Rick Archer: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer and I’m with a bunch of friends out in California, most of us for the Science and Non-Duality Conference, but we had a whole day to fill with something useful, and so I’ve been having the impulse to have a group conversation with a relatively large number of people, as you’ll see in a minute when I introduce them. And it may seem a little crazy to try to have a conversation with this many people, but I’m a little crazy, so it seems perfectly normal to me. It seem normal to you guys? Okay, welcome to the monkey house. So we’re just getting started. I’m going to introduce the people who are here, and this whole thing is a little bit informal. Some people will be coming in and joining us as we proceed. Some people might need to leave, and we’re just going to see how it rolls. So just showing up is Susanne Marie. She’s a spiritual teacher living in Grass Valley area, isn’t it? Yeah. Yeah, and she’s here for the conference. Sitting next to her is one of my favorite authors, Mariana Caplan, who’s written some wonderful books, “Halfway Up the Mountain,” “The Error of Premature Claims to Awakening,” and a couple of books about whether you need a guru, and so on. I love Mariana’s books and read several of them before I even met her. Dana Sawyer, who’s an old friend of mine– I instructed him in transcendental meditation in 1971, and haven’t seen him since nearly then. And he’s gone on to become a professor of religious studies at the Maine College of Art. He’s been to India maybe 18, 20 times or something, speaks fluent Hindi, has interviewed just about every swami of note in India, and done all sorts of interesting things in his life. He just came here from the World Parliament of Religions in Salt Lake City. Next to him is my friend Francis Bennett. Francis was a Benedictine and Cistercian monk Trappist, for the better part of 30 years. And he wrote me from the monastery, actually, when he had had a spiritual awakening, was feeling the impulse to leave, and I said, “Boy, as soon as you get out, let’s do an interview.” And we did, and people around the world immediately fell in love with him. And so did I. He’s become one of my best friends. Next to him is Craig Holliday. Craig lives in Durango, Colorado. And incidentally, I’ve interviewed everybody on this panel, I think, with the exception of a couple that I’ll introduce in a minute. So you can look up any of these people as I’m introducing them, and as you hear them speak during this interview, if you want to hear more from them. But Craig lives in Durango and is a spiritual teacher and sort of a non-dual therapist, would you say? Okay, good. Has a beautiful daughter, whom he featured prominently in his interview with me. Next to Craig to my right is Kristin Kirk. Kristin is a spiritual teacher and healer who has a very fascinating range of experience, in my opinion, kind of multi-dimensional. And she has been living in western Massachusetts, but she’s in the process of moving to Kauai. And I’m really glad that she could be here as part of this. And to my left is Clare Blanchflower, whom I interviewed just a couple weeks ago up in Vancouver and just got to know. Clare lives there and just drove all the way down for the conference. And I don’t know what more to say about you, Clare. (laughter) Great person. To her left is David Buckland. David has been tremendously helpful to BatGap over the last several years. He has done all sorts of technical things and fixed all kinds of things that got screwed up and built some important sections of the site and writes a fascinating blog called “DaVidya,” which is a play on words, because “vidya” means knowledge and his name is David, so “DaVidya.” And it’s one of the few things that I read on a regular basis. I always learn something. To his left is Chuck Hillig, whom I interviewed very early on in BatGap, maybe almost six years ago or something. Chuck lives in Virginia and is– I suppose, would you call yourself a non-dual teacher? Do you actually do much teaching or are you more kind of, write and–
Chuck Hillig: Yes to both.
Rick Archer: Yes to both, okay. And he gives a very lively presentation, and will be doing so at the SAND. conference. To his left is David Elsey. David is–oh, God, what did you say you were? He’s a performer, a mime, and stuff like that, but he’s also kind of a non-dual teacher, right?
David Ellzey: Yeah, you can use the word “transformational entertainment.”
Rick Archer: Transformational entertainment, good. Yeah, you walk into one of his shows and you don’t know who you are when you come out.
David Ellzey: Right. – Laurie Moore–well, it just– – It’s always entertaining. Yeah.
Rick Archer: To his left is Kiran, who kind of goes by the moniker “Mystic Girl in the City.” I’ve interviewed Kiran a couple times, now most recently up in Vancouver. And she’s one of these people who wasn’t really interested in spiritual practice or doing anything of the sort, and I think was tying her shoes one morning and all of a sudden had this profound awakening and took quite some time figuring out what the heck had happened to her. So, very interesting story, and interesting person to get to know. To her left is someone who is– I really need to thank so much for our being here today. It’s Jeffrey Martin. Jeffrey is a researcher at Sophia University, which is where we’re taping this. And Sophia is actually the home of Transpersonal Psychology. Abraham Maslow was here back in the early ’70s, and he and Jim Fadiman and others kind of pretty much started Transpersonal Psychology. And so I’m grateful both to Sophia and also to Jeffrey for the tremendous help he’s provided in getting this whole thing set up. He’s bought all kinds of equipment, and we spent all day yesterday getting the equipment working, and so on, so it really wouldn’t have happened without him. And someone else who came in just as I was doing these introductions is Laurie Moore, to the right here. And Laurie, I’ve interviewed twice on BatGap. She is, among other things, an animal communicator, but I don’t think that fully defines everything she does. And she also contributed a lot to some notes that we’ve been developing for what we might be discussing today and had some very good thoughts to share. So, with that, I think we’ll get started. And if I’ve left anything out from my introduction and you’d like to elaborate when any of you speak, then please add whatever you like. So, part of the reason for doing this is… Well, for one thing, I’m sort of a… I don’t like downtime. I always like to be doing something constructive, and we’d planned another annual conversation with Francis Bennett and Adyashanti for today, but Adya had a retreat to go to in Tahoe, so I thought, “What can we do that would really be different and useful and interesting for people?” And we came up with this idea. And Craig and Kristin and I think maybe David at some point and I were batting some ideas back and forth about what we might discuss in a thing like this. And I’m going to start with another point first and then get to one of these as our starting points. And then as we go along throughout the day, anything that anybody feels inclined to talk about that we’re not talking about, feel free to bring it up and we’ll get into it. I think it’ll just roll and one thing will lead to the next. So, one thing I wanted to start about that we hadn’t discussed in our emails, which I think is maybe a little bit relevant, is what the heck is enlightenment or awakening anyway? Because everybody here in one way or another is either researching it–I forgot to mention, Jeffrey is doing EEG research on the neurophysiology of enlightenment–or they are teaching, trying to help others awaken in some way, however they define it. Or perhaps–and in any case, everyone is continuing to pursue their own awakening and unfoldment, layer after layer. And do we actually all agree upon what that really means? [laughter] Or are we just kind of like talking past each other a little bit, using the same words, but with different definitions in the back of our mind or in the depth of our experience? So, let’s bat that around for a little while before we get to some of these other points. Who would like to make a comment? Laurie? Oh, you can’t talk unless you have a microphone. The microphones are the talking sticks.
Laurie Moore: I think that we do ourself a disservice by thinking of enlightenment as some one state that each will experience in the same way when we get where we think we want to go. Because we know from our sharing– many humans share about their experiences of awakening– there are many states. And we know from history that whatever spiritual path we refer to, there are some shared states. For example, the state of unconditional love, the state of oneness, the state of generating, the state of serving and yearning, which leads to all that. But each person is experiencing these awarenesses in completely different ways. If you stepped into the body and the brain and the heart and soul of any individual, this would take on a different kind of translation as it’s worked through the universe into your eyes. And I’ll keep it short.
Rick Archer: We were talking about that very point in the car on the way up here. Dana, since we were talking about– you need a mic.
Dana Sawyer: Well, two things came to my mind when you were saying that. One was back in the ’60s, W.T. Stace down at Princeton came up with a typology of characteristics of some sort of a megapoint in growth of consciousness. In other words, if you look across mystical literature of all traditions, then I think it was seven that he came up with– ineffability, a sense of timelessness, a sense of profound interconnectedness, that when you look across the mystical literature, there tend to be shared qualities or characteristics of mystical experience. But then at the same time, I found myself totally agreeing with you that even if we look at the traditions, whether they’re in the Avaita Vedanta or Christian mysticism, the Paramitas of Buddhism, that they set the bar at different places in terms of anything like ultimate breakthrough. I tend to think there is no ultimate breakthrough, that you just keep breaking through and breaking through and breaking through. Francis, do you want to say something?
Francis Bennett: I think it brings up an interesting point even just about the word “enlightenment,” because I’m more and more and more uncomfortable with it as a word, because I think that the connotation of it is that there’s some kind of final state, and once you get there, you’re enlightened and you’re done and there’s nothing more to see. And my own experience of this kind of unfolding of divinity, I think the discovery of divinity within and without and everywhere, is that it’s a kind of unending process in that it really never has an end point for a human being anyway, at least in our present state. And so I’ve really come to kind of prefer the word “awakening,” because you can talk about different, like you said, you can talk about different levels of it, different depths of it, and you can talk about abiding awakening and non-abiding awakening. And I think as a word, it’s very functional just as itself, whereas the word “enlightenment” denotes a kind of final arrival that just isn’t my experience. I mean, maybe it’s somebody else’s here experience, but it isn’t mine. So I don’t even like the word anymore. Yeah.
