Awakin Calls » Timber Hawkeye » Transcript
Timber Hawkeye: Beyond the American Dream to the Zen of Daily Life
Guest: Timber Hawkeye
Host: Audrey Lin
Moderator: Vasco Gaspar
Welcome to Awakin Calls. Every Saturday we host a conversation with an individual whose inner journey inspires us and whose work is transforming our world in large and small ways. Awakin Calls are an all-volunteer run offering of Service Space, a global platform founded on the simple principle that by changing ourselves we change the world to create a more compassionate and service-oriented society. Thank you for joining us.
Audrey: Good morning, and good afternoon, and good evening everybody. My name is Audrey, and I'm really excited to be your host today for our weekly Global Awakin Call. Welcome and thank you for joining us. For those joining us for the first time, the purpose of these calls is to share stories that help plant seeds for a more compassionate society, while fostering our own inner transformation along the way. We do this by collectively holding conversations with guest speakers from all walks of life who inspire us to live in a more service-oriented way. Behind each of these calls, is an entire team of ServiceSpace volunteers whose invisible work really allows us to hold this space.
We are really excited today for our special guest speaker Timber Hawkeye. Thank you again for joining today's call. We will start with a minute of silence to anchor ourselves in this space. Thank you. Welcome again to our weekly Awakin Call, today in conversation with Timber Hawkeye. As an all-volunteer offering, each Awakin Call is a conversational space that is co-created by all participants on the call and we invite your active involvement in the conversation. In a few minutes our moderator, Vasco Gaspar, will begin by engaging in an initial dialogue with our speaker Timber and by the top of the hour, we'll roll into a circle of sharing, where we invite all of your reflections and questions. I've opened up the queue right now, so at any point you can hit star six on your phone and you'll be prompted when it's your turn to speak. You can also email us your questions at email@example.com or you can submit a comment or question via the webcast form, if you are listening online via the webcast. And we invite your active co-creation of this space. So today our moderator is Vasco and I'm super excited to have Vasco here on our call to dialogue with Timber.
To give you a bit of context on Vasco, he is based in Portugal. So he's calling in this evening after just having driven in through some traffic but made it perfectly onto this call. And he's an incredible soul. He believes that a new world is possible, with positive results for all. And has really kind of dedicated his time, energy, and heart into kind of many spaces to that end. In particular, he's a Human Flourishing Facilitator where he holds space with a wide toolbox of awareness-based technologies and has trained over 10,000 people around the world in areas of mindfulness and presences and heartfulness. And he's such a perfect moderator to have for today's call with Timber. So Vasco, I'm going to hand the baton over to you to introduce our guest.
Vasco: Thank you Audrey for the wonderful introduction. Thank you. And thank you for the invitation to be here, it's really an honor and a pleasure to be speaking with you, Timber and Audrey and all the audience. Maybe I'll start with some brief introduction of Timber, our guest today. So Timber Hawkeye was born in Israel, and moved to the Bay Area in the United States when he was 13 years old. From a young age he chased the American dream, starting as a paperboy when he was 14, to being a lawyer in his 20s. After several key moments that changed his perspective about life, he ended-up quitting his job, selling everything, and moving to Hawaii, in order to have a simpler and more fulfilling life, inquiring in what is more to life than just a paycheck.
Author of two books, Buddhist Bootcamp and Faithfully Religionless, Timber has a unique way to share ancient wisdom in a secular and non-sectarian way. Trying to make this knowledge accessible and easy to put in practice by anyone who wants to really connect with their inner source of happiness. Welcome, Timber!
Timber: Thank you.
Vasco: So Timber, my suggestion for our conversation today (and thank you again for accepting the invitation to be here today with us) is maybe starting with your young age. You were born in Israel. So tell us a bit about your childhood, how was it like to grow up in Israel,? Was there any kind of religious background in your family, any magical places that you still hold in your heart that you want to share. So how was it to live 13 years in Israel?
Timber: There's a misconception often that everyone in Israel is extremely religious or in touch with their background and history and heritage and yet my family was very reformed. We actually didn't celebrate anything. I grew up in a tiny little town. It was only one kilometer by two kilometers. Everybody knew everybody. The same kids with whom you were together in first grade, you were with them until you're 18 and joined the military. So very, very small community. We never locked our doors. And in hindsight, looking back, it's very different than the Israel that is portrayed in the news and the media - that we're in a constant state of war or whatnot.
The special place that I hold dear to me, interestingly enough, is not anything biblical per se. We could walk from home to a waterfall and go hiking and I think being out in nature and spending so much time outdoors is something that we can all do, wherever we are. So in that sense, this incredible presence, this energy, whatever name you want to give it, is actually all around us. So it wasn't until I left Israel and moved to the States that I finally saw Israel from someone else's perspective and realized what an unique place it is, if that makes sense.
Vasco: It completely makes sense. Tell us about that moving, to the Bay Area in the United States. I imagine that coming from a very small place into the the Bay Area, how was that for you, how was that for the young Timber? Especially in the teenage years, I imagine leaving all your friends and your community and moving to the United States. How was that for you? Do you want to share?
Timber: It was a culture shock, to say the least. Because we moved from that tiny little town to San Francisco and I went to high school with more students in the school than there were people in the town I grew up. It was, it was a huge shift. But I was very excited and instead of resisting the move and being upset about it....What was interesting is when we moved to the States, even though religion was never important to our family, as soon as we moved to the Bay Area it was suddenly important that we stick with the Jewish people. They clung to like Jewish culture, the Jewish community and I wasn't allowed to date any girls who weren't Jewish, or I was threatened with "We'll ship you back to Israel to serve in the military". Considering the fact that Judaism was never a big part of our life, it was interesting to me that now that there was so many different cultures and religions and beliefs surrounding me, and I was so curious to learn as much as I can about all of them, my family said "No, focus on just this". Of course, I didn't. I mean what teenage boy listens to his parents? The more they told me you can only do one thing, the more I was intrigued. I wanted to know everything about everyone and I was in the perfect location, San Francisco, to be exposed to so many different cultures and understanding of the world that I think all offer a wonderful piece into this great big jigsaw puzzle we call life.
Vasco: Yeah, San Francisco is a beautiful melting pot of different traditions and people. What was more kind of challenging, besides what you've already shared about your parents and so on, and meeting new people? But what was really kind of the most challenging things to adapt into this American culture, coming from Israel, from a small place?
Timber :I had a very concrete idea, if you would, of what being American meant and it was mostly from being exposed to American television and shows. When I moved to the States, I didn't speak English, so I was heavily reliant on watching television to understand, not just the language but the culture and what is proper conversation etiquette and what does an American Boy do. And that's why immediately I was like, oh, I'm going to be a paperboy. I'm going to be that guy on his bicycle, the bmx, throwing papers on to people's front doors. And it was very much, kind of trying to fit into what I thought was American culture.
The biggest challenge, surprisingly enough with San Francisco being such a huge Melting Pot was that I was surrounded by many other people who have come to the US from different parts of the world. I was very confused as to why, much like my parents, who all of a sudden felt like they needed to cling to their Israeli-hood and their Judaism, other cultures really needed to cling to their backgrounds and their traditions, instead of fully embracing the all-American way. So I felt very much like hey, why don't we all do this? What are you so afraid of? What are you clinging to? Are you afraid that you're going to lose it, if you embrace this? Because I think for me I wasn't afraid that I was going to lose my background, my history, my heritage, or my culture, by adding to it with another one. I can be an American Israeli Jew, add to that list. I could be a lot of different things and not one of them defines me. So I think that was the biggest challenge is witnessing people around me creating cliques, segregating themselves.
It wasn't so much outside segregation of people in the school, for example, every clique was - all the Russian kids hang out in that corner, all the Chinese kids hang out in that corner, and the Filipinos are definitely over in that corner, and the Blacks are there. And I was like, I don't even know where I fit in, because in my mind, ‘white people’ in my mind, were like, oh White American. But I was kind of this Middle Eastern Mediterranean and I fell into the same category as the kids in school, who are Palestinian or from other parts of the Middle East, where in the Middle East we were considered very different cliques. And then in San Francisco, we're kind of like, oh, we're in the same one. So yeah, that was very challenging that the segregation was self-inflicted, if you would, people separated themselves.
