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 awake or awakening people. There are nearly 300 of them now and if you go to batgap.com, B-A-T-G-A-P, you’ll see them all archived in various ways. And there’s also a donate button there and the whole show is made possible by the support of viewers or listeners like you. Today my guest is Stuart Schwartz and welcome Stuart.
Rick: Stuart’s in a beautiful setting down in southern Florida as you can see from the video here. And I’ve heard good things about Stuart over several years now since I began doing this and so I’m really pleased to have him on as a guest. I think we’ll start with a little quote that Stuart sent me. He said he was recently at a whirling dervish meditation in Istanbul and he read how Rumi summarized his life, “I was immature, I became experienced, I was consumed”. And Stuart said he could divide his lifetime into those categories also, starting with a life driven by conditioning resulting in a very successful appearance without much satisfaction, then the search for real happiness and peace – decades of working with different modalities and sitting with many masters – leading to teaching others how to relinquish conditioning and experience peaceful silence. And now satsang, which Stuart conducts, starts with the truth of everyone, the perfection of self. I’ll keep reading here for a minute because this is nice. “The tapestry of life includes all as the expression of consciousness without any separation. Anything that attempts to obscure this truth melts in its power”. Stuart gives satsang in America, Canada, Europe, as well as private satsang sessions and he is the author of The Great Undoing, which I have here, from Non-Duality Press and his website is satsangwithstuart.com. We’ll be repeating some of that later. So Stuart, usually these interviews have two main components to them. One is the person’s story, which you kind of summarized with the Rumi quote, and the other is what they’re teaching, if they have a teaching that they can articulate. And people like both and when I leave out one or the other, I get complaints. And some people don’t like to talk about their story. They say, “It’s only my story and it’s not really who I am”, and so on and so forth. But people like to hear it and we can perhaps play with the notion of that we both are and are not our story in some sense. So, let’s go into yours a little bit, if you would. I understand you were a student of Lester Levinson. I heard interesting things about him. Also, I think I’ve interviewed one person who was a close student of his, Hale Dwoskin. Do you know Hale?
Stuart: Very well. Yeah. For many years. Actually, Hale introduced me to Lester.
Rick: Okay, but we’re jumping ahead of the story because there’s the immature phase, starting with your life driven by conditioning resulting in a very successful appearance without much satisfaction.
Stuart: You know, I think maybe it should be reversed, Rick, that maybe people should hear about how the teaching is going. And then, if they’re interested in all the harsh struggle and the appearances that look good and didn’t work, maybe then they’d be more interested in that as a follow-up.
Rick: All right, let’s do that. I’m fine. I’m flexible.
Stuart: I thought so.
Rick: Yeah. So, how’s the teaching going?
Stuart: The teaching is going like being very present. And however the group comes in, like Thursdays here at Satsang, the group will come in. Sometimes they’ll be happy and laughing, and I’ll walk in and they’ll suddenly get very quiet, like it’s serious stuff. But however it is, is what I try and follow. You know, be very present to whatever it is, because really that’s what the teaching is – conscious awareness in the moment. And the only problem to that is what people believe, what they’re holding on to, and what still seems real. So, satsang really is about meeting that. You’ve heard that a million times, allowing whatever’s coming up, meeting it. I know a lot of people don’t like to talk about the story, but it really reveals everything. And it does open up to the silence, which we sit in for a long period of time.
Rick: In your satsangs?
Stuart: In the satsangs.
Stuart: Very deep silence.
Rick: So, during the satsang you have meditative sessions, I think was what you’re saying, where you just sit in silence and you’re not talking to the people.
Stuart: Right, we’re all silent.
Rick: Right. And this is down in South Florida, but obviously you travel around also and do them.
Stuart: That’s right.
Rick: Yeah. So, I think a minute ago the way you phrased it was, the only problem is people have things there, how did you say it, that they’re attached to or that they’re dealing with or something, you can rephrase it, but how is that a problem?
Stuart: It’s a problem because if you’re attached to being this person, then you’ve got a history of conditioning that’s operating and there’s always some kind of trying to get it right, trying to learn something, trying to hold on to what you know, all of it stops you from being open to the moment.
Rick: Does not being attached to being a person… pardon? Wait a minute, your audio broke up a little bit there, what were you saying?
Stuart: The whole thing?
Rick: It just broke up for a second, go ahead and repeat what you were just saying.
Stuart: Well, I was just saying that the only problem is that if you’re attached to being this particular person, then everything you know is in the present moment, every condition that’s ever gone in is right there. So, then there’s always a question of trying to get better, to strive, to change, to modify, and you can’t very well be open in the moment if you’re doing all of that stuff.
Rick: Right, what I find is that there’s always this paradoxical situation. For instance, you said that if you’re attached to being a person, alright, does not being attached to being a person mean that you aren’t a person, or does it mean that in some sense, in some dimension, you are, but you’re just not attached to it, and you’re much more than just a person?
Stuart: I would say that that presses a lot of buttons when you say anything about being or not being a person, because it gets into so many different ways of looking at it, like you’re not a person, so you can’t do anything, and nothing matters, which could lead to a lot of trouble.
Rick: And there’s some teachers who really hammer on that point.
Stuart: Absolutely, and I meet some of those students and they can get into a lot of trouble if there’s a little imbalance, and it doesn’t matter. I don’t mean it that way. What I mean is, we have bodies, right, we have talents, and we have things to do. We’ve got minds, and we have jobs, but something comes before that. That’s what I focus on. Who we really are before that is that presence, and that’s overlooked. And if we’re not at home with that presence, that presence, then whatever we’re doing isn’t quite right. Something is amiss until you come back home.
Rick: And obviously, when you say “before”, you don’t mean sequentially in time, you mean more fundamentally, essentially, we are presence, and then in a more manifest sense, we are a person with a job, with a family, and all that.
Stuart: That’s right. It’s right here all the time, and everybody is that, and it’s overlooked.
Rick: Yeah, and you just said an interesting thing, which is that if it’s not overlooked, if you’re kind of resting in that, then – these weren’t your exact words – but it tends to align your relative life in a much more smooth and frictionless and conflict-free fashion. I think that’s what you’re indicating.
Stuart: Yes, hopefully, right?
Rick: Hopefully, yeah.
Stuart: And sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes things arise that are very irritating or whatever, but thank God that there is that presence, because it could meet it better.
Rick: As like a buffer.
Stuart: Yeah, like there was a woman here, there’s a woman that comes every week who is very much the person, and very proud of her conditioning, and a lovely woman. And she was saying, “You know, very recently I lost the hearing in my left ear”, I think she said. “And since I’ve been coming here, I don’t care so much, because I feel fine and I can just see it for what it is”. Because she’s telling me now that she’s not the body in her own words, and it’s great. It’s great to see somebody that’s open. I have my opinions and I’m listening.
Rick: Yeah, so it gives you a lot, I guess what you’re saying is it gives you a larger perspective, because if we think that we’re only this little narrow, time-bound, flesh-bound thing, then we’re on pretty shaky ground. But if we’re deeper, more pervasive, well not more, but utterly pervasive, unchangeable, indestructible presence, then it’s a pretty solid foundation.
Stuart: I would say resting, Rick. I would say relaxed, that’s what I would say.
Rick: Relaxed in the presence.
Stuart: I would just say, at home, kind of relaxed, and open, and here. Not necessarily standing for anything or knowing anything in the moment, because that would mean I would be going further into the persona and the mind, and standing for something. But right now, as I’m talking to you, I’m looking at you. I don’t do this every Saturday morning. You don’t know what it’s going to be like, and now it’s just like talking to a friend. That’s what it’s about. You’re open, this is what’s next, and we’re sharing.
Rick: And when you say relaxed, you know, you look pretty relaxed sitting there in Florida, and maybe somebody lying on the beach in Barbados or something feels pretty relaxed. But I think you’re talking about the kind of relaxation one could also experience in Manhattan, even possibly working as a stock trader or something on Wall Street in the midst of hectic activity.
Stuart: Well, I have worked with people that are on Wall Street, stockbrokers, and they do take breaks and they get very relaxed, and then they go back into the pit, as they call it. And I suppose you could say that’s very true, but I would say that anybody anywhere driving a car is the same thing. It’s like you never know what you’re going to see, and that could be pretty stressful.
Rick: Yeah, well the point I’m getting at, and I think you’re getting at, is the kind of peace you’re talking about, or relaxation you’re talking about, is not something that’s so much dependent upon circumstances, that if it’s really anchored, then it will be there regardless of how the circumstances change, at least to some degree, hopefully.
Stuart: Of course, of course.
