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RICK: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews with spiritually Awakening people. I’ve done about 620 of them now, if this is new to you and you’d like to listen to previous ones, please go to bat gap comm bat gap 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 website. And there’s also a page about other ways to donate if you don’t want to use PayPal. Not that there’s anything wrong with PayPal. My guest today is the Reverend Professor Steven G. Right, FRC n and B E. And I read all those things because I thought we would start by unpacking what they mean. So, welcome, Stephen. Thank you for your patience. Stephens been waiting patiently while we worked out technical problems. So you’re a reverend? In what respect? What denomination How did you become a reverend?
STEPHEN: I joined the interfaith Seminary in London about 1213 years ago. It’s a two year program, very experiential, very challenge that introduces you to the depth of different faiths and trends you by the end of two years, to be more proficient in the art of spiritual direction, and in offering services like funerals, Jews, etc. To people who don’t necessarily belong to a religious tradition, particularly so we’re into a religious box, but it encourages you to find your own path.
RICK: Does it cater mostly to Christian? You know, people with a Christian heritage? Or is it like, you know, when you studied for three years, where you’re also studying Islam and Hinduism and Judaism, and all the all the different faiths,
STEPHEN: inevitably, most of the people that participate in it are influenced at least by the Christian tradition, because they’re in this country. Having said that, I would say the majority of the people who participated in that program are very alienated from Christianity for all kinds of reasons because they’ve been wounded by it or whatever. And we’re seeing a path of their own but all sorts of path of service they wanted to we wanted to find a way of being of service to support their spiritual development and or simply providing a service like being a celebrant for a wedding for people didn’t want something necessarily attached to a particular religious tradition.
RICK: And then the professor part, Reverend Professor, what in what capacity Have you been a professor?
STEPHEN: That’s my professorship here at the University of Cumbria. I’ve had a couple of the past different universities. But that’s where I’m based right now. It’s a visiting professorship so I don’t have to do much work. It’s more now, nowadays, as I’m largely retired, an honorary title. But it did involve at one time doing a lot of teaching of students particularly in the healthcare field, such as
RICK: you are a nurse for 45 years we’ll get to that or 35 years maybe. And then Fr. Cn What does that stand for?
STEPHEN: Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing it’s the highest accolade you can be given in this country in your profession of nursing. I think the numbers have grown a bit there’s there’s more than a million and a half nurses in this country there’s about 150 Maybe fellows of the Royal College of Nursing now and quite a lot of head so it’s it’s a kind of thing that when you get awarded you begin to wonder is that it now I might I might have asked it Do they know something? I don’t but it’s a high honor for the profession in this country.
RICK: So again, and and then MBE is a member of the British Empire. So what does that
STEPHEN: what a wonderful title that is member that it means that you get to go to Buckingham Palace and you meet and she pins a little metal on your lapel and tells you how wonderful you are. And this whole glorious thing of being Buckingham Palace with the band playing and hundreds of people there and the gold paintwork and the rest carpets and the whole thing is a marvelous experience. If you kind of thing
RICK: and that’s different than then for instance, the Beatles got Weren’t they knighted? Or something like that or?
STEPHEN: No they got they got a Paul McCartney is now Sir Paul McCartney. But in the 60s, the Beatles all got their MBA guess the
RICK: same, same thing. Yeah, I heard they all went and got stoned someplace before they went in for the ceremony. missed a couple of them that and speaking of them, we got to just mention that you were actually in Abbey Road recording studios when the Beatles were recording come together. And y’all got yoga owners surgeries and teas. That’s pretty cool.
STEPHEN: Somehow that was my claim to fame was a friend of mine was working in the studios and Goddess a pass we were sitting in the background we didn’t actually meet them will be separated by a glass screen. But when tea break came down for the workers, Yoko Ono made some for everybody else that was there and came through. And this hand has touched the cup, that Yoko Ono
RICK: don’t ever wash it. Okay. So you work as a spiritual director and trustee for the Sacred Space Foundation, which is you’ve been telling me is in the north of England, just south of the Scottish border. So what is the Sacred Space Foundation?
STEPHEN: It’s a charity. We have two retreat houses here in rural intellect district in the north of England. It was set up by a group of healthcare professionals probably 35 years ago now, with the intention of providing teaching and the healing arts, the perception was that healing was dropping off the menu in our very technical healthcare system. And once the course is started, specifically the teachings of in therapeutic touch that was brought to this country by someone trained by journalists, Krieger, Jean. So Adams came here from the USA in the middle 80s started teaching and the charity was largely set up to promote those teachings. And I joined in, joined in some of the teaching was eventually invited to be a trustee when the charity was set up. And as the years went by, what we found was people were coming along, mainly healthcare professionals to learn about healing, which was born, what they were introduced to say, in school, and they were presenting themselves with a need for healing large numbers were in burnout. And so we began to develop opportunities for people to have residential retreats and to work with someone initially, what might loosely be called counseling, provide people with a space to feel safe, drop out of the system for a while and find out what’s really going on with them. And so a lot of the work now is responding to people a longer continuum from people who are just need a space to rest and recuperate through to people who are beginning to be spiritually inquiries, but they don’t feel at home, or feel they’re not getting what they need in a particular religious tradition through to people who are in really serious spiritual crisis, they’ve hit the wall, they’re in the extremes of burnout. They’ve been told they’re dying, they’ve been told their partner is leaving them or they’re facing prison, something like that this brought people to a serious crisis in life. Now, it’s
RICK: interesting that you refer to that as a spiritual crisis. You know, you hear all the time about policemen and school teachers and various other people burning out. And but it’s not usually presented in the news, at least as a spiritual crisis. And yet that that’s how you’re referred to it.
STEPHEN: In mainstream ordinary reality, burnout is usually presented as simply an extreme of stress. And that’s not to deny that extreme stress is part of burnout. So there are some people who are in burnout, what used in the vernacular sense, and they’re simply extremely stressed. And we know that it is an extreme distress because if you take them out of the situation, or you remove the bullying boss, or you improve the staffing levels, the stress goes away and the burnout goes away. Burnout, as we would understand it as a spiritual crisis. And there’s been an excellent book written about this as a burnout. I can’t remember the name of the author just now. But the the spiritual crisis is something when someone hits that point. And you realize it’s more than stress. It’s more than a word problem. There is something going on in me that what the burnout is produced is a crisis of meaning and purpose in life. An example would be someone of a healthcare practitioner a few weeks back, who got into her car to go to work as usual, started the car engine and was still sat there. Two hours later, she couldn’t move was not work although that was that’s become the focus of work if you like the stress at work is the Zhaan provocateur. But what’s really go on is that deeps her own words where I can’t, I can’t she didn’t say I can’t do this anymore. She said, I can’t be this anymore. There’s a quality, not living authentically, not doing something any longer that it’s hard to meaningful you your heart literally isn’t in it.
RICK: Yeah, I heard on the news just this morning that something like 4 million Americans quit their job in the just during August. And throughout the pandemic, apparently a lot of people have just been reassessing the way their lives had been going. And you know, wondering why they’ve been doing what they doing, you know, the long commutes and the, you know, 10 hour days or whatever. And a lot of people pressing the reset button. In one of your books I was reading in the foreword, you said, I have a sense that an awful lot of people have realized that normal life was actually quite abnormal. So perhaps we’re undergoing some kind of societal reset that will end up making us all more spiritual or introspective are demanding higher quality of life. There’s a lot of strikes in the US now too, because people feel like, I shouldn’t have to work this hard for so little money.
STEPHEN: That will be the same in this country. I think it’s so universal. The evidence suggests, excuse me from various studies that about during lockdown periods, about two thirds of people have kind of stood back and said, Hang on a minute, what’s what’s really going on what I thought was normal maybe wasn’t it was actually awful. In this country, the Chancellor of the Exchequer checker, the guy who holds the purse strings in the country, is talking a lot about recovery, trying to get recovery. Again, I think what’s happened during the pandemic, for some people, I suspect, a significant majority have discovered they’ve taken the cover off what they thought life was all about, and who they thought they were, that’s essentially a spiritual shift taking place. When you find new meaning and purpose in life, or you’re discovering what your real meaning and purpose is. And it might be something as simple as actually, this relationship that I’m in is fake, this job I’m in is fake, who I’m trying to be in the world is fake, I want something bit more meaning to it. So although the chancellor is talking about recovery, an awful lot of people I think, don’t want to recover. They don’t want to get back home the way things were, they are ready and ripe for a significant shift in the way they see the world and the way they live in it.
RICK: Yeah, kind of a similar thing happened after 911. Like, there was this big societal reset. And I remember, you know, George Bush, coming on the news a few days after 911 and urging everybody to go shopping, and get back to normal life go shopping. And, you know, that raised a lot of eyebrows, because, you know, there had just been this huge trauma, and in a way he was saying, knock it down, you know, forget about it, you know, get back to normalcy. And of course, you know, in a way people wanted to do that. But things were never the same. And I have a feeling that that may be the case with the pandemic too. It’s not just a blip, and we’re going to get back to normal. But it’s, it’s a kind of a gear shifting that’s taking place in society. And, you know, I don’t know how things are going to be going forward. But hopefully, they’ll be kind of a silver lining to this cloud that we’ve been under. And we’ll it’ll be a shift into something much more evolutionary much more profound.
STEPHEN: That may be, first of all, I think we have to remember that what we’re talking about, is the kind of thing that happened just happened in relatively prosperous country. For most, there’s no shifting gear in a large part of the world because of the conditions in which they live. And like, wasn’t that much worse than the pandemic than without it except for lockdown. Those of us in in the more prosperous countries like us. It’s debatable whether or not that shift that has occurred during lockdown will sustain be sustained afterwards after the pan if and when the pandemic passes. Now, it may well be for some people that is true. I think we have to recognize, however, that the pressures of this particular plane of ordinary reality of material reality are immense. And very large numbers of people will feel that they want to get back to shopping and going to the pub and restaurants and carrying on life. Because for them that’s what life was. I think spiritual life draws most of us to is actually maybe that’s not what life is all about. That there are different planes of consciousness different planes of reality. that the spiritual life suggests that life has lived actually is not life, and you’re invited to a new life, you know, that old expression in the Christian tradition of being born again. But it’s about seeing life, a new, literally coming into life. That’s what being saved is all about. I think the Greek word soza means, say, which means about really coming into life. It really is not as we think it is.
