What is it like to experience unfiltered reality in this moment? 🤯
This is the fourth interview in our series Awakening, Explained with my guest Dr. Angelo DiLullo. Angelo is a practicing anesthesiologist and author of the book “Awake: It’s Your Turn.”
In this episode we dive even deeper into the process of awakening, and how we can experience reality without the distortions of our perceptual filters.
Get Angelo’s book, contact him, and download his free meditation app here.
The rest of our Awakening, Explained interview series can be found here.
Timecodes for topics covered
0:00 Intro: Eckhart Tolle and “The Three Pillars of Zen”
6:44 Disclaimer/Warning: why you should ONLY watch if you’re deeply interested
10:17 The possibility of transcending the ego and subject-object duality
12:10 The paradox of free will/agency on the path to awakening
16:36 Experiencing the present moment as a kind of flow state
20:59 Understanding what “presence” is and its relationship to thought
27:54 The sneaky ego and how it relates to awakening
34:52 The roots suffering in desire, striving, and egoic constructs
37:48 Unbound consciousness, the dissatisfaction of seeking via a false “self,” the importance of surrendering and emotional integration
50:44 The truth behind paradox
56:31 Awakening is available for anyone, and is not a crazy or paranormal experience
1:00:20 Is mental illness a hindrance to awakening, or a reason not to go down the path
1:05:38 Awakening is beyond the mind’s understanding, so how can you tell you’re awake
1:10:18 Unfiltered reality as the primary truth
1:16:08 Psychedelics vs. other methods of pointing/awakening
Full Transcript Below
– [Zubin] Angelo Dilullo.
– [Angelo] Yo.
– [Zubin] ZDoggMD. Welcome back to the show.
– [Angelo] Thanks for having me.
– [Zubin] Angelo is an anesthesiologist, and an expert on spiritual awakening. I don’t know how you even put that. I mean, it’s such a strange credential. But you’ve been on the show a few times now, and you wrote a book called “Awake: It’s Your Turn,” which I found personally the most direct thing I’ve ever read about awakening, and I’ve been meditating for years, and trying to wake up, and just keep falling asleep, and it’s been really transformative, and the last couple episodes that you’ve done have been ridiculously helpful. I watch them on repeat, and the pointers that you give during the episodes actually generate the intended kind of presence. I can’t even really quite, I mean, I feel it now even just talking to you. It’s a really interesting effect that you have. Have other people told you that?
– [Angelo] Yeah, I hear that from time to time.
– [Zubin] Is it just-
– [Angelo] In this context.
– [Zubin] In this context, right, but not just like-
– [Angelo] When I talk about this subject to people, yeah. It sort of knows when to switch itself on, I suppose. It’s an intuitive process.
– [Zubin] In the book, you call it transmitting-
– [Angelo] Because I have no need to talk about it, you know, to the average person, or people I work with, or casual friends, like I don’t bring it up just to talk about it, because it’s the kind of thing where you sort of intuit when you’re ready to kind of investigate this process yourself, and life sometimes just sort of shows you, sort of points you in that direction. And then when that happens to you, you might pick up a book about it, or you know, find some people who like to talk about it, or groups, and so forth, and usually, that’s how I end up talking about it is people find me through something I wrote online, or now, obviously, I wrote a book about it. So, but it’s that sort of a thing. It kind of catches you.
– [Zubin] So I think , I think people who don’t inhabit this space at all, if, you know, whether it’s meditation, or meditation retreats, which I still haven’t done, but they’re not familiar with this idea of the person who can actually transmit through pointing, or through just how they are the experiential unfolding of what you’re actually pointing at. And before we even started the show, we were in the living room of the studio, and we were talking, shooting the breeze, and you had just said something to me about, you know, this idea of not knowing, like not knowing is okay when it comes to awakening. How do you even know you’re awake? Could it be possible that you can’t know? And that was all it took to trigger my mind silencing. And I remember just suddenly staring out the window, and just everything going quiet, and it stayed quiet for quite a while-
– [Angelo] Yeah, we sat for a while. It was nice.
– [Zubin] And that phenomenon, I’ve never encountered it, because I don’t have a teacher, and I don’t meditate with people, and it’s a kind of a personal thing that I’ve been doing for a long time. And it was so remarkable that now I’m ready to sign up for whatever. Just surround me with people like you that can trigger that. Do you think that that is, is that something that people need, or is it just an epiphenomenon of awakening?
– [Angelo] Well, when you say need, you mean somebody who’s actually going through this process-
– [Zubin] Right.
– [Angelo] It’s not absolutely necessary. You know, you can pick up a lot of this through reading. You can, there’s videos online, excuse me, of people who point in this way specifically. They make videos just to do that. There’s inquiry processes. So, and there’s, of course, groups you can join to kind of work directly on self-inquiry, or Zen, if you wanna sit, and work on koans, and that sort of thing. So there’s actually a lot of approaches to this. But to back up, I just wanna point out that I’m not an expert on anything. This just comes intuitively. Also, there’s no sense that this is important for anyone specifically, like I don’t have an idea that any particular person needs to wake up, or that it’s a special process, or a special state. It’s actually nothing like that. It’s a very natural process that unfolds on its own largely. But the funny thing about it is when it starts to do that again, other resources are kind of attracted often. It might be a book. Like for me, I picked up a book when I needed to, you know, years ago-
– [Zubin] “Three Pillars of Zen.”
– [Angelo] “Three Pillars of Zen,” yeah, I picked up this book, and I read it, this chapter of people describing going through this process, and that triggered it for me, and it was a very dramatic shift, very dramatic. And so, for me, I had never met anybody who had gone through it themself, and I only had access to that book. I didn’t have background information on what awakening and realization was, but that was enough to trigger it for me. So there are many ways this can play out and many ways that it can be triggered for you. You don’t need a so-called expert, or some, you know, master person on awakening, or anything like that. Really, it’s a matter of what works for you. Excuse me, what do you resonate with? If you pick up the book “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, and you just really resonate with that, great, and many people do. It’s a great book. Or if you’re interested in my book, and the approach I take, which is kind of stepwise, and very specific to the different aspects of your experience moment to moment of thought, emotion, attention, right, so I try to break all that down, belief, and then I talk about inquiry, which is a pretty direct approach to starting to investigate your deeper nature, or your undivided, unbound, unfiltered nature. And that’s really what we’re talking about, so-
– [Zubin] This idea of when the student is ready the teacher appears is a real phenomenon. I mean, I’m sitting in front of somebody, who, again, you don’t assume the identity of teacher, or expert on anything, but you have a way of pointing that is so direct, and it comes not from concept, but it comes from actually the experience of-
– [Angelo] Mmm-hmm, well, it’s funny, because the experience itself speaks really in a sense. So for anybody who’s watching, to drive home the point I have no identity as a teacher, after this shift for me, I didn’t talk about it for years, literally just didn’t even talk about it to anyone, because there was nothing I could say about it. But I also had an intuitive sense it’s easy to mislead people about it, or talk about it in confusing ways, and I kind of had a deep reverence for the process as well. But I just knew intuitively there’s no way I’m gonna talk about this. I would never teach this. You know, it would seem presumptuous almost. And moreover, there is a knowing that you can kind of transmit it in talking certain ways, or interacting in certain ways with people, and I learned early on you have to really be careful with that, because you can push people that aren’t ready, and it can be just really destabilizing. It’s not comfortable for them. So I learned to be very careful not to do that, and I’m really generally pretty careful not to. So I was actually cautious coming on this show, as we’ve talked about, because you’re gonna show this to a wide audience, and it is always possible listening to this that you’ll have shifts. It’s actually very common. People tell me it all the time that when I’m talking this directly, or even more directly, like we have in the other shows, that you actually, it’s an empathic movement. You know, we’re humans, we’re mammals, and we have, empathically, we can feel into the processes of others, and when speaking in this way, it can actually shift things for you. To me, it’s a very simple, straightforward process, but if somebody’s not ready for it, or they’re not really oriented to it, it can be like, “Whoa, what the hell was that?” Like, “I just disappeared for a minute, “and then I’m back,” right? And I’ve heard that more times than I could tell you. So I am reasonably cautious about who I speak this way to, and really, I kind of screen to make sure that that’s what they actually wanna hear, that this is what they’re ready for. Does that make sense?
– [Zubin] So as a disclaimer for this episode and all the previous episodes that we’ve done, if this is not something you’re interested in, if what you just heard makes you go, “Mmm, not for me,” turn it off.
