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Karen Johnson – The Aliveness of Presence

An interview with Iain McNay

Iain: Hello, and welcome to Conscious TV. I’m Iain McNay, and today my guest is Karen Johnson. Hi Karen.

Karen: Hi.

Iain: I’ve known Karen for about 20 years because she is a teacher, and was co-founder of Ridhwan, that’s the diamond approach, a school that Renate and I have been in for about 20 years. It’s been very valuable in our own spiritual development. So, we’re going to talk a little bit about Karen’s life, about the early days of the school, how she sees reality, and lots of other things that I’m sure will come up during the course of our 55- minute adventure together. So, we were chatting recently in preparation for the interview, you were saying something significant happened when you were about 8 years old, reading a newspaper article about a girl who had died in an accident, and she said before she died to her mother, “mummy don’t worry I’m going to be ok”. So how did that impact you at the time?

Karen: Actually, she said “I know where I’m going”, which really got my attention. My mother was reading the article out loud in our living room. We used to sit around and read things, and she sat in her chair and started to read this article, and I thought how did she know where she was going? Where was, she going? I asked my mother where was she going? My mother said “I don’t know, where do you think? It caught my attention, and I thought about it for weeks, and it just stimulated a whole intrigue with death. The fact that this girl was my age, and she no longer existed. It was my first conscious memory of being aware that there was another possibility, or an invisible world somewhere, that I didn’t know.

Iain: A lot of kids do have their own fantasies about invisible friends, invisible worlds and having invisible friends, this in a way was an expression of your longing I suppose for something that was bigger in life.

Karen: It was my first feeling of something being very mysterious. I think children around that age start being aware of death and so on. As part of their socialisation they start to be conscious of the fact that relatives die, that kind of thing. This impact for me was that somebody my age was gone. Having grand- parents die, or uncles, or other people, but not somebody my age, so it got me thinking, and asking lots of questions of my mother.

Iain: Yes. And you had a very good relationship with your mother, generally didn’t you?

Karen I did yes.

Iain: You could ask her things and she would respond.

Karen: I could ask her about anything, and I started to at that point ask lots of questions. She didn’t try to fill my mind with her answers. She had a lot of questions of her own, also. She was seeking, searching. I didn’t know at the time, but she became involved in studying, and going to ??(3.29) , doing workshops to bring out more realisation for herself, of who she was, so she didn’t discourage me.

Iain: And then at some point you told me you started to see lights and energy fields, which was quite difficult for you at the time

Karen: Well I had always seen these halos around people, and when I went to school it began to be problematic for me, and my mother noticed I became more and more withdrawn. I would ask her questions. Why do people have lights around them? It was disturbing sometimes when people would get angry, or have feelings, or lie - that in particular, really got me. I could see sparks flying, or different things…

Iain: when someone lied, you could see…

Karen Lying especially can turn really icky colours, but I asked my mother, what was that? Why do people have lights around them? I remember very distinctly - I must have been only up to her waist so maybe I was 6 years old or something- looking up and saying “mummy why do people have lights around them”? She knelt down and looked into my eyes and said “I don’t know”. But when she said it that way I felt her openness, concern, and her love for me, all at once. So, we began a little journey together, being able to talk about the lights, and talk about what that meant. She helped me through that period of time because I felt like an outcast, and that something was strange, something was wrong.

Iain: So, looking back on it now, what do you think was going on then?

Karen From what I know now, I know that many children have many different kinds of sensitivities, and they come about in different ways. I think that many people get fascinated with paranormal kind of phenomena. As an indication of realisation, I don’t share that belief. I think it can be, but I think it’s also something that some people have brains that are much more capable than we know, there are all kinds of ways of perceiving reality – smelling, tasting it, seeing it that are as yet undiscovered. I think that children have some access to that, just as they have access to their nature, and have all kinds of experiences that go away over time. So, I don’t know that I would say that it was a special gift or anything like that. I think it was a way that I was sensitive at this point. That seeing did go away at some point. I was relieved. I finally felt like I was part of the human race, rather than a creature from some other planet.