RICK: Yeah. Do you think that, um, I know, in my own case, in a way, I’m kind of an inward guy, I mean, I’m very active and busy and all but I, you know, I meditate a lot been doing that for a long time. And so when the pandemic hit, it was like a very minor thing. In a way, it’s fine. I don’t go into stores, I wasn’t going to pubs anyway, and I wasn’t going to concerts, and I was playing pickleball, which is a sport, but now I walk in the woods and no big deal, I can get a lot done walking in the woods, listening to interesting stuff. So but, you know, you see the people on the news, and they’re just going bananas, because they are used to much more outward life, you know, kinds of entertainments, and they were deprived of that. And it was driving people nuts and suicides were up and down, and domestic violence was up and all kinds of problems. So it was in a way, it was a kind of a forced spiritual retreat, it seems that many people didn’t adapt to very well.
STEPHEN: I think it’s very difficult to have a spiritual retreat, let alone a forced one. If you don’t have the tools, the wherewithal to embrace it. Otherwise, the retreat just becomes a place where you’re deprived to television, telephone, friends, pubs, restaurants, clothes, shopping, etc. And so it becomes not a gift, but a curse. But I think if you’ve had some spiritual work, is I think some people would have embraced the opportunity to give more time to deeper inner reflection to meditation to so forth. But it’s pretty hard to do if you’ve not had that where with all that you just go stir crazy. I I also think that the symptoms, things you’re describing are symptoms of what happens what is what happens in this particular plane reality this culture that we have, that the poet WB s wrote a famous poem, which got games getting revived in times of crisis called the Second Coming. And the first lines are turning and turning in the Widening Gyre, the Falcon cannot see here the Faulconer, things fall apart, the center cannot hold. He uses the images of Falcon and the Falcon, the Falcon when it can’t hear the Faulkner anymore, flies off into doing anything it wants to do. And there is that sense, in spiritual inquiry, that if you place your center in something like my meaning in life, my center is in shopping, the right clothes, the right partner, the right body, the right job, and all those kinds of things. And I don’t know what TV is like in America, but in this country, we are awash with reality. And they’re actually anything but real you know, you every minute of the day, you can find a new bed, a new house, new wife, a new partner, let alone a new body, anything you want. But they’re all placing the center in ego driven objectives and ego driven drives. And that means that very large numbers of people feel no sense of center in other than those things. What the ego determines is, and of course, the ego is determined to survive and continue at all costs. I think what happens when people awaken spiritually, is you begin to recognize the falsity of those centers, however, powerful they are, but they are false. And that then can in some people stimulate a search for what is my real center, where is my real self is the i Who i think i am, who I really am. And it’s my experience working with people, both individually and groups. That is often the breakthrough point, when they’re able either guided, or it’s happened because they’ve been traumatized. They come to the point where they’re questioning, who am I really? And that’s one of the four great spiritual questions, who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? And how do I get there? But if one of my really is now for most people, if they’re taken into a place of inquiring, who am I? And if I’m not a nurse, a doctor, a friend, a street cleaner, a politician, a blogger, Assistant, whatever, if, if those are all, not who I really am, if they are roles, and that identities that I have of it’s not who I really am, then who am I really? And if some people don’t find an answer to that, it’s it’s a tricky question. You face the abyss of nothingness. The spiritual life properly supported, guides you through that through that abyss, and you come out the other side, and you recognize that you might experience the terror of being nothing. But then you realize the joy of being no thing you are, I simply am, full stop, nothing else needs to be added. And that brings a completely different quality of awareness to who we are in life and how we function in it.
RICK: Next week, I’m going to interview a woman who has written a book about the spiritual significance of aging. And, you know, I’ve just started listening to some of her recordings and all but, you know, she’s talking about how, you know, work, we’re kind of eventually forced to let go of things that we might have found security or fulfillment in, you know, because we’re just no longer capable of those things, or, or whatever. And, you know, what I think we’ll be talking about a lot is the importance of, you know, starting at a young age to discover the inner dimension, because then, you know, you can go through life’s phases, very naturally, and, you know, enjoy the things that are appropriate for each phase without kind of clinging to them, you know, out of desperation and feeling remorse when you, you begin to lose them. And eventually, of course, we’ll lose the body itself. But that even that need not be a frightening experience, if we’ve undergone the proper preparation all of our lives.
STEPHEN: I think there’s something to be said in preparing for aging while you’re young, airing for dying while you’re alive. If, you know, the ego sees death, as the end, sees nothing else beyond it, and will fight tooth and nail to retain identities and roles. And consequently, when those things are taken from us, by disease or aging, whatever it’s it affects. Maya Angelou said, If you can’t change your thing, change the way you think about it. My teacher rammed us telling me many, many years ago, about not long after he’d had his stroke, about how some people would see having a stroke and being paralyzed as a curse. He eventually came to see it was after all those years of spiritual work. I’ve nothing now to stop me making that inner journey. I don’t have to travel around, I can’t move around anymore. But there’s no stop me moving around inside. If we’ve embraced the possibility that there’s more to us than who we think we are, that we don’t ended our skin, then it provides us with the opportunity even in the face of disability or listening ability in older age, it isn’t necessarily loss. It’s actually also the possibility of gain is that of opening up to new possibilities.
RICK: Yeah, he wrote that book, or was it a movie documentary called fierce grace? Maybe it was a documentary, I think, and, you know, the title implies that and having a stroke like that serious stroke is kind of fierce, but there’s a grace to it. There’s a blessing to it. It’s like, he didn’t sort of say, Oh, poor me, you know, how I don’t believe in God anymore or something. It was more like, Alright, what’s what’s the opportunity in this situation?
STEPHEN: I think that’s I’ve lost count. I’ve just been drawn fierce grace and moment and the quality there in that forgiveness, not, instead of saying everything’s okay, but finding the jewel in the mud, finding something that the light in the darkness, and I’ve lost count, having sat with 1000s 1000s of people in their suffering, both in my time as a nurse and luckily, in the past few decades as a spiritual director. I almost know what’s coming when somebody for example, might come here on retreat. And there’s a kind of conspiratorial conspiratorial tone. And the said, There’s something I need to say to you, Steven, before we go any further. And I know I can tell you this because you’ll understand I can’t tell my family but I’m almost glad I’ve had cancer attacked or have lost my job or or or, because without that, then not this. And I find that that’s where people find the grace in the fierceness that with suffering, that people are able to handle the suffering because something in it has been found that is transformative, enriching or awakening.
RICK: I wonder what percentage of people interpret it that way? You know, because a lot of people in the world are suffering but um, you know, it seems like perhaps it’s just a fortunate few who realize the the the wisdom and or the blessing and
STEPHEN: I think it’s your right is probably not an awful lot of people. Most people whose noses such as the wheel and elbow to the grindstone day in and day out, that’s not a good position to look up and see how things might be, also shows the need for it’s no coincidence in this Age of Aquarius now. We are beset by armies, therapists, healers, counselors, spiritual directors, you know that it’s the, you know, the days of the Great one off guru who has all the answers have gone on passing. And it’s, you know, the Aquarian Age is one of the collective enterprise a deeper understanding, less hierarchical. So I think that the opportunities there for more people to make that discovery. And if we look what’s happening to our planet, globally, the possibility of a monstrous global catastrophe setting in the next decade or so, because it won’t be done to our planet. And the deep seated fears in people not to say grief, and what’s going on whether it’s conscious or unconscious, is going to bring forward a need for huge numbers of people to support huge numbers of people through crisis that’s facing us. Otherwise, the risk is that people will act out those unconscious fears by lurching towards more authoritarian governments, or they’ll become violent or depressed, or suicide or whatever it might be, there’s going to be a huge groundswell of needing people for support, and for healing in the decades ahead, assuming that we as a species live that long. Meanwhile, within the pandemic itself, I’ve felt not least because of my healthcare background and understanding of the way that fear impacts on the immune system. Not only have people been dealing with the possibility of a disease rooted in a virus, but people have then been scared spitless by the disease, and all that’s going on with it, then also not attended to a lot of healthcare issues. So if you have fear, it compromises the immune system, and I suspect, let alone diseases that weren’t dealt with during the pandemic, because people weren’t getting to hospital and so forth, weren’t getting their treatment. I think there’s an awful lot of latent illness now is going to be present in the population that will have tremendous healthcare needs in the next decade, as people emerge with immune related diseases like diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and so forth. Because people’s immune systems were suppressed during the time when we really need it during the pandemic, because we’re so scared, and many people still are.
RICK: So you’re saying that the fear evoked by the pandemic actually compromised people’s immune systems and made them more susceptible to all kinds of health issues. That’s that’s the said in a nutshell, right?
STEPHEN: If you’re in your immune system is already compromised, and huge numbers of people in the world are, we’re breathing shit air, we’re eating shit food, we’re living in shit homes have been shit, education is doing shit jobs, drinking shit water, excuse my explosive. But a huge numbers of people are experiencing that the immune system is going to be completely compromised at some level or another. If you add into that fear, we know that fear suppresses the short term fear, you get a flight and flight response, it helps you long term for your long term anxiety, how’s the trick of suppressing your immune system? Now, that meant at a time when you needed your immune system, more and more of that was already compromised, because of environmental and dietary issues and so forth? You add fear into the mix sustained fear for large numbers of people, then the chances are we have created a longer term health problem that may be almost as fear, if not more fierce than the virus itself.