– [Angelo] There’s a famous story of , oh, I’m gonna forget the guy’s name. He was a famous teacher back in the ’70s and ’80s, and he was talking about awakening realization, and he was talking to a large group of people, who some were not indoctrinated into the subject at all, and others were, but he started the talk by saying, “If you’re already on this path, you should take it to completion. Don’t stop. If you’re not, just leave,” right? That’s a pretty extreme way of saying it, and I wouldn’t necessarily put it that directly, because the first step really is you have to actually know it’s possible. If you don’t know that this kind of shift is possible for you, this shift into a more intuitive, integrated, unbound way of experiencing moment to moment reality, if you don’t even know that’s possible, then, well, of course, you don’t know it’s a possibility for you. So I feel okay putting that out there that it is a possibility, and it’s a very real shift. And, but beyond that, you really should check in with yourself, and say, feel, sit with it, and say, do, is this what I’m really interested, “Is this what I’m most interested in?” Actually, that’s probably the best question. “Is this what I’m actually most interested in?” And you, you said that to me immediately when I contacted you. You were like, “This is actually “the most interesting thing to me.” And I told you, I said, “Yeah, when I hear that, that’s good news,” because I feel, I trust talking about it to someone like you very directly, because I know you want it, you’re oriented to it, you’re ready to go through what you’re gonna have to go through, right? Because this is a, the process itself is no joke. It can be challenging in various ways.
– [Zubin] I think you said in the book something interesting, and by the way, so just, you know, that’s part of the reason why we’re going so direct in these episodes is that you’re really speaking to an audience that’s gonna self-select to be more like me that’s really interested in this. And so, we kind of take the gloves off, and go pretty deep on it. You said in the book though that, listen, if you’re on the path, and this is something you’re interested in, the resources that you require will always kind of be there. They will make themselves available, and I think that’s very true. You’ll never be, you said it, you’ll never be given more than you can bear, or you can handle on the process, and is this from personal experience, or is this from just seeing a lot of students, or-
– [Angelo] Both, yeah.
– [Zubin] Both, yeah.
– [Angelo] Personally going through it, and watching a lot of people go through it. I mean, you’ll be pushed, right, to what you think you can’t bear, or you know, your thoughts will tell you sometimes, like, “I can’t go through this, this is too much,” and et cetera. But with good pointing, you realize okay, those are thoughts. I’m de-identifying from thought. What’s actually happening? And that, that’s the key is you actually de-identify from that thought story that’s always limiting reality for you, that’s keeping reality in a certain set of contexts in which you’re comfortable, that’s kind of keeping the space a certain size, and those ego boundaries are intact, and if you push them, they get threatened. And so, you back up, and that sort of thing. But this process, you actually undermine those ego boundaries, and you start to feel beyond your own ego structures. You feel beyond your own limited way of experiencing reality in a subject-object conformation in thought and consciousness, and at some point you’ll know what that is. You will directly experience something beyond yourself, beyond your usual way of experiencing reality moment to moment and day to day. It’s undeniable, and that’s, usually, that’s already happened when I start talking to somebody. They’ve tasted that, some people, even in childhood, or as they were growing up, but they just didn’t know what to do with it. And then, you know, they pick up books, and try to figure out what it is, and they start to catch on, “Oh, this is actually a process that I can orient toward, that I can participate in, that I can surrender to,” all these different ways of talking about it, but it’s an actual thing. Awakening is a thing. It’s a thing that happens. It’s a process. It’s a possibility to go beyond the limitations of what you feel like is your self, your mental self, the self that has a past, and a future, problems, and solutions, agency, all these things, right, so-
– [Zubin] Agency’s an interesting one. We should definitely come back to agency, because I think a lot of people get very upset when you imply that our sense of free will and agency is maybe not what you think it is.
– [Angelo] That’s a good way of saying it. It’s not what you think it is. I wouldn’t make a metaphysical statement, like you have no free will, because I don’t, I wouldn’t say I experience reality that way either. It’s different than that. It’s more like I’m more inclined to just say just go through this process yourself, if you’re interested in it. And then I’m really curious to see what you think it’s like when that sense of agency is not what you thought it was. I wanna hear how you’re gonna say it, because there’s no way to say it. But let me put it this way. It’s a big relief when the sense of having to always navigate life, push and pull, judge, decide what I need, what I don’t need, it’s always like you’re trying to get something right in life to make yourself okay, to feel okay, right, to be okay. But you never really look at the fundamental question of well, why am I assuming I’m not okay? Why am I doing all of this to assume things are not okay? And sometimes, just seeing that can actually stop that kind of pushing and pulling effect for a time, and sometimes through awakening, and through deepening of realization, you can actually get to the point where that completely subsides. And at that point, the sense of agency, you see it’s kind of a joke. The way you used to think about it was you would reflect on reality, and then go into an internal world, because you were uncomfortable with reality, and then try to manipulate it, and change it into something that felt more comfortable for you, and then convince yourself that you did that. It’s a very strange thing. So, but to experience moment to moment flow, a reality without having a sense of the agent that is acting against reality and manipulating it to do what you think you need it to do to make yourself feel better, is quite possible, and it’s very freeing. Nothing, it’s not like you feel out of control. The mind will interpret this as, “Oh, but I would feel out of control,” or, “I’d feel like I don’t have a choice.” That’s not how it feels at all. It feels almost like the whole universe is making a choice. It doesn’t feel almost like that. It feels exactly like that. Everything comes forth in this moment as one to enact this phenomenal experience.
– [Zubin] And people might say, “Well, if that’s true, and you actually experientially feel that the agency, the agent, the person behind your head making these decisions and pulling the puppet strings that is you,” if that’s gone, “how can you behave in a moral, ethical, and compassionate way, “if there’s no sense that you’re doing it?”
– [Angelo] Well, it just seems to work out really well. That’s all I can say. I’m not gonna say I’m more or less ethical, or moral, or anything like that. But for me, noticing how this has played out for me, and watching other people go through it, the more present people get, there’s sort of a built-in, it’s almost like a safeguard, I would say in a sense, once it matures. It can actually go through a phase, where you kind of, the wheels do come off a little bit, and you kind of, you know, the restraints kind of come off a little bit. I don’t, I wouldn’t say you become super immoral, but the maybe less-than-selfless tendencies you have buried come up a little bit more to the surface, and they’re in your face, and they’re in other people’s face, and people are like, “Hey, you just turned into an asshole,” right? Like Zen stink, and all that.
– [Zubin] Oh, yeah.
– [Angelo] So again, it brings it all to the surface and it brings it out, so it can be seen even by other people, and the universe has a way of doing that. And it says, “Hey, look, these are the things you need to work on, and you can’t deny them anymore. You can’t hide them. You can’t run from them.” So you can go through a phase, where it’s like you almost feel less enlightened than you did before, for sure. But over time, as presence just settles into the moment, and things become simpler, you realize all the resources you need are here. You don’t have to seek. You don’t have to struggle against life to deliver the resources that you feel like you don’t have. None of that’s there, and the sense of scarcity isn’t there either. So it’s just simplicity, flow, spontaneity. And these are all things that anyone can relate to, right? This isn’t some exalted state. These are things that we’ve all experienced at times.
– [Zubin] Flow states.
– [Angelo] Right, flow states. So sometimes, I’ll say to someone, you know, if the sense that, or if the idea that you can live without a sense of being the doer all the time, who has to act against life, and manipulate life to do what you want it to do, if that seems uncomfortable to think about, just think back in your life of the times when you felt the most in flow, present, joyous, happy. In those times, were you obsessing about what you’re gonna do in the future? Were you worried about how to make this thing go the way I need it to go, and get that person to see me the way I want them to see me, and make sure my career goes the way I need it to go? Were you obsessive about the future and past, and feeling like you were really manipulating life, and struggling with it, or were you not at all? Were you in presence? Were you just enjoying the wonder of a moment of life when your child is born, or when you are a child, and you’re just playing, you’re just in the environment, enjoying the environment as the environment, instead of thinking about, “Oh, well, I’m playing now, but gosh, mom’s gonna call me in a half an hour, and I’ll be not playing,” and then you start thinking about what it’s gonna be like to not play, and you have to do your homework, and children are very present, right, especially young children. So that’s more what this is like.
– [Zubin] I think flow state is a really beautiful way to show a person who’s never touched any mystical experience, or anything like that, what you mean by presence, what you mean by this spin on agency and will. It is almost like things are happening, and many people say, “I lose myself in this process,” or, “I lose myself in the activity,” or whether it’s sewing, or playing music, or doing sports, when you get in the zone, your sense of self, it’s not that you lose it. It’s just, it’s not there, and you don’t necessarily notice that, I think, for many people. It’s just, “Oh, and I lost myself in this activity, “and things were just happening, “and they were happening in a way that was so satisfying, like they were unfolding.” When you say the universe unfolds a certain way, it’s almost like these processes and conditions are happening and you’re that, and you don’t have to do anything.
– [Angelo] Yeah.
– [Zubin] And that’s freedom, and that flow state, it sounds like what you’re saying is, is accessible as the base operating system of how you are.
