Panel Discussion: “Sudden or Gradual: Two Paths to Realization?” Transcript

Panel Discussion: “Sudden or Gradual: Two Paths to Realization?”


A panel discussion titled “Sudden or Gradual: Two Paths to Realization?” from the Science and Non-Duality conference.

  • Panel Introduction: Rick Archer introduces the panel and the topic, discussing the debate between direct (sudden) and progressive (gradual) paths to spiritual realization.
  • Michael Rodriguez: Speaks on the sudden and gradual paths, emphasizing the inherent perfection of awareness and the importance of integrating awakening into daily life.
  • Isa Gucciardi: Discusses the two truths in Buddhism, the healing of the self, and the integration of ultimate and relative reality in everyday life.
  • David Buckland: Shares his Vedic perspective on the suddenness of realization, the importance of preparation, and the ongoing process of refinement post-realization.

The discussion explores the nuances of spiritual awakening, the role of personal development, and the interplay between different paths to enlightenment.

Full transcript:

Rick: Welcome to this presentation entitled, ‘Sudden or Gradual? Two Paths to Realization.’ For those of you listening to this later on, on, it’s being recorded at the Science and Non-Duality Conference in San Jose, California.

And the idea for this presentation arose in this panel discussion about six or eight months ago. I was up at the gym working out on an elliptical machine listening to recordings from last year’s SAND Conference. And there was one by Stephen Bodian, and he was talking about the direct versus progressive paths and I thought that would be an interesting topic. And so I got in touch with Stephen, we talked about doing a panel discussion and there was all sorts of rigmarole that went on for several months as to who might be on the panel. We couldn’t do it on Friday, but this person was going to be gone by Sunday, and so on. But anyway, I think it worked out in terms of the panel we ended up with, which didn’t include Stephen because he ended up not coming to the conference. I’d like to just introduce them and then introduce the topic a little bit.

So, to my immediate left is Michael Rodriguez. Michael’s spiritual path began 23 years ago with Zen and subsequently included a Master’s degree in theology from Harvard, a two-year stay at a monastery and deep engagements with Vedanta, Tibetan Buddhism, Kashmir Shaivism and Christian mysticism. Based especially on his exposure to Nisargadatta, Mooji and Rupert Spira, his spiritual path culminated with an awakening to true nature during a five year period of purification and alchemical transmutation where his insight into non-dual awareness became embodied and grounded. Michael’s website is

To his left is Isa Gucciardi, PhD. She is the founding director of the Foundation of the Sacred Stream, a school for consciousness studies in Berkeley, California. Isa is also the creator of the spiritual counseling model, Depth Hypnosis and the author of two books “Coming to Peace” and “Return to the Great Mother.” In addition to her teaching schedule that includes teaching classes in applied Buddhist psychology, applied shamanism, integrated energy medicine and depth hypnosis, she has active practices in depth hypnosis and applied shamanic counseling in San Francisco. Her website is

To her left is David Buckland. David has a graduate degree in Vedic science and researches and writes on subjects related to the approach, shift, integration, and embodiment of the stages of enlightenment. This reflects a forty-year unfolding that has been prominent for of his life, but with a more recent series of profound shifts, the exploration became the life itself. Under the pen name of “Davidya,” he brings ancient teachings into modern life. After many years of research, he published the book “Our Natural Potential Beyond Personal Development, The Stages of Enlightenment,” this year. There it is. David is a good friend of mine, all these people are, and I read his blog regularly. It’s very interesting, I always learn something.

I am going to just read the description of this talk, we have plenty of time and it’ll kind of introduce you to the topic. There is a perennial debate in spiritual traditions regarding whether realization is direct, sudden, or progressive, gradual. But is this a false distinction? Realization is often sudden, no matter how many years of practice may have led up to it, and even after realization most people find that refinement, clarification and the working out of personal shortcomings continue indefinitely. Who would prefer direct realization to years of purification and practice? But how many examples of pure direct realization can we find? Can a path be both direct and progressive? Is it possible to have a taste of our true nature from the outset and then spend a lifetime clarifying and embodying it? Also, is there one watershed breakthrough which can be universally agreed upon as final realization? Or are there many degrees and stages of realizations and each of them important stepping stones in a never-ending journey? Proponents of the direct path sometimes argue that if we regard spiritual development as progressive we will forever be anticipating, never arriving. But some spiritual seekers, not appreciating the distinction between understanding and experience, mistake intellectual understanding for enlightenment and consider themselves finished when they are just getting started. Those are some of the points we are going to consider. I admit that even after all these years of interviewing people and focusing on spirituality and so on, I would be a little bit hard pressed to define what the direct path is. I am more of a progressive kind of guy, but I have a feeling that Michael be best qualified on our panel to define that and distinguish it from the progressive path; Do you think?

Michael: I don’t know if I am the best, qualified person, but I will give it a crack.

Unknown Speaker: Can I turn for a moment to say we are not going to raise the volume up a whole lot more because we want the sound quality to be good, but if you want to move forward, so you can hear better, you are welcome to.

Rick: Am I speaking too quietly?

Woman: Yeah.

Rick: Alright, sorry. I’ll do that. I am used to being told that I am speaking too loudly (indistinguishable). Okay Michael, go ahead.

Michael: In Zen, which is the tradition that I come from, primarily, initially anyway, there are two main schools.

One is the sudden abrupt awakening path, and one is the gradual path. The gradual path emphasizes development of the body mind over a long period of time, usually in meditation and yogic exercises that are meant to purify the body and the mind of impurities and eventually, once the body mind has been purified enough, one is transparent enough for the awakening to arise as a direct experience.

The direct path sees a fundamental flaw in that logic. For the direct path, and Huineng, who was one of the most famous proponents of the direct path and the Zen tradition, points out, in the Tibetan tradition it’s called the pointing out instructions, points out very carefully how that entire way of viewing the spiritual path is itself flawed.

That is the flaw. That is the imperfection, it’s imagining that consciousness or mind can become flawed or impure. So the famous image that’s used in the progressive path is of the dust wiping metaphor or the mirror that becomes sort of defiled by dust, that alights on it, and then you spend your lifetimes wiping away the dust so that you can see the mirror in its purity. From the direct perspective, the direct path, the supposed defilement are themselves lit up by consciousness or mind, and that there’s no such thing as impurity, as such, that to view mind as impure is itself a delusion.

That is the fundamental delusion. The direct path points radically to the true nature of mind or consciousness as it is in reality, which can shift one’s perspective from seeking mode to being mode. And one is more liable to realize very quickly the inherent perfection of mind or consciousness. In this instance, I’m using mind with a capital M, which is used in the Zen tradition, it is synonymous with consciousness or awareness. They’re all the same. Mind itself is incapable of being defiled, which is the absolute truth. Even conditioning the body mind, which we would label as negative, from this perspective, is itself lit up by the light of consciousness.

Now the problem with the direct path, as I see it and have experienced it, is that it is possible to awaken someone very quickly to the pure nature of mind or consciousness. But it traditionally has left out a progressive path of integration and development and evolution beyond the initial sudden awakening.

In my estimation, there are limits to that path, just there are limits to the progressive path. In my view, it’s not an either/or question. It’s a both/and question. So that we honor the inherent perfection of awareness as it is in reality, while also honoring the beauty and nobility of the progressive integration of the residual pockets of ignorance in the body mind over time, relative time. And I think that safeguards us against being too fundamentalist when it comes to this particular question or any question, hopefully, that we don’t become dogmatic or fundamentalist about the issue, and that we have a kind of an open mind and an open heart to the beauty and nobility in both traditions. That’s a good place to start.

Rick: Yeah, sounds good. You’re saying that there could be a both/and arrangement where both, a path that incorporates the best of both progressive and direct as you just defined them.

Michael: I think it’s the healthiest path, for myself. Otherwise there are deep pitfalls and negative consequences in terms of repetitive behavior patterns. The direct pointing instructions don’t address the habit patterns. If we can see our habit patterns from the perspective of our true self as boundless awareness as I call it, that radically alters how we address the patterns themselves. If we begin in seeking mode in trying to perfect our patterns to reach some idealized image of saintly perfection before we’re able to awaken, good luck with that path. Good luck.

My experience is that it’s delusional to begin from that perspective. And so my own work and with my own teachers, the wisdom that I’ve received from my teachers and that I pass on, is the wisdom of the direct path beginning from the clear, clean, open, spacious presence of awareness which has never been touched by time or space, which has never come into existence, which has never been born, which is, as I call it, the uncreated reality. That is possible to point out in a way, skillfully, that anyone could awaken to who is interested and had an earnest interest in the matter. But that’s the first step. That’s the first step.

The second step requires embodying in our day-to-day life the significance of what we have realized. There’s also another thing I wanted to mention, which is that, and I don’t want to talk too much, I want to say one more thing, I’m sorry for monopolizing. There’s one more important thing to realize, which is that actually sudden is a little bit misleading because, and I think you mentioned this in there. When we think of a ripe piece of fruit, when it falls off the tree, it falls that. But it was a ripening process before that fruit was able to fall off the branch. No piece of fruit falls off before it’s ready. Even the sudden awakening school requires some amount of preparation. Even some of it may be conscious, some of it may not be conscious in terms of, could be past life preparation or could be preparation in this life that you weren’t aware of consciously. But there’s always a maturation process, even in the sudden school. So that’s also something to consider.

Rick: I have a feeling Isa would to say something.

Isa: I have a couple of thoughts, and you were already pointing to it, where you were talking about absolute truth. You were basically talking about the two truths, right. So in Buddhism, there’s this concept called the two truths.

