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RICK: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of conversations with spiritually Awakening people have done little over 600 of them now. If this is new to you and you’d like to check out some of the previous ones, please go to bat gap comm bat gap and check under the past interviews menu more you’ll see them organized in several different ways. This program is made possible through the support of appreciative listeners and viewers. If you appreciate it and would like to help support it, there’s a PayPal button on every page of the website. And there’s also a page about other ways to donate if you don’t feel like using PayPal. My guest today is Lawrence Freeman. Lawrence is a Benedictine monk and teacher and is director of the world community for Christian meditation WCM, a global inclusive, contemplative community. He resides at the International Center of the WCM at Bombo center for peace near Paris, with Irish and English English roots. He was educated by the Benedictines and studied English Literature at New College, Oxford University. Before entering monastic life, he worked with the United Nations in New York in banking and journalism. Father Lawrence is a monk of the Benedictine congregation of Monte Oliveto maggiore. John Mann was his teacher and father Lawrence assisted him in establishing the foundations of the community. Lawrence is the author of a number of books on meditation. He teaches meditation in religious and secular contexts, and works in interfaith dialogue, travels, extensively teaching and leading retreats and dialogues. Lawrence sees meditation as opening the common ground of humanity, and developing the contemplative consciousness that he believes the world today needs for its survival. And I agree with that. So welcome, Lawrence.
LAURENCE: Thank you.
RICK: Good to have you. And Laurence made heroic efforts with us over the last couple of days to get his audio and video working properly. And it looks and sounds great now. So wonderful. I thought it might start by reading something that a friend of mine sent, this guy prefers to remain anonymous, but he’s met you. And he seems to have met every spiritual teacher. In the 20 and 21st century, he really has gotten around over the years. But anyway, here’s what he said, I’m really looking forward to watching Lawrence Freeman’s interview, he’s an exemplar of the best of Christianity. His teacher, John main, who he succeeds, as the head of the organization that main started, was a visionary and their group had gotten has gotten countless Christians to explore and plumb the depths of the tradition, and directly experience in themselves what Christ and the saints had experienced through the simple mantra practice. And then, I’ll just finish off what he said. He said, If you get a chance, you can ask him about his connection with Advaita Vedanta and the teachings of Ramana Maharshi. He told me when I met him that he had been to our Naturalia and was inspired by Ramana. So that should give you something to start with.
LAURENCE: Well, thank you. Well, certainly the roots. Well, you know, meditation itself is a universal wisdom, we find it in all the great spiritual families. And my own tradition, the Christian tradition, goes back to the teaching of Jesus on prayer. And in specific terms, you know how to meditate in this way that we teach, goes back to the early Christian monks of the desert of the fourth century. And, but, of course, all of these roots are connected. So if John main my teacher introduced me to meditation when I was in my first year of university, he himself had been introduced to meditation before he became a monk when he was in the forest, actually in Malaysia, or Malaysia as it is now. And he was a diplomat there and went to visit a swami who was well known in the country and recognized and revered by the authorities for his worth a piece into religious understanding during a very turbulent and violent time. So he was sent to meet Swami Satchidananda, who’s died in the 60s to thank him for his good work. But in the course of the conversation, he realized he was in the presence of a spiritually very profound person, a very active that also deeply contemplative. And germane was a spiritual person, practicing Christian. So the conversation fell into spiritual matters. And the monk asked him, Are you a religious man, Mr. Main? And he said, Yes, I am. I’m a Catholic, I practice my my faith. And they started talking about prayer. And then the SWAMI described meditation, or the prayer the heart, as we could also call it. And this touched a very deep chord in John man. It sort of echoed his own tradition of contemplative prayer, but with a vividness and actuality that he hadn’t experienced before. So he said to the monk, you know, could you teach me I’m a Christian, but could you teach me to meditate? So the monk of course, they said, well, Swami said, Well, of course, you’ll you’ll be a better Christian if you can meditate. So he said, I can only teach you if you’re serious. So John Mensa what the serious mean. And he said, Well, it means that you practice, you can practice twice a day, morning and evening. And come back, if you like, once a week we can meditate here together. And any questions you may have, we can discuss. Anyway, that’s what happened in John Mayer was a very disciplined person. And he began, he integrated this way of the mantra that he was taught. He took a Christian word as his mantra, but basically practiced, what we teach now continue to teach. And the connection with Ramana is interesting. I didn’t realize this until some years. John Lane had died and his his teacher who died, I got into the successor of the SWAMI in Malaysia. And she told me that the SWAMI had been a turning point in his life when he thought about coming to Malaysia and doing the work that he ended up doing. And but he wanted to have an affirmation about it. So he went to see Ramana Maharshi and sat in his presence, asked his question, and Ramana looked at him, didn’t say anything. But he took that as an affirmation. So you could say there’s the roots are connected and go back a long way.
RICK: The word meditation obviously has a lot of different definitions and connotations. And there’s so many different practices that might be referred to as meditation. And then there could be a lot of differences between them. It’s like the word liquid. You know, there are so many different things that are liquids, and you really don’t pin it down by just using a general phrase like that. So specifically, you know, what, what do you understand and meditation to be? And what’s the nature of the kind of meditation you teach as compared to other types of practices that might be called meditation?
LAURENCE: But it’s good, I think you’re right, meditations. It’s also nice words, everything, lots of different things. But the important thing is to see what they have in common and not to get into any kind of competition and maybe at different periods and people practice in a different way. And then they’ll maybe move to a to a deeper practice, hopefully. So I don’t see any, any sort of friction between different methods, but but they are different. Yes. The word itself, meditation is related to medicine and the prefix Med, in from the Greek means care and attention. And the key word, whereas is, well, they say caring attention to one of our community today had to go to hospital. And she just called me and said that she was receiving very good care. And the people, the doctors and the nurses were giving her real, loving attention. So we could say that meditation is the work of attention that gives deep care to the soul. It’s not introspective or introverted or self narcissistic, but it is about caring for oneself and paying attention to deeper levels of Self. So our way of meditation is, is sort of very simple, radically simple. When John main was introduced to meditation, and he practiced it, built it into his Christian prayer life. Some years later, when he became a monk, he was told to stop meditating in this way, saying the mantra, basically, he was told, sit down, sit, still, close your eyes, and then begin to repeat a word or short phrase, and stay with the same word, or the same phrase, repeating it continuously, not thinking about the meaning of the word, but just repeating it with a pure attention, and laying aside your thoughts as they arise. So this is what he practiced. And that led him in time of the day in other spheres of life as a professor of law and so on, to become a monk. And he was this was in the 1950s. So a long time before the Beatles introduced meditation to the west. So he was very disappointed when his nervous master said, Well, I don’t know about that. So maybe you should just stop that and go back to a Christian way of prayer. As, as I say, actually, in those days, monks were obedient. So he did that. But he said that it was like going into a desert. I mean, he obviously prayed in other ways. And he developed his monastic life and his spiritual life in other other ways. But it wasn’t until 1969 or 70, that he was a young American student came to the school that he was running at that time in Washington, DC. And he was on a spiritual search of the 60s. And he said, I’ve been all over Asia, I’ve learned meditation in 100 different places and ways. And I just wondered, does Christianity have anything corresponding to this? Apart from going to church, you know, is there anything So John, then this led him with this young seeker, to go back to the roots of his own monastic tradition to the Jesuit fathers. And they’re in the conferences of John Kassian, who was the sort of teacher of St. Benedict. He found what he had read before, but hadn’t fully understood, to conferences on prayer. And then second conference number 10. On prayer, he found the mantra in the Christian tradition. And, interestingly, the mantra that kacian recommended, is the is the phrase, oh, God, come to my assistants, as an editorial may come in 10 day, which opens the divine office in the Christian world, the daily regular hours of prayer. So I’m not sure how many monks realize this. But
LAURENCE: when you open the morning prayer, the midday prayer, the evening prayer with that verse, you are actually repeating Cassadines mantra. But because they were, they only said it once. And they said it aloud as an opening to vocal prayer. But John men, because of his previous experience, and where he was at that moment, he understood that this, this teaching, that he’d learnt many years before, in from the SWAMI was essentially the same. And that led him to pick up the thread and find the same teaching on the mantra in Christian prayer, the prayer of the heart, in so many other places, of course, the Jesus Prayer of the Orthodox Church, the Cloud of Unknowing, and so on any other teachings on it. And so he sort of came home. And he looked back on those 10 years or so when he had stopped meditating. He never resented it, he just said, brought me back to meditation on God’s terms rather than my own. But from that moment, that He began to teach it, I happen to meet him again, at that critical moment when he was starting, and he introduced me to it. And he came to realize that this was, this was a method of contemplative prayer. Simple, but serious discipline that the Western Church had lost. We simply didn’t have a method that was being taught of that kind of simplicity. That was that was how it began,
RICK: I had the privilege of interviewing father, Thomas Keating years ago. And, you know, he, I think made a somewhat similar discovery with the centering prayer. I think he had learned TM, and he was doing that for a while. But then he began to think, well, you know, maybe this is in Christianity also. And he did a bunch of research and came up with centering prayer, which is very similar to the kind of meditation he had learned. But in a more Christian context. And maybe we could conjecture here that something of this nature, you know, some some means by which we can take our attention within and settle down to kind of the bedrock of our being, the foundation of existence, really. And then come forth from there replenished with the resources that reside, there has been central to perhaps every religion has been perhaps the experience of every great enlightened founder of any and every religion. And just towards the end of what you’re saying there us you imply that? Yeah, something like this had existed, but it has been it had been lost. And I think that’s the key thing. There’s this kind of, you know, mechanics of loss and revival loss and revival that’s, that seems to have gone on throughout history in every culture. So maybe you could comment on those thoughts.