– [Angelo] That’s a way to say it. Yeah, I would say that the sense of the self not being there, I might even say it’s the sense of the self apart not being there. There’s not a, the mind isn’t interrupting your present experience going, “Is this me, is this not me? “Am I here, or not here?” It’s nothing like that. It’s just presence, right? Just what is, just the movement and flow of reality of intimate experience of the sense world. And you could call it a flow state, but it’s not a state, and you can taste it. You can get tastes of it, for sure, in various ways through, people do it through sports. Some people to describe extreme sports, where you have to stay so focused on the present, because it’s dangerous not to, that you kind of get, you force yourself into a flow state, or a present state, or whatever. But the point of this conversation is that that presence is available all the time, and more importantly, it’s there all the time, whether we notice it, or not. No matter how much noise our mind is making, that presence is actually the nature of the reality that you’re experiencing right now. It’s the nature of the senses, and it can become much more alive when we are not filtering by getting super involved in our own internal world. And that, if that happens in a very dramatic way, I would it an awakening. And there are there shifts that go beyond that. But that first awakening, that first shift, is usually the big, extremely noticeable one in your life , undeniable.
– [Zubin] Well, you know, one concept that’s not really a concept that you bring up quite a bit is presence, and I think I’d love to hear you sort of dig into what you mean when you say presence, and how it relates to future and past. Is it the present moment you’re talking about? Is it something else? And where is it in time, or is it not?
– [Angelo] So presence, your experience of presence will evolve as the realization progresses typically. So at first, you might learn about mindfulness, and you might learn to just remind yourself, “Oh, those thoughts about work later, okay, that’s not actually happening right here. I can kind of see I’m in this room. The person I’m imagining talking to, and arguing with at work tomorrow, they’re not actually in this room,” right? So there’s just that kind of truth test about thought that it can bring you into a dimension of presence. and sometimes it can bring you into an intense presence. But that’s maybe the first step of what it means to learn what presence is, and start to really engage presence.
– [Zubin] Ooh, someone’s at the door, speaking of presence.
– [Angelo] It’s like “The Addams Family.”
– [Zubin] Hopefully, it’s a present for me.
– [Angelo] Right. So that’s kind of one aspect of, or one iteration of what it means to learn to become more present. But when we start talking about awakening, and approaching awakening specifically, we’re talking about the relationship between thought and consciousness. And when I say consciousness, I literally mean what, the stuff thought is made of. You could say consciousness is the ocean, and the thoughts are the waves. And through the book, throughout the book, we talk about aspects of this, and how it plays out. But specifically in self-inquiry, in one of the last chapters, the description of how to directly investigate the nature of thought and consciousness and their relationship can lead someone into that experience of unbound, pure consciousness. And it can be an experience, like you said a flow state before. This is the equivalent. This is an experiential unbound consciousness, and if that experience lasts long enough, or comes back enough times, or enough filters just drop, or you surrender enough to this whole process, identity disentangles itself from what seemed like it was you, the one interacting with life, and all these images of what seems to be happening in the external world, all of these thoughts, and that conformation of that external world and that world of thoughts and the one who’s thinking it. The identity disentangles itself from that, from that polar conformation that we experience all the time that actually requires a lot of energy input. It’s kind of a struggle, and it’s heavy, and it requires a lot of energy that we don’t always realize we’re exerting. So it moves from that to this pure experience of unbound consciousness, the identity, your identity does. So suddenly, you’re experiencing yourself as that unbound consciousness, and you can tell intuitively, immediately when it happens that this is a far more primary, fundamental way of experiencing reality by its very nature. It just is very obvious that that is whoa, I thought I was living in a space this big, and I’m living in a space this big, and it just keeps going in a sense. And that first shift, that awakening that we’ve been talking about, again, it’s one of the most profound experiences you’ll ever go through in this lifetime. Even the further refinements beyond it are very remarkable, but they’re not as, because of the contrast, isn’t so much. They’re not as kind of life-altering, I guess you could say. But this first shift is a really big one for people. And so, then you’re experiencing presence as unbound consciousness, which is the sense of being, the sense of I am a being, but that sense of I, the being, expands out infinitely, and it’s a very natural, calm experience, and now, you know that that is presence. That kind of presence is, it’s not a presence you need to remind yourself of by going, “Okay, that thought is the future, that thought is the past, but I’m here,” and you go, “Oh, that’s weird, I just felt a little presence.” It’s not like that. This is a higher order of presence. I don’t know about higher order, but it’s a more fundamental experience of presence that is undeniable, self-validating, and you feel like, you kind of feel like you won the lottery at first. It’s just like, “Oh, it’s so peaceful. I don’t have to do anything. I can just rest in this.” You know, I can still do things. I can function in the world, but I always have this respite. I can just sit in this presence, and it’s wonderful. So then, now presence feels like something quite different. It feels like the foundation of what you are, or of what experience is. And it’s very conscious, awake, alert, but with it, it doesn’t need to have content. It can have content, it can have thoughts, but it doesn’t have to.
– [Zubin] So it’s-
– [Angelo] This often feels, I’ll let you speak in one second, but I just wanna make one other thing, one other point about this. This often feels, people often remark when they experience this finally, they say, “This feels like childhood. I remember this from way before I was even a child, like really young child. I remember this so well. I would sit in this, and it was so peaceful.” But there’s no thoughts really about it. There’s no way to think about it, right, because you think inside of it. So you can easily forget it, and overlook it. As we learn to grow and develop more complex personalities and ego structures, we forget how easy it is actually to just rest in that. But now, you very much remember, and it feels far more primary than the ways you’ve learned to experience yourself as an egoic adult. Does that make sense?
– [Zubin] It does, it does-
– [Angelo] Okay, sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you, but I really wanted-
– [Zubin] No, no, no, no, no, I’m glad you did. This experience of presence in the post, or the awakening context is, in a sense, it sounds like a palpable experiential presence that is not relating to time. It doesn’t seem like we’re talking about time at all when we say we’re present. It is more what you described, which is not necessarily related to time, and this idea that young children exist in that, it’s their sort of primordial base operating system, and then we add on these different modules, and APIs, and different like Epic, you know, sign-on bits. And that then it creates this sense of a thinker, a dualistic sort of idea that I’m a subject different from my experience, and creates a sense of time, because now thought can project something into an imagined future, and a remembered past that are, the past is just a tracing that occurs in presence. The future is just an imagining that occurs in presence, but the child, we don’t learn that. We learn, “Oh, that’s a real thing,” and we learn to project our thoughts to get out of uncomfortable situations that we’ve been conditioned to believe are uncomfortable through how we pick up on things. And it’s really quite remarkable how this then generates ultimately the egoic structures that keep us in this way of thinking as adults. How, I mean, there’s a million questions within that, but I think one of them leads into your chapter on ego. We can imagine how it develops, but then what is it, and how do we understand it, so that we can understand if it’s hindering awakening?
– [Angelo] Mmm-hmm. It’s a little bit of a hard question to answer, because you almost have to develop it in steps, like I did in the chapter, because there are some pitfalls to talking about ego. First of all, it has a lot of meanings in psychology, and there’s different types of meanings, and so forth. Also, it’s very easy to turn ego into just another concept, or thought, and then seek. What you seek is not the ego. You seek the end of the ego, but you don’t realize it. It’s the ego structures that are actually doing that. So just like if someone tells you there is no ego, it’s the ego that believes that. So it’s a slippery thing. You could almost say the ego is not an actual thing. It’s more of an activity of mind, but it does have defense mechanisms. It does have intelligence. It knows you better than you do, and it knows how to use fear to rebind your identity when you start to feel the barriers of ego start to fall, or you start to experience cracks in what you consider to be your identity, or the way you experience reality moment to moment. When you start to feel those cracks, it can be a little unsettling at first. It can be a lot unsettling, but again, that’s an emotion, and we talked a lot about that yesterday. If you’re willing to just sit through the emotion, and let it move through, it’s fine. When you get through that though, there’s this kind of almost like, “Well, where do I go now,” right? And this is where the ego is very good at rebinding you. It’ll say, “Oh, you need this other spiritual practice,” or it starts to co-opt the process. It’s very sneaky. And again, it’s these sort of, it’s a conglomeration of defense mechanisms that sort of operate to keep you oriented to what you consider to be your life, what’s true for you in a certain way, and there are ways to get under it, to get behind it, to inquire into it. But I generally sort of tell people have a healthy respect for it. You know, it’s easy to fool yourself with a lot of things, especially with realization.
– [Zubin] I think your book does a very good job, like you said, in stepwise approaching this issue, because you build this sort of model that you say it’s not even really a model. It’s more like a path to say okay, this is this, and this, and that, here’s ego, and here’s thought, here’s emotion, here’s belief, and then here’s inquiry. Let’s start looking at all of that, and using the very tools of the mind to cut through, and kind of bypass into the source of the mind, which is consciousness-
– [Angelo] Yeah, you gotta kind of sneak up on it. When you’re talking about ego, you have to sort of sneak up on it. I thought of another way of saying this. It’s like okay, if I talk about ego to a mind, to any, the way our minds function, they’re just gonna hear it this way, right? I’m not talking about an unenlightened mind, or an enlightened mind. I’m just saying the way our brains function, they receive information as this egoic apparatus. And so, when I point to the ego structures, I’m pointing to that which is behind-the-scenes that is constructing that receiving apparatus. I’m pointing to what is it that actually constructs that which forms your point of view in life. And no matter how you turn your head, you’re always looking from that point of view. That’s what the ego makes sure is happening. Does that make sense?
