Dec. 19, 2022

148 Stephen Cope: Dharma Principles, Self Doubt, and Verified Faith

My next guest is Stephen Cope. He is a best-selling author and scholar who specializes in the relationship between the Eastern contemplative traditions and Western depth psychology. Among his seminal works in this area are: Yoga and the Quest for the True Self, The Wisdom of Yoga, and The Great Work of Your Life. His most recent work, The Dharma In Difficult Times, is the sequel to best-seller The Great Work of Your Life.


For almost thirty years, Stephen has been Scholar-in-Residence at the renowned Kripalu Center—the largest center for the study and practice of yoga in the Western world. Kripalu hosts almost 50,000 guests a year in its many yoga, meditation, and personal growth programs. It is located on a sprawling 200 acre estate in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. In addition to his role as Scholar-in-Residence, Stephen is the founder and former director of the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living—one of the world’s most influential research institutes examining the effects and mechanisms of yoga and meditation, with a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School, University of Connecticut, University of Pennsylvania, and many more.

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[00:00:00] CK: My next guess is a best selling author and a scholar. He's an expert in the Eastern contemplative traditions in Western psychology. His latest book, the Dharma in difficult times is the sequel to the best selling book, the great works of your life. if you like what Steven is saying at any point, go to his website, Steven We can get all his books, all his courses and his feature retreats.

Please welcome Steven cope, a C K

[00:00:33] Stephen: lovely to be with you.

[00:00:35] CK: Thank you so much for being here, Steven. So, um, you'll have spent years thinking about talking about writing about Dharma.

So it's a word that perhaps not a lot of people understand. So maybe we start there, the definition of Dharma, then we can go deeper into your Semial books and [00:01:00] ideas. Yeah,

[00:01:01] Stephen: no CK, that's a great place to start. Um, because Dharma is actually one of those many layered words in Sanskrit that you'll you'll often hear it, mean truth path law teaching.

But in the yoga tradition and specifically in the Bogata about which I write, it means sacred duty or true calling, um, Dharma. The notion of Dharma is, is several thousand years old. It goes all the way back to the, um, the VAD times in, in India, uh, 1500 BCE and particularly to a, a wonderful story about, uh, a, a myth really about the God Indra.

So Indra was the great thunder bowl, God, back in the VADC dispensation in India. And it was said that he had cast a vast net over the [00:02:00] entire universe from his home on mountain Miro. These gods always live on mountains, so he lives on mountain Miro and he cast this vast net over the entire universe. And.

At the vertex of each warp and Wolf strand, there's a gem, there's a jewel. And it's that Jewel's job to hold together. That part of the net, so that if everybody does their calling their job, the whole thing is held together. And all you have to do is your call is hold together. Your little part of the web, you're not responsible for the whole thing, but you are responsible for your part of it.

The word Dharma actually is based on the sands group, route DHR, which means holding together. So from the very beginning in this myth, you have this beautiful idea that individual fulfillment [00:03:00] and the common good arises together. So that as I do my deepest calling of my soul, it's also got a common good, it's got a social good it's it's prosocial behavior.

Mm-hmm um, that idea percolated and bubbled through the whole yoga tradition until about the second or third century of the common era, when it was written down in the Bogota, the great text, um, that I love and have written about quite a bit. So that's, that's kind of a basic notion of DMA. Yeah. I

[00:03:35] CK: appreciate your giving us a cliff notes version of it.

Uh, I wonder if people see, you know, what cliff notes is still, but anyways, really appreciate that. Really appreciate that. So this is the noble warrior where we do talk about purpose and Dharma quite a lot. And one thing that I see people commonly experience is, is anxiety. This grasping for what's [00:04:00] my purpose.

What's my one thing. If I'm not doing that thing, then I have failed in life. So to speak, they didn't, they may not say those words, but that's the source of an anxiety, right. They're grasping for the thing. And I think your book, your books rather, um, offer them some guiding light. So what would you say to those people who may feel this very, maybe low grade, maybe high grade anxiety of how do I find my purpose?

Oh my gosh. You know, if I don't have it, then my life is a fail.

[00:04:37] Stephen: Yeah. It's such a good question, CK. So the notion of DMA itself has tended to promote this idea that we have one calling in this life and we have to find it and do it. And the truth is that Dharma is really more fluid than that. Dharma's arise, come to fruition and pass away.[00:05:00]

Dharma's change. It's possible to have more than one Dharma at the same time. There's a, a very pernicious thing. I call the romance of Dharma, which is that in order to find your true calling, you have to leave your job selling insurance and move to Paris and paint, right? So that's the romance of Derma.

Now that may be the case. You may have to go to Paris, but most likely, most people are already mucking around, fairly near their Dharma. Most of us already found our way into the right church as if you will. Um, and, and, and we're looking for the right pew within the church, right? So it's important not to get too grandiose about this, this idea of Dharma.

It's very, it's very practical and, and it's good and it's right. That people should have, um, some little amount of. [00:06:00] Inner anxiety, prodding them toward finding what their most authentic calling is. You know, Henry David thoro said one should always be on the trail of one's deepest nature because it is that that connects one to the divine.

So what you see in, and tho teaching there is the connection between your idiosyncrasy, your particularity, and the divine, right? You, you connect to the divine through your own particular nature. So maybe it's building stone walls, or maybe it's being a CEO or whatever it is, you know, what it is inside.

There is a spiritual connection, um, in there that, that, that you need to find. Um, and, uh, it's, it's that it's, it's that connection that we're constantly, uh, On the trail of right. I've been studying this for so [00:07:00] many years. And right now I'm in this, in between state where I'm not a hundred percent sure that I'm spot on, on my Dharma.

Mm-hmm so, uh, with, with all the students out there, I'm in the same state, like mm-hmm this process takes constant discernment, right? Mm-hmm so Rob said you should always be on the trail of your true nature. Mm-hmm mm-hmm and he uses the image of the hunter, right? The hunter sits and waits, emotionless with every sense, awakened waiting for the pray.

Maybe that's not the best image uses.

[00:07:40] CK: We, we got what you're saying. Yeah, yeah. Uh, presence, right? Paying attention, paying attention

[00:07:46] Stephen: to certainly mm-hmm, always on the trail of one's true nature. I love that. And, and it's true, you know, I. I'm a writer. And when I discovered that that was my, that was one of my [00:08:00] most true callings mm-hmm I found out that I get what I call Dharma assignments.

Mm. I like that. Yeah. Which means that it takes a while, but a book will cook for a while in my head. And, and maybe two. Now, if I removed this screen, you'd see a big bulletin board with two different books mapped out on it. Right. Mm. Um, I'm not sure which one I'm gonna write next. I'm not sure which one is my Dharma assignment.

Like which one the universe wants me to write. And it's a process of sitting with it, praying, meditating, listening, and eventually one will come to the fore. And, and then once I get my Dharma assignment, Then my whole life becomes unified around doing that. And it's, it's a lovely phase of the Dharma process is when you have what I call certitude, [00:09:00] when you know, like I will be willing to bet, you know, that Nobel warrior podcast is, is your Dharma right now.

Mm-hmm . And so you can have certitude, certitude allows us to unify all of our actions around what we know is our DMA. Mm there's. Another phase of DMA, which is, which is murky. There can be fallow periods. There can be a what period? Fallow FA L L O w. That's a, that's a, I mean, it's an agricultural term. I grew up in the Midwest and farm country and mm-hmm um, farmers, every couple of years would rotate some of their fields out of, uh, production.

Mm. So they would fallow. And in that fallow period, when nothing was happening, um, in the field actually a lot was happening, was cooking with bacteria and nutrients and so forth. So we can have fallow periods. We can have periods of confusion and doubt. [00:10:00] Um, most people think the, the process of Dharma is just one of knowing and going mm-hmm , but there is that phase, but there's this other phase where, uh, you're really your, your Dharma, if you will, in that phase is really searching, making that a priority.

So I just happen to be in that phase right now. And maybe in a month I'll be certitude. I hope so. Cause I actually prefer that. Yeah.

