Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews or conversations with spiritually awakening people. I’ve done about 520 of them now over the past 10 years. And if this is new to you and you would like to check out earlier ones, please go to batgap.com, B-A-T-G-A-P, and look under the past interviews menu. This enterprise, this program is made possible by, through the support of appreciative listeners and viewers. So if you appreciate it and would like to support it, there’s a PayPal button on every page of the website. And when I say listeners and viewers, it’s because this is available both as a video on YouTube and as an audio podcast on iTunes and Stitcher and all that. On Batgap you’ll find a place to sign up for the audio podcast if you want to do that. My guest today is Annette Kaiser. Welcome, Annette.
Annette: Welcome too!
Rick: Annette is in Switzerland near Interlaken, a very beautiful country where I lived for several years back in the 70s. She was born in Zurich in 1948. She’s a spiritual teacher and founder and spiritual director of a retreat center in Switzerland, which is where she’s speaking to us from. And that retreat center has inspired many people. Of course, I’ll be linking to her retreat center from her page on batgap.com. She’s a visionary of a universal spirituality and has written more than 10 books, two of which I’ve just been reading, “99 Questions for a Spiritual Teacher,” and “The Path Has No Name,” which is sort of a biographical book. After completing her studies in economics and sociology at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, she worked for many years in the field of development cooperation, specializing in women’s causes and intercultural dialogue. For 17 years, she was a student of Irina Tweedie, an Anglo-Russian Sufi teacher who wrote the well-known book “Daughter of Fire.” I’m sure we’ll be talking about that a lot during our conversation today. In the late 1980s, Annette opened her Taiji Do school, in which she has since trained many teachers. We’ll be talking about that. In 1998, she was authorized by Mrs. Tweedie to continue the, I’m going to say the name of that lineage, but would you pronounce that for us? You’d do a better job.
Annette: Naksh Bandiya Muchadidiya.
Rick: Great, thank you. This Sufi lineage guides, which is the one that presumably Mrs. Tweedie was in, guides human beings on the path of love. In the year 2000, she developed the Do path. Am I pronouncing that right? Just Do path?
Annette: Yeah, that’s okay.
Rick: Which she continues to develop, and which enhances a deep transformation of the heart as a way of living in a non-dual, cosmo-centric understanding. In 2017, she started teaching the art of spiritual dream work. She is particularly devoted to trans-confessional and trans-cultural evolutionary spirituality, which sounds very interesting to me, which implies an open, aware state of being as the natural expression of a deep, integral way of living. This fosters universal, non-dual spirituality and cooperation. In both areas, Annette Kaiser initiates and participates in many ways with different groups, centers, and people in Europe and worldwide. She sees the 21st century as a call for humanity to recognize itself as inseparably one, co-creating a new culture in collective wisdom and love of one heart. In addition, she engages herself on a very practical level, always in the spirit of what universal spirituality means for her, one world, one humanity, one consciousness, locally and globally. For instance, recently she initiated the Co-Creating Europe movement. For over 30 years, she has been president of the not-for-profit association Open Hands that supports projects in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Furthermore, projects like the Path of Love, a meditation path, and the meditation, the golden thread for one world have been inspired by her. She is married, mother of two adult children, and a grandmother. Okay, that’s your intro.
Rick: You’ve done a lot!
Annette: Well, you can forget everything! We are here now!
Rick: Yeah, well I like to give people an overview of what the person has been doing with their life. Now you know a lot about Annette, and she’s going to elaborate as we go along. So, I was reading in your biography that from a very early age, you were interested in spirituality. I don’t even know if you would have called it that at first, but you had a sort of a deep devotion and interest in saints and so on, and you actually went and lived in a convent at the age of 14. Shall we start there?
Annette: As you like!
Rick: Okay, let’s start there.
Annette: Why not?
Rick: Tell us about when you were very young. I mean, what initially was the spark or interest that began to bubble up in you?
Annette: Well, first of all, I went to France as an au pair girl.
Rick: Taking care of younger children or something? Is that what an au pair is?
Annette: No, taking care of old people in a convent. And as my sister was going there too, and that was my really dear, dear friend, I said, “I’m going too there.” And then, of course, it was a convent, and I was the first time confronted with the nuns, the young nuns, singing in the church, and this got me. This singing with this pure voice somehow opened for me questions, and there was the longing to unite somehow inside with the godly spark was then consciously emerging.
Rick: I’m surprised your parents let you go there at such a young age.
Annette: I too. [Laughter] They were busy, and I even only had eight years of school, so it was very, very young, to be honest. And it was quite an experience, to be honest, because I was a normal child, you know, and very alive. And then I started really the introspection. I started to look at my thoughts, my everything, you know, I started really there with everything.
Rick: That’s great. Whenever I hear these stories, I think of what I was like at the age of 14, and I thought, “Darn,” you know? [Laughter]
Annette: Well, it was not only fun, I tell you.
Rick: Yeah, yeah. I was interested in girls and rock and roll, basically, at that age.
Annette: I was that too before, but being in the convent, you know, I let drop that for a moment, really.
Rick: Yeah, it showed you something different.
Annette: Yeah, exactly.
Rick: And then, sounds like about a year later, you ended up in England, and you didn’t know English yet, but you went to England and you were taking care of the sick and mentally ill. That must have been challenging, again, at such a young age.
Annette: Yeah, also in Paris it was challenging because I saw the first time people dying, you know, bringing the wooden box down the stairs, seeing that the human body was in there. And yes, in England it was very isolated, and there were people there that were mentally ill, and I was in charge for these people.
Rick: At a 15-year-old girl.
Annette: Yes, that was tremendous.
Rick: And people dying and aging and getting sick and all that was what gave the Buddha his kickstart, you know, on the path.
Annette: Yes, yes. Somehow it’s a teaching also. It’s not only terrible in one way, in the way it is opening the full spectrum of life and death.
Annette: And asking, let us ask questions.
Rick: You mentioned in your book that you always wanted to know what this life is about. You wanted to know what reality is. I like that.
Rick: And by always, I again presume you mean from an early age, you just, you know, what’s it all about?
Annette: Yeah, yes. I had this question even when I started to study later, that was my fundamental question. What is reality? How do we describe it? How do we perceive it? Is it really a reality or is it a projection? That was very interesting also during my studies, economical studies and sociology. And I had, you know, we studied Hegel and Marx and I studied a lot of different approaches and I had this deep question. What is reality and how can we change reality?
Rick: Studying Hegel and Marx and all that, did you feel like you were getting any answers or did you feel like you ended up going off on a tangent?
Annette: You see, first I had, we say the bourgeois knowledge of economics and I was not satisfied because I didn’t get the answer. I wanted to know why is the world the way it is. And in St. Gallen first, I didn’t get any answers. So I went to Berlin to study Marx and Hegel and the philosophers and I got at least a little bit better answers to my questions. Because, I mean, the Kapital explains certain things.
Rick: Das Kapital, his book.
Annette: Yeah, Das Kapital, because you know how the money works and all this. I also wrote my, not the thesis, but my license was about, how do we say it in English? It was about Entfremdung, the alienation that Marx wrote from his first book till to the Grundrisse, to the end. So I was very interested in the human being and how it works. But then I found out that Marx, where were the women, where Mother Earth, where was the question of technology? It was not in the Kapital. So the women’s movement also, you know, gave new questions. So I wasn’t satisfied with Marx either. And by chance, a book came into my hand. It was Ouspensky, a Sufi person who described the cosmos, you know, in frequencies. And I thought, wow. I couldn’t believe it was a completely different description of what reality could be or look like. And later I was with Muktananda, the correspondence course I did for seven years, and he gave me another perspective of what reality is. And that helped me to broaden up the inner view.
Rick: Did you meet him in person?
Annette: Yes. I went to America to meet him.
Rick: South Fallsburg, probably.
Annette: It was Santa Monica.
Rick: Oh, Santa Monica, okay.
Annette: Yeah, right. Because I was pregnant with my second child, and I wanted to have, I had three wishes. To meet a lady, Evelyn Eaton, who was a shamanic lady, to meet Muktananda, and to have actually in Big Sur a workshop, which because I was so highly pregnant, I changed into Tai Chi with Tsung-Liang Al-Huang, because I, 24 hours, you know, sitting in the plane, it was just too much. So I said, “No, I have to move, I have to do things.” And there I started actually to discover Tai Chi.
Rick: Were you taking the workshop or teaching the workshop?
Annette: Oh, yes.
Rick: You must have just been taking it at that point.
Annette: No, taking it. It was the first contact. >> Your first exposure to it, yes.
Annette: Yes, I did before yoga. But traveling so much, I found Tai Chi, it’s easier for me to practice.
Rick: I remember when I was a teenager, especially starting around the age of 17, I just had this feeling that somebody had the answers, you know? The way I put it in those days was that so-and-so knows where it’s at, you know?
Rick: And I’d kind of latch on to somebody and think, “This guy knows where it’s at.” And then I’d get disillusioned, “No, he doesn’t know where it’s at.” And I’d find a new one and I’d latch on to him for a while. And this, I went through several like that. I just felt like somebody must have this figured out.
Annette: Yeah, I see Amma behind you in the shelf.
Annette: I met her too, of course.
Rick: Yeah. Yeah, we’ve been going to see her for about 20 years.
Annette: Oh, I see.
Rick: Just once or twice a year.
Annette: Yeah, yeah.
