Stephan Bodian Transcript

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Stephan Bodian Interview

Rick Archer: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. This is an ongoing series of conversations with spiritually awake or Awakening people. If you’d like to support our efforts or to investigate all the other interviews that we have archived, please visit That’s bat gap. My guest today is Steven Bowden. I’ll just read a little short bio of him here. Steven offers songs intensives and retreats in the tradition of his teachers John Klein and Adi Shanti. His gatherings are noted for their humor, warmth, spontaneity and intimacy and combined direct pointers, lively dialogues silent sitting, and guided self inquiry. He’s the author, author of several books, including wakeup now a guide to the journey of spiritual awakening, and beyond mindfulness, the direct approach to lasting peace, happiness and love. And I completed the second one this week and I got pretty far into wake up now and I really enjoyed them both. They’re keepers for me. Stephen spent a decade practicing Zen intensively as a monk but left the monastery because he sensed that the rigorous practice of meditation was obscuring the truth he was seeking. After studying Zog Jen probably pronounced that wrong for several years, he met his guru John Klein, a European teacher of Advaita Vedanta, who told him to stop meditating and instead discover the meditator shortly after he met John, he had a profound awakening to his true identity his timeless presence. After John’s death, Stephen met Adyashanti. And in 2001, ajik gave him Dharma transmission and invited him to teach. Stephen is the founder and director of the School of awakening an annual eight month awakening intensive, and he leads regular retreats and shorter intensives in Tucson, and at the garrison Institute in New York. trained and licensed as a psychotherapist, Steven offers individual spiritual counseling and mentoring sessions to people throughout the world. His approach blends direct experiential, non dual wisdom with the insights of Western psychology to support students in realizing who they really are, while inquiring into the stories and patterns of thinking and behaving that continue to cause suffering. And I first turned into Stephen, when you were the editor of the Yoga Journal way back.

Stephan Bodian: Wow.

Rick Archer: Yeah. I remember your name from that

Stephan Bodian: are very good.

Rick Archer: Yeah.

Stephan Bodian: 20 years now, Rick,

Rick Archer: been on this trip for a while, you know,

Stephan Bodian: yeah, we haven’t we?

Rick Archer: as the Grateful Dead said, What a long strange trip. It’s been. Yeah. So I think the reason I enjoyed your book so much, and I’m still enjoying the one I’m still in the middle of is that you’re definitely speaking from experience, I found a lot of little subtle bones to pick with you as I went along. But nothing I would utterly disagree with probably nothing you would really disagree with, because you tend to have comprehensive perspective on things. You take paradox into account, you know, you’re able to say, Yeah, this is true. But now this polar opposite thing here is also true, it just, you know, there’s a larger truth that engulfs or encompasses them both. So maybe that’s a good starting point for our discussion.

Stephan Bodian: Okay,

Rick Archer: yeah,

Stephan Bodian: question.

Rick Archer: That’s that’s kind of well, that’s just a sort of a catalyst to get you go in there.

Stephan Bodian: Yeah, that’s true. I mean, because who we really are, it contains everything. There is nothing left out. I mean, what is non dual mean, except all inclusive? Right. Yeah. So embracing everything this and that. Not this or that. Right. That is the understanding that we come to, yeah, it’s the full and embrace of life as its unfolding. It’s not about achieving some special state. You know, apart from what’s right here.

Rick Archer: Yeah, what’s right here is pretty special. If you can really appreciate it when you say

Stephan Bodian: That’s right. Exactly. Yeah, it’s both special and ordinary, again, the paradox, right?

Rick Archer: Yeah. And of course, you know, perspectives vary drastically, from person to person from species to species. I mean, the very same scene can be perceived with a completely different appreciation or lack of it according to one’s ability to appreciate.

Stephan Bodian: All right, no, absolutely.

Rick Archer:  Yeah. Someone posted a critique recently of an interview. I Did in which he was emphasizing that there are no levels of Enlightenment, either you’re enlightened or you’re not. And I tend to feel, just from everything I’ve observed and experienced so far, that Well, ultimately that may be true. There are many degrees of awakening many degrees of deepening into an appreciation of what is. Would you agree with that?

Stephan Bodian: Yes, I would agree with that. There’s only one truth. Right? And when we, yeah, when we see that truth, that’s awakening, right. But the degree to actually live that, and live from that, from moment to moment, I think that’s where a difference, right? Yeah. You know, it’s one thing to see it when you’re just sitting quietly, to know who you are resting that, but how much do you actually come from that moment after moment? You know, how much does that infuse your life? infuse everything you do? You know? Yeah, it’s not some encapsulated something that we returned to, and, oh, this is very nice, my little awakening here. It’s something that lights up your life, right? Otherwise, it’s not, it’s not awakening.

Rick Archer: And it seems to be that that leads right into a point that you talk about a lot, which is the direct path versus the progressive path. You know, one can directly and immediately have a glimpse or a taste of your truth, one’s true nature. But isn’t there necessarily always a progression in terms of how much that gets integrated into your daily life and experienced in a sort of an abiding way, as opposed to being some nice glimpse you had?

Stephan Bodian: Yeah, no, I totally agree. You see, the progressive approaches that I critique, particularly in my book, beyond mindfulness are those that are gradually getting through you through different stages and levels, to finally achieve something that’s attainable in some distant future, right? The problem with that, is it kind of obscures what’s always already present, right. So the approach that I offer and is offered in the traditions of Zen or channeling is a direct pointing to the truth of who we really are, which is always already here, present awake, it’s our natural state. And then once you realize that, then there’s a progressive path of deepening into that and abiding as that living that from moment to moment. So it’s not so much progression towards something, it’s actually an unfolding of what’s been realized. So it’s a different understanding of what progression is no,

Rick Archer: yeah. So maybe, to dwell on that point for a bit. You’re you might be distinguishing between progressives progressing towards something which you’ve never experienced before, and what you think is going to be really great when you experience it. And you’re really striving though you might think get to it between that. And, you know, having a taste of that from day one. And then, you know, enriching and deepening and clarifying and stabilizing that taste as you go along,

Stephan Bodian: exactly. Dogan, the great Zen master Gauguin said, to take the backward step that turns your life inwardly to illuminate the self. So it’s the backward step. It’s not the outward step. You know, too many traditions like mindfulness, which I critique in the book, are very much about developing, you know, certain qualities and stages. And what happens there is you are lost in a kind of endless progression, I’m particularly lost in this kind of sense of being the separate someone who’s meditating and developing this spiritual skill, this kind of spiritual spiritual resume, which just creates more spiritual ego, you know, it’s another form of ego. And somehow you have to cut through that at a certain point. And I think what happens is when you progress on the path of let’s say, mindfulness, or some other progressive path, you build up a spiritual ego, just creates more that you have to cut through in a certain way. So the point is to cut through from the very beginning, just to cut through to the essence. And once that’s realized then to, to foster the unfolding.

Rick Archer: Yeah, that’s very good. That was actually my experience. From the day I learned to meditate. There was an initial glimpse of in 1968, initial glimpse of true nature, I would say, and then it’s just been a matter of clarification. And we’re moving you know, along and cleaning the windows of perception to quote William Blake, as you do in your book as time has gone on.

Stephan Bodian: eautiful Yeah, yeah, my experience was different. My experience was, you know, constantly striving on the progressive path for years and years and years, as a Zen monk. And then having my teacher John clients say to me, you know, stop looking, you know, find the meditator that’s what cut through it, but I had all those 10 years before, which is why I appreciate it People being stuck in the progressive approach and why Right, right about it was my experience. Yeah,

Rick Archer: I think I went to that same little Zen Center in midtown Manhattan that you mentioned in your book. And this is like in the fall of 68, I went in there and had a little session with the guy and some other people who had shown up. And but then I ended up kind of moving on to a different direction. But um, it was kind of it was like one of those small world experiences where you mentioned that little Zen Center. What you said about dog and reminded me of that verse in The Gita, where it refers to withdrawing one sentence from their objects, like a tortoise withdrawing its limbs. So there’s definitely a kind of inwardness implied there, as opposed to, it always seemed to me when I read about mindfulness and such practices, that they almost automatically directed you outward in a way because they engaged you in a task that you had to keep hammering away at, you know?

Stephan Bodian: Yeah, that’s is one of the problems. I mean, I think ultimately, the point is to return the awareness to the meditator to that which is meditating to awareness itself. But it’s such a long road to get there, when in fact, you merely need to take that backward step right now, yeah, in this moment, it doesn’t require years of cultivation of some mindful state, which then becomes just a state, again, that you have to cut through. Yeah.

Rick Archer: One thing you mentioned in one of your books is that nobody really wrote anything down for about 500 years after the Buddha died. And you know, maybe wonder, and you wonder, in your book, whether what is being taught has been taught in his name actually bears very close resemblance to what he actually taught. Yeah. And you wonder whether he really did teach mindfulness at all, or you know, something entirely different that over the course of centuries got garbled?