[00:10:33] CK: I, I really appreciate you. You saying that, being open about that because I mean, you are a teacher, right. But we are all human. Um, and for me, the, the dream is TA you know, there's, you know, some, you know, the, the sky parted and here's like the thing that you should do.

And then right, you do that thing and life would turn out just the way it's just gonna, [00:11:00] you know, walk on clouds, so to speak. That's, that's the, that's the fantasy, that's the fantasy. But, but in reality, you know, I really love the way you said it. There's a fallow period where you're searching you paying attention to everything.

And then there's a certitude area, uh, period, where you're just certain you're taking inspiring at all times. And then to me, my personal journey has. I don't know if you know this writer, David Perra, he introduced an idea of a printer method versus a pixel method. Oh

[00:11:34] Stephen: no,

[00:11:34] CK: actually don't know that. Yeah. I really like that.

The, the visual metaphors of it mm-hmm so he, he said, when you do things, you know, there's certain times where printer method, where each line is perfect. And by the line that by the time the printer is done, TA you have a perfect thing. Yes. And then there's the pixel method where it's blurry in the beginning and then eventually gets more and more clear over time.

And my [00:12:00] fantasy, and when I was growing up is everything should be the printer method. Right. If I'm not clear about this thing, then I just keep doing the thing. Yeah. But then in reality, for me, life is more like pixel method. It's kind of cloudy and not really sure. Um, you know, getting more and more crisp and to your point, noble warrior has been that DMIC path for me.

Mm-hmm, , you know, I wasn't really sure what the whole thing is about. I just wanted to talk to really smart and motivated, you know, thoughtful people. And then, you know, you get more and more clear and then, and where this will go and to be really Frank and I'll be, make it public. I don't really know, but as long as I'm enjoying it and I hope my guests enjoy it and I hope my audience enjoy it.

This depth of conversation, I'll continue to do this because I trust that is part of my dynamic path.

[00:12:52] Stephen: And trust is so much a part of it, right. There are, there are little leaps of faith involved [00:13:00] in this process all the time, um, because, um, certitude is, is, is not. Really the common mode. There are, there are times when we have to make little, little leaps of faith.

If you look at my first book on Dharma, for example, mm-hmm, , you'll see that Robert Frost, for example, great American poet that I, I write a chapter about. Um, he knew what his calling was at 18. He knew he was called to be a poet, but it was absolutely antithetical to everything. His was family thought, nobody, poetry was not a, uh, a job.

It wasn't a profession. So everybody kept pushing back against him. And you can see in his career how he makes little leaps toward it. They're small steps. So at one point he decides he'll teach because teaching will allow him [00:14:00] to, to do some poetry. And then at another point he decides a big, big movie.

He's gonna leave teaching and. By a farm. And, and actually his idea on the farm is to write poetry, not really to farm. Um, and then at a certain point, he decides to go to England, marking his full decision. When he was 38 to become a poet, he took many little steps and each one felt like jumping off a cliff.

Right? When you look back, this is my experience at those jumping off the cliff moments, it was actually just stepping off a curb. It wasn't as big as you thought it was. Mm-hmm but you talk about trusting and, um, I love that word because, uh, it's definitely involved in D decisions, little, little acts of faith and, and trust that move you toward the Dharma.

[00:14:55] CK: So, so on that note, I'm a. [00:15:00] Let's see, how do, how should I phrase this? Uh, recovering perfectionist. re recovering, uh, burnout overachiever. When I talk about burnout achievers, I'm not talking about someone else I'm talking about me. this is my journey. So, you know, so, so, so I have really struggle with, um, following the mind, which is like logical data driven to trust.

You know, where there's no data, you just have an intuition, you have an idea and you have faith that you not turn out. So, and I'm making it personal, but I'm using myself as, as an example, but really I'm speaking to a lot of other people who listen to this is how do you then discerned, you know, how do you make that jump?

Cause to me, it sounds simple when we say this, just trust. But I, I don't know if I'm projecting, but it's like effing hard, [00:16:00] like that little trust. Just everything's gonna turn out. So can you double click on that a little bit more? How do you, how do you do that?

[00:16:09] Stephen: Yeah. Well, this is why I love the Eastern contemp of traditions because they discovered that there is a part of the mind that can be systematically cultivated.

So the first thing we encounter in the mind and what people usually refer to is, is ordinary. Discoursive mind the surface of the mind, what most of these traditions call puppy, mind or monkey mind. It's kind of crazy. Ordinary dispersive mind is all over the place. It's restless, it's easily distracted and so forth.

Yogis and, and the contemplative traditions discovered there, there is this deeper part of the mind and the, the nature of this deeper part of the mind is knowing. When I use the word, no, here, I don't mean do you know your state capitals? I mean, this [00:17:00] intuitive sense of, of knowing it's called VI, um, the mind knows with greater, vast depth than perspective than our ordinary Western mind, what we, what we might call the ego and almost all of contemplative practice is actually meant to connect us with that part of the mind.

And that part of the mind is, uh, is powerful in discernment and discerning what the truth is, how it really is. Right. So, um, my whole career has been spent practicing deep yoga and meditation and discovering the way in which. That connects me, aligns me to this whole deeper part of the mind and the, the experience of this deeper part of the mind as you well know, is it's not my mind.

It's the mind. Mm it's. [00:18:00] Greater mind. It's the mind of it's the mind of the mind of all beings? So in, in developmental psychology, we go from this tight grasping to IME and mine to opening that up to the deeper parts of the mind. And, you know, I, for years, I led this Institute at Crio, the, our research Institute, and we did, um, some very interesting brain studies that show that, that AEPT meditators and adept yogis, um, have a higher connection with something called fluid intelligence.

Fluid intelligence is the Western way to begin to talk about this mind. Fluid intelligence is putting things together creatively, um, using all parts of the brain at the same time. It's it? It's the, the leading edge of this deep [00:19:00] part of the mind. And so when Thoreau says you should always be on the trail of one's deepest nature, how well precisely by getting quiet and listening and, and connecting to this, that's what he did at Walden.

He went to Walden for two and a half years, Walden pond to get quiet and to meditate and to tune in. Right. And he did tune in, he tuned into nature, deeply, deeply, deeply, and I know you're into nature. By medicine

[00:19:32] CK: specifically. Yeah. By

[00:19:33] Stephen: medicine specifically mm-hmm and AOA was the great genius of plants. He discovered plants that nobody had ever seen before in the west, um, simply by his attunement to the forest and the, the genius of the forest.

Mm. So when we talk about trust, we must talk about, about discernment. You, you begin to really trust the [00:20:00] discerning mind, and that means what we in the west call intuition and hunch and answers to prayers and synchronicities. You know, they're all kinds of little, um, uh, there are all kinds of little opportunities daily where we get messages about which direction we're supposed to.

[00:20:23] CK: And do you mind if we double click on, on, on the surface mind versus the deep mind, because I don't get a lot of chance to talk to someone who deeply study this and who teaches it. So , and I do have conversations about this all the time, but I don't get to talk to a scholar who studies this. Right? Yeah.

Um, so I use my metaphor and then you can, we can double click on how do we discern if you don't mind? No. So the way I think about the mine is the infinite expensive snow globe. Yeah. Right. The mine continues great content, the snow snowflakes I flares [00:21:00] about and what, and, and there's a lot of impermanence.

If I focus on a particular, uh, snowflake, it disappears a, uh, you know, a key principle that I learned pasta mm-hmm and plant medicine for me shakes the snow globe a bit. So I can see the subconscious, the deeper layers, more readily. and I can choose to, uh, focus specifically on a persistent snowflake that doesn't go away, even though I pay attention to it, maybe like a childhood trauma or a thing that, you know, that just really Bo you know, irritated me or whatever the reason.

Right. So that's why I really likely medicine work because I get to release the persistent snowflakes or charges. Mm-hmm doing that process. And then afterwards, um, in that stillness of basically nothingness, nothing that up in mind, then intuition [00:22:00] or truth or knowing, uh, comes through.

