Landon Carter Interview
Landon Carter is a legendary est Trainer and co-creator of the est Six-Day Course. He is currently a leading independent consultant in the arena of corporate culture change.
Landon Carter, the title of your book is Living Awake.
And does that imply that you think most people are living asleep? And if so, what does that mean?
Carter:Well, the difference for me, John, is most of us grow up conditioned into certain responses in our behaviors. And so the world is coming at us with all of this input and we have learned both consciously and unconsciously a whole set of behavioral responses to, you know, situations, and input, and what people say, etc. And that over time those conditioned responses become so automatic and so patterned that, in fact, it’s as if we forget that we’ve got any choice in the matter and think more and more this is just the way I am. It’s kind of as if we were an actor and we took on a role early on and we practiced the role so many times that we actually forgot that we were an actor, that we had any choice anymore. And, so, I would consider that to be sleepwalking, that then becomes so automatic that you’re really blind to yourself. You don’t see yourself in action. You don’t feel like you have any choice about “the way I am,” or “the way I respond to things,” or even if you try new behaviors some of the ingrained things are so a part of you that as soon as you get under pressure you revert back to the old ways of doing stuff. That for me is all kind of sleepwalking and being on automatic. The distinction for me of living awake is that I can see myself in action. I start to be awake to myself. I start to experience more choice in terms of other possibilities, in other words a whole realm of new possibilities open up. I experience a choice of being able to select and try new behaviors, hopefully producing different results. Somehow in that process of waking up to myself I will experience life at more and more subtle levels such that my choices become more and more subtle and therefore more powerful, actually. What I’m referring to here is kind of how I see that we manifest things. If we have children and they come to us, they say, Sammy hit me and I wasn’t doing anything, as adults we go: “Well, that’s just not true; I mean, you’ve got to have been doing something for Sammy to just hit you, you know, the world doesn’t work that way.” We put that connection between what we do and the results we create in place for children. But often we don’t see what we do or where our behaviors come from. In other words what the decisions are we made let’s say or the contextual aspects of it and how our emotions tend to drive our behaviors. We don’t connect those dots up because we’re in a sense blind to ourselves. We’re asleep to ourselves. As you wake up, you start to connect those dots and you can see, “Oh, I’m starting to feel angry now, but I don’t need to strike out and then create a mess that I might have to then clean up.” Or: “I’m starting to feel, gee, what’s underneath the anger; oh, I feel like what he said was may hurt me, and then I felt angry; well, wait a minute; I don’t need to feel hurt here; Maybe I can rethink that or recontextualize it so that, in fact, gee, maybe I only feel hurt because I really have this fundamental belief that I’m really not ok; and if I shift that fundamental belief to where I am ok, then gee, what he says doesn’t hurt me so much and then I don’t get so angry, and I don’t strike out, and then I don’t create a mess. Just like that.
Hanley: The way you describe living asleep sounds so endemic to being human. It seems like in order to get out of that one would need to go through some kind of change process. But do you think there are people out there that just naturally get it and they just somehow train themselves to live awake?
Carter: I actually think that everybody has to wake up a little bit on themselves. All the work needs to be done within each of us. So nobody can make it happen for another. I’m convinced of that. Even for someone to choose to do a growth seminar, a wakeup kind of seminar or process or even do therapy or something else which is in the same general arena, they’ve already started to see something that not only doesn’t work but that they have something to do with it. So they’ve already started to wake up a little bit to themselves, I think, in order to make that initial choice.
Hanley: Do you think there are some exceptional cases who can even go beyond that and sort of self clean themselves and just not get stuck in the past like most of the rest of us?
Carter: Well, you read the text of Buddha being a prince and going outside of walls of his castle and finding out what’s going on in the world and then being upset by it and renouncing his life and then sitting under a tree. Actually, first of all he went to all the different disciplines and in a sense mastered those and found out that they didn’t work. Then finally he did something on his own that took him to his own state of enlightenment. So, that’s a fairly known story. There have been other people that, I think, spontaneously wake up. I don’t think there’s one method. I think everybody is on their own path in this process. Some people may not even exercise it for a long time or maybe right at their death they wake up. I don’t know. I mean, I think, as I said, everybody is on their own path.
