Rick Archer: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews with spiritually awakening people. I’ve done over 500 of them now, and if this is new to you and you’d like to check out previous ones, please go to batgap.com, B-A-T-G-A-P, look at the Past Interviews menu and the submenus under that, and you’ll find all the previous ones archived in various ways. This program is made possible by the support of appreciative listeners and viewers, so if you appreciate it and would like to support it in any amount, large or small, there’s a PayPal button on every page of the site.
My guest today is Daniel Schmidt. Daniel is the creator of the award-winning film, Inner Worlds Outer Worlds— let me just show you the cover of that film, there it is, Inner Worlds Outer Worlds— as well as the ongoing Samadhi series. He’s also the founder of the Awaken the World Initiative, whose purpose is to bring the ancient teachings of samadhi back to the world for free in as many languages as possible. We’ll be defining samadhi in a few minutes. Dan’s approach combines self-inquiry with traditional forms of meditation so that participants have the opportunity to simultaneously realize their transcendent nature and to purify themselves of conditioned patterns. The “pathless path” is to realize an ever-deepening development process within the self-structure and to simultaneously realize what is always already beyond the self-structure. Samadhi is when the world that is constantly changing merges or unites with the changeless. It’s a good definition. So welcome, Daniel.
Daniel Schmidt: Thanks for having me.
Rick Archer: Yeah. You know, over the years, I’ve kind of glimpsed your movies online and thought, “Well, those would be very interesting to watch, but I think I’ll wait until I interview this guy, which I’m sure I eventually will, and then I’ll just totally immerse myself in them.” And that’s what I’ve done over the past week, watching just about all of the movies I just mentioned, which are a marvelous creation. I mean, the amount of creativity and ingenuity that went into their creation is amazing. In the course of our conversation, let’s talk about how you did them and where you got all the ideas for doing them, because hopefully this conversation will inspire others to watch them if they haven’t done so already. And you’re doing more, so stay tuned, everybody. So, how’d you get interested in all this stuff to begin with?
Daniel Schmidt: So, I guess, “all this stuff,” you mean meditation, samadhi…?
Rick Archer: Yeah, the whole spiritual shtick.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. So, I grew up as a Catholic, so to me, I rebelled against everything in the religious world. I didn’t really know anything about meditation, yoga, actually thought it was complete nonsense, and I was just kind of going about my life. Well, actually, I should back up. When I was a really young child, I could lucid dream and travel at night and stuff like that. I was very connected to the other levels or other realms, but that got shut down at a certain point. I kind of had to protect myself at a certain point and just kind of intuitively closed it off because my family thought I was being really weird. They thought maybe I had schizophrenia or something and I knew just for self-preservation I had to shut it down.
Rick Archer: So, you would tell them, “These little people were in my room last night,” or whatever, things like that, and they would just think you’re nuts?
Daniel Schmidt: Things like that. Well, yeah. I would literally see angels above my sisters’ beds and stuff like that. But also, as I was going through puberty, when energy started awakening, I was having a kundalini kind of awakening experience, but I had absolutely no idea what that was or how to manage it.
Rick Archer: What were you actually experiencing as those kundalini things? I mean, how do you know that’s what it was? Or you didn’t know that’s what it was?
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, well, in retrospect, now I know that’s what it was. But at the time, the actual subjective experience was I would get this feeling that there was an intelligence inside my body, basically, and it was accompanied by– my ego structure at that time, which was very undeveloped, was terrified. It was like this visceral fear would come over my body as I was lying in bed, waiting to go to sleep, and I would know when this energy is coming on. It was like something, some intelligence inside, and I could feel an energy moving up the back of the head and the crown, and I would actually get taken over by this energy. It felt like something moving my body around, and it was the deepest sense of mortal terror, from the self-structure’s point of view, so my dad would find me curled up in a fetal position, screaming. Or one time I went into their bedroom and I had this profound sense of what this world was and what this life was, and I got on top of them in the middle of the night– it’s two in the morning or three in the morning– and screaming, “You’re all already dead! You’re all already dead!” and just terrified them. They thought I was some kind of Exorcist kid or something.
Rick Archer: Wow.
Daniel Schmidt: So, as this went on, I was very sensitive to people’s reaction to it as well. I realized, “This is not going well and I need to basically shut this down, whatever is going on.”
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Daniel Schmidt: So, when that happened, when I shut it down– and I’m not sure how I did that– I just kind of willed with ego to shut it down. So, I lost that childlike capacity to explore in my dreams. I used to be able to fly and all that kind of stuff, and I would have these amazing encounters. So, all of that disappeared at that time as well and I just became like a normal kid– or I guess people who knew me might not say that, but comparatively normal.
Rick Archer: Two quick observations here. One is I’m sure you’ve heard that kundalini experts say that kundalini can have awoken in previous lives. Then we die, and when we are reborn it’s already awake and it just kind of resumes its process.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah.
Rick Archer: So, there’s that.
Daniel Schmidt: I totally agree with that. To me, there’s something that was happening that– it’s like this pattern of awareness. Somehow, the whole experience was accompanied by this way of perceiving my inner world. It’s like my consciousness would just start to get locked into the inner world and observing inner energy in a certain way. I didn’t learn that, but it was like it came with me somehow. It was like a switch got turned on and that pattern was just there.
Rick Archer: Yeah, yeah. Interesting. Picking up where you left off.
Daniel Schmidt: I guess.
Rick Archer: And then another thing I’m sure you’ve heard is that when the energy rises like that, the ego can feel threatened because it faces dissolution. You have stories like Suzanne Segal, Collision with the Infinite, if you’ve ever read that book, where there’s just abject terror because everything you know yourself to be is being dissolved, and if you don’t know what’s going on it can be really scary.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, yeah. The terror that I experienced, I can’t explain how palpable it was. It was primordial terror, even if somebody had come up to me with a gun and put it to my head. It wasn’t logical terror. It was more just this blind, irrational and palpable sense of death and of losing myself at that time.
Rick Archer: Well, the word “primordial” is very apt. There’s a line in the Upanishads which says, “Certainly all fear is born of duality,” so, it’s like the very initial sprouting of duality from the unified field births fear at that primordial level. It’s like a plane breaking the sound barrier. When we reverse the process and again traverse that primordial level back to unity, we can experience that root fear that is primordial, the most primordial thing there is.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. I’ve only, I think, in my adult life revisited that fear once, and that was actually at my first 10-day vipassana retreat. That energy awoke again. At that time, I went to see the teacher there and told them about it and they said, “Just go back, observe the breath, and don’t worry about it.” When it awakened there, though, it was interesting. I actually felt almost like a coldness in the room. It was so large. But then the same energy now, when I experience it, it’s blissful now because my consciousness is inhabiting it. So, it’s really like the ego just gets used to letting go, or dying, or whatever you want to call that. That very same sensation, if it’s contracted, then it’s fear, but if it’s not contracted, it’s just freedom. It’s bliss, actually.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Well, you know what FDR said in his second inaugural address. He said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I think there are several factors which can determine how fearful it’s going to be. One is how quickly it happens. If it’s a whole bunch all at once, that can be rather traumatic, otherwise it can just be a very gradual, incremental process and you don’t notice much happening and you just kind of ease through it. Then another is whether you understand what’s going on, because if like Suzanne Segal you have no idea what’s happening, you can be fighting against something which could actually be blissful if you were to relax into it with understanding.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. Especially in our society, when things like that happen to a little kid, for example. I think the psych wards are filled with people. You just get medicated in our system, where people don’t know how to deal with this. Whereas in an indigenous culture or some of the shamanic cultures, they may see that as a sign that you’re ready for some spiritual training.
Rick Archer: And, of course, you mentioned Catholicism. I think there have been adepts and mystics in the Christian tradition who would have understood very well what you’re talking about, because they went through it.
Daniel Schmidt: Absolutely.
Rick Archer: St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, all that.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. I’ve come full circle with Christianity in my own path. I really have come to see– actually one of my biggest influences, my teacher, Nico, uses a lot of Christian language. Actually a big part of the next film is seeing the one perennial truth in all of these traditions. I’m particularly drawn to the teachings of John of the Cross, you mentioned, St. Teresa, Meister Eckhart, and St. Francis. I think all of these experiences and awakenings that they’re having, it’s just Christian language, but it’s the same as in every tradition, I think.
Rick Archer: I should put you in touch with a couple of people. Mirabai Starr, who did translations of St. John of the Cross, and my friend Dana Sawyer, who was friends with Aldous Huxley and Huston Smith and wrote biographies of them both. They could probably be helpful to your project.
Daniel Schmidt: Wonderful. Yeah. Right now I’m in that taking in mode, just gathering and synthesizing and exploring all of it, so it would be a perfect time because things are germinating right now.
Rick Archer: Great. Okay, so you got past the fear phase. You clamped it down, stuffed it.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, I clamped it–
Rick Archer: Became a normal teenager.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. So, I got into philosophy. I went to school for philosophy at Western and then I actually went to law school. You mentioned before the interview started about how sometimes your entire life at one point might seem like a series of random events, but then later on you see that you’re being prepared for something, and it really seems like that. Even my year of law school, I thought it was a complete waste of time at the time because it was totally not what I wanted to do– which can be helpful. I mean, learning exactly what you don’t want to do is a teaching. But now, working with these films, there is a legal aspect and dealing with contracts and all that stuff, and the philosophy is part of it.
I was always creating music. My mom was a music teacher, so I learned music when I was a little kid. I got into creating music for my friends’ films. I had friends in film school, so I was exploring music all along the way. That took me into the television and film world, and I formed a company with some friends. We were delivering a series for Discovery Channel, and we were just young, just doing what people do. Art was cool and I wanted to make money. I was completely embedded in the Matrix. I was totally playing video games, drinking lime coolers, and up until three in the morning, just abusing my body. I didn’t know how to feed myself or take care of this vessel.
