Questioning Buddhism: Sharon Salzberg and Bob Thurman – Ep. 246
Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman continue their online dialogue using questions from friends and students discussing how the tools of mindfulness skill training, Buddhist philosophy and the teachings of the Dalai Lama have influenced them over the years.
Questioning Buddhism: Sharon Salzberg and Bob Thurman – Ep. 246 of the Bob Thurman Podcast was recorded during the live online event “Saturday Night Live Q & A Dialogue“, October 24th, 2020.
To learn more about the work and teachings of Sharon Salzberg, please visit her website: www.sharonsalzberg.com.
This podcast is a part of the Tibet House US Conversations series of dialogues between Bob Thurman and the leading hearts, minds and personalities bringing the ancient wisdom of Buddhism and Tibet into the modern mindful and compassionate revolution. The Tibet House US | Menla Online (THUS MO) Conversations are produced through the generous support of it’s membership community and are a part of the digital member archive made available as a part of becoming a monthly supporter.
Questioning Buddhism: Sharon Salzberg and Bob Thurman – Ep. 246 of the Bob Thurman Podcast image via www.wellcomecollection.org.
The Bob Thurman podcast is produced under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial, No Derivatives License through the generous support of its listening audience and the Tibet House US Menla membership community. To learn about the benefits of membership please visit: www.tibethouse.us.
The songs “Trance Tibet” & ‘Dancing Ling’ by Tenzin Choegyal from the album ‘Heart Sutra‘ (2004) by Ethno Super Lounge are used on the Bob Thurman Podcast with artist’s permission, all rights reserved.
Bob Thurman 0:01:15 His Holiness, you know, is into getting Indians to really adopt that aspect of their civilization, you know, which got lost about a thousand years ago. You know, when Buddhism more or less disappeared from Indian soil with the, with the entry of the, you know, the Persians and the Arabs and things, you know, the bullets monitors were burned and so on. And so, uh, there was a big, a big move. So it's like being a son of India now and he wants, he wants the Indians to realize that Buddhist knowledge like the Tibetans have been carefully cherishing and preserving for thousands of years as also they did in Sri Lanka. But that really it's really from India originally. And it is India knowledge. It's not just some other religion. In other words, it's their own knowledge, especially the sort of psychological AbiDharma, you know, science parts of it, you know?
Bob Thurman 0:02:10 And, um, so that's his fourth aim, you know, is to be a son of India, you know, and he has that thing where he says he's had more rights than dome in the last 60 years that he then the first 25 years where he had Momo and Tibet.
So he's more made of Indian food. He's the son of India, you know, and a son of Nalanda university, great monastic university. So he makes a big fuss about that. Anyway, here we are!
Okay. Well, I was just saying that, um, uh, so in India, you know, they thought Buddhism was something from Sri Lanka in other words here, but really it went to Sri Lanka from India and went to Burma from India and so on, you know, and so the Indians, it would be good for them to have Buddhism back as their own thing in the context of their major crisis at the moment, of course, is the Hinduism Islam, which is a little bit stressful because of the British splitting the country into the two parts, you know, and yet there were more Muslims still in regular India than in Pakistan.
And, um, but nevermind, they will all get passed of that. I'm sure we will. So actually your story, uh, dear Sharon of discovering in Bodh Gaya. you know I guess it was, um, what was originally the, the person, it was, I'm not Goenka guy. It was another guy who was your first teacher.
Sharon Salzberg 00:03:41 Goekna was my first teacher there. Who was your first teacher there.
Okay. There was another one, I guess that's the one who kept asking Jack K angler about his stomach.
Bob Thurman 0:03:51 Munindra, Yes Munindra. [LAUGHS] If you’d like, I'll do a short meditation.
Yeah, because here we are, first of all, it's delightful to see you Bob, and it's always great to be together and this is how we get together these days. So, so this is a good thing altogether. So why don't we sit together, uh, for few minutes and as I've been saying, as I lead settings, very often, the thing I am focusing on is the quality of rest.
Just having an object, like the feeling of the breath, or perhaps some other sensation in the body, something that's already happening and just resting attention on it, which will create a sense of spaciousness so that thoughts can come and go, feelings can come and go. Images can come and go, and we're just resting.
Bob Thurman 0:05:06 Sosa gives us the perspective to see what's coming and go going more clearly. So you can place some tension wherever you feel the breath most predominantly, which will give us that kind of centering object. And does, I am very fond of emphasizing. The really critical moment is the moment after we've gotten lost, we've gotten swept away in something we've gotten, or we fall asleep. It's the moment where we have the chance to let go and bring our attention back to that center and object to the feeling of the breath. So we let go without blame, without judgment. And we begin again.
Bob Thurman 0:06:28 And when you feel ready, you can open your eyes or lift your gaze and do meditation. Uh, so there's a question in the chat saying dr. Thurman talked about people getting addicted to calm, where you can't relate critically to reality. And I'd be curious if they're asking me if, if I have seen this and then there's a question in the Q and a bo --
-- x about if I could please explain how one could use insight based meditative techniques to integrate some of the ethical values espoused in this week's global vision summit. So I want to put those two together, uh, to say yes, certainly, uh, people can get addicted to calm. Um, partly because I think that when we practice concentration, which is really the gathering of our normally more scattered, fragmented attention and energy, and we bring that energy together, it's opens the doors to some incredible States, you know, that could be available to us, but are not because we're throwing our energy all over the place.
Bob Thurman 0:07:47 You know, they say we get consumed by kind of useless thinking about the past. I mean, they're useful ways of thinking about the past, but we can often get into a pattern. That's not that useful where, uh, we think about something where we now have some regret, but we're not thinking about it for lessons learned or for how to make amends. We're just going over it and over it and over and over it. And or it usually adds. And especially, I'd say these days in our time, it's an end. We think about the future in a way that is just anxious. You know, what if this happens and that happens to that happens and that happens. And then, you know, so we create a world that has not happened that may never happen, but we're filled with anxiety about it. And so it's, it's like a huge, um, loss of our attention or our energy and concentration. Sharon Salzberg0:08:42 We bring it together. So we feel, uh, empowered, uh, because that energy becomes available to us. We feel sometimes States of incredible calm and unification, it's like bringing our whole being together. So these are quite extraordinary States, but sort of the fundamental understanding is that, um, if we get attached to anything that is by its very nature going to change, we're going to suffer and that, uh, while meditation can do that, it can do so much more, uh, in terms of, uh, giving us a new way of relating not only to these sort of constructed and beautiful States, but to painful States, you know, so that, uh, we don't feel so judgmental. We feel compassion and, um, we don't feel so isolated. We recognize kind of our connection to others. And, um, we can see deeply into how changing everything is and how interconnected we all are so that we use the practice, uh, not only for some greater peace or calm, but we use it for insight, for understanding, for wisdom and that's really what it was designed for.
Bob Thurman 0:10:05 So, uh, you know, it's in a way it's not surprising that people get addicted to calm because we don't have an awful lot of it in our lives sometimes. And it's like, wow. But if we get addicted to anything, if we, if we get attached to anything in that sense of holding on, we're going to suffer it. Cause we can't like make it. So, you know, and it's not going to last. And so the wisdom is sort of more the point and the bringing of ethics and bringing your values into life. I think happens in two ways. Um, at least one is that we do get insight. We get insight into things, uh, like interconnection. We, we genuinely see how our lives are, are interdependent, how they're intertwined. And so the ways we might behave recklessly or, you know, looking through somebody instead of looking at them and just counting them or objectifying them, it doesn't work so much when we have insight.
Bob Thurman 0:11:06 Um, cause we have a different worldview now. And uh, we also see, you know, the things we thought might, or maybe we were in told, you know, by our families or whomever, you know, that, um, the things that make you strong are things like vengefulness or something like that. But you're actually looking at that state when you're just paying attention to what you're feeling and you think, Whoa, that's kind of brittle and contracted and lonely, isn't it? Are you looking at a state like compassion, which maybe you were always taught with stupid and sentimental and you see, wow, look at the strength in that. So we find that for ourselves, you know, what makes us happy? And then the other way, which I think is really crucial and it's certainly been crucial for me is that if we're mindful, if we're aware we can, um, be so in touch with what we're feeling and we can have a better relationship to what we're feeling so that we don't fall into every passing emotion and just act it out.
