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Jonathan Foust, MA, CSA, is a guiding teacher with the Insight Meditation Community of Washington and a founder of the Meditation Teacher Training Institute in Washington. A senior teacher and former president of Kripalu Center, he leads retreats, trainings and classes in the Washington DC area and around the country and works individually with those interested in healing and spiritual awakening.

He lives outside of Washington, DC with his wife, Tara Brach and their slightly demented dog.


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Jonathan Foust 0:00
The semantic inquiry is really where the action is, I think so much of practices as learning how to get comfortable with this comfort. I think, what what would this be if I wasn't here? seriousness is a crime in the court of God. It's a little more than slightly demented now.

Avi 0:25
Hello, and welcome. Thanks for joining the interval yoga podcast. Today I am honored to be joined by Jonathan Faust, who is a guiding teacher with the insight meditation community of Washington and a founder of the meditation teacher training institute in Washington. He's a senior teacher and former president of Kripalu center. He leaves retreats, trainings and classes in the Washington DC area and around the country, and works individually with those interested in healing and spiritual awakening. He lives outside of Washington DC with his wife, Tara Brock, and their slightly demented duck. Jonathan, thanks so much for taking the time to be here.

Jonathan Foust 1:03
Thank you. It's really really good to have this time with you. I did do need to correct one thing there is that the dog is a little more than slightly demented now. Is he still around though? Yeah, she she's, she's hanging in there. She's hanging in there. Oh, yeah, I've been difficult to watch. The progression. It's fascinating. It's something you know, as we age, one of the great things about having animals in your life is you get to watch the, you know, you get to watch the lifespan, you know, as hard and challenging and painful as that is. But you know, and now as an older guy, and having, you know, having had multiple canine companions over life, there's this very interesting balance of, of the deep care and the understanding of impermanence. So there's a surreal sweetness to being with her. Now she's deaf and has trouble getting up and down stairs, and she's still having a great time. So yeah.

Avi 2:06
This impermanence. I find it to be one of the more challenging aspects of being alive. But things change, and we can't hold on to the way that they were, and we have no idea. what's what's to come. Is that challenging for you? as well, the impermanence? Absolutely,

Jonathan Foust 2:28
absolutely. And it's, you know, through the lens of Buddhists, you know, psychology or Buddhist philosophy, it's, you know, it's the first law of reality, you know, is that anything born of causes and conditions is subject to change. And when I remember that, everything's fine. When I don't, you know, and then there's the resistance, and then there's the rope burn and the stress and the suffering that all comes in relationship to, to what's changing and how we're relating to it.

Avi 3:02
So I'm curious if if gratitude is a way to kind of, I want to deal with the impermanence, but maybe it is to kind of deal with the impermanence. I think that's how I do it in my mind. And it's been a huge change in my life. Since I would say, I discovered the practice of gratitude. When I realized, Oh, well, I'm not owed anything, I'm not owed a certain amount of time or experiences, or anything, anything like that. I'm so thankful for the amount that I've had. Therefore, I can accept the impermanence a lot a lot better. If I if I didn't have that gratitude, then I think it would be more challenging for me to do that.

Jonathan Foust 3:45
Yeah, I think there are two approaches. I mean, one is to go in with gratitude, you know, which is which is the best and most profound state change or there is the other lens is just to really reflect on impermanence. And when I just sort of sit with impermanence tonight, you know, sit with my, my deaf, cute little dog, you know, and and realize that her time here is out of my control, then the byproduct is gratitude, then this is explosion of well, then all I have is now and then it's almost an ecstatic experience when I can really track track the fact of impermanence all the way through. So the weather is gratitude going in. It'll be gratitude going out if you hang in there with the reality of impermanence.

Avi 4:36
I love that because it's almost like I feel like that's what nature is, is teaching us to do. Like nature wants us to discover gratitude. It's like oh, give you all of these things. Like you want to say thank you. You want to say thank you. Yeah, I

Jonathan Foust 4:52
remember hanging out with someone. And we were just having, we're like saying grace before meal, you know, and he just casually commented, he said, wouldn't you say like, the highest prayer is Thank you. You know, and I was it was so simple but so profound that when we are in that state of thank you for this moment, it really does change things. Yeah,

Avi 5:21
me too, and it does feel like, like the the highest prayer, I also have noticed a difference between like thinking, thank you, thank you are thinking about gratitude and feeling it? In my being? Those are very different things. Do you have any reflection on that?

Jonathan Foust 5:38
Absolutely. You know, I think for many, many people, we sort of assume that, like, the locus of awareness is here, you know, like, if you if, if I asked someone, well, where is awareness? You know, where is the tension? Can you locate it, a lot of people, they automatically go to the head, you know, but when you shift that center of gravity down into your body and into your heart, and then you have that resonant felt sense of gratitude, it's just a world of difference. You know, what, when you're really in that resonant place of gratitude in the in the body and your Soma, you know, it's just resonating with it, you're there, you know, the body doesn't lie, when you feel gratitude. When you really feel gratitude, you're in a very profound state. And of course, then that affects your, your emotions and affects your thoughts, it affects your beliefs. But the somatic inquiry is really where the action is, I think,

Avi 6:40
is that been a practice for you, like, feeling into that place, and then, okay, now I know how to do that, I know how to feel that. So I want to remember to feel that again, and, and has it gotten easier for you to go back there more often.

