Awakin Calls » Terry Patten » Transcript
Terry Patten: A New Republic of Heart
Guest: Terry Patten
Host: Amit Dungarani
Moderator: Aryae Coopersmith
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 that by changing ourselves, we change the world, to create a more compassionate and service-oriented society. Thank you for joining us!
Amit: Good morning, good afternoon and good evening!. My name is Amit Dungarani and I am really excited to be your host for our weekly global Awakin Call -- welcome, and thank you for joining us! The purpose of these calls is to share stories that help plant seeds for a more compassionate society while fostering our own inner transformation. We do this by holding collective conversations with guest speakers from all walks of life -- speakers who inspire us to live in a more service-oriented way. And behind each of these calls is an entire team of ServiceSpace volunteers, whose invisible work allows us to hold this space.
Today, our special guest speaker is Terry Patten. Thanks again for joining today's call! Let us start with a minute of silence to anchor ourselves into the space.
Welcome again to our weekly Awakin Call -- today, in conversation with Terry Patten. 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 Aryae Coopersmith will begin by engaging in an initial dialogue with our speaker and by the top of hour we'll roll into Q&A and circle of sharing -- where we invite all your reflections and questions. I've opened up the queue right now, so at any point, you can hit *6 on your phone and you'll be prompted when it's your turn to speak. You can also email us email@example.com or submit a comment or question via the webcast form, if you are listening online via the webcast. We invite your active co-creation of this space through your shared reflections and direct engagement with our guest.
Our moderators today is Aryae, as I already mentioned. He's the founder of One World Lights, a community of Global Citizens with shared vision of people everywhere supporting a course for change for humanity by supporting each other. Aryae also serves as a volunteer at ServiceSpace, a global community with the vision of 'Change yourself, Change the world' through the power of small acts of kindness. I'm going to turn it over to him so he can properly introduce Terry and get the ball rolling on our conversation. Aryae, over to you, please.
Aryae: Great, thank you, Amit, and thank you so much, Terry for joining us today. I'm going to briefly introduce Terry Patten. He is a philosopher, teacher, activist, consultant, social entrepreneur and author. Over the past 15 years, he's devoted his efforts to the evolution of Consciousness by facing, examining and aiming to heal our global crisis through the marriage of spirit and activism. Terry was born in 1951 near Chicago. When he was six, his family moved to an intentional community founded by members of the Church of the Brethren who invited people of all races and religions to live together as witness for peace and brotherhood.
Terry received his BA magna cum laude from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. In 1973, he became a student of the brilliant and controversial American spiritual teacher, Adi Da Samraj. During his 15 year period as a formal devotee, he co-authored the classic book 'Garbage and Goddess.' Terry became a teacher and senior associate of the Integral Institute in 2004. He worked closely with Ken Wilber and a core team to develop the book 'Integral Life Practice' which distills ancient and modern practices for Body, Mind, Spirit, Shadow and other key areas into a contemporary transformational lifestyle. He then served as senior trainer at Integral Institute seminars and co-director of their Integral Coaching Centre. Terry's latest book published this year is 'A New Republic of the Heart: An ethos for revolutionaries -- a guide to inner work for holistic change.'
Here's an introduction to this book from Dr. Roger Walsh from UC Irvine who was our Awakin guest earlier this year. So here's what Roger says: "In a world of exploding crises, we are all called to contribute. But how do we find our unique contributions, make them most effectively and bring out the best in all whose lives we touch? These are among the most crucial questions of our time and Terry Patten beautifully elicits the wisdom with which we can find our teachers." Terry, so great to have you with us and welcome!
Terry: Yes. Thank you so much, Aryae. I'm really happy to be here with the Awakin Community, with you, with Amit, with all of us together.
Aryae: Yeah, so, I've got a few questions to start off with. I think what I want to do is I want to give people here a little bit of a sense of your book and I've got a few quotes that I just want to put out here as, sort of, as part of the introduction. Okay?
Here's one thing: "It is becoming a cliche to state that we're in a race between Consciousness and Catastrophe. So my focus is not on laying odds. It's on the inner work that can enable us to do the outer work of navigating this time of transition in the best ways possible." And one more: "We're called to a robust and dynamic new form of spiritual activism or activist spirituality which fuses the inner work of personal transformation and awakening with the outer work of service, social entrepreneurship and activism." And Terry, as I'm sure you're aware, that resonates so deeply with what the core really of what our ServiceSpace community is about.
So there's so much in 'Republic of the Heart' that is filled with paradox. On the one hand, you say things like 'We've nearly exhausted Earth's resources, enormously overshot its carrying-capacity and now we're on the verge of an age of contraction, scarcity, environmental degradation, social upheaval and economic collapse. And these dangers appear more likely with every passing year.' On the other hand, you say, "My life and work have been fueled and inspired by the optimistic evolutionary meta-narrative." So you're saying disaster is very possible, and on the other hand, you're saying you're optimistic. Explain that to us.
Terry: Well, there are a lot of layers to that.
Aryae: Yeah. Yeah!
Terry: On the one hand, I think if we have the courage to really face and read and get ourselves connected to the actual data of the rising levels of CO2 and methane in the atmosphere, the actual global temperatures, the actual extreme weather events, and we projected trends ahead in terms of our ecological predicament, which is much more daunting than just global warming. Like, you know what's ahead is hellish, and it's profoundly disorienting.
And in a way then, we're faced with a sort of spiritual crisis because our own fear can overtake us. And yet, we also, when we're into that mind, that mind of parts and breaking everything down, we lose touch with our intuition, of the wholeness that supports us, and in that, that's what our spiritual practice awakens us into, and draws us into, and there's the faith in existence. A trust of being that arises from that, that's unreasonable, but is willing, certainly willing to suffer, willing to work hard, willing even to die, and not afraid fundamentally. And it recognizes the way that fear and pessimism can become self-fulfilling prophecies. And draw us to a terribly divided kind of a mind.