Vasco: At that time, what were kind of, sources of renewal, kind of to keep the sanity and the balance, in case you had, at those moments. Because sometimes from fear, we start entering in those films that we start inflicting pain to ourselves and segregating ourselves as you're saying. Did you have any kind of it -- was it nature, as you had in Israel? Did you have any kind of thing to keep the sanity basically in all those changes and things?
Timber: Unfortunately, no. I was just a rebellious teenager and there was very little sanity to be found. I didn't understand why people in America complained. I always thought of this as being the promised land, the land of opportunity. And we moved to this great place where I thought everyone was going to be happy like they were in the movies and on TV. And when I moved to the States I was so shocked that people still found so many things to complain about and so much to be ungrateful for. One of the chapters in the book I wrote when I was 14 years old and it was 'life is a piece of cake' meaning that I felt like life was actually pretty good. And if it's not, we need to figure out what ingredient in the cake is making it bitter and take it out.
But in America, I witnessed people all around me who are not happy with their lives. But instead of doing something about it, changing it, they just added more stuff to their lives. They're like, oh I'll go on vacation and I'll buy this stuff and I'll buy this and a bigger house and a bigger car and then I'll be happy. But at no point did they take out that very thing that was making that life miserable. So as a fourteen-year-old chunky kid I thought - it's like a cake, just keep adding stuff on top of it. And I thought why don't we do away with the chocolate frosting and just work on creating a very just delicious cake that is so good, in and of itself. Anything we do on top of that, is frosting on the cake, but even without any of that, life can be so good and simple, if we just appreciate the little things.
So no, there was really very little sanity. I blamed my parents. I blamed society for you know... Perhaps! Who knows? I haven't talked to any animals lately, on who they blame for their challenges (laughter). But I think though, it was very culturally, perhaps engaged, to blame everyone around me instead of taking personal responsibility for it.
I remember blaming my mother for my misery and that's throughout both books. And then I realized the problem isn't my mother. I'll be really honest -- I used to spend a lot of time as a teenage kid attempting suicide or trying to figure out ways to kill my mother because I thought I just need to do away with the problem. And then I realized my mother is not the problem. My emotional attachment to her is the problem. If I could just create a distance to where I'm not striving for her approval anymore, then my life will be much easier.
So as an experiment, which is the way I treat everything in life, I thought why don't I just try not trying to win her approval. Why don't I just do what I'm going to do, and if she disapproves, which she will because she never approves of anything, why don't I just stop trying to do the inevitable, or as my dad would say 'trying to cut water' which is impossible, why not just let go of that and just live my life and experiment with my life and if she doesn't approve of it, that's fine. I no longer need her approval and that was a big shift for me because it started with my mother, and it then really spread to include society at large. Just not trying to win society's approval -- to look the way they want me to look, to earn as much money as they think I should, to keep climbing up the corporate ladder. I just let go of all that and said I don't need other people's approval and that was very liberating.
Vasco: Do you remember if that kind of realization inside - did it happen kind of suddenly? You had that realization, did it happen through a practice? Did it happen kind of gradually, something shifted inside of you? And only after looking back you realize kind of you start making sense cognitively of what happened? Do you remember when was that kind of shift in perspective about that way of relating with yourself and with the world and the emotional attachments and so on?
Timber: It was kind of like a dance - kind of like a one step forward, two steps back, and then another step forward, two steps back because there's so much reluctance. There's so much hesitation. I do remember that, I was leaning towards that first was the big move from the Bay Area to Seattle and that was like this big step forward.
Vasco: And you were a lawyer at the time, no?
Timber: No, I was a paralegal at a corporate law firm. So I took a 50% pay cut when I moved from the Bay Area to Seattle. But I was twice as happy. I think that was one of those light bulb moments that how happiness has very little to do with how much money I was making. So in the financial sense, that was a big step forward. But I also took a couple steps back because I thought I don't need to actually be rich, I just need to appear as though I am. So there was very much this keeping up appearances, so, I lived downtown. I had the sports car. I had all this stuff. And it was only when I took inventory and realized, my debt is twice my annual income, that scared me. I guess I accomplished the 'being the all-American kid'. Like hey, there you go, your debt is higher than your annual income. You're as American as can be. That was when I took the citizenship, paperwork, the test and to become an American citizen and they ask you all these questions and I said, “Just look at my credit report. I'm as American as they come.” But I think that was a big step forward and then two steps back.
And one day at the same law firm, one of the other paralegals was celebrating her 30 year anniversary and that's when it hit me really hard that I had been there not that long, but I was in that law firm for five years and I was in another law firm for five in San Francisco. So 10 years total as a paralegal and I realized she's celebrating 30 years in a cubicle and that scared me.
I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew what I didn't want and I think that's an equally helpful navigation tool. So I decided to just experiment some more and said you know, go back to the cake recipe. Like if this isn't what I want, I don't know what I want, but I know this, so I'm going to take this out. I'm going to take this whole corporate element kind of like not trying to win my mother's approval and society's approval. I'm not going to try to win this business card that looks all wonderful and respectable, so I can look so successful in the eyes of those I don't even know.
What if I just pursue what I love? So I took inventory and I realized everything I love to do doesn't cost anything. I love hiking all year round. I love the ocean. I like being warm. I like going to the beach. I like playing volleyball. I like playing tennis and in Seattle, you get about maybe two months of summer every year. So you spend the rest 10 months waiting for summer and I thought where can I go? Where it's summer all the time. So for me, it made sense to sell everything I own and move to Hawaii. It was a purely logical choice.
And I'm not suggesting in any way that everyone needs to sell everything they own and move to the island but as wonderful as that sounds. I know you guys are already online looking up flights, but the real invitation is for us to just take inventory of what's working and what's not working. Like the quote says, "If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging". So first and foremost stop doing what doesn't work. And you don't need to know what to do next. Just stop doing what doesn't work. And then the next step will present itself. So that's why Hawaii made sense to me. It was I'm just gonna go. I'm not gonna care. I'm not going to worry about my resume and how unimpressive it's going to be if there's a big gap in it. I'm not going to worry about my credit score or of my designer furniture. I just rented a furnished studio apartment in Hawaii and that was plenty because I had sand between my toes and the sun on my back and it was a wonderful, wonderful decision.
Vasco: Wonderful. And so that was the moment actually as far as I understood that you started writing some letters to your friends and families that then became a blog and then became a book -- is that correct? Was that more or less the flow of things that became your best-selling book, Buddhist Boot Camp?
Timber: Yeah, it was interesting how everyone was so worried for me. People asking me were you scared to sell everything and move to Hawaii. And I wasn't so scared of the move as I was scared of what my life would look like if I didn't move. But all my friends and my family were terrified. They had all kind of questions like where are you gonna live? What are you gonna do? And I said I don't know and so I'm just gonna send you an email every month to let you know what's going on with me.
And I did that and I sent them a letter and yes, at first the letters just said, oh you know, I played volleyball today. I went kayaking today, and it included pictures of the beautiful island, but it was only when I decided to experiment some more, I was like, okay, I'm playing five hours of volleyball every day and that's great. But I can also see on the volleyball court, people who have been doing this for the last 30 years. So again stagnation I think is what scared me more than anything else and I thought what would I be doing with my time if I wasn't playing volleyball. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with volleyball? There isn't. I played it yesterday.
The question is what would I be doing with my time if I wasn't and I knew that I wouldn't have the answer to that until I stopped playing. So I decided to stop playing and all of a sudden, I started studying more. And talk about a cultural melting pot! In Hawaii, there is no minority group because there's no majority group. And mind you, by this point my life has already been so different than anyone else in my life. I didn't drink, I didn't smoke, I didn't party. I'd simplified my life so much because I followed that mentality that if life is a recipe, take out of it the very things that aren’t making it better, the very things that are making my life complicated.
