Connie Zweig Transcript

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Connie Zweig Interview

RICK: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of conversations with spiritually Awakening people have done about 620 of them now. And if this is new to you, and you’d like to check out previous ones, please go to bat gap comm bat gap and look under the past interviews menu. This program is made possible through the support of appreciative listeners and viewers. So if you appreciate it, we like to help support it. There’s a Pay Pal button on every page of the website. And there’s also a donations page which explains a few other alternatives. My guest today is an old friend Connie’s Weig. Welcome, Connie. Hi, Greg. The reason I know Connie is that for quite a few years before I started Beth gap, she and I participated in a local Satsang I guess you’d call it was just a sort of a gathering in somebody’s living room where we talked for several hours every Wednesday night. And when Connie was home in California, she and her husband would join by speakerphone and often they would visit Fairfield and come there in person. And it was during that period where I first had the idea to do bat gap, one of the guy in whose home we met really encouraged me and at first I was conceiving of it as something I would do on the local radio station. And they weren’t interested. But for several months, I was sort of like haranguing with them and trying to work, you know, convince them it would be a good idea. And then we had a meeting one night there was one of those Wednesday night meetings and I remember I was sitting by the windows Connie was on the couch. And I started going on about the radio station and Katie said forget the radio station, he said that you’re thinking too small, you know, get it out on the internet, don’t don’t waste our time talking about this radio station. And I realized she was right, I was saying the same thing. So that was a necessary kick in the pants. And one thing led to the next and here we are. So you know some 12 years later now, Connie has written yet another book and I’m just gonna read a quick bio of her here. She is a retired therapist, co author of meeting the shadow and Romancing the shadow, author of meeting the shadow of spirituality and a novel a moth to the flame. The wife of Sufi poet Rumi renew book is called the inner work of age that I just showed the book cover on the screen here, the inner work of age, shifting from role to soul, and it extends Shadow Work into late life and teaches aging as a spiritual practice. Connie has been doing contemplative practices for 50 years, she is the wife and grandmother and was initiated as an elder by saging International in 2017. After investing in all these roles, she is practicing the shift from role to soul. And I managed to listen to the entirety of Connie’s book over the past week or so, doing a lot of walking and bike riding and stuff to get the audio version it’s about 15 and a half hours. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was really interesting, not at all a chore to listen to, by any any means. And Connie about midway through your book, you had a little section where you described sort of major stages of your life that you had gone through. And you remember that part, your meditation teacher and then some kind of editor, journalist and then a therapist and this and that. I thought as a way of getting to know you a little bit better at the start here. You could review those stages,

CONNIE: I think you’re you’re referring to the life review process. So in my chapter on the life review, which is one of the tools to become an elder to actually harvest all the lessons we’ve learned from our lives. I discovered some very profound things about myself and I’m not really a person who tends to look at the past very much. I’m not nostalgic, and I don’t look back, although I love the music of the 60s and 70s. But other than that, um, and so when I did this life review, one of the things I found was that I spent about a decade as a TM teacher And then I spent another decade as a journalist, and an editor at a publishing house. And then I spent three decades as a psychologist working in clinical practice, you would think that, on the surface, those careers are really distinct and have nothing in common. But when I really looked at it, at the level of my soul’s journey, what I saw was, they all had the same mission, which was to transmit information about consciousness. And when I saw that thread that went through the whole tapestry of my life, it was very gratifying, it really moved me. It allowed me to feel that this new book is a continuation of my soul’s mission, except that now I’m transmitting information about consciousness and later life. And so it was kind of a unifying experience. Nice.

RICK: So I could say a similar thing in terms of consciousness being the kind of fundamental interest and in fact, when I was late, in my late teens, early 20s, I came kind of came to the same realization, I bet you did, which is that, you know, I wanted to have as much of an impact as possible or contribution in my life, and I felt like, with consciousness, I’d have the most leverage, you know, working on that level, I could have a greater impact, do less than accomplish more, so to speak, then working on various more manifest levels.

CONNIE: Right. We learned so many profound lessons at a young age, you know. And even though I left TM and moved on to other practices, a lot of the teachings have stayed with sure if they were so formative, I know your

RICK: book is full of like, little familiar phrases.

CONNIE: Yeah. Yeah. Aging is structured in consciousness. Right?

RICK: Yeah. Why? Why did you leave TM if I if it’s not too controversial to ask?

CONNIE: Um, when the cities were given out, I didn’t trust the whole process. And then I saw people lying about their experiences. And I saw a lot of ego involvement competition. And then, when I went on a six month course, March, she told me that I was in some high level of consciousness, and I knew that I wasn’t. And that sort of left me without faith in him.

RICK: Hmm. Interesting. Yeah. You were up on the mic asking a question or something. And he said, Your Oh, yeah.

CONNIE: Yeah. Yeah. Well, he always used

RICK: to use this catchphrase, the Orient, he called us Governors of the Age of Enlightenment, you know, and he is the he would always say, the already enlightened Governors of the Age of Enlightenment, and people would kind of scratch their heads. But I now understand that in the context of the types of things Ramana, Maharshi, or Papaji, or somebody might have said that, you know, in reality, ultimately, fundamentally, you’re already enlightened. You just don’t know it. And he kind of left

CONNIE: that. That that’s the basic Advaita teaching. Yeah. Yeah. But the missing piece is if we’re not conscious of it. What good does it do?

RICK: Yeah, I mean, a sea slug is already enlightened on some level, but be conscious of it. One thing you brought up in your book a lot, or a certain section of it, anyway, was that, you know, you’d been sort of plagued or driven by this yearning, feeling like I got to get enlightened isn’t enlightenment or bust, kind of a feeling. And I got the sense that that has, and I saw that in our meetings, you know, our Wednesday night satsangs. Also, for years, I got the feeling that’s kind of mellowed for you now.

CONNIE: Um, you know, I didn’t, I didn’t experience it as an angst or got to, I experienced it as like a whisper. Um, that led to a restless feeling. Yeah. And I allow that feeling to guide me all my life. I mean, I took it seriously. In one of my books, I called it the holy longing. It’s the part of us that longs for transcendence. And so I actually believe that that’s in every human soul. Again, some people are conscious evidence, some are not. But it was it’s, for me, it’s a kind of a precious, it’s like a lure that has called to me. And so I haven’t seen it as a problem. I haven’t seen it as my ego. I’ve seen it as the evolutionary impulse within us, and so with that frame, I’ve allowed it to guide me. It’s guided me to so many friends tastic teachers and teachings and books and practices, and is it different now? Um, I would say that I have less restlessness. Now, in the level of consciousness I’m in, I have less restlessness now as an elder, and I have less restlessness because of where my husband is at who has attained a very high level. And so I kind of feel like that was a blessing for me. Yeah. And a teacher, that restlessness. Yeah.

RICK: It’s interesting, because, you know, we hear stories about great saints and sages, like the Buddha, or amo, or, you know, many of them, who basically were just desperate for enlightenment, you know, the Buddha nearly fasted the death and did all these other things. And, you know, Alma wants to was, I think she threw herself into the ocean because she didn’t want to live if she weren’t enlightened. And, you know, there’s a lot of other stories in the Yoga Sutras Patanjali says that the yogi’s who are driven by vehement intensity, are the ones that are going to get enlightened the most quickly. So there’s that. But then on the other hand, you know, people can struggle and strain and I was up on the stage one time shooting my mouth off and marshy interrupted me, and he said, every day, his life said, Don’t pass over the present for some glorious future, you know, and so somehow those two things need to be balanced, where you’re not go ahead and elaborate on that. That’s I made the point.

CONNIE: Yeah, and I think there’s also a quality of attachment that traps us in that urgency, you know, and I can remember that in my 20s, I didn’t care about anything else. I didn’t build a career, I didn’t care about relationship. I didn’t want to have kids. That was all I cared about. And I think that’s true for a lot of people in the baby boomer generation. And many of us then left our practice gave up basically became so spiritually disillusioned, heartbroken, that people gave up their practices and just got into sort of empire building. Yeah, you know, career and family and conventional life. And that didn’t, it didn’t go that way for me. Yeah. So, um, there’s, but there is a kind of grasping, that’s paradoxical, because I think we have to want it in order to hear the guidance. But at the same time, if we want it too much, we can actually block it, because our egos get engaged. And there’s also you know, Ken Wilber made this beautiful point about spiritual bypass, which is his way of saying, when we prioritize spirituality, just what my Rishi said, what when we prioritize only transcendence, then we bypass our emotional development, our cognitive development, our moral development, or artistic development, all these other lines of development get overridden because we’re only focusing on developing one.

RICK: Yeah, and we’ve seen the consequences of that in many cases where even very advanced spiritual teachers who lived and breathed consciousness were quite undeveloped in certain respects, you know, and that caused all kinds of problems.

