Deconstructing Yourself

By Michael W. Taft

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 Apr 13, 2019

Description

Dedicated to liberation in all its forms, Deconstructing Yourself is passionate about fearlessly investigating, attempting, and questioning all things to do with awakening, meditation, mindfulness, brain hacking, consciousness, neurofeedback, and more.

Your host Michael W. Taft interviews some of the most interesting thinkers, authors, and teachers around, as well as other offerings. In this hard-hitting, radical, and fun podcast we look at secular post-, non-, un- Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta, Hindu Tantrism, philosophy, the neuroscience of the sense of self, neurofeedback and the consciousness hacking movement, aspects of artificial intelligence, entheogens, and much more.

If you’re looking for fresh directions, free from dogma and conformism, think of the Deconstructing Yourself podcast as the radical cafe where you can hear from the most interesting luminaries either from the outside edges of dharma, or a fresh take from more traditional teachers. If you’re interested in more, check out the Deconstructing Yourself website at https://deconstructingyourself.com.


Episode Date
A Conversation with Guy Sengstock
00:57:26

Host Michael Taft speaks with artist, bodyworker, and philosopher Guy Sengstock about the origin and creation of Circling practice, how the asynchronous qualities of new technologies have created a deeper hunger for basic human contact, the crucial importance of embodiment in communication, mindfulness of presence, as well as the new practice he’s creating with Jon Vervaeke, known as Dia-Logos.

Guy Sengstock is the founder and creator of the Circling Method. He has been facilitating transformation for individuals, groups and corporations internationally for more than 20 years. He has a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and is the co-founder of The Arête Center for Excellence and the Bay Area Men’s Circle, which is still thriving today. He is an artist, philosopher, poet, body-worker, and visionary.

The Circling Institute

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Jun 01, 2022
The Power of Non-sleep Deep Rest with Kelly Boys
00:31:43

Host Michael Taft speaks with meditation teacher and author Kelly Boys on the practice of non-sleep, deep rest—a modern name for the ancient practice of yoga nidra, using liminal states as gateways to profound meditative experiences, finding ways to let go more completely, how this practice relates to nonduality, and the transformative power of embodied practice. 

Kelly Boys is a mindfulness trainer and author of The Blind Spot Effect: How to Stop Missing What’s Right in Front of You. She co-developed the Peace on Purpose mindfulness and resilience program for UN humanitarian and development workers, training UN staff in the Middle East, Central Asia and beyond. She has worked with veterans with PTSD in the VA system and in San Quentin State Prison as part of the Prison Yoga Project. She directed a teacher training for the Search Inside Yourself Institute, bringing facilitators from around the world together to learn the emotional intelligence and mindfulness curriculum as taught at Google. Kelly is the founding advisor for the Simple Habit meditation app. She is passionate about engaging in the inner and outer work of antiracism. She holds a degree in Intercultural Religious Studies and has trained in yoga nidra in the nondual yogic tradition of Kashmir Shaivism

https://www.kellyboys.org/


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May 04, 2022
A Conversation on Nonduality with Andrew Holecek
00:53:35

Host Michael Taft iterviews Tibetan Buddhist meditation teacher and author Andrew Holecek on nondual practice and theory, finding your way back to the true nature of mind, the dangers of getting dropped off in the deep end too soon, challenging to notion of path, the art of doing nothing (and doing it well); Andrew also offers listeners a dream-based nondual guided practice.

Andrew Holecek has completed the traditional three-year Buddhist meditation retreat and offers seminars internationally on meditation, dream yoga, and the art of dying. He is the author of many books, including Dream Yoga: Illuminating Your Life Through Lucid Dreaming and the Tibetan Yogas of Sleep. Andrew is masterful at joining the wisdom traditions of Asia with the knowledge of the West. He holds degrees in classical music, biology, and a doctorate in dental surgery.

https://www.andrewholecek.com/

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Apr 25, 2022
Nondual Teachings of LinJi, with Shinzen Young
00:59:59

Host Michael Taft speaks with meditation master and neuroscience consultant Shinzen Young on the background and history of Zen Master LinJi (aka Rinzai, in Japanese), the meaning of his famous phrase "the authentic person," various aspects of nonduality, an unpacking of LinJi's Four-fold Analysis, as well as cessations, the current state of Shinzen's research, using ultrasound to change the brain, and how to equanimize the biggest curveballs life can throw at you. 

Shinzen Young is an American mindfulness teacher and neuroscience research consultant. His systematic approach to categorizing, adapting and teaching meditation, known as Unified Mindfulness, has resulted in collaborations with Harvard Medical School, Carnegie-Mellon University, and the University of Vermont in the burgeoning field of contemplative neuroscience.

https://www.shinzen.org/


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Mar 14, 2022
Can People Really Change? with Tina Rasmussen.
00:58:30

Host Michael Taft talks with meditation teacher and author Tina Rasmussen about how psychology and meditation practice can work together to help people heal, working with trauma, the importance of heart-based practices such as metta, spiritual bypassing, using shamatha to build new brain networks, and Tina’s own story of her birth trauma and her path to healing.

Tina Rasmussen, Ph.D., began meditating at age 13, and has practiced in the Theravada and Tibetan Buddhist traditions for over 30 years. In 2003, she completed a year-long solo retreat, was later ordained as a Buddhist nun and became the first Western woman authorized to teach by renowned meditation master Pa Auk Sayadaw. Tina has been studied by the Yale Neuroscience Lab, and is the co-author of Practicing the Jhanas, as well as several books on human potential. 

Tina Rasumussen’s website: luminousmindsangha.com

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Jan 19, 2022
Meditation, Insight, and Predictive Processing with Ruben Laukkonen
01:12:12

Host Michael Taft talks with neuroscientist and meditator Ruben Laukkonen about the phenomenology of the insight experience, how the sequence of deepening meditative practices maps onto the model of predictive processing in the human brain, the Eureka heuristic, what neuroscience can tell us about the deconstructive model of meditation, the science of cessations, and much more.

Ruben Laukkonen is a postdoctoral fellow at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and lecturer at Amsterdam University College. Ruben seeks to uncover an empirically grounded and experientially authentic understanding of meditation, insight, and non-duality. Using a combination of neuroimaging, machine learning, and phenomenology, he is investigating some of the rarest states of consciousness available to human beings. Ruben has an eclectic contemplative background, including traditions such as Zen, Advaita, and Theravada.

Learn more at https://rubenlaukkonen.com/


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Jan 04, 2022
Eco-Aesthetics and the Poetry of Longing with Rick Jarow
00:56:55

What can ancient Sanskrit poetry of love and longing teach us about our own deepest spirituality? Join host Michael Taft as he explores this question with professor, author, and teacher Rick Jarow. Further topics include the tantric aspect of poetry, how landscape and nature informs and embodies our spirituality, the role of the word in transcendence, sacred passion for the divine as expressed in the poetics of longing, and much more.

Rick Jarow Ph.D. is a author, teacher, and scholar of Indian languages and literature. Recently retired from his position as a Religious Studies professor at Vassar college in New York, Rick leads workshops and retreats worldwide. His books include: In Search of the Sacred, Tales for the Dying, and a new work: The Cloud of Longing: A New Translation and Eco-Aesthetic Study of Kalidasa's Meghaduta.

Rick Jarow's website


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Nov 30, 2021
Vision, Visualization, and Vajrayana, with Chandra Easton
01:06:20

Host Michael Taft speaks with Dorje Lopön Chandra Easton about her recent work with the 21 manifestations of the Goddess Tara, some aspects of Green Tara, and especially the role of vision and visualization in Vajrayana, and Buddhism more generally. Beginning with the somewhat negative role of the eyes in early Buddhist practice, moving through the Mahayana sutras talking about "enlightened eyes," and the "Eye of the Buddha," and culminating with the rainbow light practices of Vajrayana and Dzogchen. Topics include: Nagarjuna's vision metaphor of emptiness, the esoteric subtle channel from the heart to the eyes, meditation on kasinas, and much more.

Chandra Easton has taught meditation and yoga since 2001. She has had the good fortune to study with many Tibetan and Western Buddhist teachers such as H.H. Dalai Lama, H.H. Karmapa, Lama Tsultrim Allione, B. Alan Wallace,Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche, and Jennifer Welwood. She is currently the Assistant Spiritual Director & Head Teacher at the Tara Mandala Retreat Center. You can learn more about Chandra's work at:

http://www.shunyatayoga.com/

and

https://www.taramandala.org/

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Nov 01, 2021
Talking about Zen Koans with Henry Shukman
00:39:56

Zen teacher, author, and poet Henry Shukman talks with host Michael Taft about Mountain Cloud Zen Center, Henry’s series on the Waking Up app, meditation for awakening vs. meditation as a “band aid,” the role of psychotherapy in spiritual practice, the power of working in the “old way,” the path of working with Zen koans as the journey of a lifetime.

Henry Shukman is a teacher in the Sanbo Zen lineage, and is the Guiding Teacher of Mountain Cloud Zen Center, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Henry is an award-winning poet and author of several books, including One Blade of Grass, which details his spiritual journey. And is excellent. His struggles and traumatic experiences as a youth, combined with a spontaneous awakening experience at age 19, paved the way for Henry to develop a well-rounded approach to spirituality and meditation – one that includes love for self and the world as its foundation.

Henry Shukman at Mountain Cloud Zen Center

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Aug 18, 2021
Vajrayana as a Living Practice, with Ken McLeod
01:14:30

Host Michael Taft talks with teacher and author Ken McLeod about his insights into Vajrayana, spiritual practice as "choosing a way to live," the Tibetan idea of lam khyer, the power of prayer as a kind of raw, naked stance, why the seeds of spirituality need to be nurtured in secret, difficulties Westerners face when attempting to work within traditional Asian religious systems, and the true meaning of spirituality.

Ken McLeod began his study and practice of Buddhism in 1970 under the eminent Tibetan master Kalu Rinpoche. After completing two three-year retreats, he was appointed as resident teacher for Kalu Rinpoche’s center in Los Angeles, California, where he developed innovative approaches to teaching and translation. After his teacher’s death in 1989, Ken established Unfettered Mind, a place for those whose path lies outside established institutions. His published works include The Great Path of Awakening, Wake Up to Your Life, An Arrow to the Heart, Reflections on Silver River, and A Trackless Path. 


Ken's website: Unfettered Mind


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Jul 20, 2021
Dimensions of Nonduality with Tina Rasmussen
00:58:02

Host Michael Taft talks with meditation teacher and author Tina Rasmussen about ways to understand nondual awareness and the progress of nondual meditation, including her own unique comparison between the Formless Realms of early Buddhist meditation and the Boundless Dimensions taught by Hameed Ali (aka Almaas) of the Diamond Approach.

Tina Rasmussen, Ph.D., began meditating at age 13, and has practiced in the Theravada and Tibetan Buddhist traditions for over 30 years. In 2003, she completed a year-long solo retreat, was later ordained as a Buddhist nun and became the first Western woman authorized to teach by renowned meditation master Pa Auk Sayadaw. Tina has been studied by the Yale Neuroscience Lab, and is the co-author of Practicing the Jhanas, as well as several books on human potential.

Tina Rasumussen’s website: luminousmindsangha.com

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Show Notes

00:44 - Intro

03:30 - The

core four practices of Buddhism that help us with the current crisis: shamatha,

vipassana, heart, and self-transcending practices

06:19 - How

Tina teaches shamatha (the Theravada way: anapanasati and brahmaviharas)

09:08 - The difference between anapanasati and pranayama

11:45 - The similarities and differences between the Theravadan and Tibetan practices

16:18 - How Tina teaches a hybrid set of Theravadan and Tibetan practices on retreat

18:44 - Shamatha is needed for stability

20:44 - The

different flavors of nonduality (unity/emptiness)

24:37 - The Buddhist map of the realms of existence (form/material realm:

physical/brahmaviharas; formless/immaterial realms:

1) boundless space;

2) boundless consciousness;

3) no-thingness/void;

4) neither perception nor non-perception;

5) the Deathless/Absolute/Nameless mystery)

28:53 - How ‘awareness’ is more fundamental than ‘consciousness’

30:55 - Comparison of the formless realms in Buddhism and in the Diamond Approach

(Ridhwan); how different spiritual traditions focus on different formless realms

35:35 – Differing views in Theravada and Vajrayana

37:51 - Integrating boundless love and shamatha practices in Tina’s teachings

43:00 - The non-personal practices of the Eastern traditions and the personal practices of

the Western traditions

44:08 - The synergy between spiritual and psychological technologies; the ‘inquiry’ practice

46:27 - Tina’s birth trauma and the importance of trauma work

53:10 - The inquiry way of working with aversion

55:46 - Suffering is optional

58:00 - Outro


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Jun 30, 2021
Meditation and Communication with Shinzen Young
00:54:53

Shinzen Young talks with host Michael Taft about his new ideas around applying the systematic mindset of mindfulness meditation and the scientific method to the many challenges of human communication and miscommunication. Topics include the coming of Unified Mindfulness to China, the new phenomena of online retreats, training the spirit of science into mindfulness and communication, and much more.

Shinzen Young is an American mindfulness teacher and neuroscience research consultant. His systematic approach to categorizing, adapting and teaching meditation, known as Unified Mindfulness, has resulted in collaborations with Harvard Medical School, Carnegie-Mellon University, and the University of Vermont in the burgeoning field of contemplative neuroscience. Learn more about Shinzen at his website: Shinzen.org

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Jun 02, 2021
Spiritual Bypassing and the Spiritual Friend
00:23:04

Host Michael Taft talks about the phenomenon of spiritual bypassing, what it is, what it means for our practice, and whether it is as big of an issue as many seem to think, as well as the importance of having a meditation buddy, and the ageless tradition of the “soul friend.” 


