George and Mary Foster Transcript

George and Mary Foster Interview

Rick: Hi, my name is Rick Archer and you’re listening to “Awakenings” right here on KRUU-LP 100.1 FM, the voice of Fairfield, Iowa and beyond. Independent, open-source, listener-supported, solar-powered, grassroots community radio broadcasting from the Cultural District in Fairfield, Iowa. Many of us here in Fairfield feel that we live in a special community. If you ask us what makes it special, we’ll probably recite a list of events and accomplishments such as concerts, the Art Walk, MUM, and its activities, the Arts and Convention Center, the Roosevelt Recreation Center, the Loop Trail, KRUU FM, ecological initiatives, various awards and so on. This show is about something just as wonderful as all those things, but less obvious. Dozens, if not hundreds of people in this town are undergoing a shift to a radically different state of consciousness which is transforming their understanding of themselves and the world. For some, this shift has been abrupt and dramatic. For others, it had been so gradual that they may not have realized it has occurred. The purpose of this show will be to enable these people to tell their stories. Such shifts or awakenings are not new. Christ spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven within. Buddhists speak of Nirvana. Zen masters of Satori. Hindus of Moksha. Psychologist Abraham Maslow coined the phrase “self-actualization.” And millions of people around the world, including many without religious or spiritual inclinations, report having experienced peak or mystical experiences. So we’re talking about something timeless and universal. Something which hopefully will interest a broad spectrum of our listeners rather than just the local meditating community. Those of us who did learn to meditate two, three or four decades ago were told that after five to eight years we could expect to reach a state called “cosmic consciousness.” Most people feel that prediction didn’t pan out. They think maybe Maharishi was overly optimistic, giving us a sales pitch or trying not to discourage us. In fact, I once heard Maharishi say, speaking metaphorically, that if you meet a man in a desert, you should tell him that water is just a mile away, even though you know it’s ten miles away, because if you tell him the truth, he’ll be too discouraged to go on. Some people in Fairfield have become discouraged and have abandoned spiritual aspirations. Others still meditate for various reasons, but are skeptical of claims of higher states of consciousness. When I started telling friends about my intention to do this show, many were enthusiastic, but some said, “Right, you’re going to interview people who think they’re enlightened.” I guess some people find it hard to believe that apparently ordinary friends and neighbors might be experiencing something extraordinary. Maybe they expect enlightenment to look as remarkable on the outside as it is reputed to be on the inside. As Christ put it, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” This is not to imply that the guests on this show will be prophets or that they should be honored, but I think the point is apt. This show will attempt to dispel skepticism and misconceptions by week after week, allowing otherwise ordinary people in our community and elsewhere to relate their experience of spiritual awakening. The terminology is tricky because there are no universally agreed upon definitions to describe this experience. So please forgive us if we use some unfamiliar terms. We’ll try to clarify our definitions as we go along. I hope that after a while, those listening will become convinced, as I am, that genuine and permanent spiritual awakenings are not just a pipe dream, but are real and are becoming commonplace, both here in Fairfield and around the world. I don’t consider myself qualified to judge anyone’s subjective state, so I’ll take people at their word, ask questions which might enable them to give our listeners a sense of what they are experiencing, and invite you to ask questions as well. This will be a call-in show, although this pilot episode is pre-recorded, so we won’t be taking calls tonight. Like all KRUU FM programming, this show is being streamed live from our website,, and will be archived there. It will also be videotaped and aired on FPAC, Fairfield’s public access TV station. Those videos will be archived and viewable on the web for at least a month. I won’t ordinarily take so long to introduce each show. I want my guests to do most of the talking. But for this first show, I wanted to explain what I’m trying to do. I’m very grateful to James Moore and the great crew at KRUU for their heroic efforts in creating this wonderful radio station. So let’s get started. I conceived of this show a couple of weeks ago when I was working out on my Bowflex machine, listening to a spiritual teacher named Adyashanti. And the thought just dawned on me, “I’d like to do a radio show, and interview awakened people, and I know many of them in this town.” And then, after I gave some thought to the idea of doing the show, I began thinking about who I’d like my first guests to be. And in the same sort of spontaneous way, I thought, “I’d like to have George and Mary on.” George and Mary Foster, that is, who are today’s guests. Because I’ve known them for a long time, I consider them to be very sincere, genuine people. And I’ve spent many happy hours discussing spiritual experiences with them, and I’m convinced that both of them have undergone something really significant in terms of a spiritual awakening, which is maybe a little bit rare for a couple to both be kind of neck and neck in terms of their spiritual progress. So George and Mary Foster are our guests for today. And I’d like to start by having them each introduce themselves, and tell us just a little bit about who they are, what they do currently, and then we’ll kind of go back historically and trace the course of their progress to their current state of experience. So why don’t we start with George.

George: All right. I guess I’ll say that who I am nowadays is I’m a book cover designer. I work for myself, and I’ve lived in Fairfield about 30 years.

Rick: And you’re also an accomplished musician. Everyone in town has probably seen you play at one time or another.

George: Perhaps, yeah. I tend to get out a lot and play.

Rick: George was the bass player for Bamboo, which still resurrects itself every now and then, and does a concert. And Mary?