– [Zubin] Mmm-hmm.
– [Angelo] So it’s a little bit of a trick to actually get someone to turn their attention back behind the ego. And when they do, it can be like, “What the heck just happened?” It can be very strange. But that’s kind of how the chapter is designed to just slowly go, “Okay, have you noticed this? “Have you noticed this? Have you noticed,” and then describe the aspects of that apparatus of of the mind identified, you know, ego, or whatever, and then start to go, “But have you noticed this about it? Have you noticed that about it?” ‘Cause I think you said when you finished, that was the chapter you finished and said, “I almost just erased this whole book, cause it was just so weird for me.”
– [Zubin] It might actually have been the chapter on the stages of awakening that did that for me that was so destabilizing in the last few stages. It got to the point where I was like, “Oh, that’s reality, my gosh,” like, “That’s too much to bear.” And the truth is it’s not, but it felt like it, and it was the egoic structures that couldn’t bear that.
– [Angelo] Yeah, for the ego, it is, in a sense, it is too much to bear, because the ego functions out of a model of self and other-
– [Zubin] Yeah.
– [Angelo] Seeking.
– [Zubin] Yeah.
– [Angelo] Always seeking, never getting really, right? And if you get it, I mean, just in life, right, you seek, and you’re sure that’s gonna make me happy. That relationship will make me happy, or my partner finally doing, X, Y, Z, that’s gonna make me happy. Getting the new thing is gonna make me happy. The next stage in life, retirement, it’s all, you know, whatever it is is gonna make me happy. But if you keep watching, you go, “But I’m never quite happy when I get there.” But then the mind just goes, “Oh yeah, well, it wasn’t that you wanted. You wanted this other thing.” So it’s kind of like you’re holding a stick with a carrot on it, and you’re chasing your own carrot, and everywhere you go you’re gonna keep chasing that fuckin’ carrot, right? There’s no way out of that. So with the ego, there isn’t. With that belief system, there’s no way out of that, ’cause the belief system just says, “Well, just keep chasing it. You’ll catch it, don’t worry,” because you can imagine catching it, right? You can form an image in your mind of catching that carrot, so it must be possible, right? So let’s just keep chasing it again, and again, and again, and at some point you go, “Wait a minute, who’s holding the stick? Who says that there’s a carrot that I have to chase? Who says I want that carrot? Who wants the carrot,” right? It’s that kind of a thing with ego that you start questioning the fundamental beliefs that we all sort of operate from, and that we subliminally communicate among one another and reinforce.
– [Zubin] It’s really interesting, because when you think about the roots of your own unhappiness, or suffering, so much of it is based in that egoic construct of there’s always something better. The other day my daughter was telling me, “You know, I really miss our Las Vegas life,” and I was like, “Why?” “Well, we had more space in the house, and we weren’t all on top of each other all the time, and I had my friends there, and yeah, and there was this one restaurant we really liked.” And I said, “Okay, so what’s going on here that you like?” “Oh, well, I like this, and this, and this, and this.” And I’m like, “So that’s interesting. It’s not good enough? Is that how it feels?” “Yeah.” “Oh, that’s interesting. Really pay attention to that, ’cause daddy, for most of his life, has felt like this is not good enough, this is not good enough, and is always trying to find the next thing. But I’ll tell you a secret. It’s never gonna be good enough. There’s always gonna be something better, because that’s what our mind evolved to make us feel, so we will continue to fight, and beat other competitors, and reproduce and do all that. But, you know, I tried, I couldn’t get deep enough into it to tell her, “But there may be a way out of that, and it’s called presence.” But yeah, it really is interesting. It starts so early.
– [Angelo] And I think one of the simple things that you can kind of feel into if you really look closely at it, that it’s pretty accessible, but it’s not, when you’re in the seeking mechanism, it’s not obvious, but it’s this. It’s that when you’re chasing that carrot on the stick, it’s pretty convincing that you’re doing it because you feel unsatisfied. But the truth is you feel unsatisfied because you’re doing that. And the other, the further truth is chasing that carrot, you’re chasing it into your mind, and out of physical experience of reality. You’re chasing it out of presence. You have to chase that carrot out of presence. And so, seeking is kind of the illness of the human mind, honestly, even spiritual seeking, because then we get into spirituality, and you’re like, “Ooh, enlightenment, that sounds really great. That’s like the biggest carrot of all. I’m gonna get some of that.” And then someone, hopefully, who knows says, “What you’re chasing is already here, already here. You can never get it somewhere else.” In fact, there is nowhere else, really. So what does that mean as far as you’re seeking right now? And if that person’s honest and authentic, they would have to look at that and say, “Oh, that would mean the seeking mechanism has to actually cease to really taste truth,” the truth of what I just said, that it’s already here, if you believe it. If you don’t believe it, it doesn’t matter, but if you intuit that, and you’re like, “Now, I actually believe when I hear that this is already here.” Realization is here. Unfiltered reality is here. Here, not here 10 minutes from now, but here right now. And yet, I’m not fully experiencing it, but I can see how the mind is seeking. I’m not experiencing it because I’m seeking it, and then I’m seeking validation, and then I’m seeking money, and then I’m, whatever we seek, right? But our brains are sort of wired to do this. Now, there is good news here, and that is, well, the bad news is it does it all the time. The brain does this all day long, right? The good news is you don’t have to stop the mind from doing that to wake up, or for identity to disentangle itself from that seeking apparatus, and find itself as the next stage, or the next place that identity finds itself, which is unbound consciousness, or for some people it’s a pure I am sense. Just pure I. So you don’t have to stop thoughts to do that. You don’t even really have to calm thoughts to do that. You have to investigate very closely the nature of your relationship with thoughts, how much you believe them, how much you believe in a seeking mechanism, ’cause I think for me, if I look back, some of the precursor to this awakening, well, there was a lot of dissatisfaction that did lead to it, but maybe a precursor to that dissatisfaction was when I was a kid I could see I’d want something like for Christmas, right, and I was sure I was gonna get it, and get happy when I got that.
– [Zubin] Oh-
– [Angelo] And I’d get it, and it would be like, “Oh, cool,” but then the next year it would be a little less cool, and after a while I realized, “Wow, the more this goes on, the less satisfied I am when I actually get the thing I’ve been seeking.” And then it was obvious in my, I could tell I’m spending so much time thinking about it that when I get to the moment where it actually arrives, I don’t even know how to enjoy it. That was kind of obvious to me as a kid, but I guess I didn’t realize there was another way, because I didn’t realize identity was being solidified in thought, in that thought structure. That’s what I didn’t realize. And so, this really ends up not being about making thoughts the bad guy, making ego the bad guy, about stopping thoughts, controlling thoughts. It’s really not about any of that. It’s about, it’s a matter of identity, and that’s, again, why this is a very polarizing subject. It’s either like, “This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard. I don’t wanna hear about this. This is, you know, turn it off,” or it’s like, “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. I’m gonna find out more about this, no matter what I have to do.” And it’s polarizing, because it’s a matter of identity. When your identity starts feeling either threatened, or it starts to shift, or you’re like, “I don’t know if I can trust my identity,” well, the good news is you can trust letting your identity fall into the next experience of what identity really is. It’s okay to move through that fluctuating identity. It’s okay to let go through that. That’s the message of this process, and people who have gone through realize that, and that’s the big aha. And that’s why there’s so much peace beyond that, especially initially, because it’s like, “Oh man, I feel like I can finally trust life.” Does that make sense? I feel like I can just finally just trust being, being myself. I don’t have to second-guess myself. I don’t have to justify myself. I don’t have to validate anything. It’s fine, I don’t even need anything. I mean, there’s plenty of abundance around, of course, and that doesn’t go away. I mean, there’s life, right? There’s the textures of life, and relationships, and all of the things we enjoy, but I don’t need any of that to feel okay anymore. I’m already okay. There’s already okay-ness here. That’s the big shift, and that’s what happens when we traverse that boundary of identity, that first one.
– [Zubin] So that traversing, that crossing of the River Styx of identity to the other side, where your identity shifts to something vastly more expansive, and less, less this, and more this, that, do you think that short-circuits by its very nature the engine of seeking, the mental engine of seeking, or is it just a step in that direction?
– [Angelo] It does, it short-circuits it completely for a while. As we talked about yesterday, there’s a period after, right after an initial shift, initial awakening shift, that you feel like unfiltered reality, you feel like you are the universe kind of thing. It’s just so free, so clear, so peaceful. But as we talked about, there’s a lot of conditioning that’s sort of still wired into you, into your body-mind, that needs to be worked through, and a lot of repressed emotion, and resistance patterns, and that you, you’ll work through it. Whether you like it, or not, it’s coming. So after that first expansive experience, you start to really come in contact with a lot of this stuff. But the freeing nature of what you’ve realized of the wider identity, or the more, let’s say, flexible and infinite identity, that’s always there. And so, and that is actually what allows us to come in closer and more integrated contact with our repressed stuff, emotions, and resistance patterns, and so forth. It’s like that first shift is wonderful at first, but then it’s kind of like okay, then you find out, well, here’s why it’s here. It’s really here, so you can come in close contact with everything, bring it all into consciousness, learn to integrate all of the aspects of what it is to be you, to be human, to suffer, to all of it, you know, and through that process, then the deeper shifts can happen, and often do.
