Jeannie Zandi Transcript

Jeannie Zandi Interview

Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews with spiritually awakening people. I’ve done over 400 of them by now, so if this is new to you and you’d like to check out previous ones, go to 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 feel like supporting it in any amount, there’s a PayPal button on every page of the site. My guest today is Jeannie Zandi, and I’m really happy about that. I met Jeannie about five years ago at the Science and Non-Duality Conference in California, and I’ve wanted to interview her ever since then. And she’s been like, “Eh, yeah, one of these days, when I get my website together”, or whatever, and that’s kind of a good sign actually, that people who are desperate to be interviewed we tend to shy away from. And I’ve had plenty of fish to fry, so I’ve been keeping busy. But finally now, we’re getting around to interviewing Jeannie Zandi. Jeannie is the director of Living as Love, a non-profit organization dedicated to seeding a culture of the heart on the planet, inspiring, teaching, and supporting people to live from their essence as love. A year before the birth of her daughter, Jeannie was plunged into a dark night of the soul that culminated in a radical shift of consciousness. She is known for her fearless clarity, tender mercy toward humanness, and a juicy, poetic, and often humorous style that draws from Advaita Vedanta, Sufism, Christian mysticism, and the ongoing revelation of fully engaged living. Residing in Colorado, she travels widely in the US, bringing a down-to-earth embodied teaching of living as love.

Jeannie: Wow.

Rick: Yeah, who wrote that? So, I had the opportunity to read quite a few articles that you wrote this week, Jeannie, and listened to a number of other interviews you had done and talks and all. And I just want to say that I think your writing is very beautiful and deep and your speaking is very eloquent, and I think people are really going to enjoy this interview.

Jeannie: Oh, yay!

Rick: I’ll start right away with a question that somebody sent in. This is Julie from Olympia, Washington.

Jeannie: Oh, hi Julie.

Rick: You know Julie?

Jeannie: I think so.

Rick: She asked, “You know, many teachers seem to be focused on awakening, quiet mind, realizing one’s true nature, etc. These subjects do not seem to be of direct interest to Jeannie. Jeannie’s interest seems to be solely on serving the holy, and this tends to manifest as serving, and this tends to manifest as serving love. She is deeply inclusive and loving of all aspects of being human”. Do you agree with that assessment?

Jeannie: Can you ask it a different way? Because that would be a binary and I’m finding my answer isn’t a binary.

Rick: In other words, it’s too either/or, the way it was phrased?

Jeannie: Yeah, it’s too either/or.

Rick: Okay, I can ask it a different way, unless you want to go with it.

Jeannie: Yeah, here it comes. The way my mind works is a little bit like a collecting funnel rather than a…

Rick: Right, you’re analog, you’re not digital.

Jeannie: I just open and, you know… So I would say that what happens here is of a different languaging and a different potentially orientation, or at least the languaging is different. So there seems to be here a deep interest in the vibrating, alive, clueless moment. So oftentimes when we think of awakening we think of something somewhere different or some other different kind of perception or something a little bit different. And when I tend to draw people through language and through presence into a kind of a direct experience outside of the mind of the vibrating simple moment, encouraging them to drop out of the mind’s overlay, the will’s attempt to master the moment or to use the moment to get to a better moment, my emphasis is actually… and I don’t use a lot of the language that people are used to hearing – awakening and things like this. For me the realization of what we are and what we aren’t is incredibly childlike, it’s incredibly simple, it’s incredibly no-brainer.

Rick: Innocent.

Jeannie: Yes, and talking about it, I’m more of the style of talking from it. And what I find – and this is something that’s a little hard to put into words – but when I’m sitting with people there is a deep drawing of or an inviting of attention below the mind to this kind of wedding of presence and sensation that we are. This is my pointer. It’s not a pointer down the road to some eventual awakening if you do X, Y, and Z. It’s actually a continual invitation out of the mind down into the elementals, the elemental ground of being, of presence, and of just this vibrating field out of which all of what we think of as the world is springs and forms. And so that orientation then, what happens as we’re invited there is that our arguments with that rise. Arguments of trust, arguments of fear, arguments of “how am I going to find my car later?” Arguments of all manner of, how do I say, the creature of the body’s arguments with the fact that we can be here wide open. It’s not very difficult for most beings to have a direct experience of being here outside the mind. It happens all the time. But the survival-based, creature-y aspect of us is much more concerned with something down the road, hauls us out of there again and again. And so I would say that I have a deep interest. And it’s not like a mental interest. It’s not an interest apart from my being. It’s difficult to speak without objects. There is a living flame of a passion for the alive moment and the ways that we can be here as that, in that, together. And so a lot of what I do is I invoke that and then the arguments come. The arguments come in the form of questions, in the form of… And then I drill down to the essence of the argument and hold someone there.

Rick: I think that what you just said is perfectly congruent with the idea of awakening, quiet mind, realizing one’s true nature and so on. But perhaps what Julie was alluding to is that sometimes the emphasis on those things is made to the exclusion of humanness and the world is dismissed as illusory and emotions and relationships and all that stuff are dismissed as sort of trivial distractions or whatever. And frankly, that got a little old for a lot of people in the whole satsang scene and the whole spiritual scene over the last decade. I think there was more emphasis on that a decade ago than there is now, and now a lot more people are talking about embodiment.

Jeannie: Well, this is part of the reason when I was in my 30s and I had just met my daughter’s dad, he was very into Gangaji. And I went to see Gangaji and there was the big scene that used to happen around Gangaji. I don’t know how it is anymore. And I resonated with the things that she spoke, but I wasn’t attracted and maybe part of it was that at that time there was an interpretation and I was very close to this person who was my daughter’s dad, right? And there was this emphasis on, how do I say, it felt like there was a splitting off from, it was as though non-duality was being purchased by a splitting off from an aspect of the whole. At least that’s how it landed here and I could never get on that. It never resonated with me in that way and so I wasn’t attracted. I liked Gangaji, I resonated with the truth that was there, but I wasn’t called to go back until I was deeply on my knees in a dark night and we can talk about that later.

Rick: And if you think about what you just said, it’s rather ironic that there should be any splitting off from the whole in the name of non-duality, because non-duality is non-duality and if there’s splitting taking place we’re creating a duality.

Jeannie: Yes, and I’m not saying that necessarily Gangaji was doing that, but I think that that was and continues to be the old-school interpretation that we just go to this other place and this other perspective and all this is just “eh” and what happens I feel is that in the name of “we’re not the body”, which is absolutely one wing of the bird, in the name of “we’re not the body” we can actually be carrying on unconsciously the primary split between the unmanifest and the manifest and be speaking non-duality out our mouths as we’re embodying a split.

Rick: And I think that for some people at least, or maybe for everybody, that can be a stage, a legitimate stage, that sort of split condition, which can be misinterpreted as final but which is really very sort of intermediary. And ultimately the heart doesn’t like duality or division and if the evolutionary force that continues to guide us has its say then a larger wholeness is eventually got to be realized.

Jeannie: Seems so.

Rick: Yeah, so besides Gangaji, what were some of your other early influences? Are you one of these people who like had spiritual yearnings in childhood or something or did it kind of dawn later in life?

Jeannie: So I wouldn’t call Gangaji a big influence because I think I went once. I would say spiritually oriented my entire life at some level, varied levels at varied times. And as a child I had a Catholic mom and what I thought of was an atheist dad. I’ve learned now he’s agnostic. So I would go to church, my mother is the kind of person who sees a sunset and feels like God speaking to her. That’s God’s presence to her in that moment, right? Very devotional and innocent. And then my father is a scientist, agnostic, his parents were atheists. His father used to make nice religious women cry with his rational arguments against religion. And so I grew up coming home from church, running to the garden and saying, “Daddy, daddy, God made the corn grow”. And my father saying, “I made the goddamn corn grow. I’m out here hoeing it”. And my father is very deeply into the natural world and has a beautiful devotional quality to him toward life. So I grew up with this sort of interesting, these two aspects of the innocent devotional and the rational skeptic. In fact, my father even sent me a membership to the Skeptic Society as a present once. So in that milieu, I grew up half-devotional, half-questioning and went through I’m a Catholic, I’m an atheist, I’m a this, I’m a that, but always what’s real? [A] what’s real? [B] what is the essence of humanness? What am I? What’s true? What’s real? How do I be here in a virtuous, true, simple, unencumbered way? How do I be a representative of what’s true rather than a representative of limitation or fear or whatever? So that was my bent and I would say that I was never a seeker in the way that people are seekers in Satsang and such. I didn’t even think about something called enlightenment. I thought that was something obscure that old Chinese men were interested in. I just, wasn’t part of what captured my attention. What captured my attention was much more a Christ-like, Sufi-like, full embodiment of divinity. And I didn’t know anything about the Eastern stuff and when I would come across it I could see that it was beautiful, but it wasn’t something that was sort of crossing my plate. And so I have a deep orientation to, how do I say… One of the things I learned early in just out of college was how pain seems to be at the bottom of, how do I call it, suboptimal behavior, behaving as a ferret instead of an angel, let’s say. And so I had a penchant for finding the aspects of myself that felt funky, reactive, limited, fearful and drilling down into the emotional knot at the bottom of those and freeing those up. And one of the things that I discovered in there was that – and this wasn’t through any ability – being denied certain things in a relationship, we want someone to love us and we don’t get exactly what we want in the relationship and so there rises this longing. So what I would do is I would assume that there wasn’t anything wrong with reality, but I would fall back into the longing. I would take the longing or the angst or whatever the pain and drill down into it. I treated life, for example, when I was a waitress, I treated it was, how do I wait on this human being no matter what they’re like to me, no matter what a jerk they are, whatever they’re behaving like, how do I serve them from a kind of, I just had this interest from young, who knows where it came from, where my idea for change was more based on the transformation of this than the changing of that. And so there was a lot of meeting very deep things before I had any idea that this was something particularly spiritual. I was just wanting to… I didn’t even think of it necessarily even as God or holy, it was more, how do I be this beauty that I know that I am when looking at these places where I’m not so beautiful, that’s intolerable here in a certain way.

