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An interview with Isaac by Dick Sinnige in Venwoude in 2002.

Every true teacher is only a finger pointing at what is real in you. Isaac Shapiro (52) is sharing the truth of being in an intimate way. For eleven years he has been sharing his love of truth and the insights that come from that in Satsang and in silent retreats. Isaac invites being totally open in the midst of pain, pleasure or whatever experience there may be, to be the space of awareness, instead of being identified within the framework of your personality. Isaac, who is leading a natural life, has had a lot of opportunity to practice peace. Last year his wife Kali fell in love with another man. They have split up in a responsible way, taking good care of their kids.
Every year Isaac comes to Amsterdam and that brings great joy. It seems strange, because oneness is just oneness and yet there is this expansion of bliss. The joy in my heart keeps refining and there seems to be no end. It is like being launched with nowhere to land. Every detail seems to be at the right place and I feel like I am not only on planet earth, I live between the stars, I am the stars. As if the Absolute has taken over from within and everything in the relative world fits perfectly. Strange enough even when life gets tough and when there are many challenges.
Isaac, in his direct and honest approach, has made it clear to me that I am what I have been searching for. The happiness is not so much about being up or down, it is about the cosmic snake biting its own tail full circle. Basically it doesn’t look anyway and it doesn’t feel anyway, it is the gateway. That, which I am naturally sees. The presence of being penetrates everything. It is the core of every experience and beyond it. I want to share and learn more about this with Isaac, so I have asked for an interview.
My girlfriend Ellen and I meet Isaac and his new partner Anandika in Venwoude, where he is having a silent retreat with about hundred people. We are in a small room with white curtains, surrounded by trees on a sunny afternoon.

-‘What is the advantage of doing a silent retreat?’

‘There are not the usual distractions that you have in your life. This is both an advantage and disadvantage, because ultimately this has to be lived in your life. Normally in our lives we experience different degrees of busyness. Most of us are busy from morning until we go to sleep. In a retreat people are here simply to be and so they become subtle enough to see some of the mechanisms that are functioning in them that are veiling the direct experience of reality.
In a retreat there are people with every kind of human problem and experience. People that have been raped or abused, that are dying, people that don’t have boyfriends or girlfriends or are divorced, that do not enough money, people don’t like them, they don’t fit in, their mothers or fathers are dying, or their parents were alcoholics or drug addicts. Here we all are and guess where you experience/feel all of this?’

‘In your heart’ Ellen responds.

Yes, your heart or body and as soon as you don’t want the experience you are having, you suffer. That’s it. When you are willing to be what you truly are, which is the space of your experience, that is called unconditional love. Your existence become a kiss, a healing, you could say, that holds everybody, as they are, in your heart. This is not from some idea of doing it, but from simply being what you already are. It is not a doing, it is being!’

‘One might need some time to adjust to this way of living.’

As people spend time together in this protected environment, they begin to open up and speak about things they would not normally speak about. The sharing gets exquisitely deep which of course brings a richness and a transparency to areas of life that most of us have difficulty with. It is amazing that as people speak, most of the time we can recognize ourselves in what they are speaking about, as if each person is speaking for all of us.
This morning a person spoke about a huge fear of death. It was beautiful because we could see it was the mind trying to explain a certain sensation that was happening in the body. She had a thought about dying, and what was troubling was her not being able to be present to the sensations that was generated by that thought.

‘I guess if you would be dead now, there would not be a problem at all. It is a natural thing and it has its own beauty. Only the idea of future seems to be the problem: “What will happen when I’m dead?”’

‘Yes, and the emotions that come up. When there is that first wake up, that first recognition of, “My god, there is really nobody here, there is just the space.” and there is a recognition of how much has been built on the belief that there is an ‘I’ here, a natural process starts to happen. All the structures that have been built on ‘I’, which are nothing basically; they are just beliefs, thoughts, start to seen. In the seeing, there is the recognition of the cost of living through those filters and then the energy that was used to hold onto those ideas is then available for being what you have always been. Those structures are what have felt to be ourselves, so as they are seen there can be an experience of dying or dissolving which can be unusual for people.
Also when experiences come up we don’t want to be present to, we tend to want to hide out in the Absolute. We take an enlightened viewpoint, “it’s all not real”, but our lives are still a mess. After a while we see, that’s not exactly it. There is what is going on in our lives and obviously we are involved. In the Absolute there is no involvement at all, there is nothing happening, it is just who you are. You see that in the relative there is an involvement, and as this is seen there is a deepening. If you go wholly to that side, then it is always about becoming. “I have to clean up my act and then later I’ll be happy.” We start to see that it is neither one nor the other, but it is both.’

