NOTHING TO FEAR BUT FEAR
by Tom Kurzka
Voice: Winter-Spring 2001
(c) 2002, Center for Sacred Sciences
Before we get to your Awakening last spring, tell us something about your spiritual
TOM: My parents were both Lutheran. In my early childhood, we
lived in Chicago and I went to a Lutheran grade school. We also went to church
on a regular basis. Then, around twelve or thirteen, I started questioning all
that. The picture of God I had received was that he was a little old man who lived
in the sky. It didn't make a whole lot of sense anymore, so I started doing my
I read a book on Buddhism, which made more sense to me. This
was based on some earlier inward experiences I had as a child. When I was about
five or six, I would get into this place where I would be looking into a mirror
, and I would go into this kind of altered state. It was like, there was the knownómy
house, my parents, who I thought I wasóand then all of sudden that would
shift. I would blank out, and then there was no more me. Instead, there was just
this vast Space, and I would go, "Whoa, what's that?" That had quite
an effect on me, even as a kid. So, when I became a teenager, I thought, if religion
is based on anything, it's gotta relate to that experience, because that was pretty
The most important experience I had was when I was fifteen. That
was my sophomore year at high school and I began experimenting with drugs. My
first LSD trip was very nice. My second was about two and a half months later.
That one was really scary, but nothing spiritual happened. Then, about a week
later, I smoked some pot with a friend. It was a summer night in mid-August, very
warm. We went to the park, and my friend said, "Let's look up at the stars."
I laid on my back and looked at the stars. I can remember my mind saying, "Forget
that you exist! Forget that you exist!" So I did, and immediately there was
this profound sense of Oneness, because I had lost all sense of my self. But all
of a sudden it was like, "Wait a minute! What's going on here?"
when my body awareness came back, there seemed to be no substance in it. My concept
that there's this physical world out there, and that my body is separate from
it, had dissipated. It was all caving in, and I panicked. That was extremely frightening.
So, I tried to sit up, and it was like the whole foundation of what I thought
reality was blew away. I could see in a flash it was all transparent. It was all
a fake construct, like a dream. I was coming out of the Oneness experience with
the stars, but when I got back to what I thought was my real world, I found it
didn't exist. There was no place to come back to!
By the time I got home that
night, I was totally paranoid. It was like I was still high and couldn't come
down. I stayed awake that whole night. The paranoia kept building. There was no
one to talk with about this experience. I couldn't tell my parents without them
finding out I was doing drugs. I think I was up for maybe three straight days.
Every time I would doze off to sleep, these intense, vivid dreams would start
happening, and it was frightening. So, I would just jolt back out of them.
I did tell my mother what was going on, because I thought I was losing my mind.
She took me to a psychiatric hospital, where they gave me some sort of drug that
finally brought me down, and I was able to get some sleep.
was the true beginning of my spiritual path, because I had seen that even the
`reality' you live in when you're straight isn't fundamentally real. That was
the Truth, and once you glimpse the Truth, you can never again ignore it completely.
But, at the same time, I was still attached to my illusion of reality, so there
was also this, "No, I don't want to go there, because it's scary, and I'm
going to die as a result of it."
CV: Did you continue taking LSD?
No. After that I never did LSD again.
CV: What happened next? How did your
spiritual path evolve from there?
TOM: I began to explore a lot of things.
I took up Transcendental Meditation, went to psychic awareness classes, read Ram
Das. But I was also trying to lead a normal life. I married Dawn. We had a daughter.
So, I'd go back and forth. Finally, when I was twenty-eight, I landed in Self
Realization Fellowship (SRF), which is founded on the teachings of Paramahansa
Yogananda. I decided that was my path, and so I began to focus on that.
I got into SRF, I started doing very serious meditation, sometimes for hours at
a time. That was important in laying the foundations for my whole future path.
But the trouble was, I couldn't find anyone who knew about fear. They all talked
about how God is beautiful, God is bliss, give yourself to God. But they couldn't
address this recurring fear I had. It was like on that night, looking at the stars,
I had found a window that every so often would open up. I'd be sitting on a chair
and, all of a sudden I couldn't tell the difference between my body and the chair.