Rick: It’s neat that you function that way naturally because most people externalize things and blame the external environment for the way they feel or this and that, and you seem like you had a natural tendency to look within, to find the source of it. I think it was the Dalai Lama or somebody said it’s a lot easier to wear shoes than to pave the earth with leather.

Jeannie: That’s beautiful, exactly, exactly. I can’t say that I was a perfect saint in this or that I never blamed anyone because that wouldn’t be true. But there was some… and I had the support of various things that I studied. I studied a lot of psychology, I was involved in co-counseling, I read Jung, these kind of things, and I looked in my small New Hampshire town for things that spoke to my spirit, that resonated. So I did Sufi dancing and I did a variety of things, was also very athletic and did a lot of dance and a lot of expressive things, reclaimed my capacity to sing, these kind of things. And I would say that the big influences at that time were just various things that I would read that would sort of wake something up in me, that kind of thing.

Rick: Do you have a degree in psychology or counseling or something like that?

Jeannie: I did end up going back to school, to Naropa and getting a master’s in transpersonal counseling, and all of that was a pretty kind of groovy, eclectic sort of interest and resonance, and come here and go there and taste this. And at some point I said a very passionate prayer. I was with a friend in a sweat lodge, and in sweat lodges there’s this sort of bearing in the dark and the steam and there’s this just bearing of the heart, of the soul. And I had seen this way that if I didn’t get something that I wanted and I burned through below that, dropped back into the longing, let it burn, that suddenly in that spot where there was a clutching, there was just a freedom. And so I prayed, “Give me nothing that I want”, slightly arrogantly, very passionately, you know, that way that we pray, “Just decimate me”, that kind of thing, right? And then this dark night of the soul showed up shortly thereafter. And boy, it was the direct answer to a prayer, but I didn’t know that’s what it was, and I didn’t know what was going on. And I would say that was my biggest influence and my biggest teacher, along with the simultaneity of being pregnant with my child. I was cast into a level of darkness that had no apparent cause, and the world, the manifest world turned into cinders to me. Like all of the meaning I had invested in it faded. I felt like a ghost. I felt like I was being taken to another world. None of my former ways of orienting to here worked, and it lasted about four or five years. During that time, I was pregnant and then a new mom. My daughter’s birth was probably the darkest hour of this dark night, and yet such a sweetness to be joined by this amazing, wide open – as I was being absolutely deconstructed, she came in freshly open. And so we were such great pals to each other, because she had this very natural way, as children do, of questioning conditioning. And so she was like a little spiritual teacher, just questioning assumptions. That was very beautiful. And during that time, I was quite desperate. I had no idea what was happening. And that’s when I met a few other influences. I like to call them my “cleanup crew”.

Rick: Do you ever read Suzanne Segal’s book, Collision with the Infinite?

Jeannie: I did a long time ago, and I barely remember anything from it, unfortunately.

Rick: Some similarity. She was pregnant and she underwent this sudden shift, which for her resulted in abject terror that went on for about ten years. And the terror was largely because she couldn’t find any sense of a personal self anymore, and she didn’t know what had happened to her, even though she had actually been a meditation teacher before that. And she finally met Jean Klein and he kind of cleared things up for her. But it reminds me of your story in a way.

Jeannie: That’s interesting. I don’t know when I read that, but it almost makes me want to go back and look. There was plenty of terror, plenty of terror. It was sort of a constant terror in the body, but then there were also these little spiky terrors when I have certain thoughts, anything about the future, spiky terror. And then there was also the mind’s secondary level of fear-making, which I recognized pretty early on was a detriment. And I spent a lot of time dropping out of the mind. When it would come, dropping out of the mind, dropping into the ground, breath, a rippling creek, just really until there was a final face-off with the mind, which was very interesting. It’s comical now. At the time, it was something that just was happening inside of me where most of us, as you know, our mind, our everyday mind, our sense of me, totally laminated onto our presence so that we actually think that’s us, right? It’s like laminated. And there was this moment where whatever I was, looked at, whatever the everyday mind was, it was almost like a cartoon. Like you could picture the Tasmanian devil over here just freaking out, like, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah!” And whatever I was looks at that thing. And there rose this sort of, “Wow, goodbye. Oh, you are not my friend”. Up until then, this was the go-to, right? We go to our minds to solve things, to figure things out. This is us. This is what we love. And I saw it for what it was, and I saw it as the source of suffering. And it wasn’t like, “Ah, I let it go”. It was this sort of organic thing that just sort of happened. And this thing screamed. And what it screamed was so interesting. And I think a lot of people who are confronted by the unknown, who cannot help but be confronted by the unknown with something larger than they know how to handle, like illness or losing your mind in my case. Silence just ate my head. Just a second. Let’s see how it goes back. It screamed something like, “You will be alone. You will be mentally ill. You will be sick. You will be dead”. It screamed all of these things at me as the final sort of… but it had no power. At that point, all of the power, all of my life’s blood, my attention that I had invested in this coping mechanism, in building this me, in trying to create the best me, the most whatever me, all of that life blood, that life energy had slowly leaked away from an allegiance to it. And that final moment when it screamed, it screamed like, I say, like a tiny little ant on a raft in the middle of an ocean, rather than as my overlord. It was like, “Oh, right. You’ve been deposed. You’ve been deposed by this, whatever this is”. I didn’t think about what is this. I wasn’t thinking. It was just a being. A being it and something that was no longer necessary sort of fading.

Rick: I’ve been thinking about the dark night business all week because you write about it a lot and talk about it. I have a lot of questions and points I want to discuss with you, but before we get into those, you mentioned you had a cleanup crew of various people you interacted with, I guess, after this thing came on. Who were some of your primary cleanup?

Jeannie: Well, this was the fortunate thing. I was with my daughter’s dad and he was very into satsang. We were in Taos, New Mexico. His primary teacher was Gangaji. He was just very interested in, and I think he started to work on actually, he was working on an anthology of Ramana quotes and quotes from people who sort of attributed themselves to Ramana in some way. Their teaching. And so, he was both organizing satsang, inviting all these teachers to Taos where we lived, as well as collecting things for his book and sort of seeing who did he feel was authentic and that kind of thing. And so, I was not interested because [A] I’d already been down that route and in our relationship there was a lot of this sort of, “Well, it’s not in your body. Can you just focus to this other place?” We had this whole kind of meeting of two different orientations. So I just thought satsang was this thing. So then here comes Pamela Wilson to Taos and I think Cass couldn’t find a meeting spot. So he had the meeting in our house. And I think my child was maybe a year and a half old at the time or something. And Pamela was very welcoming of Sophia being in the room. So she was in my living room. So I went downstairs and a couple things happened. One was that the energy of satsang soothed the terror that I was walking around with all the time. It soothed it. And as well, there was something that I was actually making a study of, which was, “How do I not reference off this mind, which is obviously the source of suffering?” And so I discovered in sitting in the satsang the support for dropping out of the mind. And then the other beautiful thing was that Pamela looked at me and I don’t even think I had said anything or maybe I had. And she just started talking about the dark night and an experience that she had had. And it was the first time besides a shred here or a shred there in the literature, I hadn’t found St John of the Cross yet. Because I didn’t know. I had no… I thought I was mentally ill. I mean, I had no idea what this was. It was the first time that I felt my experience reflected. And if you could imagine having looked for two and a half years in desperate terror for what the hell is going on, having consulted, “Is this postpartum depression? Is this like, what is this?” Suddenly I felt my experience reflected. And some of the things that she said, I started to feel at home. And so she came to Taos quite a lot back then. And so she was a deep, a deep buddy of the heart, just really really got what I was going through. And I would sit with her privately and I would sit in her satsangs. And it was the most, it was similar to, I went to a Zen session at Natalie Goldberg’s house during this time. I was very pregnant. This was before Sophia was born. But I had a friend who was very into Buddhism. And so I went, I was just, had nothing better to do at the time, you know. And I sat down with my pregnant belly and I just sunk into this awesome silence. And I attributed it to the fact that I had given myself permission for those few days to not have my attention on my life. And so satsang became this beautiful excuse with a beginning and an end to not have to solve this problem of what the hell was happening. Because my whole life had fallen apart. I had no idea which end was up. The only thing that made any sense to me was that the sort of spiritual practice of being a mother of a baby, you know. And so this way of… this invitation to simply be, it was easy for me to simply be when I gave myself permission to simply be and took my attention off of solving my life, you know. And so Pamela was a wonderful support in there. And then there was still, for me, something unmet. And I didn’t know that that was true until I met Adya. And Adya was a big influence for me. I think I met him in around 2002. And I remember Nirmala was a friend. And Nirmala was someone who was sort of helping me bridge the sort of argument between the two sides, the body, the psyche, and then this non-dual thing, you know. Like Nirmala was very good at, I said, “Can I just email you?” You know, we went back and forth, sort of. I’d ask him questions. So he gave us a recording of Adya. And then we went to visit my daughter’s grandmother. And Adya was in Tucson. And I got to see him for a day. And the minute I saw him, I felt like if each spiritual teacher may meet this or this, or maybe this, this, and this, when I met Adya, I felt boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, you know, just like grounded, rooted, irreverent, on the ground, awakening, but mercy and just such a… He made so much sense for me, and was a guide for me in some very impactful ways that had a lot to do with actually embodying what was happening, bringing the body along. So those were my… I had a lot of other influences, personal supports. But I guess those were the two big sort of spiritual teacher-y people that I went to a lot of their meetings.

