Dave Oshana, Enlightenment Coach or Popcorn Chef?
It feels like time for full disclosure so far as what I am doing in Estonia/Finland and what all this enlightenment talk is about. So here's a piece I wrote last year which I shared at a couple of forums but spared my regular readers until now, partly so as to spare myself their/your ire, skepticism, and so forth. Several months have gone by since I wrote it, and I've gone a ways deeper down the Rabbit Hole of Transmission, but I think this piece still accurately describes my point of view, at this time.
“The most impressive thing about you is how unimpressive you are,” I once said to Dave Oshana. He laughed and told his wife, who nodded her head (or so he said, we were on Skype at the time). Recently, I was reading the (somewhat out of date) testimonials at one of his websites, and I was struck by how many people had had life-changing experiences around him. These experiences—of “no mind,” oneness, transcendental bliss or swirling lights and colors—often occurred within days, hours, even minutes of meeting him. In one incident, it happened during a woman’s first phone conversation with him—a Canadian journalist entered into a non-ordinary state of awareness and “came to” lying on the grass, wondering why she had a phone in her hand. It took her nine months to write about her experience.
After four years of knowing Dave, I still don’t have any cool stories about no-mind states, bliss-tsunamis, energy balls, halos or Ufos hovering over his head. Nada. Dave Oshana crept up on me so slowly that it’s hard for me to even say exactly what it is that drew me to him. Why I am so sure that he’s an authentic agent of enlightenment? What is it that impressed me so much? I come back to that one thing: he never tried to impress me. Now that’s impressive!
I was not even remotely interested in finding a guru until I turned 40. Coincidentally that was when I met Dave Oshana. Unlike other spiritual teachers I’ve seen, before and since meeting Dave (admittedly most of them on YouTube or TV), Dave stands out most of all for his complete lack of airs. People often say that their gurus aren’t putting on airs, and that they just “naturally” emanate holiness, or whatever else they emanate. But to my mind, now that I’ve met Dave Oshana, “naturally emanating holiness” comes under “putting on airs.” With Dave there is no soulful gazing, no pregnant silences, no beatific smiles, no disarmingly childish giggling, and no crypto-mystic turns of phrase. Not that these things don’t happen, exactly—they can be part of the Oshana experience (mine at least). It’s only that they don’t call attention to themselves and they don’t ever create the impression of holiness, or of anything else. They are just parts of Dave, and with Dave, what you see is what you get—except for the bit you don’t see. There is no mystery, no magic tricks, no melodrama. Just Dave.
Dave isn’t simply ordinary in the way that lots of guru-types are “ordinary”—humble and sweet and self-effacing and whathaveyou. He is all that, but he's also just a regular bloke. It’s easy to imagine him passing through the world without people suspecting that there’s anything remotely unusual about him (except for his cheeky sense of humor and his firm but gentle refusal to shake hands). If he doesn’t get mistaken for an ordinary guy, it’s because he’s an “enlightenment teacher” with a neon sign over his head, and most of what he does, as far as I know, entails spreading the divine virus of “Transmission.” But miraculously, he makes being an enlightenment teacher seem ordinary, a bit like any other job. He’s like a plumber who comes to check your pipes and makes lively chit-chat while he does it. Dave’s chit-chat was so engaging that it actually took me three years to “get” what he was doing with my pipes (so to speak). That was probably why I never quite believed that he was really an enlightenment teacher. He has the gift of making what he does seem effortless, like he's not actually doing anything, which Dave would probably say is the case: he isn’t.
Dave and I first met in London in December 2007. I was living in Hampstead at the time. I happened to hear about him from someone who had recently experienced a spontaneous “awakening,” who contacted me because of a book I’d written called Matrix Warrior. This person wanted to enlist my help writing their own book, about Kundalini and enlightenment, and he happened to mention this teacher who was coming to London. He gave me a link to Oshana’s “Enlightenment Now” website and I read a short article in which Dave used The Matrix movie as a metaphor. That got my attention. Since I was into sorcery and the occult back then and not spirituality and gurus, I rarely if ever went to see spiritual teachers. If Dave hadn’t been coming to my neighborhood—the meeting was a ten minute walk away—and if we hadn’t had The Matrix in common, I probably wouldn’t have shown up. But those two factors combined made it impossible to resist. Kismet is what it used to be called. Destiny.
