Ishtar (Thomas Howell) Interview
Rick Archer: 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 hundreds 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, even in a modest way, we really appreciate it and enables us to put as much time into it as we do, which is a heck of a lot of time. My guest today is Ishtar whose birth name is Thomas Howell. And I was…Ishtar was recommended to me by a couple of good friends, Sarah Taylor and Susanne Marie, both of whom have been on BatGap. And just based on my respect for them, I just decided to, get to know Ishtar. And so he came to the Science and Non Duality conference and we’ve had some good adventures there and we came down to Sedona here together. We’re in Sedona, by the way at the home of Nirmala and Gina Lake, both of whom have also been on BatGap. And we’re going to be taking some hikes and this and that. But I wanted to interview Ishtar, and getting to know him has been interesting. He is kind of a…what do they call those people who are really good at a lot of things. Not a polyglot, that’s language.
Rick Archer: Polymath
Ishtar: I call myself a dilettante
Rick Archer: He’s somewhere between a dilettante and a polymath. Like, he on the airplane, he gave me a detailed account of why and how the Roman Empire collapsed. And we talked about all the potential Democratic candidates and the strengths and weaknesses of each one, he mainly talked. I just don’t have such detailed information, he happened to be at one point a professional drummer, I was a semi professional drummer myself, very semi. And he’s a gourmet chef, although he says he’s out of practice on that. And probably among a number of other things, which I would discover, if I got to know him better. But he has all these sort of relative interests, and expert areas of expertise. And I say that, to emphasize that, he’s definitely got a foot in the real world, the so called real world, because a lot of the stuff we’re going to talk about today might seem like, it all relates to some unreal world, or world which many people would consider merely imaginary. And so, I just want to sort of contrast that with the practical side of him and his life. And just so you realize he’s just not total woowoo. But, is very well integrated, I would say, a great sense of humor, we’ve been joking around about this, that and the other thing, and anyway, you’ll get to know him better as we have this conversation. So regarding the woowoo side of it. As you may know, if you’ve watched many of my interviews, I’m very open minded about the all-possibilities nature of the universe. And just about anything, anybody were to say to me, I would not necessarily believe it or disbelieve it, I would take it as a hypothesis, which had, you know, varying degrees of probability of being true, but some of the things we will be talking about, are way up on the scale of probably true, in my opinion. My understanding and to some extent, my experience of creation of life, is that it is multi dimensional. It’s, there’s much more to it than meets the eye. And some people have, and Jesus who was always saying, if you have the eyes to see it, or the ears to hear it, that kind of statement, which implies that our assessment of the world is very much dependent upon our subjective ability to perceive and understand. That was a big revelation to me when I was about 17 years old, I kind of thought the world was what it was, and then I took LSD for the first time and realized that the world is vastly different for different people according to what/how they experience it. I went into a donut shop in the morning and my mind was kind of just amazed at how the donut selling ladies were probably perceiving the world as compared to how I was, at that point. And they had the advantage in terms of being able to function and sell donuts, I don’t think I would have been able to just then. In any case, I’m getting a little bit long winded here. But there are many subtle realms. That’s what I’m alluding to here. And there are phenomenon that take place in these subtle realms that are happening all around us in our midst, that the vast majority of us are oblivious to. And certain people, Ishtar being one, have been tuned into these subtle realms, at least some portions of them, ever since childhood really. And his life has been an interesting adventure, of functioning on these levels, these subtler levels, as well as functioning on mundane practical levels. And it continues to be such to this day. So I’m thinking that in this interview, we’ll kind of take a chronological biographical approach, which we don’t always do with interviews, sometimes I don’t talk much about the person’s life, we just plunge in and talk about their ideas or their awakening or whatever. But in your case, your life has been so interesting. And from infancy, practically, things you remember and things you did, that I think it would be fascinating to people to hear it in some detail. So let’s start as early as you would like to start with anything that, began to happen to you as a young child, which perhaps wasn’t happening to other kids your age.
Ishtar: Sure, yeah. And I, of course, I really had no idea until much later that that was the case. That other people were having different experiences. And I didn’t particularly…
Rick Archer: Yeah a lot of people say that. I thought everybody saw angels, and then I started talking about school, and they thought I was crazy or something.
Ishtar: Yeah, you basically accept the world that you come into, you don’t question it a whole lot. And, for one, I think the early memories, I didn’t know that that was odd, until maybe my AP Psychology course and in high school
Rick Archer: Early memories meaning.. being able to remember things…
Ishtar: Stuff you ought not to remember. I had a lot of spiritual experiences, early on. Experiences of Samadhi that I obviously didn’t have any words, I didn’t have any words yet, for any of this. I would just sit in my crib, and, be sensing that I was in this vast presence. And I loved my mornings, I would get up well before my parents would, before the sun would come out, and I would just sit in my crib and just chill out. And sometimes I would watch my curtains but they weren’t just curtains for me, they had this, they were like a sort of a dancing emanation of this, subtle thing that I felt connected to. And it was just very pleasurable, there would be these waves of joy and pleasure and appreciation when I would sort of play with this, this kind of awareness as I might call it now. And you know, then there were all sorts of other kinds of experiences that happened in that little realm of the crib. I think probably, I probably met my great grandmother who is deceased. You know, of course, with all of this stuff, I was taught that having an imagination was good. So as a kid, I just put everything in that the large folder of imagination. And I think that sort of allowed me to kind of keep those perceptions and not repress them as I think many children learn to repress them. They’re quite sensitive to what their parents say even off handedly. Yeah. And I was sitting in my crib and this lady came through the doorway, and that was normal enough. And at first I thought, you know, Grandma! but she was shorter than Grandma. She had similar curly white hair and she had a blue night gown and a white lace collar and she just sort of walked by my crib and I was just watching her and she she didn’t look at me but I felt that she kind of was reaching out to me in a certain sense and I just wasn’t afraid at all and I just watched her, kept watching and then she did something rather unexpected, which was she walked through the the wall of my bedroom and that got me quite excited like whoa! Like when I when I can get out of this crib. I’m gonna do that! That was that was the plan. Yeah, that was what was going to happen and you know, a few years later, I must have been three or something like that, I was sitting on my mother’s lap and we’re going through a family picture album, we turn the page and there was this lady in a blue night gown with a white lace collar with curly hair and the same face. And I was like aha! like yeah! Oh that’s your great grandmother. She would have really loved you.
Rick Archer: So she died long before you were born?
Ishtar: She died a year before I was born. We missed each other by about 18 months, I’d say. So yeah, that was one of the sort of…maybe kind of wanting to be a mystic in some way. She wanted to go into the mystical, but she didn’t quite really dive into it.
Rick Archer: She did? In her life?
Ishtar: In her life yeah. And in some ways, I felt a little bit like, at the least in the family dynamic that I was kind of picking up, in the family, somebody else’s work, and she was one of them.
Rick Archer: Cool. Alright. What’s another experience?
Ishtar: Well, we’ve talked about these all before, so I’ll have to…
Rick Archer: Well, yeah, but these people haven’t seen it. So you’re just…pretend you’ve never talked me about this stuff.
Ishtar: Yeah, of course. Well, I used to have a lot of beings sort of walk into my room as a kid. You know, later, I would kind of throw the label ghosts on to them or discarnate beings, I think there were various types of beings. There were maybe discarnate spirits, there were beings that were a little bit more what we might call angelic. They had a brighter light about them, and they would kind of come in and descend and visit, but the spirits were the, I think, the most frequent visitor as a child, and, you know, I wasn’t wholly comfortable with it. So I had to sort of do things that would…to kind of protect my psyche. I didn’t want to like overload my nervous system and so I had at age six, for instance, I had a really deep interest in Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes, that’s the series from the 80’s. And I was just obsessed with Sherlock Holmes for a while. And it happened that my mother was also a big lover of Sherlock Holmes, and years before when she was in England, she’d bought a proper deerstalker hat and a costume. And so…
Rick Archer: A pipe.
Ishtar: A pipe, I had a pipe. And so I figured, okay, I want to be like Sherlock Holmes, except maybe kind of psychic and maybe like a Jedi too. And so, and I’d sort of deal with these spirits as if I’m working on their case, and so I would dress up as Sherlock Holmes. I turned my room into sort of like, as close as I could make it to sort of a Victorian consulting detectives office. I had to use a lot of imagination there, but I would sit down, and then I would have this being that came and sit down, I would close my eyes, I would go into this vast spaciousness, which I knew, and then somehow I would instinctively project it into the room and put it right where the…in front of the discarnate being and when I would open my eyes, the room would feel spotlessly clean. And there would be this sort of sense of upliftment in the air and there would be no more spirit. And this kind of went on for a while.
Rick Archer: Like you help them transition?
Ishtar: Yeah, that was the idea. That’s what I was wanting to do.
Rick Archer: Was it kind of like the sixth sense where they knew you could see them? And so they came around more than they would come around another person?
Ishtar: I would say that and thankfully, it wasn’t so scary as that movie, you know, nobody was grabbing my leg…
Rick Archer: No-one had their head blown off or anything
Ishtar: Nobody had their head blown off. Nobody was vomiting green stuff on me or anything like that. It wasn’t so graphic and scary. And, I kind of was wanting to avoid that, in a certain sense. So I would do all sorts of things to try to create parameters about who would come in. Sometimes, there were a couple of occasions where I would sort of commandeer or request, strongly request, a spirit to sort of…’Okay, if you don’t want to transition…watch the door. Watch the door. And if you can make sure that only one comes at a time’.
Rick Archer: Yeah, there was one particular guy that you assigned to that task.
Ishtar: That’s right, they were the longest serving in that function.
Rick Archer: How did you actually communicate with these beings? I mean, were you…was it in English? Was it in just telepathy without any language? Or what?
Ishtar: It was both but it was primarily kind of telepathy without any language.
Rick Archer: Yeah
Ishtar: It was often in pictures and sort of geometric kind of thoughtforms.
Rick Archer: But somehow it would encapsulate the message?
Ishtar: Yeah. I mean, I don’t think I was a particularly good medium like some people maybe. I’m…kind of broad strokes that maybe not the fine stuff. So it was mainly the almost binary. It would break down to like ‘Want to transition/don’t want to transition?’ you know, like…
Rick Archer: That one didn’t want to?
Ishtar: No. Yeah you could tell he didn’t want to hang around. Yeah.
Rick Archer: And then, did you tell any of your friends or your parents about what you were doing?
Ishtar: No, not at all.
Rick Archer: It was totally a private thing?
Ishtar: Mainly private, mainly private sometimes I think I mentioned it and it would kind of be like, Oh, what a wonderful imagination!
Rick Archer: Yeah. All right.
Ishtar: Okay? Thank you.
Rick Archer: Yeah, yeah. So this, how many years did this go on?
Ishtar: Well, let’s see. It was particularly strong at age three. Well two? I mean, actually, it was probably stronger than I thought it was before that, but three, four, five, six, seven. And then at about age seven, and eight, my sensitivity started to become less consistent. I would still feel the things going on. And I think they could sense that I was feeling what was happening.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Ishtar: But I was growing up like people do. I was developing the ego structure, I was falling asleep. And I would even say I was kind of conscious of that. I would say, like ‘hey, you know…you can tell I’m getting worse here at this. So like, I don’t know if I’m going to be of a particular help. And I would rather like to sleep tonight because this gets a little bit nervy for me’.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Ishtar: You know, feeling you over there. Please go!
Rick Archer: So you mean they would keep you awake in the past?
Ishtar: Yeah, well my nervous system would kind of just feel…
Rick Archer: Yeah be kind of keyed up from it
Ishtar: Keyed up and agitated. And it wasn’t comfortable to have the hair on my neck be standing up at all hours and then having the sense of, sort of, like, I don’t know, thought forms coming into my emotional body. I would just feel different things. And like this feeling. I don’t think this was produced by this life. Like, this is somebody else here. That does not feel like my story.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Okay. So it sounds like it was kind of good that it shut down. Finally.
Ishtar: Yeah, yeah. It would reappear, whenever, there were periods when I would be more in the presence.
Rick Archer: Yeah
Ishtar: It would just happen that I would be more in the presence and the clouds would lift for periods, and then the sensitivity would come back, and like, okay, it’s the price you have to pay because when I would be more in the presence, life would move much nicer.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And so when it shut down, I guess you told me you told that door guard guy that, okay, your time is up. We don’t need you to do this anymore.
Ishtar: He stayed on…
Rick Archer: It’s kind of poignant
Ishtar: Yeah, yeah. Well, he actually stayed on through up until age 17. I still had enough activity after 8 that I kind of wanted somebody to sort of minimize it.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Ishtar: Because the activity I did get I was, you know, worse at dealing with.
Rick Archer: Yeah
Ishtar: And things really sort of shut down when I made a sort of a very big shift in my life. When I decided I’m gonna jump into the spiritual path in a very committed way. I’m gonna throw my hat into this ring fully. And I basically got rid of most of my possessions and turned my room into a little ashram, and then three mornings in a row, together, I had sort of visitations.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Ishtar: When I was waking up from from three different spirits. And each one of those visitations was kind of like a goodbye. It had played out in the same way. I’d be waking up. And I would, as soon as my eyes would open, I would see a particular being walking towards me. The first one was, I think he was Mexican. And he had like a shirt that looked like it was from the 50’s, or the 70’s. Some sort of garish colors that they liked in those two decades, a certain red and a certain green and yellow or something like that. And he was quite friendly and there was a sense of like a heart connection. Like something hit my heart and was like, thank you, we’ve enjoyed being here with you and we’re going to go now, we’re going, and then the second one was a rather stern lady who I’d seen before, and she would freak me out sometimes, because she just had a permanent frown on, a scowl, and she was one of those where after a while, I kind of got used to her. Oh, she has a scowl, but she means well, below that, like, okay, instant freakout but she means well. She was kind of dressed into what looked like Edwardian wear and had a very tender like…
Rick Archer: Kind of like the old aunt on and Pride and Prejudice. You know, it turned out in the end to be a good…
Ishtar: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So she left and then the third one who came to me in a much different fashion. Those two I think were discarnets who might have been bound to the house in some way, or the property or somehow find their way there. And then the third one was a fellow who, I don’t know if I ought to call him a demon or just someone who was particularly troubled, but when I met him, he was quite dark feeling and thankfully, I’d had a previous experience where a similar sort of entity had peered in my room and kind of terrified me and then a voice from my heart kind of came up and said ‘just open to love, open to love’ and that seemed the best time option at the time. And so that’s what I did, and that ran away, and so after that I knew how to deal with these beings and this being came to me and I kind of just, off the top of my head said ‘Hey! like, ah yeah, I know your ilk! And guess what. Here’s what you’re gonna do. You’re gonna watch that door for me and you’re gonna do a job!
Rick Archer: He became your dog.
Ishtar: He became my door guy and did a damn good job at it. That place was really clean. I mean, I think a demon is – I don’t know what he was, but it felt like a he – was probably a pretty good door guy.
