Jason Shulman's Beyond the Now; Essays On The Heart of Enlightenment - Author Interview
Jason Shulman is a wonderful spiritual teacher and prolific writer. I caught up with him just as he was releasing his most recent book, Beyond the Now; Essays On The Heart Of Enlightenment.
Kimberly Burnham: When did you start considering the concepts in Beyond the Now; Essays On The Heart Of Enlightenment? Why is this the right time to bring this material forward in a big way?
Jason Shulman: I think there was a book some years back called “All I really needed to know I learned in kindergarten.” It turns out that the goal of the spiritual path, whether it is a path of surrender to a higher power or one of nonduality, is the integration of our personal, mortal, human side with all its flaws and limitations, with the transcendent, forever-ongoing aspect that is not personal but universal.
When those two possibilities of human potential are joined in awareness—leaving neither out—the answers to life become very simple. You might even say they are the kindergarten-level “commonsensical” things we learned as we interacted with the world as a young child. We need to re-learn those simple things which have gotten lost in many of the approaches to spiritual learning which have taken on the coloration of our acquisitive approach to living, perspectives that have gotten more and more immaterial and substituted abstract concepts for the down-to-earthy thing that enlightenment and awakening actually are. It is always the time to set the record straight.
KB: Your work has been compared to other American teachers of nonduality. In what ways is that true and where do you see the biggest differences?
Jason Shulman: One of the great differences between my approach to nonduality and other teachers is that I try not to confuse an “experience” of universal consciousness (which is always nice to have) with what enlightenment or awakening actually is. Here is an example: many teachers—without making it explicit—confuse awakening with timelessness, a sense of the eternal that removes the person from the cycle of life and death, we could even say that “saves” the person from this mortal round of being.
But nonduality contains everything, including time. This means that while our brief, mortal life, is imbued with eternity, eternity is simultaneously imbued with the mortal and time-bound. This understanding of the co-arising of both of these perspectives changes everything and brings about an awakening that is not simply a self-concerned experience but a life that focuses on the small and humble as much as the large and transcendent. The idea is not to stay forever in a single experience of some concept of unity when the “world-actual” is offered to us.
KB: What are you reading these days?
Jason Shulman: Hmm. I’m re-reading Isaac Asimov’s robot books; a book on the philosophy of Phenomenology and doing a lot of composing and songwriting as well!
KB: How has the COVID pandemic changed how you think about life and living?
Jason Shulman: I’ve thought to myself “who has ever conceived that they will live a life and then, in this modern era, die of a plague, alone in a hospital room?”
This thought breaks my heart. And yet it has happened to over 300,000 human beings. So that gives me pause. It gives me pause to think about children growing up seeing everyone in masks, missing hugs and faces, missing mingling and play. I am lucky enough to live on a few acres of land and have a life partner with whom I share deep interests and love. But what about people who are alone in an apartment in a city?
I also think about some of the good things that might come from this: less travel to work; more social interaction in family units and so on. We could say that this devastating period is also so fertile and rich that it might take years to unfold and years to fully understand. It has uncovered some of the worst in us and some of the best as well. And I think it brings a calling—maybe faintly in the distance right now—to be better people, kinder people, more in touch with this tenuous mortal coil.
KB: Wonderful. Thank you Jason Shulman.
Beyond the Now; Essays On The Heart Of Enlightenment by Jason Shulman is available in bookstores now. https://amzn.to/3oEslfp
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