: to help you find the answer to life’s great questions such as “Who am I?” and “What is life?”

Not an answer in the form of words or ideas, however, but a direct experience of who you are, of the very essence of your being — that which some call True Nature, or simply Truth.

In short, an experience of enlightenment. In just three days.

I went in being me but not knowing it. I came out being me and knowing it. It was this that changed my life.

Sandy (EI participant)

What does enlightenment mean?

I know that finding enlightenment on one short retreat sounds pretty far-fetched. But this is largely because the word itself is not well defined.

To many, enlightenment refers to nothing less than the Buddha’s final, permanent state of absolute freedom and perfection, “liberation from the wheel of death and rebirth” — something unimaginable to most ordinary mortals. To others, it can conjure up images of extraordinary saints, or gurus endowed with supernatural powers.

Less well known, perhaps, but a lot more common the whole world over, is an experience known as “sudden enlightenment”.

This is a kind of momentary inner awakening to what is ultimate Truth. It involves a simple yet radical shift in consciousness, an experience that is far different from normal perceptions, thoughts and emotions. It is a timeless moment in which you suddenly, spontaneously, awaken to the absolute essence of self or life or reality.

I laughed with sheer joy at the’rightness’ of it… No doubt you know the jubilantly satisfying ‘click’ one experiences when one finds the solution to, for instance, a complicated mathematical problem. Well, the experience I had was of a similar kind but carried to the ultimate. A king-size, super-hyper-Click!!! And with the feeling that I had ‘come home’. It included the blissful awareness of unity, of being in all, and all being in me.

(from The Relevance of Bliss by Nona Coxhead)

In Zen, this sudden awakening experience is known as or kensho or satori. In the West, we also refer to it as illumination, the unitive experience, mystical union, self-realisation and so on.

It is simply a moment of true inner knowing; a discovery of ultimate Truth … not by reading about it, not by listening to people who teach about it … but by finding it for yourself, within yourself, by direct experience.

Many modern accounts, as well as spiritual traditions, describe how very ordinary people have stumbled upon just such an experience, almost by accident. What people experience in these moments of illumination is both universal and, paradoxically, unique to each person.

Common descriptions include:

  • A profound sense of having “come home”
  • An awe and reverence for life
  • Unparalleled joy, fulfilment, gratitude
  • Quiet certainty
  • A deep sense of Love

For many people, knowing who and what they are brings a deep sense of relief and peace. Other people are surprised at the obviousness of it all, or amazed, or laugh hysterically at the cosmic joke involved. Some experience feelings of bliss; some a release of joy and energy that had been held back for years. It is not uncommon for people to recognise that this is what they always wanted but did not realise until they experienced it.

With the dropping away of the hope or desire to get it right, I caught a glimpse of something new; I sank into a direct if brief experience of who – or perhaps more accurately what – I am. It took my breath away. It moved through my body like fire and left me laughing with the sheer delight of being.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer (spiritual teacher, describing her experience on an EI)

But above all, enlightenment gives the most profound insight into reality, a sense of knowing and of oneness that is absolute … and hard to do justice with mere words!

What happens on an Enlightenment Intensive?

A journey from the mundane of routine life to the warm glow of truth through the valley of despair.

Ed (EI participant)

At the start of an Enlightenment Intensive, the participants are taught a simple contemplation technique using the question: “Who am I?” The aim is not for you to find a logical or correct answer to the question but to experience for yourself, within yourself, the actual truth of who you are … whatever that may be.

You then contemplate this question virtually every waking moment for three days. This is part of what makes the process intense.

But instead of just holding you in continuous silent meditation, the Enlightenment Intensive technique combines this with communication exercises. These 40-minute exercises are the main feature of the Intensive. During the communication exercises, or “dyads“, you pair up with another participant (a different one each time). Then, you and your partner take turns to say what you are experiencing as you contemplate.

So, while you ask yourself “Who am I?” and then describe whatever you experience, your partner simply looks and listens in silence. After five minutes, you swap roles: you become the listening partner while your partner contemplates their question and tells you about their experiences.

Talking with others in this way is not like having a normal conversation. You listen and are listened to with full attention but what you say is never commented on. No advice is given, no judgements made.

