“We have to do it by ourselves
but we don’t have to do it alone”
Hi there. I just wanted to take a few minutes to share my story with you just to let you know that you are not alone. I know that eventually we have to let go of our stories to find out who the real self is underneath the story, but sometimes stories can be helpful. We all have difficult lives and I’m hoping that in some way my story can help you understand your story and give you some hope that things can get better. I think that’s what stories are for.
The story is longer than usual compared to most websites so read what you want. Like anybody, there’s stuff here that I am proud of and not so proud of, but in the end it’s all trained me to be the kind of person I have become. Like one person said in one of my workshops:
“Life is like school, only you get the test first then you get the lesson.”
Like some, but maybe not all of you, I have been interested in the mysteries of life from a young age. It began when I was 16 years old with an innocent walk through the woods near Thunder Bay, Ontario. One of my passions at the time was spending a lot of time exploring and wandering through the bush. On one of my hikes, I climbed a cliff to look over the vast beautiful landscape, which included a landform out in the bay called “The Sleeping Giant”. The local First Nation’s People knew this landform as Nanibijou, The Great Spirit.
The First Turning Point
As I was enjoying the panoramic view, for a brief moment I felt my sense of self shift into everything I put my attention on. I was the trees, the sky, the cliff beneath my feet, the water in the bay, even the landform Nanibijou. The experience only lasted for a few minutes but it was deeply fulfilling and satisfying. I did not completely comprehend what had happened to me. It was something that was outside my normal everyday experience and since I felt no one else would understand, I kept the experience to myself.
The “high” of the experience faded but the memory of it stayed. Looking back I recognize that brief incident changed my life. I knew there was more to life than just the physical.
I became interested in finding out the deeper reality behind philosophy and religion and began to delve into these subjects. This was at a time when many of my cohorts in the 60’s and 70’s were experimenting recreationally with mind altering drugs and alcohol. I tried these a few times but found my experience with them never matched what I had experienced naturally. I guess I didn’t make a very good hippie.
When I was 19, I joined the Rosicrucian order, a mystical order that engaged in a deeper study of consciousness and the nature of the universe. When I was 22, during a group meditation, I fell into the experience that I had when I was 16 but it went deeper. I felt myself merge into what I called at the time the “universal mind”.
I experienced that we were all divine beings, individual and universal in nature, at the same time. I called reality, the u-n-i-verse and I saw the hidden dynamic of life:
That we are all non-physical divine individuals in physical form eternally relating to each other for the purpose of evolving our consciousness of each other and our universal divinity.
(This experience is what I called in later years Co-evolution and it became the basis of my book “Awakening the Guru in You” that you can purchase off this website)
It was simple but very profound. Once again it was an exalted and transcendent experience. I shared this experience to some members of the group but it seemed that no one understood. There was a different spiritual cosmology taught. Even though my mind tried to deny the awakening because no one else in the group had a similar experience, the “knowingness” of it remained. Once again the “high” of the experience faded. A year later, I left the organization to begin a study of eastern and western philosophies, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism, metaphysics, etc.
I continued a practice of daily meditation as well as exploring other forms of contemplative inquiry. I became increasingly disillusioned with this study as I realized that many students seemed satisfied with just accepting mental concepts from a guru rather than real experience.
I sadly realized that the new age was really all about exchanging the spiritual belief systems of the ambient western culture, for a different belief system of another culture. There was a shift, but individuals were still stuck in the same trap: thinking that thinking about self-realization was the same as the experience of self-realization.
I saw that our culture was in deep delusion; we were metaphorically eating the menu, in a phony act of pretending that it was delicious, denying that it wasn’t, and totally unaware that there was something much more satisfying and fulfilling called “the meal”.
Not only that, but I began seeing more deeply the suffering we were all in. We were all walking around yearning to authentically connect with others, stuck in the personal false dogma of ourselves, trying to be the way our society wanted us to be but feeling deeply alone.
Gloria Steinem once said “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”
I didn’t get pissed off. I went onto despair.
The Second Turning Point
I decided I really knew nothing. I gave away a lot of my books and disengaged with all the spiritual groups I was attending. I decided to find the truth for myself. That decision was another defining moment in my life.
