An Interview with Stephen Islas 
By Laurel Airica 



“You have to do it yourself ? and you cannot do it alone.” 
Stephen Islas, Enlightenment Master and Spiritual Counselor 


In 1972, when Stephen Islas first encountered the spiritual process known as the Enlightenment Intensive, he simultaneously stepped on his own path to Self-Realization and began his life’s work as a facilitator of awakenings in others. 

A native of Mexico City and a veteran of the Vietnam War, Islas subsequently spent eight years learning directly from ‘Intensive’ originator Charles Berner in San Francisco and also spent time at the feet of spiritual masters in India. Since then, he has been involved in more than 150 Enlightenment Intensives, leading three- to fourteen-day retreats in the United States and Canada. 

A deeply empathic and compassionate spiritual counselor, Islas has conducted numerous communications and relationship workshops in both the business and private sector and has been leading men’s groups since 1984. (He was a leader of the Los Angeles Men’s Council for two years during the 1990s). He has also trained others to lead Enlightenment Intensives and to conduct private counseling sessions to deepen participants’ experiences of their own deepest truths and the truths of others.

I first met Stephen last year at a time when I felt my emotional brokenness precluded me from doing the spiritual work required to reach Nirvana. (How quickly things have changed!) So while I was intrigued when I heard Stephen give a public presentation of the work, I did not feel adequately prepared — either emotionally or spiritually — to engage in such an intense experience. 

Stephen spent long periods of time on the phone reassuring me that I was welcome no matter how frightened I might feel or how reactive I might become in the course of the Intensive. He also let me know that he would “be there” for me, day and night, to guide me across the chasm of pain into a direct experience of the Truth of my Being. 

Because I felt so deeply heard and understood by Stephen, I trusted his words and embarked on the experience. Throughout that transforming weekend, I touched the heights, plunged to the depths, and found a safe middle ground in my own center that has been with me ever since. I took a second Intensive in May and have already signed up for Stephen’s September retreat. Here are some insights into this remarkable process and the beautiful man who leads them. 

What makes the Enlightenment Intensive so effective in so short a time? 
Key to the effectiveness of the Enlightenment Intensive is its synergetic combination of ancient contemplative meditation practices with in-depth communication. People focus on one question during the course of the Intensive — Who Am I? What Am I? What is Another? What is Life? — and then share whatever comes up for them with an involved partner who is undergoing her or his own quest. 

The potent alchemy of this dynamic process has made it possible for thousands of people around the world to rapidly achieve deeper levels of Self-awareness and thereby improve their personal relationships, creative expression and quality of life. 

Where does the 3-day Enlightenment Intensive fit among the various pathways to enlightenment? 
It is both a complement to an on-going practice and a wonderful introduction for those who are seriously considering including a spiritual practice in their life. By getting real and telling the truths that arise through your contemplation to another person — even if those truths are about what you judge to be unworthy and shameful about yourself — you naturally enter a deeper strata of Self and Reality than you have ever touched before. 

I know from experience that the Intensive carries people directly through their emotional patterns and old memories and creates profound and lasting healings. How does this work? 

Great question. This is not psychology. We are not here to try to heal the patterns or emotional problems people normally work out in therapy. Yet all that does take place — people do heal traumas and upsets as a result of going so deep. 

Here’s the difference: In therapy, you focus on what comes up, where the feelings and patterns came from, and how you can resolve them. But in an Enlightenment Intensive, participants are instructed to briefly, yet fully share (with their dyad partner), whatever it is that comes up ? and then set out anew to discover the WHO that they are that is having these experiences. 

This WHO is the individual essence. Once you have a direct experience of your essential Self, then you ask WHAT AM I THAT I AM WHO I AM? We are not seeking an answer, we are going for a direct experience. That experience changes your life forever. 

Does everyone at an Intensive make such a profound shift? 
It depends on the depth of experience that the person has had and their ability to communicate it to others. Some people have momentary flashes. Others have very deep experiences and to the degree that they communicate it, it becomes not only self-evident but also a part of their every day awareness. 

How do people find out about the EI? 
I hold preview evenings in which we practice the meditation technique that is used during the three days. People who have taken an Intensive usually invite their friends to discover the process for themselves. 

When is the next Intensive and how can people get in touch with you?
The next Three Day Enlightenment Intensive will take place at a retreat center in the San Bernardino Mountains and will run from the evening of September 27th through Sunday evening, September 30th. 

During those three days and nights, participants will be fully supported and nourished by the structure of the retreat, the profound contact with others, the beauty of the natural environment and by the Truth, itself. Each successive activity will be carefully orchestrated to enable everyone to achieve remarkable breakthroughs in the course of the retreat. 

For dates, times and locations of the next introductory evening in your area, call Stephen at (310) 576-0920 or e-mail  . 

© 2001 Laurel Airica

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