Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer and I swear to God, this is the last interview I’m going to do at the SAND Conference because it’s interview my friend T. Proctor here, whom you may have already seen in the panel discussion that we did on embodiment, and this is our last opportunity. So here we go. I think I’ll ask you to just briefly introduce yourself first. Whatever you feel is relevant and important in this context and then we’ll take it from there.
T: Okay. My name is T and that’s my real name. So, people often ask if it’s T-E-E or T-E-A. It’s just T. T. Jonathan Proctor and that’s my real name. That’s not a taken-on name. I live in Humboldt County, California, which is far north of California, and we run a practice called Being Real, Being Embodied. I say “we,” I mean my partner, Christine Fiorentino and I. And we do workshops, we do retreats, I do private sessions, Christine teaches yoga, and a big part of our practice is in the name, being embodied. What our focus is, is learning to experience life as a fully embodied awakened being.
Rick: Do you know any unembodied awakened beings?
T: You know, I think there have been quite a few, even here.
Rick: Yeah, this is a recurring theme. I interviewed somebody earlier in the conference, who insisted that really, she was not a person, there was no person, and so on. I wasn’t quite quick on my toes enough, but I think my response might have been, or should have been, “Of course you’re a person, you’re a wonderful person, you’re a lovely person, it’s just that you’re not only a person.”
T: Well, there’s many ways of looking at it and I think that it can become kind of a classic circular argument. It’s interesting, I see some parallels to Christian fundamentalism or certain fundamentalisms that say, “Everything reverts back to the book and the book says this.”
Rick: And so you can find books that say you’re not a person.
T: You can find books that say you’re not a person, then you can mimic those books. To be fair, I think that people experience that, and I think that’s an actual experience. And you know, you talk about Ken Wilber’s “States and Stages” a lot.
Rick: And “Lines of Development.”
T: And “Lines of Development,” right. So, I think there’s such an unlimited amount of states that we can enter as a human being. And if we decide that’s the place we want to park our ship, then we can get a lot of play out of that.
Rick: Well I don’t know about you, but I’m experiencing right now that I’m not a person, but I’m also experiencing that I’m a person. And the two go together quite nicely.
T: Yeah, well it’s been a pretty intense conference. The context of this talk tonight is really amazing, because we’ve been at this S.A.N.D. conference and there’s just one thing after another after another, and there’s all kinds of different perspectives and amazing people.
Rick: Yeah, there’s usually like five or six things going on at once that you might like to go to, and they’re all very interesting.
T: That brings me actually back to the body and back to the need to take care of ourselves, to regulate ourselves, to get healthy food and rest. And well, if you don’t mind me saying, you took some time off to do some meditation today.
Rick: Oh, I always do. That’s like bottom line, I haven’t missed one in 46 years, because I’m obsessive. But yeah, you’ve got to take care of the body. But this whole theme of not a person, maybe we should put it in context, because maybe some of the people listening aren’t aware that this is an issue. But there’s a whole niche of the spiritual community, it’s often referred to as Neo-Advaita, in which there’s a strong emphasis on the point that if you look, you can’t find any little nugget inside that you could identify as you. There’s no person, you just come down to vast emptiness. And so, people say, “Well, there is no ‘me,’ there’s just this vast emptiness.” But what happens is, unfortunately, it creates in many people a problem, and even sometimes mental illnesses of some kind. There’s this fellow, Scott Kilby, who was going to be here at the conference, but his mother and dad had to leave, but we were going to sit down and have a whole discussion. about the calls he gets on a regular basis from people who have become extremely disassociative or unbalanced because of their obsession with this notion, listening to teachings which tell them so, that they are not a person, or that there is no one home, and that there’s nothing to do, nowhere to go, and you’re already there,-interrupt at any point. And Jeff Foster illustrated this whole issue very delightfully in a little cartoon he made, called “The Neo-Advaita Trap,” which if you look on YouTube for that, you’ll find it.
T: I’ve watched that. I’ve actually shared that with people.
Rick: Yeah, good. So do a search, folks, on “Neo-Advaita Trap,” and then pause this video, watch that one and come back. But anyway, go ahead.
T: Well, first of all, I’ll just say that the characteristic of a lot of the mental pathologies is a disordered or a fragmented sense of self. And frankly, I’ll just tell you that my early history with a lot of neglect and a lot of trauma, and a lot of difficult experiences, that was my experience.
Rick: Prior to any spiritual pursuit?
T: Prior to any spiritual, there was a fragmented … I developed perhaps a fragmented sense of self. And so, I think it’s a little bit … I don’t want to go too far astray on this topic, but when people have a lot of either trauma or attachment difficulties in life, they actually don’t develop the full sense of self that people with an adequately integrated sense of self have. And what happens to those people is that they come into these teachings, which are not only teachings but they’re powerful fields of transmission, if you will. And these teachings affect them in a way that confirms something that they already know that there’s no self. However, what it tends to bring up for them is, because there’s never been a stabilized sense of self, is a very deficient sense of self.
Rick: Do you think that these teachings with such people further exacerbate the fragmentation? In other words, they could destabilize a person who hasn’t achieved integration of self to begin with?
T: Yeah, I’ve seen it, absolutely, and I think I experienced it to a degree.
Rick: So would you say that for some people, the emphasis in their growth should be about achieving an integrated sense of self, or whatever terminology you would use? In other words, building up the ego in a sense, rather than trying to kill or deny the ego, and then once a strong ego has been established, they might proceed from there?
T: I don’t want to give you a yes or no answer to that. I mean, I think every case is different. There was that famous quote for a while by Jack Somebody, “You can’t be nobody until you’re somebody.” And the idea being there that if you’re just this kind of fragmented, free-floating, chaotic awareness, with random perceptions and random ideas, and nothing coherent or integrated about what you feel yourself to be in the first place, you’re not going to be able to develop as an embodiment of being going forward, just because you access some state of awareness or some state of deep peace, or some state of emptiness.
