My Spiritual Journey
Talk given at 'Alternatives', St. James"s Church, London, November 1989
(This is unedited transcript - so a bit rough in places.)
Tonight is going to be different, certainly for me. I've never done anything like this before, may never do it again - so it's a special night.
When William first came up with this idea and asked me, he said "We'd like you to kick the series off. My initial reaction was "Oh great, fine, that would be nice to do, a bit of fun, straight forward etc.". I remember I rang him up a few days later and said, "My god! What have I said yes to?" I began to realise how difficult it was.
The first question that came to my mind was, "What journey? What spiritual journey?" As I thought more about it, I thought who am I to start talking about spiritual journeys - in the sense that we're all on a spiritual journey. What have I got to say that anybody here couldn't say? We've all been on our own paths, our own explorations. I started thinking what is a spiritual journey anyway. In some senses everything that happens in life is part of one's spiritual journey. If I'm going to stand up here and give an autobiography, I might get up to year 2 in 45 mins - or might not.
On my 40th birthday I decided to recap on my life, set aside a few days to try and actually just recap everything that had happened. At the end of the 3 days I got up to age 8. I just realised that when you start going back and remembering, so much stuff comes up. So I started thinking more about this and jotting down ideas that came and seeing other problems and difficulties. In the end I decided to try and pull it all together and trust that it resonates with your own journey.
I think one of the dangers here is that its easy for me to get into 'ego thing' - "this is what I've done". One of the challenges I think I face is not to do that. Although its focussing on me and my work, I want to go beyond that. I suppose the things I want to pull out are more what's been going on behind it - the processes I went through, the motivations, the values, the difficulties. And there's a lot of material in that, and I find myself probably for the first time in years actually needing notes to give a talk. I realised as I went into this there were so many little things which were actually important, which if I just start talking, I'm going to start forgetting some of the small things - which the more I've looked into it over the past few days, I've seen just how critical some of these things are.
In fact the while process of preparation has probably been the most valuable thing about this. I mean if William now stood up and said we couldn't have a talk tonight after all, it probably wouldn't bother me at all. The fact of having to prepare for it has actually been most interesting, and might suggest that if there's one thing you take away from this its maybe the inclination to sometime to put aside half a day or something to look at your own spiritual journey. Fascinating what comes up when you start looking at it.
So first of all thank you William for having given me this opportunity to explore it myself.
I noted one of the challenges is just to be truthful, to really look at actually has happened - what is true rather than the idea. So as I look back in the past, things get very muddled sometimes between what was actually the truth and what I thought happened or was going on.
The other two things I think are important. One, as I already mentioned, is not to get into the position of me here and you there - to try and see it as something which is resonating with all of us, a common pattern which comes up in me in my particular way. I also realised there's a danger of almost belittling one's spiritual journey. Its probably the most important part of our life. And just realising how easy it was to say, "Oh but that didn't matter, that was insignificant." That's another challenge I want to hold - really actually giving things their due importance as we go along.
The next question I looked at was how to do it. How to actually organise it. The route I've chosen is the obvious one - to do things in a temporal order, to go through what's happened in time because that seems the most logical flow. In that bringing out some of the patterns and some of the issues which I've seen going on.
So where did it all start? Birth I suppose. The first time I think I actually saw that there was a spiritual journey to be undertaken in one's own personal life was round-about the age of 19-20. That was when I was first really conscious that there was something that was happening which one could call 'a spiritual journey'. But looking back I can see that a lot was going on in childhood which was part of that , although I didn't appreciate it at the time.
The first thing I can actually sort of look at and anchor upon was when I was about 7 or 8 when I first learnt to read to the stage where I could go to the local library and take out books. I found myself just taking out all the books I could find that were simple enough for me to read on dolphins and whales. Somehow this intuitive fascination with dolphins and whales - I can't recall why or what it was about, but I just knew that was all I wanted to read about. I think I devoured everything that was available for children of that age group. That became an on-going interest through out my life. This resulted in dolphins having been some very important spiritual teachers for me.
Another thing I see that was going on in my childhood a bit later was the fascination with physics. In particular mathematics. Looking back I can see very much the desire to really understand what the universe was about. This was the way it first began to manifest. Mathematics for me was, and still is, fascinating because - there are actually two types of mathematicians. There's mathematicians who believe that maths is something that humanity has created, and theres' mathematicians who believe that mathematics pre-exists the universe. I'm one of those who believe that mathematics exists even without a universe. So it was fascinating study for me: In studying mathematics one was actually studying something which was absolutely transcendent, in my view, to the universe.
