Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews with spiritually awakening people. I’ve done nearly 550 of them now and if this is new to you and you’d like to check out previous ones, please go to batgap.com and look under the past interviews menu. This program is made possible by the support of appreciative listeners and viewers, so if you appreciate it and would like to support it, there’s a PayPal button on every page of the website. My guest today is Heather Ash Amara. Welcome HeatherAsh.
HeatherAsh: Thanks so much Rick, glad to be here.
Rick: Yeah, glad to have you. I’ll read the little bio that Heather Ash sent me. She is the warrior goddess mama and creatrix of the warrior heart practice. She is dedicated to inspiring depth, creativity and joy by sharing the most potent tools from a variety of world traditions. Raised in Southeast Asia, HeatherAsh has traveled the world from childhood and is continually inspired by the diversity and beauty of human expression and experience. She brings this open hearted, inclusive worldview to her writings and teachings. HeatherAsh is the author of numerous books including the best-selling Warrior Goddess Training, Warrior Goddess Wisdom, The Seven Secrets to Happy and Healthy Relationships with Don Miguel Ruiz Jr. and the Warrior Heart Practice. Her website is HeatherAshAmara.com and of course I’ll have a page for this interview on BatGap and will be linking to her website and her books. So, I listened to all of your podcasts over the past week and quite a few of the videos on your YouTube page. With the coronavirus going I have plenty of time to walk in the woods and listen to things. I got to know you pretty well and it seems like from what I gather your main influence, although probably you would say you’re more eclectic now, but your main influence was the Toltec tradition which was represented in Carlos Castaneda’s books, which were wonderful books. I read them all as he was writing them in the 1970s, mostly while I was on long meditation courses like six weeks or six months at a time. I’d be reading these books and sort of getting into that world. And I’ll tell you that the two things I remember most from those books are, one, a warrior has time only for his impeccability. I’ve always tried to live by that one. Obviously it’s always a moving target, but you try. And the other one is the whole principle of the petty tyrant. I find that very handy. We can even talk about what these things mean during the interviews. I also remember stuff about the tonal and the nagwal, which I believe had to do with the individual kind of soul – the jiva, and the more universal soul – the atman, to use Sanskrit terms, but same idea. Is that right? Is that what those two terms mean?
Rick: Okay, good. I forget which one was the tonal and which one was the nagwal, but you know, you’ll tell us. So, okay, out of curiosity, did your parents name you HeatherAsh, or did you just adopt that name at a certain point?
HeatherAsh: I adopted Ash. I was born Heather, and then my nickname was Ash for many many years, because I do fire-walking and have a big relationship with fire and transformation, and so at some point I brought the two together.
Rick: Okay, yeah, I was curious. I thought it might have some spiritual significance.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, definitely a turning point in my life when I was like, “Yep, I want to be that representation of Ash, of being able to Phoenix.”
Rick: And actually, the name Amara kind of sounds like it has a spiritual connotation too, does it, or is that your actual family name?
HeatherAsh: No, I also took that name on, and that was after a lot of searching and really feeling into it, so I love that name, because one way, I mean, it’s a form of the word “love” in Spanish.
Rick: Oh, okay, amor, or like that kind of word, amore.
HeatherAsh: And one way it means “Amara”, which is to the illusion goddess Mara, but backwards it says “Arama,” which is to.
Rick: Yeah, nice. Okay, so perhaps many people listening or watching will have read the Carlos Castaneda books. If they haven’t, I highly recommend it, they’re really a trip. I mean, it’s really fun to — they’re an interesting mixture of sort of wisdom and humor in a way. I mean, Don Juan Matus, what was his, Matus?
HeatherAsh: Matus, yeah.
Rick: Carlos’s teacher and his friend. He had a friend who was in the book a lot, I forget.
Rick: Yeah, Genaro. They were a couple of characters, and they were always sort of pulling pranks on Carlos. I remember one time where Carlos dropped a pencil or something, and Genaro dove to the floor, and he was like fishing around under a bureau and pulling out the most outrageous things that you really wouldn’t expect to find under there, just to kind of blow Carlos Castaneda’s mind. Do you think those books were authentic — I mean, some people accuse him of taking a lot of, you know, liberties with what actually happened.
HeatherAsh: I think the teachings are authentic, and I think a lot of it’s authentic, and he’s a writer, so was there some places of exaggeration or switching when things happen? Absolutely. But, yeah.
Rick: Yeah. There was also one of the books I remember where at the very end of it, he jumped off a cliff, because that was part of his Toltec training, and that was the end of the book, and then the next one hadn’t come out yet..
HeatherAsh: “What happened?”
Rick: That’s wild. Okay, so what is that tradition all about? Presuming that’s your main focus and something we should lay a groundwork of here in this conversation, has that really been your main influence in this life?
HeatherAsh: I would say it’s one of two main influences. So, the first was European shamanism. So, when I moved to the States and started studying different spiritual traditions, my first place of exploration was, what were my ancestors up to? So, I looked at that Earth-based tradition out of Europe, and then also really influenced by Buddhism, of course, just from being raised in Asia.
Rick: And European shamanism would mean what, exactly?
HeatherAsh: Basically, Celtic. It’s out of Eastern Europe, but then moved over to Celtic shamanism. So, it’s really about honoring the elements, the seasons, the cycles, was what I really brought into my being, was learning how to be more in relationship to the cycles rather than the lines that we tend to be in relationship to in the West. Yes, and I met Miguel. So, the Toltecs were a group of people that came together in South and Central Mexico, and there was, when the Spanish invaded Mexico, all the Toltec teachers at that time dispersed, and they made an agreement with themselves that they would not teach in groups anymore, because they didn’t want the Spanish to get the wisdom.
Rick: Right, or kill them.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, or kill them, exactly. So, the agreement was, we’ll only teach one apprentice at a time, but there was also prophecy that the Toltec teachings would come back when they were needed, and so it was called the Sixth Son. And so, Carlos was the first one. Don Juan basically mandated him to write about what he was learning, and then I’d say the second main teacher was Don Miguel Ruiz, who’s the author of the Four Agreements and a lot of other books.
Rick: Was he a student of Don Juan also?
HeatherAsh: He wasn’t. He was part of his own lineage, so he was passed down through his ancestors. And the belief is that when the Toltecs went underground, there were actually 12 lineages that scattered around the world, and they’ve been popping back up over time, which is… It’s powerful teachings, and so it’s fun to see the differences between the different lineages and the similarities.
Rick: Yeah, I think that might be a worldwide phenomenon where suppressed teachings are popping back up, you know, because the time is conducive or appropriate for them to pop up.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, I think that’s really true, and we’re really blessed to have as much access as we do to so much wisdom.
Rick: Yeah. As a matter of fact, another thing we should probably talk about today is the coronavirus, if you feel like it, because it seems like such a significant event in human history – contemporary human history – and I don’t think anything in the universe is accidental or random or devoid of some sort of intelligence, and obviously there’s destructive intelligence as well as creative intelligence, which keeps the universe balanced. But a lot of people are saying that, you know, they feel that this is some kind of a catalyst or something for a much-needed change that we’ve been anticipating for a long time. And you know, in saying that, we don’t mean to be glib and trivialize the suffering that it’s causing, but nonetheless, it seems to be instrumental in bringing about tremendous changes in society, which we have yet to see fully unfold.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, it’s quite a time. We’re definitely all going to remember the spring of 2020.
Rick: Yeah, I saw an illustration where it shows this little kid going down a slide, and it was like the 2020 slide, but the slide turned into one of those steel graters that you used to grate cheese or something like that. He hadn’t quite hit the blades yet.
Rick: Alright, so we’ll probably get into that a little bit more too. So, is there anything more you want to say about European shamanism before we keep going?
HeatherAsh: Yeah, I think one of the remedies for modern-day human ailments is getting back in touch with nature, and that is what I found with European shamanism. And really, all shamanic traditions around the world are deeply earth-based, are connected to the seasons, are connected to the cycles of the sun and the moon. And because of electronics, because of how much we are inside, we’ve often lost that connection to honoring life and honoring death. And so for me, that was the revelation, was really learning how to honor that part of the cycle’s death, part of the cycle’s letting go, part of the cycle’s darkness. And that it is as important as the life part of the cycle. And in the West, we tend to be very focused on the birth and the creation part, and not so much in love with the death and the letting go and the darkness. But that’s the gift of coming back into relationship with the cycles of just spending time in nature, because nature’s such an incredible teacher.
Rick: Yeah, and you can see that if you go into nature. I mean, first of all, in a bigger sense, we wouldn’t exist if stars hadn’t died. That’s how the heavier elements were created, which form our bodies and our planet. But just walking through the woods, as I did this morning, there are a lot of fallen trees, and they have fungi growing on them. And you can see, if you could speed the timeline up, you’d see them just sort of disintegrating, but nourishing the soil and giving rise to new life. So, I mean, death is as natural as life, it’s just part of the cycle, right?
HeatherAsh: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It doesn’t make it any easier to lose things, but it puts things in a larger context.
Rick: Yeah, and it is easier to lose things, if you understand that. For instance, if we think that, you know, “This body is all I am, and when this dies, I will cease to exist”, it must be pretty scary to have that perspective, you know? But if you realize, “Oh, this body is like a suit of clothes, and if the clothes get really tattered and worn out, I’ll don a new suit and continue on my journey”, then it’s like, “All right, I can relate to that.” That’s not scary.
HeatherAsh: Not scary, exactly.
Rick: Plus, you read all the near-death experiences, past-life memory experiences, and all that stuff that people have, and people who have those experiences are not at all afraid of dying, in a way they look forward to it.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, it’s so true, and it’s such a gift for us when we really learn how to be in right relationship with death. And I think one of the things that I always work with people, because there’s a hope that we create that, “Well, if I face death and I’m not afraid of death anymore, then I won’t have grief ever, or if I lose things, I’ll be immune to grief”. And I always remind people, just because we honor the cycle of death, doesn’t mean you’re not going to grieve, or that suddenly you’re not going to feel. That’s part of life as well, is that love of grief.
Rick: Sure, I mean, we have hearts, you know, and hearts experience emotions, it’s what they’re designed to do. And if your mother dies, or your dog dies, or anything else, it’s natural to feel grief. And, you know, it’s not the only dimension of one’s life, there can be one who can be aware of something more fundamental that is not grieving, and yet at the same time, grieving on another level.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, yeah. I think that’s the… really learning to be in life in a new way, is learning how to hold all of it. And that’s something I’ve been really playing with the coronavirus right now, and with the pandemic that’s happening, is really feeling into myself of like the human experience, and the global experience. And that place of, you know… like, for me, it’s been an amazing time of getting to go in, and being really quiet, and writing, and being in service to my community. And I also know there’s a lot of people that are really suffering, that are having really different experiences. And so to be able to hold the beauty of life, and the grief, the loss, the sorrow, and that they don’t negate each other.
Rick: Yeah, that’s a big one with me. I’m always talking about the ability to incorporate paradox and ambiguity, and sort of, kind of creating a bigger basket with one’s awareness, which can incorporate all the diversities and polarities and all that. Because if you think about what God is, if we understand God to be all-pervading intelligence, the entire universe with all of its contrast, and its dynamism, and all the stuff that’s going on, is contained within that big totality, within that wholeness. And if we aspire to some sort of realization along those lines, then it behoves us to kind of fake it until we make it, in a way. You know, just kind of like learn to incorporate all the diversities.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, yes. Yeah. It’s not easy, but it’s so incredible when you’re able to hold, like you said, the paradox, and the diversity, and the chaos.
HeatherAsh: Definitely in a chaotic time right now.
Rick: I had an interesting conversation with the Reverend Bill McDonald this morning, who’s been on BatGap a couple times. We have a chat every now and then. He says that all these people are calling him and confessing. He’s not a Catholic priest, but he, in fact, one of the people who called him was a priest, and he said he had, the man said he had abused children earlier in his life.
