RICK A: Welcome to the this episode of the science and non duality conference dying and entitled dying and living. My name is Rick Archer. I am ordinarily the host of the Buddha at the Gas Pump interview series. And this talk will be aired on Buddha at the Gas Pump later on. But right now it’s part of the online sand conference. Each sand conference has a different theme, and they felt it appropriate to entitle this one dying and living. My guest for this episode is Dr. Rick Hansen. Rick is a psychologist and New York Times best selling author. He’s been an invited speaker at NASA, Oxford, Stanford, Harvard and meditation centers worldwide. His books are available in 28 languages and include resilient hardwiring happiness, Buddha’s Brain, just one thing, and Mother nurture. His work has been featured on the BBC, CBS and NPR. And that’s just a very brief bio, he has longer bios on his website, and he’s accomplished a lot in his life. I’ve interviewed Rick before seven years ago on that gap. And those watching this one might like to watch that one. I listened to it just yesterday, and we really covered a lot of ground. So I’ll just start with a couple of points here. In light of the theme of this conference, in the Mahabharata, the sage you dish there is asked of all things in life, what is the most amazing, the ditch there are answers, that a man seeing others dial around him, never thinks that he will die. And there are also a lot of great quotes and verses in the Bhagavad Gita, which is part of the Mahabharata about death and dying in the immortality of the soul, such as certain indeed is death for the Born and certain his birth for the dead, therefore over the inevitable you should not grieve. And then it goes on to explain how, you know, even though the body dies, the essential nature does not die. So I’m sure most people listening to this have heard those ideas before. Okay, so, Rick, I asked Rick, I told Rick, we only have 15 minutes, and what would we like to talk about this time and he said, lately, I’ve been reflecting a lot about the intertwining of equanimity, love stillness, amidst changes, focusing on the perennial over the ephemeral, in other words that wish last over the transitory how our media age keeps fixating our attention to one pixel of reality, while another after another, while obscuring the vast sweep of time and space, power of personal practice in the local while feeling helpless about so much of the global and, of course, various states of mind that are represented by some pictures he sent me, which I think I’m not going to publish, but we can talk about those states of mind. So where would you like to start? Rick, in terms of the points you just mentioned, in terms of the theme of this dying and living conference? What shall we start with?
RICK H: Sure? Well, just so people are not wondering, with regard to those three images I sent you. The first was, I think, Scooby Doo sang row, which I think encompasses at least part of my reactions to the current moment. Then there was a second picture, which was published shortly after President Trump was diagnosed with COVID. At the White House. It’s a picture of Anthony Anthony Fauci. And I’ll clean this up for a general audience, just looking into the camera with a kind of a stern physician look, and it says, I freakin told you, I frickin Told ya. And then the last one is a picture of of a powerful wonder, Wonder Woman last suing and taming a male adversary. So I’ll just leave it at that. And I also want to add, I guess I
RICK A: just showed the three graphics as you were describing them because a picture’s worth 1000 words.
RICK H: They are the speaking of a picture. I want to show the picture. So this is just kind of a shameless. This is my additional book. It’s my sixth book, actually neuro dharma. It’s my oldest one. And I wanted to show you the image of the mountain because it illustrates this larger topic of living and dying and you can see the subtitle as well. You know, modern science, new science, ancient wisdom and said Haven’t practices have the highest happiness? And so, just to cut to the chase here, throughout the world, in all the sacred traditions, and certainly certainly in secular ones, there has been a recognition of this primary matter of personal mortality. And how do we come to terms with that? How do we come to terms with, for example, in my case, my wife and I have two adult kids, I’m really okay with my dying, I think, practice without a lot. I’m not okay that my kids are gonna die. And so how do we how do we come to terms with this, and my own training in contemplative traditions is mainly rooted in the Buddhist tradition, especially the original teachings of the Buddha. And he was intensely preoccupied with the impermanent nature of all of our experiences, and most external conditions. And in that he was searching for what was a reliable, and ultimately unconditioned basis for the highest happiness. But that’s
RICK A: the thing that actually got him going, wasn’t it? I mean, he came out of the palace for a little Joyride, and all sudden saw sick people and old people and dead people for the first time in his life. And he thought, wait a minute, you know, what’s wrong with these people?
RICK H: Right, as the myth has, it is hard to actually real given, you know, the realities of his time. But for sure, yeah, Sonia, we just, that’s that’s sort of it I, I think the real, the real art of so much of life is doing what we can in the ephemeral while finding what endures, finding what is perennial. And I’ve turned a lot, as many people have, to the wisdom traditions, and in my own case, turbocharged by modern brain science and modern psychology, for skillful means really, to help us both deal with the present as it changes beneath our feet, while deepening our sense, meanwhile, have a fundamental unshakable resilience, resilient well being in our own core?