You and I and others in this business can, I think, at best share our process. That may open some possibilities for others. And then sometimes, I think, we can put together “somewhat artificial situations” that don’t have quite the consequence of real life. In other words, you can see yourself in action without actually creating too big a mess, you know, with some assistance. Those kinds of processes and seminars and exercises are useful for people to help themselves wake up and make changes and make the conscious evolution that they want to make.
Hanley: Now what about when you see these people on television who appear to have it all together, whether it’s a politician or an actor or any public figure that seems to exude confidence, what’s your guess? I mean, obviously, we don’t know them. But do you think to yourself, well, you know, underneath that they’re probably troubled?
Carter: Well, actually, I think so many things are domain specific, that a politician can be a very, very good politician. In other words, he’s a good listener. They’re flexible enough in their view that they’re able to negotiate well, to influence others well. Maybe they blend well with people before they move into action. They do all of the “right stuff.” And, yet, they may have another domain where they’re blind to themselves. They’re like a bull in the china shop, you know. Or, they’re not very good parents, and their kids are off the rails, so to speak, or not doing very well as a function of the way they’re parenting. So, they can be quite functional, I think, in one area and dysfunctional in others. I think we’re all that way, actually. They may be putting on a good front, but, again, I think that it’s domain specific. You can have an actress who’s fabulous on the stage and is a real master at her profession and then, lonely and despondent as soon as she gets off the stage or not in that arena.
Hanley: Well, you write about this underlying notion that we have of ourselves of you called it “not okness.” Is that part of the human condition that we’re thrown into? Or is that something most people struggle with, but some people have transcended? What do you think of that?
Carter: Well, I think what you’ve implied and said is about the way it is. I think that the majority of people are struggling with that as their core issue. In other words, that it’s endemic in the culture. It’s the whole reason all the advertising sales are able to sell so much product and service in the name of satisfaction. That somehow you’ll be satisfied if you buy or do these things. Billions and billions of dollars are spent to promote those things. How could that possibly do anything or sell anything if, in fact, under, you know, who they are selling to are people who are totally satisfied. I mean, no one would pay attention to it or they’d see right through the total sham that that is. So, I think it is endemic. I do think that it is part of the culture that you and I are born into, grow up in. It’s that unworthiness, the not okness is endemic. Now, I do know that it is very highly reinforced by parents that don’t love them, abuse, violence, sexual abuse, all those kinds of things and our school system which erodes kid’s self esteem.
On the other hand, you have a parent that’s very loving, very accepting, very trusting gives you your own lead and is not so judgmental, and is very supporting, then I think that that issue shows up as a minor flutter, or something like that kind of has very little impact. I think actually if the parents are good, in an only child…people who are only children tend to have a little higher self esteem, again, if the parents reinforce them as kids. But, as soon as you’re thrown into a multi-child family where they don’t understand the difference between attention and unconditional love and so kids are struggling for attention, and you’ve got a high standard set and fairly judgmental parents, I mean, all the things that even just normal kids like you and me grew up with, that you end up with that as an issue. And then, of course, you can go to the people that populate our prisons who are, you know, highly unloved in their upbringing and they are the most unloved in our society, and we throw them into an environment that furthers that and expect them to somehow get better. And it’s not going to happen, of course.
Hanley: Well, just for a moment, coming back to this idea. It doesn’t necessarily need to be public figures, but you’ve got these people out there that have seemingly wired the system, you know. They’ve somehow through the force of their personality or their strategic ability or luck they have achieved great levels of let’s say financial success, business success. They have the house. They have the car. They’re going to the parties. And they are so clear to themselves that life is just fun and it’s great. So my question to you is do you believe they are denying something? Have they transcended it? Or is it just underneath the surface and they’re not dealing with it?
Carter: You know, almost I have to say, if they are, they are. And if they’re not, they’re not.
Hanley: What do you think in most cases, though?
