Dr. Mariana Caplan – Does Yoga Work? |382|

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Dr. Mariana Caplan think yoga is just what psychology and psychotherapy needs.

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Alex Tsakiris: Welcome to Skeptiko where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers and their critics. My guest today is Mariana Caplan, who has a new book, Yoga & Psyche.

Mariana, welcome. Thanks so much for joining me.

Mariana Caplan: It’s a pleasure to be here, I’m looking forward to it.

Alex Tsakiris: I am too, I was so excited to read this book. I am such a yogi and I have been such a yogi for so long, and I think that anyone who’s ever stepped on the mat and had a sense that more is going on than just these poses.

Mariana Caplan: Great, so my whole adult life has been spent studying, practicing and teaching in these parallel traditions, though I really do prioritize the role of student, when we’re talking about something as vast as yoga or as deep as the psyche, which is connected to the world of psychology.

Alex Tsakiris: …make the case for yoga and psychology. What’s the science? What’s the most compelling science that you cite in the book that you think makes the case?

Mariana Caplan: So, with two doctoral students several years ago, I worked to survey all of the academic research to date at that time. Not only in yoga and psychology, but yoga and neuroscience, yoga and trauma, trauma and psychology, mindfulness and psychology and so forth. And we surveyed over 200 published academic articles and we summarized it for people.

Essentially there’s ample scientific documentation. But yoga, even without the psychology, this most basic practice of physical postures for a period of time, minus all the extra goodies that I think are so enhancing, addresses and has proven to be beneficial for, just name a handful; anxiety and depression, eating disorders, suicide prevention, autoimmune disorders, wellbeing, attention deficit disorders, there’s a huge list. All the sciences summarized in a people friendly way in the book.

But basically, the science has shown yoga’s benefits on most major categories in the DSM, which is the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, it is the most mainstream and useful, in many ways, text to survey all the psychological disorders known in the western world.

(later in the interview)

Alex Tsakiris: …and until we’re real about this and real about the causes of why psychology has gone down this pharmacological model and has pushed it, even when the data comes back and says, “Hey, depression, mild depression, this multi-billion-dollar industry, it is not more effective than placebo, but we still sell billions of dollars of this.”

So, I love that you say, “Maybe we’ll just grow out of this and keep going guys” but, maybe not, these guys have a strong financial interest in keeping things the way they are. So, what are the changes that you’ve seen in your career and how can we expedite it? Don’t we need to call these people out? 

Mariana Caplan: I agree with everything you said. When we talk about calling these people out, it brings an image of  amorphic “them”, and for me, I don’t know how to do that. So, I do what I do know how to do, which is…

Alex Tsakiris: I know who they are because I talk to them all the time. One of the things I try to do is invite them on this show and I get guys like the NYU Professors of Psychology who will say categorically, that I’m wrong and that consciousness is a function of the brain, and here’s how it works, and the neurological model is winning and all of the rest of that.

So, it’s not just playing around when I say “them and us”, it is “them and us”, it’s an ideological divide. If you’re giving people high doses of psycho pharmacy crap, then you’re doing that because you’ve bought into that model, you’re them. That’s not to say there aren’t places and instances where it’s useful, but I mean come on, there is a them.

Mariana Caplan: Yeah, I don’t disagree, I was just saying for me, when I look at that, I don’t know what to do. So, maybe this is my optimist, but I look at what I can do. I can research, I can write, I can share, I can touch individuals, I can touch groups, I can touch larger amounts of people through writing and when it’s done in a very grounded, pragmatic way, with some scientific research included, it’s going to speak more effectively.

(continued below)

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skeptiko-Join-the-Discussion-3Alex Tsakiris: So, the second part of this process for Skeptiko is to look for the conspiracy, because really, conspiracy and truth go hand in hand. Truth seeking is about this bravery to follow the data, wherever it leads, because sometimes the data leads us in places that we wouldn’t expect. Psychology is a classic example.

Here is my book [Why Science is Wrong About Almost Everything] that I wrote a couple of years ago. And the point is, when science gets consciousness wrong, like it has completely, consistently, systematically, intentionally, in that they know consciousness doesn’t work in this strictly materialistic way, but they act like it does because it serves certain benefits.