Mary: Yes. Well, I guess my history can go back at least eight years with George. I did move to Fairfield in October of 1982, and I never remembered seeing George. So we met about eight years ago, and it’s funny because I learned to meditate in 1969, and I think it’s true for a lot of people that you kind of lose sight of the goal. A lot of people did. And when I met George, that was re-enlivened. So we began our journey together, and where he left off, I picked up, and where I picked up, he left off. It’s just been–we’ve just been–

Rick: See-sawing, kind of.

Mary: Yeah. Yeah, it’s been very nice.

Rick: Well, I hadn’t intended to do it this way because I wanted to go back a little bit to your childhood and all, but I’m tempted to ask, how did meeting George re-enliven your spiritual awakening or your interest in such things?

Mary: Well, George was, I would say, a pretty ardent seeker himself. He did a lot of work for the TM organization and continued to look for that goal. He was one of those that never lost sight, I don’t believe, and if he did, it was quite brief.

Rick: Actually, George, if you don’t mind my saying, George belonged to this sort of informal group called the “Dome Dogs” who kind of kept each other on the program, and if somebody missed a program, then the whole group, I guess, had to do a certain number of push-ups or something to kind of atone for the laxity of the one member.

George: Yeah, that’s right. We were very committed, and I was a very, what, ardent follower of all that. Oh, yeah, ardent follower.

Rick: With very strong arms.

Mary: Yeah.

George: Yeah, that’s where I was at when I met Mary. At that time, I had a very profound shift happen. I don’t know if telling experience stories is all that useful, because everybody’s got them, at least in this town, everybody’s got them. I mean, I could swap stories, but I don’t know how useful it is.

Rick: We’ll get into some stuff. I’m going to ask you some questions.

George: Oh, okay, okay.

Rick: You don’t have to do it all now.

George: All right, fine.

Rick: Good, it’s time for a little station break. My name is Rick Archer, and you’re listening to KRUU-LP 100.1 FM, the voice of Fairfield, Iowa and beyond. We’re talking with George and Mary Foster, and the name of the show is “Awakenings.” I’d like to ask each of you a question, and you can each answer it in your own way. And that is, if you kind of think back on your life, going way back to childhood, were there any times when you had some kind of exceptional experience? I mean, I can remember things like that myself, lying out in a field looking at the stars or whatever. But I’ve often noticed that people who have had profound spiritual awakenings had some interesting stuff going on as children, but not necessarily. So maybe you could each take turns answering that one.

George: Yeah, not necessarily, Rick.

Rick: Okay, you’re in that category.

George: In my case, yeah, I’ve got nothing to report.

Rick: How about you, Mary?

Mary: Well, I always had a fascination with infinity, I’m very close to science. And it was always something that tickled my mind to think of, would I ever know or experience infinity? But as a child, there’s no way that you could, unless it was something that was in your family already, experience infinity or know it. So it was something that I remember. And you had mentioned lying in the grass looking at the stars. I grew up in northern Wisconsin, and the sky was quite filled with stars up there. And I remember many summer nights lying there just wondering, and, of course.

Rick: Thinking that it might be something more.

Mary: Yeah, always something more. And I think there was maybe a desire for feeling more fulfilled, because it was like there was always something missing.

Rick: So you mentioned that you learned meditation in 1969. How old were you then, if you don’t mind my asking?

Mary: Seventeen.

Rick: Okay, and what motivated you to look into it?

Mary: I was with a group of people working at a resort camp in Wisconsin Dells. And the owner of the camp was Senator Murphy, who actually later on introduced a bill to the House of Representatives that was passed, just endorsing TM. And the whole family actually went to the first introductory lecture. And we were just so impressed with the people that gave the lecture. They seemed so together, so bright. And what they were saying was that we could have more happiness in our life, more creativity, more energy, better health, all these different things. And we’re like, “Yeah, that’s right up the alley,” because we were into Whole Foods at that time.

Rick: Pretty good for 1969. How about you, George?

George: Regarding what?

Rick: In terms of what initially attracted you to meditation and got you going, what was your motivation?

George: Oh, well, gosh. Well, I got into drugs a lot, psychedelic drugs.

Rick: I can relate.

George: I did a lot of that, psychedelic drugs, because it was so fascinating visually, as well as conceptually. You know what I’m talking about.

Rick: I know what you’re talking about.

George: Yes. And after I had done, I don’t know, maybe five years of that, I decided — yeah, then I was 20 years old — and then I decided that I really wanted reality. That I knew what altered reality was. I was totally familiar, and decided that I was really ready for the real thing. What is real? I was looking out a window–I’ll never forget– I was looking out a window of a car and thinking about that, that I’m looking through a drug, I’m not looking at the real thing. And what is the real thing? I basically quit.

Rick: That’s neat.

George: Yeah, and just at that time, my younger brother, Roger, had just learned TM and was beating me up every day about it. And it took me about six months, and then I learned it, and I thought, “Yep, this is it.”

Rick: Great. So we’ll go back to Mary for a minute. So you learned to meditate, and was there anything sort of dramatic or remarkable about any change in your experience once you had learned? Or was it like some people don’t even notice that anything’s happening, other people, it knocks them off their feet. So how was it with you?

