Enlightenment Intensive is a course that lasts for two or more days and offers us a unique opportunity to consciously achieve self-comprehension, enlightenment, mystical experience, or – as we nowadays define it – a direct experience of self, life, another, and God.
The experiences that participants of the Intensive have are identical to the descriptions of mystical experiences presented by the people who achieved them after many years of practice using different spiritual techniques. Enlightenment reached on Intensive is similar to the one spoken by Jesus, Buddha, St. John of the Cross, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, or Baba Ji. So today, spiritual experience is not some distant, esoteric knowledge veiled in mystery that can be achieved only by a few chosen or lucky ones or by ascetics in mountain caves and monasteries. Religion or nationality, special merits, or foreknowledge do not condition it. The only condition is that people want such an experience and do not have a mental illness or some heavier physical problems.
Although enlightenment surpasses all possible definitions, there still exists a consensus on its character – it is neither insight nor conclusion, belief or perception, intuition or anything else served by either mind or body. In the state of direct experience, there is only Oneness. The difference between the one who is experiencing the process of experiencing and what is being experienced is gone. Enlightenment is timeless, unspeakable, and yet the most prominent and natural thing.
Many people think they have had spiritual experiences using other means, usually prayer, energy work, or meditation. However, if their experience was legitimate, there had to exist a moment of complete oneness with the object of their contemplation, whatever it was – God, almighty spirit, spiritual teacher, or some religious symbol. All other experiences are indirect and, therefore, not truly spiritual. They could be very subtle and abstract states of awareness, but that doesn’t mean they are direct experiences. Higher states of consciousness, like fascinating inner visions, psychic powers, or strong emotions, can sometimes be mistaken for enlightenment. Still, in such cases, it is only about unusual or altered states of mind. Authentic mystical experience is the state in which there is no process – there is just oneness between the subject and the object of meditation.
Direct experience of Truth is also the only inner state that brings us complete fulfillment. It answers eternal questions about self, life, others, and God. With enlightenment, our consciousness strongly evolves because we fulfill one of the initial goals of human existence: self-knowledge. It is crucial to know ourselves and break the illusion, chaos, and alienation produced by our Egos. Enlightenment is also a necessary precondition for natural spiritual life because it forms the basis of every religion. When Jesus says – “My Father and I are One,” he is presenting his state of Oneness with the Absolute.
The Intensive was created by American scientist Charles Berner (1922 – 2007), who began his career as a physicist, but later started working on spiritual science. His top achievement is this technique. Berner brought together Zen meditations on koans or enigmatic questions with communication techniques of contemporary Western psychotherapy and ended up with a fruitful combination – a method of great simplicity and efficiency.
Soon after it came into existence, Intensive became known as a highly demanding course. It still requires much effort, concentration, discipline, and persistence, but the method has evolved since the summer of 1968 when Berner first performed it. The new form of Enlightenment Intensive is not much different from the old one; it only uses an advanced version of the enlightenment technique and lasts a little longer. So, the experience that took months and years of hard work in the past today can be reached in only two or three days, in an intense but relaxed working atmosphere, with continuous meditation and application of the efficient methodology.
THE STRUCTURE OF INTENSIVE
Enlightenment Intensive consists of the so-called “communication exercises” where participants sit in dyads (pairs), facing each other and alternately practicing the Intensive technique. Every communication lasts approximately forty minutes, separated into 5-minute periods. Each of the two participants is four times active partner (does the method) and four times passive partner (gives attention and energetically supports the active partner). For every new communication exercise, participants choose new partners. In lunch breaks or while resting, the participants continue to practice the technique, but this time on their own and in a slightly different form. The reason for continuous meditation is that once we establish the right preconditions, it is possible to have direct experience at any moment.
The name “Intensive” stands for its condensed working hours, complete retreat from everyday life, and specific rules of behavior whose purpose is to conserve energy and focus attention towards the only worthwhile goal of the seminar – the direct experience of Truth. Here is the daily schedule of activities for a short Intensive.