Rick Archer: He had a certain intimidation factor,
Ishtar: I had myself my own tough. So that thing came to me and they kind of…when they first came to me, they were like an undifferentiated mass. And I could see no features. I could feel a bunch of stuff. But when they left that, it was as if they had been taking a shower for eight years.
Rick Archer: Yeah
Ishtar: And so you could see streaks of other beingness coming through. And that was, that was an especially sort of heartfelt…
Rick Archer: So it was real evolutionary time for them.
Ishtar: I’m taking it to be so, because they told me thank you. And they said just the same as the other. It’s been really wonderful doing this, and guess what I’m going onto something much better.
Rick Archer: Yeah
Ishtar: And, see you later, you won’t, you don’t need us anymore because once you turn this place into an ashram, different, a whole different set of possibilities sort of came into being and you won’t be bothered anymore.
Rick Archer: That’s great. That’s interesting. Okay, so I just want to interject that, I think, the relevance of this to the whole BatGap theme, which is, spiritually awakening people and the whole topic of spiritual awakening, and spirituality, and what’s real and what isn’t, and all that, is that most people, myself included, and many others, most others, are not going to have experiences like this. And that’s okay. It’s not at all necessary. No one should get the idea that, if they don’t have experiences like this, they’re missing the boat, or they’re not as enlightened as somebody who is having experiences like this or any such thing. But there’s a certain segment of the, quote ‘the spiritual population’ so to speak, who do have experiences like this. And I don’t think it’s helpful for them to just sort of brush it aside and say’ Oh, it’s just an illusion’ or ‘Oh, you have an overactive imagination’ If people say, I mean, whatever people’s experience, they should be met with, kind of respect and not necessarily complete credulity. We don’t have to… I mean, some people do have vivid imaginations.
Rick Archer: And you don’t necessarily want to indulge in that. But, many sincere people might be having such experiences, and I’ve talked to some, and they were kind of freaked out by it. I mean, Jac O’Keeffe, when she first got into spirituality, she was sitting in a pub in Dublin having a beer with friends. Had no kind of spiritual background or anything. And all of a sudden, she kind of shifted into astral perception. She saw all these spooks in the room.
Rick Archer: As I recall, she ran outside the pub, and was like, leaning against the wall. ‘Oh, my God, what just happened?’ So…
Ishtar: One funny thing is actually, at about age seven, I was having these experiences, but I sort of became a philosophical atheist. And so that was weird, because…
Rick Archer: A clash of worldviews?
Ishtar: Yeah. I thought, yeah, scientific materialism. That makes sense. That’s…But at the same time, I was having all these things and saying, okay, you know, alright.
Rick Archer: It’s funny that you would shift into that philosophy
Rick Archer: Because obviously, your whole life had been about the fact that there’s more than materiality to the world.
Ishtar: In my case, it was rather a fact.
Rick Archer: Was it a rebellion against all the subtle stuff?
Ishtar: I think it was a rebellion actually. It was more to do with my upbringing. It was a rebellion against the…what I was learning in history about the history of religions, and…
Rick Archer: And this is at the age of seven or eight? I mean, when I was eight years old, scientific materialism or atheism, all this stuff would have been way over my head. And, I was just thinking about whatever. I was like, going fishing and riding my bicycle and playing baseball in the neighborhood, and not particularly liking school or thinking about anything very deeply. So it’s kind of cool that, you were mature enough to be thinking deep thoughts at that age.
Ishtar: Yeah, I think we kind of hit the ground running in a certain sense. Yeah, I think I was always very enthusiastic to be born and alive and always had a sense of a real wind at my back and I wanted to run as fast as I could to sort of keep up with it.
Rick Archer: That’s pretty neat. I mean, it’s worth mentioning that people do come into this life at different levels of evolution with different degrees of spiritual momentum. And if there has been a very strong momentum established in a previous life, that one can just sort of hit the ground running, as you said. And, that there, there’s an example of a statement that…you don’t need to believe this. Certainly don’t believe it, because I said it, but take it as an interesting hypothesis, you can unwind it. Alright. Is there such a thing as spiritual momentum? Or are there such things as past lives? Do we carry lessons learned and inclinations reinforced from one life to another. And it’s good to…interesting to think about this stuff.
Ishtar: Yeah. And I always…once I heard about those concepts. Like, I think I came across reincarnation, maybe at age seven, from one of those Time Life book series or something like that. It had deep resonance, because I had been thinking about ‘Why do I have all these…Why am I obsessed with Abraham Lincoln for instance? or these moments in history and, then later on, looking back at my life, I had a lot of experiences of going, just going into the silence, just not doing anything to do it, particularly. I would close my eyes. And even later, between eight and thirteen, which was kind of an ego development time. If I got in a real pinch, I would just instinctively sit down, close my eyes. And somehow, my awareness would, my mind would quiet and go into this big vastness. And that was…if I was really frazzled, that’s what I would do. So I could come out of that, and then just kind of, go about in a more coherent kind of manner.
Rick Archer: Yeah. That is so cool. I mean, it’s like you intuitively knew what to do.
Rick Archer: And obviously, it kind of seems like you’ve probably had had that habit, in the past.
Ishtar: Yeah. So I think something must have been there. And I would…silly little trivial things like I loved, as many people in my generation did, the Ghostbusters cartoon, and I would get up early in the morning to watch it before the rest of my family and, one day I was watching it, and one of the characters, they were trying to find something and one of the characters decided to sit down and, said the line like ‘I know, if you just stay in one place, the whole world will come to you.’ And when I heard that line, it was just like a whoosh! And I was immediately sent back into this sense of vastness and my awareness was everywhere. And it rung like a bell like that for the for the rest of the day. And there was another time I was at a youth camp type of thing, and they have you climb ropes and do team building exercises, try to trust people that you shouldn’t, ever trust with your life. And I was doing this thing called the Jacob’s Ladder. And something deep inside me, when I when I was doing it, just threw me, it clicked on somehow, like how to do it properly. And, it just helped me relax completely. Let go. Go into the silence. And so I did, and I ended up climbing it upside down, which was not the way you’re supposed to do it. But that was the only effective way to do it, it turns out. And something about that experience sent me into this quiet…and that, again. So I had these little moments throughout my childhood that were just kind of reminding me and pushing me in that direction. I just didn’t kind of put them at the center, at the central context of my life until, a couple years later.
Rick Archer: Yeah, you know, the whole story of the Bhagavad Gita is like, Arjuna, this great warrior is about to fight a battle. And unfortunately, the armies were arranged such that he had some dear relatives and respected elders in the opposing army. And so he had this moral dilemma. And on the one hand, it was his duty to fight this battle. On the other hand, he didn’t have the heart to fight these people. And so he was kind of in a quandary. And he just sat down his chariot and said, I don’t know what to do. And Lord Krishna, in a nutshell, after, saying many other things, basically said, transcend. Be without the three gunas… Nishtrigunyo bhav Arjun. And so it’s like, the solutions to intractable or insoluble relative problems can often be found by taking recourse to the absolute. And it’s not like you get down there and it’s ‘Oh, here’s the solution XYZ’
Rick Archer: It’s more that you sort of reach a more resolute or fundamental level of functioning, or awareness. And from there, spontaneously, the right course of action will ensue.
Ishtar: Yeah, absolutely. And shall I keep going through the life?
Rick Archer: Yeah. I just wanted to ask you a little bit more about the scientific materialism phase. So did you have it sort of worked out. The logic of it and everything and you were having little arguments with your friends?
Ishtar: Well, I kind of found out that not everybody was keen on going to the logical points.
Rick Archer: Yeah a bunch of eight year old kids…boring dude!
Ishtar: And neither was I…I don’t think I was particularly…had much tact or I needed to develop more tact
Rick Archer: You were kind of in your face with it?
Ishtar: Yeah, too much and I wasn’t diplomatic enough. And I just…and so yeah. Trouble ensued from that so I had to learn how to take the gas pedal off of that one. And then I, for me, it was kind of a phase because I started looking at some of these phenomena in my life and and elsewhere that I found interesting. And they seem to be poking holes in the paradigm as it were, so…
Rick Archer: Yeah, that’s one of my favorite topics is the paradigm of scientific materialism and how it dominates our society, and how it’s resulted in so many problems in the world, because of our regarding the world as dumb, insensitive, insensate matter. Whereas really, the whole thing is imbued with life and imbued with the Self, you know, it’s us. But yet we treat it, put it at arm’s length and treat it as dumb stuff
Ishtar: Look at it as a resource that we can do use.
Rick Archer: Do anything with. And we’re soiling our own nest, to say the least. But in any case, and so, you know, consequently, I mean, if that is the problem, the solution is to regard consciousness as primary and as being fundamental and universal and all pervading and all that stuff. But that’s a whole nother discussion.
Ishtar: Yeah, that was the answer that was pointing me toward it. And once I kind of was. Once the probabilities were kind of stacking on that side, and that answer, then my great interest started to be like ‘Well, if that’s true, then how do I experience that? How do I experience that all the time?’ I wasn’t even thinking about my prior experiences as that. They were not crossing…
Rick Archer: You didn’t put to put two and two together?
Ishtar: I did not put two and two things together, because I kind of thought that maybe it wasn’t all that possible in my life. I’m from Wisconsin, after all. So what are you gonna do?!
Rick Archer: A cheese head
Ishtar: Yeah, a cheese head. I owned one, they’re actually quite useful in their own way. But yeah, that became a…it started more and more to become a big interest. And then it became a primary interest after I had a near death experience.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And would that be the next significant point?
Ishtar: Yeah, yeah,
Rick Archer: Well let’s talk aboiut that.
Ishtar: That’s really, that’s kind of the fulcrum on which my life moved.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Ishtar: But yeah, that was sort of, for in my life, the great wound and in many ways, the great blessing. Just together as they so often are, and it involved the death of my mother. And, we were in a car accident together. And it was kind of made a little bit more interesting (to use that word) it was made more interesting by the fact that the day before i’d actually broken my arm playing baseball. I got hit by a really real Zinger of a fastball. And that was my big complaint, like, Oh, I’m gonna miss baseball season, you know, and we were standing there in my room just talking to each other, my mother and I, before I went to bed, and like it had happened so many times, in my life, I would get these sort of pre cognitive flashes, they had a certain flavor or quality about them that I could recognize. And only this one, the words came out of my mouth and it was ‘Mom, I have a feeling you’re to die soon.’ And when it came out of my mouth, really unedited, it hit her. She kind of…something was powerful in it. And then she kind of, you know, shruged. She kind of wiped that off and said, like ‘I’m going to be around, you know. Rest assured. I will be here for you for a long time to come.’ And I thought ‘Okay, that’s good.’ And then I…my fears were allayed and I went to bed. But they must…they came back, because the next morning I woke with quite a start, like they do in the movies with the cartoons.
Rick Archer: Bing!
Ishtar: Like that! Just like that. And like gasping like I was running, you know, and it was at the moment that my mother and father were walking right outside my bedroom door (which I liked to sleep with it open)
Rick Archer: Because you’re afraid of ghosts?
Ishtar: I like to have a good escape path. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Better to have it open and have the tough there than closed, for whatever reason. But yeah, so they were walking past and somehow there was a clerestory window up there and some sunshine was hitting them. And that was kind of a mystical moment. But I was distraught. I was like, There’s something I have to tell you. You know…
Rick Archer: You actually said that to them?
Ishtar: Yes. Yes. I said, There’s something I’ve got to tell you two. There’s something I’ve got to tell you, but I don’t know what it is. And I was so frustrated. I was so, so distraught by that. They had to calm me down so that I could go to school and I had to…it took me about twenty minutes to collect myself and to get my breath down. And I felt as if I’d just been like the guy at a marathon running. And, only the scroll fell out of my pocket somewhere along the way and, it felt like that. And so they calmed me down and I went off to school and did the school thing and came back home. And then we dropped my…
Rick Archer: Did you have a cast on by this time?
Ishtar: No, we were actually…that day, we were going to the same hospital where we ended up, to put a cast on.
Rick Archer: I see
Ishtar: But so I just had a sling on, and so I went to school and came back home and we dropped my sister off at her work. And we were driving out to make a left turn across a divided highway, a two lane, four lane divided highway. And you know, it was one of those situations where you had two cars going 45. And the car that hit us was kind of totally obscured by them. But if they were going the speed limit, they wouldn’t have hit us, but instead they were going 20 miles over or they decided to accelerate at just that time. And we pulled out and and I think actually funnily enough, my mother was asking me to put the Luther Vandross tape and I was like no more Luther Vandross, she loved Luther Vandross. And I was, looking over to get it and I looked to my left and about, I don’t know, six feet from where my body is, right now, was this big Lincoln towncar or Continental or something like that. Right outside the door, right outside my Mother’s door.
Rick Archer: Going 60 miles an hour
Ishtar: You know, just really booking it. And, you know, in that moment, it was, to me, it was pretty clear, like the jig was up.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Ishtar: You know, I was like, Oh, shit, I hope we can swear on the show.
Rick Archer: Yeah, occasionally
Ishtar: That was the first thought. I think anybody would have that. And then the next…Instead of kind of clenching up, I completely relaxed. And the next set was kind of from this deeper, sort of place/strata. It was like, I really thought this one was gonna go more than 13 years. You know, and at that point, the whole sort of what I’d read about and was interested in. The whole kind of life flashing before one’s eyes thing happened. And only in this case, it was a little bit richer than the descriptions I had read previously. In that when we went through each…it was a seamless whole, not just a bunch of little fragments, but almost like taking a string and pulling it back and experiencing each part of the string in complete detail. And there was, it was as if I was connected with this sort of completely objective or omniscient part of my consciousness. I had had dances with that part before, but I would often kind of be like ‘Shut up, like, I’m gonna do it my way.’ And, kind of ‘Go away’ you know, and but only there I completely embraced it. I felt completely embraced by it. And every place where there was tension, every place where I was holding a grudge, every moment where I acted in fear, or acted out of spite, or anything that was kind of really, anything other than love, was just sort of seen completely and then forgiven, and I totally accepted myself and everybody out there, everything.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And so obviously, this happened in a split second, but if it had played out in real time, so to speak, it might have been hours to go, all the information you went through?
Ishtar: God knows. Yeah, it was hyper condensed. I mean, it must not have been, I don’t even know if it was a second between when I saw the car, and…
Rick Archer: Probably not, it’s actually probably just a fraction.
Ishtar: Exactly, and so that was, it was all there. And it was a very palpable and visceral sensation too, and it really felt as if I had this…My whole life, I’d had a sort of like Saran Wrap. Constrictive saran wrap, on top of me. And with each sort of forgiving and release, an appreciation of the love that was kind of running the show the whole time. In my life there was this sense of it coming down off of my body. And by the end, I was just completely weightless. I had no fear, and even visually, I even remember the dashboard of our Chevrolet, and my mother’s shoulder. And you know, all the details of the scene, the clouds that were in the background, the face of the other driver
Rick Archer: Who was driving?
Ishtar: He didn’t notice, you know,
Rick Archer: Oh really
Ishtar: Until it was really late. He was…
Rick Archer: He was distracted?
