The Enlightenment Intensive is a 3, 7 or 14 Day residential workshop dedicated to helping individuals explore reality and come into conscious union with Truth.
It is a highly focused, structured environment where participants continually contemplate one of five questions: “Who am I?”, “What am I?”, “What is Life?”, What is Love?” or “What is Another?”
On an Enlightenment Intensive, participants practice a unique combination of contemplation and communication, which leads to dramatically increased consciousness, personal growth and not infrequently, the resolution of the question through direct experience.
Enlightenment Intensives are very pure. They are laboratories for the unrestricted inquiry into the Truth as each individual experiences it. No belief system or view of life is taught or implied. Participants examine their own experience, make their own inquiry and discover their own results.
Intensives are tremendously powerful. They bring participants into the actuality of the present moment and enable them to hold their attention on what is truly so for them as experience unfolds, hour after hour, day after day. Over the course of an Intensive concentration, energy, and awareness steadily increase enabling participants to go ever more deeply into the reality their questions point them toward.
Most importantly, Enlightenment Intensives are an environment where communication and contact between individuals gives rise to high levels of understanding, compassion and support. As time goes by an atmosphere of affinity nurtures a sense of trust and safety. Participants become willing to relax, to let familiar identities dissolve and to allow the experience of what lies outside their known perimeters.
Enlightenment Intensives are open to all people, regardless of age, creed, orientation or life experience because,
Truth is available to each and every one of us.
The old fables are not idle tales. There really is a Pearl Beyond Price!
It is available in this life, to you, as you yourself.
Enlightenment Intensives give you the opportunity to face what is so;
to be and relate yourself and be received by others as you truly are,
and to serve others by receiving them.
Finally, regardless of the results, Opening yourself to the Truth of what is so, is an intrinsically fulfilling activity.
It is its own refuge, its own reward.
Seven hundred years ago Rumi wrote a passionate invitation to the dance that is the spiritual path. Since no one has said it better I repeat it here.
Whoever you are
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of living
It doesn’t matter
Ours is not a caravan of despair
Even if you have broken your vow a thousand times
And yet again
Enlightenment Intensive – How
Using the question “Who am I?” is an ancient technique reintroduced in the last century by the Indian Sage Ramana Maharshi.
It relentlessly and effectively undercuts the ego and leads to the direct experience of one’s true nature. If the power of this question is not immediately obvious, consider: Who is it that is reading this now? Whose body is sitting? Who is thinking? Feeling? Living this life? Is it clear to you?
Or, are you confused about it? Do you accept not knowing? Do you dismiss the issue as unimportant? Is there an inner doubt that you distract yourself from?
“As long as you don’t know, the question is always there. It’s there because you don’t know the answer. You can pretend to know in order to silence the question for a while. But it’s going to stay there. It will stay with you until it’s answered. It has a force of it’s own. That’s a fact. It’s one of the natural laws. The questioning is always there until finally there is no question.” A.H. Almaas
The value of directly experiencing and communicating the truth is that it enables you to live more consciously, and in closer contact with others. Discovering who you are dissolves a huge segment of life’s uncertainty and pain and awakens you to the living reality of truth. You know exactly what the poets and mystics were talking about because you have made yourself one with them; you see with the same eyes they saw with; hear with the same ears. Suddenly, it’s a wonderful life, and you are so grateful it was given to you!
On an Enlightenment Intensive you work on the question “Who am I” but instead of working on yourself by yourself (which is very difficult) participants work with one another. So the power and energy that is available between individuals is harnessed and concentrated on the question. This makes possible the quantum shift in consciousness which resolves the questioning.
For three days you work in dyads with other participants. You contemplate the truth of who you are and communicate the results of your contemplation to a partner; then you listen while your partner contemplates and communicates to you. (Partners do not comment on one another’s communications.) Over the course of the Intensive there are thirty-one, 45 minute Dyads. Dyads are balanced with meals, walks, rest, instruction and silent contemplation in a sequence designed to hold you facing your self with maximum concentration, hour after hour, day after day.
