“Meditation Freedom” podcast

The other week I was interviewed by Sicco Rood for the Meditation Freedom podcast. He’s interviewed a number of well-known teachers, including Lama Surya Das and Ven Pannavati, both of whom I was honored to meet at this year’s Western Dharma Teachers’ Conference. If I sound a little flat, it’s because just before the recording took place I’d heard that a beloved aunt had passed away.

meditation freedom podcast

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Raw Voices podcast

1587The other week I was interviewed by Olivier Larvor and Tim Brownson of the Raw Voices podcast. You can listen to the podcast here.

Olivier seems to be a fan of mine:

A truly enlightening podcast with Buddhist and meditation teacher Bodhipaksa Dharmacari, author of the book ”Living as a river: finding fearlessness in the face of change”

Prepare to be transported by Bodhipaksa’s stories, wisdom and soft-creamy voice.

Such a cool and humourous guy!

And his voice…



Ok fine, I am jealous!

The interview was rather rambling, since I was responding to questions and points that Olivier and Tim were bringing up. It’s partly about meditation and how it works, and partly autobiographical.

Olivier has a rather lovely French accent. He described himself as an “HR Project Manager, musician in an obscure indie band, guitar collector, ICF certified coach, failed writer, father of two boys and most of a time, an arrogant ass.”

I have to say he didn’t come across as arrogant in the slightest.

Tim is someone I know, since he’s been one of my meditation students for years. He’s English (you’re getting a great variety of accents in this podcast) and is a life coach. He blogs at A Daring Adventure and Coach the Life Coach. He’s a lovely guy. One of the things I most admire about him is that his teaching is evidence-based. He’s very happy to to challenge conventional wisdoms that many other life coaches accept uncritically.

The rest of the podcasts look interesting as well, although I haven’t had a chance to listen to any of them yet.

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Perspectives on Satipatthana: an interview with Bhikkhu Anālayo

Perspectives on Satipatthana

An interview with Bhikkhu Anālayo, author of Satipaṭṭhāna: The Direct Path to Realization.Bhikkhu Anālayo’s latest book, Perspectives on Satipaṭṭhāna, uses a comparison of three different versions of the Satipatthana Sutta to reveal what the original core teachings are likely to have been.

Hannah Atkinson: Perspectives on Satipaṭṭhāna is a companion volume to your earlier publication, Satipaṭṭhāna: The Direct Path to Realization. How are the two books distinct and how do they work together?

Bhikkhu Anālayo: My first book, Satipaṭṭhāna: The Direct Path to Realization, came out of a PhD I did in Sri Lanka. It was the product of my academic study of the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, the practical experience I had gained in meditation, and what I had read about the experience of other meditators and teachers – I tried to bring all that together to come to a better understanding of the text itself.

At that time I was working on the Pali sources of the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta because the Buddha’s teachings were transmitted orally from India to Sri Lanka and then eventually written down in Pali, which is fairly similar to the original language or languages that the Buddha would have spoken. However, the transmission of the Buddha’s teachings also went in other directions, and we have versions of the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta in Chinese and Tibetan. So after completing my PhD I learnt Chinese and Tibetan so that I could engage in a comparative study of parallel textual lineages, and this is the focus of my new book, Perspectives on Satipaṭṭhāna.

Although this was, at the outset, mainly an academic enterprise, what I discovered really changed the focus of my practice. When I took out the exercises that were not common to all three versions of the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, I was left with a vision of mindfulness meditation that was very different to anything I would have expected. Contemplation of the body, which is the first of the four satipaṭṭhānas, for example, is usually practised in the form of the mindfulness of breathing and being mindful of bodily postures, but these exercises are not found in all versions. What I found in all three versions were the exercises that most of us do not like to do: seeing the body as made out of anatomical parts and thus as something that it is not beautiful, as something that is made up of elements and thus does not belong to me, and the cemetery contemplations – looking at a corpse that is decaying.

So then I understood: body contemplation is not so much about using the body to be mindful. It is rather predominantly about using mindfulness to understand the nature of the body. As a result of these practices one will become more mindful of the body, but the main thrust is much more challenging. The focus is on insight – understanding the body in a completely different way from how it is normally perceived.

Normally we look at the body and see it as ‘me’, but these texts are asking us to take that apart and see that actually we are made up of earth, water, fire and wind, of hardness, fluidity and wetness, temperature and motion. They are asking us to directly confront our own mortality – to contemplate the most threatening thing for us: death.

Bhikkhu Anālayo is a Buddhist monk (bhikkhu), scholar and meditation teacher. He was born in Germany in 1962, and ‘went forth’ in 1995 in Sri Lanka. He is best known for his comparative studies of early Buddhist texts as preserved by the various early Buddhist traditions.

Bhikkhu Anālayo is a Buddhist monk (bhikkhu), scholar and meditation teacher. He was born in Germany in 1962, and ‘went forth’ in 1995 in Sri Lanka. He is best known for his comparative studies of early Buddhist texts as preserved by the various early Buddhist traditions.

I found a similar pattern when I looked at the last satipaṭṭhāna, which is contemplation of dharmas. The practices that were common to all three versions were those that focused on overcoming the hindrances and cultivating the awakening factors. The emphasis is not so much on reflecting on the teachings, the Dharma, but really on putting them into practice, really going for awakening. As a result of this discovery I have developed a new approach to the practice of satipaṭṭhāna which I have found to be very powerful, and this would never have happened if I had not done the academic groundwork first.

HA: Your books are a combined outcome of scholarly study and practical experience of meditating. Do you find that these two approaches are generally compatible with each other, or do they ever come into conflict?

BA: It is not easy to be a scholar and a practitioner at the same time. If you look throughout Buddhist history, it is more usual to find Buddhists who are either practitioners or scholars than Buddhists who are both. However, for a while I have been trying to achieve a balance between these two sides of me, and I have found a point of concurrence: the main task of meditation is to achieve ‘knowledge and vision of things as they really are’ and actually this is the main task of academics as well. We use a different methodology, but the aim of both is to understand things as they really happen. If I take that as my converging point, then I am able to be both a scholar and a meditating monk, and this has been a very fruitful combination for me.

Both of my books are aimed at people who, like me, are interested in academic study and meditation. They are academic books where the final aim is to help people develop their meditation practice. They are not books for beginners, and the second book builds on the first book, so one would need a basic familiarity with what I covered in Satipaṭṭhāna: The Direct Path to Realization in order to fully engage with Perspectives on Satipaṭṭhāna.

HA: Both of your books mention the idea of satipaṭṭhāna as a form of balance, and the title of your new book suggests that there are many different perspectives on satipaṭṭhāna that could be taken into account. Is the very essence of satipaṭṭhāna practice a balance of perspectives or is there one particular perspective on satipaṭṭhāna that has been most useful in the context of your practice?

