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 – I’m changing that from interviews – conversations with spiritually awakening people. I’ve done I think about 435 of them now over the past 8 years. And if this is new to you and you’d like to look at previous ones, go to www.batgap.com and look under the past interviews menu and you’ll find them all organized and arranged there. This program is made possible by the support of appreciative listeners and viewers. So if you appreciate it and feel like supporting it to whatever degree, there’s a PayPal button on every page of the site and we appreciate your support. Thanks. So my guest today is Lesley Skylar, who among other things is an extremely patient person. We’ve been sitting here with her for nearly an hour trying to get the audio balanced and she’s been very tolerant of that. This is a test we put all the guests through, Lesley, just to see if they’re really as spiritual as they say they are. So Lesley, I’m going to read parts of your bio, but the first part that jumps out when you read it is that when you were 9 or 10 years old you had a, as you put it, “completely spontaneous life-altering experience of satori or enlightenment that shook your world. Everything and every facet shifted unimaginably. Nothing was ever the same again, and this set you on a life course dedicated to understanding, honoring and living what had been revealed”. So what happened? Tell us about that.
Lesley: Right, well great to be here, Rick. And lovely to have everybody listening to us as well. Welcome, namaste. Right, well of course I was little, I didn’t know what was occurring, but I was out in the garden one late afternoon, sitting quietly, enjoying a little solitude, and all of a sudden there was a tremendous sort of opening, if you could say that, and everything was filled with light and there was the most incredible revelation of life and the world and reality as being literally one living being, one living organism unified, an absolutely overwhelming love and compassion, and a view that literally just shook me to the core. It wasn’t just like looking out at a beautiful sunset, it seemed to be something that was actually penetrating in my being, and the I that was there, even this little I, nine year old or whatever, seemed to completely disappear. There was a melting into oneness that was just extraordinary, and tears were streaming down my face, even though there wasn’t an I that was actually crying, and it was as if the whole world had opened up into the view of what’s actually true and what’s actually real, which then set me on a course to rediscover or to find out what had actually happened to me. So it was very very profound. Something was sort of rebooted in me. You can imagine a sort of computer, not just a rebooting of your computer, but almost a download from something cosmic or whatever that literally blows the whole system, and it seemed to be that view or that reality seemed to be established in me thereafter, and I could easily access that spaciousness at any time, which really helped me a lot in the coming decades.
Rick: Yeah, I can imagine. Well, I have a few questions. First of all, was there any bit of a scary element to it, or was it just completely wonderful?
Lesley: Right, absolutely zero scary, zero, zero, zero. Extraordinary, beautiful. As I say, in the beginning the I seemed to completely disappear and everything was just oneness. I think if there had been an I there, maybe there would have been a kind of a questioning of what this was, but everything fell away. After that, after the experience, some days and weeks later and in the coming years and decades, there was a lot of confusion because the reality that I then sort of came back to didn’t in any way match that experience, but nothing in the experience itself was frightening, disconnected, fragmented. It was more real than anything I’d ever encountered, and so it didn’t feel like a dream or watching a movie. It was something that was a kind of a multi-dimensional thing that impacted me, as I say, at the core and never left after that.
Rick: Had you had any taste of anything like that prior to this?
Lesley: I had felt in a way that what I saw was sort of what I intuited or sensed reality might be, even as a little one. There were certain things in the way people engaged I couldn’t quite understand. But everything seemed much more connected and much more whole than what was reflected back in life and family and school and all the rest of it. So in a way, the experience was like coming home. It wasn’t something that felt like it had landed from outer space. It was something that felt like a very very deep homecoming, something that I’d always sort of been with, but that had landed in a really really full way.
Rick: Have you ever had past life experiences or recollections?
Lesley: Right, somewhat, not anything I would pay particular attention to or particularly want to comment on.
Rick: Well, I’m just curious because I think a larger percentage than the average percentage in the general population of the people I interview have had something like this, something special as a child. And often they lose it as they go into their teenage years and so on, and then regain it later on. But some people actually have memories of having dedicated their lives to spiritual development in previous lives and so on. So I was just wondering if you had had anything like that?
Lesley: Right. I felt very connected and resonant with anything to do with renunciates or monks or nuns, anywhere I’ve ever traveled. If I see someone who’s in a robe, there’s an immediate kind of recognition. And in fact, the experience that I had at age 9 or 10 actually created in me a very deep desire to actually want to be a monk or nun. I thought that’s what I was going to do. It didn’t end up that way, but so, right.
Rick: Yeah, sure. So yeah, in fact you say in your bio that you spent years as a renunciate living in ashrams and working deeply with direct teachings of enlightenment, both in the East and the West. Of course, in some of those ashrams the term renunciate is used rather loosely, so I’m not sure to what extent you were living a renunciate life, but I guess you were maybe, to a great extent. How many years did you spend doing this and how austere was it?
Lesley: It was pretty austere, especially one of the ashrams I lived in. They were very serious pursuits. They weren’t sort of things that you could dip into and out of. You had to qualify. And the one where I spent four or five years was very serious. It required a complete giving up. So at that time I was married. I have two children who are now 18 years of age happily at university in different parts of Canada.
Rick: Are they twins?
Lesley: They’re twins, right. So at that point I was pulled and moved to actually leave everything. I didn’t know how long I was going to leave for. I had an idea that I would maybe take my children with me because all of these ashrams have communities where you can have families and children. It didn’t end up happening that way, but I basically had to leave everything – my friends, my family, my children, my money, the security of my home. And when I got there, the teacher said, “Well, that’s just the beginning. That’s nothing”. So you’ve renounced the physical things, but the bigger issues are renouncing the I sense and all of those things that you hold most dear, which are your ideas and your goals and your self-sense. So it was a pretty big deal though on the level of just leaving everything. It was very significant.
Rick: Yeah, it’s huge, I mean, especially anyone who’s a parent or especially a mother who’s listening to this. How old were the kids at that point?
Lesley: The kids were five or six at that time.
Rick: It must have been gut-wrenching.
Lesley: It was, it was gut-wrenching. And as I mentioned earlier, this so-called experience of opening that I had somehow allowed me to connect with an intuitive guiding compass or sense, a really deep sense of self. And that’s what I checked in with or into when I felt the call to actually become a renunciate. It wasn’t just a whimsical thing where I decided, “Well, I’m leaving everything”. I deeply checked in that actually this was really a deep movement, that that’s where the life energy was moving. And it was, and that’s what was required of me. And so, I knew it was what I had to do, which allowed me to do it, really. It wasn’t a choice at the level of a mental choice or a level of a person. It was a very deep calling that somehow I knew I had to follow.
Rick: Yeah, it’s interesting because often that intuitive voice is rather quiet, it’s subtle. It’s just sort of an impulse that if you’re attuned to it, you follow. But very often the concerns of the world and various reasons and rationales override it, you know.
Rick: You think, “Well, this is the impulse, but if I do this it’s going to create harm”. I mean, did some people consider you selfish for doing this? I mean, here you are, this young mother leaving her young children, and did you have people saying to you, “Well, why don’t you think about the kids and stop being so hung up in yourself”, or something like that?
Lesley: Right, I did, I did. And yet, there was a knowing that was doubtless, and as I say, it came from the same source as the revelation, that somehow this was needed, and I thought as I left that I would end up having my children with me. So I thought that I would maybe be gone for a few months or even a few weeks, and that I would… the children would come and live with me in the ashram. So, in my mind it wasn’t a complete giving up forever.
Rick: But then it turned out to be five years or something.
Lesley: It didn’t turn out to be that way, but I did travel backwards and forwards quite frequently.
Rick: Ah, you were visiting, yeah.
Lesley: So the teacher gave me permission to do that because of the age of my children. So, I’d come back to Vancouver and spend a couple of weeks with the kids, and we’d do lots of Skypes, but still it wasn’t the same thing. It was a big deal.
Rick: Yeah, I can imagine. I can totally relate to it. I mean, I can’t relate to it because I don’t have kids, but I’m a little bit in awe of you for having been able to do that.
Rick: We won’t get into specifics, but was the ashram sort of Hindu-oriented, Buddhist-oriented?
Lesley: It was, I would say, non-duality, kind of a non-duality focus.
Rick: Eastern teacher or Western teacher?
Lesley: Western teachers that lived in different locations, although I did spend time with a few Eastern teachers as well in India and Tibet. But the ones that I lived with for significant periods were Western teachers who spoke English, so we could get into a real depth.
Rick: Was this in the West, or you traveled to India to do this?
Lesley: Different places. I lived in North America, I lived in Europe for periods, and I lived in Southeast Asia as well. So I’d just like to add a little something about that, because people sort of have this romanticized notion of living in ashrams. So what I would say is that the primary learning I had there – I went there already very mature and pretty deep – and somehow, as I indicated, I felt that this was part of my destiny, part of what I needed to do. But I thought that I would gain a lot in terms of an understanding of the truth, and what my experience at these ashrams revealed was more about what was not true than what was true, which ended up being a profound teaching and a learning really, especially in terms of the teaching work I now do, because I saw a tremendous amount about what can go wrong in the process of so-called teaching or assisting or guiding others. There were all sorts of things going on that actually were very contradictory, and I saw you posted something a couple of weeks ago on ethics in spirituality, and so this was a very very interesting window. Some of these teachers are pretty well-known, I don’t want to mention names, but if I mentioned the names, everybody would know them, they’re very well-known teachers. So they were supposedly truly enlightened beings who had profound teachings, and yet how that manifested in terms of the actual lived situation in the ashrams was quite astonishing. It took me a long time to work out what was actually going on there, how you could have in one human being the coinciding of real revelation together with truly somewhat unhinged or dysfunctional behavior, various shadow and patterns that hadn’t yet been resolved. So I saw that up close and personal. For some years I ended up being a very senior person in some of these ashrams and ended up running one of them with the teacher, so I really got to see the ins and outs. Anything my ego might have wanted from this teaching work in terms of power or anything in that regard was really wiped clean. It was a deep purification to see the harm that was done to individuals there who trusted the teacher really deeply. Many, I think, were scarred for life, and some of them I don’t think will get over that. So that was really profound, it deeply, deeply touched me. So I’ve always been very much on the moral side, I very much believe in integrity and following truth, but this really cemented that very profoundly.
Rick: Yeah, I want to have you elaborate on that in a second and tell me how you came to reconcile these discrepancies. But I’ll tell you how I have, which is to say that I avoid any notion of enlightenment as… I haven’t encountered very many examples of what I would consider to be some kind of final state which can’t be improved upon. You know, it’s like I kind of have the attitude that everybody’s a work in progress, no matter how highly evolved they are, and that they’re going to have human foibles which still need to be worked out. And I don’t know, I’ll say just that much. I mean, how would you respond to that?
