Dennis Moorby – Freedom Through Path of the Jhanas
Interview by iain McNay
Iain: Hello again and welcome to conscious.tv, I’m Iain McNay and today my guest is Dennis Moorby. Dennis wrote into us a few weeks ago. We had met briefly a year or so ago, but I hadn’t actually remembered it very clearly, there was a lot of people around. And Dennis sent me like a story. Story is the wrong word really, but he’d sent me the account of his life, his spiritual adventures in life, and I found it quite intriguing and like more of the guests we’re getting these days he hasn’t written a book, and he doesn’t do seminars as such, he doesn’t go around the world teaching. He’s just someone who interesting things have happened to. He lives in Germany although he’s English. And he happened to be over here for two days and that happened to coincide with a spare slot on conscious.tv and he’s obviously meant to be here. So here you are.
Dennis: [laughing] Just, through all the London traffic.
Iain: That’s right. And so you were a businessman in London and you were quite successful in the corporate ladder, and then I think from your notes, you were in Australia, and a friend of yours was going to India to visit his guru and you went along with him.
Dennis: Well, what actually happened was that, yes, I was a successful businessman. I’d left school at seventeen, no university and I’d gone straight into business and then into the civil service. I traveled around the world and got into business, climbed the corporate ladder and worked for companies like Levi Strauss, Investors Oversea Services, some of the big movers and shakers of the time. And my interest in spirituality: pretty well zero. I was here based in London and was on the way to Australia to buy a company when an acupuncture doctor friend of mine suggested I visit his guru in India. I said, ”Guru? What’s a Guru?” You know this was the middle eighties and in my circles it certainly wasn’t something one talked about, gurus. So I said, “Fine, let’s go up there and perhaps do a bit of climbing in the Himalayas”, not been up there before. “Why not, I can take a couple of weeks off on the way to Australia.” So I did that. I got on the aircraft out of Delhi, flew up to Chandigarh, in a little old Vickers Viscount, and I remember we landed down in Chandigarh and virtually everybody got off. A big Sikh got on the wing and started pouring oil into the engine, gallon after gallon of oil went into the engine. And then finally we took off, climbing very steeply. We just cleared one ridge after the next and continued to climb very steeply. I looked up above the wing and I thought, “Oh, nice white clouds, oh, no no, that’s not clouds, that’s the Himalayas, those are mountains, that’s white, snow.” And I went, “Wow!” The first time I’d seen the Himalayas in this life. I had a feeling of coming home. It was very distinct, “I’m home.”
So we landed, my friend picked me up in a Morris Oxford taxi and took me along to this little rose garden with a couple three houses in it. We sat down and in walked a nice sixty year old gentleman in a sari. He asked me in very good English about my journey and my family and so forth. And I was sitting there saying, “It’s a bit weird, but it’s cool.” And I looked into his eyes, he looked into my eyes, and I went, “Wow, he’s got something that I’d never seen before!” Now I’d been climbing the business ladder, doing all of the things you do politics and the rest of it in big business. This guy was beyond all of that. And I saw it in that moment.
Iain: How did you recognize it?
Dennis: Just looked into his eyes.
Iain: Yes, but I mean, how did it register in you?
Dennis: I was blown away.
Iain: You were blown away as such?
Dennis: Oh yes! And the thought came, as a businessman, “I want that!” The television lights on here remind me that within a week there was a television crew out there. He was quite popular in Canada and there was a Canadian TV crew.
Iain: This is Swami Sh… .
Dennis: Swami Shyam. And his way of teaching was that you listened to his talks and then, as soon as you could, you spoke your own truth. You were expected to speak out; you were expected to say what you’d learned.
Dennis: And so, a week later, the television lights were on. It was the going away party for my friend, the acupuncture doctor. I knew it was coming… “Dennis, you speak.” And eventually it came [laughing], pointing the finger. And I just let it come out of me. I saw the clip afterwards, and it was fundamentally a Samadhi in that moment. Then I was on cloud nine and we went up climbing, Kullu wasn’t far from the road.
Iain: So describe what a Samadhi is like.
Dennis: Samadhi? Blows your head off first of all, for me at any rate. Not everybody, some of the people who work with me now, find it is more gradual, although for me it’s a very definite opening, where the sense of self disappears, the sense of anything real being around you disappears, you’re just in total bliss. And quite often wave after wave of bliss sort of washes over you like the waves in the sea.