So, after years of that, whatever spirit is in me, or however you want to say it, something rebelled and just hammered me. I developed, just overnight basically, an autoimmune disorder– type one diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis– just got hammered, and I was forced to try and figure out how to survive or how to get through this. I basically had to let go of everything, let go of my relationships, everything. Moved out of Toronto into a tiny little place in the middle of nowhere to heal, close to nature. So, that was the beginning. Really the diabetes was the biggest problem, because I was doing everything backwards, everything wrong. I thought maybe I had a parasite, so I was doing these cleanses. I was doing some cleanse where I’m drinking lemonade with honey and stuff like that, so I’m spiking my blood sugar.
Rick Archer: And you have diabetes.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. It took me several years to actually get the diagnosis of diabetes, so for a couple years it was like my blood was boiling. It was excruciating and I couldn’t sleep, so my mind was going. There was worrying and fear and I was losing huge amounts of weight. I went from 160 pounds down to 120. At one point I was like a skeleton. So, I was worried and I desperately just wanted to get some sleep, actually. I had a friend who had that afterglow from coming back from a vipassana retreat, and he said, “Why don’t you do that?” He was very intuitive, and he could tell a lot of my issues were my mind. My mind was just pathological at that point. So, I figured I have nothing to lose, and I saw it benefited him, and I went to the vipassana retreat with no idea what it was. I literally hadn’t even read their website, just went on his advice. I had true beginner’s mind, totally ignorant of anything that was happening there– which was good.
So, I’m doing the teaching on the screen and I just kind of surrendered. I just thought, “Okay, I’m gonna go with it.” He was very adamant, “Just follow the technique,” and everything, so I did. I had excruciating pain in my body. The rheumatoid arthritis was down, deep into my bones. I was sitting there, trying to meditate and mind going crazy. I’d be collapsing in pain, and sitting up, collapsing. It pushed me 100% beyond what I could handle, and something gave way I guess in that. I was determined. I almost left, actually, after the first day and second day, and a couple people talked me through it. Luckily, I stuck with it. I don’t know why– something in me, grace or something, I don’t know. I’m not sure why I was so determined to do it, but something gave way.
I’ve studied a little bit of Ayurveda and they talk about the doshas and body type. I’m very vata, so my tendency is I seem to realize states or realize energy awakenings and things very quickly, but I lose them just as quickly. So, at that retreat I had a samadhi experience, what I would now call a savikalpa samadhi experience, where I was so in my body, in the energy, doing this body scan. My awareness merged with my energy field, which connected me to All That Is, basically. During this experience I was walking around, literally feeling the energy of the universe flowing through me. I’d walked outside at night, and literally the consciousness of the stars were me looking back at myself. I could feel myself in everything. It was everything I ever wanted. It was total completion and perfection. I just wanted to stay there forever. Of course, my ego was not prepared for this experience at all. So, every state, it passed, and my ego was desperate to– “How do I get back there? How do I hang on to this?” And the more I would grasp at it, the more quickly it started to go away. I think I was in that state for less than 24 hours, it wasn’t that long.
By the time I went to bed that night, I fell asleep and then woke up and it was completely gone. The next day I experienced absolute loss. I went from being everything to being this little insect creature again. I think it was the only time in my life I actually just wanted to not exist. I was desperate to get that experience back. Now, looking back at it, I realize what was missing was– I was walking around in that state and I was sure I was exactly like Jesus or I was exactly like the Buddha. This was it. This is the state. But I was identified with that character. I thought Dan, this Dan structure, was it, right? I hadn’t realized Prajna, or the truth of what we are, so I had full on identification. It was many years later that I started to delve into Zen and self-inquiry, nondual teachings. Then I had a different kind of samadhi, the nirvikalpa samadhi, where you realize form and emptiness as one. There’s kind of a collapse of this duality and you realize there’s nothing to be attached to, and the challenge over time is to let these states come and go, to encompass them with equanimity and with consciousness.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Ken Wilber talks about states and stages. States are all kinds of things that we can get temporarily. Stages are more permanent, abiding conditions that can eventually arise and become natural.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. That’s a beautiful distinction. I think that’s exactly it. To me, I distinguish between awakening, which is in the moment, it’s now, and then there’s this enlightenment process that is this continuous development process. It’s like we rewire ourselves and we create a purified vessel to contain that awareness so that it doesn’t come and go. For me, I’m still working on the development process. I’ve had many awakening experiences now in my life. Even doing long sits, there are little awakenings all the time happening, and every once in a while, there’s the complete cessation of the vrittis, or the whirlpool of the mind. But to live in that state is I believe what the yogic traditions are talking about, the growing of the inner lotus, the chakras, all of that. We rewire ourselves to create the unconditioned self-structure that supports awakening so that the awareness can just kind of shine through. But it is a paradox. I talk about exactly what you said, actually, states of samadhi. Then there are the stages of actual living, living life in a stage where that wiring has reached a new level, and with each level there is a change in consciousness. Those traditions say that when the wiring is permanently at the crown, the energy is moving from the root to the crown, then that is it. That’s the depictions of the halos, and these traditional images I think are conveying that as well.
Rick Archer: I think it’s an important point. I mean, there’s a chance I could shoot a basket from 40 feet out or something like that, but to do that consistently like Steph Curry or somebody takes a great deal of training, and probably, in the case of this example, a younger body. But sometimes people in certain spiritual circles poo poo the idea of practice. They feel like it’s poo poo, it’s like, they put it down. They feel that it’s going to only reinforce the sense of a practicer. They feel like, “Well, the reality is what it is, so just realize that. Why should you have to beat around the bush and do something?” You could probably respond to that objection.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. It’s very tricky. One of my favorite teachers is Krishnamurti. He was very scornful of traditional meditation because he saw how people doing these techniques– a technique is just something conditioned. It’s something that we learn. It’s within the self-structure. If we’re just repeating this thing, people sitting on cushions, doing these practices– we’ll never come to that cessation of the whirlpool of the mind if we’re engaging in these practices. So, I totally agree with Krishnamurti. I agree with everything he’s saying. But I also see that these techniques have value. I love the phrase, “A thorn to remove a thorn.” I think sometimes the vipassana body scan technique is a great example. We teach that at the center, along with many other different techniques, and some of these techniques work for some people and others for other people. So, we can use these.
I think a good technique is one that is purifying the conditioned patterns. It’s allowing whatever is in our unconscious. These little programs and subprograms in our unconscious are just running, and we can’t become free of them until we excavate. We have to basically stop responding to the craving and aversion, or the preferences of the conditioned mind. When we stop, these what they call samskaras, or sankharas in the Buddhist tradition, start to come up to the surface, and they bloom and die if we’re just not attached to them or don’t respond to them. So, to me that process, that is working within the framework of the body and dealing with these unconscious patterns, which is purifying the vessel, basically. But also, I think what Krishnamurti says is true. The absolute awareness just is what it is. It needs no perfecting. It needs no development process.
So, when you have these awakenings, the paradox, or the hard thing to grasp with the mind is that you awaken and you realize it’s the same awareness that was always there. It’s been ever-present and unchanging. It’s spotless. It’s stainless, but it gets obscured over and over by the mind. It gets entangled with mind, and that’s the game of Maya we’re playing here. It’s this whirlpool of the mind that just snags us over and over. So, the way I teach at the center is self-inquiry and meditation simultaneously. When we’re doing a technique, if we’re observing the breath or observing the third eye, or whatever, doesn’t really even matter so much, as long as we’re cultivating equanimity and concentration and freeing these sankharas. You can also be aware of who is doing this practice, at the same time. So, rather than just the mind running with this pattern– I love the Zen story about polishing the tile. So, we’re not just polishing tiles at the meditation center, but we’re aware of awareness.
Rick Archer: The story being that you polish a tile or polish a brick, you can polish for the rest of your life, it’s never going to become a mirror.
Daniel Schmidt: Exactly. So, yeah, I should maybe say the story for the people that don’t know it.
Rick Archer: That’s the story.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. So, there’s a student who’s sitting in meditation, and the Zen teacher comes and says, “What are you doing?” And the student says, “Well, I’m meditating. I want to become enlightened.” And the teacher picks up a stone tile and starts polishing it. And the student says, “Why are you polishing that tile?” And he says, “I want it to become a mirror. I want to keep polishing it to become a mirror.” And the student says, “Well, you can do that forever, that stone’s never becoming a mirror.” It’s the same thing with our practice, as well. If it’s just the mind doing some conditioned technique, we’ll never realize our true nature.
In these ancient traditions, it is a cessation of this whirlpool of the mind. It’s in that absolute stillness that this unfathomable experience happens– or it’s not even an experience, because it’s the collapse of experience and experiencer. So, to me, probably the most important thing in meditation is to realize– These techniques are great if we’re moving from gross mind that’s full of thoughts to subtler mind, subtler, subtler, subtler, using a thorn to remove a thorn, and then eventually we throw all the thorns away and just come to stillness. And it’s in that stillness that Prajna– I’ve heard other teachers say this, it’s almost like it happens by accident, but we make ourselves accident prone by doing these practices and techniques. So, I know for me, if I had never done vipassana meditation and never done all the stuff I’m doing– there’s no way, if I was just watching Netflix and drinking beer…
Rick Archer: Drinking lime coolers.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. It’s not going to happen, right? So, it’s like we’re cultivating, purifying this vessel, and then maybe there’s an element of grace. I don’t know what it is, what makes this happen, but it can happen. I think all we can do as limited ego structures is just prepare, just cultivate the garden, but we don’t control what grows in it.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Let me respond to a few of those points. Firstly, regarding grace, there’s that saying, “God helps those who help themselves.” And there’s some cool stories in various scriptures about the disciple or the student putting forth a certain amount of effort, and then once he has done enough effort, then the guru, or God or something or other, just blesses him with grace and that accomplishes it.
Then, with regard to realizing that enlightenment was always the natural condition, once enlightenment has been attained, it’s like the sun is always shining. The sun doesn’t care whether there’s clouds or not, because the sun is not obscured. From its perspective, it’s not obscured by clouds. But it makes a difference to the person on the ground, so to speak, whether there’s clouds, and wind can help blow them away. So, wind is like a technique. Then, once they’re blown away, then boom, oh, there the sun is. It’s always been shining. So, there’s that.
