Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews or conversations 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 to batgap.com, B-A-T-G-A-P, and look under the past interviews menu, that’s where the previous ones are, and you’ll see them organized and categorized in a variety of ways. This program is made possible by the support of appreciative listeners and viewers. We don’t do advertising or anything except for those annoying little ads in the beginning of YouTube videos. So if you feel like supporting it, if you appreciate it, there’s a PayPal button on every page of the site. My guest today is Nancy Neithercut. Nancy sent me a bio, but it’s kind of a description of what she actually went through, and I want her to actually describe that in her own words rather than me just reading it. And speaking of her own words, Nancy is a poet and I don’t know a lot about poetry, but she sounds like a very good one to me. She has a way with words and I would say that she, what we talk about when we talk about enlightenment or higher consciousness and all that is really impossible to adequately put into words, so you have to beat around the bush. But Nancy does a good job of, expressing the inexpressible through her words and through her poetry. So I’ll leave you all to be the judge of that as we have this conversation. This, by the way, is Nancy’s book, “This Is It, Coyote.” You’ve written several books, haven’t you, Nancy?
Nancy: Yeah, I’ve got four.
Rick: Is that one I just showed you most recent or something?
Nancy: No, there’s another one that’s more recent, but it’s pure poetry, and that one has some, the one I sent you has some non-dual stuff in it, so I thought it would be more interesting to you.
Rick: Yeah, it was interesting, and I also listened, you have a lot of videos online, and I listened to a lot of those. So, let’s get into how you ended up where you are today, A lot of people I interview had some interesting stuff going on even when they were children, and in many cases they kind of lost it and then eventually, somewhat, sometimes painfully regained it. Do you fit that mold, or was your childhood and adolescence pretty conventional?
Nancy: Outwardly, I suppose it was really conventional. I didn’t really notice what I called the pain of being alive until I was around eight, so I think it hit some people earlier, and I spent many, many years in a severe depression not knowing what it was, but I probably looked like an ordinary kid, although I remember relatives saying, “What happened to that laughing, happy child you used to be?” and I’d snap back at them like, “I don’t know.”
Rick: And the pain of being alive, anything different than we all go through, or did you somehow have a more acute sense that there was more to life than you or anyone around you was living, and that awareness made the ordinary things that we experience in life seem inadequate?
Nancy: I guess it’s that feeling that there’s something missing, which I think a lot of people have. It seemed very acute. I didn’t seem to notice anyone else who had that, especially at a young age, and I remember talking to my parents about it, and they laughed at me kind of like, “Well, little kids don’t get depressed.” So I wouldn’t have any words for it, except for now I would say it was just the pain of imaginary separation, and that longing for that to see through that, but I wouldn’t even come close to that as a kid.
Rick: But you kind of answered my question, though, because, I’d say that everybody has that longing or that pain of separation, but most people don’t have a clue that they do have that pain. They might be frustrated or unfulfilled for various reasons, but it almost sounds like in your case there was an inkling of the reason for it, even though you couldn’t have articulated it.
Nancy: Yes, I’m sure, as I told you before in my teens when I listened to all the love songs, I believed all of those. I thought, “Maybe that’s what’s missing,” because it is, in a way, love. Love is a good word for unicity, for no separation. So it could have been that. I didn’t really have a glimpse of that dark cloud going away until my early 20s, so it was a lot of years. I read voraciously, anything I could get my hands on. I never really came across any Eastern philosophy, but I read Western philosophy and, psychology books and lots of science fiction, and my brother was a spiritual seeker, I suppose, so I read all of his books about chakras and, Seth Speaks, all that stuff that was going on in the 70s. I read it all, and I even, I know you’re a TM guy, even did, for my 14th birthday, I got initiated into TM, and so I did that. I never stuck with it, but was probably just a seeker, voraciously seeking, but not, I never would have called it awakening or enlightenment. I had no idea what I was looking for, but I knew there was, it was something. I was, I was that seeking, and it was very, very painful.
Rick: Do you have any idea what caused those glimpses you had in your 20s?
Nancy: When I was 21 or 2, I can’t remember, but I took some acid.
Rick: That’ll do it.
Nancy: And I was out, I was plucking in nature, and it was like, I remember the awe, I remember the beauty, I remember this perfection, I never was slammed back into the deep, dark pit again, until the final process, but the glimpses were there, not just when I was taking the drugs, because that just lasted on and off for a couple years, but they became, it’s hard to look back, because when I look back, it’s like, it was always obvious, but I just wasn’t noticing it.
Rick: Yeah. Everybody says that, when awakening happens, “I’ve always known this, it’s always been obvious,” and yet, it wasn’t, somehow.
Nancy: No, you just don’t notice it, and then it’s always obvious, it’s never not obvious, it’s just spectacular.
Rick: Yeah. So when you say that the acid gave you some glimpses, or some, kind of like a recollection of something, almost the way you expressed it, it sounded like some primordial memory of something that you knew deep down, but had glossed over or forgotten. Is that the way you’re putting it?
Nancy: At the time, it felt like I had forgotten it. Yeah. It was like, this is the big wow, this is this awe and beauty that I remembered as a kid, so it wasn’t just remembering it, it was there again.
Rick: It’s interesting that that snapped you out of the depression. They’re actually using psilocybin and things like that at Johns Hopkins and NYU and places to help people who are chronically depressed, and very often one dose, under proper supervision will change things, more or less permanently, apparently.
Nancy: I’ve read that.
Rick: So then, though, things started to really grind for you, they started to get ntense, and it sounded like you went through a real cooking process of a dark night of the soul kind of thing, where you were just really working through a lot of stuff and crying and suffering, and your heart is on fire and all that kind of stuff. Why don’t you kind of like take us into that?
Nancy: Well, it was when I turned just skipped 25 years.
Nancy: But I had been doing, pardon?
Rick: So we just jumped ahead 25 years.
Nancy: Yeah. Well, in between times, I was just living a normal, well, not a normal life, but a life of traveling and odd jobs and, ended up in a beautiful place to live, and at times doing the meditation, at times reading, reading, reading books, and then other times not. So it was not consistent. And at the end, there was about a year and a half where I was meditating a lot, and I got really high. I was watching the breath, and I was very, very high. But I knew that it was a — it felt like it was contrived in a way. And I was — that last winter before this 50th birthday, I had read in an Alan Watts book, he said something like a hiccup is the same as a bolt of lightning. And
Rick: What do you mean by that?
Nancy: Well, I thought it meant that it’s all the process of nature, or that it was — what I saw as the inside is the same as the outside. And so that’s what I really wanted to grok more than anything else. I knew that that was some kind of secret that was waiting to be seen through. And so I used to meditate and say, the wind blows, my blood flows, and, I was really trying to see this. And then finally, a few months later after that, I just snapped and thought, nothing I have ever done in my entire life has brought me one bit closer to this elusive goal, and I don’t know what it is. And I — truly for about a month, I was just stunned. I was just stunned. And that’s when the crashing and falling began after that month. It was — I had about four days of just at the end of the month seeing everything as perfect. And then the slamming and the deep, deep despair alternating with intense overwhelming joy and back again and back again. And through this period, I noticed that beliefs were just going away. Because someone would say something — for example, someone would mention astrology, and I’d think, I don’t believe that anymore. And then you would go, I never really did. So some beliefs I noticed particularly and some only later and sometimes huge swaths probably. And then about six months after that began, I really couldn’t tell the difference between joy and sorrow. It was fabulous. It was just this beautiful unnamed emotion, no matter what was happening.
Rick: There’s something you wrote here that I thought would be worth reading. You said, “I write often about the ripping and shredding and the total evisceration that occurred before this profound shift in perspective. Before the shift, it was a life of fear.” You also said, “and continuing on, after that, there were six months of extreme sadness and intense despair alternating with unspeakable joy peppered with sudden bouts of impending doom. I noticed beliefs about who I was and what the world was like catch fire and burn and become transparent and fall away,” like what you were just saying. “I felt lighter and lighter and noticed that memories and thoughts of future and even what was seemingly going on were losing their grip. Quite suddenly, after six months, I noticed that joy and sorrow had merged and I truly could not tell the difference. Suspended as nothing, I felt like,” oh, maybe I’m getting ahead here.
Nancy: Yeah, you jumped ahead.
Rick: Okay, so I’ll skip that. I won’t read that right now. You can respond to what I just said.
Nancy: Yeah, that’s what it was like. It was a lot of hell and a lot of heaven.
Nancy: And then, When I realized that joy and sorrow were the same, I knew that this was going to be good. I knew it was going to be good. And I have to say, too, that during that whole time, I never tried to fight it. It never even occurred to me that I could try to stop this avalanche, basically, of affliction that was washing through me.
Rick: Yeah, you just lay still and let the surgeon operate.
Nancy: Yeah, it was like that. And then, the next six months was just a lot of anxiety. I would lay awake at night and I was just gripped by unseen terror. And I really didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t have a map of this or really know what was going on. But it was just a lot more of anxiety and fear for several months. Lots of things happened along the way. Like, I remember at one point thinking that I was on a path and I was going somewhere. And I realized that that belief would have to go, too. It was almost like saying goodbye. I remember really crying then. Because, for example, earlier, with a lot of beliefs about myself that were going away were beliefs that I really liked. And that’s really hard, too. The ones that you don’t like, no problem. But when you realize that everything’s got to go, it just hits you like a punch in the gut. That it’s so severe.
Rick: I want to get into a discussion about beliefs with you and practices and all kinds of points. But before we do that, let’s talk about something you just said, which was that you felt that you didn’t know what was going on when this stuff was going on. And now, in retrospect, having come to the other side of it, what do you feel was going on?
Nancy: Basically, belief in belief was going away.
Rick: And that accounted for all the fear and heartburn and anxiety and roller coaster emotions and all that other stuff? That was just all because of…
Nancy: Looking for handholds, looking for safety and not being able to find it, ever. It’s terrifying. When your whole world flies apart, it is terrifying. Quite at the very end, I just felt this because everyone says that no one gets this. You don’t get it. It doesn’t happen to you.
Rick: Right. There’s not a person who gets it.
Nancy: Right. And I remember trying to talk myself out of it. Like, why do I want this so much? I don’t know what it is, but why do I want this so much? And it felt like a heartache. It just felt worse than when my mom died, really. Just this horrible, horrible heartache. And I think now I was kind of mourning my own death in some ways.
Rick: I was just going to say that. It’s because you were dying.
Rick: That’s even closer to home than your mom dying.
Nancy: Yeah. And so it was just a couple weeks later when the shift happened.