Iain: Is that how you felt? You felt a bit of an alien.

KJ: Yes, I felt like an alien, and I’ve come to see that also many children feel that way, whether they have a special gift or not. Even if they are part of the in crowd, they feel alienated because that’s not who they really are. So, I think children often feel alienated. In fact, I’ve come to see in groups, many of my students feel that they are on the outside, they are peripheral, not part of the in crowd, so it seems to me it’s a feature of humanity that people feel isolated from one another and from themselves.

Iain: I understand one of the things your mother encouraged you to do, which is remarkable, was that when you were 14, she was running encounter groups for children, and you went along…

Karen For teenagers.

Iain: Yes, for teenagers, but that was pretty far out stuff at the time.

Karen Well it was, but I grew up in Paloalto?(7.53) and that was where a lot of these new things… it was a melting pot of interesting new kinds of things of all kinds, and openings, and ?? was nearby and she and my step father often went to workshops there. She was a high school art teacher – head of fine arts- she said these kids need somewhere to express themselves emotionally, not just in the arts, but to be able to learn how to relate to one another, so she started encounter groups.

Iain: And how was that for you being in the encounter groups?

Karen It scared the hell out of me (laughing). I was terrified. People were talking about feelings, and getting angry with each other. They were pretty raw at that point, but there was usually a facilitator who would stop people from hurting each other, or saying things that were too nasty, but it did give me a chance to learn how to put words to my feelings. I did not have a lot of access to words, to how I felt, so it was very instructive and very important for me.

Iain: Another thing you were telling me was that at one point, your step-father- because your parents broke up, and you then had a step-father- you wouldn’t talk to him at one point, you basically blanked him…

Karen Blanked is a good word, I just blanked him out.

Iain: Then he sat you down and encouraged you to say what was really going on with you. You said to him that you hated him and everything. That was a quite a relief for you that you were able to be so honest with him.

Karen It was. It was kind of an interesting moment. I was passing by him, doing my usual blanking him out. He actually grabbed me by the shoulders, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “you can hate me, you can even send me to hell in your own mind but you cannot treat me like that in my own house”. I was like, ok, he’s giving me permission to hate him (laughing), what does that mean? He said “so we’re going to talk about it”. I said “no we’re not”. He said “yes we are, have a seat”. There was something in his… he was very firm, but I could also feel there was some kind of care for me, that he was allowing me to have whatever feeling I had. And that struck me, and started the discussion between us, about my pain, and my difficulty about my mother leaving, him being with her, that whole story. So, it started me on a process of learning how to talk about very difficult things, with someone I did not like. I learned to respect him, and then I loved him.

IN: Yeah, how wonderful. It’s often hard for teenagers in that situation to say what they feel, because they don’t feel they have the permission to really say what they feel.

Karen Yes, and I also felt a need to tell him, somehow. And I didn’t want to be in a house where that was happening either, so he kind of spoke to it. I think I secretly hoped that he would.

Iain: And he said to you- I wrote down from our conversation- he listened to you and said I get it. He recognised that was your feeling, and accepted that was your feeling.

Karen Yeah, when I said I really do hate you, he said I can understand that. That kind of stunned me, and I realised how hurt I was. That let me get in touch with the pain, and he was right there for it. He sat with me… actually the chairs were very similar to these (laughing), black leather in the den, so that was when I was opened up to a world of emotion, and expression of that emotion, which was the beginning of moving into my heart in a very particular way.

Iain: Then, just to briefly finish the story at that particular time, you were sharing a few years later an apartment with Sandra Maitri in America, and it was through that you first met Hameed Ali, because they were friendly, Sandra and him.

Karen Yes, they were in SAT together…

Iain: SAT is Seekers After truth, Claudio Naranjo’s ongoing group.

