Joan Tollifson Transcript

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Joan Tollifson Interview

Rick Archer: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer, and my guest this week is Joan Tollefson. And I’ll just start by reading a little bio that Joan sent me and then we’ll get right into it. Joan writes and talks about the ever changing, ever present aliveness of here slash now, which is which is obvious, unavoidable and impossible to doubt. She has an affinity with Advaita Buddhism and radical non duality, but she belongs to no tradition or lineage. Her main teacher was Tony packer, but John has also studied with several Buddhist teachers, and has spent time with a number of Advaita non dual teachers. She has been holding meetings on non duality since 1996. In her books and meetings, Joan invites people to explore their actual present moment experience and to question the deep seated assumption that we are each an independent entity encapsulated inside a separate body mind looking out at an alien world. Instead, we may discover that everything is one seamless, boundless, unbroken hole, in which there are no separate parts. Joan also invites people to question the deep seated assumption that we are in control of our lives or should be, and she points to the realization that everything is one choiceless happening. Joan is known for her honesty and sense of humor. Okay, we’re gonna put her to the test on that one. Well, you have a nice laugh. So that’s, that’s a start. So there are a couple things that jumped out at me in this in this little intro that I just read. One is that you wrote about the ever changing ever present aliveness. Sometimes people refer to the never changing quality of that, you know, and yet you use the word ever changing. So why that?

Joan Tollifson: Well, I like to say ever changing ever present, the ever changing ever present here now. Because I noticed that both aspects are true. this present moment, this, this is always we’re always here. And it’s always now, right? And so this still point of here now is ever present. But it’s also ever changing. Because what’s appearing here is nothing but change movement.

Rick Archer: I see. Okay, so that’s what you throw both as paradoxical as way throw both of those in there. Good. And nothing caught my eye. I was thinking about listening to some of your talks during the past week and thinking about how I would start this. And you say down here as question the assumption that we’re each independent entity encapsulated in a separate body mind looking at an alien world. And somehow when I listened to you, I was it got me thinking along those lines, and have some thoughts that I want to kind of question you about. But we could perhaps move in that direction by just asking you to define a couple of common words that we’re likely to use in this interview and that everyone is using, just so that we have an understanding of whether we’re both using those words in the same way. And whether we’re using them in the way that people listening might be understanding them. And those words are, you know, awake or awakening, people say I’ve had an awakening and also the term enlightenment. How would you define those terms?

Joan Tollifson: Oh, well, first of all, just to notice that they are words, yes. And they point to something that’s not a word. But they are words and they get used by different people in many different ways. So awake, I would say awake is just on the natural state. What’s here right now, this awakeness that’s here, undeniably here right now. And by that I just mean, this present moment experiencing this aliveness, this awareness, this awakeness that is undeniable. And its present, whether we’re lost in a train of thought or whether we’re in a state of open clear presence, so to speak. It’s it’s this awakeness is just the natural nature of here now

Rick Archer: that all beings have, including putting dogs and cats and

Joan Tollifson: well the notion of all beings having it is that’s a thought. Yeah. And I would say that what I’m talking about is not something that we have. It’s what we are. It’s just what we are. Right? Yeah. But then within that there’s the one of the things that’s showing up here is the appearance of separate organisms, separate people. Each of whom is presumably, you know, has their own unique point of view their own individual movie, no, two of which are completely the same. But the awakeness, the awareness, the, for me, is the wholeness of being the unicity, the undivided oneness, right? The natural it’s the nature of what is

Rick Archer: essential. Yeah, the essential nature of what is. And but yeah, I’m sorry, go ahead. Well,

Joan Tollifson: we have the idea, that, that, you know, I am an individual unit of consciousness, encased inside this separate body mind that was born into this outside world, and lives here for a while struggling to survive, and then one day dies, and is not here anymore. And you know, hopefully, we think maybe my unit of consciousness will go on into another life or to heaven or something like that. But that whole picture, that takes thought and imagination, our actual experience is simply this awakeness that’s right here right now. And, and, you know, every night in deep sleep, everything perceivable and conceivable, disappears. And there is no observer left to worry about whether I’m dead or not. So the fear of death is all sort of based on this notion of being this encapsulated unit. And that’s really, I would say, the, the basis of our suffering.

Rick Archer: And so do you yourself, no longer perceive or regard yourself as an encapsulated unit?

Joan Tollifson: Well, that very question, of course, again, sort of recreates the, the illusory problem that there’s me who either still has this illusion or me who has now broken out of this illusion, and that’s where we get into the question about enlightenment, because often people think of enlightenment as me crossing some line in the sand, where I will no longer be stuck in this illusion, I will be free, and I will be experiencing myself as boundless consciousness or something. And while the, all the other people, the seekers are still lost in their, in their illusory dream, and I would say that enlightenment is seeing through that whole picture. It’s waking up from that whole picture. And there’s not It’s not therefore it’s not Joan who wakes up from that picture. It’s because that’s what it’s waking up from. So it’s just seeing it’s it’s noticing right now, that there really is no such thing as Joan or Rick. That’s not Emma, we’ve learned that I am Joan, and you are Rick and, and all this, but that we had to learn that our actual experience if we come back to what’s most basic and most obvious and most undeniable right now, is simply this awakeness this presence, this awareness. And until we think there isn’t really a Joan in the picture, there might be a visual image of what I call hands and legs. Or if I look in the mirror, there’s a visual image of something that I’ve learned to call Joan. But that appears here in the same way that the furniture appears here and the clouds appear here. And if I go into my actual experience of this, so called Joan right now, this body or whatever, if I close my eyes, if we close our eyes and just tune into our actual experience, we can’t really even find this body. We can find sensations. But we can’t really find a place where I end and the world out there begins. We can’t really find a boundary between inside and outside. We can think of a boundary but we can’t actually find it in our in our action. experience or actual experience is this one whole seamless picture? Yes, there’s different shapes and colors, but it’s one whole seamless picture one whole seamless movie. And so they’re the notion that Joan wakes up is the illusion that is being seen through. And I would say for me, that that that wake waking up happens now, it’s not something that, you know, happened to Joan, three years ago or happened or might happen to Joan, three years in the future. It’s, it’s, it, in fact, doesn’t even really happen. It’s just noticing what’s always already so.

Joan Tollifson: Does the story or the sense of being encapsulated Joan, still happen here? Yes, it does. Part of that is functionally necessary. I mean, if you’re going to cut up a carrot for your lunch, you have to be able to distinguish between yourself and the carrot, or you’re going to be in trouble. Yeah. In order to plan this interview, you know, we had to be able to distinguish between Joan and ric, or we would not have been able to organize this. So if I couldn’t distinguish between myself and my computer, I wouldn’t be able to operate it. So there’s a certain sense of being Joan, that’s functionally necessary, and that appears as needed. And there’s a dysfunctional, I would call it dysfunctional sense of being Joan that also appears sometimes when I feel defensive, or or hurt, you know, someone has insulted me. And I feel that sense of contraction and defensiveness and anger or whatever, that in that moment, there’s obviously there’s some kind of identification as junk as this entity. So yes, that happens sometimes. Are there people for whom it never happens? I haven’t met such a person, they may exist, I don’t really care whether they exist or not, I can only deal with what’s right here. And as far as I’m concerned, even if even if that experience hadn’t happened for the last 30 years, I would still have no way of knowing whether it might not happen again in the next five minutes. So to say this has gone for good for me. Seems seems like delusion again, it seems like again, buying into the story of me so. And it doesn’t really matter whether it happens or not. It’s just another happening in this movie of waking life.

