Hugh Milne: My journey to the heart of listening
An interview by Iain McNay
Iain: Hello and welcome again to Conscious TV. I’m Iain McNay, and today our guest is Hugh Milne. Hi Hugh
Hugh: Hi Iain
Iain: Hugh has written a couple of books. They are very different. I’m going to hold them up here. The first one is ‘The heart of listening’, a visionary approach to cranio-sacral work. We are going to talk partly about this book, and partly about his work. Another book which is completely different, because Hugh was actually the personal bodyguard for Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh also known as Osho for many years, and wrote a book about that called ‘Bhagwan The God that Failed’. We won’t feature to heavily on this, but we will include his story with Bhagwan. He has also been featured in a film which has come out in Switzerland in 2010, not the UK yet, which is called ‘Guru: Bhagwan, his Secretary & his Bodyguard’, which I haven’t seen yet but I think is going to be very interesting. So, Hugh you’ve certainly had a varied life, so we’re going to basically focus on your journey and what you’ve learnt through your life, what you’ve felt, and how you’ve integrated your experiences. I know something happened when you were five years old, when a teacher in a class said to you draw a picture. I think it was on a man on a hill.
Hugh: So, I drew the sky colour blue around the man’s figure, but left a gap around the man’s figure, because that’s what I saw, we’re surrounding by a different nature of field around our body. The teacher came over and said “No, there’s no space around people, colour the blue right in against the man’s body.”
I thought, “Oh I’m not supposed to see that”. That was an eventful day because from that moment on until I was about twenty- five, I shut that down. I felt I wasn’t supposed to see it.
Iain: So, you felt at the time, you knew you’d seen something. Did you feel guilty, did you maybe think you’d misread what you’d seen, do you remember at the time?
Hugh: I was the bad boy in the family, so to me this was just another example of “you’re doing something wrong.” So, it was very easy for me to accept the criticism, or the observation that that does not exist. What you’re seeing does not exist. My memory such as it is of the consciousness of being 5 years old is of desperately wanting to fit in with the adult world, and adults tell me how things are. So, if an adult says that doesn’t exist, good, that doesn’t exist.
Iain: So, they must be right
Hugh: Yes, it’s their world
Iain: That’s how we’re brought up to a large degree, they are right and what we see maybe be wrong or inappropriate, or even not there, as in your case
Iain: So, obviously the head somehow was a precursor to some extent, because you ended up becoming an osteopath and a cranio-sacral therapist, so it was an important part of your early life, the fact that the head somehow became a focus
Hugh: I remember asking my grandfather James C Thompson, when I was probably ten, “grandad how high do we know the top of our head is”? He was an osteopath and learned in such matters. He had the gentleness to say “ well, let’s think about that. Let’s see if we can figure out how we know where the top of our head is”. At the time I think it was just a literal question, but as I became interested the in the chakra system, I thought maybe I was in some dim groping way, asking my grandfather about the crown chakra. How do we know what’s up here (pointing to head)?
Iain: So, both your father and grandfather worked as osteopaths
Hugh: Yes, and mother and two uncles
Iain: Wow. So, it really was in the family
Iain: You went to a Rudolph Steiner school
Hugh: In Scotland
Iain: How was that for you?
Hugh: I went there because the traditional Scottish primary school I was at was for me a place of punishment and unhappiness. I was bottom of the class in most subjects, getting caned on my knuckles several times a day for not doing my homework. My parents took me out of that, recognising that that system didn’t work for me, and took me to the Rudolph Steiner school. On the one hand is was a great relief not to need to do a rigorous amount of homework anymore. The other side of that was eventual arriving at a place, five years later, where I wouldn’t be able to go to university because the structuring of the Steiner school and my own lack of academic prowess meant I couldn’t get the exams for university entrance. At that point aged 12, I left the Steiner school and went to the local comprehensive school to get my university entrance.
Iain: Then you studied to be an osteopath in London when you were in your late teens
Iain: You found your vocation in life somehow or you thought you found your vocation in life, and you became quite successful, quite quickly didn’t you?