This provides a powerful foundation of security within the group. It gives you incredible freedom and promotes ever increasing openness.

The Intensive has a full daily schedule from early morning to late evening. Your time is spent alternating between the communication exercises and periods of silent contemplation. There are walking periods, meals, a working period and a rest period. These periods are essentially silent, other than if you are asking for information or guidance from the staff.

The schedule is designed to build up a focus of attention and energy on contemplating your question.

To reinforce this, the Intensive also has a set of rules designed to remove all distraction from focusing on one’s contemplation. These include no smoking, alcohol, coffee or other drugs. There are also rules which ensure that each participant is free to follow their own process. These include no touching and no commenting on any other participant in any way.

How is an enlightenment experience possible in just a few days?

The Enlightenment Intensive is a capsule spiritual journey which starts with thoughts and ends with truth; starts with intellect and ends with your very being; starts with games and ends with the explosion of every game, including the Intensive itself.

C.L. (EI participant)

The process of sharing your inner journey — and listening to others share theirs — continually brings you into the present. It immerses you in the moment-by-moment awareness of your ‘now’ without letting you get lost in a stream of thoughts and feelings.

It is this combination of continuous contemplation and contact with others that is responsible for the speed and intensity of the process. And it is the extraordinary state of openness which results that enables enlightenment experiences to occur in a relatively short time.

No-one can guarantee that you will have an enlightenment experience. In fact, neither you nor anyone else can make it happen. This is why enlightenment has often been described as an “accident” — because when it occurs people do not usually know how it has occurred. It just happens all by itself, often when you least expect it.

All we can do is maximise the conditions which enable it to occur. And everything about an Enlightenment Intensive is designed to do just that … to make you “accident prone”.

On a typical Intensive usually about a quarter of the group will have an enlightenment experience.

But taking part in an Enlightenment Intensive produces a wealth of insights, awareness and new perspectives on you and your life. This is so irrespective of whether you have an enlightenment experience or not.

Does it change your life?

What a complete transformation has happened to me in the three years I have been participating on Enlightenment Intensives. Really – from wishing life would end to now being fully self expressive and passionate about every aspect of life.

Stuart (EI participant)

A single enlightenment experience is not a magic bullet which will solve your life and ensure your happiness forever. It is, however, a pivotal event for most people.

It can resolve or eliminate certain existential issues once and for all. Some people, for example, lose their fear of death — or their fear of life. And it can stimulate a whole new sense of inner strength and direction in life.

Some have described it as like attaching a rocket booster to your personal and spiritual growth.

And some would say that enlightenment is not about change at all, but about simply accepting what is. After all, whatever you discover in a moment of awakening already is; it always was and always will be. You just didn’t know it before. In a sense, nothing needs to change.

But the knowing of what is does change something: it fundamentally changes your perception — and this opens up new choices. Being more understanding of oneself, life and others, you become more aware of positive alternatives in how you choose to live.

The effects of this, described by many people, include:

  • Deepening self-acceptance
  • Increased compassion for themselves and others
  • Increased trust in life
  • Greater ease in being themselves
  • Greater clarity about their life’s direction
  • An infusion of new meaning and inspiration in your life
  • A core of ‘knowing’ which isn’t dependent on how you feel or what anyone else says
  • Increased reality and authenticity in relationships
  • A deepening sense of spiritual connection

The communication element of an Enlightenment Intensive ensures that the process is very grounded. This means that much of the progress made in terms of insights and breakthroughs can be carried over into your everyday life. Most people also find that during the week after the Intensive more insights are gained and it becomes clearer how to make further progress in life.

Exactly what is experienced and how it affects one’s life is unique to each person.

The beauty of finding out for yourself

I have had my world turned inside out and upside down by truth. I have always wanted truth and this process blows me away. I can think of nothing else that has set me so totally free.

Amala (EI participant)

Finding one’s own truth for oneself is one of the hallmarks of Enlightenment Intensives — they are purely about self-discovery. You are not required or expected to buy into any belief system whatsoever. There are no teachings, no philosophy, no religion. There are no discussions about what the “answer” is or might be.

The only thing you are taught is the contemplation technique. And the only prerequisites on your part are a sincere desire for self-knowledge, and an openness to the possibility that you can know yourself directly, beyond your normal thoughts and perceptions, at an absolute level.