Rick Archer: Well, how’s the frequency or intensity of it diminished over the years as a result of all your involvement with spiritual things, or whatever? I mean, you know, your tendency to get upset or defensive or whatnot, I mean, 30, looking back 30 years, perhaps that happened a lot more often and a lot more blindingly than it happens now, you know?

Joan Tollifson: Yeah. Although just to notice that in order to, in order to say that, we have to go into thought and imagination and memory, we have to construct the story of Joan moving through time. And so it’s a fictional story, however, relatively true, it might be, it’s a fictional story. And yes, I could say, you know, this happens less frequently. But that might be because I’ve just just because I’ve gotten older and wiser and you know, might have nothing to do with

Rick Archer: spiritual,

Joan Tollifson: the meditation and, you know, spiritual work and therapy

Rick Archer: might not, but you do tend to see perhaps a greater likelihood or frequency of people for whom this sort of, you know, development or experience or whatever word you want to use, takes place who are who are involved in spiritual things, as opposed to just hanging out in the couch drinking beers every day, for decades. It does seem to have its value in that way. And we can we can safely assume that anything we’re saying, you know, about Joan or Rick or anything else? Sure. It On some level, it’s totally a story. I mean, that’s a given. But in order to actually have a conversation, you know, you do have to use these concepts. I mean, if we just want to bring it down to the level of pure being, you know, we can just sit here with our eyes closed for an hour and a half, and we won’t be much of an interview.

Joan Tollifson: But I, you know, I think this is the danger here is that, yeah, I mean, I think there are things that can be really, you know, helpful, relatively speaking, like meditation and so on, but, but the danger in sort of making a cause and effect relationship is that you know, then it’s like, we set it up where you need to do something to get this or this is the desired goal. And we’re going to try to get there. And that, that way of looking at it perpetuates the very illusion that we’re waking up from, which is that, you know, we’re trying to get somewhere else because actually, wherever we go, here we are this is it. This is it. And so it seems to me that we’re very fixated in our, in this culture anyway, on self improvement and, and trying to fix ourselves and feeling like there’s something dreadfully wrong with us. And, and of course, it does seem like there’s a lot of things wrong with the world. And so

Joan Tollifson: to just notice that, right now, this is it, this is it. This is, this is all there is.

Rick Archer: I think life is very paradoxical. And talking about this stuff is very paradoxical. Because almost anything you say, you can you can say the opposite and, and kind of see the see where that has its its significance, also, and neither one is sort of like the absolute complete truth that you could completely and completely rest on and, and without the other kind of having to say away, but how about me to that also?

Joan Tollifson: Yeah, I mean, that’s, we can’t, we can’t ever capture reality. This, whatever this is, right now, right here, we can’t capture it in words. No words can describe it, they can point to it, they can praise it and celebrate it, but they can’t capture it. And, and no matter how we try to say this, it’s never quite right.

Rick Archer: So you can always say them, but the finger at the moon but it’s not going to be the moon.

Joan Tollifson: Yeah, so people say different things that sometimes sound like they’re completely opposite. And contradictory. But they may both be true. Yeah. So.

Rick Archer: And so on the one hand, you know, there’s nothing that can be done to brought bring about awakening. On the other hand, there are things that one can do that apparently are conducive to awakening, you know, happening, and again, it doesn’t happen. But then again, it does, you know, I mean, you can just go back and forth and back and forth. I mean, there was this Zen Roshi, you probably know his name, I forget, someone told me but he said, you know, spiritual awakening may be an accident, but spiritual practice can make you accident. Oh, yeah. And you know, harkening back to this, what you were saying earlier about an encapsulated being kind of looking out on an alien world, or, or like this individual thinking, Oh, I’m going to be such a better individual, when I get enlightened, and so on. It’s kind of like the wave thinking, oh, man, I’m gonna be such a cool way when I, when I become oceany, or something like that. Whereas in fact, you know, what ends up shifting and happening is, you know, one wheel, or the ocean realizes, wait a minute, I’m this totality, you know, I thought I was just a wave, it’s, um, something which contains all waves.

Joan Tollifson: Yeah. And that, you know, and every wave is perfectly what it is, it’s, you know, so it’s like, you can’t really separate, you know, again, in our conceptualization, we always want to separate divide things up, that’s what thought does, yeah, then we want then we separate good and evil, enlightened, dark and, and enlightenment and delusion. And then we want to be sure that, that I get to the sunny side of the street forever, and have only enlightenment and clarity and, and get rid of all the messy bad stuff. And, and you can’t really pull them apart that way. You know, the fact that I spent a number of years in my early youth, as an alcoholic and a drug addict, is just as much a part I feel of whatever Insight has come about as years of meditation. It you know, you can’t, you can’t pull them apart. But what I I wouldn’t advocate that anyone go and, and drink heavily or take drugs. And I don’t advocate that anyone go and meditate either. I certainly wouldn’t discourage it. And I sometimes invite people to explore the present moment or just be aware of the present moment in a way that could be described as meditation, or I invite people to just be silent. But you know, I don’t, I don’t advocate any kind of path because what I’m really pointing to is that the totality is already here, here now. I was already here. And whatever is happening, it’s all one whole happening. And everything that happens is an expression of that so

Rick Archer: yet you yourself were on a number of paths for a number of years a lot of Zen and sat with this Tony packer and you know, some other some other things that you’ve engaged in. So yet, you would say to someone who is considering doing some similar things, like don’t bother, it’s all right here now,

Joan Tollifson: no, I wouldn’t say Don’t bother, I would neither say don’t bother or go out and meditate. But it’s more just trusting how life unfolds. And it unfolds for different people in different ways. Yeah. You know, looking back on my life, you know, one moment there was doing drugs and getting drunk and other moment there was doing Zan, very strict Zen practice. And other moment there was being with Tony packer, whose approach was very open, and non regimented, and explorative. And another moment there was, you know, going off to listen to radical non dual teachers who said, there’s nothing to do this is it. And, you know, another moment it was being in satsang, with somebody and gazing into somebody’s eyes, and, and so, you know, and then the mind afterwards comes to comes in and says, Well, this cause that, but that’s, that’s some kind of overlay. So it’s, as I see it, this whole movement of life isn’t really divided up into me and you and enlightenment and delusion. I mean, these are words, and they point to something and they’re functionally useful. So, you know, like enlightenment to me, is, is seeing the wholeness of everything, seeing that everything is myself, there’s only this one being. Delusion is thinking that I’m encapsulated inside this body, mind, I’m a separate little entity, and I have to, you know, defend Joan. But this totality of here, now, this totality, whatever word we want to call it includes both enlightenment and delusion, it includes

Rick Archer: light and dark sound. Big and small, you know, the parallels? Oh, exactly. And

Joan Tollifson: there isn’t really an owner of any of these things, you know, the idea that I am deluded, or I am enlightened, is the mistake that enlightenment sees through delusion is the idea that I am deluded. And, and certainly, that idea can pop up sometimes, you know, there can be a thought, you know, I’ve ruined my whole life, I’m a failure. And in that moment, if that thought seems real, in that moment, that’s, that’s delusion. And but it’s, it’s just another movement in, in the show, you know, there’s sort of, it’s a, you know, a kind of a, sometimes we think, Oh, my goodness, that’s delusion, I have to get rid of that, you know, so that I can be enlightened and never have that kind of a thought, and then I’ll be okay. But that thought, again, is delusion.

