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Loch Kelly - Falling Into Awake Awareness

Interview by Iain McNay

Iain: I’m Iain McNay and my guest today is Loch Kelly.

Hi Loch

Loch: Hi, how are you doing?

Iain: We had an email from Adyashanti’s office saying that “We strongly recommend Loch.”  We got a copy of his book, Shift Into Freedom: The Science and Practice of Open Hearted Awareness.

I looked through the book and I thought there is something that Loch is saying that hasn’t’ necessarily been covered in that way before.  That’s always the challenge with Conscious TV, is to keep it fresh; not to have repeats in the interviews with people that are very similar.  Hopefully that comes out in the interview. 

We are going to find out about Loch’s life, his openings, realizations, how he handled those, and also talks about his work. 

So, Loch, you were telling me on the phone that your first, what we might call ‘spiritual experience’ was when you were riding on a bus when you were very young?

Loch:  That’s right.  In hindsight, I can find a number of little glimpses or spiritual experiences, but I remember distinctly feeling an openness or a connection to many things.  As I was riding a bus and looking out of the window at the sky feeling a feeling of connection, that feeling, I thought to myself at a very young age, ‘Oh, this is what adults must talk about.  This seems to be the most important thing, this way of feeling good, feeling connected, feeling enjoyment.”  Of course I found out later it wasn’t exactly what adults were talking about.   But, there was something about that, that said to me ‘There’s something important here that I want to pursue or find out about.’

Iain: The interesting thing is, of course, adults do talk about things that, in a way, they want to become connected…

Loch:  That’s right.

Iain: But they are not very connected with what makes them connected—if I’m being clear there?

Loch:  Yes, absolutely.

Iain: It’s interesting that, firmly, children do have these experiences that are very real and actually do give deep clues to who they really are. 

Loch:  Yes, and the simplicity, I think, was the thing.  It was like, ‘Look how simple this is…’ I’m sitting there after school and I’m worried about this and worried about that, and I just look up, look out the window. All of a sudden something drops, opens and—boom—there is another dimension of consciousness here and it makes me feel all is well.

Iain: Yes, and that’s what we want.  We want the feeling that all is well.

Loch:  Yes, that’s right. 

Iain: Then a few years later you were into sports? You’re the goal keeper on your hockey team?

Loch:  Yes, that’s right.  Again, I’d heard on TV that someone had said a sports player—a quarterback on an American football team—that ‘He’s got eyes in the back of his head.’  At fourteen I was like, ‘Oh, how does he do that I wonder?’ 

So I started to open up my peripheral vision and then open my awareness up.  I found that, as soon as I just did that, I would drop in and feel connected.  So I would do that before I played ice hockey, goalie.  I started to feel like everything was very effortless.  I would watch a puck be shot and I’d lose it half way but my hand would go out, and there it was in the glove. I’d be like, ‘Wow!’

One day one of my good friends on the team said, “Hey man.  You did a great job today.  How did you do that?”  I went, “You really want to know?” He went, “Yes.”  I started to say, “I open my vision up and I drop into my body.  I feel connected, like a cat, so I’m totally alert without thinking about thinking.”  He just went, “Oh, cool man,” and walked away.

One of the seniors on the team, the next week, came and said, “Here kid, read this.”  It was Zen and the Art of Archery.

Iain: Right, right. 

Again, I picked up from your notes that one of the things that says is, The hit and the hitter are one.

Loch:  Yes, that’s it. 

Iain: That’s what you were experiencing, wasn’t it?

Loch:  Exactly.  And, I was just so amazed that here was this language that was speaking to me, as a kid, at the level that I could understand—whatever consciousness or spirituality was—in my direct experience.  There was a whole language and this thing called Zen.  I became like, ‘Wow! This is so cool!’  It led me, from an experience of joy, to be interested and start to look for other ways to find out about this.

Iain: Of course so many of the great sports people in Europe, it’s Football—it’s a big sport.  The top players like Messi and Ronaldo, you watch them and it’s almost like watching genius…

Loch:  It is.

Iain: Because they are doing things that just aren’t thought about by normal people.  They are in the right position and they know where everybody else is.  It is a sense of everything is one on the football pitch.

Loch:  That’s right.  And, as I studied both spirituality, meditation, and contemplation—I also studied psychology and neuroscience—I found that there’s also research on something called being in the zone or being in a flow state. 

A researcher from Chicago, Csikszentmihalyi, studied many people who are living at an optimal level.  They shift into this flow state where, interestingly, you are in the Now—time kind of slows down, you feel interconnected to everyone and everything, you feel like you are able to optimally perform any task you are doing, there is an enjoyment to it; you feel interconnected with everyone and everything. 

These are qualities that I found are described not only by musicians, people in sports, people doing a number of different tasks, but by meditators, spiritual people from contemplative traditions around the world.  There was something immediately that I thought, ‘this is something that is about the human condition.  This isn’t so much about religion or belief or a particular tradition.’  There is something that’s a human-being lineage that I became interested in.

