It’s been a very long time since my last post way back in late November of 2022. It’s been a flat out sprint of a year since then and there has been so much learned in my spiritual practice with the whole range of typical ups and downs for anyone identified with a name. I’ve been hoping to find the time and circumstance to return to my blog and discovered the perfect source of inspiration after being lit up recently by an Adi Da Samraj quote I heard in a talk on the BeeZone with Frank Marrero. The talk, called, “A Crucial Clarity,” relates to Frank’s essay regarding the transition from adolescence to adult maturity and this one quote epitomized the transition for me:
“Sacrifice is the bridge from pleasure to ecstasy.” Adi Da Samraj
What’s so remarkable about this statement you may ask? I hope it hits you with some fraction of the same force it stuck me with, the kind of force one feels all the way down to their depths when they are confronted by something true at all the levels language and intuition can hope to communicate through.
If you’ve read any of my story about finding my way to Adi Da, you’ll have some sense of the role that “ecstasy” has played. I was first drawn to the street drug called, ecstasy, in my 30’s for the simple good feel it generated, but primarily because it allowed me to relate to total strangers, and really to everything in a way that was utterly missing from my sober life but pointed to the possibility that I could love and relate to anyone. This feeling suggested a higher possibility than my entirely secular street life could have imagined.
In my 40’s, Deb and I used the drug to allow us to be in the same room with each other long enough to break through the unspoken walls in communications that had formed around the scar tissue in our relationship from years of painful, childish and adolescent marriage.
Late in my 30’s, before the most challenging karmas of our marriage bubbled to the surface, I had a free taste of ecstasy without any use of drugs whatsoever when I somehow was able to drop the “search” and trust what the “universe” had in store for me. That “enlightenment” experience led me on a journey to explain the ecstasy I enjoyed but more compellingly, to find a way to reinstate it. That journey both ended and began again when I found Adi Da Samraj.
Today that ecstasy has returned and become the nearly constant forceful undercurrent of my life for almost three years since October 2020; but this time, it is a byproduct of my relationship to Adi Da Samraj and the growing self-understanding His Way produces.
So what’s the difference between pleasure and ecstasy? And how can sacrifice be the bridge from one state to the other? In my own experience, the answers to these questions arose simultaneously in moments of personal evolution, when I understood how to give myself up to something greater. And in one specific event, this understanding crystallized ecstatically and personally represented for me the ceremony when a boy becomes a man.
In my late 30’s about half a year after my 3 months of free ecstatic wonder had come and gone and sent me on a mission of discovery, I found myself in a personal growth workshop called, The Enlightened Warrior Training Camp, offered by Peak Potentials Training, a company owned by a master of the personal development industry called T. Harv Eker (the “T” stands for “The one and only”).
Obviously, the name of the camp sets a lofty goal, to become an “enlightened warrior”. This work aligns with David Deida‘s teachings about the need for beings to find their deepest gifts and offer them up to the world even to their last dying breathes. This was the next workshop I’d taken after the one that seemed responsible months earlier for triggering my three month “enlightenment” experience.
“Warrior Camp”, as it was called for short, featured breaking the group of participants into four random “tribes” and on each of four days having a specific workshop related to different areas of personal growth designed to bring out the enlightened warriors in us. In my case, and I know from testimonials from others, it was nothing short of miraculous in producing personal growth insights and life positive changes in behavior.
It was during this camp that I discovered how sacrifice and ecstasy were linked. I later also understood that the learning came in the form of a ceremony of transition from adolescence to adulthood even as I helped an older man transition from “warrior” to respected elder.
In Squamish, BC, Canada, there is an awesome geologic spectacle merely called “The Chief”. It’s a 100 million year old granite formation of sheer rock that rises out of the earth 700 meters straight up. It’s truly “awe” producing when you first see it driving the highway towards Whistler from Vancouver. A hike up the back side of this monolithic formation was the site of my first deepest insight into sacrifice.
