Laurie Anderson’s Buddhism: Art, Meditation, and Death as Adventure

Laurie Anderson headshot

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Grammy Award winning artist Laurie Anderson, a longtime student of Buddhism and meditation, shares her personal path with Buddhism, approaching art with a beginner’s mind, staying present with suffering without letting it overwhelm you, and making our lives meaningful.

Scott Snibbe: Laurie Anderson is one of our greatest living artists. Her work includes spoken word and performance, top-charting albums and music videos, digital art, film, virtual reality, and the invention of ingenious instruments like the tape bow violin and the talking stick. She’s won the Grammy Award and many other honors, and is currently the subject of a fantastic solo show at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C.

Laurie Anderson picture

[00:00:50] Scott Snibbe: Laurie, thank you so much for joining us as a guest on A Skeptic’s Path to Enlightenment. I really appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us.

[00:00:59] Laurie Anderson: What a great title. How did you come up with that title? 

[00:01:03] Scott Snibbe: Well, a lot of my friends are skeptics and many of them were curious about enlightenment, so it just seemed natural over the years. I was their only Buddhist friend so they would ask me and I didn’t have a good answer because I had a more religious, traditional education in Buddhism. So I wanted to make this podcast to help people have a secular path into it. 

[00:01:25] Laurie Anderson: That’s very good motivation because I think that when you really have to explain something to people who are super skeptical it’s quite amazing. Because you have to start from almost nothing in a way, right?

[00:01:41] Scott Snibbe: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I’m curious to hear about your journey with Buddhism. I bet for some of your friends, you’re the only Buddhist they know. But could you talk a little bit about how you discovered Buddhism and what role it plays in your life? 

How Laurie Anderson discovered Buddhism

[00:01:56] Laurie Anderson: It was originally about attention, paying attention, and being able to focus. And it was thanks to a friend of mine, Bob Alecki, who I was working with, and he had, and has, a really wonderful ability to quietly focus on things, and see how they work. And so I said, How are you doing this? And I really love asking people stupid questions like this. 

Anyway, Bob was telling me that he had been having a lot of trouble concentrating. And so he went to Barre, in Massachusetts, to the Insight Meditation Society headquarters, and did a 10-day silent retreat. He said that after this, all of his scattered thoughts had calmed down and he was able to focus on things. And his mind was like, as he put it, a beam; you could focus it over here and there and look at things for a long period of time. 

Barre Center for Buddhist Studies
Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, photo: https://www.buddhistinquiry.org/reopening/

And so I thought, Whoa, I’d like a mind like a beam. So I went there myself, to Insight Meditation Society, in western Massachusetts. And this was in ’77, so they’d just been – I think it was maybe their second year, maybe their third, but it was very early in their programming and they were quite hardcore at the time. So you would get up at four and you’d meditate, then you’d have the only meal of the day, and then a bell would ring and then you’d do walking meditation and sitting and then you’d have some water and then you’d do it again. It was many, many hours a day. 

They said, Why are you here? And I said, I’m here to get a mind like a beam. And they said, Oh no no no, like, this is based on pain. And I said no, I’m talking about a beam. And so we had a conversation that was very ridiculous, kind of ping-ponging between pain and beam and pain and beam. 

And finally I realized, after doing it a couple of days, that it really was about pain. Because they said, You’re here because you’re in pain, and I said, No, that that is not why I’m here. And I realized that was why I was there, and that it was a very unique way of looking at pain. And the idea was that when something happens to you, and you don’t just scream and freak out, you put it somewhere. Unlike in psychoanalysis, you retrieve it through language and stories. 

This way, your body tells you things. As I learned more and more about the practice, I trusted that method because your body really doesn’t lie, and your body has a mind of its own and it remembers things, and it puts them places. If you feel anger, sometimes your jaw clenches. If you feel loss, sometimes you feel it in your heart. Anger somehow is in your liver. You are a library of pain. 

Your body really doesn’t lie, and your body has a mind of its own and it remembers things, and it puts them places. If you feel anger, sometimes your jaw clenches. If you feel loss, sometimes you feel it in your heart. Anger somehow is in your liver. You are a library of pain. 