Rick: And he just feels so guilty about it. And Bill cited several other examples of all these people calling him and confessing. And we were kind of speculating that maybe this inwardness that the quarantine of the virus is imposing on us is making people more introspective, and preventing them from being able to sort of suppress things in the busyness of life they had been able to suppress.
HeatherAsh: I think it’s so, God, so good. Yeah. Yeah. And if people have a way to put it into that context of this can be such a gift to let ourselves let what I think of as the oil, all the oil of the gunk that we haven’t known what to do with or that we’ve been repressing, if we can let it come up so we can witness it with love, we can share it, we can put it out. It’s gonna move and allow us to then go forward in a new way. But if we keep busy and now doing the same thing we’ve always done, then we’re gonna miss an incredible opportunity that we have right now.
Rick: Yeah. One interesting way of thinking one can always play with is sort of the microcosm/macrocosm thing where individually, you know, spiritual aspirants have actually made a business of discovering suppressed stuff and processing it and, you know, kind of like cleaning out all the cobwebs in their subconscious or their storehouse of impressions, we could say. And now on a macrocosmic level, maybe the whole society is kind of being shifted into a more, into a spiritual practice as it were, and having to process stuff that they had so far avoided.
HeatherAsh: There’s plenty to do.
Rick: You bet.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, yeah.
Rick: Yeah, in fact, some of the people I’ve interviewed, like Thomas Hubel, kind of specialize in collective trauma and helping. For instance, he sets up these things between the Israelis and the Germans and tries to help them work out a lot of the ancestral mess that resides in the collective consciousness of those two peoples.
HeatherAsh: Beautiful, yeah, I think that’s so important and so powerful. And my prayer is at this time that we all get more of a global vision. We tend to be very self-focused and trying to navigate our own emotional body and what’s happening in our life and the busyness and again, this opportunity to look up and go, “Okay, I want to clear out my stuff with the intent of how do I help also midwife a new paradigm to help that transformation on a global level of moving the oil that’s heavy, the places we’ve been neglecting, relationships with each other.”
Rick: Yeah, it’s almost like this thing is forcing us to, you know? Because, like I was listening to a podcast with Sam Harris interviewing General Stanley McChrystal, and he was saying that if an army is going to win a battle, or his own troops when they went into Iraq, had some individual sort of… there were rivalries between the various factions of the US military that went in there, and they quickly discovered that they could not allow that in order, if they’re going to do the task at hand, they were just going to lose if they were divided or fragmented. And so, they all kind of merged together and got synchronous or coherent with one another. And I think maybe this coronavirus thing is forcing the world to do that. You know, every single US state can’t go it alone, and every country can’t go it alone. There has to be this collaborative effort, because if it’s fragmented, you tamp it down over here, it’s like whack-a-mole, it’s just going to come up over there.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, yes, it’s true, and it has allowed us, I think many of us, to realize how interconnected we are. On a spiritual level, whenever you do spiritual practice, that realization is always really present of the connection and the lack of boundaries. But it’s really easy to get caught up in the ideas of, we’re separate as individuals, as states, as countries. And now we have, again, this incredible opportunity to recognize there really are no boundaries.
HeatherAsh: And learning to work together is so key.
Rick: I mean, the spread of it has demonstrated that, and the elimination of it will have to demonstrate that, you know, both ways.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, and hopefully that will come out the other side. I have this metaphor of the difference between conventional farming and organic farming. And how with conventional farming, you’re constantly trying to kill the bad things.
HeatherAsh: So the focus is how do we spray to get rid of the fungicides and the pests, and there’s always this focus of battle out there. Whereas organic farming, there’s one really main focus, which is feeding the soil. If you have healthy soil and you put all the attention into how do we nourish the soil, the plants are healthy, the plants then naturally resist pests. And the other thing that organic farmers do is they plant a lot, because they know some of it’s gonna go to the bugs — that’s okay, no big deal. So we can come out of this going, oh my God, there’s viruses, we need to fight against the things out there. Or we can come out the other side going, all right, we need to nourish our soil, which is our own immune systems, which is how we connect as humans, our community level on the global level. So I’m always looking at, okay, what are we gonna do? Are we gonna go to enemy out there? Or are we gonna go to, okay, part of life, and what do we need to do to be in a different relationship with it?
Rick: Yeah, it’s like well-meaning politicians want healthcare for all. But when you think about why… Then you’re in line in the grocery store behind somebody who’s got a cart full of sugar and alcohol and white flour and kind of stuff that’s, and they’re 100 pounds overweight, and you think, healthcare for all really has to include healthiness for all. Somehow people have to become more healthy, and then the economics of healthcare for all could be manageable. But if otherwise you’re like, like you said, it’s like inorganic agriculture where you’re just kind of battling weeds and stuff, but you’re not culturing the soil as to grow things in a healthy way.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, and how to help educate all of us around what does our individual soil need to be the most nourishing and the most solid.
Rick: Yeah, okay. Well, as you can see, when I do interviews, they’re these kind of free-flowing conversations. We never know quite where they’re gonna go. But feel free to steer it in any direction. If I’m not asking questions about things you wanna be sure to talk about, you just bring them up and we’ll talk about them.
HeatherAsh: Okay, great.
Rick: Because I really wanna be sure to cover the main focus of your teaching, and what people could expect to experience if they got involved in it. So we talked a bit about the European shamanism. So then we haven’t talked too much yet about the Toltec tradition and how, what that is and how that influenced you. So let’s shift into that a little bit.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, I had a dream about Don Miguel. So nobody, this was years and years ago, it was 1992.
Rick: You hadn’t met him.
HeatherAsh: I hadn’t met him, had a really clear download. You have to find this man, he’s gonna change your life.
Rick: You’re talking about Don Miguel Senior here, right?
HeatherAsh: Yeah, Senior.
HeatherAsh: Mm-hm, so I woke up thinking, “right, where am I gonna find this guy?” I live in middle of nowhere, Northern California, a little bitty town. And a week later, somebody came into my office and said, “oh my God, you have to meet this man”. And my whole body went, “No, I am not ready for this”. Because I knew my life was about to completely change. And it took me a year to get ready. At that time, Miguel was traveling to Sacramento, California once a month. And so a year went by, and I was finally like, “okay, I’m ready, let’s do this”. And the moment I walked into the room, I knew, I was like, “these are my people, this is my next step”. And then met Miguel and was like, “yes, I’m in”. And I was really blessed cuz he started an apprenticeship the next month, and I just managed to step into it. But what drew me so much to that community and to the Toltec teachings is that they’re very practical about how to get free on the inside. So the places that we have beliefs and agreements that are from the past or from our ancestors or from our culture, what we call the dream of the planet, and how to unhook ourselves from that. So we can really be living in the moment rather than in the past or in the future, which is where most of us reside. And I really loved how practical the Toltec teachings are, and also how much it was based on watching what you’re doing energetically. So learning how to do what we call stalking yourself, which is witnessing, what are my thoughts doing, what are my emotions doing, what’s happening with my energetic body, what am I doing with my physical body? So there’s this deep awareness practice that’s built into the Toltec work that’s very similar to Buddhism. There’s a lot of overlaps between Buddhism and Toltec wisdom that I found.
Rick: Yeah, I mentioned the quote earlier, “A warrior has time only for his impeccability”. There’s a quote from Padmasambhava, the Buddhist sage that I always… like that’s similar — he said, “Although my awareness is as vast as the sky, my attention to karma is as fine as a grain of barley flour.” So there’s this sort of sense of, “yeah, you can be cosmic and unbounded, but you also, to live an impeccable life, have to attend to every little moment in a …” you can’t be checked out, you know?
HeatherAsh: Yeah, yeah, and then the Toltec language, the tonal and the negual, so the tonal is the physical manifestations. Everything that you can touch, anything you can conceive is tonal.
Rick: So like the relative world.
HeatherAsh: The relative world, but also the creation. So if we say God, there’s a great scene in the Castaneda books where Don Juan and Carlos are talking and he’s going, “Okay, this table, tonal, yes. Okay, how about this?” He’s like, “God, that must be negual,” and Don Juan is like, “Nope, tonal. If you can conceive it, it’s tonal. The negual is the inconceivable. It’s the unmanifest, it’s the pure potential. The moment that you try and put it into language or conceive it, we’re back into tonal.”
Rick: I like that. The Vedic cosmology would concur with that because they speak of the personal and the impersonal aspects of God. So God can have a manifest value and form, and we’re actually, this is it. We’re living in it. But then there’s an unmanifest, impersonal, absolute value that can’t be conceived of or defined by any relative terms.
HeatherAsh: Yes, and I love how science is catching up with all the shamanic tradition. I remember reading David Bohm at one point, and there was a, he was doing, I think it was a theory that he’d done all of his studies, but he was talking about how we’re in the physical, we’re disappearing into the unmanifest and coming back into the physical thousands of times a second. And I was like, “Whoa, that makes sense. We’re in the tonal, but we’re constantly traveling into the negual and back again, but so quickly we don’t even realize it.” But that’s why we can manifest change because if you’re in the tonal and you drop into the negual, anything’s possible at that moment, if you learn how to travel.
Rick: Yeah, Patanjali talks about something like that in the Yoga Sutras, and talks about performing siddhis, which of course, Karasikas, or Don Juan did, by virtue of that, by virtue of being able to sort of drop into samadhi with the intention, with some kind of relative intention.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, and everything is so much about intent. That’s the other big teaching in the Toltec is that our intent, or our focus, our commitment to something is what directs energy. And so, the work is really, “how do I gain my attention? How do I keep my attention on that barley flour in this moment, and also expand into the negual, and to be able to travel between those worlds?” Eventually, you know, I’ve seen it as I’ve been working with people and myself. It’s like there’s this feeling sense of going between one and the other, but eventually you realize it’s all the same.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, it’s simultaneous.
Rick: Yeah, broad comprehension and ability to focus sharply, we could say. So, there must be a lot in the Toltec teachings about purifying intent and focusing intent and not letting it be scattered in a thousand directions and stuff like that.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, a lot of things. And a lot of tools like the petty tyrant’s a great one. It’s the idea of a petty tyrant is somebody in your life that can make your life miserable. Now, originally, the petty tyrants were the Spanish, and it was somebody who had life or death control over you. And the Toltec just used the Spanish as petty tyrants as a way to get even sharper, even more present with their awareness. And we’re blessed now, we don’t have like people who have life or death most of the time, but we have people that can make our lives miserable. And they serve a great purpose because they get us to show up and look at where am I get triggered, where am I losing energy, where am I taking things personally? And so, for the Toltecs, like you want a really good petty tyrant.
HeatherAsh: You know, you actually seek them out. And you’re not using them to punish yourself, you’re using them to get stronger, to get more present. And in a way, the COVID-19, “hello, petty tyrant of 2020”.
Rick: So in other words, they culture our ability to maintain equanimity in the midst of challenging circumstances.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, yes. Equanimity, love, presence, compassion, yeah.
Rick: As I recall, Don Juan sort of orchestrated a situation in which his petty tyrant got kicked in the head by a mule and that was the end of him. Remember that?
HeatherAsh: There was a lot of sorcery, yeah, within the teachings.
Rick: I guess maybe you had enough of that particular petty tyrant.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, he’s like, “I’m done with you now.”
Rick: But that’s one of the reasons I remembered that teaching from those books, having read them 40 years ago, is just that it’s such a useful thing in life. Because it can give you some distance from your gut reaction or knee-jerk reaction to a difficult person or a difficult situation. It can say, “Wait a minute, what’s the lesson in this? How to pass this test, not just blow it.”