RICK: It’s, you know, we don’t want to, I mean, I think about this stuff a lot myself, and I don’t want to be a doomsday, you know, Prophet type of person, and and all but, you know, I’m certainly not the only one and certainly not the most qualified to, you know, predict these things. And, and it’s quite clear, you know, that we’re, as a society, we’re heading as a global society, we’re heading into very difficult times. And, yeah, I think it’s a lot of time difficult for people living in a certain period, to foresee what things might be like 1020 100 years down the line. They kind of think think that things will just sort of continue the way they are, you know, we’ll be driving horses and buggies and maybe the maybe the trains are, you know, and now we have, you know, supersonic jets and no one foresaw that. So, I think that there’s I don’t know to talk too long, but that there are huge changes coming down the pike, and that it will be essential for people to find that inner center that you were talking about earlier. Otherwise, they’re really not going to weather the storm very successfully. And even now, you can see crazy stuff happening in the world, not only the pandemic, but 10s of 1000s of people coming up from Central and South America, to the US border trying to get into the country, that’s just a trickle compared to the mass migrations that will take place if say, sea levels rise, 10 feet, you know, and all the coastal cities are inundated. And we’re in the middle of droughts and severe weather patterns. And while all that’s happening, so we really, you know, got to turn things around. And I think there are solutions, but to implement them, takes a certain mindset. So again, it comes back to changing minds, changing hearts, on a mass on a mass scale, so that things can be changed in the technical and political fields,
STEPHEN: I think that you could look at the, the catastrophe that the world might be arguably is going to face in the very near term future. As human beings, we tend to fall for responses when we’re faced with such a crisis, death, we kill ourselves, we turn it on kill other people, we get we turned destructive, we get depressed, or we just disconnect from it and just carry on as if nothing’s happening. Now, none of those are helpful responses. And you have here in this country, you know, the English Channel, is now witnessing both people coming across from mainland Europe, who have migrated way across from Afghanistan, North Africa, and so on and so forth. And, you know, we tend to view them very negatively and respond to them negatively. Yeah, I’m full of admiration for you for some, you know, some a woman with her kid and a man who can trek all the way across from Afghanistan and put their lives on the line and get in some crappy little boat to sail across the English Channel in the hope of a better life. You know, I will say to come on in, you know, these are the kind of entrepreneurial, skillful people we need. But leaving that to one side, that, you know, I think, obviously, beneath all of this is, there’s a spiritual crisis, which is at the root of it, this whole notion of no longer having a center that is driven our use of the planet and our treatment of each other to the edge of destruction. And it may not be too late for us too, as I think is happening, intuitively many people that deep spiritual search, how can we turn this round, but it has to be it has to be, it’s not just a question of having a deeper spiritual inquiry and having a feelgood factor from it. You know, I teach in a program here called the Pentagon School, which is explicitly directed towards those exploring the contemplative way. And it’s very inclusive. And that contemplative way means you have to do some serious questioning of who am I? What is it all about? What are their different planes of reality is to have an eternity, and a realm of time and space, and so on. And through that deep inquiry, is all very challenging and very rewarding. I know it is, the contemplative way I think may well be the hope of the world. contemplatives tend not to go around murdering people, we tend not to want to tell other people what to do, we don’t abuse children, we don’t start wars. So if the contemplative way, way, it can be restored in many different traditions. And it isn’t necessarily always there within the religious traditions, but they’re there. If it can be restored, it is one way that we can bring some healing to the world. The other thing I would say is, and this is emphasized in our school here, is that the spiritual life is not about making me feel better. There’s an awful lot of spirituality, which is about that. And in part, it’s understandable in the frightening well, you want to find something that helps get you through the day make you feel more relaxed, more rewarded, connected to God, whatever. To me, that’s utterly pointless. Unless you do something with it. You go out there in the world. So for example, we emphasize Okay, you’ve had these wonderful spiritual experiences, you do lots of inquiry. Now what where’s the beef? Where do you work in the world? Then you hit a difficult point because looking at what’s going on in the world, the enormity of it can be overwhelming. And it’s well understandable. Some people would shut off and just try and meditate the way through it and become quietest and disconnect from the suffering of the world. That’s one understandable reaction. The other is it can be so overwhelming that you feel powerless. Nothing you can do. So one thing that I often guide people into doing say, okay, find your pressure point. Okay, this odd is enormous what’s going on? No one of us can solve it. But is there one point with you with your particular skills, your particular talents, your qualities, your God given gifts, however you perceive it? Where’s the bit where you can apply yourself? Is it simply being a kind of neighbor? Is it being more gentle and kind in your family? Is it helping out down at the food bank? While they’re also challenging food injustice? Is it participating wider community action? Is it marching on the streets, working with political organizations getting in there in your church, whatever it might be. So I think
STEPHEN: that enables us to stay focused and to survive, and to be more fulfilled in a very challenging world, if we don’t try and overwhelm ourselves, trying to fix it all. Because we can’t do it that way, like burnout, or depression or exhaustion, we find our pressure point that we can do. And one thing that we found that works here, and a pattern that works is, is having four things in place that support you. You need your soul works, the things that you do your spiritual practices and meditation, prayer going on retreat. You need your soul foods, it could literally be food, but also things like having time in nature, listening to inspiring music, scripture, things, putting yourself in beauty things that nurture your soul, your soul communities, hanging out with groups of people who support you, and encourage you, your church group in meditation group, your yoga group, your age group, whatever it might be, unless they’re your soul friends, your your spiritual director we all need. I learned that certainly in my early days, in my chaotic wanting to do it, on my own way, was the power of having one or two persons rammed us in particular, and genius, or Adams here, who would walk the path before me and could guide me along safely. So having a spirit. So that pattern of those four soul things, helps to nurture and sustain those while we awaken more deeply to our spirit, and find our path of service in the world.
RICK: That’s good. Yeah, we’ll talk more about rom das as we go along, when I hear some rom das stories about your life with him and everything. But I just want to pick up on what you were just saying, which is, I mean, you said, you know, spirituality is not about making you feel better. But I just want to emphasize that it does actually make you feel better. But I think that’s obviously not the end of it. In fact, in from my own experience, and many people I know, once you have that feeling better that spirituality gives you you’re, you know, you’re more energetic, you’re more happy, your mind is clearer and sharper and so on, then, you know, you inevitably are able to do more for others. And it’s, you know, that phrase, my cup runneth over, it’s sort of like your full, okay, now you run over and start to apply all this inner potentiality that you’ve tapped into in some constructive way. And like you say, you know, you can’t do everything, but we each have a role to play. And it might be just, you know, being a parent or, or, you know, doing organic gardening or some little thing, or maybe it’s something that, you know, makes the news but we all have our Dharma our role to play. And I think one value of spiritual development is that helps you find that role, it becomes clearer and clearer to you over time, you begin to pick up on the impulses and the signals and the subtle hints of where, where the stream is flowing in your particular life. And you know, you’re able to maximize your your impact.
STEPHEN: I think that they, this spiritual life, spiritual practices, the work we do, and it is work, there’s no bypassing it. There’s no emotional shortcuts, because that way just corrupts the spiritual depths that we do acquire, is opens the heart is essentially an opening of the heart. Whether that is an opening of the heart of your own individual heart through which you recognize everybody else has got a heart to and we’re all in this together and that strengthens us. So your service in the world is not one where I am using my own compassion, batteries to work myself. The opening of the authentic spirituality, awakens you to the suffering of the world and enabled us strengthens you not to back away from it but to hold it and embrace it and to continue working with it. Now for most people, their spiritual awakening is a recognition of the something other what I would call the beloved we avoid gender driven words for God in our school here. But the recognition that there is something other Under Hulk hill called the real, and what whether you. And I think in the contemplative way, you have it both ways, the relationship is both personal and it’s transpersonal. It’s immanent and transcendent, the whole lot is there for us. But what it brings to you is a recognition that this is no longer about me, using my own individual show low powers to heal or fix the world, whatever, rather than I am part of something else that flows through me. Well, using our own batteries, no matter how compassionate we are, at some point, they run out, we’ll exhaust ourselves, maybe even make ourselves sick. Whereas when you tap into that infinite resource, the boundless love that’s there, and it’s always described as a love, that there’s no way around. And it sounds banal to say it, but it’s true, when you tap into that the intuitive natural heartfelt responses is one of compassion for the world. compassion for others, even for people whom you find deeply unpleasant. And, and that enables you to Gandhi said to be the change you want to see in the world, it’s a totally different way of approaching, where you no longer have to do compassion, you be it, it flows through you from the infinite source. And you know, you know, you’ve, you’ve, your will right relationship with it, when, for example, at the end of the day, and you’ve been whatever way your compassion has been expressed, some realm great or small, but at the end of the day, you are tired, but fulfilled, as opposed to drained and exhausted, when you’ve been doing it off your own bat entirely from the ego agenda
RICK: are very good. And just to sort of emphasize the point even more, I put it in slightly different terms, I feel, as I’m sure you do that, you know, at our very core is a sort of an ocean of potentiality, you know, unlimited potentiality. And so you have this great untapped resource deep within us. So and everybody has access to it. I mean, there’s certain certain things in this world that some people are the haves, and some people are the have nots, but everybody has, potentially has access to this, this inner reservoir of creativity, intelligence, energy, happiness, and so on. And all the traditions talk about it. So it’s just a matter of finding an effective means of tapping into it. And imagine what the world would be like if everyone had tapped into it. You know, I mean, it’s not like we have an energy shortage or a money shortage or a food shortage, we have a inner potential shortage, and that resource is there. And if we were all to tap into it, I think that all the manifest problems of the world would would evaporate pretty quickly.