Bob Thurman 0:12:20 But we also don't resent what we're feeling or try to push it away. So we have a more balanced relationship and then we have a choice. So my favorite definition of mindfulness for years was from this article in the New York times about a pilot program, bringing mindfulness into the classroom. And they asked, one of the kids is a fourth grade classroom in Oakland. They asked one of the kids, who's, let's say nine or 10 years old. And he's in fourth grade, what is mindfulness? And he said, mindfulness means not hitting someone in the mouth. That's what mindfulness means. And I thought that is a great definition of mindfulness because what is it implied implies? You know, you're feeling angry when you're starting to feel angry, not after you sent the email, you know, but when it's just beginning and it also implies a certain balanced relationship to the anger, because if you just get overcome by it and, um, defined by it, it'll probably hit a lot of people in the mouth because life can be really frustrating.
Sharon Salzberg 0:13:20 But from the other hand, you're embarrassed about what you feel and you're shamed of it and you're trying to push it away and you're trying to deny it. It's just going to get tighter and tighter and tighter until you explode. So we say mindfulness like that place in the middle, where we're fully aware and connected towards going on, but there's some space in that space. We have choice. So I like to think of that kid in that space thinking, you know what, it's somewhere in the math last week, didn't work out that, well, let me try this. And so that's how we take values that we might hold in a more abstract way. And then we bring them to life.
Bob Thurman 0:13:58 That's really, I love that mine told us he's not hitting somebody. That's really outstanding. Totally out Sandy. It's okay. I'm going to say one thing I just wanted to say about that question that, uh, the only thing about the it's not mindfulness, mindfulness is not addictive. You're calm because if you become more observant of what's going on in your mind, you'll realize it's very, it's very, um, it there's a lot of action in the mind. There are a lot of distraction, you know, your mind keeps scattering and distracting around, but it's what if that had to do with the two kinds of categories of meditation and Teravata, Mahayana Buddhism, one is called Shama. <inaudible>, you know, peaceful abiding. And the other one is called depression now, which means analytic investigating or seeing analytically critically. And so some people do first, the one pointed nose, but the general recommendation in Buddhism is to do the critical analysis of reality first, because this can lead someone to a space where they just kind of like cool themselves out.
Bob Thurman 0:15:19 And then they're too much trouble to have to think about what what's the difference between reality and unreality and in a full pad. For example, the first, the first, uh, branch of the info path is a realistic worldview where you correct, you know, crazy ideas. And you look at a realistic idea about cause and effect and whatever it is, you know, and then the samadhi, which is the one pointed thing is the eighth of the branches, you know, and all sorts of ethical and mindful. And then mindfulness is the doorway opening to somebody. So in a way of, since mindfulness is looking very closely at the inner world and the realistic world view is looking closely at your view of the world and what, what your preconceptions are an older you're adopted from the culture, all your unthinking notions about what reality is and so forth.
Bob Thurman 0:16:11 Uh, then, uh, then by the time you've come to some audio where you are going to be one pointed, you already have, um, ethical and intellectual kind of correction and an, and an open-minded attitude and an open out you're not a fanatical one. So you're not really going to get stuck in that case. But if you adjusted, somebody are, and the Buddha says like, uh, every meditative tradition has one point of this of mine. And if you put one important to some mind, even into a, an unrealistic view, then you're going to become a phonetic inherit that unrealistic view. Cause you'll be one point. So that's, so that's why they, they, they evaluate those two categories of meditation in Buddhism in the way that they do. And that was all, that was that. That's what the question had to do with, and it was not mindfulness.
Bob Thurman 0:17:00 It was a one pointedness that is, is the key to, is where you could become a little bit like prioritize, you know, let's say the Shambala thing. Yes. Well, no, I think Shambala will arrive on November 3rd, I think with a landslide election that will be in Shambala as far as that's concerned. So we don't have to wait 400 years for November 3rd, only about nine days. I think so, but yeah, that what you're referring to Joel and Michelle is, is a prediction about a time when sort of Dharma is everywhere in the world. And actually interestingly, not just Buddhist Dharma, uh, in, in the details of the Shambala prophecy having to do with the wheel of time or the causal chakra, um, uh, Tundra, uh, and the, the chance I've got, they say that at the time when the era of Shambala dawns, which are their prediction is 425 years from now, after all these terrible Wars that have been going on are already more and more one and two, and then more going on for another three centuries, three or four centuries, which is what I don't agree with that timing, but that's, what's written in the text and I used to argue with Tibetans about it, who are into the texts.
Bob Thurman 0:18:23 And I'm saying, well, that's, you know, I used to, but maybe there's different ways of interpreting the timing because the planet is not going to know how to say another for three or 400 years of world Wars to carbon pollution. Don't boil industry, dominating everything, et cetera, and bad agriculture, and it's not going to last. And so that's my view of that, you know, but, um, it's totally as the guy alumni, he doesn't even agree with the Shamballa prophecy. He says he doesn't believe in it. He doesn't like living by prophecies of that. He likes their color trucker yoga, the meditations of contact or book that prophecy thing is not, is not really of interest to him. And, um, but, uh, I, I, I'm not quite that agnostic about it as he is. I guess I had a dream once where I met some Shambala people, which was a lot of fun, although I didn't get to talk to them because I have so much bad karma, but I got to hear them talking and I realized who they were.
Bob Thurman 0:19:23 And, um, uh, so I think it's, they're, they're there that the world will have the check-in Mooney Buddha put it this way. Um, his Buddha land, which is the way in the Mahayana security Sutra, you can see that this planet is the Buddha verse or put a field of checking money and put out, and he struck your Mooney had a kind of grand narrative. And the way it went was the extent that we know about his, where he said he didn't want the Mahayana to spread for 400 years until the monastic traditions had become well-rooted in Indian culture, which he, which were created by him really. And, uh, are there kind of tradition, a lot of people, men and women are actually having free food excused from household duties, lifelong like a lifelong scholarship, basically excused from military service, excuse from tax paying productive work.
Bob Thurman 0:20:21 And just to be fed, we get a free lunch every day from the Lam community to get to create an institution like that is not easy. So he didn't want some kind of confusions about non-dualism to make it hard for that institution to develop and become really strong and people to really embark upon the mendicant life, big Shuni or big shoe. And it took him, he realized it would take about 20 generations to really become fixed in the Indian culture where even King, you see what the greediest King who wanted all military and all service and the greediest patriarchs who wanted old slavery of women and didn't want any women going off and being booked big shoes, or I know me, you know, but that they couldn't dare destroy that institution. And so he wa he realized that would take a long time. So for example, that's a kind of a grand view of the change of the society that would have predicted at least in our, in my view, in the Mahayana view.
Bob Thurman 0:21:21 And, um, but the kind of tracker then is a larger prediction that the Kali UGA sort of rabbinical idea of the world is deteriorating and getting worse and worse. Every generation could very conservative type of idea, um, fitted within that is, um, the Meitra story of another Buddha coming after, but after extreme call yoga for another 50,000 years or something really long time. So there is that, that Buddhist kind of critique of that in directly. And then, but then the Shambala one, it's a much quicker, uh, critique. And that it says 400 years from now, which is about 3,200 years after Buddha's time. Uh, there will be a, um, a Renaissance on the planet that will last for 1800 years of where Dharma will be everywhere in all in the form of all the other different religions. It's not in the form of Holy put itself.
Bob Thurman 0:22:18 That's very important point that is actually in the, in the tantra. And, uh, and, but religious intolerance will be a thing of the past. You know, that one religion saying the other one is evil and we're going to convert everybody or kill them by crusading type of attitude will not exist. But all the other religions, the love side, the positive side of all the religions will be there and Dharma that will be Dharma, meaning helping people free themselves from suffering through love and compassion and this kind of thing. So, so that's all I have to say on that topic,
that topic. So, um, there's another good one for share here. I think it's, uh,
Sharon Salzberg 0:22:59 Oh, well, yeah,
Bob Thurman 0:23:02 You already answered about the mindfulness is not to hit someone with them. Right?