Rick Archer: Well, you know, speaking of this totality, and we’ve alluded to it, and various terms, in the last few minutes, the wholeness that totality, being whatever we want to call it. I think, you know, some people, of course, would argue in from a strict materialistic point of view that there is no totality or being or innate intelligence to life, it’s all just a function of brain chemistry. And when we die, we die. And that’s the end of it. But you know, most people listening to the show would sort of resonate with the idea that there’s, you know, some presence, awareness being some time, some attribute the quality of intelligence to it, and it’s apparently given rise to this whole vast, complex universe where, you know, you can take a pinpoint at arm’s length with the Hubble telescope and see 10,000 galaxies in it and just or you can go down to the microscopic level and see so much intricate complexity and fascinating, you know, mechanisms of the way things work. And I like to sort of think maybe this is just a concept, but it makes sense to me, that you know, we human beings are an all beings really but especially when you get to the human level or the instrumentality through which that intelligence knows itself or experiences itself or like the sense organs of the infinite, so to speak. And are you with me so far? I mean, everyone differ from that line of thinking or?

Joan Tollifson: No, I can resonate with that. I mean, but just to notice that however we, however we understand what’s going on here, it is a conceptual picture.

Rick Archer: Yeah. Well, we’re talking therefore we’re involved in, right. But

Joan Tollifson: I mean, it’s, it’s, to me, this is such a crucial thing to keep pointing out, because because, you know, people sort of say, oh, yeah, of course, the map isn’t the territory, the word waters, not water. I know that. But But actually, we that’s exactly where where we get caught again and again, is that these conceptual pictures start to seem very real. And then, you know, pretty soon we’re like really worried, well, what is going to happen to me if I fall off the edge of the earth, you know,

Joan Tollifson: which is just a false concept. So this total when I say totality. Unfortunately, as soon as we use a word, it kind of makes it seem like we’re talking about something.

Joan Tollifson: And what we’re actually talking about is not something. And in Buddhism, they often use the word emptiness, by which they don’t mean like a big as I understand it, they don’t mean a big, empty room, they mean that everything is empty, of itself, everything is empty, of solidity, empty of form. So and then they say, In Buddhism, that a complete understanding of impermanence is that there’s no such thing. There’s no impermanence. Because, you know, our first understanding of impermanence is that there’s all these separate objects, and they’re all impermanent. You know, there’s me and I’m impermanent. But when you really see that there’s nothing that actually forms as a solid, persisting independent thing, there’s only flux and change, then there is nothing to be impermanent, because nothing, you know that our picture is I am, I am this little boat that I’m steering down the water course of life. Rather than there’s nothing but the watercourse, there’s nothing but flow. And and so, you know, we start to conceptualize what’s going on here. And we can think of it as consciousness, or we can think of it as subatomic particles are, we can think of it as a dream, or, you know, we get all these different pictures, conceptual pictures. But right now, you know, what is this? We don’t really know. And we can’t really, there’s no word that really captures this, yes, whatever this is,

Rick Archer: well, a physicist would tell us that what a physicists would concur with what you just said, basically, you know, they take the water, glass, break it down, go deeper, deeper, deeper, deeper, you get down to a point where it’s all just sort of virtual fluctuations in the vacuum state or something. And there is no water glass, there is no water, there are no molecules, or atoms or anything else, those are all sort of more concretized levels of reality, which fundamentally have no substance, or no, no, you know, no meat, no real reality to them.

Joan Tollifson: Yeah. So like, we have an idea that there’s like a brain. And then and then we think, well, now is consciousness, you know, just to see how we have you have to have these ideas of separate things to come up with this, you know, there’s a brain now is consciousness in the brain? Or is consciousness here before the brain? You will consciousness still be here, after my brain is dead? Or Won’t it that all these questions sort of presume that these things actually exist as separate independent things? And when you see that it’s all one whole happening? There’s no question about, will I survive death because there’s no one here to survive or not survive or not survive? It’s just an or there’s, you know, is consciousness in my brain? Or will it be here, you know, is my brain just like the TV that’s picking it up and dispersed? You know, all those questions, again, are, are based on accepting our conceptual divisions of things, as

Rick Archer: that kind of gets to what I was leading toward there a few minutes ago, which is that, you know, if we, if we really take it down to the most fundamental level, you know, either from the perspective of physics or these more metaphysical perspectives, you know, those both fields of thinking would concur that ultimately there, as you say, there is no sort of individual or individuality or anything else, it’s all just one see of whatever. But then there’s that paradox where things appear to become concrete and to individuated. And and that seems to have its you can ignore that, as you say, if you’re gonna cut carrots, you’re gonna cut your finger off if you ignore that. And it’s in Sanskrit, they have this useful term, which is mithya, which means dependent reality. And they use the example of a pot, where you have a pot and it looks like a pot, you can turn it into a drum, you can hold water in it, you can put beans in it, whatever. But if you get right down to it, it’s only clay, there is no pot, it’s just clay, you know? So how can you say there’s a pot on the level of clay, there’s no pot, but on the level of apparent reality, there is a functional thing that we call a pot. And so I mean, and that that illustration is used to kind of clarify, or what we’re trying to say here, which is that sure, on, if you want to take it to its ultimate, this conversation isn’t taking place, the universe never manifested. It’s all just pure void, as Buddhists like to put it or fullness as the Hindus like to put it this, nothing ever happened. You know, if you want to have a conversation, then you have to somehow compromise or concede a little bit with, with relative, so called realities, in order to actually have words of thoughts or distinguish between you and I, and so forth. But you can kind of keep that in a larger perspective and not get not buy into it, too seriously.