The schedule of a two-day Intensive
18.00 – 19.00 – an introductory lecture
19.00 – 19.45 – communication
19.45 – 20.30 – dinner
20.30 – 21.15 – communication
21.15 – 22.00 – communication
22.00 – sleep
6.15 – 7.00 – getting up
7.00 – 7.15 – lecture
7.15 – 8.00 – communication
8.00 – 8.45 – breakfast
8.45 – 9.30 – communication
9.30 – 10.15 – communication
10.15 – 11.30 – physical exercise
11.30 – 12.15 – communication
12.15 – 13.00 – communication
13.00 – 14.45 – lunch/rest
14.45 – 15.30 – communication
15.30 – 16.00- lecture
16.00 – 16.30 – individual meditation
16.30 – 17.15 – communication
17.15 – 18.00 – communication
18.00 – 20.00 – rebirthing session
20.00 – 20.45 – dinner
20.45 – 21.30 – communication
21.30 – 22.15 – communication
22.15 – sleep
6.30 – 7.00 – getting up
7.00 – 7.45 – communication
7.45 – 8.15 – breakfast
8.15 – 9.00 – communication
9.00 – 9.45 – communication
9.45 – 11.00 – physical exercise
11.00 – 11.45 – communication
11.45 – 12.30 – communication
12.30 – 13.15 – communication
13.15 – 14.00 – lunch
14.00 – 14.45 – communication
14.45 – 15.15 – lecture
15.15 – 15.45 – individual meditation
15.45 – 16.30 – communication
16.30 – closing speech and celebration
This kind of schedule shows that the Intensive regime resembles life in a monastery. Participants are not supposed to talk to each other during the breaks between communication exercises and don’t deal with their everyday activities. They focus their attention and energy exclusively on the technique. The master and assistants help them in every way. With constant support and help that enables participants to practice the technique correctly, the master and the assistants take care of all the logistics, such as food and lodgings. The diet is vegetarian, and the assistants have a particular instruction to prepare it with love and fill it with positive energy. Meals made in such a spirit are very different from the usual ones and contribute to the atmosphere of unconditional love and support. Such conditions allow the participants to relax, open up emotionally and mentally, and achieve the most profound possible direct experience.
THE TECHNIQUE OF ENLIGHTENMENT INTENSIVE
It is possible to reach enlightenment in just two or three days. Together with a particular regime, the main contributor is the Intensive technique, which is the simplest and most efficient way to experience spiritual reality. When trying to create a method that would enable the participants of his other courses to develop quickly because they would know who they are, Charles Berner came to an intelligent conclusion – if someone wants to become enlightened, one should focus on experiencing the spiritual reality directly. Berner compared such work with merchants whose goal is to earn money. If a merchant wants to make a lot of money, the best way is to trade with money. That is why the best way to perceive spiritual reality is to remove all the intermediaries and experience it directly. The next important thing was to find an acceptable method he could use to realize this goal. Combining meditation on an object with verbal communication about the mental content while meditating, Berner has discovered the shortest and the most direct technical means for achieving a mystical experience. That’s why the technique used in Enlightenment Intensive is still the clearest and the most natural method that leads to direct experience in a relatively short time. There were also some improvements done to Berner’s model by Ž. M. Slavinski, a highly successful Intensive master from Belgrade, made the enlightenment technique even more powerful, and I brought the energy work into it.
So, with the precise model that allows us to express the essence of spiritual experience (see my article Criteria of physical, mental, and spiritual health), today, we also have an exact methodology that we can use to achieve enlightenment. We cannot reach such a state through mental or intellectual activity and, therefore, can’t comprehend something that surpasses the mind as a dimension with an effort of our mind. Using the power of the mind, we can only prepare the terrain for such an experience, and the preparation is done in the following way.
