Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of conversations with spiritually awakening people. We’ve done over 550 of them now and if you’d like to check out previous ones, please go to www.batgap.com and look under the past interviews menu. This program is made possible through the support of appreciative listeners and viewers, so if you appreciate it and would like to help support it, there’s a PayPal button on every page of the site. The interview you’re about to see was done in the context of a webinar offered in May by the Science and Non-Duality Conference entitled “Wisdom in Times of Crisis.” In addition to this interview, there were dozens of others, interviews and presentations with people like Vandana Shiva, Peter Levine, Gabor Maté, Deepak Chopra, Rupert Spira, and many others. Although the webinar is over now, it is archived online. There’s a link to the archive in the description beneath this video and on the page for this interview on www.batgap.com. So, enjoy the talk.
Rick: Welcome everyone to the Wisdom in Times of Crisis online event, where we explore and reflect on the challenges and opportunities this unique time is offering us. My name is Rick Archer, I do the Buddha at the Gas Pump podcast. I’m delighted to have as my guest for this hour, Dorothy Hunt. Dorothy is the spiritual director of Moon Mountain Sangha. She’s a psychotherapist, author, poet, mother and grandmother. And she is the author of “Ending the Search, From Spiritual Ambition to the Heart of Awareness,” published by Sounds True. As Dorothy puts it, she sees this world as arising from a single heart, the heart of awareness, and our humanness as an expression of the infinite mystery living itself through form. I interviewed Dorothy about five years ago at the we’ll get into today. I just listened to that interview the other day and it was a good one. We covered a lot of ground in 15 minutes there, so if you like, you might want to listen to that one too and I’ll provide a link to it on the BatGap page for this interview. Or those of you who are watching this during the webinar can just go to BatGap and look her up. I want to mention one aspect of Dorothy’s bio that we didn’t cover back then. She recently told me that a few years ago she took Seth Curry’s, Steph Curry’s online master class in basketball. She had never really played basketball, but tried in her late 70s. She’s probably not going to go pro though because she said that she could never get beyond the fifth class where you were supposed to practice until you could make five shots in a row from five different positions before heading to class six. But you probably made four shots in a row.
Dorothy: Oh, no.
Dorothy: No, not that far. I never got that far.
Rick: Anyway, I thought it was pretty cool that you tried or that you took that class.
Dorothy: Yeah, I enjoyed it. I enjoy just watching Steph Curry any old time.
Rick: Yeah, he’s great to watch. And it’s always good to try new things, you know, and to do new things. It kind of like keeps the brain lively.
Rick: It does, challenges. So you and I have been corresponding a little bit over the past few days and, you know, talking a little bit about our personal reactions to this crisis. You’ve been counseling people as a psychotherapist and as a Buddhist teacher also in dokusan, I guess you’d put it in the context of Buddhism, but, and you know, having private meetings with spiritual people. And you mentioned that, you know, they’re having some normal anxiety reactions and you feel drawn to helping them feel more accepting of the what is of life, feelings, expansions, contractions, etc. bringing it all into the compassionate heart rather than obsessing about it through the judging mind. So maybe we can use that as a little springboard for our conversation and I’ll let you take it from there. And then I’m sure I’ll have more questions.
Dorothy: Oh, okay. Well, I don’t really consider myself a Buddhist teacher, but you know, Adyashanti invited me to teach many years ago and of course that was his original tradition. But yeah, I do see people for what we would call spiritual mentoring, I guess, dokusan and the tradition that he came from and I also follow. But I think because most of the people that I see are spiritual seekers of one sort or another at this point, at least in my career, if you want to call it that, so many judge themselves for having feelings. You know, if I were really awake, I would never feel and then, you know, fill in the blank, sadness or anger or whatever. And it feels to me like the lack of knowledge of who and what we truly are makes it so much harder for people to accept their humanness, you know, this unique expression of the mystery that we all are. So I try to catch it in those terms because that’s how I see the world, you know, that this that we really don’t even need to name is expressing itself in all kinds of infinite forms and flavors and energies.
Rick: Yeah, and how would you characterize someone who does know who and what they really are? What’s different about them from somebody who doesn’t?
