Tony Samara – The Human Heart is the Hero
Interview by Renate McNay
Renate: Welcome to Conscious TV. My name is Renate McNay and my guest today is Tony Samara. Hello Tony.
Renate: I have books here from Tony. One is called ‘Deeper than Words’, ‘From the Heart’, and ‘Shaman’s Wisdom’ - and they are all wonderful books and I really enjoyed reading them.
Tony is a shaman, a healer and a spiritual teacher and he was here with us before on Conscious TV and we covered then his spiritual journey. Today we’ll talk more about other experiences he has had; about life and about his work. So Tony I’d like to start with your initiation into Shamanism which I found fascinating when I read that, because you had to go, and I think every shaman in his initiation has to go through death, through dying and being reborn. I would like to know how was this experience? And I think you had to take… what? …You tell us.
Tony: Yes. Well, to start with, shamanism is such a wide perspective of different teachings, so the way I work was quite specific to South America where I spent a lot of time, but Shamanism in general is healing. So it’s the knowledge of how to do this firstly with aspects of yourself and your immediate community and then how to apply that knowledge in a wider perspective. So I worked with South American shamans.
Renate: I think you were in northern Peru.
Tony: Yes, northern Peru and on the border with Brazil. I worked in that specific culture which is wonderful because it’s a mixture of native South American culture with the influence of western culture, because of course South America has been colonised for hundreds of years now so the European perspective of the world is also present in the native culture. So basically I didn’t know anything because I’m not from South America but I had a strong connection to the people and nature, to the forest, to the Amazon forest. And just the feeling of the place spoke deeply to my heart. So I went there not to study shamanism or to do anything specific, I went there as a marine biologist to work to help save the environment basically.
Renate: Yes. So you have a fascination with nature …
Tony: Totally. And that was my initial reason for being there. After a while I understood that – as everyone understands – that whatever your passion is, it’s also your path - and you have to go deeper; it’s not enough just to save the world, you have to also look at what is creating the disharmony in the world within yourself.
Renate: Yes, you have to save yourself too.
Tony: Exactly. And that is what the death/rebirth experience is. The death is basically the death of what the ego or the mind believes to be important. And the rebirth is being born again into the wider perspective of reality – what it is to be a human being but not focussed on yourself but focussed as part of nature, as part of the wholeness that is nature. And that was my experience. In a personal sense, it was very painful because I think every human being likes to hold on to little pictures about themselves and what they believe to be true and what they feel and what they think. And to let go of all those things sounds easy but…
Renate: What forced you to let go?
Tony: Well, there was no choice really. Because when you live with real people you have to be real. And native people, you know, they live in a very simple, quite real environment. And they have to be themselves. They can’t be something else because that’s a way to survive in the rainforest. And I realised that I needed to communicate my depth to the people and not just: ‘I’m here to save the rainforest’ or ‘I’m here to help you.’ You know, I had to see the deeper perspective of ‘Why am I here in the middle of the rainforest?’ It’s not even the place I was born or grew up in. ‘What brought me here?’
And I understood and also it was explained to me that I’m there in the rainforest – I feel like I’m there today! – to help come to some sort of understanding about myself, rather than trying to save the people. And the understanding was: ‘How can I bring that native knowledge that I could see and could feel, into the perspective of the western world?’ So I had to experience that within myself, to let go of the social ideas, and the projections that I had, the belief systems and the addictions to fear - that is one big thing that western people don’t understand, but we live in a very fear based culture, where we are conflicting with the laws of nature all the time to support the idea of who we are within that little context of the western culture. And I believe that we’re much more. And I needed to see that.
Renate: So you had to let go of your survival fear.
Tony: Survival fear and the fear of opening up and being intimate with nature and being close to the forces of nature without hiding behind the mask. You know, people, when they go into a rainforest, where there are all sorts of creatures, and dangers, real dangers…
Renate: And there’s no silence, you write in your book, it’s so noisy…
Tony: Musically noisy…
Renate: You cannot escape noise.
Tony: Exactly. Every animal is singing a song; every insect is alive with energy. And even the feeling of nature is alive with such ecstatic energy, it’s difficult to hide behind your mind’s pictures - to be partaking in what’s going on, you need to be real, you need to be open. And in the beginning that was very difficult for me, because I love nature and I studied nature but I was not able to approach it in the way that native people showed to be so easy and so beautiful to me. How they walked, how they related to everything around them, I just couldn’t do that within myself, in a real sense. I could pretend that I was in harmony with nature, but the reality was that I was looking out: ‘Is there a snake, are there scorpions, is there a this, is there a that?’ because that’s what the mind does, it’s afraid of anything that it doesn’t understand or it can’t control. And you can’t control nature.