RICK A: Well, I mean, my reaction to that is that just like the ocean, which is all choppy and wavy on the surface, there’s a deeper unchanging value to it. And that metaphor is often used in spiritual circles. But that can actually become descriptive of our experience, we can very much get to a point where in the midst of the most chaotic situation, there’s a kind of imperturbable silence. And, and that’s where you primarily take your stand, and so that the changes in turbulence are interesting, perhaps rather than threatening.
RICK H: Yeah, yeah. What helps you rest in that stillness yourself?
RICK A: Well, like you have a longtime meditation practice, I’ve been meditating. I’m one of those 50,000 hour meditators probably, you know, a couple hours a day for 52 years. And it’s just gotten deep, more and more deeply infused over the decades. And I would, I don’t want to be tooting my horn here. But you showed your book. So I’ll just say, you know, I was not a disciplined person, I was a high school dropout and kind of a flake. But it was so gratifying and beneficial from day one that I just stuck to it. You know, with absolute regularity. I think there’s a lot of fear in the world now, you know, with the virus going around, and people having to people being on enforced spiritual retreats, although they might not realize them as such, and all kinds of craziness bubbling up as people are forced to sort of change and not having the kind of foundation of silence We were just talking about. And so that kind of brings in one of your first points here about equanimity, love and stillness and amidst changes, you’ve been reflecting a lot about that. So let’s talk about that and how perhaps we can develop more of that. And it’s changes so that changes are not the entirety of our reality, and actually are only the sort of the waves on the surface of a much deeper ocean.
RICK H: Right? So equanimity and love, equanimity and compassion, really need to come together. Because otherwise, equanimity is cool and detached and kind of indifferent and orc and without equanimity, compassion gets overwhelmed. So how to bring those two together. And there’s a lot about that, as you know, definitely in the in the wisdom traditions. I’ll just mention if I could four practices that help to cultivate equanimity and by equanimity What I mean is a non reactivity to one’s own expense. It says, if we’re relaxed or tranquil, which is great, we’re having tranquil experiences. But equanimity is a kind of spaciousness or freedom shock absorbers in reference to all experiences. And it disrupts as you would know, wreck, of course, the sequence that moves from the hedonic tone of experiences, sometimes called the feeling tone of pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, potentially into a sense of craving and clinging and then suffering. So equanimity is like a shock absorber, a circuit breaker in there. How do we acquire it, though, especially given that we’ve got a brain, you know, a stone age brain in the 21st century, that’s designed to hate what is unpleasant and want to possess or get more of my precious, Pleasant, Pleasant, right. So I’ll just say four things. And any one of them are useful practices that can deepen a person’s equanimity, increasingly hardwired into their nervous system. The first is to understand your own mind, recognize that there is this tendency to be aversive toward what is unpleasant, and to try to grasp what is pleasant. And it’s natural and okay to cultivate what’s beneficial for other people and for ourselves, to enjoy what’s pleasurable to manage what’s painful. But when we get pressured and intense and driven about that, that’s when we start to really suffer. So being able to understand that process in the mind is useful, and occur at the deepest level of understanding the mind, also, very much as you know, Vipassana, or insight into the nature of all experiences as fundamentally insubstantial and cloud like rather than brick like in other words, empty of substance empty of identity, because they’re transient, they’re always changing our experiences are. And that deepening insight, increasingly, real time in life, really serves equanimity. So that’s the first understand your mind.
RICK A: Yeah. And I would, I’m sure you would agree that this equanimity, and this sort of recognizing the ephemeral nature of experiences is not something you have to sort of do all day long, you know, it could be become deeply ingrained into your very nature. So like, you know, somebody like LeBron James doesn’t have to, you know, think Well, how am I going to shoot this basketball, he’s done it so much, that it’s just natural to them. So these kinds of qualities you’re talking about here can become our default mode of functioning
RICK H: exactly right. You remind me of this teaching from Milarepa, who was looking back on his life as a great Tibetan sage, his life of practice. And he said, In the beginning, nothing came in the middle, nothing stayed. In the end, nothing left. And that is such a lovely description, we could apply to almost anything of learning in the broadest sense, cultivation, healing development. As you know, I’m very interested in positive neuroplasticity, the transition from the second to the third stage, the Milarepa, speaking to there, in the second stage, we can have experiences if they’re prompted, or were deliberate about it, but it’s not yet innate in us. And then gradually there’s that movement from state to trade from the second stage to the third stage, so that eventually nothing leaves and we’re rested in trade equanimity trade, compassion and trade happiness.