Sharon Salzberg 0:23:06 Well, actually I have someone I, when I'll answer and then I have one task. You Bob, from this list and list, Justin has, uh, has some more right now. So, uh, Ivana, grace, who's Susan, the third grade wants to know about a good quote or mantra to suggest, um, that I could suggest, or we can suggest, uh, to share with her classmates. So I'm going to turn this over to Bob in one second. So what I would say besides don't hit anywhere in the mouth, um, would be, uh, the things I kind of, the things I say, the kinds of things that I say myself or things like plant seed of love. And then I imagine what that might look like. Maybe it's thanking somebody that I don't normally extend appreciation to, but I kind of take for granted, or I listen to somebody who seems a little bit out of it, you know, maybe they have no one else to talk to so much or so just like plants, a seed of love. And then, uh, my fundamental mantra is like, take a breath, just let your breath take a breath, put the pause button on, you know, like before you respond, just like take a breath. So what would you say Bob to a group of eight year olds?
Bob Thurman 0:24:24 Well, uh, this is, uh, Gracie was in the third grade. You say, this is Annie. Grace is in the third grade. I see. Well tonight a good mantra would be for the third grade would be, um, something like, um, I, I see you. I see you. You see me? I see you. You see me? I think maybe he hasn't, he or she hasn't seen, I couldn't hear the first name. He or she hasn't seen the avatar movie, but there's a wonderful thing of the, of the Indians in that movie where the, where the Indians meet each other, they say to each other, when they first meet, instead of hello, they say, I see you. And the other one says back, I see you. And so I think a nice one would be if you, when you see your friend or when, when another person annoys you or something, or when someone is, you're puzzled about someone you think in your mind and you keep repeating, I see you, you see me?
Bob Thurman 0:25:36 I see you in a sense of, by seeing you, you mean sort of, I see where you're coming from. I realized that you were there as well as me. And of course, I'm here as well as you. So I see you, you see me? I see you. You see the, I see you UCB. I think that would be kind of nice. There's lots of mantras, you know, like, Oh, that's a good one, too. Everybody loves that one. You just go home. If you want to be sort of calm. If it started, if it doesn't involve interacting with someone else who might also try since the really age old one that everybody likes, which is just, Oh, I'm just like, Oh, M um, like home without an H. Um, um, um, and that's, that's a really nice one that, that makes you feel calm and peaceful. It's very ensured. It's sort of like in church, people go are men or synagogue. I think they say something like that. I'm in, they have a prayer word like that. So it's very similar, but it's from India. It's a great, nice thing from India. Oh, how's that? How's that is that good.
Sharon Salzberg 0:26:57 I want to direct a question to, uh, waiting for, uh, to hear what Justin says. Somebody says, I want, I would love to hear about the concept of a good birth. What exactly is this process? Is it achievable for someone like myself has made many mistakes in this incarnation?
Bob Thurman 0:27:15 Yeah.
Sharon Salzberg 0:27:17 Say good birth means and Oh, good birth birth. If we've made a lot of mistakes in our lives, can we still have a good birth?
Bob Thurman 0:27:27 Sure. Well, the point is you that you're here and you're with us and you're interested in these things means you definitely have a good birth now. And one of the great things about the birth was that you were able to make a lot of mistakes. I know you were seeking to learn from them. And, uh, you know, if you learn, you have to make mistakes to learn how not to make mistakes. And so if you learn from the mistakes, then that means in the next birth will be better because you will have to make the same mistakes. You know, there's a, there's a version, not the Tibetan born, but there's another version of the, of the, between States and the Bardo States in between state. And the next life is that you get reborn in such a way where you have to go and redo things better that you didn't do so well previously there's a version like that.
Bob Thurman 0:28:18 So you have to try it, you know, you keep trying until you get there, you know, and there's like a, you know, you have a kind of natural way like that, that people say like that. It's not the thing, that's a Western thing, but I think that's a really nice thing. So the point is, everyone has made a lot of mistakes. I certainly made a lot of mistakes. I was still at making
some mistakes and I, but I've tried to learn from them. And that's why, that's why we're so lucky. We have the kind of human mind that can be self-aware. And we can notice when we blow it. And actually mindfulness practice is the biggest mistake practice there ever was because you're trying to count your breath. And Sharon is the one who taught me about how the great thing in mindfulness is not when you can count to 10 without a floor, maybe rushing a little bit, like you can't get distracted, but when you do get distracted at three, then you notice you got distracted and you pull your mind back. And that self-correction is the biggest thing that happens too. And, uh, I think, you know, at least if you're a beginner like me, I think I'm, maybe I'm not saying the right things in our shards, so please correct me, please, if you think that's great, is that good? So mistaking and trying, and again, and mistaking and correcting and try and get that's the greatest thing. That's the greatest thing. Well, what do you think, Sharon? How about trying 12 hours a day sleeping for six? You know?
Sharon Salzberg 0:29:51 Yeah. Sleeping is a good idea. No, I really do. Um, I think that one of the things I'm, uh, noticing myself lately in myself in terms of language is that I, I, uh, try not to get caught up in things like maintain, keep stay, because I'm so into, um, this idea of beginning again, you know, like I see people so discouraged so much of the time because I think where people ask like, uh, how do I stay mindful all day long? Or how do I keep concentration going all day long? And I said, you're not going to right now. Like we all lose it. We fall down. Uh, we get reactive, you know, but we can start over again sooner and sooner and sooner and more gracefully and with more compassion for ourselves and, uh, certainly more quickly. And, and so, uh, I think that's really the aspiration away.
Sharon Salzberg 0:31:04 It's like, how can I have a certain set of values that are my North star that I'm trying to guide my day by? And that might include some balance and, uh, even a startup. And, um, how do I really learn resilience because it's going to be essential there's no, I used to think just in terms of meditation practice, that maybe I would have a struggle for a while, but then I'd have the great breakthrough experience and everything would just be soaring after that. And it's just not like that, you know, we're always needing to begin again and again and again. So I would just kind of reframe the day like that and, and, uh, be able to forgive yourself, you know, for the times when you feel overwhelmed. Cause it sounds overwhelming. And then I would say Bob suggestions, not so bad to get sleep.
Sharon Salzberg 0:32:00 That's true because like when I was, um, you know, when I was in the hospital a while ago and I was sick and then I was bad, I am better by the way. But you know, when I was the first time I got up to walk, um, as when I was using a Walker in the hospital and I had a physical therapist with me and I was walking up and down the hospital Carter's as one does. And, and at one point this physical therapist said to me, son, erase you. Now you're going to get further if you just let yourself stop now and then, and like take a break. And that became, that became my mantra. It's not a race, you know? Yeah. Like, and I think that's something, even when you feel urgency, feel, you know, intensity of purpose. So things like that, it's still not a race. You're not going to get more done because you're falling into that kind of crazy tempo. So allow yourself to take some breaks.
Bob Thurman 0:32:59 Right. Do you have here a pair Booker? I just found your question and I see, I see you used to be a webmaster at Tibet house, so thank you very much for that. And uh, and I just, uh, I really do think though that 18 hours a day on the new startup, if, if it really needs you to work 18 hours a day, then I think you might question, uh, and people who are funding it or helping you with that, my progression, the value of it. In other words, you should tell you, you should take a break. And it made me think of a talk I've once attended a friend of mine who was in Jerry Brown's government in the 1970s, uh, where his first time as governor of California. And at that time there were all these Zen people joining the administration and everything.
Bob Thurman 0:33:50 And he said very tellingly that they all came in with high hopes and they ended up not really getting that much, that they really wanted done when they collided with reality. And they put in these huge days. But one of the main reasons is that the way the job was structured, they had to, they had to be so much on the phone and so much there all the time in so much stress that within a very short time, the quality of the judgments that people made got worse and worse. And they started getting falling into routine patterns and making bad decisions. And you know, it really, in other words, one should structure the amount of work it takes to get the startup going in such a way that you could, you can maintain, you know, there was the maintaining focus, driving message and achieving goal should be first of all.