Rick: Yeah, it’s funny. I mean, I’m in sort of a unique position because I talk to all these people and have become friends with them, so maybe my perspective is a little different than the average listener. But I sort of feel nonetheless that we’re kind of like this big family, all interconnected and intertwined in various ways and helping one another in a… What is the word for that? I forget the… There’s a great, great word for that, maybe symbiotic, but I don’t know.

Jeannie: Interdependent.

Rick: Interdependent and inter-supportive, I would say, because dependent has sort of a negative connotation. But there’s a sort of cross-fertilization, maybe is a good word that takes place these days. And Thich Nhat Hanh said, “The next Buddha may be the Sangha”, and it seems to me that this is an explanation of how that is so. It doesn’t just mean one particular Sangha that you go and sit in, but there’s this sort of network around the world of people that are cross-fertilizing and enriching one another. It’s really cool.

Jeannie: Very. I think, was it Ram Dass who said, “We’re just all walking each other home”?

Rick: Yeah, that’s nice. I love that. Yeah, yeah. So, let’s talk more about The dark night of the Soul. As I read your stuff and listened, I kind of had a theory, and I don’t know if this really gets to the heart of it, but I’m sure you can help me.

Jeannie: What’s very cool is that I just got done reading a survey of practically everything that’s been written about The dark night of the Soul that I could find probably about 15 books or so in the last six months. So, I’m freshly primed only because I’m about to write my own.

Rick: Great. Well, you are the go-to girl when it comes to that stuff.

Jeannie: Yeah, I have search strings in my website, things like, “I’m in hell, help”. What the frick is going on? These are my search strings in my website.

Rick: So my first question about that is, do you feel like The dark night of some degree, and we can talk about degrees, is kind of an obligatory rite of passage for everyone on a spiritual path?

Jeannie: Well, if I were to answer that question with either a yes or a no, it would be rather arrogant, I think. I’m just going to say, however it is that the deeply ingrained with its tentacles in the very embodiment of the creature, however the energy management structure of coping and conditioning that has its sort of out-picturing in this concept of me, however that thing is brought to its knees, or deeply seen through, and I don’t mean in a moment seen through, but I mean has the backbone of its will broken, however that happens, so that we are the sort of, how do I say, that is utterly humbled. And the sense of what we are is, however that happens, yay. And I can’t even begin to pretend to be an expert on pretty much anything but my own direct experience.

Rick: But if you’ve read 14 books about it, you’ve been exposed to other perspectives about the whole thing, and maybe some universal trends have become apparent.

Jeannie: None of them claim that this is the only way, and neither would I. But what happens, there’s something about a dark night of the soul, and I don’t mean just a hard time, because some of the books out there on the dark night of the soul use that phrase, and many of us use that phrase to describe a particularly gnarly human crisis that we went through and we deepened. That’s not the dark night of the soul, although it has some similarities. The dark night of the soul, you don’t go through something and then you’re just kind of more deepened. You go through the thing and you don’t come out the other side. And St John of the Cross is the… I mean I bow to that guy for having written as much as he did to leave that beautiful legacy, because he’s so clear, and it’s so useful. And when I found it just so happened, Mirabai Starr was in a sacred poetry class with me in Taos. So we were classmates, and she was working on her new translation of St John of the Cross. So I got an early copy of it. I begged her, I said, “I’ll copy edit it, whatever”. She had her staff already, but I maybe contributed a typo or two or something. But I got to read that and as St John says, “When you’re going through the dark night of the soul, you never think you are, because you feel way too wretched to be deserving of something so holy”. And that was true for me too, even though my experience was utterly mirrored there. I just kept assuming my life was over. I don’t know, I’d screwed up somewhere. I don’t know what. So what the dark night of the soul does is it’s like a roto-rooter. And it actually goes – you are forced into – it’s almost like being forced into a small dark room with the worst things that live in your psyche. And as far as I can tell, the root of separation is an energy of deep deep banishment. Something here should not be. Something here should be cast to hell. Something that’s here should be gone. And facing off with that and facing off with all of the confusions in a very direct and felt way allows the instrument to be open in a way that it can actually perceive those holdings in other beings. So it’s sort of like when you get Rolfed, you can walk around the world and you see all the people that need to be Rolfed, you know what I mean? That kind of thing. And so this body can detect in a way – I’m going like this, and I don’t know what that is, could it be the chakras? I don’t know. I’m not big on kind of cataloging things, let’s say. But there’s a sense as I move through giving satsang in different places, people who were masquerading as awake, people who maybe had an experience seeing teachers and feeling the opennesses and then the places where separation still lived. So I think the dark night of the soul is a great sort of roto-rooter for embodiment because it forces your nose deeply into the places where conflict lives. But what St John says is that the dark night of the soul is an influx of light, God’s light that sends the impurities up into our faces. And while we’re assuming that God’s a jerk because we’re experiencing this, it’s actually we’re experiencing our own dross rather than God as all this stuff comes to the surface. Where was I going with that? So I have a sense that the holy has many methods, so to speak, and there are many ways that this confusion drops away. But I think that there’s also some disservice being done where people are somehow or some confusion happening where people had an experience and we have all been sold this sort of candy machine enlightenment where you put your quarter in and you have the right insight and then you become Ramana. You know what I’m saying? And so as I walk around there’s a lot of people either feel really bad like they failed because all they can see is this darkness beckoning and they’ve tried all the up and out sorts of methods. So either a lot of people feeling really like they’ve failed or a lot of people posing. So there’s something, I do this, always being, always becoming the eternal spaciousness that we are, the emptiness that we are, and then oh I just bumped my head on the door, the Zen stick. And the beauty, the beauty of the capacity of the human being in getting on its knees in front of this emptiness as this emptiness, becoming a servant to its perfection in a way that like, and this is like it’s so beautiful when a being doesn’t just stop. And I feel like the force of awakening does this of its own accord. It moves into the dark corners and says, “How about this, bub? You know, you’re sitting on the cushion over there, but what’s this?” And of course we are aided in that process by all the beings around us because what’s unconscious is unconscious and how can we see it? But when eight people point to something funny in you, that’s I think the integrity that Adya talks about.

Rick: Great, well said. I have a few thoughts based on what you’ve said and then I’ll bounce it back to you. The thing you just said about people either feeling they failed or posing, before I started doing this show I wasn’t really hobnobbing with the larger spiritual community out there, you know, but when I started doing it, what hit me almost off the bat was that there are a lot of people who are mistaking an intellectual understanding for actual realization. You read enough Ramana books and Advaita books and stuff and you can really get sort of intoxicated with the understanding and fail to distinguish between that and what someone like Ramana was actually experiencing. And I would say to such… oh, go ahead.

Jeannie: I was gonna say, and then you become basically a tool of sacrilege because these beautiful alive truths become dead spiritual concepts that you then perpetrate on other people.

Rick: Right. Quite obnoxiously in many cases on chat groups I would add. I had an actual guy, no disrespect to him if he’s watching, but I had one guy say to me, “there isn’t an inch of daylight between me and Ramana”. And what he was saying was, “I get what Ramana was saying, therefore I’m in the same state Ramana was”. And I think I said to that person, “well, yeah, if you could actually step into his sandles and see the world through his eyes, I think you’d be in for a surprise”.

Jeannie: Well, and why are we even having these conversations? Except that… Why do we even need to have a spiritual resume? What is the need? What is the need to put ourselves on a spiritual map?

Rick: Yeah. And then to your second point about the people who feel they failed, I think that what’s really helpful for them is an understanding that we’re kind of alluding to here, which is that there’s a vast spectrum of possibility, possible range of development, and deepening and clarification and purification and all that stuff. And if you think of it in simplistic black-and-white terms, like you’re not awake, or you’re awake, people don’t know… we can’t place themselves on that map. Because that map is unreal, it’s really a vast spectrum. Go ahead and respond to that.