Rick: Here’s just a little thing I wrote down that maybe we’ll just pop this in here. I pulled it from one of your books. It was a quote from somebody. It said, “One is born a mystic, but while one is in the phase of suffering, one doesn’t know it yet.” So, you remember that quote?
Rick: Oh, okay.
Annette: You know, there’s also evolution in the spiritual path. And I feel a deeper and deeper understanding where you know less and less and less on one hand. And I wouldn’t say that I think in this way. It is true and it is not true. You know that you have the longing as a young girl with 14 years to know more about, you know, who are we? Who is God? What is, how can we change this world and have this deep emergence in insight to contribute and also to use that life in a good sense, not to spoil it because it’s a gift to be a living being. This, I don’t know where that comes from, you understand?
Rick: Well, I really agree with you. And not that many people appreciate what you just said, I think, in the world. So many people just go for transitory things in life that don’t have any lasting value or they actually destroy the instrument through which life is lived, you know, consuming various things that aren’t healthy to them. So there doesn’t seem to be an adequate appreciation of what a gift life is or can be anyway.
Annette: Right. But you know, I also think who knows what we really are in the depth. If I would call it mystical or not mystical, I would take that not too much as a printed word, you understand. It’s much more miraculous, the human being. And we have any time the possibility to taste full potential what a human being can be.
Rick: I think the world is miraculous too. Everything is miraculous. I mean, if you watch science programs on the Discovery Channel or something and they, you know, are looking at little microscopic life forms or something, you think, “Wow, what a miracle that is!” What intelligence there is in the way it functions and so on.
Annette: Yeah, it’s really, you know, actually you just have to be aware and look and discover. It’s the way a tree grows, it’s the way a flower opens, it’s the perfume of a flower or the eyes of people or when you are present, how the bird, you know, turns to you and there is communion, it’s all there.
Rick: Yeah. And yet again, so often all this is taken for granted. You know, it’s like everyone is actually living in a miracle, they’re looking at a miracle, they’re breathing a miracle and, you know, something profound and yet it’s like, “Uh-huh, you know, life is, I think I’ll go to the movies or I think I’ll just take some drugs or whatever.” There’s just…
Annette: Yes, I know. And if we can inspire some people, you know, to discover the miracle that is, it’s great.
Annette: It changes the world.
Rick: Yeah, and imagine if everyone sort of got inspired to discover that and imagine if they actually did discover it to a profound extent. You know, think how different the world would be from what it is right now.
Annette: Absolutely, yeah.
Rick: Now, is there anything that you want to elaborate on in terms of these phases you went through such as Siddha Yoga, you also mentioned Native American pipe ceremony, or do we want to get into Mrs. Tweedy?
Annette: You see, I can see in each a jewel that added.
Annette: Or taking away, you can also say certain things. And of course, Mrs. Tweedy was then a profound time I could spend with her because she was like a mirror and catalysator. With Evelyn Eaton, for example, the pipe woman, I learned because she died a year after I met her, and I was left alone to practice the pipe. And I learned a lot about communication with Mother Earth, the animals, you know, to be observative of how things are interwoven with each other. So that was a great gift for me. With Mrs. Tweedy, I had a profound mirror. You understand where I had, it was a threshold, to go over a threshold. And that’s what I was looking for because for a certain time I was the president of the Transpersonal Association Switzerland, and I could meet many, many teachers. And there were not many which were in resonance with my inner image of a teacher because I wanted to go to the root of the roots. Again, you know, to take the chance of this life, to be ready and to give in everything that is needed for this transformation. And with her I had this mirror and this catalysator.
Rick: What was the last thing you?
Rick: Oh, catalyser, yes.
Rick: Right. Tell us more about Mrs. Tweedy because many people may not have heard of her, and I unfortunately have never had the chance to read her book, Daughter of Fire, but friends of mine have been raving about it for years, and telling what a profound book it is and what an incredible story she told. And you actually got to spend quite a few years with her. And just from the feedback I’ve gotten from friends, I have tremendous respect for her. I also have interviewed Llewellyn von Lee, who spent a lot of time with her. So but for those who haven’t heard of her, maybe tell a little bit about her story if you feel that would be useful.
Annette: Well, Mrs. Tweedy was a Russian-born lady. She later, because she had to flee from the Russian Revolution with her father, they lost the mother, they were three daughters, and they went to Vienna. That’s why she also spoke English and German and I think seven languages, Mrs. Tweedy spoke. And she was then meeting later a man, a banker. She married, but she was not very happy. She was living in a high society. She was also in Switzerland. He was a banker. He was very, you know, a world citizen in one way. He died. Then during war, what I heard, she was in Italy and met her second husband, which was a captain of a ship, of an English ship. And she fell in love with him and they were very, very happy. And then he died too. And that was for her a big disaster. She didn’t want to live anymore. It didn’t make any sense anymore. And then friends finally, she wanted to die. And you know, and finally people said, “Well, why don’t you go to the Theosophical Society and why don’t you study C.G. Jung?” And she did then go in London and was a bibliotecher in the Theosophical Society. And they had annually a meeting in India, in Iyer I think it was, where she met Mrs. Silverwood, Silverstone or something like that, a lady who told her about her teacher, Guruji, because the name we didn’t speak of. And when she heard this name, something in her was changing. So she went there and she stayed. And there she got the task of Guruji to write this book, Daughter of Fire. So that is her diary from the whole training. And when you read that diary, of course, you see the depth of the teaching. And within only a few years, five years actually, when he died, how the transformation took place of a lady that was already over the 50s. So that means the patterns she had was already quite engraved. And how she was able to transform it with the help, support of Guruji. So when I picked out the book, it happened sometimes intuitively, in Bern, I read the book and I said, “Wow, that is so profound and so deep. That’s what I want.” And then I went to the publisher and asked, “Does she still live?” “Yes, she lives.” Then 1981, we had a big congress in Davos where Dalai Lama was there, Kripla Rose, Stan Grof, all these big names came together, a thousand people there. So I suggested to invite Mrs. Tweedy and she came to Switzerland because I was involved in the organization. And there I met her the first time. And I didn’t understand. First of all, when I entered, because I met her in the hotel, Bellevue, I don’t know, it was like a black box. I went in, black box, I went out, I have no memory. It was just very interesting. And we met Dalai Lama together. I was at her side with other people. And I was just fascinated by her. But I couldn’t understand who she was, what she does, who she is, no idea.
Rick: Had you read the book yet at that point? You must have read it.
Annette: I read only the small book, not the big one. The big one was not yet out.
Rick: I see.
Annette: You understand?
Annette: So what I, because I had two small children, I could only, because I couldn’t move so much, I invited her to come to Switzerland. So that was my way of getting contact.
Rick: Bringing Mohammed to the mountain, so to speak.
Annette: Yes. And she came, she accepted. So for many years, I organized her retreats here and her Sufi camps too in Germany with her. And for three years, because I was a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner at that time, the Karmapa line, and I just watched her. And I didn’t understand. She invited me to come to her. And when, you know, I had, of course, the expectation, now I get big answers. You know, as you said before, the first time I was in London, she opened the door and she had the little thing you clean the toilet with in her hand.
Rick: Toilet brush.
Annette: The toilet brush. I just have to finish to clean the toilet. There were 100 people here. Come in, welcome. Okay. And I came from the third world trip from South Africa to her. And then she said, well, you know, you’re hungry. And she made me spinach and an egg and some potatoes. And I always was alert and waiting. She said, now you’re tired, you go to sleep. Okay. So it was like that, you know.
Rick: Very practical.
Annette: Very practical. And she pulled, you know, that’s what she did with me. She pulled every, you know, carpet under your feet. You could think you could stand up, get answer or anything that would somehow, you know, make you secure. No. So after three years, observing her, observing her, observing her, I said, I asked her if I could be her student. And she said yes. Yeah. And then there was something very, very interesting because, you know, I had — I was — so in a ’68 thing, I had two children. I had a good job. I had a nice husband. But there were many areas where I didn’t look so clearly into it. You know, ’68 we had this movement with other relations and this and that, you know, and well, it was another time. And I had my issues. And I said at that point, now I want to be honest in every, every layer of my life.
Rick: So hang on a second. So 19 — you’re talking about 1968?
Rick: Okay. Now you must have only been 19 in 1968.
Annette: No, but, you know, studying, you know, at Hochschule St. Gallen, we still had this period where in the university there was, in a way, an opening that we didn’t have only the traditional ways. We had, for example, the critical seminar. We had Ota Schick, which came from the Czechoslovakia, who had written the books about the third way. And he was a professor. I promoted with him, you understand. So there was still this opening, you know, and then you have this movement of Gestalt therapy and all this, you know, the students.
Annette: Yes. All this kind of trying out another way than the small family system, you know, and patriarchal society. So that was in a big movement.
Rick: But I’m a little confused. Are you saying that you already had a couple of children at the age of 19 and you were meeting the Dalai Lama and organizing things?
Annette: No, no, no.
Rick: 1968, you mentioned that. I’m getting mixed up.
Annette: ’68, the movement started in Switzerland about, you know, Marcuse and all that you read. ’71, I was in Berlin studying Marx. I didn’t have then children.
Rick: Okay, okay. I thought you were saying all this happened in 1968.
Annette: No, no, no.
Annette: No, no, no. My children were ’79 and ’81.
Rick: Okay, there we go.
Annette: I had the children. And Mrs. Tweedy, I started to meet ’82.
Rick: Good, okay.