Rick: And so, I watched or listened to an interview you did with Renate McNay, which I thought was a beautiful interview. The two of you each had lost a child, yours, your son, slowly over a period of time due to bone cancer, I think you said, and hers quite suddenly and unexpectedly, but it was a very sweet interview, and I recommend people watch or listen to that. The reason I bring it up is that what we were just saying about having recourse to a deeper, more fundamental reality, presence, can give one a perspective, even in tragic circumstances such as that, which is really quite different than the perspective that many many people in this world are confined to. So, you want to just elaborate a little bit on that?
Stuart: Well, that was quite a while ago, the actual incident and the interview was a few years ago. I’ve been looking, I think it’s interesting that you brought up death because two interviews and here we go on death again.
Rick: Yeah, well we won’t spend the whole interview on it like you guys did.
Stuart: But I have a whole new way of looking at death these days, Rick. A death is always something like, to be avoided in our culture. It’s like the end, and it’s kind of, points out to our mortality all the time, we don’t want to face it. And I think a very good thing, you hear people talking about in these circles about meeting things, welcoming things, and embracing. I think it’s time we started looking at death in a more practical and very simple way, because it’s in our culture and avoided everywhere. And I think we could make friends with it, because it’s happening every moment. And I don’t mean the final death. Lately I’ve been looking at the very core of this relaxation that I’m talking about, and it’s by going straight back to the breath. In any given moment, when we take a breath and we look at it, it’s coming from absolutely nothing, emptiness. And if we don’t breathe, it will force us to breathe. And then when we breathe, we say it’s waking us up into life, right? Immediately. We breathe and I am alive. And then we exhale. Well, that exhale is kind of like a death right there. The breath is finished. We breathe it in, it’s life. It goes out, it’s done, it’s finished. And we don’t even notice it like that, because we say it’s the continuum. But if we go one step back and just look at the breath, it ignites that consciousness that we were talking about before. Before it even gets to your mind, you are consciously aware and awake. And there it is, and it’s overlooked so much. And then it wakes up the whole body, there we are, and then it’s over, finished.
Rick: I know that in yogic traditions they talk a lot about the breath and prana and so on. And I’m not qualified to elaborate, but it’s said to have a very deep sort of ontological significance in terms of the very sort of deepest roots of our being are connected in some kind of profound way with the breath and so on. As I said, I’m not qualified to really elaborate, but it’s in Eastern, in that culture and perhaps some others, breath is considered a lot more significant and profound a thing than we understand it from a mere physiological perspective.
Stuart: But I don’t even think you have to go into those modalities very deeply, because it’s a process that’s going on all the time. And so I’m always pointing people to go back to watching the breath, just watching the process, not making it into something already established, but watching their own pattern and the ebb and the flow of life happening and then webbing, ebb and flow of breath. Because when you get into that pattern you recede from your own mind naturally and easily and there you are, you don’t have to change anything.
Rick: Is this something that you advocate people doing as a meditative practice or even throughout the day?
Stuart: I would suggest doing it… I started doing it let’s say if I got up in the middle of the night and I wound up just noticing myself watching the breath and adding “I am” to the in and the out breath. I found it very comforting and cured insomnia most of the time. Very soothing. So I started including it in with the satsangs and the more that I’ve done it, the more that I realize that it’s more simple than simple and completely overlooked. It’s kind of miraculous. If you actually look at it without trying to make it into any kind of practice at all, because I haven’t done that, I’ve just looked at how it works, kind of like in slow motion. Watch it in slow motion. From absolutely nothing comes this force that makes you take in this breath and if you just watch how it feels as it just enters you, you’re totally awake and conscious before you even know who you are. That’s pretty fantastic.
Rick: Yeah.So just so people can derive something they can take home from this, so to speak, I guess what you’re saying is not just maybe spend some quiet time with your eyes closed or something sitting and doing this, but you’re walking down the street, walking the dog or something, rather than just letting your attention be scattered all over, let it rest on the breath a little bit and observe the in breath and the out breath as you’re engaged in that activity. I don’t mean to put words in your mouth, but is that the kind of thing you’re suggesting?
Stuart: I would agree with that, I would agree with that. And you know it’s very funny Rick, it’s so powerful and it’s so effective, and I ask people if they’re doing it and they say, “Sometimes”. It’s so effective, you see the habit of modifying the person and getting somewhere is so strong, the life pattern is so ingrained, I mean we’re always future-oriented, we’re always going somewhere, we’re always attaining, we’re learning, you know? To stop, to leave that alone is almost getting back to what you were saying, like a death to the character. You know how they say, “Die to the ego?” Well we have such a bad connotation of dying, we don’t want to die to anything. This is me, you see? So I don’t want to stop the conversation, I don’t want to stop where I’m going, I don’t want to stop my thoughts. I want more and I want to learn more, and I’m focusing on something, you know? So that’s why I think people, even people that want to be who they are, find it difficult to stop a lot of times, unless they’ve done it a lot and then they feel comfortable.
Rick: Just before we lose the thread, you’re talking about this death thing, I just happened to have been listening to a talk that some guy gave, I don’t even know his name, and he’s talking about death and he’s talking about the brain and this sort of helmet that can elicit spiritual experiences and all, but he was talking about how he was in India in a taxi cab and they were parading a dead body down the street and he mentioned here in the US it’s kind of illegal even to have dead bodies in public, but he was. And so the cab driver stopped and he said to the cab driver, “How long are we going to be sitting here?” and he said, “Well, until it’s over”, and then the cabbie turned around and said to him, “You know, here in India, death is part of life”, and everyone as they paraded the body down the street was stopping and namaste-ing and just kind of respecting that phase of that person’s life. But here in the West we just tend to hide it away and pretend that it’s never going to happen.
Stuart: Well, we pretend it’s not going to happen, but we insure everything.
Rick: It’s true.
Stuart: Don’t we? I mean, we have lots of insurance and we have lots of ways of protecting ourselves. God forbid it should happen, like maybe it’ll skip over me, it’ll forget. But because we’re so busy suppressing it consciously and living as if we’re afraid of it, always protecting, that we get ourselves into a rut.
Rick: Yeah, Shankara said that people live as though they’re never going to die, and I know a lot of spiritual teachers say that a better attitude is to live as though you could die in the next moment like you’re a bird perched on a branch that could break at any time, and to live your life that way.
Stuart: Can you do that?
Rick: To a degree, it’s like I’m the perfect master of doing anything, but you know, I’ve definitely…
Stuart: You are a perfect master of talking to so many people about similar ways of saying…
Rick: Yeah, right, again, not perfect, a work-in-progress.
Stuart: How many do you have to do before it’s done?
Rick: Infinite number?
Stuart: Infinite number.
Rick: Sure, is it ever done?
Stuart: Well, I would say if you’re empty in the moment and you have no desire in that particular moment, and you don’t have to change anything, in that moment you could say you’re dead to yourself, which is another way of using the word. It’s kind of like putting a different twist on it. It’s not morbid, it’s not final, it’s just that’s over in this moment.
Stuart: And in a way…
Rick: No, you go ahead.
Stuart: Well, in a way it’s like when people are running off with trying to fix something or they’re in an emotion about something, really the only thing that has to happen is to bring it to a conclusion, to a stop. Sometimes I’ll actually put my hand up and say, “Just stop, it’s enough”. I mean, we get it. Slow down, stop, take a breath, we’re back to that again, and put some space there. And that’s a death, it’s a death to that rush of emotion. Only it’s a positive death, it’s an ending. You expressed it, you felt it, you suffered it, and you let it stop, you know?
Rick: Isn’t there some Buddhist expression, “Dying before you die”, or something, have you heard that one?
Stuart: I have heard that.
Rick: Yeah, what does that mean to you?
Stuart: It means, “Die to the personality”.
Rick: And what does that mean?
Stuart: It means that this is the way I am, this is the way I’ve been conditioned, and let him be. That’s a kind of a dying to it, because I know that I’m something bigger than that. Everything that I know as a person or ever said that this is the way it is according to me, is just another way of saying my opinion, my point of view, and it’s all very relative, and it locks me out of a bigger knowing, and especially peace.
Rick: Yeah, so, but as a person you must still have preferences, you like this kind of food, not that kind of food, maybe you vote if you vote for this candidate, not for that candidate, you know, you have certain individual proclivities. How do you reconcile those individual tastes with something which transcends them?
Stuart: Does it need to be reconciled?
Rick: The two just cohabit peacefully, even though they’re paradoxically dissimilar?