LAURENCE: Yeah, thank you. And I agree, there is that cycle of losing and finding, there’s a number of parables in the gospels that take up that theme. You know, there’s the parable of the lost sheep. And the shepherd goes off and finds it. There’s the parable of the last coin, a woman likes a lamp, such as high and low. And then, of course, there’s the parable of the of the last son, the parent, the prodigal son. And in each of those parables you see most fully in the prodigal son, of course, but you see that when they find what they’ve lost, they are ecstatic, they are filled with sheer joy. And they call their neighbors together, and they have a party and they have a great time. So I think the losing and the finding a part of a cycle that we repeat. And maybe the the secret is that when you find something, you realize that you can’t hang on to it, you can’t possess it. And you might have to let go of it or lose it before you can find it again, at a at a deeper level or with the greatest simplicity. And I think that’s, that’s, you know, that is profound pattern of reality. In the nature of reality that there is the cycle, we could even see it reflected in the, the Christian model of God, the Trinity, is that procession coming in and going out, you know, which is this Dynamo of creation? So yeah, I think I think we did lose it. And the Christianity became well anemic, and over institutionalized, and the shadow side can take over. Now, that doesn’t mean that all Christians and all churches throughout the modern history is like that, of course not. There have been radiant examples of, of individuals and movements. And there’s constantly been a mystical move within Christianity that has, at times burst out through the repression or the oppression of the institution. And, like the 14th century English school, or the mystics and so on to certain periods of time, where usually quite a small group, it happens in Sufism, as well. You got a group of people within 100 years or 50 years of each other, and they they spark off flowering and movement. And I think that’s happening today. But what’s happening today is on a bigger scale, maybe you think, maybe thanks to the kind of work you’re doing and the Internet and the work we’re doing online, is that this can be communicated at a speed and the magnitude. That’s never never before really been impossible. But so we have to see ourselves I think, as part of a flowing tradition. I’m giving some group of young people online every month at the moment. And we took the basic idea of a tradition as something that is fluid and flowing like a river. And we were carried along by it. We were receive it, and we pass it on. And I think this tradition of meditation in Christianity is, is like that we it was blocked, or only a little trickle was coming through. But as the institutional framework of Christianity, which was set, you know, from the fourth century with, when it became part of the Roman Empire and became a sort of political material, the stick to an unsatisfactory extent.
LAURENCE: So that is breaking down the old model of Christendom that is going to take over the world and civilize everybody, you know, by force. And that’s just broken down. And we’re in the middle of that deconstruction, if you look at it, from one angle, it’s very sad and painful, which it is in one way. But if you look at it from another point of view, this is the Holy Spirit coming in reminding us of what we’ve forgotten, which is what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do. And it’s reminding us to that this isn’t only Christianity, because all religions have to go through this at the moment, I think. Yeah, I think it was. Somebody once said that, you know, there are three elements of religion, there’s the institutional, there’s the intellectual and there’s the mystical. And that usually what has happened is that the mystical has been sidelined or repressed. I mean, you look at what is landed to Sufism, what contemplation has often been a source of objective suspicion in the Christian world, even now. So without the mystical element, any kind of religion begins to ossify and become hard. And and its shadow side takes over. So it is a new religion, not just a new kind of Christianity, and Christianity is necessary, because it is major religion is necessary for this renewal of religion globally. Think of the Dalai Lama dialogues with the Dalai Lama over many years and is, you know, the exemplar of a tradition. But he’s also a visionary of a new kind of religion, and a new kind of religious interaction and collab collaboration. So it’s the interesting times is that, right?
RICK: Yeah, you know, as you’re speaking, I was thinking about what we just spoke about, which is, having lost and then rediscovered something. And the mystical is subtle, you know, I mean, stained glass windows are not subtle, and big buildings are not subtle. And you can see them, you know, you can touch them, they’re concrete, but if someone is having a mystical experience, how can you even tell they might be sitting there with their eyes closed, or they might be raking in a garden or something, and you would never know what’s their inner subjective status. And so something that subtle like that, you know, can easily be lost if the person dies, or, or whatever nobody else is experiencing it, or what more often than not seems to have happened is that the administrators who have kind of taken over a religious or any religion, who are not themselves having mystical experiences, feel kind of threatened or challenged by the people who say they are and they tend to repress or ostracize them, and that perhaps contributes to the loss of the mystical dimension of religion. Would you agree with all that, or differ from it?
LAURENCE: Yeah, no, I think I, I see what you mean. i When, when you know, we have many meditation groups that meet weekly in people’s homes and places of work in homes, churches, and of course, those mushrooms as online groups in the last year. And what strikes me now, people come to those groups, they have a short teaching, they meditate together. And the most important part of the group is that they meditate together. They have a short exchange and then they go and do the dishes. So so it isn’t that they are having rapturous mystical experiences. But I think We have to be careful what we mean by the word experience. Are we talking about an identifiable moment, like if I smell this beautiful rose, okay, that’s that’s a beautiful moment. But then there is a another kind of experiential layer, which is growing and expanding and coming to consciousness all the time. How we do not know, this is terrible of Jesus on the kingdom of heaven, He says, The kingdom of heaven is like a seed, that a man took and planted in the ground, buried it and got up in the morning, went to bed at night, got on with his life. And all the time, the seed was growing, how he did not note. So it’s the same tradition. I think the seed is contemplation is growing us. And we maybe need to make a distinction, not another radical separation, but a distinction between the contemplative consciousness and that is growing out of this inner experience that is maturing and expanding, and specific mystical moments. Which, because they are moments, they come and go, but because they may transform us in the process, when I was I was hearing the other day about a, an Italian scientist, who he was the man who invented the micro processor, and the touch screen, fudge, Fudge, fudge him, I think his name is, hadn’t met him, but they interested in what he what he was saying. So he extremely successful, extremely wealthy, and you know, and a very happy family and a very happy Italian. And he said, I have never, I was always unhappy. I was always wanting something I was always driven, discontented. And one day, he was a happy man in other way. But one day, he had this experience, out of the blue, lasted a few moments of reality, and he saw a new understood experience wordlessly that all things are one. All things are flowing together, and filled with the energy of love. Now, the interesting thing is, is that he’s speaking about that, as a scientist, I don’t know what the other scientists think about it. But so I think we can find a place to speak about those mystical experiences. But we shouldn’t separate that from this day to day work of expanding the contemplative experience. Because if he had been looking for that mystical experience, if you know, I know you meditate as well. So when you sit down to meditate, you said you meditated every day for 15 years. So if you if you do that, you don’t expect to have some rapturous experience every time you sit down to meditate,
RICK: not rapturous, but um, I can say that every time I have meditated over the last 53 years, something has happened, you know, I might still be sitting thinking about something that happens during the day, or you know, what I’m going to have for dinner, or whatever thoughts like that may come to mind. But they, they come to mind in the context of a shift in consciousness that has taken place as a result of meditation. And I’ve heard people criticize meditation by saying that, you know, whatever you may experience during meditation, that’s nice, but then you have to get back to daily life. And so it doesn’t do you any good later on. But that’s not true. Because, you know, both mentally and neuro physiologically, transformations take place which carry over to the other 24 hours. And it’s a cumulative progressive kind of a thing and it just grows and grows and grows over the years. Another one of those Jesus parables was that the kingdom of heaven sneaks up like a thief in the night I believe. And I think one can be undergoing all kinds of beautiful spiritual growth without even recognizing it, you know, this perhaps has nothing to contrast it with and, and then sometimes there are certain moments that something happens and you realize, whoa, I, you know, reacted completely differently to that or I or I haven’t gotten angry in a long time or some such thing you know, that you realize a whole lot of changes taking place that you didn’t even realize was taking place.