Michael Taft’s website


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May 17, 2021
Meditation and Healing Trauma with Thomas Hübl
01:04:51

Host Michael Taft speaks with spiritual teacher and author Thomas Hübl about trauma and healing, aspects of collective and cultural trauma, Jungian psychology, meditation, spirituality, and much more.

Thomas Hübl is a contemporary mystic, international spiritual teacher, and author whose work seeks to integrate the core insights of the great wisdom traditions with the discoveries of modern science. Thomas’ teachings combine somatic awareness, advanced meditative practices, and analysis of multigenerational and collective trauma with transformational processes that address trauma and shadow issues. Since 2004 Thomas has been leading workshops, multi-year training programs, events and festivals, and is the author of the book Healing Collective Trauma.

Thomas Hübl's Website



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Apr 01, 2021
A Conversation with Spring Washam
00:50:39

Host Michael Taft speaks with meditation teacher and shamanic practitioner Spring Washam about the "dharma of Harriet Tubman," the inner vs. the outer journey of finding liberation, how the "meditation bubble" can actually block spiritual growth, bringing the wisdom of meditation to activism, the role of plant medicines in healing ourselves and our world, and much more.

Spring Washam is a well-known meditation teacher, author, and visionary leader based in California and Peru. She is the author of A Fierce Heart: Finding Strength, Courage, and Wisdom in Any Moment. Spring is considered a pioneer in bringing mindfulness-based healing practices to diverse communities. She is one of the founders and core teachers at the East Bay Meditation Center, located in downtown Oakland, CA.  She received extensive training from Jack Kornfield, is a member of the teacher’s council at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in northern California, and has practiced and studied Buddhist philosophy in both the Theravada and Tibetan schools of Buddhism for the last 20 years. In addition to being a teacher, she is also a shamanic practitioner and has studied indigenous healing practices for over a decade. She is the founder of Lotus Vine Journeysan organization that blends indigenous healing practices with Buddhist wisdom. Her writing and teachings have appeared in many online journals and publications such as Lions Roar, Tricycle, and Belief.net. She has been a guest on many popular podcasts and radio shows. She currently travels and teaches meditation retreats, workshops and classes worldwide.

Spring Washam's website


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Mar 12, 2021
Talking with People about Things, with David McRaney
01:02:27

Host Michael Taft speaks with science journalist, author, and podcaster David McRaney about how people do (and do not) change their minds, how brains form their view of reality, conspiracy theory, the method of "technique rebuttal" vs. "topic rebuttal,' QAnon, motivated reasoning, the psychology of belief, and much more.

David McRaney is a science journalist and an internationally bestselling author, podcaster, and lecturer who created You Are Not So Smart.

David began a blog writing about the psychology of reasoning in 2009. That blog became an internationally bestselling book published by Penguin in 2011, now available in 17 languages. His second book, You Are Now Less Dumb, released in July of 2013, and his third book, How Minds Change, all about how people do and do not update their beliefs and attitudes as indiviudals and cultures, will be released by Penguin in 2021. 

David currently hosts a bi-weekly, top-100 podcast about human judgment and decision-making, and travels around the planet giving lectures on the topics he covers in his books, blog, and podcast. In 2015, David appeared as himself in a national ad campaign for Reebok which he co-wrote. His writing has also been featured in campaigns for Heineken, Duck Tape, and others. He is currently working on a documentary about IQ and genius and a television show about how to better predict the impact of technological disruption.

youarenotsosmart.com

medium.com/@davidmcraney

twitter.com/davidmcraney

davidmcraney.com


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Feb 03, 2021
Soulmaking Dharma, with Catherine McGee
00:49:58

Host Michael Taft speaks with meditation teacher Catherine McGee about Soulmaking Dharma; her journey into meditation practice; using the word “soul” in a Buddhist context; working with the energy body; connecting with the imaginal in meditation; what sort of person thrives in the Soulmaking Dharma practice; and expanding beauty and sacredness in our lives. 

CATHERINE McGEE has been teaching Insight Meditation at Gaia House and internationally since 1997. Her teaching emphasises working with perceptions of the body on the path of awakening and in the healing of the individual and collective crises of our times. She is an advisor to One Earth Sangha and a long term student of the Diamond Approach and collaborated with Rob Burbea in shaping and teaching a Soulmaking Dharma. 

Listen to Catherine McGee on Dharmaseed

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Dec 08, 2020
Dreams and the Spiritual Imagination, with Steve Aizenstat
00:58:51

Depth Psychologist Steve Aizenstat speaks with host Michael Taft about dreams, the living image of dreams and their innate intelligence, the healing and creative power of the deep imagination; how dreams relate to meditation and spiritual practice, and the way that we are "all cyborgs now."

Stephen Aizenstat, Ph.D., is the Founder of Dream Tending, Pacifica Graduate Institute, and Academy of Imaginal Arts and Sciences. He is a world renowned Professor of Depth Psychology, an imagination specialist and innovator. He has served as an organizational consultant to major companies, institutions, Hollywood films, and has lectured extensively in the U.S., Asia and Europe. He is affiliated with the Earth Charter International project through the United Nations where he has spoken. Professor Aizenstat is the Chancellor Emeritus and Founding President of Pacifica Graduate Institute. He has collaborated with many notable masters in the field including Joseph Campbell, James Hillman, Marion Woodman and Robert Johnson. 

Professor Aizenstat's pioneering work has impacted thousands of students, clients, major companies, institutions and influencers through one-on-one sessions, visionary courses, and sold-out lectures, webinars, digital pop-ups and wildly popular global seminars.

Steve Aizenstat’s website: dreamtending.com

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Nov 06, 2020
Love Unveiled with A. H. Almaas
00:48:23

Spiritual teacher A. H. Almaas speaks with host Michael Taft about the centrality of love to our spiritual nature, how to tell the difference between emotional love and spiritual love, how the wounds of love can become openings for awakening, various “flavors” of love, and the necessity of love to approach truth. 

A. Hameed Ali, whose pen name is A. H. Almaas, is founder of the Diamond Approach to Self-Realization, a contemporary teaching that developed within the context of both ancient spiritual teachings and modern depth psychology theories. Almaas has authored eighteen books about spiritual realization, including the Diamond Heart series, The Pearl Beyond Price, The Void, and The Alchemy of Freedom.

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Show Notes

00:38 - Intro

03:31 - The book ‘Love Unveiled’

04:24 - Love vs awareness in spirituality

07:11 - Difference between emotional love and spiritual love

10:59 - Relationship between consciousness and love

12:51 - Love is the maturation of realization

14:38 - Difference in the expressions of emotional vs spiritual/essential love

16:54 - Spiritual love as a medium and the nectars/flavors of love

19:07 - Yearning and desire in different traditions

25:37 - Teaching the opening of the heart

26:47 - Working with the barriers/obstacles in different qualities of love

31:03 - Pointing towards the way into the heart

32:20 - Nectars of love

34:08 - Phenomenology of love

36:09 - The three centers of human beings

37:49 - Difficulties with feeling love and loved

41:47 - Working with the wounds in the heart

44:20 - Hameed’s favorite flavor of love

45:18 - The three-volume series on love

48:23 - Outro




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Oct 07, 2020
Vajrayana and Deity Yoga with Chandra Easton
00:55:15

Buddhist Teacher and author Lopön Chandra Easton talks with Michael Taft about Vajrayana, her own pilgrimage and experiences in India, the struggle to bring motherhood, sexuality, the feminine, and the female voice into spiritual life, the power of yidam or deity yoga, how Westerners relate to deity yoga, and a look into the practice of the 21 Taras.

Chandra Easton is a teacher and translator of Tibetan Buddhism who focuses on the lineage of the 11th-century yogini Maching Labdrön and Lama Tsultrim Allione, founder of Tara Mandala retreat center. She has taught Buddhism and yoga since 2001 and cotranslated the book Sublime Dharma: A Compilation of Two Texts on the Great Perfection

http://www.shunyatayoga.com/

https://www.taramandala.org/

 

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Sep 21, 2020
Evolving Ground with Rindzin Pamo and Jared Janes
01:13:09

Host Michael Taft speaks with Rin’dzin Pamo and Jared Janes about their new project, entitled “Evolving Ground,” which is a community of practitioners that seeks to reinterpret and revitalize Vajrayana practice in a contemporary Western context. Topics include: the failure of Tibetan Buddhism to adapt to Western culture, the importance of the worldview in practice, creating new language around meditation, cheese-filled dorje snacks, and much more.

Rin’dzin Pamo is a British born Vajrayana practitioner living in the US. They were an apprentice in the Aro gTér tradition of Tibetan Buddhism for twenty years and are an experienced Dzogchen meditator and mentor. Rin’dzin received the London School of Economics Fei Xiaotong prize for their Masters research on the Chinese tech industry. They worked on international development projects in India, Africa and the Middle East and as a program director for Amnesty International.  

Rin’dzin writes at vajrayananow.com and tweets @_awbery_ 

 

Jared Janes is an American-born yogic practitioner living in Denver, Colorado. His early practice was influenced by pragmatic dharma, Unified Mindfulness, and The Mind Illuminated book. With the help of Rin’dzin, he transitioned into Vajrayana-inspired practice in early 2019. Jared’s career started in digital operations and management and he’s now a full-time consultant and podcast producer.

Jared Janes’ website

 

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Aug 25, 2020
A Conversation with Ken McLeod
01:20:09

Writer, translator, teacher, and business consultant, Ken McLeod speaks with host Michael Taft about the chaos unleashed by new forms of communication, dedicating your whole life to meditation and spiritual experience, what evokes a deep sense of the sacred?, how teachers point out awakening to students, what is it that epitomizes the essence of Vajrayana, and much more.

Ken McLeod began his study and practice of Buddhism in 1970 under the eminent Tibetan master Kalu Rinpoche. After completing two three-year retreats, he was appointed as resident teacher for Kalu Rinpoche’s center in Los Angeles, California, where he developed innovative approaches to teaching and translation. After his teacher’s death in 1989, Ken established Unfettered Mind, a place for those whose path lies outside established institutions. His published works include The Great Path of Awakening, Wake Up to Your Life, An Arrow to the Heart, Reflections on Silver River and A Trackless Path.

Unfettered Mind

Ken’s article: How Is the Medium Changing the Method? https://www.buddhistinquiry.org/article/how-is-the-medium-changing-the-message/

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Aug 03, 2020
Paranoia, Conspiracy, and Covid, with Erik Davis
00:57:14

Author, podcaster, award-winning journalist, and cultural historian Erik Davis speaks with host Michael Taft about QAnon as a new religion, Gnostic psychology and the power of the secret truth, new narrative warfare exploiting human psychology, technologically-sophisticated divination techniques, the “disenchanted paranormal,” taking responsibility for your own processing of reality, the angel of the library, Metal Hurlant, and more. 

Erik Davis is an author, podcaster, award-winning journalist, and popular speaker based in San Francisco. He is probably best known for his book TechGnosis a cult classic of visionary media studies that investigates how our fascination with technology intersects with the religious imagination. Erik’s most recent book is High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies. 

Read Erik’s newsletter The Burning Shore


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Jul 14, 2020
Effortlessness in Meditation, with Jud Brewer
00:44:33

Neuroscientist and mindfulness expert Jud Brewer speaks with host Michael Taft about his research into the four steps of Rigpa (with teacher and psychologist Dan Brown), effortlessness in meditation and the feeling of openness vs. closedness, the neurochemistry of reward, the historical Buddha's insight into the results of exploring gratification "to its end" and how that leads to effortless change (the system corrects itself), and the fact that willpower is a myth.

Judson Brewer is an MD-PhD and a thought leader in the field of habit change and the “science of self-mastery,” having combined nearly 20 years of experience with mindfulness training with his scientific research. Jud is the Director of Research and Innovation at the Mindfulness Center and associate professor in psychiatry at the School of Medicine at Brown University, as well as a research affiliate at MIT, and has developed and tested novel mindfulness programs for habit change, including both in-person and app-based treatments for smoking, emotional eating, and anxiety.

Jud's website: DrJud.com

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Jun 07, 2020
Awakening and the Path of Liberation, with Dan Brown
00:36:50

Psychologist, author, translator, and meditation teacher, Dan Brown talks with host Michael Taft about the three levels of practice from a taste of awakening to "full buddhahood," the details of what a taste of awakening entails, the path to complete liberation, his neuroscience of nonduality studies with Jud Brewer, whether dzogchen is a complete path, and the future of dzogchen in the West.

Daniel P. Brown, Ph.D. has been Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at Harvard for 38 years. He trained and taught with top Indo-Tibetan Bon & Buddhist lamas for more than 48 years. He is the award-winning author of 24 Books, and winner of the 1999 Guttmacher Award from the American Psychiatric Association. He trained with the Dalai Lama throughout the 1970s and is one of only a few Western individuals trained in the Tibetan Bon tradition and he runs meditation retreats around the world to help the average person achieve awakening.

Dan's website: MindOnly.com

Contribute to this podocast on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/michaeltaft

Learn more about nonduality: https://deconstructingyourself.com/nonduality


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May 20, 2020
Vajrayana, Compassion, and the Importance of the Teacher, with Ken McLeod
00:59:13

Writer, translator, teacher, and business consultant, Ken McLeod speaks with host Michael Taft about Coronavirus, social distancing, nature doing what it does, overcoming cultural conditioning, enlightenment as a "system change," practices for overcoming cultural conditioning and developing compassion, the importance of the teacher-student relationship, the viability of Vajrayana practice in the West, and much more.

Ken McLeod began his study and practice of Buddhism in 1970 under the eminent Tibetan master Kalu Rinpoche. After completing two three-year retreats, he was appointed as resident teacher for Kalu Rinpoche’s center in Los Angeles, California, where he developed innovative approaches to teaching and translation. After his teacher’s death in 1989, Ken established Unfettered Mind, a place for those whose path lies outside established institutions. His published works include The Great Path of Awakening, Wake Up to Your Life, An Arrow to the Heart, Reflections on Silver River and A Trackless Path.


