Contemplative Practices: Interview with Daniel Strain


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----more----Mark: Welcome back to the Wonder: Science-Based Paganism. I'm your host Mark.

And today we have a really wonderful opportunity for our listeners. We are interviewing Daniel strain who is executive director of the spiritual naturalist society.

Daniel is a humanist minister, a speaker, and a writer on the topics of ethics, spirituality, and ancient philosophy. And he leads meditations and speaks on occasion at the Jade Buddha temple for the VA hospital meditation program and for other local groups in the Houston, Texas area. So we're really delighted to have you with us.

Welcome Daniel.

Yucca: Yes, welcome.

Daniel: Thank you. Thank you very much. I'm glad to be here. Thanks.

Mark: So we thought that it would be really interesting to interview you because your approach to spirituality goes kind of beyond the, the focus area for most sort of pagan paths which tend to be ritually oriented and more around ecstatic experience, kind of trans based experience that kind of. Ritual experience rather than the contemplated meditative sorts of experiences that are also kind of another pillar of religious practice and, and practice, I guess, throughout the world.


Daniel: can understand that. True.

Mark: Yeah. So why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey to spiritual naturalism and and about the society.

Daniel: Okay. Yeah, I I guess my own personal practice includes elements of both ritual and static experience. I guess I'm a little bit of a mix of a stoic, a Buddhist and a pagan. and everybody has their own little cocktail of things that works for them. And so for about, I guess since 2005, I've been you know, pretty careful a comparative study especially between Buddhism and stoicism overlaps in those two philosophies. Somewhere along the line, You know, originally I come from a conservative Christian family than in my young adult time. I, I became an atheist and humanist, secondary being involved with a lot of the humanist organizations. I'm still a human to celebrate. Conducted weddings and things like that.

And I still am the humanist. But also I've found that even though I agree with the principles of humanism they're all very they're intentionally designed to be general principles. So there wasn't a lot there in

terms of you're dealing with life and living and how to live well and all that thing in a more detailed sense.

So I kind of went back to philosophy, which I'd already always been interested in, but what I learned with stoicism and Buddhism is that what you are is not just about some laundry list of. For beliefs. This idea of something you put into practice that's transformation that transforms who you are and how you experienced the world and your quality of life.

That was kind of foreign to me, growing up as a conservative Christian, there was this

list of things you were supposed to believe if you believe that you were saved. And then after I became a humanist, there was a different list of things you were supposed to believe to be a humanist. And they were all just lists of weeks.

Not about practice. And so, oh, it's really became a true believer in all of that. And I it's still in the course. And so, I was looking for organizations out there that were based around spiritual practices. We rely on things supernatural or faith-based kind of leaves that sort of thing.

I couldn't find anything at the time. So in 2012, I decided to start the spiritual naturalist society and found a lot of wonderful people from all kinds of different backgrounds and traditions. Religious in non religious that we're kind of seeing the same thing. I call it, the convergence, it's this kind of in the, the spectrum within all of these different religious and philosophical backgrounds, that's on the naturalistic.

Meaning, you know, within almost every religion, you've got a spectrum of interpretation, one that's a lot more supernatural. And then one, especially emerging more recently, that's more naturalistic takes on things. And so where all of those people come together and overlap. That's what you, that's. When we start seeing a naturalistic spirituality, spirituality based.

Nature is on the physical world as we understand it through the senses. And so, SNS is really about all kinds of people coming together and sharing ideas in bots, whether it's paganism. You know, naturalistic, paganism, I should say are secular Buddhism or things like Stoics, not to say that all Stokes are naturalists, but for those that are and there's even some naturalistic Christians out there.

And so you've got a lot of diversity there and as far as the practices and ideas yeah. So I love talking about contemplative. And like I said, I practice both ends of that spectrum in my, in my own practice. I'm a big I, I really love going to burns, you know, like you've heard of burning man, right? well, there's a lot of smaller burns that go on the same sort of those, the same sort of community. so I go to a lot of those smaller burns around Texas and that's always a very spiritual experience for. And that includes dancing around a bonfire and music and very ecstatic kinds of things.