Ishtar: I think he was probably drunk, but the car…everything turned, everything seemed to almost reveal that it had this kind of like underlying light underneath it and there was a sense in my heart that everything was love that and my presence went from a little localized kind of thirteen year old body to just being, you know, everywhere. There was a sense that I was everywhere, and I was the whole scene, and that was the whole thing that was happening. And then boom, the crash.
Rick Archer: The crash. Yeah
Ishtar: Yeah. And, you know, we were, it was quite a crash and we were pushed a long way and the car was totaled. And you know, and I woke up, came to with the sound of the seatbelt thing going off, and my mother has kind of labored breath and they got up the giant skill saws, JAWS, or whatever, and they were cutting things out and they were really good. They got that door off quickly. And kind of very professionally pulled me out of the car. And was really concerned that I had spinal injuries and stuff like that and got us on the gurney, got us in the ambulance. And the whole…I was certainly concussed. Yeah, and I didn’t know what my name was, and didn’t know a lot of those details. But like I say, That’s my mom, I don’t know anything, but that’s my mom.
Rick Archer: Yeah
Ishtar: So I had that. And they put us in the car, in the ambulance. And I had one of those kind of experiences that a lot of people seem to report where I had both the awareness of being on the gurney and being strapped down. And also this awareness of still of being everywhere, and my mother, called my name twice. And two times I said I’m okay mom. And the second time she registered it, and it was as if when she was saying those words, those words were happening within my own consciousness, and I could feel her as the same as my own consciousness fundamentally. And I could feel it when she registered it, and I felt her just go.
Rick Archer: Yeah
Ishtar: I felt her leave. And after she did that, her breathing went from this really sort of labored breathing to this really even, relaxed kind of breath, kind of just winding down. And there, I didn’t put two and two together, you know, I didn’t know that that was her, maybe leaving, and then they got into the hospital, and then, heard Oh, from my father, your mother’s gone, and of course that hit like a punch to the gut, the biggest one I’ve ever had, and tears and all that.
Rick Archer: Sure
Ishtar: Falling apart on the hospital floor, and maybe being hugged by the Lutheran Social Services, people that didn’t want to be on trauma, I knew they meant well, and going home and I still had that big, sense of presence, and I just…my brain was coming online, again, I said, Oh, this is shock, this is shock, and then, life kind of kept going and all the things that happen when somebody dies so sudden, like that, with their family gathered, and all of that and you’re going through Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages, like clockwork, and it just happened that over that summer, while I was going through all of that grief and all, I also had the sense of this presence that was there. That was weird to me. And, at first I thought it was shock. But then when it was after a couple months that I started thinking this is something else. And when I would…I could go into it as if it was a vast dimension. And when I would do that, and kind of put my awareness intentionally there, all sorts of joy would bubble up and like bliss would come out. But whoa! what’s…why am I feeling joy and bliss when I am so, otherwise, at the same time, so distraught and so much in the process of grieving.
Rick Archer: And you’d had the experience before of presence and being able to go into it and various things that evoked that. But this is different somehow?
Ishtar: Well, it felt in some ways deeper, it felt more raw, it felt more fundamental. And again, I was kind of silly, for whatever reason, I wasn’t putting, I wasn’t categorizing them together. I knew what I was doing when I was young, and I knew that it was a particular dimension, but it had a different flavor. It seems that when I was thirteen, than when I was three or five or, or six, and I think at thirteen I’d also fallen asleep enough in grade school. I was trying to be a good intellectual, and become really as heavy as I could be. Because that seemed like how to be in this world, like you just being a walking intellect.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Ishtar: And so you can fall asleep really fast when you try to do that, you know? And so I think I’d gotten enough. I’d distracted myself enough from those things that when this came, it was a big, kind of a wake up call.
Rick Archer: And what do you think were the mechanics of how this accident and this trauma kind of kick started you into a different, more spiritual phase of your life? Was it like a sudden burning off of a big chunk of karma or was it some kind of shock to the subtle body? That sort of unleashed energies that had been trapped and dormant or what?
Ishtar: I for one, felt it was almost like a pre arranged wake up call. I mean, it felt so…It had a feeling of being pre arranged with my becoming prescient of it beforehand, it had the flavor of ‘Oh this is in the script!’
Rick Archer: According to Rob Schwartz, whom I interviewed a month or so ago, who studies how we plan out our life before we enter into it. Any major event like that is pre arranged, according to him.
Ishtar: Yeah, and I’ve read a lot of the literature in his field, and so I think a lot of it, there are so many accounts, similar, that it seems to shake out that way. And it definitely felt, it had that feeling of this isn’t the script. And I think, if I didn’t have that happen, I could have lived a really relatively happy life and had a lot of these things on the backburner and losing my mother, not only tuned me into those dimensions again, but again, the wound blessing thing, it left me with this hunger.
Rick Archer: Yeah
Ishtar: A real hunger because it was a big loss. And I was really hungry to kind of fill that hole. And so, with those things together, there was kind of a desire and direction to get back to that, and when that sort of, sense of presence sort of faded out, kind of faded out over the summer until I went back to eighth grade and attempted to be a teenager again. When that faded out, kind of after my eighth grade year of which was, in some ways, kind of miserable.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Ishtar: I was, I kind of had the wherewithal after school was over, to go…I gotta get back to that. Yeah, you know, like, what was that? Exactly? I’ve got to get back to it, I’m going to just try anything to do it. And, and so that over the next few years of, kind of, maybe, wholeheartedly experimenting, maybe half of my time!
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Ishtar: Eventually, that led me to the practice of meditation and to deciding to throw all in that camp, because I was still trying to be a normal person, whatever that was, and I thought I did want to please my family still, that was still there. I wanted to do some of the things that I used to want to do. I felt like, that’s what I used to want to do. I mean, isn’t that what I ought to be doing? and so it was kind of a transition process to sort of…there was kind of a crazy monk in me, which was what I call it, there’s a crazy monk in there. I don’t think we should do that. Because if we do that, if I open that, if I open up to that, I have to go one hundred percent.
Rick Archer: Yeah
Ishtar: That was the sense. And that’s why I was a little bit like, I got to do things one hundred percent and everything. The whole ship will be scuttled, if I if I go and open that up. And eventually it seemed like I have to open it up, because that’s what I’m here to do. I’m not here to be a politician. I’m not…
Rick Archer: Yeah you mentioned you wanted to be what a politician or an actor or something?
Ishtar: Yeah. Yeah. Actually. Yes. Both of those things. And I wanted to be a musician and a stand up comic politician. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, first it was a politician. Then when I had the spiritual thing, I tried to kind of find middle ground between politician and crazy monk. And I thought, what big artist sounds like middle ground? You know, I have that in me too. So I’ll go, I’ll try to be an actor. And I also had this desire as a child, when we’d do career day. They force that upon kids far too early.
Rick Archer: Yeah
Ishtar: I’d do the career day and think I would just go inside and be like, the only answer that was true was, I just want to be everything.
Rick Archer: Yeah
Ishtar: I want to be everything. And it’s like, how do you do that? And I thought, like, there were two paths. And one was being an actor, which was kind of sorted
Rick Archer: Yeah, cuz you could be all kinds of things.
Ishtar: That’s right. And one was being enlightened. And so I felt like well, I don’t think enlightenment is in the cards for me. So I’m gonna I’m going to try to be the actor. That’ll…
Rick Archer: Yeah, but you knew about enlightenment?
Ishtar: I did.
Rick Archer: That was pretty impressive.
Ishtar: Yeah. Well, I loved the Time Life books and the show ‘In search of’ and the internet started to happen and all that sort of stuff and as a little kid I would open books on Yogi’s and Buddhist monks meditating in the snow and there was something deeply arresting about that. I was Whoa! Like, could I do that? Even though I’m from Wisconsin! You know,
Rick Archer: Well you get snow in Wisconsin!
Ishtar: We do get snow! so I would try my best but you know, somehow. Yeah.
Rick Archer: Interesting. Okay. So you are on this precipice of whether to jump into meditation big time or whether to try to be a real person in the world.
Rick Archer: Although I think you can do both as you’ve now discovered. But how did you…what helped you make that decision? And then I guess you went in the meditation direction. So how did that go after all when you got into it?
Ishtar: Well, I think I was sent some wonderful helpers and guides and mentors along the way in a little town called Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
Rick Archer: I’ve been there.
Ishtar: Yeah, yeah. Swam in the lake and water skied on it and stuff. You know it then.Yeah, beautiful little place. But small, you know, maybe five, six thousand people when I was living there.
Rick Archer: I even gave it a T.M lecture there one time.
Ishtar: You did? Yeah. So, it was, for a small town. You know, at the time, I was quite astounded by all these interesting people kind of moved in. And one day I was, it must have been the summer before my freshman year of high school, I was going around with my big sister who was kind of, I was always close to her. And I would just go wherever she would go, kind of as a tag along, a happy tag along. And we walked into a metaphysical bookstore, and I had not much inclination in that direction. And, I was like, Okay, I’ll come, I’ll go everywhere else! And she was shopping for something in the front. And I sort of gravitated toward the back and picked up a book. And that was on this whole subject of mysticism and meditative experiences. And it was so similar to what I had experienced in the accident and afterward that I stayed in that bookshop for about two years. I would say, I think I had a tacit agreement.
Rick Archer: Didn’t your sister want to go home!
Ishtar: Oh, well, yeah she stayed too! Okay. It was payback for kind of all the places that I didn’t want to go before. So I think she got the worst end of the deal there. That was a major inconvenience for her. Two years.
Rick Archer: I don’t know…sleeping in the aisles.
Ishtar: Especially the the bargaining with the police and the eviction notices from the owner. But, yeah, over a period of two years, I was there quite frequently and reading all the books, and as long as, it seemed to be as long as I bought an amulet about every two months, the owner was really cool. Did she try to foist TM on you?
Rick Archer: Put up with you
Ishtar: Put up with me as long as I… but I set this up because it was there that I met some of those guides and mentors. And one was a lovely, I don’t know if I should mention people’s names, because I don’t embarrass the living, but a wonderful friend to me, who was a TM teacher, named Pam, and she was in my town and she was working as a TM teacher, but also as kind of a local clairvoyant. And it was just, she was a very human person, but there was something about her, she had this resonance about her, which reminded me of what I was tuning into before. And I was just glued and totally interested to find out what was going on over here. And so she was a wonderful listener, and wonderful at asking the perfect questions of me and kind of guiding me into different facets of my experience and sort of telling me like, that’s perfectly normal. You know, that’s something that’s natural to human beings, and it’s there and it was mainly just the resonance. We’d talk about anything. No. She was totally easygoing
Rick Archer: Sometimes. Well, in any group people can be proselytizers you know, so it’s nice that she had the wisdom to be gentle like that.
Ishtar: Yeah, she was just my friend. And she was also there. She was, I mean, I think a lot of people kind of became surrogate family to me, when they heard my situation, they kind of wanted to help me out and kind of pat me on the shoulder and try to keep me on a good track, or bad track as the case maybe! And so, we were close and then she introduced me to another friend who was a, quote ‘walk-in’ And he had the same sort of resonance to him, just a different flavor. But I could tell this is something quite similar about this fellow. His name was Austin. And we spent two years as friends and he was 54 I was 16. And we just hung out like we were the same age.
Rick Archer: Incidentally a walk in case anybody doesn’t know is when a soul leaves the body and another soul comes in and takes that body and sometimes it supposedly happens when you have a near death experience or something, and your soul checks out and another soul says, Wow, this, this body has a bit more mileage in it. I’ll come in here. So, in fact, there was a cool story where Shankar became a walk-in.
Ishtar: Oh, that’s right I know that one.Yes, I’ve heard that story.
Rick Archer: Shall we tell it? I don’t know, just as a tangent. So Shankara was this great sage, the founder of Advaita Vedanta, right. And he used to go around the country debating people and defeating them in debate generally, and then they would become his disciples. So there was this woman who was, I guess, an expert in you know, amorous arts, Kama Sutra, or whatever. And Shankara was like, can’t beat her in a debate. I don’t know anything about that. I’m a monk. But then an opportunity came up where he could live that sort of life a little bit. So there was some king who died. And Shankara walked into his body, became the king, but it was really Shankara. And so all of a sudden the king wakes up from his deathbed. And Whoa, he’s really bright and much more intelligent and everything than he had been. So I guess the king had several queens and they were like, This is great big improvement. He seems a little to have forgotten a few things about what to do in the bedroom, but we can work that out. And so anyway, so this went on for a while. And eventually, the Queens found out, they got hip to what had happened. And that this isn’t really our husband, this is this other guy, this monk and his body is hidden someplace in a cave. So they sent emissaries to find the body and destroy it. So Shankara couldn’t leave because they wanted him to stay and be in the king’s body. So as this was about to happen, Shankara’s disciples realized that Shankara was kind of losing it in terms of his remembrance of who he really was. And so some of them came to the king’s court and asked to read some poetry to the king. And so they read some poetry, which had actually been written by Shankara, about the nature of the self, and so on. And so Shankara kind of woke up and remembered, oh, yeah, me, I wrote that. It’s time for me to split. So he kind of left the body, the king’s body dropped. And he reoccupied his own body, which is sitting in some cave, just as the emissaries from the kingdom were about the burn it or something. And he kind of hopped up and came back to life and they lived happily ever after. End of the story. Anyway, fun story.
Ishtar: I could almost believe my friend’s account, because it was a small town. And, everybody knows everybody’s dirty laundry. Basically it doesn’t take long to find it out. And he had been like a notorious town asshole most of his life. And then when, after he apparently was running at the hospital, doing a stress test, of all places, and had a heart attack right there and died and put on the table. And then he says, I came in, the other guy went out, I came in on the table, freaked people out when I kind of sat up. And then, it wasn’t long after that he was, deeply into Native American ritual, spirituality, and all this sort of stuff. And, that wasn’t a big part of our relationship it was mainly just the presence that came off of him and some of the fun things that would happen there, I would just go to his house. And I would go and actually take naps for 20 minutes on his couch, because his house had this electric presence, you could cut with a knife. And I would just go in there, he’d be working in his car in the garage, i’d say hey Austin just going to take a nap. And he didn’t mind me using his house in such a way and I’d go down, and I come up completely refreshed. And I would just leave the house and go swimming or something. And so, I was kind of sent a lot of, even more of these people that I don’t think… I can’t get into everybody, but sure more,
Rick Archer: Whatever you feel is relevant. We have plenty of time so whatever you want to talk about.
Ishtar: Yeah, yeah, there was the, for a very white Wisconsin town, a wonderful man who was African American Chi Gong master, and also named Walter Matthew Brown. He’s since died a few years back. But he kind of took me under his wing as well.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Ishtar: And I would go to his classes, and he didn’t want to charge me any, he would teach me these interesting, sort of Chinese style meditations. And he would, and I always thought, well, maybe this is the placebo thing happening. But he would create these big balls of chi and I would be palpably affected by what he was doing and so there were these people that were in there as I was a growing up still as a teenager and kind of at this precipice.