Iain: To go from the corporate ladder and a week later have this, that’s a big jump, isn’t it?
Dennis: Yes, it was a big jump. It changed my life. I came down from Kullu, my wife left me, and my daughter needed to be put in boarding school.
Iain: Is this because of what happened? Or was this ongoing anyway?
Dennis: It was the result of the Samadhi.
Iain: The result, really?
Dennis: It took me a year to get out of the corporate environment.
Iain: Okay. So you got on the plane, you went home, and you still had this Samadhi feeling?
Dennis: It began to fade. I went actually on to Australia to buy the company. And a couple of funny things happened there, typical Indian stories. Somebody gave me a package with an address written on it and said, “Would you deliver it? Because you’re going to Melbourne.” And I got into the cab, looked at the address and told the driver who said, “Oh, it’s a little bit of a way but, yes, we can go there.” And we got to this place, I knocked on the door, and I said, “I’ve got a package for this person… I forget the name. And she said, “She’s no longer here, she left four years ago.” And I looked at the address, then properly, “No, this isn’t the address.” Somehow I’d picked it out of the ether the address of this girl, four years back, rather than her current address. And so there were weird things like that, which are typical Indian stories you know. Makes you wonder which planet am I on? The taxi driver was Iranian and for him this was quite a normal thing. These sorts of things happened. I called my wife from Australia and said, “I’m back down in civilization and I’ve got some work to do, looking forward to seeing you, be back in London in a couple of weeks’ time, love you, goodbye.” And she didn’t say she loved me, so I rang back and I said, “You didn’t say you loved me.” And she said, “No, I’m leaving you.”
Iain: So, it wasn’t because of what happened then. It was an undercurrent that was at work.
Dennis: Yes. It was time to shift.
Dennis: And so all the shifts took place.
Iain: But how did you feel when she told you that?
Dennis: Like any normal businessman who’s told that seventeen years of marriage have suddenly come to an end. What will my friends think? How will they react at work when they find out that I have lost my wife? That sort of thing.
Iain: But was this Samadhi still carrying? Or did you feel some...?
Dennis: Oh no, I felt anger then!
Iain: You felt anger.
Dennis: Oh yes! That, and the Samadhi was sort of lost. There is a pattern which I’ve seen over the years, since then. We’re talking almost thirty years ago. You get the high, and then you get the bottom after that.
Iain: That’s a reality.
Dennis: Well, it’s further down though than reality. It’s hell, as it were and the higher the high, the bigger the drop. Over the period of years, there is a tendency for it to be on an upward trend and the highs and the lows are less distinct. There’s less of a level between them, but nevertheless that was a pattern. Not now anymore, but in the early days that was certainly a pattern, that a big high was followed by a big down.
Iain: So when you got on the plane to go back to England, you weren’t on the high?
Dennis: No no, by then the Samadhi feeling had gone. I was back to dealing with divorce and all the rest of it. And, the normal things you go through, like putting my daughter in a boarding school, which I said I would never do because I was in a boarding school, this sort of thing.
Iain: You got back to London and you eventually decided not to be in corporate business anymore.
Dennis: Yes, that came. I migrated to Bhagwan, Rajneesh, partly because his place in England was close to my daughter’s boarding school and I used to go there every weekend. Then I went to Oregon.
Iain: You were drawn to a Guru yourself?
Dennis: Oh yes! I was on the spiritual path then.
Iain: You were still working then, or was this afterwards?
Dennis: I was still working then. I had my big BMW, I’d fly up the M11 on Friday evening, playing all the Bhagwan songs until landing there and on Sunday evening drive back to my flat in town.
Iain: How was that? That must have been a pretty crazy time.
Dennis: A pretty crazy time [laughing]. Miten was the top of the pops at Medina and, we were having a good time, and it was a wide open, “Oh, if this is spirituality, I want more of that.” The decision had been made in that moment in Kullu, that I would really drop the old life. How that was going to happen was yet to unfold. How it did happen was that in Oregon, it was obvious that I wanted to take Sannyas.
Iain: Let me put this in context here, so as to understand the history. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh had centers around the world; one was in Cambridgeshire which was called Medina. At that time he was at based in Oregon, in America.
