Michael A. Rodriguez – The Uncreated Light of Awareness
Interview by Renate McNay
Renate: Hello and welcome to Conscious TV. My name is Renate McNay, and my guest today is Michael A. Rodriguez. What does the “A” stand for?
Renate: Angelo! How beautiful. Michael is a spiritual teacher and an author, and he has a book which is not published yet and the working title is The Uncreated Light of Awareness, and I was very fortunate to read it already and we don’t know yet when it’s coming out but it’s something to look forward to. He brings a different perspective in which I really appreciate it. Well done.
Michael: Thank you, Renate.
Renate: So Michael. . .so first of all let me ask you what is the “Uncreated Light of Awareness”?
Michael: Yeah, it’s a title that I chose because it’s paradoxical. It’s actually an allusion to the Christian tradition. The mystics in the Christian tradition sometimes refer to God as an “uncreated light” or as a “dazzling darkness.” And my experience as the realization began to unfold here was that it was a perfect description for what we might term the Absolute.
Michael: When we look for Consciousness, in other words, we can’t find it as such. It’s not in space or time. And yet, it’s shining radiantly as the reality of this moment. So it’s uncreated in the sense that it has no objective qualities. It can’t be tasted, or touched or smelled or felt or heard or even intuited. It simply is.
Renate: And how did you – what happened that you came to realize it? What was your path to this realization?
Michael: Well it was a long 22 year journey.
Renate: Sure. Well it actually started earlier.
Michael: It started earlier.
Renate: Unless I don’t know how old you are.
Michael: 40. I’m 40 right now.
Renate: [Laughter] But, it started when you were a little boy. You were already then, umm, had this big question – what’s on the other side of the universe, and when it ends and. . .
Michael: Yes. Somehow that question when I was 6 or 7 spontaneously arose in my mind: When you get to the end of the Universe, what’s on the other side? And for some reason that mystified me - it was almost a Zen koan. But I pondered it and the mind couldn’t grasp the answer to that, but it somehow began a process of inquiry into the nature of reality that led me into first literature and art and academia and, concurrently with that, a spiritual path.
Renate: So what was the connection from this question to – what was it that drew you into art and literature?
Michael: Well, I was essentially pondering the mystery of the Universe – what is the nature of what we call “the world”? And those are the questions that great art asks; they plumb the depths of the mystery of creation. So it was very natural for me to move in that direction, first of all because I had an English teacher in high school who woke me up to the beauty and grandeur of literature and poetry and I found myself marveling at the beauty of great art in the same way that I was marveling at the infinity of the Universe as a young boy. It’s really the same curiosity.
Renate: The same passion behind it. . .
Michael: The same passion – yes.
Renate: Yeah - did you find out what was on the other side of the Universe?
Michael: Well, I found out the answer to that question in my direct experience.
Renate: [Laughter] Yeah – so we talk about that in a moment. So, you say you already when you saw great art or recited great literature or read it, you went into Samadhi –
Renate: . . .where you disappeared.
Michael: Yes. And I didn’t think of it in those terms early on, but that was the experience. The experience was of losing myself in the overwhelming boundless beauty of classical music or poetry or drama. It was an immersive experience for me whenever there was an encounter with great art. And actually a lot of the more embodied realization that happened much later started then much early on when I would disappear and drop down into the felt sense of being, whenever listening to a great symphony or piano concerto or whatever it was; there was a total immersion in the beauty of that and all boundaries would disappear and the sense of self would fall away and it would just be spacious boundless beauty. And that’s what I was.
Michael: I couldn’t find any place where I stopped or started. It was just an immersive, beautiful experience.
Renate: Yeah. You know I just remembered when you were talking about that disappearing when you looked at great art – many years ago I saw this documentary on television where they explored a phenomenon which happens in Italy – in Florence – in the Uffizi; and what happened was that the people were – not everybody, but some people they got lost, they did not know anymore who they are.
Renate: . . .they were wandering around sitting there completely gone and could not recall who they are –
Renate:. . .and so they would all end up in the mental hospital there – in Florence – and after 2-3 days they would slowly come back. And this is what you’re saying, you know they were hit by a Michelangelo –
Michael: Yes. Yes.
Renate: – by the energy which was coming -
Michael: There’s a transmission.
Renate: There’s a transmission. It wasn’t explained in the documentary – it was not - it just talked about this unexplained phenomenon.
Michael: Yes. Great art stops our mind. When there’s an encounter with a transcendent work of art that comes directly from the Source in a conscious way by an artist who is working at that level – it completely demolishes the separate sense of self.