– [Zubin] Mmm-hmm. I heard Loch Kelly once say that a lot of people say, “Oh, I can’t bear that emotion,” or, “I can’t bear that trauma,” or, “I can’t bear feeling this,” or you know, I think Eckhart Tolle in his book, it was totally in his book, “Power of Now,” in the very intro chapter, which is what I read first in 2012, and that sent me along this path in the first place, he said he was in bed, and he was so unhappy, and he at some point had the thought, “I just can’t live with myself anymore.” He was suicidal. “I just can’t live with myself anymore.” And the turning, at that point, his attention from that traumatic feeling of being unable to bear human existence, his attention turned on itself and says, “Who is the I that can’t live with who again? What is this?” And that triggered the awakening right then. But Loch Kelly says, “Well, an awakened person can actually “fully bear, and has to fully bear, the human experience, “and is able to do that.”
– [Angelo] Yeah, that’s what I was basically getting at-
– [Zubin] Exactly right.
– [Angelo] As we talked about it yesterday, and it’s not the kind of thing where you feel special, or a higher self, and you’re patting yourself on the back. In a sense, at first, with the resistance there, it feels worse, because it’s like I used to feel anger as this pushed-down, repressed emotion, or partially conceptual. Now, I feel it as anger. I feel like I am anger when it comes through this body. It’s like, “Whoa,” you know? And at first, you’re like, “I don’t know if I can handle this,” and then you’re like, “Okay, well, that’s a thought. I mean, it’s here. I’m handling it, it’s okay.” And it’s like, “Whoa, this is taking my body over,” like you just let it move through the system. And of course, hopefully, you’re conscious enough, and mature enough not to act out on it, and that sort of thing, but that’s a lot of the fear is, “Oh my gosh, I’m gonna act out on it.” But once you start to feel these experiences, you realize the body-mind is sort of a vessel for it. There’s a lot of energy channels, or whatever, inside that can just accommodate this stuff. But at first, you don’t think it can accommodate it, because the repression that was kind of the norm for a lot of people, not really for everyone, but there’s degrees of it, but it was kind of the norm before awakening, that repression that was tied into the belief that I can’t handle that stuff, so I need to just, I can’t handle it to the point where I’m not even gonna acknowledge it, right? It’s not even there. But it is there, right? So now, experiencing yourself as unbound consciousness, as unbound being, undifferentiated being, you’re like, “Well, now I can’t deny the fact that I actually can handle this, and I can embody it,” but it doesn’t mean the thoughts aren’t still there going, “No, you can’t. It’s gonna destroy you,” blah, blah, blah, you know? And hopefully, you have someone there that goes, “That’s a thought, it’s okay. Let the feeling be here. Let it move through, embody it, welcome it,” you know? And then another feeling comes, and another feeling. And so, a lot of this next phase after the kind of honeymoon period is really just about embodiment and surrender, surrender to what is, what always has been. It’s always been there. We just have been kind of avoiding it. So yeah, and that doesn’t add anything new to your stuff. It just says, “Well, let’s deal with it. “It’s here, let’s integrate it.”
– [Zubin] So, yeah-
– [Angelo] And you start by integrating it begrudgingly, and you’re like, “Okay, I know it’s anger, it’s uncomfortable. I know it’s uncomfortable, and okay, that’s just a thought that it’s uncomfortable, but I still don’t like it. And okay, maybe that’s even a thought, but okay. It’s here, I can’t stop it. It’s moving through.” But over time it starts to become something like, “But what is it?” ‘Cause the thoughts are making whatever story they make, but the actual experience, and you start to go, “Well, what is it in the physical experience?” And your attention gets more and more interested in the physical experience of being alive. And then what you were so certain was the last thing you ever wanted to feel, like shame, these sorts of things, over time, this doesn’t happen overnight, but over time, it starts to be very interesting to you, and you’re like, “Oh.” You have like a tenderness for yourself, for your own emotion, for the parts of yourself that you had really not wanted to come in contact with, not because you’re a guilty party, just because we kind of learn not to come in contact with it, right? We almost teach each other how to avoid emotions sometimes, and so forth. And you realize like, “Oh, wait a minute, maybe it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it was. Where’s the badness?” And then you start to realize like, “Oh, this is actually called feeling. This is embodying my actual body, and it’s really cool,” you know? And then you start to recognize, “Oh, presence isn’t when I put attention into the thought gate, which is consciousness, and just go into unbound, blissful consciousness.” I can do that. But you’re like, “Oh, that’s not, that’s actually still a reflection,” right? This is when we’re getting into that analogy in the 10th chapter, but consciousness is actually still reflecting, even in its unbound conformation. But what is it reflecting? That’s what’s really interesting. And the only thing left is the senses, hearing, taste, smell, sensation, and the visual field, colors, shapes, forms. And so, now you start to get interested in the the senses themselves. What is that? What is the visual experience when there’s no thoughts about it, not even the thought that it’s over there, and I’m over here? That’s still a thought, and you start to really experience non-dual, non-separated, no subject-object nature, the non-dual nature of the sense world itself. And this is like another order of magnitude into the experience of presence. And it becomes more vivid, more intimate, more simple, and more just the way it is. So this is kind of another refinement that occurs along this path. So I think I’m still riffing on the question about presence, because that first shift is a huge shift, and many people actually stop there and think, “Oh, I’m just unbound consciousness,” and for the rest of their life, they experience what they experienced during their awakening, and that’s fine, but you can go beyond that, and you can experience even a more primary, real, but very paradoxical, experience of what presence actually is, and it’s in the sense world.
– [Zubin] That aspect of the unfolding to me is, you know, I think we talked previously. I touched into that experience of non-dual. In other words, the sense, the sensorium, the visual field, auditory inputs, even taste, and smell, and then bodily sensations, I’ve had the experience where they all integrate into one thing that has absolutely no distance from the experience itself. In other words, the experience is the thing. They’re not two, and it’s such a profound experience that there’s an okay-ness to it, like a fundamental, this is just how it is. It’s always been like this. This has always been okay. There’s never been a problem. In fact, even the question of problem is an absurdity, and you start thinking in paradox, and I think, I think I’d mentioned before, I texted you after I had this experience, and I was speaking in this doublespeak paradox, which may be a good thing to toss your way, this idea of paradox, and-
– [Angelo] Yeah.
– [Zubin] Why that is. Why does that happen?
– [Angelo] Everything becomes paradoxical when I talk about this. It’s very impersonal in a sense, because identity disentangles itself from all the things you thought was you. And yet, it’s also very personal, because it’s intimate. It’s so intimate. So that’s paradoxical, but those two seeming extremes are actually one. They’re intertwined, and they’re sort of dancing. As we spoke about before, one of the more triggering things you can talk about in this whole subject is non-doer-ship, or no agency. And that’s another paradox. It seems like you wanted that so bad. You wanted to be in control so bad until you saw that that whole thing was an illusion that why do you need to be in control when you experience this moment as the whole entire universe unfolding? Dogen has a quote. He calls it maximum exertion. The universe is maximally exerting itself to create this moment, and nothing else. To participate in that is so wondrous. Why would you wanna imagine that you have some mental control by making images about a future that doesn’t exist? Who cares about that? You just totally lose interest in that. And it feels so obvious, natural, and correct. There’s a gentleman who, I’m not sure if he would call himself a teacher at all about the subject, but he does talk about it publicly on occasion, and he’s a very empirical guy. His name’s Gary Weber. He has some videos online. Have you heard of him?
– [Zubin] I have not.
– [Angelo] Oh, he’s great. So he’s a research scientist, and, but he does some talks on the fMRI aspects of this sort of thing, and the default mode network, and so forth. But he went through the process himself, and over years, but very aggressive self-inquiry kind of guy, and it ended up for him exactly like that, where I think he said in one of his talks, he said that, “One of the biggest surprises for me was there was no sense of choice, but it was so natural, and it felt exactly right, and it’s very freeing.” So again, our minds can’t do anything. The thinking mind can’t really do much if it doesn’t think it has choices and agency, but somehow reality can present itself to you in such an intimate, profound, and peaceful way that you realize that didn’t matter. It wasn’t like that. You actually don’t lose anything. You lose an illusion, you just dispelled an illusion. You never had the choice in the way the mind was thinking about it. The mind was imagining futures and pasts that don’t exist to try to escape from actual reality. So then again, paradoxically, I can’t even really say there’s no choice. It’s just that this whole environment’s making the choice. So there’s choice making. There’s just no one doing it. There’s nothing, it’s just vivid, non-dual, pristine experience. And you could say it makes the choice, sure. It chooses this, it chooses that, chooses the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing, but there’s nothing that has to race into the imaginary future to try to feel like it’s in control, because you see that that’s really just an escape mechanism. I know, it’s crazy, crazy stuff.