CONNIE: That’s what my book meaning the shadow of spirituality is about, because how can someone be enlightened and act out their shadow? And that was kind of that heartbreak for me? led me to really research that and try to understand it, and you’ve started you know, that whole community about spiritual integrity yah, yah,

RICK: yah, yah, yah, um, well, you know, I’m very reluctant to use the word enlightenment because it sort of has this static superlative connotation. But if I were to use it, it would be you know, referring to Ken Wilber, I would, I would reserve it for those who have developed very fully I don’t know if there is such a thing as all the way but very fully along all the lines of development. So there’s this holistic kind of development you know, you’re not only deeply established in consciousness or being but you’re ethically sound and you know, compassionate and, you know, it perhaps intellectually developed all the different things According to your individual makeup, but you’re not going to be an alcoholic or something and yet claimed to be enlightened, which some have done.

CONNIE: Right. Right. Use that to

RICK: choke him to Trump.

CONNIE: Famous drink for us. Yeah, yeah, there you go. So, so this is a complicated topic and difficult, I think, to handle for people who hear the word enlightenment. And it’s the word is like a Rorschach test. We just project all over it, right. And we project according to our own wishes and fantasies, according to our own knowledge and information, according to our own experience. So it means totally different things to different people according to our lineage. So there is no sort of monolithic environment and enlightenment that everyone agrees on. So I didn’t really use

RICK: it, then there’s and we won’t spend too much longer on this topic, because we want to talk about your book about aging. But you know, there is the phenomenon, which I’m sure you’re aware of, of people sitting before a teacher who really seems to glow in the dark and has all kinds of charisma and eloquence and so on. And, you know, the teacher begins, it becomes evident that the teacher is misbehaving in certain ways, but the students lack self confidence. And they’ve been they’ve invested so much confidence in the teacher that they say, Well, you know, he seems off, but who am I to say, you know, what do I know? You know, how can I judge? And so they kind of go off the rails with him very often. And I say him, because it’s usually a him.

CONNIE: Yeah, did you see that film about OSHA wild

RICK: wild country? Yeah, I watched that. Wow.

CONNIE: Powerful. So you can kind of see there how people really get entranced and even hypnotized by charismatic teachers, and you can witness the whole thing unfold in that film. As he gets more and more sort of as he regenerates, really. And, you know, so my position is we need to develop psychologically, emotionally, as well as spiritually, we need to bring our shadow awareness, our self awareness, our blind spots into awareness, as we do our spiritual practices and hang out with spiritual teachers. Otherwise, it’s really risky. Yeah.

RICK: And segwaying into the whole aging discussion. They have something in India called the ashram has, and you can elaborate on this, but it’s different stages of life. And it’s traditionally thought that, you know, timing, when you’re going to really get focused on spirituality is the last stage of your life. But there have been a number of teachers, Indian teachers, who have refuted that and said that spiritual development should be something you do at every stage. And maybe you do other things, in addition to spiritual development at some of the earlier stages, and maybe you’re only focused on spiritual development at the end, but the spiritual development should be the foundation, and then a significant focus at every stage of the game. Because if you wait until the last stage, it may be too late for you,

CONNIE: you know, every the mystical stream of every tradition to teachers, that late life, the purpose and meaning of late life is spiritual practice. Whether if the traditions are monastic, or if they’re householder, I think, changes the message about whether you do that all of your life. So you know, in, in India, that traditional teaching, which I don’t think is to current over there anymore, was that first were students Brahmacharya, then we’re householders. We form a family, then we’re grandparents, and we kind of begin to relinquish our possessions and live more simply. And then we’re saying, Yes, we are renunciant. And perhaps we leave everything in wonder. And so that was the traditional framework, which doesn’t really translate into the West, unless we look at some Christian monastic traditions, people who enter the monastery later in life and do contemplative prayer and other practices. In in Judaism, it doesn’t really fit because there’s no kind of monastic stream and the a lot of mystical Jews like classes are doing practice all their lives, although men only You know, so each tradition has its own kind of adaptation to this teaching. And I do think, you know, as I said that there’s this risk of starting young, which is that we don’t develop in other ways. If we prioritize it too much, we don’t develop in other ways. And you know, Marie, she tried to make a householder practice. But you and I saw how people were many people were not doing it that way. They weren’t meditating 20 minutes a day and living their life. Well, yeah,

RICK: the monastic group too called permission. I was on that for 15 years or so. And, yeah, so that wasn’t actually, you know,

CONNIE: it was it was held as the idea. Yes,

RICK: it was. And I felt very guilty about leaving it because I felt like I’m compromising. I’m not going for the highest as I always have. But I just felt that way. My time here has finished I gotta move on. And I’ve known Irene for 12 years. And, you know, we, we’ve been sort of my usual line was, well, I love you. And if I ever wanted to get married, I’d marry you. But I’m a monk, I’m gonna stay I’m on call my life, you know, this schizophrenic kind of struggle.

CONNIE: Yes, right. Right. And there are those parts of us. So this is my framework on that. So at some time in our lives, we’re living out one part of our personality, right, because we’re all we all have these multiple parts. These pluralistic personalities are psychologies. And we live out these different parts at different stages in the lifespan. So you were living out this monk part. And the married man at that point was in the shadow, it was your unlived life. But when that desire started to shift, to be with Irene and live like a householder, then the monk part went into the shadow. And not entirely because you do your practices, but there, but the same thing happened to me, I was like living this myth of Athena, the Greek goddess Athena, who never bonds with men. She’s independent. She’s born in her father’s head. And she’s a warrior. And I mean, I lived every single aspect of her story. And then I met Neil. And so Athena who had given me a successful life, that story became a shadow figure. Because every time Neil tried to get close to me, I’d smash him. And when I started to realize that it was a part of me, a shadow part, that was kind of sabotaging the intimacy, I discovered how to work with it, and bond with a man and have a very different life, a married life. And but so if we don’t have that understanding, it’s hard to make these transitions. It’s really difficult to make them. And that can lead me to the book. Is that okay?

RICK: It is, but I want to make one more comment before we go on. And that is that. And you can perhaps get into this more as we talk about the book. But I don’t, I still don’t want to leave people with the impression that spirituality can wait. I mean, I learned to meditate when I was 18. And by that time, I had dropped out of high school and gotten arrested a couple of times and done a lot of drugs, and, you know, really kind of messed up my life. And it had been a difficult life anyway, with alcoholic father and all that business. But I wish I had, you know, I mean, I don’t live like wishing I had done this or that I just, you know, but speaking hypothetically, it would have been nice to have learn TM, or learn meditate when I was a kid, you know, and then there before been a better student and not done the drugs and, and all that stuff. So I think spirituality has its place. A meditative practice, for instance, has its place throughout life. It just needs to be integrated and balanced just like exercise or relationships or good food or anything else. It’s a good component of a healthy life that can be practiced from start to finish really. And in proper proportions.

CONNIE: Yeah, I totally agree with you. And it depends on our psychology. Right?

RICK: Yeah. Okay, good. So let’s get into the book. So what

CONNIE: I was gonna say is, you know, this transition from monk to husband or husband, a monk, or wife to nun or vice versa. is a transition in identity. Because we identify with whatever part of our psychology we’re living out at the moment. And so in, post midlife There are many transitions that we go through in which our identity changes. If we identify with what I call the doer, the part of us that is always achieving and trying to succeed and striving to do more, whether we’re in our 50s 60s 70s 80s, if that’s our identity, I’m a CEO, right? Or I’m the shadow expert, or I’m the mom, or I’m the provider, if that’s who I am, then as the rolls fall away, which they do, they do with retirement, they fall away with illness, or with loss, as the rolls fall away, then who am I? We’re thrown back on this essential spiritual question. So as I approached my retirement, I started to feel kind of disoriented. Who am I, if I’m not, I’m the writer, the therapist, the shadow expert. And, of course, I have so much history of spiritual education, that I knew who I was, and yet, my ego trembled. Right? Because if I’m not the doer, if I’m not continuing to give and to achieve, then that who am I, that existential question comes up. So that book is really written and the same thing happens around illness. And the same thing happens around emotional loss. And there’s so there are all these transitions that happened to us, the create what I call this late life identity crisis. And when that gets triggered, and we start to ask, again, who am I, we have practices. And we have practices from all the traditions, to remember who we are. And to become even more deeply established in a spiritual identity, our essential nature that’s independent of what we do, or how we look, or what we achieve, or what other people think of us. And so when I say, you know, it’s important in later life, that’s the context for me.

RICK: But I don’t want to sound like a broken record. But I would say that, that knowing who you are, project can carry on throughout life. And so it’s not just a matter of sort of cramming for the exam when you’re old, and getting to know who you’re, you know, who you truly are. But it can be growing incrementally and naturally, as one goes along. And I think if it does, it diminishes the likelihood that there will be some crisis or some great, you know, upheaval, as one thing drops off. And another thing, you know, takes its place. And as you know, and as listeners know, true self knowledge also doesn’t really associate with strong attachment. So if one is sort of resting in the self, there’s much less of a tendency to cling to things. And there’s also much more of a tendency to go with the flow and recognize the wisdom of nature that sort of orchestrates our lives, don’t you think?