So for me, it's a practice of me discern. Truth and illusions that I have. Mm-hmm , that's why I like that particular process. So I want to double click and, uh, um, with you about how do you discern and the surface, mind the chatters, the monkey chatters, and versus the deep knowing, um, of the two states.

[00:22:29] Stephen: So luckily the, the great Eastern traditions have laid this all out with a great deal of detail.

So ordinary discussive mind is colored by three things. Mm-hmm, colored by grasping aversion and delusion you're of APO and practitioner. So you know this, so, um, there are, there are a number of ways we can tell when we're working from ordinary of mind, because it's colored by, by greed, hatred, or delusion.

[00:23:00] Um, and when the mind let's, let's take grasping, for example, um, Grasping. So let's say you and I are sitting here and we're both thinking, oh, I have to impress the world with this this has got to be

full surprise. Right. Um,

[00:23:23] CK: I, the Webby award, which you won before,

[00:23:25] Stephen: that's that's right. I have gotta be brilliant. Okay. Mm-hmm now what's happened. Grasping has arisen. Okay. And when grasping arises, we're in thera of the limbic system of the paleo mammalian brain. Right. Um, and that's a very primitive part of the brain grasping when it actually interferes with subtle performance and connection.

So, um, if I let go of my grasping to have this moment with you be anything other [00:24:00] than what it is, if I let go of that, then we can have a really deep conversation. If I'm holding on to some preconceived notion, if I'm grasping for some preconceived notion about how it should look or be, or I'm up here in my self consciousness, that's part of, of ego.

The capacity to connect with you is interfered with right, the, the capacity for both of us to function at the, our most subtle level. I'll give you an example of this, the way in which we're talking about ordinary discourse of mind, the way in which grasping interferes with performance. You're, you're probably too young to know, uh, the name Michelle Kwan, Michelle Juan was a great, um, Olympic goal skater.

Mm-hmm back in the day. And Michelle Kwan had won Olympic goal, I think a number of times, and she was [00:25:00] going back to the Olympics again, and there was a lot of. Talk about how she was gonna have to defend her title. Right. She was gonna have to defend her title. There was tons of pressure. So there was tons of grasping on her part along comes her competitors, young Sarah Hughes.

Who's not been tried or tested, particularly in the Olympic stage. And she has this interview where she says, I'm just gonna go out and have fun. Right? I'm I, I, I have no particular anything to defend here. Now, keep in mind, there are two forms of grasping. One is reaching and the other is protecting. So Michelle one was protecting right?

Mm-hmm grasping anxiety caught up in the Helio mammalian brain, the limbic system, Sarah Hughes freedom, right? Freedom to connect with just her, her craft. And of course who won Sarah Hughes won because [00:26:00] Michelle Quan that grasping constricts the mind. It constricts it, um, and Sarah Hughes didn't have that.

So she went out and did a brilliant performance, nothing to protect and, and she won. Have I taken us totally off course? Or, or are you no. Are you with me on this? Yeah. Yeah. Continue, please. Um, so, um, so we know that we're in the Thra of ego and ordinary of mind when the mind is colored by grasping aversion or delusion, because in those times there are three characteristics that, that, uh, color, the mind.

One is the mind is disturbed. If I'm sitting here grasping for some other moment, the mind is slightly disturbed. Secondly, the mind colored by grasping is said to be obscured. That is to say, it's not seeing things clearly, [00:27:00] right? Mm-hmm . When you're grasping for something, um, I'm sitting on the couch last night and, and I know that there's a point of chocolate fudge, brownie ice cream in the refrigerator.

Right. And all of a sudden grasping arises like, oh, I know I, I just had dinner, but I'm starved. I'm so hungry. I really want that. And want wanting arises in those moments. Am I making a discerning choice about that chocolate fudge, brownie ice cream? Am I seeing it clearly? No. The mind is obscured when it's caught up in grasping.

Um, and it's also separate, so it's disturbed obscured and it's separate because the illusion is, if I get that chocolate fudge, brownie ice cream in me, I'll be whole, I'll be better. So, um, these are, these are how you know that you're functioning from. Dis dispersive [00:28:00] mind ordinary mind because the deeper parts of the mind are not colored by these things.

And therefore, uh, not disturbed, not obscured and not separate, therefore, um, calm, open and nons suffered. Does that make

[00:28:21] CK: sense? It does. Um, the visual that comes to mind is the, the, the flaring up the snowflakes versus when everything is still still. And then I can just discern what's really the whisper perhaps of the intuition, right.

That the knowing that comes through. Right.

[00:28:42] Stephen: Um, and you know, I I'm fascinated by your snowflake imagery

[00:28:47] CK: I made that up. So, no, it's great. It's

[00:28:50] Stephen: really good. Never thought of that before, but, um, You talk about that one snowflake that's persistent, right? Mm-hmm you can identify that. That's [00:29:00] so interesting because in the yoga translation that snowflake that you that's persistent to use your term, that's what we call, um, a karma that's etched in stone.

There are three kinds of karma, right? And karma means, simply means action. Um, and the, the, the cause and effect process of, of action. It said that there are three different kinds of Karma's Karma's that are like lines drawn in water, like lines drawn in sand and like lion's etched in stone. Mm. And all of us struggle with that one carmic bondage to something that's etched in stone.

And very often that's the work of a lifetime. Is to, to come to terms with that, to recognize that pattern and to begin to create witness consciousness around it, to begin to [00:30:00] surround it with consciousness and awareness. I'm sure this is what you do in, in your practice with plant medicine, right?

[00:30:08] CK: Um, yeah, I mean, I am a seeker at heart.

I'm always a student, sometimes a teacher, but always a student. I really want to, through my own suffering, I was seeking a way to have more freedom in my life. More spaciousness, freedom. Yeah. Within the mind. And then, and then live a more embodied life. I think the terms you use is a Joy's life or activated life.

I can't remember exactly the phrase, but basically a life that I love. Yeah. And, and plant medicine so far. has been a very effective tool to allow me to let go of those etched mm-hmm , um, or charges or, you know, those persistent snowflakes, whatever the metaphor that lands are listeners here, uh, to, to really let that go.

So then, then [00:31:00] I can free up my internal resources to, you know, do things that I love. That's beautiful. I mean,

[00:31:08] Stephen: yes, those karmas etched in stone, um, what they require is that we bring awareness to them that we touch them with awareness, that we create space around them. We all have them. And, um, uh, you know, in, in many ways the Western traditions have been, have been perhaps better at, um, helping us with, with the neurotic mind.

Um, The Eastern template of nutritions are more interested in what I call ordinary happiness. But as far as those, those items, those karmas etched in stone, those be, this is my experience, right? Mm-hmm, begin to fade over time. There's something called fading in the [00:32:00] brain. And that means that the neuro pathways let's say I have an addiction.

Okay. Let's just take my, I, I have issues with food. You can probably already tell cause of the chocolate ice cream

with food. Um, and the more I bring, the more I touch that with awareness. So last night I'm on the couch, right? And I'm watching TV and, and it arises and grasping arises. And my practice is really to turn off the TV and connect with. The grasping the craving, the clinging that's arisen and where is it in my body and how does it feel?

And it, it gets tight around here and it in my throat. Um, the more I can create that, the more I can hold it in a consciousness, it begins to [00:33:00] disappear. It begins to soften. It begins to fade. And those, those neuro pathways in the brain actually begin to have less charge fade. Um, so I, I think your, your globe analogy is very apt.

[00:33:18] CK: So double click on the place of knowing the place of deep. Would you call it deep mind?

[00:33:26] Stephen: Um, vision. Yeah. Deep

[00:33:27] CK: mind. Deep mind. Can you describe a little bit more on what that is like? Is it just nothingness? Is it, you know, you're free to swim in the void, you know, give us more words so we can get a glimpse of that phenomenon of being the deep mind.

[00:33:46] Stephen: Well, there, there are two, what, there are two kinds of experiences of, of that deep mind. One is the experience that we have in, in our, in meditation, right? So there, there are many kinds of meditation. The [00:34:00] Budha taught 19 different forms, but one thing that's present in, in all traditions is concentration meditation, where you, you choose an object very often the breath you aim awareness of the object, come back again and again, get into the object and the mind begins to stream into the object like a laser, right?