Stephan Bodian: Well, if you look at the Buddha’s life, he didn’t practice mindfulness. Actually, he had a succession of teachers who are teaching different kinds of yoga. And then he finally said, Look, I’m done with this, I’m done with the asceticism, I’m going to sit down on this seat, and watch it get up again, until I see my true nature, until I finish the job, right? He sat down, he actually had a nice meal, which he hadn’t had in a very long time. He sat down, and then after a time of meditating, he woke up, he never practiced mindfulness. So I even questioned the foundation of, you know, mindfulness practice in the Buddhist teachings. As you say, we don’t know what the Buddha taught. And the point is not to follow the Buddha, the point is to become the Buddha,

Rick Archer: as the Buddha himself probably would have emphasized,

Stephan Bodian: absolutely, absolutely work out your own salvation with diligence, is what the Buddha said, Yeah,

Rick Archer: one thing that comes to mind in this discussion of mindfulness, and as I was reading, your book I was thinking about is that I see a phenomenon where people take the symptoms of something and then try to use those as a path. In other words, it’s like they take a description as a prescription. So you know, in an awakened state, one tends to be very mindful, quite spontaneously, right, quite naturally. And so that would, you could say, as a symptom of an awakened state. So it’s like people are saying, Alright, well, let’s try to mimic the symptoms, let’s try to impose these symptoms upon ourselves in the hope that we will arrive at the awakened state. But it seems to me it could be a cart before the horse kind of situation.

Stephan Bodian: Yeah, I agree. In fact, a lot of the, let’s say, the past in the mindfulness tradition, a lot of emphasis on cultivating different qualities and mind states, which are actually the qualities and mind states of the awakened person, but rather than cultivate them, which I think is just, as they say, in Zen, adding another head on top of your own. It’s really about discovering the innate compassion, generosity and love that are inherent in you already. You say, revealing those. So it’s not about creating something else, something different, right? Mindfulness, I like to think of it as presence. Really, yeah, mindfulness, mindfulness, of course, has the word mind in it. And it suggests something laborious, as he suggested, something you have to keep doing. Presence is, again, our natural state, you don’t have to do presence, you simply have to fall into presence,

Rick Archer: which we can talk about, because that may be in a way I mean, as effortless as that can be. It can also be frustrating for people when they hear an instruction like that, because they say, Well, how do I fall into presence? I don’t seem to be falling in, you know, there’s all these distractions and, you know, I keep you know, my mind is turbulent. And obviously you couldn’t say to take an extreme example, you wouldn’t get very refer if you said that to someone who was psychotic and in a psychiatric hospital or something like that, they might need a certain amount of other things before that could be an instruction that would have any potency for them, don’t you think?

Stephan Bodian: I agree. And in fact, I, I have to admit, my little secret is that I teach mindfulness to many people, as a very helpful tool. But with a different understanding, I mean, mindfulness, being present for your experience, being present for the breath, can be wonderful and can help bring the attention into the present moment from past and future and allow you to discover the innate presence that’s always already there. So I teach it, but with a different end, right, with embedded in a different set of teachings. But the actual practice of being present, which is really all mindfulness is, is a beautiful practice. And I highly recommend it. Just don’t get stuck there. Yeah, that’s, that’s the key, don’t get stuck there.

Rick Archer: And I suspect from reading your book with your emphasis on effortlessness that when you do teach mindfulness, you teach it in such a way that people don’t end up straining and struggling and, you know, causing stress for themselves. But you saw how to do it in a way that is more natural and effortless.

Stephan Bodian: Well, the way I teach it, primarily is simply to sit down and be open to what is. That’s it, I mean, that’s the essence of the instruction, be open to what is in the Tibetan tradition, they talked about, and I often talk about skylight mind, the skylight quality of mind, mind, which is open, like the sky and includes everything. So if you can sit and simply open to what is just the way it is, then that’s all the instruction you need. If that’s not sufficient, then you can begin with being aware of your breath, and then expand to being aware of sensations, and then let go of any boundary whatsoever, and simply be open. So that’s a kind of doorway, right? A portal into presence, right? But the simple instruction, the essence of the instruction is to simply open to what is because openness, again, is our natural state, you know, and eventually, if you just practice openness, so called practice openness, you discover the openness that’s already there.

Rick Archer: So when you teach this a groups of people, what percentage would you say actually are able to just sit and be open to what is? And what percentage say to you, hey, you know, I sit here, but I’m thinking about what, you know, this and that. The other thing past and future, and I’m hungry, and I’m itchy and tired, I’m sleepy, you know, their mind just keeps turbulent activity, which is customary for them? What? What’s your batting average in terms of group?

Stephan Bodian: I’ve never, I’ve never turned it up my batting average. But what I find is in retreats, and intensives people seem to get it very quickly. Most people, because there’s a quality in the group energy that really supports that letting go and opening, right? When they go home, then then the question arises, how do I return to that, right? And that’s what I do. And I work with people. And, and again, I may recommend some kind of mindfulness, some kind of being present for experience, because the whole point of being aware that it’s not called mindful that being aware of objects is that ultimately, the objects are pointers, back to the ultimate subject, right? So that you come to rest back as awareness, right? But first of all, there’s awareness of objects. And then eventually, you allow the objects to point you back to rest as the ultimate subject.

Rick Archer: And when you say objects here, give us an example.

Stephan Bodian: Tree rock, car, Sky, objects, okay, objects of awareness.

Rick Archer: So how does a tree point you back to the ultimate subject?

Stephan Bodian: So if you sit quietly, and let’s say you’re looking at a tree, then eventually your ideas about the tree fall away. Your words about the tree fall away. And eventually, there’s only the tree. There’s simply presence, undivided presence. That’s the invitation to discover the undivided you could say. But again, that doesn’t necessarily happen automatically, right?

Rick Archer: No. And, and you know, and most meditative practices advocate having the eyes closed, because if the eyes are open, the attention is drawn outward to you know, physical objects and so And whereas with the eyes closed, it has the possibility of getting more subtle and settled. So, I guess when you teach mindfulness, do you advocate, you know, having the eyes closed, so you can go more easily within? Or what?

Stephan Bodian: Initially, I recommend the eyes closed. But in the Zen tradition in which I spent most of my years, the eyes were open,

Rick Archer: actually, yeah, but you’re staring at a wall, right? Yeah.

Stephan Bodian: Or the floor? or something? Yeah. You’re actually stare at the wall? Yeah, you stare at the floor, there’s still your, your eyes are open. So you’re not cutting off the connection with the outside, which is a slightly different approach. But I think for developing presence, awareness, I think I suppose is great. But then eventually, of course, you open your eyes, you’re walking out in the world, right? And I think that’s when it can actually go deeper. In the sense of seeing beyond the duality of subject and object. I think that’s even harder in a way when your eyes are closed, because you’re just dwelling in the subject, right? When you open your eyes, then there’s these objects, how do you negotiate life in the so called objective world? How do you bring that knowing that you’ve experienced with your eyes closed into being with objects? That’s when the non dual really reveals itself?

Rick Archer: Do you take into account in your teaching the physiology like you know, these days, neuroplasticity is a popular term. And they say that that long term meditators are actually sculpting their brains and examining the brains with MRIs and stuff, you actually see significant differences in the brains of people who do a lot of spiritual practice. Very familiar. Yeah. And then in the whole eastern world, you have all the ideas of Vasanas and kleshas, and Samskaras. And you know, all this and then subtle physiology things like the chakras and, and all. And the understanding is always that there has to be a lot of transformation among all those subtle and gross levels of the physiology to really support and sustain an enlightened state of awareness, and that you can’t just take somebody who’s been a meth addict for 10 years and expect them to pop into Enlightenment or that the chances are very slim anyway. So what would you say about all that?

Stephan Bodian: Well, for example, hatha yoga was originally intended as a way to develop the body and the energy centers for the awakening of Kundalini. That was the original purpose of hatha yoga. Yeah. Well, I think once I think it’s possible to awaken without preparation, if that’s what you’re asking. Definitely, it can be unsettling. For sure. You know, it took me a long time to settle down. Oh, yeah. And I had preparation.

Rick Archer: I’ve interviewed people who weren’t even interested in any of this stuff, and had a sudden awakening that really took a while to settle down from

Stephan Bodian: absolutely, and I’ve worked with, I’ve worked with people like that. And of course, what often does is it’ll activate centers or contractions, you know, feeling tone complexes, whatever you call them in the body that are energized. And then it seems like there’s more suffering after you’re awakened and more confusion, more pain, more emotionality, right. How do you work with that, which is one of the reasons why I went back to school to study psychology. Why bring that into my work with people because people who awaken often are dealing with these kinds of things? Yeah.

