Yan Kane, in 1968, was one of the first individuals to have an enlightenment experience on the 5 day practice session that was to later become the Enlightenment Intensive. It was a profound and life changing experience for him, as it has been for many of us. In this exchange between Yan and Lawrence Noyes in 1995, twenty-seven years later, he shares what he became conscious of.
“What happened for me on that Intensive is that the passion for the truth just turned on in me. The night before the last day, I was up all night. I couldn't sleep. I was working hard on the question 'What is the purpose of life?' I remember lying awake in the middle of the night thinking, “What is it? What is it?” I was really focused. I was like on a train, and all this stuff was going by the windows: thoughts, feelings, images whatever. But I knew none of that was it. Meanwhile I had this passion for the truth that had just grabbed me, that was driving this train.
The day before, I had gone through a period of real deep feeling like I had to find more meaning to life than just working at a job and eating. I got to another place where I felt that if I asked that question one more time I would die. But I really wanted the truth soI just kept going. Then on the last morning we were doing a sitting contemplation. The schedule was a little different then, we had a sitting in the morning. And suddenly, during the sitting everything disappeared . And I went into union. There was a union of myself and the word ‘what’ and everything. I was in this infinite timeless experience of union, and it was like no experience I had ever had before. And it suddenly didn't matter what the purpose of life was because I was experiencing the union. The purpose was this union I was experiencing and not some answer.
I was in exquisite ecstasy from this. Now I would use the word 'bliss,' but I didn't know that word then. For hours though, every time I would touch onto the experience, there were waves of bliss, just waves of it. It was so exquisite, and so unexpected, that I was crying. Later I was laughing from it all. This continued on throughout the last day.
After the Intensive, I was in this state of bliss for several days. I hung out with friends doing ordinary things like taking walks and working on a car. But I was in bliss. At the time, I thought this was all completely new and special what we were going through. But afterwards I was talking with people and I learned that the Buddhists have been using koans for two thousand years or more. After that it seemed more like a different approach to enlightenment rather than something totally new.
Previous to the Intensive I had had a big argument with my mother. She had come out here, concerned about me. It was hippie days and I was being wantonly sexual and doing all these things and she was upset with me about getting into all this. To make a long story short she left around January of '68, after an argument we had, to live in San Francisco. This was before the Intensive. I didn't see her again until September, a couple of months afterwards. In September I just decided, “I'm going to go see my mother and get things worked out.” So I went to see her. She didn't know anything about my having done theIntensive. And she opened the door, looked at me, and stepped right back. And she said,“You've been saved!" I was so surprised that she saw immediately that I had had a change of state. And I laughed. She thought I'd found God, in the Christian sense. But then I told her about the experience I had, and she just opened up to me. Everything that was bad between us just disappeared.
I did not have difficulty integrating that first experience into my life. It became my life, naturally. That experience was my first true spiritual awakening. From that first Intensive,and that first experience of the truth, the main thing I got was self-confidence. I became confident at just being alive, at just being a person. I felt I could hold my own with anybody after that. I could talk to people, or not. I've had a self-confidence about who I am since then. I've been able to go about doing what I do knowing that it's coming from me. I have a real appreciation for people and who they are. Even if they don't know they're someone, I do. This has changed my whole view of life and my whole way of interacting with people. I still have things happen in my life, and issues, but there is a basic happiness I have that doesn't go away. And I know I'm not totally enlightened. I know this happiness could be deeper, but it's deep enough for me now, and I’m totally satisfied. I don't have an anxiety about getting more deeply enlightened. If I do, OK and if their are set-backs, OK. But because I have this basic knowledge of who I am there is no anxiety about it at all. I have a regard for others I never had before. I may not always act in accordance with that regard, I may get overwhelmed with emotions once in a while, but this basic regard for others has just been a part of me since then. There's been a depth to my life that as far as I can tell can't be obtained any other way than through enlightenment”
(Excerpted from Miracle of Truth by Lawrence Noyes)