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Igor Kufayev – The Impact of Awakening

Interview by Iain McNay

Iain:  Hello and welcome again to conscious.tv.  I am Iain McNay and today my guest is Igor Kufayev.  Hi Igor.

Igor:  Hello.

Iain:  Renate and I met Igor a few weeks ago at the European Science and Nonduality Conference in Holland, and we had a good connection with him.  In fact, we did a panel with him, but unfortunately the panel didn’t end up as something that we could actually show on Conscious T.V.  So this is the first time he has officially been on conscious.tv. 

Igor is an artist and an Advaita Tantra teacher, and he has a book which he has written but isn’t actually out yet - but will be out shortly - called Flowing Wakefulness: Essays on the Nature of Consciousness.  We’re going to talk about Igor’s life, and hear some of his wisdom, and just generally see - as we always do on Conscious T.V. – where the adventure of the interview leads us.

Igor, when Renate and I first met you in Holland, I was struck by a certain intensity you had, and a precision, and also some remarkable things have happened to you in your life, both in your career and ordinary parts of your life; living your human life, but also in terms of transformation.  Let’s just see if we can touch on some of the significant things.

Iain:  When you were a child, you had quite a lot of extraordinary experiences, didn’t you?

Igor:  Well, yes – one could say that.  If I were to bring a couple of examples, then one of the most unusual was that periodically, especially from the age of where I can consciously remember my self-identity – maybe from about the age of 4 or 5 until the age of my early teens – I had these spontaneous movements in the body.  They would usually occur when I was lying down and completely resting.  Sometimes I would even find it difficult to fall asleep; it was almost as if my body just wanted to move and that movement was obviously involuntary.  It would always be quite surprising, because I was ready to sleep and my legs would start to twitch, and would even slightly jump.  It would come to the point when my mother would come to the bedroom and try to pacify me, “Why are you still not sleeping?”  She would sit with the weight of her body on my shins, on my legs, and in that state, press my body, and calm me into sleep.  These are vivid memories of my childhood.

Also, it would be accompanied by some visions; visions of sudden flashes of light, or almost as if there was rain outside, but the rain was not water - it was almost as if the stars were falling.  These were visual interpretations of this kind of liquid light.  It was also often accompanied by sounds of different frequencies from very, very fine vibrations – almost like the buzz of the bee – to much more tumultuous, like thunder; and obviously there was no thunder.  I was quite aware that this is something that I should not really relate too much; on one occasion when I tried to talk about it to my mom, she displayed a bit of worry on her face - which made me realize, “Oops!  Perhaps, this is something that I should keep close to my chest.”

Iain:  That is quite mature for a kid of 4 years old, to have this realization that something is happening, and you should keep it to yourself.

Igor:  Well, this is as far as my memory goes; maybe it wasn’t exactly like that.  Also, perhaps I should give credit to my mother; overall, in the family with her own siblings – with Auntie, and other kids that were in the greater family, in the greater tribe - she never spoke about it, she never brought it up because I am sure she would have been guided to show me to the so-called “specialists.”  I am saying that in quotes here, because later on I understood that these were not signs of some kind of pathology, but these were regular signs of what happens to the physiology when there is some stir in Consciousness on that level when energetic transformation is on its way.

Iain: So now you can see it in a wider picture and get it clearer, what was probably happening at the time.

Igor: No doubt about it.  Now I work with people who are in these conditions, who have found themselves in these conditions and lived with that for many years without proper reconciliation.  I am not speaking about hardcore spiritual circles, I am talking about people who experience what is commonly known as awakening. They “popped out” out of the blue, and suddenly they are having all of these experiences, and they don’t know. ”What is it?  Why is it?  Why is it happening to me?  Am I going nuts?  Am I going insane?  Do I have to go to get checked?”

So yes, I had enough time, not only to reconcile and to understand what was happening to me early in childhood and throughout the teenage years, but also when I was going through the main impact - which I hope we will talk about a bit later on - that I had to go and learn it from both perspectives: the classical perspective, the so-called traditional perspective and the clinical perspective.  They are not always the same; they share the ground, they share the territory, but when we say clinical versus classical, it means the spiritual experiences as they are described by teachers, scriptures, let’s say as spiritual literature – this would fall into the category of classical.  Clinical is that which has been recorded by outside observers just to give it bare facts, based upon what is happening to that person at any given time.

