Ep. 74 | Fear, Trauma, Cultural Appropriation, Mindfulness Club

Call and Response Ep. 74 | Fear, Trauma, Cultural Appropriation, Mindfulness Club

“We’re seeing the movie that we are projecting from within. So, we get to see what we have to work with a little bit. And little by little, that movie can be transformed into a screwball comedy from the 30’s. Carole Lombard? Nobody knows who she is. But we can, that movie can change. We can’t change the movie because we are the movie. But the movie can change through our aspiration to be free and the things that we do to help ourselves, to free ourselves from those negative emotions and aspects of our own personality.” – Krishna Das

Yes, the alien.  What can I do for you?

Q: Yes, I’m the alien.

KD: Do I speak your language?

Q: Yeah. So, thank you so much for today. I just wanted to share…

KD: Is it over? I don’t think it’s over.

Q: No, no for being here and serving us.

KD: Oh, I’m here.  Thank you.

Q: You talked about serving and it made me think of a story I wanted to just quick-share, really short, because I know you don’t want people to talk for a long time.

KD: Which planet is the story from?

Q: Let’s see, Lehra. I was five and an intruder came into our house and I was upstairs with my knees shaking and this man was chasing my mom around the table and he was going to hurt her and she just laid down on the floor and went to go on top of her and he had a knife and everything and she said, she said an angel came to her, whatever, an inspiration and she just looked him in the eyes and said, “What do you want from me? I am your brother.” You know, you were talking about the oneness and we’re all the same blood and connected and he just looked at her and he’s like, “I’ll leave you alone now, ma’am.” And he got up and he walked out and that was sort of a miracle or something.

KD: Yeah, wow.

Q: And I remember then the police came and we were all happy and relieved, the kids in the house, because the authorities were here and I said to my mom, “I hate that man. I want him to die. I want to kill him, mommy.” And she said, “No darling, don’t hate him. He needs love. He’s sick and that’s why he was doing what he did.” And it just struck me, this memory came flooding back just today when you said, “Be of service” and that stayed with me my whole life, to see the soul of everyone. You know? Underneath their pain, underneath their stories and their suffering and their violence.

KD: Yeah.

Q: I just really wanted to share it. That’s it.

KD: Thank you. Because we are so hurt, we don’t let ourselves see the pain of other people too much. And we take everything personally. Whatever programs we have running, I have a friend who’s program is humiliation and he’s always being humiliated by things that happen. Even when they truly didn’t happen to humiliate him the way experiences it as if this person or this situation is humiliating him directly, you know? Or other people are hurt by other people, like that. It’s our programs, you know? And to unravel that program is very difficult. Very very difficult. Very difficult. But you have to start somewhere. Wherever you are, start. And things will, little by little, fall into place if one wants to be free, one can free one’s self. With a lot of help. A lot of help. Yeah.


Q: Hello.

KD: Where are you?

Q: Right to your left.

KD: Hi.

Q: Hi. Long time meditator and I recently have found you and chanting.

KD: I’m sorry about that.

Q: I’m very grateful for it.

KD: Ok.

Q: Over thirty years, I studied under Doctor Jon Cabot Zinn.

KD: I know Jon.

Q: And what, and to this day, I do it. And I’ve added the chanting to it and what I’ve learned throughout the years is how judgmental we automatically are as human beings, which arises a lot of stresses in people.

KD: Yeah.

Q: And one of the methods that Dr. Zinn always told us was to let the thought, the thoughts are going to come in, as in chanting, the thoughts come in, try not to judge them. Let them be there, even acknowledge them and let them go. And fear, fear’s another big thing that people have to deal with.

KD: Yeah. Absolutely.

Q: And what I learned years ago, I was a firefighter for 30 years, so I saw a lot of tragedy. And lived with a lot of memories of that tragedy. And I tell people, to this day, when they ask me what it felt like to be a firefighter, I say “Well, what’s it feel like when you’re going to the dentist?” And they all had apprehension. And I told them that the method that I used was to take on the apprehension and to work with it, and so my message to myself would be, “What if nothing happened?” If tomorrow, she has to go to the dentist and that’s her fear, between today and tomorrow, her worry is going to be constant of, what if this happens, what if that happens, etcetera. And you can compound that, I guess that’s the word I want to use, by using another thought, “What if nothing happens?” And you’ll notice that your being will relax and it’s a form of meditation. It’s a form of chanting. Right? And it allows for bringing you down because all fears are taught and told to us by ourselves. If you can change the way you think about the fear, that maybe nothing will happen. Try it and that’s all I wanted to say and I wanted to thank you for being here today and having a chance to be here also.

KD: Thank you.

