Miranda Macpherson 2nd Interview Transcript

Miranda Macpherson 2nd Interview

Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews with spiritually awakening people. I’ve done nearly 500 of them now and if this is new to you and you’d like to check out previous ones, please go under the past interviews menu on batgap.com, B-A-T-G-A-P, where you’ll see all the previous ones archived in various ways. Speaking of previous ones, my guest today is Miranda McPherson and Miranda was on BatGap about five years ago. I listened to the conversation we had just this week as I was preparing for this interview and I thought it was a great conversation. I think Miranda just made a similar comment. So if what we’re about to discuss today intrigues you and you’d like to learn more, listen to that one too. In fact, we probably won’t be covering as much biographical stuff in this interview as we did in the previous one because we covered it and there’s no point in being redundant, but today we want to speak mainly about the topic of grace and Miranda has written a book called The Way of Grace, so we’ll be talking a lot about the points that she brings out in that book. But before I proceed with the conversation, let me just read a little bit of bio stuff about Miranda. Miranda began her spiritual journey at the age of 13 when amidst a period of clinical depression she was spontaneously opened into a profound state of boundless love. That experience initiated a lifelong dedication to spiritual practice, psychological depth, and the study of the world’s wisdom traditions. Her travels took her from her native Australia to the UK where after completing seminary training she founded the One Spirit Interfaith Foundation in London. Over the next decade she trained and ordained more than 600 interfaith ministers and spiritual counselors. How old were you during that period of your life?

Miranda: Well, I was 26 when I myself was ordained and my spiritual teacher at the time, Rabbi Joseph Government, asked me to lead the seminary in the UK and at first, I said no, but he kept persisting and it seemed like something that just really wanted to be done, and so it ended up becoming a really powerful and beautiful journey, both for me and for the other people that went through it, and the organization is still alive today, although with not me at the helm, which I think of as a beautiful thing.

Rick: So you did that from about 26 to talking all different religious traditions or just various factions of Christianity?

Miranda: Well, no, what I took was the primary world’s wisdom traditions – Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, shamanic traditions, and then some more modern spiritual teachings that have sort of generated a huge response in a lot of people. I was really interested in what does that have to teach us, what does each major tradition have to teach us about how human beings transform, and how is that relevant to us in this post-modern age where so many of us are walking a spiritual path beyond the confines of a particular religion, and yet how do we not throw out the baby with the bathwater?

Rick: What do you mean by that metaphor in this context?

Miranda: Well, I think that there are truths there that are alive in these great traditions that all serve to help purify the human heart and mind of hatred, greed, fear, insecurity, lack of humanity, and they all help cultivate important virtues of our deepest humanity and help us become more beautiful human beings. And those teachings and practices are every bit as relevant today as they might have been include and integrate the ways that culture has changed, society has changed, and to not relate to these wisdom streams as things that can divide us or that have to lock us into a way of walking the path that might not necessarily be true or relevant, but to engage what is true, what is real, what is still helpful, while we continue to open to what is it to be a real human being and to live a graceful life in this world.

Rick: That’s great, what a nourishing thing to have done at such a young age.

Miranda: It was amazing. I mean, I did it as much for myself because I felt that my own study had a lot of holes and gaps in it, and I also felt that it was universal because it gave everybody a chance to basically live into an inquiry, both personal and collective, about how to walk the path.

Rick: That’s good. So, reading on in your bio here, in changed the course of your life. While, meditating in Ramana’s cave in India on Mount Arunachala, you were in the actual cave that he was in.

Miranda: I was, very much.

Rick: So, while doing that you experienced the direct transmission of the true nature of reality that required total surrender. In the years that, well, go ahead and elaborate on that experience just a little bit before we go on.

Miranda: Alright, well I think, I mean it really was an opening of grace, I’m sure primed by the pump of my years of dedicated study and effort on the path prior to that moment, but I just sat in meditation, wasn’t trying to get into a particular state, wasn’t seeking to have any special connection with Ramana. I was really just happy to, be on retreat and have the opportunity to immerse in just silence for a while, and it’s often when you’re not trying so hard that things open up. It’s the irony. So, I was just relaxing, just being, and my consciousness opened up and I heard, although I wouldn’t call it hearing in the usual sense, it wasn’t an external voice speaking to me, was more like an inner transmission of absolute silence that said, “Be nothing, do nothing, get nothing, become nothing, seek for nothing, relinquish nothing, be as you are, rest in God.” So the felt experience of that was, I described it as a bit like a thunderous silence, and it dissolved every concept I had of who I was, what God was, what the path was, what the world was, and it really was like unplugging everything from the sound port.

Rick: Yeah, that’s good. Do you think you sat there for quite some time in that state or was it just a flash?

Miranda: It wasn’t a flash. I was in that state continuously for three weeks.

Rick: But there in the cave, I mean, did you just stay for a few hours like that and immersed in it?

Miranda: I don’t know how long I was in the actual cave. It could have been half an hour, it could have been two hours, and that’s how it often is when things really open up powerfully, the sense of time gets quite changed. But I do remember that I was walking around in that state for three weeks and what was really profound about it was that all of the tension and the conflict had disappeared, all of the resistance to everything had disappeared. There was this sweet state I was in that I’ve come to call ego relaxation, and it felt like just being utterly natural, relaxed, and in and part of that depth that is reality and that is us all actually, and in that there is this naturalness and direct simplicity that allows everything and all parts of us to be exactly as we are.

Rick: Some people say when shifts like that happen there is a loss of a sense of personal self. There was a well-known book called Collision with the Infinite by Suzanne Siegel in which she was terrified because she couldn’t find any remnants of a sense of personal self and that went on for 10 years before she finally settled into it, but was there something like that in your experience or was there still a sense of personal self and yet you were just so in the flow that there was no conflict between the personal and the universal?

Miranda: Well, and this is a bit typical of how things tend to work with me, there wasn’t a conflict in those three weeks, it was more like an education on how things really are when the self-construct isn’t there. And so then what took place as that state shifted and the sense of a personal self, you know, the Miranda-ness with her particular permutations of personality and likes and dislikes and habits and stumbling blocks, that returned but at the same time I wasn’t so identified with it. There was an awareness of this too and I think that was partly informed by my years of study and practice that understood at least conceptually that the relative and the absolute aren’t actually separate and that there doesn’t have to be a killing off of anything, but yet it took years to learn to really understand what had happened and why it was important and how to live its wisdom that didn’t happen suddenly and I don’t believe it does happen suddenly, like we can slip into very realized states but it doesn’t mean that we are integrated in that realization and I think that’s a common danger in this day and age.

Rick: Yeah, it is and there’s a lot of messy situations that arise when people consider themselves done or realized or something and yet there hasn’t been much integration or spiritual maturation in some way. Yeah, so you say, and I’ll continue on with your bio a little bit here, that in the years it took to integrate this opening, a body of teachings on grace and ego relaxation began to emerge that brings ancient wisdom alive for our changing times and that’s mostly what we’re going to be talking about today is grace and ego relaxation. Today, Miranda is known for her depth of presence and gift for guiding others into direct experience of the sacred. She leads the Living Grace Sangha in Marin and Sonoma counties, holds retreats internationally and offers online programs through the Shift Network. In fact, you’ve got one starting tomorrow for those who are listening live.

Miranda: Wednesday, yeah.

Rick: So people listening live could sign up for that and there’ll be others I’m sure. You are the author of Boundless Love and Meditations on Boundless Love and your new book The Way of Grace which we’ve already talked about a little bit, The Transforming Power of Ego Relaxation. You’re also a kirtan singer with a mantra CD titled The Heart of Being. Unapologetically feminine, joyful and down-to-earth in her way of being, Miranda is dedicated to loving people all the way back into the freedom and wholeness of their true nature and you live in the Bay Area obviously with your husband. Okay, and so I’ll be linking to your website, your books and all that stuff on www.batgap.com on your page. So let’s just get right into Grace. Not that we’re not already in it perhaps, but what do you mean by the word?

Miranda: Yeah, Grace is really the living presence of the Divine coming online from within us. So Grace brings the felt direct experience of what we really are, what always is, and it brings it forth in a way that connects us with all the essential qualities of our true nature. So it brings alive the felt sense not only of the love, the clarity, the peace, the pure awareness, the strength, the joy, but also the fact that we are that, that that is our deepest nature. And so I think that Grace really is extremely important. In fact I’d go as far as to say it’s the key, the missing key for really living an embodied life of awakening and learning how to live that in life, in daily life.

