While on an art/writing residency at Marble House Project this summer, I was interviewed for the show Listening Shires, hosted by composer/conductor Thomas Lawrence Toscano. I spoke about my art practice and living the creative life, also about art as psychospiritual medicine and the artist as outsider. The interview was shared with a wonderful artist, Simonetta Moro, but I have excerpted just my sections here. The full interview, including Simonetta's parts, may be accessed here.
September 5th, 2015
March 29th, 2013
Join some of the West's great adepts of Jhana, Concentration Meditation Practice. Jhana is an extraordinary human potential of the mind with deep and lasting rewards of peace, freedom, clarity, agility . . . and mastery. However, Jhana is especially exquisite in its preparatory role in the life of a meditator, bringing about capacities and factors of mind that prepare us for insight knowledge; direct, unshakeable experiential knowledge of the nature of reality.
Our jhana teachers and guides are, in order of their photographs, above:
Shaila Catherine, who has been practicing meditation since 1980, with more than eight years of accumulated silent retreat experience. She has taught since 1996 in the USA, and internationally. Shaila has dedicated several years to studying with masters in India, Nepal and Thailand. Shaila Catherine has practiced under the guidance of Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw since 2006. She is author of Focused and Fearless: A Meditator’s Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity and Wisdom Wide and Deep: A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhana and Vipassana. Shaila Catherine founded Insight Meditation South Bay, a Buddhist meditation center in Silicon Valley (www.imsb.org). Click here for Shaila's schedule of retreats.
Leigh Brasington, a former computer programmer and now teacher of Jhana retreats, is currently at work on his first book, the working title of which is The Buddha's Jhanas. Click here for Leigh's resume and find all his resources and his retreat schedule at his website leighb.com
Dr. Judson Brewer, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine and Medical Director of the Yale Therapeutic Neuroscience Clinic, is a board-certified psychiatrist who has been investigating the neural underpinnings of Mindfulness Training and its clinical efficacy for disorders such as addictions. Dr. Brewer received his AB from Princeton University and MD/PhD from Washington University in St. Louis. After training in mindfulness meditation during medical and graduate school, he shifted his focus from animal models of stress, to the elucidation of neurobiological mechanisms underlying the interface between stress, mindfulness and the addictive process.
Tina Rasmussen, PhD, learned to meditate in 1976, at the age of 13. In 2003, she completed a year-long silent solo retreat. In 2005 she was ordained as a Theravadan Buddhist nun by Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw of Burma who later authorized her to teach. Tina is the co-author of Practicing the Jhanas (with Stephen Snyder). She has worked as a professional coach and OD consultant for more than 25 years. She completed her Ph.D. in 1995, and has authored several published books on humanistic business practices.
Stephen Snyder, JD, began practicing Buddhist meditation in 1976, and has had a daily meditation practice since. He practiced for 20 years with several Western Zen masters, participating in more than 50 retreats and receiving several ordinations. In 2005, he completed a retreat with Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw of Burma, who later authorized him to teach. Stephen is the co-author of the book Practicing the Jhanas (with Tina Rasmussen). Stephen has been a practicing lawyer and mediator since 1987.
Tina and Stephen are a married couple, and offer teaching and retreats to students worldwide. For more information about them, please visit their website at www.JhanasAdvice.com.
June 22nd, 2012
Image: As Above #4 ©Jari Chevalier
Are you experienced? Sharing this personal essay about tripping as a teenager, which came out in Reality Sandwich this week. Bring back any memories for you? Thoughts? I wish to engage in dialogue with people about transcendent personal experiences. I find people are shy to speak of such things. But please do speak of them anyway! Read it here http://www.realitysandwich.com/codes_my_kin
Comment here or on the Reality Sandwich site.
October 1st, 2010
Several hundred people gathered for the 4th annual Horizons: Perspectives on Psychedelics conference at the Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square South on September 24-26.
This conference surveys the current research and social issues in the field of psychedelics. Readings by John Perry Barlow from Birth of a Psychedelic Culture and Don Lattin, author of The Harvard Psychedelic Club, provided historical context and Cosmo D set the atmosphere with a performance of textured cello improvisation over original electronic rhythms to open the weekend.