And I often think about there were some ancient Greek philosophers who, even though they were Stokes would go to the Lucien mysteries. And yeah, so they, you know, there's there's room for both ends of that. You a single practice.

Mark: Yeah, that's great. It sounds like. What, what I really like about what you're talking about is how inclusive it is of people from all different kinds of paths coming together around this central organizing principle of naturalism,

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: Of. know, just focusing on what we can understand about the universe and not positing supernatural forces that are kind of behind the curtain.

And we, we can't see

Daniel: one important part about that is that when you come at this from the perspective of. A spiritual community or a spiritual practice. It's a totally different approach than say for example, a skeptical organization who's focused on using the principles of skepticism to critique other groups or to, you know, do things like that.

And I'm not saying that there's not a role for that, especially because a lot of these faults, you know, beliefs can be harmful and, you know, organizations behind them can do harmful things and they need to be counter, you know, so that's all important work that they do a skeptic organizations and a humanist and atheist organizations that focus on criticism.

But when you have, when you're doing a spiritual practice, what you do is you invert those principles of skepticism on yourself. And it becomes more like a humility. It turns into a personal spiritual practice of humility of withholding. A sense is the Herodians would say where you are mindful and aware of the assumptions that you are making in your beliefs.

And that's what I like about.

Mark: Yeah.

Daniel: The reason I, you know, when I, when I first sat down to say, okay, so natural naturalist society, what's it going to be about all that? you have to decide where you're going to, how are you going to define what you're trying to do here in terms of community? What, you know, who's who's who are you?

What's your target audience, I guess? And so the reason I centered on naturalism,

I've had a number of experiences going to the Unitarian Universalist church, which is a great group of people, but they're so admirable. Tolerance and their openness and diversity, there's all kinds of people at a Unitarian church.

It's a wonderful thing. And I'm so glad that they exist. But when I personally eat the fellowship I find that that issue of whether a person is a naturalist or a supernaturalist. To be something that makes it very difficult to talk about any other topic, because any topic you broach, if the underlayment isn't there, then it's like you're coming from two different worlds.

And we eat that topic gets diverted into whether or not there's a supernatural, whether or not there's a, how, what we base our beliefs on how we get our beliefs. All of that becomes a huge distraction, any particular topic that you want to talk about? So part of that, that fellowship to me it stops being work and starts being fellowship.

When we have at least some shared basis of reality, you know, that we can talk about. So that was an important part. But other than that, it's, it pretty much just assumes a naturalism. So like one of our standards in our articles that we publish, we don't write articles about why you should be a naturalist or why that as reason and evidence are good and faith based beliefs are unsound.

You know, we don't make those kinds of arguments. It's for naturalists.

So we assume we're talking to them and they say, okay, what now? It's like, okay, there's the natural world. Adam's in the void physics. Now, what, how do you live your life?

Yucca: So I think a lot of our viewers are, are familiar with naturalism. There are a couple of terms that you used in your own story that people might've heard of, but aren't really familiar with what they mean. So specifically humanism and being a stoic. Can you talk about what that means?

Daniel: Giving me that opportunity, because that's a great point that stoicism is a generic word or general word in our language today. And usually when people use it, they mean it in a very different sense than the school, the ancient school of stoic philosophy. So they're probably already thinking something like Mr. Spock or somebody who's not emotional that sort of thing.

Yucca: Statue like.

Daniel: Yeah. Yeah. But Stoics would laugh and have jokes and smile and all that stuff. Ancient stoicism. Wasn't kind of, you know, the word is distorted in different than that, but ancient stoicism was more about having healthy emotions. So, there are healthy emotions and then there's unhelpful or unhealthy emotions.

It's kind of like, the same distinction has make today. For example, when people are breathing, there's a healthy, grieving process. That someone might go through, for example, but then there's also forms of grieving that can lead problems that people then need to cope with and deal with and work through.

And so this distinction between when you're having

a healthy or an unhealthy kind of emotion and where those, where those emotions come from and what kinds of judgments we are making. Even if there subconscious judgments at first or microscopic judgments that we make that are affecting the way we look at the world, our framing of things and that perspective and how we look. Will then dictate whether or not our emotional responses are aligned with reality or whether there there's some kind of misalignment there which causes what the Stokes called Pappas. So that's the idea is having a healthy, emotional life in the ways that we can do that. But that's assuming that of course.

people aren't in need of a more drastic intervention, you know, there's a place for you know, more modern terms of ways of dealing with depression, things like that. Of course, too. But I people often, really, this is something about contemplative practice in general is extremely powerful. And that can be a good or bad thing.

