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Hey, guys, it feels like the right time to drop a Deep Darma episode, and this one has a twist. Bonnie Duran is a professor in the Schools of Social Work and Public Health at the University of Washington, where she also directs the Center for Indigenous Health Research. She has spent decades studying and teaching Buddhist meditation and also exploring the connections between the Dharma and the indigenous wisdom of her forebears in this conversation.


We talk about the connection between meditation and native ceremonies such as The Sun Dance. We explore a Buddhist list that I had never heard of before, called the Seven Spokes of Satti Pattana, and she lays out a six word reflection for getting through crappy days.


I don't know about you, but there have been more than a few crappy days in my 20 20.


Just to say in advance, Bonnie has a rangy and fast moving mind. She has a delightful habit of saying a thousand interesting things in the course of one uttered paragraph. Sometimes it takes me a while to catch up with her and chase down all of the various threads, but I promise that eventually in the course of the conversation, I do. Bonnie, thanks for coming on. Great to see you as well. Dan? I when I was reading a little bit about you, that one of the things that really stuck out to me is something I would love to explore with you and learn more about is the overlap between Buddhist wisdom and indigenous wisdom.


I should say.


I've spent some time as a reporter with indigenous populations in Papua New Guinea, Australia, Brazil, the Brazilian, Amazon, the United States.


I know you know, I have a scintilla of the knowledge about the indigenous people that you have, but I have some exposure and therefore I'm really excited to learn more about the overlap here. So having said all of that, what comes to mind in terms of an overlap?


Well, actually, I had a very strong experience that I can tell you about where I'm not supposed to talk about an overlap. So I started meditating in 1982 before mindfulness was a thing. My very first meditation retreat was in Bodhgaya, India. So I must have some karma with the Dharma. And since that time, I have been meditating, you know, pretty regularly to the point that now I'm a Dharma teacher and but anyway, I was sun dancing.


You might have heard of the Sundance ceremony. And I think meditation is a ceremony, too. I mean, that's one way that both of them really do overlap. But I don't know if I want to use that term overlap. I was sun dancing on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. And, you know, the Sundance is a beautiful four day ceremony where you dance and pray. You're essentially praying for the community. And I was seen dancing and the thought came to me, you know, that kind of I sort arise, oh, you're doing dancing, meditation.


And before that thought even got to the top or got fully expressed, it totally disintegrated. And I got this incredibly strong message from the Sundance. It wasn't words. You know, I can't even describe how the message got there, but it was very strong that said, no, you're doing this Sundance. So it was a message like, please don't try to overlap these. They're both incredibly wonderful, but they also enjoy a very unique history and cultural context.


So I just had to tell this story. What do you think of that?


Well, I'm really kind of mulling this word overlap, which even as it escaped my lips. I had misgivings about it, but I don't know why. I think what I'm hearing from you is the. Indigenous wisdom and practices are their own thing and Buddhism is its own thing, and so to talk about the overlap may in some way diminish the individual contributions. Is that what you're saying?


I think so. I mean, I think that maybe that's what the Sundance meant when it said that that it doesn't need to be compared to anything else, that it has its own power. And it does. I mean, you know, the place that you get when you do the Sundance is an incredibly sacred place. Your mind is incredibly quiet. You're really touching into your heart. You know, chitter intuitive awareness, you know, that knowledge system and not the thinking, adding things up, conceptual mind into this other heart, mind knowledge system that we all have.


The Sundance does that, too, because you don't eat or, you know, you drink very little, you don't eat for four days and you're dancing and just praying the whole time. And the whole community is on the outside of the arbor dancing with you. It's an incredibly, you know, collective ceremony that totally quiets your mind. Your thinking mind is gone for a few days and chitter intuitive awareness is what's really being engaged in that ceremony. And I can say that about all other native ceremonies and Native American church, the sweat lodges.


I'm so lucky. I'm a professor in a school of social work where we have an American Indian research center. And, you know, the people who run that place are medicine people and that they you know, we have sweat lodges at least once a month. And but we take science, you know, science and work with indigenous people to help, you know, increase the wellness and bring back a lot of cultural resilience and things like that. And mindfulness is totally perfect for that.


Yeah. OK, now have a million questions, I'm trying to figure out which one to go with first you use the word ceremony. You know, you said you think of meditation as a ceremony. Can you say more? What what do you mean by ceremony?