Dorothy: Well, one thing is there’s a tremendous freedom to be in the moment where we are, you know, to experience what’s here. Because this, that’s our true nature is not, it’s not the same as conditioned mind in the sense that it’s not judging. It just doesn’t judge. It just sees clearly. So that clear seeing is available in all of us because we all have this awake presence, whether we’re conscious of it or not. So that’s one of the main things. I think also just seeing that the world is yourself, you know, that really we’re not an us and them, even though life moves like, that in the mind. And the, you know, duality is here. It’s not a mistake. You know, there isn’t non-duality and duality as that’s another duality. So from my perspective, it’s seeing that it’s all of the same source. It’s all coming from the same ground, you know? And when we do see that, it’s so much more difficult. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but it’s so much more difficult to judge, you know, to judge what should and shouldn’t be here if it’s already here.
Rick: So in other words, you more naturally take things in stride.
Dorothy: You could say that.
Rick: Yeah. Maybe another way of saying it would be that you, well, go with the flow obviously is a common phrase, but you begin to sort of trust the inherent wisdom in the way creation is orchestrated and you see that it’s not accidental or random or arbitrary and that there’s sort of an intelligence to it that you can begin to trust even.
Dorothy: Yeah, you know, you do trust that the bigger dimension or the deeper dimension of yourself and of the world and really to trust how that wants to move in you, you know, because all of us have that dimension of truth, wisdom, love, whatever words we want to talk about how it can feel. But, you know, you trust how life is moving. And that’s sometimes hard in this era that we find ourselves now. You know, there’s a lot of challenge for a lot of people. But still, there’s some kind of transformation, I feel, happening on a global level, really.
Rick: Yeah, I want to get into that with you. But before we do, you mentioned that, you know, even the mostly so-called spiritual people that you talk with, some of them are kind of hard on themselves because they’re having feelings and reactions that they feel perhaps are not “spiritual,” you know?
Rick: I’m kind of reminded of J.P. Sears’ whole comedy routine about being ultra-spiritual.
Dorothy: Yes, yes, yes.
Rick: And so, you know, and I’ve heard it argued both ways. I mean, I’ve heard some people argue that, well, you know, a person could be so-called enlightened and yet be an alcoholic or be an abusive person or be a womanizer or do all this crazy stuff. And, you know, when I hear that, I think, well, why bother getting enlightened then? And then I hear other people say, well, no, you’re going to be purified of all that and your behavior will be much more wholesome, much more life-supporting, much more harmonious, much less harmful to other people. Where do you stand on that argument?
Dorothy: Well, for the first thing, I would say is a person is not who gets enlightened.
Rick: Good point.
Dorothy: Enlightenment is itself. It’s what we are if we discover it, if we realize it. It’s what’s already here. So, I mean, that’s step number one, is when it actually happens that you experience this awakeness awakening to itself, right?
Rick: Yeah, but even then you said, when we realize it and you experience it and so on. So, there’s still some kind of a person involved in the equation.
Dorothy: Well, there is the experiencer, and that’s where we can inquire who that is. Who is the experiencer of whether we would call it enlightenment or rage or anything, who or what? So, if it weren’t for this that’s awake and aware in each of us, we would not know our experience at all, no matter what it is. So, it feels to me as though that’s one thing I would respond to in terms of what you were speaking about. But the second thing is, is to wake up to your true nature, you know, it’s not the same as growing up, you know, those are different movements, we might say. So, there’s a maturation on the level of spirit, if we want to say, I mean, spirit doesn’t evolve, but our experiences shift and change. But then, you know, we’ve all known and you more than any, because you’ve been interviewed so many people over so many years, you know, there can be a deep and authentic awakening. And still, shadow aspects of the human being are not into the light yet, but life will show all of us where those places of separation continue. And to me, that’s sort of the ongoing challenge for any of us who care and who are devoted to truth.
Rick: Yeah, and sometimes there’s a sort of acceleration of life showing us those places, those shadow places, you know, once the light has gotten brighter inside.
Rick: We can’t sort of keep, sweep those under the carpet so easily anymore.
Dorothy: No, no, no. And a lot of people think they’ve done something wrong, you know, they’ve had some lovely opening one time or another, and then all this stuff starts coming up that, you know, people say, “I thought I dealt with that in therapy 20 years ago,” and so forth and so on. But to me, it’s a movement of love, really, to show us, you know, where we’re still separating, you know, ourself from something or show us what in ourselves needs to be seen, to be loved, to be taken out of the closet, come out from under the rug we’ve swept it under or whatever it is, in order to come back to the wholeness of being. So that’s what I would invite anyone to do, is to bring those aspects of ourself into the heart, the heart of compassion that doesn’t actually judge it, it just sees it clearly for what it is. And we can have understandings and insights about where it came from, perhaps, but it’s not nearly so important as to allow the experience that perhaps never has been consciously allowed to be experienced. And that’s what I think can liberate an awful lot of our stuff.