Mariana Caplan: Yeah, just connect with what you’re saying. I don’t think I–were you saying actualization is what you were–
Francis Bennett: No, enlightenment is what I’m kind of not comfortable with.
Mariana Caplan: Yeah, for me, the word that interests me most these days is integration and human integration. And I work as a therapist. I work as a psychotherapist. I work as a spiritual–I’m not a spiritual teacher. I made that choice early on, and I’m very pleased with that. I work as a spiritual friend, and I work as a psychotherapist. And most of my psychotherapy is with long-term spiritual practitioners and with spiritual teachers. And I work when–I come in when there’s scandals, and I mediate, and I mediate between the teacher and the wife and all the people they slept with and, you know, and the disgruntled students. And I’ve been doing that for years and years and years. So what I know about, and it’s why I get to do the work I do, is because I have a hermetically sealed container with these people, so I have their confidentiality. So I sit and live and, you know, often suffer. This is part of my life’s work that I love. And so my experience says that so many of the people that the world considers enlightenment–I know about the shadow and the depression and the madness and the deep darkness, that it’s not–you know, there’s reasons they could share it with the world and arguments for them not to share it with the world. That’s another discussion, and maybe a point we’ll get to. But this enlightenment for me now is more like a figment and a projection, and it’s not like a reason not to keep unfolding and yearning and going, but almost useless in the amount of projection we have unto imagined enlightened teachers in my experiences is enormous.
Jeffery Martin: In the early part of our research project about ten years ago, I was traveling around talking to many, many people across all traditions, six continents, the whole bit. And I would often spend six hours, ten hours, with a person literally talking all day. I used to say that I would talk to them until they kicked me out of the living room because I just wanted to get, like, every last little piece of information out of them. It very much was the same with you. It was a human story for me. I came into this as a researcher of well-being, not somebody looking into enlightenment. I was looking for who has the most well-being, and I eventually whittled it down to the population that’s sort of sitting around here. And one of the things that unfolded, I think, over time in that for me was that these were ultimately just normal people that I was sitting down with. It didn’t matter if they had 100,000 adherents or more around the world or they spoke in front of stadiums full of people in some corner of the world or they had 12 people sitting around a satsang in New Mexico or something. They were still just so richly human, and yet they were having this very different experience of how life can unfold and how life can show up than so many other people would consider sort of normal or what I was trained from a psychological standpoint to think of as sort of the normal self. So I would totally resonate with that point. I would say I also resonate with the other points, which is that there’s– for us, it was very hard to figure out how to classify individuals over time and across culture and across different traditions and no traditions, people who were tying their shoes, and had it hit them, and people who had tried for 70 years and finally got there in some religious tradition or spiritual tradition or whatever. I do think that there’s a common thread. I think Stace got it right. I definitely think there’s a common core, but I think I can also appreciate people like Ferrer’s argument about how there’s sort of many shores around a lake or whatever. It’s very interesting because although there does seem to be a tremendous amount of psychological– I look at it from a cognitive neuroscience standpoint. So from a cognitive neuroscience standpoint, there’s a tremendous amount of similarity, but how that actually expresses through the meaning of each individual mind, that’s rich and really incredibly varied between people.
Rick Archer: I think Karen had a comment.
Kiran Trace: When I’m thinking about this question, all I can answer is from my direct experience. And my direct experience is having the experience and learning vocabulary later. And so for me, there was a direct experience where what I call my mind blew a fuse. And what it very specifically meant was that the filter that could see form disappeared. And then everything that represents form was exposed as being pure emptiness, and that pure emptiness moving into form. And so my filter that took all of that raw, empty information and turns it into chairs and bodies and humans left. And from that place, there was such a recognition. I always have this little image that it was like–it was just so funny. And I think lots of people know the experience where it’s just so funny because you think, “Oh my God, I spent my whole life thinking I was human.” And suddenly, something happened and my mind blew, and I’m like–I noticed the arm holding the puppet. It was a puppet. And then I noticed the arm is part of a whole room, and then I noticed the whole room. And this recognition that it’s just one vast emptiness looking at emptiness. And it was so funny to me because it was like, “God, I’m not human. I’m not actually breathing. There’s not actually air. Like all this form isn’t actually here.” And then I went and had a conversation very soon after that with a woman as we were walking to go talk to Eckhart Tolle. This was in Vancouver. And we were walking, and she was telling me about enlightened people with no idea that this was unfolding for me. And she was telling me about people who walk on air and are always happy and are never disgruntled and never experience emotions anymore and this place of eternal bliss. And I remember thinking to myself–because I didn’t know what this word was. I’d never even heard of this word. So I thought to myself, “Well, that’s not me.” And I sure as heck don’t want to be that, and I don’t want to tell anybody that this is happening to me in case they project that story on me because at this point where there’s just this vast spaciousness, that kind of a story was so strongly full of identity that it hurt from this incredible effortlessness. But then in my journey to go, “What the f*** is this?” I called myself this–oops, I’m such a gutter mouth. Apologies. I’m not spiritual. I’m not spiritual. So I used to call myself this strange angel Buddha freak. And in my quest to discover what the heck this was, but at the same time it was so self-authenticating. But while I went to find it, I went to meet all these “enlightened teachers.” And I remember the shock of discovering a teacher who sort of put their sign out as an enlightened teacher and then spoke very clearly that there was no such thing as enlightenment and there was no true nature, like all of this was just a ridiculous joke. And in my naivete being incredibly shocked. And what had happened directly for me is when the separate self, or the me, dissolved, I had no ability anymore ever to identify again. And in fact, it took many, many, many months to even just find the body again. And from that place, a different sense organ opened. And we might call it presence, or we might call it an access to stillness or clarity. And that sense organ was so much stronger than any other sense organ, than my nose, than my eyes, than touch. It was so huge. And when I describe it to people, I say, “Well, I move sonar-ically.” That’s what I say. I’m a sonar-ic being. And when I come across other sonar-ic beings, like sonar, like a dolphin sonar, which is this other sense that we might call presence, and it’s so strong. I mean, it literally drives the car for me. It turns left or turns right. It’s this huge sense organ. And I can come across other beings with the same sense organ can recognize the others with the same sense organ. And so for me, there was a discernibly recognizable feature to other people who had no more identity and functioned instead of the separate self with senses from this other sense organ. And it was so crazily obvious to me. And then my naivete, I was incredibly shocked to meet teacher after teacher that didn’t have this sense organ and had a whole conversation about, I don’t know, the fifth noble truths of waka, waka, waka. And for me, none of this had any reality to it. It just had spiritual story and identity. And that’s all fine, and I’ve learned over the years that there’s such a value to all that. But in my direct experience at the time, if we’re sort of just, what is this experience? That’s the experience.
Rick Archer: I think both Davids have comments. You want to go first?
David Buckland: Actually, it might be useful.
Rick Archer: Hold the mic up to your mouth. Yeah, the little point I wanted to make, too, is that enlightenment, awakening, whatever kind of phrasing you want to give it, is a transpersonal shift. It’s a shift out of being a person. And so it’s not a person that becomes enlightened. It’s a person that the person has left behind by the process. So that’s also an important thing. It’s not something that’s going to be a solution to your problems or an escape or anything like that. You’re actually moving more into your life as it is. So, yeah. Thanks.
