Luke Weiss has been a member of the Center since 2012. This is an edited transcript of Luke’s account of his spiritual path and experience of awakening in 2015. This talk took place at the practitioners meeting on the evening of Jan. 25, 2017, in Eugene, Oregon. Thanks to Sheila Craven for performing the transcription of the recording.


Joel: Welcome to our first Community Night of 2017. We’re going to be doing something different tonight. I’m going to introduce you to Luke Weiss. He has been with us here at the Center for about five years. A year-and-a-half or so ago, in June 2015, he had an awakening. We’ve talked a number of times since then, and in my estimation, it seems to be “sticking.” Sometimes people have a Gnostic flash, just an overwhelming insight that doesn’t last very long, or you can have a Gnostic episode, which are all very important, by the way. I don’t mean in any way to disparage them. They’re extremely valuable. You get at least a glimpse of what these mystics are talking about. You know the direction where the sun comes from, even though it may still be hidden by clouds. But in Luke’s case, it seems to be, as I say, “sticking.” And in that case, what we’ve developed here as a tradition is that I invite him to come and address us, to give us an account of his awakening. If you’ve seen it, on our website there’s a section called “Accounts of Awakening.” All our teachers have posts there that are transcriptions of talks just like this. 

After Luke gives his account, there’ll be plenty of time to ask questions. If you don’t want him to be a teacher, don’t ask him any questions. If everybody is silent, he just walks out the door.

Luke: Then I’m off the hook.

Joel: But if you ask him questions, and if you’re intrigued by his answers and you all want to ask him more questions in the future, then he will become an official Center teacher. 

This is how I became a teacher. I didn’t set out to be a teacher. People started asking me questions and bugging me, and I just ended up not having any reason to refuse to try to answer them. So here I am. You might suck him into the same position. 

Anyway, now I’m going to turn it over to Luke. I asked him to give us a little bit about his background and then give us an accounting of his awakening, then a little bit about what life has been like since. 


Luke: So, I’ll go way back, starting with my birth. I was born late. I didn’t want to “come back.” So they forced me out and in the process my right clavicle was broken. It went undiagnosed for nine months or so. Needless to say, I cried a lot, especially when being picked up. There was some emotional trauma around that initial wounding, as well as physical stuff. I never crawled because of that. Crawling, as some of you might know, is a very crucial part of our development, of our spine. So I lived with a lot of physical pain. I was always in some sort of discomfort until I started studying qigong with Matt Sieradski. That initial wounding may seem like a bad thing, but it’s what led me on a path of self-healing, which blossomed into learning how to heal others, and eventually that led me to Gnosis. As Rumi says, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” 

I grew up in Naches, Washington. Had a mom, dad and sister. Every Sunday we’d drive 45 minutes into town to go to church. We went to the Unitarian Universalist Church there, which is an inter-faith organization. When I was five I had my first introduction to meditation there. A Buddhist Lama came and taught the kids group meditation. He had us all lie down on our backs, close our eyes, and just relax and listen to any of the sounds that we heard. I never picked that up as a practice, really, but for the next decade and a half, sound was my practice. I started practicing piano. Did that for a decade, and then switched to playing guitar and started writing my own music when I was fifteen, which was a great practice for looking at my emotions. It gave me a space to feel my emotions and look at my experience throughout my day, and express it. 

The next important spiritual thing in my life was when I turned eighteen; my dad took me to my first silent retreat at the Shasta Abbey. It was a three-day retreat, and it was really difficult for me. I hated being there. They wouldn’t even let me exercise. I wasn’t supposed to do any pushups or anything. You know, I was a young male and I was very into exercising at the time. It was like torture. But as soon as we left and were driving away, it was like a bubble had been popped and there was this clarity and spaciousness, and a sense of peace that I’ve never felt before. I wanted to go back. 

