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Essential Shifts Interview: Arjuna Ardagh

Essential Shifts Interview: Arjuna Ardagh

Visionary: Arjuna Ardagh

For the author of The Translucent Revolution, the question of how we create a new world boils down to one shift: wake up! At the root of all the societal ills and dangers we experience lies a fundamental feeling of separation that fuels hatred, greed, overconsumption, destruction, and war. Instead of remaining in this dream, if we drop the filter of separation by investigating our true nature, we discover a sense of presence, awareness, and silence. Those qualities provide the spaciousness for us to construct a whole new pattern of being, one grounded in our essence and connection rather than our fear. Arjuna has researched this topic extensively, finding that there is a global shift now underway, happening to people from bishops to firemen, who have recognized their true nature and are beginning to live an embodied, "translucent" life. This shift does not require a great deal of effort; we need only surrender to the grace of it.

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Institute of Noetic Sciences: I want to welcome everyone to the show today. We will be joined today by Arjuna Ardagh who’s the author of the book, The Translucent Revolution, which is probably the best overall survey of the transformations under way as a result of evolution of consciousness in today’s world and how that impacts education and politics, business—a whole wide variety of domains. Really terrific book and great work you’re doing, Arjuna. Welcome to the show. What we’re doing is starting with four big picture questions here to get your insights about the largest shifts of our day. The first question is: How do you see our current global situation?

Arjuna Ardagh: Stephen, there was a book written by Charles Dickens at the end of the 19th Century called A Tale of Two Cities, and the first line of his book is, “It was the best of times and it was the worst of times.” And I think that would be how I would have to answer your question about our current global situation. It depends on how you look at it, but either way, it’s kind of extreme. I don’t think too many people feel, “Oh, it’s just the same as it’s always been and we’re just kind of trundling along and everything’s just the same as usual.” People either feel that we’re heading for a crisis of unprecedented proportions or that we’re heading for a golden age of unprecedented proportions and there seems to be credible evidence in both directions. The evidence for an impending crisis is mostly physical, so global warming is an undeniable fact. The temperatures each year are the highest on record. Last year we saw an area the size of Texas melt from the North Pole. The snows at Kilimanjaro are almost completely gone. So we are seeing undeniable signs of global warming which, long before this becomes a problem in terms of the rise of sea level, it becomes a problem in terms of world weather. We’re seeing it already now in terms of hurricanes and tornadoes of a scale that we’ve not seen before. Other kinds of physical problems which lead us to feel that we’re witnessing an impending crisis are the increased difficulty of extracting gasoline out of the ground. It’s what they call the oil bell-curve—that the second half of mining oil reserves, pumping oil reserves, is much more difficult than the first half. And, of course, the global demand for oil is going up. This is also an impending crisis to which we don’t really have a solution. And then there are weapons of unprecedented power of destruction in the hands of very questionable individuals, some of whom are even supposedly elected leaders of large democratic countries. All of these things together lead us to feel that this is perhaps the most dangerous, most unsettling, unnerving time for human beings. On the other hand, and I’m sure we’ll talk about this a bit more later, we’re seeing a shift in consciousness. We’re seeing a waking up, a maturing, the likes of which we’ve not seen on this scale before. We’re seeing a depth of awakening expressed in a breadth of people from all different walks of life all over the world, which lead us to feel that we’re seeing a new kind of humanity emerging.

IONS: Is this somewhat of a democratization of access to the kind of states that mystics have talked about for many ages, or is it something sort of new?

AA: I don’t think that awakening has ever been anything other than democratic. There’s never been any restrictions imposed upon who can and can’t become awakened. So rather than a democratization, I’d say we’re seeing a different kind of embodiment to the awakening. Awakening has previously, in most traditions, been associated with renunciation, with turning our backs on the world, with renouncing sexuality, family, money, political and social involvement. And so higher states of consciousness have been associated with backing away from the world. The kind of revolution and consciousness we’re seeing now is actually quite the opposite. We’re seeing people who are waking up to their true nature. It’s limitless; it’s vast; it’s peaceful. But at the same time, they are fully involved in the world—fully involved in sexuality, relationships, parenting, education, and so on. Because this is expressed in such a different way, it has its own very different impact on our lives because spirituality or spiritual awakening has become more of a gift that can be given through the body than something which takes us away from the body and the world.