RICK A: Yeah. And in several of your books in in our last interview, we discussed a lot the the notion that, you know, spiritual practice, over time transforms the brain and tramps transforms its functioning. You know, that transform, the brain is always going to be plastic, but that transformation is also somewhat stable, right? It the brain learns to function in a much more coherent way and much more, invisibly, so that, you know, over time, even the most potentially traumatic experiences don’t really perturb one’s inner state.
RICK H: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And one thing that’s really remarkable is how we ourselves can be active agents inside ourselves in cultivation in Bhavana. In effect, in Sanskrit, known there’s weekend steepen are our rate of healing and growing in all kinds of ways. By doing little things inside our mind, one of the simplest of all is to simply stay with a beneficial experience for a breath or longer. Before skittering on to the next thing, there’s that famous saying neurons that fire together, wire together. So the longer we keep them firing, the more they’re going to tend to hardwire the beneficial experience we’re having at the time as a growing quality and ourselves or growing trait or characteristic inside ourselves. Hey, you want to hear the second thing about Yeah, sure. Alright, so the second really reflecting on the brain’s negativity bias. And just so much of life. second suggestion, really manage aversion. In other words, be really aware of the ways in which we acquire anxiety or irritation, or feelings of helplessness in particular, we start getting I think, potentially primed. I recognize this myself by the news we don’t like. And it’s about the news and so forth. But that growing crankiness and frustration and rut RO, you know, inside ourselves, the ways in which the longing for justice can become a craving for vengeance, all that inside ourselves, Prime’s us. So that then when, in my case, you know, my wife tells me how to load the dishwasher, dishwasher more effectively, or skillfully. Something happened. So really manage aversion, you know, the brain has a negativity bias, I, it’s like Velcro, for bad experiences, but for Teflon for Goodmans. So it’s very important, I think, to be really on top of that sense of irritability or anxiety, which partly means coping and taking action as best we can, including to help the world become a better place for everybody, not just oneself. So that would be my second suggestion for equanimity. Man, it really take aversion seriously. And take, you know, anxiety, anger and helplessness really seriously.
RICK A: Yeah, I have a thought on the managing of a version. But I think I can actually maybe add that when we get to the news media fixating our attention to one pixel of reality. I’ll bring the point up, then.
RICK H: Okay, that’s perfect. Yeah. And there’s a lot of science, I’m summarizing a lot of stuff about how we can become sensitized to the negative, it’s a little bit like if you drag your fingernail across your hand, one system a big deal, 10 times no big deal. 100 times it’s getting a little pink, by the 1,000th time, your hand wants to pull away, you get sensitized, and we can, unfortunately, develop a brain to the action of the stress hormone cortisol that’s increasingly Prickly, reactive, depressive, anxious, which then predisposes us to get a little more vulnerable to difficult experiences the next day in a vicious kind of cycle. So
RICK A: yeah, you know, one thing I always experienced from the day I learned to meditate was that at when I came out of meditation, everything looked fresher, my perception was brighter, I felt more rested. It’s like, there had been a push the reset button, so to speak, on my nervous system. And, and I found over the years that, you know, that’s cumulative, that you can actually, each day dissolve more with a quote from you. And here is some some quote you that I pulled from your book about how crud kind of builds up in the nervous system over time, I think you actually might have used the word crud, but um, you know, my experience was that you can actually dissolve more crud on a daily basis than you tend to accumulate on a daily basis, therefore, your total crud volume diminishes, and also, also your susceptibility to new crud improve. So So you know, becomes less you become less susceptible. So that things which once might have stress you out, you just take them in stride.
RICK H: I think that’s totally true. You know, in the end, the end, nothing leaves, right, and people who are really far along and practice like, you know, farther up the mountain of awakening, let’s say than I am, I look at them, and I see this undisturbed bubble imperturbability while feeling everything they’re feeling, you know, the joy, sorrow, fear, anger, outrage, you know, calm, whatever they’re feeling in the, in the core of it, although you have a sense of a peaceful abiding, and that’s something we can all cultivate in ourselves.
RICK A: I’ll give you a real quick analogy. And yeah, that is that it said that a kind of a highly stressed nervous system, which hasn’t undergone any of the culturing that we were talking about is like stone, you can etch a mark in it, it’s hard to etch the mark very deeply. In other words, it’s hard to have a really rich experience. But whatever mark you make stays a little bit more refined nervous system is maybe like sand you know, you can make a deeper deeper impression and it also goes away more quickly. more refined is like water, deep impression goes away immediately. very refined is like air. You can you know, experience very, you know, put your arms right through it. And yet poof, no impression is left.