A year later, I still hadn’t really gotten hooked on sitting meditating at that point. They introduced concepts of working meditation, which I implemented throughout my day. But sitting in stillness was still much too painful for me in my body. Then, a year after that, my mom took me to Tracker School. Tracker School is a wilderness survival, tracking and awareness school started by a man named Tom Brown, Jr.  He learned from an Apache scout and medicine man named Stalking Wolf, who we sometimes refer to as Grandfather. Those teachings really hooked me. They’re about becoming a caretaker of the earth and healing and protecting the children of the earth. That really spoke to me. I have much more of a bhakti orientation than jnana, so that service direction was really what sparked my interest on the path. I studied with Tom Brown for four years or so. He taught week-long intensive classes over in New Jersey. So, I went there for a week at a time. I’d go there once or twice a year. 

The second class that I went to with Tom, he taught physical skills of wilderness survival, but there was also a spiritual side to the teachings, which he called the philosophy classes. That’s what my main interest was. In the second class, he was teaching a style of meditation with visualization, called the journey meditation, which is pretty common throughout shamanic practices. You visualize certain things, basically to help you enter into deeper states of consciousness in which you can gain access to healing or insights. Towards the end of that second class with Tom, in one of these meditations, I found myself not in the physical world, but in a cathedral of white light. I surrendered to the light, and there was a brief moment of merging with the light. Then I was back in the physical. After that, everything really changed. That was my initiation onto the spiritual path. I had tasted the divine. There was no longer any doubt. That experience of the light became my guiding force on the path. 

I kept studying with Tom and one of the really useful daily practices was an inquiry: How does this make me feel? If there are two paths I can pick, thinking about one path and visualizing that and seeing how that makes me feel, and then visualizing the other and seeing how that makes me feel, and basing direction and action out of an intuitive sense (call it inner vision) instead of thinking or rationalizing which one might be better. 

I also learned vision quests through this lineage. That was a super-helpful practice, a really potent spiritual practice. The vision quest we practiced was a four-day and four-night fast from all things familiar, in the wilderness. No food, no notebook, no talking, none of that stuff. Just enough stuff to keep you warm, and water so you don’t die of dehydration. That was really helpful to gaining direction on the path. If I ever had a question I just couldn’t get an answer to, that was the practice. 

I studied with Tom for about four years. Then I met Matt through following this inner vision and guidance. My inner vision one day spoke to me and said, “Look up Bagua in Oregon.” I was planning on moving to Portland in two days. I didn’t have much going on in Eugene, so I had a move to Portland planned, and my inner vision said look up Bagua in Oregon. I thought it was to find a place in Portland to go and study. The only place that popped up was the Green Phoenix Institute. So I called and they said, “We have a class tomorrow morning, the first class is free, come on in.” It was two blocks away from where I was living, something like that. So I went there. I showed up twenty minutes early, which is how I used to always be to everything. Nobody was there yet. I walked into the hall there. The energy of the space was really good and I had this sinking and settling feeling in my gut. I thought, “Oh, you’re staying in Eugene to study here.” This was before I’d even met Matt. I started studying qigong and taiji with Matt. And I dropped most of my other practices and was just doing that for three to eight hours a day, probably. I wasn’t working a lot at the time. After having that experience of the light, nothing else mattered to me. My life became all about practice and focusing on that light and trying to follow that the best I could. 

After studying with Matt for a year, one day he said something to me like, “You gotta find what you’re resisting, and stop resisting it.” I thought, “Okay.” At the time, what I was resisting, at least consciously, the thing I was resisting the most was my friend and roommate. So I stopped resisting her, and immediately she got pregnant. [laughter]

Matt: You’re always blaming me!

Luke: I’m thanking you!

Matt: Oh, okay! You’re welcome.

Luke: That relationship lasted about three months before it went up in a great ball of flames. Needless to say, I was suffering a lot. Confused. Just dealing with a lot of hard stuff. And Matt suggested that I get into Todd’s Foundation Studies Class, because I didn’t know what to do. I just had way too many issues going on at the time for Matt to want to deal with all of them. [laughter] 

So I got into Todd’s group. He kindly let me in a little bit late. That was so helpful, the practices that I learned there, especially the stabilizing attention and how to work with emotions. Because I had a lot of emotions. A lot of  stuff coming up on a daily basis to work with. 