CONNIE: Yes. And you know, my training in psychology tells me that ego development is really important. We can’t transcend the ego, before we have an ego. We can’t be nobody until we’re somebody, right? They’ll yield for it. So ego develops. So it’s very hard to practice transcendence while you’re developing an ego. It’s really tricky. And so I think that there are stages in life, and also when you’re busy with the addiction to doing, you know, people who are scrambling to put food on the table, or take their kids to school or be caregivers. It’s Yes, we can still do spiritual practice. In fact, it’s more important in some ways then. And at the same time, we need to do our psychological work or emotional work, our creativity. And so where’s the time for everything? It’s very Yeah, it’s challenging. Whereas after we stopped working for paid work, there’s this new longevity now. We have more time than we’ve ever had in the history of humanity. Ready after retirement until death now. And so I’ve been interviewing hundreds and hundreds of people, and they’re all asking what do I do with this time, and nobody is really guiding them to look within. Nobody is guiding them to a rite of passage for this period of life. And so that’s really my hope for the book, my hope is that it’s a rite of passage. And that as people walk through the practices, step by step, they emerge on the other side, really, with a different level of conscious, I

RICK: think it’ll help inspire that you do provide different practices after each chapter or, you know, refer to certain practices. And yeah, I mean, once I remember Shankara, in one of his books, of course, he was a monk. But he was saying, you know, I don’t know why I’m harping on this point. But he said, you know, take advantage of your youth, you have a lot of energy, you have a lot of strength, you have good health, you want to be sure to be doing a spiritual practice. Now, you may not have good health or energy when you’re older. And yet, I would say that if you, I mean, obviously, there’s no guarantee of this. But if you if you do spiritual practice on a regular basis as part of your routine, and it needn’t take as much time in your daily routine as even eating does. Chances are, your health will be better in the long run, you might have more energy and better health when you’re older, and so on. So I’m just kind of go ahead.

CONNIE: What was the what was the lifespan at the time of chakra?

RICK: Oh, yeah, you’re right. I mean, he lived to be 32 or 33, or something like that. And yeah, in many cultures, it’s been the norm to be 40. If you’re lucky, and before you die, so yeah, so I mean, make cave while the sun shines, but on the other hand, the sun might be shining for a long time. So we have a lot of time to make a lot of hay.

CONNIE: Are horses, vegetarians?

RICK: They’re vegetarians. So yeah. So I mean, you tell a lot of stories in your book about people who were you know, workaholics or high achievers, and so on who who did go into crisis when either I remember, I remember one guy who was working really hard, and he had insomnia. And he started having these heart arrhythmias. Remember that guy. And he, you know, he didn’t, he hated the idea of slowing down because he felt like, his work was who he was. And people wouldn’t respect him anymore. If he if he eased up on it. And, you know, he maybe he wouldn’t have enough money. He had this, you know, really high financial goals, and so on. But his health condition kind of forced him to shift gears. And, you know, you might want to elaborate on people like him, and how people can make a successful transition to a more inner directed life when it becomes evident that that’s, they’re at the stage when they should do that, maybe

CONNIE: well, and he was in the conscious aging movement. But one thing that’s been missing from this movement is an orientation to the unconscious and the shadow. It’s just been so there’s just no other book about that, about how we meet the shadows of age, the unconscious fears and beliefs that we bring to the stage of life that we’ve carried throughout our lifespan. And one of the reasons I wrote the book is when I found this research, out of Yale University, a psychologist named Becca Levy, who spent her whole career studying internalized ageism. And how we unconsciously internalize, Jung is good old is bad. becoming old means XYZ, useless, invisible decline, memory loss, Geezer over the hill, right? And so we all have these associations. I, for example, didn’t have any positive elder model in my childhood, not one. And so I couldn’t internalize an image of that, and carry it with me as I aged. And so when I found this research and realize this, the psychologist found that these unconscious fears and beliefs and attitudes and images affect our cardiac health. They affect our memory, our cognitive health, they affect our emotional mental health. They affect our will to live and they affect our longevity and so on. these unconscious beliefs in the shadow are shaping how we experience aging. And that spoke right to me because you know, as this with this career studying the shadow, and the impact of unconscious process on our daily lives, I just thought, oh my god, this is what I can contribute. And so one of the shadow characters is the doer. And that part of us, like the man you were describing, was identified with his doing, but it was unconscious, until he really became aware that that was actually damaging his health, he couldn’t slow down. And it’s the same with the shadow character that I called the inner ageist, the part of us that internalizes you know, it’s good to be young, and it’s bad to be old. It’s good to be independent and bad, to be dependent, or good to be strong, about to be weak. All these messages that we get. And so as we recognize that we have an inner ageist, we start to pay attention to all the anti aging messages and byproducts and try to stay young. And, you know, and then when we recognize that we’re doing that, that we’re colluding with the social ageism, institutional ageism in the culture, we can do something about it, we can work with that internal part of ourselves. And for me, this is spiritual work. And let me explain that. For me, there’s no such thing as separating psychological work from spiritual work. My method of shadow work involves learning how to witness your thoughts. So as we meditate, whatever practice you use, we begin to learn how the mind works. And we begin to observe our thoughts, and our feelings and our sensations, whatever depending on the practice that you use. Before you can do that, your mind is completely marshy, use the word overshadowed by your thoughts, and you whatever is going on, you’re just in it lost in it, taking it for granted, right. But then you start to meditate and you start to see it and separate from it.

CONNIE: And then you can recognize that there are repeating patterns in your thoughts. And once you identify a repeating pattern, you’ve got a shadow character, you’ve got a part that’s coming up from the unconscious, and giving you this message, it could be the message that you know, you’re no longer attractive, or you’re no longer doing enough, or you should be doing that instead, or you need more time alone, or you need less time alone, or, you know, also all these internal messages, some of them contradictory, we need to learn to witness. And as we do that, then we can begin to do shadow work. So without a spiritual practice, we can’t really begin to make a relationship with the unconscious. So for me, these are totally twined together.

RICK: Yeah, you know, the analogy of the movie screen, I’m sure where the movie movie projects on the screen and shadows it and you think you are the movie, you know, all the characters and everything, but you’re really the screen. And so when you say, you know, witness the thoughts or whatnot, you’re saying, recognize that you are the screen of consciousness on which the impressions fall, you’re not the impressions, and that includes the impression of the body. You know, we think usually I am this body, but you know, we can reach a stage of experience where our primary identification is as consciousness. And the body is yeah, it’s my body in a sense, but it’s not essentially who I am not fundamentally are primarily who I am. And that would go along with witnessing the thoughts.

CONNIE: Yes, it’s another level of the witness. I am not my thoughts. I am not my body. I am not my feelings. And guess what? I am not my story. And that’s really a big one because the story is so glorified in our culture. Everybody talks about narrative, you know, and I am, but no, I am not my story. Who am I? I am pure consciousness, or I am so or I am spirit, or I am the self, whatever terminology works for you. And so the practices in the book helped to turn your attention each day, from who you thought you were to hear your

RICK: story in the book about how when we were in that Satsang group You were saying something and people kept saying that’s just a concept. And then you’d say something else. And somebody else would say, that’s just the concept. And this happened three or four times. And finally, you had this breakthrough, where you realize that. And the reason I remember that story is that what we were just saying about, you know, knowing who you really are, and you’re not the body and you’re not the thoughts. That’s not a concept. That’s, that’s not something you can conceptualize your way into. It’s, it’s really an experience, or it isn’t. But it really has to be experientially grounded.

