My Journey (Stage 1)
My Experience Is a Personal Matter
It is important, when reading the following, to bear in mind that these are my experiences. They have absolutely no relevance for anyone else. No two people will have the same experience - that is one of the fascinating things about life and a subject I greatly enjoy exploring. I am willing and happy to share my experiences, as I found it very useful to read of the experiences of others and to know that someone else had been through similar things and had similar thoughts to me. Do not deny what you have experienced - no one can take your experiences away from you and others' opinion of them are completely irrelevant. It is pointless trying to copy another's experience, or to think "if I do such and such, I will get 'there'". For instance if I said I ate only yoghurts for 3 weeks (I didn't, but I know someone who did), guess just what 'you' might think would get you 'there'.
I have no idea how I came to be where I am today. Luck undoubtedly played a part. Luck in being born in a part of the world not, at that time or since, embroiled in wars, famines or other such major manifestations of the misery of the human condition. Luck in my early years of life, in not having too many, or too severe, parental instructions. Luck in having the experiences I did (though at many times I did not consider them at all lucky!). I always seemed to be questioning what life was about, what was the meaning of life. Why this was so I have no idea, but it did mean I had an early start on the road to self discovery. One of my reports at primary school said "Alan is an intelligent child, but sometimes he just is not with us". Very true, I was dreaming - dreaming of what was possible, what was it all about.
As a teenager, I was immersed in science fiction, as well as most of the 'normal' teenage pursuits - like girls, alcohol, smoking and sports, not necessarily in that order. The science fiction which interested me was the speculative type into what it was possible for human beings to achieve. My favourite author was Robert Heinlien. Perhaps reading "Stranger In A Strange Land" at an early enough age was a key to my future development. My imagination, as to what was possible, ran free and I knew that living a 'conventional' life would never be sufficient. I recall telling my first (serious) girlfriend that I would never be a "Semi Detached Suburban Mr James" (a popular song of the times). And I never have been.
The first peak experience [NOTE 1] I can remember was when I was 19. I was going through a very down stage - my life was not working out, for various reasons, and I was really questioning what it was all about. I cannot recall the exact circumstances, but remember I was walking on my own, when suddenly a light burst out and everything became clear and simple. From feeling depressed and miserable, everything become beautiful and joyous. Life was good, ecstatic. Here was the answer! I was quite involved in the Church at that time and so, with my then terms of reference, interpreted the experience as religious - God had revealed himself to me? I immediately informed my parents, much to their surprise, that my future lay as a minister in the Church of Scotland. I am unsure as to the duration of this experience, but it lasted long enough to have an immediate effect on my life. Fortunately, I did not pursue religious orders and, as time went by, the memory of the experience gradually faded and was temporarily forgotten.
My next peak experience was when I was 25. I had been taking marijuana on a regular basis for a few years and feel this may have facilitated, though not caused the experience. I had not (and have not) taken any 'psychedelic' drugs. The build up to the experience was a very heavy weekend of 'smoking' and also my first sexual experience with another man and of a man and woman at the same time. Although both these people, particularly the male, had been very close friends, we had drifted apart and their lives were very different from mine. I experienced great feelings of paranoia during the weekend. I was therefore in a very unusual state of mind at the end of the weekend - excess of drugs (alcohol and marijuana), paranoia and having broken down personal inhibitions through new sexual experiences.
On the train on the way home I read a book - Emmanuelle. This is a book containing an interesting philosophy on eroticism (ignore the subsequent films, which have appeared, except the first one - in French - the dubbed version misses the point). At some point near the end of the book - ZAP!!! Instant enlightenment, at one with the universe, all the answers, perfect peace and LOVE. I returned home to my first wife and overwhelmed her. I had an incredible effect on people in my life - infusing them with my energy. I was full of energy, needed only a few hours sleep a night, was sure that sexual freedom was the answer. I started writing poetry, music, things I had never done before. I no longer wanted drugs or alcohol - nothing that might interfere with this incredible state of mind. Everything became so easy and simple. I could understand peoples problems - no, I could experience peoples problems and their pain. I could also feel the pain and joy of the world. This lasted for about two weeks.