LAURENCE: Absolutely. Right. Yes, I we teach a course called Meditation and leadership at Georgetown Business School was 10 years, I think. And I was not quite sure how it would work at first, because we teach it in a, we teach exactly the same way of meditation that I described. Same way, but without the religious framework or religious language, but experientially, it’s the same. And we encouraged the students to get into a daily practice. They’re MBA students. So they’re kind of in their late 20s 30s. And most of them come to meditation, because they want to de stress. But it’s, they’re also looking for something more. And they come to be to become more aware of what it is that they are looking for what life is about. So so what we what we basically concentrate on is just saying, do the practice will will help you get into the practice, we meditate on the class together. You know, they do a study of meditation, the roots of meditation, also the scientific evidence for meditation, and then we look at the effect that meditation could have on the world. What if this personal transformation that takes place in you is sustained, then it is going to spill over into a transformational effect in your world and your work? So anyway, one of the end has been a very good, very heartening response to that. But one of the students said to me at the beginning of the course, once he said, he was an ex Marine, although he said, There’s no such thing as an ex Marine. He said, I am older Marine. So he said, I don’t have a religious bone in my body. I said, Okay, well, that’s hope your other bones are good. So, so I said, anyway, you wanted to do this course you want to meditate. So he said, Yeah, I want to I’ve heard other people take on the course. And they got something out of it. So. So he was quite reserved about. Anyway, after about two weeks, he spoke to me, and he said, I think something is happening. So I said, What? So he said, Well, my wife said to me, Jim, you’ve got to keep meditating. And he said, Why would you say that? So she said, Well, you’re much easier to live with. And when we talk in the evening, you listen to me, you’re not looking at your phone every five minutes, and your karma. He said, This began, he said, I began to realize maybe that is true. And he said, Then I began to realize that I was also more patient, with the other students he works with on projects. And he said, I’m usually a kind of a bit of a pusher or a controller. And he said, I noticed, and they noticed that I was different. So anyway, he, he, he’s still remaining to size. But at the end of the first part of the course, we give them a choice, they can do an essay on the history of meditation in the different traditions or on the scientific evidence for meditation. So I would have thought he would certainly have done the scientific evidence. But he wrote to me and said, as wondering whether I could do another topic, the dark night of the soul. I thought, Where did he ever hear about the dark night of the soul he’d been googling, outside of his comfort zone. So and he wrote a brilliant essay on the dark night of the soul from a secular perspective. And what he said was because we don’t this might lead us into another topic if you want to. But we make a distinction, not not a separation, but a distinction between comes back to a question you raised a few minutes ago, the different kinds of meditation. So we make a distinction between mindfulness, mindfulness practices, as they are popular today. And the practice of meditation as we teach it, which is single pointed, and, and just the discipline of laying aside one’s thoughts. So we would say that the mindfulness is very helpful. It’s helped a lot of people and
LAURENCE: be very grateful for it. But essentially, as many Buddhist friends of mine or teachers have said, it’s essentially preparatory. It’s not sort of it doesn’t exist in its own space. Isn’t it to be careful not to make it to to me centered. But nevertheless, it can produce good results. So, so we would say this is more preparatory for the deeper and, and more transformative work of single pointed meditation. So he had taken that distinction on board. And his essay, he said something, I think very few priests or monks might have been able to say, he said, if you meditate in this way, you will without doubt, go through a dark night. If the wisdom, whereas the mindfulness preparation may have very good effects, but it won’t lead you into this transformative, deeper, transformative experience. So by Dark Knight, he’s referring to what all the mystical traditions call the purgative stage or the purifying stage, we occasionally, of course, find a resistance to the practice doesn’t mean we don’t continue to love it. If we’ve got a good support group to meditate with and good tradition that we’re connected with, we understand that that phase is exactly that it’s a phase and we don’t have to give up just because we have a difficult meditation. So yeah, that’s
RICK: interesting. I’ve encountered a lot of people like that, who learn meditation, because they want to lower their blood pressure, or they just they’re feeling stressed or whatever. And that’s a perfectly legitimate reason for learning to meditate. No, no reason why not. But then you talk to him, you know, six months later, and all and they, and they’re there, all of a sudden getting interested in all this deeper stuff, you know, the weight, okay, the blood pressure is under control. But you know, what about, you know, Vedanta, or whatever?
LAURENCE: More than one, yeah.
RICK: So, you know, one thing leads to the next. And, and I would say that’s because, you know, they’re having an experience, and they want to kind of, they want to understand that experience. And it’s, you know, and obviously, there have been people throughout history who have explained that experience very nicely, and you can find them if you if you look around like your friend Jim did. But the point you’re making, I guess, is that, you know, meditation is not just some kind of a non medicinal tranquilizer, you know, some superficial panacea or something like that. It is it’s as profound as profound can be, and, and it’s a progressive thing. So the profundity might kind of grow upon grow on us over time, as we continue the practice, fact, you can pretty much bet on that.
LAURENCE: That’s right, exactly. And that’s what it goes back to what we were talking about, you know, the different meanings of the word experience, as the the progressive, deepening, and growing experience level of experience, you could say, is really a development of consciousness, which changes the way we perceive the world changes the way we feel reality, or deal with good news or bad news and so on. And those other moments where there’s a sort of a sudden unexpected, beautiful flowering or eruption or manifestation. But the combination of that, of those two kinds of experience is found in meaning. And I think what you’re saying I agree with is that what we need, today desperately is meaning, yeah, and you know, and if you go on the internet, I suppose you could get caught down the rabbit hole of searching for meaning in terms of an explanation or, or exposure or, you know, spirits, errors and so on. This is the meaning of it. I have a friend who has worked with the dying for all his his medical career. And he observed, of course, that some people died well and some people died painfully and end in agony. And he came to realize that the big difference as
LAURENCE: others have done that the difference has to be found in the experience in the question of meaning, people who have meaning in their life suddenly And he’s he’s come to the conclusion that meaning means the experience of connection, deep connection with, of course, and ultimately, it’s not just a connection to your life’s work or the money you’ve created, or the degrees you’ve you’ve accumulated or successes you’ve had. But the meaning the connection is with people, and with yourself, your deepest self. So anyone who is able to feel that connection, and that’s why so often when people are dying, they want to reconnect with people they’ve hurt or become alienated from, and the RE conciliation, I felt, I seen this in my own life to being with family members, who had been separated from and reconciled with in the last stages of their life. It’s, it’s a transformation, it’s a liberation of consciousness.
RICK: Now, you mentioned before we started that David Lorimer had just visited you and David’s been on this show. And he is involved in the scientific and medical network, and the Galileo commission, and so on. And what they’re trying to do is sort of flip the paradigm from the predominant one, which is that we live in a material universe, and somehow the brain creates consciousness and everything is random and meaningless. To you No, consciousness is actually fundamental, and the universe is saturated with intelligence, and everything is profoundly meaningful, and so on. And I think they’re, they’re making some good progress as that the tides turn. But, you know, every now and then I sort of contemplate what life must be like for people who have that hardcore materialist perspective, you know, we don’t even have free will, and everything is, you know, set. You know, we’re just sort of automatons or biological robots or something. I don’t know how people can help but be depressed. In fact, some huge number of people are on antidepressants in this country, and probably around the world. And I guess I’m just stating stuff that people already know. But I think that what we’re talking about here, in terms of meditation, and the deeper experience that it gives one access to is extremely relevant to this point, because, you know, you end up kind of in your heart or in your very being, living the deeper meaning of life as a result of, of its practice, long term practice. And you know, you just so far from the kind of depressing perspective that tends to predominate in the materialist paradigm.
LAURENCE: Yes, yes. And I think the, you know, the most interesting and the best scientists have all broken through into what you might call, and Ken Wilber calls it a mystical view of the universe. So it isn’t the scientists who have thought and investigated and intuited their way into the vision of reality or flaky, they’ve actually penetrated something of the mystery of things. And I think so the scientists on our side, you know, some scientists are on our side, that the materialism is a very serious and dark force that affects economics, and education, and politics, and social media, you know, where everything is reduced algorithms where we find ourselves being controlled, not only what to buy, but actually what we want. I know we are there are real, dangerous forces. And I think, you know, this, what you’re doing what we’re doing in our small way, in Bombo, and in the world community, is, is what exposing and confronting those darker forces, which are, which are also as you say, the cause of many of the most serious symptoms of our society and culture, the depression and the dysfunctionality and the, you know, the breakup of normal human groupings and relationships and family life and so on. So I think there are two examples of that. It mentioned one is the two to two very popular books came out in the last couple of years, I think One was by Harare on homo Deus and homosapiens. Deus very popular. So just one of these books of the history of the world comes out every 10 years or so it puts all the most recent information together and very interesting. In his survey of global history, he has about three lines on religion. And I think almost nothing on art or Shakespeare or bark or you know, anything else. And religion he interprets, basically as a method of storytelling that allows economic units to cohere. There was a very depressing view of religion, but that’s his as I read it, I may be wrong, but that’s
RICK: because Harare is a regular meditator. I don’t know what, yeah, why doesn’t that enter into?
LAURENCE: Well, I you can ask it, you should get him on your show and ask him. I did. And I’m not. I’m not, I’m just making, you know, not so much personalizing it. But at the end of the book, he comes up with this sort of conclusion that the future of humanity because we’re in a real mess, the future of humanity is going to be that we we’ve reinvented ourselves, genetically. We’ve got the means of doing that now. So we just create designer babies. I think that’s the idea. So we recreate AI and wisdom, aren’t we really great now that we can do that, that’s to me is a is a suicidal negation of humanity. Now, there’s another another theory, which is, of course, that human beings are recreating all these wonderful forms of artificial intelligence. And one day, the robots will take over, and human beings will be their pets. And there’s almost a kind of attractive horror in those images of the future. And, and I think the contemplative traditions confront that nightmare scenario, which is illusory, I believe that it confronts it. And the only way it can confront it is by rediscovering what humanity means that our suffering our mistakes, the dark forces in humanity, are part of our evolutionary process. And that what we’re passing through at the moment, it’s not just a crisis, health crisis, or an economic crisis, or political crisis, we’re passing through a dark night of the human soul as part of our evolution. We’ve been through similar things before it must have been equally horrible. And, and yet something new is being born. But we have to believe in the Human Project, and our humanity. And that’s what meditation does, above all, is humanizes us. And it undoes the dehumanizing forces that we are all exposed to. That’s why we teach meditation in schools and to children, and many, many other organizations do I think that is, that is probably the most important thing that that we can do today is teach meditation. Absolutely.
RICK: And there’s another little sci fi, you know, toy that these people like to talk about, which is somehow wiring our brains to the cloud, you know, and uploading our personalities or our our knowledge or our souls or some such thing. So that will live on as a kind of an old some kind of electronic existence after a body dies. And I mean, all these things, I think, you know, they, they reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of what we are and how life works. And they’re just trying to apply this sort of superficial mechanistic, you know, high tech means of fulfilling, I think, what is the natural human yearning, which is for some kind of immortal existence, some kind of, you know, profound deep orientation to life, but it’s not going to happen through technologies or cloning babies or, you know, wiring ourselves to the internet.