Rick: In the interview I did last week with Judy Cohen, we couldn’t quite get on the same page about the idea that our true nature has intrinsic qualities such as bliss and other laudable, desirable qualities. So maybe you could elaborate a bit on a little bit more of what our true nature is and why it has qualities, if it does, what some more of those qualities are

Miranda: . Well, I think I want to sort of backtrack a little bit because I think this will help to give more context in that if we, and again I’m so informed by my study of all of the great traditions and their orientations and their perspectives on how we get into all of these subjects in a way that’s meaningful. And one of the things that I’ve noticed in studying the Eastern traditions in particular, like Buddhism, Daoism, , Advaita, is that it tends to emphasize our true nature predominantly in its aspect of emptiness. And so the practices are about dissolving into the void or, letting go into spaciousness or, just being. And so that’s the lens that the Eastern traditions tend to give on it. Whereas when we look at the Western mystery traditions of mystical creativity, Sufism, Kabbalah, we see quite a different perspective that has more of a focus on the relationship between the soul or the Atman with its source, and the development of virtues that bring us into alignment. And so, if we don’t say who’s wrong and who’s right, which is a tired old argument anyway, and we open to, see that all of these traditions are distinct streams that are not separate from one another, they’re all bringing something true and noble and healing and helpful on what is awakening and how do we awaken, then what if we open to the both end of reality and our nature being simultaneously nothing, empty, and also full? And that was my experience, because I come out of a Christian culture, even though my family weren’t religious or practicing, but you can’t deny the imprint of culture, or cultural tradition. So I come from a Western tradition and I’m very devotional by nature and had studied, had really related most to some of the Hindu and yogic traditions as well as Sufism with my strongest influences, but I’d also studied Zen Buddhism with a Zen master. I had enjoyed and appreciated various different kinds of practice and benefited from them all, and what I discovered in my own experience was it was that by relaxing into being nothing and no one, which was that experience in the cave, not only did it first silence the static, the conflict, the distortion, the struggle of me, and my challenges or my desire to wake up, all that kind of went, but then it opened up this really profound, rich, and full experience of the everything, divine love, joy, bliss, peace, pure awareness that has a substance to it, a fullness to it, and I love what Ramana Maharshi had to say about this. He said that grace is always present. He said, “You think of it as something high in the sky that has to descend, but really grace is inside you. It is your heart,” and he said that “when the mind subsides into its source, grace rushes forth, sprouting as if a spring from within you,” and I really love that metaphor because it’s very much how it actually feels. There’s this sense of the ordinary self with its problems and fixations and confusions and ideas subsiding into the source, quieting down, settling down, yielding to something deeper. And then all of a sudden it’s full. There’s fresh, direct experience that brings forward what is actually needed most, and that’s what I find so miraculous about grace is it brings online what each soul actually most needs to move them forward in a way that’s true and helpful for them for where they are on the path, reveal the insight that’s most needed, and teach us from within who we really are, what really is.

Rick: I once heard Maharishi Mahasayogi say, “God may be omnipotent, but the one thing he can’t do is remove himself from your heart.”

Miranda: Yeah, how beautiful, absolutely, right, and so again, this is the importance of what many of the great traditions have brought us back to, the heart, and they don’t just mean our physical heart, they mean the heart of our being, but that obviously when we drop into that depth and we drop out of our opinions and our ideas and we let go, there is this heartfulness which is synonymously love and connection and empathy and joy and bliss, and we intuitively know that it’s the truth.

Rick: Yeah, I just want to make a quick comment on the fullness question versus emptiness. When I hear these different traditions talk, it feels like they’re just emphasizing different flavors of the same thing, and it might be because of the cultural or traditional groove that this person speaking has been raised in, it also could have something to do with different nervous systems. I think that different nervous systems experience sort of deeper reality with different flavors.

Miranda: Yeah, well also, who and what we are is infinite and limitless, and so there’s a lot of different flavors of realization that are possible. This is something I didn’t really know before that awakening in the cave, because as you read, I’d had a very profound awakening into the state of boundless love when I was 13, and so that was very much the guiding light of my spiritual practice for so many years, and I knew it well, and it was such a font of goodness and strength and propelled me, and so it’s curious that to really realize directly, well, that’s one kind of realization, there are others, and so relaxing into being nothing and no one, which is not a put-down, our personality hears that and thinks it’s a negation, like a “kachoo,” and it’s not that at all, but when we relax into being nothing and no one, There’s a dissolving that takes place that brings us into this very pure, clean, direct state that has no words, but that is absolute peace, and that was what was fresh and new, and it really opened my eyes and my heart to the recognition that there is no end to the ways in which we can experience our Divine True Nature and what that is, and therefore the path keeps opening up, keeps inviting us in each moment, to keep coming with wholly empty hands unto God.

Rick: Did you ever hear the joke about the rabbi and the cantor, and the rabbi is saying, “I am nothing, I am nothing, I am nothing,” and the cantor says, “I am nothing,” he picks up on it, yeah right, then the cantor starts saying the same thing, and then the janitor who’s sweeping the floor starts getting into it, and then the rabbi and the cantor say to one another, “Look who thinks he’s nothing.”

Miranda: Right, and so that joke, which is a really sweet one, it also highlights how easily our ego can hear these things and can just take them on, slip into them as a costume that becomes another disguise, or another pose, and how much we need humility and to really keep coming freshly into, the receptive condition so that we’re kind of protected in a way from just grabbing hold of it conceptually and then using it to separate and divide us from one another, and we see that that’s what’s happened in the history of religion, that the word religios means to unite, but what have we done with it? And we can even become a non-dual fundamentalist, having arguments about our particular version of non-duality, and it’s kind of very silly, we have to smile but keep coming back to the heart and the mystery and engaging what practice we can, but really remembering that we exist because of grace and we need that grace to help us.

Rick: I’ve also heard that the word religion comes from a Latin root meaning to bind back, and that doesn’t mean restriction, it means kind of getting back to the source.

Miranda: Yeah, which is a bit like the word yoga means to come to the yoke.

Rick: Yeah, right. Just to tie up a few threads of what we’ve been discussing, so you know we were talking about how different people have different flavors or emphases of the experience of true nature, but I don’t think that we’re saying, or tell me if you disagree, I don’t think we’re saying that there’s a different ultimate reality for every person in the universe and each person has their own ultimate reality, there’s a sort of a universal ground of being, and we all interface with it perhaps slightly differently according to our nature.

Miranda: I like to feel it this way because this is what makes sense to me in my own experience and when I share it with others it seems to make sense to them too, is that who you and I and everything and everyone really is, is like a window pane within an infinite matrix of being, and every window pane is part of the matrix and infinitely connected to the whole matrix and is the matrix, and yet as we can see as we go about the world some window panes are very boarded up and therefore the light of being doesn’t get through that window pane very easily, and other window panes have the usual amount of dust and occlusion and so there’s an opacity, light gets through but it’s partial.

Rick: Yeah, through a glass darkly.

Miranda: Yeah, and of course the goal is for our whole being, body, heart and mind, to be transparent and open so that the light of the mystery, Being or God, whatever you want to call it really, can pour deeper and more purely through life, through the vessel, and that is what makes us happy, that’s what makes life meaningful, that’s what makes our being an unfoldment of blessing in this world. Yeah. So that’s how I view it really.

Rick: Good, so I think what we’ve established so far is that, and this is nothing new but this is kind of what we’ve discussed so far, is that there is a sort of a reservoir of fullness which is really all-pervading but which we could say is within us because we experience it by settling down as you did in that cave, by taking our attention within, allowing it to relax into that reservoir, and then having done that we establish a clearer conduit, we become a clearer conduit for that inner grace to enrich our life and through us the lives of everyone. Is that a fair synopsis?

Miranda: That is. There’s a little step you’ve missed out though, which is that yes, ego relaxation, whether we practice that through meditation, inquiry, or just learning to cease and desist, following our thought stream and trying to fix it all the time, rejecting our experience all the time, what it does is it first helps us settle down, to be still, to be present, to actually be here in this moment in a more receptive way, but then what that does is it starts to soothe the frantic activity of our ordinary sense of self, and most people can relate to that because one of the reasons why it can be so hard to really gain traction on the spiritual path is because we all have suffering, hurts and pain and conflict and confusion from our history, things that haven’t been worked out. Some would say that we have things from past lives that haven’t been worked out, and those parts of our consciousness need healing. They need contact with a loving presence in order to let go, and I think that’s an important part of what I share, what I bring, that I feel is crucial because without that healing and soothing of our agitated ego, we can’t actually allow deeper surrender, and so that’s the point then of grace. Once the settling and the soothing has happened, then we can open to the transforming power of grace, and it really is grace, the living presence of the mystery that actually transforms our suffering into wisdom, harnesses our challenges, our knots of personality, the questions that we don’t have answers to, and it takes us somewhere new if we will let it, and not just transforming our suffering, but harnessing it to open more fresh gates within us that bring further realization online, further liberation online, and it’s that that then brings us a whole other level of depth with which to live life and which to embrace the paradoxes of life, and what I’ve come to see is that the deeper we go spiritually, the closer we come to the paradox of being and becoming, waking up while growing up, being in this world but not of this world, engaging effort but without the efforting to fix ourself, and so this work on grace and relaxation is very much about that, on how we open to this whole totality of our experience and learn to yield, learn to settle, allow transformation, and allow ourselves to return to a more fluid, free, transparent state with which to walk more substantially in this world.

Rick: To add this to your own experience, when you had that samadhi or whatever it was in Ramana’s cave and then you were in this state for three weeks, did you feel that that experience, both in the cave and during those three weeks, acted as a sort of a solvent to begin to loosen up entrenched impressions and whatnot, and was there a lot of stirring up of stuff that you had to then deal with over the ensuing months and years?