Rick: Yeah, in my spiritual upbringing, the emphasis was always on strengthening, integrating, stabilizing, purifying the physiology, making it a fit instrument, to sustain what we might even call the “shock of awakening,” because awakening can be so dramatic that you need a strong physiology. I was on a course one time with Maharishi, and someone said, “Maharishi, couldn’t you just enlighten us?” And he said, “Maybe I could. If I could, it would take 10 strong men to hold you down. You would just be blown away without having established the neurophysiological capacity to embody that experience.”
T: Yeah, and I think you can say equivalent things about psychedelic drugs. You’re giving people very powerful medicine, but if you’re using those things in unskillful ways, what you’re doing is you’re opening people up to a lot of potential damage, and a lot of potential strife for them. And so, in the same way that if you had somebody come into the room tonight that wasn’t altogether stable, you gave them some LSD; it might be very much the same thing to have somebody come into a satsang and just have them walk back out the door. It’s very powerful medicine.
Rick: Yeah. Well, you can tell us more about your spiritual background if you want to, but I know in my case, being on long courses, meditation courses for 6 weeks, 6 months, I once had to go to a hotel in Switzerland and mollify the staff after a woman had jumped off a balcony and killed herself. And I’ve heard of stories like this in other spiritual movements, where under intense sadhana, intense spiritual practice, troubled personalities just crack.
T: Okay, so I will move it back to my background. And basically, my background was that, my life, through basically the intervention of my own shadow, took a massive fall, and in a sense, a complete turn from everything it had been, in my very early 30s, in my late 20s to my early 30s. And I found myself at that very deep sense of existential despair, like, “What is all this? What is my life? Who am I? What is this? What is the truth of everything?” And I began to go to Vipassana meditations, actually, Goenka Vipassana meditations. And that led me to Spirit Rock, and then I was at some of the Theravada monasteries. So, I began to practice very intensely the body orientated Vipassana practices. And so, I would, for instance, when you go to a Goenka retreat, it’s a very powerful practice. You go for 10 days. The first time I ever went to a Goenka retreat, I was walking around, and I was thinking, “Wow, this must be what it’s like in purgatory.” Nobody was speaking to each other, people were walking around, it looked like a bunch of corpses walking around. People didn’t look happy.
T: Yeah, it would look kind of zombified, mental hospital, purgatory.
Rick: Shin Jin-Yong said that to me in my interview. He said, “In some aspects of Buddhism,” and I don’t keep them all straight, “It zombifies people, they become very unnatural in their demeanor, their behavior.”
T: Yeah, I think that all the different traditions have their pathologies that go along with them. So you go into this very deep place, and I had immediately very deep, profound experiences. I remember after my very first Vipassana retreat, people were talking about, the men were talking about, all they were thinking about was the girls across the aisle. I was having these amazing, massive experiences of the body as this crystalline structure, and just on and on. And I’m like, “Really? You guys were thinking about girls?” I was thinking about the nature of the universe. I was experiencing myself, perhaps, as the nature of the universe, in a particular way. And so, then they just let you go. Then the 10 days was over, they say, “Okay, good luck. Practice two hours a day, good luck.” And they say, “Don’t do anything else, because you want to keep it pure, stay with this practice.” I had that, and after a while that wasn’t satisfactory. So, I came into some of the non-dual teachers. I came into meeting Gangaji, I came into meeting Adyashanti, and really, after a while, I saw all of the non-dual teachers that were available to be seen. I had a little camper, and I would just drive from place to place to place, through different states. And talk about states and stations. Through different states and seeing every teacher that was available. And I guess this would be a good point to say that at one point I sat down with a certain teacher, and leading up to this point, I had never fasted in my life before, but I just had this sudden impulse to fast, and I fasted for five days. And I went to a weekend intensive with this teacher. And I had this terrible feeling that something bad was going to happen. And I was determined to go talk to this teacher, and I waded through … there were a number of different sessions, and I waited until I think about the last session, and then I said, “Okay, I’m going to go do this.” So, I sat in the front row, and I was ready to raise my hand, and I was overwhelmed with this sense of panic. And the panic was the fear that I was going to get up and attack this teacher. This terrible, overwhelming fear that I was going to get up and attack this teacher, and that people were going to have to restrain me, and that I was going to be dragged off to prison. But it was very visceral, and so I raised my hand anyway. And somehow, upon facing that fear and walking up there in that moment, and then meeting the teacher, and then looking in … it was Gangaji, and looking in her eyes, and feeling what my experience was, I felt as if a ray, it was almost as if a silver ray that had sound to it, moved down through my chakras, but all the way down through the bottoms of my feet. And I felt total stillness, silence, equanimity, peace, zero tension in the body, and total equality with the other person that was sitting next to me, which was Gangaji at the time. And even as I talk about it now, I can feel the stillness descend. I can feel the presence of the stillness.
Rick: I can too, actually, as you talk about it. It evokes it.
T: Yeah, and I think that’s why language can be evocative. Language and gesture can be evocative. So, from that point, that was the departure from what had been in my life, a very deep, almost conviction that I felt that I was a damned soul. I felt that I was a damned, and I think, obviously, the fear that came up around raising my hand. Not only that I was damned, but maybe I didn’t even have a soul. And I’ll tell you, it’s fairly easy to talk about now, but to be in a life, to live a life where you literally feel like you’re damned and you don’t have a soul, to have an inner conviction like that is incredibly painful.
Rick: Yeah. We were talking in the car on the way to the restaurant, about the fact that enlightenment necessitates the transformation of the physiology, even on the cellular level. And I suppose that’s the sort of thing that could probably be studied. But the point I’d like to make is that it really is a physiological thing as much as it is a consciousness thing. And you know how scientists will tell you that waking, dreaming and sleeping, are each unique states of consciousness, physiologically as well as subjectively? Well, higher states of consciousness are unique in the same way. They’re not only different from one another, and from waking, dreaming and sleeping, in a significant, marked way, but their physiological correlates are significantly different, uniquely. So, to my way of understanding what evolution to enlightenment, or whatever – we won’t even bother to define enlightenment now, but spiritual awakening – what it necessitates is a complete restructuring, not only of our way of perceiving, and our subjective orientation, but of the neurophysiology which supports that.