Bob Thurman 0:34:42 And there probably will be big precluded if you have to do too many 18 hour days or you and others, because then you're going to frazzle out and then you're going to cheat. Then those goals will not be met. So there is an issue of going back to the supporters, restructuring the whole thing, what are the deadlines and why such as super deadlines, et cetera. And, you know, because, because without maintaining focus on having the real message, your original ideal, and your vision and your achieving your goals, then you just break down. If you keep going it hours a day, if you're in, if you've, if it's badly structured like that. So I would say that would be, that would be more, more detailed, but anyway, good luck. You could certainly pull a few 18 hour days here or there for, for, in some crisis, but long term, you can produce really great stuff. When you, when you were in such a stress situation, because the quality of your judgment decreases as you, as you get more and more fatigued and frazzled, right? I mean, uh, you know, even the only way you could possibly do it is to become a Buddha and work 24 hours a day by being asleep and awake at the same time.
Bob Thurman 0:35:56 So I'll ask you a question. I'll ask you a question on behalf of someone else. Um, Evan, who posted the question twice, uh, if you're a novice practitioner and it's just overwhelming, there's so many teachers and so many paths of study, there's so many schools of Buddhism and you feel very drawn to Buddhism, but you get discouraged by just the, the amount of schools of thoughts and vehicles. It's like, how do you start? And how do you like find a path?
Bob Thurman 0:36:30 First thing is, you know, don't be drawn to Buddhism. I don't know what is your birth or what is your grandmother's religion at all? I'm the first thing would say that you should, you should remain connected to and respectful of grandma's religion, as far as looking for religion. And then Buddhism has a lot of services, things that can help you, but they shouldn't be things that you feel are impossible to use. Then they're not, or they're not services, they're like some kind of challenges or something. And so mindfulness, you know, you can do mindfulness as a Jewish or Christian or sexual artists or whatever. And a lot of the people who do it are that, and that will help you develop better understanding of how your mind works and will help you to not to react immediately to things nimble, improve your immediate situation. And so it won't be a strain for you to work with it, you know?
Bob Thurman 0:37:25 And so you should break down what you're considering to be quote unquote, Buddhism into the various services and pounds that are often some sort of intellectual reasoning processes, some meditative processes, some ethical processes and pick things that will enhance what you're doing and what you need to do, or sometimes maybe critique something that you do and make you do it a little differently. It'll get to be like that too. But the point is just take whatever's useful. And don't think that there's some big thing, Buddhism that you have to sort of take on board or in some weird, weird, exotic ship that is about to take off for outer space. It will, you get all it or now what do you have to leave behind? That's not a useful way to go about it. So, so I think there is some business is a real problem. Bob Thurman 0:38:14 And one thing everybody should remember is that when Buddha attained, enlightenment, awakening, enlightenment under his tree, and then after some weeks he went out to teach people what he thought might be of help to them. There was no such thing as Buddhism for them to join. And rather he said, well, what are you, how are you using life? And what are you doing with it? And if you, if you're lucky to be meaningful and would you like to be not suffering, would you like to be suffering less? And I have some, some, some therapies for you you can work with to help you on that, in that direction. And then they took that. They did, they weren't confronted by Buddhism. They saw a guy who said he was a Buddha. Sometimes, sometimes he would say some I'm saying things like, there's no such thing as occasionally.
Bob Thurman 0:39:02 He would say that just to shock them. Uh, but, uh, but, uh, you know, he was just offering help to them. And so whatever you were thinking is Buddhism. However, it presents itself to you. You should see what seems helpful and to make use of it if it's useful and reject it, if it isn't, you know, but nobody's saying you need to be Buddhist or something. That's not, you know, in the old days, people might've done that. And people who love Buddhism as I do, I, might've not in an academic setting, but in a general setting, like 30 years ago, I might've said, Oh yeah, Buddhism is great. But I, I finally persuaded me that it's better that people stick with wherever they are. And then they use things from other traditions if they're useful. And I actually think after years of study at the Buddhist science says, or the most useful thing, there, there are meditative skills and the wonderful meditative services that they help you learn to do.
Bob Thurman 0:40:05 For example, at Berry and Sharon's wonderful institution, um, those are based on the science of the mind and understanding how it works on how, how to help other people learn in their own experience, how it works. And so they could use their mind better. That really is like an educational thing. And it's really, really had a big impact on a lot of people have been very, very helpful and a lot of them have not necessarily become Buddhist, you know? And, uh, they, they, or there's a new thing. You could be a Jew BU or Chris BU or move BU or, uh, an, I dunno what you call it, an atheist, Buddhist, maybe an acid at the book I heard. That's not very good. Second, maybe secular boot, secular secular boot. So there's these combinations and those are all good. They're all good. So we're not competing with, with, uh, with those kinds of things. You know, we're just offering the services that have been of age or benefit to millions of billions of people, but with the centuries,
Sharon Salzberg 0:41:08 That's beautiful. I would also add, you know, you can take like the really essential teaching, like the four noble truths and the eightfold path, and, and know that that's, that's what you're going to apply in your meditative practice, you know, and then you can look at it. It's kind of exciting to, you know, uh, it's a different way of studying, you know, just say, well, what do they say about the four noble truths in --
-- this school and that school and understand that you may get a different medicines metaphysics or, um, elaboration, but essentially it's going to be the same. And that's the whole point. Right.
Bob Thurman 0:41:47 Okay. Sharon can I share with you one of my latest things it's just Saturday night live, so it's a little bit humorous, but I have a new name for the four noble truths in English calling them the four friendly facts.
Sharon Salzberg 0:42:00 Oh, that's very, that's very different
Bob Thurman 0:42:04 If you say that, you know, because the truth is there. I made it so you could translate us truth, of course. Uh, but, but, uh, also sat, there can be a fact or a reality also. And, uh, and then to change Nobel to friendly, because what Novo means is a person who cognitively, but for Buddha, but it meant was not someone born in the upper classes, but someone who cognitively has become more noble in the nice meaning of the word, meaning more, more empathetic and more altruistic. So therefore they feel, they really see things from the other person's point of view. They feel the other person's presence in a different way. And that made them noble with noblesse oblige. So we call it noble. He used the word that was used as a class word in India at the time. But in a way, a friend is someone who puts him, puts herself or himself in your shoes to see how you see things.
Bob Thurman 0:42:57 And therefore takes your perspective very much into consideration. That's what a good friend does. So in a way, friendly facts. So Buddha taught him to people cause he was friendly with him and he said, why are you suffering us? Here's why. And then if you want, and then I think you can get treated that suffering. That's the third noble truth to prognosis. And then here's a method. How you, unfortunately, just by me saying that just by saying, there is a good prognosis that doesn't help right away, except you can aim you a certain way, but then the path is your therapy. And so it's really this, the Indian medicine, the affordable truths for friendly facts are, are a medical diagnosis really, rather than a bunch of religious propositions is what I'm trying to say ever. No, whoever asked that question, they can see it like that. It's like, it's a prescription basically. So when you go to a doctor and get a prescription, you don't say, well, I'm going to become a convert to medicine. What do you think about a market or use this particular prescription for this particular symptom to cure this particular disease? That's sort of more like how you take it on board, let's say, right. But it's not fun to argue. Like, that's my friend, like, you know, good friend, you know, so facts from a good friend, you know,
Sharon Salzberg 0:44:20 Preston sufferings.
Bob Thurman 0:44:24 That's supposed to be humorous guys. I hope people are laughing. Sharon Salzberg 0:44:28 Thanks. Actually, I'm going to, uh, maybe combine that with a couple of other questions that I glanced at one about emotional regulation and one about the grief and sadness and fear of our time. Uh, and then, you know, I'll, I'll say something and I'm eager to hear what Bob might say. And so, um, you know, in the, like in the Burmese school of practice in which I, I first began, um, there might be several different approaches, uh, say to working with what we call emotional regulation now, or, um, having a different relationship to our emotional landscape, you know? And, um, especially when we're talking about things that are painful, you know, grief, anger, which is a very painful emotional when we're lost in it fear and so on. So one is the perspective of mindfulness, which is a whole set of tools that train helps us be aware of what's happening in the moment without adding on things that will usually add on and kind of proliferate proliferation.
Sharon Salzberg 0:45:54 Like if something hurts right now, we might immediately projected into the future. Like, what's it gonna feel like tomorrow, what's going to feel like next week, what's going to feel like next year. So we have all of that anticipation on top of what is actually happening or this tremendous sense of isolation rather than realizing this is a part of the human condition. This, this sort of suffering or vulnerability should help us find one another and care for one another more. We feel like we're the only ones and we reify it and we identify with the state. This is who I really am. Nothing else matters. This is permanent. And so on. There are lots of stuff just from the force of habit. And we tend to add on what towards already hurting to begin with. And so, um, there are different steps in the process of mindfulness.