It was just all One, and I'd realize there is no body! Then the paranoia would
start to build. I was afraid I would totally disappear.
CV: So really what
prompted your quest was this fear. Was that the incentive to be on the spiritual
TOM: Yes. When I read the Eastern religions they reflected almost word
for word much of what I was experiencingó only they said it was supposed
to be FUN. But for me it was more like hell. Once I attended an SRF convocation
in Los Angeles. There were thousands of people there. I started to get disoriented
and the fear came on. So I went to a novice monk and tried to share with him what
was happening. I said, "I feel like this is God, but God's not blissful.
God is kind of scary." He said, "I think you've got psychological problems,
because if you're having a true spiritual experience, it's peaceful. You're not
peaceful, so you must have a problem. You need to see a psychiatrist." I
was pretty upset by that. Later, I talked to a senior monk. He was a little more
sympathetic, but still he couldn't offer any really useful advice.
you feel that if you had met somebody like Joel at that time, he might have pointed
you to it more quickly?
TOM: If Joel had been there when I was fifteenóor
somebody like Joel, who knew what was happeningóI might have saved 30 years
of searching. That's one of the problems with our society. No one understands
the nature of mystical experiences. You go to your parents, and there's shame.
They say, "What's the matter with you? Don't think about things like that!
It's the drugs. Drugs are bad. You're bad." Even the psychiatrists don't
understand, because they're also living in delusion. So there's no support at
CV: So what happened after your experience in Los Angeles?
started having these experiences of no-body, no-self more and more often. It got
so I couldn't avoid them, or the fear they caused. One of the big things that
would precipitate this was motionólike riding in a car, or plane. There
was something about motion that would always bring about the sensation that there's
no difference between my body and what's around meóespecially riding on
a plane. On a plane, you get a g-force, and then there's a feeling of weightlessness.
What made it worse was I always felt, if I could just stand up, the experience
would stop. But on a plane, you're all packed in like cattle. So I became paranoid
about being in any place where I'd be stuck in a sitting position. Finally, it
got to the point where the fear was really incapacitating me. I couldn't drive.
I couldn't get on a plane. I'd even get paranoid in movie theaters. "You
gotta face it," I thought, "You've come to an end." That's when
I started coming to the Center.
CV: What year was that?
TOM: I met Joel
in the Fall of '97 . He was really the first person who was actually able to understand
what was happening. "Oh yes," he said, "You're experiencing fear.
That's perfectly normal." I thought, how refreshing. He also said fear was
a good sign. Even though it isn't any fun, it means you're getting close. That's
why it's so valuable to have an enlightened teacher. They know where the path
is going and how to guide you to get there. So, I decided I had to get serious
about this. When I joined the Foundation Studies group, I told Joel I was ready
to make a total commitment. To tell the truth, I was scared shitless of Joel.
I wasn't scared of him, but of being around himóof what was going to happen.
CV: So, in this processóparticularly after meeting Joelóenlightenment
became the conscious goal of your path. You wanted to be enlightened because you
thought things would be different?
TOM: It was more like knowing deep down
that I was living a lie, and that the Truth needed to be uncovered. It wasn't
as if I was going to figure it all out and life would be rosy after that. In one
sense, it is! But it's different from the way the mind conceives of it. Anyway,
that wasn't the motivating factor anymore. It was just that deep down I knew I
was seeing things the wrong way. And also realizing that the fact I was living
this lie was hurting other people. It was messing things up. It's not a right
way to live.
CV: Were there any particular practices which you feel were important
leading up to your gnosis?
TOM: In the spring of `99 I went on my first Center
retreat. Joel was giving these Buddhist teachings on the five sense fields and
thought. We were supposed to experience sights, sounds, sensations, smells, and
tastes in their nakedness, without any mental concepts about themólike,
sound is just sound, sights are just sight, sensations are just sensation, thought
is just thought.
Sound was pretty easy for me. I'd listen to this train whistle
at night, and then all these thoughts would come, like, "That's a train,"
and "I'm Tom sitting on the bed listening to it." Then I started to
really see that these were just thoughts. They were not the whistle. That was
just pure sound, no concepts attached. You can talk about this intellectually,
but when you actually experience it, you go "Ahhh!"