Other things which I noted down which I sort of thought interesting: I was reading a lot of science fiction. A lot of people disregard science fiction. For me its a fascinating area of writing, but particularly a lot of science fiction is actually concerned with issues around consciousness, with spiritual development. Particularly in the 50's-60's a lot of the leading writers of science fiction were actually playing with I think some very very important ideas. And science fiction was the only place really they could write about them, and get them listened to - a lot of interesting stuff going on there.
And I was interested in yoga and all these strange this that went on in the East. Not in any spiritual was, I just thought it was fascinating that people could do all these strange things - lie on beds of nails. . Something going on in the mind, obviously. I remember at school: long philosophical debates on the nature of mind and free will and determinism and those sorts of things. All of which now seem to fit into place, which didn't seem very significant then.
I was also exploring altered states of consciousness in my own way. I'm sure there were things you all did, like lots of deep breathing, hyperventilating, spinning round, getting people to squeeze you and you found you went into funny altered states of consciousness. I remember I read a book on out-of-body experiences and started trying to do that. Wasn't very successful, fortunately.
And I also came across this technique which I developed which lasted for a couple of years - which i used to do as I was lying in bed at night. I don't know how I did it, but it was almost like remembering some state where I would actually put myself into a state - it had a very string metal image which I could best describe as a desert, but wasn't in any way a feeling that we have with the desert. It was a very warm feeling, but in which the mind became absolutely like a desert and it just went out in all directions. And just like this image I had for how my mind went. I used to really enjoy doing this before I went to sleep, when I was lying in bed. I used to get myself into this position, lying on my back, and sort of cruise off into this state which I thought was a lot of fun at the time - it just felt good.
What also felt very interesting - I didn't actually think what it was, just a vaguely interesting state to go into.
So things like this were going on - obviously something happening, and I'm sure you can look back in your own childhood and see lots of little things that were your own searching for something more. Probably, or may not have, crystalised into the idea of a spiritual journey. But I think the actual awareness that there was some spiritual journey actually came when I left school and went to university.
I was fortunate enough to go to Cambridge, which was particularly fortunate because the attitude at Cambridge is not one of 'you come here for 3 years to get a degree, study hard and get a good degree, that's what you're here for'. The attitude was 'sure there's lectures to go to, the occasional exam to take - but this is an opportunity for personal development and growth. You have here some of the best minds in the country - play with them.' Lectures were minimal.
That's when things suddenly started opening up. Because here were 10,000 other students, 10,000 other people my age, among whom were some who actually had sort of overt spiritual interests, who were actually exploring things in one way or another. Very quickly through that first year, I sort of gravitated to people who were exploring similar things. I suppose I got to know about 50 people or so who were playing around with looking at exploring themselves. Not just in the university - interesting enough it was a sort of culture that crossed the university and into the town. A lot of people from the normal town community were part of this sort of 'alternative group'.
It was also totally anti-class. There was a lot of class groupings at universities like Cambridge - people tend to stick with their classes. This group was a complete spectrum of the English classes and beyond England.
We're now talking about the late 60's. I went up in '65. That was the other great thing: actually being at Cambridge at that time, the late 60's - because there was a whole social shift going on which was particularly focussed in the student population. I think the thing that really pushed me into it was that also at that time people were discovering a lot of new ways of producing altered states of consciousness. Basically Chemical ways, which was in a sense very much a symbol of the 60's. I found myself spontaneously initially drawn into that. It was like - here was something that was fascinating. And that was a phase which just lasted just a reasonably short while. But it was fascinating looking back to see how it wasn't something that was put onto me, it was that something took me there looking for something in it.
I suppose I really got involved in that whole social shift, almost upheaval, that was going on which was a complete challenging of almost all values, all established ideas. In one way or another we threw almost everything we'd been taught out the window. We were the long-haired rebels. Everything was thrown out - it was like starting from scratch almost, in terms of our values of what was right, what was wrong, what was important, how did one do things.
It was a fascinating time to be living through. I think I feel eternaly blessed to have been born at the time I was, to have been in my late teens and early 20's through that period of history - and to have been at Cambridge ( or one could have been at Oxford or a few other places) but where there was that openness and opportunity to explore. (And there was something else - I didn't note it down - will probably come back to me later)
There came another realisation that was going through this whole phase in society, which happened towards the end of the 60's. Very much was the feeling that biochemical means of producing altered states of consciousness were not the way. I think a lot of people went through the shift: They realised there had been a fantastic door - a fantastic window if you like - onto different ways of looking at reality that allowed one to take down some of the old ways of seeing reality, and looking at things in a completely different way. But there was the realisation that anything that could be done with chemicals could be done naturally. This produced the whole fascination with Eastern religion, mysticism.