Sharon Salzberg 0:46:45 One is, uh, first of all, to pivot our attention, when we have a strong emotion going on, it usually involves a story or a circumstance. And we get entranced by that circumstances. Like even when you have say tremendous desire for, let's say a new car, which is not a good New York example, but you're not all in New York. So let's say you have a tremendous desire for a new car. What do we do we think, should I do this kind of feature or that kind of feature that upholstery? We don't usually turn our attention around and say, what does it feel like to want something so badly? But that's what we do in the mindfulness process. You know, not what do we angry at and what are we going to do about it, but what does anger? What is it? What's its nature. So first we pay attention in the body.
Sharon Salzberg 0:47:39 This is like the bare attention part. Um, and we see if those ad-ons arise, what's it going to feel like tomorrow, this is really me, if we can relinquish those so that we just with the experience as it is, and that allows us to develop insights. So, uh, let's say it's anger. We may see many feelings within it. We may see fear. We may see sadness. We certainly may see a sense of helplessness in there. And we understand this is a complex feeling and it's also not solid it's coming and going and changing and moving. And so we have a different handle on relating to the anger because of that insight. Um, and that would be the approach of mindfulness. Uh, there's another approach.
Sharon Salzberg 0:48:34 Well, let me go back to the mindfulness approach for a second. So that gives us a kind of emotional regulation, both because, uh, we're in that place in the middle, remember we're not hitting people in the mouth. We're not falling into being defined by the emotion. We're also not repressing it and disliking it. We're just kind of there in an open way. So that gives us, uh, a whole other way of him and get, and then we have insight into it. If we're going to take action and we see the sadness and the anger, and we see, especially the helplessness and the anger, then we have a way of acting that is more comprehensive. It's just more intelligent because of that. So this other approach based on something like loving kindness would be to realize that, um, we can fall into ruts of attention and just be, uh, enslaved by habit a lot, and that we can actually shift, or I could stretch the stretch.
Sharon Salzberg 0:49:39 We can stretch the way we pay attention. We can experiment. We can look at ourselves from different angles. We can look at our feelings from different angles. We look at others from different angles. Um, and we kind of almost play, we experiment, uh, not in a way that's moving us into hypocrisy or a phoniness, but usually into something that gets very little air time. So one example would be a gratitude practice to write down three things a night that we feel grateful for from the day. Um, just to remember this good in the world also, you know, there's, uh, there's not only these terrible things what's going on and it's not to deny the pain, which would be really silly, but, uh, it's to expand our view and actually get more realistic because we're seeing many sides of things at the same time. And so like, that's now getting to be a pretty common exercise, write down three things a day.
Sharon Salzberg 0:50:49 And somebody said to me, not too long ago, they said, I'm going to look for one thing a month that I can be grateful for. And I said, I think we're going to do more than that because of your breathing. That's like good, you know, and, and, and loving kindness is extrapolating that we're looking for the good and my favorite story from this terrible time. And, uh, I of course know a lot of the other stories as well is, um, of this school in Minneapolis, which, uh, after there were riots and there was looting and, and different stores were burned down and people had some trouble getting food, uh, they became kind of a food bank basically for the community. And they put out a call for, I think it was 80 or 85 bags of food that they needed to feed these families. And they got 20,000 that's, that's literally the trout.
Sharon Salzberg 0:51:54 I can't remember if it was 80 or 85, but I know it was 20,000. And I think about that, you know, like in the midst of what we can see clearly as cruelty and selfishness and all kinds of things like this is also true. And so kind of that purposeful movement of your attention, it's not bare attention, which is more the mindful approach. Uh, but it's another approach. And we do both where we look for the good, or we do loving kindness, or we practice generosity ourselves, which will return us to some sense of inner abundance or inner completion. And, uh, these things are very important as well.
Bob Thurman 0:52:39 That's lovely. That's really lovely. Sharon,
Sharon Salzberg 0:52:42 How do you think we cope Bob with all this grief and sadness and fear?
Bob Thurman 0:52:47 Well, well, you inspiring me Sharon, because you're coping so nicely. And I just want to say you look so happy and peaceful tonight. It makes me feel more peaceful. That's really very, very nice. You do, you look radiant and peaceful and, uh, that is really peaceful to me. And what I'm thinking about and coping is that, you know, uh, after all mindfulness is the literal translation of the word that we translate as mindfulness is actually remembering or memory. And I think one of the things that we can do to cope with difficulties is to develop a better, um, more real, more realistic approach to those difficulties. One of, because one of our problems is that our memory is usually distracting us from what we are doing and where we are. You know, we walk around in a hypno hypnagogic state really pretty much. I think it's one of the reasons why they use that word.
Bob Thurman 0:53:50 I think so brilliantly in the traditional, in the sense that we're kind of walking around doing this and that, but our mind is actually in a dream state of remembering something yesterday that was so irritating or annoying or some trauma 20 years ago, or some terrible saying, or worries anxiously about the bad government or whatever it is. And so our, our memory is actually, you know, either practically remembering the future or remembering our anticipations of the future and, or welling on some problems in the past, which is then making us import all of that into this time without realizing it, because we're sort of driving the car or doing something without really paying attention to what we were doing. And our mind is often some other world of memory, distracted loss memory. So mind why we call it mindfulness. Then you take that memory and you remember that you're here doing something now, and you remember that you're looking at how your mind is working now, and you kind of control the sort of habitual wanderings of it that leave you ill equipped to do deal with whatever you have to deal with so that, you know, you know, what have been taking about what am I really worried about? Bob Thurman 0:55:06 What really is the problem now? You know, cause we're, we're groaning about something yesterday, we're feeling bitter about some other things we're feeling anticipating some terrible problem in the future, et cetera. So, so I think it's a kind of unifying the mind to be more on top of life, actually, really, you know, I, I w I'm really a lot in the policy literature nowadays, uh, Sharon and the, in the, um, you know, the <inaudible> especially, I really love so many things in that and I, and I'm reading them and some of it's like, I see it for the first time. It's so amazing. Some of the things in the stories and the way the Buddha handles this and that situation. And, and one of there's, one of them that I was reading where he keeps saying, this will help you right now. And in, for the long run, it'll help you.
Bob Thurman 0:55:56 This will help you. The Dharma helps you right now. And in the long run, it will help you. And what it means by the Dharma, is it kind of teaching about what is really going on right this minute? You know, like for example, someone who's very depressed who is, let's say someone who gets very sad and depressed about something, but they are human being and they maybe they're here with us tonight. And there, therefore they have time on their, they leisure, they have a computer, they can come on and hang out with us for a little while on Saturday night. And instead of watching, I don't know, some terrible war movie or something and they, and, or CNN and all the, the, the war, but there, instead of that, they're here thinking about it, but then they're not grateful for all of those things that they have are able to do.
Bob Thurman 0:56:45 They're able to sit here and be depressed, actually have time to be depressed. I mean, the point is there's so many silver linings in life, you know, and even, you know, my favorite thing when I was sneaking, I, I sneak into, when I do my one to 10 mindfulness breath, meditation, beginning mindfulness access. I always sneak in that with each breath. I am expressing gratitude, active gratitude to the plants, to the flowers, to the firms, to the trees, to the bushes, because those plants are created that oxygen from me, and they're ready to swallow up my carbon exhalation and feed me back more oxygen. And so we can be a Misty grateful to all the greenery around us. You know, it's so amazing that we, we, we are so blessed that we live in a place where there weird things grow up out of the ground to feed us oxygen so we can do breathing meditation.
Bob Thurman 0:57:48 It's totally fabulous. Imagine if we lived in some rock pile somewhere where there were no plans, then, then, you know, really big can be where with the oxygen come from. I don't know, we'd have to make a machine to draw it out of the water or something. I dunno, H two O kids like one little oxygen molecule and not at all, what happened to the hydrogen if we took it away from the water. So, so, you know, it's a mindfulness means bringing your memory into now and looking at really what's happening in your, in your self and being more real about yourself. I looking for what, find out what you are, and you might find out it won't be one simple thing. It will be an amazing process that you actually really are, rather than the real, you being some fixed thing. And by the way, there's a wonderful book that I've discovered recently.