Lesley: Right. So I would agree with that. In my own experience and looking at others and the teachers that I know and have worked with, I don’t believe that there is any final state whatsoever. In fact, one’s deepest experiences of the absolute reality reveal that that’s completely not the case. We’re dealing with reality that’s infinite. There is no way that there is a finite point to infinite reality. There’s certainly not a finite resolution of the infinite in a human body. And so I think that’s one of the mistakes that some of the teachings make. Some of the teachers that I was involved with presumed that they were beyond feedback. They had come to a stage that was final and that they didn’t need any reflection or they didn’t need any introspection. Really a lack of humility and also a lack of groundedness and discipline and really deep practice, which then allowed their shadow or any parts that they hadn’t properly examined to really run rampant. You know, the greater power we have, the more those small foibles or shadow elements become really magnified over time, especially in the context of a community. And of course, deep spiritual work really can empower the ego if the ego is not sufficiently purified through right practice and discipline and various practices that really focus on humility, which is part of what I do very deeply in the teaching work that I do. At various points in the process of deepening or periods where we have awakenings or etc., etc., anything that’s not yet purified remains. And it doesn’t just disappear because one has a so-called experience of awakening. It needs to be seen through. The light of truth needs to really be brought to that. Otherwise it grows and it’s magnified in the context of teaching work or an ashram or a community of individuals.
Rick: Yeah. It’s kind of ironic that someone has some profound awakening and in a sense it makes them even more blind to their shortcomings than they might have been before, you know?
Lesley: Right. That’s what I found, Rick. It was very surprising, and myself included. Of course, it brought up so much in me, which was very helpful to see but very painful and challenging too. I felt that a number of the people that I was engaged with in the ashrams, more senior people including the teacher, seemed to have greater aberrations than the average person out there. I was happy to come back from the ashrams during my visits to the kids and just chat to the green grocer and the fisherman on the dock. The simplicity of life with regular human beings who don’t have grandiose visions of what they are these teachings, it was such a relief. So, there’s an interesting thing that can happen there. As I said, any of these aspects of self that have not been fully purified really are magnified in that context because you connect to a power that’s not your own.
Lesley: You know, connect with these spiritual teachings. So, any ego that’s there tends to get really inflated.
Rick: I’m laughing because I have this really good friend who works in the local grocery store and before that he was working in a different grocery store, but he’s been meditating for decades and at one point he said, “I’m so sick of being around spiritual people. I just want to work in the non-spiritual grocery store”. He had a job in the liquor department. Just because of what you’re saying, there’s this sort of people’s idiosyncrasies and flaws in many cases, not all, seem to get magnified by the Shakti or something that they’ve tapped into.
Lesley: Right, that’s my experience. And so, I think it’s very useful then for teachings to emphasize the whole being and to engage in practices, to help individuals engage with practices and various forms of inquiry and deep looking that can reveal these areas of shadow and blind spots. And we all have them. I’ve met and worked with many people who when I talk about this sort of think, “Oh, she must be speaking about someone else”. “I’ve done enough spiritual work. I’ve meditated for 20 years or 30 years. I’m pretty clear”. Well, that’s just the point. You see, shadow is something that you can’t see yourself. And so, it’s a real thing. Obviously, anybody who knows anything about psychology will know that these are real phenomena and as soon as they are empowered with the Shakti of Source or this infinite spaciousness that we connect with as we engage spiritual practices, anything that’s not purified will tend to really blow up and create some kind of ego inflation. And it’s unfortunate because it arrests people’s development then. If people are stuck in certain areas because they can’t see where they are or where they’re stuck, I see that as one of the most significant reasons why people actually don’t end up in a place in the so-called journey where they come to abiding realization. So I’ve distinguished, by the way, I think this is just an important point that I wanted to make, between what I would call openings or awakenings and what I would call abiding realization. They’re not the same thing at all. And so, I see in local spiritual terrain, people presume that if they’ve had some kind of experience that they, “Oh, well, I’m pretty much like Ramana Maharshi now. I’m done”. And actually, nothing could be further from the truth. I always point out that awakenings are like drawing the curtains open. They give you a view of something that is a possibility, and they’re just a partial view, even the deepest ones. It then requires the individual to actually embody that view and expand and deepen that view in order for that to become embodied and lived and end up being a spontaneous way of living. So yes, there is practice involved. There’s deep inquiry that’s needed. There’s really deep, radical self-honesty that’s needed in a whole number of factors. Otherwise, it doesn’t stabilize because the conditioning of the human being is so strong and is so significant that it rides roughshod over these awakenings. And that’s why people can have a honeymoon period where they feel things are more blissful, there’s a greater openness, and then lo and behold, that honeymoon period ends within days or weeks or months, sometimes years. And sometimes, people can feel they’re almost back to square one again, because what wasn’t clarified then still remains. Very deep teachings, and people we tend to regard as sages, for example, like a Ramana Maharshi or an Nisargadatta Maharaj, for example. Tremendous effort and seeing and clarity there in the area of purification. You can see and feel in their energy that these individuals left no stone unturned in terms of their own inquiry, their dedication to truth. It was years and sometimes decades in the making. It is not something that happens overnight. It’s a process of really deep looking and undoing, seeing through and a dissolution of this sort of bundle of conditioned impulses that we call the sacred self sense or the ego.
Rick: Personally, I think it’s a lifelong endeavor. I don’t think…
Rick: As long as you’re breathing, you’re still doing it.
Lesley: Still doing it, right. I would agree with that, and as we said earlier, there’s no end point, but what I have noticed looking at many people that I’ve seen and worked with, teachers, etc, and looking back over history, is that there are things that we could regard as stages or points that you can come to. Awakening is such a point. Or that you’re in conventional reality, you have no clue that there’s another way to see things, and all of a sudden there’s an awakening that shakes your world. The same thing with abiding realization. There is a point in this journey, and it’s different for different people. We can’t put a timeline to it. Where things stabilize and settle, the deepening is sufficiently holistic, and the inquiry or the practices have been sufficient to actually create a kind of a place, you could say, or position, where we are no longer bound by the patterning. It’s been seen through so deeply and clearly that even though thoughts or feelings or particular patterns may arise, one is in a place where you’re no longer bound to that. And then something completely different happens, in my experience. It’s a very very different thing than any other part of the journey. It’s like rockets taken off into space, and you’ve got this tremendous force in the engines that have to break through the gravity. And then when you reach cruising altitude, it’s like, “Ahh!” There’s a kind of a stopping, a quietening, and there’s a spontaneity that begins to take over where there’s not a doing anymore. There’s a letting go even of practices. There’s a spontaneous living as something completely other than what you always thought you were.
Rick: One thing I’ve been thinking about in the last couple of days as a result of things I’ve been going through with a friend and some people I’ve interviewed, and reflecting even also in my own experience, is that there can be an abiding state, and it can be just rock-solid, 24/7, continuous thing. And one can in a way take refuge in that, and feel a sort of a contentment and a naturalness and a resting in that. And yet, still your human behavior can go off the rails, and you may not even be aware of it, how crazy you’re getting or how off you’re getting, because it’s sort of buffered by or softened by this sort of presence that just continues to abide. Can you relate to that?
Lesley: To some extent. What I would say to that, Rick, is that if there’s sufficient clarity, if there’s sufficient self-awareness and self-understanding, and one has done enough really deep inquiry into the nature of reality, there really is a deep seeing of the way the patterning works in this particular body-mind or whatever. And one is engaged in so many different ways of learning how to look and be alert, that that almost becomes second nature. So I think at a certain point, the clarity actually outshines any sort of dullness or attempt to kind of rest in something. And there are ways of seeing that, if that is what’s happening.
Rick: I’m not talking about an attempt to rest in anything, because it’s not an effort. It’s a spontaneous resting, but still, the behavior can be kind of strange. And we could be alluding here to world-famous teachers who had Shakti pouring out of their every pore, and you sit in their presence and you feel transformed, and then there’s this strange behavior that gets on earth maybe years later, or some revelation takes place, and you find out they’ve been doing this or that. “They appear to get overshadowed by things”. Irene’s saying they appear to get overshadowed by things, or they appear to indulge in…
Lesley: Yeah, they’re still getting overshadowed.
Rick: Yeah, and yet they’ll come back down to the lecture hall the next day and be bright as a lighthouse. So, it confuses people, and they wonder, “What’s going on? Why does this almost seem to be the norm rather than the exception?”
Lesley: Right. I think because of what we’ve been speaking about, the purification is not sufficient, and possibly that that individual didn’t go through enough really deep practice. If the practices are sufficiently deep and rigorous and disciplined, one learns to look at yourself in 360 degrees. You learn to observe not only your own patterning of mind and the way you relate to your emotions and the felt sense of your experience, but also your actions. If there’s been a deep enough immersion in really clear teachings, that kind of awareness will alert you to your own actions that are going off the track. If one isn’t doing that, it’s because there hasn’t been sufficient practice or clarification of some of these sticking points and the shadow. One can say, “Well, why is that the case?” Well, it’s a deep process, and that’s why there are so few that really come to a place where there’s a real purification. It’s a really holistic thing. Every facet of the being has to be considered, from eating, one’s relationship to other human beings, to sexuality, to self-sense. It’s a multidimensional walking. It’s not just about learning about the nature of reality. The entire human being needs to be purified in the light of truth on all these dimensions, and that takes a long time. It takes very clear and deep looking. I think if we look at the spiritual scene at the moment, there are a number of teachers that I think are very well-rounded. They’re really deep. They’re established, and they’re not going off the track anywhere on the line.
Rick: There are some good ones.
Lesley: There are some really good ones, so it is possible. Similarly, if things have not been clarified enough, then there’s a tendency to go off the track. Of course, if one has a group of peers that you can get feedback from, that would help that situation too, or a lineage that can give feedback, because then before the issue becomes significant, it can be nipped in the bud.
Lesley: A number of the rogue teachers, almost, if we can call them that, end up coming to a place where they think they’re beyond that kind of feedback. That’s already a sign of lack of humility there, because none of us are beyond that. As soon as we think we’re beyond any potential of the ego having any impact again, I think that’s a real sign of delusion, which is not true.
Rick: Yeah, and a lot of the most notorious examples of this didn’t have any peers, because they were the top dog.
Rick: And so, in many cases, they actually forbade any kind of critical feedback. And people would get booted out of the ashram if they offered it. So they kind of painted themselves into a corner. Well, we’re not going to spend a whole interview talking about this one point, but it is an important one. And here’s an email that came in from a listener, Barry Wadsworth in Sacramento, he asks, “It is said that in the Zen tradition that true cultivation occurs once one enters the gateless barrier, that is, directly experiences no-self impermanence and the truth of dissatisfaction or suffering. If you agree, what practices are involved in further cultivation and what does this lead to?”