Carter: I think…the only thing I can say is if there is there are certain signs. There are certain signs to someone who is denying and covering up. So let’s say that someone is successful and making money. And, so, that means, one, they’re probably, if they’re able to keep it and not make it and lose it, make it and lose it, they’re vibrating so to speak, or they’re doing the right things in terms of creating money. They believe they’re going to be successful. They get into more of that future possibility as if it’s, you know, not only a possibility but a high probability, and basically a reality. And so they are living in that success even when the bank account is low because they know that what they are doing somehow is going to be successful. They feel that and they do all those things. So, that’s kind of you might say, they’re pushing the right buttons. If you want to use a car analogy, they know how to drive the car. They’re doing it correctly, and so they’re getting those kinds of results. I think that some of the signs are of more of a kind of brittleness and a stiffness in life. So if they are very flexible, they’re very open minded, they’re very compassionate with others, they have a great sense of gratitude which they would, you know, express in terms of giving to others, in terms of not charity like I’ve got to, feeling guilty, but more a sense of openness. And to be around them you feel loved. You feel accepted. You feel part of their life, not excluded. I think if, in fact, you feel there’s a kind of rigidity, there’s a righteousness, there’s a sense of separation, you feel separate when you’re around them, you feel, you know, less than or not included, then all of those are the signs that, in fact, while they’re doing the right thing, they’re living at one level a life of denial, and that there’s a deep sense of dissatisfaction that basically runs their behaviors that actually motivates them to do all of these things. Of course, then the question is whether they are going to be truthful and take a looking at that or not. And that would be the opening for anybody to assist them?
Hanley: Now what if you had one of these…one of these types of people that you were describing who passed all those tests. They were compassionate; they were open; they were flexible; they felt good about life; and they looked forward to their future. Then they come into your seminar or they want you to coach them - what could you do for them? What’s the next possibility for them?
Carter: That’s a great question. For me there are two reasons that people are going to change. They both have to do with gaps. One of them is - “I am unhappy, I’m in pain, and just get me out of pain.” So there’s that. And the other one is – “Everything is great and show me some more possibility. How can I expand? How can I contribute more? I’m so inspired about what I want to accomplish that I need to expand in order to fill that space. In order to accomplish this I need to expand myself.” That’s the most exciting person to work with because then it doesn’t have to be, “I’m bad.” You go through all of that - “I’m not ok.” You’ve got to bring that up so that they can see it, so they can confront it. All of the what we normally call negative emotions, you’ve got to kind of go through that stuff in order to heal and then you get to a place where things are ok. And then I think the game is – “What can we really contribute? How great can we have this gift of our human being, and how great can it be actually? How much can it be for all of us? How connected can I get to all these other people out there rather than living a life that’s successful but isolated?”
I think those of us who coach and assist other people are we learning about ourselves all the times - if we don’t acknowledge that there’s something wrong. So I look forward to working with somebody like that just because I’m going to learn so much from them in the process and hopefully I’m able to contribute to their realizing what, in fact, they want.
Hanley: Well, that’s something as long as I’ve known you, I’ve very much enjoyed is your perpetual curiosity. And I feel like I have some of that myself, as well. I just enjoy the process of learning whether about myself or life or the world. Does it frustrate you when you are working with other people that don’t seem to have that kind of curiosity?
Carter: Well, you know, it’s funny because I have preferences. And I have a commitment to helping whoever shows up in my life. But I also have preferences to working with people that really do want to expand and are willing to tell the truth and confront the truth in their own life. I find it very tiresome to work with people who I have to somehow or other point out to them what’s not working when it is right in front of their face, and then for them to deny it or, you know, to work through all of those things where they are not willing to be accountable for life. That’s a teaching process too, of course. It’s like…it’s just like I don’t enjoy working with young children as much as I enjoy working with young adults. It’s not that I don’t like young children. It’s just I don’t want to go through that, in this stage of my life, I don’t want to go through the teaching process of teaching them the basics. I find that slower and just not as interesting, that’s all. It’s more of that, you know. It’s all a process of…it’s all a continual unfolding. We’re never going to get there. So it’s just - where do you enter the game and where do you feel like you could contribute and all that?
Hanley: Now, when you’re working with people, I’m sure there are moments, maybe many of them, where you just feel like we’re completely tuned in with each other and sparks are flying and possibilities are popping left and right…
What causes that? Is it just one of those things that sometimes occurs and sometimes doesn’t? Or is there something you bring to the party as an instructor that creates that?
