A podcast about living with meaning, purpose, and a heightened sense of present-moment awareness in the pursuit of wisdom.
15 - Yael Shy - Listen to Yourself
I have a wonderful guest on today and I'm very excited to share this conversation with you. In thinking about the message of today's conversation I was reminded of a comment I recently heard Jack Kornfield make when he was interviewed by Tim Ferriss. They were talking about Tim's recent silent meditation retreat and the benefits of them, and seeking out master teacher to help with your practice. I'll admit, taking a few days for silent retreat, even a few weeks, months maybe, sounds pretty good to me. But I do see my desire for that experience as an example of looking for answers or solutions that are somewhere else, outside my current state or experience in life. But as Jack says, we have the wisdom that we are seeking within ourselves. And while I might feel like I'm missing out by not having time in life for a retreat, it's important to remember that there is a reason I can't. He said for instance if you have kids, and they take up all of your time and energy, then your kids are your practice. And while I really know this to be true, it was refreshing to hear him says this. As he said you can't get a zen master who's going to be more demanding than an infant with colic or your teenager. You've basically hired the best teacher you can to help you cultivate your practice.
And this goes a long way to saying that the life in front of us, the joy and pain of our own lives, are the best teachers. What else is there? And that does bring me back to my guest today, Yael Shy, who by the way is just about to bring a second "teacher" into her house. Some of you holdovers from the Meditate This! Podcast might remember Yael was a guest on our show way back in episodes 17 and 18, when Jay and I spent a couple hours grilling her on meditation practice. Yael the senior director of the Center for Global Spiritual Life at New York University and is the founder and director of Mindful NYU, the largest campus-wide meditation initiative in the country, which was also co-founded by my absolute best friend and legendary podcast co-cost Jason Hollander...should probably have him on the show someday.
But the idea that the circumstances and even perceived weaknesses of our own lives can be the best teachers, really jumped out at me when I read Yael's recently published first book called What Now?. She learned that many of the things that created uncertainty, insecurity or even shame in her life, turned out to be the greatest gifts, helping her find ways to make meaningful differences in the world. And I guarantee, I just know it, that we all have these things about ourselves that make us unsure, we may even be annoyed by ourselves, and we will do anything to avoid or cover up or ignore them. But these traits, what we might think of as character flaws, are really the keys to making us whole and guiding us to greater meaning and purpose in life.
And I also know this, that understanding doesn't come until you let go, become open, honest, and vulnerable to them. That is exactly what you find in Yael's latest book, which is really an autobiographical teaching of meditation and mindfulness. She is tender hearted, very honest, but also very powerful in her message. I love the book and I love this conversation. So please welcome my guest today, Yael Shy.
Thanks for listening,
14 - Daron Larson - Don't Try to Be Mindful
Today on the show we are going to hit mindfulness head on and talk about how we might be getting tripped up by the practice, and how, according to my guest, we might be doing it wrong. Now don't interpret that as a judgement or criticism, but more like permission to take some of the pressure off. I know that over the years of practicing sitting meditation, I've had times where I get a little caught up in the practice, looking for it to do something for me, or I'm watching my meditation streak of days in a row. Then there are these great apps and tools and podcasts to equip us with instructions and tracking and timekeeping and on and on. Not so say these things aren't useful, but I am quite human and have desire, craving, attachment, striving, wanting to do well, wanting to improve my life...and mindfulness just starts to look like one more tool to get what I want. Or to even change to world around me. And to even say I've been getting better at it, by not striving, and not tracking, well that sounds like striving all over again. So what am I to do?
Quite fortunately I found my guest today, Daron Larson, to be someone who cares deeply about this issue. Daron is a mindfulness coach who specializes in something he calls Attentional Fitness Training. And here we are training the key element, and maybe only element that matters, awareness, which isn't really about striving or attaining anything. It's just paying attention, becoming intimately familiar with yourself, as you are right now, in real time. Not what you were, what you're going to be, or what you want to be. This is what Daron refers to as your narrative or being in storytelling mode.