So we're in a crisis right now, of a lot of different kinds, in that our attention span, our quality of our attention just because of having cell phones and the web being so interconnected and having so many interruptions, our attention spans are shrinking. Our sense of well-being and wholeness is kind of divided by all that. And as that is becoming a kind of a crisis in its own right, there's a very deep level, in which each of our own Hearts, each of our own Souls, is one of the front lines in this crisis, right now. It's a crisis of fragmentation and yet what our practice teaches us is to be well-aligned to the wholeness, the reality, the mystery, the divinity that is our nature, and that is always supporting us. And as we relax into and trust that, we begin to become more of a presence of wholeness.
So what I've discovered is that this analytical thing of, like the quote you read, “laying odds on this evolutionary horse race between Consciousness and Catastrophe,” that's part of the divided mind. That has me becoming often anxious or else I'll get into some strategy, you know? If we can have this particular technological breakthrough combined with that particular political breakthrough and these cultural breakthroughs, maybe we can make all this work! As if somebody had appointed me to be in charge of the whole process of human evolution. And that is where I come forward most.
It is, we live in a time of paradox -- and being present to all of it, like instead of being in denial, and just keeping everything in the positive mode and only being sunny, or getting sucked into that catastrophic kind of a mindset, what if I could be present to all of it at once, and in a way have a broken heart, that's also a glad heart? A heart that is present to all this suffering and destruction, and yet keeps getting restored by really inhaling the incredible wholeness and divinity that is always here in every moment of my experience.
Aryae: Yeah. So you're saying that the imperative at this time is really to live with both sides of the paradox, to live with what is being presented by the data of all the very real dangers we're in, and at the same time, the kind of moral, spiritual imperative of holding the wholeness. Yeah?
Aryae: So, you know, you're talkin about -- what strikes me as I'm listening to you right now, Terry, is that the crisis that we're in on our planet is not only about the ecology and natural systems of the planet, but it's also about what's happening to us. What's happening to our minds, to our awareness as a result of the technological environment in which we're living.
Terry: Yeah, that's right. It's a holistic crisis. In another section of the book, I call it the meta-crisis, because we really are, obviously we're in the midst of a political crisis in the United States, but also in many other countries, we're in the midst of an ecological crisis. We're in the midst of a crisis of, we could call it Future Shock, the fragmenting aspects of this rapidly-digitizing world are pressuring our nervous systems. We're experiencing crises in the United States, where I'm most familiar with things, in the educational system, in the agricultural system, in the food system, in the healthcare system, you know on and on. There's nowhere that isn't in crisis.
So to understand it as having one bottom line, and one aspect of this is causative of all the others -- it confuses us. But if we see the fact that everything is in crisis at once, and yet, all the wisdom traditions of all of humanity's history are in conversation with each other, as never before. And communities, heart-based communities of sincere people are coming together in a spirit of of love and care and curiosity and humility, like this community, as never before. All of this is happening at once. It gives me goosebumps.
We're living in a moment. This is game time on planet. Wow. What a privilege to be here. Somehow our souls called us to be here. Now. There's this really wonderful German word. The German word for 'contemporaries' is 'Zeitgenossen’ which translates as 'time comrades'. We're all comrades, in that, somehow, our souls consented to be here now, have chosen, in some sense, to be here, in this time.
This is our time. This crazy, very wild time. This is our time! And what happens in our lifetimes, will have impacts on all the forms of life on the planet. So in some sense, we're all here at game time. Wow, what a, what a privilege and what a moral opportunity and responsibility! So I hope we can respond to it with a sense of inspiration, rather than merely fear.
Aryae: What a wonderful way of framing, or looking at what to so many of us has been a source of concern and despair. Wow, how great that we're here right now, it's a wonderful thing. So one of the things, one of the words you were using in describing a situation, you come back to the word 'practice' and can you tell us a little more specifically, when you use the word practice, what do you mean by that?
Terry: Yeah. Well, it's such a big word for me. I have to answer it, in two or three ways. I'll try to do it quickly. One of them is to recognize that we're always practicing something, that is "neurons that fire together, wire together." It's a slogan a neuroscientist coined in, I think, in the late 50s and what that means is that whatever attitude, feeling, orientation, where we're putting our attention that we're engaging, we're more likely to do more of that, in the next moment. So if we're anxious, we're practicing anxiety, and will be more likely to be anxious in another moment. If we're resentful, same. If we're, our minds are wandering and drifting, if we're kind of getting rattled by the reality TV show of the news, whatever it is that's going on, we're inculcating that pattern, as a deeper groove, a deeper rut in which the water will flow, the neurological water. So we're always practicing something. When we realize that, we can take responsibility to try to reorient more frequently.
So I've spent most of the last 15 years teaching practice and most fundamentally, I believe that all of life is practice. But of course we do practices. We sit and we meditate, we do yoga, we...But other practices like we just adapt our diet or we exercise in various ways; sometimes they're things that look like a practice, like Qigong or Yoga. Sometimes they're just taking a walk in nature, but all of those are practices. And every time we make a conscious choice that creates a better version of ourselves, becoming more likely in the next moment, because our neurons are wiring together in a virtuous pattern, we're practicing.
Aryae: So it sounds to me like when you say practice you're not advocating any specific practice. What it sounds like you're advocating is be conscious and decide what you want to practice, and how you want your neurons to be wired and who you want to be. Am I hearing that right?