And then regarding Krishnamurti, he was a good example because he spoke from his level of consciousness and his listeners listened from theirs, and the twain never really met. He sat there and criticized techniques, and people were with him for decades and ended up continuing to be frustrated because he had no way of conveying or enabling them to rise to the level of his experience. So, there’s a saying in India, “When the mangoes are ripe, the branches bend down so that people can easily pick the fruit.” So, there’s something to be said for teaching in such a way that it meets the student where they’re at and enables them to begin to progress.
Regarding progress, you’ve alluded to the notion that we’re talking about something very physiological here. All these samskaras and impressions that we’re talking about, if physiologists knew how to do it, could be located in the neurophysiology as perhaps chemical or structural imbalances. And so the release or the working out of these samskaras is a neurophysiological process or transformation. There’s been plenty of research to show that during different types of meditation there are significant physiological changes. Also with long-term meditators, and again, in various traditions and practices, there are significant changes that are abiding. Whether the person is meditating or not, the brain itself is significantly restructured, as can be seen from thickening of the frontal cortex and phase coherence between different parts of the brain. In other words, synchrony between the brainwaves in different parts of the brain, the healing of functional holes in brain functioning, which are revealed by fMRI scans. So, really just through spiritual practice we’re transforming the physiology to make it a fit vehicle for living this higher state of consciousness, whatever we want to call it.
And you were talking about polishing the brick. Something you said there made me feel like, well, the measure of an effective practice should be how effectively it enables the mind to settle into samadhi. I’ve heard you allude to the second verse of the Yoga Sutras, Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodhah, that yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. Okay. So, why would that be a good thing, the cessation of fluctuations of the mind? Because then the next verse says, “Then the seer is established in itself.” So, it’s like choppy water can’t reflect the sun very clearly, but still water can reflect it perfectly. Sometimes you see these photos of still water, and it looks like the same scene above the lake and below the lake because the trees or whatever are being reflected perfectly. So, a still mind can allow the self to shine forth freely without obstruction or disturbance. That’s the purpose of that type of practice. So, you could perhaps measure the worth of practices by how effectively they accomplish that, and you could measure that physiologically, as well as by subjective report.
Daniel Schmidt: Wow. Wonderful. It actually seems like you’re using so many examples that I use all the time. I forgot that you were speaking, actually. That’s funny. So, yeah, that’s wonderful.
Rick Archer: It’s the same person speaking. Right, Daniel?
Daniel Schmidt: So, yeah, I think it’s a wonderful use of science. I think if science can start to really have objective measures for these things, we can open so much up so quickly. There are amazing things being done. I was just checking out David Vago, who’s at Harvard. He’s doing studies with fMRI and I think he came to some conclusions on the default mode network, which is basically when we’re just being here, what’s going on in the mind, just our default processing in the mind. They’ve found conclusively that meditation, meditators just have less going on. There’s less interruption happening just as you’re existing in the present moment. So, I think these things are great, even just to get people excited about meditation and see that there is objective value. That to me is kind of my job with these films as well. I can’t convey really what happens in meditation. There’s nothing I can say or depict, or use fractals, but I can get people curious about it. I think there’s an incredible possibility for science to get people curious to look within themselves.
Rick Archer: Yeah. One example I’ve sometimes used is, picture yourself working really hard. You’re working these eight, these 12-hour days, or whatever, 16-hour days, and you’re under a lot of pressure. You’re all frazzled. Your mind is just crazy, you can’t sleep properly, you’re drinking a lot of coffee, and you’re in that state of mind. And then you go on vacation. You’re there a couple of weeks just lying on the beach, just relaxing. By the end of a couple of weeks of vacation you just feel so mellow, so clear and happy inside compared to the way you felt. So, contrast those two conditions. Now imagine that you could sit twice a day, or whatever, and enter into that state that you feel after two weeks of vacation, for half an hour or an hour, and then come back to your daily activity. You would not only enjoy that hour where you sat, but it would carry over into your daily activity. You would feel the influence of it throughout the day. If you were to do that on a regular basis, the influence would accumulate such that you could never get as perturbed by things as you once did. There’s just a stable equanimity that would develop. And, again, there would be a physiological reason for that, as well as your inner subjective experience.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. I see my own. If I look back 20 years ago when I started meditation, I was full of anxiety and stress and fear and all kinds of stuff. If I measure, I think the only measure of a meditation practice is like the Buddha said, it’s about freedom from suffering, or freedom from the self. If I look back over my life, I just have less suffering. To me, that’s the measure. It’s also opened up all these other worlds that I think your antenna starts to be able to receive from, so you have an expanded experience of life. So, I guess there’s two things. There’s freedom from suffering, but then there’s freedom too, so you’re free to explore all these other aspects of being as well. So, I guess it’s kind of going in two directions, where in some ways, through this process and wiring, we’re expanding the self-structure, but we’re also realizing the emptiness of the self-structure at all these levels.
Rick Archer: I imagine if you look back on your life, you would say that a lot of the suffering you once experienced was self-inflicted.
Daniel Schmidt: Absolutely.
Rick Archer: There’s a skill in action. The Gita says, “yoga karmasu kaushalam,” yoga is skill in action. There’s a skill in action now, where you conduct your life in such a way that you don’t create messes for yourself. You don’t inflict suffering on yourself.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, yeah. And Krishnamurti spoke about the collective ego as the problem, that the suffering we’re experiencing on this planet is due to a collective ego and identification with however we define ourselves. As soon as we create a definition, we create a limitation and we create an Other. If I say I am this, I’m Christian, I’m Jewish, I’m Muslim, I’m American, whatever it is, then because of that label it means some people aren’t that and it creates this disconnect. And I love when he said the ego is inherently violent, that it’s a violence. It’s a cutting, or a fragmentation of consciousness from itself.
Rick Archer: Yeah, and there’s an interesting point you just made a minute ago, which is that even though there’s an emptying out taking place, I don’t remember your exact words, at the same time, almost ironically, or paradoxically, there is a fuller and freer expression of your uniqueness and of your, I guess you could say your individuality. I mean, you see that in your own experience and in the lives of people we might respect who seem to have achieved a high level of consciousness, like the Dalai Lama, or whoever. There’s a richness to their personalities. They’re not just all plain vanilla, empty, flat, colorless saps.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, yeah.
Rick Archer: There’s a vibrancy and charisma and fascination that you feel in watching them function. So, it’s kind of like it frees up what is beautiful within us, not only in the universal sense, but even in terms of our individual qualities.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. In the Upanishads and some of these really ancient teachings they talk about all these different levels of existence. Really, we are living in this limited reality on the level of the mind and the physical, but there are these other levels of energy. Like when somebody starts to tap into their kundalini energy, you see it in their face, you see an aliveness, you see it shining from the eyes. And the Upanishads talk about these other higher levels, like the koshas, the vijnanamaya kosha and anandamaya kosha. These are all realms of existence that we can experience in life. When we start making connections with them there’s knowledge, there’s wisdom that’s tapping us into stuff that is beyond just our self and our culture. To me it’s mysterious, where a lot of this comes from.
I talked about Akasha in one of the films and this idea that everything is mind. The first Hermetic principle, that the All is mind. Like what we think of as deep space, with the Millennium Run simulation. We now know that when you start to map out dark matter it looks exactly like a brain, complete with neurons and everything. So, it is all mind. I see it that this whole energetic structure that we’re inside of can be like an antenna, and we can connect to those higher levels of mind and the Dharma and these ancient teachings. I think every being who has made that connection, they’re bringing in the same truths but in different ways and different expressions, different unique truths.
Rick Archer: Based upon what you just said, this would be a good time to ask a question that came in from Manuel in Vienna, Austria. He asks, “In an interview with Sheryl Sitts, you were talking about higher levels of realty, beyond the mental and physical level, like the energetic level or the angelic realm.” This question is, “How can we be sure that altered states of reality, experienced through meditation techniques or psychedelics, are not just illusions made up by our own mind?”
Daniel Schmidt: I think this entire game that we’re playing here, this entire universe and existence, is all mind. So, we can’t. I love Chuang Tzu. There’s the story about him, the dream of the butterfly, and it’s so real. He was questioning, seriously questioning, “Am I a butterfly dreaming that I’m a man or a man dreaming that I’m a butterfly?” This is the question, and to me it’s mysterious, as we go deeper into the meditation world and on the path. To me my experiences of the dream realms and dreaming as opposed to waking, or sometimes we call them communications, where we have these connections to the higher self, it’s becoming more and more real, seemingly real, like more solid. But simultaneously, it seems like this so-called real world is becoming a little more dreamlike, a little more permeable, and it’s all blending.
But the awakeness that is at the center of it, the awareness, which is unchanging, to me that is what we are. That’s the essence of what we are, that’s the truth. And this is Maya. In the Upanishads that I was describing, they use the word Maya in the description of these things. It is all Maya. And I’m thinking about the Heart Sutra in Buddhism, where he says the Awakened One realized all, the emptiness of all the levels. I think he was talking about the five skandhas, but it’s the self-structure, basically, all levels of self. So, when we realize that it is illusion, it’s all illusion. I’ve had weird experiences of these different levels, and some of them I wouldn’t want to share because people will think I’m insane.
Rick Archer: We already established that at the beginning of the interview, right? When you were jumping on your parents?
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. So, I got nothing to lose, I guess. But to me I see it all the same way, right? It’s a play of form. It’s a play of consciousness. My teacher, Nico, he talks about the imaginal realm. This is a term coined by a writer named Henry Corbin. He writes about the higher worlds, and he does an exhaustive study, which is fascinating. Carl Jung, actually, his active imagination, a lot of his stuff is based on Henry Corbin’s work. And so Nico distinguishes between imaginal, which is what’s going on in the higher mind, and imagination, which is a product of the lower mind. And the way that we distinguish between the two in our subjective experience is that when things happen on the imaginal level, there is an actual concrete, energetic change. These symbolic or these archetypal experiences that can be had, interacting with deities or neters, or strange beings, whatever’s happening there, to me there’s some sort of symbolic thing playing out. And if we can kind of dance with it, or play with it, sometimes we may face our fears. We may face different aspects of ourselves and it can make huge shifts in our actual life, in our actual energy.