Miranda: Yeah, there were levels to the process. I mean the most important part about it when I was in that state for three weeks, it was like the most direct teacher you could possibly get, because it was like direct education on how things really are when your ordinary filters of reality aren’t leading. And you can read for as long as you like, but until you really experience that who you take yourself to be isn’t actually a real self, it’s a structure, a network of adaptive mechanisms, beliefs and impressions from the past and fears and concerns, but at the center of which is actually nothing, and that’s not a problem, that’s actually the gate. That was huge for me personally, because I was so in touch with prior to this moment a felt sense of what felt like the deepest problem about Miranda, was this feeling I had of being somehow defective, as if I was nothing, as if I had no real intrinsic values, as if I wasn’t quite good enough. Well, I’ve since had conversations with people all over the world. I’ve never met anybody who I’ve had a real conversation with who hasn’t confessed that they too feel that somehow there’s something that isn’t right about them, that they have to do something about, and so it propels most of us to do inner work in the first instance, and it certainly was a driving force for me, and so it was such an amazing, wonderful, delightful surprise to really get experientially that what I thought was the big problem actually was the resolution, and that I needed to relax and just to be nothing, and it was freedom, and so that also brought forth this very peaceful countenance with everything, so it wasn’t like, that there wasn’t still piles of rubbish littering the ground in India, there was. It’s just that I wasn’t upset about it anymore, you know, it wasn’t that, you, my husband at the time didn’t do things that were, a little irritating. It’s just that it wasn’t a big deal. Nothing was a problem, and everything was fine as it was, and I was fine as it was. Everything was beautiful as it was, and that’s why I say this is a very sweet state of ego relaxation, state of grace, that for me felt like having a true vacation from all that made life stressful and clunky and dense, and so when the state started to wear off, of course I’m just wanting to be quiet a lot more. I didn’t want any concepts. What was a little hard was that I had been a deep student of A Course in Miracles for while because the conceptual language felt like it was pulling me somewhere that I no longer really was. I didn’t need that kind of support to cross the bridge. I wasn’t afraid of what was over the bridge anymore. I had seen that there was no problem, and I kept hearing or feeling what I related to as Ramana’s presence inside saying, “Just be still. Just be quiet,” and I knew that was trustworthy, but yet it was starting to really dissolve all of my previous practices and understanding, and that was unnerving, so I had to trust this emptying out process that then took place that started coming after everything, and I could feel it. It was pretty intense, and so my marriage of 13 years began to fall apart, and it had been a good marriage. The work I was doing, I was training people to be interfaith ministers and spiritual counselors, and of course what I wanted to do was take apart the whole training and rearrange it based on what I now understood, and that was not what was wanted by the organization, so it was clear then I had to go, and I looked at the situation, and I thought, “Well, it could survive without me. Okay, time’s up,” you know, and so I kept putting my key in the door of my home in London and hearing, “This is no longer your life. This is no longer your home. This is no longer your country.” It was really intense, and I’m like, “Well, okay,” so I learned just to surrender and to yield and to really drop out of using my ordinary frame of reference that belonged to a someone I had now seen wasn’t actually real. Let that go, so what that led me to was asking and listening for every decision. What’s needed now? What’s the next step? What’s the action that best serves? And not trying to figure anything out, but learning to live like that, and what was really extraordinary was seeing how precise and how practical grace really is, because it gave precise instruction on what actions to take and how and when brought forth the people that I needed to give me information and complex information, like how to move from the United Kingdom to the United States and get legal when you don’t know anybody. That’s not a simple, straightforward task, and it was this practice of learning to ask and listen and be obedient to the unfolding wisdom and pulse of grace that I started to recognize that guided my life. And so the more I practiced it, the more I started to understand how it works and to learn to live life in that kind of yield, and recognizing that yield or surrender is not passive or resigned, quite the opposite. It makes us more potent and precisely responsive in life. So it’s paradoxical also that this thing we call grace that seems so lofty and mystical and hard to conceptually grasp is what’s actually most practical.

Rick: Yeah, practical, and everything you just said to me implies that there’s nothing dead or mechanical about the universe, about the way everything functions. There’s an intelligence sort of intrinsic to everything that orchestrates everything, and this process you went through and that many people listening to this are going through is a matter of kind of aligning with or tuning to that intelligence, and when you do, there’s a saying in Sanskrit, Brahman is the charioteer, so when you align with that intelligence then it begins to hold the reins of your chariot of your life.

Miranda: That’s right, exactly. So this is what I call in my book, I talk about grace in four primary dimensions or ways that it manifests or comes alive, and what we’re talking about now relates to what I call the first dimension of grace, which is that the primordial ground of all being is grace. The cause of existence, the cause of the mountains, the cause of all plant life, the cause of all the processes in your body, the cause of your brain, the animating force itself is loving goodness, is infinite intelligence, and therefore when we recognize, “oh, that is the ground of our being, this loving goodness and intelligence,” then it makes it easier to surrender out of fear, out of trying to lead with our ordinary mind as we go through life. It gives us a basis to melt out of defensive control. It gives us a basis to relax out of judgment, and these are really important things because these form the dense features of our ordinary everyday ego consciousness, and they make us clunky and dense, and we have to deal with them. And so it’s by recognizing this infinite love and infinite intelligence that Brahman is the charioteer that helps us to really let go and allow true surrender and trust something deeper than our mind.

Rick: In your book you mention celestial realms, and obviously in many traditions celestial realms are mentioned and usually denizens of those realms are mentioned, angels or gods or devas

Miranda: bodhisattvas,

Rick: all those things, and so a lot of times when you think of grace, or when I think of grace, I think of it not merely as sort of the support of some kind of homogenous all pervading field, but actually the intervention or support of individual expressions of that field, these beings. The Gita has a verse about you support the gods and they support you, so you care to comment on that?

Miranda: Yeah, well this is really what I call the second dimension of grace, which has a very different kind of feel to it and way that it comes alive to help us to walk the spiritual path. I call it receiving the blessings of grace, and so unlike what I’ve just talked about, about the ground of grace, it has this very universal infinite intelligence that we can let go of into that’s universal and primordial. The blessings of grace feels very, very intimate and personal, and I’m sure many people have experienced this through synchronicity, like meeting the love of their life, or the way that we mysteriously find our way to deep friendships with one another that we didn’t plan on, but that are so nourishing and beneficent forces. Or when we might be in a moment of crisis and we might pray to something or someone we don’t even know whether we believe in, and something happens, we’re shepherded from harm, or some message or clarity somehow finds its way to us and it’s so right for where we are. Or we’re brought towards a spiritual teacher that totally speaks our language and is able to help us in the way we most need. This is all part of the blessings of grace, and really there’s so much more nuanced, precise love and support to help us to really walk the spiritual path than we typically realize. And again, we see this reflected in all of the great traditions, even in traditions like Tibetan Buddhism, where they don’t have an understanding in their cosmology of the Supreme Being. However, so many of the practices are about opening to the blessings of Bodhisattva realms that help us awaken. And so this is very real, and it’s as real as you and I are real, and that’s why someone like myself, or anybody really, can go and sit in Ramana’s cave, and even though he left his body in the 1950s, all of a sudden there’s this transmission that is clearly here, or that we can sincerely pray to any enlightened being and start experiencing things. So it’s been tremendous to really share this with my students and to develop practices that help them find their own way to work with this aspect of grace, to activate deeper meditation, to activate a deeper sense of support and guidance and help, that it’s incredibly beautiful and way more available than we might think, even if we don’t necessarily know what we believe or we might have doubt, that’s totally fine as well.

Rick: Yeah, so just to put it in context, I mean it’s pretty simple to understand really, it’s just that there are, just as we have fleshly bodies which function in this particular realm, there are bodies composed of subtler material, which function in their realm but which could also interface with ours. We may or may not be able to see them, some people can, but if it’s their function to do so, they can see us or interact with us and shepherd things along for us in certain ways.

Miranda: Precisely, and this is the whole point of what’s been called guru yoga or the whole intelligence of opening ourselves to beings of much higher consciousness than where we might be presently.

Rick: Yeah, I’d like to touch on that point from time to time because even some very spiritual people and people who are involved in the Bat Gap Facebook chat group find this kind of thing just hard to understand, but my feeling is it’s not something you need to believe in, but if we really want to understand how the universe works then it’s something to consider, at least as a theory, you know, to try to ponder how it might actually be that way.

Miranda: Well, I’m interested in going beyond the theory, so I would share with Bat Gap readers and listeners just a possibility to come out of your thoughts about it for a moment and if you were to feel into a face of enlightened consciousness that somehow touches you, whether it’s Ramana Maharshi, whether it’s Christ, whether it’s Muktananda, whether it’s, whatever for you brings the felt sense of beauty and you can see and perceive something that you recognize is very pure, if you were to, in your meditation, to feel as if you’re bowing your head to that consciousness, for me it might look like I begin my meditation practice every morning with placing my forehead on a photograph of Sri Ramana Maharshi and just asking for his grace to guide my meditation practice. Now I’ve shared this very beautiful practice, it’s contained also within my book, with many students and it has been extraordinarily beautiful hearing what’s happened for each of them that has been quite unique to their process and it’s often been surprising who’s come to them and I’ve also given it as a practice, if no one particular comes to you, visualize a celestial helping hand of light upon your crown and then ask that hand to reveal itself who it is.