Jonathan Foust 6:55
You know, being being a very cerebral oriented guy. You know, I always joke that, you know, that for the first 25 years of my life, I assume that my, the reason I had to hit my body was to make my head portable. That was just my, my way of focus. But then, when I stumbled into yoga, you know, it was a yoga that they've really kind of shattered me in many ways, when I realized that the body is actually a doorway, you know, it's a doorway to presence, the body on their lives, and in the present moment, and then what I ran into Eugene gendlin, and the work of focusing and somatic psychology, you know, this whole recognition of how our issues really are in our tissues, you know, I can, I can try to think my way through something, you know, which is usually like, trying to put out a fire with gasoline. But when I can sort of move into the somatic element of it, that's where profound transformation can occur. So it's been so profound for me that it's been primarily what I've done, in terms of my teachings, and in my offerings, this this whole deep dive into somatic inquiry.

Avi 8:09
So it makes me question, you know, what's, what's the right or what's right relationship with the mind, because the mind is, is so amazing, fascinating what it's capable of doing. But then it also seems like what we're talking about, like it's gotten out of control, and we're up in the mind, all the time, not not experiencing the body. And then also, like the minds ability to focus on different areas of the body and heal, and that the mind is also maybe the doorway towards kind of dropping down, as you say, so what's that right relationship?

Jonathan Foust 8:43
Yeah, well, you know, as Rhonda said, you know, wonderful servant, lousy Master, you know, that when the mind tries to establish itself as the ultimate authority, it's things get really kind of confusing, you know, and pretty messy, you know, but, you know, just as you said, it is amazing what the mind can do, you know, you can do, you can focus your mind, like, like a laser, you know, and when you're really, really focused, you can really, really get stuff done, you can also take that half step back to the mind and be the witness that was changing and be the open monitor of what's passing through, and then you can open it even wider, you know, to just explore what it means to rest in presence. So the mind becomes this incredible vocalizing tool. And when it's imbalance, that's when it gets really interesting. You know, I've always loved that, that whole, that whole model of at the base of who we are is just pure energy, you know, unrestricted, free flowing energy, you know, product particles and waves of energy. You know, and then, that free flowing energy gets automatically interpreted by the body mind as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. And Buddhism is referred to as VEDA know, it's like the feeling tone. And then if we're not aware of, of the feeling tone and how it registers, then then we move into into the mind, we move into some reaction. I don't like this, I like this, who This reminds me of that. And if we're not aware of the thoughts, thoughts calcify into beliefs, and if we're not aware of how beliefs run our lives, then they form habits, we're not aware of our habits that forms our character, we're not aware of our character structure, that becomes our destiny. So I kind of liked that model. Because with awareness, we can explore on any one of those tiers, you can you can, you can do an exploration of your character structure and get really, really powerful insights, you can look at your beliefs, you know, you can look at thoughts. And then, as we're often guided to in through yoga and meditation is we're invited to bring ourselves back to that fundamental arising of, of energy and our relationship to it. And sometimes, we can actually be aware of what's arising, and not go into the proliferation of, of stories and thoughts and beliefs and all that good stuff.

Avi 11:18
Is that connected with a sense of security? Like, what would the self So, you know, I was, we were talking about, you know, my daughter, and the way that she is, you know, she doesn't have this self conscious, you know, aspect to her. So, can we reconnect with that kind of, like, Hey, I'm just this being, and I'm just observing what's happening, and I'm not taking myself so seriously, I'm not comparing how I rank compared to other human beings, like all of that, like, I'm just, I'm just existing, and I'm just interested in observing what this existence is, like.

Jonathan Foust 12:02
That pure, Primal kind of innocence presence. You know, I think we get glimpses of it, we get memory, you know, we get glimpses of those memories of, of that, of that innocence. And it's been said that that part of part of the spiritual journey, is finding ourselves back in that place of innocence again, you know, we kind of start off with that, just that fresh sense of, you know, world, the world is simply this field of infinite possibility. And then we start getting identified as a separate self. And then we build our list of versions and attractions that we keep investing more and more into who we are as, as a separate being, which is always fueled with the fear of death. And that's why I think yoga and meditation is oftentimes referred to as dying while alive. You know, because we're, we're seeing our preferences, we're seeing that conditioning and we're, we're returning again and again to that, to that sense of primal, you know, Primal being, as joyful as that can be and as horrifically painful as that can be to.