Mm-hmm so the mind begins to stream like a laser. And in those moments, yo, you say the mind goes into seclusion. What does that mean? It means the mind has become so RA, so laser sharp, that thoughts do not actually arise right? In those moments when we're really absorbed in, in a state of absorption, through meditation, the thoughts that trigger feelings and the trigger karmas simply don't arise.

The, the, the experience is called seclusion. So I've been practicing meditation for a long time. [00:35:00] Now, I, I went last night to the center. I sat for an hour and a half within about 20 minutes. I'm in a deep state of seclusion. Right. And the experience of deep mind there is, is an experience of profound, quiet.

It's. It's like being in the depths of the ocean where it's all like totally still and quiet and completely transparent. Um, It has elements of profound bliss and rapture that arise with that, with that stillness. Um, those moments are profound moments because they actually cut the roots, the patterned roots of the afflicted states of greed, GRE, hatred, and pollution.

They cut the roots so that when you come back and you're in your [00:36:00] daily life, you're more connected with the discernment and the wisdom and the knowing of this deep mind. So you make better choices. So I don't, I don't, if I don't really need it or want, I don't go up to get the chocolate ice cream. I, I leave it for Saturday night when I have some friends coming over.

Um, so there are two ways of experiencing deep mind. One is in the depth of practice. And that can be yoga practice, chanting mantra, meditation, your practice. I'm sure with, with, um, plant medicine has the same qualities. So that's one way the other is the effect that that practice has on you and your mind in your daily life.

Mm-hmm um, my experiences, I tend to become more sensitive, more aware, um, and these are [00:37:00] not quantum jumps. They're very gradual over time. Now I'm 73 and I implore, I, I told you this in our pre-interview I, I, for whatever reason, hang out with a lot of people in their forties. And, um, I implore my friends to learn meditation.

Like, please get yourself a spiritual practice that allows you to deeply connect with. This deep mind, because it, it gives you a profound and enduring sense of wellbeing. Mm-hmm it's okay. Right. We used to have this brilliant Canadian. Well, he was actually an Indian Swee, um, from, but he was from Canada and he used to, his mom was everything is already okay.

And that's the view of a non-dual teacher, right. Everything is already okay. These [00:38:00] consistent touching in with the deep mind gives you a pervasive sense in your life. Everything's actually okay. Mm-hmm all. Okay. Um, and, and then you begin to live from that center. There's a great, um, there's a great Quran from the data ch that says.

The master sees things as they are without trying to change them. Mm-hmm she let things go their own way and resides at the center of the circle. What's the center of the circle. It's that deep mind that we're talking about? It's that awake mind that you knowed mind, whatever you wanna call it. So if the more you live from there, the, you know, you'll make better decisions and you'll likely make decisions that lead you to authentic fulfillment.

[00:38:57] CK: Yeah. Oh man. So [00:39:00] many points I can rabbit holes. I can go down to which one to choose . Um, well, I mean, let's actually segue to, uh, your book, your new book. DMAR difficult times. I think that's as good as any. One of the things that I have, I've always been very driven, maybe that's obvious. And I, thanks to books like yours, um, the great works of our life and that I became Morey guy.

I became more purposeful mm-hmm because now I can articulate, well, what is my overall through line? Yeah. What is my north star? What's my horizon. Right, right. That I, I, I may never get there, but I'm, that's the direction I'm gonna point my life towards. Yeah. And this year it's been a pivotal year for me because now I found joy.

Oh, you know, [00:40:00] how do I do it with joy versus just, you know, this, this wide knuckling, I gotta do it. I gotta do it. Yeah. You know, the kind of experience so joy. So my mantra has been only joy, only joy. So agree. I learned this from the Brazilians. So agree. Only joy, only joy, joy. That's my anchor point. Right?

So Dharma in difficult times, circumstances may not be so great or the subjective experience may not be so great. It doesn't feel quite comfortable. So doing those times what creeps in, even for people who are trusting and who are following their DMA, is am I on the right path, doubt or hesitation. So can you double click on those times when, as you mentioned earlier, I think it's a little murky.

I don't feel comfortable. I don't have that sort to what I. I've always have, how do I move [00:41:00] forward? Continue to walk the path of my Dharma and continue to trust and continue to have joy.

[00:41:09] Stephen: Wow. Okay. That's a lot

to joy. Yeah. Um, uh, oh God, I, I just flooded my mind and, and I lost my, the point

[00:41:22] CK: best it's okay. We start wherever we

[00:41:25] Stephen: start. We're gonna talk about that. So doubt is an interesting phenomenon because it's one of in Buddhism, it's one of the five hindrances. So it's, it's, um, S slot to rest sloth and torper, uh, grasping aversion and doubt.

Those are the five hindrances. Um,

and you know, I've studied all these great lives in, in my books. Um, each, each of my books on Dharma looks at great [00:42:00] lives. And what you discover is that all these people who these great people, and I don't mean by great that they were famous. I meant that they, they found their Dharma. They found their calling and they did it full out.

They all had periods of profound doubt, right? I mean, look at it. Um, uh, um, mother Teresa of India, right? When she died, they found her journals and, and they were replete with her doubt. Does Jesus Christ even exist? Is, is any of this true profound doubt? Doubt is actually the flip side of certitude in some ways mm-hmm um, the deeper you go into your DMA.

I think the more, the more you're going to have to struggle with doubt, doubt is the, the essence of [00:43:00] the experience of doubt. Right? And I'm in doubt right now. I I'm, I'm profoundly driven by doubt. The, the experience of doubt is the experience of being split. Mm-hmm . Now I'll be very personal. I'll tell you what my dad is about, cuz it's interesting.

So into my beautifully, well ordered life, right? I love order. I love order has come this little puppy. Okay. It's not my puppy. It's my best friend. Brian's puppy. And I fell in love with her. Why mm-hmm because he gives me so much joy all the time. She's just pure joy right now. Um, Brian can't take any care of her any longer.

So he asked me to take the puppy. But the puppy having a puppy is like having puppy mind in your, in your house. Right? Um, it's, uh, [00:44:00] it's in so many ways a stretch for me and it doesn't necessarily support my writing. Um, I've discovered myself to be completely codependent with this dog. I'm constantly happy I giving her enough's get, so right now I'm stuck on the horns of a dilemma.

Like, do I adopt this dog who brings me so much joy that I've never had ever this level? Or what about my Dharma of writing? Mm, I don't know the answer checkout with me in, in a month, but I'm definitely caught in the horns of a dilemma. What does it involve? It involves, um, I, I like to. Try things out. So next week I'm gonna have a week when she stays here with me to see how it goes, like try it on, right.

Mm-hmm if you're in doubt, um, pray about it. Listen to your higher [00:45:00] power. If you have one of those, um, you, your discernment give it time. Very often. The resolution of doubt takes, takes time. Um, and, and also honor it because doubt usually arises when something new arises in consciousness like this dog knocking on the door, something's knocking, right?

Um, doubt is something new knocking that you have to work through. So let's not demonize it. It's part of the process. You have to learn to work with, you have to learn to live with it. Sometimes Marion Woodman, my good friend, who was a great union analyst of the last century talked about. Sometimes you have to hold things in what she called psychic utero.

You have to hold these, these two conflicting ideas in psychic utero. That is [00:46:00] you're, you're going to give birth to something right. And it's cooking away in there. So right now I'm holding this little dog and my writing career in psychic utero. And very often I, I write about this in another book. Um, my book called soul friends.

Very often, if you stay connected with deep mind, a third way, what this, what psychoanalyst call a third way will emerge? I could have both the puppy and my writing career at the same time. Third, third way. Right? Not in either or. So we have to learn how to use doubt, very skillfully, because there's a lot in it.