RICK H: What a beautiful sequence. I’ve never heard that before. That’s fantastic. I’ll probably mention it at some point. Yeah. So okay, so the third suggestion for equanimity, a very important growth good I think so much of life is really summarized in terms of deal with the bad turned to the good, take in the good. You know, there’s nothing in what we’re talking about, that’s about overlooking harms being done to others. There’s nothing what we’re saying about overlooking one’s own privilege. And just thinking, you know, because you were born on third base, that somehow you hit a triple, you know, and, and so we got to deal with the bad but on the other hand, if that’s how we do, we get worn down, increasingly, we’re no used to others or to ourselves. And in fact, by turning to the good, we equip ourselves, we strengthen ourselves so that we can increasingly deal with the bad and I’m using the terms good and bad, just pragmatically here. And it’s also very important, when we turn to the good in other words, when we recognize what is working alongside was not working, when we recognize the good in ourselves, amidst whatever else is present are good and other people missed whatever else is present. We, it’s also really important to take it in to let the learning land, in other words to do encourage that movement from state to trade. So when we’re experiencing some sense of reassurance, say, or some sense of our own skillfulness, or moral commitment, or inner peace, slow it down, you know, keep those neurons firing together. So you can actually marinate kind of in that experience, so it really becomes a part of yourself. So that, for me is the third big headline around equanimity. And then the fourth one is find what endures that movement from the perennial to the ephemeral. I just think about the ways in which, speaking to myself, I’m really caught up in the latest news, I mean, the pace of news and events. It’s a firehose, I mean, I’ve lived quite a while at this point, I grew up in the 60s, and the 70s, I saw a lot of tumult, it was nothing like this today, the bizarreness, the whip, sourness, the sense of the bottom falling out of the country in a whole new kind of way, is really weird, right? On the other hand, we can get so caught up in the short term, the immediate, you know, the immediate pixel, that’s barraging us from the media that we can lose sight of, for example, nature, nature’s enduring nature, as nature is enduring relationships, relatedness, here it is, you and I are swinging back, talking with each other after seven years. That’s pretty cool. Even though we don’t know each other well, still, because enduring here and practice, I think of practice as the ultimate refuge. Because, you know, things will happen, things will come and go. But we can never be defeated in the core of our being and the innermost temp, temp temple to practice, no one can stop us from practicing, and are in the core of our being, and no one can do it for us there.
RICK A: Yeah, that was one of my early realizations that, you know, when I began practice, I thought, wow, this really works. And if I just stick to this, things are just gonna keep getting better. And so I just kind of had this, I wasn’t the type to make firm commitments, but I made one. Because it was so dramatic. And the thing about the pixel, you know, the the media, focusing our attention on one pixel of reality, well, you know, losing the big picture, I think that the best antidote to that is again, within one’s own awareness, because deep within we actually do have infinite consciousness, we could call it or infinite awareness, unboundedness, broad comprehension. And yet, through the sort of the routines and conditioning of life, we get narrowed down more and more, you know, so So not only through the media, but anything we focus on is only a small little people of reality. But we can culture within ourselves the capacity to maintain that unbounded awareness in the midst of focusing sharply on sharply as we wish, you know, piloting a 747 if that’s our job, and and then it completely, it’s a completely different orientation to anything we put our attention on news or walking in the woods or anything we do in life.
RICK H: completely true. One of the things that is really a kind of a recent finding and brain science that resonates with many traditional practices, is the value of widening your view. Literally, in the room, for example, if we’re looking close, like we do so much these days down in our phone at a screen like you and I are doing right now, that naturally activates perceptual processing systems in the brain, that are lay that are that are termed egocentric. They’re not they’re not meaning They’re not selfish, they’re not narcissistic. They’re just self referential, which makes sense if it’s near. And we’re talking about systems that evolved over 600 million years back in Jurassic Park, then the stone age then Game of Thrones, right. So, you know, these, these forces are these factors inside us or to help us survive, so near at hand Friend or Foe you need to know, but you can watch, you could just do it in your experience. If you shift your gaze out to the horizon, or you look 10 feet away, say or even above, that naturally starts to engage more ancient, actually more fundamental neural perceptual circuitry that takes him things as a whole. him personally, without privileging your own perspective, just the jungle as it is, right the Serengeti plains as they are distinct from what they mean to me. And we naturally move back and forth between those two perspectives egocentric. The second was called allocentric. Both are important in life. But so much of our culture, and everyday experience is that training in the egocentric in part, because most of us don’t do things like being in the wild or nature, where in our work, we’re extending our gaze to the horizon. Routinely, we’re looking a far distance routinely. And so that’s why I think it’s especially important to look for little ways to widen your view, to get that bird’s eye perspective, to get a sense of your body as a whole, for example, the room as a whole, or the whole situation, as a gestalt. Because that does really good stuff neurologically, including quieting inner chatter and the voice of me, myself. And I,
RICK A: yeah, I know, you like to hike and climb up mountains and stuff. And I really like that too. And I’m sure everyone listening to this has had the experience of, you know, standing on a beach and looking out over the ocean or lying on your back on a summer evening and looking at the stars and that kind of thing. It it really has a profound effect, as you were just saying, I remember one time, we came back from a one month camping trip where we had been out in Colorado, someplace hiking in the mountains, and I was standing in line at a restaurant and somebody looked at me said, You look like you’ve been experiencing something really beautiful recently. They could just see
RICK H: the glow is coming off here. Yeah, cool. Yeah. Yeah.