Avi 13:18
Is it a matter of slowing down to a certain degree, like a matter of speed? Something like I question is like, these things are happening, this idea of separation, not seeing clearly has a lot to do with just like the pace that I'm moving at the pace of my mind is moving at the pace that I'm moving at physically. So simply by by slowing down, and kind of checking my speed, a little bit, will that open up kind of my world to seeing maybe some, some glimpses of deeper truths.

Jonathan Foust 13:50
But I'm curious when you're like, when you're with your daughter, and you're really, really kind of resonating with her around around her experience. What's that like for you?

Avi 14:03
Yeah, exactly. It's, it's totally a slowing down. And there's this resistance to diving into that place, because there's so much to do, and especially right now, more than ever, it's so easy to be distracted to my phone and the screen and this and that, a million different things that I can dive into doing. But to just sit down on the floor with her, and just watch her to not have any plan at all to just be there. And then before I know it, like I've entered her world a little bit and we're playing together and, and the right action just manifests is naturally from from doing that, but I think the original step was kind of, in a way, breaking through that that barrier of not wanting to slow down. There's a part of me that didn't want to slow down.

Jonathan Foust 14:55
It's it's so true. It's so true. You know, there's this Zen teacher who You know, says that he meditates for 30 minutes every day, except when he's really busy. And then he meditates for 60 you know, it's like that, that the discipline to slow down, you know, when the mind just wants the mind, is this insatiable machine that just wants more, you know, which is why it's, I imagine it's a times and incredible gift, you know, to have that time with her. And then other times, it must be a struggle to, to put your own mind in neutral, and and enter into her world.

Avi 15:32
Yeah. Makes me consider is it? Is it this like running away from from reality and truth that we do? And does that have to do with a fear? Maybe a fear of death, a fear of actually really engaging with the situation that we're in?

Jonathan Foust 15:46
Yeah, yeah, I think, you know, I love the model of the clashes, you know, that, you know, like, the very first mistake we make is, you know, a Vidya, you know, which literally translate as wrong knowledge, as we believe that we're separate. You know, and it must be fascinating for you, you know, to see your daughter start to develop an identity, you know, like, like, I imagine, at some point, you know, I'm as little being, you know, I keep hearing this name, and isn't suddenly is like, Well, wait a minute, that name is me, you know, and then that that formation of like, Oh, I'm, I'm a separate being, you know, and then then we move into gathering more and more evidence that, that proves that we're a separate being, you know, and then from there, we have our list of likes and dislikes. And I imagine you're, you're watching your daughter start to accumulate her, her list of preferences, and her embryos.

Avi 16:46
Exactly, big time. You know, it's a little, it's a little sad to I mean, I accepted the fact that this conditioning is just a part of nature, there's no way around it. Like she has to go through this, this process of developing a certain sense of separation and identity, and all of that. But there also is a sadness in watching it happen just because so much her purity of not not being in that in that world.

Jonathan Foust 17:15
Yeah, well, I remember my brother went said, Look, look, Hannah knows her name now. And I was like, Don't do it, Hannah. back go back, is the beginning of the end. Yeah, so So part of it is like, at least through this model of the clashes is that we believe that we're separate. And that was, that's the biggest mistake is we believe that we're separate, then we start investing more and more energy into who we are as a separate being, then we have our list of versions and attractions, which gets longer and longer as life goes by, you know, so this way, I'm always, you know, when you see people in their 80s, you know, their bandwidth of comfort gets so narrow, because, for many, for many people, the bandwidth of comfort gets so small, because the list of aversions has gotten so big, but then the whole thing is driven by the fear of death. Because what if you've spent your entire life pouring all of your energy into investing into who you are as a separate being, and it's all going away. And that's where that's where, like, part of like waking up to impermanence, you know, becomes so, so powerful.


Avi 18:35
I marked down wanting to ask you about the the term like awakening, waking up or awakening. And just to kind of check in with you, and see how you feel about like that term. And if you feel that that's what's happening. Now the, you know, do you have a sense that more people are waking up? And is this an accurate way to describe kind of what happens in spiritual work? There's a waking up. Yeah.

Jonathan Foust 19:06
You know, there's just reading some very interesting dialogue around the term waking up, versus enlightenment, you know, like, Oh, what is the difference? You know, and what I what I really come to, I love this quote from Pema children. And when she she says, she said, You know, I've always been jealous of people have breakthroughs. She said, I've never I've never had like a massive breakthrough. But when I look back, I see that I'm, I'm, I'm less stressed and I'm more free. Since she's, for me, my path has been a path of gradual awakening. And the Buddha. Again, I always use the word allegedly around the Buddha because nothing was written down, you know, until, you know, hundreds of years later, 150 years later, or something like that. But but there's this story of someone asked the Buddha? How do I know I'm making any progress? Fantastic question, you know, because they're, you know, the joke, you know, if you meditate, you'll feel better. You'll feel your sadness better, you feel your depression, better, your anger. But you also feel your capacity for joy and compassion better as well. But he was asked, How do I know? How can I tell that I'm making progress? And the response was something along the lines of, are you less caught in greed, hatred and delusion? I think that's an incredibly powerful gauge. You know, how much am I more free from the incessant wanting of the mind? Am I am I more free from hatred? Ill will judgment blame all that stuff. And am I am I more free from from confusion? About about what life and about what reality is? So I think I really think there is this element of like a progression. You know, I think we, I think, one when I look back, I do feel a lot more free. I feel I feel less anxious. And I've just made the age. But it may have something to do with my practice as well.