Well, ceremony is when you're setting a conscious intention to create sacred space. Right. And the Buddha, Dharma, the Eightfold Path, you know, ethics and mental cultivation and wisdom is absolutely for the same purpose. You know, and I've actually heard you talk about that, that we are redeveloping or refocusing our neural pathways to something much more positive and much more true of reality, that nothing is perfect, nothing is permanent and nothing is personal. So that's the way that I into retreat is absolutely a ceremony, both teaching it and sitting it.


And actually my daily practice as well is I'm starting ceremony. And one thing I love about the Eightfold Path that we are bringing to indigenous ways of knowing is just that this is not just something you do a half an hour in the morning. This is a 24/7 practice. And, you know, people would think that that's really over burdensome. It's not at all. It's actually can create a lot more lightness in your life if you know what you're cultivating and what you're nurturing and, you know, make a conscious decision about that.


So for me, that is ceremony creating sacred space and knowing what you're doing in the moment. Yeah, a couple of things to say, just to amplify some of those points. One, I completely agree with you that to me and I've said this a million times in the show, but it bears repeating because it is so central to what we do here. The good news. Or at least one incredibly important piece of good news is that the mind is trainable, the brain and the mind are trainable, and that's sort of what I hear you saying about ceremony.


It's making a decision to orient the mind in a certain direction. And that when I heard you say is what you're doing and say a sun dance or a sweat lodge, and that is what we're doing in meditation, we're trying to live in a in the way the Buddha recommended. In talking about that, just just to say for listeners who might be sort of uninitiated, you use this term the Eightfold Path. I just want to just explain to folks what you mean by that.


The Buddha and his first post enlightenment, and this is according to the story of the Buddha's life. And after got enlightened, one of the first talks he gave was to some of his buddies and he laid out what he called the four noble truths. We talked about these on the show before. The first is that, you know, life is going to be difficult if you are trying to cling to things that won't last often, that's shorthanded as life is suffering.


The second is the source of that suffering is thirst or clinging, you know, clinging to things that won't last in the universe characterized by impermanence. The third is that there's a way out of that suffering to overcome the suffering. The fourth is the Eightfold Path. It's kind of a list within a list and it lays out these sort of eight areas of mental cultivation that make up the Buddhist path. I can't remember all of them, but they include things like write, view, write speech, write mindfulness, write concentration, et cetera, et cetera.


So anyway, I just saying all of that to explain. So I said a lot there any, any response to did I get anything wrong in there.


No, not at all. But I think it is useful to distinguish that within the Eightfold Path there's three categories. There is ethical conduct, which is a huge part of any advancement in our mindfulness meditation. We know that one of the conditions for you to make any headway or to have any progress on, you know, really strengthening this intuitive awareness is other way of knowing is to live by a certain ethics. You know, don't still, you know, have right speech and write.


Speech is so incredibly advanced dimensionally from modern Western psychology. I mean, that's one way they think about the Buddha boy. He was like an incredible psychologist. He invented psychology. And some of the concepts within Buddhism are more advanced than what Western psychology is saying right now. But those three categories are just living an ethical life, Seela. And I'm going to tell all of you single people out there, Seela is sexy. That's the first thing that you should be looking for if you're dating is someone who has strong ethics.


And then the second one is mental cultivation is noticing whether your intentions for acting in the world are wholesome, you know, generosity and kindness and compassion or whether they are, oh, my God, I need to get that or I need Bonnie to be famous or, you know, just some ego clinging and then wisdom. When those two things are done, wisdom arises and wisdom is what frees us from suffering. Mindfulness is the data collection instrument of intuitive awareness of wisdom.


And we just collect all that data. We don't need to do anything but watch it. And then when the time is right, wisdom arises and we have insights that free us from craving and from aversion and from delusion. Do you ever have one of those iPhones where it would read your thumbprint, you ever see one of those iPhones in order to start the phone, you would have to put your thumb?


Yes, Mr. Button. Yeah.


And that image came to mind when you talked about and I hope people are able to get what you just said because it's really quite deep when you talked about mindfulness being data collection and that the wisdom.


That allows us to see, you know. Impermanence, the remnants of everything, the fact that there is nobody home on some important level in our mind, that there is no real solid self, the wisdom is not there's no you in it. It is a force on its own that you can give you if you do the right things, the wisdom which there is no you and will arise. And I started thinking about the when you put your thumb down on the start button on the iPhone, you can see it collecting data around your thumbprint.