It was probably best exemplified by the Beatles, who in '67 suddenly made that shift and got involved in meditation. That was very much a reflection of what was happening in society. The Beatles were actually almost like mirrors that were held up to society at that time. I often ask myself why is it that pop stars got so into society that it wasn't just kids who loved them , but the old ladies as well, housewives - people in almost all sectors of society - why did they get their OBE's (or MBE, whatever) - how come?
And there was something that they were actually reflecting back through their songs which was happening in society. It wasn't just the Bealtes, it was people like Dylan, Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane - lots of people were doing this reflecting back what was happening to society through music. It was almost like music was the communication medium of the time, the lyrics. It wasn't coming out in writing, but it was music where people sharing their experiences, breakthroughs that were happening. And the Beatles were very much channels for that - they like many others suddenly went though the shift of 'hang on! There's something here that's much deeper', and turning to looking at spiritual development in a much more classic way, and saying what was happening in the East.
That was something which became part of my own shift. I began, I think for the first time really seriously reading a lot about different religions. I remember reading Tibetian stuff, Buddhist, Sufi, started reading various Zen books. This was really an active searching now: looking for where was this truth, this wisdom; and beginning to go along to start meditation.
In Cambridge, again one of the great opportunities: There were many different meditation groups, and meditation teachers around. I started practising a form of Buddhist meditation, and looking at various things.
Then one day I was walking through the library, and this book sort of fell off the shelf into my hands. You know - it didn't literally, but I was walking along and it 'fell off the shelf into my eyes' first of all, and so my hand went up and took it down. I flipped through it, and thought this looks interesting, and put it together with a pile of 5 or 6 other books I'd picked up, and took it back to my rooms in Cambridge. It sat there at the bottom of the desk for about a week. I finally got through to it, and opened it.
It was I think Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's first book "The Science of Being and Art of Living". I started reading this and something just happened. Everything he was saying was the exact opposite of everything I'd been reading, or had been taught, or had thought. He was going counter to everything. Yet it made much much more sense.
Basically what he was saying was that there was a process that spiritual teachings go through with time, whereby things get distorted over time. Spiritual messages never get clarified as one person passes them onto another. Everybody distorts them from their own level of ignorance. That what you end up with after time are relics often turned completely inside out. He was showing how it had happened in time, and how all spiritual traditions go though this process.
What he was talking about in terms of the true nature of the human mind - he was talking about the ultimate nature of the mind being one of happiness, and the need to recognise that actually made meditation a simple process, effortless process. Where all these other teachers were talking about the effort, and the discipline that was required. Everything was juts turned inside out, but in a way that made sense to my own experience. It also made sense of what the other teachings were really getting at.
That was a profound experience. I just remember I read this book, sat down almost at one sitting. My next act was - whatever he's writing, whatever's behind this I must try. So I got myself down to London about a week later.
London was the only place you could learn Transcendental Meditation in those days. So I traveled down, actually commuted I remember, from Cambridge for a few days, and got myself taught by somebody who became very important in my life for several years - particularly for about 6 months to a year (who some of you may know/remember) - Dr. John Alison, who was a medical doctor who had got very interested in T.M. himself about 10 years previously when Maharishi had first come out to the West, teaching T.M..
Dr. Alison was somebody who had a wonderful Western mind in terms of thinking, analysis. There was no woolly thought here. A wonderful perception also of what meditation was. I spent a lot of time with him, particularly over the following 6 months, just sitting in groups, listening to him,. often just sitting with him, chatting about ideas. What he gave me, which I needed so much, was an intellectual satisfaction. He really satisfied my thirst for a complete water-tight understanding of what meditation was and how it fitted in to all the different traditions. I want personally to acknowledge how important that was for me, having somebody who could fulfil that for me. Different people have different needs, but for that, for me, was the key thing: Being able to really fit it into my intellectual understanding.
About the same time I actually started a meditation group in Cambridge. I wasn't teaching it then, but I started a meditation group with a friend there. We brought teachers in. So I was beginning to move on in a way, particularly with meditation.
T.M. seemed to me - What Maharishi had done was in a way take a technique which was the essence of a lot of meditation processes, and find a way of delivering it to the general public, in a way that wasn't unduly tied up with all the spiritual paraphernalia and doctrines that normally surround things. You didn't have to get on with all this other stuff. You could just meditate - that was the fascination for me.