There's a lot cooking away in there. Mm. Um, so holding things in psychic utero, I love, I love that. I love Marion

[00:46:53] CK: I, I appreciate, well, thank you for making it personal. Gimme a very vivid example. First of all, [00:47:00] uh, it could, could be a puppy. It could be a business idea. It could be two books. It could be, you know, a romantic interest.

Yep. Right. And then life is full of beautiful blessings and, and gifts. And Hey, here you go. You know, three things, you know, which ice cream flavors you want. You're like, oh no, I have I have some difficulties choosing, um, yeah. I mean, it's, it's, it's a real thing and I really appreciate how you said you just sit with it.

Yeah. Give it time. and, um, and I ask, you know, the deep mind, what is it that you want perhaps most likely, probably always there is a third, uh, solution where you can have it all. And it's up to that yourself, the deep mind to discern on what that is. I, I would say for me, my, in cuz I'm such a purpose driven person, my default unconscious choices pick [00:48:00] one or the other thinks.

Right? Absolutely. But, but, but the maturation process for me is, Hey, but Hey, hold on. You know, you don't have to sacrifice a thing yet. Right? Sit with it. Maybe a new solution, a new

[00:48:12] Stephen: idea. Absolutely. Let it, let it cook. I, one of my mottos in life is it never hurts to slow things down it very often doesn't help to speed things up.

So you sit with the not knowing. You make room for the not, wow. I don't know right now. I really don't know. Okay. That's all right. Um, eventually it will, it will resolve itself. That's why I like the idea of the master seasonings as they are without trying to change them. She, she stays at the center of the circle.

So you come back again and again to the center of the circle.

[00:48:54] CK: So on that note, let me double click on that. there, [00:49:00] uh, meditators, especially people who are on this spiritual path often opt for stillness, meditation, practice S rendering float. Let's just watch and see. and then, but then on the flip side of that spectrum is inspire action.

Mm-hmm right. You hear a lot, especially, uh, people who all was more the ma masculine energetics, just do, do, do, do do mm-hmm so, but I don't think it's one or the other, right. It's finding the harmony pointing between the ying and yang. So how do you think about when is a time for stillness? Yeah. And when is time for inspire actions?


[00:49:41] Stephen: know, that's, that was the whole purpose of the Baba GTA. The, the 2000 year old scripture until the writing of the Gita in the, the, say the third or the second century BCE spiritual life was basically a life of a CISM. It [00:50:00] was a life of renunciation in India. It was all about quiet, right? It was all about leaving the world behind, leaving the marketplace.

This great scripture was the first time you have a scripture that says you can have a deeply spiritual life in the world, right? You can have a deeply spiritual life by living your calling in the world. And in fact, most of us are not gonna be monks and nuns. Most of us are living in the world. I certainly am.

And so it lays out this four stage path for living in the world fully. And, and I've, this is in my first book on Dharma, number one, discernment discern you're calling. And by that, I mean, what's, you're calling right now. Forget about the, the notion that we just have one calling. And, but right now what's life calling you to discern your Dharma.

Second, [00:51:00] do it full out. This is called the doctrine of unified action. That is once you know what it is. You bring everything to it. This is where that, that trust and those leaps come in. You, you bring it right. So discern your Dharma, do it full out. The third one is let go of the fruits, right? Let go of the outcome.

The outcome is none of your business. You don't even know what success or failure means. PR says to Aina, um, uh, it's better to fail at your own Dharma than to succeed at the Dharma of another. But the truth is we don't know what success really means. So my new book, for example, um, it's not selling as well as my, my first book on Dharma.

I don't know why. Um, I don't know. It's true purpose. I, I got the Dharma assignment. It was clear. I was supposed to write that book. I brought everything I had to it. I did it full out. Now I have to let, let it go. I have to [00:52:00] let it go into the world and find its true purpose. Okay, so this is a hard one for Westerners letting go of the outcome.

I mean, I worked with this group of, of hedge fund guys and the, the idea of letting go of the outcome for hedge fund managers was just crazy. Um, and then the, the fourth one is, is, well, wait before

[00:52:21] CK: you go on to the next one. So what do they say? Um, were you able to help 'em like, what did you say to help 'em?

Well, like go a little bit of their attachment

[00:52:32] Stephen: I, I was able to show them mm-hmm, precisely that clinging to outcome actually interferes with their performance, even in the financial world, because clinging to outcome. And if you're clinging and grasping and holding on, we've already seen that, that, that gives you tunnel vision, that narrows your focus that eliminates this great fluid intelligence, where you open to all these possibilities.

So. [00:53:00] They got that their creativity was enhanced by letting go of their ideas of what a good outcome would be. Mm. They totally got it. And this group went on to, some of them wanted to leave the profession, but they went on to stay in the profession. This was after the, the disaster of 2008 and reform it right because that sector was so involved in the, in the crash in 2008 and 2009.

Um, so let's review discern your DMA, do it full out unified action. Let, go with the fruits and then turn it over to God, to higher power, to something bigger than you to some bigger purpose. Um, and, and the BOGO yita showed that when you're living that way, according to those four precepts, you are actually not the doer of your actions.

You're the channel. You're a channel for this deeper [00:54:00] mind, for some people would call it God to define. Um, but you get to live this amazingly exciting and fulfilled life and, um, let go of those things that really cause suffering the clinging and the grasping and the hatred and inversion and so forth. Um, has this answered your question?

Did I, it

[00:54:25] CK: Yeah. Um, actually what you said about letting go, um, or surrendering, you didn't say those words. I said those words, but that's what I got. Right. Um, it reminded me of a high performing coach, high performance coach, Jess Spencer.

He used to be the Cornerman for tiger woods. Lance Armstrong, Bonnell. And this type of people, I, you know, people who are playing on a really high level, what's his name? Jeff Spencer. Okay. That's cool. Yeah. Yeah. Lamb Armstrong. [00:55:00] So, and he said, keep us soft focus. He said you don't want it to be hard focused because if you keep it a hard focus, all you can see is the thing that you're looking at.

You can see anything else. That's beautiful. You also want to be too diffusive. Yeah. Where you can see anything, you, you lose your goal soft, like keep it there, but keep your peripheral vision there. Uh, I really appreciate that, that, um, articulation that's

[00:55:27] Stephen: beautiful CK. Do you know that one of the side effects of, of deep meditators is their Perver?

Their peripheral vision is widened. Mm-hmm . You know, anatomically biochem, whatever you wanna say, they have more peripheral vision actually. Isn't that interesting? Mm-hmm I don't mean symbolic per peripheral vision. Mm-hmm so open it up. Yeah. Mm-hmm that's beautiful. I love the soft focus idea.

[00:55:58] CK: Yeah, because then, because [00:56:00] when you have self focus, then you can be aware of the solutions that where the third way that you mentioned earlier exactly.

And maybe staring at you in the face, but you just are too focused to even see it.

[00:56:13] Stephen: You know, one of, one of my great fun, examples of fluid intelligence that we talked about earlier that we're talking about now too, is, is Apollo 13. Mm-hmm remember when they had a disaster on board and the group of scientists down on earth had to put together.

Had to do all these creative solutions to try to solve the problem that was going on up there. Mm-hmm and it required them totally thinking out of the box. Right. And, um, that's characteristic of this mind that we've been talking about. So for, for several years, I taught a [00:57:00] group of brilliant young musicians from all over the world who had come together in this academy here in Massa, in Massachusetts to study every summer.

And they had such a hard focus on the perfection of their instrument and the piece of music that they were suffering profoundly. The grasping to perfection and perfect outcome, um, was so hard. And I taught them the story of Christian and Aina and they started softening that and opening up. And all of a sudden it unleashed their creativity.

Well, talk about joy, right? So, um, that narrow focus was just widened and they had this, this sense of everything's okay. Wellbeing. And so now how do I live? How do I live in my instrument through, through that rather than through [00:58:00] holding and clinging and, and grasping.

[00:58:03] CK: So let's talk about that for a bit.