LAURENCE: And I think it does mean that we need to, you know, we’ve been obsessed with the pursuit of happiness ever since well, even before the American Declaration of Independence, but and we have to re examine that Is that what it’s about? Us? Is it just about being happy for all? I think it is about being happy, being fulfilled and being joyful and discovering a life of the spirit that’s overflowing our ego, ego personalities and transforming us in the process. So it is about being happy. But is it about pursuing happiness, and restricting happiness just to this sort of ego, commodity egoic commodity that we, that that keeps us locked into, you know, the satisfaction of our desires and fantasies that grows out of that. So?
RICK: And I think it is about pursuing happiness, actually. But it’s, the question is, where are you actually going to find it?
LAURENCE: Yeah, you’re not going to find it as something you take off the shelf, or, or that you construct yourself, you know, but But I think, you know, all of the great mystical traditions, and at the heart of all of the great spiritual families, spiritual founders, there is this mystical, transmission and mystical comes with practice. At the heart of the mall, there is a confrontation, or we say, an encounter with the meaning of suffering. I mean, that’s at the heart of the Buddha’s, or the starting point for the Buddha, is clearly at the at, you know, the heart of the gospel as well. It’s not an end in itself, we don’t glorify suffering, but we nor do we deny its meaning. So, and I think, and that’s wisdom, surely, that’s what wisdom means you go, you know, when you’re going through a hard time you go to your grandmother, and you find a wise person who will, will help you to go through this difficult phase so that you grow through it, and you can become a more loving and compassionate person as a result.
RICK: Yeah, and you were just saying how the whole world is going through a difficult phase right now, that could very well be a dark night of the soul phase. And I think the implication is that we might come out on the other side of this much wiser and more enlightened as a culture. And I think it also relates to what you were saying earlier about individual meditation, which is that if it’s deep, it’s going to elicit some kind of purification. So some per purgation of pent up, you know, impurities, or stresses, or whatever we want to call them that I think everybody carries around with them. And all the spiritual traditions say that, yeah, if you, if you really go deep enough, then all this stuff is gonna kind of loosen up and start to be released. And that’s a necessary phase, if you want to actually live this, this deeper state permanently in the waking state, because you can’t live it if your whole mind body system is gunked up, you know, we’ll all these clashes, or some scars, or, you know, whatever you want to call them. But I think the whole world is gunked up the whole collective consciousness is burden and, you know, with with all kinds of deep impurities, and I’ve often thought, you know, cuz Various people have predicted that there’s going to be some kind of Age of Enlightenment coming along at some point. And I thought, yeah, I feel that too. But, boy, a lot of things are gonna have to change. There’s so many entrenched ways of doing and thinking, like you were saying health and economics and politics and in so many different areas in business, and that are really not going to be able to exist in such a world if it ever arises. So how are we going to get from here to there?
LAURENCE: Well, good question. I think part of it is it’s not it’s not about it, perhaps. It’s where we need we need the the Taoist wisdom of allowing things to happen. Recognizing that, rather than just coming up with a five year plan, or the blueprint, first, world enlightenment or for solving all our global problems, we need to first of all, find our insertion point in ourselves, and then in the flow of things. And when we are in that insertion point, and that’s the still point. That’s our self knowledge. And that’s what we mean by contemplative consciousness. Then, when we’re in touch with that, and we meet other people who are on the same search, as soon as we start to do that we bumped into and now in the internet because we bumped into many of them. But that is one John main inspired me Beginning of my, my journey with his concept of a community of love. And he believed that meditation creates community and I can say, for the last 40 years, that’s been something I have seen happening, you know, through our communities as a spiritual family. Every day, I see it here in Bombo, where we have, we just started, where we started here just before COVID. And it’s, it’s now beginning to open up and we’re beginning to, to, to be a center for that global community. But we have a little core community at the heart of it. That’s ordinary people who, like me, who are living a life based on meditation morning, midday and evening and welcoming guests and, and trying to live a healthy life and trying to be of service to others. So that community that meditation creates, is a community of love. And it’s a community of faith of composed of people of different beliefs. And so what can we do? I think what we need to do is to is to nurture, develop and serve that growth of a community of love, not sentimentally. But actually, and then each person in that community or network, if you want to call it that each person in that community, has their own specific role, job or mission perform. And, you know, otherwise, we’re all very limited, we can’t do everything. So I think, how are we going to bring, bring about a positive outcome to this dark night? I think we don’t know. And we don’t know what the collateral damage may be. What we can take confidence in, I think, is that there is something positive we can do. By remaining in that transformative work of meditation, and living out the consequences of that, through the network, the community, the sense of connection, that grows out of it, and finding what you’ve got to do you. So you’re doing that with this program, and I’m doing it with whatever and doing it here. So, so then all of these things become connected meaningfully. The next step I think, is try and put together leaders from different fields of expertise, who understand what we’re talking about, and many of them do, but they haven’t quite found a way of expressing that in their work, whether that’s in politics, or in business, or in medicine, or in education, or in social services, or environmental action, all those things, but to, if we, if we can bring some of those leaders together, I think we can spark a, you know, something would happen, there will be a certain resurgence of consciousness that would come through the work they’re doing already.
LAURENCE: So identifying and supporting those leaders. I mean, we’re actually putting together a group, we have, we have a group every Friday of online of leaders, business and other politics and other groups that meet to meditate together, just for an hour, every week. And they come, we have 50 or 60. come every week. You know, most of them very busy people. That’s very important to them, that that that moment of connection and turnover with thinking putting together a smaller group of thinkers and leaders in those different fields to share with each other, first of all, how they think, a contemplative consciousness can be brought to bear on the crises that are unfolding and all of the different feelings. That makes sense.
RICK: Yeah, it makes sense. Your bandwidth choked up a little bit. Yeah, you know, when I was like, in my late teens and early 20s, I was You know, kind of in a somewhat muddled way for trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. And you know, since I had been meditating for a year or two, I began thinking, Well, you know, consciousness is really the most fundamental thing, I wouldn’t have been able to express it as clearly then as I can now, but, you know, if I can, the more fundamental the level at which I can work, the more leverage I’ll have in terms of having an influence, you know, and so I decided to become a meditation teacher to try to get more people to experience consciousness, I felt like that might have a ripple effect throughout society, or, you know, more and more people sort of, kind of watering the roots of the tree, will enable the tree to flourish, rather than a whole lot of people monkeying around trying to, you know, water, the branches, which is not from the where the tree gets its nourishment. And, you know, that’s, that’s kind of been my orientation over these years. And I think that it sounds like that’s your orientation. But I think what you’re saying also, about the leaders is a good one, because leaders, by definition, are influential, and, you know, we need more leaders who might be inspired to get those within their sphere of influence, to look deeper for the solutions to life and, you know, to, to meditate and to develop, you know, their full, their full inner potential. And so I think you kind of have to work on both levels. And it seems like, that’s what you’re doing, and, you know, what others are doing, like with the David Lynch Foundation, and some of these other organizations that are, you know, trying to what, and also that, like, what you’re saying, that are trying to get meditation into the schools and the prisons, and well, especially, you know, prisons are important, but also, especially the schools, because the kids, you know, that’s the time to catch them and enable them to, you know, grow into their full potential as, as they progress through their education. So, I mean, compared to what was going on in the late 60s, early 70s, I think this whole thing has become huge. And it’s, it’s become mainstream to a great extent, and it continues to gain momentum. And it gives me optimism, despite all the dire predictions of what could happen to the world and might happen still, but I am optimistic that somehow this upwelling of spirituality, around the world, this shift and collective consciousness that that it is triggering, will save the day and will somehow result in the, the concrete solutions to the concrete problems that beset us such as climate change.
LAURENCE: I think so. And we’re coming up for another climate change conference in in Glasgow in November, we’re going to be involved in it in a small way, at the consciousness level, and I think we shouldn’t be frightened of, of making a direct connection. Maybe not a functional one, but a direct connection between the contemplative experience of silence, stillness, and simplicity, which is what we practice, nurture, and develop. In each meditation we do. So that contemplative work, we don’t need to be right with connecting that to work that is necessary to heal the world. And that means facing the problems that the world faces, you know, that the United States has been through this crisis. The, I don’t know, last for four or five years of political pantomime, which was wasn’t just funny. I mean, it was least it was enjoyable.
RICK: We worked out the mute button on our TV over the last four years.
LAURENCE: You know, the good news is, I suppose that that you and this American American capacity to reinvent itself and, and, and hope so, okay, so you know,
RICK: Winston Churchill said, he said, Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing after having tried every other alternative
LAURENCE: Well, we’ve got the British politics I think it I believe that that Yeah. So that’s the good news. And that the the democratic structure in In the United States, seemed to have been strong enough to withstand this onslaught of barbarism. There’s a moral philosopher, who wrote a book about the loss of the the moral consensus that took place, you know, in modern modernity. And he compared it to an imagining situation in which people had decided to abolish science. Because it has done so much harm. So they abolished all science and destroyed all records of science. And then later archaeologists were digging up little remnants of the past scientific era, including, you know, instruction books on how to use your microwave, you know, little things like that. So they started to piece together, what they thought was the scientific culture that had they lately remembered. So you compare that very powerfully to the sort of moral universe we live in now, because the coherent moral universe has, has had just in just disentangled itself. And we are, we haven’t yet found, we haven’t yet found a unifying vision for what goodness is. So then he describes us, he says, what happens, what happened, and people say we’re moving into a new Dark Ages. And in the, at the end of the Roman Empire, the barbarians were messing on the fourth on the on the frontiers, waiting to break into the old empire. And he said, whether that’s a good comparison or not, with our time as a matter of opinion, but he said, it’s possible to see that, actually, this has already happened, that we have been governed by the barbarians for a long time without knowing it. So I think we need to be really serious about accepting the fact that even now, after the last American election, 10s of millions of Americans are convinced that, you know, the election was stolen. And this delusion, this delusory state of consciousness, is on a massive scale. So I think we can’t just say, we’ll just meditate and everything will be okay. We have to see the connection between meditation, the community of love that it generates, and the world which needs healing.