And he was pointing to this unborn uncreated reality, which is ultimate truth and then relative reality, which is the experience that we mostly have, where we’re relating to things and in depth hypnosis, the spiritual counseling model that I developed, I adapt those two concepts into a more quotidian, every day, practical. It’s doesn’t gather all of the different aspects of ultimate and relative truth, but it makes it accessible to someone who’s on the path. And I think about the absolute reality as the experience of the self on a soul level, and the experience of the relative reality is the experience of the self on the personality level. And the reason that I adapted into that is because I really appreciated your exposition, and it really indicates a deep understanding of reality. Right. But one of the things that I see is that people will often, like, they’ll hear that theoretically, and then they have trouble implementing it in their lives. Although I think that was so clear, I think that if someone’s trying to figure out what does that mean for me in my life, what does it mean to be connected to the ultimate reality, and what does it mean to be connected to the relative reality? And if you adapt that and talk about who am I on a soul level, and who am I on a personality level, it brings it a little bit closer. And again, I understand we’re not capturing everything that are in those two definitions.

So when I’m dealing with people in a counseling setting, they will often come in with… I mean, they come in for help for things like eating disorders, depression, panic, immune dysfunction, relationship issues. All of those things are experienced generally by people on a relative level, on the personality level, and those symptoms from a depth hypnosis point of view are actually the tip of the iceberg of the karmic pattern that is obscuring the sense of self on a soul level from that person. And if you begin with that symptom and you let it be the teacher about how to unwind it, it will take you to the roots of the karmic patterns. And then in depth hypnosis, we have a lot of catalytic processes that are borrowed from shamanism that help change the person’s experience of the originating conditions while the person’s in an altered state of consciousness that has been induced with hypnotic suggestions. So the conscious mind is circumvented and they’re able to get access to aspects of themselves that they would not normally be able to access. So then, they don’t know this, they think they’re stopping smoking or they think that they’re just stopping overeating. But what’s actually happening is that you are dissolving the karmic pattern that’s obscuring the self on the soul level. And then they are able to experience the larger sense of self beyond what you were talking about, the patterns. And with each round of each depth hypnosis session, each of the karmic patterns, or aspects of the same karmic pattern, are addressed again and again as the person works through and dissolves the experience on the personality level or the relative level to reveal the experience of the ultimate level, which on a theory of personality that I work with is Buddha nature. It’s the aspect of the self that is connected to the ground luminosity in an unbroken way. And if you keep doing the work that you need to do to resolve your karmic patterns, then you step into greater and greater awareness and greater of one’s Buddha nature or the ultimate reality, or that’s the bridge to the ultimate reality. And you’re able to bring that awareness into your everyday life in a very direct and practical way. And, you know, one time I had this couple that they were having this massive fight in my office and, you know, I’m navigating, asking questions and one of them turns to me and he goes, “What’s the point of this anyway? What’s the therapeutic goal?” And I said, “The therapeutic goal is happiness.” And that is the therapeutic goal. In pursuing the spiritual path, we’re all trying to become happier.

So that’s one thing I wanted to say, and I’ll stop in a minute. But the other thing that I wanted to say is that it’s really important both in traditional Buddhist thought, ultimate reality is not separate from relative reality and relative reality is not separate from ultimate reality. They both infuse one another and they both inform one another. And when you learn how to begin to look at reality from both vantage points, your whole awareness broadens and you have that experience that he was talking about of having that luminescence that’s in the midst of all forms. And everything becomes a lot easier to take, basically. So I think that it’s important to recognize that, you know, in the process of being on the path, that the task is to be able to hold both of these points of views that you have.

And one last point I want to say. You know, you were talking about how the problem with direct awareness is that the patterns are not addressed. Right? There’s something that’s really happening a lot these days, which is plant medicine circles. Where everyone is having these direct realizations without any kind of preparation to be able to hold them. So from my perspective, as long as you have a process where you can go back and allow the window that opened up with that direct realization, in this case that the plants are offering, as long as you have a process, which meditation is a great method, the shamanic journey is a great method, where you can inquire into the nature of the patterns that the direct realization was addressing, and then you can open that window again on your own without the help of the plants. And then you can really begin to use the plant medicine as a vehicle of transformation in the same way that Sidhu’s and Buddhist practitioners have always used when they’ve had direct awakening. And I have very, I am very confident that many of the, especially Sidhu practitioners, had a little bit of help from the plants with that direct awakening. And then they did use a lot of the vipassana methods of addressing the underlying patterns that the direct realization was opening up to ground the work. That’s my thought.

Rick: David, you want to say something?

David: Okay, my background is Vedic, and there isn’t that dichotomy there. There’s no different philosophies in that approach. Instead, they have a bunch of, well actually a whole whack of other arguments over which is the right way. Yoga versus Vedanta, for example, which are not incompatible, but are often seen as competing philosophies and so forth. So Actually, I really enjoyed your description, because now I understand what we’re talking about here.

Isa: It was really helpful.

David: Yes. From my perspective, the realization itself takes place in a fraction of a second. It’s pretty much an instant kind of thing. I’ve seen scenarios where three, four, five, or six people all shift sequentially in a short period of time, and every point is, we used to joke about it being like popcorn, people just going click, click, click. But as described, there’s a process up to that point, and it’s not usually that obvious how we’re doing or where we are particularly until looking back in retrospect afterwards. Then you can see kind of, oh yeah, that contributed, and that was useful, and so on. And I got a little misled on that part.

But there is a process, because you have to be ready to sustain it, because some of those people I saw shifting weren’t able to sustain it, and they fell back into the mind and ego, and then experienced a loss rather than a gain. So it’s important that the body-mind be prepared so that the experience is smoother and cleaner and easier to embody. And then once the shift is integrated, then it becomes permanent, essentially, in the sense of not going backwards so much, but forward is, we’ve changed that again, but essentially a no-going-back process.

And then afterwards, again, the apple reaches a point of ripeness, falls from the tree, but it doesn’t stop ripening, even if it’s left on the ground, the process continues. And of course, if it’s then cultured and not left on the ground, it can go further and maybe make a great apple pie.

Yeah, from my perspective, the suddenness is in the shift itself. I also come from a place that’s more traditional Vedic, that there are multiple realizations. It’s not just self-realization, but there’s a series of them. And that there’s two types of realization, there’s two parallel processes taking place, not just the shifts in consciousness characterized by self-realization and unity, what be called the masculine side of the process. There’s also the feminine side, the awakening heart, refinement of perception, and discovery of all those layers between our surface experience and consciousness. All those layers of becoming, how consciousness becomes this surface experience, which is a whole process in itself. And each of those layers can be unfolded as well.

Rick: David and I both have a TM background. I’m no longer in the TM movement, I guess you’re sort of quasi.

David: Mostly out the door.

Rick: And one of Maharishi’s favorite phrases was, “The goal is all along the path.” And what he meant by that was that transcendence or pure consciousness can be experienced from day one. And that was my experience, and I just, kaboom, you know, clear. But then, 50 years later, there’s still this refinement taking place, this embodiment, and greater and greater clarity and stabilization and so on. In that sense, it was both a direct and a progressive path, as I understand those terms. And there’s an example of that.

David: In a broader sense of the terms.

Rick: In the broader sense.

Rick: Michael, do you want to add?

Michael: Yeah, I just think it’s important to distinguish between what is evolving and what is not. Myself is not actually evolving.

Rick: I understand that.

Michael: Yeah, it’s an important…

Rick: I mean, there’s a glimpse of that which doesn’t evolve, and which has always been there, yes.

Michael: Yourself.

Rick: And then, but it’s one thing to glimpse that, and it’s another to have it be a 24/7 clear phenomenon, and it’s another to see everything in the world in terms of that. As David was saying, there are various stages and degrees of unfoldment. And I think another thing to throw into the mix here is that we’re talking, when we talk about higher states of consciousness, we’re talking about states of consciousness which are radically distinct from one another and from ordinary states. And just as ordinary states, waking, dreaming and sleeping, are distinct physiologically as much as they are subjectively, it would stand to reason that these higher states of consciousness are distinct physiologically, that you would find very different styles of brain functioning and other measures of physiological functioning. And we’ve all heard the term ‘neuroplasticity’ – the brain gets restructured over time according to what we experience. And the physiology doesn’t turn on a dime, it takes a while for it to change and adapt itself to new styles of functioning. In that sense, again, there could be an immediate, direct cognition of what’s actually what we might be aiming for in terms of an abiding realization, but it could take a long time for the physiology to undergo the transformations it needs to in order for that realization to be abiding.

David: And be embodied as well.

Rick: Yeah.

David: And some of the higher stages, as you get into there, actually become lived right there in the body, and that’s a very progressive process. But it’s kind of like, one of the analogies sometimes used is turning a big ship, like a cruise ship. That can’t kind of just turn a left turn, it’s a long, slow process, and then they get going in a different direction. And the old way has a momentum, so even if they shut down the engines, the boat will keep going in that same direction. So it takes a little time to turn the boat and move past the momentum from the prior directions.

Isa: So I’m going to say something completely heretical here in this company. I think it’s important at the level of practice that most of us are at to step away from the idea that we are not a self. Because I get it, I mean, I hope I get it, but there is this larger identification with all things that is the goal of the process of enlightenment. But one of the things that I see in my practice frequently is that people are trying to transcend the self by denying the self.

David: Yes.


Rick: I’ve said that.

Isa: You said there’s no self. You’re not talking about the self.

Rick: No, I didn’t. , I didn’t mean to explain it. I’m not sure what I said, but I wouldn’t say that. There’s a self in my experience.

Isa: Okay, alright.

David: It’s the attachment to the ego that we lose, not the ego. It becomes more a thumb to my way of talking about it. It’s something we still have. There’s still a personality. And in fact, if you look at many of the famous sages from present and time, they all have really distinctive personalities. Because in fact, the constraints that were on the personality fall away too. And so you get a bigger version of what was there.

Rick: In fact, a year ago I had this whole long conversation, which was on Batgap with Adyashanti and Susanne Marie, about the falling away of the sense of self. And I didn’t get it. I still don’t get it. It’s not my experience. Maybe it’s other people’s. And you look at people, and there certainly seems to be a self. Adyashanti seems to have one. Susanne seems to have one. Maybe from their subjective experience, it’s gone. But I have a feeling, like David said, it becomes more the thumb of a larger body. It’s still there. It’s just not the only thing that’s there, as once have been the case.

