Bruce Joel Rubin Transcript

Bruce Joel Rubin Interview

Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews with spiritually awakening people. There have been well over 300 of them taped now, and if you’d like to see the whole archive and listen to other interviews, go to We also appreciate your financial support, without which this wouldn’t be possible, and there’s a donate button on that site.

My guest today is Bruce Joel Rubin, and I really enjoyed preparing for this interview. Bruce is an Oscar-winning screenwriter for the film Ghost. He won Best Original Screenplay Oscar. His films also include Jacob’s Ladder, My Life, which he also directed with Michael Keaton, wasn’t it? Brainstorm, Deep Impact, Stuart Little 2, The Last Mimsy, and The Time Traveler’s Wife, among others. My wife and I just watched The Time Traveler’s Wife last night. His spiritual journey began in the 60s with a massive overdose of LSD, which he’s going to tell us about in a minute. Shortly afterward, he began hitchhiking around the world in search of a teacher, and then found him in New York City, just blocks away from where he began his search. His name was Swami Rudrananda, also known as Rudy. Rudy was also the teacher of Stuart Perrin, whom I interviewed on this show a couple of years ago. He was a New York City businessman and a yogi who taught a form of Kundalini meditation he called The Work. I should also add that Rudy was a direct disciple, although he only saw him once, of Swami Nityananda, who was Muktananda’s guru. Rudy died in 1973 in a small plane crash, but Bruce continues to teach his practice. In 2001, Bruce discovered I Am That, the teachings of Nisargadatta Maharaj, and fell into the world of non-dualism. He awoke in 2010 during a seminar on awakening led by Bart Marshall. I thought you awoke in the Paul Hedderman thing, but you’ll tell us that in a minute.

Bruce: Paul Hedderman was speaking.

Rick: Oh, at the Bart Marshall thing?

Bruce: At the seminar.

Rick: I see, okay. Since that time, he has continued to teach meditation and effortless nature of simple being. Since most people work and struggle in the world, it seemed to Bruce that meditation was a significant tool for living a good and productive life, while waiting for awakening to make itself known. Bruce teaches in San Rafael, California, in Los Angeles, and in New York. So, thanks Bruce. This is great.

Bruce: Thank you, Rick.

Rick: Yeah, thanks for coming on. You know, if people don’t remember the movie Ghost, that was the one with Whoopi Goldberg and Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. That was the one where Patrick Swayze had been killed, and then he came as a ghost, and he was trying to connect with Demi Moore. Whoopi Goldberg was sort of a pseudo-psychic who was just sort of ripping people off, but all of a sudden, she was able to hear Patrick Swayze. He convinced her that he was real, or to cooperate with him by singing “I’m Henry VIII, I Am” by Herman’s Hermits over and over and over and over again, until she said, “All right, all right, I’ll help you.” Anyway, I thought that was a really great movie, and you won an Oscar for it, so I guess others thought so as well. And, you know, having seen several of your movies over the years and never given a thought to who the screenwriter might have been, I wasn’t surprised when I discovered that it was you and that you had this long spiritual background going back into the ’60s, because I think only someone with such a background could be as interested as you have been and as adept as you have been at conveying a sense of the fact that the world we ordinarily see around us is not all that it may appear to be. In other words, it’s much more than it may appear to be.

Bruce: Yes.

Rick: That wasn’t a question, so I guess you don’t need to respond at length. But let’s do the usual chronological thing and tell us how you got started, because it’s actually a fascinating story. I just read it a little while ago before starting this. So, we’re back in the ’60s, and …

Bruce: Oh, the beginning.

Rick: Yeah.

Bruce: It’s a long story. You know, I always had an instinct that I was a storyteller, but I was also a storyteller without a story to tell, which is a really frustrating thing when you have the instinct but not the material. And I was a kid growing up in Detroit. There weren’t a lot of stories around, at least stories that I was able to see. So, I kept wondering when the stories would occur, and I waited and waited.

Rick: You could have done Beverly Hills Cop.

Bruce: You know, I actually like Beverly Hills Cop a lot.

Rick: Eddie Murphy was from Detroit in that movie.

Bruce: Not only from Detroit, but he was from the same high school that I went to, Mumford High School. Yeah, it’s very, very personal, actually, that movie in that regard. But, you know, I was looking for something. I didn’t know what I was looking for, I was in film school in New York City, and my roommate, a man named Barry Kaplan was very friendly with Tim Leary. And Tim Leary was at that point doing experiments with LSD in Millbrook, New York. And Barry used to go up there, and he started experiencing LSD and came back from that with a very strong impulse to try to get other people to do it. And so, he was very encouraging of me trying it. And I have to say, LSD in the 1960s, right at this moment in time, was really still something that was very, very intriguing to the mass audience. Life magazine did a big story on Cary Grant and all the incredible things that happened to him with LSD, and it was something that looked really intriguing. And Tim Leary and Ralph Metzner and Richard Alpert, who became Baba Ram Dass, wrote a book called The Psychedelic Experience, and based it on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. And I don’t know why, I was just so fascinated by all of that. It was like another world to me.

Rick: That was my intro book, too, by the way, that one.

Bruce: Really? It’s a great intro. And so, Barry gave me a tablet of about, I don’t remember how many milligrams, but it was micrograms, but it was a lot. And he said, “Keep it in your wallet for the night you get lucky,” kind of. It was like I was waiting to know the night that I should take it. And finally that night arrived, and Barry lived in my apartment as well, so I said, “Okay, this is it.” And interestingly, that very morning, a man arrived at my house from London. He came in with a jar of pure LSD liquid that was coming from Sandoz laboratory, and he was going to take it up to Tim Leary the next morning, and he asked Barry if he could leave it in our refrigerator. And of course, Barry said yes. He didn’t want to carry it all around New York City, and I fantasized what would have happened if I had taken that jar and dropped it into the water supply in New York City. We would all be having a very different dialogue today. But I had this LSD in the refrigerator, and when I took the pill, and I had prepared myself, and I was sitting in a room, and I had a good setting, and everything was all ready, I just sat there and nothing happened at all. And Barry said, “Well, look, we’ve got this jar of LSD in the refrigerator, and it’s pure, the best stuff ever made, really. Let me get an eyedropper, and I’ll give you a drop.” And he filled the eyedropper, and he goes to give me the drop, and he goes, “Oops!” And the whole eyedropper, full of LSD, goes shooting down my throat. So, we’re talking thousands and thousands of micrograms of LSD, which is much more than people are supposed to imbibe. And so, I just went, “Oh, well.” I mean, really, what do you do at that point? There’s nowhere to run. There’s nothing to do. So, I just laid there, and then this thing began. And, I mean, I can talk about it probably for your entire show, but I won’t. I can only tell you that everything I knew about life was immediately, almost immediately, destroyed as an idea, as a concept. Life as I knew it was gone. I was on a journey that was, among other things, exceedingly familiar. In other words, I had the sense that I’d been here multiple times before. I was back on whatever you want to call it, “the journey.” In those days they called it “the trip.” But it was taking me apart, it was disassembling me on some cellular level. And the process for an ego-structured mind is pretty horrifying. It’s very Hieronymus Bosch, the way I describe it, the Garden of Earthly Delights, the sense of having yourself being ripped apart by demons and monsters, and watching the whole thing with eyes wide open. It really felt like that. And time stopped. Space became something other. While I was still in body, I ran out onto the street in a desperate attempt to call my parents, because I needed to know that there was reality out there, that somehow there was a world that I believed in. And I got to a phone booth on the street, and I suddenly was aware that the world ended at the end of the street. That there was nothing beyond what I could see, feel, or hear. That Detroit, where I imagined my parents to be, was not a real place. That my parents were not real. That there was no reality beyond this moment. And it was horrifying to me, because I was adrift in a kind of total nothingness. Nothing made sense, nothing came together. It was not a happy experience at all. And somehow, I made it back to my bedroom, and I was lying on the bed. And I entered hell, I actually had a journey into a very specific hell space. It was down a very, very long flight of stairs. And I found myself going into this place that was almost neon-lit. And I kept saying to these horrible creatures that were taking me there, “Where am I?” And they said, “You know where you are.” And I didn’t want to believe that. And then I started realizing I’m dead. And I said, “I’m too young to die.” And they laughed at me and said, “Well, that’s what everybody says.” And they were very taunting. And I got into this place, and I was literally being dismembered, if you will. But it wasn’t physical exactly, it was different than that. It was like all of my memories, all of my ideas of self, all of my ideas of the world, were all being taken away. And I didn’t know what they were doing, but they were being fed up molecularly into something I could not see or understand. In a sense, it was interested in me. It was taking me and absorbing me in some very strange way. And all I remember was fighting this thing for a very long time. And then the fighting just, the fight was over. I mean, after what felt like maybe billions of years, and a realization somewhere in the middle that there was nothing but me. That the entire universe was me. You know, when you realize that you’re everything, you realize that life was your own creation. It was your total creation. And there’s something remarkable about that. Clearly, I felt I was Shakespeare. I felt that I was the best and the worst that life had to offer. I was everything that ever was or ever would be. And that’s a very powerful awareness. And I didn’t know what to do with it exactly. And then I found myself becoming the entire universe. That all manifestation was what I was. And then I arrived at the place where I was either very large or very small, like I could have been an atom. And the relativity of it was so powerful because I honestly didn’t know what size was. That infinitely large and infinitely small were all part of infinity.

Rick: You know that saying from the Upanishads, “Aṇor aṇīyān, mahato mahīyān,” it means, “The Atman is greater than the greatest and smaller than the smallest.”