It's like, I tell people it's like opening up the back panel on yourself and voiding your warranty. You are messing with, you know, the operating system. And, so when you do these contemplative practices, you better be sure that you're doing you're, you're practicing something. That's right. That's held healthy is starting to work for you and is in, you're not going down some road of programming yourself in a bad way or an unhelpful way.

And that's what spiritual community is for. So we can all kind of like eating off of one another find balance and in getting input from it.

Mark: That's a really good point because you know, one of the things that people ask me as, as as an atheopagan, as a naturalistic pagan, one of the things that people ask me in some cases is, well, what's the point. If there aren't any gods, then what are you doing? All this stuff for? And, and I mean, I had to sit with that question for a while, as I was framing the atheopagan path.

And what I concluded was well it's to be happy to have a joyous life and to be effective in the world in a positive manner in to, to help the world be a better place. And that's really all that's, that's all that I could come up with in terms of what the goal is. And so, as you say, the. You know, both the contemplated practices and the ritual practices can be very psychologically influential.

They can, they can transform us. Right. So it's pretty important that you have wellbeing and health and kind values and all that kind of stuff at the root of your motivation for doing that so that you don't, as you say, mess up the operating system.

Daniel: Yeah. And I find that the, the con the contemplative arts of practice. Help my extent, parts of my practice,

because most of the time when I've had a ecstatic ritual kind of experience that was most impactful to me and transformative. If I look back on it, I have to realize that I was prepared for that in that moment, because I had. Already cultivated a certain set of perspectives or understandings, or had prepared my mental awareness in such a way where when the ecstatic experience happens in the moment, the way I paid attention to it or digested, it was affected by the contemplation of these concepts before you know, you've, we've all been to something where we're just like moved and transformed and you look over at the person next to you and you're just looking at their phone or, you know, it's like, they're not in the same place you are.

And so these, these moments of, of static ritual and transformation are they they're gifts that come to. Because of the coming together of a lot of factors, just the right time and just the right way. And so contemplation can be an underlying that helps kind of set the stage in your mind for where those so that you're receptive and that you're interpreting them and valuing certain rights and understanding, you know, when, when I go to burn Springs, Whenever they're burning the effigy last night.

I always look to my sides as well, but look at the other people, see what them watching the buyer. And you can always tell that there are certain people there that are going through experience. And then other people they're just at a party for them. It's just a party and that's fine too. It's okay to just go to a party, but there's something that goes on in your mindset that sets up your mindfulness and sets up your first of all, just your basic knowledge and awareness of concepts and principles and how they relate to.

And symbolism in of symbolism. You know, my earliest experience of ritual was not that my earliest experience of ritual was going to a Baptist church and just sitting there and kind of like doing what I'm supposed to do, waiting through the process so we can get out of there. And then even when I was pursuing these kinds of things and I went to the Unitarian church, Things they were doing still felt like empty theater, empty theater.

So I

can just doing these motions and it's like, Yeah.

this means that I understand this is a symbol of that. I like the candle and it doesn't really. And today when I light incense, before I meditate or I light a candle or a bow at the Buddha temple it is a completely different than it was because I have found the right symbols for me.

And the symbols that mean the right things that I am moved by, in once pursue and are ready for. And so when I do that back when I entered Jade Buddha temple, the meditation hall, I bow to the statute at the front, but the bowing is in material. What's important is what's going on in my mind as I, and.

Doing that physical action is a thing to make it real to your mind. It connects the external with the internal. So as I do that bow on imagining that I'm putting a leaving behind all the other distractions I had outside the temple door. I'm clearing my mind, let me clear a table and bringing all of my focus on the why there and that if I just went in and that bowed while I was looking at my phone about would be superfluous irrelevant. And that's something that we naturalists are especially should be attuned to because, you know, if, if you thought that there would be. Magical invisible being. Who's watching to make sure you bow out and if you bow, they were happy, you didn't bow, then they're unhappy. That's an external thing. So yeah.