Stuart: Well, if I go back to my description of watching the breath, so that there you are, totally awake to the moment before you think. You’re conscious, but you don’t even know who you are, let’s say, you’re totally in the present moment, right? So right now the person that you’re describing with likes and dislikes, political differences, he’s not there yet, right? So if that’s present, you’re always aware of the person having the whole yin and yang of liking and not liking and doing and not doing. It’s kind of amusing to me, I’m watching him, there he goes, now he’s complaining, now he’s happy, now he’s not so happy, he doesn’t like being stuck in traffic, or slow drivers, lots of slow drivers, that’s the way he is, not a big deal. You know what I mean? That’s life.
Rick: Yeah, if you don’t like slow drivers, move to Montana.
Rick: For a while there they had no speed limit whatsoever, I think maybe they lowered it to 85 now because people were just getting too carried away.
Stuart: What are the roads like in Montana?
Rick: Oh, wide open spaces for big sky country.
Stuart: Did you live there?
Rick: No, we’ve traveled up there camping and stuff.
Stuart: What’s it like in Iowa?
Rick: Sort of a midway between Montana and Florida, a little bit hilly, the driving is kind of mid-range, but – I mean we’re just joking around here – but I think perhaps the deeper point of what you just said is that there are always going to be frustrations, limitations, restrictions, constrictions. You’re living in Florida, there are a lot of older people driving on the roads and they’re going to drive slowly and… But again, you’re not just the guy who’s only the little guy sitting behind the wheel feeling frustrated and leaning on the horn. There’s a deeper presence that gives one a whole different dimension in which to reside and makes these sort of superficial frustrations seem somewhat, I think you even use the word humorous, that you watch this character and it’s kind of funny.
Stuart: It is funny, and I wouldn’t say that it’s an elevated kind of state that I’m talking about, it’s present. You know what I’m talking about, you’re open and present, you know? And it’s not like you have to stand for anything in that. It’s really a place of complete, wide-open not-knowing. I don’t know what’s next, I don’t know what’s going to happen. Oh, something comes to mind. We were in one of those deep meditations in satsang, and it was going on and on and on. Sometimes I’ll play music to end it, or I’ve got an app on my iPhone that has a bell, you know? I didn’t want to do anything. I absolutely did not want to stop it, because everybody was so deep. Nobody was fidgeting, and I didn’t want to do anything. And I was just watching to see, “Well, okay, let’s see how this unfolds. What’s next? How will this end? I’m not doing anything on purpose. I’m just not going to do a thing”. And we just continued, and the next thing I knew, the doorbell was ringing and somebody is banging on the door. And everybody is like, now their eyes are open and they’re watching. Somebody was at the door, a young woman was walking by, frantic, excited, nervous, scared. Somebody left their car on right in front of my house, somebody that was in here, and it was running all this time. And it was really serious. We’re just watching her. Everything’s totally fine and that’s how it was, that’s how it ended.
Rick: Seems there are more serious problems than somebody leaving their car on.
Stuart: I just thought it was very interesting because she was so excited and it was something out of the norm. And everybody was just kind of watching like, “Well, that’s the next thing again”.
Rick: Yeah, there’s a book which I’ve mentioned in some of these interviews. Hang on a second, my camera stopped working. There we go. There’s a book which was written by a woman named Suzanne Segal, who had a profound awakening that freaked her out for a long time because she didn’t know what it was. But her mantra became, “Do the next obvious thing”. And that’s the way she ended up living her life, was just somehow the next thing to be done, just made itself obvious at each step of the way.
Stuart: So what’s the next thing we’re going to do?
Rick: I don’t know, that’s kind of how I conduct these interviews, it’s like some question bubbles to mind. Well, tell us a little bit more about what you do in satsang and so on, and then we’ll loop back and talk more about your life and how you ended up where you are, so to speak.
Stuart: Okay, well, I pretty well said whatever is present we meet. Upstairs, like one day, two people came in bickering, and so there was no soft music or meditation to start with, it was meeting the bickering and hearing it out and getting it said and spoken and felt, and letting it melt. I don’t know specifically what else I could say about it, really.
Rick: Well, let me ask you this, how long you’ve been conducting these satsangs?
Stuart: It’s around transformations have you seen in the lives of people who have been participating?
Stuart: That’s a very good question. There are some people that are just so into the silence that it’s their whole life. That’s how they know themselves now, and it’s beautiful to see. It’s just like a complete new understanding of who they are, and they’re happier, more at rest, and themselves, really.
Rick: And do those tend to be the people who have really kind of stuck with it and continue to participate regularly?
Stuart: There are people that come, that travel over two hours to come to satsang, and I would say that’s pretty dedicated, I would say, dedicated to themselves. There are other people that live closer that seem to have reasons not to come. Really, I look at it, Rick, as a bunch of friends being themselves, loving the presence so much, that it’s just such a beautiful thing. Hard to describe, changes everything, and you either resonate with that for some reason, and people do with different teachers. Who can explain why? I can’t. I could go to a different state or a different country, and just a few people resonate with what I’m saying or how I’m doing it – I don’t know why – and others don’t.
Rick: I kind of think of it as like tuning forks or something. I don’t know much about musical scales, but I imagine that certain tuning forks are going to get another tuning fork resonating with them more readily than a different tuning fork because they’re kind of more closely matched on the scale or something. And I know this whole thing about transmission has the implication that something is being conveyed from point A to point B, but I kind of prefer the explanation that there’s just an underlying field and that a teacher. An effective teacher, by virtue of his very presence, is able to enliven that field. And those in the vicinity who have an affinity with that teacher will tend to attune to that enlivenment, will tend to kind of wake up or – what’s the word – “entrain” with the teacher by virtue of that proximity. That was a rather long-winded explanation with a lot of big words, but does that make sense to you?
Stuart: Completely, yeah, and it’s not as if it makes sense either. It doesn’t have to make logical sense, you know.
Rick: Yeah, it’s kind of mysterious.
Stuart: It’s very mysterious, you don’t know why, because somebody just resonates with you and they just drop into the silence and they feel good and they like it, or they don’t. Some people love to talk about it and they probably would like my satsang because I don’t do that.
Rick: You don’t do much talking.
Stuart: I don’t do much philosophizing or talking about who you are, who you aren’t, and all that. I always point back to what’s before the mind, so if you’re very attached to your mind we might bicker.
Rick: Well, they might bicker, you probably wouldn’t bicker.
Stuart: Well, I mean I’m engaged with them. You say this and I’ll say that. And it’s kind of like, “Well, now tell me something that you don’t know. Tell me something before all the relative truth and the understanding and just be”. Not very good for an interview though, is it?
Rick: Yeah, well you’re doing a fine job. I remember Larry King saying his worst interview was with Marlon Brando. He would ask Brando a question and Brando would just say, “Yes”, and that would be it. And then he’d have to think of another question.
Stuart: That’s very funny. The other day I was listening to a comedian, what’s his name? Stephen Wright.
Rick: Oh, I love Stephen Wright. I was listening to him the other day myself, actually.
Stuart: Maybe you listened to the same thing that I listened to.
Rick: Could be, it was a stand-up routine he did. Anyway, was there a particular joke he said that you liked?
Stuart: Well, it just struck me so funny, Rick. He was talking about two infants swaddled in a hospital room. Did you hear this one?
Rick: I don’t know if I did.
Stuart: And they looked at each other and they bonded, these infants in a hospital room. And then he says, “And then they’re back again in the hospital room, but it’s 85 years later and they’re swaddled in the hospital beds, but they’ve bonded so they know each other. But now they’re attached to tubes and machines and everything”. And one looks at the other and he says, “So, how was it?” They’re 85 years old.
Rick: That’s great.
Stuart: It’s like taking the whole life and putting it into, “So, how was the movie?”
Rick: Yeah. Stephen Wright has a lot of good ones.
Stuart: And he’s so dry, isn’t he?
Rick: Oh yeah, it’s just… I hope people look him up. S-T-E- I think he spells it V-E-N- W-R-I-G-H-T.
Rick: I can think of so many of his that are great. There’s one where he says, “I have this switch on my wall and it doesn’t do anything. Every once in a while I get bored and I stand there and just flick it on and off. One day I was doing that and a woman calls me up from Germany and says, ‘Cut it out.'”
Stuart: He’s like, “Out of his mind”.