Rick: What you talk about, of course, is not unprecedented. There have been various writers throughout history that have described similar things. Perhaps that’s what St. John of the Cross was talking about with the dark night of the soul, and many others have addressed going through a purgatory of some sort before breaking through. And as I understand it, let’s see if you agree, there’s just a lot of dross that needs to be cleared out before we can be a fit vehicle for awakening. You described it in terms of beliefs, and I’m sure that’s part of it. There could also be physiological things that need to be shifted and adjusted and purified or purged or whatever before the physiology can be a clear channel for that awakening. Do you agree with that, or do you want to discuss that at all?
Nancy: I wouldn’t recognize any really physiological thing except for that heart hurting. And then of course when the shift happens, it is psychological and physiological. When it actually happens, you’re just like, “Do you want me to tell about that part?”
Rick: Yeah, and before you do, I just want to say that we’re not necessarily aware of all the subtle mechanics of physiological change that may be taking place, not only in terms of a Western understanding of physiology, but also perhaps in terms of the Eastern, like the heart burning could be thought of as the heart chakra undergoing a transformation or a purification. They talk about the nadis in the body and the kundalini and how it has to go through all these channels, and if the channels are blocked, then you experience all kinds of different things as the blockage is being cleared, and that whole model of explaining this.
Nancy: Yeah, it sounds like an explanation. I don’t use it, but it sounds valid.
Rick: What you were just about to go into, was it about the heart?
Nancy: No, I was just going to go into the actual shift.
Rick: Yes, please do.
Nancy: This is the most amazing part. My husband and I cleaned houses for a living, and so I was cleaning this woman’s stove, and I had the knob off the stove, and I was just, cleaning it, and all of a sudden, without any warning at all, it’s like my hand became the stove knob, became the rag, became the space, became the wall, and there were no things. There was no separation. There was nothing. It was just like this sublime liquidity, and yet, everything continued, and my hand kept moving, and it’s so shocking, because there’s a huge physiological release, too, and I thought, maybe I should be, my body should crumple to the floor, because there’s no one holding it up anymore, or maybe I’d be peeing my pants, but because there’s no one doing anything anymore, and it was obvious that life had always done itself. It was just so obvious, and it’s never gone away.
Rick: That’s great. So you should have started a spiritual movement, which involves stove cleaning. Could have made a killing.
Nancy: I’d rather get the money from cleaning houses. People do think that, what the person was doing might be magical, but it’s really non-circumstantial, but there wasn’t, there was a high fever of a pitch of the seeking, yes, but that personal Armageddon, you can’t make that happen. That just happens on its own. The burning.
Rick: There seems to be, there’s different camps on this point, some leaning toward personal effort, some leaning toward grace, some having a both/and perspective, grace and some personal effort are involved. There’s a few points in Patanjali I wanted to read and see what you think about them from the Yoga Sutras. He says, “Some who have attained higher states or know unmanifest nature are drawn into birth in this world by their remaining latent impressions of ignorance and more naturally come to these states of Samadhi.” Next verse, “Others follow a systematic path by which the higher Samadhi is attained. Those who pursue their practices with intensity of feeling, vigor, and firm conviction achieve concentration and the fruits thereof more quickly compared to those of medium or lesser intensity.” So for me, those verses evoke a cart and horse argument in which it’s really hard to say whether, because a person had this sort of dogged determination and application of the, various practices perhaps or just a focus on this, they achieve awakening or whether, because awakening was on the horizon, they just functioned that way and felt that way and went through all this stuff and it wasn’t anything they were doing. So you know what I mean by the cart and horse thing? It’s like, it’s hard to establish causality here.
Nancy: Like is the future predicting the past?
Rick: Yeah, that kind of thing. It’s hard to say which is the cart and which is the horse.
Nancy: I think I was just wired that way because I know and have met so many people who probably have suffered way more than me and who have been more avid seekers than I have. And so I don’t know why some brains have this shift and some don’t. And if I could give it away, I would, but I sure wouldn’t wish what I went through on anyone else because it is so exceedingly painful, or it was for me.
Rick: Yeah. But, I think that almost everyone does go through something like that in the transition.
Nancy: I think so.
Rick: And maybe you just don’t go through it until you’re ready to go through it. So it’s not something one can wish or wish for others, but when the time has come for that, then you’re going to go through that sort of intensity.
Nancy: Yeah, the wormhole will just eat you up.
Rick: Yeah. There was a fellow I interviewed a few weeks ago who spent 18 years on death row, and it was a horrible thing. But under those circumstances, he kept himself — Damien Echols was his name — he kept himself sane by doing this intense spiritual practice while he was in this little concrete box. And it ruined his health, and he has to wear dark glasses because it ruined his eyes. And it was really a hellish kind of situation. But he said, “If I had to do it over again, I would.” Because it placed me in a circumstance where I just had to apply myself with that sort of intensity, and it bore fruit. I’m happy for the outcome.
Rick: Yeah. Let’s talk about belief a little bit. You mentioned a lot of beliefs were falling away, and you mentioned astrology. And I’ve heard you say you don’t believe in reincarnation or God or things. I don’t know if you still feel that way. But my attitude toward belief — and see if you agree or not — is that every belief is — you can look at it scientifically. It’s a hypothesis. And there’s no point in making a big fuss about whether it’s true or not. It’s something that may or may not be true, and only some kind of empirical experience can verify it or refute it. There could be evidence in favor, evidence of the contrary. But people get themselves all riled up about things that they haven’t experienced, and perhaps — and in many cases can’t prove. I mean, wars are fought over this.
Nancy: Well, because people are their beliefs.
Rick: Yeah, maybe that’s it.
Nancy: And so we challenge someone’s beliefs, and their whole self-identity is challenged. So I’m not going to say I don’t have any beliefs now. I’m just saying that nothing is —
Rick: It’s not your identity.
Nancy: It’s nothing is believed. What would you be without beliefs and preferences?
Rick: Yeah, I can get that. In my own case, I believe things. But if they turn out not to be true, then okay, fine. I’d rather know the truth than hang on to some belief.
Nancy: Truth is also a belief, that there is anything true. It’s just another idea. It’s just another category, the way of describing what’s going on. Is it true? Is it not true? Because all we really can know is what’s going on right now.
Rick: Yeah. But the universe is not dependent upon our understanding of it in order to function the way it does. And there are all sorts of things that we now understand as a culture, as through the science and so on, that we had no inkling of a few hundred years ago. Those things existed just as much then as they do now. But now we have some understanding of them. So we say, okay, well, this appears to be true. But the scientific approach is always that anything can always be disproven. Like we say all crows are black, but maybe someone chose a white crow, an albino at some point. So we can’t say that anymore.
Nancy: Yes, but the color and all measurement is coming from your brain. So I would say the physical world exists, but it doesn’t have any characteristics or qualities or time, dimension, no causality. There’s no measurement. It’s all basically an unknowable unknown. And so the brain, using shared learned words, concepts, seems to make it into things, separate things. The universe, you, me, love, beauty. And some ideas of things correspond to the physical world. Table, my cup, Etc. And other things are just purely imaginary. Selves, purple unicorns on the moon.
Rick: Oh, those are real.
Nancy: Right. So I would say that what I would call a belief is a thought that feels solid somehow. It’s got weight to it. It feels real. So if you have a recurring thought that, of God, perhaps, or astrology, or purple unicorns on the moon, and I’m not talking about proving or disproving, and I would never ask anyone to give up a belief because people can’t, because they are beliefs. So it’s more like beliefs — I’m talking about real internal core beliefs of any solidity at all, of anything that’s any reference point whatsoever, of all thingness that just gets blasted away. All ideas of solidity, of something that you know. So it’s really more like this incredible, delicious unknowing that’s what’s going on. And that’s where the awe and the beauty is, is just in not knowing and realizing there’s really no one to know. It’s just this seamless wonderment. And also, there is the dream of separation. Because wonderment is part of the dream of separation. Enlightenment is the dream of separation as well. There’s no escaping this dream. This is the only place that we live and love.
Rick: Jesus said, “For the birds have their nests and the foxes have their dens, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” In other words, can’t take any firm position. Who was it? Somebody else, Nisargadatta or somebody said that enlightenment is a state of perpetual free fall. I think he said the bad news, I don’t know if he put it this way, something like, “It’s a perpetual free fall, but don’t worry about it. There’s no ground, so you’re never going to go splat.”
Nancy: Yeah, it is. It’s like falling until the falling’s falling, until there’s no one to land, until there’s no reference points whatsoever. There’s absolutely nothing left. It’s just astonishing that the entire world, known world, is mentally fabricated. It’s just astonishing. And knowing that there are no things makes everything so fantastic. It’s just like this marvelous world that we live in. And being human is so wonderful. It’s just, I love it all.
Rick: Yeah, I want to explore that point with you. But first, the whole idea of the brain creating our reality and concepts reifying things, there is the principle of shared, or intersubjective agreement.
Rick: And for instance, a dog or a bird doesn’t conceptualize the way we do, but they’re going to see the same fire hydrant, or the same stop sign, or the same tree. Maybe they see it differently, obviously, through a dog’s eyes or through a bird’s eyes, the perception can be radically different. But there’s something there which seems to be a more universal phenomenon than any one individual perspective.
Nancy: Yes, well the physical world exists. When I die, my dream will be done, but the shared dream of separation continues. So there is a physical world. I don’t think a dog without language says to himself, “Oh, that’s a fire hydrant. I’m going to go over there.” Because the dog doesn’t have this imaginary separation. The dog doesn’t even know that it’s a dog. It doesn’t even know it is. Whereas we, through this amazing imaginary separation, are aware of aliveness. There is awareness of being aware. That is the jewel of evolution, is that there is this. And it is exceedingly painful when it’s believed in. So that’s where seeking comes in. And when it’s not believed in, then it’s spectacular beyond measure.
Rick: Yeah, there’s a phrase in Vedanta that you might enjoy. It’s “leisha Vidya.” Have you ever heard that?
Rick: It means “faint remains of ignorance.” And the point of it is, an analogy is used that, let’s say you have this big glob of butter in your hands, and then eventually you just throw the butter off, but there’s still some greasy surface on your palm. And the point of it is that without some appreciation of diversity, living wouldn’t be possible. You wouldn’t be able to eat, you wouldn’t be able to move, you wouldn’t be able to walk through a door. But you don’t need much of it. Faint remains is adequate. And predominantly there can be the appreciation for the dreamlike nature of it, as you put it, for the pure beingness of it. But still there needs to be some appreciation of diversity in order to function.
Nancy: Yeah. Well, even my cat doesn’t eat her own foot when she’s eating dinner.