I also tried
to pay attention to thoughts, but there would be this, "Oh my God, if the
thinking is only thinking, then the ego is only thoughts! But that means basically,
it's nothing!" At that point, I stopped becauseó"No! No! I don't
want to go there!" So I didn't get to fully experience thinking as thinking.
Still, I was catching on.
In subsequent meditations back home, I really got
into that practice. Not only in formal meditation, but even doing daily tasks.
A sound would arise, and it would be just sound. Sometimes I could go through
a whole day experiencing everything this wayósound is just sound, sight
is just sight, taste is just taste. I could even start to see thought is just
thought. Fear would still arise, because the fixation on ego would get threatened,
but it wasn't such a big deal anymore.
CV: It sounds like that first retreat
was a turning pointólike the shift began back then, and the process just
TOM: Yes. First you get an intellectual understanding, but then
at some point you get an experiential understandingóyou see it directly.
There's a big difference. Then, in January, 2000, there was another shift. The
meditations got to where I'd just sit down and there'd be this beautiful unfolding.
I could experience everything in its nakedness, without effort. From that point
on, it was like God was baking me. I wasn't doing anything anymore. I was being
baked. Throughout the day things would just unfold. Now, if fear arose, I could
deal with the fear. There wasn't such an aversion to it.
CV: What practices
were you doing just before your Awakening?
TOM: Andrea was leading the Practitioner's
Group. We were working with Pema Chodron's book, Start Where You Are, and doing
Tibetan practicesómainly shi-ne` [emptiness meditation] and tonglen [taking
and sending]. My primary meditation was the shi-ne`. In shi-ne`, you basically
just relax into emptiness. That really worked for me. I also did a little tonglen,
which involves taking on the suffering of others, and sending them love and compassion.
But that only worked when some major emotions were coming up.
CV: So that
was just before the Spring, 2000, retreat. Why don't you tell us what actually
happened when you got there?
TOM: Before going on the retreat, there was a
knowing that something major was going to happen. Mentally, I thought, "If
it happens, it happens," but there was this inner sense that I was going
to Pop. Along with that, though, there was also a lot of resistance. The first
night, I remember sitting in the meditation hall, feeling like I was spreading
out, expanding. But I was also thinking , "I don't like this! I don't like
this!" Then, there was this feeling of just having to let go, followed by
a profound sense that my heart was opening. Still, things didn't really start
to happen until the next to the last day.
That was Tuesday morning, and I'm
lying in bed at about 4:00 amówide awake, meditating. Birds are beginning
to chirp. I'm listening to the naked sound of the birds. It's just "sound
is sound," and it's quite exquisite. Then, the mind kicks in and has some
old thoughtóI don't know what it was. Then, the next thought comes, and
the next, and I notice that I'm distracted. "Oh, you stupid idiot. You blew
it! You're not listening to the birds anymore. You're thinking again." But
then I go, "Well, wait a minute. Why are you dumping on yourself so much?"
In practicing tonglen, we always talk about how we don't need to be so hard on
ourselves, so self-critical. That's just another form of aversion, and we're supposed
to be getting beyond all grasping and aversion. So, I think, "You're having
aversion to thought, but thought is just phenomena. It's no big deal. Even the
thought that's judging thoughts is just another thought." Then I suddenly
see that the thoughts, and the thought that is judging these thoughts, are just
like the birds! There's no difference!ó "thinking is just thinking."
That broke everything looseóall significance or attachment to egoóbecause,
in that moment, I saw right through the whole game. It's like Andrea says, "You
can have thoughts, but don't let thoughts have you."
CV: Is that when
TOM: No, not yet. It was more like, there's this window
and I'm still on the outside looking in, but there are major cracks beginning
to form. When someone gets to that point, everything really starts to get fragile.
You can still stop the glass from shattering, but you're going to have to work
awfully hard to keep all the pieces together.
CV: So, then what happened?