Michael: . . . and it makes one transparent to the beauty of that experience. And it can be disorienting, perhaps – you’re describing in those cases where people were disoriented to such an extent that they had to end up in a mental institution for a few days.
Michael: That was never my experience.
Renate: Quite frightening, huh?. . .[laughter]
Michael: But in my experience it was blissful from beginning to end. And it was connected to what in Vedanta is called Sat-Chit-Ananda, which is Being, Consciousness and Bliss – that those are the three constituents of reality. And that was always my experience of art – that somehow it somehow evoked Being, Consciousness and Bliss.
Renate: And that led you to become a fierce seeker for the truth.
Michael: Yes, it did.
Renate: So you went out and met spiritual teachers like Toni Packer.
Michael: Yes. Yes.
Renate: I have some of her books and she seemed to have been a wonderful teacher.
Michael: She was.
Renate: How was your experience with her?
Michael: It was really formative. She was really my first major teacher. I had met with her initial teacher, Philip Kapleau, who was a Zen Master and then afterwards went to meet Toni in upstate New York. And I had read her books in college and had been turned on to her by a professor I had who was teaching eastern philosophy and she was his teacher. So when I first heard about Zen, I felt immediately at home and then when I met her, there was a deep resonance with her sharing and pointers. And she was a remarkable being.
Michael: She was incredibly powerful in her ability to ask questions.
Renate: And what was the most important thing for you in what she said? What did you take away for your own journey?
Michael: That is a great question. I think one of the most beautiful things about Toni was that she would ask genuine open-ended questions rather than making so many definitive statements. It’s very rare.
Renate: So what do you mean by that – she asked open questions?
Michael: Well, she would genuinely wonder with you – “is it possible. . .”
Renate: Oh right! Yes.
Michael: “. . . in this moment to be aware of the fear that’s arising in the body?” But it was a genuine question – it wasn’t rhetorical. She was right there with you.
Renate: So it was an exploration?
Michael: It was an exploration. . .
Renate: between you two –
Michael: Yes, in the immediacy of the moment. And she did that with everyone. And it was really beautiful because there was a space of infinite possibility. One didn’t know the answer in advance.
Renate: Yeah, and acceptance –
Renate: incredible acceptance and allowing –
Renate: . . .in that space.
Michael: Yes, it’s incredibly surrendered. It’s a wondering; she would wonder at things. And there was something really genuine about it. She wasn’t on some trip; she was really with you in the trenches looking at whatever was arising in the moment.
Renate: And besides many other teachers, you had this experience with Nisargadatta?
Michael: Yes, through Toni.
Renate: Through Toni?
Michael: Yeah – on the last day of a retreat, and this was early on – I was probably 18 or 19, this was early days – she read on the last day of the retreat from I Am That and something about it completely seized my being and I just fell madly in love with Nisargadatta and he became my greatest teacher.
Renate: And you said in your book you literally merged with Nisargadatta’s being.
Renate: How did that feel? What do you mean by that? You merged with what?
Michael: Yeah. Well, that’s a relative statement. And so it’s just a way of speaking; it’s not absolutely true because what was realized was that there was no merging of one thing and another. The realization was that I’ve always been, what I call, boundless Awareness. But in describing that journey it’s a way of talking about the impact that he had on me in a relative sense. So I immersed myself in I Am That every day for a couple of decades and would read it over and over and over again.
Renate: From I Am That?
Michael: Yes – and all his other published writings of talks that are out there. But it is I Am That specifically that had a profound transmission of truth for me. And I became one with his pointers over time. I knew they were right. I knew they were true the moment that I heard them.
Renate: So they hit your own wisdom.
Renate: I remember that I had the same experience when I first got hold of I Am That. I mean it was the clearest -
Renate: . . . most penetrating truth.
Michael: and potent.
Michael: . . .incredibly potent – not an ounce of power was missing despite the fact that it was translated. And I often think of the translator Maurice Frydman as an extraordinary being. He was able to take that original language and translate it in a way where the power was not lost – one ounce. It’s really quite an extraordinary feat!
Michael: So I have a lot of gratitude to him because without him I never would have found Nisargadatta, and I can’t imagine my life without Nisargadatta.
Renate: [laughter] So, by this time – and then you studied Sufism and then you came across Carl Jung.
Renate: . . .and then you came in contact with your shadow.