Terry: Well, that is what I said just now. It is actually also true that sometimes, I'll take students on and I'll teach a very rigorous series of practices and be very specific about how to do them. So I do sometimes advocate specific practices and yet this is a big wild world and you need to have a kind of a loose design for practice. Somebody living in a place where there's lots of snow all the time is going to get involved in winter sports. Somebody who's in a very hot climate is going to need to do different kinds of physical practices.
Maybe they are by the water and they'll swim. So this one size fits all approach to designing practice isn't really right. In fact, a practice has to stay alive and keep shifting and growing, have to redesign it periodically. And yet there are some universal orienting generalizations that's what we wrote about in the book ‘Integral Life Practice’ that I co-wrote with Ken Wilber, Adam Leonard and Marco Morelli.
Aryae: Yeah. So speaking about Integral and Ken Wilber, you use the word integral quite a bit in your book. You talk about integral heart intelligence, integral practice, integral consciousness, and so on. So for those of us who may not be too familiar with Ken Wilber in the Integral Institute, or even for those of us who are, for the purposes of this book, when you use phrases like integral practice or integral heart intelligence, how do you want us to think about that?
Terry: You might almost substitute the word wholeness for integral. Integral has two connotations. One of them is like the word integer or integrity and it has to do with wholeness. And the other kind of associates with words like integration. And kind of has to do with including all the parts, and letting in the way all of the parts shift, so that they integrate whatever new has been included. So it kind of refers to both the part and the whole. The best way to translate - it is about an emphasis on wholeness, but a wholeness that has a kind of stereo multi-channel vision that can appreciate all the particularity and complexity of all the parts. It doesn't just blur into a generalized wholeness and oneness, but really can account for all the multiplicity as well.
Aryae: So what you want us to be reading into the word integral when we are reading that book is it's a wholeness which includes the wholeness but also includes the particularity of all of the various parts and systems and so on that make up that wholeness.
Terry: Yes, exactly so Aryae, thanks.
Aryae: Also when I was reading books by Ken Wilber, it was a while ago, what I'm recalling is that there is a definite sense that human consciousness evolved in stages, and has evolved historically over time, in stages, and that each stage has its particular kinds of flavors and what it's involved with. Does the Integral Institute in the Integral Practice still have that evolutionary outlook?
Terry: Absolutely, and I have that outlook. I mean just the way in which I am integral, I do think that everything is always evolving. Every understanding can be kind of sloppily applied or mis-applied in ways that can hide more than they reveal. And if we think that consciousness evolved and it's going to deeper and higher places, we can use that to justify a lack of respect for the profound wisdom of indigenous people. And that's a misunderstanding of that idea that I addressed in the book, for example. And there are other ways that can be misconstrued.
But I think it is fundamentally true and right and real and that our way forward to a global human culture is one that will reunite the whole spectrum of ways of being human. And come to recognize that the highest wisdom has its expression throughout the whole human family, and that the higher-lower construct, that sometimes misapplies that idea, that just needs to mature.
Aryae: Got it. So if I think that someone or some group is on an earlier or lower stage on the evolutionary ladder, then I'm mis-applying the whole concept?
Terry: Well, yeah, if that leaves you to not become curious as to how that other being might be a teacher to you, and my whole truth and wisdom, that would enhance your existence -- then, yeah, you would be mis-applying it.
Aryae: Yeah, so this takes me to another issue. That is the political crisis that we find ourselves in right now, particularly in the US. We are so polarized that one nation indivisible, just doesn't seem like that's what's happening right now. There are a number of us who live in progressive areas, the Bay Area and so on, and others who live in other places that are very strongly Republican and strongly Trump supporters, and many of us have been scratching our heads and thinking how do we go about engaging people who are on the other side of this polarity, and dialogue in a way that can be constructive, that can build bridges, that can maybe heal some of the divide that exist right now? How, in your view, and your practice, how can we communicate productively with people who have such a different set of beliefs and a different reality than we do?
Terry: I think this is a very deep ongoing question that we're all living with. Quick answers are not the order of the day. If you don't mind, I'll digress for a second (Aryae: Go for it!), bring in something important. In the book, I often use this metaphor of a Zen koan, an impossible question, like what is the sound of one hand clapping? Or show me your original face, the one you had before your parents were born? And these were used as part of the training of a Zen Monk and are used, these are kind of impossible questions and they stop the mind and they change the practitioner.
And you kind of have to live with the impossible question over time and it changes you and you are changed by living with the question. I think much of what we're confronting right now takes the form of big questions; that we have to live with that. Rainer Maria Rilke in his amazing letters to that young poet Franz Kappus, he wrote we must live the questions, we must love the questions. That's how to become a poet, is what he was saying to Kappus. But really at this point in time all of us have to become oriented to these profound questions with a sense of possibility and curiosity, with a sense that we’ll get new insights, but the questions won't go away.
So this polarity is one of those really, really deep matters and I'll offer some answers but they're pieces of a bigger answer. I'm still in the question. Those questions don't go away from me. But I can offer a few insights even as I still marinate in that question, it doesn't leave me.
Aryae: Yeah, I hear the larger context with which you're framing that.
Terry: Yeah. Thanks Aryae. So what I would say is, don't talk about politics, don't talk about the things that divide you from them. Just have a human conversation and see if you can re-establish a sense of commonality. A lot of what is going on right now has to do with... I mean there's a number of different elements that are coinciding. And some of it is ugly. Certain amount of it is a validation of anger. Certain amount of it is racism. A certain amount of it is contempt for people different from ourselves, just in the way they think, or their attitudes. A certain amount is a lack of humility.