It is purely and simply about you finding out for yourself through your own experience here and now. So if and when illumination dawns, it is a spontaneous eruption of Truth within your own consciousness, and it is entirely a result of your own inner searching.

Because when you find something out for yourself, rather than just taking someone else’s word for it, you are much more able to make use of it in your life.

Is it right for you?

Amazing. Extremely difficult. One of the best experiences of my life.

Nicholas (EI participant)

Enlightenment Intensives are not for everybody. They are indeed intense. But this is all part of what makes them so powerful and effective.

Let me paint a picture of what it’s like to take an Enlightenment Intensive. You contemplate the same question for about sixteen hours a day, virtually non-stop. All your usual distractions have been taken away, so there is nothing else to do. You find yourself revealing your innermost thoughts and feelings to complete strangers. You might have long lost memories emerging from your unconscious. You may also run into deep-seated emotions such as guilt or grief that have been held in for many years. You find yourself crying one minute and laughing the next. You suddenly see others in a new light, as your usual filters and projections fall away. You feel a silent love pervading the room. You contemplate your question but nothing seems to be there and you fear that you may be empty after all…

On and on it goes, as ever deeper levels of personal truth are uncovered.

In short, taking an Enlightenment Intensive is a true adventure in self-discovery, one not to be taken lightly.

Taking an Enlightenment Intensive may be right for you if any of these ring true:

  • You are drawn to seek greater depth, truth and meaning in life.
  • You would like to discover something within yourself that is absolute.
  • You prefer to find things out for yourself.
  • You want to discover the truth of who you are.
  • You have read other people’s stories of spiritual awakening and would like to experience it for yourself.
  • You want to be more awake and more real.
  • You want to live with greater authenticity and relate to others with more reality.
  • You want to be more ‘yourself’ in life.

I would advise you not to take an Enlightenment Intensive if you are unwilling to look at yourself in complete honesty. All genuine pursuit of greater spiritual awareness involves meeting one’s personal inner barriers. Enlightenment Intensives simply accelerate this meeting. They encapsulate both the grace and the grit of true seeking and true finding.

You cannot resist your truth and be open to your truth and at the same time. You cannot hold onto your ego and expect to somehow go beyond your ego at the same time. You have to commit yourself to truth.

And I would advise you not to take an Enlightenment Intensive if you hope that enlightenment will somehow be given to you by someone else. No-one can do it for you. It requires effort on your part.

Where to take an Enlightenment Intensive

My wife and I run Enlightenment Intensives in the city of Bath, UK (see our website here).

There are others running Enlightenment Intensives all over the world. You can find some useful links on the Wikipedia entry for Enlightenment Intensives.

Enlightenment Intensives have enabled thousands of ordinary people around the world to discover who they really are — to experience a moment of enlightenment.

I hope to inspire you with the very real possibility of discovering what such an experience could mean for you.

Further reading

Enlightenment Intensives – this is a brief and slightly more formal introduction to Enlightenment Intensives, including information about where they come from.

My first enlightenment experience – this is my own account of what I experienced the first time I took an Enlightenment Intensive.

My first Enlightenment Intensive – by Isis the psychic – an African American woman talks about her introduction to Enlightenment Intensives in the 1970s.

Enlightenment Intensives entry in Wikipedia

Enlightenment Intensives in Bath, UK

26 thoughts on “Discover who you really are

  1. Not sure who I am exactly, I know what I WANT, but getting there seems very hard if not impossible. Since age four Ive felt as if Ive been alive for a very long time, like the passage of time an experience but none, or very little, of the essence of that time spent–more like torture.
    I tire of jobs quickly, learning but be stimulating or it becomes near impossible for me to grasp. TO emphasize again, its like having been alive for a very long time but not being able to remember any of the details.
    Yes, I have fear, not not OF people, more like OF life like i just want to be vegetative most of the time–in other words not think.
    IM unclear as to why life seems so unbearable and why I have felt this way most of my life. With current “challenges” Im finding life ever more difficult and the idea of being a monk of some sort appeals to me very highly. I just feel tired of life and feel the need for it to end.
    Im experimenting with music now and pursuing an english degree in college–am trying to complete a novel at present—but I also have, at the age of 42, persistent acne that seems to never go away completely. I am not happy at all (maybe a little).
    Im clueless as to how to proceed any other way but painfully…..