Well, when you get consciousness wrong, nothing else really makes sense, and that certainly is the case with psychology. I mean, if we’re going to look at psychology more broadly, and I love and appreciate your work as a psychology outsider, but let’s get real with the way that most people encounter psychology or may encounter therapy, particularly if they’re experiencing the kind of problems, the kind of issues, the kind of spiritual emergency kind of situations, that thankfully you’re there to help support people in. Most of those people go to the doctor and they’re just in the system.

They’re getting a pill and they’re saying, “Take this.” They’re still getting put down, maybe it’s not quite as direct, it’s more subtle, but it’s like, “You’re crazy, there’s something wrong with you.” And until we’re real about this and real about the causes of why psychology has gone down this pharmacological model and has pushed it, even when the data comes back and says, “Hey, depression, mild depression, this multi-billion-dollar industry, it is not more effective than placebo, but we still sell billions of dollars of this.”

So, I love that you say, “Maybe we’ll just grow out of this and keep going guys.” Maybe not, these guys have a strong financial interest in keeping things the way they are. So, what are the changes that you’ve seen in your career and how can we expedite it? Don’t we need to call these people out? It’s not all join hands and sing Kumbaya, there’s some devious stuff going on out there in psychology.

Mariana Caplan: I agree with everything you said. When we talk about calling these people out, it brings an image of someone morphed as them [versus] me, I don’t know how to do that. So, I do what I do know how to do, which is…

Alex Tsakiris: I know who they are because I talk to them all the time. One of the things I try to do is invite them on this show and I get NYU Professors of Psychology, I’ve had many psychology professors and they will say categorically, that I’m wrong and that consciousness is a function of the brain, and here’s how it works, and the neurological model is winning and all of the rest of that.

So, it’s not just playing around when I say them and us, it is them and us, it’s an ideological divide. If you’re giving people high doses of psycho pharmacy crap, then you’re doing that because you’ve bought into that model, you’re them. That’s not to say there aren’t places and instances where it’s useful, but I mean come on, there is a them.

Mariana Caplan: Yeah, I don’t disagree, I was just saying for me, when I look at that, I don’t know what to do. So, maybe this is my optimist, but I look at what I can do. I can research, I can write, I can share, I can touch individuals, I can touch groups, I can touch larger amounts of people through writing and when it’s done in a very grounded, pragmatic way, with some scientific research included, it’s going to speak more effectively.

So, I don’t have the answer to your question. It’s like I try to attend to my own garden and include as many people in that as I can. And when I used to work at California Institute of Integral Studies, it’s a graduate school in San Francisco, and I put together different lecture series on controversial topics in spirituality and I would invite both sides to speak, and I always enjoyed that and tried to make some bridges.

Alex Tsakiris: You’ve dived into quite deeply, and profoundly and with some real sensitivity that I don’t see a lot of people addressing.

But if I can kind of set the table in kind of my crude Skeptiko way, it’s that coexist thing is bullshit at some core level that most people don’t acknowledge. I mean, selling 11-year-old girls into marriage is not something we should coexist with. Mutilation, sexual abuse of children, not something we should coexist with. That isn’t the goal, the goal is to develop, as you so beautifully talk about in your books, a discernment, a discernment that is both spiritual and practical in terms of ways that psychology can tell us that we can develop morals that are beyond some little book, old, dusty book that was written long ago.

You’ve written and thought a lot about this and have brought some great stuff to the table. Tell me where you see it, and again not in the crude, beat somebody over the head way that I said, but maybe in your own way, this issue of spiritual discernment and how it manifests for you and your clients?

Mariana Caplan: So, as you mentioned right at the beginning of the interview, my first exposure to spirituality which I tell the stories of myself in several of my books, were wearing my own psychological wounds, were mixing with my own spiritual yearnings and I was following alcoholic shamans down in Mexico and getting myself into all kinds of gnarly situations, that I eventually came to support other people in doing.

But, by the time I was 25, I spent a year in the presence of a great yogi who was so vast in his being, it not only raised the bar, it just took the bar off. It changed my view permanently.

So, again being based in Northern California, I live in the center of the whole range of spiritual activity and other activity.