Soon after this decision, a friend asked me if I wanted to be a vegetarian cook for a workshop (I was known in my circles as a good cook). It was a modern retreat called the Enlightenment Intensive that combined self-inquiry with communication and deep listening. People contemplated questions such as “Who am I?” and “What is Life?” and came up with their own “answers”. The teacher only taught the inquiry technique, supported people through the barriers to doing it and offered no dogmatic teachings.
I was intrigued. I accepted the job.
I could not believe what I witnessed in the retreat.
I saw individuals transformed from beings trapped in limiting personalities to presenting their true selves authentically, naturally and uniquely. My intention to find the truth for myself manifested this opportunity. I decided to trade my wage for the next Enlightenment Intensive retreat and enrolled.
On the second day of the workshop, I had an awakening experience of my true nature that freed me from the shell and imprisonment of my social personality. In a paradoxical way, I became myself. I had already been myself but not aware of who I was being.
I became directly conscious of my true nature and was able to communicate what I now knew to others. I had now found the context I had been searching for: adding communication to silent meditation. I could not believe that self- realization occurred in such a short period of time when in all the spiritual literature I had read, it was supposed to take years.
I took my second Enlightenment Intensive retreat and the earlier experience of the co-evolutionary nature of life and self returned; only this time, because the context and the structure was there to communicate this experience, the awakening was very deep. I was blown away in the ecstasy and the knowledge of what I had realized.
There was total self-acceptance, a deep harmony with life and compassion for others, profound peace and inner strength to face any obstacle in life. Enlightenment was not some far away unusable experience. It enriched the very foundation of life and, in a very practical way, gave me the courage to live and fulfill my life.
But even though I had these experiences, as sometimes happens, my life took a big difficult turn. Looking back I realized that I needed to take that turn. Without it I would not be helping the people I call “Independent Spiritual Seekers”. This is a story within a story.
The False Spiritual Teacher
I don’t think anyone ever really realized how genuinely I really loved people and wanted to help them find greater happiness and bring spiritual wisdom to the world but it was out of this good intention that I innocently I got involved with a “spiritual” teacher who ended up hurting a lot of people.
He was extremely charismatic, positive, funny and extroverted. I was over-powered by his energy. I remember thinking, if I only learned more from this teacher, was more dedicated to his version of the truth, I could really change the world. More than anything, I was craving helping myself and others be relieved of their suffering. I believed the lie that someone more “spiritually advanced” knew better than me and that he knew my destiny. I decided to “follow” him. I took every retreat and course he offered.
I was an aspiring singer/songwriter at the time and I gave this up to work for him in my spare time without pay to promote and enroll more people in his retreats and workshops. I ignored the feeling that I had given up my dreams.
For a number of years, through him, I learned some amazing methods of self-development and I had some powerful awakening experiences. I staffed his retreats and developed the capacity to stick with people in difficult crises and help them have important breakthroughs. People said I was really gifted. But because he was more charismatic and pushy and I was more introverted, I always stayed in the background. I could never beat my own drum. I ended up thinking that the only way I could be happy in life was to work towards his dream because I could never get what I wanted in life.
I didn’t know it then but what I needed was someone who believed that each human being given the right support and openness could bring forth their wonderful inner gifts, listen to their own wisdom and to become their own guru.
After a few years of being involved with him, a terrible turning point came. I found out that he was borrowing money from many of his well-off supporters, spending it foolishly and having sexual affairs with many of his female clients. I was devastated at how deceived and gullible I was. It was hard but in spite of his guilt trips on me, phony promises to change, blaming his victims and rationalizations, I left his community.
The Hard Lessons
Looking back at that time, I saw I got very good at denying what I wanted in order to help him: imitating his behavior, using the spiritual jargon, taking on his beliefs, repeating his dogma and mannerisms, smiling and pretending that I was more enlightened around others to make myself and him look better. I am sure I deceived a lot of people...and I learned a lot about how we can deny the truth when it is as plain as day.
We can ignore our intuition when it’s obvious that a spiritual teacher is a phony, is taking advantage of his students, making them wrong when he is actually wrong and manipulating his students for selfish ends by convincing them he has an exalted motivation.
I saw that it all come out of a desire for deep connection and love. We will do almost anything to get that when we never had that love as children from a father or mother. I also saw that the worst violation on the planet is to manipulate that deep yearning for personal ends.