Joan Tollifson: Yeah, and that seems to be, you know, what I do in my talks and books and stuff is to sort of keep reminding us of, of the larger picture, that that just seems to be the interest that the universe is manifesting here. But as you say, it’s not it’s not to deny relative reality. You know, there’s that great story and Zen about, it has a lot of different versions, but it’s something like, before I took up Zen, there were mountains and valleys and, and then after I started the practice of Zen, there were no mountains and no valleys. And then with enlightenment, there were mountains and valleys. And it’s like the middle stage, the the sort of is the stage where you’ve realized the absolute, you’ve realized that it’s all one you’ve realized that there’s no separation. And, and then, you know, sometimes people think well, that’s, that’s all there is that it’s all one that but they in the the last stage in that story, is that there’s mountains and valleys again, now is that the same as the first stage, I would say, you know, the first stage is our ordinary view, in which we think that mountains and valleys are totally separate, independent things that actually exist and persist through time as independent, continuous things, separate from each other. The final view, there are mountains and valleys, but we see them as one whole happening. Yeah, as inseparable aspects of one seamless whole happening. And we recognize that the mountain is nothing but continuous change. It’s moving. I mean, Dogan realize that centuries, or however long ago, he lived centuries ago. You know, he said the mountains are moving before physics, you know, it and it’s true, even things that seem very solid are actually moving. And so there is there is certainly the appearance of you know, someone named Joan who has a progressed over a lifetime. It’s kind of like when, you know, when we, when we listen to music. If we just had the note that’s in front of us right now, if we just had that one note, it wouldn’t mean anything there would it wouldn’t make any sense. It wouldn’t be there would be no beauty to it, there would be no music, you know, it depends on the context, you know, the memory, the of the notes that came before. And, and yet each note happened now when it happened, and the memory of it and the context is now and so it all happens now. But there’s there’s a there’s a sense of it unfolding in time, and we’re not. We certainly aren’t going to deny the past but, but it’s actually not back there somewhere the way we think it is. Any more than anything is out there. So Where the everything is right here right now. And so there is this sense, if you’re watching a movie, and all you have is the frame that’s right in front of you. That’s instant, you wouldn’t that wouldn’t make any sense. There’d be no movie. So again, there’s the sense of a life story that’s unfolded in time. But it all happens here now. And when you actually go looking for the past, you know, where is 20 year old Joan, she’s gone. She’s gone.

Rick Archer: She’s totally stoned. And she’s just having this. She’s back there somewhere. Whoa, isn’t this wow, what a long strange trip? It’s yeah. Well, you know, this, this kind of gets gets back to this point of paradox. I think if a person kind of gloms on fundam, in a fundamentalist way to, you know, there is no story, nothing is happening, yada, yada. It’s, it tends to be kind of it kind of hit my wife is saying, then how could you have a show, but it tends to be kind of imbalanced, in a way and, you know, this, this thing of like, Don’t wasn’t Dogan or Dogen, or whatever his name was? Yeah. The mountains are there. And yet, you know, it’s different than the sort of the early the early perception perhaps that all there was was mountains, you know, he’s kind of passed through the emptiness phase, and then realize that the reality involves mountains, which at the same time, aren’t mountains, you know, a body, which is the same time isn’t a body a personality, which, at the same time, you know, it’s it’s like, there’s this paradoxical, simultaneous recognition of absolute and relative together and forming a wholeness that’s larger than the sum of its parts as it were.

Joan Tollifson: Mm hmm. Yeah. And I mean, so clearly, you know, in my opinion, some people do seem to get kind of stuck in the absolute view. And, you know, they completely deny I’m not Joan. Nothing’s happening.

Rick Archer: Yeah, I mean, I would say to them, Hey, send me all your money, then if you because you apparently don’t need it.

Joan Tollifson: But I mean, that’s interesting, because there’s an old, there’s an old story and in Advaita, about Shankara, this, you know, great Advaita master. And, you know, I’ve heard different versions of the story, but basically something along the lines of You know, he’s always saying that it’s all one or it’s all a dream, or something like that. And so his students decide to challenge him and see if he really believes this. And they did on an elephant, They charged him with an elephant. And he jumps out of the way. They say, Aha, you know, you don’t really think it’s all a dream, you don’t think it’s all one? And he said, Well, no, that my jumping out of the way is part of the dream, my jumping out of the way is part of the one is an aspect of the one. And so it’s like, the relative, I would say the Absolut includes the relative it just doesn’t get stuck in it, you know, but yeah, but it doesn’t deny it. It’s not anti. It’s not against it.

Rick Archer: I mean, the ocean still has waves, even though it realizes it’s an ocean, it doesn’t just become this sort of crystal clear Placid.

Joan Tollifson: Right. And people often get the idea that, you know, enlightenment means that you could charge me with an elephant, and I’m just gonna stand there. And, you know, let myself get flattened, because there’s no me here. And that, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a complete misunderstanding of, of enlightenment.

Rick Archer: Yeah, I mean, if you think of the Gita, there’s all these verses in a second or third chapter where Lord Krishna is saying how the there’s really no author of action, the Gunas of nature, take care of it, and they and they realize persons, you know, says I do not act at all. And yet, he’s telling Arjuna, get out there and fight this battle, you know, do this intense action, but do it from the standpoint of recognizing that you are not the actor. You know, so, I mean, boy, in a way, I mean, some people kind of dismiss traditions these days, you know, but there’s so many amazing stories in the traditional literature that really stretch you this way in that and kind of inculcate the appreciation of of the paradoxical nature of life. Just when you think you have a cozy niche to sit to cuddle up in that they hit you with something else. This shows you the complete opposite.

Joan Tollifson: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s how that’s I think there’s a lot of I think a lot of people who criticize things like Zen or meditation, the things they say about it often indicate to me that whatever version of it they encountered is really not the version I encountered. Yeah. And, and sometimes, you know, we we miss hear what we’re, what a teacher is saying to us, or what some, you know, author and like, who’s dead in a book is saying to us, and then years later, we hear it again. And we revisit it, and we hear it in a whole new way. So, you know, you know, Tony Packer would say to people things like, can we see that? That’s just a thought she would ask it as a question, can we see that that’s just the thought, and and then people in their minds would often translate that into you should see that this is just a thought. And Tony, was from Germany, so she had a German accent. So it’d be like with a German accent,

Rick Archer: it sounds very authoritative. should do this.

Joan Tollifson: And you’re mad, if you’re not doing

Rick Archer: we have made videos of making you see that this is just a thought. But that was

Joan Tollifson: not her. You know, that’s not what she actually said, you know, so it’s like, and that’s what often happens is the mind I mean, people feed back to me sometimes what they think I said, and it’s, it’s, you know, it’s got this subtle little twist in it, that’s actually completely changing it. So. So I do think think that there’s, you know, tremendous beauty and in a lot of these traditions, and then and advice on Buddhism and

Rick Archer: yeah, I mean, these guys really paid their dues. And there’s, you know, and it’s not to say that we need to live in the past, but there’s, there’s certainly a lot of lot of wisdom to be gleaned, if you know how to interpret it. On this point of uncertainty, or, you know, parrot paradox is a nice saying from the Bible, where Christ says, says, For the foxes have their holes, and the birds have their nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. And my understanding or interpretation of that, it’s just that, you know, he, he was beyond conceptual, cubbyholes? No, there was no, no niche in which you can sort of like, say, I’ve arrived. And this is the deep perspective. It’s funny, because people often feel like enlightenment or awakening is going to be a state of certainty. Like I really know the truth about things now. But really, it’s It seems it’s more of a floating in a way it was that in Zen they have this sort of, I don’t know, mind frames or something, something like that. It’s a floating in lack of certainty. Yeah, letting go. Yeah, letting go precisely. That’s what I just found. He was saying when I interviewed him just the other day, he said, even in his own life, there’s a continual letting go. It’s like any in he doesn’t even sometimes realize what he’s letting go until after it’s gone. And like the Joni Mitchell song, and then he kind of realized as well, that’s gone, you know?