RICK A: Yeah, so but if we live in New York City, and we don’t have the opportunity to sort of be in the mountains, or look at the stars or anything very often, we again, there are practices that one can do, that you can allow your awareness to just sink into unboundedness, right in your own little meditation closet. Never. You don’t need special circumstances.
RICK H: That’s great. So those are my kind of four equanimity suggestions. Understand your mind, really deal with aversion, grow the good, and, you know, find what endures.
RICK A: Among the notes, you sent me the power of personal practice in the local while feeling helpless about so much of the global, I guess, maybe a lot of people do feel kind of helpless these days. And, you know, elaborate on that?
RICK H: Well, like many, many people, I’m sure, my hearts been really heavy. At this time. I mean, I live in America. I think in much of the world, there are many reasons to have a heavy heart. And we do what we can about the bigger picture. And that’s, I think, really important. And also, like many I’ve been mobilized in the last year, or the last several years to do more than I’d been doing, for the sake of the greater good that we do that. But clearly, there’s a limit for most of us, at least, on the impacts we can have out at the global. And it’s kind of wild to appreciate, for many people, at least, that even while craziness is going down, at in at the global terms of global warming, or in terms of the elite power, say it though, highest levels of government, and around the world, remembering that only probably about 5% of the people on earth live under any kind of functioning democracy. So imagine what the systems are like for 90 95% of the people in the world. So my point is, what’s kind of amazing is to realize that most people throughout history have lived under the thumb of some authoritarian jerker and other certainly since agriculture came in 10,000 years ago with and with it surpluses of food that enabled surpluses of wealth and power. And so, one thing that I think is really important to realize is that it’s okay to enjoy the The local, it’s okay to enjoy the food on your plate the laughter of children, by enjoying it last is not going to help global suffering diminish by by enjoying a more, it’s not going to increase suffering in the world. And it’s really, I think, important, particularly for people who perhaps are very saturated with news about the global, the big picture, so forth to realize, okay, that’s true, I’m doing what I can. And meanwhile, it’s okay to live well, locally, it’s not a betrayal of the greater good. And, in fact, by living well, locally as best I can, and I’m want to be crystal clear about the privilege that comes with being white male, and, you know, professional and so forth. You know, but what, in whatever ways one can, I’ve spent time in Haiti I’ve spent time in in India and Bhutan, and, and they’re, the people who often are grappling with really tough conditions, no better than I the importance of appreciating the local, you know, the sip of water, this laughter of a child, this funny thing a dog does. And I think it’s really important to reserve the right to oneself to be able to do that, especially these days.
RICK A: Yeah, um, you know, if, if someone doesn’t know how to swim, then they’re not going to make. And that can be very useful if someone is drowning. And I think, you know, we have to have our own life, on a kind of a solid foundation of contentment, or fulfillment, in order to be able to radiate that to others. I mean, in any way, even if you were like to join the Peace Corps or something like that, if you’re all sort of stressed out and unhappy, and you know, disharmonious because of your inner state, then you’re not going to be very effective in your tasks in the Peace Corps. So it just sort of, and I think there’s a deeper mechanics to, which is that, you know, there’s a kind of a collective consciousness that you is hierarchical, I mean, there’s world consciousness, national consciousness, you know, state consciousness, and so on. But individuals are the are the units of it, the way individual trees are the units of a forest. And, you know, if the individual trees are all weathered, and dry, and gray, then you fly over the forest. And that’s the way it’s going to look. And it’s going to be susceptible to forest fires. But if each tree is going to nourish, trim its roots and is nice and healthy and green, then you’re going to have a green forest. So on the one hand, spiritual people are sometimes accused of being self indulgent, or self serving or self centered or something, it’s all about me, me, me. But on the other hand, there’s a balance where you, you engage in enough self development to be able to, you know, as the saying goes, my cup runneth over to be able to overflow. For others.