HeatherAsh: Yeah, exactly, exactly. And there’s always opportunity. There’s always somebody in your life that’s playing that role. And what I found in my own experience is that when I took the power back and said, “Okay, what’s my piece of this?” Not punishing myself, but just really witnessing what’s my piece in the dynamic. It changed everything, because then I had the power and the awareness to shift my responses, rather than always making it, “It’s that person’s fault. They’re doing this to me.”
Rick: I was just going to say that. I mean, it’s not a one-way street. Two people can be each other’s petty tyrants. It’s not like, “Oh, I’m a perfect saint, and this person’s giving me a hard time, and aren’t I cool because I’m not reacting?” It’s like, how is it from their perspective?
HeatherAsh: Yeah, yeah. And how am I creating part of the co-creation? Because I think everything’s a co-creation.
HeatherAsh: If we can take the responsibility for our part. And this is something else that I love about the Toltec work, is this word responsibility. What we often connect it to is punishment. If I’m responsible, I have to feel guilty or punish myself. And for the Toltec, responsibility is the key to being able to transform your life. The moment you say, “I am responsible for my creation, my reality,” not, “It’s my fault that it happened” or, “I should punish myself for it”, there’s a super clean power that comes back to you, because then you know you can change it. So there’s a lot of stripping the language back to the basics. What I’ve seen as I’ve done this work is that we’ve tended to put a lot of stuff on top of the language. And so getting down to what’s the core of what we’re actually doing, and taking the guilt and the blame and the shame out. And that for me is impeccability, is that responsibility of what am I putting my attention to? How am I using language in a way that serves me, that supports me, or versus that tears me down and that hurts me or others?
Rick: Would the Toltecs say that everyone is responsible for everything that happens in their life, or what?
HeatherAsh: Here’s how I think about it, is that we’re responsible not necessarily for what exactly happens, but our response to it. How we perceive it, what we’re responsible for is our perception of it. Sometimes people get into the thing of like, “Well, if I’m doing it right, nothing bad will ever happen to me.” It’s like, that’s not the point.
Rick: And then you end up getting sick or breaking your leg or whatever, going bankrupt or something.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, and then you blame yourself because, and it’s like, no, there’s consequences for different things, period. I feel like the COVID-19 is a consequence of a lot of different things, but we have to blame anything. It’s just, let’s look at what the truth is behind it. Every action we take has a consequence.
HeatherAsh: And if we can stay in that place of being responsible, not of saying, it’s my fault that I was raped, for example, right? I’m gonna punish myself. But to say, okay, how do I respond to this reality? How do I change my perception around it if I’m using it to harm myself?
Rick: Yeah, and obviously there could be a huge range of possible responses. It could completely ruin the rest of one’s life, or one could somehow rise from that challenge. I mean, the woman I interviewed a couple weeks ago had been raped, and she’s doing, many years ago, and she’s Cynthia Juerz, and she’s doing wonderful things. She didn’t let that sort of cause her to go and hide in a room someplace or something.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, or define her, yeah.
Rick: Yeah, define her, that’s a good way of putting it. Yeah, okay, so to summarize what we’ve just discussed, then, so all kinds of things happen to us and happen to the world and everything else, and so responsibility doesn’t mean that you are necessarily responsible for everything that happens, unless you want to get into karma and all that business. But it actually really means you’re responsible for how you deal with the thing, what you do in light of whatever circumstances life throws at you.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, yeah.
Rick: Yeah, there’s a great verse in the Gita, I quote this too often, but it’s, “You have control over action alone, never over its fruits.”
HeatherAsh: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, Miguel used to always say to us, “You can respond to others, you can be impeccable with your word, but you have no control over what they do with it.”
Rick: So did you see Don Miguel as an example of what he taught? Was he walking his talk?
HeatherAsh: He was, and one of the things, I’d say the biggest lesson that I got from Miguel that I continue to get from him when I see him is…
Rick: He’s still alive?
HeatherAsh: Yeah, he’s still alive.
Rick: Oh, great, because I heard you talk about his heart attack, and that was quite some time ago. So I’m glad to hear he’s still alive.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, he had a heart transplant, he’s doing really well. It’s quite an amazing journey he’s been on. But yeah, is the amount of unconditional love that man has. So he has a huge heart, and that has, I realized from all the teachings, the underpinning, the foundation of all of it was his love. And being able to really get from being around him that I could bring that same unconditional love to myself, and then bring it out into the world.
Rick: So as you were working with him, — and as I understand you traveled the world with him and worked quite closely with him for a long time — what sort of stuff did you do? I mean, I’m sure you didn’t just listen to his talks and read his books, but you must have engaged in some sort of practices or something. What was your daily routine like as a practitioner of Toltec wisdom?
HeatherAsh: A lot of it was around building awareness, and being really in that place of mindfulness all the time, around what actions am I taking, how am I responding to things? Then there’s also a really deep practice called recapitulation, which is a technique, it’s a breathing technique to pull your energy back from the past. So from the Toltec point of view, we’re a lot like colanders, we’re constantly losing energy because we don’t know, we haven’t been taught how to maintain our energetic being.
Rick: Right, I remember that from the books.
HeatherAsh: And remember that from the books, yeah. And we have a lot of energy that’s in the past. So anytime you react to fear or in an unconscious way to something, you tend to lose energy. And so if we look at humans energetically, we have all of these trailers basically to the past, and there’s pull into the past. And so recapitulation teaches us the practice of pulling our energy from the past, so it’s absolutely present and available in the present. That was a big part of the teachings as well. And really the stalking and the dreaming. So the two foundational pieces of Toltec is stalking ourselves. And the best description, if you think about a cat, and how big cats will stalk their prey over days, and they’ll know where it sleeps and where it feeds and what its patterns are. But they’re incredibly patient hunters, incredibly patient, persistent, quiet. And so it’s that same stalking capacity that we’re learning to do with ourselves, where we’re patient, where we’re persistent, where we’re in present moment. And not judging ourselves or wishing things were different, but just like, “What am I doing? What am I doing to myself?” So that’s the stalking aspect. And that allows us to make big changes, because you get to map yourself, is how I think about it. It’s really a self-intimacy practice of getting to know your thought patterns, your emotional patterns, what you do with your energy. And then start to change your actions and your beliefs and your story. And then the other piece is dreaming, which is around opening your awareness and your perceptions to go out of normal reality. And in the Toltec, there’s something that’s called the assemblage point, that usually our assemblage point is really fixed. The assemblage point is how we assemble reality. And we have that assemblage point fixed because we’ve been taught this is the way the world is, and we don’t know anything different. But as you start to do more and more spiritual work or have different experiences, that assemblage point starts to move. And that happens in dreaming. Whenever we have dreams, it’s because our perceptions are moving and changing.
Rick: Was it the Carlos Castaneda books in which he was instructed to see his hands in the dream?
HeatherAsh: Mm-hmm, that was it.
Rick: I remember that, and I actually ended up doing that, because I was reading the books, and I thought, “All right, I’m going to try to do this,” and I ended up doing it.
HeatherAsh: Good, that’s great. Yeah, and it’s like, “Wake up, wake up, wake up in the dream.”
Rick: Yeah, lucid dreaming.
HeatherAsh: Lucid dreaming, yeah. And what we’re trying to do with the dreaming is wake up in life. Like, yes, lucid dreaming in the dream time, but the truth is it’s all a dream. And so how do we wake up here? How do we realize this is a dream as well and start to be in new relationship with that dream?
Rick: Someone sent in a question about dreaming. This would be a good time to ask it. It’s Francis O’Hara from Ellington, Connecticut asks, “Would you be able to talk about beneficial tools or practices for dreaming? Also, how can one access meaning from dreams?”
HeatherAsh: Mm-hmm. So I’ll say again that for the Toltec, the nighttime dreaming and the daytime dreaming, there’s a lot of fluidity. So we don’t just focus on nighttime dreams. We’re also looking at how we’re dreaming during the day. And so daydreams, the way that you’re responding to the world, all that’s part of a dream as well. And so tools around waking up to dreaming and what the messages are is realizing that you’re always getting signs of power. There’s always information that’s coming in. And it’s about learning to tune your body to feel the difference between what’s a message, what’s guidance versus what is normal activity. So for example, there may be something really simple, like a red car goes by and that’s a normal everyday occurrence. And it also could be a sign of power. If you’ve asked a specific question, you may look at that red car and have this deep insight of what that represents for you and what it means. So for us to be looking at what is the dream bringing to me, what are the signs and the information that the dream is bringing to me in the daytime, as well as starting to pay attention to the dreams at the night.
Rick: Okay, so just to reiterate to make sure I understand, so just as for years, psychologists and others have helped people discern the meanings of their nighttime dreams, what you’re saying is that everything in our waking experience is also significant, nothing is random or accidental. And if we are… I mean, I suppose you can get carried away with this instead of obsessing over, you know, “Oh, a bug just crossed the sidewalk, what does that mean?”
HeatherAsh: What does that mean?
Rick: But significant things at least. I remember seeing now from one of Carlos’s books where they were talking about something, Don Juan and Carlos, and the tea kettle started whistling, and Don Juan said, “Oh, the tea kettle agrees.” And Carlos was like, “Eh, you know, how could the tea kettle agree?” But he was sort of reading, almost like omens, there’s a science of omens in many ancient cultures where certain things can happen and it will actually signify something, and you learn to read that stuff.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, yeah, and it’s signs of power, and there’s a difference, there’s a feeling sense of difference in the body between a normal occurrence that’s happening and something that to somebody else might look like a normal occurrence, but in your body you’re like, “Oh, that’s a signal, that’s a sign, that’s a sign of power to follow.”
Rick: Interesting. So, somehow or other in your practice, how did he help you to culture the ability to recognize the significance of things that might otherwise be overlooked as insignificant?
HeatherAsh: Really by sending us out. Like one of the things that we did with Miguel a lot was we traveled to different places. We went to Mexico many, many times, to Peru, to Egypt. So, we went to a lot of different power spots, and he’d send us out to go learn by being in relationship to places of power, and to look for signs, and to see what that felt like. That was really from that just experience of being out in the world and paying attention, and listening, and honing our own intuition and our own guidance systems, that I started feeling that in my body — versus intellectualizing it.
Rick: Yeah, one thing that, I mean, I mentioned the bug crossing the sidewalk, even though I don’t read a lot of significance into that if I’m walking down the sidewalk. What does happen is that I’m almost continuously aware of the divinity that is inherent in every little thing, you know, the sidewalk itself, the bug, the blades of grass, the tree, the rabbit that just ran there. Everything is like this sort of play of the divine, and there are no gaps or holes in it. It’s just all brimming with intelligence.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, yeah, so beautifully said. But everything… there’s a connection between everything, that we’re in communion with everything, or we can be in communion with everything, from the smallest bug down to the sky, the elements.
Rick: And imagine if humanity in general regarded the world in that way, or had that sort of feeling or perspective on it, imagine how differently we would treat the world.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, so differently. Yeah, I feel we’re all …
Rick: The core problem is that we treat it like it’s just a dumb thing.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, and it’s a commodity.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, we treat it as a commodity, that we have the right to do whatever we want to it.
Rick: We also treat it as if there’s no tomorrow, that we can keep doing this with no consequences.
HeatherAsh: Right, right, yeah. And that’s the understanding to come to is that there are consequences, and how do we start adjusting our actions to take into consideration the consequences, but also the living being that we’re on, the living being that’s the earth.
Rick: Was there ever a time in Mexican culture when the Toltec teaching was quite predominant and widespread, and it really kind of structured the quality of general society, or was it always a more esoteric teaching that only certain adepts were tuned into?
HeatherAsh: There’s a place called Teotihuacan, which is about 45 minutes outside of Mexico City. And the belief is that was where the Toltec lived and brought their teachings through. That place was eventually taken over by the Aztecs. But the time when the Toltecs were there, it was a huge civilization.
Rick: Was this a couple thousand years ago?