Michael: Yes. Yes. Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, the Sufi Master, was my teacher for a short period and I learned a lot from him. He was an amazing being. And so I was immersed in the Sufi tradition for a while, and then in college I started becoming immersed in Carl Jung’s teachings and immersed myself in his Collective Works for many years and learned a lot about the nature of Consciousness from his descriptions of what he calls the “process of individuation” and of shadow integration. That was a very important part of the process.
Renate: But you became quite depressed. At that time you lived in a monastery, you said and you were studying. . .
Michael: That was a little later.
Renate: . . .at Harvard University?
Michael: Right, right. Yeah, that was in graduate school.
Michael: . . .when I was working on a master’s degree in Comparative Religion at Harvard and that was a period where I lived in a monastery for a couple of years.
Renate: And how was that?
Michael: It was an incredible experience. It was another resonant experience where the atmosphere was permeated with silence and prayer and liturgy, and that has always felt like home to me.
Renate: By this time did you have your own practice?
Michael: I did – this was deep into the search.
Michael: . . .so I was already immersed in Zen practice – Zazen in particular and Self-inquiry through Nisargadatta and also Ramana Maharshi.
Renate: So, with Self-inquiry you mean “Who am I?” - this inquiry?
Michael: Right. Yes.
Renate: . . .but not psychological inquiry?
Michael: No, not at all. Well, there’s a mental aspect to it at first, but it’s not a mental answer that one receives. The answer, of course, is the Silence before and after that question and underlying the question itself. But at first you’re looking for the answer in the realm of the mind and that’s the search. That’s what the search is – it’s a mental movement to try and understand what this is, to find out who I am. But the purpose of the “Who am I?” question is not to arrive at a mental answer.
Renate: Did you experience something? What was your experience with it?
Michael: Well, the experience ultimately was a direct insight into the nature of pure Consciousness, which shifted the identity from a thought-based entity to an Awareness-based non-entity. So that Silence became what I am and that was directly realized by Consciousness itself, not by a person – so it’s a little bit tricky for me to sit here and talk about myself as having realized something because that’s not, of course, exactly how it is. It’s Consciousness that wakes up to itself as such.
Michael: . . .and Consciousness by its very nature is infinite and eternal. . .and showing up as all of this.
Renate: But - which is a beautiful experience, but as you say somewhere, it does not – it does not really liberate you – this kind of experience. There’s still – you know, we have this experience of who we are but then the work starts.
Michael: Right. The process of integration you mean.
Renate: Yes. Yes. Yes. And you had, as you were telling me earlier which I wrote down somewhere – you had a very complicated childhood which led into great suffering, so there was quite some work for to do for you, I guess.
Michael: Well, it was a complicated childhood but also full of a tremendous amount of love and a tremendous amount of self-sacrifice and care and I’m very grateful and I was very lucky in many, many ways – and I’m still to this day very grateful for that. It was also complicated in some ways, but that’s what was necessary. It was the sand in the oyster that . . .
Renate: . . .polished it.
Michael: . . .yeah - that leads to the Realization of what you really are.
Renate: Yes. Exactly.
Michael: Without that there’s no motivation to find out who we truly are, and I’m grateful for all the challenges that were present in this life.
Renate: Yeah. So when you went through depressive times - I have here written down of a number of wounds that had not been met or integrated yet – how did you work with those wounds? How did you learn to integrate them and understand them?
Michael: Well, Carl Jung’s pointers were very helpful in that regard in terms of shadow integration, and so I drew on that heavily. I will say that the Realization of what is the truth of myself clears up a lot of confusion. And. . .
Renate: It gives you a reference point.
Michael: It gives you. . .yeah - ironically, it’s not a reference point per se, but I know what you mean. Yeah.
Renate: Yeah, yeah.
Michael: Rather than being a psychologically driven self, which is a very contracted state, it’s a more expansive place of being; it’s a “placeless place” you could say. So nothing refers to a separate self any more. Experience doesn’t refer to someone in particular, and when that’s realized a tremendous burden is released: the burden of having to work it all out and that it’s about “me”. And so when that’s not there, there’s much more flow and wellbeing, synchronicity, but the body, of course, as you know, retains the memory of trauma for many years and sometimes decades or even a lifetime.