So I realized drinking made my life complicated. Eating meat made me feel terrible. All of this stuff. So like I'll just start taking stuff out. So by this point, I was already living a very much I guess you would call like a Buddhist or a monk’s life, without even realizing it. Someone invited me to hear the Dalai Lama speak and I remember sitting there and he was talking about self-control, determination, and freedom from anger and three years prior to that I had those words tattooed on my chest. So I was sitting there going who is this guy? That's my thing. (Laughs) And I was like I need to look more into this. So I started looking into it.
I remember picking up a book called Meditation by Eknath Easwaran because someone gave me that book as a gift like 10 years prior and I remember reading it and thinking it was interesting, but I wasn't either intellectually or spiritually ready for it, but I remember enjoying it. So I read it again and part of me was just kicking myself thinking gosh you had access to all this wisdom 10 years ago and you completely ignored it. And now that I was reading and going through, it did sink in. Parts of it definitely sunk in and reading it again was really wonderful, and I started reading more into Buddhism and in true Timber fashion, I dove directly into the deep end.
And I found a local Tibetan Lama who actually migrated with the Dalai Lama and I remember studying with him. And I was very reluctant to do all the big social kind of traditional ceremonial gatherings, where they're chanting in foreign tongues and doing the prostrations and all that, and I just thought I'll just meet with him one-on-one and we got into this beautiful routine of kind of Dharma discussions. And at one point, when I realized, okay, my journey has been to lead a simple and uncomplicated life, to be of service to others and the Buddhist Journey is all about simplicity and finding the root of suffering so we can alleviate the suffering and I thought gosh it’s an attempts to convey a life of simplicity.
I looked at the at the Lama and I said with all due respect, I don't believe the Buddha ever intended for his teachings to get this complicated. With all the depictions of the multiple arms and the tongue sticking -- all these visual expressions of Mara and suffering. And I appreciate them for what they were, but it wasn't my style. And luckily, he instead of trying to convert me, he said you know, the Buddha didn't do this. This is the Tibetan culture. This is just their way and maybe that doesn't resonate with you. Why don't you try Zen? I think you'd like it. So in true Timber fashion, I moved into a Zen Monastery. I took off the robes and I moved and I took the monastic vows and that was great. But when I did that, remember those monthly emails that I was sending to my friends and everyone? Well, they stopped because I moved into a monastery that was off the grid. There was no electricity. There was no email.
Vasco: How long did you stay in the monastery?
Timber: Uh, there were so many. (Laughs) Like I said I moved around from one to the other and I remember a year into one of them, I received a letter from my friend and she said, Timber, I know that you like it there. I know that you find great joy and peace in being there, but you took a vow to be of service to others and I hate to tell you this, but you are of no use to anyone if you're tucked away in the mountains somewhere.
So I don't regret going but receiving her letter I couldn't justify staying. So I had learned about the middle path by this point so I thought how can I keep my practice? Keep the ritual and the stuff that works for me without alienating myself, without segregating myself and saying that I'm different and separate. So I found this place. It wasn't a monastery. This was a lay practitioner's temple. So I moved there. It was basically a temple with Wi-Fi. (Laughs). So it was like the best of all worlds and that's when she said, you know, those emails that you were sending us for eight years, you know make them public. And so I took those emails and I posted them online as a blog. I didn't have social media at the time. I created a Facebook page and it just spread like wildflowers. It was beautiful, just blanketing...that everyone was so hungry for. And they're very short tidbits because they’re emails. So every chapter in the book is only a page long because they're just emails and you can read them in any order and that really resonated.
And I called that book Buddhist Boot Camp not because there's anything in the book about Buddhism specifically, definitely not scholarly sense, but because that's what my life felt like at the time. It was like, all right, we're gonna do this fight-club style. Take Buddhism to a camp and just live it. Don't study it in the scholarly sense. It's not about memorizing, because if I learned anything at the monastery, it was that there are people, and there were the Zen priests and what not, who memorized the sutras, who can chant with the best of them, but they weren't kind. They were very rude to other students. They were very full of ego still and I thought I don't want to be able to memorize the Lotus Sutra or the Sutra of infinite meanings and pat myself on the back, that I'm such a great student, but completely missed the forest for the trees. I just thought just be a Buddha don't be a Buddhist. Be Christ-like instead of Christian. And I think that's a greater calling like, just kind of in true Timber fashion again, dive into the deep end and do that. So, yeah, that's it.
Vasco: And just out of curiosity, for the ones who are listening who never stayed in a Buddhist Monastery, how is kind of a normal day to day life? And what was your normal day in a Buddhist Monastery, just asking you out of curiosity?
Timber: I'm sitting here smiling because in my mind the first thing that came to mind was oh it's blissful. But I also realized that for many people what I'm about to explain is probably the worst day in their life and would sound like complete torture, where we wake up really early in the morning. It's either 5 a.m in the summer or 3:20 a.m in the winter. And we meditate for anywhere between four to eight hours a day. And there's a lot of work involved, you know, working in the kitchen and preparing food or cleaning the yard and whatnot, but it's all done in silence. And in that respect everything becomes your meditation.
If you're chopping vegetables or if you're raking the yard, that's your meditation. You're doing that as part of your practice. It's just off the cushion. So there's a lot of that. There are a lot of discussions and so to me that sounds blissful, but for someone else who is going, they would just say, wait a minute, you sit for meditation four hours a day? And to them that sounds crazy and to me sitting in a cubicle for 8 hours a day sounds crazy, or even when I tell people to go on a hike for 30 miles or 40 miles a day and they say that's insane. And I'm like no what's insane is sitting in traffic for two hours every day. Sitting under fluorescent lights instead of the sun -- to me that's insane. But that's why there's no right or wrong.
And I don't again suggest that everyone sell everything they own and move to Hawaii. I'm not suggesting everyone move to a monastery. I think within each of us there's a sanctuary, that we can retreat to it anytime, and so it's not about quitting. If you love your job and you love doing what you do and that brings you peace and that brings you comfort and what not, that's great. But if you stress daily, you need to de-stress daily. So it's about creating balance.
A lot of people say I'm trying to find balance as if it's lost and it's not between the cushions and the couch. It's not something we're going to magically find and go Oh, there's balance. It's something we create by changing our habitual tendencies or habitual patterns to balance everything, to create that Oh, I stressed a lot this morning then I need to take some time to de-stress. I had a lot of anxiety about this. I'm thinking too much about the future. I need to come back to the present moment, or I'm really depressed. I'm stuck in the past. I keep replaying old tapes. I need to come back to the present moment and think about what I have in my life right now to be grateful for. So gratitude has really been kind of a driving force to replace my fear of the unknown with curiosity, and I have my own life as kind of motivation because everything has worked out so far. So my track record is a 100% And I think that all of us can say the same thing. You know, we are where we are, because we've made it through everything in our life so far. There's no reason to think we're not going to make it through whatever comes next. The odds are not against us. They're on our side. Experiment, try and you just keep recreating. And the thing about balance is that once you create it, what was a balance today may not be tomorrow. So tomorrow's a new day.
It's different. And so, in a nutshell: we wake up, there's meditation, there's chanting. There is communal meals. There's studies. It's a lot of reflection inward, and that could seem really brutal to some people, and that could seem really inviting. And some people do it for a week, and some people do it for six months. Some people do it for 30 years.
It's -- what I love about it is that, even at the monastery, I think that there's an underlying, perhaps unspoken invitation. Don't get too comfortable. Don't make this your permanent home. Learn what you can, and then go out there and live it, because it's not -- it's easy to be calm when you don't have to worry about grocery shopping or getting to the store or balancing checkbooks or paying your bills. But can you bring this level of peacefulness into daily life in downtown L.A.? So, of course, in true Timber fashion, right into downtown L.A., that's what I did.
Vasco: How was that? How was that change? What was challenging, moving from a kind of monastic life and so on, back to, let's call it, real life, or the day-to-day life of a normal human being? So how was that?