Plus of course the experience. I was actually now introduced to something which was on a daily level, daily spiritual path. This triggered another shift in terms of what was happening at Cambridge.
Up until this time I'd been doing physics - actually applied mathematics which is very close to physics. I'd done that because I was fascinated by it, I was good at it, it was my best subject at school - and if you don't think too carefully you go to Cambridge and you do what you were best at at school - it makes sense. And it was a fascinating intellectual achievement to be able to sit down and with pencil and paper: from first principles, these mathematical principles which I believe lie beyond the universe - using these principles to actually calculate that the atomic element hydrogen must exist, must take a certain form etc, and behave in a certain way. One can actually mathematically predict the existence of hydrogen. A fascinating intellectual achievement. I Probably couldn't do it now - I've forgotten all the maths - but it was a fascinating achievement.
And yet it suddenly struck me: So what? Hydrogen is just the beginning of the universe, the first simplest atom. Nobody could actually go on with the next stages mathematically. And it was telling me nothing about human beings - the other end of evolution, the human mind - it was telling me nothing about that.
And so I went through a crisis. It manifested as a major depression for me, which went on for about six weeks or so. Not feeling at all happy with what I was doing.
I had a tutor at Cambridge who was quite wise in retrospect, in the way he handled it. He walked up to me one day and said, " You're obviously unhappy with what's going on." And I bumblingly told him. (I'd done nearly two and half years of maths by now.) He said, "Either finish off your degree in maths at the end of this year, or go away - take a year off and think what you want to do, come back and do something completely different, or come back and do maths. And you have to decide by mid-day on Saturday." - which was the wise part.
At one minute to midday on Saturday I had no idea what I was going to do. At mid-day I decided to take a year off - step back from the whole thing for a while - I won't go into that story.
The question was I thought I wanted to come back and do philosophy, but I realised at Cambridge doing philosophy was just doing more mathematics. I chose to do psychology, which at Cambridge was much more the direction I wanted to move in - which was really understanding 'this thing' (mind). What is the human mind, how does it work? So I went back and on psychology, finished my degree in that.
And all the time I was deepening my work with meditation, and realising that as soon as I finished my degree and got freedom from Cambridge, what I wanted to do was actually go out and study meditation in depth. So I took myself off to India, where the Maharishi was running training courses to train teachers in meditation. I decided I didn't want to teach meditation. That's not what I was about. But since he was running this course which gave the most wonderful background in meditation, it was a wonderful opportunity and I wasn't going to tell anybody I didn't want to be a teacher. I was just going to go there and enjoy the opportunity.
Which was one of the most - odd to say one of the most important times in my life - it was a very important time, just to be sitting with somebody like that with a relatively small group of people. Not just listening to him talk, but to be able to have somebody of that stature, and os that spiritual experience, to be able to just sit with them in their bedroom late at night and pin them down on spiritual issues and questions. And we had this group of people who'd somehow congregated there at this time, who nearly all had come from a similar background - they were all students - mostly, a large percentage of students, a lot from America - with this real quest. I think we grilled the Maharishi like he'd never been grilled before - he had to be exact on everything.
Plus doing some very long meditation retreats. AT one stage we were meditating virtually solid for a week, 24 hours a day, which was fascinating - as again the whole emphasis was on not just having the learning, one's got to have the experience.
Anyway to cut a long story short - I could talk all day about that period in India - At the end of it I was desperate to become a teacher! I remember one of my concerns was that he wouldn't make me a teacher.
Anyway, came back to England and got very involved in the T.M. movement for some years. I ran a meditation centre in Cambridge. I went back and did a post-graduate degree in Computer Science, and at the same time ran a centre. Which actually came by incredible syncronicity. -
It seemed incredible at the time - one thing I've learned through all of this is syncronicities seem to be right-on. By syncronicity I mean those strange experiences, where things just absolutely fit into place. You walk around the corner and there is the perfect person you should meet - those sorts of situations - those coincidences without any reason, which always seem to be perfect for your next step or whatever it is. -
I got back from India and I arrived in Cambridge. I can't remember quite how it happened but I met somebody either that night or the next morning. I remember the next night I was sitting in somebody's room who was saying he wanted to set up a whole food restaurant in Cambridge and a meditation centre, and would I set up the meditation centre upstairs. He'd already bought the premises for the wholefood restaurant downstairs. And so we did (some of you may know Arjuna in Cambridge. The reason it was called Arjuna actually went back to stuff from India and the Bagavad Gita).
