Podcast

#34: A Tantric Approach to Meditation with Sally Kempton

This week I speak with Sally Kempton, a master of Tantric meditation who shares her decades worth of Tantric meditation experience with us. Sally served as a Swami for over two decades in the Siddhi Yoga organization, after being ordained by her primary teacher, Swami Muktananda. As the mindfulness movement sweeps across the West, Sally offers an alternative approach to meditation. While grounded in the traditions of Nondual Shaiva Tantra, Sally has an ability to skilfully weave together the various strands of Indian religious and philosophical thought into a clear, accessible style for her students.

Guest Bio:

One evening in the early 1970s, while sitting in her Manhattan living room, Sally Kempton was overcome by a feeling of all-encompassing, unconditional love that seemed to come out of nowhere. She had never known that love like this was possible. The experience lasted for 24 hours, and turned her life around.

At the time, Kempton had a flourishing career as a New York journalist, writing on popular culture, the arts, and feminist issues for Esquire, the New York Times, New York magazine, and The Village Voice. An early voice in the second- wave feminist movement, spirituality was the last thing on her agenda. But her experience that night affected her so powerfully that within a year she had given up her career to immerse herself fully as a student and teacher of spiritual awareness.

Two years later, she encountered her Guru, the enlightened Siddha master, Swami Muktananda, and became his full time student.

An enlightened master in the Indian yoga tradition, Muktananda (1908-1982) was known for his ability to ignite the latent meditation energy (kundalini) in others through a look or a touch. When Kempton met him, he was traveling in the United States, where he awakened thousands of people to their spiritual potential.

Kempton studied and traveled with Muktananda from 1974 until his passing in 1982. She edited many of his books, received intensive training in the texts of Vedanta, yoga and the north Indian tantric tradition of Kashmir Shaivism, and taught courses around the world. In 1982, Muktananda initiated her into the traditional Saraswati order of Indian swamis, or monks, and gave her the name Swami Durgananda. For the next twenty years, she served as a teacher in the Siddha Yoga meditation community. She created and taught workshops, courses and trainings in meditation and spiritual wisdom, served for a time as editor of the spiritual magazine Darshan, and wrote extensively on all aspects of spiritual life.

In 2002, Sally was inspired to put aside her monastic identity to create a teaching path that could help students deal directly with the challenges of 21st century life. Her current work interprets the wisdom of the tantras for mature contemporary aspirants, drawing on depth psychology and neuroscience as well as the insights of Integral philosopher Ken Wilber. From her home base in California, she travels extensively, and offers monthly telecourses as well as workshops and retreats that integrate meditation, yoga philosophy, and spiritual life-skills.

Though Sally offers many courses for beginning meditation students, she is also regarded as a ‘teacher’s teacher’, whose approach inspires long-time practitioners to free themselves from routine meditation practice, and move deeper.

She teaches meditation as a process of inner exploration, in which we learn to integrate heart, mind and body in order to experience our natural state of wisdom and love. Sally also offers a wide variety of classes on yogic wisdom texts, as well as hands-on, contemplative practices for moving through psychological obstructions, understanding the intricacies of inner life, and how to apply spiritual principles to relationships, work, and life in our time. Students say that her classes create an atmosphere of support and joy that allows deep exploration.

Shownotes:

0:00-13:40: Opening Remarks

13:40-22:36: Sally’s background on the spiritual path

22:36-30:36: What Tantra is and what Tantra is not

30:36-35:52: Overview of Tantric principles

35:52-49:40: Mindfulness vs. Tantra; Overview of Tantric Principles (continued)

49:40: Tantric approaches to working with anger

1:01:31-1:09:50: Transforming difficult emotions through Tantric practices

1:09:50-1:14:48: Expanding Our View of Grief; Tonglen Practices

1:14:48-1:26:33: Working with mantra and meditating on deities

1:26:33-1:29:50: Mindsets central to spiritual life

1:29:50-1:32:00: Closing Remarks

Links:

Sally’s Personal Website

Sally’s Books:

Meditation for the Love of It

Awakening Shakti: The Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga

#33: Tantra Yoga with Mark Shveima

Mark Shveima and I discuss the rich world of Tantra Yoga, specifically through the collections of lineages that has come to be known as Nondual Shaiva Tantra. Through studying Anusara Yoga with founder John Friend, Mark encountered the teachings of Tantra Yoga. It was through the Anusara scene that Mark met the man who came to be his primary meditation and yoga philosophy teacher, Tantrik scholar Paul Muller-Ortega. Mark’s journey is one familiar to many others on the path of yoga: that postural yoga can serve as an entry point into the vast richness of what the yoga tradition has to offer.
Shownotes:

0:00-14:10: Opening Remarks

14:10-18:35: Mark’s initial entry point into yoga

18:35-24:48: How Anusara Yoga introduced Mark to Tantra and to Paul Muller-Ortega

24:48-31:12: What is Nondual Shaiva Tantra? What distinguishes it from the Classical Yoga of

                       Patanjali?         

