The group was called “Synthesis”, and was led by an older man. There were rumors that he had been in India. He often talked about a saint called Ramana Maharshi. Several weeks later a book by Ramana fell into my hands. I don’t remember the name of the book, but on reading his rather complicated prose I got the feeling that Ramana was talking to me about the insight I’d had when I was 12.
Several months later I found out that the old man, the group leader, was having sex with some of the young girls as an initiation ritual. One of his prey was the young girl I was platonically in love with. I got very angry, left the group, and dismissed everything I had learnt in those months as a hoax, including Ramana’s teachings.
Many years went by; I concentrated on learning my profession as a film maker and photographer, and starting my career. Lived in England, Sweden, Spain and ended in California. Married, later divorced, with two great kids and running a successful film production company that gave me a life of abundance. But the insight I’d had as a kid was starting to stir again within me, and threatening to change my life again.
In 1992 I was dating a beautiful actress who was involved in a practice called the “Sedona Method”. I got interested when I heard that the founder and creator of the “Sedona Method”, Lester Levenson, based his teachings on Ramana’s. Here we go again, Ramana is knocking at my door! I got involved in this group, went to seminars, retreats and all kind of activities hoping to meet this Lester Levenson, who was considered to be a realized person. I did not know what a “realized person” was, but I felt that meeting him was important. Lester’s health was declining, he hardly left his home in Phoenix, and never came near Sedona, so much to my frustration I never got to meet him.
By 1994 Lester died and was buried in a very humble and unmarked grave in the grounds of the Sedona institute. I was very frustrated. The Sedona method was working but I wanted more and felt that meeting Lester was the key. Now he was gone, the only realized person I had heard of was gone, and frustration was mounting in me. One day, I don’t know how, I found myself driving towards Sedona. I got into the Sedona Institute grounds, walked to Lester’s grave, which was just a shallow mound in an unkempt patch of dirt. In a very angry voice I told him something like: “You got me into this quest and you are not leaving me now. I demand that you do something”.
Nothing seemed to happen, so I got back in my car and drove back to Los Angeles, not in the best of moods. Two weeks later while I was working in my office I got a very strange call. A lady I had met at the Sedona seminars was calling me to ask for the address of my guru Robert Adams. I told her that I did not have a guru and did not know who Robert Adams was. She insisted that somebody has told her that Robert was my guru and wanted his address or telephone number. I managed to convince her that I have not idea who Robert Adams was, apologized to her for the misunderstanding, and was about to finish the call when something came to me, and I said: “Keep looking for him, and when you find him please call me, I want to meet him too.”
Two or three days later she called again and gave me the address of the place where Robert was giving Satsang every Thursday and Sunday. Next Sunday I was there, not knowing what Satsang was or what to expect. That is how Robert Adams found me. I never saw her at Satsang.
As it happens, the place where Satsang was held was about 15 minutes from my house in Sherman Oaks. How convenient. When I got to the place and sat on the floor there were about 25 devotees listening to beautiful music (later I learned that Robert loved music). After some time in silence, Robert started to talk, but I could not understand anything he said. I was very relaxed, and even though no knowledge was being transmitted to me, I was not disappointed at all. After about 20 minutes it was time for the devotees to ask questions that Robert would answer, but again I did not understand anything. Everybody around me was laughing and enjoying themselves, then we shared food that the devotees had brought. All the people seemed to know each other, and I felt accepted; I believe Robert looked straight at me a couple of times. When Satsang was officially over I stood up but stayed in place. Robert came out of the bathroom and walked straight to me, look at me with his beautiful blue eyes for a long time (it seemed to me), then he hugged me and walked towards the door. It was a very pleasant experience but nothing out of the ordinary happened, except maybe that he noticed me.
I went about my life in a normal way for about two or three days. Then I was at my girlfriend’s house watching a soccer world cup semifinal, when a wave of joy and love overcame me. I had never felt such happiness and joy for no reason at all, it was coming from me and was not given to me by any event or pleasure. Pure, unadulterated, unmotivated Bliss was overcoming me, and it felt normal and natural.
I started going to Satsang every Thursday and Sunday from then on, Robert’s presence – his emanations, as Ed Muzica put it — would multiply the joy and bliss in my daily life. Still I was a little bit concerned about not understanding what Robert was telling everybody. At the end of a Satsang I kneeled in front of him and told him: Robert, I could not understand anything you said. He looked at me smiling lovingly and said: Gooooood! After that my concern was gone and I just sat at his feet every Satsang in silence until he left for Sedona in 1996.