HeatherAsh: A couple thousand years ago, yeah, exactly. And Teotihuacan was one of the biggest civilizations in the world. It was the biggest civilization in the Americas at the time. And it was like huge, septic system, I mean, very, very modern, sophisticated. Yeah, and the teachings were very deep. And what happened is when the Aztecs kept invading, and eventually the Toltecs ended up going under the protection of the Aztecs because of all the different peoples that kept invading. So the teaching of the Toltecs got split between the Mayans and the Aztecs.
Rick: Interesting. History can be a fascinating thing. Let’s see what this question will do for us. This is Barry Cahill O’Brien from Spokane, Washington asks, “It would appear that in your teachings the self, capital S, is comprised of an unmanifest self,” — we were kind of talking about this before with N’Gwala T’Ono — “an unmanifest self and a manifest self, and we exist in an oscillation between the two.” There you go. “Does the Toltec tradition seek to bring a balance of the two or try to move us from the manifest worldly experience to the unmanifest silent experience, or bring the bliss of the unmanifest to the manifest then spread it around?”
HeatherAsh: That’s a great question. Well, I’ll share, the Toltec cosmology is that each of us have what we call a big soul, which is the part of the nagual, the part of us that travels from lifetime to lifetime. It’s our connection to the nagual, but it’s our unique ray of light, is how the Toltec think about it. Then we also get a little soul, and that little soul is our ego, our separate self of identity, and that little soul is connected to the current dream of the planet. So whenever we come into this physical form, your little soul also gets a dose of what’s happening here through the light. For the Toltec, the light has information. It’s not just light, it carries the information of the current dream. And our current dream right now is based in fear and scarcity. You just look at the news, especially right now, the news or advertising, there’s this fostering of fear, unfortunately.
Rick: Toilet paper, we’re gonna run out of toilet paper.
HeatherAsh: Exactly, and the little soul goes, oh my God. And when we’re young, that little soul and that big soul are connected. And you see that in little kids before they learn language usually, where they’re absolutely wide open, curious, loving, present. And that’s when the little soul and the big soul are connected. And then those two things split, and the little soul starts looking outside of itself more and more, and forgets about the big soul. The big whole soul hasn’t gone anywhere. That connection is still there. But now the little soul’s attention is elsewhere on the rules and the agreements and who it’s supposed to be. So for the Toltec, the work is to bring the little soul back into relationship with the big soul, so that they’re communicating to create that bridge between them again. And the ultimate is for the little soul to jump into the big soul, so it completely merges into the big soul. And that changes the being completely. Because now, instead of having a narrow perception of human separateness, we now have the perception from the big soul, which is realizing everything’s connected and that we’re part of something much larger.
Rick: So, you just said something which implied that the Toltec tradition understands reincarnation, right?
HeatherAsh: Yeah, true.
Rick: Okay, so that’s nice. But there’s something that I think we maybe could take it a step further, because you mentioned that the big soul is the thing that travels from life to life. But the Eastern traditions, at least the Vedic tradition, understand that “yeah, that’s true, there’s a jiva which travels from life to life, but there’s also sort of a big soul thing which doesn’t incarnate, which is more unmanifest, which abides, which is never born, never dies”, and so on. So, where’s that in the Toltec cosmology?
HeatherAsh: So, that big soul self doesn’t have identity the way that we have identity as humans. It knows it’s part of that big unmanifest ocean. It doesn’t have the illusion, and it’s also in form. So, the way I think about it is that the drop of the ocean, it knows it’s a drop, but it also knows it’s the ocean simultaneously. And so, the soul is the drop, but it’s not the drop separate from the ocean, it’s the drop knowing I’m the ocean.
Rick: It probably corresponds to the Atman in the Vedic thing. I always like to try to find the correlations between these different traditions, because I mean, the truth is the truth, the mechanics of life are what they are. Each culture doesn’t get to invent its own mechanics that is true for them and for nobody else, but it’s fascinating, the perennial philosophy idea. It’s fascinating to see how much different cultures that had no connection with one another concur on these things.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, it is. It’s really beautiful. And I always love studying deep, deep spiritual traditions like that because they all come, of course, to the same place, because they’re looking directly at energy and creation and life, rather than the interpretation of it.
Rick: Yeah, you said that in your bio, you’re continually inspired by the diversity and beauty of human expression and experience. And I mean, I always kind of… potent tools from a variety of world traditions. I actually don’t like to limit it to the earth. I sort of look at pictures of galaxies and think of all the little dramas that are taking place in all the hundreds of billions of stars in each galaxy and how they seem so important to the people that are going through them. And, “Oh, I’m one of those people too in this galaxy,” and there’s actually a bigger picture that’s much bigger than my little thing.
HeatherAsh: Beautiful, I love it. Yeah. Big expanse of consciousness.
Rick: Yeah. Okay, so let’s see, where should we go next? You were just talking about the importance of reconnecting your little soul to your big soul. So let’s talk about that a little bit more. What are some practical steps that one could take to reconnect their little soul to their big soul? And once one had done that, and maybe it’s always a work in progress and you can never say it’s 100% done, there’s always going to be fine-tuning, but once one had done that to a certain degree anyway, to a great degree, what would life be like for that person? What would their experience of life be like?
HeatherAsh: Yeah, beautiful. So the first part of the question, I see there’s two main ways to reconnect little soul and big soul. One, do more of what you love. Whenever you’re doing something that you really love at depth, you’re reconnected again. So when you’re super lost in something, so deeply meditating, gardening, dancing, being in love, whatever…
Rick: What if you really love lying on the couch and watching old Netflix movies or something? Do more of that?
HeatherAsh: If there’s a sense of open-hearted bliss, beauty while you’re doing that, yeah, knock yourself out. But what most people are doing is they’re like, “This glass of wine brings me to that sense of bliss,” but it actually isn’t.
Rick: Let’s have the whole bottle.
HeatherAsh: Right. So there’s that mindfulness of what actually brings me into that sense of connection and into that sense of absolute merging with all that is. Do more of that, whatever that is. And the second piece is clean the agreements that the little soul has erected and created that block it from the big soul. The agreements, the stories, the beliefs. So each of us create usually these elaborate stories of who we’re supposed to be, of what the world is supposed to be like. And we also have a lot of emotional content that we repress. We have a lot of agreements around how we should be in relationship with our emotions. And so the second piece is cleaning up the stuff, basically. And there’s a lot of tools around how to do that.
Rick: Yeah, let’s talk about that a little bit more right now. So I know Don Miguel’s book was called “The Four Agreements.” So elaborate a bit on what you mean by agreements.
HeatherAsh: So an agreement is something that we consciously or unconsciously make. So an example of a conscious agreement is, “I’m going to sign this contract to work at this job for this many hours and get paid this much, and here’s my job description.” So that’s a conscious agreement that we’re making with somebody. We actually make very few conscious agreements. We have a lot of unconscious agreements. So an unconscious agreement, I think about it as just the iceberg, which is our conscious agreements. And then underneath is all the unconscious agreements.
Rick: Such as, give us examples.
HeatherAsh: Such as you’re in a car as a kid and you’re singing and you’re having a really good time, and your parent who’s driving says, “Stop singing right now. Stop it.” And in that moment, you might make an agreement. “I have a terrible voice. I can’t sing. I shouldn’t make noise.” But what’s going on for your parent is maybe there was an emergency vehicle, and they couldn’t figure out where the emergency vehicle, so they needed you to stop, or they were getting a migraine. There’s a thousand reasons why your parent could have said that. But you’ve now made this agreement, “I have a bad voice. I shouldn’t sing.”
Rick: So you’ve concocted stories out of a situation that perhaps had no actual reality.
HeatherAsh: Exactly. And we do it all the time. And then we build on the stories.
Rick: And then we add them to our story toolkit or something, and they end up influencing everything in our lives.
HeatherAsh: Everything in our lives. And you can imagine this kid that maybe was five at 21, their friends come and say, “Hey, we’re going to karaoke for your birthday. Let’s go. You’re first.” The response would be like, “No way, and my friends must hate me. Why would they make me do this?” You wouldn’t go, “Wow, there is that story. I must have a story about that. I wonder what that is.” So that’s part of what the Toltec teaches you to do is question everything. Every way you’ve identified, every fear, to be curious about, “Is there an underlying agreement that’s limiting me?” And the way that we do that is by paying attention to our life. You don’t have to know where things originated. It’s great to know where they originated, but you don’t need to know. All you need to do is show up in your life and look at how you’re responding to things, because that’s going to show you your agreements.
Rick: I was going to ask you that. So the guy whose friends invite him to karaoke, he’s not necessarily, and let’s say he’s practicing Toltec. He’s not necessarily going to remember that this happened when he was five years old. His mom told him not to sing, but he’s going to somehow look at his reluctance to go to the karaoke place and say, “Why am I hesitating? I know I can sing. I sing in the shower. I mean, what’s my problem here?” That kind of thing. He sort of brings some awareness to it.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, exactly. And it’s that moment of pause and witnessing the response of like, “Whoa, I’m having a huge response here. I wonder what’s going on,” where there’s that curiosity and that witnessing versus just absolutely believing the story. And then using the story to even create more stories, basically.
Rick: Yeah. So you don’t let your suppressed stories unwittingly dictate your every move. You somehow unravel them.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, you unravel them, exactly. And there’s a lot of tangle. And that’s been some of my biggest work is with the warrior heart practices. One of the things that I recognize just working with myself and working with students over the years is that we tend to tangle together our emotions and our stories. And we also have a lot of knots in our stories that are tied to older things. So we might think we’re having a response to something in the moment. Let’s say you have a friend that’s always late and you have a huge reaction to your friend being late. Probably it’s not about your friend being late. There’s an older story that’s gotten triggered, that’s been brought up by the friend being late. And if you’re willing to investigate, you can clean. What most of us do is we don’t investigate, we just tie the knot tighter. Because we’re like, “I have a right to be pissed off with them. How dare they not respect me?” And here we are tying the knot tighter and tighter and justifying our feelings and our behavior. So Toltec work is about untangling and having that awareness to start looking at, “All right, what have I knotted together and how do I start creating spaciousness in it?”
Rick: So in your own life, in your own experience, as you’ve been unraveling things or questioning stories all these years, what has the subjective experience of that process been? Have you found yourself recollecting things that happened in your childhood a lot, or do you somehow usually not recollect those things and you just are able to free yourself from conditioned or habitual responses and thereby become a freer person in general by resolving or unwinding these things?
HeatherAsh: I’d say there’s been a journey that when I first started working with Don Miguel, it just felt super messy. So there was a lot of processing and a lot of going back to my childhood and looking at the places that I blamed others or that I had shame around things. And that as I cleaned up more things, that now it’s really different, that I can clean up really intense, big things pretty quickly because I know the patterns. I know where things tend to live inside of me. And I have such a different relationship with my mind now than I used to. I used to just believe the stories and think that that was all there was, and now anytime a story comes up, I’m like, “Hello, I don’t believe you. What’s up?”
Rick: So that kind of brings us to the second part of my question that I asked previously, which is, having cleaned up a lot of your stuff, I don’t know what percentage you would assign to how much you’ve cleaned up, but having cleaned up a pretty good chunk, what’s your typical day like? Your typical interactions with people and things that happen in your life, how do you find yourself? If you were to snap back to where you were 20 years ago, what sort of contrast would you notice between now and then?
HeatherAsh: I’d say the main contrast is the amount of peace that I have in my heart and in my life and curiosity. So my days are always like I wake up in gratitude. And wherever I’m at, I’m so happy to be there. And that can be… I live on the road, and so some days I wake up, I mostly live on the road. Some days I wake up, I’m at the gas station because I couldn’t find a rest area because they were all closed and I’ve had three hours of sleep. And there’s a truck next to me that’s super loud. And I’m like, “Yay, this is cool.”
Rick: Walmart lets you sleep in their parking lot, by the way. You probably know that.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, they do. They’re great. Yeah.
