Tom Kurzka Transcript

Tom Kurzka Interview

Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews. Not interviews—conversations. We’ve changed it because that’s what they are – with spiritually awakening people. I’ve done over 500 of them now, and if this is new to you and you’d like to check out previous ones, please go to, B-A-T-G-A-P, and look under the past interviews menu where you’ll see them organized in several different ways. If you appreciate this show and feel like supporting it, we appreciate that. That’s what makes it possible for us to do this. There’s a PayPal button on every page of the site and also a page which explains other ways of supporting it other than PayPal. So my guest today is Tom Kurzka. That’s the right pronunciation, isn’t it, Tom?

Tom: Yeah, you’ve got it right, Kurska.

Rick: Kurska, good. And Tom lives out in Eugene, Oregon, and has an interesting story which we’ll be getting into. I’ll just read a little bit of his bio that he sent me. “Over his lifetime, Tom has dived deeply into inner work while simultaneously living a householder life. Through an ongoing revelation of living in the moment, he integrates the insights of the most sophisticated Western-developed psychologies with the ongoing intuitive consciousness with which he has been blessed since the year wisdom to guide those dedicated and willing to go courageously inward, often finding and releasing blocks to spiritual awakening which originated in earliest often pre-verbal childhood. After being asked to teach—” Who asked you to teach, Tom?

Tom: Several. Joel Morwood in 2000. And then a subsequent— oh, some people here cornered me one day and had me teach after I had left the center. And then another teacher I worked with on the childhood issues, David Waldman, suggested I teach. So they keep cornering me, Rick. I can’t help myself. I’ve never myself gone after it. It just comes to me.

Rick: They say, “We have ways of making you teach.”

Tom: Yeah, that’s it.

Rick: So anyway, Joel Morwood has been on BatGap. People want to look him up. Probably Tom will be talking about him during the interview. But after having been asked to teach, “Tom has been sharing this work for over 19 years. His sessions give attendees a taste of what he exudes: a patient, tender love that is our true, interconnected nature. His focus on connection to the immediacy of felt sensation enables potent transformations to readily manifest. His work and presence is an acknowledgement that our beautiful, imperfect human condition is completely embraced by the wide openness of life itself, even when the most uncomfortable aspects of ourselves appear.” Do you do any teaching remotely, like over Skype or webinars or anything? Is it all just local in the Eugene area?

Tom: No, I go over Skype. I have a group in Charlottesville, Virginia. I go out there twice a year, but monthly we meet over Skype. And then also I go on Open Circle on occasion out of Berkeley. And by the way, I want to plug Open Circle a little bit. They’re a great outfit. They have a lot of teachers that go online. They’ve been very, very supportive in this work.

Rick: Yeah, I’m friends with the people who are sort of like Kent Walsh and people in different areas of Open Circle, around the Bay area.

Tom: Yeah, they’re good people, so check them out.

Rick: Yeah, so they’re giving online things now as well as local in the Bay area?

Tom: Yeah, there’s always an online thing. Again, basically it’s format and a lot of conversation, interaction.

Rick: It’s like a Zoom call or something.

Tom: Like a Zoom, yeah. They use Zoom. So usually the sessions go two hours and Pamela Wilson, Jeannie Zandi is on there. Those are the two names I can think of.

Rick: Sure, okay, good. So just to finish up your bio here, “throughout your life you’ve worked in numerous jobs in multiple disciplines, from basic minimum wage to corporate executive, from grade schoolteacher to construction contractor, from graphic designer to writer. You’ve been married to your wife, Dawn, for almost 40 years, and you have a daughter.” Okay, so as I recall having read a more detailed bio on your website, you began to have inklings that there was something more to life from quite an early age. So maybe let’s start there and then see how it unfolds.

Tom: Mm-hmm. Okay, well, I’ll start with three things. Now the first one, as a little kid (maybe three, four, hard to say), I can recall sitting in my grandma’s sort of enclosed back porch and there was—the windows were behind me, and I would look into this blue tinted mirror which would reflect the trees and the sky behind me that are coming through the window, right? And I would, as a kid, just stare, I mean a three-year-old just staring like that, not getting busy, busy, busy.

Rick: So you’re actually looking at the window but seeing the reflection of the trees and stuff that were behind you.

Tom: Yeah, yeah. I’m looking at the mirror and seeing a reflection of the trees behind me in the mirror, and it has that blue tint. I don’t think that blue tint’s really relevant, but that’s what it is. And I would sit there just entranced by the trees waving in the space of the sky. And it wasn’t until 2000 when all of a sudden I had this shift in perspective that I realized what that little boy was looking at. The child, we don’t have the cognitive ability to go, “Oh, I am feeling myself as the space, as the trees, as they wave through the space.” That isn’t there. You’re just it, right? And so we forget that. But so I would, when that came back in 2000, went, “Oh my gosh,” because I was having the same experience then. It was like, “My gosh, I look at the trees and the clouds, and I can feel myself as those.” It’s like I feel myself as part of those. It’s like the separation is ended. And yet I can still be separate and be that separate one as it waves through the sky or whatever. So there was that, and then maybe at age seven or so, I would look in a mirror and, always looking at mirrors, right? So I’m looking at this mirror in the bathroom, and I would just start looking at it, and basically I wouldn’t know who I was anymore. It was like the thought came, “I don’t exist.” And for a minute, everything sort of shifted. My whole life wasn’t my life. It was like I was just here. And the third one that I remember, so that’s sort of like feeling the spacious sort of presence, the spacious quality. The third one was there was one time when—I was a pretty good kid. I didn’t really raise a lot of fuss, but for some reason this day my grandmother—my grandparents lived two doors down from my parents in Chicago. We lived in these two-story flats. And so my parents, they had us when they were pretty young, so they would shove us off on the grandparents so they could go party or something because all their friends were childless, right? And so we’re at Grandma’s house, and all I remember was I was being a brat. I’m sitting in a chair, and she’s putting on my shoes to put me outside. And every time she touched my leg to put my shoe on, it would hurt. And grandma at the time, she had some pain in her arms or in her body. I don’t know if it was arthritis kicking up or if she was sick or something. Every time she touched me, it would hurt me. And the response was I would kick because it hurt so bad. In other words, I was feeling her pain as my pain and my body, right? I was completely enmeshed in that. And then of course, she threw me outside. My father came in the backyard and picked me up and took me, flung me over his shoulders to take me home. It wasn’t like he was being mean, but I was being a bad kid. I wasn’t being nice to grandma. And I just remember hanging over his shoulders on the back just watching the ground. The point was I was reprimanded from really, really feeling everything at this visceral level, and so that shut down. And that’s a point we come in able to do that and because what parents do, the environment do, we start to shut down. It was like, no, it’s not okay to do that. What does a little kid do that that when they’re feeling the immense pain all around them? At some point, you learn to shut down. So those were early experiences that I had as a child. Something was, you know, what? No, knew it. I think most really young children do have these tastes more or less.

Rick: I think they do, and maybe even all of them at some point, but I think probably it gets overshadowed to varying degrees at varying points in their early lives. Some probably very quickly and heavily. Others maybe it takes a while longer and not so heavy. But kind of the people I talked to on this show, many of them have memories of early childhood unity consciousness and celestial perception where they’re seeing angels or something or all kinds of stuff. But then almost universally, it begins to be lost as they approach the age of eight or nine or ten or something, and they may or may not go through a wild teenage phase. And then usually in the late teens or so, they start to have this yearning to regain that, and they start working at it consciously.

Tom: Yeah. I think that’s the common human experience. We come in. We’re this wide open vessel, and then we forget, and then we have to remember again. See, we really never lost it. We just got covered over.

Rick: Yeah, and of course most people don’t ever get around to doing that, but I’m sort of speaking to a select subset with this show and types of people who actually maybe the experience was so profound or maybe the over-shadowment was a little bit less Intense. And so for one reason or another, the desire to regain it gets reignited. And they get on to some spiritual path and lo and behold eventually regain it.

Tom: Right. Yeah.

Rick: So in your case, as you’re saying, a lot of this stuff shut down when you were getting into, as you were growing up. At what point did you have the inclination to start seeking or reawaken it?

Tom: Well, I think the looking in the bathroom mirror with that “you don’t exist,” that one—unlike the looking at the clouds in the mirror or grandma—that one stayed with me. It was like all along, I still play the game of life, would do what a kid does, get in trouble, do good things, do good in school, whatever. That was always—I never forgot that one. It was like there was something in there that said, “Oh, there’s more to this. There’s something that I’m missing.” And I think it was around age Found kind of sort of academic books on Buddhism. I don’t know how I came across it and started reading some of that and went, “Oh.” Because I was brought up a Lutheran. And God was like the Big Daddy in the sky and, there was Jesus. But Jesus was like the Big Daddy in the sky. And all the Bible stories and everything. And I couldn’t relate this experience, this experience that when we’re talking about religion and God, it’s like, “Well, this feels like this is God.” And I couldn’t make the leap to go, “Well, what are these Christians talking about here? It’s just not computing with this immediate experience I’m having, right?” So, I ran across this Buddhism book, and it was like this, what they’re talking about, there’s no self, it’s nirvana. There’s just this now or whatever, and I don’t think the language was that Clear. And I thought, “Oh, oh, well this kind of relates to what is my experience, right?” So, it got me interested in the Eastern religions.

Rick: That’s cool, around the age of 12’ish.

Tom: Yeah.

Rick: That’s kind of impressive at that age.

Tom: Well, I was a bookish kind of guy, introverted.

Rick: When you say you never really forgot this sort of taste of “you don’t exist,” was it that you didn’t forget the memory of having had that experience, or was there always something in your experience that you could sort of reflect on and say, “Yeah, it’s still here”?

Tom: Well, it would happen off and on. So, it was there, but maybe more obscured. But the intellect would go, when it came up, it would remember. It would relive that experience. Or the experience would happen again in the mirror, and I’d go, “Well, let’s check out the mirror again.” And sure enough, “Oh, there it is, you don’t exist again.” It wasn’t like the thing I always focused on, but it was there in the background. It was deep set.

Rick: Yeah, you ever talk to friends about it when you were a kid?

Tom: No, I never talked to anybody about it because I couldn’t describe it myself. There wasn’t anyone there that could relate to that. I stayed quiet. Again, I was kind of a shy kid. When I started getting a little crazy, the teacher would— Every time I did something troublesome, I always got reprimanded. I always got set on the straight and narrow again, which is a good thing.

Rick: So then, as I recall your story, one of the next most significant milestones was you took LSD when you were a kid, or was there something before that that we should cover?