I went into a depression and a lot of self-recrimination. But there was a turning point for me when I stopped feeling defeated and took about 2 months off and did a lot self-reflection and writing on the nature and dynamics of the cult experience I had.
Becoming conscious of the unconscious reasons why I became a follower rather than an independent seeker had freed me.
In struggling to overcome all this, I realized that the biggest breakthroughs people had in the group were when they were relating to each other, not with him. I learned the divine is within each one of us yearning to be manifest in life; and we all have the innate ability to break through the shell of isolation so that we can find real connection with others. We don’t need one special savior because each one of us can be a saviour to each other.
All we need is an environment where love and safety are present enough so that people can feel okay about sharing their humanity with each other with no other agenda than to free our true selves. That is what sets us free, not more dogma, esoteric ideas and charismatic teachers. And when those things are present we can actually awaken to the god in ourselves and others.
The Third Turning Point
At that time, I made another major decision; I would never again present a guru as someone who had all the answers. I would only help people find the truth for themselves. If I was to help people I would only help people using techniques not dogma.
In an odd way I now thank that false spiritual teacher for the lessons he taught me. Had he not done what he did, I would not have learned what not to do as a spiritual guide. I would never have taken the path to help Independent Seekers. I would not have recognized the principle of Co-evolution working out here: I gained some great wisdom through my interaction with him, however painful it was. I would not have written the book: “Awakening the Guru in You” which contains a lot of wisdom drawn from my perceived negative experience with him.
But, now that I’ve matured and learned, I’m finding that because I am more introverted, I can be truly sensitive in times when people need me to help and when it is too pushy and manipulative. I can sense the point when someone just needs a little bit of extra love and contact and a few right words to breakthrough to a deeper insight or even an awakening experience. The breakthrough happens through their own steam and from that point on they have a greater capacity to face and get through other difficulties in their life.
They don’t develop a dependence on me.
The superpower it’s all given me is the ability to give people the space to explore who they really are without trying to get them to be different. It’s given me the ability to love people and create a safe environment where people inquire into their true nature and share what they come up with. They can go through whatever they need to go through to let go of what is holding them back so they can come to their own insights and wisdom (which is infinitely better than anything I can suggest.) This is far more life changing than giving some spiritual truisms that come from some religious teacher’s handbook of aphorisms.
I also realized that just because someone has had enlightenment experiences, it does not mean they are free of their mind or they have no more problems in life. Awakening gives a person the clarity that they are not their mind or personality. There is great liberation in this, however much of the neurotic ego structure remains and needs to be cleared. To worship a guru for the divine experiences they have had and ignore their personal flaws is dangerous. As long as a teacher is in a body they have stuff to work out.
The Phase of Clearing
After the cult experience, I was drawn to explore experientially many psychological modalities. The numerous awakening experiences had dislodged a lot of repressed psychological material: sexual abuse, childhood trauma in a hospital, abandonment and abduction issues, etc. I entered a phase of clearing these.
I studied, trained and engaged in many forms of psychotherapy to clear myself of past trauma and neurosis: Jungian therapy, Cognitive psychotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic-Programing, the Silva method, DynaMind, Psychodrama, Psychodramatic Bodywork, Psychosynthesis, Mind Clearing, Gestalt, Clinical hypnotherapy, childhood and past-life Regression, Breath therapy, Psychodynamic counselling, Massage, Polarity therapy, Dream work, Emotional trauma release, Beyond Stress, Addictions counselling, Inner Child work, men’s and women’s studies, and many forms of physical therapy such as, Herbalism and nutritional therapy, and many more.
I completed extensive training and mentoring to master the Coming Home Retreat (aka the enlightenment intensive) by participating in many of these myself, including 2 two-week intensives, staffing (including a 6 week E.I.) and completing the Enlightenment Intensive Masters’ Training Course in 1983 with Lawrence Noyes from the Dyad School of Enlightenment. I also trained in a form of individual and couples coaching called Clearing, which is based on communication principles that have made The Coming Home Retreats so effective.
I chose to concentrate on this training because of the deep awakening experiences I had with this method and because of the spiritual orientation of the work. Although, many of the psychological methods I had experienced were quite effective, most of them espoused a personality- identity perspective i.e. the self is the ego or personality which is formed from genetic and sociological/family influences. I had experienced that the true self is beyond the ego.