RICK H: That’s totally true. As we both drink a little water here,
RICK A: yeah, my cup, my cup isn’t running over, but it’s good to drink. I know what I want to ask you about. I was having lunch with my wife today. And we are talking about this interview, what we’re going to talk about, you know, talking about spiritual people, quote, unquote. And she said, you know, maybe ask him, Why is it that spiritual people are so often so crazy? I mean, they just, they get, you know, obsessive, neurotic. And you go into any kind of sangha, or any kind of group or spiritual organization or something, and there’s a lot of nuttiness going on. Is it that nutty people are attracted to spirituality or that spirituality makes you nutty? Or yeah, some other idea?
RICK H: Well, I am a licensed psychologist. And it’s also true that I’ve spent a lot of time in the human potential movement, including very intensive forms of personal practice, and some spiritual traditions. In my own history, involving a guru that you’re, you know, pretty wild. So I have some background in this in this territory. My hunch, actually, is that people are drawn to deep spiritual practice, some of whom are already a little unstable or eccentric, and they’re, and they’re drawn to the practice because it’s, it’s it speaks to them. Much of ordinary life doesn’t particularly interest them very much, and it serves them and some of them become really remarkable teachers, on the one hand, so I think there might be a little bit of a so called selection bias very, very slightly. On the other hand, many people who are highly esteemed teachers at this point, we’ll talk about their background of depression, drug addiction, fairly serious mental little disturbance, quasi psychotic states in their 20s, let’s say. And yet if you’re with them, and they really are walking or talk, I mean, in a monastic setting, they’re being observed 24/7 Things are pretty transparent, particularly these days with social media, you get a sense of who’s got feet of clay. And he was, on the other hand, the real deal. It could take time, though, for that sense to emerge, you know, but still tends to come out over time. So these are people who are really in good shape. So I think practice has really served them. Yeah, it’s healed them. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So I’m good with that. And I think it’s important to appreciate. I mean, we could we could, we could put on a spiritual act, you know, cut like, choking I’m trumpet taught, we, it’s important to cut through spiritual materialism. And, you know, I grew up in LA and the human potential movement, there had a lot of feeling like, you know, my brand is authenticity. Right, you know, that people, you’d meet him at a party, and you suddenly realize, after 20 minutes of what seemed like a real nice heart to heart, mutual conversation was them suddenly trying to enroll you in their training, and holding themselves up as an exemplar of how wonderful their training was, and you ought to learn how to be more like them. And I think that’s really BS. On the other hand, I think it’s really easy to take shots at small exceptions, like that small, small, small, important, but very small percentage of people who have a serious psychotic issue on a long term meditation routine. Like that’s a real issue, we got to screen for people and be aware of it. But it’s very uncommon. And it would be really inappropriate to use, for example, the risks of a breakdown experience in an intensive meditation retreat for a very small percentage of people. And then generalize that into wholesale cautions about an everyday practice of mindfulness. And it may be 10, or 2030 minute practice of meditation occasionally. So I’ve just seen that a lot people can make their bones and rise up the ladder rise in the ecosystem of fame, if you will, the ecology of fame by trying to bring down you know, the big, the big kids. And I just think they have to be careful about that. I’ve seen a lot of that in academia, you see it in academia, you see it elsewhere as well.
RICK A: Okay, I have a related question, which is that there’s a term in vogue these days, can spirituality. And it, it pertains, it refers to the sort of the confluence of conspiracy theories and in the spiritual community. Recently, the New York Times and Rolling Stone did an article referring to a yoga teacher named Sean corn who kind of came out with she was the only one willing to put her name to a statement that was made by the wellness, a bunch of people in the wellness community about how shocked and disturbed they were about the degree to which conspiracy theories in general and Q anon in particular, were infiltrating the wellness community. There’s also a podcast that I listened to God in spirituality, that net, I got an interview, I got an email last night from a friend who was just talking to friends in Sedona, who told him that, in their estimation, about 75% of the people in Sedona, the new agey types are now into Q anon. And, you know, think that Trump is the Savior and so on. So a lot of people are concerned about what appears to be kind of a pandemic within a pandemic that’s afflicting the spiritual community where people are impressionable and vulnerable, susceptible. Crazy, not they’re not they don’t have sort of a enough. What would it be critical thinking or we were talking about equanimity earlier. And they’re getting brainwashed as spiritual people often have in cults by a kind of a global cult, and it’s causing a disruption. So I know retail and zire are concerned about this to the host of the sand conference, so I don’t know Do you have any thoughts on that phenomenon? As a spiritual practitioner and psychologist
RICK H: I have not personally bumped into it in in my own activities, while at the same time I completely believe you what you’re saying here. I was in what I call half a cult. In my cult like my knees I’m sorry
RICK A: called Light Yeah, called Light. Yeah, that’s
RICK H: exactly right. Um, it was pretty intense. And one of the things that was very humbling for me as a by nature stubborn, independent, you know, autonomous kind of person, grow going up in a dominating parental environment with well intended but dominant Talk parents. You know, I was blown away by how much I bought the I drank the Kool Aid by how much I bought into it and the influence of social pressure and groupthink and grip pressure. And so I do have some sense of what people are talking about, to me, the crux of the matter is grounded in the teaching of both Buddhism and science, and I think other perennial traditions. Are we grounded in reality as it is? Or are we deluded in some way? Is there an openness to fact, what are the actual facts, and an interest in are in actual factuality, and one of the fundamental characteristics of any kind of cultic group is that it’s in a bubble. And it just will not alter its fundamental paradigm based on factual information. And that’s just the characteristic. And I think the long term healing of that, or addressing of that, is to have the moral courage in our culture, to really punish those who freeload the truth. What I mean by this is that what enabled altruism to emerge was that people who would rip others off, were identified and if need be punished inside hunter gatherer bands. So without the recognition of freeloading and punishment for it, there’s no basis for altruism. That’s why altruism is so rare in the animal kingdom. Humans are very unusual in that regard. And I think in the social media media that we have these days, there’s no punishment for disinformation misinformation, in fact, that’s you can get famous for being a wonderful troll. And so I think it’s really important for people to have the courage to just be matter of fact, about No, that isn’t true. And to be able to be straightforward about that, and promote that kind of grounding in the truth rather than in delusion.
