317. Richard Moss Transcript

Richard Moss – BATGAP Interview

December 7, 2015

{BATGAP theme music plays}

Rick:      Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer and Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews with spiritually awakening people. There have about 315 of them recorded so far and if you’re new to this, you might want to go to www.batgap.com and check out the archives, under the ‘Past Interviews’ menu.

This whole thing is made possible by the support of generous listeners and viewers, so I would like to express my appreciation to the supporters and encourage those who feel inclined to support it to do so. There is a donate button on the site.

My guest today is Dr. Richard Moss. Richard is an internationally respected leader in the field of inner transformation, subtle body-mind dynamics, and a living path of conscious relationships. In 199 Richard was a practicing medical doctor when he experienced a spontaneous spiritual illumination that awakened him to the multi-dimensional nature of human consciousness – we’re going to be talking about that.

This realization profoundly transformed his understanding of the roots of emotional suffering and inspired him to explore the almost limitless human potential for growth and healing. Impelled by this opening, he released the practice of medicine – in other words he retired from it – to devote his life to mentoring individuals and couples whose lives have brought them to the point where they hunger to explore the mystery of their being. Whether called to his work by their soul’s yearning to awaken and grow, or impelled by a health, career, or relationship crisis, his comprehensive and evolutionary approach to healing and forging loving relationships has transformed the lives of tens of thousands of people.

He is particularly renowned for the innovative, experiential nature of his workshops and longer retreats that offer individuals direct experience of life-changing states of consciousness and provide them with very effective models and practices for on-going personal growth. He guides seminars and retreats in North and South America, Europe and Australia, and is available for private mentoring for individuals at his home in Boulder, Colorado. He has published 7 seminal books on his visionary approach to human evolution, which have been translated into 6 languages.

So thanks Richard, thanks for being here.

Richard:              Nice to meet you Rick, nice to be with you. I’m like number 326 … okay, whatever!

Rick:      You’re getting up there.

Richard:              No, it’s wonderful, you know years and years ago I got to know – in the 70s – Michael Toms and Justine Toms from New Dimensions Radio, did many interviews with them, they became dear friends.

Rick:      Oh nice, I used to love that show, I used to listen to it all the time.

Richard:              Yeah, yeah, Michael passed on a few years ago.

Rick:      Yeah. You know it’s funny, when I used to listen to that show it never occurred to me that I might someday be doing something like this, but I don’t know, it just dawned on me one day about 6 years ago that I should do this, and it’s kind of been working out real well.

So let’s start with your awakening that you had when you were, I guess already a doctor, or in medical school, or what was the situation?

Richard:              I was already a physician, I had been practicing for about 4 years after internship. I had started a psychiatric residency briefly and suddenly had a deep clarity that I didn’t want to be inside that kind of context anymore. And at that point the option was really [only] in general medicine, so I did emergency medicine, hospital medicine for about 4 years. And during that time I started having some very fascinating events, energetically, with some of my patients. And it was all part of a process of search that had happened very spontaneously with me.

Rick:      Can you tell us what some of those fascinating events were?

Richard:              Sure. When I was coming out to do my internship, driving from New York with my small amount of possessions, to California, where I was going to do my internship, I was camped one night at Jenny Lake in the Grand Tetons.

Rick:      The Tetons – we’ve camped there.

Richard:              Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And there I was with 2 friends I was travelling with, and it was cold and I had a little down parka on; it was sometime in June but still, it was night, it was cold. A man comes walking up with a beard and a turban and a bit of firewood and says, “Can I join you?”

And when my friends went to sleep he started talking to me about the Sufis and he started talking to me about consciousness and about unconditional love, and things like that. Then he left and I said, “Well where are you going?” And he said, “Oh, I have my car over there.” I never saw it. I’m not saying he was an imaginary person but he came back the next day for breakfast.

And when I got to do my internship I was in it very briefly and I overheard 2 of the residents talking about that they were opening a new group with Claudio Naranjo– Seekers After Truth was what it was called, SAT – and I ended up being part of that and through that learned the enneagram and started to … I had been meditating already so then I was in more of a meditative process. So that was kind of the path, initially. So that was an unusual event…

Rick:      Had you formally learned meditation or did you just sort of figure out something on your own?

Richard:              Mostly I just figured it out on my own, then a little bit of reading and then you discover that what you figured out is pretty much what meditation is.

Then one day when I was working in the emergency room there was a patient who had been in a fight and had been injured, and he was actually from a local jail and he had been violent with the other physicians and the x-ray technicians, and there was a guard present. Long story short, I realized that I was going to have to observe him for a while and I thought I would sedate him, so I had a nurse with me to give him medication to inject him with. And I said to him, “Let me try to examine you, I will touch you the way I would want to be touched, assuming I was in great pain.”

And I began to touch him and then suddenly I had this realization not to give him the medications and I said to the nurse, “Don’t.” And a moment later I became blazing hot, this tremendous energy poured out of my hands, the nurse literally sat down in a chair almost in a faint, and the guard went and opened the window, the man in the bed … his eyes rolled back … you could see the whites of his eyes, he went dead asleep – he’s a big guy – dead asleep!

I stayed there in this energy for about 10 minutes. I had my hand over the top of his head, my other hand just at the base of his belly. I was barely touching him; I had wanted to examine his belly. End of story is that when he woke up there was no more pain, I could examine him completely, there were tears in his eyes and he went back to jail.

And, when this happened there was a voice which was not my voice or any kind of thought, and it said, “You have nothing to share with this man except love,” and that was the moment when my hands lit up.

Rick:      Interesting.

Richard:              So after that I said to myself, “Oh my God, I’ve been meditating, I’ve been exploring consciousness, I’d met a former physician named William Brugh Joy who wrote a book called Joy’s Way, and had already been shown how to scan and sense energy fields.” So I was familiar with energy, even as a young man, and I was curious about the role of energy in medicine and healing way back in whenever that was … 1977, ’76; probably ’76.

So I took a leave of absence and in fact I didn’t go back. And shortly after that leave of absence I had this experience that I’ve chronicled in some of my books and especially in the book called The Black Butterfly, in which suddenly this tremendous energy just exploded. I guess we can call it Kundalini, I didn’t know what to call it at that time – cosmic consciousness or something – but at first it was an extremely intense experience of loss of boundary. Everything was vibrating, I could like see into the insides of animals and …

Rick:      You mean like you could see their organs and things like that?

Richard:              Yes, yes, and [it was] as if they are just vibrating molecules, the land around them is vibrating molecules, the air is vibrating molecules – everything was vibration, I was vibration.  And it was very terrifying at one level because my ego was holding on for dear life.

Rick:      Yeah, I was going to ask you, did this freak you out a little bit?

Richard:              It did but having been a physician I knew that I wasn’t having a psychotic episode; I could objectively report my experience. I wondered whether it was some sort of adrenal tumor or something, but I ruled that out just with self-examination, and so I didn’t truly know what it was.

And after many days a friend – a Jungian analyst friend … older woman – synchronistically showed up at the very same time that this experience started with me; I didn’t expect her, and I ended up staying at her house and she took care of me. And one afternoon I was sitting in her backyard …

Rick:      Why did you need taking care of? Were you incapacitated by this a little bit?

Richard:              Oh, I needed companionship, I needed some grounding. It was profound, it was powerful, powerful. I was not incapacitated, I just was incredibly vulnerable, I was raw beyond words. What I began to do was I simply began to observe myself very carefully and I would say, “Oh, this is a thought. That thought is creating sensation, this is a future thought, this is a past thought, each one of these thoughts is creating a sensation,” or, “Now I’m judging myself, now I’m judging my circumstances, now I’m judging my…”

And I was just watching every thought and this was going on almost day and night. There was so much energy running through me, I was really not sleeping well. And around the third day of that, I was sitting in the backyard and I suddenly saw a black and a white butterfly dancing in the air, and they landed on a branch that was kind of hanging down not far from me, just a few feet from me, and they started mating.

And when they finished mating they danced around in the air and the black butterfly landed right center of my forehead and bam! – the experience went from being terrified to being absolute stillness, oneness with everything, perception and perceiver all unified. And then the words reverberated in me, “I and the Father are one” – again, not thought.

And so began or continued this process, and that was really the beginning of all my teaching.

Rick:      So what do you make of that … in terms of the butterfly? It’s very Carlos Castaneda-ish – an omen, a kind of a nexturnal thing, kind of coinciding with or corroborating in some way a subjective development. What do you make of the subtle mechanics of that, or the significance or symbolism or anything like that?

Richard:              It came days after my 30th birthday. The butterfly is a symbol of transformation, my mother profoundly loved butterflies. When I was a child I caught butterflies and sadly to say, mounted them, but when you’re young like that you don’t realize what you’re doing. It’s cruel but I thought it was a fascinating way of learning … looking, it was kind of my preamble in science and it still continues.

I thought you’d ask me about this and people do, and I’ve written it in my books. That period of life, that period of awakening, even to this day I can’t explain it, I don’t understand where it came from or why. I know it’s not common to have it that deeply integrated, but I do know that it is not an uncommon experience. Before that I had experienced states close to oneness – profound flow through rock-climbing, mountaineering, surfing, but I never experienced it in this way.

And I see it as a beginning, almost like if there is such a thing as being “born again,” it has nothing to do with faith-based belief systems but has to do with actual energetic transformation; that’s what happened. The Richard Moss before that … he continued, he continued with his neurosis, with his anxieties and fears and needs, the new person knew that that was not me, that that was the construct of a developmental stage we can call “ego,” or “me” – the ‘me’ or ‘I’ concept that we all have.

And it was an extraordinary transition. In a spiritual sense it was like going through puberty and into adulthood, and I would say I’m still in the journey of integrating that deeper and deeper; it never stops. Because it is like if you lived in 2-dimensional reality and suddenly you are placed in 3-dimensionality, there is almost no limit to how many different ways you can explore 3-dimensions, and that’s what I feel.

To this day I continue to … the energy, thank God, is never that intense, otherwise I wouldn’t still be alive; it would have just cooked my body. But that energy is always available to me, always. Whenever it’s needed it just flows through me and it’s there.

Rick:      And in a way who knows, maybe the energy is as intense but you’ve totally acclimated to it and grown accustomed to handling that sort of energy so that it is second nature to you, you know … could think of it that way.

Richard:              That’s true too, that’s true too. And I would say that as we get older – and I’m approaching 69 – the body wisdom just gets more and more profound. Not necessarily the body’s capacity; obviously the aging process limits body capacity, but the body wisdom. And the body wisdom linked with that consciousness is taking me deeper and deeper constantly, into a sense of presence, into a sense of connection with people. And the transmission – I think the transmission used to be very energetically strong, now it is more subtle but quite pervasive with people. I don’t emphasize it; my emphasis is constantly on what someone can learn for themselves and not on me.

Rick:      Yeah, that’s important, and every sentence you say has some nugget in it that I’d like us to elaborate on but let’s elaborate a little bit on ‘body wisdom’ first. What do you mean by ‘body wisdom?’

Richard:              The body is the most intelligent part of us, it’s the end-point of evolution; it knows. You just have a thought like “she doesn’t love me,” or “he doesn’t love me,” and the body knows instantly – anger, sadness, loss, abandonment – the body knows.

Body wisdom is when the body is knowing moment by moment, which is inseparable from a kind of heart’s-level of profound feeling. That wisdom connects us to everything; the body is, in a sense, connected to everything, and so then the thinking becomes a servant of this body wisdom.

If you think about, and I don’t want to date our conversation, but the recent attacks in Paris – I was in France at the time, in a different city – and the recent events in San Bernardino, California, that’s an example of the head, the mind, belief systems, a profound effort of derived identity through belonging to something, having a cause, belief system and action. That’s all forcing feeling to be obedient to thinking, it’s forcing the body to be obedient to the emotional arousal of the thinking, so there’s no body wisdom whatsoever, none whatsoever. It’s all mind dominated, that is the disease, that is the disease that every human being suffers from until they mature to some extent.