Tom: Well, there was one more piece I want to go over when I was maybe in first grade, which I think is relevant. Because I always like to decipher between feeling yourself as the space. So how I see it, it’s sort of like you’re driving down a road, and it’s foggy, but the fog is only up to the top of the hood of your car so you can see over the fog. So there’s two ways we can experience it. We can be more in the space and we can sort of override this visceral physical pain. And I was very good at that as a kid. The example I’m giving is I was in first grade and again I got in trouble. There was an outside drinking fountain during our lunch break, and I loaded my mouth up with water, and I spit it on this other kid, Jimmy. I don’t know why I did it. I thought it was funny. I wasn’t that kind of kid. Every so often this mischievousness would get in Me, and so I forgot about it. So I come back in after lunch, and Mrs. Sauve, the first grade teacher, she says, “You come with me” because the kid’s mother called her up and said, “Tom Kurska did this to my kid.” She takes me to the janitor’s closet, and she has the yardstick. And she starts beating my butt, first kind of gently. And my experience was it was almost like I was up in the ceiling, not exactly, but I was up in the ceiling. It was like I was just watching this, and all the brunt force is hitting me, and there’s the physical pain and the emotional pain that she’s reprimanding me. I was just like calm up there like, “Yeah, whatever.” And so she starts hitting me harder and harder. She wants to get me to cry, right? I don’t know that at the time, but then she gives up because she can’t get it. Here’s this six- year-old getting beat by a yardstick, and the kid’s just sort of sitting there, like taking it. Not denying it’s there, but it’s sort of like he’s overriding it. And so she stops hitting me because she realizes she can’t make me cry. And she says, “Well, when you go back in that classroom, I want to make sure that you come back in there and you cover your face and your eyes like this and you go down on the desk like you’re crying.”

Rick: It’s funny. She didn’t want the other kids to think that she wasn’t tough enough.

Tom: She wanted to make sure I was really punished and I whatever. And so I just wish as a kid— Today, a kid today would probably go in there and go like this and then sit down at the desk and start laughing or something.

Rick: These days, the teacher would be fired for doing that.

Tom: Yeah, that’s true. But anyway, I just wish I would have because why is she thinking—as a kid, you don’t understand these things. It’s like she wanted me to do that, but you listen.

Rick: Interesting.

Tom: So the point being is that where I was going, the next significant thing that I always like to differentiate between someone that can be spaciously present, but they’re not totally here as a human. They’re not totally feeling the whole thing. Just like with the grandma thing; I’m feeling her pain as my pain, felt sense-wise not just spaciously. So the next experience was, yeah, the LSD experience. So I had, we’ve already talked about, I’m still have this thing I don’t exist, right? That’s in the background. I’m interested in Eastern religion, and so I think I’m a summer of sophomore year in high school. I think I was 16. I started to hang around these guys that were doing drugs. Now some of these people in high school, I don’t know how they do it. I mean there would be guys, they were like tripping on LSD every other day. I have no idea how they pull that off. They must have some filters or something, or they’d be able to drive a car on the stuff. I don’t know how they do that.

Rick: I did that, but boy, it was powerful stuff. I couldn’t have done it every other day.

Tom: So I don’t know if it’s a tolerance or they just blocked because to me something like that opens you so wide. Your whole constructed world falls apart.

Rick: Yeah, you know one comment on that. A couple of months ago, I interviewed the guy who wrote How to Change Your Mind. What’s his name? Michael Pollan and Chris Bache, all about LSD. And both of those guys experimented with it or went about it in an extremely careful dedicated way and set up conditions such that they really went extremely inward with it as opposed to people who might do it and then go to a party or a dance or something like that. So I think perhaps what you’re alluding to is that when you did it, there was a deep sort of inwardness that would have precluded being able to drive a car or do normal things whereas these other guys perhaps they just weren’t that inward and they were able to just sort of carry on in the relative world because of that.

Tom: Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head there, something like that. And you’re either wired one way, or you’re wired the other way. And again, these folks that you’re talking about, they were intentionally going Inward, so it can like anything, everything has its place. So it was the second trip. The first trip was kind of nice and fun. The second trip was like I went to a place that was like “whoa.” It isn’t just about the hallucinations you’re seeing or the patterns in the wall or whatever. It was like “this is not something that I want to do again.” It scared the living crap out of me, and not literally, but I mean it was like “whoa.” And it took me— Well, no. I did to get down from that. So then it was about a week later. We were out in the park. It was at night. This is August. It’s summer, nice and warm. And so one of my friends, we smoked some weed together, and we laid down on the grass looking up at the stars, and I didn’t really feel that high, but I was. And so I’m looking up at the the stars, and all of a sudden everything disappeared, just like I just was really going to sleep. Consciously going to sleep. And all of a sudden, when I started to come to a little bit, all I was was the stars. I couldn’t separate myself. I couldn’t find my body. It was almost like I was totally asleep. I was conscious as these stars, everything was just enmeshed and merged. And I was probably liked that for quite some time, and then all of a sudden the mind structure came back and said, “What’s going on? This is not good. You’re totally losing yourself.” I tried to get up as I could sense of my body coming back. I tried to get myself to stand up. There was just this urge to stand up because I thought, “Well, this will center me.” And as I tried to push against the ground to stand up, it felt like the ground was like jelly. There wasn’t anything there, which made me panic. And I got up, started walking around. It was like, “Well, there’s nothing behind me. it’s just this moment.” And my whole world just fractured. My whole constructed world was seen through, and I’m going, “I don’t like this. This is more than I bargained for.” It’s a lot different than looking in the mirror going, “You don’t exist” for a moment. This was like there’s nothing here. There’s nothing here. I don’t know who I am. There’s nothing here. And in that experience, I went home and thought it would clear. And I just could never get my bearings again for the longest time.

Rick: And is time meaning days, weeks?

Tom: Days. So I couldn’t get to sleep at night. Every time I went into sleep, I’d go into these lucid dreams. And it was like “huhhhhh.” And there was no one to talk to about it. Nowadays, you go down the block and find your your non-dual teacher or something. We’re talking about what, 1970? The only thing I had was a Ram Dass Be Here Now book. I don’t think I saw that until a little later.

Rick: You think that if there had been someone to talk to about it that you could have just relaxed into it and not fought it and it would have been okay? You would have been able to sort of move through it? There’s this lady named Suzanne Segal. She’s not alive anymore, but she wrote a book called Collision with the Infinite. And she was in terror for 10 years when she had an awakening because she was fighting it the whole time. And then finally she relaxed, and it was fine. But it’s kind of mad—and I’ve heard that described also that people can have a genuine awakening to self-realization or cosmic consciousness or whatever. But without knowledge, it can be a terrifying experience. And they can misinterpret it and struggle against it and just make a big mess of what could otherwise be a real blessing.

Tom: Exactly. If someone had been there that understood the territory and said, “Oh, this is going on.” They would know. I do this with people when they’re freaking out. It’s like well just come here. Just come here. Be the felt sense here. Don’t follow the mind, reacting to it, trying to move away, making you crazy. Yeah. I couldn’t get to sleep at night, and that went on three days not being able to get to sleep. And then at some point I was, and I stayed in the house. I wasn’t seeing my friends so I was like isolated. At least I could have gone to one of my drug friends and maybe talked about it. Let me just probe you again here. You couldn’t get to sleep, and you mentioned that when you were trying to get to sleep, you would start having lucid dreams.

Tom: Yeah.

Rick: So again, it seems like maybe you could have gotten to sleep except you were afraid to because it was a relinquishment of control or something or surrender into something. You didn’t know what it was. That’s why you couldn’t sleep, right?

Tom: Well yeah. It was fear I would drop off. The thing with fear is you’re afraid of fear; it just escalates. Yeah, that is exactly what was going on was the fear was keeping me up. I couldn’t drop off to below the lucid dreaming to just drop. So eventually—I think it was the third day of this— I called up one of my friends, and I wanted to go over and you know just just to get out of the house because I’m hiding from my parents. My parents don’t know I’m doing drugs. I’m being bad, right? And so I talked to him on the phone. He answers the phone, but then I was just— after three days and no sleep and all this going on not being able to get down—I hallucinated his voice, and it felt like something (not that you can feel inside your brain), but I could feel this “chooo” buzz through my brain. And I was almost like hit with a hammer, and I just felt, “Oh my gosh. I am going crazy. I am going crazy. I am going to totally go nuts. And so I ran and told my mom what was going on, which then got me eventually into the psychiatric place. And they gave me— I don’t know what they gave me. It was a nice drug. Maybe it was Ativan or something. I don’t know what they had back then, but it calmed me down. I do remember they took me in the ambulance. This is a big deal, right? So they wheel me into the hallway.

Rick: Your mom couldn’t just drive you down?

Tom: No, because I was I basically woke up. I finally did drop off to sleep that afternoon after I told her, and I think the doctor we took me to gave me a little bit of a downer so I was able to go to sleep. But then all of a sudden, I came to. And I knew who I was, but I couldn’t find my mother or my body. And it was almost like I was in this tunnel, trying to get out. And again, this fear is escalating. I remember grabbing onto her, trying to get get back into this reality. And I think that just freaked her out, and so she called the ambulance. They put me on this stretcher in the ambulance. Yeah, it was dramatic, but what’s she to do? This is like new territory for her. She’s heard all these scare stories about drugs, and her son has done LSD and whatever. So we’re in the hospital, and I don’t even think she came along in the ambulance. She just let me go. So they had me on a stretcher in the hallway, and I’m going— I mean I’m freaking out. I’m losing my mind. This paranoia is just going through, and none of the staff is doing anything about me. They’re just doing about their business, and I’m laying down on the table like “I’m really losing it. I’m really losing it. Why aren’t they coming to help me?” And finally after about like a half hour of this, I finally stood up. They said, “Oh, you finally decided to stand up on the table.” I was looking around. They’re not making a big deal about this, and I’m looking around. “Am I making a big deal about this? What’s going on?” So anyway, they gave me a drug and I slept that night. And then I was on Valium for a while. But I kept having these—the same thing, “I’m disappearing.” I felt like there was a black hole constantly chasing me, even after I stabilized. So there was this again, the spiritual impulse. There was this curiosity: “What is going on here?” There was “I want to find out what this is.” and then there’d be this other broad “no, no, no, no, don’t go there, don’t go there!” And so that was my life from then on until I was age what? 40, 45, I think, in 2000. Something like that, yeah.

Rick: So for like 25 years or something, you were kind of like on a seesaw between wanting to know what this was but then afraid of it and backing off. You’re just sort of in this limbo state all those years.

Tom: Yeah, so I read more books. I did transcendental meditation. Do you know Bruce Randall, by the way? He was the guy that turned me on to transcendental meditation. Doesn’t ring a bell?

Rick: It doesn’t come to mind. I might have met him. I was a TM teacher for a long time, and I was on the East Coast mostly but don’t remember Bruce.

Tom: Well, he would have been at the university there in Fairfield for a bit. I did visit him there one summer.

Rick: There was a Dave Randall here who died a few years ago, but I don’t remember—

Tom: Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I’m just curious on that since you’re in Fairfield, Iowa. I thought about Bruce. So anyway, I did transcendental meditation, and that was kind of nice. It sort of settled me, but the problem I had with that was I’d get very spaced out with it. I would really get lost in the thought to where I was kind of sort of not really here in my body.