Hugh: Far more quickly than I thought. The turning point for me was a day in my private practice in Kensington, London, when I made £60 in one day. This was in 1972. Until recently I had been living on one or two pounds a week getting through osteopathic school frugally without a grant, so £60 in one day was a huge amount of money. My inner ear said, “so you earned £60 so what? Did you enjoy that? Do you want to do that for the rest of your life”? The answer was no. I want to know the more deeper realms of human interaction, I don’t just want to earn money.
Iain: What did that mean to you at the time ‘deeper realms of human interaction’?
Hugh: I had an experience in the health clinic I worked at, of being on night duty, and seeing an elderly gentlemen walk up the stairs, and I said to the night nurse,” who’s that”? She said, “That’s Mr Hodges”. I said, “Why is he here”? She said, “there’s nothing wrong with him, in fact he is having an affair with Mrs Williams”. I just noticed him and didn’t know why. At 4 in the morning the night nurse worked me up and said, “he’s gone, he’s gone”. I said, “what do you mean”? She said, “Mr Hodges is dead”.
He died of a heart attack that night. I wanted to know what is this? What am I seeing. It wasn’t conscious beyond seeing the man and noticing something that was sub-cortical. Some awareness that something is amiss, enough to ask the night nurse who is there. I wanted to understand that more. I didn’t feel there was anyone at the osteopathic college I could ask. I couldn’t ask my father although he very much had that gift but wouldn’t talk about it. I wanted to find someone who could help me with it, because it disturbed me.
Iain: Where were you drawn practically, on that journey next?
Hugh: I felt like a fraud. I felt that I was practising as an osteopath when something else was knocking at my door wanting to come though. I kept looking for a different way. So, I became a student of Michael Barnett’s in his encounter groups in London in the early 1972.
Iain: This was the community centre…
Hugh: Yes, it was first called Kaleidoscope, and then there was a name change to ‘Community.’ I was one of a small group being trained to be encounter group leaders with him. I did psychodrama, Gestalt therapy. I touched into Rolfing, and kept looking for what is the…
Iain: You were immersing yourself in a big adventure there
Hugh: Yes. I wanted an answer. I wanted to know, what is this stuff?
Iain: So, for people who do not know what an encounter group is, just explain briefly how they used to work, the old encounter groups.
Hugh: Encounter began with the work of Carl Rodgers in the early 60’s in the Esalen Institute. It was inspired by the work of Fritz Perls, the Gestalt therapy pioneer. In essence. It was let’s strip away our social politeness and say how we really feel. If we’re sad, let’s say we’re sad, not what a nice day this is. If we’re angry let’s just say we’re angry. If we’re scared let’s say we’re scared. It used the group field, up to 30 people sitting in the same room, to confront those members of the group, or whom the group felt were not being authentically themselves.
Iain: It was about being honest really, wasn’t it?
Iain: There was also something I remember reading in one of your books when you had had a very busy day as an osteopath, you’d done something like 19 sessions, and you were exhausted. You had one more session left, and you felt you didn’t have the energy to do your normal session
Hugh: To slightly correct you, this was the year, the summer before I went to osteopathic school. My mother had taught me Swedish massage at the Kingston Clinic in Scotland where my family had a clinic. Yes, there was a schedule of 16 massages that day, 25 minutes each and 5 minutes for the change- over. The last patient, a male came in, took off all his clothes, as people did in those days, and laid down on the table. I leant back against this mahogany door exhausted, and said to myself “I can’t do this. I can’t do another rub-a dub-dub Swedish massage. I didn’t know what to do. I then heard the words in my inner ear ‘hold his feet’. Conscious me, centre ego said, ‘well my mother didn’t teach me how to do that. I can’t do that.’ ‘Touch his feet’. The third time being told to do this I thought I can’t do what I normally do, so I’ll touch his feet. After I held the man’s feet for 5 minutes, quite still, just holding his feet, I heard the instruction “now hold his sacrum”. So, I went to hold his sacrum, and the session unfolded. At the end of the 25 minutes, the distinguished gentlemen got up and said, “what was that”? I didn’t know what it was so in my insecurity I said, “that’s what I always do”. He said, “well I’ve been coming to this clinic for 30 years and that was the best session I’ve ever had. I didn’t know. In my insecurity I said” that’s what I always do”. I was shaken by it. I didn’t understand it. I knew that if you heard voices you were probably schizophrenic, so I didn’t discuss it with my mother or father, but it left a deep impression on me. This was something I’d never experienced. I was 19 years old. It was a drug free state of altered consciousness that came about through exhaustion, and it was one of the reasons I ended up in India six years later. What is this stuff?
