Richard Moss - Radical Aliveness
Interview by Iain McNay
Iain: Hello, and welcome again to conscious.tv. My name is Iain McNay and today our guest is Richard Moss, a teacher of Conscious Living. I think that is a great title. You’ve written six books, and got a seventh one coming out shortly. The book I’ve enjoyed particularly is The Black Butterfly - An Invitation to Radical Aliveness. You also have a new book just out called The Mandala of Being – Discovering the Power of Awareness. My first question, Richard, the subtitle of The Black Butterfly is about radical aliveness, what really is radical aliveness to you?
Richard: Well it’s what I call all my retreats. They’re called radical aliveness seminars. Radical aliveness means we get past the ego’s worries, urgencies, things that it needs and we get quiet enough to start listening to something much deeper from within ourselves. Radical means root, or core, fundamental. So what is the fundamental source of aliveness? The fundamental source of aliveness to me, is reaching that place inside yourself where you’re really listening to your own deeper intuitive wisdom, where you’re falling in love with yourself, not because of any kind of positive affirmation. Not because you’re running away from, or trying to push away unhappiness, but because you’ve settled. You’ve settled and settled, into the present moment, into the now-ness of yourself and out of that comes this timeless dimension of aliveness. That is what I mean by radical aliveness. Sometimes it brings physical healing, it always brings intuitive knowledge. One woman said, “I discovered I love myself, and I never knew I knew that.” That’s what thousands of people basically say. It’s a journey first of all to a deeper connection to oneself, and secondly to the kinds of tools and practices you can then use for the rest of your life to deepen that journey.
Iain: I know at one point in The Black Butterfly you talk about everyone is on a journey like this, but not everyone’s being aware of it. I think probably a lot of us miss out, because things happen in our life that are significant pointers, and because we’re not necessarily aware enough, or we’re too busy at the time, we don’t always see them as guides, and hints, and clues.
Richard: First of all we try to cover up the fact that we’re unhappy. We keep up a positive face, “Oh I’m fine.” We do all that, but the simple truth is not only are most people unhappy, and certainly society, modern society is deeply unhappy. So first of all we have to admit we’re unhappy. Then we have to say the unhappiness isn’t necessarily there is something wrong with us, it means we’re out of balance. It means we’re out of phase with some deeper integrity of life and if we can say to our self, OK this unhappiness, this restlessness, this dissatisfaction, this loneliness, this alone-ness, this need for something more is a signal from within ourselves. It shows up as marital conflict. It shows up as dissatisfaction with our careers, and our work choices and it shows up as anxiety. It’s a signal, and it’s a signal saying wake up. Take a look. Take a look at yourself.
Two things basically drive change in human beings. One of them is, suffering. The other is, you meet somebody and in the presence of that person, you realise, here is a human being that’s found something, is listening to something, has become connected to something and I want to know what that is for myself. So it’s inspiration that’s conveyed by a quality of consciousness in someone else that makes you say, “I want to take a journey.” And usually what that person says is you’re already a beautiful human being, and you’re struggling with the kinds of things you’re meant to be struggling with. Let’s take a look at how you can struggle in a constructive way, so that as you do your work - and there’s always work in a conscious journey - you become more loving, more capable of intimacy, more capable of resolving conflict, more able to appreciate other people, be touched in yourself by other people, more of a participant in life and not just a kind of voyeur, or an observer.
Iain: But also isn’t there a third way? Something very dramatic happened to you thirty five years ago; you had a very dramatic opening. You were working as a newly qualified doctor at the time and then you went through a series of events that really changed your life.
Richard: OK. So grace [laughing]. Something comes along and goes, “Clonk” and wakes you up. I think there’s a tradition, probably it’s the root of all ways in which new consciousness enters the world, of spontaneous realisation, or spontaneous waking up. I had an event that for me was a spontaneous waking up. I was just turning thirty; in fact it occurred right around my thirtieth birthday that specific event, but if I look back it had been presaged. I was on a journey. I was questing for a long time before that.
Iain: And what was the reason you were on your journey? What was the catalyst for that?
Iain: OK [laughing]
Richard: Unhappiness. I thought that a woman would fill me in. Yes I found I could fall in love, and love, but there was only a certain limit to my ability to be vulnerable and then I’d start pushing the woman away. I thought that being a doctor would be a source of happiness, but I found being a doctor so submerged my creative life in the world of memorisation, in fact it was deadening me. But if I look back honestly in my life, something inside of me was unhappy in a sense of discontent, wondering, questing for as long as I can remember.
Iain: So you were taking an intelligent approach to it. You weren’t happy. You were looking, and you were trying different things and then something really dramatic happened. Can you just take us through that series of events, around your thirtieth birthday?
Richard: The black butterfly?
Richard: [my book] The Black Butterfly talks about this particular event. Just briefly though, I was in medical school in Manhattan. Dustin Hoffman is walking down the street. He just gets out of a cab and I’m next to him. I look at him and think: this man can influence the lives of millions of people with every film choice he makes. And I walk into the Dean’s office at medical school, and I said, “You know, I’m submerging myself in memorisation. I feel like I’m losing my soul. I don’t want to stay here.” He said, “Well before you quit, why don’t you work with one of our therapists?” So of course I started into the psychoanalytical process and then I got involved in Sufi work, Gurdjieff, self- inquiry type work. I was part of an early group with Claudio Noranjo, called Seekers after Truth. You were talking about A.H. Almaas, we were in the same group.
