Sally Kempton (Wisdom In Times Of Crisis) Transcript

Sally Kempton (Wisdom In Times Of Crisis) Interview

Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of conversations with spiritually awakening people. We’ve done over 550 of them now and if you’d like to check out previous ones, please go to and look under the past interviews menu. This program is made possible through the support of appreciative listeners and viewers, so if you appreciate it and would like to help support it, there’s a PayPal button on every page of the site. The interview you’re about to see was done in the context of a webinar offered in May by the Science and Non-Duality Conference entitled “Wisdom in Times of Crisis.” In addition to this interview, there were dozens of others, interviews and presentations with people like Vandana Shiva, Peter Levine, Gabor Maté, Deepak Chopra, Rupert Spira, and many others. Although the webinar is over now, it is archived online. There’s a link to the archive in the description beneath this video and on the page for this interview on So, enjoy the talk. Welcome everyone to the “Wisdom in Times of Crisis” online event where we explore and reflect on the challenges and opportunities this unique time is offering us. My name is Rick Archer. I am the host of the Buddha at the Gas Pump interview series. My guest in this hour, this session, is Sally Kempton. Sally teaches Tantric non-dual wisdom from the heart of the Kashmir Shaiva tradition. She is a master guide to the experience of awakened Kundalini and is known for her ability to apply esoteric wisdom to the issues of our lives. In preparation for this interview, I listened to an interview that Sally and I did about six years ago and we covered a lot of ground. It was good stuff. So, if you enjoy this and would like to hear that, go to and to the past interviews menu. There’s a search page where you can just type in the word “Sally” and it will come right up. So, in that interview that we did six years ago, Sally and I talked a lot about the sort of the subtler realities of creation and how those interrelate and interact with the more obvious level that most people are familiar with. We talked about a number of other things, but we might touch on that today with reference to the pandemic and, we don’t want to get too speculative, how an appreciation of the subtler aspects of creation might be relevant to understanding what’s going on in the world at large. There’s also some interesting thoughts we can get into about the fact that just about everybody listening to this has been on spiritual retreats and Sally and I both have led many spiritual retreats as well as been on them. And you know, when you’re on a spiritual retreat, it’s sort of a forced seclusion or a forced dive into, not forced, it’s a voluntary dive into a deeper, more settled state. And often,  things come up when you’re in that deeper state. But you’re kind of prepared for it and you’ve perhaps, done many of them. You know what’s going to happen, you’re not surprised, and hopefully there are some wise teacher or teachers there to help us through it if we begin to have doubts or fears or whatever. And of course, this kind of thing is traditional in ancient cultures as well. Ancient cultures around the world have initiations of various sorts that, when you reach a certain age, you’re tested in a way and pushed to your limits. But there too, there are elders who determine your suitability and capability of doing such a thing and wouldn’t have you do it if you weren’t ready for it. But it almost seems like the world now is being involuntarily put on an initiation of a sort or a retreat of a sort. A lot of people are really not happy with what’s happening in their lives and don’t have a lot of explanation for it from any wise elders and certainly not any politicians. So there’s a lot of fear and a lot of upset and all kinds of concerns. So maybe these are some of the points we can cover in the next 45 minutes or so. What do you think, Sally?

Sally: Yeah, definitely, definitely. So do we want to start with the forced retreat?

Rick: Wherever you’d like to start, whatever you’d like to do.

Sally: I always find myself answering the last point that was made, so that was the last point.

Rick: It’s fresh in your mind.

Sally: Fresh in my mind. So, you know, I think it’s really true that probably you and certainly I went, “Oh my God, this is cool.” I have a month, which is what it seemed like at the time to just be with myself and practice and read. And then I, personally, I started teaching a six-week teleseminar which had been scheduled. So my retreat time turned into study time and preparation time for that. But it was a class on the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. So it was quite uplifting, in the midst of me actually having a really good time in this retreat situation which, as a spiritual practitioner, I’m pretty prepared for and look at as a privilege. And then I’m reading and talking to all these people who, as you say, have absolutely no background in this and are freaking out or terrified or not getting along with their families. But what I noticed, and this is definitely third-hand because it comes from reading or talking to people, is that as the lockdown went on, people got more and more settled and they more and more began to find a way to be okay with what they were going through. Plus, I’ve heard there are a lot of COVID divorces going on but most of the people I know, once they had gotten through the irritation at things about their partner that they hadn’t had to live with when they were both going out to work, actually found themselves much more settled in the relationship, much more open. So I think that the power of retreat, really being forced to get quiet and look at your stuff and find a way to be in a settled, centered place, has worked for a lot of people.