STEPHEN: Yep. And the spiritual life encourages more people to recognize that ground of being that stuff, which, you know, for most traditionalist, it’s not neutral, it’s there, there is something there that you recognize it. It is with you, it is loved by its nature is not neutral. And so whether you call it God or you’re grounded being or diamond, I don’t know, I’m not too fussed about that. But what I do know is universal is that once you tap into that, you recognize the profound interconnectedness of everything, we have profound reason for being here that we each have a part to play in it. And also the the recognition that there are many planes of reality, many planes of consciousness. You could argue, you know, this world, this particular layer, is doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing. You don’t have to get too het up about it, you simply find your part to play in it, and so forth, because the other planes of reality, other frames of consciousness in which we are apart. Yeah.
RICK: On that note, I would say that this plane is having a hard time, because it is not adequately integrated with these other more subtle planes that you’re alluding to. And, you know, Jesus spoke of, you know, on earth as it is in heaven. I think Earth could actually be heavenly if we were more attuned to the smaller, heavenly planes of existence that that exists. And, you know, it’s up to enough individuals to make that connection in order for it to become sort of manifest universally for all Would you agree with that or say it differently or what?
STEPHEN: Well, it’s interesting because it means what we’re doing, we’re making some kind of judgment about this particular plane of reality and all its suffering. And it’s one of the paradoxes of the contemplative way do we say actually, the world’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing? Which means I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. But in the awakening process, you look at the world and you see all the suffering in it. And the natural response to tapping into that ground of being is, where’s the suffering? Where is my point of action? Where Where do I participate in this, it’s not for me to make the vast judgment about whether this particular reality is right or wrong, it may will be doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing. And you draw on that quality that’s assessed in the dow of, you know, I do nothing and nothing is left. And I participate in here doing what I’m supposed to be doing. And I trust somehow a deep level, it’s part of all it is. And I cannot see the whole picture. Now, at the moment I just see through a glass darkly,
RICK: kind of reminds me of what some Zen Zen teacher said to his students. He said, You’re all perfect, just as you are. And you could all use a lot of improvement. Yeah, so yeah, obviously, we don’t say, well, children are starving in Africa. But that’s exactly what’s supposed to be happening. We think, Okay, well, how can I help them if, if that’s our role to help? Maybe another way of looking at it is, you know, there’s a level we could say that so fundamental that really nothing is happening there. It’s just unmanifest abstract absolute. And then there’s a more manifest level in which it’s divine, everything is just well and wisely put, and you know, everything is perfect, just as it is. And then there’s the more the most manifest level that we all interact in, where, yeah, you can say, in a way, it’s happening just as it’s supposed to be. But obviously, there are plenty of problems and we can do something about them. And Rick, and what I was saying earlier, is that I think if we could connect these, if we want to break it down into three levels, if we could sort of connect and integrate them so that they all sort of interact and support one another, then we’d have a much more healthy reality in which the function,
STEPHEN: and I don’t think we need to get to yet theoretical about it, yet can see that everything’s happening, because it’s supposed to be happening. Yes, that’s pretty cool. And I’ll find my play. You know, when that touches you, for example, like myself, you know, when you have cancer, when I’ve had cancer, you’re sure as hell pun intended, if I want to begin to make some questions about how I participate in reality, what the nature of healing is. So what suffering will do to the awakened person is elicit a response that’s compassionate, and we follow that we follow it through, there’s no need to get too caught up in, you know, what grand purpose of the universe is, or is not being served here, how somebody is suffering, can I play some part in because it’s a natural, intuitive response of the soul to participate in that way? And that’s where we find our spot. Doesn’t the
RICK: word empathy somehow mean that if you actually go to the root of the word that you actually feel what the other person is feeling? Is that the etymology of it? As I recall,
STEPHEN: if you’re, when you see someone suffering, I’ll paraphrase. But to use three words, one response can be sympathy, you feel sorry for the person, but you don’t feel what they feel. You kind of keeping them in resistance is a nice safe, where you feel sympathy for somebody, but it’s not really your suffering. If you then feel empathy, you begin to feel what they feel you Empath you. Yeah, you know, so for example, if someone tells me what sorrow is, I know what sorrow is, if one tells me what fear is, I know what fear is, I can empathize with that. Compassion is the next stage on you’ve in empathy may open the heart. Sympathy may not do but empathy is an opening of the heart to what the other person is experiencing. Compassion, take compassion is a fire word. Compassion says I’m with you in the feeling, and I do something a passion, I do something about it, I act, I participate, I give you a hug, I give money to charity, I seek to be about it, you know, so that I like the idea of the word of compassion as being something that is active, you engage with the world, it’s not just feeling something but one acts one does something with it. Yeah.
RICK: That’s, I’m glad that I asked you that question. Because that was, that was a great little breakdown. And, you know, you look at the lives of the people that we regard as being ultra compassionate, you know, Mother Teresa, or Jesus or, you know, um, our, if you know who she is, or, you know, these various great people who’ve just done so much for so many. And it’s kind of like they’re, they don’t have a choice. They are just driven, you know, they’re just sort of instruments of the Divine on Full Tilt Boogie, you know, pouring out some healing balm for those that they influence.
STEPHEN: Yeah, that’s true. But I think there’s two things I would say about that. One is all those teachers always said is you to the kingdom of God is within you, you know, you are God. Jesus said, so all those all great teachers, they actually it’s not just me, yes. Not to me being special is you too, all you have to do is to wake up to it. The second point is that, that teaching that expression comeback occurs in many different contexts. So that you could argue, well, it’s relatively easy for Jesus and the Mother Teresa and Amma and others to go around being compassionate. However, because they didn’t have a mortgage, they didn’t have a family, they didn’t have to hold down jobs, they didn’t have to care for an elderly parent with Alzheimer’s disease. So you know, part of the work of spiritual awakening is to recognize it has to be engaged with people in our lives as they are living now, it doesn’t have to be something that only special people can go around giving to others, you know, so part of the work, for example of the contemplative way is encouraging people to discover the Christ consciousness within themselves. And through that, how do I work with that in the world? How does my open heart work in the world and serving the world? And it doesn’t have to be in Grand ways it can, as I say, the expression of the fullness of your spiritual life, it’s just being a more decent neighbor.
RICK: Well, and those people we’ve just mentioned, weren’t born with silver spoons in their mouths. I mean, Jesus was born in a manger to poor parents and got a fourth grade education and a little fishing village in South India. And I don’t know about Mother Teresa’s background, but she wasn’t wealthier, I think just work. Like the Dickens, you know, she saw Jesus and everyone, she said, You know, I’m serving God, and this person and this person and this person. And, you know, I interviewed a couple, a woman, Lynn twist a few weeks ago that worked with her. And it was remarkable some of the stories, but in any case, these people all arose out of very humble circumstances, but it was their sort of inner awakening that propelled them to prominence. And, you know, because it’s because of that, that we know about them. And anyway, I’m rambling, but you get the point.
STEPHEN: Yeah, absolutely. And that, you don’t necessarily have to come from a well educated or well defined group, certainly one or two great spiritual teachers were, but often have to give it all up in court. Yeah, because the risks of it brings of the attachments it brings with you. And you’re letting go of our attachments, I would argue that our attachments aren’t the only problem be the two things or to persons or to wealth or whatever. Going back to that point I said about from, you know, discover rediscovering our center recovering, not recovering. But discovering our center, is that sense of arguing with a lot of the problems of the world or not because we’re attached to wealth, or to image or to power. But we’ve become detached from our source, the center very essence of our being, which is not interested in those things, we can detach from the soul, detached from the Divine, whatever we want to call it. So a lot of a lot of the work we do in the contemplative school is exploring that subtle difference between non attachment and detachment and so forth.
RICK: I want to shift gears a little abruptly here. Well, we’ll be talking about other things. But in your notes, in your bio, you mentioned that your personal and professional life took an About turn over 35 years ago through a series of life changing spiritual experiences. And then consequently, you developed an interest in spiritual matters, and the connection with well being and so on. So what were those life changing spiritual experiences that you had?
STEPHEN: One was, I’d always had the Mr. Charriol had, which should be moments of, this isn’t what life is all about. There’s more here, or profound connection with something other than myself, which my atheist psychology psychotherapy, friends, say, which is probably the you know, that’s what happens to your mind when you come from a dysfunctional family. And mine would be classed as dysfunctional. But I always had the sense of, of the something other In fact, when neighbors would come and visit when I was a kid, they might say always are Steven, and the mama say, Oh, he’s gone. He’s gone again. And I haven’t gone out, I would just be sitting. They were classified as daydreaming. But I was in his profound sense of feeling a presence of something. And then of course, you’re into the conventional education or socializing system, and you literally have it knocked out of you. And it was only in my late 30s, that a number of one was experiencing burnout myself and I absolutely crushed. And one of the outcomes that wow, what is this all about? What’s going on? Where’s this come from? Suddenly, things that were important to me, cease to be important, and there was a central no longer standing on firm ground. That was a life changing experience. It was meeting Joe and Sarah Adams and working on the nature of healing, particularly the practice of therapy. pubic touch and realizing, wow, bodies aren’t just what I always thought they were. They’re not just physiological things you pump stuff into, and take this far more going on here about the nature of what it is to be human. And then there were certain really profound mystical experiences that just opened me up there. So well, one was just in a friend’s back garden, in Walnut Creek, south of San Francisco, on a perfectly perfectly ordinary California Housing Estate day, sat in my friend’s garden one morning, and they watched there was the the guys were out beyond the wall, I could hear them emptying the trash cans, and I’m just sitting there listening to this, a town, sleepy town waking up. And I watched a leaf just in front of me, I opened my eyes, my morning meditation, and there’s a dewdrop in the end of it, and suddenly, just watching, suddenly, I saw everything. Heard, thing, nothing was separate. And even reporting it back to you. It sounds banal, now express it in words. But it was a profound sense of the deep connection of everything that and that it was all okay. And that was a part in it. And I was all like, and so many experiences like that, I’m even wary. Now I’m feeling a hesitation, but talking about them. Because you kind of set yourself up for admission to a psychiatric unit, or other people look at them and think, Oh, well, you know, I should have things like that, or I shouldn’t have things, everyone has their own unique experience. And countless times later, feeling that profound personal presence to being held, taken care of at one point when I thought I was gonna die, being in a very dark place. And yeah, and just know, this heart condition when I was on tour in Australia, and my heart was not working. And then we’re going to have to do something to try and get it working again. And it was life threatening. And I remember being in a very frightened, grief stricken place. And just going, I had the present benefit of a wonderful nurse with great spiritual intelligence, who saw all that was going on all around me and just said, you need to be alone. Don’t be stealing. Let me do what I can I’ll close off the screens. I can’t hide the monitors and things but you need a quiet minute, an idea that measures dropped down inside that, and I just asked, you know, where are you know, when I need you, when I’m frightened, and I’m lonely, and I’m afraid. And I just heard, I’m here. And I can’t really embellish it more than that. But that was the essence of it. Just feeling that profound feeling and hearing from presence. But then I was able to say, okay, you know, to the doc, okay, go ahead and do what you need to do. And I could relate 1000s of things like that. And they, you know, they’re kind of interesting stories, but they’re my story about my personal relationship with that, which is beyond me, and I’m really wary of even telling you about now.