Dennis: That’s right. Oregon was the big place and that’s where we went, as I did, along with fifteen thousand people who were there, all on the same trip. There were quite a few businessmen as you know. The whole place was run by women with a fifteen mile an hour speed limit and twenty hours of work a day. A lot happens in those sorts of circumstances [laughing]. To me it was a very different world and it’s a world I wanted to join, because underpinning that was spiritual development. And, that was obviously what all of the fifteen thousand were looking for. The point came when the obvious next step was to take Sannyas.
Iain: Which is to become a disciple of the guru?
Dennis: Become a disciple, which entailed wearing a mala with Bhagwan’s face on it and wearing red clothes.
Iain: Yes, yes.
Dennis: Well, I was on the board of a major company [laughing]. So, I got a nice pinkish shirt and a very dark red suit, and the mala I put around my neck. And my chief executive officer came in and took one look at me and said, “This won’t do!” [Dennis and Iain laughing in unison] And I said, “Okay, well that’s important to me, and if you want to fire me that’s fine.” I had a contract where if I was fired, then I got double pay. So we came to an agreement. We would sit at the operating board of the company and he would place my tie on top of the mala before we opened the meeting [laughing]. So I stayed on for, I think, a little longer than a year after that. Really to put my own house in order and make sure the company’s financial side was put in order as well. That was a necessary part, so it seems in retrospect, to make the shift from twenty seven years of business to a more spiritual life.
Iain: And then, what happened when you left?
Dennis: Well, I came to where we met.
Iain: Villa Volpi.
Dennis: And there again I was responsible for the financial side of things.
Iain: Villa Volpi was a community in northern Italy where I was for a time. Most of the people there had come out of the Sannyas movement as it was breaking up.
Dennis: Groups were being held there and it was quite a live and vibrant place. And one day, I was getting quite nicely settled down, in fact I tried to put my life back together with my wife. The day that that definitively had not worked, my current wife turned up [laughing].
Iain: Okay, that’s pretty convenient [smiling].
Dennis: On the way down, she had been delayed several times. It’s again synchronicity, I’d been toing and froing on trying to put my old marriage back together, but finally it definitively didn’t work, and that day Jassi, my wife, turned up. On her way down she herself had been delayed by her father coming in from Teheran. On the way she had said to herself, “I’m twenty three, it’s time for a relationship.” And the first person she saw was me and the first thing I said was, “Park your car somewhere differently; you don’t park your car there” [laughing]. That’s been a theme through the marriage; the first words apparently are indicative of how the marriage continues. So, I don’t tell her what to do anymore, but [laughing] in those days I did. Just after Jassi arrived I was going to visit Australia to prospect and buy land.
Iain: For a community there?
Dennis: Yes. We’d been together for, I think, three to four days and I asked her to come with me to Australia and she said Okay! And so we went off, we got as far as Bali and stopped there. We spent, I think, five months there.
Iain: And during that time what happened to you spiritually? Were things still developing?
Dennis: Well, Villa Volpi and the whole Rajneesh thing were spiritually oriented, and yes, you did do things like dynamic meditation at six o’ clock in the morning. For me that began to break down the concrete of my old belief systems.
Iain: Dynamic meditation, I did it as well for a time, I think there are four or five parts to it.
Iain: It is a dynamic meditation.
Dennis: It is very dynamic.
Iain: It’s very much about active meditation where you find stillness in the last stage. That’s the idea anyway.
Iain: And if you do it every day, which you did for three months, that’s a big commitment and something will move.
Dennis: Yes, and something did move. The old way of thinking began to break down. Anything that I thought was real and solid before that, I questioned thereafter, because I had seen often enough that who I had thought I was, I really wasn’t.
Iain: Say more about that, who you thought you were.
Dennis: Well, I thought I was a businessman. I thought I had a wife, a mortgage, and a daughter, and that my world revolved around the country clubs, the dining clubs, and the people who used to work for me and were associated with me. I was playing tennis at weekends and catching a flight on Sunday afternoon to Frankfurt to manage the business in Germany, or wherever else, or Stockholm in the middle of winter. I realized that was not something I wanted to do. The Stockholm board meeting was always in the middle of winter.
Iain: And did you slowly find that you were...?
Dennis: Something other than that. To define it would be difficult. I didn’t think of myself so much anymore. When you go through this process, the sense of the egoic me is still very much there, but it’s been sort of changed, the edges have been made a little bit more vague, they’re not so defined. And so I didn’t really think so much of who I was per se. We subsequently moved to Las Vegas and then to Southern California. Jassi got her Ph.D. at a small Southern California University, so we were amongst people who were dealing with the psychological side, and that was very much where things were at. We looked at things from a psychological standpoint, Maslow, and Carl Rogers, and all of this sort of thing we learned about.