Karen Yes, and I’d chosen not to belong to the group. I had gone along to some of the lectures, and didn’t feel the connection, but he came to pick Sandra up one night, and I’ll never forget the sound of the crutch and the placement of the foot. It sticks in my mind as the clunk…down the hall, then this very skinny young man with scraggily black hair peeks around the corner. I’m sitting on the floor and I look up and his grin was bigger than his body at the time. Big grin, an immediate, very friendly connection. I could feel that my heart was warm. Then I didn’t see him again for a few years, but when I did we had an immediate connect, and we started to chat a bit, and we haven’t stopped chatting since. So, it was an immediate friendly warm feeling, and a very direct feeling of connection.

Iain: How did you reconnect several years later?

Karen Sandra and he were going to go off to Boulder, Colorado to do the process, which was an intensive process of opening up to emotions and dealing with father, and mother. They called it the returning process, returning to more of yourself in some way, so Sandra said “do you want to come along”? I had just broken up with my boyfriend, moved out, I had nothing to do, and I felt an immediate, ok. So, I went with them, and we lived together for a year, while we engaged in this process. Hameed started a group after this process, he moved back to Berkeley, and I stayed on and moved to Denver, with my boyfriend, and that started a whole process of the development of the teaching, and of the school.

Iain: I think a lot of people like me are interested in how the school actually started. Presumably it was an idea from Hameed, or was it something you generally did together, what was the actual catalyst for the idea?

Karen Well first the teaching began, and Hameed began to have experiences of presence. He had had many teachers. I had had many teachers, but this particular experience of a palpable sense of consciousness, conscious of itself, this palpable luminesce, fluid sense of something real, something true, beyond my ideas, beyond anything I could have imagined, started to arise in him in particular. He would visit me in my home and we would have these discussions about it, and finally I said I get it kind of intuitively, but I don’t quite get it. This was the beginning of the teaching as we know it, which was how essence begins to arise in experience, in his experience first. One night we were talking, and I kept saying I think I could get it. I could feel some kind of excitement about it, but he held out his hand like this (palm out), and he swirled it like he was gathering some kind of invisible nectar. He swirled it, and swirled it until till his hand looked luminous, and he said “put your hand out”. I put my hand out and he poured this substance into my hand, and I felt my hand getting warm, then I felt it waking up, literally, like every cell felt awake, fluid, and luminous. Then it began to pool, and flow up my arm, and then it just filled my entire body, until my whole body felt awake and alive, vibrant, and so purely, what it was, beyond anything I could imagine. I just felt love, and gratitude, and I said, “I got it” (laughing). Now I know what you’re talking about. It was an actual way of transmitting that to me, that began to be a more complete part of the conversation. So that’s where the teaching began to take over in me.

Iain: Ok, now did that stay with you, that experience?

Karen Yes. It never left.

Iain: It never left.

Karen It changed in terms of character, in terms of quality, in terms of how it presented itself, but it felt like pure, complete luminous presence, beyond my mind, beyond any emotion, beyond a physical sensation, but it was very close to a physical sensation. It felt fluid, and bright, and luminous. Sometimes it would show up as strength, sometimes as kindness, love, awareness and clarity. It would begin to put me through process, feeling as though would bang up against a wall and there would be tensions that would show up. I would say, “God what’s happening to me”? I would feel closed down, and then some issue would arise. I would work through it psychologically, and get the understanding that way. Then it would be as if popping through that obstacle, and it would come out as another colour, another substance, another quality. But it would be as if the power of it was showing up from within me, and coming up against some kind of barrier, and saying “I’m coming through”. Then I would have to employ, my consciousness, my attention, my interest in the truth, to say “what is that, that’s showing up for me”? So, it was up to me to be open, and to understand myself, by opening the barrier, and then it would just flood forward in whatever quality was showing up.

Iain: So, it really was partly, a very strong physical sensation.