Carter: Well, if I could do it all the time, I could tell you for sure, John, what it was. It does happen as both you and I know. I think part of it is really being able to listen to the other person and then make a very good blend with them and seeing their view really, not just listening like waiting for them to stop talking and being able to parrot back what they say, but more really seeing and understanding them somehow, as if you’re almost over there where they are. Then you’ve kind of gotten yourself out of the way and somehow or other in that process you’re connected to the mind that certainly includes theirs and yours, but it’s bigger than both of ours. Out of that mind, you might say, I think you have insight that is useful. At that level when the sparks are flying, that’s what I experience. It’s kind of a mind…being out of yourself, mind connection and clarity. But then, of course, we always thought that that was enough. Now I see that that’s not enough. It has to be translated into actual practice and practices that then embody the insight in new behaviors so that the new behaviors become as automatic eventually as the old less functional behaviors were. That took everything up a notch.
Hanley: Now, you’ve been in this game of personal improvement, transformation, for many decades now.
Carter: 33 or more years, John.
From ’71 basically, you know, 34 years plus.
Hanley: Yeah, lot’s of work.
What do you, if you don’t mind me asking, still personally struggle with in your life, you know in the fulfillment of your life?
Carter: I’d say listening is one of my big challenges. Just the thing I was talking about is one of my challenges that I’m dealing with right now. One of the things that I have is I have a lot of experience that I can draw on, so I have kind of an answer for anything that comes up. That’s good at one level and it can be a hindrance in another because I don’t always enter a situation in a state of not knowing and a state of entering the mystery. So I’d say there’s that. A corollary to that is my own jadedness in terms of having done so many different things that I sometimes enter a new situation and seeing the similarities. I’m not as open, although I guard myself against it, but I just noticed that that’s a tendency that I have. So I’m less open. I’m more critical. I’m more judgmental in the beginning. I’m a little more suspicious. I’m a little less the child in wonder about life. If I had my preference, I would be going around, at least in terms of my mood and my emotion, in a state of wonder. I love that state. I just find myself with a little difficult to get there all the time.
Hanley: In a lot of great philosophy over the years, you have incredibly complex, tremendous systems that are presented to help us lead better lives and build better cultures. And yet if you look at the lives of a lot of those people who wrote that, maybe they didn’t seem to take care of themselves so much. This is kind of a long way of getting to this question, but I know you have placed a lot of value on taking care of your body and physical fitness. What role do you think your relationship with your body has to being happy in life?
Carter: That’s great. I mean, first of all, I think it’s all connected. The easy example of that is when you’re sick; it’s hard to feel very generous, expansive. It’s not a great time, you know. If you’re really feeling sick, it just draws you in. You’re just lying there hoping that it’s going to go away, or when is this going to end. You definitely are not thinking about future possibilities, and how can I contribute, and how great it’s going to be, and all those kind of things. At least, it’s very difficult to do it from that mood. I think everybody knows how much being sick contracts not only our energy but also our mind state. More and more I’m seeing the connection of the body mind connection and I think that it’s necessary. You don’t need to take it to where I take it. I’ve just have enjoyed competitive athletics at a very high level because I learn a lot about discipline and being disciplined, about surrender to a program, about mind over matter, about focused on winning, about being a good competitor when I lose, being friends with my, you know, fellow competitors, not arriving at the line at the start and all nervous so that I’ve chewed up all my energy with my nervousness. So, all of those, I’ve learned a lot in doing athletics at that level. The main focus, I would say, if I took that away, is just having a body that’s able to respond to the kinds of things that I want to accomplish in life. And the other thing is to recognize that all of your input actually comes through your body. In other words, you know, you pick up the vibes of other people. That’s in your body. Your responses, your natural responses of fear, sadness, anger, joy, enthusiasm, a sense of confidence, that’s all in your body and those are bodily felt sensations. So part of being in shape is being in touch with your body, is being connected with and awake to your body so that not only does it function well, but also it’s this responsive mechanism that gives you feedback as well. It gives you the feedback coming in, and it’s the channel whereby you express things going out, if that makes sense.