31:12-34:21: The relationship between the Bhagavad Gita and later Tantric traditions

34:21-43:05: Expansion & Contraction of Consciousness in the Shaiva Tantra Viewpoint

43:05-51:05: Practical Ways for working with the contractions of consciousness to step into a

                       Patanjali?  

51:05-1:00:00: Committing to and prioritizing your practice.

1:01:50-1:07:57: Travel abroad as practice; Mark’s reflections on life as an expat  in Japan.

1:07:57-1:14:53: Myth of the Churning of the Milky Ocean

1:14:53-1:19:16: Importance of Lineage. Integrating various traditions into a coherent path in

                            today’s globalized marketplace of ideas.

1:19:16-1:37:15: Benefits of Qi Gong vs Hatha Yoga

1:37:15-1:42:28: Role of Initiation in Tantra

1:42:28-1:46:00: Closing Remarks

Guest Bio:
Mark Shveima is currently the Yoga Director of studio BiNDU, nestled within the quiet back streets of Kyoto, Japan, where he landed after making a Hanuman leap from San Francisco in 2008. He has been immersed in the study, practice and teaching of Yoga for over two decades. Mark is an Authorized Teacher of Neelakantha Meditation, as taught by Paul Muller-Ortega, the founder of Blue Throat Yoga, a school of non-dual Shaiva Tantra practice and study.
Mark has been a dedicated and assiduous student of this path for over a decade. He is a tireless presenter of courses, intensives and workshops throughout Japan, where he is widely regarded as a deeply knowledgeable and highly experienced teacher and practitioner of asana, meditation, and Indian philosophy.
Recently, he has entered into an immersive study of Qigong and Taoism, which has opened him to new vistas of communication of the workings of the subtleties of the body, mind and emotional center.
Mark`s practice and teaching have become an ever-evolving organic expression of his heart intention to assist people in re-discovering ease in their body, stillness in their mind, and the inherent creative power and beauty of their awakened heart.
Links:
(Blue Throat Yoga is directed by Mark’s principal teacher, Paul Muller-Orega. Mark is a teacher in the Blue Throat Yoga community).

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#32: The Life of Yogananda with Philip Goldberg

I speak with American Veda author Philip Goldberg to discuss his new book on the life of famed yogi and spiritual teacher, Paramahansa Yogananda, titled The Life of Yogananda: The Story of the Yogi Who Became the First Modern Guru. 
Guest Bio:
Philip Goldberg is the author or co-author of numerous books; a public speaker and workshop leader; a spiritual counselor, meditation teacher and ordained Interfaith Minister.  A Los Angeles resident, he cohosts the Spirit Matters podcast, leads American Veda Tours and blogs regularly on Elephant Journal and Spirituality & Health.
Philip Goldberg is the author of the now classic American Veda: From Emerson and The Beatles to Yoga and Meditation: How Indian Spirituality Changed the West. His latest work is on the life of Paramahansa Yogananda, famed guru and author of the classic Autobiography of a Yogi, which is a spiritual classic cherished by many, including Steve Jobs, who decreed that the book be given out to attendees at his funeral. Yogananda was a fascinating and inspiring character and Philip Goldberg takes us through the life of this great man. For anyone who enjoys learning more about yoga, meditation and how Indian religion and philosophy has impacted Western culture I’m sure that you’ll enjoy this conversation with Philip Goldberg.
Shownotes:
0:00-10:40: Opening Remarks
10:40-18:20: Phil’s background
18:20-29:50: How India Spirituality Changed the West
29:50-34:14: Why Phil decide to write his new book on Yogananda
34:14-37:33: Yogananda’s early years in America
37:33-41:37: the message that Yogananda brought to the West
41:37-52:10: Yogic Science & Pragmatic Mysticism
52:10: The Various Paths of Yoga. Yogananda’s Bhakti Bent.
1:00:30-1:10:30: Monastic vs lay orders. How Yogananda was ahead of his time.
1:10:30-1:20:27: Common misconceptions of Eastern religious concepts among Westerners
1:20:27-1:23:45: Yogananda’s later years
1:23:45-1:30:15: What Philip learned from researching the life of Yogananda
1:30:15-1:32:03: Closing Remarks. Where to find about more about Philip and his work.
Links:

#31: The Unexplainable Importance of Yoga with J Brown

This week is a special week on the Hacking the Self podcast as I get to speak with one of my favorite podcasters: J Brown, yoga teacher and host of the popular podcast “J Brown’s Yoga Talks.”