Karen Very strong, and it would bring emotions with it. At first it was almost like… if you could think of the structures of our mind; who we believe we are, kind of dampen us. As children, we are very open. You can watch a child, and they get bones, and more sturdy, but they also get more an exo-skeleton too, and that’s the part that isolates all of us from one another, and from our nature. We begin to take the ideas of ourselves, and our history to be what’s real, but that’s all what dams up this brilliant, alive fluid, that’s our central nature. So, it bangs up against these structures, and calls attention to them, by opening to them, seeing what they are, and understanding, that can help poke a kind of hole in that dam, and lets the fluids, dissolve that level, or layer of unconsciousness.

Iain: Was there an awareness of a process of changing in your brain, your thought structure at that time?

Karen Yeah, it felt like it changed my life, and every time I felt it coming in a new way, I felt like this is it, what I wanted all my life. Then something else would arise, and I would have some kind of tension, or issue would come up, I would feel a longing for that luminousness again in some other way. Then it would show up in a whole new way. It was a constant ongoing arriving,over and over again.

Iain: So, let’s take some specific examples. So, in a situation that you previously felt angry about somebody, or about a situation, how did the luminous presence that came up, luminesce that came up, how did that mean that you reacted differently, or responded differently to that situation?

Karen Well, at first I learned how to handle my emotions. Luckily, I had had a lot of work before this time, in fact being in the encounter groups was one of the first things that got me in touch with emotions, how to handle them. What I didn’t like was in terms of how people expressed them, and so on, but also in conversation with Hameed, one of the things he taught me really, is how to be with emotions, not act them out, and not supress them – really, to be right with them. So, in being with anger, I learned how to feel the feeling, to be angry and then find out, what is this feeling, and actually allow myself to be with it to the point where I could feel the energy of it, and it taught me how to be strong without being defensive. Then the fluid of strength began to fill me with its warmth, its beauty, its magnificence, and the aliveness of it. And then when a situation came up that called forth the strength, I could be strong in a way that said “you can’t mess with me, but I can still feel my love for you”.

Iain: So, there were barriers there in one way…

Karen I could be strong and firm and say this is not ok with me, without saying “screw you, get out of my face”.

Iain: I understand …

Karen It would come as an actual meeting of the situation with as much as what was needed, not more, not less, in a real way, meeting it truly.

Iain: You see, what interests me, this energy – you call this basic energy essence, is that the right way to call it?

Karen Well its more than energy, but it can be energy… I can feel as we’re talking a lot of energy…

Iain: Yes, I can tell…

Karen But I also feel the fullness of being. So, it’s a fullness. A palpable sense of being. A “there-ness” which is there, so it has a physicality to it, and actual substantial characteristic, but I don’t feel it just as physical. I feel it as part of the field in which you and I are in right now…

Iain: Yes…

Karen I feel it as part of that which everything is, and I feel it as consciousness, that’s conscious of itself, beyond a mental take of consciousness. It’s not just that I’m aware of it, it is awareness itself, and so that can arise in many qualities that we need for life – as compassion, as joy; as the ability to feel grounded in yourself; the ability to have strength, love, brilliance, precision. So, it can arise as capacity for the individual.

Iain: Ok. I’m interested in the whole process if it’s the right word, the whole way in which this is integrated in day to day living. So, you have these different capacities that you mentioned, these different aspects of essence, but how did you find that the mind structure was changing, presumably you were aware that your mind structure was changing? Maybe it’s still changing sometimes.

Karen All the time(laughing)

Iain: Is it the force of this energy primarily, the wisdom of that energy, or do you also find yourself having small realisations, this is not appropriate and making decisions that I will not do this anymore?

Karen You brought up a lot of different things in that one statement. One is that there is this presence, but that doesn’t necessarily make one wise. Wisdom is another step.