BA: I think that balance is an absolutely central aspect of mindfulness practice. If you look at the Awakening Factors, the first one is mindfulness and the last one is usually translated as ‘equanimity’, but in my opinion it would be better to understand it as balance or equipoise. To be balanced means to be mindful and open to the present moment, to be free from desire and aversion, and this is what the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta continually comes back to.

I believe that balance is also an essential element of academic study. If, through my mindfulness practice, I am cultivating openness and reception then how can I say that one approach to a topic is totally right and another one is completely wrong? If I do that, I have to exclude all of the other approaches from my vision. Often, when we get into very strong opinions, we have tunnel vision – we see only one part of reality, one side of it, but that is not how things really are. So, in my academic work, if I find one approach that seems more reasonable to me, I keep it in the foreground, but I have to keep the other approaches in the background, I cannot just cut them out.

HA: Satipaṭṭhāna: The Direct Path to Realization and Perspectives on Satipaṭṭhāna both mention the importance of combining self-development with concern for others. Does satipaṭṭhāna practice lead naturally to a person becoming more compassionate or is it necessary to engage in other practices to achieve this? Is satipaṭṭhāna practice a solitary activity or is it important that it is undertaken in the context of a Sangha?

BA: I think that compassion is a natural outcome of Satipaṭṭhāna practice, but it is also good to encourage it in other ways as well. There is a simile from the Satipaṭṭhāna Samyutta of two acrobats performing together on a pole – we need to establish our own balance in order to be in balance with other people and the outside world, but other people and the outside world are also the point at which we find out about our own balance. I can be practising alone, sitting in my room, feeling that I am so incredibly balanced and equanimous, but let me get out into the world and have some contact with people, come into some problems, and see how balanced I am then! Of course, time in seclusion and intensive meditation is essential, but there must always be a wider context to our practice.

Republished with permission from Windhorse Publications.

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Interview with Vimalasara, co-author of “Eight-Step Recovery”


Interview with the co-author of “Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings to Overcome Addiction.”

Most of us either know someone who has suffered from some form of addiction or have suffered from addiction ourselves. Why do you think it is so common?

Suffering is Universal. Human nature has an inbuilt tendency toward addiction. I would say that the main reason why we become addicts is that there is some dis-ease deep in our minds, and I think most of us can relate to that experience. Our addictions are usually misguided kindness towards ourselves – we’re trying to take care of something difficult that is arising in our minds. The problem is that in doing that we keep reaching for our addiction until it becomes so habitual that we’re not even aware of our behaviour. Many addicts will say ‘But I didn’t have a choice’, and once upon a time I would have said the same to you – it was almost as if someone had jumped inside me and driven me into the shop so I could buy my fix. But when we begin to slow down and step onto the path of recovery, we can actually see more clearly what we are doing and realize that we do have that choice.

So would you describe stepping onto the path of recovery as taking back control over our lives?

Well I think the first step towards recovery is not so much trying to take control of the situation but just slowing down and becoming more aware. Our addictions are actually often bound up with issues of control. My main addiction was food, for example, (I was diagnosed an extreme bulimic anorectic) and I spent so much time trying to control my body and what I put into it but of course this didn’t work because I wasn’t in control; none of us can ever be completely in control.

Instead of trying to control my life, actually what I needed was to do was to become more aware of my thoughts – not to control my thoughts but just to become aware of them. And when I started to put the emphasis and the energy into this, I began to see that I didn’t have to believe in my thoughts – my thoughts weren’t truth.

So I think that when you are suffering from addiction it can actually be really important to acknowledge that you are not in control. Rather, the first step towards recovery is just to slow down and become more aware.

And this is where meditation comes into the picture. Can you talk a bit more about the benefits of meditation for those who are in recovery?

Meditation is such a powerful tool that in the long term it can completely transform people’s lives. I look back at my life I think ‘God, is that me?’ I don’t actually recognize that person who I was, and that is fantastic.

In the shorter term, what meditation offers is sobriety of mind or peace of mind. Meditation can begin to calm our mental proliferation – the voices and stories which go on and on and around and around in our heads.

Saying that, often people who meditate for the first time come back to me and say, ‘I can’t meditate because it’s too hard for me to concentrate – I’ve got so many voices in my head!’ And what I say to these people is, ‘That’s meditating!’ When you can see all of the chatter in your head, you have started to meditate, because often we’re not even aware of that chatter. Then if, with practice, you can just keep coming back to the breath and get a couple of seconds of stillness, that’s huge!

So don’t tell yourself, ‘I can’t meditate because meditation must be calm, it must be peaceful’ because it might be really challenging when you’re sitting in the chair or on the cushion, but once you come out your formal meditation, you will begin to see the impact of that practice on the rest of your life.

So for someone who is starting this process, what are some simple meditations that they could try?

There is an acronym called AGE, which is something that’s used a lot in the Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy world. AGE is a thee-minute breathing space, and each letter stands for something. ‘A’ is awareness – one has awareness of thoughts and feelings. ‘G’ stands for gather – gather the breath and become aware of the breath on your upper lip or inside your nostrils. Then ‘E’ stands for expand, expand the breath throughout your whole body, from head to toe. And this is something that you can do in three minutes or even in just a minute – you can do it at your desk or when you’re walking down the street, for example. You just need to stop and take a pause.

You say in your book that ‘The Buddha was in recovery’. What do you mean by that?

Well we know that the Buddha came form a hedonistic background – he led a princely life with all the material pleasures he could wish for, but still he wasn’t content. So he tried to find contentment by going to the other extreme and becoming an ascetic, using self-mortification practices and eating just one grain of rice each day. All of this, of course, is quite harming, and in the modern west the Buddha could be locked up or considered an anorectic. When Shakyamuni became a Buddha (hence woke up to the truth of reality) he went beyond recovery. He then shared his recovery with the rest of the world. It is possible for us to go beyond recovery too. We all can wake up and see things as they really are.

So after engaging with these ascetic practices, the Buddha realized that actually they weren’t the answer either; the answer was the Middle Way. And in his first discourse he makes it very clear that the path to the end of suffering is about freedom from craving, from addiction. So in a way, I believe that what the Buddha’s life story is telling us is that what the Buddha offered was his recovery to the world – he offered the Noble Eightfold Path as a way out of suffering.

So do we need to believe in a higher power, like the Buddha or God, to recover?

I don’t think that we need to believe in a Buddha or a god in order to recover, but I do believe that higher power is there for us whether we believe in it consciously or not. The breath, for example, is higher power – we all believe in breath unconsciously because if we didn’t we would be dead, and we believe in impermanence (which is another of the Buddha’s key teachings) because without it we wouldn’t have the confidence that we could grow and develop; we wouldn’t have the motivation to carry on living. So although some people aren’t aware of higher power working in their lives it is always there for us to tap into, and it is wonderful when we can become conscious of it.

Your book is called Eight Step Recovery. Are the Eight Steps to your book the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path or are they referring to the Twelve Step Program?

