Herb Tanzer Interview
Herb Tanzer is a legendary Forum Leader and Lifespring Trainer. He is a leading consultant in the areas of corporate leadership, teamwork, and culture change.
Hanley: Herb Tanzer, one time when we were doing a training together you mentioned that you learned at lot from your dog. Can you tell us what you learned from your dog?
Tanzer: Oh, my god. You’ve got a lifetime? I continue to learn, you know. I look at my dog, which, I’m sitting at my desk while I’m talking to you, and I’m looking at my dog. And my dog is just standing there, just standing there. She’s not going anywhere. Do you know any human beings like that that are not drugged or intoxicated?
Tanzer: Nope. You want to get an experience of just being, just watch a dog who is unperturbed by external stimuli. She just stands there just being, not doing much of anything until she is perturbed by some stimulus which she responds to at a very automatic level. So it’s really fascinating to watch the ability to just be in the dog. There’s not a lot of noise that’s going on when they’re just hanging. So one of the things I’ve learned from my dog is the phenomenon called just hanging. It’s perfect if you live in California, especially Southern California.
Hanley: So how long have you been trying to learn this from animals?
Tanzer: Oh, well, actually it’s just something that, you know, I practiced veterinarian medicine for twenty-five years. And, you know, that’s just one of the things I’ve learned. I’ve been learning forever from animals. I just have a connection with them. And what I’ve learned from the four-legged phenomena I have able to transfer to those that walk on their hind legs, mainly human beings. So somebody asked me once, you know, what do I do. The name of our consulting company--do you know what the name of our consulting company is John?
Hanley: Yes, I do.
Tanzer: Ok. Shall we mention it?
Tanzer: Ok. It’s called Killer Dog Consulting. Now, that’s a weird name for a consulting firm, isn’t it?
Hanley: It’s definitely unique.
Tanzer: Yes. And we have a Jack Russell terrier which my wife refers to as our Jack Russell terrorist because she is nuts. But, you know, when we were naming the company, we didn’t want to get serious because I don’t think very much in life is serious. So we decided to name the dog…name the company after the dog. So we named it Killer Dog Consulting. And our first business card--you know, this goes back some years—our first business card had a picture of KD, the little Jack Russell sitting in an attaché case. It got to a point where we started getting involved with some rather imposing Fortune 500 clientele and it’s kind of difficult to hand them a card when you walk into the boardroom with KD’s picture on it, etc. etc. So we went underground, and are now known as KDC & Associates.
But mainly, if people ask what it’s about, I would recount something that happened to me when I was traveling, oh, several winters ago coming across the country, and we got…landed in Chicago, weathered in in Chicago. And I was in the Admirals Club and there are two lines of people waiting to get their reservation fixed and not a very pleasant energy that’s there. I come up to my turn and everybody’s just waiting and being as patient and some being inpatient as the situation seemed to generate the frustration of not being where they wanted to be. I looked up and I handed her some paperwork or my tickets or what have you and she asked me for a credit card for something. On the credit card it says, the name on the credit is Dr. Herb Tanzer, Killer Dog Consulting. And she looked at it and said, “Hum, Killer Dog Consulting. That’s a very unusual name for a company. What kind of a doctor are you?” And I said, “Well, what do you think?” And the first thing she, you know, she got to the point, “Oh, are you a veterinarian?” “Yes.” “Oh, do you train attack dogs, one of those?” I said, “No, no, no. What I did is I travel around the world. I don’t practice veterinarian medical anymore. I travel around the world trying to train people in organizations to be as nice as dogs.” And she looked at me. I said, “Yeah, wouldn’t it be great while I was standing here in line and my turn came up, instead of saying, good morning, I’m Dr. Tanzer, I just went (licking sounds) and licked you?” And it was like, you know, people were listening on either side of me on the other lines. What is this weird conversation? And when I said that you could just feel the whole space shift, you know, the energy shifted. People got for a brief moment that it ain’t serious. You get the point?
Hanley: Yeah, I think so.