Rick Archer: So to put it in other terms, would you say that a certain amount of internal housecleaning can be conducive to awakening? And but if you haven’t done that house cleaning or even if you have, then after awakening, there’s necessarily the awakening itself provides a kind of a fuel for for housecleaning demands that at that point, say, Okay, you’re going to be in this awakened awareness? Well, we’ve got to clean things up a little bit here. And you can really go through a lot of turmoil as, as all kinds of buried stuff is comes up and gets resolved.

Stephan Bodian: I think that’s very true. And I think that’s often discounted, or minimized among teachers of awakening, that it’s not really often so widely recognized as the importance of the work, post awakening, or pre awakening. I mean, I have to say, in terms of pre awakening, you said I had a lot of preparation. I actually don’t think that my zozen years or doesn’t actually prepared me very well. In fact, it was my while I was meditating, that I started having a lot of turmoil coming up, that my teachers kept saying, go back and sit, just go back and see that will take care of itself. And it didn’t it didn’t work. So then I went into psychotherapy, while I was still a monk, I worked with one of my students, actually, we did a lot of kind of bioenergetic, and really intense kinds of stuff. And I thought, wait a second, this meditation stuff, this isn’t sufficient, you know. And that was so called preparation. It wasn’t doing it for me. So then I went into therapy, and I did a lot of that, before I met John Klein, I already been in therapy for a number of years. So I think we find our way, the way we find our way, you know, we kind of stumble along, you know, and do what we need to do. And it works itself out in the end. Fortunately, now, we live in a world and in the West, in the United States, where there are a lot of resources that you can draw on, unlike maybe in ancient India, or, you know, contemporary Japan or places like that. So, I think there’s a lot available.

Rick Archer: And that’s good. And the reason I bring it up is that I do run into a lot of people who have had that experience that either they go through a lot of stuff, and it’s really intense. And then they eventually have an awakening. Or maybe they kind of slip right through somehow and have an awakening and then all hell breaks loose. Oh, hell.

Stephan Bodian: But one of the one of my, my teacher, my zoomy Roshi was one of my teachers at the Zen Center in Los Angeles, and one of his dharma brothers. Koan do moderate, he used to say, Zen is for people in excellent mental health, which, you know, I think, had a lot of truth to it, although, you know, when you sign up, you don’t want to take a mental health test, you just start, you know, he started to start doing it. Another one that I actually experienced, toward the end of my tenure, as a monk, I went to this conference, this guy named Jack angler was there. And one of the things he said, was that you have to be somebody before you can be nobody, which has become a kind of popular meme within the Buddhist world, which is saying much the same thing, although he was specifically talking about people who didn’t have a well established sense of self in the ordinary, everyday way they couldn’t function in the world, you need to be somebody in a functional way, before you can discover your true nature as nobody. I think there’s some truth to that I would critique it. I don’t entirely agree with it. But I think there’s a kernel of truth here.

Rick Archer: I think there’s two I was just exchanging emails with a fellow a friend of mine, Timothy Conway, who you may or may not know who he was kind of telling me about some examples of Neo Advaita teachers whose style is to kind of beat down the personality and obliterate it, you know, and, and then a friend of his had actually become, you know, really psychologically disturbed and on balance as a result of exposure to that. And there’s another fellow whom you may know Scott killaby, who wants to have a whole conversation with me about this at some point, but he says people come to Him all the time, who seem to be casualties of the current non dual scene, you know, and he feels that there hadn’t been enough kind of psychological personal integrity established before they embarked on the quest of dismantling it. Dismantle ego.

Stephan Bodian: Yeah, I would. There’s a lot that one can say about that. I think number one, in the psychology world and psychotherapy, you’re taught to honor resistance. And I think it’s really important to honor the barriers and the blockages that seems so called to get in the way. I think beating them down and trying to cut through them with a sharp sword is contraindicated, I think it can be dangerous. I think, I think ultimately, we have to bring compassion to this whole process. And that’s really what I recommend that whatever so called ego is, you know, we need to, again, welcome that as well. We need to embrace the ego, even, you know, I think, really, there’s a misunderstanding about what awakening is, in the sense that awakening is not about transcending ego, necessarily, I think awakening is a big part of becoming intimate, completely intimate with what is including our own psychology. So there’s really a compassionate embrace of everything about ourselves, you know, I think there’s a tendency in spirituality, to want to push it away to try to cut it out to eliminate it to transcend it, which I think is really misguided, and can be dangerous, actually. Because love doesn’t work that way. It simply doesn’t. And awakening is a process of love.

Rick Archer: Nice. Friend of mine is fine. When people say to him, I am not a person, his responses. Of course, you’re a person and you’re just not only a person, you know, there’s there’s much more to what you are but you know, you don’t kind of negate or eliminate that part of yourself. It’s because you couldn’t function with out there,

Stephan Bodian: and it’ll come back to bite you. Yeah. If you say something like that it’ll prove itself very quickly to be untrue. Yeah, as we’ve seen with spiritual teachers who’ve acted out in various ways, because they haven’t acknowledged their own personal issues. Yeah, exactly.

Rick Archer: I love that part in your book, where you mentioned that spiritual teachers who would, you know, fly into rages that their students are getting into sexual things or embezzle money. And I can think of examples, you really hit the main three bases on money, sex and power, right? Yeah. One thing I find interesting though, harkening back to what you’re talking about a few minutes ago, you mentioned that? Well, first one will wrap up point on all this, I used to be in the TM movement. And you mentioned that in Zen, they didn’t have like an entry exam or something, you can just come in and get involved in it. But actually, the TM movement, if you want to go on a long course, they looked carefully at, you know, your psychological health and whether you had had any issues or, you know, had been involved in some kind of counseling, and I think it was, unfortunately, it had the opposite effect in many cases of making people afraid to seek counseling when they needed it. And, and that had its backlash. But there was at least some attempt to screen people a bit before they went into intensive spiritual practice, because there were casualties. Certainly not. There have been casualties in every spiritual moment when people really get cooking without adequate screening.

Stephan Bodian: I think that’s changed. I think that’s changed actually, in Zen. I think now, many centers require to fill out a psychological profile good, and indicate whether you’ve had been in therapy, whether you’ve had, you know, mental illness to the point that you had to be hospitalized, things like that. So that people are aware of this issue. It’s changed since I practiced I mean, that was, you know, 2530 years ago. Yeah.

Rick Archer: And it’s probably changed because of what they ended up experiencing with people who had had, you know, sorry, yeah, right. Probably some casualty cases. Nothing I want to jump back to, as you were saying that maybe your zen practice and all hadn’t really been adequate preparation for your awakening. But I find that interesting phenomenon, with you with ADIA with other people where, you know, they did a lot of intense spiritual practice, and they don’t consider themselves to have been very good at it. Audio has always been a lousy meditator. He was always struggled and strain. But at a certain point, you know, both in his case and yours, when when you let go, somehow or other bingo, there was this awakening. And I wonder whether that awakening would have occurred? Had you not been struggling and straining for 10 years before letting go?

Stephan Bodian: Of course, we can’t really know that. I think that it really, it did help. I mean, I can’t deny that for some reason, it developed an ability to be present, because I was very good. I was here I was a failed meditator in the sense that it didn’t wake me up, you know, like, God, yeah, I hit a wall, I started feeling like everything was very dry, and nothing was moving inside of me. But at the same time, I developed the capacity to be really present for my sensei experience. And I’ve been really, you know, an academic and intellectual. So sitting for years and years, just being aware of my breathing, I think was a very helpful practice for me. You know, so it shifted that ability to be present, which I think was a great a great gift. But ultimately, the sense of, you know, striving and struggle, something had to come through that.

Rick Archer: Yeah. Yeah. It has to relax that. Yeah, exactly. You’ve probably heard that saying that. Enlightenment may be an accident, but spiritual practice makes you accident prone.

Stephan Bodian: Exactly. I use it. I use it often, when I talk about, or when I teach, you know, that what I say is there are really two prongs to this approach, resting and inquiring. So sitting quietly, is resting. Right. I mean, ultimately, it’s resting as awareness. But even if it’s just resting and being open and being present to even if there’s a sense of some doing still, it’s resting, you know, it’s not efforting, it’s not struggling. I really emphasize that.

Rick Archer: Yeah. I sometimes I’ve used the example of like a pan of water, let’s say it has little waves in it, and you want to stop the waves. If you start pushing on the waves with your hands, you’re only going to create more waves. So you just have to kind of let the pan settle and then you want to have the wave.

Stephan Bodian: That’s still first cool. That’s often talked about in the Buddhist tradition, you know, you don’t try to come deploy, you just let it settle by itself. And when it settles, you can see down to the bottom, I mean, that’s the classic metaphor.