Mary: I remember walking out from the instruction–it was in someone’s home– and realizing that everything was so bright. I know it’s a common experience with people, the contrast of getting that deep rest that TM offers. Maybe my eyes got a really good rest, I don’t know, or physiology, but the colors were really bright, and there was a clarity in the air, there was a sweetness that was palpable. And that’s really what I noticed. I know there’s been a lot of people that have had more dramatic first days starting the program, but that was mine. And just slowly–

Rick: And so how about you, George? What was your initial impression?

George: Very dramatic.

Rick: Was it?

George: Very dramatic. The very first meditation, I tried to describe it to my teacher, that I felt like I had eyes all the way around my head. So yeah, very dramatic. I was sold out fast.

Rick: Interesting. So I’m going back and forth here. This seems to be kind of working. So fast-forwarding with you, Mary– Well, actually, time for another little station break. My name is Rick Archer, and you’re listening to a new radio show on KRUU FM called “Awakenings.” KRUU is broadcasting at 100.1 FM, and is the voice of Fairfield, Iowa and beyond. So, Mary–and let me just add that the purpose of this show, in case you just tuned in, or the theme of this show, is that we’re going to be interviewing people who have undergone what we might call a spiritual awakening. And we’ll define that as being a permanent shift in the way they experience themselves in the world, as opposed to just a temporary experience, which they might recount having had on some course or at some time or something, but a permanent shift, which is perpetual, which lasts 24/7. So, Mary, now I know you pretty well, and I know that we’re talking about something that happened 30, 40 years ago when you learned to meditate, and you had several–you got married, you had several children, you probably went through various career things. I know that you have professional experience as a chef. And you also mentioned earlier in the interview that when you first met George, you had sort of lost sight of the goal. So did you kind of get caught up in the hurly-burly of life after you learned to meditate, having kids, doing this, doing that? And what was it that caused you to lose sight of the goal? And did you continue to meditate regularly, or did you sort of– to what extent did you lose sight of the goal?

Mary: Well, right after starting TM, which was in– I don’t even remember which month– I went pretty much immediately to a one-month-long residence course in Eureka-Arcata called Humboldt, which a lot of people may be familiar with that are listening. Yeah, you were there. So that was the very first course, and decided that I wanted to give this to others. So I came back home, worked for a whole year to save money up to go to the teacher training course to become a teacher of Transcendental Meditation, which I did, and then came back and again went to Humboldt. And then I moved to Madison, Wisconsin, and for some reason, Madison was really saturated with TM teachers. So I gave a few courses, and then I started teaching up in Wisconsin Dells where I kind of lived and commuted back and forth between Madison and Wisconsin Dells. So after that, I was married at the time for about a year, separated, divorced. I myself lived in Madison, and just the whole community, just kind of everybody was moving away, and I got into the mainstream of the workforce and did that. Eventually got remarried, had three children. So for all those years raising children, finding time to meditate was– it was interesting to say the least, where before I’d get up in the morning, if I wanted to meditate, I would meditate in bed, lying down a lot, or when I got in bed at night. So it was still there. It was always there. But as far as teaching or anything like that, it was not something–

Rick: And during this whole period–we’re kind of spanning decades now– but was there anything significant or noteworthy about your inner experience, or were you pretty much caught up in your worldly day-to-day responsibilities?

Mary: I’d say it was a little bit of both, because there was a stability that I had. And people would comment on it. I’d go, “Oh, really? You see that?” I’m like, “Well, I feel that.” Yeah, there was a smoothness in my life that I really appreciated. And I saw it growing through the years. And who’s to say that it wasn’t from meditation, that it was just–

Rick: Maturity, right.

Mary: Yes, but it was something, again, that palpability that you can discern between just your daily life and how you feel inside.

Rick: Yeah, and as you mentioned, people were kind of remarking on it, so there must have been something a little bit different about you than about people that you were encountering. They noticed something more stable about you or something.

Mary: Yeah, I mean, I’ve always been pretty mellow, but just some relaxation that they saw in addition to that.

Rick: And how about you, George, if we kind of summarize, let’s say, the decades from the time you learned up until the time you met Mary, let’s say. How’d it go? I mean, were you a dome dog all that time, diligent and on the routine, or did you drift away for a while? And were there any noteworthy experiences during that whole period?

George: I was very much a straight arrow. I was right on at one point and all the time. And yeah, a number of experiences along the way. Good reminders that it was worth doing. Came along different times.

Rick: Good. But nothing to write home about? Just sort of nice, pleasant, you kept at it, and things were good?

George: Oh, no, some of them were remarkable. I mean, memorable, I still remember.