Renate: A few years ago I saw a movie, I don’t know if you saw it, it was called ‘Emerald Forest’. And it was about an American family. They moved or he was transferred to Brazil, to the rainforest, to build a dam. And they had a little boy and the tribes in the rainforest were observing what they were doing. And they felt so sorry for this little boy so they kidnapped him because they thought he needed to grow up in nature. So they kidnapped him and he grew up in nature and then there was this scene where the boy was about twelve years old and he had to go though an initiation. And he had to dive down in a pond to get something and do all kinds of things. And what was so touching for me, was that the adopted mother, stood there and said to him: ‘I will never see my little boy again.’ Which meant: ‘You are not allowed to come back as a boy; you’re only allowed to come back into this tribe as a grownup.’ And I think we are missing something like that in our culture.
Tony: Totally. I believe we act as spoiled children, towards nature and towards just the beauty of living. And I think that’s what tribal people have that they haven’t lost and this is what we can learn from how to look at rituals and initiations in a way where they are useful and sacred and creates a possibility for us to move beyond certain limitations into a new perspective. That is what initiation is. As you say, we can grow into being fully part of the community, whichever community we live in and be productive and useful and part of that joy rather than always wanting to take everything away from nature so that we support our selfish needs. That sounds like a very interesting film.
Renate: Yes. If you haven’t seen it, you probably would like it.
Tony: I haven’t.
Renate: So you have such a passion, I mean it comes across in your book, for true nature in the aspect of life and mother earth and also the spiritual realms. Can you just tell us - I don’t remember now how much you said in the first interview - how did you come to realise true nature? What woke you up?
Tony: I think nature is something that we all love and feel at home and relate to in a way that is universal. And I think that’s a beautiful thing because it takes us beyond our differences. When anyone looks at a sunset or looks at the beautiful ocean or mountains, we feel a connection to the world that is very difficult to say ‘I’m this’ or I’m that’. It’s just universal. I feel that is something that children love. They love nature and it’s a pity in the western world that we are so far removed from the natural laws of nature and how to do things in harmony with nature. So for me, and my teaching is to bring that important realm into spirituality because it is part of spirituality. When you let go of the way the mind controls perspectives and the way the mind likes to see things, then we become more natural, we become ourselves. And when we become more natural we are much more able to understand how nature is a teacher. Every aspect of nature brings some sort of quality that can be part of who you are. And for me this is a very important part of the teaching – and especially in children.
Renate: I think you had a grandmother, who was teaching you about nature, wasn’t it? I had the same grandmother.
Tony: Exactly and this is the reason why I have the love for nature because from a very early age I was shown, in a real sense, the value of nature and how to go back to nature when things were disharmonious within me. So this is always what I did. If there was a conflict in the family or if there was something that created disharmony around me I would always go to nature, sit under a tree or just lie in the garden or do something where that harmony in nature created a more balanced perspective about the whole thing for me. Just being present to nature.
And my grandmother was definitely the main influence to allow me to understand that not only do you have to relax in nature to come back to harmony with yourself and nature but also that you can be active in utilising the natural forces in nature to heal and to change aspects that we believe that we can only do by ourselves. And this is what I was taught in the Amazon forest. I was taught how to use natural remedies to cleanse the body and how to let go of certain blocks in the body, for example fear, that somehow pollutes the liver or perhaps toxins that hold you so tightly together that you feel that you’re caged in through toxins of pain or suffering or whatever it is; and that there are natural remedies that you can use that help to release this - physical remedies but also energetic remedies. And we know this, if we’re feeling stressed, all we have to do is to walk somewhere where there is more oxygen or ions in the air and your whole brain has the possibility to relax and be more focussed and more productive. So nature is very useful on many levels.
Renate: I remember often visiting my grandmother and she would have on every shelf, she would have this paper sheets with all these different herbs and she would talk to them. And then later, she had them on a table and then used them, tom make tea and concoctions and all kinds of things. And later she had this kitchen table, and there were some plants on it and then she had to take pills for her heart, she was very old, and then she would take the pill and then she would give the plant the same pill and she would say: ‘ What’s good for me it’s also good for the plant.’ The love, the attention… it was very sweet.