There are all kinds of ugly things going on. It's important to recognize that to some degree, we just have to fight fair and win elections. Since sometimes, on the Right, they're not fighting fair. So we have to fight really well. Our intention is to take the high road. But if you're confronted by a kind of sneering, aggressive, subtly-violent quality in another person, you don't have to just take it. And communicating an internal sense of moral superiority, which is all you've got sometimes, that only makes things worse. So that's not a good strategy.
Really seek to understand that person, ask questions. Become curious about where their values lie, ask about their values, ask about what they care about, ask about the principles. Because you can find some common ground. And very often, dropping all your preconceptions and just becoming curious and finding a place to meet that humanity is the most constructive thing you can do with a person like that. Trying to bridge that over to an understanding of why they're wrong about Trump, that might be above your pay grade. Sometimes we're dealing with very intransigent attitude sets.
So it's important not to go...we learn to crawl, and then walk, and then run, and then maybe fly. But do what you really can do, in an integrated way. Very often that's to drop things, to pay attention, to become curious, to get them talking, to get them to feel some measure of your common humanity. What's most dangerous is the part of them that's ready to cut off an acknowledgement of your humanity and to collude with a kind of violence that could tear us apart, the kind of thing that happened in Germany during the Nazi time. We really need to call to the hearts of others in the ways that we can. And the way to do that is to notice that they have a heart and to become curious about it and to connect with it. That's really the beginning point for any effective communication across those divisions. I think.
Aryae: Wonderful! As you're talking now, I'm thinking about how you introduce this with the sense of the larger context and holding the question, holding the koan, and this is reminding me of something else you say in your book that you talk about the humility of not knowing and the importance of not knowing. And if I say, how can you imagine a solution to all these crises in the world? Look at this data. Look at that data. Look at that data. My sense is that your answer might be, there's so much that we don't know, and we don't know that we don't know. And if we stay in the question, and allow the possibility that a Black Swan can occur, a totally unanticipated event can occur, then this gives us the openness to deal with things in a very different way.
Terry: That's right. We don't know enough to congeal into a pessimistic stance. If you're getting resigned and discouraged and pessimistic, you're thinking you know more than you do; you have to wake up from the trance of your presumed knowledge into a kind of innocent, you know, beginner's mind they talk about. Yeah, the beginner knows they don't know, so they stay open. And if we can wake up from the trance of all our partial knowledge, we regain contact with the mystery of existence and in that there's room for so much hope and so much possibility.
Aryae: The mystery of existence. I want to go off briefly in a different direction with you, if I may, and if you're willing. In your bio on your website, you speak about three sets of teachers and communities at different times of your life, your childhood, through more recently, that had a great influence on your viewpoint, your consciousness, your work. And those were -- as a child the the Church of the Brethren community that you lived in, and then later your teacher, Adi Da Samraj, and his community. And then more recently Ken Wilber in the Integral Institute. And I'm wondering if you would share with us a little bit about what you learned from each, and what each contributed to who you are and what you do now?
Terry: Wow, that's a big question. I haven't been asked that before. Thanks, Aryae. You know, I think the place I grew up was called the York Center Community Co-op, in York Center between Lombard and Phillip park in suburban Chicago. And at the co-op, I grew up during the 60s. And so it was in the midst of the Civil Rights and the peace movements. And we were an interracial Community: my friends were Black, Japanese, mixed marriages, and I was kind of, as a kid growing up, who got mentored by a lot of my coop aunts and uncles, because I was the one that because I was super interested in the news and current events and Dr. King and Vietnam and so forth.
I was having lots and lots of conversations and I ended up kind of being mentored to become an activist for social change, scan for social change and peace vigils and marches and singing ‘Down by the Riverside’ and ‘We shall overcome.’ That was that was my childhood and I learned from that the joys of community and the pains; Community is not the answer to anything. It's a big knot, you know, I mean, there's nothing harder than community and most idealistic communities, well every idealistic community from the past, either evolved into something more conventional or died. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't keep trying. So I took away from that a recognition that we're happiest in community and that that is really my home, in some sense. I could never leave that community, that's my my most immediate, you know ‘community family.’
From Adi Da, it's really impossible to encapsulate everything. I learned from him and from my time in that community. He's very controversial and in some ways, you know, he even called himself a very difficult man. But, but he was the real thing. I mean he was an extraordinary spiritual realizer and he called the way that he taught the ‘way of the heart’ and I came to understand the esoteric nature of Enlightenment in a whole new way from being with him and the best way I can encapsulate that briefly is to describe....I remember this one occasion where I came in to a room with him and the force of the room was like when you open the door to a steam room, and the steam is just so thick that you can't see anything. You are entering this incredible turgid atmosphere.
In this case, it was just a feeling, a deep feeling. And as I saw him, it looked as if he were empathically with all the pain and suffering in the world. I mean it was like a crucifixion. As I settled into resonance with him, I felt all bad, as if I was letting in all the pain and suffering of all the people, all the creatures, everything, until it was almost too much to bear. But as it reached its peak of intensity, I realized this grief coincided with this incredible bliss. This incredible happiness. That recognition of the awakened state, of being an opening to of all kinds of feelings simultaneously, not immune serenity that rises above all difficulties. But a kind of surrendered, sacrificed in contact with it all. That was very, very, very influential.
Then, I think being in the integral community with Ken, I acquired a series of lenses that helped me account for the complexity of the world and the amazingly different ways are seeing it, but it's kind of a taxonomy of perspectives. Taxonomy is a system of categorizing things. With a way of using these 5 simple distinctions: of quadrants, levels, lines, state, and types, to have a language and a community that could talk in very sophisticated ways, intellectually sophisticated, about the things that really matter. That appealed to me -- that it's possible to be a teacher with a context, which is something I thought very valid to offer.
Aryae: I wanted to clarify you are saying that that set of tools that taxonomy, as you called classifying different things -- that tool kit made it possible for you to be a teacher...Is that what you were saying?