On the fourth day (the final full day) of Warrior Camp my “tribe” got to do the event called, “The Peak,” which featured a hike up the back trail to the top of the Chief. The rules were simple, teams of two tribe members were to ascend together collecting a card from each way station that represented their highest point with the top being worth four points. Teams had to decide how high they would risk hiking because every warrior must return to the bottom before time ran out and if even a single tribe member was not accounted for when the whistle blew, then no points would be counted. It was all or nothing to see which tribe amassed the most points. Hike as high as you can to collect points but no higher than was possible for you to ensure you both made it back down and across the finish line in time or your whole tribe would suffer your failure. Unless everyone succeeds, no one succeeds.
I was paired with a man in his late 60’s named Gino who in his prime would have been a truly powerful, masculine “warrior” in the John Wayne sense of the word. He had a deep presence even when silent that felt like a baritone sounds.
We started our hike at the front of the pack but as we ascended it was clear he could not keep pace on the very steep hike and soon many people younger than Gino were passing us. We decided to split up which was an allowable form of cheating so that we could ensure I would make it to the top even if Gino could only reach the third station so we’d get one more point than if we turned around together before the top. Then I could race to the bottom to drop my card for points and return to help Gino and others.
I reached the top alone and collected my card from the volunteer there. As I peacocked up to her without my partner, she said something to me then that produced an insight that changed my life. I don’t remember her exact words, but in truth they don’t matter. Her point landed dead centre of my heart. What was there to celebrate about achieving a victory alone at the expense of my partner’s pride? What good were my strengths employed to raise me above my peers for my own shallow satisfaction while people I loved were struggling below?
I realized in that moment that my capacities and strengths were mine, not to help me rise above, but to help lift others up to heights they couldn’t achieve alone.
I sprinted back downhill to Gino. He had not yet made it to the third waypoint and was resting and trying to catch his breath. He suggested I get to the bottom and turn in my card and he’d get to the third and then be just behind me having decided the final peak was not in the cards. His cardio was never his strength and there was no way he could do the final steepest section. I apologized for abandoning him and said, come what may, we were finishing together.
At that moment, I rested my left hand on his back and could feel his heart beating furiously in his chest. My hand remained on his back thereafter. In this posture, we ascended to the third peak, then hiked down steadily as one. My hand braced him even as cramps began to move through his legs, my presence and support providing strength physically and emotionally.
I had lost all self-talk somewhere along the way. My mind had become silent and my attention never wandered from a feeling sense of how best to support Gino. With my left hand affixed to his back we walked to the bottom in silence and crossed the finish line with about 50 minutes left in the four hour event. Gino was spent but deeply vigorous in his feeling. He knew he’d pushed his body as far as it would go but understood his role in life had changed from one who gives his physical strength to serve others, to one who, with wisdom, inspires them.
He turned to me at the bottom, looking me squarely in the eyes with hands on each of my shoulders and said, “I release you! Go help the others!”
Over the next hour, I was present only as movement and bliss. My mind barely spoke to me and while I exerted my body impossibly, I felt utterly ecstatic. In this unencumbered state I ran almost to the third way station before finding someone abandoned and struggling with blisters. They leaned on my shoulder and together we tripled their pace to the bottom crossing the finish line using me as a new leg.
We saw others on the way down whom I promised to return and help. Each time I was released at the bottom again and somehow was able to sprint back uphill. I helped another, and then with only a few minutes left, three others had joined me to help.
The very last member of our tribe was a heavy girl with glasses. Her knees were shot and she was grimacing in pain with each step. Her partner was with her encouraging her through her pain but she too was not built for this world of steep pitches and cliffs. When the four of us arrived, she wasn’t moving and her eyes were moist from the pain her body was feeling having pushed it long past its capacities to get to the third peek. I got under one shoulder and my good friend Martin got under the other but within a moment it was obvious her knee pain was not sufficiently relieved and time was too short. She looked at us and shouted, “Pick me up! Carry me. It’s OK! Just carry me down.”