Bob Thurman 0:58:43 I forgot the author, but it's called Real Change. And it's recently released. And we, we did a thing about it a while back with Sharon, Oh, Sharon, that's your book. That's right. Really, really a good book and how to deal with these changes. You know, someone else is grumbling about worrying about the election and just breathing. Well, I agree, but there's no, but here also we're just breathe and also worry about the good outcome in the election. That's for sure. And that we that's possible to do too. And what is it true and what is it chew gum and walk at the same time, different things like that. I think someone told me that, Oh, Eric told me that the other day, he said he can chew and chew gum and walk, walk on the road at the same time. So, so that's great. And what are we doing here now?
Bob Thurman 0:59:40 What are your deep long is knowing who you are, you know, thinking about deep desires, lonely, it saved us a great pressure by Mona Chopra. I like that. Are you related to Deepak? Well, I don't know. I just, Deepak did a really great talk in the Dalai Lama
global thing, Sharon, he did a really sweet talk in the world religion day, which was today. Actually it really did a nice talk. We got science into it important, but it was really, really, really wonderful. I really enjoyed it. And, um, he seems to be truly touched by things and he's, he's lost, he's doing a lot of yoga and he's, he seems to be having a nice period, actually depart very cheerful and happy. And he has a new book himself, but she had a stack of next to him called total meditation. I love that, but that is good.
Bob Thurman 1:00:37 Total notation is good. We should all be meditate all the time. Of course. So this thing about the sea, you know, the thing is the context of the Buddhist tradition. You Mona have had many, many previous lives and track. We're all, there's no such thing as an old soul because we've all been beginningless. So we're all equally infinitely ancient, every single one of us. And maybe what they mean by an old song, as someone who fairly recently has had a few human lives, rather than an animal or gate or demon or, or suffering being, you know, someone who's been close to the human form for some time. I think that's maybe what people are thinking about old soul. But the point is we have drives in life that because of the vintages of things we've done in previous lives, for example, Sharon was sitting in a classroom in Buffalo and she was not that cheered up about the circumstances around for various reasons, but she was bravely there and that college classroom.
Bob Thurman 1:01:39 And then somebody mentioned something about the Dharma or meditating or India or Buddha. I'm not sure she she'll have to tell us if she feels like it, but she wrote it in a book so you can read it. And then boom, she was off there and go sit, clicked something from her previous affinity because she, what she really wanted to know was what was it all about and what, what, what was real? And she wanted people to stop dancing around the real problems in life and acting like they weren't really there. And that by living in denial, they would somehow go away and she thought it was better to face them. And so she just was thrilled by the first noble truth of suffering. She thought that was great. That that'd be a friendly fact that, Hey, it's all right to suffer. Cause that's what we do, but we don't understand everything.
Bob Thurman 1:02:26 You know, luckily it goes along with a third friendly fact that if we pay attention and really become aware of what it is that we're doing, we'll discover that we're, we can be free of suffering also if we know reality, but, uh, but that's the second step, you know, he wouldn't have said the first one, if, if there was, if there wasn't a way to get free of it, you know, so, but, uh, so Sharon, so, and that's because you had an affinity from previous lives there don't, I don't believe that that Sharon Salzberg to be when she was whatever, whoever and whatever she has been in previous recent, previous logs was not a big, great yoga or yoga thing. I'm sure she was. I have no doubt. And so boom, that all back to that, you know, I couldn't see that. And, um, you know, I think a lot of people maybe who have had previous affinity, they sometimes have a few difficulties that they're used and maybe they choose to do that because they realize that it takes a few difficulties to make you want to wake up when you were still young enough to really do it instead of freaking out when you're 50 already.
Bob Thurman 1:03:31 And you're sort of stuck in your ways, having a midlife crisis freak out, it's never too late to do that. So listening to the call of the soul now, what is my, I have a problem with the word so many would, but that's wrong? What does have soul? So of course we have say, but it's just not a, it's not a barcode assigned from a filing cabinet in heaven, you know, like, like, or like a genetic code, boom, that's fixated thing. It's not a soul like that. It's a super subtle process that called Chitta Santana and Teravata, meaning continuum of the mind in another life, you know, but that's the thing that goes from life to life. You don't take your body with you, don't take your brain with you. You don't take your hardwood, you, but you take a very subtle sort of like a gene, a genetic thing about how you live, which itself changes in force all the time.
Bob Thurman 1:04:25 And if you've lived well and been generous and open-minded and happy, then that one will seek that kind of a life and you'll have a happy life. So that's really cool. So, so the deep longings, everybody has a deep longing to be happy and to be free. And, um, you know, Mona Chopra, you come from this wonderful culture of India. So maybe some generations back who knows, but the point is there, they did discover this thing about true freedom long, long time ago, thanks to Buddha and his colleagues. So 2,500 years ago, mugshot, you know, that's not, every culture has a molcajete idea really, but it's a great one. It really is great. So anyway, so, so Sharon, what about, what about emptiness? You have emptiness and Teravata. Can you tell us something about the chairman?
Bob Thurman 1:05:18 Yeah. Well, um, what does emptiness well, emptiness of self, which is the other place where it starts, you know, it's, it's a, um, you know, it often is portrayed. And I used when I first went to India after Buffalo, uh, or straight from Buffalo, I, I had, um, a lot of fear because of the way I, uh, I language my idea of the spiritual path is that we're going to kill the ego. That was what my idea was that that our goal was to kill the ego. Oh yeah. Right, right. We're to annihilate, you know, and, and that was terrifying to me. And, and, uh, it was very reassuring to me in first, going a little bit more deeply into Buddhist teaching to see that they're not talking about that at all. They're talking about, um, seeing clearly more how things actually are that, uh, the way we hold ou --
-- r idea of who we are, um, or the self is something solid and independent and in control.
Sharon Salzberg 1:06:34 And, uh, but when we really look, you know, everything is interdependent, nothing is independent and congealed and separate and permanent, you know? So it's actually ignorance that we're trying to challenge, not the self, which has been like this companion showing us a good time that we're now going to kill. Uh, you know, so that was like a huge relief. And for all the times, I think the most frequent question ever asked us, uh, starts with, well, if there's no self, like if there's no self, how am I going to get out of this room? And then we say, well, if you got into the room, you can get out of the room because it's not like there was a self and you're getting rid of it, the ideas that the way we held it, the way we believed it to be was never true. Talk about friendly facts.
Bob Thurman 1:07:28 You know, the, uh, the word I really picked up from you, Bob, that you used a lot was realistic, which I used to think was not that exciting, a word. And then I thought it was the most exciting word of all. And, you know, to be realistic because it means being aligned with the truth otherwise, where it's like proverbial banging your head against the wall. It's, it's being some weird relationship to the truth. And so, um, the other way of seeing no self is not some, or another way of saying empty. This is not so much, uh, only about oneself when the idea of self, but really about just the nature of things that the other side that is interconnection, because it's not like a glimpse of emptiness means everything melts away, you know, and it's like this gray blob things are, as they are and everything arises and we have a world and we have a universe and, uh, we have relationship and, and all of that, but it cannot be, and yet have no, not a substantiality no, no permanence, no, no concreteness. Uh, yes. And, and that's why they're all those beautiful imagery, images used in Buddhist teaching of like, life is like a rainbow, like an echo, like a dream, like a, um, and it is, isn't it. I just came back from New York city today. Uh, I went to see my apartment and my doctor and, and I had not been there in seven months. Oh,
Bob Thurman 1:09:08 Wow. I
Sharon Salzberg 1:09:10 Just got back to that. Yeah. And it was like, what a dream. I walked into this apartment that I left in mid-March and that's in mid-March. Cause I had just gotten back there and it felt really bad to me and, and you know, nobody quite knew what was dangerous and what wasn't. And, um, and so I came up here to Massachusetts with my snow boots thinking I'd be here for two weeks and I was here for seven months.