‘It is not about leading a stiff holy life.’

If I speak honestly about my own experience, my experience can get totally chaotic inside. I know many people that function as teachers. I have spoken with them and most say it is the same for them. I started this morning saying: “Wow, there’s a lot of sensations in my body!” It doesn’t take much. Just one remark, one look, your wife sleeping with someone else, it doesn’t take much.’{Laughter}

‘So we have got two things.’

‘There is the Absolute, which is the space and what we call the relative, ultimately is experience. That is all there is. Our experience is just sensations. When you look, you cannot find a boundary between space and experience. It is not two things.’

‘Still they appear like two things.’

‘They appear like two things, but our actual experience, when you look deeply, you can’t find where you end and your experience begins. There is no actual boundary between the two.’

-‘That is true.’ I have to admit: ‘I cannot separate being and experiencing. I am experiencing.’

‘There is nobody that can deny that they are, and there is nobody that can deny that they have experience. We actually can’t say what we are. We cannot describe it, and neither can we describe our experience, neither of which is objects. We cannot find a beginning or an end to either and we can’t find a boundary between the two. What we do find is that for most of us we have been measuring whether we are awake or not by our experience.
So when our experience is contracted we say: “Oh I have lost it!” That is not true. You are still there. This measuring whether we are awake or not by our experience is funny when you see it. On the other hand if you deny your experience, you don’t notice how you move in life.
For example, when you are acting from a hurt place, how you try to hurt everybody you think is involved. If you don’t see that and don’t acknowledge it, then it continues. You keep trying to hurt everybody and hiding behind; “it doesn’t matter, it is all illusion, who can be hurt?” That it is not being true. It is a way in which you are trying to defend your own heart and not feel what you are feeling. What you begin to see is that this trying to not feel what you are feeling, is what gives power to the mechanisms of duality.’

-‘Yes, then you fall into the suffering named resistance. Sometimes it looks as if resistance is all there is.’

‘When a strong experience is touching us, it does not appear as sweetness. There is only a little hint of sweetness then. The pull of the drama feels huge, but if you look carefully, you find the sweetness there. As you become aware that ultimately all there is, is this moment”, then there is this experience that you can’t name. If there is any resistance, then there is trying to control your experience, trying to only have pleasure and avoid pain.
As long as you try to avoid pain, there is a ‘you’ there, that as soon as the pain shows up, will use any means to get away from it, including taking an absolute point of view.
When you awaken, you start to be really naked, because you can see that there is nothing you can do about your experience! Everything you try to do just makes it worse.’

–‘It is pointless trying to manipulate your experience.’

‘When that is truly seen it is called surrender, because then you can’t fight your experience anymore. So surrender happens, but it is not a mental surrender. You “be” the space in which this whole movie is happening, including resistance. There is no fighting against resistance or fighting your experience. As your experience happens there is not even this little movement of trying to analyze or understand it.’

-‘That’s clear, because otherwise the process of evaluation would suggest again a center from which you could move away or modify the whole patterning. That would add to the misery of isolation. I mean: there is no way to move towards that which I am right now.’

‘Then what happens is your experience becomes direct. The same experience, which before would have thrown you into defending and contracting, now has exactly the opposite effect. It literally opens you. It is not something that you do. It is just like the collapse of the structures. It just happens.
It is not what you might have thought of as comfortable or what you were looking for! But wow, this is really great! What can collapse is unreal. What is real cannot collapse.
Every moment forms are changing. Leaves become earth, earth becomes trees, trees become wood, and wood becomes fire. Life is not concerned with form. It is just a movement of form. Birth, death, the same, ultimately. To the extent that you don’t accept death you can’t have birth.’
‘This is a fundamental way of facing the entire movement of existence, without hanging on to any separate element in it. It is the integration of construction, balance and destruction. It includes the surrender of all the heavenly goals that take humanity right into hell, of enlightenment or leading a religious life. As you be your own heart, you are able to sense all movements including those that are painful, and then instead of trying to defend against pain, you are curious to see how the sensations are moving. Then you can’t defend anymore, not because someone told you, but because you know it from inside. What a lucky life!’