David Ellzey: It’s funny, when I attempt to answer this question, two things happen. One is I’m in agreement on a certain level that enlightenment is an event-oriented implication. It happens and then something begins and it’s over. I don’t believe that’s our human experience. I believe it’s a progressive, dynamic process of living. So I explain it in a little different way. But before I do that, I just want to state that, for me, whenever we have conversations like this, I always come back to what is, not what is enlightenment, but literally in this moment, what is. There’s silence, there’s vibration of vocal cords, there’s hearing, there’s clearing of throat. That’s the totality to me. And so within that, if I don’t add mentally or add storyline or add what I call the add-on of any other implication besides what is, there is a real stillness that is accessible instantaneously because it’s always this background behind all the activity, mental, physical, sensorial. So I always go to that. That in the silence, actually, there is a powerful recognition. There is mind activity, there’s noise, and that’s allowable too as we begin to understand the background. And that brings me to what I was about to explain. Enlightenment is an implication of an event, and I actually don’t believe that any event can be the demarcation point between knowing and not knowing. There can be a moment of recognition, of expansive presence and awareness beyond boundary, beyond thought. But the way I explain it–and Rick, you had said I’m a transformational entertainer, or I cued you to say that–and that is part of the way that I live, on stages, revealing in emptiness form. Because as a mime, that’s what we do. We create something that wasn’t here a second ago, but it’s also gone. So to me, the mime and the study of emptiness into form, even the body, is a deeply spiritual study. And the way I explain awakening, which is my favorite term also, Francis, is that it’s a progressive process from a revealing that my veil– you used the word veil, which I really liked– the veil of my perception into the world, my perception of self, my beliefs of fear, my beliefs that the world is dangerous, whatever I have, we live with this as a foreground for a long time. And when we begin to glimpse that there’s something more than that, or there’s a container, infinite container, in which that veil appears, what used to be a visitor, peace, self-recognition, knowing who we are, comes and visits and returns back, and the veil is the primary experience. As awakening occurs, there’s this changing of location, so to speak, where the first veil, which is what we’re looking through normally, emotionality, reactivity to life, identifying with a separate self, is here. What begins to happen is peace visits, there’s a glimpse beyond it with no veil, and the veil comes back. With time–and that’s the majority of our experience– with time, the peace or the absence of the veil begins to be more primary, and the emotionality begins to be a visitor and comes and gets in the way. So they actually begin to change places so that a fundamental or a foundation of experience of life begins to be more grounded or rooted or stabilized in the truth of our expansive nature. And yet, in our human experience of emotionality– I’m a life coach, basically. I work in consciousness coaching so that we can see the veil that we’ve been unconscious of prior, see through it. And I work with people going through divorce, financial issues that are extreme, every kind of human experience. This idea of investigating the veil, the belief system that we’re unconscious of, seeing through it, and it’s revealed naturally that we are more than that. All my coaching sessions end up being about that. And we have myriad numbers of beliefs that we all have, but they all come down to the little me that has them. So then we look at that, and the matrix of beliefs begin to disentangle and fall down. So enlightenment, I agree, I’m not in resonance with, but the awakening process can be a progressive deepening of knowing who we are. [unclear]
Rick Archer: Oh, I’m sorry. Chuck, and then Craig.
Chuck Hillig: And this event doesn’t really happen in time at all. It seems to happen in time, but this one moment of now is not leaning forward into the next moment, simply because there is no next moment. It’s always now, and you’re always here. And this moment does not have a past that it’s living out of, and it doesn’t have a future that it’s leaning into. This is whole and complete unto itself. This moment’s not going anywhere. No place for it to go. And so the peace that is within your heart of hearts really depends on your willingness to align yourself with just this. And is this moment right now whole and complete? Is this enough for you? If it’s not enough, what’s missing? What needs to be added to it or subtracted from it to make it somehow more complete, better than, more brilliant than? But if this is enough, and you have as your default position in life a sense of now, a sense of yes, and you live in that default position of yes, then whatever shows up, whatever arises, you are in alignment with. And you’re not saying no to, you’re not resisting, you’re not trying to push away and deny. So if you feel happy, you feel happy, and if you feel unhappy, that’s okay too. And if you feel angry and confused and frustrated and run down the whole spectrum of human emotions, each and every one of them, and all of their craziness from one extreme to the other is totally okay with you because you’re always in this state of yes. Bring it on. It arises within me and disappears within me, and I’m the source of all of this, and nothing is to be denied. Nothing is to be denied ever. RA
Rick Archer: Craig.
Craig Holliday: Yes, I very much agree that awakening is a fundamental shift, a shift out of our mind, out of our emotions, into something which is in a sense unborn, unmanifest. But also when I look out at life, when I look out just into the eyes of my baby or look into the eyes of a friend, and you just see this unimaginable beauty giving birth in every moment. It’s almost as if God is this vast emptiness, this vast wonder, this vast beauty, which is unborn. But God is also giving birth to this evolutionary nature, a nature which is ever unfolding. And to me, one of the things that, when I did have this series of awakenings and I went to my teacher, and he basically said, “That’s nothing.” And I said, “How could you say this is nothing? This is absolutely everything. This is what I’ve wanted my entire life.” And he said, “Yeah, but that’s nothing. That’s just the beginning.” And it really shocked me. I was actually hurt. How could you say such a thing? But as the years have gone on, and what I see is that there is– that God is giving birth in every moment to so much, and that this world is ever unfolding. And it’s so beautiful and so amazing. I think we get into so much confusion because we think of awakening to God. It is. You awaken to that vast, empty presence. But that’s only half the truth. And the other half is that God is living through all of us, living through this world, this planet, this ecosystem. When we were driving here, we were driving on the highway, and we almost got in a car accident. And Francis, an angel, showed up on his shoulder and tapped him and let out a holler. And I slammed on the brakes and see, that’s God too showing up in this moment, in this world, in this life.
Rick Archer: Who hollered? The angel or Francis?
Craig Holliday: Francis.
Francis Bennett: Stop, Craig!
Craig Holliday: But it’s such a beautiful thing. And so to me, a greater question than even say integration, it’s not that we wake up to the vast emptiness and we’re integrating our humanity into the vast emptiness, but that our humanity too is an expression of God. Our love is an expression of God. Our compassion is an expression of God. And that compassion is always continually growing, continually expressing ourself. I think if the Buddha walked into this room or Jesus walked into this room, our world view is so much more enlightened than their world view. And I hope that’s not blasphemous to say. But it’s true that this world is growing. It is ever evolving. And it’s continually evolving, and it will evolve forever. And that’s an amazing thing. But to include that in what awakening is, that it isn’t just a static thing. It absolutely is a static thing from one perspective, but from another perspective, it is completely ever evolving forever. And to include that in our definition of God and divinity and awakening, I think it’s a very important thing.
Rick Archer: I think Dana has a comment, but is there anyone, Susanne or Clare or anybody who hasn’t spoken who would like to? That and the mic there for Susanne.
Susanne Marie: Yeah, I love what you just said, Craig, about the evolution of the evolvement of consciousness. And I really feel like consciousness is evolving in and as and through us, within our humanness, within our bodies, and even, in my opinion, through the Earth itself, which I feel like is a conscious being. So I rarely–I don’t think I ever use the word enlightenment. For me, it’s awakening in the respect of– as if it’s a verb. It’s an ongoing process. And I’m a little cold. [laughter]
Rick Archer: Oh, just in the moment. Yeah. Does anybody have a jacket or a shawl that Susanne could have?
Susanne Marie: Oh, thank you. I actually also resonate with the very last thing that Kiran said. Thank you. Aw. This is the movement of awakening. In regards to the sonar, I’ve actually used that term before, that it’s–to me, there’s an evolution in the development and the process of the descent of the realization of the light into the body. And I feel like it moves from mind– and this is my experience– mind, feeling, and then into sensing. And that in the end, we really become sensing beings without interpretation. The self-reflective mechanism of mind slows down and ends, actually. And so we just become that. We just become the movement of that without the need to interpret. And I feel like we are intelligence itself and that the body opens up and is a sensing instrument of the divine. And that’s, to me, the ongoing delight of awakening and curious to see what’s next. [laughter] What happens afterwards, you know, and the continuing evolution of it all.
Rick Archer: I think Clare and Kristin, do either of you want to say anything on this? Or shall we go to–you want to say something?
Kristin Kirk: I want to say something. I love hearing everyone share, you know, this is just such a beautiful opportunity for us to hear each other, you know, to hear each other. And it’s kind of a demonstration of what people are saying. What’s the same thread that’s true? And what’s the unique expression of that? So I just want to say it’s a total delight. A total, total delight. I was inspired to pick up the microphone just kind of tagging on what you were just saying about–it’s like being the living divine, right? That we are that truth. We are the sensing organ of the singular existence. And I’ve been curious about what enlightenment was because I haven’t studied anything, so I don’t have any sort of history of the technical. Like I’m sure in–I would just assume in Tibetan Buddhism there’s like all these details of these different stages, so there’s a great curiosity on my part of what all those things are because I don’t have any of that kind of education. And in my experience, there’s been a kind of wild– wild–it’s like the sense of self that’s necessary for everything to maintain its individualness has been seen as transparent or permeable so that the I am of the chair and the I am of the body and the I am of Craig’s glasses, right? It’s all–it’s the same I am, and the fluidity of that in simultaneousness with being absolutely nothing and then the joy of the sensation, like the whole thing all kind of being seamless is part of what my experience is. But everything that everyone has said is also– yeah, it’s just another beautiful way of saying a similar thing, yeah.
Clare Blanchflower: The way that I was experiencing it is that there’s something here that we all recognize, the stillness and the silence, which is here, which is the ever-present now, is what we awaken to. And however the uniqueness flows from that is the expression, the living of being. But the place that we all agree is that there is this presence which is known as the ever-present now, and it’s that. That’s the place that we all agree, that we all come together. And from that flows all of these individual expressions and this unique living expression, which is the humanity being expressed from the divinity. So that’s the beauty in that, yeah.
Rick Archer: Dana.