Rick Archer: Yeah. Yeah, and you know, on this point of settling by itself, it would stand to reason that if given the opportunity, the mind would want to do that, you know, I mean, pure consciousness or pure awareness or one’s natural state or whatever is the word of Nanda is often associated with it bliss, you know, and so the mind is naturally attracted toward bliss, if it can find it. So it would seem that just sort of being more gentle and natural and effortless about this whole thing would be more conducive to the mind moving in that direction than was like, you know, if you want to hold a dog at your door, you can chain it, and the dog will be struggling and straining, or you can put food there, and then the dog will just be there with the food.

Stephan Bodian: Right, exactly. Although I would say that the mind it depends on what you mean by mind. If my mind you, me, ego or monkey mind is it’s often called, I don’t think the mind really gravitates towards stillness. I think I think it’s addicted to activity. But I think I think awareness, consciousness itself is drawn back into itself, into the stillness of its of its true nature. The mind itself will follow consciousness and come to rest in that way, but the mind, the monkey mind, seems to like to be constantly moving.

Rick Archer: Well, that’s an interesting distinction that you just drew between consciousness and, and it’s almost seemed like it’s between consciousness and consciousness that, like an active phase of consciousness being drawn back to stillness back to its true nature. And then you distinguish that active phase of consciousness from mind. So that that confuses me a little bit. And that reminds me of that second verse in yoga sutras, you know, yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. Yogas Chitta, Vritti Nirodha. So, what were you actually saying there just then?

Stephan Bodian: Well, in the Zen tradition, we talked about big mind and small mind, I don’t use those terms anymore. But small mind is the ego mind, you know, it’s thought it’s the activity of thought, that’s constantly churning, right? You don’t have to try to calm that, in order to come into stillness, right? There’s, in fact, you can find stillness in the midst of an active mind. And so there’s a sense in which awareness or consciousness comes to rest in itself. Mind as conscious as thought, as ego mind, as murky mind may continue. It doesn’t have to stop for stillness to be fully experienced, actually. I mean, it’ll tend to stop. But it doesn’t have to stop because this is where people get kind of, how shall I say, misguided or confused? They think they have to calm the mind. Right? You know, that’s not necessary. You don’t try to calm them up. Again, it’s like trying to steal the pool. You just allow yourself to rest as awareness and the mind will come naturally rescue follow suit. Yeah, exactly. But not not necessarily. Right. Right away. No, it may take a while.

Rick Archer: may take decades, to get to the degree of calmness. That’s possible.

Stephan Bodian: That’s right.

Rick Archer: Yeah.

Stephan Bodian: So that’s what I meant.

Rick Archer: Okay. Yeah, you know, you were in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and there was a big hurricane there recently, and you had a number of days of chaos, and then waiting, trying to get a flight out of there, you managed to get a flight out to Texas or someplace. And, and so there’s an example of a very tumultuous situation. Now, I don’t mean to put words in your mouth. But I bet you you experienced that, in the midst of all that tumult. There was a deep silence that was untouched by all the craziness.

Stephan Bodian: Exactly, exactly. Yeah. No, it was amazing. It was, it was wonderful to see, you know, it felt very grateful that there was so much peace, you know, it was just a matter of doing the next thing.

Rick Archer: Yeah, yeah. As our friend Suzanne Siegel doing the next obvious thing, right.

Stephan Bodian: Yeah, they’re doing the next obvious thing. Yeah. But it’s interesting. You say chaos, because Isn’t life always chaos in the in the biggest sense of mystery unfolding. Sometimes it seems more chaotic than other times, but it’s always chaos. Chaos is not a bad thing.

Rick Archer: Yeah, I heard I was, was it you I was listening to somebody else, listen to the quote of the Daljit Ching and saying that make all things orderly before they arise was that, you know, it’s a beautiful verse because I mean, at that level of silence, we’re talking about, it’s, it’s beyond chaos. It’s a state of perfect orderliness and coherence. And if you can kind of sit yourself there. And then as then as things arise, they, they tend to arise in a more coherent way. I mean, even though they may appear chaotic. It’s like, you know, how everybody says in spiritual circles, well, everything is perfect, just as it is. And then people other people say, doesn’t look perfect to me. There’s all this suffering all this crazy stuff going on. But if if you have that perspective, from the field of view, your natural state pure awareness, then you are able to see the perfection inherent in everything you see the orderliness, the perfection, the beauty inherent in what others perceive as chaos.

Stephan Bodian: Exactly, exactly. Yeah, that’s why that’s why I venture to use the word chaos, because it’s perfect in its imperfection. Yeah, I mean, we talked about perfection, it’s not perfection, as opposed to imperfection is perfect in the sense that it couldn’t be otherwise. Yeah.

Rick Archer: And in terms of the actual physical phenomena, physics, physical phenomenon, a physicist would tell you that, you know, every single little thing that happens is happening, complete accord with laws of nature, you know, that nothing is capricious, or arbitrary, or, or, you know, out of accord with very orderly natural laws that that govern it.

Stephan Bodian: That’s true. But of course, we don’t need to understand those natural laws to, to appreciate the innate perfection, because, you know, really, the way we really know that is because consciousness is perceiving itself, you know, that which is perceiving and that which is perceived, or one in the same How could it be perceived as imperfect or chaotic in the negative sense? It’s just is what it is. That’s all. That’s all we can say in the end, right? Just it is what it is. Yeah.

Rick Archer: Yeah. All right, I’m gonna start looking at my notes here a little bit, I took a bunch of notes while I was reading your book. First of all, one point, you made some of these like seed thoughts, which we can leap frog off of spacious awareness versus detached observing. What were you saying about that in your book, spacious, versus attached observing?

Stephan Bodian: Well, I think there’s a tendency for people to, particularly when they do mindfulness, but often in any kind of spiritual work, particularly the non dual traditions of getting caught in the witness. Being this detached, dry kind of disengaged witness and getting stuck there, you know, and like I said, earlier, it’s really more about about intimacy, with what is, which is detached witness is separate. And so it just perpetuates a sense of separation, subject objects split again. Whereas true awakening is about being intimate with what is so spacious awareness is more like, and again, this is something you can experience energetically. I think it’s something to really explore energetically, you know, are you feeling yourself as being distinct and separate? You know, we all know this, people say, Oh, well, I’m awakened. And, you know, they, they seem to be very distant. You know, they don’t seem to have their heart in the game, you know, they don’t seem to be engaged in life. Right. So spacious awareness is more open, all inclusive, and it has a kind of warmth quality to it. Yeah.

Rick Archer: Yeah, shins and Jung mentioned something about certain practices seeming to make people kind of zombie like, you know. And last week, I was actually, I was interviewing Kenneth Falk. I don’t know if you know him. But we were talking about witnessing. And he actually said, Oh, I can witness anytime. And he got in, he kind of went into this state where he was like this, he actually put his hands up as if I’m, I’m back, I’m witnessing and his, his whole tone of voice changed. And, you know, just as we were saying earlier, how mindfulness might actually be a symptom of the awakened state and not meant as a method for achieving it. I’m wondering whether there’s been a misunderstanding of this whole witnessing thing, where people have turned it into something that they try to do, rather than something they are. In other words, you know, you and I were just talking about perfect silence in the midst of chaos. Well, if you’re living that, then there’s a sense of witnessing, I mean, all this whole hell’s breaking loose, and yet I’m just silent as a, you know, as a still pond, and there’s no conflict there. And yet, but that’s, that’s a far cry from trying to evoke some mood of being detached from everything and having that changed the way you behave and, and interact with people when you say,

Stephan Bodian: yes, yes. And also, I would also say that even the witness you describe is most let’s say, well developed form is still just a stage. Yes, yes. Because ultimately, even that witness has to drop away, you know, and that’s where they get what I mean by intimacy. Often, the way awakening goes for people, is if there’s first and awakening into the witness, there’s an awakening out of the personality out of the identification with the body mind into this witnessing place, which is kind of detached. Yeah, this is a helpful state and the stage in one’s unfolding, right. But you don’t want to get stuck there. Right. And again, you move ultimately into the realization that there’s no separation between the witness and that which is witnessed. The problem is getting stuck in the witness, actually, yeah.

Rick Archer: And the witness, the type of witness

Stephan Bodian: is a state, it’s a state, let me just say, as witnesses a state, for most people in your in the it’s a state, just like your friend said, the person you’re interviewing, you can go in and out of the witnessing state. To see any state though comes and goes, your natural state is actually not a state, it’s the ground of being its consciousness itself. It doesn’t come and go. So anything that comes and goes, including witnessing is just a state.