I emailed Dave and told him about Matrix Warrior and took a copy along with me, as well as my mother, who lived locally too. By chance, one of my copies of the book was already inscribed to “Dave,” another Dave who hadn’t read it and had forfeited his copy. I gave Dave the book and told him it had been meant for a different Dave—a fact he reminded me of four years later. The meeting was enjoyable but I was less than bowled over by it. One thing struck me during the meet besides Dave’s ordinariness: during a momentary pause in his free-associative monologue (he talked a lot), his eyes became unfocused and he seemed to be somewhere else. It was similar to what I’d seen in people’s eyes when they were on LSD. Since I was reasonably sure Dave wasn’t on hallucinogens, the strange look in his eyes convinced me that, whatever else he was, he wasn’t faking. There was definitely something different about him.
I went to a second meeting two days later, on a Sunday, this time for energy work. Soon after, possibly that same day, I received an unexpected call from one of his assistants saying that Dave would like to meet me that evening, at the Hilton on Edgware Road. I think I was only given a couple of hours’ notice, if that. I didn’t hesitate, jumped on my bike and sped to the meet. I arrived around nine in the evening (if memory serves) and found Dave in the reception area. We sat in a quiet corner at a small table and talked for about three hours. Typically enough for me (though not for Dave), I did most of the talking.
Dave had speed-read my book and he was curious to find out if I really knew as much as the book suggested or if I’d just got lucky. For my part, I was curious to know what he meant by enlightenment, why he called himself that (even if he was), and why he used the word “spiritual” so much (I considered the word to be facile and vague). When I told him that I didn’t think he was enlightened, he seemed only mildly curious. Back then, I had very specific ideas about what enlightenment was. To me it meant the ultimate and final goal of consciousness and of human existence. I equated it with God-consciousness and Total Oneness with the Universe (or Multiverse). In my mind, that entailed becoming a Cosmic Übermensch, simultaneously aware of everything that was happening—and everything that ever did or would happen—in all of Creation. It included not only being able to access memories of past lives but of everyone else’s lives too—past, present and maybe even future. My extravagant picture of enlightened übermensch had been formed, over the years, with the help of authors like Carlos Castaneda—with his Toltec sorcerer don Juan—and Whitley Strieber’s The Key (Strieber allegedly met a God-man whom he called “the Master of the Key” in a Toronto hotel room one night, in June of 1998). Dave Oshana was a brash and bawdy—though oddly unassuming—Cockney “wide boy” in his late thirties, and clearly he did not meet the necessary requirements. I was fairly sure he had not attained the ultimate goal of human consciousness, and I told him as much. Perhaps he had only “lost the human form,” I ventured. (Losing the human form was another concept I’d got from Castaneda, who described it as a step on the way to total freedom but far from the final one.) I suggested to Dave that, like so many other wanna-be’s, he might have misunderstood his experience and fallen into “the guru trap” (something else I had read about). Perhaps Dave was amused by my line of questioning and apparent “concern,” I don’t know, but he said nothing to convince me otherwise, and by the end of the meeting I was no less skeptical. I had grown to like him, however, and I was flattered that he’d been willing to spend so much time with me, ad hoc and free of charge.
We stayed in touch on and off by email for the next three years. During that time (2008-2010), I met another spiritual teacher and for the first time ever I took on a guru. In retrospect, the guru I chose was the polar opposite of Dave: somber, imposing, and a profoundly impressive, even regal, presence. This was my idea of what a “man of knowledge” ought to look, sound and act like, so I accepted him as an Enlightened Master and assumed the submissive position. Compared to such a “Master,” Dave was obviously a mere lightweight. Yet ironically enough, it was Dave’s “lightness” that would eventually convince me of his authenticity, and also what helped me to see past my own guru’s airs and graces. But that’s another story, for another place.
From the start, Dave Oshana was too seemingly ordinary and approachable for me to ever see him as a Master. There was none of the distance, the feeling of inequality, that characterizes a standard relationship between disciple and guru. There are plenty of enlightenment teachers who say that enlightenment is ordinary. They talk about how it’s available to everyone, just for the asking. But Dave didn’t just say it, he demonstrated it. How exactly he did so is difficult to describe. Despite his personable, affable, and totally accessible personality, he didn’t reveal much about himself and he wasn’t really interested in my personal life, even if I continued to kid myself that he was. The more time I spent talking with him (on Skype, and emailing back and forth), the more apparent it was that he was fundamentally different than anyone I’d ever met. Since I have an intellectual bias, it was probably the speed of his thoughts and verbal expression, his precision and the depth of his insights, that gradually convinced me. The other thing that struck me about him was his looseness and flexibility. Over months of informal conversations, I never once detected tension or rigidity, discomfort or effort in him. There was a lack of attachment, of points to defend, that I had never seen before. He seemed to be constantly at ease, yet always totally present. Behind the playful exterior was a fierce and unwavering attention.