But as we get older, if we are on a constant path of releasing identification with what we have or don’t have, what we think about ourselves … belief systems, as we sort of digest ourselves, what emerges more and more profoundly is this knowing, this organic, embodied knowing. And it really is part of the sky, the air, life everywhere; it is part of Gaia.

Rick:      That’s nice. So in a way you are saying that the body can be a very sensitive instrument for very useful feedback, and if we can learn to tune it then doing something like what happened in Paris or San Bernardino would be completely out of the question because it would be so egregiously imposed to what the body is feeling. But what you’re saying is that for those of us on a spiritual path, it can be a very nuanced, subtle indicator of the value or the appropriateness of each thought, each emotion. Am I correct or am I putting …?

Richard:              No, you’re correct, exactly, exactly. It’s a different level of intelligence and you know, I was a physician so I understand how we objectify the body, I understand how people derive aspects of their sense of self according to what they look like, so that the body becomes an object; they become an object through what their body looks like, and in so many other ways. So that’s not body wisdom, but when that deeper body wisdom is present, so is the very word ‘presence,’ so we are really in our bodies in the present moment.

And now the mind – when the feeling and the body, or the heart and the body unify or work together – then the mind automatically rebalances, automatically. So in my work I don’t just have people sit and do Satsang, I have people dance, work with breathing, move, explore their voices, and then sit and observe and interact. It is very, very highly experiential and creative because it really is getting consciousness deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper into the body.

And what happens is that people start to become happy, they begin to spontaneously experience communion with life, with the moment, connection. They begin to fall in love with each other – not necessarily in the romantic sense, but in the sense of reverence and respect and appreciation. They begin to reverberate with the voices of the people around them, they feel a deep, empathetic, compassionate communion, and it happens every time, without fail, without having to say, “Now be compassionate,” or “Be good to each other;” it emerges.

Compassion and forgiveness and trust and humility, they emerge as we go deeper and deeper with consciousness into the embodied present moment.

Rick:      Nice. Here is a sentence from your website that I highlighted that relates to this. You said, “This teaching leads to an economy of action and the efficient use of your time, because very quickly your body tells you when you are off course and you learn to continuously reconnect to your inner knowing and wisdom.” So basically what we have been saying, but it’s nicely phrased.

Richard:              Thanks.

Rick:      So just to wrap up a few other threads of the conversation so far, do you have any kind of esoteric feeling for what happened to you? I mean if I wanted to, I could roughly classify people whom I’ve interviewed into one camp of people who did a lot of spiritual practices and seeking and intense stuff, and then eventually after many years of that, usually, had some sort of profound shift or awakening, and then there’s another camp – it’s actually a much smaller one but there’s quite a few people in it – people like yourself who weren’t really doing that much or seeking that much or anything, and something profound just came on and totally shifted them.

And I find it interesting that yours was accompanied by this sort of voice in your head that gave you some sort of feedback or confirmation on what was happening, like with the guy in the hospital … “Your work is done here,” or whatever that voice said.

Richard:              “There’s nothing to give or receive except love. There’s nothing to give this man now or to receive except love.” And that was not … I mean I know my thinking mind, I know what that voice is.

Rick:      And you know these stories from ancient traditions, for instance Saul on the road to Damascus had this huge breakthrough change experience, and Mohammed was apparently worked over by angels or something and underwent this huge metamorphosis. So do you have – not to get too woo-woo on you – but do you have any sense that there’s this somehow higher beings or higher intelligences in this universe that tag you and say, “Okay, this guy is going to serve and now is his time, and let’s give him a little confirmation with this voice,” or do you not like to think in those terms?

Richard:              I’d be scared to think in those terms, just in terms of ego inflation and grandiosity. Attributing happens, and if it doesn’t happen you stop developing. I think it is just as you said, there are people who have been involved in a tradition, had a lot of practice and through the practice have developed a certain state of consciousness. And because it comes that way, the way they teach is inseparable from the tradition in which they developed.

That is good but they are still, in a sense, within the confines, the language, the framework, of that tradition, and they have to make people be part of that tradition. Even though the Buddhists say, “You don’t have to believe anything, just do this work, meditate; you prove it in yourself experientially,” still there is this framework of belief and the hero – you know, the heroic and mythic quality of the Buddha and so forth, and the same thing with mystical Christians.

I think there is a parallel process that has to do with maybe the very origins of what we mean by the “shamanic process” – the individual who for some reason is quite different or has an experience that changes them and then becomes a source for the community. I would call it the “lineage of spontaneous realization.” And it is interesting that the teachers that were important to me earlier in life, like Brugh Joy, he had a spontaneous realization. He was a physician, you may have heard of him, he died in 2009 but he was a profound man.

And then Franklin Merrell Wolff who wrote … yeah, and so Franklin Merrell Wolff and I knew each other very well, I met him when he was 89. I read the Tibetan Book of the Dead into his ear when he was 98, and he passed. And again, here is someone who was seeking but wasn’t seeking within the framework of any tradition, and had a spontaneous realization – a profound one – at the age of 49.

I was seeking too, but I was seeking without any kind of framework. I was not part of a teaching, I didn’t have a sense of lineage and context. I was just broadly seeking because I came alive in rock climbing, I came alive in skiing, I came alive in dancing; I came alive in those places and I was unhappy. There was a place inside of me from early in childhood that didn’t feel safe, that had compensated by being smart, that had done all the psychological things we do for – let’s call it “psychological survival” – psychological functioning. And something inside of me was hungry, but I didn’t know what it was [hungry] for, nor did I really know that the kind of experience that I’d lived at the age of thirty even existed!

So in a way, out of my innocence I was able to live something with a profound originality. And now I can draw on the deepest parts of Sufism or Buddhism or Kabbalah, or mystic and gnostic Christianity, and yoga and Dzogchen …

Rick:      You’re not locked into any one thing

Richard:              No, and I know what they’re talking about; I know it from my experience, I lived it. So someone will say, “You teach Dzogchen,” and someone else will say, “You’re teaching Sufism,” or “You’re teaching …,” and of course I am, because at the root of all those mystical paths – you know, actual spiritual paths that involve practice as much as belief – there is a fundamental experience of realization. And so having that spontaneous realization, that fundamental realization spontaneously, means that in a way I am both an appreciator of the traditions, can take the best from all of them, but I’m not confined in any particular tradition. That doesn’t mean in any way that I feel superior to the traditions; I’ve learned so much from them, they have a profound wealth.

There are people who – and I wouldn’t say I have a really large audience; I’ve had a very  profound following – but these people don’t want a guru, they don’t want to line up, they don’t want to put on clothes, they don’t want to join a religion, they’ve already outgrown one or two religions probably.

So when I have someone who is a Catholic priest who works with me, or a Jungian analyst that works with me, or a Muslim that works with me, they’re given a chance to discover their spiritual tradition in a completely new way that makes it more alive, because my experience gives me the capacity to look at theirs – you know, Jesus’s experience and Buddha’s experience, and all of the experiences that these people [have had] … Mohammad’s experience, through the perspective of my own experience, which I’m not saying that I’m a Buddha or anything …

Rick:      No, you’ve got tuned into the experiential nature of the perennial philosophy and so there is a resonance with all the traditions.

Richard:              The perennial philosophy comes after the experience.

Rick:      Yeah, yeah, that’s why I say the ‘experiential’ nature of the perennial philosophy, yeah. And then that philosophy … you become quite comfortable with all the expressions of that because it’s your experience.

Richard:              When I study them and when I look at some of the deeper parts of Jung, or some of the poets like Walt Whitman that are deep, mystical poets and I go, “Yes, of course! Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Rick:      Sure, yeah. There are a couple of well-known teachers who could probably say the same thing you’re saying, like Eckhart Tolle for instance, who wasn’t really locked into a tradition, had this experience and then began to put things together after that experience dawned. Or Adyashanti, who was in a Zen tradition but then after his awakening became very all-embracing and eclectic, and deeply studied and appreciated all the different traditions.

And your point about people not wanting a guru, this seems to be a stronger and stronger sentiment among spiritual people and seekers. And there’s the downside of it where people say, “Ah, I’ll just go be my own guru and I don’t need a teacher and all that stuff,” which I think can be kind of trivial and keep one stuck for a long time, but then there’s also the reaction to the problems that have arisen with so many different teachers and gurus, and the hierarchical inequity that is usually there in those situations, like where there is this teacher who is in a place where you’re never going to be. There is something about the peer-to-peer nature of teaching, such as you seem to be doing, that is appealing to a lot of people these days.

Richard:              Exactly. What people say to me is that what they really appreciate is that I’m living my human experience side by side with them; I’m living the path of relationship, the pains of separation, the struggles, the suffering, the compassion for the world, the sense of helplessness in front of some of the enormity of some of the craziness. And yet the transmission that comes since that awakening is so indisputable and since I’m simply saying, “Look, that’s the transmission. Richard is a man and Richard is more than a man,” but I would never – neither in appearance nor in languaging – be the “more than.”

To me, I never lose touch with the most basic aspect of myself, or the most basic questioning in myself, or he most basic vulnerability in myself.

Rick:      Yeah, and you’d probably say the same thing to your students, wouldn’t you? I mean, to put it metaphorically you would say, “You’re all waves and we’re all the ocean – both.”

Richard:              Sure, and metaphorically I would say that. It would basically say, “Don’t run away from fear. Every time there’s fear, that’s an opportunity to find out what you believe that isn’t true, it some way, and it’s an opportunity to choose whether you’re going to keep your heart open or not, whether you’re going to become self-involved or not. And if you have some sort of expansion or breakthrough, are you going to become self-important? Is it going to become another adornment for your personal identity or ego, or is it just going to move you into deeper and deeper humility?

For me, humility doesn’t mean we become passive or inactive; it just means that there’s nobody doing it, particularly. We’re instruments, in a sense.

Rick:      Beautiful, beautiful. I love that sentiment … that we’re instruments of the Divine. “Lord make me an instrument of Thy peace.”

Richard:              St. Francis.

Rick:      Yeah, and this thing about the humility and all, it’s a very important point because I see so many examples of people having awakening, perhaps assuming a teaching role prematurely in many cases – I mean, in Zen traditions they say you should wait 10 years after your awakening before even teaching – and then it begins to go to their head and then things get more and more messy. So I really appreciate your emphasis on humility and your humanness.

Richard:              It’s an emphasis simply because at every step along the way, I’m sure trust has become more profound in me now than it was when I was younger, but I’ve always had to deal with self-questioning, with doubts, with fear and vulnerability and uncertainty. There is certainly a voice that knows, or an energy that is balanced, it comes through, but I don’t lose touch with the man – myself – that has made a lot of mistakes in the journey of love and intimacy, and continues to want to discover what’s possible between human beings.

Rick:      That’s great.

Richard:              If you have integrity then you say … and as the shadow emerges and is integrated and digested, it would be impossible for it to go to my head at this point. And really all along, thank God, I was sort of protected. I was protected by my insecurity, I was protected by my own internal knowledge that, “Hey, wait a minute. These incredible things are coming through you and your teaching and it’s affecting peoples’ lives, but you’re learning all the time and you’re making your own mistakes.” And I don’t disguise them, so anyone that’s around me gets to see that. And so this has been nearly 40 years … yeah, yeah … very close.

Rick:      I think another important aspect of what you’re saying is that it paints a more realistic picture of what the awakened state might be. Because there are many people who assume a teaching role and then they try to put on this aura of perfection and infallibility – which then usually that bubble bursts because of something they say or do – but they try to maintain that and it gives people the expectation or the assumption that, “Well, I couldn’t be anywhere close to awakening because I perceive these imperfections in me, and awakening must be like what this perfect dude is like.” I think you’re painting a much more realistic picture of it and I think that’s much more helpful to people.