And that is is kind of what you're doing in your mindfulness practice.


Just sit there, notice your breath, notice whatever weird thoughts come up are powerful urges or powerful emotions.


Don't worry about making progress. You just do the data collection, the wisdom, the insights, the transformative insights will just come along. And it's not personal.


It's not. Yeah. And we can strive to much like, oh, I'm going to become enlightened. And there are, you know, certain demographics and certain groups said, oh, I'm going to, you know, do this and get in line. And it's like, you know, enlightenment is an experience of non self. So when you're really striving for it, that's absolutely preventing it from happening.


Yeah, yeah. I got into a period of I take your oblique reference there to certain demographics. I suspect you mean people who look like me. Yes. I got into a little bit of that in my own practice. You know, I'm going to win this thing. I'm going to get enlightened years ago. And I remember being on a retreat, one of my early retreats with Joseph Goldstein. I was kind of complaining that not much was happening.


And he was like, let me just reframe this for you. This is a long process, you know, so don't expect to be like racking up wins or whatever is in your mind. Let's just kind of drop that. And it was a it was like a dose of Dharmic Valium.


Yeah, well, we share that because Joseph is my teacher, too. So we're siblings. We're Dharma siblings.


I like that. Yeah.


So I had another thought just getting back to this discussion around the. Now, kind of forbidden word of overlap between indigenous wisdom and Buddhist wisdom. What about connection? Yes, I think there is absolutely a connection. I'm mentoring this brilliant Mayte teacher who's in the Insight Meditation Society teacher training program, and there's three other American Indians in the advanced teacher training program right now. And we're all trying to figure out how to make this available to indigenous communities because it really resonates, particularly, you know, the way that the venerable and also has come up with the seventh books of Sudi Pattana meditation.


You know, he has gone back and looked at exactly what the Buddha taught about how to do this practice. And he's come up with the seven spokes. And the second spoke is actually a body scan of the four elements of fire, water, earth and air. And, you know, you can't go to an American Indian ceremony, maybe an indigenous ceremony and not have it somehow revolve around the four elements. It's all about us recognizing ourselves as in nature and just, you know, the wisdom and the heart that goes along with that.


All right.


Now, I'm going to need you to say, if you're willing, much, much more about the elements. We actually recently posted a guided meditation on the elements on this podcast. But I'll just say for myself, the first time somebody started talking about Earth, Wind and Fire, I was thinking about a funk band or thinking like this is you know, this sounds a little, I don't know, new agey to me. But actually, this Buddhist concept of looking at yourself as being made up against straight from the Buddha of these four elements.


So it's Earth, Wind or air. Fire and water. Yeah. And fire is temperature. Yeah.


Yes. So can you just give us the basics? Because a lot of people will never have really touched any of this teaching. How do we practice with the elements and why and how does that get us to sort of an impersonal view of ourself that can be really liberating?


Well, I love this, that when the Buddha, according to the venerable Analia, who's an excellent scholar on these things, when the Buddha was teaching his son Rahula how to meditate, this is the first thing that he taught Rahula. So you figure if the Buddha taught it to his son, it must be pretty special and I think it was a child. So maybe it's for those of us maybe with more simple minds, too. But what the meditation is, it's a body scan from the top of your head all the way, you know, slowly scanning the body for a first to earth element and then starting at the feet, scanning the body for every element.


And, you know, maybe making a small reference to, you know, earth element is definitely the bones in the body. And I think it's important to state that it's not like we're trying to feel earth element or, you know, we have to connect with that sensation in the body. Whatever sensations the body is offering us in that moment, it's absolutely fine to stay with that. But we scan the body for Earth, come up again, scan it for air, back down again, stand it for water and up against scan it for fire.


And, you know, at the end of each of the scans, we say, you know, earth element, earth element internally, earth element externally all the same. And just even saying that just is a little bit of manure on the inside of that. We are nature, you know, and it can be an insight into Honokaa are non self. And I love the analogy. The analogy that I use for that is an Aspen grove. You can walk into an Aspen grove of trees and the trees are all different ages, races.


They're different sizes. They have different branch structures. The leaves are all different and they might even be different colors. So you have 500 trees in this Aspen grove, but when you look underneath at the roots, there's only one root. So that is one organism that's manifested that looks like it's very, very different. And, you know, that is a conceptual way. That's a concept that we can apply to the whole idea of Honokaa or Non Self.


