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Jac O’Keeffe - Born To Be Free

Interview by Renate McNay

Renate:      Jac is here from Ireland, and Jac wrote this wonderful book, Born to be Free, and the subtitle is The Freedom You Look For Is Where You Look From.

Jac:             No need to have written the book at all, actually - that subtitle is enough [laughing].

Renate:      [laughing] I guess, 99 per cent of humans live in prison, in their mind, and, yes, we are all born to be free. But how can we become free? How can we live? How can we get out of the prison?

Jac:             And I suppose maybe, of that 99 percent, most don’t know they are in prison - and that’s fine. That’s fine. But when it comes to that maturity of seeing that “My mind is the problem” and “How I think is not OK - in some way it’s causing suffering”… when that is seen, OK then, this path, the search towards... towards that which is beyond, the yearning to find out “what is it all about” begins. For some it stops again, but for most it just continues, with an emergency.

Renate:      So how was it for you, Jac?         How did it all start? I mean, I just laughed when I spoke to you two days ago to just connect, and you said, “I am a farmer’s daughter - I am down to earth” [laughing].

Jac:             [laughing] Did I?

Renate:      I just laughed.

Jac:             Yes, personality just continues through the form.

Renate:      How did you start this amazing journey?

Jac:             I suppose like almost everybody. As a small child you know something, but you don’t know what it is that you know. There’s some clarity innately, then that tends to be filed and honed down; and eventually it disappears for most, and a forgetting takes place, a forgetting of some inner wisdom. I remember being young - I would say about seven or eight - and I was in the bathroom preparing for a bath. And I saw myself in this little cotton interlock vest - you know, that they had thirty-five years ago… and seeing myself in this vest and looking, saying “What are you doing in this body? What’s that... what’s that body?” And just “What? What am I going to do with this? Oh, I have to wait until I get older”.

Renate:      Really.

Jac:             “I just have to wait until I get older. OK, then something will change, but I have to wait till I get older”.

Renate:      How interesting.

Jac:             Yeah, so in that two minutes of just a seeing, there was something being parked perhaps, put in a place of... “There is something not quite aligned up here but… oh, patience!” And so patience was developed. There was a sense of “I’m just going to have to wait, I’m just going to have to wait”.

So when I left home and went to university, stirring began, and I started with psychotherapy, to find out and to understand how things worked. My position at that time was, “OK, the way I think is not OK, because I think differently to other people. So I have to understand how I think”. And also at university I did theology to find out more about God, but sure, you know, there was a curriculum of Catholicism [laughing]!

Renate:      [laughing] That’s the worst place to try to find God!

Jac:             Totally. So I ended college as an atheist. After three months studying, in the middle of first year it dawned, “Well, if this is God, it’s all a load of rubbish”.

Renate:      Well, I was raised in a Catholic school with nuns.

Jac:             Yeah, yeah.

Renate:      I’m exactly the same as you.

Jac:             Oh, I did the Catholic boarding school thing too, yeah [laughing]. It’s just so far removed from the search for truth, yet religion keeps certain things alive. But there’s certain interpretations overlaid on interpretations that I couldn’t find the truth within it. I couldn’t. So abandoning all of it happened. But a lot of psychotherapy certainly helped at that time to become the manager of my mind. And that shift was necessary to be able to see thoughts, to see the link between a thought, an emotion and a reaction; to be able to have the option and the distance to not react. And that practice started. From the psychotherapy point of view - you know, of having that hour every week of just unpacking the ‘I’ - from that work, one arrives at a place of wholeness. It’s like, “You know I’m OK - actually I’m OK, I survived it somehow, and I love myself and it’s all right now”.

Renate:      You started liking yourself?

Jac:             Yeah, of course. And you end up being OK with life and OK with the world. It gets easier. But then it doesn’t last very long and… “There’s more... and …what else is there… and this still isn’t enough” begins. So everything you’ve built up begins to fall apart. So much for the investment! It starts to fall apart, doesn’t it?

Renate:      I was reading in your story [laughing] that one day you had lunch with your friends and all of a sudden the room was full of ghosts.

Jac:             Yeah, yeah, yeah. In the phenomenal world, that’s a very scary thing, and I was petrified. It was just like a horror movie.

Renate:      Did you know they were dead or did they...?

Jac:             I thought I was tripping, of course; I thought it was that somebody had given me something hallucinogenic. That was my first reaction.

Renate:      Yes, but these ghosts you were seeing - were they dead or were they..?