Iain: Yes, maybe we can cover this afterwards because you can also get out of the flow state.

Loch:  That’s right.

Iain: Tiger Woods…

Loch:  That’s right.

Iain: Wrote amazing books.  I don’t know if he mentioned the word flow state; he certainly was in the flow state.

Loch:  Yes.  Yep.

Iain: Now he seems to be somewhere else.

Loch:  Yes.  Exactly.

Iain: We’ll try to come around to that because that’s interesting. 

Around sixteen you learned TM (transcendental meditation)?

Loch:  Yes.  I thought, ‘let’s go see what’s around that.’  Should I go to a Zen—because I read this book New Zen, but Zen didn’t seem to be that available in suburban New Jersey in the United States.

All of a sudden one of my friend’s older brothers was doing TM.  He said, “I’ll take you and your friend to one of these things. You can just listen and decide if you want to do it.” So, I went.  It was kind of interesting, what they were saying. 

Then, I did this simple meditation and had a nice effect from it.  I saw that even from initial meditation, that it was an intentional way to access something that took more of an external experience—like playing sports—in order to do. I’d have to be in an environment.  But here’s something I could do on the subway, on the tube, in a few moments.

Iain: TM is the starting part for so many people.

Loch:  Yes.

Iain: I used TM to start.  There’s something about it that’s relatively simple, straight forward and it gives you a discipline, which is important as well.

Loch:  That’s right.  Exactly.   That’s what it introduced.  It introduced this sitting time, this discipline—an intentional simple way to begin.

Iain: Then, you were telling me, so in your book, that you had this very important experience when you were at college.  Talk us through that, when you were walking up the hill…

Loch:  Interestingly, some of spirituality is about transcending or going beyond suffering.  But this experience was one where, when I was a freshman in college, my father developed brain cancer.  So, the whole family got together. We were supporting him.  He had a tumor the size of a lemon in the left lobe of his brain.  He was an engineer so it was really his mathematical side.  He really went back to kindergarten level of functioning.  All of a sudden I was kind of helping him with his school work.  There’s a whole emotional, developmental thing going on. Then he got better.  He had another operation; he got better.  Then, right before my sophomore year, the end of that year he passed away.  We had the funeral and the next day I went to college. 

I was by myself and my friends hadn’t been through this.  I tried to talk to the counselors; it wasn’t so helpful. I was met with a traditional Freudian who just sat there taking notes.  I was like, ‘I don’t think this is helping.  I need a little more connection.’ So, one night while leaving the library late at night on a crisp Up-state New York beautiful starry night, I walked out of the library and felt very weighed down—heavy, overtaken, emotional.  I thought, ‘I don’t know if I can take this anymore.’  It was a thought that came through my mind.

As I looked up toward that thought, I looked up again at the sky and all of a sudden my whole sense of burden had lifted.  It felt like this burden lifted and there was a support from this vast dimension of consciousness.  I was laughing and crying, and felt something was being accessed—another dimension of consciousness that could bear what seemed to be unbearable.  It felt like, ‘This is real.  This is here.  This is possible.  This isn’t something coming from outside.  It’s almost like this is a dimension of consciousness that was here all along but I was so operating in this small contracted way that I didn’t know about it. But now, how do I access it?’

It changed the whole grieving process.  I was actually able to grieve more and connect and go through it with my family members and friends.  But, it was something that brought together the most human suffering and the most divine or transcendent and put them together for me.

Iain: Yes.  We’ll come into the interview more about your practical work, but that’s actually an important thing, isn’t it.

Loch:  Yes.

Iain: People think sometimes that being awake means you don’t necessarily have to deal with all the human dramas that go on but that actually isn’t true.

Loch:  That isn’t true.

Iain: Human dramas still go on.

Loch:  They sure do. (laughter)

Iain: That just reminds me, I was going to read this—but I forgot—at the beginning of the interview.  It’s a quote, actually from Rumi, at the beginning of one of your chapters, Living from Being, in your book. 

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
— Rumi
I guess that’s, in a way, what finding out through experience, a way to do that—entertain them all.

Loch:  That’s right.  The entertaining feels; certainly not spiritually bypassing, not just transcending—although at some point in my life I could say a little more about it.  I thought that was it. 

I went into a pure awareness state where I was detached and more in a no-self awareness, but fortunately, having been recently married at the time, my wife was like, “Come on back down.  Where did you go?”  I said, “What do you mean? I’m just happy..” “Yes, but you’re floating around in the air.  You are not you.”  That kind of made me realize, ‘oh I see. I’m not really including.’  There is a way to stop half way or get caught in this pure awareness that’s not fully human. 

Consciously and intentionally, I started to come back in.  Rather than being a pure awareness witness, or even a mindful witness—which is very popular now… where you are a little detached, non-judgmental and observing contents… like you are the sky watching thoughts and feelings go by—it was really like waking up I started to feel like I woke in.  So, I was like the ocean of awareness that was arising as a wave.  There was an intimate embracing of emotion while having this support.  It’s this feeling of almost feeling your emotions and sensations from within you rather than from above or from outside.  It’s really almost like being embodied for the first time.