Rick: Yeah. In a way, I’m violating the principle of the show and poking you for memorable experiences because this show isn’t going to be so much about particularly flashy experiences that may have happened here and there. It’s more about something permanent that we’re getting at, but I’m just kind of leading up to that and providing a history of the whole thing. So let’s actually get on to that topic. Mary mentioned earlier in the show that– and actually, before I change gears, let me just do a station ID again. My name is Rick Archer, and you’re listening to KRUU LP 100.1 FM, the voice of Fairfield, Iowa and beyond. And I’m talking to George and Mary Foster on a new program for KRUU called “Awakenings,” which is a show about people who have undergone or shifted into a higher or more natural state of consciousness in an apparently permanent way. And we’re probably going to be throwing around a lot of terminology as we go along, which some people might find a bit daunting, but we’ll continue to define our terms as we go. And if you were to listen to this show regularly, I think you’ll get familiar with what we’re talking about if you aren’t already. So Mary mentioned that she met you about eight years ago, and that rekindled her spiritual fervor, if you will. Let’s take it from there and talk about what– we’ll go back and forth, the two of you, about how things progressed from that point. Yeah, why don’t you go first?

George: Well, let’s see. Okay, well, at that time–actually, before I met Mary, I’d had a pretty profound shift. And I was looking around in this town for somebody who could tell me what had happened.

Rick: Can you define or explain what that shift was a little bit?

George: Well, the edges disappeared. The best thing I could think of for it was “unity consciousness,” something that I’d heard of for many years.

Rick: Let me probe you a little bit here and keep it going back and forth to clarify things. So the edges disappeared. What do you mean by the edges?

George: Maybe I should back up. Meditation puts you in the seat of your own silence over and over again for years. And I spent many hours there. And there came a shift when the silence that I was– that up until that time I thought that I was visiting is actually who I am. And a very tremendous “aha” experience. Nobody around to tell me that that was what was happening. But one thing followed very shortly afterward, was that like shortly in a couple of months, is that the same silence, the exact same silence that I know I am, I was seeing all around me in outer things, people, objects.

Rick: Okay, let’s stop right there. Was this shift to becoming identified with the silence as being who you are, was it abrupt like you could have marked it on a calendar or was it something that kind of snuck up on you and one day you thought to yourself, “Hey, wait a minute, I now have a different perspective on who I am.”

George: I try to recall that. I think it’s a little combination. There are times when you smell it, you feel it, you don’t really know yet. You wonder, think a lot about it. I tend to think a lot. And I thought a lot about it. And–well, actually, okay. And then it is a sudden thing. And I can’t point to a month or something, but–

Rick: But you could have if you wanted to, you could have marked it and said it was June 3rd at 5 o’clock in the afternoon?

George: Oh, very definitely.

Rick: What were you doing at that moment? Can you remember?

George: Well, one of the moments was I walked into the house and suddenly all of a sudden all my self-defining concepts were up in the air. And it was like, “What if they’re not true?” And it was just very evident, too late, already asked, completely, sincerely asked, not like just an exercise. And the rug got pulled out.

Rick: Interesting.

George: It was very sad for a moment because, “Oh, what if they are false?” And then they kind of blew away. And I was still standing. And that was an amazing experience.

Rick: Do you feel like your concept– It’s interesting you should say that because just the other day I heard somebody quoting some famous spiritual teacher. I can’t remember who it was, as defining enlightenment as being the state in which you no longer believe your thoughts. Do you feel like your concepts kind of just got blown away right down to the roots? Or was it just sort of an initial explosion and then there was subsequent excavation after that where deeper and deeper levels of your concepts got dispelled?

George: Yeah. Well, you know, it’s funny, but dispel is kind of a funny word.

Rick: Probably the wrong word.

George: Well, yeah. It’s not like they go away. It’s just that you see them for what they are, which is just consciousness. You see that the concepts that you hold about yourself are, in fact, your own consciousness. Those concepts are made of you. They are your consciousness. And so on the one hand, there’s a kind of a yanking the curtain back and seeing who they are. And on the other, it’s a completely loving acceptance of these concepts as myself. So it’s not like a negation, really. It’s more of a, well, more knowledge about who you are, acceptance of who you are.

Rick: Can you give us an example of a concept? I’m anticipating the kind of questions people might ask. Can you give us an example of a concept and how your orientation to that concept changed as a result of this shift?

George: OK. I’m a nice guy. There’s a concept.

Rick: OK. And now what?

George: Well, OK. Well, let’s look at that. It’s a self-defining concept. You know, who is George? George is a nice guy.

Rick: Right.

George: All right. Well, fine. That’s an easy one to fit into. It’s a little envelope you can put yourself in. And we can have a list of those things. I’m a nice guy. I’m smart. I’m not smart enough. I’m creative. I’m not creative enough. All these things. There are all these measurements, you might say, about who I am. It’s actually very relative. It’s relationship to somebody else. I’m not creative enough. Well, how do you know? Well, because I compare myself.

Rick: Right.

George: So it’s like it really fractals out in all these ways. And you find this whole relationship that you have with everything that defines you. And that’s, well, you could say that’s not the case. Let’s say this. You’re not limited to that. It’s easy to think you are.

Rick: So in other words, you could say, “I am a nice guy. I am a bass player. I am a graphic artist. I am a husband,” and so on. But that’s not really–that’s only a small part of what I am. I’m something which can’t be defined by such labels. Is that what you’re saying?

George: Well, actually, it can be and is, in fact, defined by those labels. Those labels are the expressions of the infinite consciousness that’s always present and always able to be labeled by concepts.