I saw him for the last time when he came to Los Angeles to have his teeth done. We had Satsang at a different place. At the end he came to me touch my heart with his finger and said: I will never leave you. I knew I would never see his body again. The picture included is from that day, he was very proud of his new teeth.
Luis de Santiago
Everything happened as expected. Her constant deterioration and her growing dependency on me. In the final stages she was blind and could not speak, although she could hear all the words of love that I would say to her. I know this for a fact because they calmed her. She never needed morphine nor any strong sedatives. So on December 7th, 2011, I whispered in her ear “Bibiana, my love, stop struggling, it’s not worth it, I will be all right and God is waiting for you.” She understood perfectly that the moment to leave had arrived.
But this story really starts at the moment that Bibiana said “Luis, I am dying.” Something happened inside of me, deeply inside of me, and I begged, like I had never begged before. I did not want to reach that stage in my life believing that “I” was going to die. I asked my self to not leave me in ignorance. I asked Robert Adams to help me. With a strength that surprised me, I begged not to die in fear.
And just as when I asked to meet my Teacher at Lester Levenson’s tomb, again the response was immediate. The pain of seeing Bibiana dying grew to such an extent, the thoughts about what I should have done to help her, about her imminent death and a future without her grew tremendously. My ego’s suffering reached a point where it could no longer suffer any more. I had reached my limit. And something very profound cracked. My mind no longer functioned, my ego exploded into a million pieces.
I started living in the present, second to second. There were no thoughts, therefore there was no suffering. But that wasn’t only it, every situation had an extraordinary beauty. Everything that had seemed terrible, unjust and not normal some days ago, now was beautifully natural and easy, just perfect. Bibiana and I would laugh, we loved each other, I enjoyed every second with her. I would look at her and saw her so beautiful, so lovely. Changing her diapers, helping the nurse clean her, feeding her, were all tasks that I did with total surrender, a love so profound that I had never felt before. I did not have any idea of what was happening, I thought that I had gone nuts, that I had lost my compass. But I didn’t want to change anything. I started to live a double life. In front of family and friends I behaved like the usual Luis. I didn’t want them to notice how crazy I was.
There were moments during the day when Bibiana slept, I would sit in silence in my studio and I would surrender to that which was unknown to me. I would disappear into a void full of peace, I would surrender fully and completely to this. At the beginning I was afraid of disappearing altogether and leaving Bibiana alone. But I started to notice that this void was wise and it would recreate Luis at the necessary moment. Luis would reappear seconds before Bibiana would call me with her bell. Luis would become present right before the nurse arrived. So with that trust, I surrendered to the void. Luis would disappear and all that remained was pure consciousness, pure perception without any object, any parameters or any concepts, and a timeless peace.
After the funeral, the question was, what would happen with all of this? Would this sublime madness disappear? What would remain of the experience? Surprisingly the peace and the stillness stayed as they had been, they remained the same. The feeling of living in a dream, the lightness that that feeling gave to my life, that sensation, rather the certainty, that all that happens is unreal, remained unchanged.
And curiously, a character reappeared which I had thought was lost. My ego, Luis, the character, tried to reclaim its lost territory. It tried to seduce me again, take advantage of the situation. It would say “You are accomplished, you are realized, you are one of the greats, one of the few.” It continued, “You need to get out into the world, let everyone see what you have achieved. Start teaching, you are a Master.” But my ego was so ridiculously false, so desperately inoperative that it made me laugh. It was so funny to watch it try. It bombarded me with concepts related to my children, my career, my future… all those things that I had worked for in the past but had lost all substance. Nobody could be fooled anymore.
I kept calm, ready to accept that all of this could be a mirage and that it could all disappear at any moment. I remained open, without desires, surrendered and in silence. I didn’t speak to anyone, not even with my realized friends. I had no need to comment on what was happening. Who was I going to tell it to if “I” was everything?
Time passed, years passed and the stillness remained. I did the same things, I even forced situations in the spirit of testing my limits. But peace remained immutable, inviting me to a total surrender, without effort, in complete and absolute trust.
Luis de Santiago