Bruce: Well, that’s what I was, or that’s what I became. And then, somehow or another, during that, I ended up becoming nothing. Simply nothing. There was no thing left. And there was just, all I could say, you can call it awareness, being, presence, but it’s disembodied. It has no reference points at all. It is empty beyond understanding. It has no quality, so it’s not really beautiful or ugly. It’s either white or black or dark or light. I mean, literally, there’s no description for it. And I was that, and it was timeless. There was no space, there was no time. So, there was just whatever that was. And then, out of nowhere, something felt like it was a plop, like a stone falling into a pond. And all I could think was, “I’ve been impregnated.” That’s all I could feel. And the minute that happened, suddenly this “I” thing, whatever that nothingness was, divided in half. It went “pfft” like that, and then “pfft, pfft,” and it kept dividing and dividing. And then chunks of being, not discrete, but like pieces of a room, part of my arm, part of my head, a floor, planetary systems, everything started to reconfigure itself. And then, without knowing how, I was back in the room from whence all this began, and I was roaring, roaring with laughter. And then I sat up in the bed, and my friend Barry had been traumatized by how far out of all this I was. He just looked at me, and I just kept staring at the room, so grateful to be alive for some reason. I didn’t know that would ever occur again. And then I said, “Why am I back? Why am I back in this realm?” And a voice came into my head, of course it wasn’t a literal voice, but it was a knowing, and it said, “To tell people what you saw.” That’s why I was back. And that became the journey that I went on, and have been on, ever since, which is to tell people that life is not what it appears to be, and how can I do this. And I’d always wanted to be a filmmaker, well, long story, but mostly I wanted to be a filmmaker, and tell stories. And I still didn’t know what the story was, because I didn’t know how to talk about this stuff. It’s so other, it’s so alien to anything people expect, and I couldn’t put it into any perspective. And then Barry gave me the Bhagavad Gita to read, and I said, “If I had read this a few nights before, it would have meant nothing to me. And now I’m reading it, and it was total clarity. It was like, “Of course.” And then the progression was from that to Perennial Philosophy by Aldous Huxley, and I started to get the fact that I’d had a mystical experience, and that mystical experiences were part of the human tradition, in a way. Humanity has had these, in select people along the way, who tried as best they can to formulate it into a teaching. Not easy to do, because it’s so other. It’s so undefinably real, and yet nothing compares to it. So, you have to find a language, and I had to figure out, “How can I talk about this in story terms?” And I didn’t know. But I figured I’m going to have to learn more. And what I did, I’m making a very long life into very small pieces here, I decided I needed to go to, basically, to Tibet. And to find a teacher, because I had the Tibetan Book of the Dead as a guidepost, and I knew that I had had Bardo experiences, and I knew that I’d had a death and a rebirth, in a sense. So, I stuck out my thumb, and I began this journey hitchhiking, but I ended up in Greece, originally, living on an island in Greece, with all of these books that I had brought with me to read about everything I could possibly read about. And it was the wrong place to be, although I loved it, and like Zorba the Greek, I really was taught there that you should be dancing and having a lot of fun. And I had a girlfriend there, and wonderful friends, and I could have stayed there, but something kept saying, “No, no, Tibet.”

Rick: Did you ever read the book, “The Journey Home,” by Radhanath Swami?

Bruce: No, I have not.

Rick: Very cool book. He did the same thing you did. He was an American kid, doing drugs and this and that, went to Europe with some friends, ended up in Greece, sitting there in Greece, and all of a sudden, this voice came, “Go to India.” And like you, he hitchhiked from Greece to India, and fascinating book. He almost dies every other page, while he’s trying to get to India. I’ve interviewed him. People might want to watch that interview.

Bruce: Thank you. Those days, that trip was overland. I went to India and then to Nepal, and you have to go through Turkey and Iran and Afghanistan and Pakistan, and it’s a real journey. And that journey is fraught with potential dangers. The people who were ahead of me were stoned to death in a village in Afghanistan. I was aware of it, and I thought, “I may not survive this trip,” but it didn’t matter on some level. I needed to get information. And I ended up living in a Tibetan monastery in Kathmandu, in Boudhanath. And they took me in, and I lived there for two months, very, very devoted to trying to be a Tibetan, trying to learn from them. But unfortunately, two things happened. One is, I started talking about the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Bardo Todol, and they said, “Oh, that’s a heretic work.” And I realized I was in the wrong sect, in terms of Buddhist teaching, that they did not go into the mystical side of this. Also, the Nepalese government decided that I was CIA, and they told me to get out of the country. So, I had two days to get out of the country. And I continued my journey, and I met all sorts of gurus in India, and none of them were my guru, none of them. I mean, I just knew it. And I even, as I think I described to you in one of my writings, I went to see the Dalai Lama, and had a private audience with him, because I thought I wanted to explain to him what he was going to face when he went to the United Nations to talk about the Tibetan problem. I thought he didn’t understand that Westerners saw Tibet as Shangri-La, that they didn’t have a real concrete sense of Tibet. So, I was going to be the one to tell him that, you know, “You have to know what you’re dealing with.” Well, it was very complicated, but I got an audience with him, and we spent three amazing hours talking and talking. And at the end of it, he said he was happy to be my teacher. And it was a really difficult moment for me, because I love this man enormously, and he is an extraordinary being. But I said, “I don’t think you’re my teacher, and I’m still on my journey. Is it possible that I could continue, and if I don’t find somebody else, that you would still be there?” And he said, “Yes, of course.” And he’s the only person who ever did that. Everyone else said, “No. I’m your only opportunity. If you leave me, it’s over.” He said, “Yes.” But anyway, I did go, and I did not find a teacher in the year and a half I was traveling. I met lots of people all throughout Asia, and ended up coming back to New York City with some Tibetan carpets. I call them the “magic carpets,” because they took me to an antique store in the village in New York, with a proprietor named Rudy, who was not interested in the carpets at all. But he asked what I was doing in India, and I said I’d gone to find a teacher. And he said, “Did you find one?” I said, “No.” He said, “Well, you know, I can teach you everything you want to know.” And he said it with no hubris at all. And I looked at him, and I went, “I knew it was true. I just knew it was true.” And he taught me an exercise, a breathing exercise, which I did not want to do. I mean, I got like, “Oh, come on, it’s a breathing exercise?” I didn’t want mantras, I didn’t want breathing exercises. The world, the universe was too big for me to deal with that stuff. But he looked into my eyes, because it was an eyes-open exchange of energy, which was very potent. And the next thing I knew, I fell on the ground. I fell out of the chair. And I knew something was going on here. And I became a student of his for seven years. And then he died, as you said, in an airplane crash. And my work wasn’t done. And I was a teacher, and I said, “Well, I will continue to teach this.” And that’s what I’ve been doing until the awakening took place five years ago now. And that shifted gears. And again, I can talk forever here. I sound like I’m not going to give you much time to ask me questions.

Rick: Oh, I’ll ask you questions. It’s good to let you go on for a bit. I often get criticized for interrupting too much. So, I’m just letting you kind of lay out the story. But we’ll get into a lot of dialogue. I do have a little description here from what you wrote about this meditation that Rudy taught you. “It’s an eyes-open meditation technique in which spiritual energy is transmitted from teacher to student. The class consists of sitting with a teacher during which there is a direct transmission of spiritual energy. It also involves a gentle breathing exercise,” as you said, “that feeds and nurtures the chakras. By cultivating a conscious wish to surrender, students learn to let go of ego-centered striving and move toward a vast sense of timeless and limitless awareness.” Is that a fair enough description?

Bruce: It is, except I always argue with the word “transmission.”

Rick: I do too, and I was going to ask you about that. Why do you argue with it?

Bruce: Because I don’t know that it really is a transmission. In my mind, the physical equivalent that we experience is when you’re having a bad day and someone puts their hand on your shoulder. Is that a transmission? Whatever that is, that sense of connection, that sense of a kind of shared experience, a kind of oneness, let’s put it more simply, a kind of presence gets exchanged. You feel that happening. And that’s a very real, noticeable, comforting experience. And that’s kind of what happens eye to eye. I often describe it like two lovers sitting in a restaurant, you know, like everyone else disappears, and they’re just looking at each other’s eyes, and they’re not talking. They’re just looking, they’re gazing. That’s what it is. Whatever that is, that’s what it is. Is there a transmission? I don’t know. Who’s transmitting to who? That’s another question. There’s something going on that’s very energetic, let’s say. It’s very fulfilling, it’s very satisfying, and it goes deep. And that’s what we do in the class.

Rick: I like to think of it as entrainment or attunement rather than transmission. It’s not like you’re getting zapped by somebody, but more like if you have a tuning fork and it’s humming, and you put another tuning fork up near it, that starts to hum because there’s sort of an attunement going on.

Bruce: I often describe it exactly that way, it’s a tuning fork. But I will say, with Rudy, and even when I was teaching in the beginning, zapping happens. Like major zapping.

Rick: That could be a bumper sticker, couldn’t it?

Bruce: Yeah, I guess it could. But you often get this kind of huge rising of energy that’s very powerful, or you break up an area inside your chakra, let’s say like in the heart chakra, the navel chakra. It breaks apart, and when that happens, there’s an enormous unleashing of energy, and that energy goes through a channel that literally goes up your spine, and it can literally throw you on the floor, which it used to do to me. And it’s very powerful, and it breaks up a lot of the stuff that gets in the way of you having a real flow in the world. It’s a very real thing. And after my awakening I went, “Well, do I still need to do this?” I had a whole different sense of the universe. Then I kept feeling that without having done this work, without having created a kind of opening to life in the world and channeling a lot of energy through the system, I don’t know that the awakening for me would have taken place. I know it does for others. But I know it was a wonderful preparation for the larger awareness that finally dawned.

Rick: Well, I think that’s an important point, and let me just throw a few things in here and give you a breather for a second. One is, I just wanted to say before I forget, that you have this YouTube channel, and there’s all these great videos on there, and I noticed they only have 40 or 50 views. I’ve been listening to them all week. I’ve listened to about five hours worth of stuff. I must say that I think that your satsangs, if you call them that, are among the most interesting and informative that I’ve listened to. You don’t keep saying the same thing over and over again. One would expect that an Oscar-winning screenwriter would be a pretty good talker, and you are. I really enjoyed listening to them. So, I just want to encourage people listening to check out your YouTube channel, and I’ll link to it because there’s lots of good stuff there. Second thing about this transmission thing, I was on a retreat in September in which that very thing happened. People were lying on the floor and shaking and crying, and all kinds of stuff was going on. But it wasn’t so much, I thought, and I’ve been in other situations like that, where the guy leading the retreat was zapping people. It was more like he was somehow instrumental in enlivening the field, and then this kind of synchronistic mutual enlivenment took place, with him perhaps as a catalyst. And then the whole field becomes so lively that everybody begins to pop. So that would be more my angle on it.

Bruce: You know, the problem with that, you see it in a lot of Christian broadcasting, hands-on, people falling over, people getting caught. It’s a real energy, it’s a real thing that happens. Is it important? I think not. I think it was very important for me in saying, “Wow, something real is happening here,” but it’s not ultimately important. It’s definitely an energetic exchange. When it takes place it almost becomes like, “Oh, I’ve got to do that again. Oh, when that happens, then that’s real.” And you can get locked into a system of looking for an experience like that, that makes you feel, “Now I’m really having a spiritual life.” It’s not true. It’s part of a process, that’s all I know.