Iain: Yes.  Because we get told a lot in this spiritual world, ‘you are not your emotions.’

Loch:  That’s right.

Iain: Of course in one way that’s true, but when they are coming up they are your emotions.

Loch:  That’s the full human life.

Iain: Okay, we’ll do the sequential and then we’ll go into more depth how you see things and your teaching.

Loch:  Okay.

Iain: You then went to study with a Zen meditation teacher?

Loch:  Yes.  Then I just decided to do a short period of Zen during college, as a formal mediation practice, and did a longer retreat.  I found it helpful but also found that after the initial experience—and some detoxing was happening which was helpful—it seemed very formal and I was looking for something a little more spontaneous and certainly a discipline but not too disciplined. It felt a little military to me. So, it opened me up to search for something else.

Iain: Again, this is such an important point, that we all have to find our own way that feels right. 

Loch:  Yes.

Iain: Because, sitting in the very chair that you’re in now, last week was Jon Bernie, who was also recommended by Adyashanti.  He just loved the Zen meditation.

Loch:  Okay, yes.

Iain: You could sit there—I’m not exaggerating—he would say he was there 8 hours a day on the cushion, 8 hours work, and then some sleep.  He loved it.

Loch:  Yes, that’s right.

Iain: People have to realize that isn’t necessarily necessary. 

Loch:  That’s right.

Iain: It doesn’t have to be their way.

Loch:  Exactly.  What I found, what I looked for, was what fit me and also what were the principles of each of the different traditions that were pointing to the same thing.  That became of interest to me, to find out how does it work?

Iain: You obviously had inherently a trust, somehow, in the process. You had a way of at least following, or not sticking with something, that you didn’t feel right with.

Loch:  Yes. 

Another little funny story about that time in college was that, fifteen years later I went back to the college reunion and, my friend who lived next to me in the freshman dorm, when I told him what I was doing—which was teaching meditation and being a psychotherapist—he literally fell down laughing.  Because, I was just an ordinary guy.  I wasn’t a spiritual kind of, ‘Hello, nice to see you..’ I was just bumbling along, enjoying life, going out to the pubs, and doing this and that.  But, there was something inside that was calling me, that from early on, ‘there’s something really important here.. there’s something that’s possible and when I access it, it changes everything—it actually includes everything.’ It doesn’t get rid of everything.  I still have the same feelings but there’s a broader, vaster, more loving presence that is both bigger than me and is me. 

That’s what I was curious about so I started reading about it, looking for it, wondering about it and seeing different ways that it would be described in one tradition, or that it could be a cult, or somebody would have an initial awakening and then they may act out around money, sex, drugs or power—misusing it.  Being curious, ‘Okay, what happened with them?  What happened with this?  What is really the principle?’

Then I met people who did seem happy, joyous and free, fully human, having transformed from having been caught in this chattering mind and emotional feeling of being separate to a very loving human being. 

Iain: It’s a bit of a minefield, isn’t it?  But it has somewhere, inherently, about this trust.  If something doesn’t feel right you need to question and then move on.

Loch:  Yes, that’s right.  That’s the contemporary.  I think that’s what we’ve brought; more contemporary Western culture is a willingness to be curious—to bring that scientific curiosity of ‘What’s true..?  How does this work..? Is this really valid..?  Let’s test it out. Let’s not just believe it because it’s been said for thousands of years.’  Respect tradition and investigate.

Then, really be curious about what are the principles of awakening.  How does human consciousness work?  How does it optimally function?  What gets in the way?  What are some of the traps that are there?  That became my interest, really to be interested in a full ordinary awakening.

Iain: Of course, I’m just thinking about this whole theme of whether you stay with something or move on.  You’ll often be told that you need to surrender.

Loch:  That’s right.

Iain: The teaching is coming up and you’re avoiding. Looking back at my past, there’s certainly been situations where I’ve been told that.  I’ve stayed with it, but ultimately I’ve often left because it just feels wrong too deeply.

Loch:  That’s right. 

Iain: But it’s not always easy to see, is it? 

Loch:  No, it’s not easy to see when you’re in it.  At a certain stage it feels like ‘this is it..’ or, ‘I’m doing something wrong..’  Sometimes, when you stay with something, it does open up; sometimes when you stay with something you are just doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results and it’s just madness—it’s not really helpful.  You really need to find your own way.

Iain: There are people who stay in cults for years and years and years.  It almost destroys them.  Then they write books afterward about how terrible it was.

Loch:  That’s right, yes.

Iain: Okay, so then you met a Chinese doctor?

Loch:  Yes.

Iain: Doctor Chan?

Loch:  Yes. 

Iain:  Who, again, was another stage in your process of learning.

Loch:  Yes. 