Tony: I understand.
Renate: And I know you can talk to the plants, you can sing their song - it’s called Icaro – the song of the mother earth, you hear its song…
Tony: Yes. I understand your grandmother because I believe everything has a signature, which is in essence a movement of energy, which is sound, in the end. And you can replicate every aspect of nature through creating a sound, such as for example in India, they had the sound of OM, which I believe to be the beginning of creation or the manifestation of creation. Every aspect of nature has that power. So you can utilise those signatures to connect to the essence of plants or the essence of a mountain, or the stars and you can bring that quality into healing. So if you’re sick for example say, with heart disease, like you’re saying with your grandmother, you can connect to that signature that allows the heart to find the power of healing through the plants or through aspects of nature. And I think this is used even in homeopathy where somehow the vibration of certain plants…
Renate: That’s right, that is homeopathy.
Tony: Exactly, it’s easy; it’s not difficult.
Renate: But then Tony there are some illnesses, which start in the mind. So… and in my own experience and I worked for many years as a healer, unless something shifted in the mind, you can heal the body in the moment, but it’s coming out somewhere else or it’s coming back in the same place. Is the herb or the plant able to shift the very thing in the mind or what do you do to help people wake up? Because I know your message is – you travelled around the world and your passion is to wake people up – to wake them up to whom they are. That everything is One.
Tony: Exactly. That’s a very important question because it takes us beyond the mundaneness of: ‘I’m sick and I want to get better.’ Why are you sick? What is causing the disharmony?’ And most people don’t want to know why, they just want to get better and carry on doing whatever they are doing that perhaps created the illness in the first place. So I would say that if someone is ready to go to that depth and change their life, transform their life, of course there are natural remedies out there that can help. And for example the Native Americans have used herbs such as sage, which is considered very sacred. In India there are also herbs that people don’t really know what they are, the soma for example, it is written in the Vedas that are sacred, that I believe help to transform consciousness which is the core of my work really in the end – how to change the mind that has created that picture of disharmony that in the end has influenced the physical body to create disease. Because everything begins in the mind. Every thought that you have creates some sort of disharmony which has to go somewhere, and of course it goes to the physical body or to the way you feel or to the way you relate to yourself mentally.
So I believe that meditation in essence is the way forward. And that is how to understand the mind and how to understand how to let go of those perspectives that are creating disharmony. And that actually is quite a joyous thing when you let go of things that make you unhappy, because they are not very useful. And that is meditation. But there are plants that help meditation.
Renate: And that is meditation?
Tony: Exactly, for me that is meditation – to let go of everything that veils your joy and your spontaneous presence to this moment.
Renate: So you’re not talking about sitting down in meditation…
Tony: Well, you can sit down in meditation if that’s more comfortable but…
Renate: Tell me more, it’s interesting, because you also say: ‘To change a habit we have to meditate for a hundred and twenty days. That changes the whole physiology of the body.” So tell me more about that.
Tony: OK, I mean, the thing with western perspective is that we want things to happen immediately. We want to sit and meditate for twenty minutes and then if it doesn’t work we say: ‘OK meditation doesn’t really work for me. I’ll stop meditating.’ But habits, as we know, take a long time to change. Anyone who has been addicted to cigarettes or alcohol or…
Renate: Or suffering.
Tony: Or suffering, exactly, to their own mental picture, knows that you have to be quite disciplined on some level, and practise that clarity for a little while so that everything is let go of. So you let go not only of the mental picture but also the physical structure that holds on to that mental picture. For example, if we have fear, it’s not just an idea. Fear lives in the body, lives in your emotions, and lives in the nervous system. And how do you let go of that without continuously reminding yourself of what is real? And meditation… you know, some people are lucky, some people will meditate for twenty minutes and have an enlightening experience and be free. But that’s not very common.
Renate: That’s what they think. Some people just have an experience to be free but then it’s creeping all back again.
Renate: And then what happens often is that the ego takes hold of the experience.
Tony: And sees it as very important and then focuses on that rather than expressing that beauty in the body, in the way you relate to nature, in the way you relate to people and yourself. And this is why I think any habit requires a long time to transform. And that is a joy. So actually when you’re practising meditation with that intention, to let go of something, you’re not counting the days, you’re not thinking ‘OK, I’ve got eighteen more days to go.’ You understand that you’re getting closer so your heart feels more joy and more celebration that you’re getting closer to something that is so beautiful that it becomes timeless, your journey becomes a whole movement of meditation. And then in the end, after a hundred and twenty days, you don’t realise that…
Renate: So how does it look practically? Let’s take a habit, a visible habit. There are so many habits, which are running through us, which are not visible. So let’s take something like an addiction to suffering or an addiction to whatever… fear.
