Edited by Jerry Katz
Photo: Roger Mahaffey
The following comment was added to my interview with Roger Mahaffey on YouTube:
Roger was 24. We have lost a good young man loved by his friends and family, and one destined to grow as a shining light has been lost to his generation.
Please visit Roger’s Facebook page where there are many comments and photos:
Interview published on Jan 31, 2013
Roger Mahaffey is 23 years old and lives in Columbus, Ohio. He works at an insurance company in technical support. We talk about thoughts, silence, experience, presence, peace, impermanance, darkness, surrender, how life flows, addiction, action, “no me.” And we talk about the doorways to Roger’s understandings: LSD, psilocybin, talks with his grandfather, Buddhism, Mooji.
Tracks with quotations by Roger
1:28 – 3:07 Nonduality scene in Ohio. Gar Drolma Buddhist Center. http://www.gardrolma.org/ Garchen Rinpoche.
“What makes someone feel that extreme peace and joy that he seems to radiate. Where does that come from? That’s been my biggest thing: where to find peace. Some people you’re around seem to have that and others don’t. That’s been my quest, to find that lasting peace.”
3:07 – 6:08 Challenge of finding peace. Silences. More Buddhism. Writing. Some rambling.
6:08 – 9:34 Watching thoughts. What is noticed when taking psychedelics.
9:34 – 12:12 How nondualists talk about experience and awareness. Relation to his psychedelic experiences. Talking about silence.
12:12 – 16:47 Roger talks about his experience at work when “fully resting in the moment.” Contentment and experience. Bringing presence to his work. Nature of presence.
“That silence is very peaceful. … When I’m fully resting I don’t need anything. I have the experience all the time at work, my work can be really stressful … but sometimes on a day where I’m fully able to rest in the moment I get the feeling I don’t have anywhere else I want to be. … That is the last place I want to be in my life … yet I get the experience I don’t need to be anywhere else. … What I noticed is that contentment has nothing to do with the experience. Contentment is there regardless, if you can let go enough into your self. … When you put presence into anything it can become enjoyable.”
16:47 – 18:30 Ajahn Chah and impermanence and how this teaching has changed Roger’s perception of the world.
“Everything is uncertain. … What comes, goes. … Everything changes. That’s huge! If everything is uncertain and temporary, what can you hold onto?”
18:30 – 22:03 Issues with drugs and avoidance of bad sensations and the seeking of good sensations. Addictive behavior as the actual seeking of inner peace. Addiction/recovery.
“It’s not just addiction to drugs, it’s everything. What I was actually seeking was peace inside myself.”
22:03 – 31:09 Compulsive thought. Meditation as an attempt to control the mind. Experience at a 12 day silent retreat at age 20. Transcendence of pain and the meaning given to the transcendence.
In the midst of experiencing great physical pain from having to hold certain sitting postures for 8 hours a day during several days on a retreat, here’s what happened: “Something arose in my mind of clarity, and I felt so in tune and connected with everything. But the biggest thing is that there was no pain. I’ve always had a sense of a little bit of depression, agitation, somewhere in my consciousness. That’s what made me seek drugs and then seek meditation and go the nonduality route. But it all vanished. I’m talking any tiny, little trace of any of that. I ran to my teacher because you can have a few meetings over the 12 days. I told him I didn’t feel any pain. This is it! I got it! I was bubbling with joy. … I found what the Buddha was looking for! But remember, everything’s uncertain. I didn’t know that at the time. It felt like I hit something real and that was it. And my teacher said, ‘Roger, this too will pass.’ He kinda deflated me and it did pass and there was pain four hours later. But that’s how things go, right? … What is the point [of a retreat]? What are you doing?”
31:09 – 35:38 What is the point of such a 12 day silent retreat? Impermanence revisited. Gangaji discussed. Mooji discussed as a teacher Roger finds valuable and his favorite.
35:38 – 41:32 Family. Religious and spiritual life growing up. Talks with his skeptical grandfather at a Chinese restaurant. Education. Meditation in schools.
41:32 – 45:43 Roger gets into nonduality discussions with clients at work. Hypothetical cold call selling of nonduality. The possibility of a cult of awareness.
45:43 – 51:26 Roger’s reaction to the teaching that there’s nothing to teach and you don’t exist. Nothing Ever Happened, by Papaji. Diamond Sutra. Emptiness of emptiness. Negating existence. Impermanance and not knowing. Buddha. What is going on?
“When I’m experiencing deep peace I don’t have a lot to say all the time. But I know that the words coming out of my mouth aren’t, ‘I don’t exist, you don’t exist, this is just life.'”