She had already released her partner to finish on her own, knowing, even alone, she’d struggle to cross in time. And now in an act of incredible humility and sacrifice, she TOLD us to carry her. Imagine the social trauma experienced in our world by a 200+ pound woman; and then feel the incredible sacrifice and exalted humility to demand that we carry her down the final stretch knowing it was the only solution to cross the line in time but knowing none of us could even suggest this for her.
With four of us each on an arm or leg and a fifth person who joined to support her upper back we floated together across rock and root tangle with a growing crowd of others screaming encouragement even as a megaphone counted down the final 60 seconds in a wild, loud, ecstatic frenzy of exhausted, sweating humanity.
Her eyes were rolled up and back as we crossed the line together with better than half a minute left. While I can picture this scene clearly 20 years after it occurred in 2003, the most compelling memory of that final day was that whatever was happening in the world, I was resting in a state of silent, ecstatic, freedom.
I was born with a bunch of genetic qualities that our world rewards; passably handsome, healthy, athletic, intelligent. And in my 38th year I’d finally understood that the only fulfilling use for my gifts was to try to raise up the people around me rather than climb above them and look down. That even if I help others rise by offering my body for them to stand on, self-sacrifice was a bridge that led to ecstasy.
While our tribe celebrated a loud victory with cheers, singing and dancing, I found myself sitting nearby alone, without desire or need to notice myself or be noticed while I teetered on the edge of the transition between adolescence and maturity.
Pleasure is to ecstasy as man is to god. Any masterbating teenager can be acquainted with pleasure, but only those who’ve learned the real difference between fucking and love making know how pleasure can be raised to the heights of ecstasy.
And yet, that day primarily belonged to my human evolution in the normal course of life, however extraordinary it felt and seemed. I’d simply begun the long road to becoming a functional, mature, human. While no doubt, the majority of people on the planet have yet to understand that lesson and actually embraced it as a way of life, giving one’s self in service to another is as common as the terms “mommy” and “daddy”. But in my case, it was a breadcrumb on the path towards Adi Da.
The “conductivity” that I have enjoyed for most of the past three years began when I was considering Adi Da’s teachings while in the early morning mist in northern BC. Something about how I began to understand “myself” that day began a transition similar to the one I began on the Chief. In Adidam, that warrior camp transition would have marked a resounding transition between the second and third stages of life. These two stages are mere secular, human, and even homely possibilities for people. I had simply, but truly, begun the next stage of growing up after a protracted adolescence.
And yet there was also the seed of the higher possibilities of a spiritual life transition felt as ecstasy. That Enlightened Warrior camp event helped me regain something of the ecstasy I’d lost months earlier, but it was a relatively brief experience. I had not yet heard of Adi Da at all by that point although one of the trainers at that camp was named Satyen Raja and his company, Warrior Sage, provided more breadcrumbs on the path to my Guru.
It was during the workshop called, Sex, Passion and Enlightenment that I was introduced to the work of David Deida, who’s own teachings I suspect may have arisen from his time in the company of Adi Da Samraj and particularly when he was exposed to Wild Nights with William Tsiknas (David Deida’s “Mykanos“) who has long been one of Adi Da’s devotees. David Deida’s principal work with people is to help them with the transitions in the first three stages of life and the intuition of the fourth.
After The Chief, I had begun the process of trying to live my life as a Superior Man which is really just trying to live life as a real, “adult,” in the highest sense of the word. That process eventually led me to Adi Da Samraj. And then, while on His island hermitage as a devotee in Fiji in 2007, it was made obvious to me that my journey to simple human maturity was a long way from complete. While the years between 2007 and 2020 were largely secular and devoted mostly to family and business life, my heart’s motive to evolve seemed never to completely disappear and at some point the next stage of evolution was again ushered in with a return to ecstasy.