Annette: Yes, so that’s how, yeah, sorry that I mixed up a little bit.
Rick: That’s okay.
Annette: The dates.
Rick: Yeah. So, you had this intense relationship with her and what kind of practices was she giving you and what kind of experiences were you having? I know in her book, which again I haven’t read but people have told me about, she went through a lot of intensity, you know, just really intense stuff working with her teacher. Did you experience that kind of stuff as well in your tutelage with her?
Annette: Different. She had the challenge of being in India, in Kanpur, heat, noise, sitting outside. She was challenged on that level. I was more challenged, I would say, on a psychological level because we all have different challenges, you know. So, and of course, we had practice and it’s a 24-hour practice, actually. That’s what she told us. And we had a half an hour to meditate and we had 23 hours and a half to say the sikkha. That was our training. Then we did spiritual dream work, to get in contact with our inner alchemy, with the shadows, with what is going on inside to get to know yourself. So, that was it.
Rick: So, you said she gives out mantras, but I think you also said that she gave out the mantra “Allah.” Was that the mantra that she would give everybody or what?
Annette: No, not everybody. She had a group mantra and she also had sometimes for people to give special exercises, special tasks to do, yes.
Rick: So, when you meditated for half an hour, is that what you did? You used that mantra or some mantra that she gave you?
Annette: No, in the meditation you don’t use the mantra. The meditation is actually a tool where, you know, you let yourself fall into nothingness. We start with the feeling of love and you deepen in it and you let yourself completely go of, you know, of its consciousness emptying, we call it this practice. And the mantra was a concentration task that the spirit can focus on one point. So, you had this in balance, these two aspects which were trained. And it was in the middle of, you were very busy the whole day, I mean, I was quite busy, but you were able to do this practice.
Rick: So, falling into nothingness, did you find that that happened quite easily, that you would just fall into a very deep state? Or did you sometimes sit there and think, “Eh, what’s for dinner, and I need to go back to Switzerland,” and you know, all kinds of superficial thoughts and the mind wouldn’t settle down?
Annette: To be honest, I had a long, long time where thoughts were there. Not so much, you know, that I had to go back and like this, but it was not an easy meditation because there is hardly any words you say, and it’s letting yourself completely go. And it looks an easy task, but of course, it is not at all an easy task. But still, you know, I just did it. But she also said, you know, you don’t force yourself to the edge, to the edge, to the edge. You have to be also kind with yourself in a way. You have to lead yourself. And then with the time, I noticed that there were some thoughts, but beneath, there was the ocean, you know, the waves and the ocean and the ocean, and it was there. It was just there. So yeah, I just did it, you know, without forcing myself, but being in discipline also.
Rick: I’ve been in the company of highly evolved teachers where you just sit in their presence and close your eyes and you just go very deep automatically. People say it was that way around Ramana too. In his presence, you just sink in. Did you have that experience in Mrs. Tweedie’s presence? There was, it was very conducive to sinking deeply?
Annette: Yes, absolutely. But you know, I couldn’t always be with her.
Rick: Sure, of course, yeah.
Annette: Do you understand? I had a job. I had to earn my money.
Rick: You had children.
Annette: I had two children, small ones. It was not possible. But for me also, it was very, very important that I have a practice or a possibility to live in the midst of life, having a very normal life, having to earn money, and at the same time having the possibility to go through the needle.
Rick: Yeah, yeah. In fact, that’s probably what most people listening to this would relate to. I mean, not too many people are going to go run off and live a monastic life, you know, and if people are going to awaken and all that, they’re going to have to figure out how to do it while dealing with all kinds of responsibilities.
Annette: Yes, yes. I always was interested in a way to have a way that everybody, if they are willing, can follow.
Rick: Yeah, yeah. And that’s what the world really needs.
Rick: You mentioned you did the zikr for 23 1/2 hours. What’s the zikr?
Annette: Well, usually I don’t know if I should tell it here, you know, because actually it is also zikr is not just a word, it is actually also something that is electromagnetically loaded.
Rick: Oh. I just don’t have any idea what it is. So you had mentioned it, and so I’m just wondering, what is that?
Annette: Okay, I’ll tell it.
Rick: Okay. I’m prying your secrets out of you.
Annette: No, maybe it helps people.
Rick: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Annette: So that’s why, you know, I opened, because really, I am also aware that you don’t give gifts just away without being conscious. You understand? It’s no use to say a mantra for people that throw it away.
Rick: Right, you know what Jesus said?
Annette: Yes, exactly.
Rick: Jesus, “Cast your knot, your pearls before swine, lest they turn again and rend you.”
Annette: Yeah, that’s maybe a little bit too strong, but a little harsh, yeah. Because that’s not how I feel. But you see, the mantra that she gave me was a change, because we are also, I said before, I see that spirituality is in itself also in an evolutionary process. So for me, she gave not Allah, but Ma-la.
Rick: Ah, so a more feminine thing.
Annette: Yes. Because Allah means actually nothingness. Al is like the pre-verb, and la is nothingness. Now Ma, mother, mare, Maria means matter, all that exists. So it is in a way to bring together nothingness and all that is. So I was very, very happy when she gave me that mantra, because it is a new time we are living in, as we can say, if that time is existing. But we are in a transition on this world nowadays, and we need to bring together the feminine, the masculine aspect on every level, not only in daily living. That is very important. There is no judgment, you know, this is better or the other. But also on every level, we get inspired in a way, I say always, to bring heaven on earth now. We have here, it’s about creating paradise. We have the potentiality as a human being. And so, ma, la, in this sense, makes a connection, balances, and we start more and more, as we said before, you know, to see the beauty in this world. And not only, you know, in the nirvana, no.
Rick: Yeah. Yeah, I wasn’t necessarily asking you to tell us what your actual mantra was, but just the word “zikr” itself, I didn’t know what that word means.
Annette: Oh, I see.
Rick: You do that for 23 hours, what is it? But you’ve given a good answer. So basically, there was a use of the mantra throughout your waking hours, you’re saying.
Annette: Yeah, it’s also practicing the breathing.
Rick: Like japa, they call it in India.
Annette: Yeah, yeah, right. Yes, of course. And what does it do, what does it do with a human being? It’s very, very helpful. Because normally, when we are not so aware, we are always out there somehow. Now with this japa or zikr, even if you’re very busy, a part of you is absorbed in connection with your innermost being. And you see exactly when you jump out, what triggers you, and you get the wild horse back in the moment again. So it is really a training until the mantra falls off. The experience with me was at a certain time, there was just presence.
Rick: Not necessary, right?
Rick: Before that time, when you were doing it, and yet doing other things, making phone calls and organizing things and everything you had to do, did you feel that it divided your mind at all to try to do two things at once?
Annette: Oh, no, not at all. No, no, no.
Annette: It was like a golden thread in the weaving of a tapestry, and the other things could dance around it.
Rick: And so, when the mantra, when the zikr, the mantra fell off and there was just presence, I presume that you’re saying that that became an abiding state or a continuum after that?
Rick: Okay. Was there anything kind of dramatic about that shift, or was it just a quiet, subtle shift that happened and then that’s the way it was?
Annette: That’s the way it was.
Rick: Okay, good.
Rick: Yeah. And do you feel that, since then, have you felt that it’s ever disrupted or challenged by circumstances, or is it there even in the midst of the most intense circumstances?
Annette: Now I would say, you know, there’s also a path of deepening, and maybe in the beginning when really something dramatic happened, there were moments I lost that. But now, I would say, I don’t know, at the moment.
Rick: Probably not. It’s more stable.
Annette: Oh, much more stable. Much, much more stable, yeah. It’s more a way of being. It’s not even stable. It’s a way of being.
Rick: Natural condition.
Annette: Absolutely. I think that’s the natural state of a human being. Like Teresa von Avila, she said, you know, in the inner work, the last flat she entered where the chemic wedding took place, she said, “Finally normal.”
Rick: Yeah, I’ve heard it described that way, that anything else is sort of abnormal or subnormal or something like that, but that that state of perpetual presence is just normal functioning, you know?
Annette: Yeah, I think that humanity is developing in that direction. Even if it doesn’t look like at the moment, because the world is crazy, seems to go crazy, but I think we are going in this direction, yes.
Rick: Do you think that craziness is in a way necessary in order for the things to be cleared out or something, so that that can become the norm?
Annette: First of all, I think we could learn without having dramas. It’s not necessary to suffer and to have dramas in order to learn. That’s not what I really think. But I see also that sometimes, you know, like with the climate now we have, and Greta Thunberg, who really makes us call, “Wake up!”
Rick: Yeah, she’s great.
Annette: And to see what’s happening, you know, it can help. But you understand, I take whatever helps to wake us up or to become more aware, and yes. But I don’t think that suffering is necessary.
Rick: It’s like, you know, if the child, you’re a mother, if the child has dirt behind its ears, the mother might want to scrub and get the dirt off, and the child thinks it’s terrible and screams and resists and everything, but it’s a necessary step for, you know, the child’s well-being.
Rick: You mentioned a few minutes ago the possibility of heaven on earth. Do you actually think that we might be heading for such a condition, and if so, how long do you think it’ll take to reach it?