Jac:             Oh yeah. They were ‘Caspers’ you know, your full-on traditional ghosts [laughing].

Renate:      But did they know they were dead? Because I had the same thing happen to me, and people were running around in my room and it appeared that they didn’t know that they were dead.

Jac:             Yes. Some do and some don’t. They’re not at one with whatever state… it’s just a place of transition for mind also.

Renate:      But what did you do?

Jac:             I ran out of the house [laughing]. I did everything I knew how to do - you know, Epsom salt bath, shouting… anything to try and make it stop. And it didn’t stop and it was horrific. I was petrified.

Renate:      Did they try to talk to you?

Jac:             It was more that they were having fun with me. My body would be physically pushed. I received wallops on my head and I’d physically be thrown to the side and see that there was somebody behind me laughing, so I was being...

Renate:      It was more like a poltergeist?

Jac:             Yes, oh indeed, quite unhappy... unhappy spirit forms, I guess. Really just clumps of energy that have independent thoughts running. That’s all.

Renate:      They wanted your body, I guess [laughing].

Jac:             Ah, who knows, who knows? It was, I suppose… At the time a big wake-up call was needed, for things to take the big 180 degree turn, and, well, this worked. It got my attention. For sure, it caught my attention. I don’t know if there was any other reason for it. There’s no reason for anything, really, but in the phenomenal world we put reasons on things. And for sure it was a very effective wake-up call. For sure.

Renate:      And for some time you were a ‘ghostbuster’?

Jac:             Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah [laughing]. Then the real work started with the breaking of that which I had rebuilt, that which I had repaired. It began to break, so the last thing I would have chosen to do was something that I considered ‘flaky’ or not serious. And I knew I had to call it ghostbusting and take that path, to see what would happen. So from then, the more you use clairvoyant skills, that sixth sense, the more it expands and the thin veil between the physical and the non-physical just disappears totally. So then there is access to information all the time, and there were chakra systems walking by instead of people on the street. And it can get a bit nuts. I got totally into that world and it became my work; it became everything.

Renate:      You worked also as a healer for some time?

Jac:             Yeah, I used to call it energy work because, who knows what happened, but hands would move and things would happen and stories would appear and I would tell what I saw. But at the same time I knew I was doing this work as a service. So my position was, “All I can do is do this work as a service”. There was a sense of a particular state of mind that was present when I was doing this work, and that was the value in it for me. My direction then was, “Bring my work home, bring that state of mind into my life”.

Renate:      Yes, and how did that state feel?

Jac:             That ‘I’ got out of the way; that the farmer’s daughter was in abeyance; that there was an allowing - just an allowing - of something to flow through. Of course, I thought there was something flowing through me that was separate from what I am. Of course, all of that was playing. I knew nothing of that which was beyond mind at this point.

Renate:      Yes.

Jac:             So that sense of “OK, step out of the way, step out of the way” was that this was the next gearshift from not being a slave of my mind to “OK, no mind at all - be vacant, be vacant”. So I was practising being vacant.

Renate:      Yes. How can you be vacant?

Jac:             How can you be...?

Renate:      How can you be vacant? How can you stop the mind? How does it feel to be vacant - you know, vacant [laughing]?

Jac:             Yes.

Renate:      Sorry if I did not pronounce it right.

Jac:             Yes... I’m wondering, is it even a feeling? I’m searching to define being awake because that vacancy was just the practising of a state.

Renate:      Because the one who says “Be vacant”, I guess, is the one who cannot be vacant.

Jac:             Correct. It’s just a dropping away of the ‘I’ or the seeing through of the ‘I’, isn’t it? So even all the practices of that is still a practice; the ‘I’ is practising a state.

Renate:      Exactly.

Jac:             You see? The ‘I’ is just practising a state. This is a state that feels lovely because it’s peaceful and there’s no suffering button that’s being pressed, because there’s a vacancy. But it’s only a state. Yet practising this does something energetically.

There are neurological pathways… These are habits of thinking that are not running at that time and then, as a result, because they’re not being used – well, the jungle re-grows, doesn’t it, on a path that’s not being walked. So patterns of thinking started to fall away and meditation practice developed. And that space of observing, not even observing something but observing… going right back to pure observing - that state can be practised.

But that’s what I would call the ‘I am’ or just the benign observer, like the camera here; it’s just watching. It doesn’t mind what it’s watching; it has no comment on what it’s watching. And so that was being practised while energy work was happening.