Nancy: Right? She doesn’t go, “Oh, that sounds good.”
Nancy: So, yes, I would say the dream of separation continues much as it did before. I’m still here. I’m just as real as you. And tomorrow. So the dream continues. It’s just now, it’s just infused with this overwhelming awe and feeling of beauty, no matter what it looks or feels like. It’s just so amazing. And loving this incredible humanness that we all share is spectacular, too.
Rick: Yeah. Let me throw in a question here. I haven’t even read it yet, but it just came in from Randy in Denver. And he says, “Oh, okay. Well, this is — all right. This actually ties in with something I wanted to ask you. And it’s something we were talking about before the interview. It seems that you don’t sing and play guitar anymore. How did your feeling towards your former performing artist self change after the shift?”
Nancy: My feelings toward —
Rick: Towards having been a performer? Did you lose interest in it or whatever?
Nancy: No, that stopped in my early 20s, really.
Rick: Okay. Well, the thing that that reminds me of that I was going to ask you is, how do your various faculties, such as senses, mind, intellect, emotions, function now as compared with before the shift? Did they — go ahead.
Nancy: No, I’m just trying to think.
Nancy: I would say my eyes probably see the same as your eyes and my hearing senses, taste. When they call the third eye opening, that’s like — so there’s always the knowing that there is no separation. And yet complete awe at imaginary separation. So there’s never belief in the dream. And yet there’s full participation. The thought stream has changed quite a lot, I’d have to say.
Rick: How so?
Nancy: Well, I used to have just constant self-correction, self-judgment, constant thoughts about how to fix the world or fix things, because everything felt wrong. So the brain is always thinking of ways to try to fix things. And so when you know that there is no perfection or imperfection, but it really feels perfect, and also when you know without a doubt that no one is the instigator of their thought or feeling or belief or action, then there’s just — there’s no blame. It’s just — it is a lot different in those ways.
Rick: Do things ever happen to you which even momentarily make the dream seem more real, such as, you injure yourself in some way and experience intense pain? Does it somehow temporarily overshadow that conviction that the world is ephemeral, dreamlike?
Nancy: No, the big wow is always on. Even just last summer our last cat died, and I was sobbing uncontrollably, but it felt so beautiful to feel so deeply. It was just wonderful. And I have broken my arm twice since the shift, and I have, felt pain, but it doesn’t feel like there’s someone who’s feeling it who wants it to go away. Of course, you take an aspirin if you have a headache, and you will seek — get a cast on your wrist if your arm is broken, but it’s like people have secondary pain, for example, that there’s always that anxiety. People who have chronic pain have a secondary pain, chronic anxiety that there’s going to be pain, and it makes it even worse. So if you take that away, it would be like that. There’s that — there’s never any trying to — any feeling like this is wrong. There’s never the thought, oh, this is wrong. I’ve never think that anyone is wrong. I just look at people, and they look so beautiful. I would love to tell everyone that they’re beautiful, and I love them, but you just can’t go around doing that these days.
Rick: I interviewed a guy named Ben Smyth some years ago, and he used to sit on street corners with a sign that says, “You’re beautiful.”
Nancy: I remember him.
Rick: Remember him?
Nancy: Yeah. There’s other ways to say I love you, though.
Rick: Yeah. Some people distinguish between pain and suffering. They say, any sentient being, biological entity, experiences pain, and it’s a good thing they do, because they could put your hand on the stove and not know it if you didn’t experience pain. But then there’s this overlay that happens that causes suffering. I think you were just alluding to it.
Rick: In that vein, some people said Christ never suffered. Yeah, he experienced pain, but he presumably was well enough established in reality that that pain was not interpreted or experienced as suffering.
Nancy: I don’t know. That’s an unusual, way to talk about things, because I wouldn’t ever tell someone that I’m free of suffering, because there’s no one to be free of it. But I feel the same emotions as everyone else, and in some ways it’s more, there’s a feeling like it’s more raw and deeper, because there’s not —
Rick: No filters.
Nancy: No filters. There’s no thought that this is wrong. It all feels beautiful. Everything that before I thought was horrible is just, everything that seems really beautiful.
Rick: And yet you have a much larger context in which to experience it. So I don’t know if I can think of a metaphor or analogy here, but it’s like if you had a glass of water and you wanted to drop some mud in it, the glass wouldn’t really be able to accommodate the mud so easily. But if you have an ocean and drop a little mud in it, it’s not found, because by contrast with that vastness, what’s a handful or a bucket load of mud?
Nancy: Yeah, but the mud would be the known world. So the mud would be beautiful.
Nancy: As well as the ocean.
Rick: Metaphors have their limitations, but I think I’m just trying to say that you have a different context or a different orientation, which gives you a much broader canvas on which to paint experiences. And so the individual experiences don’t become the totality of your being, because they don’t overshadow you. Is that a good way of saying it?
Nancy: There’s always still this swirling conceptual thought dream going on, but it’s subsumed, it’s super saturated with the feeling of okayness and the feeling of awe that super saturates this dream of separation. And it’s still the dream of separation. There’s no escape from this dream of separation. You don’t wake up out of it. You just wake up to it.
Rick: And in waking up to it, then the separation is no longer seen as substantial or separate?
Nancy: When I need to, like I was talking about looking around the edge of the screen, and with other people and they start talking about some things, a lot of times I don’t have anything to say. But I can talk about tomatoes and apples and I love to cook and I’ve become a crocheter in the last few years. I do a lot of crocheting. So I’m still here.
Rick: Yeah. You’re doing normal human stuff.
Nancy: Yeah. It’s wonderful.
Rick: Yeah. So what do you mean when you say there are no things? There’s a physical world, you say, but it has no qualities or characteristics. It has no time, measurement, or causality. There are no things. Let’s dig into that a little bit.
Nancy: Now, I’m going to try to explain it, but it really can’t be explained because it’s not a new belief and it’s not a philosophy. It’s just a radical shift in perspective. So I would say that there’s the symphony of perception, all perception, the sensorial display, and there’s a simultaneous, inseparable awareness of it. That’s what’s going on. And thought, which is made of shared learned words, seems to create things out of this. When you’re a little kid, you learn tree, for example, and you learn this is a tree. And then that’s seen as a tree and then it feels like that there’s a you separate from it. The more things you learn about, the more things that are there solidify the idea that there’s a you separate from them. And with the word tree, then we can recognize all trees, even though they look quite different, little bitty trees or huge trees or evergreens or deciduous trees. And the same with, for example, a river. A river can look like a little stream or a big wide river. So by conceptualizing the world into little things, like throwing a lasso around something, just creating thingness, then it appears that there’s a you inside of this world of things. But that’s all just made up by the brain, by the thought stream.
Rick: Okay. So let’s get back to the dog then. The dog doesn’t conceptualize, but it sees a ball and you can throw the ball and it sees that ball is separate from the grass and it goes and runs after it and tries to catch it.
Nancy: See that story that you just told, created a dog, a ball, grass, running. That’s how the dream writes itself.
Rick: So you’re saying that objects really don’t exist, dogs, grass, balls, etc. Other than our
Nancy: shared dream of separation.
Rick: And so in your case, where there’s no dream of separation…
Nancy: It’s still here. I’m still here.
Rick: But separation is no longer predominant as it once was.
Nancy: Yes. So that, it’s a call it unicity or, people will use words like oneness or wholeness and every word that you use to describe it sounds like it’s a thing. But there are no things. So, you can’t say edgelessness or all the words like I say in my poetry to try to convey this seamless magnificence that I think everyone knows really, but you can’t conceptualize it. So I think a lot of people, especially seekers, that they know there’s this seamlessness actually going on with no handholds, no reference points whatsoever. And yet, then there’s the belief in the dream of separation and thought, which is up here. And I think it creates a lot of dissonance, and for some people, it’s probably very, very painful like it was for me. So there’s belief in the dream, the thought world, the thought dream. And then there’s also this knowing that, well, maybe that’s not it, or maybe this is there’s something else. That’s what the feeling of something else is or the longing to return to love or to wholeness, I think is that it’s an intuitiveness and trying to grasp that or trying to understand it will just seem to push it away because it can’t be understood.
Rick: That’s my problem. I’m trying to understand it.
Nancy: Well, you have these great talks because of it.
Rick: If I understood it, maybe I would not be able to do these talks. So long live my ignorance.
Nancy: It’s really not understandable. And that’s the thing is the mind will search for all the, if there’s a moment or a brief interlude of not belief in solidity, it’s terrifying. I’ve talked with people and they just have a bit of it and it’s very terrifying for people because there’s, where do I go now? Where’s the safe place? But there is no safe place. It’s all, there is no safe place. And then, of course, there’s seeing through the self as part of one of those things.
Rick: Well, your mention of solidity gives me an angle. I actually wrote something down this morning that as I was thinking about this particular point, let me read it to you and see what you say. The universe is paradoxically multidimensional. Water is a solid, a liquid, a gas. More fundamentally, it’s two gases, hydrogen and oxygen. More fundamentally, it’s empty space with a few subatomic particles whizzing around, vibrating. And then more fundamentally, quarks, up and down quarks and electrons. More fundamentally, vibrating strings and maybe ultimately nothing at all. So which one is real or true of all those different levels? It kind of depends on perspective. We can say the nothing at all perspective is ultimately true, but does that perspective invalidate all the others? For instance, if you’re swimming and you begin to drown, does it help you to think, this is just oxygen and hydrogen or this is just subatomic particles, no problem?
Nancy: Well, I would say that you don’t really need belief in the physical world to get run over by a truck. That doesn’t require belief. And all that you just said about matter and subatomic particles, that’s description and that seems to create a world of things. And that’s what we are, basically. We are fleeting description. We’re just this thought stream going on. So it seems to create a world of things, of atoms and quarks. And even emptiness seems like a thing when it’s mentioned. If you say everything’s empty, then it seems like it’s a thing. That’s why there is no word that can convey edgeless, seamless, spaciousness without movement or non-movement, without this or that or both or neither. That’s why those are famous phrases because they can jolt the mind into just this unknowing, which is some people really like. I liked it. I remember reading, I used to read Alan Watts’ The Wisdom of Insecurity. I would read that book just for at the very end, I would have a short feeling of my hands off the handlebars. I’d read the whole book just for that short glimpse. So people, I always loved that. I loved any words that would help catapult my mind into this delicious unknowing.