Now that's how the bowing becomes important. Well, I went to church, I made Jesus happy. So, you know, but that's meaningless to a nationalist. It's meaningless to naturalistic. Spirituality is only if there is something internal happening that.

Yucca: And so that contemplated practices is one of the ways that you find what that bow means to you?

Daniel: Yeah.

I would say, you know, at the most rudimentary, basic starting point is just one of your practices is, you know, reading, taking in new information and I've found even going back and reading. Because I'll read a book that's transformative to me at the time. And I'm like, wow, it's really opens in my mind.

And then I'll feel like while I read that, I know that stuff. No, but after a year or two, if you go back and you reread it, it helps you get it more in your mind. So that's the first, most rudimentary level is just taking in the information. Then there's this whole other thing about Mindfulness.

We hear mindfulness has become so trendy. Now this is all mindfulness concept. You just think of it like, oh, it's like Moda or go into some yoga class or something, but really it's about everything moments. It's like. So here's an example of, of, you might notice that if you talk to Stoics or. So at practice or you see Stoics that they are, they do seem to be more even keel.

I mean, if they're practicing and they're doing okay in practice that

now there'll be more even killed in jail. Not that they're going to be perfect, but what's going on. There is not, I always tell people if you're trying to control or suppress an emotion or anything. Even if it's been identified by stoic philosophy is something that's unhelpful. If you're trying to con deny suppress anything like that, that's unhealthy.

Yucca: It gives it more power in you. Right. If you're trying to fight against it.

Daniel: Right.

Is always about paying atttenion. Accepting and seeing and not denying, not looking away, not suppressing. Right. So, instead what contemplative practice is about, it's about a slower longer term transformation of the way you look at the world. So that. Well, I would say the intellectual part is about changing the way you look at the world so that when things arise, the things that make you angry or make you worry or make you sad are not the same things that they used to be.

So it's not a question of fighting an emotion. It's just a question of bringing yourself into alignment with no one with the force or one with natures, Stokes would say, you know, if you are in alignment, True beauty, goodness, nature, reality, the Dow, whatever you want to call it the way of things. If you were in alignment with the way that the natural emotions that emerge from that kind of being, or that kind of person who's liked, that will tend to be productive.

I can give you. an example if you want.

Yucca: Hmm.

Daniel: That's stoicism, the stoic scheme has a lot to do with framing right. Right now in modern day times there's things called like neuro-linguistic programming stuff. Cognitive behavioral therapy was highly influenced by stoicism. And I'm talking about, about stoicism here, but I'll bring this out to more general terms a little bit, but stoicism So in this framing, they give labels to things, things that are common words, but in stoicism, they have very specific meanings.

So for example, there's a difference between a concern in fear. So in stoicism fear, and it's not just a difference of degree, it's a different kind of psychological mechanism that brings about these two. So, and it has to do with stimulus and response. So we get a stimulus and then we have an emotional response.

And a lot of times people will say things like that person makes me so mad, but nobody makes you mad. What happens is that do something. And then between stimulus and response is this judgment, this judgment nexus, this little microscopic judgment, subconscious judgment, or sometimes. that judgment says, this is a thing to get mad about.

And then the responses you get mad. So what you have to do is examine those judgements. And so say that half those unhealthy emotion comes from false judgements and you pat, they are healthy. Emotions comes from true judge. And so there's some kind of fault stood in judgment. Like the most obvious one is that, Hey, this person has done this thing.

If I get really internally worked up and angry and

upset, that will be a good response that will help this not to happen anymore or solve the. And obviously it's not, you can do all kinds of external things. You can go tell the person, Hey, you need to do something different, blah, blah, blah. But none of those external things you can do and should do require your

eternal strife know. So that's a false judgment, so fear and you could say worry as well. Fear in concern, concern is the true judgment that I need to pay attention to this so that I could do X, Y, Z. It has a productivity to. You go from a, to B, to C to D and then you've done that mental activity. You come to your conclusion, you take your action in and you're done fear or worry is you've made a judgment that you need to do some sort of internal activity, but there's nowhere for it to go.