By then I was in graduate school and had chronic bronchitis one winter.  I wasn’t being helped; I took the antibiotics and it wasn’t being helped.  It kind of lingered.  I heard about the Chinese doctor. He mixed up a natural remedy of sticks, leaves, and bark but he also said, “Here is something.  Since you are studying this, this is The Secret of The Golden Flower.”

I read it and came back. My bronchitis was getting a little better the first week.  Then we discussed it.  He basically said that the secret of the gold flower is, ‘Turn the light of awareness around.”  He said some people misunderstand that it’s energy—like turn the energy around or turn physical light around.  He said, “it’s the light of awareness.  When we are looking out all the time, from this little looping pattern of creating a thinker, using our attention outside; but, have awareness turn back and look through the meditator.  Look through the ego center and have it open up the field of the Tao, or what’s called Rigpa, turiya, or true nature, all of a sudden has revealed that there’s already this natural awake awareness that’s aware by itself, without our help.

By literally doing that, in that moment, I could feel (snaps fingers), that it was another way to simply access a natural dimension of awakeness and embodiment. 

Iain: You mention the words awake awareness. 

Loch:  Yes.

Iain: You mention that a lot in the book. 

Loch:  Yes.

Iain: Awake awareness, where you first kind of had that turn, was it?

Loch:  Awake awareness is a translation of the number of these principles that are all the same—rigpa in Tibetan Buddhism, turiya in Advaita, the Tao or light of awareness, the mind looking at the mind..

Awake awareness seems to be the foundation that there’s an awareness that’s not attention, that’s not concentration, that’s not focusing from your small mind; that’s already a dimension of consciousness that’s effortlessly aware, is inherent within us, and interconnected.  That feeling of what’s called nature of mind or awake awareness, is just an awareness that is awake. 

Whatever it is, ultimately, is probably a mystery.  But, it’s effect in neuroscience, when you shift into it—in an FMRI your brain balances, your default mode network will balance, your area of compassion will come on, the self-referencing part of your brain that is chatting and worried about what you are going to do, will relax.  You feel boundless, embodied.  So, there is something there, which is invisible and been missed by most of us because it’s not a thing and it can’t be known by thought. 

When we discover it, it seems to be what’s called the ground of being.  The essential, simple, initial awakening is discovering this. 

Iain: I’ve always liked the term ‘the ground of being.’

Loch:  Yes.

Iain: The sound of it kind of.. the ground.. stay grounded..

Loch:  It feels like that, yes. 

Iain: Okay, my notes, so we can complete the sequential part of your early learning, if you like, opening.. 

You were then offered a travelling scholarship. 

Loch:  Yes.

Iain: It started off in Sri Lanka for six months where you did quite a lot of vipasanna retreats.

Loch:  Yes, that’s right.

In Sri Lanka I both studied in a little university and then did 3 day, 10 day, and 21 day retreats with the local Theravada, vipassana retreats. I really did mindfulness training and threw myself into ‘what’s this..’ basic, earliest, oldest, form of Buddhism. I found it very helpful to do it.

There was a funny story, after a 10 day retreat, I thought, ‘I’ve got it.  I’m very calm... I have no thoughts… Maybe this is it…’ Then I walked down through the tea plantations and got on a local bus that was totally packed.  All of a sudden, at the next stop a guy got on. He was a burly guy who was clearly drunk.  He was pushing people out of the way and I was like, ‘what’s going on..?’ Then, he just kicked me square in the shin.  I was like, ‘Oh!’  All of a sudden all this emotion and feeling came back! “What are you doing?!  Don’t do that..!”  It was like wow, it just stayed on.  I was like, ‘so that’s just what they call calm abiding…’  That’s not awakening.

I got a sense that you can pacify your mind through certain meditation, but that’s not awakening.  It’s a calm state that isn’t able to live in the world.

Iain: Yes, but what I think is also really good is, you were taking the time to do these longer retreats.  I just wonder sometimes—I think we’ve had 300, maybe 400, guests on Conscious TV over the years—and really, everybody has a depth in terms of their awakening and then maturing their awakening, has taken time in different forms of retreats.  They may be on their own or in school—could be a structured school or a less structured school—but they’ve made the commitment that, ‘I’m now going to go in.  I’m going to ground of being—which is the term that I like; awake awareness in your language…

Loch:  Yes, yes, yes…

Iain: I’m going to explore that and find out for myself.”

In this world of instant things on the internet, I wonder really, is it ever going to work for people? 

Loch:  Right. Right.

The particular approach that I offer now is “small glimpses” many times during the day.  It’s a direct realization but then a gradual unfolding.  The premise is that the awakeness that we are seeking can’t be developed through practice.  So, we access it directly, immediately, but then you need to familiarize, integrate and kind of rewire your brain.  That takes regular practice.

Iain: Let’s explore that more because that’s such an important point.  How does one do that, on a practical basis? How do they take it to the next stage?