Isa: Well, I think that it is possible. And I’ll give you a talk in a minute. I’m trying to do that thing where you don’t let the guys interrupt you and keep going.


David: I’ve been taught to about that.

Isa: I’ve been learning about that. I’m going to go ahead and make my point. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’ve got to learn how to get words in edgewise there. And I’ve gotten pretty good at it, actually. But the thing that I wanted, my point that I wanted to say is that the process of evolution on a spiritual level is in some ways the healing of the self on a personality level. Of course, I’m fundamentally a healer. So of course, I see everything through that prism. So I apologize. But what I see is that if the person is able to heal the different parts of the self that are not able to participate, for instance, in a direct realization, if they are able to heal all these different parts of the self, then as you say, the self will fall away. But not the sense of unitarian identity with a particular individualistic viewpoint falls away. But I would like to say that cannot happen until the self is healed. And if you do try to step into that and people, I deal with this all the time with spiritual emergencies where people have, you know, they stepped into this moment of dissolution of the self and there’s all the big light and all they want to do is do what Alan Watts talked about doing, which is to play peekaboo with God. It’s because they can’t handle it. If you have that process of healing the self, then you can let go of the self. You can’t let go of the self until you’ve healed the self. That was my main point that I was trying to say. Go ahead. I’m sorry.

Michael: Your work is beautiful. And I was at your talk with Robert Thurman and it was deeply heartwarming. And so I honor your work. I want you to know that before I say what I say. Absolutely beautiful and extraordinarily valuable. And I have a radically different perspective. In my experience, there is no such thing as a self or ego. And I usually use the term ego sensation rather than ego itself because ego tends to give a sense of coherence, of solidity. And when you actually look for the self, you’ll never find solidity. You’ll never find solidity anywhere in your experience. So you have a beautiful perspective on it. The idea that one has to heal the self before one can awaken to the transpersonal self. My own feeling is that it is wiser to begin with a realization of the emptiness of self because if we try to heal a phantom, we’ll spend our whole lives in search of an unattainable goal.

Isa: I would like to posit that a person who’s in a lot of pain, like psychological pain, who’s dealing with nightmares, who’s dealing with post-traumatic stress, feels very solid. Pain makes you feel very solid. And if you tell someone that that’s an illusion, they’re going to have a hard time. It’s not going to be healing.

Michael: Let me refine my statement. If somebody’s dealing with a severe psychological disorder…

Isa: Which we all are.

Michael: If we’re identified as an ego, we are for sure. But if we’re dealing with something that’s clinically harmful, either to themselves or others, I would say that needs to be addressed by traditional forms of healing first, before we can dive more deeply into the nature of emptiness in terms of self. And barring that, I would say it would be appropriate, if one were interested and really had an intense yearning in the heart for freedom and discovery, it would be appropriate to point directly to the truth. Now I’m not suggesting that this should be done by parroting certain non-dual platitudes, like a lot of non-dual teachers do on the scene. They sort of say the same thing mechanically over and over again, and it doesn’t have a ring of truth to it. If it’s coming from genuine insight and is tailored to the person in the moment with whom you’re engaging, that has a different energetic frequency than those sort of mechanical statements of saying, “Oh, there’s no one there, there’s nothing to be done.” That’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m really talking about a deep inner exploration that actually tries to find this thing called myself or ego. Of course, ego is a word that means “I.” That’s what the word means. There is an I. There is an I. So the question is, what is the I that I am? I’m not the I of my thoughts. I’m not the I of my emotions. I’m not the I of my bodily sensations. Who am I? And this is the work of self-inquiry. Who am I? And if we begin from the perspective that I am a self that needs to be healed, that is, again, from my perspective and experience, that is unhelpful because it substantiates the very thing that seems to be blocking one’s realization. The question is immediately, what am I? It’s what am I, not who am I. It’s what am I is a more proper question because who suggests a person. Now this is, again, the first stage. And so the question after that, the second stage, if we want to talk in terms of stages, would be after the recognition of what I am independent of thinking, sensing, and perceiving. The question is, that which I really am is the source and the substance of all of my experience. And so I am nothing and I am everything that I experience. And that floods the body and the mind with the recognition of our true nature. Our body-mind comes alive. It becomes vibrant and sensitive and exquisitely tuned in to experiencing. And the body and the mind of the world are brought into our experience again that we are intimately the source and the substance of everything that arises.

Isa: But we can’t perceive that when we have a bunch of karmic obstacles between our perception of what you’re speaking about, which we generally experience as pain. And one of the that I see again and again in spiritual communities, which is why I’m a little agitated, I’m always agitated, is that people are trying so hard not to have a problem. I can’t tell you, I have sat next to so many people in zendos and it feels like, I remember I had this one vision once when I was sitting in the zendo, you know, trying not to like, trying to make it look I wasn’t in full lotus. And I was like, the person next to me, I was so aware of them because, and it really felt like they were sitting, they had their little cushion, but then it felt like they had one donut after a sandwich, after another donut, that was all their different emotions that they were trying to sit on so that they could just be calm and look at the wall. And you know, unfortunately, you know, I’m, I’m exquisitely oversensitive and I’ve gotten really good at being less sensitive. But I mean, in terms of picking up energies and it was like, I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t focus on, I mean, I’m terrible meditator, but I was, I was so drawn into that experience of the effort to suppress that which was deemed not to be on the spiritual path or leading to the spiritual path. And I see that again and again in my clients. And I’ll be quiet now, go ahead.

David: Yeah, to some extent too, I think it’s a, it’s about balance. Because I agree that there needs to be healing, usually. But yet if you take that as a concept and make it about, you know, being a broken self in some way or an unhealed self, then that tends to create a story and be strengthened. So that’s about finding a balance in there. And but one thing I would say from what you said earlier, it’s never say never. I’ve learned a lot of musts and have to’s and stuff aren’t necessarily the case. I’ve been surprised by some of the people I’ve seen wake up that were not healed.

In one case, for example, they were deeply codependent on being in a relationship, but were unstable about, they weren’t wanting to control it in ways that weren’t working. And they ended up waking up. And then suddenly that stuff is right in their face. They can’t suppress it or hide it somewhere unconscious. It’s just right there. And it was very very difficult period for them after that, because they had to deal with it then there was no choice. And like the ripening we talked about earlier, there’s ripening that happens beforehand. So some healing, I agree, is important, not just to help with the clarity, but also to help with the smoothness and completeness of the process. But there’s still healing that takes place afterwards quite commonly.

Isa: I just want to quickly, I don’t think you meant to go, well maybe you did, but there’s no identification with a sense of brokenness when you are looking at something that is causing you pain. I’m not advocating that at all.

David: I appreciate that. I want to balance between those two.

Isa: I totally get it. You don’t want to reify the wound. Carolyn Myss talks about woundology. You definitely don’t want to reify the wound. But you definitely want to listen to the wound, because the wound always leads you back to your Buddha nature if you know how to follow it.

David: Yes. And if you want enlightenment that’s full and rich and smooth and all those fancy things they talk about, you need to do the healing. Because if that’s not there, it’s going to be the same old thing with a little more or infinity and some nice upgrade maybe, but it’s still the same old stuff if you’re still carrying that baggage along. And you can still carry some of that forward into post-shift.

Michael: I just want to say one thing really quickly. From my perspective, there’s really one wound, there’s one core wound in the human, and that is the sense of separation. All other woundings are sort of secondary core wounds as far as I’m concerned that constellate around that fundamental wound.

The reason it’s a wound is because it hurts to feel separate. Fundamentally it just hurts to feel separate. If we can address the fundamental, the core wound in the human, that will heal a tremendous amount by itself. It is tremendously healing to realize that myself is not something that is wounded.

Now the other thing is that the word healing is a little bit loaded, so I’m a little bit reluctant to use it, but I do use it sometimes, and it can be a helpful term. It just is sort of psychologically loaded and laden with association, so it’s a little tricky for me to use that. Because it implies something’s wrong, something’s broken, and that is really so deeply embedded in the human psyche; that there is something wrong with me; that I’m fundamentally incomplete; that I am not there yet; that I’m broken from my childhood. Who hasn’t had a version of that? You can have your money back. I didn’t see any hands. So anyway, it’s important. It’s important because this is just my own approach, which is to sort of bring people out of that mind state that there is something wounded about them, fundamentally. And there is room in the work that I do for a compassionate embracing of the residual traumas that are stored in the cell memory, because that would be unwise to deny that the body is on its own momentum, and the body retains memory of pain and trauma. Now the trauma is another word that’s loaded, but in the work that I do, there is a compassionate welcoming of all of those parts of ourselves that are split off, maybe that’s a better way to say it, that are repressed or suppressed, and brought into the light of awareness, into the light of one’s awakening. And, by the way, the awakening that I employ, the sudden awakening, initiates a profound cleansing process in itself that is self-perpetuating. And even if one doesn’t work at it per se, if the awakening is genuine, the insight, which is based on insight, then the body and the mind will undergo a rapid change, whether one wants it to or not. It will do that.

David: Because you are essentially meditating 24/7 then.

Michael: Yeah, at that point, one’s natural state is the awakened state. And the other thing is that in the awakened state, things are not progressing along a line of time. Now I know this is a difficult thing to hear when one is enmeshed in process, in other words, when one is enmeshed in the mind with a small ‘m’. In the awakened state, things are seen to be timelessly complete as they are. And the whole mental process comes to an end. So I sort of, in my book, I refer to it, the process of integration, as a timeless process, which is a paradox, which is to say that in every moment when one has realized oneself, in every moment, one is complete, one is whole, one is perfect, and, and, there is a relative evolutionary unfoldment in integration in the realm of the, in the conventional realm. So for me, that’s an important distinction to make so that we’re not stuck in that sense of process fundamentally. So we come from a fundamental place of completion and perfection and timeless truth, and from that perspective, we invite the body and the mind and the world back into our experience.