Rick: You know, I was thinking about that. There’s that poem by Tennyson, “For men may come and men may go, but I go on forever”. And he was actually writing about a brook, but there are many phrases in scriptures about the eternal nature of the self and know that to be indeed indestructible by which all this is pervaded and so on. And there’s a particular line -I’m thinking about this because I’m putting together a talk for a conference I’m going to go to in the fall – but there’s a line in some Upanishad that says, “Smaller than the smallest, bigger than the biggest”, and it’s referring to the self or the Atman. And I was thinking, “Okay, what’s an example of something big?” And I thought, “Okay, the Andromeda galaxy merging with the Milky Way galaxy over the next eight billion years”. And if you let a hundred years equal a second – which is a generous estimate for a human lifetime – it would take several hundred years just to have that whole event happen with trillions of lifetimes just flashing on and off like little strobe lights the whole time. So, and yet that is said to be the nature of the self, that presence that you’ve been referring to, which it just abides in the midst of vast spans of time and distance and so on. Smaller than the smallest, bigger than the biggest, wherever you look, there it is. And that’s said to be who and what essentially we are. And yet there’s this tendency for us as… we’re wired as individuals to just narrow down into very minute individual boundaries and perspectives. And I think what you’re doing is giving people a taste of that vast unbounded perspective as a counterweight or a counterbalance to the tendency to individuate. Again, a bunch of big words and I talk too much, but that’s the sense I have of what you’re…
Stuart: No, I loved listening to that, because what I really love to see is the exuberance that you feel about the knowingness and the spreadiness of that. That’s not really a very good way of saying spreading, but that’s what you’re doing. You’re sending out your vibe of joy. That’s what I see. And what I see is a lot of effort that people are doing to try and fulfill dreams, and it’s very hard to do that if you’re not a person. So, you know what I’m saying? People do have their dreams and they have their desires and I think it’s healthy. And so they’re struggling along and sometimes they have successes and failures. We’re back and forth in this duality. I find that if you’re settled at home in this presence, then the very next thing that you’re supposed to do is an outlet, is a way of you expressing yourself better and more clearly and more originally than you could if you were trying to modify circumstance and understand and make something happen.
Stuart: There I go with a lot of words.
Rick: Those are good words. And this whole thing about making something happen, that’s a whole interesting topic, the authorship of action – who really acts, who is it that’s really doing stuff and making things happen. We attribute the authorship to some individual entity which we call “me”, but again, there are all sorts of beautiful scriptural references to the fact that you are not who you think you are and things are not getting done by in the way you think they are. There’s actually… you are not the author of your actions. You are far beyond that and sort of nature itself, or the divine if you wish, is carrying things out and you’re really just the witness to all that.
Stuart: And when you align yourself with that then you become an expression of that. Yeah. And it’s very natural. And you know that it’s not the individual doing it, but it seems to be coming out of the individual. So it’s like the more you align yourself with the truth of who you are, then you feel at home and at home you can start to express fully without any kind of limitation. And you certainly can’t do that with conditioning because conditioning is so limiting and stifling really.
Rick: Yeah, that’s beautiful. I’m glad we’re talking about this. On the one hand, we need routines and habits. I mean, you learn how to drive a car, that took a certain amount of practice and you wouldn’t want to have to relearn it every time you did it, or even brush your teeth. Or if you have a complex job, if you’re an airline pilot or a brain surgeon, we really hope that you have your habits and your knowledge deeply ingrained.
Stuart: And that you’re very present.
Rick: Yeah, that you’re very present, which is a good point, which is because the constant dwelling on boundaries tends to narrow down or restrict our awareness and our appreciation of presence. And what you’re doing with people, as I see it, is bringing them back to presence and enabling them to sort of be more than their conditioning.
Stuart: Well, I would say even more than that, Rick. I would say that there’s a lot of effort, spiritually minded people are trying to break down their conditioning and to change it. I certainly did, that you read at the beginning of the interview, working on it and changing it and overcoming it. And I’m finding that whatever’s been programmed in, it’s like the computer, unless you can completely clean it out somehow. Call Apple and just wipe me clean.
Rick: And buy a new one.
Stuart: Right, exactly, we’ve done that. It’s really a question of going back, leaving it alone, going back to the source, and somehow, miraculously, things change when you actually go home, be yourself, get still, and then all the change happens internally. And then you watch and you say, “Well, where’s that pattern?” It’s not here, I’m shocked. I’ve been working on it for decades and it’s not here. And I wish all of them would be like that, but we’re not in control, like you say. You know?
Rick: My favorite analogy for that is that if the awareness is small, let’s say like comparable to a glass of water, and you want to dissolve some mud, which would represent the patterns, you drop the mud in the water and the whole glass gets muddied up. The water doesn’t have the capacity to dissolve very much mud. But if the awareness is vast, like an ocean, then you could throw in dump trucks full and it’ll just kind of dissolve and the whole ocean won’t become muddy. So, enabling people to tune into presence as you do, should – and does, I imagine – enable them to unwind dump trucks full of habits and patterns that otherwise would bind them for decades to come throughout their life.
Stuart: Hopefully. And also alleviate the suffering, and there is no limit to what the self will take. You could dump as much mud, as much horror, as much stress as you want, because as far as I could see, it’s the only thing that can really meet it.
Rick: Yeah, if you really have the capacity, and I think we all essentially fundamentally do, but we’re not all awake to that to the same degree. You know, I mean, one of the most horrific examples of course is Christ being crucified, and I presume that he was deeply established, very profoundly established in presence, and despite how that ordeal may have appeared from the outside, it may not have been as horrific in his subjective experience because he continued to reside in deep deep presence, but obviously most of us are not of that status.
Stuart: Yes, but… go ahead.
Rick: No, that’s the point.
Stuart: Well, what I was going to say is, yes, you’re right, I agree with what you’ve said, but we have our own way of doing it. And that is, have you ever noticed that you can be in presence and then you can be out of it, the mind comes back, and then, so let’s say something really harsh happens to you that really gets you upset. So, let’s say something really strong is coming where it doesn’t let you have the power to leave it. You can always go back and then it’ll pull you back into, this is reality, this is too much to bear, feel it, there’s that death again, let it… bring it back. If you have something really, really strong that’s pulling at you, something dire that’s going on in your life, sickness perhaps, or ill will with a family member, whatever it is, and it just doesn’t let you alone, the mind just keeps going and going. You mentioned Christ, we could always go back to the house of our own home, the self, for a second before it pulls us out again. We may not be as divine, but we can always go back and go back and go back. And when I work with people, that conditioning can be so thick. I mean we’ve lived in it 24 hours a day, with people trying to make us into model people from the time we were born until the time we left, really, the time we moved out. So, even if there was no talking going on, the conditioning was present. How they felt about you, how you felt about yourself, what you think of the possibilities of what you can have and can’t have, they’re already ingrained in the person, and they’re not helping the person at all. They’re keeping the person limited and locked in to who they think they are. So I would say leaving it is not so simple. Leaving that very limited point of view is a difficult thing, it could be a miraculous thing. For example, let’s say your life is going well, you don’t want to leave that. But if your life isn’t going well, you might be working on it so hard so that you make it better that you can’t leave it then. So where’s the opportunity to just stop and be yourself? It takes a lot of, I would say, presence to do that.
Rick: Yeah, but there’s something inherently gratifying about doing it, isn’t there? I mean, when you sit in silence with those people in your satsang, some of whom have driven two hours to get there, there’s something so sweet and blissful about that experience that you don’t have to force them into it, they just fall into it. And so it’s really a matter of providing oneself with the opportunity to drop in like that, isn’t it?
Stuart: Very much so. You know, many people are like that, some aren’t. Some people have a lot of things to work through, and it can be very difficult. And the more they do, the deeper it seems to get. And I think that, well, the only thing that I could ever see in my life, we could get back if you want to, to how I got there, because as much as I’m talking about the conditioning, you can see that there was an awful lot there. And I worked on it an awful lot and I tried so many different things. You mentioned Lester, and I think I was with Lester for 20 years.
Rick: Did I mention that before we actually started the recording? I don’t remember that. So you’re referring to Lester Levinson.
Stuart: Oh, was that before?
Rick: Might have been, yeah. So, Lester Levinson, tell us a bit about Lester and your experience with him.
Stuart: Let me remember back, it was quite a while ago. Well, Lester Levinson had a… his theme was that you could have or do or be anything that you will or desire, which sounded pretty good to somebody that was in a rough spot in their life. And in a way he took me under his wing and listened. And he told me – this I thought was really funny – he told me in the midst of all of this hardship of where my life was, that I would help a lot of people. So I said to myself, I’m never going to look at this guy again because he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. That’s just not the truth. But obviously he saw something and he shared it. So I have very fond memories of Lester and his technique that he developed. But as I kept working with it and teaching others this method, it was like we were always looking for the next thing that we could release and then get to the silence. You know, like silence was the reward. And at a certain point I sat with Robert Adams. Do you know Robert?
Rick: Not personally, but sure. Yeah, I’ve read some of his books and I’ve interviewed one or two people who were with him.