I just want to interject before you respond to that that for those who are watching this on a live stream – there’s about 30 people – if any questions occur to you, you can go to the ‘Upcoming Interviews’ page on www.batgap.com and there is a form at the bottom where you can submit the question and I’ll ask it of Richard. Okay, back to you.

Richard:              I love this, I love just the space we’re in in terms of what we’re looking at and what we’re talking about, so thank you. It made me curious about your background.

Rick:      Well, I’ll do it very briefly because I don’t want this to be about me. I had a bit of a troubled childhood – alcoholic father, mother in and out of mental hospitals, suicide attempts and so on. And I got kind of messed up as a teenager – drugs and so on, dropped out of high school and so on. Then I learned how to meditate when I was 18 – Transcendental Meditation – and it had a dramatic, profound, immediate effect on me.

Within a few … a couple of months, I had reconciled with my father, gotten a job, gotten back into school. One thing [led to another and] I became a teacher a couple of years later, taught it for 25 years – you know, it really … and I’ve been a pretty zealous spiritual aspirant ever since. So in a nutshell, that’s my background.

Richard:              Perfect, thanks.

Rick:      And I’m no longer in the TM movement, but I appreciate all the benefit I’ve derived from it.

Richard:              Yeah, exactly. I have a good friend that sponsors me in Scandinavia – Svend Trier.

Rick:      Oh yeah, he was in my teacher training course in Estes Park, Colorado, so we’re good friends too.

Richard:              Okay, so you know Svend.

Rick:      I know Sven.

Richard:              And when Svend was going through his metamorphosis – the time when he needed to outgrow the TM movement – I was the teacher that he found his way to.

Rick:      Oh, nice.

Richard:              Just in a synchronistic way. So I was instrumental, I was contributing to his change, and now he has been doing quantum seminars there for I don’t know how many … 25 years or something … in Scandinavia.

Rick:      I have to tell you a funny story. There was this friend of mine on the teacher training course who sort of had a crush on Sven. And so I was friendly with him a little bit and she said, “Would you invite him to come to our room to do a Puja after the meeting? I’d like to get to know him better.” So I invited him and he came there, and he told me afterwards, “I knew immediately what was going on, as soon as I saw her there!”

Richard:              Well he has been mostly a bachelor, but he has a lovely girlfriend. And he continues on the path and he brings good people there to present. So the TM movement was instrumental for many, many people, and it gave so many people the experience that, “I can begin to learn how to calm this wayward mind, and how to break the connection between thinking and identification.”

And yeah, it was a very important thing, and again, it was one of those things where the teacher and the teaching were truly important; the community wasn’t as clearly important. And Maharishi was so elevated, in a way, and I think that’s part of a pattern that will continue, and it’s very old.

Rick:      Yeah, another point I’d like to go back to is your emphasis on the constancy of the path; it’s like a continual unfolding. I tend to emphasize that in these interviews because I think that’s the way it actually is. And some people – I’ve asked some people towards the end of an interview, “Well, how do you see things going from here? How are things unfolding for you? What’s on the horizon?” And they kind of scratch their heads as if to say, “I’m done. What more could there be?” But I think there’s a vast range of possibilities.

Who was it … Ken Wilber said that, “Waking up is, in a way, just the beginning. There is also cleaning up and growing up, and there’s no end to doing that.” So I just want to say that I appreciate your emphasis on this as a lifelong learning process.

Richard:              Well it is. And consciousness is not an individual experience, it’s not my experience. The first book I wrote is called The I That is We, because the nature of that original awakening was that I was inseparable from everything, including other people. But while that is a realization and actually a direct experience, the process of living intimacy, of getting into profound conscious relationship with other people, how could you ever reach the end of it? How could you?

And in a certain sense, if it is just one, it doesn’t matter, but as soon as there’s two, you’re beginning to create the foundation for – let’s call it society, or even civilization. And so if you ask me where is it going? I would answer you, I don’t know, but where I think I’m going is into deeper and deeper trust in each moment, and at the same time a willingness and vulnerability and an openness to more and more and more profound connection with anyone and everyone. But also in particular, a desire to see how deep intimacy can go with someone else.

That means that they’re on a journey and we’re exploring, and I’m not the teacher; I’m student. And what is teaching me is relationship – that third consciousness that is relationship itself, in a certain sense, even just between you and I, in a way, listening to the process of our connection – that consciousness is profound!

Rick:      Yeah, let me read another little passage from your website here: “The heart of his about presence and conscious relationships. Once you are solidly grounded in yourself, you become capable of profound relatedness with others. He believes it is the relational field created between awakening people that actualizes and transmits an evolutionary paradigm of consciousness that is essential to resolving the deep challenges of our time.”

I like that, I highlighted that.

Richard:              Good.

Rick:      Perhaps we should emphasize that once you are solidly grounded in yourself you become capable of profound relatedness with others, because if you are not solidly grounded in yourself, then who is going to be related to anything? I mean, you don’t know who you are, so how could you know who somebody else is?

Richard:              Yeah, and the problem is that if you do know who you are, whoever that is, the part of you that’s aware of that already transcends it. In a certain sense, there’s no knowing who we are; there’s being, there’s being. And when someone says they know they’re enlightened, I go, “Yeah, so what part of you knows that?”

I was once asked to do a review for a teacher’s book – for a particular teacher – and I could see, I could feel, see, taste, smell the ego in it. So I wrote back to him and said, “You know, there’s a lot of good stuff in this book but I can really feel your shadow in it. And people like us, we should talk and look at these things together. How about we just do that? But I can’t write an endorsement for the book.”

And I got back a little, succinct, “Well, not everybody is ready for my teaching.”

Rick:      Yeah brother. Where’s that guy these days?

Richard:              Well I’m not going to mention names.

Rick:      No, not the name, but I mean, how did he turn out?

Richard:              Crashed and burned.

Rick:      Yeah, predictable.

Richard:              But incredibly successful, I mean big following and la di da … crashed and burned, and I saw that coming as soon as I met him.

Rick:      Yeah, okay. I thought we might go over this – there’s a nice document on your website which people might want to read, called The Foundational Teachings of Richard’s Work. There are about five main points in it that are elaborated on, and I thought it might be interesting to go through those. Would you like to do that?

Richard:              Sure.

Rick:      Okay. Let me just read them first and then we’ll go through them one by one, and this will give people a nice overview of your teaching:

  • The power of awareness
  • Focused, spacious awareness
  • Ready, relaxed embodiment
  • Energy awareness
  • The mandala approach to presence and emotional clarity


And if that happens to be an older document and there’s more you’d like to cover, we can cover more also, but would that give us a nice overview, if we run through those?

Richard:              Yes, let’s do that.

Rick:      Okay, so the first one is ‘the power of awareness,’ what do you mean by that?

Richard:              It should be very obvious and it is amazing that people don’t see it, but the power of awareness simply means that whatever you’re aware of – let’s say, whatever thoughts you’re having – it’s arising in a field of a deeper consciousness, so you have to be more than the field.

Rick:      More than the thoughts, you mean?

Richard:              More than the thought, more than the belief, and likewise with a sensation or a feeling. The power of awareness means that you can have a relationship with your thoughts rather than purely identifying with them, you can have a relationship to your feelings instead of purely identifying with them. So I have thoughts and I’m more than my thoughts. The ‘I’ that’s more than my thoughts is just language. You could give it a name, you could say it’s your spiritual self, you could call it fundamental consciousness, you could call it rigpa – you could call it whatever you want to call it; those are just names, but it transcends and is prior to all categories.

You could call it God consciousness or [whatever], but the power of awareness is simply that you’re in relationship to your thoughts, so you can choose to examine them, you can choose to question them, you’re in relationship to your sensations, you can choose to relax around them, you can choose to let them drive you into thinking.

Rick:      So how do you do that? How do we shift from understanding this intellectually, which probably most people do, and having it be something that is your actual experience?

Richard:              Well for example, if you sit down to meditate, what you’re going to observe is where your mind goes. So if you give your mind a simple assignment [like], “Okay, stay here, let’s not try for anything. Let’s stay in the body, let’s use the breath as an anchor in the body, be present with the sensations in the body” – basically the instructions for something like Vippasana mediation.

It’s different than what you were talking about earlier with TM, where you’re given a mantra, but the important thing and the point with the mantra is that it fades, goes over the horizon, disappears, but the part of you that was listening to the mantra remains there. And now you notice that in your mind, suddenly there is an imaginary conversation with a friend, because something is unresolved or you want to communicate something.

And you watch, you watch what’s arising in your mind and you begin to see the patterns of ego dynamics, such as a controller or a narrator, or a know-it-all, or there’s the victim consciousness, or there’s the one that feels superior, or there’s the pious spiritual person – these kinds of ego dynamics. The power of awareness is that you’re the one that’s observing it, therefore you don’t have to actually become identified and lost in that.

The same thing with the sensation. We know for example, that when people have sensations and then go and … let’s say it’s a stomach discomfort… “I’m getting an ulcer,” versus someone who says, “Well, there’s this strange kind of burning in my stomach.” Someone who stays with just objective description of the sensation versus someone who assumes that the sensation might be linked to a disease – actually people who do that (who identify with the sensation) have a lower life expectancy.

So the fact is that you can be in relationship to anything that arises in your mind because of the power of awareness. The power is, “This is a thought, it’s not who I am. This is a sensation, it’s not who I am. The who I am is really unnamable, but it is the part of me that allows me to be aware of that.”

Earlier on when you asked me about my awaking and I said that I began to just observe, “This is a thought, it’s about the future. Look what it creates – anxiety. This is a thought about the future and look what it creates – expectancy and eagerness and hope. This is a thought about the past and look what it’s creating – a kind of nostalgia or an assumption about what normalness is at that time,” like, “Oh my God, I used to be normal, now look what’s happening to me.”

This is a judgement of the environment, circumstances, people – what I call “you stories” – or, “This is a judgement about myself.” Instead of actually living in that world, you become the witness to that world. So the aware part of your consciousness, the aware ego, is that witnessing capacity and it is powerful, because it sets you free from being the victim of your own thinking, or the victim of the reactions to your clinging to the things of you know, “Buddhism 101” – clinging to what you want to feel and pushing away what you don’t want to feel.

So you become the observer of the pushing away. Don’t push. You become the observer of the grasping-for the pleasure, the happiness. Don’t grasp. And then something new can happen, that’s the power of awareness, it never stops. You’re going to outgrow everything and anything that you are, no matter what; it is built into us to transcend ourselves. That doesn’t mean people do it, you know, they don’t do it, but they can.

Rick:      Right. There’s a bit of a pre-scription, de-scription issue here, where you often hear teachers describing their experience, the way they function, kind of offering that de-scription as a pre-scription. And so this audience is sitting there listening and they’re hearing how this guy functions, and they’re kind of getting it, and to a certain extent I think a de-scription can be a pre-scription, where it can awaken in you a sort of appreciation for how another person experiences, and you can begin to inculcate that in yourself. But there’s also a problem I think, in that very often people have difficulty bridging the gulf between their experience of what the guy is describing, which might be very rudimentary and kind of a little fledgling stage of it, and the full blown ability to not be gripped and overshadowed and identified with your thoughts. So how would you address that concern?

Richard:              Well, somebody who has not had his first bicycle sees a four year-old, sees some kid that can do flips on them or ride on one wheel. Is that person going to say, “Oh God, I’ll never be a good bicycle rider,” or are they going to become really inspired and say, “Wow! When am I going to get my first bike?”

And you know, the Dawn Wall was climbed the first time in Yosemite last year; by two young guys. Incredible! That was not physically, physiologically or even mentally possible 20 years ago, 30 years ago … for sure. So my answer to that is … I’m in the shower, real experience right, I’m a bachelor now after 38 years of serial monogamy. My last relationship – she decided to leave because her grandchildren were born, it was time to go back to England, our relationship wasn’t working well enough, and there were other real obstacles like no health insurance for me there and no health insurance for her here.