Dana Sawyer: One of the things that struck me as we were going around is I agree with Clare, there is this shared moment of non-dual experience and shared moment of– there’s an aspect of us that a lot of people aren’t aware of, perhaps. That scene in Alice in Wonderland when the white rabbit says to her, “Don’t just do something, stand there.” That, you know, be there and be present in it. But I also think of an interview with George Harrison one time when after 20 years, after the big Beatles phase, somebody asked him, “Do you still believe it’s true all you need is love?” And he said, “Yeah, I’m going to stick with it. All you need is love and a sandwich.” You need a sandwich too.
Francis Bennett: Made with love.
Dana Sawyer: With love. But my point really is that sometimes I see almost a toxicity in the non-dual experience. And what I mean by that is sometimes it’s such a powerful experience and such a compelling experience that we think it’s the whole story of growing up as people and people will kind of warehouse themselves in the experience. They will–that even, you know, when the kleshas, as Buddhists call them, when emotions like anger, fear, and jealousy, envy arise, because those can be witnessed from one level, you know, from a sort of a God’s eye perspective, there isn’t enough maturity to say, “Okay, but there’s also the sandwich level in which things have to get done and the rubber meets the road and you’ve got to go to the bathroom and you’ve got to feed the kids, and that goes on too. And so where is the not only waking up, as Ken Wilber says, but the growing up of unpacking those problems and facing those dark aspects of the psyche that the non-dual awareness is witnessing? That’s the, you know, what Lama Surya Das– you called it halfway up the mountain calls it premature immaculation, right? That the rest of the work isn’t done and there’s not a responsibility for being embodied, that altered states of consciousness are wonderful, but if they don’t lead to altered traits of behavior so that we realize the kingdom of heaven is within, but we’re also responsible to—
Francis Bennett: Manifest it. –
Dana Sawyer: Right.
Francis Bennett: Could I?
Dana Sawyer: Yeah.
Rick Archer: Francis, then Laurie.
Francis Bennett: Laurie then Francis.
Rick Archer: Laurie then Francis.
Laurie Moore: Thank you. I–as you were speaking, a lot of heat and joy was rising in my body. I have full agreement of what you’re saying, and I’d like to just expand it some more. Throughout history, as life evolves through the human form– and I’m speaking right now only of the human form because each species is quite unique– there is a tendency, I’ve noticed, to try to obliterate, make wrong, or decide that what was before– we can even see it from the ’60s to the ’70s to the ’80s– was wrong. That wasn’t right. This is right. However, if we’re really honest with ourself, we’re living in a multitude of experiences. We all got here. Yes, maybe universal, enlightened, awakened, whatever words, maybe there was a complete release of identity, and–but there was some recognition of how to get the key into the car, and there–I don’t believe one person here didn’t have some thoughts of their identity on the way over. If you did, awesome. Although I don’t think that’s actually where we need to go. Words are–perhaps we could have an inquiry of what is the value of words, what is the beauty of words, what is the gift of having words while in the incarnation. It’s allowing us to connect on this level, which is just as beautiful as levels of complete release of all words, no thought. And there is a way of existing where this oneness deeper than identity occurs, and yet at the same time, a recognition of within that identity. And identity allows me to put her coat on when she was cold, for you to offer a coat, and for us to give each other food, and ask, “How is everyone on the planet going to eat?” And, “What are we going to do about war on the outside and the inside?” So, there’s a way to experience life where emotions are the weather. They’re just passing through, and they’re just heat and joy, as I was speaking of, rising in the moment.
Rick Archer: Well, Francis is getting ready to speak. I just want to say something that Francis often says, which is in response to those who say you’re not a person and all that, which is, of course you’re a person. You’re just not only a person, you know?
Francis Bennett: He’s just going to say that. – Yeah, good. So, who’s next?
Rick Archer: Yeah, so, I mean, of course you’re the… Of course you’re a wave. You’re just not only a wave. You’re the ocean. I have a mic. So, anyway, go ahead.
Francis Bennett: Yeah, and piggybacking on what you two said, it’s like a perfect segue into what I’m about to say. And it really struck me very early on when I’m listening to other people, and several times I heard this phrase of “I’m not a human” or “I’m not a person,” which I really, really don’t feel comfortable with. I really don’t like those phrases. I understand where they’re coming from. I really, really do. I get it that you wake up from the illusion that all I am, that I’m merely this separate human being with a body and a mind and a particular personality and a gender and, you know, fill in the blank, the whole thing. And I think that’s absolutely important, that transcendent movement up and out of the merely human. But then, something that I’ve taken to calling the awakening from awakening, because we can’t stay in this vast emptiness. I mean, we can, but like you say, it makes it hard to go to the grocery store. You know, I mean, it’s like… And people can reframe that all they want, and you hear it a lot, you know, “Well, I’m not going to the grocery store. Life is grocery storing.” You know, “I’m not Francis. Life is Francis-ing.” And it’s like, okay, that’s reframing, but you’re still there. You’re going to the grocery store. You know, it’s like, I think that there’s a… I think that there needs to be a kind of new approach to this, that I can see it coming in teachers who are maturing spiritually, and maturing just as human beings. And they’re realizing, okay, it’s important to wake up to that transcendent reality, and to realize I’m not merely this person. I’m not kind of confined to this. But then there’s a kind of awakening down and into again, the humanity. And even my talk here at SAND. is going to be integrating humanity with divinity. But I think that awakening has two movements. One is up and out, and one is down and into. And the up and out, as you say, it’s only half the journey. It’s not. It’s halfway up the mountain, which I love that. I’ve used that phrase. I have to admit, maybe I should send you royalties, but I love that phrase, halfway up the mountain, because it’s like there are two sort of movements of awakening, at least two. I would imagine there’s more. But the two that I’m aware of are this movement into transcendence, up and out of the imminent, but then a movement back into. And that’s where I think the Christian mystical tradition has a great image and model of the incarnational energy of Jesus, of divinity becoming a human being. And I think in awakening, that’s the movement. It’s like, okay, you awaken up and out of your humanity and realize I’m not merely a human being, I’m not limited to that. And then you awaken from that awakening and awaken back down and into fully your humanity and there’s this kind of effect then in the world that can be quite lovely and beautiful and solving problems like world hunger and war and things like that. If we’re just going to hang out in emptiness all the time and let everything go to hell in a handbasket, well, that’s fine for me, but that’s not so great for the person living in a drain tile, in India or somewhere. So anyway, I could go on and on because this got me.
Rick Archer: We have two over here. Go ahead.
David Buckland: I just wanted to make a comment about that too. One thing I’ve observed is that people, as they mature into an awakening, they actually become more distinct, more unique, more individual, and more, I don’t know, eccentric is the right word, but the shoulds and the musts and all the sort of conditioning falls away and you have this very unique person. And it’s just perhaps the expression of that, but it’s still there. There is still a person in the dance.
David Ellzey: I’m reminded of something which I’m sure some of you know better than I, but it’s a brief Zen story, which is that prior to enlightenment there are trees. Oh, mountains. Right, there are trees and mountains, right? During enlightenment there are no trees and mountains. After enlightenment there’s trees and mountains, but the purpose, to spell it out a little bit, as I see it that’s touching of my heart, is that suddenly I know that the trees and mountains are of the same substance in essence as I am. So that’s profoundly what you’re saying in a way, is that there’s this transcendent, this tendency in a lot of spiritual traditions to be lost at the transcendent stage and say I’ve arrived, but you’re speaking of the integration, or there are many words we can use, but returning to the common day living, knowing now that essentially we are in union in our deepest core of being, and that’s the transformational understanding that I feel in that third part of that story, which is important and touching.
Rick Archer: Kiran?
Kiran Trace: So the place that I work at all day long, we all work with people, so I’m not a teacher of enlightenment or awakening, because personally with my own direct experience I could give a flying f*** about it. I don’t think we need to awaken out of and then come back into, because for me it’s so clear and so obvious that formlessness is doing one thing here, it’s coming into form. And for me the direct experience is that that’s the point of formlessness, it’s its love, it’s its devotion. So there isn’t actually an experience where there’s pure samadhi that stays forever, and all of us have probably experienced samadhi for long periods of time, and it ends. It’s not a sustained thing. It eventually moves into form, because form is formlessness, it’s the one and the same. So when I’m working with people, I talk about reality and true nature, and there’s not a movement for us to dissolve out of something to come back into it. In my experience it’s very much about where is suffering happening for you, and what’s the story that’s happening there that basically you’re believing about lack and limitation at its most fundamental, which doesn’t exist in reality. And I don’t have to teach you about reality for you to know lack and limitation doesn’t exist in reality, because your own direct experience, you know that. There’s so many places we can go back to our lives in our own direct experiences and know this incredible movement of constantly moving, constantly thriving, constantly living. It’s like this constant movement. And so for me, when I work with people, I find it’s very small to just pull out the lack and limitation stories, and then they come face to face with freedom. And the piece for me that I actually really feel is a factor and maybe really worth talking about here is the word identity, because for me it’s very clear that identity isn’t here. But I really respect what Laurie’s saying about, well, we have identity to put the car in. Now, I don’t have an identity to put keys in the car, and I don’t think there was an identity to put a coat on someone who’s cold. We don’t need identity to do that. It’s the movement of love that does that and awareness. So it’d be really great to just look at the semantics of what we mean by identity, because I think that’s a sticking point when I’m working with people directly to find their own freedom and to live their own freedom. And quite specifically, when I talk to people, basically I pick up the phone and I ask them, “What’s your mirror look like? What’s your day-to-day? What was the day last week? What’s your week like?” And when they report to me, I’m looking at the external mirror of their world, and I can see from there where their own lack and limitations are making them stuck. And I really could give a f*** about how much they under– sorry, I keep saying this word. I could really give a fart about how much they know God, because they are God. And as soon as lack and limitation is out of the system, they come face-to-face with God. And it’s irrelevant about climbing up a mountain or down a mountain, because there’s only one thing happening. But these are semantics, because I think all of us have a deep agreement on the same plane about what we’re speaking about. But it’d be fun to talk about what is identity.
