Having said all that.
I am flying to Finland today for my sixth consecutive Dave O Enlightenment Transmission Island retreat. I’m up at 5 am partly to reduce the jetlag at the other end, which gives me time to write this last installment and give it the personal context it has so far been lacking.
The personal context is that I hang out with someone who says they are enlightened and I “believe” them. I put “believe” in quotes like that because it’s one of those words that can mean all sorts of things and that maybe doesn’t mean much of anything.
Something “in” me (my body probably) “knows” that Dave “is” “enlightened.” In other words (to escape all those quotation marks!), my body recognizes something about his body that’s real, authentic, and eminently desirable to me (not his body, the natural state it’s in).
If I had to use a word for what it is about Dave that I want for myself, besides simply authenticity, it would be fearlessness, lack of inhibition. That’s something I have spent my whole life trying to find and which I have enough direct experience of to recognize in another, and which I recognize in Dave.
What makes Dave different from any other spiritual whatsit I have heard about is that he doesn’t rely on a specific format or a teacher-student relationship. He improvises constantly and there’s no clear marcation point between his professional and personal life. He has allowed me to at least have the sense of getting to know him and see behind whatever veil I might suppose was there in his public/professional dealings with me. I have yet to see any notable difference. He is consistently the way he is: light, effortless, uninhibited, direct, sensitive (though also blunt), precise. But I don’t want to turn this into a testimonial—I’ve already done that.
The truth is I “almost decided” not to attend this latest retreat. I was having doubts, both about Dave and about my being one of his—whatever we are. Team mates. My doubts about Dave had to do not with any evidence of a lack of honesty or integrity, but with evidence of his fallibility. I felt that, on several consecutive occasions, he misread me and my behavior and dismissed some of my complaints unfairly. I also felt that he wasn’t seeing aspects of his own behavior, in other words, that he wasn’t 100% conscious of his motives in dismissing my own experience. I began to wonder what the hell enlightenment was, if it didn’t mean being fully conscious?
Dave didn’t ever pull the “I’m enlightened and you’re not card,” however, and the truth was that even before these experiences, I was feeling angry towards Dave. Not for acting unenlightened but simply for being enlightened, and at having to (it didn’t feel like a choice) have a spiritual teacher, or guide, or coach, or whatever, at all.
There is an inherent paradox in the whole set up. And in fact, my reluctance to listen to Dave anymore or attend his retreats, ironically, was at least partly due to his effectiveness as a teacher. A real Buddha invites you to kill him. Seeing Dave’s fallibility, and being able to feel impatient with him and even as if I was seeing things he wasn’t seeing, helped me to recognize our equalness as sentient beings, something he has often insisted on.
After the last retreat, in July (a month or two before my mini-disillusionment), I came away feeling like I had “got” “it.” Not that I was enlightened but that I had “found the line and its direction was known to me.” I had found and been able to settle into the moment. I was tapped into a source of, dare I say it, infinite goodness which I knew would always be available and would make up for lack of anything and everything else (not counting food and shelter stuff). It wasn’t a big “bliss” experience. It was very subtle. But the subtlety of it was intrinsic to the realness of it. Becoming aware of it also entailed being aware that it had always been there. So finding the signal wasn’t a matter of being led to it or of the signal getting amplified (though I think that does happen around Dave), so much as turning down my inner noise enough to notice it.
For a few weeks it was strong enough, or I was quieted enough, to keep me focused in that direction, towards the good thing. Eventually I lost the sense of it and more or less resumed my usual patterned behaviors. I say more or less but it’s possible there was a permanent change, however minuscule. At the very least I have the clear memory of a period in my life in which nothing was lacking, and I know, as far as I can, that it was partly the result of Dave.
Or do I?
And if it was, what then? Does that mean I have to keep returning to Dave retreats twice a year in order to top up with the good thing? Isn’t that spiritual dependency?
I found myself telling Dave that I had reached the point where I felt ready to “leave the teachings.” It was true, I did, I felt like I had graduated in some way and I felt good about it. What I’d found was something that didn’t depend on anything outside of me, and focusing on any outside agencies or associating them with it would be a mistake. Wouldn’t it?
On the other hand, no man is an island. I was part of something much bigger than me. I wasn’t just trying to find my authentic connection to Source in order to go off and live my life. I was looking to become fully embodied and enter all the way into a new life. Wasn’t it likely that Dave and the other “aspirants” were part of that life?
The trouble I had with this was that, while the deepest part of me was seeking this authentic life experience—my soul’s destiny—another part, not so deep but still below the threshold of my consciousness, was seeking something else: a feeling of belonging, of being loved, nurtured, of kinship and family. And while the former might meet the latter needs—while connecting to what Dave calls the Enlightenment Transmission might heal the wound in my soul left by early trauma—that couldn’t be the reason, the driving force, for seeking it. I needed to heal myself and enter my destiny as a whole man; not expect my destiny to make me whole. It is active service that’s required, not passive following.
Returning to the plumber analogy, Dave’s job, as I see it, isn’t simply to clear out my pipes so I can “pop,” and my soul can flow all the way into my body at last so I can begin to live life fully. His job is to teach me (or remind me) how to clean my own pipes so that: a) I can assist him with the process while it’s going on (there’s a lot of backed up crap in there, and he is only one guy); and b) I can eventually take over and complete the process myself (there’s plenty of other clogged pipes he needs to attend to).
The logical result of this is that, having my pipes unclogged finally and fully must happen in tandem with receiving an invisible certificate as one of the divine plumbers, and getting out there to work for a living.
Time to join the E-Team.
Which is roughly why I am going back to Finland. Firstly, because I know the job isn’t done, I’m still learning to unclog my own pipes by watching a “master” help me do it. Secondly, because this is my designated Team, at least for now. My responsibility—my meaning, purpose, and joy—is with them.
I hear it’s exceptionally cold in Finland, however, so maybe I should be talking about frozen pipes?