108. Mariana Caplan

Mariana CaplanMariana Caplan, PhD, MFT, is a licensed psychotherapist, professor of yogic and transpersonal psychologies, and the author of seven books in the fields of psychology and spirituality, including, The Guru Question: The Perils and Rewards of Choosing a Spiritual Teacher (Sounds True, 2011), Eyes Wide Open: Cultivating Discernment on the Spiritual Path (Sounds True, 2010), which won five national awards for best spiritual book of 2010, and the seminal Halfway Up the Mountain: the Error of Premature Claims to Enlightenment.

She has spent 20 years researching cutting edge and controversial topics in Western Spirituality, and dialoguing with the great spiritual teachers, scholars, and luminaries of our time. She is a leading spiritual psychologist, using somatic approaches to psychotherapy to support spiritual practitioners and teachers with the process of healing trauma and moving towards psychospiritual integration, and working with the complex discernments that arise in the context of spiritual practice and in spiritual communities.

She is an adjunct professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies where she creates and teaches innovative public and academic programs. She has degrees cultural anthropology, counseling psychology, and contemporary spirituality, and is a teacher, lifelong practitioner, and lover of yoga philosophy and asana.

Mariana resides in the San Francisco Bay Area where she has a private psychotherapy practice, and ecstatically enjoys her life as a new mom.

Mariana’s website

Interview recorded 2/3/2012

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.

36 thoughts on “108. Mariana Caplan

  1. Have you done that amygdala thing?

    The basic idea is the reptilian brain is the brain stem, the oldest part, housing animal fear and anxiety, the fight or flight stuff.

    The prefontal cortex is the newest part of the brain, inside the forehead, the most complex and creative part.

    In between these two regions are the amygdala, two avacado pit sized areas inside the temples, which regulate between the brain stem and prefrontal cortex.

    If you feel fear, anxiety, stress, you are operating from the brain stem, and you can then imagine two big feathers tickling your amygdalas, stimulating them and transferring energy or focus from the brain stem up to the prefrontal cortex.

    I learned that about a year ago, and for me it actually works. That always improves my state, and often puts a crazy smile on my face.

  2. Here is a crazy thought. I believe we have created this dream state we live in. Now the question arises, did we create the dream state to experience it or to just escape from it as many seem to wish to do?

    My Soul aspect is watching my human aspect experience life, why?

    No matter how you slice and dice it, one aspect of us is experiencing life as a human.

  3. I feel it is not the truth that around 90% of people have that realization i am not the body or mind. it my appear as a thought and a wish, of course. But what i have seen over the years is that people are mostly not seeing that as a truth. In the actions and projections of those people.

  4. sometimes i feel like this whole thing is set up so that you can get people to agree with you that practice is important, so that you don’t feel like so many years of your life has been wasted.

    which i’m sure it hasn’t but….. ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

    other times i just enjoy the interviewer sharing.

    thank you :)

  5. Too much mind focus in this interview. When you have spontaneous awakening the mind simply floats in peace and comes into submission to that peace. I turned this off because my brain was hurting. I choose peace.

  6. Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
    Through passion, I gain strength.
    Through strength, I gain power.
    Through power, I gain victory.
    Through victory, my chains are broken.

  7. Lynn said: “Too much mind focus in this interview.”

    I agree. So much cognitive talk, very much in the head. Some critical issues are important but it is packed in hectic but dry lecturing…

  8. Thanks Mariana,

    Of the 100+ interviews on this site, this is one of my favorites. All very well said. I’m looking forward to reading your books. All the best, BW

  9. Does anyone care to comment on Mariana’s personal rant at the end of this interview starting around 1 hour 10:40 min ??
    —> transcribed excerpt below:
    “The whole thing, no me, no you, nothing to do, and that’s the problem, no practice, and so on ……
    WHEN has that been useful to an integrated life, as an adult, partner, parent, and a teacher over a long period of time for a lot of people?
    ……. It makes me almost nauseous when I hear it.. it tends to thwart people’s progress than it help’s them.. it would be something that I would be okay if that teaching was saved for practitioners who have been with a teacher for many years, and already practicing a deep matrix of ….. ”

    —————

    I can relate to her rants, I have made similar observations from personal experience, observation of others, research, self inquiry, etc.