Rick: Yeah. I think it can be very helpful to not harbor an understanding that at some point you’re going to reach some kind of final thing where you can just rest on your laurels and relax and you’re done, because I don’t know if anybody ever reaches that, and I’ve had talks with all kinds of people, including Adya, about this. It’s somehow more realistic and helpful to, you know, consider yourself a work in progress and always sort of realize that there’s growth yet to undergo.
Dorothy: One of my, I’ll just throw this in, one of my favorite quotes, and I don’t remember, it was a Buddhist teacher of some sort, said, “Finished, finished, finished. When you’re finally finished, you realize there’s nothing to finish.” And so, in the infinite we are, where could we stop? Where could we stop deepening our understanding or seeing, you know? It’s this moment, really. That’s the only time we can be awake.
Rick: And a minute ago you said, “bringing stuff into the heart that’s bubbling up.” How do you do that?
Rick: Well, a few ways, I suppose. One of the ways I would invite is to let your awareness come into the energy of the feeling or the sensation, as opposed to what the mind wants to do with it, is get rid of it. But if we just let our awareness, and this is simple awareness, you know, we don’t have to have big insights, but just the simple awareness, let it come into the energy of the moment, rather than the narrative or the story, because it’s the energy that’s been held in the body-mind, you know? And that gets hooked up with the story, but I mean, you and I both know the only way to really keep a feeling going is to keep telling ourselves the story. Otherwise, it has a kind of a short shelf life. The feelings, you know, they come and go pretty quickly, but the story we tell ourselves after the fact can keep it going for a lifetime. So as soon as that awareness comes in, it’s like, let it come into that, the energy of the experience without any attempt to change it, judge it, get rid of it, do something with it, just letting it be what it is. And that begins to transform things from the inside, you know? One of the hand gestures that Adya used when I used to go on retreats with him long ago would be like this, you know, when awareness comes in, it begins to liberate from the inside. You know, the mind just wants to pry apart whatever, you know, doing its striving thing to get some result. But this is, it’s much more gentle, but it also is more effective, I think, in transforming things, because every feeling, you know, it has many dimensions to it. And a lot of times, another piece of this is to see what’s underneath. Okay, so there might be sadness and underneath that, or there might be anger, often anger is a great defense, might be anger and underneath that there’s sadness. And if you keep going, maybe there’s fear. If you keep going, you keep going, you can’t help, you can’t help if you go far enough to bump into your true nature, because source of all things. So, any moment, including these that we’re experiencing in this time, can be a portal to the deepest dimension that we can connect to.
Rick: So, let’s take a concrete example. So, let’s say someone, you know, they’ve lost a job because of the coronavirus, and they’re watching the news a lot, and they’re pretty much shut down, locked at home, getting bored, getting on the nerves of other people in the house, and vice versa.
Dorothy: I hear a lot of that.
Rick: Yeah. And I hear divorces are up in China after the, you know, the shutdown has lifted. And feeling kind of scared, you know, maybe they have some friends who’ve gotten the virus, and they’re afraid they’re going to get it, and they don’t know how they’re going to pay the bills next month. So, there’s all this stuff, you know, and you see people on the news kind of reporting that this is the way they feel. And most of the people I see on the news I don’t think have access to spiritual practices or meditation or anything, but most of the people listening to this webinar do, and most of the people you speak with do. So, let’s say you’re speaking with one such person, how do you, you’re only going to be speaking to them for an hour or something, and then they’re going to be on their own for a week. What practical, systematic advice do you give them so that throughout the course of the week, as these feelings come up, they can do what you’re advocating? Like, should they sit and close their eyes? I mean, how do you?