TOM: Later that morning, Joel led the last meditation before we were supposed
to go off on our own for solo day. He was having us shift focus from whatever
phenomena appear in the foreground of awareness, to the backgroundówhich
is the Groundless Being of Consciousness, Itself. In my loosened state, I really
started to sense this Groundless Being. So, again, there was this feeling of just
spreading out more and more into that Groundless Being. Then, suddenly, I went
into major fear. But then, instead of trying to escape the fear, I started to
watch it, and I saw it was just fear. There was still a little attachment going
on, but I could stay there with the feeling. It was just fearóvery intense
fear, but nothing more. Eventually the fear settled down, the heart settled down.
There wasn't a sense of Groundless Being anymore, but I felt like I was on the
edge of something.
Afterwards, I was walking to the dining hall for lunch.
Andrea buzzed up and said, "What's going on?" I think I had caught her
eye at the end of that meditation. She said we needed to talk. I hadn't talked
to her or anyone up until then, because it seemed pointless. There were no more
questions to ask. But now we did talk a little, and it was a great conversation.
I was telling her about the fear of getting lost, disappearing. She said, "You
still got bones. There're still bones in your body." I said, "Yeah,
I guess there are still bones here." She said, "You're still going to
be a husband and a father when you leave here." So, that was very reassuring.
She was saying, everything isn't going to explode if you let go. But at another
level it didn't make sense. How is it that there's nothing here, yet there's still
something here? The mind tries to grapple with this, but the poor mind, bless
it's little heart, can never figure it out. That's half the problem. On the path,
you're always trying to figure it out. "If I could only figure it out, then
I'd get enlightened." But you can't figure it. Your trying to figure it out
is what prevents you from seeing it. That's where surrender comes in. You have
to let go of wanting to figure it out.
Anyway, that evening, about five o'clock
or so, I'm lying in bed, and the sensation that there is no difference between
my body and the bed starts happening again. At first, it's the same old, "No
no no, I don't want to go there!" Then, the thought comes, "Let's explore
this." So, it's like I'm taking baby steps, just letting it out, letting
it out, letting it outóthe spreading thing. Now, there's nothing there,
and yet nothing explodes, nothing disappears! Then, suddenly, there was this incredible
sense of well-being, because it was all IT.
Going down to dinner that night,
IT was still just there. I knew I was still Tom, and Tom knows this, and Tom remembers
that, but there's just IT. And IT was wonderful! Whatever happened was just perfect.
The right thing always happened at the right time. There was no trying to think
my way through anything, or worry about what I should be doing. Everything just
sort of happened. And there was still this incredible sense of well-being. I remember
looking over at Andrea in the dining room while we were eating, and my eyes met
her's and it was, "Yeah, I see you. Awareness sees Awareness," because
everything is just IT.
That evening IT continued and I was feeling what Dr.
Wolf called the "Current." Again, I let go of the body, and I just spread
out across the room, and the sensation of well-beingóthis Currentópervaded
everything. That's when I thought, "I really ought to check in with somebody,
because something major is happening here." So I decided to go see Joel in
the teacher's cottage.
I walk in and Joel looks up, and says, "What's
going on?" I start to describe what happened with the birds and thoughts,
and sensing everything is IT, and my feeling of well-being. His eyes sort of light
up a little bit over that. Then, I say something like, "I think I'm getting
enlightened." Suddenly, his face changes, and he starts yelling at me: "WHO
gets enlightened? WHO? You go out there, and don't you dare go to sleep, until
you have the answer to that question!"
So, this is where the shit hits
the fan. I'm supposed to find out who gets enlightened. I've got to know this
by morning, because tomorrow is the last day of the retreat, and it's like I've
got to get enlightened before the retreat is over. That's basically the assignment.
By the time I leave there I don't feel very enlightened at all. But I've got
to finish the term paper before morning, `cause that's when it's due. So I go
to the meditation hall, and there's all this pressure on, but nothing's happening.
I'm stuck in all these thoughts of inadequacy. "Gosh, I'm so stupid, I can't
get it." I am trying to do shi-ne` practice, just watching these thoughts
and saying, "That's just thinking. Let that go." I stayed up pretty
much the whole night trying to do that, but nothing happened.