The first spoke of a of seven books of Study Pattana is actually scanning the body for skin and then back again for flesh and then back again for bones. And that's related to, you know, the Buddha said we should know the 32 parts of the body so it gets depersonalised. And we just collect that data with our mindfulness and collect the data of the four elements of the seven spokes of this practice. And it seeds us having these insights. And I always like to do the reflection, not perfect as an doka, you know, nothing in this conditioned existence is going to be satisfying for us, not the right job, not the right amount of money, not the right partner, not the right body, any of it.


So not perfect, not permanent and not personal. I do that reflection throughout the day quite a bit, actually. You just you're like a. Gatling gun of interesting stuff here, you just said I'm just taking notes because you just said seven things at least that I need to follow up on here. As to your thing about the grove of aspens, it reminded me I read this. I've said this before in the show, but I read this amazing book recently, the teacher seminar.


Selassie's sent me a book in the mail I her belonging to her new book.


Yes. Well, I had already gotten that she after I saw her recently, after I read the book and we were talking about it, she sent me another book, a novel called The Overstored, which is by Richard Powers, I believe his name is. And it's about trees. Well, it's about humans and their relationship to trees and forests. But he has a great expression that I underlined, which is there are no individuals in a forest which connects directly to what you just said about aspens may look different, but underneath they're all connected and part of the same organism in many ways.


But let me just take you all the way back to your last answer, which is you were talking about how to do this element meditation. And I worry that some people I think we should say a little bit more if you're up for it, about what the elements are when we're scanning our body and looking for the earth element. What does that mean? What is the earth element? What is the fire element? What is the wind element? What are we looking for as we're doing this meditation?


Well, I mean, that's an important thing to distinguish is that we're not really looking for them. I mean, it could be that we have a direct experience as we're scanning the body of density and firmness and compactness. That would be an expression of the earth element. So earth element is density and heaviness and air element, of course, is just air and actually pushing to one manifestation of our element is pushing and movement. And then water element is associated with just liquids.


And, you know, you can think of all the phlegm in the body and actually water is thought to bring things together into coherence as well. And then fire element is an experience of just temperature. You know, you can get the venerable Ineos book is called Sudie Pattana, A Practice Guide. And when you buy it from Windhorst publications and it's very inexpensive, they'll actually also give you access to seven guided meditations that he offers to actually just sit and let him guide us through the seven books of Study Pattana.


So it's important to know that we don't want to be searching too heavily when we're doing this meditation. Whatever experiences are offered to us, any sensations in the body, you know, when we're doing the head, any sensations that are being offered to us, we should accept those and not strive too much to feel all the individual elements may be. We do feel them and that's excellent. And we should note that and know that. But we don't want to think that we've failed if we don't feel Earth in the head.


You know, just an acknowledgement, of course, our heads have earth element in it. That's what people consider the bone structures and like that. And what that does is, again, that's mindfulness, collecting the data about, you know, how could we not be nature? You know, we're products of this earth, of, you know, the living creatures of the earth who are relatives with the trees and the inanimate objects and other aspects of maybe non-living things.


But we're all born of this earth. And to consider some separate and to exploit everything around us because we're better. We're man, you know, that's one of the main philosophies of our beloved Western relatives, is that man is the center of the universe and everything should be exploited for the benefit of man. And we can look very closely with this practice and see that all of these things that we're trying to accumulate and have and be are never perfect, permanent or personal.


It's so interesting what you just so many interesting things you just said there, but these meditative practices that have emerged from the Buddhist tradition, many of which are grouped under the Satti Pattana, which you've referenced a few times totipotent is the society is one of another sort of speech given by the Buddha that was written down in a sutta or sort of a text and which he described the four ways or the four foundations of mindfulness, the four ways to establish mindfulness.


And because the Buddhists love their lists and then sometimes have lists within lists, you then referenced the great scholar, the venerable Analia, who's a German man, who's now a Buddhist monk and has written a bunch of really interesting books. And it's become a great scholar in Buddhism. He has written about the list, another list within the four foundations of mindfulness called the Seven Spokes of SOTY Pattana. And the second spoke was what we've been dwelling on here, which is this using the elements to do what so many of these meditations are getting us to do, maybe all of them, which is to deconstruct this suspicion.


We have on some profound level in our mind that there is some solid separate. Bonnie, between our eyes, there is some homunculus of Dan lurking somewhere in the bivouacked on the back the back face of whatever mountains exist in my mind. And what these practices are trying to get us to do, if I understand correctly, is to see that, oh, no, no. Actually, we are, as you said before, we are nature. How could we not be made sure?