Avi 21:32
Yeah, the one thing that I consider is, it seems that there's this tendency to, to not even recognize or realize the amount of progress that I've made. Like, I think the the now is, so is so strong, a lot of times that we don't even give a credit, like, we want to be in the now but like, we are in the now no matter what. Right? And, and therefore it's like, we don't even acknowledge how much better it's gotten than it was in the past. And what I've learned from being a teacher a lot, is that positive, the positive reinforcement is a really powerful tool, actually. So I think about what training myself like, oh, if I have made some progress, right, if I, if I am less, you know, greedy than to acknowledge that will help me to make even more progress, you know, on that path. But I guess my question is for you, like, have you noticed this at all, like, a tendency to forget, you know, how much progress has been made, what it was like, in the past? And then also, you know, forgetting that it can always be better, right, like, you can always be so much better. Yeah.

Jonathan Foust 22:50
Yeah, and the other, the other thing that happens for many people, and certainly part of my path is, you know, I oftentimes think like, in practice, we get glimpses, you know, we get these glimpses when, like, the sky is clear, you know, and it's like, those are the moments transcendent moments of happiness of, you know, of radiance of, like, just feeling the mystery and loving the mystery. And then when those moments fade, they can send you into really deep depression, you know, you know, for me over over over the years, and, you know, I oftentimes credit my, my background, particularly in yoga, you know, my, my decades that Apollo was, in many ways, it was chasing lice and rainbows. You know, it was using using yoga and all the yogic techniques was really powerful ways to change my state. And then having like these transcendent moments, followed by a deep sense of loss of that transcendent moment and then a doubling down and grimness of getting back to my practice, you know, and over the years, I've, I've had some pretty profound, you know, insights into that into that mechanism. But, but it is really, really interesting to me of how when we have these glimpses, they can be really inspiring, but they can also kind of set us up a little bit, you know, for feeling like we're failing, like, why how did why did I lose it? You know, what did I do to lose it? And, and I do feel like, there's something about, about the practice and I find this with depth practitioners, like people been practicing for a long time. It's very paradoxical. You know, because when you when you're practicing deeply, what analogy you know, a capella uses supervised fasting programs, you know, and, you know, people, they're drinking water, they're drinking juice, they're putting in all this good stuff. They're, they're resting and then they'll go through detox, you know, like their systems getting rested enough where they can start their body just automatically through its own innate intelligence starts. ejecting all these toxins, you know, because now it's strong enough to inject a jet those toxins and having having a strong practice, you know, yoga and meditation is like, doing intense detox, you know, so we're, we're, we're throwing off everything that isn't us, you know, because what your practice will reveal is everything that's between you and feeling free. Everything between you and feeling free is up for grabs. So what happens is, and again, this is probably a gross overgeneralization. But what I found is for myself, and for many people, you start to practice and it's like, these revelations, you know, you know, that, Oh, I'm so relaxed, I feel like, Oh, my gosh, I can't believe I was holding on to that. And now I feel so much more ease and that, Oh, I can't, I'm my God, I was believing that. And I see now that that's just not true, and who I am without that thought feels so good. And there's sort of the revelations, you know, and then stuff starts coming up. That's not so well defined. It's not low hanging fruit. You know, and this is a lot of where semantic inquiry comes in, because there's something below the line of awareness that rises and falls and rises and falls again. And it's taking us into our conditioning. And, and what I've found, and again, for myself, but for many others is that a lot of that conditioning is pre verbal, you know, a lot of the the stress and the anxiety that we pick up, it's those tracks are laid and really, really deep. And so on the one hand, you develop more of a witness, you know, you have much more access to nonjudging, presence, nonjudging, awareness, nonjudging consciousness. But at the same time, you're also sensing what's so deep below the line that's sometimes really challenging to get at, because it's not not an intellectual process anymore. It's almost more like an energetic process. So that's sort of a long way of saying, I'm not sure it gets easier, you know, as we go along. I think he gets more nuanced, and it gets more challenging as we go along. Yeah, seems maybe both of both of those things at the same time.

Exactly. Yeah, I do think it is both of those things at the same time. And, and certainly what I noticed among people who have practiced for for a good while, they don't, they don't believe their thoughts quite as readily as most people do. You know, there's, you know, there's, I think there's some pretty deep humility that comes from someone who's got a kind of pretty rich practice, you know, and more of that instinct to turn toward unpleasant, you know, so much of practices, as learning how to get comfortable with his comfort, I think.