Timber: I think the challenge was witnessing everyone around me contributing to their own suffering without realizing it. I could see it from the outside, you know, when people say, "Oh my gosh! I'm so busy! I'm so busy!" and at the same time, they're adding more stuff to their calendar, and I'm thinking, "Dude, you're busy by choice. Stop complaining about it, or change your habits." But, it's not, again, I'm thinking it, because I can't say it, because unsolicited advice is a form of violence. So all my job -- the challenge -- was to observe, to watch people in my life who are -- you know, I love them very much and I'm witnessing them creating their own suffering whether it be with their food choices or their schedule choices or their relationship choices. And, from the outside, witnessing that and going, "You're walking into a storm," and to not jump in and try to rescue them or save them or fix the situation, but to observe and watch, as they need to go through whatever they need to go through, to learn that lesson. Just like I had to go through mine, and have that serve as an opportunity for me to go, "Okay. Are there any ways in which I am still contributing to my own suffering?" And so everything becomes a learning opportunity, and it's challenging.
It's challenging to witness the people you love dig their own graves and just say, "I'm here when you're ready, but I'm not going to push anything on you,” because I know from my personal experience, whenever anything is pushed on your, basically you are being pushed away. So, making myself available without pushing. And that's what I love about Facebook or Instagram or my monthly emails or the podcasts. I'm not pushing anything onto anyone. I'm making it available, and the only people who get it are the ones who signed up to get it. They're all there by choice. So I love that medium.
You know, the people on this call, the people listening to this recording, we're all here by choice. Something brought you here, and so our job is not to walk around with our flashlight trying to flash light into people's eyes and bring peace to them. Our job is to live peacefully, to be the light, and those who are ready, will come to it just like ships out of the darkness. It's hard not to shine a light in people's eyes, but that's our job. It's like a parent and a child. You're so inclined to protect it, but really your job is to be there for them, when they fall, to pick them up; not to prevent every single fall.
Vasco: Which is not easy because we care for others, and there is this kind of -- most of us -- the need to be the savior, but that will reinforce probably the victim on the other end, so it's a lot of self awareness and self management, not to kind of jump as you say and trust that they probably need to fall to learn how to come up again.
Timber: Yeah. Even letting someone fall can be an act of caring for them. "I'm letting you fall because I care for you. You need to learn this.” And not to the degree where you're going to be really, horribly damaged but also realize that the part of me that wants to fix you is the ego. It's my ego that wants to be the savior, so really making peace with the fact that, within me, there is this god-like figure, there's a god within me, and then there's this ego within me. There's a god within you and there's an ego within you.
So when someone does something that I consider harmful or hurtful or short-sighted...We have a word for, "the god in me sees the god in you." We say, "namaste." The divinity in me acknowledges... but we don't have a word for, "Oh the ego in me sees the ego in you." And that's such an important step for us to take and say, "I get why you're doing what you're doing. You're acting out of ego, and I've been there. I get it, and you just need to go through that to realize it's not going to fulfill you, ever, because the ego is never going to be happy. It's always going to want more, more, more.” So it's up to us.
Vasco: The ego is there to frustrate
Timber: Yeah. Yeah.
Vasco: Timber, do you have any suggestions about practices to allow people to increase that self-awareness? Because most people sometimes, yes, they fall and they learn and some fall and fall and fall and never learn. But there are probably some practices that you might suggest that allows us to at least not fall so much and become aware of ourselves, kind of, "Oh, I'm going to fall again. This is just my ego."
And being aware of that and probably making a step back and, for instance, trust in life, or... do you have any suggestion about practices that you have in your own life, not as a recipe, kind of "Do this treatment three minutes a day and that..." but more kind of suggestions of things. You already mentioned gratitude, for instance, but even gratitude sometimes implies people to be self-aware of and aware of what's around them. So any suggestions, anything that you use on your own life that you want to share?
Timber: Well, a couple of things came to mind. One is, I'm glad you said, "Don't tell us a recipe. Don't tell us, 'Oh, sit for three minutes,' or..." this kind of thing. Many people come to me and say, "Timber, I've tried meditating and I can't. I'm doing it wrong." And the only reason they feel like they're doing it wrong is because someone, at some point, told them there's a right way to do it. I think we are being of disservice to others by saying, "You have to do it this way. You've got to meditate for this long. You've got to cross your legs. You've got to have your eyes at a 45-degree angle..." We've seen and we've read all of this, and that's why, in neither one of my books, is there a single "should" statement.
There's no, "you should do this." And even the idea of, how do we not fall as often? I've learned so much from my mistakes, that I'm going to go out there and make some more. So, it's not even about limiting. My old boss used to say, "Timber, you never make the same mistake twice. You come up with a new one every day." And I think that's a compliment. I said, "Good. That means I'm learning from my mistakes. Let's go out there and make more."
So where I think people can help themselves is the pause, the pause between impulse and action. You know, there's a lot of talk now about mindfulness, but very little explaining what it is. As far as I understand it, it's that pause between impulse and action, and in that pause we have to ask ourselves, "Okay, what is being triggered and why am I inclined to respond to it the way I am?" I'm going to try to encapsulate this into -- not a recipe but -- to answer your question -- we need...I don't know how to phrase it. In order for us... Gandhi said that happiness is when what we think, what we say and what we do is all in alignment. It's all in harmony. And that sounds great, and it sounds really easy to achieve. You know, what you think, what you say and what you do are all in alignment, so all we have to do is live in line with our core values. Easy?!
Not so easy, if we're not even clear about what our core values are. If we haven't defined what those values are, then we don't have a reference point. We don't have a way to, in that pause, between impulse and action, to go back and go, "What should I do?" Well, if you're not clear about what your intentions are in life, in general, then you're going to be stumped with every decision along the way. "What do I do in this situation? What do I do in this situation?" But if you know your intentions are, perhaps, to always be of service, to always be kind, then you're never stumped. You're never going "I don't know what to do." Well, yeah you do. You're the kind of person who is kind, so respond kindly.
No matter what someone else does, no matter what is happening outside of you, all you can control is you, so you need to decide who are you? What kind of person do you want to be? Forget what everybody else is doing. Who do you want to be? And then you can bring that to the table, no matter where you are. We will never have enough if we haven't defined what enough is. We will always want more and more and more because we don't know what enough is, and we can never live in line with our values if we're not clear about what those values are. So that would be my answer to you. For everyone to write down what your core values are. Write down a paragraph describing the kind of life you want to lead, and cross-reference it with the life you are leading, and you'll see, for yourself, what you need to do. I don't need to tell you. You will be encouraging yourself to be that version that you want to be.
Vasco: Thank you.
Audrey: That's great. This has leads to a lot of questions from the online forum. So, I'll take this opportunity to give a little public service announcement of a reminder, that if you have a question, you can hit *6 on your phone and get in a queue to ask your question or you can ask your question online at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the forum that you have online. A question about meditation has spilled over, off what you just shared. Pam from India asked, "How can we keep ourselves energetic in the whole day and what types of meditation can help us?". And then someone from Brighton also wrote in and this kind of touches on what you mentioned around making a list of your values and things. She said, "I find it hard to put time aside to meditate. I think it stems from a sense of self-worth. What advice would you give to those who struggle with self-care and have low self-worth?” It's 2 kinds of different questions, but they are related to that meditation stream.
Timber: Yeah, the self care issue is often perceived as selfish, you know, it's like taking care of yourself while you have so many other people to take care of. How dare I take some time to myself, and I remember hearing a story and whether it's true or not is irrelevant. Buddha was asked, "How can you take a nap when someone needs help?" And he said I can't help anyone if I don't get my nap. And I very much resonate with that. Even his nap was selfless.
If you nap, you take care of yourself, so you can then turn around and take care of others. Then even that is a selfless act. As far as, "Oh, I don't have time to meditate...", I remember someone said, if you don't have 10 minutes to meditate, meditate for 30 because our actions convey our priority. If meditation is a priority, you will make time for it. You will realize you have time for it. But when we prioritize other things, that's where we can take time to take inventory of what is it that we are prioritizing and who we are trying to please and why. What end lines are we trying to reach. What goal we are trying to reach and for whose benefit and many of us would realize that we are trying to please complete strangers.