Hanley: And I know years ago you moved to the, would you say, the south of New Zealand?
Carter: Yeah, the south island of New Zealand.
Hanley: Which is very beautiful and you’re connected with nature out there. Do you see any inherent value in that for people, you know, connecting with the natural environment?
Carter: Yes, I definitely see value. And when I was living in Marin, I used to drive my bike up on Mt. Tamalpais, and there were certain places where I could get off the bike and I would face the mountain and feel the green. It would just like open my heart. I would feel healing in all of the greens, the green light of the trees and the blue of the sky. It was just certain things like that that seemed that I connect with. Now, I think for, again, life is a balance. I’ve experienced lots of people who have spent tons and tons of time in nature and as soon as they come into the town or the city, you know, they’re totally dysfunctional. Not only are they uncomfortable, they just don’t function well. For people who have been living in the city a lot, get out in nature. I think that would be a good balance because if you can stay in touch with yourself, I think you’d find that it’s healing, it’s relaxing, it’s calming, etc. But, on the other hand, it depends on where you are in your life. Some people need the city. And I think that that’s useful too, although it’s not my preference. It’s not something I particularly enjoy. I don’t enjoy that frenetic energy as much as I enjoy the calm and the peacefulness of being in nature.
Hanley: Now, if you were to look throughout your whole process of learning about human beings, learning about yourself, learning about the world, if you were to sum up for people what’s the key to being happy, what would you say?
Carter: Well, I would say that the major shift that needs to take place is to recognize that happiness is a decoration and has absolutely nothing to do, and I mean nothing to do with, any exterior situation, activity, person, circumstance, that it is not even connected to those things in any way. This whole idea of beauty is in the eye of the beholder is actually true. I mean, that’s a technology. If you can gather yourself and start to identify yourself as that which is observing, that which is able to observe and to experience being present in this moment, and observe your thoughts, emotions, and body sensations as well as your behaviors, and the things around you, and start to identify yourself with that rather than the concept that you have of yourself and the behaviors, etc. that we call our personality, that then from that place the choice to be happy is a shift. It’s a contextual shift. It’s like shifting the winds of – “I’m a pessimist” to “I’m an optimist.” “I don’t like the world” to “I see it as a hostile world” to “I see it as a friendly world,” - those kinds of shifts. And the same thing – “I am unhappy” to “I am happy is a choice.” And then what will occur because the mind is selective is that then you will start to see evidence that proves that choice. But it is entirely up to each of us to make that choice. If I see the world as “I’m unhappy and things are a bummer and it never works out for me” then I’ve got all the evidence for that. I don’t think that ever changes. It’s not like the evidence goes away. It depends on which evidence or which context I choose which then selects the evidence, the content within it. In fact, I am living in a reality in which the evidence is reflecting back to me my own happiness. It’s a very strange, so to speak, but it’s only strange because it’s so contrary to the way we’re brought up and what we keep getting reinforced in with all the advertising and with all of the images that say that if you’re more like this then you’re going to be happier than you are like that. If you’re thinner you’re happier than if you’re fatter or you’re, you know, more athletic or more in shape you’re going to happier than if you’re not in shape. If you have this kind of woman or this kind man or all of the stuff; if you do this, you go to the right vacation - all that more, better, different stuff that we’re so conditioned to think that that’s what produces happiness. It’s something you have to work on is making that choice and then seeing what shows up. That’s about all I have to say about it.
I’ve been working on it for a long time, but for a long time, knowing that I was the one choosing to be happy and I was happy. And then, I don’t know, a light happened on a different level and a bigger level and I went back and I was in a state, it didn’t stabilize. Being in the game I’m in, I’ve been probably one of the most dissatisfied people teaching people to be satisfied. At one level that’s truly not walking the talk. I’ve really made that important in terms of my authenticity to be real about it and also to be working on it myself.
Hanley: Now, I want to come back to this notion of beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And I agree with you on that, but what do you say to the person who responds with some kind of argument like, hey, you know, if you take say a soliloquy by Shakespeare and you compare that to the Jerry Springer show or something, they’re going to say, look Shakespeare, it just is more beautiful. It’s just…it’s better. Do you agree with that? Or if you don’t, how do you get past that argument?