T: Yeah, sure. And this is really great, I hope I’m not cutting you off, but this is really beautiful because this is so important to our teaching. I think teachings get out there, and Eckhart Tolle was one of the teachers that I studied with and I went on retreats with, and I love him, but somehow in the way that he teaches, and some of the teachers teach, it’s as if ego is just these kind of thoughts floating around in the mind, and if you can just kind of turn away from the thoughts floating around in the mind and see the awareness of the thoughts, see the space in which the thoughts arise, you’ll be free of ego.
Rick: It goes much deeper than that., huh?
T: Ego is grown into the body from the moment, probably, that we are even conceived, because we know that even in utero experiences have impact on what we become and how we are formed. So, a really traumatized ego, a really traumatized sense of self that gets wounded, that gets abused, that gets neglected through time, through time, that becomes conditioned in the body. And so too does a well-cared for, what they call “good enough” care, that becomes conditioned in the body. So, when we talk about embodiment, we’re talking about exactly what you’re saying here. Not only awakening to the state once or twice or many times over and over, but embodying that state by growing your body into the state of being.
Rick: Yeah. There has to be a transformation on the level of the cells, and on the level of the neurons, and the whole physiology. And there are sort of esoteric Eastern schools of thought which understand this in great detail, in their own terminology, with all the Nadis and the Shushumna and the Ida and the Pingala, and all this stuff that’s supposed to go on in the chakras, and all this stuff that’s supposed to go on in the physiology, both subtle and gross, in order for consciousness to be transformed and higher consciousness to be sustained. I’ll tell you, I mentioned that we used to go on these long courses. The way it would work is, we’d get there and start building up in the amount of meditation we’d do. Remember “Dear Prudence,” the song, how it went, “Look around, round, round?” It was called “Rounding,” and you’d meditate, you’d do asanas, you’d meditate, you’d do asanas, you’d build the amount, you did it until it was …
T: I’m just touching my heart right now, I’m just stamping my microphone, but it’s just touching my heart when you’re talking about this, something about you talking about your “Dear Prudence” and your early times.
Rick: Yeah, and so it would build up to the point where you’re doing it from morning till night, many hours. And if, for some reason, you had to leave abruptly in the middle of that, you came out like unmolded jello into the world, and all hell could break loose in your life. The Beatles left abruptly in the middle of their course, and George Harrison once said, “I don’t know what happened after India, everybody’s egos just went crazy.” And so, the way we left properly was a month or so before it was time to leave, you start diminishing the amount of meditation you’re doing. Even in the height of it, going into town to buy a toothbrush would be like, “Whoa!” Like you made the comparison to LSD or something, you just couldn’t handle the sensory input, because you were so wide open, there was so much stuff going on. And so there had to be this gradual shutting down of the openness and integration of the transformation that had been taking place. And then you go back home for six months or so, and just plunge into activity, and then go back and do it again. But always there had to be the counterbalance of the integration.
T: Yeah, so you’re titrating and pendulating. This is a good time to bring in how wise the new understanding of trauma is, and the understanding of trauma treatment is. We understand that we need cycles of regulation, we need to be kind to our physiology, we need to be kind to ourselves.
Rick: So anyway, here we have this eclectic, diverse world of modern spirituality, with all kinds of teachers teaching all kinds of things, all sorts of people, and they’re all arguing with each other on Facebook. So, it’s kind of a mishmash, but there’s something exciting happening. But I suppose what you’re doing, and what some other people are now starting to do, is to bring in a much-needed service or perspective to this whole process, so that people just don’t sort of waltz into it willy-nilly without proper preparation, without really knowing what they’re doing and end up nutcases. You’re trying to help people. Well, I don’t have words in your mouth, what are you doing?
T: Okay, well then I’ll go back to my own case. So, this awakening experience that I described …
Rick: The Gangaji experience.
T: The Gangaji experience. It opened worlds of experience that I could have never imagined. And you’ve been meditating for a long time, you know how weird things can get, so, I’m not going to go into all the details and all the gory parts of the awakening experience. But at some point, after that happened, I really remained in a state of bliss and gratitude and love and joy for quite a long time, even though I was having really, really peculiar experiences. And I think for at least six months I was just in this, right? And then off and on for the next two or three years, it was mostly that, and then there was some kind of titrating into reality. I wasn’t working, I was really driving around in my camper from retreat to retreat, which was a lovely time, but it came to a point where I needed to get back into the world. I needed to go back to work. And the first thing that I found was that I was exquisitely sensitive, so exquisitely sensitive, and it was traumatizing to come back into a world, and be working and be in loudness when I’d been in the wilderness a lot. The second thing I found is that nobody really cared what my experience had been in the world. There was no commercial value to the awakening that I had, all the different beautiful experiences of awakening. So, there was a sense of isolation in that. And then finally, because I had to interact with people who didn’t care or know about this, there was a sense that what I realized is that I kind of had to go back into my old structures in order to deal in the world, and my old structures were pretty dysfunctional. So, it was kind of a glaring …
Rick: Couldn’t you have somehow, having changed so much, couldn’t you have rebuilt slightly new structures that wouldn’t have been as dysfunctional as the old ones?
T: I think there was, and certainly there was a change, and I think with people that have awakened experiences, there are changes and there are things that gracefully fall away, and there are things that don’t fall away, and there are things that actually come back and revisit that seem to have fallen away. What I ultimately found out is I didn’t know who I was as a person. I didn’t know myself at all. I had very little introspective sense of myself.
Rick: Even after all that spiritual stuff?
T: Yeah, because basically what happened to me is the back doors opened, and I could go fly around in all the different dimensions of space and being and love and joy. I could just go fly around, but from the front forward, there had been no work done. Really, no work! Almost very little work, because everything was geared to being a lamp unto yourself. Now I think that’s the Buddha’s last teaching, right? “Be a lamp unto yourself,” which ultimately in one way is very true, but when you take that teaching, when you take the teaching of Nisargadatta, which I saw actually pop up on a screen tonight, that said, “Have the courage to never admit that you are anything other than the unbounded light of being.”