CONNIE: You know, that was John, I don’t remember his last name and the sad sign that was John. And no matter what I said, he kept saying, that’s a concept. That’s a concept. And then my mind stopped, the world stopped, like custom data, stop the world. And what happened was the contents of consciousness spilled out on the floor. And I could see them, and I had this hollow head. And my eyes were open, and I had had that experience in meditation, but not in waking state. And so ever since then, I’ve had a very different relationship to my mind. And that’s one of the reasons when I wrote this book, I didn’t read this book, from my mind wreck, it really came through was a very different experience than the other books. And that’s one of the reasons that the book is not about beliefs. Because beliefs are more mind stuff, your beliefs, my beliefs, his beliefs, the Pope’s beliefs, beliefs, concepts. And so I don’t want people to feel that I’m telling them what to believe. I’m actually hoping to move people beyond belief

RICK: doesn’t get on the impression that you’re trying to get anybody to believe anything you give them, plenty of perspectives to choose from, and you take them all lightly. And, you know, you make it clear that we’re talking about a deep experience, experiential thing. Because, you know, beliefs are just not the foundation of anything. They’re just mind stuff, as you say, right? Oh, yeah. Um, you know, as at once. This is a bit of a abrupt segue. But as I was listening to the book, I, I was thinking about death, you know, what you talk about in the book, and I was thinking about attachment to the body. And an analogy occurred to me see, think of it, if your doctor said, Well, looks like you have about a year to live, that would evoke a certain reaction, emotional and whatnot. If your car mechanic said, Well, you know, your car has seen better days, you’re probably going to have to get a new one in about a year. That would evoke a different reaction much different from most people, then your doctor’s comment. And yet, in a way, there’s something very similar about both of those predictions because they both refer to a vehicle. The body is a vehicle, your car is a vehicle. And you know, in both cases, in my opinion, talk about beliefs, you’re going to get a new vehicle. And yet, obviously, we are naturally more attached to our body than we are to our car. If someone said, Okay, I’m going to hit something with a hammer, it can either be your body or your car, I would say go for the car. So what do you think about the notion of, you know, actually being at a stage of experience where you where you regard, you’re so well grounded in being or in the self, that you truly do regard the body as a vehicle, and you don’t see its demise as being your demise? And perhaps you if you believe in reincarnation, you perhaps just see it as you know, something which you know, is no more tragic really than buying a new car.

CONNIE: You know, I opened the book with one with a dream, one of my dreams, that was about discovering that the vehicle was different from the identity. And I suggest that to become an elder, there are three qualities of awareness that we need pure awareness or whatever we call that. silence, Transcendence, vast emptiness, whatever we call it, pure consciousness. shunyata Toria, whatever we call it. Shadow awareness, a connection to the psyche and the unconscious and mortality or airness and you know, before COVID, I would say that mortality denial was really epidemic in our culture. People are trying to stay young. And they’re denying age, and they’re denying that their bodies are gonna die. And there was a shift with COVID, as we saw so much death. And as so many people lost people they knew, I don’t know if that’s going to stay there if it’s going to penetrate. But my sense is that there was a shift or there is a is a shift happening around this. But mortality awareness. Again, doesn’t depend on beliefs, because we might believe that the body is molecules and atoms that are going to go back into the atmosphere and come back in another form. Or we might believe that we’re a drop that’s going to fall into the ocean and rise up as a cloud. Or we might believe that there’s nothing you know that it’s nothing’s going to happen, the body will be buried or cremated. And that’s that, it to me, it’s not about what we believe about death or afterlife. That’s important. It’s about the reality that this body my canniness will pass, and this body will go wherever it goes. Now, beliefs can come up about what’s next. But that’s not my point. My point is that, what do we do with the time now, knowing that a woman said to me this week, I’m 67, I’m not thinking about death, I have lots of time. And an 89 year old man who I know said to me, I don’t want to be with those old people, I’m not like them. So what I’m trying to do is investigate that resistance, that resistance to the age of the body, the chronological age, and what it means to how we want to live now. So when we’re at nine, we need to be asking, What Now what’s really important? What if I, if I don’t do or say something? Will I die with regret? We need to be asking those questions. If we’re in denial of mortality, whether it’s because of a spiritual belief, or a psychological block doesn’t matter, it has the same effect. We won’t actually have the chemical impact on our lives now. of recognizing, I need to give forgiveness to that person. Or I need to be forgiven by that person. Or I need to take up this spiritual practice now. Or whatever it is, or I’m gonna learn to play that instrument that I always wanted to play. A friend of mine said, you might know him. He said, he’s 73. And he’s written all these books to support himself. And he said, I’ve got to get to that novel now. I’ve got to get to that novel, because it’s the one thing that you know, if I don’t do I’ll die with regret. If we don’t acknowledge mortality, we don’t get there.

RICK: I think that friend you might have been referring to as our friend Phil, right. Yeah, I was just talking to him about Yeah. Yeah, well, if he wouldn’t mind, right, Fitz Phil Goldberg, who’s been on that gap, and he’s written some great books, American Veda and he just wrote a biography of Yogananda. Anyway, um, yeah, so repeat what you just said about when you’re 89.

CONNIE: So this friend of mine, who’s 89 said to me, shocked me search me. I don’t want to be with old people. I’m not like them. So there’s ageism in that, first of all, because he’s projecting onto him, what he’s not owning in himself. But there’s also the loss of not recognizing that his body at 89 years old, may have a minute may have a year may have five years, we don’t know, but that his time horizon is short. And so he will miss out on whatever his priorities are, if he recognizes and acknowledges that it may be spiritual practice. It may be reconciliation with a loved one. It may be a creative project. He’ll miss out if he doesn’t recognize that

RICK: it’s funny, you know, because I don’t know about you, but You know, I’m 72 now I just turned 72. And all my life, I haven’t really felt like I was an age of any sort. You know, it’s like when I turned 30 that concerned me a little bit. Ooh, 30 That sounds really old. But I thought about it for a day or two. And then. And basically, I, you know, obviously, the body can’t do everything it used to do, but that’s not me. You know, and I think a lot of times, you know, I mean, it takes weird turns, and twists, sometimes, like, old gnarly guys will hit on young women or something and think that think that they’re attractive to them. But it’s, it’s, I think it’s a true perception that we everybody has it to some extent that we are not this body, you know, we are the same person we were when we were five or whatever. Well, essentially,

CONNIE: um, we, we are not our age, I am not, I have 72 years of life experience. But I Who I am is not 72, who I am is timeless. But that’s not what we’re talking about. Here. We’re talking? Well, it is what we’re talking about in terms of shifting from role to so shifting our identity, from our doing to our spiritual nature, it is what we’re talking about. But it’s not what we’re talking about in the context of mortality awareness, and the end of this lifetime, and the end of this body. Right? So this, this body at 72 years, has a lot less time than it had it 32 years. We don’t know how long it could be 30 years? And it could be two years, we don’t know. But what, what does that mean? How can I allow that awareness to really penetrate and change me. So for me, when I really got this deeply, it meant leaving my private practice. I’m beginning to research aging, beginning to deepen my spiritual practice, begin moving, we downsized our house, I like to say we downsized our egos, because we had this huge house in the mountains, and we move to an apartment by the water. So but that, for me is metaphorical. Because it’s about letting go. It’s not just physical to move, we let go of our possessions, we let go of our furniture, our stuff we let go. So there are these transitions that don’t happen. If we deny our mortality, and we so it’s like we don’t open an invitation. That’s what it’s like, we don’t open an invitation to a new stage of life. And we can’t become an elder, we can’t move from heroic ego, or let’s say hero to elder. Without this inner work, you know, I called it the inner work of age, because it has to be intentional. It actually requires our attention and our intention to take some steps to make this internal shift in awareness. And you know, the listeners in bat gap know what I mean, when I say this shift, this internal shift is independent of circumstances. So some people you know, will continue to work, but they can make this internal shift from role to so or just whatever we want to call it right? From in the aging world. It’s called Giro, Transcendence, it’s moving beyond ego. So you can make that shift and still be very active in the world. There’s a group called elders Action Network. And these elders are activists and social justice causes and racism and all kinds of reform, you know, but they’re doing their inner work along with it. And I think that’s different from when we were activists in the 60s, at least for me, it’s different. You know, when I was in Berkeley at the late 60s, I didn’t have the self awareness that I have now. And we can bring that to whatever we do. I can bring it to my grandparenting and give my kids this model of a thriving elder with a new book. My 10 year old grandson is so excited about the new book, so he gets to internalize a picture of someone who’s really thriving in her 70s. So all of these different aspects of kind of a part of the big picture? Yeah.

RICK: I’m remember I’m often says that we should live like a bird perched on a branch that could break at any time. And, you know, meaning that we should be aware of our mortality. And, you know, your next breath may be your last even if you’re if even if you’re young. And obviously, it gets more and more possible, as you get older, when you’re in your, that 89 year old guy, you know, is going to die a lot sooner chances are than a 39 year old. But I don’t think it’s morbid or psychologically unhealthy. And you could tell me, because you’re the psychologist, to have this kind of attitude at any age, you know, like, they always say, teenagers think they’re immortal, you know, and they behave as though they were doing all these crazy, risky things. And then as we get a little older, we get a little more, more realistic. But you know, a lot of people do, they don’t act realistically, in terms of their more their mortality, and they do live, you know, that as if, as if death is Death isn’t gonna grab them at some point.

CONNIE: Yeah, and if we live as if we’ll never die, then we don’t really live.

RICK: And also, if we eat, drink and be married, because tomorrow, we may die. There’s that saying, then I don’t think we’re really living either. Because eating, drinking and being married is not necessarily the most ideal preparation for anything much less death.

CONNIE: Yeah, the answer is not hedonism. Or nihilism, there used

RICK: to be a beer ad, which these two guys are on on a boat, and, and one there drinking beer. And one guy says, Oh, you only go around once in his life. So grab all the gusto you can get.