So, to me, I don’t really care about real or unreal, to me that distinction is just a distinction of the dualistic mind. What matters to me is if I’m doing a pure investigation, I’m not just manufacturing something with my mind. When I work with Nico, he’ll say that if you start thinking he’ll kick you out. So, he’ll be like, “I just want you to report what’s actually happening, empirical investigation into what is actually happening.” If you’re just observing reality as it is, what you’re perceiving through whatever faculty, mind, senses, the organs of higher perception, you are just looking at what is, and then it can change your subjective experience in life, and it’s exciting. So, whether we label it as real or unreal, I think that’s just the mind playing its little game.
Rick Archer: Yeah. With regard to Manuel’s question about how do we know whether these things that people report, angelic realms, are made up by our own mind or not, the whole scientific enterprise started out as an attempt to circumvent the fallibility of human subjectivity. In other words, to try to determine what is objectively true, regardless of our understanding or misunderstanding of it. And there are several methods which are employed in that, which are repeatable experiment and empirical experience. If someone comes up with a hypothesis and tests it and gets some results that seem to confirm the hypothesis, he then says, “Okay, all you other scientists test it also and see what you get.” And if they also keep confirming it, then it lends greater and greater credibility to the hypothesis. If they start poking holes in it, then maybe he has to go back to the drawing board and come up with a better hypothesis. But it’s an attempt to understand how the universe actually works, because prior to that there were all kinds of kooky ideas about how the universe works. I mean, geez, the Earth is the center of the solar system. Galileo developed a telescope through which he could disprove that. The Catholic hierarchy refused to even look through his telescope, because they said, “No, that violates the Bible.” So, I think we’ve made a lot of progress through this method of understanding what’s really happening, as opposed to our subjective fantasies about what might be happening.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, definitely. And like Aldous Huxley’s work on the perennial philosophy, and just my own understanding of these different traditions, you see at the root of it there is one perennial teaching that is coming back. There are these traditions, they talk about chakras, or the Sefirot. There are these different angles, different languages to describe one thing. So, I think there is an, I don’t want to say objective truth, but to me, when Plato was speaking of the realm of forms, there is a sort of form to the awakening process. There’s a form to whatever it is, the spiral that extends from our DNA to the galaxies. There’s an intelligence that’s embedded there and it’s expressing in different ways. We can see in these different traditions how some of them are reflecting part of the evolution. Some of them are reflecting the higher levels, and who knows how far it goes. So, to me, I feel like there is sort of a form to what is happening, or a truth, and I think science is about getting at that truth. I would love to see the convergence.
Like in the time of the Platonic period, Pythagoras in his time, there was just a search for knowledge and wisdom. Back then, music and mathematics, and searching the heavens for knowledge, it was all one endeavor and we didn’t have this fragmentation that we have now. I’d love to see these different fragmented aspects of science come together with this genuine inquiry. At the same time, that being said, you have philosophers like Berkeley, where to be is to perceive or be perceived. There is a truth in that, as well. So, we can use these empirical tools, but at the end of the day, what am I here? I am a mind, senses, an energy, and this filter, or what Huxley called the reducing valve. It is our interface with the Outer. So, to me, there’s truth in both of those things. I always approach it from the relative and the absolute. From the relative perspective, we can go into this objective worldly knowledge of the forms. But then from a samadhi point of view, like when you’re in that place where there is no subject and object, there’s an actual collapse of subject-object duality. Then this whole investigation becomes just play, basically.
Rick Archer: Yeah. One thing I find inspiring about your films is the discussion. Well, you quote Plato, for instance. You say, there’s a golden key that unifies all the mysteries of the universe, the intelligence of the Logos, the mind of God, the intelligence of the universe. I find that inspiring because a lot of people in spiritual circles seem to just talk about consciousness in kind of a plain vanilla way, without recognizing the intelligence inherent with it. I’ve interviewed someone recently who kept insisting there is no such thing as God and that your brain creates the universe. But then how do you account for the marvelous orderliness that we see displayed in the universe? Like you talked about Li patterns in one of your films, archetypical patterns found at all levels of nature. Here’s a quote from Goethe that I picked up from one of your movies, “Beauty is a manifestation of the secret natural laws, which otherwise would have been hidden from us forever.”
So, a close look at what’s actually going on, which science helps us do, to me, gives me goosebumps because it shows that there’s some profound level of intelligence and organizing power orchestrating every little particle of creation. And if we extrapolate throughout the whole universe, we realize that wherever we were to look, we would find it functioning there. So, what do they say about God? God is supposed to be omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. That’s exactly what I just described, in terms of that omnipresent intelligence functioning at all levels, from the vast to the ultra-microscopic, and without an error, in complete accordance with beautiful orderly laws, which, interestingly, correspond with mathematics. That’s a whole other topic, but go ahead and respond to what I just said.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. Well, I actually brought a little prop. You talked about Li patterns, and this is a little something from the next film, actually. I’m going to put it up against my shirt, but it I don’t know if you can see it.
Rick Archer: It’s like a tree branch thing.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. So, this is called a Lichtenberg figure, and it’s very beautiful. I don’t know if it’s showing up really well on the screen there.
Rick Archer: Pretty well, yeah.
Daniel Schmidt: Basically, what this is, is they zap this acrylic block with a million volts of electricity, or some huge amount of electricity, and so basically, this structure is the path that the energy took in just a millisecond. So, this is one of the Li patterns, the branching patterns. When people get hit by lightning, you’ll sometimes see these Lichtenberg figures on their body. So, everything in nature is the spiral that extends through all these different levels, and the energy is moving in these branching patterns. It’s exactly what’s happening in our minds. So, to me, the path that energy took through our minds is actually us. Like that energy is just the pathway, the mind is just the tendency for that energy to repeat again, just like a river is being carved out. So when you see that, this is one Li pattern. This is one aspect of this primordial spiral we’ve just carved off and started to look at. So, when it comes to what this intelligence is, I have a profound sense of not knowing. It’s an awe, actually.
With these films there’s a lot of information, a lot of stuff, and sometimes people are like, “How did you figure all that out?” And I don’t know. I don’t. I truly don’t know sometimes. When I was working in television, it was very cookie cutter and templates, and the way I’m working now, I just meditate and information comes through. I just start writing and then it gets filtered. My partner Tanya is a huge part of the process as well. I seem to be just tapped into this information and it just keeps coming and coming and coming. And it’s mysterious. I’m in awe. Literally, I’m like a little kid just marveling at what’s happening. I’ll be writing, and there’s sort of Shiva/Shakti aspect to the way we work. She’s very clear on what will connect with people or what’s touching her heart. So, I’m getting all this stuff and it just keeps going. I have hundreds and hundreds of pages that I just keep writing. If I go back and look at it, it’s like I’ve written the same thing over and over, like 10 times.
I’ll even do that on the film. Sometimes I’ll re-create the same part so it’ll seem like this endless thing going on. And then Tanya comes along and somehow there’s something operating through her where she just sees. She’s kind of ruthless. She cuts through all the nonsense. She’s like, “What is really going to connect with people? What’s going to hit their heart?” and I’m going off into abstract land here. But I have this tendency to do a 20-minute section on Buckminster Fuller’s vector equilibrium and people will be falling asleep, and she’s like, “You’re losing it. You’re losing everybody. You can’t do that.” So she’s executive producer. Literally, I couldn’t be doing these films. They would not be what they are without her. They were just stagnating until she came along.
So, to answer your question, I think that if there’s one thing I’ve learned on this path, it’s the value of not knowing, like learning the limitation of the egoic mind. It takes me back to the Platonic. Socrates said, “The only thing I know is that I don’t know,” and to me, that’s the truth. That’s what meditation is teaching us, that when we stop the pattern, this endless searching, endless processing in the lower mind, that energy becomes free and it can connect with the higher realms. So, in the moment, from the egoic perspective, we don’t know. We’re suspending our knowing. But then if we trust, if we just allow this connection to happen, something greater is out there. There is this world of forms. There is Dharma. There is Big Mind, whatever you want to call it, and we can be like a little node in that mind.
Rick Archer: It’s interesting, these guys these days, to whom they refer as the New Atheists, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens, who died, and one other whose name I forget at the moment. I like listening to them, actually, but when I hear them, I think, “Dude, you can’t be both an atheist and a scientist. You can be an agnostic and a scientist, but if you insist that things are a certain way, then you’ve shut down. You don’t have a scientific attitude. There are all kinds of anomalies which challenge your conviction, and you must be not listening to them.” So, anyway.
Daniel Schmidt: I think language is so divisive. We, like those labels, like atheist or believer or whatever it is, it limits us and it creates division. This was a big thing with Buddhism, I found. One of my biggest challenges was reconciling the idea of anatta, no-self, with the soul. You have half the teachers talking about there is a soul, and half of them are saying there’s no self, there is no soul. But when you really look at what they’re actually saying, they’re saying the same thing. Anatta is realizing the emptiness of the self-structure, but it’s not nothing. It’s not a void or emptiness. It’s just a non-local consciousness that is everywhere, omnipresent.
And the soul, depending on who’s describing it, if you look at the Upanishads and the sheaths of the soul, the phenomena of the soul, all these different levels are obscuring the essence of the Atman from itself, which has no form. It has no place. It has nothing. It can only know itself or see itself through all these manifestations. So, to me, they’re identical, but if you look at history and look at the descriptions, they’re going head-to-head. And I think when you look, the true mystics are all in agreement, but they’re using different language. And when people are not realizing it within themselves, they’re holding on to an idea, a concept, and those concepts are dangerous.
Rick Archer: I think even sometimes people who realize it with a fair degree of clarity, experientially, could have different takes on it, according to the flavor of their experience. For instance, in the Vedic knowledge there’s a thing called Shunya Vada, and another called Poorna Vada. One refers to the emptiness and the other to the fullness, and they actually refer to the same thing. But perhaps different nervous systems, depending on which guna is predominant, or which dosha, or whatever, could have the very same experience and interpret it differently. And also in terms of other things, like some person who might have transcendent experience. For one, bliss might be predominant, for another, the sense of vastness might be predominant, and for another, the sense of emptiness might be predominant.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. Yeah.