Jeannie: Well, I was just noticing how anytime we have an either/or going on, it’s separation. Anytime things turn into black-and-white, and this or that, or you know, and you can see it in relationship, you can see it and how people are – whole psyches are – programmed to do this black-and-white thing that basically then self-abuses, anything that doesn’t fit into the good half. And it completely factors out the organic nature of being a human being, and the fact… See, in our culture, which is very… there’s an imbalance toward I would say sort of unhealthy yang. We worship Athena, who sprang from Zeus, his head fully armed, armored and ready to fight, right? We worship Superman, we worship, if there’s a seed in the ground, a sprout, a plant, a flower, a fruit, and a rotting, we worship the fruit. And if something looks promising – a flower’s pretty good – but the rotting and the seed, forget about it. And so when someone is in a beautiful deconstruction experience, and everyone’s yelling at them, could you just manifest a bit? You know, this is clearly your fault. You’re not manifesting a good life? Or, or can you just come up and out? Well, there’s actually a valid spiritual passage that’s actually down and in. But we’re terrified of that. Because this is the land that we don’t know, a land that’s been absolutely painted with a red X. You’re supposed to be functioning, you’re supposed to be bright and look good, and anything less, you’re probably screwing up. And that’s… If you said that to a seed or a shoot – if you shouted at a seed that was attempting to lie in the dark and gestate and you shouted at it that it was doing the wrong way – could it just get get it up to look like a fruit? Well, it’s almost like shouting at a caterpillar to not build its cocoon to liquefy and sprout wings. It’s a complete ignorance of what seems to be a way.

Rick: Yeah. What I take from what you just said is, among other things, is just that there’s a value in understanding the actual mechanics of awakening. And in doing so, one can save oneself a lot of grief by being… well, firstly by sort of going off on tangents that aren’t going to be fruitful, because they’re really not getting down in, as you say, but also in terms of misunderstanding, where one actually is on the path and it’s like… I’m not phrasing, this is not coming out. Go ahead.

Jeannie: Can I say something?

Rick: Yeah, please.

Jeannie: So you… here in each moment, like we can talk and have a lot of fun, fine, with a lot of ideas and a lot of movements and a lot of theories and a lot of sort of understandings, sort of like up in the fighter jet looking down at the territory, right. But here, always, those have to be bathed in a humble returning to this vibrating present, outside of any ideas we have. And there’s a way that – how do I say? – there’s a top-down way of looking at development, I got an idea. And I’m going to go there I’m getting in, there’s great insights that can really help us identify when we’re swimming around an eddy. At the same time, in every moment, for every human being, right now, below all of our thoughts about all of it, there is something beautiful going on. Sometimes that beauty hurts. Sometimes we fight that hurt. But below all of our ideas. There’s an organic alive dance of presence and sensation that we leave, attempting to master it with the mind and the will. And no amount of overview is going to substitute for a dropping in in a humble, open no-idea kind of way to actually sit in and as the simplicity that we are, and watch what it’s doing, where it wants to go. And in my work this is what I do – I bring people into this vibrating power – Eckhart called The Power of Now, which was just a great phrase. Where’s God? Nowhere, but here, where’s life? Nowhere, but here. Where is anything? Nowhere, but here. And here, below the mind, it’s incredibly simple. There’s presence, there’s sensation, and then there’s “How do I, in this moment, in a way, do my best to be true? Do my best to sort of like not act from delusion?” And there’s a lot to learn about how delusion moves in a moment. But to me, it’s really fun to talk at the fighter jet level. And then we have to – I have to – I have to be almost like, baptized in nowhere, and just drop into like high, like high, which is my main pointer by the way. My main pointer is high. And it will stop someone cold in their attempting to master their awakening, drawing them here. And for a moment, there’s a moment of “huh?”

Rick: A question came in from Kristen in Chicago, apropos to what we were just saying. She asks, how do you know whether someone is posing as being spiritually awake or enlightened? Or whether they are actually awake?

Jeannie: How do I know? Or how does anyone know?

Rick: Both. I mean, you were saying a bit. We were both commenting on that a few minutes ago. And so Kristen wanted to know how can we judge or determine that?

Jeannie: Yeah, I’m… my answer is, I don’t know. Here Bernadette Roberts said a really cool thing. She said, so much became clear after it dropped away. So when we’re embroiled in things, things aren’t clear. And then when things drop away, we look back and we can see what was happening. We couldn’t see it before. But by virtue of its absence, we see all these kinds of things. And so in here, this is an instrument of resonance. And so there are almost like energetic signatures of what I would call a lie, deadness. It’s actually a dead quality. There’s a dead quality to concept. And there’s a dead quality to sort of like these kind of gnarled-up conflicted globs of life energy that we’re attempting to repress. There’s actually an energetic broadcast that bodies put out. And sometimes somebody can have a lot of Shakti and it can just blow you away, and your instrument just gets blown out and you’re not intuiting anything, you’re not picking up anything. But in the average human being – and many of us have this capacity when we start to listen to our instinctual, intuitive knowing rather than our head knowing – we can feel when there’s an energy of yuck. Like, there’s an energy of openness, that’s like a meal. It’s like a full meal when you meet someone like that. I remember the first time I met David White at… This was long ago in like, my Naropa days, and there was a conference and there was an author I won’t name, whose books I’d read, I’d really loved his books, and I went to see him. And his energy was… he talked, he was in his head a lot, he talked a lot, and I couldn’t really listen. And then I went, I left there. And I went into a presentation by David White, who I didn’t know. And when he walked into the room, the way he opened the door, and the way he stepped into the room, and the way he looked around, had more of a transmission of all the things that other guy had lots of ideas about. And he hadn’t even spoken a word. And so there’s a quality of yum, in a being that’s open and flowing, and in a being that’s open and flowing, and a quality of something else. And, I would just say to Kristen, to follow your resonance despite what your head or other people say. Follow this sense of, there’s food here, I don’t know why. Because each of us, we’re all so unique in what our particular system, what will be transformative to us.

Rick: So a minute ago, you use the phrase instrument of resonance, with reference to your own nervous system. And I like that a lot. And it brings us back to the dark night of the soul thing, because I have a feeling that everybody has… everyone has an instrument of resonance. But a lot of those instruments aren’t very well-tuned. And there’s… you’ve used various words like yuck and guck and… So using those kind of words, we all come in with a certain amount of guck clogging up our instrument. And it seems to me that a dark night of the soul – and correct me if you see it differently – is a clearing away of that guck. And the intensity of the whole dark night experience kind of depends on how much guck there is and what our destiny is in terms of how quickly it’s going to be cleared away.

Jeannie: Well, your theory is mathematically appealing. You know what I’m saying? I’m thinking about my physics class in high school, and the volume of the guck and the height and the width and so much time, that sort of thing. I think we have to allow for a deep bow to mystery.

Rick: Oh, yeah.

Jeannie: Because my sense is the dark night is not only the rising of scum. There is a way that the faculties of mind and will – and St John talks about this, he uses the word “obscure” in Spanish, whatever that is – are obscured, are darkened. The mind can’t work the way it used to. The will can’t work the way it used to. And that’s before the flotsam and jetsam starts rising. There is something, it’s almost like this little holy mechanic that runs in and takes your carburetor. There’s something about the darkness that’s not only the rising stuff, but the actual gift of the darkening of the faculties that orient us to the earth, to the world. And that’s what he talks about. He talks about us being weaned of our reliance on the things of this world to be prepared to be here, but not of here. So I’m not sure. It’s just a gut clean out with, if you’re in there for 10 years, you really had a lot of shit. And if you’re in there for five minutes, you were pretty rosy already. I’m not sure that that covers the entire mystery of it, although it is appealing. I think it’s part of it.

Rick: You know, Jesus said you can’t pour new wine into old wineskins.

Jeannie: Absolutely.

Rick: So there needs to be a restructuring of the instrument in order for it to be a fit servant of the Divine, if you will.

Jeannie: Yeah, I like your language. I’m right there with you.

Rick: And there’s all these variables, you know. I mean, one is how much guck and another is, how are you going to kick and scream and resist or are you going to sort of cooperate?

Jeannie: Well, and this is part of what St John says. And this is part of what’s extremely difficult and part of what is useful having the experience reflected is that for most people, when they enter the dark night of the soul, even if they’ve got a spiritual orientation, it is so upending that it is, St John counsels, be quiet, just be quiet. It’s like, well, good luck, you know. And as I meet with people who are going through this. We’ve had several online series and they come to my events and … silence just hit my head again.

Rick: Gulp.

Jeannie: Mmm.

Rick: I’ll say something and then as soon as you get your train of thought, interrupt me.

Jeannie: We’ll see.