RICK: Yeah, no, I mean, I think people understand that everybody has their own unique experiences. And, but um, you know, you’d be surprised that when you mentioned certain things, how many people can relate to them themselves, you know, or have something similar. I mean, we’re all kind of wired in some ways. Similarly, and I can relate to the stories you’re telling a bit you other people can too. So, I mean, it’s inspiring. We, one of the reasons I started this interview program was that I live in a town where a lot of people meditate and certain people were having, you know, they’d been meditating for decades, and they were having pretty profound awakenings, you know, and really significant and abiding, you know, states of realization. And, you know, occasionally they would tell a friend, and the friend would, you know, think, nonsense, you know, you’re just the same old guy I’ve known for years, and you know, nothing special about you, and, and so they would kind of not want to talk about those things anymore, because people weren’t receptive to it. And I thought, well, it’s important for people to know that this is happening to ordinary people like them, because that would inspire them to, you know, feel that it could happen to them as well and take the necessary steps to facilitate it. And so I decided to start interviewing these people and just kind of create a show where ordinary people can talk about their spiritual awakenings and in the hope that it will become more ordinary for for everyone to share in this kind of thing.
STEPHEN: I think it’s extremely ordinary. If we look at the evidence, so many studies, to not have a transcendent experience, even a momentary one is abnorm. Most people have them and we are In the character you describe the word when person dismisses if you look at the dismissing of it very often what lies behind it is fear. You’ve, you’ve upset the applecart, you rattle somebodies cage about what they think their normality is that they’re holding on to, in order to continue to survive and carry on functioning in the world. You know, you could argue that maybe the world would be a better place if we just slipped some MDMA in the water nationally and gave everybody a tasting with nobody quite the same again, because, you know, that’d be a very quick route to mystical experience have been slightly towards
RICK: mass psychosis, maybe?
STEPHEN: I don’t think so anyway, but I think the evidence suggested there’s no way of bypassing the authentic spiritual awakening, which takes long, slow patient work. So you know, what I’m experiencing now with the folks I work with who are part of the Pentagon school are intentionally studying the contemplative way, seeking to help it contribute to their awakening, it does require hard patient work, there’s no bypassing it. You know, I’ve done drugs, and MDMA anyway, myself many, many years ago. And it was profoundly illuminating and awakening. But there’s always that echoing at the back of the mind that maybe it wasn’t real, because it was drug influenced, or you get into what I’d like to have another one. And of course, you can never repeat things. So you know, I wouldn’t rule the drugs out. And there’s certainly lots of people now are using drugs like that, and LSD and other drugs to help people shift through mental blockages, depression, schizophrenia, and so forth with some remarkable results that were at last, returning to the getting rid of the panic that was set in with drugs in the 70s. Getting away from that, and recognizing that these substances are our gifts that they can help people shift, if used therapeutically instead, which, of course is just what I experienced. When I did take an NDA long ago, I was prepared properly beforehand, there was somebody there to guide me through it, I was properly taken care of. And likewise, you know, so many substances we now have that we generally are available tobacco, caffeine, alcohol, whatever you were once extremely rare, used infrequently under specific circumstances, and you would have a wholly different experience wholly being a pun intended, then if you were properly prepared and guided through it, and it was used sparingly, rather than just something that is now used routinely.
RICK: Yeah. And I’ve interviewed Michael Paul, and people might be interested in that interview, he wrote a book called How to change your mind in which he kind of in a very journalistic, careful way, went through the whole gamut of possible psychedelic substances and tried them himself and wrote about, he’s a really good writer. Anyway, as you say, there’s, there’s been a lot of research recently showing the value of these things for alcoholics, people addicted to various other substances, people, you know, end of life situations where they’re dying of cancer, and they’re terribly afraid, and gives them a glimpse that there’s, you know, most a lot of these people are atheist when they have this experience, and they end up you know, speaking like religious mystics, you know, saying this is the most profound thing I’ve ever experienced. And, you know, I saw God or felt the divine. And so and so, you know, I haven’t done those things myself since the 60s, because after I learned to meditate, I really didn’t feel the need for them anymore. They showed me what they could show me, as Alan Watts put it once you get the message, hang up the phone. But they’re definitely an eye opener for people are at certain stages.
STEPHEN: Yeah, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t screw that at all. And I think they mimic orderly create the mystical experience. And what people can then go on to do, although some people don’t need to do it, for example, those who study in dechra, the contemplative way you put yourself in a condition for the mystical experience to arise that the connect a sense of unity with all that is, and so, you know, if the drugs are a shortcut to that for a while to open the door for you, and you get a chance to have a look through, then it’s up to you then to do the patient work to where you teach. You learn to open the door yourself in the future, and eventually maybe get to a situation where as we cultivate the mystical, contemplative way, it becomes an experience that isn’t a quality of No, I’m going to the supermarket to do my shopping. No, I’m meditating. Then I’m going to sit contemplate, no, it’s more now and meditating while shopping. You you retain, you’re more likely to retain that quality of consciousness. Because you’ve done the work and it becomes a lived experience, it becomes ordinary. Yeah,
RICK: I mean, that’s the whole idea really is that, you know, these spiritual experiences shouldn’t just be intermittent with a higher state of consciousness can become one’s natural mode of functioning. And it doesn’t make a person weird or withdrawn or, you know, you wouldn’t necessarily notice them walking down the street. But from their perspective, it’s a whole different world. And their whole way of interacting with it has been utterly transformed.
STEPHEN: What matters is with all of this approaches to the spiritual life is intentionality. It’s the consciousness with which you do it. If you want to get into meditation, for example, in order to feel better, you will have a very different experience, than if you want to learn contemplative flair. In order to connect with the absolute, it’s a lot depends on the intention, and there ain’t no guarantees that you’ll stick with it. And my experience, there is no bypassing the long slow discipleship, the disciplinary work to do it, I remember going on, I used to go in treat regularly to Germany, and sit at the feet of Mother mirror. Some people believe she’s an avatar, the leaving all that to one side, you know, there’s this wonderful presence there, you you have to go there, you set your intention, you’ve got to get through the the German air traffic control system and all that kind of stuff. You know, anyone tells you the Germans are well organized, try going through Frankfurt Airport. Stereotype. But I remember, you know, I’ve been going for quite a while and I would come away from those wonderful evenings sitting in the forest meditating, then being with modern mirror, and I would come back home to Manchester, and I’d get on the plane and feeling serene, and I saw everybody and I loved the mall. And I came to the airport at Manchester, and went to get in my car and drove at the motorway to come home, and somebody would cut me up and I’d want to kill him. And the competitor would crash and there would be oh, I’ve still got a lot to learn. You know, it was nice while at that. And so you know, the authentic spiritual path takes us away from that it’s nice while it lasted, it’s our it’s okay to be spiritual while you’re here. But then I get back to ordinary life there, the work takes us to a place there where there is a continuity and interconnectedness between these different aspects of the way we are in the world. But you become more attuned to that sense of the deep presence within you and around you all the time. And it affects every aspect of your way of being Yeah.
RICK: And I would say that, even though you know, you kind of want to kill the guy on the motorway after spending the time with mother Mira. There, there was probably a some kind of permanent shift, or, you know, it’s like you had added some money to your spiritual bank account, so to speak, and you were, you’re a little bit richer, and you know, still there’s there’s challenges. There’s an old Indian analogy of, if you want to dye a white cloth, a particular color, you dip it in the dye, and but then you take it out and bleach it in the sun and it loses its color, most of it, but then you dip it again, and then you bleach it again, and you did it again, eventually, and you go back and forth. And at a certain point, you can leave it in the sun all day, and it’s gonna be just as brightly colored as it is in the dye. So it’s kind of like that with spiritual practice, don’t you think?
STEPHEN: Yes, I like the idea of dipping in the dying dipping a day. Eventually you stop dipping just there is a there’s a different quality in something a lot to bring out there about the spiritual life. If you look at the words of the authentic spiritual life, you can see why people are drawn to lots and lots of new agey and old edgy stuff that gives you interesting experiences. authentic spiritual life is full of words like annihilation, surrender, giving up letting go. And my experience of the spiritual life initially was very much I wanted to acquire things. I was spiritually materialistic. I wanted things I wanted to be good at this or that I wanted to have this shamanic journey. Well, I’m going to learn this meditation technique. So hang out and do five nations, whatever it might be. And I was spiritual because I was so hungry. But after a while, I recognized a deeper simplicity setting and actually don’t know. Yes, it’s authentic to go through all those things. That’s part of the journey, but in my experience, what it brings us to was a profound simplicity. You know, just sit down, shut up and listen. And probably, that’s probably not a necessarily helpful paraphrase, but you get the picture. It’s brings us to a profound simplicity. But we have to go through maybe the complexity of the material in order to come to that place of simply,
RICK: oh, yeah, I think if you talk to anybody who’s been on a spiritual path for decades, they’ll tell you, they’ve been through all kinds of phases, and you can look back to the way you were 20 or 30 years ago, and thank God I was kind of crazy, wasn’t I? But you know, one thing leads to the next.