I suppose that was the seeking gaining momentum, but now - or for the last couple of years - there’s no sense of experiencing an awakened state. There is no sense of it being some ‘thing’, or something recognisable that I can point to, or perhaps, yes, we can point to… But nothing clearer than that, because any word on it is already too late, or too far into duality again.

What we are is there all the time - just knowing it tends to be what the mind gets obsessed with. It gets obsessed with its own liberation. We could say annihilation, but let’s say liberation, why not! Liberation is just for mind; it’s just the ‘I’ thought. When the ‘I’ thought is not running, it’s fine.

Renate:      So how did you come to this point?

Jac:             How did the ‘I’ fall away? There was a sense that there was a juggernaut pushing, pushing and pushing. I remember once describing this to my husband, at the time that I... He just said, “Where’s it going to stop? You’re just constantly going and going and going, doing another practice and another practice. And it’s exhausting”. I felt like that a train is me or my life, but I’m hanging onto the bars at the very outside of the last carriage and I’m parallel to the rail tracks and I’m hanging on for dear life. Like something is moving through this form and Jac the woman is only barely trying to catch up. So there was always that speed or that urgency.

There was no sense of me driving it - that wasn’t there at all, especially after the sixth sense opened. That was the shift, that there was something else doing it all and that I was kind of in the way. “I’m in the way, so what am I if I’m in the way? What’s going on here?” So the focus became, “Well, whatever is in the way, that’s got to go”. There was no other function for it except to be in the way, and that had no place any more. It was increasingly obvious there was no place for it, “It’s in the way”. So there was, I suppose, a freewheeling for a while, a yielding - “OK - then take it all”.

I remember being on a car journey. I was driving across the country in Ireland (which you can do, of course, in a few hours), and there was a full moon and I was watching this full moon thinking, “Wow - it’s beautiful, it’s just beautiful!” I remember pulling the car in and taking off my jacket and standing in front of the full moon and saying, “OK, whatever you want, you take it, just take it, because I don’t want it. It’s no good to anybody, and I don’t know what it is anyway. Just take it”. And as I went back to the car, it was like “Everything is going to go - everything that I’ve ever felt that was solid, that was real… Everything is going to go”.

Next response was “OK, all right then - let it go! What’s the worst thing that could happen? I don’t know, because death would be all right… Because this is a pretty scary thing, that everything is going to go. But maybe I’m just scared of the idea that it’s going to go. Maybe it’ll be all right. Let’s try”. And there was just a sense of, “Ah, let’s just do it!” There was always something that was just a bit careless, I suppose, or had courage; you could say it that way too. Something that was just going to go for it and “Ah, let’s just see what happens. See what happens. What can happen? Let’s find out. What’s the worst thing that can happen?” And that attitude was always there, and so I jumped in. “Take it, take it, take it, take everything!”

And in the falling away of the ‘I’, there were a few big cruxes, big points, but one of them being the unravelling, the unveiling of existence itself as a concept; that everything that can exist only appears to exist because the concept of existence has brought it into a perceived reality. So existence was wiped. It’s not that items were wiped, because in spiritual practice we look at non-attachment and we look at desires and we’re going bit by bit. And it’s like we’re in the kitchen, there’s soup and there’s stock cubes [laughing] or whatever and there’s peas… And it’s like the whole lot got wiped. It wasn’t subject by subject. Go for existence itself - see if existence itself is a myth. And that got pulled. So there was nothing that anything could stand on.

Renate:      So was it wiped because your identification with it stopped? How did it... how did it...?

Jac:             You know, I think there was no ‘why’. It’s funny. If there was a trigger… Gosh, you know - wouldn’t it be great if everybody could just [lifts hand up to ceiling]...

Renate:      Yes, we all want to know that [laughing]!

Jac:             Sure, sure. For sure, at that time I can name that I was doing a ceremony of santo dime. I did a lot of ayahuasca and shamanic stuff, and there was a santo dime ceremony where that was seen. Now when something is stimulated by a sacred medicine - and I’m not talking about recreational drugs: that’s completely another realm altogether…  when something is unveiled in that way through sacred medicine, integration usually doesn’t happen. There has to be a time of integration of where whatever vibration was pulled up, or whatever dross or belief systems… where the pause button was pressed on them. If that happens with medicine - well, the ones that didn’t get burnt out are going to pop right back in. So what happened with me was… there was the seeing that existence itself is a myth and it was a total black hole. It was terrible: it was like a vacuum of just being sucked, sucked, sucked to death.

Renate:      So let me just understand it. You were taking some shamanic herbs and I think it was ayahuasca or something like that?

Jac:             Yes, this time santo dime.