Rick: Now you mentioned that this is rather alien to the people to whom you were teaching this course. But I bet you that they are in the top 5% of people who would be comfortable, or in terms of their comfort level, with an inward stroke. Whereas the vast majority of people in the world may never have done anything like this. So perhaps it’s been much more difficult for them than it is for the people in your retreat, the people who are listening to this talk right now.  S

Sally:Yeah, I would say that most of us, most of the people who are here probably know exactly what we’re talking about and maybe even welcomed it.

Rick: Yeah, we paid good money to go on retreats where we just sit in a room or stare at a wall or whatever.

Sally: Exactly, exactly. I mean, I think the big problem has been for people who are economically impacted in a huge way. And that’s certainly true of many people in the yoga world and in the spiritual world. And on the other hand, we have Zoom. So there have been a lot of programs like this one that I think have been profound for people, offering a lot of guidance.

Rick: Yeah. Do you have any thoughts on the notion that this may be some kind of mass global initiation of some sort that could have a profoundly maturing effect on the populace at large just the way individual initiations do?

Sally: Well, I have certainly heard this and, like you, I’ve been hearing this for years. Someone that I co-taught a course with a few years ago is very, very intent on this topic. He believes that because of the way we’ve treated the earth,  especially in the modern era, we’re at a day of reckoning, and we’re essentially being punished for the way we’ve treated the earth. You know, I just don’t believe that. But what I do feel is true, and I think we’ve talked about it before, is that those of us who’ve been practicing for a long time, practicing since the ’70s, and feeling the energy that has intensified on the planet in the last 30, 40, even 50 years, I definitely can feel that there’s an intensification of certain trends that have to explode one way or the other. And for people who have done practice, who have an inner focus, who are able to smooth out the currents of craziness in their minds, this can be a powerful initiation. And I would say there are a lot of people who just are not prepared for it. And that’s the open question. is this going to be the kind of initiation that, for instance, I experienced, I think possibly you experienced, at the moment of awakening transformation in my 20s? From an ordinary, crazy, downtown hipster, any story that feels exciting is my story. That person, coming up against the exigencies of certain crises in my life, was catapulted into a real shift of priorities which started my spiritual life. I mean, this may be true that more and more people are going to be able to use this pandemic as a spur to their own awakening. I certainly hope so.

Rick: Yeah, it may be. I know that obviously there’s a backlash against it and a lot of people just want to get back to the bars and the restaurants and show their bravado or their disdain for science by not wearing masks and they’re on the news now. We’ll see if they can get away with that. But if you think of this as a punishment, I agree with you, that we wouldn’t necessarily see it that way. I mean, if you’re a little kid and you’re doing dangerous things, playing with fire or hitting yourself with a hammer or something and your mother or father stops you and pulls you away from it and maybe even scolds you, you might see that as a punishment. But it’s not in a more mature view of things.

Sally: Right, true, true. And the laws of causality operate no matter what we think or how much we disbelieve them. There are certain causes and conditions that just happen naturally. So, there’s no question that we’ve despoiled the earth and perhaps in some ways innocently, perhaps in some ways with some form of exploitive malice. So, obviously, there are consequences to that.

Rick: Go ahead, continue.

Sally: So, at this point, it seems less significant to me to think about how this happened. I mean, we know what we’ve been doing. We know how we’ve been treating the planet and each other. We know how fragile our systems are. Some of us have been saying this for years, so it’s not a surprise. And we knew that there were going to be serious consequences, and we’ve been seeing them, wildfires and earthquakes and tornadoes and hurricanes, and now this. So the question is, “Okay, now what?” So, what do we as people who regard this life as an opportunity to wake up and cultivate awakened states, how do we handle it? And also, without critique, because everybody’s on our own journey and we’re all on our own, we’re all where we are in our journey and we all approach this from different levels of consciousness. What do we do to help people when they’re scared and unsure and they’re either looking at this if they’re religious as a punishment, or are just feeling like victims of circumstances which they then want to blame  whoever they can find, to blame it on? I mean, what do we do about that? Do we just opt out of that and work on our own consciousness? Or is there something that we can do that will be helpful in a material way? I mean, that’s a question that concerns me even though I do truly believe, which is perhaps the wrong word. But I do truly have the experience of the power that a clarified mind can have on the whole field. So I would say that at the very least, our dharma is to keep our minds as clarified as possible and that that itself is helpful.