IONS: How do you see these two trajectories lining up with each other? One that’s sort of the material gloom scenario and one that’s the consciousness-awakening golden trajectory.

AA: I think if we’re honest, if anyone’s honest, we don’t really know. We can see these two developments occurring and in a certain sense, the worse it gets at a material level, the more incentive there is to wake up in a spiritual way. Nobody really feels the incentive to wake up from a nice dream. People feel an incentive to wake up from a nightmare. So the worse things get, the more unstable things get at the material level, I think the more impetus there is for people to awaken.

IONS: Do you feel there’s a sense that the kind of intelligence that we need to navigate the first breaking down and challenges is latent in this awakening of consciousness?

AA: Perhaps I should define what I mean by awakening and consciousness because there are lots of different ways people talk about emerging paradigms. The essence of what I mean by an awakening is to clearly, experientially recognize who you really are. And that’s a very specific, focused, sober realization. To recognize it in this very moment as we speak now, as people listen now.... In this very moment, things are being experienced. Sounds are being heard. Movement is being seen. Sensations in the body are being felt. And all of this is being experienced by what? By who? Something or someone is experiencing all this occurring. And really, strange as it may seem, although all of us, we say "I," "me," "mine" all day long—day-in day-out for decades actually, for most human beings—it’s really a little bit of a mystery as to who is really experiencing all this happening. The willingness to inquire into that – the willingness to inquire as to who is experiencing in this moment – is really the essence of the shift.

IONS: I know you’ve been chronicling how, when people make this shift, it starts to ripple out into many other domains in their life, and begins to look something like a new culture. So maybe if you could talk a little bit about how does that shift, and the fundamental ground consciousness ripple out into worldly forms?

AA: I think we can understand that better the other way around, to ask ourselves, What is the effect on life?, What is the effect on the world when we are completely, exclusively focused on identification with thoughts and feelings and body sensations? When we’re completely locked down into a separate personal drama, we see the world as separate from us, and we respond to the world strategically through habits of control, of distrust, of manipulation, and of feeling threatened by anyone who seems to be different from us, because we’re completely identified with our thoughts and feelings. "That’s who I am." And anyone who challenges or is different from those thoughts and feelings seems to be a threat. But, on the other hand, when we relax more deeply, to be in spaciousness, to be in consciousness, and to be in that which is in all thought, in all being, then the effect on behavior is that we experience all things with a kind of infinity. Not that I’m infinite with you—It’s deeper than that. I am you. Who you really are and who I really am is the same. That’s really at the base of it and it’s unimaginable—it’s unfathomed territory—what this could look like politically... My book of course if full of fledgling examples—what this looks like in education, in organized religion, in politics, in parenting—but this tidal wave of awakening is really just starting. We’re going to find out in the next years how life can look, when we remove this core illusion of separation that has just dominated human life and human consciousness for so long.

IONS: This kind of leads naturally into the second question we’ve been asking folks, which is: What are the most essential shifts that are required on sort of a macro level for us to make this shift collectively?

AA: Imagine that you are having a dream at night in your bed and in the dream you’re being chased by some gangsters with guns. And they’re chasing you through a dark rainy city and they chase you into an alley with a brick wall at the end. So they’re chasing you down the alley and you’re running sufficiently far ahead that you could hide. There are some doorways on the left and the right—dark doorways where you could jump in and hide. At the end of the alley there’s a tall wall, but just a little bit too high for you to jump. So what is the most important thing? Is it to hide somewhere? Is it to jump over the wall? Is it to turn around and negotiate with them or fight them? What is the most effective way to deal with the problem? What are the strategies that are going to be most useful to deal with this problem? What would you say?

IONS: Waking up, obviously.