Rick: Kind of the way he did it. He said, “My teacher told me that, and I believed him, and I just kind of focused on that for three years.”
T: I followed Nisargadatta’s instruction in that, and what I found is that it made me a defensive person, because then I couldn’t admit to my personal flaws. I couldn’t admit to my personal… because then that seemed somehow to be disloyal to the truth of my being, which was so much more vast and big than all these little petty things. So here you have now a split, and this is I think what happens, particularly in non-duality, you get these split people. So, everybody around them can see, these people aren’t functioning at a high level. Maybe they’re barely functioning at all, but yet, from their subjective point of view, they’re enlightened, they’re awake, they’re done, they’re finished.
Rick: I’ve heard it said by some teachers, one in particular, that this path of discrimination and always remembering that you are not a person, or that you are the unboundedness, it’s actually not suited for the householder, it’s not suited for worlded life. It’s for the reclusive who can just engage in that contemplative, discriminative activity, without having to be very functional in any kind of worldly sense, and that if householders try to do it, it messes them up.
T: Well, that’s what happened to me. I was able to drive around this camp or go to retreat to retreat, live out in the woods, and then I had to come back in the world, and there was no development in that area. And some people maybe have these experiences and have a pretty well-developed structure, that they can go back into and gradually grow. If the structure really wasn’t that well-developed or was pathological, it really wasn’t my case, then there wasn’t anything to come back to and work on. So, all of a sudden, everything had been cut out from under me. And I want to actually make the point now that I think it would be really just great. You have spiritual teachers out there, and even the ones that are teaching, even the ones that tend to be teaching in ways that we’ve talked about, and we may not agree with, they’re very insightful. They see people, they see things about people. And it would be really helpful if some of the teachers that do the big satsangs, that have very little personal contact with people, since they can see people and have a feeling for where they’re at, maybe make some recommendations. Like maybe you could use some addiction help, or maybe you could use some cognitive therapy, or maybe qigong would be good for you.
Rick: Some of them probably do that, don’t they?
T: I’ve not seen it much.
Rick: I’ve heard Adya say, in some cases, maybe you need some therapy or you need some of that.
T: I think that’s a pretty new development. I think they’ve said it from time to time, back in the day, this was many years ago when they were first getting started, those teachers have changed over time too, Adya particularly. He’s deepened, and after watching his talk with Hamid Ali just a couple nights ago, that’s a person who’s profoundly grown, which goes to show that the person grows.
Rick: Which he actually acknowledged in the talk.
T: Of course.
Rick: In fact, it was interesting what he said, it’s worth quoting. He said, “Awakening is a relatively easy thing.” He said, “I know hundreds of people who have awakened, but that’s in a sense just the beginning.” He said, “Then for the rest of your life, you’re going to be integrating and refining,” or whatever other words he used.
T: Yeah, and in the same talk, I think Hamid talked about the need to clarify, so that you’re actually removing the inner obstacles, but also the need for development. And both, they’re both sides of one coin. And really think, as a human being, we know, it’s just common sense, there’s no end to our development. And even now we know from neuroscience that people are growing new brain tissue in their 90s. Neuroplasticity. Which points to an underlying basis of our consciousness, is that it’s incredibly resilient, it’s incredibly responsive, it’s incredibly impressionable.
Rick: Yeah, it’s actually a routine question that I ask, usually towards the end of every interview. It’s sort of like, “Well, where do you go from here? What do you see developing? Where’s the next horizon?” And a lot of people say they don’t know exactly, but most of them acknowledge that it still keeps unfolding, it’s an ever-deepening mystery. But a certain percentage of people, when I ask that question, they look at me like I’m speaking Croatian or something, and they say, “Well, what more could there possibly be? What could change? This could never change.”
T: So when you see that, what’s your sense of the person when they’re saying that? What’s your sense of what’s really going on there?
Rick: Interviews with people who say that kind of statement, when I ask that question, have always been a little frustrating and difficult for me, because I feel like I’m not connecting in some way, and I’m inclined to debate them or try to find some angle in which I could convince them that there’s more, but it’s not necessarily my place to do so, but it makes for an interesting conversation, and it’s usually not possible to do so. Anyway, I don’t make headway.
T: What’s your sense of where they’re at when they’re saying that?
Rick: Well, the people I have in mind are very clear and brilliant in a way. I can think of two or three or four of them right now, and very impressive, articulate, clear, kind of make an interesting impression, people kind of get a little bit wowed out by them. But I’ve always found it frustrating. Well, in terms of where they’re at, I sort of feel like they’re at a weigh station, thinking that they’re at the final destination, if there ever is one. And it’s funny because when I started doing this, I wasn’t really aware of what the whole non-dual world was about, or the whole spiritual scene in general. I’d pretty much been doing my own thing. And so, when I started interviewing people, I started encountering these things and having to learn about the different perspectives, and I found myself repeating over and over again, the Tibetan proverb which goes, “Don’t mistake understanding for awakening, don’t mistake awakening for liberation,” because I felt that a lot of people I was talking to had mesmerized themselves with an understanding and hadn’t even arrived at what I would consider to be awakening. And then there were others who had definitely arrived at some kind of experiential awakening, and were kind of feeling like, “This was it, what more could there be?” But I felt from what I know that there must be more. But I’m not some kind of guru or master or teacher, so I don’t really have the tools to say, “Okay, here’s what you need to do next.”