In 1988 I had my third major experience, this time lasting about ten days. In the interim I had been through two traumatic experiences ('clinical depression’) and was at a low point, so lots of self examination, introspection etc.. and had been going to counselling for several months. I had also been through Exegesis (loosely based on Erhard Seminar Training [NOTE 2]), a sort of crash course in living here and now, which had a profound and lasting effect, broke down a lot of barriers and contributed a lot to my being here.
Strangely, I was again on a train when it happened. Same as last time, life was ridiculously simple and easy and absolutely perfect. All the energy, previously being used in keeping my 'self' together, was released.
With my altered terms of reference, I imagined this state to be 'enlightenment'. Perhaps not the eastern type of enlightenment, of which I had read a little, but something akin to it, which was still enlightenment.
This is what I wrote at the time:-
Enlightenment is a state of mind, or rather, the lack of a state of mind. It is living completely in the now, no worries about the past, no worries about the future. It is seeing the absolute perfection of the Universe. It is feeling an overwhelming LOVE, or rather, BEING an overwhelming LOVE. It is feeling the fantastic joy (and the terrible pain) of the world and humanity. It is being able to feel someone else's feelings. It is having unlimited energy. It is giving without measure. It is having no hang ups, no preconceptions. It is being absolutely happy. It is a perfect peace and quiet. This description can only give a flavour of what enlightenment is. It is like trying to explain the proverbial colours of a rainbow to a blind man.
And each time you breath in feel the Life Force rushing in. Focus on the area between your brows and imagine light and love coming in through your nostrils and brows, so it is physical and mental. When you breathe out - send it back to Him. And each time you breathe in feel your heart and stomach expand with LOVE a little more each time, getting bigger and stronger, until you feel that with the next breath you are going to burst. Usually 'I' get frightened at this point and back off, but if you can take the next small step, you will find YOU.
From what I now know, this altered state of consciousness was very similar to what many of the West's so called gurus aspire to, with its sense of 'oneness', 'universal consciousness' etc. and especially "LOVE" - definitely with capital letters! There was a definite sense of 'connectedness' in the solar plexus region and I wanted to "spread the message to the world". Unlike eastern 'enlightenment', I retained my enjoyment of physical pleasure, in fact physical sensations became an absolutely exquisite pleasure. Had my 'terms of reference' at the time included more on 'enlightenment', I suspect I could all too easily have spent the next x number of years (or the rest of my life), either being or seeking enlightenment.
Steps Upon The Way
As I have said, I always seem to have been questioning what life is about. My peak experience in 1977 led me to start a more thorough investigation into myself, which has included a fair amount of reading.
More recent events are fully chronicled later. These are some other significant events on the way.
Other than reading, my first attempt to find out more about myself was to join an organisation in 1978 where, apart from making some important discoveries, I met my late wife. This organisation had been set up by a psychologist and my wife, who had been working together at one of the UK's biggest dating agencies, carrying out research into loneliness (intended to give the dating agency a bit of respectability). The organisation, called Wavelength, was mainly based on experiential psychology and included a lot of practices based on Transactional Analysis by Eric Berne. For the first time, I started to uncover some of what 'I' was getting up to, though I did not realise it at the time. Unfortunately, the organisation folded, through lack of financial resources.
The following year, I became involved with "Exegesis", on a friends recommendation. The first step was a 4 day 'seminar', with the basic objective of being here, now. I think the closest equivalents still around are "EST" and "Insight Seminars", though I have experienced neither and from what I understand, both are different. Most people who were on a 4 day seminar had some sort of Peak experience.
Over the next few years I experienced several 'breakdowns'. Ostensibly, in my case, caused by a high stress job, these are simply the mind's way of drawing attention to the fact that one is doing something wrong in one's life. As part of the "treatment" I learned to induce the "relaxation response". I also underwent a period of counselling, which assisted in occasioning my peak experience in 1988. Following this I managed to 'forget' or ignore the truth of what life is actually about, as demonstrated in my peak experiences. This is something it is eminently possible to do and is, in fact, the 'norm'. Unless reawakened, the experience can be 'forgotten' for the rest of one's life.
An opportunity arose to get out of the job I was in with, hopefully, enough money to buy a village shop, something we had previously discussed as a possibility. So in 1994 we moved to a tiny village in the south of England, to take up the life of a rural postmaster and village shopkeeper and a very different lifestyle. Although the hours were fairly long, free of the 'rat race', a much better quality of life, in a lovely part of the country, ensued.