Iain:  Okay, we’ll come on to that later - a lot of things have happened to you.  Let’s give it a context where you were.  You were brought up in Uzbekistan, and you lived in a kind of a ghetto, wasn’t it, tall apartments?

Igor:  At the time I didn’t know.  At the time to me it was a normal environment, but when I came back to my homeland after living for many, many years abroad - as you know from my biography, I emigrated from the Soviet Union when I was in my early twenties - so when I came back to Uzbekistan, I already had something to compare it with.  Obviously, with the knowledge which I got after living in three major capitals including London, I realized that I actually grew up in what would be classified as one of those ghettos – it was a Soviet ghetto.

Iain:  One thing that intrigued me when we had a phone conversation three days ago, you said that from an early age you had a “witnessing state of consciousness.”  What does that mean in simple terms, and how did you experience that as a child – a witnessing state of consciousness?

Igor:  First I should give a direct example, and we’ll roll into my understanding, how that actually functions.  For instance, when I started to read more advanced or more demanding literature, I read compulsively, I read a lot – I read everything I would come across.  I read all of the Russian classics, French classics, and English classics - obviously all translated into the English language. 

For instance, I read Shakespeare and he was one of my favorite poet writers from this country, but when I moved to reading more specialized literature, more philosophical literature, I do remember very vividly when I read Kierkegaard, one of the German existentialists - someone who played the role of an elder, I wouldn’t call him a mentor but he was the brother of my mentor – and when he asked me, “What is your feeling? Tell me how do you feel?” I said that, “Whenever I come to a passage which obviously displayed some profound wisdom, whenever that wisdom starts to resonate, all I experience is that someone is witnessing that fact that I am actually reading it.  I am – as in that place in time – this teenager, this boy Igor, reading these passages of Kierkegaard.”

That was very, very interesting, because it gave me a very, very palpable experience that it is now just this corporeal reality so-to-speak – and I would understand later what this corporeal reality really means – but this someone who I considered myself to be, is actually not in the full sense of that word, because there is another witness that is witnessing that, and I am that witness – or how else could that be put in the right context?

Iain:  So you learned from that - as you say - you are not the person doing the reading, but somebody or something else is watching the person reading.

Igor:  Exactly!  Exactly!  And what is more interesting - because I think it is very important to be specific - is that while the Igor so-to-speak is understanding what is being said in this or that passage, understanding in terms of processing through mental faculties, through intellectual capacities – that someone who is, let’s say a department above, is simply watching it in detachment, watching it as a pure observer.  There is no need to understand, there is no need to qualify, quantify, or what have you – that was most peculiar, but I think when I related that to my mentor’s brother, he totally dismissed that.

Iain:  Yes, so it also means that any emotion or feeling that the ego is having, that is also being watched – or that can be watched.

Igor:  That became more and more apparent as my life was unfolding. 

As you know, I started painting at a very early age, and I had a mentor.  I was professionally drawing from the age of 12; professionally meaning in a proper setting, preparing for the College of Art, and then it unfolded further on, and so forth.  I remember myself during my entire teenage years, where perfecting that kind of craft and skills of an artist painter I spent a lot of time in that act of doing something, and that witness would become the most acute experience when you are left to your own company, to your own devices; you are working, even if there was another person there as a model like it was often in school, you are painting and there comes a moment – boom!  The body just does it; the one who is drawing it, the one who is drawing lines, brush strokes, the one who is observing and trying to create some science on this two-dimensional paper or canvas – is being watched at all times.  It was a very, very beautiful, soothing and calming experience.

Iain:  My question then is, who is it that is aware of the one who is watching?

Igor:  Well, I guess that’s the whole theme, or the whole subject of what today is often called Non-Duality, isn’t it?  This whole spirituality business is to find out who is behind the scenes...

Iain:  Who is often pulling the strings...?

Igor:  The puppeteer [deep silence].  Well, I think this is a profound subject, and obviously one can succulently express that in one sentence, “That is Awareness.”  That very popular word, that is entering the collective subconscious now, just like a few words in the past 2-3 decades that have entered; the word “awareness” almost having a different meaning, a different texture to it, a different quality.  When people say, “Awareness” in certain circles today, it immediately means not just awareness that “Oh, I am aware of these flowers” – although that presupposes that too, but that word Awareness arrives from the capital A - and that is The Awareness, The Awareness which is prior to any other awareness, that only empowers these faculties which allows that very act of experience to take place.  So in that sense, that puppeteer has already been identified ... and Awareness is one of its names.  He is known by many, but that is one of His names.