I mean, and it's so funny that these were the ideas that indigenous people held in 14 ninety one, you know, and fourteen ninety one we knew we were nature. And when they said, oh, can we buy this land from you? And they said by the land, do you want to buy the sky to you know, they would come in and we would have like four or five genders and you know, all of these more advanced now in twenty, twenty, these more advanced ways of seeing things.


You know, we were declared uncivilized and, you know, needed to be robbed of land in our culture and our languages and our spirituality. Essentially, you know, I'm a public health professor, so I do interventions, you know, community level interventions for people to be healthy and in Indian country and in all communities of color right now, we want cultural revitalization. We want to bring back our languages and our cultures that we're not totally, but to a large part totally destroyed by settler colonialism and this intention to civilize us.


Right. And, you know, native people in fourteen ninety one lived ten years longer than the European aristocracy. So I think that we can say that indigenous cultures and other, you know, epistemology of the global south excuse me for using all those fancy words, but this is you know, mindfulness is a knowledge system of the global south. And to really look at these other ways of knowing for all of us, I mean, we're all related.


Absolutely. And to see where there are other places for wellbeing for us, particularly right now during, you know, a global pandemic. Yes, absolutely. Much more of my conversation with Bonnie Doran right after this. 10 percent happier is supported by better help online counseling. We're in extraordinary times, and if you're struggling with stress, anxiety or depression, you're not alone. Better Help offers online licensed professional counselors who are trained to listen and help simply fill out a questionnaire and get matched with a counselor in under 48 hours.


Join more than a million people taking charge of their mental health with better help. Better help is an affordable option. And our listeners get 10 percent off your first month with a discount code happier. Get started today at better help. Dotcom slash happier. That's better. H e l.p dotcom shapir. So as you go about the project of which is an incredibly important project of I believe you talked about revitalizing these indigenous cultures.


What role do you think mindfulness, which comes from India, can play in revitalizing Native American cultures?


Well, it's so interesting that you ask that. So right before I got on this call, I was talking to my sister. She is a social work professor, Sitting Bull College Understanding Rock Reservation in North Dakota. And she and I and a few other people who work in the tribal colleges. I work in the tribal colleges a lot. Those are my research partners. When I do National Institutes of Health funded research. We actually submitted a grant to develop an indigenous mindfulness curriculum because a few years ago I was telling her about mindfulness.


She was very interested in it. And she showed me this list of this beautiful ten values that the Lakota Dakota Sitting Bull College wanted all their students to learn. And you would have thought you were looking at the ten pyramids. They were generosity and truthfulness and fortitude and, you know, all of these beautiful qualities. And the Buddha, you know, he taught about how to pick really wholesome qualities. We know in our tradition we teach the so-called Brahma Vihara or the divine abodes loving kindness and compassion and sympathetic joy and equanimity.


And there's a certain way that we do meditations that strengthen those mental factors in our heart and mind. So when an intention arises, that is the opposite of those things, we're much more aware of it when they arise and they become the default intentions of our lives as we're walking around. So I think what we could do is take these ten values of the Lakota Dakota and turn them into daily meditations. You know, all of our big ceremonies like the Sundance and even Sweat Lodge ceremonies, you know, maybe we'll have it once a month.


And the Sundance is a once a year ceremony. And a lot of tribes have ceremonies that are so important to teaching the positive values of the culture. But meditation we can do every single day. And, you know, it becomes an everyday ceremony and an everyday practice for us to re inculcate ourselves with the values of our traditions and, you know, just make commitments and have those mental factors be how we interact so we're not harming people. So I think that's one way.


And, you know, Sitting Bull College on Standing Rock is so into it. Fort Peck College, Fred Peck has already started doing mindfulness training there from an indigenous perspective. And that's also a tribal college. I think a lot of tribal colleges are very interested in doing this to just bring a lot more wellness and cultural revitalization, values, revitalization back to their communities. It's so important because, you know, I mentioned I've done some reporting in indigenous communities around the planet, including here in the United States.


It's just so sad to see these great cultures that have been sort of.


Ground down and yeah, I'm really interested in what you just said about there are these ceremonies that, you know, may happen once a year or once a month.


But you can weave in daily meditations that amplify the mental qualities these ceremonies are already trying to teach and weave them into daily life so that they're not falling off in between the ceremonies.