That’s pretty much what my practice was for the next two or three years, was just the stuff taught here, and then dealing with the constant fire of that relationship with my son’s mother. It wore me down a lot. I was in states of exhaustion all the time, and frustration, and confusion, and fear, interspersed with some really awesome experiences of emptiness and little Gnostic flashes here and there. 

Then in the 2014-2015 class year, I was in Matt’s practitioners group and we were doing a study of Dzogchen and reading Cycle of Day and Night by Namkhai Norbu. Doing dream practice was really great for me. I’ve always had really vivid dreams. When I was a kid, my parents took me to a dream therapist because I was having a lot of night terrors, nightmares. He taught me how to wake up in my dreams. So initially, I’d be dreaming, having nightmares, I could be like,  “Oh, I’m just dreaming,” and I could wake up. But then, it’d be like, “Oh, I’m just dreaming, I can do stuff and then I can change it.” It doesn’t have to be a nightmare. So I was already able to be lucid in dreams pretty readily. And then the cycle of day and night practice — contemplating emptiness within the dream — was very fruitful. Being in a dream, realizing I’m dreaming, making the dream be as real as possible. Then watching it all fall away into nothing very quickly. Then seeing how that’s what it is all the time, even when we’re awake. 

I should say, throughout this time I was also doing healing practice, massage and cranial sacral work. I started doing healing practices, giving healing practices, healing treatments, when I started studying with Tom back in 2009. Then I got a cranial sacral treatment from Matt in 2011. It just changed my world, so I had to learn how to do that. So I got into massage school, got a massage license, and then started studying that work. 

So, I was getting a cranial treatment from Matt in June 2015. For those of you who don’t know what cranial sacral work is, it’s a light touch therapy. One of the aspects of it is that client and practitioner tend to sink into deeper states of consciousness. It can tend to be trance-like states. So, Matt was giving me a treatment and he was following this pattern. He got up to my clavicle, and there was this pain there and he asked me if there was a time in my life that I remember there not being the pain there. I said, “No, it’s always been there.” He said, “What about before you were born?” In that instant I separated from the physical and I was back in a pre-birth state. Then I went through the process again of being born. The best way that I can describe this is that prior to being born, there was just awareness. Then the action of being born was like awareness folding in on itself. The awareness before and after was the same awareness. And I realized that I was never actually born.

And that was it! 

There are some words that came up with that shortly after:

“Our true nature is unborn within the vast form of consciousness, always loved, always cared for, never separate.”

The main thing that’s trying to be evoked within those words is not some intellectual understanding, but the visceral sensation of what the realization felt like. Always loved, always cared for, and this sense of supreme security. There’s nothing to worry about because there’s only the Self. And I realized that there had been this underlying, very subtle current of fear throughout my life. Always in the back of my mind, like, am I going to have enough money? What am I going to do if this and this happens? And always this little fear, like a biological thing even, that our bodies do to our minds to make sure that we survive and get what we need. But that dropped away.

Directly after that, some habitual patterns totally disappeared. But some patterning would still arise, more strongly then than now. I like the analogy of the fan sits plugged in and turned on and it’s spinning, and it’s got this power behind it, and then you unplug it, and the fan still spins for a little bit. It gradually unwinds. So there’s that happening. There’s this unwinding. But anger still arises. I have this three-year-old son who’s learning the boundaries, and it’s a natural thing, but it doesn’t hurt me anymore. But I have to be careful, because that kind of strong energy can still hurt other people. So, I’m working on skillful means a little bit still. That’s about all I have to say. Questions?


Questions and Answers

Q: Could you say those words again?

Luke:  Our true nature is unborn within the vast womb of consciousness. Always loved, always cared for, never separate. 

Q: Could you talk about your inner experience, as a whole, in each moment?

Luke: My present experience, or like what was happening pre-awakening?

Q: After waking up.

Luke: What’s happening… Well, what’s actually happening is beyond words. There’s no way to really talk about it. It’s just awareness. It’s all you. Do you want more? [laughter]

Joel: Of course he wants more! It’s a bottomless pit!