By Dave’s account, his liberation simply happened, spontaneously and out of the blue, when he woke up one morning in June of 2000 and slowly realized that his old self was gone. That was what he meant by enlightenment, and it seemed like something that could happen to anyone, at any time. Little by little, through knowing Dave, I adjusted my idea of enlightenment and scaled it down to something real, something tangible, human, and attainable. What Dave described was similar to what happened to Thomas Anderson in The Matrix: he woke up and realized that his life and his former self was just a dream. He didn’t become Neo overnight, however. All that really happened when he was unplugged was that a fundamental delusion ended. Like Morpheus and the rest, Dave was operating at another level of being which I couldn’t understand because, outside of some deranging psychedelic journeys and deep dreaming states, I didn’t have direct experience of it. But somehow, despite the growing awareness of the enormous distance between us—the distance between one reality and another, between waking and dreaming—I didn’t feel intimidated by Dave or in awe of him. His particular way of relating was so open and easy that it kept me at ease. It also prevented me from focusing or obsessing on the apparent gulf between us.
Looking back, I now think that all of his ingenuity, dexterity, wisdom and wit, was little more than a magician’s sleight of hand to divert my attention from what he was really doing. A bit like a kindly doctor who distracts a child with jokes and funny faces while the nurse gives him a painful shot in the backside. Dave’s surface chatter kept my mind engaged while he, or something (he calls it the Enlightenment Transmission, E.T. for short), did its work—secretly, behind the scenes, at a subtler, energetic level.
So what is happening around Dave Oshana at that subtler level? I still don’t know, or at least, I can’t really say, and not because I don’t want to. Recently, I asked Dave how his becoming enlightened affected his family relationships, the one with his mother for example. (My head was filled with traditional tales of awakened beings severing ties with family and friends, and suchlike.) Dave’s answer was that they hadn’t really noticed. I’m tempted to leave it at that, because in a way that says it all, and because this task (testifying to Transmission) is proving even more difficult than I thought it would be. A writer needs to be able to write about anything he puts his mind to, but I don’t seem able to find my mind when it comes to writing about Dave! D’oh! The more I try to put my finger on what he is, and on what he has done for, to, or with me, the more it, or he, eludes my writer’s grasp.
Like most enlightenment teachers, Dave describes enlightenment as our natural state. Unlike most teachers that I know of, he manages to somehow demonstrate it too. He’s the most natural person I’ve ever met, and it’s this, more than anything else, that draws me to him. He’s the first person I've met who seems wholly and fully himself, and his presence stirs in me a heartfelt desire, a soul-deep longing, to be what I am, as naturally, effortlessly and joyfully as he is himself.
According to Dave, to get the Transmission a person only needs the courage to show up. In my experience, it goes the other way too: for Dave to give the Transmission he only needs to show up, which is all he ever really seems to DO: show up and be himself. Invariably, surprisingly, things happen. Sometimes it’s delightful, sometimes disturbing; it’s always unexpected and usually perplexing; at times it’s plain maddening. Dave is a disllusionist. His job, he says, isn’t to get anyone enlightened but only to break apart the false assumptions and mistaken beliefs that come between us and IT—our natural state. So that’s what he does, and his art isn’t so much the illusion-busting, but how gently, tenderly, and playfully he does it (most of the time, at least).
If Dave is just like you and me, he's also heralding, embodying, beckoning, and inviting us into a new form of awareness and a new way of being, one that a lot of people talk about, these days, but that in my opinion almost no one has actually experienced. It’s a way of being that includes the ordinary, human, everyday experience but that isn’t contained, limited, or defined by it. Whenever I am with Dave, he drives home to me—like a splinter into my brain—the difference between him and me. It’s the difference between the dull existence of a cold, dry kernel and the bouncing, butter-soaked life of a hot and puffy piece of popcorn. Since I've known him, I’ve become painfully aware of what a hard and unappetizing husk I am; but also of how, under the right conditions, that brittle shell of false identity can pop, inside out, and turn me in an instant into the tasty morsel which God and Nature intended me to be.