So the idea with this practice is to find it. It’s painful to sit there for 18 hours a day. Your left arm feels like it’s going to fall off. So when it does, you focus on that left arm and you find many emotions in there. 

And that was the start of this. And at the end of that particular 10-day period, one of the things I noticed was that I had, after that period of time, incredible peripheral vision. And I was doing a lot of sculpture then and I was very excited by this idea that I could feel the space around me, above me, behind me. And it was an absolute thrill. 

So it wasn’t the space that is the I-space of  “I see that in front of me, I look at it, I want it,” that sort of vision of desire, but a vision of experience, of being in space. 

And that was, for a sculptor, a huge thrill. To understand space in an entirely new way without putting yourself in the middle of it. That was enough to hook me. Even just that, to understand that I was in an ocean of sound and an ocean of air and that I had a lot more freedom than I thought. 

So it began to be about a lot more things than the alleviation of pain and attention. But I have to say that, I’m pretty casual if somebody says, Are you a Buddhist? I’m like, Yeah. 

To me, that’s kind of like saying I’m an artist. In fact, it’s exactly the same thing because it requires the same thing, which is, pay attention. That’s really the only rule. Let’s just say it’s a suggestion. That’s the only thing you have to do, pay attention. There’s nobody in charge. There’s nobody judging you. This is the ultimate thrill for an artist is there’s nobody at the top. There’s nobody saying you did a good job or you didn’t. You’re the Buddha, ultimately, and who wants that responsibility? Kind of nobody. 

You know it can be extremely intimidating to think, I’m in charge. Who put me in charge? This is a big mistake. When you realize that it gives you freedom beyond your wildest dreams, it is exhilarating.

So over the years, this has changed many times, this practice, and it’s so many different ways to approach it, ways to understand it. The very first thing that you hear in Buddhism is that truth is presented as the truth to you, to believe or not; let’s say to propose it as an experience. Because all of these are for you to look at yourself. Don’t believe what anybody tells you, you look at this yourself. 

So the very first one of those proposals is life is suffering. And especially in the last couple of weeks, we’ve had this almost unbelievable opportunity to experience that, to experience despair, to experience utter despair. Not push it away, not try to say why it’s there or what we can do about it or oh my gosh this is worse than the last time. No, just to let that be an experience. 

And so I am really happy and grateful to have this practice that allows me to do that and not to just say, Oh this is a geopolitical situation that we – but to actually be able to feel that on as many sides and ways as I can because it’s coming from every direction. 

And so what an opportunity to get that very first step. Life is suffering. And of course, then you go on from there. Okay, and then what? So it pushes you into an investigation of that situation, of our situation. 

Because it’s also easy sometimes to just let go of that very first truth and go, Hey, it’s not so bad, this is pretty good. I’m having a good time, I’m learning a lot of things, it’s a wonderful time to be alive, and all of those are true. But that basic truth is one that is opening up for us in a way that’s just so powerful. 

[00:09:54] Scott Snibbe: Yeah. It’s so painful, I agree, it’s so painful. As with the mind techniques that we have from our teachers, you don’t need to push it away and you don’t need to do an intellectual analysis. But yeah, it can be a kind of food for your practice and also for your action. It’s not just something to do in your mind. I know you’re about to go do a benefit for Ukraine, so you don’t just sit on the cushion and help it evolve your mind. You get out there and also help in any way you can, right? 

[00:10:20] Laurie Anderson: I do, I try to, yes. 

[00:10:22] Scott Snibbe: I know you became a student of Mingyur Rinpoche and Tibetan Buddhism and it sounds like you started out with Insight Meditation. Can you talk about your teacher and what you learned in that tradition? 

Laurie’s Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Mingyur Rinpoche

Mingyur Rinpoche smiling
Mingyur Rinpoche, photo: https://www.infobae.com/

[00:10:33] Laurie Anderson: I think my attraction to Mingyur Rinpoche was his happiness. He is a person who’s absolutely full of joy and the kind of bliss that is impossible to mistake as something else. So I wondered, What is this about? 