Michael: So the work became about – once the realization was clear and had clicked and that there was no going back and there was no forgetting that or remembering it even; it’s simply the natural state of self-knowledge – then the work was to take care of the body/mind by being REALLY gentle and loving and compassionate with it. And softening, as I call it, softening into whatever residual trauma might be lurking in the system. So whenever something would arise, to meet that lovingly and gently and softly and allowing it without expressing it or avoiding it. But to just let it be there in the system with the full knowledge and understanding and insight that it’s a momentary empty appearance made out of Consciousness and its tendency is to shape-shift and move and to self-liberate. So there’s not a “doing” in this process; it’s a passive allowing for these stale, stuck energies to simply be felt and acknowledged, embraced and then released, which is what they want to do. Energy just wants to be – by nature it wants to release itself; and it’s just because we deny that – we deny the shadow, bury it underground – that it continues to recycle in the system over and over again. So it’s just giving us a clue – and everyone knows this – it’s a clue that something is not being met or lovingly embraced.
Renate: Well, I also find the torturing part in this whole thing is the mind.
Michael: Yes, it is.
Renate: The mind just doesn’t go and leave you alone; the mind comes over and over and over and tells you all kinds of stories about it and revenge and all kinds of things. That I find so exhausting, you know. And you need to really work on being present and you need to have a practice in place to cope with that.
Michael: Yeah, early on that was certainly my experience. It becomes less of a practice and more of just the natural state of being eventually.
Renate: Yes, yes.
Michael: At this point, there’s no practicing of that per se because there’s just a free flow of energy and movement that doesn’t refer to a center of experience. But, absolutely, in the beginning, vigilance is required because the tendency of Consciousness is to be narcoleptic.
Michael: It just will fall asleep. It’s infinitely intelligent and it has a capacity and a tendency to identify with whatever arises in the field of Awareness. So it takes a little bit of earnest vigilance early on so that one remains awake so that that work can continue – that work of integration. But it does become more organic and less laborious. It just becomes natural – just the normal, natural state.
Renate: Yeah. You say something interesting which I was puzzled about – let me see if I find it – yeah, I read your words: “It is correct knowledge or understanding of ourself that opens the door to liberation, not the spiritual technologies we use such as meditation.” Isn’t it meditation which helps to prepare the ground also for this opening to the direct knowledge? How do you see that?
Michael: Well, I’m speaking in part there from a perspective of Jnana Yoga which was my path, if we’re speaking in a relative sense.
Renate: Can you just explain what that is.
Michael: Sure. Jnana Yoga is one of the major yogas in the Vedanta system, and it’s the path of wisdom. And there are other paths: there’s the Bhakti path, the path of devotion; and there’s the meditative path, Raja Yoga; and Karma Yoga, which is selfless service; those are the major yogas. They’re all right; none of them is wrong. It’s just based on our temperament and what we resonate with. Of course, coming from Nisargadatta, I resonated with the path of wisdom. That was his path and that was the transmission that came through to me. So as Nisargadatta says, Realization is more of the nature of understanding. And that was a VERY important thing for me to have heard because I knew that Realization was not an experience. That’s what he was saying – it’s not an experience. It’s more of the nature of understanding. So that shifted the way that I was looking for myself and helped me release the attachment to whatever experiences were arising, which were not the point. So a lot of quite fantastic experiences arose energetically in the body/mind during this whole process – esoteric kinds of things where there was knowledge of experience that was of subtle realms, subtle states of being and certain information was coming through – being downloaded in a sense – about the nature of life and Consciousness.
Renate: So easy to identify with them, isn’t it?
Michael: It’s so tempting. I’m not dismissing those things because they’re an important part of what unfolded here. But I knew that identification with them meant spiritual ego, and I was clear about not falling into that trap. Of course that can happen, I suppose, with knowledge as well, but with the direct insight into true nature, one realizes it’s not an experience and that it’s not personal. And so the tendency to grasp onto and make something out of a passing experience was really not there for me, which I’m grateful for.
Renate: Let’s talk a little bit about – because you went for five years through a period of purification and alchemical transmutation, which is called “poverty” by Meister Eckhart.
Renate: Yeah, I was always interested in that. Can you talk a little bit about it . . .
Michael: Yeah – I can feel myself getting energized by the question because I love talking about this. It’s my great passion in life is to share this.
Yes – that five year period. . . “alchemical transmutation” is kind of a Jungian term for that process where you’re become something substantially other than you were. Meister Eckhart has a beautiful pointer; he calls it a state of “poverty,” which we normally think of as a negative state, but he was referring, in that sermon, to a state of inner void or emptiness. And so there was this Realization, over and over again, this soft, gentle surrendering into what he calls “the Uncreated Ground” and I call the “uncreated light of Awareness” – the Uncreated Ground – over and over again dying into that and as that. And that’s a state of poverty, but this is. . .