So, from right at the beginning, I just felt like it was important to get really pragmatic and down to earth and separate out strands. And all my work on pointing out shadows on the path and places of divergence, it’s all in the service of just greater clarity.

Alex Tsakiris: I don’t know, I mean, people are encountering spirituality packaged in some very, potentially dangerous, destructive ways. Don’t we need to acknowledge that? I met you through Rick Archer, who is just awesome. We’re going to talk about his show, Buddha at the Gas Pump, in a minute.

Mariana Caplan: I have like 2000 pages of published material about encountering the obstacles, I mean that’s what I’ve done.

Alex Tsakiris: I get that, let me give you a concrete example. I just got an email, not too long ago, from someone who said, “Hey, love the show, like how you’re breaking this stuff down. But I’m kind of wondering, I’m kind of in a little bit of an upset here, because I saw the Netflix documentary, the very popular now, Wild Wild Country, about Osho and about the cult in Oregon. And her point was, as a true spiritual seeker said, “I don’t know what to do, I heard that Osho did have a spiritual gift and was able to give people the experience of awakening and enlightenment with just a touch or a look.” As we hear so many times with gurus who are then found to have other problems in their lives and not be complete people.

Where I think we need to be able to go, is not address that from this kind of new agey, kind of …  and I don’t even agree with what Rick says, “Hey take what you can and leave the rest,” kind of thing. It’s like, Osho was a creep, he did creepy things to people.

I think that’s where psychology can kind of ground us in some ways, is this ability to kind of see shit the way that it is and call it that. And that’s where I see you potentially operating and bringing something to this table. Where you can have a foot in both but then firmly take a stand and say, “Look, he was a creep and it’s pretty easy to see that.” Scientology is bullshit, we don’t need to beat around the bush and, “Well, respect everyone’s beliefs.”

No, there’s a certain practical part of that women who wrote me the email as well as what a lot of people deal with. And spirituality and yoga does make it more difficult when we have these kinds of unbelievable experiences of opening, of awakening, of deepening.

But do you get what I’m talking about? Does any of that relate?

Mariana Caplan: I’m following you, I’m not sure where you want me to jump in here, but I hear you.

Alex Tsakiris: Was Osho a creep? Can we say that? Rick’s TM teacher, was he a creep? He was a creep. They’ve still got all these people that are still in TM, go and read the guy’s history. He was doing inappropriate stuff all over the place. Why can’t we just call this out when we don’t, when we act like, “Well, you know, not sure.” I don’t think it serves anyone.

Mariana Caplan: So, when I’m not doing something public or writing, I’m working in a 100% medically sealed confidential container, that’s the ethic of my profession, right? So, I know a lot, I say a lot that only gets translated into vague principles in books that protect people, because that’s me being ethical. But two years ago, I dealt with the fallout of a spiritual scandal that resulted in a young man’s death, it gets really real.

It’s one thing when people are hurt and all the usual power struggles and the sex scandals, I dealt with this for 20 years in my private practice as an author, but then when people start getting killed and dying, that’s a whole other level and it sobered me in moments beyond measure. I am always uncompromised in speaking what I feel in those situations.

Alex Tsakiris: So, what do you feel? What do you feel about Osho?

Mariana Caplan: What do I feel about Osho? Well I’m not going to base it just on, Wild Wild Country, which is our new fad. There’s a new documentary based on something that…

Alex Tsakiris: I’ve studied it for quite some time and read many accounts, I thought they did an excellent job, so anything else you want to bring to the table? I get that there’s plenty of people who said they had an incredible experience with Osho, I don’t think that matters. I think that’s what I’m getting at. So, tell me, tell me how you’d break it down?

Mariana Caplan: I’d break it down in that… how do I break it down? It’s really tricky, I’m going to jump over to another controversial example which would be Chögyam Trungpa, who for people who don’t know, he was a Tibetan Buddhist master, he was an alcoholic, he was a womanizer.

He probably did more singlehandedly to bring Tibetan Buddhism to the west, than anyone else, ever. His closest students were people like Pema Chödrön, Reginald Rey, some extraordinary teachers, he founded Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.