Rick Archer: So, it all depends on the instrument through which that is experienced. And if we have the generosity to recognize that we’re all basically talking about the same reality, that we’re just like blind men and the elephant feeling different aspects of it, then a lot of arguments can be dissipated.
Daniel Schmidt: I think the interesting thing is they talked about the jhanas, in states of absorption, as well, into the One. So people will often sometimes have a jhana experience on awakening. To me, each jhana, each state of meditative absorption– I should maybe clarify what that word is. In the yogic tradition it’s dhyana. Or it also means Chan. In Chan Buddhism, the word Chan is it, and Zen is the same word as well. So when people get into meditation, sometimes your level of absorption will be happening where part of the mind’s operation will stop. Some of the programming will stop and there’ll be an increase in energy, and it’s an awakening experience. And there are many different levels, many different jhanas, many states of absorption. There can be incredible blissful experiences. There can be deep peace.
I’ve watched and been fascinated with people who come to the meditation retreats because there’s such a variety of experiences. Some people are experiencing their chakras and colors, other people are seeing different beings, and it’s a whole cornucopia of experience. But I think where it all converges, these jhanas, they talk about the material jhanas, which are to do with form. I think that’s where we get these ecstatic experiences and bliss and Sat-Chit-Ananda, depending on how you use that word. Some people are referring to it in different ways. But the immaterial jhanas, you start getting into these experiences of total dissolution, where you start to experience consciousness in everything and you start to experience emptiness in everything. Then you get to what they call neither perception nor non-perception, which is this essentially Big Mind. Getting to that point, the self-structure has basically become this Big Mind or dissolved into Big Mind, and the drop dissolves into the ocean.
That’s when the indescribable happens, but then it’s not even happening. It’s like the garden laying the groundwork for awakening to happen. And that awakening is so indescribable, but like the Buddha said, that realization, all form is exactly emptiness, emptiness is exactly form. This ultimate truth, when you hear the Zen masters talking about it, it’s unmistakable if you’ve experienced it. There’s no difference in what they’re saying, but the problem is language. Language is so slippery, Even saying form is exactly emptiness, emptiness is exactly form, that’s not it. You can’t describe it in words. We’ll never get a definition. There’s something that happens, but it’s not even happening. That’s not even the right word because it’s like the black hole that I described in Samadhi Part 2. There’s an event horizon beyond which we cannot talk about this stuff. So, in the meditation center what’s exciting to me is not talking about this stuff and trying to figure it all out, but actually taking people through this stripping away, going through the jhanas, the states of meditative absorption, and having a direct experience of this. To me, that is what’s valuable. So, I can hear myself with all these words and I just want to slap myself, actually, because it’s so…
Rick Archer: You can have Tanya do it. Slap you, that is.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, yeah. She slaps me pretty good. She slapped me right before this, actually.
Rick Archer: Good. Yeah, just to wake you up.
Daniel Schmidt: Her advice to me before this was, “Don’t be an idiot.”
Rick Archer: Yeah. Irene serves that function very well over here, in terms of keeping us in line, preventing us from acting like idiots. One thing that I find fascinating about all this is that we’re talking about realms that are experienced by a relative fraction of the general population. It could be argued that the whole thing doesn’t even exist, that nobody has these experiences, or they’re just hallucinations or something like that. You can imagine, let’s say, that only 1% of the population dreamed. Then the general consensus would be that there’s no such thing as dreaming, that there are a few oddballs who talk about something they think is dreaming. But pretty much everyone experiences dreaming, so even though it itself is a kind of illusory experience, we all agree that it happens.
So, with regard to this stuff that we’re talking about, a pretty small percentage experience it, and throughout history there has been a pretty small percentage, but there’s this historical record of people experiencing it and there’s a lot of concurrence, a lot of agreement among all the various records from various parts of the world. Now, perhaps what’s going on these days is that that which has been a rarity is becoming a commonality, that through the media, through the kind of things you and I are doing, through all the proliferation of teachers and teachings, what used to be a secret, hidden thing is now going public. Perhaps we’ll reach a time in the next one, two, 300 years where people will listen to a conversation like we’re having and think, “Well, these guys were really beating around the bush. I mean, obviously, everybody knows this stuff now. I mean, what’s the big deal.”
So, like anything else, there’s a limitation in terms of how much concepts and words can do justice to experience. I mean, what can you say about the way an apple tastes or the way a flower smells? You really have to experience it yourself to know. But if things become a common experience, then people who have their senses intact can all agree upon the way a flower smells or looks, or the way an apple tastes. It could get like that with spirituality. It could become so predominant in the culture that it’s an agreed upon thing. I think if such a time were to come, we’ll be living in a very different world than we are now.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, it’s exciting. I think even films like The Matrix start to permeate the collective unconscious. If you talk to somebody about living in the Matrix now, most people will have some concept of what that means.
Rick Archer: Or Star Wars. May the force be with you. It popularized the notion of a ubiquitous field of energy or something that interconnects us all.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, yeah. So, I think there is a climatization that is happening, for sure. And I see just the internet is an incredible thing. Years ago, 20 years ago, if I made a film and went through the normal film festival circuit, I could maybe reach 15,000 people, and now it’s like millions can find out about this stuff. And these ancient esoteric teachings that were taught only by masters to students after 10 years of practice, you can get them on Amazon for 10 bucks now. So it’s an amazing time. It’s almost too much information out there because a lot of these things I think get lost in the chaos of what’s out there. But I think there’s a danger with meditation. I think it’s wonderful, what’s happening with meditation, like mindfulness going into hospitals and schools and different things, as well, but what my hope is, is that the samadhi aspect of it doesn’t get lost in this proliferation of meditation.
Rick Archer: I think one thing leads to the next. People go in because they want to lower their blood pressure, and a couple years later they’re thinking, “Well, there’s more to this than lowering blood pressure,” and they start getting into the more profound aspects.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, yeah. I think so, too. There are many entry points and stepping-stones, and so that’s why I think it’s all fantastic. I think it’s really good. And the side benefits are very well known. So I think, for me, I think the first kind of teaching I ever got was Deepak Chopra. It was some kind of guided meditation, had music on in the background and everything, and at the time it was perfect. He got me into looking inside myself, and so it’s all good. I think there’s a place for everything on this path.
Rick Archer: Yeah. A question came in which I might as well ask now. It’s a little bit out of context to what we’re talking about right now, but we’ll just do it. It’s from Jean Francois in Paris. He asks, “Having watched both your Samadhi movies and greatly appreciated them, I wonder what is your view on the kundalini process and its link to samadhi. The different degrees of samadhi start to happen once energy reaches Ajna chakra, or the Makara point, as described in some literature by Joan Harrigan, who has been on BATGAP. Can one cultivate this phenomenon to reach its full development and make it a positive one, or is this something that just occurs naturally and spontaneously with spiritual practice?”
Daniel Schmidt: It’s a great question. I think my understanding of kundalini and a healthy kind of developmental process is that the Shakti and Shiva have to grow hand in hand. If someone has a traumatic event, or sometimes when people have experiences in life, that will prematurely open up kundalini, and that’s when you start getting into Kundalini Syndrome. It’s like Pandora’s Box, basically. It’s very, very difficult. I’ve met a lot of people who, when that energy is opened up and they don’t have the consciousness to encompass it and inhabit it, just like I did when I was a little kid, it can be terrifying. If the ego structure is just determined to do what it wants to do in your life and this energy is guiding you to do something else, you’ll get sick. You’ll get all messed up in all different ways. Digestive, endocrine system, everything. There’s all kinds of stuff written on that.
So, to me, the integrated way of it growing is to just live a conscious life, like it’s not separate from your life. All this wiring inside of us is, if you think about what the chakras are, these psycho-physiological centers. They talk about certain energies being, like the second chakra related to relationships, your sexual centers, being able to bring consciousness to that. In order to open these things up, you need to go experience these things. You need to experience life. You need to experience your power to manifest in the world. You need to do things that push against your heart and open it up. You need self-expression. So, living your life, learning to play piano, whatever it is, you’re creating wiring inside you. That’s all the nadis. It’s all part of this energetic growth that is happening.
I, personally, don’t agree with these practices designed to prematurely– it’s like I think I talked about in the film. It’s like trying to force a flower to open. Don’t force your flower to open. Explore life, live your life, and you will be wired. And if you’re doing meditation as part of that, you grow these centers. You free the energy, like in Tantra. I love the tantric approach. You’re not pushing anything away. In my Christian upbringing a lot of things were considered taboo or bad, but in tantric approaches, go into these things, explore, open up this energy. But do it consciously, and then you learn to free the energy and the energy becomes available for the higher levels, the higher chakras.
So, you go into your sexuality, you go into experiencing the sensual pleasures, opening up the senses. If they’re repressed and you’re just like, “I’m going to be a good little meditator and just push away all this body stuff,” those centers will be shut down and you’ll never free that energy. So you have to kind of go into life first, and then you experience it, and you experience what causes suffering. You experience the Maya aspect of it all, as well, and experience the joy, pleasure. This is life, right? This is the juice of life as well. These experiences to me are not separate from life.
So, in my experience, to get back to the question, I guess, every samadhi experience I’ve had has been accompanied by an energetic opening or an energetic– almost like dying. I remember my Zen Center experience where it was the first time, I really understood this whole system of no escape for the ego. Like you’re locked in and you can’t move and something has to give way inside. Something has to literally die inside, or you get the hell out of there. But if they don’t let you move, the energy gives way. To me, there’s always a shift of energy. Every shift of consciousness is accompanied by a shift of energy. To me, it’s just common sense. If your energy is going into the old, conditioned pattern, it’s not available for this higher new experience, and you remain in that veil, or the clouds in front of the sun, essentially.