Renate: . . .because you cannot take anything there, I guess.
Michael: Right, you can’t take anything there. Meister Eckhart says you have to want and desire as little as you did before you were born. So it’s a self-emptying process. In the Bible – Philippians - there’s a famous passage that speaks of this – the “kenosis” of Jesus; “kenosis” is a Greek word for self-emptying and Jesus empties himself of himself – in the foot washing as well. It’s the emptying or the melting down the ornament back into its formless uncreated nature which is the formless presence of Awareness which is the reality of this moment: boundless, free, open, spacious, uncontained . . . unformed. And the more that that is recognized as oneself – that “I” refers to that, it does not refer to a separate self. It refers to whatever is aware in this moment which is uncreated – we can’t point to it or grasp it, measure it, weigh it in any way.
Renate: What did help you to recognize that over and over again as your true nature?
Michael: What helped was the joy of discovering the beauty of being nothing in particular – or in general. That’s such a beautiful Realization — and it’s blissful. It’s painful to be contracted and separate. But when one realizes that the natural state – which is this open, expansive presence of Awareness – is already fully here [and that] nothing has to be done to achieve this, that’s already here - the body and mind rest from feverish seeking or fear, those two engines that keep the self going: desire and fear, which makes the whole world run in a sense. But to let go of the grasp on either desire or fear and to rest back into and as the “Uncreated Ground,” as Eckhart calls it, is incredibly nourishing and healing, and it sends ripples of healing energy through the body and the mind. It’s very simple and anyone has access to this; it’s just a simple allowing of the body and the mind to fall back into the arms and the embrace of Consciousness, or of God, or of the Divine – whatever word resonates with you. And it’s sweet . . . and healing. So the body loves it, actually, and it starts to want more and more of that and that becomes what you start to put your attention on and give your heart to rather than on things that are momentarily satisfying but ultimately make you feel miserable because they’re volatile and unpredictable and subject to change and disappearance.
Renate: And, of course, the challenge is how do you bring that into life.
Michael: Yes. Yes, that is challenging and particularly in interpersonal human exchanges because our tendency – the body’s tendency – is to pick up the energies that are around us because we’re empathetic beings and we feel what’s in the air. We feel other people’s tension when they have it.
Renate: Yeah. Sometimes we don’t know. And my experience – am I living out his experience, or my experience or my mother’s experience or my grandmother’s experience?
Michael: Correct. Yeah. We’re often living in other people’s nightmares. We live in other people’s nightmares in an individual sense and in a collective sense in the terms of the human nightmare. And so it’s very important to wake up from – well, all dreams all together and to realize what doesn’t come or go. And that helps orient the body/mind. And then there are triggers, of course, and there are buttons that are pushed because there are deep pre-cognitive fears in the system about intimacy and connection and love, which is what we are all seeking but at the same time pushing it away because there’s a discordant subterranean mechanism at play that blocks the very thing that we’re seeking. So once that is uprooted, then there’s more of a free flow, but at the same time there are still some triggers that get pulled and there are times when the body and the mind will simply self-contract out of habit. So the work as I experience it and as I share it is to be as gentle and loving and soft with oneself as possible in those moments and to just allow the reactivity without identifying with it – without expressing it or rejecting it or avoiding it – and to just be the energy of it in that moment. It’s not referring to anyone. It’s shared – it’s a co-created energetic uprising - two nervous systems meeting and then activating each other. But I see it as a creative process of unfoldment in the timeless presence that does not unfold, and in that sense it’s joyful; it doesn’t have to be painful because it’s not goal-oriented anymore. Before awakening you’re trying to make yourself perfect and to get the body perfect and have all your circumstances and situations in order – which, of course, is impossible. But when you wake up from that - you know, trying to micromanage life, as though that could be done by a separate, enclosed, encapsulated self – when you wake up from that, then there’s still an integration process, but it’s not goal-oriented anymore; it’s just the joy of being, which includes pain sometimes. Nothing’s left out.
Renate: Sure. Yes.
Michael: It’s all included. And I think that’s an important thing to realize because I think early on in the spiritual search we think that all our pain will go away on every level and that’s not true; there’s certain amounts of pain that are just part of life.
Renate: Well, that’s also what’s shown in the path of Jesus. . .
Michael: Yes. Very, very true.
Renate: . . .or the Buddha.
Michael: That’s true.