Dorothy: Well, I think, I mean, just a very simple, practical thing is to really pay attention to what you’re feeding your mind. Because so many people, you know, are completely addicted. Well, we’re all addicted to thinking on one level, but are addicted to the 24-hour news cycle and the breaking news about the coronavirus, and it just feeds, feeds, feeds, feeds fear and anxiety. We’re not talking about closing our eyes and pretending nothing’s happening in this world. But all of us need a balance, you know, we can become so ingrained with the stories of, you know, that are tragic, you know. Many people are struggling, many people are deeply afraid and affected, but the birds are still singing in your backyard, you know. The trees are still blooming. It’s spring, at least in this hemisphere. It’s, you know, there’s life and there’s now. And now, what’s, you know, what’s actually in here now is really a great antidote to the mind just spinning, you know. Like, what is the light like on the walls right now? What is out your window if you have a window to look at? You know, we’re not trying to say this isn’t happening, but balance, you know, it feels like we all need a balance in a practical way. And the practice, you know, is just to turn your attention to that which is not in a crisis, you know. There’s, I mean, what I called for the SAND offering the clear eye, E-Y-E, as well as the capital I, in the center of a storm. Because there is this dimension of ourself that is not threatened. And so, the mind can be threatened, the body can feel its response, but something isn’t threatened by anything. And so, the more attention we can pay to that, even in small doses, you know, it doesn’t have to be hours of sitting, but just to turn your attention to that which really can accept the moment, accept the feelings, bring some kind of understanding and compassion to the moment. And also, let us be in touch with what’s already at peace and already quiet in the midst of a storm.
Rick: That’s a good one. I remember, I think it was Thoreau who said that he didn’t really follow the news because there wasn’t any. It was the same old stories rehashed with just different characters, you know. Of course, he lived in a cabin in the woods. Most of us aren’t doing that, and I think there’s a balance somewhere, but it’s definitely possible to overdose on.
Dorothy: Lots of people are.
Rick: You can sit there and watch CNN or Fox News or whatever all day long and just get obsessed with it. But like you say, there’s some beautiful things to put your attention on. I mean, I know you mentioned you watch the birds in your backyard and you watch comedies at night.
Dorothy: I do.
Rick: And I’ve been taking walks in the woods every day and listening to the people I’m going to interview next and just, you know, they’re not talking about the coronavirus, so I have a break from that.
Dorothy: Yeah, yeah. And I mean, I think, you know, as many other people have noticed, you know, the environment, at least temporarily, is clearing up a bit with the factories shutting down and no cars, hardly, at least in some states.
Rick: Oh, yeah. Yeah, you’ve heard those stories. I mean, you can see the Himalayas from the Punjab, but you know, 100 miles away.
Dorothy: Yeah, yeah.
Rick: It’s been years since that’s been possible.
Dorothy: Yeah, so that’s kind of the possibility that exists, I think, in terms of what’s going on. And you know, this that we are, it operates as a whole, the wholeness of being operates in service to the whole, not just in service to a me, you know? So when you have that bigger perspective, there’s more space to at least contemplate that something important may be happening, transformationally. I can’t tell you what the outcome will be, but it does feel like there’s a big opportunity here to learn how to live more simply, to begin to really be grateful for the small things that we’ve taken for granted, you know, to open our heart to each other. You know, many people are doing that. That’s one of the beautiful things that we see and hear throughout this.
Rick: Yeah, it’s kind of interesting if you look back on history to see how profound changes took place, you know, over a course of a decade or two, sometimes like pre-World War II to post-World War II, or the 50s to the 60s, you know, or the 90s with hardly any internet the way it is now. It’s like the whole society is different, and yet when you’re in it, when you’re living in the society at that time, you can’t really envision what it might be like, and you don’t really assume that it will be that different. You kind of take for granted that, “Oh, this is normal. This is kind of the way it is.” So, you know, like you said, you can’t really speculate as to what the future might be, but I think a lot of us feel that some major shift is afoot, and that, you know, it’s going to be interesting to watch things unfold, and we might find ourselves living in a very different world in the distant future.
Dorothy: We might, indeed. And then, you know, if we look back at history, there have been pandemics and depressions and really difficult, difficult times that our ancestors went through, and yet here we are.
Dorothy: Something survived, or you and I wouldn’t be here, right? >>Yeah. >>And so, you know, we can go through it. I mean, I think of my mother-in-law, who at the age of 16 during the depression had to quit high school to go to work, and she was the only person with an income for a family of seven at that point. You know, you look back at what people went through in the Great Depression, and it’s not to say it was a piece of cake. It was very, very challenging, of course, but we do have a very resilient spirit, I believe, you know, all of us as human beings, and we can draw on that. We will get through it.
Rick: Yeah. Or look at Londoners during World War II during the Blitz, you know, just getting the heck bombed out of the city and, you know, or even what people are going through now in various parts of the world. So, I don’t know. We can, despite the difficulties, we can count our blessings.