What I noticed that day out hunting nearly three years ago, fall 2020, when The Five Reality Teachings floated to mind, was that I could not be this body-mind that thinks of itself as A Cage because I saw in those graceful moments of insight, that every possible experience, thought, feeling, sensation and even memory were all “objects” to the “me” to which they were apparent. “I” am prior to experience in whatever form it takes. That moment’s insight took a month or so before I began to feel ecstatic instead of only feeling “myself”. I believe that insight began a transition from the third to the fourth stage of life as described in Adidam.
But key to the insights from that “event” was the obviousness that I, Mr. A Cage, was not responsible for the outcome: I am not “doing” the ecstasy. And it was also obvious that feelings of love-bliss and ecstasy are “enjoyed” the more absent my usual self-pattern is from being animated. In fact, the more I “feel” in the direction of Adi Da Samraj, who’s appearance in the world is recognizable as my Guru, the more blissful the feeling. The sacrifice of attention to all things and patterns of A Cage is coincident with the ecstasy of the feeling of merely being.
“You become what you meditate on.” Adi Da Samraj
As I’ve written this blog entry describing my own experience of the truth that, “sacrifice is the bridge from pleasure to ecstasy” I can feel how shallow a depth my own experience actually cuts. For instance, I have a sense that when I am feeling blissful and ecstatic, I’m not describing at all the Reality that Adi Da’s Enlightened State represents. I have the sense that my experience is like dipping a toe in the water that disturbs the image of Narcissus. When that image of myself is broken up and my attention falls away from “myself”, what’s felt is this current of bliss. But after three years of blissfulness, if this experience were an end in itself, I should have arrived at my destination.
In his early teaching years in the 1970’s, Adi Da, then known as Bubba Free John, published a book called Garbage and the Goddess of which a poor summary, in my words, is that all possible experience is garbage which ultimately must be thrown out in order to transcend the illusions of separation. It was an audio of a talk from the Garbage and the Goddess period which captivated me that first day I was introduced to Adi Da.
I’ve come to see that the love-blissful current that I now enjoy is really just more garbage I’ve yet to learn how to discard. But not garbage as in something negative. But just another form of distraction and fascination. It seems to be arising as a consequence of a greater total self-understanding with which I’m operating thanks to my Guru’s teachings and His Grace, but it’s not an end in itself which I can say for absolutely sure from the vantage of having “experienced it” for three years while also seeing that I’m largely unchanged. I still wake up as “A Cage” each morning.
But I also know that forms of sacrifice throughout my life have lifted my experience to exalted, ecstatic states that were unknown to me previously. It seems that there are forms of “ecstasy” available at each stage of life which are invisible at earlier stages. And ironically, while this blog has discussed evolution and transitions from one stage to another, Adi Da says that Reality is Always Already The Case and that therefore all forms of experience, and in fact, the experiencer, must ultimately be sacrificed:
“So there is no Divine Realization apart from the coincidence with the sacrificial life. So there is no Realization except in the person of the Devotee*. It doesn’t occur in the person of somebody who has some experiences. Whatever those experiences are, ordinary human experiences, subtle spiritual experiences, all the rest, is non-sacrifice, it is accumulation. It is a hedge about the ego. It protects the separate existence and prevents this world from being realized in Truth. It’s not sufficient to have the airy-fairy sensation that all of this is god. You don’t believe it for a moment. The only moment in which you may enjoy such a vision of Love is one in which you are yourself utterly sacrificed and sacrificing, yielding all forms, all conditions, all perceptions, all limits.” – Adi Da Samraj, unknown date.
My name is A Cage and most of the time I have the unspoken certainty that I exist as a separate someone entangled in a network of relationships with myself, others and the world. But even as I acknowledge this, I feel a delightful current flowing down through the top of my head and circulating back up in waves of bliss, becoming more ecstatic as I’m given over to it, the mere feeling, being, and breathing that I’ve come to recognize as the Sign of Ad Da Samraj’s Transmission of His State washing away the solid certainty of my apparently separate self.
*I believe Adi da uses the word “Devotee” here to mean a being like Himself who is Enlightened, which is also why I capitalize it and similar words referring to the Always Already Condition of Reality Itself.