Rick Archer: Now when I was recounting your various skills and accomplishments, I neglected to mention that you actually speak a fair degree of Chinese.
Ishtar: Well yeah it’s quite rusty now but yeah
Rick Archer: How did you learn that?
Ishtar: Oh, that was much later on.
Rick Archer: Do you speak Japanese? Also?
Ishtar: No, no, no,
Rick Archer: Because I know your wife is in Japan.
Ishtar: Yeah. My wife she’s the real polyglot. Yeah, she’s got all that stuff down.
Rick Archer: You’re the POLYMATH. She’s the polyglot. So okay, at this stage did you start meditating in some fashion?
Ishtar: I did, I did. I started doing you know, I was taught some breathing meditations and basic kind of effortless breathing meditation then I then I learned some maybe more rigid ascetic type practices, which I… My brain was quite tuned into that channel, biased in that direction. So I did these count from one to ten and not let your mind go on anything else but the numbers and I actually became quite good at that and enjoyed it. But while it kind of gave my mind a sort of razor sharp concentration, and kind of was like stressing me out in other ways, it was like an athletic strain.
Rick Archer: It was a bit of a strain
Ishtar: Yeah, it was quite a strain and so I was like, recommended by some books like meditation..If You want Enlightenment, which I was, I really did like, meditate as much as possible. I was like, I gotta do this 200%. So that was how it was wired. I was very intense it had to be…
Rick Archer: A natural born fanatic!
Ishtar: Yeah. Instead of like, you know, I knew the line to be intensely vehement soon, but I think I was often vehemently intense.
Rick Archer: Yeah. That’s a line from Patanjali by the way. Vehement intensity.
Ishtar: Yeah, I was definitely intense, a little bit too much. But, you know, this book had me, various books, I would be waking up at three in the morning and taking a cold shower, and then doing yoga and then meditating for two or three hours before either being driven or walking off to school, in my last year of high school, and then I would spend a lot of my lunch hours meditating. And then I would get home and I would do two hours of meditation when I got home or one hour and then do an hour before I went to bed. Yeah. And so I had the schedule, I was like, fanatically devoted to it, and I became totally antisocial, I got rid of my possessions like, I don’t need these around, you know, and I wanted to live in like, I would often as a child have these sort of, kind of came back, these visions of my room turning into what looked like a room in an ashram, you know, even visually the walls would fade away, and I would see a completely different room and look out a window. And there were these Himalayan peaks. And I was so in this period, I was so it was like that song was really singing to me is how I could describe it. And, so I just, I apparently at the high school, I found out later that since I was giving away my a lot of my most precious possessions, and becoming antisocial. They put me on suicide watch.
Rick Archer: They thought you were getting ready to check out.
Ishtar: I was getting ready to check out! You know, everybody meant very well, I was fasting a lot too. And I was, you know, they said fasting is good for you. So my goal with fasting is good, then I’m going to do it!
Rick Archer: There’s so many similarities between you and me. I’ve gone through such fanatical phases, including radical fasting. And always, like any little instruction that was given, doing it like 10 times more than I was supposed to!
Ishtar: Yeah, I was told like drink a gallon a day. So I was like, I will drink two gallons!
Rick Archer: We have a similar mindset.
Ishtar: Yeah. When I was fasting, I was like, I should not stop my running program, I should double it. And I was…and when it was too easy. I was like, This is too easy. I need to put rocks in a backpack and run up the highest hill in town. And I did it!
Rick Archer: Oh man, you’re worse than me.
Ishtar: I was a nut, I was a total nut.
Rick Archer: You were way worse.
Ishtar: But even though I was in that, and I don’t recommend this, I don’t necessarily recommend this. I think it was good for me because it was in me, it was in me to do it. It really felt like I need to maybe burn it off, or I need to express this, I need to really do this, to really kind of, appease whatever is going on whatever I need. And so I did it.
Rick Archer: Yeah You probably had some ascetic practices in past lifetimes. And those Himalayan mountains, bathing in cold streams and sitting in the snow and all that.
Ishtar: Yeah, I would go out at lunch hour in Wisconsin. And sometimes I would go out into the middle of like the soccer field that was right outside the lunchroom and it would be covered in snow and i’d be like, I’m gonna sit in the snow and meditate and you know.
Rick Archer: Did people see you? The school authorities would say Uh oh, we really got to watch this guy!
Ishtar: I think that probably contributed to the suicide watch. No, I was a good student, especially that year.
Rick Archer: Yeah you were getting good grades
Ishtar: It was amazing. I always had good grades, but they kind of fell off a little bit. They weren’t like total straight A’s so much.
Rick Archer: Because you were mediiating so much.
Ishtar: Well, they fell off in high school before the meditation because I was sad and depressed, and on the fence. And, you know, I was once, before the car accident, was totally lined up with a plan. And now after I was like, what’s the plan now? And I was really kind of flailing a little bit. And, but when I was meditating, I was thinking like, I could just very well fail this year, if I do six hours of meditation every day, you know, like, cos I’ve signed up for AP courses and all of these sorts of things.
Rick Archer: Yeah
Ishtar: It’s a pretty busy schedule. And, you know, I kind of said, like, you know, kind of praying to whomever might be listening, if there were any spirit guides, or God or Babaji, or whomever, like, anything you can do to help, you know, I’m doing this because I think this is the purpose of life. And, any help that can come along the way that makes this easier would be great. But there were no problems at all academically, I would read a, like my psychology textbook and suddenly, I could really speed read very well. And there would be some sort of grokking that would happen this global grokking of the pages. And when I would sit down to take a test, I didn’t necessarily have all of the information in a folder in my mind, but when I would look at the answers, the multiple choice questions, I would see the page that the answer was on.
Rick Archer: Yeah
Ishtar: I would see the number. I would see it all in my mind.
Rick Archer: Like page 323, paragraph 2, like…
Ishtar: Yeah I think I did most of the extra credit. I think I finished the year with 126% in that class. And similar things in an English class. A teacher, all of these teachers I had then were wonderful, wonderful mentors as well, it was, you know, I don’t think they put me on suicide watch but if they did they meant well, but they were there for me spiritually as well.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Ishtar: And so I had an English course and I remember I had a five paragraph, five page essay to type, to turn in and I hadn’t done it yet because I was meditating. And as I was meditating I was saying okay, are you gonna help me ou? And so 30 minutes, an hour and 30 minutes before the class, I sat down with a computer and said, like, okay, and then all of a sudden, you know, kind of like in Bruce Almighty when he’s typing all those emails. And it just…there was so much coherency in my mind, and it was so clear.
Rick Archer: Yeah
Ishtar: It was just so effortless and then I came out, turned it in. And it was a good paper, apparently.
Rick Archer: That’s great.
Ishtar: So I was, you know, stuff like that isn’t, you know, kind of came into the light.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I mean, so like, an obvious question to ask was, would be, did all that meditation make you spacey? Because it can when you’re meditating that much, you can’t really function in an activity but it seems like you sort of plunged into activity when you weren’t meditating with such intensity with rocks in your backpack and all this other stuff.
Rick Archer: That it kind of counterbalanced the long meditations and grounded you, focused you
Ishtar: That helped. Yeah, I mean, I certainly could be spacey also because I was attempting to be fasting. And the rest of the time I was thinking like maybe I could be a breatharian you know, I was you know proper Wisconsin salt, bratwurst meat eater at the start. And I thought, you know, for various reasons. I need to be vegetarian. And then I found out about veganism. I need to be vegan. And then I found out about fruitarianism and I thought I need to be a fruitarian then I…It kind of escalated.
Rick Archer: I’ve experimented with all those things, fruitarianism.
Ishtar: Yeah. I just, I wanted to, whatever the aperture or the apex seem to be, I was I was kind of like, wired to try to get myself in position to be there.
Rick Archer: Yeah. I mean, your basic attitude was, I’ll do whatever it takes.
Rick Archer: And I’m gonna do it. 200% because I am so hot to trot. I’m just not gonna be wishy washy about this.
Ishtar: That’s right.
Rick Archer: There’s a line in the Bible. You know, Christ said, either be hot or cold. If you’re lukewarm, I’ll spit you out of my mouth.
Ishtar: Yeah. Let thine eye be single and thy body be filled with light, you know, I felt like I’m going to be, you know, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it. And also, I mean, having, seeing one’s mother, kind of go through her life and pay attention to her struggles and the dynamics that had it ended at 45, also, unexpectedly was really put a pall of urgency over my whole life from that point, and there was always a sense that I could be living on borrowed time here, in a very visceral sense and I was ‘Gather ye rosebuds while you may’ times 10 And so that was always in the background pushing me and it was always like if I could live you know, what is the highest life I could manifest here on Earth? And then I will do whatever I can, of course fall off the horse quite a few times.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Yeah.
Ishtar: But nonetheless the long range goal was to do whatever I can to sort of get there, to kind of connect with that.
Rick Archer: Yeah. I think it can it can be taken to extremes and one can become too fanatical (a motorcycle going by or something here, or a truck.)
Ishtar: Quiet Sedona!
Rick Archer: Yeah. But I think there is something to be said (oh it’s a garbage truck) There is something to be said for the sense of urgency. Amma always says, ‘Live your life as though you’re a bird on a branch that could break at any time.’ And I think when she says that I get the implication she’s saying, Don’t be attached. She’s not saying like, you know, be a fanatic. But she’s saying, Don’t be attached, because anything that you’re attached to could be pulled out from under you at any time.
Rick Archer: But then others, you know, Shankara and others have always talked about, live each day as if it were your last and just do…take care of the highest first, whatever the highest and most important best thing you can do, do that.
Rick Archer: Don’t waste time, cos time is precious. Life flashes by.
Rick Archer: Not that, you know, we can take the long run long view picture and there will be other lives and all but I don’t know, it’s like, there’s a precious opportunity, especially if you kind of realize what you’re realizing here. And you know that there’s this thing that can be achieved. It’s a precious opportunity to actually achieve it to whatever extent you can
Ishtar: That’s right. Yeah.
Rick Archer: And because if you don’t. If you know it, and then you just brush it off, you may not know it next time, and you might have who knows how many lifetimes where you’re just sort of spinning your wheels.
Ishtar: Right and you know, you don’t necessarily need the sense of urgency. I’ve known plenty people who kind of woke up and they rather weren’t looking for it! And you know, everybody’s different. But I do agree that in general, there’s a use and a value to having that appreciation that, right now, you know, Carpe Diem. Seize the moment, seize the day. Dead Poets Society. Don’t leave, I’ve always in my mind, I was always don’t leave anything on the table. You never know if this is going to be your last sort of interaction with any particular person. So if you have love in there, if you have songs of your soul in there, don’t leave them unsung, sing them, and get them out. And that’s certainly been a big theme of my life.
Rick Archer: Yeah And again, just to sort of keep it balanced. It doesn’t mean like, do what the Buddha did, you know, leave your wife and kids and go off and perform austerities or something. One can, within one’s dharma. We have a Dharma.
Ishtar: We do.
Rick Archer: And it doesn’t mean abandon your dharma, and just try to adopt the dharma of somebody else, which you can’t perform anyway probably. But within your dharma, you have wiggle room, you have leeway. And there are, you can always be sort of pushing the envelope in terms of what’s the best thing you can do, the highest thing you can do, the most evolutionary thing you can do within the realm of the possible in your life. Not in somebody else’s life, but in your life.
Ishtar: Yeah. And, you know I moved out of the aesthetic phase very much, which was interesting.
Rick Archer: Yeah I can tell, you’re a little pudgy now!
Ishtar: Yeah, I was also a thin non aesthetic, too. So, you know, this is extra credit, probably.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Yeah!
Ishtar: But, yeah. I came out of that.
Rick Archer: So, okay, so you were in high school, you were meditating six hours a day. Doing okay academically. Were you doing any sports on top of all that? Well, you said, you were running up hills with rocks…
Ishtar: Yeah, that was a sport. I didn’t have much time. I didn’t have time for sports. And actually, the whole car accident thing, in many ways for a while, kind of knocked out my competitive drive. And I was kind of, I just didn’t have the juice. To do it. I was so…which was to me disappointing. I was like, Hey, where is it?
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Ishtar: And instead, I was like, okay, all my juices are now trying to go back into this sort of dimension, this inner dimension. And, however I could do that. So that kind of changed. But I did. I was in a traveling jazz band.
Rick Archer: Oh, cool well, that’s where you were drummer?
Ishtar: Yeah. That was great fun. And that kind of gave me a good physical coordinating activity to kind of I think balance out a little.
Rick Archer: Drumming is very integrating.
Rick Archer: You know, when you’re really, you’ve been playing for an hour or something, and you’re really into it. The mind gets into this coherent… Yeah. Did you ever see Zakir Hussain play the tabla?
Rick Archer: World’s best tabla player. But you watch him play. And it’s just such lightning fast stuff. And you know that none of it’s random. He’s like working within time signatures and beat signatures that have to be done a certain way. But it’s like going at the speed of light. And you think, wow, the level of coherence in his brain to be able to do that is unbelievable. Anyway, we’ve gone off on little mini tangents here, but that’s okay.
Ishtar: I don’t think so. Lots of tangents Roll the sleeves up now too, go to work.
Rick Archer: Okay, so what’s the next major phase? We’re getting serious here. We got our shirts off, coats. So, what was the next phase for you after this whole high school phase? I mean, this obviously didn’t go on forever.
Ishtar: No. Well, you know, for all its merits, my crazy aesthetic path had some…it wasn’t totally fulfilling. And I think there was…I was given the book Autobiography of a Yogi. I believe it was my future brother in law who gave it to me, if I remember correctly. And when I read that book….That…
Rick Archer: That’s a biggie for a lot of people
Ishtar: Yeah…something…Dams broke, in my heart, and worlds opened. And there was a sense that I had been quite provincial in what I thought was, were all the paths out there and all the practices and just the world…
Rick Archer: Provincial meaning kind of narrow minded?
Ishtar: Kind of narrow minded. Yeah. I was fairly myopic after. I realized I was quite myopic after reading that book. And it opened things up for me and I, even without any proper Kriya instruction, somehow the tenor and the tambour of my meditations changed and there was this blissfulness that would, which was showing up.
Rick Archer: Yeah
Ishtar: And there was this…The mind would would get quiet after a while, but my heart would start to open and, you know, noticeably, there was a sense of my heart opening into the silence as well. And, I would… Yogananda made this big promise in the book if you’ve read it. He said, if you just pray to BabaJi, earnestly he’ll answer you of course. From my…you would guess that I would say like I’m just gonna pray to BabaJi all the time!
Rick Archer: Yeah, okay.
Ishtar: All right. Yogananda I hope this promise is true. And I started…would do that earnestly at the end of my meditations, because I wanted to find my path. And I was shopping around for monasteries. It didn’t matter if it was Zen or Carmelite…
Rick Archer: You wanted to join one.