Rick: Yeah, you and I were talking about that a little bit yesterday. And we were talking about some of the conspiracy theories that have been flying around, and that it seems that so-called spiritual people are as much into them as anybody else is. These theories don’t discriminate. And we discussed it with reference to the idea of clarity, and you mentioned a Sanskrit phrase from the Yoga Sutras, “Ritambhara Prajna.”

Sally: Right.

Rick: Why don’t you define that phrase and perhaps we could discuss that in this context, a little bit.

Sally: Sure. So the Sanskrit word “prajna,” there’s another word for it, “pratibha,” which means intuition. And intuition, a very high level of intuition, a very clarified level of intuition that basically comes online for most of us when we have cleared out the samskaric bank in meditation.

Rick: The storehouse of impressions.

Sally: The storehouse of impressions, right. In the Yoga Sutra, they have a number of wonderful Sanskrit words that are actually great to use. Sanskrit is a language that’s very specific about psychological, inner psychological and spiritual states. So, samskara in that tradition is the impressions that are left by your habitual thoughts and action. And then deeper than those are what are called “vasanas,” which are, the word means “fragrance.” They’re the underlying tendencies that form our character. And beneath that is the storehouse of, if we accept reincarnation, the backpack that we’ve been accumulating for perhaps lifetimes, and certainly for this lifetime. So, prajna is the innate intuition, the wisdom. Intuitive wisdom is a good name for it, the wisdom that belongs to all of us, that’s present in consciousness itself and which can discriminate easily between what’s appropriate, what’s inappropriate, what’s correct, what’s incorrect, what’s worth paying attention to, what’s not worth paying attention to and, above all, what’s going to take us towards that state we call “enlightenment,” for want of a better word. And the conspiracy theories that I see, even though many of them are based on a genuine intuition that there’s a lot of stuff wrong with this picture in terms of what’s going on globally, once the mind and what we could call the egoic or lower-self version of intuition starts to get hold of this. Then all sorts of stories arise. And they arise with a lot of force, especially if we have an analysis that is kind of true. I mean, for instance, Karl Marx’s analysis of the way capitalism works seems to me to have been extremely accurate. His solutions, not so much.

Rick: What was his analysis of how it works?

Sally: Well, that capital essentially does its best to exploit the labor force in order to make more profit for itself, and that this is bad for people. You know, this creates all sorts of ills in human society. And of course, he’s much more targeted and specific about that. But I think the fact that there is unequal power distribution in this world is pretty correct, right? The way you understand that, the way you deal with it, depends on many things. And there are many possible solutions to that, none of which seems to have worked 100% in practice. But still, there’s a basic intuition. So let’s say we have an intuition about the source of the pandemic. And then our minds get into it and we start looking for basically who to blame, which is what most conspiracy theories are about, and how we can get some measure of control in a situation that is fundamentally uncontrollable. For most people, control seems to come from coming up with a story that helps you explain it. And I think that’s a lot of what’s going on now. And as I watch them getting farther and farther away from reality, I also can see that there are some truths embedded in many conspiracy theories.

Rick: Yeah, it’s usually called disinformation, where there’s a little bit of truth in there and it gives credibility or plausibility to the rest of it, which could be completely off the wall. And there’s nothing new about conspiracy theories. I mean, during the Black Death in the 14th century or so, the King of France asked the top minds at the university in Paris what was going on. And they came up with some astrological configuration that was responsible for it. And then others argued that it was some ethers that were leaking out of the ground and causing all this horror. And then others said, no, it was blasphemers. So a lot of people had their tongues cut out because they were considered the cause of the Black Death. So these were all conspiracy theories that had real consequences and had nothing to do with the actual cause of the Black Death. What were you going to say?

Sally: Right, exactly. I said, “Don’t forget the Jews who have been the targets of so many conspiracy theories.”

Rick: That was part of it, also. I think they actually got blamed for that one, too. The Jews. Your voice broke up a little bit. But yeah, so regarding the spiritual implications of this and Ritambhara Prajna. I think Ritambhara is probably mentioned by Patanjali because it is relevant in terms of discerning the very finest sort of structures of reality and discerning the real from the unreal and so on as a necessary means of attaining enlightenment. Would that be a fair summary of it?