The next morning,
we're eating breakfast. In an hour we're supposed to go to the main meditation
hall for our final retreat sharing. Joel comes over, points to a clock on the
wall, and yells, "You don't have much time left! You better hustle!"
Suddenly, the whole situation becomes very amusing. "What am I going to do?
I'm supposed to be getting enlightened! How do you get enlightened?" (laughs).
So, I leave the dining hall and make a show of running up to the little meditation
room they call Mist Haven on top of the hill.
When I get to Mist Haven there's
no one else there. Now I'm really up against a brick wall. You can't make enlightenment
happen. How do you make that happen? At that point, all the feelings of inadequacy
of the night before came rushing back. I felt I just couldn't do it. That was
the breaking of the heart. It was like my life became transparent. I talked before
about living a lie, and knowing that there was a Truth that I wasn't seeing because
I was living this lie. All of a sudden it was, "Oh, I can't do this anymore!
How do I get enlightened? How do I do this?" I'm thinking, there's this little
self inside here that's trying to control things, and do things to please people,
and always trying to do the right thing, and sometimes it does the right thing,
but sometimes it does the wrong thing, and it never knows for sure what the right
thing is, and now it realizes it can't play the game anymore. The game is over.
Going back to the so-called `world', and trying to operate under this lieóit
just couldn't be done anymore.
So, I knew the game was over, and there was
this incredible grief going onógrief just pouring out, pouring out, pouring
out. I'm just crying, and crying. At some point, I just lie down on the floor,
and say, "Take me, just take me! I don't care if I explode! I can't do this
any more. I give up." But God didn't take me (laughs).
CV: So was this
what Joel calls "kenosis," the exhaustion of will?
TOM: Yes. It
was the exhaustion of will and the breaking of the heart, all in one fell swoop.
Then, after about 45 minutes of intense sobbing, and rolling on the floor, pounding
my fist on the floor like a little baby, crying "Just take me, take me. I
can't do it anymore," I hear the gong ring, meaning the sharing is about
to begin in the main meditation hall. I think, "To hell with them. I'm not
going down there. I can't go down there like this." I didn't have the will
to go down there. I was just stuck on the floor, and there was no place else to
go. Finally, Joel sent someone up to get me. It was like I couldn't move on my
own. Someone had to come up and say, Okay, let's go. Time to move. Life goes on.
Come back to the world.
So, I went down to the main meditation hall, and every
time someone shared something that happened to them on the retreat, I would feel
so much love and compassion. If they had had a hard time, I was ready to cry.
It was like something I'd never experienced beforeóbeing so open to the
pain and suffering of other people.
At one point David was talking about what
he called the "Dave Tapes"ómeaning, those thoughts about yourself
that constantly play in your head. I could relate to that, so when my turn to
share came, I say, "I can't get rid of the Tom Tape." Andrea looks right
at me and says, "You're resisting the Tom Tape. Why are you doing that? Stop
trying to push it away." When she said that, I thought, "Ooooh, we're
coming back to that one." It was like when I realized I was resisting thoughts
in order to hear the birds singóhow that was an aversion. So here I was
doing the same thing again, and Andrea was pointing it out. Not wanting the Tom
Tape was just another form of aversion! That's what I mean about being baked.
You don't have to do anything, but God keeps showing you thingsósubtle
little graspings and aversionsóand you just look.
Driving home, I experienced
some fear in the car. The whole drama of feeling like I was gonna disappear came
back. We stopped for a pee break at the rest area south of Salem. Some other Center
people also stopped there. I remember standing around talking with them, and there
was this fear that I'm the only one in the worldóthat I'm creating this
whole reality, and when I wake up, it's all going to explode. Then, I look into
Clivonne's eyes, and I see Divine Mother in her eyes, and I realize, "Of
course, it's not this little self that's creating everything. It's Divine Mother!
And Divine Mother is in Clivonne." Then, I could see Her in everything! It
was like we were all just Divine Mother talking to Divine Mother. That was comforting.
CV: So you still hadn't Popped when you left the retreat?