T: Yeah, well that’s interesting because I think one of the capacities that I’ve always had, and I think I can even see it having come in from my childhood, was the capacity to see into people in a certain way, to see their structures in a certain way, and their holdings in a certain way. And before I was able to develop that capacity, it was very difficult for me, and I ended up just judging people a lot. But when I was able to work through the judgment of people and start to come to … I think it’s really important to bring in the heart awakening. When my heart began to awaken, not only awaken in … this is extremely important, not only awaken in a non-personal, vast sense of heart opening, where you know that everything is composed of love, you feel the light of love resonating in everything, but in a very personal way, a very personal, compassionate love, that was able to see that each coping mechanism, each adaptation, as has been talked about by Gabor Maté, each adaptation and each defense mechanism was ultimately a deep desire of the organism to live, a deep and honorable thing for a human being, and a very intelligent thing for a human being to do. So, honoring the defenses. And as I came into honoring the defenses and I started to see them in people, I could actually … it’s like a kind of a reading of the body energy of people, but I could actually read their body by feeling it in my body.
Rick: Interesting. Unmani was saying that today when I interviewed her. She can kind of use her own body as a tuning fork or something, or an instrument to detect what’s going on in somebody else’s.
T: Yeah, another teacher was talking about that today, I believe. So … I’ll just take a moment and settle down a little bit. Just coming back to what’s important here. So, what’s important about that is that when I hear people saying, “There’s nobody here,” I see the defense in it. I see the defensiveness there. And I honor that. I honor, “Okay, that’s where you need to be. That’s where you need to be in this place.” And maybe it’s the only breath of fresh air they’ve really ever had in their lifetime. “Okay, so breathe there for a while.”
Rick: Yeah, it’s a resting place.
T: Yeah, sure.
Rick: I wonder if it’s a necessary resting place though, because it may just be that these ardent spiritual seekers, they really want to get going on this thing, and they start reading books and going to teachers, and that’s what they hear, and so that’s somehow where they arrive. But perhaps if they had encountered more skillful teachers, they wouldn’t have had to get to that particular waystation. They could have kept moving beyond it and stayed integrated the whole time.
T: Well, so that may be. Again, I think there’s a lot of different ways to see that and interpret that. But ultimately, there are now teachers that teach embodiment. And really, the reason I wanted to do this interview with you, what’s important to me about doing this interview, is to say that we are here. You have these awakenings. We want to validate and verify these awakenings, first of all, not just send you off to deal with them and figure them out. And we want to say, “Okay, we understand that. We understand where you’re at. We understand the sense that there’s just this empty vehicle, in which everything is just moving and occurring and happening, but let’s find out more about it. Let’s learn more about ourselves. Let’s discover more. Let’s continue the exploration. Let’s do it in a kind and supportive way in which you’re safe.”
Rick: So it almost sounds like you’re saying there could be two specialties. One is the waker-uppers and the other is the embodyers.
T: You know, frankly, it’s great that you say that, because in a way, there are already.
Rick: I think there could also be, and probably are, teachers who have both specialties under their hood.
T: There are. And if you do embodiment right, it’s a natural process of waking up. If you learn to come into contact …
Rick: All the way along the path. You don’t have to get totally disembodied and then re-embodied. You can kind of take it step by step and keep it balanced.
T: Yeah, so you wake up through the body.
Rick: So what do you do with people? I mean, here you are up in Humboldt County. Are you mainly working with people remotely over Skype and stuff?
T: I work with people over Skype. I work with people in the area. Humboldt County is an amazing place, and we’ve got a group of people that attend our workshops and our retreats, and then people that come and work with me. Christine also teaches yoga. Christine Fiorentino, my partner, is a co-founder of, as I said, of Being Real, Being Embodied. I should say my website now too. My website is actually beingrealnow.org.
Rick: And do a lot of people … are you just getting started with this? You’ve been doing this for a while.
T: We’ve been doing it for a few years up there. I actually started seeing private clients. I have a background in body work as well, so I started with a practice somewhere near 15 years ago, that I called “Whole Body Awakening.” So that was always my sense that there was something to this body aspect of the awakening. Even when I was more disassociated with the awakenings I was having, there was some sense of the need to bring it into and through the body. That was a resonant truth all the way through. And so, through that time I’ve worked with people individually, and yeah, now it’s been a few years we’ve been doing the groups. And what I see is, even in rarely talking about awakening or enlightenment, or even using the word “ego,” what I see is in teaching people to connect with themselves, in teaching people to contact with themselves, and in giving people a safe, supported place to open, people flower. People open up. But they don’t just flower by realizing the impersonal majesty of reality, which is really true. And I don’t want to give that short shrift, because the impersonal majesty of reality is profound, as you know. And even just like, again, when I say it, I can feel it vibrating in my feet. I can feel the pure life energy, the joy of that. But also, that they learn to be real human beings. They learn to be human beings in contact with other human beings. And I said this to you in the car, I was going to bring this up, I’m infatuated with the possibility of enlightened relationship. Like a real enlightened relationship. Wow!
Rick: You mean like romantic, or all kinds? Friendships, everything?
Rick: How about an enlightened society?
T: Yeah, good! So, let’s start here right now. What’s it like, we’re here together, right? So, what’s good about, what’s important, what’s real about us being here together now?
Rick: Well, we’re both very tired.
T: That is true, that is true. But let me just say, I sense a light in you. I sense something of your soul. I sense a sweetness of your soul. And I love the child, and I’ve watched you many times, I love the childlike curiosity and openness that you have.
Rick: Yeah, so as far as enlightened relationship is concerned, I remember there was a Steppenwolf song called “God Damn the Pusher,” and there was a line that said, “I’ve seen a lot of people walking around with tombstones in their eyes.” And, not referring to heroin, but there are a lot of people walking around in whom you don’t see that light that you’re referring to. I was one of those people.
T: Oh, you said you were one of those people?
Rick: Oh yeah, sure, back in the old days. Pretty cloudy, pretty muddled, pretty mixed up. And relationship, since you brought up that topic, was a total mess, in terms of actually … I think the reason is that I didn’t know who the heck I was, or what I was, and so how can someone who is completely unaware of what they are, interact meaningfully with others who are in the same condition? Both are in a kind of a clouded, occluded state. And the whole world, in large part. We don’t mean to be holier than thou here, but by definition, if we read spiritual books and all, ignorance, as it’s usually referred to, or lack of enlightenment, is the common condition of humanity. And it does take a great stretch of the imagination to see why that is so, if you look at what we’ve been doing to each other all these centuries and millennia and are still doing today. And it’s always my hope that a more enlightened society would be one free of war, and free of environmental destruction, and all the other yucky stuff that happens in our world. And I think that’s entirely possible. If it can be achieved on a one-to-one level, there’s no reason why it can’t be achieved on a national level, or an international level, and so on, if enough. It’s like the old analogy, if you want to see a green forest, you have to make each individual tree healthy. You can’t spray-paint the forest with green, or any other such thing. Each tree has to be nourished from its roots and become a green, healthy tree, and then the entire forest will be green. Until that happens, the forest is going to be all gray and withered. Get the analogy, right?