Q: I’m intrigued by your description of the fan unwinding, losing the juice or something. And you also spoke about the strong emotions or strong conditioning that still arise, that you’re learning to apply skillful means to those two. To do what with them? What do you do with these things as they come up? You mentioned you don’t want to hurt other people with them. 

Luke: Anger can be useful. Like in situations like I said with my son. Those are the main times when that kind of energy comes up. I think that there are certain instances where he actually needs that to help direct him. As far as being careful not hurting people, an example: right after this experience, I was still in a lot of conflict with my son’s mom. And there’d be anger. There’s this natural thing that’s just happening, but it’s not bothering me. There’s this kind of playfulness behind it even between this strong energy like dancing. It was kind of fun instead of being this thing that I was terrified of. But it being playful and fun for me made it even more upsetting for her. Go figure, right? Skillful means there, realizing that, hey, for the sake of the other reflection, I need to tone it down a bit. Even though it’s not bothering me. Does that address your question?

Q: That’s a great start. I look forward to hearing more about that. [laughter]

Joel: I’ll throw in something. I’ve found that sometimes you have to fake being deluded to make it easy for people. You have to play the game. You have to act. You have to put on a good performance. And not be winking through it all. [laughter]

Q: I was going to ask about the clavicle. Has that pain changed as a result of the awakening?

Luke: Not immediately. But there’s definitely been different sorts of energetic things that have happened since then. Much more, the central channel opening a lot more. And that pain isn’t there anymore. There’s still occasionally some tension within some of the issues that pops up, but nothing like it was before. The energy of the central channel would get pulled out of place almost because of this inertial pattern. I would feel disconnected through my body. That doesn’t happen anymore. There’s a constant midline. 

Q: So, I hear you speaking about it in a physical sense, which is the question I asked. How would you speak about it in relation to the discovery of never being born?

Luke: There’s no more suffering. No more emotional suffering, no more “Why me, why is this happening?” No more terror of what is to come or what might come. There’s uncomfortable situations and sensations that arise, but suffering to the point of where awareness is completely identified with the emotion or the physical pain, or whatever, that doesn’t happen anymore. It’s all happening within this greater context of awareness. 

Q: Thank you for sharing your story. Wow. It’s amazing, all your experiences. So when Matt had you on the table and he asked you that question, when you had your awakening, when did you share with anybody what you’d gone through? Did you share with him right then and there? 

Luke: No, I let it sit for awhile, because I’ve had Gnostic flashes before. I had a ten-day Gnostic episode once, too. And I was curious about that. Was it something that was going to stick around? So, I don’t think I told Matt until the retreat. Is that when I told you? 

Matt: Well, when you got off the table, you looked a little funny. [laughter] You looked a little confused in a way I’d never seen from someone who was just getting off the table. I noted that. 

Luke: Did you put it in your charts?

Matt: No, I didn’t. I think we might have talked a little bit before the retreat. 

Q: Again thank you. Amazing story. All the traditions, all the different teachers. I think you’re a perfect fit for the Center because this is what the Center teaches: all the mystical teachings of the world teach one message.

Luke: Grandfather Stalking Wolf, Tom’s teacher, his mission was to find the common thread of truth strung throughout all religions and to create practices that anybody could do and have the same result, and experience the truth for themselves. So, does that sound familiar? [laughter]

Q: So when you say that you were never born, is that like the awareness has nothing to do with the body at all, and that’s why there’s no fear of anything because it’s always loved and cared for and never separate? Is it something like that?

Luke: Yeah, it’s there before the body, it’s there after the body.

Q: So there’s nothing to protect.

Luke: Yeah.

Q: I see. You’re not afraid of Donald Trump. Wow. [laughter] 

Q: Thanks, Luke. Thanks for sharing all this stuff. It sounds like you have a lot of different insights to include in teachings from your past practices.

Luke: Sure, I hope so, yeah. 