Tanzer: For a long time when I was involved in the personal transformation world, the message was there was no purpose. Life was empty, meaningless. People, of course, want to use that. They go, “Oh, well, if it doesn’t mean anything, then why should I x?” So they take the thing that life is empty and meaningless and assign a meaning to it, as many people will do with religious stuff. And of course the god goes out of the religion. And the value goes out of finding out that there is no inherent purpose in anything. But then what do you do then? So I realized that really what I do since I’ve got to do something to keep me off the street is in all of this there’s empty and meaninglessness that I’m living in, I make things matter. So when you make things matter, now you’re in motion. You’re leaning towards something. You’re engaged in the game. And then I have a choice on how I want to play the game. So I can play the game at the level of acceptance, or, oh, god, I don’t like this very much. But this is what there is to do right now. And that kind of lightens things up for me. Or I can play it at the level of being just totally joyful and enjoying my life. And really what that comes from that I’ve discovered as I’ve gotten a little older is nothing out there is going to provide joy for me. Nothing makes me happy. And I train people that I coach that way. There’s no reason to be happy. And they look at you like you’re nuts until I go, “Well, that’s the bad news and the good news because if there’s no reason to be happy, you can be happy for no reason.” So I’m not waiting for anything to make me joyful.
Hanley: So do you believe in this whole point that it’s empty and meaningless that it’s empty and meaningless?
Tanzer: Yes. Yes. So there’s no inherent meaning in anything because if you and I are really connected, there’s only one energy which is the way it occurs for me most of the time. There’s no separate me. The only meanings come from a separate me who makes things mean something. Now, I can do that, you know. Look, when I’m driving in my car, I play by the rules because it just works to go down one-way streets the way the sign is pointing. But it doesn’t mean anything, but I make it matter in order to play in the game called drive my car. And the same way with doing business or anything, I play by the rules. I don’t resist them. I don’t need anything. Mostly the way people are living in this supposed transformed way of being is most people then make that another egoist phenomenon only now they’re being transformed, you know, but that’s being something. If you just said I am and stop right there anything that comes after that you’re going to put in form. And then what happens, this spirit or this universal intelligence or this consciousness which gives rise to the form, gets lost in the form, descends into the form, and becomes consciousness we get unconscious about. So we’re a bunch of forms, a Herb form, and a John form, with a spirit buried inside us, an energy buried inside us, a connectedness buried inside us, a godliness buried inside us, if you wish. And we have forgotten. So it’s you’re trying to survive against me trying to survive or all of that silly game.
I just got back from doing some coaching work on a 65 foot sailboat sailing around the Hawaiian Islands for six days. Oh, god, there were four of us on this incredible J-65.
Sailing around the magnificent splendor of the Hawaiian Islands, I came back very altered because you smell the flowers blossoming and the fragrances overwhelming. And it has no survival value. But it does put me in touch with the ability, that inner ability, to appreciate the magnificence and beauty of a flower. And then you sail around from island to island and go swimming in waterfalls and, oh, it’s so magnificent that you get back in touch with the spirit that gave rise to the form. So there’s a whole other wave coming, John, as I see it. There was initially in evolutionary process this consciousness gave rise to form. And then the consciousness got lost in the form. And the form thought it was about the form. And now, there’s people waking up again. And they start to infuse this form with a whole other level of consciousness. It’s like there’s a whole part of our brain that’s going to get to be used which has been developed, you know, the forebrain that we haven’t fully inhabited. I think that’s what’s going on these days. There’s much more of a hunger for people, you know, looking for this phenomenon beyond transformation. Mostly I’m not doing transformation these days. For me, transformation is just that. It’s altering the form. It’s moving the piece called John or Herb around in the form we’re playing in. But there’s still a John or a Herb. What I’m interested in is the phenomenon called liberation which actually gets you to vertically ascend out of this phenomenon that we’re living in called life into a place called liberation. And then there’s no you left. There’s just the totality of it all. It’s like returning home to being one with it all, etc, etc, all that good stuff. But you get a sense of what I’m saying?
Hanley: Yeah. Very exciting.
Tanzer: For a log time I thought it was the information that I had to transfer that made the difference until I realized there are times I said it wrong and it still worked. You’ve had that happen, right?
Hanley: Oh, yeah.
Tanzer: I think what’s so is the way I look at it, it’s like if you took a banana, John. Let’s assume I was working with you, and you’re this transformed being, ok. So, you’ve got to get a certain level of consciousness before we can move you out of this Johnness, so to speak. But if we took this John that was transformed enough so that we could look at who is this John, and we could get you to put your business card away, then something more powerful opens up. You know what I’m saying?