Iain: Ok

Karen So, there is a recognition that one is the presence, but being wise is a different level of development were one’s functionality can actually arise in such a way that there is a sensitivity to the appropriateness of how one functions with another, or within a situation. At first, we make a lot of mistakes. In fact when the red essence first arose there is a lot of confusion, and there often is in students about what is that presence that’s true, and what is it to be angry. They get conflated, just like with compassion. What is true compassion as opposed to just helping somebody to not feel pain. These are areas that can more and more clarified over time, and the more clarified they become, and the more precise we become in understanding them the wiser we can function as that. So, appropriateness is something that develops as we become more and more capable of being attuned without having to become self-reflective without having to say, this is the right thing, this isn’t the right thing. It’s a spontaneous response of being our nature, and responding to what’s needed at the moment. The more clear one is, the more the response will be appropriate, sensitive, clear to what is, and the more the quality will arise as needed.

Iain: So, the appropriateness is emerging on its own really?

Karen Yes.

Iain: You know. I know for myself if I overact to situations which I do sometimes I kind of know I’m doing it. I’m kind of watching myself do it but at that point it’s too strong, and it’s running but there is a knowing there. I think what you’re talking about in my language anyway is the knowing the feeling is strong enough, embedded enough, integrated enough to override… so there isn’t an inappropriate reaction to something.

Karen Yes. What you’re talking about in being aware of your reactions and aware that something is not appropriate, that is the first step in waking up and noticing how one’s behaviour is not really serving the situation. When one feels the inclination to really want to be of service, really wanting to be real to be authentic, then it behoves us to become aware of how we are being, and to notice that edge. Over time as we notice our structures are melting and changing, and our minds are shifting. That whole process of change, is a change of becoming, allowing one to become more and more open to our nature taking over us, and we give as a gift to our sense of what we have been, who we are, so that true nature can express itself, can hone us in any way that allows it to express itself more perfectly through us.

Iain: It sounds so wonderfully simple and obvious when you say it, and it is in a way, and of course the human journey is sometimes a journey which is not always smooth. I think what interests me so much about what you were saying earlier, is when Hameed did his little trick and he was pouring the essence never left you. In a way that is an instant awakening isn’t it, in one way?

Karen In a way, it was, however I don’t me to say that I never had difficulties

Iain: No, I understand that

Karen That was where the difficulties began in a certain sense, becoming awake to the difficult human condition, but it did spark the journey that I still feel I am on. The journey continues, and there are days when something comes up where I encounter and obscuration for myself, something I haven’t learned yet, something I don’t know about. I can go from feeling free, and complete and totally light for weeks, days, no body there, just freedom is there, and then something can come and call my attention to the fact that something has started to get excluded. That something is showing up for me that there is something to learn.

Iain: What are the clues? How do you know that?

Karen I don’t feel the sense of freedom.

Iain: You feel a restriction.

Karen I feel restricted in some way or another. I feel… it may just be a slight fogginess, or an actual sense of restriction; or I’ll notice my mind is running a certain pattern again. I’ll say I wonder where that is coming from? Who am I right now? I wasn’t anybody 5 minutes ago, now I feel like I am something. What is that? It’s a matter of… still I’m interested… feeling that this obscuration is not something to get rid of, it’s another doorway. The difficulties are a doorway, a window to go into, not around.

Iain: Yes.

Karen I want to go into and know everything about it. I want to know about myself. I want to know about you. I want to know about my friend. I want to know what’s there. I don’t want to get somewhere, about it, it could be a doorway to somewhere I don’t know yet. Every single experience is a wormhole to the infinite.

Iain: And its always an adventure.

Karen Always, whether it’s a positive experience, or not so positive. So even when I’m feeling like nothing’s there, I feel nothing in a hundred million different ways.