Iain:  So you also told me earlier that you had lucid dreams when you were quite young.  First of all, can you briefly explain what a lucid dream is, and then talk about the effect that it had on you?

Igor:  Lucid dreaming and lucid dream is a known phenomena, that during sleep... Maybe for some of the listeners it would be valid to mention very quickly, that Consciousness is experiencing itself through three relative states, known as waking, dreaming and deep sleep.  For example we are now both operating on the plane known as the state of waking consciousness, which is characterized by the acuity of the senses, all of the mental powers, and everything else.  There is this cohesion, this complete seamless stream of awareness empowered by Awareness itself, where all of the other faculties perform what they ought to perform in that waking state. 

When the waking state of consciousness wanes, we get tired and ready to sleep, and we want to repose; basically, we want to rest.  When we are about to drift away into the domain of dreams, another state of consciousness comes – the dreaming state of consciousness, the state of consciousness characterized by the cessation of sensory perception.  It is like the tortoise drawing in its limbs; the senses withdrew themselves and the mind is left alone to abide on its own so-to-speak.  So that is the phenomena of dreams.  The mind no longer expresses itself through the senses, and it is coalesced in that sea of dreams and images and what have you – the phenomena of dreams.

Then, there comes a moment when we could say that the mind is also tired; it is a loose term for that – it doesn’t really get tired, it is just that its vibrations simply ought to subside because the nervous system can no longer entertain that.  Our body then moves into another state known as deep sleep.  The deep sleep state of consciousness is characterized by a total withdrawal of the senses and of the mind.  When that happens, it is a blank state; we know it because there are no dreams, yet awareness is present there because when we wake up we simply say, “I slept very well, I didn’t dream of anything.”  We knew that this was my dream, it wasn’t the dream of my neighbor.

So these are the three states of consciousness.  In the phenomena of lucid dreaming, that witness does not cease to be just throughout the day, throughout the daily activities when the senses are present, it carries on as it were through the dreaming activity, and one has a total awareness of what one dreams about.  Not only that – as far as some of the psychology goes some of the science – there is a whole science of lucid dreaming.  You can navigate your dreams at will; just to drop one name, Carlos Castaneda was famous for that.  He wrote volumes, people were reading a lot of his books because he almost propagated life on an alternative level. 

Iain:  Was that something that you could do when you were a child?  Could you navigate your own dreams?

Igor:  I cannot answer that with certainty, because I’m not sure if that was the goal, or if the desire arose to the degree to actually navigate my dreams.  However, I could say with certainty that the dreams were witnessed; the dreams were witnessed throughout, so there was this luminosity.

Iain:  How was that as a child, because that’s quite unusual I would think – for a child to have that ability to have that experience...?

Igor:  As a matter of fact, for children it is not that unusual.  It is more unusual when the physiology grows up, and I would say now with the knowledge that I have acquired, that it happens on the verge of puberty when there is a loss of innocence so-to-speak, when certain glands take over – namely the thyroid then takes over the whole process of physical growth.  From there on, the thyroid gland is the gland that is responsible for all this growth.  When we say growth, it is not just the growth of the cells of the tissues of the body, it is also growth of awareness, as that very physical awareness, mental awareness, growth of the individual, growth of one’s identity and it is all controlled and checked by the thyroid gland.  I am almost certain that 80% of children probably lucid dream, but then most of them lose that by the age when the thyroid gland kicks in and introduces a very different process.

Iain:  I guess the sad thing is that if they were to talk about it to their parents, most parents wouldn’t remember that they had that ability when they were young, so there is no kind of recognition of it.

Igor:  Exactly. There is no continuity, as it happens a lot in terms of what we all share in terms of our shared experiences of a maturing relationship with who we are in childhood, how gradually we lose that, and how our culture at the moment – culture by and large – does not support in any way to keep what is given, because experienced children have that innate ability.  I shouldn’t even put it that way because it’s not that the children have innate ability; it is Consciousness in that state, still in that very tender state as a child, has not lost the innate ability to know itself for what it is - it happens later – the so-called “fall from paradise.”

Iain:  Something else that you told me beforehand that was influential when you were young, was because you lived quite near the border with India, there would be Indian yogis who would come and they would do demonstrations.  You saw these incredible powers that they actually had, and that seemed to trigger something in you, an interest for a deeper search.