Sally: So, the word “rita” means something like “right.” It has the same root as “right,” the same root as “righteousness.” And it refers to the alignment of reality with its deepest structures. So when you’re in touch with the rita, it means you’re in touch with the deep structures of the cosmos. And the decisions you make, the words you speak, the intuitions you have, are correct in that they show you the direction that the universe really wants to go in. And that makes Ritambhara Prajna unbelievably powerful and profound. It’s the wisdom that sages come up with. The thing that I’ve noticed about it in my experience of that kind of intuition, which comes as a download, it’s non-linear. It’s like when you’re in the state of prajna, you’re in a state that’s very much like what is described as “flow” or being in the zone if you’re an athlete. In other words, there’s no thinking. You just know. You’re acting on pure intuition, and it’s correct. And the thing about playing tennis is that you know it’s correct because the ball gets to the right place and your opponent can’t hit it back. I mean, there’s a very concrete feedback system in athletics or music. In intellectual understanding, the feedback is much more subtle and often doesn’t come immediately. So what can happen is that someone can get a download, because we all have prajna and yet the mind can be so unclarified. The intellect can be so full of stories that it interprets that wisdom, that download of wisdom, according to the stories. And then you can say anything. You can start a new weird religion. You can blame the Black Death on the astrology or on blasphemies of Jews or on Democratic governors. So, discerning your own prajna from your bullshit is a very subtle task.

Rick: Yeah, so I like that phrase in there, “alignment with the deep structures of the cosmos.” And that to me, if we had to define enlightenment, would be a pretty good definition right there or at least a description of one outcome or result of it. And so that sort of knowledge, that sort of capability, should be of great importance to people who aspire to awakening or enlightenment and so on. Now, ironically, what often happens is people start to hear all these different theories. I mean, I have a friend who claims to be awakened and to have gone through the whole Kundalini process and to its completion and so on and so forth. You know, she sent me something a while back that there is no virus and it’s just the effect of 5G. And it’s just this plot to get us all vaccinated because there’s going to be some kind of magic dust in the vaccines which is going to enable them to control us.

Sally: Yeah, I’ve heard that one too.

Rick: Yeah, but the ironic thing is that spiritual truth is kind of subtle and it’s hidden in a way. And so discovering it is a lifelong process of getting attuned or unearthing something which is hidden. But all these conspiracy theories also allude to hidden stuff, you know?

Sally: Right.

Rick: There’s the Illuminati and the secret government and Bill Gates, whatever Bill Gates is supposed to be up to. So, people kind of conflate the hiddenness of spiritual reality with the hiddenness of the things that all these theories allude to. And they imbue them with greater legitimacy. You and I were talking about this yesterday. We were both starting to rant a little bit but it’s concerning because we both care very deeply about spirituality and spiritual development and so on. I and perhaps you see this as a pitfall or a trap that can way-lay people, perhaps sometimes for years. And it also has real-world implications in terms of how many people are going to get sick and so on.

Sally: Yeah, yeah, the real-world implications worry me a lot. As we both know, your spiritual awakening can be hijacked in any number of ways by whatever belief system or whatever karmic baggage you have, whatever story you want to tell yourself, or where your ego gets tweaked by the powers that arise.

Rick: And the Vedic literature is full of stories of people’s spiritual evolution getting hijacked and then they fall to a great depth and then they have to retrace their steps over umpteen lifetimes and all this stuff.

Sally: Yeah, and we’ve been those people, I’m convinced.

Rick: Yeah, probably so.

Sally: I mean, I don’t think either of us would be doing what we’re doing if we hadn’t been through this process over and over and over again. Forgive me, all of you who are watching and listening and don’t accept the idea of reincarnation. But just take it for a moment. So there’s so many ways that our awakening and our intuition can be colored by whatever is going on in the mind. And the big takeaway that I’ve gotten during this process, and it’s not new because it’s been present there in my field for a long time, there’s such a sense that we’re running out of time. We don’t have a huge amount of time and, of course, I’m reaching an age where in the normal course of life I don’t have a lot of time. So the necessity for clarifying your intelligence and your discernment,  we kind of desperately need to do that now.

Rick: Yeah.