Tony: Fear is a great one.
Renate: Yes, OK. So how do you resolve that on a practical level?
Tony: OK. So the first step is to understand that you have fear, to be conscious. ‘OK, I have whatever personality situations that create who I am but I also have something that I don’t really like inside of me and that is fear.’ Which usually becomes unconscious or subconscious. It’s hidden behind what is obvious. When we focus on that it comes up to the surface, it shows itself. And one thing which is very common is that we say ‘Oh, we don’t want that’, so we try to find other things – enlightenment or freedom or whatever idea people have, that moves us away from the nasty feelings…
Renate: The experience.
Tony: Yes, the experience. So I would say that when you open up and say: ‘OK, I want to embrace fear from that perspective of freedom and I don’t want to run away from it.’ Then you’re becoming more conscious. That is the first step to meditation – consciousness. And when you are conscious that you have to work with fear, you’re also conscious of the aspects of fear that need to be let go of. So for example, if you’re afraid of expressing your love to someone, which obviously is very much part of fear. You know that ‘OK, I’m not going to fall into the old habit of playing a game, or projecting or hiding behind a mask. I can show my love more clearly because I can see what fear is and I can see how it controls me. And I don’t want to be controlled by that subconscious force anymore. I want to be real, I want to be myself.’ When you do that, nature – and this is why nature is important for me – and also the universal aspect of nature – the stars, the galaxies are naturally aligned to be more real. And when you are getting more into that space of realness, then nature supports your journey and you feel that you’re not alone.
And the movement from the unconscious primitive mind of survival transcends itself and becomes much more… I don’t really know what the word is… but much more enlightened. This is the word that people use.
Renate: You don’t use it?
Tony: I don’t like it because it creates that sense of ‘enlightened/not enlightened’ - but more free to explore itself in a real sense and show love. And then you can begin to be more like a spontaneous child and show who you are to the person and usually we realise that what we are afraid of is, of aspects of ourselves, not the love that we think will hurt us or whatever reasons we had to justify that fear. And when we begin to see things as they really are, that love is actually a beautiful feeling and the more we show to the world, the more we show to our partner or children, the more that reflects back not just from the family or from your partner but also from the Universe. There is a synchronicity that happens which supports your journey. Everything becomes more beautiful, more real.
And this is what I found to be in South America. People are so real that in those dangerous, very difficult places – the Amazon forest is not paradise as people think, it’s real, it has many aspects to it – there is a support that only happens to native people because they have let go of those fears and I feel that in our western culture today, we have to let go of those fears to transform that culture of aggression, the culture of war, the culture where we are constantly looking at what is important and best for us and ignoring the common good and the beauty that can be shared with everyone in this world. This is why we’re here.
Renate: Yes. That brings up a question in me of what freedom is because would you consider that people in South America are free? I mean, they probably have other limitations.
Renate: How do you experience freedom? Freedom is not only being able to deal with snakes or sounds or whatever, freedom is much, much more.
Tony: It is, it is. So I think that in the end I don’t try to put my perspective onto people’s belief systems or religious ideals. I think freedom in the end is something that you know from your heart. Kabir and Rumi, the famous poets, speak about this. When your heart is able to just celebrate being alive and seeing the value in everything, in that moment of aliveness. Now different people will measure that sense of freedom according to where they are at. For some people free, freedom may mean just to be free of disease, physical disease, because you have cancer and that’s what you want to be free of. Maybe when you’re free of the disease you realise ‘Wow, that was a journey; maybe I want to be free of the suffering that my mind is creating.’ But not everyone understands that perspective until they go through certain experiences in life and this is why we’re here in Earth, to develop and to change our perspective. And I feel today more than ever, more and more people are ready to transform the core, the essence, which is the Maya, I call it the Maya, meaning the illusion that the mind creates. And I think that freedom then is obvious.