Rick: Yeah, so let’s explain what we mean by this. So you have an Airstream trailer, one of those silvery, aerodynamic ones, and you’ve been traveling around the country in that for how long now?
HeatherAsh: For almost two years now.
Rick: Just living there.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, yeah. I do have a home base in Santa Fe, but I’m mostly on the road.
Rick: Interesting. Just going to national parks and beautiful places.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, and also spending a lot of time in rest areas and in between places. So all of it. And that’s really, I think, the difference of, in my experience now is I find joy in pretty much everything that I’m doing. Cleaning the toilet, dealing with a really difficult person or a really challenging situation. There’s joy in all of it. And there’s a much faster capacity to untangle things. So even when I deal with hard things, it doesn’t mean there are not challenges. There’s still challenges. But my capacity to untangle those is like five minutes versus weeks or days or years.
Rick: There’s a metaphor. Drawing a line in stone, etching a line into the stone, it’s hard to do and it lasts a long time. Drawing a line in sand, it’s easier to do and it doesn’t last as long. Drawing a line in water, even easier to do and it doesn’t last as long as the sand. Or drawing a line in air, totally easy to do it, it’s instantaneously gone. So those things would represent degrees of sort of conditioning of the nervous system versus a more unconditioned nervous system, how experience registers in various nervous systems depending upon their degree of conditioning.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, yeah. It’s a beautiful, beautiful metaphor. And what is really that freedom is the freedom to shift your state, the freedom to be able to navigate in a fluid, resilient way, whatever’s arising.
Rick: Yeah. So regarding the tonal and the nagual, do you feel that somehow in your subjective experience, the nagual has become lively in your awareness so that both tonal and nagual, individual and universal are residing simultaneously in your awareness?
HeatherAsh: Yeah, I would say that’s true and that there’s more of that. Because I’ve had the blessing of having what I would call nagual experiences of being merged with all that is and dissolving the form and opening to that possibility, I know it’s there. I don’t touch it all the time, honestly, because I’m like immersed in the world, and I know it’s there. It’s the underlying, and I know at any time I can stop and drop into that.
Rick: And I bet you even find when you’re in the midst of hectic situations that there it is, you know? I mean, you don’t, like, you’re not sort of, it’s not there by virtue of putting attention on it, but it’s there as an undercurrent, as if, you know, as if it pretended it’s a tone, you know, the tone’s going on all the time, so you’re not always paying, “Oh, there’s a tone, there’s a tone,” but you could always do that if you wanted to. You could check in.
HeatherAsh: Exactly, yeah, and the way I think about it is that, I love this idea of the river that if you put any pollutant into water, you can always take it out. Like, water can always be brought back to its purest form, and I do feel that in my life there’s always that clear current of the river. There may be stuff that gets in it, but I also, I always know how to drop beneath it as well.
Rick: How to purify it out.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, how to purify it out, or the same thing with stillness. Like, no matter how loud things are, there’s always that stillness, you know? I did a practice once, it was so fun, where I did a 40-day meditation, and part of the meditation was you’re supposed to do it at the exact same time every day, and you’re supposed to be outside with your thumb on the earth, like, physically on the earth. And because I travel so much, it was super interesting that one time I had a week where I was in New York City, and so I would wake up at 4 a.m. every morning, because that was the time that happened to be that time in New York City, and I would go out into Union Square and find my little patch and put my thumb and plug in. And then life would start happening around me, which some days it would get louder and louder, but there was always that feeling sense of the stillness is always there, no matter what. And I loved living in New York City. I lived there for a year. People would be like, “It’s so loud,” and I’m like, “It’s so quiet,” because I can feel that depth.
Rick: Yeah, I can relate to that. I mean, traveling is fun, for instance, because you go through a busy airport and it’s all so crazy and all, but there’s this juxtaposition of the craziness with the silence. It’s just kind of fascinating to see that, and it shows up even better sometimes in more intense situations.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, yeah, it’s true. And I think that’s a thing for me, is that to have that love of the silence and the stillness, and be in the world, and love the chaos, and love the mystery of what’s going to happen next, and love the conflict even, that is what makes things so rich. So there isn’t a split inside of us of like, “The silence is good, and this is bad.”
Rick: Right, right.
HeatherAsh: I see a lot of spiritual people.
Rick: I used to feel that way.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, yeah. It’s just a super recipe for suffering, right? It’s like you’re just pissed off at the world all the time, and for people getting in the way of your spiritual practice. And to really embrace, we’re in form for a reason. We’re in form to learn how to navigate conflict, to learn how to be in that tender place of how poignant this life is, how temporary it is, how cruel humans can be to each other, how much suffering there is, and how to learn how to love that as well, open our hearts, be present, and really listen to what’s my piece to bring to help relieve some of the suffering, that we can’t do all of it. What I’ve seen is that the more that we clean up, and I’ve had this experience, the more that I clean up my own content, I have less attachment to this body’s experience, and more of an opening of how can I be in service? How can I show up in a supportive, helpful way? But also the old, when I was young and I was an activist, it was like, I have to save the world. There was so much struggle around that and anger. And now I’m like, I’m a little drop, and I’ll do my piece. And I don’t know what’s going to happen to the world. I don’t know if it’s going to get better, if it’s going to get worse, but I’ll show up. And I was thinking that about the pandemic now, I was talking to a friend of mine, and she’s like, I hate humans, we’re so terrible. And I was just like, I love humans so much. And the truth is, I don’t know if we’re going to wake up. I don’t know if we’re going to be better to each other. I don’t know if this pandemic is going to do anything. I really don’t. I hope. But I’m also like, and I’ll show up with whatever we do, and bring my love. And I don’t have an expectation of, we’ll use this in a good way. I don’t know. I hope we do.
Rick: Yeah. We’ll just do your bit.
HeatherAsh: We’ll just do my bit, whatever that, yeah.
Rick: I remember seeing a video of some yogi in India, and someone asked him, do you want to get off the wheel of karma and not ever be reborn again? And he said, I don’t care. He said, whatever God wills. I’m happy to get off. I’m happy to come back a million times in order to serve. But I just want to be in tune with God’s will.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, really feel that as well. Yeah, I’ll show up and do what I’m asked, basically. I listen well. People are like, you have such an amazing life. I’m like, I listen well. That’s really all. I listen to the Spirit. I listen to the Divine. I listen to the Mother.
Rick: A couple questions came in which look interesting. This is Dan from London asking, “As a father, what you mentioned in regards to unconscious agreements is really important for parents to understand in terms of the unconscious agreements that a child can make in reaction to their parent. It’s so important to talk to children gently and kindly with an explanation for direction you give them. In the example you gave, in that situation in the car, the incident with the singing, it may not have been possible, but a parent should explain to the child afterwards why they spoke harshly to mitigate the possibility of the child making unconscious agreements. What do you think about that?”
HeatherAsh: I think that’s true, and I also think parents have to understand that their kids come in with a predilection for particular experiences. So let me explain that. So in the cosmology, what happens when we die is that the little soul, let me just explain it really quickly. So big soul and little soul, the little soul makes all these agreements that are based on a judgment, victimization, fear, and every one of those agreements that we don’t clean up this lifetime makes a little divot mark on the big soul. So there’s a resonance. So the little soul goes away. This personality is gone. We do not keep the personality. The agreements go away as well when we die, and there’s still a resonance. I’m sure you can relate to the karma, right? So the big soul then travels. We get reborn. We get a new little soul. We have new parents. We have new experiences, but those resonances are there, which means we’re going to pull in particular experiences to help us later clean them up. So it’s this beautiful game, if you want to call it that, of we get to use the physical manifestation to help us clean up those old resonances and those agreements. If you clean it up completely, it doesn’t come back again. We don’t have to deal with it the next round, which is why, like for me, I’m like, let’s clean up as much as we can this round, right? So we have less to deal with next time. And so if parents understand that, you’re going to also understand there’s going to be sometimes nothing you can do. Your child’s going to take on agreements from your responses, from their friends, that is part of their work. And I just see a lot of parents suffering because they hold this, if I raise my child right, then they’ll never have any suffering, that they’ll never make their own agreements. And it’s just not true. So there’s this love that you can have of watching your child take on those agreements and know they’ll figure it out. If you have the trust in the long-term and you teach them the skills to really look at their stories and look at their emotions, then they can untangle and you can work with them. So I really agree. Yes, talk to your children. Absolutely. Explain to them what happened. Help them to feel what are they feeling and also understand they’re going to be on their own journey. Both are true.
Rick: It’s good. Some people say we choose our parents, you know, and that we choose the life we’re going to live and pretty much script out all the more significant events in it in order to facilitate clearing up of these agreements. Here’s a question that comes in from Timu from Helsinki. “Is the life we live really a dream? What kind of test could we do for testing the life is a dream hypothesis?”
HeatherAsh: Your life is based on how you perceive the world around you. So one way that you can test this is you can think about an experience that you had in the past that you really, really suffered around that you’re not suffering around now and see that just by shifting your perspective, you have a totally different relationship to the reality. So the way it’s a dream is that we’re constantly filtering everything. So if I have a belief that I can’t sing, that I have a really terrible voice, I’m now dropping a filter over my eyes. And anybody that says, “I love your voice, Heather, actually, you have such a beautiful voice,” I ignore. I’m creating that dream. And anybody that says, “Oh my God, your voice is terrible,” because I believe that, I’m like, “Got it.” The image I use is if you can imagine somebody that was afraid of conflict and wanted everyone to like them and didn’t like anger, and you put that person in a room of 99 happy people, and there’s one angry person, where’s their attention going?
Rick: You’d go hang out with that person, right?
HeatherAsh: Yeah, you’ll be like, “Somebody’s angry. Oh my God, I have to fix this.” You’re dreaming it. Whereas if you were dreaming, “Yay, that person gets to be angry. Hey, look at all these fun people to play with,” your experience would be completely different.
Rick: Yeah. I think when people say life is a dream, or sometimes people say life is an illusion, or the world is maya, things like that, I think we have to understand what we mean by dream or illusion. My best guess, my best understanding of it is that the world is real, but we don’t perceive it totally as it actually is. We have a kind of a filtered view of it. So in that sense, we’re not seeing the reality of the situation, just as we don’t. And actually, you know, I don’t know. I mean, it seems to me that the world that we experience in the waking state is more real than whatever we concoct in the sleep state and dreaming during the night, seems to me. Maybe you have a comment on that. But nonetheless, we always under-appreciate or misinterpret whatever our waking state experience to some extent, wouldn’t you say?
HeatherAsh: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely, because we’re clouded by our stories and we’re clouded by emotions from the past. So to learn how to be in relationship with reality means we’re showing up in the present moment with exactly what’s happened without putting a story on it, without saying good, bad, right, wrong, of really being like, this is what’s happening, how do I want to respond? Then we’re navigating the dream. We’re directing the dream rather than being dreamed. And most of us are being dreamed by our own beliefs, conditioning, ways we’ve learned to respond habitually to things. And so really, the Toltec world is about claiming your capacity to capture your own attention, to choose where you’re going to put your intent and focus, and to really be in relationship with truth, what is true here. And there’s lots of layers of truth, which is very fun to play with.
Rick: There’s that thing in the Bible about seeing through a glass darkly, and then later on the glass gets clear and we see things as they are, as opposed to some obscured, clouded version of them.
HeatherAsh: Yes, yeah, and the Toltec, that’s the smoky mirror.
Rick: Yeah, same metaphor, really.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, cleaning up the mirror of our oppression. And the warrior heart practice that I created is… and it’s interesting because somebody just wrote me about doing this with her kids, so I’ll share this story. It’s working with our capacity to start to separate out the feeling from the story, the story from the truth, and the truth from our intent. If you think about…
Rick: Go through those again a little bit more slowly.
HeatherAsh: Mm-hm. So the first chamber is the feeling chamber.