I finally admitted to myself that the new life I had was not enough. I 'knew' what my purpose in life was and I had been trying desperately to ignore it. Being unwilling to admit this had been the cause of many of my problems and unhappiness. So, I decided to do whatever was necessary to 'rediscover' what I had already experienced. This was what I wanted in life, above all else. And I knew, even then, that it would probably be necessary to give up everything, including my 'self', in order to attain this 'freedom'. That is why making the decision had been so difficult, taken so long to make.
So, I had decided to resume my enquiry into what life was about, but how did I start. I had lost contact with all of the people I used to know, who were involved in the 'personal growth movement'. I started by buying some 'New Age' books. I knew exactly what I was looking for - someone who had experienced what I had. I wanted to again experience life as being absolutely perfect.
Most of the following was written at the time and I have largely left it unaltered, as it is what I was then experiencing.
On Saturday on my walk with the dog I was thinking about why I had lost 'it' before and had a strong intuition that it was something to do with an instruction not to succeed or "it will not last" or something like that. At the time I could feel the 'glow' in my gut/heart and each time I breathed in it grew stronger. I still seemed unwilling to take the final step into the light and was reasoning that this was just me being cautious and suggesting I wait until I discovered a safe environment where I could receive support from other people - "remember the last time this happened and you got attacked and lost it - wait until you find someone who has already got it". Suddenly I remembered a feeling of being frightened from my childhood, which was so strong I had to sit down on the grass. I was on the verge of getting completely in touch with this feeling and breaking down, tears were running down my face. The sub personality, block, whatever, was me as an 11 year old child who I had buried very deeply because of the pain I felt at that age. I suddenly felt the pain and anguish of this child and said to myself as an 11 year old "I am so sorry - I have neglected you for 35 years". The love and sadness I felt for this person was overpowering and I knew I had to work through the feelings. I rushed home but knew I would have to wait until 2 o'clock when one of the staff took over in the shop. It was a very long 40 minutes and all the time I could feel this great pain almost overcoming me. At 2 o'clock I asked my wife if she would assist me and immediately got in touch with the feeling. I had moved from East to West Scotland when I was 9 and enjoyed being at primary school. On moving to Secondary School at age 10, I had been bullied both emotionally and physically. The reasons were, my difference in accent, physically small stature for my age and being in the top (academically) class. I had buried this hurt deep inside and forgotten most of the events which had occurred. All the memories came flooding back, together with the feelings of fear, anger and being all alone. I was sobbing and speaking with the voice of a 10 year old. Burying this personality resulted in much of my feeling of being on the outside of groups and not part of things for the next 34 years. Now my 10 year old is part of me and I can call him up, reassure him and tell him he is loved, which is what he desperately needed at age 10.
So why am I now not willing to take the final step. Part of me is saying 'You can't possibly be as advanced - or even more advanced - as these people (who have written the books), you haven't done a tenth or even a hundredth of what they have done'. Part says 'wait until you find somebody who has had the same experience as you had. Be safe'. Part says 'Don't be foolish you can't live like that all the time - do you want all that hassle again and the depression again when you come down'. Part says 'You imagined all you went through before, it wasn't really enlightenment'. Part says 'Wow! lets go'. Part says 'I'm back in line with my purpose'. Part says 'Why have I held back and wasted all these years'. Part says 'I'm not sure, I'm frightened, suppose it all goes wrong?' Part says 'You're never going to make it'. Part says 'Nobody else has experienced what you went through, you have not read or heard about it anywhere - You're a nut case'. Part says 'Don't do it - you'll lose <name deleted> and she is all you've got'.
Last night I asked my chiropractor, if he knew of any personal growth groups - not in England. I then telephoned Shakti Gawain's headquarters - nothing going on this side of the Atlantic.
So do I wait until I have found somewhere "safe" or, do I make the leap on my own. At least this time I have read accounts by people who have had similar experiences, the closest of which is by Michael Rowland.
Had a very down day yesterday, lots of negative thoughts, probably as a reaction to the disappointment of the book I bought on Wednesday, which did not have the answers for me. The day ended in searching the Internet on a friend's computer, with very disheartening results. There was a minimal amount of information on things happening in the UK and I did not find anything that appealed. There is a lot of crap out there. So, I am still looking for someone else to provide the answers, when they are inside me all the time.