Steps have a venerable tradition in Buddhism. The Dhammapada an important text in Buddhist literature, means steps of the dharma, or verses of the dharma. The rupa, statues of the Buddha is a contemporary representation of the Buddha. In the Buddha’s day it was two footprints, that represented the Buddha stepping out into the world. If you are familiar with Buddhism there are many lists. And so it seemed fitting to call these teachings eight steps. We have used aspects of the Noble Eightfold Path but our book draws more widely from Buddhist teaching as well, so the Eight Steps don’t just refer to the Eightfold Path. Neither do they refer just to the Twelve Step Program; we would like our book to be used as an alternative to the Twelve Step Program, or in conjunction with it.

We believe that through writing this new book we are adding to the canon of recovery. Actually I think that we’re in a very exciting time now, because at one point the Twelve Steps had the monopoly on recovery – there was nowhere else that people could go – but now there are other options for people who would like to recover from their addictions.

I’m one of those people who didn’t clean up in the Twelve Step Program – I cleaned up in the meditation rooms – and I wanted to write a book offering my recovery to the world as well. The Buddhist teachings changed my life, so through this book I hope that I can bring these teachings to more people and help change their lives for the better as well.

Eight Step Recovery is out now: Eight Step Recovery – Order your book now

Or try a free sample – For a free sample chapter of Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction please email:

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The value of guided meditations…

wildmind coverRecently I was interviewed by Hannah Atkinson of Windhorse Publications in the UK. I’m one of their authors, but she was curious to know more about the guided meditation CDs and MP3s that I’ve published through Wildmind.

Here’s the conversation:

You have produced a large number of guided meditation CDs and you also run a huge online meditation teaching resource, Wildmind. What is the ethos behind your emphasis on audio and online meditation teaching and why do you think it is so important? 

Well, it’s something I stumbled into really about 13 years ago when I was doing my Masters degree at the University of Montana. I was wondering about how to teach and I started thinking about the potential of the internet to reach people. Back then there was nothing much on the internet about meditation at all, so it seemed like a really exciting thing to do. I started making meditation courses with audio and text available online and then the CDs just grew out of that really.

So I think that audio and online meditation teaching is a really great way of reaching lots and lots of people and it is also a really great way of reaching people who would have difficulty getting good instruction elsewhere. Perhaps in Britain there are people who don’t have their own transport and who have to travel 20 miles to go to a meditation class, but in the US it’s not uncommon for someone to be several hundred miles from their nearest Buddhist centre.

How effective do you think CD guides are as a teaching method? What are the advantages of your guides over a book or a meditation class, for example?

Every avenue of teaching has its particular advantages and disadvantages. A class is great because you’ve got a teacher there who can answer any question you might have about your meditation practice. But perhaps you go to the class once a week and when you get home you can’t quite remember what the instructions were, or perhaps you didn’t completely grasp the instructions and you’re not actually doing what you were taught. With a CD guide you have a meditation teacher at home – I mean you can’t ask any questions, but if it’s a well-led guided meditation then it will introduce you to some skills that you can repeatedly expose yourself to and begin to internalize.

Books are great for giving people things to think about but they’re pretty terrible from the point of view of leading you through a guided meditation. We’re not very good at memorizing and we don’t want to have to keep opening our eyes and peeking at the book to see what the next instruction is! Memorizing also involves effort that should just be going into paying attention to our experience.

So all these different teaching methods have their place, and I think ideally you want to be exposed to as many as possible, taking advantage of whatever is accessible to you. I think the most important thing is that you have a mixture of teaching and independent exploration in your practice. Guidance from someone who is more experienced than you is obviously essential in order to grow, but I also advise my students to give themselves time to do their own exploration because sometimes you just need to hit a difficult patch in your practice and find your own solution to the problem that you’ve been facing.

Let’s talk about a couple of your CD guides in particular. One has the title Guided Meditations for Stress Reduction. Why do you think meditation is so good at reducing stress?

Well, there are two parts to stress: one is the things happening in your life and the other is how you are responding to those things, and stress mainly comes from the latter. When we experience something difficult or challenging, often our minds go into overdrive – we start obsessively thinking, ‘This is terrible!’, ‘It’s going to go on forever!’ or ‘This shouldn’t be happening to me!’ These kinds of stories that we tell ourselves are where stress is really coming from, and meditation helps us to become aware of those stories and gives us the opportunity to let go of them.

Meditation can also help us to see other ways of being with difficult circumstances and experiences, for example, we can learn to just be with things that are uncomfortable. If you can just tell yourself, ‘This experience feels unpleasant right now’ without trying to run away from it, you’re not adding that secondary layer of suffering.

Yes, on your Guided Meditations for Stress Reduction CD you lead a meditation on acceptance. Can you talk a bit more about the relevance of acceptance to stress reduction?

If we recognize something unpleasant in our experience, we often feel a strong tendency to fix it. And if we’re in an emotional state of ill-will then yes, we need to do something straightaway to stop ourselves behaving in a destructive way. However, if we are just experiencing unpleasantness on the level of vedanas, trying to fix those feelings is misguided. Feelings may be unpleasant, but they’re never unskillful, while aversion to those unpleasant feelings is a form of unskillfulness.

Instead, I find it helpful to try to treat unpleasant experiences as opportunities to be compassionate. If I’m experiencing an unpleasant feeling – anger or fear, for example – I ask myself, ‘Where am I experiencing it in the body? Often it’s down in my solar plexus – I feel this kind of knot of tension there. So I recognize that this is suffering, and what is the most appropriate response to suffering in the world? It’s compassion. I therefore treat the suffering that I’m experiencing in my body as something that needs compassion – I wish the pain and discomfort in my solar plexus well.

I find that if I do this, the whole superstructure of anger completely disappears, because the point of the anger in evolutionary terms is to defend us from the thing that is causing us hurt or fear right now, but in the majority of circumstances in modern-day life, a defensive, angry response is a destructive rather than a useful one. So through meditation we can learn to be mindful and compassionate towards unpleasant experiences rather than reactive and defensive.

The most recent of your CD guides available on the Windhorse Publications website is Mindfulness Meditations for Teens. Why did you produce a CD specifically for teenagers? What benefits can teenagers gain from meditating?

Well that CD came out of some teaching that I’ve been doing in the summer – there’s a national academic enrichment programme for High School students in the United   States called ‘Upward Bound’, and I’ve been teaching a study skills personal development course with that for over 10 years now. A few years ago I started introducing a short meditation session into each class, and this was with some trepidation. Would I end up with a fundamentalist Christian parent knocking on my door complaining that I’d been indoctrinating their child? Would the kids just find it really boring? I didn’t know what the response was going to be at all. But it turns out that it is always their favourite part of the course! So I thought, ‘Well if I’m doing something that’s working for 30 teens over the summer, why not record it and make it available for other people as well?’