Dorothy: We certainly can, and I think also, you know, this is one of the gifts of this time is that we can’t help but be face-to-face with impermanence. Now, a lot of minds don’t particularly like to be faced with the truth of impermanence, but this is where we can maybe begin to learn to live more comfortably with paradox, you know. There is this dimension that’s not threatened, that’s never been in crisis, and then there’s whatever’s going on in this human expression of it, you know. From my perspective, the divine is here having a human experience, so, you know, we’re not excluding any of that experience. How could we? In the wholeness of being, there’s darkness and light, you know. There’s all kinds of aspects, you know, infinite expressions of the infinite, we could say. And there’s always paradox.
Rick: Yep. Have you found that you’re dreaming more at night?
Dorothy: I don’t know that I’m dreaming more, but I have experience of waking up sometimes a little bit more during this time, and then you remember dreams more if you wake up right after them.
Rick: Yeah. The reason I ask is that, you know, my wife and I, and many people I’ve talked to say, “Yeah, my dreams seem so much more vivid and intense.” And they actually did a story on ABC News about this, everybody’s dreaming more, and they asked some doctor and she said, “Well, that’s because people have been sleep-deprived and now they’re sleeping more, so therefore they’re dreaming more.” But I’m not sleep-deprived, and yet I find that the intensity of my dreams is more, and I have a theory that there’s some kind of a quickening of collective consciousness, you know, of the field, and it’s intensifying, and it’s showing up as more intense dreaming, but I also think that it offers greater opportunity for rapid spiritual growth if one pursues that, that spiritual practice will be even more fruitful now than it might have been in a different time, that somehow there’s a wave that we can ride, you know, because of some kind of awakening that’s taking place in collective consciousness.
Dorothy: I think that many of us don’t appreciate the power of energy, the collective energy, and it can be the collective energy of fear, which there’s a lot of, but it can also be the collective energy of awakening, of opening the heart, of feeling more love and compassion, people singing to each other, and you know, when they get off their shifts, people, anyway, they’re lovely stories in that respect. But yeah, I think there’s an opportunity, I mean, people that I talk to say that being home, at least in California, we’re still sheltering in place as a state order, but so many people I talk to feel like they’re on retreat, you know, that you don’t have the usual places or types of distractions, you know, you can’t go to a restaurant, you can’t go to movies or concerts, so forth. And so you’re really at home with yourself in a way that draws, I think, draws a lot of people’s attention to contemplate what’s the most important thing. And that’s a very important question for all of us.
Rick: Yeah, it’s interesting. So the world is sort of doing a forced retreat.
Dorothy: Many people are. Of course, sometimes you’ve got your, if you’re a parent of young children, you’ve got your kids at home, they’re all, you know, taking their classes online. So you got the homeschooling thing going. And I’m not saying it’s a quiet retreat, but there is a retreat atmosphere for a lot of people.
Rick: Yeah. Yeah, so it is an opportunity. I’m sure we’ve all heard that Chinese pictograph for the word, what is it, crisis contains within it the symbol for the word opportunity or something.
Dorothy: Exactly, yeah. Minds don’t like to hear that in times of stress. This is a great opportunity.
Rick: Yeah, right.
Dorothy: But it actually is. It actually can be.
Rick: Yeah, you can make it that. I think you and I both in the emails we’ve exchanged, we both commented that, you know, we’re not feeling grief and fear ourselves, and although we’re in touch with people who are, and I wouldn’t say I feel guilty, but I also don’t want to feel, come across as insensitive or smug or something, I’m not afraid. Because obviously, our situations are probably very different than many other people’s situations. We have different types of ways of getting income and getting food and shelter and all that stuff. So, I’m not sure where I’m going with this point, but what’s your reflection on that? It’s just that you haven’t really, it’s like you said in one of your emails that if you weren’t watching the news, you wouldn’t even know there was a crisis going on.
Rick: Because it hasn’t really changed your life very much.
Dorothy: I do deeply miss hugging my grandchildren. That’s very different. They used to come to my house after school every single Monday. So, it’s not as though nothing’s changed or that there’s never a moment of anxiety. At the beginning, I think a lot of us felt anxious about what was happening, you know, and then as time has gone on, more and more people, if they haven’t gotten sick themselves, you know, feel more and more comfortable, perhaps, maybe to a fault. I don’t know. We’ll see. But yeah, you know, it’s sort of like you were talking about Thoreau, or I remember reading, you know, Thomas Merton long ago and how in the monastery, they didn’t even let them read the news. And I’m thinking, there’s a war going on then. There was a war going on. I can’t believe they couldn’t be prayed. And then I remembered, you know, people asking Ramana Maharshi, “Why aren’t you out preaching? Why aren’t you going here and there?” And he was saying, “You know, if you think words are powerful, silence is the great, great grandfather of words. And how much more powerful is that deep silence that we truly are? And what is it to put that energy into the world, as opposed to more words or more fear or more ideas?” You know, none of that is wrong. But yeah, I think there are a lot of ways that we can be responsible and contemplatively think about what we’re putting into the world right now. What is the energy? What’s the energy? So I don’t think anyone should feel guilty if they feel peace. You know?