Rick: Yeah. All that stuff about atoms and hydrogen and all that, that’s been going on a long time, since long before we came around. And it didn’t depend upon human understanding or perception for its existence. In fact, we wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been going on for billions of years, which eventually resulted in the evolution of us and of brains and all who could have conversations about this stuff. So just, the reason I’m dwelling on this is just the, I think I get what you’re getting at in terms of the ultimate non-materiality of everything. It’s all just pure being, if we want to use that word. But somehow that consideration, to me, doesn’t negate the more manifest expressions of it, nor does it negate, well, go ahead, I’ll leave it at that for now.
Nancy: No, I wouldn’t say that everything is pure being or anything like that. The physical world is probably what you would call real. Put an apple on the table and you would call that real. That’s as close as you can get. I’m not saying that it doesn’t exist at all. And the description of it is uniquely ours.
Rick: So maybe we have a semantic problem here. I mean, if you put an apple on the table, you have a thing.
Nancy: Right. So that’s as real as it gets. That’s all we can know. And our beautiful brains will make up all kinds of relational things about, or ideas about how things react, go with each other. But when thingness is no longer believed, it doesn’t feel like there’s separate things or separate events.
Rick: I think that what you said might be the key to it. So in other words, the feeling of the oneness of everything, or the unicity, you like to use that word, is predominant, you could say. And that’s where you dwell. But then secondarily, there’s a recognition of the blooming, buzzing confusion, to use I think William James’s term, of apples and tables and dogs and all the so called things. But still the feeling is that all this is one and there’s nothing going on. No things. Is that right?
Nancy: That’s pretty close. It’s just not believing in separation. There’s not feeling that everything is separate. It’s like I move my hand and it’s like a 3D light fabric. It’s not like my hand’s moving through space. It’s just this, it’s unexplainable really. And yet it requires imaginary separation to have the recognition of unicity.
Rick: Yeah. Or even to describe it.
Nancy: Yes. So this is the only world I could live in. And this is the only world that we exist in, in this known world of things. So it’s not like I’ve gone to another place. There’s just the knowing that this place with its separation is made up. However, I’m still walking on the sidewalk and I’m driving a car and I’m crocheting dresses and things like that and I’m writing books. So they’re simultaneous and not separate from each other.
Rick: Yes. No, I get it. That’s very clear. There’s a metaphor. I don’t know if it will help here or if I can do justice to it. But the house is a collection of parts. Bricks and beams and walls and this and that. And none of them individually is the house. And yet somehow the house ends up becoming more than the sum total of all those parts. It serves a function which parts can’t individually serve. So somehow, you mentioned that the sense of separation is necessary to appreciate the unity. And it seems to me that somehow, and there’s a saying in the Brahma Sutras or someplace, it’s the world reveals Brahman. Brahman being the wholeness or the unity or the totality. So I think that you were alluding to that concept in saying that the appreciation of all these parts kind of gives you the, it enables the appreciation of unity to be a living reality. Does that make sense? And feel free to disagree.
Nancy: I’m just trying to make sense of it. The knowing feeling of intuitive unicity, which cannot be conceptualized, is always on. And simultaneously, there’s a very ordinary woman, living in the world, except for she just happens to think that everything is spectacular and extraordinary. So all thingness is every little particle is spectacular in its own way. And yet, I can just look at the wall or the ceiling and it’s just all so beautiful. Wow, this is this aliveness and this awareness of being aware of being aware of aliveness, awareness of being aware is only possible because of imaginary separation. And some people talk about it’s the two hemispheres talking to each other. I don’t know a lot about brains.
Rick: I think it’s more complex than that. It’s not just a hemisphere thing. But, I understand what you’re saying. And I think it’s great. I’ve heard you say that you don’t believe in God and I don’t, I want to kind of dwell on that in a real sort of nuanced way. You do really appreciate creation, it’s beautiful. You use the word “awe” over and over again. So there’s this sort of deep, sublime appreciation that characterizes your everyday experience, right? And, if there were somebody who, I guess what I’m saying is, is there an artist, responsible for this beautiful work of art? Do you ever wonder how it is that, electrons whiz around a nucleus or that, cells, which are vastly complex little mechanisms, self-replicate? And, why it is we don’t just have sort of chaos and disintegration, entropy. It seems to me, and this is part of what instills or evokes awe in my experience, that there’s this sort of vast intelligence operative in every little iota, in the most mundane things. It’s just all pervading. And, it’s jaw-dropping in my perspective on things.
Nancy: That’s beautiful. You kind of sound like my parents trying to convince me that there was a God when I was a kid.
Rick: Yeah, but this is not the kind of God that Sam Harris likes to castigate. I’m talking about something much more pervasive and solid.
Nancy: I would say that it doesn’t feel like there are two. I would say life does itself. And to say that everything’s imbued with intelligence, intelligence is a description from your brain who is calling it intelligent. But I would say it all happens all by itself. There’s no maker of it or there’s nothing that’s touching everything with intelligence except your intelligence. You are the painter of beauty. You are the painter of intelligence. Your brain is the creator of imaginary separation and the sparkling dew on the spider web in the morning. The story coming through your brain is creating all these things and a you to feel like your jaw is dropping because it’s so spectacular.
Rick: But what created my brain?
Nancy: Your brain is just part of life doing itself.
Nancy: The belief in separation makes it feel like there is a creator or somebody doing something, or a vast intelligence or something that does it all. But to me, it’s obvious that it’s all of a piece. It’s just all does itself. Spontaneously, naturally arising, the world appears and then it seems to appear that there are separate things in it.
Rick: Yeah, I’m cool with that. I would say my concept of it is that the creator is not a puppeteer detached from his puppets and dangling strings and manipulating them. That life that you say is doing itself is what we’re actually alluding to here, what I’m alluding to as the creator. And that there is nothing but that. So there’s just this totality of whatever we want to call it, which has as one of its qualities, intelligence and organizing power or orderliness, which gives rise to all these beautiful structures and orderly laws of nature out of the chaos of the initial cosmic soup.
Nancy: Well, then your brain would be part of it and that’s how it can recognize it.
Rick: And talk about it. Yeah, exactly.
Nancy: Right. But I would still say that the intelligence is coming from you. I wouldn’t say that a rock has intelligence, personally.
Rick: I would. Look closely.
Nancy: I would say that it’s your brain creating the idea of rockness and hardness and softness and love and beauty and intelligence is this creating and painting the dream of separation. And you are one of these imaginary separate things.
Rick: Yeah. But if we actually look at what’s going on in a rock, if we go to the molecular level, the atomic level, we see this marvel of orderliness and little doohickeys abiding by very systematic laws of nature in a consistent way. So it’s not just randomness. It’s not chaos. There’s a creative intelligence functioning in the most mundane of things.
Nancy: As I said, that’s because of our description of it. We are part of it and only through us do we, I studied biochemistry and I loved learning how the enzymes worked and proteins and digestion. And, I studied it because I was trying to feel good. I have to say that’s one reason I was into it.
Rick: One way of trying to feel good.
Rick: That’s one way of trying to feel good.
Nancy: Yeah, really. There’s got to be a way I can do something to this skull and feel good. So, yes, of course it is marvelous. I don’t think I ever really thought that there was a creator of it. I have never had that belief. And then when everything dropped away and I realized that life was doing itself, then I could say, yes, it is all of a piece of itself. So life does itself. And it takes us to see the beauty and the intricacy and perfection and wonder.
Rick: Yeah, no, I agree. We’re almost totally in agreement. I’m just ironing out some little wrinkles here. How did you just phrase it? Something about there doesn’t need to be a creator in order for it to — I would say that there’s this — what we’re all part of, and, this wholeness, this life that you allude to, is the creator interacting with itself. We can say himself or herself or whatever. But there’s this how could there be anything other than that? How could there be anything other than the totality? I think I’ve heard you say how could there be anything other than the wholeness? What could be outside of it? What could be separate from it?
Rick: Nothing. It’s all pervading, all, big and small, fast and, near and far, gross and subtle. And it’s the self-interaction of that which gives rise ultimately to brains and beings who can enjoy that as a living experience, which is what you’re describing very beautifully.
Nancy: Yes, I would say that the universe kisses itself through our lips.
Rick: Very good.
Nancy: Yes. So you could say that. And you know what? I know that in the past other people who’ve had this shift would say that it’s all God or all self or something. I just — that doesn’t have to be my term of reference.
Rick: It’s just a choice of terminology.
Nancy: Right. But I think I would ever — I never used the word and I never would because of the ideas that people have of God as being separate creator or something. It’s just — it’s not in my vocabulary and it never has been. I mean, when I was a little kid, people would pray and I’d keep my eyes open and look at them like, what are you doing? I don’t know, but it looked like they wanted something.
Rick: Yeah, that’s a loaded term, God. It has a lot of baggage.
Nancy: I can see why people use it, though. I understand because of their background, and their upbringing.
Rick: Yeah, and if you do use it, then you’ve got to spend at least 10 minutes explaining what you mean by it because otherwise you’re going to be misinterpreted.
Nancy: Yeah. So, unicity, wholeness, there’s all kinds of words. And like I said, even emptiness. Every word makes it seem like there’s a thing. You’ve thrown a lasso into space and caught this idea and now it seems like there’s something solid.
Rick: Yeah. Same with the word enlightenment. I hesitate to use it because there’s so much baggage.
Nancy: I use it all the time.
Rick: Yeah? All right.
Nancy: I use awakening and enlightenment, interchangeably because it’s like that. It’s like my eyes were licked clean of a lifetime of hope and fear. It was this wow-ness. It’s like enlightening.
Rick: But I mean, what are words after all? They are sounds that we make that represent concepts that represent something or other to which we’re trying to explain or understand. So, the sentence I just uttered consisted of a lot of sounds which represented a lot of concepts which conveyed those concepts to you in a way that you could respond to.
Nancy: Yeah, this is the shared dream of separation.
Nancy: Without this consensus during the day, the nighttime dream would seem just as real as the daytime dream. If it was this consensus and agreement going on, oh, yes, this is a tree, what time do we have to meet for lunch, it’s wonderful to see you, if it wasn’t for this, then it wouldn’t seem consistent and it wouldn’t seem as real.
Rick: Yeah. And imagine if the daytime were as inconsistent as our dreams at night. It would be a pretty weird world.
Nancy: Yeah, running down the flight of steps and then, I don’t know.
Rick: I think we’re getting somewhere.
Rick: So, let’s see, a few questions came in. Let me ask a few of those so as to give ourselves a break here for a minute. Let’s see, which one do I want to ask? There’s one that I think we’ve kind of already covered, but let me ask it anyway and you can just — if there’s anything you feel we haven’t covered in this, why don’t you let us know. But this is a fellow named Miroslav Maklanov from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.
Nancy: Wow, cool name.