Rick: Did you ever hear a Pamela Wilson story where she was quite young and she had this yearning to know the truth and she sat on her bed and she said, “I’m not gonna go to sleep or something until truth walks through that door,” and then I guess maybe she did doze off, but then she woke up and this little Indian man was sitting on her bed and she threw a pillow at him and later on she saw a picture of Ramana and she said, “Oh, that was the guy.”

Miranda: Yeah, so what it really reminds us of most of all Rick is that we need to be humble and to recognize that the universe and reality, who we are, what really is, is so much more than our mind can fathom and it’s very wise to presume that there is more than you can conceptually understand and to sincerely open to it and it’s grace to help you.

Rick: Yeah, I have a little phrase in my Skype account which is a line from the Incredible String Band, it’s “whatever you think, it’s more than that.”

Miranda: Absolutely, yeah, I love how Rumi said, “Give up to grace, you need a lot more help than you know,” which is true, we do.

Rick: Yeah, a couple of questions came in from listeners, viewers, let’s ask those even though we might jump around a little bit topic-wise and then we’ll get back on the track we’re on. This one is from I think a guy named Michael in Mesquite, Nevada. He asks, “Are you aware of the term perpetual ascension? I think by that he might mean continuous growth and evolution. Do you have any comments on it?”

Miranda: I haven’t heard of that term, Michael. I’m more into descension myself, you know, learning how to drop in and down. I think the word ascension for me, I think it might be different than the way you mean it, but I think we can too often think of spiritual awakening as, you know, rising right up and out, rising and transcending the muck and the mess of being human, and what I’ve learned is that as we relax in and through, that’s more accurate to how it is, all the gates open up and everything starts to actually be experienced as more than what it seemed, and in the process there’s a redemption of our humanity as noble and beautiful, and that’s more what I’m about.

Rick: Okay, good, but I think he may have just had the idea that there’s, the way I would interpret it, is there’s no end to growth.

Miranda: Absolutely, yes, well that’s my experience, there’s no fixed end point and I keep discovering more and there’s more expansion and more realization, more understanding that comes online.

Rick: Someone said “there may be an end to the path to God but there’s no end to the path in God.”

Miranda: Yeah, because there is no beginning and end of God.

Rick: Here’s another question, this is from Poovan Mudli from Cape Town, South Africa, he said, or she, “I also had a profound experience while meditating at Ramana Maharshi’s cave many years ago. My question is, how do you ensure you keep moving forward with the opening of each door without being sidetracked by some level of spiritual ego and some level of attachment?”

Miranda: Well, I’ll just speak personally about that. For me that means community and that means making sure that I continue to put myself in the position where I’m being vulnerable, where I’m being accountable to others whose wisdom I respect, where I’m open to them pointing out anything to me that might be becoming egoic or co-opted or appropriated for some self-centered purpose. And so for me that means making myself available on a regular basis to do retreats with other teachers and to sit one-on-one with them, let them tell me anything they need to or invite me to look at anything I need to, and the willingness to keep doing that in a world for myself. And that’s very much why I teach, because I believe that this really It’s very hard to truly live our awakening and keep it clean without relationship.

Rick: Good, thank you. Yeah, I think it’s kind of a safety factor if a teacher has… well, a lot of teachers you’ll see will have a picture of their teacher behind them or something, but To sort of remind oneself. When I used to teach TM, when we would initiate somebody, we would do this Sanskrit ceremony for five or ten minutes in which we kind of listed or chanted all the names of the ancient tradition of teachers from whom this teaching had come, and the idea was to kind of… well, it had a very profound effect and made the whole teaching effective, but it also reminded one that I am not the source of this, I’m just kind of a spokesman for something much more ancient and wise than I am.

Miranda: That’s right, exactly, and you know, said in the classical way, I’m not the doer, and yet it’s paradox also, we have roles and responsibilities to fulfill in this life. Mine just happens to be spiritual teacher and guide, but I exist and everything I share exists to serve others, to deepen in their own direct experience and encounter the grace coming alive in them and help them live that, and that inevitably does involve keeping an eye on our shadow and really being interested to look at everything, honestly.

Rick: You’ve used the word paradox a number of times, and on one hand, you also talked about how when you settled into that profound experience in the cave, everything was okay as it was, you were no longer kind of at war with yourself over your perceived inadequacies or whatever. So paradoxically, how do you reconcile the fact that everything is perfect just as it is, you are fundamentally perfect just as you are, and yet there’s also room for improvement. You like skiing, I’m sure you’re not going to be in the next Olympics because you could be a lot better skier, and a thousand other things we could mention that we could always improve in, even though the thing, so yeah, go ahead on that.

Miranda: Yeah, well I think this really brings us back also to the conversation about, you what’s the role of spiritual practice once a certain realization has happened, and I think that it’s part of the fact that yes, our being is pure ,always, and yet, you know, we have distortions. There are things that should present themselves as occlusions, and they usually come out in our human relationships ,that clearly, ,we’re fixated, or we’re closed, or we’re not really free and open in that place, and so if we’re to really walk the path with integrity, then that means we need to be with the both end. Yes, we’re spiritually whole and perfect and pristine, and our soul is in a consciousness of becoming fully transparent to that pure depth of its nature, and occlusions arise, and when they arise, they need to be looked at honestly. The forces within your impatience, so your,, lack of compassion need to be seen completely for what they are. The drives that keep that together need to be met. The suffering within that needs to be met. We need to learn to, not pick that up, not let it run and just act out in ways that are destructive and less than graceful for others around us, and that’s ongoing work, and anyone who’s been involved in real spiritual work knows this, right? It’s just part of it.

Rick: I guess part of the implication of the word grace, and we’ve kind of touched on this, is that it has some practical significance in one’s life, that things are going to go better for you, you’re not going to be the guy with a rain cloud over his head walking around all day, you’re going to get more support, and there’s a Sanskrit phrase, I don’t remember the Sanskrit, but the translation is that the means collect around sattva, and sattva means purity. So maybe you can comment on that one.

Miranda: Well, yeah, so basically the more that we learn how to relax into the felt sense of ground, the ground of being is grace, is loving goodness, is loving intelligence, that helps us also to cultivate the virtues that really help to ripen and evolve us spiritually, and if we can look at all of the great virtues that all the religions have shown us are important, and we start to see some commonalities, we need to cultivate trust, and that doesn’t mean that difficult things aren’t going to happen. It’s not a Pollyanna-ish kind of trust that denies difficulties, that says, “Oh, I’m going to trust, so I don’t need to lock my front door.” We do need to, you know, recognize that there are issues and dangers and challenges in this world, but that grace helps us to recognize that love is always present because it’s intrinsic to life and that we can trust that, that we can learn also to become more humble, and humility is a really important quality that much of what we’ve been speaking recently about how to not, get aggrandized with the spiritual realizations or stale or crusty in them really asks for this cultivation of the virtue of humility, and so humility helps us to really relax out of subtle pride, not just the obvious puffy pride that is very easy to see and it’s painful to see, but the subtle pride that, where we believe I’m the doer, I’m the one making everything happen, that makes us not have an easy relationship with mystery, with not knowing. Now of course to open to deeper states of consciousness we actually need to befriend the unknowing and to be humble with it and to relax honestly in those places where we honestly don’t have a clue, not collapsing or getting deflated, trusting, but really softening and opening into the “I don’t know” space, and when we can that actually opens a further level of humility, where we really start to get it that we’ve never been the doer of anything, that it is by grace that we exist at all, that it is grace that ushers us into deeper realization that we need those blessings and that loving support to really evolve and become who we fully are, and that when that deep non-dual realization finds us it’s not a prideful experience, it’s very humbling, very pure, very beautiful, and it feels like you have been given the most enormous gift, only you haven’t done anything to make that gift appear, and so we realize it is grace that brings us what we need, the blessings, the practical support, but also the realization that we need, and so that helps us to develop other virtues, the virtues like patience, which isn’t something that our ego finds very sexy, but it’s extremely important because without cultivating patience we remain like spiritual children, irritable, impatient, without the capacity to take a foot off the gas and trust that things happen in their own good time, and so patience helps us to be more unconditional and more receptive and just more surrendered to the plan, the way, and the mystery of that, and as we can trust and be more humble, be more patient, what starts to arise is a natural joy, and a joy that isn’t again denying of suffering, but a joy that is intrinsic to our being and a felt sense of the fulfillment of life and the richness of life, even though very difficult things might have been happening, even though we might be battling Cancer.

Rick: I’ve heard spiritual teachers, very laudable, very kind of like highly respected ones say that they consider patience to be the most important quality one can have on the spiritual path.