Loch:  In some ways, the map is that it’s not just about waking up from this separate sense of self—which seems to be formed by self-reflection or thought looping on thought, which refers to emotion and creates a sense of almost a little mini-me in our head... looking out of our eyes.  It’s a suffering self that’s perpetually dissatisfied. 

You can unintentionally, or intentionally, literally have awareness unhook from that and drop into your body.  Or, as if you’ve been living in a storm cloud trying to clean it up, you have awareness open to the space all around you and discover the spacious awareness that is already aware by itself.  Then you are aware from there. 

Literally, because these dimensions are available, once you have practiced, you can literally drop, open, become aware from this awareness—it’s aware of itself, which is a kind of surrender to the awareness that is already aware.  Then, as this awareness, you feel this embodiment, a kind of open-heartedness…  Then, presence, inner-body presence… and then almost this ability to create and relate, this interconnected field.

You are almost untying these knots of consciousness, or tuning in with this tuner—which is actually local awareness, a form of inquiry—to shift the dimensions.  Almost like I was shifting when I looked out of the window, I shifted to an openness... be interested in the openness... then be interested from the openness... back to feeling open and embodied.  Then, dropping from head to heart.

It literally is like navigating your consciousness.

Iain: You are consciously doing this?

Loch:  You are consciously doing it but here’s the unique thing:  you, the doer, is not doing it.  Literally, when I say I only realized this half way through teaching it this way, I realized, ‘Oh, I’m talking to the awake person in everyone.  I’m asking can you hook your awareness from thought and have it drop below your neck.’  The ego can’t do it.  The doer can’t do it.  But, the awakeness can do it.  Consciousness can unhook awareness and come to hearing, and open to spacious awareness.

The way I found it is by reverse engineering.  When you are in this awake, open hearted field, the way you focus on something—whether it’s another person, your knee, or you move to think about something—is not using attention.  It’s using this local focus of the field of awareness.  I thought, ‘Well where is that in the beginning?’  Then I reverse engineered it and thought, ‘Let’s assume that’s here.  Now, just open it to this non-local field.  Have the non-local field be formless and form… Now from that, since it’s already here, we’re just tuning into that—not creating it, not imagining it. 

This is a unique type of inquiry.

Iain: The interesting thing is the motivation for doing this isn’t coming from the personal…

Loch:  Right!  Exactly.

Iain: It’s coming from awake awareness, ground of being—whatever you want to call it…

Loch:  That’s right.

Iain: And it’s one, I suspect, that motivation, that drive is always there…?

Loch:  That’s right.

Iain: And of course, we use it in a myriad of ego-distorted ways. 

Loch:  Exactly.  It’s kind of the heart’s desire to awaken.

Iain: Yes.

Loch:  So, accessing that and then accessing the dimension of consciousness.

The assumption that you hear from most of the wisdom traditions is we’re already always awake.  Each of us is that awake Buddha nature, true nature.  It’s not something that’s created or developed so you just need to shift into it or access it.

But, then they say, the clouds will pass, but you have to clear all this other stuff first.  The direct path says, you can find that awareness and then, from that ground of being, you actually have more capacity to work with shadow parts, trauma, emotions, repressed content and karmic kleshas and movement because now you have the dimension of consciousness that is capable of loving that and being with that while it detoxes and, liberates.  It is also just met on a normal human day.

Iain: When you have life and such a strong experience—you have a few of them in your life so far that you’ve talked about—it’s kind of, in a way you feel it’s easier to follow the path…

Loch:  Yes.

Iain: Because there’s this reference point there.  You’ve seen that. So many people, of course, who are unhappy in their lives, know something is wrong and they have the intelligence to start looking.  It’s not so easy, necessarily for them to find their own way; although they may have had experiences, they are not necessarily in touch with them.

Loch:  That’s right. 

Iain: They haven’t seen, at the time, what they really are. 

Loch:  No.

Iain: In a way, it’s a gift to have a strong experience. On the other hand the people that get there, I know certain people who are really, really, clear who’ve never actually had a spiritual experience.  There is one very famous teacher who’s never really had a spiritual experience but he’s the most brilliant teacher…

Loch:  (laughter)

Iain: And he is pretty clear in his life.

Loch:  Yes, yes.

Iain: It can happen either way.

Loch:  Either way. 

And, sometimes people have a big spiritual experience and then they get so frustrated and upset because they can’t get back to it.  Their whole life becomes upset…

Iain: I bet.

Loch:  So, it isn’t about whether you’ve had it or haven't had it—that’s what I’ve looked at—having seen people who’ve had it, didn’t have this.  So I thought what are the principles of consciousness that bind us?  What are the principles of this simple turning awareness around.  Or, when I went up after my Sri Lanka experience, I went up and met a Tibetan Buddhist teacher Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, who’s a dzoghen teacher…

Iain: We missed that important bit because you actually went to India first…

Loch:  Yes, that’s right.

Iain: And you asked the Dalai Lama what you should do next.

Loch:  Yes!

Iain: That’s pretty amazing! You were able to ask the Dalai Lama a question.