Ishtar: Yes, my heart said, like, you’ve got to go be amongst somewhere and I knew that that was true. And, so I, just by happenstance, this same future brother in law, now named Darshan, who gave me this book, knew this practice called the Ishaya’s Ascension. And, you know, at first I was maybe a little bit skeptical of it…
Rick Archer: Because of the name?
Ishtar: Yeah, the name and the tagline for praise, gratitude, love, and they’re talking about stress release. I was like, stress release! I could take more, you know, that’s not interesting. It didn’t, it wasn’t always initially presented to me as Enlightenment, which was the word that would have made sense to my little mind.
Rick Archer: Well, the reason they mentioned stress release is that it was founded by a guy who had been a TM teacher who was on my course when I became a TM teacher. And he picked up some of the nomenclature, kept some of the nomenclature and actually also the mechanics and practices as I understand it. So. And there too, and even in the TM movement, there was sort of a split personality disorder in terms of, are we a university? Or are we an ashram? Is this a spiritual thing? Or is it a stress relief type of thing?
Rick Archer: You know, and you try to, when you gave lectures, you’d sort of try to present real practical things, you know, stress release, and better health and clearer, better behavior, and stuff like that. But then there was this sort of more esoteric teaching of all the higher states of consciousness that could be attained and so on. But you don’t hit people with that right off the bat.
Ishtar: Yeah. And I was the one who wanted to get hit with that right off the bat. Yeah, that was what I was interested in. And so, initially, I wasn’t going to do it. I liked, I loved having him meditate with me because I could feel that he was tapping into this presence. And one day I came home from I think…I founded the Lake Geneva Environmental Society, which just consisted of me picking up cigarette butts and garbage and putting it into plastic bags and probably our hot dog tongs were ruined from any other use by doing that.
Rick Archer: Yeah. You just do that around town?
Ishtar: Yeah, yeah. I didn’t, I thought I gotta do something. You know, I want to be out there showing you know, like tangibly, making an example.
Rick Archer: You and I have so much in common. I don’t mean to keep talking about myself. But even now as I ride around town on a bicycle, if I see a can, or even sometimes a cigarette pack or something, I’ll just get off my bike, pick it up, put it in my little baskets. And keep riding. You know, just because it’s the kind of thing if everybody did it, we’d have a real clean town, a real clean world. Everybody’s not going to do it. But at least I’ll do it.
Ishtar: Yeah, that’s right. My record was 1200 Cigarette butts counted in a day. Yeah. Yeah, I was astounded it got that high. But I was just like, just around like maybe 10 city blocks criss crossed. That was my area that day. And I would go and pickup cans from the stream. And one time, it was like frozen over and I was reaching out to get a can, and I fell in! And, you know, I actually felt quite good, but it was quite cool.
Rick Archer: You’re used to cold baths… Yeah.
Ishtar: So let the let the crazy meditating environmentalist do his thing. So it was great. They gave me a complimentary Chai that day to help me warm up, so thank you for that decision 16 years ago. So I came home from one of these forays. And he asked me like, do you want to come to a course on Friday, go up to Minneapolis, and learn ascension. And he said like, there’s 300 extra dollars that kind of showed up in my bank account for it. And when he…I was like, notorious for not doing anything but my schedule, I was really rigid, you know, and like, I felt, if you’re an enemy of my schedule, you are an enemy of Enlightenment. You know, it’s very kind of harsh there. But I found myself totally like, yeah I surprised myself like what, you know, like, Yep, yeah, we’re doing it. And so you know, a few days later, we go off and do this course. And we go into the basement of a chiropractic office, and there’s, you know, maybe 10 people down there, and there’s two teachers wearing a sort of monochromatic garb. And right away, I was going like, Oh, my God, you know, like, So I stripped up my clothes off down to my boxer shorts. And thankfully, they were friendly with me at the local Starbucks, they had a fireplace to warm up. They let me hang my clothes up in front of the fireplace. Because I was already kind of crazy.
Rick Archer: What am I getting into…
Ishtar: What am I getting into here. I was skeptical of the word workshop, it sounded like something for middle aged people who wanted to like have some frivolous distraction and non serious activity, but I was open. I was kind of trying to go with the spirit of Gandhi, or the spirit of like an open minded spiritual scientist, and that was what I had about me, it’s like, I’m just going to…We’re going to be an empiricist and we’re just going to do it exactly as they tell me and see what happens. And so I was still quite skeptical. And as the teachers were kind of explaining how to do the practice, once I saw the first technique, which was like, that’s going to work! They were like, and it’ll even work if you’re completely skeptical, and they just both looked at me at the same moment. I was like, yeah, good! You know, I said that, you know, as a teenager, we did a meditation course, you know, a little irreverence. And it did. And I…
Rick Archer: So worked meant what?
Ishtar: Well, I was, it didn’t take for me, and this isn’t for everybody. But for me, it was within 30 seconds. I mean, at first I was, it’s an effortless practice, and it’s kind of a Mantra based practice. So you think the technique and then you allow your mind to do what it does. And when you’re, like TM, then you come back to the technique, and most of the quality of my thoughts were, this is stupid, you know, or this ain’t gonna work. And all of a sudden, I found even while my mind was having those thoughts, this vast silence, just kind of overwhelmed me, overtook me. I rose or I fell into it, and my body was completely relaxed. And it was not getting that much relaxation in all this aesthetic stuff. It really wasn’t. And it was, Oh, my God, what is going on with my leg? And that basically lasted more or less in that range through the rest of the weekend. And it was incredible. I was really stunned. And I kept up with it. And I think by the end of the weekend, I was asking them at the end of the course, do you have a monastery that I could join, that I could come and join, I could be ready within 48 hours, I just need to go home, I settled most of my affairs, you know, I’ve got my bag packed, you know, and then they were like, woah woah woah! Well, you know, it actually got sold, and I was like, Oh, shucks, but here’s some numbers of people you can call we think they’re doing something similar, I was like, Okay, thank you. And they’re like, don’t do it for six hours. So I’m gonna do it for six hours. And they’re like, you know, well, it could be intense. And I said, like, ‘I am the intensity’, or something like that, or I can handle it, you know.
Rick Archer: I am your father.
Ishtar: Yeah. Yeah, you know, I was, really raring to go there. And so I, but I was also like, I’m gonna give this you know, like, a few weeks and see, maybe I stumbled into some sort of anomalous kind of high. Maybe we’ll see if there’s, like, what happens with the honeymoon, if it’s a honeymoon period, or and I wanted to kind of give it some time. And it was just, it didn’t take many days after, for me to know, like, Oh, my God, no, this is the path I had been praying for. This, kind of has, how to explain it. There was a sense my whole life and me that…of a connection, almost like a song or an energetic signature, or something that was calling to me, impelling my life that I had seen in visions as a child or had kind of felt under the surface. And when I ran into this, that was it, there was a sense of that was it and there was a… before there was a sense of kind of being scattered. And, but now it was like, No, I think this is quite my North Star. So I’m going to give it a shot and see what happens. And so…
Rick Archer: So you join some monastery type place?
Ishtar: Yeah, it was not long after. It took me about, I think, three months from the time I learned, to move out to Seattle with my sister and my brother in law and get a little apartment and I was going to…My plan was I was going to work the summer in Seattle. And give it a little bit more time and then see if I could go down to this sort of ashram monastery type meditation center on the Oregon coast. And, only my heart was saying, like, no, just do it now. I had the sense of ‘What am I doing here, I’m just treading water, I’m just time wasting here, I just need to go’. So I paid them two or three months rent, you know, cuz I wasn’t planning on not being there. And I came down to interview at this center in Oregon, and you know, kind of, with the idea in my mind, like, well, if they kick me out, I shall just camp in the forest and show them my dedication, because that’s how I thought it worked in the books and movies, and I didn’t have to do that. And, you know, that was right when I came there it was kind of clear that…Oh, my God, each person, each face I’d meet was like, Oh my God. I know you.
Rick Archer: Like this is your little soul family.
Ishtar: Yeah. Yeah. It was powerful. And it was, it’s like…
Rick Archer: It could also have been that there was some dawning unity and you’re seeing the self in all beings. And so there’s that familiarity.
Ishtar: That could be the case as well. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I certainly had, I still had some neuroses that I developed. Although I was told I was always told, like, I would tell people Oh, I’ve got to have a lot of stress. You know, like, I’m sure I have a lot of stress. And then people would laugh at me and say, like, you don’t have any stress or whatever.
Rick Archer: And by that you mean Vasanas? like, accumulated impressions?
Rick Archer: In the nervous system that’s all from life experiences. And you were saying you must have a lot of it stored there. And they were just saying you don’t?
Ishtar: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I was convinced I had an awful lot of work to do. You know, I have to, like, roll my sleeves up. And you know, really be earnest about all this? And, yeah, yeah.
Rick Archer: So how long were you in this place? And how did it go?
Ishtar: Well, it went very well. Just like with TM, they do these long, very long in-residence retreat programsfor…I wasn’t quite really interested in being a meditation teacher at the time. I just wanted to get enlightened. And so if I could be in a center for many years, that sounded like a great time and chop wood and do all that sort of stuff. But they suggested, well, you know, if that’s your desire, you should do this long course. It’s like, okay, we’re dovetailing then.
Rick Archer: It was a teacher training course?
Ishtar: Yeah, yeah. And I didn’t really have the money to pay for it. But they were so wonderful in offering me kind of a work-exchange program, which was really cool. Because that also matched a very interesting experience that happened the year before. I had been, I wasn’t yet clear that I was going to go be a monk, I thought, I’m gonna go to some college. And I’ll just meditate as much as I can there, and that was the idea. So I was walking into Walmart in Lake Geneva, and I just had the intuition to ask myself, I wonder where I’m going to be a year from now. And then. To my surprise, I had this full sort of visual answer with captioning. And it was ‘Well you’re going to be working in a mostly vegetarian cafe, living with a bunch of monks, many of whom wear the color white’. This all came to me! It was very detailed, like ‘You will start out as the dishwasher, and then you’ll be progressively trained to do more and more of the jobs and eventually study with a chef and be taught to cook like you’ve always wanted’. And, I was like, I saw that experience, I was like unlikely! and I just kind of threw it away, just kept on with being a happy sort of 17 year old. And then so when I was on a phone call with this group in Oregon, the last thing that my interviewer mentioned was ‘Oh, and by the way, we’re about to open up a cafe, maybe you could have a job there?’. And I was like, I didn’t want to tell him because I thought maybe if I told him that, I’d get kicked out, I ought to have, but you know, I kind of thought that…that’s just a coincidence that whole thing, it’s probably just a coincidence.
Rick Archer: And this all came to you? But you’d think you should have known by then…
Ishtar: I should have.
Rick Archer: You know because this kind of stuff had been happening…
Ishtar: I know, but I was still such a rationalist. I wanted to kind of. In some ways I wanted to be able to engage with the credible world.
Rick Archer: Yeah
Ishtar: And kind of build bridges. So I had to always be as scientific as I could. But yeah, I probably ought to have known. And so then I was doing my sort of apprenticeship program, my work study thing. And I was at the kitchen window chopping one day. And when I looked up, as I’ve been always been a very visual person, I’d see things before they happen. It was the exact scene from that Walmart vision, like, I was…
Rick Archer: I see. Was it like it’s a deja vu thing, but
Ishtar: So strong. Deja vu times 10. And I was…and that there threw me into this presence. And I was in that for, especially thick for like two days. Just like whoa, you know?
Rick Archer: That’s interesting. Yeah. Yeah I remember some line from Maharishi’s commentary on the Gita where he talks about how the future can cast its vision upon the pure of heart. You can actually have clear prognostications like that.
Ishtar: Yeah, it seems to come with the important nodal things, especially in my life. The big directional things, and that was…
Rick Archer: Almost like an opportunity to have a confirmation. Because you’d had the vision and then sure enough, here it is, and okay, this must have been where I was supposed to go.
Ishtar: Yeah, yeah. I was always, you know, kind of an amateur parapsychologist. So those sorts of confirmations that would blow my logical mind were especially interesting to me, to have it so that I couldn’t really describe it in any/explain it any other way.
Rick Archer: So you cook, you were a chef there in this cafe when I think you said there was a Mexican chef that was your mentor or something?
Ishtar: Oh yes, he was named Yogananda.
Rick Archer: Does this mean you can cook really good Mexican food?
Ishtar: Well, it means that…
Rick Archer: Are you going to prove that to me!
Ishtar: Well, okay. I think my education in some ways was a little uneven, but I will say that I make a wonderful chilaquiles! I can knock your…The chilaquiles will knock your socks off.
Rick Archer: Okay. I don’t even know what those are. But well, we may have to talk about that..
Ishtar: Oh it’s what you do with leftover tortilla chips and…This is gonna turn into cooking show, but yeah, sauteed onions and leftover tortilla chips and some scrambled eggs. You cook them together and I like them with the salsa verde. They’re good with the mole too. It’s good you know. It’s kind of good peasant-worker food. Like so much of the best food.
Rick Archer: Maybe we should have that for dinner tonight or lunch today… I’m a peasant-worker.
Ishtar: Yeah, me too.
Rick Archer: Yeah. So okay, so how long did you stay in that monastery? What did you learn there? How did you change there?
Ishtar: I changed immensely. And I was there for six and a half years, kind of both on the, in the Center on the Oregon coast. But then we also had sort of satellite meditation centers where, a lot of students had learned and wanted to have teachers there full time to kind of, be more available. And so, I was in this restaurant until we sold it. I of course, I had that six month long in-residence Teacher Training Program, which was wonderful. And that the transformation that happened there is difficult to describe in words adequately, but I would, you know, come to some days. I’d go down to meditate, maybe after after doing yoga asanas, and sun salutations, go back to the meditation room and be down for nine hours or something. And when I’d get up at six, or whenever the dinner was…
Rick Archer: You would have just sat there without a break for nine hours?
Ishtar: Sometimes yeah, or, you know, get up, go to the bathroom. But especially with two gallons of water a day, then I was told to stop that. It’s like, it’s okay, if you only do one. Is it? you Sure! Yes. Like, okay, all right, I’ll only do one.
Rick Archer: It can actually be bad for you drinking too much water.
Ishtar: So I’ve been told. I’ve done a lot of things that ought to be bad for me, that I kind of survived them. Luck was on my side. So yeah, the teacher training was incredibly transformative. And it also helped that before I had had very clear experiences through the meditation of what, in TM, you’d call the Transcendent, and what my system you call the Ascendant or the Presence, the Unmanifest. And so going into the teacher training was just exploring that and sinking into it and deepening it. And some days, I would wake up in the morning and have this feeling that I could only describe as, it feels like two lifetimes have just vanished. You know, like, I didn’t know they were there, but they’re gone.
Rick Archer: Like you’d worked through that much.
Ishtar: Yeah, yeah.
Rick Archer: Some say that. Some say you can work through lifetimes of karma in a single meditation, if it’s deep enough.