Avi 28:04
It makes me think of our relationship with words to and thoughts, right, that it almost seems that there's like an addiction here. I don't know if that's the right word, but huge emphasis on on the ability to describe what's happening with language. And I feel like we we forget that language was just this contract of man that tries to point at something, but it's not that thing. It's just, it's just the signposts directing us at that, that feeling, let's say, and so my question is, is like, does that lead to a lot of suffering, too, because I'm again, and put me back up in the mind, because I'm trying to figure out what these things are even like, you know, below the line, like maybe it doesn't go above the line, until I'm able to find the words to describe it, as opposed to just like, feeling I feel something I feel some type of pain in the body perhaps. And, and instead of even putting words to it, I just, I just sit with it. And notice what happens.

Jonathan Foust 29:15
Yeah, well, you're a writer. So, you know, you've invested a lot of your lifeforce into finding words that are accurate and true. And I was struck by a story that Eugene gendlin told, and he's the founder of focusing, which is basically a very, very powerful approach for, for really exploring how your issues are in your tissues. And he really kind of laid the foundation, the foundation for somatic psychology, really powerful stuff. But the story that I like to tell about him is that he finished up his PhD in philosophy and realized he wasn't done so he was working on a PhD in psychology. And he was at the University, University of Chicago. Studying with oh my gosh named just slipped right out, Carl Rogers. And so he was he was given this task when it comes to like, like therapeutic technologies, what's the best technique? And what what makes for the best therapist. So he, he observed many, many hours of people doing kind of, you know, inquiry type work and you know, in therapeutic situations, and there's one moment triggered it for him. And it was this woman who was talking about her relationship with her sister, you know, and she said, I am so pissed at my sister. And then she closed her eyes. And then she opened her eyes. And she said, No, she said, I'm disappointed with my sister. And he thought, What just happened? Like, here's the story, I passed. But she closed her eyes, she checked in somatically, the word pissed did not resonate with the feeling. And then when she came out, again, it was like, then she had the word that resonated with the feeling. So think, as you were describing so beautifully, like, there are times when you just just stop the articulation, you know, and really drop into the feeling. This whole, this whole phrase, you know, that the body doesn't lie, is a really interesting thing to try on. Like, is it true that like this innate intelligence of the body doesn't lie. And if we can really pause and tune into it, there's, there's that that residence of truth, one of the foot of resonating cellared Allah, you know, as they say, you just you know it in your gut, you know it in your bones. And that becomes such a powerful part of practice, I think.

Avi 31:57
Yeah, I love that. Like, you know, when we have conversations, you know, like, we try to do the best that we can to describe what we want to describe, right. And often, there's, like, you know, there's that word that that that's the perfect word for what I'm trying to say. But you can't quite find the word. So but you can't just wait, you know, you have to say something. You pull out, whatever, whatever the next best thing is the hair.

Jonathan Foust 32:27
Well, it's so interesting, because, you know, in neuro linguistic programming, they say that we process information through three different channels. One is visual. So people are visual, they tend to think in pictures. So they talk in pictures, like, Oh, can you imagine this? Well, this is how I see it. They talk fast, because they have the image and they want to get it across as quickly as possible. And then there people are more auditory, they process auditory and they actually use, you know, they use words like Well, that sounds really good. You know, I know that doesn't ring a bell. And then they're the they're the people are kinesthetic. And it's so interesting. And you can tell a kinesthetic person, because you know, they're slower, because they're trying to, you know, tune in. And so it's fascinating to me, because I tend to move toward the visual. But what I find is if I give myself that permission to slow down, and it can be it can be really challenging. But I'm actually am in I actually am tuning into, to that to that resonant felt sense that just it takes, it takes longer to form. But when it when it does form, it's can be pretty solid.

Avi 33:52
I wanted to I want to shift a little bit and because I wanted to ask you about your relationship with with animals. So Jonathan is an amazing photographer. And if you get on his email list, he sends out a monthly newsletter. And he'll share all these beautiful photographs that he takes in nature. So I know you usually get out early morning, I think. And, and it's a part of your practice, right? And you're observing different animals. So I'm curious how long you've been doing this and what the effect for you has been like maybe some things that you've learned from observing animals. Wow.