Sally: We can’t afford to be deluded. And so the question was, “How do I use this lockdown?” The fact that all my in-person workshops were canceled, so I have the entire summer to myself. And rather than filling it up with lots of online events, how can I use it to really cure the delusions that I still feel subject to? And I think that’s absolutely the gift that this can potentially give to people like us.

Rick: What are some of those delusions that you feel you’re subject to, and what are you doing to cure them?

Sally: Me personally?

Rick: Yeah.

Sally: Well, the basic idea that the way other people think about me is determinative of how I should feel about myself, which is one of those lingering delusions that are very hard to get rid of. The idea that I have time, the idea that I can sort of lollygag around in my meditation and allow myself to ruminate because there’s always tomorrow, which I think for especially those of us who, I sometimes say, I’m a professional spiritual person. My entire life is about my spiritual practice. Either I’m doing it or I’m teaching it or I’m writing about it or I’m talking about it. And whenever something deep and subtle becomes professionalized, it becomes part of your daily structure. Then it gets–I can’t think of a better word at the moment–it gets kind of tainted by your personal ambitions, by what the culture is telling you is acceptable and it becomes harder and harder to think for yourself. So for me, the delusion is that I’m trying to cure, to work with, is to really understand what in the wisdom that I’ve received from my lineage and the other lineages which I honor. What in this wisdom is true and what in it is simply culturally determined? And how can I actually receive the guidance that I’m getting from, for want of a better word, I can call “my soul” and compare it to what the texts say and what my guru said. And, you know, how can I find the truth moment to moment without being constantly derailed by what I would like to be true or what is a fun thing to believe or what will make me more acceptable to my peer group? And it’s a moment-to-moment thing, especially if you want to be a truth seeker in the sense of not coming up with a position that you adhere to for the rest of your life but actually being open and willing and discerning enough to catch the truth in every moment. You know, that seems tremendously important. And in order to do that, it requires noticing, “Am I in my comfort zone? Am I in resistance to quiet? Am I using my desire to keep up with the news as a way of distracting myself? Am I willing to accept how much clutter am I willing to accept in my mind?” And more and more I’m realizing no amount of clutter is really acceptable in the mind if you are going to seriously make progress in a time like this. You just have to be willing to clear it.

Rick: Yeah, that’s good, and it kind of relates to the Ritambhara Prajna thing we were talking about earlier of aligning with the deeper structures of reality, because what you’re saying is you don’t want to be dwelling in sort of imaginal realms. You want your life on all levels to be in alignment with truth, capital T.

Sally: Yeah, yeah.

Rick: And that doesn’t mean you can’t interact with the world, it doesn’t mean the world is unreal. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep up with what’s happening in news. You just have to keep a balance.

Sally: Yeah, and you have to know yourself.

Rick: Yeah.

Sally: I am capable of going down the rabbit hole of all the news outlets that I get online and starting in 2016 with the Trump election, I started looking at a lot of news websites. I have to know how much time I can spend with it before it just completely fills my attention, and it’s not that long.

Rick: Yeah.

Sally: You know, it may be half an hour. I can do half an hour. So that goes for a lot of conversations, you have people you want in your life and they’re in their own rabbit hole. How much time can you spend with them and still maintain your own clarity and also maintain the friendship? So we really are in a make it or break it time. I’m talking about people like us, people whose priorities are subtler. It’s a make it or break it time. We have a big opportunity and who cares where the pandemic is coming from? I mean, obviously, we want to cure it. We want to cure our fragility of infrastructure and economy and medical and food supplies and all of that. But for you and I, sorry to seem to be speaking for you, but I think that’s probably true. For you and I, this is a big moment. This is a big opportunity to clarify our priorities and decide on ascension, basically, on some kind of embodied ascension in the time we have left in this world.

Rick: Yeah, my orientation is sort of, I don’t feel any sense of desperation, like if I were to die tomorrow. I wouldn’t feel like, “Oh my God, I didn’t achieve what I wanted to achieve in this life.” I think I would sort of defer to God’s will and feel like, “Okay, well, if this is the hand I’m dealt, there must be a wisdom behind it.” I once saw a video of some yogi who was asked, “Is this your last incarnation? You hope never to reincarnate again?” And he said, “I don’t care. It’s not up to me.” He said, “Whatever God wills, I’m happy to be in service. And if I could be of service in some realm which is no longer human, that’s fine. Otherwise, I’ll be a human again. It’s really not up to me.” So, I kind of feel that way.