So she left and I grieved, it hurt, and I love her and love never stopped. So I’m in the shower and I hear myself thinking, I’m trying to describe to someone what it feels like to feel this aloneness, and suddenly my mind goes – my aware self goes, “Oh, imaginary conversation, self-justifying about your own self-pity,” and the moment I said that to myself, bam, it stopped. And now there’s just the sensation of the water and I’m showering and it’s delicious – bam.

So now that’s because I practiced. I’ve practiced for decades and decades, stepping back into the present moment, starting all over again. And there’s a whole chapter in one of my books called The Mandala of Being, which is about learning to step back into the present moment when you recognize what your mind is doing. So yes, it is both pre-scription and de-scription, and I like that, that differentiation.

The point is there is no … you don’t just wake up … Enlightenment is like a mustard seed, Jesus said in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, it’s the smallest of all seeds yet it can grow to a shrub that shelters many people. In Dogen Buddhism they don’t talk about anyone, ever, staying in that state of full awareness all the time; it’s that they access it first in just moments. That moment you step back into the … the moment that someone says to you, “What part of you is listening to us right now?” And for a split moment consciousness turns back to look for that part; for a split second.

Or if I say to you, “You’re not understanding this conversation wherever you are right now, what if you just say to yourself, “Who would I be right now if I just trust?”” For a split second, something inside just goes, “Uh.” Now what if that split second happened 55 hundred times a day? Initially what if it happens … so it sounds like a formula and at first it has an effect, but then after a while it doesn’t, but then gradually you keep resting into relaxing, relaxing, relaxing into focused, spacious awareness.

Rick:      That’s nice, and that actually gets us onto our second point here. We were talking about ‘The power of awareness,’ now we’re talking about ‘Focused, spacious awareness,’ and I think your bicycle analogy is good – the little kid watching the guy do flips. So you start riding the bicycle and you get better and better at it, doesn’t happen overnight but you develop muscle memory and all kinds of skills, and eventually you’re doing flips.

Richard:              Exactly, and there’s absolutely no shortcut in the spiritual path. There is no shortcut. You can borrow your identity from your belief system and your club, or your tribe or your gang or your sect, but if you keep exercising the power of awareness, again and again and again you’re going to come back to this present moment. And if you try to describe what is this when you come back to the present moment, it’s paradoxical.

On the one hand, every perception is vivid and so in that sense, there is a precision of focus, at the same time, you’re not collapsing into. So let’s say there’s a feeling that’s scary and you look at it, but if you look at it and you stay vast, it just moves like weather, like clouds – just changing shape, and it moves on.

So at the level of the mind, we can talk about the mind as simultaneously focused and spacious as we get more and more present. At the level of the body, the body is more and more awake, alert, ready. It’s you know, [like] the images of the martial artist – they hear the drop of water fall, or they sense somebody coming. If the mind is focused and spacious, that’s the exact same thing as describing the body that is both ready and relaxed.

Now most of the time when we’re ready we’re tense; we’re ready but we’re nervous, we’re anxious, we’re tense, we’re armored. And if we’re relaxed we tend to space out, we tend to drift to sleep, we tend to lose focus. So it is the simultaneity of this; it’s a muscle and it gets stronger and stronger and it does two things: it moves towards the center of the mandala – if you look at a flower, like a sunflower or a daisy, where there’s that dark inner center and these petals radiating out, circumferentially out, radially – and if you look at a mandala, what happens is two things: you want to be drawn to the center but you want to be pulled to the outside.

It is so impossible to describe to people what the state of coming deeper and deeper into present moment awareness really is, except that you are more and more focused, in the sense that everything is more vivid, precise, exact, and at the same time, you are not narrowing. So when I went to medical school, and anyone that’s studying anything – law, science, anything – you’re narrowing; you’re narrowing your focus. You’re losing spaciousness. You become identified therefore with your way, your knowledge, your information.

But in the path of developing ourselves consciously, we’re doing two things: we’re extending into limitless mind and every perception is vivid, we’re coming deeper and deeper into the body so that in a split second you could respond to something, but at the same time you are profoundly relaxed.

Now if you’re really ready all the time and not relaxed, then any stimulus is going to scare you, or overexcite you, or over arouse you, and you’re going to go into nervous exhaustion, literally, neurological exhaustion. You’re going to go into posttraumatic stress if you cannot find that place of relaxation at the same time.

Some dozen years … ten years after I had that awakening I was in an auto accident. I was in the passenger seat and the next thing I know I’m upside down in the backseat … I had my seat belt on. I realized, just before the impact at my side door, I could see the car coming. It was almost like there was a split second – and not rational – in which I trying to throw me in the car out of the way of this oncoming car, and at the moment of impact. So I realized that at that moment of impact, I was in a very extraordinary state of consciousness and that if I didn’t actually find that state of consciousness again, then all the injury was going to be imprinted in my body at the very level of consciousness at which point the injury occurred.

So I crawled out of the car, got onto the grass on the side of the road and I just asked people to leave me alone, and I slowly, slowly relaxed and relaxed and relaxed, kind of like regressing, until I felt like I was at the moment of impact, I was at the exact state of consciousness in which the impact had occurred. At one point a policeman came and said, “Are you alright? Do we need an ambulance?” And I said, “I just need a little more time. Please just trust me and leave,” and he did!

And I just stayed with this and I walked away with just a few bruises and no fear of being in a car accident again, no posttraumatic stress; I went back. So I focused and got spacious and went deeper and deeper and deeper into the body, and got vaster and vaster and vaster, and then I was at the exact same energy of the moment of impact, and at the moment of impact we’re in a timeless state. At that moment of impact … people afterwards just can’t seem to get over the injury because the injury is imprinted not only in the physical body, but it is imprinted at the vibrational level at which it took place.

So that’s why when there’s trauma in a very, very young child, that has profound repercussions for the rest of the life of that individual – psychological trauma, emotional trauma, any kind of trauma, because they are so undifferentiated, they are so close to a more unitive state, they’re preverbal if they’re very young. And when you’re working with an injury that takes place at that point, in my work, at a certain point in a 10-day retreat, even people who have had injury at that level are going to reach a state of aliveness that is so undifferentiated and yet so present in their bodies, that suddenly the trauma from early childhood actually passes through them, it is released. Maybe it’s released as tears, maybe it’s released as sobbing, maybe it’s released as shaking and trembling and ecstaticness, but it’s  released and they’re not the same again because they reached the level at which the impact, the imprint took place.

So that’s what the power of awareness is, that’s what it means to be both ready and relaxed, focused and spacious – you’re going deeper and deeper and deeper. As a practice, you know, sit down, find a sensation like the air moving through your nose, and be in your body but don’t lose the awareness of sounds, and the space around you, and that’s spatial, in a physical sense. I mean, right now we can all imagine that we’re on planet Earth and that’s big! Most people aren’t even going to imagine they’re in the room they’re in, or the building they’re in, or the city they’re in, or the part on the Earth they’re in. And then if you want to get bigger, well, the Earth is rotating around the sun, and then we’re in the solar system, and then we’re in the Milky Way galaxy – that’s spatial. So it’s a spatial suggestion of limitlessness or vastness, but mind itself, or consciousness itself is not spatial, but it is “the great space.” It’s limitless, it’s vast, and within that are constantly arising sensations and feelings and thoughts and perceptions.

So the experience you actually have after you emerge from a period of deep meditation or after you’ve finished being totally focused on a rock climb, is that everything is alive – you’re alive, everything you perceive is alive. And in that state, of course, the ego will come back in and say, “Oh, I love to do this. Now I’m going to become a rock climber,” so it becomes part of identity again. But there is this process of learning through the body to be ready and relaxed, learning through self-observation to be focused and spacious – they’re really not separate.

And I find sometimes that going through the body is actually easier, or let’s say more useful than just trying to sit in meditation.

Rick:      Or both. I mean a lot of times when I meditate there’s this … like a CT scan going on, of my body – you know, checking things out and things coming to my attention and so on.

Richard:              Exactly. Well both is best.

Rick:      On this spacious focus thing, there’s a quote from Padmasambhava, he said, “My awareness is as vast as the sky, but is my attention to karma is as fine as a grain of barley flour.”

Richard:              Exactly what I’m saying, perfect.

Rick:      Yeah, and I was reminded earlier in the interview when you were talking about your initial awakening, you had to have somebody take care of you for a while, it’s like you were vast but you hadn’t learned to integrate that vastness with focused awareness; focus within boundaries.

And like you say about education, I mean, you want your brain surgeon to be really focused on what he’s doing, you want your commercial airline pilot to be totally focused on what he’s doing, but at the same time that focus, especially if it’s habitual, day in and day out, can tend to become engrained and entrenched, and so the comprehensiveness or the broadness is lost.

And so I’m just reiterating what you’re saying basically, but I think that one way of looking at spiritual development or enlightenment is the development or the culturing of simultaneity of vastness and septicity; having the two so well-integrated that you can be flying a 747, landing it in a snowstorm and at the same time being cosmic consciousness or vast, unbounded awareness.

Richard:              And you will function better.

Rick:      Yeah, absolutely, right!

Richard:              You’ll act without knowing why you act, you’ll know without knowing why you know. By the way, I love your clarity – thank you.

Rick:      Oh, thank you. I was also reminded to suggest that there’s been some research on meditation – I think specifically TM but maybe other types – where they find that people habituate much more quickly to stressful stimuli, as measured by galvanic skin response. So there’s a loud tone or something and then the tone repeats itself at unpredictable intervals, whereas an ordinary person would tend to continue to react, unnecessarily perhaps, to those stresses, someone who is in a more settled physiological style of functioning tapers off very quickly and doesn’t get stressed by something; they kind of adapt to the situation.

So I think this has a lot of implication for PTSD, and actually meditation of various sorts is being used successfully these days to treat people with PTSD, sometimes with quite dramatic and profound and almost immediate results.

Richard:              Yeah, Yeah, exactly. And also what you are saying suggests something interesting about how people habituate to a certain stress level or to a particular level or arousal in the body. And one of the reasons I do long retreats is to try to get the body, to get that process to subside to a new level of balance, so that now you have a deeper sense of what it’s like to be healing – focused, spacious, ready, relaxed, heartful. And then the slightest thought will arouse you and then you can just quickly release, quickly release.

And so I teach people to breathe 5 times – I ask 5 focused, spacious breaths. For a moment you are very precisely where the sensation of the breath is, and you’re allowing intuitively to imagine your mind as limitless. And so you’re coming toward that silence that has no beginning and no end, and at the same time there’s this precision like a barley grain of karma, the precision of the sensation of your breathing for 5 breaths. Now do that 20 times a day. Each time you do that … here’s your arousal level, 5 breaths later, you’re here (uses hand gestures to demonstrate a decrease in arousal level).

Then you get into the habit of your arousal level going up because you identify with your thinking – “He doesn’t love me,” “I have to do more,” “There’s not enough time,” “I won’t have enough money,” … da da da da da, you know? The thoughts just arouse, arouse, arouse, arouse, arouse … each thought, and then you go, “Ah, 5 breaths, 5 breaths.” Then you start to see your mind arousing and you go, “Wait, wait, wait … 5 breaths, 5 breaths, 5 breaths,” and you take your arousal level slowly …

Rick:      Nip it at the bud.

Richard:              Yes, and since not many people are going to be willing to sit down and meditate for 10 days, and even if they did, their arousal level would come down so low that they could function without any stress for maybe three days, or maybe a week or maybe a month. And then the habit, the arousal habit of identification with judgements about yourself, judgements about others, stories about others, the way you look at the future, the way you look at the past, you’re going to start having the instantaneous arousal with every thought. And if you don’t stay alert and awake to go, “Haaaaa,” (making sound of a long, slow exhale) or if you start to kind of tense like this, if you don’t simply say, “Okay, how would I be right now if I just trust? Haaaa… How would it be right now if it’s just all given away? I for-give.”