Annette: Well, I can’t, I’m not, no, I don’t read crystals. [Laughter] I don’t know, because it depends on us, you know? And everything is, there is a field in presence where everything is possible now, because now is the only thing we have. Time doesn’t really exist, and then of course, at the same time, in the three dimensions we live in, there is time, there is, you know, this development and evolution. And yes, I think, you know, I’m very much also with Sri Aurobindo. I have been 30 years studying him. I go often to Auroville, and I like very much his outline, how humanity can, in an evolutionary process, in a way, develop. I see this possibility, but that’s not only outside. I have like inside a clear vision what is possible in this world. I have an image, and it’s like a blueprint. And I think many, many people, when they ask themselves, “How can the world look like if I dream of it?” The best way, we have a very, very similar image of having peace, of having a life in dignity, of being in communion with animals, plants, with Mother Earth, with the cosmos also, and of course, with the source, living out of the source.
Rick: Yeah, it’s a beautiful blueprint, and I share that too. The reason I’m asking about this is that, you know, lately, for instance, at the climate marches that the young people have been doing, the climate strikes, some of them hold up a sign saying, “You’ll die from old age, I’ll die from climate change.” And Katherine Ingram, who is a teacher whom I interviewed recently, wrote a long article in which she basically said that she thinks humanity is doomed and we should make the best of the time we have left. And Llewellyn von Lee, speaking of him, has also written something recently that has that sort of flavor to it. And they may be right, maybe it could go that way, but I just have this optimism that somehow the awakening of consciousness that seems to be happening around the world is not coincidental and is sort of nature’s response to the calamity that we face and that in a quiet but powerful and perhaps invincible way, it’ll rise up to meet the challenge that faces us and it has everything to do with what you’ve just been saying in terms of people becoming attuned to presence and to their innermost nature. Now rather, if enough people do that, then the details will work themselves out such that we’ll have a brighter future after all and not a cataclysmic one.
Annette: Yeah, you see, I think one can even explain why we have a more chaotic time. There are many ways to look at that. But for example, I remember when Dalai Lama was meeting the Hopi people in 1971 saying, “Now the holy scriptures that were only available for a certain group of people are now open for everybody.” That’s a big step. That was 1970. And we have so many people that started for a spiritual path, this way or the other way, and you have also there, I mean, when I started with Mrs. Tweedy, I couldn’t tell the people in my development work I’m meditating. No, not possible. But today, it’s very different. You have, you know, this training from Jon Kabat-Zinn, you know, in the hospitals and this and that. Okay, so I think that many people are interested in deep questions. Where do I come from? Where do I go? And why am I here? What is this life all about? So I think the frequency has risen of the consciousness, the average consciousness of humanity that brings out more light and shadow at the same time. It makes the polarities more visible. Now with our medias, we are only getting the information of the shadow part. You know, when you look at the news, Trump is in every day in the newspapers. Why? You know, and there are so many initiatives when you are a little bit connected with the network, so many young people, so many people doing things, new communities, permaculture, new ways of organization. When you are informed, you see that both are, you know, growing. And it can be, then there’s this wonderful image of the caterpillar and the butterfly, you know, where you see the process. It’s very beautifully described by Barbara Marx Hubbard also. She died. But I like that because the imago, you know, if we imagine it has a power in it, the power of being creates. If we see the world as beautiful or a tree or the human being, we are giving our attention to it and the life energy goes with it and we create it. If we always have on the negative side our focus, we create that more and more. So it needs, it’s an invitation, the time we are being to be cells of imago, imago cells. So that, and I, may I just say quickly, because I think it’s very interesting. You see the caterpillar, first of all, he eats himself full, you know. And then it’s like our time, you know, so many consummation, you know, consumption. Then he finds a place and he makes this “chhhhhh” and he’s a cocoon. And then it’s still, it’s interesting, the introspection starts.
Rick: He turns to mush. He’s no longer a caterpillar in there.
Annette: Yeah, and then the interesting thing, then the first imago cells come.
Rick: Right, and just to say the English word for that is “imaginal.” Because these imaginal cells.
Annette: Imaginal cells.
Rick: Yes, I interviewed Barbara.
Annette: And then, oh, I see, and then they are killed, the first round. And this time, I always say it’s already passed. It was Luther King, you know, it was Gandhi, you know, these first people that really wanted to change something, you know? Okay. Then it continues the process and the imaginal cells, a second round arises. And then it’s very interesting, what do they do? First, they clump together, and I always say that’s the ’68 time, you know, the communes, you know?
Rick: Right, right.
Annette: And then they form groups, and then they start to network. Meanwhile, the other cells start to disintegrate, which we see now, the financial system, the economical system, all that. So we are in midst of that, and at a certain time, there is a self-organizing principle taking place where everything is really transformed completely into the butterfly.
Rick: That’s interesting. I never, I mean, I’m familiar with that explanation, but I’ve never quite heard those details, and particularly about the imaginal cells clustering into groups and communicating and everything else kind of disintegrating. That’s fascinating.
Annette: Yeah, I think so too, you know? And then also the point of self-organizing, you know, when we start in a way to leave or to integrate the three-dimensional subject-object world of polarity, when we are able to embrace it and go more into the quantum field of presence, there’s a shift. And then their self-organizing power starts to happen.
Rick: Yeah. I’ve also often, or always thought that the modern means of communication are obviously instrumental in this, and despite the fact that they can spread so much misinformation and negativity, they’re the means through which, you know, all this, well, what you and I are doing right now is getting propagated to the world. That wasn’t possible, you know, even hardly possible 10 years ago. It was difficult, and 20 years ago, impossible. So, you know, somehow or other things come together for a purpose, and it almost seems like the internet is the formation of a nervous system which the world needs for the dissemination of the kind of knowledge that can save the world.
Annette: Yeah. It’s interesting also Teilhard de Chardin had, you know, this evolutionary perspective. And he talks about that humanity is like the brain of Mother Earth, in a way, you know, and networking, as you say, through this technical knowledge we have nowadays is starting to be possible.
Rick: Yeah. Speaking of Teilhard de Chardin, when I was reading your introduction, I mentioned you are particularly devoted to trans-confessional and trans-cultural evolutionary spirituality. Maybe this would be a good time to explain what that is. Maybe we’re already talking about it and you want to just elaborate some more.
Annette: Well, you see, trans-cultural, I have been traveling a lot in the world through my profession I had and my interest, and I found everywhere in every culture, spiritual people are conscious human beings. So that’s for me, trans-cultural, you understand?
Rick: I found that too. I spent three months in Iran, you know, just before the Shah left, and you meet these gems of people everywhere you go. So it’s silly to write off some country as being evil or anything like that because there are bright lights everywhere.
Annette: Absolutely. That is really my experience traveling all over the world. I always meet people where you can talk from heart to heart, even if the language is difficult, and where you share a humanness in depth and beauty. That is, yeah, that’s the trans-cultural. And also, I like the differences of the culture, you know? I always say to celebrate when we are able, you know, not to say separate them, “Oh, they are doing this or that,” but if we take the flower bouquet of all these different flowers and perfumes of a flower from the Muslim, from the Christian, or from Chinese culture, and I mean, it’s a big celebration, could be on Earth. That’s a trans-cultural. So what is the next one?
Rick: Oh, there was also the phrase, well, before we do that, let’s, this thing about the diversity I think is important because sometimes oneness sounds like everything’s going to be the same or everybody is going to be the same. But if you think about it, the oneness we’re talking about is not on the level of diversity, it’s on the level of the source of diversity. And if you think of, you know, plants as an example, if the source, if the ground becomes more fertile, then you have a lot more diversity. You know, like in the rainforest, you have just a huge explosion of variety because the nourishment is greater. So, I think that we’ll see that with humanity too as oneness rises, we’ll see even a greater flourishing of cultural, you know,
Rick: diversity and the healthiness of different cultures without them being in conflict with other cultures.
Annette: I think that we can start only then to celebrate it really and to see what, you know, for example, I always look, I had an idea once with children that they should ask in each nation, their wise people, what is the gift I can bring to the world, our nation, our culture. And I think that when we are more present and more open, more respectful, have more tolerance, we can in a way bring these gifts more clearly to an expression. And can you imagine to have a world guide where you have all the contributions of nations to the community of the world? That’s for me much more interesting than to know the old history, how many wars and how many this and that, and you know, yeah.
Rick: And then you have all the colonization and conquest that took place in the US, you know, coming in, regarding the natives as ignorant savages, needing to convert them to Christianity, forcing them to learn English and abandon their native language and their native culture and all that stuff. It’s just a, you know, real brutal kind of suppression of something that could have been of great value had the people who came there, presuming they should have come there, been more open-minded.
Annette: Well, Europe has also colonial history.
Rick: Oh, exactly.
Annette: You cannot imagine, mamma mia, you know? And it is, as you say, you know, looking from that perspective, it’s still quite barbaric. It could improve, no? Really? And it’s time, I think, to move on.
Rick: Since we’re going on this particular angle, I wonder if you have anything to say about, I wonder if we could sort of put the immigrant crisis into a spiritual context. You know, what’s exactly happening with that if we can frame it from a spiritual perspective and how would enlightened leaders deal with it? Do you have an opinion about that?
Annette: That’s a big question, and I think it’s not a simple answer. I think also there are different layers to answer that. There are very practical layers, you know, because there are more and more immigrants coming. How we deal with it in Europe, I mean, there are big issues, you know, that so many get underwater. You see, that is one level, how we can deal with it, how we can help, you know, to get more harmony in it, how we can open more. I think what is needed, it is a global, local, I would say, local-global perspective. I think that we are on the edge of a radical change.
Rick: I agree.
Annette: Economic change, the financial system, every part that society is touching, we have to change radically. It needs in education system, I mean, in every social system, you understand?