Why has psychedelic research been discriminated against in academia? Dr. Torsten Passie took us through the reasons. He showed slides of tribal people lying back all together with their eyes closed: not very productive! A Western capitalist worldview, which requires relations with nature to be utilitarian and depth of feeling to be kept private is not likely to embrace the potential value of trance states, the sharing of dreams, or the hallucinogenic experience.
Furthermore, ecstatic experience through psychedelics can engender direct, unmediated experience of the divine in oneself and in all of nature. This does not comport particularly well with the teachings of the Christian church, which holds forth that each and every one of us needs Jesus Christ to mediate our salvation.
Psychedelics deconceptualize and deconstruct entrenched value systems and, therefore, authority over truth is destabilized. So let's add that those who socially engineer and control populations don’t much care for that sort of thing. It becomes a real problem for those in power when people tap into a larger, more satisfying and holistic sense of reality, endemic to their own true natures, accessed intuitively.
Dr. Passie does not expect interest in psychedelics to spread beyond a small, secret society in the foreseeable future.
Dr. Jeffrey Guss, who heads up a current study at NYU on psychedelics in the reduction of cancer anxiety with very positive psychospiritual results, agrees with Dr. Passie that psychedelics will not become mainstream in society and he doesn’t believe that they should, that they are not for everyone.
But, standing in disagreement with these men on this point is independent Manhattan and Sag Harbor-based psychologist in private practice, Neal Goldsmith, PhD. Along with organizer Kevin Balktic, Dr. Goldsmith facilitates the conference. His sense is that to move into an age beyond post-modernism, one integrating the Cartesian split, psychedelics may play an important role.
He speaks of his own transformation through psychedelic experiences and how it altered his personality theory and views on personal growth and change. He describes a step-wise developmental process with dramatic growth to a new level of development after periods on a plateau. In essence, he says the issue is not to change a pathology, but to form genuine trusting relationships through which his clients can re-identify with their core selves. The person you were born, before you “punted” to a compensatory Plan B, personality, to get by in early childhood, is who you really are. Healing is getting back to that core self.
He's seen that transformative developmental change takes a long time and is very difficult to sustain in this culture. A combination of transcendent and cathartic approaches are most effective, and in this, psychedelics can be catalysts to insight, although insight alone, he says, only goes so far.
The large-scale collective process of what he calls psyche-ology, the study and healing of soul, is really concerned now with successfully joining mechanistic, scientific and technological knowledge with the realities of human psychosocial needs.
Eric Davis, a current PhD candidate, author, speaker and radio host discussed inner and outer Cartesian dualities by way of a metaphor, a mobius strip on which the material at some point turns over into the spiritual, the secular into the sacred and vice versa, in a flow.
There is a hunger in our culture (with its resistance to all things mystical) for the ritual and ceremonial context in which the hallucinogen Ayahuasca is taken by tribal peoples from the rain forests of South America; and this is likely why Ayahuasca has become so popular in North America in recent years.
Davis also pointed to Roland Griffiths’ 2008 Johns Hopkins study which proved that the use of psychedelics gives rise to religious experience (“No shit, Sherlock,” he said, “we knew that!”) And so the open question is: what does a secular, materialistic research model do with this scientific confirmation? And does moving the psychedelic experience into the psychopharmaceutical, clinical environment of the lab, perhaps diminish its potential for healing self and society?
The scientific approach is valuable, Davis upholds, because of the nagging questions it prompts us to ask about the brain. For instance, if you’re going to coin terms like “neurotheology” as a way to account for the experience of God, then you must also account for déjà vu, clairvoyance, and many other experiences of the mind.
For scientists to be seriously engaged in psychedelic research they eventually must take the psychedelics themselves. And that could just stimulate changes in the scientific approach itself. We may find ourselves up against our culture’s addictions to limiting ideas.
Psychedelic use for the treatment of addiction was reported on by researchers Matthew Johnson and Mary Cosimano of Johns Hopkins University who are currently investigating psilocybin in the treatment of nicotine dependence.
