587. Sebene Selassie

Sebene SelassieSebene Selassie is a teacher, author, and speaker who explores the themes of belonging and identity through meditation, creativity, and spirituality. Born in Ethiopia and raised in Washington DC, she began studying Buddhism 30 years ago as an undergraduate at McGill University where she majored in Comparative Religious Studies. She has an MA from the New School where she focused on race and cultural studies. For over 20 years, she worked with children, youth, and families nationally and internationally for small and large not-for-profits. Now she teaches classes, workshops, and retreats regularly and is one of the most popular teachers on the Ten Percent Happier app. Sebene is a three-time cancer survivor of Stage III and IV breast cancer. Her first book “You Belong: A Call for Connection” is published by HarperOne.

Main points discussed:

  • The importance of belonging and cultural/genetic heritage.
  • The positive, relatable tone of Sebene’s book, You Belong.
  • Trusting the sacredness of life vs. clashing with reality.
  • Surrendering to the mystery that’s beyond our logical comprehension.
  • We are not separate, and we are not the same. Living the paradox of unity and diversity.
  • The importance of integrating absolute and relative.
  • There’s a delusion of separation at the heart of all political and social divisions. ‘Unlearning’ that delusion is where the spiritual path starts.
  • Those who enjoyed embodied presence since childhood may be less effective in teaching others than those who needed to achieve it.
  • Marginalized people often have a broader and more holistic perspective on the world.
  • Healing “epistemicide” – colonialism’s destruction of ancient knowledge.
  • Modern mindfulness practice sometimes dismisses the deeper dimensions of its ancient roots.
  • Everything is sacred. Technology is not the enemy. Benefiting from the best of ancient and modern knowledge.
  • The pandemic may be the first time in history where we are all experiencing the same situation globally.
  • The importance of discernment on the spiritual path, particularly in this time of conspiracy theories, polarization, and pandemic.
  • The importance of community and dangers of isolation.
  • Increased interest in meditation and spirituality during the pandemic.
  • The authenticity, clarity, love, and spirituality of the younger generation.
  • A discussion of Catherine Ingram’s Facing Extinction article.
  • The leverage of technologies of consciousness, including ritual and ceremony.
  • Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
  • Remaining curious and open.
  • Ground yourself, know yourself, connect to the moment.
  • Seeing parts of ourselves we don’t like. Meeting whatever comes up with kindness and compassion.
  • Any motivation for starting on the spiritual path is a ‘good’ one. Other reasons will follow.
  • Contemplating the beauty and mystery of nature.
  • “Love yourself” could be the motto for the whole book.
  • Detailed discussion mindfulness and its historical origins.
  • Sebene’s “Elements Practice”: earth, water, fire, air.
  • The importance of intimacy and imagination.
  • Helping heal kids with emotional trauma. Trauma-sensitive mindfulness.
  • Taking care of one’s self so as to care for others more effectively
  • An invitation for white people to learn more about other cultures and identities.
  • For mature spiritual development, we need to illumine our blind spots.

Website: sebeneselassie.com

Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

Interview recorded February 14, 2021

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

582. Daniel P. Brown

Dr. Daniel P. BrownDr. Daniel Brown has been a clinical and forensic psychologist for almost 50 years. He has been at Harvard Medical School for almost 40 years. He has been a student of, translator for, and meditation master in the Indo-Tibetan and Bon meditation tradition for almost 50 years. He has the only Western neuroscience study identifying the brain changes in the shift from ordinary mind to awakened mind.



Main points discussed in this interview:

  • Whether enlightenment is correlated with ethical behavior. Enlightenment is a holistic development, where all lines of development have flourished.
  • An explanation of the four clouds of the Heart Sutra.
  • Establishing neurophysiological correlates of enlightenment.
  • What does it mean to see the world as sacred?
  • Development of multiple bodies serving different functions simultaneously (as a result of enlightenment). Has the Dalai Lama done this?
  • A baseball player who trained by having tennis balls fired in a batting cage at 200mph. A discussion of the relative speeds of thinking, attention, and awareness.
  • Is there a personal self or entity which reincarnates?
  • An enlightened person can choose an incarnation rather than being mandated to a particular life by existing “memory traces”.
  • Detailed discussion on the rainbow body and relics found in the cremation ashes of enlightened beings who have mastered rainbow bodies.
  • The potential pitfalls of silent retreats.
  • Not mistaking preliminary stages for more advanced stages.
  • The only true test of realization is conduct, how you live your life, and how you treat other people.
  • Witnessing
  • The difference between ordinary and awakened awareness. Integrating awakened awareness into all other activity.
  • Stages in the development of concentration.
  • The process of releasing memory traces.
  • What practices are good for a beginner? Eligibility requirements for different stages of instruction.
  • Discussion of the Padmasambhava quote, “Although my awareness is as vast as the sky, my attention to karma is as fine as a grain of barley flour.” The importance of continuing vigilance after enlightenment.
  • Do enlightened people all experience a universal, ultimate reality in the same way, or do different spiritual paths and personal tendencies result in enlightenment being different for different people?
  • Can you do anything to get to non-doing?
  • Conspiracies and cult mentality. The importance of cultivating discernment on the spiritual path.
  • The importance of enlightened leaders. Can they be effective without an enlightened populace?

Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

Interview recorded January 10, 2021

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

562. James Finley

As a contemplative practitioner and clinical psychologist, James Finley helps seekers who desire to live a contemplative, whole life. Drawing from his experience as a former monk and spiritual directee of Thomas Merton, Jim offers trustworthy guidance for the spiritual journey through his website, online courses, occasional retreats, and the Center for Action and Contemplation where he serves as a core faculty member of The Living School for Action and Contemplation with Cynthia Bourgeault and Richard Rohr. Jim is the author of several books, including:

James’s podcast, Turning to the Mystics is for people searching for something more meaningful, intimate, and richly present in the divine gift of their lives. A clinical psychologist, James offers a modern take on the historical contemplative practices of Christian mystics like Teresa of Avila and Thomas Merton. Leaning into their experiences can become a gateway to hope, healing, and oneness. In each episode, Jim reads an excerpt from a mystical text, unpacks the meaning and symbolism, and then concludes with meditation and prayer. Together with Kirsten Oates from the Center for Action and Contemplation, they explore listener questions and examine their own paths as modern contemplatives in this beautiful and broken world.

Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

Interview recorded August 1, 2020.

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