Rick Archer: Kristin, and then Susanne. Okay, you have the mic here.
Kristin Kirk: So I have a little hesitation in saying this, right? When we start talking about identity, where there’s identification, there can be a reaction. So I think–well, I love your sharing and how you’re speaking and how you’re offering it. Part of what happens for me in doing the healing work that I do is I’m conscious through all these different layers of I am, and that at each of these different dimensions, there’s a level of functionality, and that it’s different in each of the dimensions. And when people are functioning from a typical humanness that hasn’t recognized itself as the divine, there’s a level of identification with the function of the hand and the key and the car, and so there is a sense of identity that’s needed to do that from when consciousness is identified at that level. And for me in that surrendering through these different layers of I am, that there’s a layer of I am that does not need any identity that knows itself as a hand and as a key and as a car, as a direct reflection of how you’re articulating. So I completely understand that. And when I’m working with people, I’m doing a similar thing of seeing where is identification contracted, and that in that releasing, in terms of evolution, I will witness that release of identification through these layers of the divine, and so everyone’s experience makes sense to me how people are articulating it, and that I guess I just wanted to reflect that place of where I’m seeing the truth of what everybody’s saying. I’m not seeing a contradiction, and that…
David Buckland: It’s semantics, like she said. I think it’s semantics. [microphone feedback]
Rick Archer: Susanne, and just a reminder, no one should ever speak without a microphone in their hand, or else we won’t hear them.
Kristin Kirk: I don’t think I’m quite done. Can I have another second? I just want to be quiet for a second. Right, so in surrendering into nothing, it’s not the personality, the mind, or the thinking that place of identification that’s speaking. It’s a deeper… It’s God that’s speaking, right? But when… I mean, the whole… Yeah, the whole game is identification, right? Like in terms of my experience of evolution, of everything being God’s fingers, right? We’re all God’s fingertips. It’s God experiencing, and that in that awakening or surrendering through these layers of identity, we wake up over and over and over again through these layers of God’s sensing organ.
Rick Archer: Let’s give Susanne the one… Oh, the one with the orange cord, yeah.
Susanne Marie: Um… [clears throat] Excuse me. We have a cell phone going off. Okay. Great topic. Um… Yeah, I think that there are… That’s part of the evolution of consciousness within a human being is the journey of the dissolution of self, and that is the journey of the I am, the I. And in the beginning, it seems like the natural formation of the I, the sense of I, is to be fused with mind and body and to imagine itself as being a separate aspect of self, and that it has this awareness of being separate in the world, this I am here and that’s that. And so that’s the journey of what I saw my own children go through, being a mother. And it feels like the maturation is to have that sense of I dissolve over time. It just–it–it–it– There’s like a hole that falls– that appears in the center, and that’s the experience of emptiness. And as that appearance expands, there’s–one of the awakenings is the descent–the experience of unity consciousness. And in unity consciousness, the I is included in the vaster sense of self. There’s the I, but it’s part of the whole, and it’s not seen as separate, it’s not seen as a problem, and it’s something that is easily experienced and maneuvered within life. But I think there’s a continual– another evolution, and touching on what Kiran was talking about, and that’s something that I myself have experienced as well, is the falling away of the self-center, where the sense of unity consciousness actually falls away and it dissolves. Let’s see how to explain that. – Wordless. – Pardon? – Wordless. – [laughs] Well, there’s not a sense of having an identity any longer. The sense of I is not necessarily– it’s not included anymore in the totality. It’s known that it exists there, but it’s not sensed here anymore.
Rick Archer: Mariana.
Mariana Caplan: Yeah, right there. – Um, it– do we have some water anywhere? I didn’t bring any.
Rick Archer: I’ll get someone to get some water.
Mariana Caplan: So I’m shifting the topic a little bit, but I want to speak on behalf of our brokenness, the part of us that’s broken, and the part of most of us, and if it hasn’t been, probably will be. And I wrote about in one of my books, in “Eyes Wide Open,” I thought I was at the most broken that I’d ever been, but I didn’t know. I didn’t know it was going to happen again, and I think I’m due for it every ten years where my life gets shattered. And I know it’s not only my life. And I work more in the yoga world than in the non-dual world, and I think–there was a couple of points that I wanted to make as I was listening here, and I usually end up speaking on behalf of the underworld, but I think I’m more at home in these kinds of conversations. And one of the points I wanted to make is just how much we separate ourselves in the name of spirituality, like how much in the yoga world and the non-dual world, in my experience, ’cause I kind of work across traditions, where some of the–you know, the– it’s where it happens most frequently, and it’s such a subtle– it’s such a subtle thing. I mean, in the name of union, we separate ourselves from the people who don’t feel union, and it just happens all the time. It happens with our families. It happens with our relating with going out into the world and us who are spiritual and those who aren’t spiritual, and that isn’t the main point I wanted to make here. I wanted to speak about the part of us that’s broken, because I think it happens, and it happens unexpectedly, and we find out how broken we are and how, you know, psychotic we are in different parts. I remember my–oh, thank you so much. And… I remember I happened to be driving across the Golden Gate Bridge when I had one of the deepest– being driven across the Golden Gate Bridge, ’cause I couldn’t even drive, when I was in a really, really, you know, deeply fragmented state, and it was the most powerful– one of the most powerful experiences of oneness I’ve ever had, and I felt at one with everybody broken in the world and everyone, you know, everyone on the streets and everyone in the psychiatric hospitals and…
Rick Archer: The Leonard Cohen line.
Mariana Caplan: Um, there’s a crack in everything.
Rick Archer: Oh, right. Someone say it.
Mariana Caplan: There’s so many. There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. Yeah. And that was oneness, and it was a–it was a–it was a– it was as equal a oneness experience as all the highs, and for me, a more important one, because I think, again, as my work– in my work as a psychotherapist particularly, but I think just as a person, that’s what makes me more compassionate, living through these experiences, and, you know, if I was given the choice to be less compassionate and not have to live through them, I probably would choose to be less compassionate because they’re so hard to live through, but, again, tracking these communities over time, ’cause my teacher had me starting to write these books in my 20s, and I didn’t know what I was doing, and tracking now communities over 20 years. I mean, teachers have–we have severe breakdowns. We have psychological breakdowns. We have psychotic breakdowns. We have, you know, borderline schizophrenic. We have these breakdowns, and it–for me, it strangely doesn’t– it doesn’t contradict– it doesn’t contradict the awakening. It’s just–it’s just part of tolerating the complexity.
Rick Archer: Is no one immune to that? I mean, does–are there teachers that you can think of that have moved beyond that– I wouldn’t say possibility, but probability?
Mariana Caplan: I think there’s teachers that had more balanced upbringings. You know, I really do. I’ve talked with some of them, and it’s no– you know, there’s no point in naming any, but I remember talking about this ’cause– in circles like this, and I’m like, “You really don’t experience that?” But, you know, like, they were– they drank from cows’ udders, you know? That’s where they drank milk, and their parents were always happily married, and there was no arguing in the household. Like, there’s a few people that don’t get broken in the way that most of us do. And, you know, of all the many teachers I’ve interviewed, it sounds like you’ve–we’ve done similar tracks. I mean, there’s been a lot, lot, lot over the years. You know, there’s one I can think of, but even, you know, nobody knows the real story of what happened. And just one more thing on that. I interviewed Joan Halifax for this book, and I was doing the research for “Halfway Up the Mountain” when I was in my 20s, asking Joan Halifax, you know, famous Zen teacher about this, and she said, you know, “Premature claims to enlightenment, that’s such a terrible thing that people do that.” She’s like, “Honey, I work, you know, I work with prisoners on death row, you know, and they’ve got real problems.” And she said, “When people are doing this, like, dress up as enlightenment, and I’m non-dual, and I do this,” and she said, “It’s like going in your mom’s closet and playing dress up.” And again, none of it negates these profound conversations. I just want to be, you know, let that voice be here.