Ishtar: You see I would feel so fundamentally lighter, that those would be the words I would use to describe it.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Ishtar: Yeah. And, all sorts of those. I know that some of the things you talk about on this show, a lot of those things sort of, kind of happened and transpired at the beginning of that course. And then, after that it was, it must have been for four more years after that teaching meditation and traveling around and living in the centers and, going to places that I had as a teenager with lots of wanderlust, that I’d always wanted to go, but I gave up my big desire baskets, and I just want this desire. And you can have this and then I found that Oh, my God, that’s the thing I wanted to do.
Rick Archer: Like Switzerland?
Ishtar: Like school! Yes. Like Switzerland? Yes. Yeah, yeah. And so I had a strange sudden obsession. Well, maybe it’s not strange, because it’s a beautiful place was Switzerland at age 16. And I’d let that go. And then, here I am, 20 years old, and I’m invited to go for a two week teaching tour in Switzerland and I didn’t have a passport. And this was another little miracle that went real fast. I think it went real fast. And I did all the things right. And, and I went to the Lincoln County courthouse to get the passport. And I was gonna pay for it expedited. But then they told me, and I needed it the next day, I didn’t know. And they said, Well, there’s no way this is gonna get to you the next day it’s like 3 or 4pm. And, that’s because we have to send it to the Seattle Passport Agency, they have to process it, they have to stamp it, then they have to mail it to you, at your cafe in Lincoln city. If you expedite it here, the best we could do for you we think is three days.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Ishtar: And I was so like, destroyed..
Rick Archer: Did you have a plane ticket or something?
Ishtar: Yeah, I had a plane ticket already. I acted and I begun an act as if it were so. But I was like, well, you know, if I if I can’t go, then I can’t go. But I have faith that whatever needs to happen is going to happen. I thank them profusely like, thank you for whatever you can do. I appreciate it. I really hope it shows up tomorrow, nevertheless. And that’s what happened. And I still don’t quite know how that happened. I didn’t know bureaucracies could normally work that fast. But it was 11am the next day in the cafe and there were people there. But when I got this package with my name on it from the Seattle Passport Agency, I definitely said Holy fuck. Really loud. And then no, so joyous. So joyful. T he guy was going with it like, oh, shh shh shh Ishtar no, no, no, no, it’s like, it’s okay. I know you’re joyful. This is great, and so I’m going to Switzerland and when I got there, it was like another one of those weird nodal points of deja vu destiny times 10. And somehow I was just completely in a strange bliss by just being there and teaching meditation and being on Lake Lucerne and all of that, all of that sort of stuff it was just hitting me from so many different angles. And later I got to go back again, two years later and live there for about a month and a half, and had a similarly profound experience and was sent off to different places like Helsinki, Finland and Hong Kong and Michigan. I loved being in Michigan and so that was kind of my own sort of Shangri La experience for all those years getting to do that.
Rick Archer: That’s pretty neat. Yeah. Tell that experience about when you were in Brunnen, Switzerland and you looked up at the cliff.
Ishtar: Yeah, that’s right.
Rick Archer: I used to meditate up there on that facility up on that cliff, and in Brunnen.
Ishtar: I may very well have been picking up on your wave. So anyways,
Rick Archer: That was years earlier though, the early 70’s
Ishtar: There might have been a battery up there. But I was sitting in this lovely Lakeside Cafe, beautiful day, a little kind of sort of a concrete Jetty out into the water. And I was, my seat was oriented right toward this kind of bluff over Lake Lucerne. And suddenly, I was tearing up. And I was…I can do it now! Tears of joy. And my heart was like a sun was shining through my whole being. And there was this deep sense of being home, you know, of looking up at that bluff, and it was like, oh my god, I’m home. You know, and, I saw this kind of like light coming up off of the cliff and I asked my house like, what’s up there? Like, is there anything going on up there? And they’re like ‘yo, yo, there is…’
Rick Archer: Do the Swiss accent?
Ishtar: Sounds Swedish, but it’s not…That is the old Maharishi place. The Maharishi people (they call TM people the Maharishi people) used to, you know, meditate and live up there. That is Seelisberg. And I was like, oh, and that was just okay. All right,
Rick Archer: Incidentally, at the foot of that cliff down by the lake is a place called Rutli, which is supposedly where Switzerland was founded, and also supposedly where the apple was shot off of William Tell’s head.
Rick Archer: So the story goes.
Ishtar: Yeah. The fact that the foundation of Switzerland is right there.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Yeah, that’s pretty cool. What year were you born?
Ishtar: 1983. Good year,
Rick Archer: Just wondering if you had been somebody in the TM movement who had died? You know?
Ishtar: Yeah, maybe, yes. I never felt that I had a 20th century life. I just never, you know, I felt like oh I’m here in the 20th century. Oh Lord Okay.
Rick Archer: Interesting. But, okay, so obviously, then the monastery and the traveling and all that stuff, that phase came to an end, somehow.
Ishtar: That had to Yeah, I wasn’t expecting it, it kind of, I felt like I was, I was having these experiences where I was more and more regularly feeling like I was in everything.
Rick Archer: Yeah
Ishtar: I would look at myself through other people’s eyes. Or I would, you know, like, see people as if I was looking at me. And there was…I felt as if I could be up till three in the morning, writing these, like newsletters and just felt like I was being powered by a bunch of juice, like something plugged into my back. And it was just going and it was just so much joy living this life. I was so joyous to do that. And then all of a sudden, I would take these midnight walks to kind of like, chill out and and from my heart, I started getting this some sort of invitation to like, you should get fired. You know, it’s like what?! yeah, you should get yourself kicked out, get yourself kicked out of the organization. I was like, oh, and it was coming from the same sort of place that I trusted my whole life and had the same resonance of, that’s what you really ought to do. And just, but I wanted to fight it.
Rick Archer: Yeah
Ishtar: I was like, no, no, no, you can’t be serious. You know, it’s like when you shake the eight ball, like I’m going to do this again. It was pretty insistent. And I just kind of pushed that away because I really thought like I need to be, I did feel a sense of safety being part, being tethered to an organization, teachers who had more consciousness than me, I had a deep respect for lineage for the value of like, passing things down as purely as possible. And all the things that sort of attend that. I really, appreciated that but at the same time this thing in my heart was saying no get kicked out.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Ishtar: And so I think I stayed about a year past my expiration date. I think that was it. And I just, it was funny because after I ignored that I was on such a sort of expanded track it just imploded, you know, or it just…
Rick Archer: I think because you’re ignoring it
Ishtar: Because I was ignoring it. I was fighting it, things got gummy. And you know, thankfully, years before I’d made a promise to myself that if I ever found myself as kind of a malcontent, if I ever, if this somehow was no longer my own Shangri La, if I was not expanding, if I was not able to expand every day and kind of shed the stuff that might accumulate, then it was time for me to go. And I found myself in that place. And it was hard, but I was like, Yep, I’m gonna honor that promise, I don’t want to do it, because man life might really suck, you know,
Rick Archer: Interesting.
Ishtar: But I did it
Rick Archer: Yet another similarity between you and I, because I got kicked out of the TM movement. And, I did it. I mean, it happened because I was just sort of, I was getting involved with Amma. And I was just sort of doing things like sending out little emails and stuff about little Amma events in town, which I kind of knew in the back of my mind could get me kicked out of the TM movement. But it’s like, if it happens, it happens. You know, maybe it should happen. I don’t care. I’m just gonna do this. And I’ll still go to the dome and meditate if they want me to. But sure enough, they got wind of it and kicked me out. These are almost like our typical patterns or something that you and I both follow.
Ishtar: Life tracks.
Rick Archer: So many similarities that we’ve come up with so far.
Ishtar: Same song structure, maybe different notes.
Rick Archer: Yeah, yeah. Interesting. Maybe they’re just sort of reflective of human psychology and how it often plays out in groups and spiritual organizations and with seekers and stuff, you know, fanatical people, and administrative types. And, you know, all this different stuff.
Ishtar: I mean, it’s funny too, because, like, part of the reason as Vaughn or as I’ve learned to call them MSI, that’s all I ever knew him as, you know, part of the, in some ways, part of the genesis of my particular meditation teaching was often presented as moving away from sort of the rigidities or maybe the kind of, some of the cultish aspects or facets of the over controlling aspects of the TM world. And then I found that those, you know, kind of crept into that ascension world.
Rick Archer: Yeah
Ishtar: And I would find myself…maybe they were totally unimportant arguments, but I found myself becoming so argumentative about stuff that I felt was groupthink or stuff that I felt, you know, like this isn’t the important stuff, you know, this isn’t good. This isn’t a good direction. And, I started to find myself in the minority there.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Ishtar: And, you know, maybe sometimes characterized as just saying that because you have stress, or because you’ve got a…
Rick Archer: Yeah, that same thing they used to say in TM, you’re unstressing. If your behavior was not kind of Kosher or at least according to the group mentality. Oh, you’re just unstressing…
Ishtar: Yeah. And maybe some of that some of that might have been true, because I think I certainly was causing myself friction by ignoring the necessity probably to follow the Holy Spirit and leave. But, you know, that was what had to happen. And, so I kind of…
Rick Archer: Yeah. You know, I mean, when the chick hatches, it doesn’t, it’s not really helpful for the chick, or for the other eggs for him to stay in the incubator.
Rick Archer: You know, it’s time to get out of the incubator. He’s just gonna cause trouble there. And, kind of restrict his own growth. So there’s times to be in groups and movements and this and that, and there’s times to leave.
Ishtar: That’s right.
Rick Archer: And, a lot of people that leave, they leave with sour grapes, you know, they just reject the whole thing is having been a complete waste of time. But I think maybe sometimes it has been, but I think it’s usually a more healthy attitude to say, Well, I’m grateful for everything I learned in that. And now I’m on to my next phase, but those who are still in it, I wish them well and stay in as long as they want. It seems to be working for them.
Ishtar: Right. Right. Same Yeah, I have. I’m in an interesting position, internally, where I have all this love and appreciation for so many of the people who were my mentors, were who were kind of, I looked up to, and were there for me as almost like a surrogate family in many ways. Second spiritual family. And at the same time, there’s not really much contact and some of my best friends, former best friends maybe
Rick Archer: Yeah, yeah.
Ishtar: I still consider myself a friend, but from what I would see and what I hear in the emails and messages sent to me, maybe it’s not mutual all the time. You know that the hand is always open on this side.
Rick Archer: You’re kind of a black sheep
Ishtar: A little bit. Yeah. It seems to be the case. Yeah. Yeah.
Rick Archer: Interesting
Ishtar: But yeah, for some people you know, that monastic experience was essential. Yeah, perfect for me. It was definitely in my script.
Rick Archer: A good faze for your life.
Ishtar: Wonderful. Yeah, it was everything I wanted and so much more. And so many experiences that I thought conservatively well, this could take three lifetimes. So you better start on it now. And to get to certain experiences, and then woah, you know, is that what I had read about? And, you know, and wow, I didn’t think that it would happen.
Rick Archer: What were some of the experiences and you know, we’ve been talking about the external circumstances a lot now, right? I mean, what were some of the subjective stages of advancement.
Ishtar: (Hello, oh, i’ll keep going with the interview)
Rick Archer: Yeah keep going.
Ishtar: Yeah, well, so I would say certainly having…
Rick Archer: (There’s a little doggie here)
Ishtar: Certainly having so much activity and working in that kitchen, it was a wonderful, wonderful ground for experiencing the silence while being very dynamically engaged. And so the witnessing, the witnessing was very strong at points.
Rick Archer: It’s a good stabilization of that, you know, to see if it can maintain and to learn how to maintain it in the midst of intense activity.
Ishtar: Yes, it was a beautiful…
Rick Archer: Not that you’re making an effort to maintain it…
Ishtar: No, there was no effort, there was no sense of like a weird dissociative type thing. No, it’s just natural. And it would kind of sometimes sneak up on me, I’d be at the ticket window. And I’d be kind of considering like, when to put these eggs in and when to start this and doing all the gymnastics you have to do as a chef at lunch hour. But then I would notice whoa! what is? I’ve in fact been in silence this whole time.
Rick Archer: Right. And you’re just kind of on automatic doing your stuff.. Just because people were watching?
Ishtar: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And then once I would appreciate that, then it would kind of deepen and become thick and I would then start to kind of, as soon as I would go in one of those doors I would start to be in the whole restaurant or kind of feel into people and feel into the food and, and, kind of be in that space. And it was a wonderful beautiful dance, especially as one of my best friends from Finland. He was kind of my co-cook and he did the cold side. I did the hot side. And we, I said let’s make it a show kitchen. And we were really tuned into each other and like it was a ballet he would frisbee tortillas to me and I’d catch him behind my book and stuff. And I would flip things from the saute pan onto the plate and… No they couldn’t see it.
Rick Archer: Oh okay, I thought it was more like that Seattle fish market where they’re throwing the fish…
Ishtar: No, no it would have been nice if we’d had an audience, I would have liked that. It would have been fun, but he was Wushu trained before and so he was quite good with his body, as a dancer. And so we just did it for fun. Because there was a, we had a shared joy, because we were both sort of tuned into the silence together and we knew it. And it was a wonderful kind of play, just for fun. So that was one thing. I never sought out awareness during sleep, because frankly, I’d never read about it. So that took me by surprise…
Rick Archer: When it started happening?
Ishtar: Yes, yeah, that was…I was like, Actually, I didn’t like it. Because many of the times, it was like, I felt like I was stuck inside an inert log. And I remember I would try to like, it felt as if my mind was asleep, too, which of course later would produce the question. Well, if you’re aware, and your mind is asleep…
Rick Archer: How do you know you’re aware?
Ishtar: Exactly and, but I would remember I was like, almost like knocking on my mind. And my mind was going like, duhhhhh, like that. That’s the best I could describe the thought of nothing. And I was like, hey, you know, like, I’d like to move this body, but it’s like, and then I just would have to give up because you know, nothing would happen. And I would spend however long it was just kind of being in awareness. And I didn’t like it. So I said, if anybody can just like not have that happen, that would be great. And so it kind of stopped.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Ishtar: And yeah, because I like sleeping a lot.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I’ve talked to friends who have had it start and then have wanted it to stop. And it eventually did. I’ve talked to other friends like Harry Alto, who, you know, says he hasn’t slept in 60 years because his body has slept, but the inner awareness just doesn’t get overshadowed or clouded by sleep.
Rick Archer: So I don’t know, maybe it’s optional, or whatever. Maybe it depends on the individual’s makeup. But it’s a thing. And sometimes when people first start having it, they think there’s something wrong with them, you know, think they have insomnia or something. But it’s just a matter of the inner awareness having been sort of enlivened to the extent that the tamas, the dullness of sleep, can’t overshadow it.
Rick Archer: And by definition, most people watching this are familiar with the notion that pure awareness is a continuum, it just is always there. Whereas the cycles of waking, dreaming and sleeping kind of go on. And one can reach a stage at which one is aware of that continuum. 24/7.
Ishtar: Yeah, yeah. And then there were also fun experiences with what, at least in our little collective, maybe it was improperly named Ritam Bhara Pragya. Or I might say, manifesting things. But that’s only a small facet of a greater sort of context. So maybe not to use that word, but I’ll just say crazy, weird manifestations. That’s what I’ll use.