The work is subtle and at times seems very difficult. But as the Intensive progresses you spontaneously experience increasingly high levels of personal contact and understanding with your partners. And this atmosphere of openness and mutual acceptance is what gives Intensives their power. The compassion and openness which are generated profoundly deepen contemplation; they melt away unconscious pretense and protective barriers until you come forth as you are. You enter the land of truth. What will you find there? That is up to you. No one will interfere with your discovery process by telling you what the truth is. The staff will simply support you to keep contemplating and presenting yourself as you are, no matter what you find yourself to be; from moment to moment, from beginning to end
Contemplation practice aims at the direct experience of the truth of who you are. Direct experiences have many levels, but each one precipitates an unexpected and fundamental shift in consciousness. This is hard to understand because it involves a different order of experience from what we know in life; it has nothing to do with thinking, feeling, believing, or being in an attitude or state. Direct experience resolves your question in a way you can never anticipate or imagine. Subject and object disappear; or rather they collapse into a union. Truth is suddenly luminous and self-evident. There is a sense of bottomless fulfillment and utter satisfaction. This is not the end of the road however. The door is open to explore this new truth and to deepen your consciousness of it by coming out and presenting your true self to your partner. Doing this will increase your ability to live from the truth you have realized when the Intensive is over.
the History of the Enlightenment Intensive
The following is taken from talks given by Charles Berner on the History and Value of the Enlightenment Intensive
In 1968, I had four or five hours one afternoon with nothing to do. I was in the Santa Cruz mountains in California, staring at the trees in a nice quiet area. I had been pondering a problem related to my teaching experience. I had noticed people who didn’t know who they were had a hard time making progress and people who made rapid progress knew who they were. I was just musing, “How is it that we could help people to accelerate this process of self discovery?”
I was familiar with zazen, and the yogic reflective approaches. But I knew how long they took and I was somewhat discouraged by the prospect of having people spending years to get to the place where they woke up to who they are.
Suddenly the whole idea of the Enlightenment Exercise occurred to me and moments later it occurred to me to use the format of a Zen sesshin, but to call it an intensive. So essentially the basic outline of both the Enlightenment Technique and the Enlightenment Intensive came to me at that time. And what source it came from I know not but it wasn’t a process of sitting down and figuring it out. It occurred to me in one moment. I was just reflecting on this problem on this beautiful spring afternoon and suddenly it came to me: why don’t we take the age-old question of ‘Who am I?” which is at least 7,000 years old, and combine it with the communication techniques that I had learned? And thus was born the Enlightenment Intensive.
Soon after, I told some of my students that we were going to have an intensive. I didn’t tell them much about what was going to happen, I just said we were going to work on finding out who we are and that it was going to be intense. I had just acquired a piece of property with no improvements on it out in the Southern California high desert, and I had about thirty dollars in my pocket. I bought some four-by-fours, set them right into the ground, nailed plywood sheets on top, and bought one day’s food; that was all the food we could afford until the people started to show up and made some payments for the intensive. And sure enough, they came; twenty-six of them. I put some mosquito netting around the outside and rolled out some rugs on the bare ground and said, “Well, here we are.” And still all I had in my head was this flash of an idea of what an Enlightenment Intensive would be.
We got up in the morning and went at it. They paid their money and my wife Ava rushed downtown during the lunch break, bought some more food and brought it back up. And, son of a gun, if on the second day people didn’t start having some direct experiences of Truth.
I had expected it would take five, ten Enlightenment Intensives for some enlightenments to start showing up. But to my amazement, people were having these experiences and it blew me out as much as it did them. In fact, about forty percent of the people who attended had a direct experience by the end of the intensive.
The enthusiasm was riding high, so we scheduled another intensive about three months later. I gave more and more of them and year after year I was doing an average of ten Enlightenment Intensives a year. Two of them were two weeks long and one of them was three weeks long and most of them were either three or five days long. I’ve been there in spades; I’ve tried this. I’ve tried that, I’ve varied it this way, I’ve varied it that way. I’ve found out what worked and what didn’t work with thousands of people – brilliant ones, sane ones, talkative ones, silent ones, crazy ones, all kinds, and for the last twenty to twenty-five intensives I made almost no changes. Now I’m satisfied that I know what I’m doing.
So I want to give you my view on what the value of the Enlightenment Intensive is. It may well be true that I am biased in my evaluation, since the method was originated and developed through me, but I will give you my views and evaluation nevertheless.