TOM: No, that
happened when I got home that night. I woke up at 2 in the morning. As I'm surfacing
from sleep there was this experience of Pure Awareness, before any thoughts have
arisen. I've had this before, quite often. There's no sense of body. You don't
know who, or where you are. So, the mind begins to panic, and says, "What's
going on? What's going on?" Then, the world starts to come into focus. "Oh
yes, there's the body here, everything's okay." But there's always an instant
before the panic hits, where it's just Pure Awareness, just Consciousness, Itself.
Joel's talked about this, "If you didn't panic, you'd see, That's IT!"
But then the thoughts come, and they start to cover IT up.
Awareness is always present. You just don't recognize it, because there are millions
of thoughts, coming and going. It's like a strobe light. In every instant your
mind is creating all these thoughts, flashing on, flashing off. It's all happening
so fast, and your mind starts connecting these thoughts, making them seem solidólike
you're a solid person, in a solid world. But if you really look, you see it's
all flashing, and it's just your mind that's filling in those gaps, making it
This is why meditation is so important, because it allows you to
slow that down. When you practice watching your thoughtóseeing that thought
is just thoughtóthen you can start to see the space between the thoughts.
It's the thoughts that really put us in a pickleónot that thoughts are
bad, but that we're totally sucked in by them, like a vacuum cleaner. We can't
get any distance from our thoughts to see what's really going on, and so we come
to believe that we are the thoughts, when we are not.
Anyway, I was waking
up, slowly, through this space of Awareness, only this time I didn't panic. Then,
thoughts arose. The Tom tape came on, the ego tape, and there was this recognition
that it was just like the birds. Now there was no grabbing onto the thoughts,
but there was no pushing them away, either, because, instead of going "Yuck,
I don't want you," I was giving them love. I saw, this ego construct is God,
Then, the ego-thoughts started to go, and so there was an impulse to
grab them, like "Can I really let this go?" So, there I was, up against
that brick wall again. But the experience of the last few days was showing me
this kind of struggle doesn't work. It's totally dysfunctional and causes great
pain. So, there was also this sense of, "Here's the opportunity. Take advantage
I got up to go to the bathroom, and it felt like this collection
of thoughts that was `Tom' was coming apart, like the knot was unraveling. I watched
it and thought, "Oh yes, I can let go of that"ólike throwing
away the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, because I no longer felt they all had to be
connected. So, it was like letting them go, piece by pieceó"Let go
of that one. That didn't hurt. Nothing exploded. Nothing disappeared. Okay, let's
let go of this one. Oh, this is kind of interesting!" Then, I thought, "What
should I do nowógo back to bed?" But I knew I couldn't sleep. I could
go upstairs to meditate. "No," I thought, "I don't want to meditate
(laughs). After thirty years, I don't need that anymore! I'll just make myself
a cup of tea and sit down in this chair here." So, I started making the tea,
and the thoughts continued to drop away. Then, the fear came back that the little
`self' was all there was. But I remembered the Divine Mother, and it was obvious
SHE was in everything. Right after that I POPPED.
I can't describe the actual
moment. I was just standing there when something shifted. There was like a break,
then the spreading out-sensation. I looked around, and I saw what had been in
front of me the whole time. It was God. It was all God! The counter was God. This
hand was God. There was no difference. It all happened immediately. There was
no more sense of a little `self' inside. The last piece dropped away, and with
that the veil was removed. It wasn't like something new happened. It was just
Recognizing what had always been there, all the time. It's what I was seeing when
I was a little kid of five years old, looking into that mirroróonly I never
knew it before, because I was too busy being fixated in all these concepts of
who I thought I was. But in that moment seeing the counter, I was free of being
a slave to concepts. I could have the concepts but they couldn't have me. And
so there was the space to see that God, or Divine Mother, or Groundless Beingówhatever
you want to call ITóencompassed everything. Everything arose in IT and
also WAS IT. There was no difference.
CV: So that was the final shift, the
Awakening. Has the old Tom ever come back?
TOM: That's an interesting question.