The Book I read was "Enlightenment Is A Secret" by Andrew Cohen. It is a very spiritual approach written by someone who has obviously experienced the higher states of consciousness. It is an Eastern, meditational philosophy including Master/Servant relationship to the "guru". Although I could relate to a lot of the comments, many I either could not understand or did not agree with. So, I thought, if this guy is enlightened, how come I don't get it - maybe I have not experienced enlightenment at all. As I am writing this, I can now see that these doubts are the ego seeking to hold on to its existence and I feel a lot lighter as a result. His is a purely spiritual enlightenment, what I have experienced and am seeking is enlightenment while enjoying living in the world.
So tonight my wife and I talked a little about what was happening to me. "I don't think I can go through it all again" she said. So I face my biggest hurdle - going for enlightenment is likely to involve giving her up - a source of comfort, stability and companionship to me over the last 20 years. Intellectually, I know that the path to enlightenment means being willing to give up everything, coming face to face with it is a bit more difficult. I have a very nice, comfortable life now. Not much excitement, but cosy and safe. So am I willing to risk it all in search for something I might not even find and if I do find it, will it last? - there are no guarantees on the road to enlightenment.
The last couple of days I have been rereading "The Road Less Travelled" by M Scott Peck. A good book with a lot of useful insights and also some ideas that are completely wrong.
Can it really be that so few people are truly enlightened? Why have I found so few books, nothing on the Internet. Am I chasing a rainbow? This is where I was before, searching for some confirmation.
Today, I found the confirmation - it is absolutely true that we bring into our lives what we need at any time. I found a book I had bought some time ago - Transpersonal Development by Roberto Assagioli. I probably skimmed through it when I bought it and had never got around to reading it fully. So much of what he says is correct and ties in with the experiences I have had. His book proved of immense benefit, although I still know it is only me who can do it.
Bringing what you need, when you need it, was again proved today. I was talking to my wife about what I was searching for and was astonished when she said she was not interested in further personal growth. I didn't believe her and kept badgering her about it and she said "You cannot force people to do what you want them to do". Of course I "knew" that I could not force people to do what they did not want to do, but I had not related it to personal growth - surely people must want to grow and of course I wanted them, her especially, to grow. Suddenly I got it - and with it the pain of knowing it was true - tears started running down my face as I realised the terrible sadness of not being able to change what people want to be, even if it is sorrow and living a semiconscious life.
Note - Most truths, when you "get" them, involve an element of pain and sadness, otherwise you would probably have got it before. So if you feel you've "got" something, just check to see if the truth is painful, as it will normally involve giving up a belief system, or a bit of the ego. There is also a feeling of joy and release as another barrier is broken down.
Over the last week, I have been reading 'Handbook to Higher Consciousness' by Ken Keyes and discovered that I may have an addiction to Cosmic Consciousness (and Love as well probably). I 'got' that this is the only thing that is stopping me and spent Thursday on an incredible high - one tiny step was all I needed to take. I was about to cook on Thursday evening when a chance(?) remark made my wife explode in anger, which ended up in her storming out.
But, the damage had been done and I was down. I felt very confused and could not work out whether I had created it, which I must have, or she had created it - this is where the theory breaks down a bit. When it happened I did feel panic and fear but very briefly - subsequent sadness.
When she came home, I persuaded her to talk about it and explained what I was doing and that I could not give up my search. She said if I wanted to continue I should "Get the fuck out and find enlightenment" and she wanted nothing to do with it. At one point I could feel her pain (and my own) but on the whole not very centred. This is the only real relationship I have at present and it is all going wrong again - I can't force her, so I have to give her up. I did at one point get the pain of having to allow people (my wife in this case) to be what they want to be - even when you desperately want them (and know they would be happier) to do something about it. This is the difference between loving someone and LOVE. Loving someone involves attachment - LOVE means respecting someone absolutely and giving them complete support in whatever they do (This does not include supporting negative habits/games - quite the opposite as, if you LOVE them, you will not support negatives, which is much more difficult to do). I subsequently went to bed and was asleep when I awoke to find her making love to me.