Q: You mentioned at the start of your story how it really went back to birth. And how you were born late. You didn’t want to come back. And then to flash to when you were on the table with Matt, and he said well let’s go back to before your birth. You said you had this awareness of before birth, and then awareness after birth, and I was thinking back to where you said you were late. Was there sort of almost a decision or reluctance to being born? 

Luke: Great question. Within the going back to it and seeing it again, I also got to see all of the emotional stuff that was going on with me at the time of being a baby. There was resistance to being born again. It was great within the womb, and then all of a sudden it was like, “Oh, wait. I have to go back to the world again? I have to deal with suffering and all that crap again? No. Wait, no. I’m not ready. I’m not ready.” And that resistance initially was why the collarbone broke probably, because I didn’t want to come out. I was resisting coming out. 

Q: Do you have a memory of a past life?

Luke: I have a couple different memories. But I don’t know where to draw the line between memory and imagination. 

Joel: I think the question to ask about a memory like that is, “Is it useful?” Not, “Did you really have a past life?” but “What did your memory of a past life tell you?”

Luke: One of the useful ones was a vision that I got during my second quest of being a native person somewhere, I think, down in South America. I was a hunter and learning some shamanic stuff. I was not like a full-blown shaman. There was a lot of building stuff happening. As so, as hunters we would go out and get food and then we’d bring it back to the rest of the people that were doing all the work, creating these structures, and I noticed that—we would fast for a couple days before going out on the hunt. The hunt was a very sacred act. The whole thing was a ceremony, and then we’d bring it back. And the people that got separated from the ceremony itself, they consumed the flesh without the same reverence. I remember feeling very distraught about the situation at hand and kind of confused, like I was maybe doing some ayahuasca or stuff too, and I had this energy, I needed to—I had this idea that I was going to either like fly, or I just needed to die. So I jumped off a cliff. I died. Then it was like, "Oh shit, you have to come back again! That didn’t fix anything!" So having that image, that imagination, saved my life, in this life. Saved me from doing it again in this life. I thought about that plenty of times. And that vision always came back up. Well, you’ll just have to start all over again. So stick it through. 

Q: Did you have this experience of where you jumped off the cliff and so forth, did you have that during a ceremony of some kind?

Luke: During the vision quest. And I was awake. It was like a waking vision sort of thing that occurred. No plant medicine used.

Q: Did you use plant medicines much in your path?

Luke: Not in the tracker school teachings. But in my own path, yeah. After I started studying with Tom, separately, I found, kind of delved into the realm of entheogens and had a lot of different experiences, learning about the nature of mind and the power of the mind and had several different Gnostic flashes with different substances. 

Q: And you found it helpful? 

Luke: I found it helpful. Really dangerous stuff, though. Really easy for people to get stuck. And it’s really, really strong, and needs to be done with the proper setting, the proper intention, the proper ceremony behind it. I think there’s a lot of people who kind of take it a little too frivolously in our culture and end up doing harm to themselves. I was initiated onto that path by, I might call her, a white witch. She taught me about how to do it properly with intent and the right setting, and that kind of stuff. It was more of a spiritual exploration than an escapist entertainment. But I did definitely end up using it as an escapist entertainment, too. 

Q: You said that in your vision, you remembered jumping off a cliff and ending that life. Would you say that you felt that way in this life?

Luke: Oh, yeah.

Q: It surprised me that you said that. I was surprised to hear that there was that deep despair.

Luke: In the difficult situation with my son’s mom, I didn’t ever really think about killing myself once my son was born because I knew that he needed me. Prior to that, though, being a teenager, all the way up until my 20’s, I thought about dying a lot. Thought about killing myself a lot, and the pain. 

Q: Do you know what the roots to that was, beyond being born, not wanting to come in, having the pain, the physical pain? I can see that being really rough as an infant and child.

Luke: The root of it? Delusion. Not knowing who I really am. 

Matt: I’m wondering, was the Hunyuan and qigong practice that we do, useful on your path? And if so, how?