Loch:  Yes, yes…

Iain: And it was he that recommended…

Loch:  Recommended this particular teacher.

Iain: To go to Tibet, yes.

Loch:  Yes, go to Nepal to study with this Tibetan teacher. 

I was going up and the Dalai Lama just happened to just come back from France where he was teaching this first time dzogchen—which is a direct recognition, gradual unfolding path.  I was there.  I think what happened was I thought it started at 1:00 but it actually started at 2:00; so I was first in line.  By my own mistake, I was like, ‘Okay, I’m here; I’ll just stand here…’  Then I sat in front.  When (he asked) any questions, I put my hand up and said, “This is great. I love what you’re saying.  Who shall I go study with?”  He immediately said, “Go to Nepal.  There’s this one fellow who’s now teaching it to anybody who asks…”

Iain: Right.

Loch:  I went and, again, very similar to Doctor Chan and to my other experiences, there was an intentional way to experience this (snaps fingers) natural awakeness.  It made me feel within three minutes, the way I felt after a 21 day retreat.

Then you need small glimpses many times.  You begin to talk from it, walk from it.  You lose it; you go back to every day mind, back to identification.  Then you learn to unhook, drop, open and include.  You do this return to this and then you start to live from it until you lose it.  You learn to learn, and train to remain.

There is an interesting process that then all of a sudden you become familiar.  It’s almost like the background awareness replaces the foreground chatter and strong identification.  It starts to come through and then more and more it’s happening by itself.  There is spontaneously maintaining itself.  It starts to include emotion, and thoughts, and relationships in a way that feels light-heartedness. 

Also, new motivation for action, compassion and willingness to engage in the world more—doesn’t lead to withdrawing to a cave because you feel this. You almost feel like, ‘I’m a human being, let’s do this human thing…’  I live in New York City so I’m like, ‘Yes, that’s great...’

Iain: For me, the most important thing you said was, ‘you need to train to remain.’

Loch:  Train to remain.

Iain: That’s what?

Loch:  People don’t always want to do...

Iain: It’s the homework, isn’t it? 

Loch:  It is. 

Iain: It’s the discipline and saying, ‘this is so important.  I need to make this the most important thing in my life.’

Loch:  That’s right.  That’s right.  Prioritizing. 

I say that.  Sometimes I’ll introduce this with a practice and then have people report—I call it popcorn satsang so everyone is now speaking from presence, from ground of being about what it’s like.  Then I say, ‘Now, if you could live like this, would you?”  They say, “Yes…”  I say, “Are you willing to make it a priority? From your heart’s desire, now, from this, is this what you want?  Not me telling you.  Is this what you want?”  Then they go, “Yes, that’s right.” 

If you could do this wouldn’t you move it up on the scale a little bit, to make it a daily habit?  You’re right, that is key.

Iain: So, you came back from Tibet; you were actually in Nepal?

Loch:  Yes.

Iain: You were in Nepal with Tulku Rinpoche and you came back?

Loch:  Yes.

Iain: You came back and I guess you were in your early 20’s at this time?

Loch:  Yes.

Iain: And you had been drinking too much alcohol...

Loch:  Yes, that’s right.

Iain: So you joined Alcoholics Anonymous…

Loch:  That’s right. 

Iain: You started as a psychotherapist…

Loch:  Yes.

Iain: And you made a commitment to clean up your life, as much as you could?

Loch:  Yes.  There were different lines and levels of development.  It was clear that (snaps fingers) it’s not a magical initial glimpse. An awakening or shift doesn’t take care of everything. That the whole human condition—learning how to relate to other people, communication… 

For me, with my family history, it wasn’t that I was so involved with alcohol but I could feel, any time I used it, it would shift my consciousness dramatically in another way to the point where I said, ‘I can’t do this at all.’  Because even if I wait three weeks and then go out drinking with my friends, I’m in a different… it takes me into a space I don’t want to be in anymore. 

Interestingly, I didn’t know that I would do something like Alcoholics Anonymous.  The fascinating things is it’s kind of a contemporary spiritual program that deals with the most down and out or difficult conditions, that people hit the bottom.  But then there are not leaders.  It’s almost an anarchistic structure where everyone rotates through.  The teacher and the teachers’ seat rotate; so everyone is up there.

I remember early on a guy saying, “I was homeless three years ago…”  He had no teeth and the most beautiful spiritual talk I’ve ever heard in my life.  I was like, ‘Oh my god! This is in everyone.’  It just shows you again, the meeting of the most human and the most spiritual, there is something that is needed to bring those together.  That’s what I’ve experienced in my life.

Iain: I know you’ve spent 10 years working with homeless people and shelters in New York…

Loch:  Yes, yes.

Iain: When we talked on the phone the other day, I asked you about that. You said, “One of the important things, is you treat them as equals…”

Loch:  Yes, that’s right.

Iain: So it’s not like I’m trying to help you…

Loch:  That’s right.

Iain: But connecting with them on a human level.