Rick: No. Incidentally, it’s interesting to note that Ramana Maharshi used to read the newspaper and listen to the radio. And you know, he went through World War II and all, I mean, not so much in India, but he was tuned into what was happening in the world and thinking about it and concerned about it.
Dorothy: Absolutely. And did that disturb the deep peace of that silence? It didn’t appear. It didn’t appear to do that, but you know, it could be our projection.
Rick: But what you just said, what did you just say before that? Maybe it was about the deep peace and the deep silence. Oh yes, the peace. You know, and what we’re contributing to, I’m sure you’re, probably everybody listening to this is familiar with the notion that we’re all sort of like little transmitter receivers and that, you know, we interact with collective consciousness and that we emanate a certain influence, we exude a certain influence, and it happens even, it happens on a subtle level. It’s not just who we talk to or, you know, what we do overtly or obviously that, you know, collective consciousness radiate, our influence, our contribution, we can say to collective consciousness, continues to radiate out. And so, you know, getting grounded in our own deep inner peace, which is there to be grounded in if we can find it, is a tremendous contribution that we can make to the world. And it would really help to smooth this whole thing out.
Dorothy: Yeah, I mean, we’re always transmitting where we are, you know, and of course that can change from moment to moment even, you know, energetically. But the more we are grounded in that unnameable ground, you know, the more that peace will come forth in some ways. And if you listen, you know, the title of this gathering for SAND is wisdom in times of crisis. And I would just point people to their own inner wisdom, you know, it doesn’t reside in someone else, somehow out there, it’s here, it’s there in your own heart, right? It’s there in your own heart, mind. And listen, and just to listen to that and see what wants to come from that dimension of our being.
Rick: Yeah. Now, this is, again, a conducive time to make spiritual progress, not only because perhaps the energies that are influencing us have gotten more enlivened, but also just because of the circumstances of most people’s lives, many people have an opportunity to do some kind of spiritual practice where before they might have been too busy to do it. And you and I have probably been meditating for many years, and we have our own ways of doing that. Some people listening to this might not have a specific meditation practice. I interviewed Donald Hoffman the other day, and he meditates like three hours a day, but he never actually got any formal instruction. He just sits and goes into deep silence and things kind of get processed in that deep silence. And he said it’s been utterly transformative to him. So, what would you say to, you know, people who either maybe had some practice but weren’t able to stick with it or else have never learned any formal practice? What can be imparted in a conversation like this that people can try on their own and just start to spend 10, 20 minutes once or twice a day doing and seeing what influence it has?
Dorothy: Sure. Well, I always love to invite a meditation with Ramana Maharshi’s words where these were words he used himself. He said, “Enter with love the temple that is your own heart, silently allowing the deep within to flow on and into the deep beyond.” And if I invite you or anyone to put your attention to your home ground, there’s almost nobody who will say that home ground is–
Rick: Up there.
Dorothy: Yeah. And I can’t tell someone else how to reach that, but we all know. So, it’s a matter of shifting attention from here to this deeper–for some, it’ll feel in the heart; for some, it’ll feel deeper than that; for some people, there won’t be any location at all. It’s not important what it looks like, but that you have a felt sense of this that’s already at peace. It’s already okay. It’s already present to whatever’s here. Do you know? Like, the mind takes the idea of presence to think it’s something it’s supposed to do or allowing everything to be as it is. It’s what this is supposed to do, but there’s something already doing that. There’s something that’s already present. And so, if we put our attention there instead of trying to be present, then I think we have a much better chance of experiencing these deeper dimensions that are in every single person. So, whether you’re–I mean, I don’t think one has to have a formal sitting practice, but some of the best meditations are sitting in the backyard or sitting with your cat on your lap or holding a baby or–do you know? I think we need to expand our view of what meditation is. It’s really being fully present to what’s here now. You know? It’s being present to what’s here. And that’s a pretty simplistic definition, but I think that’s what our true nature always is. It’s illuminating the moment at hand. And so, to be that silence, to be that presence, rather than the one who’s trying to be silent or the one who’s trying to be present. Do you know? We have a much better chance of bumping up against our true nature.