It’s like what Buddha experienced; if you’re attached to the negative perspectives of the mind – fear, worry, stress, then you’re not free. If you let all those aspects go, then there is a freedom that can’t be spoken about because as soon as you start speaking about freedom you’re placing some perspective onto that freedom that limits the freedom because it’s a human perspective. And this is why for example in Sufism and the mystical traditions of the Middle East, people don’t like to put names to the divine. They reflect aspects of the divine as important but they don’t actually say, ‘The divine is this and that is the ultimate.’ Because in the end when you are in that place of freedom you don’t need to say, ‘I’m here, this is where I’m at’, because then you’re in the middle of something that is so beyond understanding you can only express it in your attributes, like Mother Theresa or Gandhi, where your actions speak louder than your words. For me freedom goes beyond words. This is why I wrote the book ‘Beyond words’; because there is no word to explain true freedom.
Renate: In a way true freedom is when the self is not there anymore, not dominant, with its noise.
Renate: But you know, here we go, in the moment we face in the West… we’ve all been hit by this enlightenment bug… everybody is on this journey towards…
Renate: Somewhere, where we feel more happy and blissful. And just talking to you and reading your books made me actually realise to a much greater depth, that we have to take nature with us into the picture. Which hardly ever… you know, I have had so many interviews, but not many people talk about that aspect.
Renate: So that’s one thing. The beauty and how you bring those two together and your teaching in that. But then the question which arises is: ‘Isn’t what we see a reflection of our mind?’
Tony: Of course.
Renate: So then we’re not focussing on saving the planet.
Tony: Of course. That’s what I realised. I had such an idea: ‘I need to save the rainforest’, but actually you’re saving the rainforest or saving whatever the planet, saving whatever your passion is, by being. And that is the mystery of the alchemical process. It’s not out there; you don’t need anything specific that you need to do. I mean you do need to do things, I’m not saying you just sit down and do nothing. But it must come from a different perspective of: ‘I need to go to that place and do this to save the rainforest.’ So I realised that my journeys to many places, not just to the rainforest – to the Zen Buddhist monastery and to the many parts of India and around the world where I met many wise people, in the end was just an invitation to reflect back in this moment, the reality I was needing to understand.
And your question is how to change that perspective – if you want to save the rainforest how can you do it from the perspective of freedom? I think that that is impossible to answer because when you’re free then everything that you do then channels that universal beautiful love that is nature. And you become so powerful, not from an ego sense, but you become so powerful in your actions that influence much more than is possible from the perspective of where you want to conflict with certain situations so that you can change what’s happening around you. This is what Mother Theresa, for example, all she did was some very simple beautiful actions with people. She didn’t sit back and do nothing. Her karma yoga, so to speak, or her selfless service was real, but it came from a perspective that is so much more powerful. It’s a free perspective.
Renate: Yes, she has basically become a tool of the universe, of true nature, or the absolute …
Tony: To channel.
Renate: To be itself.
Tony: And to channel that beauty and love, which than allows for miracles to happen and I think we need a miracle in this world today when we’re facing so many interesting challenges. And the miracle doesn’t have to come from one person or one perspective. I think it’s a group consciousness where as humanity, we realise that from that perspective, where we’re able to channel love, where we’re able to channel what in essence is so beautiful and so good, that everything changes. We create a quantum leap into a perspective that we can’t even see from what we’re at in this moment. And this happens to everyone. You can imagine when you’re a teenager and you see the world in one way and everything is so intense and powerful and you see things in that teenage way, which is beautiful, and then see how life changes as you have experiences and you adapt and change to whatever life is teaching you. You see, everything changes, and everything is impermanent. In the end, we have that experience, but people want to hold on to one perspective and if we’re just free enough to let go of the old and invite the new and the new is that perspective of freedom.
Renate: But as you mentioned earlier, it is difficult to change your habits.
Tony: It is.
Renate: And particularly this whole survival, I mean, so many people out there in the moment, because of this situation, are running on their fear of survival.
Renate: How can you tell them to let go? How do you do that? What do you teach Tony? How do you wake people up?
Tony: I tell them: ‘Come and experience meditation, because the first step is consciousness. Come and sit in a space where the chaotic mind and the chaotic situation that you’re seeing on TV or reading on the news, just takes a back seat somewhere or you let it go for a little while and observe what is like to sink into a different reality.’ You cannot explain, you cannot force people to see this; you can only allow that experience to happen. So this is how for me meditation is so essential. It’s so simple. It’s simply a technique of focus – where you focus on something that allows the mind not to drift off here and there and everywhere, into all the worries, stresses, addictions that the mind likes to go to, to control it and to stop it. Just see that there is something beyond that struggle that allows for freedom. Now I can’t put that in words; that’s why it’s an experience, this is why I say you need to sit and meditate for a hundred and twenty days. It’s not enough for twenty minutes for one day to experiment and to see if it works or not, because the deeper you go, it’s like a dream, the deeper you go into the dream, the more sense it makes.