Rick: Chambers, yes, I was going to ask you about chambers.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, so I built it on the chambers of the heart, that we have four chambers in the heart that all work together. And that when we’re working with these four chambers of the warrior heart practice, we recognize they’re all important, they all work together. And so in the feeling chamber, the question is, what am I feeling? But that question is separate than what am I telling myself, what’s the story? And so the first part of really getting ourselves free is learning how to feel our feelings separate from the story.
Rick: So give us an example.
HeatherAsh: So let’s just use the example of friend being late, okay? So instead of, like your story might be, they’re always late, they don’t really appreciate me, they don’t respect me. Nobody ever listens to me, and then all of a sudden you’re into this whole thing of, I was the youngest kid and I was always pushed to the side, like the whole story grows, right?
HeatherAsh: Because it’s connected.
Rick: And all that actually happened was they got stuck in traffic or something.
HeatherAsh: Exactly, exactly. We’re such good storytellers.
HeatherAsh: So what you would do is you would start with, what do I actually feel? Close your eyes, breathe. Not what’s the story, what do I feel? And you might feel, I feel frustrated and that frustration feels like a pressure in my chest. I feel scared. Wow, I didn’t see that before. There’s fear in my belly. I feel, and then your mind usually goes to the story. How dare they? It’s like, no, just come back. What do I feel? What’s the feeling sense in the moment? And once you’ve just let yourself feel, it’s radical what starts to happen as you separate the feeling from the story, because most of us are running away from our emotions. We’ve learned to exit our emotions. And so the power of learning to turn towards the emotions and listen what’s happening and to be with your emotional body separate from the story is a huge piece of getting free. And then you go, okay, what’s the story? And then you can start looking at how big the story is that you’ve created. What’s actually the story that I’m telling myself, not what you wish the story was. And it’s the same thing with the feelings. You’re really looking at what am I feeling, not what do I wish I was feeling, or let me intellectualize my feelings, or let me justify my feelings. Just have your feelings, which sounds easy, but it’s often not for us modern people that have gotten them all tied together. And then you get curious about your story, to tell people, be an archeologist, dig, look, be curious. And then once you start to explore what the story is, then you go to what’s actually true.
Rick: The truth chamber.
HeatherAsh: It’s the truth chamber. And the truth is always super simple. So in this example, my friend is late, period. The data you have is your friend is late. That’s all you know, truthfully. They were late three times before, period. Okay, that’s true too. And anything after that, you’re back in story. And it’s really beautiful to do this with the pandemic. I’ve been doing this process with people with the pandemic of having, what do you feel? When you close your eyes and really go into your body, what’s your experience around the pandemic? What is it bringing up? What are the feelings that are happening? And then what’s the story that you’re telling yourself? And then what’s true? And what’s true is there’s a pandemic, period. I don’t know when it’s gonna end, period. So the truth is always super simple, one sentence.
Rick: Yeah, this kind of reminds me of Byron Katie a little bit. I’m sure you’ve looked at her stuff.
HeatherAsh: Yes, absolutely. And it’s an inquiry practice. So it’s just like Byron Katie’s work. It’s an inquiry practice to untangle, to get more information, to get free.
Rick: And to get out of the habit of embellishing things that you think.
HeatherAsh: Exactly, and going into what I call disaster mind, which we all have super developed disaster minds. I’m gonna go bankrupt and we’re never gonna be able to hug anybody again.
Rick: Right, we’re all gonna die.
HeatherAsh: We’re all gonna die, come back, sweetheart. What’s true? I don’t know what’s happening next, period. And then the intent chamber and that your intent is one word. What do you want for yourself? Where do you wanna put your focus?
Rick: Give us a concrete example here too.
HeatherAsh: So you may say, okay, my intent is compassion. My intent is presence. My intent is peace. And then you bring that back through the chambers. So you grab your intent. Let’s say your intent is peace and you go back into the truth chamber. And then you look at, is there any other truth I can see? And so let’s say with your friend, you may say, you know what? They’re always late, period. And you’d have to really check that. Is it true they’re always late? Okay, but most of the time they’re late, period, okay? If your intent is peace, your intent is not they should never be late so I feel peaceful. Your intent is I will choose peace.
Rick: Whether they’re late or not.
HeatherAsh: Whether they’re late or not. And then you go back into the story and that’s when you get creative of like, okay, what do I do? And you may then realize, you know what? I actually don’t care that they’re late. I’m gonna bring a book and read and stay at peace whether they’re late or not. Or you might realize, you know what? This is so important to me that people are on time that I’m gonna end this relationship. And there isn’t a big emotion around it. It’s just like this doesn’t work for me. And you can do that with love cuz this is what will bring me peace.
Rick: Or you can say, “hey, friend, it seems like you’re always late. And I understand that life is busy, but could you leave 15 minutes earlier in the future when we make a date….”
Rick: “…so that I don’t have to just sit here?”
HeatherAsh: Yeah, exactly. And you have that communication and maybe your friend says, absolutely, I can totally do that for you. And they may be able to adjust their behavior and they may not. But just because you have super clear communication with someone you both agree doesn’t mean they’re able to shift it. Maybe they will be and those communications are so important. But what I see sometimes is people have those really good communications and then they’re pissed because the other person is still late. And if you want peace, you let go of whether they’re late or not or whether they can even be impeccable with their word. You hold peace. So yeah, and yes for those communications. And then we end the practice in the feeling chamber. So you go all the way back through to land with, okay, how do I feel now? So it’s a beautiful practice cuz you can use it on the little things like the, my friend is late, I’m frustrated. And you can use it on big things like the pandemic and start to get some separation of what’s actually happening.
Rick: Is it the kind of thing that you wanna do in a kind of a settled meditative way? Or could you be doing it in the midst of taking a walk or something more active driving a car?
HeatherAsh: All of the above. So I’ve done it while sitting and meditating. I’ve done it while going for long walks in the woods. I’ve done it talking to friends, writing. So there’s a lot of ways. Some people it’s easier for them if they’re moving to drop into more truth, to really be able to explore their story and drop into truth. Some people wanna sit, some people wanna write. So yeah, it’s a really versatile practice in that way. And it’s just separating the pieces to untangle the knots to get clarity so that you then have your intent then, you’re then intent focused.
Rick: Some people say with Byron Katie’s work that it becomes second nature after a while. So they don’t have to kind of methodically go through the four questions. But you find that too, that it just becomes more of a way of functioning.
HeatherAsh: It does, it does. Yeah, and I’ve been dealing with something that’s been pretty challenging. I’m in the process of buying some land from a land partner. And it’s taking a long time. And I’ll watch myself go into frustration. And I’ll be like, hi, sweetheart. All right, breathe. There’s the frustration, there’s anger. What’s the story? Untangle. And it’s literally two minutes and I come back to a sense of peace again. And sometimes that happens instantaneously. I don’t even have to go through the practice at all. Because just like any practice, any inquiry practice, the more you do it — or meditation practice — the more you do it, the more ingrained it becomes in the nervous system, the faster you can access it. But you have to do it consistently, like anything. When my dad was dying, he had leukemia. And he was a Buddhist. And I watched him want to meditate, except he didn’t have a meditation practice. And it was too late. He was dealing with incredible body stuff, and he didn’t have the capacity to meditate because he had no foundation. And that was a huge lesson for me. I was like, right, you don’t wait till you’re in crisis to get the skill. You build the skill daily, daily, daily. So you have it when you need it.
Rick: That’s an important lesson. Sometimes in India, they have these four stages of life. And some people have the attitude that, well, spirituality can wait till the last stage of life, then I will have raised my family and done everything else. I can just relax and focus on spirituality. But many spiritual teachers say, “No, no, the spiritual focus should be there at every stage of life all the way through.” For one thing, as Amma often says, you should live your life like a bird perched on a branch that might break at any moment. You never know when your last breath is going to be. So, you know, in my perspective, from my opinion, spirituality should be a routine part of a spiritual development of some sort, should be a routine part of life, like sleeping and eating, breathing. I mean, it’s just as important. And it’s not something to put, it’ll enhance your entire life. It’s not something to just sort of entertain yourself when you’re old.
Rick: Yeah. Makes the whole life go better.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, it really does. Yeah. And it’s like cleaning. I always share with people, we have this, like you wouldn’t say to yourself, “I flossed my teeth once, I never have to floss them again. I’m so glad.” Or, “I jogged today, I never have to do that again.” Or, “I washed my dishes, I’m done with that.” You know that that’s going to be a part of the rhythm. And if you can make the cleaning part of your spiritual practice, all of it, whether you’re sweeping the floor or whether you’re cleaning the agreements and the beliefs or the stories, it’s all spiritual practice. And they start to merge in a really incredible way.
Rick: Good. So we’ve talked about big soul, little soul. We’ve talked about the four chambers just now. And then there’s some other chapters in your book which I think might make good little bullet points to elaborate on. There’s integration of intent and truth, or maybe you’ve already covered that, the art of stalking yourself and expansion. Let’s cover some of the points that you include in those chapters.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, so working with the chambers, that piece of taking your intent and going back into your life is what creates a transformation. Because now instead of being at the… I think about it, the difference between a ship that’s in a storm that doesn’t have a set direction.
Rick: Anchor, rudder, or something.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, anchor, rudder. Yeah, exactly. Your intent’s your rudder. Your intent’s what keeps you stable. Because you’re going back into your life to the challenge. It’s not like the challenge goes away. But now the challenge arises and you go back to, “Right, I’m working on peace. Okay, how do I bring peace into this situation now?” So you have a focus to put your energy towards and to learn how to do. This is a really important part about the intent. You don’t need to know how to bring your intent into your life. Now, I had an extreme situation where my intent was unconditional love. I was like, “I have no idea how I’m going to choose unconditional love in this situation because it’s so messed up.” But I didn’t need to know how. I just had to have the commitment. And the Spirit and life showed me how over time. So there’s a beautiful piece of being dedicated to your intent and trusting that life will give you the exact lessons to help you manifest it so you’re embodying it rather than just thinking about it.
Rick: It seems to me there could be hierarchies of intent. And there are hierarchies of intent. There must be some kind of fundamental intent in one’s life, and you better hope it’s as fundamental as can be. If you think that making money, for instance, is your fundamental intent, look deeper because there are deeper levels of intent you want to realize. But then making money is a legitimate intent that has to be there, and then there’s relationship intents and all kinds of things, but all these spokes of the wheel have a hub. So in that scenario, what would you say is, is there one core, ultimate intent for all human beings, or does it actually vary from one person to the next?
HeatherAsh: That’s a good question. I don’t know. So I would say that I feel like we each have a different piece, and so those intents vary. I mean, we can say that there’s a larger intent of moving towards consciousness, awakening,
Rick: Spiritual development.
HeatherAsh: Spiritual development. And I also feel like each of us is here to learn a different piece of it. And so it’s what I call our true work, and that your true work is the under foundation of everything, so that every act you’re doing, you’re basing out of your true work, and that it’s one word, it’s one quality that you’re learning how to embody this lifetime. And really, all of those qualities are going to lead back to opening consciousness, spiritual development, whichever one you pick. Whether it’s compassion, unconditional love, presence.
Rick: Yeah, and we’re also wired differently. Mother Teresa had one way of functioning that served, I’d say, a deep evolutionary intent, and Mahatma Gandhi had another, and he served in his way, and even a military man or a businessman or somebody, we all have our different roles to play. But I would still say that regardless of the diversity of our roles, there’s something fundamental about life itself, not even human life, but life, which has to do with evolution of consciousness and more and more full expression of the innate creativity that resides at the heart of things.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, I would really agree And that we then have different prisms of color of that one light that we’re shining.