Lesley: Right. Well, I would leave aside the talk about no-self for right now, because that, in my view, is a very very deep stage and I think very few people in my experience have got there, so we’ll leave that for the moment. The way I see it and the way I teach it is that it’s not the ego-self or the separate self that has to do this work of purification that we’re speaking about. It’s actually the light of truth itself. There are certain practices we can use that open the awareness to accessing different, you could call them states of being, a kind of state that you would experience, for example, in really deep meditation or in some kind of an awakening. It’s a different, we could say, state of consciousness. It’s not the sort of separate self sense that is simply looking at itself trying to fix itself. In fact, quite the opposite is the case. We are nothing that we appear to be. Everything that is, is consciousness, is God. Those are very profound points. That gives us an insight into seeing that the consciousness that we live with in conventional reality is a pinprick in the realm of what’s actually possible. The reason we don’t access these deeper states is because we haven’t learned how to do that. I would say that the practices need to involve a teaching of people of how to rest in this deeper place that they can access in their own being. It’s not a special place. It isn’t the province of special teachers or human beings. It’s our own true nature. One of the practices that helps really deeply with this, and I’m sure you can attest to this from your TM background, Rick, is meditation. I think meditation is a very profound and important practice. It’s something I advise everybody that I work with to do, because what we do there is we learn to actually access, you could say, a part of our being, the deepest part of our being that isn’t subject to mind. And Rick, with really deep clear meditation, we are practicing no relationship to thought and feeling. That results in a quieting of the mind and almost a sense of objectivity, a zooming out where we can then begin to actually embody, not just conceptually, we’re not going to some kind of spaciousness in our mind. We actually have to feel the depths of this higher vibrational frequency or different state of consciousness in our own being. The heart rate drops, the being quiets, you feel the heart soft, open and undefended. And that kind of stilling of the mind and ability to learn to practice no relationship to thought and feeling is a real gateway to deepening, as one example. And there are a number of other practices that I work with and I teach. Some of the most profound, I think, actually come from the Dzogchen tradition, which is a form of a type of Zen Buddhism that has been taught by masters in Tibet and Nepal. And that focuses very much on direct experience. There are practices that orient you and teach you, essentially mimicking abiding realization, to live life – your everyday life, when you’re cooking your breakfast and having a shower and going to work and talking to your family – from the same depth of consciousness or awareness that you do in a meditative state. So when you deeply meditate, that same clarity, that same spaciousness that you encounter, we want to translate that into your everyday lived experience and the various practices one can do to help do that. So one ends up living life as a kind of a waking meditation, where instead of dipping into and out of the sort of contracted consciousness of the separate self, we learn to bring the depth of the consciousness that we encounter in meditation, for example, into all these other areas of our lives. That’s essentially what embodiment involves. And then you run aground in all sorts of problems as you do that, because we are so deeply conditioned to relate to reality through our minds, through our thoughts and our feelings, and this virtual reality world that we create by living basically in a bubble in our head. Abiding realization is living outside of that bubble. It’s actually living in reality as a whole, and the center of this bubble really is the self-sense. So practices like meditation begin to orient you and teach you to access, to some degree, the consciousness that’s actually beyond this bubble of your mind, the mediated reality of your own mind. Without that, no deepening is really going to happen, because these patterns of the self-sense are incredibly strong. And I think one of the most profound things I think I’ve learned in these sort of decades I’ve been involved in this work, is I’ve learned to really appreciate and honor the depths of the egoic structure. It’s a very profound piece of work that we’re dealing with there, and anybody who underestimates what they’re dealing with will end up falling into traps and running aground in their own understanding because they haven’t properly seen what’s actually there and how deeply, deeply, deeply we are imprinted and conditioned, largely unconsciously actually, to take the position of a self. So these very deep practices, like some of the long-term practices in meditation, begin to orient us to a different way of being, and that creates a doorway or a pathway to a different way of functioning. And it also reconfigures the whole being. The egoic structure is not just a thought, “I am a separate self”. If it was that simple, we’d have half the planet enlightened. But it’s a very complex structure which includes emotions, includes the felt experience, the body, the energetic system, the neural networks, the nervous system, and it’s been conditioned from birth. So we have decades, trillions and trillions of repetitions of certain patterns of thinking that are basically imprinted in the way the mind functions, and that’s why the egoic structure is so challenging to really work with because it’s not just a matter of saying, “Well, who is the I? Oh, yes, I know I’m not separate. I had that one experience”, and people say, “Well, how come I can’t sustain that view?” Right, because the view that you conditioned in actually holds the old egoic view basically in place, and the practices that allow you to access a different part of your being begin to create a pathway to finding a way out of that entanglement of the egoic structure. So with our practices I’ve never really seen it happen. I’m not saying that it can’t, but…
Rick: Some people have spontaneous awakenings without practices, like you did, but then usually they need to do something in order to stabilize and integrate that and make it a permanent living reality and not just a nice memory.
Lesley: Exactly, that’s what I’m speaking about. Right, so by no manner of means was I enlightened at age 9, I can assure you. I had, just as everybody else has, I had my full fair share of issues and problems and self-doubt and all sorts of things that I had to contend with, and that was the process of embodiment that I had to then work through to almost come back to and also deepen what I’d originally seen. And it took me decades to do that. It wasn’t a matter of a couple of days or weeks or months even. It was a long process.
Rick: Yeah, so I just want to comment on a couple of things you said and then ask a question or two. Well, one is I like your emphasis on experience because a lot of people become top-heavy and they read a lot of books and watch a lot of YouTube videos and stuff, and so they kind of begin to hypnotize themselves into thinking that the understanding they’re gaining from all this is equivalent to the experience that Ramana or somebody else was actually having in a much more visceral way, not just an understanding – so there’s that. And then your reference to the physiology I think is really good because physiologists tell us that any mental activity or state of consciousness, even major states such as waking, dreaming, and sleeping, have very distinct physiological correlates. The physiology of waking is as unlike the physiology of sleeping as the experience of waking is unlike the experience of sleeping. And the same will be true of enlightenment or higher states of consciousness. If they are radically different subjective ways of experiencing life, experiencing the world, then there ought to be, there has to be radically different physiological functioning which could be measured and which many studies are trying to measure and have done to a pretty great degree, but I’m sure they can do a lot more research. So and the reason you say it might take decades is that your entire physiology doesn’t get transformed in a moment. They say we replace pretty much all of our cells every seven years and then people are talking about neuroplasticity where the brain can change, but all that takes time and the physiology can be dramatically and profoundly restructured, but it’s going to take time.
Lesley: Right, and that’s why the emphasis on practices I think are really important. If you look at individuals say in the last hundred years who’ve truly come to a place of abiding realization, both deceased teachers and those still in the body at the moment, you will find that all of them have done significant or most of them have done really significant practices. Maybe they had a spontaneous awakening, but then they spent 10 years in a cave.
Rick: Like Ramana.
Lesley: Exactly, exactly. Adyashanti, many others. So if you look deeply at the history of these individuals, you’ll see that there is deep practice, deep looking involved, and the reason for that is exactly as we were just speaking about is because the patterning needs to be dissolved through repetition of a different state of consciousness. We have to immerse ourselves in this, you could say, different state of being, different state of consciousness is completely different vibrational frequency. When you learn to attune to it, you can feel it in your own being. It’s what some people call transmission. And you can’t do that by commanding it into your experience. Like the mind decides, “Well, I want that now”. It doesn’t work like that. It’s like anything that in life where you have to learn something, it takes practice.
Rick: It’s like a little kid saying, “I want to be a grown-up now”.
Lesley: Right, exactly, exactly. Or “I want to be a master chef right now”.
Rick: Or “I want to be a world-famous pianist”.
Lesley: World-class pianist. Exactly. Anything takes practice. You know, and in that practice, there’s trial and error. You learn where the erroneous views are. You purify things that you’re holding on to. There’s a deeper and deeper surrender as you engage with these practices to what? To that which is your own true nature, which is this completely different state of consciousness. You know, it’s entirely different to conventional consciousness. The practices allow you to literally reconfigure the being. So one’s brain almost begins to think and function in a different way, which impacts the nervous system.
Rick: It literally does.
Lesley: Literally, and as you mentioned, many studies on meditation and other things are showing that to be true. So the repetition of the accessing of these deep states is absolutely crucial to rewiring the being and reconstituting the being. If one is interested in any kind of abiding realization, it’s not going to be done without practice.
Rick: Yeah. There’s also a safety issue. You wouldn’t want to experience overnight the transformation you’re going to undergo over 30, 40 years or whatever. You would be fried to a crisp.
Rick: I mean, you wouldn’t be able to function. So there has to be this incremental modification so that it’s integrated at every step of the way. I’ll give you a little metaphor which might illustrate this for people. In India, maybe even now, but they used to dye cloth by dipping the white cloth in, let’s say, red dye or something, and then they’d take it out and bleach it in the sun and it would lose most of its color due to the bleaching, and then they’d dip it again and then they’d bleach it in the sun and again it would lose most of its color, but a little bit more would remain. And they’d repeat that process until it became just as red in the sun and stayed that way as it was when it was in the dye. So you can think of that as a metaphor for spiritual practice.
Lesley: Right, right, very much so. And the other thing about practice, Rick, is that people think as well, “Well, I’ll just quickly do meditation and get a book on whatever Dzogchen and quickly practice that”. It doesn’t work that way either, because what one is doing here is, it can be a beginning point, but what one is actually doing is learning to access a completely different state of consciousness, if we can use those words. It’s not as simple as simply saying, “Well, I’m just going to close my eyes, sit quietly with my spine erect, and that’s going to be equivalent to meditation”. I work with many people and I have seen in my own experience that even people who are very experienced in this terrain – people who’ve meditated for 10 years, 15 years – they can discover at a certain point in their own journey, as their own capacity deepens, as their own understanding deepens, that actually something like meditation, they’ve even wrongly engaged for large periods of those 10 years. They use meditation, for example, as a way to grasp at or get to states of bliss or peace. The ways of orienting that the mind will still grab onto, or the separate self sense, will still use these practices to try to get, to get, to push and pull, to avoid certain things, which is the way the ego functions normally. Those things continue in spiritual practices. The teacher and the teachings, if one is working with the spiritual community, helps to then give you specific feedback to see where you’re going wrong. A teacher can hear by the way someone is describing their experience over time, and by the results being achieved, whether you’re actually stuck in a particular thing or have misinterpreted an aspect of the practice, or whether your mind or your ego – I’m using these words interchangeably, mind, ego, separate self sense – is actually the one doing the practice, and that you’re not really accessing this very deep state of consciousness. One could meditate for 10 years, but be wasting your time if it’s not being done correctly. And similarly with all the other practices, which is why in the days of old, the masters only gave these teachings to people that they actually taught in person. They didn’t write on a piece of manuscript or whatever, or a script, and simply send it out to people. People had to be coached and mentored and given very direct feedback to actually optimize and deepen and create a right practice. So again, practice isn’t as easy as it appears. It definitely needs to be coached, in my experience, for it to be really deep.
Rick: Let me give you an objection to practice that you sometimes hear in neo-Advaita circles. People say sometimes, “Practice is only going to reinforce the notion of a practicer, and that you are already that, so why do you need to do anything to become that which you already are? You’re reinforcing some sense of ego or individuality by sitting down and doing something”. What do you say to that?