Rick: Let’s everyone digest that for a second while I remind our listeners that you’re listening to KRUU-LP 100.1 FM, the voice of Fairfield, Iowa, and beyond. My name is Rick Archer. You’re listening to a show called “Awakenings,” and we’re talking with George and Mary Foster. Okay.

George: Just to summarize that, consciousness does the labeling, and that which is labeled is consciousness.

Rick: Right.

George: So it’s just–and when you see that, when you really see that, and that that is you, it’s a major, major change. Do you feel like you–I’m going to get to you in a minute. I’m going to give George a nice big chunk now, and then I’m going to give Mary a nice big chunk after that.

Mary: Quite all right. He really expresses clearly.

Rick: So do you. I know what you can do. But anyway, what was I going to ask you? Do you feel like there was something in particular that you did to trigger this realization? I mean, you said you were walking into your house. I can imagine people all over Fairfield walking into their houses over and over again now hoping to have the same thing. If you had said you’d been eating tomato soup, there’d be a run on that at everybody’s.

George: Right.

Rick: Was there anything you did, or was it totally–take it by surprise, spontaneous, there was no reason why it should have happened that day as opposed to some other?

George: There are two ways to kind of–no, there’s really only one way to get it. One way that I thought I could get it is to figure it out, to say, “Well, it must be this, it must be that,” and to kind of assemble it or try to assemble all the thoughts, all the concepts together in a nice package that makes sense, and that must be it. And I think, well, I think that might be an important part of striving for it, is trying to figure it out. But when you–how do you say–when you know it, it isn’t like–it isn’t the same thing as what you could have possibly figured out. It’s not assembled. It’s not figured out. It’s totally evident, undeniable, totally unexpected, actually.

Rick: So it’s sort of like you were a fruit that just got ripe enough and you dropped off the tree.

George: Just the gentlest little breeze at the right moment. One thing I will say–I do want to say this–is that it made a big difference for me. One of the–there are many of these little ones, and then there is one of them which I think is a very, very important point is that I realized that there are things about me that I didn’t like about my personality, about my self-concepts, that I didn’t like, didn’t accept, was trying to hide, was hoping people didn’t know about me and was hoping that someday they’ll get fixed, someday–or they’ll go away or something, that I–these little dark corner places in my psyche or something. And one day it flooded in undeniably that they’re me. I mean, like them or not, but they are me. And suddenly sadness, like failure or defeat, you know, like they really are me. And what quickly followed that was a beautiful sense of relief that they are me. Now, the point that I want to make is that that acceptance, with a capital A, about everything about me, I think started a lot of acceptance of more of who I am. And I think that’s a very universal thing. I think everybody would benefit by that.

Rick: Are you saying that because you somehow began to be able to accept the not-so-good stuff, that relaxing into accepting that simultaneously enabled you to accept the good stuff?

George: It’s not so much good and bad, because those are, again, concepts. They’re judgments. I think what it does is it opens the door of acceptance to myself. And when you open the door and you don’t hold it shut by saying, “Well, no, I don’t want to be this. I don’t want to be that.” That’s like holding a door shut about yourself.

Rick: Right. Now, when you say “myself,” I think that people are inclined to think, “All right, well, what’s he talking about?” I mean, his self is obviously he’s this guy and he plays bass and he’s an artist and he does this and that. And there’s something more abstract you’re alluding to here, and it’s harder to put into words, but take a stab at it.

George: The abstract remains abstract if you don’t know it. And so, who I am at that time–that’s about six, seven years ago, something like that, seven, eight–was those limits, those limited things, those things that can be judged. And when I accepted those, that those are me, it felt wonderfully exhilarating that now I have my door open about who I am. And that was definitely one of these shifts. And it didn’t take too much longer, actually. It seemed like everything accelerated after that for me, that the silence revealed itself to me not long after that. And the silence is me. Those things that I think of myself as me are also me. It’s not like it’s an either/or. And so when you have your door open, I think that it starts to reveal itself more and more. And there’s lots and lots and lots to be revealed. It’s still revealing to me.

Rick: Yeah, I want to make that point, actually, which is that some people I’ve talked to seem to have a kind of black-and-white conception of enlightenment or whatever term we want to use. You know, like you’re either not there or you’re there, and once you’re there, you’re done. But the people I know who have had experiences similar to yours all say that there is a never-ending progression of greater clarity and greater understanding and so on, that basically they’ve just reached a milestone, and things got real interesting after that milestone was reached, but there’s plenty of progress yet to be made.

George: Right. There are books written by people who have reached a certain milestone, and there’s books to write about that, too. It’s not like anything incomplete, and yet there’s more.

Rick: Right.

George: And so milestone after milestone. I’ve experienced many in the last, say, six years, five years. Very happily so, and looking forward to the next.

Rick: There’s a line from the Incredible String Band, “Whatever you think, it’s more than that.”

George: Mm-hmm.

