Awakening Rodney Stevens
The awakening of Rodney Stevens
NonDualityMagazine: And I believe it was Sailor Bob's writing that led you to John Wheeler and your awakening. Can you tell me about how this occurred?
Rodney: I first checked John out on his beautiful web site. And there was something that immediately "clicked" with his writing, his details, and his clarity. We use the word "resonating" a lot in nonduality. But that was unequivocally the case with me and John's words and perspective. I immediately ordered his first book, Awakening to the Natural State. From the very moment it arrived, everything about the book felt "right" to me: The title, the prose style, the presentation, and the pointing. That is why, even after re-reading it over a dozen times, I wasn't in the least bothered by any subsequent re-readings. I intuitively knew that I was closer to some genuine understanding of who and what I was than I had ever been in my life. I couldn't articulate that feeling, but in my heart, I knew it to be the case.
NDM: And it happened.
Rodney: One late-spring evening in 2007, I came across a sentence that I had read many times before in the book: "It is all about seeing what is fully present right now." The beauty and clarity of that statement truly struck me this time. It was saying, in essence, that I was already seeing what I believed to be not there. My thoughts were saying one thing, while John's statement was pointing to something else. Then, suddenly, there was this timeless pause--then utter peace and spaciousness....But do not misunderstand: This is not one event happening after the other. The pause is the spaciousness. There is no division between the two. One is simply the other, and the pause is always present...But that was it: The move from a story-focused life to a life-being-lived. But really, there is no true movement there. There is only the seeing and understanding that you were being lived all along.
NDM: Did you ever experienced nivikalpa samadhi at any time prior to this shift before reading John Wheeler's book?
Rodney: I did, but it was so brief--minutes maybe. I've pretty much forgot what all occurred. But it was just an experience. That's all! It came, it went. Period. Also, such experiences are not obligatory precursors of or prerequisites to what is commonly called "enlightenment." And I assure you--however spectacular the occurrence might have been--it in no way compares to this pristine and living knowingness. There is simply no comparison.
NDM: Are you awake?
Rodney: Ultimately, no. For there is no one to awaken. But relatively speaking, yes. But we shouldn't get overly-concerned with labels. We have to communicate, we have to say something. So I try to choose the clearest terms possible. But even the Buddha forthrightly replied, when he was asked, "I am awake," fully knowing that there just the Buddha-field itself, i.e., bare, unadorned spaciousness.
NDM: How would you know if someone were actually enlightened?
Rodney: It's pretty easy. No one can talk or write about this for very long without revealing the depth of his or her understanding. After a few minutes of conversation or several paragraphs of text, you generally have a clear picture of whether the person is the real-deal or not. But contrary to the myth, you can't just look at someone and automatically tell if this has occurred.
NDM: Why did you feel it was important to speak with John Wheeler about this shift when it occurred? Were you looking for some kind of validation, approval, or confirmation to double check this in some way? Or simple clarity?
Rodney: Good question. By the second day, I knew that this was it. The peace and spaciousness was absolutely unchanged. So I really didn't feel any great urgency to write to John after coming to this understanding. I just continued out the week, gaining some experience with this, and fully seeing that there was no individual person here living a life; rather, there just this body/mind being lived. So by the time I wrote John, it was more of celebration of the recognition that had occurred, than a confirmation of it. That was certainly no needed validation or approval-seeking on my part. Indeed, that would have clearly indicated that this understanding had not taken place! Still, I went over everything that happened, of course. And John did confirm it, in his typical, low-key manner: "Yes, that all sounds good."
NDM; How would you say that your character or your temperament has changed since this awareness shift?
RODNEY: There has been practically no change. I wish I didn't have my occasional temper and impatience, but they are still there. And I still can't go any where without a couple of books and the New York Times, in tow. But all this occurs from a background of peace and plentitude. I have noticed, however, a heightened sense of compassion, as well as the capacity to love a single person far more deeply than I ever have before, e.g., now there is just this out-flowing of energy, attention, and homage to that person, knowing that the beauty that is speaking to me is presence itself.
NDM; Do you experience bliss at all?
RODNEY: No, thank God. Bliss is an experience, and a brief one, at that. The peace and spaciousness that is ever-present here is quite natural and ordinary, on one hand, and thoroughly magnificent, on the other. Most nondual writers and teachers tend to downplay their descriptions of the natural state. They do this, in part, because they don't want seekers turning awareness into an object or an experience. And I'm certainly sympathetic to that. But I opt to speak about its profoundness, as well--preferring to err a bit on the side of poetry, than reticence. But that's just me. It is neither here nor there, and ultimately means nothing at all.
Original interview here