Iain: This was to do with the Enneagram, wasn’t it?
Richard: Yes, the Enneagram was part of the teaching - The Hoffman Quadrinity Process, it had a different name then - was part of that. So there was a seeking and then right around my thirtieth birthday, I suddenly for a number of days fell into a state of profound terror, without any content. I didn’t know why. There was no story line to it. It wasn’t that I had cancer, or I was sick, or someone was dying, or I was going to be left. There was no story line it was just abject, overwhelming terror, and so I found myself…
Iain: So what does that feel like, profound terror?
Richard: It feels like you cease to exist. It feels like annihilation. It feels like there is no meaning to life. If I had listened to the voices inside of me at that time, I might very well have jumped off a bridge or something. But what I did do was, I sat down, literally, physically, and I said to myself, “OK, watch.” And I watched and I thought, this is a thought about me. This is a thought about the future. This is a thought about the past. This is a thought about life. This is a thought about fear. I just named, I named. I just sat there hour after hour - I couldn’t sleep, so I just named. And this naming process of observing and naming what was going on, was giving me a centre.
Iain: So you watched the thoughts arise.
Richard: Yes, and I didn’t have any guideline to do this. This was a spontaneous insight, to just watch the thoughts arise. I had an image, a dream and in the dream I asked the question, “Who has been here before?” And the answer came back, “Jesus.” This is in the dream, so when I woke up from the dream, I said, “Alright Jesus has been here before. I have to know what consciousness Jesus had realised.” I was Jewish, non-practising. I’d read the gospels once, a few months before and I’d found myself crying when I read them, out of some kind of recognition. And here I have this dream that says, Jesus has been here before. I said, “OK, if Jesus has been here before, what’s that consciousness?” At that point I started this questioning. This is a story about me. It’s a story about the past. This is a story about life. This is a fear of my feeling. This is a judgment of myself for feeling. I’m sitting in the back yard of a friend’s house. She was a Jungian analyst and she realised something very powerful was happening to me. I’d called her on the phone and she’d said, “I’ll come and get you, stay with me.” And in the back yard as I’m doing this process, I’m getting quieter, and the fear was subsidising a little bit, and there was this black butterfly, and a white butterfly dancing in the air. They landed on a branch. They mate. They break off. They dance in the air and the black butterfly, the darker butterfly, lands right on the middle of my forehead. At that moment – which is why the book’s called The Black Butterfly - I became One. The inner and the outer were the same thing. It was all love. It had never been anything but love. Richard Moss was there, only in the background, as some kind of observer, aware of what was happening. After that I could see energy, feel energy and have a tremendous sense of empathy with people. Whole new dimensions of awareness opened up. And the truth is saying all that, it didn’t change the fundamental part of my ego that was still insecure and competitive. I’ve had to work on that. It didn’t change the part of my ego that had been predetermined by, let’s call it the patriarchal psychology of our time. It didn’t let me understand the deeper feminine quality of life, which is about nurturance, contentment and being. I still had this urge to do and any time I would start to do, I’d be anxious. Any time I would Be, I would be fine, more than fine. And so my path in life has been this navigation between contraction and openness. And I know the path because I listen to my body. Just the slightest contraction… then I know I should be saying something different to a friend, or different to my wife, or listening more carefully. The moment I say the truth, or listen more carefully the contraction relaxes. That’s the path that I’ve walked. A path very much guided by my body. My body tells me when my mind is in conflict with reality, when my mind is in conflict with what is.
Iain: So when you had the experience after the black butterfly landed on your forehead, what actually changed in terms of the way you viewed reality?
Richard: [Pauses] not a lot in the sense of some sort of philosophical formulation.
Iain: No, I wasn’t thinking of…
Richard: What changed was: people suffer, I suffer, I care, how can I help? And it turned out, as soon as my heart was open, I was helping. I would sit there and tears could run down my face. Someone near me would just feel safe, they would be seen. They would have their own answer come.
Iain: What I meant was did you have a different reference point for who you are?
Richard: Yes, in a certain sense I did. It’s a dangerous reference point; an essential reference point. I had a witness position, I could watch what arose inside of me at the level of sensation, at the level of feeling, at the level of thought and I knew I was more than that. I knew that as an aware entity, as an aware being. I transcended what I was aware of, but I didn’t have identification with the aware self. I basically saw that whatever you call illusion was me; whatever you call transcending of illusion was me. I didn’t feel like I was the viewer of my unhappiness and therefore not unhappy. I was unhappy and the viewer of my unhappiness.
I was lonely and the viewer of my loneliness. I was needy and the viewer of my neediness. Walt Whitman was the very first things I read after this awakening and one of the things he said was, “The higher shall not be demeaned by the lower, nor the lower dismissed by the higher.” And it’s always been my path. It’s always been my path. I would rather define myself by whatever I would call small and weak, than [by] whatever I would call transcendent and greater, because the transcendent and the greater turns out to be a little too impersonal. A little too abstract and a little too desensitised, whereas the part that hurts, feels, and loves, and cries, that part is so intimately human, intimately connected to the wind, the sky, nature, the earth, and people. That’s where I like to live my life, so close to this embodied state of being - embodied awareness. It’s never awareness for me, it’s embodied awareness and not just embodied, I’m more than my body of course, but without my body I would not have any way at all of celebrating life.