RICK A: Yeah, I remember, Kellyanne Conway was talking to Jake Tapper of CNN, I believe. And she, he said, Well, such as such as a fact. And she said, Well, these are alternative facts. And he said, alternative facts. What are you saying? It’s like, and so I guess, you know, how do we I think that one way of defining spirituality and rising to enlightenment is coming to know the truth. I mean, what the ultimate reality is, that’s what the Buddha and all the others have taught that, you know, Jesus said, You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free. So in this day and age, with all the stuff flying around, and social media, and, you know, on TV and various, you know, regular media, it’s getting really hard for people to know what the truth is. And you know, if you’ve seen that documentary, the social dilemma, have you seen that yet?
RICK H: No, I know, the territory of it. And it’s, it’s deeply alarming. But just to interject there. Yeah, go ahead. Really, anyone who wants to know, something factual, the basic, what is the factuality of it can usually find out in 10 Minutes or Less online, from multiple credible sources that converge on something. So for example, COVID is a real virus is a real plague spreading through us. And it’s well managed by doing certain things that countries like Mongolia, got on top of, and it’s not well managed in United States were the worst managed of any developed country in the world. That’s a fact. And it’s not hard to discern that if someone has a desire to discern that. That’s that I think is a really important point, some incredibly subtle nuance about the details of the Russian disruption campaign in the 2016 election. You know, this might be harder to pin down, but the big picture clearly is they attacked our democracy. And Trump amplified it and you know, to his own benefit, that’s just an undeniable fact at this point.
RICK A: Yeah. You ought to get out more I get I get these emails every day from PTRC on YouTube and Facebook and whatnot, people I get them to a hoax and Oh, and 5g is the devil and Bill Gates is trying to microchip everybody. And, and you know, a lot of people look at that stuff. They say, Oh, yeah, COVID is a hoax. They’re gonna make right microchip, me and they, they’re just sort of don’t think twice. They kind of accept it. And,
RICK H: Ryan, when I would speak to that, though, and this is something he is really clear in the Buddhist teachings. And it’s certainly been really clear in every teacher I’ve ever had, at the end of the day. I don’t know. I can say it in different ways. I’m thinking also my rock climbing guides, you know, the end of the day, each of us has to do our own work. There’s no substitute for us. personal character, there’s no substitute for personal virtue. This doesn’t mean getting all righteous and high and mighty about it. But there’s just no substitute for whether a person at a moral level inside themselves deep down, wants to know what’s true. And is willing to tolerate the discomfort of having to Zhaan, Piaget talked about different kinds of learning, accommodate their paradigms, to the new information, not just assimilate the information into an existing framework, without budging their framework, and that, at the end of the day, there’s no way around it, that people are making choices. You and I are making choices with fallible minds and in a changing world to try to understand what’s true. And when I say people, like you’re describing what’s really clear to me, they don’t want to know what’s true, right? Or they want to believe in something that’s a kind of a fairy tale for whatever personal gratification that is, and
RICK A: and, of course, they don’t think it’s a fairy tale. They think that oh, now I know it’s true. And all these other sheep are being diluted by the mainstream media and so on and wake up, do your research, you know, find out learn what I have learned now. And it’s such a tricky thing. It’s fascinating in a way, but it’s, and it’s it’s rampant. I mean, there, I have a Google alert for Q anon. And I get an email a day with dozens of articles that are being written about it’s kind of this proliferation of craziness that’s sweeping the world.