AA: You see, you and I can say that. You could come up with many strategies, but basically all but one are illusory. All but one of the strategies are buying into a problem that doesn’t really exist. It exists once you accept the illusion of the problem, but it doesn’t exist in reality. So really, there’s only one shift. There’s only one thing that needs to happen, which is to wake up—which is, in this very moment, to recognize who is really here, who is really aware. And from this shift, everything else takes place because everything that troubles us about the world—from spousal abuse to wars to escalating consumption and greed to misunderstanding to homeless children—all these things which seem to be so desperate, they are all based in this core feeling of separation which has dominated human consciousness for so long. So the only real shift that’s going to make a difference is to awaken, is to awaken to who you are, who we really are, deeper than the mind, deeper than identification with thought and feeling.

IONS: How do you distinguish that from the Eastern view that the world as maya or illusion? Because part of what it seems like you’re pointing to with the Transluscent Revolution book is a different level of embodiment in the world. So, the metaphor of just waking up from a dream, there’s also going back into that dream with that wider consciousness.

AA: A dream is going to seem completely different if you know it’s a dream. The kind of awakening that is necessary is not an awakening from the world of things—you know, trees and a cat and food and walking on the ground—these things are not really in the ordinary sense of the word—these things are not illusory. These things are actually what we would call reality. What is illusory is the almost opaque filter of thoughts and desires and beliefs and interpretations and meanings that we give to these things.

IONS: So it’s really the filter that we’re waking up from.

AA: Exactly. It’s the illusory sense of me as separate. And this is all existing in belief. It’s not real. It all exists in the world of thought and the world of mind and that’s where we can wake up.

IONS: How would this connect with specific work that you’re doing now and what are the things that you’re most passionate about? I know you’ve been doing some interesting work with the deeksha movement, the Oneness Movement, and maybe if you could talk a little more about how some of the work you’re doing fits into this awakening.

AA: As we already discussed, for me the core of the whole thing is to know who you really are. Not to know in the sense of thinking or understanding, but to have direct experiential recognition of who you are. Either we think, "Who I am is a separate person moving in time and space with these beliefs with these beliefs and this history and this story," which in a way is true, or we recognize that what is really experiencing this moment is space, is spaciousness, is awareness, is presence. When we recognize ourselves to be who we really are, to be space, to be presence, to be silence—and although there is this story of a person with a history and thoughts and desires and fears—although that is also there, it’s happening in the space. That is really the fundamental shift that underlies everything. That’s the core of what I’m interested in. And from that awakening, we can then find out what is possible in our lives, what is possible in our parenting, what is possible in our relationships, in our sexuality, and in our world, when we are no longer dreaming, when we are no longer completely glued to thoughts and feelings and prejudices of the mind. Now you asked about deeksha. I was introduced not so long ago to deeksha. Really, what this particular expression called deeksha is about is a transmission of energy. Rather than hands-on healing or reiki or something, this particular kind of transmission directly affects the brain. So somebody giving deeksha can put their hands on the head of someone receiving deeksha, and the transmission of energy causes the brain to shift in a way that the activity, the electromagnetic activity of the parietal lobe between the middle of the cerebral cortex on the left and right side, comes down. It comes less, and the activity of the frontal lobe at the front of the cerebral cortex becomes more. And this subjective experience of a decrease of activity in the parietal lobe is less anxiety, less feeling of separation, less hallucination. The effect of more blood flowing to the front part of the brain is more presence, more alertness, more capacity to be sane. So really, deeksha is affecting the brain in a way that allows us to return to sanity.

IONS: There’s a global movement of folks who are now doing this.

AA: There’s a lot of people very rapidly who are going to India becoming initiated to give this kind of energetic transmission. It seems to provide the necessary neurological physiological basis for awakened consciousness.

IONS: How about the work with the Transluscent Revolution. How is that continuing to move forward now that the book is out?