Iain: How did you survive financially during that time?
Dennis: There was a bit of money left over, not much after the divorce [laughing]. We fundamentally trusted that the life would roll forward. Jassi’s family had money and supported us to a certain extent. We learned to manifest, if you put your focus on something, you can pretty usually soon get it. It’s like a trick, it’s like riding a bicycle. If you need something and it’s universally appropriate to have that, then usually it arises, not necessarily directly in front of you. It can be well to one side, so you need to keep your awareness open. It seldom comes in the form you exactly want it. You know, I want a Rolls Royce! Well, you may get a Bentley! [laughing]
Iain: You did well if you could manifest this.
Dennis: Well, we have manifested for the last, almost thirty years now. We have been at it for twenty seven years. When we wanted it, it’s fundamentally been there. A successful business career allows you some relaxation around that. There was usually enough to pay the next rent and buy the next meal. There’s usually a little bit there. We lived very well, a friend of ours, another Rajneeshee gave us a Cadillac when we lived in Las Vegas and gave us a place to live. We looked at the car and said, “We cannot afford to put gas in this.” So he gave us the gas card.
Dennis: Life just unfolds in front of you, if you will allow it.
Iain: Yes. And then you went through a period when you became depressed. That was a little bit later?
Dennis: That was considerably later. After Jassi got her Ph.D. we moved to Ireland where my mother was in her last years and I wanted to be close to her. Also it was very cheap to live there. So we, in fact, decided to build a house and bought some land in Ireland, twenty five acres. We built a five hundred square meter wooden house on this. And we had fun doing that. At least Jassi certainly had fun, myself less so, as I am dyslexic and my hand eye coordination isn’t particularly good.
Iain: You physically been building the house yourselves? That’s very impressive, yes.
Dennis: Towards the end we sort of had about five hectares around the house, which we kept sort of halfway lawned. This is the Wild West of Ireland and we used to mow that, at least I used to mow it with a hand mower. The grass grows back in four days in the West of Ireland in the summer. So you can see the grass growing by itself. And you can’t sit and watch the grass growing by itself, you have to get the mower out and cut it. Otherwise it gets beyond you. So it was a relatively active time. Building isn’t my forte. We had a big old oak forest adjacent the land, right adjacent the house actually. I used to walk in there, that was really cool. Old oak trees and spirits and I knew where every raspberry bush was and where the wood sorrel came up first in the spring time. We had a windmill and a generator which went on for two hours a day. We were completely cut off from the normal network of things and it was a very ingoing time for both of us, and very interesting.
Iain: It’s nice to be really quiet sometimes, isn’t it?
Dennis: Very quiet. Yes, the biggest noise was the aircraft at thirty three thousand feet above us. They would come in the morning and go out in the afternoon. That’s all you would hear, and of course the birds and the wildlife.
Iain: And then you moved to Switzerland?
Dennis: Yes, we moved to Ticino. What we did was, on our seventeenth anniversary we went back to Villa Volpi. We’ve never been there since then. We looked at it again, it was much smaller than we remembered it [laughing]. As we were leaving Jassi looked in a real estate agent’s window in Ascona and said, “That’s a nice house. I’d like that house!” So we rang up the realtor and asked, “Could we look at it? But we’re leaving now.” He said, “Yes” and we looked at it and we bought it. Then we had to sell Ireland, which we did, very nicely, and moved to Ticino. But this house again needed renovation, it was an old stone house. Jassi had a ball learning Italian and building, renovating the stone house.
Iain: I want to explore a bit what happened with the depression; you mentioned it in your notes.
Dennis: Oh yes.
Iain: So, it is two years since you’d had the taste of the Samadhi and you said you went up and down, but you were living a nice lifestyle, so what triggered this feeling?
Dennis: Well, the depression if I look back on it, really it was separation from the path, separation from God, if you like. Separation from the sense of oneness. We had got into doing. We’d built the house in Ireland. And we had mowed the meadows.
Iain: But, there you also had the forests which you felt connected to, you were within nature, so…?