Iain: It was another example in a way of following your truth. You didn’t understand what your truth was, but you followed it.
Hugh: Reluctantly, which has always been my way.
Iain: So, you then went on to experiment with meditation, but you were quite resistant to start with, a little bit. You saw it as mystical, is that right?
Hugh: I associated it with old ladies with crystal balls, and a kind of opaque out-of-the-body mysticism, that threatened me. I wanted something more down to earth and based on mechanics such as much of osteopathy is. I wanted something more grounded. True to several other decision points in my life, it was only manifested through a series of outside events. The health clinic I worked at, closed down unexpectedly and suddenly I was without a job, four days a week. The very next day I hear about this meditation course run by Veena who had just come from Bombay and visiting someone called ‘Bhagwan,’ who’s locket she was wearing in front of her heart. I think the truth about my life journey is that I’ve been reluctant -- if not cowardly -- to make real changes. If I hadn’t lost my highly lucrative health clinic job and if the meditation course had not been free, I would not have done it. I would have probably remained on the periphery of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh movement for quite some time. It was free and started the next morning. My friend Bill said we’ll do it together, so I thought, ‘why are you resisting’? let’s do it.
Iain: So, within a few weeks or months you felt you needed to go to Bombay to meet this man?
Hugh: So, the next day was the first of 10 days of dynamic meditation, and on the last day Bill said, “let’s go to India”. So, I said “if you go, I’ll go”. We booked tickets on Egypt Air for several weeks hence. The day before we were due to fly to Bombay, Bill said, “I’ve changed my mind I’m going to New York instead”. If I had to book the ticket on my own, I wouldn’t have done it. I’d never left the UK before, except for three short visits to France. The concept of going to India was overwhelming to me but going with my friend Bill, was fine. But as it was, Bill went to New York to do The Arica Training with Oscar Ichazio instead, and I went to India on my own.
Iain: You got there. You went to see Bhagwan. What were your first impressions when you met him?
Hugh: I went to two evening lectures and was quite touched by how delicate and poised he was. How smooth and effortless his speaking voice was although he was speaking in Hindi. I had my first Darshan with him, in those days they were one-on-one Darshans with him in his room. I was completely transformed by the experience of being in his presence. I took sannyas with him, was given a new name…
Iain: What does that mean “completely transformed by being in his presence”?
Hugh: It was the first time in my life I’d met someone who did not live in the normal world, who had transited the normal world to go to a different place. It’s the shaktipat, the contact high, sitting in the presence of someone who lives in a different consciousness.
Iain: What effect did that have on you?
Hugh: I felt like I’d met my father, my real father. I felt expanded yet grounded. Cognitively I said that he was the wisest man I had met in my life. I’d met two or three really authentic teachers at school, and here was someone I felt was the next great teacher for me. So, part of it was - in Jungian terms - a transference to a father figure, part of it was being inducted into his state of consciousness, an enlightened state of consciousness. Part of it was a tremendous impact on my heart. I’d never met anyone remotely like him
Iain: When you say, “impact on your heart”, what did that feel like?
Hugh: It feels like being in love with the world, with myself, with him. It’s like the experience of being in love. It’s like the experience pregnant women have in the third trimester going to the supermarket checkout line and falling in love with the guy who takes their money. It’s like being in love with everybody. I had grown up in post-war Britain with food rationing, being the bad boy in the family, being terrible at school, with a lot of aggression and anger at school – fights and bulling, and rugby. A lot of grey, difficult, post war times, and then suddenly I’m in India and in the presence of someone who is clear. Someone who in a way is all heart, I don’t know how I can say it in any other way, how different that it was.
Iain: Yes. Practically, you were doing the dynamic meditation on the beach
Hugh: Five o’clock in the morning, Shakpati Beach, panting, hooting, with stray dogs threatening to bite your calves.
Iain: A completely different way of life. Your relationship with Bhagwan, to start did you become close to him personally, or did that come later?