Rick: Yeah, I agree. And also, I think, using the Christian example, I think that sometimes people can just whip themselves into an emotional frenzy, and there can be a peer pressure to get into these things, whereas it might not be necessary at all. And one could just be milking it, you know, and try to be part of the scene.

Bruce: I know that when I work with my students, the energy now is very gentle. It’s almost molecular. So, I don’t encourage or discourage, but I don’t encourage a kind of what you called “popping.” Basically, it’s just love. When you love somebody and they sit there and they allow themselves to be loved, which is a big deal, because not many people are all that good at it, when you allow that to happen it has an enormous effect. And when you watch that effect occurring in people, it’s remarkable, because they start to accept themselves. They stop fighting the world, they stop fighting their journey. And that’s all it is, it’s just a way of getting them to “yes.” So that’s okay, this is sweet. And that’s a really wonderful thing to arrive at. And so, it’s why I continue to teach, because it’s like hugging a lot of people, you know, only it goes very, very deep. And actually, for whatever reason, I don’t know how this works, something in me is able to get at what I would call almost sub-molecular space, where there’s knottedness going on in people. You can feel it, and all you do, and I don’t know how I do it, but I go, “Boop, boop, this little thing lets go,” and the whole system changes. Over time it just changes, and people begin to be much freer, much more available to their own daily life, or they function better in the dream, if you want to call it that. They have a better ride. And I think that’s really important, and it leads you to a place where awakening can arrive and become, from my perspective, a very gentle and very simple “oh.”

Rick: Yeah. Well, just one more thing on this Kundalini thing. Just to play a little bit of devil’s advocate, obviously, it can be indulged in, and it’s not necessary, and all the things you just said, but it does sometimes happen to people. Sometimes even without some kind of teacher or group, they just start to have this stuff, and it’s good to just know that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. You’re not going crazy. Don’t go and get the Thorazine. Just get a little guidance or find a good teacher or something and just work through it, but it’s not going to be happening.

Bruce: When it happens in a big way, you will need guidance.

Rick: Yeah.

Bruce: Because it’s a little bit like the LSD without LSD.

Rick: Right.

Bruce: I mean, it’s ego-shattering in many ways, and ego-shattering, when you still have a big ego, is not easy. It’s not comfortable. It’s breaking up major constructs inside, and you have to find a way to deal with it. And it’s helpful to find a teacher at that moment. The other thing to do is just breathe through it and just go, “Okay, here we go,” because that can help too.

Rick: And by the same token, when we’re on this topic, don’t try to inculcate it. I mean, don’t do like hours of fast pranayama or something, trying to awaken your Kundalini. It can be very dangerous.

Bruce: Well, I really believe that pranayama on that level is really nothing more than hyperventilating. I don’t think that’s Kundalini yoga. I’ve always been thrown by people who try to tell you that kind of breathing is going to get you somewhere. It will give you an experience, but I don’t know that it’s a spiritual experience.

Rick: Well, I don’t know. I mean, there’s holotropic breathwork. I just interviewed Stan Grof a few weeks ago, and I have read accounts of people who have done that and had remarkable awakenings, even abiding ones.

Bruce: Okay, if that’s the case, then all I can say is it’s not the path I’ve chosen.

Rick: No, it’s not the path you’ve chosen. I tend to have this very eclectic notion of what’s possible, but I agree. It could just be hyperventilation, at least for some people. It might not trigger anything. They might just get dizzy from the hyperventilation. So, we’re just kind of covering our bases here.

Bruce: My feeling in the end is that what works, works. I think that probably is the wisest way to look at it, and not to say one thing or another. But on the other hand, I have watched a lot of people doing hyperventilation and getting what I would call “high,” but I wouldn’t call it spiritually enlightened or awakened.

Rick: Yeah, and there’s another thing, which is that it might be that you’re meditating, and I don’t know if this has probably happened to you at times or your students, and the fast breathing kind of thing happens spontaneously as something is getting enlivened in your system. You’re not trying to make it happen, you’re not suppressing it, you’re not encouraging it, but it just happens as your physiology goes through some kind of process.

Bruce: Absolutely.

Rick: Yeah.

Bruce: I used to find my body moving into, like I would fly into these weird positions. At one point I realized, “These are yoga positions,” but my body was just going through these things. And I would go, “I don’t know how this is happening,” but then I had a good appreciation for asanas, because in a way they are a way of arriving at something that sometimes the body will do spontaneously.

Rick: Yeah, it’s like you can move a table by pulling any of its legs, and the other legs are going to come along. So probably the way asanas originally got discovered was people were having these things spontaneously, and then they kind of codified it and turned it into a teaching that you could elicit the same experience by actually going through the motions that might spontaneously occur when the experience dawns, through other means.

Bruce: Exactly.

Rick: Yeah. Okay, so you see, now I’m talking more. I’ll try to limit it though.

Bruce: No, I love listening to you.

Rick: Okay, so let’s see. Well, at one point I want to throw back at you and let you elaborate, is that you had this massive experience in the ’60s, and like you said, you were ill-prepared for it, so it was really kind of a crashing of the gates that took place. And then you spent decades and decades, 50 years or so practically, kind of culturing in a gradual, natural, systematic way, a preparedness which eventually culminated in an awakening that wasn’t a big flash in the pan, but that was an unmistakable shift. And that’s not a question, but I’m sure you can elaborate on what I just said.

Bruce: You know, it was very interesting. I found a man named Bart Marshall, who you’ve interviewed. I found him because Shawn Nevins did a documentary called “Closer Than Close” about some people who had awakened. And Bart was one of them. And he sent it to me so I could write a little quote for the package, because a lot of people who write spiritual books want me to write little quotes for them, because they can say it from the screenwriter of “Ghost” or something, it gives it some validity maybe. And I wasn’t all that interested in watching it, but I don’t know why I did. I watched it almost immediately. And I was particularly taken by Bart’s journey. Bart had had an awakening on the battlefield in Vietnam, and then it completed itself some years later, many years later, after a visit with Harding in London.

Rick: Douglas Harding, yeah.

Bruce: Douglas Harding. And so, I was very intrigued by Bart, and all of a sudden, I got a phone call from him. And he said, “I’ve written a screenplay.” And he wanted me to see a screenplay. And I went, “Oh my God, awakening? And it leads you to wanting to write a screenplay?” I’ve been spending all my years writing screenplays. I’m just trying to move beyond that. But he sent it to me, and I said I would read it. And it was really pretty good. And it had a lot of, sort of a description of his journey. And so, I said we should get together and talk, and he invited me to come to his house in North Carolina, actually in Chesapeake Bay, in Virginia. And I went out there and we spent three days together. It was my first time having a one-on-one dialogue with an awakened being. I had studied seminars with Eckhart Tolle, who I loved.

Rick: Well, there was Rudy. How about Rudy?

Bruce: You know, Rudy was … that’s a whole other story. Whether he was awakened in the sense that I’m talking about or not, I don’t know. I can’t answer that question. Probably. But he never discussed awakening in the terms that the non-dualist community discusses it, never. Rudy was always about getting there, and never about, “You are there.” You know, “Here is there.” And so that always confused me. But Bart was someone who had arrived, and it was very important for me to understand that in my mind, awakened beings were, until I met Eckhart, in the Himalayas, you know, they were the great Hindu saints, they were people of rare achievement, and that it was something that was not available to me, really. Although I kept thinking, “If I keep working really hard, it will happen to me.” But when I was with Bart, he made it so immediate, and he was so real with me, and so simple, and so available. And he invited me to come speak at a group that he conducted for people who were awakened, and people who chose to try to find how to become awakened. And I went to this retreat, and I went for three years. The first year I went, and he asked me to talk. He asked me to give a talk, and I said, “But you know, I’m not awakened.” He said, “Tell people your Kundalini class. Give them that information.” So, I did, and then I worked with everybody in the room, including a whole bevy of guys who were awake, and women. And I was fascinated, because when I got to look at them and be with them, I saw, among other things, how incomplete they were. In terms of heart chakras that weren’t open, third eyes that were in some cases vast, you know, navel chakras that were constricted, all these different configurations. And I kept going, “Wow, you can awaken and not be complete.”

Rick: Could you actually see that? How did you see that? How did you know that?

Bruce: When I teach, that’s what I see. I can see the obstruction, I can see the configuration of chakras, really. I mean, you can call it chakras, but it’s really who a person is comes across very deeply. Not story. I don’t get story, I just get the energy system, if you will.

Rick: Let’s touch on that just for a second. So, you don’t get that in the grocery store, you get that when you’re actually in a teaching role, right?

Bruce: I get tastes of it all the time, especially now. I was just in New York the other day, and walking down the street, and everybody, everybody came through me. I mean, I got everybody’s energy. And it’s very powerful. I could feel exactly where the problem is. I couldn’t fix it at that moment. Maybe I could have, but all I could do was observe, and in a way, find unbelievable compassion for the amount of constriction that most people seem to be expressing.

Rick: Do you feel that that’s sometimes too much for you? Too much information, as that saying goes? Or is it okay, and you just let it pass through you?

Bruce: Yeah, no, if I owned it, it would be too much. But there’s no one to own it. It just goes.