When you sit and meditate you find quietness, you find stillness inside of yourself. And behind that stillness, in that stillness, there are some perspectives that you can explore. For some people they are lucky, it happens immediately, they just say ‘Wow, I understand!’ For other people it takes a little while. Like cigarette smoking, for some people they can stop smoking cigarettes in two days, for others there’s a bit more of a struggle. It doesn’t mean that the ones that take a bit longer are more backward or somehow less developed or less conscious, it just means they have more to learn, and it’s more exciting, so the journey if continued for a hundred and twenty days becomes more interesting because you begin to see much more than just ‘I need to stop smoking’.
And meditation is something that people have practised throughout the ages. And there is no time in the world today because even coming here to the studios, people travelling on the underground, on the train, they are so fast, there is no time to sit.
Renate: Even you are running around the planet, trying to wake people
Tony: I was.
Renate: Are you calming down?
Tony: I am. I am. That’s what happens.
Renate: Do you do more meditation now?
Tony: Well, actually I still do travel - I travelled here to London. But I think the Internet, TV, media are such wonderful tools and for me it becomes an easier way to reach more people. And I think that people listen, and hear and feel the importance of such, in technology today. On YouTube there are so many wonderful videos, Conscious TV … it’s much more normal, much more of a real thing for people.
Renate: Don’t you think that there is also an energy, which is supporting that in the moment?
Tony: Exactly and on many levels. I hear that for example peace, in the old days it was all about travelling, and speaking and dialoguing with one another but now the media can play a role that is amazing, if conscious - not all media is aware to do that. And can help change situations before they develop into conflict. And that is my deeper intention today – how to bring more harmony to the world, to the maximum amount of people, without having to do so many things as I used to do in the past, like you say, travelling every week to one place and then to another place.
And I believe that there is an energy that is supporting that transformation. People are looking today, searching more actively for something that they know but don’t quite understand. And I think the media is the way forward, so I focus much more in the Internet. I still work with people of course. Also travelling is difficult because I don’t and to support people just for a few moments, you know, one day workshop or a satsang somewhere, I want to support people in a way that is more continuous and it’s impossible for me to be in all those places at the same time on this physical level so it’s important then to utilise technology and I think many people are doing this consciously and it’s a wonderful thing. Like the work that you’re doing, you’re bringing a different perspective to the world and people watching from wherever and how to practise that in their daily lives and that is important for me.
People don’t have to go to India or South America to find something.
Renate: You just switch on the computer…
Tony: And open you heart.
Renate: Well, the heart – you have mentioned in your book – ‘the longest journey we have to make is from your head to our heart.’
Tony: It is.
Renate: What helped you to drop into your heart?
Tony: I think… and this sounds funny… I think suffering.
Renate: I agree, suffering is just here to help open our hearts. I always had this feeling.
Tony: And I say that just because some people maybe watching and say it’s easy for you Tony or it’s easy for all those people who have the time to meditate or have the time and knowledge to practise certain techniques to get to a more free space. But actually suffering, when embraced from a conscious perspective - and we’re all conscious, we just don’t know - and when engaged and worked with from that perspective I feel, invites you to be more human. And this is what I like about people like Mother Theresa or the Dalai Lama - that they are so human, it shows. You don’t have to call them enlightened because just what they are, shows that they are free. And I think that without suffering it’s difficult to see how to be human. And this is perhaps why we’re here, to embrace things from such a beautiful perspective, no matter what the situation is. It makes us unique. Conscious human beings are amazingly powerful and I think everyone can be conscious simply by embracing everything that they are, not hiding or running away or trying to live up to some sort of perspective that is alien to who you are, but just being yourself. And that is coming back to the heart. Like children, they are themselves.
Renate: And I remember a story I was reading in one of the Dalai Lama’s books many years ago. In order for him to open his heart and find compassion, he went to Hiroshima to be with the suffering and that helped open his heart and brought him to compassion.
Tony: Wow. I agree.
Renate: Was it your own suffering which helped you?