Unfettered Mind

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Apr 22, 2020
Why Do Narcissists Become Spiritual Teachers, with Stephan Bodian
00:48:27

Nondual teacher and psychotherapist Stephan Bodian and host Michael Taft discuss how and why narcissists rise to the top of spiritual organizations, the ways that nondual traditions like Zen may be especially prone to teacher misbehavior, the problem with “crazy wisdom” teachers, as well as exploring Stephan’s own spiritual journey with Suzuki Roshi, Maezumi Roshi, Jean Klein, and more.  

Stephan Bodian is a psychotherapist and a teacher in the nondual wisdom tradition of Zen and Advaita Vedanta. After training as a Zen monk and studying Advaita with Jean Klein, he received Dharma transmission from Adyashanti in 2001. His books include Wake Up Now; Beyond Mindfulness; and Meditation for Dummies.

Learn more about Stephan Bodian's work at stephanbodian.org

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Mar 21, 2020
Questioning Assumptions about Buddhism, with Evan Thompson
00:52:23

Evan Thompson discusses his new book, “Why I Am Not a Buddhist” with host Michael Taft. Topics include the myth of Buddhist exceptionalism, how Buddhist modernism presented a false picture of Buddhism as a value-neutral “mind science” rather than a religion, his own lifelong journey with Buddhism, and much more.

Evan Thompson, PhD, works on the nature of the mind, the self, and human experience. His work combines cognitive science, philosophy of mind, phenomenology, and cross-cultural philosophy, especially in Asian traditions. His most recent book, Why I Am Not a Buddhist, examines the role of Buddhism in the modern world.

Evan Thompson's website: https://evanthompson.me/

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Feb 16, 2020
The Nondual Heart, with John Prendergast
00:58:46

Nondual teacher and psychotherapist John Prendergast speaks with host Michael Taft about the heart area as an opening to infinite space, contacting the “dark matrix” of the ground, the body as a vibrant expression of emptiness, moving out of the cycle of reactivity into the creative life, working with energy in meditation, and much more. 

John J. Prendergast, Ph.D., is the author of the books The Deep Heart  and In Touch. He is a spiritual teacher, psychotherapist, and retired adjunct professor of psychology who offers retreats in the U.S. and Europe. 

John Prendergast's website: www.listeningfromsilence.com

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Feb 07, 2020
Nonduality and Awake Awareness, with Loch Kelly
00:51:29

Nondual teacher and psychotherapist Loch Kelly speaks with host Michael Taft about what nondualism is, schools of effort vs. non-effort (and those in between), the five foundations of effortless mindfulness, awake awareness and rigpa, stabilizing nondual awareness, balancing the brain's default mode network, and more.

Loch Kelly is an author, meditation teacher, psychotherapist, and founder of the non-profit, Open-Hearted Awareness Institute. Loch teaches in a non-sectarian lineage based in the earliest non-dual wisdom traditions, modern science, and psychotherapy. 

Learn more at lochkelly.org

Read more about nondual awareness here.

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Jan 26, 2020
Meditating with Buddhist Sutras, with Michael Owens
01:16:26

Host Michael Taft speaks with Michael Owens, a Buddhist teacher and author, about being a monk in Taiwan, Buddhist sutras as portals to alternate realities, understanding dependent origination, the nondual ground and extreme psychedelia of the Mahayana sutras, the Vimalakirti Nirdeśa Sutra, explaining the "inconceivable," Suchness as the opposite of Emptiness, and more.

Michael Charles Owens is a Buddhist teacher, translator, and author. Michael uses a sutra-based curriculum that draws from a variety of traditions to teach the history, philosophy, and practice of Buddhism. His teaching style weaves humor and storytelling with modern scholarly research to create a unique learning experience. He teaches regularly for the San Francisco Dharma Collective and he also runs Lotus Underground, a repository of his teaching activities, audio recordings, and writings.

MC Owens - Lotus Underground on Soundcloud

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Dec 28, 2019
Reversing the Stack— A Nondual Practice Map, with Michael Taft
00:34:44

In this episode, host Michael Taft remixes his map of deconstructing sensory experience, and talks about how to use it to work in nondual traditions. Essentially the idea is to reverse the stack by starting out with Stage 4 (pure awareness) and then working your way up to stage 3, etc. Michael also spends some time talking about maps of meditation, problems therewith, and why he is already reworking this map after a short time.

Show Notes

0:25 – Introduction

2:11 – Michael’s reasons for opposing maps, and creating the Deconstructing Sensory

Experience map

5:05 – Critiques Michael has heard about the map since first presenting it, and his responses

10:13 – Brief review of stages 1-4 of the map

14:41 – The logic behind putting cessation as stage 5 in the previous map; why it’s now

removed from the map

18:19 – How each stage is useful and no stage is lesser than the others

21:13 – Description of stage 4, pure awareness; how this stage is viewed in other traditions

25:43 – Reversing the stack, using this model bidirectionally

29:56 – The observer trap and how reversing the stack overcomes this problem

34:34 – Outro

Note: this is only a map, only a model. Just like a menu is not food, this model is not claiming to be reality. It’s just a handy way to help you orient your practice.

This model doesn’t count for nondual meditations, high-concentration/jhana practice, etc. It is only to help you with your vipassana practice.

These are not discrete or digital stages. They are analog, and shade into one another. Each stage is desirable and useful for various things. No stage is somehow better than another.

In vipassana practice, however, we are usually attempting to tranverse the stack from stage one to stage four.

When doing nondual practices, we transverse the stack from bottom to top (4 -> 1) and do what we might call “nondual vipassana” or something akin to many Mahamudra practices—which is what this episode describes.


Level 1 - Conceptual - Thinking about sensory experience objects using words.

Level 2 - Phenomenal Object - Contacting the phenomenology of sensory experiences in the form of objects.

Level 3 - Flow / Change - Contacting the phenomenology of sensory experiences as vibration, waves, or change.

Level 4 - Pure Awareness - Noticing awareness itself with no content.

 

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Nov 22, 2019
What Does Dreaming Have to Do with Meditation? with Andrew Holecek
01:07:21

Host Michael Taft speaks with Dream Yoga expert Andrew Holecek about how the dream state (and dreamless sleep) can effect meditation practice. Topics include: the fantasy-filling model of lucid dreaming vs. spiritual awakening; dream yoga, sleep yoga, and Bardo yoga; the love of napping, meditation in a dream or in dreamless sleep; reification as the "original sin of Buddhism"; lucid dreaming for meditators; and much more.

Andrew Holecek has completed the traditional three-year Buddhist meditation retreat and offers seminars internationally on meditation, dream yoga, and the art of dying. He is the author of many books, including Dream Yoga: Illuminating Your Life Through Lucid Dreaming and the Tibetan Yogas of Sleep. Andrew is masterful at joining the wisdom traditions of Asia with the knowledge of the West. He holds degrees in classical music, biology, and a doctorate in dental surgery. 

Andrew Holecek's website

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Oct 23, 2019
Deconstructing Sensory Experience, with Michael Taft
00:43:30

In this episode, host Michael Taft shares a map of deconstructing sensory experience. This is intended to help orient you to your vipassana meditation practice; helping you to understand where you’re at, where you’re going, and what to look for next. A basic map of vipassana.

Note: this is only a map, only a model. Just like a menu is not food, this model is not claiming to be reality. It’s just a handy way to help you orient your practice.

This model doesn’t count for nondual meditations, high-concentration/jhana practice, etc. It is only to help you with your vipassana practice.

Very important: the inclusion of “Cessation” as level 5 doesn’t mean that level 5 is the final goal of practice. It’s just something that can happen, and is included for the sake of completeness.

These are not discrete or digital stages. They are analog, and shade into one another. Each stage is desirable and useful for various things. No stage is somehow better than another.

In vipassana practice, however, we are usually attempting to tranverse the stack from stage one to stage four. Stage five may or may not be something that happens.

When our practice is very skilled, we can also tranverse the stack from bottom to top (4 -> 1) and do what we might call “nondual vipassana” or something akin to many Mahamudra practices. 

Summary of Stages

Stage 1 - Conceptual - Thinking about sensory experience objects using words.

Stage 2 - Phenomenal Object - Contacting the phenomenology of sensory experiences in the form of objects.

Stage 3 - Flow / Change - Contacting the phenomenology of sensory experiences as vibration, waves, or change.

Stage 4 - Pure Awareness - Noticing awareness itself with no content.

Stage 5 - Cessation - Sudden collapse of awareness.


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Sep 24, 2019
Vajrayana, Engineering, and Jiu Jitsu, with Rin’dzin Pamo
00:57:15

Host Michael Taft speaks with Vajrayana teacher Rin’dzin Pamo about Vajrayana meditation practice currently, adapting practices for our times, their practice of The Mind Illuminated, the role of the guru in practice, how meditation practice is like engineering (and Jiu Jitsu), and much more.

Rin’dzin Pamo (also known as Charlie El Awbery) is a British born Vajrayana practitioner living in the US. They were an apprentice in the Aro gTér tradition of Tibetan Buddhism for twenty years and are an experienced Dzogchen meditator and mentor. 

Rin’dzin received the London School of Economics Fei Xiaotong prize for their Masters research on the Chinese tech industry. They worked on international development projects in India, Africa and the Middle East and as a program director for Amnesty International. 

Rin’dzin writes at VajrayanaNow.com and has recently been publicly journaling their progress through Culadasa’s system The Mind Illuminated. 

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Aug 13, 2019
Why Metadharma?, Pt. 2, with Vincent Horn
00:35:36

Why Metadharma? is an unusual episode of the Deconstructing Yourself podcast, in that it’s Part 2 of a joint interview between Vince and Michael Taft. Part 1 appeared on the Buddhist Geeks podcast recently, and they continue the conversation here.

The topic of these discussions is a subject that both speakers are actively developing, called “metadharma.” In brief, metadharma refers to the many different ways that the dharma is being adapted, remixed, and redefined to meet the unique challenges and opportunities of the current moment.

Vincent Horn is part of a new generation of teachers & translators exploring dharma in the age of the network. A computer engineering dropout turned full-time contemplative, he spent his 20s co-founding the ground-breaking Buddhist Geeks Podcast, while simultaneously doing a full year, in total, of silent retreat practice. Vincent began teaching in 2010 having been authorized in both the Pragmatic Dharma lineage of Kenneth Folk, and by Trudy Goodman, guiding teacher of InsightLA, in the Insight Meditation tradition. Vincent has been called a “power player of the mindfulness movement” by Wired magazine and was featured in Wired UK’s “Smart List: 50 people who will change the world.” He currently lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains outside of Asheville, North Carolina with his partner Emily Horn and their son Zander.

More about the Buddhist Geeks farm here.

Listen to David Chapman talk about metasystematicity here.



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Jul 31, 2019
Meditation, Emotions, and the Bio-Emotive Framework with Douglas Tataryn
01:20:11

Host Michael Taft speaks with clinical psychologist and life coach, Douglas Tataryn, Ph.D. about meditation and psychology. Topics include his work with meditation teachers such as Culadasa, the “wake up, clean up, grow up, and look around” model, Wilber’s integral model. working with trauma and the dark night, and his system of emotional processing known as the Bio-Emotive Framework.

Douglas Tataryn received his PH.D. in 1991 and worked as a professor for 10 years in epidemiology and psychosocial oncology. In 2001 he entered private practice where he applied and continued evolving what he now refers to as the bio-emotive framework, a new way of understanding the emotional system and its unappreciated role in many of our most common mental health disorders. Doug began what became a very intensive meditation practice back in 1975 and he and his wife receive and give teachings within the Namgyl Rimpoche stream of the Karma Kagyu lineage.


Resources

Dr. Tataryn’s website has lots of resources, some free and some for pay: https://bioemotiveframework.com

You’ll find thought provoking interviews and video recordings with Douglas Tataryn at this link: https://bioemotiveframework.com/blog/


Upset about a recent event? Use one or both of these forms to turn that upset into a better understanding and expression of how you are feeling about it.

1. This is help you find the inter-personal feelings about the situation: http://tinyurl.com/BEFstress

2. This form will guide you through the core feelings related to the situation. We tend to take core feelings very personally and often feel we are the feelings instead of being someone who is having those feelings: Http://tinyurl.com/BEFCore

Hear Culadasa speaking about his work with Douglas Tataryn here.

Listen to more more about meditation and psychology with Tucker Peck.


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Jul 14, 2019
Loch Kelly on Awareness, Freedom, and Effortless Mindfulness
01:35:14

Host Michael Taft speaks with Loch Kelly on nondual practices, contemporary forms of ancient awareness techniques, dzogchen, mahamudra, advaita, the role of psychotherapy in awakening, the need—or not—for a guru, open-hearted awareness, internal family systems therapy, and more.

Loch Kelly is an author, meditation teacher, psychotherapist, and founder of the non-profit, Open-Hearted Awareness Institute. Loch teaches in a non-sectarian lineage based in the earliest non-dual wisdom traditions, modern science, and psychotherapy.

Loch Kelly’s Website

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Show Notes:

00:43 - Intro

03:05 - Loch’s meditation background

06:59 - Shifting from concentration practice to choiceless awareness practice

10:01 - Meeting Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

12:23 - The experience vs explanation of ‘pure awareness’ in different traditions

14:38 - Mahamudra

15:31 - The dualism in stopping halfway at ‘pure/spacious awareness’

17:54 - Recognition vs realization

20:02 - The possibility of ‘awake awareness’ in different traditions

22:53 - Contacting nondual awareness

24:00 - How can awareness be aware of awareness, if you are not aware from awareness?