Luke: So, before I met Matt, I couldn’t sit. I was practicing qigong and kundalini yoga. I’d been doing yoga for several years and practicing other styles of qigong. But sitting still really hurt, still. My mind was always going to the pain and trying to adjust, and trying to just get comfortable was the whole thing. I couldn’t sit for more than twenty minutes without having to get up. It just hurt too much. So the Hunyuan system was really good at opening the channels and it was a movement practice. You know, we start in stillness and then we move, and then return to stillness throughout the practice, which was different from any other movement practice that I did. So we were getting those little bits of stillness. Opening, and then getting a little bit of stillness. That gradually opened that ability and that relaxation in the body to be able to really sit still and be comfortable, and allow the mind to settle. In that process, there’s a whole lot of karmic stuff that I felt like got cleared out, too, within that practice and helped to stabilize emotions as well. 

Q: What do you mean by channel, and what do you mean by karmic stuff?

Luke: My mom’s like that, she always asks me questions that she already knows the answers to.

Matt: I know the answer, but this is being recorded. [laughter]

Luke: Channels. The body is a system of channels. Very physically, on a physical level, the veins and arteries and the nerves and the lymphatic system, even the connective tissue, the way that it twists it creates a channel. Then there’s also energetic channels, like a hose. If the hose is kinked, or if there is not enough water supply, it can collapse and those kinks in collapsing cause pain. So I was doing styles of yoga that are like straightening the hose out, but I had some serious kinks. Like a hose that’s been kinked out in the yard for a long time, you can straighten it, but the kink is still there until you increase the water supply enough to push that kink out of that hose. So, that’s how the Hunyuan system helped, because it actually gathers qi to the body.

Karmic stuff is emotional pattern, family emotional patterning, habit patterning.

Joel: Could you use the word, “conditioning”? It’s a common word around here.

Q: There’s a teaching that you have to want Liberation more than a drowning person wants air. Did you have to want it that hard?

Luke: Absolutely. I’d be willing to die for it. 

Q: For the light experience? Or for what?

Luke: I didn’t know for what exactly. But there’s this, after that experience there’s this feeling that guided me and I was willing to die for the truth. To attain whatever it was that is my vision. In my first vision quest, the power behind it was I have to do this or I have to die. That was it. It’s this or death. 

Q: Did you attain anything?

Luke: Ha ha ha. Uh, did I attain anything? No. It’s already attained. Good question. 

Q: I’d like to know a little better about when you talked about the inner vision, and how you listened to make decisions, did you have to train yourself, how did you do that?

Luke: When you’re leaving on a trip and you’re getting all your stuff ready, running your lists in your head like, "OK, I’ve got this thing, I’ve got that, I’m all packed." You get in your car to go, and think, "OK, did I get everything? What did I forget?" There’s this feeling like, "Oh, I forgot something." Or, you get on a plane and think, "What did I forget? Oh, my toothbrush! dang it!" It’s that sort of sensation. That’s it. You can use that. It takes refining. It takes messing up. It takes getting it wrong, then realizing that you got it wrong, and then realizing what that feeling meant. It takes years and years to really refine that intuition. If you have two options, think, "OK, I can do this, or I can do that," then thinking about it, bringing up one option as much as possible, feeling that sensation, seeing if there is a tightness, a bit of anxiety around it. Then thinking of the other one, and seeing if there is a settling. The right direction is calming. "Oh, that’s it."

Q: Often times people like myself, who are householders that have responsibilities, family, feel at times like they see that as an obstacle to their spiritual practice. Yet, you feel like, well, it seems like it would make my practice go better if somehow I was to leave all that. But you feel strongly that sense of responsibility. So, I wonder if you could talk to that with respect to your relationship with your son, and how that had an impact on your practice and you felt torn at times.

Luke: Absolutely. I really wanted to just go off into isolation. Really wanted to go off into the forest. And be away and just practice. But it was clear to me that there was selfishness in that, my desire to want to get away from this thing that was keeping me from practicing. I think that family practice is one of the highest spiritual practices. It’s frickin’ difficult. [laughter] Particularly because there’s very little space and stillness. I was lucky enough to have a strong practice and be able to spend three to eight hours a day doing formal practice prior to having a son, so that I got that strong stability of stillness before I had to deal with that. So, someone coming on the path that already has a family, and being able to find ways to cut out little bits of time here and there to be able to find stillness, so that you can have some spaciousness and clarity within those moments of conflict and disorganization and chaos so that you can actually use it as a practice. 