Rick: Yeah. And I think implicit in what you’re saying is that it shouldn’t be a struggle. You don’t have to, you know, furrow your brow and clench your teeth in order to, you know, settle into your true nature. In fact, I think that there’s a natural human tendency to want to experience true nature, and it’s evident in the natural human tendency to want to experience greater happiness, which we all have. You know?
Dorothy: Absolutely. And one of the things that I’ve been playing with, you know, in these days is really asking of oneself in the moment, you know, what does this, what does peace feel like in the body? What does it feel like in the heart? Where is happiness located? Show me happiness, rather than how do I get happy? It’s like, it’s here. And so, just the right questions when we’re not trying to figure it out, how do I do something? But where is it? Like, if I ask you, what does awakeness feel like right now in your feet? Probably you have a sense of a little energy that will move just by moving your attention.
Dorothy: And the question will evoke an experience. And so often, we’re looking here instead of actually inviting what’s already present, waiting, waiting for us to get interested, actually.
Dorothy: Yeah. So, there are lots of ways. And I mean, for some people, singing, for some people, running, for some people, you know, your natural ways of connecting to spirit aren’t always the rigid sitting on your cushion facing the wall. I mean, there’s a great value in that for some. And like your friend that you interviewed, I would say as well that sitting practice, if you want to call it that, has been like the best form of psychotherapy, because whatever needs to come up to the surface has an opportunity when we’re open, you know, and when we’re not trying to manipulate and control and so forth. So, I’m not suggesting that other forms of psychotherapy aren’t useful, because they certainly can be. But I do feel like we have within us a deep understanding, deeper than anyone else will ever have, of who and what we are and how this moment wants to move.
Rick: That’s nice. What you said indicates respect for people’s own wisdom and judgment that, you know, one size does not fit all. And, you know, you’ll know within your heart of hearts, what works for you or what you’re attracted to. There’s a book by Suzanne Segal, I don’t know if you ever read this, called “Collision with the Infinite.” Did you ever read that book?
Dorothy: Yes, I was in a group with Suzanne for quite a long time.
Rick: Oh, cool.
Dorothy: She would call us all her playmates in the vastness.
Rick: Nice. And her little catchphrase that she kept repeating through that book was, “Do the next obvious thing,” you know? And that can apply to everything in life, but it can also apply to our spiritual progress.
Dorothy: Exactly, exactly. Today was supposed to be the beginning of a silent retreat that I was teaching at Vajrapani Institute in the Santa Cruz Mountains here in California, and of course it’s been canceled. But I’m sending emails every day to those people who signed up of teachings and meditations. And that’s one thing I really am encouraging people is to find your natural way. Natural way is not striving. It’s much more organic than that. And I think we’ve put meditation in such a tiny little box. Many minds have done that. And it needs to come out of the box because our life is meditation.
Dorothy: You know, I founded a center called the Center for Meditation and Psychotherapy here in San Francisco, and the first meditation group I ever offered there, it was the noisiest, noisiest evening, you know, the cars and trucks. And I’m thinking, “What did I do?” You know, “This is awful.” But then over time, I began to realize, “No, meditation and psychotherapy are not two different things.” And how perfect to discover that deep silence, even in the midst of a busy city. Or in my neighborhood recently, there’s a lot of construction that’s now been allowed to restart. So we have a lot of jackhammering and so forth. But the silence is still here.
Rick: Yeah, yeah.
Dorothy: Yeah, go ahead.
Rick: I was just gonna, when I first learned to meditate, I learned in New York City when I was 18. And I had gone through this whole rigmarole to get into the city to learn. But there was a huge thunderstorm broke out in the city as I was being instructed. And there are all these, in addition to that, there’s the usual cacophony of New York City with sirens and horns. And I just sank into this deep, deep silence like I’d never experienced in my life. So noise was no barrier whatsoever.
Dorothy: Exactly, exactly. Yeah, the garbage truck chewing up the remains of your week, you know, and the birds singing. You know, they’re just two expressions. They’re two expressions of the same ground, you know? It’s like a field with so many different flavors of flowers and trees and whatnot, but all coming from the same ground.
Dorothy: So yeah.
Rick: As a fact, as that ground gets better and better established, the juxtaposition of the blooming, buzzing confusion of the world and the inner silence can become quite fascinating.