CONNIE: Yeah. So, you know, let’s talk about completing unfinished spiritual business. Yes, please, let’s do because this is the place to do that. You know, and most of my interviews don’t go there. And I’ve never seen this really discussed anywhere else. Everybody talks about completing emotional, unfinished business. But what about spiritual? So part of what I mean by that is, what are your beliefs? Now? In your 60s 70s 80s 90s? What are your most cherished values? What are what is your priority now? And can you have the experience that you are not those beliefs, that there’s something more to you than those beliefs? Is there a way that you’ve been a fundamental fundamentalist in your thinking in some way? And boy, you know, the TM, fundamentalism is one of the reasons I left, but we can be fundamentalist about anything about veganism, right about Islam about anything. So if we re examine our beliefs, now, in the light of our long life experience, we might discover something surprising. And if we go a little deeper, and try to uncover what are the images of the Divine that we’re carrying? What are the pictures in the shadow that we hold of God, or the gods, or heaven, or paradise? And did those fit who we are now, because those tend not to develop alongside our other development, because they’re not really uncovered and examined. I mentioned in the book, I had a client who was practicing mindfulness. But when we really explored he had this image in his shadow of a pope like figure telling him he was gonna go to hell because of his sexual thoughts. So that was underneath all these Buddhist beliefs and concepts. Right? And the third thing is, what practice fits you now? Are you doing a spiritual practice that is appropriate for you now? Are you doing practices? Do you want to do practices for flexibility for concentration? for managing memory and attention? For centering relaxation, what kind of practices do you want to be doing now? It’s easy to find them. They’re everywhere. Right? They’re on apps now. They’re, you know, teachers everywhere, their books everywhere. So you Those three beliefs, images and practices, those three categories will help us to kind of update our spiritual orientation to who we are now, rather than just kind of leaving it or continuing old stuff, or leaving it unconscious. So I really advise that for people,

RICK: let’s get into some concrete examples or specific examples of the point you’re trying to illustrate here about, you know,

CONNIE: completing our completing our spiritual, unfinished business, let’s

RICK: take two or three examples that you know about that, where people have either have or haven’t completed their unfinished spiritual business so that people who are listening can relate to it related to their own experience.

CONNIE: So while I was writing the book, two very dear friends of mine died. And I took care of one of them very intensively and write about it in the chapter on illness. And she had been with Muktananda. And eventually, after a long time, left him over the scandals, and then she was with Vishwa, Nanda. And then he had his scandals. And she was very, very upset about it, because she was actually having very clear spiritual states with him. And so she couldn’t decide, well, maybe it’s worth it, maybe doesn’t matter that he lied, and acted out. Maybe that’s not the issue, if I’m, you know, getting what I needed spiritually. But eventually she left. And as she became really ill, and it became clear that she wasn’t going to recover from the cancer. She began to explore with me her whole, like a spiritual life review. And what she had given away and her projections onto these teachers, what she had lost what she had gained from being with them. She was also in a Rica, which is a mystical community. She began to explore. Well, what happened, Rick is that a lot of anger came up. And she, she couldn’t manage it because she was in chemo. And she couldn’t manage it. And she felt that she was betrayed by God. And I could help her with everything else. I mean, I did all her finances and ran her life and got the caregivers and took her to doctors. But I couldn’t help with this. And so what I observed was someone who couldn’t die in peace, because she hadn’t really worked through what she experienced as these betrayals, and she felt like a victim of these teachers. And she lost all faith. She said, I don’t I don’t believe in anything anymore. Right before she died. So my sense is that and they will, you know, it was heartbreaking for me, because I was powerless. So my, my sense is that we all have a lot of unfinished business and all kinds of ways in all kinds of arenas. And maybe there’s no such thing as resolving all of it, you know, was never going to be perfect in our psyches, right, this is not going to really be tied up in a nice bow. Um, but there is a way in which we can put attention on it and examine what what what we could do differently, how we feel about it now, what we need to reclaim, you know, my book, meaning the shadow of spirituality is basically about looking at spiritual projections, and how to reclaim that power for ourselves or that consciousness, or that charisma or with that love. And my friend, what didn’t do that work? And she was not, she was very strong, she was very independent person really smart really, quite evolved. And yet she died, really unhappy. And so I think it was a teaching for me. You know, to just kind of advise people to get clear, get clear about what you doubt There was another woman who I was with her when she was dying. And she was Catholic all her life. And she looked at me and she said, What if none of it was true? So, you know, I’m just suggesting that there’s a kind of an inner work here, that we don’t get any guidance for in our culture. I mean, maybe there’s some people who are spiritual directors who help people with this when they’re ill. But I’ve never had any experience of anyone helping me with this. So. So that’s kind of what I’m talking about. It’s in the context of impending death. But it’s also in the context of the life we have left, and how to really enhance the quality of our spiritual life that remains, if we don’t drag that long bag of garbage along behind us. Right? Yeah, one

RICK: thing that comes to mind, with regard to these women you mentioned is that, from my perspective, my belief system, if you will, when they did die, they were pleasantly surprised. And they probably found that, you know, they had actually done very well in this life, you know, focusing as they did on, on spirituality, and, you know, I think they, I think when people cross over, they do have a life review, and they have a much broader perspective on things, then it’s possible to have when you’re embodied. And in my own experience, you know, I feel like things have changed for me over the decades, and I feel very kind of inner directed or self referral or something now, it’s, it’s almost like, I don’t care. If every spiritual teacher who ever walked the earth was corrupt, of course, I would care. But in a way, my own inner experience is just so gratifying, that it really doesn’t matter what anybody else has said or done, or anything else. I know, from my own experience, that there’s something really precious and, and fulfilling. And, you know, I experienced that every day. So I’m just not that dependent upon. I can, I’ve certainly gone through phases where I was very, you know, outer directed devotionally, toward a teacher. And it, you know, went through some cynicism when that teacher didn’t quite live up to my expectations. But now, I just feel kind of grateful for everything that’s happened in life, because it’s, I once said that my mother said, Mom, you know, don’t ever worry about the way you raised me, if you felt felt feel you might have made mistakes or anything, because I’m really happy with the way I’m, like, kind of turned out. That was like, when I was in my 20s. I said that I, I feel that even more now. And I feel that there’s sort of a divine hand that guides us whether we’re aware of it or not. And in my own life, I’m pretty aware of it and appreciative of that guidance, even do even for the periods which, you know, were difficult or bleak in some way.

CONNIE: Yeah, I think from from my perspective, I feel the way that you do I feel such gratitude for the way my life unfolded. And if, if some of these spiritual teachers hadn’t acted out, I wouldn’t have been initiated into the shadow. And my whole life would have really unfolded differently. So when I kind of mapped it out and really looked at it, I saw these certain doors open as a result of these traumatic experiences. And when you when you can see it that way, you know, then you’re not looking at it from the egos point of view, fill in

RICK: that when they Martin Klein from Freiburg, Germany sent in a question, he said, at which age exactly do you do you see the shift from hero to elder,

CONNIE: I don’t think it’s an age, it’s a stage. So you know, someone at 50 could be living with pure awareness and shadow awareness and mortality awareness, could be oriented to the world, beyond ego could be giving his or her gifts as an elder. And so that person, you know, and grateful for the way the life unfolded. There. There’s a lot of material in the book about what is an elder. So at 50 That person could be an elder, whereas it 85 Or the person I mentioned at 89, he doesn’t want to be with old people is not an elder. He’s in denial. And we’ve all met, you know, older people who are rigid and bitter and regret But they’re chronologically Oh, so that’s not an elder. So I like to say elder is a stage not

RICK: good. And pretty much everyone is aware of that. I mean, we’ve seen national leaders who are very childish in their emotional development and, and so on. And we’ve seen very young people who are really wise. I mean, I interviewed a woman, was it last week and week before, a couple of weeks ago named Lucy, everybody’s loving her interview. She’s, she’s 40 years old now. And but you know, and she’s not a spiritual teacher, this is the first time she ever did anything public. But she’s had such an, a wonderful blossoming of inner experience, and, and has kind of, like, so much wisdom and so much, I would say, divine guidance, and so on. And a fellow on the TM program, the monastic program called purusha, emailed me, and he’s probably my age. And he thought, yeah, what happened to me? I mean, she’s 40, I’m 70. And she’s got, she never even did any spiritual practice and look at her.