Loch:  Yes.  Very human.  Very connected.  Very respectful.  Seeing eye-to-eye, spirit-to-spirit, too.  Like the Namaste—you say, ‘I see you.’  You’re like, ‘what about this.. and that..’ No, I see you.  Then humor and equality is the way to really get to the humanity; just be yourself and be regular.  Then people who are heavily burdened down by something will start to see some hope and some sense of the fullness of their humanity.

Iain: Again, you were telling me that even the ones that are bi-polar…

Loch:  Yes…

Iain: Eighty percent of them can—if you work with them, do meditations with them—have the possibility of experiencing awake awareness.

Loch:  That’s right.  I’ve worked outpatient clinics and now I co-teach with the guy, Dick Schwartz, who does this internal family systems, who found the same thing.  With people who have major diagnosis—whether they are in-patient or have schizophrenia, bi-polar, or major traumatic histories—if they are being treated on a basic level and are willing to come in for ongoing treatment, it’s not that somebody who didn’t have good child rearing or bonding with their parent figure has no access to this.  That is the amazing thing, that this is available to everyone.  Once I would see them get a sense of this, someone would say they just put their burden down, they feel light-hearted or that, “there are voices going on but I’m just not listening.  It’s like they are at another table in the restaurant.”

Iain: Yes. So when you say there are voices going on there, hearing voices in their head?

Loch:  Yes.  Their biological condition is still happening.

Iain: It must be so hard to deal with that.

Loch:  Kind of like our own emotional life.  But I could talk to them about my meditation experience, where I could shift in a way where I was hearing my own chattering mind, ‘what did she do about this?  I don’t know... What do you want to do?  Well, that’s ridiculous… Don’t you think you should say this? Yes, say that...”  I kind of normalized that view and then people, when they had the sense of wellbeing from this ground of being, would relax into, ‘okay, this is my life... let’s just show up…’

Iain: And we all hear voices.  As you say, we have our internal chatter.

Loch:  Yes.

Iain: And someone who has a more extreme medical condition is just hearing more extreme voices.

Loch:  That’s exactly true, yes.

Iain: So we all have the same challenge, really.

Loch:  Yes, we do. That’s right.

Iain: One of the chapters in the book is called The New Normal.  You make the point that the true nature can never be damaged.  Talk us some more about what the new normal is.

Loch:  My sense now, having been at this for 20 years and really approaching it as I say, in the human being tradition, not trying to find any true way, or this is the only way or one tradition.. it’s just looking at what’s going on?  How are people finding relief of suffering?  Is there this other shift? 

What I feel now is that awakening—waking up, waking in, and waking out—is the next possible stage of human development.  That it just is, like a stage of development, it takes some attention—like school age, you have to show up, you have to learn some things, you have to train, you have to be willing to let go of the earlier things you were doing and trying to find satisfaction. The new normal is an already installed consciousness that we don’t even know we have access to, and we haven’t gotten it up and running yet. 

If we know how to access it without getting caught in the traps or eddies along the way of different stages of its unfolding, and we don’t make it too rigid or fundamentalist, but see it as a normal way that can support our own growth, we can wake up and grow up at the same time.   I’m seeing tremendous possibility for individuals and, hopefully, for our culture because I think it can then have a 100th monkey effect.  If people start to make it more ordinary, more normal—what are you doing?  Where there used to be a bar in every corner in New York, then there’s a yoga studio on every corner... Ultimately there is a training center for awakening and support... that it could become like mindfulness, and yoga, and health consciousness; it could become the next human cultural phenomena that is not cult-ish.

Iain: And more and more the term, the ordinary awakening you talk about, the new normal is really the ordinary awakening, isn’t it?

Loch:  Exactly, yes.

Iain: And the ordinary awakening means that we’re all really awake.  We all get our glimpses in our own way...

Loch:  That’s right.

Iain: It’s a question of, as you were saying earlier, for some people, they get a dramatic experience that makes it easier. But for all of us, there is something there if we want it.

Loch:  That’s right.

Iain: It’s a question of doing the homework. 

You talk about a continued education, a continuous series of shifts.

Loch:  Yes, that’s right.  It’s like adult education.  Adult continuous education, a developmental stage of awakening rather than thinking of it as esoteric thing where you have to go off and join a particular religion or metaphysics, or you have to go to a cave, or join a monastery. 

With these small glimpses, many times, and the understanding of the principles of both consciousness within the now but also consciousness as it unfolds and rewires, that it can be attended to and you can awaken in the midst of a busy life with family, people raising kids, busy lives in the city or the country.  You don’t have to leave culture as it sometimes is described. 

You can awaken, and in fact, once you start to recognize this awareness that is more openhearted awareness—awake awareness is pure awareness, and then as that pure awareness, the embodied awareness is more ground of being… so the awareness becomes the ground of your human being—then it seems this openhearted awareness or this heart mind comes on line, which has wisdom and compassion. 

It’s by actually talking, and walking, and texting from this, that it is actually more supported, rather than being in a quiet place.  (laughter)

Iain: On the other hand, if we are really waking up, do we want such a busy life?

