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?”

Tess Hughes Interview

“We’re overlooking things because of the sheer familiarly of them.”

Tess HughesWith a spiritual search spanning fifty years, Tess Hughes has a wealth of practical experience on the spiritual path.  Her search blossomed in its last five years when she encountered the TAT Foundation and learned of the possibility of awakening in this lifetime.  A science teacher for many years, Tess Hughes seemingly can’t get enough of teaching and currently facilitates several groups in Ireland.  To learn more about Tess Hughes, visit TessHughes.com, and buy her book This Above All.


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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

  • It was in the last five years that Tess Hughes’ search became a conscious seeking for answers. [2:40]
  • On how becoming a “person of character” was an excellent background for launching a spiritual path. [3:14]
  • What is a person of integrity? [4:44]
  • Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution by P.D. Ouspensky. [7:52]
  • How the Catholicism and poverty of Tess’ youth combined to give a sense of the transcendent in everyday life. [9:53]
  • Moving to the United States after her first marriage ended. [12:36]
  • Examining family of origin. [13:57]
  • The importance of psychological maturity for the spiritual path. [15:00]
  • When a therapist could be helpful. [17:35]
  • John Bradshaw’s book The Family [18:15]
  • Feeling she had wasted her life trying to become a person of integrity. [22:20]
  • After 40 years, a change in strategy towards a “reverse from untruth.” [23:30]
  • The April 2005 TAT meeting DVD. [26:55]
  • The exercise of trying to feel what the perspective of another person is, and wondering what blocks prevented Tess from having that perspective.  [27:29]
  • Tess’ struggle with maintaining a regular meditation practice and what finally worked for her: Douglas Harding‘s “meditation for the marketplace.” [29:56]
  • The Hierarchy of Heaven and Earth by Douglas Harding. [32:45]
  • The value of solitary retreats. [35:33]
  • Tess’s idea that her spiritual practice had to fit into her daily life and not disrupt anyone or anything else. [36:26]
  • Tess always knew that her core question was about death and dying. [39:54]
  • What does backing away from untruth mean in day-to-day life? [43:25]
  • The distinction between emotions and feelings. [48:13]
  • Are intuition and feeling the same thing? [50:14]
  • On not being interested in enlightenment. [56:11]
  • The value of feeling like a beginner. [57:21]
  • The process of enlightenment. [58:59]
  • The attitude of legitimate suffering. [1:03:45]
  • Giving up on the search. [1:05:46]
  • The benefits of being a trained teacher when it comes to spiritual teachings. [1:09:38]
  • The chief obstacles Tess notices in students. [1:11:36]
  • Queen I Want it All [1:13:25]
  • Working on your weak side – whether emotional or logical [1:15:00]
  • The core practices: Self-inquiry, meditation, and prayer.  [1:17:47]
  • Recommended books: The Listening Attention, Solid Ground of Being, and Beyond Relativity [1:20:58]
  • Films mentioned: John and Mary, My Dinner with Andre, The Truman Show, American Beauty [1:22:45]
  • Tess discusses her groups in Galway, Dublin and Cork City. [1:24:33]
  • If you enjoy the podcast, leave a dollar in the tip jar.  I will appreciate the thought and use the money to buy this Tascam recorder so I can do face-to-face interviews.

Anima Pundeer

“I really wonder what God feels like?” That’s the question that finally drove Anima Pundeer to awakening.

“I really wonder what God feels like?” That’s the question that finally drove Anima Pundeer to awakening.  To really wonder, and be open to whatever answer may come, rather than demanding God take a certain form or feeling — that is a startlingly rare place to find oneself.

I hope you find this interview with Anima Pundeer as simple and direct as I did.  If you are inspired to reach out to Anima (who lives in Houston, TX), contact her at apundeer at gmail dot com.  You can see Anima in the film Meetings With Remarkable Women, as well.