CONNIE: Yeah, so So let’s talk about this. So the evolution of consciousness is not about age, right? People can be born at a high level, that the quality of consciousness that I’m talking about can be it’s invisible to other people. So if people looked at me now, and the level of busyness that I have, with this book, the number of webinars and interviews and everything I’m doing, they would look at me like, I’m a heroic midlife Stryver. But that’s not my internal experience. My internal experience is not driven, it’s quiet. It’s about contribution. It’s about orientation to future generations. It’s not about money, it’s about meaning. It’s not about obligation, and should, it’s about flow. So the state of mind or the quality of awareness that I’m talking about, and trying to guide people to cultivate isn’t dependent on circumstance, or age, or ethnicity, or any of the outer stuff. And it isn’t visible to other people. So it doesn’t surprise me that a 40 year old woman could have qualities of wakefulness that an 80 year old person doesn’t have, it’s just not dependent on that. It is dependent for most people, on doing practice, some kind of contemplative practice. There are exceptions where it’s spontaneous, we know about that. But for most people, it is dependent contemplative practice. And that’s why I put so many of them in the book,

RICK: there was a story on the news the other night about what a large percentage of Americans are living paycheck, who are old, you know, our age, maybe are living paycheck to paycheck, if they even get a paycheck. And they interviewed this woman who said, you know, I’ll never retire, I’ll die on this job, I can’t retire. And, and then you see interviews with people whose houses have burned down or gotten destroyed by floods, and they don’t have the appropriate insurance and their whole, everything they work for other lives is gone. And, in a way, when you consider how many millions of people are in those kinds of circumstances, it almost seems a little glib of us to be talking about, you know, shifting into a more leisurely lifestyle when when we get to this age and and I wonder what you would say to those people, if they’re, if any of them are even listening about what they can do given their circumstances?

CONNIE: Well, I know this sounds a little bit idealized. But what I’m trying to say is that this internal shift is independent of circumstances. And I know that people who are struggling at a survival level, don’t want to go meditate. But the meditation is a refuge from your circumstances. And even if it’s only a few minutes, or if it’s prayer, or if it’s walking, meditation, whatever it is, it’s a few minutes that can bring you back to your center. So that you can handle the stresses you’re living with. So that you can manage the challenge is better. So this is not about you know, we have to have enough money to be able to do spiritual practice. It’s about state of mind that’s available to everyone regardless of circumstances.

RICK: Yeah. And I would again, come back to the theme of fitting some kind of spiritual practice into your life all along, you know, from the time you’re fairly young. Because from, I mean, there are many exceptions to this. But as a rule, things tend to go better if you do that, and maybe the likelihood of ending up, you know, broke at the age of 70 will be diminished. If if you have you know, that saying from the Bible, verse Siki, the kingdom of heaven and all else should be added unto thee. So, there is a tendency, not, not an assurance, but a tendency for greater we can say supportive nature or sort of greater success. You know, in the Bhagavad Gita says yoga karma sukoshi, alum yoga, his skill and action to be more successful, if you are established in being or in pure consciousness, or at least developing that establishment.

CONNIE: And if your life didn’t unfold that way, and you didn’t pick up practices early, now’s the time? If not, now, when?

RICK: You know what you were saying a few minutes ago about unfinished spiritual business? I may not be phrasing it the way you did, but how about in your own case? I mean, do you feel like there’s anything if you were to die tomorrow? Or would you feel like any regrets or you missed something, you should have done something you didn’t do, you’re not finished anything like that,

CONNIE: um, I don’t feel a lot of regret. I have this sense of possibility for more spiritual development for myself, because of the man I live with. I mean, I just live with this really high guy. And so I see every day, what that’s like. But I also don’t sort of engage my ego about competing or envying or any of that. And at the same time, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s aspirational for me. So, I’m experiencing something with this book that I didn’t experience with my other books, Romancing the shadow, it was in my 40s. So now I’m in my 70s. And, because of social media, I’m in a constant dialogue with my readers. And every single day, I’m getting appreciation and gratitude from people. And that’s been so fulfilling for me. So in some ways, I, I’m completing my ego story, that’s how I look at it, you know, the book has a chapter on life completion. And what that that’s means very different things to different people. And I feel like I’m completing the ego story with this book, that there’s a way that I’m being received. Or my, or my teaching is being received, that I’ve never experienced before. And the training that I had to become an elder was so precious. And the practice of doing the life review, um, gave me this profound gratitude for how everything happened. So I’m feeling I’m not complete today. But I can feel the movement there, Rick, I don’t feel tugged by regret, I don’t feel pulled to the past. I do feel because I’m very connected to the collective in a profound way. I do feel the disturbance in the Force. And, you know, there’s a lot of psychosis out there now, a lot of disturbed people and doing you know, in a lot of paranoia, and that’s very disturbing and sad for me. And I was trained by Al Gore years ago in as a Climate Reality leader, and that’s so for me, that’s the number one crisis right now climate and voting, and my connection to those two things. I’m as active as I can be. And I’m really sad that that’s what’s going to be left to my grandkids those two issues. So you know, I’m, I feel more incomplete in relation to the collective issues than my own.

RICK: Well, those aren’t gonna resolve in your lifetime. But a couple comments on what you just said. I mean, in my own Experience, I’m really not just making this up as a as a, like, I’m hanging on beliefs, but I just feel it so viscerally and so intuitively, that life is such a continuum. And it’s far exceeds the lifespan of this body. And that, you know, whether this body dies tomorrow, or 30 years from now, not entirely, not obviously, in my hands, but I really trust in the sort of Divine Wisdom of things, divine orchestration, and I fully feel that I’ll continue, you know, was that song from Titanic, my heart will carry on or something. And there’s, you know, I’ve interviewed so many people and read so many books and so on about near death experiences, and I just kind of like feel like the life isn’t a continuum that just goes on and on and on. If you ever, I’m sure you’ve talked to our friend, Harry alto, about that, and he’s been on bat gap three times. And we’ve had some interesting discussions. But I, and I guess the reason it’s worth just dwelling on this is that, you know, although we don’t want to make too much of a fuss about beliefs, it seems to me that if a person has the orientation that I’ve just described, versus the orientation that, you know, this is me, and when this dies, that’s the end of me, it seems to me that that would have a big that will make a big difference in how they viewed their life and what they felt about death. And it will be a very different orientation, don’t you think?

CONNIE: Yeah, it is a different orientation. I mean, we have a psychologist, stepson, who’s a scientist, and there’s only the material world for him. That’s all there is. And I look at it as a level of consciousness. You know, that is a stage of development. Where there is nothing beyond the material world, that’s a stage and many people go through that stage. Some people get stuck there. But rather than sort of, devalue it, I just, I look at it as

RICK: necessarily say that he’s at a lower level of consciousness than somebody who believes that there’s life after death or anything. It’s really hard to judge levels of consciousness. But

CONNIE: no, it’s not beliefs. It’s experience.

RICK: I see. Right? He hasn’t experienced a lot of transcendence,

CONNIE: right? Or any. Right?

RICK: Yeah, I guess that’s the way that’s why you and I feel the way we do it’s, we’ve, you know, spent, if you add it all up, I’ve literally spent years sitting in the transcendent. Over the past 50? I don’t know I’ve calculated it’s at least six years for me or seven years, something like that, sitting there with my eyes closed. And, and that definitely, you know, it grounds you and something that you can’t shake, who wouldn’t want to shake?

CONNIE: Yeah. And people who haven’t had that experience, have no idea what we’re talking about. They have no idea. It’s like, you know, have you eaten curry, you’ve eaten curry or you haven’t eaten curry. And you can’t imagine it if you haven’t eaten it. So I believe that a lot of the craziness that we’re seeing in the culture right now is about consciousness. And that in some ways, it’s regressed stage. That’s happening now. You know, it’s an earlier more primitive stage of consciousness that Trump elicited. And, um, we don’t know what’s going to happen as a result of that, but it’s all out of the closet. Now,

RICK: there’s a bunch we can talk about on this topic. I just want to remind you of that quote from Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan who said, Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but no one is entitled to his own facts. So whatever the situation regarding anything regarding, you know, life after death, or COVID, or you know, who won the election or anything, there’s a certain reality to that situation that doesn’t hinge upon anybody’s opinion. And it seems to me that spiritual aspirants should want to kind of align themselves with the reality of any situation. And what I say in this kind of would, perhaps get us into this new topic you just raised is that there’s a tendency in society at large and also in the spiritual community, to divorce oneself from fact, you know, I mean, who was it? Kaylee McEnaney are one of those people’s I remember, she was talking to Chuck Todd or something. And she said, Well, These are alternative facts. And and he said, what alternative facts? What are those? So, in fact, if anybody’s listening, there’s going to be a interesting webinar in two days, with the Association for spiritual integrity on the importance of discernment on the spiritual path. And, and if you miss it, it’ll be up there permanently, you can go there and find the link. But I really feel like discernment or discrimination or being able to separate, you know, truth from untruth is critical on the spiritual path, particularly because the finest levels of realization actually involve discerning self from non self at a very subtle level. And if you can’t even do that at a gross level, what hope have you of being able to do it? At a very, very subtle level?