During this time I got married to a wonderful woman, Linda Scott who had a young son Jesse from a previous relationship and I was blessed with 2 more children: Jon and Leela. I became a husband and a father with all the human challenges of parenting and making a marriage work. All this inner work helped me become more successful and heart-centred in my life.
I was hired by a National Scholarship foundation and advanced within 6 months to being the Enrollment Director for North Western Ontario and was frequently one of the top 10 enrollment agents in the country in monthly sales and sales retention. I used a lot of my counseling training to find out if what I was offering was a fit for people rather than being sales-y. I became more extroverted in the process.
I was also blessed to work as a counselor and a workshop facilitator for an agency that ran a residential treatment centre and provided on-site addictions programs for First Nations communities in Northern Ontario.
In 1997, I moved with my wife and three children to Orangeville to be a partner in running the Ecology Retreat Centre near Orangeville, Ontario, becoming the sole owner a few years later. In the 11 years as owner I increased the business earnings 3-fold and developed the centre to be one of the most respected and successful retreat centres in Eastern Canada.
I continued giving workshops and individual sessions and I pioneered the presentation of many ecology workshops such as Strawbale Construction, Off-the-Grid Living and Permaculture Design, which became the spring board for many authors, teachers, builders and designers, as well as the inspiration for the building of many “green” homes in Ontario.
I went back into singing part-time and, in 2001, I accomplished a lifelong dream of recording a CD of original songs called “Masterkey” with producer Reinier de Smit of Brilliant Eye. The CD received playing time on CBC and many radio stations. All the while I was blessed in working with hundreds of groups involved in personal, spiritual and ecological awareness at the Ecology Retreat Centre.
I witnessed many modalities of spiritual growth and developed a keen sense of methods that were genuine and effective in liberating individuals struggling in the human condition and ones that created dependency. This experience has proven invaluable in designing and facilitating the programs I created.
In 2010, my wife and I mutually decided to separate because our paths were taking different directions.
The separation was not easy and I went through a deep grieving process in order to move forward and embrace my new life in Guelph, Ontario in an eco-hippie neighbourhood.
All three children Jesse, Jon and Leela have had their own unique struggles and are all doing well and I love them deeply.
In 2012, I put much of the wisdom of the Co-evolution enlightenment experience that had matured in me over the years into a book called: “Awakening the Guru in You”.
In it you will find the nature of the spiritual path defined, advice on how to be a conscious seeker and a delineation of the “Co-evolution” method that I have used in hundreds of retreats and seminars for over 35 years. It is one the quickest methods of producing deep insight and awakening that I have come across. If you are interested in reading more about this method, you can get the book off my website.
And, as I look back, I can see that a primary question that my whole life has been circling around has been: how can we become our own gurus rather than follow one? My whole life I’ve been struggling to weave together how we can free our hearts from the trap of the mind and how we can embrace the great mystery of self, life and others in a way where we don’t get ensnared by dogma and spiritual traditions.
I know that the truth is in all of us, not just in spiritual teachers. We don’t need more esoteric ideas or philosophical concepts. Part of the path of awakening is a journey of letting go of all these, not accumulating more.
What we really need are less dogmatic teachers and more guides who can teach us techniques and methods to directly experience the truth for ourselves. It is the same truth that all spiritual traditions have spoken of. Buddha, Jesus, Lao Tsu and all these great people were human just like you and me. We can do it too.
So, I just wanted to take these past few minutes to write and let you know that you’re not alone… and that things get better…and there’s wisdom in it all.
Yes there’s pain in life but when we look back, we can feel grateful for all of it because even though some experiences break us, they break us open and the real self can shine through those cracks. And through the sharing of our authentic humanity the contact of real self with another real self is the activating force, the catalyst that creates real transformation in life It’s not more dogma, charisma, idealism, and great concepts to change the world. It’s just you and me, in the U-n-I-verse.
And this is the central idea behind my retreats and one-to-one work: Co-evolution. We evolve together.
That’s why the motto of what do is:
We have to do it by ourselves but we don’t have to do it alone.
“When you look inside know that there is a greater life for you to live, one that does not just skim the surface but is lived from the depth of who you really are in a way that utilizes your God given gifts to make a real and meaningful contribution to this world. In times when you feel alone and in despair, know that your uniqueness is a gift to this larger life. You are needed in this world”
- Russell Scott