Rick: You mean during the practice or afterwards?

Tom: During the practice. And I would, I was sort of

Rick: During the practice, you’re not supposed to be necessarily functional in activity because you’re withdrawing the senses from their objects and going right within. So that’s not really a problem, but some people get spacey even afterwards because they don’t stabilize it or integrate it enough. Maybe they don’t engage in dynamic activity as much as they should.

Tom: Well, for me, it was like the meditation was— I couldn’t stay on the mantra. I just didn’t stay very—

Rick: You’re not supposed to. You’re not supposed to.

Tom: Well anyway, I learned that later actually. Back at that point now yeah But back then, you know what I was told later when I went through a psychic awareness class, she says, “You know, you’re not your body. You’re spacing out too much.” And so it was more active kind of meditation, but then later I often was into self-realization fellowship. I took Kriya yoga. I did Kriya for many years. Yeah, a hardcore meditator, you could say. But so there was that going on, but if you talk to my wife—once we get on this conversation, there’d be times that we’d be driving in the car (one time, in fact lots of times). The motion in an airplane or driving a car would bring this black hole experience on, and she always talks about one time we were driving back from eastern Oregon and I was just having a big time in the car. I couldn’t find the car. I couldn’t find my body. And I was like flailing around in the car looking for something to grab on to, and she’s the same. I just always felt like everything was going to disappear and explode, like there is nothing really here.

Rick: I don’t see that as Pathological. I mean something like that could be, but I have a feeling like you had one foot in the transcendent to the extent that— and it wasn’t integrated well with your relative experience such that things could sort of shift you into that state and then you had trouble functioning in the relative. Obviously, eventually (and probably you’re there now) you have to integrate it so that you can be as deep and profound as anyone can be and yet you can drive the car and pay your taxes and do all the concrete mundane stuff that needs to be done. So it’s a matter of integration.

Tom: Yeah Well that was the process. so that was my life until Dawn (my wife) dragged me to the Center of Sacred Sciences one day. She had been going there for a year, and my part that didn’t want anything to do with that was “I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to do this. I know where this is going to take me, right?” But yet the curious part says, “Yeah, but why not?” So anyway. Actually Joel—Joel’s a good guy. He was the first guy that said, “Oh you know you have fear. Fear is just fear, right?”

Rick: So you’re referring to Joel Morwood, who’s been on BatGap, if people want to look that up. And there’s a link to the Center for Sacred Sciences there on his page. Go ahead.

Tom: Yeah. He’s very knowledgeable.

Rick: He is. I remember that about him. In fact, I think when I interviewed him, he had a huge bookshelf behind him when I was talking to him. There was like all this stuff.

Tom: Yeah. His niche is seeing that all this stuff you can find that every mystical tradition or every religious tradition has this mystical element to it. So what was beautiful about him was that when I would talk to the monks and self realization fellowship about this that you know they said, “Well, you’re supposed to feel bliss. You’re supposed to feel joy.” Well, I do get some joy—don’t get me wrong. But it’s like when really, really I start booking on meditation, it turns into this. There’s nothing here, right? So anyway—

Rick: Essentially, those monks didn’t have that understanding in their toolkit because it is pretty universal. There are probably hundreds of interviews that I’ve conducted in which that kind of topic comes up about the sort of the more difficult aspects of the path and the dark night of the soul and all that kind of thing.

Tom: Well to be fair—

Rick: Maybe they just hadn’t gone through it themselves.

Tom: Well to be fair, there was only two I talked to. And the first guy, he wasn’t the high-class monk. And he was the one that says, “Oh, you should go to some therapy or something. You’ve got psychological problems. The second guy, Santoshananda, who is really a very beautiful being, he was helpful. He did get it. I don’t remember what he told me to do, if anything, But then we were at the convocation down at self-realization Fellowship, so it’s only like a day. And there’s a line to talk to these guys, and everyone wants the super-duper monks. And so you only get your five minutes, and that’s it. But anyway, so I don’t want to say they don’t—

Rick: One time a friend of mine was going through a real spacey phase like that, and he asked Maharishi what he should do, and Maharishi said, “Go get a job loading trucks.”

Tom: That helps sometimes.

Rick: Just something really gross and mundane and physical.

Tom: Well I remember I had one friend, he knew one guy, he totally had one of those, all of a sudden his head disappeared and he spread out all over, and the advice was “eat some meat.”

Rick: Yeah, they say that too. Smoke cigars, eat meat, whatever, something grounding. Although I would suggest there are ways of doing it that don’t pollute your nervous system. Not that meat necessarily pollutes it; I know plenty of beautiful people who eat meat. But there are ways of integrating and stabilizing, but there definitely is this thing about— and maybe not everyone can relate to this. But if you’re doing a lot of spiritual practice, a lot of meditation, you need to get grounded. You need to alternate it with something grounding. I play pickleball seven hours a week, which is a very intense physical sport. Not that I would be a space cadet if I didn’t, but it’s just it feels really right to have that intense activity.

Tom: Yeah, well I do building construction or gardening or something like that. It’s nice just to get your hands on something every once in a while if you’re here.

Rick: Yeah

Tom: Or walk. But so anyway at the the center under Joe Morwood at the Center for Sacred Sciences, he’s very big on practice. And so before I was— Other than the Buddhism books that I had read, I was following more of a Hindu tradition. Maharishi’s from India and

Rick: Sure.

Tom: Yogananda’s, yeah. The Buddhists have—they’re a little more scientific about it. You’re shaking your head.

Rick: Well, a Yogananda and Maharishi both emphasize science a lot. They really thought that it was important for all this stuff to be scientifically verified (both of them).

Tom: Right, they did. They did. I think in terms of the practice of something, (at least for me) there was a more of a concrete approach. I was doing— Actually, I got this from Pema Chodron, her book Start Where You Are. Basically to me, the first ten pages are the whole book of that thing, for me anyway.

Rick: So the kind of practice that Joel was advocating? More of a Buddhist practice?

Tom: Well, no. Joel has just a basic breath meditation. You just wander, you come back to the sensation of breath, you wander again, you’re not you, just that’s your anchor, right? You just come from this, yeah. So what I sort of morphed that into was—well, I think they call it Shamatha. To where I would just—that out breath. I would just do anything. When the out breath came, I was the out breath. And so I would get these bouts of fear: “Oh, the black hole is coming in. What’s going to happen?” And so every time that happened, I would out breathe into it and just sort of sigh—again, integrating the body. I’m coming here, right? Rather than going into mental land (“Oh, this is going to happen. This is going to happen.”) I mean once that thing, that little mind takes off, it can go places, right? And yes, a tricky little devil. And so, “Oh, a black hole. I can’t, I can’t feel my body. Where’s my body?” mind freak out, and then next out breath comes in. Ahhhhhh. It would be like this sigh, and I feel myself coming out of this mental thought-land place.

Rick: Wow, so each breath would be—there would be a wave of it.

Tom: Yeah.

Rick: Wave after wave after wave. That’s interesting. TJ; And so I’d start to feel, at first it would be this intense fear in the body, right? Breathe out into that fear. But what I learned was that intense fear, which is the mind’s worst enemy, it’s like a dog trying to run, right? I breathe out into that, and what I found if I just was in that raw felt sense of that fear energy, it was like it got me here, and there was like an okay-ness. It was like a relief. It was like “it’s not so bad.” I was like, “There’s nothing here, but that’s an idea, right? I’m here. Something is here. This intense fear is here.” And so I just did that. And again, The Center for Sacred Sciences always talking about “oh, you’re going to get your Gnostic awakening if you keep at this.” This little carrot, and in doing this practice after a while, it’s like I didn’t care about a Gnostic awakening. It was like what— it was just so rich, just to sink into here. There was no—

Rick: Sounds like the Gnostic awakening happened. The carrot got in your mouth.

Tom: You’re going to get this, and everyone, all the other fellow students are going, “Oh yeah, we got it. No, no, no, no, we’ve got to get this. We’re going to get this, but yeah, awakening.” Yeah, it’s like like you said, the Gnostic awakening was sort of like seeping through. It’s like no, it’s okay just to be here, and so it just got to be so nice. It was just like “no, I’m just here.” And it’s not to say that the black hole of fear wouldn’t come up, but there was a way of going “oh.” It’s like a welcoming of it, so to speak, rather than a running.

Rick: Do you have an explanation for what was causing this fear? Maybe now in retrospect?

Tom: Fear of annihilation. It’s a fear of losing my pseudo-constructed self, seeing that it’s a fake. It’s just a mental construct. Yeah, I mean that’s very scary. And basically it was that construct freaking out. It wasn’t the real me freaking out.

Rick: Yeah, I’m glad you said that because I don’t think it would have been an intellectual fear of annihilation. It’s more like a visceral fear based upon the fact that the ego structure is actually starting to dissolve. And when it does that, there’s a sort of gut reaction to resist dissolution because it wants to retain its identity. And I’ve seen this many times in in conversations with people, but it’s kind of like this threshold that has to be crossed, in which the ego just relaxes and dissolves. And there’s a fear that comes up as we approach that threshold, much like there’s a turbulence that arises if we’re flying a jet close to the speed of sound. And it gets really turbulent as you cross the sound barrier, and then it’s smooth.

Tom: Yeah. There’s that transition point, isn’t there?

Rick: Yeah.

Tom: Yeah, it’s that point in between that’s the real rough place. So that was going on, this just sort of sinking and just being present and this okay-ness with uncomfortable sensation or uncomfortable energy, you could say. And so we went on a five-day retreat at the Center that Joel and his firstborn (he used to call her his firstborn, the firstborn that he recognized as having the first Gnostic awakening under him.) They were co-teaching, and all I’m doing, I’m going there and the fear would come up, “oh I’m disappearing. I’m spreading out.” Still doing the same sort of practice, “okay breathe out. i’m here.” And there was one night on the retreat (I think the fourth day) where all of a sudden, I just felt so connected to everything. Everything was like I was in this Zone. Anything I touched or did was like doing itself, so to speak. And so i’m going, “Wow. Wow. I can’t believe this. I can’t believe this,” right? I mean the structure had been so closed down, and it’s like opening like “what’s going on? This is incredible.” And so I went to Joel that night, and I told him. I said, “Well Joel, I think I’m— I think I’m waking up. I think I’m getting enlightened. That’s what I think,” I said. And he just yells at me, “Who’s getting enlightened? Who’s getting enlightened because nobody gets it. It gets itself.” Right? It’s that old thing, right? He’s just like harping on me. He says, “I want you to go to the last night of the retreat.” Right? So the next day, maybe it was the fifth day, I can’t remember. It was the last night of the retreat, so the next morning, we’re leaving, right? So he says, “You, you, you go back to your room or go back in the meditation hall, and don’t you give up until you see that you’re enlightened.” Right

Rick: Hopefully if you’re eating dinner with Joel and you say “please pass the salt,” he doesn’t say, “Who wants the salt?”