So we start off with how Daron brought mindfulness into his life, and then we get into a variety of issues related to the practice itself. Two areas I ask about is whether mindfulness can open us to living a more meaningful life, and also why I personally get hung up on something called loving-kindness meditation, which has been very difficult practice for me. It's not so much that I sense resistance, but it feels kind of empty when I practice on the cushion, so to speak. That's counter to what I've heard about the experience for others, but Daron gives me some ideas for more real life, or real time methods of practicing.
So let's get started, but first I want to say that during our conversation I really felt that not only is Daron passionate and deeply interested in his work, but he really cares for the people he is helping. I actually felt he really cared for me, with all my questions. And in the weeks, now months since we had this conversation, I've received several emails from Daron with a short note and often an attachment to an article he thought I would personally find interesting. And he was spot on each time. So somewhere in our conversation, kind of without me knowing it, he read me pretty well and followed up with meaningful contact. I've loved following him on Instagram, where he goes by Daron Larson, as you might guess, and posts some wonderful and thought provoking photography of scenes from his own life. At the end of our conversation, Daron talks about how he identified or felt this caring and sensitive side within him early in life.
A wonderfully kind, positive, and thoughtful person. Please welcome my guest today, Daron Larson.
Thanks for listening,
13 - Atz Kilcher (5/5) - Getting On With It (and a Bonus!!)
Congratulations, you made it to part 5, the final segment of my epic interview with Atz Kilcher. And while each episode stands on its own, it makes sense to start from the beginning to hear it in sequence to get a full understanding of his journey and the range of wisdom you can glean from his life experience.
This episode is a great wrapper for everything we've talked about. I called it "Getting on With It" because for one, that's how Atz ends this segment, but also because for every hardship, every bend in the road, every moment of despair, even every moment of triumph, when you start your day you need to put the doubt back to sleep, put the pain back to sleep. As Atz says you need to grow up, get over it, and get on with it. Acknowledge who you are, be open and honest with who you’ve been, but ultimately take ownership and responsibility over your life and get on with life. There's only one person on the planet who can make that decision for you, and that's you. Atz is a living testament to the power of that decision.
We talk about morning routines in this segment, Atz sings for us, and the real treat was we get to hear him yodel. At the very end we have a little bonus footage where I play a word association with him. His answers were perfect, and I think it was a wonderful way to put some final thoughts on some of the most important concepts and people in his life.
So I can guarantee this is not the last you'll hear from Atz. He's a trailblazer and there will be many people who join up with him on their own journeys through life. For me, I stumbled onto Kilcher Trail a couple years ago when I met Ryan Wolfington, who asked me to interview Jewel, which also led to interviewing Atz. Having met these three pillars of light, I consider myself one lucky man, they each had a profound impact on me and I'd just like to thank each of them for seeing the light in me to bring their message to you all.
So here we go, please welcome one last time, my guest Atz Kilcher.
Thanks for listening,
12 - Atz Kilcher (4/5) - The Victim & Resolution
Today is Part 4 of my interview with Atz Kilcher, and after 3 hours of digging deep into the conflict and trauma that Atz has work so hard to overcome in his life, we finally find his Mother, Ruth. I found it interesting that it took us this long to talk about her, but even more interesting when Atz told me he originally intended to write his new memoir, Son of a Midnight Land, about her. But maybe just as it took us 3 hours to finally talk about her, he needs more time to dig into the complexity mystery of his Mom. Surprisingly, it looks like the whole dream of homesteading may have originated with Ruth and not Yule. Atz tells us all about it in this segment, but we discover also that his Mom played the tragic figure of the victim, perhaps unwittingly. And in listening back, I think this issue deserves a lot more attention than what we were able to give it here.
I think feeling victimized, or even playing the victim, is one of the most stealth ways to undermine one's ability to thrive. It is the ultimate excuse and method of sabotage for not taking responsibility for one's actions, or even worse, inactions. Looking from the outside, Ruth did everything right, what she was even supposed to do, by tending to the homestead and raising the family while Yule was so often away. But unable to standup to constant abuse, she became emotionally dependent on her own children, and even developed physical ailments that mirrored her helplessness. This had a profound, but mostly undetectable impact on Atz, until he realized how it framed relationships he had with several wives.