    Ram Dass and several other spiritual teachers have been quoted to say something along the lines of: “If you want to test your spirituality, hang around your family for a weekend.” or “If you want to see how enlightened a teacher is, go ask his spouse.”

  10. She carefully misses the point that those aren’t teachings and the likes of Tony Parsons, whom she attacks despite admitting to have never listened to, never claim to be teachers. They are at pains to point out that they are simply describing.

  11. I understand her reaction. But, ultimately, I don’t see a conflict. Being should be large enough to even embrace “personhood” (in a relative sense) and acknowledge a level of truth in her criticism.

  12. this is from one of my posts on FB…
    Robert Adams ~ RARE CASE OF ‘TOTAL’ AWAKENING
    Amarnath Zin Anatol : Ed… many thanks for posting this… a summary of the whole book sort of… the most important aspects… and a better version of his awakening… then i’m familiar with…

    Adyashanti says… “it’s actually quite rare that someone actually awakens to the whole of reality… all at once… it’s relatively rare…”

    i believe… that Robert Adams did have one of those relatively rare total awakenings… and it’s quite amusing to see those who have started their awakening process… by awakening to one aspect of reality… getting sort of stuck there… in what has become sort of a neo-advaitic fundamentalism… and from that partial perspective … criticize the wholistic teachings of Robert Adams…

    Adyashanti clarifies some more ~ “not all awakening is the same… there are different qualities of awakening… not everybody awakens to the same thing… the idea that everyone awakens to the same thing… is sort of a myth… misnomer… a misunderstanding… it’s actually quite rare that someone actually awakens to the whole of… reality all at once… it’s relatively rare… usually we get a piece of it… of course any piece of the whole feels like the whole… that’s how it works… if you bump into any aspect of reality… every aspect feels complete… because in a certain sense … every aspect is complete… so reality always comes with it… a felt sense of completeness… of totality… that unequivocal sense of … this is it… whatever that is… this is it… that’s how it feels… and also that can lead to certain misunderstandings… because we can … as i say… we often awaken to certain aspects of reality… rather than awaken to the whole of it… all at once… the deception is that each aspect feels like the whole… and so you may just get attached to an aspect and think… it’s the whole… see what i mean… it’s like getting hold of a foot of an elephant… and thinking you’ve got hold of the whole elephant… ”

    transcribed… i hope accurately… from first few minutes of video… and notice that there are 6 of these videos…
    Adyashanti – Different qualities of awakening. Part 1 of 6

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4ZtHY0SnfU

    here’s Ed Muzika’s post @ https://www.facebook.com/groups/282204211811653/
    Love, Surrender and Awakening

    Robert Adams tells of his awakening experience and what followed as below. After that I discuss what his story means to me based on my time with him and my own life since he left us.

    Robert:

    When I had my spiritual awakening I was fourteen years old. This body was sitting in a classroom taking a math test. And all of a sudden I felt myself expanding. I never left my body, which proves that the body never existed to begin with. I felt the body expanding, and a brilliant light began to come out of my heart. I happened to see this light in all directions. I had peripheral vision, and this light was really my Self. It was not my body and the light. There were not two. There was this light that became brighter, and brighter and brighter, the light of a thousand suns. I thought I would be burnt to a crisp, but alas, I wasn’t.

    This brilliant light, which I was the center and also the circumference, expanded throughout the universe, and I was able to feel the planets, the stars, the galaxies,
    as myself. And this light shone so bright, yet it was beautiful, it was bliss, it was ineffable, indescribable.

    After a while the light began to fade away, and there was no darkness. There was just a place between light and darkness, the place beyond the light. You can call it the void, but it wasn’t just a void. It was this pure awareness I always talk about. I was aware that I am that I am. I was aware of the whole universe at the same time. There was no time, there was no space, there was just the I am.

    Then everything began to return to normal, so-to-speak. And I was able to feel, and understand, that all of the planets, the galaxies, the people, the trees, the flowers on this earth, everything, were myriads of energy, and I was in everything. I was the flower. I was the sky. I was the people. The I was everything. Everything was the I. The word I encompassed the whole universe.

