Shawn Pethel Interview: What am I?

What happens when you take the rigor of a physicist and combine that with the earnest desire of a seeker of enlightenment? In his mid-twenties, Shawn Pethel picked up a book by Ken Wilber and was introduced to Eastern philosophy and the idea of enlightenment. As a scientist, he recognized that these Eastern meditators were true spiritual explorers who were gathering data and trying to systematize the exploration of inner space. Most importantly, they spoke of an answer, “enlightenment,” which Shawn recognized as what he had been built to pursue in this life.

So Shawn pursued enlightenment, first through a decade of reading and working alone, but then discovering a community of fellow seekers that greatly accelerated his path.

In this episode, Shawn discusses the highs and lows of his spiritual search, meditation, following what is given to you, the importance of connecting with what you care about, and enlightenment.

Photo by Vadim Bogulov on Unsplash

Please feel free to leave comments or send an email with the contact form.  I always appreciate hearing your thoughts.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Selected Links and Topics from this Episode:

  • How Eastern mystics were exploring and gathering data through meditation.
  • “I felt my whole life I had been built to seek [enlightenment].”
  • The value of having to articulate our internal narrative.
  • The value of being around people who are practicing being open and honest.
  • Wanting to know “what am I?”
    • “If you see something you must be outside of it.” This is a very useful concept that led Shawn to a “homegrown meditation” style.
  • Meditation phobia
  • To meditate without ceasing. At every moment you can, observe what is going on. Yet, don’t create some kind of crazy standard for yourself.
  • What progress in meditation looks like.
  • Nisargadatta Maharaj’s “I Am.”
    • “What do I do now?” Getting stuck on the spiritual path.
      • Your energy comes from being in touch with what you really care about.
        • What is the universe trying to tell you? What’s the thing “right in your face?” What’s the most obvious thing the universe is trying to get you to pay attention to right now?
        • The need to get honest with yourself about your priorities. Enlightenment doesn’t have to be the honest priority, but you need to be honest about what is.
          • Daniel Ingram as a mentor.
          • The vanishing of the “I am.”
          • “I can’t talk about what is, but we can talk about what you’re trying to substitute for what is.”
          • “The mind is a narrative machine.” It creates stories.
  • Asking “where is my body?” “where is my mind?” while lucid dreaming. Spiritual seeking while lucid dreaming.
  • Don’t beat yourself up comparing your efforts to others. Go with the effort level you have. ” Keep track of it and act in a way that’s in accordance with it.”
  • “Science is about building models, and those models come from your intuition and then you check them rigorously…. There’s a lot of creative process that’s in there.”
  • “I think a lot of seekers are not in contact with what really matters to them, or not got it in very good focus.”
  • Shawn’s go-to book recommendation for spiritual seekers is Nisargadatta Maharaj’s I Am That. Another important book for him was the first few pages of Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha by Daniel Ingram. Also, Douglas Harding’s books are highly recommended as both logical and creative.
  • What’s life like after enlightenment?
  • “What’s illusion and what’s real is another illusion, another false dichotomy.”
  • Want to contact Shawn Pethel? Sorry, you’ll have to come to a TAT Foundation or Pittsburgh Self Inquiry Group event when he’s speaking.
  • To register for the upcoming TAT virtual event I mentioned in this episode, go here.
  • Check out the new edition of Bob Harwood’s Pouring Concrete: A Zen Path to the Kingdom of God
  • Leave a review on Amazon of my book Subtraction: The Simple Math of Enlightenment. We’re now at 148 reviews!

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