What Matters More than Infinity
In one of his online promotional pieces from January 2019, enlightened spiritual teacher Dave Oshana used the phrase “to infinity and beyond.”
I wrote this to him:
You know that’s the end of 2001, right? It’s part of my case against Kubrick, the self-aggrandizement, hyperbole, reality distortion. By definition, there is nothing beyond the infinite because if there were, it wouldn’t be infinite. I mention it because it’s probably what I dislike most about your publicity, the hype-er-bole.
Yes, you told last month. I half expected to hear it again, and half not to since you don’t often repeat yourself, at least not so soon.
I think this time you didn’t find a suitable word for that expression. Maybe “tautology” would do. . . . I can’t [help] being effusive. Maybe it could help you if you could wear it unselfconsciously?
In my response, I pointed out that my criticism was “relevant since I am participating in your new PR program.” I added this question: Are you ok with risking self-satire?
Dave responded: It seems unavoidable, I can’t be saved afaik; being a guru was always a parody
What I wonder as a “consumer” of your “product” is: at what point do Dave’s words cease to be seriously intended to represent truth, and become parodies meant to amuse? And does it matter if people take the latter literally? Future lawsuits, “False advertising, Dave Oshana promised to take me beyond the infinite and all I got was infinity.”
Dave: LOL! I don’t think they would get very far with that one.
Jasun: It would make a great T-shirt tho; I’d wear it
Dave: You could make and even sell it, to add to the growing OETTC collection. Or you could start with an article and time it with a t-shirt launch
Dave: [Anyway,] I thought you had decided that words cannot represent truth.
Jasun: They can point to it tho. Getting past the mind also entails not triggering its rational defenses by presenting it with patent falsities, absurdities, exaggerations or over-simplifications
Dave: Good, that’s my current research, finding the “right stuff.” I was considering that I used to use provocation as a test to show they were in the zone and could stay there, but nowadays i might use it before they get there. Anyway I try hard to not err with words, so it matters.
Jasun: Yes. And what matters more than Infinity?
Existence Beyond Efforting
It is March 9th, two days after the Dave Oshana February 2019 Finland retreat—if I count them right, my tenth so far.
I just said goodbye to Dave, after talking in a corner of a hotel lobby for two hours, ostensibly for a podcast, but since Dave forgot to hit the record button and I forgot to check (though I certainly knew enough to do so), the conversation was just for us.
Dave seemed unbothered by the loss, and suggested I might be able to extract material from our time together by writing something down.
I am writing something down. Beginning with this:
Don’t trust the words, including the thoughts you have that tell you not to trust words.
Once upon a time, I had a dream in which Dave told me that I was now on a line to God, being reeled towards enlightenment, and that all I had to do was continue doing what I was doing and I would arrive at the destination. I sent Dave the dream in an email; he said it was something he might say to me some day, but not currently.
On this latest retreat, I had another experience of (what I choose to call) my soul. It was an experience of infinite peace, well-being, and effortlessness.
When I mentioned it to Dave during our failed podcast, he remarked that even the word “effortlessness” conjures up the thought of effort. He said something about how most people can’t even imagine a state that precludes the existence of effort, it is so central to our experience of reality.
In this world, not even the womb is easy.
Earlier, when I spoke about my experience of effortlessness on the retreat, Dave said something about how the mind may not notice an experience of (what he called) formlessness because it was only accustomed to dealing with forms. He suggested I might have been having experiences of this kind for some time already, but only recently become capable of re-membering (cogitating) them.
Apparently the mind needs to be trained to notice the soul, or perhaps simply learn not to interfere with an experience of it, not to trample all over it and force it to retreat. A hunter cannot experience an undisturbed forest—because the hunter is a disturbance.
Experiencing the formless as the underlayer of existence included, for me, realizing that formlessness was the nature and essence of my existence. It was a brush with the infinite that in reality I am.
This was not an impersonal experience, and with it came a welling up of emotion. I found myself weeping. I wept for the people I love and the acute awareness of how much they were suffering, had suffered, and needlessly: this effortless well-being was available to us all of the time, and not even for the asking—much less the taking—but simply for the receiving. Yet we cannot receive what we don’t first accept.
I also felt joy, and for the same reason, that all our suffering ends in the moment we accept what we are: infinite, formless existence, eternally experiencing form, with all the ease of breathing.