STEPHEN: I’ve learned I still I’m crazy and I’m very calm. Yeah,
RICK: you know, the Paul Simon songs is still crazy after all these years. Okay, we’re speaking about psychedelics a few minutes ago and I think that’s a good segue into learning a little bit more about your life with rom das and he was a good example of somebody who did a lot of psychedelics but then moved on from them and you know, found a guru and got into you know, more Do It Yourself form of spirituality, I guess you could say not relying on external substances. So how’d you meet him?
STEPHEN: It was Jeannie my great co workers so midwife and friend here. woman who’s been easily the most important female spiritual guide in my life, if wronged us was the most important nail at that time. I was having all these spiritual awakenings one after another and was struggling to continue functioning because I got you know, I was on online for having all these procedures titles after my name is my highest levels of my professional was really allows, you know, headed for more Believe me, I wow, was I under such a track? I would I would be doing well, you know, wouldn’t be having this conversation, though.
RICK: If we weren’t because I’d be dead till we could have it on some other realm.
STEPHEN: When in fact, we’re having it now. We’ve probably had it before. And but genius said Oh, come and she’d go back out to San Francisco and had agreed to join her. And she knew rom Das. She’d worked with him in the 60s. And particularly working with the care of the dying. She was working in San Francisco at a groundbreaking easier,
RICK: you know, I’ve interviewed a guy what’s his name? Who worked with rom das in this thing for the dying? I don’t know I don’t want to sidetrack you there but named names not coming to me.
STEPHEN: Come back to me in a bit. Anyway, genius working there. And she knew wronged us and go out to San Francisco to join her and said, you know, you have to be invested only he would understand you, you, you know you it’s got to be rammed us you’ve got to meet so much of your experiencing is what he would understand. And you’re not listening to me, but you might listen to him. So she found out he said, Bring him along. And I went along to see him. And he he listened very patiently to my long stories, and then zapped me and put me in my place. And I was really I told him years later, I was really angry with you at that time. And he said to me, you’re angry with me. I’d expected him to say, well, you’re doing great, you’re having profound spiritual experiences. Well, that guy you are carry on? And he said, No. He said, No, you’re in danger here. You don’t do this, you don’t do that. You don’t do that he gave me three very clear sets of instructions. While at the same time just being with him. You know, just this sense of presence of being shaken and stirred profoundly, which I don’t want to go into the detail about but certainly was, you know, let’s say getting zapped, you know, and would then go and see him. I’d fly back to the States every year and see him when I could visit the states which because of it wasn’t very often. And then saw him a couple of times after he’d had his stroke and just hung out with him. And one of those was a profound time was because he could barely speak. We just sat there and looked into each other’s eyes. And I think maybe three quarters of an hour gone by of silence and doing nothing but looking. And I said what was that all about? Us? And he said, This is what happens when so talks to so them. There were no words. And then last time we saw I saw him live was we went and stayed with him on Maui for a week. And he’s home and who seems totally different. We were just hanging out together. It wasn’t me up there. You don’t I certainly put him on a pedestal in many ways because I just needed somebody who was wiser than me and better than me and more experienced than me who could guide me safely through what I’ve been going through. And he was an absolute servant to that, you know, he loved me. And I loved him and we told each other so and so that when he died, that feeling of profound sorrow that an important personal contact, but he’s with me, he’s not gone. You know, he’s, I still talk to him, he takes. But every time I went to see him, I can tell you I was scared spitless every time because I knew when I would go and see him. Whatever ego bubbles they got, he’d prick them, there’ll be no escape, you know, I’d go in with what I thought I was going with him for. And he would, she would come to spiritual scalpel. And oops, hadn’t seen that one coming, but always a blessing. It was fierce, often very fierce, but very loving, very loving leader.
RICK: Well, he was a wonderful character. And he, he really helped a lot of people. I mean, it was a book that he and Timothy Leary had written that first made me aware that there was such a thing as enlightenment and higher consciousness and all that stuff. And, you know, I was never able to forget it after I realized that. So I’m grateful to him, even though I never met him.
STEPHEN: I’d like to think people have been really important spiritual teachers who are not alive. You know, the, the people who wrote books, his works, I’ve read everything from I don’t know, even under him in this country is probably the most important deceased spiritual teacher I have on the contemplative way. But going way back to earliest generations of awakening, it’s all there. All the books are there, they left us great gifts. So those teaching, but also I’m mindful of people who will never be known unsung, people who have encountered in my life, good people, holy people. We never had a name, never wrote a book, never had a leadership position, never taught a course. But it wasn’t like angels you encountered along the way, and all played their part in nudging you onwards, towards whatever this thing called enlightenment is.
RICK: A question came in that’s not related to what we’re talking about exactly right now, but I should ask it. It’s from Stephanie gray. And she’s in devonne. In the UK. And her question is, you are living Stephen in an area where the Quakers emerged and close to Swarthmore Hall, I went to a brilliant Quaker school and was lucky enough to be taught silence in everyday life. Quakers are rarely mentioned in that gap interviews, but there is nothing. There’s nothing spiritual people say, contrary to Quaker beliefs, held since the 1600s. In fact, they were simply awake. That’s more of a statement than a question, but they have any any comments on
STEPHEN: that? I think that what George Fox, arguably the founder of the Quaker tradition, would have to say was, look what happens when you wake up, he got it, he got the notion that you don’t need an intermediary between yourself and the divine and that, indeed, the Divine is within you. So that Quaker truth can be found in different words, different structures, in almost all traditions, it’s there. But also, look what happened to the Quakers when they popped up with this, that quite a few of them got killed off, and were persecuted and went to prison. And that is always the case that you know,
RICK: because they were saying we don’t really need an intermediary is that way they were being persecuted.
STEPHEN: Challenging the structure, you’re challenging authority, and the Quakers don’t go authorities. The idea of, you know, arguably, one of the things that’s profoundly missing from our educational system is introducing children to the profound possibilities of silence. What they get at school is profound impossibility of relentless noise and teaching. They’re not. They’re not often taught to although I know a couple of children’s schools, where children do learn to meditate. Maybe that is changing. But then the Quaker tradition has a tremendous amount to offer. And it’s often the place where people I certainly was a Quaker attender for about 10 years. And it provided me with a kind of soft landing as to religious tradition that I could participate in that I did not feel judged where what I felt I was experiencing would not be excluded, but would be embraced and listened to.
RICK: Yeah, I have a couple of friends who teach different forms of meditation in schools or at least try to and you know, they very often get flack from fundamentalist Christians you know, who say that they shouldn’t be teaching such things in the public schools and it’s a religion and, and so on. So it’s, it’s tricky because, you know, when they do introduce such programs, there’s usually found benefits in terms of kids, you know, not dropping out and not fighting with each other and getting better grades and, and all that stuff. But then it meets opposition because people think it’s a religion. So it’s one of those things that need to evolve in our society, I guess.
STEPHEN: It’s one of the challenges we encounter. Once, if you look at most, I’ll say, Oh, don’t be stupid, I’ll say, if you look at all, the religion, they began with a mystical experience, the Buddha’s awakening, or the Jesus, the desert, whatever it might be, whatever, you know that the Prophet peace be upon his time in the desert in the caves, his awakening is instant. It’s all there. And what, what the moment you move that into what generation you’re trying to capture the what the initiator tried to teach and creates a structure, then you get a structure, and it allies it once, especially when it aligns itself with political authority, such as Christianity did with the Roman Empire, then you start to lose something because then the political authority gets aligned with your spiritual authority, and the wires get cross. And so for example, if you if we stick with an example of Quakers, but also in modern times, we get people attending the contemplative school who come from traditional Christian churches, who are warned off attending, because you shouldn’t be going there sitting in silence, listening to this stuff, because it’s not biblical. And it’s, you know, you’ll be possessed by Satan, who was out into central Manchester on a Friday night, when the pubs are closing, I’ll tell you, Satan’s happy. Thank you very much for wandering around the streets or any other city for that matter. Any other. Excuse me. So it’s what was once upon you, if you look at the reasons why people adhere to very hard boiled faith, is that if you if you pick away at it, you find it’s often quite brittle. And because it’s rooted in fear, fear that unless I have this absolute unless have these structures, unless I’m certain. And I used to argue years ago, with fundamentalists, I don’t bother I just if, if someone comes up to me with that approach, either through the media, as I often do, or at some meeting, and just graciously listen, and then find an excuse to walk away or let it go. There’s no point in getting it because it’s not fixable. And the reason is that kind of religious faith. That is so certain, the mystical contemplative is completely the opposite. It’s lives in constant uncertainty, the only thing I’m certain of is being uncertain. The possibility of you never know ram down. Ram Dass always said to me, you never know, you never know, don’t get to certain is that that certainty is rooted in deep seated sense of fear, there’s no point in arguing with it. Because unconsciously unconsciously, the person or consciously the person knows, if I give away one little bit, the whole damn thing might come crashing down. So that if they’re doing what they’re doing, there’s, there’s still things you can do about it my way is to say, Well, okay, I can’t do anything about that. But I can play my part in offering this particular way through my role as a spiritual director through the foundation’s through the school and other media that I work in, that gives people you know, here’s one way if you want to have a look at it, come and have a look, try it out, it may work for you, no guarantees, but there’s no authority, no structure, which is why, you know, the mystical way is, throughout history, can best be frowned upon, sometimes accepted. And it’s sometimes should be great hostility, because if you start saying to people, Hey, you can get to the Divine directly. With support in this way, you don’t need a structure, you don’t need a hierarchy, you don’t need a priest, whether that’s pretty problematic, that’s very threatening to those in power, who have invested their power in the structure.