And in terms of the benefits that teenagers can gain from meditating, I think they’re the same as for people in general really because being a teenager is just an intense form of being human! If you think about all the difficult things about being human, they are all things that teenagers experience really intensely. Take change, for example, teenagers are experiencing constant change in their lives. Each year they have to learn new subjects with new teachers, their bodies are changing, they’re moving into being adults and having to deal with all the pressures of developing romantic, sexual relationships. And they’re going through all this at a time when their brains are still developing as well.

So the way that I teach meditation to teenagers isn’t that different from the way that I teach it to people in general, although I do keep the meditations fairly short and break them down so that we’re just focusing on doing one particular thing in a meditation practice, and I try to keep the vocabulary more simple and appropriate for young people.

Lastly, for those who haven’t used CD guides in their meditation practice before, what is the one thing you would tell them in order to convince them to give it a try?

I would suggest being open to the possibility that there are skills and perspectives that other people may have learned that might be useful in your own life. I know that from my own experience, the guidance that I’ve received from meditation teachers has been enormously enriching because it has exposed me to different ways of approaching life. So I’d really encourage other people to be open to experiencing that as well.

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The Dhammapada: “one of the greatest psychological works ever written”

The Dhammapada, translated by Gil Fronsdal. Available from Amazon.

Jonathan Haidt, who studies morality and emotion at the NYU-Stern School of Business, discusses the Buddhist classic, The Dhammapada, on Five Books:

Haidt: The Dhammapada is one of the greatest psychological works ever written, and certainly one of the greatest before 1900. It is masterful in its understanding of the nature of consciousness, and in particular the way we are always striving and never satisfied. You can turn to it – and people have turned to it throughout the ages – at times of trouble, at times of disappointment, at times of loss, and it takes you out of yourself. It shows you that your problems, your feelings, are just timeless manifestations of the human condition. It also gives specific recommendations for how to deal with those problems, which is to let go, to accept, and to work on yourself. So I think this is a kind of tonic that we ambitious Westerners often need to hear.

Is there a specific saying that you particularly like?

Haidt: There are two big ideas that I found especially useful when I wrote The Happiness Hypothesis. One is an idea common to most great intellectual traditions. The quote is: ‘All that we are arises with our thoughts, with our thoughts we make the world.’ It’s not unique to Buddha, but it is one of the earliest statements of that idea, that we need to focus on changing our thoughts, rather than making the world conform to our wishes.

The other big idea is that the mind is like a rider on an elephant. Buddha uses this metaphor: ‘My own mind used to wander wherever pleasure or desire or lust led it, but now I have it tamed, I guide it, as the keeper guides the wild elephant.’ That’s the most important idea in The Happiness Hypothesis – I just adapted the metaphor slightly. What modern psychology shows us is that our minds are like a small rider on the back of an elephant: the rider doesn’t have that much control even though he thinks that he does.

And once you accept that you are much closer to understanding happiness?

Haidt: Exactly, because it helps explain why you can’t just resolve to be happy. You can’t just resolve to quit drinking, you can’t resolve to stop and smell the flowers – because the rider does the resolving but it’s the elephant that does the behaving. Once you understand the limitations of your psychology and how hard it is to change yourself, you become much more tolerant of others, because you realise how difficult it is to change anyone…

jonathan haidt

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Orgasmic Meditation: How To Have Slow Sex For A Better Climax

Christine Estima, Blisstree: So we now know that women can think themselves to orgasm without any physical stimulation. (And may I just say to all you Blisstree readers with this ability – PLEASE SWITCH LIVES WITH ME.) But for Nicole Daedone, founder of the OneTaste Organization and author of new book “Slow Sex: The Art and Craft of the Female Orgasm,” it’s not just about achieving orgasm, it’s about achieving better orgasms.

At OneTaste, Daedone has been teaching people how to have better sex and relationships since 2004 with a technique called OM — Orgasmic Meditation — which seeks to slow down the process and connect emotionally, spiritually, and physically with the act to prolong it as long as possible. Maybe Orgasmic Meditation isn’t something you’ve ever really considered, but chances are, you’d cheerfully welcome the challenge (wink wink, nudge nudge).

According to Daedone, the problem isn’t that women aren’t craving sex. The problem is that women want a different kind of sex… Here’s what she had to tell us about the

In Slow Sex, you write that “in just 15 minutes every woman can become orgasmic” but this seems to be contradictory with the whole idea of “slow” sex. Why is that a part of your practice if you’re trying to teach women to slow down?

The title “Slow Sex” is borrowed from the Slow Movement, which started with slow food and has expanded out to slow cities, slow education, slow money and more. In this context, the word “slow” refers not to literal speed but to a different way of relating to our world.By contrast to fast food, where you have no idea the provenance of your hamburger, slow food focuses on local and sustainable farming, community dining, and cooking with unprocessed foods fresh from the earth.Slow Sex means applying similar principles to our connection with our partner.

In OM we strip away everything extra, returning to the basic experience of two people coming together and connecting through touch. We pay attention to the details of sensation in our bodies, rather than focusing on an end goal of climax. And we ask for what we want, so our relationships can be more nourishing and satisfying. The fact that all of this can happen in just 15 minutes is sort of an added bonus.

What do you think about the new study which says that women can think themselves to orgasm? Do you think it’s relatable to OM?

My first thought is—wow! It’s pretty amazing what a woman’s mind can do.

What this study is focusing on is climax. In OM, climax may be part of the experience but most often it is not. The orgasm you can access through OM is an expanded definition—one that includes every sensation you feel in your body, from the tiniest tingle to the most potent peaks. This kind of orgasm is more natural to a female body, and it’s the result of being taken out of control.

When someone is stroking you during an OM, you’re no longer in the driver’s seat. It’s this experience we so crave from orgasm as a whole: the experience of being in an involuntary state, where orgasm moves through you and all you can do is feel it. So while thinking yourself to orgasm reveals an impressive capacity for concentration and control, it’s not the kind of orgasmic experience I teach.

Do you draw on the tenets of Tantric sex, or is your method inherently different?

Many people ask this question! So first I will say that I did not study tantra, and this practice in its original form was not drawn from a tantric background.

But I can understand why people would associate OM with tantra. Tantric sex practice is the closest thing to OM that most people have heard of. Basically, it’s a practice that has to do with the genitals, so there’s this sense of, “that’s close enough!” But that’s really where the similarities end.

In tantra, there is a goal of experiencing different states, including bliss states and experiences of oneness with your partner. In OM, we let go of any expectations and simply feel. In tantra, there are all sorts of cultural and religious associations. Tantric practice often includes visualization, chanting, and the redirection of sexual energy. OM has no cultural overlays, and the instructions for OM are far more basic: Pay attention to sensations you can feel in your body.

You write that Slow Sex will reveal the five unmistakable signs of a woman in orgasm. Without revealing all five, can you tell us what perhaps one or two of the signs are?

Yes! I’ll tell you two signs that have an impact far outside of the bedroom: The first is the darkening of the area around the eyes; the second is the swelling of the lips. I say they have an unexpected impact because they are the precise effects that our modern-day makeup is designed to replicate!

What has been the response from the women in your workshops?