Setting Off Landmines
My mind witnessed all this, in some sense at least; yet the following day, it withdrew from what it had seen. I began to feel my realization of peace slowly transmogrify into an oppressive weight, a sense of meaninglessness and futility—or worse, impossibility. Received grace became self-imposed despair.
When I recounted this to Dave, he suggested I was split within myself, that I was not one but two. While one part of me effortlessly aligned itself with reality, another part stressfully, stubbornly set itself against it. My mind—or the part that identified with its contents—was experiencing its impending retirement as a terrible burden.
As the retreat proceeded, there followed a form of unconscious revolt as the false identity scrambled to regain control over the body’s experience, to assert its will and become the knowing by turning it into knowledge, and thereby into a “doing.” To wrestle formlessness back into form—not as an expression of it but as a rebellion against it.
Some part of me seemed automatically opposed to the flow of infinite ease; its method—or madness—was to try to add to it or direct it. Ancient wounds bite back. The lack of requisite care during my formative years has shaped an identity that can only connect to reality, and to the other, by trying to use it, even if under the guise of “helping.” And in fact, my “rebellion,” when it spilled out into action, did take the form of a desire to bring the group together.
It took the form of a string of insights that I felt compelled to share with the group, even if it meant derailing Dave’s “program” to do so. I was not aware that these insights (or at least the desire to articulate them) might have been part of my mind’s covert attempt to reassert its control over the situation. Not at least until this unconscious internal revolt eventually led to a kind of public meltdown, when (with some help from Dave) I set off a chain of land mines inside my inner landscape, causing body parts and internal organs to explode all over the room.
While attempting to be the master chef and start making omelets, it was slowly and painfully revealed that I was the bloody chick, raw, vulnerable, exposed, fluttering wildly inside the frying pan of enlightenment transmission.
It may be that the only way to see our distortions fully is to let them be seen by others. There’s no way to look the other way when you are surrounded by mirrors.
A Formless Warrior in Finland
It is not just that Dave Oshana is hard for me to talk about; he is difficult even to mention in passing, besides, “A guy I know in Finland”. . .
To describe Dave as an enlightened teacher, person, or worst of all, being, presupposes that I know what enlightenment is, and that I know for a fact that Dave is it. But neither statement is true.
On the other hand, to describe Dave, as I have done in the past, as “A guy in Finland who claims to be enlightened” suggests I don’t believe him, which isn’t true either. The dilemma of language.
After this last retreat, I am content to say: “Based on my interactions with Dave Oshana over the past 11 years, I am fully persuaded that enlightenment exists and that it is attainable. In other words, if enlightenment exists, the best evidence I have yet found for its existence is . . . a guy in Finland.”
So from here, what. . . ?
Many people on the spiritual scene believe they have found the one true path or teacher; some of them want others to partake in (or corroborate) their experience. While I can allow that “all roads lead to Jerusalem” in the end, I rarely if ever believe these people or have any interest in their chosen paths or teachers.
If I encountered myself talking about Dave Oshana and how he could transform my life, I wouldn’t believe me. So what does that leave?
Discernment, caution, restraint, subtlety, nuance. Dave Oshana is definitely not for everyone. He is, in my opinion, only for the very few. If you are one of these few and he is for you as he is for me, then knowing him will transform your life, as it did mine, in ways you currently cannot imagine. It is not for me to know this, however; only to wonder.
There is something else.
Of all the things in my life that I write and speak about via my creative output, what happens around Dave Oshana is the most meaningful and profound; not just by a little, but by miles and miles. So why do I speak about it so little?
My Secret Life
As much as my marriage (which I rarely speak or write about), in different ways and for different reasons, this is my secret life. It is where the lion’s share of my spiritual transformation is occurring. For years now, you, as audience member, have been glimpsing the after-effects of this transformation. The more sensitive and discerning among you have noticed it.
I have not been ready to invite you all the way in until now. Now time is running out and, at a certain juncture, the risk of withholding or practicing excess caution begins to seem greater than the risk of premature disclosure.
All things are timed according to only partially visible forces, and so, it seems, is this opening doorway of opportunity timed. Having persisted in my folly and faced my fears, have I finally arrived at the beginning of wisdom, at the threshold to the formless?
As I near the 52-year mark (in Mayan belief, a crucial turning point), I look back over a life that has spanned the extremes, like a crucifix, of high and low and left and right. It has taken me through the darkest destitution and despair and towards the brightest and highest of joys. A full spectrum of experience that now feels on the verge of completion—by which I mean, I suppose, the verge of true commencement.