Renate: A stream of suffering is running through this Earth. . .
Michael: It is - in the group mentality, the group mind and the human consciousness, it is. It is. And you become more sensitive to that in a sense.
Renate: Yeah. And it’s also learning to find freedom within the suffering because there is suffering all over and you cannot separate yourself from it.
Michael: No. And I think the image of the Bodhisattva is an important one from the Buddhist tradition: pouring oneself back into the human experience so that your entire life becomes permeated with the understanding and there’s a genuine desire that arises in the heart to be helpful in some way.
Renate: Yes, that’s right. And that is what I appreciate a lot in the Christian path is the, you know, the mind has to drop into the heart. And I just had interviewed Cynthia Bourgeault, and she’s very beautiful on that subject – she talks very beautifully – you can experience that with her – and that is a journey in itself.
Michael: Yes. And being vulnerable to it I think is important - it is for me anyway - being vulnerable to the reality of human suffering. Unnecessary suffering can come to an end.
Renate: Psychological suffering of the separate being.
Michael: Yes. Yes. Absolutely. Yes. Unless that’s clear, there’s still a confusion about what’s true. But once that’s clear, there’s still pain, but it doesn’t necessarily refer to someone. It’s an empty – as it’s experienced here – it’s just an empty appearance that has a beginning and an end, but it’s fully felt – it’s fully allowed. Nothing is rejected anymore here. Anything is allowed to be.
Renate: That’s a key word, I guess – the word “allowing.” [laughter]
Michael: I think so.
Renate: It’s similar to surrendering but allowing is somehow. . .
Michael: It is. It’s less loaded a word.
Renate: Yes. Exactly.
Michael: “Surrender” has so many connotations to it and is so spiritually complex.
Renate: So what led into this 5 year period of poverty was you throwing yourself into eating and drinking non-duality from Mooji and Rupert Spira.
Michael: Yes. Yeah. I had many, many teachers along the way. Countless. And if I were to make a list of it, it would be too long to read, but during this period it was specifically Mooji and Rupert Spira who were profoundly influential in waking up the Consciousness. Mooji is such an incredibly overwhelming, powerful being. . .
Michael: Incredibly heartful.
Renate: Mooji is all heart.
Michael: He’s all heart. He’s also highly intelligent, but his dominant expression is pure love and that transmission came through very strongly. He also helped to cut the umbilical cord to the psychological mind. That’s one of the things that he is remarkably good at. And that was essential to sever that identification so that the Consciousness was no longer seated in the sense of a psychological self but seated in itself. And I would say he is perhaps the one to thank above all others for that in addition to being a remarkably good teacher and incredibly loving being.
And with Rupert it was the opposite. So whereas Mooji was helping to empty me out in the sense of poverty that we were just discussing about Meister Eckhart – because Mooji sort of emphasizes the path of negation, although he does the other path of inclusion as well – the emphasis, in my experience, was on self-emptying. And then with Rupert, my experience of him was was the path of inclusion. So I realized experientially and directly through Rupert’s extraordinary pointers that everything is Consciousness. I mean I learned many things from Rupert, but that was probably the most profound awakening that happened through his teaching was that everything is Consciousness. That became a living realization, not something I mentally understood or could recite from a book, but it woke up the living realization of that which I had yearned for for decades – because I knew that that was true, but I couldn’t see it directly, until I could. And it transformed everything.
Renate: Was it within an exercise he did with you – I mean he is a master. . .
Michael: He is a master. Yes.
Renate: . . .guiding you to this realization.
Michael: Yeah. It was many things. It was going to satsang, it was reading his writings, it was listening to his talks, it was doing his guided meditations. I just threw myself wholeheartedly both into Mooji and into Rupert Spira and everything I did was an expression of the understanding that was unfolding. Even if I was eating a piece of fruit – which I write about in the book; I give these exercises to try to put these things into practice so that they’re down to earth, rather than theoretical. So I have many practical exercises in the book like eating a ripe peach and trying to find in our direct experience the tasted or the taster and noticing that all we actually experience is tasting.
Renate: There’s nobody there to taste it.
Michael: No, and there’s nothing there that’s tasted. The reality of the experience is tasting!
Michael:. . .and that fills the totality of Consciousness in that moment; that’s the reality of Consciousness shining as tasting.
Renate: That’s the only thing True Nature wants: the experience of tasting.
Michael: That’s it, yes. I woke up to the beauty of experiencing and that it’s all somehow . . . necessary. It’s Consciousness knowing itself.