Jonathan Foust 34:34
Well, I grew up on a farm. So there's a couple things there. It got me in the habit of getting up early. But also working with animals has always been kind of a big part of my life. And one thing I found with COVID is you know, my natural chronotype has emerged. You know, when I when my body really wants to sleep, and when it wants to wake up which kind of ridiculously is like going to sleep at 830 and getting up at 430. So that gives me plenty of time to get out there. And, you know, it may be out there when things are waking up. And, you know, it's so interesting to me of how being in nature, just observing, observing nature, observing these unselfconscious animals as they're moving, moving through their moving through their life is so it's so profoundly healing. You know, I know, like in, you know, in ancient Ayurveda, you know, like, the prescription for many people was to be in nature, you know, just to remove distraction and be in nature. So, I just love observing, you know, and interacting with, with animals out there, because it's such a privilege to be out there. And also, it's so impersonal, you know, they could care, they could care less about my presence. And, you know, there are times when I'm, I do this practice is funny, because I would do this practice, and then. And then I was sharing with my wife, Tara, and then she would told me, she'd do the same thing, like I, I paddle upstream on the Potomac River, which is pretty intense, forever. And then I just paddle until I get tired, and I float back. And oftentimes, I do kind of an open eyed meditation. And, and I have this sense of, like, when I'm floating back, sometimes we just think like, what if? What if I wasn't here? You know, what, what would this be if I wasn't here, and suddenly, it just becomes how it's just life happening. It's just it just happening all by itself. And it's a really beautiful experience of what's referred to in in, in Buddhism as anata, which is the not self, like what, when, when that separate self is not present, or injecting itself into life? Like, what is that? You know? And that really is that sense of the mystery is that sense of flow. So, to me, that's just deeply, deeply healing. So I was doing that. And then I realized that Tara was kind of doing this same practice kind of spontaneously as it was, she would, she oftentimes goes and meditates you know, down by the river in the morning.

Avi 37:31
How important has it become, for you to feel connected, to not feel separate, to tune in to this, okay, I am a part of something larger than myself.

Jonathan Foust 37:45
That's a paradoxical thing. To me, because I, in fact, I was just writing about this a little while ago, like, when you're really in nature, you know, when you're, when you're out there, and you're just connecting with the elements is this paradox, in that it's a pretty deeply uncaring world. But at the same time, there's a sense of belonging that occurs, you know, and for me, it's like, when I can just feel these rhythms of life that are, there's so much more expansive than what's going on in my brain. There's a really profound sense of, I think, image and maybe just the connection to reality, you know, that that is so, so healing for me. One of the things I've really I was looking back over a bunch of my images, you know, over the years, and I was really struck by how many of the images were the, the animals are actually looking right at me, you know, like, they're not, they're not running away, they're not fearful. And, and I actually felt, I just felt this like, like this gush of warmth, you know, to be, to not be feared, you know, and to like to see an animal and to be seen, is a really beautiful, it's a beautiful experience. There's this phrase I use, I overuse all the time, having to do with meditation practice that, that when these when these elements arise that are between, you know, between you and feeling free, you know, maybe it's that you know, like that that low grade sense of anxiety comes to the surface or a sense of dread or anxiety about something. And the analogy is like, they are like wild animals at the edge of the woods. You know, that when that when those when a fear anxiety, strong emotions arise, if we can see them as wild animals at the edge of the woods where you can't, you can't seduce it in and you can't chase it and capture it because that's not going to happen either. But you can let it know you see it, you know, like like when you see a deer in the woods and, you know, it knows that you see it That, that establishes this really beautiful intimate connection with with some force, either out there or some force in there, you know, as, as we're practicing. Does that. Does that make sense?

Avi 40:15
So, yeah, got a bunch of questions that all want to come up at the same time now. You mentioned this connection to reality. And thinking about that, if that's really what the heart wants the most, to just be in alignment with reality. And maybe that's connected to also what you're what you're saying about, of just looking at it. Right, like, so. The heart doesn't want us to keep running, running away from what is and wants us to turn in and face it.

Jonathan Foust 40:59
Absolutely, and, you know, as someone said, these aren't my words, but, but I really come to resonate with them as how we can view life through through like a lens of optimism, you know, and that optimism can be healthy, but there can be a shadow side to the optimism, you know, we can, we can focus through a lens of pessimism, you know, again, which can have have some degree of like, clear discernment, but also have a negative built in negativity bias. And I realized, I realized for myself that that's not about being optimistic, and it's not about being pessimistic, it's about being realistic. You know, and I really feel like any spiritual tradition is worth its salt is a reality based. It's a reality based practice. You know, and that's what what keeps pointing to is, what is it that is true, that was true 1000s of years ago, that will be true 1000s of years from now.

Avi 42:05
One of the things that that's true for me, become more and more important, is to acknowledge my limitations of knowing, alright, so it's like, the, the, the humility aspect. For me, that is that is very, very real, that, I don't know, you know, and that it's okay, not to have opinions. And I notice a lot of suffering, that, that comes both externally I witness it, and also within myself from thinking that I need to have an opinion about everything, or that I can be a judge of like, the unfoldment of humankind, and like the planet like, like, I know that if any kind of real term.

Jonathan Foust 42:48
Yeah, you know, when you sent me the invitation to, you know, for this podcast, he had the, you know, he had a place for me to put my bio and, and I wrote down, you know, last year, foolish monk, this year, no change. There is something I've found about really embracing that, you know, really embracing the not knowing is just the Zen, you know, they call it don't know, consciousness, like, Is it possible to really, really just embrace that, you know, and

Avi 43:15
yeah, yeah, and I love that you asked the question a lot, like, what is between me and, and feeling free? Maybe what is between me and something I've really kind of taken that. And I asked that in many, many different ways. But that's one thing. That's, that's clear to me. That's between me and and feeling free? Is, is the knowing, right? Like, why when I feel like I need to know I need to do certain certain number of things. I'm not feeling free. But if I am really like, I don't know, and I'm okay with that. I feel free. I feel like it's fine.