David: Beautifully put.

Michael: Thank you.

David: However, from my perspective, time can be experienced a number of different ways. There’s the present now, the all of time in the moment, all of time stretched out, the usual way we process it, and timelessness beyond time, and so forth. So there is, as we go through the stages, we can shift our relationship with the process of experience. To explain this briefly, consciousness has three aspects in its self-referent dynamics. There is the observer value, the observed, which is kind of the screen that’s behind the appearance of the world that our senses take in, and the process of experience, the relationship between those two. And the process of experience is what gives us our sense of time, that there’s a process taking place, and that there’s a sequence going on. And so, our relationship with the process of experience changes our experience of time, how we subjectively are experiencing it. And that space between the observer and the observed is the essence of the becoming of space, the sense of distance and openness and empty space or full space, however it’s experienced. When you refer to, you know, from my perspective, when you refer to experience as relative to time or relative to space, it’s still relative to where you are in relationship to that dynamic of consciousness. And as you go through the stages, those separate parts gradually collapse together into one whole, which is the nature of non-duality.

Rick: I want to make a couple of points that, lest we get too abstract, a couple of points that be a little simplistic, but that might help to clarify everything that’s been said. One is with regard to the point you made about the core wound, and about healing, and about whether there’s anything we want to engage in healing that, something which doesn’t exist in the first place, and so on. Simple point, you know, and how it’s often said that allopathic medicine tries to deal with symptoms, take a Tylenol, take an opioid or whatever, rather than getting down to the cause of the thing, and thereby not needing to try to palliate symptoms, because you’ve actually rooted it out at a deeper level. And you alluded to the notion that healing could just be this never-ending process that will never conclude, but I think that the key to it not being so would be to be able to access at a more causal level that core wound, or whatever, as fundamentally as one can, and then, you know, if you can get to a more causal level with very little something, a much bigger effect can take place than if you are just working on the level of effect. So there’s that. And then, with regard to whether there’s actually a self or not, I think we could say ultimately there isn’t anything, there never was anything. I mean, if we want to get down to it, we’ve all been told…

Michael: That’s a different question.

Rick: We’ve all been told by the physicists that there’s really hardly anything here, and just virtual fluctuations or something, and nothing material, and so on. So I’m sure there’s a level at which, primordially, no self or anything else has arisen, and that is perhaps ultimately more true than any level of consideration at which things have arisen, but still, we live a life, and we function with bodies and with minds, and with selves, which in terms of practical living reality, have some sort of existence and need some sort of recognition.

And, you know, you’ve probably heard the Sanskrit term mithya, which means “dependent reality”, and the example used is of pots, where you have clay pots, let’s say, and they can hold beans or water or oil, or they could be used as drums, and they serve various functions as pots, but really there are no pots, it’s only clay. You know, there’s no pots. Or sometimes the analogy of jewelry is used, that you have earrings and rings and all kinds of different things, but it’s really just gold, there are no earrings and rings. We have selves, just as we have bodies, and although you can’t find any self that’s some kind of little walnut deep inside some kind of concrete nugget, we also have subtle bodies. And I’ve actually had arguments with people like Tony Parsons about whether reincarnation exists, and he says, “No, it couldn’t, because there’s no self, and reincarnation implies the existence of something which could reincarnate.” Fine, and in the play of maya, if you want to call it that, reincarnation exists and there’s a subtle body which moves from life to life and so on. That has its own significance on that level of reality, or unreality. But still, we’re living a life, and such phenomenon do occur in the realm of phenomenon. I’m trying to wrap it together. I think I’ve wrapped together enough. Do you want to comment on that?

Michael: Well, what I’m saying is not in any way in conflict with living a normal, ordinary human life. And if I gave that impression, I gave the wrong impression. In fact, one lives a more robust, energetically vibrant, ordinary human life when the realization arises that I’m not a separate self. I’m not denying personality. You know, there’s a personality.

Rick: You’re a separate personality? Is your personality exactly the same as mine, God forbid?

Michael: When you say mine, who are you referring to?

Rick: You know, I mean, there’s a sort of a…it’s the wave in the ocean thing. Are there really waves? No…

Michael: No, no, no, there are waves.

Rick: Yeah, but no, but there aren’t. It’s all water. You know, there are no waves. And yet, there are waves. So, there are no personalities, there are no separate selves or anything else if you really boil it down, and yet there are. It’s this, first there’s a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is. God forbid.

David: That’s a song though, right.

Michael: All that’s going is a false conceptual sense of separation. That’s all that changed. Everything else stays the same. That’s all that is leaving the equation is a conceptual sense of separation that was never there to begin with, and all that’s left is peace and happiness.

Isa: But you can’t tell that to someone who feels deeply separate and have that mean anything to them.

Michael: Can’t I?

Isa: It won’t mean anything to them.

Rick: It won’t be a skill for them.

Isa: It won’t mean a thing because all they know is that there’s something wrong with them and that makes them feel separate. And I’m not saying this is true of all people, but, you know, the fundamental wound you’re saying is a sense of separateness, and I think that actually what is happening is that people are making conclusions about the nature of that separation, and that’s what’s defining their personalities in a lot of ways. And that is a function of their wounding and a function of the karmic pattern that they are operating in. And I think that, you know, it’s, you know, I totally appreciate where you’re coming from on a higher level.

Michael: And I know where you’re coming from.

Isa: I think we’re operating on different levels. You know, I’m kind of down in the gutter, you know, I’m, I’m, I always say I’m a street fighting Buddhist, you know, I’m, I’m a street fighter. I’m like, I’m at the level of where people are suffering. I am, you know, I am trying to understand how, what’s making you suffer. And I’m trying to help you understand how to resolve that by looking at your attachments, looking at your aversions, looking at your misconceptions in a very tangible way that is actually very personal. And you know, then, you know, I can, you know, you know, after I work with someone at that level for a little while, then they can begin to consider what you’re saying without getting like totally spaced out and, you know, you know, feeling, you know, stupid because they don’t get it, you know, it’s like, so I mean, I think, I think there’s different levels of practice, you know. And I think, I think it’s important to hold your perspective. Because it is ultimately the correct one. But, it’s irrelevant to people who are, who are suffering. They can’t hear it. If they try to hear it, they’re not going to hear it correctly. And they’re going to, that’s going to become part of the distortion of their, of the prism that their karmic patterns are generating in their experience.

Michael: People who come to satsang are suffering. And they want relief. In the same way that people come to you want relief from their suffering. Everyone is seeking relief from suffering. No matter what they’re doing, through drinking, through drugs, through sexing, through going to satsang, we’re all seeking to be relieved of the crippling sense of separation.

Rick: Yeah, some guy was telling me at breakfast the other day that there are people who play video games for 36 hours straight wearing a diaper so that they won’t have to interrupt themselves and there are whole rooms full of people wearing diapers, playing video games, doing this together. And I hope they have good ventilation systems, but in terms of, I don’t know what they’re trying to blot out by that activity, but um, anyway that’s a bit of it.

David: Yes. Michael.

Michael: Yes, sir.

David: I’m curious.

Rick: We’re going to take audience questions in a minute.

David: You mentioned about the core wound. Do you consider that of separation, do you consider that to be something resolved with self-realization or the initial awakening?

Michael: Yeah, the core wound of the sense that I am a separate self is dispelled when one realizes through insight. So yes, it’s not a question of um, giving people a belief. I’m not suggesting that they take on a belief and listen to me academically or intellectually. I mean, when someone comes to me they’re suffering and I work with people just, I’m in the trenches too, my dear. I mean, I’m in the trenches. I work with people who are suffering hell, and they want relief. So it’s practical. What I’m saying is super practical. I think it’s the ultimate practical advice, which is discover the sufferer. That’s the most practical thing you could do. It’s the most direct method for coming out of a state of delusion is to find out who’s deluded. Otherwise, you’re sort of working at it on the edges and at the periphery. So I am very much, I’m in there working with every fiber of my being to help point someone in the right direction. Now, I can’t bring that about. It’s up to them to look within themselves and to really inquire into who is the sufferer? What is this thing that has been running my life and that has been the source of so much pain and discontent and confusion? What is it really? And then we’re working to get at the core issue.

David: I wanted to suggest another perspective. What I’ve seen with a number of people unfolding and I’m seeing with some of their teachers talk about it. Like, Adyashanti refers to head, heart, gut as an example, is there’s like a three stage process or three, it’s almost you can see the ego having, the identification having three levels.

The first level is that concept of a me, the mind stories and all this, the identification with those mind stories and that sense of separate me that’s here, that is resolved with that first shift of self-realization and awakening, cosmic consciousness, various words for that.

However, what I’ve noticed and seen in other people is there’s also energetic or emotional drivers behind those thoughts and concepts that are still there. And some of that then gets healed after the first shift and is part of the process to awaken the heart and open up that stuff. But until those energetic and emotional drivers are resolved, it’s very difficult to end that thinking, some of the peripheral stuff. So even though the core has been popped out by self-realization, there can still be these thoughts coming up that are sort of momentum from pre-awakening.

And then there’s another layer of that down in the gut where there is this core grip that Adyashanti referred to in his talk on Friday night I think, that it’s like a core sense of separation, that core identity, Suzanne Marie referred to it as an essential identity, that still has this very unconscious, until then, sense of distinction from self and other. And until that is addressed, then there still can be a seed for some sense of identity to come back up again, which I think is part of why you sometimes see spiritual teachers for example go a little astray and things like that, because that seed can still be there even though they’re very clearly awake and so on in the process. So maybe you think I’m going abstract again here, but I think it’s valuable to recognize that, and some teachers do talk about this, that it’s not one simple thing, there’s a deeper process. And we can’t expect perfection of people who have had an awakening, nor should it be expected of ourselves who have had that shift. There’s a process, it takes time to wind down the history.