Rick: I have a friend that I’m going to present you with a range of possibilities here. I have a friend whom I’ve interviewed three times, Harri Aalto. His dark night, if it was that, consisted of about 15 minutes during which his customary unbounded awareness shrank down to individual nature. From his earliest memories as a child, he was always sort of unbounded and free, but he heard all these people talking about bliss and unboundedness, and he said, “What is that?” And he went for a walk and all of a sudden, boom, he was just an individual. He said, “I can’t live like this, get me out of here”, you know. And about 15 minutes later it cleared and he was back to his usual way of functioning. On the other extreme, I’ve been in touch with a couple of people who are literally paralyzed, bedridden, need help going to the bathroom by an extreme, apparently, kundalini awakening. There may be other factors, there might be something nutritional going on, whatever, but they regard it as some sort of spiritual catharsis, but it’s so extreme that it’s totally incapacitating. And then we have all kinds of possibilities in between.

Jeannie: And I would say let’s turn that line into a three-dimensional mystery.

Rick: Okay.

Jeannie: Because your line, it’s still mathematically, there’s the guy who spent 15 minutes and the people in bed, and then everything in between implies a line. And what I would like to invite is at least a three-dimensional, if not more, bow to the mystery of this. So we can seek to understand because that’s what we do, but we have to keep throwing our models in the acid bath of humility.

Rick: Yeah, these are just theories. Everything for me is a working hypothesis, nothing is a done deal.

Jeannie: Yeah, so where are we going? I don’t mean to intentionally derail you.

Rick: You’re not derailing me and hopefully I’m not derailing you. We’re just kind of going around a little bit on what a dark night is, how inevitable it is, how extreme it may be, what can be done, if anything, to ameliorate it, those kind of points.

Jeannie: Yeah, okay. Boy, those were a lot of questions. I had an answer to one of them.

Rick: You’re slippery. You’re like catching a fish, he slips right out of your hand.

Jeannie: Yeah, it’s exactly what it’s like. The basic, I like to say, if you put your ear up to my ear, you just hear the Sahara winds blowing through, the thoughts are the…

Rick: Well, I can reiterate those if it helps you.

Jeannie: No, no, I think silence is just good, just to hang here and contemplate the dark night. So there are lots of forms of darkness that can have lots of different causes. And I think it’s a dangerous penchant of the mind to do something like start to think, “I have to have a dark night”, “I have to have a dark night to wake up”. And when people come to me, they start to think that because I’m speaking from my experience. But I think it’s very dangerous for us to orient in any kind of a way, or maybe not dangerous, but slightly delusional, and inviting the manifestation of things that might not be necessary.

Rick: Yeah, you have people feeling bad because they haven’t had a dark night.

Jeannie: Right.

Rick: Or, “Give me a dark night pill, I want one”.

Jeannie: Or you have the person lying in bed who’s going through the 10-year thing, feeling like they’re the spiritual idiot. And so, all of this is a penchant of the mind to reduce what’s mysterious into catalogable things that we can do something about. And I would say, yes, there’s definitely a level at which it’s important to do things about things. So if you have Lyme disease, it’s important to diagnose the Lyme disease and see what part that plays in how your brain’s working and how depression’s working. And if you have some kind of – and all of these things have to be held so lightly, so lightly, because it’s mysterious the way that the powers of this whole operate. So if we get an idea, “I have this illness, it’s incurable, blah, blah, blah”, we can settle ourselves with a heavy, unnecessary weight. At the same time, we ignore our illness and pop around like a little Puerh thinking that the universe is going to take care of everything, and then we fall over dead because we didn’t take care of the gangrene in our foot, right?

Rick: Yeah.

Jeannie: And between these two, it’s like trusting God, tie your camel, there’s a constant, almost to me, invitation to the human being to keep, as I said, baptizing oneself in the unknown, in humility, in opening, in, “I don’t know, help. Here I am, open. I’m shedding everything I’ve built up until this moment to sort of open myself to the latest bulletins from the beloved”, in this empty unknown. So we have to, in a way, constantly open ourselves, at the same time, do our best to address the levels of our existence from our… You know, anybody who’s ever… I think even Adya said when he was in the hospital with his stomach pain, “Wow, the body, like, whoa”, right? Like, we have these levels, all of the levels require kind of different tending. And so, if someone… I see people that come to my work hoping they’re having a dark night, because what else can explain this thing, you know? And then seeing that sometimes people have had a lot of abuse in their young lives, and what they could really use is somebody to hold a space for them to move in there and do the grieving they need to do and whatever else. But then there are also these instant healings, and so each of us has to sort of take responsibility and do the detective work while keeping our relationship loose with that penchant to fix everything inside of a conceptual straitjacket that then defines the outcomes because we’ve suddenly become a slave to our perspectives.

Rick: Yeah, I hear you, and I appreciate that caveat that, like you said, “Trust in God but tie your camel”. I think it’s natural and perhaps even desirable to try to understand things, but keep it balanced and realize that you’re not going to totally nail anything down. There’s always the element of mystery, as you said, that everything is always somewhat theoretical, you’re trying to gain a better understanding of all kinds of things in the spiritual world. I mean, that’s why there are so many books and scriptures.

Jeannie: Yeah, we keep trying.

Rick: They enrich our understanding, but their intention is not to be the exclusive tool for spiritual development. Obviously, there has to be the experiential tool, and that’s very mysterious and non-intellectual.

Jeannie: Right, and so what I would say – and this is part of what I’m writing about, what I teach about – what I would say to people who feel that they have a large helping of darkness. Now, it’s really, I want to say on this sweet earth, there’s something that we don’t always say, which is that there are some things that we can’t solve. And I want to put that as our kind of our gravity or our ground. That’s not to make us necessarily hopeless, but it is to acknowledge that the human condition includes lots of things that we apparently get to be with without a solution. That said, we are very motivated when we’re suffering to find the solution to that suffering. And it’s important to cover all of the bases, the medical bases, the psychological bases that can be contributing to darkness. And I would say it really matters in a way, like in the dark night, the greatest skill that I uncovered was simply to abide in the unknown moment and meet what’s rising. Sometimes we need support in that. And that the more we get involved with the crazy mind and our freak out about it, the more suffering there is. But someone who, for example, has Lyme disease doesn’t want to just sit on their butt being necessarily. They might want to do plenty of that because it’s very nice for the body, but they’ll also want to address this other level. Kundalini is a whole other area, and I’m not an expert in that, but I have had people in my work who have been tremendously challenged by Kundalini openings that happened on top of a sort of an ungrounded relationship of the creature of the body to the ground and various psychological issues that just made them into a hot mess, basically. And some of those things need a variety of attention, of skills, of learning grounding, of addressing the psychological stuff that’s coming up, etc. It’s complex.

Rick: Yeah, it’s been a long time since I’ve read about St John of the Cross, but as I recall his story, he was locked in a closet for 14 years by the administrative types who didn’t like his mystical tendencies. And he had dysentery, he was fed bread and water, he spent a lot of time sitting in his own diarrhea. It was not a real pleasant scene.

Jeannie: He was beaten also.

Rick: Yeah, it was rough. And I guess that was all happening while his dark night was happening. That would be enough to give anyone a dark night, I would say.

Jeannie: This is funny because in my reading of him, I have yet to actually read his account of his dark night. Like his writing on the dark night is counseling other nuns and monks, basically, in trying to… what he wants to do is basically help these people not go down an eddy and get stuck somewhere and stay sort of in the flow of the unfolding that’s happening. So, I’m not sure where and when his dark night happened and if his time in the jail cell was what did it to him, so to speak.

Rick: Well, the reason I brought that up is actually aided by the point you just made, which is I’m trying to get at the notion that there might be things we can do which would smooth the whole process of the dark night to make it not last as long, to make it not be as horrible. And maybe that’s what St John was trying to offer, and you’ve mentioned other things. I mean, there might be therapies, there might be herbal supplements, there could be all kinds of things. For instance, this Kundalini person I’m thinking of, she probably has terrible endocrine problems and thyroid out of balance, and a lot of times huge spiritual energies coursing through the body can really throw it out of whack. And there can be all sorts of methods to help, to just give it some assistance in the process it’s going through so it doesn’t have to be as terrible.

Jeannie: Potentially. I would say in my experience with what I experienced, I would say that the single most comforting thing that I have experienced in holding space for people who are going through that is to have their experience mirrored. Because out in the world it’s rare to find this spoken to, even in the books on Dark Night of the Soul.

Rick: Explain mirrored.

Jeannie: In other words, what’s happening there is what happened here.

Rick: I see. So they can meet somebody they can relate to who also, “I’ve been there, I’ve done that”.

Jeannie: On some kind of a map. Some kind of a map other than the cultural map, which is you’re screwing up and you need to get yourself together. And it’s actually helpful to hear, “No, you’re actually supposed to fall apart”. And so what I find is a whole secondary level of suffering is actually the lack of having one’s experience be reflected, put on a map, the isolation of it, the aloneness of it while you’re surrounded basically by culture and family who don’t know what’s happening.

Rick: Exactly. It makes it worse than it needs to be.

Jeannie: Yeah, that’s huge. And then another thing that’s really really useful in my experience is to restore a healthy relationship with the ways that the body purifies energy – crying, shaking. Also, restoring a sense of the grounded quality of a body because early trauma pulls us up out of that energetic relationship with ground and so the energy just spins and pings inside the body, especially terror.