Dennis: Yes, but there was still quite a lot of doing. Things to be done. We had an acre garden, which we lived off largely, as we were obviously vegetarian. When we got to Ticino, it was more frenetic doing. You had a bunch of guys building around the place. Ticino is noisy, there’s helicopters going off, up the valleys and so forth. And so the whole place was not conducive anymore, and I think the path began to veer off in a direction which was inappropriate. So that resulted in a certain level of disquiet. Probably call it more that than a depression per se. Life just didn’t have the flavor anymore.
Iain: You’d lost your way a little bit.
Dennis: Yes. And then, I just saw an advertisement that Sogyal Rinpoche was coming to Lugano, to the American School in Lugano, which is pretty unusual. High Lamas don’t come a lot to Italian speaking Switzerland. It’s not really the center of the world down there. And I went and sat in the audience in the front row, there was about forty of us. He waddled in and sat down and he said, “I’ll give a complete teaching.” And so then he passed on this incredible Tibetan wisdom, which is largely hidden from us through translation problems. He spoke in perfect Cambridge English and it was a wonder. My attention was totally on him for forty minutes. And then at the end you go along the line and I looked into his eyes and I was gone again for three months [laughing].
Iain: So you were blown away like when you saw Swami Shyam in India.
Dennis: Totally blown away. Yes. And that was the third major Samadhi, the second one had probably taken place in Oregon. The thing that came out of my last Samadhi was that, when I began to come down to earth a little bit, I realized how it had been done, for me at any rate.
Iain: So how long did it take you to come down to earth this time?
Dennis: About three months.
Iain: Three months?
Iain: And is it a gradual process you are fully aware of?
Dennis: Yes. You feel the euphoria and the bliss beginning to seep away as day to day normal life impinges on you - just normal day to day living. I got to go to the supermarket and buy so and so and you’re not generally there. It’s not advisable to be in Samadhi when you’re shopping, because you’d come back with oranges instead of tomatoes [laughing] which is the current problem Jassi has [laughing]. Lucky if she gets oranges [laughing] lucky if she gets tomatoes [laughing some more]. But it doesn’t stick, the Samadhi doesn’t stick long. It comes and goes
Iain: It needs support somehow.
Dennis: It needs support. This is why monasteries and so forth are developed for this purpose, where you’re not dealing with traffic jams, or helicopter noise and things of that sort.
Iain: What had you realized that had helped instigate the Samadhi?
Dennis: I realized that it was focus, an undivided focus for forty minutes. I never thought about anything else, no thought came into my head for that forty minutes.
Iain: So you were just engrossed.
Dennis: I was totally focused.
Iain: Connected with...
Dennis: …on what he had to say.
Dennis: I tend to be more audio than visual, so it was the audio, Rinpoche’s voice that I had zeroed in on. And that had calmed me, or put me in a place, where the Samadhi could take place. And that is, for me at any rate, that is the way that it works. As you work through the detailed meditations, you settle down into a place, a deep place of quiet. That allows this gestalt, to me it’s a bit more than mind body spirit, it’s a sort of ‘this’ without definition. It allows that to quieten down and then the spiritual realization of who you are, of what is really there, has an opportunity to come to your attention. That is the way I’d put it.
Iain: And you realized at that time when it started to wear off, that this is something you wanted to explore again?
Dennis: Oh yes. Then it was a hundred percent clear, that’s the way forward.
Iain: Yes, and you looked for a teacher, or a guru?
Dennis: I looked for a teacher. I went to Chithurst, which had been one of the places in my early days, when I was thinking of giving up big business and so forth. I went down to see the Abbot at Chithurst, who had been a fighter pilot in the American Air Force in Thailand. He’d been a lawyer in New York before being a pilot, and then stayed on after his Air Force work in Thailand and became a Theravadan Monk. Sixteen years later he found himself as Abbot of a small monastery in southern England, Chithurst. So, I asked him at the time, as I was thinking of giving up the business world, “You have done what I’m looking to do. You gave up being a lawyer in New York, normal life, and became a monk. Have you ever been hungry?” He said, “No, I’ve never been hungry.”
As you know monks eat the food that they are presented with and I said, “Have you ever needed a roof over your head?” He said, “No, no. Whenever I needed a roof, it’s always been there.” I said, “Have you been happy?” He said, “Wondrously happy!” [Iain and Dennis laughing]. I said, “There’s my man!” [Iain and Dennis laughing again]. That gave me the courage. It gave me the courage to give up my career.
Iain: But then it was this book wasn’t it?
