The Enlightenment Intensive is an enquiry retreat taking the participant to explore the various aspects of his Being that manifest to consciousness, through the koan “ WHO AM I.”
The purpose of the retreat is to have a direct experience of the soul or essential Self.
The Enlightenment Intensive is a three days residential program.
1. Intensive and experiential
Why is it called Intensive? What is it the intensity about?
It refers to the level of energy and awareness the retreat itself generates. The direct experience of the Self is a state of grace and completeness in being what we are, that unfolds naturally thanks to the intense work of awareness.
In the Enlightenment Intensive, awareness is practiced till it becomes self evident, and it is increasingly easy to reside in it as the field of our experience and recognize that it is through awareness that our True Nature is revealed.
In daily life, we are not aware of ourself directly; perception is filtered by the activity of the mind: the identification with our thoughts, concepts and judgements structures into an automatism creating a barrier to direct perception. We lose ourselves and our aliveness: as a matter of fact, we cut ourselves out from the source of our energy.
In this retreat, the intensity is enhanced by enquiring into one’s own experience in the moment. Giving attention exclusively to oneself, allowing whatever our being manifests, while having the opportunity to express it in real time, breaks the barriers of the mind, consequently freeing hidden aspects of the totality of who we are. Self recognition in its wholeness finally opens the perception to the fullness of who we are.
The enlightenment intensive is intense because to have a direct experience of true nature in a relatively short period of time, a very sharp and focused longing is required.
Such focus is an arrow that goes deep, through and beyond the usual limits of the settled identity which is very much accustomed to habits. Enquiring into the present, penetrates through the various layers of the personality, breaking the usual patterns of the mind, clearly revealing who we are.
The purpose of the Enlightenment Intensive is to erase the separation between thinking, feeling and action. Being in direct contact with oneself, naturally provokes a spontaneous alignment, an ease in being and expressing the truth, without judging or censoring whatever experience manifests moment to moment.
2. A retreat
The intensity is enhanced also by having for the entire time, all group members completely devoted to the same aim: have a direct experience of True Nature. With this purpose we learn not only to liberate, but also to contain and re-direct our energy, that is, we avoid to disperse it for external distractions. Since energy follows attention, the retreat is designed to support every individual in directing the attention constantly to himself.
For that purpose we stay in silence and isolation. Which means, although it is a group, there is no relating between its members. This device supports staying focused; the mind needs to be contained from falling into the old habit of wandering around, to which it is very attached.
All practical aspects are being taken care by the staff of facilitators, so that every participant has full support to totally pursue personal enquiry.
There are active and passive meditations and time to openly share the various personal and impersonal aspects of the process.
The enquiry technique is performed in diades: in turn, each partner explores his experience while the other just listens. It is a great opportunity to have total attention by someone while speaking without interference: in normal life this is seldom the case.
That’s why beside pursuing direct experience of being, this retreat is a great opportunity to reconfigure the way we relate.
In this process no teachings are imparted: we don’t want to support subscription or a passive agreement to truths discovered by someone else, even if they are uttered by Masters. That would weaken the search which has to be led in a unique and personal way. Truth, if it is not yours, it is a lie. Belief systems, including the spiritual ones, are to be enquired as much as ego structures. So the words of the Masters are quoted only as milestones, like indications on the path so that every one can relate them to the moment he/she is going through. The signs on the path can be similar to each of us, but the way back home has to be walked individually: that is its beauty and uniqueness.
3. The Koan
Koan is a term of the Japanese language that indicates a question that cannot be answered with logic, but with Being. The answer will be a direct, living experience, presently perceived. In the Enlightenment Intensive we use the Koan “Who Am I” not as a conceptual question that can be answered by giving the name, profession or an account of personal history. It is a tool to enquire the truth of our experience in the present moment as we perceive it, communicating it straight away as it emerges into consciousness.
4. A practice to re-discover oneself
The practice of enquiring into one’s own self nature is as ancient as the human longing for self knowledge. The format used in this retreat has its roots in the Zen practice of facing a white wall till the observer disappears and only the wall remains. Socrates invited his pupils to know themselves. In modern times masters like Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaji did the same, encouraging their visitors as well. Osho has devoted an entire book to this practice: “The Search. Talks on The ten Bulls of Zen”.
A great contribution was given by Charles Berner, who devised the diads, that is, enquiring together with a partner, which is the format used in this retreat. It enormously speeds up the process of self recognition: 3 and a half days is nothing if compared to the number of years spent by ancient seekers to have a glimpse of true nature.
5. A way to find the answer
Most individuals are identified with traits of their character, believing it to be their true identity: “That’s the way I am” is a commonly heard sentence.