AA: As you know, I wrote this book called Transluscent Revolution. It took several years to research and to complete. The book really documents the shift in collective consciousness that is happening on the planet. And the effect of that book seems to be that people recognize themselves to be part of a global shift rather than isolated individuals. I’ve been traveling a good deal both in America and Europe really supporting people to live their lives more from their transluscent awakened core than from the old habits of fear and separation. This is not about a spiritual path helping people to become enlightened. This is about helping people to recognize the ways in which they are already awake. People need to live their lives from that awakened core.

IONS: So, that sort of mirroring...People haven’t had that illumination or that state reflected back to them. They often don’t even recognize they might have experienced it. And so the response has been pretty wide spread recognition of what you’re conveying in the book?

AA: Yes, I’m amazed by how many millions of people actually have already passed through an awakening to their true nature of their spaciousness, but simply may not realize it.

IONS: One thing that struck me when I read it was that what you were saying wasn’t particularly localized and new age/new paradigm circles. There are a lot of conventional folks who are experiencing the shift.

AA: Exactly. I spoke to the Bishop of Edinburgh Cathedral, Richard Holloway. Now, you’ve got to understand: Edinburgh Cathedral is not a new age center; it’s a mainstay of the Protestant faith. He’s completely awake to his real nature. He’s completely awake to the Christ-consciousness behind his own eyes, not located in history. I spoke to people who’ve been consultants for Unilever, the largest manufacturer of consumer goods in the world where a lot of these big corporations now, senior management, are recognizing the efficacy of spiritual practice and awakening.

IONS: Fascinating. And so are you personally offering workshops or trainings while you’re traveling, or is it more speaking about the big picture shift?

AA: I do a lot of workshops and retreats—longer retreats and trainings. Many people.

IONS: Great and the best way to find out about those is...?

AA: We have a website, That’s the best way to reach us.

IONS: Great. And then, the fourth question that we’ve been asking is—you spoke to it somewhat already—but perhaps some more personal pointing out recommendations for folks where they can really engage in these larger shifts of consciousness more effectively.

AA: As I think we have spoken, the most important thing is to really focus on this question of, “Who am I really?” And not in a superficial way, but to really stop and to recognize the extraordinary mystery that sound is being heard just now, movement is being seen just now, sensation in the body is being felt. We say, “I am experiencing these things.” The simplest way to wake up is just really, in a sober way, to find out what is this “I.” Now, of course, initially we’re going to bump into thoughts and feelings and concepts and think, “Well, that’s who I am.” But that couldn’t possibly be true because all those things are being experienced as well. So whoever is experiencing must be deeper than that also. To continue to investigate in this way is to bring real liberation.

IONS: Anything else in terms of recommendations for shifting into more alignment with the transluscent lifestyle, or things like that?

AA: I think the beauty about living a transluscent life is that it’s not really "one size fits all." It requires a certain art-form to be able to really let go and to allow the human incarnation to live in the way that it wants to. So really, the key to living a transluscent life is to let go and to take restriction off the human life, and to allow it to flow in its own most natural way.

IONS: Wonderful. Well it sounds like we’ve covered the main train we wanted to cover. Was there anything that you particularly wanted to share or speak to in terms of essential shifts of our day?

AA: The last thing I could say is that this shift in consciousness, I would say it’s happening anyway. It’s not that you and I make it happen. There isn’t a curriculum of grace showering down on this planet, whether we like it or not. The choice that you and I appear to have is not so much whether that curriculum is raining, but whether we want to align with it or not. I would say that most of the work needed for the shift to happen has already taken place. The shift is already a tidal wave of such magnitude, there’s no question that it’s occurring. The choice you and I have is whether to align with it or to resist it. If we align with that tidal wave of awakening, then our lives become ecstatic. If we resist that tidal wave of awakening, our lives become contracted.

IONS: It’s a very heartening way to look at it, that the task is more one of surrender now.

AA: Very much true. And many people are recognizing that. It’s not up to us to make this happen. It’s up to us to recognize that it’s happening and surrender to it.

IONS: Beautiful. That’s a very poetic way to close. Unless there’s something else that you want to share, I think that can wrap it up.

AA: Thank you so much for inviting me to this forum.

IONS: Thank you for your work and sharing your wisdom with us here today. We really appreciate it.

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