Most striking was the presentation by Clare Wilkins, director of Pangea Biomedics in Tijuana, Mexico on the remarkable properties of Ibogaine, a hallucinogenic root from Gabon, Africa that reverses addictions to opiates; such as heroine and methadone, as well as to cocaine, methamphetamine, alcohol, nicotine, and all manner of addictive behaviors and neurotic thoughts.
Ninety-two percent of clients who enter the clinic leave free of their chemical dependency, and without any withdrawal symptoms. Eighteen percent are still living without their drug of choice after six months, and this is a remarkable liberation rate. The hallucinogen gives addicts a real chance at choice. While exactly how ibogaine works is still unknown, there is clearly repair to brain receptors and an adjustment in neurochemistry.
She describes Ibogaine as a “relationship interrupter,” accomplishing “shame washing, empowerment, and the reawakening of the body’s intelligence.” Ibogaine “enables you to look at your life and eliminate anything that is not serving you.” Self-harm becomes self-care. “You fall back in love with yourself, with others and with life. It brings love back into the equation.”
Several of the non-academic speakers praised visionary experience and its influence on art, music, fashion, film, eco-consciousness and the integration of Eastern and Western mysticism. Annie Oak spoke about her grant-making organization, the Women’s Visionary Congress, and how this multigenerational community of “psychedelic women” support one another in their ongoing catalytic work as artists, healers, activists and visionaries.
But some brought up the dark side and limitations of psychedelics. Associate producer of the annual Bioneers conference, J.P. Harpignies, reminded us that in the 60s many a psych-ward and hospital was packed with LSD casualties. And poet, Dale Pendell, while acknowledging that we have yet to complete the psychedelic revolution, that the Earth is in need of a deep and radical cure, also cautioned us to consider that psychedelics are not effective on narcissism. In fact, with their tendency to stimulate messianic fantasies in some people, psychedelics may have contributed to the rapid rise of Me-ism in society.
Jill Harris of the Drug Policy Alliance urged the Horizons audience to come out about their psychedelic experiences, to break the taboo and share stories. “They have been important to us; they have mattered.” Let’s be vocal about how transformative these drugs can be and about the fact that prohibition doesn’t work. At the 40th anniversary of the War on Drugs, “it’s time to set the exit strategy.”
Heading home through Washington Square park at twilight, the great stone arch with its bold, engraved quotation was all lit up:
“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God.”
Washington spoke those words to inspire his delegates to aim high in the writing of the Constitution of the United States. It was crafted, in this spirit, over the next 17 weeks.
And I thought, yes, here it is, the time Washington expected for the wise and honest to repair to those standards. And it will be, indeed, up to the wise and the honest to do the job.
“There are methods for changing social policies,” Neal Goldsmith tells us, “and we’ve got to power through, shoulder to the wheel, and do the work.”
©2010 Jari Chevalier
July 18th, 2010
Living Hero Gabor Maté, M.D. appeared on July 7th at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City to kick off a seven-part series of live events related to The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Dr. Ramon Prats, curator of the contemporaneous Bardo exhibition, conversed with Dr. Maté on stage and then invited questions from the audience.
Dr. Maté is author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction. He explained that the hungry ghost realm is a symbol for a state of being, part of the Wheel of Life, described in The Tibetan Book of the Dead. This is a state of unquenchable longing and craving, a state well-known to the addicts Dr. Maté treats in Vancouver, British Columbia’s downtown eastside.
Maté began by stating that 2500 years ago Buddhism presaged almost every discovery of contemporary neuroscience. For example, it has been scientifically corroborated that neurologically there is no abiding self to be found in body or brain. This is one of the central teachings of the Buddha. What we perceive as a continuity of self is but a stream of micro-second mind-states, which can be remembered; electrical information that follows patterns conditioned by former mind-states.
These brain circuits were fundamentally conditioned by our earliest experiences. Maté says that the “anti-infant North American ethic,” which permits a parent to just let their infant cry and cry to exhaustion, conditions that infant to become a human being resigned to a world that “just doesn’t give a damn.”
The addicts he works with have all been severely abused, and without exception all the women have been sexually abused. These people’s minds and brains have been deeply conditioned to expect to live in a hostile, dangerous, uncaring world.