Rick Archer: Right now you and I are in the waking state, right? And yeah, in a certain number of hours, we’ll be in the sleeping state. And then after a while, we’ll be in the dreaming state. And each of these states of consciousness, which actually have their Sanskrit equivalents are understood by physiologists as being as distinct physiologically as they are experientially. So the kind of witnessing I’m talking about would be a state, if you want to call it that, if you want to call it a state that yeah, like waking, dreaming and sleeping as unique from each of those three as they are from each other, but actually one that couldn’t be lived along with those three. And, and so many, are you with me there in terms of that statement?

Stephan Bodian: I am? Well, there’s a fourth stage, which is called turiya. Right, which is your natural state? Yeah. But I don’t think that’s just the witness. I think that’s, again, it’s not the witness the way we’re talking about it. I think it’s the ground of being Yes, it’s a subtle distinction. But I think it’s an important one. You know, people want to get stuck in the witness. Now, they’ve become very attached to the witness. They go around with this kind of detached, kind of pulled back sort of energy, which is constantly and it’s very safe in a certain way. It’s very dry. But it’s it’s harsh, I say, it’s a pitfall

Rick Archer: I would agree. And I wouldn’t actually, I don’t think that deserves the term witnessing, I think it’s a mood that they’ve inculcated and perhaps inculcated so deeply that they’re in it all the time. And but the kind of this turiya, you’re talking about, you know, that’s, that’s the natural state, the ground of being what I would witnessing, as I would think the term should refer to would, would be just having that turiya spontaneously maintained throughout waking, dreaming and sleeping, without evoking or holding on to any kind of attitude or mood or anything else, just as natural as breathing or the beating of your heart is just lived once it’s established. sufficiently.

Stephan Bodian: Beautiful. Yeah, I agree. Yeah. And but

Rick Archer: as you say, even that is a stage. Right? That’s not going to be the end game. Which turiya Yeah, maintaining turiya throughout waking, dreaming and sleeping, there’s more yet to come. And again,

Stephan Bodian: there’s it’s not a matter of maintaining, though, well, it’s but spontaneously

Rick Archer: gotta be careful the words, I’m not talking about any effort domain, like right now, you and I aren’t trying to maintain our heartbeat or maintain our waking our wakefulness in terms of being conscious and talking to each other. It’s just kind of a given that just keeps on happening without, we don’t become less awake by forgetting to remain awake, nor to become more awake. But you know, it’s just it is the way we are, right?

Stephan Bodian: In what way can we say we’re maintaining it, then we’re not maintaining our breathing. It’s being maintained. It is being maintained. It’s continuing. Yeah. Okay. So it’s kind

Rick Archer: of a fine point in the terminology, but, okay. That’s what I’m trying to allude to that that witnessing that really deserves a term is a natural state. That doesn’t take any effort to maintain either it is or it isn’t, depending upon how well established the fourth state is.

Stephan Bodian: Yeah, but ultimately, witnessing realizes itself to be one with what’s witnessed. Exactly. Okay. Yeah. Okay.

Rick Archer: Yeah. So it would be it itself, even though it’s natural and spontaneous, once it’s established is not the end of the show. There’s going to be a further maturation and to realizing that, right. It’s one with what’s witness.

Stephan Bodian: Yeah. Which means that the witness drops away because Right, yeah, so So in that sense, there’s no more witness right. You see you So, so the word witness then becomes unnecessary. Because there’s just life living itself. Yeah. Yeah.

Rick Archer: No, that’s good. Just kind of want to make sure we’re on the same page. Yeah.

Stephan Bodian: Oh, good. Joy, the conversation,

Rick Archer: okay. All right, another little seed point from my notes and reading your book, mindfulness to avoid or suppress emotions. I think we’ve kind of touched upon that, but might not hurt to touch upon it once again.

Stephan Bodian: Mindfulness, how it suppresses emotions,

Rick Archer: yeah. How people can use mindfulness as a tool to kind of stuff everything.

Stephan Bodian: Absolutely. Or witnessing or witnessing. Yeah, yeah. Witnessing is a great way to avoid you hanging out in the witness. You avoid all feelings. Who me? I don’t have any anger.

Rick Archer: You know, you know, the comedian, Stephen, right? No, I don’t really find it very drawl deadpan sort of comedian who broke up with my girlfriend, I wasn’t really into meditation, and she really wasn’t into being alive.

Stephan Bodian: Exactly, it can definitely go that way. So Dzogchen, for example, said zozen is dancing on the heads of devils. Well, that’s how we did. Well, what he I think he meant by that was that, you know, you do zozen And you’re dancing on the heads of devils. In other words, you do Zaza and you maintain a kind of meditative focus, mindfulness, you could call it, but underneath the surface, are all these feelings that are roiling around and are not being acknowledged. And by maintaining a certain state mindfulness, you can be very subtly but very effectively suppressing these emotions, which then don’t get realized. Now, I think a good mindfulness teacher will guide you to avoid that. But I think it’s definitely pitfall in the practice of mindfulness or Advaita. Witnessing, right.

Rick Archer: So that was Dogan that said that,

Stephan Bodian: yeah, interesting. Isn’t that a

Rick Archer: was he advocating that or critiquing?

Stephan Bodian: I don’t know, I think actually, he was advocating it. And that’s why I find it fascinating. Because I think it reveals a flaw in the whole Zen approach. I think in a certain way, Zen you see Zen as it developed. And this is a normal side side of the road here. But Zen as a developed was very closely allied with the samurai tradition, and with the martial arts, and in those visions, of course, you you had to maintain the cause taky, which is like absolute calm, equanimity without, so you had to suppress the emotions. So I think Zen were actually developed simultaneously with this need to suppress emotions, which of course, is very Japanese, excuse my Japanese, my Japanese friends, because Excuse me, but it’s very, it’s very Japanese. So I think there’s that risk.

Rick Archer: But you’re gonna be playing Whack a Mole?

Stephan Bodian: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Yeah, which is, which is why I left the monastery finally, because I had all kinds of feelings getting stirred up by this, like the therapy I was doing. I was living with some people. And, you know, they were telling me I wasn’t so cool, after all, and you know, and all these things, and I was dealing with all kinds of feelings and meditation was kept pushing him down. I said, No, I gotta work with him. You know, yeah,

Rick Archer: you’re probably more aware of this than I am. But it really seems to me that there’s a trend these days for people to address this issue that we’re discussing here. And you know, they’re tired of playing whack a mole, they’re tired of trying to hold five basketballs underwater at the same time, you know, to you to mix metaphors, that and they’re realizing that if you really want an integrated, stable, full awakening, all this, everything’s going to have to be dealt with, and, you know, in one way or another,

Stephan Bodian: which is why I went to school with therapy, right? Become a psychotherapist, it was initially, the intention was to learn psychology, so I could be a better better Zen teacher wasn’t to become a psychotherapist. And also it was so I could learn more about my own psyche, so that I wasn’t dealing with all these feelings, and again, stirred up and I knew how to deal with them. And I could be more skillful, because I saw teachers who were not skillful. Who were alcoholics who are philanderers, you know, sexual creditors. I saw all of that right in my time, and I realized I didn’t want to do that. I couldn’t do that. And then I ended up becoming a psychotherapist. So I absolutely agree with you that like we talked about earlier, you know, you either before or after awakening, you’re going to have to deal with these issues.

Rick Archer: So how’s that been going for you both personally, and as a psychotherapist, I mean, has it been a Smooth and smooth is the wrong word. Why should it be smooth? Has it been successful for you to kind of as a psychotherapist, and as a student of it to process what you’ve needed to process? And how has that enriched your awakening or your realization, and then maybe we can even talk about, you know, some of the people that you work with and how it has enriched yours. And and just as a final addendum to this question, are you seeing a kind of a new quality of awakening or realization in people who are either your patients or who have gone through this kind of necessary, dealing with varied stuff that is not seen, and perhaps even in ancient traditions, or in contemporary versions of ancient traditions?

Stephan Bodian: Yeah, great questions. You may have to remind me of the ones that I forget. But I’ll address the first one. I mean, I bow to the years of psychotherapy that I did, I do something called EMDR, which is a trauma release technique. And I did that for a year and a half. And I cried pretty much nonstop through it, you know, awakening after my awakening. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And then I had subsequent awakenings kind of deepenings of your original awakening, as the result. In fact, one of my most profound awakenings happened on the mat and the bioenergetic session, and it was really very, very profound. My, my therapist realized what was going on, but so they’ve worked hand in hand, as far as I’m concerned. And, you know, occasionally I’ll get, I’ll get hooked in, you know, I had significant trauma as a child. So occasionally I’ll get hooked, you know, fear will come up, and I won’t know what’s going on. And I’ll have to just process the fear. But, you know, it’s helped enormously in that regard. And I do find, in working with people, you know, there have been questions of times by spiritual teachers, and do they work hand in hand, or they work across purposes, therapy and meditation or spiritual awakening, and in my experience, they withdrew the right view, they work hand in hand, because the more that we free up, the contractions, the core beliefs, the core stories, the more we see through those, and free them up, the more possibility there is to awaken beyond them. And the more there is awakening, the more those core stories and belief systems and contractions get seen through. So they work hand in hand, in my experience with with people powerfully. And in fact, the EMDR is a great resource, I use this with many of the people that I work with.