Hugh: I think the crucial event was Darshan at Mount Abu Hill Station in Rajasthan, where I don’t remember, perhaps on the fourth or fifth day of my second meditation camp, when he said, “you have to go to this farm”, with thirty- five other people. I looked at him and said, “I don’t want to go”. Then something clicked into place. My grandmother had had a stroke when I was sixteen, and my mother had said, “go and sit with your grandmother”. I said I don’t want to sit with my grandmother, I want to ride my motor bike in the mountains”. She said, “go and sit with your grandmother”. I said, “want am I going to do for twenty minutes, she can’t talk”? She’d lost her speech, as a result of the stroke. My mother just insisted, sit with your grandmother. In that moment sitting beside Bhagwan, that same thing clicked, listening to someone deeper than what they are saying. I heard Bhagwan saying, you have to go to the farm. I looked at him and said I do have to go to the farm, don’t I? He just made a little jolt, looked at me and said, “good, you have to go”. I had the sense I was reading his mind, as he was so good at reading other people’s minds. I think that was the beginning of our personal connection. As a result of that, I think he was comfortable with me being his bodyguard for seven years, because we had an intuitive ability to communicate where a lot of the time he didn’t need to tell me what he needed done. I just sensed it and went to do it. He would never appreciate that I had done that, he would only criticise when I didn’t get it done.
Iain: So, keeping it in sequence, you went to the farm which was called Kailash, it was very hot and not a great place to be. Yet something happened to you there, didn’t? Something you talked about in “Bhagwan: The God that Failed”. You talked about, you did actually intuitively connect with this feeling you had when you were five years old.
Hugh: Yes. I think perhaps Bhagwan’s greatest genius was sensing people’s essence and what they needed to do, to return to a deep connection with their essence. In my case, he said go to the farm, Kailash, and for three months be in early 1974. “Be in silence,” he instructed, and that’s what I did on the farm. I only lasted two months there before I left of my own accord. But by the end of the two months it really worked for me. I arrived at that point of seeing auras again and sensing what people would say before they said anything.
Iain: So that was really coming back to something you had, you’d lost, and you rediscovered. You met a tiger there. You were close to a tiger, that must have been quite something.
Hugh: In the boy scouts in Scotland we were sometimes given a task of walking at night, actually that was something we also did at the Rudolph Steiner school. In mid-summer we would walk all night in the Pentland hills, in Scotland. In the boy scouts, we would have a fence, and a field, it was virtually pitch black but occasionally some star light. Was there a bull in the field? We were young teenagers, so it was a sense of a bit of a risky adventure. Hop over the fence and you would find out the hard way whether there was a bull. Well I’m at Kailash, in the middle of a jungle clearing, and there are tigers in the jungle. I’m walking at night, suddenly it’s quiet. There are no crickets, no cicadas, and I sensed something in front of me. I thought, ‘well it can’t be a dog because the villagers put the dogs away at night. It can’t be a cow because they tether the cows because of the tigers. I thought well it can’t be a tiger you dramatist, why would it be a tiger?’ But I thought there is something there. I clapped my hands loudly and in front of me very close by there is a screech, a rough displacement of ground. I thought, ‘it was an f… tiger.’ In The Economist in November 2010 was an article on the tigers, and the plight of the tigers. Debbie Banks noted that “Nobody ever forgets their first tiger,” and I know that to be true.
Tigers carry a powerful field.
Iain: So, you moved back to Kailash. Was it then that the Bhagwan, and the ashram moved to Poona, or was that a bit later?
Hugh: During the time I left Kailash the whole Bombay scene moved to Poona. By the time I got back to Bombay no one was there. I hadn’t heard they had moved to Poona. When I got to Poona I had decided I wasn’t going to see Bhagwan again. I was just going to go home, but he had one of those moments, of I think genius where he enticed me back. Nine months later I was his body guard.
Iain: But Hugh, what from your side was pulling you? You talk about his genius, but was it a quest for enlightenment, freedom. What was going on in you in terms of your journey?