Renate:      I only know this from homeopathy - it’s a remedy in homeopathy. And this indicated... this herb indicated this experience.

Jac:             Well, there’s a whole trip, you know; there’s a whole trip of the mind that can happen with medicine. I suppose you put yourself into neutral and something is seen. It’s all mind, of course - it’s all mind. And there was a knowing that it was all mind. With existence itself going, during that ceremony of being ‘out of my tree’ as one would say, during that ceremony existence itself was gone. So then in mind the experience is that the whole lot had gone (including mind itself), so there was no context for anything after that. There was nothing solid and there was this ‘zombie’ existence continuing for quite some time.

Renate:      So does it mean you never came out of this experience?

Jac:             Existence never became solid again, but there were still a lot of different things at play. Desire was still at play, the seeking was still continuing, but it was like, “What’s that? Seeking what? There’s nothing anywhere - it’s all a big joke!” [laughing] So...

Renate:      OK, so...

Jac:             …there was no place to rest.

Renate: existence did not exist...

Jac:             That’s right.

Renate:      ...can you describe that?

Jac:             Gosh, now. Existence is a concept, so for something to exist or not exist we’re talking about an item, that it exists or it doesn’t exist. Blue trees don’t exist - green trees do exist, OK? Now, let’s look at existence itself. Existence itself is a concept; it’s actually a concept. Everything is built upon thought, everything is built upon concept – everything. So for something to exist we already have to have the idea of existence, and then separation, so we have one thing existing and we can see it as an object.

Renate:      So do you also say a tree is just a thought?

Jac:             If it is named.

Renate:      Does a tree exist or not?

Jac:             In the phenomenal world it is seen to exist, but it only exists in appearance. Its existence is based on another thought being taken as real, that the phenomenal world is real. If the phenomenal world is real, now there’s a framework to say there’s a tree and the tree is real and the tree exists. But without that primary framework? No, a tree does not exist.

Renate:      But we all believe in that.

Jac:             That’s another thought [laughing].

Renate:      [laughing] So that doesn’t mean if existence goes for me, then the tree goes, because it’s held by universal belief.

Jac:             Is it held by universal belief?

Renate:      That this is a tree?

Jac:             It’s just naming, yes?

Renate:      It’s naming.

Jac:             Naming.

Renate:      Underneath its true nature.

Jac:             OK. Peel it right back and you will find there’s nothing but a concept. If you go to the most solid part of ‘a tree existing’, you will find that it’s all built on a concept. So universal beliefs are just group thoughts, which is the imagining that there’s a group, because then there is the idea that people are separate beings. But people aren’t separate, so there are no individuals - so where’s the universal, you see? Where is the thought? Thought is just whatever; it’s just another movement of consciousness; it’s not held anywhere. The whole thing is very… I don’t know, nebulous? The whole thing is pretty loose [laughing].

Renate:      But then, there is this question in your book - let me dig it out [laughing]. “What does it mean to be a human being?” What does it mean to be a human being from this point of view?

 Jac:            That the perception of an appearance is possible. The appearance can contain all that manifests, form and formless, but the perception is possible; that’s what a human being is about. But it’s only an appearance, the human being itself is only an appearance. So being fully human is where just the appearance appears; it appears to appear [laughing].

Renate:      Yes.

Jac:             So personality can be used by consciousness but there’s no ‘I’ that glues it together in terms of ‘I’. Body, mind, thoughts, personality are all of the one form. The human being does not need the ‘I’ - the personal ‘I’ or the impersonal ‘I’. The human being needs nothing.

Renate:      No, it’s just like a flower or something which is...

Jac:             Yes, yes, a flower doesn’t say, “Hey, I’m a flower”. It doesn’t mind if it’s seen or not seen - functioning takes care of it. It is the functioning, human being is the functioning, and it will take care of itself as it does a flower, without the ‘I’, without any interference of the doer at all; a personal ‘I’ doer. So it’s the simplest version.

Renate:      It’s a pretty big realisation.

Jac:             But sure, it’s there...

Renate:      I know.

Jac:             It’s there, it’s there for all. It’s there. It’s what is, but superimposed on top of this is the ‘I’ thought, for a while. But it spins out - especially if somebody is watching this, it is spinning out.

Renate:      How is it spinning out?

Jac:             Because the seeking makes it spin. The seeking is part of the liberation of mind. It might or might not be liberated - the seeking isn’t necessarily going to lead there. But the ‘I’ does stop running. Just as the flower and the tree die in the autumn, they too will do their thing. The ‘I’ will stop running.