Rick: Which is in line with our direct versus progressive theme. I want to give the audience an opportunity to ask some questions, I don’t want to go two hours and do it at the end, but is there anything anyone’s bursting at the seams to add here?

Michael: I would love to hear from the audience.

Rick: Sarah,,,

Audience Member: Isa, you mentioned about when people are in like deep pain, um some healing, they’re open to perspectives of kind of non-existence of self. So what kind of healing methods are you’re using. If you could shed some light on what you have used to help people?

Isa: Okay so, actually I was saying that when people are in a lot of pain, they can’t entertain the idea that there’s no self because they feel so solid, right? Ok so the healing. Let me give you an example of a healing. I’ll give you a case study. Would that be helpful? Just to give you a little context, depth hypnosis is a combination of hypnotherapy you’re using suggestion hypnosis to alter the state of consciousness rather than meditation or a plant or a drum, or something like that. So let’s say that most people come to the hypnotherapy process because they have a habit. So this woman came in she was trying to stop smoking, we ask certain questions, the biography, the presenting problem, when did this start, how does it affect you, how does your body feel when you’re experiencing it…and in the process of asking those questions, it became clear that the reason that she was smoking is because when she’s smoking, no one bothers her. She gets to be alone. So, then the question became, what is making you want to get away from other people? Right? The need to be alone. That was all in conscious mind state, that questioning. So we go into an altered state of consciousness with the hypnosis, and we ask her when you had that desire that you really have to be alone, how does your body feel?And then we locate that feeling in the body, and then the body becomes the doorway into the originating circumstance in which she first or most significantly needed to feel alone, and what we found was that she wound up in a situation where she was being molested at age 3. And she really wanted to be alone. And she felt flooded by the other person and she felt unable to put down the boundary. So then what we would do in that case is we would adapt the shamanic method of soul retrieval by introducing a guide that she has already established relationship with. So before you do any of this work in depth hypnosis you establish a relationship with what’s called a part of the self that has only the highest good as its sole intent. Which is an adaptation of the shamanic journey, which is designed to create enough power so that the person can access previous trauma and not be re-traumatized. So in that case, we call it the vehicle of transformation it’s the guide and the adult self in the current time. You ask the guide and the adult self to go back into that situation/circumstance and interact with the child that’s caught in that place. In an altered state of hypnosis. It depends on what happened, it depends on the person, but in general you’re able to get to a place where the child is able to return to the adult to get away from the trauma, and that the child comes into the field of the guide and the adult, which is effectively a soul retrieval. Where you’re taking the part of the self that has gotten separated in trauma that’s still caught in the trauma, and you’re bringing it back into the current mind body complex of the person that went on and continued evolving while that other part was gone.

So with that, there’s some relief. Okay, first of all I have a sense of boundary away from something that is traumatizing me. I have a sense that I can trust that I have an internal support that I’m going to be able to support myself. So I’m not going to need to get away from other people when I feel flooded by their experience. Therefore, my need to smoke is going to come down dramatically. So there’s an example of a no self, not healing.

Audience Member: Firstly, thank you so much to all of you. That was incredibly impactful for me and I could relate to every nuance and I think you guys were all using different language to share and point out some really critical and beautiful nuances of this unfolding. As somebody who i guess you could say slipped into a more direct path, via a plant, and I worry a little bit that I’m spending too much time playing peek-a-boo with god, I love that terminology. And I don’t know how to, I could use a guide, some help, I honestly don’t know, really where to turn, but I mean all you guys had some incredible perspective to already aid me in that. But I’m wondering if you could shine some light on this idea of peek-a-boo, and to what extent should I be trying to stabilize in a sense, that insight that maybe I wasn’t ready for.

Isa: So, I’ll take that just because, y’know, me and the plants are buddies. Actually, I’ve actually started a training program to help people develop the skills to be able to help people integrate the insights that the plants are giving them, which is exactly what you need, and so the first step that I would recommend doing which is something that should have been done before you even took the plant, which nobody does, because everybody’s in a consumer oriented place, and not necessarily you, but a lot of people that are running the circles, right. But in any case, you need to establish relationship with the spirit of the plant. That’s what needs to happen. And the way that you can do that is through there’s something that’s called the shamanic journey. Which is, um, do you know about the shamanic journey?

The shamanic journey is a method for altering the state of consciousness that shamans have used for millennia. It’s generally done with a repetitive sound, a drum. And then you journey within the inner cosmography of the shaman’s world, which is described almost identically between all different shamanic traditions. And that cosmography is the upper world, the middle world, and the lower world. And so you would generally go beginning with the lower world to establish a relationship with the teacher in the form of nature, with your state of consciousness altered by the sound of the drum. And in this case, you would be asking to connect with the spirit of the marijuana plant. So you do that first. And then you can take your questions, like how do I integrate this XYZ part of the experience into my everyday life? And then you let the plant speak to you generally in images. And that’s a big part of what I do is I help people learn the language of image that exists not only with dream interpretation, but also journey interpretation. It’s the same process as interpreting a dream. And then you develop another question and you keep asking questions. So basically you’re doing Vipassana meditation with the plant spirit. Because you’re looking at an issue, you’re asking a question, there’s an answer that emerges, you ask another question based on that, but you’re working in a more contained space and you’re working. I don’t know, I love working with the shamanic journey because you have this inner sense of being held. Which I know in Vipassana sometimes I feel I’m just like, I’m going to crash and cruise. I’m going to crash into that wall of being and I don’t know what’s going to happen. But if I had my guide right there, I could go in with my guide. Right? You know, and I can go a lot. I can actually go a lot further. So there you go. Is that helpful?

Audience Member: Mind blown. And yes, thank you. Appreciate it.

Rick: I also just suggest that there may be a number of things you could do depending on what you want to do and what you’re inclined to do. I mean, I had a relationship with that plant myself about 50 years ago and then I went on to learn to meditate and so on and kept that up. And in a very short amount of time, I felt like the way I felt all the time was way better than any plant could make me feel temporarily or any alcohol or anything else. So I just kind of like, the desire for doing those dropped away. Now, on the other hand, I know people who’ve been meditating and doing spiritual practice for many years who still occasionally use psychedelics. I mean, Maurizio admitted this morning he’s doing some micro dosing and I have a friend who takes acid about four times a year in a very controlled way. Who’s to say what’s… I don’t know about any universal prescriptions, but you know, you have options. Yeah.

David: If I can add something to that too, it’s from a Vedic perspective, the key for unfolding refined perception and the awakening heart and that value of being able to actually have a relationship with the divine comes from sattva, purity or clarity. And the trick with things like drugs, marijuana, for example, tends to create fog in that area. So it actually reduces clarity. Now, I don’t have any experience with what Isa describing in terms of creating that relationship and journeying in a way that’s… It sounds it would be a bit healthier than so the consumer. You also have to be very careful about chasing experiences because experiences are not it. And they can be very enticing and so on. But when you chase experiences, you can get led astray quite easily. So you have to be very careful of it. Some of the stronger drugs too have a tendency, can create quite traumatic experiences. Even if they’re positive, they’re very, very strong experience, which can cause system issues again around the energetic levels or physiology, which then have to be healed afterwards. So from my perspective, the safer way is through practices of meditation and various forms of healing like Isa describes.

Rick: On the other hand, Patanjali says mantras, herbs and gems can all be conducive to samadhi. So…

David: But.

Rick: But? But what?

David: He says they can be, but…

Rick: Oh, he puts a but in there?

David: Yeah.

Rick: Oh, what’s his but?

David: Well, samadhi is the best way.

Rick: Samadhi. Well, I think, doesn’t he say that… Or is it siddhis that result from mantras, herbs and gems?

David: Yeah, that’s where the part is, yeah, it’s book three where he talks about that.

Rick: Yeah, okay. Anyway, Scott, did you have a question?

Audience Member: I do, yeah. Thank you for the moment. I really appreciated what you said, sir, about, well the difference between the personality and the ego. These are different things in my experience. And that when the ego falls away, the personality actually has more space because the ego forms sort of a limiting shell around what the personality wants to express. That’s what I heard in something you said. So my question is really, and that’s been my experience, that as I am more able to clear my own thought processes, my actual urges of personality become more full and more myself. So there’s more of me rather than less of me, in a sense.

David: Yes, the only variation I would make on that is my impression initially, when I had my first shift, was of an ego death. I did have that experience that the ego disappeared. But what I found over time was that actually what had ended was the identification with the ego, not the ego itself. But here I’m using the ego in terms of what the Sanskrit word ahamkara, the individuating principle. Identification itself isn’t an issue, it’s when we identify with it, when we identify with concepts of how it’s supposed to be and so on. It’s that identification with the limitations that’s the issue. And so when you lose those identifications, then the limitations fall away and you get that expanded personality. But it depends on how you define the word ego in there as .

Audience Member: The second part of that, I guess, is that is there, I don’t know if it’s many people’s experience, but that the social structure that we create that sort of our ego fits into or that our ego is adapting to, that being able to break out of that social structure and find our own genuine, authentic expression.

David: Yeah, and it’s actually quite an interesting thing too, because there’s certain… We develop these habits of thinking about who we are and what we’re about. But after I woke up, I started writing pretty quickly afterwards and then blogging and so on like that. And that was not anything I would have anticipated being a natural expression for myself. And there’s other that fell away that I’d never expected would fall away. And there’s things that have stuck around, which I never thought would stick around.

And gradually I’ve learned that essentially that each of us, it’s kind of like our DNA, we’re 99 point whatever percent the same. It’s just these small percent of our DNA has little variations that cause all these different forms and appearances. Whereas with the laws of nature, we’re also all structured with these laws of nature and each of us have slight variations in their emphasis and even presence to some degree. And that creates very different forms of life. But because of the way we’re cultured in our society, we’re often not aware of our natural, the laws that are functioning through us. We learn as children to suppress certain things that our parents may not like, or to overemphasize something that’s really not natural for us, which we’re trying to be something different than we are. So it’s an interesting process to, even prior to awakening, to rediscovering who we, what’s really here that’s wanting to express itself.