Hugh: I’ve never felt that I was of the calibre to become enlightened. I have this deep sense of myself as the bad boy, so it was never a question of going to India to become enlightened. Although the idea was attractive, I didn’t feel it was practical. I went to see Bhagwan because I wanted to understand these weird things that were happening to me. I think part of the reason that I stayed was because I had personal connection that was very meaningful to me. A transference to a father figure. A transference to someone who manifested this wonderful feeling of heart chakra openness. And to me he could patently, obviously do all kinds of things that I only occasionally got a glimpse of. It is important in my personal journey that he understood that in no way was I ambitious. There were many people more gifted than myself as meditators or therapist who Bhagwan basically would not let near him because they were ambitious for his throne. He knew absolutely, unquestionably that I was not ambitious for his throne. So, that was part of it as well.
Iain: So, you were kind of following but you didn’t have a goal as such. You were following what was there, and the next stage would appear? Am I right in how I describe it?
Hugh: Today, aged sixty-two it’s hard for me to remember what it was really like to be twenty-five and lost, full of sex hormones and longing. Financially successful but spiritually lost, with no real experience of meditation. Well by 1976 I had some personal experiences of stillness and depth, but basically, they were just words. So why was I there? Because I was lost, looking for answers because the western world, and being successful in Kensington, wasn’t enough for me.
Iain: So, you felt a kind of emptiness, maybe from the western world.
Hugh: Yes, a depression, an emptiness. I’d been through four years of osteopathic college, and I was successful long before I thought it would ever be, but I thought, ‘so what! Where is the rest? Where’s the real meaning?’
Iain: So, tell me more…you were talking earlier about this intuitive relationship you had had with Bhagwan in terms of being able find the danger that may be there.
Hugh: In a way it’s similar to the seeing of auras, the perception of the field around people’s bodies, or animal’s bodies for that matter. My karate teacher, Jack Lehman, said you never know what will happen in a fight. It doesn’t matter how well trained you are, you never know the outcome of a fight. Realising the truth of that I realised the essence of my job as bodyguard was to not let anyone in front of him who might be of danger to him. The true work of a bodyguard is half an hour before, screening out anyone who might be of possible danger. So, I would stand back from the audience, stand back from the people coming into his darshan line, and notice anyone whose field I felt was out. To me, I don’t see colours in the aura, I just begin to look at people. By the third time I’ve looked at someone, I’ve thought, why am I looking at that person. Let me go talk to them. So, I would go up to them and ask an innocent sounding question – “how are you doing today” - and start… sometimes provoke them, push them a bit to see if they were in a calm state or not. If they were I would back off, if not I would escort them out.
Iain: When you escorted them out, did it normally go easily or was it sometimes a struggle?
Hugh: Two or three times a year it became a fight. I had one or two guards to back me up, some of the time. Sometimes it was a messy street fight with the robe being torn off my back, but luckily most of the time there was a sufficiently rigorous vetting process between myself and the ladies who were also involved in that process, that I never had a fight right in front of Bhagwan. It was always a hundred feet away, and half an hour before.
Iain: You talk in ‘Bhagwan: The God that failed’ book about surrender, and this was a bit later, you started to question what surrender meant to you if you were practically needed to do what you were asked to do. At that stage were you still automatically in connection in that state with Bhagwan, so the question whether you needed to surrender came up?
Hugh: There were times in Poona when I was in a state of ecstatic happiness, that this was the perfect place. This was the journey, a crusade and it was magical and powerful, and I had no questions about my journey and connection to Bhagwan. There were more times when I thought, what am I doing here? My health and my life are in jeopardy. If I didn’t have this great job going to darshan every night, I’d be out of here. So, initially there was a tremendous emphasis on surrender. The word surrender was used extensively, and it caused me to go back to London twice, before I finally, on my third visit, stayed for seven years. The use of the word ‘surrender,’ in my experience of it, metamorphized into the work. It was no longer you have to surrender, it was you had to work. The work pretty quickly, by 1997, became seven days a week, twelve to fourteen hours a day
Iain: This is when the ashram moved to Oregon?
Hugh: No this is still in Poona, we moved to Oregon in 1981
Iain: I was a sannyasi, as you know. I wasn’t at all involved in Poona, but I did visit Oregon three times. So, I understood the hours you worked there. They were very long hours. It was basically seven days a week.
Hugh: Yes, on a bulldozer
Iain: That was physically gruelling I would imagine
Hugh: Yes, it was and very loud. You are six feet away from the exhaust stack of a seven litre diesel engine with no silencer. So, it was gruelling. No suspension, minus ten Celsius for four months of the winter
Iain: The thing I remember form my visits is this incredible energy. You can’t really describe it, you had to be there to experience it. Living in that energy field must felt supportive a lot of the time.