Tanzer: And then I spoke to you with my language, with my conversation, and I transmitted or transferred a particular type of information on one side of you. Let’s assume you were like this banana, ok. And on the other side I transferred a particular energy while I was being with you and that pressed against the other side. The two of those things pressing together kind of vertically squeezes on you and you ascend into this vertical ascendant place called being, this sense of just pure energy of who you are connected to it all. That is this, when you’re working in that place, and I know you’ve experienced it because we’ve been on platforms together dealing with groups where you’re so turned on you don’t ever want to be anywhere else or do anything else. You’re not looking for anything to make you joyful because what you’re doing is just expressing your true self, this universal energy connected with it all. When you’re in that place that is the third way of being that goes beyond joyfulness into enthusiasm. And I know when you’re that way and I’m that way there’s an intensity about us that may look like we’re stretched or something. No. It’s just we’re so turned on that we want more, more, more, more. That is the state of just choosing where you are moment by moment and knowing it’s all just going in a particular direction that I mostly can’t see unless I’m ascended beyond this transformation into this liberated space where I had kind of an accelerated awareness so I can look down from that place of altitude, so to speak, and see how Herb is functioning in this stuff called life. At that particular moment I can really become aware of the flow of things, get connected to the flow, appreciate the flow, get into the flow and interact with the flow of things and people in the universe, going with it. And that puts me in the mode of acceptance and I’m right on up the scale into this enthusiasm which means theos or god. I experience the godliness within me.
For me, god is totality of it all, that we are all connected in the matrix, so to speak. I’m actually working with some great companies that are up to making a difference in terms of sustainable energy and working with some individuals that are all different walks of life, with teenagers that are producing miracles. I have one guy that’s just finishing his first year of college, and is kind of eighteen and thinking, “What’s the big deal going to college?”- not very excited. He just finished with straight As. I coached him throughout his first year and iIt was like going to college all over again. We created a purpose for him. And his purpose was for his first year was to have fun and produce results. Now, you remember how you and I went to school? It was produce results and have fun if you’ve got any time left over.
Tanzer: No. The way we did it this way, have fun. And you have fun by producing results as long as your results make a difference in the world. So this kid is doing exactly what he wants. He’s a computer nut. He’s learning how to do animations and stuff while he’s going to college, turned on. So what I actually am doing with people is having them express their magnificence which is kind of buried in all of this unworthiness that human beings seem to get attached to. But as soon as you can see you’re not your unworthiness, you may have thoughts about it, but there gets to be a little space around the story and the stories kind of disappear. More and more I’m realizing that happiness and sadness are just emotions. In order to produce happiness it has to be attached to the story. I’m having people more and more these days see their stories so that they can get enough altitude so that they can look down and see how they’re playing in the story. And then I have a whole bunch of what I call transformational tools that are in a transformational toolbox that allow people to alter their moods in nothing flat to actually get ready to participate to change thoughts or to give up their attachment to negative thoughts. I like giving people tools so that they can apply this. Then the most important thing is that it ends up really altering how people are playing in the game.
Hanley: Excellent. Well, I want to take you back to your dog here for a moment.
Hanley: Why do you think it is that the dog is different from the human? Somehow they’re not making life significant? Is that the major distinction?
Tanzer: Well, I think for example the way they’re organized they don’t have a sense of time for the most part. If you walk out and you forget your keys and you come back, the dog gives you a greeting like you’ve been gone for three months. And you’ve been gone for sixty seconds. You get what I’m saying?
Tanzer: Now, I don’t think the dog has a future, therefore no stress.
Hanley: Why do you think that happened?
Tanzer: Because I think we’re trained, we’re trained to have a future. We got lost in this. It goes back to, at least in this lifetime, that everything was wonderful. You were living in paradise, weightless, you know, timeless. There was no rush. You wanted to take a bathroom break, you just did wherever you were. You were living with food coming in, waste matter going out, everything just extraordinary, quiet, peaceful, and then suddenly, womp, after nine months of bliss, womb service got canceled and you got squeezed out. I think your natural conclusion when you came out is there’s something wrong here. Why did she get rid of me? Why did source dump me out? I think the natural conclusion at least at an energetic level was there must be something wrong with me. Ok?
Tanzer: And I think that’s what we come in with. And then it’s how we become. And then we either suffer and prove there’s something wrong with me and have that kind of life. Or we achieve, achieve, achieve, and yet it’s never enough. We got lost in this mind.
Hanley: Now, presumably the animal goes through a similar birth process.
Hanley: So somehow they’re not getting caught up in the same story. Is it a function of biology, you know, brain size? If you had to say, speculate, what do you think is?
Tanzer: I think it’s just they don’t have the organization in their nervous system to do assessments the way we do. They just don’t have the complexity to make the elaborate stories that you and I do. They’re mostly stimulus response mechanisms. My wife Elizabeth never had a dog until I brought KD home seventeen years ago. And incidentally my dog is seventeen and a half, going strong, you know, and just amazing to watch her. Elizabeth never knew about dogs so when she got KD she thought all dogs were loving like KD. So we’d go to Starbucks and she wants to put her face right in the dog’s face and give it kisses. And I go, wait, stop, stop, you know, because I looked at the dog’s face and I can read energetically what’s in this dog. And I can tell if he’s frightened he may just bite as a reflex like if you put…you know what reflexes are?