It doesn't do. You're waiting on your test results. You won't get

till Monday. So what do you need to think about, you know,

so the wheels just turn round and round and brown and there's this repetitiveness to it. So that kind of way of dealing with things, that's the kind of things that bring you into alignment with the truth.

And as you come into alignment with true, the slow process is that things get easier. Life gets

more joyful, more equitably entity. Patients more more joy. So, That's generally what a contemplative type about, even if it's not stoicism, Buddhism has similar sorts practices.

Mark: That's great. Let's that's that's a really good explanation. Thank you. I thought it was really interesting. And maybe this is just coincidental, but as you were listing the things to be in alignment with three, they were three, they included three of the four sacred pillars of atheopagan is beauty truth life, meaning the biosphere in nature, right.

The world. And then the last one is. You know, to be in alignment with those kinds of values is, is what we consider sacred. So, it seems like there are, there are lots of, there's lots of overlap of these various different schools of thought and, and traditions that are all kind of pointed in the same direction in many ways.

Daniel: Yeah. the perennial path is called. You'll see that there's a similarity of path of a path of enlightenment, whatever you want to call it, some kind of progress would make it. As we do our practice. And what I, what I imagine is that these different traditions that basically just place their signposts, that different points on one path, the same path, but

it's it's what they emphasize and what they don't emphasize as much is a little different.

But when you overlay them all, you see the current, all lining up bones and path. and so I look for those common traits between them. Where do they overlap? Where, where are these ideas kind of like, and it's kind of a complex endeavor because of language, culture, barriers, time barriers, and you have to say, well, this idea of sounds like they're saying the opposite thing, but really that's because the scholars in the 1950s chose that word to translate this concept and they chose this word to translate that.

And so now when we just use our colloquial, meaning of these words, it looks like they're saying the opposite thing. Really they're saying. There's all kinds of the slew thing you have to do to kind of get past all that, to get to the concepts. But those I'm glad you mentioned about though, because compassion is is another great example.

The contemplative connects with the status. So, for me, I I've always, I was, I started out as one of my handicaps coming into this was that I was always a very analytical person, very sciency, like a lot of humanists, like a lot of secondary humans, you know? And so I didn't really understand intuitive subjects.

Kinds of things or the importance of the subjective. I kind of thought, Well, what matters is facts, evidence in what people do, you know, are things like that. But things like the subjective are so important that they make the difference between say two wealthy executives with all of this power. Luxury and their lives.

And one of them jumps out of a building. That that's the difference. I mean, that's the, that just goes to show that external circumstances are not, or take the opposite, exit two people in a prison camp or in a you know, terrible hostage situations. And one of them is brushed and the other one is. That there's something else that's going on internally between different people and studying what that is, is a worthy thing, but we're coming back to compassion real quick. So, Thomas Merton, who he was a Trappist monk. He, he was a Christian monk who in the this by the sixties was having these dialogues across the east west divide, you know, across with Eastern monks and everything.

They were comparing their ideas. Talking about that really opened up that dialogue. And Thomas Merton said that compassion is the keen awareness of the interconnectedness of all. so in Buddhism, you've got, you know, context of concepts of interdependence, interconnectedness this things as a network, everything like they call it dependent, origination.

Everything is interrelated to everything else. Because of the interconnect. And so the whole point of a template of practice, no point of a spiritual practice room, because it includes the function. The whole point of all of that is to say, we hear an idea like that and we think, oh Yeah.

everything's interconnected.

Great. Sounds good. That's intellectual ascent. Intellectual ascent is not. 'cause we, we know it. We think we know it. We agree to it. And we say, we agree to it. But when push comes to shove, we don't actually live that way. We don't actually respond moment to moment. You know, most people's experience with spirituality is there's the inspirational poster and this cool sounding piece of wisdom over a sunset.

And they posted on their wall. Virtual wall and then hanging

on the physical wall and they look at it and use it as a reminder. And then they go off and they get angry, they get upset, they do foolish things. They get consumed by whatever. And then that later they come back, they read the poster and then they breathe and they remind themselves and they try to like, you know, pull themselves back to the wisdom. That's what not having a spiritual practices. So when you don't have it, what you'll do is you're continuously be agreeing with something intellectually, but it's not what you are. It's not who you are. It's not your actual nature. And so what spiritual practice is about is taking the intellectual in a.