When people think about spiritual practice or professional practice, they're thinking I gotta, you know, really hunker down and it's about the discipline. It is very serious. My livelihood's on the line. My reputation is on the line. It's a lot of heaviness and significance, and I know that personally very, very well

Yeah. And, and, and, um, But one realization I have is what is it all for? If not for joy. Yeah. So I do my best to bring the lightness of being right to remember that all this is gonna pass and, and it's all about enjoying my life. So, um, curious, cuz you wrote a book about Dharma. Yeah. Great works of our life.

Yeah. You wrote a book about Dharma in difficult [00:59:00] times. So can you help us bring a little bit more joy into our Dharma work? Yeah.

[00:59:09] Stephen: Um, you know, joy, um, as, as you probably know, joy is a, is a built in feature of this deep mind that we've talked about. Um, when the mind settles. These four states of mind and, and this comes straight from the Buddha, but it's also in all the yoga scriptures when the mind quiets and subtles four states of mind naturally arise.

One is called meta loving kindness. One is called Corona compassion, mood, sympathetic, joy, and U Paka is, is equanimity or balance. But together, [01:00:00] these are all states of profound, happiness, right? And joy. And there's nothing that you have to do to create them. It it's a byproduct of practice. Mm. Now it's a, it's a complicated thing though, isn't it?

Because I let's take me. I'm a writer and, um, I have a. My, my motto for myself as a writer is suit up and show up. My agreement with myself is I have to suit up and show up every day right here in the office. Mm-hmm and if I don't feel like writing, I don't have to, I almost never don't feel like writing.

I always, I get here and like, we're gonna write, so some days are work. Um, some days are plotting. Other days are just filled with these gifts and joy and, [01:01:00] um, you know, Arnold or Copeland Aaron Copeland, the great American composer used to say, um, I have to show up in my studio because I never know when the muse is gonna show up.

And if I'm not there, I won't meet her. Right. Mm-hmm so, um, I have days that are. Very craftsman, like very workmanlike plotting, right. Where I, my motto in those days is just to move the marbles forward a little bit. My best buddy, Brian and I have this he's he has is an entirely different business, but we, at the end of the day, we're like, well, did you move?

Did you move the marbles forward? Just a little bit? Yeah. Yeah, that was good. Um, it's a very craftsman like approach, but along with this craftsman, like approach comes unbidden waves of [01:02:00] deep happiness and joy. The idea is that in your, in your dormer, remember, you're just doing your little bit, but you're part of building something bigger.

You're part of building a good society. You're part of building a good family. You're part of building a cathedral, a great cathedral, and. There are moments when you feel you step back and you feel the profound joy in that cathedral, right? Maybe you won't live to see it done, but you feel the joy in your own, in your own integrity and participation in that big task, you feel the joy and having been invited into that big task.

And I don't mean big, I mean, spiritually big. Right? I understand. Yeah. Um, Thoreau is always my good example on that, cuz he lived such apparently a small life. You know, he said I have traveled extensively in Concord. [01:03:00] Um, but he lives such a big life in and with such integrity to his own calling that it, it literally touched the world and there was a dude that was full of joy, but not all the time.

He had a lot of sorrow as well. Sometimes I think joy and sorrow are very deeply intertwined. Hmm. You know, you've had the experience when you're you're sobbing and you're crying and your heart is broken, but there's also some deep sense of sweetness in it. You know, it's, it's, it's that sorrow is connecting you to maybe a lost person or love or whatever.

Um, so I, I have to be careful around this because people think that contemplative practice is inevitably gonna lead to immediate happiness and, and, and permanent happiness. And that's just not [01:04:00] true. Um, but chick sent Meeh, you know, who, you know, Miha sent Meeh the great mm-hmm of the book flow. Mm-hmm he did a study of what actually makes people happy and fulfilled.

And it was a big surprise to everybody. He, he put beepers on people and he, he did hundreds of, of, um, of subjects. And at the beginning of the study, he asked people when they were happiest and most fulfilled and to a person, they said, when I'm hanging out with my family or, you know, when I'm in my own personal monogram pool in the backyard or whatever, and then he beat them periodically and randomly and asked them about their state of mind in that moment.

And what he found was most people were really happiest when they were doing what we would call their [01:05:00] garment. That is when they were doing some task or occupation to which they felt deeply called with in which they had some skill. And, um, and. Some something that the, they could call doing their life work, um, whether it was raising an adolescent or writing books, as I do, most people were actually happiest and most fulfilled when their doing their Dharma and joy arises forbidden again, and passes away.

It arises and passes away. Happiness arises and passes away. What the, the mind state that's more, that, that stays around more is actually fulfillment, which is different than happiness.

[01:05:49] CK: Okay. Double click on that. What's yeah. What's the different definition for happiness and fulfillment.

[01:05:55] Stephen: So happiness is a, is a fleeting state of mind that comes and goes [01:06:00] and fulfillment is a deeper urgency.

Like I have this profound sense of having lived a fulfilled life because. I took some risks. I, I did my Dharma. I wrote the book. Some of them are bestsellers some aren't, but I, I took every Dharma assignment and did it. And this leads to a kind of happiness that is not, not exactly surface. And, um, but it's, it's a deeper kind of happiness, a deeper abiding sense of being filled up really, even in the midst of a day when nothing goes right.

And my writing doesn't go well. And, and yet there's a, there's a profound sense still of fulfillment. No, I'm in the right place. I'm in the right pew and I'm doing it and letting go of the outcome. I don't know. The outcome is [01:07:00] bigger than I am. Who knows. Maybe these people are meant to stick somewhere.

Maybe they're not, but I know I did my part. That leads to fulfillment and it's, it's erroneous. And it's misleading for people to think that if I don't get happy right away, um, that I've somehow failed in my practice. Uh, it doesn't, it really doesn't work like that. Happiness is a mind state that comes and goes, and it's lovely when it comes.

And, um, when it goes, you learn to be with that and not be aversive to it. Yeah,

[01:07:43] CK: man, uh, again, so many things I can double click on. I need to make a choice so for me, the metaphor, the difference between happiness and fulfillment is the gratification of eating that ice cream [01:08:00] is fleeting mm-hmm , but it's very satisfying, right.

And versus eating a wholesome healthy meal. Yeah, that's good. Right. May not have the same, uh, peak taste. Yeah. Oral pleasures, let's say, but the body is nourished and then you feel satisfied is very, very content from that. I still want my dessert, but nonetheless, the body is very satisfied versus this like sugar high that I'm just trying to chase.

So that's a very visceral, uh, metaphor. I like

[01:08:36] Stephen: that. There is this distinction in the contemplative traditions between as between grasping and aspiration, right? Mm. Grasping is, is driven by that squirrel brain, the paleo mammalian brain it's full of suffering. It's just, it is. Where did I just see last night?

Um, I was [01:09:00] watching something on Netflix and I was surprised to see very. Very adept, I guess it was musicians. Yeah, it was musicians talking about how much suffering they had around their grasping. Right. Um, oh no, here's another secret. I never watched this, but I was actually watching Britain. Britain's got talent Uhhuh that's where I saw it.

It was on YouTube. Um, so there are two things grasping which can drive you. It can, you can be a driven person. Mm-hmm, driven by grasping. And many of my young musicians come into me that way. Right. And to a certain extent, it's created that grasping has created a lot of excellence in beauty, but also a lot of suffering.

So I presented them this alternative called aspiration aspiration is more driven by the prefrontal cortex, by the [01:10:00] executive functions of the brain. And it says, look, just practice your practice. Um, do what we call deliberate practice that that's, I sketch that out in, in the book, um, deliberately practice your craft so that you achieve a kind of mastery and then rather relying on your own emotional state and your, your wish for greatness or your wish for perfection, rely on your craftsmanship and let it, let it shine.

Or if it doesn't shine that day, it's okay. Let it go get over it. You know, I, I write about Maryanne Anderson and her brilliant concert in 1936 in front of the Lincoln Memorial, where, because of racism, the gods of the American revolution would not let Marion the greatest controller in the world. Black.

Would not let her sing in [01:11:00] constitution hall and Eleanor Roosevelt and Franklin D Roosevelt was president at the time said no way. That is not, that is not going to stand. And so they created a concert for her in front of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter, 19 36, 70 5,000 people showed up, right? It was, it was an earth shattering event.