Rick: Yeah, Russian it sounds like. Can you elaborate on your shift and the experience of awakening? For those who are not there yet, is there a way to explain it in terms of the physical? For example, visual, hearing, smells, touch, taste, emotions. Now that you’ve been through it, is there something that you feel you could have done differently to get to this awakening sooner?
Nancy: First, I’d have to say is that the biggest misconception is that awakening happens to the person, to the character.
Nancy: And so that’s why, I mean a part of enlightenment is realizing that the character is imaginary, then how could it happen to the imaginary character? So — and that misconception makes people feel like they’re on a path, that they’re getting somewhere, that they’re gaining confidence, that they’re doing something. And so all trying to do things or trying to not do anything will just perpetuate the illusion that there is a you doing something, that there’s something to get, something to grasp, that there’s a goal. Would I have done anything different? As I said, I never felt like I could have done anything differently because it was obvious that I was in this avalanche, I didn’t know it was going to blow me away too. For example, my husband and I have traveled a lot and we have these statues from Nepal and we weren’t ever Buddhists, but one of them is Manjushri, which is the god that’s holding the sword. And the idea is the sword is going to slice through ignorance, that sounds really good until you, I realized later that that’s what I was, is, ignorance. I didn’t know it would hurt so much. Yeah. So does he want more details on the actual experience of the shift when it happened or what?
Rick: I don’t know. I think you’ve done justice to that, but, we’ll keep going, but anything that comes to mind as we go along, feel free to just come out with it. I just wanted to press you a little bit on this notion of, anything you do by way of a practice will only reinforce the notion of a practicer. And I would say that, Ramana used to be fond of the phrase, “It takes a thorn to remove a thorn.” And in saying that, he acknowledged that, there’s sort of ultimately kind of an absurdity to doing anything to try to get that which, to get to that which is uncaused and, cannot be done or anything. But he acknowledged that there are skillful means through which one can facilitate the conditions in which realization may occur. As some Zen guys said, enlightenment may be an accident, but spiritual practice makes you accident-prone. And the intensity that you went through with all the crying and the emotions and the heartache and all that stuff was, as we were saying earlier, a purgation, a purification that was taking place. There are actually practices which can catalyze that kind of thing if it’s not happening for a person, which spontaneously, which can facilitate it. And there is a correlation, like it or not, between people doing various sorts of practices and eventually arriving at the kind of awakening that you’ve been describing.
Nancy: I still think that saying that there is a path or a method, a practice, will perpetuate the illusion that it happens to you, first of all, and that there is a path when it’s really the falling away of the path, the ground, the goal. It’s the falling away of everything. And I don’t ever tell people to not do anything or to do anything. I’ll just say there is no you to do or not do anything or nothing. So I understand that because I talk with seekers a lot and all I do is speak in nonsense words to trick their brains up, instead, because that’s all I can do. What happens naturally is that all these words come out that might catapult you out of all these assumptions, which you are. So what gets catapulted out? I don’t know, but they can fall away.
Rick: And how is that working for you? I mean, what is your track record? What is your experience in terms of all the people that you talk with?
Nancy: I have to say that a lot of people have glimpses when I’m talking with them or if they’re listening to a video or reading something that I wrote. And I also have to say that when the glimpse goes away, they blame me for that, too.
Rick: Well, as long as they credit you for the glimpse, then they can blame you for the loss of it.
Nancy: Because I think it’s a very rare thing. I searched Facebook a lot in different groups and things. I didn’t know where to look to find other people who had had this. It seemed so natural, but I found a lot of people who had seen through the illusion of self, but usually hardly anyone who had recognized this unicity, this no-thingness. So I don’t — I’m a pretty private person. I just write the books, I write the blog, and I post on Facebook. But I’m not a teacher because it can’t be taught. I’m just more of an artist, I suppose.
Rick: Well, I think you definitely serve a function, which is you express it very beautifully, and I think that in itself can enliven it in people’s experience, just hearing those expressions.
Nancy: Those were the words I longed for when I was a seeker. I would have loved these books.
Rick: Yeah, as a matter of fact, I wrote down a question for you. Where is it here? I don’t know. Oh, here it is. If, 10 or 20 years before your awakening, someone had said to you the kinds of things you’re now saying, what effect do you think it might have had on you?
Nancy: Oh, I would have been an avid seeker. I wouldn’t have taken time off, probably. I wouldn’t have — and maybe it would have prevented it. I don’t know. But I know that if I had read that, I would be longing for this, for sure.
Rick: But haven’t you just been saying that it’s not so good to be a seeker because it reinforces the notion of a person who seeks?
Nancy: Right, so I’m probably doing more harm than good. But I just — these songs have been coming out, ever since it happened, so just about every day I write something. But it’s never felt like I’ve ever really written a word. Just like everything, I just watch “Amaze” as my fingers go over the keyboard or my thumb goes on my phone or anything. It’s just so amazing that all this seems to be happening all by itself.
Rick: Yeah. Have you ever read the Bhagavad Gita?
Rick: There’s some cool verses in there which describe very much what you’re talking about. And, there’s verse after verse where it emphasizes that you are not the actor, you are not the author of action. And the actions are performed by — they call them the gunas of nature, just the different qualities of nature. And, if you take yourself to be the actor, then you’re like a thief who’s appropriating something that doesn’t belong to you. And it goes on and on and on like that. But then it shifts and has verses like, Krishna saying to Arjuna, “Get up, do your duty. You have control over action alone, never over its fruits.” And it often does this with these kinds of scriptures where it swings you back and forth from one perspective to the other paradoxically. And I find that actually kind of an enlightening technique because it kind of —
Nancy: Disrupts the normal train of thought.
Rick: Yeah, it prevents you from trying to set up camp in one perspective to the exclusion of others.
Nancy: Yeah, that’s very cool. I like that, but I would never, ever feel like anybody is the author of their action or the chooser of their thought or belief, action, feeling, anything. I don’t see that at all.
Rick: No, but that’s how actually most people experience it.
Nancy: Yes, it is.
Nancy: Definitely. There’s an author. There’s something inside, this swirling thought, it seems to create a center. And out of that center, because of this otherness, there can be — for me, there was a life of fear, like I mentioned before. It was just, whoa, I was afraid of a lot of things. I was afraid of people, and I was afraid of myself.
Rick: A friend of mine takes the word fear as an acronym, false evidence appearing real.
Nancy: Yeah. When you’re gripped by fear, it sure feels real.
Rick: But I keep coming back to this theme of multidimensionality. For instance, there’s this great article by a friend of mine, Timothy Conway, who’s been on BatGap a couple of times. And it’s called — I think the article is “The Simultaneously True Paradoxically Different Levels of Non-Dual Reality” or something like that. And he just sketches it out to say, on one level, nothing ever happened. It’s just unmanifest. On another level, it’s all perfect and divine just as it is, and you’re not the author of action, and the divine is just carrying on the play. On another level, there are problems. There’s kids starving and, diseases that need to be cured and all that, so we need to take action. And, he’s sort of advocating, and I resonate with this, a kind of a multidimensional — straddling those dimensions and giving each its due. Due unto Caesar would — render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, just kind of —
Nancy: Well, if it’s all naturally perfect, then feeding starving children is just part of the natural perfection.
Nancy: And also then the person who feels like they’re doing nothing would also be part of natural perfection. There’s no straying from natural perfection.
Rick: I agree.
Nancy: Yeah, so I’m — that is a hard one that I talk about that’s really hard for people to see because they’re not seeing through these eyes, but I see it all as naturally perfect.
Rick: Yeah, I agree with what you just said, Nancy. And I think the problem is when people sometimes set up camp in one or the other of those perspectives to the exclusion of the others, then the perspective gets a little lopsided or unbalanced.
Nancy: What do you mean?
Rick: Well, like for instance, they might say, the world doesn’t exist, period. But obviously, there is a world, at least of appearances, that we engage in. Or they might say everything is perfect just as it is, but somehow in saying that they are assuming that it’s not necessary to try to feed the children or cure the diseases or whatever because those diseases and starvation are perfect and we should just let them be.
Rick: Whereas in fact it’s incumbent upon us to do something. Or they might say, all there is is this gross material world with diseases and Donald Trump and all that, and, there is no underlying perfection. Life is cruel and meaningless or, this talk of there being no things is nonsense. So in other words, they’re just sort of hanging out in one or another of those perspectives without straddling them all simultaneously.
Nancy: Yeah, they are those perspectives. No, I wouldn’t say that — I mean, I’m here with my dad and I want him to be well and I do whatever I can for people I love. And whatever happens, I would say that there’s — I wish them well, but the outcome or whatever happens doesn’t have to be one way or the other in anything. It’s just — I would say that the hope and fear and need for a next is gone.
Nancy: So that constant craving for other, for better, for more, for next, that’s just all gone. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t fix dinner for my dad or, my husband or, doesn’t mean that I’m still just doing my regular stuff.
Rick: Well, I wasn’t accusing you of the things I just said. I was just saying people do this and I run into it often and so I like to harp on it every now and then.
Nancy: Yeah. I think that for some people they probably read those things.
Rick: Good point.
Nancy: Yeah, they’ve read that and it sounds, well, it doesn’t mean I’ve got to do anything, because there’s no need to do it. But, kick back on the couch or something. But, even not doing something is doing. If you believe that — if there’s a belief that there’s a doer, then not doing is doing, too.
Rick: No, that’s a good point. In fact, that verse I just cited touched upon two things you just said, which is, you have control over action, never over its fruits. Live not for the fruits of action, nor attach yourself to inaction. Both of those would be sort of a stepping out of presence.
Nancy: But who would attach or what would attach to that? As I said, in my experience, there’s not ever the feeling that there is an actor. I’ll say it in conversation and it sounds like it. But to people I know, really, I think they perceive me as someone who’s come to a deep acceptance or a letting go. But there’s just — there was never anyone to let go. But, I mean, that’s how it appears, I think, to people I know.
Rick: And it once appeared to you as though there were a person to do this.
Nancy: Oh, yes.
Rick: And it appears to most people as though there are.
Nancy: Right. I don’t talk about it much.
Nancy: Except for loudly on Facebook and on my blog and in my books.
Nancy: But other than that, I don’t ever really talk about it.
Rick: But it’s interesting that what you’re saying about it is interesting. Irene wants me to talk to you more about your journey and about poetry. Would you like to talk about that, more about your journey and more about poetry, which we haven’t talked about at all?
Nancy: As I said, I wrote sad love songs.
Rick: Sad love songs.
Nancy: And then I didn’t really write again. I did a lot of painting and I was a bead artist, and so I was always doing something, in the arts, always. And after the shift, probably it’s just so stunning that the poetry started to flow. And I’d stop, I don’t know. But it’s just about every day I write.