51:26 – 56:48 How Roger lives this knowing.
“I feel I’ve been saved over and over again.”
56:48 – 1:00:32 Grace as related to the flow of events in Roger’s life. Lex Gillan. Prayer. Letting go. Faith and neuroscience.
“I pray all the time. My first job at Wendy’s, I’m sorry, I couldn’t do that. I prayed all the time for a new job. I felt like it opened the doors. … I pray to whatever is. Ultimately I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going or what this is. … It seems like everything is connected and things are being shown to you if you’re open to it.”
1:00:32 – 1:04:45 Consciousness is not the result of brain activity. Near death experiences. You are what you’re praying to. Mother Theresa. Truth-based way of thinking. Rochelle Arch-Hayostek mentioned. Negative emotions and fear still present.
“You are what you’re praying to.” “Die before you die so that you may truly live.” “Knowing that I am peace and not this body… why am I still falling back into my thoughts?”
1:04:45 – 1:07:15 Seeing the void or some knowing in the eyes of some people. More LSD-influenced perceptions. Experience of oneness through eye contact.
1:07:15 – 1:15:08 Using entheogens in controlled conditions. Erowid. Seeing through your darkness while on psychoactive drugs. Nature of the darkness. Depression. Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, and the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Shamans. Icaros. Being forced out of you.
1:15:08 – 1:21:00 Having given up psychoactive chemicals. Roger asks Jerry about his perception, search, and what is seen. Nature of surrender.
1:21:00 – 1:28:03 Roger talks about his daughter Sophie. “She’s very happy all the time.” Long silence. Talking about the Nonduality Highlights. The pace of conversation slows way down. Talking about alternatives to caffeine.
1:28:03 – 1:32:58 Roger talks about things he sees happening in his life in the near future. The nature of the flow of his life these days. Contentment. His friends.
1:32:58 – 1:34:58 Roger’s opinion of nonduality on the internet. Suggestions for improving access to the Nonduality Highlights.
1:34:58 – 1:42:25 Time. “This.” Deep peace. Feeling like you need nothing. The urge to action. How do you know what to do next? Findings of neuroscience regarding action. Rafael Stonemen. Thinking.
1:42:25 – 1:48:35 No thought. Eating mushrooms and the experience of “no me.” “You don’t have to think about anything to speak. Who speaks those words?” “I don’t have a clue of what I’m doing at work, but it goes pretty well.” Flowness. Drug-induced seeing compared to sober seeing. Neem Karoli Baba and LSD.
A Writing by Roger Mahaffey
I have been wanting to write for a while now, its been in the back of my mind pushing its way to the front yearning for expression. What is yearning for expression I am not sure, but there is definitely a desire to let my thoughts and my heart pour on to the canvas. Today I went to Mass for the first time in over a year . And this has been one of a handful of times I have gone in the past five years. As I grew up I never found much interest in Mass though I have always been infatuated by religion and spirituality. I never quite understood what the priests were saying or worse I was so far towards the back as my Mom was habitualy late to everything that I was unable to clearly hear what they were saying. As I grew older we stopped attending church as it didnt seem to do much for my Mom or step dad or me for that matter.
But there was always a spark inside of me waiting to be kindled yearning for some understanding of life some meaning, some point to it all some higher or greater truth… something. I knew that there was something to existance or life , I knew that there was something I was missing, life was not just some random meaningless jumble of atoms. This spark for truth grew as my grandpa and I started to talk on the issues of God and the universe. My Grandpa is a stoud Athiest, who believes in the rationality of man and the sciences. He told me that God is like santa clause. He has played the role of the skeptic in my life always questioning spirituality and my later drug induced experiences of oneness with the universe.
But back to where all this started I went to Mass today and I found it beautiful, besides the priest essentially calling people deadbeats if they were unable to donate money to the church. I had shivers up my spine and hair stood on end as I listened to the hymns and prayers. I felt my heart slowly opening, and a silence blanketed my mind. Even as I first walked into the church today there was a certain energy in the air, I felt a subtle calm, a soothing feeling. I will no doubt be going to Mass again as there is something to be gained by going, I still feel uplifted 2 and a half hours after mass ended. For the past three years or so I abandoned my Catholic roots completely in search of my own truth and it started with my experimentation with psychedelics especially LSD and psilocybin.