Hugh: Yes. ‘Energy field’ is a good word. I like the term ‘group soul,’ when a number of people come together with the same purpose, especially a higher purpose, such as a spiritual journey. It helps manifest a group soul. The group soul in Rajneeshpuram, in the community in Oregon, was extraordinary. I think it sustained the initial growth of the commune and also at a tipping point around 1984 began the destruction of the commune when people began to leave. When the next world festival, a year later actually had three thousand less people attending, than the 1983 festival.
Iain: So, you left actually twice didn’t you. The first time you left you found it difficult going back into the world, and you ended up coming back after a few weeks, or months.
Iain: How did you feel to leave? Here you were leaving your master who you had been body guard to for seven years and very close friends, and you go out into a very different society
Hugh: I can’t remember the name of it, but one of Sean Connery’s early movies, he’s in prisoner for safe-cracking. When he gets out of prison at the same time as a sixty-five year old guy, and Sean Connery, and the sixty-five year old and a couple of other ex convicts, are in a shopping mall. The sixty-five year old guy doesn’t know what to do. He’s been in prison for twenty years, and there are ATM, banks without grills, he doesn’t know how to function. I felt like that, I felt like Rip Van Winkle. I felt like five years old. My entire life for nine and a half years had been in the commune, and I couldn’t manage. I was institutionalised - I’d become institutionalised. So, I went back and thought, ‘I’ll give this one more try. I don’t like what’s going on here, but maybe it’s me that’s wrong.’ I went back. I think that was about July or August 1982, and very quickly my inner ear said, ‘your heart isn’t in this.’ I’d had a wonderful time for ten years. My life-long pattern - as we’ve touched on - has been to delay things and put off difficult decisions, so it was not until November 1982 that I finally left. By then it became weird and strange, and one of my best friends had died and we were basically forbidden to do anything more than make a cursory search for him. I was given these strange jobs to do, like photographing and harassing the retired people of Antelope, Oregon, and a number of other events like that, including being asked to photograph Bhagwan whilst he was on nitrous oxide. The collective experience of was of breaking my heart, and feeling my heart isn’t in it. I left the second time with the resolution that I can’t come back. This does not work, and I can’t do it again. I have to leave for good.
Iain: That was very difficult wasn’t it?
Iain: Do you want to talk us briefly through how… I think you were depressed.
Hugh: Initially, I had six months of exhilaration, that I’m free.. After six months of being in a way, on a high from leaving and feeling that I had made the right decision, I again became lost. That same quality of being institutionalised, floored me. I questioned whether I had made the right decision that at that point…became depressed, recognised I wasn’t taking good care of myself; wasn’t earning money; saw a psychiatrist for some sessions. He ended up saying “I don’t know what’s wrong with you, I think you should go back to that ranch in Oregon.” I thought, ‘you’re no help to me at all, I can’t go back there.’ In the end I asked the psychiatrist to get me admitted to a psychiatric hospital, I can’t manage this. I need to be taken care of. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of it but he wrote me a note to go to the psychiatric hospital. When I was admitted the medical staff looked at my arms for needle marks – was I a heroin user? They couldn’t find any and couldn’t understand why I was there. When I was admitted I smiled to myself a big smile of relief, and said to myself, now they won’t kill me. Whether that is factually true or not, it certainly could have been, because they were actively planning to kill the doctor I worked with in the health centre. They tried to kill him. They tried to kill the Attorney General of Oregon. That was my intuitive sense that they could write me off, because he’s crazy he’s in a psychiatric hospital. He is no longer a danger, we don’t need to kill him
Iain: How did you get through that? You went into the psychiatric hospital, what was the doorway to getting back into the functioning world?
Hugh: It was human contact. We had an art class each day for probably five days a week. Opposite me sat a young West Indian woman who was about my age – I was then thirty- four, thirty- five - she said, “are you in for section.” I said “what’s that?” She said, “it’s the law that if you do something crazy, the police put you in here.” I said, “no, I wanted to come in here.” She said, “you wanted to come in here?” I said yes. I asked her, “how did you get in here?” She said, “my boyfriend jilted me. It was two in the morning. We were in Bayswater in a back alley. There were all these garages with glass windows down the street. I went down, and I punched out all the glass windows and lacerated my forearms. When the police arrested me, they reckoned they should section me and put me in here.”
