Chapter 1



The Natural State


During the first year or two of life, before language is grasped, life is lived as oneness. Nothing is experienced as outside the self because a self has not yet been conceptualized. There is only direct, pure experience—what ancient mystics describe as non-dual, one without a second, or “the natural state.”

Sometime around the second year, language is slowly grasped, and the child learns he or she has a name and an individual identity. From this point on, life is lived from a reference point known as “me,” and everything outside “me” is considered “other.” Life as we know it begins, and a sense of separation from our own essence is born. This sense of separation creates a seemingly never-ending craving for completeness. It also breeds selfishness, desire, a pervasive sense of fear, and a host of other problems.

The teachings in this book, comprised largely of conversations between Sailor Bob Adamson and spiritual seekers, shed light on the lack of authenticity of this mind-based sense of personal identity known as “me.” Once seen as illusory, this false “self center,” or human-made reference point, begins to recede and fade, while the natural state, a state of wholeness and oneness with all that is, remains. Regaining the seemingly lost natural state has been the goal of spiritual seekers for thousands of years.

The natural state, also called presence awareness, is so constant, so ever present, that it is as overlooked as water is by fish, or air by people. One of the most common statements of individuals who say they have attained enlightenment, or self-realization, is that the moment they “awakened” they realized they had always been enlightened! This is because the natural state is always with us. Indeed, presence awareness is the only reality, the only constant in our lives. It is the very basis of our existence. The natural state is our underlying condition, or “ground of being,” and it is what allows us to experience everything. But it has largely been ignored in favor of our conditioned behavior of living nearly every moment of every day from the perspective of the completely automatic, yet utterly false, reference point of “me.”

What you are about to read is an examination and investigation, actually an exposé, of the “me” we all unconsciously live with. Beyond this point, for earnest seekers, lies ultimate freedom, the natural state. I do not mean to imply non-stop ecstasy or the ability to walk on water. I do mean nothing less than the end of psychological suffering.


A Parable

Once upon a time there was a spiritual seeker who traveled the globe in search of enlightenment. After some time, he heard about a genuine self-realized teacher, and he went to see him. He spoke his desire to the sage, who was eager to help. The sage said only three words: “You are That” (“That” meaning presence awareness, pure consciousness, one without a second, God, the ultimate, and so forth). The seeker, unmoved and unchanged by the statement, was completely disappointed and went on his way to continue his search.

Not far from that ashram (home of the guru), he found another highly revered teacher and again put forth his desire to know the Truth that would set him free. The new guru inquired into the seeker’s previous search, at which point the seeker related his disappointing story. The current guru, who was quite familiar with the first teacher, proclaimed, “I can certainly help you, but you will have to make yourself ready for Truth. If you are willing to serve me for twelve years, I will help you. Go see the ashram manager, and he will give you a service to perform.”

The seeker was elated and went to the manager, who immediately gave him the task of cleaning toilets.

Twelve long years and many clean toilets later, the seeker went to his beloved guru and told him he was ready to hear the Truth—the Truth that would set him eternally free.

The guru said, “You are That.”

End of parable.

In my case, the twelve years of cleaning toilets equate to my thirty-some years of daily meditation, nine or ten several-month-long meditation courses, hatha yoga, kundalini breathing techniques, Rebirthing sessions, macrobiotics and other purifying diets, Rolfing, Bioenergetic analysis, EST seminars, Actualizations, Lifespring, Reichian Therapy, Hindu/Vedic astrology, spiritual books, and on and on.

Like the seeker in the story, I encountered the statement “You are That” (the complete statement being “I am That, thou art That, all of this is That”) many times during my search. And, like the seeker, I took them to be mere words with little or no relevance to me or my current situation. From all my previous teachings, I believed enlightenment to be a miraculous, ecstatic state of consciousness, characterized by continual bliss, which, once gained, could positively never disappear. No sadness, no problems, no bad feelings, and so on—a state only one in a million could gain, despite scores of spiritual movements with millions of followers around the globe. A state reserved for Christs, Buddhas, Lao-tzus, and the like.

After my version of twelve years of cleaning toilets came Advaita, a Hindu spiritual paradigm also known as non-dualism, and the teachings of Nisargadatta Maharaj and his Australian student Sailor Bob Adamson. The literal meaning of Advaita is “not two,” a term preferable to “one” because “one” implies a possibility of more than one. Advaita presents awakening as an understanding, or a knowingness; a clear, unshakable grasp of truth that corresponds to the Biblical statement “Know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Nisargadatta Maharaj, the great Hindu sage who brought freedom to so many seekers during his fifty-odd years of teaching and who died in 1981, stated, “Liberation is not a matter of acquisition, but a matter of faith and conviction that you have always been free, and a matter of courage to act on this conviction. There is nothing to change; it is only when the very idea of changing is seen as false that the changeless can come into its own.”

Radical words to a seeker who had heard over and over that awakening occurs strictly as a result of purifying the nervous system by doing yoga, chanting mantras, performing austerities, and doing this or that spiritual technique. Radical words to a seeker who believed that enlightenment could be gotten only by changing, by doing, by anything but simply being!

Nisaragadatta, describing his own awakening process, said, “My teacher told me to hold onto the sense “I am” tenaciously and not to swerve from it even for a moment.” Note that he does not say the thought “I am,” but “the sense “I am.” He means presence awareness, or the natural state—the stillness of our ground of being without mental labeling. He continues, “I did my best to follow his advice and in a comparatively short time I realized within myself the truth of his teaching. All I did was remember his teaching, his face, his words constantly. This brought an end to the mind; in the stillness of the mind I saw myself as I am—unbound.”

As much as I have gained from Nisargadatta’s books, particularly his masterpiece I Am That, I am much more indebted to his memory for instructing Sailor Bob Adamson, who for thirty years has carried on the teaching and who, quite fortunately, appeared in my life long after I had given up on finding an authentic teacher. A teacher unsullied by ego, money, power, fame, sex, scandal, and the rest. A simple teacher, ordinary in the best sense, yet also compassionate, humorous, loving, and awake....