Audience Member: Thank you.

Rick: Sarah?

Sarah: Hi, thank you for this panel. Really appreciate it. I was all fired up when you guys were talking about this in the beginning, and then the fire seemed to have dissipated, such is the experience of being a human. It’s fleeting, but I’m still a little fired up. So, I’m wondering if you can speak to the fluidity of the path and seeing that maybe not just one teacher or one path is the way. For me, first few years on the Buddhist path, pop, had a realization, and saw through the nature of the self, completely saw, “Oh my God, I am a concoction. Holy shit, I’ve been living from this.” And my Buddhist teacher, who is also my therapist, then was surprised when all my trauma from my childhood came forward. All of it came forward. He actually was like, he was wonderful, trying to help me. But what I ended up doing was moving away from the Buddhist practice and getting into deep therapy for five years. And even Adyashanti, who later became my teacher, has said that sometimes when you have a lot of trauma, that the spiritual path is of no use to a certain extent. So five years of deep therapy, decided to go back to a retreat, and pop, another realization, and another one. So what I’m finding now is that I needed those five years to heal, even though I deeply realized that my suffering was empty, inherently empty. So I’m wondering if you can speak to the fluidity, because I’m listening to all of you and I’m like, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and.” if you can speak maybe to the importance of listening to the inner authority or whatever that, you know, the inner intelligence that guides you to what is the next step on the path, because I think that’s so important.

Michael: I’d to say something about that, because for me, no one teacher did it. You know, and I had a number of teachers who on the surface were mutually contradictory, you know, that they did not mesh at all. And I took from each teacher what I needed and left the rest. And I think that’s wise. Thank you. It’s wise to follow our intuition about these things and not to, you know, not to discount or disregard our internal GPS when it comes to what’s true for me, you know. At the end of the day, I think we’re all right, all three of us.

Sarah: Yes. You’re all saying the same thing. Not you. Not Rick, though. Not Rick.

Michael: Rick doesn’t count. Everyone else, you’re chopped liver. Because you know, I was talking, John was here, John Prendergast. I was having a beautiful, lengthy discussion with him outside before this, and I wish he were here to hear this, because he left a little bit ago. I was telling him how important it was when I’m working with someone to be fluid enough to suggest that they see someone else if there’s something that they’re struggling with that I’m not right to help them with, in which case I might send them to Isa. I mean, I might very well recommend people to you, because what you’re doing is beautiful and true. I wasn’t, and this is, I’m glad this came out, because I don’t want it to sound like I’m and you’re wrong. I think it depends on what it is we want. What is it I’m after, and who’s the right teacher who’s going to unlock the combination of my heart? And that’s different for all of us. And I think these things are interdependent than mutually exclusive, so that what I address, I’m like a specialist, you know? And if you need a brain surgeon, you don’t go to a heart surgeon. And if you need a heart surgeon, you don’t go to a generalist. So what is it that I need, you know, and who is it who can best address that particular issue? If somebody feels so psychically split off in themselves, and at war in terms of these psychic splits, it might be very very wise for them to go to you and to bring those split parts of the personality back into a coherence. If somebody really just wants to wake up from the nightmare of being a separate self, they might come to me. You know, if somebody wants to understand how all experience is made out of consciousness, they might come to me. If they wanted to know about all of the various level and strata of consciousness, from the gross to the subtle and to the divine, I’d send them to David, you know, because he’s an expert in that. That’s not my thing. If somebody wanted to know about how to use sacred plants, I’d send them there because that’s not my thing. But there are some that are my thing. And I so think it’s important for us as teachers to have the integrity to say, “You know what? I’m not the right person for you on this issue. You need to see and so and so.” Or you need to see whoever it is in your heart, you know, you resonate with. Resonance is the key, you know? I’ve done. I’ve done so much. I’ve done so many things in my life, you know, therapies and workshops and, you know, I’ve really… I’ve been down the path for 24 years or so and I’ve benefited from all of it. Not one thing didn’t contribute to, you know, the unfoldment. That was a negative way to put it, but it all contributes in one way or another. So anyway, I wanted to say that in the service of unifying our perspectives and harmonizing what we do. Because I really… When I saw your plant, I was … My heart was just so touched and I thought, man, I wish this were happening on mass scales, what you’re doing, you know?

Isa: Me too. Hahaha. Let’s do it.

Michael: And I wish that what I was doing was happening on mass scales too because I think it’s really valuable.

David: You wouldn’t have all this acting out happening on the world stage.

Michael: Yeah. Yeah.

Rick: And I’m doing my best to make it happen.

Isa: Thank you. Thank you Rick.

Michael: You are. Thank you Rick.

Isa: I just want to say one more thing. You were asking how do I trust my intuition, you know? How do I more or less, you know, how do I listen to… What is the inner authority and how do I access it and act from it, right? Did I understand that as part of the question?

Audience Member: Well, I was just basically wondering your thoughts about, you know… Now my inner authority, I’m like, “What? We’re going over here? Alright. Up, I’m going to go over here. Okay. And he spoke to it very beautifully that this fluidity of that it’s not either or one way or another. I guess I was just wondering if you guys could speak a little bit more to that, the fluidity of the path.

Michael: Are you fired up again?

Audience Member: I can get fired up quite easily. There’s lots of Shakti going on.

Rick: I think Scott right in front of you had a question.

Audience Member Scott: Thank you, guys. This is really interesting discussion. But we started this about the progressive versus direct path. And it’s my perception that we kind of wandered off into lots of other lovely, juicy topics. And maybe I missed something, but I don’t think we kind of resolved that issue. And maybe you guys can help me if I missed something on that. What I’m looking for really is do you guys think there is a distinction? And from my experience and from looking at Buddha at the gas pump, it seems like they’re real, that there is a progressive path and there is a direct path. Some people just seem to pop and others seem to float. And I’m wondering if you guys could kind of sum up what’s sort of the unified field of those two? What is the piece that would connect those two ways of attaining enlightenment?

Rick: I think part of the answer I would give is that there is a sort of a dark side to both those paths, which isn’t really representative of what the path is supposed to be. The direct path would be people who get into some kind of non-duality forum or something that, and liberation unleashed, that kind of thing, and rather quickly come to the assumption that the intellectual understanding they gain is the actual realization that it’s supposed to be. And it’s not. There’s that old saying you’ve heard me say, this guy has a distinction of he and his wife listening to all of my interviews, that Tibetan saying, “Don’t mistake understanding for realization, don’t mistake realization for liberation.” there’s a lot of people you hear on the internet talking about, “Oh, you’re already enlightened and you don’t need to do any practices,” and that kind of thing, just realize that that’s what you are, and yada yada. So that’s the dark side of what I have the direct path. The dark side of the progressive path, I think, is that people feel like they’re never going to arrive. And who was it? Peter Russell was talking today in the main hall about plumbing into what’s happening now as opposed to, he didn’t use this metaphor, but forever chasing the dangling carrot. So I think realistically there’s a balanced view in which, yeah, that which you’re experiencing now does contain that which you hope to achieve. It’s here now. But that is not to say that progressively it won’t become more clear. And so that kind of there in a sentence marries direct and progressive. Anyway, that’s my contribution.

Michael: I would also just say they’re both conceptual. They’re both conceptual. They’re ways of thinking about life. They don’t limit what this is. So really we’re having a conceptual conversation about an inexplicable we don’t know what. And it’s important to say that because we tend to reify these categories that we come up with. And we get stuck in the terminology and confused about whether it’s gradual or sudden. But really life can’t be fit into gradual or sudden or any other category for that matter. I would say to hold them both lightly and not to get locked into an either or mindset because at the end of the day they’re just ways of describing an inexplicable reality.

Rick: And is there anybody either on the stage or in the audience who feels like they’re finished? That’s it? You’re done? Oh, yeah, Sean, you’re finished, but not in a good sense.

Michael: That’s a little misleading. That’s a little misleading because…

Rick: What I mean by finished is, do you feel like there’s any possibility for further growth or unfoldment or development or deepening or clarification or so on and so forth? And if the direct path is really direct, why couldn’t it just sort of bring us to the ultimate realization beyond which nothing more is worth or possible realizing?

Michael: It can.

Rick: It can?

Michael: Yes. There is a presence here that’s not coming or going. That’s one side of the coin.

David: But is that also?

Michael: I don’t know that you fully appreciated that side.

Rick: Maybe not. No, of course not.

Michael: Because I know you.

Rick: Because I’m progressing.

Michael: Because I know you well. And you tend to come down on the progressive side hard. To respect the beauty of the possibility of a realization of that which does not progress because that is the source of everything that arises. And we also can hold at the same time this other conceptual way of describing this whole thing, which is this more progressive sense. And which, of course, there’s no end to the refinement of the body and the mind and learning. I mean, there’s no such thing as the end of learning at that level. So.

Rick: That which doesn’t progress and which doesn’t change and on is very clear. It’s a continuum. It’s an abiding presence. But so what? I mean, I take that for granted. And the real  juice is that which does progress. Because this thing isn’t going to progress any further. But how about the vast range of potential development in that which develops? Sean.

