The Hillbilly Sutra

My teachers were the sun, moon, stars, dirt, wind, trees, and the critters.  All of them were preaching the truth…. ~ The Hillbilly Sutra

There is a hidden spiritual goldmine tucked away in rural Tennessee.  He doesn’t consider himself a spiritual teacher and rarely speaks in public or does interviews on this topic.

Fortunately, he agreed to be on the Journals of Spiritual Discovery podcast.  When our original interview ran into technical problems, he went to a professional studio and recorded a nearly two hour account of his spiritual path and the wisdom revealed along the way.

Sit back and be transported by the poetic storytelling of this Hillbilly Sutra.


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  • QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: Who would you like to see interviewed on the show? Please let me know in the comments.

Selected Links and Notes from this Episode:

  • “There is absolutely nothing here and everything is proof of it.” [6:00]
  • “We already know what we are, but need an intuitive shift in perception in order to recognize it.” [13:45]
  • “Desperate earnestness is the key.” [18:00]
  • Discovering A Course in Miracles. [1:04:15]
  • The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, I Am That by Nisardadatta Maharaj, and Talks with Ramana Maharshi. [1:24:24]
  • “At this particular point in my life, the only two authorities I trusted in my quest was God and Jesus and they weren’t talking.” [1:05:30]

Daniel Ingram Interview

Daniel Ingram is author of Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha and a leading proponent of Buddhism as a practical path to enlightenment in this lifetime.  He’s played a key role in keeping Buddhism vital and accessible while also grounded in the core teachings.  If you’re on a Buddhist path or thinking about exploring such, you’ll be well served by this interview of Daniel Ingram.


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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Selected Links and Notes from this Episode

Eddie Traversa Interview

eddie traversaAustralia: land of koala bears, kangaroos, Vegemite, and enlightened Aussies like Eddie Traversa.  Eddie is in the unique position of being both a psychotherapist and awakened, which gives him a deep perspective as well as a broad tool set with which to help clients.

In our interview, he discusses why he doesn’t focus on helping people towards enlightenment, the importance of developing a relationship with the unconscious, and getting unstuck from patterns.  Along the way, we share a laugh about the motivational qualities of revenge and our fondness for the film American Beauty.


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    QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

    Selected Links and Notes from this Episode

    • Eddie recounts heart attacks, romantic breakups, and wondering why he is miserable. All this misery led him to ask “how does life work?” [3:05]
    • Focusing like a “madman.” [6:30]
    • Throwing out everything he thought that worked in order to discover what was really going on with life. [6:59]
    • Exploring ESP, near death experiences, telepathy and questions about the human potential. [7:39]
    • Eddie Traversa’s favorite book is the Tao Te Ching. [8:13]
    • Asking how to become happy in life. [8:52]
    • Learning to relax and not takes things so seriously. [10:39]
    • Exploring what the mind is capable of through magic, and how this changed into a question of identity. [11:26]
    • On being an “extreme sort of guy” and living like a hermit [13:50]
    • Was it Eddie doing something, or God? [15:40]
    • Digging deeper into the question of identity. [17:00]
    • Practicing tai-chi. [17:27]
    • On going back into therapy. [19:28]
    • How a suicide attempt led him to make a vow that he would never again give up. [21:58]
    • How a teacher can lock you into a particular way of seeing the world. [23:59]
    • The importance of friends on the spiritual path. [25:03]
    • Ignorance of the ways we tell lies to ourselves. [32:50]
    • Eddie Traversa’s awakening. [36:55]
    • The reasons behind Eddie’s disappearance from the spiritual scene. [40:50]
    • The decision to start practicing psychotherapy again. [42:19]
    • Everything that comes out of an awakening in terms of the aftermath can be had by someone without an awakening. [45:00]
    • How do you teach someone to have an awakening? The success rate is terrible. [47:00]
    • Most spiritual seekers are stuck in patterns, so how can they be helped? [48:29]
    • Do we help people by offering to help them achieve enlightenment?  No. [49:55]
    • Do we need to get rid of ego? It’s more about how we manage ego. [52:50]
    • Being aware of your body and the ability to let go of unimportant things are good foundations for the spiritual search. [57:49]
    • How to develop a relationship with the unconscious. [1:03:50]
    • Eddie’s biggest advice: if you know where you are going in life you’re likely going to get there. [1:06:25]
    • Tao Te Ching is the only book you will ever need spiritually. [1:08:47]
    • Eddie also recommends Jed McKenna’s Spiritual Enlightenment, the Damnedest Thing
    • Yes, another vote for American Beauty as a top spiritual film. [1:09:38]
    • To learn more about Eddie Traversa visit edwardtraversa.com.
    • If you enjoy the podcast leave a dollar in the tip jar, or buy a gift from CorazonGifts.  Either form of support will be greatly appreciated.

Michael Taft Interview

michael taftThis 1.5 hour interview with Michael Taft seemed to fly by, leaving me immediately wanting a Part 2.   As you will see, Michael is deeply knowledgeable about meditation and succinctly explained the paradox of the observer watching the observer–a meditative trap which dumbfounded me for many years.  Michael Taft’s wide-ranging experience defines a person who refuses to believe something just because somebody told him.  That quality of respectful doubt shines through as we explore his life and views on awakening.