Now you only get that response for a millisecond, initially. But what if there are 50 milliseconds a day? Then something begins to imprint, and so the mustard seed happens again and again and again and again, the moment of rigpa again and again and again and again – brief, but choo, choo … (making sound of a steam engine).

And so now this arousal level is much, much slower, what does that mean? That means that when someone has a thought next to you, you may not hear the exact words but you know their field is changed because of the thought they’re thinking. So I sit there in front of an audience or in front of people and I know the moment their mind moves, because their field changes. And then intuitively, based on the content of what’s going on in that moment, I have a pretty good idea of where their mind went. The kind of internal question, the kind of internal doubt, the kind of internal [knowing of], “Okay, that mind just jumped into the future,” I can sense it, or “Op, that mind just made a reference to the past, based on the past made a jump to the future.” I can feel that, I can sense it in the field because my arousal level is so, so still.

And it’s an interesting thing, as soon as I’m with a group of people and there’s that collective field, I’m influencing the collective field, they’re influencing me. That causes me to move into a deeper and deeper stillness and then I function more effectively as a guide. And it is a completely integrated, connected – you know, it is the ‘I that is we;’ it’s not the ‘I guiding the we;’ it is the ‘I that is we’ and it is a field consciousness. But if I’m agitated then I’m no good for anybody, and I still get agitated!

I’m learning what it’s like now, over the last 8 months, to live by myself after, like I say, 37 years of serial monogamy; there was always someone there = either ‘soon to be with,’ because I was in love, or living with. A massive change to a whole different set of mental constructs arising, and again and again it’s like, “Haaaa, haaaaa, haaaa … settle, settle, settle, settle.”

Rick:      There’s a metaphor you might like, I’ve used it before on this show but I think you might enjoy it, and that is that is you could think of a stressed, agitated nervous system as being like stone. And if you try to make a mark in stone it’s hard to make a mark, but if you do make one it stays there a long, long time. Now perhaps a less stressed, more settled nervous system is like sand. You can make a mark in sand, it’s easier to make a deeper mark, in other words, you can register a deeper experience, and the mark doesn’t stay very long; it gets washed away.

Taking it to the next step – water. You can make a really deep mark in water and it’s gone immediately. Next step – air. You can easily make a deep mark in air, pass your arm through it, metaphorically speaking, a very deep, profound, rich experience, and yet it poof! – gone as soon as it happens.

Richard:              That’s a wonderful metaphor and it is very similar to one I used in my first book, The I That is We. I talked about ‘rock man,’ a man or a body that is made with rocks the size of my fist. If you want to get that person to feel something, you have to really push hard and hit him. And when you do, if you touch him softly, they’re not even going to know that anything happened, you know?

Rick:      Yeah, kind of like what we were talking about with the terrorists earlier.

Richard:              Yeah, exactly. So as you practice you evolve, and now you become ‘pebble man,’ and then you become ‘sand man,’ and then you become ‘pumice man,’ and so the slightest touch affects you, and at the same time you’re constantly being affected by these movements all around you and from within you, and they’re passing through.

I like your metaphor very well because the point is, if you get to be ‘water-person’ or ‘air-person,’ you have to be prepared for extraordinary vulnerability. That means everything is going to affect you, everything. And if you, at any moment identify with it, if at any moment you say “no” to it, you’re in deep trouble, you know?

Rick:      Sounds like we have the makings of a spiritual superhero movie. Instead of the Incredible Hulk and the guy who is on fire, we could have Pebble Man or Rock Man, Sand Man and so on!

Richard:              And Water Man and Air Man!

Rick:      So the next one of your main points was ‘Ready, relaxed embodiment,’ let’s talk about that one a little bit.

Richard:              Well think about a surfer. Everybody, if you haven’t surfed … or at least a skier.

Rick:      Yeah, I’ve skied.

Richard:              Sure, me too, and I’ve surfed. And I’m not very good at either, but enough to know what it’s like to be in flow. So when you’re in flow on a surfboard and as you get better and better at it, there is a moment where your body is responding continuously to the slightest change in the alignment of the board or the skiis. At the same time, if you’re tense, if you’re thinking about what you’re doing, it slows down the way information is transferred between the peripheral nervous system and the central nervous system.

So in a certain sense, when you’re profoundly relaxed and profoundly ready, you’re adjusting to anything. It would be the same process in martial arts. In martial arts or in qigong, or in tai chi, they’re trying to teach people to be both relaxed and ready, simultaneously. But every athlete that gets into a state of flow through whatever activity, understands what that is. And things like surfing which are very difficult to learn, and in which the wave formation is changing all the time, and the weather is changing all the time – you know, I’m teaching people with movement, with dance, with whirling. And again and again and again, it’s not just having an experience; understand that if this experience suddenly moves you profoundly,  it is because you are simultaneously very awake, very alert, and equally relaxed.

Rick:      Yeah, I was just reaching for this book on my shelf … there is this beautiful quote from Billy Jean King and it contains some other quotes too, it is by this guy I interviewed a while back, Craig Pearson – The Supreme Awakening. He quotes a bunch of athletes describing their experience when they are totally in the zone, and it’s just what you’re describing; there is this complete effortlessness, as if they’re not doing anything, even though they’re involved in the most dynamic activity.

You read the accounts from really top-level athletes – Michael Jordan and people like that – and it’s like they’re just kind of sitting back and relaxing while they’re doing this incredible stuff in their sport.

Richard:              Exactly, and if that then generalizes to being with your children, to being with your financial advisor, to working on your taxes, to being with the person that you want to deepen in love with, if that generalizes into every moment of life then we have what we could call ‘spiritual integration’ or ‘spiritual maturity’.’

So it is clear that we are able to access aspects of the consciousness in certain contexts, but eventually, you know, Michael Jordan can’t play basketball the way he did before because he got older – same with all athletes – but can he still be in the same state of flow? Can Billy Jean King? Or is the identity caught in a memory of how wonderful that was and therefore life now is not quite as full as it used to be?

Rick Chaffee was an Olympic skier in the 60s for the U.S. and he came to one of my retreats, in the early 80s. And he experienced in the retreat the same level of energy that he experienced in the starting gate and when he skied the giant slalom; he was one of our gold medal winning Olympic athletes. And he had never believed that he would ever, ever experience it again.

And so what he did was that he left the motivational speaking circuit and he actually went into the ministry, decided that he wanted to – in the framework of his faith – teach consciousness. And I don’t think I’m trespassing … I’m interpreting him because it has been decades  since we’ve had a conversation with him about this, but he caught me up with an email about 5 or 6 years ago about where his life had gone.

But the thing is to take something that happens in peak experience or peak moments and then continue to integrate it. Spiritual awakening, cosmic consciousness, kundalini awakening – whatever you want to call it – fundamental realization, is a peak moment. Then integrating it is highly creative, imaginal, inventive, it requires discipline and consistency and persistence.

People need to know that you’re laying down the path each time you take a step or as you take the step, from the very place to take the step from inside yourself. And it doesn’t end, and there is no final state of illumination or clarity – in my opinion, in my experience. There’s just a ceaseless evolution and that there aren’t moments of the mustard seed, or moments of unitive “I’m not doing it” – no, sure. So, both are happening; it’s being and becoming and evolving, and you’re already there and you’re still growing.

Rick:      It’s kind of interesting to think of top-level athletic performance as a spiritual practice, because to really reach the top level you have to do what we’ve been describing here. You have to be able to be relaxed and dynamic at the same time, or else you’re just going to be the second or third tier; you’re not going to be at the top. And so obviously most of us, the vast majority of us aren’t going to be engaged in world-class athletics, but everyone can do it. Someone who is in a wheelchair or with an injury can culture that same quality; there are ways of going about it, and athletics just happens to be one, and athletes tend to be famous but it’s something that’s available to every human being.

Richard:              Well it is. And for example, if I have a group I’m working with, one of the simple exercises I do is I have people just start walking around in a room, and I ask them to watch the empty space where you’re going to put your next footstep. And then gradually I accelerate the speed which I invite them to walk, and if you have enough people crowded into a relatively small space, that automatically means you’re going to have to start to change direction. So you have to change direction even as you’re taking a step, because someone else is about to step into the same place, because the only rule in this exploration is ‘no collisions’ and ‘don’t stop.’ Don’t stop for someone to get out of your way – you never stop, no collisions.

And so as people do this, and first I say, “Let’s take an inventory of your state of being before we start,” and people will describe where they are… “Oh, distracted, interested, curious, ta da da da….” And then we do this, this kind of corpus dolphin movement faster and faster, more and more random, stay in your body …

Rick:      It’s like a school of fish or a flock of birds.

Richard:              Yes, exactly, exactly right. And then at a certain point I’ll say, “Okay, stop. Now what is your state?” And we’ll hear, “Alive, vital, calm, peaceful, centered, joyous, tcha, tcha, tcha…” “Okay, let’s do it some more.” And we find out that you are forced to be ready but you’re also forced to be relaxed, you’re forced to be focused but you’re also forced to be spacious. Because if you’re just focused on where you’re putting your feet, then you’re not going to be aware of the people around you, and then there are going to be collisions. But if we do this gradually …

So this is a typical exercise that I would do, for example, with a group of people, to give them a direct experience of shifting states, or shifting into a more focused, spacious, ready, relaxed state. And now notice it, think about what we do all the time. All day long we are doing the same thing – at the same desk in the same way in the same routine. A lot of my exercises have to do with discontinuity.

We know that Prigogine got a Nobel Prize for the theory of dissipative structures. If you add energy to certain systems, like if you put too much heat under your porridge and you don’t pay attention, it’s going to burn – entropy, no more energy, that’s it. But there are certain systems that if you add energy to them they reorganize and now they can handle even more energy, and that’s what I think a human being is. What we call ‘ego’ can only handle a certain amount of energy before it’s going to flip out into ecstatic states or psychotic states – it’s going to break down. Or, at a certain point, the whole sense of ‘me’ disappears, the ego is gone and there’s just a being that is alive with this energy pouring through it, and its dancing in the danger zone where the dancer becomes the dance … you know that song Maniac from Flashdance, the film? She’s dancing to the danger zone where the dancer becomes the dance, so there we get this direct experience.

Now, if once you have that direct experience and you begin to realize there’s a moment of discontinuity that’s necessary …. so is it going to come through an auto accident, is it going to come through a divorce, is it going to come through a disease, or are you going to do something like be really creative, stop doing what you’re doing now and go play your piano? Go out for a run but don’t go for a run every single day because then it becomes the same pattern. Change your energy, change your activity – discontinuity, discontinuity, discontinuity. Good idea to change your career every 7 years, I’ve heard some people recommend that. Go hang out with the grandchildren and be absurd.

After I get done teaching I can’t help myself, I need the most ridiculous puns and when people ask I will say, “Look, I’ve been so earnest and serious in a sense, in communicating this work, now my mind needs to go to ridiculousness, and it just starts to play with word association.” And it’s silly, but for discontinuity I use singing, not disrespectfully, but singing to the hallelujah chorus , for example, but making believe you’re a trombone or a trumpet (makes trumpet sounds), you know? Or gibberish, speaking gibberish, or try to point your finger at something and name it what it isn’t, which is virtually impossible. Once a word and a label has been put on something like ‘finger,’ to call it a ‘tulip,’ you can’t do it.