RICK: Since the as you’re saying that I was thinking about what you’re saying. And as, for some reason, the example of an infection or in the body came up that like, if there’s some kind of chronic infection, the body has to expend so much energy to keep fighting against it, you know, and it compromises your ability to do anything else. And I was thinking that perhaps religious fundamentalists are, in a way kind of expending a lot of energy to keep that shell up, you know, to keep that protection against doubt and uncertainty, and must really drain them in a way I would think. And it also, of course, makes them very combative or, you know, antagonistic to anything that that seems to threaten their their shell, but I’ve I’ve talked to several people who, you know, used to be that way, and somehow managed to shift out of it. And they, they describe it as such a relaxing, freeing kind of transformation where they just don’t have to, to fight anymore and put up all that, that resistance against, you know that false protection. It’s letting go
STEPHEN: of fear. shore up or fear is an intensely draining form of emotional energy. And if you’re scared anymore, because you’re just learning to trust the absolute that doesn’t require structures or authorities or doctrines or dogmas in the same way, the same time, I don’t knock it, I recognize it. For some people, it gets them through the day, and gives them a guess on faith and strength to be, you could argue, you could argue about without it may, I’ve often met some people, what was it Richard Dawkins says it’s everybody can be nasty, but it takes a religious person to be really nasty. So you know, when you recognize where that comes from, it just allow you to open your heart and be receptive to people. I don’t have a problem with people having a particular religious structure, it helps them to cope in a very difficult world, helps them to find their relationship than to find somebody. The only time when I begin to have a problem with it is when you start saying, No, don’t end your way, the only way. But if you don’t follow my way, I’m going to persecute you, or maybe even kill you. Or you, you find the same in atheist traditions as well, you know, you either you either stop believing, and now I’ll kill you, or if you don’t believe I’ll kill you. But both of them are rooted in deep, driven human conscious of trying to find a center in life that certain and both of them are corrupted, both of them end up harming other people, because of the things they were set up originally to support
RICK: except by God, or I’ll send you to him.
STEPHEN: He was the siege of the French city. When I can’t remember the French sector of the country in a moment, in the Middle Ages, the city was besieged. And it was full of these people who were regarded by the Roman Catholic churches, heretics, and the person leading the siege was approached by one of the captains and said, we’re pretty close now to getting breaking into the city. What do we do with them all? You know, how do we work out which ones are the heretics? And which ones people? And his answer was kilomole Godel sword Yeah, really, really connect with that source? You don’t do that. You don’t even think like that? No, I’ve never met a contemplative or a mystic, who would see their faith in that way as being acted out in that way to the point where it harmed other people in any way.
RICK: You couldn’t, you know, because I mean, the mystical experience is one in which you’ve you, you love your neighbor as yourself because you actually see your neighbor as yourself, you know, you see the the oneness that that you both fundamentally share.
STEPHEN: Oneness again, it sounds banal, to say it, but you recognize if you let go of the i Who i think i am, and you discover the I Am, then everybody works isn’t I am. And therefore, if you’re in I am, and I’m an I Am, well, we’re all the same, aren’t we? And, you know, everything else is superficial difference. It’s all superficial.
RICK: We’re all the same ocean, but we each arise as a particular wave.
STEPHEN: Of course, in the Christian biblical tradition, when Moses goes up the mountain and says, you know, I’m losing them here, they’re the all one of them. They want to worship a fatted calf and they want to go back and I need your help. I need to go down the mountain and tell them who you are. So that can give them a God that they can name and no one’s to help me out here. And Moses has who I hope what are you? And of course, the divine just says, here a shout out Yeah, I am, who I am, I Am that I Am. And more or less the divine says I am. And when we touch into the essence in ourselves that says I am well.
RICK: I have a few pages of notes in front of me and we haven’t we’ve probably covered a bunch of it that I haven’t actually read off the paper because it just came up. But um there’s a couple of questions I have here. And also I want you to be able to just be sure to cover anything that you feel is important during the remaining half hour or so. that we may not have talked about. So at some point, we should talk more about the actual programs you offer, whether they’re online or in person, or both, and what people you know, would experience if they got engaged with them. So there’s that. Here’s one thing that you say you involve, you have these retreats in which you help people to wake up. And I’m just wondering if you could just elaborate a bit more about what you mean by waking up? How do you define that? And how do you help people wake up?
STEPHEN: The notion would be that when we are invested in our ego identity, this is who I think I am with its limited perceptions and understanding of reality through the five senses, then you’re asleep. You think you’re awake, but you’re asleep to the potential of who you really are, have grander vistas of reality, of connection to something greater than yourself, this is who I think I am. Continuing to live in that way, is a very limited way of living. In fact, there’s a lovely line in Jesus Gospel, Philip not it’s a non canonical gospel, when when the disciples say to Jesus, what happens to atheists after they die, and Jesus says, well, they can’t die because he never lived. And and I would apply the same in the sense that when you’re locked in your ego identity, you’re not living fully. Although, you know, while you’re in it, getting drunk and having sex and having a job and buying a car. Well, maybe you feel that’s what life is. Most people recognize at some point, that is not what life is all about. But I’m stuck in it. So that sense of universally in pretty much all religious, spiritual traditions, the language of awakening is used of waking up to something of seeing differently. Spirituality can simply be defined as a different way of seeing, you move from one way of seeing that the i Who is it material reality is all there is into another way of seeing that hasn’t kind of, well, there’s far more to this, than I originally thought there was there for reality of what even 100 called the real, the reality of the Divine of the, of the truth of the Beloved. And you move from that place, that ego driven world, which is essentially fear driven, because deep in the unconscious, is the fear of death of annihilation. And when you wake up through that, and awaken up to your true, I am nervous, the fear is diminished the compassion blossoms in yourself, you are rooted into something greater than yourself and get which is also in you. You’re not separate from everything. So it brings a whole different way of seeing in the world, a less fear driven response to what’s going on in the world, less fear of death, a sense of participation in something greater than yourself, all those things come along with this notion of awakening, you know, in my case, it’s a sense of profound closeness. I’ll use the word God for what for better, but you know that the beloved is real to me, not as some separate entity in May and bigger, transcendent and imminent, the whole lot is in there. But it’s real, present, often use the word the presence. So people come to me, when I say slightly tongue in cheek, people come when I say, it’s pretty useful. Say, we’ll say something like, Well, I came to you, and I thought was this problem, Steven, but I realized that’s not the real reason I’ve come here, actually come for something else. You know, I thought I’d come because I’m stressed. And I’m actually going to realize there’s something much more important going on with me than simply the problem or having worked with the boss. For some people, so it’s, it’s for some people, the wakening can be sudden, they’ll hit the spot, or wow, you know, the quality of our value where all the time, I didn’t realize, you know, literally right under my nose. When I was a kid, and I’d lost something I could never find it was terrible for my mom would always say to me, it’ll be right under your nose, whatever, you’re looking for it under your nose. And you know, my mom was a working class, unschooled woman. And yet, you know, now in my old age, her words still come back to me echoing with profound meaning as they have later on in life. You know, it’d be writing and it is it’s right under your nose. And there is a sense of wonderment with people when they begin to expand their consciousness and say, wow, there’s more to me to reality to the Divine than I thought there was.
RICK: We were driving in the car the other day, and I was looking for my sunglasses. And I said, I mean, they were right there in the little drink cup in the center here and you must have picked them up and move them where are they? Are they on the floor or wherever and went on like that for about five minutes. And she said, I don’t know what you’re doing, you always lose your sunglasses. And then finally, I realized they were hooked right here on my shirt. So they were literally underneath my nose. You know, I was thinking, I bet you that a lot, most of the people who come to your center are really on the verge of some kind of shift or breakthrough, which is why they come. But like you were saying, many of them wouldn’t realize it, they just think well, my job is stressful or something. But I mentioned the timing, a pitcher just kind of works out the way things flow, that they feel the desire to come there, when they’re at a stage where coming there is going to catalyze a shift that they’re actually beginning to undergo, you know what I mean? No one’s gonna say,
STEPHEN: Yes, this. How can I say this? It’s, it’s subtle. That if I think there’s some more going on the synchronicity of people getting in touch and following through, in this case, coming to quite a remote parts of the world, they’ve got to make an effort to get here, they’ve got to speak to somebody on the phone, they’ve got to hang out with some strange Englishmen or some strange American lady living up here in the middle of nowhere, where Jeannie and I both, you know, we there are others are helping, but we are seeing most of the people that come in retreat or conference sessions. So I think it is a truism that something is going on in someone that is more than is taking place at the conscious realm, that you may think, and looking for this. I suppose it kind of cliched expressions I would use is that. I think it may be even in one of the sons of heart, the heart has its reasons, which means and does not know that your heart and soul if there’s something going on in your life where you need to shift, it will find a way of making you make the shift, it will put you into situations. And I think that sometimes, for example, the people who’ve turned up having experienced some trauma in life, they’ve been, for example, being in an accident or being caught by the police doing something and it’s shaken them. You know, you can argue that someone conscious level, they put themselves in those positions, so that they would get shaken up the unconscious is awfully powerful. And we’ll, we’ll make a shift into different situations and circumstances so that we can make the move that we need to do from the heartfulness point of view, which is, you know, how we talk about the contemplative way we talk about heartfulness, as opposed to mindfulness, there is there is something that are recognizing there is power in a center of ourselves a soul, if you like the heart, that will not be gainsaid, sooner or later. It will nudge you into a position where you will be fulfilled in life if you choose to listen to it. And I think some people, not everybody does, for all kinds of reasons. But then maybe you’ll find an opportunity and another person I know this situation, will keep finding ways to try and put you through into a different understanding of reality. So I think there are some people who come here don’t necessarily aren’t necessarily you know, they’re not coming on. I’ve come and see Steven, because I’m looking for God that we get people do know. But it’s more like I’m dealing with this life crisis and trying to find my way through it. Or they’ll come and say that if you mentioned God, I’m walking out the fear yet. I don’t know why I’ve come. And so it’s absolutely not our job to say to people, this is what God is, this is what the Divine is, this is what you have to do. We absolutely don’t do that. Our job is to be with people listen to their stories, guide them through various spiritual practice that might help to see more clearly, so that they see for themselves, what it is that they’re looking for, if they can’t see it already, which the reason for coming game would be that they’re not seeing clearly looking for something. Everybody’s looking for the same thing. They’re looking to find home, not somewhere else, not later on, but here now in this moment. So our job is to help people find their way home. And this myriad possibilities for that myriad possibilities. We don’t say to people, you’ve got to become a Christian or a Buddhist or whatever. No, no, it’s not the case.