Rick Archer: Sometimes they’d like to think of awakening or, you know, vast vastness of awareness as a kind of a wonderful solvent, which can give you to use the example if you take some handful of mud and throw it in a little glass of water, the water is totally muddy. But if you throw it in the ocean then just gets dissolved. So it’s a real, working hand in hand, as you say, it’s a real advantage to have that foundation.

Stephan Bodian: Yeah, the most therapeutic thing you can do in a way is simply to rest as awareness to rest in your natural state, what I call awakened awareness in the book Beyond mindfulness to rest as that. And then everything that arises is with a call in Tibetan tradition, self liberated, things arise and they release, they arise and they release, there’s no attachment, there’s no freaking end, there’s no engagement, right? But of course, you know, you know, how much can we do that? How much do we do that? That’s why the psychotherapy can help free that up, which allows us to rest more, which allows us to free up more which so they work hand in hand in a beautiful way. Yeah. Yeah.

Rick Archer: So you’re done in Mexico, do you like most of your patients or clients, whatever you call them deal with you over Skype or something?

Stephan Bodian: Yeah, phone, phone, and Skype.

Rick Archer: And that doesn’t really hamper or hinder your effectiveness.

Stephan Bodian: Not in my experience, I’ve had some really powerful sessions with people over the phone, you know, in terms of processing trauma, as good as I have had face to face. In fact, I will say as an aside, working on the phone, in a certain way, has an advantage to working in an office because it bypasses the formality of the face to face contact. People are used to talking to their friends on the phone, you know, and sharing their most intimate details. And so people just pick up the phone. It’s like, we’re right there. You know. It’s very intimate, very intimate.

Rick Archer: Yeah. And so the second part of my question was about, you know, which I think you’ve answered partially, but maybe you can address more fully is, Are you do you feel like there might be a kind of a, an Andrew Koan is talking about the fact that spirituality itself is evolving as we as a culture evolving, we’re actually breaking fresh ground that hadn’t perhaps been been broken by more traditional teachers and experiences of 500 or 1000, or 2000 years ago, do you feel that this topic we’re on right now about resolving all your psychological stuff is resulting? Are you seeing it result in the emergence of a quality of awakening in various people that might be sort of a new template or a new, a new standard, that, you know, doesn’t really have an historical precedent?

Stephan Bodian: You know, I don’t feel like I have a large enough sample to draw any conclusions. And as far as a new kind of awakening, I think that’s maybe our tendency to want to see what we’re doing is special, you know, in our historical period, wow, it’s new and better than ever, you know, you know, you can believe that if you’d like, but I think awakening to our true nature is the same as it’s always been, it does seem to be that more and more people have access to it, perhaps because there are so many teachers and teachings, I think that has advantages and disadvantages, I think it can get confusing, and people will come to me are reading this book and that book, and comparing and contrasting and getting completely lost. But at the same time, there’s a lot of input from many different sides, telling us you know, that who you really are is not who you think you are. And this is who you really are and pointing directly. It’s, there’s a lot of pointers available. Right. So it’s great.

Rick Archer: I think one thing I had in the back of my mind, when I asked that question is, you know, you and I both have seen examples of teachers who have come maybe from the east, maybe some already in the West, who seem to be off the charts in terms of consciousness, you know, in terms of their realization is radiated like a lighthouse, but who really had some issues, you know, whether, as evidenced by the types of behaviors you mentioned earlier, and so, you know, if, if you could have people who rated who, who were that profoundly, you know, absorbed and immersed and radiating being, and yet had resolved those issues, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you perhaps have an even sort of more ideal, if you could say, type of realization, then then someone who’s, you know, just really grounded in their true nature, but somehow has all these blind spots and behavioral? Weird?

Stephan Bodian: Yeah, yeah. No, I, I agree. I agree. That sounds like a beautiful ideal, as you said, and something to aspire to. Absolutely. I mean, just let’s just remember that. It’s not about perfecting the individual. You know, it’s not become, it’s not about becoming a perfect person. It’s becoming, it’s about becoming a, how shall we say, as clear and unobstructed vehicle for consciousness to move through? Right? Yeah. And I think there’s a tendency for people to want to become an enlightened person. You know, so I just want to, you know, throw that out as a caveat.

Rick Archer: Sure. But what you just said, is clear, and unobstructed a vehicle for consciousness to move through that, you know, you’re not gonna be perfect. But you’re kind of alluding to moving in the direction of perfection, you know, you’re like, Well, you’re a clean mirror, as opposed to a one that’s all covered with a schmutz. You know, and that’s not going to reflect the sun very well.

Stephan Bodian: Right. But if there’s some subtle distinctions here, because one thing is that the person you’re not trying to change the personality, you’re not trying to necessarily change the unique idiosyncratic nature of this particular one here, you know, right. And there can be a tendency to want to iron out all the, you know, the creases and, and get everything perfect, you know, but what it is about is, wherever truth wants to move, if there’s a blockage, if there’s some way in which it’s not happening, then you can investigate that. Right. Yeah. But yeah, it’s not about a self improvement project. I just wanted to make

Rick Archer: sure, but just to continue the discussion. So yeah, Steven Bodie, and has a personality as does Rick Archer. And there are certain aspects of our personalities that we’re always going to have no matter how bloody enlightened we become. It’s always gonna be we are we have our uniquenesses. And yet, you know, I don’t know about you, but I definitely have aspects that probably need resolution or resolving or, you know, cleaning out or whatever, that would enable me to be more perfect.

Stephan Bodian: How do you know that? How do you know that?

Rick Archer: Well, because over the years, I’ve improved, you know, in many respects, and so there’s a trend that I observe and it’s made me it’s allowed me to be a more perfect reflector, whatever terms you just use a minute ago,

Stephan Bodian: but how did you know that you these are areas you need to work on?

Rick Archer: I didn’t I mean, unlike you, I never have done therapy, but just somehow through just well Over time, practice spiritual maturation. There has been I hope anyway, maybe my wife would tell you otherwise. But there’s been an improvement in many ways. And

Stephan Bodian: I was gonna I was gonna point to your wife. See, I think I think it’s, I think your wife is

Rick Archer: She just stuck her head in the door and said I could use some therapy.

Stephan Bodian: Yeah. I think she’s the reason See, she’s the reason because you keep bumping up against her, and you keep going up against your your friends, or maybe you have kids, your kids or whatever it is. Life is a great teacher. And

Rick Archer: yes,

Stephan Bodian: wherever we bump up against life, and you know, then we feel that. So that’s how we learn, you know, where we’re obstructing is, like, gives us feedback.

Rick Archer: Yeah.

Stephan Bodian: Great Teacher. Yeah.

Rick Archer: I interviewed a lady a few weeks ago, and the title of her book was what’s in the way is the way.

Stephan Bodian: I love it. Yeah, exactly.

Rick Archer: Yeah. And then people are fond of saying the world is my guru, you know that. There’s this absolute, there’s a kind of an intelligence that’s governing things that gives us exactly what we need.

Stephan Bodian: I agree. Life is the teacher. Yeah.

Rick Archer: All right. So but you are a professional psychotherapist. So on the one hand, you would acknowledge that there’s certain aspects of people that aren’t going to change. But on the other hand, people come to you because they want to change or they want to rid themselves of habits or tendencies or repressed stuff that’s hanging them up.

Stephan Bodian: That’s true. Suffering is the key. I mean, obviously, suffering, not pain, but suffering, which generally means conflict, you know, inner conflict, being at war with ourselves being at war with life, that kind of suffering, that’s the indicator. But again, life reveals that right, so yeah, exactly.

Rick Archer: Yeah. Here’s a question for you related to that. Could an enlightened person suffer? And second part of the question is, would an enlightened person necessarily be a happy person?

Stephan Bodian: I would say that an enlightened person is a happy person. Yeah. By definition, by definition. Yeah. I mean, I put that on my website. Happiness is your natural state. I mean, happiness is your birthright. Yes.

Rick Archer: And by and they wouldn’t suffer.

Stephan Bodian: It depends on what you mean by suffering. Yeah. In terms like, yeah. And in terms of conflict, you know, being at war with life, no. Physical pain. Sure. But physical pain. Yeah.