Dennis: Yes, I was looking around and found Ayya Khema, who is, was, she died in 1997, a Theravadan Buddhist Nun. She had a rather interesting story.
Iain: So you pronounce her ‘Ayya Khema’ and the book is Who is Myself? A Guide to Buddhist Meditation. I show that because it was very key to this part of the story.
Dennis: Yes. She lived in Berlin, was of a very good family, a wealthy family. In 1938 they finally decided to get out and did so by the skin of their teeth. Her parents went to Shanghai, she went to England. She finally ended up back in Shanghai before the end of the war, her parents were killed, she moved with some other Jews to America, married, had a child. Yet, the wanderlust was still there.
Iain: But what did the book do for you?
Dennis: Oh, the book! The book gave me a roadmap.
Iain: Okay, so obviously it was the right time and the right place.
Dennis: Yes, and the book became my teacher. I was looking around at this time and saying, “I need a teacher!” I’d seen with Sogyal Rinpoche where this could take me and I was thinking, “I need a teacher to put me on the road and to check my progress.” I didn’t find one, but the book very much, precisely acted in place of the teacher.
Iain: It’s not often you find someone that would just pick up a book and do what you’ve done with that [Dennis laughing]. Usually everyone says you need a teacher.
Iain: But the teacher was the book… in fact
Dennis: Yes, the teacher was Ayya Khema in the sense that she had left behind the material that allowed the teaching to take place. She was Jewish German. She said what she meant and I was in a German environment more or less, and it’s very precise. It’s very direct. You do this - this is the result [smiling].
Iain: So what did you decide to do?
Dennis: I felt I needed peace and quiet, so I found my cave in the wilderness, which was a very nice apartment in Bad Homburg near Frankfurt in Germany. And I meditated for eight to nine hours a day.
Iain: So you sat there. You lived there on your own?
Iain: Eight or nine hours a day?
Iain: That’s a big commitment.
Dennis: It was obvious that… well, obvious, it’s never obvious. It is two things that make you do something like that: one is an understanding of where you’re going, and that helped me there [pointing at the book]. The ego likes to have a roadmap. The ego likes to know if you do this, then you get there. So I had that in my hand, I read it and said, “Oh, this is exactly what I need.” Perhaps the more important aspect though is that inner pull which says, “Okay that’s where you go. No, I don’t like it. Doesn’t matter, you go there.”
Iain: Did you have an expectation of where you might end up?
Dennis: No. I just knew I had to do it.
Iain: You knew you had to do it.
Dennis: From the teachings it would probably take more than a lifetime. And there was no expectation, I expected to reach reasonable states of awareness, but I didn’t expect my head to blow off again.
Iain: Okay, so how was it to start with? You start off, you’re there meditating eight or nine hours a day, living on your own. I know in the notes you sent me you said you would go for some walks.
Iain: And on the walks you would be as aware as you possibly could.
Dennis: Yes. It’s not only important in the meditation, but when you’re outside of the meditation to stay awake and to stay present in the now. So you pass by a tree and you’re aware of the tree. You pass by the next tree, you’re aware of the next tree, and you don’t think about the tree you’ve just passed, you’re with what’s in front of you.
Dennis: When you’ve got your cream cake at the Schloss Café, you’re with the cream cake and you eat it, and there’s nothing else going on. Maybe you take coffee in between the bites, but you’re there in the moment. And so, that’s as important as the sitting meditation. Sitting meditation sometimes it’s hard, you know, I had a big comfortable chair and from time to time I’d circle around it and sort of, “No, I don’t want to sit!” And then I’d sit.
Iain: And what kind of meditation did you do to start with?
Dennis: Well, I started off with going back to basics. I went back to the breath.
Iain: Yes, so you just watch your breath going in and out?
Dennis: Watch your breath, and if necessary just to keep the attention there counting from one to five. Inbreath 1, outbreath 2, inbreath 3, outbreath 4, inbreath 5, outbreath 1 and you keep to that. If you find yourself getting to ten, your attention is not on your breath, it’s on the counting. And so very frequently, you’re coming back to basics.
Dennis: I was listening to Jim Finley who is a Christian mystic, he was saying, “It’s that process of when you realize that you’ve moved out of the tracks, if you like, you come back in.” That’s the bit where the work is. That’s the realization - you’re no longer meditating, you’re in your mind. And bringing yourself back from the mind, back to the meditation. And you need to do this. The opportunity is for this to happen hundreds of times.