28:10 - The contemporary teaching of unhooking ‘local awareness’

34:42 - The vipassana model/map vs natural awakenings

37:42 - Upgrading the mahamudra map and instructions (from ‘pure awareness’ to ‘awake awareness’) 

43:07 - The four or five levels of the mind in mahamudra (1. everyday mind, 2. subtle mind, 3. pure awareness, 4. simultaneous mind, 5. open-hearted awareness/bodhicitta)

46:13 - Thoughts and emotions in ‘open-hearted awareness’

50:09 - Teaching moving from ‘spacious awareness’ to ‘awake awareness’

56:02 - Wonder, freedom, and joy in wisdom mind

01:02:14 - Postural yoga and pranayama in mahamudra

01:05:18 - Integrating ‘one-pointed awareness’ into the ‘field of awareness’

01:08:37 - Psychotherapy as a “preliminary” practice

01:10:42 - The “crazy yogi”: waking up without growing up

01:13:32 - The healing power of ‘open-hearted awareness’ in IFS (Internal Family Systems)

01:16:40 - The role of the guru in different traditions; “energetic transmission”

01:21:37 - Don’t stop halfway and come on in the water!

01:27:30 - Teaching vipassana in a nondual way

01:32:47 - Loch’s latest teaching- and personal inquiries

01:35:14 - Outro

What does nondual mean?


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Jul 03, 2019
Culadasa on Meditation and Therapy
01:18:42

In this special episode, Culadasa talks about the domains of meditation and psychotherapy, where their areas of effectiveness overlap and where they don’t. He also shares a powerful personal story of his own emotional processing work after awakening—why it was needed and how it helped.

Culadasa has been practicing Buddhist meditation for over four decades, and is the director of Dharma Treasure Buddhist Sangha, where he teaches meditation and Buddhism from a modern, progressive scientific perspective. His groundbreaking book, The Mind Illuminated is a modern road map to Buddhist meditation for a Western audience which combines age-old wisdom teachings of the Buddha with the latest research in cognitive psychology and neuroscience.

Dharma Treasure website: https://dharmatreasure.org/

Dr. Douglas Tataryn’s website: The Bio-emotive Framework


Show Notes

0:25 – Introduction

2:54 – Michael opens up the intended direction of this show, what meditation can improve and heal and what psychology can improve and heal, where the two might overlap, and places that maybe only psychology can handle.

4:35 – Culadasa begins discussing how inner conflicts and baggage are brought to the surface and handled in the meditation system described in The Mind Illuminated.

10:47 – Minimizing psychological distress when beginning to have insight experiences.

13:52 – Different effects of samatha versus vipassana on noticing and working with difficult psychological material; how the arising of such material may unfold in Culadasa’s meditation system.

19:48 – The necessity of sati and introspective awareness in samatha practice to eliminate dullness and trigger purifications; how to progress from attending to bodily sensations, to emotions, to any associated mental content.

23:32 – Practicing samatha in the way it was intended to be practiced is training the mind in vipassana at the same time.

27:25 – Spiritual bypassing – how people with high meditative skill can fail to notice harmful behavior patterns; how the changes that awakening brings can make it easier to bypass difficult material.

33:23 – Culadasa’s health journey and first meeting with an integral oncologist.

41:32 – Example of using bio-emotive therapy and noticing somatic reactions; how Culadasa’s practice had downweighted negative emotions and this type of therapy helped to reconnect with them.

45:14 – How path attainments affect the sense of self; how older structures in the brain linked up with newer emotional structures and created the sense of self.

50:00 – How certain patterns became established in Culadasa’s life and were then uncovered with bio-emotive therapy; viewing these patterns as different personalities.

58:34 – Repeating unhealthy patterns despite having an advanced meditation practice; how the Dharma itself can provide some rationalization for such behaviors when their root in unresolved psychological material isn’t recognized.

1:04:04 – Culadasa describes his current status, feeling highly resolved with his patterns after becoming aware of and working with them, and essentially being in remission from cancer.

1:05:34 – Psychology as an integrated part of the practice of meditation; the possibility of merging psychology and Dharma in the West; the importance of somatic work and treating the body/mind as one unit.

1:09:39 – Differences in how forms of Buddhism have treated the area of emotions; using current science to go beyond what previous traditions have had access to; taking people beyond normal states of dysfunction to states of minimal to no dysfunction.

1:14:25 – Outro


You can read a transcription of the entire show here.


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Jun 02, 2019
Meditation for the End of Civilization, with Rick Hanson, Ph.D.
01:13:17

Host Michael W. Taft speaks with bestselling author and meditation teacher Rick Hanson about how to maintain resilience in the face of the coming potential collapse of civilization, the problem with agriculture, meditation methods to build inner strengths, Rick’s upcoming book Neuro-dharma, and more.

Rick Hanson, PhD, is a psychologist, Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and New York Times best-selling author. His books include Buddha’s Brain, Hardwiring Happiness, and the new book Resilient. Rick began meditating in 1974, has trained in several traditions, and teaches at meditation centers around the world.


Show Notes

0:25 – Introduction

1:56 – Michael talks about Rick’s background in meditation and his public persona, then introduces the topic for this episode, the potentially apocalyptic future

7:30 – How growing strengths and resources inside, and turning states into traits, gets trivialized as ‘positive psychologizing’

12:59 – Punctuated equilibrium: things tend to go along steadily until the bottom drops out; knowing that apocalyptic scenarios can occur, giving thought to what one can do that’s rational, given one’s values, resources, karmas and responsibilities in life

16:54 – The game-changing threats of thermonuclear exchange, runaway AI, totalitarian regimes exploiting surveillance technology and genetic engineering, climate change

21:03 – Working in practice with impermanence and remembrance of death

26:36 – “Time held me green and dying, though I sang in my chains like the sea” – claiming to oneself again and again, in the face of forces that make one feel powerless, what one can do inside one’s own mind; counteracting learned helplessness

35:09 – The balance of compassion and equanimity in facing death and environmental destruction; different paths to developing compassion and equanimity

46:15 – How the move away from living in small hunter-gatherer bands changed people’s relationship with governance; the lack of common welfare, common truth, and common justice

54:33 – Reclaiming healthy human politics; valuing truth and shutting down attacks on truth; encouraging the pooling of resources among nonprofits with a common cause

1:05:04 – Rick’s upcoming book, Neuro-dharma; short description of the seven practices in the book which stimulate and strengthen the underlying neural basis for wholesome, transformative qualities of mind

1:14:25 – Outro


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Apr 21, 2019
The Liberating Practice of the Fire Kasina, with Daniel Ingram
01:15:02

Author and meditation teacher Daniel Ingram speaks with host Michael W. Taft about how the Fire Kasina practice can be used as an insight practice. Subjects include: the background of kasina practice in the Thervada tradition, using kasinas to go into jhana, how vipassana practice interacts with jhana practice, meditation on the Three Characteristics, and detailed instructions for doing the Fire Kasina practice

Daniel Ingram is an emergency medicine physician and long-time dharma practitioner. He is the author of the seminal text Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha — now out in its second edition- and also the main force behind the radical dharmaoverground website, which specializes in a brand of unusually-frank discussion of meditation.

The book Michael mentions is Theravada Meditation by Winston King

Daniel explains how jhanas and ñanas can be matched across systems in this video.

The Fire Kasina website


Show Notes

0:25 – Introduction

2:13 – Michael’s experience with the fire kasina at Denman Island, realizing the practice can lead to awakening

5:34 – Setting the general context for using any kind of kasina, and how it fits in with Theravada practice

9:25 – How and why Daniel started kasina practice, objects he used; whether there’s something special about the fire kasina

14:22 – Elemental imbalance, taking other elements (air, water, earth) besides fire; once you can do one element really well, you can get all the other colors and elements

17:00 – Using kasina practice to enter the jhanas or develop jhanic factors; how insight slips into concentration practices

21:21 – Beginning to describe the stages of working with a fire kasina, and what it means for jhanic factors (and the nanas)

23:48 – The appearance of the red dot nimitta and its characteristics

27:45 – The first jhanic factors that come with tracking and steadying the red dot nimitta; changes in the color of the nimitta and the dropping of sustained thought (being second jhanic factors); the second vipassana jhana’s correlation with the Arising and Passing Away

30:33 – The appearance of the black/dark dot and entering the murk; the gifts and challenges of practicing with the murk; Neko’s triad of patience, faith, and curiosity

37:57 – Learning color, image, and movement control in the murk; bringing in insight elements

42:08 – Exiting the murk and entering fourth jhanic territory; what the transition from third to fourth jhana looks like

47:20 – Things a practitioner can look for to know when they’ve made the transition to fourth jhana / fourth jhanic factors

52:22 – Descriptions of the first through fourth ‘screens’, how the screens don’t perfectly correlate with the jhanas

54:16 – Moving from fourth jhanic territory to awakening; cultivating the three characteristics

1:02:50 – The challenge of taking the fire kasina to the immaterial type jhanas

1:04:38 – What’s most exciting to Daniel about this practice and why he continues to do it

1:09:21 – Community and learning resources for people who want to work with kasina practice; warnings about doing the practice intensely or without a support system when one has a serious mental health diagnosis

1:14:51 – Outro


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Mar 27, 2019
Meditation, Madness, and Psychology, with Tucker Peck
01:12:39

Tucker Peck, meditation teacher and clinical psychologist, talks with host Michael Taft about how whether awakening (both in the traditional “stream entry” sense or in other definitions) actually “fixes” a person’s psychology or not. Topics include: the validity of the Progress of Insight model, Tucker’s hellacious Dark Night experience and the dukkha ñanas in general, when to switch from shamatha to vipassana practice, whether people who have mental illness should practice meditation, and much more.

Tucker Peck, Ph.D., is a meditation teacher and clinical psychologist whose specialties include working with advanced meditators and using meditation to help those suffering from psychological disorders. Tucker is a published author on the scientific study of meditation, focusing on how meditation affects the brain and is a faculty member of the University of Arizona College of Medicine. Tucker was also a founding board member of Culadasa’s Dharma Treasure sangha.

Tucker Peck’s website


Show Notes

0:25 – Introduction

2:54 – Tucker’s teaching activities, how his background in clinical psychology influences teaching meditation

5:26 – The myth that you can lose your psychology/personality/emotions by meditating enough; getting smacked in the face with emotions on retreat

8:29 – How Tucker got into meditation; hitting A&P, and the heart opening

13:43 – How Tucker got into clinical psychology; his long Dark Night experience, and using choiceless awareness to get out of it

23:49 – Progressing towards first path; magga phala; how seeing nonself changed the experience of practice

29:23 – How stable attention helps mitigate Dark Night effects; purification through samatha

33:43 – Tucker’s challenges learning to practice with The Mind Illuminated; description of the TMI stages; when to introduce vipassana practices

41:19 – Whether Tucker’s students are getting stream entry and whether the samatha-first way of working mitigates Dark Night effects in his students; the fetter model, and having only positive emotions

45:47 – The potential for spiritual bypassing with attainment; “wake up, clean up, grow up”; the equanimity windshield; the need for unbiased feedback about one’s behavior and how it’s affecting people

55:17 – Working with mental content outside of meditation, through psychotherapy; will meditation practice help people who have mental illness?; modifying the practice for people with bipolar or manic symptoms, etc.

1:03:25 – Tucker’s experience of the path model; reduction in craving; seeming to go from dramatic changes back to normalcy, but with life altering differences; the individuality of each person’s path of purification

1:12:28 – Outro


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Mar 08, 2019
Embodying Awakening, with Mukti
00:55:47

Nondual spiritual teacher Mukti talks with host Michael Taft about the debate between the Direct and Progressive paths of realization, working with energetics and embodiment, her childhood background in the Self Realization Fellowship of Paramahansa Yogananada, pointing out the sense of space in realization, her own experience of awakening, and more.

Mukti is a spiritual teacher, whose name originates in Sanskrit and is most often translated as “liberation.” Mukti has been the Associate Teacher of Open Gate Sangha since 2004 and has been a student of her husband, Adyashanti, since he began teaching in 1996, when they founded Open Gate Sangha together. In addition to her teachings, Mukti offers talks, dialogues, silent retreats, private meetings, and online broadcasts and courses.

https://www.muktisource.org/about-mukti


Show Notes

0:25 – Introduction

2:24 – Mukti’s teaching activities and retreat offerings

4:00 – How Mukti came to be involved in teaching through Adyashanti; prior experiences with Yogananda and how those impact her current work; the differences of approach between the progressive paths and the direct path teachings

13:49 – Moving from a sense of a separate self into wholeness/oneness, followed by a return to the sense of distinct forms of self, other, and experience; coming back into distinction in a healthy way, seeing through conditioning that’s based in a sense of assumed separation

17:39 – The mistake of interpreting teachings on the initial recognition of self as the ultimate fix; practitioners’ reluctance to attend to things that are difficult; revisiting and working with old patterns through the thinking mind and on an energetic level in the body

25:37 – Whether people are more often having awakening moments and then spending a lot of time trying to integrate them, or building up to awakening through embodiment teachings

30:27 – Mukti describes her awakening experience; working on the embodied aspect of holding that awakening

36:19 – Physical issues like fibromyalgia and stomach issues after awakening; how some people with deep awakenings are more challenged energetically; learning ways of living that support being in harmony with the universe

41:18 – Repercussions of assumptions/conclusions about one’s identity being vast and big (in other words, awareness getting reified into the self as big awareness), and how this can affect the body and make a person more porous energetically; addressing this problem in practice by noticing the space and relaxing the center

51:22 – Keeping the questions open: how much structure does the self need to function well, how much might not be needed, in what ways can it be present and really work, and in what ways might it not be working; relational practice / personal relationship to spirit, orienting towards certain archetypes or aspects of Buddha nature as a way to give a format and structure to the self as an individual

55:35 – Outro


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Feb 11, 2019
Deconstructing the Heart Sutra, with Jayarava Attwood
00:59:28

Buddhist scholar Jayarava Attwood speaks with host Michael Taft about the history of the Pali Canon, how ideas about karma & dependent arising contradict each other, the shifting grounds under the apparent solidity of the suttas, monism vs. pluralism, meditation as a subjective or objective practice, and the fact that the Sanskrit Heart Sutra is a forgery,

Jayarava is a longtime member of the Triratna Buddhist Order, who writes about the history of ideas in Buddhism. Since 2012 he has been mainly focused on revising the text and history of the Heart Sutra, and also writes about karma and how it changed over time. His blog explores the clash between modernity and tradition with respect to Buddhism. He also works in various art forms, including music, painting, photography, and calligraphy.