Rick: So you didn’t used to write poetry?
Rick: That’s great.
Nancy: Never was a lover of poetry, never read a lot of poetry. I read Walt Whitman when I was a teenager, but I never have read poetry, really. I just keep writing. I get ideas and then I just watch my fingers go. And it’s amazing.
Rick: That’s great.
Nancy: It’s just like everything, yeah.
Rick: How do you feel when you’re writing it?
Nancy: I don’t know. I’m not that introspective. I don’t look at how I feel.
Rick: It just pours out of you. You’re not thinking — do you do a lot of rewriting and tinkering with it or does it just come out the way it does?
Nancy: I don’t do much rewriting at all. I’m putting together another book and I’m looking through all the stuff I’ve written since October 1st and I’m just putting it all on there and it all looks good to me. I’m not very discerning. I just put it all in the book and, see what happens, see if people like it or not. I like to read it. I would like to read more on YouTube of my poetry. I’ve got a lot of reading. But as I said, our signal in Utah is so slow that it takes me half an hour to post a five-minute video or sometimes longer. So I don’t do a lot of that.
Rick: You know what you should do is start a podcast, an audio podcast, put it on iTunes and all. And then each — you have little episodes of varying lengths and people can subscribe to that and then they can easily listen to it as they drive or whatever they’re doing.
Nancy: A lot of people download my videos and listen to them. Because there’s no reason to watch me reading a book. So they just listen to them when they’re dancing or I get a lot of nice letters.
Rick: Yeah, they can do it on their phones. Just one more channel, too. I have a podcast in addition to these videos. It gets millions of downloads. So it’s sort of one more net that you throw out there.
Nancy: Yeah. I don’t know how to make a website. I thought about doing that so I could give my books away for free. And I just — I’m lost. I’ve actually paid someone to help me with the first two. And the second two I did all by myself. You just punch them right into Amazon and there’s your book. So it’s really easy.
Rick: Yeah, I can refer you to some people who might help you put that together if you want to, website and podcast and all that.
Nancy: I got enough going on, I think.
Nancy: I still want to cook dinner and crochet and feed the birds.
Rick: Here’s another question that came in. This one is from Sven in the Netherlands. He asks, “Is not having a perspective not also a perspective? Is not having a perspective a perspective in itself? Is the one who sees everything is made up real? It has to be real in order to call anything else unreal, right? So isn’t separation necessary in order to become aware of your own existence? And is that existence itself therefore illusory since the total unification is the end of any experience?” Kind of sounds like a dog chasing its tail there.
Nancy: That’s a three-part question. But I did already explain that, yes, it does require imaginary separation to recognize unicity. I only can see through this perspective. Everyone — I mean, this is the perspective. It’s just shifted. It’s still this perspective. But it doesn’t feel like — I’m still looking through these eyes. It’s just this perspective. It’s just there’s a shift in it. So it’s like there’s no things and yet everything is beautiful. But it’s still this perspective. I wouldn’t say that you’re not looking through a perspective. That’s all getting into the idea of a separate awareness, separate from perception or something like that. That there’s a separate awareness or witness or, something like that. Or true self or something like that that’s watching everything. But it doesn’t feel like that. It’s only because of this spectacular imaginary thingness that there can be recognition of unicity. I don’t know if that answers his question. That was a pretty complex question.
Rick: I think you might have answered it. And we did talk about that before, that, the world reveals Brahman, that it’s necessary to have some appreciation of distinction in order to appreciate non-distinction or unity, unicity.
Nancy: Yeah, that sounds good.
Rick: I have heard you say that there is no awareness without perception. In other words, perception of objects always accompanies awareness. And yet in the sort of the Vedic tradition, they talk about, you know, Kabbalah Nirvikalpa Samadhi, which is a temporary withdrawal of the senses from their objects such that there is no perception of something. And yet there is still pure awareness. And then they also speak of Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi, which is said to be a continuous state of that pure awareness in the midst of activity, throughout daily activity, which involves perception.
Nancy: I would say that if there is awareness of emptiness, of no thing, then that’s still a perception. Then emptiness is the perception, and awareness is not separate from it.
Rick: As long as there is a three-part structure to it, perceiver, object of perception, and mechanics of perception. But it’s said that, and I’ve had glimpses of this myself, that sometimes those three can just sort of dissolve or merge into one, and so there’s no longer that sort of I-Thou relationship to anything.
Nancy: Right, when I’m saying that awareness doesn’t exist without perception, I’m not saying they’re separate. I’m saying they’re inseparable. It’s the same thing. It’s only language, it’s only the words that makes it seem like there’s awareness and then there’s perception. But actually, it’s one unitary happening. It’s just all going on at once. And probably the glimpses you’re talking about are glimpses of unicity. But it doesn’t feel like there’s a you anymore. There’s just this wide-awake, open awareness.
Rick: Yeah. And there’s no perception of anything, no bodily sensation, no sound, no smell, no taste, no sight. Just wide-open awareness, as you say.
Nancy: So there’s awareness of emptiness.
Rick: You could say that. Although, one can sort of play at the junction point of that where there’s just no diversity whatsoever. So there isn’t an awareness of awareness. And then there’s some stepping into diversity to the point that you’re aware that you’re having that experience of awareness. It’s kind of a subtle doorway.
Nancy: Yeah, almost like maybe the cessation of thought. And then as thought comes back, you realize that you weren’t thinking.
Rick: Yeah, exactly.
Rick: But during the sensation period, you’re not sitting there thinking, oh, man, this is cool, no thought. I’ve always wanted this, because I don’t obviously know what you’re thinking.
Nancy: Right. You don’t even know you’ve had no thought until thought comes back and goes, wow, I wasn’t thinking, for a while.
Nancy: Yeah, so you see how thought creates you.
Rick: Yeah, good point.
Nancy: Yeah. That’s the magic. People talk about magical thinking, but all thinking is magical because it creates this.
Rick: Is there anything unusual — not unusual because it would be natural, but is there anything about sleep for you which is different than it used to be or is different than the way most people experience sleep?
Nancy: From the time I was small, I never remembered my dreams. And while I was a seeker for a while, I read that, being aware while you’re dreaming was, like a sign that you’re on the way or something. And so pretty soon after I read that, I was remembering my dreams and I was experiencing that because, my brain was going, all right, let’s get somewhere. And then after the shift, I’m just back to I just don’t remember my dreams.
Nancy: And I’m sure I’m dreaming because as I fall asleep, it’s just so beautiful color and shape, just moving and swirling and then that’s it. So I know I’m dreaming. I think the brain probably takes all of those things and makes them into pictures. But no, I don’t experience anything different.
Rick: Yeah, and the thought of that question is that some people say that who’ve shifted that during sleep, deep sleep, not just dream, because deep sleep is different than REM sleep. But there is a sort of a continuum of pure awareness, even though the body is sleeping, perhaps even snoring, and the senses are shut down. And it’s like we were just saying with, going into a thoughtless state during transcendence of some sort, you’re not necessarily cognizant of it or thinking about it or anything while it’s happening. But perhaps upon emergence from sleep, you realize that you’ve been awake, not in the waking state, but the sort of pure awareness, inner awareness has been alive, lively throughout the night’s sleep. Some people have struggled with that. Have you ever noticed that if you start to wake up, you don’t, and then there’s awareness and you can hear yourself breathing and it’s really loud. Or, it’s like, but you’re not really awake. So everything hasn’t really kicked in yet. But there can be light places in sleep where there’s just awareness of the breath. I mean, I hear myself breathing maybe if I’ve come up a little bit out of deep sleep. And I have read about that, awareness while being in deep sleep, but I don’t experience that. I don’t know about that.
Rick: Yeah, I hear myself snoring sometimes. And when that happens, I think, oh, good, I’m sleeping.
Rick: Here’s a question from Ivan in Bulgaria. He asks, I haven’t even read this yet, but it looks like it might be interesting. My friend Dan says it might be controversial. So let’s see what Ivan has to say. What if there is no God, no intelligent creator, loving us unconditionally, a safe heaven we can count on returning to? What if it is a psychological need, a dependence, a bondage? What if ultimate awakening is letting go of God, the concept of God, of this clinging, desperate need to be nurtured and comforted by not just anyone, but by the most powerful entity? What is spirituality so dependent on? Why is spirituality so dependent on the notion of God? Is the soul inconceivable without God?
Nancy: I would recommend that you read “The Illusion of God’s Presence,” which is a really good book that talks about why people believe in God, a creator, despite no evidence for it. It’s kind of wired into our brains at birth, along with a lot of other creatures, that you long for this mother, and there’s a certainty that mother will come, and you cry and cry until mother comes. And the book goes in a lot to that. And this person who wrote it didn’t believe it, and so he was trying to understand why people did, and I found it very helpful.
Rick: Okay. What’s the name of the book?
Nancy: Prayer is like the child crying and waiting for mommy to come. So even though mommy never comes, the child will keep crying, or the baby rat, or the — it’s called “The Illusion of God’s Presence.” I don’t know the author, but it’s a very good book. As far as soul and afterlife and God, all those concepts are foreign to me. Soul is the idea of trying to find a true self, or still looking for something that’s an unchanging, solid and stable and fixed, something that doesn’t change. And that’s a handhold, and I found that awakening is realizing there are no handholds, that there’s no true self or soul, or there’s nothing unchanging. It’s just this flow, which appears to be moving, of life doing itself all by itself.
Rick: Is there any sense of something unchanging permeating the change?
Nancy: Yes, thats awe.
Rick: But awe is an emotion or a quality.
Nancy: It’s inseparable from the dream. It’s just like it saturates it.
Rick: Like if we say, okay, everything is ever-changing, right? But that quality of ever.
Nancy: Right. So I would say there’s no movement or non-movement. Start using the words that go against each other to explode the feeling of no handholds.
Rick: Okay. Well, hopefully that answered his question. Here’s one from Jean-Francois from France. He asks, “Hello, Nancy. I’d like to know if your awakening was accompanied by an energetic or kundalini process?”
Nancy: Is that it?
Nancy: No, I never felt anything like that.
Rick: Although, it might have been without your interpreting it that way. Like all that burning in the heart you’re experiencing and stuff could very well be explained in that terminology if one chose to use that terminology.
Rick: Right. If that had been my background, perhaps I would have noticed that sort of thing. Yeah, for sure. And, I mean, you know the pictures of Hahnemann when he’s ripping open his chest, the monkey god? I mean, that’s what it felt like afterwards. It’s like. Yeah, that’s what it feels like. I love those old paintings.