We are trying to make our parents proud, even if they are not around anymore. And we are living our entire life for somebody else. But what about me? How can I take care of this, so I can then be of service to others. Instead of being of service to others and depleting who I am. And then, even if you give light, it's a dim light. Instead of making your own light bright, and realizing that by making our light bright, we are shedding light on other people's path. I don't know if that makes any sense?
So, how can you do it in such a busy world? To answer the first question, we often think of meditation has to look a certain way....you have to take the time out...you have to have the right cushion...and the right zafuton and incense and altar, all that stuff. I don't have time, I don't have money, I don't have room...I don't have that at work, so we throw it all away.
This is funny. People often tell me, "I saw this beautiful place by the ocean or on this mountain top. That is the perfect spot to meditate,” and they will go and they will drive to somewhere and they will sit there and they will tell me, “Oh, you have to go and check this out." And I say, "You know, when I close my eyes, I am in the most beautiful place in the world. I don't need to get in the car and go anywhere. All I have to do is close my eyes and I am immediately transported there." And we can do that and it does not have to be for thirty minutes. Even two minutes of just sitting there and slowing down our breath, slows down our heart rate, slows down our mind. it is just this beautiful exercise that, you know, when I give public talks, we always start with a few minutes of silence and we finish with a few minutes of silence. And immediately everyone says, "Thank you so much, I needed that."
And I say "Yes, but you barely give yourself that as a gift.” And it is often because "well I don't have thirty minutes." Then do it for two. But do it. And you will find you will want to prolong that which brings you peace. And shorten, if not completely eliminate that which does not. So don't think that it has to be for thirty minutes or an hour or on the floor or on a zafutan or with a group of people.
One day a week. It can be every day in the car, when you rush out of the door and you get in your car, and you get your cup of coffee, and are sitting there and you are about to start the engine, right there and then; put your keys on the floor, turn off your phone, just take a few breaths, then get into the car. My suggestion and this is the way I lead my life -- do everything leisurely or not at all. Because if we bring leisure into washing dishes, into making the bed, into making the bed and doing the laundry; then everything becomes this kind of joyous, non-stressful activity. Don't get me wrong. I am still doing the dishes, I still do laundry, I still clean the house. I still do everything that everyone else does. But I am not bringing stress into it. I am finding peace in it. Does that make sense?
Vasco: Completely. One question, Timber: Thinking more now about the, kind of, let's call it the flow of life; there is this kind of flow, that we are all in, in our lives. Sometimes seeing from the outside, so people look at it; like for instance your book became a bestseller and so on. And there is a lot of effort, I imagine, to reach to that point. Of course there is the kind of flow, something like let's call "life wants to live this through you". So there is this kind of life imposed. Let's call it. I don't know if this makes sense to you or not. And at the same time there is your own effort.
So tell us about that balance, because there was a lot of synchronicities. For instance your friend, that you were sending the emails. And then your friend that said to you, that you are not doing a good job for the world, just living a monastic life. And so on. And so there is this dance between what life is calling you to do and your inner thing to do with in life. So how was that process? Just for people not to think that you don't need to do anything . And you will be successful. Just as it is. I don't know if this question makes any sense. How was the process of the book and the balance between the life movement and your own movement? This dance between both of you.
Timber: Yeah, I do apologize if that at any point, I implied that it just happened on its own. It doesn't. There is a lot of engagement with it. You know so my intention was "Ok, make the book available. Make the messages available." Because my friend thought "hey I found this inspirational, someone else might too". And it was just like a dare. So I put it out there. But it does not stop there.
I am calling bookstores. I spent three years on the road across the US, UK and Australia. Talking about the book. Going there and in all of that making and staying true to my intention. And it is about making, like I don't charge for my talks. They are always free. Making sure that I don't stay in a hotel. Or show up at a talk, to talk about minimalism, but showing up in a big old limo. You know? Then I want the red carpet! So I sleep on people's couches along the way.
I have to actually walk the talk. And in a sense it is easy, because I didn't create this life and then you know, I did not publish a book, and then I need to live up to that image. I wrote a book that is kind of describing the life that I am leading. So there is no difference, there is no separation from how I post and how I live. It is all congruent. And I think living that congruent life, and creating that balance; putting the intention forth and realising - when you asked - I will sit back and do nothing. And life will just take its own thing. It is about watering the lawn. The grass is greener where you water it. So I am not just going to sit there and go, "Well, if God wants the grass to be green, it will be green." It's like, I have a hose, I have a seed, I can water it. And it's not about "I am going to water it all day, every day". Because then I will drown it. It is really about finding what is the best use of my time. And sometimes just staying home and drinking a cup of tea on my stoop is probably the most peaceful thing that I can do. Not so much because I am part of this incredible solution. But maybe just because I am not part of the pollution. If that makes sense.
It is just this whole delicate dance when I am not always being and I am not always doing. I am spending some time doing something, and sometimes just being. And it is, you said it is a dance. And what a dance it is. It is the beautiful tug and pull and swirl. And sometimes you just rest. There is no recipe, I am sorry to say. You look at your life and go "what is not working?" First of all, stop doing that. Like that to me is rule number one. Just don't do what doesn't work. Stop it. I know you want it to. I know its not working. I think being honest enough with ourselves. And letting go of that blue print of that idea. That mould. That it has to be this way. You know. It doesn't. Because that comes from ego. Thinking that we know what's best. And we don't.
So I use humour a lot. I laugh at myself. Whenever I think I am right about anything. Whenever I think the world needs to be a certain way. And the government has to be run a certain way. And those people are right. And those people are wrong. And I just laugh at myself going, "What do you know? You get a little glimpse on this planet and in such a short period of time. From such a limited perspective. There is no way you can claim to know what's best."
We have made it through, not just individually. I spoke earlier about how I personally made it through everything in my life so far. My track records are 100%. So I will make it through whatever comes next. But collectively we have made it through everything that has happened. So I remind myself of that constantly. Walls have come up. And walls have come down. And we move on from there. And sometimes it takes that. If individually we need to learn some lessons multiple times, before we get it. Imagine collectively, with 7 billion people, how many times we are going to have to repeat the same mistake. Until we actually get it. So I am very much more forgiving of myself. And then I can be forgiving of others. I don't know if that answered your question at all.
Vasco: Completely it did. And you were also sharing about the experience of being in people's houses. And so on. I believe that there is a kind of innate basic goodness in us. And so on. How was that? Did you find a lot of innate basic goodness in people across the road. Because I can imagine I have a lot of my stories. And I can imagine a lot of people who kind of project into you kind of this image, that you know the answers; or you are Guru. Whatever. So how was that? Any funny stories that you want to share with us about those tours that you made in the US , UK and Australia so on?
Timber: It is funny. Because I worked so hard to make sure people know I am just a regular guy. Doing my thing. You know - I am challenged by the same things as everybody else. There is really no separation between me and the other people. We are all in this together. And some people really get that and they meet me and they are like " Dude .. you are just like us". That's why I don't wear the robes anymore. For example. Because in the monastery the robes made perfect sense. We all dressed alike, we all had the same haircut. We were all one, we were all the same. Which was very congruent with what we believe and study. And whatnot. But when I left the monastery, I was still in robes. So walking around the town in robes, the robes did not convey the message "We are all the same. We are all one." The robe said "look at me, I am different." And people started treating me differently . And I was like "wo wo wo , I don't want you to treat me any differently. I am just like you. I am just a simple guy."
It is like you are saying that, and you are wearing these maroon robes in the middle of downtown. Like clearly something is not congruent. And that's when I realised the robes had to go. And so it was my own teachers who said, you know -- "Timber, why the robes? Why can't you just be the guy in town with the bright eyes?" And that's been the invitation, you know?
So I show up in jeans and a T-shirt and immediately, people relate to me. The book is required reading in a few high schools across California. And so when I go and I talk to the kids, immediately, they're like, "Oh, he's one of us." You know? And they're comfortable talking to me, sharing with me because I don't show up and I don't talk at them from some podium. I sit in a circle with all of them, whether I'm at a school, at a church or at a maximum-security prison.