-‘Seven years ago I interviewed you and you said: “Dick, it is so easy talking with you, because you know what I am talking about.” At that moment I denied it, by saying: “No no, maybe now I know, but you know it all the time.” I have listened to the tape about forty times. At a certain point I cut this little piece out, because I could not hear myself saying “no, no” anymore. What was holding me back was this idea of becoming someone better, someone pure. Instead of the fast movement of totality that blows the mind to pieces, I took the personal as a reference-point.’

‘That is getting stuck on the relative side. The purification happens and reveals all the places in yourself you never wanted to go. All the energy held in not being in those places in you are then available for being. To deny that the purification is happening is craziness, and to think that it is going to bring you more to consciousness or bring you more to who you are also is crazy. You are.’

-‘Yes, I am. The whole bunch of ideas is seen for what it is. I have fallen into the silent background, so to speak, though any kind of defining what it is falls short, of course. There is no instrument for the measurement of totality.’

‘What sees that is the love of Truth and that is wonderful. Since we have met we have both been deepening and maturing. This is happening with most everybody that I see coming to Satsang over the years. It is beautiful to see, These independent researchers all in love with what is real!’

-‘For some time you have been quite involved with ‘the work’ of Byron Katie. This year you seem to be more into awareness directly.’

‘In my experience, the Katie work has been integrated. I don’t use it as ‘the work’, but what it gave me is totally integrated in my speaking now. There was still a capacity to project and not recognize those projections. Now it is almost impossible. It is seen as soon as it moves. When someone else speaks, that same capacity is there. I guess with anything in your life, at first it is somebody else’s and when it’s integrated you can’t call it yours or theirs or whatever. It is what you know.’

-‘Where did it all start?’

‘I was born and raised in South Africa. There I had an experience of unconditional love. I knew when I tasted it, that that was the truth. I could see how my thinking molded my experience and I didn’t know how to be free of it. Over the years, one step at a time, I could see more clearly and finally meeting Poonjaji, who pointed me at awareness itself. What a blessing. The end of the search and yet this just keeps going. It doesn’t stop. We are always just beginning.
I love it. It never stops! It is ever deepening. As some mechanism of ignorance gets revealed, the energy that was tied up in that is available to an even deeper seeing. So more subtle mechanisms get seen. 2500 years ago Buddha said: “Don’t stop, don’t stop.” That is also what Papaji says in his invitation: “Never stop.”’

-‘Life is an endless refining.’

‘An endless refining. Some people, once they have come to a few Satsangs, they see the truth of themselves and they say, “Oh, I don’t need Satsang anymore.” It is true, nobody needs it to begin with. Yet there is something that happens when we all come together in this love of truth. It’s a love affair of the heart and it is not about getting anything. It’s more a fantastic opportunity to let it reveal and it does.’

-‘I live on the waterside now. This morning a duck was taking a dive, it made circles in the water. The circles were getting wider and wider, just as love grows more and more. In a way it’s a contradiction, because how can the limitless grow? And still you cannot say it doesn’t grow.’

There are habitual ways in which the heart is defending itself, that are experienced as resistance. We barely notice them as we are so used to them. As they are seen through, there is an experience of deepening. But the moment you try and get more you’re back in the drama of being somebody.’

-‘Because then there is this imagined centre of control creating a war it can never win.’
‘The question remains, To whom is it deepening? Where is the deepening experienced?’