So, this man who is clearly flawed and there’s wonderful books out from his wife who calls it all out, I mean most people are confused about that. And yet, Pema Chödrön alone, the tens of thousands of people who have still managed to benefit, in spite of what you would call a creep, it doesn’t make him less creepy, it doesn’t make any person he hurt less affected, it doesn’t make it any more right.

But there’s a certain amount of complexity in these situations, because sometimes there’s a creepy teacher and there’s really good students who are earnest and burning with passion and eager for discernment.

So, in spite of this creepy teacher, they derived tremendous benefit and then the teacher may have a scandal and it falls apart and then these people band together and become life-long allies on the path and support each other and become more discerning because of it.

So, I guess I want to say that while there’s an aspect of black and white, and again, I don’t hesitate to call right from wrong, there’s another layer of complexity that coexists, not coexists, your little new agey thing, but that coexists because… And where I bring it back to, if we’re going to enter into these spiritual pursuits, we have to take deep [unclear 00:34:21] of ourselves. I say in my new book that I would like every single yoga teacher and serious practitioner to undergo a series of depth psychology in their lives, because if we do that and we understand our own motivations, the chances of us falling into a scandalous situation are infinitesimally reduced, they’re reduced massively.

I began my spiritual search at 18, 19, stumbling into all of these, replica, these teachers that replicated everything, screwed up inside of my own psyche. Nowadays, I’m not the least bit worried about falling into those kinds of hands because I understand what’s motivating me, and I understand where I’m going to fall, so that’s the empowerment. Take it back, and that’s what all my books are about, take it back and share on hands, and then you become the discerning person on the path and your chances of falling into something that’s going to harm you at that level are very small.

Alex Tsakiris: That was great Mariana, I really appreciate how you’re holding these two separate ideas together. One is that we have to take control. It’s kind of like the new model for medicine, right? You can no longer go to the doctor and say, “Doc, what should I do?” Man, if you’re not Googling your butt off before you go there, forget it. And we all know that, it’s a shared responsibility, and that’s what I heard you saying about how our spirituality needs to be. It needs to be a shared responsibility, we don’t go and give our power to Osho, we don’t give our power to the Catholic Church, to anybody, there’s enough great information, including the kind of stuff that you’re talking about that allows us to create our own path, follow our own path and find people that can help us along the path without destroying us and pushing us two steps back.

Alex Tsakiris: Another great quote I love from Rick’s show. An episode that really slipped under the radar for a lot of people, but for me, there’s a profoundness, a profundity to what this truck driver who never meditated, never practiced any nondual practice, but just thought about things deeply and came to the conclusion that it’s not going to work out. That’s his profound contribution and I think it’s a deep one. “It’s not going to work out.” So, all my plans, for what I want for my kids. They’re not going to work out. All my plans on my relationship with my wife and where that should go, where my business should go, for what I should do with my health, none of it is going to work out. It’s certainly not going to work out exactly the way that I like, and if I really get into it deeply, I’m going to realize it’s really not going to work out at all, and the reason it’s not going to work out, is because of what Amma said, “World, what world?”

I mean the science, if we go back to following the data, the best model we probably have for what is going on is some form of idealism, some form of consciousness being fundamental, of us creating this reality, so of course it’s not going to work out.

Doesn’t that put a different spin on what you’re saying, in terms of, “Well I like being on the wheel, I like trying to be happy, I like all the rest of that”?

Mariana Caplan: I didn’t say, “I like trying to be happy.” You know? I’m grateful.

Alex Tsakiris: I like trying to be happy, I try and be happy.

Mariana Caplan: Being happy I like but trying to be happy can be a real pain and being disappointed when I’m not. So, I don’t know if it puts another spin on it. What I’ve always done in my books, in my life, and what readers have appreciated is that we take these big concepts and just let them be about you and I, and not high and above and where other people live and where we suppose that we’re going to imagine to get to. But, just start here. So, I very much appreciate what that man says.

Alex Tsakiris: I do too, because I have to say, I guess the reason I reacted to the, kind of, nondual versus tantric stuff, that supposed juxtaposition, is that I don’t see it. I see what Norio is saying, as being deeply and profoundly putting me in the now. Here’s a guy who talks about realizing that it’s not going to work out and that bringing him to where he can sit with his children and rather than tell them, he can sit and just cry and just say, “Wow, I can be there for you right now, because I don’t have any expectations about how it’s going to be or what it’s going to be, because I’ve given up on the fact that it’s going to work out in some particular way.”