Rick: Okay, so let’s not …

Bruce: It always has. So, anyway, I’m teaching this class for the group, and people seem to get a lot out of it, which I found interesting. I came the next year to teach again, and I kept thinking, “Well, who am I in all this?” And I said, “Well, I guess I’m the token unenlightened guy. That’s who I am. So, I’ll just teach what I know. I’ll just sit there and tell people what I know.” So, I gave a class, and that’s the second year, and a whole group of people came up to me afterward, the awakened guys and girls, and said to me, “You know, you’re awake and you don’t know it.” And I went, “Well, that’s terrific.” I didn’t know what to do with it. I will tell you this, I had arrived at a point which was really, I think, ultimately essential, which was, I didn’t care anymore. I just gave up. I gave up trying to get anywhere. I just said, “If I’m not awake, I am a very grateful, happy, alive human being. I have a spiritual practice, I’m able to sit in myself.” You know, when you go deep into yourself, into your chakras, I hate using even that word, but you sit in your heart, let’s say, and you just be. It’s so deliciously beautiful, it’s so real and present, and the depth of it is unendingly revealing itself, it just keeps happening. I could never hold onto it for more. I mean, I would have days or weeks or even months of being in that space, but I could never keep it. And I finally realized, “Well, I’m doing something wrong, I don’t know what it is,” and then I said, “I don’t care.” When everyone told me, “You’re already there,” I said, “That’s great.” But I didn’t know what they were talking about. The next morning, Paul Hedderman is giving a talk, and I’m sitting there in the audience, and I don’t know how; you’ve interviewed Paul, so you may have a sense of this; I cannot process what he’s saying. It’s too fast, it’s too much, it’s too big, and it’s so real, it’s so immediate, and it’s so vibrant. And I listen to him talk, and I’m going, “Ahh,” like I’m breathing, but I can’t analyze any of it. So, something in me stopped trying. I don’t know what it was, it just stopped trying. And when the talk was over, I sat there, and I went, “Something was missing.” And I knew it was Bruce. Bruce had been washed out, just had been washed out with the flood of Paul’s words. There was no Bruce left at all. And I went, “I don’t know what to do with it.” I gave him a hug and said, “Something happened.” He said, “Great, man, great.” And that was it. And so I went to the bathroom, I said, “That wasn’t enough, something major has happened!” And I went to give him another big hug. He said, “Great, that’s terrific!” And I said, “Okay,” and I went to Bart, and I said, “Bart,” and he was standing with some people, “Something happened.” And he started crying, and then all the people around him started crying, and I started crying. And then there was this sense of … it was so beautiful, and so big, and so vast, and so simple. There was nothing about it, it was a little bit like the candle being blown out, the description you kind of hear, and suddenly you’re the light bulb and the sun comes out, and you’re no longer relevant, really. It wasn’t like Bruce was gone, exactly, it’s just there was everything else. And Bart and I sat and talked way into the night, and what I understood was that the awakening took place on LSD at that point, 45 years before, and it took all of these years of what I call “processing” or “ego-diminishment” or “destruction” to finally get to the point where there were like six bricks left. And during the course of that weekend, five of the bricks fell away, or were taken away, and then when Paul was talking, the last one was gone. There was just nothing left, there was no structure left. And I truly appreciated at that moment the whole journey I had been on, and the years of seeking, and the finding of Rudy, and the teaching, and the energy work. The Hollywood experience, which is, you have to understand, Hollywood is a really fascinating place, and it was the only place I could go for this, but Hollywood is an ego-crushing environment. It absolutely works to crush you into nothing. And the writer in Hollywood is the least important character in the entire environment. I always talk about it as, if there was a totem pole, with all of the various structures of the totem pole, the writer is the part they stick in the ground. Not even visible. And that’s who I was, and that information was given to me over and over and over and over. So, Hollywood had served an amazing function, which was to absolutely crush the ego, or work on the crushing of the ego, so that I finally, when this last little moment happened, when the last little drop of ego just sort of fell away, I was like, “Oh, of course, of course.” And there was nothing holding on, nothing grasping for it to come back, it was just gone.

Rick: Let me tell you about a friend of mine. I’d been engaged, I conducted a panel discussion when I was out at the Science and Nonduality Conference with like 15 participants, and it’s just been on BatGap now for a week or so, and we’ve been having a little chit-chat with all these people ever since then through email. And one of the people, a woman, says that she had all sorts of beautiful awakenings and openings over time, but last spring or so, she went through some rather difficult things with her health, and some of her living situation, and a bunch of stuff was all kind of topsy-turvy, and she said it just sort of kicked her into a complete unity state, in which she no longer has any sense of there being a personal self, which is kind of what you’re saying, I think. And so, I showed her your video of one of your satsangs where you’re using the analogy of a candle in the sun. It’s not like the candlelight is no longer there, but in the dazzling light of the sun, it may seem that it’s not there. I mean, a similar analogy is like we’re … right now it’s daytime where you and I both are, and if we go outside and look up in the sky, we’re actually getting just as many photons from the stars hitting our retinas as we do out in the desert on a pitch black night. But we don’t see them because there’s so many photons from the sun coming in that they totally overshadow the ones from the stars. So, another good example. Do you really feel that there absolutely is no Bruce, or would you rather say more accurately that, yeah, there’s still a Bruce, but he’s taken a back seat, and that your predominant sense of self is a much more vast, universal thing? So, one more little analogy. There still is a wave. You’re not only a wave, but you’re still a wave, but primarily you’re the ocean, which is also arising as a wave.

Bruce: I talk about light as a particle and a wave, and Bruce is the particle. And so, when I want to focus on the particle, it’s there, and when I want to focus on the wave, it’s a wave. It’s the same thing, it’s just a matter of how you perceive it. I think when you talk about the word “the absolute” or “totality,” which has become very powerful for me, Bruce is definitely a part of it. And Bruce keeps playing … I mean, there’s a body here, there’s a history, I don’t engage it very much. One of the things that fell away is, I have storehouses of memory, but I don’t engage them, but they come up every so often. Something will come up to be in present-tense consciousness. And I go, “Oh!” And future is very uninteresting to me, but sometimes future comes into the present-tense and has to be addressed, like planning an airplane trip or something like that. There’s a body that definitely has suffering, pain, but when that pain happens, it’s not like I need to live in a projection of that pain as some future event, it’s just in the moment, and it normally passes. I will say, if you’re in extraordinary pain in the moment, that’s hard. And you will be very aware of your mortality and your body, and you will become very aware of ego-minded persona. And I talk a lot about Christ on the cross, because, you know, Christ suffered on the cross. He said, “Why have you forsaken me?” You know, we’re talking awakened entities. You know, this man, this being is suffering, and then he does the most extraordinary thing on the cross, which is, he goes from suffering into something, and this is not documented, but he goes from horrible pain into “forgive them for they know not what they do.” That transition, whatever that is, is the core of spiritual practice. That thing of reaching into a place where you go beyond your personal agony into something where you again have feelings for, compassion for the totality that you are. Because what you’re suffering is, we will all know, it’s all of our suffering. Christ literally suffered for us, because that teaching is so powerful. It’s so powerful because everyone is going to go through probably some moment of agonizing suffering, probably, maybe not, but those people who do, where can they go for help? Where? And the best place I know for them to go is to Christ, because Christ is there as a reminder that something follows that suffering, something goes beyond it. And that’s a very important teaching. And I’m Jewish, you know, I was not born a Christian.

Rick: So was Christ, you know.

Bruce: That’s true, he was. And Buddha had a different passing, so there’s a lot of teachings on the planet about how to deal with the fact of being a separate entity. Buddha ended up with food poisoning.

Rick: From eating rancid pork.

Bruce: Yeah, and when I was in India, I had food poisoning. You go through a lot of ego stuff when your body is in a lot of pain, but the spiritual truth of it, the presence of it, is a liberating factor. It doesn’t remove you from it, it helps you to go, “Even this, even this.”

Rick: Yeah, well the reason I bring up the point and dwell on it a bit is that it confuses me when people say, “There is absolutely no one here. I am not a person, there isn’t a person.” Because I’m talking to you, you’re using personal pronouns, you might want to tell me about your grandchildren or the operation that you had a few years ago that was very painful and this and that. And they’re not the grandchildren of some guy in China, it wasn’t the operation of some guy in India, it was you, Bruce, having these experiences. Which you, in some kind of localized way, identified with more than some being on Alpha Centauri. So, it seems to me that no matter how universal one is, there is still the individual entity, which is like an instrument through which universality is lived. And it has its individual orientation, no matter how cosmic one’s awareness may be. In Vedanta they use the term “Lesh Avidya,” which means “faint remains of ignorance.” And they say that without that, without some sort of individuation and sense of it, you couldn’t live. This couldn’t be a living reality.

Bruce: I’m totally on your wavelength with this. First of all, I will tell you, in the end there’s nothing.

Rick: Yeah, and I’m on that wavelength.

Bruce: Yes, there is nothing. We come out of nothing. How do we come out of nothing? It’s a mystery. Is it a mystery that envelops you, that you care about? It’s all I care about. I am totally enveloped by the mystery. I don’t come away from any of this with knowledge. I mean I have moments of knowledge that you might even call wisdom, but the wisdom is, there’s no way to know. There is no way. It is so vast and so big and so beyond this, that all I can do is walk around in a state of what I call “gratitude and amazement,” all the time. That’s my state of being most of the time. Is there a Bruce in totality? Of course, there’s a Bruce in totality. You know, there’s a Rick, there’s all of us. We’re all part of totality, you know? And does that go away? No, but what happens is the molecule becomes aware of, or the grain of sand becomes aware of the beach.

Rick: Yeah, a much larger context.

Bruce: Yes, but there’s still a functioning within that context, but it’s a very different functioning. It simplifies, it gets quieter and quieter and doesn’t need to do very much. You find a way of arriving at simplicity that is stunning to me, because I never imagined I would get there. But simplicity is for me, I’ve described it recently in my talks, I have a little swing on my front porch. I just, when I have nothing to do, I don’t pick up the newspaper, turn on some music, do something else, I just go sit on the swing. And that’s all I do. And it’s absolutely, stunningly wonderful. Wonderful. I don’t need to do. I love to be. I love to be. And when being is taken away from me, I described in a talk the other day, a car crash that we just went through, my wife and I, and my brother and sister-in-law, and we survived it, but it was pretty dramatic and the car was totaled. And for a moment I thought, “Well, being may go away,” and I was really fascinated by, “Oh, oh!” And the only thing that came up to me was, “This is so inconvenient!” You know, that was the line that hit me, “It’s so inconvenient,” because I was loving being, basically. But …

Rick: Did it go away?

Bruce: The what?

Rick: The being. I mean, you’re in the car crash, but …

Bruce: No, it never went away.

Rick: How about during the crash?

Bruce: I was telling my students, there was no fear, there was no time for fear, there was just a sense of, “Now? Really? Really, this?” You know, that was kind of all that was happening. I thought, “Really?” And then I was still there, you know, aches and pains and things, but I was still there. And what did that do to me? One, it made life very random, which I think is really important. It made me infinitely more grateful for every instance, because I love being. I think being loves being, otherwise why would it work so hard to become, or to be? I don’t know. I mean, I’ve been so aware that I don’t know anything. I’ve been so aware that everything I think I know, and everyone who tells me they know, I just look at them. I go, “Okay.” Everyone who breaks down awakening, who breaks down the universe in terms of striations and this level of awakening and this level and that level, I go, “What? What? Maybe, maybe, but who cares?” Here’s what I think, you know, the scientists tell us, as you said a minute ago, it’s all molecules, you know? So okay, I am more molecular, empty space, than I am solid, okay?