Gabor Maté says there are two fallacies currently operating in the treatment of addicts in our society and that both of these fallacies erroneously take society off the hook of responsibility. The first one is the fallacy of choice, the idea that addicts choose to be addicts. They don't, he says, and the whole legal structure, the systems that punish them would have to come apart if you correct this fallacy.
And the second fallacy is the genetic disease fallacy. Addiction is not a result of genetic potentiality, but of the combination of nature and nurture, of genetic potential and the conditioning forces of the environment.
All of Dr. Maté’s various books underscore the importance of early attachment relationships in the formation of human lives. A healthy attachment in early life brings about a self-regulated, satisfied, and socially connected adult. In the abused child, these circuits don’t form properly and the person is then likely to replace those necessary healthy attachments with self-destructive ones.
The Buddha taught that habit energies wrestle the untrained mind. And so, strengthening the mind with the training of concentration, of self-observation, gives people an opportunity to perceive their own thinking-and-feeling processes and thereby realize that there’s more to us than our conditioning.
The consistent observation of one’s own mind can have the power to create new neural circuits that can override the conditioned patterns established in early experience. Based upon actual self-awareness, such mindfulness helps to create emotional balance, spiritual ease, and an increased capacity for self-regulation.
Dr. Maté reminded the audience that Christ had said: you can do everything I can do; and that Buddha nature and Christ nature are actually human potentials. What makes these potentials realizable is getting the conditioned mind and false attachments out of the way.
One of the questions posed by an audience member was about free will. “Freedom of choice is relative and it’s conditioned,” Maté said. What promotes free will? What liberates people? When it comes to individuals working on their own, what promotes choice is awareness; among people it is compassion. Stress hormones, on the other hand, interfere with our power of choice.
In the spirit of compassion, Dr. Maté acknowledged the difficulties people, especially Westerners, have in cultivating mindfulness. He confessed that he, himself, has not sustained a meditation practice and admitted that he is actually terrified of his own mind because of the traumas he endured as an infant.
Speaking further of Western culture, he referenced Sogyal Rinpoche, who wrote The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, based on the traditional Tibetan Book of the Dead. Sogyal Rinpoche says that Westerners, in general, have an active form of laziness, one in which they cram their minds so full of stimuli that there’s no time at all to confront their relationships.
Maté turned things around a bit and asked the audience a question, “What would you think if someone in your life kept on boasting: ‘I’m the greatest; I’m the most creative; everyone wants to be like me’? You’d think this person is really insecure! At the heart of the American dream there’s a terrible insecurity.”
Can we get over our vain insecurity? Both Dr. Prats and Dr. Maté spoke of how the term “rebirth,” found in Buddhist literature, refers to a process of recreating ourselves (our patterns of thought and perception) moment by moment. The Buddha taught humanity how to not rebirth that same pattern of self; how to free our minds; how to die without dying, to let the painful conditioning of our minds die back as our bodies live on, so that we may realize a liberated state and live out of our deeper nature.
How common it is to live without living. But to die without dying is rare.
December 4th, 2009
“Death costs a fortune, but life is free,” writes Living Hero Terry Riley, in a lyric for his composition Missy Gono. Riley is a true original, recognized worldwide for first bringing minimalist musical composition into circulation in 1964 with his now classic In C and thereby influencing a new generation of avant garde composers and acid rock bands. Dedicated to a life of deep listening, composition, and inspired performance, Terry joins us to share his insights into art, a healing spirit and life.
We talked about:
The inner experience of originality ● Terry’s Time Lag Accumulator ● Dipping into a sound current ● Music and altered states ● Creativity, discipline, spirit and nature ● Psychedelics and spiritual practice ● Our world and our path to healing ● Urban sound and sensitivity ● Raising kids in a creative household ● Terry's ongoing relationship with his works ● His creative influences ● Imagination as an aspect of intelligence ● Music as philosophy and a model of the world ● The story of Missy Gono ● 6500 pipes in the wee hours at Disney Hall
Enjoy the show! (The interview is about 40 minutes.)
Listen at your convenience!
Click through to buy some of Terry's CDs on Amazon right from this site in the sidebar to the left.