She walked onto and, and the event of her life, really in many ways, she walked onto the stage and there are all these microphones in front of her from all over the world. This was broadcast everywhere. And you could imagine if she dropped into her fear about, oh my God, this is the, if she dropped into Michelle Kwan, protecting her reputation in that moment, she would up.

But she says in her biography, she says, I just, I relied on my craftmanship. I trained in this way and I just did what I was trained to do. [01:12:00] So, um, so letting go of the grasping in that moment, the emotions in that moment, and just relying on craftsmanship, which was, is driven by aspiration, right? Like I'm a writer, I'm a craftsman.

I have an aspiration to write well to write good books. Yeah.

[01:12:23] CK: Well actually, if you don't mind double clicking on that. Yeah. What is your aspiration as a writer?

[01:12:32] Stephen: My aspiration is to learn, to convey deep truths and deep realities, um, in a way that that mainstream folks can really get them. So, you know, I've, I've concentrated on.

Translating, for example, the yoga Sutra, the yoga Sutra is a 2000 year old, very complex scripture. [01:13:00] And I wrote a book called the wisdom of yoga, which really, I think if I do say so myself very well, um, explained it in, in almost fictional FA in almost the fashion of a novel to, to a mainstream audience. Um, that's what, that's what fascinates me.

And by the way, fascination is an important fascination is important because if something fascinates you, you, you have to follow that up. Mm I'm fascinated. The first time I read a book that was in the genre that I write, it was by mark Epstein, called thoughts without a thinker. And this was 30 years ago.

It was a great bestseller, but. CK. It was so brilliantly done. It was so beautifully written. It was so sublime put together and I saw that and I said, I want that. I, I think I can do that. Mm. [01:14:00] Why? I thought that I don't know, there was no indication. I think I can do that. I saw myself in that this is called projective identification.

I saw myself there and that became my aspiration. And so I plotted away at it. Right. My first book took four years. Um, how I had the Kaho to even think I could write a successful book. I don't know. I don't know. Where did these things come from? Way deep inside. It did. It was a best seller and still is 20 years later.

And, and ever since then, I've been taking on these more and more complex assignments, Dharma assignments. To write books. The last book also took four years. The great, the, um, difficult times. And, um, it kicked my butt man. Oh my God. That book was put me through a lot. [01:15:00] Um, and, and yet I knew I was, I knew I was doing my Dharma.

I was, I, I had certitude about that. I was bringing unified action. I was bringing everything I had to it and now I'm letting go of it. Okay. And now I have a couple more books up here, beginning to cook, like what's, what's calling me. And, um, yeah,

[01:15:25] CK: there you go. Well, let me just say this as a fan of your books that, um, I really appreciate the intentionality behind every sentence.

Mm-hmm the way it's structure. Thank you. And. How you make it accessible to this very esoteric topic, Dharma, and also how you humanize these, you know, extraordinary human beings. Yeah. You know, cuz when we think about, oh these are great people, they never have self doubts. Right. They, [01:16:00] uh, have down times, they're always walking on clouds, wherever they go.

But that's your books specifically? Your book, the great works of our life really humanizes these extraordinary people like, oh, so they too are human just like me

[01:16:18] Stephen: that's so I'm so glad to hear that, that cuz that was my intention. Like mm-hmm, , let's get under the hood of these lives. What, what, how does this really work?

Because keep in mind, most of the people in that book, they weren't famous during their lifetime Thoreau. Wasn't famous. I think 800 of his 2000. Uh, his first book, I think had a print run of 2000, but in his lifetime, he never sold more than 800, which is not a lot of books by the way of, of Walden Walden, his great masterpiece.

Now everybody reads it in college, everybody right, all over the world. Um, most of these people weren't [01:17:00] famous in their lifetimes and it's only in retrospect that we understand the power of living a life. According to those four precepts to certain new DMA, do it full out, let go of the fruit, turn it over to God.

Um, so, um,

[01:17:19] CK: yeah. So on that note, you are on this path. You're making a difference in your reader's lives in ways that you will never know that's right. Uh, what. So as a writer, you could aim to just plant seeds and then whatever happens with the fruits, Hey, that's outside of your control or as a rider, you can attempt to give them actionable items to give them, you know, transformation, behavior shifts, mm-hmm, , you know, trauma release, like that's a little bit further down the line, right?

So what do you aim to do when you write? [01:18:00]

[01:18:00] Stephen: So, you know, Emerson said to throw every sentence should be its own evidence and that's a packed statement, but what it means, I guess obviously is every sentence should be so full of its own power, that it doesn't have to refer to somebody else's power. So. What I strive for as a writer is to, is to write a book that itself has the power to transform the words.

This is what fascinates me, the power of words. When you read, like, when we all have books that transform us and they're not the same. Um, when I, when I read mark Epstein's book, I was, my life was transformed by, and, and I also appreciated the genius and the beauty of his prose and the, the [01:19:00] refinement of his, uh, presentation.

And it's an art form. So all art forms have their own intrinsic fulfillment. And when you hit it, when you, when you nail it, you know it right. And every now and then not all the time, not even sometimes often. I nail it and it's so it's so fulfilling. So words are really my metier in that sense. Mm.

[01:19:34] CK: So speaking of that, the medium of influence is now shifted.

Yeah. Going from words. Well, actually all the way back then, just oral traditions to now, you know, short form soundbites, social media. Can you speak a little bit more about how you have to change, uh, as a teacher? Yeah. To, uh, adapt to the modern times to the modern [01:20:00] taste of our time.

[01:20:03] Stephen: That's such a huge question.


[01:20:06] CK: again, I'm in the middle,

[01:20:07] Stephen: take it wherever you wanted to go. I am so in the middle of this. So when my, you know, I, my new book is my sixth book. Right. Mm-hmm and. All of my previous books sold extremely well. The first book, they, the first three books are all, I think over a hundred thousand, each that's a lot of books.

Um, sole friends, not quite as well, but this book, all of a sudden it came out. It was like, nobody bought it. Not nobody, but maybe we've sold a couple thousand copies. Um, and honestly, you know, I talk about, I talk a really nice game about letting go of grasping, but it does feel better when people buy your books after you, it feels better.

Right? So I had to make a choice and oh, so I [01:21:00] consulted some people and, and I discovered that, oh, the world was changed while I was here, writing books. And people's concentration spans have diminished profoundly in 30 years. People need, as you said, sound bites, little videos. All of that stuff. So I had to make a choice.

Steve, are you going to try to enter into that domain of social media and marketing? I've never marketed my books ever. Are you gonna enter into that or are you just gonna let it go? And that was, I was caught on the horns of that dilemma for a while, until I decided, eh, I have some responsibility to a book like a child once I produced it.

And so I thought, no, I'm gonna hire. So I hired a brilliant woman and firm from North Carolina to do all my social media stuff. When I tell you I've never had a, so a [01:22:00] Facebook page, I never had Instagram or any of that stuff, Twitter. Well, now I do and now I do, and I barely know how to get on any of it. Um, and, um, It's an experiment, right?

It's an experiment. So right now, to, to your question, I'm videotaping a nine session product that will go along with my new book, the DMA and difficult times that we're gonna try to push into yoga studios around the country, because I know that all of us around the country right now are saying we live in such desperate times in so many ways, um, with global warming and with political separation and, and insanity and with the rise of autocracy and on and on, we all have to have in the back [01:23:00] of our mind, the question of what is my duty, what is my duty in the face of everything falling apart?

I know my duty is that little, that gem at the warp and Wolf strand of Andrew's net. But how do I contribute my gifts to the common good right now? I know that's in the back of everybody's minds. And, and so I'm creating this product that can go out with my book to help yogis in yoga studios and yoga teacher training programs.