Bob Thurman 1:09:39 We of did that. I just saw a figure the other day, 420,000 people moved out of New York in March. And in late February, March, April, uh, you know, I mean, not permanently necessarily, they may have left empty apartments and things, but they went out of the town, found a place upstate or Massachusetts or somewhere else. And, uh, over 400, almost half a million people. So it took off out of the city at that time. And, uh, hopefully that, that will happen the next day. I'm, uh, I'm, I'm very, um, sad with the media. They keep talking about, they've fallen into this distraction of a vaccination, whereas really what we need to do is what they did in Taiwan, where they actually had fed the government, the national government created massive testing equipment and chemistry and labs so that everybody could be tested really fast and get a fast answer all the time, every one every day, if necessary and then fantastic computer, digital contact Tracy.
Bob Thurman 1:10:45 And that's what they kept. They only had 12 people die on 30 million. Right. And they have almost hardly anything without there's no vaccination deals. So that's what, but the vaccination is a fake thing that, Oh, well, we're having all these troubles. You don't have a vaccine, but that's a typical distracting strategy. Probably some people who failed to project produce the actual real thing that you can do to control a virus or a pandemic, and which they didn't do it if they failed. So the, she doesn't do it ever mentioned that when they bring up vaccination, then it's all backstage and next year, this year when it's vaccination, it's not that it's testing right now. We don't have it. I never had a test. I've never had one. I've been ju --
-- st here. Sorry, I haven't needed it. But, but people should be, if I went, it would be difficult to have to go to Kingston.
Bob Thurman 1:11:32 You know, I wouldn't happen. Wouldn't get an answer for six days and you could be, you could be infected again. So I just lock myself up here. But anyway, we know there is this terrible silver lining though, that it has showed us today. Alberto Villoldo gave a wonderful talk on the Dalai Lama global thing from a shamonic point of view, from an indigenous tradition point of view, it really quite wonderful. They, you know, they move, we always must include indigenous traditions with world's religious traditions. We really should. And he was saying that this, this virus is just a, it's a, it's an alert from the animals who are in the middle of the sixth great extinction, which is a greater bigger than since that meteorites supposedly killed all the dinosaurs. It's like the worst thing that we have done this ourselves with not a meteorite, it's ours, it's our out of control lifestyle that has done this.
Bob Thurman 1:12:31 And so, you know, it's been a terrible wake up call with much suffering on the part of many people, but, and it's not over, but, uh, but, uh, you know, the fires in the West coast, don't you love to visit California. I do we're East coasters, but we love going out there, but they are really burning and it's just beginning, that's just beginning. And they have these things called these tornadoes fire tornadoes to go up 30,000 feet into the air. They pick up 25 ton bulldozers and throw them around. They uproot giant trees and they burn them while flying around in the middle of this fire. And this is just beginning, you know, in, in row go right up to BW, British Columbia, according to the scientists, because Pacific currents are not producing the rain along that coast all the way from Mexico central America to, to British Columbia, it's going to be, it's really, you know, sort of pandemic is just setting us, wake up a little bit and you realize we really have to make some cereal.
Bob Thurman 1:13:34 You know, there's nothing about, Oh yeah, we'll get around to it. Or we have to, we have to do it gradually. Oh yeah, next year. Oh yeah. 2050. We'll be ready to go. We that's unacceptable. That is utterly unacceptable. It has to be really starting now, you know, being a real, we're living more realistically basically. And, uh, and then the mindfulness and meditative part of that is so important. Really. I think how many, if you would calculate Sharon, I think the, the mission of Barry mindfulness meditation center, or, you know, whatever, whatever the name is, but how many thousands of people have developed some kind of inner awareness coming there? I'm sure the last 40, 50 years. And during that period of time, they have influenced how many other people they have taught, how many other people this has gone. And then now there's enough people to sort of try to be more realistic about themselves and about the world and the environment, you know?
Bob Thurman 1:14:36 And, um, we really, and the, and the, the young it's so wonderful, isn't it? Uh, uh, Mona Chopra, you're a Christian, you know, the young people with grant book behind Gretta Twinburg and many others they're out there telling this older, stuck baby boomer generation that is still pumping out the gas and the oil and the coal even, um, they're saying, forget it, you know, we you're, you're wrecking our future, you know, so, you know, get your, get, get off your chair or get off your meditation cushion if necessary and do something active to change this world, you know, you know, because you're ruining your, what did she say, Gretta, timber, you you're selling our future. You're destroying our future to make a buck. She sort of said, you know, in the UN it, when Trump went in and walked by her Trump couldn't look at her. I don't know if you noticed that he walked right by her. And then she got right delimited.
Bob Thurman 1:15:37 She's afraid though. She's truly been following great. She is, you know, book, but her body, her mindfulness is the kind of mindfulness of an article. She's a natural article. And she feels all these animals who are being killed and dying. She really does. She always speaks up for the extinction and for the animals, you know, and for how we are ruthlessly wrecking their lives, you know, and their, their ecosystem that they live in just for some immediate ratification of our own. And she, I feel that she's a true article. And, uh, if she was in Tibet, they would give her a helmet and a little mirror and some feathers and some plumes, and she'd get all red in the face and add, she would say what she says, and the older people wouldn't dare snare at her. They would not cause she's channeling mother earth, you know, channeling the, the, the, the, the people who are sending up their viruses, because it, the network of animals that used to absorb and take care of those things for us has been shattered by us, you know? And, uh, and therefore there, these Zoe would not take, I think they call it zone, not take viruses are just getting started. Zoo, not come from the zoo.
Bob Thurman 1:17:04 Sue are nodding viruses. Okay. I'm sorry. Any other question?
Sharon Salzberg 1:17:10 Oh, sure. Well, Sharon, yeah, I mean, for sleeping, my favorite actually is, uh, something, someone told me who has terrible insomnia. She said, you know, when you do loving kindness practice, which you may or may not be familiar with, instead of resting your attention on the feeling of the breath, you rest your attention. One way of doing it as you rest your attention on the silent repetition of certain phrases. And the spirit is like gift giving or offering like maybe happy, maybe peaceful. So when this friend can't sleep, she lies in bed. And first she does loving kindness for all beings who are awake, not metaphorically, but literally. So that includes her, but it also includes maybe water Buffalo in India and people going to work, you know, the other end of the world. And, and she just keeps repeating those phrases with those kinds of images.
Bob Thurman 1:18:09 And after awhile, she does loving kindness for all beings who are asleep, which does not include her, but presumably includes her neighbors and her, her village or whatever, you know? So, uh, it's like fun. It channels, the more anxious energy, the fretful energy into something positive. And it there's something about those hours when the earth is quieter on our side, you know, and, and it is a feeling of, um, connection. That's not attenuated by all the hustle and bustle, you know? So, uh, I think it's, um, kind of interesting to experiment with and in terms of caregiving, um, there's a lot, you know, like a lot of, uh, the issues with caregiving, um, as well, activism, you know, activists is that, uh, you probably have a great deal of empathy and compassion going. That's why you do what you do, but maybe not directed at yourself as well.
Bob Thurman 1:19:17 There's often some imbalance there. It feels selfish to take care of yourself in any way to take a break, to have a sense of limits that's wisdom. You know, that we're not in control of the universe, or can't walk in and say, puff, you're all better. It's all better. And so, uh, the emphasis is sometimes on loving kindness for oneself or, um, having a, a clearer sense of just seeing the expectations in your mind and to, um, maybe impossible standards that you're trying to hold yourself to and things like that. So it's a lot of, uh, loving kindness for yourself and almost like equanimity in relation to others, like I will do everything that I can to try to ease your situation. And I'm not in control of the universe. You know, things are, as they are. And something like that,
Bob Thurman 1:20:19 I might add with a counter question, does the person with that Christian who has sleep issues, do they do a lot of exercise? And, uh, there's I have a body worker and he has ordered fi from sometime back to walk two miles a day without fail that if I want to live a long life. And, uh, I don't manage to get that done every time, but anytime I do walk even one mile or do a few miles on a stationary bike in the house, uh, then I do sleep easier for sure. So the body needs to, and if they, if they are, if they are heavy exercise, exerciser, strong exercise around still have trouble sleeping, then of course, whatever, you know, Sharon said is absolutely right. And it's a, it's an amazing thing. I like to recommend that people think about, uh, where they're going to be once they've fallen asleep, because possibly some people have a subliminal thing about fear or to fall asleep because falling asleep is one time that you completely become vulnerable.