Rick Archer: I sometimes wonder if– I know this sounds a little morbid, but, you know, if torture could be considered a litmus test for enlightenment, like, you know, Jesus on the cross. I mean, it’s easy when everything is smooth and nice and you’re well-fed and everything.
Francis Bennett: You can talk if you’re not on a mic.
Mariana Caplan: He’s got a mic.
Rick Archer: I got a mic, buddy. I’m eternally mic’d. [laughter] You know, but it’s sort of like, you know, under what conditions is enlightenment sustained, or whatever, if we’re using the E-word. And perhaps we, you know, those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to coddle ourselves and live relatively smooth lives are saying something which we feel might be permanent. But if really put to the test, or if we were injected with some weird chemical or whatever, I mean, maybe, as Susanne and others are saying, we’re sense organs of the infinite, is enlightenment or awakening lost if that sense– if that particular sense organ of the infinite becomes sufficiently damaged or compromised?
Mariana Caplan: Simple things like heartbreak or death of a child or a loved one, I mean, you know, something is going to– something takes us– is likely to take us down, and it doesn’t seem to be–
Rick Archer: In the darkest, deepest sort of phase of that, though, I mean, you said you felt this oneness driving across the bridge, but did you feel like–
Mariana Caplan: It wasn’t a happy oneness. It was a broken one.
Rick Archer: But did you feel like there was some dimension of your experience which was imperturbable, or was everything shattered?
Mariana Caplan: No, I was shattered, and I’ve been shattered again, and, you know, I think there’s probably people who maybe that doesn’t happen for. They, you know, maybe that’s a maturation. I don’t need to be there– to be there yet. And I just– I just know that so many of the people, even the famous people that we project onto and imagine that’s not happening for, it actually is regularly, and they’re on meds, and they’re, you know, like, sometimes– I did a lot of intervention in the big– big recent Geshe Michael scandal, and, like, stuff happens. Like, real bad stuff happens.
Rick Archer: Craig.
Craig Holliday: Yeah, I think one of the things that we really forget about when we’re speaking about enlightenment is that– that we live in an evolutionary world, and everyone is growing, and I think we all have this desire, you know, to get to a place where we will be ultimately free from growth. But if we really look at that, that’s, like, the ego’s biggest desire– to get to a place where we’re untouchable, to get to a place where we don’t have to grow, where we don’t have to– you know, where we can just rest forever. But if we– if we look at our life, and, you know, like you’re saying, it’s just like teacher after teacher, I mean, I went and saw, you know, Swami Sai Baba in India, and he’s an incredible master, and he could manifest things out of his hands right before my eyes. And then you hear about these– these scandals. I mean, when the man would walk into, you know, a space of 20,000 people, the air was filled with tremendous grace. And, you know, part of us could say, “Well, how could something like that happen?” And to me, it’s tremendous arrogance on our part to think that anyone on the planet is outside of the realm of growth. I mean, it’s a ridiculous thought that we’ll get to a place where we’re no longer growing. It’s denying that God is continually growing forever.
Rick Archer: Saint Teresa of Avila said it appears that God Himself is on the journey.
Craig Holliday: Yeah, that God absolutely is the very force and nature of evolution. And so I think in our definition of enlightenment, there has to be this sense that, yes, it’s always growing. It’s always expanding. Yes, there is the vast emptiness, but even that, too, is awakening forever in every direction, that our humanity is awakening and growing in every– every direction. But I think what you were saying, Rick, it can absolutely, you know, be possible as well that this– this last May, my father died unexpectedly, and, you know, I got this phone call, and, you know, “Craig, your father died,” and I hit the floor, and cry and grieve, and yet the grieving is happening in this vast space. But am I sad? Hell yeah, am I sad. Absolutely. It’s painful, and it’s difficult, and so I think it’s very important just to acknowledge these parts of ourself that, you know, like you said, they are broken, but– and they can break, but yet even the breaking itself is included in the unity of God, in the expression of God, that that– the breaking is that evolving edge of God, you know, growing in compassion, growing in love, growing in– in this non-dual understanding that– I mean, look how crazy the world is. I mean, it is absolutely crazy. There’s wars going on right now. People are being bombed, and yet those wars are arising in incredible beauty and space and peace, and that there’s this– this ongoing paradox of– of both are continually arising together. In every moment.
Rick Archer: Chuck.
Chuck Hillig: I’ve been a devotee of Ramana Maharshi since 1970, and since that time, my life has shattered maybe four or five times. Seriously, just collapsed, exploded, and imploded at the same time. And I’ve noticed that in the heart of all that, there’s something that remains constant, and in the middle of my mess, in the center of my chaos, swirling around me with everything just being taken away from me and ripped away from me, I felt something was, um, unmoved, something that was unchanged, something that was constant. I think that’s maybe the best word of it. It always was there, always present, and there was nothing that I needed to do to– or could do to change that in any way, and that there was always an okayness about it. And the peace that I would feel with just relaxing down into that, and just collapsing down into that, somehow made it– yes, it’s part of the dance, it’s part of the craziness and the chaos, and everything is leaving. That was somehow part of the dance, and I felt okay with that. I felt– I would wear it like a mantle. I would go, “Yes, okay, I’m in the drama, “I’m in the melodrama of it, I’m in the tragedy of it.” And when weeping and wailing and gnashing my teeth seemed appropriate, I would just do that, I would throw myself into it. I would not hold anything back. I would be 100% into it, I would be authentic, and it would be valid, and it would be a place of authenticity and integrity, and it would be powerful. And then eventually it would abate, it would begin to modify, and something else would show up and replace it with something else that would show up. And I got clear that it wasn’t like, “I am feeling this pain,” or, “I am having this agony.” It’s really, “I am is having this pain, “I am is experiencing this.” So if I inject the word “is” between “I am” and whatever followed that, it seemed to put it in a much greater context in which everything that showed up would be exactly as it needed to, and I did not need to sit back and try to figure it out and make sense out of it and come to terms with it. All I had to do, in a sense, is to love it. I mean, like, love it, just love it being exactly the way that it was showing up and exactly the way that it wasn’t showing up. But to love it fully, with every fiber of my being, to throw myself into that, somehow was transformative and freeing at the deepest possible level, and it just–it would blow me away again and again and again, and it went just back and forth, and boom! And it’s like never-ending. And if I align myself with that and have that “yes,” make that “yes” as a default position, then there’s no difference between myself and the flame at all. If there’s any kind of separation between the flame and myself, then the shadow appears, and that’s okay too, because it shows up, it shows up. And I love it the way it is, and it loves me the way that I am.
Rick Archer: Sounds like heaven.
Craig Holliday: And I settle down into that, and it’s all beautiful, and it just does finally collapse totally into love, just love.
Rick Archer: Nice. Susanne.
Susanne Marie: I resonate with what you’re saying. I think it was at Osho, maybe someone here knows, says, “Have your ‘yes’ be so big that all the ‘no’s are contained within it.” It’s just beautiful. To me, the whole alchemical process of this evolutionary force, of the dismantling process of what I think of as the self-center is a movement of love, is a movement of allowance. And that is what allows for the resistance to fall away, so that everything is known as that. Everything becomes known as that.
Rick Archer: Kiran, Jeffrey, I haven’t heard from Jeffrey for a while.