Links

On the anupalambha meditation practice:


Show Notes

0:25 – Introduction

2:29 – How Jayarava got involved with the Triratna Buddhist Order and learned Pali

5:47 – The history of the Pali Canon; figuring out when the texts were first recorded; how accurately the original words were memorized

11:45 – Fitting together the concepts of karma and dependent origination; how different Abhidhamma groups and others tried to resolve the contradictions

17:07 – How rebirth became a burden to escape from, rather than a good thing; different concepts of afterlife

21:12 – Differences in source texts; how translations are influenced by commentaries

25:32 – History of the Heart Sutra

30:19 – Jan Nattier’s discovery that the Sanskrit HeartSutra is not original but a translation from Chinese, and how often this sort of thing might have occurred with other texts; Matthew Orsborn’s paper showing errors in previous interpretations of the Heart Sutra. “It’s not saying, ‘Okay, form doesn’t exist. It’s just an illusion.’ It’s saying when you get to a certain point in your meditation, form stops arising. It’s not that there’s no form; it’s just that, for you in that moment, form doesn’t exist, or it doesn’t arise.”

36:45 – Description of a meditation practice of paying attention to what’s absent; insight arising after cessation

42:12 – If you do this sort of critical analysis of Buddhism and parts of it fail, what’s left? The practices and ways of talking about them; the value of practice in modern life

46:11 – The problem of bundling mindfulness with religion, the usefulness of secular mindfulness; multiple ways of teaching are valuable; monism versus pluralism

54:01 – Discovering the nature of subjective reality, rather than seeing reality as it really is

59:16 – Outro


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Jan 20, 2019
Robert Anton Wilson, High Weirdness, and Buddhist Meditation, with Erik Davis
01:04:56

Michael Taft speaks with Erik Davis about author Robert Anton Wilson, anarchism in the 1970s, Terrence McKenna, P.K. Dick, psychedelics, cultures of awakening now and then, Zen practice, and more. 

Erik Davis is an author, podcaster, award-winning journalist, and popular speaker based in San Francisco. He is probably best known for his book TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information, a cult classic of visionary media studies that investigates how our fascination with technology intersects with the religious imagination. And his podcast, Expanding Mind has long been a favorite of mine.

Techgnosis.com


Show Notes

0:25 – Introduction

2:58 – Erik’s book, High Weirdness, Drugs, Visions, and Esoterica in the Seventies

6:11 – The impact of Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger; guerrilla ontology; libertarianism, anarchy, and radical individualism

13:34 – Wilson’s anarchism’s basis in his cosmic view against institutionalized and concentrated power

15:43 – Ontological anarchism – ‘multiple perspectives all the way down’ ; relationship of metasystemic thinking and emptiness/nonduality; the challenge of wrestling with different perspectives that don’t quite fit together and the insight that comes from it

23:10 – How trying to fit everything into one map doesn’t work, and the place of psychedelics in recognizing that; realizing that language constructs reality, and learning to deconstruct and go beyond language and maps

27:23 – Wilson’s Quantum Psychology, its exercises in switching models and taking new perspectives; what makes a spiritual teacher different from somebody who is handing you a lot of very useful techniques and practices

33:00 – Why tech/STEM people might be interested in meditation and psychedelics; how younger generations connect more horizontally rather than vertically (between generations or between different statuses in society); psychedelics as learning experiences rather than tool-using experiences

37:26 – Capitalism’s influence on views and uses of psychedelics, how a potentially radical or even revolutionary compound can be whittled down into something that’s a performance enhancer

40:00 – How mainstream materialism (“all reality is created by the brain”) requires explanations for what happens with psychedelic use; how the illegality of psychedelics affects the vibe and the relationship with them

44:29 – Modern taming down of both psychedelics and meditation; reminding people about the potentials for radicality and weirdness: “The weird is part of reality. It’s not a distortion of what is otherwise seen with clarity.”

48:21 – Pharmaceutical companies patenting synthetic psilocybin – “There’s still all these mushrooms growing up in the grass, and as long as there’s a culture of […] people who like weird experiences, there’s going to be this zone that’s outside of it”

54:27 – How do you encourage the highest percentage of people who are doing corporate mindfulness, mainstream meditation to enter into the deeper folds of it

1:04:46 – Outro

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Dec 14, 2018
What Can AI Tell Us about the Human Mind? with Joscha Bach
01:03:07

Host Michael Taft speaks with Joscha Bach about artificial intelligence; the sense of self; building a civilizational intellect; what it is like to be a mind?; the relationships between motivation, emotion, and behavior; the “cargo cult” model of civilization; what is learning?; how artificial minds may be different from human minds, the enlightenment industry, the Tower of Babel myth; and much more.

Dr. Joscha Bach is an Artificial Intelligence researcher at MIT and Harvard who works and writes about cognitive architectures, mental representation, emotion, social modeling, and multi-agent systems. Bach’s mission to build a model of the mind is the bedrock research in the creation of Strong Artificial Intelligence, i.e. cognition on par with that of a human being.He is especially interested in the philosophy of Artificial Intelligence and in the augmentation of the human mind.

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Nov 18, 2018
Doubt, Faith, and Fun in Meditation Practice, with Daniel Ingram
01:14:37

Daniel Ingram and Michael Taft talk about the Fire Kasina practice, how making mental objects the focus can lead to deep awakening, balancing wisdom and faith, processing trauma with meditation practice, and how beauty can be a great support and inspiration on the path. Daniel shares about his experiences and spiritual development with Fire Kasina work, co-teaching with Culadasa, the increasing numbers of people attaining stream entry, and the over-diagnosis of attainment. Also discussed is Michael’s experience with faith and guru based practice, the effects of of impermanence insight on concentration, “hindrances for smart people,” rapture, and more.

Daniel Ingram is an emergency medicine physician and long-time dharma practitioner. He is the author of the seminal text Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha — now out in its second edition — and also the main force behind the radical dharmaoverground website, which specializes in a brand of unusually-frank discussion of meditation.

 

Links

Dharma Treasure

The Mind Illuminated (TMI)

Shinzen Young

Shannon Stein/The Hermitage

DY Fire Kasina Interview

Trauma Sensitive Mindfulness

The Body Keeps the Score

DY Stream Entry Interview with Culadasa


Show Notes

2:26 – Daniel’s recent visit to Dharma Treasure

4:34 – Daniel’s teaching model

9:11 – Fire Kasina update

12:16 – The “Play and Fun” of Fire Kasina work

17:23 – Waking up the mind

25:14 – How Daniel processed trauma from working in emergency medicine

27:12 – Hindrances for smart people

29:22 – How skillful faith can clear the way through the analytical mind

32:45 – Michael’s shift from sarcasm and skepticism to beauty and love

36:57 – The inspiration and dignity of beauty in spiritual practice

40:47 – Daniel’s journey to embracing faith

44:57 – Pragmatic faith

47:05 – Working with analytical thinking

51:02 – The meta-hindrance of self-loathing

54:05 – Addressing attachment to intellect and drivenness in spiritual practice

58:18 – Daniel’s tips for Vipassana practitioners

1:01:48 – Rapture and awakening

1:05:49 – The analogy of the kazoo player

1:12:25 – How the insight of impermanence changes the experience of concentration

1:16:29 – Stream entry and the over-diagnosis of attainment

 

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Oct 23, 2018
Feminism, Sexual Misconduct, and the Guru in Buddhism, with Chandra Easton
01:22:48

Chandra Easton and Michael Taft talk about gender and sexual misconduct in Buddhism, why compassion must be a part of spiritual practice, and the place of the guru in modern culture. Chandra shares her personal story of dealing with sexual misconduct at the hands of her teacher, tantric practices as a technology for awakening, internalized patriarchy, and how love and kindness is the whole point of spiritual practice. Also included are guidelines for choosing a teacher, reimagining Tantric practices in non-binary ways, and much more.

Chandra Easton studied Buddhist philosophy, meditation, and Tibetan language at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala, India, and translated Tibetan Buddhist texts on meditation with B. Alan Wallace. Chandra has taught meditation and yoga since 2001. She has studied with many Tibetan and Western Buddhist teachers such as H.H. Dalai Lama, H.H. Karmapa, Lama Tsultrim Allione, B. Alan Wallace,Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche, and Jennifer Welwood. She is currently the Assistant Spiritual Director & Head Teacher at the Tara Mandala Retreat Center. To learn more visit www.shunyatayoga.com and www.taramandala.org.


Links

The teachings of Chöd

Namkhai Norbu

Lama Tsultrim Allione

The Alchemical Body

The Anam Cara

 

Show Notes

2:57 - Chandra’s move to Colorado

4:14 - The Tara Mandala retreat center

6:35 - The Chöd practices

11:33 - Namkhai Norbu and “self-secret”

14:33 - The technology of Tantra

20:38 - The motivation of compassion

25:54 - Guru sexual misconduct and The Feminine in Buddhism

34:04 - The Buddha’s views on women

37:38 - The Tantra movement

40:01 - Women in Buddhism and what needs to change

44:41 - Women-run sanghas

47:39 - Gender in Tantric practices

52:16 - Sexual abuse and spiritual leaders

59:05 - How to choose a teacher

1:05:04 - Qualities to look for in a teacher

1:10:11 - Is the guru still needed?

1:13:05 - The Soul Friend

1:15:40 - The story of the Grandma and the Dog’s Tooth

1:19:54 - The teacher vs. the teachings

1:28:35 - Education changing the female experience in Buddhism

 

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Oct 11, 2018
Deconstructing Michael, with Erik Newton
01:02:05

Turning the tables on the usual show format, host Michael Taft gets interviewed by Erik Newton. They talk about the meaning of awakening, the paradox of suffering, the end of seeking, the value of personal experience vs. scriptural understanding, Erik’s awakening experience, new technologies of awakening, the genesis of the Deconstructing Yourself podcast, and more.

Erik Newton is a lawyer and was the head of a successful family law firm, which gave him the opportunity to take part in 1000s of divorces. As the result of his experience, two things happened: one was that he created the wildly popular podcast entitled “Together” — the podcast that explores the truth of human relationships — in which Erik uses his hard-won knowledge of the many failure modes of relationships to help couples understand how come together. The second was that he had a major awakening experience.


Links

Kenneth Folk on DY

The Forest Refuge

Michael’s Book on Non-Duality

Daniel Ingram on DY

Michael’s Article on Awakening

The Mindful Geek


Show Notes

3:50 – How The DY Podcast Began

6:58 – The Conversation of Awakening as a Creative Journey

9:30 – The Joy of Getting Inside Somebody Else’s Mind

10:40 – What is “The Path”?

12:09 – Where Did the Name “Deconstructing Yourself” Come From?

14:48 – Deconstructing Leads to Reconstructing

16:13 – Deconstruction and Reconstruction in Buddhism

16:57 – Erik’s Awakenings and Emptiness Experiences

18:58 – “Heaven is a Place Where Nothing Ever Happens”

20:24 – The “What Next” Factor Leads Us Back to The World

21:30 – The Pros and Cons of Michael’s Style of Learning and Teaching

24:04 – The Value of Academia and Scripture

25:24 – Everything is Partially True and False

26:43 – Michael’s Time as a Seeker

28:00 – What is a Seeker?

28:36 – The Slow Death of the Seeker

31:02 – Awakening Can Save the World

32:36 – Nothing Matters and A Lot Matters

34:51 – Does It Hurt to Be Aware of Suffering?

36:03 – The Game of Recognizing Emptiness and Engaging Anyway

37:37 – Awake People Are Still People

38:46 – A Perfect Relationship Doesn’t Exist

40:21 – Popping the Bubbles of Projection

41:33 – Redefining Awakening Through Science

43:06 – Empathizing with Critics

43:54 – Teaching for The Western Mind

45:42 – The Practical Impact of Awakening

46:26 – Plant Medicine as a Shortcut for Awakening

47:15 – Technology’s Place in Awakening

51:48 – The Power of Communication Technology

52:19 – Normalizing Awakening

53:46 – Nudges Towards Awakening

55:22 – Teaching Meditation at Erik’s Start Up

56:33 – Beginner’s Mind

57:18 – Goals, Motivations, and Ethics in Meditation

58:42 – Waking Up in Silicon Valley

 

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Sep 18, 2018
Emptiness, Liberation, and Beauty, with Rob Burbea
01:01:14

In this episode host Michael Taft speaks with Rob Burbea about Rob’s book, Seeing That Frees, the power of perception (ways of seeing), his creative methods of working with meditation practice, meditating with a more analytical vs more phenomenological focus, how analytical meditation works, Rob’s “soulmaking dharma,” the emptiness of conceptual frameworks, facing the end of life, and the meaning of emptiness.

Rob Burbea is a meditation teacher, musician, author, who teaches at Gaia House in Devon, England. Rob is the author of the groundbreaking meditation practice book entitled, Seeing That Frees: Meditations on Emptiness and Dependent Arising. Rob and Michael discuss it at length in this episode.

Seeing that Frees on Amazon


Show Notes

0:24 – Introduction

1:49 – Seeing That Frees, the idea of ways of looking that are liberating

4:34 – Example of the classical Buddhist anattā way of looking, unhooking identification, and moving towards less fabrication of perception

14:14 – Rob’s teachers and how his creative meditative exploration unfolded

22:57 – Following the lead of beauty and the sense of liberation into new territory

27:01 – What is emptiness?