Iain: You feel nothing in a hundred million different ways, talk about that a bit. It’s quite a statement

Karen People talk about emptiness. When I first heard about emptiness … what does that mean? I began to experience spaciousness… space, and that changed a lot of things about how I saw being open. I could feel openness itself, but then I realised that spaciousness and openness could be vast. Not just “oh I feel open here”, but over time that openness began to challenge boundaries, and then I realised “Oh, I feel open beyond these boundaries”. I feel infinite spaciousness. Then I felt this infinite spaciousness was infinite love. Then I saw it as infinite presence, everything is in a field of total palpable presence. I felt it crawling up my arm, now it’s crawling into everything as pure knowing, pure luminosity, pure brilliance, everything. Then I saw that that was just one way. Then there’s pure beyond knowing, pure luminous awareness. Not knowing anything, just being aware of everything, everywhere. Then there’s beyond that, every time, there’s more and more empty. More and more empty of concepts, more and more empty of ideas. Seeing that “oh awareness is a concept”. It’s not a wrong concept, but still there is awareness without any idea of awareness. I kept backing up, backing up, backing up until I realised that even the great mystery of being, the ground of all these dimensions, was just an idea that there was a ground somewhere. Then I realised, I could fall through that too, to even more empty, empty. So, what began as a spaciousness and openness, that openness continued to get so open, so that even open went away. So, it’s like wanting to know the truth about any experience, even when I felt like I had arrived at the ground. Open the ground into a whole other level, what does emptiness mean?

Iain: So, what is the force you feel coming through you when you talk like this? You’re so alive, so dynamic, so talk about that the force you feel in terms of…

Karen It feels like the force of true nature itself wanting to know itself. Wanting to continue to liberate itself from all the boxes, all the ideas. It’s like look at the flower; go into that flower and find out really what it is.

Iain: These are wonderful flowers (smiling and pointing at vase on table)

Karen I know (laughing). If you look at it, you can be it, you can become it by being it. Anything is an entrance into itself. It’s like I feel this force of aliveness, adventure, and at the beginning it shows up as the desire to be true, to be, to be real, to be authentic. It’s like the drive that is in everyone, that makes them long for what they are, to long for the reality we know is there, because we love it, and this force has a love to it. It has an intelligence to it, and has a way of knocking on the door that just says following me wherever you are, you don’t have to jump over it. Just open to it. If you’re sad find out what it means. If you’re happy find out what that really really is. Don’t jump over that to know me, I am in that. It say I’m right there, bursting with everything you ever wanted to know. All you have to do is look at right where you are, and if you look, know, see, feel, right where you are that opens itself up just like the flower. It is what it is, and it knows how to flower. Human beings don’t know how to flower, so we need to catch the nectar from someone else, that knows how to flower.

Iain: Catching the nectar, which is what happened to you. Somehow you caught the nectar.

Karen Yes, and it helped me bloom, and it caught me off guard. I had no idea, and that nectar is still coming through, but it’s coming through as this force now.

Iain: Yes, and that’s always an interesting thing because, on the spiritual path, we have an idea of what freedom is, or being more free or more what enlightened is, and of course you read stories and you here people like you… it’s the off guard moment when something can really get through and change. Because there is a limitation in the way that we feel freedom id going to happen or occur, and be like.

Karen Right, right. What I love about the process that it did to me basically, was a continual challenge. Its flowing. Its moving. It’s coming. If I got off onto something else, I wasn’t happy. I had to continually come back, realign with it.

Iain: It raises straight away, that again you weren’t happy, again you felt this constriction.

Karen What it is that, and it challenged me- the way |I was trying to live, the way I was trying to do things, the way that I was orientated. It just kept turning me around saying, “you’ve got to listen to me”. It was like my stepfather, “this is my house”. Sit down, and listen to me”. This force is continually doing that, and that the force that is in every human being. It’s there, it just needs to be listened to. It’s knocking on the door all the time.

Iain: So, how is meditation for you? Because meditation is a tool we use quite a lot in the Ridhwan, in school, and in the diamond approach…

Karen Yes.

Iain: Is that something that is developing for you as a tool?

Karen Yes. Well it always was. As you can tell, I’m an energetic sort (laughing). Meditation was always difficult.

Iain: Oh really!

Karen Always difficult for me. Students, I tell them it was hard for me, which made me have to do it, even more. I had to really make myself do it, because, inquiry is our main practice to really see where we are, and inquire into that…

Iain: Let’s talk a little about… because we haven’t even mentioned inquiry. Just talk a little about that. How you understand that, and use inquiry.