Rick Archer: And so just Ritam Bhara Pragya means ‘That level of intellect which knows only truth’. And it’s said that if one can function on that level, then whatever one wishes to know, one will know, with truthfulness and certainty, and also certain things can be accomplished if you can learn to function on that level. So to proceed…
Ishtar: Right, so one day again in this wonderful cafe that I had dreamed up as a 17 year old, that proved again, to be sort of the witness of a miracle. I was in the kitchen with my buddy…
Rick Archer: The Restaurant at the end of the universe.
Ishtar: Exactly. That’s how I’ve always thought of it!
Rick Archer: The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy Zen and the art of cooking.
Ishtar: Exactly. That was always in my mind about the Magical Mystery School, which owns the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. But, I was just there, it was near closing. And suddenly it just came through me. I was in this, we were in the silence pretty much all day. And then it just emerged out of it, right through my mouth. Like, wouldn’t it be cool if like, 20 people, because we never had a table that large. I think we had an 8 person party once. So that was way beyond any kind of reasonable expectations of wouldn’t be cool if 20 people just walked in the cafe soon. And then it kept going. I was like, yes, in fact, we will, we will be so quick in the kitchen that we will get everything out within five minutes, and we’ll beat the drink orders. We’ll have to take them out ourselves, and we kept going and then I stopped and like my coach was like, Yeah, okay. And then I heard a voice, a phone ring outside. And then the voice of a colleague and a waitress and bar person. She said, like, you better get ready, because 20 people are about to come in five minutes! And I thought she’d heard me I was like ‘yeah, very funny.’ You know, she like played jokes. I was like, you could hear everything that was said in that kitchen. Like ‘very funny yeah right.’ And then she came up she’s like ‘No, you know, I’m serious, like, you really better get ready!’ It’s like, woah, okay. And then I couldn’t believe it. And so I still couldn’t believe it. And then when 20 People stream through the door, I was… something dropped. You know, that’s what it felt like, you know, it’s odd. And I was, we were so in the silence that I don’t know how we did it, still. It was like everything went slow motion. And, I had, we had like 4 appetizers and 20 plates, hot and cold. And, you know, we were, it was just the most efficiently I’ve ever done anything in my life. Yeah, yeah. Zen and the art of short order cooking. And, we had to carry them out. That was true. Because they were like at the bar. They’re like, mixing the drinks. And when we took them out to the table, they were shocked… Yeah, they, we got one accusation, a half, mild accusation. Yeah, like, you’ve just given us stuff that you already cooked? No, I was like no. And I came out with like, no, we just made this right now, you know. So, there was a lot of intensity coming out. They were like, Whoa. And they gave us a huge tip. They cleaned their plates. And they were like, Whoa, that was the best meal we’ve ever had. And we cleared them out and cleared that but then it happened again, like right after, the same day, 10 minutes later after we cleared the table. 10 minutes on it, like we were on a kind of gamblers streak or something, huh? Wouldn’t it be cool if 18 People came in?
Rick Archer: At how fast it was. And it happened again? 18!
Ishtar: 18! We sat them back there because that’s the only place you could sit people. Yeah, parties of that size was in the back garden. And then 18 came, except only then my prognostications were like, only this time, since we’re almost out of prepared food, it’s going to be a little bit more difficult. You’re going to have to come in here and probably be chopping potatoes, ad hoc and we’ve almost cleaned ourselves out of certain food items. And that’s what happened. And yeah, we’d serve them with the same sort of bliss. And then I was about to say it again. And then they’re like, we’re closed. It’s like, Okay, you’re right. We’re out of food. You know, we have to restock! Yeah, well it was wonderful. And I think part of the reason I mentioned that now is that I had always wanted an experience of that magnitude, which I absolutely would have difficulty rationalizing in a random universe.
Rick Archer: Yeah
Ishtar: I’d wanted something that big to kind of counter, you know, my mind’s arguments, and it was given to me that day,
Rick Archer: Watch out for what you wish for! There are a lot of stories in the Vedic literature about this kind of thing where some Yogi will make a vow, or say such and such is gonna happen. And because you know that Ritam Bhara Pragya, that level of intellect, which knows only truth-Because the yogi is so truthful, and so in tune with absolute truth, that it has to happen because he said it had to happen. So it happens. And like, there’s a lot of cool stories about it. I mean, and sometimes it’s like, you know, like the whole Srimad Bhagavatam was based on a story where this yogi was sitting in Samadhi. And some king came along and wanted to talk to him and ask him a question or something and he ignored the king because he was in Samadhi and he didn’t know the king was there. And so the king got really mad and picked up a dead snake with his stick or something and drooped it around the yogi’s shoulders. So the yogi’s son comes home and sees this insult that has been done to his father and says, Whoever did this is going to die of snakebite in a week. And then his father finally comes out of Samadhi and takes the snake off, I guess, and kind of comes to realize what his son has said, and it’s like, oh, no, you said this. It’s got to have to happen, you know, because of who you are, and you know, the level from which you operate. And so the King gets wind of it and realized Oh, I was a jerk, I shouldn’t have done that. Well, I’m gonna die anyway, how can I make good use of this week? And so he gets together, who was it? Narada or somebody, who ended up reciting the whole Srimad Bhagavatam. And the whole thing came out in the week, and it was the King got enlightened, I guess. And then snake came along and bit him, end of story. But it’s the thing about, you know, if you’re operating from that level, with that degree of truthfulness in your life and in your consciousness, what you say, has to come through.
Ishtar: Yeah, yeah.
Rick Archer: Anyway, yeah. Okay, so you left there?
Ishtar: Yeah, I left there. Yeah, yeah. And I kind of gave myself a hard time after that, truth be told. I mean, I didn’t leave with that many sour grapes.
Rick Archer: Yeah
Ishtar: But I did leave with some questions. You know, I was, I certainly, even though I tried never to sort of put anybody up on a, some sort of idealized pedestal of perfection, I saw the dangers in that. Nevertheless, you know, it was so easy to you want that and to really, you know want this organization that so much of your young life has been part of to, kind of be perfect, and I didn’t think it necessarily was, so when I left I questioned…
Rick Archer: You were sort of disillusioned?
Ishtar: Yeah, I questioned my own experience. And, you know, I said, like, well, all these things, all these things I’ve experienced, are they just, you know, is there more, are they really real or important? Because I would also look at the world and see like, well, I don’t know, when I meet people, they don’t seem to think, you know, there’s still too much going on there. So maybe it’s not, you know, and maybe, um, you know I started so young that I also, I didn’t have that much contrast, you know, a contrast of experiences to kind of make..
Rick Archer: Yeah that’s an interesting point, some of us managed to mess ourselves up and get ourselves pretty miserable. And so then we start on the spiritual path. And the contrast is like, oh it’s such a relief.
Ishtar: Yeah, yeah, I feel like I almost kind of like, even though I had some pain and things that were there. All in all, I kind of felt like I was, I had a really good life, sort of, gently, kind of, mainly, gently moved into that dimension. And so I was like, Well, you know, I, you know, sometimes I would be jealous, a little bit jealous. But like, a lot of my friends, fellow monks were like, in their 50s or 60s, and they’re like, Well, I had a job in corporate America, and a family, and let me tell you, and after I was really impressed, like, wow, they’ve lived life, you know, they’ve had something there. And I haven’t, you know, I’m just, you know, what, what have I been doing? And so I thought, Well, I’m gonna see what it’s like to try to be like, I want to be a normal person, you know, and, I didn’t really have many wild oats, I really felt inclined to sow or needed to sow but for me, the wild oat was, I’m going to go to university, you know, and like, I’m gonna go to spend some time with my sister and then go to university and then get a degree of some kind.
Rick Archer: Not a bad idea.
Ishtar: Yeah, yeah. And maybe I’ll go, you know, try to see if I can revive some of that old life. And, you know, and it turned out that it was ultimately a good exercise in suffering.
Rick Archer: Being at the university?
Ishtar: Yeah. Yeah. or trying, I was trying to. The whole trying to sort of deny a lot of what I had experienced, you know, for the purposes of the experiment, actually, you know I wanted to do the experiment purely. But it was painful. It was like trying to fit into a size 2 shoe after being the size 10.
Rick Archer: Yeah. What did you end up studying?
Ishtar: I ended up with a degree in philosophy.
Rick Archer: So you earned it. Yeah, that must have been rough. I mean, here you are sort of deeply experienced.
Ishtar: I earned it.
Rick Archer: And you know, the things that a lot of these philosophies are just kind of groping to understand and, you know, skimming around the surface with all kinds of complex theories. Whereas you’ve already gone down to the depth of the lake and have had the experience, it must have been a little bit difficult to sit in classrooms with all these people discussing this stuff.
Ishtar: Yeah. Yeah, it did make me depressed.
Rick Archer: And you couldn’t just say, Hey, dudes, I’ve experienced this, I know…
Ishtar: That’s not going to do anything. Yeah, I can’t do anything. And actually, at one point, I made the sort of like, res, and I’m kind of a talker, I’m gregarious, I like to talk with people, but I sort of decided I’m not going to tell any anybody anything about me unless they solicit. And I figured, well, someone’s going to ask me and I realized how uncurious people seem to be like, I was like, I realized how, when I would talk with people, I love to get to know people I want to probe and question and see what they’re about…touch their essence
Rick Archer: I’m that way too…Start asking them questions right away.
Ishtar: Yeah, I want to experience people at their essence at the bottom of the lake, where, in that in that place of unity. But I found I was so, I was a little bit maybe naive, because I found that wow. You know, nobody has time for anything, but everything that’s going on their head and I was so, I thought in university that maybe people would be curious and be joyful and be, you know, if not conscious be like wild and free enough to be fluid and kind of exploring, you know.
Rick Archer: Have you ever noticed that there’s a lot of people, perhaps the majority who, you know, you’ll be having a conversation with them and you’re interested, you’re asking them questions. You’re listening. You’re really getting their story. And then you start saying something about yourself, and it’s like Okay, well, I gotta go. I’ll see you later…
Ishtar: Yes! Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. I’m so…I’m not confused by that. But I’ve certainly found it strange when I first encountered that in people.
Rick Archer: Yeah. It’s like they get off on talking about themselves that they’re not really interested in anyone else.
Ishtar: Yes. So I kind of wore a costume. I decided I’m going to wear a costume. I’m going to wear this costume of Thomas Ward Howell again and see, you know, see, and it was ill fitting at the time. It could have probably been better fitting.
Rick Archer: Yeah What did you do 2 years of it?
Ishtar: No I did 5 years.
Rick Archer: Wow
Ishtar: I could have tried to do architecture at the start because it was a lifelong passion. And then I realized I do not want to sleep under a drafting table and produce dreary cardboard models of ugly modernist structures, because I had a different aesthetic than the year.
Rick Archer: So you went into the? Yeah, you and I were in the airport yesterday, as I was saying, imagine the amount of planning it takes to build a place like this. We were in Phoenix Airport. It’s just mind boggling. Every little wire has to be taken into account and every little placement of every little thing. Anyway, that’s a tangent, but it’s something I’ve often wondered about when I look at big buildings or bridges or anything else. The whole science of being able to do that.
Ishtar: Look at a termite mound. So complex, and they’re just doing it, or a Beaver Dam. Kind of, yeah. We’re just doing it with a different route
Rick Archer: With a termite, no one termite knows what’s going on in its entirety. But somehow they work as a collective because the network gets built.
Ishtar: Yeah. Interesting, wonderful, incredible structures.
Rick Archer: And that’s also true of manmade attempts. I mean, they say, no one knows how we got to the moon, because it was too much information for any one person to figure out. But through the collaboration in the proper way of all these people we got there. According to most people. We were talking about certain people think we staged it in Hollywood. But anyway, okay, so you did this 5 years of academics? And then you finally got out of there.
Ishtar: Yeah, I was just cooking with the suffering near the end. And I got to the point where I started waking up, and at night not being able to breathe, and…
Rick Archer: Stifled by the whole experience
Ishtar: Something yeah. And so I went to the doctors, I was like, I gotta be sick and dying, right, doc, you know, like, do I have cancer? You know, like, they’re checking me out, you do not have cancer. It’s like, Are you sure? You know, like, we’re pretty damn sure.
Rick Archer: Were you getting like sleep apnea or something?
Ishtar: Yeah, yeah, I was getting to the point where I would have panic attacks in the night. And there was some points where I would kind of go into some of those NDE spaces I’d had before and I was kind of, sort of familiar with. Actually, it’s kind of like in that movie Gladiator where I would see a door, like an ethereal kind of door and I would start walking to it and leave my body. And I’d be like, Yeah, I can do this. And then I kind of had some sort of voice talk to me and say, like, you know, you actually could, you could leave right now you’ve accomplished a great deal. And you could leave it at here and that’d be just fine. Or you could stay around and…
Rick Archer: Go on Buddha at the Gas Pump
Ishtar: Go on Buddha at the gas pumps 6 years from now! Not on the horizon! But or you could stay around and you know, you’re gonna have to dust off the old armor, was that made sense to my brain, you know, get out, get back on the horse and kind of, you know, get back into your old shape and, you know, let whatever barnacles you’ve accumulated come off and live and be of service and I was like, Well, let me think about that. Yes, I will. I will do that. I’m gonna and right when I made that choice, you know, I stopped. That stopped happening.
Rick Archer: That’s interesting and you know, just as in NDE’s, how very often some guides or something come to people and tell them they have this choice. I tend to believe that something like that happened to you, even though you weren’t dying, but some kind of guardian angel or spiritual guide or whatever these things are, was sort of talking to you there.
Ishtar: Yeah. I mean, I was kind of out of my body. And like I said, it was like in that. I don’t know if you’ve seen Gladiator. He’s always walking towards this door.
Rick Archer: I don’t remember. Was that like with Russell Crowe? I’ve never seen the movie. I think he got stabbed, but he still had to fight the fight even though he’d been stabbed. And he won.
Ishtar: But throughout the film, he kept having visions of the other side where his family was on the other side, his dead family on the other side of the gate. He’s longing to go there.
Rick Archer: Yeah. So that was a great movie. And I like Russell Crowe. But anyway, yeah. So you went to university in Portland?
Ishtar: Anyway, so that’s enough of Gladiator! I got that into a Buddha at the Gas Pump conversation. Score. But yeah, when I made that choice, you know, it was like, stuff started falling off, you know, and there was a centre and I just needed to finish at university. And it must have been a week later, I met my wife. And the whole time in Portland, I was thinking, What the hell am I doing here? And when I got to the monastery, I felt like I’d had all these things that I thought were going to take me three lifetimes, I’ve experienced all this. I’m sure a bus is just going to come and kill me soon. You know In Portland. Yeah, yeah. And so, because that was the nearby town. That’s where my sister lived. And I, you know, decided, oh, let’s just get going as fast as I can. And years later, a week after I made my decision to sort of stay, I met my wife and she just had, she had the, you know, I don’t know how to describe it, the energetic signature of that forward path all about her, it was so clear that, you know, as part of like, coming back in here, you know, she’s there.