Because the essence of the enlightenment technique is in meditation focused on a particular object, we first have to choose an object. This kind of practice originates in different traditional systems of spiritual development, such as some schools of Zen Buddhism where the monks direct their meditation onto “koans” or enigmatic questions. There are also some similarities between the Intensive technique and the system of spiritual exercises by St. Ignatius Loyola, where objects of meditation are the scenes from Jesus’ life. The spiritual approach of Indian saint Sri Ramana Maharishi, whose underlying question for meditation was “Who am I?” also precedes the Intensive technique. So, an object can be anything – the content of our mind or some material thing. For instance, material objects could be other people, plants, the planet Earth, or the universe. Abstract objects could be energy centers, spiritual beings like Jesus, Buddha, or God, whatever the image we use. But the most common objects are the basic philosophical questions everybody has to resolve – “Who am I ?”, “What am I?”, “What is life?”, “What is another human being?” or “What is God?”. Then we must identify with the chosen object, enter a state of visual oneness, and feel it completely. Therefore the first phase of Intensive meditation is the emotional identification with an object.
The second phase involves the intention to experience an object directly, without any process. Not much can be said about this phase because there is no way of wording how to have the intention to experience the object directly. The only thing we can say about intention is that it is different from a wish because the purpose is an active state, and the wish is passive. We can long for something all our lives and never achieve it. The intention, on the other hand, is not a desire; intention actively moves our energy towards the outcome, and the inner state that has to accompany this is a sense of a goal already achieved. To have an intention means to do something without stalling, to enter a state of mind where the task is already done. In the same way, an agile and capable employee will say to her boss: “No problem, consider it done.” This shows what it means to have the intention to experience an object directly.
After the emotional identification and intention, we should enter a state of openness for a direct experience. If it happens, great. If not, then we should be aware of the contents of our mind that result from the intention to experience our object directly. What follows is the phase of detailed communication about all inner states that appear as a consequence of the two previous steps. This means we must communicate the contents of our minds to our partners.
After we do all four phases of the Intensive technique, we repeat the whole process over and over, as long as we are the active partner and until direct experience happens. We have to identify again with the object, have the intention to experience it directly, be in a state of openness, and communicate the contents of our mind to our passive partner. If we perform this technique on our own, in the so-called “solo meditation,” we have to recognize what appears in our mind as the consequence of intention and then continue with the first and second phases without communication. Suppose we apply the technique on our own, outside the Intensive retreat. In that case, we cannot communicate, but this will not prevent the direct experience from happening – it can only make the meditation period longer.
If we prepare the terrain for direct experience in this way, the chances are high that it will happen relatively quickly. However, since this technique is only a means of preparation, there are no guarantees that a mystical experience will occur. We cannot provoke it, so it either happens or not, according to the will of the Spirit itself. What might be of help here is having a noble cause for such an experience. A state of unselfish love towards another human being can be such a cause. Then, with the mercy of God, we may enter the state of oneness with our object. When direct experience happens, when it is recognized and accepted, we have to work on its grounding and presentation in our everyday lives.
So, the essence of Intensive meditation is in the emotional identification with an object, in the intention to experience the object directly, in the state of inner openness, and in honest verbal and non-verbal communication on the mental content that comes out as a consequence of meditation. For example, if somebody wants to discover who or what Jesus is and his state of mind, it is not enough to read about Jesus, think about him, or pray. It is better to have a personal, immediate, or direct experience of Jesus. Direct experience is, as I have already mentioned, a precondition for actual knowledge. Therefore to experience Jesus directly, we must visualize him in our mind. Then we must identify with him and enter a state of visual oneness with our vision of Jesus. After that, we have to open up and feel Jesus completely. In that state, we must intend to experience Jesus directly, without any process. If our intention is pure and strong, and our mind is clear from prejudice and open for a new experience, we will, in one timeless moment, not even know how to experience Jesus directly. What that experience would look like depends on the person having it. This is why a direct experience cannot be discussed – it simply has to be experienced.