Frequently Asked Questions

Your leading message is “be present”. Surely this is what all spiritual disciplines say and have said: “Be here now,” “Live in the moment,” “Forget the past and future.” What is so unique about your approach?
The methods used for developing presence were perfected and established thousands of years ago, but in modern times they have lost their practical dimension. The Fellowship provides this practical dimension. Practical work begins where aspiration leaves off, showing us how and in what direction to make efforts against sleep and towards awakening in our daily life.

There is nothing to say against any other description of the experience of being present. “Be here now” or “Live in the moment” are good words of advice. The real question is whether or not one actually is present, and whether one is making the proper efforts to be present consistently.

So all other groups are wrong or mistaken?
We are not making a statement against any other way or group. At the same time, a real spiritual school of awakening must be rare; for a person to relate rightly to the idea of awakening, he or she must consider it a rare phenomenon. Only in this way can he or she value awakening properly and make the necessary efforts to attain it. So rather than say that all other groups are wrong, we would say that, out of the vast number of groups available in our time, those that are real must be few in number.

The simplest way, of course, to determine whether a group or discipline is giving you something is to measure the results. Are there any results? What are they? Am I achieving what I had aspired to? Many members have tried other methods before meeting the Fellowship. This is not uncommon.

I am glad that you speak about measuring results. I want to understand what I am doing.
This is the only way to work. Practical work on awakening cannot be based on faith. Ideas are presented so that we can verify for ourselves what is being said. In this way a person works from a place of understanding and personal experience, rather than on the basis of vague guarantees. The work soon becomes one’s own, in the true sense of this term.

You describe imagination as a negative thing. What about creative imagination? All artists need to visualize in order to create. Is this work opposed to artistic creation?
Any artist or craftsman would agree that creative labor requires concentration, discipline, and dedication to produce something of beauty or utility. The effort to be present only enhances true creative attempts to produce anything of lasting quality and beauty. When we speak about imagination, we are speaking about the mindless chain of thoughts that incessantly occupy space within our internal world. We are not even aware of the extent to which this imagination comprises our lives until we begin to make efforts to be present. Presence is a light that reveals and dispels darkness.

You speak about making the proper efforts. If you tell me what they are, can I do them myself, or with my friends and colleagues?
Imagination is a much more serious foe than many of us realize. It is not simply that we tend to dream and like our dreams—there is actually something inside of us that actively resists the effort to be present to one’s own life. It is also not a question of acquiring more knowledge. There are texts, both ancient and contemporary, that offer precise information about awakening. What is lacking is both an understanding of how to use knowledge precisely and the proper environment in which to apply it. One must be shown what to do, and then one must be reminded numerous times.

Many of us know from long experience that a person cannot do this work on his or her own. It is necessary to work with others, and it is necessary to have guidance from someone who is more awake. Sometimes attempts to work by oneself are useful, because if the efforts are sincere they will lead one to the conclusion that one cannot work alone. It can also be said that until one feels deeply the need for help and guidance, then perhaps it is not yet time to meet a true spiritual school of awakening.

How will I know when it is time to join?
The fact that you are showing an interest suggests that something in you recognizes the importance of awakening.

It is also worth considering that sometimes we hold ourselves back by repeatedly asking this question. A common pitfall to watch for is being satisfied with seeking. Many people feel that seeking for the truth is sufficient, and spend their entire lives moving from one group to another, forgetting that the whole idea is to find. And then one discovers that finding is also just a beginning, because after we find we must work, and work much harder than we ever imagined was necessary.

But how can I know if your spiritual teacher is awake?
It begins with our own ability to be present and the growing awareness of our own sleep. Also, you can prepare yourself to know. You can approach the Teacher with a neutral and open attitude, avoiding both extremes of being overly positive and accepting, or overly negative and critical.

In practice, we most often experience this question either when we notice that someone is asleep, or when we feel ourselves to be asleep and unable to pull ourselves out of it without the help of another. Helping ourselves or someone else come more into the present carries with it a great responsibility. Any negative attitude, such as judgment, vanity or despair, can only create further barriers. And in any case the dynamics change frequently: in one moment we may help a friend come out of imagination or a negative state, and minutes later our friend is doing the same for us.

If we allow ourselves to learn from others we will receive more than we ever expected. It is not necessary to know if they are more awake than we are. What matters is whether or not we become a little more awake as the result of working with someone else.

You keep referring to “effort”. What kind of effort do you mean?
Initial efforts to be present seem very small because we have nothing to compare them to. It is indeed necessary to pass from a theoretical to a practical understanding of effort, and we achieve this by making regular effort. The important thing is that efforts become personal: you do not try to be present because you hear that it can lead to something good, you try to be present because you understand that you are not present.

In fact, there are very precise and practical standards of effort, the kind of efforts that tell you in a given moment whether you are doing them or not doing them. The reason the idea of “effort” is presented in a general way at this point is because a certain amount of background is necessary before coming to practical methods. Once one joins, however, one is given these explanations and soon reaches the point where one can apply the Fellowship’s practical methods of being present, just as any other student applies them.

It all sounds too difficult. I just don’t think I can do it.
It is difficult. Do not believe anyone who tells you otherwise. However, the more we realize the extent and implications of our sleep, the less we think in these terms. A drowning man who is thrown a lifesaver does not consider the effort of grabbing hold of it as too difficult.

Is there a fee to join?
To join, in the Unites States, one pays a tithe of 10% gross monthly income. The membership donation is presented in a sliding scale, so that newer members are required to pay less than older members until they are able to verify the basic principles of awakening and sleep. Because the Fellowship of Friends is recognized by the state and federal governments as a non-profit religious organization, all membership donations are tax deductible in the U.S.
Every country has a different donation structure and you can contact the center in your city to find out more about the donations in your area.

I would like to join the Fellowship, but I do not live near a center and, for now at least, I do not see any chance of changing my circumstances.
Your place of residence is not by itself a barrier. Today, we have an active online program for remote students to participate in what we share. When we join, no matter where we are, we are connected to the entire spiritual network and not just one center. It is certainly helpful, whenever you can, to visit a center or visit Apollo to be with other members as often as you can. If we work sincerely, we will receive something for our efforts. In addition, circumstances do change, even when we think that this is impossible. What is important is wanting the connection and working as best one can. No real effort is wasted.