Every woman is different, of course. But most women leave our workshops excited, surprised, turned-on, and ready for more.

Recently we had a woman who came with a new boyfriend. She’d recently ended a 20-year marriage to her high school sweetheart, and all that time she thought she “just wasn’t sexual.” But then she and her new beau tried OM, and when she came back to class she had this look of total disbelief on her face. I asked her how it was, and she said, “I had no idea I could get so turned on. I didn’t know that woman was inside of me all this time.” We get that kind of response a lot.

Women who have been suppressing their hunger for sex for so long they don’t even know why they would want to come to a workshop about orgasm. But then they come, and suddenly a whole new world opens up.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I have one hope, really: I want them to try OM. Just try it, and see how they like it. This little practice completely changed my life. It has made me into the woman I am today, and she’s the woman I always wanted to be. If I could give that experience to everyone who picks up the book, I would have succeeded.

Nicole Daedone has appeared on Nightline; her work has been featured in the New York Times, the New York Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle. She writes, teaches, and lectures in San Francisco. You can find out more about her and Slow Sex: The Art and Craft of the Female Orgasm from and

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“Ten Thousand Joys and Ten Thousand Sorrows”: an interview with Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle

Ten Thousand Joys and Ten Thousand Sorrows,

This book is intensely personal. Was it difficult to write?

Yes, at times it was difficult to write, but I felt a great sense of purpose. just before Hob died, I promised him that I would write a book and his voice would be in it. That became like a covenant between us. Also, I felt compelled to write the book. I realized that our background with meditation and the wisdom traditions gave us valuable perspectives which could be helpful to others. I hadn’t seen any books about how spiritual perspectives or practices could help with Alzheimer’s, and that’s what had helped us more than anything. In fact, the book can be helpful for people dealing with any serious illness and no matter what their spiritual tradition.

See also

How did Buddhism and meditation help you and Hob to deal with his illness?

More than anything else, our Buddhist practice and understanding made a profound difference to both of us in handling his decline. Through meditation one learns to find an inner refuge – a place of stillness – in the midst of all the changes and challenges. When we accept how much we can’t control, that everything is impermanent, we can begin to step out of our struggle with life. Meditation helps one develop equanimity and acceptance of whatever comes up, and that is a great help in dealing with the losses and heartbreak of Alzheimer’s. To be realistic, meditation is not a panacea, but it is a tremendous support for which both of us were very grateful.

Title: Ten Thousand Joys and Ten Thousand Sorrows: A Couple’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s
Author: Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle
Publisher: Tarcher/Penguin
ISBN: 978-1-58542-827-4
Available from: or Kindle Store, and or Kindle Store.

How did Hob’s way of viewing his illness – and the world – help you to accept the situation?

He had a great sense of humor and a wry outlook on life. That helped a lot. Humor breaks the tension of difficult situations. It’s a gift because it shifts perspectives and allows you to laugh. On one level, he couldn’t believe he had this diagnosis. Even quite far along, he kept saying he was going to beat it. On another level, he was totally open and told everyone he had Alzheimer’s, which bowled people over. Many people don’t know there is something wrong with them or else never talk about it. I think Hob’s openness was a great help to him and everyone around him. Certainly it was for me.

Were any positive shifts in your relationship brought about by Hob’s illness?

The most important shift was the deepening of our love for each other. I kept reminding him that we were in this together, and that I would stand by him to the end. I tried to feel into his situation, to walk in his shoes, as the expression goes. Often my heart broke open with compassion and love for him. The frictions of relationship pretty much fen away, and you realize that you’re mainly living with the love. That’s a hidden blessing.

There was also a big shift from his fierce independence to his needing to become more dependent on me. I both accepted that reality and suffered with it. Both of us went through a gradual process of surrender – for him, to the inevitability of his losses; for me, to accept that those losses were “in the natural order of things,” one of my favorite expressions for keeping a balanced perspective.

Being Hob’s primary caregiver, was it difficult to balance his needs with your own? How did you work though frustration?

Keeping one’s balance is a constant issue! Burn out is a huge hazard for all caregivers, so was determined to honor my own needs. I arranged for regular time away to write, meet a friend, be in nature, or just let down. I asked good friends to come and be with Hob, take him for a walk, have lunch with him. I thought about this balance issue a lot and plenty of times I lost it!

When I got worn out and frustrated, I’d do anything to get a tiny respite; go to the garden, just sit and breathe, or be alone for a cup tea. Sometimes I was so exasperated, I’d drive off and in the privacy of my car, I’d shout or roar — any sound that helped to release my pent-up feelings. Sometimes I broke down, and it turned out tears were the most important relief.

Or I’d do exactly the opposite, surprising even myself. I’d choose to move toward him, push through my own feelings, and say, “I need a hug.” That would totally soften the frustration. I came to see that as a kind of spiritual practice, because I was choosing to make a loving gesture instead of collapsing into my own feelings.

How did you and Hob handle tough subjects like death and loss?

We were really fortunate here. First of all, we had our meditation background. Meditation is about acceptance and letting go, invaluable qualities in the face of loss. Then we had both been involved with hospice work where you’re constantly living with issues of death and dying. Finally, we could both talk about the subject of death relatively easily, and we did. Even with some of our closest friends when he was talking about wanting to end his life early.

With Alzheimer’s, loss seems to be a constant reality. Sometimes Hob grieved his losses, but given his nature, he usually made light of them. Other times he simply couldn’t believe what was happening to him As for me, I grieved quietly because my sadness upset him, and why add that to his burdens? Anybody dealing with Alzheimer’s will tell you what a heartbreaking illness it is. I think we do a lot of our grieving as we go along in both little and big hits. It’s important to acknowledge and feel the grief That’s human, after an, and if you don’t, it’s apt to come out in physical symptoms.

What is the ‘doorway practice’ and how did it help you during Hob’s last months?

The doorway practice evolved after he began passing out unexpectedly, and I realized that any of these episodes could be the final one. So whenever I came to the door of the room where he was resting, for example, I’d prepare myself for the fact that he might have died. This inner preparedness came to me naturally. Mysteriously, it wasn’t heavy at au. Rather, it intensified the preciousness of life, of our time together, and yet let me be prepared for whatever might happen. I know it helped me deal with his passing out episodes with equanimity That doorway practice would arise spontaneously. I’d feel remarkably calm determined and strong. Again meditation helped me a lot. One could say meditation is a preparation for crisis management!

What general advice would you offer to someone who is caring for a partner with Alzheimer’s?

  • Accept that this is one of the most difficult challenges you’ll ever face.
  • When you realize that you’re their lifeline in a dissolving world, every supportive and loving gesture is a gift to them.
  • For me, when one of my spiritual teachers suggested that caregiving was an opportunity for me to practice the positive qualities of compassion, patience, generosity, and kindness, it helped give meaning to the humblest of tasks.
  • Have compassion for yourself when you feel frustrated, impatient, or angry, because caring for an Alzheimer’s patient is a Herculean task.
  • Ask friends and family for help! People want to help out, and there’s a real risk in becoming isolated.
  • Know what gives the patient comfort or reassurance. For us, it was always touch, physical closeness, music and beauty.