Rick: Yeah, and you mentioned you played a lot of aggressive soccer during that period, so physical exercise could be…

Jeannie: It’s very very good because the energies are so huge and the more that anything sort of bores down into that core fight, the more we behave like an animal. That’s why relationship is so great for bringing up that kind of stuff. It’s like we have no room to run, so we fight kind of thing. So as these things are being stripped off, we get increasingly irritable and creature-like. And so, outlets for that besides just taking it out on the people around you are very useful.

Rick: Yeah, and if you just lie there in bed and marinate in it, chances are it’s just really going to get more and more severe, whereas if you can balance, stabilize, integrate, go for a hike, go for a swim, things like that, to whatever extent you’re capable, it seems to me would… I mean, even in the conventional world, they say that exercise produces endorphins and it helps to cure depression and all kinds of things, so it must help with this too.

Jeannie: Yeah, definitely.

Rick: Here’s a question from John in Texas. He asks, “Is it possible to be in a dark night period or experience and yet be aware that it’s a natural part of one’s spiritual evolution?” In other words, not to just feel like, “I don’t know what the heck is happening to me”, but realize, “Oh yeah, this is a dark night. I’m just going to grin and bear it and something good is happening in the long run”.

Jeannie: Well, my experience is that the dark night actually lifts off the capacity to have the mind have a perspective toward things. So, whether the mind will try to say, “This is a very bad thing”, the mind will try to say, “This is a very good thing”, but that capacity of the mind is actually in a dark night kind of… The whole point of the dark night is to lift that capacity off of you, of conceptualizing reality versus being immersed in it. I would imagine if someone had studied… if you were a Catholic and you had studied with St John and it was so in every fiber of your being that this darkness was coming, that maybe there would be something in you that would say, “Oh, this is just the dark night”. But my sense is, and this is difficult to actually put into words, because the things we think are true and the things that live below our conscious awareness, as those rise, there isn’t a sense of knowing something. There’s much more sense of things rising in a not knowing. So, all things are possible. It has not been my experience. I have not met anyone who has been in a true dark night who’s just like, “Yeah, groovy. It’s just the dark night. You know, it’ll pass. It’s two. It’ll be out of here by five”.

Rick: So, people come to your retreats and presumably those people have an advantage when they’re sitting with you talking about it and being listened to and being mirrored over those who are just out in Peoria, Illinois and have no idea what’s happening to them.

Jeannie: Definitely. Definitely. Even for a moment to consider that. The big thing is when we’re alone inside of the conditioned perspective, it’s, “I have to do something. I have to do something about this. I have to do something about this”. And St John says, “No, this is a passive passage. You don’t have to do anything about it”. But to tell someone who’s frightened creature is activated and the way the frightened creature works is, “I have to do something about this and this is how we’re conditioned”. To even disable that for a sec, for someone to rest, and this is what happens when they meet me, when they sit with me, is that there’s a sense of the capacity to rest, to rest in now, that your life may be a complete mess. You don’t know what’s happening. Where’s the ground? Where’s breath? Where’s presence? Hello?

Rick: As I was reading one of your articles, I wrote up a question. It took me a few minutes to write this question to phrase it right, so maybe this will be useful. Would you say that a dark night happens because we’ve begun to realize that outer sources of fulfillment are inadequate, but we are not yet grounded in inner fulfillment, and this realization correlates with a purging of everything which occludes inner fulfillment?

Jeannie: Interesting. Read it again. I like it.

Rick: Before I read it again, it’s like the boat has cast off from one bank of the river but hasn’t reached the other bank yet, so you’re in limbo land. But let me read the question. Would you say that a dark night happens because we’ve begun to realize that outer – whether voluntarily or forcibly, I’d say – we began to realize that outer sources of fulfillment are inadequate, but we are not yet grounded in inner fulfillment? And this realization correlates with a purging of everything which occludes that inner fulfillment.

Jeannie: I would say, again… and you know where I’m going.

Rick: Yeah, I know where you’re going.

Jeannie: You’re just smiling at me.

Rick: We’ll just keep doing that see-saw.

Jeannie: I just want to bow to the inquisitive mind, and I have one that makes connections and discovers things and has insights. I remember reading something that the Sufi Ibn Arabi, who was called the Sheikh of Sheikhs, and he was a grandpa when Rumi was a toddler, and I read something that he wrote about crucifixion. I could feel a hundred corners of my experience and knowing sewing together because of something that he said. It was like click, click, click, click, click, click. It was beautiful, and then that gave me more of a capacity, more of a vehicle to speak to certain things. So all hail the amazing inquisitive mind, and all hail all of the sort of… I’m thinking about my daughter right now and something that she wrote for school when she was talking about how she absolutely adores the unknown and adores the human penchant for building models that never quite encapsulate the unknown, and how thrilling it is for her that there’s always more unknown to discover, which implies more exploration and more models. And each one of these is a tiny view into this massive reality that will never encapsulate with the mind, and yet we keep trying.

Rick: That’s what science does. Science builds models, tests them, revises them, it just keeps doing this, and it’s not everything, but it’s something.

Jeannie: Great fun, it is. And I want to say with all humility, this reality, we have to keep invoking mystery in here. So what you’re suggesting about the dark night, maybe I feel like we would have to, and I’ve spent my life at different times wanting to sort of, in my mind, crafting another study. How could we get a population of all people across the earth who’ve ever experienced a dark night and find out, were they just sitting on the couch drinking beer, watching I Love Lucy, could give a crap about spiritual anything, you know what I mean? And then suddenly the dark night hits. I mean, why it comes, how it comes, who it comes to, how long it lasts. To me, your theory sounds pretty good. Certainly it could apply to me in that I already had a good sense that fulfillment wasn’t going to come from the outside, but I honestly don’t know.

Rick: Okay, well I would have been rather surprised and somewhat disappointed if you had said, “Yep, Rick, that’s absolutely it, you nailed it, we’ve totally figured it out now”.

Jeannie: You liked it?

Rick: Well, this is the way my mind works, and I sometimes actually get criticized for it, but there’s always this sort of little paradox thing that happens – I even have a t-shirt that says “paradox” on it – where I fly theories, but then I’m not trying to nail things down with any finality, it’s just like poking it from different directions.

Jeannie: Well, this is your fun, right?

Rick: Yeah.

Jeannie: This is your fun.

Rick: Right, and here’s another one for you -I don’t know why I am even asking this, I know what you’re going to say – but do you think that a regular spiritual practice of some sort can kind of chip away at the darkness so that it’s removed incrementally, so that it doesn’t have to be swallowed? It’s like they have those hot dog eating contests where people eat 50-something hot dogs in a very short amount of time. All right, so there’s that, and then there’s having a hot dog a day for a month or two.

Jeannie: Yeah, I definitely understand that, and again, it’s another mathematical … we’re going back to the mathematical one, the quantity of dark and can we empty some out?

Rick: Can we…

Jeannie: What I wanna say..

Rick: Yeah, go ahead.

Jeannie: Yeah, I again want to invoke the 360-degree mystery and say that, so from the age of … so I had a decent childhood, sort of an average American childhood, no huge traumas. And when I was 23, I found co-counseling, and I was beside myself with glee because I discovered that I could focus my attention on suboptimal aspects of myself, reactivity, grief, whatever, and I could actually move that pain out and experience freedom. I was like, “Wow, like bring it on down. Let me find everything in me that’s a little funny and drill down”, right? So I did a ton of that. By the time The dark night hit, that was my way. That had been probably about 13 years of teaching this, having lots of sessions, moving lots of stuff out, not in any kind of … it was very clean. It was just like this clean burning thing that was like my hobby, you know what I mean? And if I had a spiritual practice, it was crying. I would give myself – and I find a lot of company in the Sufis in this – it’s like this sort of dropping into the longing in the heart or the loss and just it became like a beautiful thing, as though crying was this like worshipping, this opening of the heart, it wasn’t this grim dark thing. It was like the same as laughing, only with some moisture, you know. Yeah, this is how it was for me and crying from being touched, whatever. So then The dark night hits and I have to say for myself, thank God I had this capacity to move energy because there was more energy than I knew how to move. Now this energy was not like childhood this, childhood that, it was much deeper than that. It was much more unconscious than that. It was much more primordial than that. And so I think part of the model that you’re talking about assumes a kind of a holding tank of sort of dischargeable stuff, right, which we do have. And I would say as I watch people whose dark night experience uncovers trauma, like I mean deep trauma, PTSD type trauma, or people who haven’t done any emotional work, all they’ve done is spiritual work and they get their top popped off. And then there’s just so much chaos, so much conflict, so much coming up. And so I would say, yeah, it really does help to have some… I think Adya says something about like you’re going to either, whatever you don’t face before you’re going to face it after. So there is something valid, I think, to what you say that it is useful to have methods to move energy and to have faced some of these things. But in The dark night, there is a level of conditioning that is pre-verbal – I don’t know if it’s pre-lifetime – that is very dark, very nonverbal, very I can’t see, very terrified, very creaturey, that is, as far as I can tell, pretty hard to face unless you’re forced there. Because the animal will do anything to get out of going into that room where it thinks it will be destroyed. And so the human psyche is absolutely amazing at crafting ways to distract and suppress and repress. And so partly, I think The dark night forces one into rooms that would be very difficult to get into otherwise, except for maybe some of the crises that happen to people where they’re pinned. You know, they lose the work they do, they lose the love they had, they lose their house, and they’re just faced with, they get a one-way, do not pass, go, do not collect $200 trip to the dark regions of their psyche.