Miranda: Yeah, it’s one of them. I wouldn’t say it’s more or less important than trust or humility, but certainly up there, and that’s a big part of why I wrote a chapter on it, because without It, there’s not a full, there’s not surrender, there’s still someone who’s trying to push with their agenda and that that will get in the way.

Rick: Yeah, and sometimes humility has the connotation of, sort of belittling oneself, “Oh, I’m no more than an earthworm,” or something, but I think what you’re saying is that it’s more of an attitude or a natural way of being such that one doesn’t insist that things happen any particular way, you’re not sort of forcing your way through life against the stream, you’ve learned to sort of go with the stream and allow the wisdom of nature to orchestrate.

Miranda: Yeah, I think of humility as a threefold blossoming, really. I mean, when we first look at humility it’s both evidence that there is some awakening because we’re less puffy, we’re less aggrandizing, but it’s also a virtue that we can cultivate that helps us to surrender and be more mature, but when it really opens it’s a celestial state of grace that brings us into that pristine purity of total yield that is exquisite.

Rick: Total what?

Miranda: It’s a total yield, where we’re really yielded to the mystery and to the living presence of grace that we might not even understand it, but we’re in it, we’re yielding to it.

Rick: Yeah, this is an interesting balance here too because yielding can sound like you’re giving away your autonomy or your discernment or something and you could be taken advantage of by a teacher, let’s say, if you surrender to that teacher and do whatever that teacher wants, and yet at the same time, if we think of there being some really divine benign intelligence that’s governing the universe and that has our best interest in mind, if we could really yield to that, then that would be great, but earthly representatives of that divine intelligence are…so how does one balance, sort of, how does one be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves?

Miranda: Well, yeah, I mean that’s obviously a huge issue because so many people have been asked to surrender to a guru or a teacher and that guru or teacher may have had profound level of realization in some areas but not others, and so what I’m saying is don’t surrender to me, surrender to the luminous presence that’s always alive within you, and it is a surrender out of your sense of “I am the doer,” but at the same time it’s not childlike surrender, it’s not abdication from personal responsibility, you still have to pay your bills, you still have to follow the law, you still have to be a decent human being and be accountable, but the surrender is really a surrender out of a construct of self that you take yourself to be, a separate somebody who thinks it’s been doing everything, you realize the more real surrender happens that you’ve never been the doer, you know, it’s the grace itself that is moving you, has been moving you all the days of your life, and it’s also the love that has been with you all the days of your life, and it knows the way.

Rick: Nice, here’s a question from Debbie in Chicago, Debbie says, “I lost a child and I wonder if I have to, ” well this is written funny, “wonder if your teachings can help with profound loss and grief that I have been suffering. I do meditate and find that helpful.”

Miranda: Well Debbie, firstly my deepest compassion for your experience, and what I would say is that these teachings are designed to help people where they are, and grief through a huge loss like this is going to have to be part of your path, because that is what’s so in your life, and so we must just harness what life brings and turn it into the path, and my suggestion is if you find these teachings helpful then read my book and explore and trust yourself as to whether this feels right for you, and if it does, beautiful, if it doesn’t, then trust that.

Rick: I’ve heard you, we’ve talked a lot about surrender and humility and qualities like that, and you’ve used the phrase “relaxing into the ground of grace.” Maybe I’ve just alluded to a couple things, but what is it that keeps a person from relaxing? Let’s say you want to sit in meditation like you did in the cave and you want to just relax into the ground, people would love to have the experience you had in that cave where they just sink into the absolute and let go, but when they sit to do that, there’s thoughts, there’s physical discomfort, you’re wondering what you’re going to have for dinner, you’re thinking about what so-and-so said to you yesterday, why do those things keep bubbling up and preventing you from really totally settling in?

Miranda: Well, usually ultimately it has to do with fear, and so that’s why in the chapter, the book “Fear” is the second chapter, because as we start to turn more substantially within, we meet forces within us that bump us back up to the surface of our personality all the time, and anyone who’s tried to meditate will know all about this, you start following your thoughts, and your thoughts usually revolve around some fear or concern about what will happen, and when you really go deeper, you start to see that all those fears have a primordial fear of what will happen to me. Now I know this very clearly for myself, because two years before that awakening in the cave took place, in my meditation, I had a sort of two- hourly meditation practice at that stage, and I loved it, but I would notice myself getting close to this feeling of just everything disappearing, and that it would be like this threshold, I’d get close to it, and I was drawn by it, and then I noticed that this little voice would appear, “Time to get on with the day now,” and the thoughts would start to come about, “What am I going to eat for breakfast? Who do I have to email that day?” and that would move me into the day, but now I realize that, when we start to allow true surrender or deep relaxation, it starts to feel very threatening to the self we know, who we take ourself to be, and even though we might be very frustrated and wanting to move past that, we can’t skip over it either, so we have to trust enough and to learn to stay present and feel those feelings that inevitably are awkward and vulnerable, and just to stay and practice, but remember that we can’t force it. It’s not up to us when the gates open. We can but show up and give our best to our practice, and learn to not follow the thoughts, and to challenge the fears, and to see who it is that’s so afraid. Who is that really? But ultimately, the dissolving of fear and the agitation of our nervous system, it happens when it happens. ;r I would say that, in your case, you had all those years of practice and meditation and interfaith study, and you were really going at it.

Miranda: I was dedicated, very much.

Rick: A couple of decades, and had you not done all that, well you probably wouldn’t have been in Arunachala to begin with, but even if you’d gone there and sat in the cave, probably nothing much would have happened.

Miranda: Who knows Rick?

Rick: Yeah, you don’t know, but the pump was primed.

Miranda: I agree that the pump was primed, and when you really look at people who’ve had a sort of substantial awakening, there’s usually a backstory of some sincere, genuine engagement that is there in their background. So I think it’s very important to not dismiss the value of showing up with dedication to the practices that we’re called to, whether that for us is a practice of inquiry, meditation, prayer or something else.

Rick: There’s that saying by some Zen teacher that, “Enlightenment may be an accident, but spiritual practice makes you accident-prone.”

Miranda: Definitely, for sure.

Rick: Yeah, okay, so here’s a question for you. I think we’ve already touched on this, but I’d like you to take another crack at it. If personal will is perfectly aligned with Divine Will, is there still a personal will?

Miranda: Ultimately no. In my experience, Thy Will becomes my will, and when that happens we’re just moved, towards what’s true, what’s helpful, right action, and in fact that’s really the key to taking right action, is, relaxing out of the me and the my that thinks it’s taking the action. Yeah.

Rick: Could you say that, let’s say you have 20 enlightened individuals all sort of doing different things, they each have different motivations and desires and interests and pursuits and so on, which might seem like individual wills, but each of them is just a sense organ of the infinite, as it were, and each of them is just sort of fulfilling the Divine play in terms of their own role in it.

Miranda: That’s right, exactly, and so what’s beautiful about that is that there’s relaxation and non-attachment in the doing of it, in the fulfilling of that role, but yet a complete giving of oneself to what is asked, and it’s actually extremely fulfilling and possible for us all, and I think it’s too easy just to talk about enlightened beings and to remember, hang on a minute, let’s bring it back to you and I, here and now, this ordinary people who are sincere and wanting to live an awakened life, and one of the practices that I give a lot of inquiry practices to my students, and they’re very precise, and they’re designed to help us lean our consciousness in the right direction, and so one of those inquiry questions is, “What’s it like in body, heart, mind, when you surrender your way for the way?” What’s it like in body, heart, mind, when you surrender your way for the way? And so again, right there, you notice the friendly support of the question helping to orient our consciousness away from the little me with its thoughts and fears and concerns and worries about where I need to get to and how, and how everything’s going to work itself out. No, the work is to yield in body, heart, and mind to the way, and let that move us into the world, into what we say, how we say it, what we prioritize, what most needs our attention, and we give ourself to that. Beautiful.

Rick: Then the question naturally arises, “Well, how do I know what the way is?”

Miranda: Well, you can’t think it, you have to yield, so that’s why “What’s it like?” is such a beautiful question, because it’s an invitation not to think about it. What’s it like in body, in your somatic experience, in your heart, the felt sense, and in your mind, the awareness, when you surrender your way for the way? Now, one of the keys is that there won’t be so much tension and conflict, because God or Divine Will doesn’t have tension or conflict in it. It’s not either/or, it’s not dual, so it’s going to bring us into the fluid harmony with what is unified, what is helpful, what is good for all. It’s going to take us out of conflict, into flow.

Rick: Yeah, so like you experienced for those three weeks after that awakening, it was just super fluid,

Miranda: very fluid,

Rick: just flowing along. And so then one criterion we could establish is that if you’re more in tune with “the way” so to speak, the Divine Will, that it should be smoother, more effortless, right?