Tom: No, he does give you the salt. Sometime I was co-teaching with him, and I’m leading them on “well you know, it’s all sensation. If you don’t follow the subject-object thing and you’re in the diner, like you hear the coffee part going, it’s just sound. It’s just sound, right?” And I’m leading them on this, and then Joel has to correct me. He says, “Well, it also means that the coffee’s ready.”

Rick: Yeah, exactly, which is true. We interpret the sound.

Tom: Right, right. So it’s both. it’s both.

Rick: Without which we couldn’t function.

Tom: Yeah. You can still have the thought of it, but you can also see that the thought is just another arising. And so anyways, so we go— what happened then?

Rick: so he sent you to the room. He said, “Go there, and—”

Tom: Yeah. And so all night long all of a sudden, I’ve lost this beautiful In-the-zone state. I’m like sitting there trying to get it back, and I can’t get it back, and I can’t get it back. And I just, “Oh, what am I going to do? What am I going to do? My time is almost up, and so I think it was that night (it’s like four in the morning). And I’m just lying there in my bed awake and just in this very peaceful place. I’m listening to the sounds of the birds as they’re chirping in the morning, and just like there’s no thought. I’m just— I just feel myself as the bird, but it’s just wonderful, right? It’s like, “Oh, something’s going on. Something’s going on. Stay with it, Tom. Stay with it.” And then all of a sudden out of the blue, the mind comes back in and thinks some dumb thought. And one of the things I’d been doing all along in the outbreath, when the mind would come back and then think, I would sort of give it compassion. It’s like, “Yeah, it’s okay. It’s okay.” There wouldn’t be—I was getting rid of this beat-up syndrome that we all have. It’s like, “What’s the matter with you? You’re a bad meditator. You know you should—” right? And so there’s this welcoming of that, and sometimes that repetitive practice, you think, “Oh, why should I just say ‘you too’? What’s the point of that?” Something builds behind the scenes, and so I’m sitting there, and all of a sudden the mind comes in. It’s a very peaceful open place, and the mind comes back in, which it always does. What are you going to do about it? And all of a sudden, the little voice says, “What’s the matter with you? You are almost there. You should have had it, man.” But then the “oh, you’re okay too” came in, and this again is like a mystery. You can’t— When it opens like this, you can’t—it’s like the mind doesn’t get this. The mind— You can set the table per se, but you can’t make it happen. Something all of a sudden, this “aha,” very, very deep felt (don’t even know where it was) saw that the thought of the mind was exactly the same as the sound of the birds. There was absolutely no difference. The whole thing was equal.

Rick: Yeah, just another sensory experience, right?

Tom: We can talk about that intellectually, but when it’s grok the way it was grokked, it was like all of a sudden, everything spread out because “Well, I have these special thoughts,” right? “Wait a minute, wait a minute. They’re like a bird all over the place.” And so it was like something really fractured at that point, something so fractured. And then of course at the morning Breakfast, Joel was saying, “Hey, you haven’t seen it yet. You’d better get busy and go for it.”

Rick: Sounds like he’s a bit of a task master

Tom: Oh, he’s a teddy bear mostly, but he even told me later, “I’m sorry I was so harsh on you.” But he needed to be. It was part of the game, really.

Rick: Yeah.

Tom: And I could see it as part of the play. It didn’t really feel that harsh to me. It was sort of like when teachers do that and they’re doing that in a compassionate way, not in a vindictive way. It was breaking something down in the mind. The mind says, “I’ve got to do it. I’ve got to do it.” And it’s like breaking that down, “I can’t do it. I can’t do it.”

Rick: Yeah, kind of like a football coach saying, “Come on, you guys. Keep pushing, you guys.” Right? sometimes you need a little bit of a coach like that. There’s a few thoughts what you’ve been saying have come brought to mind. One is that I think that what you were undergoing was not just a mental or psychological transformation. It’s a physiological transformation.

Tom: Absolutely.

Rick: Both the gross and the subtle physiology have to undergo this shift to a new style of functioning in order for the consciousness or the awareness to be in a new style of functioning. And and that doesn’t happen on a dime. They talk about neuroplasticity— the brain’s ability to change its structure and function. But you know that doesn’t happen in an instant it takes time for the neurons and whatnot to reconfigure themselves, so it’s good to know that because if a person feels that it should happen Instantly, it’s a misunderstanding. And they’re just going to have to sort of let nature run its course to a certain extent.

Tom: Yeah, well that’s what I always tell people. It’s “don’t push the river.” There’s a wisdom to the unraveling; you let it do your unraveling. Because you’re right—everything is getting rewired on every single level, and that takes time. That’s when people will burn their circuits out if they just push and push and push. It’s like I had that too. There was times when something would really open prior to this meditation retreat. On one time, it was just sort of like again I felt this black hole like I couldn’t get out of it, and again it was the curious versus no. And finally the movement was “okay, go downstairs. Go on the internet and distract yourself.” And back then internet was really slow. We’re talking about Of course, the website’s what is complicated, but it was like it took a whole half hour until I could get back to my normal sense.

Rick: Yeah.

Tom: And so sometimes distracting yourself is really important. It’s like don’t push it—take a break. You know when you need a break, honor it. Don’t be a martyr here.

Rick: And sometimes you read about these stories of these yogis who were so extreme. They would sit in the snow all night and cut off their arm in order to impress the Zen master that they were serious and all this stuff. And I think it can instill a certain amount of overzealousness in seekers. On the other hand, don’t be lackadaisical and lazy about it. But there’s a certain balance to be found, and that balance is going to be different for different people. There’s a verse in the Gita which reads “because one can perform it (one’s own dharma), the lesser in merit is better than the dharma of another.” So we can’t all be the superman yogi who does this intense routine 24 hours a day and never sleeps and does nothing but meditate. The average person tries that, and like you said, he’s going to fry his circuits.

Tom: Right.

Rick: And it’s going to set himself back and not progress.

Tom: Well the other thing to keep in mind, everybody’s path to knowing who they are is slightly different. And just like every human delusion is slightly different, so one size never fits all.

Rick: Yeah.

Tom: And so to compare yourself to like a Ramana Maharishi, for instance. What happened with him? He writes he was fifteen years old, and he has this death experience, exploring what happens if I die. And all of a sudden, he is just like everything is “go to the mountain and just sit and let rats crawl and gnaw on my leg.” It’s sort of like Mozart. Mozart was at five years old—

Rick: Five-year-old prodigy.

Tom: Came in with something. So their wiring, where they were at, is very different. So we all think “yeah I’m going to have this little awakening, and then I’ll be like Ramana Maharishi.” No. Good luck with that. Maybe.

Rick: Yeah. No. It’s good advice, and one phrase you just said, “don’t compare yourself with others.” I think that’s very important. You can drive yourself crazy comparing yourself with others. Do what’s right for you. We each have a dharma. We each have a course of action that is most conducive to our evolution. And we do best to follow that. And that can mean raising a family or having a job or whatever circumstances seem most conducive to the life we’re living.

Tom: Yeah.

Rick: Okay, so the account you—I think you’ve just about wrapped up the account you were telling us. You were there on the retreat. You had stayed up all night. You’re down at breakfast, and Joel Moorhead is still yelling at you.

Tom: He’s going to get a bad rap, isn’t he?

Rick: I know. No, he’s a great guy. We’re just teasing him a bit here. But sounds like that was your watershed moment there.

Tom: Well actually, it went on. It was like we left the retreat, and to me one of the— there’s lots of watershed moments, but really that the most— the biggest one, let’s say, what Joel referred to as a Gnostic awakening. And after that to me, it went on. I went to another teacher, David Wellman, but that night coming back from the retreat, I went to sleep that night. And in the morning, it must have been like always early in the morning. There’s this thing again. Again, we talked about the transition between knowing you’re the structure and my world comes back versus “I’m this vastness.” That place where I just wake up, when we just wake up. That’s a transition. And that would always be like a very, very difficult thing for me because all of a sudden you’re just the primal soup, you know? There’s nobody looking. It’s you know you just did. There’s no one here, right? But that’s what it is right now. So when the world comes back in, to feel that coming back in and touching this human experience, this thing, it’s a shock. It’s a shock, and that used to generate fear during this time. “Oh, where’s my body? Where’s this? Where’s this whole thing going on?” So this time when I woke up, it was like rather than the fear came in, but then the response was “I’m so tired of this” and just relaxed. Tired can be very—exhaustion can be very useful. So there’s just this exhaustion. It’s like “I can’t keep doing this.” And it wasn’t so much a story. It was more like a visceral feeling. And so I got up and thought, “Well, what should I do now? Well, maybe I should meditate.” And the thought was “Nah, I’m so tired of meditating. I’ll just make myself a cup of tea.” And just like just— it’s everything is just sort of flowing, and there isn’t looking for anything. It doesn’t really matter. It’s not like I don’t care. I don’t, but it just everything just—“Ah, okay, here I am, right?” And I’m making the cup of tea, and I— Again, one of those just like the bird thing with this, the thoughts. You know something? All of a sudden, I was at the counter making the tea, I looked up across the room, and I think I blanked out for a moment, you know? Just something. Just blanked, and when I looked again, I was looking as a child. I knew myself as the room. I knew myself as the cloud. That’s when it came back because that’s what that kid was looking at. Everything was myself. Everything was myself. Not my ego self, but the ego self was just a reflection off it was just part of it, but I just looked around. It was like, “Wow, I was looking at this the whole time.” It was like a recognition of what was always there. It wasn’t some bells and whistle things (although I had bell-whistle quality). It was so ordinary. It was so ordinary that was extraordinary. And all of a sudden, I was just like— every little thing was so connected, and then later that morning, I’m just— I think I told Dawn what had happened. And our daughter had to go to the doctor, so I took her to the doctor. Here just it’s this blasted opening, right? And so what in the life rather than going and sitting? It’s like, “No, we’re going to the doctor. We’re taking our sitting in the waiting room while she’s seeing the physician, and this little kid had these shoes on that when you move they they flash lights.

Rick: Yeah, I’ve seen those.

Tom: Yeah, well I’d never seen those before.

Rick: You thought it was some kind of hallucination or something?

Tom: I’m going, “What? No, no, it can’t be!” Finally the mind puts it together that there’s got to be a little flashing lights going on. That was really knowing the space and opening of the head center and opening the heart to a certain extent, opening the belly to a certain extent. But it just went on after that. I can go more into what happened later.

Rick: No, I’d like you to actually because I’m glad you said “to a certain extent” because a lot of people conceive of awakening as being some end point after which there’s no more development. And even some people who had an awakening think that it’s finished. And eventually I think most of them discover that it isn’t. But I’m quite interested in sort of post-awakening types of development. I think that needs to be better understood, so let’s keep talking about that in your case.

Tom: Okay good. I’m glad we’re going there because to me that’s more important. I think there’s two types, you know? There’s a type like in my experience; at some point, there was a definite demarcation. It’s like “oh that’s it,” right? And I think there’s also people— Again, everyone does this differently. There’s also the oozers. They kind of ooze into it, and you can’t find one sharp point and usually the storyline is “oh, it’s this sharp thing one minute. I don’t know, and then I do.”