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

  • How the contrast of moving from India to North America was an advantage in Anima’s spiritual search. [01:45]
  • Many people in India go through religious rituals, but don’t think about the meaning. [3:55]
  • The beginning of Anima’s spiritual search. [4:36]
  • Looking for relief from misery. [5:45]
  • Committing to try any practice for at least 40 days.  [8:25]
  • The realization that there would always be problems in life and a problem-free life wasn’t the ultimate goal. [13:00]
  • The lowest point in her life. [16:25]
  • Walking as a spiritual practice.  [17:35]
  • Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and A Course in Miracles. [18:34]
  • Meeting Art Ticknor. [20:22]
  • “My purpose in life is to find something permanent.” [21:35]
  • Noticing the mechanical nature of the body and mind. [24:32]
  • What is self-inquiry? [29:29]
  • The changing nature of self-inquiry over time. [39:00]
  • There is no path.  [41:17]
  • Anima’s pet peeve: “letting go.” [45:27]
  • “I really wonder what God feels like?” The question that opened the door to realization.  [48:37]
  • The fallacy of trying to recreate the circumstances of other people’s realizations.  [51:00]
  • The double-edged sword of self-inquiry.  [53:43]
  • Living in a state of awe. [1:02:22]
  • Are there important practices other than self-inquiry?  Working with a group. [1:03:25]
  • What to do when you don’t know what to do.  [1:06:20]
  • One book that made a huge difference in taking away the “doer”: Collision with the Infinite.  [1:14:36]
  • If you enjoy the podcast, leave a dollar in the tip jar.  I will appreciate the thought and use the money to buy this Tascam recorder so I can do face-to-face interviews.

Paul Constant Interview

Shake up your preconceptions about spiritual awakening and enlightenment by joining my guest, Paul Constant.

Shake up your preconceptions about spiritual awakening and enlightenment by joining my guest, Paul Constant.  Paul is a frequent presenter at TAT Foundation retreats, as well as holding events of his own on the East Coast.

I hope you find this interview of Paul Constant inspiring and informative.


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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

  • TAT Forum articles by Paul Constant. [02:14]
  • The beginning of Paul’s spiritual search. [03:00]
  • “Waking Sleep” and Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous. [04:06]
  • The Fourth Way by P.D. Ouspensky. [04:40]
  • Think on These Things by Jiddu Krishnamurti [06:34]
  • The two camps of seekers: those drawn to the mystical and those repulsed by life. [06:50]
  • Studying psychic phenomena. [08:07]
  • Being raised a Catholic. [09:47]
  • On the value of a wholesome life. [11:00]
  • Feeling the need to meet other people involved in the spiritual life. [13:49]
  • Meeting Richard Rose. [15:50]
  • Reaching a spiritual plateau. [21:10]
  • The value and beauty of the spiritual journey. [24:30]
  • Friendship as one of the messages of the TAT Foundation. [26:01]
  • Spiritual realization happening in stages. [30:14]
  • Paul’s realization of Nothingness. [32:06]
  • The simplicity of the answer could not be accepted. [37:23]
  • Meeting a Shakti-oriented teacher awakened Paul’s “Tin-Man” heart. [38:22]
  • Paul’s last teacher, who systematically undercut every concept about enlightenment. That Grand Mal Enlightenment is another concept. [41:30]
  • Becoming Everything. [44:37]
  • Is there an end to spiritual seeking? [49:12]
  • Shifting into awareness versus observing thoughts. [55:25]
  • Life is the contact between our true nature and the relative. [1:06:00]
  • The most common blocks to achievement. [1:17:43]
  • Rapport retreats. [1:23:30]
  • “I’m not a teacher. I don’t go in with the attitude that I have something that you don’t.”[1:26:35]
  • Psychology of the Observer by Richard Rose [1:29:55]
  • It’s Time to Wake Up Now by Don Oakley [1:31:30]
  • I Am That by Nisargadatta Maharaj [1:32:20]
  • Books by the TAT Foundation [1:33:00]
  • Brain book [1:33:40]
  • The film Closer Than Close [1:34:35]
  • The dramatic change in relationship to people. [1:36:00]
  • Come to a TAT meeting. [1:38:50]
  • Paul’s website SearchWithin.org [1:39:50]
  • Remembering as a spiritual practice to counter the mind’s ability to forget. [1:41:56]