That was syncronicity. And syncronicities started happening time and time again. I've noticed in my life: When I'm in touch with my self, syncronicities happen. If they don't happen, if life seems to be a drudge of trying to make it work, and things aren't falling into place, its usually a sign that I'm not in place inside myself.
I got very involved in the movement. I was running something called The Students International Meditation Society in London, then became trustee of the T.M. charity. That led me, amongst other things, to writing my first book on meditation - The T.M. Technique. In fact it was my first book. Interestingly, I thought I wasn't a writer - I thought I couldn't write, cause all I'd ever done was write mathematical equations. I later realised that you can use that principle to write books and papers.
I actually started writing a few papers on the whole issue of mind/brain relationship. Almost accidentally ended up writing - I didn't mean to. I sort of had this idea of doing a book, and wrote something up on it, and a curious syncronicity happened that night:
I met an old friend who introduced me to another friend, who happened to know somebody else who was a writer, and said to me, "Oh you want to get an agent." And rang me up the next day and gave me the phone number. I went along to see her and she said she'd never done anything like this before, don't know anything about meditation - maybe we'll see what happens. She rang me up three days later and said, "Something very surprising happened while I was at a cocktail party the other day. This publisher came up to me and said do you know anybody who might want to write a book on Transcendental Meditation?" That's syncronicity.
And that began another phase, which I call 'my phase of difficulty' with the T.M. movement. When the book was published, a lot of people liked it. Then they started not liking things I said in it - people in the movement. And this book had the dubious distinction of actually being banned in the U.S.A. by the T.M. movement. The reason was that I started talking about spiritual things, and tried to set T.M. in a spiritual context - which was exactly what it was for me - a technique which was a very efficient spiritual process. There was only one chapter in which I tried to set it in a spiritual context. But the whole movement in America was trying to say "T.M. Is NOT a religion". And here was this book saying you know there's something spiritual about it. So the book got banned, by the T.M. movement. Not in the shops - but it meant no one was allowed to talk about it, or T.M. centres weren't allowed to sell it. (No, it didn't get burned in the street. . .)
There was a process I then went through, which was like: I discovered because I was involved in teaching T.M. I was expected to think certain ways and say certain things, and behave in certain ways. For me the issue was trying to express what was true for me. The reason I wrote the book was because I felt there was a lot that was being said about TM that was blatantly untrue, by people who didn't know what it really was. Also a lot of very muddled thinking going on about it. I just wanted, from the best of m,y perception to try and put down a really clear survey of what it was.
So it was slightly shocking to find it sort of thrown back like this. But then worse was to follow. I wrote a few papers where again I was trying to express what I felt was true, and these became disapproved of. I then committed a major sin - which was that I produced a (tape?) for Encyclopedia Britannica on relaxation. They asked me to produce this (tape?), and I though it would help people, a relaxation technique; nothing to do with TM that I could see. But suddenly I discovered that if teach one sort of meditation you're not allowed to get involved in anything else.
But my ultimate crime was I got asked by the BBC to produce a radio series on meditation in which I surveyed, I think it was 5 or six, sorts. I looked at TM, Buddhism, Bagwan Ragnish, Christian meditation, Swami (Muktananda?) - basically surveying what I saw as some of the main movements in meditation. This of course was a major sin, and as a result was I got excommunicated.
People were told not to speak to Peter Russell - I'm serious - and ti was a very painful time. I say this not out of - I was actually wondering whether or not to talk about this at all, not normally something I talk about - I really want to mention it because of what it meant for me in terms of the hurt I went through, the pain at the time. Its interesting just going back, its still there, some of it. Its something that I really felt so strongly for, and was wanting in my own way to support. It was like having everything pulled out from underneath me. I think the greatest pain of all in that was the fact that I then lost my personal contact with the Maharishi.
Up until that time I'd probably been spending - going out, spending 3,4,5 times a year, maybe a week at a time, fortnight here and there - just sitting with him, meditating, listening, being with the latest developments of his thinking. Suddenly I found the door closed. Not that he closed it, but people around thought I should be separated in some way from what was going on. So it became very difficult. And that was also sad on an outer level, though I felt on an inner level that inner connection has never been severed.
I suppose there was a choice - in one way there wasn't a choice. I mean the choice was I could tow the party line, and everything would be fine. But that was no choice. For me, I had to follow my own truth. That truth took me on into other areas. It was the close of a phase.
There had been about 7 years of this phase. I didn't stop doing TM by the way - I still do. Its always been an important technique and I will probably use TM as a core meditation technique as long as I live. But I then discovered theres a lot of other things I began to learn from other people. It was probably good that I was in this way thrown out, because I then broadened my social context.