Renate:      Yes. So your experience, Jac, is “There’s nobody there”?

Jac:             No, there never was anything other than an appearance. It is seen now, but there never was anything more than an appearance. There is nothing more tangible than that, nothing more concrete. It is all an appearance, and somehow it’s exquisitely fine, it’s exquisitely beautiful. The labelling of subject-object stopped. There is only the subject.

Renate:      On its own?

Jac:             Yeah, I think so.

Renate:      You mention in your write-up that you had a pretty rough time going through something which is called ‘the dark night of the soul’, where this huge black void came over you and seemed to eradicate it?

Jac:             Yes. That’s what we were talking about earlier, about existence itself being wiped out. That’s that one, but there were a few pivotal points of seeing. For some reason, there was nothing smooth about it in this form, partially probably because it was post all of these happenings, these phenomenal happenings, that the seeing of what is Real (capital ‘R’ – Real) came, and after the seeing the words came. I didn’t know what non-duality was, I didn’t know what advaita was; I had no idea at all of the language of pointing to that which was beyond.

So there was a period of time where nothing at all had context. I was missing pieces of the jigsaw… couldn’t get the picture, couldn’t put it together. There was no sense at all of sharing, or of knowing, or of naming that which was Real. It was just blank, it was the absence of nothing. It was that blank, which was fine in itself, but still, how come this functioning was still going on? It didn’t make sense, that it’s just an appearance. Even that word alone - ‘appearance’ - would have shifted things. It just happened in reverse for me.

Renate:      So you were married at this time?

Jac:             I was; yeah, I was.

Renate:      You’re not married anymore?

Jac:             No. Apparently I’m getting divorced next week [laughing].

Renate:      [laughing] How did your husband deal with...

Jac:             Oh, bless him.

Renate: did he deal with you changing? How did you change... I mean what changed for you? How did your life change?

Jac:             For the last two years of my marriage, I knew that the only thing I can do with this man is love him unconditionally - “That’s the only thing that’s left here, to love him unconditionally”. And it became a practice in just loving unconditionally. So my marriage turned into service, you see. All my life became about service. And then there came a point where it was clear that, if I were to stay in this marriage, I would get sick. It was just clear: “I’m going to get sick - it’s not going to work”.

Renate:      You don’t think that was the concept of the mind coming in?

Jac:             Well, it’s all concepts, isn’t it? It’s all concepts. A few whacky phenomenal things happened. You know yourself when your third eye is open - there are all kinds of visions and things.

With Amma, the hugging mother Amma, the first time she came to Dublin… After my hug my body started shaking and there was an hour and twenty minutes of a kind of craziness. I was sitting in a chair and looked like I had epileptic spasms or something. And during that shaking episode I had a very long conversation with her and she said, “Your marriage is going to break up”. And I said, “Oh no, no! You’re just wielding my worst fear in front of me”. And then, “OK, OK - let’s work on fear”… And “No, your marriage is going to break up”… And “OK, OK - you’re just working on fear”. And I couldn’t - just couldn’t - hear her. This was all in my head, of course - you know, “Your marriage is going to break up”.

And so I sat down with my husband and said, “This is what she said, this is what this woman said”. And he replied, “Sure, but that’s crazy!” And I said, “Yeah, that’s crazy”. And it was put to bed.

Yes, these are all concepts, but for sure, the seed was sown that this really could happen and it would present a way of dealing with my worst fear. So then mind says, “Oh God, can I deal with my worst fear without it happening?” And, of course, all that arose. But obviously not for Jac. It had to happen - some things have to happen. And yeah, I had to go through that one. I couldn’t kid myself and annihilate my deepest fear. I couldn’t do it - I had to break it and get out.

Renate:      So when you say, “I had to break it, I had to get out”, who is the ‘I’ now?

Jac:             That’s right. You see, that’s language, isn’t it? There was a sense of that force moving, moving, moving, moving. And in India all of that movement stopped; it all stopped. It stopped with what was seen as the last desire breaking. Because, you know, in little things, the ‘I’ pops up; and then there’s a big period of no ‘I’ and the ‘I’ pops up again; and you’re caught in a twirl. And that was how it used to phase out, I suppose, from four years ago till two years ago...

Renate:      So it still managed to confuse you?