    Now here’s the point I’m trying to make. I felt a love, a compassion, a humility, all at the same time, that was truly indescribable. It wasn’t a love that you’re aware of.

    Think of something that you really love, of someone that you really love with all your heart. Multiply this by a jillion million trillion, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. This particular love is like no thing that ever existed on this earth, consciously. There is nothing you can compare it with. It is beyond duality, beyond concepts, beyond words and thoughts. And since the I, which I was, was all-pervading, there was no other place for anything else to be.

    There was no room for anything, because there was no space, and no time. There was just the I am, ever present, self-existent. The love of everything was the love of the self.

    This is why, in scripture, it tells you to love your brother, and your sister, to love everyone and everything under all circumstances. This love couldn’t differentiate. It couldn’t say, “You’re good, so I love you. You’re bad, so I don’t love you.” Everything was going on as myself. I realized I am the murderer, I am the saint, I am the so-called evil on this earth, I am the so called goodness of this earth. Everything was the self. And it was all a game. All of the energy particles changed from one thing to another thing. But the love never changed.

    Another word for this love was compassion. There was this fabulous, fantastic compassion. For everything! For everything was the self, the I am. There was no differentiation. There was not me, what you call me, and those things. There was only one expression, and that was consciousness.

    Of course, I didn’t understand all these words at that time.

    There were no words like I’m talking about now. I’m trying my best to speak intelligently and try to use words to explain what happened, but you can’t. All the games that people are playing, and all the planets, throughout the universe, is really the self. It was all the self, and I realized that nothing else existed but the self. Yet all of these things, the multiplicities of planets, of galaxies, of people, of animals, were really the self. Again, there are no words to describe this. I felt and knew that these multiplicities do not exist. Things do not exist. Only the self existed, only consciousness, pure awareness.

    Yet, at the same time, creation came into existence. And there’s no creation. We cannot understand this in human form. As long as we’re thinking with our brains it’s incomprehensible, for how can they both be simultaneously creating each other? There was creation going on, and yet there was no creation at all! There was no creation taking place, and creation was taking place. Sounds like the thoughts of a mad man. And it seemed normal. There’s absolutely nothing strange about this at all, being nothing and everything at the same time.

    So this great compassion was there. Since I was everything, the compassion was for everything. No thing was excluded, for the things were really the self.

    And then there was this fantastic humility. The love, compassion, and humility are all synonymous. I’m trying to break it down to make you understand, to an extent, what was going on. The humility was there not to change anything. Everything was right just the way it was. Planets were exploding, new planets were being born. Suns were evaporating, new suns were being born. From the suns the planets came, and then life began on the planets. All this was taking place instantaneously, at the same time. And yet nothing was taking place at all.

    Therefore the humility is that everything was alright. There was nothing I had to change. There was nothing I had to correct. The people dying of cancer were in their right place where nobody dies, and there is no cancer. Wars, man’s inhumanity to man, was all part of it. There cannot be a creation if there is not an opposite to good. In order to have a creation there has to be opposites. There has to be the bad guy and the good guy. I was able to understand all these things.

    The next thing I remember is my teacher was shaking me. I was the only one left in the class, everybody had gone, the bell rang, and I had not even started the mathematics test. Of course I got a great big zero.

    But those feelings and the understanding never left me. From that time on my whole life changed. I was no longer interested in school. I was no longer interested in the friends I had. I won’t go on any more than that for now, as far as that’s concerned.

    The point I’m trying to make is this. If the end result of realization is love, compassion, and humility, what if we were able to develop these qualities now? Do you see what I’m getting at? If we are able to develop this love, this beautiful joyous love, for everything, without exception, without being judgmental, and we had a great compassion, for everything, without being judgmental.

    Then of course, there’s humility. Humility means we don’t have to try to straighten things out, to get even, to stick up for our rights, for there is no one really left to do that. If some of us were to work on those aspects, it would lift us up and make us free.

    This is something for you to think about. We have to learn to leave the world alone. We become so involved in politics, in family life, in work and the rest of these things we’re involved in, that we forget that we only have so many years left on this earth in the body. And what are we doing with all of the time we have? We’re spending the time on things that do not really exist, things that make no sense.