Joan Tollifson: Yeah, cuz it’s just, it’s, it’s the recognition that there’s an openness here, that’s actually the nature of here. This openness, this awakeness is not knowing. Yeah, it’s that not, that doesn’t mean not knowing in the sense of, you know, being ignorant of the facts or something, but it’s not knowing in the sense of, of not grasping, not, not clinging, not beautiful, not, you know, the that seeking mind, that’s always that’s always you know, trying to get it, trying to have some experience or get some understanding or figure it all out, you know, that it’s the absence of that it’s the relaxing of that. It’s, yeah, it’s like, you know, it’s like a fist that’s been very tightly closed, suddenly, just relaxing and opening,

Rick Archer: I think relaxing is an important word there. And paradoxically,

Joan Tollifson: you know, what happens in this enlightened, enlightenment or opening is the realization that this openness is so open and so all inclusive, that it even includes contraction, you know, that, that enlightenment is the recognition that everything is included, everything is myself, you know, even delusion is an aspect of this so

Rick Archer: but there is a tendency isn’t there for human beings to want to contract and to grasp and to to seek certainty in uncertain things. You know, it’s like this fundamentalism is so insidious, and and so universal, really, it shows up in so many ways. I mean, religion and politics and, and Neo Advaita and All kinds of things where we want to sort of we abhor uncertainty as a species that almost seems we really want to sort of feel some security in a, in a, in a fixed vantage point. And, and ironically, that makes us less secure. Because fixed vantage points are always subject to being upturned being

Joan Tollifson: refuted. It seems like it’s a survival function. Yeah, that and in a certain area of life, it works very well. You know, when we’re trying to figure out how to take the bus from here to there, it works very well. But when we’re, you know, looking for the nature of life, or love, or happiness, or freedom, it, it doesn’t work.

Rick Archer: I used to be a student of marshy Mahesh Yogi for many years. And he had this nice little talk he gave where he talked about how routine work kills the genius in man. And he said that on the one hand, you need sort of practical focused, you know, repetitive things in order to accomplish anything in order to do your job or whatever. But on the other hand, he said, it sort of kills the the unbounded creative dimension. And so he held the whole point of the lecture was that both need to be cultivated, so that one can remain in one’s unbounded status Well, yet focusing sharply and doing what needs to be done in the practical world. So I don’t know if we’ve gotten too conceptual on there, but seems to pretend to the point.

Joan Tollifson: Yeah, I wouldn’t say that. But

Rick Archer: yeah, okay. Well, yeah, it’s like taking a bus, for instance, you can’t just sort of wander out in the street and take whatever looks like a bus and wherever it’s going, you know, you have to be very practical, whereas this bus going? And is it going to get me there on time and, you know, be quite specific and analytical about it? Yeah,

Joan Tollifson: certainly are both both things are part of the functioning of life, your ability, the ability to, you know, concentrate on something very narrow, and the expansive openness that relaxing into all of it, are both aspects of life.

Rick Archer: And it almost seems though, that, unless there’s some kind of recourse to or access to expansiveness, like you’re always saying, you say, in your lectures, you’re always reminding people back to that, sort of, I don’t know the word you use, but to sort of the unconditioned or universal quality of things. It but unless there’s request to that one gets more and more and more habituated, or more and more constricted in more and more conditioned to the point where there’s level after level after level of conditioning very deep and very impenetrable. And not necessarily easily seen through in an instant, even though when one would, you know, like to have that happen. But it does take time, sometimes for people to kind of work back through all that. And for things to be let go, you

Joan Tollifson: know, you all again, you know, it takes time, in a sense. Yeah, and we can construct a story of that, but it’s actually immediate, it there isn’t really, there isn’t really anything to let go. There’s no one to let go. It’s already happening. You know, this movement of life or this infinite self realization, whatever we want to call it is already happening it already is. And, you know, and we have

Joan Tollifson: we have a sort of an impulse to try to control it, or manage it or something, or, you know, which is also part of what’s happening.

Rick Archer: But if someone had come to you at the nadir of your drug and alcohol days, and said to you, Joan, there’s nothing to let go. It’s already happening. Do you think you would have you know, snapped out of it? I mean, it wasn’t there a sort of a heaviness or a depth of, of confusion that that wasn’t just going to go in an instant.

Joan Tollifson: Well, interestingly, it did seem to go in an instant. Oh, really? Okay. Well, I mean, again, you can make up a story in which there’s a process or but it seemed like at a certain moment you know, I can remember trying to stop a few times but not successfully and then suddenly I’m things just got really, really bad. And there was a stopping and I went into therapy at that point, and I could say, well, I sobered up through therapy. And I don’t know if I would have stayed sober without therapy. That point but, but Excuse me, but But it seemed like it was just a switch that happened, you know, rather instantly. And I can’t really pin down what happened and so

Rick Archer: but then you had years of therapy and

Joan Tollifson: a year of therapy.

Rick Archer: So there Yeah, that and your zen practice all your spiritual things you did? Yeah. which undoubtedly had a culturing influence. I mean, it must have you didn’t go from day one stopping alcoholism, to where you are now. I mean, I know, this is very progressive sounding and path sounding and individual sounding and all that. But, you know, again, getting back to the paradox point there, there’s I don’t know, you know, I’m getting that it’s just, there seems to be like, for instance, I had a similar story, two years, maybe not as dramatic, but I was, you know, really into drugs for about a year. And one night, I was sitting there on acid, and my mind was just all whirling around bouncing off the walls. And I, I picked up a Zen book, to kind of focus my mind on something wholesome. And I was, you know, reading reading the Zen flesh Zen, Zen bones by remember that little book haul wraps, right, great little book. And, and as I read it, it dawned upon me, these guys are serious, and I’m just screwing around. And if I keep doing this, I’m gonna live a miserable life. So I thought, That’s it, I’m gonna stop taking drugs and learn meditation, and I’ll see what happens. And that, to me was a, it was a definitely a watershed moment, you know, a real turning point. But, you know, then having practiced meditation for 44 years, I’m dramatically different person than I was at that at that point, and it wasn’t just aging, you know, there’s, there’s been an influence. And yet there was something in my experience, at that point, some elements, some dimension, or so that’s exactly as it is now. Same thing, you know, there’s nothing changed and changes in that at that level of life.

Joan Tollifson: Yeah. It’s always now and everything that happened happened here, it’s like, yep, in this Stillpoint of here, now, the whole thing so and, and all of it is this, like, again, we conceptualize Rick who went through this process, or Joan who went through this process, but that’s a conceptualization. And the actually, there is no Joan apart from the whole rest of the universe, you know, that it’s one whole movement and so

Joan Tollifson: what interests you know, what interests me is not sort of prescribing a progressive path to people or saying, you know, this is what you should do. But pointing to the unfolding, that’s already happening, that can’t be avoided. That happens by itself. And you know, for you and me, what unfolded was stopping drugs or alcohol and, and meditating for various people that I drank within the bar. That isn’t what happened. Some of them are dead.