Getting it down deep, you know, making it more and more becoming more and more deeply aware with it on an intuitive level on a, like the way you catch yourself when you fall. Like that is how you look at it deep down. And so when you really take those pieces of great wisdom and you really internalized it, so interconnectedness of all things.

The more that becomes, seen, felt that that's the difference between a person who has drawing on a chalkboard and doing calculations about wave harmonics and a surfer. So the surfer is not thinking about the physics of waves, the surfer. Feeling the ways the surfer has a dancing relationship with the waves.

They know intuitively what to do next. They don't even have to be in there. And so what we got to do if we really want to transform to be in alignment with truth and alignment, nature is we have experiences that make things real to us. And that's just like life, right? That's why you can't sit down a young person.

Yeah, I have an old wise person sit down a young person and then just tell him, just tell me what you experienced. And then there'll be a young wise person. It doesn't happen. They have to go through the experience. And so if the experiences of our life transforming us, that's like, it's kind of like a natural selection in a way, your, your, your, your S your soul, your, your being, your spirit of who you are.

He is shaped and molded by experience, in in just kind of a natural way, whatever you experience is going to shake. Well, practice is basically like artificial selection. It's it's saying, okay, we're going to create experiences for ourselves that will transform us in consciously directed way. Rather than just open to get transformed, however, whatever, without being mindful of thinking. And so, taking that interconnectedness of all things and through various practices and rituals. Making it real to us changes our personality changes the way we respond to things as they happen. When that happens, then we really know, then we grasp it. The rocket it's becomes actually the way we intuitively react to the world.

And when that happens, then things that are called compassion, love, forgiveness, kindness. They kind of become like these kindergarten labels and really it's all just sanity. It's just, that's what a sane person does because they see the truth of the situation. You

Mark: Hmm.

Daniel: not to say that I'm there for Sure. Or that any of us are perfectly there, but it's something we can make progress on as we work on it.

And we can get the fruit fruits, which is a joy and happiness that comes from that kind of so, so really what you're talking about with contemplative practices and. Ecstatic practices, two words we've been using. They're all, they're all kind of the same thing. They're just different kinds of experiences that touch different parts of our mind

and our minds are all interconnected. So you want things that are going to engage the intellectual part, the intuitive part, the emotional part, the social part, the left and Right. brain.

You know, you want all kinds of different multimedia kinds of experiences. And so, the emotion burns it in there, you know,

but these same things happen in cults and they happen in white nationalist movements and all kinds of things like that. Which is why the knowledge in sharing in community across education is important because that's why it's dangerous to open that back then.

Because somebody could just as easily become the wrong things, get distilled down to a

Mark: Yeah, really hateful and angry.

Daniel: So, I look at compassion is the foundation of all practice, because if you don't understand that interconnectedness of all things, all the other teachings kind of arise out of that.

Contemplative stuff we'll help you with like contemplative stuff, I guess. I mean like something like meditation, for example, will help you to open up that gap between the the stimulus and the response, widen it out so that you can see what's going on. And so that you can become more aware as you sense things arising in your life.

Which were subconscious before are really quick. Before now they're slowed down and you can see them arising and be aware of those judgments you're making so that you can examine. So that's what mindfulness does. And so meditation, especially something like a breathing meditation that gets you to practice focusing and stilling the rest of the mind.

They would like to still your mind like that and bring all your focus to one. There's a powerful tool that you can then use on every other spiritual practice.

And then later when you're doing ecstatic stuff, you can use that focus and all that's going on is that you're not worried about your laundry or any of that stuff going on.

and you can also use it to be more aware of others in more, you know, attention of relationships. To me. It's all one. It's all interconnected. Right?

Mark: Huh? Well, that's yeah, I, I so agree with, with everything that you've said. It's the, I mean, having a pair of being open to the prospect of evolving is something. It seems to me a healthy human must gravitate towards. And it's something that in our mainstream society, we aren't really encouraged to grow. We aren't encouraged to become wiser. We're encouraged to acquire products and achievements and to get there whatever there is, whether it's the American dream house, car, family, or mother, whether it's You know, attainment of the height of your career, whatever it is, but the idea that there, that it just goes on and on, and that it's still an unfinished work when you die and you have to make peace with that is something that is not really discussed in our mainstream society very much.