Iain: You have quite a long description in The Black Butterfly of this process, and you talk about at one point you were merging… I think you saw a cow, and became One with the cow. There was nature, you were becoming One. So you had a new… I can’t call it experience, but you had a new reference point of Oneness, yet also you’re talking about witnessing, and I’m…
Richard: There’s an emanation that comes from a realisation like I had. That emanation affects every person that’s near me. In the beginning they would just simply start to cry. Some would even get sunburned because there was such a force field that came off, it would literally redden their skin. However I knew that I had to deal with my fearfulness, my neediness and my weakness. I couldn’t define myself by the emanation, I had to define myself by my humanity.
So I defined myself by my humanity: my capacity to love, my capacity to listen, because that’s the more important quality as far as I’m concerned. The fact that a new level of consciousness awakened in me, lives as part of me and is always with me - is lovely. But I didn’t do that, so I take no credit for it. It did it itself. It’s a step of evolution and it happens to us, and it happens to some people. And this is thirty five years later; I have not had to really try to have people around me to work with, because they always keep coming. They keep coming because of the emanation. They keep coming because I am a man on a journey that everybody can take. Anybody can take. What I’ve tried my best to show people, particularly in the newest book that I’ve written - The Mandala of Being, and a newer one still that comes out in February of 2011 - is, OK, if you’re not fully present where have you gone? And that’s the path I live. As soon as I realise I’ve left, I come back and start all over. I know that who I am is not my history. I know that who I am is not who I’m going to become. I know that who I am is not my thoughts about myself. And I know that you are not my judgments of you. And I start all over again. When we start all of over, we are a man with a man - in this instance - or a man and woman together, or a man and child together. It’s life, and life to me is the blessing.
Iain: But, if somebody is fully present - who hasn’t had the experience that you’ve had - aren’t they staying within the subject/object relationship?
Richard: The subject/object is a stage of development. I would call it me - you. If there’s a me, then there’s a you. If I’m grandiose, I’ll make you smaller. If I’m depressive, I’ll make you bigger. It’s a continuum. Learning humility, learning to start all over in the present moment, learning to appreciate another person as other, really enjoying that otherness, and not calling that otherness, unconsciousness for example, not calling that otherness selfishness, just your ‘you-ness’ in a particular moment. That to me is the wonder of life. I am not worried about if there’s a state that transcends subject/object consciousness, of course there is, but who cares. Who cares? Why identify yourself with a state, when you can be a man. That may not make sense, but it makes absolute sense when you’re in a relationship, when you’re actually with people. When I’m with a person and we hug, I think wow, now we’re both being blessed. I don’t think I’m blessing them. When I’m sitting in a group working and teaching and a field, a tremendous field of stillness and aliveness comes, I think wow, I’m being nourished by the field that my very presence has helped call forth, and these other people have joined to make stronger, but it’s not my field. It’s what nourishes me. I would no more identify with the transcendent state of Oneness, than I would identify with my selfishness or pettiness.
Iain: So when you’re present with me now, what is that experience to you?
Richard: Well this is a context. Someone is listening to us and I would like this to be as practical as possible. How do they help themselves past the kind of suffering that makes them blind? For you it’s just a deep appreciation that you have decided to do something that puts us together and that communicates a message of consciousness, and you are a mystery. You are an absolute mystery and I could find you fascinating forever. Just listening, discovering you. We would see common ground, the things that we agree on and disagree on. But the fundamental common ground of human beings who are aware, and awareness is… [pause] I don’t know the source of it, and I don’t care.
Iain: OK, so somebody is watching this on TV, they may be intrigued, very intrigued, mildly intrigued, and they’re thinking how can I get a taste of this? How can I be more present? What’s the starting point for them?
Richard: Well, basically if you go to navigate with a ship - I sailed across the Atlantic Ocean with five of my students, just six of us on a fifty foot boat a couple of years ago - you have to know where you’re starting from. You need to know latitude and longitude of where you’re starting from before you go. So where are you and I starting from? We’re starting from the present moment, always. We can’t start anywhere else. There is nowhere else. Present moment is an abstraction, in a certain sense, so what is it we’re starting from? We’re starting from the quality of my attention. The quality of the way I’m listening. How focused I’m with you, and how broadly open I am simultaneously. I call it focused spacious awareness.
Iain: What do you mean by quality of attention?
Richard: I could be in my past. I could be in the future, with an ulterior motive: is this interview going to lead to some sort of publicity that I like, or want? I could be in judgments of you – stories about you. I could be in judgments of myself that make me important, or inflated, or depressed. So the now, this moment is something un-nameable, ineffable, indescribable. I can watch how I leave the now. So the person that’s listening to us, the audience that’s watching us, can wake up and realise there is only now. There is only this present moment, and now I’m caught in a story about myself. This story is a thought about myself that is a judgment making me depressed, or this is a story about myself that is making me self- important, grandiose.
Iain: So it’s a thought coming into the mind that takes them away from concentrating or focusing.