Carter: Well, I think I would do it this way. I would say, if you go into a museum and you don’t know much about art, there’s usually not much that you appreciate. The more you know about art and know about the life of the painter, let’s say, and what he or she is expressing or trying to express, then somehow your appreciation and your liking it is better or more. I mean, just take that as one example. The other example is you look at your child’s art. Now, on one level you would know that that’s a five-year-old’s art. If you’re going to compare that to, you know, a Rembrandt or whatever, somebody else who’s totally accomplished, again, you’re going to say, oh, I don’t like that. That’s just a kid’s art, etc. But if it’s your child, all of a sudden it’s like you see it as what it is, but you also see it as an expression of who the person is. So, now, especially if you’ve seen their art progress, and now how many adults have their children’s paintings in their office hanging up? And because it’s meaningful to them, it has a beauty to it. And so, there’s that. Then there’s…if you look at yourself in the mirror, and some mornings you look at yourself and go, “Oh, man, do I look terrible. God, I look horrible.” And another time you stand in front of the mirror and you go, “Man, I look really hot or I look great.” It’s the same person staring back, but somehow or another it’s your mood. It’s what you’re feeling about yourself that influences kind of even how you see yourself. I think, playing with that, first of all knowing that that’s a possibility and then playing with that, going back and forth, and seeing if you can shift it in little ways you can train yourself to make bigger and bigger shifts of the kind of the lenses that you’re viewing “this reality out here.” And that allows you to actually live in the reality of your own choosing.
I’ll give you another example. I was building this house, and I had somebody take a lot of tools and cheated on his timesheet and I finally confronted him with it and fired him. I had a choice at that point - do I now lock up all the tools, check everybody all the time because I basically am going to walk around distrusting people which means I live in a reality of people surrounding me who I don’t trust? Or, am I going to operate from trusting people, hopefully not entirely naively, but trusting people because that’s the reality I choose to live in? And if every once in a while I get burned, fine. That’s the cost, but I’m still going to trust people because I don’t want to personally live in a reality in which I don’t trust people. It’s kind of like that is where it gets to be a choice about the reality I choose to live in. This is particularly germane when you are talking about relationships, and you’re talking about your partner because all of a sudden now the evidence is there for what you like and for what you don’t like. With your children for what is not ok with you and for what is ok with you. It depends on which things you actually are reinforcing and how you’re looking at it which actually determines the reality you live in, and therefore how things show up more and more.
Hanley: Now, this whole notion of one needs to choose their reality, have you been able to identify…what tradition is that in in terms of, I don’t know if it’s philosophy or spiritual discipline? I mean, your personal philosophy about life, is it rooted in some tradition, or is it a combination?
Carter: I think it’s a combination, John. I haven’t read anywhere about people choosing reality. I think it’s…the funny thing is I actually think it’s a…it’s kind of the American version of this mishmash of east meets west, you know, of Western philosophical tradition. But you’re more of a student of philosophy than I am. And the eastern traditions of which mostly I know about Buddhism and some about Hinduism. But the things I know about Buddhism are mostly the practice and not much of the cosmology of all the levels and the this and the that because I haven’t paid much attention to it. I kind of think it’s an Americanism, really, and it came out of the 30 years of people like yourself doing this work and experimenting and exploring and attempting to find out the things that work. What do you think?
Hanley: I’m not sure. I mean, I think in some ways you can find the source of just about anything back in either Aristotle or Plato.
So I’m sure they’ve thought of some of this stuff. And then I think there was something revolutionary about the Jewish approach to spirituality as distinct from the polytheistic approach. I think that moved, obviously, into Christianity and then I think some of the existentialism kind of stuff in a way took the Judeo-Christian model but took god out of it and sort of went a different direction.
Carter: Exactly. You’re saying Descartes and then Heidegger and all that kind of stuff.
Ok, now, one of the things that I’ve been very interested in in the last number of years is this idea that to really be fully alive, to really be engaged in life one must be vulnerable. Therefore there’s going to be an element of pain involved in living a full life. Do you agree with that?