– [Zubin] Or is it?
– [Angelo] Or is it?
– [Zubin] I mean, I think you’re pointing directly, as directly as someone can point at the actual nature of-
– [Angelo] Mmm-hmm, and the beautiful thing is there’s a million ways to go about this, probably more than that, because there’s as many ways as there is people. Everybody kind of goes about this in their own way. There are pointers, of course, that work. There’s self-inquiry. There are different teachers. You can meditate. There’s all these things you can do, right? Read books, and all. But I often tell people, “You have to find your own way in.” You have to learn to trust your deepest intuition, and follow that down, follow it wherever it goes, beyond your mind, beyond your thoughts, beyond your beliefs about yourself, beyond your attachment, or resistance to your emotion patterns, beyond all of it. Just keep following it, and you can do that, and everyone does that a little differently. But it does work for anyone who genuinely, and with full intention, and willingness goes along this path. That’s what I’ve found. I can be honestly, I can honestly tell you I’ve never seen anyone who I discerned genuinely really wanted to wake up, and really meant it, and really was willing to work at it to whatever degree was possible for them that didn’t. They do, and you know, the people who don’t kind of get, they get a certain distance, and then they start to feel it, like, “Whoa, something’s really gonna shift here, something about my identity, and I’m not okay with that. I’m happy with my life just the way it is. I’m perfectly happy with my life just the way it is,” and then they kind of back off, and I’ve seen that happen. It’s fine, it’s no big deal. They may come back to it later, or they may not. It doesn’t really matter, but anyone who’s been like, “No, this is it. I have to go through this. I don’t even know what it is, but I have to go through it.” That, if someone’s there, and they don’t actively run away from it, they wake up.
– [Zubin] Last night when we did the show for my supporter tribe, the subscribers, we were, both you and I were collectively kind of going, “Uh,” at the number of people in the comments who have had awakening. It seems like, and you probably, I never, I’ve seen them comment before. I would not have said, “Oh, this person is a spooky, weird, glowing object that,” you know, has, you know, like “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” They’re perfectly integrated into the world, they just-
– [Angelo] You’d never know it.
– [Zubin] You would never know it.
– [Angelo] Yeah, you can walk by somebody who’s gone through all of this entire process of realization who’s completely liberated, like they’ve ended their suffering in this lifetime, and lived in an experience of non-dual all the time, and you wouldn’t even know it really. You might pick it up, if you’re aware of someone that looks very present, or something, but there’s nothing special. They don’t become, you know, some kind of deity. You don’t always become a teacher. You don’t look different. You don’t start doing magic tricks. You don’t go live on a mountain. You can, but most people don’t. They actually live very normal lives, which is a little odd to the way we think about, maybe stereotypically think about spirituality, right? We think about it as something that, you know, probably happens in India, and it’s got to have a guru, and you know, or it’s in a Zen center, or a Zen monastery, and you have to meditate for decades on end-
– [Zubin] Get hit with sticks.
– [Angelo] It’s not really like that. I mean, it turns out that’s not what is required to wake up. Some people do wake up that way, of course, but that’s not what’s required. Also, we have stereotypes, and I write, I talk about this in the book, we have stereotypes about, well, what does it mean to wake up? And you could have a fear, like, “Well, if I wake up, “I’ll go join a monastery, and leave my family.” Well, that doesn’t happen either that I’ve ever seen. they stay with their family. They don’t just suddenly go, “Oh, I had an awakening, I’m gonna go completely disappear.” Could it happen? Sure, but it could also happen when you don’t have an awakening, and people do that, right? So, but these stereotypes can actually be barriers in and of themselves, right? We think these fears of like, “Oh my gosh, will I go crazy? Will I be weird, and people think I’m some spiritual weirdo, or something?” So often when I talk about this, I say, “It’s not really spiritual.” It doesn’t, you may interpret it as spiritual, but for me, when I went through the first shift, when I went through this big shift in 1997, I remember immediately after it, and for a period after it, there were certain impressions I had that were very surprising to me. And one was this isn’t spiritual. I remember thinking this isn’t, it doesn’t have that flavor of spirituality that I always kind of associated and I thought it would be like that, or something. It wasn’t like that at all. It was just totally natural-
– [Zubin] It’s much more natural-
– [Angelo] Very natural, very free, simple, enjoyable, but you’re so close. There’s no one standing back to enjoy it even. It’s just immersed. But yeah, it didn’t feel like some spiritual exalted state. It was nothing like that at all. It just felt natural really. So even the spirituality tag can turn people off, for sure, and in my book, I was really careful not to include unnecessary amounts of spirituality. Now, in certain traditions, Buddhism specifically, there’s a lot of good pointing, good doctrine, not necessarily doctrine, but good pointers of how to go about this process, and even the stages of the process. But that’s in parts of that religion. There are also many parts of it that are kind of almost divorced from that, strangely. But you can find it in secular communities. You can find, you know, self-inquiry groups, and so forth. You don’t have to have a spiritual interest, or spiritual knowledge at all to wake up. Many people wake up who don’t at all.
– [Zubin] Talk a bit, ’cause I know my audience has asked this question before about mental illness and awakening. So people with bipolar, people with OCD, people with these other mental health conditions, are they able to awaken? Should they undertake the process? What support do they need? What’s the relationship between their thought disorder and reality-
– [Angelo] Yeah.
– [Zubin] Yeah.
– [Angelo] So the first thing I like to say about this if I’m talking to a wide audience is kind of what I already said, and that is the first thing to know, the first barrier to get over, is that this is possible. It is possible, and it’s possible for you, right? The next thing I like to say though is basically what I wrote in chapter one. It was the second chapter. The first chapter is an introduction, and it’s called “A Word of Caution,” and the whole chapter is cautions. It’s a short chapter, but, and the cautions are just so that you have informed consent. To go through a process like this is not all, you know, butterflies, and-
– [Zubin] Patchouli.
– [Angelo] Jumping bunnies, and it’s, yeah. There are parts of it that are amazing, expansive, mind-blowing, and then there are the parts of it that are, can be scary, can be difficult, challenging emotionally, that will surprise you, that will put you in situations, internal situations, that you’re like, “I don’t really have a reference point for this. I don’t understand this.” And that’s normal for this process. Now, what’s interesting is that doesn’t mean you’re gonna go crazy. That’s often a fear people have, like, “Am I gonna go crazy if my identity starts shifting?” It turns out you don’t, right? I’ve never seen anybody who didn’t have a mental illness suddenly develop a mental illness with awakening. In fact, I’ve seen people with mental illnesses improve significantly, although I would never tell, I would never tell anybody to do this for that reason, ever.
– [Zubin] Right.
– [Angelo] I also put in this chapter on cautions that if somebody has a history of a lot of multiple suicide attempts, or things like that, if they feel like they’re in any danger of hurting themselves, or others, don’t do this right now, for sure. If you were to undertake something like this, do it with a trusted friend, teacher, or someone who’s gone through it before in close contact. So it is possible, but I wouldn’t just recommend doing it on your own. I mean, I can’t tell you not to, but you should know that there’s risk if you already have that kind of instability, of course, that this could make things one more degree unstable for you, and that may not be a good idea. If somebody has ongoing psychosis as well, I just haven’t had experience with that, with working with somebody like that. I have worked with one person with schizophrenia, but it was a sort of mild case of it, and he seemed to do okay. And I’ve worked with a handful of people who have bipolar disorder who were on mood stabilizers, and they actually did really well. They, all three of the ones I’m thinking of went through awakening, and they did well, but I told them from the beginning, and even especially right at the moment of awakening, and through the honeymoon period, I said, “Stay on your meds. I don’t recommend changing anything now. You know, just chill,” you know? Just let this process unfold, enjoy the presence, and don’t try to use it for, you know, doing something. Later on down the road if things really stabilize and clarify and you feel like you may be able to wean off your meds and stuff, talk to your psychiatrist, psychologist, and work through it that way. But yeah, I’m very careful to tell people don’t use this to try to treat a mental illness. That’s not what it’s for. It may improve some things, but that’s gonna be a secondary effect. And don’t try to take yourself off your meds randomly because you’re having a flow state, or something. Just don’t do that. So those are my cautions around mental illness. Depression and anxiety are obviously extremely common and ubiquitous in the world, but especially here in the United States.
– [Zubin] Yeah.
– [Angelo] And I would say 95% of people I’ve worked with who go through this process have some form of one, or both of those anyway, okay? I wouldn’t say that every time someone has anxiety, or depression that means they want to wake up. But I will say that the vast majority of anxiety and depression have to do with these uncomfortable ego structures we’ve been talking about. But it doesn’t mean that person’s ready to investigate the reaches of their identity to solve that problem, right? So again, if you have depression, or anxiety, I’m not suggesting you undertake this process to fix those. But if you do, and you don’t have any kind of instability I’ve already talked about, like suicidal ideation, things like that, it’s generally safe, because, again, almost everyone probably has some sort of anxiety.
– [Zubin] Oh, yeah.