Terry: Yes, it was, because there were so many sophisticated people who would learn to think in a more complex ways. But then, I thought I could bring some of the lessons about the heart from Adi Da and lessons about a social commitment, and our brother sisterhood and people, a co-op, into a very sophisticated level of conversation that could maybe make a difference.
Aryae: Yes, wow, interesting. You know, one question came up for me when you were discussing the church of the brother and community -- wow, there were issues within that community, and one of the concepts that comes up in your book is shadow -- that things have shadows. For me as a student of Jungian psychology, I am familiar with the shadows in the individual psychology. I'm wondering if, in your view, communities also have shadows?
Terry: Yes, in fact, one of the big areas I'm working in right now is there is collective shadow, collective trauma, there's a collective soul, there is a necessary collective shadow work and shadow purification. And in a way, we are getting to a place where those shadows will swallow us, if we can't turn to face them and to learn to work with them, in a way. So that's one of the things I'm paying attention to in my work now.
Aryae: Well, let's say that there's a spiritual community that people are sincerely dedicated to working on themselves and also being kind to others and practicing good things. How do you, sort of, get out of what might be the shadows in the spiritual community?
Terry: First off, a lot of the spiritual communities don't address the shadow at all. And if your community isn't talking about the shadows, you know for sure it has some...so that clarifies the distinction. So, I think that the biggest thing for the spiritual community is, in a way, our spirituality seems, in a certain sense, what our spirituality does, is it kind of answers the most deep and profound and important questions. The reality of the divinity, of us, of all things, the reality of God is so liberating, healing, so profound, so radical, that if we found a way to enter into that awake-ness, that love, that wonder, that astonished gratitude, that's enough. We don't need anything more.
And yet to really live that way, we have to live with other people and pretty soon, we are...there are so many different ways to do it. Sometimes there is a little bit of a hierarchy and some people just end up being kind of, they get a level of safety and inclusion, in exchange for their power and energy. Sometimes there's conspiracy to hide from any negativity. There is a game that people play together, loving each other, but not really addressing what's really going on. They don't realize the gaps of their contact with each other.
There are so many different kinds of shadows in different spiritual communities. There are some where everyone is an addict...some spiritual communities where everyone is feeling pious and holier than everybody else, and their specialness, their spiritual-ness meet some of their psychological needs that they bond together around that story, in a way that doesn't have them recognizing the universality of divinity, and the flexibility and the aliveness and the improv nature of reality. I mean, we are making this world up, as we go along.
Aryae: Improv nature of reality...I love this. Terry, do you like work with spiritual communities in sort of looking at this stuff? Is that part of what you do?
Terry: It is part of what I hope to begin doing more of. I've done a little bit of it. I think I've been pretty effective with couple, but I haven't done it as extensively as I'd like to, with the time I have.
Aryae: Fascinating stuff. So, I want to kind of shift in another direction and that is one of the key messages I read in your book that is woven into everything, is this sense of great urgency. You say, "this historical moment may be the last window when we can institute such a conversation, this kind of conversation we are having in relative tranquility." And you quote Samuel Johnson as saying "Nothing clarifies the mind so much as the knowledge that we'll be hanged in the morning." Ok, so the mind is clear! To those of us who are on this call, as you are aware, many people on this call are already into practicing meditation, acts of kindness, and so on, and maybe your message is sort of an additional wake-up call. What is your advice as the next steps to up the urgency of our practice?
Terry: Well, I don't really so much want to up the urgency, as I want to up the humility, and the curiosity and the willingness. Because the more urgency we feel, it tightens us, it makes us anxious and hurry isn't what we need. What we need is a graceful way of participating but we have to wake up to the fact that we are involved in a process of growth that requires the transformation, of radical whole-system change. That means even those of us who are already doing wonderful work, we will have to change. Everything will change. That means me, that means you. Here I am writing the book, I've got all these insights.
I really have lived my whole life as a practitioner, since I entered the ashram, especially. Yet I'm gonna have to become a different version of myself, if this world is going to really be different. So I have to be really curious and really willing to become a different kind of being. And I recommend that medicine to everyone. That's what's important.
I think the facing of the nature of this ‘Tipping Point’ in the whole evolutionary trajectory of life on this planet, we human beings have conquered the world, and the future of every living thing on the planet depends on what will happen in our future. And the biggest impacts are the things in the next few years of our lifetimes. So if we let that in, in a way that instead of tightening us, livens & empowers us, and gives us a sense "Wow, this is our time! This is why I was born. This is my opportunity." And we look into the eyes of others as "Are you my brother and sister in this? Can I find in you someone I can give heart to, and from whom I can be bolstered when I'm in need?" And draw ourselves up another notch in our way of practicing and serving, that's kind of how I'm orienting.
Aryae: Wow, I feel myself relaxing already, Terry. I don't have to get more urgent and speedy and wound up. I just have to maybe, as you say, practice humility, practice not knowing, practice being present, and seeing what the universe is unfolding for me. I like that.
Aryae: I want to ask you one more question and then afterwards, I'll turn it over to Amit for additional questions from others. I'm curious for you, this book has been recently published and you mentioned possibly working with, perhaps doing more work with various spiritual communities. I'm curious, as to personally, can you tell us a little bit about your practice currently and where you see yourself being led in the coming period of your life?
Terry: Well, that's an emergent process. My vision of what's ahead is by definition incomplete because there will always be new revelations. I'll tend to talk about this in a divided way, because I have lots of things that I want to do in an outward sense. I'm about to launch my nonprofit which already exists, and I want to enlist people and become more of a builder of a network of communities of practice, and of individuals who understand things, in roughly the way that I do, so that I can build a New Republic of the Heart.