I now have my own computer and connection to the Internet and have found some very interesting sites. The most promising is "Enlightenment Intensives", to whom I have sent an e-mail, requesting more details and dates of next Intensive.
Received a reply from Enlightenment Intensives and I realised on Saturday that I had been creating a lovely excuse for holding back and suddenly that excuse has gone. I have been (as above) saying 'Wait until you find someone who is enlightened' - well, now it appears to have happened and I am confronted with the reality of what are my reasons for holding back and have felt fear (and excitement) over the last few days. So, am I prepared to give everything up?
Jake Chapman's book "Tell Me Who You Are" arrived yesterday and I finished reading it at 7.30 this morning. All the way through it connected with me more and more and, as I read his closing paragraph, I almost had a direct experience on the spot - tears running down my face and that feeling of knowing and coming home, but most especially the joy that he had had the same experience as me and was communicating it to me. This is a big area I have neglected over the years - I have not been sharing my experience with others - hence perhaps the writing of this, although this is not actually sharing (is the intention to share enough?). It is easy to make excuses for this, so I will not. Lots of stuff coming up 'This isn't the one - you want more than a fleeting second of enlightenment', 'It's not worth giving everything up for this'.
One thing for sure, there is not any one particular way to achieve enlightenment. There are many ways and I think most people will require a combination of different methods. I, as anyone, can only speak from my own experience and I have covered/experienced Psychiatrists, Behavioural Psychology, Yoga, Transactional Analysis, Gestalt, Weekend Intensives, Various Groups, Sexual Experimentation, Exegesis, Re-birthing, Relaxation Therapy, Counselling and a fair amount of reading. I have covered none of these areas in great depth (for instance I experienced re-birthing twice - once as spectator and once as being reborn). I do not believe that devoting oneself to one thing will achieve one's transformation.
No path can guarantee enlightenment and it can be achieved without any particular method - there were none of the modern methodologies available when Jesus was around. It is a state of mind and all of the practices I have mentioned are merely tools to encourage one in the correct direction.
Anyone who claims to know THE path to enlightenment is lying and my advice would be not to follow them, certainly for any great length of time. Everyone's path will be different and only you can decide what is right for you.
On the Internet, I found a forum, which looked interesting. Since a teenager, I had greatly enjoyed the music of the Moody Blues and considered their lyrics inspirational. This forum was for the supposed purpose of discussing the meaning and 'higher purpose' in the music of the Moody Blues and initial postings were encouraging. So, in I jumped, and wrote how I had found my new family and felt I had 'come home' (as in Jonathon Livingstone Seagull) and promptly posted much of what I had written of my experiences to all 250+ members. The first response I received was from the site owner, saying he had received several complaints about the content of my posting and to tone down future postings. The only other response was encouraging - sort of welcome to enlightenment - but this turned out to be based on the Urantia Book, reincarnation, spirits et al. Looking back, I consider it an absolute hoot and it all helped put a few more nails in 'my' coffin.
Continued searching revealed the staggering amount of information on the Net. Until you have actually dived in and started exploring, you will have only an inkling of the quantity and depth of information. Discovery of the huge amount of pornographic sites and the number of visitors to them says a great deal about what is the greatest desire most people have!
I discovered newsgroups discussing everything under the sun and many sites discussing philosophy and what life was about. Surely the answer must be in here somewhere! There must be others who have had the same experiences as me.
Hours and hours of searching produced nothing that really seemed to offer what I was looking for and knew existed. I discovered some interesting sites and some really weird ones, but all seemed to contain some form of 'religion' be it following a 'master' or 'beings' out there somewhere.
Then I decided to try a different search engine. I entered the search criteria of "altered state of consciousness + enlightenment + love + (another I can't remember)". This produced thousands of possibilities and, after searching a few, I decided to narrow it further and added "orgasm". This reduced the possible sites to just over 200 and I found the "Actual Freedom" home page.
There, I discovered a website written by an Australian man named Richard. Here was someone who knew what he was talking about, who talked about enjoying this life, as this body, who dealt in facts, not beliefs and had obviously had very similar experiences to me.
I wanted to know more about this "actual freedom"
 The term “peak experience” was made popular by Abraham Maslow in the early 1960’s. His book, Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences, published in 1964, had a considerable influence in my life (I didn’t read it until the 80’s)