Stuart: Yeah, so when I sat with Robert he turned everything around and he said you only are the Self and everyone is the Self. And there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re pure consciousness and everything that you’re seeing is an emanation of your mind. So stop thinking so much and go back to who you are. That was like such a revelation to just hear that and to actually try and dissolve that all that effort to make things better and to get rid of things, to get to yourself, was just a different direction that wasn’t really the truth.
Stuart: You are that, you always have been that, everybody is that, and not knowing it, not believing it.
Rick: Well let’s say you’re in a dark room and you can’t see hardly anything in there and you start making all kinds of efforts to get rid of the darkness, pushing it out the corner, moving it around, analyzing it, thinking about it, bemoaning its existence.
Stuart: Being afraid of it?
Rick: Yeah, being afraid of it. Then you just flick on a light switch and all of a sudden, where’d it go? You know, there’s no darkness here. So you just added a second element rather than trying to get rid of the first element.
Stuart: You woke up.
Rick: Yeah, that sounds like the distinction between the two approaches you took.
Stuart: Yeah, but one took a very long time.
Stuart: And then coming from a Master who understood and lived the experience of knowing he was the Self, and that’s the truth, and everything else is some kind of a story on top of it that’s taken as the truth. And… do you remember a few months ago when that German wings plane headed into the mountains? Sure. So if we look at that as being in a dark room, here’s a relative situation where there’s going to be a lot of new changes as far as those doors and who can be in and who can be out, and also psychological testing for people that we’re giving this much credibility to and trust. So all on the relative level, it’s a tragedy. And there’ll be an awful lot of insurance claims and horror. And then if we look at the people that were on that flight, youngsters on school excursions, infants – innocent, opera singers going to Germany and then to the Met in New York, I mean, it’s all the trajectory of the relative life, everything going along just the way it’s supposed to be. Nulliwets, everything to look forward to. And it’s over. In one moment it’s all over. And if you really look at that on a relative level, it’s a tragedy on every level. And yet, when we look at things like that, it can change lives so that people start to look in different directions because they’re forced to. They’re shattered, their lives are shattered. Talk about a death. The whole mind process of what’s real, what’s expected, the whole trajectory of the life is changed. So that one incident will change families all the way around the world. Some people will start blaming God, others will turn to God because of that. Some people will try to understand, other people will condemn. But I wonder if you really look at some of the ways that people just kind of open up from something like that to really look at what this whole place that we’re in, this whole life, world, what is it? Is it what we think we’re supposed to be doing, becoming somebody and having this which is happening? Or to really get into who’s running the show? What is it that we’re supposed to know from this experience? What is it that’s real? What is it that doesn’t stop? You know? So…
Rick: That’s interesting you should say that. I kind of do that too with everything. I mean, I like to watch the news and follow along with what’s going on in the world. But somehow all these events are stimuli for me to a deeper reflection, like what you’re saying here. I don’t think things happen capriciously or arbitrarily or meaninglessly. I think there’s a deep intelligence that pervades and orchestrates everything. And that some people like the phrase, “The world is my guru”. You know, that there’s a lesson inherent in every event, small or large.
Stuart: Do you feel that?
Rick: I do, yeah. Each moment. Things that are happening in my personal life and also things that are happening on the world scene. There’s some kind of cosmic drama playing out and there’s a wisdom inherent in it.
Stuart: Do you feel like everybody that you see is reflecting something back to you about yourself?
Rick: Yeah, to varying degrees and depending upon how introspective or insightful I may be at every given moment. It’s not like I’m walking through the supermarket and getting waves and waves of meaning. But essentially there’s always a flavor of that to some degree, sometimes much more profoundly than others.
Stuart: A lot of people talk about that like a mirror. Everything you see is mirroring back something about yourself, either consciously or unconsciously, for you to see.
Rick: I really think it is, and the underlying principle to that, in my opinion, is that there’s a deep evolutionary force that governs the universe. It’s like the universe is one big evolution machine and so there’s a flow or direction to our life that everything serves in some way. Everything that we experience in life is not just… the world is not just billiard balls randomly running into each other. There’s an intelligence on every level, again from larger than the largest to smaller than the smallest, and you can see it if you look at any kind of scientific phenomenon, like what happens inside a cell or how your liver works or the gravitational interactions of asteroids in the asteroid field. Everything is perfectly governed by, again the word “miraculous” because we don’t fully understand it, but profound laws of nature. Nothing is arbitrary, nothing is accidental.
Stuart: Do you think that we believe it, that we live by that understanding as a culture?
Rick: Only fractionally, you know.
Stuart: Very fractionally.
Rick: Very fractionally, and again we’re generalizing here. I think some people live by it very profoundly and some people hardly at all, but as a culture in general I think we’re way down on the It’s really interesting because scientifically you describe that perfectly. It’s a fact that everything is run by a very intelligent universe, whatever it is.
Stuart: It’s way beyond our little mind’s understanding of, because the mind is really concerned mostly about that particular individual and what’s good for them.
Stuart: You know, it can’t even fathom that, but we can always tell that we’re in sync with it or we’re not, and when we’re out of sync with it it’s very painful. With that intelligence.
Rick: Yeah. Mother nature is scrubbing behind our ear trying to clean up our act.
Stuart: And we don’t seem to get away with very much, do we?
Stuart: And the more acute you get in your looking and you’re being very clear about who you are, the slightest little infraction seems to be like, “Oh, I see”. And it just comes into your head, “Oh, that’s what was going on here. I wasn’t paying attention”.
Rick: That’s a very good point, I think, and a very valuable one. It’s like, some people do horrendous things and as Christ said, “Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do”. They’re oblivious to what they’re doing and kind of just blindly blundering along. But you get more fine-tuned and every little thing is nuanced subtly. There’s like this, it’s like when you’re driving a car, you don’t make huge corrections on the highway or you go end up in the ditch. You’re constantly making these real subtle corrections and almost unconsciously and it keeps you on the road. So, I think the thing you’re referring to is like that, where we just end up just adjusting in a very subtle way to each moment and staying in tune with that intelligence that you and I have been discussing, not violating it egregiously.
Stuart: Right, and do you feel like when you’re staying in touch with that intelligence that you’re locked into the duality of right and wrong?
Stuart: It’s different, isn’t it?
Stuart: What would you say the difference is?
Rick: Well, locked into the duality of right and wrong. First of all, the phrase “locked in” – when you’re in tune like that you don’t feel like you’re locked into anything. There’s a sense of freedom. And the duality of right and wrong, I feel, is that life is again the word “nuance”, that it’s not black and white. And what is it that in the Aramaic or whatever from which the word “sin” is derived, is an archery term, which actually means to miss the mark. And obviously the word “sin” is associated with right and wrong, but there’s a sense of being on the mark, a sense of… And it doesn’t necessarily concur with human morality or the laws of the land. It’s more of a laws of God, we could say, or laws of nature that one becomes attuned to and kind of becomes capable of – boy, I’m really talking a lot today, I’m grasping at a subtle concept here – but becomes attuned to the impulses of intelligence that govern everything and acts in accordance with those impulses and thereby does not violate them or create harm through one’s actions.
Stuart: And in a way if you really couldn’t violate it, that’s what I was saying about as people locked into – when I use the word locked into duality of right and wrong or good and bad or whatever it is – when you’re not in that it’s like not being bound by any kind of rules whatsoever. And yet, well you’re using religious terms, so I’ll say it’s righteous. It’s good without trying. That’s what I was alluding to.
Rick: I have a good friend whom I interviewed a while back who I’ve been I correspond with pretty regularly and he was saying that some of the the cruelest people he has known have been religious fundamentalists or zealots who just are absolutely certain of their correctness. You know, they know the truth and they they’ve got it and nobody else has it. He said in their personal lives they’re often very cruel and harmful to others. And so, I think that contrasts with what you’re talking about where one is resting in presence and there isn’t a clinging to certainty and rightness and “my way or the highway”. There’s a sensitivity to the deeper flow of intelligence that courses through all of creation and an alignment with that and it just goes so far beyond the duality of right and wrong.
Stuart: And everybody is that.
Rick: Yeah, essentially.
Stuart: When they can let their complete guard down of presenting themselves as a good decent human being, that is not even an issue anymore.
Stuart: Then that sensitivity is allowed to show itself without any fear of reprimand or judgment of any kind. And from that something beautiful blossoms because then the true person is expressing themselves.
Stuart: And how happy could you be to allow yourself to be just as you are without any inhibition of how you’re supposed to be.
Rick: Yeah, which doesn’t mean you’re gonna rip your clothes off and go running down the street or do anything weird or crazy.
Stuart: Well, some do, you know.
Rick: Some do, yeah.