Tanzer: Automatic. There’s not much thinking. Or there may be some primitive thinking. And it will attack. And so there are no nasty dogs. There are just trained dogs. And mostly they get trained…we train them.
Hanley: Now, one hears about research with say dolphins and chimps and so on. Do you think they approach our, I don’t know if it’s intelligence or just our way of life?
Tanzer: You know, the truth is, the answer is I don’t know. I remember when I lived in Connecticut years ago, I kept some bees. Ok?
Hanley: Yeah. Bees.
Tanzer: I got all in, very much into the whole thing. Do you have any idea of the folklore associated with bees?
Tanzer: Oh, people ascribe intelligence to bees like you wouldn’t believe. I mean, it’s just amazing all of this folklore that exists about how bees interact and their intelligence and what they’re doing, and the curative powers of honey, or propolis or all of that stuff. About bee stings, they’re people who think there’s value. Now, bee venom is about as potent as rattlesnake venom--I don’t know if you know that--except it’s at very small quantities. Now, bees are very fascinating to watch as a culture, you know. There’s a magnificent division of labor. The queen does her job. She just lays, you know, two thousand eggs a day. Then the worker bees, the females, they go out and they get the nectar and the pollen and everything, and they come back. And then there are other bees that take the nectar and the pollen and they put a little in each cell. And then there are wax makers that fill the wax cells. And then there are nurse bees that help them. After twenty-one days the bees start to chew their way out of the thing. And then the nurse bees come along and clean their eyes off and get them ready. And then there are bees that do nothing but glue things down with propolis all day. And then there are guard bees which stand and guard the entrance and don’t let wasps in. And then there are bees fan air through the porch, sit at the front porch and fan like they’re air conditioners. They evaporate and concentrate the honey. And if there are too many nurse bees, they will shift and become wax makers or wax makers will become workers and da, da, da, da. There’s an amazing division of labor and it just shifts depending upon what the culture needs for its survival. You know what the males do? The males are called drones. They have no stinger. They don’t go out and work. All the do is to mate with the queen once a year. One of them mates with the queen so she’s now laying fertile eggs. And then they keep them around until the season is over and then they throw just about all of them out. And the males die out in the cold except for a few that they kept for next season. So, you know, it’s the real life of a gigolo. It’s so fascinating. All of these beliefs about bees you could really go bananas about if you believe them. So people believe a lot of things. And they ascribe a lot of meanings and belief to animals. They anthropomorphize all over the place. And I love watching Flipper, etc. etc. And I know they use the, you know, they use them to recover deep water mines and stuff. If you read the, what is it, the Space Traveler’s Guide to the Universe, then you would, of course, be of the belief that the dolphins were highly superior in intelligence to us and said thanks for all the fish and so long and left the planet. Just kidding.
Hanley: So who knows?
Tanzer: It depends upon whether you’re a hippie or a serious scientist.
Hanley: Now, chimps and humans, the genetic similarity is what, like 98% or something.
Let’s just look at with primates. The higher gorillas and the chimps they do seem to demonstrate a lot of qualities. Could it be something as, like, I’ve heard they just don’t have a developed larynx, you know, something like that, and so therefore they just can’t develop a very highly developed language with all kinds of symbols because they don’t have this ability to talk like we do?
Tanzer: Ok. Well, I think that may be. If you get into the biblical aspect, god gave man dominion over all the other animals that came upon the ark. And maybe the dominium was language. Maybe without language you can’t have a future, therefore you don’t have stress. Unless you live in a culture where you start to “osmos” energetically the stress from the human population you’re living with.
You osmos it. You take on the energy, the pain, the worry, the stress of the human family that you are immersed in as the dog or the pet.
Hanley: Oh. So they can sometimes do that?
Tanzer: Absolutely. When I was in practice I would take a look at the animal on the table and knew what I was dealing with standing on the other side of the table, whether they were trusting or mistrusting or nice. You know what I’m saying? And vice versa, I could look at the person and know what they expect from the dog. I grew up in an environment when I was a kid where we had enough, John. Only I remember my parents doing the budget on Sunday night when I was six years old and I could hear them arguing. And my dad would say, “Bella, where’s the money for the rent I owe? We’ve got rent coming on.” She said, “Well, I had to buy shoes for my brother Marty, blah, blah.” Oh, my god, I was scared to death. But the truth is we had enough, John. My wife, Elizabeth, grew up in a family where they didn’t have enough. Her father was a problem, couldn’t earn a living. But you know what, her mother was a very devout Christian and kept saying to Elizabeth, “Don’t worry; god will take care of us.” So she grew up with an abundance conversation. Now when we got together, I tried to enroll her in my scarcity conversation. She wouldn’t enroll. I enrolled in her abundance conversation. Guess what I have, John?