Jonathan Foust 43:56
You know, there's a teacher actually, both I both you and I know in the Apollo tradition, who has a great career talking about what so this awakening enlightenment thing, what, what is it? And he said, this is so simple, but I think oftentimes the best truths are, are the most simply said, What is this just the absence of desire? And that's so that just why keep coming back to that, like, Wow, so. So who am I in the absence of desire? You know, in those moments, you know, when you're without desire about being someone who knows, that really is, that's freedom. It may just be may be a glimpse, but that's, that is freedom. And I think it's about stringing those little moments of glimpses together.

Avi 44:51
It brings up another word for me and that word is mature. Which is a word that I'm actually very interested in. What does it mean to be to be mature? I would say actually not having desires or maybe having less desires is connected with maturity.

Jonathan Foust 45:09
You know, I love that that word maturity, you know, it shows up a lot in Buddhist psychology and Buddhist philosophy, you know that, because when we when we sort of start off, and a great example is faith, you know, because that sort of childish faith is magical thinking, you know, like, well, if I just, if I just think happy thoughts, everything will be okay. You know, and there's, and there's another level of faith, you know, which is telling me what to believe. And I'll believe it because I want to belong to this tribe, you know, within mature faith is, you know, for example, if you hear everything born of causes and conditions is, is subject to change. It's actually embracing skepticism and saying, Wait a minute, is that is that true? And then rigorously investigating? And then and then if that's true, that's mature faith. You know, so it's this beautiful element of like, embracing, embracing skepticism. And understanding that part of the flowering of that is that sense of mature faith. And it's something I guess, because I just, I just got on the Medicare this year. So the whole idea of maturity is something that's really playing through my consciousness these days, you know, well, and just recognizing that, you know, over years of practice, and just years of life, like that, that maturing process, I find to be so, so interesting. Yeah.

Avi 46:47
And there's like a resistance for me, and I like multiple selves, the resistance towards moving into the realm of mature like, the old self, the other self doesn't, doesn't really want to go there. Investigate, okay, like, what does it really mean to be mature,

Jonathan Foust 47:05
I got a great reframe from, from that I was on a on a meditation retreat is, gosh, 30 years ago, but a really intensive meditation retreat. And, and, and I would some point, one of the breaks is looking myself in the mirror. And, and I had this this moment of, like, sort of, like seeing my image looking back at me as like an older guy, like in my 60s, you know, like balding and, but really, really happy. And it was, it was kind of a startling moment, like, seeing my face aged, you know, and I'm, you know, balding and, but also, but getting, like, this guy was really, really happy. And I just thought, I'm gonna totally anchor that. Like, what if getting older, means I'm just more and more happy and more and more free. And then not long ago, I was brushing my teeth, look in the mirror, and I realized, Oh, my God, I'm that guy. I'm now that old guy looking back at myself. And I was 30. And I am so much more happy. And so when why not might not view aging, you know, as the possibility of being less cotton greed, you know, less cotton hatred and less cotton confusion. That's how I'm wiring it for myself. You know, and so far, I hope so good.

Avi 48:30
Yeah, that's not how I'm trying to wire it to. And I think that's where the skepticism comes in a little bit. Because, you know, I'm skeptical about the notion to be sad or depressed. About my aging, and to Oh, man, who was so great when I was 20. You know? What, I don't know, that doesn't. That doesn't do it for me. I don't know, I'm not embracing the flow of time. I'm not again, I'm, I feel like I'm moving away from reality, instead of of turning to face what what reality is, you know,

Jonathan Foust 49:05
no, it's in the car once and I remember, like, when I when I had to stop running, you know, and, and seeing someone running going, like, oh, man, I used to be able to do that, you know, and it was not that long ago, maybe just like a year ago, I'm driving along and I see someone running and I mean, my response was, like, isn't that great? They can still do that. You know? Cuz we're all in this together. You know, we're all in this together.

Avi 49:35
One kind of new thought for me, actually, in the last few days or insights, I should say. It's been like this tendency to want to experience everything. Like, yeah, desire to just, I don't know. I have so many experiences do so many different things in the time that I have. And then then I realized that like, Whoa, like, I haven't really been considering, like, what my lane is. And considering the fact that like, in this time of life, like dealing with the, the finality of it all, like, I'm not going to be able to experience everything. And that's okay. And kind of this more peaceful clarity has come over me and just say like, that's totally fine now just decide like what your intention is for your lane of this life. So I'm kind of excited about that insight a little bit, it's new for me, you know, it's

Jonathan Foust 50:27
interesting have been studies, you know, as people age, how know, like, as much as like, you know, pain and illness as part of aging, that there's something very paradoxical and that a lot of people as they age get happier. And part of the theory is that you are part of the reason why they're happier is they actually have less choice. And having less choice is kind of calming. Like, it just hit me the other day, like, the window for my NFL career is probably pretty quickly here. Just the other day. You know, but it's like, you know, like, we used to say back in the ashram, you know, no car, no car problems, you know, no relationship, no relationship problems. So there is something about about like, Oh, this, these are the cards I've been dealt, this is what I've got. And there can be a real not only just to coming to peace with that, but there can be more and more of an embracing of what, of what's here.