And you watch the way the mind creates patterns, it starts naming foods or naming colors. But the forcing the mind to do what it can’t do – these discontinuities I do them every day, multiple times and in different forms with people in the retreats, because it just frees energy, it puts us into the body in a way that’s no longer patterned in the old way, so we start to become ready and relaxed. The mind starts to become focused and spacious. And that is the state that we’re talking about when we talk about ‘now’ or ‘presence.’ To be really ‘in the now’ is to be focused and spacious, to be really ‘in the now’ is to be ready and relaxed, and everybody gets a taste of it in some form – athletics, lovemaking, writing poetry, painting.

It’s essentially, when we talk about ‘the now’ or ‘the present moment,’ what we’re really talking about is a focused, spacious mind, what we’re really talking about is a ready, relaxed embodiment. The deeper, the closer you come into the now, you leave the world of thought and the world of language, and you come into focused spaciousness, ready, relaxed. And it’s being, and there’s no limit to it; it goes deeper and deeper and deeper.

Rick:      Incidentally, this is a pretty traditional guru tactic – shaking the disciples up, you know, just getting them out of their ruts, breaking their routines … “Okay, get up at 3 in the morning and run this message over to the next village,” and the guy gets over there and he hands the note to the recipient and it says, “Send him back.” So he sends him back again; anything to kind of break it up!

Richard:              Well discontinuity. To put discontinuity in so that … obviously I was talking a divorce attorney yesterday and you know, divorce is an opportunity for transformation, but people get so mired in their anger, they get so mired in their hurt, they get so mired in their fear – particularly financial fear – or if it has to do with custody of children they get so mired in anxiety about who’s going to get custody … angry, you know? And we just literally poison ourselves, just poison ourselves hour after hour, day after day, it’s so sad.

And there you are in this profound discontinuity, and what an opportunity to observe your mind, to observe the emotional arousal of the thinking. It’s just a tremendous opportunity but we’re never been trained to take advantage of those opportunities, so you end up with a discontinuity and sometimes a breakdown, but not a breakthrough, as someone said … I can’t remember who.

Rick:      People often say that the world is your guru and that it’s a very intelligent universe, and that things that happen to you are not happening capriciously; they’re happening with your best interest in mind, even though it might not seem that way. So I think that if you can culture that perspective, it might help one to do what you’re saying here and treat disruptions and difficulties as opportunities.

A question came in. This is from Richard in South Hampton, England, it’s about spacious focus: “Relating to childhood trauma, is there an area of the body that one might concentrate on to help find the bodily roots of childhood trauma? I can feel that I am often overstimulated and I suspect this relates to fear, in connection of my father’s temper towards my mother when I was a child. I know that below that memory my childhood or infant self is quite open and relaxed. All the best, Richard.”

Richard:              There’s not like a “Here’s the issue, here’s the formula for solving it” – I don’t think that way. There’s not a specific way to focus in the body; it’s broader than that, or it’s more simple in a way. So what I would say to Richard is, in the present moment, which is all we have, there’s a sensation. Whether it was caused from your father’s aggressiveness, that’s a belief – it may be true, it may not be true – but the important thing is that you have this sensation in the present moment.

So let’s say if you’re overexcited or there’s anxiety, the question is, what are you going to do with it or how are you going to relate to it now? And when things have been imprinted from very early in life, as I said earlier, you have to really shift levels, you have to descend into – not regress into in the sense of hypnotic regression, like “Let’s revisit this wound and live it through” – maybe that has a therapeutic value, at times, but you do only have the present moment, live deeper in the present moment.

And as you reach the places where there is inhibition and you touch them with respect and gentleness – you dance them, you sing them, you find that your consciousness and your body knows how to heal this, already; that potential is already there. Consciousness needs contrast and we’re not as linear as we’d like to make ourselves out to be, like with the DSM diagnostic textbook on symptoms.

My experience is that, after almost 40 years of working with people, the body knows how to heal profoundly and psyche knows how to heal profoundly, all we have to do is just let it become alive right now, in the present moment, any way you can. Rather than focus on where it might be in your body, just see what happens if you start moving, see what happens if you start dancing, see what happens if you just let yourself let your voice make sounds and move to your own sound, and just keep moving into it deeper and deeper, into your own body, into your own creative, generative self-expression in the moment. And suddenly, without you even understanding how it happens, something will release or reorganize.

Since I’ve seen it happen thousands of times, I can simply tell you I’ve never tried to work with the problem at the level of the problem; I just work with the energy in the moment. Come in deeper into the body, come there through your voice, come there through dancing, come there through singing, come there through quiet sitting and observation, come there through breathing meditation; there are almost limitless ways. But you reach a moment where you’re getting closer … it’s like the Sistine Chapel ceiling – you’re getting closer, and God and Adam are reaching for each other.

So when you’re out here Richard and you’re really stressed and bothered, and you look at it with your head and you give labels to it and you explain it from the past, okay, that’s one level of it. But if you enter the sensation and you begin to dance with it and you begin to sing with it, or you begin to voice it or you just cry with it, and you’re getting closer and closer and closer, and then suddenly … poof! It just reorganizes. You shift, you got to a different level of consciousness, you go to a different level of embodiment and things then pass through you. It’s not like we’re solid, it’s not like these body memories are there imprinted forever; you reorganize, there’s a reorganization. That’s just a way of describing a process that we go through. Sometimes it looks very chaotic or feels very chaotic but afterwards, afterwards as it settles down you discover, “Oh…”

I remember a report of a small airplane crash, happened to be a couple – he had severe heart disease and she was diabetic. And it took them almost 10 days to extricate themselves from the wilderness area where they had crashed, at which point she was no longer diabetic and his heart disease had improved – part of it is discontinuity, part of it is that they were probably starving.

Rick:      Yeah, fasting was good for them.

Richard:              But the point is, these moments of discontinuity however we reach them, allow us to reorganize into a new level of wholeness. Especially if we go there with respect, we go there with respect for ourselves and we enter the process with a sense of tender curiosity, we enter the body … nobody is ever forced. I never force anyone to do anything, in fact, if they’re going to trust me, I have to believe in them.

So Richard, I would basically say, don’t try to heal it as a problem from childhood; it’s an immediate present moment sensation. Enter it, explore it, dance it, sing it, go for a run. Don’t try to run from it; dive into it with awareness, dive into it with singing, dive into it with dancing, and you know, what did Gabrielle Roth say … “Sweat your prayers” … with the methodology of dance, with the 5-rhythems philosophy of dance. That’s basically how I would work with it, and there are other ways I would work with it, which would at some point come to the Mandala methodology.

Rick:      Yeah, you’ve kind of segued into ‘Energy Awareness’ in what you were just saying, which is the next point, and we’ll get to the Mandala methodology in a second. But you said in ‘Energy Awareness’ that “A human being has many kinds and levels of energy fields,” and you refer to something called ‘sacred attention,’ so let’s touch on that before we go on to the Mandala work.

Richard:              One of the things that was really profound for me in my own development was to learn to do energy work, that is to learn to scan or sense the energy field of a person, and of course I was coming from medicine and in fact I was still in medicine when I first learned about energy work, in the 70s. And I thought I found this incredible methodology for healing, and it is – up to a certain degree; it can be a very profound form of healing. But what I got interested in was the state of consciousness I was in when the energy was the strongest, when it was being transmitted the strongest and I was most sensitive to it in terms of observing and sensing the energy in someone else.

I thought, “Wow, instead of making this about energy work, why don’t we make this about sacred attention. I’m changing the quality of my attention in order to be aware of the energy, I’m changing the quality of my attention in order to be a transmitter of the energy. So how am I changing it? Well I’m moving more and more into the present moment, I’m using something like the idea of the Divine as a transitional object for surrendering to limitlessness, and then I’m connecting to that and letting it flow through me.

Over time I took the work out of the context of ‘energy healing’ and put it into the context of what I called ‘sacred meditation,’ and I teach people that to this day, in all my retreats. So right now for example, if we take hold of the chair that you’re sitting on and squeeze it hard, that’s one form of delivering attention. And if you keep doing that, at first you’ll be more alert, maybe you’ll be more focused, after a while you’ll get tired, you’ll get irritable.

If you relax and you touch the chair very, very softly and then you think, “Okay, this is pretty soft. I wonder if I can – on a scale of 1 to 5, if this level of softness is a 5, I wonder what a 1 would be like.” And now I go, “Oh…” And so now everything has to sort of soften inside of me. Turns out that to be soft takes a stronger mind and attention than to be forceful. So if I know that I can breathe in now and be opening to – in the sense of using words – opening to limitless consciousness, opening to the infinite, opening to universal energy, opening to unconditional love, so I use those words as transitional objects, a way of giving the mind a direction of attention.

I’m opening to that and as I breathe out I’m allowing that to flow through me and be present in my eyes, my heart, my hands, and I’m just listening to you and I’m walking with you and I’m going down the road with you. So now I’ve taken the kind of thing that happens when a healer is working on a client and we’ve put it into a gas pump! We’ve put it into the daily environment, the everyday activity.

So from energy awareness work, which becomes to me too narrowed and too limited when it’s about healing or even when it’s about energy, to the state of consciousness or the quality of attention that’s necessary in order to be present in that energy, to finally being aware that as I breathe in right now, a part of me is connected to limitless consciousness, it’s like the spaciousness of the sky. As I breathe out, another part of me is precisely present for this moment. That’s how I evolved energy work and you know, you can feel the field in a person, you can change the energy in a person.

But then you have to have a person as the receiver and a person as the giver, so then you have the John-of-God figures standing up there in Brazil, and all these people coming out of neediness to the “great person who transmits the Divine,” right, and there’s just level after level of mental constructs between all of those people and who they really are. If John the Divine gets rid of whatever he’s wearing, gets on the subway or a bus in any major city in Brazil, would anybody feel any energy? If you’d meet Mother Teresa but you don’t know who she is and she happens to be dressed in casual clothes, are you in front of a great presence? If the Dalai Lama wears a little different mask and wears Western clothes, are you even going to know he’s there?

The fact is, to the extent that these people have really embodied it, there’s a field coming off of them, and if you’re sensitive you’ll feel it, and even if you’re not, it will affect you. But there’s this enormous transference that goes if someone says, “I’m a healer,” and that improves – kind of like placebo – it improves the influence of the energy but we still miss the point. The point is there is only this moment, where is your consciousness resting? Is it resting in ego, me and self-interest and self-involvement, or is it resting in the limitless consciousness in which all of this sense of me is arising anyway – arising and disappearing, arising and disappearing? And do I want to be a healer or do I just want to be consciously present? And to me, very, very few people are going to make themselves into healers.

I’ve actually shared energy with thousands of people, I did it with every single person in retreats for the first 15 years of my work.

Rick:      You mean you’d go around one by one?

Richard:              One by one, spend a half-hour or 25, 30 minutes with each one. And with every client and with couples – I would have one couple here, one person here … I’d be between them and sharing energy with the couples. So after thousands of times of sharing energy I figured, “Well, I’ve learned what I need to learn from this. What is it that really matters?” What matters is that I simply changed my consciousness, surrendering to the present moment, knowing that one way of understanding the present moment is that it’s God, or it’s limitless consciousness or it’s perfect in its own way … ‘pure white light’ – whatever people want to call it. And I’d become an instrument for that, I’d become a little more transparent to it, it flows through me. You can feel it, I mean, there’s this energy that’s coming out of the hands, it’s flowing off of you, it affects people, they feel it. I mean, I put my hand over someone and they go, “Wow, I can feel that, it’s warm, it’s tingly …”

At a certain point I realized that using energy that way was tiring, it was beginning to burn me out and also, I’m buying an identity, you know? If I have this power and people look at me a certain way, that makes me more “safe” because I’m special, and I just didn’t want to be special in that way anymore. But I didn’t want to give away the intelligence of being present to that limitless consciousness, breath by breath, moment by moment.