Rick Archer: Yeah. Okay. And so with regard to their being happy, would you say that it enlightened person. And, you know, Enlightenment is such a loaded term, I hate to use it, but, you know, you know, are referring to here, just for convenience sake, we’ll use the term could they experience depression, anger, jealousy, you know, any of those kinds of emotions are with, with their sort of attunement to the natural state or living as that to pretty much negate or obviate any such negative emotions.

Stephan Bodian: I think, well, depression is not an emotion. Depression is a sustained state of being okay, which is let’s just put depression out of the mix here. But in terms of sadness, grief, anger, jealousy. I’m not so sure about jealousy. I think that the pure anger, fear, sadness, grief, can arise I think naturally, your daughter

Rick Archer: dies or something or one upset guy runs off with your wife, you know, then maybe jealousy. Yeah, jealousy run enlightened state.

Stephan Bodian: Yeah, yeah. Again, you know, this whole notion of enlightened I mean, fully enlightened. I mean, you know, their, their conversations, endless conversations about what that means. Yeah, so, yeah, I mean, certainly I have emotions coming up, you know, am I the enlightened person? I don’t know. I don’t worry about that definition. You know,

Rick Archer: yeah. Ordinarily, I don’t use that term. And, you know, it’s just convenient to use it, but maybe awakened is better. But even that has a sort of a static superlative connotation, you know, and I kind of like to think of awakening the way you described it earlier as a milestone, but not necessarily even as an important milestone, but there’s still going to be plenty of post awakening growth. And maybe we need to reserve the term Enlightenment for some final stage of development, if there even is such a thing, but I doubt that actually.

Stephan Bodian: Yeah, yeah. I think it’s endless actually, I think, you know, once you awaken that of a process of embodying and living, it is endless and refining and deepening, and it’s an endless process. That’s what that’s my experience.

Rick Archer: Yeah. Which means it leads me to the whole discussion of why one would consider or continue to meditate after awakening. I mean, Ramana spent years in a cave after his awakening, and I don’t know if it’s true or not, but until the Buddha meditated a couple hours a day the rest of his life after his awakening, so would you say that they did that if they did because of the possibility of further refinement and embodiment and so on? What would you say to that?

Stephan Bodian: I would say it’s more likely that they’re just drawn into the silence,

Rick Archer: because of the just the inherent enjoyment of that restfulness. The Yeah,

Stephan Bodian: yeah, I think. I mean, I certainly find that I find myself drawn. Just it’s almost like being pulled into into the silence, you know, and then there’s a activity and then there’s a pull back into the silence. It just seems to happen. Right. So natural. Yeah, I don’t think it’s something they intentionally do in order to feel for some reason, some end game. Yeah,

Rick Archer: well, yeah, it’s not like they’re trying to get somewhere. But, but I wonder about this refinement thing, because it seems to me there’s possibly a great range of potential for refinement, post awakening, you know, once the self is realized, great potential for refinement of the senses, the emotions, you know, all sorts of things that we as an as an instrument could become better at and, you know,

Stephan Bodian: I think that’s true. And once we awaken, I think we’re sort of drawn to that inexorably, you know, it’s like, we’re really on this journey of complete, you know, we’re committed, you know, we signed up, we drunk the Kool Aid, we’re on our way, you know, to end whatever’s in the way of truth, you know, we were wanting to investigate that. You know, it seems to be the case, it’s, you can say, it’s like a fire, once it’s burning, it starts consuming everything in its path, you know, in a certain way, I think that’s what the bodhisattva vow means.

Rick Archer: You know, you could even say that something else kind of takes over once awakening has happened. And it’s no longer the individual running the show. And that that something else is kind of a very powerful evolutionary force, which remember, Peace Pilgrim, that that old woman who she wasn’t old when she started, but she just walked around the United States for years and a pair of sneakers and a T shirt and just kind of threw her her life to the mercy of what whatever support she happened to get and everything worked out for and she’s really a saint and a very high level of consciousness. And she drew this graph on our website, or she there was no website in those days. But this is your this graph about her, you know, evolution and of spiritual evolution. And she kind of marked on the graph a certain point at which self realization or awakening occurred, but then after that, it was kind of like a hockey stick thing where the graph really took off. Because he said, you’re no longer in the way, you know, you know, you’re no longer running the show and interfering. And so the evolutionary process can work through you much more powerfully or efficiently that then it was able to before.

Stephan Bodian: Right? Yeah. And that which is working through you is what you are

Rick Archer: because one notes from your book being no one, someone, nothing and everything. This is kind of all at the same time. You know, there are people who say they’re no one. And then And yet, at the very same time, you know, you bang your shin on the on the coffee table, and whoa, that happened. That seems to happen to someone.

Stephan Bodian: All right, No, exactly. I call that the razor’s edge. You know, it’s like the edge where nothing bursts into something. No one burst into someone. You know, there’s this kind of a, you can almost feel it. You can almost sense it. There’s an edge this razor’s edge, you know, and we’re constantly on this razor’s edge, you know, knowing where no one and yet appearing as someone Wow, here it is, again, someone, you know, life presenting itself to this person, people wanting something from this person wanting a response, wanting affection, you know, wanting a communication, whatever it is, and how does that take place? You know, that’s the razor’s edge, you know, so we’re constantly dancing on that edge, you know, and exploring that edge. That’s, that’s what it’s like, you know, yeah.

Rick Archer: And, you know, I mean, get dropped in a snowstorm in your underwear, and, you know, someone is cold. It’s not, it’s not the truth. This, this body is cold, and I am kind of attached to it and it needs one.

Stephan Bodian: Or have your wife get angry at you for something you didn’t do or didn’t do. Or, you know, and then what yeah, you know, you feel are saying, Yeah, you feel it. And yet, if you don’t feel it, as you said, you’re dead. You’ve checked out. So so so how do you live in a world of feeling of human emotion of human connectedness and interrelatedness at the same time knowing that it’s all just like, it’s all just a dream? How, you know, what does that like? That’s the dance. You That’s what we’re here to do. Otherwise you wouldn’t have a form. Right? Yeah. Otherwise we’d be formless consciousness was obviously otherwise

Rick Archer: why bother having a universe? That’s right. So how would you answer that question? You just asked how you live in the world of

Stephan Bodian: AI, there is no answer, you have to discover. It’s an ongoing discovery. Yeah. But on the one hand, you can get caught in identifying with a story and the person and you know, what I want, what I don’t want and what I’m achieving and not achieving, or, you know, whatever it is, or you can get caught in the witness in being the absolute and then being disengaged. So what is it like to be on that edge? There’s no answer. It’s a dance. Like, like any dance that you can’t say, this is how you do it. Find your way? Yeah,

Rick Archer: there’s a, there’s an Upanishad. I don’t know if this is what it’s alluding to, but it goes into blinding darkness go, they who worship ignorance, even into even greater darkness go there to worship knowledge. And I kind of think it pretends to this point of, you know, you get totally stuck in the relative and it’s blinding darkness, but you can also get totally stuck in the absolute, and, you know, to the negation of the relative and that’s, that’s perhaps in a way, even greater darkness. And so what you’re talking about here is, is incorporating to within one life within one awareness.

Stephan Bodian: And that’s there are a lot of passages in the Zen tradition to talk exactly about what you’re talking about. Because then it’s very much about the integration of form and emptiness. You know, the tendency in the, say, the non dual traditions of India, is to emphasize the absolute, you know, and to really de emphasize the every day to lean towards the transcendent. But Zen is very much which I bow to Zen for this, you know, it’s very much about the integration, the ordinary, the everyday. And so I think I imbibed that challenge by us carrying water, chopping wood carrying water, you got it.

Rick Archer: Another quote I took from your book relaxation generally seems much more conducive to realization than tension and struggle.

Stephan Bodian: Exactly. Well, that’s coming from my experience, right? Yeah. Years and years of pushing, you know, they used to go around in the Zendo, with a stick, you know, hitting you, you know, the break through the Koan, right through the car, you know, you got to, you got to sit hard, you got to really sit hard, you got to really push through. And it just made me a nervous wreck, I think, actually. And which is then when I got to John, John Klein, you know, he finally said to me, you know, the only point of meditation is, as you mentioned, to discover the meditator, that’s it otherwise, it’s just a habit. You know, it’s a way of conditioning the mind. And you’re not trying to condition the mind, you’re trying to find the natural state, the unconditioned mind. So

Rick Archer: are you friends with Francis the seal? It was a fellow student of John Klein.

Stephan Bodian: Yeah, we studied with John together your fellas Mr. Jones? Yeah.

Rick Archer: Yeah. It was quite a guy, John Klein. I mean, I’ve never met him personally, of course, but he really seems to have had a very beautiful effect a lot of people.

Stephan Bodian: Well, my experience of John is that he taught more this for me, he taught more through the silence. And through the words, although it was some words he had said that woke me up. You know, that in a moment when I woke up those words are going through my head, but it was really the times that I felt the transmission, the most deeply were in the silence.