Igor:  Well, yes.  I could say this was a marking point of making sense of what I was experiencing and making sense not in terms of I suddenly found myself relating - because I was impressed completely, I was knocked down to see these performances which took place when Indira Gandhi allowed... there was this warm relationship, so we would have this yearly festival, so Indian culture was very present.  Indian films, Indian popular Bollywood movies, food festivals, all would usually take place in the main square which was huge in Tashkent, as they were known at the time as the Red Squares.  There would be tents, there would be all these covered marquees set up, and in one of those places, the yogis were demonstrating their abilities, and my mother took me there.  That impressed me a great deal, and from there on, I was completely driven.  I was making all the cuttings from every newspaper and magazine I could find, to compile all that I could find at that time about yoga, into my own handmade book.  This was way before what I encountered with my move to the west.  This was a very different kind of yoga I am speaking about here; it would be very important to relate to the audience, to the watchers of our channel, that this is not yoga in terms of just postures.  These were yogis from the Himalayas performing some of the...

Iain:  So what kinds of things did they do that really impressed you or triggered something in you at the time?

Igor:  One of them was a yogi who was put in a huge glass container, and he was demonstrating how long he could go without breathing.  There were conditions created where there was no possibility that there could be any air so he could secretly breathe.  In fact, it sounds cruel, but they even had...if I remember, there was a mouse and maybe even a bird, and you could see how these creatures just collapsed after a certain time when the oxygen starts to recede - because they sucked it out - and the yogi just goes on and goes on, and goes on.  In fact, I’m sure he would have gone on much longer than the experiment needed.  So this was one of them.

Iain:  So that means that he was able to alter the state that his body needed oxygen to quiet the cells right, right down...

Igor:  Yes, we know that now.  There were scientific studies made in major superpowers at the time in the 70’s.  Both the United States and the Soviet Union conducted a series of very serious investigations and experiments in that domain, because obviously these people wanted to utilize these powers for whatever use they intended - probably not very life-promoting use.  However, there were scientific studies made in the name of science, and the science was unfortunately serving the powers and the resistances between the two countries, but a lot of these researchers showed that all of this has a very, very deep, profound, explainable phenomena – that this body is much more than we even consider in our wildest imagination – what this body can actually do.

So that of course made a tremendous impression on me, that what this body is, is not that obvious.  Although by then I was very physical - sports, this and that kind of activity took over - I obviously realized in terms of how much physical ability, what that this body could perform, but more so, what is this body if it can do that?  So that was a quest.  A question mark was sown, the seed was sown.

Iain:  Then you had a mentor who you mentioned briefly earlier, that was very important to you too.  Tell us a little about the mentor, what you learned from him, and what happened with him.

Igor:  I was very fortunate that though I grew up in a relatively good school at the time, I was spending all of my free time on the streets with other kids, and most of the time we would get ourselves into mischief as you can imagine; boys left to themselves, running around at that tender age when there is a lot of competition going on, and you have to prove yourself - you try all of these substances that you shouldn’t.  When my mother noticed that this was happening, she was very concerned.  She was introduced to a man who was running this art studio for different ages, and it happened to be on our usual route between her work and my school.  So she took me there; at the time I was 11, and this man became perhaps the turning point in my life in terms of understanding that this life is actually given for something tremendously important.  I will explain a little bit why and how it happened; it didn’t just happen on a mental level.

He was an accomplished martial artist and a painter, so this is why I started to take professional lessons in art.  He also happened to have an underground studio where afterhours he would have a gathering of various characters, of various beings who were involved in different practices.  This was the first time that I heard the word “Buddhists” - people who were into Buddhism.  I met other martial artists, there were poets, there were people who were in opposition to the government, there were basically people who you don’t usually meet on the street so-to-speak – or you are not aware that they exist - at least for me at the time.

This was a massive exposure to this, and he projected a lot of physical power and a lot of vitality, but as you know from the biographical notes, he was tragically killed.  I was very close to him, because he actually brought me to that underground studio, where all of my peers were much older than me.  I was very privileged to know him, and there was this mutual trust, which I felt also mixed with responsibility; it was almost as if he engaged that trust into me, that I had to stand up to.