We sit in a circle where we're all the same, we're all at eye-level and we have these discussions. So when I do the tour and I stay in different peoples' houses, sometimes they get it and I show up and they're like, "Dude, make yourself feel at home. You know? Here's the kitchen. Here's your bed. You know, here's a towel. Take a shower, do whatever you got to do. I'm gonna go do work in the yard, or I'm going to go on a hike. Do you want to come with? Do you want to stay? You do whatever you want." And I love that.
And then there are those who like you said project onto me the image, they think I "should hold" and they would like be like, oh, you're a master and you're a Guru and they bow to me and they make all these assumptions like, "Oh, let us make you some tea." And I'm like, I don't drink tea, but thank you, you know? Like, um, it's this weird, like clearly that has nothing to do with me.
That's everything to do with them, and I do see all of it as them just being kind and them wanting to do the right thing. It's just so often we confuse what we were told is the right thing and what we innately, intuitively know, is in our heart and to just ask 'What would you like?' I think it makes us so vulnerable to say 'How can I help?' And so when I tell people, when people say I love what you're doing, how can I help? I'm like really just when you're done reading the book, give it to someone else. Let them read it. Don't keep it to yourself. You're not helping anyone, if you keep the book on your shelf; pass it on. Donate it to a local library, you know do something with it, other than having it sit. Unless you read it every day, then by all means (keep it), otherwise you know, just keep sharing it. Don't let anything stop with you. Keep the flow going.
Audrey: Yeah, that's great. A question actually came in along those lines and maybe I'll just transition to the Q&A. And, so again, if you have a question, you can hit star six on your phone or email email@example.com, or submit it to the live form. And one person wrote in around, she said, "I'm curious about how you came to a place of comfort on your relationship with money. It sounds like you live your life in a form of a gift-economy, making offerings with no strings attached, or not charging for talks and podcasts. Did you ever feel concerned about not having enough money or has living minimally ever felt a bit like living deprived, or causing any pain? How did you go past that?"
Timber: That is such a great question. Thank you! No I... So when I left the corporate world and moved to Hawaii, you know so backtrack, so when I mentioned earlier that when I moved from the Bay Area to Seattle and I took a 50% pay cut and I realized I'm twice as happy, even though I make half as much. That's when that first light bulb went off that how happy I am has very little to do with how much money I was making. And then when I paid off my entire debt, you know, I was so accustomed to sending, you know, Citibank a thousand dollars every month to pay off my credit-card debt. And then I remember the day I was writing that last check going. I'm sending them a thousand dollars and that's it. My debt will be paid off. What am I going to do with that extra thousand dollars next month?! And that's when the biggest light bulb came off that I don't need to make that extra thousand.
I can just work less and live more, and that became a whole game in and of itself. Like how much less, you know? How little can I actually? And then it became a game of minimizing my expenses, instead of maximizing my income. And when I realized after living in Hawaii for ten years, making seven thousand dollars a year -- I was like, here I am, living in one of the most, what people consider one of the most expensive places in the world to live and I live a completely plant-based, organic lifestyle in one of the most beautiful places in the world, that some people save up their entire lives, to visit for two weeks out of their lives, and I get to wake up here every day. You know if I can manage that, that's incredible.
So when the book was published, the first thing I did was create a separate bank account for the book. So there's -- I literally refer to myself in the third person quite a bit where there's like Buddhist Bootcamp. And then there's Timber Hawkeye. Timber Hawkeye only needs seven thousand dollars a year to live off of. Anything beyond that goes back to Buddhist Bootcamp, which is how we donate books to the prison library project, which is how we donate books to prisons, and to schools and recovery programs, and veteran support groups, and all this stuff, because Timber doesn't need any more than that. Timber's got plenty, you know?
So, I really separated it and it's so much easier, and looking at it from that regard, never have I felt deprived. And I equate it very much to you know, when I stopped eating meat or smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol. I didn't sacrifice those things. I exchanged them for feeling good all the time. So it wasn't a sacrifice.
It was an upgrade like, yeah, I don't eat fried food anymore. But you know what? I feel good all the time. I don't eat meat anymore. I don't smoke or drink, but I always feel up for anything. You call me right now and you say, hey, you want to go on a 10-mile hike? I'll be like sure, let me grab my shoes. And a lot of it has to do with because I'm not hungover from the night before. Or you know, I'm not going to be huffing and puffing on the way up the hill, because I've been smoking for so long. Like I have made myself available to take on whatever comes next, because I eliminated the very things that held me back. And not just physically and health-wise, but financially and I think that ties into what do you do about health insurance? And that may scare a lot of people that I haven't had it for a dozen years.
I have what I call 'Health Assurance', you know? And I just do the very things that assure me health and I know it doesn't take care of me, in case of any kind of accident or illness and what not, but, and some people absolutely need it. Again, no way, am I suggesting that what I did is what everyone needs to do, but when I shifted my perception to defining what enough looks like, you know? So if I know that making 7000, let's say 10,000 or 20,000 dollars a year is enough for you, anything beyond that is -- you go okay, well then I don't have to work that much. I can work part-time or I can take a few months off, or I can donate it. Or I can still work overtime, but then take all that extra money and donate it to all the organizations where I want to volunteer, but haven't had time to or whatever it is. Like just keep what is enough for you and then give up the rest. It's so liberating.
And again what what I go back to is I've always had enough, and maybe that's a privilege or maybe that's just a way to learn to live without. Even when I was homeless, you know, I still had air in my lungs. I still had a beating heart. It's really about focusing on what I have, rather than what I don't have, and when you make that a daily practice, you live your life in abundance, instead of living your life from a place of lack, which is how many of us live. We wake up every morning and the very first thought we have is, "I didn't get enough sleep."
You know, I don't have enough. I'm not pretty enough. I'm not successful enough. I don't have enough time. I don't have enough money I don't have enough food. So if you start your day from that perspective, then like your whole day is tainted through this horrible tint-job of everything just looks so bad and negative and dark. And I don't have enough and I need to get more! But if you start your day going, oh, I have a bed to sleep on, I have a roof over my head. Like this is so great! And and I'm gonna have a bowl of cereal and how how blessed am I, you know? And maybe I can, you know, make a sandwich and drop it off with the homeless person that I see on the way to work every day. Because that may be the only meal they get today and I have more bread than I often know what to do with. Sometimes I throw half a loaf away because it gets mold. Or whatever your story is, there's definitely more than you think is enough. I don't know if that makes any sense.
Audrey: Yeah, it definitely makes a lot of sense. No, it was really, really great. Thank you. Another, I think, a few questions have come in online. And one that I kind of wanted to go to -- you mentioned if you wake up, you know, with that kind of Doomsday lens of the world, someone had written in about uh, you had mentioned as a teen having contemplated suicide and you know, even kind of wanting to hurt your mother. This person says, "That was really raw and very honest." And was wondering if you had, you know, like what would you say about suicide?
Oops! Sorry. Someone's just tried calling me. I don't know. What are your thoughts on suicide now, after all that you have been through and seen? And in the world today, I mean, especially among youth, it's definitely an issue, and how would you? What's your stance on it, or how would you speak to your younger self from where you are now?
Timber: I think there's -- it's funny, a couple weeks ago, we had a whole discussion on aging and death and where suicide plays a role in it. I remember, you know, a lot of the thoughts of wanting to end things stemmed from feeling like there's no reason to go on. There's nothing. You know, it's not, it wasn't so much about I have so many reasons to kill myself. I had plenty of reasons to do it. I needed to shift my perspective to -- can I find one reason to live?
And when we find reasons to stay, we stay. And when we don't, we don't. So we need to change the conversations from Death as a terrible horrible thing, you need to avoid it, and to lay even more guilt on people who are thinking about it, saying that's so selfish and that's so horrible. Because if you're trying to talk someone off the cliff, you don't lay more weight on top of them, if that makes sense? You know, you don't give them more stuff to worry about.