Rick: Reminds me of the Lord of the Rings, the closer Frodo got to the mountain, the harder it was for him to proceed, you know?

Jeannie: Yes.

Rick: He couldn’t even have done the final thing of throwing the ring in unless Gollum had bit his finger off and jumped, fallen in himself with it.

Jeannie: Yeah, yeah.

Rick: He couldn’t have taken that step.

Jeannie: Well, and this is what St John says, “We do everything that we can do and then the holy takes over”.

Rick: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I guess one of the sentiments behind a lot of my questions and behind the very existence of this show is the feeling that some sort of mass awakening is taking place and that many of the things that people who have been on a spiritual path for some time have experienced are becoming or will become epidemic and that it will be really valuable for us as a spiritual culture, we were talking earlier about that sort of network, to have tools available that are as evolved and effective as possible to offer on a wider scale as they are needed. Do you have a sense of that?

Jeannie: Well, first I just want to say I have a sense of your heart and I just want to acknowledge that.

Rick: Thank you.

Jeannie: It’s like it’s touching here, the heart underneath what you’re saying. Certainly, even if we cast aside all spiritual orientation and we just look at the earth and the dwindling resources and the way that as resources dwindle more and more of us are faced with, in a way, as resources dwindle our capacity for distracting ourselves from our essential pain dwindles. So we can all be groovy when we have plenty of food and our hot tub and our friends and we feel pretty good and then put us in a boat with 12 others of us with no water and no food and see how quickly we turn into ferrets.

Rick: Yeah.

Jeannie: And nothing against ferrets.

Rick: Ferrets are relatively friendly compared to what we might turn into.

Jeannie: Yeah, badger.

Rick: Maybe wolverines or something.

Jeannie: Yeah, quarter badgers, yeah, wolverines. And this part of us stays pretty hidden in Western culture, in certain layers of Western culture, but as we pressure we can feel very spiritually above it all when we look at other people who are maybe battling with more basic things than we are.

Rick: Like the opioid epidemic, for instance.

Jeannie: Right, and this is a… so basically, whether or not we have a spiritual perspective, as resources dwindle we will need more capacities to meet the rising discomfort in us that tends to act itself out on ourselves and others. And that’s our model in our culture. It’s sort of whose fault it is, let’s punish them. And there’s not a sense of owning and transmuting the energies of transformation so that the animal aspect of us actually gets dealt with in a way that turns it into the ox in the final ox-herder picture where the little Buddha is just riding in without a rein on this tremendous ox. Because we have brought consciousness and kindness to the corners of our being that are unconsciously animal-like. And so I totally agree that we need tools and I call it technology. It’s like we are missing as a culture a widespread orientation toward a technology of dismantling the bomb, B-O-M-B, the bomb of sort of the ticking angry hurt creature. And I feel like I have some of that technology and I feel that this dark night book, it’s a survival guide that I’m working on, will hand that technology. I know I have one student who is a long-time Buddhist who said she can’t wait till my book comes out because she’s going to hand it to every Buddhist teacher she knows because a lot of people are entering the dark and a lot of teachers either they haven’t had that experience or they don’t know what to do with those people and there’s a lot of pieces to it.

Rick: And we can do another interview when your book comes out. And somebody should write a book like that on Kundalini too because these people that I hear from, they’re out there and nobody knows what they’re going through. If they see a doctor, the doctor is just going to give them psychotropic drugs or whatever they’re called, which they totally grate against the nervous system in terms of what they actually need. And there are some people like Joan Shivarpita Harrigan and Bonnie Greenwell and others who specialize in Kundalini situations, but there almost needs to be like a clinic that people could go to when they’re really in a state of emergency.

Jeannie: We need a number of clinics.

Rick: Yeah, it should be, all over.

Jeannie: I am constantly in desire for these people. We all, when we go into the dark night, we long for some quiet place by the ocean where we’re sitting in our little wheelchair with our little flannel lap blanket and someone’s just bringing us mush and we’re just staring out at it. You know, someone’s handling everything because to be a caterpillar who’s liquefying without a cocoon is tremendously, tremendously painful.

Rick: And unfortunately, I think a lot of these people end up in psychiatric hospitals.

Jeannie: Some do and some… yeah. I mean, and it doesn’t take… people don’t actually have to leave their lives. This is the beauty of the wisdom of Healthy Yong is that healthy containment, a cocoon, an egg, a nest, a belly with a baby in it, that healthy containment allows transformation to happen inside it. And when people start to learn the lessons of containment within their lives, they can start to set up structures within which some of that transformation can happen. But when you don’t know the lessons of Yang or Yin, the transformational energy inside the structure and the structures that allow it, then you’re just out there getting buffeted without, like a poor little caterpillar liquefying as you’re trying to build your cocoon and the world is taking it apart.

Rick: Let’s take a brief break from dark night. Here’s a question from Marie in Boulder, not too far from where you are. Marie asks, “You mentioned that you support people in reconnecting with the innocence of a child. So what would you say is the difference, if there is one, between the innocence of a child and the spontaneous wisdom of a sage?”

Jeannie: Wow, what a great question. Not much.

Rick: I can tell you one thing, Ken Wilber talks about the pre-trans fallacy. You’ve heard of that.

Jeannie: I’m not super, super educated and I would say, I got to do this research up close because my child came out when I was being deconstructed. And her childlike innocence lacked this sort of know-how about things like traffic. You know, so a mature sense of childlike innocence includes levels of sophistication. And I’m not talking about conditioned things, because I might have had some knowing as an adult that she would have blown out of the water by her open freshness that would have shown itself to be conditioned garbage. But there are certain things that it helps to… it’s like if we all were children and then we just grew up, there’s something else that’s almost like the way that the human embodiment gets tested and transmuted in the process of maturing. That also the innocence of a child often has a lot of narcissism in it. There’s not necessarily a sense of the whole and of one’s part in the whole. Yeah, the sense of being sort of grounded in having most like had an egoic structure and then moving through that, that has sort of a deeper, wiser, a deep wine taste to the innocence. An awareness of death, of suffering that a child might not have. On the other hand walking up to dead things. My child was little, we’d walk up to a dead bird and I would keep my conditioning as best as I could off of her. I wouldn’t say anything. And I would let her curiosity lead. And to see that she had, she didn’t have a fear of death. She didn’t have an idea about dead being bad, which is sort of another curious thing. And in fact, one of the things she said when she was young was, “Oh, there’s lots of adventures ahead like death”.

Rick: Wow, she said that?

Jeannie: She said a lot of cool stuff. Yeah. Yeah, so that’s more of a question I wouldn’t mind just planting in me as a percolating seed because I think it’s a great question. But I also, I don’t… Sophia also said something very interesting. She said that the way you can tell an adult is not by how big they are, she said, because there are some very big people who are children. She said the way you tell an adult is by how serious they are. And she was talking about this grim thing that settles on us in our conditioning. So we take everything grimly. And so what I’ve noticed in being sort of, in a way there’s an aspect of Divine Child about my embodiment, is that the goofiness and the silliness and the innocence that we feel like we are supposed to outgrow is actually such a wellspring of healing for other beings. And I feel like humor and playfulness is really at the heart of embodying this mysterious, I don’t even know what to say there, I don’t even have a word.

Rick: Well, one thing that came to mind as you were speaking was that there are all these, not only does our body grow as we move from infancy through childhood to adulthood, but there are all these different faculties that grow and that can be developed to a profound degree. Intellect is one, heart is another, and as long as those things aren’t kind of developed in a lopsided way in which they’re thought to be sort of the be-all and end-all, as long as they’re kind of understood and experienced as components of the complete system and everything is in balance, there’s a huge difference between a young baby or child and a fully blossomed adult, blossomed in the spiritual sense. Someone like Shankara who had this incredible intellect, an incredible heart, an incredible depth of being. So, and someone like that and we’ve all been around saintly types, I’m sure, and seen their innocence and their child-likeness, but they’re not simpletons, they’re not simplistic.

Jeannie: Yes, I was just going to say, I almost wanted to say, and neither are children, although everything that you just said is absolutely accurate. And part of, to me, the joy of being an adult human being who is open is that there are so many colors in our palette to paint with. And part of what I teach and hold space for is the exploration of yin and the exploration of yang, the energies in us of fierceness, of taking a stand, because the heart is not all just mush, it’s also a passionate sort of standing in the truth kind of thing. And boy, is there such a joy and a capacity to be a servant of the truth when your whole palette is firing, to mix a metaphor there. I’ve got engines and paint boxes now together.