So, I don’t see this, “I’m tantric, I’m nondual.” If people are hung up in that, I think they’ve missed the point.

Mariana Caplan: I’d go back to a moment when you say people getting hung up on, “I’m tantric, I’m nondual.” I had a very humbling moment in response to that and it was about, more than 20 years ago, I was interviewing Joan Halifax for this book, Halfway Up the Mountain, that I wrote in my 20s, and it was a book about premature claims to enlightenment.

I was really making a passionate point about people’s over-identification with their spirituality and their spiritual resumé and all of these things, and she stopped me, and she said, “Look, I teach Buddhism to prisoners on death row”, and she said, “that’s where the rubber meets the road.” She says, “For me, when people are dressing up as enlightened, or this or that”, she said, “it’s like when you were a young girl and you play dress-up in your mother’s closet.” But she said, “It was just a stage, don’t even get hung up on that.”

And it was super helpful, because I had a real axe to grind with people who were caught up in this or that, and believe me, I get flooded with it.

And then, in some ways, we’re going to keep growing and hopefully in a good direction, with good helpers and things are going to happen in our lives, we’re going to meet old age, sickness and death. Somebody’s going to die, we’re going to get sick and we’re going to get chances for real wakeup calls and we will make use of them or not make use of them.

But some things happen developmentally, by just growing up, growing up in the path, growing up in life.

Alex Tsakiris: Yeah, I mean, hit the mat. I have such a reaction when somebody says, “I’m teaching Zen meditation to prisoners on death row, that’s where the rubber meets the road.” Bullshit. Somebody’s teaching yoga to middle-aged housewives out in “richy, ritzy” rancho Santa Fe, where I live, that’s where the rubber meets the road.

To think that somebody on death row is closer to the road than any of us who step on a yoga mat anywhere, I think again, I think misses the point.

Mariana Caplan: But that wasn’t the point, that wasn’t the point.

Alex Tsakiris: But that’s what you said.

Mariana Caplan: No, I said that she said, “That’s where the rubber meets the road.” But the point that I heard isn’t the point that you heard.

Alex Tsakiris: Well, help me again, help me.

Mariana Caplan: It’s like, you were saying you got caught when I said something about tantra and people like [unclear 00:49:16]. I practice this, and I’m only saying that I hear so much of this and when I was a younger practitioner, when I saw people doing Goddess yoga and all of these things, it just drove me crazy, I had big, strong feelings about it and as I grow up and life humbles me, I just have a little bit more patience for people to move through stages and hopefully support them with information they didn’t have, and hopefully let people grow up, and if they don’t, I place my attention somewhere else.

When we talk about calling these people out, it brings an image of someone morphed as them, and for me, I don’t know how to do that. So, I do what I do know how to do, which is…

Alex Tsakiris: I know who they are because I talk to them all the time. One of the things I try to do is invite them on this show and I get NYU Professors of Psychology, I’ve had many psychology professors and they will say categorically, that I’m wrong and that consciousness is a function of the brain, and here’s how it works, and the neurological model is winning and all of the rest of that.

So, it’s not just playing around when I say them and us, it is them and us, it’s an ideological divide. If you’re giving people high doses of psycho pharmacy crap, then you’re doing that because you’ve bought into that model, you’re them. That’s not to say there aren’t places and instances where it’s useful, but I mean come on, there is a them.

Mariana Caplan: Yeah, I don’t disagree, I was just saying for me, when I look at that, I don’t know what to do. So, maybe this is my optimist, but I look at what I can do. I can research, I can write, I can share, I can touch individuals, I can touch groups, I can touch larger amounts of people through writing and when it’s done in a very grounded, pragmatic way, with some scientific research included, it’s going to speak more effectively.

So, I don’t have the answer to your question. It’s like I try to attend to my own garden and include as many people in that as I can. And when I used to work at California Institute of Integral Studies, it’s a graduate school in San Francisco, and I put together different lecture series on controversial topics in spirituality and I would invite both sides to speak, and I always enjoyed that and tried to make some bridges.