RICK H: Yeah, it. Like right now I’m reading an amazing book, if you like fiction, I just, it’s so well read. And it’s beautiful. It’s called Wolf Hall, Wolf Hall. And it’s about the time of King Henry the eighth. Remember him King Henry, the eighth many wives. And that central character is Thomas Cromwell, who I knew almost nothing about. And it’s beautifully written. And what it reminds me of is that ways in which really, throughout history, there have been these bizarre calls, who believed weird stuff, right? The end of the world is coming, or the, you know, the millennium is coming, and it’s all gonna change and the end, you know, all this sort of stuff. So you’re right, I think you’re exactly right. There is some vulnerability in us to this kind of thing. And, gosh, at the end of the day, what can we do about it? Right, I think meanwhile, we can honor and support the institutions that promote truth, you know, academic environments, generally science research. Journalism, nonprofits who are doing the best they can to surface what’s actually true. I was at a dinner party, as it turned out with our local congressman, he’s a congressman, and where I live a couple of weeks after the election in 2016. And we were all just staring at him like deer in the headlights like, Oh, my God, what do we do now? And he said something I’ve never forgotten. He said, send money to lawyers. Yeah, he said, What send money support those in the justice system, such as the ACLU, or other, you know, well intended nonprofits, environmental groups, let’s say, who are an independent agent of positive development, right. So that’s just one of many things we can do to support fact finding and to telling, you know, some, you know, inquiry, investigation, investigations, depositions, you know, Freedom of Information Act, inquiries, things like that, you know, support lawyers and lawsuits that over time, but put the truth on the table. So that’s, I think, among many things we can do, to support truth telling, ultimately,
RICK A: somebody sent me Rudyard Kipling’s poem if the other day. And the first line of it is if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs. So perhaps, since we’ve gotten off on this theme, and we’re almost out of time, that that could be our wrap up point. You know, we need to learn to develop the discernment internally so that in a crazy world, we are not swept up in the craziness. And there’s a there’s a verse in yoga sutras which talks about something called written Bara Pragya which is said to be that level of intellect which knows only truth where you can really discern the truth of things and it’s considered to be an essential qualification for spiritual enlightenment. So I would say that anyone listening to this if if they’re sincerely interested in spiritual development, keep that in mind. It’s it’s don’t I mean, question your questions and quit our question your your convictions, and do what you can to continue to develop discernment And you know, if you see something on the internet, that sounds convincing, maybe find an alternate viewpoint as well and see which one holds holds the most water?
RICK H: Yeah, I think that if multiple University centered organizations of one kind or another, you know, multiple established medical, scientific organizations, multiple mainstream news sources, the BBC, yes, the New York Times, Wikipedia actually is a remarkably good source of information that’s very accessible very quickly, really, within 10 minutes, it’s amazing the kinds of things you can find out if you actually want to know, you know, what is actually the case, and maybe we can finish on something a little more spiritual, I was thinking about the topic of living and dying, and one of the things we need to be not deluded about and can see clearly is the, you know, eventual passing of our own body while living well, meanwhile, and I think about a tombstone, epitaph that said, essentially, you know, this person lived until he died, lived until she died, lived until they died. And I think that’s the opportunity for us all, to be really clear about the ephemeral nature of passing phenomena, while rested in the eternal Now. eternal present, right, that endures.
RICK A: And as we said, In the beginning, that’s just that’s not just a philosophical exercise or something, it’s something that can be get become grounded in your experience in a very visceral concrete way. And which, correspondingly, is a whole style of brain functioning that can get cultured over the years.
RICK H: I think about apparently, I was, I was told this people may correct me that I think it was the was the previous Karmapa, the 16th, maybe, the previous one. And he was he was dying, it was in his last days. And his students who just loved him, of course, were so striking and sad. And to comfort them. He said something that just blew my mind. He looked at them and said, Don’t worry, nothing changes. And to get that, don’t worry, nothing changes. What is it? That doesn’t change? Don’t worry, nothing changes. It reminds me of the line from TS Eliot. I think in one of his poems, he says, Teach us to care and not to care. Teach us to sit still. Good. And right there we have equanimity and compassion together, right? Teach us to care and not to care. Teach us to sit still.
RICK A: Right? Well, we’ll have to end with that. So it’s too bad. We only have 15 minutes, I could go on with you much longer. Pleasure enjoyable talking to. So thanks so much, Rick, for participating in this and thanks to those who are participating in the sands conference. And later on for that to those who happen to watch this on Buddha at the Gas Pump. And they care how you sit still.
RICK H: That’s all right. Greetings to everyone. Yes, thanks. Thank you, Rick.