Sally: Yeah, I believe that’s true. Absolutely. I’d just like to make very clear that I’m doing my part.

Rick: Yeah, yeah.

Sally: You know, before I say,

Rick: God helps those who help themselves.

Rick: Exactly, tie your camel. Right.

Sally: And that’s actually part of the discernment, I think. Especially when we’re being called to some sort of action in the world,  whether it’s teaching or counseling others or financial support or other forms of community activism, we do have calls, pulls, obligations. And it’s not like we’re going into a cave but the discernment of knowing what we’re called to do, let’s say what God wants us to do as opposed to what our ego or an opportunity that’s arising is prompting us to do. These are, moment by moment, sometimes seeming like trivial questions. But the answer you give can change the whole course of your life. And what I think I was saying was that one of the gifts of aging is that it does give me a sense of, “Okay, now’s the time. If there’s anything I’m going to do, I have to do it. I have to do it now. And I think that’s a great yogic position, actually.” I wish I had felt it when I was 25.

Rick: There is that saying of, “Make hay while the sun shines.” And you were referring earlier to sort of an intensification of the field, as it were, the energy in the world. And I don’t know about you, but I’m really feeling that. I’m dreaming a lot more. It’s quite entertaining, actually. I’m just having these really quite creative, vivid, interesting dreams. I heard some doctor on television saying that’s because everybody was sleep-deprived and so now they’re dreaming more because they’re sleeping more. But I wasn’t sleep-deprived, and yet there’s this greater sort of enlightenment somehow happening which I find quite enjoyable. But in any case, “Make hay while the sun shines.” I think this is a time when people can evolve very quickly, and take advantage of that.

Sally: Yeah, exactly, exactly. And we have different ways of motivating ourselves. Some of us motivate ourselves with carrots and some with sticks. I have to admit, I’m sort of a “sticks person.” What is it, NLP says? “You’re moving towards or moving away.” So I think that the pandemic is pushing us. It is actually pushing us to make these kinds of decisions. And that’s part of the meaning of it, I would say, from a human point of view.

Rick: Yeah.

Sally: I mean, on every level, globally, culturally, economically, societally, and certainly spiritually.

Rick: One thing I said in the introduction is that, in our last interview six years ago, you and I spoke a lot about you had just written a book about the Mahashaktis or something. We spoke a lot about the subtle levels of creation and how those are every bit as real as the obvious levels of creation. It’s kind of like, you can think of the electromagnetic spectrum. I heard an analogy that if the entire electromagnetic spectrum were the length of the Mississippi River, visible light that humans can see would be like several centimeters somewhere around Hannibal, Missouri. So that’s true. But I think we’re talking not just about the electromagnetic spectrum which includes X-rays and gamma rays and all that, but something different- another dimension where there are subtler levels of creation, grosser and subtler. And {for} most people, it’s like a frozen pond where you just see the ice on the surface. But there are some people who are like divers with wetsuits that can dive down through the ice and explore all the deeper levels of the pond. And some people live that way, incorporating all the depths of creation within their awareness. And when they do, if they do, they find that those levels of life are just as full of forms of life as the gross Level. They’re just not flesh and blood biological life. They’re made of subtler stuff. So let’s touch on that for a little bit. Do you have any speculation whatsoever as to how those realms might relate to or be relevant to what we’re going through on the obvious surface level of life these days?

Sally: Well, there’s a whole, as I know you know, there’s a whole conspiracy theory based on the idea that there are subtle beings, sort of “dark force beings” who are messing with us. They have different names. So I certainly have to say I do feel the ways in which different subtle energies affect our field, and I don’t think that’s untrue. And we often don’t know what those energies are or even what the energies that we’re aware of in groups of people or when we meet another person are often not aware of the quality of the energy that we feel around them. So, I think from one point of view, it is possible to feel that there’s a tension being directed at the human field of consciousness from beings who come from different subtle realms and that some of them are trying to help, trying to awaken, trying to guide, and that some of them are trying to create mischief, As I believe it was the mother of Aurobindo who wrote a lot about this kind of thing. You know, she was asked a question about, “Are there dark forces in the universe?” which Aurobindo certainly believed there were, and she clearly believed there were. And she said, “Yes, but rather than thinking of them as evil, think of them as mischievous.” In other words, many of these so-called dark forces mess with our energy because they can and because it amuses them, not with necessarily malevolent intent, but certainly not with benign intent. So that’s one perspective which comes from a woman who had really done a lot of inner work and had a lot of direct experience. My own experience with subtle forces is that I feel profound forces of grace in the universe, and I talk about them as goddesses. I remember the comments on that interview we did. There were quite a few comments about, “This is Hindu pietism, why do we have to listen to this? This is not non-dualism.” You know, in fact, it is non-dualism, of course. Because a truly non-dual perspective recognizes that there are, as you said, so many energies in the universe that we can’t be aware of from our perspective and which are contained within consciousness.