Rick Archer: What you just said about enjoying life, I agree. I mean, life is here to enjoy, but there’s also something to be said for sensibility and moderation. The Buddha talked about the middle way, and there are a lot of verses in the Gita about, “This Yoga is not for him who eats too much or eats too little, or doesn’t sleep enough, or sleeps too much,” that kind of stuff. And there have been some gurus where the scene around them is basically just an ongoing orgy, all kinds of crazy stuff happening. We talked earlier in the interview about culturing the nervous system and treating the body as the temple of the soul, as it says someplace in the Bible, treating it as a vehicle which can carry us to the other shore. You can damage that vehicle through all kinds of behaviors. So yeah, enjoy life, but use a little common sense, maybe, at the same time.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. I don’t know if you have ever interviewed David Deida at all.
Rick Archer: No.
Daniel Schmidt: No, okay.
Rick Archer: I know who he is.
Daniel Schmidt: I heard a great story about him meeting his teacher. The first thing the teacher did, because he was really a good meditator being, all the Buddhist virtues and everything, was sat him down with a case of beer and said, “We’re gonna drink.” My teacher, Nico, is a little bit that way. He sees it as the way to freedom. You see what conditioned patterns are running. It’s not about any particular thing that you have to do or not do. So for one person, drinking beer might be their conditioned pattern, right? They might be craving it and they like to go unconscious. So for them to awaken, it’s to break that pattern, obviously.
Rick Archer: But do you break that pattern by indulging in it? I think AA would beg to differ with you.
Daniel Schmidt: No, no, I’m not saying you break it by indulging. So for that person, the path is to stop it, to cut it out.
Rick Archer: I see.
Daniel Schmidt: No. But for another person who is afraid of it and they’re–
Rick Archer: Have a beer.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. They’re afraid to lose control, or their head is full of all kinds of virtuous ideas, right? They’re like, “No, I can’t do that.” They’re not free, right? The particular thing that you’re doing isn’t it. What’s going on in your head is it, right? I fell into this, with attachment to things. At one point I was going absolute minimalist with my possessions. I had a grand piano and I was like, “Oh, this is such a big thing and I want to have no attachments.” But then I realized I was becoming attached to having no attachments. So it was like, the piano wasn’t the problem. It was me. It was my mind.
Rick Archer: Yeah. So moderation, balance. There’s no harm in being wealthy, this and that, just don’t do things which damage your nervous system. I mean, that was one of my realizations before I started to meditate, because I had been taking drugs for about a year, and I had been arrested a couple of times, dropped out of high school. So, I’m sitting there one night on LSD reading a Zen book to steady my mind, and I thought, “These guys are really serious and I’m kind of screwing around. I’ve been thinking about enlightenment for a year, meanwhile taking drugs the whole time.” I thought, “If I continue on like this, I could really do some damage and I’ll have to live the rest of my life in a damaged nervous system.” Believe me, my thought process wasn’t as coherent as it is at the moment, as I’m explaining it, but that was the idea I got. So, I thought, “That’s it. I’m gonna quit taking drugs and learn to meditate, and hopefully things will improve,” and they did. So I’m just cautioning a bit.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.
Rick Archer: I mean, I was standing in a grocery store yesterday, waiting for Irene to come from a different part of the store. As I was standing there, I happened to be looking at a case of beer on the floor because it had this interesting picture on the case. This friend of mine walked up, who’s an awakened dude. I mean, he witnesses sleep, he’s aware 24/7. He said, “Hey, I bet you’d like a beer.” I said, “I had one about 10 years ago after cutting the grass. I was really hot one day. A friend offered me one.” And he said, “I have one pretty often. I like to have some pizza and a beer.” And I thought, “That’s interesting.” So maybe I’m a little bit repressive, but my father was an alcoholic, so I have an aversion to the whole scene anyway.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, yeah. No, I totally hear what you’re saying and I agree. My tendency in the past was– even in meditation retreats I’ve fried my nervous system. I’d just be going in with guns blazing and trying to storm the gates of heaven.
Rick Archer: Safety first.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, it doesn’t work. So, yeah, and with the beer example, maybe it’s a bad example. Like for me, I don’t drink beer, just because my body doesn’t like it and I prefer to be more awake than in that state. But I was just kind of using that as an example to illustrate that the particular object is not it.
Rick Archer: Yeah. There was a story about Shankara. I doubt this is a true story, but it illustrates the point. He was walking along with some disciples and he was walking ahead of them. They saw him stop at something and drink it, and then he kept walking. When they got up to it, they said, “Oh, it’s beer.” The way I heard the story, it was beer. So they drank some, and they all kept walking. Then they got to another thing and they saw Shankara stop and drink something. They got up to it and were getting ready to drink it, and they saw that it was molten glass. In other words– I won’t even elaborate on the point of the story. People probably get something out of it.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, yeah.
Rick Archer: Okay, let’s talk about some other points you sent me that look interesting. I want to loop back to one just for a second that I continue to always find fascinating, and that is the intelligence of the universe, which you illustrate so beautifully in your movies. There’s a saying by Brian Swimme, who’s a cosmologist. He says, “Leave hydrogen alone for 13.7 billion years and you get giraffes and rose bushes and opera.”
Daniel Schmidt: I love that. Beautiful. Yeah.
Rick Archer: You probably heard that before. And so the question is, there are actually materialists who say, “Well, the universe is random and meaningless. The only reason we have all this order and beauty and structure is that there are an infinite number of universes, and we happen to luck out and be in the one where randomly through chance everything just kind of came together.” But that doesn’t make sense, because we have the second law of thermodynamics in this universe, and there’s no reason in terms of that law why all this order should have arisen out of chaos. And so, again, I’m fascinated and awed by the orderliness that arises out of hydrogen, that gave us stars, that ended up exploding, that ended up creating heavier elements, that ended up creating biological life eventually, then ended up with us having this conversation. It just thrills me and intrigues me why all of this should come out of apparent nothingness.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, yeah. For some reason, I’m thinking of something that Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj spoke about. He spoke about how when fluids come together and the I AM appears. Have you heard about that? Heard of that? Okay, to me, when he says that–
Rick Archer: What does he mean by that?
Daniel Schmidt: What he means by that is, there’s this self-organizing aspect to existence. So, he’s talking about within the framework of his body. To me, I experience what feels maybe like cerebrospinal fluid moving, moving. So, in certain awakening experiences you feel that the energy is conducted up the spine.
Rick Archer: There’s a guy named Mauro Zappaterro who talks about that a lot, if you Google him, cerebrospinal fluid. He speaks at the SAND conference. Anyway, continue.
Daniel Schmidt: Oh, interesting. Okay, I’ll check that out. So, to me, I would say, even energy comes together, and the I AM appears. It depends how you frame it, right? Like you, there are all these different levels, right? Like the physical, there’s this fluid aspect, there’s the pranic aspect, whatever it is that is happening, this convergence happens and there’s an intelligence there. It’s an intelligence so great that consciousness comes into being, in the sense of in the center of it. And the unfathomable thing is that in a samadhi state, everything is that, every atom. There is an I in every atom. There is at the center of everything, of every star, my cup on the table– it’s all that. So, somehow this consciousness is at the center of it. We’re so enmeshed in this filtering, but when we go beyond the filter, it becomes– I don’t want to say clear, but– The Upanishads, they say, “Not that which the eye sees, but that by which the eye can see. Not that which the ear hears–” So, that by which the mind thinks, that by which the eye sees, what is that? What is that?
Rick Archer: And why should there be eyes and ears and cups, and all this stuff? What is that? How does all this come into being, or into apparent existence at least?
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, yeah.
Rick Archer: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi had an interesting take on this. He said that until the Self is realized, there’s really not much talk about really understanding or appreciating what the world is, because who understands it? Who appreciates it? If the knower doesn’t know it himself, Itself, there’s really no knowledge of any veracity. But he said that once the Self is realized, then naturally one begins to appreciate the universe more, appreciate the world more. And one begins to have the desire to know how this came about, when, how, who created all this, what is that intelligence that gave rise to this beautiful creation. He said that that desire becomes more and more intense, or more and more profound, or deep, or whatever, and at a certain point, that Creator, whatever we want to find that as being, reveals Himself or Itself to us. He said it’s like an artist who keeps hearing that there’s this guy in this town who just loves my artwork. And he keeps hearing this more and more and more. Finally, he thinks, “I need to go meet this guy. I’ll go to him, because there are so few people who really appreciate my artwork, I’d like to like to know this person.”
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. Yeah, I love what you said about the Maharishi. I think it’s such a true thing. It’s like the answer to the question can never come in the mind, but we can be the answer. We can literally become the answer. So, there are no more questions when you are the answer. It’s only the limited mind trying to figure it out. And to me, the closest I’ve come to that is, it’s like the limited self is in a state of awe, a state of just absolute awe of what is coming out of nothing, coming from this unfathomable center, an unfathomable intelligence that’s so far beyond. To say that we’re like a monkey watching it is not even– it’s just mysterious.
Yeah. Do you remember that Einstein quote about awe that you put in your movie?
Daniel Schmidt: Generally. I remember it’s in there. I can’t remember exactly how it goes. But yeah, we’re like little children trying to read this book in a foreign language, and that’s it. I have a really amazing book by a guy, Alexander Lauterwasser, he’s an expert in cymatics. The book is called Water Sound Images, and it’s images of vibration. When you look at these things, page after page after page– he’ll show a gong vibrating the water and what it looks like.
Rick Archer: Oh, yeah, you showed some of that in one of your movies. Yeah.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, yeah. There’s one, I think it’s a didgeridoo. It looks like some kind of Sanskrit language vibrating. Just unfathomable complexity arising out of just simple sounds and these interference patterns creating this unimaginable complexity. These are just simple sounds, and you see the complexity and the intelligence in it. Then you think about how much there is in a human being. This is just a plate of water being vibrated by a note. There’s so much more going on within us. So, it gets to levels of complexity that are just unfathomable.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And I think both the Vedas and physics would say that the whole universe arises out of vibration. So, this plate/water thing is just a little home example. But the Vedas themselves are supposed to be vibratory impulses that reside in what is called Akshare, the transcendental Akasha, and that through self-interaction somehow there’s this whole process where the universe emerges, and then eventually collapses and emerges again. Physics has corresponding understandings in terms of something they call sequential, spontaneous symmetry breaking, where there’s a primordial harmony or wholeness, which gets broken into more and more fragments, different, more and more diverse and specific laws of nature through the process of manifestation.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. Recently we invited a fellow who does iboga retreats to the center, and I had a teaching or an experience through that. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with it. It’s an entheogenic.