I'd become very much involved in that movement of people, and nearly all my friends at the time - all the other friends that weren't involved in meditation sort of drifted away, distant contact - my main friends all involved in meditation. Suddenly I went through a process of a whole new area of friends opened up. Which I can best describe as people were in the "consciousness movement" - what is now sadly being called the 'new age group' (and I wish it never had) - people who are now household names, people like Jean Houston, Marilyn Ferguson, Willis Harman, those sorts of people.
We sort of gravitated together, exchange of ideas - we started meeting at conferences. I found myself having a love relationship with California, almost commuting to California. I found there was so much that was going on in the States, particularly in California - really exploring how to take on the development of consciousness. I also found, interestingly, nearly everybody I met in the consciousness new age movement, TM had been a major trigger for them, and then something had thrown them out. Just seeing what it had done in terms of setting a basis from which people had then moved on into other things.
Also at that time I came across somebody who quite a few of you here probably know: Tony Buzan in England, and got involved with him, a lot of work on left/right brain. We started taking a lot of the psychological research on personal development, particularly on learning and things, taking that out into business. And a whole other area - which may not sound very spiritual - teaching in corporations, but that opened up and has been something I've been doing for the last 10-12 years now.
It was actually, and still is, a very spiritual process for me. For a start I consider it a forum where one can really explore how to take ideas or insights, or spiritual learnings, which are really important for me, and translate them into the language and metaphors of somebody who thinks their only concern is achieving corporate goals, and staying in the job so that they can look after their family (well, I'm putting it too simply perhaps - ) but people who see their life as basically living in the world, not as a spiritual life. How can you take what I consider to be some of the key spiritual teachings, and put them in a way that they can relate to and understand and derive something from.
Because I believe there's no difference between me and somebody in a suit, apart from the fact that he wears a suit (and most of the time I'm working in business I wear a suit anyway, so there's no difference between us at all) -we're all people with the same basic underlying search. And i always like to remind myself that when I finally left Cambridge after doing a degree in computer science, I very nearly joined IBM, very nearly joined their research department. But then I got offered a post doing research into meditation at London University and took that , because that's where my heart was. But I always have to remember that if I joined IBM, where would I be now. I might still be in IBM, as a manager, or I think more likely I would probably be running my own software company in California - or probably far more likely actually, I'd probably now be retired.
But I would still have the same spiritual questions, inclination, and probably be much more frustrated than I am. And I am fascinated by the number of people who are in business who want to explore these issues. So working in business is a different way of teaching for me, a different way of spiritual teaching. Its not 'here I'll teach you meditation', its finding a different routine. And that's a very interesting challenge.
Another thing that happened in all this was coming across A Course in Miracles. I was round at a friend's house one day and this box of books arrived on his doorstep. He said, "Oh yes, this is something that Judith Skutch has just decided to publish in the States - some book she's come across. And she said she'd send some over as soon as they were published. Some sort of course or something, let's see what it is." So we opened this box up and there inside it was some books called "A Course in Miracles". So we opened them up and started thumbing through it, and he said, "This look like the sort of thing you'll be interested in - here, have a set - Judith's just sent them to me, I'm not sure what to do with them, have a set." So I said oh thank very much, and took them back and put them on my desk.
This time I didn't get to read them, because a friend came the next day and said what's this? I said I don't know, its something that Judith Skutch is publishing in the States she's just found. He said,'Can I borrow it?' - Sure I said, have it! I haven't seen him since! Although I did find his name in a magazine the other day - if he's here, shhh... I probably wouldn't recognise him - Richard are you here.
It was about five years later I started coming across "A Course in Miracles" again and again through friends, and finally decided right I'd better get my own copy, and start work on it. I went through a similar process as I went through with TM, when I first came across TM: finding the same thing happening: everything turned inside out, upside down, and yet making absolute sense - both in terms of my experience, and also tying it back in to other spiritual traditions. And by this time I'd read an enormous amount more about other spiritual traditions. So in some senses the depth of that connection was even more powerful.
Particularly I think with Christianity. When I'd gone through my relationship with Eastern religion, I'd done a lot of work looking at the relationship between eastern religion and Christianity and the common ground. I think what the Course in Miracles did was actually really enliven in a completely new way my insight into what Christ and the Gospels is all about. So that set me off on a whole other exploration which actually resulted in last year me going to church for the first time in about 20? 30? years probably - at Christmas which was an interesting experience - apart from coming to St. James's and going to weddings and baptisms and those sorts of things. I hadn't actually voluntarily gone to church.