At the beginning of the process, the first thing we encounter will most probably be who we think we are; we are identified with being a person with a certain name, a job, being a father, a mother, a son. Being intelligent, stupid, special, inferior, a beautiful or a ugly person also gives a sense of identity. But here the point is not about who I am socially, my physical aspect, my behavior, but who is behind all of that. Saying the water is hot or cold or dirty does not define the essence of water.
So, how can I know what I want if I don’t know who I am? Who is the entity, the soul, the presence that I am? Have I a form, if it’s possible, and where is it located in my body? Where is the center, maybe in my belly, in my heart or in my head? Or does it change location following my attention? Is it me changing or is it my personality, the outcome of my conditioning? Why can’t I be myself in every situation, instead of arranging my attitude according to whom I’m speaking to?
To enquire into one’s own essential nature is to go beyond people’s opinion about who we are. It’s not out of judging ourself or our life that one should undertake the inner journey, but out of the love to know the truth. It is with the attitude of a scientist and the heart of an innocent child that one starts off this fascinating adventure of self-discovery.
6. A process of dis-identification
It is important to start with the understanding that who we truly are is already here. Our option is to become aware of what obstructs our perception. Those obstructions are constituted by acquired ideas about who we are, that become a solid illusion with time.
Who we think we are is a hologram projected within our inner space. The stability of such projection is given by the belief that it is real. To dis-identify from it means becoming aware how things really are: we are not the hologram, but the ones who contain it. This recognition breaks the identification, revealing true nature. Every time we expose an aspect of the personality which separates us from perceiving ourselves, we are at the same time our original Self.
A glimpse of clear consciousness is like a thunder in the night: it shows the primordial inner space wiping away obstructions.
If what we encounter in our journey of self exploration is not real, it won’t last; only what is real can stand the confrontation with the Koan: no matter how many times you will be asked ”Who are you?”, Being will continue to display itself without effort. All you need to do is to see it and to communicate it.
7. What do you achieve?
The realization of our true nature is a recognition. Because of it, your life acquires a center and everything falls harmoniously in place. Things go the right way because it is the direct perception of yourself that makes it easy for you to give a direction to your life: from where you are to where you want to go.
Paradoxically we may discover that it will be life itself coming our way, that generates the feeling of being at home, rooted in our Beingness.
We discover our true face, the original face we had before we were born, and which is still within us. We never lost it, we have only forgotten it. The living experience of oneself is within everybody’s reach; it only takes to apply and commit oneself to the search.
Everyone will experience realization in a unique way, with a personal nuance. Everyone will achieve what is within his/her potential to realize in that given moment of life. The expanse and depth of realization can differ according to the individual, to the degree of personal maturation, although here is not possible to make comparisons. What is realized as true self will be true and fulfilling as such.
Enlightening means to bring light where it is dark. It is dark all that is out of awareness’s reach. So, there is not only one enlightening experience, but infinite ones: every aspect of our being that gets revealed, that we become aware of, expands our enlightenment. The basic fundamental experience of enlightenment is the realization that we are not who we think we are, not what our personal history suggests: the personality. To know our true essence, unmasking the ego, which is a structure built in time, it’s necessary and inevitable. The ego is composed of many layers, all meant to compensate for real aspects of Being.
With the Koan “Who Im I”awareness gets activated and, as a sword of light, penetrates into the various layers, exposing their roots and revealing who we are. Therefore enlightenment is a collateral effect of the work of awareness.
It is the ground of all experiences and it’s of the foremost importance to reside in its field even after the recognition of true Self.
If I want to free the space in a room I have to remove the objects in it. Therefore it implies that space already exists. Taking away objects is not a direct interaction with space itself, but through this action it is revealed.
Being is like a room, although it doesn’t have boundaries: it is an infinite empty space, a presence that perceives and can perceive itself, just like a light bulb illuminates a room and itself, because it is the primary source of light. Awareness is that light.
In reality there is nothing that can obstruct the inner space, it is a misconception given by our identification with the objects we experience: thoughts, ideas, emotions, moods, to which we transfer our identity, because without them we don’t know who we are. We are so afraid of being empty that we have never given ourselves the opportunity to consciously experience it. There is a subconscious belief that letting go of the ideas that define us, our existence ceases. Therefore there is a great investment in keeping them there.
When we loosen our grip on them, the chance of experiencing a quality of observation in which there is nothing to observe, except observation itself, arises.
During the Enlightenment Intensive who we think we are is directly confronted and, since it doesn’t have its own existential ground, without the support of our identification, it won’t survive.
Awareness is the basic ground of experience, which ordinarily passes unnoticed as it is not separate from itself; perception within its field becomes possible when there is an object to perceive.