He’s also very frank and very simple and I endlessly find myself quoting him because he’s so articulate and very good with the epigrams. My favorite one is “Try to practice how to feel sad without actually being sad,” which I found and find to be extremely profound. That there are countless sad things in the world, it’s full of sadness, everywhere you look. And if you pretend that stuff isn’t there, you’re an absolute idiot. It’s there. 

“Try to practice how to feel sad without actually being sad”

—Mingyur Rinpoche

The important part here is to not become sad. Don’t become that, just because you see that. Don’t become that. So that is a very interesting and profound distinction to make. Because of course, we’re so wrapped in ourselves that we see something, we become it.

And that’s a kind of wonderful empathetic thing in a certain way but not in many other ways. Do not become sad, do not become sad is his message. Do not become sad. Life is joy. Everything is joy. You may not see it that way. 

So the study of impermanence, I think, is one of the things that helps people come to this conclusion of joy. If you’re stymied on the thing and go, Joy, what are you talking about? You’re talking about misery, you just said the world is like totally suffering. Where’s the joy part come in? And I think, just speaking for myself now for a second, I’m able to make that jump because of one thing, and that is the concept of impermanence. 

And as an artist, I also study time and how it looks in various forms, in music and images. And so the teaching of impermanence, that absolute constant change, that was the basic tenet of many artists that I love, John Cage being the main one. Someone who bases his practice on that. And then when you really do let that sink in and realize there’s nothing to hold on to here. Nothing. You cannot hold on to anything. Like, in a certain sense you could just go, This is really a mess. There’s nothing to hold onto. Nothing that I can hold on to. 

And then when you let it sink in and a few other different ways, you realize that it gives you the sense of crazy happiness, potential, freedom. The ability to stop living your life as a series of things that you’re predicting and then you just live out. It gives you the ability to improvise. 

For me, music gave me a whole other way to think about what note should follow another one. It helped me stop just living a life that I thought I should, or really that somebody else thought up for me. And it’s helped me take responsibility for myself. And in relation to others too.

When you think about what it means to be accepted by other people and how you create those relationships and those things that you think are necessary to be accepted; you realize that you’re doing a kind of act of violence against yourself. 

And so you learn self-sufficiency and not to think about what is so-and-so thinking about me? And it helped me as an artist too. So I think it’s been maybe over 10 years now that I have not read one single thing about myself. And it improved my life enormously. I don’t know if I’m considered an absolute idiot or not and I realized I actually really don’t care. It was getting in the way of how I saw things. I didn’t want to be someone who is looking at myself and my work from a distance. I wanted to do what I felt would be interesting and what was compelling to me. 

And then in the last couple of years I think myself, along with everybody else on the planet, or maybe not everyone, has gotten a chance to experience solitude. And that has been a Buddhist-making machine. Worldwide everyone kind of goes, Oh yeah, what would that be like, not to be on that merry-go-round that I was always on. And just thinking I gotta be on it because everybody’s on it, and we were all on it and we better stay on it forever. 

And then people go, I’m not even going to go back to work, I think. Work was not interesting, it was awful. And I wasn’t thinking about anything and didn’t have time for myself or have time to take a walk. And so this slowdown, I’m sure, changed many people’s lives. I think other people right at the moment – I don’t know if you’re feeling this, but I’m feeling intensely this thing of, Okay, we’re back to normal, let’s go in there and hyperdrive. I get more emails now than I ever have in my entire life from people who are like, Back to business. And I am trying to really drag my feet in every single project. 

I’m working on a very complicated project in Denmark now and the guy I’m working with is recovering from COVID and he’s got a bit of a fog, but he’s really appreciative of it. And we both are going, Why are we going to jump back into action? And he said, Let’s just think of it as more like gardening. And I thought, Bingo! Let’s think of it as gardening. So that’s how we’re going forward on that. And it’s just enormously wonderful to think of how to really learn from experience. 

