Chapter 5



Never the Same Again


From the age of twenty, when I learned about meditation and enlightenment, there was one pervasive current of thought running through my brain. It began when I awoke and was there until I slept. And the intensity never lessened. It was, of course, the desire that my sense of separateness and incompleteness would one day be replaced by the peace or so-called bliss of enlightenment. By my late forties, my thinking remained unchanged except that expectations of success had seriously diminished. Shortly after Bob arrived, however, my worn-out concepts of, and desires for, liberation were replaced by the conclusion, I will never be the same again. Indeed, that thought became somewhat of a mantra for the five weeks of Bob’s visit. And I heard similar reactions from others who spent more than two or three days hearing Bob’s non-duality teachings.

Amazingly, this was unrelated to experience. It had only to do with understanding. During Bob’s visit, there was no transmission of bliss, no trance-like state of meditation, and no tapping on the forehead. There was simply a reaction to following Bob’s instruction to investigate the belief in the “me” we have all lived with since childhood. It was a reaction to seeing clearly that the past and future are nothing more than mental images. If past and future are illusory, then so is our entire existence. If past and future never happened, what exactly did? It was a reaction to looking within and, instead of experiencing an independent entity, finding emptiness or “no thing.” And it was a realization that since “no thing” has been with me ever since birth—while absolutely everything else about me has changed—then emptiness or “no thing” must be who I am. That being the case, who I really am is, and has always been, whole and complete. That being the case, who I really am is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.

For ten years during my thirties, I had taken the Werner Erhard EST seminars. Werner is not an Advaitan, but he’s a brilliant teacher. Many times I had heard him state emphatically, “This is it. This is how life turned out. Stop expecting it to be different.” He also said, “Life has no meaning. Get used to it. Life has no meaning—and it has no meaning that it has no meaning!” For years, I wondered what it would be like to be able to really comprehend such statements. Somehow, Sailor Bob had a similar message, said in different words. But he said them in a way I could grasp. And it was all simple and painless. It was as if we were little children entranced by the beautiful blue ocean, and Bob handed us empty buckets and said, “Go fetch me some blue water from the sea, and watch what happens.” It was exciting beyond description.

The effects of this understanding have ranged from changes so simple and normal they are barely worth mentioning to a radical shift in life. While “The Bobs,” as we sometimes called them, were here and visitors were streaming through our house, I was so busy—and so excited—there was no way to fully appreciate the changes that were occurring. A few weeks after they left, however, I noticed a blatant “before and after” effect. Life before Sailor Bob and life after. The most revealing experience, initially, occurred every time I awoke from sleep. Before Bob, my first thoughts upon awakening were directly connected to feeling separate, limited, and incomplete. And they were always accompanied by some corresponding desire that when fulfilled would supposedly set the problem right. There was often a sense of impending doom and a probing of what could possibly go wrong. This was naturally followed by a strategy of how to control any problem or potential predicament. Even in the best of times, there was always something missing and always something needed. The kicker was that no matter which desire might get fulfilled, the feeling of separateness and incompleteness never abated. Not even close. I could never get enough of what would not bring peace. Still, desires persisted. If, as they say, the definition of insanity is doing the same action and expecting different results, I should have been placed in an insane asylum decades ago.

After Bob’s teaching, waking from sleep is radically different. Instead of feeling something is lacking and needs fixing, there is a sense of wholeness and completion. There is nothing missing, no sense of “becoming,” and no worries about the future. There is finally a sense of belonging. Instead of a bunch of niggling, needy thoughts and desires demanding attention, there is simply life as is—presence awareness, moment by moment. The experience is so normal and undramatic it is barely worth mentioning. But it is so contrary to my previous life it is still surprising—and it is a relief beyond description.