Really, really chews away at the underpinnings of capitalism, frankly. It, it changes people's priorities, but I, I really like the way you talk about the contemplate of meditative practices. Creating a, an enhanced capacity to really take in the ecstatic experience through heightened focus.

I think that's really true. I mean, my contemplated practices tend to be more around Using tarot cards to sort of meditate on the symbology kind of go through an internal process that way. but I do see how I use that focus that I've learned in grounding myself and getting into the present moment in other kind of peak experiences that I have.

Daniel: Yeah, kind of the difference between you know, if you think about this, a path to greater enlightenment, I'll say greater than that, because there's not one point where you just

Mark: Right.

Daniel: this, this progressive path that we're hopefully on our backs. As we go like that, a lot of the contemplative practices have the characteristic of a slow, steady increase over time, you know, as you stay consistent with your practice that, you know, you've seen improvements. But then there are these moments of. That are these. And oftentimes they come with peak experience or sometimes an altered experience, or sometimes just sitting and reading and something

clicks in a way that it hasn't ever before. And you're just like, oh wow, it's changed my life. You know, but these little lock, the line is gone from a 45 degree upward slant to a little jump feet, you know, and, and suddenly.

A major door was cross route. So a lot of times our ecstatic students is can, can bring them back those kinds of things, but I'll say they come about in a lot of different ways. Need static experiences for me help, really do help to empower moving things from the, the, just the intellectual part of my brain to the whole part of my brain, to everything. The emotional and sensual and all of that with one system. That's what that really helps to, to and not to mention just also you just release of, of your energies and your kind of getting into the lower things. I wrote an article one time about a drum drum sets. Spiritual drumming, but from circles and how, when you are drumming in a drum circle, if you think like, okay, now it's the time to hit the drum.

You're already too late. You missed your chance. And so you have to get into this way of thinking that is or this way of not thinking this way of, of being. That is more automatic. And in, in the east there, martial arts are the same way. Like you get to this point, you're not thinking about it anymore.

You're just you know, you're like a Puma on the hunt. They're not thinking about anything else. It's just a direct low of input to output in the body, in the environment one. And so that's kind of how. A loving person, a kind person can get to a point where something happens and the gunman injures, they throw their body over the other person.

Not because they thought about it. Not because they pulled out you know, categorical imperative on ethics and then thought about who has the obligations here? Who has the rights here? You know, none of that stuff came up. They live as a, as a loving being. And so they act as a mother and being that oneness and non-duality is inherent to the national Institute.

Yucca: So one of the things that you've mentioned several times is steps that people can be taking is to be learning, to be reading, always bringing more information in. A re there particular resources that you would suggest to people or invite that they look into?

Daniel: Kind of mixed feelings about it. Cause you know, I, like I said, I have my personal top tail of things and I'm happy to share that, but I want to also make clear that there's lots of worthy wisdom out there. And that I still have yet to discover. I have found you know, I mentioned Buddhism and stoicism Taoism is, is great to ancient Greek thought in general from the axial age the Socratic schools, you know, they all have some great stuff in them.

What I love about ancient philosophy is that they're dealing with things about how to live well. And, and by the way, when they say the good life, they don't. Hot tubs and the, the good in terms of good virtue, but also really good in terms of good quality life, too, because to them it's the same thing. But anyway, they focus more on that. Whereas later philosophy started maybe building on that or going beyond that, but what happened. It gets into? political theory and social theory and, and those are all interesting things in everything. They don't talk about the operating system. Yeah. They don't talk about, you know, this is, this is how we live in all that stuff that came up with it's still relevant.

And what's really interesting is that the, the silk road, this, path of trade that opened up Up until about, I think the third century AD between Greece in Southeast Asia and that caused a lot of interaction between east and west. So that's why find parallels between Buddhism and puritanism stoicism. At least that's one theories, but some of them are incredibly striking somewhere, but still have lots of differences too. So I think the most important thing is that you find things that you connect with that that really, it shouldn't be a chore. It should be more like an exploration discovery, and sometimes things that seem silly.