Rick: Okay. I think let’s switch to Mary for a while now. I think there’s definitely more to be discussed here, and we might even have you guys back on again. But before we switch to Mary, let’s do a quick station ID. My name is Rick Archer, and you’re listening to KRUU-LP 100.1 FM, the voice of Fairfield, Iowa and beyond. The show is “Awakenings.” Our guests are George and Mary Foster, and we’re talking about experiences, or rather a state of experience in which one has come to know oneself in a deeper or more profound sense than that term might ordinarily be defined. So Mary was talking earlier in the show, if you were listening, about her own awakening, and she seemed to say that it took place roughly around the same time as George’s.

Mary: Yeah, I think before we met, George had the initial opening that he talked about. It wasn’t too long after we met, maybe months, that we were reading beautiful books and so forth. But that actual first opening for me was I was meditating, just finished, and I got up and walked out onto the porch, traffic going by. And the funny thing about this is it was an experience, but in that experience was knowledge. So first I’ll tell you–

Rick: What was an experience? You walked on the porch, you said it was an experience.

Mary: What I’m about to tell you, that happened. So I’m standing there, and it was just a beautiful day. It was warm outside, didn’t need a coat or anything, so I just stepped outside just to kind of enjoy the sun as it was going down. And everything disappeared. Everything. Even Mary disappeared, which was quite interesting. It was like there was still an experiencer to this whole process. But what I could see was not a road and trees and houses in the sky. Everything was gone. If I would have held my hands out in front of me, they would have also been gone. So what was revealed to me in that experience was that this was somehow in my mind. There was still this experiencer going in the background, that this is the ultimate truth. There is this vast, infinite emptiness, but it’s also packed full. So this is my first initial experience, and also with that came the knowledge that this is the ultimate truth. This is not who I thought I was. This is who I am. This is what everything is. It’s this incredible, infinite fullness that everything springs from or comes from. So I don’t even know how long I stood there. It could have been minutes. It seemed like quite a long time, an infinitely long period of time. After realizing that, that realization of all that didn’t occur right at that moment, but I knew that I was looking at something incredibly huge and realizing that I wasn’t any longer who I thought I was. I was much bigger.

Rick: So let me probe that experience a little bit, because some people listening to that might think, “Well, that doesn’t sound so good. Everything disappeared.”

Mary: It was so ordinary. That’s the thing. It sounds like, “Oh, my God.”

Rick: Maybe she had a stroke or something. “What’s going on here?”

Mary: A Stroke of Insight with Jill Bolte Taylor. Very similar, because it’s undeniable that you are looking at pure knowledge, pure consciousness.

Rick: But of course, in Jill Bolte Taylor’s case, she had brain damage and she lost the ability to function, and you’re not saying that.

Mary: No, but it didn’t feel like something was wrong. It wasn’t scary. It was beautiful without the emotion of beauty. Absolutely ordinary, even though it sounds like, “Oh, my God,” mind-blowing.

Rick: When you say everything disappeared, were you actually oblivious to cars going by and sun setting and birds singing and all that stuff?

Mary: Yes, absolutely gone.

Rick: So it was just like a big white emptiness or something?

Mary: It was, of course, was filled. I remember talking years ago about this, that it was filled with something. It wasn’t empty, even though it looked like void. It was not void. It was full.

Rick: Were you aware of your body still?

Mary: No. But you were still standing. Your body didn’t fall down. I’m assuming I was standing.

Rick: If George had come out and said, “Mary, dinner’s ready,” would you have heard him?

Mary: I don’t know.

Rick: You don’t really even know how long you stood there.

Mary: But I was standing. When everything came back into my visual, all my senses flipped back on, I was still standing there.

Rick: The point to be made here is that this was some kind of gear shift that took place. It isn’t necessarily a permanent thing, but it was a transitional point.

Mary: Yes. What it left with me has always stayed with me. And with that, George talked about this incredible silence. That is who you are. That has always remained with me.

Rick: Would you say that that’s the essential, not remnant, but the essential element of that experience you had on the porch that has been retained? The silence?

Mary: Oh, yes. That’s never left me.

Rick: More so than any other quality.

Mary: That deep, incredible, infinite silence. And recognizing that that’s who I am, and not only me, but everything. Rocks and sky and animals and [

Rick: Walmart]–everything.

Rick: Speaking of Walmart, do you find that the silence modulates according to the circumstances? If you’re running through an airport trying to catch a connecting flight, is there less silence than if you’re sitting in meditation or walking through the forest?

Mary: That’s a great question. Because in the beginning, there was a foreground and background, where this was sometimes in the background, sometimes in the foreground. This has been several years ago. With more experiences and more knowledge with those experiences, it’s become more always present in the foreground, always there.

Rick: Regardless of the circumstances or whatever you’re doing.

Mary: Yes, yeah.

Rick: What would you say is the practical significance of this? Personally, I think that feeling wonderful inside is in itself a practical benefit, which if there were nothing more than that, great. In terms of your, shall we say, relative life, what has the impact of this been?

Mary: For me, it’s been a really, really strong connection with pretty much everything. I don’t feel separate.

Rick: To put it in crass terms, what is that good for?

Mary: Well, for me, I think more than anything, there’s a wonderful feeling of fulfillment. It’s different from accomplishment. It’s different from satisfaction.

Rick: So it’s not like the kind of fulfillment you get when you do a job well, and you think, “Oh, I feel so good,” or “I got a new car. Oh, I feel so good.” It’s something which is independent of losing things, gaining things, accomplishing things, failing at things, and so on.