CONNIE: Yeah, it’s a path of yoga. It is discrimination, right? It’s, it’s, it’s a main path of yoga in India. And if our minds are just jumbled and full of noise, we can’t discriminate the truth from the non truth, or the relative from the absolute. I mean, we can’t discriminate if our minds are full of paranoid feelings, or, you know, misinformation or, yeah, there’s no discrimination. You

RICK: and I are both aware of the cult phenomenon, having, we’re just talking about wild wild country, and we’ve witnessed various cults and, and as you know, the way it works with cults is you don’t just sort of SNAP INTO cult mentality overnight. It’s incremental, it’s it progressive stage, by stage by stage, and you don’t snap out of it overnight, either. And, you know, you’re talking about how there’s this sort of craziness in society right now. I think that somehow other people have, perhaps, because of social media, you’ve probably also watched the social dilemma, you know, that documentary, people have somehow slid into this alternate universe, of seeing things. And it would be nice if somebody could wave a magic wand, and everybody would come back to their senses, but I don’t know how it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna take a while?

CONNIE: Well, I think it’s also related to what you were describing as the lack of a social safety net. So there are people in desperate circumstances now in the health care system, and food and housing and, you know, terrible lack of security. And I think that that enrages people, and it makes them hate the government, it makes them project the shadow on to groups like immigrants, who, you know, they believe are stealing their resources. So there’s a lot of shadow projection going on now. And other making enemy making, you know, in every with all the communities. And you know, for me, I’m just trying to kind of transmit something for every generation, it’s not just for baby boomers, but it’s something for all generations, about how we can cultivate self awareness. And how we can use these years, we’ve been given really well to do inner work to be contemplative. And how we can make this internal shift and identity from role to soul. And that as that happens, we can give back to the common good. So we can contribute a different quality of gift when we have that awareness. And so I’m kind of trying to make that my focus right now. I can’t fix the gridlock in Congress. You know, I can’t fix the fires in California. And I can’t, you know, I can’t fix the ageism, that’s in the healthcare system or the media. But I am trying to transmit my life’s learning about the shadow and spirituality, which is what I as we talked about what I’ve always tried to do for this time, for this cultural moment,

RICK: yeah. I mean, none of us can fix those big things. But, you know, I mean, we can all make the contribution and if enough of us do, maybe some of those things will change. Big changes have happened before rather abruptly, you know, like the Soviet Union collapsing or the Berlin Wall falling or, you know, various other things like that. Yeah. And, you know, perhaps a tipping point is reached in collective consciousness through enough people sort of doing something that we don’t see the shift coming, but when it comes, it’s it’s quite abrupt.

CONNIE: You know, Jane Fonda who’s 82, or 83, just launched a new organization with Bill McKibben, the founder of three called the third act for elders who want to be involved in the climate crisis. So, you know, there are many, many elders who want to be contributing, who want to find a way to share their life’s learning, and their gifts and their abilities and their talents to solve some of these problems. So for people who are listening, who have that inclination, you know, who may be more extroverted and not so drawn to the inner work. There are lots of groups doing that now. And you can find community in these groups, you know, elders Action Network, saging, international, you can find community there of like minded elders, some are doing spiritual work, and some are not, you know, some are doing political and moral work. But I think that that’s a really important thing to add on to our our spiritual perspective, Connie’s, what’s on my website right now, or all the workshops, because I’m teaching a lot. And you’re all online

RICK: teaching workshops related to this topic of aging. Uh huh. Yeah, so let’s, let’s dwell a little bit more on this topic of what’s going on in society. But you mentioned that voting and climate were your main two issues on a larger scale. And as we know that a lot in a lot of states efforts are being made to make it more difficult to vote. And the people who make those efforts are also inclined to doubt that climate change is a problem. And are also less inclined to get a COVID vaccine. Consequently, death rates are quite high in such states. It’s an interesting phenomenon. Perhaps the death rate is compensating for the voter suppression, I’m not sure.

CONNIE: It’s level of consciousness.

RICK: So if everything hinges, okay, this is a good question. If everything hinges on level of consciousness, if that’s the ultimate fulcrum, you know, through which society moves, or laws are made, and so on. The obvious question is, what can we do to improve the level of consciousness? And, you know, I think you and I have been thinking that for 50 years and have been doing what we can. But also, there’s a theme that’s come out in this interview, that the way we are educated and the values that society holds, and the advertising that we’re bombarded with all the time, really does not prepare one for any stage of life. Properly is often it often sends us distracting signals as to what’s play valuable. But it certainly doesn’t prepare us for the end of life because we’re kind of it’s been drummed into us for a long, long time that, you know, we shouldn’t get old. I was that ad I sent you the other day where it said, we can avoid getting old, but we can avoid looking old, or something like that. Which, of course is absurd, because, you know, we can only postpone looking old slightly. Well, I’m rambling a bit, but I just want to say one more thing. If I look at a picture of Mother Teresa, or this friend I had in Fairfield who lived into her 90s they had such beauty in their faces, even though they’re all wrinkly, that they didn’t look old. To me, they looked wise. You know, when I think old, I think, you know, handicapped in some way or compromised in their ability to radiate and enjoy life. But these women and many other people we can think of Nelson Mandela and others. They just didn’t look old. They look like they glowed with with life and they they’re very appearance inspired people.

CONNIE: So when you think old and you think crouched or crippled or handicapped or debilitated. That’s your inner ages. Now, some people’s bodies will go that way. But more and more, our health span is catching up to our lifespan. And many people are older adults now who are not declining, and who are doing fabulous things. And yet, we’re still carrying these images and stereotypes inside of us because we internalize them as kids, when kids are interviewed, you know, would you rather be older, they all want to be older up to a certain age, but not after that. They already think

RICK: we know what I think I was thinking just that is in a way old is a state of mind. And the state of mind manifests as the state of the body as the appearance of the body to a certain extent. I mean, there are exceptions to every generalization. But you know, the state of mind that Mother Teresa, or Nelson Mandela, or, you know, some of these people are in the it was evident in their countenance, you know,

CONNIE: and that’s what I’m talking about. Talking about the state of mind, or the quality of awareness at the level of consciousness, whatever we call it. That’s, that’s really what I’m trying to describe, and prescribe for people. And that this is a possibility. This is not a remote, romantic fantasy, that this, this is a possibility for this time of life. I was

RICK: walking along in the woods, listening to your book. And you had a section where you had interviewed Rick Hanson, whom I’ve interviewed a couple times and, and he was saying, what’s really good for preventing mental decline is to walk while listening to stuff. Well, that’s perfect.

CONNIE: But yeah, because the body and mind are kind of both being stimulated together.

RICK: But there was also a section where you outlined a number of things, which if you did all those things, they would,

RICK: you know, keep you sharp and enhance your time that the brain. Yeah, I think it was mostly about the brain. But there were like, it’s half a dozen different things. I wonder if you could take those off from memory.

CONNIE: So I read this book, The End of Alzheimer’s by Dale, Bredesen, B R, E, D, S, E, N, and it blew my mind. Because he was the first doctor who was able to reverse memory loss through lifestyle only. And he’s now done it with hundreds of people. And so I put myself on that program. And there were some differences. He has women taking hormones. And I didn’t do that, you know, there was some differences. And there were other supplements that I take that he didn’t include. But basically, my brain feels like a 15 year old brain. It was really startling what happened. And so I put it in the book, because there’s this epidemic of memory loss now. And when I ask people in interviews, what they fear most it’s Alzheimer’s. And so there’s, you know, I wrote this section about being with my father who had Alzheimer’s and what it was like, and making the point that that’s not who he was, that there was an essence in him that shine through, even when he was forgetful. And my, our presence with each other could elicit that, even though his brain because consciousness is not limited to the brain. And so his brain wasn’t working well. He wasn’t at the point of not recognizing me, he died before that happened. But, and so we could continue to have conversation. But his brain wasn’t working well. And yet, he was so aware, and present and grateful in his heart. And so, you know, I just wrote this whole section about memory just to address these stereotypes that people are carrying now. That part of becoming old is losing your mind. And that that fear. Only happened does happen, but it only happens to a small percentage of the population. And there are actually lifestyle changes that we can make that

RICK: can help. What’s the name of that book again, people gonna want to know

CONNIE: by the end of Alzheimer’s. Damn, Dale, Bredesen, B R E D, E S, E N.

RICK: Have you heard of that phenomenon where people are at People who’ve had severe Alzheimer’s, they’re really checked out. And they’re there. They’re just about to die. And all of a sudden they sit up in bed and they’re totally lucid and they carry on a conversation for a few minutes. And then then they they lie back and and die not too long after that. It’s and you know it. It astounds researchers, because given the condition of their brain, they shouldn’t be able to do that. And yet they do.