Rick: Healthcare, yeah, everything.
Annette: Everything, it’s going, you know, it falls apart more and more, it’s visible. And so I’m very, very much interested to find practical tools, how we can change globally, locally, in that sense. And there are interesting views. I have, for example, in Germany, there’s a man who writes about Gradido, which is a new financial system, economical financial system, which he thinks he could rebalance the whole flow of rich and poor, hunger and not having enough to eat, no shelter and slavery, all these things. So I’m connecting people, trying, you know, on that field to inspire, to talk about, because of course, the rich people, they have to let go of some things, but they win something, you know? For example, I was also in South Africa last winter, and I was on the footstep of Mandela, which I really highly estimate also what he did. But seeing how the black are living and how the white people are living, the white people have a, most of them have a really nice, nice life, but they have all an electric fence, and they have armed forces all around them. So they have that, but at the same time, they have the fear. Well, a life in fear underneath is not a win-win situation. And I could imagine, you know, of course, it’s very complex. We don’t, there is not, you know, quick answers. But I feel, for me, the consciousness shift from separation into oneness is enormously important that we overcome, you know, we are all brothers and sisters that we understand and start to live according it, and understand deeply that this is a win-win situation. Now when you talk about the migrants, it is in a larger field what happens in South Africa. You understand, there are always more fences, more defenses, you know, on the border, but that’s not the solution. We have to think, or we, it’s not we have to, we are invited to be creative. To be open for new ways of looking at things, and it is possible if we are willing. It’s not the giraffes, or the dolphins, or whoever that is disturbing the harmony of the world. It’s us, human beings.
Annette: So if we create this chaos, and we are fully taking responsibility for it, we can also change it.
Rick: Yeah. Big if. I mean, I’ve often said on this show that we could think of every single problem in the world as being just a symptom of the state of mind of all the people in the world, taken collectively. And as you said, it’s not the giraffes or the dolphins that are to blame. And so, that would indicate, if that is true, that if we’re going to actually solve all the problems of the world, which seem to be getting more and more dire, then the state of mind of all the people in the world has to change. It’s like, you could say, you know, if you want a forest to be green, then all the trees in the forest have to be green. Not just a few of the trees here and there, but all of them. And then the forest will naturally be green. And it has to come from within the trees. You can’t spray paint the forest and say, “Okay, now it’s green.” It won’t be a healthy forest still. So we try for external solutions, and certainly things need to be done on external levels, but if the foundation of that change isn’t there, the inner awakening of sufficient numbers of people, then no amount of external fiddling with the economy or the environment or anything else is going to solve the problems.
Annette: Yeah, I agree, because we have done many experimental things already in that direction. But, you know, also in the development work, I observed very clearly, if you have a pattern in yourself or the organization, for example, giving money, supporting systems over there in the third world, you have a pattern, if it’s not conscious, you repeat it. So you know, you can maybe improve something, that’s one side. And for me, the other side is also spirituality is a way of living. So I’m invited to be, how do I say, to incorporate that. And without “must” and “I should,” more out of joy, love, being connected with all that is, knowing also that is a dance in nothingness.
Rick: Good. Okay, so we went off on a little bit of a tangent. You asked me what the second phrase is that you were going to comment on, and that was the phrase “evolutionary spirituality.” What do you mean by the phrase “evolutionary spirituality”?
Annette: You see, when I was with Mrs Tweedie, learning, there was not an evolutionary component in it.
Rick: There was not?
Annette: There was, no, there was not. It was more about the transformation of the heart, of the human being, of the individual. We didn’t look so much on a global perspective.
Rick: Ah, so when you say evolutionary, you’re referring to the big picture, not just to the individual evolution.
Annette: Yes. When I say that, I really see, because we are not two, I see that in the sense of Sri Aurobindo, Thayla Dusharda, where how humanity in the consciousness, how it has developed and what could be a next step in the big picture. That’s one thing, and another thing is, you know, that also the spiritual paths have shadows. And I discovered, for example, in our path, that the question of body is not really touched, or in a way matter, it’s more, but you see, one has to look, or I have to look very closely where I start to deny the world. But when I deny the world, how can I change the world? I have to love that world, knowing that it is a mirror, a picture in the mirror, and there is the mirror. And still there is a love for all that is, but without attachment. So the body, you know, in our times we discover it is a miracle. I mean, this body is absolutely a miracle. Then you have to understand and how you can start to work with it and how it responds. And then the big issue, sexuality. I mean, you know, in the spiritual thing that’s always a theme, you don’t talk much about it. But I saw so many teachers, sorry, at night, what they do, and I can’t accept it. I think there is an ethic, but a natural ethic, you understand? And I think that sexuality, we have nowadays what we know from pornography or with the children, what always happening to prostitutes, and then you should marry somebody, and then, you know, you have to be fideled for the whole life. I mean, all these categories are for me the old paradigm. And we have again an invitation to discover a new area where we understand the feminine and the masculine principle and how a man and woman, or woman-woman or man-man, however it is, how the Eros principle can be lived in a joyful, in a wonderful way, not only the agape principle.
Rick: Well, just on that point then, you know, when we speak of a kind of a heaven on earth situation where a much more ideal society, how do you think that that would, that sexuality and relationships would look in that kind of a society? Do you have any, or again, I’m asking you these hypothetical questions that may be hard to answer, but if you do have a vision or a template, like you said earlier, what is that part of the vision? What does that part of the vision look like?
Annette: First of all, I think it depends very much on the individual if man or woman doesn’t matter on one way first, because if you are in harmony with yourself, you estimate also your body that has a female expression, for example, and with the masculine too. I think that each human being has, like C.G. Jung also says, masculine and feminine aspects in variety that can be stronger or less strong. There are women that can be more masculine than a man that has a lot of feminine inside, so we have to be very flexible. I think to allow to be fully the gift you are meant to be, because each human being for me is unique and has special gift to share with the world community. So that to develop is one thing if man or woman. And then of course there is a polarity field on a certain level of energy between man and woman or man-man or woman-woman attraction, and this attraction you can celebrate. It also has the power to create new life, which is wonderful. This part is accepted, but also there can be an exchange, a heightening or harmonizing energy to have joy together in a good sense. It’s something Mrs. Tweedy even told us always, you know, God has given us sexuality, so celebrate it. It’s not something you have to make a cut on a certain edge to put it out. It’s dirty, it’s this and that. And of course our cultural conditioning is very, very strong in that aspect. So living together means that you can live your gifts, that you share your gifts. I think also there are not only couples living. There should be more freedom. Maybe you have for a certain time a partner, you know, that you are very much naturally linked. The fear should be out. You know, C.G. Jung also described four levels of love in partnerships. The first level is when you fall in love, then you have to understand what is your projection and take it back, not letting it sit with the other. The third one is to have a relationship, nearness and distance in harmony so that each can develop himself/herself concerning her inner being, because mostly it’s one that can develop on the cost of the other. And the fourth is unconditional love. There is an ethic in it, you know. And if soul, body and spirit is in unity and you meet another person in that, you can celebrate life together. And also, being two, you know, I always say, Jesus said, you know, if there are two, I’m there. There is an enforcement of life energy. You can really change things in a very strong way, deep way together.
Rick: You mentioned that every spiritual path or teach or group has its shadow, and by that I understood you to mean that they aren’t, none of them are complete. We have, you know, the Swiss Army knife, you must have a Swiss, I have one actually. They have all these little tools that you can pull out, you know, so they have everything in them practically. But you know, they don’t have a dishwasher or a blender or something, they just have the kind of things you’d expect in a knife. But I guess what you’re saying is that, you know, a spiritual path or even a spiritual teacher is a relative expression and no one relative expression contains everything. And so, just like you were saying with relationships, perhaps there’s a legitimacy to moving from one teacher or one path to another in order to, you know, derive a variety of benefits which no one path could offer. There was a beautiful talk by Mirabai Starr at the Science and Non-Duality Conference, I’ll be interviewing her again in a week, and I think it was called “Bees in the Garden” or something, and it was about, you know, having a bit of an eclectic approach to spirituality where you go like a bee from one flower to the other and extract the nectar that each flower has to offer. And you don’t want to be a dilettante, a superficial dabbler, either in spirituality or in relationships. There needs to be some kind of commitment and deep sort of dive into the thing that you commit yourself to. But on the other hand, there’s a balance between complete anything goes and utter rigidity where you’re just stuck on one thing. And I guess the art is in finding that balance.
Annette: Yeah, thank you. That’s very precise because, for example, Mrs. Tweedy also said, you know, even within the Sufi tradition, a teacher sometimes sent a student to another teacher, which was more, for example, enhancing to develop your will. Somebody else, maybe the capacity of opening the heart. And of course, it’s not flying from one bee to the other because you are not starting to dig a well a hundred times. No, I mean, that doesn’t make sense. You go deep in one end. But I didn’t mean that, you know, so much, how do I say that you have to go because this is not perfect, and to the other. So it’s just to be aware because sometimes you idealize a spiritual path too much, you know, and this is not healthy.
Rick: Yeah, good point.
Annette: Because finally, it’s not about a spiritual path. It’s about being a conscious human being that loves what is. That’s the point. And the others are, in a way, tools to help us, you know? And for some, maybe one path and that’s it is the right thing. For somebody else, maybe it’s this for 10 years, and then maybe for 10 years I follow something else, can be. But I think when you are asking yourself in a very honest way, deep ask, what is the right thing for my growing, you get the answer.