As a part of that, I'd like to create a venture fund that can invest in technologies that have significant potential to catalyze social change, so that they can be stewarded by the kind of wisdom that's necessary, because there's a whole thing about that. I won't digress. Then I also want to help bring about a political action committee that's engaged. So I have a lot of visions of possibility in the doing realm. But I am also sensing that I need to rest more in being, and be a more powerful presence of the Awakened Consciousness that I've been blessed to be in touch with, so that I can be a resource for others in a spiritual sense, a little bit more reliably. There's a way in which I think I've perhaps biased a little too much toward the doing, and I look forward to the pendulum swinging back to the (being). I'm a contemplative at heart and I think that I'm sensing a new emphasis on that, hopefully in community, more and more.
Aryae: Yeah, I hear you. Hey, just as a quick diversion. I'm curious when you said, technologies which help support this kind of process that you're talking about. Can you give me an example? What kind of technology is that?
Terry: Well, it can be a lot of different things. I mean if we're going to go through a stage transition, and that's what I think we need, an actual transition to a new stage of the human species, a new adulthood for the human species. They're gonna be a lot of technologies that are going to be a part of that, and some of them might be fundamental things, that would make fossil fuel non-competitive, that would change the world a lot. But they could be simple things, like if we had a new kind of bicycle that was safer and more fun and more ergonomic and would allow us to bike further and faster and more safely, that would change a lot too. You can think in a very open-ended way, not only in one track about technologies that could be part of another stage of our evolution. I'm interested in all of them.
Aryae: Well, I could keep going but I want to turn it over to others. So, Amit, are you there? I'll turn it over to you at this point.
Amit: Thank you. First of all, Terry and Aryae thank you for that wonderful conversation. It's been fantastic so far and a lot of deep insights and in many many areas.
I want to just let our callers know that are dialed in, that if you have a question for Terry or just want to share in the conversation, you can push star six on your phone and then you'll be entered into the queue or again you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Then we'll be able to ask your question on the air. So while waiting for callers to chime in, I thought I would kind of come back to some of the conversation you were having earlier.
You talked about the three major influences in your life, the lessons about social commitments and the Co-op, and the church of the Brethren, and lessons from the heart, from Adi Da and lessons of the mind with Dr. Ken. When you think about just anyone's lives, yeah, they're definitely going to be major influences that sort of shapes the flow of our life, but often it's the culmination of all these small pebbles and stones that shape that river. I'm curious, when you think about your life, what do those stones & pebbles look like, or perhaps who are some of the people in your day-to-day life when you were young or today, that play that role?
Terry: That's a cool question. I'm flashing on a few. There was a woman, Charlotte Canning who was one of my Co-op aunts, who was just a completely radically enthusiastic, heartfelt, balls-on, giver of energy to her kids and her family and our community. Who was just an important presence. And there are several other actually. I mean she represents a whole little class of important adults in the Co-op.
I also flash on this momentary encounter when I was at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, when I had led a group of about 3000 or 4000 rowdy students to march on the home of the president of the University. We were chanting outside the president's home. And I saw what might have been his wife looking terrified and reaching for the window shade at the second story window, feeling like she was under siege, and I could feel how I was an arrogant adolescent, how the revolution really had to begin with me, and not all my righteousness about how her husband should divest from South Africa. That really was a turning point in another way.
And then I also think of my friend Wes Vaught who I met in the Adi Da Community who was just one of the purest, sweetest human beings that I've ever known, who I just loved so deeply. He just died this past year and the profundity of that love and loss and friendship rise up. Gosh, in another moment, I might have thought of three different people because so many different stones and pebbles, but those come to mind.
Amit: That's sweet. Thank you. Sorry for the loss of your friend. It does amaze me how often when we think about our life, we jump to some of the big things but when you take a second to sit back, you realize how some of these really smaller moments or smaller experiences, may have happened many years ago, may even happen day to day, but that they really are integral to who we are today.
One of the things you've been talking about is taking an acceptance of the whole, being able to simultaneously take on, the suffering, the pain of others, the overwhelming of what may come from, whether it's the environment, whether it's where our spirituality is going or not going in the world, along with all that is there, that is good. While I understand that intellectually, I understand, even from the heart what that could mean, to actually really do it, seems very daunting. I certainly understand it won't happen overnight, but I'm curious how do you train oneself? How do you deepen oneself to move towards that type of acceptance?
Terry: I asked myself that question a lot, Amit. Different kinds of answers appear in different moments. It's not really a monolithic - do this and that - to train yourself.
I think a piece of it is recognizing that, no matter what, if we're able to turn this around and minimize suffering and have a whole new technological upgrade that allows us to live in harmony on a garden planet and a new age of Brotherhood. Or if we go into the breakdown of human civilization and horrible suffering and awful ultimate human extinction say, let's take it to the fullest extremes. Whether it's the worst or the best, no matter what, there are going to be good days and bad days. Our hearts are going to be broken. We're gonna also experience moments of joy and love and connection. The sun will rise and it will be beautiful, and set and it will be beautiful. Sometimes the sky will be dark. Eventually sickness and old age and death will come to every one of us. And that's the miracle of this life and it's okay.
So if I can find my way to that deep acceptance, then my commitment can well be (I write about this in the book) "A No Matter What" commitment. A commitment that isn't "I'm Gonna Save the World" or "I'm gonna brave this awful hospice project that's coming," great massive hospice project. Look, I don't know. I do know that heart will be required, courage will be required. It will ask me to become a bigger better human being than I am today. And it will ask that in ways I won't expect. And I'm willing. In this moment I'm willing. And sometimes we're stretched to the edge and we need our friends, and it's okay. But that's what seems worth speaking to in the moment.