Exactly. Perfectly said. Very well said. So I decided very well, as it were tried to do. Yes. I'm going to jump back to I'm making myself a promise and I'm promising this to the listener as I go, that, as I've referenced before, you have this great habit of saying a bunch of interesting things and my not wanting to let them pass by. So I write them down and I'm going to systematically come back to things you've said, maybe as long as 15 minutes ago, just to make sure that I give you a chance to say more about them, because I don't want them to just be offhand comments.


And one of them, one of the many little gems you've dropped here is that you talked about this reflection you try to do recognize.


Yes. Can you just keep your mind off? What is that reflection again and what's the benefit?


The reflection is not perfect. Not permanent. Not personal. Because, I mean, part of the reason that we suffer is we expect things to be something that they can never be.


You know, I mean, I feel so incredibly privileged. You know, I'm a first generation college student. I grew up pretty poor. And I feel now all my problems are essentially first world problems compared to what my parents had to go through of being people of color and that stage in the United States. But I still, you know, I mean, I'm actually doing a covid vaccine research right now with tribes. And, you know, the tribal councils are wanting to be involved with covid-19 vaccine research because they want to make sure that their communities know that these vaccines are for them once they get developed.


So people will actually, you know, get vaccinated and they want to make sure that the research has been done and the highest level of integrity and ethics so that people will feel OK and they'll trust the process to be able to get vaccinated. And that's why tribes want to get involved with that so they can watch it for themselves and they can tell others, hey, we were there. We can tell you you can trust us. And even, you know, while we're doing that, trying to do this incredibly wholesome thing, we have certain tribal members saying, you know, how dare you make us guinea pigs and they should just test that on rich people.


And, you know, people really not appreciating our high cultural ethics of, you know, why we want to be engaged in this. And, you know, rather than get mad at them or just say, oh, I quit, I don't want to do this, I just reflect, of course, we're going to get pushed back because nothing is ever perfect. There will never be, you know, anything that we try to do that everyone will agree that this was the right thing.


You know, there'll always be some members of our community who don't get it and will raise objections and concern because nothing in conditioned existence, anything that has the propensity to arise and pass away, none of that can ever bring us any lasting satisfaction. And that's one excellent thing for us to see in our meditation. We're sitting here meditating. You can't wait to go have breakfast and you put a total mindfulness frame across that desire for a Sausage McMuffin or whatever it is, and then you finally get it.


And then just pay attention to how many bites are excellent and then what happens after that? You know, you can see this just collecting the data of how satisfying anything, any part of conditioned existence is. And that's why I reflect because, you know, when anger arises, say, hey, you don't understand what we're doing. You know, I want to yell at people. I do that reflection just to sit back and say, of course, it's not perfect.


And I'm saying that about the election and the next president as well. I just have to keep reminding myself that to really have realistic expectations of what can happen in this conditioned world. And then the impermanent one, you know, one of the reasons why things can't ever be totally satisfying is because things are always changing. I taught my class on Monday. My social work is social justice class, and the person who did that class had different intentions and different objectives and had to draw on different experiences and learnings so that Bonnie was pretty different than the body that's right here, you know.


So that was an impermanence. And then the not personal that is us collecting the data of how much I'm changing all the time to say where is the permanent body? And just, you know, I'm sure I'm assuming you've had some insights into that, how absolutely freeing it is to realize there's no permanent body. That's an incredibly useful insight to have, actually, because, OK, should I say this? I'm going to say it. I've had an experience of non self.


And the experience of non self is provided me with the most profound intimacy I have ever had, when there's not two things when you are part of everything else. It made me realize that that level of intimacy is what I'm looking for in friendships and family and partnerships. But even though those can be incredibly useful and loving, they'll never be the type of intimacy that we get when, you know, we're not separate from everything else, when we do realize our nature as nature and when we're not separate, it's the most profound intimacy.


I can hear people listening to this thinking, OK, well, you had some top of the mountain experience of non self, but like what does that have to do with my day to day life? Well, I think that when we're in mindfulness mode, when we're just watching, you know, mindfulness is holding our daily experience between obsession and denial, one expression of that is the middle way. We're not believing everything. We're watching it. We're also not denying what's arising either.