Guest Bio:

J. Brown is a yoga teacher, writer, and podcaster. He is at the forefront of a quiet yoga revolution, based in healing, that seeks to change the dialogue and direction  of yoga practice in the west. His writing has been featured in Yoga Therapy Today, the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, and across the yoga blogosphere. His podcast is internationally renowned for raising the level of conversation.

Shownotes:

0:00-17:00: Opening Remarks: How I came to yoga. Background on J.

17:00-24:00: The personal crisis that drove J to yoga

24:00-34:35: J’s early yoga injuries and a life changing trip to India

34:35-51:40: The Philosophical Underpinnings of Modern Yoga

51:40-58:20: Reconsidering our intentions for yoga & conventional wisdom

58:20-1:03:00: Yoga’s impact on the nervous system

1:03:00-1:08:00: Yoga as Science vs Yoga as Alchemy

1:08:00-1:17:40: Yoga as relationship: to our beliefs, politics & culture

Rest of shownotes to follow soon…

Links:

J Brown Yoga

“The Unexplainable Importance of Yoga”

*This is a great blog post by J that I referenced in our conversation and that I’d highly recommend reading.

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#30: Spiritual Evolution from an Indigenous Reality with Mary Porter

In this conversation I speak wth Mary Porter, founder of the Looking Glass Peyote Church of Oregon, about a number of topics:
  • Nature & Spirituality
  • What we can learn from working with plant medicines like peyote, san pedro and mushrooms
  • Why psychedelics are not for everyone
  • Differences between a conventional Western worldview and indigenous perspective
  • Reconnecting to Nature
  • Spiritual maturity & personal responsibility
Guest Bio:
Mary Porter is the co-founder and director of the Looking Glass Peyote Church in Oregon. Mary is a descendant of the Nez Perce; Yakama, Wasco tribes, and is the co-founder of Looking Glass Peyote Church of Oregon. Mary is a Chaplin and former Sergeant at Arms for Northwest Veterans Motorcycle Association. Recognized by the Peyote People in Texas as a non Tribal-4/4th, full blood American Indian with intact knowledge of her ancestral descendancy that spans 50,000 years, a history that has been maintained orally and recently verified scientifically.  
Looking Glass Church is a bona fide 501c Church. They are connected with the good faith practice of the religious belief that the Earth is our Mother and we are all part of nature, therefore, we are all subject to Natural Law and the unchanging moral principals regarded as a basis for all human conduct.
Links:

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#029: Mindfulness in Recovering from Addiction with Mindfulness Teacher Paul Garrigan

In this episode I speak with mindfulness teacher and addiction and recovery conselor Paul Garrigan on how the practice of mindfulness can support people in recovering from addiction.
Guest Bio:
Paul Garrigan is the Mindfulness Program Manager at Hope Rehab Center in Thailand. Originally from Dublin, Ireland, Paul struggled with addiction to alcohol since he was a teenager.
 
Paul spent his twenties in England as a nurse, before living in Saudia Arabia and eventually Thailand. Paul moved to the Kingdom of Smiles to study meditation at Buddhist temples. Cultivating mindfulness was the beginning of the end of Paul’s battle with addiction. Eventually, Paul got a grip on his addiction to alcohol. In 2010, he published a memoir “Dead Drunk: Saving Myself from Alcoholism in a Thai Buddhist Monastery.” 
Paul continues to write about addiction and recovery, in addition to working with people struggling with addiction at Hope Rehab in Thailand. 
Links:

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#028: Buddhism and Psychedelics in America with Dr. Douglas Osto

Scholar of of Indian Buddhism Dr. Douglas Osto talks about the intersection between Buddhism & Psychedelics in his most recent book Altered States: Buddhism and Psychedelic Spirituality in America. 
Guest bio:
Doug Osto grew up in the woods of Redding, Connecticut. He has studied and practiced Buddhism for over thirty years, and has advanced degrees in theological studies, Asian languages, and the study of religion from Harvard University, the University of Washington, and the University of London. 
He is the author of Altered States: Buddhism and Psychedelic Spirituality in America (Columbia UP, 2016), Modern Samkhya: Ancient Spirituality for the Contemporary Atheist (2016), and Power, Wealth and Women in Indian Mahayana Buddhism: The Gandavyuha-sutra (Routledge, 2008). 
Currently, he teaches Asian philosophies at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.
Links:

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#027: What Fredrich Nietzsche Can Teach Us about Today with Peter Sjostedt-H

In this episode I spoke with philosopher Peter Sjostedt-H about the work of Fredrich Nietzsche. Peter tells us why the great German philosopher Fredrick Nietzsche is still relevant to our own era.