Renate: So all our senses are doorways into God and vice versa.
Michael: That’s well said. Yeah, if we can allow ourselves to become fully embodied and to be the reality of the sensing – what Rupert calls sensing/perceiving – then Consciousness wakes up to itself as the reality of all experiencing. That there isn’t a separate experiencer that’s experiencing an external world, but that the senses are a direct – “direct” isn’t even the right word; “non-dual” isn’t even the right word – it’s closer than intimacy as I call it – sensing and perceiving – it’s closer than intimacy because there aren’t two things there.
Renate: I remember when I was to interview Rupert. I think Rupert was my first interview on Conscious TV 10 years ago and I don’t know if his book was already out, but I had his manuscript or something and I was lying in bed – the next day was the interview – and I read “I. Consciousness, reading these words…” and I was gone. [laughter]
Michael: Yes. Yes.
Renate: And that catapulted me into an experience that there is only experience experiencing itself.
Michael: Yes. Exactly. Exactly.
Renate: Yeah. So it was a direct transmission.
Michael: Yes. Yes, that comes through very powerfully in his writing. Yeah. There are some differences. I say things - I now share a little bit differently than he does. I do have a different way of saying things – on some issues very similar or identical but in other ways, I think unique. I’ve sort of developed my own language and way of expressing this that is really unique to my particular way of experience. I think it was important for me to figure out what was true for me independently of all the teachers, including Nisargadatta, who had contributed to the understanding and then to put all that down ultimately and to be free of all conceptual roadmaps of any kind, including the non-dual ones. And now I don’t even live in non-duality. I mean the point is not to take on new beautiful non-dual concept but to live free of all conceptual structures. That’s true freedom.
Renate: Yeah, tell me about true freedom. [laughter] What is true freedom?
Michael: Well, that’s a good place to start perhaps: not being identified with any conceptual structure whatsoever. And I actually have pretty much zero tolerance for concepts at this point because the vibrancy and living reality of this is so clear to me that anytime someone – and it’s very subtle even in non-dual circles – anytime a conceptual structure arises, my tendency is to swat it away because I can see – I know that it’s a prison. And I don’t have any desire to enter someone else’s prison or my own for that matter. So I think it’s really being radically honest with one’s self and not harboring any conceptual structure and having the courage to live, as Eckhart says, without a “why” or without knowing what this is. I use all these concepts because they are a way of communicating in the conventional sense, but they’re not my reality. I don’t sit at home and think about these things in a conceptual sense. So I would say that freedom would be – there are many ways to define that and there’s no one way - but a way in this moment that I can describe it is not being identified with any conceptual structure whatsoever, although they are free to play and dance as they are here with us.
Renate: Yeah, you know, when you say “allowing” - everything is allowed.
Renate: . . .but you don’t touch it.
Renate:. . . you don’t’ touch anything.
Michael: Yeah, it’s just the Consciousness has the tendency to kind of grasp, and over time you can just loosen that grasping so that that knee-jerk grasping can be reconditioned to be more in an open state. In reality, Awareness is always already surrendered. Pure Awareness can’t grasp onto anything; it just allows everything, including the grasping. The Consciousness grasps, but the Awareness is aware of it. So the ultimate realization is that no matter what’s showing up, even contraction in the body/mind, Awareness is untouched. But the Consciousness in the form of the body/mind has a tendency to grasp. So the meditation is helpful in that sense of just reconditioning the body and the mind to be in a more relaxed, natural, non-grasping state.
Renate: Do you still have a practice?
Michael: I wouldn’t call it that. I think meeting with people is, you could say, my practice now. It’s just being with people individually and in groups, and an extraordinary healing energy comes through the body and it’s a deeply rich experience to work with someone one-on-one or in groups. It’s this shared experience that we enter into together and so that’s still incredibly healing on this body even to this day.
Renate: So you give satsangs. . .
Michael: Uh huh.
Renate: and you work with people and how do you help people? You tell me that people wake up. . .
Michael: They do.
Renate: . . . in things you say.
Michael: Well, it’s not about me, of course. . .
Michael: . . .but in those meetings, remarkable transformations occur and awakenings occur, sometimes in the first session; it’s not uncommon that that happens. And then there’s a period of working with them over time - in some cases – learning the art of integration and what we call “embodiment.”
Renate: Yeah, so what embodies?
Michael: Well. . .