And I think when we view death as such a horrible thing and and we're so scared of it and we don't talk about it, and we sweep it under the rug and like don't talk about it, and and we put old people away, so we don't have to see them on a daily basis, it's like we're denying ourselves the most incredible gift that life has to offer, which I think is that this expiration date.
Everything in the world increases in value as its availability is reduced, if that makes any sense. Like that which is available in limited supply is always more valued. So I think the fact that death is coming is such an incredible, like hey enjoy this moment, because you're not going to have it, you know like this.
So this is so precious and if you're worried, if you're spending this moment worried about the past or concerned about the future, you're wasting ‘This Moment’. Like This Moment is not going to come again. And so I think not identifying with our past is a really great way. You know, when we do talk with a lot of patients, we use this with PTSD, for example, there are a lot of people who are stuck in that identity. You know like, I have PTSD. That's why I am. And when we give talks at prisons and whatnot, the invitation is to realize that 'I am not what has happened in my life, nor what I have or what I have done. I am who I choose to become today.' And I think that in modern day language, I think that's a way for any of us to reboot, at any given moment.
You know, to just -- there are two therapeutic approaches. One of them, you know, in the Buddha's time was described as -- when a man is shot by a poisoned arrow and the townspeople and the doctors and family all come to him, to help him out and to take the the arrow out. And he says I will not have the arrow taken out until I know who shot it, where they shot it from, why they shot it, what clan they belong to, and all the who, what, where, when, why? And all along this poisoned arrow, this poison is spreading across his body and killing him and he eventually dies, wanting to know what and why and who.
Whereas the other approach is -- take the arrow out. The who, what, where, when or why are completely irrelevant. As of this moment, what do you need to do? Take it out. Like stop, you know. The focus is shifted so much on who wronged me. I'm a victim, someone shot me. It's like yeah, but that's done. That's already in the past, as of right now. What can you do about it? And I'm not saying that, that condones that person's behavior. I'm not saying that we don't honor it, that we don't do anything with it. But in fact, the opposite. I can be more productive, once I get the arrow taken out of me.
And I'm reminded of a friend, you know, who grew up watching his mother beat up by his dad. And the mother finally did leave the husband, and you know, took her kids away, but she spends a lot of her life feeling very guilty for, you know, taking the kids away from their father figure. But at the same time feeling like she had to because her life was at stake. And the little boy always blamed himself for his parent’s divorce. He thought that was why his father was angry. That was why his father... And so he blamed himself for all that drama, so to speak. And it wasn't until later in life when they finally, all of this came to light, when he realized what abuse his mother was subjected to, and now on the other side of it, now that he was able to heal that wound, now he is an advocate spokesperson against domestic violence. And you know, like he came -- by taking out the arrow that was causing his own suffering, instead of figuring it all out, now he's actually healed to be able to -- I don't know if I'm making any sense trying to put this together, but it makes perfect sense in my head, logically speaking.
I realized, just as I did back then, that I didn't have to kill myself. I had to kill my emotional attachment back then, to my mother, or if it's our attachment to society accepting us or approving of us or being good enough or whatever it is. If we divorce ourselves from that idea that we're trying to please complete strangers, and stop doing that, we will find that the reasons for us to kill ourselves our if not reduced, then completely eliminated. And then we find more reasons to live as opposed to more reasons to kill ourselves. I don't know if that came together in a full circle or didn't?
Audrey: Yeah, yeah.
Timber: Okay good.
Audrey: Beautiful. Oh, I don't know! There's so many questions, I don't know which one to ask the next. But maybe I'll tie in...Well, I know we have about 10 minutes left in our call and there was a question on what you were mentioning, shifting that paradigm of the way we think about death. A question was written on -- "Imagine you could fast-forward to the very last moments of your life, when it is time for you to pass on. Now look back on your life's journey as a whole. What would you like to see at that moment? What footprint do you want to leave behind on the planet?" Simple question (laughs)
Timber: It's a beautiful question. I think if we spend our entire lives clinging to things, to people, to moments, and we, you know... I saw a quote that said "Everything I've ever let go had claw marks in it." You know? Because we just dig our claws in and we just get so attached. When we try to cling to a passing moment, when we try to cling to our youth, we try to cling to friends, we try to cling to love, we try to cling to money, we try to cling to everything. And it makes it really hard to to let go of that last breath. We're going to try to cling to that last little bit of life.
But if we spend our entire lives just loosening our grip, you know? I'm physically like opening my hands and just loosening that white-knuckle approach to life, and just allowing what comes, to go through us, then even when that last breath comes, I don't think...I'd like to think because I had my near-death experience. It was this incredible incident I talk about in Faithfully Religionless about nearly drowning. And in that moment, there was no looking back in my life, like the Highlight Reel, like what was the best part and what kind of legacy am I leaving behind. There was none of that. I was, it was very much realizing, like I was watching it happen, I was, it was...
Audrey: What happened?
Timber: Well, you have to read the book now!
Audrey: I know
Timber: Um, it was off a cliff in Hawaii and I was drowning. And I remember just kind of taking inventory, just like in meditation when you're sitting there and you're not trying to control your thoughts, you're just observing them. I was observing what was happening to me in real time. I wasn't worried about what's going to happen. I wasn't thinking about what has happened in my life. I was just very aware like oh, I just broke my leg like, oh, I just got slashed across the back. And I need to take a deep breath. Wait a minute. I can't take a deep breath. I'm underwater and that's how people drown. They swallow ocean water and I'm like, oh drowning like, there was like, oh a label. That's what happening. I was just like, oh I'm using like language to describe what's happening to me, but I was very aware of what was happening, as it was happening.
And it was like this beautiful kind of like you're watching it on film, like oh my gosh, like this is, this is interesting -- Drowning, I've never done that before, you know, let's see what that's like. And there was never a thinking back to, and maybe because this was not like, oh, I'm on my deathbed for a week, I have time to take inventory and think about it which may be what the question implied. This was a very much, you know moment by moment like This Could Happen.
And I was very ready. I was you know going, all right, I'm drowning and this is it. I'm like, all right. Let's see what that's like. I've never died before, that I know of. Let's see what that experience is like. And then when I did pop out of the water, you know, and I remember that first, that first, deep breath, you know, and I was like, oh my gosh, I'm alive? And I popped up next to a couple of other surfers who were freaking out, because I'm covered in blood, I've got a bone sticking out of my leg, and I'm just joyous as can be. I wasn't freaking out at all. They were. I was just ecstatic. I was like, that was so cool.
Uh, and it was this incredible moment of okay, let's see what that's like. And I try to live like every morning is that first breath like, you know, oh my gosh, I'm awake again. That's so cool. I get another day. I didn't know I would. I didn't plan on it. I definitely didn't bank on it. I just, I'm so glad it's here. If there was that week-long, you know, dying experience, of looking back, I will say there's really nothing on my bucket list, there's nothing on my to-do list.
There's no one I'm trying to impress, there's nothing I'm trying to accomplish. There's no sense of you know, what are your, I don't want to say prerequisites but like, you know, your resume in life. Like there's nothing that I need to leave behind. I think that if in my lifetime, in our lifetime, if we have managed to enrich the life of even one person, what an incredible gift that is.
And I've heard from so many, and this is kind of an interesting point that, you know, whenever someone orders one of my books, another one of them is donated to the prison library project. And as a result, I get hundreds of letters from inmates all over the world who tell me how much I've enriched their lives, how much the book has helped them and all this stuff, and the thing is the letters should not be addressed to me, because I didn't do it. You know, it's really a reflection of everyone else's part of this, doing their part. It wouldn't be possible without them. It's like when I show up to give a talk and all these people are like, thank you so much for being here. And I'm like, are you kidding me? Thank you. If I showed up and you weren't here, this would really suck.
So it's not, it's really not about me. It's never been about me. It's about the message and there's nothing in the book that we don't already know. The message has simply enriched my own life so much. But I can't imagine keeping it to myself. I think that would be a very selfish, kind of greedy, you know, mine, I'm gonna keep this all to myself.