Lesley: Right. Well, that might very well be the case, and probably is at the beginning of your practice, but here’s the point. There’s no other way that I’m aware of, and anybody who’s teaching has looked into these things themselves, and if we look back over 2,000 or 3,000 years of human history, we have access to all the deepest teachings that have been given, from the beginning, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, and the things that the rishis wrote 2,000 years ago. So when we talk about practice and spiritual teaching, we’re not just talking about, like me for myself, a sample of one, or Adyashanti or Rupert Spira. These individuals, we’ve all engaged very deeply across the board to see what’s there, and it’s very clear that if you don’t engage with some kind of practice that people can test it out for themselves, you will get nowhere. The reason for that is because the patterning is so strong. We are so deeply conditioned on all these levels of the being to relate to reality from a certain viewpoint. That viewpoint is not under the control of your personal will or your mind. You cannot simply wish yourself deeper or decide that you’re going to be enlightened in a week’s time and have it be so. So what the practices do, even though in the beginning they may, I wouldn’t say reinforce, they are simply doing what normal people are doing in any case, they’re not doing anything worse. But what they will show you if you’re a diligent, rigorous practitioner is soon, and especially with the help of teachings or a teacher, you will begin to see where you’re going wrong in your practice. And so as Ramana Maharshi says, the reason for effort is ultimately to see that there is no effort needed. But you can’t skip over that. You can’t bypass the practice and jump to the final point. In the same way as you can’t train yourself to become an Olympian by wishing it was so and reading a book, you actually have to engage in the errors and the problems and through that what you begin to see is where you need to optimize, where you need to let go, and ultimately it’s all a process of dissolution.
Rick: Yeah, and I mean sometimes maybe if somebody’s tried a practice or two and maybe they didn’t enjoy it that much and all this talk about practices is making things go, “Ugh, I really don’t want to”, but practices, they don’t have to be effortful and they can be very delightful to experience. I mean, I’ve been meditating a couple hours a day on average for almost 50 years and it’s never taken discipline, and believe me, I was not known as a disciplined person when I started this. All my friends thought I was going to just quit in a week or two and be on my next fad, but it was just so transformative and so enjoyable from day one that I’ve never missed a sitting in all these years. So practice can be a joy, it can be something you look forward to every day, it’s not a burdensome kind of thing necessarily. I mean some might be, but they aren’t all.
Lesley: I totally agree with that and when you see what the benefits of the practices are, then it’s very clear how really important and useful they are and they can be incredibly illuminating. So practices would include self-inquiry, so I’m very big on self-inquiry as an adjunct to these other practices we’ve been speaking about, and that’s thrilling. There’s nothing more interesting, there’s nothing more rooting than to really begin to discover the depths of your own beingness, the nature of reality itself, what could be a more interesting thing to inquire into. And this kind of inquiry is not a conceptual inquiry, it’s an inquiry that one can discover in the depths of your own being, in your own experience over time. So ultimately it’s all pretty thrilling. I mean most of the people that I’ve seen or people I work with find the journey so-called absolutely thrilling. It’s something that is astoundingly beautiful. One opens up depths of your own being, you begin to see shifts in the way that you perceive the world. That is just like nothing that you can encounter anywhere in the world. No pursuit, no hobby, no endeavor is in any way comparable to this. One sees that everything is beloved, everything is precious, everything is beautiful. These beautiful spiritual pointers that one can read about that say everything is one, will come to experience that in your own being. There’s nothing more astounding. Your heart explodes, your whole being shifts, which is why often people who’ve come to these really deep places of abiding, your life changes radically often because your point of view is not just something that is an abstract thing that you look out there. Every aspect of the being and the way one relates to reality shifts to the point where one doesn’t see the other. One sees everything really as a kind of reflection of a oneness. So if a few practices are going to help you come to this kind of depth of understanding, a true homecoming, people look for love and happiness and attunement to their deepest self. Well there’s only one place you can get that. There’s only one solution for all of that and that’s to actually come home to your own beingness.
Rick: Yeah, I agree. I mean I think that what we’re talking about here is the greatest of all human endeavors and of all scientific explorations. I mean, Elon Musk wants to colonize Mars and that’s interesting, and we want to understand how the universe works through quantum mechanics or various other fields, and that’s all great, we should keep doing those things. But if we don’t know who we are… And let me just throw in another angle, and that is that Elon Musk, by the way, is a regular meditator, but you could think of the human mind and nervous system as the ultimate scientific instrument. It’s able to explore levels of reality far more profound than any instrument that scientists have been able to construct. Even a single cell is more complex than pretty much anything any scientist has been able to construct. So great, we have the Large Hadron Collider, let’s use it, let’s see if we can prove the Higgs boson and whatnot. But we each possess something more marvelous than the Large Hadron Collider, let’s use its full potential and see what that will result in, in terms of our own personal experience. The guys in Geneva, they say they found the Higgs boson, great, I don’t even understand what that means, doesn’t do much for me personally, but if I can use this instrument to the fullest extent of its capacity or its potential, it’s going to be a completely transformative thing in my life, and I’m speaking obviously of everyone’s life.
Lesley: Exactly, totally agree, totally agree. And the interesting thing about any kind of awakening or opening, it seems to create almost a sense of a calling, much like I had, and we were talking about when I went up to the ashrams, it happens differently for different people, but there’s almost a felt responsibility to actually live into the fullness of what you’ve seen, with integrity and authenticity to actually express and live that, and that seems innate in this deeper consciousness. It’s a manifestation of the consciousness itself, that once you have a taste of it, it sort of beckons, it calls you, it calls you home, and nothing else is going to suffice.
Rick: Yeah, there’s a verse in the Gita which says, “Even a little of this Dharma delivers from great fear”. But you’re right, it’s not just this aspiration that we’re describing, this endeavor, it’s not just an individual thing, it’s God working through anyone who wishes to sign up for the project, and it’s working through everyone obviously, but if you become a conscious participant in what I regard as the sort of deep evolutionary trajectory that has been evolving the universe for 14 billion years, it really accelerates that Divine Intelligence working in and through you.
Lesley: Right, I totally agree. And the beautiful thing is the journey often starts with people as something that they want to get for themselves, they want to get rid of suffering, they want to find their way out of a problem, and that’s fine.
Rick: Get over insomnia, whatever.
Lesley: Right, and that will purify itself over time.
Lesley: Motive will shift over time where there’s a deeper and deeper connection to truth itself and to just wanting to live this itself as one is purified, and ultimately we discover that the journey we thought we were on individually to come home to ourselves is actually something completely different than that. It’s literally awareness coming home to its own being, it’s awareness becoming conscious of its own beingness, and there ultimately isn’t a personal dimension to that at all. You know, the deeper one goes, the more the personal is just a memory of something that one felt in the past, it just isn’t like that. You know, you literally are lived by this deeper consciousness that doesn’t have a self-center. I speak about it as a centerless center, and I felt that from the first experience, a deep experience I had at age nine or so, and it was one of the things that profoundly confused me. I couldn’t understand how I ended up in this particular body, and I remember as even a teenager and many times in my life, it’s almost as if what had happened is there’d been such a shift in the being that I then had to integrate the level of form, not the other way around. It’s like I’d landed in the depth and I actually had to integrate the form, whereas many people work from the sort of shallow end into the depth. And so, there was such a felt sense of oneness that was prevalent, and it was like, “How did I end up here?” I couldn’t quite work out how this consciousness, this awareness, seemed to be specifically only able to feel, sense, taste, touch, and smell through this particular vessel. It’s like I found it.
Rick: Yeah, why is it localized to this? Because it’s not localized in and of itself, so why… I mean, you’re not seeing things through my eyes or through the dog’s eyes or through the billions of other eyes and ears and so on in this world or trillions in this universe, so how does the ocean manage to get so squeezed into a drop? Is that what you’re getting at?
Lesley: Right, right. But even the five senses and the way the body functions, it’s a very deep part of the illusion of being a separate self, because it appears as if all I can do is taste, smell, and see and hear from this particular vessel, and that deepens the illusion of being a separate self. And so, I had the opposite view. I knew that I wasn’t a separate self, but yet it appeared when I didn’t know what was going on, yet when I hadn’t really clarified this, it appeared as if, “Huh, when I touch this, only I can feel it. How does that work?” It was the most astounding thing. Like even here, sitting… how did it end up that I’m actually sitting having a discussion with Rick and all these beautiful people around the world who are listening in? How did that happen? It’s like the most astounding thing.
Rick: So you’re still scratching your head over this or did you come up with some kind of answer?
Lesley: I am, no, I am. I mean, over decades, this is the kind of thing that points us in the direction of the mystery of being. You see, ultimately, yes, spiritual teachers have pointers and they point, but ultimately, the depth of what this is is so far beyond our mind. We see with the deepening in this journey that nothing I ever thought about this, even as I was grappling to try and make sense of my experience and move forward, nothing I ever thought about what it would look like ended up looking that way. Like even now, it’s a mystery that is very very difficult to speak about, and yet it’s felt and it’s lived in the being. So yes, there are still times, even though I’ve done all this work and teaching people and whatever, every now and again, it’s still, “Wow, the mystery, the awe, the beauty of just this”, and the profundity of the fact that it can appear as a separate self, but it’s not. Here I am apparently talking to Rick, and yet I know that what is talking here is awareness is actually conversing with itself. It’s a sublime mystery. It’s extraordinarily beautiful, and it speaks to the intelligence that we are, that is the source energy.
Rick: Okay, now a couple of questions have come in from listeners, and I want to ask those. But since we’re on this topic, and anyone who listens to this show regularly knows that this is kind of a Zen koan for me, trying to figure out this separate self thing. I did one thing with Adyashanti and Susanne Marie dedicated to this topic, Falling Away of a Sense of Separate Self. So, let me go on for just a minute about this, and then have you respond. I mean, in physics they would tell you that anything which appears to be physical, like my fist, if you go down microscopically enough, you find that there’s nothing physical whatsoever. There’s no fist, there’s nothing resembling a fist, it’s all just up quarks, down quarks, and electrons. There’s no individuality, or even more fundamentally than that, perhaps there’s some vacuum state or unified field from which quarks and electrons arise. And that would be the ultimate reality. And if it’s the ultimate reality, it’s probably the only reality, and yet there’s this appearance of manifestation. And there are various levels of manifestation between the pure unmanifest and all the grosser realms. So, wouldn’t it be true to say, in terms of separate self and not having a self and so on, that you’re a person, but you’re not only a person. In fact, you’re not fundamentally a person, you’re not essentially a person, but there’s still some kind of manifest value of personhood, of selfhood, or whatever, that makes living possible. Would that be true or not so much to your experience and understanding?