So what does “under the right conditions” mean? Being willing to climb inside the Oshana pot and endure the heat. That’s a massive step, no doubt about it. But if I am willing, the more I begin to trust to that inevitable process of being popped, the more Transmission will do the rest. Eventually, the kernel will pop. Oshana retreats, meetings, one-to-ones and even online classes, all require active engagement, not passive devotion or studious attention. Dave doesn’t want followers or students but participants, and eventually team-mates. There’s a sense of urgency and of pressure about everything he does, and his invitation to participate is a bit like a trumpet blast. He is calling us to step up and meet him where he is, on the battlefield, instead of obliging him to come down into the simulator program and do more shadow puppets for us.
Dave has said that he just happens to be one of the ones who awakened first, and that it could have been any one of us. Since it was him, he’s obliged to assume the role of teacher, coach, captain, and team leader. But it’s only a role, dictated and maintained not by Dave but by our own ego-generated delusions about the nature of reality, and of ourselves. We are like husks in the pot, looking hopefully over at the first one to pop, thinking, “He must have the secret!” Meanwhile, he’s looking back at us, wondering what’s taking us so long.
Hold on! What’s Up? Using words to communicate truth is like trying to put the Sun in your backpack or stop the river from flowing with your hands. Why bother? It is a bother too, but something compels me to try. I don’t know who or what Dave Oshana is, only what he is to me. That’s all I’m trying to describe—or failing to describe. Dave suggested recently that I only write positive, uplifting words. Ironically, in the absence of bliss-outs or no-mind epiphanies, the best way I can think of to describe what Dave means to me is negatively. Here it is: Nothing else in my life seems as real, as meaningful, or as essential as Dave does to me right now. I won’t say that everything pales in comparison to Dave—I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings—but rather (stay positive) that, on the horizon of my existence, he stands tall and shines brighter than all the other features in my view, so much so that what he is, represents, or offers—in my mind at least—has begun to define everything else. It’s a bit like how the Sun makes everything warm and bright and alive. Without the Sun, there’s just a wasteland, a desert of the real. I know it’s not Dave I’m talking about here, only the authentic quick of life which is so visible and tangible to me when I am with him. It’s in everything because it’s the only thing that’s real, finally, which is what makes it so good, so beautiful, so inspiring and so attractive to me. It’s like being in love: everything around Dave takes on a new hue and becomes rich with meaning, color, and promise.
Five days at the Winter retreat in 2011 (five days of concentrated Transmission and being in the company not only of Dave and family but of the other participants) was a little bit like being in a different reality tunnel. As if I had managed at long last to budge the tuning dial on my mind-body and pick up a whole new, hitherto only dimly imagined signal. The signal was weak and shaky and distant but it was there: a signal from elsewhere. A signal from Reality. Like Thomas Anderson, I was beginning to glimpse what life was like outside the pod.
Dave had found a handful of potentials and gathered us together, and now he was projecting his simulated self into our shared dream state, slowly, patiently, playfully, and persuasively explaining—demonstrating—to us the ways in which we were asleep, what was keeping us that way, and what to expect if and when we were ready to awaken. Compared to that promise, that possibility, everything else in my life was unimportant. It was like the residual imagery of a dream, trying to lure me back to sleep. I didn’t and I don’t know if the Reality Dave is heralding—enlightenment and service to the Transmission—is going to be as wonderful as Dave makes it seem. It might be as stark and grueling as Neo’s life was once he joined the crew on the Nebuchadnezzar. But so what? I don’t really care. Reality is reality and it’s not open to negotiation. It’s a take it or leave it proposition.
Do I want to become real, or do I want to carry on trying to rearrange the elements of the dream to get things just right, so I can carry on sleeping indefinitely? Fortunately, based on several decades of trying to arrange those elements, that option isn’t really an option anymore. To keep on trying and expect different results would make me clinically insane. And at this point, I would be insane to turn away from what Dave is offering. I have about as much chance of finding true meaning or purpose or fulfillment without the Transmission as a dry kernel has of popping inside a deep freeze.
So what’s that leave? Nothing except to push my courage to the sticking place, put on my bravest smile—hoping it doesn’t look too much like a grimace—and jump into the pot.