Rick: Yeah. I used to have all those posters and put them up on my walls and stuff back in the old days.
Nancy: So did me.
Rick: Did you?
Rick: In fact, I was living in this apartment in Chicago, a group of guys who were teaching there. And I was down in the basement. I had all these posters all over the walls. And some realtor brought somebody in to check the place out and they saw these posters. And the lady was very embarrassed.
Nancy: Well, if you had to use a Kali or something, that would have been really scary.
Rick: Yeah, I don’t know if I did. I might have, actually. Definitely had Hahnemann.
Nancy: Yeah, there’s a lot of beautiful images. We’ve traveled a lot in India and we never went because we were seekers. It’s just all of the beautiful temples and forts and the culture. It’s just very, very beautiful and wonderful to see.
Rick: Yeah. Here’s a question from Harvey Jackson from Columbia, Maryland. He asks, “People often ask how do I get enlightened or awakened when they are told there is no method, technique, or path. They get frustrated with the answer.” And I heard you say that thought doesn’t change the brain. But research shows that it actually very much does so. It’s easy to measure changes in brain functioning as we look at various images, listen to different kinds of music, or perform various activities, for instance. And reciprocally, of course, the condition of the brain influences how we perceive these different things. That’s why drugs have the effect that they do. You take a drug, it changes the brain, changes our perception. So, relating to Harvey’s question, no practices, methods, techniques, some people define those things as methods of brain sculpting because they actually do create measurable changes in the brain, which over time become abiding.
Nancy: I don’t really know about that. I know that I used to feel really high when I was meditating, but that’s not like this.
Rick: No, I’m sure it wasn’t.
Nancy: But I know a lot of people who meditate and they love it and that’s wonderful. If it makes people feel good, it seems to me that all of these techniques might be used to improve the conditions of the imaginary character to feel good. And that’s great. I hope everyone feels good. But if people become frustrated, that’s good. If I can frustrate a seeker, that’s wonderful. Because it’s not about just sitting in an armchair and meditating until you’re in this state of meditation. It’s not about sitting around and talking about things until it’s an understanding. Like I said, it’s more of a total ripping apart of everything. And it hurts.
Rick: Yeah, but the reason these things have existed for thousands of years and teachers like the Buddha and others have advocated them is that it does bring about inner transformation, which makes you more susceptible to the ripping apart that you’ve just described. Whereas other things have the opposite effect. Other things mess up the physiology and tend to occlude the awareness even more and make it less likely that one will have the kind of shift you’ve had.
Nancy: Well, I don’t know. I also, drank beer every night, which is so — and I was just working a job and leading a normal life. Obviously everyone’s experience is different. I would say that the idea of a path still makes it feel like the person’s going to get this and they are going somewhere. And trying to do something will make it — like especially say you’re meditating and you have this great experience, then you’ll think, oh, I did that. And so that solidifies the idea that there is a you and this thing that you’re going to attain, especially if you have something positive seemingly happen from it.
Rick: Yeah, it may do that. And it may also breed the tendency to try to repeat that experience, to have it over and over again.
Rick: But, there’s different ways of going about it. And, in a way that’s sort of a beginner’s error when people have some flashy experience and then try to recapture it. But, you know, there’s more sort of skillful ways of going about it which don’t breed expectation and dependency.
Nancy: Yeah, I’ve never really met a meditator who isn’t trying to get something out of it. Even if it’s just feeling better or lowering their blood pressure or, something. There’s an idea usually of this golden goody called enlightenment that’s somewhere out there and there’s, I’ve got to get it somehow. I’ve got to try to understand it or, force myself into a situation where an accident might happen or something. And all of that, it sounds horrible, but it seems to me that it perpetuates this illusion of separation. It perpetuates the painful illusion of separation that you’re trying to get rid of. But since you are that illusion, how can you get rid of the illusion that you are, because self is the illusion of separation.
Rick: Yeah. For me, I don’t think it’s had that effect. And, I’ve been meditating for a long time, but I do get something out of it. It’s enjoyable. Like, I get something out of eating dinner. I enjoy the experience and I get some nourishment from eating dinner. And same thing with meditation, but it doesn’t, in my experience, and I can relate to what you’re saying because back in the ’70s and ’80s, I was like enlightenment or bust.
Rick: Kind of attitude. These days, my mind doesn’t go there. It’s just a healthy habit and it seems to be beneficial.
Nancy: That’s beautiful.
Nancy: Yeah, it’s beautiful. Like, I still walk a lot. I’m an avid exerciser. You know, I still do all the things I did before.
Rick: Yeah, and you get something out of them. You’re not trying to get to California by walking, but, it makes you healthy.
Nancy: Yeah, it’s just a habit. I love walking.
Rick: Yeah, it’s just a habit.
Rick: Yeah, it’s like one of those things. I mean, there’s a lot of habits that we do in life that are either beneficial or detrimental or whatever, and, some spiritual practices can be like that. They’re not necessarily going to breed dependency or expectation. They can just be good for you, and perhaps they do.
Nancy: They improve.
Rick: Increase the likelihood that some profound shift will take place.
Nancy: Yeah, and they perpetuate the illusion of the self, I think, but it also is just improving the condition of an imaginary character. If it makes you feel better, then that’s good. That’s your imaginary character. So how is that going to erase this belief that you are an imaginary character, that you’re a real character, I mean, excuse me. So I don’t know. Like I said, everyone’s different, and I think that because of people’s past and upbringing, they will speak about this differently. I just happen to come from, Midwest and Utah, and so I wasn’t raised with religion, so concepts like God are foreign to me.
Rick: I wasn’t either in a way. I mean, I was dragged kicking and screaming to church on some Sundays, and it was so traumatic that the rest of the day I felt lousy, but I have a different orientation to it now.
Nancy: Yeah, well, I loved singing in the choir, and that was fun. I liked to sing, but I never really got it. And I think my parents were kind of surprised when I told them I didn’t believe in God because I think they expected me to pick it up through osmosis because we didn’t go to church. Like how can you not believe that?
Rick: Well, it’s like you wrote in your book, “Unicity is not a belief. It’s a lived experience.” And I think we tend to believe what we experience, and if it’s the other way around, believing something that you haven’t experienced, then that’s when the problems start. And even in terms of the topic we’re talking about, I mean, there are a lot of people who might listen to you or read various Vedanta books or something and who get these concepts drilled into their heads but haven’t really experienced them. And then they get on Facebook and whatnot and begin arguing about them. So, I mean, I think you would emphasize —
Nancy: I’ve been called a lot of names on Facebook.
Rick: Yeah, have you?
Rick: I mean, I think what you would emphasize, would you not, the value of lived experience as opposed to concept and belief. That’s kind of what you’ve been saying the whole time.
Nancy: Yeah. I was talking to a friend, and she was doing all these — she says a lot of quotes. And I was saying, “Well, I’d rather hear what it’s like for you.” And she says, “Well, I don’t have that experience yet, so I’m using quotes.” And I’m like, “Okay, well, that explains a lot.”
Rick: But that could be a good thing in a way, as long as you don’t mistake the understanding for realization, because it at least gives you the idea that there is such a possibility. I mean, this very conversation we’re having gives people the understanding that it is possible to experience the sort of thing that you’re experiencing.
Nancy: Right. I’m going to start my stove-cleaning school next week.
Rick: Yeah, absolutely. You can make a lot of money off that. Just have crews of people out there cleaning stoves. But it’s sort of like, if somebody describes the Grand Canyon, and their description is not the same as being at the Grand Canyon, but it can inspire us to go there.
Nancy: Yes. So will my words create seekers? Possibly, yeah. I described it once as kind of like what I do is set a fire in your heart, and then I’m going to block all the exits.
Rick: That’s good.
Nancy: Yeah. So as Harvey said, if the person feels frustrated, good. Great. I mean, feeling good is one thing, but awakening isn’t about feeling better or becoming this wonderful person or anything. It’s just this shift in perspective, and the character remains kind of the same.
Rick: Yeah. Well, if you’re in a fire and the exits are blocked, then to quote Patanjali again here, there’s going to be an intensity of desire to get out of that building, out of that house.
Nancy: And it’s really that desire. It’s that love, really. It’s your own love that just rips you apart. It’s not coming from anywhere else. It’s that own heat, that own love of that desire.
Rick: Yeah, some people say that, actually, that it’s not so much any technique you practice. It’s the desire itself, which may channel itself into the practice of some technique, but ultimately it’s the desire or the conviction or the determination that is the main engine.
Nancy: I used to say that. I used to say, you have to want this a lot, but I wouldn’t say that anymore because it sounds like there’s a right way to feel. I wouldn’t say that. But I did at first, I did say, you have to really want this because I was just, thinking of what it was like for me. Yeah, and so I wouldn’t say that now. There is no right way to feel. Oh, I dropped out of my earphone.
Rick: I can still hear you. Yeah, so you’re saying that you used to sort of be asking people to feel the way you felt, which isn’t appropriate because it’s not the way they feel.
Rick: And, yeah, all right.
Nancy: Yeah, I think that at the beginning, I don’t know if you read my story, but at the beginning there was still a feeling like it had happened to me. And that took a while to drop away. So when someone feels like it happened to them, then there will be a prescription would come out of it. Like I did this so you can do that. So there was a little bit of that. I think I still thought it could be somehow given away in a way. And that was one of the last beliefs to go, really, was like that I could give this away. So that was pretty profound because I don’t have it. I don’t have this sublime emptiness. I can’t give it to someone.
Rick: Yeah. I mean, if you picture somebody like the Buddha sitting there with disciples around him, and he’s teaching and he’s perhaps radiating some kind of influence, is he really giving something away there? Or is he just creating an atmosphere in which there’s a kind of a mutual interest in something and a liveliness of that knowledge in the air that, makes it more conducive to realization than just hanging out in a bar or, doing any old thing? Maybe that’s why there’s a tradition of spiritual teachings going back thousands of years.
Nancy: Right. I understand what you’re saying. And I think that, like I said, people have glimpses if they listen to me sometimes or read or, while I’m talking to them. I’ve been with people when they’ve had profound glimpses and there’s been a lot of tears. And like I said, people say that I did it. But then when it goes away, they blame me for it. Sometimes I never hear from them again. So there’s that. I would say that it’s more coincidental. It seems like a coincidence. I wouldn’t say that if there was a Buddha that he caused other people to awaken. But, for example, years and years ago in the mid ’90s, we were in Dharamsala and we met the Dalai Lama, stood in a long line with people and everyone went up and shook his hand. And, when he shook my husband’s hand, it was just really fast. But we noticed with all the girls, he held it a little bit longer. And also what we noticed is that people who really thought he was a really groovy spiritual cat were crying after this meeting, this short meeting of this hello, I don’t know what we said, nothing maybe. And so their expectations were so huge that they were rewarded in the way they had expected. So if someone thinks that I have something that they don’t, that maybe they think they can get it from me, then they might have that type of experience with that.