As soon as I had my first experiences with psychoactive substances the fire in my heart blossomed. There was no turning back. Those chemicals opened my eyes to another way of seeing, another way of experiencing, it was like a key that let me walk out of my own psychological prison. Boy did I walk out, I burned the prison down and felt alive for the first time, my breath was fantastic, it was exhilirating. My senses felt electric. I looked into others eyes and it was as if I was looking into the depth of their being, not even… my own being. There was a deep unity, but not on a mental level but a feeling, even beyond feeling it was a seeing, a deep knowing that all was love, all was ok. Life was beautiful. Damn was it beautiful. Like so superbly beautiful these words are dead in comparison. And this did not feel like some drug induced delusion, some fake hallucination, this felt more real, more meaningful then anything that had ever happened in my life. Its like truth took a hammer and knocked me out of my head and most of all my misery. The problem with this experience is that it didnt stay, once I came down it went away, the chains slowly weighed me back down again, the prison walls were built back up. And that was the problem with every one of these experiences which for me were innumerable I couldnt get enough as every time I did it I was one with it all, saw beauty and truth in everything. Later to come down to the same old “me” the same old dead reality, the mundane drone of it all. But I clung to these experiences knowing that they were pointing to something greater, pointing to who or what the hell we really are.
Thats when I discovered Buddhism and eventually Timothy Leary and later Ram Dass. This put my experiences into perspective, and made me know for certain that I was not insane, but there was something to these insights gained through drugs. For those of you who dont know who Timothy Leary or Richard Alpert are (ie. Ram Dass) they were PhD. psychologists from Harvard who researched, consumed and popularized LSD and mushrooms in America. They were the guru’s of the 60’s authors of numerous books, and psychonaut explorers. They became my heroes as they were people who I could relate to, people who had been to the edge of their minds and beyond and came back to tell about it. The problem with my experiences was that no one knew what the hell I was talking about, didnt care or thought I had a case of LSD insanity. But when you have lived a typical normal life, and then something that mindblowing enters your life you cant help but become obssesively passionate about it. I was like a preacher for LSD and any psycho-active drug for that matter for I knew there was something. Eventually the chemicals stopped working or the supply evaporated and I was left with ganja, I realized that those experiences were impermanent and if I wanted to live in the modern world I could not be high on lsd and mushrooms a few times a week. I stuck to pot and started meditating and burning incense, that was my idea of spirituality light a joint, and read the Buddha.
Over the next year or so I devoured anything Buddhist… actually anything Eastern. The ideas of suffering, emptiness, no-self, enlightenment and imperamanence fascinated me not to mention Reincarnation which to me sounded romantically mystical. Whats interesting about Buddhism is that suffering and impermanance arent really theories or faith based ideas they are basic observations of the reality we inhabit. Everything changes, everything perishes, everything dies and every human I have met has suffered at one point or another if not continually. So I could jive with these concepts because they were fundamental truths that I could confirm in my own existance. Just watch how truly impermanent everything in your life is. You dont even have to look around you just watch your breath…. in and out each breath fades into nothingness. Your thoughts come and go. Relatives die. Meals end. Sensations end. Emotions end. Your favorite dog or pet dies. The days pass by and before you know it your old… nothing is static, nothing is permanent. Buddhism brings this truth right into the broad daylight of your consciousness. Its like KABLAM death is at your door step, and you dont have to wait to the end of your life, its happening, and its all around you, this whole life is melting away fading into impermanance.
Now this seems overly nihilistic like who the hell would want to learn a religion that emphasizes suffering and impermanance? But there is a light at the end of the tunnel which is enlightenment, or liberation from suffering which Buddhists call awakening from Samsara or the dream. Thats what Buddha means… awakened one. They asked the buddha are you a saint? Are you a God? he said no, I am awake. So the beauty in this religion is that there is an end to your suffering a way out. When you awaken from the dream of your self, birth, old age, sickness and death then you are free from the cycle of rebirth free from the pains of existance. You are a Buddha. Basically the fundamental nature of your own mind is Buddha-nature, or as Tibetans call it the Dharmakaya the eternal clarity, spaciousness, love and compassion that is the true nature of all beings and all things. And when you realize yourself to be this fundamental awakeness then you are freed from your ignorance.
Now that sounds great but Westerners are gonna say how is this any different then the God who sits on his throne and where is the practicality in it all?
Roger Mahaffey‘s funeral arrangements are as follows:
(Calling hours and funeral will be held at Shoedinger Worthington Chapel 6699 N. High St., Worthington, OH 43085)
– Thursday, January 16th, calling hours from 5-8pm
– Friday, January 17th, calling hours from 2-4pm and then 6-8pm
– Funeral service Saturday, January 18th, 930am
Rest in peace, Roger. Love you.