Tanzer: That’s the question of what you’re choosing, but you’ve got to be conscious as to what you’re enrolling in. What’s the conversation you’re going to live in? And you and I because we have consciousness available at this level, can see how we’re acting. The dog doesn’t have that kind of consciousness where he can…see dogs don’t…you see if I punch you in the nose, I will apologize and explain how come I did that, you know. A dog’s not going to apologize nor is he going to explain anything. It’s just pure mechanics.
Hanley: Now, how does this fit into the title of your book?
Tanzer: You mean about Your Dog Isn’t Sick?
Tanzer: Yeah. So all disease, all disease, all disease begins in the mind.
Hanley: Ok. I’m with you.
Tanzer: Ok. So therefore…I’m going through some interesting stuff with my dog right now, scratching herself to pieces, biting, chewing, carrying on, disgusting. Ok, you ever have a dog do that?
Hanley: I haven’t been around a lot of dogs.
Tanzer: Ok. Well, you know, if anybody is reading this who’s got dogs, chances are a lot of them are going, “Yeah, my dog too, does the same thing, especially during the summertime.” Ok. When I was in practice in the summertime on the East Coast probably about 50% plus of the patients I saw during the summer months were from dogs mutilating themselves, biting, chewing, raw spots. It was called hot spots, allergic dermatitis, you know. And look I went to Cornell, you know, graduated, you know, with honors and that great stuff. I knew all that stuff, and treated and blah, blah, blah. Only, you know what, John? I knew there was something more involved than simply organism A causes disease B which, you know, you treat with Preparation H. But I didn’t know what the hell it was until I started getting into the whole business of how the mind works and transformational stuff. And holy mackerel, I saw what the heck was going on. So common skin disease, allergic dermatitis, flea bite and, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah. Now, in the summertime, yeah, a dog may have fleas and stuff. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about my dog doesn’t have fleas on her yet she’s sawing away at herself especially around the backside. Ok?
Tanzer: So here’s what goes on with that one. That’s a common disease. If you called up any veterinary hospital in San Francisco right now and ask how many patients they have treated in the past 24 hours with dermatological problems, you would be shocked.
Hanley: Go ahead.
Tanzer: Ok. Now, and it’s very seasonal. It gets worse in the summertime and almost abets in the winter. Ok?
Tanzer: So here’s what happens. What I realized is holy smoke, the problem with this dog is she was born. That’s why this condition is so common in the dog population because they’ve all shared the same experience of being born. Now, what am I talking about? Well, have you ever seen a puppy born?
Tanzer: Well, do you know what happens when a puppy gets born? It comes popping out. And what does the mother dog do?
Hanley: Licks them.
Tanzer: Yes. The first thing she does is licks the dog all over, chews off the umbilical cord and then licks the dog especially around its backside and its genitalia. Ok?
Tanzer: So the dog’s first experience, the puppy’s first experience in this lifetime involves going from an environment which was very secure and safe, suddenly got detached from source, fired down this tube. Didn’t know where it was going. It was painful. Got squeezed out like toothpaste and finally made it out and survived. Whew. What’s the first thing that happened to it?
Hanley: It got licked.
Tanzer: It got licked all over by a dog’s tongue, right? So its first experience on this planet involves fear of surviving, and then surviving, and then having a dog’s tongue lick it all over. And that gets stored in this phenomenon called the mind, ok, which is really a storehouse of experiences. And that we can say is number one in this lifetime. It could also have been stored in a previous lifetime and inherited in the genetic numbers. Ok. But in any case we got that. And we’ll start with day one this lifetime: fear of survival, then surviving, having a dog’s tongue lick it all over, especially around its backside. Then the dog nurses. What happens while the dog is nursing? What’s the mother dog doing?
Hanley: Not sure.
Tanzer: Licking it.
Tanzer: Licking it around its backside. It’s cleaning up any excreta so that it won’t…that’s a throwback to when they were wild animals so that they wouldn’t attract predators with the odor. They would ingest the puppy’s excreta and stimulate the puppy while they licked to have a BM and urinate, etc, etc. So the dog’s experiences now, its first experience about fear of survival, and surviving, having a dog’s tongue lick it all over, and now while it’s nursing and getting more of what it needs to survive, its now getting the dog’s tongue licking it all over. Then dog gets to be eight, nine weeks of age, or seven to eight weeks, and it gets wrenched out of its familiar environment and sent to John’s house. Ok?