RICK: This brings up an interesting point, a couple interesting points, was it you? I was listening to something recently, and somebody was quoting a Tibetan proverb or something that sometime soon the whole world will go crazy. And, and, you know, but the the few sane people will be perceived as crazy by the crazy people was, was that you? Or is that something something else? And I
LAURENCE: got that? Well, it’s slight correction to your source, please. It may be me because you said you were reading something myself or listen to No, essentially saying from the desert for the early Christian monks, and St. Anthony of the desert, he was this archetypal first monk gathers His disciples, and He says, Today is coming, when the world will go crazy. And then when the people meet a sane person, they will point to him and say, He is crazy, because he’s not like,
RICK: that’s the quote. And so another thought that you’re what you just said triggered is that, you know, here in where I live, where there a lot of people who’ve been meditating for decades, at least half a dozen them dozen of them that I know of, went to the January 6, insurrection event. And reportedly, some of these people even like, routinely carried guns now now we’re talking about people that meditate for decades. And so that raises an interesting question. And, and that is that, you know, maybe it depends on the kind of meditation but it might beg the question, Can meditation alone ensure moral clarity or ethical sensibility or you No. clear thinking? I mean, there’s also a lot of people in town who are saying COVID is a hoax and vaccines are gonna kill everybody and stuff like that, which I think is wrong. But the end. So I’m just kind of been fascinated in recent months with the issue of spirit of ethical integrity and in the spiritual community. And in fact, I helped found an organization about that. And I’m wondering what your thoughts are on that, and what what might be needed to supplement a contemplative or meditation practice to assure that, you know, people’s dist, discernment and discriminative abilities grow a pace with their development of consciousness.
LAURENCE: Yeah. Well, the Dalai Lama was, he gave us a seminar some years ago called The good heart seminar, where he commented on the on the, on the, on the Gospels, he was very brave of him to do that. I don’t know many Christian leaders of his level, who would, who would have agreed to comment on Buddhist scriptures without knowing them in detail. But in one of these, in one of these dialogues that came out of out of the good heart. Somebody asked a similar question about meditation. And he kind of laughed, and he said, Well, he said, you know, many people in the West think that, you know, I sit like this, and sit nicely on my cushion, and close my eyes. And that’s it, I’m meditating. He said, You know, it’s more than that. So, what we were saying a few minutes ago, is also relevant that we need to understand what prepares us for meditation. What is the the practice of meditation that we we want to build into our daily life, until it comes to the point where it does become part of our life. And then it produces the fruits, as it were, by itself, how we do not know that produces it, and we see it as we were talking earlier. So there’s a doctor in our community who’s actually giving us a series of brilliant talks on contemplative medicine at the moment, and monthly series. And he I, with him, we introduced meditation into the Irish medical community some years ago. And I heard him speak to a group of doctors once and he said, When I began to meditate, the problem was meditating twice a day. Now, he says, The problem is, if I don’t meditate twice a day?
RICK: In other words, he doesn’t feel so good if he skips it. You mean?
LAURENCE: That’s right, yes. So the idea of virtue or ethical integrity, and so on, that you were mentioning, I think we maybe need to go back to the Greeks, who saw virtue, as being the result of excellence, whatever you do, do it well. And if you do it, well, it will produce, it will produce benefits for others that I’ve been working with this idea of good work recently, and wrote a little book about it. And it seems to me, you know, of bringing meditation into the workplace, where people spend most of their lives. So if you think of good work, is work that brings out the best in you and will produce benefits for others. So that’s virtue, that’s doing something with excellence. And of course, it needs to be needs to be assessed. It’s not like, you know, falsifying your your corporations tax claims, or, you know, inciting a race riot or the invasion of the Capitol building. So those those those cannot by definition, because be virtuous or excellent because they are creating suffering and division and all the things that we generally recognize as being harmful. So I think we may or may need to make another distinction about the effects of meditation. In light of your question about does it produce ethical, ethical, virtual ethical integrity? We make a distinction between the benefits that meditation brings that you can measure so your blood pressure the end connection problems of reducing and hanging level of anger, uncontrollable anger is decreasing, you’re sleeping better at night. So these are identifiable benefits and measurable. But there’s another kind of influence or effect of meditation, which is the fruits. And the fruits are more organic, they come from deeper roots. And actually the Dhammapada Buddhist text and the Letter to the Galatians by St. Paul, use almost the same words to describe the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness, and self control. And then Paul says there is no law dealing with such things as these. So it’s just that the benefits are not important that you can sleep better at night and your blood pressure is under control. Good. But it’s the fruits that really make for a fuller and happier human life. But I just add one thing, there, these are not two completely separate instances. The benefits are as it were the visible sign of the fruits. Does that make sense? Yeah. So so the there’s a theological concept in Christianity, that grace works on nature. And the more I think about that, the less I bumped of life, and been comfortable for a long time, really, with this concept of the supernatural. Because anyway, it’s just maybe a better way approach to it is to understand what nature actually is and expand our understanding of the mysteries of nature, and of Gods presence in nature. Yeah. So okay, so then you can link what is on the surface, with what is growing deep within you. So the fruits of the Spirit are actually the life of God, the life of the spirit, burgeoning in your humanity. And that’s what gives sense to this mantra of the early Christian teachers, God became humans so that human beings might become God. And we can see the whole of life as a divinization process. And tations station is a kind of catalyst that makes us aware of that
RICK: there are several good points in there, I want to expand on whether you want about supernatural if Christ walked on water, for instance, that might be thought of as supernatural. But I would say that it’s no more supernatural than a jet plane. It might appear to be to an aborigine or somebody who had never seen one. The jet plane is just utilizing laws of nature that the average end didn’t understand. And like that, If Christ actually walked on water, or did many other things he was said to have done, he somehow was able to tap into a deeper mechanics of nature’s functioning that apparently human beings have access to and he said, all these things I do, you’ll do even greater things. And, but he was just kind of, you know, a unique individual in that ability at that time, although there are records of other people doing similar things and in many cultures. So that’s kind of a side point to our whole discussion. But I just wanted to comment on that since you raised that. Do you want to say anything more before I go on?
LAURENCE: Yeah, briefly. I mean, I think that’s a very interesting point, because it does also give us a point of contact with this materialism. In scientism, which is still very, very powerful force, maybe a latent force, but still very powerful force. So I think, I mean, I have a friend who’s a herbalist in Ireland, who has, has a, apart from his encyclopedic knowledge of herbs. He has a gift for diagnosis. And I’ve sent people to him I was with real problems that they’ve been having medical tests for weeks or months. And he’s been able to quietly modestly see what’s the problem and how the symptoms are linked up. I mean, that’s a gift and I met many doctors who have met him and know that he has this gift diagnosis gift diagnostic gift. I mean, Actually, some time ago, we had a water diviner dowser, who, you know, came came here to Bombo to check on our lake, because when we need to keep our lake fill, filled and want to know where the water supply was coming from, and so she, she had this gift, you know, of sealing the energy lines and, and knowing where the water was, and I had a friend and Irish another friend who had the same gift. So this supernatural, I don’t think it’s not supernatural. It’s just, it’s a gift. And it’s like, you know, I can’t paint if I see somebody who paints I, is that a supernatural gift? No, it’s their gift is their particular gift. So as far as Jesus is concerned, the miracles, Jesus always diverted attention from the miracles that he worked. He didn’t base his teaching or his authority on these miracles. And the miracles of healing were expressions of his as it were uncontrollable compassion, his heart went out to people. And he connected with them where they suffered, where they were suffering. And every one of those stories, explains that dynamic, you know, so. And when, again, going back to the Dalai Lama, commenting on the Gospels, we gave to the passage of the Transfiguration, where Jesus is illuminated, physically transfigured into light, being of light in front of a small group of his close disciples
RICK: after the resurrection, right? No, no,
LAURENCE: no, this is before. Yeah. It’s celebrated as the feast in the, in the Catholic Church on August the six, which is also the date with another big flash of light, exploded 1945. Russian. So anyway, no, this was a this was a moment of, of illumination or transfiguration into light. So most commentaries on that would say, this is this is symbolic, this is describing, you know, who Jesus is and how he is. And so, but the Dalai Lama didn’t have any problem in accepting the littleness of that and coming from a Tibetan tradition of wisdom and of understanding how Mind and Matter interact. He explained that or talked about that with reference.
LAURENCE: We as packed with our excessive left brain, and scientism and materialism bring a kind of questions like, Did this really happen? And and, you know,
LAURENCE: what is this? Is this fake? And that sort of thing? And the questions we are obsessed with, about those out of the ordinary experiences, often the wrong questions so we can get the wrong answers as well.