Think about these issues through the lens of the Bogota, which is the most influential scripture in, in this regard having to do with action in the world, in the common good. So we'll see, it's an experiment CK. I don't know. Maybe next year I'll be

[01:23:53] CK: awful. That stuff. Well, I'm a fan. I'm gonna send my people to buy your course to buy a books for sure.[01:24:00]

Yeah, for sure. But I do wanna do a callback real quick, cuz one, you know, what we talked about, the nondual perspective is everything is fine and nothing to fix. And now you're also saying like, Hey, everything's falling apart. So at the surface level, like, Hey, wait a minute, Steven just said this. They seem to be conflicting.

Do you say a little bit more about that?

[01:24:21] Stephen: I mean, this is a, what you've just touched on is a, is a classic debate within the contemplative world and, and let's face it within all religious traditions. The, the debate between the dual and the non-dual and the, and the non-dual position is dude, everything is already okay.

All you have to do is. Understand that, and then everything will be okay. The non-dual position is that no, no, no. Life is a system at life. As a spiritual being is a systematic program of purification of moral [01:25:00] purification of spiritual purification. There's a lot to do get to work, right? So these were the two and, and, you know, in back in the middle, middle ages in India, all these great teachers had debates.

And, um, the debates were usually between the non-dual list and the doulas. And traditionally the non-dual people always win these debates because they use poetry and imagery and non-linear thinking, and they walk, they walk circles around the, the doulas. Right. um, the truth is it's another case of the third way.

They're both true, right? They're both true at the same time. and that's how I live really. Every day there is a, um, I have a systematic path of practice in, you know, I practice haha yoga. I practice meditation, I practice chanting [01:26:00]and um, and there is also the daily surrender to it's all already. Okay. I don't understand how, but there is this profound center of wellbeing at the heart of me that connects with, with all beings for both

[01:26:18] CK: I'll share mine.

Maybe you can double click on what my answer may be. So, so I'm very much of a doist yeah. Everything is fine. It's a perspective in that makes it good or not good. Absolutely.

[01:26:33] Stephen: Yeah.

[01:26:34] CK: Tall or short, whatever, based on what, right.

What's the benchmark, what's the perspective. So, so, so there's that. And um, and, and the way I think about my dharmic path is, Hey, what do I learned? What have I learned that I could share to the younger versions of CK? Mm-hmm that may alleviate some suffering. Yeah. Ultimately is their path. If they [01:27:00] wanna suffer fine.

That's okay. But I've done my part to make a thing or artifact a book, a video, and it's up to them. I let that go. So that's the way I think about it. It is, everything is fine. People are gonna be people and the planet will be fine. Uh, long after humans are gone. Right. Mm-hmm uh, and, uh, what could I make, because I want to make it as a way to be in service of whoever that want to read or watch my things.

[01:27:31] Stephen: That's beautiful. Are you, um, are you devoted to the tao te jing?

[01:27:38] CK: Um, devotion that devoted is a, is strong of a word, but the concept of it.

[01:27:46] Stephen: Yeah, right. Yeah. Um, I am in completely entranced and, and charmed and motivated by the tao te jing. I, I have to say, uh, especially Steven Mitchell's [01:28:00] brilliant translation and, um, and I, I, I, I will tell you that temperamentally I'm a non duelist.

I always have been. But I also love the, the genius of the, no, wait, I said that wrong. I'm a dualist. I said that wrong. I'm a, dualist really, that's how I grew up. That's that's just my nature, but I'm, I'm absolutely fascinated and intrigued with, with non-dual wisdom at the same time.

[01:28:34] CK: You know what, now that you mention it put in those words, I would say I'm very much the same way because I'm a trained as a PhD, um, biomedical engineer.

I'm very much a solution oriented guy. What's the innovation, what's the solution to quote unquote, solve this problem. Right? And through my spiritual practices, by medicine, B pasta, thine, all these scriptures, I learned about this subject of reality. Mm-hmm uh, [01:29:00] how can I it's uh, how do I say this? I can get to a place of deep mind.

Once I integrate all of my charges. Mm-hmm of everything is fine, is the way it is. It's based on my perspective and so forth. Yeah. So I would say, uh, aspirationally, I like to be more in the nondual world, but you know, the, the training , the programming that I've had so far is very much of a, a dual list. You know, how do we solve problems?


[01:29:33] Stephen: know, for me, the, the dual list approach, which has been the dominant approach in my life has, has born so much fruit. You know, I I'm, I'm old, I'm 73. Um, and I've practiced since I was 25. And I can see across that tr. The fruit, I I'm in a time of [01:30:00] what Jack cornfield calls fruition, right? He's I think he's about the same age.

Maybe he's a little younger than I am, but the fr the fruition of, of practice is, is profound. So, um, having that as my, you know, my, my inspiration, the, the contempt of traditions talk about, um, verified faith, verified faith is faith in something that you have a personal experience of having born fruit for you.

And so I have, I have verified faith in, in, in the Doris. Right. And

[01:30:42] CK: actually on that note, that's a phrase I'm not so familiar with. Do you mean that you have gone through some personal trials and tribulations to earn that wisdom? Is that what you mean by verify faith? Yeah,

[01:30:53] Stephen: you're not. So often in our culture, when we talk about faith, we, we talk about [01:31:00] trusting is something you don't really know that much about like blind faith.

Yeah. That's right. Like blind faith mm-hmm , but this is faith in something that you have tested and, and you know, it to be true. Um, and back to that sense of knowing, right. Um, so I have verified faith in these practices. It's, it's, it's proven itself out in my life. And, um, uh, you know, I, I'm very aware of, I, I don't know if you, if you know the work of TA de Charan the, the great French Jesuit paleontologist, but he was a, he was a Jesuit, he was a Christian, but also very involved in, in more in Eastern spirituality.

And. His view was, and, and he, he was a paleontologist. So he was a scientist like you. Um, but [01:32:00] his, his experience of the world was that was filled with miracles all the time, little miracles. And I have that same experience. I haven't always had it. It's the fruit of practice for me. Um, when I practice regularly and stay tuned, little synchronicities, little awakenings, little aha moments, little, little, I don't know, miracles, they, they happen all the time.

It's just, can you see them? Are you awake enough to see them? And Charan was, you should read some of his work at some point. Um, brilliant at describing that, you know, I'm just, I'm aware of the time I have another call coming in, in, in 10

[01:32:48] CK: minutes. Got it. I so appreciate you. Uh, Steven, thank you so much for your generosity.

Just doing your work. Yeah. Walking your Domic path. Um, [01:33:00] you've been so, so, so generous, um, for those people that wanna buy your course, where should they go? Um,

[01:33:06] Stephen: just go to Steven It's my website. And also if you'd like go to, K R IPA, a L Um, I'm, I'm all over that site as well, but you can, you can find my books and my courses, uh, at my website and that'd be great.

And, and also come and visit me at Crio. I teach there all the time and where up in a beautiful Mon Jesuit monastery on the, um, in the Berkshire mountains of Western Massachusetts, it's quite gorgeous and stunning. Uh, so, so appreciate Steven. My pleasure, CK. Lovely.

Stephen CopeProfile Photo

Stephen Cope

Stephen Cope

Stephen Cope is a best-selling author and scholar who specializes in the relationship between the Eastern contemplative traditions and Western depth psychology. Among his seminal works in this area are: Yoga and the Quest for the True Self, The Wisdom of Yoga, and The Great Work of Your Life. His most recent work, The Dharma In Difficult Times, is the sequel to best-seller The Great Work of Your Life.

For almost thirty years, Stephen has been Scholar-in-Residence at the renowned Kripalu Center—the largest center for the study and practice of yoga in the Western world. Kripalu hosts almost 50,000 guests a year in its many yoga, meditation, and personal growth programs. It is located on a sprawling 200 acre estate in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. In addition to his role as Scholar-in-Residence, Stephen is the founder and former director of the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living—one of the world’s most influential research institutes examining the effects and mechanisms of yoga and meditation, with a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School, University of Connecticut, University of Pennsylvania, and many more.

Stephen is the recipient of both a Telly and an Apple award for his work. In its twenty-fifth anniversary edition, “Yoga Journal” named him one of the most influential thinkers, writers, and teachers on the current American yoga scene.