Audience Member Sean Webb: So my perspective on this, I think, comes a little from Michael’s perspective, but intermixes all of your other perspectives as well. In that, you know, I’ve done a little bit of research on awakening since I had one and wanted to figure out the biology, the physiology, the psychology. And even went and had multiple beers with the guy who proved quantum entanglement for the world. So I delved into the stuff that we’re talking about upstairs. And you know, all awakenings, I think, come from a physiological experience that we have from within us, right? Our body brings it forth, which is why we always focus on the body first as our focus of meditation, our focus of breath. It’s always going into the body, into the mind, which is a function of the brain, mostly. And so whatever we get from that is a physiological response from the body telling us something or giving us information. I think all of those comes in shades of gray, right? Sometimes they’re little and sometimes they’re boom. You know, Satori is a good word for it. In Zen, in comparison to Kensho, they have two different words. One is a lighter awakening of smaller significance. And one is the immediate understanding of everything in the universe. And I mean, speaking from first person, that is not an exaggeration. You don’t retain it, but you’re in a space where you understand absolutely everything in the universe, how all the dimensions work, how all space time, the illusion works, how, you know, every bit of consciousness permeates through everything in all of existence, backwards and forwards of time, et cetera. But then there are, it’s all shades of gray. You either get that and possibly even more. I just, I can only speak to my high watermark. I don’t know. There might be higher watermarks than what I experienced, or you get something less. And then over time you can add that up and it becomes, you know, I know people who’ve gone the average, the slower path who understand things as, you know, as similar to what I do. I don’t, and there is a question. Yeah. So, I think in general, my, my thought is that you can only understand up to your high watermark.

I have a question for David. What was your original catalyst and what was it like? And I think what I would to ask all of you to comment on, even if you get that big one, I think there’s a, there’s a, an additional process of integration over a number of at least my personal experiences is integration over a number of years to figure it out. And then also regardless of whether you get the big one or not, you can’t really come back with it. So you all, you know, you lose some of it. There’s always this development back up into that space. So maybe you guys can comment on that.

David: Yeah actually, it’s kind of an interesting question, the original catalyst, because it’s kind of like, well there was this happened, but that was caused by that thing. And it kind of goes back into prior lifetimes and blah, blah, blah. But for me, the primary thing was the discovery of meditation. And I really was kind of blown away by the, my first meditation. And it’s like, this is something different than I was aware of. And so I got into it and very quickly went on a long retreat to learn to teach meditation, but more of the motivation was even more to go deeper into the understanding behind it and so on like that. And after about three months of extra meditations and asana and so on like that, there was an opening and I started what’s known as witnessing full time. I shifted into the observer mode.

Rick: Including during sleep?

David: Yes. At first it kind of came and went a little bit and then there was a, what’s known as makara or in the kundalini tradition, where the kundalini reaches this point just above the third eye and basiccally, the kundalini becomes stable, it doesn’t go up and down anymore. And it kind of opens up a bunch of things, refined perception and witnessing. And it can be stable at that point. And so the witnessing became continuous. And the teaching I was in at that point, witnessing full time meant you’d hit the first stage of cosmic consciousness. But what I soon became apparent was that there was still an unidentified ego and there was the self. So the self was awake, but it wasn’t awake to itself through this body-mind, whatever you want to call it, through this expression. And so there was kind of this duality there. So I had some of the benefits of being awake, but not the whole meal yet. Some partial liberation, but not the whole thing. And so that went on for a while and it comes back to previous questions about that. And so essentially what I realized later on from some of the old texts was that sometimes this happens and it pauses there, even though it’s only a short distance to go to the crown and awakening. It pauses there in order to clean out physiology a little more so that the process is smoother. And so that went on for about 30 years, I was witnessing. And then the time came and the proper shift happened and it continued from there. And the advantage in that case was that because I had been doing that process for such a long time, the shift itself was clear and the progression continued quite quickly for a while after that.

Isa: I would say the catalyst for me in terms of, I mean, I’m nowhere near realized, I don’t really get it. But I would say the catalyst for me in trying to understand how to bring peace and happiness was the experience of nature as a young child. Being around people was jarring because everyone was so unhappy and being in nature was restful because there was order, there was organization, there was… I felt very supported. I grew up in Hawaii, so I was really lucky to have nature in my face. And I think for me, the catalyst is definitely nature. And my whole life has been trying to understand the processes of nature and trying to understand how to bring them into the disorganization that people feel to help order them.

Audience Member: I picked up early in the discussion, I think the fundamental distinction between Vedic thought and Buddhist thought is in Buddhism there’s no self and in Vedic thought there is. Can those two be reconciled? And whether it’s gradual or sudden, does it matter which of those perspectives you have in awakening? I guess I’d be interested in that question.

Michael: My sense is that’s a doctrinal difference, not an experiential one between self and no self. It’s doctrinal.

David: It’s how you actually experience the process is how you experience the process. It may match the tradition, it may not in the slightest.

Michael: Well, you know, the Buddha’s term for it is Anathema. He was responding in the day. At the time, his feeling was that the Vedic… Please this is sort of your area, I mean, correct me if I’m wrong.

David: It’s what you got caught in the concepts.

Michael: The Buddha noticed that the Vedic Brahmins were reifying the Self, capital S, as something to be worshipped, something separate, something other. And that sense of reification was what the Buddha was really after in terms of deconstructing. His notion of Anathman is completely in sync with the notion of the self experientially. It’s just if we reify the sense of self that it becomes something different. But the Buddhist notion of emptiness is the same thing as what the Hindus call self experientially. It’s just they’re using two different ways to describe the experience. The Buddha was after the concept of the reification of self, not the reality.

David: So that dynamic I was talking about earlier of observer and observed and the dynamics of self, space, subtle space, you describe that as empty or full?

Michael: Yeah.

David: It’s just a subjective variation.

Rick: I honor the male voices and I want to welcome the female voices if there’s any other women that want to speak up.

Audience Member: I’ll speak high if that helps. You’re drinking a lot of water up there and I was wondering, is that holy water? Would that be helpful for us?

Rick: It’s so close to us, it’s got to be by now.

Audience Member: My question is a follow up about nature. I’ve noticed that when I’m around trees, particularly big old gnarly trees that I seem to be brought to the present. I’m present with the tree. And I was outside at lunch yesterday and I was looking up at a palm tree and it was waving in the breeze and it seemed like it was waving to me and I was present with it and then it occurred to me from some of the I’ve learned this week, perhaps it’s not the tree is waving to me but consciousness is recognizing itself or calling to itself. Is that something along those lines?

Isa: Calling to you? Yes.

Audience Member: I respond.

David: Trees like to be acknowledged. Most of the time they’re ignored.

Isa: If you want to find trees, the palm trees here are amazing. They’re over 150 years old. But in the park of the, you know this was a mansion and they had a park where they planted trees. And if you go on the parking lot that’s in front of the building and if you keep going into the park that’s there, that was the original, must be the original mansion park, there are some black oaks there that are massive in terms of what you might be able to understand about consciousness. They can offer you a massive amount of information. You don’t see black oaks that size anywhere in California. I’ve never seen black oaks that size anywhere. And I think that, you know, that, that, you know, from a shamanic perspective, the natural world that we see, the physical world is a portal into this deeper place that you were tuning into that you, that you, where you felt the consciousness was, was communicating with you. And I think that it’s, it’s a wonderful practice and it definitely takes you into that place of oneness that everyone’s talking about where you, where nature becomes the doorway into that oneness. And of course, trees are massive consciousnesses. I really recommend everybody go over there and say hello to the black oaks.

David: And they have that quality of stillness that we often seek.

Michael: And I think I resonate with all of that. And nature has been, being in nature has been important for me. And I think what’s happening when the body, the body of course is nature. It’s sort of interesting to me that we say I’m going for a walk in nature as though I’m one thing and nature is another thing. The body mind is nature. Nature is going for a walk in nature in reality.

And when the body is in nature, what’s happening really is that, that, that dense egoic structure that it feels a structure. It’s more of an energetic congealing momentarily. It’s not solid. It just, it’s softened because we feel, we don’t feel unless there’s a saber-toothed tiger or something, we don’t feel threatened. There’s a sense of safety, a wellbeing in, in our natural state. And that density softens, my word for it is softening, it melts away. And there is a deeper intuitive recognition of our kinship with the totality of nature. And that’s really all I’m pointing to. When it’s the sense, you, you, you had a sort of a little satori there where your sense of separation really was softened and there was this beautiful, delicate recognition that you, you know, consciousness was alive as in, in, and as that experience. And I would just say that, you know, it’s a sacred, it was a sacred sighting, it’s Darshan. Definitely.

Audience Member: I was thinking about what you said, Isa, about the case study about someone who didn’t want to be around people. And I had a similar kind of experience, but in the last couple of years I’ve kind of bumped into the spiritual aspect of life. And I realized I used to be with a large group of people, or a lot of friends all the time, but I somehow I didn’t want to be, it was more kind of, I wanted to, I thought that was a good thing to have a lot of friends then. But then I suddenly stopped interacting at all. I was just alone. I was home. And it was more I was following what feels without any sense of conflict at all. What I’m doing is basically just whatever shows up, I’m just following that. So I didn’t talk to anyone for a couple of months, just isolated. And just there was no, nothing, there was no bad feeling in it. I wasn’t depressed. I was just, I was feeling good. And now I feel like maybe I naturally want to talk to people, but there’s very kind of genuinely from an inner core I want. There was also a period of time where I said, suddenly I was like, I didn’t want to be here. I want to just go away from everything. And I told my manager I’m going to resign. But the next day I didn’t have a feeling to resign. So I don’t know what kind of path it is, gradual or sudden, but I feel like where I am, it is gradual without a doership. I don’t, I don’t feel I want to do anything about it, whatever is happening in my life. And there’s kind of a relaxation. To me, experientially, I feel it’s a, it’s sudden and sudden all the time, but it’s also gradual because they’re kind of shifts happening. I’m curious from, from all of you, any of you, any, any perspective on that?

Isa: One thing that I would always say, which you’re going to love to hear is that you should always move toward that which brings you into connection with the deepest parts of yourself and with nature and with reality. And if you’re finding that being alone does that great. But if you’re finding that being with people does that, that’s great. I always say when people are asking me, should I do this or should I do that? I always say, whatever brings you closer to your deepest self is the thing to do.

David: Just be a little careful. There isn’t a tendency to try to avoid or escape. You’re not using a spiritual practice or spiritual concepts to, to avoid dealing with what’s going on in your life or, or the stuff that’s coming up.

Audience Member: How do I unpack that?

David: Basically, if you notice there’s kind of avoidance or aversion going on, it’s kind of a flag that you’re trying to avoid something.