Alex Tsakiris: You’ve dived into quite deeply, and profoundly and with some real sensitivity that I don’t see a lot of people addressing.

But if I can kind of set the table in kind of my crude Skeptiko way, it’s that coexist thing is bullshit at some core level that most people don’t acknowledge. I mean, selling 11-year-old girls into marriage is not something we should coexist with. Mutilation, sexual abuse of children, not something we should coexist with. That isn’t the goal, the goal is to develop, as you so beautifully talk about in your books, a discernment, a discernment that is both spiritual and practical in terms of ways that psychology can tell us that we can develop morals that are beyond some little book, old, dusty book that was written long ago.

You’ve written and thought a lot about this and have brought some great stuff to the table. Tell me where you see it, and again not in the crude, beat somebody over the head way that I said, but maybe in your own way, this issue of spiritual discernment and how it manifests for you and your clients?

Mariana Kapaln: So, as you mentioned right at the beginning of the interview, my first exposure to spirituality which I tell the stories of myself in several of my books, were wearing my own psychological wounds, were mixing with my own spiritual yearnings and I was following alcoholic shamans down in Mexico and getting myself into all kinds of gnarly situations, that I eventually came to support other people in doing.

But, by the time I was 25, I spent a year in the presence of a great yogi who was so vast in his being, it not only raised the bar, it just took the bar off. It changed my view permanently.

So, again being based in Northern California, I live in the center of the whole range of spiritual activity and other activity.

So, from right at the beginning, I just felt like it was important to get really pragmatic and down to earth and separate out strands. And all my work on pointing out shadows on the path and places of divergence, it’s all in the service of just greater clarity.

Alex Tsakiris: I don’t know, I mean, people are encountering spirituality packaged in some very, potentially dangerous, destructive ways. Don’t we need to acknowledge that? I met you through Rick Archer, who is just awesome. We’re going to talk about his show, Buddha at the Gas Pump, in a minute.

Mariana Kapaln: I have like 2000 pages of published material about encountering the obstacles, I mean that’s what I’ve done.

Alex Tsakiris: I get that, let me give you a concrete example. I just got an email, not too long ago, from someone who said, “Hey, love the show, like how you’re breaking this stuff down. But I’m kind of wondering, I’m kind of in a little bit of an upset here, because I saw the Netflix documentary, the very popular now, Wild Wild Country, about Osho and about the cult in Oregon. And her point was, as a true spiritual seeker said, “I don’t know what to do, I heard that Osho did have a spiritual gift and was able to give people the experience of awakening and enlightenment with just a touch or a look.” As we hear so many times with gurus who are then found to have other problems in their lives and not be complete people.

Where I think we need to be able to go, is not address that from this kind of new agey, kind of …  and I don’t even agree with what Rick says, “Hey take what you can and leave the rest,” kind of thing. It’s like, Osho was a creep, he did creepy things to people.

I think that’s where psychology can kind of ground us in some ways, is this ability to kind of see shit the way that it is and call it that. And that’s where I see you potentially operating and bringing something to this table. Where you can have a foot in both but then firmly take a stand and say, “Look, he was a creep and it’s pretty easy to see that.” Scientology is bullshit, we don’t need to beat around the bush and, “Well, respect everyone’s beliefs.”

No, there’s a certain practical part of that women who wrote me the email as well as what a lot of people deal with. And spirituality and yoga does make it more difficult when we have these kinds of unbelievable experiences of opening, of awakening, of deepening.

But do you get what I’m talking about? Does any of that relate?

Mariana Kapaln: I’m following you, I’m not sure where you want me to jump in here, but I hear you.

Alex Tsakiris: Was Osho a creep? Can we say that? Rick’s TM teacher, was he a creep? He was a creep. They’ve still got all these people that are still in TM, go and read the guy’s history. He was doing inappropriate stuff all over the place. Why can’t we just call this out when we don’t, when we act like, “Well, you know, not sure.” I don’t think it serves anyone.

Mariana Kapaln: So, when I’m not doing something public or writing, I’m working in a 100% medically sealed confidential container, that’s the ethic of my profession, right? So, I know a lot, I say a lot that only gets translated into vague principles in books that protect people, because that’s me being ethical. But two years ago, I dealt with the fallout of a spiritual scandal that resulted in a young man’s death, it gets really real.