Rick: Yeah, and even if it is a relatively sharp thing as it somewhat was in your case, it still keeps going.

Tom: It keeps going because again (as I described before) there’s a spacious element to it, like I said. The head center open. I couldn’t believe a thought anymore. Even when I was believing a thought, it was like I— that part was just done. Yeah, sure, I can entertain them, but sooner or later, they just pop. It’s like yeah right, right? But there’s the belly center, which is just one second before you—

Rick: So hang on a second before you get into that. So when you say you couldn’t believe a thought anymore, does that mean you didn’t have opinions? Or you didn’t have a particular political candidate you’d want to vote for over

Tom: Oh yeah!

Rick: That kind of stuff? What do you mean by that?

Tom: I still get that, but it’s like I have my opinions, I have my preferences, and I can follow them (and sometimes get kind of heated about them),

Rick: But they’re not as sort of solid or compelling or something?

Tom: Because when I say I can see through thought, it’s like when you have the experience, it’s like the thought is no different than a bird. How can you take it too seriously? It’s like it becomes a game, and sometimes in the moment, the thought is right on in the reality of the moment. It has relevance. But then it no longer—it was relevant for that moment. Otherwise, it’s just conditioning that we play, but I still entertain them, sure. I’m a democrat, you know.

Rick: Yeah.

Tom: I think you are too.

Rick: Very much so.

Tom: Sometimes I listen to the confusion out there and I go, “I don’t know. Maybe well I’m not right. I don’t know.” I mean I think I’m right, but who knows for sure, you know? There’s lots of different ways of viewing all this stuff, but I like to help people.

Rick: Yeah. You know it’s like people tend to want to think in black and white terms— Like these people are completely wrong and our people are completely right. Or my religion is the only way, and everybody else is going to hell and all this stuff. Yeah, I like to sort of think “oh wait, let’s look at it from God’s perspective. And since everything is God, all these perspectives must be God’s perspective, and obviously there’s a great diversity of them. They’re just different sort of you know different blind men feeling the elephant, which is not to say that there aren’t certain things we’ll value over other things. But all is well and wisely put. It’s just kind of a be an ocean and contain everything rather than just being—well actually, you have a little quote here from Rumi that I’ve picked up off your website. Good point to read it. He said, “We are not drops in the ocean. Each of us is the entire ocean in a drop. in other words, we are the beloved being personal, not a separate one who has a personality. We are so interconnected in this beauty as it expresses itself personally inside its vastness. One moment so very big and another moment so close and intimate.” There’s a Sanskrit saying which goes “Anoraneeyan Mahato Maheeyan,” which means smaller than the smallest, bigger than the biggest. Taking them there.

Tom: Oh that’s so sweet. That’s what I mean. It’s like “yeah, I can have thoughts, but the thoughts don’t have me.” Sometimes they have me. That still goes on. That’s part of God too, right? It’s like anything goes basically is what you see. You can’t take a—I become positionless. Even when i’m taking a position. So to get back with one of the things that I see again is— We could have a very sharp, pronounced awakening so to speak, but if you’re like Ramana Maharishi, and even then it went on for him. It’s not to say it didn’t.

Rick: Oh, he did sure. He sat in that cave for umpteen years.

Tom: Right. Or even Yogananda. You read about— I love to read. I got a biography book on him written by a journalist, and you find out oh my god, he was fretting about money all the time.

Rick: Phil Goldberg?

Tom: Yeah.

Rick: He’s written about that recently.

Tom: Right, and you find him, he was going through bouts of sadness and like he was ostracized so much, but anyway. So we emulate these people, we tell stories about them and say “oh they’re so perfect, there’s nothing wrong that he does.” One time one hidden story was that at the lake shrine, his his houseboat was starting to sink. No one tells us officially, but he was like freaking out. He was yelling, “Get out there! Get out there! Get that boat!” Good thing he did, but he’s like freaking. He’s not some actively calm guy right now. He is like “Get that boat, don’t let it sink.” So it’s good to see. It doesn’t look a certain way, and we make these stories and we emulate these people, but they’re just imperfect human beings like everybody else. It’s all part of the beauty of being human.

Rick: Yeah.

Tom: Neither perfect nor imperfect. So to get on with the ongoing, where we were going. So there’s this post-awakening opening you could say (let’s call it that). And I can recall that the fear I talked about it, you know it would still crop up. And the center teaching was “Well, it’s just phenomena rising in consciousness. There’s nothing you need to do about it.” Which if you really— but I was curious about it and wasn’t going to get lackadaisical about that, so I ran across another teacher, David Waldman, also known as davidji. I think he calls himself davidji right now mostly. He is working mostly with the heart. You just go and you sit there with him and you do nothing basically but sit. No real hardcore practice. You just sit.

Rick: Does he talk or—

Rick: Yeah yeah. He talks. Yeah, no. We just sit. We don’t do anything. He is a devotee of Ramana Maharishi. That’s his supposed lineage, so a very beautiful being. And again imperfect human being too, as we all are. I started going there, and he said, “Well your eyes are really, really clear, but there’s a piece that you’re missing.” And so I went on one retreat, and the fear was coming up. The fear would come up around him sitting like that again. And again, the beauty now is like that awakening is sort of like that’s what’s climbing to the top of the mountain, and so you hit this plateau, and it’s like maybe three months of honeymoon, and then all of a sudden now more stuff is moving through, but you’re on the downhill slope. You don’t believe you’re a doer anymore. It’s sort of like you’re coasting. It’s still hard, but it’s not like it was. You’re not seeking. You know you’re there, so to speak. It’s all okay.

Rick: It’s sort of like nature is doing the work for you.

Tom: Right, which it was in the beginning too, but now you know it is.

Rick: Now you experience that.

Tom: Yeah, you’re being baked, right? Let yourself be baked, and so—

Rick: And actually it can accelerate at that point because an ocean can dissolve clumps of mud a lot better than a little glass of water.

Tom: Yeah, right. So you’re on easy street and may go through some intensity. So David always talked about purging, which I never heard from the center. “Oh, you’re in a purge.” Your body would heat up and something would be releasing. So anyway, I go on this retreat with him, and he has me come up to the chair because we do dialogue in the chair, and he says, “Well, just connect with me.” So I connected with him. I started like weeping and sobbing, and all of a sudden everything sort of opened up and disappeared. Just a whole different level of being here and feeling everything. I jumped up, and I wanted to run. He grabbed me and said, “No, no. Stay here. Stay here.” Very good advice. Stay here. The next morning we used to hardcore. He would get up like we’d be sitting like 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning before the official sit would happen. So I went there, and he’s sitting there. And the story was all of a sudden I saw on the story level, it’s like “wow, this guy cares so much for me he’s willing to come up there and sit with me.” Other people were sitting too. It wasn’t just me. At this early in the morning, that was the story, but what was really felt was the beloved one I am is willing to take all of me to give it all to me. And I just I started weeping, just from the belly, just weeping these tears that felt like bliss and just like “what a relief, what a relief.” And later it was pointed out to me That there’s a lot of pain there too. Oh my gosh, there’s a lot of pain, but it feels kind of good. And all that for the rest of that retreat, it was like I was reliving very early child infant trauma. And that went on for like six months or a year. I’d sit with him, and immediately I would just double up and then it’d be like tears would be coming out of my eyes and snot coming out of my nose. I didn’t care when it was coming out of my nose. And it was like very pre-verbal stuff. I can’t describe it, but the outcome is more and more to feel like when I was with Grandma and feeling her pain in my body to see that the touching is—there’s such a depth to the touching. There’s really literally no separation, and that’s Ongoing. I still feel like I’m walking around the dark, but anyway that’s to me what was the opening of the belly.

Rick: That’s interesting. I’ll have some more questions about that, but here’s a question that came in. Since we’re speaking about pain, I think this might be a relevant time to ask it. Francis O’Hara from Ellington, Connecticut, asks, “Please speak about your experience with prayer and how to help a loved one who has died. Our brother chose suicide a few—um, I’m not sure whether it’s years or or what—ago. How might we help our Billy?”

Tom: Okay, Billy is the one that committed suicide?

Rick: Yeah, uh-huh.

Tom: Yeah. Hold him in your heart. So there’s the pain of feeling the loss of him. And the thing about it is those that have passed on that are no longer in a physical body, the minute you think of them, you can feel their essence. You can feel them. And when you’re feeling them, you’re holding them. In fact, the more you just not so much feel the story about what he did or his life but just feel who he is, the basis of who he is, because you can look around and everybody has a different feeling of presence, so Billy has a presence. Every time you bring them into your mind, you can say a prayer and say whatever you believe (God help Billy). But when you say that, feel his essence in your heart. That’s the best thing you can do for him, and in that you’ll feel your own pain. And so you’re holding for your pain and his essence and his pain and you start to see that there’s a larger holding for both of you—that it’s all just part of you. That’s what I can say with that one.

Rick: That’s nice. And the way you’re phrasing implies that Billy still exists in some way, shape, or form, which I think most of the people listening to this show would agree with. Even surveys show most of the people in Society agree that nobody dies; we just sort of transition in one way or another, however we want to believe that it happens. But Billy’s still around and on some level, and by holding him in your heart as you’re saying, you’re directly connecting with him in a real way that’s beneficial.

Tom: Yeah, exactly. I do that with my father who died in ‘91 very suddenly of a bee sting, on the golf course no less.

Rick: Allergic reaction?

Tom: Yeah, and the minute I bring him in the mind, I feel him. I feel his essence. He’s there. This goes on. Why would just show end? It goes on.

Rick: The universe would be pretty meaningless if it didn’t. Life would be pretty meaningless.

Tom: Yeah.

Rick: Because you and I are talking about continuing evolution after awakening, well most people don’t even get to awakening, but obviously there’s to my way of thinking there’s a purpose to the universe and there’s a purpose to our lives. They’re not just meaningless random events. And the purpose is ultimately what we would call evolution, which we’ve been talking about during this show and I talked about one way or another for But it’s a growth process towards something. We can continue to talk about what that something is. And you know we never reach the ultimate possibility in one lifetime. Maybe a tiny fraction of people do, but even then I have doubts. So the journey continues. You wear out your clothes—you put on a fresh pair. Your car breaks down—you get a new car. Same with bodies and lives

Tom: I think so. I can’t prove it, but it goes on. You know it goes on because what we are is an eternal expression of the one. We’re like windows in the one.

Rick: Yeah. And even not only the eternal dimension goes on, which by definition it would, but the relative expression that makes us up— makes us Tom or Rick or whatever— goes on. And maybe next time we won’t be Tom. We’ll be Thomasito or some different gender and life and everything else, but the essence of what we are continues to grow.

Tom: Right.