So, the Course in Miracles set me off on a whole new thing, which - the word which came up when I was thinking about giving this talk - was 'spiritual surfing'. The idea of the metaphor being how the surfer catches the wave - when you catch the wave suddenly you're carried forward. And for a period of 5 years or so I felt like there was some wave I was being carried forward on, and development was happening in many different ways. I was going through a lot of inner awakening, a lot of insight into what spiritual development really seemed to be, and what was actually going on in myself. It was a real opening of my heart - not in an emotional way, but - I'm not sure I can find the right adjective in England, but I know it was a development of the heart that was gong on, rather than the mind. Although the process was very much one of insight and understanding of myself.
I think one thing that shifted was - that until then I think I'd seen enlightenment as something you gain, like something that happens to you. And all the time meditating, doing all that stuff was 'working towards some goal' that was enlightenment, and it was going to happen when things were going to be different, because one's mind was suddenly filled with this wonderful white light, and whatever it was, golden light. You know you're on some amazing trip or something, to put it coarsely, that's how I started thinking about it.
And just realizing it wasn't that at all. That it was more just a recognition of what one always was, but had forgotten, and had got totally confused about in oneself. I began to see a lot more what the zen teachers were trying to get at. There's a zen saying that came up very early on in this period which was "You are already enlightened. The only problem is you don't know it." It was one of those things you think about, and you try to analyse, and think well, that's O.K. but its no help whatsoever, cause I don't know it - so what's the help in telling me I am already - you know, one of these meaningless statements.
Then I realised its like there's a fence. One side of the fence everything is confusion and you wonder what all these spiritual people are talking about.. On the other side of the fence it is all so clear and obvious, and makes absolute sense, and nothing has changed. Except you're just seeing things from the other side of the fence, the other side of some line.
And the whole thing was how does one change one's perception from one side of the fence to the other. And nearly all the time one's stuck into seeing things - or how I best describe it now as through the eyes of the physical world, through the eyes of the material world. The other side of the fence is seeing it through the eyes - maybe as (?who) says 'through the eyes of God'. And when your eyes become the eyes of God it all makes absolute sense.hat's the recognition: just the shift in the way one sees things. Of course doing that is a much harder problem.
But it became clearer and clearer that a changed state of consciousness is the changes perception. Things started becoming simpler and simpler and simpler. In terms of understanding. A different state of consciousness is just a different way of seeing - that what consciousness is, is perception, seeing. So a different state of consciousness is a different way of seeing.
I could go into this a lot more, but I think I should move on because of the time.
There's all about realising how much we held onto - how much I held on to my beliefs, my judgements, my attachments to things, and how the process of letting go - when I did it, the other side of letting go was all the peace, the happiness, the unconditional love that I'd been seeking - was just the other side of letting go. And this process of letting go became very much a focus for my own work. As I say, its one thing to talk about it, or one thing to see it and understand it - doing it seems impossible at times. And I found myself almost coming round to realising how difficult is this spiritual journey we're on. Almost in some ways it seems impossible. And yet seeing that the key area that became clearer and clearer for me, the key area in we - in which I have to work are our relationships.
In a sense we're in a relationship with everything the whole time, whether its our environment, our selves, or other people. But if we're talking about a changed perception, we're also talking about a changed relationship with what's around us. And realising more and more that the key area we're given to work with, or I was given to work with - I believe we all are - are our relationships. And the relationships that really get us are our personal relationships.
There's a teacher that some of you here may know from California called Marianne Williamson, who outs it very nicely. I won't try and imitate her - she speaks at about 75 words per second in a raucous LA accent. But basically she says, "You want a spiritual relationship? You think that's going to be easy? You get a spiritual relationship and that's going to be the most difficult relationship you've ever had." We think spiritual relationships are going to be all nice and bliss, and we all agree on the same definition of God, and we all meditate the same way, and hold hands and look beautiful. It isn't. A spiritual relationship, as she points out is going to be one that pushes every single button you've got. If it doesn't, its not doing the job.
The one that makes you feel uncomfortable at every other turn. But in pushing every button you've got, it presents you with the opportunity, first of all to see those buttons, and then, if one has a really caring relationship, the opportunity to have somebody else work with you or support you in dealing with whatever particular bit of rubbish you've just discovered.
And something Baba Ram Dass said on that - which I think has become one of my little mottos I suppose - he said, "Relationships are the yoga of the West." Yoga remember in its root meaning means 'one's path to unity'. Relationships are the yoga of the west, because its in the west that we get so hung up on our relationships in one way or another. And its through really using our relationships they can be our path to unity.