    Imagine you’re in a play in the theater, and you’re playing a role, and you’re playing a part. All the time you’re aware that you’re playing a part. You’re not really that person. It’s only a part you’re playing. In the same way you are now playing a part, but you have forgotten you’re playing a part.

    You think your body, the way it looks, the way it appears, what it does, what it acquires, is real, and you put all your energy into the game of playing the part. This is indeed a waste of energy. If you’d only put your energy in finding the self, that you really never lost. And you can do this by developing the qualities of love, compassion and humility.

    This is another method you have to work on. As you’re working on self-inquiry, work on the love, work on compassion, work on humility. Do not just practice self-inquiry for a while, and then react negatively to the world, and have your feelings hurt. Be yourself.

    Awaken from the dream. Refuse to play any longer. Look at yourself all day long. See the things that you do, the thoughts that you have, the feelings that you have. It makes no difference what situation you’re going through. It makes no difference what’s going on in your life. The only thing that matters is what’s going on inside of you.

    Karmically you are put on this earth as a body, to go through karmic experiences. Therefore, the experience you’re going through is part of the maya, the karma. Do not reflect on these things. This is important. You have to drop this. Leave it alone. If you only knew that nothing can ever happen to you. There never was a time when you were born.

    There will never be a time when you die. You have always lived. You are consciousness. You have always existed. Identify with your existence. Merge into the existence of nothingness. I tell you this again and again. Leave the world alone. Remember what I mean when I say to leave the world alone. I’m not saying that you should voluntarily, consciously, make a plan of how you’re going to leave the world alone. You’ll not be able to live up to it. By leaving the world alone I mean, entertain in your mind higher thoughts.

    Always have in back of your mind, “I am not the body. I am not the doer. I am not the mind.” Feel this. Feel it deeply. Do not feel good or bad about it. Do not try to prolong your life. It’s a waste of energy. What you call your life will take care of itself. It knows what to do better than you do.

    We’re very limited in our understanding about the body, or the affairs of the body, what’s going on in the body. Do not try to do anything with your body. Your body will do whatever it came here to do. It knows what to do. Separate your-self from that. Of course, you may do this by inquiring, “To whom does the body come? Who has this body?” and remain in the silence.

    Many of us here this evening are making tremendous progress. I’ve been talking to many of you who are really getting there. Of course, I use all these terms loosely. There’s nowhere to get. But I have to talk to you this way, to remind you to leave yourself alone. I know some of you may be in pain sometimes, and you say, “Well I want to live a life free of pain, therefore I have to do things to myself so I don’t feel that pain.” This is really a mistake. If you could only realize who has the pain. To whom does the pain come? I have the pain. Then who am I? If I have the pain, it means that the person who is thinking these things does not have the pain, for it is I that has the pain. You are free of pain, for you are not the I-thought. Remember the I we’re talking about now is the thought, the I-thought, that has the pain and the experience of being born, the experience of dying, the experience of having problems. This is the I-thought that has these things. Not you.

    You have to vehemently make up your mind that the only thing that matters to you is to become free, liberated, and let go of all the other things that keep you bound. This is why you have to work with love, compassion and humility. For if this is the end result of awakening, if you do this first, the awakening will come faster.

    Even while I’m talking to you, some of you are thinking about your body, you’re thinking about the mind, you’re thinking about your work. This is what keeps you back.

    Destroy the thoughts through self-inquiry. Become free. Do not fight. Do not fear. Observe, watch, look, but have no opinions for or against. Some people think if they act this way they will not be able to function in the world. You will function. Always remember, there’s an appearance of the body, and the body came here to do certain things, and it’s going to do those things. It has absolutely nothing to do with you.

    Many times when I talk to you I have to keep from laughing, (laughter) explaining all these things, talking about all these things, when you’re already free, and you already know these things. Sometimes we’re pulled into the illusion. For there’s really no thing.

    When I talk of God we’re speaking of nothingness. God is nothing. And that nothing is you. We get more deeply involved when we constantly study, when we constantly read about so many spiritual topics, we get more deeply involved in maya which prevents us from waking up.