    • Hi Eddie

      Thanks for sharing how it has been for you. It possibly sounds like the outer worldly life that most people pursue holds little interest or value for you personally. Perhaps the monastic life is exactly right for you, and you are now at the point of your life where you are going through a process of choosing to let go of worldly attachments.

      On the other hand, be aware that the monastic life offers no escape from thinking — quite the opposite in fact. A monk’s life is a very contemplative one. To find mere existence torturous for no obvious reason is unusual. I wonder if something might have happened at age 4 to cause you to back out of life.

    • I feel the same EXACT way. Its like you took the words out of my mouth. For some reason, I think that I have a lot more to go even if it feels like Ive lived a thousand lives.

  2. Hey!

    I’m definitely a Sage, through and through, but I’ve had difficulty placing exactly which age I fall under. I seem to have qualities of several:

    I’m driven to succeed and have tendencies to be loud and occasionally reckless like a young soul. Also, I do tend to fight presentational tendencies in my performances.

    I often experience periods of detachment from everyday life and depression like an old soul. I truly do find joy in the “mundane” like housework, and helping others. Still I’m not sure that I’d consider myself much of a teacher.

    I’m definitely self-critical and focus much of my efforts into developing relationships like an old soul. Also, I’m much more interested in developing my true talents as opposed to gaining fame. Most of my thoughts are focused on love and enhancing my skills as a performer.

    Most people tell me that I have a youthful presence, but my closer friends think I’m an older soul. I was a mature kid, but sometimes I think my present demeanor is me simply trying to make up for lost time.

    Can you please help me out, I’ve put more thought into this than I reasonably should have. 😛



    • Hi Josh,

      Well, it might depend on how old you are physically, but given the thought you’ve put into this I would bet on Mature soul. This is a gross generalisation, but on the whole Young souls don’t really go for introspective soul searching, and Old souls don’t get so bogged down in details. But trying to identify and characterise one’s inner self is a typical Mature soul preoccupation (I speak from experience!).

      Being a Mature soul doesn’t necessarily stop one from seeking success in some form, it just means that ‘success’ has more of an ethical dimension. A Young soul will have success at any price; a Mature soul will want it to be consistent with his/her deeper principles.


    • Thank you! That makes enough sense–I’ve always felt juxtaposed between ten and fifty years old 😛

  3. As a child i was always quiet and always studying things, people have always said why are you so quite? I reply with iv’e got nothing to say i’d rather listen and learn also i grew up asking my father about such complex words like on billboards i’d always ask dad what that word means . I read the facial expression page about about the sage, servant,warrior, scholar i believe i may be a scholar and warrior people have responded by looking with fear because of my ”Back off!” sorta expression im always staring off into space wondering about the strangest things. sorry this is my first time commenting on this sight i hope i made sense.

    • Hi Oliver

      I was very similar as a child, and my son is very similar now, and I’m pretty sure that it’s because we are both Scholars with Emotional Centering.

      As a Scholar, it is natural to see life as an object to be studied. Other roles see life very differently. Warriors, for example, see it as a challenge to be confronted; Sages see it as a theatre stage for their wit and wisdom; Artisans see it as a canvas for their creativity. But Scholars are naturally predisposed to watch, listen and learn, and maybe ask a few questions, which makes them seem pretty introverted – perhaps more than they really are.

      Emotional Centering means that one’s main faculty in processing the moment-by-moment experience of life is feeling and sensing. In other words, the central quality of one’s stream of consciousness (and sense of self) is highly sensitive and reactive. (By way of contrast: Some people are Intellectually Centered – they process experiences by thinking and talking, always trying to articulate what each experience means. Some people are Physical or ‘Moving’ Centered – they process life by being an active participant, doing rather than thinking or feeling, always trying to make something happen.)

      The thing with Emotional Centering is that experiences are processed inwardly, like a process of digestion. It’s a silent, mute process, in contrast to the talkative Intellectual or the frenetic Physical. So that’s another form (or at least apparent form) of introversion. I am also certain that all those who may be called “highly sensitive persons” are Emotionally Centered.