Lesley: Not so much. You know, what I found as this deepened here is that the sense of self that I thought I was has radically shifted. And there were periods where I felt, like you’ve just described, where there’s some way that we can make this all fit. But the deeper one goes, one sees ultimately that what you presume as a self is none other than a collection, a very complex and a very beautiful – we’re not demeaning this in any way – a very complex and very beautiful identification with all the content of experience. So the way that I explain this is that all that is, is consciousness. Consciousness arises and manifests this body-mind that we call Rick. When it arises in infancy, what happens because this consciousness arises in a vessel that’s not yet fully developed, the conditioning occurs where the consciousness becomes identified with the content of the awareness. So, every thought and feeling we have – and that starts as an infant, maybe even in utero – so, what the consciousness really has learned to do is really identify with every thought form and every feeling, and we call that my experience. So, the question is, who is the “my’ that’s having this experience? If you look really deeply, and over time it becomes revealed that the only thing that’s going on there in truth is that consciousness is manifesting a body-mind. This body-mind is… there are thoughts produced, you’re not producing them, we don’t create our own thoughts. But through a very complex interaction of this body-mind with its environment, the thoughts become conditioned and patterned in a particular way and of course, that way the thoughts and feelings and experience arises also connected to genetics and epigenetics. That’s a very complex thing. Basically, we’ve got a bundle of consciousness that’s completely identified with the content of its experience. As we go deeper spiritually, that entanglement unwinds and we can come to a point where we see that what you called a person actually is a body-mind with certain DNA, but that the essential identity there is pure consciousness.
Rick: Sure, I understand that the essential identity is pure consciousness.
Lesley: But there isn’t an entity in me called Rick, there isn’t something that you can identify even as Rick.
Rick: And yet there’s a body-mind.
Lesley: There’s a body-mind.
Rick: Well if there’s a body, why not a subtle body? Why not a sort of a jiva which perhaps transmigrates from body to body? And people talk of ascended masters, who enlightened beings who are still, even though they became enlightened, they’re still functioning from some level of creation or something like that.
Lesley: Right. Hard to explain those things, but if we look and feel deeper, what we see is that there’s less and less of anything that looks like a self. There is not an entity, and even these things that we talk about like reincarnation or ascended masters, looking from a certain view, you can see that actually some of those are pretty simplistic attempts to explain something complex that we don’t understand. That from where I sit, I don’t see reincarnation at all. I see energy, I see a oneness that is manifesting in millions of forms, trillions of forms, infinite forms. I think what causes the issue is that as human beings we have this highly developed brain that’s capable of self-reflection, and that creates a real sticking point there. If we had to look at nature, for example, and look at a willow tree and an oak tree, we wouldn’t be having this dilemma. We have oak and we have willow, they’re two different forms, but you don’t presume that there’s a Mr Oak inside the oak and a Mr Willow inside the oak. You see, there’s a way, and one may not be aware of it until you look deeply, but there’s a deep unconscious presumption of a kind of an entity, self that actually is a kind of an entity, somehow, in a mysterious way, sort of inside this body-mind. There is no such thing, it doesn’t occur. So in a way, you and I are like an oak tree or a willow tree. There’s an oak tree, here’s a willow tree, there’s a blue rock and here’s a brown rock. We are simply forms that consciousness manifests and these particular forms happen to have a very highly developed brain function which makes us capable of self-reflection. That’s the function that creates this apparent identity. It doesn’t occur in any other living forms that we are aware of. The deeper you go, the more you see that that whole thing is an illusion. It doesn’t exist in the way we think it does at all. The deeper you go, the more you see that there is just life force, there is just life energy, everything is God and it’s equally God. And when I’m saying equally I don’t just mean Rick and me and everybody watching, all those engaged in spiritual practice. I’m talking about an earthworm and a rock and a cloud and Jupiter and the fortress. All of it is equally a pure manifestation of this consciousness.
Rick: Yeah, there’s a couple points here. I don’t know. I’m not going to belabor this too long because I could go on all day. But firstly, a couple of Sanskrit things. In Vedanta there’s one term called “mithya” which means dependent reality and they use the example of jewelry or pots. You know, pots are made of clay and really there’s no pot, there’s only clay. And yet there’s a form of a pot which you can do things with. And so they use that to sort of come to terms with the fact that we have all these apparent forms and body-minds and everything else which are essentially nothing other than God or nothing other than Brahman, even though they appear to have forms. So there’s a sort of a concession to relative reality for the sake of practicality – pots, jewelry, whatever. We know that ultimately they don’t exist but relatively we say, “Yeah, fine”. And then there’s also the notion, another term of “lesha vidya” which means faint remains of ignorance and it said that without some faint remains, which is sometimes metaphorically described as like grease on your palm after you’ve thrown off a butter ball but your palm is still greasy, without that faint remains living wouldn’t be possible. There has to be some ability to distinguish between body and wall and body and rock and whatnot. And again, in the same breath, they would say ultimately there is no self but relatively there’s some kind of manifestation, and perhaps even a subtle self, just as there’s a gross body there could be a subtle body and the whole package makes it possible to live and to embody the ultimate reality as a living reality. And just before I stop, here’s a quote from Winnie the Pooh. I think this must have been Eeyore. The quote is, “There must be somebody there because somebody must have said nobody”. Go ahead.
Lesley: Right. Well, this is a really deep inquiry. It’s not actually possible to settle this matter conceptually.
Rick: I know it isn’t.
Lesley: They are really… and look, it’s interesting to have this discussion and maybe those listening might be intrigued to look deeper and I would encourage you to do so. With deep practices, and certain kinds of teaching or teachers, one can be pointed to actually explore this territory. For example, no-self territory, I work with that, with people who have come to a stage where they’re ready to do those inquiries. Not before, because there’s a certain readiness and capacity that has to be there. Otherwise, it’s just a conceptual inquiry. And all I can give people then are new beliefs that they will attach to, like, “Okay, now I know I don’t have a self”. Well, that’s completely beside the point. No-self is not an experience. It’s more like a point of view, and it’s not one you can will yourself into through reading a book or watching some YouTube videos. It’s a process of dissolution.
Rick: If you give it a severe toothache, you might begin to feel, “Eh, maybe I do have a self after all. I know what the benefits are”.
Lesley: Even that, you see, that doesn’t pertain to a self. It just means that this particular body-mind is an ache in the tooth of this body-mind. And who’s experiencing that? The awareness itself, that’s what I would say.
Rick: Yeah, but you’re experiencing that toothache. Even though you and I are the same awareness, the toothache is being felt there in Vancouver, not here in Iowa. And so, how come, this is what you were saying earlier, how come universal awareness seems to have been localized into one body in one place?
Lesley: Right. That’s a very confusing thing that you can only come to see in your own experience. And what I’m saying is that it doesn’t refer to a self. There isn’t a self. The self is really a… it’s a conclusion that we’ve drawn unconsciously due to the way this consciousness arises in this particular body-mind. And so, when you say, “Consciousness is arising here as lazily”, or, “There’s a lazily consciousness”, I would say, “No, that’s not true. There isn’t a lazily consciousness”. I don’t even see this as a fragment of consciousness. There isn’t actually a lazily in the way that we think there is. There is this body-mind, like there’s an oak tree. We don’t call the oak tree Mr Oak, as I said. We just call it an oak tree. There’s a body-mind here. And yes, it’s more complex than an oak tree. It’s got a different kind of a brain, etc., etc., different kinds of capacities. But that doesn’t imply that there is an entity inside there called a self. And with certain inquiries and looking very deeply, and if our awareness is expanded and stabilized sufficiently in certain areas, you can come to see this in your own experience. But it’s not something… I see some particular groups are looking at doing this as a weekend inquiry or something. In my view, it’s not in the nature of that. You’re just left with a whole lot of beliefs and dialogue that could be riveting and interesting.
Rick: Well, okay, so I’m going to move on because I’ve been thinking about this for years and we’re not going to resolve it now. And I believe you. It’s just that I don’t totally get it as fully as I believe it can be gotten, but I find it interesting and perhaps beneficial for me to keep pondering it. But I don’t want to spend your whole time.
Lesley: No, no, no. But if I could just add one point, Rick.
Rick: Yeah, sure.
Lesley: So what I’m basically saying is the reason that you can’t see it in the way that you’ve been pondering it for years and you’ve looked at pointers and here we are discussing it. It’s because of the point of view that you’ve got. It’s because of certain things that you are still holding on to or attached to. And when those are pointed out to you very directly, and you work with that in a certain kind of a way, you can come to see something else. There are certain types of inquiries and really deep pointers one can use to show you specifically where you are still holding on to certain erroneous views. That will allow you to shift your point of view because I know you have the background in some of the other practices like meditation. That then allows the point of view to shift where you can begin to see something from literally a different point of view. And then it’ll start to dawn. It’s like, “Oh my goodness, you mean that’s what those pointers were referring to?” And that’s been my experience over a long period of time. The dawning of the meaning or the reality of certain pointers that I read 10-20 years ago. It’s like, “Oh my goodness, I always thought I knew what that meant, but now I actually see it”. You know, as Jesus said, when he came to a point where this was a violating realization for him, if we could use those terms, it was like, “Now I have new eyes. I’m reborn. I’m born as a child”. I mean, that’s literally what it feels. You see something you’ve read a thousand times, but it’s seen from a completely different vantage point. And that point of view is not a mental thing that you can get there conceptually. It’s a whole being function. And the only way we can get there, in my view, is through a process of dissolution. It’s not about attaining anything. You can’t read 10 more books or ponder it again. In fact, I don’t think you get there that way. But with certain kinds of practices that help in the true dissolution, like some of the Dzogchen practices, for example, and certain kinds of pointing, or possibly even certain shadow aspects, there may be certain tendencies you have to cling to a self-sense, and that will color your view quite considerably. So it locks you into a point of view where you can’t see it. It’s not within your purview.
Rick: Yeah, yeah. For me it’s kind of a both/and thing. I mean, there’s no one home. To put it succinctly, I often feel like I’m everywhere, I’m nowhere, and I’m right here. And all those three things coexist quite nicely.
Lesley: Simultaneously. Well, beautiful!
Rick: And that’s an abiding thing. And maybe there’s an ebb and flow, a balance between the three components. Sometimes one seems to be more dominant than the other, but they’re all there to some degree all the time, for what it’s worth. So let’s not beat this one to death too much more. We’ll come back to it maybe someday. Maybe I’ll even do a session with you sometime where you can see if you can crack that shell. But I want to ask a few questions that people have sent in. So this is from Tim in Vernon, Canada. I don’t know if that’s anywhere near you. Tim asks, “Prior to directly experiencing the truth of ourselves, is there any aspect or quality of our relative conditioned experience that we can actually trust as we attempt to open?”
Lesley: Hmm, not really. I would say basically the whole thing is an illusion. However, having said that, I want to add that that is not just a kind of a wasteful, “Everybody’s walking around as a kind of an egoic self. What a waste of energy. What a waste of time. What a useless situation”. This is the paradox of really deep realization, is you see that even though that is the case, what is true is that being who’s completely identified with their limited consciousness, with the ego consciousness, is pure consciousness itself. The essence there is pure consciousness. So I want to just add that in. Otherwise, it sounds very dismissive and very… I think what we come to see, and you see this more as you go deeper and deeper, is that basically there’s nothing in the conditioned view or the conventional view that is true. It’s just not right. And yet, there is the essences there. It’s just being covered over by all of these layers. And there are times when maybe individuals who’ve never done any spiritual practice might come into contact or feel that essence, and sometimes people feel that in the form of an intuition or a sense of connection with the oneness of all when they’re watching a sunset or something. So it doesn’t mean that because the conditioning is very strong that there is absolutely no access to essence. Essence is completely there. It’s just very hard to access it. But in terms of something that you can trust – no. The only thing I would say, the orienting point for someone who’s not done any spiritual practice is your own intuition. However, having said that, what your own intuition is when you’re still identified with a separate self is very colored by your own point of view. So it’s not really intuition. Still, it’s kind of an appendage really of your ego, but still, there may be little aspects of the essence that can kind of be felt through that. The light can be felt through that, and you want to trust that. And then, Tim, I would encourage you to find a teaching or a teacher that you resonate with and engage deeply. Because if you simply attempt to deepen in your own point of view, in your own life, in your own self, by reading a few books or whatever, if one is really serious, it’s not going to go deep enough. Because what you’re doing is you’re trying to find something within the point of view that you’re already existing in. It’s like you’re in a bubble. The ego is like a bubble. It creates a whole world, a virtual reality world I call it. You’re looking for truth in your own virtual reality world. It’s not possible to do that, which is why we need teachings and practices like meditation that allow you to begin to access something outside of this bubble. Meditation does that. And in-pointers and teachings do that. They show you the pathway out of your bubble to something else.