Miranda: That’s correct, and that’s one of the hallmarks of grace. There’s more ease, more flow, more harmony, more synchronicity, there is more sense of everything moving, sometimes taking quite sharp turns, but there’s this momentum and fluidity rather than stuck. And so we notice this, one of the metaphors that I use for grace in its transformative aspect is the motif of a waterfall. So for example, like if you imagine how you feel when you might be hiking in nature and you happen upon a majestic waterfall, usually for most of us it’s breathtaking, you know, we feel “Wow!” You know, we know it’s miraculous, but if you really meditate on a waterfall you’ll notice some interesting things. Firstly, if it’s a mountainous waterfall, its origin is usually ice pack, right? Water that is frozen, that has been touched by the warmth of the sun, and so it’s being transformed, not through pushing and forcing, but through a melting. So ego-relaxation as a practice helps to let our density melt, so we become more fluid again. And so when the water begins to flow in the waterfall, it moves through, around, and beyond very tough territory, big craggy rocks, big chasms of earth, but it flows using the force of gravity over and around boulders. It doesn’t argue or have a fight with them. It moves with it around it, and in the process it transforms what it touches. So that living water either transforms through bringing hydration, bringing fertilization to that which was parched and dry, or it starts to dissolve structure, dissolve rock, dissolve things that are in the way, and it becomes something that’s life-giving, becomes a big body of water. And so that’s what happens to us too, is that as we learn to surrender, not up and over but in and through, we learn to practice ego-relaxation with the force of fear and control and the things that contract our consciousness back up to trying to lead with the mind all the time, that make us dense, that actually block the way. What happens is we become more yielded, more fluid, and there’s a power and a potency and an ease and an efficiency to what starts to happen in the way we move. We’re moving with life, we’re being moved by life in a direction that is life-giving.

Rick: Yeah, it’s kind of reminiscent of the Aikido master who just operates in such a totally effortless way and actually uses the opponent’s strength to win the thing. I don’t know if this is Sir Isaac Newton or where this came from, but there’s a principle in physics called the law of least action, which is that if you throw a ball there are an infinite number of trajectories it could theoretically take, but it actually takes the most efficient one, given all the laws of nature and the gravity and the wind resistance and everything else, it just takes the most efficient possible arc that it can take.

Miranda: That’s right, and that is graceful, isn’t it? It moves in the direction that is going to help the best, that’s ultimately going to serve with the least resistance, and again, you know, when we observe nature that’s what we see. So again, one of the things why it’s so healing and helpful to us to just be in nature and to let ourself be educated by the way things really are when we don’t manipulate with our mind, and again so much of the path really comes down to that, is learning to relax the usual manipulation of mind that’s happening, that we often don’t see, but is what’s happening.

Rick: Yeah, like the bumper sticker says, “Let go and let God.”

Miranda: Yeah, it’s easier said than done though, that’s why I’ve written a whole book about it, because you know anybody who’s really tried it knows that it’s incredibly vulnerable. The ticket price is you’re going to have to feel everything, you’re going to have to learn to stay present with grief and open your heart to it, you’re going to have to learn how to stay grounded even though we are living in a world of such immense uncertainty, and none of us know whether our earth will be livable in ten years’ time, right? That too. This is not easy stuff, and again why we need the support of grace, because we’re living in very intense times and there’s a very real need for more of us to be grounded in that which doesn’t change, to have the spiritual musculature to stay present in chaotic and difficult circumstances, and still trust while listening to wise action and being moved into wise action in ways that are helpful.

Rick: Yeah, that’s very important, the whole thing of what’s happening to the world, what’s happening to the country, and what may end up happening in the coming years and decades could be quite a wild ride, and I think that the greatest asset we can have, I mean people are stocking up food and you know building shelters underground, the greatest asset we could have I think is being grounded in our own being.

Miranda: I agree, I feel that very strongly. In fact about three years ago, you know way before Trump and Brexit, I kept getting in my meditation practice, especially on days when I was going to teach my Sangha students, this image of big old trees, and I kept hearing, “I have to help my students become like big old trees with very deep and broad roots into the ground of being so that they can be stable and flexible with the winds of change, and not only that but provide spiritual shelter for others,” because I think one of the things that I see in times that are very uncertain is that it tends to activate more of our fear, and when human beings are activated in fear they don’t behave well, they behave in polarized ways, us versus them, who’s the bad guy, whose fault is this, let’s go after them, and we’re seeing that both through the whole situation with Brexit in America, in the rise of extremism, and it’s not new, but my concern is it’s likely to escalate given the fact of the uncertainty of our times, and therefore there’s a very real need for more of us to be grounded in that which doesn’t change and is never rocked, so that we can open our heart to all that arises, both within ourself and within our collective environment, and learn how to respond in a way that’s wise and compassionate and real, and that’s really why I’m bringing these teachings forward, they’re really all for that.

Rick: Very good, yeah if all you have in your life is that which changes, you’re on very shaky ground and it can be very scary, that’s obviously a big part of where the fear comes from, it’s like the things that you’re trying to derive some stability from are intrinsically unstable,

Miranda: so you’re never going to relax. And then when you can’t ever relax, your consciousness is pervaded by fear and everyone can hurt you, you know, rather than the consciousness of we’re in it together and how can we serve and what resources can we share, and let me trust you. just to give you an example practically, last Sunday I was teaching in Pacific Grove and I lost my purse, and in my purse happened to be my car keys, my phone, my green card, my ID, about $400 worth of cash because I’d just given a talk and sold some books, and of course I did what anybody would do which is backtrack all the places where I’d stopped along the beach and was with a friend, and of course I knew that I had been to all the places where I could possibly have left my purse and it wasn’t there, and so I chose in that moment to really work with my mind. Of course I felt fear, of course I felt concern, of course I felt how am I going to drive home, you know, the implications of losing all of these things and the challenge that that would present on a practical level, but I chose to place my faith in the goodness of the people of Pacific Grove, and I said it out loud, that I choose to place my faith in the fact that people who live here are good people and that whoever’s picked up this purse, has good intent and will do what they can to bring the purse to safety. Well, I mean there’s such a beautiful story of this lovely guy who happened to open my purse and he saw, , my name, “Scent of a Spiritual Awakening,” my book, he saw that that fit my ID and the name of the church was on it where I just spoken, and he brings my purse to the church and, contact me, and within 25 minutes I had my purse again. It was a lovely story, but a reminder to me, you know, that we mustn’t give in to the forces of fear even when they arise, we must work with them, we must challenge them, but in this day and age it’s very important to, you know, to learn to have faith in our humanity, bring that, call that forward in one another.

Rick: Yeah, there’s some kind of a saying, “Trust in God but tie up your camel.”

Miranda: Absolutely, and to remember also that, you know, there are people out there who are very scared and people when they’re scared tend to behave in fearful ways, there’s that too.

Rick: Here’s a nice question from Dan in London. Dan asks, “Miranda described the deep relaxing into the Divine Will where one’s personal willpower is gone. However, this answers if personal will exists for a surrendered person but it does not answer, oh I see, this answers if personal will exists for a surrendered person, but it does not answer if willpower exists for those of us that are not surrendered, those run by egos. Is there willpower an illusion? Is there a paradox that means we both have free will and yet don’t have free will at the same time?”

Miranda: I’m gonna try and answer this question simply, it’s a nuanced question of course because who we take ourself to be ultimately isn’t a real entity, and therefore the sense of, I’m in charge of my own destiny only has meaning on a relative level. Once we see through the structure of what we call me and we see that who we took ourself to be wasn’t a real person but a structure, then surrendering to Divine Will just is obvious, it just makes sense. So you know, it is a paradox, yes, we have personal will and we need to engage that personal will with our spiritual practices to make that turning towards deeper reality and to deal with the things that need to be faced, to get to the bottom of our fears, to see clearly our attachments, to recognize where we’re being self-centered, where we’re contracting in some way that makes us less than spiritually elegant, and yet ultimately it is the mystery of the Divine or Grace that helps us to sort of cross over to that other shore, and it’s not an either/or thing, because my own experience is surrender is a continual practice, and that’s why I call it ego relaxation, because ego relaxation isn’t just a spiritual orgasm that you have happen in a cave, it’s moment-by-moment experience, learning to relax into what is, learning to go with what’s true, learning to relax any construct or position you have, learning to listen to what the way is as it’s unfolding in this moment. So it’s a potent practice for life.

Rick: Yeah, so it’s kind of, sounds like in a way like, riding a bicycle where you get to be kind of, it becomes second nature, but you still have to sort of be alert to little variations in the road, and a moment of inattention and you could have a crash.

Miranda: Well I like to reference Lao Tzu who said so beautifully in the Tao Te Ching, “Learn to ride the horse in the direction the horse is going.”

Rick: That’s good.

Miranda: Yeah, right, now you still have to ride the horse, and if you’ve ever ridden a horse there’s an art to it, keep your balance, go with, relax, but we also have to pay attention because you can very easily fall off, and to try to turn the horse with your will when it’s galloping 180 degrees, that’s not likely to turn out well, so it’s like we have to bring our willingness, if you like, our sincerity into what is trying to happen here, what is the intelligent course of action, what best serves here, what is really for the best here rather than what the me and the my wants, because just following, what the me and the my wants is going to keep you being like a spiritual child.