Audience Member: So what I’m doing, I think a lot of this is kind of inspired by Krishnamurti and some of that is that if there’s aversion, I’m kind of following that as well. There’s not, there’s not aversion to the aversion itself. And so I’m just waiting to see if it falls, it falls. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

David: Yeah, it’s like yoga talks about, about attachment and aversion as basically being the two troublemakers. If we’re, if we’re just noticing when we’re trying to grasp at things, I want, I want kind of a thing, or we’re trying to avoid things. Those are the two that take us away from being here, present with what’s coming up in ourselves. You know, and emotions come up, watch what happens. Do we react by trying to pull away? Did you want to create a new drama? And so on.

Isa: One thing that I would say is, you know, I got really, no offense. I got really frustrated with Zen because every time I asked a question, they would say, be with what is, I was like, please, I’m going to like, I’m going to like, I’m going to, yes, I, yeah. You know but I, you know, if you are having a lot of aversion, you need to understand it’s, it’s fine to notice it and it’s a really important thing to notice it. And that’s the first step. You need to understand what the roots of the aversion are and you need to, you need to look and see what is causing you to move away. It’s not just enough to notice it.

David: Good point.

Rick: Sam, did you have something?

Audience Member: Yeah, it just occurred to me like I was asking to all these concepts this afternoon, this conference, and just a general question for everyone is how do you maintain the lightness of realization with all these concepts?

Michael: How do you maintain the lightness?

Audience Member: The lightness of realization with all these concepts.

Rick: How do you avoid getting in your head and too over intellectualized perhaps and not sort of being in the visceral grounding of the experience?

Michael: I think to hold the concepts lightly.

David: But if they become held more lightly when, when there’s something that’s more a truth, your own truth is just there. Once the shift has been integrated, there’s no, there’s no effort required to, I mean it could be, you know, dramas that come up or sometimes.

Michael: I mean I don’t walk around thinking about these things in this way, you know. I mean it’s, life is just normal and natural. And then when we’re in a, I’m in a situation where I’m being asked questions about these kinds of I can respond, but really it’s, it’s not about going through life with really sublime concepts, you know, and it’s about living free of concepts and mental structures that create constriction and suffering. You know, we didn’t have any of these concepts when we were kids, you know. All of this is made up. You realize that. It’s all made up. It’s all, it’s all conceptual. So that’s not to dismiss it altogether, but it’s to say that our natural state is empty of concepts, you know, and we’re, we’re meant to use them as a skillful means to undo our, our, our grasping onto our attachment to these concepts, you know. We’re not meant to live with non-dual concepts. That’s just more, that’s more delusion.

David: More baggage.

Michael: So, the truth, the truth is beyond, you know, everything we’re talking about here. We’re just pointing sort of in a certain direction, hopefully, so that your mind can relax and soften and live in a natural state of ease and joy and wellbeing.

Rick: I think there’s a value to having a balance between knowledge and experience. I’ve seen people kind of imbalanced in one or the other. People who, you know, maybe have deep experience but don’t really, they’re confused about what it means or they haven’t gotten the knowledge thing together. There’s a saying in India, babbling saints. There have been people who have been sort of woken up, had some realization, but had no intellectual grounding or ability to explain what they were experiencing. So they kind of babble incoherently about their experience.

And then on the other hand, there are people who are over intellectualized and they don’t, you know, do much or any practice and they kind of get so caught up in. I mean, I interviewed a guy one time who had read all of Wei Wu Wei’s books like 30 times or something. And he was intoxicated with the intellectual understanding. I suppose for rare jnana yogis, just a path of intellectual understanding can actually result in realization. But in general, overindulgence in intellectualizing without some kind of practice, which really grounds you in the experience, can cause another kind of imbalance. So it’s nice to, you know, when you walk, we use two legs and each one has its purpose. And if we’re missing one, we end up hopping. Now the woman in the shawl has a question.

Michael: I want to say, jnana yoga is not an intellectual understanding. It’s wisdom. It’s the path of wisdom.

Rick: It’s fine discrimination and pondering of, you know, fine points of knowledge, subtle discrimination between various.

Michael: It just means discrimination between the true and the false, but it’s not an intellectual endeavor. It’s an endeavor of insight. It’s a big difference because it’s just a mischaracterization of what jnana yoga was. That’s just all I wanted to say. The way you said it.

David: If I can add one little thing, just to finish this up. It’s also, you can reach a place in a path where you’re growing quite rapidly. And the key with some of these stages is each stage brings with it a distinct sense of self and the world. It’s not just one shift. There’s a series of those. And so it can come to a place where you’re essentially, what’s real today. So when you have that kind of experience where your reality shifts on an ongoing basis and little things are always adjusting, you don’t take concepts about what’s real and that so seriously.

Audience Member: Okay, this is my first time to the science and non-duality conference. I’ve listened online and such. From my perspective, I’m starting to wonder a little bit about where…It was talked about at the beginning, but sometimes I feel it’s lacking in these conversations. So I’d love for you guys to comment on Bhakti Yoga and love and devotion. And like where is this in all of it? Because I feel it relates to what he’s talking about or asking about.

Rick: This is a intellectual conference. I mean, they have experiential tracks and there be some of that in those tracks. And Maurizio is a big ball of love up on stage. But there are other conferences Bhakti Fest, where that’s the whole focus. But it’s a good question and Bhakti is an extremely important path. And interestingly, most of the well known Advaita and non-dual sages were also great Bhaktas.

Audience Member: Yes exactly.

Rick: Shankara was, and all his devotional poetry and that he wrote. And Nisargadatta was. After everybody left the room, he’d break out the cymbals and they’d start singing bhajans. And Papaji was, and Ramana was. So it’s not an either/or. And the Bhakti tends to get lost a little bit, I think, in intellectual discussions like this. But we have intellects, we have hearts. And I think full realization includes the full blossoming of both.

Audience Member: Me too.

David: And we can also fall into a Bhakta stage with the heart opening. Even if someone is a real intellectual orientation, they can go through a great profound Bhakti phase.

Moderator: I would like to say that this is why, as a moderator, I’m looking for more feminine voices. Because this is the feminine part that you’re bringing in. Of, okay so now we’re awakened. So what do we do? How do we embody that?

Rick: With Batgap, my wife spends a lot of time trying to find as many women as we have men in the queue to interview. And for some reason, the men are more like, I don’t know, blabbermouths or something.

Moderator: We have a lot to say.

Rick: So we try…I mean, it didn’t used to be. If you do the sum total of 420 interviews, there are more men than women. But for the last year or two, we’ve tried to keep it 50/50.

Michael: For me, it is all about love. And that’s what this is all about. The realization releases our natural, innate capacity to love unconditionally, actually. When the separate self is intact, true love will always elude you. When that sense of separation falls away, the heart is free to love, really for the first time since childhood, but consciously so at this point. I speak a lot about love in my work, and the phrase I use ad nauseum is loving awareness. I rarely speak of consciousness or awareness as some cold, abstract concept or something. It is, for me, awareness is synonymous with love. There are two levels to the awakening. The first is the level of wisdom, where I see that I am nothing. The second level is where I see that I am everything, and that is love.

Rick: Between these two, my life flows, right?

Michael: Between these two, my life flows, yeah. That was… I was borrowing from Nisargadatta there, who is a radical, non-dual sage, who had a tremendous amount of love in his teaching that many people overlook. But if we… The felt experience of the body, I think because many men, particularly in our culture, are terrified to feel. It’s true of some women, of course, but to feel, to feel anything, but to feel emotion.

David: Emotional expression, yes.


Michael: Emotional expression is stifled. Men are conditioned to feel that they’re, you know, sissies if they go into their emotions, or they’re conditioned to feel unmanly. We have this image of John Wayne or something, where we think we have to, like really, you know, be sort of hardened.

Rick: Thinking of that scene from The Birdcage, where Robin Williams is trying to teach Nathan Lane how to act like a man, and he’s trying to mimic John Wayne. If anybody hasn’t seen that movie, you’ve got to watch it.

Michael: It’s particularly true of men because we have been conditioned that way, and so a lot of my work in general, but especially with men, is getting them to feel their experience of body. But it’s true for women, too. I mean, it’s a little bit of a cliche to say it’s just a man thing, because a lot of women are very divorced from their bodies for one reason or another, often because our culture is demeaning towards female bodies that they dissociate from it in one way or another because they feel they can’t live up to some idealized image. So a lot of people who come to male and female can’t feel their bodies, which is, you know, it’s always surprising to me because I’m so in touch with the feeling of being that it’s always a surprise that someone feels totally cut off from the experience of bodily presence. So a lot of what I do is about awakening the energy body, which I would call the feminine principle.

Awareness is both spacious and empty and panoramic and unattached. I didn’t say detached, it’s unattached. And it floods the totality of experience in this sensing, perceiving, breathing, living, vibrantly alive being, you know. So it’s both nothing and everything that it experiences. And the sort of the spacious panoramic perspective is the masculine aspect. But without the feminine, that realization is cold and lifeless and brutal and really quite inhumane. And it results in subtle to gross forms of cruelty often, you know, emotional violence, especially towards the feminine. And I think actually that’s what’s going on in the world today is we’re so divorced from the divine feminine. So it’s important that I’m so glad you asked that question because it’s breathing, you know, some life into the conversation and bringing us back to what it’s all about, which is the opening of the heart. Without that, this is all pointless.

Rick: Scott, did you want to say something?

Scott: No, but we are out of time. And I’m really glad we can end on that note of inclusiveness.

Rick: Yes, I was just going to wrap it up. Thank you all for coming. And obviously, we could probably sit here another hour or two and carry on and talk about things. But, you know, another time..

Scott: I’d to invite us to think about how we can take that last statement into action in the rest of our weekend and the week beyond.

Rick: Yeah, and the life beyond. So thank you all, panelists. It’s really been a joy. Thank you, David. Thank you, Michael.