Rick: That’s a good point, yeah. Yeah, I agree. I know people who have been on one path for 50 years and others who have moved around a bit and I wouldn’t tell them, either of them, that they should do something different. It’s up to them to decide.
Annette: No, absolutely.
Rick: in both cases of doing this or this for that particular person.
Annette: But also, you know, Ken Wilber has talked about the three faces of God, huh? And there are always in these three faces, the one is who I am question, and when you go the non-duality path, there is a shadow part. One has to be very careful because the shadow can also be brought into light. The shadow part there is to really get the root of narcissism, with the question who I am.
Rick: Explain that a little bit more.
Annette: You know, Ramana Maharshi asked the question, who I am, but it needs a depth of really getting the root of your little I out of that.
Rick: I see.
Annette: You can easily, in a subtle, not clearly recognize if this root has been taken off completely or not.
Rick: Yeah, and if it hasn’t, then you’re saying that you could end up reinforcing or exaggerating the little spiritual egotism they sometimes use.
Annette: Yes, exactly, you understand. So that’s the shadow of the question when I have the want. When you have the question, who are thy, thee, who are you God, you have, because you are so much in giving yourself in or up, sometimes you give everything to God, but you don’t take yourself in it completely. You understand, you have the minus ego. You have the plus ego in the first question, you have the minus ego in the second. Other than the minus of self-worth and all this, these are big questions, and they’re very subtle because we are so much trained, we are no good, in a way.
Rick: Yeah, well, just then when you were gesturing about God, you were sort of looking up and looking away.
Annette: Yes, or the guru also, you know? You give everything to him, but you don’t find yourself holy as a human being.
Rick: But obviously, I think you and I would both agree that God is not something that’s up and away or separate.
Annette: No, no, no, absolutely.
Rick: God is all pervading. So, obviously, it pervades this as well as pervading, you know, the farthest galaxy.
Annette: Yeah, yeah, yeah, but when you have the tendency to give in that, to give yourself in, it’s very subtle that this God, Godly, everything per se, is completely recognized as such. There is often, you know, a little gap where you go into separation. Well, and the third one is, you know, that over the perfection of manifestation, there’s also a face of God, as Ken Wilber says. And there, I think the danger is that you identify with matter too much. You know, the balance, nothingness, everything that is, is a very dynamic, fine balance, I think.
Rick: Yeah. I feel, in my experience and understanding, that both are equally valid. And there’s no conflict between them. And it doesn’t ever have to be one or the other. It’s like, as you shift your attention, okay, yes, I’m nowhere. Okay, yes, I’m everywhere. Okay, yes, I’m right here. You know, it’s like all three of those things just mesh harmoniously.
Annette: Yes, yes, yes, exactly.
Rick: Yeah, and people do have a tendency, not only in this area, but in all areas to try to lock on to one polarity or to the exclusion of others, you know, to one opinion or attitude or belief to the exclusion of others. And I think that’s what we’re talking about, avoiding.
Annette: Exactly. Yeah.
Rick: Here’s an interesting question that came in from a fellow named Akshay in Pune, India. Akshay asks, “Are there phases of enlightenment? When people have a moment of awakening, is that just a taste of the supreme energy, or are they fully free now?”
Annette: Wow, that is, you know, that is very different. You remember Jack Kornfield, what he did with the AT meditation teachers? He asked about the enlightenment, you know, they had and what had happened afterwards. That was for me a big revelation, you know, because first I thought, “Enlightenment, light on, that’s done, you know, now.” Then I read that book and I said, “Oh, no,” because my experience was not like that. But every human being is very different. You know, for example, or Byron Katie, they had, or Ramana Maharshi, they had big shifts, you know, taking place. But that’s very rare, I would say. Mostly I see that there was a moment in my experience where this nothingness, the first time I was there, that was a moment, and at the same time, everything was there. And then it faded again a little bit, you know, and then, yeah, it deepened. But you know, actually, enlightenment is now, always new. It’s not really something that, you know, has happened and then it’s done. No. I would answer really, enlightenment is always now you.
Rick: Yes, I would agree. And I would also say that I don’t even like to use the word enlightenment because it seems to have too much of a static, superlative connotation, you know? Even awakening, it’s like, we used to call this show, “Conversations with Awakened,” or ordinary awakened people, and we got rid of the word awakened. We changed it to awakening because there seems to just be this ongoing development. I think if you talk to Eckhart Tolle or Byron Katie or Ramana, look at their examples, I think they would say that they have continued to grow in various ways since their shift. Even Ramana, I mean, he had this huge shift when he was a young teenager and then he spent, you know, a couple decades in a cave doing whatever he was doing, and then he finally came out and was different to all appearances than he had been when he went in. And something had matured, something had integrated.
Annette: Yeah, I agree. I also met Eckhart Tolle, he was also at our place twice and so on. I saw how long it took for him to understand only what happened and then you have to integrate it and then it deepens also, and with Byron Katie the same.
Rick: Yeah, she didn’t know how to brush her teeth after whatever happened. She had to relearn everything.
Annette: Right, right. So, it’s another way, but I think that’s the beauty of being alive here. There’s always something to discover.
Rick: I think Akshay’s question is a good one because I think it gives people a more realistic way of functioning and of dealing with spirituality. If you actually think that there’s some kind of ultimate static thing, and if you think that this person has reached it, then you’re going to have a very different impression of that person than if you realize that they too are a work in progress. And also, you’re never going to feel like you have changed anything significant because you’re not going to feel like you’ve reached the be all and end all of spiritual development. And you shouldn’t feel that because there isn’t one.
Annette: Absolutely right. Mrs. Tweedy also said, you know, the one that says he’s enlightened isn’t. Because who says that?
Rick: Those who say do not know, those who know do not say, that old saying, you know?
Annette: You know, yeah. And it is, as you say, you know, we have so much excitement about that word and it is a little bit artificial in a way. And there is simplicity in being simply present here now.
Rick: Yeah. There’s a little bit from your book that relates to what we were saying, which is you referred to three journeys, from God, to God, and in God. And I’ve heard that there’s a saying, maybe it’s a Sufi saying, that, you know, there’s an end to the path to God, but there’s no end to the path in God.
Rick: Ever hear that?
Annette: It’s, yeah, you know, there is a moment where you are not a seeker anymore, you understand?
Annette: And there is no you should, or this, it’s more a being in that, being that, and that is a process, I think, of deepening and widening until the end.
Annette: And there’s a beauty in it.
Rick: Well, and I don’t know if there is an end. I mean, if you’re referring to the end of this life.
Annette: I refer to the end of this life, but it continues.
Rick: That may not be the end.
Annette: Right? Exactly. You know, what do we know?
Rick: Yeah, I mean, who knows? Ramana might still be growing in some way, somewhere.
Annette: Absolutely, I’m sure. There is more adventure that is waiting for us.
Rick: Yeah. To me, that’s more interesting than thinking, “Okay, I’m done. I’m out of here. I’m never coming back. I cease to exist,” or whatever. I don’t find that quite a good sales pitch.
Annette: No, I agree. It’s interesting, isn’t it, to not know exactly, but there is a dynamic. There is something to discover and to share.
Rick: I just wanted to comment earlier that we were talking about idealizing teachers and putting them on a pedestal and all that. I think it was really kind of profound and perfect that when you showed up at Mrs. Tweedy’s door she was holding a toilet brush. It was like, “That’s great!”
Annette: I think so too. I mean, what an impression. You know, she just gets it back, you know? It’s the way how we wash up. It’s the way how we cook. It’s the way how we, you know, clean the floor.
Rick: Yeah, yeah, it’s perfect.
Annette: And everything else too, you know? The ordinary is divine.
Rick: Yeah. I mean, the toilet brush is just as divine as the sacred altar or something. If you go deeply enough into what it actually is, that’s God also.
Annette: Yes, yes. And I think that changes the world. You understand?
Rick: Yeah. It also changes the world, I mean, even in terms of the way we deal with people. This is almost a cliche because it should be obvious, but it doesn’t seem to be in terms of the way people act. But you know, those children that Trump is locking up at the Mexican border, those are God in human form, just as much as the greatest guru or priest or anything else. Everyone has the spark of the divine in them and should be treated accordingly, I would say.
Annette: Yes, I agree completely. Yes. I mean, yes.
Rick: Which is not to say that you don’t put criminals in prison and stuff like that, but if they’re treated as, you know, divine sparks that have just gotten a little bit overshadowed by things, then you deal with them very differently than if you regard them as just, you know, worthless people who should just be warehoused and kept out of our sight.
Annette: Well, and even, you know, criminals, for example, there are some people in Africa, they go completely different with people that are doing bad things in their society. For example, if somebody’s stealing or whatever, they call him into the middle of society and then they say what he’s doing good first. They tell him, you know…
Rick: Here’s the good things you’ve done.
Annette: That’s very interesting. And then they have like a council where they treat him not as a prisoner, but maybe he has to do some work with help women or I don’t know what, but I found that very interesting. They don’t show you the mirror, “Oh, you have done this so bad and bad and bad.” No, they show him, you know, you have been a good son, you have been doing this or a good woman, you have been doing this.
Rick: Interesting, they treat him with love.
Annette: Yeah. You know, I mean, also, I think our prison situation, how we deal with all that can also be looked at in a different perspective.