[00:17:13] Scott Snibbe: Yeah and find a gentler way to re-engage and with everything. This topic of impermanence you brought up, in that topic we also typically think about death, which is something you’ve been doing in your art, making these beautiful versions of the Tibetan Buddhist teachings on the stages we go through when we die. That’s called the bardo. And you released an album called Songs from the Bardo that you did with Tenzin Choegyal and Jesse Paris Smith.

Songs from the Bardo album cover
Songs from the Bardo album cover, photo: https://www.folkradio.co.uk

Can you talk a little bit about what these teachings on the dying process mean to you and the impact they’ve had on your life? You’ve given a lot of your creative attention to them recently and the result is really beautiful, I love it. 

Death as an adventure

[00:17:49] Laurie Anderson: I think it’s partly like looking at something that’s usually surrounded by fear and so that’s one of my motivations. Let’s look at what’s scary about that and when you actually go into those teachings to the bardo, the 49-day process that Buddhists believe that happens to you after death, as your consciousness evolves into another maybe life form we can say or another – well anyway, let’s not get too specific about that. 

[00:18:26] Scott Snibbe: Yeah, something happens. 

[00:18:27] Laurie Anderson: Yeah. I found those teachings really amazing, not really specifically because they were about death but because it made me realize that this is the bardo also. This conversation right now, what will happen in a minute, what happened a minute ago. And I think the most extreme part about that is what happens to death and in a way the easiest way to see it. But when you start really thinking about what it is, you realize you’re already in it. Surprise! 

[00:18:59] Scott Snibbe: Yeah, one of my teachers Lama Zopa Rinpoche, once said, When you think you’re going to visit a dying person in the hospital but actually you’re both dying. 

[00:19:07] Laurie Anderson: Yeah, exactly.

[00:19:09] Scott Snibbe: We’re all in that continual process. 

[00:19:13] Laurie Anderson: In one step or another, we are. We’re in the process of being reborn, as well as dying. So it is a kind of tipping back and forth. I feel sometimes when I can understand it the best, I feel it’s a way my consciousness could absorb these transitions, birth and death, and feel kind of mind blown by them. 

And even though I’ve always been interested in things like birth and death, just being with them;

My husband dying was a very profound experience for me and made me very happy in many ways. Because I saw someone do that so well, so naturally, and with such enthusiasm. That was a profound moment for me to see that as a way to approach these huge changes. 

[00:20:12] Scott Snibbe: Thank you for sharing that, I appreciate it. And yeah for those of us who’ve had the privilege of – I had a friend who was a nun who died too early. But she died very well in the way that you’ve said; as an example to us of how to make that transition really meaningful and beautiful and even joyful. I think for a lot of people it’s hard to imagine that could be true. 

[00:20:37] Laurie Anderson: It’s apparently, I think, one of the most exciting things that could happen to you where you just kinda go, Oh, whoa. No matter what you believe, that is a big thing to lose your body, a very big thing. And what do you think might be left? 

[00:20:53] Scott Snibbe: It was quite surprising when I first started studying with the Dalai Lama because he said he rehearsed his death six times a day and that he was quite excited for the time when it would come. It was really a big shock to see that, at least that Tibetan Buddhist approach to death, that it’s a kind of adventure. 

[00:21:11] Laurie Anderson: Yeah and I think it depends on what you want. It’s very important to want to have an adventure and want to see something other than what you’re told necessarily, to want to experience it for yourself, and feel that energy to look at it. 

And sometimes that’s hard to muster because our culture is very anti that, it’s very much about pushing things away, and euphemism too. But I also find that it brings out a certain kind of heroism in people and I’ve just been watching Zelenskyy who sounds like Gandhi to me in many ways. He’s in his bunker, the Russians are saying, We’re definitely going to kill you, and somebody goes, Okay, how is this feeling?

“My life today is wonderful because I believe that I’m needed. And that’s the most important sense of life is that you’re needed.”

—Volodymyr Zelenskyy

And then he said that you’re not just an emptiness that breathes and walks and eats something. 