When he was killed, it obviously shook my world to the very core.  For me, it was the realization that nothing is certain; this life is not going to be forever.  I suddenly realized that through witnessing the death of my mentor, one could say I realized my own mortality – not palpably.  I don’t want to confuse the audience that there were these extrasensory experiences, but I would say on a very emotional level, I realized that this is not going to last.  For that early age, this was quite too much to stomach; it was quite a lot to handle.  At the same time, it propelled me to this very different way that I handled my time and everything; my life suddenly had a purpose.

Iain:  You had a focus.

Igor:  I had a focus, yes.  There was this inner - inner regroupment, inner realignment, where I realized, in arts I want to be an artist – I want to perfect myself as much as I can; I want to reach something which this life is for – and he was that example. And he was no longer there, so I was left to myself, almost as if the inner resources were drawn from within.

Iain:  Yes, and I think after that you were actually in the army, weren’t you?  You had to go to the army for two years.

Igor:  After, you mean…?

Iain:  Keeping it sequential and just the significant things that happened to you.  And there, ironically, being in the army actually spurred something in you that encouraged you to take up an interest in theology and religion.

Igor:  I have to say that because I never had a chance, but I have to say that very quickly.  I was in the desert, in Turkmenistan - though I was in Uzbekistan, but the Soviet Union was one country, and it was during the Afghanistan campaign - the Soviet Union was carrying lots of heavy losses in lives, so everyone who was eligible was pulled immediately.  So I was going through my training in the desert in Turkmenistan for the first six months, and the place we were – if there was a more desolate place even in Mongolia, I would be surprised!  There was absolutely nothing, but there was one shop; only one shop, and that shop sold various things.  It had two or three long shelves, and on the top shelf you would have bread, on the lower shelf you would have a couple of bars of this very square soap, a pair of boots – like these soldier boots – and then, believe it or not, on that shelf where the bread was and maybe a couple of other very peculiar, surrealistic items put together, there was this enormous book – enormous.  Guess what it was? 

Iain:  [Shrugs to indicate he doesn’t have any idea]

Igor: It was the Mahabharata; it was actually the Mahabharata, it was surrealistic! A friend of mine who was a few years older, he actually said to me, “Do you know what this is?  This is actually one of the most important Hindu texts, in terms of spiritual [significance].”  I don’t even know if he used that language, but he said to me that something profoundly important is hidden here.  So obviously there was this introduction, but with that there was this sudden interest, in the midst of what I could call... for anyone who has any remote idea of what military training is, would probably appreciate the fact that you live in very, very different conditions.  Everything is encapsulated into this very primal, instinctual way, where the environment itself is very tough.  You have to survive in that environment, let alone in that hierarchy that soldiers create within; there is this constant physical battle of the masculine energy of competition.  If you fall down, it will be very likely that you will be walked over; so there was not an option to fall down, so you have to always [be on guard].  So life itself was tough.  And yet, in the midst of that, what I was interested in was not, “How am I going to go through that?”

Fortunately, I was physically fit; by then I was doing boxing, running 6 miles in the morning for me was nothing, it was like a warm up, while some other soldiers were running out of breath.  I was very physically fit, so the physical conditions for me were secondary, but what really occupied my mind is, “What is this whole thing about the spirit?”  I could say this was the turning point.  I started to show interest towards anything that has something which is what we call beyond - the Spirit, the Transcendence, the Godhead.

Iain:  Interesting how that book was just sitting there waiting for you.

Igor:  I know, it was like a message sent by the Divine Providence Itself.

Iain:  I think that happens for people; we do hear that on conscious.tv, meeting people that  - a book just suddenly just drops off a bookshelf, or it’s where it shouldn’t be, and that is the right time and that is what we all...

Igor:  It’s not that I ever read that book - that is what is bizarre!

Iain: You didn’t read it?

Igor:  Where was the time to read that book?  No, this was just a message!  I flicked through, obviously with other soldiers and with that friend of mine who was already at the university.  I was four years younger, and at that time, four years was a lot.  I was 19 and he was 23.  He said to me, “Watch carefully Igor, this is amazing!”  He was also an artist, and so it was like, “This is funny, isn’t it?”

I opened it, and there are no pictures; it is a very old book – none of these Hare Krishna colorful books – no.  It is a hardcore, very old publication, small print – but I start reading one or two verses, and it is like, “Something very intriguing; something is [powerfully] drawing me in!”  This book talks about something which all of this [gestures to indicate the outer world] makes it irrelevant and less important.

Iain:  So we have to move on a bit, we have more stories to get to in order to get all of the important things in.  So you moved to London, and there was a time when your interest in the spiritual world and yoga began to increase.  It was your mother who was already doing Transcendental Meditation and she was quite keen for you to be initiated.  There is quite a story around that.