She became my buddy. It was human contact. I’d been through a heart-breaking change, and so had she, and these things happen. Now, let’s get well and go out there and work again. After six weeks, I was back out working again. That was the transformative relationship. The psychiatrist in there looked at me and thought…
Iain: He couldn’t work you out (laughing)
Hugh: You’ve been to India for ten years…
Iain: The ironic thing was that I know you had a lot of negative feedback from Bhagwan and the people around him, then you had a letter at one point saying you were a bodhisattva and you were destined to become enlightened in this life time. That must have been a surprise to you when that arrived
Hugh: I think it’s always been a tussle between my admiration and appreciation for Bhagwan for the things he did give me and teach me, and my horror at the callousness of some of his actions. Such as my friend Ambara, whose canoe capsized, and after eight hours we were forbidden to look for him any further. In my judgment of it, there was a certain callous disregard for human life. So, I had these two streams, one appreciative, the other very wary. Immediately I decided to leave in November 82, I was pronounced to be a Judas. It was said that I had divulged all the data about Bhagwan’s immigration case and now, because of my betrayal, he would have to leave America. I did no such thing. The ranch’s lawyer was with the whole way through the immigration interview. I had experienced if you like, of a two-edged sword. This announcement of me being a bodhisattva and being given two honorary degrees by his university arrived whilst I was in hospital with a broken pelvis after a motorcycle accident. It just felt like an opportunism. He wanted to entice me back at a time when my defences may be down, sure enough six months later he announced that the whole thing was a joke
Iain: We have about ten minutes left, and I’d really like to talk about your book “The Heart of Listening” which I must admit I’ve only glanced at part of it. I haven’t read the whole book, but there are some fascinating things in there. It was really important we cover your story first because it gives a background of how you got to this place. The fact that everything started when you were a five-year old, and then it got lost, and rediscovered. It’s been a very rich journey for you to rediscover that. So, what in essence is “the heart of listening”?
Hugh: I think it’s what I did with my grandmother. It’s sitting with someone and sensing (a) who’s here really here (b) what troubles them (c) what do they need, and (d) how can I help. These are the four aspects of a visionary. So, it’s an aspect of archaic shamanism that’s not at all new. It’s an ancient healing tradition where you don’t use drugs, you don’t use medical intervention, you don’t use physical therapy exercises. You really try to perceive who is here, and what troubles them. In the cranio-sacral model in which I stand and which I teach, that uses a series of hands-on contacts typically to the cranium, the spine and the sacrum, to help bring someone back to their silence, their deep connection to their own centre. The concept being, that when they lose that, sooner or later they develop symptoms of depression, or lethargy.
Iain: Ok, but don’t we all lose contact with our centre…
Hugh: Yes, we have to…
Iain: So, it’s really about rediscovery, or re-contact with our centre. How in life does the ordinary person do that? I know you dealing with, not physical work, but I know you are gently touching people, but what would be your advice to people who feel they have lost their centre? The direction where they should look to help re-find their centre
Hugh: First, a line from the bible “be still and know”. In my experience nothing is more powerful than stillness by which I mean, sitting meditation, sitting perfectly still. John Lennon in his genius said, “the truth is only one deep breath away”. And so (a) be still and know (b) take a deep breath, be honest with yourself, like the encounter group ethos. How does the ordinary person manifest that? Through human contact, through reaching a breaking point in their life where through exhaustion or desperation something opens. Do you remember the story in Paul McCartney’s life when he’s with The Beatles, and as Ringo said of themselves “we were just buskers, none of us could even read music”. There’s Paul let’s say twenty- three years of age and wealthy beyond his wildest dreams, women at his feet, houses, fast cars. He wakes up – I’ll go to poetic licence now because I don’t know the exact details- but he wakes up at three in the morning, not knowing what he’s doing in this woman’s apartment, and feels completely lost without any bearings at all. He remembers his dead mother - Paul’s mother died when he was a teenager- saying “Paul when you don’t know what to do ask the Mother Mary”. Paul does, and you know the resulting song. When you find yourself in times of trouble, Mother Mary come to me (singing). Three o’clock in the morning – poetic licence, maybe it was five, I don’t know – Mother Mary came to Paul and changed his life. My step father used to swear and cuss. One day the Virgin Mary came to him. You might say that’s crazy - Virgin Mary - he’s hallucinating. His experience was one day as he was swearing the Virgin Mary came and said, “don’t swear, it offends God”. He didn’t swear ever after. As a therapist working with people for many years, I know that every human being has some experience like that
Iain: So, the key words are truth, intuition, I guess to a certain extent courage because you have got to…
Hugh: No, I don’t believe in courage. Aung San Suu Kyi who won the Nobel peace prize in 1995, someone said to her, “Aung San Suu Kyi you are so courageous”. She said, “No I’m an ordinary woman. Brave woman are ordinary women who go on. Saints are sinners who gone on trying. We can only hope that are fears do not dictate what we do”. It was Paul Lowe who said to me many years ago “people only change when they are desperate or they’re in love”. I think that’s absolutely true.