RICK: Well, his tradition, Dalai Lama’s tradition is full of stories of light bodies and rainbow bodies, and all kinds of things like that. And, you know, I mean, I sometimes think, you know, what the world might be like, if, like, everybody were enlightened, or you know, 90% of the people or some such thing. And I think there’ll be all kinds of extraordinary things going on that right now, we would consider to be remarkable, but then would be like, the norm, you know, if anybody made a big fuss about it, someone might say, Well, why are you carrying on this is normal? You know,
LAURENCE: there’s a great there’s a great description of the vision of God at the end of standard gustan city of God. And this idea of, you know, what’s it going to be like in heaven? never it never, as a child, even I thought, well, I don’t really want to go to heaven. You know, life is interesting and beautiful and, but just to go to heaven and be sitting in church all day and looking at God on His throne. You know, that’s gonna be boring after a few millennia. And then I read in St. Augustine vision of God, which is the goal of humanity. This is not you don’t have to reinvent your DNA. You know, genetically modify yourself or surrender yourself to your computer, or your robot. You know, humanity is much more than that. There were what he says is the vision of God is not all of the people of the world looking up at God on the stage, but they turn towards each other. And they see God in each other. And when they see God in each other, they are filled with joy. Bliss, fulfillment. And when you when I you look at me, and you see me filled with that joy, you are filled with joy, because I’m joyful. When I look at you, I see you’re joyful, because I’m joyful. And I’m joyful. Because you get a feedback loop. You get the feedback effect. Yes, I believe that’s a better way of looking at, at and we and we get glimpses of that, in the community of love. We get glimpses of it in all human encounters of compassion, and justice, and sacrifice and love.
RICK: What was that quote? You said a few minutes ago, God became man, so man could become God.
LAURENCE: That’s right. Yes.
RICK: I think probably some Christians would hear that and consider it blasphemous. Maybe, would they? But um,
LAURENCE: well, they might, but then they would need to go back to school and, and read the Fathers of the Church in the first four centuries. Yeah. You read St. Athanasius. And it was it was a repeat, it was exactly expressed in those terms. It wasn’t, man will become like God. But man will be human energy will become God. Even St. Peter says, in the first letter of St. Peter, we shall share when we develop, when we mature, when we get enlightened, or whatever, we will then share in the very being of God Himself. Yeah.
RICK: Let’s let’s dwell on this one for a bit. I mean, my understanding of God, and perhaps you can reference a scripture quote, is that God is omniscient, and also unipotent. And omnipresent. So there aren’t any holes in God. You know, wherever you might go in the universe, big or small, you know, near or far, that God is there. So God doesn’t come into a place he’s already there. There’s a well, there’s a great story. This is a story that marshy Mahesh Yogi’s teacher, told where he was a story about him when he was he was a very kind of advanced spiritual soul from a very young age. And he, when he came to the ashram, in the Himalayas, where he studied under his teacher, the other disciples were becoming jealous of him, because he was so much brighter than they were. So the teacher sent him away to live in some cave that wasn’t too far from there. And after he’d been there, for some time, the teacher said to one of his disciples, Go check with that boy to see if there is any, any place empty, because I want to come there for a while. And so they went, and, you know, he’s, and he said, no, sorry, there’s no place empty. And he said, Don’t you realize this is a great insult, you know, you can’t say that there’s got to be some places. He said, No, you’re just the messenger. And please send back the message. There is no place here that’s empty. And so we went back. And there was this big uproar, you know, in the ashram of all was the teacher going to say when this, you know, impotent young man, you know, says this to him. And so the message was related to him. And so the teacher said, we’ll call him here, I want to have him explain what he meant by that. So they sent for him and he came. And when he came, you know, the teacher said, Well, you said this, and what did you mean? He said, Well, you know, he said, I, I am so full of your presence, and so full of the presence of God. If I had known that you wanted to come a second time, I would have left some little space empty, that you that you could have entered, but as it is, it’s complete fullness, and so there’s no space for you to come again. So that reminds me of the nature of
LAURENCE: God. Yes, beautiful. Yeah, I know it. But you know, that fullness, has to be realized. Well, yes, but it has to be integrated with emptiness doesn’t it? Emptiness is fullness, fullness is emptiness. So, the Greek word for empty is kenosis. So the, the Buddhist idea of of emptiness is one of the things Sexual features of reality that nothing has a sort of permanence, solid identity is separate from anything else. That is mirrored in two ways in, in the Christian scriptures. One is kenosis, the idea of emptying and the good God. In the Christian understanding of the Incarnation, God enters himself in order to pour himself fully into the person of Jesus, then in the life of Jesus, and we see a human translation of that act of kenosis, happening in his in how he lives and teaches and dies, eventually. And that emptying then produces the Pleroma, which is fullness. So I think you’re Yeah, one can certainly say God is fullness. But for us to be able to understand or get in into that fullness, I think we have to build into that understanding the experience of self empty, yeah,
RICK: it’s the old Zen tea story where the master keeps pouring the tea and the cup is overflowing. And the student says, What are you doing? And he says, Well, you know, it’s already obtained is in and he just says, You have to be empty, you know, before I can really fill your cup or something like that.
LAURENCE: The paradox, the paradox, I mean, and the EPA, the EPO, phatic, you know, there are two ways of speaking about all the stuff we’ve been speaking about. One is Cata, fatik, we can say precise and logically coherent things about God or reality or meditation. But there is another side, the other hemisphere of the brain, perhaps, which is the APO phatic. Which which we say, well, actually, yes, that’s true, but it’s not the whole truth. And anything we say about God, for example, has to be surrendered really into that apophatic. Humility, of saying, the mind is the Cloud of Unknowing says, We can never know God by thought, we can never know God by drawing a picture by making a definition. So there is this dance really, between the two? is two ways of perceiving just as there is between fullness and emptiness.
RICK: Yeah. And this discussion goes back 1000s of years and then held the whole show Nevada, which is the emptiness branch and then pour Nevada, the fullness branch, and people have been debating this and so on. I really think both are true. It’s just a matter of perspective on it.
LAURENCE: It is an endless and this is, you know, it sounds I don’t know, maybe people think that they’re getting a bit abstraction over ethereal at this point. I don’t think so. Because every us daily cycle of meditation brings that flow or that cycle of, of emptiness and fullness into our personal experience. We know that’s happening all the time.
RICK: There’s an old saying, God dwells within you, as you. And similar to that thing. You said God became man, so man could become God. And I think sometimes people react to this as blasphemous, because they think that you’re saying that you you know, Rick Archer is gonna say I am God. Or Lawrence Freeman. And that’s absolutely obviously not not the case. We’re talking about sort of, I don’t want to say eliminating any sense of individuality because I think you need one to function, but kind of tuning into the, the unbounded fullness that is within you, and that also permeates everything. And like, like the ocean that has in the little individual wave on it. And you are the individual, you are a wave Yes, but you are also the ocean you’re not and the two don’t negate one another. So anyway, I’m getting a little windy here. But I think the point we want to make here is that one can realize God but not as an objective thing that you perceive apart from yourself.
LAURENCE: Well, this this is a this is the art of it. Again, It’s one of the early Christian teachers said Iran s said, we can never know God as an object. We can only KNOW God by participating in his own self knowledge. That’s an amazing statement, we have to share. So what does it mean to share in the self knowledge of God? And our key into that is our own self knowledge.
RICK: And isn’t there a Meister Eckhart quote that is very similar to that? Do you have that one at your fingertips?
LAURENCE: There should be
RICK: similar similar idea anyway.
LAURENCE: Yeah, well, it’s self knowledge is yet a very major theme, of course, in Christian mysticism, that in all of them, and I think that’s, that’s why, you know, at that, I wrote a book called Jesus to teach you within, which is all about one question that Jesus asks, Who He is sitting, praying alone in the company of his disciples, that’s the phrase, praying alone in the company of his disciples. And then he turns to them, and he says, Who do people say I am? And some of them say, oh, some people say you’re Elijah, come back from the dead, or do this or that. And he doesn’t give any, any response to those answers. And then he looks at them. And he says, But who do you say I am? And then Peter, who usually is the first person to jump in? Usually gets it wrong, or this occasion you got it right. He said, You know, you are the Christ. So, and again, Jesus doesn’t comment on that. And at that point, the next thing he says is, you have to lose yourself, if you were to find yourself, let go of all your possessions. So enter into that poverty of spirit, which is another aspect of emptiness. So I think, that question that he asks, Who do you say I am? He’s not asking this because he wants to get the right answer. What does that question do to us? If we listen to it? It makes us it brings us to the great question of Romana. Who am I? And that’s a great question of humanity, isn’t it? It’s, it’s the question of human meaning who am I? And it’s the question that we’re not just speculating on in meditation, but we are actually actually living that question.
RICK: There’s a universe that the Enlightened see all beings in the self, and the self in all beings. And so, you know, Christ would have seen in looking at his disciples, the self in them as it is in him, I mean, the very, very same divinity, where we’re, there’s basically only one of us. And then we have our individual expressions in addition to that.
LAURENCE: Well, unity and diversity, isn’t it? That’s that’s the, that’s the big philosophical problem. Why is the why is there such diversity? And how do diversity come out of unity? And how, how do they? How do they relate? Or how do they combine? And that that’s a paradox. And we can’t answer that question. At the same level at which we at which we ask it, we have to we have to move to another level of non dual and non dual consciousness, in which what seems like a contradiction and nonsense to the merely rational mind actually, is exposed as the truth. Which which, which is the which is a mystery, not in the sense that it’s something vague and, and inconclusive, but mystery is the experience of reality and its wholeness, that we can’t reduce to description or explanation.