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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Selected Links and Notes from this Episode

  • Michael sought out meditation as help for anxiety attacks when he was young. [2:50]
  • Finding new layers of suffering through awakening practices. [8:30]
  • How experimenting with entheogenic compounds inspired deeper spiritual practice. [9:25]
  • Michael studied under Professor Paul Muller-Ortega, a well-known scholar of Kashmir Shaivism. [11:10]
  • Living and working in Japan gave him more space and time for meditation. [12:10]
  • “I’ve always been interested in awakening, and love and freedom, and not a particular path.” [13:00]
  • Some of the favorite teachers Michael Taft has worked with are Anandi Ma and Shinzen Young. [13:25]
  • How Michael landed a job at Sounds True. [18:50]
  • Doing serious Hindu practice for several years. [23:30]
  • Going deep into spiritual systems, while not ignoring the areas they fail to address, and how different traditions have different aspects of awakening they emphasize.  [25:30]
  • The shadow side of spiritual traditions. [27:25]
  • Sri Ramakrishna‘s awakening in 36 different traditions.  [33:30]
  • Lex Hixon’s book about Sri Ramakrishna: Great Swan. [34:25]
  • Disappointment when people insist there is only one way to get to enlightenment. [35:20]
  • Is there an end to the spiritual path? [39:06]
  • The idea that there is a perfect spiritual master is a recipe for disaster. [43:45]
  • Avoiding the bliss-ninny. [48:10]
  • The danger of spiritual bypass. [50:30]
  • What is the ego? [54:55]
  • Getting past the failure mode of “I am the meditator/witness” and how this failure mode is a common critique of Vipassana. [58:43]
  • The trap of the observer watching the observer and how to overcome this. [1:05:19]
  • How meditation makes available some of the massively deep parallel processing happening unconsciously in the mind. [1:12:40]
  • Books most recommended: The Mindful Geek and Nisargadatta Maharaj’s I Am That[1:17:22]
  • For more about Michael Taft, check out his Mindful Emotions Training, guided meditations and more at themindfulgeek.com, and his blog posts and hundreds of articles at deconstructingyourself.com. [1:20:00]

 

Paul Rezendes Interview

When Paul Rezendes was kind enough to write a blurb for the back cover Paul Rezendes imageof Images of Essence, my book collaboration with Bob Fergeson, I had no idea there was anything more to Paul than being a talented nature photographer and wildlife tracker.  A few years later, a friend recommended I watch of series of videos featuring him.  I was immediately hooked by Paul Rezendes’ unique way of presenting self inquiry as “tracking the mind.”

I hope you enjoy this interview, as it brings to light the passion for truth that Paul Rezendes’ life exemplifies and which he emphasizes with those he meets.


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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Selected Links and Notes from this Episode

  • The Mindful Tracker videos. [3:33]
  • In Paul’s late 20’s he had a “wake-up call” about his life.  [4:15]
  • Most of the time we’re looking for self-gratification, but if the Truth becomes more important than that there is a possibility of something to happen. [5:40]
  • Paul was the leader of two different motorcycle gangs! [8:20]
  • One of his first questions was “What’s fear?” [10:00]
  • Paul left the gang and started doing Yoga, reading Krishnamurti, and St. John of the Cross [11:20]
  • Paul’s book The Wild Within is about his life in gangs and the transition to a life of self inquiry. [11:48]
  • Disillusionment with Catholicism. [13:10]
  • On becoming incredibly attentive. [18:45]
  • The realization that the one was who paying attention was identification with a self. [20:10]
  • People have awakenings, but then wonder why they get angry. [24:44]
  • When anger comes up that’s an opportunity to observe the fragmentation we’ve created inside ourselves.  Usually we are trying to resist it. [32:25]
  • The only thing people can do is self-inquiry. Self-inquiry defined. [34:35]
  • Paul’s online discussion group: The Die Hards. [37:10]
  • More about The Die Hards. [44:00]
  • “When you walk into the forest, you walk into the past….  You are closer to your origins.”  [46:05]
  • Wordless communication between a two people and its relationship to passion for truth. [48:25]
  • You don’t have to still the mind for awakening to occur. [51:15]
  • Why it does no good to tell people to “do nothing.” They have to find out for themselves. [52:35]
  • That there is “no self” and nothing to do can be just another belief system. [55:48]
  • David Bohm dialogues. “There’s the possibility for a group of people to wake up as the same mind.” [57:35]
  • The MindfulTracker.com [1:01:58]
  • David Bohm’s guidelines for dialogues.  Also, see David Bohm’s book On Dialogue. [1:02:45]
  • Books that Paul recommends: The Wild Within, Adyashanti, Scott Kiloby, Eckhart Tolle, J. Krishnamurti, Alan Watts, Steven Harrison’s Doing Nothing [1:04:52]
  • How most movies and music strum the strings of the ego self. [1:08:50]
  • Art and the creative process. [1:11:05]
  • “Awakening isn’t a reaction to something.”  [1:14:18]
  • Anyone is welcome to email Paul or join his online dialogue group.  [1:17:44]

There is also a free, feature-length documentary called The Inner Tracker that has Paul Rezendes and a number of other notables in the tracking community gathered to talk about a “new” kind of tracking: the tracking of the self. I have a background in environmental education, so found it interesting to see some of the participants tightly bound to concepts and identities around protecting nature, confronted by the fundamental question of “who is it that believes they are saving something?”