Jac:             Yeah, there was still a sense of an ‘I’ playing: “OK, I feel like I exist now. OK, let’s run this out”. And I would go along with the movie, you know, because it was like, “Nah, there’s identification here”, and it would spin. But it was only stimulated by desire for the last couple of years, only desire gave rise to the ‘I’. And, of course, it had to do with desire of the body, because the “I am the body” belief was still running. That was the sticky one – “I am the body”. That was just hanging on and would come in every now and then; and two months would pass by and it would come in again.

And in India the final burning happened. And when desire was totally seen through, there was a knowing that desire needs an ‘I’. “Is it desire that creates the ‘I’? Is the ‘I’ there and it creates the desire?” And these two concepts just seemed to dissolve together and there was a knowing that the ‘I’ never existed, never existed at all. And what is it that was absolutely seen? How could anything be seen...? It never was. Even the idea of it coming back would be nuts now, because you know…

Renate:      It’s interesting what you say, because through the seeing and understanding something starts opening up...

Jac:             Yes.

Renate:      …and relaxing and dissolving.

Jac:             Yes, that’s right. There’s a coming home, because mind isn’t outward focused or mind isn’t seeking, and all that intense energy of seeking… Man, it’s exhausting! There’s something at peace all the time, you know, waiting for the dissolving. And who you think you are will dissolve. You can play around with doing things and being in sacred places and going to satsang and doing all these things that you know give some breather, some taste of what is beyond your mind. It’s different for everybody; you see, there are no two paths that are the same.

Renate:      No, exactly.

Jac:             And that’s the beauty of manifestation - it doesn’t duplicate much. Maybe it doesn’t duplicate at all.

Renate:      In a way I understand why some people we have here hesitate to tell their story because of that, because they say, “It cannot be duplicated”, and...

Jac:             Yes, of course.

Renate:      ...and our mind takes it and thinks, “Oh, it worked... such and such worked for you, and I have to try that out”, and so on.

Jac:             That’s right. And try everything [raising hands up in air], you know, because at that point of seeing nothing works, “Ah- ha! Now we’re getting some place!” But sometimes you’ve got to do everything to know that it doesn’t work. I remember one day doing japa on my mala and, God, I was a ‘japa-woman’, and during the practice… “But sure, I’m just chasing my own tail here - doing japa is just keeping my mind busy. This is completely perpetuating the ‘I’ because the ‘I’ is doing japa”. And so that went too, and it was seen that there’s nothing at all. There is nothing I can do.

Renate:      So Jac, what I like so much about your book is that it gives so many pointers. Can you give us some pointers now, how to go about...?

Jac:             Yeah, mind always asks how.

Renate:      What is the essence of your teaching?

Jac:             Oh, there’s no teaching. Bless us, there’s no teaching.

Renate:      No teaching… so there are pointers?

Jac:             Yeah, there are pointers.

Renate:      Pointers to the right direction...

Jac:             Yeah.

Renate:      ...if there is a right direction.

Jac:             Yeah. And it depends where the question comes from. It’s very much a personal response, what works through this form anyway.

Renate:      Let’s say if somebody comes to you and is suffering, I don’t know, because of illness or their relationship or whatever - where do you guide them from there? How can they make this jump?

Jac:             You see, if one cannot see that it is thought that has one bound, one can’t do much.

Renate:      No.

Jac:             When that space comes, where you can see this is your thought… now with that observation there’s some bit of breathing space. There’s something that can see the thought and, with an identified thought, invariably, there’s a desire underneath it. Stuff like, “I want this suffering to go… I don’t want this to be like this… This shouldn’t be happening to me”. Find the desire underneath the subject matter. It’s usually not the subject matter, you know - it’s the desire underneath it is the one that causes problems.

So even if your leg is broken, there’s going to be huge pain, but the desire for the pain to go causes more pain than the physical leg injury. So if that can be seen, that identification with desire is running… when that can be seen, it is known that desire is simply a thought. In that seeing, “OK, it’s just a desire”, and from this observing position, now we can do something. From the observer mode there is an openness, because interest in believing one’s thoughts can fall away.

Now some are lucky enough to awaken on the beach when they’re walking. And lucky for them - that’s great. But in that moment of walking on the beach when everything is seen, you can be sure attention is not caught up in a story in that moment. For sure.

Renate:      So when you say ‘the observer’… I mean, there is still something prior to the observer?

Jac:             For sure there is; yes there is.

Renate:      So what is prior to the observer?

Jac:             That which is.

Renate:      And...

Jac:             We can point to it.

Renate:      How do you call that?

Jac:             The Absolute.

Renate:      The Absolute.

Jac:             Yes.

Renate:      So observer is awareness...