I really hope Atz writes that next book that dives into the complexity of his Mom and the role of the victim. We need to differentiate how feeling victimized is different from being vulnerable and open, how one robs the power you have in your life, and the other restores it. But that is definitely for another time, and I hope I can have that conversation with Atz when he's ready to go deeper. Maybe the podcast will be called Deeper Sit by then.
We finish this episode with a great story of resolution, one instance in particular when Yule and Ruth engage in a nostalgic gift exchange that captivates the family at a reunion. They had been separated for quite a long time by then, but this resolution was deeply healing for Atz and his siblings. We tie out the story of the Kilcher family here, before getting to our last segment where we talk about morning routines, dealing with anxiety, and a wonderful word association game I played with Atz.
So, let's get started. Please welcome, my guest and friend Atz Kilcher.
Please visit www.DeepSitPodcast.com
11 - Atz Kilcher (3/5) - PTSD
We've made it to the half way point in my interview with Atz Kilcher, and after two and a half hours you might expect we'd be getting close to wrapping up, possibly running out of things to talk about. Not the case here, everything up until this point was really just a warm up. As we enter hour three of our conversation we address PTSD, a debilitating mental and emotional disorder that has gone by many names in history, but is perhaps just now getting the attention it deserves in society. This is a topic very near and dear to Atz as he has dealt with several types of trauma throughout his life having been the victim of and witness to abuse growing up, and of course he is a veteran of the Vietnam war.
For my part, I wanted to get a better understanding of this disorder, what is it, how does it develop, can people suffer from PTSD but be totally unaware of it, and perhaps most importantly, how do you deal with it? Something I interpreted during this conversation is that according to Atz, managing his PTSD is very similar to, if not the same as, a mindfulness practice. It's trying to separate yourself from a triggering event long enough to notice how it makes you feel and how your knee jerk reaction is unreasonable if not unacceptable. But it's hard because you are so tied up and locked in from the toll that previous trauma has taken on the wiring in your brain. If you're fortunate enough to make the observation yourself, that's a big step. But also be aware of what others see in you and how their reactions can clue you in to your irregular behavior. Only then, when you distance yourself, and observe, do you have a chance to make a change.
Atz has a beautiful exercise for someone suffering from PTSD, something he again expresses through storytelling and a song. It's really an exercise in time travel, going back to an age of innocence, to the unconditioned mind of the child we used to be. Atz tells us the story of a man nicknamed Froggie, a Vietnam Veteren who was attending a PTSD meeting where Atz was speaking. When Atz sang his song entitled PTSD, Froggie had a breakthrough moment after years of being locked up by the trauma he suffered in Vietnam. He touched that youthful spirit that was buried long ago, and became free to reclaim what Atz calls his inner champion.
So let's get to it. A very special segment today that I think goes right to the heart of how Atz can help so many people. Please welcome Atz Kilcher.
Please visit www.DeepSitPodcast.com
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10 - Atz Kilcher (2/5) - Generosity & Rejection
Today I continue my interview with Atz Kilcher. This is Part 2 and is where Atz really started to help me personally. I don't know if I mentioned this in the intro to Part 1, but my experience sitting with Atz for a day was life changing, and I don’t say that lightly.
I don't do this podcast to report the news, or simply deliver someone else's message. My main objective when I sit down with someone is to learn and find the guiding wisdom that I can integrate into my own life. It sounds quite selfish when I put it that way, but when I present this podcast, you are hearing it from a beginner's mind, someone who is genuinely curious and wants to learn.
This next hour is when I really started to understand how Atz can help people. The beauty of his delivery is that is isn't masked or diffused by what you might called new agey, hippy-dippy words, or even done in a dry academic manner. This is straight talk, and it's on the ground floor of everyday life that we all experience. Within the first 20 minutes of meeting each other, Atz had me figured out, and that comes up in this segment where we talk about generosity and rejection.
Why is it hard for us to give, or even more interesting, why is it hard for us to receive. What does that say about us? These are not mutually exclusive, and our ability to give and receive without conditions is perhaps a reflection of our own self-worth, our own sense of value, and our willingness to do for others what we would like them to do for us.
So rather than try to distill this any further, I'll let Atz take it from here. Of course he does it skillfully with song and a story of man named Dell. You will enjoy this segment. It's where the lights went on for me and I hopped on the Atz train.
Thanks for listening,