      So… I suspect you’re a Scholar, and possibly with Emotional Centering. Does that resonate at all?



    • Well yes that does resonate quite a bit i do have a bit of a introvert personality i do spend most of my time inside and researching various topics,

  4. In my search for why life, what purpose does a failed life serve to any one, i landed here . I feel happy for those who have found & are able to live life. Thank you for this site . in this democratic way of life, my creator has to tell me the bundled impulses inside me that make me act & suffer for no reasons, failing me in any & every chore that is also done with will power, leaving me with questions of why should i not be thrown out as a weed instead of wasting time here . i am sorry but me & my life is making I a mockery of sat chit anand. it is really funny that I do not know what love & joy is . Let’s see how we, you & me go from here. Thanks for this blog and rekindling my faith that answers to life are there .

    • Hi Mahesh

      I’m glad you like the website, though your words of course beg a lot of questions.

      So, I gather that:
      You perceive yourself to have so far lived a failed, worthless and purposeless life. It even sounds like every project you take on is doomed to failure?
      You perceive yourself as suffering for no reason, except possibly for reasons known only to God.
      You believe you fall well short of the ideal of perfect enlightenment or self-realisation (satchitananda).

      Ok, stepping back to see the bigger picture, I see a mind loaded with massive self-judgements in which “the self” is hopelessly off target, or even a lost cause. The thing is, what are you perceiving as your “self” and what criteria are you evaluating your “self” against?

      I wonder if you are perhaps setting yourself a very high bar – something most ordinary mortals would struggle to leap over. In other words, setting yourself up for failure.

      I also wonder if, perhaps unconsciously, you feel there is something “noble” in being hyper-self-critical. I have often noticed that those with Self-Deprecation as a chief feature would rather degrade themselves with negative judgements than do anything so vulgar as express pride in their positive qualities. (I have been guilty of this myself.)

      Let’s look at that high bar… I don’t know how serious you are being with the “mockery” remark, but hardly anyone on the planet ever lives up to the Truth of satchitananda. Probably only a handful in any given century. Those who do are probably at the end of their reincarnational journeys, like Sri Ramana. No one out here is expecting YOU to be at that level of ego-less and illusion-less enlightenment… Not until you’re good and ready, in your own sweet time.

      Most of us, myself included, just trundle along each life in a sort of half-hoping, half-coping mindset, weighed down by issues and confusions, but occasionally rejoicing in our successes and awakenings and moments of love and joy.

      I get that you must have some prior (and continuing?) life history of failure to have such negative perceptions of yourself. But that is perception, not truth, and there are infinitely many ways of re-perceiving any given situation, including one’s entire life.

      To give a little example: for many years I felt that life had been very unfair to me for “making” me be born into a bleak industrial environment where my inner self was quashed rather than nurtured. My whole childhood existence seemed meaningless. Years later, I began to consider the possibility that I myself might have planned to be born there, for some deliberate reason. Now, looking back, I can see that my choice of environment and childhood experiences gave me the impetus to grow into a very self-aware adult with a passion for imbuing life with meaning. And so … Ta-daa! … Here I am with this website.

      When we live a life of Growth, we tend to start out at the opposite end of the spectrum from where we mean to end up. We may be born into poverty, for example, to give us the motivation to become rich and successful as adults. We may be born into an abusive household to give us the compassion and understanding to become counsellors to victims of child abuse. It may be worth considering that your life is on some such trajectory – that your negative experiences so far are actually the rocket fuel that will eventually get you into some magnificent orbit.

      As for your perception of “self”:

      You – the real you – are not your successes and failures. You are not a hapless victim of fate, nor are you “meant” to be spiritual success. Behind all the life stories and experiences lies the real, innermost you – a perfect being, driven by your divine love of self and others to inhabit this human body for the duration of this life in order to expand your level of consciousness, and that of others.

      You have chosen this life precisely (I suspect) to experience and confront the issues you are now expressing. This life is a perfect opportunity for you to see and then, if you so choose, to drop whatever it is in your psyche that judges you so terribly and holds you away from all the joy in the world that is your by divine right.

      I hope to have given you some food for thought!