Jac:             Yes, and it’s a nice state and it minimises suffering. From there, there are two options: mind can be directed prior to that, or mind will pop back into another story, another ‘I’ story. It can’t stay there because it’s a halfway house. But from identification with thoughts, I have never met anybody who’s able to go from deep in the ‘I’ story to prior to observer in one go. I don’t know how that could be possible. There are two steps.

Renate:      So then when you are in the Absolute...

Jac:             There’s no ‘I’ in the Absolute! You see, this is the trouble.

Renate:      There’s no ‘I’ in the Absolute... [laughing]

Jac:             So you can’t be in the Absolute.

Renate:      No choice [laughing].

Jac:             [laughing] The Absolute is, and it’s known to be all there is when the ‘I’ isn’t running. And that natural state is there all the time. But the ‘I’ imagines this seeing must have bells on it, must be fantastic. But that is another idea. Just drop the idea and let it be simple and still. See what was there all the time and what was there when you were a kid.

Renate:      Yes.

Jac:             Most people have a sense of that. Everything was OK when you were a kid, you know, but now we have to unravel, back-pedal a little bit in order to undo literally the neurological pathways that we have furrowed into the brain. Liberation is for the mind, you see; it’s a mind game. So observe, but place attention from where observation is arising from, or to the place where the next thought will arise from…  Or, well, apply the ‘Who?’ question.

Renate:      Well, you need to be really present in order to see that.

Jac:             Yes, or just dropping the ‘I’, hah? Just dropping the ‘I’. That’s the space between the ‘I’ thoughts.

Renate:      So you drop the ‘I’ - can you talk more about that?

Jac:             Stop believing thoughts. You know, sometimes it feels like certain thoughts are… let’s say they’re balls of energy, right? And you know when you go into a room, and you can pick up a feeling in the place, and you can have a sense actually of what the dynamic was, because thoughts stay as balls of energy. So let’s say that there are some lumps of energy that have this potential to create the idea of an ‘I’.

So it’s like the thought of “An ice-cream would be nice” is coupled with “I exist as a separate thing”. Maybe some thoughts have two flavours, because the ‘I’ is actually as unreal as that. It’s as casual as the thought, “I’d love an ice-cream”. This particular thought has the sense of “I am real”. But with “I’d love an ice-cream”, it is already a given that the ‘I’ is real. Start looking: is the ‘I’ real, or is this just a thought that you’ve believed in, simply just that a believing potential has been exercised? Do you see?

Renate:      Yes.

Jac:             It’s the believing in it, the personal interest in it. The ‘I’ doesn’t exist as a continuum that is there all the time. Then we see it, when we’re practising watching our thoughts; the ‘I’ is only there when thoughts are believed. There are all these gaps all the time, but as spiritual seekers we place our attention on where the ‘I’ is and not on the gaps.

Renate:      [laughing]

Jac:             Do you see? It’s a bit nuts, isn’t it? Do you know, we can turn it the whole other way around, by just…”OK, just observe, observe, and now go back, back, prior to it all”. Or even a simple thing: “Where were you 320 years ago?” Whatever makes the mind go “Oh!” That blankness - this is just the space between thoughts. And somehow, when that space is created, something is seen to be so. Truth has the space to show mind that it always was what is real.

Renate:      And then I guess the mind surrenders or gets...

Jac:             The energy that is used to believe in thoughts goes back to source. Something energetically happens and, when that energy gets sucked back to base, then truth seems to reveals itself. Whereas many can practise placing attention at source, but truth does not reveal itself. That’s where the ‘how’ is no good. We can do all those steps and then… Well, patience. Patience. That which is reveals itself - or not. So don’t be bothered with that part. Do you see? But when it reveals itself, it’s called self-realisation, and you can’t make that happen.

Renate:      No.

Jac:             But you can create the space, and maybe it will and maybe it won’t. But in creating the space there’s a lot less suffering. So it makes sense, hah?

Renate:      It does.

Jac:             Yeah.

Renate:      There’s something you write about which I actually don’t often read in a book like that, which is what happens after death.

Jac:             I’ve forgotten totally what’s in that book [laughing]. You’ll have to remind me.

Renate:      Well, I liked it because one of my sons died a few years ago and I contemplated a lot, “Where is he now? What’s left of him?” You see, I believe very strongly that, when I die, I’m reabsorbed by the Absolute, yes?

Jac:             OK.