Richard: The ego is precisely that. The ego is the process of living in the past, or the future in stories about yourself, or in stories about others. What is not ego is awareness. Awareness is that quality that allows me to wake up in the middle of a story that’s taking me to the past and making me have the same psychology I had thirty years ago, or fifty years ago. My father left my mother, I have the story that I was abandoned by my father. So today fifty years later I have the psychology of a man abandoned by his father. It’s hypothetical, it’s not the truth of my life. Or I could say, “Look at that, I’m telling myself a story about the past that’s producing a psychological state right now, or I can stop that story and be present right now.” Now, that’s the quality of my attention and I can wake up. So if I wake up, then there’s smell, sensation, perception, images and spontaneous deep wisdom that arises. And there are very different kinds of feelings, joy and love could be spontaneously present, but so could deep, deep anguish, dark abysmal [feelings], what the ancients called the underworld - the mythical story of descent, the really dark feelings. My experience is what stops people are the dark feelings, and what I always caution people, is the spiritual journey is not about the transcendence of dark feelings. It’s not about feeling good. It’s not about safety, security and happiness. It’s about the ability to stay in the moment with what is. If it’s dark you learn to stay spaciously. You learn to stay, without your thinking moving, because thinking would move you into judgments about yourself and say, “Something is wrong with me.” It could move you into the future and say, “When will this go away?” It could move you into the past and say, “Oh I’ve felt this before.” The minute you say I have felt something before, ego has you again, because from the point of view of now moment awareness, everything is new. Everything is new. So I start all over again every time, when there’s a dark feeling, a difficult feeling. And when joy is there, I know it’s not my joy. It’s just joy passing through. If it’s good weather, do I think I made the good weather? No, it’s just good weather. If it’s bad weather, do I think I made the bad weather? No, it’s just bad weather. But there is something essential about how I am present with good weather and how I am present with bad weather.
Iain: When you say dark feelings, what do you actually mean by dark feelings?
Richard: Oh man, that’s what I went through before the black butterfly, dark feelings. Dark feelings are feelings of the abysmal. You can’t even name them. You’d have to use simile. You’d have to say it’s as if I’m going to disappear. It’s as if there will never be love in my life. It’s as if no one will ever love me. It’s as if I’m invisible. You have to use ‘as if ’, or ‘it’s like’, because you can’t even name it. And then you’ll say it’s the fear of death, but that’s just a story. It’s not the fear of death, it’s a sensation you haven’t made friends with. It’s a sensation you don’t know how… like a mother takes a very distressed baby and holds it patiently with total attention and generosity, and trust that this baby will be well in a little while even if it takes hours. My grandson is now going through chemotherapy for leukaemia and he sometimes screams for hours at a time just out of the sheer disruption of his feeling state from the mass of steroids, and mass of chemotherapy, and to just hold him and to know that there is nothing wrong with him. Nothing. His body is overwhelmed by sensation and this happens to people all the time, but sometimes [people] think it’s because their boyfriend left them, or sometimes they think it’s because they are financially stressed; or sometimes they think it’s because of health problems. I always say the worse thing that’s ever going to happen to you is not what is happening, but what you tell yourself. It’s the thought.
Iain: It’s the projection into the future.
Richard: Yes, or the comparison of who you were and that you might not be able to be again – it’s the judgments of yourself. That’s why I call it a ‘mandala of being’. A mandala is a circle strongly orientated to the centre, which is now, with four basic directions. I can be in the future. I can be in the past. I can be in stories about myself. I can be in stories about others. If I wake up in the middle of all that, I land back right here [referring to present moment] and I start all over again, and that’s life. That’s what radical aliveness is - you start all over again. You start all over again. That means love is reborn. That means you rediscover your partner. You rediscover trust. You rediscover simplicity, ordinariness. You just live your life and you’re no longer ruled by fear, because is just a sensation like any other sensation. It’s weather, like any other weather, and you make room for it.
Iain: It takes commitment this, doesn’t it?
Richard: It’s practice.
Iain: Yes, but you have to be committed to do the practice.
Richard: You know that joke… tourists in New York City? They come upon a man in the street. They don’t realise it’s this famous violinist- Itzhak Perlman and they say, “How do we find Carnegie Hall? He says, “Practice, practice, practice.” “How do we get to Carnegie Hall?” And he replies, “Practice, practice, practice.” People who are listening to us who think that the spiritual journey is anything different than learning to master the violin, or the piano, or some form of art… there is research that says roughly [you need to practice for] ten thousand hours before you go from a quality of competency and excellence to true mastery. Ten thousand hours of retuning yourself to the present moment and starting over; and you become Nisargadatta. You become Ramana Maharshi. You become Buddha. You wake up, and you stay awake. You are awake. But we are all masters right now of ego. We’ve spent ten thousand, we’ve spent more than… by the time you are twenty years old, your ego has formed by [the time you were] five years old, you’ve had fifteen years of identifying with your thoughts about yourself. Fifteen years all day long of identifying your thoughts about people - your sister, your brother, your friends, your school. We are all masters of ego. Ego is a stage of development, nothing more. If you have a child who doesn’t develop an ego, that is a tragedy because they have no point of view to operate in the world from. But if you look out at the world and you’ve graduated from Harvard or MIT, or Cambridge, or Oxford, and you’re still operating from ego, then you’re just as bereft in some ways as those who never had an ego, because you are going to be living in the past, in the future, in stories about yourself, in stories about DNA; but you’re not going to be living right here [referring to present moment] starting all over, capable of a deep balance between doing and being, and between nurturing and making, fabricating. We don’t want to just keep growing, we want to be able rest into what we have created. We’re very out of balance. So we’re masters of ego. Now, if we want to change we have to work and if we understand what that work is… look if you’re in a Buddhist community and you’re ready for the three year, three month, three week, three day retreat, that’s a lot of hours of spending time starting all over in the now. At the end of three years you’re probably not a master, but you’re dam close.