Rick: Well, you’re not solid at all, because if you go even deeper, there’s nothing solid.

Bruce: Right, right, exactly, exactly. So, let’s say my awakening is to that fact, which in a way it is. So okay, someone then takes a hammer and smacks my hand with it. That knowledge didn’t do much for me. It really didn’t do much. I could walk around going, “Well, you know, we don’t exist, we’re empty, we’re empty space.” Great, but at the same time there is a kind of configuration in this, whatever you want to call it, illusion, dreamscape, reality, I don’t care what you call it that still is functioning, and often in ways that cause what Buddha said was suffering. And what do we do with suffering? What do we do with it? It does diminish dramatically in awakening. The causes of most suffering are really identifications with the past and identifications with the future, and the true refuge of being is present tense. You come into the present and you really let go of that stuff, and what happens is, through meditation you practice letting go of it, after awakening it just happens. You just are not identified with past and future in the same way, and that refuge becomes a living presence that you can be in as often as possible. Sometimes it will pull you out of that sweetness and that ease, and a lot of people who have done meditation, they think, “Oh, I’ve just lost it!” That’s what people say, “I’ve lost it, what did I do? I’m not working hard enough, I’m not going deep enough, something is wrong with me.” And it took me a long time post-awakening to go, “No, losing it is part of having it, it’s all part of one.” The idea that it’s only the blissful part that’s real is a huge mistake. What’s real is what is. It’s not what feels good, it’s what is, is real. And just say yes to this. And it’s also transitory, because it all keeps moving. You have nothing to do with it really, except that it’s you happening, you’re in it, it’s happening all around you, it’s happening everywhere, you’re one of the happenings that are going on. And go, “How did that happen? How did that happen? How did nothing become something?” That’s the question I wake up with every morning. How did it become something?

Rick: I have a few comments and questions on that. Firstly, before I forget, I want to encourage people to listen to the song “Let the Mystery Be” by Iris DeMent, D-E-M-E-N-T, look it up on YouTube. It’s a great song about this very point of, you know, “Let the mystery be.”

Bruce: What else can you do? Except to think you know it.

Rick: Yeah. And the second thing I want to, a question came in, Dan from London, and well, we can talk about this at the end too, but he just asked, “Does Bruce do any teachings via Skype? Would his assessment of someone’s chakra system work remotely?” Why don’t you answer that first and then we’ll get back to what you were saying.

Bruce: Normally no, I don’t. I’ve done it a little bit, and yes it would, yes it would, but I don’t assess chakra systems as such. I wouldn’t give you a written diagnosis or something like that. I just sit with you. I would just be with you. You know, I mean, clearly, I can’t be with millions of people, you know, and I don’t know that this energy would work stadium-wide, you know, with a big audience. I have never, ever advertised what I do anywhere. In fact, this interview today is the first time I have ever, if you will, come out into a larger space. And I didn’t do it happily, exactly. I actually thought, “Why should I do this?” But the only reason I did it is because it came to me. It arose in consciousness, and I had a choice of saying yes or no, but I never find anything valuable comes out of saying no, ever. So, I try not to say no.

Rick: Okay. And so … After this interview I want you to run down the bank, withdraw everything, and send it to me.

Bruce: No.

Rick: Oh, now Bruce, that’s not valuable.

Bruce: I did say I almost never say no, but I actually know when to say no, and that’s when the saying comes out.

Rick: Okay, good. So, you may experience the “bat gap bump” after this interview, which, you know, an influx of … So, since we’re on this point, I mean, would you feel like you wanted to do Skype sessions with people here and there and everywhere, or would you rather just keep it to the local people who can come to your thing in San Rafael or LA?

Bruce: Yeah, I think that’s how I would do it. The local thing. If people show up locally, that’s fine. I’m not looking for an audience at all, never have been. I don’t even understand what we’re doing, because so much of the Bruce identity went away and it seemed to me the minute I did this, it’s all about creating a new identity, about being something, you know, a teacher or whatever. I used to be a filmmaker, now it’s a teacher. I don’t need it, I don’t need it at all, I’m not all that interested in it. On the other hand, what’s interesting to me is it wants to be spoken, that’s all I can tell you. It wants to be shared. I have very little to do with it. I will not obstruct it, but I also don’t encourage it or engage it particularly. I just show up and it happens. I do these interviews, I do these talks that we place on YouTube. I don’t place it on YouTube so I can get a mass following. I do it because I have students in New York and students in LA and students in San Rafael who can’t attend all the classes, so I put them there. And you say, “Why so few numbers?” Because it’s just my students.

Rick: Yeah, well as I said earlier, I found them very valuable and interesting, and so I think others may as well. So, people can enjoy those, and if they ever get out to the Bay Area or LA area, or where is it in New York, do you do things?

Bruce: Usually upstate, near Big Indian, Rudy had an ashram in Big Indian.

Rick: Okay, is that in the Catskills or someplace?

Bruce: Yeah, Catskills. I go there a few times a year and give a class. And occasionally I’ll go into the city, there are other Rudy teachers in the city, and I’ll sit and go to their place and teach.

Rick: This is the kind of thing I usually discuss at the end of the interview, and we’re not finished, but it’s good to let people know that they can do those things if they want.

Bruce: Let me just also say, there are a lot of great teachers out there.

Rick: Oh yeah, they’re all over.

Bruce: So many, and you interview almost all of them. I’m happy to have them go to all the other teachers, and a lot of those teachers have more of a lifestyle where that’s what they do. I don’t do that, and I would say, if you can, go to Eckhart, you can go to Adyashanti, I mean there’s so many people. I’m a Jeff Foster fan. These are wonderful, wonderful people, and just go sit with them.

Rick: Sure. And it seems to be the nature of the age that we’re in, where the model is kind of a smaller group thing, where it’s more of a peer-to-peer arrangement, rather than one teacher up on the stage with 100,000 people in the audience or something. Although there is some of that too, but there’s Thich Nhat Hanh, you know, he said the next Buddha is the Sangha.

Bruce: Oh, that’s beautiful.

Rick: Yeah. What were you going to say?

Bruce: I was just going to say that, you know, the big teachers on the stage, every one of us, every one of the non-dualists, as far as I can tell, is saying basically the same thing, over and over and over. The only thing that’s important is saying it in the moment, because it’s enlivened by presence. It’s very powerful. So, hearing it in a moment, where you’re actually in the presence of it being spoken, has great power. It has power even on tape, you know, as you know from your interviews, there’s real power. But having it in the moment, having it arise in the moment, even though you’ve heard it a thousand times, it comes up in a way vibrant and fresh and important, you know, and that’s valuable.

Rick: I want to come back to something you said a few minutes ago about, you know, you were pre-awakening even, you had this ability to see people and kind of see, “Oh, well, this chakra is open, this one’s closed,” and yet they’re awakened but they’re still sort of shut down in various areas. And that kind of begs the question of, “What is awakening?” You know, it has this kind of static, superlative connotation sometimes, and yet people can claim awakening or legitimately be said to be awakened by most definitions, and yet still have a vast range of possible development yet to undergo. So please comment on that.

Bruce: Well, first of all, awakening is not a big deal on some level. I mean, yes, I know it’s presented as that, and there really is a kind of idea of a hierarchy of the awakened and the unawakened, but of course we’re all present one way or the other. So, it is a kind of, “Are you aware of it or not?” And “Are you aware of it momentarily?” You know, you read a Rumi poem and for about a tenth of a second you’re awake. I know it happens. Whenever I read Rumi it would always spark for me. And people talk and you get a spark. In time that spark just expands and it becomes more of an awareness. But it does not separate you from human beings, it definitely doesn’t elevate you, it just makes you one with human beings. It makes you one with humanity in a way that’s so precious and touching and beautiful and wonderful. That’s all it does. It doesn’t make you special, it just makes you more joyful and more grateful to be in the presence of this mystery. That’s what it does. And so, the idea that people will try to sit on a dais and say, “I have it and you don’t,” becomes a real problem for people. And also, there’s a huge thing of people who are pursuing this deifying the awakened person. Big mistake. There is nothing to be deified in an awakened person and you are no different than an awakened person. It’s just a matter of, let me put it this way, there’s work to be done. There’s work to be done.

Rick: Yeah, so you were talking a few minutes ago about how people complexify (if that’s a word) the whole awakening thing with all these levels and stages and it seems so complicated. And yet you also were mentioning awakened people whom you could see were shut down in certain areas and open in others. And Adyashanti talks about levels of awakening, head, heart and gut. And in Mahayana Buddhism there is a vast detailed understanding of various stages of development and in Hinduism they have a similar thing, nine jhanas, I think they call it in Mahayana. Ken Wilber talks about reaching non-dual consciousness of any depth is only one piece of the puzzle. He talks about waking up but adds that we also have to clean up and grow up. And we’ve seen examples of people who have apparently woken up but are definitely not cleaned up or grown up. So, I would tend to say, if I had to define awakening that the way it’s commonly used is a stage. And I believe I have a note here, didn’t you say that Rudy even talks about awakening as a beginning and that there’s much possibility after that, or am I mistaken?

Bruce: I don’t remember Rudy talking much about awakening as such. He did say real enlightenment doesn’t happen until you die and I don’t agree with that. I mean, something really does happen when you die, I’m sure. My sense of it is, we don’t know until we’re there, but my impression is that there’s a continuum. That’s certainly been my experience in the world that I’ve been in. I mean, everything you’re saying, and I think are articulating so well, is exactly how I feel. There’s no one rule and any rule in every understanding and every teaching that we have is an approximation of something that cannot ultimately even be approximated. It’s just helping us get through the way the world works. I mean, we’ve learned rules. We know how to build a house. You lay one brick on top of another, we’ve created cement, you build a room, you have windows. We’ve learned how to function pretty well in a material space. This is how to function in an immaterial space. Yes, there’s things to learn, yes, they’re all valuable, but in the end, as you were saying earlier, it’s just emptiness. It’s just emptiness. What is it? So, do we not, therefore, learn how to function in this space? I think it’s really important to function in this space.

Rick: Name of the game.