Rick: Good. Okay. Yeah, I mean, the thing you said about intuition, there’s that verse in the Bible about seeing through a glass darkly and then later on it becomes clear. So I mean, pure consciousness is there or we wouldn’t be conscious.
Lesley: Right, exactly.
Rick: That’s why we are conscious. But it’s filtered or occluded to a greater extent.
Lesley: It is, very much so.
Rick: And you mentioned earlier in our conversation about purification and we’ve talked about the nervous system as a sort of an instrument of the Divine through which that is lived. So the instrument needs to be continually fine-tuned and purified and rendered more and more capable of reflecting clearly and fully this sort of inner awareness. And there’s great discussion about this in the spiritual literature and talk of Samskaras and Kleshas and Sattva, Rajas and Tamas and all these and Kundalini mechanics and all sorts of explanations as to how the nervous system might not be functioning up to its full capacity for expressing pure awareness and how it might be made better able to do so.
Lesley: I completely agree, beautifully said.
Rick: Okay, so here’s another one from someone named Kranti in Baltimore. And judging from the last name it looks like an Indian person. “Over the ages some yogis immediately left the body after the final stage of realization, whereas new-age enlightened people seem to stick to the body until they die naturally. How do you explain this contrasting behavior?” And I would actually question that question because if you read all the Vedic literature and literature of other things, people don’t just check out as soon as they get enlightened, they stick around, usually teach people, so I’m not sure what she means by that. But do you have a response to that question?
Lesley: Not particularly. I think again that particular reference comes from a certain teaching with a certain tradition, a certain point of view.
Rick: Yeah, I mean the Buddha stuck around, Shankara stuck around, Rama stuck around, you know.
Lesley: Right, I think basically the way I would see it more is that the body-mind, the vessel itself has a certain destiny that will live itself out. I think all that actually happens with enlightenment is that you come to see that you are not the body-mind, you are not this vessel that you thought you were. I remain as I am and the body-mind, as Nisargadatta said, continues its destiny. So then if the destiny of the body is to live until you’re 90 or well I don’t know, it’s necessary I think for those whose destiny it is to stick around to do so, and of course they don’t choose not to because it’s their destiny, but if they didn’t then we wouldn’t have all these great teachings and teachers who have had such a profound impact on humanity over thousands of years. So thank God that they don’t just sort of check out as soon as awakening takes place. Here’s a question from David in Grass Valley, “What do you feel is the best practice for deepening the experience of pure awareness while strengthening its participation in embodiment?”
Lesley: Right. I would say one of the Dzogchen liberation practices. Now I don’t know if David can access that in some way. I can give you a little sense of it.
Rick: Do you still practice it?
Lesley: I do. I do. The teachings are very profound. Unfortunately they’re not very accessible in terms of literature because a lot of those teachers didn’t write books. That particular culture, that particular tradition is more an oral tradition. The teacher teaches by mentoring and feeling the energy of the students and working with you to guide you in the practice of these things. So there are a few books available, but they’re very much written in the idiom of Tibetan and Nepalese culture and not particularly accessible to Westerners who don’t understand that culture. So basically if I could summarize it, as I was referring to before, what one learns to do with meditation, if one is doing it correctly, is begin to have no relationship to your thoughts and feelings. It’s a practice in meditation where you learn to rest as the spacious awareness that is not contracted down or identified with particular forms such as thought and feeling – “my experience”. So what that opens up in you, for anybody who’s meditated, and I’m sure you can resonate with this, Rick, is you feel a sense of spaciousness even now as we sit here together and those watching. If you allow the attention to open beyond your normal awareness, it’s like, “Okay, here’s a glass. Here I’m lazy. I’m sitting in a chair”. If we just simply sit and relax and without paying attention to anything in particular – any object or what do I have to do tomorrow or what I’m doing next week or my to-do list – if we just sit and relax and allow the awareness to open up into almost a kind of a feeling of spaciousness, allow yourself to sink deeply into the body, be very present in the body and allow the attention to open up into the spaciousness. Thoughts and feelings might arise in that spaciousness. For right now, we’re not going to pay attention to any of those. A hooting car might happen outside or someone might knock on the door. Here we are. We’re just simply here. The more one has practiced doing this, the more what you’re doing is actually literally physiologically experientially doing this. It’s not a mental exercise where you’re sitting in your chair and saying, “Well, I’m not going to pay attention to thought”. You feel. It’s a whole being feeling of this sense of spaciousness. It’s like the being starts to expand. Like right now, you can even feel the awareness expand beyond the body and just waste out in the field itself as a kind of soft, open spaciousness. It’s almost like a point of view. Imagine zooming out. Imagine you’re focused very tightly on an object as a photographer or something and you allow the awareness to expand so that it zooms out. So, this is essentially what we’re doing. We’re allowing the attention to expand out and rest deeply as the awareness you are, whilst not paying any attention to the thoughts and feelings that are arising.
Rick: Let’s say you’re doing that and then you suddenly realize that you’ve been daydreaming for five minutes off on something else. What do you do then?
Lesley: Right. You simply bring yourself back.
Rick: To the spaciousness?
Lesley: You’re right. You realize, “Okay, I was off”. You just simply, very quietly, bring yourself back. So, not a demeaning of that or not beating yourself up for having done that. It’s like you bring yourself back. The more practiced you are doing it, you’re not going to really drift off. You’re simply going to learn to be utterly present, right here and now, with absolutely no relationship to thought and feeling. When it’s gone really deep, that’s what the practice feels like. It’s like you do in meditation, but you’re doing it with your eyes open and here we’re speaking. It’s much harder to do it with your eyes open and while you’re speaking, which is why meditation, we learn this practice in meditation with eyes closed, quietly on your own. You’re not speaking. Because as soon as you’re engaged in speaking, all sorts of other impulses and your own conditioned patterns arise. You notice things in the environment. It triggers you. Suddenly, the attention is off on looking at all these shiny objects around you. So it’s much harder, but it’s possible to do. So essentially, what you’re doing is you’re transmuting or allowing the energy of the meditation to be the energy that you’re relating to the other person with now as we’re speaking together. Soft, open, spacious, clear, thoughts and feelings arise. As you practice with this more deeply, you learn to see what those thoughts and feelings are and which of them trigger you and which of them kick in certain patterns that will then create almost a hamster wheel situation where the patterning gets stronger and stronger and you get really drawn into it, almost like a negative spiral. So, as we’re learning to see where we’re triggered and what the patterning is, we learn to let go of that. So instead of, if you understand that that’s just a button being pushed, your own button being pushed by a certain event or circumstance or situation arising, it’s possible at a certain point to actually not allow yourself to go in that direction. You simply see, “I don’t need my button to be pushed. I know that the patterning that’s arising is actually not me. I know it doesn’t define me or the way I am. It’s simply a pattern that I’ve learned to identify with”. People do this in all sorts of ways in life, people who go on a diet or people who learn to ride a bike. We’ve been practicing this fundamental movement all the time in different ways. In these spiritual practices, it’s just a much more subtle, deeper version of the practice. So we learn to actually not relate to our experience through attaching to thoughts and feelings and creating a virtual reality world that defines me. In a way, by identifying with thoughts and feelings and our own experience, we’ve taken this infinite reality and we’ve condensed it down into a pinprick and we’ve put a flag on it and said, “This is Rick, this is Lesley, this is me”, when in fact, what’s actually there is an infinite field of consciousness. In a way, it’s an arbitrary marker. The fact that you say Rick is the body-mind is in a way an arbitrary marker. I’m saying the physicality of the body and the five senses is what helps create that illusion, but why do you define your experience as limited to your physicality? Anyway, so these are some of the things you begin to see when you do this practice. It’s like, “Okay, none of these patterns that are arising are actually me. I’m actually the awareness that sees the pattern, but not the pattern itself”.
Rick: Now, thousands of people are going to listen to this interview and perhaps we could… let’s round this out a little bit, what you’ve been saying now, so as to give people something they can actually sit down and try. They can even pause the interview right now and sit and do this, or they could do it tonight when they get home or something like that. So I want to ask you a couple questions that these people might ask, so they have a little bit more instruction. One would be, for instance, I asked you about wandering off on thoughts. Another would be, let’s say you’re not wandering off, you’re very much aware that you’re sitting there, but you’re feeling sleepy or you’re feeling anxious or you’re feeling bored or you’re feeling antsy and you don’t feel like sitting there any longer. What should you do then?
Lesley: Right. So, what you would look at is where that movement is arising from. So for example, you’re feeling bored. What is boredom? Where is that arising from? So I make a distinction between two facets of your being. One of the facets is what is true – it’s this pure, infinite field of consciousness that you are. The other is a very contracted, narrow field that you’ve defined yourself as in the body-mind. So, what we want to learn to discriminate between is whether you’re actually acting from the energy and the attention and the point of view of the self-sense or whether that movement that’s arising is coming from the pure consciousness itself. So when something like boredom is arising – and this is where one has to look and learn about it – it’s one of the classic qualities of the ego to be bored. I will say that pure awareness doesn’t get bored. There’s no boredom in pure awareness. So, the moment boredom is arising, one knows where that’s arising from. That’s a pattern arising from the self-sense, and the pattern arising from the self-sense can take the form of boredom either due to a restlessness that basically the egoic consciousness has. It’s a very restless energy.
Rick: It can be stuff in the physiology too.
Lesley: Right, it can be in the physiology too, and there’s also a kind of an inertia. It’s got two flip sides. The egoic energy tends to either be restless. You’ll notice some people who are new meditators, for example, will sit down to meditate and within a few minutes they need to reach out and check their cell phone or wonder what’s happening on Facebook. Can you see? It’s that restless energy. It’s like the self-sense, when it’s not practiced enough, is very bored with just being.
Rick: So, if you’re feeling the restlessness, let’s say, do you want to try to tune into the physiological counterpart of it? Because restlessness and boredom have a mental connotation to some extent, but they perhaps also have a physiological counterpart where you’re going to find some agitation in your solar plexus or some tension in your head or something that is corresponding to this unsettled experience you’re having. Do you want to shift your attention to the physiology or what would you advise?