Iain: The trouble is in society there isn’t a lot of encouragement for us to follow this journey. There are so many distractions, with everything on TV and the press and everything. It’s all drama, drama, drama, to reinforce people’s stories.
Richard: Absolutely. I do my ten day retreats with people. I have a programme I call ‘mentoring’ where I take about twenty people for three years and in those three years I’m trying to help them establish a pattern of relationship to themselves that starts-all-over-in-the-now. Give them the tools which, over the next five or ten years, are going to really establish a place inside of themselves that they live from - really live from. [Here is the story of ] a woman who worked with me through the mentor programme: her nineteen year old son committed suicide. She called me a few days later and said, “I’m driving the car, I get this message on my phone. I had thirty minutes to get home and I know that I’m going to have to get home and take care of this, this and this, but thank God for the work we did. I explored my stories about being a failed other. I explored with you all my stories about my son and what was wrong with him, about [my] ex-husband and how he might have been a failed father. She said I knew every kind of way in which I could judge my son, judge myself, judge his father, judge the health care - particularly the health care system - judge the school system. I had all those thoughts, since I watched all those thoughts I knew I didn’t have to go there.” She said, “With the death of my son - I heard her say this about a year and a half later - I felt things I would never wish on anyone, but I have not for one moment suffered.” To feel and not suffer. To feel and not suffer, now that is mastery. To feel the abysmal, the loss of a child, who would want to…? None of us! I’ve got three step children, I‘ve got two grandchildren, I don’t ever want my wife, or myself, or my daughter to experience that with her children, or any other human being to experience that, and yet without thought, it is just deep profound feeling. And this woman, she allowed space for this feeling… you have to hear her, she’s a slender sprite of a woman and that voice is coming from a place that is profound, deep, embodied conscious person. It is work, there is no short cut. Absolutely no short cut. And the people say, “Oh you just wake up, and now you know it”. Bullshit! I woke up… I’ve had thirty five years to try to learn to be a man in the present and be open and vulnerable. I was not transformed. My ego was not transformed by that awakening. A new consciousness came for sure, that’s why we’re talking, but I can’t take credit for that consciousness. I can only take credit for the work I’ve done since.
Iain: If you hadn’t had the awakening experience, how different would life seem to you now, do you think? Do you have any views on that?
Richard: I’d probably still be a doctor. I don’t think I would be able to know. They only way I would be able to know is because I see where people spend their lives identifying with their thoughts about themselves and identifying with their thoughts about their boyfriends, or their girlfriends, or their mothers, or their fathers, or identified with their aspirations for the future. I think the greatest thing is to try to reach a better future, but I don’t want to live my life in any other moment than now, on the way to whatever that better future might be. And I’d still be identified with the past, essentially nothing new had happened. The ego will not let you have a new experience. It just takes its old experience and projects some alternative version of that into the future, but there is no real change of consciousness. So I don’t know who I would have been without that. I just look and think how did I get here? By grace, by some mystery, but I have had to do my work. I continue to have to do my work. I still do my work. There’s no one else who’s going to do my work.
Iain: So awakening for you is the beginning of something. It gives you an opportunity to see life in a broader perspective and then as you put it, there’s homework to be done, which is ongoing.
Richard: Absolutely. Absolutely. Just because a six year old suddenly has an ego, doesn’t mean they’ve really learned how to master their ego and to really use it properly. Just because a man or a woman wakes up and realises the non-dualistic core of awareness, the pure nature of awareness at the heart of everything, doesn’t mean they’ve transformed their ego one iota. They can still abuse power. They can still manipulate women, if they’re a man, they can still manipulate men, if they’re a woman. They can still be needy. They can still not know how to deal with psychological conflict in their marriage. Believe me, there isn’t anyone out there that is truly clear. Nobody. And there shouldn’t be, because Life is too complex. We are not clever enough even with awakening to overcome the subtlety and vastness of the human psyche. We are always making a mistake. There’s always a shadow. Every spiritual community has its shadow. Every quality of awakening that brings something into consciousness causes something else to be supressed, either intentionally or non-intentionally. We are constantly having to come back into balance. It’s never ending. I sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. I’ve climbed to twenty two thousand feet in technical mountaineering. I’ve done things very few human beings have done and there are many human beings that have done those kind of things way beyond me. But the point is there is no better adventure than the adventure of becoming conscious. There is no more important or essential adventure; but there is no becoming conscious as an adventure without suffering. It is tough. You give up things. You lose things. You discover things. You have to change and change is not easy. You have to look in the mirror of yourself. You have to see your dishonesty. You have to see the games you play with yourself. The Dalai Lama was asked if he still suffered. He said, “Absolutely.” Do you still get angry? “Absolutely, I’m a man, and I still get angry.” And he’s had more than ten thousand hours of practice.
Richard: [smiling] Itzhak Perlman can still hit a wrong note. Seriously. The hope is that we as a species can go forward and do something besides destroy the environment and ourselves, because we are just caught in this notion of insane growth. Think about people that can develop financial mathematical formulas for things like derivatives, they are brilliant but they don’t know who they are. They are brilliant, and they don’t know how to raise their kids. They are brilliant… God Almighty the lack of holistic thinking out there for people who have graduated Cambridge, and Oxford, and Harvard, and Princeton, and Yale. It’s spooky, but it’s so ordinary. So what’s going to wake them up? Misery is going to wake them up. Global warming – collective misery. Loss of species – collective misery. Water wars – collective misery. That’s where we are going. We are going to create more and more misery till we wake up. I hope it isn’t too late from the point of view of the environment. Listen we‘ve had some pretty inspirational people out there, and we’ve turned them into false Gods.