Rick: Oh, yeah. There was a Michael Moore movie, I forget whether it was Fahrenheit 9/11 or one of his recent movies, where he went to Scandinavia and he went into the prison system there. And you know, it was almost like a country club. Everything was very comfortable and people were, you know, the inmates were cooking in the kitchen with big sharp knives, but nobody was afraid. And they had a television and they could just sort of, they had sports and it was just like a really nice place to kind of rehabilitate as opposed to merely being punished.
Annette: Yeah, I think we know the results of, you know, the prisons. Most of the people are often more criminal, have more criminal energy than before they came into prison because it’s really harsh.
Rick: I interviewed a guy, Dan, what is his name? Damian Eccles a while back, and he had been convicted of murder as a teenager, falsely convicted, he didn’t do the crime. And he spent 18 years on death row with nothing. I mean, it was just completely like this little concrete cell. He hardly ever got to see the sun. There were mosquitoes and bad food and no light. And he just dedicated himself with vehement intensity to spiritual practice in order to maintain his sanity and keep himself alive. But it was an interesting interview if people want to check back and read it or listen to it. And now he’s out, he got out finally and he’s doing all he can to kind of help reform the prison system and uplift people. It seems, you know, some people might think in listening to this that we keep going off on tangents, but I think all this stuff is very relevant to spirituality, at least as I understand spirituality, because spirituality is not just a compartment that’s off to one side of life. It’s the sort of totality of life into which everything else can fit and be given its proper orientation.
Annette: Yeah, I have exactly the same view. For me, as I said, it’s a way of living and understanding that we are part of humanity. We are not separate. And that has an effect how you look at the world.
Rick: Yeah, it relates to everything. Criminal reform, economics, environment,
Annette: everything. It’s inclusive. Nothing is left out.
Rick: Holistic, we could say.
Rick: I’m going to shift gears a little bit abruptly here. There was an interesting part in your book where you talked about Mrs. Tweedy kind of testing you, I would say. She accused you of something that you hadn’t actually done, and it was shocking to you and she really shook you up. And it took you years to kind of come to terms with it. So maybe you could talk about that a little bit and talk about sort of the way gurus or teachers might deal with a student. And I think that there have been cases, unfortunately, where teachers have used crazy wisdom as an excuse for egregious misbehavior. There’s no justification for things they’ve done. But there might also be cases where a teacher would actually be very strict and possibly even appear dishonest, accusing you of something you didn’t do as a teaching tool. Maybe we can explore that a little bit.
Annette: Yeah, that’s a hot iron, of course. And I also say a few words for today. For me, yes, that was very, very hard. That was extremely putting me on the edge of everything, because in a way I have put everything on the card of spirituality.
Rick: Yeah, you had your whole life invested in it.
Annette: Yes. And you know, but I learned a very, very important lecture for me, how the collective works. You see, I was organizing before Sufi Camp, and we were 500 people. And I organized it with my husband together to Germany, and everybody was on it, you know, “You do this,” you know, because I was organizing a lot of attention, you know? And then after that, Mrs. Tweedy, you know, told that to everybody, you know, that I did this and this, which I didn’t. And so many people turned off.
Rick: I mean, you say in your book that she accused you of embezzling some money, and you hadn’t done any such thing. And so, it seemed so unfair that she would say that. And everybody shunned you, you know, you all of a sudden became the pariah that no one would speak to, and they all believed her and they didn’t believe you. Anyway, just to put it in context. Go ahead.
Annette: Yeah, thank you. And that was, I mean, you understand, I had always the question, why can it happen, the Second World War, that so many people from the unconscious collective, you know, start to kill and to be so brutal? Or we have Hutti and Tutsi in Africa, we had Yugoslavia, we have all these countries. Why a human being can turn, you know, and be more terrible than an animal? This question is something that came with me in this life. I was also in Auschwitz doing many retreats there, sitting.
Rick: Oh, you did them right in the actual camp of Auschwitz?
Annette: Yes, of course.
Annette: And because I wanted to confront myself, and looking at certain things into the depths, you know, why is that possible? So you see that I, that’s why I think the work we do, and many do, that I do that with a kind of spiritual dream work or other things. It’s so important to get to know yourself, your shadows, and your good sides, and to integrate them, and to understand your alchemic, how when you are unconscious, you are able to be manipulated on that aspect where you’re unconscious. So I saw how, you know, once I was in a way in the center, and then afterwards I was, you know, completely out and to stand for my truth, if everybody’s against me, or everybody’s for me, it doesn’t matter. The only thing I have is to follow the inner light and I go with that. That was the teaching for me.
Rick: That’s, yeah, let’s, let me reiterate that because I think people really need to get that point, which is that you became self-referral. It’s like you no longer, you learn not to base your self-assessment or anything else on others’ opinion of you. You had to kind of stand firm in your own knowledge of who you are and what you are and so on. Go ahead.
Annette: Yes, what is the truth for me? Even if Mrs. Tweedy said this, I knew it was not true. And I just stand there naked in a way, you know, being blamed and all that, and to stand that was in a way also a training for me, but that’s on an individual soul. That has, yes, and also conscious how collective things work, how it can be twisted. That was very interesting, even in a spiritual context of people.
Rick: Yeah, that’s so important. I mean, even in a spiritual context, you could almost say especially in a spiritual context, although it happens in all different contexts. But every single spiritual group gets into this mentality that is unique to that group, you know? And people begin to talk the same way and dress the same way and eat the same way and believe the same way and everything else and it just, and they’re not even aware that it’s happening very often because it’s like the fish isn’t aware of the water that it’s swimming in. They’re just surrounded by like-minded people and the whole thing can drift off to quite an extreme before people individually start to wake up and ask themselves, “What am I in here? What is going on?”
Annette: Yeah, and that’s, I mean, very, very important, you know, in the collective field. And yeah.
Rick: And obviously, I’m sorry, go ahead.
Annette: Of course, it was a hard learning, but it was good learning. And also, I had inside a lot of help, you know, then finally also.
Rick: What do you mean, inside?
Annette: I had inner experiences where I got the strength to stay, you understand?
Rick: Yeah, right.
Annette: That there was a help from other planes or whatever or inside my alchemy that let me just stand, point, you know, like that.
Rick: That’s great.
Annette: Yeah. But nowadays, you see, because I have, of course, also students, but I wouldn’t even call I’m a spiritual teacher and I have students, I don’t work this way. If people ask me questions, I can answer maybe certain things, but for me, it’s about to enhance their light, to recognize their light, what they are, and to be an adult human being taking responsibility for their own life.
Rick: Good, yeah.
Annette: You understand that’s very important.
Rick: Yeah. I mean, and sometimes the opposite happens where the teacher somehow undercuts their sense of responsibility or their sense of autonomy and, you know, causes them to doubt their own good judgment.
Annette: Of course, one can be a mirror because I have no interest other than the people that they grow in, you know, being a conscious human being. And that’s wonderful, but you understand, for me, I don’t even like to define myself, to be honest.
Rick: That’s okay. And actually, I just want to make one more comment about what we’ve just been saying about being more self-sufficient and having greater trust in one’s own common sense, having common sense and having more confidence in it. Because look what happens these days in terms of everything that goes on with the news and the internet and everything else, and there are all these crazy conspiracy theories that float around and people, I mean, people believe that Hillary Clinton was running a child pornography ring out of a pizza parlor in Washington DC during her presidential campaign, in her spare time. And some guy actually came into the pizza parlor with a gun, shot it up a bit. So it’s like we need to somehow, and very spiritual people get buy into these ideas. So it’s something that just puzzles me. I know people in this town who have been meditating for decades who don’t think that we landed men on the moon because there’s some conspiracy theory on the internet about that. And there are people who think the earth is flat and will argue that until they’re blue in the face. So it seems to me that spirituality has something to do with getting, to aligning one’s thinking and understanding to the way things actually are, which is how we started this interview. You talked about really wanting to know what was real. And if people think the earth is flat and yet they consider themselves to be interested in spirituality, there’s a big disconnect there. There’s some kind of a problem.
Annette: Yes, absolutely. Jesus always told us what is important? Common sense, common sense, common sense!
Rick: Great, I love it. Well, we still have time, I want you to talk about spiritual dream work, because you said that you’re doing that these days and you’re very interested in it. So tell us what that is about.
Annette: You see, the dream is something very interesting. First of all, every human being dreams every night if he knows or she knows or doesn’t know.
Rick: Even our dogs do. They’ll twitch their legs and make little noises like they’re chasing something.
Annette: Right, right. And you know, when you believe that there is a friendliness in the universe or in everything that exists, there is a friendliness. So also, with the dream work, that is interesting that there is like a conscious part in the alchemy of a human being bringing forth in the night a certain kind of information.
Rick: Like we’re being taught things during our sleep.
Annette: Yes, yes. And you have, of course, different kind of dream patterns that can be on the surface where you just digest your everyday life. They can be more deep, like about their shadow dreams, then there are archetypal dreams, then there are spiritual dreams, there are visionary dreams, there are unconscious, conscious from the collective unconscious field dreams. So when you start to read it, you can, ah, it’s such a great possibility to get to know yourself because it’s talking to you and if you have the friendliness also to yourself and your dreams, even a heavy dream is an invitation in a way to liberate something, to integrate something, to understand something in a wider aspect and more complete. So it’s really great.
Rick: So, when you do this dream work with people, what do you do? Have them write down their dreams after they wake up in the morning, then you talk about the dreams with them and try to help them understand what they’re being shown?