Therefore it is a necessary step in self recognition to be aware of manifestation, like thoughts and feelings, in order to become aware of awareness. At the beginning we are conscious of thoughts and feelings, then of the co-emergence of awareness as the underlying ground in which we experience them. Taking away our identification from the objects of experience causes awareness to turn upon itself: this is what self realization is.
It may look like a long journey, but it is not necessarily so. If the longing to know the truth, to re-unite with our source is strong enough, it won’t take time. Only the mind needs time, it is the dimension in which it lives. Being is in the present. To be intensely aware in the present will erase time: when we are totally involved, time disappears in the here and now, without future projections or regret about the past. Only that which is now.
Every individual will experience this event in a personal way, which will always be new and original, like if it is discovered for the first time. It will be manifested with the qualities of joy, silence, love, celebration, ecstasy, inclusiveness, all aspects of the faceted diamond of Being. Nevertheless, the taste of being back home again is shared by everyone.
Awareness is the backbone that keeps the spiritual search alive, making it an endless enquiry. It is the spirit to search that envites being to unfold its infinite multidimensional potential. Self realization is the beginning of endless realizations and awareness is the key to support that.
10. After enlightenment
When it is recognized for the first time, the event of enlightenment or self realization is accompanied by a wonderful experience of freedom and expansion, which is the result of having seen through the ego structure. But, since our identification with it is many lives long, it will tend to cast its shadow again in the attempt to re-establish itself.
It is important at this point to let go of the previous enlightenment experience and to root oneself in awareness. Remember what has been realized will never be lost again; it becomes then obvious to be who we are, therefore we do not see ourselves with the luminescence experienced the first time. Whereas awareness is always the ground of our experience, whatever that is. To exercise its presence allows our enlightenment to progress and expand. More aspects of our Being will be revealed, heightening the feeling of unity with life and the universal manifestation. Don’t take enlightenment as an arriving station, but as the starting offramp for the exploration and expression of your intrinsic infinite potential.
11. Benefits of the Enlightenment Intensive
There are mainly two intents motivating people to participate in the intensive. One is the search for enlightenment. Another is to live a happier and more fulfilling life, to be more at ease by growing into understanding oneself. As a matter of fact, all reasons lead to the same aim: knowing oneself.
So the retreat is useful for all, let’s see why.
Those who participate moved by the longing to be enlightened, will be surprised by what they find, most probably they will have a good laughter. They will come home with a simplicity in which all is enclosed; the compulsive search fueled by ignorance ceases. We search for what is already there, but we don’t know that we are, therefore we tend to have ideas about what enlightenment is. This retreat completely prepares, supports and contains the seeker so that he can direct himself straight to the point: to have his own experience of enlightenment, which is the realization of his individuality. Individual means undivided.
Those who want to start this journey without the idea of enlightenment, will find that to know oneself is the most engaging adventure. It has many implications, some are discovered during the retreat, others will be clear later on by practicing conscious presence. Let’s take in consideration some:
- Simplicity. One becomes simple, therefore life gets easier.
- Self esteem: knowing the true self reveals the implicit value of Being. Which is completely at the opposite pole of a built self esteem: it is self supporting, self evident, it does not stand on external recognition.
- Vitality: energy pours in, one thrives in a naturally positive and energetic attitude.
- Conscious choices: you go your way without fear and hesitation, but with trust and availability.
- Improving the quality of our relationships: to be centered in oneself allows more freedom while relating. We learn to truly share, to respond rather than react.
- Creativity: you move toward what is good, manifesting your inner reality around you.
- Responsibility: one becomes responsible therefore powerful.
Osho said that to awaken to one’s own true nature is the solution to all problems. Truth, unless it is discovered by you, remains a lie. Who are we? The soul, the Supreme Self, Beings of light, pure consciousness, etc… those are destined to remain empty words without the direct experience of them. The “Enlightenment Intensive”gives the possibility to have such direct experience.
12. Being oneself while relating with others
The retreat is a work of deep “Inner Ecology”: its main focus is to address our inner dimension. Once conflicts are resolved inside, we clearly understand that the outer world is nothing but a reflection of the inner.
The “Enlightenment Intensive” does not directly deal with relationships, but it nevertheless opens a radical reconfiguration of interpersonal dynamics. The first collateral effect is an increasing centeredness while communicating with others. In our day to day life, we often talk about everything and everybody, seldom of ourselves in a deep contact-full way.
We use words to say we want to love ourselves more, but when it comes to it we tend to be misled. The result is falling again into expecting love from the outside.
In this process, to ask oneself “Who am I”, equals to give oneself attention. The consequence is that we learn the basics of self love: to give attention to oneself. Energy follows attention and here is the right opportunity to direct to oneself that attention which is normally dispersed purposelessly.