Iain: It’s also very interesting - I read recently Warren Buffet’s biography - and there’s two things that came out of it. He’s a very driven man and of course he’s one of the richest men in the world, and he’s made a decision now, which he’s pretty much carried out, to give away ninety nine percent of his wealth to what he sees as good causes. He also said at the end of the book - and this is a quote, this a biography and not an auto biography - that he realises now that the most important thing in life is that the people that he loves, love him.
Iain: I think that that shows there is someone who’s very driven, they become a multi billionaire and yet they come back to very deep human values.
Richard: Two British song writer poets did it pretty well, [singing] “And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make”, Beatles. Beautiful song. And I’m glad that Warren Buffet came to that, because when a man who is a prophet for profligacy, when he is the icon, or one of the premier icons for wealth says, “I want to be loved and to love” I just hope more people will listen to him. But right now it’s all about more and more money, because money is going to buy me what? Freedom. But it doesn’t. It doesn’t buy you freedom. What buys you freedom is when the abysmal feelings come, when the really difficult feelings come, you don’t contract into self-pity, and anger; into self-protection, into aggressiveness. That’s freedom. And when love comes, you don’t say, “Look at me I’m such a wonderful person, filled with love”, you go, “Thank you, thank you”, because I know this too will pass, like the weather.
Iain: One thing that interests me, I was looking at your website earlier today, and you said on there you used to have your own international community for ten years, but you closed it down because it was dangerous to your own psychological health.
Richard: Intentional community. In the sense that, it was international in that there were people…
Iain: Oh, intentional. I read it as international…
Richard: Well, there was a group of people who so respected what I was doing, and they wanted to help me do it, so we came together. There were twenty or so that were helping me do what I did and a dozen or so more that lived in the local town. But what was unhealthy was that in the beginning they were donating their time, and that I didn’t like. So then I started paying them because I felt that every single person should get rewarded for energy they put out. I don’t believe in communities that you volunteer for the spiritual master, and you work for free, because somehow by being near her, or him you absorb some spiritual juice and you accelerate your evolution. Too self-serving for the master. They don’t know how to say no to us. These people found a way to rationalise my stupidity and talk about it as if it was some sort of conscious process. That was psychologically unhealthy. First of all at a certain point when I’m paying everybody, now I have to make so much money from my programmes, that I’m doing my programmes more driven than allowing it to unfold with the flow of life. So I let it go. I let it go and I married a woman who had three kids, and I dived into family life. And I’ve been a step father to those three children and they’re now adults. Now I’m a grandfather through those kids, I’ve no children of my own. But it was unhealthy because no one could say no. Not really. Who says no to Rajneesh? Who says no to the Dalai Lama? Who says no to any of these spiritual [teachers]? Who says no, I don’t think your consciousness is clear on that. I disagree. It’s in the story of the Buddha, that one of the men who was taking care of him. I don’t remember the name of that man, but was not considered in the legends of the Buddha to be enlightened or awakened; [he] was the one who argued with the Buddha to let women into the Sangha. Do you know what the Buddha said? “If I let women into the Sangha, a teaching that will last for thousands of years, would deteriorate in three or four hundred years, like mildew rotting a blanket.” Yet I think it was his wife’s sister who travelled all the way, because Buddha was married and left that family, and said “I want to study with you.” He said, “No, sorry I don’t take women.” And this old guy said, “Don’t you teach that this teaching is for all sentient beings, why isn’t it for women?” Finally the Buddha broke down. But in the canon for that time the prescriptions for women are amazing. When a woman is seated in a Sangha and a male walks into the room, even if it’s a new initiate who is fourteen years old, a sixty year old woman has to stand. If a woman wants to go on retreat, she has to get permission from a man, but if a man wants to go on retreat he doesn’t need permission from anyone. And there’s a list of these things. In fact if you compare the Buddhists of that time to the Hebrews, they were absolutely liberated in terms of women. If you compared them to other religions of the time, they were ahead of their time, but there was enormous unconsciousness even then. We have enormous unconsciousness now that we don’t see and someday we will see it. And the basic way we’re getting our unconsciousness reflected to us right now, is through nature, through what we’re killing. Through what we can’t replace. Through global warming. We can’t see ourselves, so we have to get slapped in the face by life, by nature.
Iain: It’s not a very intelligent process we’re putting ourselves through in terms of the planet. You are right, we’re getting slapped very much. I just wanted to give you a few minutes at the end to talk about your new book, The Mandala of Being. What actually is the message in that book?
Richard: Well, I’ve being saying it a little bit. The Mandala of Being came out in 2007. It’s pretty much a summary of everything I’ve learned at that point in nearly thirty years of teaching and journeying. But the heart of it is simply that when you leave the present moment there are only four ways you can disappear. All those four ways are the very nature of ego. You can go into the past. You go into the future. You go into stories about yourself, you go into stories about others. The stories about ourselves make us feel special: special inflated grandiose, or special deflated - depressive. They are just thoughts. And in the newest book that will come out in February of 2011, that book called Inside-Out Healing: Transforming Your Life Through the Power of Presence, is basically saying the worse thing that’s ever going to happen to you is not what actually happens. It’s what you tell yourself about what happens and here’s how to learn to start over in the present moment, even if you’ve had a stroke. Even if you’re in the midst of a divorce. Even if you’ve become paralysed. Here is how you take a journey deeper to yourself no matter what the circumstances are. To me that’s pragmatic.