Igor:  Yes.  Very quickly I should mention that being an athlete – and you can imagine after the army I was all ‘meat and bones,’ I was like this ‘meat machine.’  It carried on.  I was really enjoying that strength, even though I pursued the career of an artist.  If you had met me 15 or 20 years ago, you would not recognize me at all; I was really built up, and I used to run in the morning, I used to do all of these exercises.  Suddenly, in my late twenties, I pulled my lower back – but when I say, “Pull my lower back” – it was it. The third vertebrae went out of place, and I was in agony – I couldn’t even put on socks in the morning - let alone doing any exercises - and it went on and on.  I went to the chiropractor, and in one week it goes back out again. In one week, it goes back out again.

So what happened - obviously something was brewing, something was really getting ready – what it was, I was not yet aware, but in one of these moments of agony... and I was living in a different city, I was in London and trying to make a living as an artist and what have you, so what I find in myself, is that a degree of surrender takes place.  “Whatever that pain is, whatever I need to learn, please let me know.  Whatever that is.”  I wasn’t even addressing anyone, but I could not go through the day.

So what happens is that in my dream, I have this act of initiation – there is various information elsewhere where I talked about this in great detail, so I will spare those details – but just that that took place.  There was this extraordinary power that lifted me up – literally - I sat down and suddenly I had no pain.  I sat down in the bed in the middle of the night, and I was almost, as if commanded [to meditate], “That is what you are to do.”

You have mentioned my mom, and Transcendental Meditation – all of her letters were all about that.  I even wrote her, “If you mention Transcendental Meditation one more time, I am not going to write back to you, and I’m not going to call you!”  I said, “I’m meditating when I paint.  Please stop trying to convince me of what I need to do!”  Obviously these were messages on a much more refined level.

So this initiation takes place, and I go to sleep again;  I wake up in the morning, and the first thing that I do, I climb out of bed, and I sit against the wall, I prop myself with a cushion, and I do what I was commanded to do in that dream state.  From there on, for six months of meditation, amazing things started happening to me, and all this that I was experiencing as a child came back - all these movements in the body, all of these vibrations, heightened energy sensitivity, sounds, lights – all came back.

Iain:  At this point you were doing TM meditation which is 20 minutes...

Igor:  Not yet.  This was just so-to-speak the partisan way, initiated in a dream, all kind of self-taught if you will – not from the books – it all happened in that state of altered consciousness.  When I shared that with my mother - and I thought that would make her happy – instead she said, “Fine, but now you still need to go and learn meditation, because that will take you to the tradition.”  I am forever grateful to her, because she is absolutely right; this is where the true spiritual journey unfolded for me.

So I went back to Uzbekistan, and I got initiated into Transcendental Meditation, and I practiced it without missing one meditation for a period of six years.  To me, it was more important than brushing the teeth or taking a shower in the morning.

Iain:  So you did the TM [initiation], and then you did a Siddhis Course – is that right?  You did a more advanced course?

Igor:  Yes.

Iain:  In my notes from when we talked on the phone, somehow the 9-11 date is in my notes, that that was a very significant day – and today is 9-11, again.

Igor:  Yes, it is a bizarre coincidence.

Iain:  Talk us through how 9-11 affected you then.

Igor:  Okay.

So by the end of that summer, in the beginning of that autumn, I reached what I could call a personal crisis.  A crisis of the degree...and I had been creative all of my life and knew how to express myself, I was a meditator, I lived in bliss already, I knew what the joy of creation and creativity is, I knew what the joy of relationships is, I knew what the joy of friendship is – yet I felt completely lonely, alone, and isolated.  I felt as if the world was ending; there was this tremendous process of internalization that coincided with my decision to go to Uzbekistan again and attend that advanced TM Siddhis Course, which was introduced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the mid-70’s.  It is an advanced meditation course - there is a lot of information available online to read about it in depth - but I felt that it is as if I am going to meet my end there.  I literally felt that my life came to a point where it can no longer go the way that I knew it; not just like I wanted some kind of refurbishment, not like I wanted some type of change in situation – it was not like that.  It was existential, it was either–or.  It was to be – or not to be; it was literally a matter of life and death.