Tanzer: And it says, “Oh, I love John,” you know and you replace the mother. You give it its food. You give it its water. You give it its acknowledgement, physical contact, your whole being. You got the picture?
Hanley: And then it wants to lick me.
Tanzer: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Because it takes a licking from home. But then you have the audacity to leave the house and go to work. The people the dog could depend on our gone. They’ve gone to school or to work. And the dog says, “Oh, my god, I’m not going to survive.” Fear of surviving comes up and wanting to survive, the dog programs those things into his computer and what gets selected is a tape called a dog’s tongue licking me all over especially around my backside. The dog takes the first available dog’s tongue which it can find which is his own and starts licking at this backside. And since its doing it to survive, it licks and licks and licks. And since it has a rough tongue it now has raw spot on his backside, and it gets worse and worse and worse. And then you come home. And the dog comes over to greet you, is so happy, and turns and shows you its backside. And you go, “Oh, my god, what is that?” And you start fingering it, looking, parting the hair. And the dog goes, “ha, ha, ha, ha. I picked the tape. That is in fact the way to survive.” You see how the game is off and running?
Tanzer: Well, now, you know, you’ve got to do something about this. So you go to the doctor. What does the veterinarian do in this game? He’s got to do what he does for survival. He has to put a name on it. So he says, “This here dog has a severe case of Eucalyptus of the blow hole. And I want you to rub this bite cream on his backside three times a day. So John is now coming home at lunchtime to put this white stuff on the dog’s backside. You think this dog is getting more and more trained that the way to John’s heart is through raw spots on his backside? He’s going to give it up?
Tanzer: No. But now, you know what? You must find a specialist, or you go back to the veterinarian. “It’s not helping.” And he says, “Well, we’re going to have to give the dog the magic injection.” And he gives him an injection. And the dog stops scratching dead in his tracks for two weeks. Drinks more water and urinates more. He’s bright and chipper and stops scratching. He has given him a long acting steroid which will allay the allergic response long enough for the itching to stop. And the dog will let the skin heal. He may put a collar around him so he can’t mutilate anymore. But the dog stops scratching. So you know he’s got the right diagnosis. Right?
Tanzer: No. Wrong. Here’s what’s really going on. The steroid produces a side effect, a feeling of euphoria. So the dog goes, “Ba boom, boom. Who the hell needs John anyway,” and gives up the survival pattern until the drug wears off, and boom, it’s right back again. Got the picture?
Tanzer: So we call that allergic dermatitis. And then you say, “Now, wait a minute. It’s only present in the summertime.” Why is it? Well, because in the summertime when the dog was born, he was wet and he was warm when he first came out. His survival was associated with being wet and warm. And what happened? A dog’s tongue licked him. Ok? In the summertime, how is it? Wet and warm. It reminds him unwittingly to go back to that tape called having a dog’s tongue lick him because when anything in your current environment is in anyway similar to an incident in the past, the whole thing will come in on you. And at that moment you are used by it, taken over by it. You have the disease. Got the picture?
Tanzer: I just got an email this morning. It says…it’s a woman that’s writing a book that I’m involved in. It says, “Additional chapter is on hold for the next week. On this past Wednesday I was diagnosed with chronic lymphatic leukemia. It’s extremely rare in someone my age, but helps to explain why I’ve been so susceptible to infections. This Tuesday I’ll have a bone marrow biopsy. And Wednesday or Thursday will begin treatment with chemotherapy. The short term prognosis is good. I’ve been told to expect to be terribly sick for the first week or so,” blah, blah, blah. This is, John, if it wasn’t so tragic it would be hysterically funny. This woman spends her whole life about being sick because she’s been sick and survived. So what’s the way to survive?
Hanley: Stay sick?