Rick: Yeah, non-dual doesn’t mean there isn’t any variety or diversity. It just means that all the variety and diversity is, in its essential nature, oneness. But the oneness doesn’t negate the multiplicity.

Sally: Right and from a deeper, or let’s say, more personal perspective, one of the Non-Dual Shaiva views that I very much trust in and that I’ve experienced is that this whole universe is inside us. So there is nothing here that is not including you and I, are inside one consciousness. I’m in you. You’re in me. The pandemic is in us. So how we work with that, how we sort that, is kind of mind-blowing. One of the ways that I have found to work with my sense of the wholeness as being part of my field is really to do my very best to stay in, as I was saying earlier, a kind of auspicious-minded connection with the invisible world. So that when I feel confused, when I feel stupid, when I’m exhausted, is to just take refuge in these energies. And I’ve noticed that more and more as I do this. As you said, you were talking about how much energy there is, or how much available energy there is now. It’s affecting your dream world, it’s affecting our meditation. A lot of my old friends who’ve been doing practice for a while have kind of secretly confessed to me that, despite all of this, they’ve been feeling blissful during lockdown.

Rick: Yeah,  me too.

Sally: So there’s a huge amount of grace that’s surrounding this field. And I think it’s very helpful to consider how we can tap into it, in hopefully as non-dual a way as possible. So that when we pray to Christ, we’re not asking that Christ only come in to help his followers, let everybody else die, or whatever the fundamentalist view of that is. But just to begin to open ourselves to the recognition that your consciousness and my consciousness does contain the wholeness. And that whatever method we find to spread benign energies through that inner field is going to affect the outer field as well.

Rick: Yeah, you said something like that earlier, that we continuously radiate an influence. And if we are awakening in our own consciousness, if we’re feeling bliss, we’re radiating bliss. And so we shouldn’t feel guilty about it. We’re actually helping to uplift everyone by helping to enliven the field in a positive way.

Sally: Well said.

Rick: Yeah, and there’s a verse in the Gita that says something like, “If you support the gods, they’ll support you.” By gods, we would mean subtle impulses of intelligence that are orchestrating some aspect of creation. So, I think that we align ourselves by the way we live our life with one thing or another. Bob Dylan had a song that “You’ve got to serve someone. It may be the devil. It may be the Lord.” And so, if we’re engaged in spiritual practice, I think, in some way that I don’t fully understand, certainly, we help to enrich and enliven positive forces in creation, subtler positive forces. There’s a kind of reciprocal relationship. And they in turn help to support us, and life goes more smoothly and is better supported and enriched and so on.

Sally: Yeah, and I do think this is one of the great insights that the Vedic sages had.

Rick: We’ve covered some good areas in the course of this conversation. I wish we had more time because I never tire of talking to Sally. She’s got so many interesting things to say. But as an overview or as a synopsis, Sally, obviously people who are listening to this are in all sorts of different circumstances and for some, it’s maybe, like you said, actually blissful. And they don’t have to worry about money and this and that. And others might be having a really hard time of it, and we shouldn’t be cavalier about their situation. We need to be compassionate and they need all kinds of support, which they may or may not be getting. So,  maybe on a practical note, in terms of what you can offer, what would you offer to this spectrum of people, from the people who are having a good time anyway to those who are really struggling? Maybe there would be several different points which might be pertinent to different people along that scale.

Sally: Well, as I’ve been listening to your question, I’ve been really trying to consider what is a universal form of help or self-help. I think that there are a number of political solutions that if we had the courage to begin to bring them in, we could change a lot about the way people are treated. I wish that the government was paying people salaries. I think it would just make this whole process, as they are in other countries, but leaving that aside.