We're holding it in the middle. And when with our mindfulness, you know, we can have a frame around this greed for this or this aversion for that, you know, we're collecting this data to have those insights. And when we can see ourselves, wow, I really want to be noticed in this setting. I really want to be put up on a pedestal in this meeting. You can see that and, you know, realize that. And maybe you are put on a pedestal in that meeting, like my interview with you.


Hey, I'm talking to Dan Harris right now. And, you know, isn't that supposed to be an incredibly important thing? It's like, yeah, yeah. You know, I'm a fan of his, but, you know, it's not really providing anything that I'm going to be able to take home tomorrow and being a lasting sense of satisfaction. It's not. And, you know, when we can collect data and reflect on that, you know, who is the body even doing this interview right now?


I love her. I respect her. I'm trying to take good care of her. But she's going to be different than the body who's answering student emails in an hour from now. And that kind of lets go of the pressure of wanting, you know, things that are never going to fulfill us and provide us a sense of deep connection.


Anyway, I was just going to add on to what you just said there, and I hope this is connected in an appropriate way, because what it brought to mind is I had the incredible luck recently where I was able to even in covid time, to do a meditation retreat with just some with some friends. A friend of mine has a house in Maine and a meditation teacher who you may know, Alexis Santos, who's I love Alexis.


Yeah. So he's a great guy. He happens to live in Maine. So he came and taught to retreat. And it was just the four of us. Alexis, of course, teaches on the 10 percent happier app and has been on the show. And his friend Alexis is deep.


Yeah, he is. And he he has he has a bit of a different style of teaching than I had ever been exposed to. His teacher is a Burmese Theravada teacher, Sayad Tasmania. Yes. And so it's a much less it's more relaxed style of meditation, which I found to be incredible. And one of the little techniques that Alexis was getting us meditators to do when looking at our own minds in meditation was to just once in a while take stock of the fact that everything you're seeing.


Is nature. Every for me, all the embarrassing stuff, I was like running a constant, like mortgage calculator in my head because my wife and I are trying to buy a house or I was wanting you said before, I like wanting breakfast.


I was wanting breakfast or wanting lunch or thinking about what's going to be for lunch and all these stupid little thoughts that felt so much like, damn, you just drop back and saying, oh, that's just nature, right?


Of course it is. Everything's nature, right. You're not separate from the rest of the universe. I didn't order up those thoughts. They're coming out of some void.


And that is I don't know how to articulate, but it is incredibly liberating to not be so sucked up in them and to see them as some sort of natural process that you can watch unfold.


Right? Oh, I love that. I relate that story. Just because I understand why seeing Bonnie is less personal can be so powerful. Right. Because you're just not so owned by all of the sometimes wild and inconvenient and embarrassing things that Bonnie is thinking, right?


Yeah. And actually, you know, there's a tongue line practice that goes along with that children teaches tongue where, you know, you just reflect how many other millions of people on the planet are having this exact same thought, you know. Yeah. As a way to make it not so personal. So there's a quote from you I want to discuss, you mentioned earlier, this is part of my commitment to make sure that none of the seemingly offhand gems you're dropping here go by the wayside.


You mentioned earlier that you teach a class on social justice. And there's a quote from you that my colleague and podcast overlord's, Samuel Johns, who's the senior producer on the show, he shared with me a quote from you on the subject of social justice. And here it is. Social justice efforts that do not include the cultivation of clarity and love are doomed to failure. Let me just say that again, social justice efforts that do not include the cultivation of clarity and love are doomed to failure.


I don't know that a lot of people involved in, you know, social justice, that term has become a little controversial. Let's just say fighting for change in whatever way people believe society should be changed. I don't know that many or most people who are engaged in that work right now are thinking about love.


I don't know everybody's mind who's doing this work, but I don't hear love coming up all that often in the discourse.


So why is love so important?


Well, I mean, I might disagree with you about that. I think that there's a fair amount of social justice advocates and it's not everybody that's absolutely for sure. It's not everybody. But there's a lot of people who are using the term collective liberation. And, you know, there's no way that any of us are going to be free and have what we need, have equity, unless everybody has equity. And the people who are so-called against us right now or think that they're voting their best interests by, you know, opposing certain principles of life that the Buddha taught actually and that we think are so important.


You know, they're getting played. They're getting played by greed, hatred and delusion. How it's manifested in, you know, politics and politics is a pretty clear place to see a lot of greed, hatred and delusion. You know, those are the three root poisons we both know that the Buddha talked about. We all are relatives. And I, you know, feel really bad for my working class white relatives who think that everyone having equity means that they don't get what they're entitled to or something like that, because that's absolutely not true.