Nobody can deny that they have experience. Who we are, is space with the capacity of knowing and it is this capacity to know that gives us experience. Without that there is no experience. Otherwise you could just hit yourself over the head with an iron bar and say, “Well, that’s it. Now there is no experience. I’m done.” But that’s not it.
Our resistance is a filter that we see reality through. We are so used to it that we don’t even know it is there. If we speak in terms of what is real, there is no ‘you’ to resist any experience. There never has been and there never will be. Once you pick up the idea that there is a ‘you’, that can change, fix, or get rid of some aspect of your experience, then you don’t live as the heart, as reality anymore, because reality is not trying to change anything. Awareness, reality whatever you call it, is holding your experience of everything in the entire universe!
It is that huge embrace that just holds everything as it is. We cannot find a beginning or an end to it. When suddenly we become aware of awareness, it is like turning the light on when you walk into a room, where you thought there was a snake, but now you see that it is only a rope. You don’t need to do anything about the snake at all. Once that resistance is actually seen for what it is, it is over. The energy that was held in believing in that resistance is finished, it is integrated and is available for seeing.’

-‘It feels like one love, without a second. In fact I cannot even relate to this capacity, because that would be another duality of someone knowing something, just another subtle resistance. I can only plunge into it. I can only be it. It’s funny that we use dualistic language to point at oneness.’


-‘I am so happy to see you. When you are around the trees are always greener and the space rejoices. It’s a majestic miracle.’

Isaac doesn’t say anything. I only see a quiet smile on his face. We are silent for a little while. Outside a bird is singing, while we relax and be the bliss of being. Four happy people gathered in a simple song of freedom. Life is good, life is fulfilling. Then Isaac speaks about relationship:

This is an area in which there has been a huge deepening for me. There were a number of mechanisms functioning in me that I had never seen. I started to see the way our subconscious mind is functioning. Everything that we want is not about what is just here now. It is about future. It is about not being present.
There were a number of wants in me, about relationship, about sexuality; I was so used to them that I took them for granted. I didn’t see how the thinking of my mind around sexuality, specifically wanting sex, looking at women and having that orientation, what that did in my experience. I just put it down to: “Oh well, that’s natural for me.”
As I looked into it, I could see that my mind thinking about sex, was making my body want it. My body wanting it then became a way in which there was trying to manipulate to get it and of course that would play up in relationship in a very painful way. So what happens as the seeing goes deeper is that there is more availability to love, to genuinely just love, without manipulating, just being the space.
What I am appreciating with Anandika, is it seems like we meet where there is love, where there is the space to look at anything that comes up. Since being together we have faced many challenges, in terms of our living circumstances. There is such a willingness to be present as layers of resistance come up. It is a beautiful acceleration being together.
I am grateful to be with her and she says that she is grateful to be with me. What I wanted in relationship I could never have, because I wanted it. The very wanting got in the way. As I saw through the layers of wanting, I started to have my life manifesting as what I always wanted, but could never happen, because I wanted it. It’s funny that way, yeah? As soon as we try to manipulate to get something, it can never happen.

‘How are the kids doing?’

‘The kids are doing well and having a good time. It really was a conscious separation, in the sense that we both wanted what was best for the kids. I was actually moved by Kali’s courage to move in the way that she did. I don’t see it as wrong. I have a lot of respect for her courage. This does not mean that it wasn’t painful for me, but it has taken a good way.
There is space to look how it is moving now and what serves us all. That moves with the kids in a sweet way, because there was never any pulling, or pushing on them and using them for stuff that was happening. There was space for the kids to have their feelings about what was happening and speaking them. People that know the kids are blown away. A three-year-old and a six-year-old, able to articulate their feelings about what has happened to them. It is actually quite amazing.’

-‘I agree from my experience with kids, that they are pretty clear and open-minded. Humanity would be better off by recognizing their wisdom. I have one last question: When we look through our resistance and be the space of awareness, what is it that remains?’

‘The willingness to really feel the word, to be the world. If you have any preference, or any not wanting, or any idea that this is not welcome, then you’ll try and meditate it away. Reality is just this. You are this. It can feel miserable, unenlightened, small, contracted, unhappy, or it can feel huge and cosmic. You can cry and not know why you are crying or you can laugh and not know why you are laughing.
It can feel like your heart is tearing, breaking, you don’t know anything or it can feel like your heart is on fire and you think you are going to burst. It can feel like nothing at all. So quiet. I can see that my experience is the world. The world is my experience, it is me. There is no me and it anymore.’

Dick Sinnige