It’s one thing when people are hurt and all the usual power struggles and the sex scandals, I dealt with this for 20 years in my private practice as an author, but then when people start getting killed and dying, that’s a whole other level and it sobered me in moments beyond measure. I am always uncompromised in speaking what I feel in those situations.

Alex Tsakiris: So, what do you feel? What do you feel about Osho?

Mariana Kapaln: What do I feel about Osho? Well I’m not going to base it just on, Wild Wild Country, which is our new fad. There’s a new documentary based on something that…

Alex Tsakiris: I’ve studied it for quite some time and read many accounts, I thought they did an excellent job, so anything else you want to bring to the table? I get that there’s plenty of people who said they had an incredible experience with Osho, I don’t think that matters. I think that’s what I’m getting at. So, tell me, tell me how you’d break it down?

Mariana Kapaln: I’d break it down in that… how do I break it down? It’s really tricky, I’m going to jump over to another controversial example which would be Chögyam Trungpa, who for people who don’t know, he was a Tibetan Buddhist master, he was an alcoholic, he was a womanizer.

He probably did more singlehandedly to bring Tibetan Buddhism to the west, than anyone else, ever. His closest students were people like Pema Chödrön, Reginald Rey, some extraordinary teachers, he founded Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.

So, this man who is clearly flawed and there’s wonderful books out from his wife who calls it all out, I mean most people are confused about that. And yet, Pema Chödrön alone, the tens of thousands of people who have still managed to benefit, in spite of what you would call a creep, it doesn’t make him less creepy, it doesn’t make any person he hurt less affected, it doesn’t make it any more right.

But there’s a certain amount of complexity in these situations, because sometimes there’s a creepy teacher and there’s really good students who are earnest and burning with passion and eager for discernment.

So, in spite of this creepy teacher, they derived tremendous benefit and then the teacher may have a scandal and it falls apart and then these people band together and become life-long allies on the path and support each other and become more discerning because of it.

So, I guess I want to say that while there’s an aspect of black and white, and again, I don’t hesitate to call right from wrong, there’s another layer of complexity that coexists, not coexists, your little new agey thing, but that coexists because… And where I bring it back to, if we’re going to enter into these spiritual pursuits, we have to take deep [unclear 00:34:21] of ourselves. I say in my new book that I would like every single yoga teacher and serious practitioner to undergo a series of depth psychology in their lives, because if we do that and we understand our own motivations, the chances of us falling into a scandalous situation are infinitesimally reduced, they’re reduced massively.

I began my spiritual search at 18, 19, stumbling into all of these, replica, these teachers that replicated everything, screwed up inside of my own psyche. Nowadays, I’m not the least bit worried about falling into those kinds of hands because I understand what’s motivating me, and I understand where I’m going to fall, so that’s the empowerment. Take it back, and that’s what all my books are about, take it back and share on hands, and then you become the discerning person on the path and your chances of falling into something that’s going to harm you at that level are very small.

Alex Tsakiris: That was great Mariana, I really appreciate how you’re holding these two separate ideas together. One is that we have to take control. It’s kind of like the new model for medicine, right? You can no longer go to the doctor and say, “Doc, what should I do?” Man, if you’re not Googling your butt off before you go there, forget it. And we all know that, it’s a shared responsibility, and that’s what I heard you saying about how our spirituality needs to be. It needs to be a shared responsibility, we don’t go and give our power to Osho, we don’t give our power to the Catholic Church, to anybody, there’s enough great information, including the kind of stuff that you’re talking about that allows us to create our own path, follow our own path and find people that can help us along the path without destroying us and pushing us two steps back.

Alex Tsakiris: Another great quote I love from Rick’s show. An episode that really slipped under the radar for a lot of people, but for me, there’s a profoundness, a profundity to what this truck driver who never meditated, never practiced any nondual practice, but just thought about things deeply and came to the conclusion that it’s not going to work out. That’s his profound contribution and I think it’s a deep one. “It’s not going to work out.” So, all my plans, for what I want for my kids. They’re not going to work out. All my plans on my relationship with my wife and where that should go, where my business should go, for what I should do with my health, none of it is going to work out. It’s certainly not going to work out exactly the way that I like, and if I really get into it deeply, I’m going to realize it’s really not going to work out at all, and the reason it’s not going to work out, is because of what Amma said, “World, what world?”

