STORIES OF AWAKENING
Benedict Andrews was (and is) a very successful entrepreneur, who started his own profitable business, aged 14.
The “event” I am about to describe was simultaneously the end of all searching and seeking for “more.” Whatever is, is complete and full. Nothing is excluded or rejected and nothing is needed. There is simply joyous wonder. Life apparently goes on, absolutely without effort. Without a doer. Without an experiencer. Everything is honoured but nothing matters.
At the beginning of 2009 I picked up a book called “The Art of Happiness” by the Dalai Lama. I enjoyed reading the book and it set me off on an intense reading trail. I spent all of my spare time reading, often in front of an open fire with a glass of wine.
The reading trail took me through various schools of Buddhism and then into more “modern‟ views on enlightenment. There was immense appeal about this for me. It seemed clear to me that my “fulfillment” was not going to be in “the future” and instead it would be found in the “here and now.” I came to understood that it was hidden from me, but eventually I should be able to see it!
A large part of the appeal of all this is that “it” (whatever it was) promised to be “experiential” – so rather than being based on beliefs (which can be doubted), this “thing” was actually experienced by many people, and I read that once it is experienced it is beyond doubt.
Again, this whole proposition seemed infinitely better than much of the religious doctrine that you “believe” in but need to “have faith” and wait for the Kingdom of Heaven, or whatever.
I started to become more at ease in my work again, and the concepts I was learning from my reading certainly had the effect of relaxing me considerably. I think my wife was genuinely worried at one stage that I may want to become a monk and disappear off into the wilderness, and I had kind of considered this a few times but knew that this approach wasn‟t for me.
Eckhart Tolle‟s book “The Power of Now” was a hugely impactful book, which I read from cover to cover over a weekend. And then once I had finished reading it I read it again and again. I followed Eckhart online after this time. It was great to see that there were “enlightened teachers” alive today who were very accessible and easy-to-understand. Most of what was being said made sense – it had its own sort of logic, and I found it liberating to read about and try to understand the concepts.
What I had understood, at that time, is that we feel unfulfilled because we feel separate from life. We feel ourselves to be a separate individual, with the world weighing down on our shoulders. Whilst this remains the case, we will always be unsatisfied. Whilst there may be periods of time when things are going well, we will eventually return to a state of dissatisfaction because we feel ourselves to be a small, limited fragment in a gigantic universe. We feel vulnerable and unworthy. I understood that enlightenment is something that the person could achieve that would end this feeling of separation.
After I’d read this I wanted to seek out an “enlightened teacher” who could offer guidance and help me to become enlightened.
I was quite surprised that some of my friends were less interested. To me, there seemed to be real living, breathing Buddhas amongst us and we could either read what the Buddha had said 2,600 years ago or be in the presence of a living, breathing Buddha talking in modern day language. I thought this was an absolute no-brainer!
I found a website that had a directory of teachers. Amongst that directory was Tony Parsons. I read through Tony’s site and watched some of his videos. Quite a bit of what was said resonated with me, and although in some ways the communication was much more direct and uncompromising than a lot of the other stuff I had read, at the same time it was somehow clear that it was talking about the same thing (enlightenment and the end of separation).
I signed up to go to a 4-day residential with Tony in Wales, in October 2009. I wanted to immerse myself with this “guru” over the course of several days.
The residential was thoroughly enjoyable.
Tony‟s main message seemed to be (and I’m paraphrasing here) that “there is no-one. There is only oneness, which is timeless, unmoving boundlessness. Nobody can become enlightened because there is nobody. Enlightenment is already all there is. The sense of being a separate individual with free will and choice is an illusion, which when exposed through talking together (or in fact at ANY time) may (or may not!) simply collapse. When it collapses, it is completely apparent that all there is, is enlightenment, and that there never was a separate self. Paradoxically, this is the collapse of something that never was!”
Tony was saying that it’s not about trying to end separation because there isn’t any separation. Separation is like a hypnotic dream that is uniquely human – nothing else in the manifestation lives in a separate reality. Tony was also very clear that there never has been any one, so there is nobody who can choose to be separate or not be separate.
He was clear that there is nothing to be done – not because you can’t do anything – but instead because there is no „you‟ !
What I was hearing is that the simple exposure of this “myth of separation‟ could result in its collapse.
I was trying hard to understand what Tony was saying, building up a mental model of the “reality” that he was describing. On the first day I literally went in armed with a whole list of questions that I had considered and written down before the event. Some of them were long and complicated.
Some of what Tony was saying seemed to make sense and some of it didn’t. I pondered over the answers to my questions but failed to reach a conclusion that made sense for me. Each night I would return to my hotel where I would analyse my questions and Tony’s answers and then draft some further questions.
The residential came to an end. I had found it to be thoroughly relaxing and felt really refreshed. I felt that I was “onto a winner” and that if I came back and stuck with it, it would eventually all become clear.
At this time however, it was not at all clear. As I was driving home, (incredibly) what Tony had been pointing to was suddenly totally apparent. It was unmistakable and absolutely obvious – how had it been overlooked? I put the word “incredibly” in brackets because even though it sounds incredible that this very “strange thing” had been realized, it was actually totally ordinary and natural.
What was now obvious was totally different to what I had imagined. It was nothing like what I had visualised. Suddenly all the questions I had been asking were totally redundant and completely ridiculous. The questions had all been based on a false notion.
What is strange is that although this clear seeing was totally different to what had been expected based on Tony’s language, all of the language absolutely confirmed what was now clear.
Since this time, there has been absolute ease.