Initially, I'd get ego-thoughts coming back, and it was like, "Oh God! What's
the matter? We've got self here. We're not enlightened." But when I'd look
around, there'd be Divine Mother the whole time. So at first, it was a little
confusing. Joel gave me The Flight of the Garuda to readóa kind of post-enlightenment,
Tibetan text. The idea is basically you just continue watching everything that
arisesóincluding ego thoughtsóand just continue to Recognize what
they are. That was very helpful. So was Dr. Wolff's The Philosophy of Consciousness
Without an Object, which I also read.
Nowadays, what happens is, all the same
stuff still comes up. The only difference is that I'm not fixated on it anymore.
Now, it's like, "So what? When there's ego, there's ego. When there's no
ego, there's no ego." There's this collection of memories, and there are
old tendenciesóI'm a vegetarian and I still prefer vegetarian food over
meat. `Tom' is a useful concept to describe that, to provide a reference point.
But then `Tom' shifts. `Tom' doesn't have to be a certain way all the time. The
concept of `Tom' comes and goes as it pleases, and it doesn't matter. Tom is a
CV: Could you describe how your perspective on life has changed since
TOM: There's immense compassion. I used to care about other
people, and I was always trying to fix things for them. The most profound thing
now is, in each moment I'm no longer making an effort to have something happen.
Things just sort of happen on their own. There's no attachment to the results,
because I know we're not going anywhere. We never went anywhere. There's just
this Awareness that's always ever-present, and doesn't change. It keeps creating
phenomena that make it look like it's changing, but it's not. It's just a beautiful
play. So, it's like the Divine is playing through meólike this body is
a flute, and Divine Mother is the air. Before there was an obstruction in the
flute. Now, the obstruction is gone and the air just flows through.
your daily life, what has changed and what has stayed the same?
TOM: I still
get up in the morning, I still go to work. In one sense, nothing has changed at
all. And, yet, in another sense, everything has changedódramatically. It's
like being in meditation all the time. You see something arise and then it dissipates.
There's this global sense of Consciousness pervading everything. So you just go
through your daily life, and it happens. Nothing is happening, yet something is
CV: Have your family and friends reacted differently to you since
TOM: Dawn, my wife, is more friendly (laughs). I also think
my relationship with my daughter has improved. As a parent, there's not much you
can do with someone who's nineteen. When it comes to things like values and discipline,
you've either blown it, or you've succeeded. But she seems to be opening up more.
The few times I've tried to get a point across, she's said, "Okay,"
whereas, previously she would have said, "I'm not going to do that."
CV: Has anybody reacted to you differently where you work?
TOM: It's difficult
to pinpoint a major difference. It wasn't like, bang!óone minute Tom's
like this, and the next, he's totally changed. But there was a gradual transformation.
It seems like they're more drawn to me. At one point, I actually tried to quit.
But they said, "No, you can't go!" So, they made me a manager. When
you're a manager you have to tell people what to do, but they still come to me
with their personal problems, and I am open to that. Sometimes I think I've become
sort of an unofficial spiritual counselor. For now, it seems obvious that this
is where I'm supposed to be. Maybe in six months something will change, and it
will be clear that it's time to leave. Either way, it doesn't matter, `cause it's
CV: Do you feel any need or desire to continue doing spiritual
TOM: From one point of view, everyday activity itself is meditationólike
breathing or eating. But I still do formal practice, too. Especially in my circumstance
it's very helpful, because of the intensity of my job. It's not absolutely necessary,
but there's a pull towards doing it. It's almost like, it's time to praise God.
Meditation is when you're praising God. I've also been playing the harmonium and
CV: What would you call what's happened to you? Realization? Awakening?
TOM: Recognition. None of these words do it justice, but I
like Recognition best of all, because IT's been in front of you the whole time.
You just weren't seeing IT. Then, all of a sudden, you recognize that IT's there.
CV: What's your advice for other seekers?
TOM: The key is to realize that
most of delusion comes from your attachment to concepts. The ego is built from
concepts. To get beyond attachment to ego, you have to get to the point where
you give up on all your goals, and just do what's in front of you. Whatever comes
up, you do it with love and service. You see yourself as being a servant of God.
When aversion for something arises, you look at the aversion, let it go, and continue
doing service. Just give loving kindness to every situation and person that comes
across your path.
CV: Closing statement?
TOM: Life is too serious to take
- Tom, Summer 2000