As I say all this is not easy, it just seems in some ways to get more and more and more difficult. I'm more and more discovering what an enemy is this little thing called the ego that one's trying to get rid of - how much it holds on. The last thing that wants to go is the ego. One wants to give up, transcending the ego, and living without ego, and the ego's saying 'No way mate!'.
The way I define the ego now for myself is as a belief - a very core belief that runs through my life - which says, "If I'm going to happy, I have to have the world be certain ways, and have people be certain ways." And if they're not that way then the fear is I may not be happy, and so I start trying to change things. That's the ego for me. And that ego 'creates' various 'needs' - for security, recognition, those sorts of things - approval stimulus. And then drives me to find ways to satisfy those needs, and gets me worried and fearful when I think those needs aren't going to be satisfied.
And that takes over so much of the time - you know, one can talk about spiritual stuff, write about it, but is one living it? And that seems the real battle. That Armageddon - I feel more and more I'm reaching Armageddon, and its not a nice battle. I don't know how long it goes on for, may go on for centuries.
Armageddon is the battle between the Christ and the antichrist, the final battle between the Christ and antichrist. And just seeing that is a continual battle each and every day. The antichrist for me is the ego, the bit that is antichrist - i.e. anti my own higher knowing. The bit that wants to tell me that my salvation lies in - whatever it is, having a comfortable living space, security, not being on the streets, approval - all these things, that's the antichrist. The Christ is the other bit that knows that all that is absolute rubbish, but hardly ever gets a chance to say it.
Coming to where I am now, I suppose the realisation: "I can't do it alone." I suppose so far the journey has been very much an inner journey - and still is. But just how much one needs first of all the support of others. That continual mirroring reminding of what it is that life is really about. Because the whole of society is set up to condition you from birth onwards that matter is primary and spirit is secondary.
The truth is its the other way around, but the whole of society is telling us that. That's one's conditioning, and every day as you walk down the street, the newspapers, the advertisements, the general conversation you have with people, nearly everything you see on television is telling you the world of matter is what's important. The reminders for me come from people more than anything now. And that is so valuable for me, its just those meetings you have with people. Its almost like how many meetings can I get in in a day. Where during the meeting I'm reminded of what its really about. Cause its so so easy to forget, so easy to forget. Knowing it is one thing, living it is another.
The other area is help from the inside. Just recently I've begun to see prayer in a new way, to see what prayer can be as an asking for help. Saying, "This ego stuff is more than I can handle, I need help." And there's a process which is important for me at the moment, which is one of actually turning within. First of all recognising that help can come from one's inside - whether you call it you own self, or the Holy Spirit, whatever you want to call it - the quiet voice within. I actually find it useful to remember that that's happened in the past: that one is not alone; one's not alone on the inside as much as one's not alone on the outside.
Then to ask, just to ask for guidance, but not in terms of what to do. I've discovered it doesn't work for me to ask for guidance on what to do. Partially because I can never quite trust it. I mean how do I know this is the Holy Spirit telling me what to do, or my own garbage? Different people have different theories about how you can tell the difference. I don't know, I haven't found a way that works for me. But what one can ask for, and in fact for me is the only thing one actually needs is guidance on how to see it differently. its just 'help me to see this situation differently'. And always what comes is seeing things in a different light that's usually a light that's free from the ego. Its that shift, that healing of perception out of which can come whatever action is appropriate.
But that is as I say the stage I seem to be at the moment. This battle, and recognising one can't do it alone.
And to finish - I almost feel I've hardly begun on this journey of whatever it is. I think I've passed through the phase of the spiritual surfing. It ended I think about a year ago. You know how when you're surfing you eventually lose the wave that goes on without you. The wave's gone on now. I think I understood the other day what the dark night of the soul is all about. I don't know what's going to be next. Maybe, I feel its time maybe something new is about to come in, maybe its already there. What I've noticed always in the past is whatever I've been through, nothing ever seems to go away, its always something that's added to it. As I say, T.M. was something that was very important to me, and always will be. And I think all the other phases and things that have been important and will continue to be part of what's important. All I can be is open to whatever's going to be of help next. And as always one cannot plan these things. I've never planned anything much in my life, particularly in the way of personal development. I think its just a question of holding the intention.
All through the time I was preparing this, a line from the "Course in Miracles" kept on coming up, maybe just because the words are the same. Maybe we'll just finish with the couple of lines - talking about inner journey. I may get it wrong, but basically the lines are: "The journey to God is a journey without distance, to a goal which never changed."