Rick: We’re throwing around a lot of metaphors today. Well, I discovered a week ago that YouTube automatically will transcribe any interview under two hours, so this is an incentive for me to keep them under two hours. And it’s quite accurate, actually. And we hope to use those transcripts to make this available in a number of other languages, because Google uses artificial intelligence to translate into about ten different languages. And this is a good plug for my translation and transcription team, if anyone would like to join it, get in touch. There’s a page on the website about it. But I’m saying that as a sort of a prelude to…

Jeannie: Yeah, we need to stop.

Rick: Yeah, but not immediately. And there’s one thing that maybe we could talk… I started out this interview reading you a question from somebody who’s asking about the holy. And maybe we could just talk a little bit about God in the remaining minutes, not in the sort of conventional religious sense, but in the sense that you and I would appreciate, and most of the people listening to this. You want a question?

Jeannie: Yeah, I mean…

Rick: Well, for instance, quoting from your book, here I’m quoting something, “Thy will, not mine. All I want is truth”, or “Make me an instrument of your peace”. You know, and…

Jeannie: Yeah, so I can say something.

Rick: Yeah, go ahead. Here’s another truth phrase to prime your pump, “Reliance on a sense of separated personhood to a joyful reliance on God”.

Jeannie: Yeah.

Rick: Something you said.

Jeannie: Yeah. So, first off, man, is it hard to talk. And I feel like… I used to sit in a sweat lodge quite a bit with a friend of mine, and I noticed that the prayers that were the most beautiful were not the prayers where people were trying to be beautiful. They were the prayers where people knew they couldn’t speak. It was unspeakable, and yet they tried anyway. And so I want to say that I am always in that mode of being deeply aware that what I know in my direct experience can never be spoken, and yet it feels like a worship to attempt it, a beauty, a sacrament to attempt it. And I also feel a deep level of integrity and care in answering things as unconceptually and born of the deep wisdom, energy, aliveness of the moment that the things that I say are given to say instead of things that my mind would say that are a degree removed from actuality. And so the holy… that’s the word that I use because I feel like it sneaks in the side door. A lot of people have a lot of conditioning around God, the word God, and I take that on with people and encourage them to look into that. And anywhere that we’re, “I can’t go there because I have stuff”, is like “Let’s go there”. Let’s see what lives there. So as long as we are identified as a me… Wow, this is really difficult to speak. There is, and in fact, there’s a Sufi story about a fellow who experienced enlightenment and then grieved because he so loved the language of duality. He so loved the love language of praising God. And I can remember lying in bed with my little daughter and singing to her. I used to sing her 15 songs every night, 15 songs. And this voice, I’d be lying there in the dark, and this voice would come out of the darkness and sing. And I would watch it sing, and we would say, “I love you, I love you”. And when I would say, “I love you”, I knew to a degree that the, how do I say this, that “I love you” was the way that the Divine danced here. But that it wasn’t wholly true because there was a oneness. And yet there was this beautiful way that the Holy dances in duality, “I love you”. The beautiful way that it’s like this is, as far as I can tell, this is what we’re doing here. This beautiful dance of “Hi, hi” and then in the “Hi, hi”, like sometimes I do diet exercises in my work, and there’s a people experience as they speak at the beginning, “Hi, hi, hi”, and then pretty soon there’s just this oneness, how can we even speak? And yet the “Hi”, the “Hi” can actually speak the oneness, it can also speak in duality. And so there’s a sense for me of a simultaneity of instrument and it’s so, it’s like almost like a membrane, an invisible membrane, or the picture underwater. You know, it’s like, it’s a picture, but it’s made of gossamer. You know, there’s just this little sense of a genie-ishness, of a genieness, and this amazing, worshipful, blissful, joyful, yes-ness about, you know, in that, where’d the genie go? And yet this is the language, like, and when we, when separation is more what we’re living from, there can be a beautiful way that the heart can rise in a praising, in a help, I don’t know how help, that more than glorifies something outside, opens something inside to a kind of an openness outside of this little shell that we live in. So, this question, I almost just want to answer with like poem after poem after poem, and no logic at all, you know what I’m saying? Because it’s mysterious how form and formless, form and formless are dancing all the time, and it’s not that we’re here to do away with the form as much as be, it’s like a plaything.

Rick: Yeah, Shankara said, “The intellect imagines duality for the sake of devotion”, and he was the founder of Advaita really, and was also a great devotee of the Divine Mother. And I can’t actually think of a non-dual authority, quote-unquote, such like Nisargadatta, Ramana, Papaji, all of them had tremendous hearts and were great devotees and lovers of God and did all sorts of practices of worship and pujas and bhajans and all that stuff.

Jeannie: I mean, Ramana with his mountain. It’s like when people reduce spiritual truths to things like, “I should be able to be open anywhere, so even though I have this deep longing to go to Tahiti, I’m going to stay here”. You know, it’s like Ramana went to the mountain, he stayed at the mountain. The mountain was his place, you know.

Rick: Yeah, I think the reason it’s worth mentioning is that there’s a sweetness to the blossoming of the heart and to the whole quality of devotion that it’s nice to know that that’s part of spiritual development, because otherwise it can sometimes take on a kind of dry character in some ways that it’s presented.

Jeannie: And again, in our culture and threaded through our approach to spirituality is a worship of yang over the life-giving aspect of yin, both of them being the two dancing energies as life energy comes into this plane. And we will tend in our culture until examined or kidnapped by experience to bow to the father energies over the mother energies and to see things like a tender heart. You know, a tender heart is such an aspect of awakening, a sensitive tenderness, such an aspect. But we like to glorify the all-knowing and the powerful and the truth and that’s all. You know, heart without truth is just a sappy bog, but truth without heart, I don’t even know if that exists. It doesn’t exist.

Rick: Yeah, at least not in its entirety or its totality. It’s half-baked.

Jeannie: Right, half-baked. And we all know what getting a half-baked potato is like.

Rick: I know, it’s crunchy, you can’t even eat it. It might melt butter, but you can’t eat it.

Jeannie: So, how are we doing on our time?

Rick: I think we better wrap it up before we go over past the witching hour. It’s cool that Google does this now, YouTube. So, it’s been really great, Jeannie. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation.

Jeannie: Me too, thank you so much.

Rick: Yeah, and I enjoyed preparing for this and I hope a lot of people get in touch with you. is your website, right?

Jeannie: It is.

Rick: And it does this cool little thing, I have to find out how you do that, but there’s a thing where you scroll down and all of a sudden the big Jeannie Zandi kind of gets small and the menu moves over and it’s really neat the way that works.

Jeannie: I’m blissfully ignorant of the technology behind that, despite having been in the software industry for 20 years.

Rick: Some JavaScript thing or something. But anyway, there’s a lot of good stuff on the website and some very nice articles that people might like to read. I enjoyed reading them. And when do you think your book will be finished?

Jeannie: I have no idea.

Rick: Books have a way. But they don’t have a predictable gestation period like babies.

Jeannie: It’s wanted to be written since 2002 because every single day since 2002 someone has needed this book for me. And I can’t wait to have it and be able to hand it to people. And it’s a very very busy schedule, so I work on it when I can. And I hear I may have a little bit of help assembling the information. We’ll see if that pans out and that will be a big big help.

Rick: I’m sure it’ll be good. So good luck with that.

Jeannie: Thank you.

Rick: Alrighty. So do you do any kind of one-on-one Skype things or you mainly just do groups here and there?

Jeannie: Yeah, I don’t do one on ones except… So I do online stuff. I do retreats, I speak here and there. I don’t do one-on-ones except for with pretty senior students who are in leadership sorts of positions. And although in my online things people have a good amount of access to me. And so, yeah. And I have a couple of retreats in the summer coming up in Santa Cruz and Breitenbush Hot Springs, which is a favorite. And yeah, if people want to get a little flavor of me, Open Circle will have me. will have me on June 11th in the morning, 10 a.m. Pacific Time if people want to get a flavor of my more space-holding aspect rather than my interview aspect.

Rick: Okay, and we’re talking 2017 for those who may be watching later, but if they go to your website,, they can find out whatever you’re up to whenever they watch this.

Jeannie: Yes, indeed.

Rick: Yeah, so let me make a couple of general wrap-up points. I’ve been speaking with Jeannie Zandi. This is an ongoing series of interviews. If you’ve enjoyed it and want to check out others, go to, B-A-T-G-A-P, and explore the menus. You can also, there’s an upcoming interviews menu where you can see what’s scheduled going in the future. And as I said in the beginning, this whole thing kind of depends upon support from people who appreciate it, so if you feel like contributing in some way, there’s a PayPal button on the site. And you can sign up to be notified by email of new interviews when they’re released. You can also sign up for the audio podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, one of those platforms. Also, if you happen to be watching this on YouTube, I would appreciate it if you actually subscribed to the channel, because the more subscribers you have on a YouTube channel, the more YouTube kind of pays attention to you and you can talk to people on the phone and they help you with things. So, I’m only at about 28,000 subscribers, but if I reach the 100,000 mark, it’s like becoming an Eagle Scout or something in terms of your status on YouTube, so something to strive for. So, thanks, Jeannie, I really appreciated it, and thanks to those who have been listening or watching, and we’ll see you next time.

Jeannie: Thank you, Rick. Thank you, people.