Rick: At least that’s the way I see it, and there’s a fair— I was discussing this with somebody not too long ago, and he was very much doubting it, but there’s a lot of research. There was a guy named I think Ian Stevenson or something at The University of Virginia that studied thousands of kids that had clear past life memories that were verifiable if you go and to the town that they described that they’d lived in or to the World War II plane that they crashed in or whatever. They had all this detail they could provide, so there’s a fair amount of evidence. And then there’s Michael Newton with his Life between Lives hypnosis regression studies. And he’s written a couple books on that, and people go back and experience in great deal of detail and also agreement between the thousands of people he regressed o exactly what happens in that realm. So we can brush it off as bogus or hocus pocus if we want to stick to our materialist worldview, but but there’s a lot of evidence there if we want to look into it.

Tom: Yeah, that’s for sure. Even now in this what we look like (this material world, this physical reality), what you start to see, it’s so alive and interconnected. And so if this reality is that way, we construct it and say “well, no, this is solid when I leave there, there won’t be anything.” But really in a very real sense, this is just a slowed-down dream.

Rick: Yeah. Can you remember a time in your life when the world looked dead and lifeless and just visually looked like dead? And now it looks by contrast extremely alive and full of intelligence?

Tom: Oh you’re asking me to go back twenty years. The funny thing about it is you forget how it was.

Rick: But I can remember that. I can even now as I ask you. I can visualize back fifty years ago when I was a teenager looking out at the woods on a rainy day and it all just looks so bleak and lifeless and dead. I never see things that that way now There’s always— it’s always like almost full of bliss.

Tom: Yeah, I think the problem with it for me is that when I look back, what I see when I look back in any experience (even if it felt bleak and dead) is I feel the life that is beneath the bleak and dead. So my memory is colored.

Rick: Kind of enhancing it retrospectively.

Tom: It’s like it goes “oh, it was there—what i’m seeing now. This aliveness that’s there now.” when the memory goes back, it’s there then too. And it’s like that memory really gets integrated in a way that’s kind of strange in now. Because there’s only now even the memory’s a now. So I think it transforms. I’m searching here to see if there was something that really felt bleak or dead. I can remember being bored at times, but there’s always this aliveness there.

Rick: That’s good. I mean a lot of people might be able to relate to this because think how many people are on antidepressants in this country, and the world doesn’t seem like a very blissful place to them. Maybe that’s the reason I’m always kind of thinking of people who might be listening, what they might be experiencing, and hoping to sort of suggest that if it doesn’t seem as rosy as you and I are describing it, there’s hope.

Tom: Right, right. It’s funny. I just talked to someone this morning who has struggles with the depression, and it’s so hard. And she’s done a lot of work with this, and depression for me—and I have depressed feelings sometimes, but I always— What I do, it’s like I can’t entertain a story about how bad it is anymore. It’s just sort of like a sinking kind of downer kind of feel, and if you can— and it’s the last thing we usually want to do is to be that felt sense of the depression without the story to that yucky feeling to let that be my anchor out of the mind, you start to see that something bigger is holding that. The aliveness is holding this yucky feeling. It’s like letting go of who you think you are and your problem, but it’s rough stuff. It’s rough stuff. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not an easy thing to deal with. I remember one time working with a person in a retreat, and she has a chronic disease that she’s never going to recover from. She still functions, but it’s going to get worse at times and it’s frustrating for her. And so she was talking to me in the chair, and she goes, “Oh I don’t know what you need to do with this. I can’t stand this.” I said, “Well, you know the thing is to let it be what it is. To accept it.” Right? And all of a sudden, I feel like something’s not clicking, right? I feel a little turbulence over there with her, and so I all of a sudden went, “Oh my gosh, who am I to say that you should just accept this?” I don’t have this disease (it was Parkinson’s). I don’t have this and you do. And I said, “I bet you that pisses you off and you want to slug me in the face.” And she says, “Yeah!” And I said, “You need to embrace that anger over the Parkinson’s. You’re ripped off.” I said, “Go there.” And that that really did something for it because she never felt permission to be mad about her condition because she was supposed to be a good little spiritual person and accept it as is. You get it? It’s like well you have to start where you are, and so that just opened up. That was creating such difficulty in her life that she wouldn’t allow that anger to come in so she could be with it.

Rick: That’s all good insight. Adya talks about awakening happening sequentially, sometimes with head-heart-gut. And you’ve talked about head and heart. Have you had a gut thing that you could distinguish between the head and the heart awakenings?

Tom: Oh yeah.

Rick: We haven’t talked about that yet.

Tom: Well I kind of led into it a little bit where I said I was weeping and crying, and it felt this pain in my belly.

Rick: It’s to me, the gut it’s like this— You know we have in the gut, we have This, that’s where our survival instinct is. I mean if we didn’t have any survival instinct, we couldn’t function. You need that, but it wants to survive. Wants to survive. And so you have to meet it, and it’s scared. It’s like a frightened little creature. And for me, most of that is as pre-verbal. The only thing I can do with that when it comes on is I’m just that raw-felt sense. And it’s the pain that’s coursing through the body or the fear is coursing or usually I’m just like crying. I haven’t had a bout like that for a while. What the byproduct is is that you feel more connected to what is, rather than it feels like it’s empty. You feel this. Really, really the aliveness has a substantiality to it. It’s like a touching. It’s not just at a physical level. It’s a real, real touching past the physical. The physical is a poor reflection of it. And that’s belly energy. That’s like being the creature, being here, being everything on a visceral real level. Belly energy always goes back to early childhood where something shut down. It’s like eventually it’s like being a baby coming out of the womb, and you’re coming out into this. You’re just pure being. You don’t have a lot of thought. You’re just the whole thing with no differentiation. No idea of a self that has differentiation. You’re the fluidity of the moment. To me, that’s belly energy, but to describe verbally what that is, it usually goes pre-verbal. It’s just uh-uh-uh-uh-uh.

Rick: You know sometimes people talk about having lost a sense of personal self as a result of their awakening or some stage of their awakening. And I always scratch my head a bit because I can sort of grok the notion of the impersonal being one significant or even primary or fundamental dimension of our experience, but it seems to me that if we’re alive, there also still has to be the personal Expression. And we each have our own personal expression with which we identify to some extent. If I were there and I say you, “Now Tom, may I whack your thumb with this hammer or would you prefer that I hit the stone over here?” You’d say, “Go for the stone.” There’s some kind of personal identification with the Tom guy that doesn’t want his thumb whacked.

Tom: Right. The belly energy.

Rick: I mean have you ever sort of been utterly without a sense of personal self, or do you feel like it’s always been there to some extent even though the proportions have shifted between personal and impersonal.

Tom: Yeah. That’s a very good subject. Well there’s different levels of personal self. There’s the personality, your structure. It’s like I know what a fork is.

Rick: You know where to put it.

Tom: Right. It’s good to still have access to that stuff. That’s like there’s nothing wrong with that right. But what I see is it’s like the personal self, the idea of a me on a personality level. It’s like a rainbow. When you see a rainbow, oh it’s there, but yet it’s not there. It comes and it goes. But to me, there’s a deeper personal self (we call it the personal essence) where it’s the vastness and I touch it on me. For the vastness being personal versus the personality being personal (the separate one being personal versus the vastness now) touches itself as a human being, it’s being personal. And that’s when I use the word essence. You can feel that, if you get below all the stories about someone, you feel their essence. You can feel that is the vastness being a flavor of a personal. And that comes and goes too. Sometimes you’re just the vastness. The personal essence comes and goes like everything else, but I think another word for that would be the soul.

Rick: So if you’re nothing but the vastness, then is there any functionality at that point or are you talking about just a sort of an inward transcendent experience where there’s just vastness and no sense of person?

Tom: Well if you’re totally inward on there, there’s no functionality going on, right?

Rick: Yeah. Like you hear the stories of the yogi. There’s a story of a yogi that was— all kinds of stories of yogis being so absorbed in samadhi that people can do all kinds of things to them and they’re not even aware of it.

Tom: Right, but then again, it all depends on what your situation is in life. If there’s someone to take care of you, feed you, or whatever or you disappear. But even then, I mean the last years of Yogananda’s life, he would go into that vastness, and then on a cold night, they’d have to put mittens on his hand. I don’t know why they needed mittens down in LA, but there’s a story. It must have been like down to 35 or 40

Rick: Compared to India, that’s cool.

Tom: I’m talking about that because one of the other guys was laughing at it, and Yogananda all of a sudden comes to. He’s he’s like totally out, and they gotta put mittens on his hands, and all of a sudden it was Anandamoy, I think was his name, one of the beautiful monks. And he’s laughing at it because here’s this grown man and the women (the nuns) have to put mittens on him. And Yogananda all of a sudden comes to and all of a sudden he’s functional. He says, “Yeah, I used to laugh at the yogis when someone had to do that in India.” And then he goes back in. So you see he came out. He got functional again. It’s like we’re going up and down an elevator. Being is so amazing.

Rick: Well you used the word rainbow not long ago, and I sort of think of it as a spectrum. Or you can think of the electromagnetic spectrum and all these different frequencies with visible light and x-rays and radio waves and all this different stuff. It’s the same field, but they’re just different frequencies of it. So you can sort of think of life as progressing or spanning a wide range of frequencies from on totally unmanifest and personal absolute universal to much more specific expression and all kinds of gradations in between.

Tom: Yeah. You know what I always find interesting is you watch through the life and you get actively involved in something, the idea of a personal doing something can completely fall away to what it becomes like I call pure occurrence, like reading a book. You get totally swept up in the book. There’s something that’s aware of the reading, but your sense of a personal one that’s reading a book is totally gone.

Rick: Yeah.

Tom: And then all of a sudden you come to the end of the chapter, and the personal personality ego comes in, “Hey, that was a really good chapter!” And it pretends like “well I was there all along reading that.” If you look, no—you were gone. You were a rainbow, and you left.

Rick: Well you hear great athletes describe being in the zone. And they’re just playing basketball or whatever in such a sort of a spontaneous automatic way that there’s not a lot of thought or choice happening. They’re just a spontaneous flow.

Tom: Yeah. Well that’s sort of what it gets to me is what evolves. It gets to be more and more like that, but yet even then there is a personal essence that is flavoring that movement for that form. You go to different masters or whatever, and they’ve all got different flavors, but you start to see it’s all doing itself. There isn’t really a doer. But sometimes the doer arises. Sometimes it’s necessary to have a doer.

Rick: What’s your take on the on the idea of free will? There’s all these debates about it, you know?

Tom: Oh my, my. That’s a good one.

Rick: Not that we’re going to resolve it right now.

Tom: I don’t think we’re going to.

Rick: It could go on for a couple thousand years, people debating.