Rick Archer: It’s an entheogen, right.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, along the lines of ayahuasca, but has very different properties. It’s an amazing meditation tool, actually, because there’s a real truth component to it where it shows you the stuff you don’t want to see about yourself. It showed me in a beautiful visual experience, but also energetically within my body. There were these forms, like this ether, and forms just being birthed out of it over and over and over endlessly. Then I felt like the consciousness that I was, was sort of dancing. You just do this little dance, and then you dive back into the ether and another form is born, and that dives back in. But it showed me there were some beings who had, as they were diving back in, they had a look of terror on their face. They weren’t just going with this dance. So it really showed that what we’re doing, our fears, everything that we’re resisting in this world, we’re not really dancing that dance, for the most part. Life and death is just arising over and over and over and over, but unless we’re aligned with awareness, we don’t see it as a dance. We’re fearful of this little “me” getting dissolved back in the primordial soup.
Rick Archer: Well, that’s the key point, being aligned with awareness.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah.
Rick Archer: Which, of course, words fail because you are awareness, but somehow aligned with yourself, or in tune with yourself, or awake to yourself, or whatever. And then when we say “yourself,” that has an individual connotation, but it’s not really individual. So, you have to take a leap of understanding when we use words because words are relative and limiting.
A couple of questions came in. This is from Rez Abasi from New York. He says, “When you say, ‘Live life,’ doesn’t that come with attachments, the thing we’re advised not to get sucked into? How do you gauge if you’re leaning too much into life itself or the objective world?”
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. I think you mentioned the middle way, the balance, right? So, it’s just not repressing anything, denying anything that is. Like if I have passions, if I have something, I don’t want to close that down, but I don’t want to indulge it. My teacher talks about the little bosses that are inside of us, and you don’t want to feed those little bosses. You don’t want to be having these autonomous patterns running in you that are ruling your life where you’re grasping at things, either. So, the middle way is to realize– I love the old Buddha statues, the really old ones that you find in the ancient temples that have the Nagas around them.
Rick Archer: Snakes.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, the Buddha figure in the center. And then you’ve got these– sometimes they’re like the chakras. The ones of Patanjali have the seven chakras, or sometimes five, but they’re at attention. So, it’s these lower instincts. The serpent analogy is that there are these lower forces that have their own agenda, right? They’re cravings. They’re these little bosses that govern our lives. So, when we awaken as awareness, like in those statues, they’re at attention. The master is in the center and they’re at attention. So, you don’t get rid of the Nagas. You don’t cut their heads off, but you harness them. They become the lower. The devil is the angel, that it’s all one being, right? So we have to learn to allow these things to coexist inside of us. If we’re pushing one part of ourselves away, we’re fighting with ourselves, we’re fighting what is inside of us. So, to me, it’s like the marriage of heaven and hell has to happen.
Rick Archer: There’s a couple of Gita verses that I think address his question. Chapter Two, verse 45 says, “Be without the three gunas,” which means transcend, which means meditate, which means go into samadhi, right? And then three verses later it says, “Established in yoga,” we could also say established in samadhi, “perform action.” So, he’s not just saying, go fight this battle. He’s saying, prepare yourself by getting established in the Self, getting established in samadhi, then do it, and the outcome will be completely different. It’s like, if you want to shoot an arrow, do you just put it on the bow and let go? No, you have to pull it back first.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And I think there’s something there, where once you’ve realized your true nature, you’re not identified with the self, then you can play with these things as well. You know, at the beginning, there is huge value to having no preference, because that, having no preference, is the stopping of the vrittis and stopping of this endless cycle of craving and aversion. But then once you’ve realized the true Self, then you’re free to play– and you have to be careful still. My Dan-structure loves chocolate and I can eat chocolate and it tastes amazing, and it produces a nice kind of heart feeling. So why wouldn’t I eat it? But there’s a little boss that I have to keep an eye on, that if he starts to get strong, he’ll eat too much and it’ll start to hurt my liver. It’s not good for me in excess. So, we get an understanding of these different parts of us that are in play and we just manage them. It’s like having a pet, kind of. You don’t want to overfeed your pet, but you don’t want to starve your pet either.
Rick Archer: That’s true of just about anything. I mean, a little salt on your vegetables makes them taste better. Dump the whole saltshaker on and you ruined them. You know, there are so many examples of things that are good in a certain proportion, but too much of it is not good.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, the golden mean, the middle way. This is how the yin and yang operate. There is a wisdom that we can connect to that guides us. To me, it’s very connected to energy. Like when for me, I just feel when things are off. I can just feel in my body that a certain situation is not right or a certain thing is not good for me. And the energy can be kind of like the canary in the coal mine kind of thing. Even relationships. Sometimes, before I even know consciously, the energy is already deciding things for me. It’s already moving in a particular direction.
Rick Archer: A question came in. We’ve kind of covered this, but maybe you can elaborate a bit. Rodrigo in Lisbon, Portugal asks, “What was the process of writing the script of Samadhi?”
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, I didn’t mention.
Rick Archer: You write a lot.
Daniel Schmidt: It came out of meditation, basically. In music they speak about the muse, right? There’s a part of us, and it’s unfathomable. Sometimes it’s just that you feel drawn to–
Rick Archer: You feel like a channel sometimes? Or this is bigger than you and you’re just kind of going along for the ride? You’re an instrument of the Divine or of something much wiser and larger than yourself.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, yeah. And I’m even saying I’m not a particularly good instrument. I’m just normal. And that’s one thing I’d like to talk about a little bit, maybe, is that I don’t know if I’ve really conveyed– I talk about a lot of this stuff that has happened to me that seem like extraordinary experiences, but I’m a pretty normal, regular person. Most of my life I was pretty embedded in the Matrix, and I truly feel like just through meditation it’s opened up this connection. But for different people it can be art, it can be music, it can be whatever. It can be a gift to communicate with people in some way or to open your hearts. So these channels, they’re just there. It’s like we have seeds of possibility within us, and the bringing awareness to and stopping the flow of energy into these conditioned fears and patterns and jobs, the stuff that we put all of our energy into in life, we can bring that into alignment with these seeds and grow them together, potentially.
Rick Archer: Nice. Rodrigo also wonders what your daily practice is.
Daniel Schmidt: Right now I would say it changes, because right now I’m in the middle of a 10-day retreat, which we do. So, I’m doing a lot of meditation, obviously, at that, but Tanya and I do about two hours every morning.
Rick Archer: Two hours of what?
Daniel Schmidt: Of seated meditation.
Rick Archer: So you actually do it.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. Basically, for me meditation has really changed over the years. For me it’s in terms of what Krishnamurti speaks about as choiceless awareness. I think his description of choiceless awareness is probably the best description of where I’ve ended up. For me there’s no doing in the meditation whatsoever. It’s a penetrating into what the mind is already doing and then letting it go. The challenge is that most of what the mind is doing is unconscious. So, we have to penetrate into the layers of mind by being present, being single-pointedly aware. But there’s no doing that, it’s just being aware, and then mind patterns will become visible and then we can drop those patterns. Or they just self-drop once they’re conscious because you realize you’re doing it and then it’s like, ‘Why am I doing that?” So drop it.
Rick Archer: So the two hours go pretty smoothly? Is it enjoyable, or are you sitting there struggling for a couple hours?
Daniel Schmidt: Again, it depends. The practice is to be equanimous, so things come and go. Sometimes there’s incredible bliss, sometimes there’s pain. For me the practice has changed a lot over the years. Definitely at the beginning of the practice there was a lot more pain and struggle and slogging through the mind. Now, if I look at what’s happening in my mind during the meditation there’s a lot less mind activity, a lot less vrittis and thought. I would say the actual droppings, the cessations, are more frequent now than before.
Rick Archer: When people come to your center and learn to meditate and do a retreat, are you able to save them from a lot of the pain and struggle you went through because you’ve learned things that enable you to teach them in such a way as to do it more effortlessly from the outset?
Daniel Schmidt: Yes and no. I think anybody who comes, you’re going to have to learn to surrender inside. You’re going to have to face your pain. You’re going to have to learn to stop this process of craving and aversion. When you’re not reacting, that’s a painful process for everyone. People go through that, they have awakenings and emotional releases, and they want to leave, they think this is hell. They take their little strolls through hell. But if somebody has had previous experiences, I think there is value in being able to speak about what’s going on. There are certain traps, certain pitfalls on the path. I think people can end up with concepts in their minds about what meditation is, and if those concepts aren’t dispelled, they can spend a lot of time just polishing tiles. One thing that often happens is people will get some idea about anatta or no-self, and they go into almost like a stupor state or a dull state. There are a lot of pitfalls on the path.
Rick Archer: So you help to dispel some of those notions, yeah?
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. I see my role at the center is to just share what I’ve learned. I’m still constantly learning from people, understanding how this all works, and I feel like I’m still just at the beginning of my understanding.
Rick Archer: It’s a good attitude. I think we should all do that. And people I’m sure aren’t kissing your feet.
Daniel Schmidt: No, and really, I try and set up the relationship as well as I can. This is one of the things Tanya slaps me with all the time, because people do come and they think that I’m something.
Rick Archer: Like some kind of big shot or something.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, some kind of teacher. But to me, I just want to be. I just want to be free. I don’t want to be playing out some teacher archetype, and if I am, I’m not free. If somebody has that label on me, they’re not free and I’m not free. And I truly see myself more as just– I want to be in more like a friend relationship with someone, just helping them on the spiritual path.
Rick Archer: Yeah. A question just came in from someone named Chitra in California. She asks, “Meditation lately has been in different forms. If I do choiceless awareness, my mind is raising random thoughts, which I am aware of, and then I feel mantra or one-pointedness helps that. Otherwise, I guess just mantra is more helpful than random awareness, or choiceless awareness. What do you recommend for general people to do to make rapid progress?”