Karen Sounds good. I do want to say to people who have difficulty with meditation, that’s when you need to do it anyway. Hameed said to me, “You’re great at being in touch. You can feel things moving in you. You need to meditate”. So, I did.

Iain: Ok.

Karen Anyway, the inquiry that we do, meditation assists in our inquiry by helping us settle, helping the mind open, so we have focus. We have various different levels of meditation that we go through, that we give people at different stages of their work, and it’s to assist in bringing about a refinement of the vehicle, of our individual consciousness to be able to be more open, and that empowers our inquiry by allowing our minds to settle, our mind can be more open to new possibilities. We can learn to hone the mind in a way that brings out it’s natural intelligence, and can help it to be more clear, more specific. That capacity of mind… it’s a very discerning instrument on any level. Inquiry doesn’t need an enlightened mind. It can lead to that because we use the discerning faculty to discriminate experience.

Iain: So, we start an inquiry with experience, that’s what’s going on now…

Karen So, we feel it…

Iain: And investigate more. Understand the experience through the feeling in the body. Talk us through for the people who are watching this that don’t know anything about the Ridhwan School and inquiry, just talk us through how it works, the stages.

Karen Often it starts at the beginning with dealing with a lot of psychological things because that’s what’s obscuring most people at the beginning. They often come with a longing to understand themselves but to also go beyond just the psychological. They want to know spirit. They want to know reality. They want to know what’s true. They want to know their potential. But often the obscuration present themselves as various difficulties, issues, sadness, anger, reactivity, and so we start off with wherever you are. If you’re sad, you feel into…what’s that like to be sad, you feel the feeling. You can sense it. Often people point to their heart when they’re sad. Ok, well what does that feel like in you, to feel side. Often people feel some sort of sensitivity, or even a pain, or a wound there. So, you stay with it. Sometimes that can bring in a history, your ideas about things, about something didn’t go a certain way, or someone treated you a certain way. That can come out when you stay with the sensation of the sadness. So, the inquiry is… you discern by feeling into it, by finding out what does it mean that I am sad that someone did that. Asking yourself the questions, not knowing where it will go, but just really wanting to know the truth. Discriminating the sensation, the different kind of emotions that can come. The sadness might lead to pain. Pain that, so there’s discrimination there. Pain is not the same thing as sadness. Pain can if you really feel it, discriminate the sensation, feel like it begins to open up a little, and that openness, that’s another discrimination, leading to the possibility that the pain can lead to sense of openness, sensitivity and can bring a sense of compassion to oneself. And that compassion if you really let yourself feel it, not just “oh good I feel nice now”. Well what’s that feeling? Oh, it’s a sensitive presence feels sensitive, and I feel touched by it. It’s delicate and tender, and helps me tolerate that pain. So, the inquiry is really using your discernment, with your emotions, with your sensations. It brings in the totality of what a human being has at their disposal at any given time.

Iain: And its bringing understanding of experience.

Karen Understanding the experience, yes.

Iain: …which I know for myself has been so important…

Karen …not just understanding. It’s been as close and as intimate to the experience as possible. And letting the mind find it’s real place. To discriminate, to know, and to assist the heart in opening. Not to close it down. So, using mind to help heart, and heart helping mind by feeling the love to know the truth. So, these two are a real … you might say sacred marriage.

Iain: Again, the love to know the truth.

Karen Love to know the truth takes mind and heart together.

Iain: Yes.

Karen: As a collaborative…it’s a dance. They are great dancing partners, and they teach each other how to work, how to function better, and refine them.

Iain: I want to go back to meditation, because we skipped off that to go to inquiry…

Karen That’s our main practice, the inquiry.

Iain: Yes, I understand that, but I think there are a lot of people like you that find meditation hard. I wonder what kind of, I was going to say tips, but encouragement you can give them. You were saying you found it difficult but you stayed with it. What were the tools you used to really stay with it?