Iain: Yes, but isn’t the work also in the concentration, to stay in the meditation?
Dennis: Yes it is, and you develop that.
Iain: So, two things, once you’re out you bring yourself back in, and, you’re actually focusing as much as possible to stay in there.
Dennis: Well I knew I had to do at least forty minutes in focused meditation, because that had been the previous experience. So what the jhanas do, which is the roadmap of Ayya Khema, which is the Buddha’s roadmap as explained by Ayya Khema, is to take you through meditation. First jhana is the subtle feeling of the body. Now, you may begin to feel the subtle feeling of the body perhaps in one place, then you extend it all over the body. That’s quite a nice feeling. Then out of that comes joy. There’s a movement from that focus in meditation, the feeling of the subtle body, to the focus on the joy that arises. So you’re sitting there in meditation and there’s a movement over, from first jhana to second jhana, joy. And then after a while, if you stay with that, that deepens into silence. And then it deepens into deeper silence. Now this is, from the Buddhist perspective, a well-known roadmap and, particularly in Burma, they go for this in the pure mind styles of meditation. Meditation prepares the ground, it doesn’t do anything in itself, it prepares the ground. Fifth jhana, again, for me was another big step. Not so much a head blowing off, but a realization that there’s nobody there. Out of this silence, the deep silence, you look around for “you” and there’s no “you” there.
Iain: But who’s looking around for you?
Dennis: That’s a process, that you get to the point that there’s no “you”. And then there’s a realization, there’s no “you”. There’s somebody looking around for the “you” and neither is the person who’s looking around, or the “you” there.
Iain: But who knows there’s no “you”?
Dennis: There’s something that knows there’s no “you”. There’s a very different definite feeling of no you, there’s no entity that you’re used to: this being.
Iain: There’s no patterns of Dennis with programs of Dennis?
Dennis: No, there’s no sense of it.
Iain: There’s a feeling.
Dennis: It’s not really a feeling. It’s an awareness.
Dennis: And the awareness has no observer.
Iain: The awareness has NO observer?
Dennis: No, all there is there is no you, and very quickly that moves on to nothing else there either - the sixth jhana.
Iain: We still have about ten minutes left, so can you go through them just briefly, the different jhanas?
Dennis: Okay. First jhana, first of all you start off with breathing, so you get a sense of focus. Then you move your focus of meditation, the subject of meditation from breathing to the subtle feeling of the body. You’ll find it, if you look for it, the first jhana. You may have to look around a bit for that one. One way you can do it is, if you put your two hands together, there comes a point where you feel it’s a bit thicker, this is the feeling of the aura.
Dennis: You hold your hand there and you can feel it over your knee. Now, here’s a good place to start, okay, I can feel. I can feel in a way which I don’t normally in day to day waking state, feel my hand that way, it’s bigger than that, quite a lot bigger - that’s the first. That is like entering the house. Living room [pointing to the left] is joy - the second jhana. Once you’ve got into the subtle feeling of the body, and you managed to get it all over you, which is just a process, joy arises. There is a shift and this shift is important: to realize when the subject for meditation moves. There’s partly a volition, but mostly it does it of its own. From the perspective I have now, what you’re actually doing is calming yourself down to a point when you’re taking the layers off the active mind. These are being put to one side. The mind may and certainly in my case it does churn on, but you don’t pay any attention to it, it’s just there in the background. When the focus is on the subtle feeling of the body, then that joy arises in you. Now, if you go and sit in the chair and joy arises, you’re likely going to sit on the chair again. Silence comes soon after that and that’s cool.
Iain: Silence is very cool, yes.
Dennis: After living in Italian speaking Switzerland for a while, silence is brilliantly cool. And then that drops down to a deeper silence, and it’s out of that [snapping his fingers], that comes this [realization] there’s nobody doing this, there’s nobody there, there is nothing there, there’s no-thing there. And that takes you back a bit. That then substantially moves your point of view of the world to a very different place. I sometimes work with people and we walk out where I live some of the time in Germany. You walk out and there’s perhaps a hedge here and so your view of the world is curtailed by the hedge. As you move on past where the hedge ends, the view of the world opens up significantly. Now, when you take one step back, the hedge covers that point of view, one step forward, that’s all, and your point of view of the world is totally changed. There’s a whole lot more in it than there was before. Certainly when I work with people, you see how selective we are, in what we choose out of what’s available. What we actually choose to see or experience, is very selective and we select it through the habit patterns that we’ve developed over our lives and from our parents and so forth.