I was like, Wait, who wrote that? That sounds like Allen Ginsburg or Gandhi or somebody like that. Suddenly it was like okay, this guy, is he a Buddhist? Emptiness that breathes and walks and eats something. You know, here’s the president of a country who has the microphone and he could talk about freedom in his country and loyalty and oppression. No, what he says is something incredibly personal, My life today is wonderful. Who asked you if it’s wonderful? You know, I’m telling you my life is wonderful because I am needed.

And this is really something to say. This is somebody who has gotten beyond some borders there, who is really talking to people, not spouting stuff about freedom and oppression, this and that. And I also like watching his clips of him dancing on Dancing With the Stars in 2006, he had a number of really amazing outfits. 

[00:23:17] Scott Snibbe: Oh yeah, I saw him doing the “Single Ladies” music video yesterday, an old clip. That’s amazing. 

[00:23:25] Laurie Anderson: He’s incredible. A very joyful person who is understanding what is going on very well, and helping people. And that’s the other term of the big things that I guess Buddhism could give you is not just your sense of relief of your own pain but the sense that you dedicate everything that you do to all beings. I suppose the thing I appreciate the most about learning Buddhist principles is the incredible freedom that it gives you. You’re nobody’s slave. You may be your own slave but you can fix that. 

[00:24:05] Scott Snibbe: Oh, that’s wonderful. I wanted to ask you, you talked about impermanence, and we talked about the death meditation. These are I guess what you’d call analytical meditations, meditations where you fill up your mind. 

There’s a type of meditation you talked about in the beginning, you start with the mindfulness meditation where you clear your mind or you see what’s passing through it. But in these analytical meditations you deliberately put stories in your mind. You go through a narrative. 

And for you, one of the greatest storytellers I know, I wonder if you could talk about that relationship between storytelling and analytical meditation; the stories you tell yourself in meditation versus stories you tell other people. How does that work? 

Storytelling, language, and authority

[00:24:45] Laurie Anderson: You know, I try to stop that story machine. It helps me to stop the language. That’s what I like about Vipassana, which is the very technique of using the body. Because I can tell a million stories to make a million different points but the body is not having it. It’s going to go, Oh you can tell that all you want, but I feel this way. 

So it’s why I think it was a big mistake for the Catholic church to start translating the liturgy into languages other than Latin. Taking it out of Latin meant people are starting to think, Oh, what’s the story here? What does that word mean? Instead of letting you, the mantra, or the Latin chant, take you and free your mind into another place. 

It’s what music does, too. It helps you free yourself from meaning into a much more tangible world or state, in which you feel things and understand them, rather than put them into words. We are always trying to put things into words. And a lot of things cannot be put into words and words can’t be put into things. They’re two universes. 

For me, stories helped me a lot to try to understand what I’m trying to do. But they get in my way when I’m trying to do it. I make a transition when I stop looking for things and stop analyzing them. 

There was such a great thing that somebody just told me about. It was a question posed to Leonard Cohen and the question was, How do images usually come to you? And he answered, Well, things come so damn slow. Things come and they come and it’s a tollgate, and they’re particularly asking for something that you can’t manage.

They say, We got the goods here, what do you want to pay? Well, I’ve got my intelligence, I’ve got my mind. No, we don’t want that. I’ve got my whole training as a poet. No, we don’t want that. I’ve got some licks, I’ve got some skills with my fingers on the guitar. No, we don’t want that either. I’ve got a broken heart. No, we don’t want that. I’ve got a pretty girlfriend. No, we don’t want that. I’ve got sexual desire. No, we don’t want that. I’ve got a whole lot of things.

And the tollgate keeper says, That’s not going to get it. We want you in a condition that you are not accustomed to and that you yourself cannot name. We want you in a condition of receptivity that you cannot produce by yourself. How are you going to come up with that? What’s the answer? He says, I don’t know. I’ve been lucky over the years, I’ve been willing to pay the price. 

 So his answer really is, in a way, to try to forget the whole thing and be very, I guess the word would be receptive, without expecting what to get. When he says, Pay the price — it’s an interesting thing because that’s what Joe Biden just said to Putin, You’re going to pay.