I may not yet make that highest summit towards which I have strived for so long; but, at long last, I think I can see it.
So what happened on this retreat to clear my perceptual field? Being in the field of the Oshana-flavored and facilitated enlightenment transmission is like group therapy squared. Not just days but years of frustration, anguish, rage, indignation, and the shame of an increasingly denuded psyche (mine) was exposed in its primal defenses, even while a herd of paper tigers smoldered and sparkled maliciously in my mind’s eye. Through a combination of self-generated images colliding with the living reality of the other (the Oshana collective), I saw just how defended I was, against life and love.
What I saw in the many mirrors of those eyes, was a soul in self-imposed exile, a raging Cain, condemned to a life of endless wandering, congenitally marked by his helpless defiance of the infinite.
Yet ironically, fatally, it is through the act of defiance that the infinite is invoked. Fear of the formless is the beginning of wisdom. But maybe I shouldn’t verbalize these things at all, if that is part of the problem, part of my system of defense, the desire to languify the ineffable and force it to submit?
What sort of fool tries to make an omelet out of his innermost?
Who wants to know anyway?
Original language, it is not on the page or the computer screen. It will never be found here.
As I let go of my reliance upon words to communicate (without of course letting go of words), with it went the personality (the mask) that had become fully dependent on verbalization to exist. I lost the face that put itself forward via artful (or artless) articulation, and abandoned the original syntax that covered over the original language of the body, the soul, and greater existence.
And with that egg-smeared face—my reliance upon artificial extension/protection—went all the stress of “performance.” Freedom, squared.
No more theory of mind, no more fraught, fearful, or fragile sense of a self seen through the eyes of imaginary others. No more potential—and eventually actual—adversaries to defend against or prove myself to; what an endless drag that was, a ball and chain in lieu of grounding.
Once all this was gone, there was only the communication of soul-body to soul-body that arises within, from, and as the infinite minutiae of experience: from the early trauma-generated habitual tics of a self-care system, to my deepest unconscious fears and desires, all the way to the transcendental echoes of the formless, as it emanates from beyond time and space.
There is a vast ocean beneath us. Uncountable waves eternally rolling, upon which our most carefully constructed verbiage is no more than the misty residue of spray. All words are empty words unless filled with the silence, and predetermined always, in content if not style, by the body of the ocean beneath them.
I had felt compelled to speak out—but compelled by what, to do what? To interrupt the flow of the formless and express my internal angstiness! And having passed through the gauntlet of my myriad neuroses and inauthenticities, having witnessed a psychic defense system turned in on itself—what was there left to say?
All that remained was to repent in the rawest way I could manage.
After that, it became clear how, and why, what I say never really matters, at least not in the moment before I say it, when the pressure to get it right is greatest. It doesn’t matter, because by then it has already been predetermined by the deeper movements within me that end with that articulation. At best, my words are icing on a cake; at worst, they are toxic trinkets that make the cake all-but uneatable, shards of eggshell mixed up inside a slimy omelet.
What that leaves is, really, everything. The fullness of the formless: the love-joy-sorrow and sweetness of encountering the other—meeting the infinite within the other, moment to moment, in every moment. And in meeting being met. When the formless meets the formless, it gives rise to form; or perhaps this: on the outermost edges of formlessness, as the formless comes to know itself, form occurs. And there we are.
This is the threshold which words cannot go beyond. This is the ticket to the infinite.
It does not require knowledge. Knowledge is an echo, a distortion of an original encounter with something that can’t be named, only known. Something we come to know only via the experience of the formless coming to know itself though us.
The Finish Line
Once upon a time, I was impressed by how unimpressive Dave Oshana was. Now I have seen (?) what Dave Oshana actually is (or is not), the tables have turned. I have met the infinite and now I am strangely unimpressed by how truly impressive Dave is. Why? Because there’s no one here to be impressed, perhaps?
The formless is nothing if not nonchalant. This final entry into reality is a non-dramatic event: as the seeker meets the formless warrior, and recognizes what he has sought for his whole life.
As my ticket to the infinite is punched.
As I settle effortlessly into the knowledge (the faith, nonconceptual and bodily) that I have a seat on that infinity train—that it is taking me infinitely beyond anything I can possibly describe or ever understand, to some place that is familiar beyond all words.
The return home has begun.