It's like, no, this has helped me, here it is. Try it out for yourself. It might help you and that's I think the greatest gift we can offer one another is to share that which has enriched our own lives, in hopes that it does the same to others. And I think if I had a week on my deathbed, I might just, you know, send thank you letters to everyone who has touched my life in some way, just to give their life meaning, because if my life was the one life that they have enriched and that gives their life meaning and purpose. And I would use that time to do that.
Audrey: Wow, reminds me of a quote I recently read. It went something like we're all just walking each other home.
Timber: That was Ram Dass, yeah.
Audrey: Oh, there we go. Yeah, and we just have a few minutes left, but we do have a question in the queue. So we'll go to our next question.
Caller: Yes, so the question is this, Timber. When you look back, when you look back at your past, is there anything that you would say 'I wish I did', especially to that email that your friend had written to you, saying, "What are you doing? You are of no service to others."
Timber: I would say, if there's anything I wish I did, you know, even at that time I didn't regret going into the monastery. I think it was an important part of the journey, but learning, you know, her perspective, I couldn't justify staying. But if I look back, if your question is, is there anything I wish I would have done? Man. It seems, in one regard, it seems really silly because that period has come and gone, it's done. But in another way, the way we can learn from the past is, this sounds really silly, but it's the first thing that comes to mind -- this is really off the mark, but hey, that's the beauty of live radio.
When I was younger, there was a concert and I think it was Tori Amos and Bjork together. And I didn't have anyone to go with, and so I didn't go. And I don't think that ever took place again. I don't think they ever partnered up again for another show. And I in fact, I never got to see either one of them, and I don't necessarily regret not seeing Bjork or Tori. That's not the point. The point is, I didn't do something because I didn't have someone to do it with, and that's something that I learned to not do. If there's something I want to do, to go ahead and do it and not let the fact that I'd be doing it alone, stop me. And I've discovered, you know, when I moved from the Bay Area to Seattle, I didn't know anyone. And I'm really glad I had learned that lesson, prior to that happening, because I just took inventory of what I like to do and let's say I like to go hiking or like to go kayaking and like to do all this stuff, but I didn't know anyone. I didn't have anyone to do it with, but because of that experience earlier in life, I said I'm going to do it anyway, I'm gonna go to that mountain and I'm gonna hike it and of course inevitably, I met people on the mountain and of course inevitably those people like to hike or they wouldn't be on the mountain at all.
So I got to experience what I wanted to, by letting go of that attachment to 'I have to have someone to do it with' and I hear that often when we give a talk, or we have a circle discussion of some sort, and people are like, I really want to come but I don't have anyone to bring with me. I say, come, you will meet people there who also want to be there, and don't let that stop you. So, I guess I didn't really answer the question, because it's not like I wish I would have gone to that Tori Amos concert. I don't because I wouldn't have learned this lesson. Uh, I apologize. I don't know how to answer that question. I can't think of a single thing that I wish I would have done.
I think that if I if I missed an opportunity, then I was probably presented with a lesson that comes from that missed opportunity. And it's the butterfly effect. If I wish any one thing was different, I'm going to change the entire course of everything else and everything is so incredible. I wouldn't, I wouldn't do that. I wouldn't change a thing, so there's the answer.
Audrey: That's a great space to be in. Someone was recently telling me about, I think, failure and how, you know, she was saying, "I don't think it's possible to fail because everything leads to where you've got to today." So that's a, yeah, it's a great perspective. Thank you. We are at our ninety one minute mark. So, there's so many, I mean, this is such a rich conversation. Thank you so much, Timber and I feel like we could keep going on and on.
Timber: Thank you. And we can keep going. The conversation doesn't have to end now in the sense that you know, we are constantly online. We have these online discussions all the time, through Facebook through the Buddhist Bootcamp page, there's the podcast, there are meetings all over the world. So I appreciate this opportunity, this platform, this channel and what you guys are doing. Thank you so much. But it doesn't end here. Thank you.
Audrey: Yes, that's right and we will send out links and more resources after this call, as well as the recording. But one final question before we close is, what is that, how can our ecosystem, how can our ServiceSpace ecosystem be of service to you and your work in the world and your journey?
Timber: I’m very reluctant to call it my work. You know, when people say something like oh, you're so wise and I'm like, uh, the wisdom is not mine. This is ancient stuff. I'm just translating it to language that people today could understand. And so the way people have embraced it, like I would say, it's not my book, it's our book, is by getting that book, you know? And we're talking, it's $10. And it's not so I can go out and buy a fast car. It's because when you do it, you are helping. You are doing it, and if you don't need the book, or if you read it and you're done, donate it to a local library, donate it to a local school. Like just keep the message going, when you see a post online, share it.
That's how our ecosystem works now, is by linking and sharing different people all over the world. We've had the book translated to Spanish and French and German and Dutch and Chinese and Polish and and a lot of it is, a few of those languages were literally done by listeners and readers, just like you, who say oh my gosh, I love this book, but it's not available in Spanish and I can, I could do that. I can translate to Spanish and that's how someone contacted me and that's how we published the Spanish version of the book. It's someone who took it upon themselves to say, I can do this and that's how it's done.
I just think we often feel very powerless, we're like, oh we'll just let the Universe...And I think it goes back to the question Vasco was asking me like do I just sit here and do nothing and I'll just let the universe take it? Like, no! Like, we are the universe. Like, it is up to us to do this. Like if you want this done, you got to go out and do it. And so whatever you do, whatever that looks like, it makes a difference. You know with the podcast, I tell people, you know through Patreon, just one dollar a month, that's all you got to do. And people think oh, that's not enough. I'm like, that's huge. That makes such a...
Because if enough of us do that, that makes such a huge difference in so many people's lives, but we're often so reluctant to do a little bit, because we think a little bit is not enough. But that comes from that mentality of you know, of not enough, of scarcity. Whereas from my perspective of abundance, I'm like a dollar is a ton of money. Like there's a lot we can do with that, even in this day and age, so don't, don't hesitate to do even a little bit, because it's a lot in the eyes of those who have none. So thank you.
Audrey: That's great. Thank you, Timber and yeah, thank you so much for this call and for you know taking time out this morning to share with all of us. I think that comment of how you would, how you would die, you know, you'd spend your last week writing gratitude letters, that will definitely stick with me. I don't know, if Vasco, if you had anything else to add before we go into our...
Vasco: Just expressing my gratitude for this opportunity and the sentence that you said several times 'Let's see what that's like', so I really was inspired by your kind of constant inquiring to what life is bringing to you, at each moment, and then to share that, your learnings from the place of gratitude. So it's really inspiring and so thank you for this opportunity to be here, as well as learning from you.
Timber: Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, I think we're replacing our fear of the unknown with curiosity. I think that if I'm just curious, if I just treat it like an experiment, everything, like you're in a lab and you're like, you know, will this relationship work? Will it not work? I don't know. Just put these 2 people in a room. It'll either explode, or something beautiful will happen.
A new job, a new city, if we just approach it with curiosity, like an experiment, like let's see what happens, you know? Short of having kids, which is, somewhat of a permanent decision or at least, you know short of the decision to do that, which very, very, much changes your life course, everything else can be undone. You can move again, you can shift, you can change and it's very, very flexible, which is why I think there needs to be a lot of weight on the decision of -- are you ready to do this child thing? Because then that one decision makes a lot of other decisions for you. Short of that, if we just approached everything like an experiment and instead of fear, but with an inquiry, that inquisitiveness, that little child like experimenter, you know, then I think it's very liberating. We're not in a little cage, we can fly anywhere. So thank you guys for giving me that space.
Audrey: Thank you! It's like we're all flying together and Tina from Ohio just wrote in saying, "I want to thank you for sharing the information and wisdom you've gained with the public." Yeah, so lots of gratitude all around. And in that spirit, we can just close maybe with just, you know a minute or few seconds since we're a little bit over, of silence, just in in gratitude for all that's been shared on this call, and all the collective wisdom that has unfolded. So, thank you all so much.
Audrey: Thank you. Thank you. Maybe, let me see. I'm going to unmute everyone to see if we can do a chaotic thank you. Okay, on the count of three. Let's see if this works. One, two, three.
Everyone: Thank you!
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