  5. I was talking to a friend the other day. I told her about some of the cool dreams I’ve had over the years. Most involve non-human intelligence encouraging me to pursue something greater than the mundane. One particular dream was so real, so tangible, where I was climbing up a sheer rock face and the Buddha floated next to me and told me to let go. I started laughing, let go and flew away with him. In another dream, I taught my son how to fly. In some other dreams, I was on other planets. What was odd was that the ‘people’ there knew I wasn’t from there and that I was from somewhere else. They treated me like I was an honored guest. My friend said I was astral traveling. Who knows but it is really cool beans. Then by happenstance I came upon your site. More cool beans and very affirming. What’s really funny and quite odd and I told this to my friend as well is that I know I have cycled through a whole bunch of times and sometimes I can feel all of my lives merge into one. It’s a powerful humbling feeling and I wish I knew what I could do with what I know. I had a real rough childhood and instead of making me turn into a bad apple; it actually provided catharsis. Thanks a bunch for your work.

    • Great stuff Brian, thanks.
      I get the impression your life plan to grow by starting out with a rough childhood is going extremely well 🙂

  6. Hi Barry,
    This website has been so interesting to me as I have never previously considered the idea of past lives… I would love to email you some details of some things I’ve been going through and possibly get your insight as there are some things that I wouldn’t want to post on the Internet. I do think that I am either an artesian or scholarly soul, however, due to certain events in my life (i will explain in email) I tend to think I may be a baby soul….like I said I would love to tell you some more of my story and get your opinion! Thanks for such a lovely website!

    • Hi Chlo
      Really glad you like the site. Feel free to get in touch (there’s an email contact link on the site), though be warned I’m sometimes a bit slow responding at the moment thanks to a mixture of chronic fatigue plus having a lot of work to do AND soon to have a minor operation! But I will respond as this is my Life Task.

  7. I took a reiki class in 2001 and today 13 years later i came across a folder i kept and in it a note to check out the book the seven soal types. Googled it and here i am on this site….I love how things pop up when your ready for the knowlege…lesson…experience. I really enjoyed exploring the information on this site. I will ponder and analyze what i have read and dive back in soon for more! Thanks so much i appreciate all the insite. So far i am leaning toward my soal type: scholar/atisan goal: growth.

  8. why do people have a lt of fear , this including me . I always have a lot of ear , fear that someone may discover that I have that fear inside me

    • Hi Yanet

      Fear is a natural state of the body. Love and joy are natural for the soul (essence or spirit). The conscious mind sits between the two, hardly aware of the amazing depths of love and joy that are available to conscious experience, but very, very aware of the presence of fear. Fear is a sort of danger signal, warning the body that it is under threat and should do something about it. However, fear can become associated not just with real threats but with virtually anything. We can develop a fear of failure, for example, or of social humiliation, or of rejection and exclusion. Some fear intimacy. Some fear success. Many fear death but many more fear living with regrets. In every single case, a fear that was originally designed to protect the body has been “adopted” by the personality.

      The fear of exposure sounds like what you are describing. This is also very common for those with a very negative self-image – the fear of being found out, also known as ‘the imposter syndrome’ (I dont belong here, and sooner or later somebody will realise it). We want to appear ‘normal’ so that we can be accepted as normal people and live a normal life, but all the time there is this ‘secret’ knowledge that really, we are far below normal.

      The ‘secret’, however, is an illusion. A lie we tell ourselves. We get caught in a vicious circle of fear, repeating the same lie to ourselves (I am less than normal, I am not meant to be here), because we imagine that reminding ourselves of this “truth” is the only thing protecting us … from what we fear.

      The fear fades whenever the lie is exposed. You are not ‘subnormal’ or ‘inadequate’ or ‘an imposter’. You are meant to be here because you have a unique way of being. Lose that fear and you will find the joy of being you.


  9. Hello Barry,

    Your deep insight into the various states of the soul are spot on with what I “remember” 🙂

    I am a little confused about my own status. I have always known that I am a soul that originated in the Otherworld (Celtic theory) and sent to this plane as a sort of bootcamp. Life has been a horrid challenge so I am guessing I must have chosen myself a tough lesson.

    I was trying to identify myself from the soul types and have been unable to do so – partially due to being indecisive about my soul path and partially because I wonder if souls that are not in the running for human reincarnation. Would love to know your thoughts.

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