35:10 – An example of analytical meditation on time and its effect on the fading of perception

41:38 – Soulmaking, skillful fabrication, and broadening the scope of the purpose of meditation beyond just the release of obvious suffering

44:55 – Working with soulmaking and images that are intrapsychic or in the world of material objects, contextualizing these practices, and parallels with meta-rationality

48:54 – Gauging the progress of insight into emptiness through palpable senses of relief and release and senses of perception opening up in wondrous and beautiful ways

53:12 – On a personal journey of soulmaking through health crises and the possibility of dying

1:01:12 – Outro


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Aug 27, 2018
Walking, Nature, and Engaged Buddhism, with Christopher Titmuss
00:53:50

In this episode, host Michael W. Taft speaks with senior dharma teacher Christopher Titmuss about yatra—meditative pilgrimage without a destination—the power of nature, the importance of deconstructing the self, the psychedelic 60s, Vietnam, engaged Buddhism, the role of spiritual practice in the current world crisis, and the central role of liberation in meditation.

Christopher Titmuss is an insight meditation teacher, author, and former Theravada Buddhist monk. He is the co-founder of Gaia House, a large Buddhist retreat center in Devon, England, where he has been teaching since the early 1980s. A renowned proponent of engaged Buddhism, Christopher is the author of numerous books, and twice ran for election as a top Green Party candidate in England.

 

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Aug 14, 2018
Lucid Dreaming, Meditation, and Consciousness, with Evan Thompson
01:13:42

In this episode, philosopher, author, and meditator, Evan Thompson speaks with host Michael Taft. Topics include: the meaning of awakening; lucid dreaming and noticing the construction of the waking state; the 3-fold structure of Awareness, Contents of Awareness, and then Identification with Contents; The cosmopolitanism of Buddhism, and the myth of Buddhist exceptionalism; consciousness hacking and psychedelics; and much more.

Evan Thompson, PhD, works on the nature of the mind, the self, and human experience. His work combines cognitive science, philosophy of mind, phenomenology, and cross-cultural philosophy, especially in Asian traditions. His most recent book, Waking, Dreaming, Being, examines the self and consciousness in neuroscience, meditation, and philosophy.

Show Notes

1:50 - Evan’s personal practice and retreat in Nelson, British Columbia.

4:55 - Central metaphor of awakening from sleep-wake cycle. Fractal nature of awakening.

8:50 - Phenomenal sense of insight into waking up, false awakening.

11:40 - Is waking up a recurring process as in the ordinary sleep-wake cycle?

15:10 - Awakening as metaphorical concept and not a state. Ethics, values tied to awakening.

17:15 - Embodied nature of consciousness and awakening.

19:55 - Extended consciousness involving brain, body and environment vs panpsychism.

23:35 - Meditation is not first person science, more similar to dance and martial arts.

28:25 - Basic structure of Waking, Dreaming, Being based on Upanishads.

29:05 - Unpacking the Upanishadic structure in the context of meditation.

33:45 - Lucid dreaming for cultivating awareness rather than dream control.

37:45 - Connection between framing of dream and waking states.

38:50 - Consciousness versus contents of consciousness. Sense of self while awake, dreaming.

43:25 - Neuroscience of self and memory while dreaming.

45:30 - Neuroscience of self and memory while awake.

46:20 - Brain as active while asleep as awake, but in different local and network ways.

48:00 - Sleep needed for memory consolidation, learning and self regulation.

49:35 - Meditation not only limited to brain but an activity practiced in a social context.

53:05 - Meditation embodied in a wider context that may be missed in brain only fMRI scans.

55:40 - Wings needed for flight but flight is not in the wings, brain needed for meditation …

56:55 - Meditation reduced to neuroscience correlates may be too reductionist.

58:05 - Neuroscience being used to “prove” Buddhism. Fetishizing Buddhism.

1:00:35 - Buddhism is a religion despite claims to the contrary, a lot of Buddhist exceptionalism.

1:03:00 - Critique of Buddhist exceptionalism in new book. Cosmopolitan Buddhism preferred.

1:05:35 - Evan’s book in progress Why I am not a Buddhist.

1:07:05 - Hopeful signs in greater sensitivity to environment, equality.

1:10:05 - Unbalanced approach to psychedelics. Consciousness hacking as fear of death.

1:13:20 - Outro


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Jun 30, 2018
Are More People Achieving Stream Entry These Days? with Culadasa
01:21:56

In this episode host Michael Taft speaks with meditation teacher, neuroscientist, and author John Yates, also known as Culadasa. Topics covered include: Are more people achieving stream entry these days?, a clear definition of stream entry, the Buddha’s concept of yathābhūtañāṇadassanaṃ or “seeing things as they really are,” reaching a tipping point of stream enterers to avert the coming world disasters, tips for meditation in action, using consciousness hacking and/or drugs to accelerate insight, paṭiccasamuppāda – the interpenetrating nature of phenomena, quantum entanglement and individual minds, the nondual viewpoint, an explanation of reincarnation and past life experiences, and much more.

Culadasa has been practicing Buddhist meditation for over four decades, mainly in Tibetan lineages. He is the director of Dharma Treasure Buddhist Sangha in Tucson, Arizona where he teaches meditation and Buddhism from a modern, progressive scientific perspective. His groundbreaking book, The Mind Illuminated, is a modern road map to Buddhist meditation for a Western audience which combines age-old wisdom teachings of the Buddha with the latest research in cognitive psychology and neuroscience. Learn more at culadasa.com.

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Jun 11, 2018
Emotions, Stress, and Heartbreak, with Eve Ekman
01:28:41

In this episode emotions researcher and meditation teacher Eve Ekman speaks with Michael W. Taft about embodied emotions, the difference between suppression and healthy expression, impermanence of sensation and moment by moment contact with emotion, emotion-laden cognitions, HH the Dalai Lama, punk rock and Gilman St., surfing, being nice to cats, the Vagus nerve and kundalini, the epidemic of stress and burnout, modern dystopia, struggling with cynicism, the embedded ethnography of heartbreak, and much, much more.

Eve Ekman PhD, MSW designs, delivers and evaluates trainings on the development of emotional awareness and the cultivation of deep seated contentment. Eve draws from educations and life experience in clinical social work, integrative medicine and contemplative practice. Eve is a second generation emotion researcher and has had meaningful collaborations with her father, renowned emotion researcher Dr. Paul Ekman. Their most recent project, The Atlas of Emotions, is an online visual tool to teach emotional awareness, a project commissioned and supported by the Dalai Lama. Eve is a founding teacher for Cultivating Emotional Balance, an evidenced based training with a rich contemplative science lineage of Western and Eastern approaches to emotional and genuine happiness.

eveekman.com

atlasofemotions.org

 

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May 29, 2018
Why Good Teachers Go Bad, with Shinzen Young
01:28:36

In this special one-year anniversary episode, Shinzen Young talks with host Michael W. Taft about becoming a meditation teacher, the unrealistic paradigm about what meditation delivers, Shinzen’s codependency disaster, Bill Hamilton, the great unsung hero of vipassana in the Western world, homology theory, how science can influence meditation in the West, sociopathic teachers, and what we can do to make sure that good teachers don’t go bad. Who is a teacher? What’s the family test? These questions and more.

Shinzen Young is an American mindfulness teacher and neuroscience research consultant.His systematic approach to categorizing, adapting and teaching meditation, known as Unified Mindfulness, has resulted in collaborations with Harvard Medical School, Carnegie-Mellon University, and the University of Vermont in the burgeoning field of contemplative neuroscience. You can learn more about Shinzen on his website shinzen.org.

Show Notes

1:40 – Shinzen Intro

3:00 – Shinzen talks about Homology Theory

7:50 – Meditation and science complement each other like algebra and geometry

9:30 – Coupling of science and contemplative practice

12:50 – What science can teach contemplative practice

13:49 – In some ways scientists have less ego than meditation masters

15:50 – All meditators are teachers

20:55 – Ability of a “professional meditation teacher” to lead students through all goals

24:24 – Why meditation teachers should have respectful but open and unhurried dialog to improve the field

36:44 – Improving science by reducing ego in other ways via Meditation

38:25 – The contradiction of advanced meditators exhibiting unacceptable behavior

42:44 – The high profile flagrant behavior of a few tends to overshadow the overall positive impact of practice

46:30 – What’s missing in the case of advanced meditators who go morally off track

59:30 – Unrealistic paradigms of what liberation and meditation delivers and how it’s possible to do wrong from a place of emptiness

1:10:20 – Role/Power of a meditation teacher and culture

1:16:01 – Plane crash analogy and Shinzen’s story of going off-track

1:21:40 – The feedback that helped Shinzen fix co-dependence

1:24:50 – Bill Hamilton, “the great unsung hero of vipassana in the West”

 

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May 18, 2018
Deconstructing Dependent Arising, with Leigh Brasington
01:00:22

Leigh Brasington speaks with host Michael W. Taft about Dependent Arising. Dependent Arising, also called Dependent Origination, is a Buddhist theory of reality that is famously complex, arcane, important, and fascinating. In this episode they discuss early Buddhist metaphysics, Pratītyasamutpāda—the “curious old rune”, the four noble truths version of Dependent Arising, the Vedic Hymn of Creation, Leigh’s model of SODAPI (Streams of Dependently Arising Processes Interacting), and how to use the teaching of Dependent Arising in practice and in life.

Leigh Brasington has been practicing meditation for decades and is the senior American student of the late Venerable Ayya Khema. Leigh began assisting her in 1994, and began teaching retreats on his own in 1997. He teaches in Europe and North America and is the author of the book Right Concentration: A Practical Guide to the Jhanas. Find more about Leigh’s teaching and schedule at leighb.com.

 

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Apr 29, 2018
Seeing Your Blind Spots, with Kelly Boys
00:44:03

Kelly Boys talks with Michael Taft about integral restoration, nondual awakening, the work of Kahneman, spiritual bypassing, gendered aspects of awakening and spiritual teaching, when knowing less is better, engaged Buddhism, Christianity and the experience of being held, digging into illusory egoic material, and how to see your own blind spots.

Kelly Boys is a consultant with the United Nations Foundation where she helped to create and works to deliver a mindfulness and well-being program for UN humanitarian aid workers on the front lines in the Middle East and beyond. She is also a freelance producer at Sounds True Publishing and the author of the forthcoming book entitled The Blind Spot Effect: How to Stop Missing What's Right in Front of You. Kelly is a mindfulness teacher and founding advisor for the meditation app Simple Habit. She teaches retreats and workshops at spots like the Esalen Institute.

 

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Apr 15, 2018
Popping the Bubble of Projection, with Daniel Ingram
00:58:19

Daniel Ingram talks with Michael W. Taft about teacher-student models, graduate school models of practice, creating meditation peer groups, working with “co-adventurers” on the spiritual path, overcoming projection as a teacher, and more.

Daniel Ingram is an emergency medicine physician and long-time dharma practitioner. He famously exploded the Buddhist world when he declared himself to be an arhat and published the seminal text Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha: an Unusually Hardcore Dharma Book in 2008. He is also the main force behind the radical Dharma Overground website, that specializes in a brand of unusually-frank discussion of meditation practice.

You can learn more about Daniel at his website, www.integrateddaniel.info.

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Apr 02, 2018
Standing at the Edge, with Roshi Joan Halifax
00:45:52

Roshi Joan Halifax speaks with host Michael W. Taft about her new book, Standing at the Edge, the shadow sides of altruism, empathy, integrity, respect, engagement, and rays of hope in current times.

Roshi Joan Halifax, Ph.D. is a Buddhist teacher, Zen priest, anthropologist, and pioneer in the field of end-of-life care. She is Founder, Abbot, and Head Teacher of Upaya Institute and Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A Founding Teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order and founder of Prajna Mountain Buddhist Order, her work and practice for more than four decades has focused on engaged Buddhism. Her books include: The Fruitful Darkness, A Journey Through Buddhist Practice, Being with Dying, and her forthcoming, Standing at the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet.

Upaya Zen Center

Standing at the Edge on Amazon

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Mar 15, 2018
Eddies in the Mind Stream, with Rick Hanson, Ph.D.
01:45:57

Rick Hanson and I discuss the tension between accepting how you're feeling and changing how you're feeling, spiritual bypassing, how to cultivate positive states of mind, the quivering potentiality at the front edge of now, the three branches of attention, why Buddhist aggressiveness is not an oxymoron, and, of course, ewoks.

Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a psychologist, Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and New York Times best-selling author. His books include Buddha’s Brain, Hardwiring Happiness, and the new book Resilient. Rick began meditating in 1974, has trained in several traditions, and teaches at meditation centers around the world.

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Mar 01, 2018
Diving Deep into the Jhanas, with Leigh Brasington
01:18:00

Concentration master Leigh Brasington talks with Michael W. Taft about the jhanas, a Buddhist system of eight altered states of consciousness that arise in states of high concentration. The conversation dives deep into practicing each of these eight states, how the jhanas relate to vipassana practice, ways to work through major challenges that may arise, the so-called "powers" that are often attributed to concentration practice, and much more.

Leigh Brasington has been practicing meditation since 1985 and is the senior American student of the late Ven. Ayya Khema. Leigh began assisting Ven. Ayya Khemma in 1994, and began teaching retreats on his on in 1997. He teaches in Europe and North America and is the author of the book Right Concentration: A Practical Guide to the Jhanas. Find more about Leigh’s teaching and schedule at http://leighb.com.


Show Notes

0:31 - Introduction

1:59 - The Jhanas, de-emphasis on jhana practice in American practice, the Visuddhimagga, Paw Auk Sawadaw, overview concentration vs vipassana

5:23 - The variety of systems of jhana, why there are differences in what counts as jhana, sermons, meditation instructions and one on one interviews

8:08 - The Jhanas - specific states

10:16 - Did the Buddha learn the jhanas from his teachers?