– [Angelo] Really, so, and many people have had anxiety and depression, and go through this, and improve significantly. At some point, often people will say their anxiety goes completely away, and for me it did for sure.
– [Zubin] Yeah, you don’t strike me as anxious in the slightest. It’s really quite remarkable. Like I feel like a bomb could go off in the next room, and you’d be like, “Look at that a bomb. Why don’t we go over here?” It’s really quite interesting.
– [Angelo] Yeah, I don’t know about that, but-
– [Zubin] So you’ve, we’ve hung out for a couple days now, and we’ve been texting before that, and I’ve read your book like three times, and I’m more interested in this than I’ve been in almost anything for a very long time. What do you think, and this is a loaded question, and it’s very, very personal, what do you think I should be doing and really focusing on if I’m gonna continue down the path knowing what you know so far about what you’ve seen with me?
– [Angelo] Well, the most recent thing that came up was what I said to you earlier today. And so, all of the subjects we’ve been talking about. The different aspects of this, and the chapters in the book, and so forth could lead one to believe that I have some structured idea about how this works, and what you have to go through, and all that. But in the moment, as we’re talking, that’s not usually how it is. For me, I just kind of interact with a person one-on-one, and I just feel into what’s going on, and then sometimes I’ll feel a certain fixation. I can feel how they’re fixating, and then I’ll sort of help them untie it, or really, I just say, “Hey, have you noticed this? Or “have you inquired this way? Have you looked into this?” Because those fixations are kind of the structure of identity. They’re the structure of the ego, and they’re keeping the ego oriented a certain way that makes us continue to feel like, “Oh, this is who I am, “this is how life is, this is what’s predictable, “this is what I know is going on,” and when you start to loosen that up a little bit, then reality just shows itself to you, and that’s the beauty of it. So what I said to you this morning, or maybe, I think I said it last night, and then I reiterated it this morning, was it’s a reasonably common thing that people do, especially analytical people, but it’s like you’ll have experiences of non-dual even, or presence, or whatever it is. You’ll go through these experiences, and then re-interpret them and tell yourself, “But I had that experience, and you know, this is what caused it, and this is what it was like, and this is how I relate it to the other things you’re saying.” But the interesting thing is that experience is far more real than the one who thinks it’s categorizing, and cataloging that experience. So I see people do that all the time, and depending on how direct they want me to be, and sometimes I ask them, “How direct do you want me to be?” Because if I push hard on that, it can be, it can really freak them out. But depending on how direct I am with that person, and with you, I’m pretty direct, I’ll just say, “Hey, have you noticed that that apparatus itself, it’s observing these, quote, unquote, ‘experiences,’ and calling them experiences that are happening to it? Have you noticed that in a way, one way or another?” I’ll point out that that is actually happening inside of the presence that you’re calling an experience. So the way I did it with you is I just said, ’cause you kept saying, “Well, I’m not really awake, or anything, but this happened to me, but I haven’t really had an awakening, but this happened to me.” And so, what I feel, because as I’ve told you before, I don’t see you as un-awake. I can’t see people as awake, or not awake. That’s how the realization is. It’s it’s like there’s no boundaries. So I can’t see you as an awake person, an un-awake person. I just see what’s right in front of my face, and then if that thing that’s right in front of my face says, “Oh, but I’m un-awake,” and I, that feels weird to me, because I’m like, “Well, how can you know that?” I can’t know if you’re awake, or un-awake. Why can you know that, right? So what I suggested to you was, because you keep saying, “I’m not awake yet,” like you’re monitoring the process, right, not you, but something seems to be monitoring that process, and it’s quite believable. So why don’t you look into it? So why don’t you ask yourself, “Is it possible?” I didn’t want you to get too analytical, so I didn’t say something really structured. I just said, “Consider the possibility that you actually have no ability to know whether you’re awake, or not.” How would you know? Where are you gonna look for that answer? You’re gonna look in the awake-ness? Are you gonna look in the one that thinks it knows about awake-ness, but could never know about awake-ness? So consider the possibility you don’t actually know that. What information are you drawing on when you say, “I’m not awake?” ‘Cause that’s not, that doesn’t make sense to me energetically.
– [Zubin] It’s such a powerful, specific pointer that even now my mind just stops.
– [Angelo] Right, that’s the key.
– [Zubin] Okay, and it’s absolutely, it was absolutely perfect for exactly that confirmation that I was feeling. It was really, and this was, how did, how do you do that in other words-
– [Angelo] I just feel it.
– [Zubin] You feel it?
– [Angelo] Mmm-hmm.
– [Zubin] You can feel it?
– [Angelo] One way of saying it is that unfiltered reality by nature doesn’t fixate on anything. It doesn’t fixate. It doesn’t fixate on, this talk’s gonna get strange, right? So it doesn’t fixate on solidity, or non-solidity. It doesn’t fixate on past, present, future. It doesn’t fixate on here, or there. It’s infinitely flexible, you could say, right? There’s no way to talk about what I’m talking about, but I’m gonna do my best. It doesn’t fixate on subject, or object. There’s no subject here, and object there. So it has this infinite ability to move, morph, change, shift, dissolve, be two things at once, be everywhere at once, be nowhere at once. And that’s how reality feels. That’s how it moves. That’s how unfiltered reality is from the experience of it itself. I’m not selling that to anybody. Don’t believe what I say. Investigate yourself and find that. But from that place, from that experience, which it’s not a place and it’s not an experience, because it’s not anywhere specific. It’s not in space, it’s not in time, and there’s no one experiencing it from that place from that. Anything that feels like a fixation, I wouldn’t say it feels unnatural, because it’s actually very interesting. Oh, what is that? So my interest goes to that. Oh, what’s that? Fixation and non-fixation, because even non-fixation can even accommodate fixation. Isn’t that interesting? Indeterminacy can even accommodate seemingly, or seeming, determinacy, just like the indeterminacy of the quantum field, the indeterminacy of the quantum level of existence can accommodate the gross level, where everything feels quite determinate, and those are not incompatible. This is something like that. So then the interest goes right to that apparent point of fixation, and goes, “Huh, what’s this?” And then I’m curious about it. So you and I investigate it together, and then by un-fixating it, or investigating it, it can loosen up. Then reality recognizes itself a little bit more un-fixated, and you taste that as whatever you taste it as. You might taste it as unbound consciousness. You might even taste it as a non-dual experience. But the more that unties, the more those untying occur, the more chance reality has of just becoming the primary experience. It is the primary experience, but that which feels like it’s having that experience has a chance to stop, or subside.
– [Zubin] Relax.
– [Angelo] Relax.
– [Zubin] That’s what it felt like, yeah. I mean, I can only say that in retrospect.
– [Angelo] Yeah, and what I’m talking about is actually really simple. It’s like stupid simple. When you said, “How do you do that?” Well, I do that because I don’t have to think about all this stages of stuff, and awakening, and all the Dharma stuff. I don’t, I can’t think about that stuff. When I’m talking like this, it’s very intuitive.
– [Zubin] Yeah.
– [Angelo] It’s just what’s happening is what’s happening. It’s very simple. And the interaction occurs. Like I said, I would never say that to somebody if they don’t tell me, “I wanna wake up. I’m working on this process.”
– [Zubin] Like a guy in McDonald’s, you wouldn’t just go up, and be like, “Listen to the nature”-
– [Angelo] Like look right in his eyes, no, I wouldn’t do that.
– [Zubin] Yeah, of course, you might be surprised.
– [Angelo] I’ve accidentally done it a couple of times to people, and it really can really freak them out. Yeah.
– [Zubin] Ah.
– [Angelo] Really destabilizes them.
– [Zubin] I can understand that.
– [Angelo] You find yourself in some kind of presence that you don’t know is presence, everything’s quiet. It’s like, “Whoa, there’s nothing here. What’s going on,” right?
– [Zubin] Without a container for that, or a, I don’t even know if that’s the right term-
– [Angelo] Context?
– [Zubin] Context for it. I had a friend who did a Vipassana retreat, you know, a 10-day retreat, young, when he was 30. He’s a doctor, and he described it to me, and said, “Oh, the first day, you’re all uncomfortable, “and you’re focusing on the breath, and you hate it, “and your back hurts, second day, your knee’s hurting, “and you’re miserable, and then third day, “you’re just pure, that the knee pain’s gone, “and now you’re in a flow state. “Then I’m scanning my body fourth day and this is happening, “and then I’m pure energy the fifth day. “By the sixth day, I’m looking in the face “of other people there, and they are me. “There is no difference, and I’m everything, “and I was blown wide open. “And then, at the end of the thing, I went home, “and I didn’t even know who I was, “and I had no container for it, “and I didn’t know what to do, and it closed back in, “and 20 years later, I’m back on the path going, “‘I need to find that'”-
– [Angelo] That’s awesome.
– [Zubin] Yeah, isn’t that interesting?
– [Angelo] But those Vipassana retreats specifically, they’re called like Goenka-
– [Zubin] Goenka retreats, that’s what he did, yeah.