Iain: So there’s always a new starting point you’re saying.
Richard: Always. Always. Always.
Iain: But that’s hard to realise. I know even for myself it’s hard to realise whenever I’m in a crisis, there’s a new starting point.
Richard: For example the new starting point right now… let’s say someone’s listening to us and they’re in terrible pain. The starting point is to not think about your pain. It’s not even to name your pain. It’s to take your awareness and to come gently, gently, gently towards this pain and to touch it really, really softly, and as you do, to realise that your mind like the sun, shines infinitely without limit. We think about the sun shining in space, but all we think about is sunlight on our planet. You’re out in space you see the earth somewhere… well look at the photographs the astronauts took from the moon of the earth, every single square centimetre of space for a million light years - for four point four million light years - is filled with the light of our sun, everywhere. You just don’t see it, just like you don’t see awareness, you don’t see it unless you look at the sun, or you look at the earth. So the point I’m making is stay spacious. Stay big, but stay with that feeling, right now. If we were to do a meditation, I would say, “Here’s a meditation about how to deal with difficult feeling.” And I think you said there may be a chance to do such a meditation.
Iain: We’ll do a meditation after the programme.
Richard: So I’ll do a meditation on how to stay with difficult feeling because this is where you start, right now. And the problem is, if you tell yourself a story about the future, you’ll scare yourself silly, or you’ll get hopeful. It’ll be false hope.
Iain: It’s a question of watching the story start to come and then catching it, and just not energising the story.
Richard: When you’re dealing with difficult feeling, it’s exactly what you’ve just said. Catch the story and don’t go. When you’re dealing with emotions like jealousy, anger, rage, resentment, guilt – emotions are created by thoughts. You cannot have jealousy without thought. You cannot have envy without thought. You cannot have depressive - I’m not worthy, I’m not attractive, I’m not good looking - without thought. Those emotions do not exist without thought. Feeling exists without thought. Feeling is a much bigger category. Emotion is this little category inside of feeling. When the very difficult feelings are present, do not think. When the emotions like jealousy, rage and anger are present, figure out what you’re thinking. That’s what the book teaches.
Iain: For example, when anger is starting to run, do you let it run? Or do you say I shouldn’t be angry? How do you approach it?
Richard: There are two kinds of anger. You’re trespassing on me. You’re completely treating me stupidly, and I say, “Stop. I’m not going to be shamed by you.” Five seconds later I’m completely at peace in myself, and it’s clear. That’s healthy anger. If you’re still angry a minute later that’s resentment and that’s unhealthy anger and that’s perpetuated by thinking.
Iain: So it’s the length that the anger runs…
Richard: Right. But jealousy never runs without thinking. Envy never runs without thinking. Guilt cannot run without thinking. Nostalgia cannot run without thinking. Fearful thoughts about the future - only because you’re thinking. Hopeful thoughts, eager, ebullient thoughts about the future – only because you’re thinking. The emotional world is destructive, unintelligent, stupid and we must take control of it, which is what these last two books, The Mandala of Being and Inside-Out Healing, are all about. But feeling is healthy. Feeling is essential. Feeling is absolutely essential, and we’ve lost the ability to feel. Psychologically we could call that the loss of the feminine. The loss of the feminine side of our psychology. I’m not talking about the loss of femininity in a woman, I’m talking about it both in a woman, and as a man. It’s the loss of the capacity for deep feeling, whether the feeling is transcendent aesthetic Oneness, or the most dark and abysmal feelings. Those places you must not think. You have to use awareness. But when you are jealous, resentful and angry… and that goes on and on, that you have to take control of. You have to say, “What am I telling myself about me, about you, about the past and the future that’s making me resentful, that’s making me jealous, that’s making me nostalgic?” It’s nice to have positive nostalgia for a few minutes, but in the meantime, life as it is right now, you’re not seeing it. So OK get quiet, have a lovely fantasy about someone you had a nice time with for a few minutes, otherwise you’re just watching an internal television that’s putting you to sleep. You don’t want to do that, not if you really want to be alive. So that’s what I try to do in my teaching. That’s what I try to do in my… I try to help people become emotionally clear, get rid yourself of this stupidity created by your thinking. I try to help them become alive at the level of feeling by not turning feeling into thinking.
Iain: OK. We need to finish there. I’ve really enjoyed are talk. It’s gone very fast, as I thought it would.
Richard: It always does. Great. You’ve brought out a lot in me and I’m grateful.
Iain: I’m going to hold up again The Black Butterfly. I know you’ve mentioned your two newer books, but I really enjoyed this and I really recommend it. I really got a lot out of reading this. Thank you Richard. Thank you again for watching conscious.tv and I hope we see you again soon. Goodbye.
Richard: Thank you Iain.