Dorothy: Absolutely, absolutely. And to discover what’s right here in each moment, if we have eyes to see, or a heart that’s open enough to receive, you know, that, I mean, even fear. What’s the energy of fear if you experience it, you know? What’s the energy of anger? I mean, in the Buddhist tradition, there’s a way of practice called, you know, that’s really transmuting an emotion so that you stay so, so still in the midst of the feeling, you know, that you come to what is its essential quality. So, you know, anger can be an essential quality of clarity, for instance. And, you know, we all can find it out, find out for ourselves what it is, but it’s, you know, with regard to fear, I often think of it as, you know, how the gargoyles are, and the old medieval churches, or, or the, you know, Tibetan Buddhist thankas with them, you know, the–
Rick: Scary guys.
Dorothy: You know, that fear is often guarding the gates of our deep silence, you know, we don’t, we don’t, we don’t enter just because, oh, I’d really like to have that experience, you know, it takes some real authentic interest, I think, and desire, devotion, really, to know, to know truth. And we’ll have to go through layers of fear, in all probability, you know, to face into the unknown. And that’s, that’s what is here.
Rick: I remember Yoda saying to Luke Skywalker, you know, Skywalker says, I’m not afraid, and Yoda says, you will be.
Dorothy: Exactly, yeah, yeah. And it’s, you know, it’s, it’s, it, as I said to some people, you know, on some level, we would rather be a deficient somebody that could perhaps improve so much, strive to be better and better, better, improve, we’d rather be a deficient somebody who maybe one day could be worthy of this love, of this unconditional love and acceptance. We’d rather be unworthy than to face into being nobody, nobody separate. It doesn’t mean there’s not a unique and precious expression here. But that piece of ourselves that really doesn’t have to be seen as an image, that’s free. That’s what’s free in all of us.
Rick: Yeah, yeah. And we’ve all got it. You know, we’ve all got that birthright deep inside, just a matter of locating it and living it.
Rick: Now, we only have about three and a half minutes left, and I wanted to have you read a poem before we wrap it up. So, do you have a poem handy?
Dorothy: Well, I do. Our interview, for those of you who are listening, comes very much on the heels of Mother’s Day. And so, I sent this poem to some friends on Mother’s Day. And as you know, spirit doesn’t really have a gender, but I do think of all of us as being pregnant with the divine, you know, carrying that infinite potential that’s just waiting to be born in each of us and lovingly given to the world. So, anyway, this is a poem I wrote called “Motherhood of the Divine.” She has no face, yet holds us all in her gaze. We came from her darkness and are birthed into her light. She assumes many shapes, tells many stories, wears many masks. She is the space behind them all that has no beginning and no end. She is the 10,000 arms tenderly, compassionately holding the world. Sometimes, she sits serenely as a mountain, singing the melody of a songbird. And yet, she lives in the valley of the ordinary, extending her garden to the ends of the earth. She is the mystery from which we were birthed, the mystery to which we are returned. She is the night sky wearing a necklace of the Milky Way with a thousand sparkling jewels in her hair. At dawn, she is the morning star that appeared when Shakyamuni became the Buddha. Her wind blows a single moment into form and then blows it on into the vast beyond. She is the vessel of all, the one who lets all things be. She spins stories from eternity and passes them on to her children. She is you. She is me. She is unceasingly pregnant with the divine in each of us. You can hear her as the running stream and see her when you look into a mirror. She is gazing through your eyes.
Rick: Beautiful. It’s such a gift to be able to write like that. When I did that first interview with you out at SAND, someone asked you to read a poem and you didn’t have one handy and you actually made a poem out of the pattern in the carpet.
Rick: That was impressive.
Dorothy: I do remember being asked to say a poem and I’ve never memorized a single poem.
Rick: Yeah. All right, so I better wrap it up here. We only have a few seconds left. So, thanks so much, Dorothy. It’s been wonderful having this talk with you. For those watching this during the SAND conference, the SAND webinar, if you’d like to see my other interview with Dorothy, go to BatGap and of course there’s many other things there. For those of you watching this later on, on BatGap, if you want to see the SAND webinar, it’ll be archived and there’s a way of having access to it. So, I’ll provide a link to that. So, thanks for listening and watching. Thanks a lot, Dorothy.
Dorothy: Thank you, Rick.
Rick: Yeah, and everyone enjoy the rest of the webinar.
Dorothy: Okay. Namaste.