I mean the science, if we go back to following the data, the best model we probably have for what is going on is some form of idealism, some form of consciousness being fundamental, of us creating this reality, so of course it’s not going to work out.

Doesn’t that put a different spin on what you’re saying, in terms of, “Well I like being on the wheel, I like trying to be happy, I like all the rest of that”?

Mariana Kapaln: I didn’t say, “I like trying to be happy.” You know? I’m grateful.

Alex Tsakiris: I like trying to be happy, I try and be happy.

Mariana Kapaln: Being happy I like but trying to be happy can be a real pain and being disappointed when I’m not. So, I don’t know if it puts another spin on it. What I’ve always done in my books, in my life, and what readers have appreciated is that we take these big concepts and just let them be about you and I, and not high and above and where other people live and where we suppose that we’re going to imagine to get to. But, just start here. So, I very much appreciate what that man says.

Alex Tsakiris: I do too, because I have to say, I guess the reason I reacted to the, kind of, nondual versus tantric stuff, that supposed juxtaposition, is that I don’t see it. I see what Norio is saying, as being deeply and profoundly putting me in the now. Here’s a guy who talks about realizing that it’s not going to work out and that bringing him to where he can sit with his children and rather than tell them, he can sit and just cry and just say, “Wow, I can be there for you right now, because I don’t have any expectations about how it’s going to be or what it’s going to be, because I’ve given up on the fact that it’s going to work out in some particular way.”

So, I don’t see this, “I’m tantric, I’m nondual.” If people are hung up in that, I think they’ve missed the point.

Mariana Kapaln: I’d go back to a moment when you say people getting hung up on, “I’m tantric, I’m nondual.” I had a very humbling moment in response to that and it was about, more than 20 years ago, I was interviewing Joan Halifax for this book, Halfway Up the Mountain, that I wrote in my 20s, and it was a book about premature claims to enlightenment.

I was really making a passionate point about people’s over-identification with their spirituality and their spiritual resumé and all of these things, and she stopped me, and she said, “Look, I teach Buddhism to prisoners on death row”, and she said, “that’s where the rubber meets the road.” She says, “For me, when people are dressing up as enlightened, or this or that”, she said, “it’s like when you were a young girl and you play dress-up in your mother’s closet.” But she said, “It was just a stage, don’t even get hung up on that.”

And it was super helpful, because I had a real axe to grind with people who were caught up in this or that, and believe me, I get flooded with it.

And then, in some ways, we’re going to keep growing and hopefully in a good direction, with good helpers and things are going to happen in our lives, we’re going to meet old age, sickness and death. Somebody’s going to die, we’re going to get sick and we’re going to get chances for real wakeup calls and we will make use of them or not make use of them.

But some things happen developmentally, by just growing up, growing up in the path, growing up in life.

Alex Tsakiris: Yeah, I mean, hit the mat. I have such a reaction when somebody says, “I’m teaching Zen meditation to prisoners on death row, that’s where the rubber meets the road.” Bullshit. Somebody’s teaching yoga to middle-aged housewives out in “richy, ritzy” rancho Santa Fe, where I live, that’s where the rubber meets the road.

To think that somebody on death row is closer to the road than any of us who step on a yoga mat anywhere, I think again, I think misses the point.

Mariana Kapaln: But that wasn’t the point, that wasn’t the point.

Alex Tsakiris: But that’s what you said.

Mariana Kapaln: No, I said that she said, “That’s where the rubber meets the road.” But the point that I heard isn’t the point that you heard.

Alex Tsakiris: Well, help me again, help me.

Mariana Kapaln: It’s like, you were saying you got caught when I said something about tantra and people like [unclear 00:49:16]. I practice this, and I’m only saying that I hear so much of this and when I was a younger practitioner, when I saw people doing Goddess yoga and all of these things, it just drove me crazy, I had big, strong feelings about it and as I grow up and life humbles me, I just have a little bit more patience for people to move through stages and hopefully support them with information they didn’t have, and hopefully let people grow up, and if they don’t, I place my attention somewhere else.

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