So it is a practice. It is the same energy that I would have used to do healing work on those thousands of individuals when I did it individually years ago, is always with me all the time, but I don’t activate it unless there’s a need for it. And most of the time I don’t have to activate it at all; it’s activated by the people around me. I just feel it suddenly go … whoosh, and there it is, and it’s happening and it’s activated. And it can be at dinner, with people that I know or meeting someone new, it even happens on a train or on an airplane!

Rick:      Probably specific to some particular person or some particular situation, right? Without your even having to understand why this person or why this situation. Kind of like that story in the Bible where Jesus was walking along and some woman came up from behind and touched his cloak, and he turned around and said, “You touched my cloak, I felt the energy transfer.”

Richard:              Yeah, and she said, “Oh, you healed me,” and he says, “It’s your faith that healed you” -yes, exactly that. If we want to live into long old age and become conduits of this energy, we can’t force it. We have to just stay in a kind of innocent humility and let it flow through us when we need it. Because for me, for example, if I were to activate energy now in order to have an effect on an audience or a group, why would I do it? I would either want some form of control, it would have to do something with power, or I wouldn’t believe, I wouldn’t be trusting the rightness of the moment as it is.

So since I am surrendering to trusting the rightness of the moment as it is, there’s no reason for me to activate something; it will activate of itself, it’s there of itself and it just keeps …

When I talked about body wisdom earlier on, part of the body wisdom is this stronger and stronger transmission, but it’s subtle, it’s not hurting the body any more.

Rick:      That’s an important point, so it actually used to hurt your body?

Richard:              Oh yeah.

Rick:      Cause I know a lot of healers do end up with problems because … and I don’t know whether they’re draining their own energy or somehow just being a conduit for energy is too much on their nervous system or something.

Richard:              Both of those; I think both of those, yeah.

Rick:      Both of those, yeah.

Richard:              But also, whenever there’s identity there’s opacity. So if I’m a healer, then to that degree that identity is a form of opacity. Healing may happen through you, but who you are in the essence of yourself is unwordable and unnamable; it’s not an identity. That makes you completely transparent, now the energy does what it wants to do and it moves as it wants to. And every one of us can learn that, every one of us can learn to be that much more transparent, that much more available to this limitless energy, this limitless consciousness, and [to be] a vessel that’s transmitting it, radiating it to the field.

And so that field is an intelligent field because it is not coming from the limitation of a specific identity, it’s coming from a much more universal. It’s sort of like a fiber optic device versus an electric cable – only a certain amount of information can go through an electric wire, but through a fiber optic device … 10 thousand times more information for the same diameter of cable can go through.

And so as we keep surrendering, surrendering, surrendering into the yes of this moment, what operates through us is this amazing intelligence, as an energy, as a consciousness. And depending on what level you talk about it, it’s an energy and as an energy you can feel it – it’s palpable, as a consciousness – something changes inside of you but you don’t necessarily know why it’s happened.

I often say to people, especially when I’m coaching people in the business world, “No matter what interaction you’re in, don’t give up your own agenda, but at the end of that interaction every person there should feel better about themselves.”

Rick:      This energy thing reminds me of Amma – whose picture you see here over my shoulder – you know, she’ll sit there for 10, 12, 14, sometimes as many as 24 hours without getting off the couch, hugging people, one after another … and it’s not a trivial gesture, it’s this profound attunement thing that takes place, and come away fresh as a daisy, apparently. I mean she experiences physical pain from the repetitive motion but there’s this joy and buoyancy that just continues, whereas most of us would think, “Get away from me,” after an hour or 2 of that, but she just says, “Bring ‘em on!”

It’s interesting to watch her do it because there is this – like you were saying, something about not clinging or not grasping or not getting stuck – there’s this fluidity, where one moment she’ll be crying with someone and then the next moment she’ll be scolding a swami, the next moment she’ll be laughing uproariously; there’s just this continuous flow of being in the moment with each person, in each situation. And in a way it’s like utter chaos around her, but she’s this kind of silent center of deep being. It’s just an interesting illustration of the point you’ve been making.

Richard:              Exactly. And for me, I would lead these 10-day retreats and afterwards I would be really vulnerable, really depleted, I didn’t want people to hug me. And then as the years went by I began to realize that wherever there’s any form of tiredness or burnout or something, there is some form of identification, some form of manipulation. And as I kept surrendering, now I can finish a 10-day conference, a 10-day retreat and I can be hugged by as many people as I want. The fatigue I have is just normal fatigue – I go to sleep, have a night’s sleep and I’m fine.

So you know, I just finished an extraordinarily busy travel schedule and people will say, “Well how do you do that?” And I say, “Well, I don’t have a thought about why it should be a problem.” When my body moves I’m not moving. Yes, there is jet lag, that’s true, yes there is interruption in my normal dietary patterns – I’m a whole-food, plant-based person as much as possible, but not always possible when you go to a restaurant in another country, particularly someplace like France, where every single thing is some form of meat, which is pretty much true everywhere.

Rick:      You use an example of a regular cable versus fiber optic, and the idea of resistance comes to mind. If you have resistance in a wire then it heats up, it could even melt, whereas if there is no resistance then the current flows unimpeded, without that heating effect. So it’s kind of like what you are saying here is that perhaps years ago there was some resistance in your wiring.

Richard:              Well the resistance is what we mean when we say ‘me’ or ‘I.’ The resistance is the belief that somehow I am a separate self-existent psychic entity, that I’m the source of these thoughts, I’m the source of these feelings, I’m the one that’s causing this to happen, and that ‘me’ does not exist, and that ‘me’ when it does exist, is resistance. So if you get a lot of energy moving through you and that ego structure, that self-identification is still there, it is going to burn you out, and burn, and burn, and burn you out.

The paradox is that nobody is born transparent, and if I have an awakening at 30 and I am made transparent for a little while to extraordinary energy, and then after that my ego-self, my ‘me’ comes back in trying to understand all this and live its life, and plan and organize the future and take care of all the daily aspects of necessity – the field of necessities of life – and it becomes again engaged as the ‘doer,’ whereas the one that’s ‘done to.’ And so then over time, because that’s not conductive to the energy, there is suffering.

So then over time there is relaxation, and more relaxation, and more relaxation, but it’s not the relaxation into a diminished consciousness; it’s the relaxation into an even more embodied, present, ready, awake state. And words like ‘humility’ are really important, and words like ‘compassion’ are really important, and words like ‘forgiveness’ are really important. And ‘trust’ may be the most important of all for me because once there’s trust there’s just now, if there’s not trust then something has to be fixed or changed, and … “I’m on my way to the life I need,” and “I’m on my way to the life I should have,” instead of “I’m in the life that I have, this is it.”

And so I’m slowly learning trust, forgiveness, humility, steadily. And as that happens, then the transmission is clearer, purer, and doesn’t hurt me.

Rick:      You’ve been talking about the diminishment of the ‘me’ but would you say that there’s still very much a sense of personal self, in a way? I’ve had discussions with friends about this, some of whom say, “There’s no sense of me anymore, no personal identity,” and I don’t understand how they can function or who I’m talking to when they say that. It seems to me they are always – but that’s just from my perspective, maybe I just don’t understand where they’re at – but it seems to me there’s got to be some sense of personal identity to a certain extent, or else you wouldn’t know how to put a fork in your mouth, or else you would just as soon put it in the wall or something, you know, because there’s no identification with ‘this here’ needing sustenance, does that make sense?

Richard:              Yeah, can you have a circle without the central point? I would say, no. By its very nature a circle is something that is determined by a radius, a diameter, a circumference, and you can’t actually measure the circumference; it’s a transcendental number, pi.

I think there is always something that is ‘me,’ but the identification with ‘me’ as a separate person who is important, who needs to be understood, who’s not being seen, that ‘me’ can fall away, that ‘me’ can become less and less and less and less and less present. And still I’m talking to you, and still I’m working, you know, we did all that it took to organize this … and planning …

Rick:      Yeah, and you have back pain, and there’s this and there’s that, and you need to eat lunch, and there are these personal things.

Richard:              Right, and I think every person has to decide or choose, in a certain sense, the trajectory of where their life is going based on what they’ve experienced and what they want to do. And some people are completely identified with the material world, they believe that they borrow their identity from what they have financially, let’s say. And so if they have a lot of money, then they are so important, and if someone has more money, then they’re more important than the person who has less money, and so forth.

If you’re not borrowing your identity from your tribe, from money, from being clever, from being smart, then what happens is you begin to start to overflow from this place that we can’t name, and it just overflows. Now to say that that’s ‘me’ would not be true, to say that I’m working constantly to let go of self-involvement and identification, which is a resistance to life … I don’t want to derive my identity from what I have or don’t have, or how smart I am or what group I belong to, or whether people love me or don’t love me, or like me or don’t like me.

Those terrorists have no center so they derive their identity from a belief system, they derive their identity from the group that shares in their belief system, they arouse their own emotional reality out of their beliefs, out of their judgments. And then they make it even more real by behaving, and then they behave in their crazy ways and they’re lost. They’re completely lost, but everybody else is – until you’re awake to some extent – you’re lost in a similar way, just not so extremely, not so destructively.

Rick:      I was watching a documentary by Fareed Zakaria the other night, about the Mumbai terrorist attack about 5 years ago, and one of the terrorists wasn’t killed and they were talking to him in a hospital bed. And they said, “Well why did you do it?” And he said, “Well, they told me I would become a big man and I would go to heaven.”

And so first of all it’s the “they told me” – he was completely buying into what these other characters had told him, and then there was this sense that, just as you said, self-aggrandizement and some promise of future reward, all based on belief … that doing some horrible, violent, absurd thing was actually going to produce those benefits.

Richard:              And there’s no remedy to it except consciousness.

Rick:      Yeah, yeah, good point.

Richard:              What we should try to understand from all this is the nature of how people become identified and do these things and borrow their identity from externals and from what people tell them and from belief systems, and we do it all the time.

When someone comes up to you and says, “Oh, you’re looking really tired,” what do you feel in that moment? Someone comes up to you and says, “Wow, you’re looking great,” what do you feel in that moment? You see? And it happens all the time – our parents are constantly telling us, “Do this, don’t do this,” who we are, who we aren’t. And so the initial stages of development that form the functioning human being that you and I are, at the level of ‘me’ or ‘ego-I,’ that’s a stage of development that can’t be skipped. But as long as we’re still borrowing identity from the outside then we’re going to manipulate, we’re going to narcissistically manipulate people in the world to see us the way we want to be seen. That’s what ISIS is doing, it’s narcissistically manipulating the world to see it in a particular way.

And the only way to counter that is a certain kind of education, spiritual education. In fact, I just read a recent study that people, young people who have had some religious training in Islam are much less likely to be radicalized than the ones who never have, and that’s really interesting. So the radicalization – and I call my deep retreats “Radical Aliveness,” because I’m tying it to coming to the roots of aliveness – but radicalization in this sense has to do with people becoming so much the instruments of a limited belief system, and deriving identity from it, and getting people to see them in a certain way.

And the fact that we will allow them to cause us to be afraid – and the media will emphasize words like ‘terrorism,’ in a sense playing into the very thing that they’re attempting to do – we start to derive our sense of identity as victims or as avenging angels and everything in-between, for an act that is essentially pure unconsciousness.

Rick:      You say in your notes here, “Deepening in consciousness is the obligation of every person and the most important form of service you can offer the world.” And let’s use that as a segue into your final point, the Mandala work – ‘Presence and emotional clarity.’

Richard:              If you watch where your mind goes, if you become observant, that witnessing consciousness … I would say the birth of the witnessing consciousness is a good way to describe awakening. And as that witnessing consciousness goes deeper, you begin to transcend more and more and more limiting ideas of yourself, or limited beliefs about yourself, or limited behaviors.

But the Mandala basically says there is only the present moment, and when the mind, when your conscious mind leaves the present moment there are only 4 places it can go: it will go into the past, or the future, or into judgements of yourself, or into some form of stories about others. And others can be trees for lumber … to a person that makes their living from lumber trees are objects that are resources to be cut, for an environmentalist they’re something else – so the ‘you’ depends on which ‘me’ is doing the looking.