Tanzer: Got it. And you know what? She really is. Her body is doing what her mind says. What’s not present is consciousness. Now, consciousness is conscious of itself. But we are unconscious of consciousness. But consciousness has got lost in the mind. The being, the spirit got lost in the mind. And we think we’re this record and this form that is being run by it all until you get to wake up and go home. I’ve worked with some people who have had some pretty nasty diseases. One guy right now who is a veterinarian on the East Coast had a brain tumor diagnosed a year and a half ago right after he retired in Panama on 17 acres on an island that he bought. He couldn’t handle retirement. And after three months down there, his wife calls me. He’s in the hospital with convulsions. And they diagnose a brain tumor. And they couldn’t fly him back here to do surgery. They had to do it down there. They took one out on the outside of the brain, another one on the inside of the brain. I have spoken to this man every day for a year and a half. He went through the surgery. He got flown back here. He went into Yale. He had chemotherapy for a year and not one side effect because I just laughed with him. I’d call him. What they do is you go in every month or two and they poison you. And they recover you. So I’d call and say, “Hi, David, this is poison control calling to find out if you’re sufficiently close to death so we can try and save you.” He would get to hysterical laughing. They thought he was nuts. But this guy is cancer free. This is not the only person I’ve had those kinds of things happen with, John. If I can just get them to get beyond the thinking. See, this email I got this morning, this woman is her patterns. There’s no altitude there. Where her attention goes is where her energy goes. And she’s been sick her whole life. You know people like that, the way they survive.
Hanley: Well, we only have a little time left here. I want to cover some other basis. In the ‘80s you became a famous EST trainer.
Hanley: And I suppose you learned about the light side and the dark side of transformation and life itself. Looking back on it, how do you contextualize that experience?
Tanzer: Oh, my, that’s a tough one. Let’s put it this way. In looking back, in hindsight, there are things I would change. I think could have made life a little easier for a lot of people including everybody involved in the game. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world, John. The time I spent doing public transformation work, you know, with EST and some time with the Lifespring trainers was one of the most exciting, amazing times of my life. And the gift that people gave me by allowing me to be as intimate with them as they did it just altered my life. It was like smelling the beautiful flowers that returned me to this spirit within me. It was a great gift. And I’m, you know, I’m very thankful to have had the opportunity to play at that level with people.
Hanley: How did you deal with the whole submission to the organization kind of mentality?
Tanzer: I was so committed to making a difference that that’s what I kept my eye on. I kept my eye on that seam on the ball and was not focused on having enough.
I was focused on making a difference, having fun, and making a living. And I was earning a living. I had been a success in the world before I became a trainer so I wasn’t doing trainer in order to anything. You get what I’m saying?
Tanzer: But I was just playing the game full out. I was in because I chose to be, John. And therefore there was no suffering. So acceptance is a really a choice. I knew I was right where I had chosen to be. And I was very thankful for it. And I loved what I was doing.
Tanzer: There are several things I would change. But hindsight’s always 20/20. But if I had to live my life over again, I would do it again. I would choose that one.
Hanley: That’s a hell of an experience.
Tanzer: Absolutely. We had more fun. You know, when I think of some of the advanced work that we did, John, what a gift people gave us letting us in at that level.
Tanzer: No kidding. And we got to see what jerks we were.
Hanley: Well, it’s a great school for us, absolutely.
Tanzer: No kidding. Now, what do they say about you teach what you need to learn. Boy, have we been in an intense program.
Hanley: Exactly. Now, I want to ask you, I guess, philosophically here, one of the main things I’ve been teaching for a long time is this idea that life itself because we live in time, is going to involve a certain degree of pain and suffering.
Hanley: And there’s actually great joy in surrendering to that and even celebrating it.
Hanley: Rather than trying to, you know, always avoid it or make it go away.
Hanley: So what do you think of that? And especially in relation to your spiritual work which sometimes sounds like transcending that.
Tanzer: Yes. So the Buddha said a long time ago, people are suffering because of three things essentially. One, they don’t accept impermanence; two, they think there’s a separate self; and three, they think there’s a heaven to get to. So pretty much these days for the most part, I don’t feel much like a lot of Herb here. There’s a form called Herb. I’ve been sailing since I was, you know in my teens. And I’m seventy-four. And I’m a good sailor. I know how to be on a boat. And we’re on this boat recently. There were four of us. There was the captain. There was a forty year old guy. The guy who owns the boat is sixty-two and in very good shape. And another guy who is a coastguard auxiliary enthusiast. And we all knew how to sail and I just sat there and said, “You know what, I’m not going to chase around this boat and hauling sheets and pulling on ropes. They don’t want me here to show my physical prowess. I’m just going hang and once in a while I’ll say something that’s intelligent. And we had a blast. If I had to go zipping around and up to the bow to untangle something that was caught on a cleat or something, I would do it. But that wasn’t what I was there for. I realized as I get older, we have a tendency to treat elderly people like useless. You know what I’m saying? In this culture. But I realize, no. I don’t have to do the physical stuff quite so much anymore. Look, I want to. But I’ve got this wisdom if you will that I can bring to the party merely by having made seventy-four years of mistakes. So I can coach people, that is to share my experience that may create some new openings for action, or new freedoms to be in the same kind of circumstances that I may have already walked through.