Karen First, I listened to the person that told me I needed it.

Iain: Ok, which was Hameed, yes.

Karen Hameed. We were best friends but also, I recognised at some point he was my teacher. That relationship change over time until it became much more mutual. But when I heard him say you need to do this, which was rare, I listened. So, I did it. The obstacle for me was setting aside the time. I am a doer. I like doing things. I like exercising. I like dancing. I like doing stuff. I’m a mover and a shaker.

Iain: I can see that (laughing).

Karen That’s just what I do. So, to spend the time with myself sitting, not doing anything, was the first part of the practice. Sometimes I sat there and said “Ok I’m making a list in mind head of all the things to do… no come back, come back. It took a great deal of will for me to sit there. That was in itself a very important part of the practice. The next thing was to actually, be able to land, to get quiet. Once that began to happen for me, I began to look forward to that intimacy with myself to just be. To just be without having to do anything. To just be able to be, open to feel my mind quiet. To feel the peacefulness. I had felt peacefulness before but it was in what I called my moving meditations, my hiking. Then I realised this has value on its own. Get in touch with that presence of peace, the emptiness, the quietness. Not only not having to be anything, but not having to do anything, and saw that my compulsion to do was problematic for me. It began to highlight things about me that my doing, kind of cloaked. So, it gave me a deeper ability to see the areas of my mind that couldn’t be exposed by my moving meditations. And that became more and more refined, and it empowered the inquiry in a way that just inquiry on its own, just doesn’t have the same “perzazz”.

Iain: I liked the word you used to describe it “intimacy with myself”. I think I feel, yes, how can I feel I have intimacy? How can I feel intimacy with the other, if I don’t have intimacy with myself?

Karen Yes.

Iain: It’s very true isn’t it.

Karen It is.

Iain: And a lot of us, a lot of people struggle with intimacy with themselves, they wonder then why, they don’t have intimacy with the other.

Karen They very often try to get it through what we think of as being intimacy with others, which means being in an intimate situation.

Iain: Yes.

Karen Rather than feeling the intimacy with one’s nature, with one’s self, and that can be expressed then personally. I can feel that now, with you as we are talking about it. There is a softness, and a heartfulness.

Iain: It becomes a meeting, that to me is often, the meeting, the level of the meeting is intimacy at times.

Karen That can be even more than a meeting. The intimacy can actually feel like a unity where we share the same heart.

Iain: Yes.

Karen And that can go even beyond sharing. There is no distance between us at all.

Iain: The oneness is flowering.

Karen Yes.

IN: We have about 3 minutes left. I’d like to hand that time to you. Do what you like with the last 3 minutes.

Karen Time is non- existent.

Iain: Except in a TV studio (laughing).

Karen Yes. It’s interesting as we talk about the intimacy, the way I feel that our heart is simply a flower, at the moment. It goes beyond time, beyond space. And that’s the real freedom. It’s not to be caught in time and space. In the human condition, we can be in suffering, we have physical ailments, there is emotional suffering, but we can learn that there is something far beyond that. And we can be free within those conditions of suffering. And that is real freedom. We don’t have to be in any particular condition, but we can also know the beauty of what it really means to be with another authentically and truly.

Iain: Yes.

Karen And that’s the beauty of being human. We get to know that.

Iain: You’ve just reminded me that we’ve done some interviews on Conscious TV with people who have been in prison, and that they found in prison, unbelievably freedom, incredible freedom. That’s right you can almost be anywhere, in any situation and be free.

Karen Even within one’s own suffering. That dynamism is still there saying “know me. In any way, I show myself, know me”

Iain: Ok. That’s a pretty good place to finish. Karen, I really appreciate you coming along and chatting to us on Conscious TV.

Karen: It’s beautiful to be here.

Iain: Thank you, and thank you everybody for watching Conscious TV again, and I really do hope we see you again soon. Goodbye.


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