Bruce: Yeah, and I think it’s really important to live your life as fully as you can, and that means open-heartedly, open-mindedly, your gut willing to risk things for the unknown in front of you, instead of protecting yourself against the dangers of life. The whole pursuit of safety is probably the biggest cause of suffering in the world, because there’s no such thing. Helen Keller said, “There’s no such thing as safety in the world.” How can there be? You’re going to die, and you’re going to be taken apart, and everything you ever had is going to be lost. Everything is going to be given up. Once you know that, I mean I remember when I hit 70 and I suddenly felt kind of old. And I thought, “Wow, what? Have I been doing all this?” I’ve been accumulating and accumulating and accumulating, and now I just have to give it away, and even my kids don’t have enough room to take what I have. What do I do with all this stuff? And it’s like you feel so stupid because you suddenly realize all of this mid-life need to get and have and be something and all that ultimately resolves itself in letting it all go and just being who you are. And the incredible thing about arriving at who you are is how inevitable and satisfying it is to get there. But I see many, many people who are getting old, who are living completely in the past or still think they’re fearing the future. There are just so many people who are never here, they never get here. And so, my thing, to whatever degree I can present it, is to try to encourage being here. And one of the things that keeps you from that is an obstructive third eye chakra. Third eye, to me, is not about third eye magical anything, it’s about awareness and understanding. And if you have a very open third eye you will see life deeply around you and within you. And I talk about third eye and all the chakras as plant-like, they branch into the world and they root into you and they mirror each other. So, if you’re very, very open-minded about the world you’ll be very open-minded about yourself, if you’re closed-minded you won’t see deeply into who you are. I can go on and on about chakras and I won’t right now.

Rick: Yeah, we can touch on it a bit, it might be interesting. I remember the only time I ever felt old in my life was when I turned 30 and I thought, “Whoa, 30 man, I am getting old!” Ever since then I don’t really have a sense of it. I feel the same.

Bruce: I played it out pretty well, but 70 hit me.

Rick: Yeah, well I’m about four years away from that so we’ll see what happens.

Bruce: All of my friends as well, it was a day of reckoning.

Rick: But it all depends on what you know yourself to be. If you think that all you are is this body, which is probably what most people feel, then yeah. It’s getting older and I’m going to die, I’m going to cease to exist, that’s scary. But if, as you said, you have a deeper sense of things and clear experience of the deeper nature of things, then you know you’re not going to die. I also want to say about the idea “you lose everything as you get old.” I mean obviously you know you don’t. If you are everything, how can you lose everything?

Bruce: That’s exactly right. The loss is a gain in every instance. There is no loss. There is a loss of stuff, but the gain in what fills the space is amazing, it’s remarkable and it’s kind of what you live for.

Rick: “Know that to be indeed indestructible by which all this is pervaded. None can work the destruction of this immutable being.”

Bruce: I mean that’s the teaching and in a way it’s a good teaching, it feels good. I’m not even convinced of any of the teachings. I mean I think again they’re all …

Rick: Doesn’t that resonate with your experience?

Bruce: Yes, it does, but I have zero certainty.

Rick: Yeah, you don’t need certainty.

Bruce: Yeah, you don’t. I just walk around going, “It is thus.”

Rick: Yeah, I mean I forget who said that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, but he could have said the same about certainty.

Bruce: Well, I become kind of … how can I say … I can’t be around certainty. For me it’s like, it begs the question, “How do you know? How do you know any of this?” The only thing you do know, in a sense that’s unspoken, is that I am. You do know that.

Rick: Well, you know Nisargadatta I believe said that uncertainty and a sense of ambiguity are characteristics of a spiritually advanced person, that you don’t need to cling to certainty.

Bruce: Right, well that definitely is more and more the experience that has been taking place here. I mean I’ve described it as the awakening as the end of seeking and the beginning of discovery, and the discovery keeps happening. I’m not seeking anything, but I am constantly aware of more and more and more and more and more. It kind of floods in, and you go, like I said, you keep going, “Wow, wow.”

Rick: You and I really are on a very similar wavelength. I’ve used those very same words any number of times, that there’s no seeking, but there’s all this sort of sense of adventure and discovery, “Whoa, it’s so great!”

Bruce: Unending, unending, in a way that is like you’re a five-year-old.

Rick: Yeah, yeah, kid in the candy shop all the time.

Bruce: It’s so exciting and it’s so beautiful, except when it’s not. And when it’s not, it’s even beautiful and exciting because it’s teaching you a whole new level of what is. And what is, it’s indescribable. What is, we’re all seeing it and experiencing it all the time, but what gets me is that people are looking into the face of, you can call it God or being or truth or wonder, and they’re missing it. They’re looking right at it all the time. And it’s not even you looking through your eyes, it’s the very wonder of being is looking through your eyes, into itself. And you’re sitting there owning it as this tiny little person who’s saying, “Eh, not so interesting. Oh, I’m tired. I don’t like this.” It’s like, “What? What? Why would you live like that when you are the vastness of truth itself?” It’s so infuriating, but at the same time, you definitely have compassion for everybody who’s doing that, because you were one of them. We were all one of them. We are all one of them.

Rick: We were talking about that before we started recording, that even in terms of what science tells us, if you look at what’s going on in every single molecule and fiber of creation, I mean, I’ve said this before on this show, but if you take a single gram of hydrogen and make the atoms as large as unpopped popcorn kernels, they would cover the continental United States nine miles deep. And every single one of those atoms, and then the atoms are huge compared to the subatomic Particles, but every single one of those is this perfectly orchestrated little thing, both within itself and in its collaboration or coordination with every other thing. And it just goes on and on and on like that throughout the entire universe. There’s no gap in the immense intricacy and complexity and infinite intelligence that orchestrates every single iota of creation. And that’s what we’re immersed in, that’s what we’re walking around in.

Bruce: It’s what we are.

Rick: Yeah, it’s what we are.

Bruce: And how!

Rick: Yeah, it’s like jaw-droppingly astonishing.

Bruce: Yes, yes. And you can actually have that jaw-dropping astonishment all day long, every day of your life, except when you bang your hand or you get in a car accident. And even then, you can have it. That’s what’s so incredible. And it’s that learning to just be, the learning to exist without interpreting it, without making it one thing or another, without making it about, “You’re better than others,” or “You’re less than others,” or “You want more,” or “You shouldn’t have had that.” Get rid of that noise and you just are it. It’s getting rid of the noise that’s everything, and that’s where meditation comes in.

Rick: Yeah, we should talk about that a bit. I just want to throw in a quote from Kurt Vonnegut. He said, “I don’t know about you, but I practice a disorganized religion. I belong to an unholy disorder. We call ourselves Our Lady of Perpetual Astonishment.”

Bruce: You know, that’s perfect. I mean, again, I’m a part of that religion. And I really think that if you’re living in a world of endless perpetual distraction, if you’re always into the telephone and the TV and the radio in the car, and on and on and on, the noise of your own mind talking to you and telling you you’re better than and worse than, and all of this stuff, if you’re always doing that, you will never, in the course of an entire lifetime, even get a glimpse of who you are. And that’s terrifying. And in our culture today, it’s becoming more and more for everyone to be lost. And how does a voice come through that starts to say, “Whoa, wake up, whoa!” And I think that’s why there’s so much awakening taking place, because we need voices out there just offering those people who are ready the opportunity to sit still and find who they are.

Rick: That’s why I’m doing this show.

Bruce: Yes, exactly, exactly.

Rick: And it’s good to have lots of voices too, because then it gets away from thinking that, “Oh, it’s a special thing that only Swami, big deal Ananda, is experiencing.” It’s more like, “Oh, all these people that are just like me are having this.”

Bruce: Yes, yes. And there are a lot of languages to describe it, and there’s a lot of variety to the experience, and there’s no one right way or wrong way, there just is this thing happening. And you can start to listen to enough people, thanks to your recordings, you can listen to enough people where you start to go, “I get the general universal trend that’s going on here.” You don’t have to be this, you don’t have to be that, we’re all part of something that’s unfolding. I don’t know who has the answer, but I think we’re all part of some answer, and we all have something to offer. And so, you gravitate to the one that speaks to you. Do listen, do listen to it.

Rick: And personally, it also makes me optimistic about the world, which otherwise one could be rather pessimistic about, because this stuff doesn’t make the news, but there’s this sort of global epidemic of awakening taking place, which to my way of thinking is the ultimate antidote to the world’s problems.

Bruce: I think we are, that’s what this is. There’s a kind of cancer coming into the world in a way, of whatever you want to call it, of disorganized thinking, and we’re, like you say, the antidote, we’re the serum. We are the serum that’s trying to fight it and change it. And it may be a real battle. I don’t know exactly what’s going on. People like Eckhart talk about a new world order may be happening, I don’t know, that seems nice to me. But I do know that something is moving through those of us who are speaking and listening to this material that is trying to change the way it is, and you only have to change a little bit at a time. You don’t have to go out there and change the world. You don’t have to be a world leader. You don’t know who you’re going to impact at any given moment. You just don’t know. I have a story which is kind of interesting. I made a movie, one you mentioned, with Michael Keaton. Nobody went to see it. It opened the same weekend as Mrs. Doubtfire. And so, I remember looking at the New York Times, and on one page is Michael Keaton dying of cancer, and the other page is Robin Williams in drag. And it’s a Friday night, you just got home from work, and what do I do? Where do I go? You’re not going to go see Michael Keaton dying, you’re just not. So, I made this movie. The reviews were below the belt painful. They were so negative and it was awful for me. And I really thought, “What did I do? I’ve wasted my time. I’ve spent years trying to write this, make this movie,” which actually is very good and very moving. And I did this movie, and I suffered for nine months afterward because it was such a failure. And then a woman comes up to me at a party, and she says to me, “I have to tell you a story. My husband died three years ago, and my 10-year-old son and I never spoke about it, ever. And he has been completely shut down.” And then she said, “I found out I am dying of cancer,” she said. “And I thought, ‘How am I going to leave this world with my 13-year-old son and I never having the dialogue we need to have?’ And we went to the movie theater and we saw your movie, ‘My Life.’ And when we came out of the theater, my son was sobbing. And we came home and he crawled into my lap” and she said, “I had the dialogue that I needed to have to leave this world, and I thank you for making that possible.”

Rick: That’s beautiful.

Bruce: That’s what happened. One person, and I said, “Here I made this incredibly big movie for the masses,” and it spoke to one person, and it was worth it.