A lot of social justice movements are rooted in collective liberation. I'm on the board of a wonderful organization called White Awake, Wide Awake Dog, and they are absolutely rooted in mindfulness, you know, the rooted in using mindfulness to see how we are being played by larger forces of greed and ignorance and really trying to come to a collective understanding of who we are. I love Wide Awake because they're teaching European Americans that, you know, whiteness was invented in like sixteen, eighty seven.


And, you know, if you're white, you're not necessarily connecting to your incredibly rich and beautiful ethnic heritage. You know, why aren't you Irish and German or any of your real ethnic identities that could provide a lot of connection to community and to your family and a lot of fun and good tasting things as well. So, I mean, I agree with you that there's a lot of people who are doing social justice, who are watering the seeds of their anger.


And that is absolutely in my view, you know, I wouldn't even call that social justice. I call that racial trauma venting. You know, it's complex. Yeah. It is, and I guess what I meant by it is on whatever side you're on. And there probably there many sides here, anybody who's engaged in the public square right now as a journalist, I look at what's happening in the public square and I don't see a lot of love.


And yet what you're saying is if you're fighting for change, whatever the change is, and I know you come from a specific perspective, but if you're fighting for change and there's no love in it, you're saying that is doomed to failure?


It is, because I don't think the wisdom is necessarily there for real liberation to happen. And I think, you know, as soon as those people get in power, they're going to be doing the same things are the people they just tried to oust because they're watering the seeds of their anger and of their separation and those mental factors. You know, when we engage them a lot, they get stronger and they become what is behind our intentions as we walk in the world.


And, you know, that's not a good thing. We want the bluest of blue aimlessness. We want our actions in the world to be supported by positive mental factors. Getting back to Buddhist psychology, you know, the Buddha said there's only 52 mental factors that you can have at any time. Some of them are wholesome and some of them are not. And, you know, when most of your intentions in the world are from wholesome objectives, you can have the bluest of blue aimlessness.


So even if things don't go right, you know, even if there's something happening in your office that, you know, everybody is pointing at you and you're considering you the bad guy, you can sit there if you know what your intentions are in the moment with the bliss of blameless dust and say bless you. May we come to a deeper understanding. But I'm not accepting that right now. I actually feel pretty good about my part in all of this.


You know, it's an interesting thing to be able to do. I saw that you interviewed Steve Armstrong. He wrote a really nice short book on Buddhist psychology.


Have you seen that? No. What's it called? It's called A Field Guide to the Mind Practical Abbe Dharma for meditators. And it's very short. It's only like forty five pages and it just lists what the 52 mental factors are because, you know, that's one of the things that we want our mindfulness to do. We want to know what is underneath our actions in this moment. You know, that's an important part of the practice. You know, there's three baskets in the Buddhist teachings.


The three of them are the suttas which are what we have been talking about with the study Pattana suit. It's kind of like the scriptures. And then there's the rules for the monks and the nuns, the rules for the vinaya vinaya, the vinaya, the rules for the monastics. And then the third is the Abbey Dharma, which is like the Buddhist psychology. And I like to say, you know, one of the biggest things I see in my own meditation every time I meditate, I mean, every day I see racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, all of those isms.


I see them right here. It's like, oh, yes, I see them all the time. I was raised in this culture, that is, and some part based on that. And I see it. And, you know, I'm lucky enough that sometimes at least I see it before I act on it. And acting on it is really what brings the karma of it. But seeing it, I love it when I see it. So I say, oh, I see you settlor.


That's what I see. I see you, Sittler. This has been such a fascinating interview. It was a pleasure to talk to you. Oh, thank you so much. Yeah, we have the same teacher. We're siblings. Thank you so much. Thank you, Bonnie. Thank you as well to all the people who work so hard to make this show a reality. Samuel Johns is our senior producer. Marisa Schneiderman and D.J. Kashmir are our producers.


Jules Dodson is our associate producer. Our sound designer is Matt Boynton from Ultraviolet Audio. Maria Wartell is our production coordinator. We got a massive amount of extremely helpful input from our colleagues such as Jen Point, Toby, Liz Lhevinne and Ben Rubin. And finally, as always, a big thank you to my ABC News guys, Ryan Kessler and Josh Cohen. We'll see you all on Wednesday for an episode with Bill Doretti.