Iain: You did this for about eighteen months?
Iain: You kept the routine, you lived there and you meditated eight or nine hours a day. You had your awareness walk and I presume you ate fairly simply as well?
Dennis: Reasonably, I had some good restaurants around.
Iain: You treated yourself well?
Dennis: You know, I’ve been a businessman.
Iain: And after eighteen months, what happened then?
Dennis: It felt I had to give it a break. It felt that I’d pushed it as far as I could.
Iain: And you were in the silence a little of the time?
Dennis: Yes. So we sold the apartment and by this time we had a chalet in Switzerland and I went there. After Christmas I sat for six weeks and kept up the process, this was somewhat easier in Switzerland. It was helpful to be a thousand meters high. You’re in a sort of somewhat rarified atmosphere. My sense is that that was helpful and, suddenly one day, boom, the head completely blew off.
Dennis: Yes, just like that. I’d gone through the meditations and in the later jhanas there’s very subtle shifts which you watch, there’s no “you”. There is awareness of these subtle shifts in the seventh, eighth and ninth jhanas. So the focus is on extremely subtle movements, within no-thing. And all of a sudden, that will provide the environment for you to fully realize that there is nobody there and no-thing there - permanently. It’s like the elastic band, you pull on the elastic band and finally you pull it so far it breaks and it never goes back to be an elastic band again, it’s a piece of rubber.
Iain: And that has stayed with you?
Dennis: That stayed. Four years ago. Just over four years ago, it stayed. At first I was always in that state of expanded awareness. When I walked out of the chalet I couldn’t walk because I didn’t have feet and the road was questionable. You don’t have a sense of that anymore.
Dennis: When these sort of things happen, Adyashanti talks about what you lose under these circumstances. You lose any sense of self and you have to build that back up again, to work in everyday reality. My colleague in the Hof, he’s just gone through this process a couple of weeks ago. He’s had real difficulty. He’s got a business to run. To get out in the morning into the car and onto the German Autobahn, you know, this is a challenge. He used to be a fast driver in a big car, and now at 120 - 130 (Km/h) that’s fast enough [laughing] you don’t like a lot of speed. So these are the sort of things you have to deal with. At the same time, any moment you want it, there is total bliss. You just sit there; you know [laughing out loud].
Iain: You have a wonderful laugh!
Dennis: Well I can blame my mother, in part, but it also comes from bliss [laughing out loud some more].
Iain: We have about two or three minutes left. I just like to mention, as you did in your notes, that Jac O’Keeffe, who’s also been on conscious.tv, was quite helpful.
Dennis: Yes, very helpful.
Iain: It was about this re-entry or this embodiment… whatever you call it.
Dennis: Well, when it happened, for me at any rate, it blew my head off. So she asked me about a year or so later, “Where do you feel this sense of who you are?” And I said, “Well, up here” [holding his hand over his head] and she said, “Ho, well, we know what the problem is with you. You need to embody this, you need to bring it down. You need to ground yourself and bring it down to your heart.” And so she went like that [making a movement with his hand] and I went like that, and I embodied it. [laughing out loud]
Iain: God, it sounds very simple.
Dennis: Well it is. Whatever it is, it brings you to the right moment at the right time, to the right place.
Dennis: And it happens. No sense of doing anymore, no sense of volition behind it anymore. [laughing] So, oh, that’s cool [snapping his fingers and laughing].
Iain: I think your laugh says it all.
Dennis: [laughing] Well, it’s certainly been worth the trip! There’s little question about that and obviously, like anything else it has its ups and downs, and ins and outs, but it’s been worth the trip, I’ve lived a really happy life.
Dennis: Full of tremendous opportunities and joy, as well as having all of the downsides. Not so many of those somehow [laughing].
Iain: Good. Time is up, really appreciate you popping in to see us at conscious.tv and well, thank you.
Dennis: Thank you for having me.
Iain: And thank you everyone out there for watching conscious.tv I will just mention this book again, which isn’t by Dennis, but it was the book he used for his process, Ayya Khema, is that right?
Dennis: Ayya Khema.
Iain: Ayya Khema, Who is Myself? A Guide to Buddhist Meditation, if you want to check out the process he went through. Thank you, and 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.