Rick Archer: Me too. And

Joan Tollifson: but that’s, you know, that’s all part of this one whole seamless movement. And

Rick Archer: yeah, no, there’s no denying, I wouldn’t dispute that for a second it’s so all part of the big picture. I just saw I’m sorry, go ahead. And

Joan Tollifson: he just to me that you know, one of the most liberating sent that to me is the most liberating realization because again, you know, we, we have this picture, that I’m trying to get to a place where I’ve gotten rid of all my neurosis all my bad habits, all my addictions, all my compulsions, all sense of, you know, egoic, encapsulated Joane, defensiveness, all of that is completely gone. And all that’s left is this wonderful, pure, radiant, Joan, you know, because there’s a very much of a me in that picture, radiant Joan, who’s just, you know, exuding enlightenment and clarity and love in every moment and everyone loves her and, and she’s always happy. And

Rick Archer: Laszlo throat and wealthy while you’re at it,

Joan Tollifson: and wealthy. You know, and it’s so liberating to really see that none of these neurotic neurotic things, quote unquote, have to fall away. That’s not to say that, that I’m condoning bad behavior or that I’m promoting it, but just that none of nothing has has to be different than how it is nothing has to fall away. And that it’s already here that this, this seamless happening this unicity this being whatever you want to call it is already. Here. It’s, it’s what is and and for me that has been very liberating noise. Yeah, and seeing that there’s really no owner of what’s happening. And there’s no, you know, it’s not happening to me it’s not you know, really getting that just I often say, you know, there’s different cities have different weather, you know, there’s more cloudy weather and more thunderstorms in Los Angeles in Chicago than there are in Los Angeles. Right. And we don’t take that personally, that’s just the weather, we understand that it’s just different conditions. And likewise, somebody minds have more stormy weather, more, more tendency towards addiction, or whatever. And a lot of these things that we used to think of as being moral or spiritual failures. The more that we learn about neuroscience and whatnot, the more we find out how much genetics and neuro chemistry and the condition of the brain and all kinds of things play into, in fact, the whole universe plays into everything that you could say that everything is the cause and the effect of everything else, you know, so it’s like, to really get that there’s no owner of what’s happening. Here. There’s no There’s no thinker of my thoughts. There’s no DOER of my actions, there’s no chooser, who’s making my choices? My choices are unfolding. They’re part of this whole happening, and they happen by themselves. That’s all good. Because that the picture that you know, there’s me in here, this, again, this discrete little unit of consciousness encased in this lot, here. Yeah, me who’s steering my little boat through life? You know, is it tremendously there, you know, that, that there’s so much pressure in that, you know, to do it right, and to get somewhere and it’s never good enough? And, and to realize that, you know, the ocean, you’re already the ocean there. That’s all there is there, you know, there’s and there’s all kinds of different waves and the waves are always changing, and it’s all the movement of the ocean. Is.

Rick Archer: That’s a great relief. It’s a great relief. Yeah. takes a load off your shoulders. It’s

Joan Tollifson: a huge relief. Yeah. And I think one of the pitfalls in progressive practices is that, you know, and I’m not saying this is their intention, and certainly the best teachers have those kinds of things certainly see through this and point point to seeing through this, but, but the pitfall, in any kind of progressive path, is that it kind of reinforces or can reinforce that sense, that there’s me who’s meditating and I have to, you know, I have to meditate correctly, and I have to meditate enough. And maybe if I meditated more, and oh, maybe if I went to another retreat, and I went to a few more soft songs, and if I meditated another few hours every day and did a few more body scans, and this and that, maybe I could finally be okay.

Rick Archer: Yeah, I hear ya. I mean, I live in a community where there’s like three 4000, people meditating. And I’m not officially part of that organization anymore. But there’s very much in the psychology, this carrot carrot dangling about, you know, five feet in front of you mentality, where if I just get on the next course, or if I get this technique, or if I could just afford some higher Aveda, or take these herbs or, you know, live live in a house that faces east or all these things are going to make a big difference. And, and, you know, someday I’ll be enlightened. And then there’s this edifice built up of what enlightenment is, like, which the bar is raised so ridiculously high as to include the ability to levitate. And, and so people think, Well, I’m nowhere near that. So I’m pretty much going to give up hope for this lifetime. It says it’s definitely progressive path to the max and, and I completely concur with, you know, the, the points you’ve just made. And I think that on the flip side, there can be the non progressive path, way too much emphasis to the point where there’s sort of no appreciation for the potential value of some of these things that that can be conducive to, you know, awakening or traditional practices and whatnot. I think there can be an overemphasis on that probably To my mind anyway, that the healthiest approaches is a balance thing where the best of both worlds in the end without the pitfalls of either, if that if that balance can be found.

Joan Tollifson: Well, you’ll love me then because that’s kind of what I do is that balance, but

Rick Archer: good love y’all ready?

Joan Tollifson: But, but that just, I find that there’s a real place for the extremes also, that that’s true that, you know, everything has its place, everything has its place. And there’s, oh, well and wisely, like those teachers who just say, those uncommon I call, you know, radical, non dual uncompromising, radical, non dual teachers who just say meditation is crap. And actually, very few of them say, I don’t know, I can’t think of one who’s actually said that. In fact, they all say meditation happens if it happens, at least the ones I’m familiar with, yeah, but they certainly would, would poopoo you know, they frequently say things like, you know, you’ve meditated for 30 years and got, you know, where, and just kind of put it down. Yeah, and, and emphasize that, that this is already yet and nothing needs to happen. And then kind of make mock and deride progressive paths in some way or other. But there’s a place for that, which is that, you know, it really cuts that, that.


Yeah, you’re right. You

Joan Tollifson: know, and, and when you compromise on it, when you which I do, you know, when you when you can sort of see both sides, and you know, you don’t hold that firm line, you compromise and you’re willing to sort of go in the other direction. There’s a certain kind of sword cut, yeah, that that you can deliver with that kind of uncompromising approach. And so, and then, you know, as far as you know, for some people, it may be really appropriate to be on a progressive path, where they really believe that it’s really important that they show up every day for zozen. And you know, that they go to their one or two sessions a year, and that they have Docu sign with their teacher X number of times, and, and blah, blah, blah. Yeah, that may be, you know, again, it seems to me that, that, you know, we have kind of a desire to find the one true expression. And, and to get it pinned down, you know, this is it, this is the one true expression that kind of has it all, but actually, every expression is, is an aspect of this seamless, whole and it all works together, you know, it’s like, my left eye sees a little differently from my right eye and you put them together and it’s my whole vision, it’s like, we’re all create, you know, we’re all this whole vision and so it’s like, there is a place for for, for everything and speaking personally. I feel like all of those different things have been helpful for me at different moments.