12:19 - The Buddha’s unique contribution – a well-concentrated mind can more accurately investigate reality – vipassana

13:21 - Redefinition of the jhanas over time - Sutta to Abhidharma to Visuddhimagga

15:37 - What makes concentration a jhana?

17:36 - Jhana from a light switch or other object how to generate it, access concentration, feedback loops to generate piti-sukkha

19:41 - Piti-sukkha gleeful happiness - variety of experience among meditators

20:23 - How long does attention need to be there? Indistractability, and when to switch between access concentration and the first jhana

22:26 - Why is this better than meditating on a cloud? Why meditate on piti-sukkha? A great way to set up your vipassana practice.

24:34 - The higher jhanas, discussion of emotions with bodily components vs emotions as embodied with mental aspects.

27:10 - Focus in the first four jhanas on the mental aspect of the emotion vs. the physical aspect

28:36 - How long does it take to learn the jhanas

29:36 - Unresolved psychological stuff may show up as a function of concentration, getting those up and out,

32:04 -Example feeling of unworthiness, low self esteem, how to handle it,

35:21 -Purification practice

39:55 -Unwise action that won’t lead to the results you are hoping for, social media, where people are trying to get happiness and be safe

42:21 -Strong piti in first jhana, moving from first to second jhana

45:21 -Jhanic states and neurotransmitters and transition to third jhana, varying time in different jhanas

47:56 -The Difference between the second and third jhana, third jhana afterglow

49:38 - Moving into the fourth jhana, attention on the quiet stillness wherever you find it

52:16 - Hanging out in the fourth jhana, and insight practice

55:28 - Misinformation on the jhanas

57:48  - The four immaterial jhanas

1:00:40  - Getting to the fifth jhana

1:02:17  - The sixth, seventh, and eighth jhanas

1:05:03  - The ninth jhana - cessation of feeling and perception

1:07:17 - Weird experiences with jhanic concentration, powers

1:13:40 - Which jhanas are helpful for insight practice, even access concentration helps,

1:15:01 - The jhanas and retreat

1:15:17 - The importance of the jhanas


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Feb 05, 2018
Enlightened Sexuality, with Jessica Graham
01:03:40

In this episode, I talk with Jessica Graham about her book Good Sex, the #MeToo movement, the power of self love and acceptance, a beginner’s guide to spiritual awakening through sexuality, mindful masturbation, aspects of puritanism in Buddhism, the meditative way to work with "love drugs," and much more.

Jessica Graham is a spiritual teacher, sex and intimacy guide, and author. Jessica began studying meditating in earnest a decade ago and started teaching soon after. Jessica is also passionate about exploring sexuality and helping others heal, evolve, and awaken sexually. She is the author of Good Sex: Getting Off without Checking Out .Jessica is also an award-winning actor and filmmaker. And, of course, Jessica is the author of many of the articles on the Deconstructing Yourself blog.

Read Jessica's series of posts on Mindful Sex

Visit Jessica's website

 

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Jan 22, 2018
Consciousness, Spirituality, and Intellectual Honesty, with Thomas Metzinger
01:31:32

Thomas Metzinger and Michael W. Taft discuss having moral integrity with yourself, intellectual honesty in the pursuit of spirituality, the overlapping goals of science and spirituality, the possibility of a fully secularized spirituality, neurofeedback and virtual reality, mortality denial, the simulation hypothesis, and a whole bunch more.

Thomas Metzinger is full professor and director of the theoretical philosophy group and the research group on neuroethics/neurophilosophy at the department of philosophy, Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany. He is the founder and director of the MIND group and Adjunct Fellow at the Frankfurt Institute of Advanced Studies, Germany. His research centers on analytic philosophy of mind, applied ethics, philosophy of cognitive science, and philosophy of mind. He is the editor of Neural Correlates of Consciousness and the author of Being No One and The Ego Tunnel.

Thomas Metzinger’s website.

A video of Metzinger’s Spirituality and Intellectual Honesty talk.

Read an interview with Thomas Metzinger, entitled “What Is the Self?


Show Notes

0:25 – Introduction

2:53 – Interesting times in the world

4:12 – Summary of Thomas’ talk, “Spirituality and Intellectual Honesty”

7:46 – Impact and divided reactions to “Spirituality and Intellectual Honesty”

12:43 – Internal moral integrity: belief formation & authority

17:05 – Needing a teacher, master or guru

21:10 – Surrender, Western enlightenment and the “crazy corner”

24:13 – Getting science to say something interesting about human experience

26:08 – Neurofeedback glasses for walking meditation; taking meditation into life

30:00 – Virtuality and nothingness, consciousness as virtual reality

34:03 – Suchness; spirituality as de-immersion from conscious experience, meditating on artifacts

36:20 – The feeling of being real, transparently and opacity

38:55 – Hyperreality & derealization: hallucinogens, religious ecstasy and seizures

40:42 – VR meditation, getting in touch with virtuality

42:28 – Reaching earlier brain processing stages through meditation or hallucinogens

45:43 – The Ruining Innocence podcast: a half-serious criticism of taxonomies and discussing meditation

49:33 – Thomas’ thoughts on the Arrow of Attention; correlates in neuroscience

53:20 – Mindfulness of inattention and avoidance, pitfalls of mindfulness

56:07 – Discussing Douglas Harding: the Headless Way and immersion; more discussion of the Arrow of Attention

1:00:14 – The self as a visual metaphor; the pre-3D lump of sensations and motor babbling

1:03:23 – Thomas’ recent studies of subjectivity: the epistemic agent model of self

1:09:48 – How it transpires that the Self is not conscious

1:11:34 – Questioning science’s value for practice; the moral imperative of trying to improve contemplative practice

1:15:12 – Thomas’ critique of the perennial philosophy; strategies of mortality denial

1:22:07 – The simulation hypothesis; thoughts in the mind of god

1:25:41 – Is suffering real, and how deep does reality go?

1:29:05 – A hypothetical merging of science and subjectivity

1:31:29 – Outro


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Dec 29, 2017
Reality Let Loose, with A. H. Almaas
01:16:19

In this episode, host Michael Taft speaks with spiritual teacher and author Hameed Ali, more often known by his pen name, A. H. Almaas.

Almaas is the creator of the Diamond Approach to Self-Realization, which is a contemporary teaching developed within the context of both ancient spiritual teachings and modern depth psychology theories. Almaas has authored eighteen books about spiritual realization, including the Diamond Heart series, The Pearl Beyond Price, The Void, The Unfolding Now, and The Point of Existence.

Michael writes: I met Almaas at his office in Berkeley, where we sat down for a comfortable chat about attachment to the nondual viewpoint, a way of awakening that he calls the “unilocal,” the role of instinct in the spiritual quest, the essential activation of continuous awakening, integrating awakening with the phenomenology of Husserl and Heidegger, and much more. He’s a fascinating guy with a lot to say, and so I’m very happy to present to you the episode that I call “Reality Let Loose.”

Find out more about Almaas at his website.

Show Notes

00:25 - Introduction and summary

02:07 - The Alchemy of Freedom & the many faces of true nature

05:22 - The second turning, nonduality & the third turning, the presence in the Void

08:57 - Exploring the presence: unilocality and the experience of containing everything

14:55 - The fourth turning: singularity & the delight of freedom

19:42 - Immense lightness & the sliding scale of emptiness

23:10 - More on the fourth turning: the view of totality & the pain of going past non-duality

30:50 - Non-duality as part of a sequence of awakenings

33:39 - More fourth turning awakenings: not-anything, non-condition

38:34 - The philosopher's stone & the dynamic, quantum nature of reality

42:30 - Working with true nature & endless awakenings

46:23 - Learning to accept the view of totality & moving beyond belief

51:32 - Aliens, red sulfur, & no-end

58:47 - All spiritual paths are valid

1:00:00 - Almaas' upcoming books: phenomenology of awakening

1:05:33 - Upcoming, continued: instinct & awakening

1:09:19 - Lifeforce, enlightened aliens & the self-revealing nature of true nature

1:12:00 - True nature without consciousness & the mystery at the source of awareness

1:13:34 - Concluding remarks: practice is realization

1:16:16 - Outro

 

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Dec 14, 2017
Attention, Awareness, and the Great Adventure, with Culadasa
01:06:24

Culadasa talks with Michael W. Taft. After decades of Buddhist practice, Culadasa exploded on the scene a few years ago with his groundbreaking book The Mind Illuminated, an incredibly comprehensive guide to meditation. It’s an erudite mixture of neuroscience, traditional Buddhist practice, and Culadasa’s own ideas about how to gt the most out of practice. In this episode we talk about his definitions of attention and awareness, how his system compares to that of his friend teacher Shinzen Young, how the meditative brain works, dealing with aging and death, and much more.


Learn more about Culadasa and his teaching at culadasa.com


Show Notes

0:15 – Introduction and overview

2:30 – Culadasa’s system vs. Shinzen Young’s: stability of attention

7:55 – Sustained attention and effortlessness

10:20 – Culadasa’s system vs. Shinzen Young’s: sensory clarity and peripheral awareness

19:55 – Mindfulness as the optimal interaction between attention and awareness

22:55 – Conceptual overlays and the lower limits of conscious perception

32:50 – Attention selects objects from peripheral awareness

35:00 – The interactive role of attention and awareness in maintaining mindfulness in daily life

38:30 – How strong mindfulness affects emotions, wholesome and unwholesome behavior, and the practice of virtue

43:50 – The importance of the Eightfold Path post-awakening

47:20 – The Ten Fetter, Four Path Model: characteristics of paths and the dropping of fetters

59:49 – Spiritual development does not end at Fourth Path

1:01:57 – Old age, sickness and death are part of the Great Adventure


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Dec 04, 2017
The Craving Mind, with Judson Brewer
01:06:43

What do the neurocorrelates of enlightenment, the activation of the posterior cingulate cortex, and the extinction of craving all have in common? They relate to the work of Judson Brewer. Jud talks with Michael W. Taft about his brain biofeedback machine, the neurophenomonolgy of effort vs. non-effort, the feedback loop of reward-based learning, working with the black hole of anxiety, self-referential thinking as a kind of addiction, and much more.

Judson Brewer is an MD-PhD and a thought leader in the field of habit change and the “science of self-mastery”, having combined nearly 20 years of experience with mindfulness training with his scientific research.

A psychiatrist and internationally known expert in mindfulness training for addictions, Brewer has developed and tested novel mindfulness programs for habit change, including both in-person and app-based treatments. He has also studied the underlying neural mechanisms of mindfulness using standard and real-time fMRI. His work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, American Heart Association, Fetzer Trust among others.

Check out Jud’s recent book, entitled, The Craving Mind.

In this TED talk, Jud describes how to “get out of your own way.”


Show Notes

3:37 – Has Jud found the neurocorrelates of enlightenment?

4:40 – The Default Mode Network and science, the PCC – Craving and tanha – Details of fMRI experiments

5:57 – Trying, Flow and PCC activity, contraction vs. expansion

9:36 – Jud’s own practice in the scanner, metta, calibrating the scale of exp/con

20:45 – High concentration vs. effortlessness – no force necessary – 7 factors of awakening

28:54 – What has Jud found? Excitement vs. happiness – a learning tool

30:30 – What we see with experienced meditators / Best use of his neurofeedback technology

36:09 – Michael’s experience in the device

38:30 – Neurophenomolgy effort vs. non-effort, and the feedback loop of reward-based learning – the perpetual Skinner box of relative rewards – anger vs. kindness

42:30 – Addiction – allcohol, cocaine, smoking – smoking tastes bad when you pay attention

45:50 – Paying attention to eating – Joie de vivre – PCC and digital therapeutics – apps

53:24 – The trickiness of the black hole of anxiety – Unwinding Anxiety app

56:20 – Do we have to practice abstinence or not? – Is addiction a disease?

1:00:27 – Jud’s new book, The Craving Mind

1:01:37 – Self-referential thinking as a kind of addiction – Instagram addiction

1:04:05 – Meditation from the Lab – Dependant Origination (PDF Download)Siddhis

 

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Oct 25, 2017
Meditation, Magick, and the Fire Kasina, with Daniel Ingram
01:27:32

In this session, host Michael W. Taft and radical dharma author and practitioner Daniel Ingram discuss the Fire Kasina practice, meditation and magick, working with archetypal forces and entities, Daniel’s description of a fruition experience, siddhis and visionary experiences, Daniel’s wizarding worldview, and much more. We also discuss the second edition of his classic work Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, as well as his new book on the Fire Kasina.

Daniel Ingram is an emergency medicine physician and long-time dharma practitioner. He famously exploded the Buddhist world when he declared himself to be an arhat and published the seminal text Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha: an Unusually Hardcore Dharma Book in 2008. He is also the main force behind the radical Dharma Overground website, which he founded together with Vince Horn, that specializes in a brand of unusually-frank discussion of meditation practice.

You can learn more about Daniel at his website, www.integrateddaniel.info.

You can download a free PDF of The Fire Kasina book here.


Show Notes

00:25 – Introduction and overview

2:10 – Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha 2, its purpose and release

4:55 – The fire kasina: what it is, what happens as concentration increases, and how it provides immediate feedback on the strength of concentration

8:01 – Fire kasina’s benefits beyond concentration: insight, crafting your reality, fusion of śamatha and vipassanā

12:57 – The awakening components of fire kasina practice, fruitions

17:28 – The ontological status of deities seen during fire kasina practice and the meaning of joint powers experiences

22:50 – Daniel’s fire kasina experiences and teaching the practice to others

29:42 – The line between madness and meditation

35:30 – Siddhis, synchronicities, and the collective unconscious

40:22 – Daniel’s cutting edge in practice and use of magick

51:24 – Dzogchen and the post-magickal

59:19 – Deconstructing sensory experience into fruition

1:10:44 – What meditation teachers get wrong: lack of warning about potential dangers

1:21:49 – The cross-pollination and experimentation the internet affords the meditation scene

1:24:51 – The Fire Kasina, a book with Shannon Stein


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Sep 27, 2017
Enlightenment’s Evil Twin, with Shinzen Young
01:40:34

Scientist, programmer, and author David Chapman talks with Michael W. Taft about metarationality, emptiness and form, nihilism, tantrism, dzogchen, Kegan’s stages of development applied to meditation, vampire romance novels, and the importance of being able to switch reality tunnels.