As far as growth techniques are concerned, I’ve personally done just about everything there is to do. I’ve also applied many of them as a facilitator. For years and years I tried every method I could find which seemed to hold some promise for personal and spiritua1 growth. Among these were mind clearing, gesta1t, rolfing, psychosynthesis, bioenergetics, numerous meditation and concentration techniques, breathing techniques of all sorts, ability exercises, trainings and seminars of all kinds, extensive past life work, hatha yoga, dream work, emotional trauma release work, and on and on. This work was coupled with intensive research into religious philosophies and practices of both East and West, along with personal contact with many holy men and leaders in the growth movement. I have been at it for over thirty years, solid; and my conclusion is that in the realm of self-discovery there is nothing that tops the Enlightenment Intensive. Techniques which have a purpose other than self-discovery may be more effective at achieving their particular purpose, but for the purpose of self-discovery I’ve not run into anything which comes close to the effectiveness of the Enlightenment Intensive.
The key to real spiritual development is self-discovery; the direct experience of who you actually are. You can get by all right living from personality, beingnesses and mis-identifications. It won’t be satisfying, but you can get by.
But with the discovery of who you actually are, you can achieve a level of satisfaction and effectiveness unavailable to one unconscious of who he is. You can fully enjoy the fruits of living. You can make real progress toward real goals, and actually be happy, because it is now you living your life rather than a personality or something with which you have become identified. Also, you can take any growth technique or religious practice and make real and on-going progress with it because you can bring to bear your own personal power of choice to be open and grow. Because of this consciousness of self you no longer just grope around going through the motions, doing things simply to pay the bills and get by. Eventually, living from this direct experience of self, you inevitably find yourself moving into a deeper phase of growth in which the fulfillment of life is possible.
But for most of the world’s people today, just gaining the capacity to live their life from who they actually are is the most valuable thing.
They begin to experience that life doesn’t have shallow and dull. They have the experience of waking-up in life, and on an Enlightenment Intensive it is a genuine experience of self and not the result of brainwashing or someone telling you who you are. After people’s defenses come down and their minds are open as a result of the long hours, the concentration and the contact, there is an opportunity avaiable where a person can either be brainwashed by being told who he is or he can be supported in having his own experience. When the experience of who one is occurs spontaneously and directly, it is a fact for all time and not just another mental shift in beingness.
The Enlightenment Intensive is also a valuable tool for those relatively few individuals who just want the Truth. An Enlightenment Intensive points you at the Truth itself and for someone who just wants the opportunity to go for the Truth and experience it directly, this is the best short-term technique available today. Such a person can make great progress on Enlightenment Intensives and achieve many levels of enlightenment in a very short period of time compared to traditional methods. For such people Enlightenment Intensives are like a rocket tied along side whatever daily method they practice.
An Enlightenment Intensive can be tremendously inspiring. It can turn a person on to Truth and the actuality of that Truth in day-to-day life. A person can discover that there is more to life than just gratifying the senses; that this whole business of life is not just some random occurrence with no direction or purpose. One can make these discoveries not as ideas but as living facts. Such discoveries fundamentally alter one’s life.
There is a lot of value to be gained in just taking an Enlightenment Intensive regardless of whether or not you have a direct experience. An Enlightenment Intensive builds contact and openness between people. It builds a person’s capacity to engage in that contact and openness. People become very open on intensives. This openness is essential for a person’s capacity to be satisfied in life and evolve his relationship with others. Also, as a side effect people gain communication skills almost without realizing it, especially with regard to receiving another’s communications without evaluating or interrupting.
Real communication is one of people’s greatest stumbling blocks in life and on an Enlightenment Intensive they can make significant gains in this ability just by participating in the intensive.
In the end, however, an Enlightenment Intensive has only one purpose: enlightenment. The primary value of enlightenment itself as opposed to how one might apply it in life, is its own self. Enlightenment is its own value because it is the fulfillment of life. That union with Truth, no matter how brief, is our purpose, and fulfilling that purpose is the highest and most benefit gained from an enlightenment experience. The Enlightenment Intensive is primarily a technique for awakening, but the direct experience itself fulfills.
In short, the Enlightenment Intensive is a powerful method which produces remarkably consistent results. About 30% of the participants on any Enlightenment Intensive will have a direct experience in a period of three days, assuming that the master is competent and the intensive is well conducted. The other participants will make significant, permanent progress toward that goal. The method has been developed thoroughly, tested all over the world, and participated in by thousands and thousands of people. It is the most effective method for self-discovery which I have ever seen, and it is one which can be used by almost anyone.
Finally there is nothing I have found in years of natural yoga meditation including the depths of samadhi, that in any way contradicts anything that has come up in the Enlightenment Intensive. In fact, it has done nothing but validate and reinforce it.