Amit: I feel like when you talked about some of the people that you come across and where that has become your teachers and then that led you to eventually becoming a teacher yourself. You've learned and seen and witnessed so much with them, but often times, even as a teacher we can be surprised by our students. And I'm kind of curious for any insights that might have arisen from students that surprised you.
Terry: Oh, yes so much. I'm thinking in this moment of a woman who has been my student recently, who has very severe chronic fatigue syndrome and who can't do that much. Her energy is very very restricted. This process of being a human being, no matter what you're....if you're a movie star, good-looking, rich and famous, life is hard, it's hard for everybody. But she has been pressed in moments towards what would have been despair and she has had to fight on that edge like - we all have the spiritual tests of coming up against the challenges in our lives that would take us to despair and finding a way to dig deeper - and she has done that with so much heart and so much willingness to love herself and she's gone through the processes of opportunities for connection coming into her life, and disappearing. She's really been generous in the way she's engaged others.
I think actually the real spiritual leadership doesn't come from the so-called top. It doesn't necessarily come from the person who's got the most experience or can speak in the most sophisticated way. It comes from the person who in this moment is digging deepest in their own heart and in their own gut and doing the most courageous work. And the courage that somebody else evidences always is the source of inspiration and moral leadership in any conversation. She has been that for me and several important moments have been an inspiration. That's what's occurring to me to speak to right now.
Amit: Beautiful description. That definitely resonates with me.
Aryae: Amit, if I may, Wendy who's sitting here with me has a couple of questions.
Amit: Yeah, absolutely.
Wendy: Thank you Terry for such an inspiring talk and I look forward to reading your book, once Aryae gets finished with it. I have a comment which is an example of something you were talking about and I also have a question. When you were talking about, in our political environment being able to connect with other people who feel differently or on a different spectrum than you are, just yesterday my niece and her husband were visiting from Texas and turns out that he's a hunter. And for me I belong to almost every animal rights organisation around.
And so we were talking, and while on one hand I was horrified he was saying that many hunters are very strong conservationists, because they want their species to survive, so they can hunt. And I was thinking that perhaps there's a way to have partnership here, in a cause of keeping species going. Even at the same time that I was personally horrified with the idea of hunting and so that was kind of an 'aha' for me, just to be present with what he's saying and to feel what was the heart of what he was saying.
Yeah, the question I have is I know that you talked about how important being in community is at this time, you know in all times, but especially at this time when we're going through so much and so much crisis and so much change, you had mentioned something about purifying collective shadow and having been part of communities that there have been strong shadows that kind of intrigued me and I'm just wondering how one does do purification on a community level rather than just an individual level?
Terry: Well, it takes a conversation and a whole series of conversations, for a community to begin to address its own shadows. And often that means that one or more of the people in leadership positions in that community have to come to enough agreement in themselves that they willingly help the whole community gear its way toward reckoning with what it is, and afraid to face up until now.
Very often the way that we get at shadow is hardly recognizing that the shadow is a collective shadow. Individual trauma is held in the body and yet collective trauma is held not only in the body. But I find the best way of explaining it be it talk about subtle energy fields and a kind of agreement space and shared experience space can be traumatized. So purifying a group, a shadow, it takes conversation, but it also takes some energetic release. So I think that there's room for both -- profound conversations and some occasions where stories are told, and tears are shed, and there's sometimes a wave of intense relief of stored grief or stored trauma, one kind or another belief in a whole group of people together and it's more of an energetic shift, than it is really an intellectual or conversational matter.
So I think there's room for working on trauma and a number of different ways in a community, depending on the resources and skills and the nature of the trauma. And the strength of the bonds, because most communities also have some fragility and we can't always tackle, we can’t eat the whole elephant in one bite and you can't necessarily purify all your shadow in one week or two of conversations, or even a month or two. So I think being really respectful of the fact that our bonds are precious and that there's a certain pace of work that may be built into the nature of what's present among people, and therefore being patient enough to do what's possible now even as we see that more is necessary that's also really important.
Caller: Thank you so much.
Caller (Kozo): Hello Terry! Thank you for sharing this incredible journey. It's just amazing and it's inspiring. I have a question. It's kind of an odd question and you might have partially answered it when you were talking about one of your students, but obviously, you are all these things, a philosopher, teacher, consultant, author and you rub shoulders with some very high-conscious beings. Is there, is there anything you do like a practice that keeps humility in your life, because I know, I used to be a teacher. It's very easy to lose that humility when you are in a position of teaching, of leading, of having a lot of knowledge and having a lot of what would you call it like, Social Capital?
Terry: It's really a deep question. I think we're in a moment now where the old model of spiritual teachers and students is leaving tomorrow and it asks something of the teachers that we don't yet know how to do. A lot of teachers are pretty deeply moulded in the old traditional patterns and the old traditional patterns arose in the ancient world or the medieval world and they follow the patterns of those old social structures.
They are like feudal, you know each ashram or school or Zen community or congregation or whatever can function a little like a duchy with the lord and the court and the kind of the insider group, and then the peasants around the periphery; the earlier students...and the power differentials to some degree reflects a hierarchy of spiritual maturity, and to the degree that they are a developmental hierarchy. Adults genuinely do have judgment, the children don't have. It's not wrong to make distinctions about spiritual maturity. So let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater, but very often those calcify into power hierarchies, dominance hierarchies that are not very healthy and in subtle ways and not all teachers get the importance of their responsibility to transform that.