Lesley: I would say it depends on the individual and how pronounced and prevalent this issue is. If it’s happening all the time, it sounds like it’s quite a severe, strong pattern. If it’s not, what I would generally recommend – and as I say, one has to work with the individual to see what’s needed – but the simplest course of action, the simplest advice I can give is to recognize this movement of boredom is not coming from the deepest part of me. It’s not coming from my true nature. It’s not coming from this expansive field of consciousness. It’s a movement of the contracted energy, and therefore, that’s a revelatory thing. You’ve realized, “Wow, right now I’m actually identified with the limited consciousness. So how about I simply let that go?” If you have some practice with meditation and a few other practices, I would advise you to simply say, “Well, so you’re sitting here, suddenly you feel bored and the tendency is like, ‘Okay, I’ve got to reach for my cell phone or maybe turn on the TV because I want to alleviate this boredom.'” I would say simply see that you’re actually acting from a limited point of your own consciousness. You’re acting from the contracted self-sense, so simply let it go. “Thank you very much. I’m not going to do that”. What I would suggest you do then is see if you can open more deeply into the spaciousness again. Like during a meditation, for example, if you’re ten minutes into your meditation and you feel a restless energy and you’ve committed to meditate for an hour, unless you’re not a very good practitioner, you’re not going to jump up after ten minutes and go running to follow this lower impulse that’s calling you. You simply say, “I’ve committed to sit here for an hour. There’s a movement arising in me. It’s my ego. It’s not a true movement”. It’s simply a conditioned pattern, so I simply let it go and I open the energy, relax the energy, relax more deeply into the field itself and see if you can simply let it go. You would let something go. A car is hooting in the distance. You pay no attention to it. The way I describe this when I teach meditation and some of these practices is I say that ultimately the depth of your consciousness, this deeper part of you, is like a really deep ocean. Imagine you’re meditating or you’re doing a practice and you’ve got this boredom. What are you? Are you a leaf or a little log floating on the surface of this profound ocean or are you the ocean itself? Now egoic consciousness tends to be identified with the surface. A little leaf falls, a little bit of boredom comes, a thought arises and we quickly, the consciousness or the attention moves to the surface. It was immediately there wanting to pay attention to each leaf falling on your surface. What you want to do is recognize, “Okay, there’s a leaf that’s fallen on my surface. I’m not that leaf. Do I need to go and examine every leaf that falls on my surface? No”. So I simply relax and allow myself to rest in the depth of the stones that I am. So instead of rushing to the surface to grasp and pay attention to every thought or feeling or movement or experience or an ache in my knee or now I’m feeling bored or now I’m thirsty, oh, suddenly I feel very tired. Leaves on my surface, let that go. A leaf can stay on the surface and what am I going to do? I’m going to allow myself to rest and sink even deeper into the depths of the ocean. The more you practice doing that, the more you feel yourself anchored and rested in the depth of the ocean. You might glance up and see a pile of leaves falling on your surface. It doesn’t really matter. In fact, if you’re very deep grounded in the depths of the ocean, it doesn’t matter if a typhoon is blowing up on the surface. Can you see? It’s a really good metaphor and that’s literally what it feels like in the being. So the feeling of boredom arises. I know what it is. It’s a leaf on my surface, let it go. What am I? I am that which is the depth of the ocean and so physiologically, experientially, energetically, I allow my consciousness to expand and to rest and sink into that depth. There’s a very profound practice one is doing in because what you’re practicing is a mastery.
Rick: Is it what?
Lesley: Is it kind of a mastery?
Lesley: Who’s the master of the being? Is the true consciousness or our true nature the master or is the egoic consciousness or the self-sense the master? Because if whatever is arising in the world or your awareness can pull you to act and to respond to it no matter what it is, then you’re enslaved to your mind, your thoughts, your feelings and all the experience around you. Whereas if you can see what’s arising and make a choice how you want to respond to it, “Ah, there’s a leaf on my surface. I might just go up and take a look”, or “No, thank you. I’m relaxing and sitting in my meditation”, or whatever, “I’m not going to do that”, or “I know it’s a movement from the ego or the mind and therefore I’m not going to respond to this movement of boredom”, what you then do is practice to actually engage from this deeper place of your being. That strengthens and deepens your capacity to live from this deeper place if you continue with that and apply various other practices and deeper looking. And you learn to actually shift the center of the gravity of the being. So instead of having a knee-jerk response to every thought, feeling and experience that arises, you’re responding from a clear spaciousness which ultimately you will see is a completely different consciousness. It’s not the same. So the awareness that will run after and be tricked into or respond to every thought, feeling and experience is what I would call the conditioned mind. The reason we do that is because we’re conditioned to do that. We’re conditioned and we believe that those things are real and they’re true and they’re me. I’m feeling bored. Who’s feeling bored? I am. I define myself as the one who’s feeling bored right now and therefore I need to respond or react to that particular movement. From a place of realization, you don’t see it that way. A movement of boredom arises, you don’t see it as you at all. It’s just a movement. It’s like a cloud floating in the sky or a leaf landing on your surface. And over time if you don’t react to each and every leaf falling on your surface, the leaves fall less and less frequently. You respond to them less and less. They thin out, you could say. The egoic patterning thins out, weakens and softens to a point where there’s very few leaves landing on your surface, very few thoughts coming in and you’re not attached to them. You can see them for what they are because what you’ve done is purified the being to such an extent that you are resting in this depth of being at all times, under all circumstances, in all places. And you’re not able to be swayed by anything that’s occurring in the world in terms of a circumstance, someone’s action, your own thoughts, your own feelings and your own experience. And yes, it starts with things like a feeling of boredom or, “I’ve committed to do this practice but now I need to sleep”. Guess what that is? It’s the part of you that actually doesn’t want to do the practice, which would be self-sense.
Rick: Could also be that you need some sleep.
Lesley: Could be, and if you have been sleep-deprived then it’s a very practical way of looking at it. “Okay, I feel that in the body”.
Rick: Because sometimes when you settle into meditation you get more in touch with what you need and what your physiology needs.
Lesley: Exactly, and if that would be the case then you would simply take a nap when you need to.
Rick: Yeah, I usually take a nap every afternoon before I meditate just to get rid of residual fatigue and then meditation is much more clear.
Rick: Let me ask you a couple more practical questions. You know, we’ve been going on about the importance of practice and meditation and so on. Most of the people I know who learn to meditate – I probably taught about a thousand people back when I was teaching – they end up just dropping off, they don’t stick to it regularly. Of course, I know many others who have been doing it for decades, but what would you say, two-part question, what would you say as a tip for getting yourself to meditate regularly and sticking with it? And secondly, what sort of daily routine? You mentioned an hour, an hour might be a bit much for busy people, people with families and so on. What would you recommend that the average person who is fairly busy can actually commit to and how would you help them commit to it and stick to it? So this whole conversation we’re having isn’t just some memory, “Oh yeah, I remember that lady, she said I should meditate. Well, it’s been six months, I haven’t done it”. What would you say?
Lesley: Okay, the first thing I would say is I would situate the meditation in a context that makes sense. If I wouldn’t recommend someone coming to this call simply just decides I’m going to meditate and hope for the best.
Rick: With no instruction or anything.
Lesley: Very little is going to be achieved in that way.
Rick: I mean, we’ve given some instruction here, but you probably would recommend, and I think I would recommend, something a little bit more personalized and specific.
Lesley: Oh, absolutely. Right. Now when I work with people, we might spend two hours or three hours doing something and then they go and practice it and then I come back and give them feedback. It’s got to be done in depth and it’s got to be done properly. But wherever people are, you want to situate your meditation in the right context. It’s not something you just want to grab hold of. Hopefully I can just sit there with my eyes closed and something serious is going to happen. It’s just not. Basically, you’re going to have their self-sense or the ego simply sitting meditating and that’s not… it might achieve a little bit, but very very little. So educate yourself about what meditation is. Ideally, get some instruction from someone who’s teaching meditation in your local area, teacher, whatever the case may be. So that’s step number one. Know what you’re doing and get feedback.
Rick: Let me just interject, there’s some practical stuff too, like turn off your phone, tell your family you’re going to do it, tell them not to bother you for make a few preparations. Don’t sit down in the middle of the living room when the kids are trying to watch television or something. You have to sort of…
Lesley: No, definitely not. That’s not going to work. So yeah, quiet space, some time and commit to what you’re doing. Don’t sit for five minutes and then reach for your cell phone. That is not meditation. So you see, what you’re practicing then is a kind of a rigor and a discipline, which will get you somewhere. So, but first, some instruction and if you don’t have a teacher in your local area, whatever, a book, some YouTube videos, at least something to educate you. The second thing that I would recommend is I think, in my experience, meditation on its own is not that helpful. I would always combine it with other things. So again, engage in something that you feel resonates with you, a teaching, a teacher, a community. Start with some YouTube videos if you like, some really deep books, Nisargadatta, I Am That, whatever. There’s some really lovely books. These are a starting point. They’re not going to take you particularly deep, but it’s a good orienting place. And I generally recommend inquiry and additional practices alongside meditation, because what I’ve seen is that people who only meditate, they find even when they’re meditating so-called quite well, or they’re doing the practice quite accurately or efficiently, there is not the benefit that they thought they were going to get, because there are other things that are still in play that meditation is not going to address. And things like additional practices and inquiries, particularly, are going to be very helpful for that. So educate yourself about the spiritual direction you’re interested in, in whatever way you can. That will enliven and give you a context for your meditation. If you’re just doing meditation on its own, generally people who do that end up dropping the meditation after a while. It gets boring. They don’t really see results, and they don’t really know what to expect and what to look for. So that’s what I would suggest.
Rick: Yeah, those are good points. I think understanding is… there’s like two legs to spiritual progress in my book – understanding and experience. And you have to kind of… to walk you have to sort of use both legs.
Lesley: Right, exactly.
Rick: Understanding without experience, you can get top-heavy, as we were saying earlier, you can mistake intellectual understanding for realization. Experience without understanding, you can lose inspiration, you can be fearful of something that’s actually very beautiful because it’s so different and you have no context for it. So you and I aren’t just saying this. I mean, this is stuff that goes back thousands of years. Again, the traditions all advocated clear understanding and deep experience as a full package.
Lesley: Exactly. As a full package, right. So when one works with people, you begin to identify as a teacher that there are a number of facets that really keep people stuck, and meditation only deals with one or two of those facets. That’s why on its own it doesn’t take you far enough, and if you don’t deepen your understanding in other areas, then you’ll become very frustrated with the meditation. If you think meditation is the be-all and end-all, it isn’t. Rightly done it can be very very beneficial.
Rick: It’s one leg of the stool.
Lesley: It’s one leg of the stool, and I would say maybe there are about eight legs of the stool.
Rick: There are. According to Patanjali, that’s exactly how many there were.
Lesley: Oh, okay, well beautiful.
Rick: Ashtanga Yoga means eight limbs.