Stuart: In fact, some feel that that’s freedom.
Rick: Yeah, I remember Saint Francis in “Brother Sun, Sister Moon”, when he had his awakening, he took all his clothes off, gave them to his father, “I don’t want this anymore”.
Stuart: “I don’t need this anymore”. And there are some people that feel very liberated naked.
Stuart: I don’t know, are you? Not me particularly, but…
Rick: No, not particularly.
Stuart: Not particularly.
Rick: Not attached to it.
Stuart: No, but it’s funny. Some people feel like the freedom is about the personal freedom, that now I am free to do whatever I want, it’s a personal thing.
Rick: Yeah, but I don’t think that’s what you’re talking about. It’s like…
Stuart: Not at all.
Rick: Because if a person interprets what you’re saying superficially, “Oh, I can just do whatever the heck I want. I’m free, no restrictions, no right and wrong”, they could make a mess of things. You’re talking about first be attuned to the deeper intelligence of nature, and then from that platform perform action, and things will flow naturally.
Stuart: Action just happens.
Rick: Yeah, action happens.
Stuart: Yeah, because everybody, like you say, everybody is the self and everybody has particular talents. And it would really be really nice if people could allow themselves to express those talents without their own sense of limitation.
Rick: Yeah. You’ve been around quite a few masters and teachers and so on. I don’t… you haven’t enumerated them all, but haven’t you noticed that rather than being kind of bland or same old, same old in any way, they actually have these vivid personalities even though they’re kind of grounded in something which is universal and the same on its level, on the level of their individual expressions, they’re just very colorful generally, very tend to be charismatic, tend to be just kind of really full of life.
Stuart: Many times, yes. Yeah, uninhibited. This is how I am, and this is what I’m doing, and there it is. It’s like everybody has their purpose, I would say, to express. I guess, it’s very hard… they say that you do your homework when you look at different people that you’re going to interview, and I was waiting for you to give me some kind of, “Well, who is this guy?” because I don’t see myself as others do and here you are, you have your impression.
Rick: Well, my homework consists of reading their book, if they have one, and yours took about half an hour, because it has just these nice little aphorisms on one side of each page.
Stuart: I actually read my book the other day because I hadn’t looked at it in quite a while.
Rick: Yeah, and then I listen to some recordings, usually while I’m riding my bicycle or cutting the grass or whatever. I just kind of get to know the person, and then I have a conversation with them. I don’t usually take a lot of notes or write down a lot of questions or anything, I just kind of get a feel for the person and have a conversation. So that’s what my homework consists of.
Stuart: That’s very, very admirable.
Rick: Well, I don’t know about that.
Stuart: I watched a couple of interviews with you also, and I thought, “Yeah, you’re pretty smart”. You understand a lot of the black holes and stuff, things that I haven’t gotten into.
Rick: Well, that kind of stuff fascinates me.
Stuart: I could see that.
Rick: I mean, obviously, I was a high school dropout, and then I learned to meditate and got back into school and got back into education more, but I wouldn’t consider myself some sort of intellectual by any means. As with you, for a long time now, spirituality has really been my main interest.
Stuart: And do you do anything besides this? Do you teach?
Rick: No, I meditate, but I don’t teach. I did teach. I was a TM teacher for 25 years, but I haven’t done that in a long time. And I just do this. This is kind of the active phase of my spiritual zeal.
Stuart: Well, you reach so many people, you know?
Stuart: It’s quite something.
Rick: Which is gratifying. You know that beautiful prayer by Saint Francis, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace”. And where there is this, let me sow that, and it goes on and on. And I think we all have a tendency to want to be a conduit for anything of value that we have experienced, you know? And that’s why you’re teaching, I would say. So, and it’s as simple as like liking something on Facebook or telling somebody about some movie you saw. You want to share anything that you’ve found to be of value. So, that’s what you and I are both doing in our own ways.
Stuart: We’re doing it, and yet I had no idea in my mind that this would be something that I would be doing with my life, you know? It wasn’t like this is something I was going towards.
Rick: A long time ago you didn’t.
Stuart: A long time ago I was going for happiness, really. You know, I’ll take that and whatever I have to do to get it, I’ll do that. And it’s kind of like, at a certain point, it was like there’s a fork in the road. I could go along and be steward and do what he likes or get nudged and pulled and do that. And sometimes you say yes and sometimes you say no.
Rick: Well, you mentioned you weren’t getting much satisfaction out of the course you were taking.
Stuart: Yes, that’s very true. I would say that… I’ll go back to what you were saying in the beginning to tell a little bit about history, if you want.
Rick: Sure, sure.
Stuart: Yeah, what I can remember from the time I was very little was being somewhat in the background, seeing everything, but not participating very much. Basically, not really wanting to be here. I couldn’t explain why, but it wasn’t the joyous kind of a thing. And there was an awful lot of tugging, pulling, “Do this, don’t do that, go out”. I was very content to stay home and just be still, very very content. And then the conditioning started that was like some kind of battle, “You should do this, you shouldn’t do that”. And so there was a lot of resistance. I understand resistance. I can be with it fully because I lived it. I lived it fully.
Rick: Are you Jewish?
Rick: There’s that joke in the Jewish tradition, “When does a fetus become a human being?” When he graduates from medical school.
Stuart: That’s right. I remember once with the extended family at the Passover Seder, so there’s one long table going from one end of the house to the other with every relative you’ve never seen for the whole year. And towards the end of the meal, which comes hours later, this is very orthodox. I remember my mother lamenting about my birth.
Stuart: Yes, she started in with how long it took and it was a breech birth, it was a very big baby. So I think the resistance started right at this time.
Rick: You didn’t want to get involved.
Stuart: I didn’t want to come in, I didn’t want to be here. And it was a struggle and it was difficult. And then we were off and running. I do remember one of those modalities that I did was rebirthing.
Rick: Oh yeah.
Stuart: You did that also?
Rick: No, I haven’t, but I’ve interviewed somebody quite early in this series. What was her name? I don’t know, it was the third or fourth one that I did. And she was really into that and talked about it.
Stuart: Sandra somebody?
Rick: Well, Sandra Glickman was one. I don’t know if she did rebirthing.
Stuart: Not Glickman.
Rick: There was a woman who’s an artist and her name isn’t coming to mind, maybe it will. Anyway, she taught rebirthing. Yeah.
Stuart: And I remember that after that session and involved a lot of the breathing, but not in the simplicity that I’m looking at it now, but there was great joy. Out of the blue something must have opened up, it was just absolutely beautiful.
Stuart: And then the stuff started to come up again and then I didn’t know what to do with it, so I was off and running. “What’s next?”
Rick: Well, that brings up two points. One is, would you agree that pretty much everyone in the world is looking for happiness and yet not finding it in the outward direction, or at least finding only sort of transitory happiness in the outward direction? Ultimately, they’ve got to take recourse to this presence or silence that we’ve been talking about. And I forgot the second question, so go ahead and respond to that one.
Stuart: Well, if appearances look good, not everybody… you know, if you look around and life is pretty good, you have no reason to complain, right? It’s good, everything is fine, you have enough money, you have a good partner, everything is… stop complaining. It’s fine. But it isn’t. You can’t really explain it and you can’t really say, “Just go to the Self and everything will be fine”, because it’s not your experience.
Rick: Yeah, everything’s kind of fine already. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi used to say that the angels have no incentive for enlightenment because everything is so glorious, they don’t want to close their eyes, they don’t want to go inward. The world in which they live is just sublime as it is, so why bother with looking for more?
Stuart: Yeah, but the more you go inside, the more you do the meditation that you’re talking about, then you’re aware with your eyes open, you’re consciously aware. I would say that’s the whole purpose of the teaching. The whole purpose is to really, once you get established in knowing who you are, so that you have the experiences of appearances, you have the minds dictate whatever it is, and you either listen or you pay it no mind, or it gets softer, and then you have the awareness to be present with your eyes open without having to go anywhere. And you’re home, you’re open, you see clearly.
Rick: That’s what I was getting at earlier when I was referring to maybe stockbrokers or something who were established in presence and yet engaged in this crazy dynamic activity. I think that’s very possible and it doesn’t have to be a life of sort of withdrawal and seclusion and outward silence to have that inward silence.
Stuart: I agree, and I’m sure – and I don’t know very many of them – but I’m sure there are people running big corporations that are very, very still and clear and make decisions on the spot that are just right on, for the most part.
Rick: Yeah. In fact, I would say that that’s actually a necessary qualification for someone running a big corporation or a successful military general or someone who has a lot of detail and complexity to deal with. If their mind is sort of all scattered and not very silent, then it can’t be very comprehensive. It can only focus on one little thing here, one little thing there, and kind of get lost in the boundaries, but if it can maintain the silence, it can maintain comprehensiveness and take a lot of things into account and make the right decision.