– [Angelo] 10-day retreats, those are notorious for being destabilizing, because they don’t have a lot of good support for you there. They have videos that you watch, I think-
– [Zubin] Of Goenka talking.
– [Angelo] Of him talking-
– [Zubin] Yeah.
– [Angelo] But to do 10 days of unstructured, not necessarily unstructured, but meditation by yourself in that kind of environment without a teacher to kind of reflect back on if things get really weird-
– [Zubin] Yeah.
– [Angelo] Could be not advisable. I’ve heard of other people having really, really freaky experiences with that. If you’ve already done a bunch of retreat, meditated for years, you’ve gone through some of this, it might be a different story. But that specifically, that’s very aggressive, like 10 days straight of meditation. You do a couple of hours of meditation, it’s peaceful. You do a couple of days of meditation, it’s like, you know, deeper, and you might have some emotion stuff come, but you get to like four, five, six days, things get really weird. And without somebody there to kind of guide what to do when things get weird, it’s the talk I have at the beginning of my retreats, like, “Here’s what to do if, when things get weird.” And I’ve had people get, things get very weird for them. I mean, I can ground them pretty quickly if I talk to them. But I mean, if you’re on your own in this group of people, and there’s no actual teacher there at all, or leader, or anyone who’s been through this, and knows how to get you back to a place where you feel okay, could be inadvisable.
– [Zubin] Inadvisable, right, right. It’s like dropping acid on the subway. Not a good idea.
– [Angelo] Or someone giving you acid on the subway-
– [Zubin] Oh, even worse, ’cause then-
– [Angelo] You don’t know what you’re in for.
– [Zubin] Know you’re on a drug, right?
– [Angelo] Yeah.
– [Zubin] Right. So speaking of which, where do psychedelics play a role in this? Did they ever play a role in your unfolding, or do you advise them as a tool? Are they full of problems? How do you think about that? And you don’t have to answer-
– [Angelo] You know, I would say that it’s hard for me to recommend a drug to anybody, an illicit drug. I mean, I can’t legally really do that even, but people do it. And some people do it for that reason. They’re looking for an opening. They’re looking for an awakening. They’re looking for ego death, or something. I would say, if you listen to this message, and you’re like, “That’s what I really want, “I really wanna get to the bottom of the problem of birth and death,” to put it in a Zen way, or, you know, “What is suffering about? “How do I end it? “Is there an end to suffering? “Can I get to a deeper experience of reality, “a more intimate moment to moment flow “experience of reality?” If those kinds of questions are interesting to you, if that’s really what you want to orient yourself to, there’s no reason take psychedelics. There’s plenty of good pointing out there. That’s what I would say, I mean, simply. If you’re just like, “I really wanna try some ayahuasca,” go do it, it’s fine. I mean, whatever, do your thing, but I don’t think you need it for this.
– [Zubin] I feel you.
– [Angelo] And I have met people who’ve done a ton of psychedelics that I think it does give them experiences and may give some shifts, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a true, thoroughgoing awakening even from someone doing a bunch of like entheogens, or anything like that. I have met people who’ve done a lot of them.
– [Zubin] Right, right.
– [Angelo] Yeah, and some people have just dabbled.
– [Zubin] Right, right, and there are downsides to this. That’s the thing.
– [Angelo] They do have side effects, of course, and the more you do, the more side effects, so-
– [Zubin] Yeah, yeah, man. This was, I think we should take a break on this one-
– [Angelo] Okay.
– [Zubin] ‘Cause it’s a lot. It’s really, Angelo, there’s, and I say this at the end of each of our little talks, it’s like this, you’re, again, when the student, when the student’s ready, the teacher appears. I still don’t feel ready, but I’ll tell you the teacher, and again, you’re gonna, the whole idea of teacher, but it’s been just fantastic, and I think people are gonna get a lot out of this, but a lot of the book too, ’cause the book is a structured version of what we’re doing here that’s really-
– [Angelo] It’s pretty potent. I mean, I really worked hard to make sure it’s pointing and transmitting as well as giving you practical steps you can take, so-
– [Zubin] And that’s what it does, that’s what it does. I mean, you transmitted to me in the introduction, like when you talked about experiencing that Buddhist studies class, and you were just like, “I don’t know what this is,” and the guy starts talking, and then you describe in detail what happened. And I was like, “Oh.”
– [Angelo] That was the moment I realized what I had said earlier in this show, that the first barrier is just knowing it’s possible.
– [Zubin] Knowing it’s possible.
– [Angelo] That was the moment I knew it was possible. And I didn’t know, I didn’t know what was possible. I just knew something outside of this was possible, but not outside escaping from life, something more real. I just, I could taste it. I was like, “Oh.” I literally said to him, I go, “Is that real what you’re talking about?” And he stopped, and he looked at me, and he said, “There’s no doubt.” And then he locked eyes for just a second, and then he went on lecturing, and I was like, “Oh, damn,” like it clicked. I was like, “Shit, I heard about enlightenment before. “I’ve heard all this talk about Buddhism.” It was a Buddhism class basically. I’d heard about enlightenment, I’d heard these things, but I never really, I always thought they were conceptual, or some kind of mental thing, or a way to-
– [Zubin] Training the mind.
– [Angelo] Training the mind, all that stuff, which was fine. I was kind of interested in it, but this was a whole different thing, and he’s like, “No, no, no.” He’s pointing, his finger reached forward, and pointed right inside me in a way, and right then I was like, “Oh, this is possible? “Shit, okay, cool.”
– [Zubin] I think that’s what you’ve probably done here for a lot of people, so .
– [Angelo] I’m surprised how many people responded, how many that responded last night who have actually gone through this process, or various aspects of it. It’s awesome.
– [Zubin] It’s really great, man, and it’s encouraging, ’cause these are healthcare professionals like us. It’s kind of like hey, man, if a healthcare person can wake up, anybody can, ’cause we’re about as repressed, locked down, and mind-identified as humans get. Yeah, the scientific mind is kind of like that a little bit-
– [Zubin] It is like that.
– [Angelo] It’s like your safety mechanism is your intellect in a way. That keeps you safe there, you know?
– [Zubin] It really is. That’s why your particular pointer to me, when, you know, I don’t know if I told you this, but maybe I did. When you gave it to me last night as we were leaving the studio after a day of talking about this stuff, it was almost like a retreat. We were, it was intense, for me, because I’m not used to it talking about something I’m so passionate about for so long with such intensity. You’d given me that pointer, and I was just like, it was, it felt correct, and also I couldn’t understand it. And yet, it was a little, I was like, “I don’t, I don’t, what?” Like the mind couldn’t crunch it, and I went home and I was like, and my wife was like, “So how was all that?” And I was like, “I don’t know, I just don’t know. “I’m so confused.” And then this morning I was like, “I still don’t know.” I drive in here, I’m fussing with the equipment, I’m getting everything set for our day of interviews. And I’m like, “Okay, all right, yeah,” and then you come in, we spend some time connecting. I ask you again, I said, “What was the pointer you gave me last night?” And you said, “It’s something like this,” and then experientially it just, it transmitted directly. And I think the priming happened the night before, and it’s just . And also that gets to the point of the scientific intellect is the fixation that you were pointing past. Imagine the possibility that you can’t know whether you’re awake, or not. What do you mean I can’t know? Hold on, there’s this knower right here. He’s a little scientist with a beaker, you know, like on “The Muppet Show,” , you know, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and then the minute you disempower him with this paradox, you’re in pure presence.
– [Angelo] Yeah, in a sense, you could say when there is just presence, the ability for you to be the knower of that presence is kind of absurd. It’s kind of like can the image in the mirror, when you’re looking in the mirror, can that image in the mirror suddenly become aware of you? Of course not, just like the mind, the thinking mind isn’t aware of the presence that it’s a reflection of. Does that make sense?
– [Zubin] Yeah, it really does.
– [Angelo] And that’s what I was basically pointing at.
– [Zubin] It really does-
– [Angelo] Because the ego’s very convinced it’s right. It’s like, “Oh no, I had that experience, “and I created it, and I’m gonna recreate it.”
– [Zubin] Yeah, yeah, I am the cause and the condition, yeah.
– [Angelo] But even more, it can’t actually know about it. That image in the mirror can’t know what you are, ’cause it’s an image of you.
– [Zubin] Yeah, yeah.
– [Angelo] It’s a reflection, right?
– [Zubin] You know what it makes me think of is this “Napoleon Dynamite” line, where they’re sitting watching Uncle Rico’s tapes of him throwing a football, and he’s like, “Check it out, guys, look at this! “I could’ve gone to state!” And Napoleon goes, “This is like the stupidest video ever made.” And Kip goes, “Napoleon, how can you even know that?” All right, guys, on that note, Dr. Angelo Dilullo, author of “Awake: It’s Your Turn.” I’ll put a link in the thing. I’m so happy to have you here, and we are out, peace. Did you think that was dope? Hey, become a subscriber. Click the Subscribe button, then right to the right of it is a little bell. Hit that bell, booyah! You get notifications, never miss any of our stuff. I love you guys, we out.
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