Awakening Tom Thompson
The Awakening of Tom Thompson
During the ’70s and ’80s, I had many powerful Kundalini experiences, kenshos, satoris, what have you, and some of them were without a doubt “enlightenment experiences.” But it was a “separate me” having these experiences in time/space.
And then sometime in the early ’80s there was awareness that there is no other and there is only now. I can’t say it was sudden, dramatic, life changing or anything at all except obvious. So obvious the “mind” didn’t even know about it, and so no big story was created around it or dates set or what have you. And the spiritual systems I was trained in didn’t really recognize this non-event, so I didn’t either. It was just true and obvious. For everyone and everything, always. So, no big deal. It was and is so obvious that it seems silly to even mention It or talk about It. Or think about It. It is simply reality. A big duh.
And then when I first heard Gangaji teach in the early ’90s, I realized what she was talking about was obviously This awareness. As I have said, it was like hearing someone clearly speaking your language after spending many years in a foreign culture. I knew she knew what I know. And so does everybody else, they just don’t know it.
Nothing happened. Nothing had to happen. It is already so.
Q: If I may, what was it like for you to awaken?
Tom: (Laughing). Well, using those terms. . .what happened was that I was studying in a tradition working with kundalini. When the kundalini's awake there's a lot of phenomenal experiences, on many levels. But, they're incorporate into the personal story. For example, thinking, "I was in samadhi last night and I saw God, and on and on and on. . ." And, there was a fascination with experiences and developing capacities and abilities.
When so-called "awakening" happened, there suddenly was no interest in any of that anymore. Identity was no longer sought in ability, experience or knowledge. There was no longer any interest in the teachings I'd invested my life in. And, if I thought about it at that time, that could have been very confusing.
And then, I was teaching in that tradition, and suddenly the way I was teaching was very different and even started contradicting the formal teachings of the kundalini tradition. For instance, people would come and say, "What are the best techniques for awakening? What should I do?" And I started noticing I was saying, "There's nothing you have to do before awakening happens."
Then there started to become division among students. Because here's this whole system based on all the things you have to do to awaken, and there was this official guru from India with all the bells and whistles saying, "You might have to spend lifetimes doing these practices in order to have awakening." And I was saying, "You are already awake. There's nothing you have to do." And so it created a lot of confusion.
And also because there was no teaching prior to that I had trouble expressing what I was trying to say. The other teaching was well delineated, but what I was seeing so clearly was different.
For example, right now I'm looking at you. I don't see somebody there who needs to be fixed, evolved, or enlightened. You as you are there are as much an expression of "what is" as the Buddha or Christ. And you don't have to do anything to make that so. And so there was this problem because not only was I teaching differently, I also realized there was nothing to teach. (Laughing.)
And then people were concerned. People thought I was depressed. People thought I was angry. People thought I was competing with the guru. When it really got down to it I just left. I just wasn't interested in any of it. And that was a very strange thing, because what I invested my entire life in just disappeared. Everything just fell away, including me. (Laughing). I mean the image, the self image.
Q: So, what's it like being you now?
Tom: It's just what's happening. Here we are. We're talking. I'm happy to be with you.
Q: Do you think a lot about the past and the future?
Tom: The past and the future come up. I don't really think about them. But, when you say "past," I do immediately think of raising my daughter and spending time with her. That's mostly where my mind goes in the past. I love all the gurus I was with. There's no problem there. Stories come up from the past. I don't get any sense of self from it, but I remember it.
The future, well, it's like standing on the edge of a cliff with this huge fog in front of me. I have no idea.
Q: . . .and don't worry about it I guess.
Tom: Well, worrying about it solves what? If you're really present in life, it's obvious what's going on. For example, if you and I were here and a tornado came, you and I would probably have enough sense to go in the basement or go out the door. We don't have to have a map or strategy for it. We just say, "time to move."
The point of power in life is always now. And, if we're really here now, we see the next step.
Q: If there were one thing for people to remember first and foremost about awakening and an awakened mind, what is it?
Tom: All the stuff you believe is not true. (Laughing). And you have to honestly - not believe me - but look at why I'm saying that. You have to look at what's true. Not what you believe is true. But, what's actually true. "How do you know it's true?" That's the question.
In Zen, which has some real strengths, they don't say, "Tell me." They say, "Show me." So they don't want to know all of your mental philosophies, your opinions, your whatever. They want concrete pragmatic evidence of what's true.
This. Now. This is It!
Original story here