Stuart: And I don’t even know if I would say it’s silence so much. It just is. You’re fully alert, fully alert, very clear and very present.
Rick: I thought of that second question I was going to ask, which is that – a lot of people find that when they begin to become present or sit in meditation a lot, like maybe you do in your satsangs with people and stuff, that we talked earlier about it dissolving conditionings and so on, but that dissolving process can be a bit uncomfortable or tumultuous. Things can start to kind of, like a Pandora’s box, things can start to be released that were tidally repressed. So what’s your experience been with that, perhaps personally and also as a teacher?
Stuart: Well, it’s true what you say. The deeper you go into yourself, the more you’re really excavating into what’s been suppressed for many years. And I could say that it would be necessary to suppress a lot of negativity because it’s not very welcome – anger, negativity, despondency, all that stuff. There’s not much place for it. So we push it down. And it does come up and it really depends on how strongly you actually believe that it’s possible to get through it. Because the more you think you are the person suffering, the more you’ll keep it suppressed. You won’t want to open it up because there isn’t the trust that it can actually move out. There’s just a complete avoidance of that. So I would say it takes a very dedicated strong person to stay on target no matter what happens, knowing that even if it’s going to get very dark and painful and a lot of it is messy and very unpleasant, that it will pass. Everything does. It may not feel like it’s passing fast enough, but it will pass. I really have a lot of… well, I honor those people because I know how difficult it is. And I really am amazed at the people that don’t seem to have that kind of problem. They just seem to be… they look at things, they see it once or twice and it’s gone. I’m in awe of that. But many people, when they’re suffering it’s too painful. And it seems to be the same old thing. it’s the same pattern, again.
Rick: If a person doesn’t consider themselves to be particularly strong or, what was the other word you used, dedicated or something, then what would you say to them by way of encouragement? Can they become stronger and more dedicated through some practice or something?
Stuart: Well, I would say, let’s see, what would I say to somebody like that? What do I say? I bring them back to themselves as fast as I can. I remind them who they are. They are the self. I think that sometimes the ego gets such a strong pull on the disbelief that feels true that it has to be given a talking to about who you are. You are always the self, the absolute, and you need to remind it and go through that. And that’s the kind of encouragement that’s necessary.
Stuart: And to just to let people know that you understand and it will pass.
Rick: And that’s where a teacher can be valuable, I think, among other reasons, that you sometimes need that external encouragement.
Stuart: And you have to allow yourself to say yes to whatever is coming up. You can’t push it away because it’ll come back. I think that after a certain point, Rick, as I’m sure you’ve discovered, the leverage between the ego and the self shifts and you lose interest. You actually lose interest in your own ego-self and the self grows and grows so that it becomes easier and easier to see through that stuff. It no longer runs you.
Rick: Which brings up an interesting point, which is that some people have this understanding – and sometimes even the experience – that enlightenment or awakening is instantaneous. They just have this shift and that’s it. However, I would consider that to be the exception rather than the rule. And in your own experience, was it anything of that kind or has it been a sort of progressive thing, perhaps punctuated by occasional milestones that are noteworthy?
Stuart: Exactly what you said, a progressive shift with milestones, sometimes very huge ones, very powerful ones and sometimes just beautiful awareness, “Aha, yes, look at that”. And you know something big has just dropped somewhere, somehow. And it’s gone, it’s fast.
Rick: Would any of those milestones be interesting for people? Would you like to tell us a few things?
Stuart: Yeah, well there was one that I talked about with Renate about hearing some kind of music that I had never heard of. There was a time I was in Rome, that’s what I was describing, very early on in the early 80s, where I just was determined to know what this freedom business was. I was very rational – “I’m going to put my attention and energy into this, I want some clear understanding here, whatever I have to do I’ll do it, but I want some kind of understanding”. And I was going after what exactly is it that I don’t understand, and what’s out there. And I had this magnificent awareness of reversal of everything, everything hard, like buildings, became very very translucent. And this beautiful beautiful music was like thrilling to me, and whenever I thought it couldn’t get better, it would. It was like, you can’t imagine how good this is, just get it through your head that there’s something magnificent going on here.
Rick: And the music was just some kind of inner thing, it was some celestial music, it wasn’t coming from a local loudspeaker, it was coming from within you.
Stuart: It was in my head.
Rick: Right, right.
Stuart: It was in my head, it was my experience, it’s like I created it, I needed it, it answered something, it blew me away. It was just, I was happy like I’ve never been happy for months after that, no matter what was going on, and then life would just continue. I know a lot of things changed after that. I know that there was another incident when I was in India with Neelam and Nirmala and Pamela Wilson.
Rick: Yeah, oh with Papaji?
Stuart: No, with Neelam.
Rick: Oh, Neelam was the teacher in that case.
Stuart: Neelam was the teacher in that case. And we were up in Rishikesh and we all had beautiful experiences there. Nice. It was magnificent just being by the Ganges and meditating and that was another wide open experience. And there have been many many like that.
Rick: I think I hadn’t realized or I’d forgotten that Pamela and Nirmala had studied with Neelam.
Stuart: Nirmala especially.
Rick: He must have told me that, I forgot. Cool, any others? Well, actually with regard to that one, it’s kind of noteworthy and interesting that that breakthrough, or if you want to call it that, was preceded by a kind of a firm determination or an ardent desire to – I forget how you phrased it…
Rick: Determined, yeah, there was just this, like, I got to know this, I got to have this, and kind of a focused seriousness. And then that kind of triggered a breakthrough.
Stuart: It’s like I was demanding it. I really was demanding it, and I was saying to myself, “All right, I’ll look at everything, I’ll let go of whatever I have to let go of, I’ll do whatever I have to do”. I mean, I was surrendering as determinately as I could, and something happened. It blew me away, but then life went on, you know. I would say that I was very very lucky with all my resistance, with all the hardship, with all the stuff that I thought I would never get through. I was always lucky enough to have people who were very clear, particularly my friend Kim Reilander, who would be a miracle if you could get her to be on your show. I don’t think she would.
Rick: I’ve never heard of her, no.
Stuart: Nobody has, so she’s very very free. And we would sit and talk for hours, and I think it’s being with somebody that is so totally open and aware. I don’t know what it is, but everything is okay the way it is, even if it appears rotten, and you’ll get through everything. And I suppose I know that, and people trust that, so we plot along. And we allow everything to be the way it is, and somehow it passes, it all passes.
Rick: This stuff is contagious. I mean, hanging out with people who are fervent about what we’re talking about, it definitely rubs off.
Stuart: No doubt, no doubt.
Rick: So, did you have any moment, I mean, that was one you mentioned in Italy. But I’m kind of of the opinion, having talked to so many people and all that, it’s almost impossible to define awakening as an absolute, clear-cut, definable moment that either you have had or haven’t had. I may be wrong, but there seems to be so many flavors and nuances and degrees and stages of awakening, and many people who have had awakenings that they think are the final one end up having others, so they realize the earlier ones were not final. So, for you, what do you say about that? Was there some major watershed moment for you, or have there been many and there continue to be more?
Stuart: You know, Rick, I just feel that as long as you’re in a body there will be always something for you to learn and for you to see and for you to be open to. It’s just that there’s less and less resistance to it and more and more awareness that whatever comes, nothing can touch the open awareness that you are. It’s just that knowing that you’re present, you’re here, and everything can happen and it’s fine. You’re safe. You could say it’s the exact opposite of a person in the world looking for safety in practically everything that they do. The safety is right here in the moment because you are, and if you know that, what more could you ask for?
Rick: Yeah, there’s a security in that.
Stuart: No, I couldn’t define that security, but I could say that if you can feel it and relax into it, well then you’re home. Maybe you could be more home. I don’t doubt that. I don’t doubt that I could be much more home. When I looked at certain teachers, they couldn’t get the food on the fork into their mouth. They were so illuminated in nothingness. I managed to eat very well, the fork finds my mouth. I wouldn’t say that’s the truth. It may be, I don’t know.
Rick: Yeah, I mean Neem Karoli Baba or Anandamayi Ma, you hear stories about them having to be fed and having to be kind of watched lest they wander off into the jungle because they’re just so oblivious to their bodies.
Stuart: It just becomes a lot more pleasant than I imagined it would be, and I allow him, like I said before, to go on with his following to whatever degree he wants to. You know, he’s fine even if he isn’t, because it’s not me, and it is me. And that sounds a little cryptic, but that’s how I see it.