CONNIE: They’re also finding that music that has a connection to the person enlivens memories that they thought realized. So if you play music, like my dad loved bossa nova, whatever the music is that they connected to, and earlier in their lives, can be really great. Did you see

RICK: that? That thing with Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, that they did this concert at Carnegie Hall recently, and Tony Bennett’s 95 And he’s suffering from Alzheimer’s. But when he got up on stage, or even when he was at home practicing with a pianist, he just came back to life. And you just remember, remembered all the lyrics, and he will act and everything? Yeah. That was cool.

CONNIE: Yeah. Isn’t that incredible? Yeah. So let’s, Are we near the end

RICK: there? And yes, please, anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to cover?

CONNIE: Well, you know, the theme of the book is how to shift your identity from what you do to who you are. And there are practices for doing that. Their practices for aging into awakening, for really letting go of outworn roles and masks, outworn obligations, and personas and moving into who we really are now, and becoming that. And how do we embody that? How do we live that in our daily lives, and whatever name you give to that doesn’t matter to me, the language doesn’t matter, just like the beliefs about it don’t matter. But that experience is available to people who do the inner work of age. And, you know, I would say that for our frame, yours in mind, the shift from role to soul is an initial stage. Right? It’s an initial step on the journey. It’s not the highest level of consciousness we can reach. But it’s the beginning. When we identify with pure awareness, or the self, or the soul, whatever we talked about, the term role to soul is it was not coined by me, it was coined by around us. And so I want to give him credit, I borrowed that. And I remembered it from decades earlier, when I was working on the book and realized that’s the shift I’m talking about. And so I borrowed it from him. And that’s what people seem to be intuitively recognizing, in the book, oh, my God, that’s what I want. I want to shift from my doing to my being, from my roles, or my masks to who I really am. And there’s a part of us that intuitively knows it’s not who we are. That intuitively has always known. You know, being a mother is not all of who I am being a provider or a CEO, or a writer. That’s not all of who I am. And I have to let go of that now. So who am I? And how do I discover that? And whether you feel a resonance with a lineage, like Vedanta, or Sufism or Judaism or Christianity, you can find these practices in your lineage. And if you don’t feel that you can explore things like that gap and find practices that fit who you are now, and age into awakening.

RICK: Good. There was one point in your book that which you I don’t know if lamented is the right word, but there was a little bit of feeling like I had I always heard about this unity consciousness, you know, just being oneness, being one with everything. And it almost seemed like a bit of regret that you hadn’t experienced that yet. Or if you felt they hadn’t. Is that still a thing? Or,

CONNIE: you know, I think that’s in the section on life completion. And I asked a number of people what that looks like for them. And it was, you know, very different for different people. And for me, it’s about that it’s about higher stages of awakening, I feel good about my level of consciousness now. And I know there’s more. And so it’s my intention. When things slow down next year around the book, because I’m like, scheduled through January, when things start slowing down, it’s my intention to do more practice, and make and have more focused on that. And I’m looking forward to that. I’m really eager for that.

RICK: And I would say, in my just speaking personally, I don’t sweat it, you know, it’s like, when I look at a tree, I don’t see myself, you know, some people say that’s their experience. But I am just not worried about it. I just sort of feel like it all is well and wisely put, and whatever experience I’m, you know, I’m doing a pretty good solid spiritual practice and focusing on this kind of stuff all the time. And so, if there’s something that I’m not experiencing, I’ll experience it when the time is, right. And it’s, it’s, again, it’s kind of in God’s hands. And it’s not to say that I’m not doing, you know, God helps those who help themselves and I’m doing my bit, but I’m just really not worrying about attaining this or that level of experience. It’ll, it’ll unfold when it unfolds.

CONNIE: You know, I think I had a different I learned a different frame. When I read a book called Kundalini video, by John here again,

RICK: alright, I’ve interviewed her she’s great. Yeah,

CONNIE: yeah. Yeah. And that book really added to my understanding in a significant way

RICK: of why different people experience things differently.

CONNIE: Yeah, of, of the, of how involved the Kundalini is, in awakening higher levels, and where it gets detoured and blocked. You know, and I don’t know that she’s teaching anymore. So I’m not it’s I’m not here recommending people go to her.

RICK: She’s not I don’t think she’s accepting people at her center in Tennessee, but she has been a bit more active lately. I’ve seen her pop up on YouTube.

CONNIE: Yeah, she’s teaching online, but I don’t know that she’s taking students anymore. But, um, but that really expanded my frame on all of this. And so was, you know, was another teacher I was really lucky to meet when I did.

RICK: Oh, that’s great. Yeah. Cool. Yeah. And, and so it expanded your frame of reference, how, in terms of understanding that, maybe your Kundalini is sidetracked? Or something or, or what?

CONNIE: Yeah, exactly how it’s detoured, and how to unblock it. A lot happened there. And for now, so I think, you know, the, the, the sense of, it all unfolded in the way it was supposed to, like you feel, that is a great gift at this stage of life. That is really a great gift. I mean, I feel so fulfilled. And I think that that is available to people. And that’s really, I’ve been happy. I was I was hoping I was kind of secretly hoping that therapists and psychologists would pick up my book and use it with clients. And I’ve been getting that response now. Actually, tomorrow, I’m teaching for a big psychology conference. I’m getting that response now that the book is like a rite of passage for people. And as they work through all these different practices in it, that you listen to, they feel differently when they are done with it. And they can then go out into the world and give their gifts with this different quality of awareness. So I feel very fulfilled about that. And, and, you know, really grateful that things happened the way they did. And it was really hard to sell the book to publishers. And I ended up with this fantastic publisher who’s hired a publicist. And but you know, if my ego were looking at the whole thing, I would have just been struggling with the timing and the rejections and now this, and it just unfolded perfectly. So that’s

RICK: great. And, you know, you were saying earlier that, you know, COVID seems to have woken people up to their mortality or to mortality In general, perhaps we’ll see a lot more of those kinds of things, not necessarily pandemics, but a lot more things where there’s a big shift in collective consciousness where people start seeing things differently, including aging. I mean, the fact that you’re now speaking to a conference of psychologists about this topic, which you might not have been able to do a few years ago, even if you’d written written the book, then that but now they’re receptive to it. So, you know, there could be a big shift where all kinds of receptivity to things open up, and different ways of appreciating things. In fact, you know, even spirituality itself could become quite it’s gotten a lot more mainstream since the 60s, but it could become like way more mainstream.

CONNIE: Let’s hope so. Okay, here’s

RICK: a question that just came in, a little late in the game, but which I like to include them. So this is from someone named Gabriella. She’s off in Israel, wondering, what is your definition of need? And is there need in Seoul?

CONNIE: I never really thought about that. I think what I would say is what I said earlier, which is that the soul longs for transcendence. It longs to join the it’s The lover that longs to join the beloved. It’s the part of us the little bit of God, that joint longs to join God with full awareness. Like Atman and Brahman, or Judaism, like the sparks that were distributed into the world. I’m talking to Gabriela. So if there’s that spark in us, that wants to come back to the source, is that a need? I would say it’s its nature. Its its nature to desire that it’s its nature to return to the source need, I tend to think of as more human and more personal. This is the part of us that wants to move beyond those personal needs to something greater.

RICK: That’s a good answer. Couldn’t have answered it better myself. So thanks. So we’re about the two hour point. Is there anything else that, you know, we really should have talked about that we didn’t?

CONNIE: Thank you so much for listening to the whole book. Oh, I love that. And, oh, and I’m so glad to reconnect with you. My listeners can reach me on my website. My email is Connie If you read the book, and you want to send me a comment or a question, you’re welcome to do that. Don’t send me clinical questions. I’m not doing therapy anymore. Um, and listen to that. Yeah, it’s fabulous.

RICK: And since you’ve announced your email address, I will put it on your page on bat gap if you want me to. And if at any point you want me to take it off, I’ll do that. But because somebody might be driving while they listen to this, and they there was that email address I forget. So I’ll put it up there as well as link to your book, your books and and to your website. And maybe one day, we’ll get the illustrious, illusive Neil on the show.

CONNIE: Yeah, I can’t get him out of the closet.

RICK: Yeah, I remember when I was first starting this. Tom Traynor said, Okay, Ricky, now, here’s Neil. Neil was sitting next to me on the couch. interview him and Neil was like, Ah, I don’t want to do it.

CONNIE: Yeah, got away Chili’s cooked.

RICK: Stick a fork in the check. Okay, thank you. Yeah, see you again in person one of these days sending

CONNIE: love, love to Irene.

RICK: And thank you and love to all people who have been listening or watching this. And as always, we’ll have another one. Next week. Next week. I’ll be interviewing Rhonda Byrne, who wrote the secret and now the greatest secret she’s written written a new book called The greatest secret. And if you look at our upcoming interviews page on bat gap, you’ll see who we have scheduled. And of course, if you look at the past interviews menu, see all the people going back over the last decade and more. So thanks for sticking with us, and we’ll see you for the next one. Thanks again, Connie. Thank you. All right. Take care. Bye bye.