Tony: It wasn’t quite my own suffering, I grew up in Egypt and places where suffering and poverty was much more obvious. And I asked myself, why do people have to suffer in this way? I began to question everything really. What is the meaning of life? Why is there this pain and suffering? For me life was quite easy because I had everything. But I wasn’t happy with just the selfish satisfaction of needs. I wanted to understand how to make a difference to those people who were right next to me. I think that opened my perspective in a way that remained forever as a core part of me. Not just to focus on me but how to make a difference in the world. And I didn’t know, I was a child but it’s part of my personality, to understand how to alleviate suffering and I think, like the Dalai Lama, when you see it, you’re open to it and you understand it then you understand that it’s not enough to buy a new car and to do whatever to feel happy, there is much more to life.
Renate: You say that the heart is what makes a human being a hero, and I think we need heroes.
Tony: Definitely, I totally agree with that, we are all heroes.
Renate: We just don’t know it.
Tony: We just don’t know it and we have to embrace that action and it’s such an amazing gift to be alive in this world, no matter what it is you’re going through and just by being alive, present to what is going on, that’s an heroic journey in itself.
Renate: Yes, you’re right, because there’s lots of scary things going on.
Tony: For sure, for young people, and for everyone.
Renate: And also in ourselves, we carry feelings and fear and just to embrace everything as nature is a heroic act.
Tony: Exactly, and it’s possible.
Renate: Do you know somebody who could do it?!
Tony: It’s possible; everyone can do it. This is the thing.
Renate: Yes, if you put your mind to it.
Tony: And that is through meditation, through focus so you don’t get caught up by the games that the mind plays.
Renate: Another thing I want to ask you, which I found really interesting, is that you say: “Breathing correctly is saying YES to life and therefore becoming free in our body.” And I’m very interested in that because at the moment I’m reading a lot about the nervous system and how to bring peace into the body. I can experience stillness up here in the mind and drop into this void, into silence, but in my daily life I experience that my body is just reacting to certain things. How do I find peace not only in the mind but also in the body? And it’s not enough understanding it with the mind; I need to go through an experience.
Tony: Yes, the body is a mirror. I see, when I go to a supermarket and there is that Friday stress, when everyone is rushing around, even if you’re at peace, you pick up things. And this is why native people and people who live in more natural, beautiful surroundings, says that it’s madness to be in the world today. And the body is definitely influenced by such. Just the technology – the stress of radiation and noise and pollution and whatever creates a reaction in the body, which I believe moves us away from that inner stillness, inner balance. And that is why I focus on the body as being the temple, the structure that maintains the possibility for stillness in the mind and in the emotions - how to transform that? And that is through the breath.
Renate: Yes. Because you also say that you can see in the way we breathe, our limitations and emotions.
Tony: Exactly, because the breath is the closest reflection of the state of the physical body. If you’re stressed you breathe quickly, if you’re relaxed or dreaming or in a state of consciousness where you’re happy, your breath reflects that. So if you’re conscious and if you’re able to work with the breath, to relax the breath to a state of harmony then the body takes that as the real reference rather than the pollution, the noise or the stresses outside. And that becomes like a mantra that you focus on all the time whenever you feel there is disharmony in the body. So one thing that I teach and I hope people can teach this at school and in hospitals and in places where people are dealing with much more physical stress than is normal, just breathe in, take a deep breath in, relax the diaphragm and breathe out and take a moment just to sense what is like to let go of the physical stress. Notice how your shoulders relax…
Renate: So you breathe in…
Tony: Deep breath, yes, relaxing the diaphragm, and then breathe out and when you breathe out, notice how your whole body just relaxes and that state of relaxation is essential for the quality of health that the body needs in order to be free. You know, you can say, ‘Oh yes. I’m free’ and then have your body all tight and stressed because of whatever is around. You know, you have to be able to reflect that in a more conscious way and I believe the breath to be essential. This is why in yoga there is pranayama, which is the science of breath but there is no need to go so deeply into breathing, it’s a simple matter of letting of stresses. When you do that I think your body relaxes and comes back to a state which is much more joyous. It’s much easier to feel happiness when you’re relaxed than when you’re stressed. And I think this is something anyone can do…
Renate: I know but I forget the breathing because it’s so much like forgetting that my heart is pumping. It’s something so normal, yes?
Renate: And of course it’s another habit the way we breathe and to change this habit do we have to go through a period of…
Tony: No, no, to change that habit… the problem is that in the West we’re so much in the mind… there is where the energy is... we have to bring it back down to the body. So the breathing is a reminder for the body to be part of what’s going on.