Rick Archer: Had he been a student of Ramana Maharshi Where did he What was his background?

Stephan Bodian: Yeah, went to India, not even looking for a teacher, particularly. And he discovered a a, a teacher who was a, a teacher at a Sanskrit College in Bangalore, who was also an invited teacher. He was also, you know, unknown, not celebrated. And through his contact with him, who he spent three very intimate years with his teacher. And then after three years he had his awakening is profound awakening, and then his teacher showed him to go back to Europe and teach so so he did, but you didn’t teach anyone famous, although he did spend time studying Kashmir Shaivism with a one particular someone who just came across, he also studied yogo with Krishna Macharia, who was the teacher of ion gar, and he also met and had a close relationship It was Sri Atman, Nanda Krishna Menon. And I think there was a very sense of real resonance there. So those were some other influences beside this particular teacher. Yeah.

Rick Archer: Interesting. We alluded very briefly earlier to Suzanne Siegel, it’s just want to mention who she was, she wrote a great book called collision with the infinite. And I know you were a friend of hers. I never quite met her, although she was in the TM movement for a number of years. And then she eventually left and she was living in Paris, married pregnant, had stopped meditating, was just getting on a bus one morning, and all of a sudden, boom, this, this awakening, you know, and which completely freaked her out, because she didn’t have a context for it. She didn’t understand what was happening to her. And she, she kind of went through 10 years of terror, trying to figure out what was going on with her meanwhile, raising a daughter and getting a master’s degree or PhD or whatever she got. And then she eventually ran into John Klein, who just put her at rest and made her enabled her to realize that something good had happened. That was a spiritual thing.

Stephan Bodian: Exactly, exactly. Well, there’s an example how interesting she spent all those years in TM. And yet when she woke up, she didn’t know what it was. Yeah. Fascinating.

Rick Archer: It is because I’m sure she had heard 1000 times the description of the sort of statement she had actually achieved. But her couldn’t, her concept or understanding of that description was so different from the actual experience when it happened that you didn’t put two and two together,

Stephan Bodian: as was mine. Yeah. wasn’t what I expected. It never it never is.

Rick Archer: Interesting. Well, um, is there anything else that I haven’t finished reading your, your second book? And I’m sure you’ve probably written other things, is there anything that’s important to you that we haven’t covered in this conversation that you’d like to discuss before we conclude it?

Stephan Bodian: Well, one thing I have thought about, which is, I think, you know, helpful to talk about is that, after people wake up, I think there’s a tendency to think we’ve touched on this a little bit. But there’s a tendency to think that after you wake up, things are just gonna be blissful and groovy, you know, and everything’s gonna be fine. And then if they’re not, then to discredit your awakening, that maybe that really wasn’t a genuine awakening, or, you know, I did something wrong or something. And I think it’s really important. And that’s what wake up now goes into in a lot of details, I think it’s really important for people to realize that there’s a path after awakening, and then it often involves a number of pitfalls, post awakening, you know, one of them is to discount your awakening. Another one is to identify with your awakening and think of yourself as this awakened person, you know, you know, another one is to get trapped in the transcendence, like we talked about the witnessing, you know, so I think there are a number of another one is to get caught in the, I got it, I lost it. Phase, you know, where she, I had it, but now I lost it, and I’m struggling to recreate it. And, you know, all my attempts to recreate that beautiful state that I had, you know, don’t seem to get me anywhere. I mean, those kinds of things are pretty much par for the course. So that’s when I think it’s really important to have a good teacher to guide you. awakenings can often be spontaneous, you know, but after awakening, I think it would be really helpful to have someone to guide you through the Scylla and sharib. This, you know, they’re kind of the, the, the, the, the movement through between the rocks of the different pitfalls, you know. So I that’s one of the things I really I think it’s important to tell people

Rick Archer: Yeah, I think there’s some pre awakening pitfalls that are important to touch upon to perhaps because one thing I run into most commonly is people who’ve gotten excited about this whole non duality thing and Enlightenment awakening, and so, but starting to read a bunch of books, and gained an intellectual or even an intuitive sense of what it what it is, and then mistake that intuitive or intellectual understanding for the full enchilada. And then, you know, usually they’re the ones that are most belligerent on the chat group sort of pontificating with people about the fact that there is no person and, you know, there’s no levels and all this stuff, but I think that’s a pretty common pitfall.

Stephan Bodian: I totally agree. I’m glad you brought that up. I think that’s one of the major pitfalls and actually one of my students introduced me to some chat room of heaven. It was called something like, I don’t know, it was about breaking through and it was a very aggressive, you know, liberation unleashed. Yes, liberation on

Rick Archer: leash, right? Yeah, I ended up ladies.

Stephan Bodian: I thought my gosh, this is not I think this is counterproductive. And so yeah, I think it’s very easy to get into this kind of intellectual understanding and think you have it. But awakening, it’s important to remember is an actual experience, generally, the experience of breaking through has a quality to it, don’t get caught by the experience or just try to stay there. But there’s really something shifts, something dramatic and radical shifts in your locus of identity. And until that’s happened, you know, as my teacher, John Klein used to say, You haven’t left the garage, you know, and I think that’s really important. You know, and I think there are a lot of people who get the Advaita speak down, you know, they get all the jargon down, and they can run through all the arguments really, really skillfully, but they haven’t realized it.

Rick Archer: You know, yeah. I mean, I gave a good, pretty good rap on LSD and 1967. You know, I could keep a room spellbound, pontificating about the levels and Bardot’s and all this stuff. You know, but, you know, 47 years later, I feel like I’m still gaining greater clarity and, you know, in a sense, and, you know, still a spiritual neophyte. There’s a beautiful quote from audience Shanti let me just open it up here on my iPad only take me a second. 1234

Stephan Bodian: So the thing thing about awakening is, is that it’s completely humbling. It’s completely you ameliorating the ultimately awakening is about a completely obliterating, you know, any separation. So, you know, it’s working in that direction. Yeah. You know, it works through love. I mean, it’s ultimately about love, but it can be very uncomfortable. Don’t be surprised.

Rick Archer: Here’s the quote from RJ, he said, even now with me, the mystery is just beginning. Always, always still beginning.

Stephan Bodian: Beautiful. Oh, that’s so beautiful. Yeah, that’s exactly how I, exactly.

Rick Archer: And here’s one from St. Teresa of Avila. She said, the feeling remains that God is on the journey too

Stephan Bodian: God is the journey.

Rick Archer: My understanding of what that quote from her is that, you know, you can be God and there’s still growth possible, you know, there’s still something yet to discover. And

Stephan Bodian: because God is discovering through His creation, yeah. From that perspective, I don’t believe in God as a you know, as a creator, and that sort of thing. But from that perspective, God is constantly revealing and discovering through creation. Of course, it’s an endless process. Yeah.

Rick Archer: We’re his little tendrils, his little villi that are sort of Absolutely. Cool. All right. Well, this has been a fun conversation. Anything else want to throw in before we wrap it up?

Stephan Bodian: That’s good, Rick. I’ve enjoyed it.

Rick Archer: Okay, great. Let me make a few concluding remarks. So I’ve been speaking with Steven Bodian, and I did pronounce your name right, right. Bodian? Absolutely. Okay, good. Cuz I heard some interview with some other guy you did. And he pronounced it Bo di and but then he said, Jean Klein. So I figured Badian was. So I’ve been speaking with Steven, and I’ll be linking to his website, as always, from his page on And his books and so on his Amazon listings for his books, I’ll be linking to those. So you can link you can bounce over to his website and check out what he has to offer and, you know, terms of courses, personal consultations, and retreats, and I’ll do anything else you wanna throw in there that you have on your site that people might want to know about?

Stephan Bodian: No, that’s great. My books are listed as well.

Rick Archer: Okay. So, and this interview is part of an ongoing series, which I’ve been doing for about five years now and hope to do for many years to come. You can see all the interviews that I have already done under the past interviews menu on They’re categorized in various ways. There’s a future interviews menu, which lists the upcoming ones that have been scheduled. There are hundreds of people on the list of potential interviewees and so we try to prioritize those as best we can. There is a donate button on the site. This whole thing is possible because of the supportive generous donors and even small amounts like $5 a month which some people do make a difference if enough people do it. There is a place to sign up and be notified by email each time a new interview is posted. You’ll see that on the site there’s a link to being able to to subscribe to the audio podcast in a variety of ways iPhone, Android devices, and so on. So click on that link and choose the one which pertains to you. And there’s some other stuff if you click the About Us menu, there’s there’s even a place where you can Download the BatGap theme song as a ringtones. So we keep coming up with ideas and trying to make this more and more useful resource for everybody. So thank you very much for listening or watching. Thank you, Steven. And we’ll see you all next week.