Daniel Schmidt: Well, the way we teach it at the center, we kind of feel it out with every individual and every group. So, kind of try and meet people where they’re at.
Rick Archer: Customize it.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, yeah. So, there are people who really get the nondual teachings and that’s what’s going to help them at that particular point. Other times we have tons of different techniques. Like if the mind is racing, you can start to really turn awareness towards thoughts themselves and start to penetrate into that pattern. So, you can see thoughts are either visual, auditory, or sometimes they’re both. So, you can start to observe these different qualities of thinking, and you start to see whatever’s going on. Any hindrance that’s coming up, you’re kind of doing the same thing, you’re penetrating into the pattern in different ways, seeing the movement of the pattern. It’s not like this gross kind of thing that’s just overtaking you in consciousness, but you can start to keep an eye on the movement. So, there are a lot of tools like that, or vipassana techniques of noting thoughts, as well, starting to understand what’s happening. All of these tools can be useful, I think, at certain points in the journey, to start to really bring awareness inside of the pattern and start to break it up, start to get a sense of the energy of it and the movement of it.
Rick Archer: Do you do some yoga there? When I used to do long courses, like six weeks, six months, we would break it up. We’d meditate for an hour or whatever, and then do 20 minutes of yoga postures, and then meditate another hour, and then do 20 minutes of yoga postures, just so as to kind of integrate.
Daniel Schmidt: Yes. Yeah, we do. We give it, but basically, it’s self-directed. So, we have an area in the zendo where people can do walking meditation between sits, or they can stand up. Not every day, but every second day, we do a yoga stretching kind of thing, as well. The way I teach at the center, or the structure that we’ve created there, is very self-directed. So, people are free to do what they want, as long as it’s not during times where it’s going to disturb other people.
Rick Archer: Right, yeah. Primal scream.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. For me, the whole yogic thing, I did two years of hatha yoga, which was helpful for me to be able to sit on a cushion comfortably, and that’s about it. I don’t really go into all the asanas and stuff like that, that’s not really part of what we’re doing. We teach it more as just kind of stretching, for the body to prepare it for sitting, basically. And yoga, to me, what that does is different for different people. For me, I’ve tried different types of yoga, and where I’ve ended up actually, it’s completely changed over my lifetime. At one point, I was doing more traditional yoga, but now I feel like my yoga is what grounds me and brings me into my body and living on the property. I work with wood. We heat our buildings with wood.
Rick Archer: So you chop down…
Daniel Schmidt: Chopping wood and chainsaw. I actually like to use a chainsaw. You have to be incredibly present and grounded, and it brings me right into my body. So, my yoga is chainsaw yoga. And if I do a few hours of that and then I go sit, it’s amazing. To me, because my vata dosha, I tend to be just ethereal and going off, and to be here is important for me. Whereas for other people, it’s about lightening up. It’s about the opposite. They want to be breaking up the pattern. So somebody who is a different dosha, a kundalini yoga class might be better because it’s creating all this upward moving energy. So, I think we try and meet people, give them the tools that will work for them.
Rick Archer: Be careful with that chainsaw. I sliced my leg open with one last year because I wasn’t being mindful enough. Like you just said, you need to be mindful. And I would recommend wearing protective gear, too.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. Good advice.
Rick Archer: Paul from San Marcos, California wants to know, “Did your vipassana experience heal your physical ailments?”
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, interesting. First of all, my idea of what healing is changed dramatically. So, at the beginning I just wanted to be able to go back and eat the crappy foods that I was feeding my body, and that to me was what I thought healing was. So my idea of healing completely changed, and I started to tune into what my body actually wanted, and that took many, many years. But, yes, for me in that vipassana experience, the pancreas area, when I did the body scan it was completely offline. There was no sensation. And then at a certain point, after quite a bit of meditation it started to wake up. Incredible pain, like a sword turning, for hours and hours and hours, and eventually it would start to dissolve as I got into deeper states of absorption. At those retreats, S.N. Goenka is always saying, “Everything arises and passes away. It’s all impermanent.” And he even says, “You probably think your pain is different. Yours is going to last forever.” And I really did, I really thought this one is never going to go away because this is a serious bodily problem. It was quite amazing when it actually dissolved the first time. Of course, it came back and I had to dissolve it again, over and over and over.
Rick Archer: Your type one diabetes and your arthritis are gone now?
Daniel Schmidt: Yes, yeah. So, I have no symptoms. I was told that I had to go on insulin for the rest of my life, and I don’t.
Rick Archer: And you don’t. That’s awesome.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, yeah. So, I’m symptom free. But if I went back to eating KFC and drinking lime coolers, I’d be back–
Rick Archer: You’d probably get sick again.
Daniel Schmidt: Right, but I shouldn’t say anything bad about KFC, I might get in trouble.
Rick Archer: Okay, so here’s one final question that Irene sent over to me. I’ll ask this, and then we’ll just wrap it up and have you tell us about how people can get in touch and what they can do. This one is, again, from Rez in New York City. He wants to know, “I’ve heard that there are many paths to enlightenment, but some point in the wrong direction. Even while speaking of enlightenment, don’t we need to exercise discretion in an age of the internet?”
Daniel Schmidt: Absolutely. Yeah. Skepticism for me, I would say don’t believe anything at all, period.
Rick Archer: Good point.
Daniel Schmidt: Seriously, do not believe anything, and find out within yourself whether it’s true.
Rick Archer: The Buddha said that. You’re quoting the Buddha there. Have you heard that quote?
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. Do you know the quote?
Rick Archer: Basically, it’s just don’t believe anything because somebody said it, even if I say it, the Buddha. Don’t, but check it out in your own experience and with your own reason and understanding.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah, I’m a total skeptic. I hear about all these different things, and I don’t disbelieve anything, but I don’t believe anything, either. I want to find out.
Rick Archer: Scientific attitude.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. Verify, and see what’s true. And I wouldn’t believe a word that’s coming out of my mouth, if I hadn’t experienced it. So, check it out. Do the meditation. If there’s one thing that will convey to someone– I’d love to get high level scientists in the room doing this type of meditation. To me, this is where it gets interesting, to see the nature of reality. But find out, use the body, use yourself as a laboratory.
Rick Archer: I think that science and a scientific attitude has a lot to offer spirituality. I also think that spirituality has a lot to offer science, because a lot of science is never going to be able to explore without the spiritual techniques and the proper utilization of the ultimate scientific instrument, which is our own mind and body. So, let’s talk a little bit about the Samadhi Center. I’m just going to show the website on the screen here. We have the Samadhi Center up there, out in the boonies somewhere between Toronto and Montreal. Looks like a beautiful place.
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. We’re almost dead center.
Rick Archer: Here we are, May 6th, and you tell me there’s still half a foot of snow on the ground in the woods. So, details about that.
Daniel Schmidt: About the snow?
Rick Archer: No, not the snow, but about the Samadhi Center. Like if people have become intrigued by listening to this interview, what can they do, both in terms of just visiting your website– firstly, they can watch your movies, which are online and free. They can visit your website. I think there are some meditation techniques they can learn from there. If they want to go in further, they can come to Canada, right?
Daniel Schmidt: Yeah. And we do personal retreats, so you can just come and do a self-directed retreat. Basically, you’d be meditating with Tanya and I in the morning. We’re available for instruction. And then the more formal retreats, like the 10-day retreats, are intensive meditation, which you’re basically doing meditation most of the day, and it’s broken up by different things. We use sound as well.
Rick Archer: Would you advise that someone who’s never really done meditation come in cold and just plunge into something like that?
Daniel Schmidt: Sure. Yeah. Absolutely.
Rick Archer: Or do you recommend that there be some kind of experience first building up to it?
Daniel Schmidt: No. I think sometimes people having experience who are really holding on to techniques and traditions sometimes have a harder time because they have to let go of that first. So, I’d say anybody can do it, and it’s an amazing way to get grounded in a meditation practice. So, I would say we encourage all levels, beginner to advanced.
Rick Archer: Great. Well, I’ll link to your website and I’ll link to your films and everything, and people can get in touch with you and watch the films. And what have you got planned for the future, with your reams and reams of notes? What’s gonna happen with that?
Daniel Schmidt: So the next film, the working title is, The Pathless Path. And so, Part Two, we kind of left off by saying there’s no “way” to the Way, there’s no “how” that the mind can grasp. So Part Three, we’re gonna tell you how.
Rick Archer: Good. I always like paradox and contradiction.
Daniel Schmidt: So, Part Three is going to be going into the perennial teaching, really looking at what is happening in the different meditation traditions and contemplative traditions and trying to get to the essence of what is happening, to strip away the self-structure so that the awareness can shine through.
Rick Archer: Wonderful. Well, I think it’s a great service you’re doing and I hope you do it for many, many years to come. Obviously, a lot of people are watching it and getting inspired and benefited by it. So keep it up.
Daniel Schmidt: Thank you. Thanks for the opportunity.
Rick Archer: Sure. So as anyone still watching knows, I’ve been speaking with Daniel Schmidt, who has made the Inner Worlds Outer Worlds and Samadhi films. I’ll be creating a page for him on BATGAP, which links to those things and to his website and everything else so you can get in touch with Daniel. Next week, I’ll be interviewing Michael Pollan, who wrote, How to Change Your Mind, and Christopher Bache, who also wrote a book about psychedelics. I think Diamonds from Heaven, is the subtitle, and I think that is going to be a fascinating discussion. We’ll be talking about psychedelics and what these two have experienced. Michael is relatively new to it. Chris Bache spent 20 years taking quite high dosage LSD trips in an extremely controlled way. He stopped doing that about 20 years ago, but he did it for 20 years. And so check it out. If you’d like to be notified of new interviews when they’re posted, sign up on batgap.com. There’s a little mailing list thing. If you’d like to listen to these as an audio podcast, there’s a tab for that on the site, and a number of other things. Just explore around and stay tuned. Hope to be doing this, like Daniel, for many years to come. So, thanks, Daniel.
Daniel Schmidt: Okay. Thanks, Rick.
Rick Archer: Okay, stay in touch.
Daniel Schmidt: You too.
Rick Archer: Bye bye.