by Bob Banner
HopeDance reprinted an excerpt from Jan Frazier’s book “When Fear Falls Away” in the Jan/Feb issue. We promised readers we would follow up on the author. The book is now available at stores. The following is a short interview we conducted with her via email.
You write that there are many people becoming “enlightened” at this time? How do you know this?
My impression is that attention to awakened consciousness, as a general phenomenon, is growing. It is natural that this would come about in a time like ours, when so much of our world is in crisis – that is, that people would be moved to look within for answers, for a source of unwoundable peace. The outer sources of fulfillment are wearing visibly thin; few would disagree with this. The growing appeal of Eckhart Tolle’s message, of Byron Katie’s teachings and others’, is evidence that awakening (even if it’s only “relative,” only in a given moment) is being given more attention than it used to be.
Awakened awareness comes alive, shining light into the moment, any time people see their interior experience from a bit of a distance. Any time a person declines to identify, one hundred per cent, with a reaction, a thought, a feeling. This phenomenon of non-identification is surely more widespread than it was a few years back. In any life where that is taking place, there is almost certainly a reduction in suffering, a general “lightening” in relationships, work life, political and social activities.
Does this mean there are more enlightened people than there used to be? I have a hunch there is a subtle but real increase. It is extremely rare, even so, for a person to be established in the awake state. I have known of several (besides those well-known teachers who are generally understood to be enlightened). The several who have revealed themselves to me did so because they had read or learned of my book. For the most part, these individuals do not readily reveal their state. Traditionally, enlightened people have been inclined, unless they were moved to be teachers, to keep to themselves. If I weren’t a writer, if things hadn’t evolved in my life as a writing teacher the way they did, I would probably have kept quiet about my experience. It isn’t easy to describe, or to understand from outside it, so I doubt I would have been moved to try to convey it. As it happened, because I was writing about my experience in a semi-public setting (in writing workshops), I had occasion to observe the good that can come of saying, in effect, “This state is our innate condition, and here is how life changes when the condition is realized.”
I am aware that there will be those who question the authenticity of one who comes out and lays claim to enlightenment. The inevitable misunderstanding of such an acknowledgment is doubtless one factor that has kept most enlightened people silent. But the risk of being misunderstood or doubted is one I am willing to take. I believe more good than harm stands to come of it.
There are surely a great number of “relative” awakenings taking place. These are people who have let go of identifying, in an unexamined way, with the mind-invented selves they previously believed was the entire story of who they are. I have met quite a few individuals who attest to a dramatic shift in their orientation to things that used to cause a great deal of suffering in their lives. There can be little doubt that this significant shift is happening on a wide scale. The impact of these personal changes in social and political arenas is assured (if not necessarily indicative of a growing instance of full enlightenment, or predictive of a complete reversal of the present situation vis-à-vis war, injustice, environmental recklessness, and all the rest of it).
The important thing, from my perspective, is communicating the truth that enlightened consciousness is the natural state of every human being. The potential for the realization of that truth carries much more significance than any particular data about who or how many have already realized it, or whether it is on the increase. The fact that anyone can live an entire life without discovering this within themselves constitutes the only real human tragedy – even if that tragedy is the case for the vast majority of humanity.
I was quite taken by your experiment of being so curious about your new state of “no fear” that you welcomed the visit with your ex-husband who in the past (before your awakening) touched your buttons. Your buttons were not touched and the meeting went really well. Since writing the book, have those experiments gone into other areas? Like political meetings that are often so full of aggressive behavior? It appears, we need this type of intense calmness at a time when all hell is breaking loose. Are you being called in different directions or are you comfortable in the permanent state you find yourself in?
The competition and ill-will that characterize so much of modern life – whether in corporate board rooms or in heavy traffic, in families or political contests – is inevitable where people are interacting with one another as though their mind-generated definitions of self were the deep truth of who they are. This is the source of so much suffering, so much of why the world as we have built it is not working for us.
Since the change in my life, I have been in many situations – social, professional, personal – where non-reactivity has had a beneficial “softening” effect on an encounter or an undertaking, some experience that otherwise would have been poisoned with tension in one form or another. When one person is non-reactive, others in the situation are more likely to experience a softening within themselves – to be non-reactive also. Consciousness is “catching.” Any situation where awakened consciousness is present will be the better for it. Conflict depends upon the shutting-out of awakeness. People who are awake to their well of innate peacefulness (even if only briefly) simply cannot enter into conflict. Competition and frustration, anger and one-upmanship cannot thrive in the presence of that awareness.
My deepest impulse is to retreat from society, to rest quietly in a natural setting somewhere. But because of how things have evolved – because I have seen the value of sharing my experience – I have decided, for now, to stay engaged in the larger world. I see my usefulness as being not so much engaging with particular political or social endeavors, as simply attesting to the possibility of the ultimate revolution, the one that takes place within the individual. That is the source of any true outer revolution, and so it is the only one of ultimate value. The rest is what might be called “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” You might say that’s what we have been doing for millennia. Where has it gotten us?
Are you being tempted to become a “darling” figure of the New Age where deluded hope will once again rise to the surface? Are you prepared for that? Has it already happened?
It is a tricky business. On the one hand, I’ve undertaken to say, “Living in the enlightened state is possible for everyone, because it is within everyone already.” On the other hand, it remains true that very few have become established in that state. The ego is a tenacious little creature – so real-seeming, so dear to us. There is no ready formula for destroying it, or for convincing anybody that it is worth letting go – that what stands to be gained is abundantly worth that little death. I would love nothing more than to be able to answer anyone who asks how to “get there.” Lord knows, people want to know! But I can’t even say how I “got there.” So am I raising hopes that are bound to be dashed? If I am, is that a good thing?
I can say a couple of things about this. First, I am not concerned only with helping people become enlightened. I am drawn toward helping people suffer less – simply that. Bu Who can’t stand to ease up a bit on themselves (and others)? I’ve no doubt that anyone who seeks that for themselves can “get there.” If that is all that is accomplished, we’re better off – by a lot.
The other thing is this, and in a way, this is the major reason I decided to let my story be public. If humankind could broadly come to understand that our innate condition is not pain but joyful serenity – that this is, at bottom, the stuff we are made of – then surely, as a species, we will eventually become more attuned to it, and it will become more of a force in our world. There will be glimpses of it, within ourselves and in one another, whether or not any individual becomes established in that awareness. Historically it has been believed that enlightenment was possible for only the very “holy” person. My book is meant to be a corrective to that impression. It will be news, to a lot of people, that someone living an ordinary life (a westerner, no less) can become enlightened. If you move through your life thinking that state is only for the likes of the Dalai Lama, you will be less likely to become attuned to the radical sweetness you carry within your own depths. I’m wanting to gently force a kind of reckoning – to make it difficult to turn away from the possibility that anyone can wake up.
We surely don’t need any more New Age “darlings.” The last thing I want is to call attention to myself, or to create false hope, a belief in something that turns out not to be experienced as real. The point of telling my story is to say, simply, that suffering is not something we have to resign ourselves to. This is not about me. It is about every single human being. It’s an invitation to listen in, deeply, to what’s already inside. Not to listen to me so much as to yourself. If we can survive long enough, if we can keep from destroying ourselves and our beloved planet, it is possible that gradually, gradually, humanity will come to know this thing about itself, and will come fully alive to the potential that has been there all along. That is when the real New Age will come.
See the excerpt on this site at: http://www.hopedance.org/media-reviews/books/1510
And see an interview Jan does with Alan: http://hopedance.org/community-media/videos/798