Richard Moss - A Meditation
Hello friends. My name is Richard Moss, and I’m here on conscious.tv. I’d like to share with you a short meditation on letting yourself become big enough to hold even the most difficult and dark feelings. When the American president, Franklyn D Roosevelt took office shortly after the beginning of the great depression, he told the American people - and through that all the way to the world - “that the only thing to fear is fear itself.” My experience as I journey, is what stops most of us moving forward in our lives, is feelings we’re afraid of. Feelings that we don’t know what to do with. So in this meditation, I’d like you stop for a moment and think about the kinds of places in your life where you become afraid. Afraid of abandonment, or loss. Afraid of not succeeding. These are the stories you tell yourself. A fear of loss, a fear of abandonment. A fear of aloneness, a fear of not being loved, a fear of not being wanted. But the actual sensation. So if you close your eyes and you realise that you have this blessed gift of awareness, and that awareness has two qualities. It allows you to become precisely focused, but it also allows you to stay open. Open, big, extended. So what I’ve learned to do in myself and what I’ve been able to teach many, many people is how to hold very dark, or difficult feeling. So here’s what you learn to do.
Slow your breath down a little bit. Turn your inner gaze toward whatever it is that’s disturbing you, scaring you, and you’re going to stay with it. But you’re not going to fall into it, collapse into it. You’re going to guard yourself against letting your mind think. Don’t say I have felt this before. Do an experiment. Make believe that this feeling that you’re calling fear, loneliness, abandonment, or betrayal, is actually something you have never felt before, which of course is true from the point of view of awareness. This moment is always new. So turn your gaze towards it and with a feather soft touch, keep that inner gaze on it, whatever this feeling is. This difficult feeling. This feeling of threat, or dread. This feeling that you’re going to lose yourself. Whatever this dark feeling is that stops you trusting life, going forward with life. You just start breathing softly. Touch it softly, and at the same time become aware of your whole body. Feel your feet, feel your legs. Notice your breathing. Touching softly this feeling, extend out if you’re in a room, or in nature. Listen. Listen to the sounds that are around you. Hear. Smell. Everywhere in the universe right now, it’s now. So extending your awareness, getting expansive and yet precisely focused on this feeling, and relax in your body. Relax. Focus on this difficult feeling, and get bigger. Bigger than the room, bigger than the house you’re in. Bigger than the city. Another way to get bigger is to realise that if you’re afraid or alone, there are millions of people on planet earth this moment that are feeling afraid and alone, and the recognition that you’re feeling this dark difficult, scary feeling, it’s not just yours, that others struggle with it too. Your work with this feeling respects that others feel it too, and it helps them take a deeper step towards this feeling.
So you’re focused and open and spacious. So you’re open and your breath is slow. Your body relaxes. And when the mind goes, “but I’ve felt this before”, you go “thank you that’s just a story based on the past, I’m not going to listen.” And when you’re mind says “when’s this going to stop?” which is your mind going into the future, you’re going to say “no, I’m going to stay right here.” This gaze, this touch, breathing, listening. What are the sounds? Get your senses really acute, expansive, staying open. It’s like the sun. It shines on the earth, but it shines limitlessly into space. Your aware mind shines on this dark, scary feeling, but it also shines out into the now, into other sounds, into your whole body. Beyond your body. So if you can stay spacious, and keep relaxing, and you don’t tell yourself a story that this is a bad feeling, that you shouldn’t feel this, that there’s something wrong with you because you feel this, instead you just breath, and hold the feeling. Touch it softly, very softly. Anything we touch gently, and compassionately, and softly, we are bigger than that. It takes a spacious mind to be soft. Small minds are aggressive, tough and hard. Spacious minds are soft. So be very soft, and relax, and make space.
I know from my own experience that there are sometimes feelings that you think are so overwhelming, that you could tell yourself a story, “I will lose my mind. This is unbearable.” It’s not true. Your aware self is bigger, bigger than any feeling. So breathe slowly, get bigger, relax, and expand. Stay with the feeling softly touching it. Without thought, feeling always changes. You have to think, to keep a feeling locked. A feeling that seems blocked, means you keep thinking about it, keep judging it. You keeping saying I don’t want it, this is a wrong feeling, that’s what locks it in. That’s what keeps you blocked. So just get bigger. Relax. Touch this feeling very, very softly like a feather. Breathe slowly, softening your body, and the feeling will pass through.
Now we’ve been running from these feelings since we were children. So it takes a little time to learn that you are bigger than any feeling no matter how difficult, how threatening. But I promise you, from thirty five, forty years of experience, there is nothing bigger than your aware self. You can be gentle with the most frightening feeling. Once you learn to do this, you won’t be afraid of people, that they’ll hurt you. You won’t be afraid of success. Even big feelings of love, many of us are afraid to feel joy, real joy. So when you feel this sense of love, joy or gratitude, just touch it softly. The ego will say “I want more of this,” but don’t listen to your ego, because as soon as you want to hold onto joy, joy will go away. Joy will go away anyway, but let it flow on like weather. The dark feelings come, you make space for them. The joyous feelings come, you make space for them. And this way you become very rich, very rich in who you are. You’re not impersonal, you’re not disassociated. Something becomes so alive inside of you. Focus. Spacious. Ready, like a martial arts artist before a contest. Relax, like a baby. It’s paradoxical when we use this sort of language, but this is the way we make space for these dark kind of feelings. This is how you make space for dread, and fear, and aloneness, and grief, and joy, and extraordinary love. Most of us have no idea how vast we can be, just how tremendously full we can become with the feeling that is the fullness of life. So lean to touch, touch softly, and stay open, stay big. Stay in the now because the now is everywhere.
Practice this, it will change your life. And I am grateful for the blessing of being able to share this with you. Thank you very much.
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