Mary: Yes, because this underlies all of that. It’s always there. It doesn’t change. What does change about it, of course, is the clarity George mentioned earlier.

Rick: The clarity fluctuates?

Mary: In the beginning, yes, it did.

Rick: But now it doesn’t?

Mary: No, it’s always right there, just always apparent.

Rick: Let’s say, I don’t know why I’m pursuing this line of questioning, but it’s coming to mind. Actually, before I do that, let me do another station ID. My name is Rick Archer, and you’re listening to KRUU-LP 100.1 FM, the voice of Fairfield, Iowa and beyond. The show is “Awakenings,” and I’m talking to George and Mary Foster. Let’s just say, for the sake of discussion, just to put it to the test, thinking back over the last couple of months, let’s say, the most trying, stressful thing that happened to you, maybe something with one of your daughters, or something with money, or something that happened to you, what was it like going through that experience with this thing you’ve been talking about as a foundation?

Mary: One of my daughters had a child, a second grandchild for me, and I was present at the birth. And it was quite an experience. It was a home delivery in water. And even though all of this is going on, it’s like I’m buoyant in this quality of stillness. It’s always there. Nothing shakes it. Nothing changes it. Nothing rattles it. Even though the pangs of labor are there, and vocalizations of that, and screwing around, get the hot water, do this, do that. It’s all still there. It’s just like you’re riding on this beautiful cushion. It’s always there.

Rick: And do you still experience the normal range of human emotions?

Mary: Oh, yeah.

Rick: Both positive and negative?

Mary: Yeah, I can get angry. I’m not very volatile, but yeah, I can feel anger. I can feel hurt. I can feel shame. I can feel also love and exhilaration and happiness.

Rick: And so, let’s say you’re feeling angry. You can probably remember an instance when you got angry. How is that any different than it would be if this silence or inner wakefulness were not there?

Mary: Probably being overtaken by it, or you could say overshadowed.

Rick: Getting lost in it.

Mary: Yeah, you get lost in it, and you just run this loop. I’m mad, I’m mad, I’m mad. But now it’s almost laughable. You can get angry and realize that it’s passing, and it’s there to serve some sort of purpose, and it just goes.

Rick: And it goes. And then you feel like you’re a clean slate again?

Mary: Yeah, pretty much. George, do you have any comments on what we’ve been talking about here?

George: Sure. Yeah, the overriding benefit of this is not so much about what shows up in the expressions of it, although it feels like it does, from the inside it feels that way, but the happiness is unshakeable. Sure, anger or whatever, name them, frustrations or anything, pain, I mean, anything, does not shake the happiness, which I think also makes the– and again, I remember days when–I mean, years back– when anger would feel like that, and it would just take over, and you’d feel like, “I am angry.” I don’t feel that anymore.

Rick: You get angry, but you are not angry.

George: Right, right.

Rick: In other words, you are not the anger.

George: Well, I am the anger, which kind of makes it much more enjoyable. It’s not that it takes over. It’s not that it’s–it’s just one more expression of myself, and it’s one more chance to experience. It’s a wonderful–actually, it’s actually rather really enjoyable.

Rick: Neat. Oh, were you about to say something?

Mary: Yeah, there’s something I’d like to mention, is that George and I have had– some of our experiences have been night and day to each other. Some are very similar. This disappearing, he had a similar experience at one point in time. The experiences are just as infinite as there are people and ways of–

Rick: Right.

Mary: –the human–

Rick: It’ll have its own flavor for each person.

Mary: Yeah, I’ve noticed that with a lot of people, the experiences can just have such a broad range, and some can be visual, auditory, sensory, all these different experiences, and they all bring knowledge. When there’s enough clarity there, you get that. But what I’m trying to say is that there’s this common denominator in these experiences that when you take away the experience, the knowledge that’s left over of who you are is there.

Rick: So you’re saying that we could have–we could– as this interview show progresses week after week, and I’ll be interviewing all kinds of people, they’ll report all kinds of experiences, but I am likely to find a common denominator that is pretty much the same for all these people.

Mary: Yeah, yeah.

Rick: Could you try to clarify a little bit more what that common denominator is?

Mary: Well, it’s experiencing this–

Rick: Silence?

Mary: Yes, the unbounded silence, this infinite silence. That’s probably the main characteristic, I would say, of any awakening, is that you become aware of this level of consciousness, because it’s conscious, it’s there, it doesn’t sleep. You can go to sleep at night and it can still be there.

Rick: Does that happen to you?

Mary: Yes.

Rick: So when you sleep at night, what is your experience during sleep?

Mary: There’s an awareness there that doesn’t sleep. I can watch my body fall asleep, I can watch my body dream, I can watch my body wake up. It’s not witnessing, it’s different.

Rick: Are you always aware during sleep, or just sometimes when you think about it, you realize that you are, or something?

Mary: There’s sometimes during the night when you go into the really, really deep, deep rest, and it can be really quiet and still, but I think there’s still a little bit of that awareness there.