As I am waiting for that course, nothing is happening because the course is being re-announced, re-announced, and postponed; announced and postponed.  I keep changing the date of my departure, I am paying for this exuberantly expensive studio in West London, and I am waiting for this course.  Suddenly while I was working on a series of perhaps my last works, a series of pastels, and there is a date for my exhibition - as I was working, I was in the habit of listening to the radio in the background.  As it happened there is literally a live broadcast where the commentator could not contain himself, his voice breaks, there is no longer a BBC diction, there is stammering, his voice trembles, and I actually felt in my heart, “Oh no!”  He is probably watching it on the monitor live or what have you – I don’t know how it all happened, but this is how the news came.  It was all this very, very new age of media, when there is the news of what is happening at this very moment.  I have a lot of friends, and there was this family of my patrons in New York, so to me New York is not just a city on the map; I’ve been there twice already and it is a very dear city to my heart, in the sense of people with whom I am connected.

So obviously I sit down, and I think, “My God, I am worrying about all of this existential stuff, but the world is ending!”  I literally thought that way.  “How pathetic, all this!  How pathetic, all this self-pitying, all this stuff that I am experiencing, when all around me is what looks like truly cataclysmic events.”  That is what it looked like; let’s face it, it was out of the ordinary; out of the ordinary by any standards.  Yet, that same evening I speak to this family of friends, and I speak to this family - they became very close friends, they were art supporters, and were supporting my art activity – and the guy just tells me, and he is a great collector named Jonathan Kagan he says, “Igor, carry on; just carry on with your work.”  What I said to him was, “What’s the point of my exhibition, it’s a new reality, who needs it now?”  He said, “No, this is when the world needs it more than ever.”

Literally, the time before I go to that TM Siddhis Course which was in November - and this event is in September - I am putting all of this energy into my artwork, as if I am kissing it goodbye.  It is like bidding farewell to my activity as an artist. 

Iain:  Okay, so time is marching on and I wanted to get as much as we can of your story in there and what really happened.  So when you went on the Siddhis Course, what were your experiences to start with?

Igor:  This is it; everything happened there.  The doors were unleashed.

Iain:  Talk us through that.

Igor:  I arrived at the course, and the course starts, and the course consists of two weeks of preparation when you learn certain sutras, and two weeks of actual practice on the mats.  It was very demanding; you learn a lot, and you practice a lot.  What we do, we meditate all day long; we meditate in the morning, we meditate throughout the day, we meditate after lunch, and we meditate in the evening.  So it’s that; it’s not like 20 minutes here and 20 minutes there - it’s like hours of meditation.

So by the time we’ve learned the sutras, and before we go into what is known as the main body of the course, these profound experiences take place, where basically the identity – what I knew of myself despite all of these experiences throughout my childhood, which I intuitively tapped into again and again and again with all the witnessing, with all the recognition that there is some greater reality, I’m not just the body - it’s completely, completely experienced on the level where I actually become One with That Source.

Iain:  So you become One with That Source...?

Igor:  Shall I speak about it in more physical terms?

Iain: Yes.

Igor:  So we sit down cross-legged, the program goes on; the body goes into profound vibrations, profound kriyas.  Kriyas are a Sanskrit term for involuntary movements, they are not self-made movements, your body is just on fire, your body is moving, your body is just experiencing these very, very powerful vibrations which are manifestant in the physical vibrations.  I reached the point when I feel I cannot take it anymore – the heat, everything, the nausea, I feel I cannot take it either emotionally or physically – I would rather die.  You might say, “Well, why didn’t you just get up and walk away?”  That wasn’t an option; not because I thought I want to complete the course.  There was something, it was as if I was driven, I was no longer deciding, “I want to go to this course, what is going to happen?”  It had energy of its own; it has a vortex of its own.  It’s as if you entered the field where you no longer can... the gravity is too powerful.  This is a very important footnote, because then it will be understandable, “Why?”  The option was - no option.  I am sitting there vibrating, and quite frankly, I cannot take it anymore.

Iain:  When you say “vibrating” were you physically vibrating?

Igor:  Physically vibrating, but there is also the sound.  My skull is splitting from internal sounds.  These visuals – these stars are bursting out of my eyes, it is as if my chest is being opened up like that [gestures to indicate the chest being ripped open], as if my chest is literally not being cut open, but more like opened from within, which physically was very painful.  So when I felt that I can no longer take it, “Okay, let me die then. I would rather die.  I will die here and now.”  There was a flicker of this thought, and in that instant, the face of the Master – in this case Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who devised this program – comes in.  I was nowhere a devotee before that happened, so it would be a mistake to think that.  Yes, I was practicing his program, I was very well participating in many of the activities of the movement - never working for the movement, never working with the movement - however, I couldn’t call myself a devotee; I was a ‘one-man band’.