RICK: A couple of questions came in, let me ask them, um, this is from Wesley, in Salem, Oregon. He said, Okay, I’d like to hear your reflections on the missing years of Jesus as a youth. What was he up to? What does the absence of these years in the gospels tell us? He has a second question, Bella, do that one first.
LAURENCE: I don’t know. Yeah, because There’s no there’s nothing written about those missing years.
RICK: There’s stories of having gone to India and things but who knows, you know,
LAURENCE: they came later I was once at a monastery in the dank, high up in the Himalayas, and I was chatting with some of the monks. And this taxi drew up, come up from lay. And this group of Italian seekers and tourists jumped out and they came up very excited. And they asked the one of the monks, you know, can we go into the library? And the monks were not going to be hassled by this. So they said, No, it’s not possible. And they said, why? He said, Well, the librarian is away. And he’s got the key. So then they said, Okay, well, when will he be back? Maybe two years. So they their faces dropped off. Absolutely crestfallen. So I said to them, what, you know, why are you here? What Why is it so exciting to go to the library? I said, Well, isn’t that why you’re here? Because there’s a there’s a book here that shows that Jesus came here and started during his missing years. You know, I think their stories. And I would, perhaps the most important part of the stories is asking, what do the stories tell us? What do these stories tell us about not about the facts, because we don’t know the facts. I mean, I’m quite happy with the idea that Jesus was working as a carpenter in in Nazareth, and studying his tradition, and praying and coming to know himself. And at the right moment, he stepped out of his other life. I like I prefer that idea to the idea that he was, you know, on a mystic trail to these.
RICK: Yeah, could have been I really don’t have any skin in the game. I don’t know what happened. Whatever it was, he was a remarkable person. Okay, so there’s a second question from Wesley. Any thoughts on reincarnation? Am I wrong to read a notional understanding of reincarnation in the Bible? Jesus saying, John was Elijah, the the disciples saying, Jesus might have been Elijah, Jeremiah, etc.
LAURENCE: Well, question that Ramana asks, when people asked him about reincarnation is who is reincarnated? And that’s the key question. When the Dalai Lama was given the text of the about describing the resurrection of Jesus, he, he read it carefully. And he said, he said, Well, this, this is something different. He said, This is not resuscitation. And this is not reincarnation. The my understanding of reincarnation is that what is reincarnated? Obviously, all energy is constantly being recycled, nothing wasted. Is there more energy being created than there was at the beginning? Or it could be because it’s coming out of the Divine infinity. But so all energy is being recycled Re. And even, you know, you probably look like your father, I look like my father and mother. And so we re cycled and in terms of genes and personalities, even to some degree, so And yet we’re different. So that’s how I would understand reincarnation. But in my understanding, resurrection, or ultimate liberation, as some of the other traditions would call it, or liberation or nirvana is actually stepping outside of the cycle of birth and rebirth. So there’s clearly birth and rebirth happening all the time every day. But resurrection is the trends is is building up the momentum and it it boosts you out of that cycle. And that’s what you know, the Gospels are describing in terms of the resurrection. And Interestingly though, you see the zero Scriptures, the Christian scriptures say, the experience of the resurrection, sent the disciples back to live this life in a new way. So that’s I would make a distinction or see a connection between reincarnation and and final liberation or resurrection. And as the Tibetans, of course, can conceive more than some of the other Buddhist traditions have the possibility of achieving that liberation in one lifetime, even and, and later with the help with the Grace of the Guru. So for I would say that when we say in the Christian language, that Jesus takes away the sins of the world, he’s talking about the same idea of the burning up of karma, which comes about through through the Grace of the Guru through the through the grace of God, and that affects us and our own capacity to live this life in a new way. Maybe make, maybe make it in one lifetime.
RICK: Yogananda said in his autobiography that, in his understanding, reincarnation had been part of creating Christianity, but then it got edited out at the Council of Nicea rather clumsy, because various references are still in the Bible, because the authorities at the time thought that it would provide too much latitude for people if they thought they could take lifetimes to you know, reach their spiritual goal and that they, you know, they really need to get on with it and achieve it in this lifetime.
LAURENCE: Yeah, yes. I mean, but I think there were, there was a kind of a, there was a lot of debate about reincarnation, even Augustine and origin, for example, say what this may explain some of the features of reality that we are familiar with. But so they left that question kind of open, and it wasn’t as if it was the most important question on the table. But it was an interesting question about human reality. And then the council said, okay, look, we got to, we got to solve this once and for all, so we we close this topic, which isn’t the best way of dealing with an open question, it’s to say, stop talking about it. But so that I don’t think the question of reincarnation is, if we understand it in the way that Ramana makes us think about it, who is reincarnated? And we think about it also in terms of what we know about genetic and realities and physical, physical similarities. It’s the higher question or and goal is the liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth?
RICK: Yeah, exactly. Someone once asked, marshy, Mahesh Yogi what he thought about reincarnation, he said, I’m opposed to it. But I think we’re, we’re Romanus taking it as he’s taking it sort of beyond the level of individuality, because he’s saying, Well, you’re not an individual in the first place. So I talked about, you know, an individual taking multiple bodies, you know, get beyond that, and, and you’ll realize what’s ultimately, the reality. But I think in the relative sense of purpose, well, we don’t have to get into a debate about it. I, I kind of you mentioned the word important, I think it is kind of important in a way to understand the mechanics of creation and mechanics of life. And if that is the way it works, then I think understanding that could make a difference, but in one’s whole orientation to life and spiritual practice, and it answers a lot of questions like, you know, why would somebody be born with a deformity or, you know, or something like that, and somebody’s not and all kinds of things.
LAURENCE: It can also it can also, especially, I mean, I must admit, I have never been convinced I’ve never been, I’ve never been able to meet a Buddhist teacher, who has explained that to me. That may be my limitation of understanding what what they really mean by it. And I think it’s it’s much more than there was a English football player a few years ago, who became a very unpopular person for a while because one of his teammates was, had had a child born with a deformity and this his teammates, well, that’s because he must add
RICK: karma, you know, had bad I mean, that they can get kind of
LAURENCE: I think Oh, yes. But I think if, if we look at it, why is it necessary to have an explanation? Because we want, I think the real question is, what happens to people when they die? We don’t seem to have made much spiritual progress in their life. So they are, are they do they just get thrown in the rubbish heap? Or do they do or what happens? It’s a very urgent question, because I think we would all feel well, no, I don’t know if I’m ever going to be ready for that. So I think there are two explanations. One is offered by reincarnation, the other in the Christian world was offered by purgatory. And purgatory is a doctrine who was badly badly applied in order to raise money, but by the medieval church, but the Purgatory was this doctrine about the continuation in the next life, which is separate from time and space as we know it, so you can’t measure it. But this in the next life, this, the process of, of sanctification, purification, enlightenment continues in another way. And that could be, it could be in the blink of an eye. To me, these are these hypothetical, we don’t know, we don’t really so it’s kind
RICK: of like reincarnation, except they’re saying you’re gonna do it in a different realm, rather than in a different body. On Earth. Yeah. Yeah, there’s a guy named Ian Stevenson, who and he has been succeeded by a fellow I think his name is Jim Tucker at the University of Virginia, who researched and interviewed a couple 1000 Kids, the young kids who remembered past lives. And he, you know, he looked up the records, like the kid would name the battleship that his plane had taken off from and who his friends names were, and all that kind of thing. And, you know, found evidence of what the kid was saying, or perhaps the he would have gone to the town where the kid said, he once lived, and he take the kid there, and he would recognize people and know things. And, and even the Dalai Lama, they they identified that he was a die alone, because he could recognize certain artifacts that supposedly he had last time around. So but anyway, we’re getting a little bit off on this tangent, but it’s interesting. It’s like, you know, why do we want to know whether the his Higgs Boson exists or not? Well, cuz we’re human beings. And we’re curious about how the creation works. And so we built the Large Hadron Collider to find out.
LAURENCE: And, you know, they vote on and all of these things are metaphors, or illusions at the time, and they sort of open one door, but then they also show us how many other doors there are two. No, what No, no, what are the final? Yeah,
RICK: that’s a good way of leaving it. Okay, so this might be a good time to actually have a little meditation somebody sent in a question. Somebody named Matthew, asking, is there a best way to meditate for beginners so as to have a good meditation? And perhaps you could answer that by actually conducting one if you wish.