Tom: What I find is that just like there’s a a personal expression of God (God being personal), there’s an aspect of God that is will. And so the difference is that usually we (believing we’re a separate one), here’s my will. I have this will. And versus if you rather than following that right away, if you just sit down and you receive from them, you become this dark, wide-open receiving. If there’s a will, the will from this deeper will takes over and expresses itself. So I would say that ultimately God has a will, but sometimes that God-will can be used via what we think of as the personal will. But usually the personal will is sort of something that just is in the way. Like I when I teach or do Satsang, this rainbow in here doesn’t have a clue. It’s just receiving, and it’s almost like being on the telegraph wire: “Okay, say this. Say this.” And I’m always like amazed. Sometimes the mind says, “Don’t say that.” And it says, “No, it’s coming through.” And I’m always amazed. “Wow, look at how that worked. How did I do that?”

Rick: Yeah, yeah.

Tom: So to me, will is an aspect of the divine. And he has a will. How could all this stuff arise without a will?

Rick: Yeah. It’s interesting. Sometimes I’ve thought or spoken in terms of individual will and divine will and getting the two of them to sort of be in tune with one or having your individual will in tune with the will of God. But when you think about it (the way you just expressed it was beautiful), it’s like when you really do that, is there really any individual will left? Or is it just the will of God functioning through an individual structure or expression you know as as which has become a pure instrument of the divine?

Tom: Yeah.

Rick: It’s kind of a more clear way of thinking about it.

Tom: Yeah, so the question sort of falls apart in a way.

Rick: Yeah, let thy will be done. You know on earth as it is in heaven. And then you know—well I don’t know. Feel free to— I’m just sort of riffing here, and thoughts are coming to mind. I don’t know why—it’s not my will!

Tom: But we’ll see where it goes, Rick.

Rick: Feel free to interject anything that comes to mind. But I mean now I’m using the G-word and talking about God. And some people have a problem with that because they think “oh how could any loving god you know allow all the horror to exist in the world which exists and all the suffering and the holocaust and all the terrible things that happen?” And in light of the conversation we’ve just been having, I would say that those things are a reflection of humanity’s immaturity and its estrangement from that divine intelligence such that people are going off on tangents with a very partial picture of the whole and creating all kinds of trouble for themselves and others. And that the idea of “on earth as it is in heaven” would be a situation in which you know en masse (all of us, billions of us) would be so attuned to the divine that we’d have a very different world and no one would need to accuse God anymore of being cruel or heartless because we wouldn’t see all these horrible things happening. And that just came to mind, so feel free to comment.

Rick: Well the problem of what we call evil in the world—why would God permit evil in the world? It’s all his fault (or her fault, whatever). Boy, I had it, and I just lost it. I went blank.

Rick: Why would God permit evil in the world? It’s all his fault or her fault, right?

Tom: Right, well you sort of hit it well. Oh that’s where I wanted to go first. Sometimes I watch these nature films.

Rick: Where they show animals eating each other and—

Tom: Right, right. You go, “Oh, kangaroo! I hope it can get away from the dingo dog. Come on, come on.” And then— You know it’s like in nature. Nature, if you look, as beautiful and peaceful as it is, it’s eating each other apart. It’s devouring itself.

Rick: Red in tooth and claw some poet wrote.

Tom: Right. And we as humans, we have that animal nature. Again the survival instinct—I need to get mine. And I think again animals have a connection to this too. I’m not one of those that says that animals can’t know being because I think they do. In some ways, I think they know it more than we do. But we have this ability to actually consciously know that we can rise above this dog-eat-dog world, so to speak. We know how to grow food. We kill the animals to eat the meat or whatever, if you eat meat. We’re killing vegetables. We’re still devouring things. But we have this ability to feed everybody in the world, right? If you know you’re connected— that everything is you—when you create harm out there (and trust me, sometimes I can create some harm out there; I don’t mean to). But when I create harm out, there it’s almost like it’s hurting my own body. It stops me short. Something bigger is governing me. And so to me, while there’s still going to be mishaps in the world, if everyone knew this, we’d think twice, three times, ten times over before we would deny an immigrant to come over the border. We’d do something about the problems in Central America because it’s all us. But again to me, you know this world (this play) can never be perfect. It’s like to even have this play, you have to have black and white. You have to have good and evil. If you don’t have those opposites, there’s nothing here that’s the difficulty of existence.

Rick: Yeah, I’ve thought along those same lines many times. If you’re going to have a relative existence, then there have to be relative qualities. And that means it can’t all be sort of perfect. You know love and joy and beauty to an infinite degree; there needs to be a a spectrum, a span. Fast slow. Big small. Heavy light. All the different polarities. Maybe God could have done it differently but didn’t. And so we sort of face it as it is. And everything goes in cycles. There are very beautiful, light times and heavenly times and then very dark times. And that time will come when the sun will expand and become a red giant and the earth will melt. It’s not going to be real pretty as that begins to happen, but the bright side is that the climate deniers will finally admit we’ve got a problem. But they’ll say, “See? It wasn’t man-made.”

Tom: Rght, right. Well that to me is an absurdity in itself. I mean the writing’s on the wall, and there’s a solution to it. But yet the greed and the fear keep that from happening. But the thing of it is is that to when we know that this is a passing play is very important in the moment. It’s very important to act as if it’s you know that it’s your body to take care of. That you know to act out of love. But ultimately it’s to see I am more than this passing show. I am this vastness that can never be destroyed because world’s come and go. And it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take action for this one, but if God destroys a planet, the planet gets destroyed. Eventually like you say, the sun is going to get so big that it’s going to melt this planet anyway. It’s only a matter of time.

Rick: Sure, but it’s not doing that now, and therefore we should do it.

Tom: Yeah, we should take action. We should take care of the garden, so to speak.

Rick: It’s interesting that what you’re saying now I’ve actually heard. There was a a so-called spiritual teacher whom I had interviewed whose interviews I’ve since taken down because I discovered the following. Which was that quite a few years ago, he was doing some really incorrigible things, but one of the milder things he did was press young women into service as strippers telling them that the world is an illusion and it doesn’t matter what you do with your body. And you know we need income for our little spiritual group, and so just go and do this. And the people in the audience are all ignorant. They don’t know what you know, and so you can do it and yada-yada. So profound, beautiful spiritual teachings can be corrupted and twisted, and I think maybe the thing to prevent that from happening is what you were just saying. Which is that if you really are experiencing unity, then you do see the world as yourself and you would not inflict harm on anything. To do so would be to even to harm yourself. You feel that you sort of have this empathy with everything that develops. As jesus said, “Whatsoever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.”

Tom: Yeah well, someone can open very very widely in the head center and yet their belly and their heart is not so open. So all of a sudden they become what I think some call an enlightened ego because they don’t have the belly and the heart tempering. Basically it’s just a continual wearing down. You just get more and more humble. Who is doing it? It’s just I am a servant. And how can you harm somebody? Even when you’re harming, you know it stops you short. We all do it. We’re not perfect, but to do what that teacher was doing, clearly there’s a shadow side that hasn’t been met. There’s probably sides of him that are totally open that the people are attracted to, but then there’s this shadow side. I think we call it the sick guru.

Rick: Yeah yeah. People wonder sometimes why I take down interviews. There’s another guy who I listened to a recording of him recently or made recently, and he was saying, “Oh, everybody in the world, they are all ignorant monkeys.” And you should just do whatever you feel. Like doing adultery is just fine if you feel like committing adultery. Especially men should be able to do it because it’s their nature. And the guy has slept with about a thousand women allegedly and treated them in very incorrigible ways. I just get pissed off at this kind of stuff, and I hear a lot of it because of the position I’m in. And I just feel like there needs to be a higher standard in the spiritual community. And when I hear beautiful teachings being corrupted and bastardized in order to fulfill somebody’s small-mindedness, it just kind of gets my hackles up a little bit.

Tom: Yeah, yeah. That’s disturbing. Well at least that guy was up front with it. Like Trungpa Rinpoche used to teach with a bottle of gin by his side. At least you knew what you’re getting with him.

Rick: Yeah, you knew what you were getting. Why anybody stuck around, I don’t know.

Tom: There’s some profound teachings that came on him. So it’s a mixed bag. If you know what you’re getting into, it’s like “wait a minute, wait a minute, I don’t want to go there.” But it’s a mystery why that still happens with some folks.

Rick: But one problem though and I hear this too is people say, “Well, I don’t like the sound of that, it doesn’t make sense to me, but hey this guy is supposed to be enlightened and he’s kind of impressive, he’s articulate, he seems to have some kind of energy radiating off of him. Therefore I will doubt my own common sense and just continue to go along with this thing.” And you can go way down the rabbit hole thinking that way.

Tom: Right. You have to trust your gut. You have to trust what you know. You have to feel what is going on. If it feels a little off, get the hell out.

Rick: I didn’t mean to take up so much of the time of your interview getting on my soapbox here, ranting and raving about these things that annoy me. So let’s get back to you for a bit. We have a little time left, and that’ll get us back to ending on a much sweeter and more more uplifting note.

Tom: Yeah, we were going into the pit, weren’t we? Well it’s important to look at all that stuff because it’s part of our experience. What do we do with that?

Rick: Yeah. And the spiritual world that people who listen to show are all involved in can be a bit of a a landmine. What do they call it? A minefield. Where you don’t know what—there’s all kinds of pitfalls and dangers, and you have to sort of learn to navigate it safely and use discrimination. That’s probably the key word right there. Culture discrimination. Learn how to trust your own common sense. Anyways, yeah ii’m getting back into it.

Tom: Well, it’s a big subject, that one is. It’s hard when first you see all the beauty that’s coming on as somebody and then all of a sudden these little shadow elements come up. And usually you want to deny it because you don’t want to look at that, right?

Rick: Yeah. Well this loops back to something you said earlier, which is that we’re all works in progress. And it behooves us to remember that and to continue progressing and doing the things that are necessary to continue progressing.

Tom: That’s right. I mean really it’s to acknowledge that we always have this idea of perfection. We want to be perfect and not imperfect, so it’s neither. It’s like everything we have black and white, it’s either perfect or not perfect. We’re a mixed bag, but when you start to inflict pain upon the world, there’s something off there. That’s not a teacher to follow. At least maybe take the good advice and then get the hell out of there.

Rick: Yeah. There’s that song by The Band: you take what you need but you leave the rest.

Tom: That’s right.

Rick: So how are things with you these days, Tom? What are you doing for a living?

Tom: What am I doing for a living?

Rick: Are you a full-time teacher now or do you have like a job still or what?

Tom: I left. I was doing building construction part-time while I was teaching part-time, and I was a licensed contractor in the state (that’s a long story). But I gave that up at the beginning of the year. It takes too much away from the teaching, and my body’s getting too old to work out in the hot sun and everything. And it was just done. I still need to fix up my house, so I’ll get busy with that. I am trying to teach full-time, and we live pretty cheap. We try to approach low-middle class, if we’re lucky. But we’ve been doing pretty well the last few years. We’ve got all our debt paid off.

Rick: Good.

Tom: Still driving an old car, 1988 Toyota Tercel.

Rick: That’s really old. This is my gig; it’s pretty much just teaching now.

Rick: Great. Well I hope you get a nice bump from the interview.