David Chapman is a writer, computer scientist, engineer, and Buddhist practitioner. He’s been practicing Vajrayana Buddhism in the Aro Ter tradition for 20 years. David is a leading proponent of metarationality—a subject we’ll go into in some depth in this episode—and writes about it on his website Meaningness.com.

 

Show notes

1:43 – What is metarationality?

2:45 – What happens when you run off the edge of the map?

4:44 – Pattern and nebulosity, emptiness and form

6:45 – Story of scientist Barbara McClintock, and epicycles

13:30 – Donald Schön & design creativity

14:37 – Ways to deal with system failure, Nihilism

17:28 – Timothy Leary & Robert Anton Wilson, switching between reality tunnels

20:22 – Is metarationality just a larger rationality?

22:15 – David’s vampire romance novel, Ken Wilber’s novel Boomeritis

23:38 – What does metarationality have to do with meditation and Buddhism?

24:27 – Seeing the relationship between thought and reality

27:57 – Metarationality as a signpost of deep awakening

30:31 – Dzogchen and Advaita – are practices of view simply indoctrination?

32:17 – Metarationality as a path beyond postmodernism

33:09 – Fundamentalism as a huge LARP, Eternalism vs. Nihilism

36:06 – Spiral dynamics & Robert Kegan’s stages of adult development Link to Wilber/Kegan dialog (Warning: behind a paywall)

41:20 – What a Kegan Stage 3 group looks like in American Buddhist sanghas

43:23 – Transitioning to Stage 4, examples in relation to Buddhist practice and sanghas

44:22 – The edge of the map and the lack of support for Stage 5 in Buddhist communities

46:22 – Kegan Stage 4.5, rejecting systems for their limitations, and how to get to Stage 5

47:25 – The importance of intersubjectivity

49:20 – Future echoes of David’s teaching of metarationality

50:21 – Engaging metarationality in ways that don’t involve meditation, Bongard problems, and the word “intuition”

54:33 – Vipassana techniques for generating intuition

57:43 – Do we need gurus/lamas to transmit deep understanding?

1:04:20 – Students covering up their teacher’s crimes

1:05:33 – The desire to be metarational and the dangers of self-diagnosing your Kegan stage

1:07:54 – David’s background in artificial intelligence and philosophy

1:10:19 – Is AI dangerous?


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Sep 08, 2017
Pattern and Nebulosity, with David Chapman
01:13:04

Scientist, programmer, and author David Chapman talks with Michael W. Taft about metarationality, emptiness and form, nihilism, tantrism, dzogchen, Kegan’s stages of development applied to meditation, vampire romance novels, and the importance of being able to switch reality tunnels.

David Chapman is a writer, computer scientist, engineer, and Buddhist practitioner. He’s been practicing Vajrayana Buddhism in the Aro Ter tradition for 20 years. David is a leading proponent of metarationality—a subject we’ll go into in some depth in this episode—and writes about it on his website Meaningness.com.

 

Show notes

1:43 – What is metarationality?

2:45 – What happens when you run off the edge of the map?

4:44 – Pattern and nebulosity, emptiness and form

6:45 – Story of scientist Barbara McClintock, and epicycles

13:30 – Donald Schön & design creativity

14:37 – Ways to deal with system failure, Nihilism

17:28 – Timothy Leary & Robert Anton Wilson, switching between reality tunnels

20:22 – Is metarationality just a larger rationality?

22:15 – David’s vampire romance novel, Ken Wilber’s novel Boomeritis

23:38 – What does metarationality have to do with meditation and Buddhism?

24:27 – Seeing the relationship between thought and reality

27:57 – Metarationality as a signpost of deep awakening

30:31 – Dzogchen and Advaita – are practices of view simply indoctrination?

32:17 – Metarationality as a path beyond postmodernism

33:09 – Fundamentalism as a huge LARP, Eternalism vs. Nihilism

36:06 – Spiral dynamics & Robert Kegan’s stages of adult development Link to Wilber/Kegan dialog (Warning: behind a paywall)

41:20 – What a Kegan Stage 3 group looks like in American Buddhist sanghas

43:23 – Transitioning to Stage 4, examples in relation to Buddhist practice and sanghas

44:22 – The edge of the map and the lack of support for Stage 5 in Buddhist communities

46:22 – Kegan Stage 4.5, rejecting systems for their limitations, and how to get to Stage 5

47:25 – The importance of intersubjectivity

49:20 – Future echoes of David’s teaching of metarationality

50:21 – Engaging metarationality in ways that don’t involve meditation, Bongard problems, and the word “intuition”

54:33 – Vipassana techniques for generating intuition

57:43 – Do we need gurus/lamas to transmit deep understanding?

1:04:20 – Students covering up their teacher’s crimes

1:05:33 – The desire to be metarational and the dangers of self-diagnosing your Kegan stage

1:07:54 – David’s background in artificial intelligence and philosophy

1:10:19 – Is AI dangerous?


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Aug 07, 2017
The Great Unbundling, with Vincent Horn
01:10:51

In this episode I talk with mindfulness teacher and co-founder of the Buddhist Geeks project, Vincent Horn. Vince is part of new generation of teachers translating age-old wisdom into 21st century code. In this session, Vince and I discuss the radical sense of experimentation, the Great Unbundling of the Dharma, ways the mindfulness and awareness practices complement each other—which is turning out to be something of a theme on the show lately—, the perhaps greatly exaggerated reports of the death of Buddhism, what Buddhism and meditation can offer the Silicon Valley worldview. as well as a scintillating juvenile foray into enlightened scatology.

Learn more about Vince at Buddhist Geeks.


Show Notes

0:25 Introduction and overview

1:52 – Vince talks about Buddhist Geeks, his interest in mindfulness and his teaching project at meditate.io

3:45 – Vince's meditation and teaching background, working with somatic practices and vipassanā, and his time at Naropa University

8:16 – What's exciting and interesting in mindfulness now, radical experimentation in the new generation, the unbundling of the Dharma

11:38 – Playing with the core meditative elements (concentration, inquiry, etc.) of different traditions

14:45 – Defining mindfulness and awareness, and how they work together

24:45 – Has Buddhism weeded out all meditative dead-ends or is experimentation and knowing for oneself useful? Can we discover things that haven't been done before?

28:22 – Technology and making sense of what practice is while rapid change is occurring

30:34 – Scatology: literal and figurative shit

33:50 – Human relationships: self, other, and “individuality first” in practice

37:00 – The co-construction of reality, and social noting

42:15 – Meditation's reinvention in the 1800s and 1900s, and the arising of noting in response to colonialism

44:54 – Is Buddhism dying?

49:33 – Silicon Valley, immortality, and Ray Kurzweil

57:36 – The juice of the unknown and a shift in the way we know things

1:04:40 – As many types of nonduality as dualities

1:07:16 – Vince and Emily's teaching synergy, one-on-one teacher meetings

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Jul 14, 2017
Feather Light & Paper Thin, with Shinzen Young
01:29:34

Meditation teacher Shinzen Young and host Michael W. Taft talk about the relationship between mindfulness practice (as it is usually defined) and nondual-type practices (or non-practices, if you like), the way that focusing on the details of experience relates to focusing on awareness itself, micro-sessions & nano-nirvanas, the thinness and lightness of the screen of awareness and much more. Learn more about Shinzen Young at Shinzen.org.

Show Notes

0:25 – Intro

4:12 – How does Advaita/Nonduality relate to Mindfulness?

7:45 – Shinzen defines modern mindfulness and the component parts of contemplative practice (concentration, clarity and equanimity)

9:51 – Michael’s simplified working definitions of mindfulness and advaita

10:37 – Shinzen asserts that mindfulness and advaita converge towards the same thing, under his own understanding of mindfulness

16:08 – How to investigate one’s own awareness through mindfulness; Shinzen’s quadrants of practice 20:50 – Appreciation practice (“note everything”) or “regular mindfulness”

22:54 – The arrow of attention

26:31 – Classical mindfulness in the Burmese tradition: penetrative awareness and working with the arrow of attention

31:48 – Outside time and space: what the arrow of attention reveals

34:06 – Shinzen defines primordial awareness in materialist, reductivist terms: the sound that’s not sound 39:15 – Are nondual experiences externally real, or do they reflect only subjective experience?

45:05 – Shinzen’s conjecture: connectivity vs thingness; cones of association

51:38 – By what criterion is connectivity assumed to be fundamental to reality, not only subjectively experienced?

56:55 – How appreciation and self-inquiry practices converge

1:01:01 – Reconciling the fruits of mindfulness and nonduality: differences in perception and language vs. differences in experience

1:06:25 – Deconstructing the arrow of attention in a nondual setting

1:07:50 – Micro-cessations vs lights-out cessations; the lightness and thinness of the ordinary

1:11:55 – Shinzen’s many-layered experience of cessations; the sphere of experience and the void

1:18:08 – Bigger cessations

1:19:38 – Disambiguations: what does it mean to be feather light and paper thin, and what are the characteristics of micro-cessations?

1:23:56 – The lightness of immediate experience

1:29:30 – Outro


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Jun 14, 2017
Masters of Oblivion, with Kenneth Folk
01:16:59

Pragmatic dharma teacher and host Michael W. Taft feel the power of the dark side, talk about nirvana, deconstruct the concept of nirvana, dive deep into the reality of death, look at the denial of death, and probably scare away all listeners.

Kenneth Folk is an instructor of meditation who has received worldwide acknowledgement for his innovative approach to secular Buddhist meditation. Learn more about him and his work at Kenneth Folk Dharma.

Show Notes

0:25 – Introduction and overview

2:20 – Preferring to be conscious or not conscious

5:28 – Avoiding eternalism and entertaining the possibility of death…or immortality

11:33 – The enjoyability of oblivion/nirvana (and establishing a definition of both)

19:15 – The Buddha presents a life extinction program, not a life improvement program

25:28 – Fear and denial of death, and rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic

33:15 – The relief of accepting the reality of death

34:48 – Enlightenment as a real-time report about what’s arising in experience

37:52 – The limitations of coming to meditation as a life improvement program

41:10 – Kenneth’s current practice assessing mindfulness, checking for tightness and temporarily suspending the self model

48:45 – The preposterousness of eradicating the self

53:41 – The Dharma Overground forums and posters having bad days after attaining some level of enlightenment

58:31 – How do know anything? Does Kenneth feel like he has any special or ultimate knowledge?

1:03:53 – Certitude is just another feeling on a level playing field with all others

1:12:10 – Awakening experiences invalidating each other: the second awakening erodes some of the truth of the first

1:14:10 – The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you


You can help to create future episodes of this podcast by contributing through Patreon.

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May 22, 2017
The Cosmic Joke, with Kenneth Folk
01:15:20

Pragmatic dharma teacher Kenneth Folk and host Michael W. Taft discuss what it means to be mindful, various definitions of being mindful in the moment, the trouble with remaining mindful during an entire sit, and more.

Kenneth Folk is an instructor of meditation who has received worldwide acknowledgement for his innovative approach to secular Buddhist meditation. Learn more about him and his work at Kenneth Folk Dharma.

Show Notes

0:48 Introduction and overview

4:00 Deconstructing “mindfulness”

11:47 Kenneth’s new mindfulness practice

15:02 Mindfulness vs. checking the box; auditor vs. meditator

23:58 Is mindfulness enlightening?

30:03 Defining engagement and the problem with prescriptions

31:52 Sense doors and applying mindfulness to thoughts

36:06 Alternatives to meditation for experiencing mindfulness and awakening

42:37 Is there a “right” way to experience awakening?

47:25 Getting to a 100 percent attention

52:45 Liberating working memory from the feeling of being the observer

55:06 Concentration hacking: making experiences sufficiently interesting

59:27 Flow and how it relates to mindfulness

1:06:23 How important is the ability to concentrate?

1:12:04 Do you need clarity, concentration, or both?

You can help to create future episodes of this podcast by contributing through Patreon.

See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

May 22, 2017
Am I Mindful Right Now? with Kenneth Folk
01:17:56

Pragmatic dharma teacher Kenneth Folk and host Michael W. Taft discuss what it means to be mindful, various definitions of being mindful in the moment, the trouble with remaining mindful during an entire sit, and more.

Kenneth Folk is an instructor of meditation who has received worldwide acknowledgement for his innovative approach to secular Buddhist meditation. Learn more about him and his work at Kenneth Folk Dharma.


Show Notes

0:48 Introduction and overview

4:00 Deconstructing “mindfulness”

11:47 Kenneth’s new mindfulness practice

15:02 Mindfulness vs. checking the box; auditor vs. meditator

23:58 Is mindfulness enlightening?

30:03 Defining engagement and the problem with prescriptions

31:52 Sense doors and applying mindfulness to thoughts

36:06 Alternatives to meditation for experiencing mindfulness and awakening

42:37 Is there a “right” way to experience awakening?

47:25 Getting to a 100 percent attention

52:45 Liberating working memory from the feeling of being the observer

55:06 Concentration hacking: making experiences sufficiently interesting

59:27 Flow and how it relates to mindfulness

1:06:23 How important is the ability to concentrate?

1:12:04 Do you need clarity, concentration, or both?


You can help to create future episodes of this podcast by contributing through Patreon.


See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

May 22, 2017