T: Yeah, I do. So, how do we do that?
Rick: Well, I think it’s kind of happening. I was talking to Mirabai Starr’s mother last night, and she was saying that she’s almost 80 years old, and she still travels all over the place, full of life. And she was down in Mexico recently, living in Mexico, and she said there are all these little pockets of spiritual clusters of people forming, organically, naturally, spontaneously forming. And I said, “Do you mean like, Americans coming down to hang out in Mexico and be spiritual?” She said, “No, no, just the local people. There’s something waking up in the society there.” And I bet you you’d find that all over the world. I think you do find that all over the world. I see it with this show, and the people who are watching it all over the world, and the people they interact with, and so on.
T: Yeah, you have a map, don’t you?
Rick: Yeah, I do. I have a map on the website. You can see all the little red dots.
T: Yeah, that’s very cool. So, you see it happening, but even as we’re here now, is there a way that we could just, you and I, here right now, is there something, a way that we can tap into it?
Rick: We’re having this conversation and we’re recording it, and we’re putting it out there. It’s making a contribution to this awakening.
T: But even as we’re talking now, I think there’s even opportunity to realize deeper contact with ourselves, to realize, “Wow, what is it really going on here that we’re talking? What’s really the meaning of our two beings sitting here, our parent two beings sitting here?”
Rick: Well, I’m not entirely sure what you’re getting at. What are you getting at?
T: Let’s see.
Rick: What is the meaning of it? Is there some esoteric meaning we’re looking for? We’re having this conversation about a topic that’s germane and important in our own lives and in the lives of the types of people who tend to watch this show. And our hope is that if people have gotten into trouble on the spiritual path or have found their life becoming somewhat dysfunctional as a result of spirituality, whereas they had hoped it would improve, then maybe something is missing. And so it could be that something can be offered to remedy the situation, which is what you’re doing with this thing.
T: I didn’t mean to put you on the spot, by the way. What I’m curious about is, are we connected in the most real way that we can be right now? I mean, just as an open question, not with any judgment or anything. I know, there is that. We’re both quite tired, but just seeing that, are we connected in the most real way that we can be connected? And I mean that as a prayer, because I want to keep it particular to us, but also, I want to say that, can we live with a kind of a prayer like that? When we walk, whether the person has tombstones in their eyes, or whether the person is a lovely, inquisitive, curious, can we walk with that question? Are we connected in the truest way right now that we can be connected?
Rick: Yeah. Well, I sort of feel like when we’re actually in the world interacting, certainly, there are things you can do to be a better person on the fly, as you go, but it’s almost like there also should be preparatory time, some sort of deep diving into silence and tapping the source of life.
T: So, you feel like you need to have touched that in yourself first.
Rick: That’s been my way of going about it. Let’s say you never took showers, and then you’re out among people, and you think, “Am I being as clean as I can be right now?” Well, it’s too late to think about it, you should have taken a shower in the morning, and then you would be cleaner, and you wouldn’t have to think about it throughout the day. There would be a natural state of greater cleanliness.
T: So, I guess this would be where I start to come into the kind of point of consciousness that is conscience, that isn’t thought-orientated, it’s heart-driven, that where questions from the mind come into the heart and become a way that we live our lives, with these kind of open questions about, not like, “How can I become a better person?” or “How can I save the planet?” or even “How can I make a more enlightened society?” but just with this kind of sweetness of heart that just looks to another person, and has an inherent question in it of, “How can I know the truth of this person?” The same way that we need to look at ourselves, “How can I know the truth of this person?” And so I put my hands – I’m careful with the microphone – but how can I know the truth of this person?
Rick: Well, how do you answer that question for yourself?
T: The practice of – and I actually do put my hands, and I teach people to put their hands on themselves – as a start, the practice of coming into deeper contact with our embodied experience. And there’s a whole array of things that we can do with that, but this process of coming into deeper contact and deeper contact, essentially brings the body into a sense of knowing itself as being.
Rick: And so is this something you do throughout the day as you go along, tuning in, being in deeper contact with yourself?
T: I would say so, yeah. And so, you could say that that’s a practice. And I would say it’s a practice that’s not seeking, it’s a practice that’s a flow of love, it’s a practice that’s an outflowing of the love, of knowing that our being is truth, of knowing that our being is love and wanting every bit of our being to be an expression of that love.
Rick: You were at the other end of the table tonight, but someone at dinner to my left was saying something along these lines, that there’s a constant discrimination that functions to keep things in balance, in check. There’s all these energies and levels and dimensions to our being, and there’s a sort of discriminative faculty that keeps them holistically coordinated in her experience. Sort of a self-referral, self-reflective quality, which, if you think about it, is very germane to the question you raised. People who commit all kinds of nasty crimes aren’t being terribly self-reflective or self-referral. Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do. They’re just blindly plunging into this, that, or the other.
T: Trying to get a need met.
Rick: Without a whole lot of discernment or reflection.
T: Trying to get a need met. So, when you see somebody, obviously if they’re trying to kill you, get the hell out of there, right? But when you see somebody and they’re doing something unskillful or they’re doing something unconscious, we can move from, “Oh, geez, they’re a bad person,” or “they’re unskillful,” or whatever, into, “Oh, well, look at that person’s trying to get a need met in doing what they’re doing.” But coming back to what you said, and I would have liked to hear that discussion at the end of the table, we have multitudes of capacities. The capacity that you’re talking about sounds like an integrative capacity, a capacity that integrates all kinds of different levels and capacities. Yeah, it integrates and regulates and coordinates.