Rick: I kind of went through a phase for maybe a number of years where I sort of swung to one degree or another between sort of willful direction of my life and then just kind of almost passivity in terms of letting whatever is going to happen happen, and it kind of eventually integrated a lot more I think, but it’s funny that you mentioned the horse thing because one time Irene and I were up in Montana camping and we did this thing where we went on a horse ride with some Native American guides and I had zero experience on horses and I was just kind of letting the horse do whatever it wanted and it basically wanted to wander off in the bushes and munch on leaves, I wasn’t giving it any direction whatsoever, you know, it needed some direction.

Miranda: Yeah, exactly, and so that’s again that analogy, riding the horse in the direction the horse wants to go, it’s a partnership, it’s a dance with the Divine, but getting into a battle of wills is not going to make one elegant, but neither is just saying, I see a lot of people who have a relationship with a Guru and they just, say, oh, the Guru does everything and I hear that and sometimes I see that as a little bit too much of an abdication, it’s more, it can work for some, but that’s not necessarily what I’m teaching. I’m teaching how we become more graceful, more spiritually elegant and responsive so that we become part of the embodiment of grace in life and that asks for a certain kind of, delicacy and maturity and ongoing willingness to listen and go with.

Rick: Yeah, I have a friend who trained with the horse whisperer, who was played by Robert Redford in that movie and, his whole way of working with a horse is very subtle, there’s no force, there’s sort of a, like you said, a partnership or a communion that takes place and in a real gentle, subtle way that the sort of the intentions of both horse and man are brought into harmony with one another.

Miranda: Right, and so that is what I understand of true non-duality, right? There’s ultimately that dissolving of the separation of what we think of as us and what we think of as the Divine. We realize, no, we’re in and part of the Divine and that we’re in partnership with that Divine. It seems like it’s two, but it actually becomes this dance that’s one.

Rick: My wife, Irene, just passed a note, said, “Shall we try that with Theo?” Theo’s our dog, who’s a real crazy little dog, definitely has a mind of his own. Let’s talk about forgiveness a little bit, speaking of Theo, we forgive him all the time, but it’s an important part in your book, you devote I think a whole chapter to it and it seems to be a critical element in this whole relaxing or dissolving into grace thing.

Miranda: Yeah, well forgiveness is a really important time-tested spiritual technology that all of the great traditions agree is important and helpful, but often it can be one of those technologies that we most struggle with, because of course, forgiveness brings us into the territory of our human imperfection and the ways in which we mess up and the consequences of what that’s like for us when we act in ways that aren’t skillful, that inevitably produces suffering and sometimes very great suffering for those around us and in our world at large. And so I challenged myself as I was writing this book to write something about forgiveness that I felt was really helpful, given that I’d already written about forgiveness extensively in my first book. So it took me into an exploration of that paradox of the fact that we are innocent in eternity, our true nature is primordially innocent and stainless, and yet we’re not innocent in time, right? We make mistakes and they have very real implications that are difficult and that we need to address. And there is the transforming power of grace to help us with this that really takes us into those tough territories within ourselves, places where we’ve experienced heartbreak or betrayal, places where we get caught in envy or rage or hate, things that we good spiritual people want to presume we don’t have anymore, but that can very easily get triggered and come out of us in those moments where we’re most vulnerable, and particularly in our human relating. And so I kind of wanted to share with people how we can let grace go to work on those things that typically we stumble upon. Now most people don’t know how to deal with that, and so we can tend to shelve it. I’ve seen so many people come to my satsang chair and talk about their realizations, and yet if they get an opportunity to have a private moment with me, what they really want to talk about is this really difficult thing that’s going on in their intimate relationship that they wouldn’t talk about in the chair. So let’s talk about it. Let’s really look at that stuff that causes us to act in ways that we’re not proud of and really get to the root of it. And so that leads us into the whole question of how our human errors really get corrected and what we need in order to not just feel shameful or guilty and let things fester, but really allow transformation happen in the places where we most need it. So I invite people to really take a look at the hurts that they’ve both given and the hurts that they’ve received that they haven’t been able to get over, and to really contact those and see where we are with them, and then to bring them into a depth of heart that I call the heart cave of absolute love. And I’m riffing off something that Ramana spoke of, of the true cave really is in the human heart, and that in this depth of the heart where there’s this sort of possibility to bring all these impossible sufferings and mistakes and open to the grace that brings purification and true correction, but not from one ego to another, not in a way that’s about making somebody right or wrong, but that opens us to, you know, the grace of pure forgiveness, which is not just a concept, it’s an actual presence that cleanses us, cleanses our consciousness, and brings healing and clarity, and then enables us to begin again free from the distortion of guilt and blame and hurt.

Rick: I’m glad you put it both ways in terms of forgiveness, forgiving others and forgiving ourselves for what we’ve done. Over the decades of my spiritual practice I’ve done a lot of processing of the way my father behaved as an alcoholic and World War II veteran with severe PTSD and so on, and just kind of processed that in wave after wave and gotten to the point where I just predominantly, almost entirely, feel gratitude and love and appreciation for all the wonderful positive things, and the fact that he really did his best. And also funny things will come up, like the other day I was meditating and I had this whole experience of something I had done when I was a little kid, maybe horseshoe crab by pounding it, throwing stones on it, and I would never do a thing like that now, but I just felt like this sorrow for having behaved that way, compassion for the crab, wish for the crab’s evolution and wherever it may be, and you process these things and work them out.

Miranda: Well yeah, but what you’re saying is so beautiful because it links to a story that is told about the Prophet Muhammad where he’s visited by these angels that remove the dark stains on his heart, and the understanding is that when we act in any way that is less than kind and compassionate to anyone, there is this sort of registering of a dark stain on our consciousness that we bury in our unconscious, but that often bubbles up as you’re just describing it, it bubbles up for you, this memory of something that you did in your innocence as a boy, you know, wasn’t intentional, but nevertheless it has an effect. And so we need the grace of forgiveness to allow the cleansing and the healing of anything that we have done or engaged in in our consciousness that is anything less than pure, and that we can allow that purity to come back and return.

Rick: Yeah, nice. There’s another point that you sent me in your notes of things that we want to be sure to cover, and this kind of, we segway right into this I think from what we’ve been talking about, and that is how right action can happen from being. There’s a verse in the Gita which says established in yoga or being, perform action, and the implication is that you can’t always figure it out intellectually what’s going to be right or wrong, it’s too complex, but if you can be established in being and then act spontaneously from there, it’ll be right action.

Miranda: Yeah, and I think the more we relax out of “I am the doer,” the one that has to figure it all out, then the more we are naturally kind of at rest in being, and Ramana described this in a beautiful story he told where someone asked him, “You know, you talk about being still, but I see you doing a lot, how come?” And his response was, “Well, if you were to get a transistor radio, you’ll notice, and you take it apart, you’ll notice that although the radio sings and speaks, if you open it up there’s no one inside.” The more we relax into out of our self-construct and we just be as we are in the mystery of being, then what happens is that our actions, our doing becomes clearer and more direct and more efficient and more economical and more precise. My own experience is that that has been the biggest revelation in the years post the cave, because at this time in my life I have never gotten so much done, actually. I’ve never been functioning at such an intense level that I am at the moment, and the more I remember “I am not the doer,” the easier it becomes, the smoother my functioning becomes, the more I can get done with less flapping around. And so my practice is noticing where does that “I am the doer” arise, and with it the contraction and the unnecessary stress, and as soon as I notice that I just take a breath and practice ego relaxation, just relaxing back into being no one and nothing, just remembering nothing to do but be here and remember that I’m resting in God, and then to pray. Once the ego relaxation out of the doership has happened, then to pray, “Okay, what’s needed now? What makes the best sense? What best serves?” And sometimes if I don’t know, I just pray something like,” put the thoughts into my mind, the words into my mouth that are going to be healing and helpful,” and relax, and it happens, the flow comes, and actually that’s where this whole body of teachings has come from. Anyone who’s been studying with me have known that I have huge encyclopedias of inquiry questions that are very precise and very potent, and they all come by just meditating into my students and listening and feeling and praying to best serve them and what’s needed now, and something new comes forth that might be coming forth when I’m on the meditation cushion that morning, but more often than not, it completely comes forth in a new way the moment that I’m sitting with them, and it’s completely wonderful because I’m learning in the process. It’s beautiful.

Rick: Maharshi was always fond of saying, “Do less and accomplish more. Do nothing and accomplish everything,” and he didn’t mean just sit on your butt, you know. That’s right, again that’s the paradox, because the ego thinks it’s passivity and resignation and abdicating responsibility, and it’s anything but. You know, it’s really just getting the clunkiness of the machine, sufficiently out of the way for the divine circuits to flow.

Rick: Yeah, it’s interesting that you said that you feel more productive at this point in your life than ever. If you consider how dynamic the universe is, how much energy and intelligence is latent in every little particle, there’s like this…..it can be destructive in terms of atomic weapons, but it’s also constructive. Look at how prolific nature is, look at the creativity of the Amazon rainforest or something.

Miranda: I know, I mean I love to be in the wilderness and you know when you really hang out in nature that has not been manipulated by anyone’s mind, it’s such a teacher of the infinite intelligence and power and precision and harmony and cooperation and the grace of being actually, and as we trust to let ourself be, all sorts of beauty and richness comes forth within and through us in ways that are beneficent, helpful, unique as well.