Annette: Well, they can, if they want, have a dream book. You know, you also make, you can also make differentiation what is an important dream and what is not so important dream. You have also sometimes just washing dreams, things, washing out things.
Rick: Working out what happened that day and that kind of stuff.
Annette: And you get a sensitivity about knowing all that is important. And then, for example, with the time, each person has a unique dream language that’s also interesting. And then they can read their dreams already when you write down your dreams to give attention, you understand more deeply what is, what does it say. Then sometimes they would like to, we have, you know, in our retreats, we have a space where they can tell their dreams and it is spiritual dream work, which is not exactly like C.G. Jung or so, or a psychologist would make an interpretation. The main thing is that the one that is the dreamer knows if the heart of the dream is knocked, is seen. And it’s not the competence of the one that is making interpretation, it’s the person that knows he says, “Ah!” You know, there is some recognition. So it is just a wonderful tool we learn all together. It takes some courage also to tell your dream. It’s easier than to tell other things, you know, because it’s a dream. You can always say it’s a dream, although that is also a dream. And then, yeah, we discover in a way together certain themes, certain aspects of life, integrating aspects we have been separating, getting to know deeper your inner alchemy and discover also your beauty and jewels, your uniqueness in it. So I think it’s a wonderful team among many other tools, but I just love it in a way, and I have not learned it.
Rick: Just came to you.
Annette: Yes. I was just sitting at Mrs. Tweedy not being interested in dreams at all, but somehow it just started to evolve, yeah. And people are really, yeah, it’s a good tool.
Rick: Yeah. It’s part of your Swiss Army knife.
Annette: Right. I wouldn’t call it Army knife. I would call it-
Rick: Army knife, you know, the Swiss Army knife with all the tools.
Annette: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yes, right. But of course, Army knife is not so much, I’m more the feminine, you know?
Rick: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. I’m just teasing you because you’re in Switzerland, you know.
Annette: Right, of course.
Rick: So, you have this retreat center and it’s a very beautiful, Switzerland is probably one of the most beautiful countries in the world and the part that you live in is very beautiful and you have a retreat center there, which looks really nice, and you have retreats there. Are they taught in German? Do people come from all over the world? Or what kind of activities are there that people can participate in?
Annette: Well, first of all, I travel still a lot. I go to Italy, to Bulgaria, to different places. India was, I was also in the United States and France and Germany and Austria. And of course, here it’s more German speaking when I have German speaking, but I can also do it in English, you know? So yeah, I’m not so much teaching here, actually. I’m much more teaching outside.
Rick: Oh, traveling still, yeah.
Annette: Yeah, and I also always go there where I’m invited. I don’t invite anything from myself. I don’t take initiatives. I go where I’m invited. And as you know, I’m also engaged with Europe because I think we are on a critical point in the European development where we are, where we have more right-wing things and so. And I dream of a Europe looking at prior unity before all differences appear, how we could have a culture, a new kind of culture together, so I’m engaged also there. Yeah.
Rick: So, this is, let’s see what we get out of this question, but Switzerland didn’t join the EU, and now the UK wants
Annette: No, no, no. Switzerland is not in the EU.
Rick: I know, I’m saying it did not join it.
Annette: Yeah, yeah. No, no, no, not at all.
Rick: And now the UK wants to leave it.
Annette: I know.
Rick: So, I guess people have seen the EU as some kind of a unification, that’s what the word is, European Union, and now it seems to be fragmenting a bit. So, when you talk about the underlying unification of Europe, does that relate in any way to the EU, or are you talking on a different level?
Annette: I talk on a different level. As you say, because Europe is not only the EU, the EU is actually, it was after the Second World War, a very good initiative that started already between the First and the Second World War, because of these terrible experiences we had, we had, you know, but it was mostly also on an economic level that everybody has again surviving not only but a good living. But there are many things in the politics that went now into a direction that we have now more rich and poor, we have in the world,
Annette: Polarization. And we have developments of nationalism, we have anti-Semitism, we have Poland, we have, you know, when you look at the different countries, you have a twist where the nationalistic movement gets stronger, wanting, like Brexit, to go out, you know, and not to be in that understanding of Europe. And Europe, I talk about not the EU, about Europe, has actually an interesting history, has lived through a lot of things, has actually enough money, enough education, a lot of spirituality is taking place. If we could really, you know, try in a way to lift up, it could maybe be an inspiration, a federation of Europe, also a new political system, that could be helpful also for our world community. So you know, we try very small steps to come together people that are spiritual and have a vision for the world, for humanity and peace, and where we have a life in dignity to start in Europe with that initiative.
Rick: Nice. I’ve interviewed people who are activists, like Foster and Kimberly Gamble come to mind, I remember once, they’re the ones who made the Thrive movie, and I remember Kimberly made the comment that, you know, back in the late 60s, early 70s, there was this sort of, you know, spiritual people and activists, and the activists thought the spiritual people were lazy, they were just sitting around on their butts, and the spiritual people thought the activists were, you know, without any – but these days, there’s a sort of coming together where people realize that you can, you know, that both are two sides of the same coin, and that you need both in order to really affect change.
Annette: So you see, for example, next year, there is, on the 21st of September 2020, the UN has a global peace day declared, and there are now from UNITY, EARTH, and other institutions are an invitation that we do things in that realm, and I have a project also in that field for Europe, and for the whole world, where I would like, it is called One Tree, Planting Peace, where on the 21st of September, everybody who likes is planting a tree, or putting a seed into a pot, in the spirit, planting peace. So, you know, it helps, of course, the climate, but it helps also that you care about the tree. The tree has wisdom, and we could also, in a way, meet each other around the tree, listening to each other. So, you know, things like that, I try to somehow to connect in a very practical way that has this realm, you know, of being one, being all that is.
Rick: Do you ever do anything with Thomas Hubel?
Annette: Yes, of course, I know him, I have met him again and again, but we try sometimes also for Europe to gain him, but he does his things a little bit.
Rick: Yeah, he tries to reconcile, you know, cultures like Israel and Germany, for instance, and to help to resolve the collective trauma and so on.
Annette: Exactly, he has now a workshop, a big thing going on.
Rick: There’s a big thing he’s planning, yeah.
Annette: Yeah, and it’s wonderful, I think. I’m more the pioneer for the new, he’s more healing the old collective.
Rick: Healing the old, I see.
Annette: You understand, I have more ideas what could be, how the emergence of the new culture could be.
Annette: That’s my strength.
Rick: Both things have their value.
Annette: Yeah, absolutely.
Rick: Here’s one final question that came in, it’s kind of a wrapping up something we talked about earlier. Let me just magnify it a little bit so I can read it easier. Miroslav Maklanov from Ontario, Canada asks, “Did Irina Tweedy make that false accusation on purpose as a teaching tool or by mistake?” And also, did the collective, the group there, learn anything from this experience, not just you but the group?
Annette: Well, she of course told me later that she had a clear intuition to do that to me for a teaching tool. It was not a mistake.
Rick: I wouldn’t have thought so.
Annette: No, that is very clear. And I think, yes, we learn with each other. So the collective also understood later that it was a teaching tool. And then of course you have the self-reflection, how did I react? You know, and you have to, we are always responsible for what we do and what we are. Without judging, you know, it’s not about judging, it’s about learning.
Rick: A spiritual teacher once said, “Sometimes I’ll blow warm winds your way, other times I’ll blow cold winds your way, and in the end you’ll be weatherproof.”
Annette: Exactly, that’s nicely said, yes.
Rick: Good. Well, is there anything else that you’d like to say before we wrap it up?
Annette: No, I would just like to thank you very dearly for this beautiful interview and for the understanding of the dialogue, which was for me very harmonious and deep and it seems it dances somehow between us.
Rick: Yeah, it just kind of flowed along, you know. I didn’t have exactly any idea of how every little step of this process was going to go, but it usually works this way, that you get into a kind of a Vulcan mind meld to reference the Star Trek series where you just kind of attune with each other and something nice comes out of it.
Annette: Yeah. So, I thank you and I thank the audience for the one that are listening to that we are able to share our deep longing for a world in peace and harmony and knowing that it is a mirroring, a picture in the mirror, it still, we make a good film on the mirror.
Rick: Yeah. Well, thank you Annette, I really enjoyed having this opportunity to speak with you. And thanks to those who have been listening or watching. Let’s see, next week, well people might be watching this years from now and you don’t care what’s happening next week, but for those who are watching live or keeping up with it, next week I’ll be going to the Science and Non-Duality Conference, so there won’t be a live interview and I’ll be interviewing several people out there and taping some other things which will end up on Batgap. So, stay tuned for that. In fact, if you have any questions for any of the people I will be interviewing, if you happen to be watching this live now, you can still submit them and if they get to me before I leave, which is Wednesday morning, I could ask those people those questions. So anyway, thanks for your time and attention and I will, if you’d like to be notified when new interviews go up, you can do it two different ways. One is there’s an email notification thing on batgap.com, you can sign up for that. And the other thing is if you subscribe on YouTube, YouTube will notify you. And there’s a way of subscribing where there’s a little bell symbol next to the subscribe button and if you click the bell, then they really remind you when there’s a thing, when there’s a new interview or a new video, rather than just sometimes reminding you. So if you really always want to be reminded, click the bell. Okay, well thanks for that.
Annette: Okay, bye-bye.
Rick: Have a good evening and we’ll hopefully see each other again.
Annette: Yes, all the best.
Rick: All the best to you.
Annette: Thank you.