Renate: To be alive.
Tony: To be alive. And this is why native people when they see western people walking, they say: ‘My gosh, where are they? Which planet are they on? Because they are not here on Earth, because the way they’re walking is not grounded.’ When you breathe in that deep relaxed way you realise ‘I have a body! I can interact with my body in a way that is not just reflecting the stress, I can show the world that I’m happy.’ Like with your partner for example, if your body is relaxed, you can embrace them with that joyful and relaxed body and they feel it and you feel the connection to the physical realm, because we’re manifested here on this physical realm, we have to ground ourselves here. And I feel the breath is the first step to remember the body. And I think when you remember the body several times: ‘Oh yes, I’ve got my hands, oh yes I’ve got my feet and I’m walking on the ground’, it becomes more an automatic response to how you experience the world. You slowly ground yourself in a way that is not normal in the West. This is why in Zen Buddhism part of the meditations are called walking meditations where you listen to the rhythm that can be the rhythm of the mantra that you’re chanting or an external rhythm and you walk in a way where consciousness is manifested through your action, your physical action – the way you touch the earth, the way you show your body to the world. And I think this is very important, this is a matter of practice. And the more practice the easier it gets.
Renate: So Tony do you have your own practice that you do on a daily basis?
Tony: Of course. I think everyone has their own practice. I never say, ‘This is the way, and you have to do this and you have to do it like this.’ Everyone is unique, every human being has a personality, has a perspective, has such a wonderful way of learning. You shouldn’t push it aside and then say ‘No, this is not right and this is the right way to do things.’ But for me meditation, which is in a much wider perspective just relating to the harmony of life rather than the distractions of the mind, can be put into practice, into real practice. So perhaps saying to yourself, every three hours, ‘I’ll take two minutes just to breathe and to look at the world from a different perspective.’ You have to remind yourself. As you said in the beginning, if you forget, you have to have reminders. And the reminder can be you just saying to yourself, ‘I need discipline so this means I need to remind myself in the morning, in the evening, to sit in meditation.’ But then that sitting becomes the meditation that carries on in your daily experience and even in your sleep. If you meditate for twenty minutes before falling asleep the mantra that you repeat or the focus on some beautiful aspect such as poetry or a beautiful quality of the heart, is carried deeper into your sleep. And also in the morning, if you wake up and you meditate you start the day with a different perspective, which goes beyond just the twenty minutes of meditation that you have as your practice.
This is what I like to do - I like to bring spirituality into life, the way you relate to people, the way you say hello to someone that you don’t know, your acts of kindness to everyone, just your relationship to everything becomes a spiritual work. So if you’re a Christian, if you’re a Muslim, if you’re a Buddhist, you can continue your practice, but the quality, the heart, needs to be very much the most important aspect of that practice. And for me I find it very useful to repeat beautiful mantras, sacred sounds. If you’re Hindu you can practise the sacred sound of OM. I usually say to people why not try HU.
Renate: A Sufi sound.
Tony: It’s a Sufi sound, a Middle Eastern sound, but it can be anything, it could be LIGHT, which in Aramaic is NOOR and you can say LIGHT, LIGHT, LIGHT; so that all the situations that the mind thinks of as worrying or limiting or dark or negative, has another force that you can reference to, which is LIGHT or OM, which is the creation of life, or if you’re Christian, you can chant something from the Christian tradition, if you’re Muslim you can chant something from the Muslim tradition. It’s up to each person. In the end, it’s like Kabir says: ‘There are many ways, but there is only one real way, and that is the way of the heart.’ And I think that if you’re truly real and you’re coming back to your heart, then it doesn’t matter what the practice is, it’s your action that counts.
Renate: Yes. It’s beautiful I’m just looking at the clock. I think we have to finish. I wanted to talk with you about children and I think we need to do another interview if you’re ok with that.
Tony: Yes, I’m happy to do that.
Renate: It’s such a big subject…
Well, it was lovely to talk to you Tony and to have you back in. I will show your books again.
Tony: Thank you.
Renate: So Deeper than Words and From the Heart and if you would like to know a bit more about his journey in how to become a shaman this is a fascinating one, Shaman’s Wisdom.
Thank you for watching Conscious TV and thank you Tony for being with us and I will see you again soon. Goodbye.
To watch the original video
interview click here. This programme has been transcribed on a voluntary basis. If you would like to offer to transcribe a video on the same basis, then please
All text copyright © Conscious TV Ltd.