Peter and I discuss he following topics including:

  • Why Fredrich Nietzsche is considered one of the precursors to modern psychology
  • Why Nietzsche’s writings are often thought of as prophetic
  • The implications of Nietzsche’s ideas for our contemporary age (particularly in the Patreon Bonus section where we get more into politics)
  • Philosophy of Mind
  • How psychedelics have influenced Peter’s perspective as a philosopher of mind

Guest Bio:

Peter Sjöstedt-H is an Anglo-Scandinavian philosopher of mind and a metaphysician who specialises in the thought of Whitehead, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, with special regard to panpsychism and altered states of sentience. Peter received a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and a Master’s degree in Continental Philosophy from the University of Warwick, where he was awarded a first-class distinction for his dissertation on Kant and Schelling in relation to ‘intellectual intuition’.

He subsequently became a Philosophy Lecturer in London for six years but is now engaged in his PhD at Exeter University where he also teaches philosophy modules and writing skills. Peter is the author of Noumenautics and an inspiration behind the inhuman philosopher Marvel Superhero, Karnak.

In the words of futurist, philosopher and pop star Alexander Bard: ‘One of our favourite contemporary philosophers, Peter Sjöstedt-H…think a psychedelic Nietzsche’.

Links:

Personal Website for Peter Sjostedt-H

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#026: Psychology of Religion with Jungian Analyst Pittman McGehee

For anyone who is interested in the psychology of religion, especially the work of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, today’s guest is a wealth of wisdom and insight. Pittman McGehee shares his interpretation of Christian mythology through a Jungian lens. We also discuss:
  • How to approach the study of religion
  • New Atheist critiques of religion
  • Pathologizing aspects of religion & other ideologies
  • Cultivating a sense of the sacred in your own life
  • Intersection of Christianity with US culture and politics
Guest Bio:
J. Pittman McGehee is an Episcopal priest and Jungian analyst in private practice in Austin, Texas. He is widely known as a lecturer and educator in the field of the psychology of religion, as well as a published poet and essayist.
He is the author of The Invisible Church: Finding Spirituality Where You Are (Praeger Press, 2008), Raising Lazarus: The Science of Healing the Soul (2009), Words Made Flesh, and The Paradox of Love, now available for sale through The Jung Center of Houston’s Bookstore, Amazon.com, and other fine booksellers.
Pittman presented “What Is a Healthy Spirituality” during “Religion, Mental Health, and the Search for Meaning,” a conference held at the University of St. Thomas. Click here to listen to the conference recordings.
Pittman also was interviewed as part of the “In Touch with Carl Jung” Salon through Centerpoint. Click here to view the complete list of recordings and to listen to Pittman’s interview.
Shownotes:
0:00-4:00: Opening Remarks
4:00-11:10: Origins of Pittman’s interest in the ideas of Carl Jung
11:10-13:18: Interpreting Christian Mythology through a Jungian Lens
13:18-17:45: Problems with approaching religion through a scientific 
                       worldview
17:45-25:05: Pathological pitfalls of religion & other ideologies
25:05-29:07: Problems with the notion of “i’m spiritual but not religious”
29:07- 31:10: Cultivating a Sense of the Sacred
31:00-39:12: The American Religion: Puritanism, Patriotism, Capitalism
40:25-45:10: Closing Remarks
Links:
Books by Pittman McGehee:

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#025: A Talk about The Mythology of Pre Historic Cave Art with Bernie Taylor

In this episode Bernie Taylor shares his insights into the timeless archetypal stories that he has uncovered in pre historic cave art. Bernie’s passion for his subject matter really came across. If you’re interested in mythology and the work of great thinkers in the psychology of religion like Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell you’ll enjoy this conversation.

Guest Bio:

Bernie Taylor is an independent naturalist and author (Before Orion: Finding the Face of the Hero – 2017 & Biological Time – 2004) whose research explores the mythological connections and biological knowledge among prehistoric, indigenous and ancient peoples. He enjoys the great outdoors in his home state of Oregon and the exploration of inner space.

Links:

Before Orion