Jeffery Martin: Let me add to Mariana’s, some of Mariana’s point, and maybe provide a different voice. In recent years, I can speak to this from personal experience as well, but I think I’ll speak from the thousands of people that have participated in our research and kind of try to bring their voice into it a little. And one of the things that I noticed, in the early days, we dealt with a lot of spiritual teachers and major religious leaders and minor religious leaders and whatever else. At a certain point, we were able to actually reach into the general population. We were able to actually find people in the general population, programmers and janitors and you name it, just sort of ordinary people experiencing this. And one of the things that I noticed was a very different narrative among those people than among the spiritual teachers and the religious teachers. The spiritual teachers and the religious teachers were often talking about the stuff that we’ve just heard like a moment ago, right? But the, you know, I’m thinking of very specific people like a business owner, a janitor, a programmer, spread across the United States, different people. They had a very different perspective on this from the sense of they were trying to kind of balance their life and balance how far they could really sort of go in the direction of whatever we want to call it today, awakening, non-duality, enlightenment. I use an academic term for it called persistent non-symbolic experience or persistent non-symbolic consciousness. So what PNSE is how I abbreviate it. So I might use that term today just accidentally. If I do, that’s what I mean. I’ll try to remember awakening. One of the things that I’ve noticed is that people– so we have a taxonomy that comes out of all of this research and we call them locations instead of levels because we don’t think one is necessarily better than another one and we think that they all are basically great and they all deserve sort of equal respect. One of the things that I’ve noticed is that sort of ordinary individuals, they’ll often– they’ll look at our taxonomy, they’ll find our taxonomy online or something and read some paper that we’ve written and they’ll say, “Oh yeah, I’ve been there and there.” And when I was there, I just really wasn’t a very– I just wasn’t really able to make my family situation work. And so I went back to this. Or when I was here, I really couldn’t run my company. So I found that I had to be sort of in this other location. And they have a very practical viewpoint around this oftentimes. There’s this sort of very practical integration that they bring into their life. Like there’s a Silicon Valley engineer out here who’s a brilliant problem solver. He’s sort of known to be one of the great problem solvers out here. And so I’m just going to use some of our terminology a little bit, which is a location for locations. You don’t have to know what any of these mean. Just think of them as different categories, different ways of experiencing this, some of which we’ve already heard around the circle today. But he would say, you know, in location 4, I just can’t be as effective a problem solver. You know, I need to go in, and I’ve got one year to solve this major problem. There’s nobody else that can solve this problem. I’ve got to be in location 3 in order to do that. But now I’m sort of in this problem where because I’m being tasked to lead this startup, and now I’ve got to be a manager. But I can’t be a manager in location 3 because I tend to just–sort of like the end of the Christian path. You just have so much compassion and giving and love and giving away the store, which doesn’t make you a very effective manager of a startup in Silicon Valley, right? It allows you to go in every day and take an extraordinarily difficult, you know, engineering problem or something and just spend 16 hours straight trying to tackle it and then go home and get a bite to eat and sleep and wake up and do it the next day. But it doesn’t allow you to actually say no to people or, you know, have an effective organization that you’re building. So one of the things I think– there’s this one dimension of deepening that we’re talking about here. But I think there’s also sort of a question of life integration involving deepening as well and these– so many different circumstances that are out there in life and people finding all sorts of different ways. You know, people saying, “Okay, well, you know, I can’t really– “if I go this deep on this dimension, I just can’t really function “the way I want to function in my family. “Or if I go so deep in this dimension, “I can’t really function the way I need to function at work.” And some people just choose to leave their family, right? I mean, divorce is not an uncommon thing in people who have an awakening experience or whatever. Or if someone wakes up and they wake up in a place where they don’t have emotion, sometimes their partner is very bothered by the fact that they can’t love them anymore. And so their partner will leave them. And there’s all sorts of these dynamics that go on. So people are kind of making decisions out there that aren’t necessarily to put the pedal to the metal and see how much this can unfold. This is just another aspect to them of psychology that’s sort of being integrated into their life in different ways, in the same way that other things, other personal growth things, other self-help things, other psychological growth-type things are being integrated in. And so I just thought I’d slide that voice into this conversation.
Rick Archer: Do you feel that people have the choice of changing locations, to use your word? Or do people sometimes find themselves so immersed in a particular location that they are just going to have to face the consequences in their relative life because they can’t shift locations?
Jeffery Martin: So we think that that’s changing over the years. There seems to be an acceleration of people waking up starting around 1996. And the best guess–somebody was looking at our data one time, and they said, “Well, it seems to sort of track Internet growth.” And so it’s possible that there’s something with the connectivity. And I didn’t think about that. I went back and looked at it, and it turns out it did actually track Internet growth. And so I think there’s something to this enhanced connectivity. We could have never done this study. I mean, we’ve done this sort of amazing study, right? But it just happened to be that I was the one that came along at a certain point in history when communication was at a certain level, and travel was at a certain level, or whatever. It could have been done 100 years ago if that had happened 100 years earlier. So what we found is that basically prior to that time, people often landed in a location, and there isn’t like a starting point, as everybody here I think knows. There’s all sorts of different places that you can land. So they would land in a location, and oftentimes they would just stay there. There would be such a deep sense of truth, and they would deepen in that location, and there would be these unfolding– there’s two different ways, I think, to talk about deepening. You can talk about it by going sort of further along to later locations. You can talk about it as going sort of deeper into your existing location. And most people sort of–from a certain era, if you will, of awakening, went deeper. Every now and then somebody would sort of fall further along the continuum, like Bernadette Roberts, who’s speaking from the Christian tradition, the Catholic tradition. I mean, she fell kind of off the end of the Christian mystical tradition into what we would call location four, and she spent a lot of time trying to grapple with that and trying to make sense of it from her tradition’s perspective or whatever. And that’s what happened. But it was rarer. And now we find that it’s much more common. And I think it’s much more common because people have cognitive frameworks for it. You can basically go out to the Internet, and you can see that people are having all this sort of diversity of experience. I mean, you can find papers by us. You can find work being done by other people or just lots of sharing that’s going on in all of these different communities, and it provides a perspective for people. And they realize, oh, well, I can recognize where I’m at. I’m sort of here. But then there are these other people talking about it over here, and there are these other people talking about it over here. And it’s almost like it sort of opens their mind to the possibility of movement. And so past a certain point, I think there’s a lot more movement that you see. But prior to a certain point, there’s a lot more sort of, I guess, almost personal dogmatism in terms of what’s right. And I think that’s also loosening conflict. One of the things that’s been great to see on this group today is how flexible you all are with everybody’s different experiences. There’s other groups that you can sit in where if you were to put that group together, they would just be fighting cat and dog, right? And it would be like–
Rick Archer: And I actually didn’t invite Richard Dawkins today.
Jeffery Martin:Oh, no, no, I don’t mean that. But it’s just, you know, they would be saying, I have this experience, and I know that it feels completely true. And I hear your experience, and it sounds so close. I feel like you’re so close to knowing the truth. If only we could–right? And so then these conflicts develop. And there’s almost like this new generation of dialogue in some ways started by the SAND. conference and other gatherings that have sort of dampened that. And so to me, this conversation is amazing because 10 years ago, when I started doing this work, it was a lot of conflict between a lot– it was a lot more conflict, I feel, between a lot more individuals.
Rick Archer: Dana.
Dana Sawyer: Well, one thing that I was thinking about is I’ve been most of my time in a very different setting, you know, because I’m an academic. And I’m always at conferences where people are saying things to me like– because there’s such a strict materialism still in academia. Quantum physicists can talk about metaphysics, but philosophers can’t. You know, it’s a strange world, actually. So people are saying, you know, aren’t you tired of pretending you have a soul? And then my comment is, aren’t you tired of pretending you don’t? And so to be here in this kind of a context is very strange for me. But one thing from that context that I keep listening– Because you’re out of a soul. I keep listening to and thinking about is that part if all of us, if the 14 of us, were stranded on a deserted island together after a shipwreck, then we would find identity very quickly. Whether its identity is expression, and nobody’s in the way of that expression, or whether we’re identifying with that identity is semantics. But who would be useful? Who has a shoulder to cry on? Who knows how to get fish? Those things would become very clear to us and very important to us very, very quickly. And so like you say, sometimes the location of non-dual consciousness is a very useful place to be, and sometimes you need fish.
Laurie Moore: Shadow would come out really quickly.
Dana Sawyer: Very quickly, inevitably.
Francis Bennett: The guy who could get fish would think he was all that.
Laurie Moore: I’m deeply appreciating each of the sharings and the opportunity for us to sit among one another and feel and hear something that’s part of each of us as one another speaks. I appreciate, Karen, your comment about semantics, because I do think there is a semantic. And with your response, I did identify that there was a semantic difference in how we were using identity. And I would like to say I just appreciate each person’s unique flavor and essence. To me, that is your identity, and that’s why there’s something precious about being incarnation. That there is a oneness, that there is an awareness that comes for me. It comes and goes. I don’t profess to live in it all the time, and I understand most people here don’t make that profession either. But even in states of that, there’s a recognition of the mysterious, awesome, amazing wonder that has each of these flavors here. And from each of these flavors, unique creations, inquiries, explorations, activities are occurring. And how incredible, how wonderful.
Francis Bennett: Something that Jeffrey said, and it would be interesting to see what his response to this would be. Something that Jeffrey said, and it might be interesting to hear his response is that, I mean, I get that idea that, okay, there’s these different states of consciousness, and people can kind of move in and out of this state or that state, and this state’s good for getting fish, and this state’s good for getting a date, and this state’s good for driving the car, and this state’s good for doing zazen or whatever. And I can understand that in a way, but like what I’ve experienced, though, in my own kind of direct experience, was that reaching a point where there was no more this sort of either/or kind of thing. It was like, there’s this sort of spacious quality. And when you were talking, I was getting this, I was remembering, when I was in the hospital a couple years ago and had a very bad infection in my foot. I’m a type 2 diabetic. I happened to get an infection in my foot. It got really bad. They thought it went to the bone. There was talk of amputating part of the foot and stuff. And on one level, there was this sort of upset about that. Like I wasn’t thrilled when the doctor came in and said, “Oh, you may lose your foot.” You know, I didn’t get up and do a dance because my foot hurt, but also–
Rick Archer: Might have been your last chance.