Rick: That was actually the point with which we started this interview, that I brought up the word paradox, that you’re a person and yet you’re not a person, and the two somehow coexist quite comfortably when the integration is really established.
Stuart: Well, if you meet a person that’s totally identified as a person, they will see me as a person. Right. If I meet somebody who knows who they are, that’s what they’ll relate to with me. You know, that’s okay either way, it doesn’t make the difference.
Rick: Yeah. And also, you’re still a person. I mean, if I were eating dinner with you and you said, “Hey Rick, pass the salt”, I wouldn’t say, “Well, who wants the salt?” or “There is no salt”, or… I pass you the salt.
Stuart: Pretty irritating, isn’t it?
Rick: Because Stuart, the person, wants the salt. Okay, here you go.
Stuart: Yeah, here it is. Enjoy it. Did you say there were going to be questions?
Rick: There is one. One just came in from a man named Krishnan in Calicut, India. He asks, “I have been practicing meditation and chanting for some years now. However, in recent times I have been experiencing some kind of burning sensation in the throat. Medical checks don’t show anything. However, when I’m in, when I’m deep in meditation, this goes off. Any comments on this?”
Stuart: Well, he had the answer right in his question. What was apparent in his life, the deep burning, disappeared. It disappeared because his attention wasn’t on the person trying to change it. He was before that, so there was no semblance of… it sounds like there was no semblance of body.
Rick: Well, I think what he’s saying though is that when he meditates this burning sensation, let’s just see. Well, it doesn’t say that it happened… Yes, when I am… Oh okay, he says it goes off. By that I didn’t know whether he meant it starts burning or it stops burning. It wasn’t clear to me. Krishnan, you can send in another question if you want. So, I guess we’re asking here, does this burning intensify when you meditate and go into the self or does it dissipate? Not sure. Go ahead and send in a follow-up if you want. Okay. So, all right, let’s chit-chat just for another minute while Krishnan sends in another question if he wants to or anybody else. What haven’t we considered that you would like to make sure that we do consider before we wrap it up? What is there that’s really dear to your heart or that you really want people to hear, leave them some thought you want to leave them with or anything along those lines?
Stuart: Oh, that’s a very big open.
Rick: It gives you all possibilities.
Stuart: All possibilities. And how to zero in on the most perfect.
Stuart: Yeah. The beauty, the absolute beauty of being yourself as natural and and simple without a lot of pontification about philosophy and existing and not existing and allowing yourself to flower and to be happy. It’s just right there and it’s so possible.
Rick: And for the person who says, “Hey, that sounds great but that’s not my experience”, how do I get to be where you are in terms of how do I get to live life the way you’re describing it?
Stuart: Be open to really questioning the truth of everything that you’re feeling and taking it as gospel to allow it to stop, to allow yourself to leave it, to not be so connected and attached to wanting it to be different and being right about it. It takes a certain amount of desire for it, don’t you think?
Stuart: And openness.
Rick: And something you just said really rings a bell too. I’ve heard humility described as the quality of not insisting that things happen any particular way. And when you think of humility as being a sort of a way of functioning which is not ego-predominant but in which the ego has sort of relaxed its grip and not insisting that things happen any particular way, you allow that larger intelligence, that we’ve been alluding to, to run the show and it actually is capable of running it a lot more efficiently than our individual intelligence.
Stuart: Well, we’re all consciousness, right? Everything is consciousness. But if you say that this vast consciousness is now going to be just who I see myself as – my mind, my body – I’m limiting that consciousness to like the size of a pea. And then it’s all my responsibility for things to turn out the way I want them to or not, and then I suffer or I don’t. I mean it’s like I’m setting a trap for myself. So if I just see that clearly that the consciousness is wide open and I can enter into that rather than limit it, it’s a possible thing to do. And I’m going to say it one more time – always go back to examining what it feels like to breathe. Something so very simple. If you actually just spend some time watching it, put it in slow motion, watching the whole process, it will bring you home very very swiftly. That awareness before thought.
Rick: Yeah. And you were saying earlier that when you advocate this to people and then sometimes when you talk to them later they say, “Oh, well I forgot to do it”. But would you recommend that people reserve a little bit of time – 10-15 minutes or something – where they just sit down in a quiet room and just dwell on that, let that be their sole focus for a while?
Stuart: Well, I wouldn’t say that would be a bad thing, Rick. I don’t usually tell people that they should do it any period of time or when, but as much as they can, yes. Because I have found that it is so powerful, so powerful, it’s totally alive. Because if you look at it, we talk about the self as unconditional love, right? Completely unconditional love. So who can create life through the breath? Only that which is the One or God, and it is given absolutely everything that’s alive. Insects, animals, people, people in jail, people convicted of major crimes – breath. Holy people – breath. In between people, people that believe and not believe. Everybody gets it, 100%. It’s given from absolutely nothing. It’s given you life. Here it is, it’s your gift. And without it, you can’t do anything. Nothing. You can’t think, you can’t move, you can’t do anything. And we’re not really honoring it. So I think it’s about time we did, because it’s giving us everything.
Rick: Nice. And you certainly don’t have to buy into any particular philosophy or have any particular intellectual capacities or anything else.
Stuart: It’s kind of like a secret and it’s being exposed. And it’s quite something, you know? Here’s your gift. You are alive and you are conscious. Enjoy it. Feel it.
Rick: Good. All right. Well, Krishnan didn’t send in a follow-up question, so maybe we should… hopefully we answered that one.
Stuart: Maybe we did.
Rick: Oh, wait a minute. Here it comes.
Stuart: We did.
Rick: This is from a fellow in Wales. Oh, this is… he’s a guy named Ramat from Wales. He says he doesn’t have a question, he’s just very much looking forward to seeing you in London soon. Love, love, love.
Rick: Ramat. You know Ramat?
Stuart: Oh, it’s a woman, yes.
Rick: Oh, Ramat, yeah. Have a camp – she’s happy that you’re coming to London. Oh, she’s lovely, yes. Great. Good. Well, you’re lovely too. This has been a good conversation.
Stuart: Nice talking to you. You’re great.
Rick: Oh, thanks. There’s some quote that kept coming to mind during your whole talk today, which I think I just want to throw out there. It’s a Sanskrit saying, and I forget the Sanskrit, but the English of it is, “There’s no joy in smallness”.
Stuart: That’s very nice. It’s beautiful.
Rick: Yeah, somehow the theme of our conversation has touched upon that a number of times.
Stuart: Oh, yeah.
Rick: Great. Well, let’s just wrap it up then. I’ve been speaking with Stuart Schwartz, and obviously he lives in Florida, and has weekly satsangs down there, but he travels, and it sounds like he’s going to London soon. So, I’ll be linking to his website, and you can see what his schedule is on there, I’m sure. And also, we have a page on batgap.com, which is like a geographic index where you can put a particular place in, like London, and it’ll pop down a list of people I’ve interviewed who are going to be teaching in London, and then you can go from there to their website to get the details.
Stuart: And after that, there’ll be a satsang at the Arho Castle in Ireland, where I’ve been going for about 10 years.
Stuart: That’ll be after.
Rick: Cool. And any other places, or are you just going to the UK?
Stuart: UK and Ireland.
Rick: Good. So, go to Stuart’s site, and you can, if you’re in the UK or Ireland, and you can check the dates on that. And this, as I said in the beginning, is an ongoing series of interviews. We have them scheduled the next several months now. The next week is a fellow named Wayne Wirs, who happens to live in a little van or something, and travels around the country. He didn’t know where he was going to be when I interview him, but he has a really good 4G connection with his laptop. So, wherever he is, that’s where we’re going to do it. And as I mentioned, there are several hundred of these, and you can find them all archived and organized and categorized on batgap.com, and we intend to keep doing them for a long long time. So, a few other things you’ll find on batgap.com, just go through them real quickly – a place to sign up for email notification of new interviews, a link to the audio podcast of this show, which we’ve been having some technical difficulties with, but we’re working on getting them fixed. And the donate button, and that’s just about it. Explore the menus. So, thanks for listening or watching. Thank you again, Stuart. It’s been a lot of fun.
Stuart: Thank you very much. I enjoyed it.
Rick: I’m sorry if I’ve talked too much. I feel like I was a little gabby today.
Stuart: You did fine. I enjoyed it.
Rick: And everybody should check out Stephen Wright.
Stuart: That’s right, he’ll make you laugh.
Rick: Yeah, and if you want a really weird comedian who’s also very funny, check out Emo Phillips. You ever hear of Emo Phillips?
Stuart: I have, yes.
Rick: He’s hilarious. All right, thanks a lot.
Stuart: Thank you, Rick. Bye-bye.