Yeah.  Yeah.  A lot of the fears and a lot of the stuff we carry, it’s hidden within us, you know. It’s not really available consciously for us to see it directly but if we look at our lives and we see those dark places, we see our behaviors that hurt us and others, we see the negative emotions that we carry with us. That’s, we’re seeing the movie that we are projecting from within. So, we get to see what we have to work with a little bit. And little by little, that movie can be transformed into a screwball comedy from the 30’s. Carole Lombard… nobody knows who she is. But we can, that movie can change. We can’t change the movie because we are the movie. But the movie can change through our aspiration to be free and the things that we do to help ourselves, to free ourselves from those negative emotions and aspects of our own personality. We can’t, it’s not like we can take the movie and push a button somewhere. We’re the movie. Our whole thing is the movie, so to speak. But when we add a practice and go deeper into that longing to be free, that movie will change automatically. It does. That much I can tell you. I don’t care if they say it or not. That movie will change and we will find a way to live in this world in a good way, which is how it’s supposed to be. You know, you might say, “Well, how can I be happy when there’s so much suffering in the world.” Well, that’s a good question. And somebody once asked the Dalai Lama, He said, “Your Holiness, are you happy?” And He said, “Oh, I guess you could say I’ve had a pretty hard life. I had to take over the reins of my country at a very young age and then I had to escape when the Chinese invaded and I had to also watch as millions of my people were slaughtered and tortured and killed. So, the Chinese have taken everything from me. Am I going to take my happiness?”  Right?  That’s real strength. He’s not saying that stuff didn’t happen. He’s not saying, He’s not pushing, He’s not not looking at this stuff. There’s room inside of Him for all that but He’s not going to allow that to destroy His heart. So, that’s real strength and that, that’s what we have within us and what we can discover, that place within us. One time I was at a teaching with His Holiness. It was a teaching on compassion and kindness and it was three or four days and the last half-day, He took questions from the audience that had been written and sent in, sent up to the stage and the translator would go through the questions and pick the question. So, the translator reads this question, “Your Holiness, I did something that hurt somebody once and I have apologized many times but they won’t accept the apology. For one year, I apologized. For two years, I apologized. For three years, it’s been three years and they won’t accept the apology. What should I do?” So, His Holiness says, “Well, you just keep apologizing. One year, two years, three years. If they don’t accept the apology, tell them to go to hell.” I said, “Wait.” I said, “What? Wait a minute.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama does not tell people to go to hell. Because if He did, they would and that’s not what He’s about. So, I grabbed ahold of Bob Thurman later, who’s one of His Holiness’s oldest students, he speaks perfect Tibetan. I said, “Bob, what did His Holiness really say?” Because it was through the translator, right? He said, “Oh, no. You keep apologizing. One year, two years, three years, they don’t accept the apology, you tell them to eat shit.”  That’s how they say, “Go to hell” in Tibet. They don’t say, “Go to hell.” They say, “Eat shit.” I just thought you’d like that.


KD: Anybody. Hi.

Q: Hello. I wasn’t sure if I was going to ask this question in this space but here’s the opportunity. I’m going to stand up. So, I lead kirtan and kirtan’s a big part of my life and lately the subject of cultural appropriation has been coming up and more and more and it’s mostly from people I know in my community who are white, who do not kirtan, are more like activist types and it’s only happened a couple of times where acquaintances in my community have come up and said, “You know, isn’t that cultural appropriation Jeanette? You’re a white person leading kirtan.” Political correctness, to a fault, is a big part of my life, and being respectful, and I sometimes don’t know how to respond and I really would love to hear your thoughts on this and some help.

KD: One year, two years… Bunch of bullshit. I had a dream once, you know, I was being reincarnated, I was coming back to earth and I was heading right home to India. At the last minute I made a left turn and wound up in New York. I’m still wondering, why did they do that? What happened? Who did that? Who was driving that car? I’m really a little India guy in a… culturally appropriating a white body. It’s ridiculous. It’s so uncomfortable in here. I don’t know what’s going on. I can’t speak without doing this. I don’t know what’s going. Very nice. You know, I sing in India to Indians, which is the weirdest thing I could imagine. I was petrified. I got invited to sing, you know, I mean, for 50 years I’ve been singing in the temple. That’s where I sing, you know. Nobody’s there. It’s not… you know. So, then these people from Mumbai invited me to come and sing down there. So, ok. So, we went. I didn’t ask any questions. I didn’t. That’s how bright I am, you know. So, I get to the venue. Well, I should have known, because on the way to the venue we stopped in Bombay traffic and I looked up and I went… There’s a huge billboard with my face on it in Mumbai. I went… Anyways, so we get to this hall and we do sound check. It’s a big hall. We do soundcheck and then I go. They give us a room and I go lie down for a while. And I come out on stage and there’s 2,000 people and they stand and they’re screaming and applauding. I just stopped halfway out. I said, “What are you people doing here? Go home. India’s full of kirtan wallahs. Go away.” They love the fact that a Westerner honors, respects and participates in their spiritual tradition. They honor bhavana which is the spiritual emotion. You can’t fake it. They don’t like it if you’re faking it, but if it’s real for you they respect that and they love that and it’s amazing. And I never wanted to do that. I mean, I figured, you know, Siddhi Ma was always telling me to rest, take it easy, stay home, go easy, you know. So, I finally said to Her once, “Ma, you know I’m getting all these invitations to sing in India. Should I accept?” You know, I figured She’d say, “No, no. Leave in India to the Indians. You stay home and rest.” So, I said, “Ma, you know, should I accept? Should I accept?” She goes, “You must.” Really? So, I must. So, I did and you now, it was great for me because it got me over, kind of a little tentativeness about it all, but you know, they’ve lost, this generation now is about three generations after the first generation that rejected the traditional culture and it was their grandparents who sat in the corner and sang and did puja and all that stuff. They were all about making money and getting a nice house and having all these things because Western culture moved in there. So, now, their parents and the grandparents, their grandparents are the first ones who kind of lost the culture. Their parents were completely out of it because they didn’t have anybody who’s still doing that stuff around them. They would never go to hear an Indian chanter. Almost never. They don’t give a shit. But because, ah, you know what it was, the Grammy. I’m a Grammy Loser. I was nominated for a Grammy. I didn’t win. I’m a loser. But they thought, “Somebody’s chanting is recognized like that?” And they respect that. They love that. You know? That’s all I can tell you. So, once again, one year, two years. Just smile and say, “Go away.” Don’t come, it’s ok.