Rick: So we’ve just been talking about two ways of going about it, and I don’t think the two of them each is exclusive, which is having some time to dive deep, and also having done that, as going throughout your day with a greater sense of sensitivity and discernment and reflection, self-referral, and so on.
T: Which is kind of a heart process again.
Rick: Yeah, which can be a conscious, intentional thing, as opposed to just a quality that you naturally are endowed with.
T: Yeah, and like driving a car, playing an instrument, that becomes an embedded process within you, so that feeling deeply doesn’t take practicing it, it comes naturally, it just becomes a way of being. So, the state becomes the station. Well, we’ve got a few minutes.
Rick: You’ve got some points on here?
T: I do have some points. I’m feeling pretty satisfied without having to try to run through a bunch of points.
Rick: There’s one thing that I brought up in the panel discussion the other night that you said you might want to talk about, and there was a term for it that I forget, but it was sort of like a guru on the pedestal syndrome. “This person, they seem so high and mighty, they must be perfect, everything they do, every word they speak must be true, every action, even though it seems weird and crazy, there must be some kind of cosmic purpose for it,” that kind of thing. What was that term you used?
T: Well, I’ll use that as a little vehicle to get back to my own journey, because I did seek different help for what I was going through and found some that was helpful, but ultimately found my way into the Diamond Approach. And there I’ve been for many years, and one term that the Diamond Approach uses is the “idealizing transference.”
Rick: “Idealizing transference.” So, you idealize the teacher, and what do you transfer?
T: You’re transferring all of the inner qualities of your being, or certain inner qualities of your being, but particularly the grand and beautiful dimensions and qualities of your being, onto this teacher. And in common sense parlance, it’s called “giving away your power,” but in this sense, it’s giving away your being. It’s giving away the greatness of your being.
Rick: So how would you contrast that with a healthy respect, and even reverence, and a devotional relationship with a teacher who is deserving of reverence?
T: The way that I see it, I would contrast it by saying that the individual has a really impeccably clear sense of who they are, and meaning who they are in not only the person’s sense, but in the sense of their being. So that, like for instance, when you go to see Amaji, I go to see Amaji sometimes, when we see somebody like that, we marvel. It’s beautiful. Kind of bow. And I’m not going to become a hugging saint, I’m guessing you won’t, right? Traveling around the world hugging thousands or millions of people. We recognize that as our own being, in a sense, doing that. We recognize that as a celebration of our own being, that’s not separate from us or above us. And that comes back to the point, my very earliest realization with Gangaji there, who can be quite idealized, right? My first realization sitting there with her looking into her eyes is total equality, total equality of being. So maybe there’s something about realizing the total equality of being. Even beings that do great things, there’s a total equality of being.
Rick: I get that with Amma. I mean, I’m this close to her, about to be hugged or just having been hugged or whatever, and I’m looking in her eyes, and there’s just this kind of oneness, natural.
T: Natural, yes.
Rick: Natural, I’m not in awe or anything, it’s just the most natural, intimate kind of situation you can imagine. And it doesn’t mean I have her capacity for radiating Divine energy or all that other stuff she does.
T: You’re evoking in me again, I’m feeling it as you’re talking about it.
Rick: But I could start whispering in your ear. But there’s that sort of recognition on the level of being that we’re one and the same.
T: Okay, beautiful.
Rick: And she says that from her side, when she comes out on the stage, and the Gita says it, “You see the Self in all beings, and all beings in the Self,” because the Self is all-inclusive totality and contains everything. So, with that as one’s perspective, then one will be probably less inclined to see a guru as some kind of high and mighty being that’s impeccable, to discard one’s judgment and common sense in some cases.
T: They won’t attribute, they’re projecting their own grandiosity as well.
T: So it’s a stage actually, the understanding is that it’s a stage that people go through in certain situations, and that it’s not a bad thing or anything like that.
Rick: Yeah, it’s a stage.
T: But what you’re talking about, that’s a certain realization, the total equality of being right there is a certain realization. And until that realization comes, when you get into a relationship like that, essentially what’s happening is you’re dealing with somebody who is, even called the mother, you’re dealing with somebody who is an idealized perfect parent, and you are a little child. And the devotees call themselves the children.
Rick: Yeah, she calls them the children, “my children,” “my daughter,” “daughter,” “son,” “son.”
T: And it’s lovely in a sense, but I would say that what we need is also mature, adult, embodied being, as human beings walk on the planet. Not necessarily children who are abdicating something to what the guru says. And this is a more Western way.
Rick: It is a stage.
T: But a lot of people stay in that stage, just as a lot of people stay in certain stages of non-duality.
Rick: She tries to, since we’re talking about Amma, she tries to dispel some of that, I think, by going out and digging ditches and picking up garbage and carrying bricks on her head and stuff like that.
T: Yeah, it seems pretty balanced.
Rick: After 18 hours of hugging people, really, literally, she has 18 hours in Calcutta, non-stop hugging, then the next 3-4 hours out cleaning garbage off the streets. That has happened on a number of occasions, so maybe we’re getting off on a tangent. But I think some gurus are more inclined than others to try to level the playing field, and make others realize that they too are just a person and don’t need to own 94 Rolls Royces.
T: And I don’t mean to, I’m not speaking disparagingly of Amma’s devotees in any way, so, I just want to say that. But again, what I want to say is that we need really mature human beings. We deeply need mature human beings who are willing to stand on their own responsibility, the responsibility of their beingness.
Rick: Yeah. Well, there are so many different kinds of teachers and teachings and practices, and that’s one particular scene, which is not for everybody. No one scene is for everybody, and people are naturally going to gravitate toward what fits for them, and go through different stages and phases and whatnot. So, it all sorts itself out, but it is helpful that the more … Over the past 4 years since I’ve been coming to this conference, it seems to me that there has been a real upsurge in interest in what we’re talking about here, embodiment, integration, and also more universal recognition that we’re all bozos on this bus, and that there’s an infinite range of possibility for further growth and maturation. Teachers who didn’t used to say that are now saying it very explicitly, so maybe they’ve learned it through their own experience.