Tom: Yeah, I hope so. I hope it’s not too big. We’ll see if I can handle it.

Rick: And and in terms of your personal development, what kind of stuff do you feel like you’re going through these days? And what seems to be on the horizon? Well you can never tell for sure what’s on the horizon.

Tom: Yeah you never know what’s around the corner, do we, Rick? To me, I think a lot of my growth comes through the teaching. Sometimes I tell people (in fact I tell people a lot), “You think I’m the teacher? I feel like I’m the student.”

Rick: Oh yeah.

Tom: “That you’re teaching me.” It’s an interchange. Don’t count yourself short. In fact, what you’re seeing in me that you emulate, rather than saying it’s coming from me, it’s a reflection of something that’s already inside you or otherwise you wouldn’t see it. So I think what’s going on is just a deeper, deeper collapse into just letting what the aliveness that’s behind this form that’s moving this essence as itself as the drop in the ocean so to speak, it just it just keeps for lack of better word deepening. And yet what is isn’t going anywhere it’s not deepening, but yet its expression keeps expressing itself closer and closer to its love, basically.

Rick: Sure.

Tom: And that’s pretty much what I think my gig is right now, is is moving in that direction and still live a life. I hang out with my wife, we garden, every once in a while we might go to a party, but we’re not big partiers. We do watch television.

Rick: Sure.

Tom: I will admit to that.

Rick: And so do I.

Tom: Just another thing, and I’m not going to have any more cats. We’re just done with that. We’re tired of cleaning up throw up on the floor and putting them down when they get old. Just cruising along and seeing where it takes us.

Rick: Do you feel that functioning in the role of a teacher increases the voltage for you?

Tom: Oh yeah.

Rick: Because you’re in this role, it’s sort of like I don’t know who or what or the powers that be so to speak say “okay boys, we got a live one here; let’s give them some juice.”

Tom: Well what’s interesting on that, Rick. I’ll do these four- or five-day retreats, and then I’ll do like solo gigs. But—

Rick: Retreats for you or retreats with students that you teach?

Tom: Retreats with students that I teach. I haven’t gone on anybody’s retreat for quite some time now. I’m not against it but, it hasn’t happened. Usually a few days, sometimes a week, I can—you know how when your body if you’re going to get on the airplane, it goes someplace and you know a few days before. The body starts to brace. You may not be anxious about it, but you can feel there’s a subtle bracing, which is a good thing. Otherwise, you’d never make it to the plane, right? So a lot of times I think the structure just wants to hang out and be a normal kind of guy you know and just putt around basically or take care of what needs to be taken care of. And so a few days before a retreat, usually there’s a there’s a bracing like uh-oh, the voltage is going to amp up. And because when I do retreats, it’s like there’s so much energy running through (probably three quarters of it I don’t even know is there) and so usually that the form feels a fatigue. It’s like “okay where are we going to go with this?” and “where is it going to go?” More windows, more doors are going to open up. So the retreats (the teaching in general) like you said, it juices things up.

Rick: Yeah, I think it accelerates your your own evolution to do it.

Tom: Right, so it’s my dharma right now.

Rick: If you want to learn something, teach it.

Tom: Right right. I’m always learning something. I mean I hate to boast, but whatever comes through here is getting pretty darn good at it. It just knows the right thing to ask at the right time. Not that I don’t slip up, but when I slip up, it’s sort of funny. It’s like “oh that didn’t work, let’s go this way.”

Rick: Yeah, no. That’s good. It doesn’t sound like you’re boasting It’s like you devote your life to anything and eventually you get good at it. And you’ve been devoting a good many years of your life to this stuff.

Tom: Yeah, yeah. That’s true. It has found me. Like I said, they found me and said “you’re going to teach,” so here I am. Now i’m hooked.

Rick: No more questions are coming to mind. Is there anything that you would like to cover that we haven’t covered, that I haven’t thought to ask you or that you know you thought before this interview that maybe we’d get into?

Tom: Well I covered the belly, the felt sense, and the head center. We’ve gone over that, and it all commingles ultimately in the heart. To me, the heart is the place where the head, the spaciousness, meets the substantiality. That’s where the love is. That’s where the connection is. I don’t think I have anything more that I had pre-planned. You could spark something.

Rick: I probably could. Well this heart thing is a nice thing to end on because— Who was it? Jack Kornfield, I think. He wrote a book called A Path with Heart.

Tom: I just got that book at a used bookstore the other day. That is a beautiful book. I just started reading that, but go on. I interrupted you.

Rick: No that’s okay. I think that a lot of the things we’ve been talking about, about the potential pitfalls and side tracks and whatnot that one could fall into, I think the heart has a protective value against all that stuff. If there’s a sort of a culturing of the heart, it safeguards the path to a great extent

Tom: Yeah, you’re correct because what the heart does, the heart loves everything, the heart feels everything. When you’re feeling everything, you’re guided. You know “oh there’s something off there— move this away.” I think the key is if anything to take away from this interview is the willingness to receive rather than to go out there. To receive first and then move the yin quality versus the yang. We’re such a go-get-‘em culture, we’re gonna pull myself up by my bootstraps and make this, this, and this happen. It’s like how about receiving first and see what wants to guide you versus going out there?

Rick: Yeah, rather than you trying to call the shots.

Tom: Right and so the more you receive, everything starts to come to you. So when something’s off, you receive that and you go “oh, I don’t know if I like this.” The sensitivity just grows. I can remember years ago. This was post-awakening in 2000 when I had this executive management job, which by the way I was thrown into right after waking up. Go figure! All of a sudden I think I’m gonna go be a meditator or whatever, and all of a sudden I’m in this power job. But anyway, my point being is one time I had to write an evaluation for somebody, and she was like my lieutenant and she was really good. But boy, she could really slam people if she didn’t get her way or they they slacked off or whatever. And so my boss said you have to write this, you have to bring this up. We just got information from other people about how bad she’s been treating them. And so I was supposed to give the evaluation the next day. So I’m going at it. I gotta get this done the next day, I gotta get this— But I wasn’t receiving really. But the conditioning says you gotta meet the deadline, you gotta get it done. There’s the interview, right? Here’s the evaluation interview coming up. And yet at the same time, if O’d been listening, I would have felt in my gut. It’s like something’s off, something’s off, but I wouldn’t listen to that. I kept going. It’s like you just got to keep receiving and listening and stopping what is going on because if I had listened to that, I would have taken a bunch of more days. I went to talk it over with my boss because the evaluation was a disaster. She got very defensive, put a big schism between us, and the information was there if I had stopped and listened. So I’m better at it. I’m getting better at it. Receiving is the key. It’s the stop and listen and then move.

Rick: Yeah. When you say that, I get the sense of a softness, gentleness, almost reminds me of Carlos Castaneda’s books, where there was a whole lot of emphasis on awareness, and Don Juan used the term “stalking,” where you’re just kind of attentive and attuned to every little nuance that that happens around you and open to the potential significance of it.

Tom: Yeah. Every little thing you start to see is giving you information; it is I think a Sufi saying, “every expression is God revealing itself to itself.” Every little thing has meaning. You start to see the littlest things. You start to see that a crack across the room actually moves you.

Rick: Yeah, that’s nice. All right. Well let’s leave that for people to ponder.

Tom: Yeah that’s a good place. A crack across the room will move you.

Rick: Earlier on, Hannah from Portland, Oregon, sent in a note saying “Tom, please don’t forget to mention that you teach here in Portland too.”

Tom: Yeah, that’s my Hannah. Yeah, Hannah. Yeah thank you, Hannah. This coming Friday and Saturday, I will be doing an evening and an all-day event up in Portland. And it’s going to be at Hannah’s house. Their sweet little house, and the information’s on my website there in the home page. You should be able to find it.

Rick: Yeah, and you mentioned that you have a group in Charlottesville, Virginia, and that you actually go there once in a while, so theoretically anybody who’s listening to this could get together a group in their area and you could go there too.

Tom: Yeah that can work. That’s how that one happened. They found me, and I talked with them. They came out here first (Michael and Heather, very sweet people— he runs a mattress company, a natural organic Savvy Rest. So if you ever want a nice natural mattress, go to Savvy Rest. There, that’s a promotion for Michael.

Rick: You get a commission?

Tom: Yeah, I’ll get a commission. Yeah, I’m open to if someone wants to host me. It’s great. And then more connection and then this online thing. The online internet’s so incredible how— It’s not only the technology when I do an event online, especially with the Virginia people. It’s like there’s no space, there’s no time. I feel like I’m right there. It’s not the computer. It’s amazing, it’s amazing.

Rick: I feel that with this too, doing these things.

Tom: Yeah, well you do some really good work. I’m amazed you can do one a week, man. That’s a— You’re a busy guy.

Rick: Well, it’s balanced and I have a lot of help.

Tom: Yeah, you do have a crew.

Rick: Various others helping. All right, well good. Thanks, Tom. It’s been a nice conversation. Really appreciated it, yeah. I’ll make a couple of wrap-up points, so I’ve been speaking with Tom Kurzka. I’ll be linking to his website, and obviously he’s been explaining what he does. And you can get in touch if you’re interested. I’m sure there’s a way of doing that through your website, right?

Tom: Yes, there’s information, email, phone.

Rick: Yeah. Hope that everyone’s enjoyed this interview. I have. Next week, I’ll be interviewing an Indian fellow named Shyamji Bhatnagar, who talks about micro chakras. I haven’t quite figured out how to tackle that one yet, but I’ll be learning about it next week. And there’s other very interesting ones coming up in the future. There’s a a very sweet older woman, she’s 91 years old, named Dorothy Walters. And when she was 51, not having any kind of interest in spiritual development or anything else, it wasn’t her thing, she had this blowout Kundalini awakening. Just a really profound, dramatic shift, and she spent the next 40 years kind of like coming to terms with that and then enjoying it. And at the same time building a whole body of knowledge to explain what happened to her. So there’s no end of fascinating people to talk to. And we’ll continue to have this program for the foreseeable future. If people would like to be notified, if you’d like to be notified when new ones are posted, subscribe on YouTube. And you could also subscribe to the little email thing on There’s also an audio podcast if you’d like to listen while you commute or whatever, so you can subscribe to that on iTunes or Stitcher, one of those services. And there’s a page for that on BatGap, so check it out. And thanks for listening and watching. And thanks again, Tom.

Tom: Well thank you, Rich, for having me. I mean Rich—Rick. Yeah well your real name’s Richard, right? You’re legal.

Rick: It is, right, yeah.

Tom: Okay, well you’re Rick. Sorry about that. Yeah well, I’m not exactly rich, so Rick Rich is probably more appropriate.

Tom: Rick Rich, yeah. I have a good friend that came through town the other day. His name was Rich. I think that’s where the slip came from. Yeah, but thank you so much. It’s been a real joy.

Rick: Good spending time with you.

Tom: Okay.

Rick: All right. Say hi to your wife.

Tom: Okay, will do. Thank you, Rick. Bye-bye.

Rick: Bye.