There are many more answers to this question in the Reflections, Suggestions, and Seed Thoughts at the end of each chapter.

How has your life changed since Hob’s death?

Obviously losing one’s spouse is a heart wrenching loss, but I was determined to continue living as fully as possible. And I did. By writing the book, I was integrating the enormity of the experience and harvesting the insights that come with retrospect- a complex mix of grieving, creativity, and honoring our last chapter together. My greatest wish is that the book continues to be helpful, and hopefully our gift to others facing similar challenges.

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Emotional Intelligence and the Brain: an interview with Daniel Goleman

Daniel Goleman’s new book, The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights, is a fascinating round-up of the latest cutting-edge research into how emotions are processed in the brain, and how we can better regulate our emotional responses in order to be happier, less stressed, and more creative. This week Bodhipaksa had an opportunity to interview Goleman about the cross-over between Emotional Intelligence and meditative practice.

Bodhipaksa: When I was trying to think of who “The Brain and Emotional Intelligence” would be useful for, I found I couldn’t think of anyone who wouldn’t benefit from reading it. Did you have a particular audience in mind when you wrote the book?

Title: The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights
Author: Daniel Goleman
Publisher: More Than Sound
ISBN: 978-1-934441-11-4
Available from Kindle Store and Kindle Store.

Daniel Goleman: Anyone with a brain.

B: Well, I guess it would be good if everyone with a brain buys your book. Since you first started writing about emotional intelligence the workings of the brain have become much better understood. What research has most surprised you?

The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights

DG: I was delighted to discover the emerging field of social neuroscience, the new understanding of what happens in two brains while people interact rather than just in one brain alone. That ongoing surprise was why I went on to write Social Intelligence, and now “The Brain and Emotional Intelligence.” I’m particularly intrigued by the new findings on the different role the right and left hemispheres play in an “Aha!” moment of creative insight.

B: That was an especially interesting aspect of your book, especially in terms of insights arising when we’ve intensely focused on a problem and then let go of it and relaxed. A lot of meditators, of course, find that their meditation sessions become creative-thinking sessions. And the tradition doesn’t have much to say about this; I don’t think Buddhism offers any advice on how to think creatively or how to deal with creative thoughts that arise in meditation beyond “let them pass.” Do you have any advice — from your own practice or from your studies — of how to deal with creative thoughts arising in meditation?

DG: As a writer, I’ve long wondered about this. Especially because I like to have a period of writing just after my morning meditation session – I find the writing comes most easily then. And, of course, I get lots of good ideas while meditating – after all, the data suggests greater brain coherence during a session, and that fosters making new connections. This was pretty much settled for me by Anagarika Munindra, my first vipassana teacher, who advised me that when I got a great idea during a session, I just jot it down and let go of it. Over the years that pretty much has been a fall back – most often I just trust that the juicy ideas will come back to me after the session.

B: As a meditation teacher I now find I talk much more in terms of the brain, neural pathways, the relationship of the frontal cortex to the amygdala, etc, than I ever did before. Have you see that happening widely, and if you have can you give some examples?

DG: You’re not alone. Jack Kornfield now teaches each year with Daniel Siegel, the UCLA neuroscientist who wrote The Mindful Brain. And as dharma teachers learn more about brain science, it will be natural to weave these findings into talks. The principle of teaching in the terms that people understand – as the Buddha urged – suggests that in the West this integration of science and Buddhism will strengthen.

B: I actually find myself wanting traditional Buddhist models for discussing mental states — the hindrances, jhanas, etc — to be better understood in terms of their neural correlates. Is anyone working on that kind of investigation, or has work been done that can help elucidate those Buddhist models?

DG: This, I hope will be part of the program in the new field of contemplative neuroscience being spearheaded by scientists like Richard Davidson at Wisconsin and contemplatives like Matthieu Ricard of Sechen Monastery, who work in close collaboration.

B: Do you know what kind of things they’re working on at the moment?

DG: I believe they are continuing to add to their database of meditation adepts –- people with more than 15,000 lifetime retreat hours — and also creating a large sample of longtime Western meditators, whose experience totals are lower that the adepts. I also hear Davidson has some neat new methods for tracking changes in neuroplasticity.

B: One of the things you point out in your new book is that some parts of the brain communicate with each other through ganglia in the gastro-intestinal tract. I found that particularly interesting because in my own teaching I emphasize the relationship between feelings (or vedanas, which are really gut feelings) and the whole complex of thought and emotion that follows from those feelings. Can you comment on that aspect of research a bit more?

DG: In sensing the feelings throughout the body, the insula is another structure of real importance. This nodule allows us to scan for gut feelings, or to sense what’s up with our big toe, for that matter. Such sub-cortical circuitry knows more than we can say –- our life wisdom is embodied, cognitive scientists now tell us –- and so vedana vipassana may be one way to tune up our inner sensing ability.

B: Vedana vipassana meaning clearly sensing our feelings?

DG: Yes –- as taught, for example, by Goenka-ji, who was an early teacher of mine.

B: Do you think that at some point scientific studies of meditation might be changing how we meditate, for example by showing that some techniques are more effective than others, or perhaps by incorporating new techniques, such as combining fMRI with visual feedback, as in a recent study at the University of British Columbia?

DG: If meditation starts to be determined by what a machine tells us rather than by a qualified teacher, I suspect we may start to veer off the path.

B: I’d be wary of that as well, although I’d imagine that for some people with low self-awareness who have difficulty being objective about their feelings these methods could be useful, at least initially.

DG: These mechanical aids may prove useful for people with trouble concentrating –- for example, those with ADHD.

B: I was taking the UBC study as an extreme example, though, and was wondering if there might be more subtle factors at play. After all, as you’ve said, the neuroscience is already changing how we talk about and teach meditation, and in your book you tie an understanding of neuroscience into the art of learning new habits — so is it possible that neuroscience might change how we do meditation?

DG: Perhaps.

B: So far the research has been quite validating for those of us who practice and teach meditation. Have there been any studies done that you think might make meditators look more deeply at their assumptions? For example, you point out that it can be beneficial to be in a bad mood because you look at things more critically. I think some Buddhists might be reluctant to see “negative mental states” as having a useful role to play; the ultimate goal after all is to get rid of them entirely!

DG: Buddhist practitioners would probably make bad bill collectors –- that’s one profession where people actually put themselves in foul moods to be more effective.

B: It’s probably not an example of Right Livelihood! Which leads me to my next question. Some people are concerned because meditation is often being studied — and taught —  detached from its traditional context of ethics. To what extent do you share this concern?

DG: I remember voicing this very question to my first dharma teacher, Anagarika Munindra, in Bodh Gaya in 1970. He said,” Whatever gets people to meditate is beneficial.” The Dalai Lama seems to share this outlook, when he has encouraged neuroscientists to study dharma methods outside the context of Buddhism, rigorously evaluate their benefits, and if they prove helpful, to share them widely.