LAURENCE: Okay. Yes, so the important thing, I think, is to with meditation, is to see that you are always a beginner. And by getting into that frame of mind, you simplify meditation for yourself. And you also discover that meditation is, is simple, and is about simplicity. And simplicity doesn’t mean easy. Simplicity, means wholeness, or oneness. So, you could say, meditation is this work of integration of becoming whole, realizing our oneness? So, but we teach meditation in this sense of simplicity with a very simple practice. So if you like we can take a few minutes to meditate. So the first thing is to invent meditation, we will get out of the head or we let go of our thoughts. And we’ve been busy the last hour or so a couple of hours, sharing thoughts and but at the time of meditation, we lay aside the whole of that stream of consciousness, whether it is good thoughts or bad thoughts, whether you’re exploring the nature of God, with your self knowledge, or whether you You are turning over and over again in your mind, negative patterns of fear and desire or fantasy and guilt or shame or whatever. So the stream of consciousness that is constantly flowing through one level of our minds, we simply lay aside the contents of that, when we do that, not by fighting our thoughts, but by taking the attention off of our thoughts. And so the work of meditation is a repetitive process. Of like many creative things, it’s there’s a, there’s a repetitive nature to it. So the repetitive nature is that we are laying aside our thoughts good or bad as they arise. How do we do that there’s a very simple and universal method. I mentioned at the beginning of our conversation, which is to take a single word, Mantra, sacred word, prayer word. And to repeat this word, or phrase, continually in the mind and heart will stay with the same word during the meditation, and indeed, from one meditation to the next. And that allows over time in practice, for the mantra to sink more deeply into the heart level of consciousness. And then we could describe this journey of meditation then, as the journey from the mind into the heart, bringing the mind into the heart. And that’s why we’ll find over time with practice, that the mind becomes calmer. And the distractions, the thoughts become less, not always, but they become less intrusive and less of a problem. So the more we can approach it, I think with the simplicity of this practice, the more we’ll find that happening by itself. So choosing the word is important, because as I said, we stay with the same word. And it’s helpful to take, be given a word, or to take a word from your own tradition. It’s helpful if the word is not in your own language, because then it doesn’t really stimulate thought and imagination. Meditation is not what you think. So the word we’d recommend is the word Maranatha. Not the only word you could take, but the sound of the word, and the fact that it it’s actually an Aramaic word that means Come, Lord, but we’re not thinking about the meaning of it, as we said, and the sound of the word is helpful. The four syllables also help you to say it in a rhythmic way. So if you take that word, you would say it as four syllables, Ma, ra, Na, SA, Ma, ra, na sa.
LAURENCE: You can integrate it miss many people do with their breathing. You could say the mantra as you breathe in ma na, na, and breathe out in silence. Or you could say the first two syllables, ma ra as you breathe in. And now thigh as you breathe out. whichever is comfortable for you, the important thing is not to become too self conscious about it as a technique. But to get into it, and you’ll find that with some practice, it will become much more natural. The other thing is, it’s not about forcing yourself to say it continuously. Because you will become constantly interrupted by your thoughts, and distractions. That’s the nature of the game. If we didn’t have distractions, we wouldn’t need to meditate. So don’t be discouraged by your distractions. Just see them as natural. And the real work of meditation and the real benefits come from returning to the mantra. So don’t don’t see the distractions as a defeat. But see, you’re returning to the mantra after you’ve been distracted as the, you know, the positive work that you’re doing. So it’s not about doing it perfectly. But it’s about doing it faithfully. So that means we can don’t approach it in a less, you know, ego control kind of way trying to be perfect and successful. That may take a bit of time because we bring those habits of mind to everything we even meditation.
RICK: And should it be effortless?
LAURENCE: Well, it’s, it’s, it will become more and more effortless. Yes, you could say that there are three stages. Not necessarily linear, but there are three stages, the first stage at which you’re saying the mantra, but you’re constantly being interrupted by your thoughts, that can be discouraging, and many people give up. So hang out with some other people and meditate with them. And you will find that you’ll overcome that discouragement or you start again. So saying the mantra, the second stage is where you’re sounding it. Now you’re using less effort. The still you’re still as it were, putting yourself into it. But it’s less of an effort. It’s becoming more natural, and, and intuitive. And the third stage is this point where the mantra is more established, more rooted, and becomes a principle of harmony, in you at all levels of consciousness. It’s where you listen to the mantra. And listening to the mantra means your attention is coming off yourself. And then, in God’s own time, you are led into complete silence. But as soon as you say, Oh, I had no thought. I look out of the sky here at the sky, there’s no, there no clouds in the sky, I have no thoughts in my mind. But the thought I had no thoughts is a thought. Now, that doesn’t mean that you are saying the mantra in with the same degree of effort that you were at the beginning. But it the there’s a qualitative change in the subtlety, and the gentleness really with which you’re saying the mantra. But it’s leading you into that deeper experience of silence, the what you’re doing in meditation is strengthening the muscle of attention, which is pretty weaken us culturally, because we haven’t trained our attention very well. So and the benefits that come from meditation come directly, as I mentioned, but that story about the Marine is that we realize that we carry the stronger muscle of attention into all of the activities of life, with a more presence with more open and so. So we were using, of course, when we start we have to make a certain effort to make the time available for it early morning, early evening are the best times you can integrate them into other practices, spiritual practices you may have. And if you don’t, then you just try to hook it into some regular, passive or daily routine. And that’s a good way of building a habit. So But basically, the elements of this sit down with your back straight enables you to be alert and awake, but be comfortable. So you want to be alert and relaxed. Relax your shoulders. Relax the muscles of your face, your jaw, forehead. Put your hands on your knees. So your body feels harmonious and balanced, comfortable and alert. And take a moment, preparation, a little preparation of watching your breath, being aware of your breath as you breathe in, breathe in the gift of life. But it’s a gift so you have to let go the fullness and the emptiness we were talking about. We fill our lungs and then we empty our lungs. And these are two aspects of breathing. So just be aware of your breath. Cycle of breath.
LAURENCE: Give your attention to that. So you’re taking a first step in meditation by taking the attention of your thoughts to give yourself a little more weight as it were to go deeper.
LAURENCE: We take the mantra We begin to repeat the mantra in our mind in our heart gently without force. attentively. This is the only thing we have to pay attention to. And simply without analyzing our what’s happening, like like a child less you become like a little child. Jesus said, so physically prepared, I’ll just time it for how long should we meditate for
RICK: just three minutes maybe or something. If that’s if that seems right to you.
LAURENCE: That’s fine. So what I’ll do is use our WCM app which is a nice which hasn’t low vowel sound. So we meditate for three minutes. So sit as still as you can, because the stillness of body will help to bring you to a stillness of mind. Fight your thoughts, but let them go. And when you find that you have become distracted, let go of the thought and return to your word. The word I would recommend is the word Mara NASA. Ma ra Na Ma Ro No So let’s end with these few words from the Gospel of Luke. They asked him, when will the kingdom of heaven come? He replied, You cannot tell by observation, when the kingdom of heaven will come, you cannot say, look, here it is, or there it is. Because, in fact, kingdom of heaven is within you. The kingdom of heaven is in your midst.
RICK: Wonderful, thank you so much. I presume you have online courses where people can get more, you know, involved instruction and follow up with their questions and all that.
LAURENCE: Yes, if you go to the website, WCC m.org, which is a new one that you’ve just read, designed, regarding up to date, and easy to navigate, you’ll find some online courses that you can introduce will introduce you to meditation, you’ll find a lot of different resources to help you go deeper or to and to keep your practice going and to enter into dialogue. And there’s also online groups that you can join. And on the bombo program, which is our retreat center here, and we’re up in for retreats, we’re just about to open up here little by little after the pandemic, but we’re opening up now, if you go to the wcm.org site, you’ll find the link to Bombo. And you’ll see they’re also the online programs and later the physical retreats that we have happening here retreats, and other online events, seminars, webinars. So there’s quite a lot coming out this very simple teaching. Yeah.
RICK: And I’ll be I’ll be linking to both those websites from your page on bat gap calm. And I might add that you have some nice videos on YouTube already, which I’ve been listening to over the week. Some interesting conversations you’ve had with the Dalai Lama and with His name is slipping my mind now that Alan Walsh events, right ALAN WALLACE, fascinating conversation. So there’s a wealth of information for people to dip into and also link to your books or your page on bat gap calm? How many books have you written? Alright, altogether?
LAURENCE: How many, how many grains of sand on the sea?
RICK: Not as many as the stars in the universe.
LAURENCE: I think about maybe 10 or 12. Different have different kinds, different lens, so
RICK: I’ll link to those.
LAURENCE: I also do I do a daily, a daily email called Daily wisdom. And I like it, because I take the photographs. So there’s a photograph every day, and then a short text. And one of our team Leo in Brazil is Director of Communications, puts puts them together and chooses the photo every and I never know what it’s what it’s going to be. So I’ve always very keen early morning to look and see which photograph is used. And so that’s that’s something that people find helpful. That gives you a little nudge during the day or at the beginning of the day. I think it’s sort of designed to go out early in the morning in different time zones. There’s that and then there’s, we do a quarterly newsletter, which is also online, which is good news of the national there are 67 National communities now with that organization around the world and They’re held together as a community of love. So there’s whatever part of the world you’re in, I think you can probably connect with physical manifestation as well.
RICK: Great. Well, thanks for all you’re doing. There’s a story of Krishna saving the villagers by holding up a mountain and protect them from Indras rainstorm. And the villagers became concerned that he might strain his wrist or something. So they all picked up sticks and helped to hold the mountain. So we’re all holding up our sticks. And ultimately, God is doing it all. But it’s a nice role to play.
LAURENCE: A thank you for the work you’re doing, which is very diverse and enriching and, and very generous with the amount of time you give to it. So I’m sure it brings benefits benefits to many people. And I hope that’s been you know, people will find something useful in the time we’ve spent talking, oh,
RICK: I think they will. And, and I encourage people to, you know, you’ll, you’ll see links on father Lawrence’s that get page, follow those links and, you know, look through his websites and see what you can plug into. So thank you all for listening or watching or watching. And thank you, Father Lawrence, for taking the time to do this. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you and having this conversation
LAURENCE: with you. Spirit, pleasure to meet you more and good, good blessings on your future.
RICK: Thank you. You too will be in touch. Bye