And since then I realized, this is a transaction. And we’re watching it happen. And Putin is going, Yeah, I’m going to pay, can you give me a discount? No. Okay, I’m ready to pay, I’m paying for it, I’m doing it, I’m paying for it. You’ve just acknowledged that this is a transaction. Some people are going to get hurt along the way in this transaction but hey, it’s just business. And it’s another way to see this, as a tollgate. But when you ask,

What is the price of enlightenment? What is the price of my education as a Buddhist, you realize there is none.

It stops being like that, that you really have to be in what is sometimes called a beginner’s mind. I’m a natural in that, just because I think of myself as a total idiot. I feel like a lot of things I say are stupidly pompous, I don’t really understand what I’m saying often. I try not to put myself down too much but I do see myself as someone who knows very little and just likes to take some guesses at this or that.

I try my very best to do what Leonard Cohen is saying which is, Don’t list the things you need to know and how you’re going to know them and how you’re going to make sure that other people know that you know them. Just stop doing that and think of it as just this kind of thing that will hopefully blow your mind.

The most recent teaching that I’ve been doing is with a teacher named Bhikkhu Analayo. He is a wonderful theorist but also a wonderful practitioner. And he takes you through these 16 steps in the Anapanasati Sutta. And it’s so logical and doable in a way that it’s kind of breathtaking.

And I just realized how grateful I am to my teachers. If someone asked me, How could I go in that direction a little bit? I would just say, for me, it’s been finding teachers who know a lot more than me and just asking them questions and then experimenting for myself to see if I respond to that. And then trusting myself enough to say, No, that’s not gonna work for me or wow, that’s really gonna work for me. 

[00:30:36] Scott Snibbe: That’s wonderful, that open mind too. I think a lot of us are closed off to authority but if you find the right authority you can really learn something from them. 

[00:30:45] Laurie Anderson: And I’m not sure if I would say authority, but the authorities that I really love encourage you to be your own and say, Don’t believe me. “Don’t take my word for it” is the greatest teaching. But here’s something that you could think about. 

Those are the great ones and I’m happy to find those people. And there’s a lot of them. This is why I love this image of Bob Thurman that he keeps putting out, this image of the jewel tree.

 

What is the Jewel Tree of Tibet? By Robert Thurman
The Tibetan Buddhist Jewel Tree. Photo Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sw6fq4Zomko

And this is, to me, a very valuable image and something that you can do whether you’re a Buddhist or not. You can make a visual. A tree is a kind of good thing because it’s a kind of happy image. And on that sheet put everyone who you admire and love. And it also helps if they know some things, your Uncle Al, Krishna, whatever. And then just recognize that they are all there to help you. That’s their job. And you have access to all of this. And they would like to be on your tree, you’re not torturing them or anything. They would like to be there. They would like to help you. 

The role of work in a meaningful life

[00:31:56] Scott Snibbe: You touched on work a couple of times, about how the pandemic has made people reconsider their work. And you’re also a person who is phenomenally productive and engaged with your work; I hesitate to call it work, it’s so joyful and so beautiful.

But I wonder if you could just talk a little bit about the role of work in your life and especially your advice to people struggling with that now, trying to figure out what work is, how to live a meaningful, beneficial life. As someone who I really admire and doing the most with your life through your work. 

What is the role of work in your life and and how do you live a meaningful life?

Laurie Anderson headshot

[00:32:27] Laurie Anderson: That is a bit of a weird thing to call it work because for many people it has to do more with being able to put food on the table. And to find a way to do that, that feels, as you pointed out, like an elaborate form of playing around with different things. So I think one of the things that are great about this particular moment is people are finding that maybe the work that they have been doing isn’t the work that they feel is giving them the most satisfaction in some ways. 

And so it’s a wonderful time to look at that. A lot of people are kinda downscaling or whatever. They suddenly realize, I don’t really need a hot tub because it’s stressing me out and I could probably just as well go for a walk in the rain, a nice, free, misty, natural rain, and get just as much, maybe more, and I wouldn’t have to work nonstop. 

So adjusting those things and if you had any reservations about the meaning of your work and that bothered you — I’m not saying that it isn’t cool to do any kind of work that you like. But if you have any reservations about that, then you can rethink it. 