If you realize I only like this because I really liked that kind of music they do. And I guess cool or something like that can be a great doorway, you know? And then you can learn something more substantive than that later, but if you're enthused enthused about it, that can be a good way to. You know, you have to, it's like the surfer we have to feel what is right for you?

Is this a truck or is it like, you know, Basler, we can not wait to get back to it. And it's for more that that's going to be part of the answer.

Yucca: Mm.

Mark: Yeah. But that makes a lot of sense. And, and one of the other things that you've talked about is is the importance of mindfulness. And we, we kind of harp on the idea of paying attention on this podcast. The, you know, the idea of, you know, living in relationship with the world. And so being aware of what's happening and not sleepwalking through our lives.

So, I think that that's a really important piece because people will then be able to see what it is that really excites them by, by just tracking what they notice and what they find really stimulating and exciting. They'll, they'll get clues as to what sorts of things will help them along their way.

Daniel: Yeah.

That's, what's great. That, you know, thinking this you know, this idea of seeing the signs those kind of ancient ideas like that, you know, it's not that what the important part is, what the, what the. What stuck with you? What notice, what did you notice that and why did you notice it?

Even something that taking the random pages out of the doubt that chain and, you know, the randomness of it

is one thing, but what, when you, when it makes that impression on you, what, what are you, what are you get out of that, you know, what do you see from that? What that. How you something about yourself, or even when you're trying to meditate, you say, I'm going to focus on the breath and you start focusing on the breath and then all this other stuff starts coming up rather than getting frustrated with it.

You just stay patient and set aside for your attention back to the breath. And then afterwards you're like, wow, I can't believe that stuff came up. It tells you something about your subconscious, what was on your mind?

Mark: Right. And so much of what all this is about is getting access to our subconscious, you know, getting, finding a way to pull the carpet up a little bit and see what's underneath and, you know, figure out what our base assumptions are, what our fundamental fears and aspirations are. And then, you know, working to evolve those in ways that are healthy for us and, and help us to build contentment.

Daniel: Yeah, in Buddhism, they call them defilements and stoicism, they call it misjudgments. So, but all of these little things that are in there that understanding more about ourselves, you know, self knowledge,

Mark: Yeah. Yeah.

Daniel: and also what's interesting about self knowledge is. It's it needs it in the conventional sense, but it also means knowledge of what is itself

and, in starches.

And there's this concept of expanding the sense of self it's called, this is the word, but what it means is like expansion of, if you imagine a concentric rings like a tart, but target is a dark space in the center itself. And then around that is. Family and around that as brands run as community, all beings and the cosmos, the Stoics created the word cosmopolitan.

What it meant originally was this was in the area era of the city state here, people would ask, are you an Athenian or Spartan? And they would say, I'm a citizen of the cosmos. that, that was their citizenship.

Mark: nice. That's wonderful.

Daniel: their city state was. And so, expanding the sense of self and in Buddhism there's concept of no self.

But what that does is it tells you that that's the way we think of self is this solid unchanging, permanent thing is illusory that that doesn't exist. So what that does is it frees us up to say, well, we can decide what we want to do. And that's transcendence when your, your seat of identity starts to move up and beyond.

Out of that. Those are brain up higher to connect with associated itself with the larger community Alondra.

Yucca: Hm.

Mark: Yucca. I don't know where we are for time, but I'd really like, Daniel for you to let us know how we can access the spiritual naturalist society. And and thank you so much for joining us today. It's really been a pleasure to talk with you.

Daniel: Great. Thank you for having me. I'm honored to be here. Yeah, the it's S in, the spiritual interrupts society. And you know, there's articles we publish every week. We have podcasts there's two or three seasons of podcasts on, see, if you want to join and become a member, there's different kinds.

You can do a free member are supporting mentorship. You get a newsletter. And also if anybody has their own programs, or podcasts, or things like that that relate to naturalistic forms of spirituality. And you want us to share announcements with our members? Please let us know. We're happy to you. know, partner with all other kinds of organizations in this, this

Mark: That's great. That's great. Thank you so much.

Yucca: Thank you, Daniel.

Daniel: Thank you y'all have a great day.

Mark: You too.

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