Loch:  What I say is, I can’t answer that for you.  You’ll decide.  You’ll see what you want.  There is no ‘should’ and people tend to re-adjust.  Some people leave the work they were doing; some people stay in it.  Some people adjust, do a little less and they balance because they are not driven.

The part that’s driven to work, or driven to make money, drops.  Then they say, ‘Okay, what am I doing? Do I like what I’m doing? I can choose…”

Iain: I’m a bit suspicious here.

Loch:  (laughter)

Iain: We’ve got about five minutes left so may be we have a disagreement at the end, let’s see. 

Loch:  (laughter)

Iain: One of my pet hates, certainly, you mentioned walking and texting.  That’s one of my pet hates.  More and more in London, probably in New York as well, we’re walking and texting.

Loch:  Yes.

Iain: They bump into you.  They are not present at all.

Loch:  Yes, yes.

Iain: It’s like, when it comes down it, you need somehow—my experience is—you need somehow to have a bit of space.  You need to be present.  You need to take time just to sit and be quiet.  Otherwise, you are caught in that hustle and bustle and you are just drawn into the drama of the world.  I don’t know how you can do it.  I’ve got a term, the famous saying, is to be in the market place but not of the market place.

Loch:  Yes, that’s right

Iain: Be in the world but not of the world.

I’ve learned more and more that I can be in the world and I can be in the world and not so much drawn into the world.  Unless I have a bit of space to sit quietly, I lose perspective.

Loch:  That’s definitely true.  I didn’t mean walking and texting, I meant talking... walking... texting... In other words, you are doing everyday activities.  You are not walking and texting and talking and chewing gum (laughter).  I’m saying that any activity can be done from the flow state.

In fact, being in the flow state, there is no more silence in not talking than being tuned into the silence and talking.  Though there is certainly a time for sleep, a time for quiet time, it can be an initial access... Like the two last pictures in the Zen ox herding pictures, which are the story of the unfolding of awakening, the second to last one is an empty circle. The last one is returning to the village with gift-bearing hands. 

There is some kind of coming back to the world.  Certainly you’ll balance the stillness and movement, but there is some quiet, some stillness that is here regardless of whether you need to be driving or you’re sitting in a bus or deciding not to travel that day.

Iain: I’m feeling stillness now, which is nice.

Loch:  That’s right.  Beautiful. 

Iain: We have to finish in a couple of minutes.  There was another quote that I really liked—each chapter in your book you have a different quote from somebody in there. 

The quote from the chapter Conclusion: Dancing Stillness is from Miles Davis. 

Loch:  Yes.

Iain: He’s actually quite a troubled man in many ways but he was also a genius. 

Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.
-- Miles Davis

Loch:  Yes. 

Iain: Not always, but sometimes.

Loch:  Sometimes, yes.

Iain: I think that is certainly more my understanding of my journey—you have to play a long time…

Loch:  That’s right.

Iain: And I always admire and am touched by people who stay with it... and stay with it...

Loch:  That’s right. 

Iain: Stay with it. Don’t give up.  That’s so important.

Loch:  Yes.

Iain: Then there are people who say, “Well freedom comes when you give up...”

Loch:  (laughter)

Iain: It’s a complicated business.  That’s a different kind of staying with it. 

Loch:  Yes, that’s right.

Iain: Well, save thirty seconds.  Anything you want to say in the last thirty seconds?

Loch:  (laughter) Just that I invite anyone who is still watching at this point, to follow your heart’s desire and to consider that awakening is possible.  That it’s not an esoteric thing.  That it’s inherent within you.  That everyone can find a way to find the principles of awakening and shifting your consciousness to find this dimension which is simply hidden.  But when it’s primary—whatever you want to call it: the true self, or true nature, or ground of being—it includes everything, welcomes and loves everything, and includes another more spacious embracing dimension that changes the way you are, in terms of how you feel and how you relate.

Thank you Iain.

Iain: Well thank you Loch for coming onto Conscious TV.

Loch:  You’re welcome.

Iain: I really appreciate that.  I know you are off to Italy tomorrow.

Loch:  That’s right. 

Iain: Loch’s book, Shift into Freedom, there is a lot in here. I must confess I haven’t read every page but I’ve looked through it.  There is a lot of teaching here, not so much of his story.  So if you want the story it’s probably the wrong book for you.  But there’s a lot of detail and he goes through, very methodically, different stages.  There’s a lot of ins in this book. 

If you are interested in what he’s been saying, I do recommend the book.

Loch:  And also, for those who don’t want to read, so much intensely, there’s an audio that’s just the practices that they can download to their phone or their computer and just be led through, guided through these glimpse practices that I’ve learned.

Iain: What we are going to do now, for people watching us on the internet, Loch is going to do a short, maybe five or ten minute practice. For people interested, you can go a little bit further into his work.

Thank you for watching Conscious TV.  I hope we see you again soon.

Good bye.



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