Carter: I do. I think it is a false objective to think that one is going to be able to take pain out of your life. I mean, like pain like the death of a loved one, the sickness, you know, financial troubles, the hurricanes, you know, etc. losses, and even, you know, physical pain, and emotional healing, and I think it’s a fairly deep well that we as human beings are involved in, especially if we start to get connected on more than an individual basis but more on a humanitarian basis, you know, of all of us. I do think that it’s possible, and this is more of Buddhist philosophy and practice to take the suffering out of it. In other words, I think you don’t have to suffer just because you have pain. I mean, you can have pain in your knee and let it be pain in your knee. And it doesn’t have to stop you literally almost in any way except maybe you’re hurting some and don’t do the same level of activity. But basically you’re not suffering – “Oh, I wish I didn’t have the pain in my knee; oh, how come it’s there; oh, woe is me; you know, life is terrible because I have a pain in my knee.” I just think that you can get to a place of equanimity about things arising and passing away in life and that’s in, fact, what is occurring. I mean, everything is in change. That is the very nature of the reality we exist in, of change, and things changing. Nothing can stay the same. You can’t hold onto anything. But you can become very equanimous, very…a sense of equanimity in your mind, a peacefulness about that which is arising and passing away. I think there’s a great sense of joy in it. It gives you a foundation upon which, I think, you can make the kind of choices that we’ve been talking about because if you’re adversely influenced by the “downside” of things, the pain in life, then that destroys your equanimity and you’re basically subjected to something that I don’t think is in your control like your personality. There’s just too much consciousness surrounding us that, you know, that influences things.
Hanley: Well, I’m very interested in where to draw that line because I also think about romantic poets like Shelley and Bryan those guys.
And when you read their stuff, they’re just so tortured by their love for this woman or maybe even some piece of nature that they enjoy. And you really get a sense that their total immersion and involvement and, yes, even need to be with this person or be around this type of nature is so important to them. I wonder if in a way they are sort of anti-Buddhist in that sense? What do you think?
Carter: I’ve been seeing this guy Vijaya Teelok from Burma, a couple of times. His philosophy is actually that surprise and shock to the system is actually important for growth; that you have to be in that state of pain because actually if you don’t resist it it kind of focuses down and then explodes you into the total expansionary, expansionness of being in touch with reality. So no longer are you living in this kind of clouded fantasy cloud world of one’s own judgments and one’s own perception, one’s own kind of clouded perception, you know, that’s always slightly off or, you know, always off. But anyway, you break through to a new level of being in touch with this greater mystery and reality out here. I think that’s what the poets, that’s the ecstasy that they’re trying to express. You know, I did a 10-day meditation course in New Zealand. I really called it my agony and my ecstasy because I would go from sitting all these hours. You do it silently with yourself and for 10 days. I’d go hour after hour in such pain I didn’t think I could go another second, just burning, searing pain. I’d sit there and sit there, and sit there, you know, breath after breath, and just being with it, and attempting not to resist it and to just let it be. I would come out sometimes of those sessions, and I don’t even know how it happened, but I would be on my knees weeping with joy at the sun and the sparkle of the flowers and the senses and I was in this state of heightened ecstasy. It was a very bodily-felt ecstatic experience. That, too, would pass away. Then I’d go back into pain and then I would go into ecstasy. It was like this back and forth thing. I realized that I love the ecstasy and that sense of wonder and that sense of gratitude and just total sense that things are ok and the pleasure of being alive and the thankfulness to be alive. And yet it came out of…I don’t know what it came out of. But it seemed like the path to it was one of…or had with it, you have this sense of pain or the sense of, you know, somehow going through the pain that I’ve accumulated in my own body. You’re going through that and whatever the barrier was or whatever I held on…was holding onto or whatever that was about, that somehow I would stick with that and letting that be and then on the other side of it was this other experience. I think sometimes when we have a deep loss or a yearning or you’ve had a financial failure and you feel very humble and then all of a sudden you go out into nature let’s say and you see a sunset or you see someone and you’re just moved, and you don’t know why is that, or how did that occur. But in essence it’s what most of us long for. I’m not sure…I’m not sure how to get there. I can only tell you kind of sometimes what’s happened.