Michael: . . .Consciousness in a relative sense becomes more grounded in the experience of what we call “the body” – it’s just a label and a concept for something that’s a process and a flow. It’s an energetic flow that we freeze in a mental concept of being “a body,” but it’s always in flux, and so the more that Consciousness surrenders back into the natural flow of itself, we could call that a process of embodiment. There’s not a person doing that; it’s Consciousness itself that wants to be relieved of the sense of containment because nothing in nature likes to be contained. You put any animal in a cage and it will rebel, and it’s the same thing with the psychological mind. It’s like a caged animal which is why it is struggling to be free. It’s sort of grabbing onto the cage and shaking it, screaming to be let out. And so when the realization is “Oh wait, thoughts aren’t arising in my head – the head and the body is just a mental image arising in Consciousness and I can’t find a beginning or an end to Consciousness,” it dilutes the power of the thought and then the thoughts start to arise in this boundless Awareness rather than in this tiny little space, and that in itself is tremendously liberating and healing.
Renate: So, it’s a beautiful ending. Yeah, Cynthia said earlier also which I resonate with which also you mentioned a lot: this is an era of embodiment.
Renate: You know, it was. . .
Renate: . . . it was only ever. . .
Michael: transcendent. Yeah. Right.
Renate: . . .transcendent. And that is why we made a mess of our planet and a lot of other things.
Michael: Yeah, but people are waking up to the necessity of including the body.
Renate: Yes. So, well thank you, Michael, for coming all the way over to see us at Conscious TV.
Michael: You’re so welcome.
Renate: And Michael is going to do a short meditation after this interview now, so please stay tuned. And in the meantime, I say thank you again and thank you for watching Conscious TV. Bye bye.
Michael: Hello, I’m Michael A. Rodriguez ,and I would like to lead you in a short guided meditation into the natural state. Rather than being theoretical or intellectual, I would like to invite you to drop down in this moment with the attention into the felt sense of Being and to soften whatever tensions are in the body or in the mind. The key word here is to “soften”. Traditionally the word that’s used is “surrender,” but that word is so loaded with so many associations and pre-conceptions that I find the word “soften” simple and direct and clear and applicable. Normally, when experience arises that we reject or that we pursue, there’s a hardening of the human heart and body resulting in a density of body and the mind. So all this meditation does is to soften that density, making the body and the mind more permeable to the transparency of true nature.
If there’s any tension in the forehead in particular, or the solar plexus or the stomach – those are the three regions that the sense of the separate self dwells - just soften them gently and rest in this moment as undefended, sensitive, loving conscious presence which is your natural state. It is not natural to be defended and hateful and separate from experience. Your heart longs for love and connection and intimacy – everyone’s does.
The human heart contracts and expands both in the literal sense and emotionally, so we’re going to rest the human heart in the heart of Awareness within which the human heart arises and subsides. This is not abstract; this presence is absolutely present – it’s the reality of this moment. And so as we soften down into the felt sense of Being, to be the energy that we call “the body,” we can soften that resistance to whatever is arising. Normally that “me” sense which pushes away experience or pursues pleasant experience gets lodged in the body and creates a very powerful illusion of separation. And so the more that you soften that tendency, the more experience will simply be a flow of energy and light without referring to anyone in particular or in general.
So we’re doing this now in the comfort and safety of perhaps your bedroom or your den, wherever you may be, but it’s important to take this out into the world so that all of our experience is permeated by this understanding so that when challenging experiences arise with co-workers or family or friends, the pointer here is to soften in the moment of the arising of that tension or self-contraction – just soften it gently and lovingly with your best interests at heart, wishing yourself well, having compassion for yourself. And to notice the tendency of that contraction is to self-liberate. It actually takes a tremendous amount of work to keep it going. And it doesn’t take any energy to soften it; it’s a letting go. To know that your undefended, sensitive, natural Self is both absolutely pure and innocent and also paradoxically absolutely strong and solid. It’s only the psychological self that’s weak and brittle. But this heart of Awareness that I’m referring to, which is synonymous in this moment with this felt sense of Being and then beyond it as this pure Presence, is indestructible. And all experience arises and subsides in that, which is your true Self.
The more you make this just a way of life, the more it will just become the natural state again as it was in childhood when you were undefended and innocent. And when a moment arises when it’s necessary to take action and to be practical in some sense, that can be done in the same natural state. You never have to leave this. The great fallacy is that we have to leave this in order to be practical and productive, but the truth is that this softening facilitates being practical. It frees up energy and vitality and life and love.
Thanks for watching, and may you be well.
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