We're in this strangely democratic age and there are some wonderful gifts of that democracy and there are some dangers to it as well. That democratizing influence could attack our developmental distinctions and tear down the ability of wisdom to guide us. We don't want that, but I think that spiritual communities need to outgrow that old feudal social model. I'm right now in a bit of a transition in my own work because I've been there. Because it was in the ashram with Adi Da, he was a very dominating teacher. I was kind of traumatized about this issue of spiritual maturity. I saw how, although Adi Da, not much faulting him, but I just saw how his unique higher status functions sometimes to demote and disempower some of the students, and that there was something about that I just didn't want to do. I didn't want to call on other people's energy. I didn't want to alienate people from their divinity and then make someone think I'm giving it to them. One of them is to recognize that it was there.
I had a very democratic orientation, but because I keep giving back the power to everybody, I kind of refused to participate in the positive projections of students, and I haven't been, as able to, there are ways in which I need to grow in my ability to hold my actual spiritual authority more creatively and not just give away all that power all the time. So, I'm really I think that it is a two-sided consideration. It's not just democratize, democratize, democratize. So, I don't know I hope that gives you something to reflect on. We could go on forever with this.
Caller (Kozo): Yeah, and I like what you brought up earlier: it’s the practice, right? And it's always in practice.
Terry: That's right. For everybody, for the students, for the teachers, for the people in partial leadership, for everyone.
Caller (Kozo): I was watching a documentary on Netflix called ‘Wild-wild West.’ It is about Osho and what happened up in Oregon, when they set up that huge ashram. And I guess you hold a lot when you are a spiritual teacher. You hold a lot of responsibility. You hold a lot of almost like destiny in your hands. So that interplay between leadership and humility, I think is an interesting paradox that we have to hold.
Terry: Yes, very much. I saw that documentary too and I thought it was very well done. But I'd like to point to something about it. There was a little podcast thing done on my old ashram too, and one thing that almost all of these journalistic attempts to talk about the spiritual communities of the 70s and 80s and 90s have in common is that they will portray the fact that people were struck with bliss, and felt something very meaningful and exciting, but they won't unpack why that had meaning and validity in a way that allows the viewer to appreciate and respect it. So that they all can pathologize these experiments.
And there's no question, but that there were pathologies, big ones especially around Ma Anand Sheela in the Rajnish community, but I think the things that were healthy about, the things that were interesting that a new community experiment could model from, and learn from. Yes, they were sick, but they were more than sick. They were also learning. I wish that we didn't have such an anti-Guru, anti-cult culture such that we seemed to be unable to valorize and appreciate, and learn from these experiments and attempts.
Caller (Kozo): Yeah. Definitely. Thank you so much, Terry, keep doing what you're doing.
Terry: Thank you.
Amit: You know something that sort of came up just thinking about the conversation that you guys were having was, I was also just remembering that you're a parent as well, is that correct?
Terry: Yes. That's right. I just have one son. He's 29.
Amit: I'm curious what the role, you have in raising consciousness and the experiences that you've gone through, the people that you come across and how that influenced you in raising your son, and being able to share those values in a way that is sacred to you, but also allowing him to be whoever he wanted to be.
Terry: (Laughs) Well, the way you phrase that, it's like an opportunity for me to teach, based on all the wisdom I brought to child-rearing. And I got to say that, as a student of life, I've learned a whole lot more since that crucial developmental stage or that moment than in it. I probably am more acutely aware of my mistakes than my wisdom levels.
Although I'm super proud of who he has become. I think that Freud said that parenting is an impossible profession no matter what you do, you will screw up, you know, that was the idea and I think that having a sense of humour and just loving your kids is the most essential thing that any of us can do.
I do think that, as we get more sophisticated and aware, we can become insensitive to the necessity of providing really firm structures in the early stages of a child's development. And this is why conservatives, in America, Red State Conservative Republicans, are often in some respects better parents than the more apparently sophisticated Blue State Democrats, because I think they were more rigid, conformist, rule-based, strong father way of creating a family structure makes sense to the developing mind.
And certain basic codes of being able to hypothecate our impulse, you know, kind of not just go on your impulses, to delay gratification, to be willing to serve higher values, even if they're just old traditional values like God and country. Those are a basic level of morality that we need to mature into, before we can mature beyond. So I think reminding people of how important it is to create that nest, out of which all the different functions, in their appropriate developmental order can come into being -- that's super important. And then I think recognizing that your kid can't really see you as a separate person, until they're very mature. A really good therapist friend of mine said he'd never seen anybody really become interested in their parent as a person, until they were at least in their 40s, and I just laughed at that.
So I think not having unreasonable expectations of what your child can do at different stages is important, but then the other thing, the most important thing is to see the divine humanity of your child and enjoying your child, the light in your child and being on their side, in all these deep ways. Those are the other things that I think are have been most important and that's where I probably have done best. My kid is a totally cool guy. I get tremendous pleasure from who he is.
Amit: Beautiful. Thank you for that. Our final question to you is how can we as the larger ServiceSpace community support your work?
Terry: Oh, yeah. Thanks for asking that. Well, you know, I hope that those of you who resonate with what I'm saying, will go to my website terrypatten.com and get on my mailing list, so you can be in touch with what I'm doing. If you're able to join me at noon on this coming Wednesday, August 1st, I will be offering a free video talk that is intended to really summarize everything that I have to say and invite people into a course that I'm offering on on my book, A New Republic of the Heart. And if you're curious about that part of the course, the advance release of the chapters in audiobook form, so if you prefer to absorb books in audio form, the course could be valuable for you. So if you are interested in that, maybe we can post something in the notes to this or offer a link to that intro call.
And then if you are really deeply moved and you're an activist who's looking for something different and you really might be interested to join in with what I'm intending to do, please just go to the contact form on my website and let us know. We're looking for volunteers and donors. We do have a 501c3 non-profit and we're just getting ready to launch a new Republic of the heart, as a force in the world. Thank you!
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