Rick: Well, I am sure it spoke to a lot more people that you didn’t run into at a party. And that brings up something I’ve often thought of over the years, and I wanted to run by you. And that is that, you know, often when I’ve seen a movie like, I don’t know, “Close Encounters” or “Star Wars” or various movies, I think, “Wow, you know, I don’t know if the people who made this movie realize it, but they are serving as a conduit for something to be infused into the national consciousness that’s really going to shift things in a fundamental way, and it’s very important.” And you know, you yourself said, when you came down from that LSD trip, a voice said to you, “Why am I still alive?” or something, and you said, “Well, because we want you to tell this story.” And I think you’ve dedicated your life to telling stories, and most of them have been stories that have a profound content to them, a profound influence.

Bruce: As best as I could get through the Hollywood system.

Rick: Yeah, sure.

Bruce: I mean, there was a lot I wanted to say, and you get one idea per, one sentence I call it, per movie. And if you have a big career, you have a paragraph. That’s how I look at it. And I’ve tried to put stuff out there. Some of the movies more effectively than others. You know, I did movies like Stuart Little 2, hoping to talk to children, which I think I did. You know, I did Jacob’s Ladder, which is a very real depiction of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. It’s an incredible journey.

Rick: I’ll have to see it. I don’t think I’ve seen that one.

Bruce: It’s really, really potent. Ghost speaks to people. They all have their message, they all have their reason for being. And the universe paved a way for me to do that. There was no reason this kid from Detroit should be making movies. There’s no reason in the world I should have gotten there. But I had to do these things called “leaps of faith” to get there. You know, I was living in Illinois. My wife was a professor. I had a film open in Hollywood called Brainstorm. And after it opened, while I was there, I had a friend who was a filmmaker, Brian De Palma. He said, “Bruce, if you want this career, you’ve got to move to Hollywood.” And I went, “Uh.” My wife never wanted to live in Hollywood. But we went back to Illinois and my wife went to the department head of the university and quit her job, went to the A&P supermarket and put a picture of our house with little tabs underneath it with our phone number and said, “For sale.” And we, with nothing, nothing, moved to Hollywood. We took this leap that had no security at all, with two children, enough money to live for two months once we got there. And my wife said, “We’re going to Hollywood.” And we did.

Rick: It’s also a tribute to your wife and to your marriage.

Bruce: Yes, my wife is why you and I are talking. I mean, she’s the backbone of my whole life. But what happened, really, was, I learned that you have to take these synaptic leaps. You cannot leap with security. You have to follow the deeper instinctive truths of your life to get where you really want to go. And if you’re opting for safety and security, you will not do it. You have to be willing to just go and embrace the unknown, and it will embrace you much of the time. Not all of the time, but much of the time it will embrace you. And if nothing else, reaching for the dream in the dream makes the dream become a wonderful experience. And if you’re lucky, by becoming wonderful, it takes you to a place where you wake up from the dream.

Rick: That’s really cool.

Bruce: And that’s a wonderful journey to be on.

Rick: Yeah. I was kind of reminded, as you were speaking, of the prayer of St. Francis, “Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love,” and so on. It’s like, I often think of myself and people like you, and perhaps everyone, as instruments of the Divine.

Bruce: That’s how I look at it.

Rick: Yeah.

Bruce: And some of us are instruments in a surrendered way, and some identify with being an instrument, and some have very limited open-mindedness, they have very narrow-mindedness that goes into becoming an instrument and it creates havoc in the world. Yet we are all instruments. Even the havoc producers are instruments. That’s all part of the story. Storytelling is such a powerful tool. And stories have to have bad guys, they have to have obstacles, they have to have mentors. I mean, you have all these classical elements in storytelling, and those elements are really crucial. And we have all of that in our world culture, we have it in our individual day-to-day life experience. We are based on story, and story is what we live for. Everyone is living here, everyone is living to turn the next page. What happens next? That’s everything for people. What happens next? And the idea of turning that into “Thy will be done,” meaning, “I will just be here, and what happens next will happen without me having to know it and having to initiate it. I will just be.” And that’s an enormous release from story, and when you get released from story you really start to find yourself, because you’re not your story. That story is important, it has a journey, it has value, but the real journey and the ultimate climax of a real story is awakening from story. And that’s the great journey for all of us, to finally go, “Aha, there was no story, there was just this.” Or the big story, which is that we’re all living this amazing journey, both in it and stepping back from it. My mother taught me great wisdom as a kid in the movie theater. She said, “Honey, it’s only a movie.” And that really was helpful to me, because you do that in life too, it’s only a movie. And you can do with it as you will.

Rick: But she didn’t like cheese.

Bruce: That’s right. You did listen to a lot of talks.

Rick: I heard it, I know all about your mother and cheese.

Bruce: Yeah, she would never eat cheese. I don’t like cheese. I always said, “How can you live a life and say at the age of five you don’t like something and never try it after that? How could you do that?” But that was what she did.

Rick: A question came in, this is from Eli in Denver, “Bruce, during a TAT Foundation talk online you mentioned briefly that you’d invited darkness into your experience, that enlightenment wasn’t all light. Will you please elaborate on that? What sort of darkness are you referring to exactly?”

Bruce: That’s a big conversation.

Rick: We can have it for a while.

Bruce: Okay.

Rick: We’ve gone to the bathroom.

Bruce: After my awakening, I had what I used to call the “four o’clock in the morning,” I don’t know what you want to call it, “terrors,” maybe. Something used to come into my life and tell me that I was less than nothing, I was a meaningless, imperfect … it was always diminishing and demeaning and kind of soul-destroying. It was kind of a dark night of the soul experience. And I said, “How can this happen after awakening? How can darkness come in after awakening?” And I had to really process this in a really big way. And that particular time, I talked about it at that Sat Group, when this thing started coming into my head, and I used to cower under the covers before, because it was so terrifying. And I have discovered many, many people have this four o’clock in the morning terror, because you have no ego defense at that point. So, the mind can just really get in there and get you. And in the old days I used to look for anything that could help me, and it was always like a little pinpoint of light, way in the distance, that if I would just hold onto it, it would open up into love. It would just be love. But this time when it happened, I just went, “Hello darkness, my old friend, I’m here to talk to you again.” I started singing to this thing. And I started singing, and it went, “Wha?” It didn’t know what to do, because nobody ever turns around and confronts it, nobody ever sings to the darkness. So, I sang to the darkness, and I just suddenly said, “You’re part of me, and you’ve been living in the basement of my being forever. I’ve opened the door, come in, live with me, come into my life.” So, I invited darkness into my life. And unfortunately, when it comes in, there’s darkness in your life. So, it would have breakfast with me, it would be around all the time, and I could feel the dark along with the light, which felt a little bit yin-yang, kind of like, maybe not such a bad thing. And then, an interesting story, I did a musical of Ghost, which was very successful in London, but New York City was different. And we were having the critics screening, not screening, presentation in the theater. This is the big night for the critics to be there, and the set broke down. The set broke down right near the end, and it was like the worst thing that could happen, and the critics were gleeful, you could feel like, “Ahh!” Because it was a very complicated setting for this show. And the minute it happened, I said, “The darkness that I have let in,” which I called Shiva Energy Destroyer. The energy had come in, and it did exactly what it does. It’s the scorpion, it will sting you. And the darkness came in, and it destroyed the play. And the play got terrible reviews, and it closed within three or four months of that. It took away all what I had dreamed of as future income, like this was going to be some big massive hit, and it wasn’t. I had a beautiful house in upstate New York, which I realized, without that income, I probably shouldn’t hold on to. Luckily, I had new grandchildren, who I wanted to be with more than I wanted to be in a big house, so we moved to be with grandchildren and sold the house. And I began the contraction of my life. And I began the contraction, which has proven to be really meaningful, because Ghost failed. And what happened, the night that that screening took place, I said, “I’m going to go to bed at 4 a.m., and this voice is going to come laughing at me, saying, ‘I told you, I told you, you invited me in, and I’m just doing what I do. I’m the darkness.'” And what happened at 4 a.m. is that the awakening happened, I woke up, and this voice said to me, “That was God at work.” And that’s when I understood it as Shiva. It had to take this thing apart to begin the next phase of my life, which was also astrologically – I was going from Jupiter to Saturn, it’s contraction – all these things were naturally taking place, and I had to give myself over to it, and the universe had to do what it was doing. And I understood it, and I appreciated it, and so I embraced the darkness. I’ve now come to understand a lot of things, but one of them is that darkness is the human mind, it’s corners of the mind, it’s not out there as a separate entity, it’s not the devil, it’s not demons out there, it’s all part of the psyche, it has great power over us, and it really is trying to reemphasize its control. It controls most people, and it does it very easily, by again, safety and all that sort of security that you want. It has control over you. It started out when you were a little baby as a gift, the mind is a gift, it helps protect you as you go through life, but it takes over, as we all seem to know. So, it had me, and then all of a sudden, I started to understand that the ego-mindedness, the dark side and the light side, needed to be embraced together, that you cannot just look at awakening as bliss itself. You can, but it’s not my experience. My experience was, it’s bliss and darkness together, that it is yin and yang, and it’s not even yin and yang like big balancing, it’s yin and yang, like this. It’s always happening. Totality is light and dark. And when I went to the next SIG conference and told them that story, they were like, “Don’t say that! We don’t want to hear that. Awakening is light and bliss and freedom from fear and freedom from everything.” And they did not want me to talk like that. And I said, “Well, okay, but the truth in my mind is that you awaken to totality, not to a part of totality. You awaken not just to light, you don’t transcend darkness. Even if you transcend darkness, it’s there. You have to, in some way, say yes to the vastness of being and everything it contains, and that’s where freedom lies. True liberation is saying yes to what is, not yes to part of what is.” And that was very important for me, and that all came out through the experience of the dark side impacting me very strongly after awakening. Now it’s a very different thing. I mean, it’s part of the equation. It doesn’t attack me the way it used to. But if it does attack you, and there are a lot of people who are attacked by it, try singing. It really works.

Rick: You also might try meditating. We should talk about meditation a little bit. I’m usually meditating at 3 or 4 in the morning. It’s a good time to do it, and I’ll sleep some more after that. But you’ve talked about the value of it in kind of quieting the mind and so on. And there are people running around out there who say, “Oh, you’re already enlightened, you don’t need to do spiritual practices. You’re only going to get hung up if you do practices.” And so, I don’t think you have that orientation. So, what would you say about the value of meditation?