B: I tend to think the same way, and I assume that an interest in meditation will lead to an interest in living with mindfulness and compassion. Besides I’m already noticing that science is showing that some traditional notions of what constitutes ethical behavior — giving, expressing gratitude, having loving relationships with friends and family — bring about happiness. Is the neuroscience of ethical behavior something you’ve looked into?

DG: Not yet. But Sam Harris has done a good job in his book, “The Moral Landscape.”

B: Lastly (a big question, I know) neurologically speaking, can you see any way the traditional conception of enlightenment as a state entirely free from craving and ill will could actually work? Is the brain that plastic? Can the parts of the brain governing fear, anger, etc go permanently offline or be permanently kept in a state of regulation? Or do you think that Enlightenment is simply an extraordinarily well-regulated brain, but not a state of complete freedom from negative emotional states?

DG: A wonderful question –- the big question, really. The short answer is, We don’t know yet. I love what the Dalai Lama once told me: “Some day the brain scientist and the meditator whose brain is being studied will be one and the same person.” Maybe then we’ll get your answer.

B: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Good luck with your book.

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Russell Simmons expounds on the transition from materialism to meditation

Russell Wendell Simmons was born in Queens, New York on October 4, 1957, the middle of three sons to bless the marriage of Daniel and Evelyn Simmons, a public school administrator and NYC parks administrator, respectively. Russell and Rick Rubin co-founded Def Jam Records, the legendary hip-hop label, in 1984.

Russell parlayed his success in music into several fashion lines, most notably, Phat Farm and Baby Phat. Meanwhile, as Chairman and CEO of his umbrella organization, Rush Communications, he also ran an ad agency, produced movies and TV shows, and published a magazine.

Forbes Magazine recently named Simmons one of “Hollywood’s Most Influential Celebrities.” And USA Today dubbed him one of the “Top 25 Most Influential People of the Past 25 Years,” calling him a “hip-hop pioneer” for his groundbreaking vision that has influenced music, fashion, jewelry, finance, television and film, as well as the face of modern philanthropy.

From creating his seminal Def Jam Recordings to writing his New York Times best-seller Do You! 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success, Russell is recognized globally for his influence and entrepreneurial approach to both business and philanthropy. Since giving back is of primary importance to him in all aspects of life, he has consistently leveraged his influence in the recording industry, fashion, television, financial services, and jewelry sectors to advance the interests of a host of charitable causes.

A devoted yogi, Russell also leads the non-profit division of his empire, Rush Community Affairs, and its ongoing commitment to empowering at-risk youth through education, the arts, and social engagement. Furthermore, he serves as UN Goodwill Ambassador for The Permanent Memorial to Honor the Victims of Slavery and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

Here, he talks about his new book, Super Rich: A Guide to Having It All, a how-to tome which champions meditation over materialism as the path to true wealth.

Kam Williams: Hey Russell, thanks for the time. I don’t know if you remember me, but we met at that party you threw for Soledad O’Brien. I came over and told you I’d been trying to interview you for years. Thanks for finally hooking me up.

Russell Simmons: My man! Of course I remember you. I felt bad. How was that possible?

KW: A lot of publicists have never heard of me.

RS: Well, it’s great to talk to you. What’s going on, baby?

KW: I didn’t get to tell you that I grew up in the same neck of the woods, in St. Albans, which is right next to Hollis.

RS: Yeah, same thing.

KW: What gave you the idea to write the book?

RS: Well, the last time I wrote a book (Do You!), I got a chance to pull together all these teachings and frame them in such a way that I could share them with other people. But honestly, I can look back on it, and admit that my motivation was a little bit selfish, because I needed to do this for my own evolution. It was a sort of a cleansing process. I expected that I could get the stuff out of me, and frame it, so I could understand it. But I didn’t appreciate the book’s potential to touch the lives of others until Oprah praised it. She was my first interview after it came out, and made it go to the top of the best-seller list. After that, people would come up to me and say that the book changed their lives. What could be more gratifying? So, that inspired me to write this book, with a little more selfless intention. This book is about remembering to remember, and the mantra to be a good giver. Good givers are great getters, and I just wanted to share that with people in a way that they could really digest it.

KW: I told my readers I was going to be speaking with you and they sent in plenty of questions. The first is from Attorney Bernadette Beekman, who gives you a big shout out as a girl from Hollis! She says: many people are so busy working they do not have time to breathe deeply or be present on a daily basis. In fact, I was speaking to a friend who is a yoga teacher-in-training yesterday and she said quite often, when she is at her full-time job at a nonprofit, she realizes that a whole day has gone by without her having breathed deeply. Russell, how, from a practical perspective, can people with worries and everyday jobs still seek a higher path?

RS: The whole book is about being conscious, and is filled with practices to bring you to presence. The book is dedicated to that mantra, that state of consciousness. We wish we could live in a state of nirvana, or a state of Christ consciousness, or a state of yoga, or Samadhi. All of them are one and the same: to be awake, to be present. That idea of Heaven on Earth is what I mean by Super Rich, and the ease that comes with needing nothing. Yoga can be defined as a state of needing nothing, and that’s what we’re looking for. So, this book is about moving towards that enlightenment.

KW: I learned a long time ago that happiness doesn’t come from the accumulation of material things.

RS: You can only sit your ass in one seat at a time.

KW: FSU grad Laz Lyles asks: What experience prompted the transformation of your personal ideas about wealth and got you on a spiritual path?

RS: We all want to operate in order. Sometimes we have to go through struggle to realize that. Your birth in the physical form is to teach you to operate in order. I think that’s the experience. Struggle is your great teacher. I’m an older person. I was a drug dealer. I was a gang member and a lot of other things. My evolution has been gradual. When I first started practicing yoga, I remember feeling really free of anxiety momentarily. So, my journey began when I found the easing of anxiety through the physical practice of yoga. Then, the yogi scripture taught me things that I knew in my heart were true, because the study of the scripture is really the study of the self. Then I saw that what’s in the yogi scripture is also in the Bible, the Koran and the Torah, and that these practices do bring us to a more easy place. Yoga is defined as a state of needing nothing. And union with God happens, when the noise is gone.

KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: When you were growing up what did you want to do?

RS: I didn’t know what I wanted to be. Remember The Message by Grandmaster Flash? [Sings] “You see the drug dealers counting twenties and tens, and you want to grow up to be just like them.” I saw people hanging on the corner. I didn’t know any better. I was lucky enough to go to college and start to feel differently. There, I developed the courage to do something original that I was passionate about, which was music and hip-hop. I started throwing parties, and became an entrepreneur of sorts. It just kinda evolved. I didn’t have a drive to be anything in particular until I found a passion, which is what this book is about. Finding a dharma, a way to really give. But I wasn’t fortunate enough to have something I wanted to be all my life, until I started to achieve it.

KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles says: Jerry Lewis used to sing a song that said, “Money isn’t everything … unless you’re very poor.” How ‘easy’ is it to give this kind of spiritual advice when you’re rolling in dough?

RS: Well, there’s a story in the book about a guy who lives in a shanty house. He knows he’s got to find some bread and water each day, yet his mind’s at ease. God always provides, and he lived to be 100. Then, by contrast, there’s the anxiety-prone billionaire who’s always worried about the stock market and ends up dying in his fifties. So, you have to ask yourself, “What do we want money for? What does it do for us?” If you say money makes us happy, then examine that. Is it the toys? Is it the simplicity, the ease that money can provide? That’s not the ease that we’re seeking. It has to be to calm the mind. I say this because, when you need nothing, you can operate from abundance. Jesus taught two sermons. One for the masses, which said, if you act in accordance with these laws, then God will take care of you. The second one said, “Operate from abundance if you can.” So, the anxiety-filled followers were able to pay their taxes by listening to Jesus. But His disciples only needed to put their all into service. I have so many illustrative stories I could relate, like Puffy’s, who on the way up wanted to make sure he was doing everybody’s job. He enjoyed the work, but not because he was going to get this or that. That’s the real rap.

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Do you have any advice for an aspiring film maker living on ramen?

RS: Larry, stay on your hustle. You ain’t gonna starve no matter what happens. Living on ramen! My guess is he’s most likely overweight. We suffer from neediness, when in fact we already have everything. If he’s focused on being a filmmaker, and not anxiety-filled and worried about living on ramen, he will make headway. And in no case will he starve. What is he looking for?

KW: Filmmaker/Author/Professor Hisani Dubose asks: What is the most effective way to raise money for indie movie projects in 2011. What does someone like him look for before investing?

RS: Big buzz. Shoot a good little pilot to get it off the ground. Everything requires that you do the work. And if you do good enough work that people start to be inspired by it, then they join on. No one signs on just because you have an idea.

You have to keep building any business, to make it attractive. If you throw a record out the window and it don’t stick, you gotta keep pushing it. Then, one day, it’s on the radio, listeners start requesting it, and people come looking for you. You can’t chase people down with your idea; you have to turn it into equity first.

KW: Kristopher Seals asks: What are some ways a person can start up a business with little available capital? What are some of the biggest obstacles facing minorities looking to enter the business arena?

RS: I can tell you that there’s something about black culture that’s infectious, that crosses all boundaries, that gives you an edge. If he’s open to integrate, then give him a job. No company that markets any product can operate without input from black people. There’s a void, a white space. Fill that. Don’t carry the burden. A lot of time black people only speak to each other instead of to the whole room. We gotta get out of that habit.

KW: Dante Lee, author of Black Business Secrets, asks: What was your most fatal business decision? And what is the biggest business lesson you’ve learned?

RS: I learn from every bad decision, so none of them are my worst. When I lost the Beastie Boys, I learned that you have to have patience when you’re developing artists.

KW: Ola Jackson asks: “How does your spirituality and belief in Buddhism conflict with the opulent lifestyle of self-indulgence and materialism associated with rap music.

RS: I think rappers are truth-tellers. I don’t think mainstream American culture is any closer to the simplicity that I’m advocating. I’m not a Buddhist, by the way. Long before there was a Buddhist faith, there were the Yoga Sutras. Those teachings are more prescriptions for happiness, than religious dogma. As you know, I’m not a religious man, although I do work promoting dialogue among all religions as Chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.

KW: Legist/Editor Patricia Turnier says: In the past, we saw more rap songs about socially-conscious themes, such as MC Lyte’s “Eyes Are the Soul,” Tupac’s “Brenda’s Got a Baby” and Queen Latifah’s “Ladies First.” What needs to be done to bring back this type of hip-hop?

RS: Well, I think the climate changes in society. Themes come and go, and rappers are only reflections of that. Right now, we’re very fearful, because the economy is very bad…People are struggling…and that’s fertile ground for some of the negativity that you’re hearing on some of the records.

KW: Professor Mia Mask asks: Isn’t there a contradiction between the messages in your book and the messages in rap music?

RS: Why does she think I’m an ambassador for rap? Jesus hung out with the wine bibbers, but his message wasn’t advocating getting drunk. I have one foot in pop culture and one foot in the real world, which is spiritual. I know what’s real, and I know that pop culture can be frivolous. But I think American culture, in general, is frivolous. And I certainly don’t think that rap culture is any more frivolous than mainstream American culture. I don’t think hip-hop is as unconscious either. Rappers may say things that shock you, but I think they are poets who hold a higher moral ground than the rest of American society. That’s my opinion. Just because Kanye West said “George Bush doesn’t like black people,” doesn’t mean it’s true, but it does mean that a lot of people shared that thought.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

RS: No, I just go to work everyday, and I try to give and be a servant, although I might forget at times. But I know my mission. Through meditation and prayer, I find myself present, awake and giving for some part of the day. The most I can hope for is to become a better servant.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

RS: That’s a good question. I’m not quite sure. Different things at different times.

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?

RS: Yes, I guess I’m afraid sometimes. But I generally rid myself of it. I don’t carry a lot of fear around with me.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

RS: Yeah, I can say I’m mostly happy. Compared to what? Am I eternally blissful? No. But do I find moments when I’m ecstatic about being alive? Yes! And I have those moments more and more often the more I meditate, practice yoga, and live by these principles.

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

RS: A few minutes ago being interviewed by Sean Hannity. He says such things. You have to learn to laugh all the time. It’s a practice of life. It’s a practice of happiness. In yoga, you smile and breathe in every pose.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

RS: I’m on a liquid diet, but I’m going to have some popcorn at the movies.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

RS: An Offering of Leaves by Lady Ruth, who is a yoga teacher. I also read Soledad O’Brien’s book, and Decoded by Jay-Z.

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What are you listening to on your iPod?

RS: Krishna Das’ Greatest Hits. And I’ve been listening to a lot of Public Enemy.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

RS: I like to put spinach on top of olive oil, and just let it wilt for a second. And then put vegan chicken nuggets on top of it. I’m not a big chef.

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?

RS: It still is Tommy Hilfiger, even though he’s not hot right now. He still inspires me the most.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

RS: World peace in spirit.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

RS: I don’t know. I don’t have one.

KW: The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times?

RS: I don’t miss my prayers and I don’t miss my yoga. Those things are important to me.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

RS: Keep your head down and put one foot in front of the other. That’s how I got where I got.

KW: The Cornel West question: What price are you willing to pay for a cause that’s bigger than your own self interests?

RS: I‘m not sure. I should say my life, but I don’t know. I can’t say my life right now.

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

RS: As a philanthropist, as a giver.

KW: Well thanks for the interview, Russell. I really appreciate it.

RS: It’s been a real pleasure speaking with you. You have my number now, Kam, don’t hesitate to call if you need anything.

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