Rick Archer: Yeah, no, I really appreciate your saying that and it’s a definitely I mean, I was sort of like guilty of violating my own little point there and saying that the balanced way is the best you know, I say you broaden my perspective just now and and we I would broaden it further to say you know, the fundamentalist Christians the atheist everybody else, just fine, you know, doing what they’re doing. It’s right for them. It may be they won’t be right for them in 10 years, they’ll do something else but all these little all these little facets are part of one big jewel.

Joan Tollifson: Yeah, it really is. It’s one hole happening and and from the perspective of the universe. It’s all very inconsequential, you know? Which doesn’t mean you know, I don’t have my opinions about political things or I don’t want fundamentalist Christians dictating what goes into the textbooks or something and I’m you know, I have a strong opinion about that. I don’t want evolution taught in the schools. I’m not part of creationism Yeah, creationism. Now someone will pick that out of this whole thing.

Rick Archer: Yeah. They’ll cut that little bit just don’t ever bother running for president you’re cooked

Rick Archer: you’re just saying you’re, you’re just saying you you definitely have your own. You know, political philosophy and convictions about things. You haven’t become just a big ball of mush. You know, you have you feel certain ways about certain things. And but that’s not that’s just your expression. You’re probably going you’re probably Yeah, that’s your particular flavor of

Joan Tollifson: that. Again, I think there’s some people have the idea that non duality or enlightenment or whatever means that you don’t have any opinions anymore, and you’re just fine with everything. And, and, again, I think that’s a false picture that because there is a personality, there are opinions, there are preferences. I mean, it’s, it’s just seeing that, that there’s no one behind them, there’s no one in control of them. It’s like, it’s like, you know, we don’t choose what political views we have, you know, like, I didn’t choose to be a progressive or something. In fact, years ago when I was in high school or grade school or something. I mean, I was for Barry Goldwater. I was like a young Republican.

Rick Archer: Well, I think it’s a good thing. You took all those drugs, then? Yeah, somewhere in there, I

Joan Tollifson: switched, but I wasn’t, it wasn’t like there was anyone in control. You know, it’s just like, we don’t choose our political, you know, certain news sources, I think are completely full of lies. And other news sources feel reliable to me. There are other people who have exactly the opposite sense of reliable and what isn’t. And do we choose that? No, it’s just kind of how we are by nature by all of our you know, and everything our you know, our sexual preferences, our political ideas, our opinions on things. It’s all happening. choiceless Lee,

Rick Archer: do you think we have this is? Yeah, this is interesting. Do I agree with you? Not that it matters? But But do you think there’s like even one iota of choice? I mean, is there like a little like, are we like 100%, or 99%, like choiceless. But there’s 1%, where we have a little bit of volition, and we can kind of steer the boat, like we’re going on off down a fast river. And we pretty much have no choice but to do that, but we have a little bit of choice as to which way we we steer our canoe, you know, within the course of that river?

Joan Tollifson: Well, I think that, you know, we can’t, we can’t put this happening into words, correctly. I mean, so whatever we say is a little bit wrong. Yeah. i What feels so if we say there’s no choice or this choice there, they’re both offs in some way. There’s certainly the appearance of choice. I mean, it appears that I chose to say yes to your invitation to do this interview. And it appears that you chose to do an interview with me. And it appears that I chose to wore this shirt, and that we chose to turn on these lights. So there’s the appearance of making choices. You could call that rowing the boat or steering the boat. But how did all those choices happen? And when we look back at when I look right now, at where these words are coming from, I don’t find anyone back there who’s authoring them, I find them just coming out this come even if I were reading a prepared speech that I’d written last night, it would have just come out last night. And I would have written the writing it down would have just happened, you know, they be whatever, all went into you deciding to ask me to do this just came together and happened? No. And then similarly, I get the email. And for whatever, you know, reasons. Say yes. And it’s it when you look at what, where is that choice coming from? I mean, I often invite people to just really explore, because it really doesn’t help to sort of try to think this out philosophically. So I like I like invite people to just watch as you make choices, from, you know, from the smallest choices, like, you know, you’re sitting down and you decide to get up to something bigger, like, you know, you decide to take a job or get married, or whatever, yeah, sell your house. Just watch as that choice unfolds, and see if you can catch the decisive moment or if you can find anyone in charge of it. And what I what what’s discovered here is that there’s nobody running the show. It’s all happening. So there’s the there’s certainly the appearance that you know, that if, if I want lunch, I have to go in and do something, you know, it’s I can’t just sort of sit here and say, well, there’s no choice. I’m going to wait for grace to blossom. provide me with lunch, I could probably be hungry. So but when I look at what prompts me to do that and how it all unfolds, I don’t find any any central chooser in there who’s in control. And in fact, this is what neuroscience is finding more and more that I just read a really interesting book called incognito, which is a by a neuroscientist, and he uses you know that that term, a Team of Rivals that is in that book by that Obama used that term for his Team of Rivals. Yes, some history book. Anyway.

Rick Archer: Lincoln, he got it from a blinking Yeah. Or Doris, that doors currents good. Yeah.

Joan Tollifson: Anyway, this neuroscientists who wrote the book uses it for the brain that the brain is a Team of Rivals. And so even on that level, there’s no, there’s no, they haven’t found any sort of entity in there, who’s, who’s calling the shots. And so to understand that it is all happening by itself, as one whole happening choiceless Lee is very, again, very freeing and liberating, because you really see that, that, you know, if that, I can’t do anything other than exactly what I’m doing. I can’t want anything other than exactly what I’m wanting or thinking. And, and the same is true for other people. I mean, if we really got this, you know, our whole legal system, our political world, it’s all based on the idea that everybody has free choice, you know, if we really got that somebody committed murder didn’t have a choice, we might still lock them up to protect the community, but we wouldn’t, you know, feel like we’re gonna punish this person, because they should have done better. Yeah. And so that’s very liberating. But if this is misunderstood, you know, and then we sort of slip into this thing of where the mind thinks, aha, not having a choice. That’s the correct spiritual position, and also wishy washy, I am going to really try hard not to do it not to be choosing anything. So, you know, so let’s see, well, I can’t, I can’t go to the retreat, because that would be a decision, and that would be doing something. And, and, and all of that, if you look is also just happening,

Rick Archer: right? Or one might say, well, there’s really nobody doing anything. And therefore it doesn’t matter if I robbed this bank, because it’s not really me doing it, you know, it’s just sort of a, it’s happening. And just as good as not robbing the bank, there’s a bit of research I thought you’re actually going to refer to, which is when you started to mention research, which is that they’ve discovered that the impulse to say, move your arm or something appears in the brain, like several seconds before you actually have the conscious impulse, the conscious desire to move the arm.