Q: It seems like ultimately we really have to see that as the core of practice. Those things that seem like obstacles, if we don’t see those as our guru then we’re sunk.

Luke: Each path is unique. Maybe there’s all these obstacles popping up because you should go off and go live in isolation. But it’s something each person has to find out for themselves. Taking any obstacle as an opportunity to practice is going to be of benefit. 

Q: I was really intrigued with your experience of the light. Do you think that the practices you do led you there, or do you think it was something that just occurred? I’ve heard of some people, they just woke up. Like Eckhart Tolle. It just happened to them. They just woke up one day without a practice that led them there. I was wondering if you could speak more about that experience.

Luke: With that and other Gnostic flashes, it initially appeared to me that the practice was like, oh that was why this happened. But those experiences had nothing to do with the practice. They happen just by grace. I didn’t do anything to make them happen. When those experiences happened, it was when I wasn’t in the way. I do think that practices are very useful, though. You have to do something. I don’t know if it was Matt who first told me this, but you have to practice. You’re always practicing something. And you can either practice dharma or delusion.

Q: That sounds like Cheri Huber: What you practice is what you have.

Joel: Also, I just want to point out that Eckhart Tolle, for instance, yes, he didn’t do any formal practices, but he didn’t just wake up. He was in a state of extreme despair, if you remember the story. So his life brought him to this place of total surrender, ready to die. He was really thinking suicide. And that’s what practices do. They bring you to that place.

Q: And he wasn’t practicing. 

Joel: I know, but what I’m saying is that whether life brings you there or your practices bring you there, that is a golden opportunity, when you’ve exhausted everything you can possibly do to be happy, and then, as he said, you get out of the way. You are out of the way, you can’t think of anything more to do, so it just comes to a stop. The way practices work isn’t to accumulate a little bit more enlightenment every day. It’s you divest yourself of more delusion every day, and you divest yourself particularly of the delusion that I can do something about all this. And when you realize you can’t do anything about any of it, then that’s called surrender. It’s not something you do, you get surrendered. Surrender happens to you. The more you’re trying to surrender, you’re still there trying to surrender. Which, by the way, is still a valuable thing to do. Because you’re never going to figure out that you can’t surrender until you try to surrender. When you try to surrender, really try, really try hard, and you finally get to the point where you just can’t anymore, ah, then you’re open to that. Then that’s why almost everybody says, no, I didn’t do anything. Yet, as I think Catherine of Genoa says, it’s true that everybody is saved by grace. But grace refuses to save you unless you work for it. They go together, you know. It’s not either or. 

Q: Do we have to keep coming back here until we wake up? 

Luke: Keep being reborn again?

Q: Yeah.

Luke: Even after that you might still come back. I don’t know. [laughter] There’s nothing wrong with it.

Matt: Depends on if you’re a Hindu or a Buddhist. [laughter]

Luke: There’s no way out, except through.

Q: Could you describe, a phrase you used, awareness folding in on itself. Can you say that in a different way. I keep running that through my head and I just can’t get it.

Luke: Well, like seeing things arise. So from the state of no thing, emptiness, to manifestation, seeing people, seeing all these different colors and stuff like that, it’s all awareness. But it was like a blanket that, in order to create objects, kind of folds in on itself and makes origami but the object is still connected to that permeating field. 

Joel: Very good. Did you spontaneously come up with that, or did you read that someplace?

Luke: That came from I Heart Huckabees. [laughter] It’s a movie, and the guy’s trying to explain field theory, I think. And he’s using a blanket, and he’s putting his finger in it to create objects.

Q: You mentioned about resistance, and I would like you to talk about recommendations, or thoughts you have to guide us to see what we’re resisting, to find our way.