Iain: Or highly inspired somehow
Hugh: Yes, that would count. Good.
Iain: I’m quite intrigued, I read part of your ‘Heart of Listening’ book, it seems when you touch someone’s body, you pick up information. You pick up a lot of information, it seems. You used the word hologram. It seems like one part of the body is a hologram of the rest of the body. Can you explain that a little bit more in simple terms?
Hugh: We have a paradigm in the west. There’s the body, the spirit, and perhaps the soul, and the three are separate. In Dzogchen cosmology, in Tibetan cosmology, they say, ‘the moment of conception is accompanied by a flash of bliss that denotes the formation of the heart chakra. That’s English language and perhaps also Tibetan language: the truth is, it’s one thing. The moment of conception is a flash of bliss, which is the formation of the heart chakra. So, the human energy field is the field of information and intelligence. It’s physical, the formation of the heart. It’s energetic, a flash of bliss. In sitting with someone, or touching someone, there are ways to tap into that field of information and intelligence. Cranio-sacral is one model of doing it
Iain: I know from sessions I’ve had over the years, it’s a gentle process isn’t it? You don’t seem to do anything, and yet the outcome can be quite dramatic.
Hugh: This is the eastern concept of the greatest of change comes from the most subtle of movements. The most powerful is actually the most gentle.
Iain: So, where do you see your life going now? Do you have any clues about how it unfolds next?
Hugh: I’ve gone from basically not knowing who I was to then, having the identity of a therapist, then with great reluctance becoming a cranio-sacral teacher, and in the last few years I’ve begun to teach classes in visionary work, no longer saying cranio-sacral. This is taking off. I’m simply saying yes to it
Iain: When you say visionary work, what do you mean by that?
Hugh: I use the definition from the work of Angeles Arrien who is a Basque woman living in California who says, “a visionary is someone who can do four things, and four things equally well. Perceive the physiological parts of their client. Second perceive their physiological entirety. Third perceive their process - using the word process in a Jungian sense - meaning the collective of their aspirations their personal psychology, their ego structure, their family constellation background. Fourth, have the same truthful and critical awareness of their own process, their own dreams, limitations, aspirations, egoic structure, constellation background, and can hold all four as equal in importance, and do all four equally well. That’s a long- winded definition. My shorter definition is the purpose of the work is to help create an open heart, a clear head, and a free body. When you say that to people they go, ‘ok I’ll try one session.’
Iain: That’s a great place to finish
Iain: I appreciate you coming in Hugh. I’m just going to show people, again, your diverse books here. The one we’ve just been talking about here ‘The Heart of Listening’ which is definitely in print. ‘The God that Failed’ which was Hugh’s adventures with Bhagwan, which you can get second hand. I’m not sure it’s in print now. The film ‘Guru’ which I mentioned earlier which I haven’t seen yet.
Hugh: The book’s upside down (laughing)
Iain: That’s how life is at times (laughing)
Hugh: Yes, it is
Iain: So, thanks again Hugh
Hugh: Thank you, it’s been fun
Iain: Thank you everyone for watching Conscious TV. I hope we see you again soon. Goodbye
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