Nina: Can I say something?

KD: Yes, you can, Missy.

Nina: I don’t know. So, he’s talking about the Grammy’s and how that was important to Indians and that’s fine but way before that, I did chant with my grandfather when I was young and my family turned me towards the West because it was, there were more opportunities for us as women here and though we did puja in a house, we never discussed spirituality. It was not something that was discussed but I had an experience of this tradition when I was with my grandfather as a kid but it went away. And, you know, people ask me this question all the time because I’m Indian, in case nobody noticed.

KD: You are?

Nina: Yeah. So, I just want to say that it was coming here to the West and chanting with him that put me back on the path again. Then I, and he’s right, I didn’t chant with other people in India. It was just not, we didn’t do it. Even now people don’t go. It’s interesting. Unless you go to your temple and you do your practice, but the way in which they absorbed it and then are sharing with everyone is so important and yes, we did go to India and there were like 2,000 people there of all ages, youngsters, my age, older people, and they really get the transmission of what the practice is. People ask me this all time. I don’t even know what cultural appropriation is. Am I wearing trousers? Am I appropriating Western Culture? I don’t think that’s important. And I think that spiritual practice can be shared and beneficial to everyone. So, that would be my answer.


Q: Hello. Right here.

KD: Hi.

Q: Hi. So, at my university, I’m at the University of Connecticut.

KD: Hey. Go UCONN.

Q: So, we have a club called “Mindfulness Club.” And a bunch of people who are spiritually open-minded come together every week and we have a discussion topic and some practices and we usually experiment with whatever that week’s subject is. Do you have any recommendations for practices or discussion topics that we should do in the future?

KD: Did Katie Lou ever go there?

Q: I don’t know.

KD: Secret teaching, you know. Sure, you know, just, I think really watching the breath in terms of practice, and entrance practice which will take you all the way to wherever you have to go. It’s a great thing because it doesn’t involve any dogma of any kind, or any belief of any kind, any religion of any kind. It’s a very basic, it’s not just basic but it’s an integral practice of coming back from Dreamland, you know, just watching the breath. It’s a great practice for everybody to do together, no matter what tradition they feel they’re a part of or what particular culture they’re, what’s the word, culturally appropriating at the time. Because it’ll change. Whatever culture will change from day to day, what they’re appropriating, but the breath will still be there and it’ll be exactly the same. So, it’s a very powerful practice and Maharajji actually said to us once, if you can bring the mind to one point, you’ll see God. Right? Being God is a whole other thing, but seeing God’s a good beginning, you know? Like, so, that’s a great thing to do as a practice and you might try starting with it and then having discussions and then having a short session in the middle with it, the same practice, and then ending with it again. Because I think you’ll find that, if I say what I think you’ll find you’ll go looking for it, so I won’t tell you, but I think it’ll be a great thing to do. A nice way to do things. Rather than, you know, I mean, if people are open to learning about other things and talking about doing different practices, fine, but you’ll notice that all the practices you do center on being able to pay some attention and until you can do that, the results of whatever practice you do will be very minimal. The more attention you can, the more present you are with it. So, watching the breath and there are different ways to watch the breath. You can find those practices. You know, you can, there’s a, when you breath in, if you really listen, if you feel that you can feel a little breath here at the tip of your nose, you can also see that your stomach rises with the in breath and falls with the out breath just naturally. So, you can rise and fall or you can in and out. So, there’s a lot of ways to keep the mind a little bit interested. And that’s a great thing to do. Yeah. And then, yeah. Then invite me to come and take me to a UCONN Women’s basketball game.

Q: We would do that.

KD: What?

Q: We would do that.

KD: Well, get my email. What are we, kidding here? I’m serious. I’ve been watching them for years. I feel like their grandfather. I watch all these young women, you know. They graduate and then they go to the pros. And then they, you know, their lives change and then the team changes. I feel like I follow them. I’m sick. I have no life of my own. I have to follow UCONN basketball. I’ll come. Call me. Get me there. I went to Wesleyan while my friend’s daughter at Wesleyan. No, not Wesleyan. Yeah, it was Wesleyan. Yeah, we went there. They had some kind of Buddhist club and they were silly enough to invite me. Were you there? Really?  Far out. Nice to see you again. Great. You’re kidding me. My goodness gracious.



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