Tanzer: So that’s pretty much what I do
And therefore I’m not suffering, John, because you know what, here’s what’s so. I’ve actually accepted dying. And it’s really amazing. I’m not intent on doing that. I’m having too much fun living. But I know that I’m not going anywhere. This form will go. You know, I may end up in your garden. But energetically I ain’t going anywhere. I don’t what’s next. But I just don’t have any fear. I suspect dying is like letting go of the fierce struggle to maintain the viability of this form. It may be an incredible sense of freedom or relief when you return to the totality of the energy, the universal intelligence, the consciousness that gave rise to this form. You know, the fall from grace was when we thought we were John or Herb.
Hanley: But how do you connect that with, for example, I’m sure, well, I know, that you have very let’s say, for example deep love for your wife.
Hanley: And so that I think involves some, well, a certain degree of vulnerability there and, you know, you love her so much and yet you know it won’t last forever.
Hanley: Doesn’t that actually add to the intensity of the love? Whereas if you always focus on well, I’m not this ego thing, that would dissipate it. I mean, if you dissipate the pain, don’t you dissipate the love too?
Tanzer: No. So I don’t dissipate. No. It’s more free. I’m free for the love even more.
Hanley: Talk about that.
Tanzer: Well, so first off, forget about my wife. What about I’m going to lose this thing that’s talking now? And man, I don’t like the thought of that. I’m having too much fun. But what’s the alternative to playing full out? Would it be to try and conserve it? It’s going to go and the same with my relationship with my wife. Every once in a while, I get really sad at the thought about my dying. You know what I get sad about? That she is going to be left without me. And how sad she’ll be because we have so much fun together. But then I get over that and say, she’ll find somebody else or do something else. Maybe she’ll get another dog. So when we got married, given that there’s eighteen years difference, that I’m eighteen years older than her, I have a friend of mine who’s a physician said he’s a little concerned about the difference in our age could be dangerous. And I said, “Look I’ve thought about it. I got what you’re saying. And here’s what I’ve come up with, you know. If she dies, she dies.”
Hanley: You’ll live somehow.
Tanzer: But the truth is, do you get what I’m saying, so I will love her freely and use up every moment of being here playing full out because I don’t know much else how to play. There are times I will say, “I’m going to be a slug today.”
Tanzer: Yeah. And very often on Mondays. I don’t like working on Mondays because when I was a kid on Mondays you had to go back to school. And as I’ve gotten into my seventies, I’ve essentially declared Mondays a holiday.
Hanley: That’s cool.
Tanzer: Isn’t that good. Like today, I had a seven o’clock call because I couldn’t resist. But, I’m screwing off. That’s why I had Monday available to talk with you.
Hanley: Cool. Alright, well, now last thing here. I don’t know how much you do it now, but I know for a while you were very much into surfing.
Tanzer: Yes. I still surf. And I work out five to seven days a week for about an hour. I do a half hour of aerobics and some light machine work for I would say 20 minutes.
Hanley: So there you are. You’ve just caught a wave. You’re on this surfboard. And you’re headed towards the beach, what is Herb Tanzer experiencing?
Tanzer: Flying. It feels like flying. Like I’m balancing on this absurd thing that’s zipping over the waves, and I can see down on the bottom the reef and vegetation and when the water’s clear, it’s just the best. And then I get knocked on my ass.
Hanley: A perfect ending, huh?
Tanzer: That’s the way it ends. I started enjoying surfing when I realized it always ends with falling. So I started to create really inspiring ways of falling. And then I wasn’t surfing resisting falling anymore. And it got to be fun.
Hanley: I think that’s an awesome metaphor for life.
Tanzer: Ain’t it the truth. And what they used to do is just let the good times roll. So I keep saying to myself, it ain’t serious. It just isn’t serious. That doesn’t mean I don’t get intense. But that’s choicefully, cognitively. But it ain’t serious. You know, you and I, you’re a couple of years younger than I am, John, but you’ve made some mistakes in your life, yes?
Hanley: I’m sure I have. Yes.
Tanzer: And so have I. And you know what? You notice, here we are. So, life is a rip off if you expect to get what you want. Life works if you choose what you’ve got.
Hanley: George Harrison sang life goes on within you or without you.
Tanzer: That’s right. And here’s the best part of it, John. You can lose what you have. But you cannot lose who you are. Therefore there’s nothing to worry about.
Hanley: Well, with that I think we’ll bring the interview to a close.
Tanzer: Sounds good, John.