Bruce: Well, I don’t meditate so much. I don’t meditate regularly at this point.

Rick: But you used to, I guess, for a long time.

Bruce: Oh no, 45 years. I sat every day, twice a day, for 45 years, and had great experience. Post-awakening, let me put it this way, meditation happens. It just happens. I don’t have to sit to get anywhere, because the only place I’m trying to get to, I am.

Rick: You’re already there, you’re it.

Bruce: I’m not trying to arrive at something. You can arrive at a deeper version of it, if you want, by meditating. And I think there’s something beautiful in that. And when I want to do that, that’s what I do. I just sit, and I go deeper and deeper and deeper, and it’s really beautiful and really wonderful. And then I have that serenity, if you will. But then, the problem is, you don’t want to leave that in the depth of your being and then come back into the chaos of the world. You want to be able to be in the chaos of the world with the same serenity that you have in your sitting still. Or you just want to accept chaos as being as valid and meaningful and as wonderful as the other, so that you don’t make one more desirable. You don’t think sitting still in depth is somehow a better place to be than being shopping at the supermarket. It’s all one. It’s just one. And this idea that, I mean, you can’t know the glory of shopping at the supermarket if you haven’t done the work, to know the glory of doing nothing. But once you know that, once it’s manifested within you, then you live. Then you just live in the state of whatever is, period. You don’t make it this or make it that. It will become what it wants to become. And meditation, when it wants to happen, trust me, you won’t be able to do anything but sit down and let it happen, because it wants to be there. And we’re guided in such a remarkable way by the forces of the universe. We’re guided, and I don’t mean it to be dualistic, like “we” and “it,” you know? But what it does naturally is amazing. It’s just amazing. And appreciate it. Just walk around saying, “Thank you,” because it does everything. And it also is incredibly … I don’t know how to describe this … it keeps changing. I was trying to get a cab the other day in New York to go to the airport, and I walk out of the hotel, and they didn’t have doormen at this hotel, it’s like a club, and they said, “Walk over to Sixth Avenue.” And I often had bad taxi karma in my life, waiting hours to get a taxi. So, I’m walking out and I’m going, “Oh God, it’s going to take a while to get a taxi.” And I said, “Well, okay, don’t worry about it, because there’s no rush. Even if you miss the plane, who cares?” I just let myself relax, and I walk out the door, and immediately a cab pulls up and a woman gets out, and there’s a cab in front of me. So, I get in the cab and I go, “Oh, wow, the universe just delivered the cab!” And the next thing I know, the cab driver farts the most smelly fart I’ve ever seen in my life. And I’m going, “Okay, so you think you’re so blessed and you’re so lucky.” It never ends, it never ends. And it went on like that all day. It was like such a joke. Good turned into bad, bad turned into good, it kept going and going and going, and that’s kind of what it is. It’s just life. It’s dualistic, it’s dualism. We’re in a dualistic world, and either you sit down and say yes to that, which makes it non-dualistic in a way, it makes it whole, or you fight it and then you become complaining or thinking you’re extolled for one great thing and you’re being punished for another thing because you just identified with the good thing, now it’s the bad thing. You know, it’s how you choose to live. And awakening makes it easy. You just go, “I get it, I get it.” It’s going to oscillate forever.

Rick: Well, you know, Rudy called his thing “The Work,” which is of course what Byron Katie calls her thing, and the essence of her thing is just, “Don’t argue with reality because you’re always going to lose.”

Bruce: She even says, “Love what is.”

Rick: Love what is, yeah.

Bruce: And so, you know, if I can step on her back and say, “That’s my teaching too.”

Rick: Yeah. I found that thing I was referring to when I was thinking that Rudy had said something about awakening being the beginning. I think it was something you wrote. You said, “It was now dawning on me that awakening is not the end of the story. It is the beginning of something altogether different. It is a story that in many ways has yet to be written, although Buddha, Laozi, Rumi and others have tried to give it a voice. It is not the story audiences hunger for, root for, hope for. It is not the happy ending audiences crave for, because there is no ending in it. It is, if anything, an eternal beginning. It uproots all the rules.”

Bruce: Wow, that’s beautifully written.

Rick: Yeah.

Bruce:  I wrote that?

Rick: I believe you did. I think I pulled that out of something you wrote. Yeah.

Bruce: Wow. Well, that’s how I feel.

Rick: Yeah. It’s nice.

Bruce: It’s really how I feel. Yeah. You know, even when I give a talk, I have no recollection minutes later of anything that was said. I often have to give it a title, I have to go back and listen to it, even if it was just minutes before. I don’t have any investment in what was. I mean, I just don’t feel that. And I don’t have a lot of expectation for what is, except for what we’re talking about here, which is the wonder of what it will be. You know, it’s like, and it won’t be, it’s not like it will be in a week, you know, it will be right now. Because it’s, I mean, even this interview, you know, I don’t know moment to moment what you’re going to ask. I do know that I feel lucky to be in your presence. I feel that there’s something extraordinary in being able to share this kind of dialogue, that you make that possible. What a great thing. And I’m just sitting like, I don’t know what’s coming next, but I trust, I just trust, I trust you, I trust the process, and I trust being. And that’s a nice place to be in terms of how to live. It’s just, it’s much better than not trusting it, you know. Although, there are moments where I don’t trust it, honestly. There are moments, like I said, where I don’t know if the cab will come. And that, I have to say, is still a part of the whole. You can’t look at that and go, “Oh, well, I guess I’m not awake. I guess I’m not enlightened because I worry about whether the cab will show up.” No! Part of being alive and being whatever you are is maybe going, “Maybe the cab won’t be here.” You know? That’s just what it is. And once you accept that, even that’s okay. The whole thing is okay.

Rick: Well, you know the old alcoholic’s pledge, or vow, or whatever that thing is called, that changing the things you can change, not bothering about the things you can’t change, and having the wisdom to know the difference.

Bruce: Right, right. Well, I think that’s, I mean, yes, that’s what I feel. I feel like the message here is so unbelievably simple, so easy to communicate on some level, and yet hearing it is so hard. Hearing the message is, “Oh, yeah, I get it.” But no, it’s like it has to go in.

Rick: Yeah, you have to have the ears to hear it, as Christ so often said.

Bruce: That’s right.

Rick: Yeah. And again, I mean, words, pearls before swine, as he also said. I mean, if there’s not the sort of depth of being to actually live what you’re talking about, then these words are like reading a recipe and expecting to be nourished by it, instead of actually being able to eat the food.

Bruce: Well, my guess is that’s where suffering comes in, because suffering is the one tool that will make you pay attention, and will get you to look at what is existentially meaningful. And it’s a hard way to get there. It’s not required, really, but unfortunately, it’s one of the ways that works.

Rick: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, if we think that we’re biological robots in a meaningless mechanistic universe, then I suppose suffering must seem like just part of the cruelty of it all, or the people actually have lost faith in God, or a belief in God based upon suffering that they see happening in the world. But if instead, we see things as you described a minute ago, that light and dark, positive and negative, yin and yang, are all part of a much greater wholeness, and that if you’re going to have a manifest universe, you have to have pairs of opposites in it, and these things are going to be continually mushing around and interchanging and interacting with one another. Then you can kind of still see the Divine Hand in everything, even if the going gets rough. I mean, you know, in the 11th chapter of the Gita, when Arjuna asked Krishna to see his Divine Form, essentially, he’s asking, “I want to see it from God’s perspective.” And so, what he began to see all of a sudden is all these heads getting crushed, and people dying, and all this kind of weird stuff that he couldn’t handle. But that’s obviously, I mean, in this vast universe of ours, there are probably inhabited planets getting hit by asteroids every day, and all the death that that entails, it’s just part of the mix.

Bruce: Well, I know that whatever liberation I have experienced, it’s not a liberation from any of that. It’s a liberation, if you will, into all of that. It’s allowing me to be one with all of what is, and not to try to single out one thing from another, not to move toward the better or to run from the worse, just to be and to have a kind of clarity, as I’ve said now maybe 30 times on this show, of amazement and wonder and gratitude at all of it.

Rick: Beautiful. Well, that might be a good stopping point. And knowing the way you operate, if I ask you, “Is there anything else you want to add?” you probably will say, “No, not unless you ask me a question.” But is there, or is that a good stopping point?

Bruce: Stopping points happen, and I think you found it.

Rick: Okay, great. Well, thanks, Bruce. This has really been enjoyable, as I knew it would be, listening to your talks over the last week or so. I’ll be linking to your website, as I always do, and also to your YouTube channel, because I encourage people to watch some of those. They’re really good. As you said, you have small groups going in San Rafael, LA, and Catskills someplace.

Bruce: I have students who teach for me up in New York. I have students who teach for me in LA, and I teach pretty much regularly in San Rafael.

Rick: Okay, so mainly you’re in San Rafael.

Bruce: Right now. That’s where the grandchildren are, so that’s where I am.

Rick: Yeah, great. Well, if people want to catch you in person, they can do that. You haven’t written any books, have you?

Bruce: I have not. A dear friend of mine, Joe Maddrey, is writing a biography of me as we speak. Not my idea. I didn’t seek it out. He thought it would be worthwhile. He’s done some amazing biographies of T. S. Eliot and other people, and he wanted to write it, so I said, “Fine.” So, there is a book that will be out. I don’t know when, but it will be out.

Rick: And obviously you’ve done a bunch of really neat movies, and I encourage people to see some of those if they haven’t, because they’re kind of eye-openers, some of them. Okay, so thank you, Bruce, and thanks to those who have been listening or watching. We’ve got about 41 people on the live stream right now, so for future reference, if I’m doing an interview over Skype, it’s live streamed and you can watch it as we do it and send in questions. We’ve got a couple of them today. And otherwise, these interviews are all archived on, B-A-T-G-A-P. I think you’re going to be number 314 or so, and under the past interviews menu they’re categorized in a variety of ways, so you can check that out and explore. If you’d like to be notified each time a new interview is posted, then sign up for the email thing, you’ll see a tab there. Also, just about as many people listen to this as an audio podcast as watch it as a video, and there’s a tab to sign up for the audio podcast, so check that out. As I mentioned in the beginning, there’s a donate button, there’s no compulsory admission or payment for any of these videos, but we do rely upon voluntary donations from those who feel to contribute, so we appreciate that. So, thanks for listening or watching. Thanks again Bruce, and see you next week.