Avi 51:30
Yeah, you know, the no car, no problem thing makes me think about, you know, just the simple life and what that means a little bit, and the way our culture tends to operate and the messages that we're giving out. And one thing that I at least I feel very strongly about, I would say, is a call for more of a simple life to celebrate simple living, right? Because there's not room for everyone to be super wealthy, and famous. So that's only setting that as the standard for success is only going to leave so many people depressed, and depressed people. It's not good for anyone to have a bunch of depressed people around. But there's plenty of room for everyone to have a simple life that that feels okay. And fine. Yeah.

Jonathan Foust 52:19
It was, you know, was Warner Earhart, who said that the quickest way to be happy is to choose what you already have. You know, and it's such a, such a profound statement, you know, but But absolutely, I've certainly found that for myself, you know, that, the more I simplify, and the more bandwidth I have for for presence. And why I like to say that, you know, nothing material is going to make you happy, with the exception of a few specific Apple products. Okay, final

Avi 52:56
question then, on the lines, like, the role of humor and light, light heartedness on the on this path, like how important is it recently, I'm trying to engage my days, and look for any opportunity to laugh? And it's been a game changer. So right, it can be kind of like heavy and I do love the seriousness has no problem with it, I think you feel similarly like, no, no problem with that. But also to laugh and to feel light and, and all that how important is that? Boy,

Jonathan Foust 53:29
you know, both you and I have been influenced from the through the Apollo tradition. But there's something that Swami Capello said in SWAMI Coppola was this amazing Yogi, you know, he died before just before I moved in the ashram, you know, in the early 80s. But by all accounts, you know, this guy who practice silence for 19 years and 10 hours a day of meditation and, you know, touched into nirvikalpa Samadhi states and, you know, pretty a pretty amazing character. He doesn't one line, or he said, seriousness is a crime in the court of God. I thought, well, I'm going to run with that one. And you have been running with it. Because it's true in the absence of comparison, in the absence of judgment, in the absence of desire. You know, there's, there's joy, there's discovery, there's creativity, there's embracing a paradox, you know, and that's where the action is, I think.

Avi 54:37
Yeah, you know, I think our relationship with death is kind of connected to this, too, right? Like, it's, it's been challenging, but to shift it, because I'm really turning towards reality. Nature is saying, okay, it's not such a big deal. like things are born and they die all the time, but we tend to treat It is like, Okay, again, we know that this this is awful. Well, how do I know that that's awful. I know, I really, really know that. So there's, for me at least a lot of kind of growth in that relationship with death, but I'm investigating it. And I think it leads towards this lightheartedness. Because I'm not like, super serious about what happens just, this is the the Leela of the play, the play of the universe that we're engaged in,

Jonathan Foust 55:24
you know, it kind of like back to that sense of the separate self, you know, I know when, you know, what I went through my parents dying, you know, and really kind of caught in that, you know, sort of the tragedy and a heard of that, and then realizing, I mean, it's so cliched even say it out loud. But this recognition of like, hey, guess what, I'm not the first person to lose a father. You know? And how like, like, in the tongue Glenn practices, other people feel this, too. You know, like, Wow, so this is the human experience of, you know, you'll you'll lose the people you love, you lose parents, you lose friends. And this is not unique to me. You know, and then here I am in my now I'm Medicare is like, well, what's the next big transition? Well, guess what I'm not, they're not going to be the first person to, to slip out of my body here. And there's something I don't know if we call it comforting. But there's something real about that, that I'm beginning to digest as well.

Avi 56:33
Jonathan, thank you so much. This time is really valuable for me. I said before, you know, I consider you one of my teachers and kind of just discovering you. I feel like it was a great, great moment in my life. So thank you for being who you are. And for joining me today for this conversation. I know you're doing a lot of different things. If someone would like to kind of follow up and check out more and more of your work. I know you have the podcast, YouTube channel website, what's what's the best way just just go to the website? Or what would you say?

Jonathan Foust 57:10
Yeah, first at first, just to say thank you, you know, what a bright light. You are such a bright light. And I've always enjoyed every, every moment I've had hanging out with you. So thank you for that. Yeah, my, my stuff is kind of offered freely. You know, I'm very influenced through the Buddhist tradition of, you know, teachings are priceless. So don't charge. So. I've got a podcast, just Jonathan Faust, and my website and you know, all the not all I actually I don't have Instagram or anything like that. But there's Facebook and all that kind of stuff. And it's just a joy to be able to a joy to be able to share these practices. I mean, what a What a great life. I feel so blessed. Thanks, Jonathan. Thank you so much.

Avi 58:00
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