RICK: When people come there for Trade isn’t a group of fair where you have 10 or 20 people or is it individual or how big is the places that a great big building or what?
STEPHEN: That’s how we’re pretty weird, really, because I don’t think anybody in this country follows the models that we use. Although we’ve had lots of people come to visit, say that they would like to develop it. We’ve got two houses in the English Lake District, with separate annexes, self catering, where one person can come. So that when we have one person in retreat, they have our exclusive attention will usually see them twice a day. It’s self coaching. So the honor is kind of a room as a cell. It’s, it’s a hermitage, a sanctuary where you can be cut off from ordinary life for a while, in a safe place. With a resident spiritual director who will support you spend time with you each day, and guide you through various spiritual practices, anything from it doesn’t have anything fancy just walking in these beautiful hills here sitting amongst the trees. And I think for many people who come here, inevitably are Tony’s. And they’re coming into the country. And for them alone, just to be amongst trees. And you know, what I see is very quietly, often find it noisy, because believe me, the sheep can be pretty lonely, surrounded by the damn things. And especially, especially in spring, so it’s pretty noisy to me and to them as well. But they, you know, people will say, you know, as soon as I turned off that road, hmm, I felt myself relaxing or feel easy, even though they’ve come to a place that’s maybe strange to them. And there are some people have been coming for many years, they see this as part of staying with their spiritual director and just continuing the work is a lifetime process. There are some people who come for a one off sessions, then we so no, sometimes there are small groups here that other people bring. And they will work with them independently. There’s a particular group with an interest in the Divine Feminine will come and spend weekends here and so forth. But by and large, no, these are retreat houses, where a person can come for intensive one to one attention over a period of time.
RICK: How do you handle the finances in terms of what people pay then come and do that?
STEPHEN: I go, I hate handling finances, my nursing background, but a friend of mine who was a surgeon said, because I’m terrible with money, I hate asking for money. I never it’s deep spiritual practice, I may have to reserve for next time. But I’m no good at it. A friend of mine who was a surgeon said the problem with you Steven is you were trained as a nurse you like Florence Nightingale, you think you should do it for the love of it. Me, you know, I’m not taking your leg off unless you give me a shilling. You know, they come from that. But so we have we just say to people, it’s entirely voluntary. We ask for donations, we need funds for buildings have to be paid for. We don’t have any paid workers, we do have someone to help with a garden and someone to help with the cleaning. But the spiritual directors are entirely voluntary. All the trustees work a voluntary basis. We just say please donate within your means we give them a ballpark figure of what it costs. If you were staying bed and breakfast here locally or something like that. Or you might say, you know, people say, Well, if you were going to see a psychiatrist privately in this country, either you pay 150 quid an hour or something like that, maybe more. So people have to judge by and large 99% of people are as generous as they can be within their means.
RICK: Is it booked up in advance? I mean, if people listening to this wanted to come, would they have to make an appointment for next year or something? And or are you even taking anybody right now? Because of COVID? What’s the deal with that?
STEPHEN: We reopened in the spring with due precautions and so forth, it’s much easier now. Yes, it would be very difficult getting between now and Christmas, because we’ve got so many people booked in. Plus, I have a job, I do quite a bit of income generating, I have to go off and do things I do teaching elsewhere and so forth. And then we’ve got the Pentagon school to run as well. So that takes time. So maybe there may be I don’t have access to the data as much as maybe some spaces that will Christmas. And we have lots of people booked through to next year as well. But so happens we can usually find a space for somebody, especially if they’re crisis.
RICK: Is there anything else even that we haven’t covered that you want to say to people while you have this opportunity?
STEPHEN: Gosh, I’ve recovered the meaning of life. That I’ve got five minutes no, I think we’ve covered everything. I can’t think of a single thing that we haven’t covered that I might even thought of wanting to do, but
RICK: okay, well, I’m sure there’s a lot I mean, you’ve written have a number of books and I will link to them. Are they on Amazon or something, want a service like that where people can get them.
STEPHEN: The latest one is out heartfulness has come out, which is, which is going to be returning something new with it with the heartfulness course contemplative course what’s called the Pentagon school on which that book is based, has been taught course people have to attend it. But what we’re looking at now is using the book in some way where people can do the exercises in the book, and still connect with us in some other way, either virtually, or, but there’s no substitute for meeting in person and dancing, and so forth together. And the bear came out early this year as well. So yeah, there’s plenty of books and all the funds from those go to support sacred space. So it’s like to keep all the money for myself to be one of those wealthy spiritual authors, but it’s not going to come this way.
RICK: Yeah. And do you also order? Do you also offer some online things like some zoom sessions or anything like that, that people can participate in?
STEPHEN: We have been doing spiritual direction online resume with a limited limited amount, there’s no substitute for being together with somebody. It’s, it would really notice that this past couple years, that eye contact, the smell the skin, everything, you know, you, you miss so much. Yeah, there is no, there’s no, there’s no substitute for that personal contact. And as I said, we are looking at setting up some of the Kenton school online. So that may happen as well.
RICK: Well, thanks so much for everything you’re doing. You know, it’s just, there’s all kinds of wonderful people around the world. Know, we were talking earlier about you were saying how, you know, it might seem that the world’s problems are just too much. And we can’t do anything, because we don’t even know where to start. But, you know, there’s so many people doing the kinds of things not exactly like you’re doing but doing all kinds of things that are appropriate for their experience and skill set. And all together, it feels to me like there’s some kind of a pandemic of awakening happening around the world, that’s offsetting the severe problems that that we face. There’s a great story from I think it’s the Srimad Bhagavatam, or something, which is a story of Krishna, you know, and there was Indra was jealous because the people of rinde avant Christians town were so enamored of Krishna and that he and they weren’t paying any attention to Indra. So Indra made it rain, and it was raining and raining and raining. And they, they were all in danger of being flooded out. And they, you know, they cried to Krishna to help them and he picked up this mountain, I think it was called the gun, Darwin hill or something like that. And just with one hand, held it above the town, like an umbrella, so the people were all protected. But after a while, people thought, well, you know, that’s a lot for him to hold, maybe I should pick up a stick and help him hold it. So everybody picked up sticks, and they were helping hold the mountain. And of course, you know, their sticks weren’t really accomplishing anything, it was God who was doing the thing. But that’s kind of like what we are, we are all are doing, you know, we’re all holding up our sticks. And it’s really the divine working through us that is enabling us to do these things. But we have a sense of, you know, somebody’s got to do it, somebody we have, we have a sense of being participating in this wonderful awakening that the world hopefully is undergoing.
STEPHEN: And there’s millions of people offering teachings and guidance and no different forms, you know, all kinds of therapies taking place. And the spiritual cat is out of the religious bag. You know, we live in a world now of a vast spiritual supermarket with for good or ill the with huge opportunities for most of us. Now, unless we live in certain countries, we’re no longer constrained in our spiritual exploration. And equally, we live in a world now we don’t depend any longer on some powerful guru to be there to guide us and to show us the way we have now the world is full of really healthy teachers who are able to say, don’t follow my let me help you to find yours, which may well be the same as mine. So there is a greater awareness. It’s much more about how can I in all these many teachers, how can I help you to realize yourself, rather than you realize me
RICK: and even in other fields other than spirituality, there are really cool things happening like there are people working on restoring the soil and getting back to more natural forms of agriculture and there’s the Bioneers conference where all these environmental people get together and there’s all kinds of amazing things that people are doing. So there’s a you know that a lot of that stuff doesn’t make the the evening news, but there’s a lot of good things happening. And I think I think we’re still going to go through some rough times as we were describing earlier. But I think there’s the possibility, even possibly the probability of coming out through the other side of this roughness into a much more beautiful world than we’ve ever known.
STEPHEN: I think the potential is there. I’m a member of a group called the deep adaptation forum. And something like 17,000 scientists and academics across the world, who are facing up to the possibilities of catastrophe that might be coming in the near future, but also seeking to act so that we can mitigate them. And also, you know, the 1000s and 1000s, millions of people across the globe, who are waking up and saying, Actually, no, we’ve got to do something here and are doing something. And I think that I think there’s a principle of simple, which I think it’s useful to live by, you know, pray as if everything depended on God, but work as if it everything depended on you. And the more of us that are participating, it’s not going to be a one off person anymore, that day is gone. This is a collective enterprise. And that may well be the same says,
RICK: well, that’s a good note to end on. So thank you so much for the inspiration, thank you for the spending this time with me, and thank you for everything you’re doing. And for those listening or watching, I’ll be putting up a page for this interview, as I always do, and I’ll link to everything that we’ve been talking about Stephens website and his books and so on. So, I’ll see you next time. And next week, as I mentioned, there will be a woman, Connie Zweig, old friend of mine. We’re going to be talking about spirituality in older age, and it’s going to be a fascinating conversation. So thanks for listening or watching see you then