Basically start to observe, wake up when you find yourself in future telling yourself a story that’s scaring you and realize, what’s actually happening right now? Come back to the present moment.

On my website there’s a free e-course that really teaches this process that people can use, it’s very helpful – it’s in my book, The Mandala of Being, and then in the sequel to that book, Inside-Out Healing. So the Mandala teaching is essentially about, if you’re present in the center, now you’re in the kingdom of heaven, you’re in nondual consciousness. As soon as you leave that, and you have to leave it … in 1.50.00 they say that a baby is undifferentiated state of consciousness, then we enter into a differentiated state of consciousness and then we want to go into a differentiated-undifferentiated state of consciousness, so there’s a ‘me’ and no ‘me’ – after the awakening … for that there’s the ego, I, the ‘me,’ and I’m buying into it.

But if you want to slowly do a practice that takes you back into the present moment, watch your mind. Imagine if you had a Harry Potter-like magical device and instead of you having to have a witness, it was your witness and it goes, “Wake up, wake up! You’re in the future and you’re making yourself very anxious!” Start right now, come back right now.

If you come back to the present moment and your heart relaxes, your body relaxes, your heart fills, the future has completely new possibilities, but when you’re identified with the future, the present moment becomes either the eagerness or hope of a positive expectation, or the fear, worry and anxiety of a negative anticipation. So, wake up, wake up, come back, start over!

And the Mandala basically teaches, “Okay watch, now you’re in the past so there may be regret or blame, or there are positive memories.” And positive memories are lovely, but if you’re dwelling in that, you’re not going to actually see what’s happening right now, you’re not going to feel the air on your skin right now, the vividness of colors will not be. You’ll be in a peaceful place because you’re in a positive memory, but you’re not going to be in the aliveness, the profound aliveness of rich perception of this present-moment consciousness, so it’s a benign state but it’s an inferior possibility – let’s call it – for yourself.

When we’re in these ‘me’ stories, we’re either exaggerating and aggrandizing ourselves, making ourselves self-important and bigger, or we’re making ourselves smaller. And almost everybody has a story somewhere in some context on “I’m not good enough,” and it’s a belief … “I’m not good enough.” And there’s a sensation that maybe drives that belief, it’s a sensation of being unsafe or a sensation of not feeling seen or connected enough, and then there’s the story: “I’m not good enough.” And I work with that with people all the time, and the ways that you can work with it are clear in my books and on the website.

So if you want to help a person wake up … see, the only way you know that you’re off the path is when you know you’re on the path is when you’re off the path.

Rick:      Say that again … how is that?

Richard:              When you’re on the path you don’t it, it’s when you go off the path [that you know it].

Rick:      Oh, ah, particularly because you start getting slapped around a bit by …

Richard:              Yeah, yeah. Or if you’re doing TM and then suddenly you’ve got the mantra completely and you’re in some imaginary conversation, imaginary interaction with a person because you’re angry at them and you haven’t been able to resolve it, and then you wake up and you go, “Oh, I’ve lost the mantra,” or “I’ve lost the breath awareness in my body.” And you were talking about scanning – like an MRI scan through the body or a CT scan through the body – and you’ve lost this immediacy of present-moment sensation, present-moment perception, and the mind is absorbed someplace. Well it’s going to be absorbed, in a simple sense, in stories about you, that are either going to make you bigger or smaller, those are what I call the “me stories.”

It’s going to go across to the other side: subject – me, object – you, and then you’re going to be lost in judgements of other people, or judgments of your house, or judgments of your career. And every one of those thoughts will arouse something – anger, resentment, bitterness. Future stories will create hope or fear – basically, in their simplest – and the past will create positive remembrance or negative remembrance, and all of that is mind generated.

And if you start to observe that carefully, and I take people through long, clear processes of feeling the shift when they’re identified with a story like ‘I’m not good enough,’ and they step into the present moment and they’re not identified with that story, or we balance it by taking out the complement story … you say, ‘I’m not good enough,’ well what’s the proof? And on and on and on and on.

You can’t have the conceptual structure ‘I’m not good enough’ without burying its complement, ‘I am good enough.’ There’s no such thing as hot without an experience of cold, right without wrong, up without down. ‘I’m not good enough’ means you’ve buried-in your shadow, ‘I am good enough.’

Okay, so now I’ll say to someone, “Take out ‘I’m good enough’” – it’s a different psychology. There are situations where you’re in that, but this was a situation where you were identified with ‘I’m not good enough.’ Okay now, prove it to me, where’s the evidence? Change your psychology, find the evidence that you are good enough. And a person could say, “Well I’ve done this and I’ve done that, and I have friends and I’ve travelled and I’ve been successful,” and it just goes thing after thing after thing.

And I say, “Well how do you feel now?” They say, “I feel wonderful, I feel light, I feel free, I feel open.” Okay, okay, so now you have two choices!- positive thinking will tell you to identify with ‘I am good enough,’ or Neti Neti – one of the older teachings – will say, neither this nor that. Try to be ‘I am not good enough’ and ‘I am good enough,’ ‘I am not good enough’ and ‘I am good enough,’ ‘I am not good enough’ and ‘I am good enough’ … you can’t do it! So there comes a moment when you have to just drop them both and now you’re once again in the present moment, not conditioned by the arousal, the unhappiness of ‘I am not good enough,’ or the positive affirmation of ‘I am good enough;’ you’re back into something more essential.

So the Mandala methodology basically says, watch your mind, watch your thinking, watch your ego dynamics, and power of awareness says, you’re more than that. So let’s engage them in a very creative way that leads you back to the present moment. In other words, there is no way to teach people present moment consciousness; you can teach people how they leave the present moment. At the moment you realize you’ve left the present moment (snaps his fingers), you’re back in the present moment. And so that’s what the Mandala methodology is, it’s a very powerful …

Just yesterday, last night in fact, there’s a New Thought – and I can’t think of the name of them right now … a New Thought group in L.A., a very dynamic minister and his wife, who does the music – and they teach a course and they use my book, The Mandala of Being, and the first 6- or 8-week segment of their course is reading that book. So they invite me and I Skyped with them yesterday, last night between 9 and 10 … no, excuse me, it was Thursday night between 9 and 10 … and it was just people telling me how that book changed their lives. One woman talks about how she reads the book and she shares it paragraph by paragraph with her mother, and how it’s changed her mother’s life.

Because suddenly, instead of hearing about ‘the power of now,’ you get to hear about ‘the power of not now!’ If you’re in thinking you’re not now, if you’re in thinking you’re in the future or the past, or judgements or beliefs about yourself, judgements or beliefs about others and anything else – money, God. I mean that’s where most people are; they don’t have a direct experience of God, they have a belief in God.

Meister Eckhart said, “When I am there” – meaning as a ‘me’ or an ego – “then there are gods, but when I am not, there is only God, and I am God.” And for that, that was heresy because he was saying that he and the Father were one, but only Jesus could be the Son of God in 14th Century Christianity, you know, so he died in prison before he was burned. But most people don’t have a direct experience of this mystery that some people would call “God,” but they have an incredible amount of beliefs.

So someone can tell some susceptible individual, “You’re going to do this and God will love you and will smile on you, and then you’ll go to heaven,” and it’s all thought, it’s all thought! It’s nothing but thought! Where is that thought arising?

Rick:      I don’t think we covered all the main points. You also had differentiating emotions from feelings, transformation through threatening feelings, working with dreams, and living an evolutionary relationship. P.T. Barnum said, “Always leave ‘em wanting more,” so I think we’re probably going to have to do that because we can’t take the time to delve into each of those points in as much detail as I would like, because we’ve gone on pretty long.

But what can we say … what can you say as a synopsis or as a summary of everything we’ve covered today and perhaps anything we didn’t cover, things that you would like to leave people with, who have been watching this interview?

Richard:              First of all I’m grateful. I’m grateful for the thoughtfulness that you’ve brought to the interview, so thank you.

Rick:      And I’m grateful to you for doing it with me, it’s symbiotic.

Richard:              Good. For the people that are listening, whatever touched your heart – keep it as best you can, whatever you didn’t understand – don’t worry about it, but don’t give up. If you decided to just keep waking up moment by moment, coming back, starting over in this moment, you will have to face the feelings that are scary – we didn’t talk about that … [about] how do we deal with these various scary feelings.

But gradually, slowly, through vulnerability, through openness, your heart will open more and more and you will become the embodiment of the very thing we all need to do to keep evolving and to heal each other, heal our relationship to the world, to the planet. So my feeling is just … keep going, keep going, keep going, don’t give up, don’t give up.

Rick:      Or as Mr. Natural put it, “Keep on truckin’,” right?

Richard:              Keep on truckin’, yeah. And you know, that’s the greatest gift you can give to anyone, is how present you are to yourself and how present you are to others. So that’s basically how I would sum it up.

Rick:      I think that’s a great summary point because, “Seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened” – there’s definitely always a result, I would say, if one just perseveres. What is it the Gita says? It says, “No effort is lost and no obstacle exists. Even a little of this dharma removes great fear.”

I personally think that pursuit of the spiritual path however one decides to pursue it, is the most worthwhile thing a person can do in life, and of course there are all kinds of wonderful expressions of that that benefit others. I interviewed a guy, Adam Bucko – I’ll be putting that [interview] up soon – who spends his time helping homeless kids in New York City, and that’s his spiritual path, and so it’s not all just about marinating in one’s own subjective experiences. But however one defines it, it is such a rewarding way to live one’s life, just keep on truckin’.

Richard:              I think it’s the most important thing we’re here for.

Rick:      Yeah, it’s why we’re here, ultimately, I think.

Richard:              Yeah, and we’re really fortunate and I just feel grateful, grateful. People shouldn’t think that when you wake up there’s no more suffering; it’s that you have a new relationship to it. I had a friend that framed it as the paradox … “Is life freedom from suffering or the capacity to suffer?” You know, how would you know the difference?

Say yes, say yes more and more deeply, and risk loving, and risk being touched and risk touching.

Rick:      And kudos to you, I mean it must have taken guts to ditch your medical career after all the study and expense you put into becoming a doctor. And I think it’s really neat that you’re been serving people for so many decades in the capacity you have. It is a life well-lived and I hope you continue to live it and do it much longer.

Richard:              Thank you, I appreciate that very much. Thank you, Rick.

Rick:      Oh you’re welcome. I forgot to mention Richard’s website, which is www.richardmoss.com , and I will be linking to that and to his various books – which you can get at Amazon – on the page at www.batgap.com for this interview.

So on that note, let me conclude. I’ve been speaking with Richard Moss – I suppose it’s “Dr.” Richard Moss but you don’t usually use the “Dr.” -and it has been a great conversation, I’ve really enjoyed it, I hope you all have to. There have been anywhere from 30 to 50 people online throughout the conversation but many thousands will watch this in the coming weeks.

If you are watching these interviews and would like to watch them live so as to submit questions to the guest, there is a link on the ‘Upcoming Interviews’ page under ‘Future Interviews’ at www.batgap.com , for the livestreaming thing of each interview.

If you explore around the site there are a bunch of other things that I always like to call to people’s attention. You can sign up to be notified by email each time a new interview is posted, there is an audio podcast of it and there is a page that shows you how to link up to that on various devices. There’s the ‘Donate’ button which I mentioned in the beginning. The ‘Past Interviews’ are categorized 4 or 5 different ways under the ‘Past Interviews’ menu, so check that.

That’s about it. So thanks for listening or watching and thanks again Richard, and we will see you for the next one.

Richard:              I hope there is a next one. I enjoyed it.

Rick:      Alrighty, okay, bye-bye.

Richard:              Thank you so much, bye.

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