Rick: Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it. A friend of mine often uses the phrase, “that we’re sense organs of the infinite.” And obviously, different sense organs have different functions and capacities, but they are sort of all tendrils or extensions of who we are. And like that, the infinite has a million, trillion, billion different extensions from rocks to caterpillars to aardvarks to us.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, exactly. One of my spiritual teachers once said, “If God is made out of Play-Doh, God needs to use Play-Doh to make everything. Everything is Play-Doh.” And I was like, “I get it!”
Rick: Yeah, that’s good, I like that.
HeatherAsh: You know, the manifest of all of us is the divine, and if we can recognize that foundational, we’re all Play-Doh.
Rick: Yeah. And if it’s not all Play-Doh, then God isn’t on the present. There must be holes or something where God somehow didn’t manage to permeate, which doesn’t make sense.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, exactly. So, all Play-Doh.
HeatherAsh: Nothing but Play-Doh. In the To-Now land, and the unmanifest. So, it’s fun. Yeah, and I think that that place of really navigating, going deep into ourselves to see, “What is my true work? What is that essence that I’m wanting to bring through this lifetime?” And again, you don’t need to know how. It’s not something you’ve already mastered. It’s something that you’re going to use every experience in your life to help you bring up inside of yourself. So, I always say, “You know it’s your true work if you’re picking up dog poo in the backyard.” If you can do it while you’re picking up dog poo in the backyard, while you’re going to your job, and while you’re nourishing your kid, that you’re practicing in everything that you do, bringing that true work through, or that intent. And I think life has intent that’s moving through all of us, and the more that we surrender, the more that we’re aligning our little intent with the larger intent, and we just start being guided. We stop thinking we have to figure everything out and direct everything. We realize it’s all directed. Listen to the guidance.
Rick: Yeah, that’s nice. You just sort of take it easy, take it as it comes, and you end up allowing a larger intelligence to sort of orchestrate your life.
Rick: Stay out of its way.
HeatherAsh: Stay out of its way, yeah. It knows better than you.
Rick: Yeah. And picking up dog poop can be fun. I do it every day. It’s sort of like an Easter egg hunt or something.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, exactly.
Rick: She brought up that example. I didn’t understand. Irene is like, “I know.”
HeatherAsh: There’s so much. But that’s such life, right? There’s always going to be the cleaning, and so how do we make the cleaning sacred?
Rick: So what kind of things do you do with people? I mean, it’s kind of cool that you’re managing to do all that you do while living out of a camping trailer and being on the road most of the time. Thank God for the Internet. So what sort of programs do you offer, and what do people who enroll in them end up doing with you?
HeatherAsh: I do a lot of different things. I do weekend workshops. I do apprenticeship programs. I take people down to Mexico and Peru.
Rick: You used to do that.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, exactly. Right now, I sit and look at the camera.
Rick: Right, right.
HeatherAsh: Yeah. When the lockdown first happened, my friend Mary, who’s with me here, I’m at a friend’s house right now that has really good Internet, which is why I stayed here. We live streamed for 24 hours, seven days a week for the first week of the lockdown. And literally, I would walk everybody down to the creek and set my camera up on the creek. And we had an altar, and we set the camera up at the altar all night. And so there’s a way that for me…
Rick: Which I mean, even when you were sleeping, you were live streaming.
HeatherAsh: Mm-hm, yeah.
Rick: That must have been boring.
HeatherAsh: It was intense. So we did it for a week, and then we’re like, “Okay, well, we did that. Let’s do something else.” So now we’ve downsized. But it felt really important for me to be in that much contact with my community to help everybody into the first week.
Rick: So you could just tune in anytime, and there you were.
HeatherAsh: Anytime, yeah. And people were like, “Thank you so much. I woke up in the middle of the night, and I had anxiety, and I was able to tune in and see the altar and remind myself that it was all okay, and remember the prayers we did before bed.” So it was really sweet. And so for me, my work is so much around helping develop community, helping people find other people that are on similar paths so they can have support and guidance, and giving really good tools. So I feel like that’s my, how do we share the tools? My work is so much around, here’s a tool to help keep you centered. Here’s a way to navigate in a different capacity to build resilience, to build present, to build more joy in our systems, and more of that ability to hold everything as…
Rick: You mentioned trips to Peru. Do entheogens play a role in what you’re doing? And I know that there was a phase in Carlos Castaneda’s training where he was taking psychedelics, and then later on, Don Juan said, “Okay, enough of that.” He said, “She kind of shakes you loose, but it’s bad for the body, so you’re going to stop doing it.”
HeatherAsh: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, so no, I don’t do plant medicine on the journeys. I have done plenty of that type of medicine, and I really agree. It can be very helpful to get people, shake people out of their narrow assemblage point or their neuroperception. And there’s a way that it’s a very helpful tool, and then it can become a crutch really easily.
Rick: It can not only have diminishing returns, but also start to do harm.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, yeah, exactly. So yeah, we do a lot of direct work with the energy of places and with the ancestors and with the teachings. So I have an amazing friend in Peru that we do a lot of the ancient Incan practices of connecting to the land. And just plugging, just helping people unplug from their day-to-day world and plug into something different is such a gift. So I want to do more of that when we can all travel. I just bought land in the process of buying out my partner in New Mexico. We have 180 acres of land, so I’m really excited. It’s outside of Las Vegas, New Mexico, which is about 45 minutes, an hour from Santa Fe.
Rick: South, north?
HeatherAsh: It is exactly east. So you go down around the mountains. There’s a huge national park there, the Santa Fe National Forest. So yeah, the backyard is 1.8 million acres.
HeatherAsh: So exciting.
Rick: That’s beautiful.
HeatherAsh: So yeah, yeah. So I’m really looking forward to when we can all travel again is bringing people there and just letting people be on the land, unplugged, to get direct guidance.
Rick: Do you think you’ll develop some kind of a retreat center there?
HeatherAsh: Yeah, that’s the plan, is to slowly start working with the land to figure out what it wants and what kind of buildings to build. And yeah.
Rick: Great. Sounds exciting. You mentioned assemblage point again just now, and I think maybe I didn’t probe into that point as much as we might have. So let’s revisit that. Well, I could ask you a question, but explain again for the sake of the viewers what the assemblage point is.
HeatherAsh: The assemblage point is a place of perception where we create our reality. And the assemblage point is created by how we learned to view the world. So there’s what we call first, second, and third attention. So first attention is how you learn the first time. So what you learn to be, like, now I’ll just do a really brief example. Like both my parents — and I’m making this up — both my parents were lawyers. So I know that I need to be a lawyer or a doctor, and I have to go to college, and I’m supposed to have kids. So we create all these agreements around who we’re supposed to be, and that’s first attention. And your assemblage point is super fixed because you believe this is the only option. And then in the second attention, you start to step back and go, oh, wait a minute, I don’t have to be what I’ve been told to be. I can create who I am. And so at that point, the assemblage point starts to get more fluid, and you realize, wow, there’s different ways of being. And there’s a lot of excitement. There’s a feeling, sense of power. There’s a sense of freedom. But the second attention can also be really dangerous because what happens is we can get our assemblage point stuck someplace else, where we now create this new reality. Like this is now reality. You’re supposed to meditate all the time. You’re supposed to love people. You’re supposed to not be attached to things. And we create this whole new identity that creates just as much suffering, but now it’s spiritual. Because what our judge does…
Rick: Because you’re neglecting other things?
HeatherAsh: Yeah. And also because the judge will do things like, well, you weren’t very loving there. You’re obviously not doing this right. And, oh, you’re not meditating four hours a day like your friend just said they were. You really suck at this. Or we get spiritually smug, I call it, which is where we start judging everybody else. Oh, well, there’s four other humans that aren’t doing life right. If they just opened their third eye, they would understand. So we get into this whole smug area.
Rick: Have you ever watched J.P. Sears’ videos?
HeatherAsh: I love him.
Rick: Yeah, he’s this ultra-spiritual guy.
HeatherAsh: Exactly. Exactly. And that is the perfect spiritual smugness. Parody. Yeah. And we all are guilty of that sometimes. That’s a second attention where we get stuck thinking, “I’m now doing it right and everybody else is doing it wrong.” Third attention, you are completely fluid. So you’re able to take your assemblage point and move it many different places. And that allows you to see different perspectives, different points of view. You’re not fixated on a story. And in third attention, you’re living in direct relationship with life.
Rick: So you’re adaptable. You adapt to the needs of the moment in a super-fluid way.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
Rick: So obviously some people get stuck at these different attention points sometimes for a whole lifetime or more. Yes. They never break out of it.
HeatherAsh: Never break out of it. And the truth is there’s something super comforting around first attention. Yeah, it’s secure in a way. It’s secure in a way. I mean, it’s terrible suffering too. But if you think you’re right and you never have to question that…
HeatherAsh: And there’s tremendous suffering because we’re not living to our capacity. And we know it. Yeah.
Rick: Yeah. Actually, a question came in from Akshay in Pune, India that kind of relates to this, I think, in light of the pandemic. He said, “In the current times of this pandemic, do you think people at large will understand the fragility and limitation of life? Will they start thinking beyond these material aspects? In short, will they start turning inwards?” So what he’s saying essentially is, if people in general are stuck in the first attention point, will this crisis somehow create more of a massive shift to the second or third attention points?
HeatherAsh: I think it definitely has that capacity. And I think it will definitely shake a lot of people out completely to start questioning their life, to start recreating it, to really look at what they’re doing and if it actually serves them, if it’s actually what they want to do, and start starting to learn to listen to their hearts and step out of first attention. I do think it’ll shake a lot of people up. And I think there’s going to be people that also go right back to sleep. For me, it’s really how many people will get shaken up and stay awake. That’s what I’m curious about.
Rick: Yeah. I’m sure you’ve heard of the 100th monkey story. I don’t know if that’s actually a true story, but the idea is that once a certain percentage of the monkeys started washing their sweet potatoes to get the sand off, monkeys on other islands began doing it too, just without having to learn it incrementally the way the monkeys on the first island did. So, it could be that there’ll be a certain critical mass in humanity that will all of a sudden precipitate a huge shift.
HeatherAsh: Yes. We can pray for that. We can hope for that. We can open to that. And who knows if humans are ready or not, or if there’s enough people waking up.
Rick: Yeah. Here’s an interesting question that came in that relates back to something you talked about earlier. This is Jackie from Cape Town, South Africa. We’re getting questions from all over the world today. Jackie asks, “How do you pull your energy back from the past, practically speaking? Is it merely noticing when you were thinking in the past tense, or is there another technique that is used?”
HeatherAsh: So, a really brief description of recapitulation. So, that’s the practice. And recapitulation is a breath and an intent practice. So, your intent is to gather your energy from the past, and the breath is important of using the breath to pull that energy.
Rick: Is that something you teach?
HeatherAsh: Yeah, it’s something that I teach. And what’s beautiful is that your being recognizes its energy. So, your being isn’t out there going, “Is that my energy? Is that somebody else’s?” When you tap into your energetic being, it’s like, “Not mine, not mine. Oh, that’s mine.” And you’re able to pull it back. And so, really, the practice of recapitulation is around sorting and letting go of what’s not your energy, because that’s something else we do constantly as humans, is we pick up other people’s energy, other people’s thought forms, other people’s emotions without realizing it. And then we also give away or leak what’s not ours. And so, we’re learning to sort so that we’re… I see that there’s three things we’re learning how to do. Pull our energy back in, gather our energy up, learn how to hold that energy, because you can pull a bunch of energy back in and you’ll watch yourself. You can have a whole bunch of energy and be like, “Yeah, I’m doing great.” And I can almost guarantee three days from that point, you’ll do something to blow all the energy out again, because your being is familiar with a certain level of energy. So, we also have to learn how to stabilize and hold the energy that we’ve built and train the nervous system to hold more energy. And then the third piece is to learn how to direct energy in the present. So that we’re learning to gather our energy back, hold it, and then choose where we’re going to put it. So, there’s three parts, and it’s an intent practice.