Rick: It’s exciting in a way.

Miranda: It’s really exciting.

Rick: Yeah. Here’s a question that came in from a fellow named Rob from Colombia. I think we’ve kind of covered it, but see if you want to just say a little bit more. “What do you make of grace and the role of the seemingly undeniable synchronicity in one’s life that leads a person to teachers or teachings?”

Miranda: Well, it is grace that brings us to a teacher and it is grace that brings forth the yearning for a teacher, really. I mean that is, as a teacher myself, and it’s not something that I chose to do consciously, I was really just following what was exciting and meaningful to me and trying to address my own suffering and learn and grow, and it became my life. I’ve come to see that it is my Dharma and my Karma and it’s choiceless, really. But as a teacher, it’s so precious when someone asks me to be their teacher. It’s about the most beautiful and vulnerable thing, when I look them in the eye and say, “It would be my great honor to serve you,” it is grace that brings us together in that particular way where we both recognize there is something to be shared that is beautiful and healing and meaningful, and I know of no greater privilege, actually. So for me it’s grace for sure.

Rick: Nice. Another point from your book that we wanted to discuss is the importance of integrating our animal humanity rather than trying to deny, repress, or transcend it.

Miranda: Mm-hmm, yes. Well, what I mean by that is that, as human beings we’re also human animals, and the animal part of our nature involves very powerful instincts that we’re not really going to be able to push away, so we have to work with them. And those instincts are, of course, our instinct for survival, which governs our drive for security and comfort and food and money, our instinct for sexuality, which is about ecstatic connection with one another and pleasure, and our drive to be part of something larger, which is the social instinct. And so, one of the things I’ve noticed in studying other teachers, and particularly where I’ve seen, as we’ve all seen, many great teachers who have done beautiful things and horrendous things, too, and there’s been devastation and suffering, one of the things I noticed across the board there is that there hasn’t seemed to me to be an honest enough inclusion of these very powerful human-animal drives of our nature, and that often classically we’ve related to these drives as something that we get over or we transcend, and I don’t think it’s wise to pretend that we can. And it seems far more intelligent to me to actually befriend these forces and learn how to integrate and include them as we practice, and to recognize when we’re in balance with these primal forces of our humanity and what that looks like, and how to recognize when we’ve become gripped by one of these instincts in a way that is starting to become destructive, and how to work with that, how to bring that into the light. And so this is very useful because this is what drives a lot of the behavior that we tend to most feel shamed about. And with most of my most dedicated students, inevitably it takes them a while, but finally they fess up and tell me some guilty secret that they feel ashamed of doing, some place where they act out. And we’re talking about very evolved, sincere people here, and that they don’t want to talk about it because it’s painful and humiliating and very difficult to accept, you know, that we can come across in these ways. So I tend to want to look at this stuff with tremendous compassion for our humanity and understanding how to work with this so that we don’t have to continue, demonizing our humanity and acting as if we’re not capable of behaving in the ways we are capable of behaving in. Therefore that helps to keep it clean and to practice, with our humanity rather than try to transcend it.

Rick: You alluded to teachers who end up indulging in behaviors that they’ve tried to repress, so that’s definitely a thing.

Miranda: All those indulgences usually come down to those three instincts, to do with sexuality, money, power, and status, those instincts right there.

Rick: But then there have been teachers like Adi Dhar, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who don’t seem to be repressing anything, they just indulge and have had these orgiastic scenes around them where everybody’s just cutting loose without any holds barred. That doesn’t seem healthy.

Miranda: Well I think the real question is, you know, what’s the end result of that? What’s the fruit that it bares? And that’s what I’m always looking at, is, okay, what’s the fruit? And if the fruit is more wholeness, more freedom, more compassion, a deeper humanity, clearly these virtues of our spiritual nobility, then that’s a pretty good acid test, but if it’s producing carnage for not just one but many, then we must question it.

Rick: Yeah, I think that the latter was pretty much the outcome. Yeah, so I mean Buddha taught the Middle Way, and it says similar things in the Gita about balance and you know, you don’t sleep too much or too little, eat too much or too little, you know, you just kind of live a balanced life.

Miranda: Yeah, and that’s easier said than done. And all of us tend to sort of be more identified with some instincts or have a harder time with some of them than others, and so all I’m really saying to students is to look at that, don’t be ashamed of it, bring it to the light, see what’s driving that really, and include it in your path, don’t transcend it, don’t think you can.

Rick: Does your book include like techniques of meditation or whatever that one could practice on a regular basis?

Miranda: Every 16 chapters, I’m very practical, includes an inquiry practice and a meditation practice. Some meditations are foundational in that I’m encouraging people to work with them and to incorporate them into their regular meditation practice, and others have a particular effect or bring forth some dimension of grace or healing that serves us, and I write quite specifically about how best to work with that. And also I wanted just to say that the book is in the full unabridged audio version as well, which means that I’m not only reading it, but I’m guiding the listener through every meditation and every practice and every inquiry and every prayer.

Rick: That’s nice.

Miranda: And it sounds too wonderful, they even allowed me to record some of my own music beds for underneath that, it’s very artfully done. So I think people who want that real hand spiritual friendship into a whole new luminous way of being can really receive that.

Rick: Do you yourself, like sometimes it seems like teachers offer a whole potpourri of practices, like Deepak and Oprah have had this thing where it’s the different meditation practice every day for a month, I would find that confusing myself. Do you yourself have a sort of a basic meditation or spiritual practice that you do, and then in addition to that maybe this and that here and there?

Miranda: Exactly, so that’s why I say, I mean for me personally I have a foundational practice that starts with bowing into Ramana’s consciousness and asking him to guide my practice, just settling into what I call the mountain of pure presence and just resting in being, and at the end of that I do some mantra and some prayer. That’s my practice, but there are about four foundational practices that I guide people into, and there’s specific reasons for that in that they cultivate deep presence in the belly, deep openness of heart and clarity of mind, and so what my methodology is helping to support a balanced and holistic awakening in body, heart and mind, and so the practices reflect that, but they’re not unnecessarily complex.

Rick: Okay, so in the beginning when I was reading your bio you mentioned that you offer things in Sonoma County and Marin County I think, but obviously most people listening to this, we’ve had questions from South Africa and Colombia and all kinds of places during this interview, and you are doing something with the Shift Network in a couple of days, but most people who watch this will be watching it after that. So how can people benefit from afar from what you have to offer?

Miranda: Well the first thing is my book “The Way of Grace “and it’s beautiful book looks like this, and that’s very easily available from the usual channels. It’s also in an audio book, and in addition to that I’m pretty active on my Facebook page and the Facebook address is Miranda McPherson Teachings. It’s really important that you put teachings because I don’t do personal Facebook, I do Miranda McPherson Teachings, and that I usually give about a live broadcast once a month, just supporting people and sharing something that would be useful to deepen their practice. I have a website and in the website there’s a sanctuary of downloadable practices, audio meditations, video meditations, teachings, and later this week there’s going to be a whole new website, so that’s really expanding. And I would also say that for those who aren’t local to the United States or who would not have the opportunity to come and do a retreat with me, I lead retreats in California, in Massachusetts, in North Carolina, in Holland, in England, in Ireland, various other places like that. The details are on the schedule of my website, MirandaMcPherson.com. But the online work is really great, and this new shift course starts on Wednesday, but the registration will be open for a couple of weeks, so if people don’t hear this until Friday, it’s still okay to come on board. So if you want to join me on the journey and let me work with you, it would really be my privilege and my pleasure to do that. And the focus of that new online course is not just to open to experience grace, but to lead a grace-filled life, and you can read more about that from my website as well.

Rick: Great. Okay, well thank you Miranda, I’ve enjoyed this.

Miranda: Thank you Rick, it’s a pleasure and deep blessings are all you do for the broader community and bringing this all forth for people. It’s wonderful, thank you.

Rick: Likewise. So let me just make a couple of concluding remarks. I’ve been speaking with Miranda McPherson, I’ll be linking to her website and her books on her page on batgap.com. If you go there to Batgap, look around the menus and see what else is there, audio podcast, email newsletter, a few other things. There’s also a Facebook page, Facebook group for Batgap, where there’s a lot of lively discussion that happens with just about every interview, so you can engage in that if you’d like. And as I mentioned in the beginning, we offer this freely but we rely on donations for making it work, so there’s a PayPal button on every page of the site. So thank you for listening or watching. Next week I’m going to be speaking with an old friend of mine named Prasannan, who lives up on Vancouver Island or Salt Spring Island, someplace like that, who is a Jyotishi, which is Vedic astrology, and I don’t know much about Vedic astrology, but I’m going to learn more and anyone listening can also learn more, and he’ll be explaining how it actually does have relevance to our spiritual evolution as well as our success in life and so on. So that’ll be a little bit of a different topic than I’ve covered before. Hope he can make it. So thanks for listening and watching and we’ll see you then or for some other one in the future. Thanks again, Miranda.

Miranda: Thank you, Rick.