Luke: The practices that are taught here are really good. For me, the qigong and taiji were really helpful for finding where I’m resisting in the body. Like when we’re doing push hands, and different exercises, the resistance in the body is generally coupled with some sort of emotional thing that has something to do with the habit pattern. We learn what that sensation of resistance feels like. Then, throughout the day, when things come up, we can recognize, "Oh, this is me resisting what’s happening." Within the practices that we do, it’s also about learning how to be spacious, opening to these spacious states, and having the stability of attention. Then when resistance arises, being able to see this arising, then being able to open up to a more spacious state, and allow that resistance to move through and transform.

Q: Body as well as mind?

Luke: Yeah. My path was very body-oriented, so that had a lot to do with it for me. Everything that I felt had something coupled with the mind. And anything I thought had something coupled to the body. 

Q: Would you say that pain was one of your main gurus?

Luke: Absolutely. 

Q: And that was something that was there from the first moment of self-consciousness? It was always there?

Luke: Yeah. As Tom says, pain is our greatest teacher. That was the motivating force, pain. It’s the best motivational force to transform, to change.

Q: Sure. Did you experience getting lost in aversion to that? Did you have to keep self-correcting your thinking, “I can fight this all I want, but it only gets stronger”?

Luke: Absolutely, yeah. I got lost in aversion of it for sure. I got addicted to pain pills for like nine months or so. That was definitely an aversion to the pain. But it caused more pain. I saw that, gradually started to see that more and more. Trying to get away from it was causing much more pain. 

Q: Now that you’re awake, do you still get to have your sacred visions?

Luke: Like going on vision quests? Yeah, I just went on a vision quest this last summer, last July. It was really great. It was a slightly different experience for me this time. Instead of having a lot of suffering that I had to push through, it was actually quite enjoyable and really nice to be able to just sit there. But I did have questions. This was one of my questions: "Should I teach? If so, where?" And what I got was that I should be open to teaching, I shouldn’t, like, not teach. So, the vision quest is a useful tool for gaining insight.

Joel: Let me use that as a segue. What about it. Do you want him to teach? [applause and cheering] Poor Luke, poor Luke. Shouldn’t have opened your mouth. [laughter] 

I suggest that you check out Annie’s account of awakening on our website. In one sense it’s a very different — the whole story is very different than Luke’s — but the fundamental insight, the fundamental looking, is exactly the same, you’ll see. 

Q: What do you mean, the fundamental looking?

Joel: What triggered her awakening. It was looking at something in her past, going back to her past, saying, "Oh, that’s where I was then, and nothing’s changed. I was never born. I was never changed. Nothing ever happened." And, boom! That was her trigger. Just like Luke’s. Also, I don’t know if you were thinking of this, Matt, but there’s a Zen koan: what was your original face before you were born? Which is a good question anybody can ask themselves. You don’t have to have some more traumatic birth experience that Luke did. That got his attention — I think that was very valuable in that sense, but what was your original face before you were born? 

Anyway, you can take that as a living example of how a koan like that can work. I just wanted to point that out.

Luke, do you have any last words to say here? No. Okay. You’re not going to be teaching any of our classes this year, but you are going to be doing what? Have you decided?

Luke: A dream workshop at some point. Fred’s doing some dream stuff in class and I was going to sit in on that first. But doing a dream workshop at some point. Maybe this summer sometime. Then, I’ll be leading vision quests at some point. I’ve gotta figure out some more specific aspects, like where to do it and all that kind of stuff. That’s my plan.

Joel: Are you going to be open to personal counseling if somebody wants to get together with you?

Luke: Absolutely, yeah. 

Joel: And they can reach you how?

Luke: Call me from the Center member directory. I also have a website and there’s an option on the scheduling there for spiritual consultation:

Joel: OK, very good, thank you very much. [applause]

Q: I just wanted to thank Joel again for making all this possible.

Joel: No, thank Andrea. She was the first one who started asking me questions. It’s all her fault. I had no intention of ever being here at all. So you can thank her. Then when she woke up, she got sucked into it, too. She got her Karmuppance. 

OK. Until we see you again, peace to you all.


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