Bob Thurman 1:21:29 You no longer have a sense of your boundary. You'll become unconscious. Anything could happen to you. You don't know what it is. And so if you're being anxious, then that, that will say, even if the door is locked in there, you know, you're in a safe house and blah, blah, blah, good neighborhood and dark and nice coat, cozy temperature is good. Everything is good, but there's some fear of being completely helpless, really, which you are when you're asleep. And also, I think possibly there could be a subliminal idea because of the very irrational teaching we get from our science teachers in our whole school and our culture that the ground of reality is nothingness. And where do you fall asleep? You go with your sink. You seem to go into a dark space. So maybe there's a subliminal fear of being obliterated and never coming back from the nothingness.
Bob Thurman 1:22:20 And so there, I recommend thinking of, uh, either a monotheistic idea that the deepest energy of the universe is God, and God has love, and God is light or something like that. Or in Buddhism, we have concept called clear light of the void or the sort of great loving energy of, of all Buddhists and bodhisattva as the base of the universe. And, uh, as, as they're waiting for you, that you only can receive the blessing of that when you're unconscious, because normally you're so closed. And so don't think you're lying in a dark space, sort of conditioned yourself to think about it. Study, read the writings of the mystics who have discovered the great light of the divine or the clear light of the void in the case of the voters and or the great Supreme self or the one that's with God in the Hinduism.
Bob Thurman 1:23:14 And, uh, and sort of encourage yourself that once you let go by becoming unconscious, you will be embraced by the nourishing light of the great mother or the great father or whatever, whatever it is, or both of them, and a sort of to recondition, you don't know what your unconscious thinks about. What's going to happen to you when you fall asleep, but that might be, what's preventing it from doing it. And so do it. And then of course, then if meditation fails and if all his thinking fails, there's always medication, good, old Ambien, and a little bit of ambient, like a half or a quarter of an ambient might help you like, turn the corner there. And it's not gonna really harm you, but if you have to do it all the time and you're taking a whole pill or more than does bad, so don't do that.
Bob Thurman 1:24:02 But like a little tiny thing, uh, sometimes we'll just tip you over and then your body will be so grateful because you slept in the morning that you might gravitate more easily to sleep the next time. Okay. So that's great. So I think, you know, we was coming close to the time. There are a lot of pressures I wanted to ask. There's one question of Samantha that I was a little Samantha Cook on the Q and a where you're a little worried because you're such a great meditator and a, the nun who told you to stop and don't go further without a teacher to help guide you. I think she gave you good advice. So this is a question, everybody, unless you can all see it where it's Amanda says she from childhood, she was able to go very strongly into kind of samadhi. And she says, you would go straight into the light.
Bob Thurman 1:24:52 I hope it was a nice light. It was not too bright and it was free. It was friendly. And you were happy and felt energized afterwards. I hope so. You had, and you had experienced in which you could not break out of meditation in that case, maybe you felt trapped and that's not good. So I think you definitely should, um, uh, should, uh, follow that advice and find a guide and a therapist or a meditation teacher, um, depending on how, how much this bothers you. Um, and, uh, and actually try to make you take advantage of this special gifts that you have, but do it, but I wouldn't do it by yourself. You know, I want to say about myself that when I was, um, 20 years old and first really starting to practice Buddhism, I had been studying it already for three years at that point, but I showed trying to practice it and I really wanted to meditate.
Bob Thurman 1:25:48 And I started having to, like you did, I would just leave the body in a shot. And I was shrill and I was so excited to do it. And my teacher kept interrupting me and preventing me from doing it. And I was so annoyed with him, I even off and try to hide in the woods and meditate under a tree. So he wouldn't find me. And he did find me come and say, what people will think you're homeless. If you stay at her, come on back and have some yogurt and go to sleep. And he just constantly interrupted me. And only years later, I finally realized that it was very good because sometimes you have an affinity like that. Um, and then, but then you kind of get stuck into some sort of, because you don't know how to do the transition, you know, so you shouldn't do it too quickly, go into some out of body States and things like that.
Bob Thurman 1:26:39 You should, it's not that they're not precious and valuable. They are, but you have to build up a way of understanding them that kind of ahead of time. So you don't misinterpret them and you don't feel stuck in them and this kind of thing. So, so you, you definitely, the nun is gave you the right advice. Absolutely. And I wouldn't bother with the rim chain that's to advance the longterm. What he said is a good idea, but that's kind of high teaching, but initially I think you need a more basic guide. Then some high Mahamudra where the whole universe, you embraced the whole universe type of thing. That's again, a bit by step-by-step, you know, bill Murray's famous Buddhist precept. One of my girls is bill Murray in the movie. What about Bob? You should always watch that everyone should go see that movie as homework.
Bob Thurman 1:27:27 And it wasn't about me, but his name was Bob. What about Bob was called? And, and, uh, he used to go around when he would go somewhere for the weekend, he would take his goldfish in a little plastic bag and he'd look at the gold fish and then he'd get on the bus or he goes over and he just constantly say baby steps, baby steps. You know, he was supposed to be a little bit of a psychological case, but we also, what happens in the movie, it's very cute. It's actually quite sane. But anyway, he's always saying baby steps, baby steps, baby steps, bit by bit. Everything is bit by bit. Don't overdo a big trick. It's a pretender. It gets really violent and a minute and then collapsed and then decided there's no sustain. You get all discouraged. Okay. So Sharon, would you like to give us a last,
Sharon Salzberg 1:28:14 No, I think thank you all so much, Bob.
Bob Thurman 1:28:18 I think your presence is the blessing, Sharon. It really is.
Sharon Salzberg 1:28:21 It is. Let's do it again sometime. It's so much fun. All right, let's do it again. Sometime in summer,
Bob Thurman 1:28:28 We used to do a lot with the COVID. Now we can easily do without travel. I was even going to ask you maybe just, you know, our new year's thing, but we want them to have a few more things at new year's and just say, start from the, be in person, probably the way things are going. So I, you know, you don't have to worry about the ice and the snow. You can just come.
Sharon Salzberg 1:28:47 That's excellent.
Bob Thurman 1:28:49 And, uh, and we'll, we'll meet again with all of these people with Saturday night live. I don't know. I think we're not funny enough, but you know, we could do, uh, you know, uh, Sharon could imitate, uh, nevermind. Nevermind. I could irritate somebody, but nevermind. I won't, I won't do it. I won't do it because we're gonna, we're gonna have, we're gonna all go out and vote landslide. And therefore the, the, um, three, by that time, there could be three Supreme court justices who got noticed by their Republican right-wingers who appointed them because they fought in Florida with the law to block Wars, vote, count three of them. That's how they got noticed and climbed in the hierarchy of, uh, legal, legal appointees, because they stopped horse faults from being counted. That's what they did. The media doesn't mention that it's so pathetic their research, but all three of them became, came to light because of that.
Bob Thurman 1:29:56 And so that's the plan, you know, but that plan will not work with a landslide. So we hold on to hope to have it. So we don't have a lot of uncertainty and a lot of stress, more stress. We want to have less stress. And, uh, and, uh, we really do, and we need, we need someone to, to cause an industrial emergency for testing so that there's, everybody can have tests on every street corner and many times a day, if necessary many times a week and, and contact Tracy using putting a Mark Zuckerberg to work, doing contact tracing instead of spreading stupid ideas and nasty violin plots and things. That's what Facebook should be doing right now. Absolutely. If they were really patriotic, they would be doing that and that couldn't be done, that will be done and that will get terrible, you know? Okay. So a lot of luck everybody. And thank you all for showing up and take your specialty Sharon for your precious time and for your nice smile. Thank you. Thank you, Justin and Eli for your help. And we're organizing and, um, okay. Oh, my independent home. By the virtue of doing this, maybe it will quickly become our hats in honor of the Burmese tradition and therefore don't help every else become an odd house, become a big happy that it means art hat means happy. Okay. All the best
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Life has a way of thwarting our plans, leaving even the most sainted of us frustrated and fearful at times. But losing our cool causes more problems than it solves. So when people and circumstances conspire against us, how can we douse the white-hot fires of rage? How can we break the cycle of hurt, […]
Questioning Buddhism with Sharon Salzberg and Bob Thurman
Tibet House US | Menla Saturday Night Live broadcasts are brought to you by the Bob Thurman Podcast and will be made available in audio form via your favorite podcasting platform.[more]