Lesley: Okay, there we go, right. And so, when one engages with a teaching that you resonate with, and a teacher that you trust and that you feel is authentic, what you will then engage are these eight legs. So when I work with people, I’m tuning into their energy, I’m feeling them, I’m like even as we’re speaking now, each sentence you utter really reveals your point of view, where you’re standing, what’s important to you, the extent to which you’re identified with self-sense that is connected with this body-mind, and a number of other things that really give the teacher deep clues as to how to guide you. And that’s how one can then work with these eight different legs. For example, if there are eight, I mean, yeah.
Rick: There’s different models, obviously.
Lesley: Exactly. There are different facets that need to be engaged in order to untangle this ball of identification or sort of soften and dissolve, ultimately, this virtual reality world that we inhabit. So this is why it’s quite challenging to do on your own, Rick, because as much as teachers might say this, it can’t really be heard from the point of view of self-sense. We say things like there is nothing to attain. And truly, I will say there is nothing to attain. This is not, completely not, absolutely not, about the gaining of additional knowledge, like you’re building a big house. Yes, knowledge can be gained, but in a certain context, and that knowledge ultimately is surrendered in a movement, in a sort of blossoming that allows a completely different consciousness to flower in you. Now, to the mind, that might sound like gobbledygook, like, “What the hell? How do I do that?” Right, well, that’s why we’ve got thousands of years of teachings to help give us practices and deep teachings that can orient you. So one of the deepest things that I’ve seen and learned is that it’s not about acquiring more and more conceptual knowledge. The conceptual mind is not able to understand the mystery of being. So paradoxically, yes, we do need knowledge, but that kind of dissolves.
Lesley: Exactly, and it really feeds into a deep understanding of really, ultimately what your patterning is, where you’re stuck, where you’re still holding on, which then allows you to no longer be blinded and be blind to the patterning that’s engaging you. So it’s a kind of a stepping stone to help you sort of step out of the patterning. But ultimately, the stepping out of the patterning, all of it is a dissolution. Everything is about the dissolving of everything you thought you knew. Everything that you thought was true, who Rick is, what he’s been his whole life, everything you’ve learned from the 400 people you’ve interviewed and the meditation you’ve done in your own experience, that needs to be surrendered to what? To something much deeper, the intelligence of the being, which is more like a field of energy that doesn’t work through the conditioned mind. Yes, it uses the mind. The mind is part of this vessel, but the mind in a clear form, not in a conditioned form. So, I’m not denying or denouncing mind. I’m saying there are two functions of mind. Before we are stably realized, we function in the conditioned mode. Basically, one is run by your own thoughts and feelings and your own experience, and everything that arises in the contents of your being, basically, you identify with. You think everything that you experience is real and it’s true and that’s what reality is, and guess what? That’s me. No, it’s not. And so, that conditioned mind has to be surrendered or relinquished to allow something different to blossom. And that different teachings refer to it in different ways. I refer to it as clear mind, where this thing here, the gray matter here, becomes a clear vessel for the energy and the consciousness that’s flowing through it. No longer is it distorting, amplifying, twisting things around a self-sense which is self-oriented, which causes you to look at things in a particular way, self-referencing everything, not just what’s out there, but what does it mean about me and how do I relate to it and what am I going to get from it? You see, that’s what a self-sense does. It twists the entire point of view and it’s also very very limited. So as these patterns dissolve, what opens up is this clarity which functions through all aspects of the being. The heart is soft, open and clarified, undefended, it’s not making anything right or wrong, it doesn’t need to attack, it doesn’t need to defend. The energetic systems are unblocked and open and the mind is clear and free. And so, there’s an open, spacious, quiet intelligence that doesn’t function according to the old thought pattern. In fact, thoughts are few and far between. They’re really only engaged when you practically need things and the rest of the way that life is engaged is really through an intuitive flow. The spontaneous right speech and action that arises when the vessel is sufficiently clear and that’s what’s actually functioning and it works through the mental capacity, the cognitive capacity that it works through is clear mind, that’s how I would describe it. So it’s not as if the mind disappears. What we want to disappear is the conditioned mind. We don’t want to be run, we don’t want to be…
Rick: It’s not run by habit and conditioning. It’s aligned with cosmic intelligence, if you want to call it that.
Lesley: Exactly, exactly.
Rick: It’s an impulse of that.
Lesley: And that cosmic intelligence doesn’t have a self-center. And one discovers that as you engage with it, it’s like, where is the self-center? There isn’t one, there isn’t a center, it’s a field that you engage. And then as you’re engaging more and more from this place of right speech and action which becomes spontaneous, you look and you see there’s basically not a self anymore. It shrinks, it becomes more and more transparent. And there’s a beautiful body-mind and everything is seen as one’s brother and sister and that includes all of nature and the whole universe. And there’s a beautiful giving energy that then can flow because the vehicle has now been purified and opened up. It’s no longer kind of held in these sticky patterns from before. So everything we ever wanted is coming from that mode then – the happiness, the contentment, the sense of being whole and being true and being clear – there’s only one place that it comes from and that’s this pure, clarified consciousness. The conditioned mind is, for as long as we engaged in that, to whatever degree we are, is a recipe for suffering, source of all psychological suffering basically is our own conditioning.
Rick: Yeah, I just want to comment briefly on something you said earlier and then we should wrap it up. And that is that you said, well, learn some kind of meditation, find a teacher or something. I mean, you’re not necessarily going to be satisfied if you just go down to your local YMCA and take a yoga class and learn some kind of meditation they teach. Be discriminating, shop around. I mean, your life is an example of “seek and ye shall find”. I mean, you really went at it like a professional, dedicated yourself to it and actually moved from thing to thing as you found that one thing was unsatisfactory in some way and maybe you’d extracted all the benefit you could from it and decided better move on. So people need to be discerning and if something is not… don’t be a dilettante, superficial dabbler, but if something is not working out, don’t give up, keep on trucking, find something which does work. You know, call Lesley or do whatever until you find something which is really producing results and then stick with it.
Lesley: Exactly, exactly. And that’s a very good point you’ve made there, Rick, because when you do engage with something that’s authentic and deep, you will see the results.
Rick: There should be results.
Lesley: And you know, even though I’ve emphasized that this is a process and it takes time, the results can be seen really quickly.
Rick: They should be.
Lesley: When you engage, oh yeah, I mean, week to week when one works with people, you can see the growth. They see it themselves and that’s what keeps one engaged in the process, really. You can see how you’re actually shifting your point of view and your clarity is increasing and your self-doubt is diminishing and all these things that used to niggle and worry, there’s many many dimensions that shift. And basically what’s doing it is it’s not the ego that’s now fixing itself. Basically what one is doing when you’re engaged in really deep practice and with a deep teaching is you’re allowing the intelligence of one’s true nature actually just flower. So that’s what’s blossoming. You see the teacher’s not even doing it. All the teacher’s doing is giving you pointers. The teacher’s learned the territory really well and has experienced it and is a guide that can really point out the pitfalls and where to look. And the teacher can also see where you’re stuck, which is very very helpful. So you give people very direct feedback and that produces real growth that you can see, real transformation that’s there. So it’s not a question of saying, “Well, okay, I meditate for 10 years before I see result”. It completely is not like that.
Rick: Yeah, it should be from the outset. One should be very close to the outset. One should begin to notice. And I asked you earlier about how can a person stick with it. They’ll stick with it if they’re seeing results and there’s no one who is incapable of getting results if you’re going about it right. And there’s all kinds of cool stories about meditation being useful for PTSD sufferers and drug addicts and people in prison and kids in inner city schools and people in dire circumstances. And if it works for them, it can work for anybody. You just need to make sure that you’re doing something that works.
Lesley: Right. So I was just going to add to what you said there, a really good point. Anybody who’s really moved to do this can do it. And why is that possible? Is this only available for people who have the Ramana Maharshi genes? No. Why? Because your own true nature, everybody’s true nature is this. This that we’re speaking about is the source and the essence of everybody’s being. That’s why anybody can engage in it. And yes, you have to engage it with a kind of a seriousness. But if you’re interested and you’re willing and you stick with it, it does produce fruit. And one of the things that, if I could just speak to maybe some of the people that I know that are watching or others that are out there who’ve engaged in spiritual practices and found that they weren’t making progress, I would say look a little deeper, maybe find something that is a better fit for you, or examine where you were stuck and that you weren’t moving forward. Re-engage, but don’t give up. I’d say the thing that creates the sort of deepest pang for me is when I see people stopping the work because they feel one of two things, either that it’s not for them or that they can’t do it, which is not true, or they have the other negative, is that they’ve actually reached a place where they’re there or they’ve done it. And that’s very rare. This really deep place of abiding realization is still quite a rarity in our modern world, even though a lot of people are engaged in spiritual practice. So if you give up too soon or conclude that you’re there, what you’re doing is you’re truncating or you’re arresting your own spiritual journey. Even if you’ve come to a very deep place, and if you have a teacher will point that out to you and be happy to agree with you on that. In most instances, people are not nearly as deep as they think they are, but they give up prematurely, either because they think they can’t do it or because they’ve reached a certain point where they think they’ve done it.
Rick: They think they’ve done it.
Lesley: Exactly. And both points are completely wrong, unfortunately. And then what they end up doing is basically setting up base camp at a certain part of the mountain. They haven’t actually reached the summit, and that’s really unfortunate. So I’ve seen that when I was engaged in practice myself, and I see it with people I work with. So those people who stick with it through thick and through thin, in a way it’s kind of like a marriage. When you’re doing deep spiritual work, you don’t just give up when things are not going well. In fact, that’s the time that you really need to stick with it. When you’re going through a rough patch, you stick with it through thick and through thin, and you’ll be surprised what you can learn from those difficult periods. And yes, it’s possible. It’s possible for anybody if you really stick with it.
Rick: Good. Well, I think we’ve given them enough of a pep talk for now. I have six pages of notes here, and I didn’t really even need to look at them because we’ve been carrying on so easily. So I want to thank you for your time, and I will be creating a page on batgap.com as I always do, which will link to your website, and through that people can get in touch with you, right? And is there anything else by way of practical contact kind of information you’d like people to know, or should I just go to your website and see what’s there?
Lesley: Right, go to my website, see what’s there, or check out my Facebook page. I post quite regularly on Facebook.
Rick: I’ll link to all those things, yeah.
Lesley: Perfect. So either way, take a look and feel free to contact me if you’d like to speak. I’m happy to do a free session with you. I’m happy to just chat and meet you and see where you are and give you some tips if you just like something small, or if you’d like to engage more deeply, I’m happy to do that too.
Rick: Great. So people will get in touch. And thanks again. And just as a general comment here, pretty much everyone watching this knows, but this is an ongoing series. If you go to the batgap.com and just explore the menus, you’ll see what’s available. And I don’t really need to go through all the details, just go there. There’s a page that’s sort of called “At a glance”, which summarizes everything. And so I hope you’ve enjoyed this and stay tuned for many many more. Thank you very much, Lesley. It was wonderful spending this time with you.
Lesley: Thank you. Thank you very much, Rick. Wonderful spending the time with you and everybody else who will be watching this. Take care and wish you all very well on your spiritual journey.