Rick Archer: Cool
Ishtar: You know, and in so many ways, she, you know, helped me just by being herself, kind of shed these barnacles, come back to, you know, come back to life and come back to my path. And when I am coming back, I felt like, truth be told, I was able to come back in a much deeper sense than I had left off. Mainly because before I would often feel this sort of creeping kind of sense of judgmental insularity, the sense that, you know, that the teaching is, you know, like the people outside the walls of the teaching. Even if you felt one, there was a sense, even a subtle, very subtle sense of like, people were somehow less than and that was barbarian. And when I would feel that strongly…
Rick Archer: Even the unwashed masses don’t get what we get…
Ishtar: Right, right. And when that would come through my nervous system, I would feel myself like talk or act from that space. I would, I would want to go and take a shower with ScotchBrite.
Rick Archer: I know what you mean. I’ve been through phases like that. I started this conversation with a couple of fundamentalist preachers recently, because there’s this big controversy because one of them was trying to raise $40 million for a new jet or something. And I had this conversation with the two of them. One of them saying, Yeah, you got to have a jet Gulfstream such and such. Because otherwise you have to fly commercial and you know, you have to sit in a big tin can with a bunch of demons.
Ishtar: I remember that. Yeah. Yeah. Like that. Yeah. Yeah.
Rick Archer: It was like, obviously he had gone farther, farther down that rabbit hole,
Ishtar: I think so…
Rick Archer: His perspective, was that anybody who’s not a fundamentalist and such and such in his ilk, was a demon.
Ishtar: That’s right.
Rick Archer: And you start looking at people like that around in society, and what a terrible way to see the world.
Ishtar: Yeah, yeah.
Rick Archer: As opposed to seeing them all, as your brothers and sisters and people that you can feel love for.
Ishtar: Right. I feel like maybe I had sort of screwed up enough. And been enough of an idiot, that like, it was, it became, like, there’s much a softness in my heart, a softness in my gut, you know, and like, and I was like, okay, you know, and, that was, it was gone. You know, what, something that had bothered me in my first tenure as a monk. And then I was like, Okay, that’s great. And so I gradually, sort of, I didn’t know I was going to be meditation teaching again, because I still had a lot of, regardless of any objections, or whatever, I still had a lot of respect for doing things properly. And, you know, I wanted to make sure that I would teach from a very good place, but you know, as time wore on, it became gradually more apparent that that was going to be part of my life again, and that I ought to be doing that. And I started teaching, you know, teaching folks for donation, I had to have some guinea pigs like, well, you know, you’re gonna be my guinea pig here. You cool with that? You know, cuz I might suck, you know, like, Oh, that was great. You should you should go back to doing that. You know, like, you know, professionally again.
Rick Archer: So that’s what you’ve been doing? You’ve been teaching meditation.
Ishtar: Yeah. Yeah
Rick Archer: And you also are somewhat of a gifted astrologer?
Rick Archer: I haven’t, haven’t sampled your wares in that department yet. But I’ve heard you talk about it a little bit. And as I gather, we don’t have the time to really go into justification of Astrology, how it might work, and whether or not it’s valid, and all that business. But you do it. And you sort of bring intuitive skills to it as well. So you’re not just going by what a regular astrologer might do.
Ishtar: Right, right. Yeah, it’s quite different. Yeah. Yeah.
Rick Archer: And your wife is in Japan, teaching English as a second language. And the two of you kind of go back and forth. And so you know, we’ve kind of swung between subjective experiences you have had during your life to objective external events, and things you did. And so like, let’s take another swing toward the subjective at this point. And, you know, like, what is your experience these days? Do you feel like you’ve attained some awakening or liberation or anything else? Do you still have all that subtle perception stuff? Do you feel like you’re still very much a work in progress? And in terms of your, the evolution of your subjective experience? And you know, what’s going on in that way?
Ishtar: Of course, the latter thing, I think, is, has always been the case. And I would hate to be, I would hate to ever think that there would be a sense of doneness or end because you know, that’s always ongoing. The wonders that are out there to experience. Certainly, coming back afterward, it didn’t take too long. There were some rough patches to get the newly encrested barnacles kind of off and maybe some deeper stuff that I never really touched. In the beginning a lot of stuff that was much more visceral, more like, heart level and gut level type stuff more, you know, like, I never quite relaxed enough to get that stuff out. And so there was a process of having that clear out and, after that there was a sense of just being able to relax more fundamentally into that sense of consciousness not only being this kind of like witnessing place or this kind of thing I could, you know, see kind of like, behind me, the words I would often use but a sense of it being, getting relaxed enough to like feel it pop up in Rick Archer and the chair or in the in the rocks.
Rick Archer: So it kind of went from witnessing to unity more.
Ishtar: Yeah, I, you know, I never kind of, you know all taxonomies seem to be imperfect, and a little bit loose. And so I kind of just…
Rick Archer: They’re just words and not very precise. I’m not very precise, but
Ishtar: Yeah, so I might say that that’s a part of the ocean that I seem to be visiting much more frequently than, say, 12 years ago, or 14 years ago or, and so that that seems to be a more consistent experience. And actually, along with that, almost at the same time came this sort of explosion of what is often called celestial perception, or some people call it the psychic stuff, you know?
Rick Archer: Was it different than the stuff you had when you were a kid when you’re seeing spooks? Is it more of a…There’s a difference between astral and celestial?
Ishtar: Right, right.
Rick Archer: Maybe you can explain that difference and explain the difference. In your experience between the two.
Ishtar: I would say there were a lot of similarities. But, much more precise, or exacting, were the experiences that I’ve had in the last two years, then, as compared to maybe the stuff I had as a seven year old, or an eight year old, or a nine year old. There’s much more of a kind of, I don’t know how to quite describe it. A golden light. A kind of a golden light, underneath.
Rick Archer: More subtle.
Ishtar: Yeah. And, there was almost often a sense of…and not everybody gets this or how I’ll describe it, but a sense of like, almost being able to, like, investigate different stories of great building, if this universe had a lot of different strata.
Rick Archer: In my Father’s house, there are many mansions.
Ishtar: That’s right, that’s right, and kind of going to them naturally, and kind of, a sense of kind of having my being sort of expand out. And then every once in a while, I’ll start to notice, like, Hey, what’s this room I’m in? I haven’t noticed this one before. But here it is, and kind of, you know, looking around, and there have been interesting experiences with kind of, like, going up the top of my head, and kind of, being kind of like a golden door up there. Where people place the crown chakra and kind of going up this long sort of channel, and there are beings up there, and they’re kind of golden beings, and you know, kind of, you know, saying hi to them, and when I look sort of horizontally, this is getting really weird, I apologize. But when I look horizontally, there are kind of worlds that are like worlds that these different beings with different energetic signatures that these different beings kind of exist on. And so those those things have been, in some way spontaneous and mundane. That’s, that’s been, I would use the word mundane, they’ve been almost as normal as, as me kind of, like, having a memory. Yeah, thinking about this or that. And so that that has been an interesting feature, they have not kind of like, slammed me and made me incapacitated or, or anything like that. They’ve just been almost like, being ushered into or invited into exploring more and more of what’s happening right here.
Rick Archer: It’s interesting the way the way Maharishi laid it out was get self realization established as a foundation, and then begin to develop the capacity to experience the full range of the relative, gross to subtle, and, and I remember him saying one time, he said, When you open up to that subtle perception, you discover that a world of being is there, you can say worlds of beings.
Ishtar: Worlds. Yeah.
Rick Archer: And you know, they’re sort of right here in but just sort of in a different dimension from our gross world. Right. It’s not like you’re going off to Alpha Centauri or something, right? To tune into them.
Ishtar: No, no.
Rick Archer: There’s just all these strata, it’s almost like, to take an example. I mean, this goes in terms of big and small, but you know, you have your body. And it’s meat on this level, and you go down to the molecular level and it doesn’t look so much like meat anymore. It’s these little molecules, even on the cellular level it looks very different than this level, then you get down to the DNA level or the molecular level, and then the atomic level, and each one of those worlds as it were, is on its own level, would be unrecognizable, by any other worlds. It’s so dissimilar, and yet those are the building blocks of this world. So the whole subtle realms thing? I suppose, and you can speak to it better than I, but I suppose you would find it? Or do you find it? Have you found it to be very different in certain respects than our conventional world? Or are there differences and similarities?
Ishtar: Well, in some ways, I might contextualize it differently. It’s almost like it has kind of become part of my conventional.
Rick Archer: It’s true. Yeah, good. Well put.
Ishtar: It’s more like…
Rick Archer: Like you’ve incorporated it.
Ishtar: Yeah, yeah, it’s more like my definition of conventional world has sort of expanded to accommodate this new sort of types of data, if you will.
Rick Archer: So you’re functioning several worlds at once.
Ishtar: Yes, and often that’s the case, sometimes it’ll be the case of kind of like being a classically physical sort of experience and digging a hole in the garden. But just as equally, sometimes I find myself doing some very physical work, like working on a house or planting a garden, and then there’s, good lord, you know, like, you know, the plant is talking to me, and I start to sometimes phase into different time periods, and my clothing will look different. And, but it’s never been too much to sort of distract me from being able to, you know, function, and, you know, appear as if I’m functioning in just the same manner as anybody else.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Ishtar: And so, you know, that’s kind of been how it’s gone.
Rick Archer: So, you know, to take another example, perhaps, and this will just catch you unawares with this one. We’re here in Sedona, Arizona. And Sedona is notorious for having all kinds of vortexes and all kinds of woowoo taken on, taking place. So have you noticed anything here in Sedona since we arrived that I probably haven’t noticed?
Ishtar: Well, lately, I haven’t noticed. I don’t like to assume anything, but now you’ve taken care of my fear of assumption. Well, you know, besides a certain sense of feeling that there are these columns around where probably people reckon there are vortex’s. I don’t know where people reckon they are. But I see things. There’s a sense, I’ve seen large tracks of lines of gold that seemed to carry energy and information, kind of connecting these points and have a sense of subtle beings walking around in town, who aren’t discarnate spirits, but seem to be of a different sort of…
Rick Archer: Like celestial beings?
Ishtar: Like celestials, a different sort of function in the universe, and it seems to actually be quite a city here, you know, a celestial city.
Rick Archer: Interesting. So kind of, like a celestial city superimposed on a terrestrial city.
Ishtar: Kind of a terrestrial city superimposed on… Yeah. Yeah, could say it either way. Yeah. Yeah, I had the same experience with Mount Shasta. I actually, funnily enough, I visited both of these cities about 13 years after my last visit or so. And so coming back for the second round has been a much different experience. As far as all that sort of stuff goes.
Rick Archer: That’s cool.
Ishtar: But yeah, I can see why humans, human beings want to put beautiful, you know, stone houses in this environment, because there’s something, something interesting in the sauce here. Yeah, for sure.
Rick Archer: I mean, just as an aside here, but related to our point, all this, all these records in the religious literature, and all artwork about angels, and so on. You get it in Christianity, you get it in Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, especially, all these big, fancy murals with all these beings with various appearances and all that stuff. It’s not just folklore, you know, it’s not just myth, that people have these experiences, and probably did their best to put them into some kind of graphic form. But it’s kind of almost a record of, you know, humanity’s familiarity with, their acquaintance with the subtle realms. So if you’ve kind of take it in that light and not just brush it off as some kind of artistic imagination, it gives you a deeper appreciation of these traditions and of life itself.
Ishtar: Yeah. Yes, absolutely.
Rick Archer: Okay, so anything else you want to say that I’m not thinking?
Ishtar: Yeah. Well, there are certainly more campfire stories as it were, in the files, but it seems like we’ve probably brought enough out right here.
Rick Archer: And so I suppose if people want to get in touch with you and get involved with you or learn something from you seems to me there are two main things.
Ishtar: Yes. Right.
Rick Archer: Unless you want to go cook in a restaurant someplace. There’s the, you know, the meditation instruction thing which I imagine you’d be happy to travel around and do over Skype?
Ishtar: I love traveling around to do it. Yeah. And I’ve never really done it over the internet. I’ve done it in a way. That’s another big no no for my organization. But I’ve done it in a couple, a few cases recently and found that people have had quite good experience with it that way. I was skeptical, but…
Rick Archer: I imagine it might be a little nicer, though. If people can get a group together. And you could go and be with the group.
Ishtar: But that’s optimal. Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Rick Archer: So there’s that and people could, i’ll link to your websites and they could get in touch with you and invite you to come here and there.
Ishtar: Yeah. Yeah.
Rick Archer: And then there’s the whole astrology thing. You still like to do that professionally?
Ishtar: Oh, I love doing that. Yeah, yeah.
Rick Archer: And you have a website dedicated to that right?
Ishtar: I do.
Rick Archer: In which you describe how you do it a little bit more than…You were telling me, you were saying this morning at breakfast, like how much time you put in preparation for an astrological reading. You want to just quickly buzz through that. So people get a flavor?
Ishtar: Sure. Yeah. I mean, I really roll the sleeves up for it, you know. And so I’ll do these in person or over Zoom, or Skype or whatever video thing we use to do a 90 minute reading with the clients. And then I mean, usually, as I get better at probably my preparation time, probably will shorten. But I like to put in, at least have two to three hours available for my own preparation of the chart and looking into the person intuitively before the reading itself. And so you know, that’s…
Rick Archer: So you know, three and a half to four and a half hours you’re spending on each one?
Rick Archer: And how much do you charge for that?
Ishtar: 150 US dollars
Rick Archer: Hear that? That’s pretty good deal?
Ishtar: I hope so I try to make it a good deal. I want to be accessible.
Rick Archer: Yeah, so it’s like less than $50 an hour. It’s pretty reasonable.
Rick Archer: And you were saying to me, and I appreciate this, that you just didn’t want to have it be all about money, and intentionally charged less than the going rate for such things. But not because you’re trying to compete with other astrologers. Because that’s your, that’s your mindset.
Ishtar: Yeah. And if I become if I become so busy, and you know, well known or something that I have to raise my prices, I’ll try to do that as moderately as I can. And I always, whether it’s been meditation, or anything else, I always have sliding scale options, I always put that on my website. So like, if you don’t have two dimes to rub together, you know, I, if you really want to do this, I really want to find a way to make that happen. So that it works for you. So, same with the meditation and I think I charge a very reasonable rate for that, like $300 for I think, a very, very, a weekend class or very involved class and I also kind of go out of my way, you know, to be available after the class as follow up as much as possible. I’ve typically never charged for that. You know, and so, yeah.
Rick Archer: Great. Okay, so I think that gives people a glimpse of the Ishtar Thomas phenomenon. So, thanks. I really appreciate it. I’m glad you’re able to be here with me in Sedona. We’re gonna go do some hiking over the next couple of days and have a potluck dinner with some friends and a bunch of other stuff before we go flying off back to our respective cities.
Ishtar: Yeah, this was great. Thank you, Rick.
Rick Archer: Sure.