Rick: Yeah, that’s a whole interesting topic in itself is, expectation and perception and attitude toward a spiritual teacher and whether that is a potent thing in and of itself or whether it’s the teacher that has the potency or whether it’s some kind of combination of the two. I mean, there’s a story about…
Nancy: They don’t exist without each other. The seeker and the teacher are codependent.
Rick: Well, I suppose there could be a teacher who hadn’t found students or students who hadn’t found a teacher.
Rick: But there was a story about, what was his name? Eklavya, who was a fellow archery student with Arjuna under their teacher. And Arjuna made their teacher promise that he would make him the best archer. Nobody else could be as good. But Eklavya was getting really good. And at some point, Arjuna reminded his teacher that he had made that promise. And so the teacher had to hold his promise and banish Eklavya. So he went off and just built a little clay statue of the teacher and practiced archery on his own, just being devoted to the statue.
Nancy: I thought you were going to say he was sending arrows at the clay statue because he was so mad at him.
Rick: No, no, no. He still was devoted to his teacher. And he kept practicing and practicing, and he got really good. And eventually, Arjuna got wind of how good he had gotten. And he said to the teacher, you promised me this guy wouldn’t get better than me. You’ve got to do something about it. So it’s a sad story, but the teacher asked Eklavya to cut off his thumb so he couldn’t practice archery anymore. And since he was so devoted, he went ahead and did it. But anyway, the point of the story is — don’t cut off your thumb, for one. But the attitude of the student can actually be more significant than the teacher they’re supposedly learning from.
Nancy: I don’t know. That kind of goes beyond I don’t understand what you’re asking.
Rick: I’m just telling a story. I mean, in your case, you didn’t really — yeah, me too. It’s like one of those yucky stories.
Nancy: I think that if there is a love or a devotion to a teacher, I would say that person is really — they’re really in love with their own love. They’re really in love with their own emptiness. That just seems like someone else has it. It can get pretty intense, when people mistake this — because I feel like I love everyone. But on the other hand, I love my husband more than ever. So there’s both. But people can mistake that and think that there’s love.
Rick: They can take it personally.
Nancy: Yeah. So that’s a very fiery ground that I think people that are more public than I am probably have to walk along a lot.
Rick: Yeah And they don’t always walk it successfully. Often they’re messy situations that develop.
Nancy: I think that some people that — people that come off as teachers and they have devotees around them or students, I think they could start to really believe the adulation that they’re getting. I think that can happen.
Rick: It does happen.
Nancy: Yeah. And that’s really sad because it can warp the message or it can warp it all.
Rick: Yeah. Which I think emphasizes the point that it really takes a high degree of personal maturity as well as spiritual development in order to be a qualified teacher because it’s easy for it to go to your head.
Nancy: Yeah. As I said, especially if you think that the shift happened to a you, whereas it doesn’t. But if there is that feeling, then it can make you feel like you are special. But instead it’s more like this happened to no one. There’s not me who’s special. There’s this ordinary me doing my normal stuff.
Rick: Yeah. They talk about — someone used the term “spiritualized ego.” It could be a lot more bloated than a regular one.
Rick: And also not only that this happened to you, but that you are making it happen to others. You’re blessing them with your Shakti.
Nancy: What a power trip that would be.
Nancy: Yeah. YI’m all powerful. That would be very scary.
Rick: There are contemporary examples of it.
Nancy: Yeah. But it took me years to start talking about this and, even more years before I started, putting it into book form. So it’s been a while. It probably takes a long time. It’s been eight years. So I imagine that it will continue to refine in ways that I don’t know. But I’ve noticed definitely lightening of it. It’s just even more mellowing. Maybe it’s just getting older.
Rick: That’s great.
Rick: There was a verse from the Nisargadatta. I’ll show it on the screen here. He wrote a book, “I Am That.” Have you ever read that book?
Nancy: I haven’t read it, but I’ve seen it.
Rick: He said, “Forget ‘I am that.’ I realize so much more since then. It’s so much deeper.” So what you said about refining reminded me of that quote.
Nancy: Yeah. It’s like you feel like you’re — at first it felt like I was everything and nothing simultaneously. And I would now say it feels, and I’ve said for years, it feels like I’m just dancing on the edge of a feather between love and nothing at all. So I think it’s the return of full-on humanness in all aspects. And for me, sharing our humanness is what life is about for me. That’s the most magnificent of all is to share our humanness, the joys and sorrows.
Rick: That’s great. I mean, there are two things you said in the last couple of minutes that I really like. One is that you didn’t just sort of rush out and hang out a shingle at the moment you had an awakening. In the Zen tradition, as I understand it, it’s said that you should wait a decade after awakening before you presume to teach anyone.
Nancy: Yeah, I can see that for sure because it takes some integration, to feel like there’s nothing there. And yet here I am still functioning in the world, and it takes some integration.
Rick: And that’s the second thing I like that you just said in the last couple of minutes, which is that — and this seems to be a little bit characteristic of the contemporary spiritual scene in general. Like a decade ago, there was much more of a sort of an up-and-out, transcendent, get-out-of-your-humanness kind of energy.
Rick: And then it’s kind of come around where everybody’s talking about embodiment and embracing your humanness.
Nancy: That’s beautiful.
Nancy: That’s good.
Rick: It really seems to be more of a general trend that’s going on.
Nancy: That’s cool. Yeah, I like that. Because a lot of people who are seekers really think that they’re going to find this one thing that is unchanging, that is not affected by thought and not affected by emotion. And I would say it’s the opposite. I am this flow of thought and emotion. There’s nothing outside of it. This is it. This is it. And it’s wonderful to not try to escape this, because I had a lifetime of trying to escape it, and I know what people are going through. I was there.
Rick: You’ve probably heard the term “spiritual bypassing” and “disassociation.” There was a lot of that, and maybe still is.
Nancy: I think there still is, especially for people who have the realization of no self. They’ll just go, “Well, there’s nobody here,” and I’m like, “Well, you can’t exist as a non-self. You have to exist as a self. If I call your name, ‘Hey, Rick,’ of course you turn around.”
Rick: Yeah. So they’re going so much farther that way. They just talk about it over and over, and that is a great realization. But unicity is the other part of it, the other part of it that doesn’t happen as often, or maybe people don’t talk about it as much. I don’t know. Because Facebook is really one of my only places where I get my news if there’s an earthquake. So that’s kind of my milieu, where I find out things and say hello to people.
Rick: Yeah, it’s interesting. I was a TM student, teacher actually, for many years, as you mentioned earlier. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi had this outline of stages of development, and one he called “cosmic consciousness.” It’s not a fancy word, but what he meant by that was just that the no-self state had been realized, the sort of that one is not the actor, one is not the doer, one is detached from the field of activity, and so on. Activity seems to go on by itself without any agent.
Nancy: I have to say that I felt that during the year up to the shift, a lot, I felt like I was this separate thing called awareness. So yes.
Rick: But then he takes it further and he ultimately goes on to talk about unicity in very much the way that you’re describing it. He called it “unity consciousness,” in which everything is … there’s a wholeness. There’s no longer this sort of schism between self and non-self, and it’s all just one living wholeness, which includes everything, which would include all the emotions, as you’re saying, and all experiences. And it also comes with a great blossoming of the heart, which may not have happened during that cosmic consciousness phase where one felt detached. He said at that point, he gave this lecture where he said, “A heart can’t stand separation, and it wants to bridge the gulf.” And so this sort of reunification process takes place until everything again is brought back into a wholeness in which the heart is fully blossomed.
Nancy: That’s beautiful.
Nancy: A condominium ripping open his heart.
Nancy: Yeah. That’s very beautiful.
Rick: Well, I guess we better wrap it up. This has been a great conversation, Nancy. I really enjoyed talking to you.
Nancy: I loved talking to you, too.
Rick: I hope I didn’t seem argumentative, but I just like having lively…
Nancy: No, not at all. You seemed like a very gentle, beautiful person.
Rick: Well, thanks.
Nancy: And I really enjoyed our conversation.
Rick: Yeah. I actually, in case people had thought maybe I was being argumentative, I found some quote from someplace as I was preparing for this. It said, “Traditional Buddhism and Hinduism have a long history of debate and vigorous discourse about everything that matters. This helps students to go beyond fundamentalism and see a situation from multiple points of view.” So that’s where I’m coming from in terms of…
Nancy: Well, I love talking to people about this because it brings up all kinds of shiny new things. I mean, talking with you, then it will elicit all kinds of more things for me to write about.
Rick: Yeah. It’s all grist for the mill, right?
Nancy: Yeah. Well, it’s wonderful. I love talking to people about it because I don’t talk about it in my daily life. It’s just like a… I just do it all. It’s a whole other thing. In my daily life, I don’t know what I talk about. A lot of times I don’t have anything to say.
Nancy: Yeah. It’s crochet.
Rick: No, it’s good. I love talking about it too, which is why I do this.
Nancy: Thank you for doing it.
Rick: Yeah, you’re welcome. Thanks.
Nancy: You’ve made a beautiful library of all of these talks. That’s really cool. Yeah. It keeps growing.
Rick: This fall, it’ll be ten years of doing it.
Nancy: Wow. Congratulations.
Rick: Thanks. And I hope to do it for at least another ten years, or twenty, or whatever.
Nancy: All right. Well, we’ll talk again someday if you want.
Rick: Yeah. Well, let me just make a couple concluding remarks. So, I’ve been talking with Nancy Neithercut, and I will link to your blog. If you ever develop a website, I’ll link to that. But in the meanwhile, I’ll link to your blog, and I’ll link to your books on Amazon, I guess you say they are, from the page that we’ll create on BatGap for that purpose. And how can people be engaged or involved? You mentioned you’re active on Facebook a lot. Is there some kind of Facebook group that you are in or something?
Nancy: I don’t really. Like I said, I lead a fairly private life, my Facebook page is public, so anyone’s welcome to get on there if they like. But I don’t have hours and hours a day that I talk with people. It’s just a few hours a day that I write and do this.
Rick: Okay. So you don’t like Skype consultations?
Nancy: I protect my private life, I have to say.
Rick: Sure. That’s great. So, thanks to those who’ve been listening or watching. Thanks again to Nancy, and we will see you for the next one.
Nancy: All right. Thank you.
Rick: You’re welcome, Nancy. Bye-bye.