T: Yeah, and even like Adya, like you said.
Rick: Like them saying it last night, Adya and Anid.
T: I felt a little sad now, because I felt like I didn’t want to say something about Amma or her devotees, because I have a lot of respect and reverence for her.
Rick: It’s also a devotional scene, and devotion has its own flavor and its own appropriate structures. There does need to be some duality for devotion to take place.
T: I think what we’re seeing, though, is… I went to see Ram Dass when I was 8 years old with my dad, and a lot of the Indian religions were coming over here whole cloth. And now what I think we’re seeing is that we’re taking what’s of value from them, taking the transmission of value from them and owning them in our Western cultures.
Rick: Yeah, my conversation with Mirabai last night, Mirabai Devi, no, not Mirabai, Mirabai Star, I was getting my Mirabai ‘s mixed up. She was saying that she felt like the time is coming when religion will pretty much be a thing of the past, but we won’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, but there will be a paring down or a shucking of unnecessary husks and junk that has accreted onto the structures of religion over time, and what will be left will be the essential, useful stuff. And that perhaps she sees a global interspirituality taking place in which people will appreciate it. She has all of these different traditions, get the best of them, but not be restricted to anyone. I guess I’m really going off on a tangent with this point, but it was triggered by what you just said.
T: The truth of the matter too is we’re both really tired.
Rick: We’re both exhausted, we’re doing this all night.
T: Yeah, we’re running out of tunes in this. If the truth for somebody is that it’s time to come back into the person, if the truth for somebody is that I know there’s more development here, I know there’s more growth here, that’s what we’re doing here as embodiment workers. And if the truth is, I’ve had a lot of amazing awakening experiences and I know they need to be integrated, that’s what we’re doing.
Rick: By “you” you mean you guys?
T: I mean us, and I think the people that I’ve met that are truly working in embodiment.
Rick: Cool. Well, the camera’s almost out of memory, so let’s make some wrap-up points and conclude it. What do you think?
T: Sure, let’s make wrap-up points. Can we just make a map out of thin air?
Rick: Yeah, sure. So, we’ve rambled a bit and we’re admittedly a little tired, but this is a topic that we feel is important and wanted to discuss, and I’m sure there’ll be other such discussions as time goes on. But sort of takeaway points that people can take with them now, practical conclusions that they can remember at the end of this interview and do something with.
T: Okay, yeah, let’s do some practical stuff. Practically, get into your body, do whatever it takes to get into your body. The very simple practical points are: get your diet in line. Find out if you’ve got a little baby that’s always wanting to stand in the refrigerator, and gobble up little sweet things. Find out what’s going on. Find out what’s truth about that. Don’t beat yourself up about that or ridicule yourself. Get your diet in line. Understand your animal drives. Understand your animal impulses. Start to understand what this animal needs, as in the Mary Oliver line, “You don’t have to be good. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” So, let’s love the animal of our body. Let’s come back into, let’s throw off the strictures of self-mortification, and let’s come back into loving the body. Not in a 60’s, necessarily free love way.
Rick: It might also be noted that animals run around and get a lot of exercise. They don’t sit in front of computers.
T: They get some exercise, that’s right. They get some exercise. And we have a lot of different ways to get exercise, and there’s a lot of lovely martial movements and tai chi, qi gong, and so forth. Work on your relationships. Work on your relationships from your heart. Get help. Ask people for help. And when you ask people for help, find people that you trust and feel good about. Feel safe. When you go see somebody, check out if you feel safe. If you feel safe, and you’re with that person, go forward. If you don’t, if red flags come up for you, if you’re being asked to do things, or if you’re being asked to abdicate your power in a way that feels uncomfortable, get out of there. Just get out. Make a heartfelt commitment to your love of truth. Love the truth of being more than anything else. So instead of trying to annihilate everything that stands in the way of your loving the truth of being, just love the truth of being more than anything else. And I think that essentially, I could probably come up with a lot more bullet points.
Rick: That’s a good one, because that one subsumes a lot of stuff. “Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all else shall be added unto thee,” “Principle the highest first,” if you love the truth of being more than anything else, all the other stuff kind of falls into line.
T: It does, and it means that you’re willing to face whatever difficulty. People talk a lot in these embodiment traditions about allowing, allowing everything to be here. It means that you’re willing to face whatever is needed to be faced. Whatever is difficult in yourself or in your life situation, it means you’re willing to take the steps that you need to take in your life, however difficult that may be. Yeah.
Rick: Yeah. Okay, let’s leave them wanting more, as P.T. Barnum said.
Rick: So, I’ll conclude. Thanks for listening to this, two tired old fogies rambling on about things that interest them. Probably people who are watching this, 99% of them will have watched other things on batgap.com and they’ll know what it is and what to do and all that stuff. But just in case there’s some newbies, I just want to explain that this discussion, is part of an ongoing series of interviews, of which there are already over 250, and they’re all archived at batgap.com, B-A-T-G-A-P. They’re also on YouTube, of course, and you can subscribe on YouTube. YouTube will notify you when new ones get posted. But if you come to Batgap, then you’ll find more things, such as a place to sign up to be notified by email, a link to an audio podcast, various types of indexes or indices of past interviews, donate button, discussion forum, a bunch of things there. And as time allows, we have all kinds of interesting plans for making the site an even more exciting resource for people. For instance, I have this idea for a page which would be sortable by the user, whereby they could see what’s happening in London and immediately get a list of all the teachers, and events that are happening in London, chronologically sorted. Or they could say, “What is Adyashanti up to?” and automatically get a list of all his events. So, you could sort it by different criteria like that. That’s just one idea. There’s no end to ideas, it’s just a matter of time. It’s an ongoing project and I hope you’ll continue to participate.
T: Thanks Rick.
Rick: Thanks T.
T: I really appreciate you.
Rick: I appreciate you too. It’s been a lot of fun doing this.
T: Give me a hug.