Rick: Yeah, I was just listening to Sam Harris interview Andrew Yang. And he said, “Boy, were you prescient.” I mean, you know, talking about universal basic income and all, now that would be so appropriate right now.

Sally: Would be really appropriate, and I think it’s worth putting a lot of energy into figuring that out and universal health care and all those things. But that’s certainly not my field. So my students who are locked in with three kids and a spouse whom they have a complex relationship with at the best of times, when they write in or call with the suffering that they’re going through and the feeling of uncertainty and just not knowing how to cope, there is this basic piece of advice which is “just pay attention to your breath.” In a way, no matter where we are, no matter what’s happening, even if we are breathless, which I have a lot of experience with because I have pretty intense asthma, that nonetheless, the breath flowing into the tips of the nostrils is going to settle your mind. Opening to the feeling of your heart or any part of your inner body where you can take rest is going to settle you. And I believe we do need to, each one of us, in whatever way we can, find a way to take a little bit of time, maybe every hour for one minute to tune into the breath. I know that’s really hard if you’re an emergency room nurse. But it makes a huge difference. And it’s one of the main ways we can take control, even in situations that feel uncontrollable, is just to remember our connection to the breath, connection to the heart. And from that place, ask ourselves these questions, “Okay, how can I serve this moment? Is this thought taking me towards greater happiness and clarity or is it taking me away from greater happiness or clarity?” So that combination of tuning into the energy of breath and really targeted inquiry questions that you can ask yourself, hopefully receiving answers that aren’t based on the inner critic. But that we can train ourselves to actually hear from within what is a helpful way of responding to a situation in the moment. I think that the training that we give ourselves when we have one or two small interventions that we go to again and again is really helpful and will go on being helpful even after this is over.

Rick: Yeah. I also, from my own life, place a lot of value on some of the basic stuff that we’ve been told all along is healthy for you, like getting enough exercise, which could be tricky under these circumstances, but do what you can. Getting enough sleep. I haven’t used an alarm clock in  there, a little ice cream or something, fine. But if we pig out on it because we’re anxious, it’s going to have very diminishing returns. Not indulging in various kinds of intoxicants to numb the fear, but actually just sort of working through it in a more natural way and getting rid of it once and for all rather than sort of just squelching it. Things like that. It’s just, maybe a little bit of short-term challenge but definitely a long-term payoff.

Sally: Totally, totally. And if you remember back in the day when you were trying to create a physical discipline or a food discipline or an exercise discipline for yourself, there’s a learning curve there, You know? So we’re not necessarily successful in it all at once. And what I would say to people who are having a hard time with that is, one day at a time, one step at a time. Don’t worry if you screw it up. You can start again tomorrow. And yeah, and build habits that actually help you.

Rick: Yeah, and maybe you’re not supposed to go to the gym right now because they might be closed. But that’s a good example. You go to the gym and the first day you have sore muscles. It was sort of a lot of “uh,” kind of difficult and all. And even a week later you might be thinking, “This isn’t really paying off. I still have sore muscles.” But after a month, two months, three months, you really start to see it. And that can also be true of a spiritual practice like meditation. You might not notice immediate effects, but in retrospect, after a period of time, you think, “Wow, something has really accumulated here.”

Sally: Totally. And I would say one of the tricks of creating a strong meditation practice is, rather than looking at what is actually happening while you’re meditating,  to look at how you feel afterwards.

Rick: Yes, exactly.

Sally: Because even if your meditation is full of thoughts and ruminations and doesn’t feel like you’ve meditated at all, the chances are that you’re going to come out and you’ll feel different. Because something will have been cleared by the mere act of sitting there and fielding your thoughts. So, as a form of hygiene and self-care, it works even if you don’t think it’s working.

Rick: Yeah, and a lot of times the clearing itself isn’t a lot of fun because it’s somewhat disruptive. It’s like you’re running a vacuum cleaner. It’s noisy and commotion but then, “Oh, the house is clean,” once you’ve done it. So, you know, like that.

Sally: Yeah, yeah, right on.

Rick: Good. Well, we better wrap it up. So thanks so much, Sally. I really appreciate spending this time with you.

Sally: My pleasure.

Rick: And hope to see you again before too long in the real world. And thanks to those who’ve been watching this interview and I hope you’ve been enjoying this conference.

Sally: Namaste.

Rick: Namaste.