Rick: Yeah, I remember Don Juan talking about energy leakage a lot in those books.
HeatherAsh: Yes, yeah. One of the biggest pieces that we’re working with is how to witness where we’re leaking energy and pull it back. And really, the biggest place we leak energy as humans is in judgment, self-judgment or judgment of others, or feeling victimized. And you can watch, but you have to witness. What most of us do is judge ourselves because we’re judging, or judge ourselves because we’re leaking energy. And then the energy that you would take to go, “Oh no, sweetheart, bring it back,” is gone. So, I’m a big proponent. So, one of my favorite teachings, and it’s one of the most simple teachings that I have as well, is this idea that what most of us do is run on sentences. We have disaster mind, and we’re worrying about …
Rick: Say that again because there’s a little glitch in the video. What most of us do is …
HeatherAsh: What most of us do is we have disaster mind.
Rick: Disaster mind.
HeatherAsh: We have run on sentences.
Rick: Run on sentences, that’s what you said.
HeatherAsh: Yeah. So, we’re worrying about things that might happen in the future, or we’re thinking about things that happened in the past, and there’s a lot of story that gets woven. And so, the practice is super simple. Put a period in the sentence as soon as you become aware that you’re thinking. It’s the punctuation solution. So, period. So, you’ll notice yourself thinking that you’re thinking that you’re judging yourself because of what you’re doing. Period. Take a breath. Come back into the moment. And I found that to be one of the most powerful, really simple practices of witnessing the mind. Put a period in, take a breath, come back into the moment, and then your mind’s going to start up again. Period. Come back, little mind. And it’s like training a puppy. You don’t beat the puppy. You just correct the puppy over and over again. And we need to treat our mind more like a puppy rather than something to judge or punish. I’m just like, “Recorrect, recorrect.” And you have immense patience and presence.
Rick: And you know, the best way to train a puppy, I suppose, is not to just restrain it forcibly, but to give it some kind of reward. You know, if you watch the Westminster Kennel Club show, they’re always giving the dogs these little snacks. So, you know, you can give the mind some reward, right?
HeatherAsh: Exactly. Period. Good mind, good mind. Yeah.
Rick: Yeah. What was I going to say? Oh, about energy. You know, energy leakage. Obviously, there are many things we can do to squander our energy, but I think that although, you know, we shouldn’t regard our energy as unlimited and therefore squander it all we’d like, at the same time, our energy is unlimited. There is a level of our life which is an unbounded reservoir of energy, and perhaps that is akin to the nagual. We can tap into that, get established in that, but that still doesn’t give us liberty to squander it. It still has to be harbored, or what’s the word, husbanded, or treated responsibly.
HeatherAsh: Responsibly, yeah. And I’d say it this way, is that we have life force energy, and then there’s universal energy, or earth energy, or however, because there’s a lot of ways we can access energy. Your physical being has a limited amount of energy, and you’re going to burn it out by the time, you know, period. Like, there’s a limited amount of energy for this physical body. The more of that life force energy that’s in the past, the harder it’s going to be to actually access the universal energy, or access the earth energy, or whatever the larger source is, sun, trees, like there’s so many ways to access the energy. And so what I found is the more that people are able to bring their life force, their personal life force energy into the present, the more they’re also able to access other forms of energy and keep it going. So they go together.
Rick: Yeah, I have a good friend who’s a spiritual teacher, quite a popular one, and she has a tendency to go like a bat out of hell, you know, just high energy, just going, going, going. And the next thing I know, she said, “Oh, I’ve been sick for two weeks, and I just got a crash. I really got to rest.” And finally, I just said to her recently in an email, I said, “Can’t you kind of find a happy medium?” I mean, slow and steady wins the race, maybe. You know, you got to sort of take it one step at a time and not get yourself so fried.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, it’s so true. And that’s something I’ve had to learn, how to be sustainable. Because I tend to be like, “Let’s do everything now, 24/7 live streaming, let’s start there.” But what I’ve learned is that if I don’t monitor my energy, then I’m going to burn out and get sick. So for years, I would have that pattern. And I finally was like, “Okay, wait a minute, there’s got to be a more sustainable way.” And what happens, what I’ve seen is that I’ll know there’ll be particular instances where I’m like, “I’m going to give everything, and it’s going to have a consequence, but it’s worth it.” But if I do that all the time, not sustainable.
Rick: Yeah, and we’re not saying coddle yourself. Amma has a saying, “I’d rather wear out than rust.” Wear out the body than just let it rust. But there has to be a balance, there has to be a sort of a… there’s all kinds of verses in the Gita about not… she’s getting the right amount of sleep, the proper amount of food, not too much, not too little, and this balanced life. And Buddha talked about the middle way, just not going to extremes.
HeatherAsh: Yes, yeah, exactly. And knowing that sometimes you’ll go to extremes, then you need to balance it out.
Rick: Yeah, compensate.
HeatherAsh: Compensate for it, yeah. And it’s also so beautiful because there is that balancing of the physical body needs particular care. And I love Miguel talked about this with us, it’s like there’s your animal body, there’s your human body, and there’s your divine being. There’s these three beings that we’re all navigating. And your animal body is the instinct, like the sleep, the food, like the basics. And we need to be not nourishing that physical being that we are, that animal. And then there’s a human self, which is all around how we communicate and the talking self, how we’re in relationship to the world, and learning how to heal the mind of the human self, because the mind is really enmeshed with the human. We have a lot of cleanup to do around the mind. And then there’s our divine self, which is tapped in big soul, universal consciousness. And if you just try and live from here, you’re not going to take care of your body.
HeatherAsh: I know with Amma, people are like, “Amma, you have to eat.” I remember the story of her doctor finally saying, “Amma, you have to eat more.” Like during here, because she’s like, “No, I don’t need food.” It’s like, “Your body needs food, Amma.” So there’s that place of opening up to the divine more and more, and how do we also open to the animal and take care of this animal so we can be sustainable as well?
Rick: Someone named Sandra from Riverside, California asked, “Can Heather go through a heart practice demonstration?” Is that something you could do within a few minutes as a nice way of wrapping this up, or is it more long-term, does it take a long time?
HeatherAsh: No, we can do a quick-
Rick: And how do you do it? I mean, you need a guinea pig?
HeatherAsh: I can actually, I’ve been doing it around the pandemic.
HeatherAsh: Or around whatever challenge people have, so I can just do a mini version of it. And then people can take it and go deeper with it if you want to.
Rick: All right, why don’t you do that, and then we’ll conclude.
HeatherAsh: Okay, perfect. So if you want to close your eyes to focus your attention inward, you can, or you can keep your eyes open, whatever works best for you. And we start with, go into the feeling chamber. So just come into relationship with your body right now, and ask yourself, in relationship to the pandemic or a challenge that you have, it can be any challenge, how do you feel? So really bring up a time when you had an emotional reaction to either the pandemic or to a challenge in your life. And just take a moment, we’re just going to take one minute to breathe into your body and notice what you’re feeling in relationship to whatever the challenge is. And be really curious, where is it in your body? What does it feel like? What’s your somatic experience? And with all your presence, breathing into wherever there’s tension or discord, or there might be joy, whatever’s happening in your being right now, take a breath and be with it. You’re not trying to change it or fix it or understand it, you’re just being with the feeling. Good. There’s a way what we’re doing is dropping into our heart, opening our heart to what we’re feeling, being with it. And then imagine that you can step into the story chamber. Again, we’re doing an abbreviated version, but now you’re stepping into the story and you’re asking yourself, what story am I telling myself around this situation? And then you’re going to take a moment to think about what you’re feeling. And then you’re stepping into the story and you’re asking yourself, what story am I telling myself around this situation? Be curious if the story is connected to a deeper or older story at all. So where are the places of fear? Where are the places of upset? What’s the story? And then you’re thinking about the situation. You’re simply witnessing it. Just be curious. What’s my story? What am I telling myself right now? And then you’re stepping into the truth chamber. So asking yourself, really opening your heart. What do I absolutely know is true here? I always have people start with this one truth. I am breathing. So just take a breath into your heart. I am breathing. That’s true. Be with that truth. And then asking yourself, what else is true? So just one sentence with a period, very simple. What else is true? What else can I see as true here? Again, you can keep delving in deeper into as you move through the rest of your day. What else is true? Just starting the process here. What is true? And then stepping into the fourth chamber, which is your intent, and pick one word where you want to put your focus. It can be any word. It might be compassion, love, peace, play, anything. What’s your intent? Where do you want to commit? Where are you willing to commit your attention, to put your attention? One word, and let it just drop in. Opening to that quality, and then bring that quality into your body. So you’re really feeling that quality rather than just thinking about it. What does that quality feel like in your being? So breathe that in, and then take that back to the truth chamber. So now you’re holding your intent. Imagine your intent is a guide and your truth is a guide. Whatever truth that you saw before, whatever new truths arise, use those as your new allies. Go back into the story chamber. As you go back into the story, as you go back into your life, hold that commitment that you’re going to bring truth. You’re going to bring your intent. And how else can you perceive the story? How can you open to a new vision of the story? How can you use this story to help you grow, get stronger, more resilient, rather than using it to hurt you or to punish you or others? That’s your work. Bringing your intent, and your truth back into the story. And then we close, stepping into the feeling chamber. And just take a breath and notice how you’re feeling right now. Really opening your heart to yourself and to this moment. Good. And when you’re ready, you can open your eyes. So that was a super, super movie version.
HeatherAsh: But you can play with it.
Rick: Give you a taste of it, yeah.
HeatherAsh: Give you a taste of it, yeah. Yeah. And it’s beautiful to go into your world and start gathering what’s actually true, period. And to start looking through that lens of what can I see is actually true here? What do I know is true? Versus what I’ve heard, what I think, what I wish.
Rick: Yeah. That’s good. Okay, thanks. So I gather you have all sorts of offerings from, there’s tons of stuff that one can just watch and listen to online for free and so on. And then there’s more involved things. There’s a whole year-long program that you do and all that stuff. So I imagine that’s all explained on your website, right?
HeatherAsh: Yeah, yes. And I have some online things that are happening now and a webinar that’s coming up. Free webinars that are coming up and then longer programs as well. So there’s lots of different layers.
Rick: You probably have a mailing list people can get on if they want to.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, yeah. And I do something called Daily Spark, which is really sweet, which is a little teaching every day, five days a week. So that’s a great place to enter into the world.
Rick: Yeah, that’s good. I listen to some of those. Yeah. Well, thanks. It’s been good getting to know you. Maybe I’ll see you in person sometime down in New Mexico or in some random truck stop.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, exactly. You never know.
HeatherAsh: Thanks so much. It was a great interview. And yeah, I look forward to our paths crossing. And I also look forward to when we can all travel again and hug and connect.
Rick: Yeah, and play pickleball. I love playing pickleball. I can’t do it these days.
HeatherAsh: I know.
Rick: It’s kind of like tennis, but different.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, I know. For me, it’s two-stepping. I’m like, “No dancing for me!”
Rick: Yeah, yeah. Just have to dance by yourself for a while.
HeatherAsh: Yeah, exactly.
Rick: I’m doing that with pickleball. I hit him against the garage wall.
HeatherAsh: Practice. Good.
Rick: Yeah. Good. All right. Well, thanks. And thanks to those who’ve been listening or watching. I really appreciate the great questions that came in from all over the world today.
HeatherAsh: Yeah. Great questions.
Rick: Yeah. So obviously, most of you know this is an ongoing thing. So there’ll be another one next Saturday and the Saturday after that and so on into the foreseeable future. So if this is new to you and you’d like to learn more about this show, go to batgap.com and just check out the menus. You can sign up for an audio podcast or explore all the previous interviews that have been done and so on. So thanks for listening or watching. And thanks again, HeatherAsh.
HeatherAsh: Thank you.
HeatherAsh: Thank you, bye.