Rick: This might also sound strange to people who have never contemplated this particular thing. People in the TM movement are familiar with it, they call it “witnessing sleep,” but the idea is, and I’ll let you say it, the idea is that there’s three states of consciousness that we all commonly experience, waking, dreaming and sleeping, and then there’s what is called in Sanskrit “Turiya,” or fourth state of consciousness, which is a state of awareness that is independent of and foundational to the other three, and that it’s actually possible to be conscious of that level, even if you’re soundly asleep.

Mary: Yeah, “restful alertness” it’s also tagged as.

Rick: Right.

Mary: So, yeah, a lot of people experience that as well. So, with this plethora of experiences, the common denominator is awareness, being aware of awareness, actually. I know Maharishi talked about all the different states of consciousness and different experiences and so forth, based on his own state of consciousness. And I can say that what George and I experience and others that I know, it’s exactly like he said, but it’s not at all like he said. So it’s my own experience of the same knowledge. It’s George’s own experience of the same knowledge. You have your own experience of that knowledge.

Rick: Yeah, it’s like he offered a road map. I mean, a road map is a depiction of a place that you aren’t experiencing, but it’s meant to be a guide for when you get there, and so you’ll recognize the place. But you can look at a map of Montana and memorize the whole thing, but when you actually get to Montana, it may bear very little resemblance to the concept you had of what Montana was going to be like.

Mary: Yeah, the mountains are pretty big.

Rick: One point that I find interesting in reading and listening to a lot of different spiritual teachers is that, for some reason, a number of them, even though they themselves may have practiced meditation or some sort of spiritual disciplines for decades, they undergo an awakening. They become awakened, and then they turn around and say, “You don’t need to meditate. You don’t need to do spiritual practices. It’s just going to happen to you when it’s meant to happen. Don’t try for anything, blah, blah, blah.” And that seems hypocritical to me and kind of ironic in that they themselves apparently arrived where they were as a result of dedicated spiritual practice. Any comments on that point, either of you or both of you?

Mary: I think there’s those that have no spiritual practice at all. I don’t know about atheists, but I do know that it can just happen. It can happen at a very young age. It can happen at the moment of death.

George: As far as, kind of like you mentioned, you take a boat across the river, and then you tell everybody, you shout across the river to those who haven’t crossed, and you say, “You don’t need a boat.” Well, here I am. All you’ve got to do is be here. I identify with that, I’ve got to say, to some degree. What that strikes in me is that then you get into the world of Karma, which is that we all are having compulsions to do whatever we do, however we behave. And if somebody wants to teach a certain thing, then it’s their right to do that. And if it looks hypocritical to you or to somebody else, then that’s also the Karmic thing widening out. You have a judgment on it, and somebody else might not think it’s hypocritical. It’s just the waves go up and they go down. And it’s always the ocean, whether it’s going up or down. And that’s where the bliss is, actually, is knowing that if the wave is up or the wave is down, it’s still motion of the Self.

Rick: Another twist on your boat analogy is that I think some people, they get in the boat, they go across the river, they get to the other shore, and they don’t want to get out of the boat. It’s like, “My boat, I love this boat. I really identify with this boat. It’s my boat. It’s better than your boat.”

George: I have a thing to say about that. If somebody has that, and that happened to me, I kind of think of it as an analogy about getting on a train. And you pay your ticket, you get on the train, and you fully think that you will get off the train like you got on, like the train is going to take you somewhere. You give your power to that train. And after a while, if you check in, what happened to the train? Where’s the train? The train disappeared. So I would think if somebody is listening and they’re thinking, “Oh yeah, well, I’m not ready,” or “I’m not the one,” look around. Where’s the vehicle? Where is it? Is it still there? Because it’s really you. It really always was you. It started with you, and it ends with you.

Rick: When you guys had undergone this shift, and you felt like you really knew who you were for the first time, did you at the same time have the feeling like you had always known what you were, and you just had somehow overlooked it? Was there that sense like, “Hey, I’ve always known this”? To throw another metaphor in here, the sun is shining, there’s clouds in the way. When the clouds drift away, the sun is unimpeded, but from the perspective of the sun, the sun realizes, “I’ve always been shining. Those clouds really didn’t make any difference one way or the other.”

George: I think it’s sort of like that. It’s not that I’ve always known it, but that I’ve always been that. It’s like you discover something about yourself that you always were.

Rick: That you realize you always were.

George: And you didn’t know it before, but now you do.

Mary: And that’s why it’s so ordinary. Even though you might have some pretty flashy experiences, I’ve had some pretty amazing experiences, but it’s so ordinary. It just feels like, “Yes, this is natural. This is who I am.”

Rick: Good. Excellent. Well, this is a good note to end on. We’re almost out of time. I just want to close by saying that you have been listening to “Awakenings,” a new show on KRUU-LP 100.1 FM, the voice of Fairfield, Iowa and beyond. My name is Rick Archer, and we’ve been talking to George and Mary Foster. And we’ll hopefully do this again. Not hopefully. If you’re listening to this, they’ve approved the pilot, and we’re gonna do it every week. And we will be announcing what time it will be, and it will be a call-in show on subsequent occasions. So thank you very much for listening.

Mary: Thank you, Rick.