Francis Bennett: Yeah. There was a kind of pain, a psychological pain, a sense of loss, all that stuff. But I noticed, interestingly, that it arose in this huge, vast kind of space. And arising in this vastness, it kind of did its little dance a lot more quickly. An analogy that came to me was, if you had a teaspoon full of black, thick, dark, noxious poison, and you poured it in a little cup, it would overwhelm the cup. The cup would feel like, you know, I’m this big, black, noxious poison. The whole cup would look like that. But if you poured it in the vastness of an ocean, the experience of the black, thick, noxious poison would be vastly different. It would be very, very different. It would hit the ocean a lot different than it hits a cup. And my sense is that what’s happened with me is that there’s this like huge vastness that’s appeared that does stay, I have to honestly say. I mean, it’s here all the time. But it’s no longer — it doesn’t then negate the brokenness, the pain, the humanity, or identity for that matter, or any of that. All of that is appearing and disappearing in that vastness. And so for me, it’s no more like, oh, you’re in this state, which is good for that, and you’re in that state, which is good for that. It’s like any number of states can arise in that vastness and do all the time. And like the whole identity thing, it’s like for me, it’s not so much that identity is some problem that you need to get rid of or something. It’s fine as long as it’s seen for what it is, a fluid coming and going. I often think of it in terms of like putting on — like if I play baseball, I put on a baseball uniform. If I wrestle, I put on a wrestling leotard or whatever, you know. If I go to the office, I put on a suit, you know. And I just put those on and take those off, and I’m not totally identified with the idea that I’m in a suit. But when I’m in a suit, I do move a little differently than when I’m in a baseball uniform, you know. So for me, it’s like it’s not either.
Dana Sawyer: (Something about a leotard.) [ Laughter ]
Francis Bennett: Yeah. No, it’s not. So for me, it’s like, well, it’s not either/or anymore. It’s both/and. It’s always both/and. It’s like, yeah, on one level, there’s no self. On another level, there is a self, you know. On one level, I don’t know what — I can’t think of another analogy. That’s a good one, the self, because we were talking about — it’s not Kierstens.
Rick Archer: Kiran.
Francis Bennett: Kiran.
Kiran Trace: My name is Kiran.
Francis Bennett: Kiran brought up the idea of talking about identity. And that’s why that kind of spurred me. It’s funny, because we have so many people that somebody brings something up, and then you kind of want to respond to it, but then there’s four things in between. So then it’s hard to remember, okay, what was my response. But anyway, so I’m just rambling now.
Jeffery Martin: Yeah, because I was curious.
Rick Archer: Kiran also wanted to say something?
Jeffery Martin: No, he asked me to respond to something.
Rick Archer: Bounce off that.
Jeffery Martin: Just real quick. I agree with you, and there’s many forms of this that are persistent like that. So I was meaning like that’s one form of persistence. I probably — in our taxonomy, probably put that — call that like location two, not having talked to you much more about it. I don’t know. But then like, for instance, in location three, you might have a single emotion that really feels like a combination of love and compassion and joy that’s all the time there. And it feels like it’s really turned up quite loudly. And then in location four, for instance, you might have no experience of emotion as we normally think about it. But throughout all of this, there’s persistence, and there can be that spaciousness, that deep sense of peace, all of that. But there’s sort of other factors that sort of change. And so that’s what I’m meaning with them.
Francis Bennett: Yeah.
Jeffery Martin: Yeah.
Kiran Trace:So I want to bring the conversation back to brokenness and back to what Susanne Marie was talking about and bring it — take it out of the analytical and the mental place and bring it back into what Rick had sort of asked, which is, is there a place fundamentally, is there like an enlightened place or a place where I think the sense we were saying is where we’re not harmed or broken ends or something like this?
Rick Archer: At least some core —
Chuck Hillig: Stability.
Kiran Trace: Stability. Beautiful.
Rick Archer: Even though all hell may be breaking loose, like Chuck was saying, is there–I mean, could one characteristic of enlightenment, if we want to use that word, be a sort of a deep imperturbability under any and all circumstances, which may not be apparent on the surface? I mean, I’ve heard it said by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi used to say, “Christ never suffered.” He appeared to be suffering greatly, but from his subjective experience, he was beyond that.
Kiran Trace: Yeah, and I think what I want to weigh in about that is I want to add the good news, that I actually totally agree with that. And from the place that I want to bring the optimism to people who are listening and those of us that have lived these experiences and what it can mean for you. And essentially, I come from a very extreme and severe abusive background. I have ritual abuse in my background and extraordinary pain, and the liberation in my life didn’t come because one day my mind blew a fuse. Without any identity, with pure unfiltered form, there was still conditionings in the body-mind towards tremendous– I mean, I lived torture for most of my life. And I have to say that my liberation came from recognizing there was this movement in clarity, which was found in the stillness, that always led towards healing, abundance, thrive, safety. And if I chose clarity, I would go there. If I chose fear, if I chose pain, if I chose stories of limitation, I could go there. And in terms of–I really think it’s such a beautiful conversation to say, yeah, pain can be experienced and fear can be experienced, but there does–all of us can access, awakened or not awakened, we can access clarity. And clarity brings us to wholeness, regardless of the extremity of it. It doesn’t bring us brokenness and brokenness. What breaks is our identification, our habit of fear, and our habits of pain, and our habits of limitation. And those aren’t actually true in reality. They’re conditions of limitation. And our healing journey rips that stuff away from us. So what we might call these broken moments are where we’re literally being ripped free of our fear and our limitations. And as we do that, as these leave us, as we have less and less experience of this, and more and more we stand in clarity, what I call we clean our karmic house. We clean out all these areas where there’s lack in limitation. In our practical lives, we then have an ability to make choices from clarity. Again, mind, no mind. You know, like, regardless, you can do that. And that does not bring us to places of brokenness. It brings us to places of wholeness. And it brings us all the way to such a deep, profound wholeness of what Francis was saying and what Susanne Marie was saying, which is where it’s like, yeah, I still have a body, and the body ages, and there’s still pain or injury. But it never again contracts in the same way when there was still fear in the system or it was still bouncing against this sort of separate self of me. Because when that’s gone, it’s actually an expression of love, and it’s so seen and experienced. And I mean that so directly, like so directly. And with the people that I work with all the time, we see this again and again, where stuff that looks like devastating, like, you know, I have students right now who their baby, their infant is life and death right now. You know, and their experience of it is an immense dance of love and joy. It’s not broken. It’s not breaking. It’s an immense dance of — it’s just an unbelievable amount of love. And everybody around — it’s a little bit like a wedding, quite frankly. It’s like people going to the hospital. It’s like this unbelievable love. And that’s an experience of freedom, where life is moving and having life, but there isn’t movements of lack and limitation and fear inside of there. Now, I’m not throwing this up as an ideal. I’m saying that this is actually possible for every single one of us, and I know And I’m saying that this is actually possible for every single one of us. And I know it directly for myself and with the thousands of people that I work with globally all over the world also. So I feel like I just want to say, yeah, there is a–absolutely there is a place. And oneness is a whole place where life moves but it moves, as Francis was saying, in this unbelievable movement of love very, very practically, not theoretically.
Rick Archer:Thank you. Okay. I just wanted to make a comment that kind of wraps together some of the points that have been made and that I’ll be talking about this in my SAND. presentation tomorrow a lot. And that is that if we think about what’s actually going on, we take things for granted. But if we think what we’re actually looking at here and science can help us do this, it’s only the divine. It’s only consciousness. And so it may appear that I’m sitting here talking to you or looking at a camera, but it’s really just consciousness interacting with itself. And through that interaction, giving rise to the appearance of forms and shrouding itself in the subjective experience of those forms to some extent. And so to me, enlightenment is a matter of thinning that shroud more and more and more. And–or evolution, spiritual evolution is a matter of that. And that’s what the divine does for–if we want to anthropomorphize and say that it has a purpose that we can understand as human beings, it would seem that its purpose is to enjoy itself as a living experience, as an embodied experience, rather than just being sort of flat, featureless, unmanifest consciousness. And that the–we’ve talked about the kind of continuous evolution of life and of our spiritual unfoldment of embodied forms. And I mentioned the phrase that it appears that God himself is on the journey. There will be no end to the refinement and evolution of the forms that the divine gives rise to in order to have this enjoyment of embodied experience. So when we ask, you know, what is enlightenment, what is awakening, and so on and so forth, it’s–we’re all just God having human experience or a dog experience or a flea experience or whatever form the divine has assumed. And there could probably be–and spiritual traditions have defined milestones of the human experience of the unfoldment of divine consciousness. But from the perspective of the divine, there’s no terminus, there’s no end point. There will always be room for further refinement of its various expressions. Does that kind of make sense in light of what people have been saying? That’s my perspective on what enlightenment is. Time to change subjects or time to go to lunch? [Everyone]. [Everyone] Lunch.
Rick Archer: Let’s do lunch.