Iain:  When you say “his face” – it was like a vision?

Igor:  It was like a vision; an internal vision, and there is this firm look on his face with affirmation, confirmation, and reassurance, “Everything will be okay. You are not forsaken, you are not going to die – carry on.”  Instantaneously, this snowball-white, iridescent, huge ball descends down, and sucks my body in.  When my body was sucked in, at that very moment my body literally hopped into the air – physically hopped into the air.

Iain:  So you physically left the ground a few inches...?

Igor:  Yes – the body jumped - it was not levitation. I don’t want to confuse anyone, it wasn’t like slow levitation – no.  The body jerked up into the air, and from my own internal experiences then, it was when I entered that “placenta” of light – what I knew myself to be, burst and merged with that light.  Later, I found myself panting, lying down, apparently I was hopping all over the place; those who want to find out about the TM Siddhis Course they will know, there are a lot of videos how men and women they hop on the ground - there are collective programs. 

So I was hopping there, but this program coincided with my own existential – what I call death, and which ushered a new rebirth.  I came out of there – apparently everyone was already circling me, and the administrators of the course asked me to share with everyone what happened.  Apparently what happened is very important, because they say the energy entered the course, so this will help others.  So I go there, and I cannot find words, because this is an experience of bliss at its most extreme - to my knowledge, to the knowledge of that body – let’s say to the knowledge of that being.

So when I try to open my mouth, I cannot.  I come to the administrator’s ear – an Indian couple – and I whisper, trying to explain, and he says, “Ananda.  Ananda! Try to speak – try to speak.”  He speaks with this Indian accent, and so I go back in the center, and we are all surrounded by about 50 people – only 12 men, mostly women in the course.   I start saying, “I feel like something profound happened to me.  I feel that this is who I really am, this is my identity – not the identity of who I thought of as myself; and the joy is indescribable.”  It was coming palpably, probably through my eyeballs, and the three women on my right started crying; not just crying, they started sobbing, there is a lot of movement - very emotional.  They are not saying anything special, it is just that resonance.

Iain:  Yes.  We only have about a three or four minutes left, and I want to bring it to a ... although Renate is going to do an interview with you afterwards, and we can talk more about what happened afterwards then.

So obviously you had this very, very strong opening, awakening, and did it last?  Did that awakening, that realization, did it last, or was it something that came and went in the next few weeks – how was it?

Igor:  Well, all I can say, and I think is very important and we only have that minute or two left - is that this was the beginning.  This was the opening.  This was passing through the portal.  Obviously, it will take years for me to fully understand why it was the beginning, because each time new territory will be gained, it would seem as complete - but it will still be a plateau, yet to go on.  So for the next two to three months, the intensity only grew.  The intensity was there - because prior there was no experience of anything to compare it with - but as the intensity grew, my body and my nervous system had more capacity to hold these descending higher states of consciousness, as I understood it later on.  I am putting it in context now with how I understood all of these experiences of awakening took place.

For the next few months, this process continued, culminating with what is also known as a complete cessation, or complete mergence of the individual self with the Universal Self.  This is something that hopefully we will have more time to talk about, but I would say that this was just the beginning.  It is very important, because it was not something to experience, and then to refer to it as a memory; it is still a living, vibrating reality of my own.  It has an infinitesimally more refined flavor to it – but it never stopped.  It is as if I was born into another realm - from the realm I existed in or identified myself with prior to that.

Iain:  Okay.  Well, that’s a great place to finish.  Renate will actually do a ‘part two’ and that is perfect; I know she very much wants to talk about what awakening means, what happens after awakening and the maturity, how it affects the nervous system, and all of the things that you talk very lucidly about.

I am going to thank you for your ‘part one’ with me, Igor. 

Igor:  It was a great pleasure, thank you very much for inviting me.

Iain: Thank you very much for coming to London which I very much appreciate.  I am just going to read the title of your book again, which is coming up fairly shortly: Flowing Wakefulness: Essays on the Nature of Consciousness.

Thanks everybody out there for watching conscious.tv and do try and seek out part two that Renate is going to do.  I hope we see you again soon.

Goodbye.

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