Visit Terry's website at terryriley.net
July 1st, 2009
Listen in on an illuminating conversation with science writer and author Jonah Lehrer as he shares insights on the work of eight historic creative geniuses and how contemporary neuroscience can lead us to more conscious and fulfilling lives. Lehrer is author of Proust Was a Neuroscientist and How We Decide and a frequent contributor to national magazines featuring his articles on what we're learning about the brain and how our minds work. He also hosts the highly regarded blog The Frontal Cortex.
We talked about:
Insight, intuition and introspection: roads to discovery ● Self Comes to Mind: collaborative work among artists and scientists ● Some common ground among cutting-edge creative artists ● Truth in fiction ● Metacognition and its pay-offs ● Getting better at the marshmallow task ● Making better decisions ● Asking the right questions of contemporary neuroscience ● The right side of our kindergarten report card ● Torturous moral dilemmas ● How to kill a rat with pleasure ● Some of Jonah's goals as an author
Enjoy the show! (The interview is about 46 minutes.)
Listen at your convenience!
Click through to buy Jonah's books on Amazon right from this site in the sidebar to the left.
November 1st, 2008
The Living Hero program presents an interview with celebrated neuroscientist, Dr. Richard Davidson. Dr. Davidson is a William James and Vilas Research Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He directs the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior where he conducts research on the short- and long-term effects of meditation practices on human emotion and the circuitry of the brain.
He holds a doctorate from Harvard University and has published more than 250 articles, chapters and reviews. The founding co-editor of the new American Psychological Association journal, EMOTION and he has also edited 13 books.
One of Dr. Davidson's most valuable findings is that happiness and compassion are trainable skills that can be developed, just as we can learn to play a musical instrument; that it is possible to train a mind to be happy and peaceful.
We talked about:
• What prompted Dr. Davidson's career path • Meditation as a path of transformation • The different forms of meditation • How meditation changes the brain • Meditation in health and in education • Long-term effects of meditation on brain function and gene expression • Meditation and Christianity • How to learn more about Dr. Davidson's work
Numerous honors and awards of distinction have come to Dr. Davidson, including the most distinguished award for science given by the American Psychological Association – the Scientific Contribution Award. He has also received the Research Scientist Award and the MERIT Award from the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH); and many other honors recognizing his groundbreaking contributions.
In 2003, Dr. Davidson was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2004, to the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. In 2006, he was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine.
Davidson maintains a close, collaborative relationship with Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, the world's best-known practitioner of Buddhist meditation. The Dalai Lama first invited Davidson to his home in Dharamsala, India, in 1992 after learning about Davidson's innovative research into the neuroscience of emotions. Dr. Davidson has had the opportunity to study the brains of many of the world’s most advanced meditation practitioners.
Visit these websites for more information:
Enjoy the show! (The interview is about 25 minutes)
Listen at your convenience!
October 1st, 2008
The Living Hero podcast welcomes our distinguished guest, clinical psychologist and bioenergetic analyst, Scott Baum, Ph.D.
Dr. Baum is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and a Diplomate in Clinical Psychology. He is also a certified Bioenergetic Therapist, and a member of the Faculty of The International Institute for Bioenergetic Analysis. He has been affiliated with the DiMele Center for Psychotherapy since 1994.
Scott Baum views psychotherapy as an experiential, problem solving process. He believes that the deepest, fullest, and most complex understanding of a person’s problem yields the best, most creative and enduring results.
We talked about:
• The premise that underlies bioenergetic analysis • A more refined view of stress • How human beings are biologically organized • What goes on in a bioenergetic session • Males, fathers, patriarchal society, power and the unknown • The disparity between mothers and fathers • Why men don’t ask for directions • Healthy narcissism, narcissistic disorders and the true self • A dividing line among therapists • What’s possible with therapy • How to learn more about Bioenergetics.
Enjoy the show! (The interview is about an hour)
Listen at your convenience!
February 19th, 2008
Living Hero is pleased to present an interview with author and futurist Daniel Pink
• The increasing value of right brain skills and capacities • The global forces giving rise to A Whole New Mind • The one cognitive skill common among corporate star performers • Reckoning with unfulfillment • Dan’s own creative process and methods • The Adventures of Johnny Bunko
Listen at your convenience!
Click through to buy his books on Amazon right from this site in the sidebar to the left. Don't miss them!