Joan Tollifson: And there are these fascinating experiments to where they have some people who the two sides of their brain have been divided for one reason or another. All right, yeah. And so they had, I’ll get this wrong, because my memory of it, but it’s something like the person they show them flashcards that one side of the brain sees, like, the flashcard will say something, like, get up and go to the refrigerator and get a coke. And, and, and the person will go and do that, and then they’ll come back, and they won’t be able to remember because of the division division, that, that they did that because they saw it was, you know, on a flashcard researchers will say, you know, why did you go up? Why did you go and get a Coke, and the person will say, I was thirsty, you know, the brain can remember that they had that, that? Yeah, it doesn’t really know why it did it, but it constructs what seems like a plausible explanation and believes its own explanation. So, you know, it’s a lot, it’s, you know, when you really start to look closely, at, at at at how things are unfolding, you really can begin to see that. That is it like an addiction. You know, we say, well, I want to quit smoking, but I can’t. But, you know, at some moments we want to, we want to quit smoking and then in another moment, wanting to smoke overpowers wanting to quit smoking, you know, want the wanting to smoke at that moment is stronger now can we choose what we want? Doesn’t seem like it. I mean, it’s just all of a sudden there’s an overpowering urge. And sometimes there’s an ability to whatever, you know, just sit down in meditation and feel the sensations of that urge and, and sometimes that will work and we don’t light up the cigarette. Or for some people that works completely, you know, I mean, I quit smoking in 1974 and have never led up again. And I have friends who have tried to quit again and again and again. And they just can’t. My father was like that he, he was dying of emphysema, and he was still running across the street to get cigarettes from the lady across the street every now,

Rick Archer: conditioning is very powerful. It’s,

Joan Tollifson: you know, and?

Rick Archer: Well, this whole discussion actually kind of points to an interesting point, which is that, you know, we, we think that we’re in control of our world, and we think that we’ve sort of got it all together, and so on. But really, we’ve just all we are is like little tiny people on the universe. You know, there’s, I mean, even from a scientific perspective, the fraction of the of the total spectrum of light that we’re able to see that fraction of anything we’re able to perceive through any of our senses is such a miniscule amount compared to the totality that it really does seem silly in that light to give such predominance to the individual authorship. And are you still there? Your picture? Oh, yeah, I’m here. I’m here. Good. And so, to my mind, it kind of bolsters your point that you know, there really is no one running the show. And there’s, it sort of helps to bring about that sort of relaxation into, into what is and into. I’m not saying it as well, as you do it. I’m kind of I’m fumbling here. But you know, what I’m trying to say?

Joan Tollifson: Yeah. It’s just happening by itself.

Rick Archer: Yeah, things happen automatically. Oh, one whole happening.

Joan Tollifson: Including the thought that I have to do this. Yeah. And, and the thought of creates this Mirage, me, you know, like, if I said something, and then thought pop, you shouldn’t have said, that thought kind of creates the mirage of me who chose to say that and could have said something better. And the thought just pops up, and the Mirage just pops up, the whole thing happens by itself.

Rick Archer: So, so we just had a little technical glitch, John and I, and we probably just edited that out of this recording. But I was getting very vague and rambling and trying to make some point about the service. authorship of action, and perhaps John can come back and clarify what I was trying to say,

Joan Tollifson: Well, no, I think we sort of seeing that there was no, there’s no one doing anything, that it’s one whole happening. That’s it. But there’s still the appearance of you know, of making choices. So, you know, when I was teaching grammar at a college a few years ago, I don’t, I don’t get up in front of my students and say, there’s no you there’s no way you can, you know, you’re either going to learn this or you’re not, you know, of course i i say this is what you have to learn. This is what’s in the homework for tonight, this is what you should go home and do. Because that’s how this is functioning, but, but when I really look back to see where all of those things are coming from, they’re coming from the whole universe, they’re coming from totality, they’re not, there’s no Joan in there. And whether my students are capable of doing the assignment or not, is also the the movement of life itself. Then if I really see that, I’m, you know, if they fail to do the assignment, I’ll still give them an F. But I’ll be more compassionate, I’ll have more understanding that the fact that they went home and didn’t do the assignment was the only possible thing that could have happened for them at that moment. Doesn’t mean I might not urge them to do better next time. But, again, that urging is if it happens is just happening and whether they can do that or not, is just happening.

Rick Archer: Yeah, that’s very good. I really enjoy that. It helps me put things in perspective. I, I tend to get a little bit too judgmental sometimes about things. You know, I see Sarah Palin on television. You know, people just do what they do and

Joan Tollifson: yeah, and my and your, your response is also just happening, you know, the they, she’s just a movement of the universe. And, you know, Rick’s anger at her Joan’s anger at her is also just the movement of the universe. Yeah. So

Rick Archer: beautiful. Well, I really enjoyed this. I apologize if at times I kind of became a little long winded trying to state certain points that that was just the movement of the universe to I’m sure. You’re great. Yeah, it’s, uh,

Joan Tollifson: I really enjoyed talking with you.

Rick Archer: Sometimes when I try to express an abstract point, my mind kind of becomes abstract. And I kind of lose the focus of what I’m trying to say, you know, it’s sort of a bit of a balancing act. Well,

Joan Tollifson: it’s kind of interesting, because, you know, when we’re trying to say something, we’re kind of like, we’re working on this sort of conceptual map world, you know, and sometimes it just kind of disintegrates. And it’s like, we come to this place where, which is, you know, where I don’t know what’s going on. Which is really the truth.

Rick Archer: Yeah. Yeah. Interesting thing. Yeah. So. So John, lives out in Oregon, do you give actual in person songs or you do stuff mostly on the phone or whatever, buy books? And I

Joan Tollifson: do. I hold meetings here in Ashland. And I do phone meetings with people and Skype meetings. Okay. And write books.

Rick Archer: Yeah. So I’ll be linking to your website from And people can go there. And I’m sure they can get in touch with you through that, if they’d like to either come to a song or be in touch with you on phone or Skype. And I will also link to your books, in case they would like to read them. You probably have some kind of mailing list or something where you notify people of

Joan Tollifson: I do I have an email list that if people just send me an email, they can get on the list. And then I hardly ever send out any emails. But if I’m going on a tour, which I hardly ever do, or if I’m, if I’m coming out with a new book, which I do have two new books coming out next year. So if you know, then I send out an email and I let everyone know, what are they going to be about? One of them is about non duality. And it’s similar to my last book, which was a bunch of talks and dialogues about non duality, but the new one is not in dialogue form and it’s much shorter. And it’s just sort of an attempt to put non duality in in a simple concise way. And the other one, which I’m still finishing up is more of a personal has more of my personal story in it like my first two books, and, and it focuses a lot on death and aging. And non duality, but they’re coming out like a year. So you say they’re supposed to both come out early in 2012.

Rick Archer: Good, perhaps I’ll read them myself. Okay, so, let’s conclude. I’ve been talking with John Tollefson. And this is a little interview series called Buddha at the Gas Pump. I think John is number 86 in the series. And next week, I will be interviewing a fellow named Krishna gocce, who actually lives in Portland not far from you. Uh, huh.

Joan Tollifson: have been really nice talking to you.

Rick Archer: Yeah, it’s been great talking to you. I just want to say to people that have, depending on how you’re hearing this, you might be on YouTube or something. If you go to Bat gap. You can see all the interviews there and sign up for a podcast if you wish. There’s little discussion group there that springs up around each interview, people start talking about what was discussed and so on. So you can participate in that if you’d like you can get on my email list, which goes out about once a week announcing new interviews as they’re posted. So thank you for listening or watching. Thank you, Joan, and we’ll see you next week.