    Why can’t you be yourself and wake up? Why do you have to go through all these things, and make me sit here talking to you like this? Just think what I could be doing if I didn’t have to talk to you. I could be watching Tales From The Crypt. (Laughter)

    Be your self. When you are yourself the thoughts come slowly to you until they cease. When the thoughts become slower and slower into your mind, and the thoughts begin to disappear, you automatically become loving, compassionate and you’ll have humility. In other words, the faster you get rid of your thoughts, the faster these other things come, these other qualities. So it’s a matter of stopping your thoughts. It is the thoughts that see everything in this world as good and bad, right and wrong. As the thoughts begin to subside, love comes by itself, compassion, humility come by themselves. So again, we have to stop thinking.

    DISCUSSION

    So, what was Robert’s awakening experience?

    It was a brief, time-limited transcendental experience wherein Robert perceived himself to be, the sense of I, his sense of I am, to be pure consciousness, and that everything in the universe also was pure consciousness, and was him. In addition, he felt that that an essential characteristic of the I am, of consciousness, was love, a great love far beyond what humans feel towards each other. Along with this, he felt compassion for all sentient beings, for everything that is alive, as well as a great sense of humility.

    Then he returned to normal consciousness, but with the belief and conviction that he was consciousness itself, and the basic nature of that consciousness was love, compassion and humility, and a total acceptance of the world when it was.

    At the same time, the recognition that he was consciousness itself, the totality, relieved him of the illusion that he was bound by an individual body and mind.
    Then Robert proposed one more step and suggests a method.

    First, he suggests practicing self-inquiry onto the sense of I, looking ever more deeply into one’s own sense of I, or I am. This is the classic self-inquiry process which is the mainstay of both the Ramana tradition of which Robert is a part of, but also of Nisargadatta Maharaj.

    Then he states, the feeling that never left him subsequent to his awakening experience, was his deep love for everything and everyone, and a profound sense of humility, and a compassion for all living things.

    Then Robert proposes, “What if we work on developing this compassion, this love, this humility here and now before the awakening experience?”

    This would be an additional practice to self in query, of looking into that sense of I am gradually becoming that sense of I am in meditation and in everyday self-witnessing, self-awareness.

    He says awakening will come more quickly this way. In a sense, he saying “him Fake it till you make it.” That is, grab onto the lasting after-effects of the awakening experience.

    Deliberately cultivate being kind, develop love for another, feel love for another very deeply and totally and lose ourselves in love. Every day we should cultivate increasing compassion for all living things, for hungry animals, starving babies, towards trees, insects and even rocks and a running river. And at the same time, we lose our arrogance, wanting constantly to bow in complete surrender to one’s beloveds, whomever or whatever they may be. We drop our knees in humility. We touch the feet of our beloved. We become like dust in service to those we love. And by such deliberate cultivation of love, humility, compassion and surrender, we build in us a receptivity is for the transcendental awakening experiences, which in a sense, really are no longer necessary because we are already living the fruit of awakening.

    For this reason I emphasize loving one another as deeply, as extensively compassionately as possible, until our love for another is so intense and deep that naturally we drop our knees in deep humility surrender.

    That is why I recommend human relationships so much, to practice increasing loving this in the most personal and powerful way to open us to the deepest love for sentience, surrender to the unfolding of consciousness in its own way and time. It is a way that the limited becomes the infinite.

    By practicing love, compassion, surrender and humility, we take on the cloak of God, until, as Nisargadatta puts it, the I Am, God, Consciousness loves you back and releases you.

    Nisargadatta’s experience was similar. His guru toldhim he was not his body and he immediately accepted that. With that conviction he concentrated on his sense of I Am less than three years and had a great awakening, but which is never described.

    What I would note though, is that Maharaj grabbed onto one fruit of the awakening experience, that he was not his body. That conviction, along with focus and love of the I Am, released him from suffering and distress and created one of the great Jnanis of our time.

  13. Yeah, It did seem like a lot of mind, hierarchy, getting somewhere. I don’t know. Being finished seems very appealing to me. Yes there is beauty in the world, there’s good food, relationships and whatever excites you. But I can definitely see getting to a point where one has had enough. But I guess that one could then ask enough of what?

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