Renate:      This is my belief, and you say whatever you identified with will create a.... how do you call it, a state? Or bring in structure where you have to experience what you had to identify with... So you don’t die - you just go on and on and on and on. And I know, because I had a time when I left my body and I was visiting all kinds of dimensions, planets and things. And I went sometimes to the levels of death; it was horrific. All these identifications and addictions, but people didn’t have a body. So in a way, how did you... how did you come to this knowledge, or to this insight?

Jac:             Because energy seeks resolution. When energy is in the form of desire, the desire will seek resolution until it loses its power. And if there are latent desires - even with the belief that you hold, that “what I am will be absorbed back into source” - we could say, well, what you are never left source. So what is it that’s going to be reabsorbed into source?

Renate:      A trick of the mind.

Jac:             Yeah. So then I’d go after that...

Renate:      [laughing]

Jac:             ...and say, well, if there’s something that’s going to be reabsorbed then there’s a desire, and it is… “I don’t want to be hanging out there, thanks very much”, you know. So it’s quite likely that mind has created that.

Renate:      Thank you for that.

Jac:    then that’s the thing. The desire now is to avoid what you’ve seen, so the chances are you will go into what you saw. Brutal self-honesty is what’s needed on this path.

Renate:      It’s just, you know, ego gets more subtle and subtle and subtle and vicious. And yet you say, “We have to embrace everything”.

Jac:             Yes, of course - embrace it all! But you know, if there is something that I repeat an awful lot (and I’m repeating things all the time, I’m just saying the same thing over and over again [laughing] … But anyway, nothing new can be said, I suppose)… it’s be your own guru. Be your own teacher, be your own master. Develop that [breathes deeply], that knowing that what you are is there, and it’s going to tell you what needs to happen in order for the mind to see it. Listen inside and follow what feels right for you. Take the next step and make sure it makes sense. And only take one step at a time. And when that is complete, take the next step.

Now when everything slows down in that way, and there isn’t the projection into the future, there isn’t a long-term desire for something; when you’re right with what’s going on right now, it gets very, very easy to see the subtle ones. Mind gets much sharper in seeing the subtle ones. And so the latent desires, the avoidance, the brutal self-honesty must come in, in order to see where the latent desires are just shaping things because we want to believe things are a certain way.

So what I have found… well, what has been revealed... Oh, language is a bummer!… But anyway, after death, if there are latent desires, they will seek resolution...

Renate:      It makes sense.

Jac:             ...they will seek resolution. Sometimes that bundle of energy clings onto somebody that is alive as, you know, a piece of velcro to attach to [moving hands together]; and it gains momentum and has a better chance of resolving itself, or being satisfied there. Very rarely does a single identity of a human being, of a personality, incarnate wholly. It’s very rare, very rare. Little bits of energy splinter off, you know, and so it’s possible to experience twenty-five past lives! But do you know, these are just little splodges of thoughts that were just running through as memory at that moment. Are they you? But nothing is you. These are just movies overlaid on top of movies, overlaid on top of movies. Claiming them as ours is the big joke. “Let it be my movie” comes in, you see...

Renate:      [laughing]

Jac:             ...that’s what the ‘I’ likes to do. It’s fun without the ‘I’ so... [laughing]

Renate:      [laughing]

Jac:    reincarnation is not as clean as the separate ‘I’ would like to think.

Renate:      And yet as you say, “There’s nothing there in the first place”.

Jac:             Not at all, not at all. It’s only a play, it’s only an appearance. And it’s beautiful, exquisitely beautiful. But let the labelling stop, and the appearance... it will be seen as an appearance if labelling stops. So we can start by recognising ‘good, bad’, and... ‘glass, table’ [moving hands over items on table in front] ... Let mind be at rest.

Renate:      I remember Adyashanti said once, “If you teach a child the name of the tree, it will never see the tree again”.

Jac:             Ah-ha. Beautiful. Yep, that’s it. That’s exactly it.

Renate:      Jac, I guess we have to stop now.

Jac:             Oh [laughing].

Renate:      It’s fifty minutes.

Jac:             Wow.

Renate:      You know I’m sad... I mean, I have three pages of questions...

Jac:             Not at all, not at all. I think I told you I talk an awful lot when I get started [laughing].

Renate:      I really enjoyed being with you and…

Jac:             Oh no, my pleasure.

Renate:      Jac’s book again [holding up book]: the title is Born to Be Free. It’s full of wisdom and pointers. Thank you, Jac, for being here with us all the way from Ireland.


To watch the original video interview click here. This transcript is included in the book: "Conversations on Non-Duality: 26 Awakenings" published by Cherry Red Books. The book is available from, and as a kindle edition.

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