And I wish that I was able to apply what I’m saying because I suddenly realized I have to go on these kinds of make-up concert things in April and I’m terrified. I don’t remember how to play, I don’t remember why I would be on a stage, I don’t know what I would be doing there. It’s called being very rusty I guess, but like why would I do that? And that’s my work supposedly, I afford to do this as I go out and do these kinds of things. 

And so I’m going through that same thing as well. Just going, Is that really what I want to do? Is it worthwhile? I don’t know. So I’m not just saying this like it’s an easy thing to think about, I’m thinking about the same thing. 

And I think it’s good to keep pushing that around in your mind because even though you don’t have the answer right now, at least it’s something you’re thinking, I should pay attention to that. Maybe this isn’t the thing for me and maybe I’d like to do something that’s more engaged in a different way or less competitive or less lonely or just more fun?

[00:34:59] Scott Snibbe: So Laurie, is there anything else you want to add before we let you go off to prepare for your Ukrainian benefit?

Bhikkhu Analayo’s 4 steps to noticing and feeling the breath

Bhikku Analayo speaking
Bhikku Analayo, photo: https://www.buddhistinquiry.org

[00:35:06] Laurie Anderson: Oh gosh I don’t have any like little pearls. Just, life is so hard. But I guess one of the things that I’m learning about breath with Bhikkhu Analayo is really simple. And it’s just a couple of steps that I can say a lot of people who study Buddhism really do try to rely on their breath and noticing it and just feeling it. 

So I found that some of the very first steps in this process are so valuable. Just giving yourself time to breathe, and notice it, and be curious about it, be relaxed about it. And then let it fill your whole body so that you become aware of your whole body. And then the next step is to calm all of your body activities. 

So I just find those four basic steps so helpful to me, to just let breath fill your body and then just completely calm it. Also, he has a really lovely voice when he instructs you to let go of all the things that you’re worried about; he just goes, No need for that now. As I hear that I’m like, no need for that now, I just can relax. 

And I think to let yourself stop doing all of that stuff is a really important thing to start you on the journey of going into these kinds of crazy areas that he’s pointing to. But he does it so gently that you just go, Oh okay, I could do that. So I wanted to thank Bhikkhu Analayo for his incredible teachings. You can check him out in BCBS in Barre. He has wonderful books and wonderful teachings online. I just at the moment find him really, super inspiring. As I do many people including Zelenskyy, the Gandhi of our moment. 

[00:37:15] Scott Snibbe: That’s a great simple mantra to take away, No need for that now. I think I can remember that. 

Well, Laurie, thank you so much for joining us on A Skeptic’s Path to Enlightenment. I’m so grateful that you gave us some of your time and I think people are really going to benefit from this. We’re also going to include some tracks from Songs From the Bardo in the episode following this as a little guided meditation, with your permission, so thank you.

[00:37:37] Laurie Anderson: Oh sure, and the other musicians in that, Ruben Kodheli especially the cellist and Shazad Ismaeli and Jesse Paris Smith and the wonderful singer Tenzin Choegyal. It was really fun to do that. Because we had no plan, we just improvised that thing entirely, as a live performance.

And we had so much fun doing that. Because we went into the present in that live thing. Honestly, nobody had any idea what we were doing. I’d say, You read, I’ll play, you do something else, and you sing once in a while. And then we were just caught in this present moment and so we thought, Oh let’s record that. So try to record the present, good luck. 

[00:38:17] Scott Snibbe: Well, it’s beautiful, thank you so much.

[00:38:21] Laurie Anderson: Yeah, thank you, Scott, it was really nice to see you. Thanks, bye.

[00:38:35] Scott Snibbe: See you later, have a great day.

Thanks for joining us for this episode of A Skeptic’s Path to Enlightenment. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider making a donation to our podcast. A Skeptic’s Path to Enlightenment is a nonprofit organization supported entirely by donations that keep all our content free and ad free. To support us now, visit our website at skepticspath.org. We accept cash, credit, Bitcoin, and other cryptocurrencies and your donations are tax-deductible in the U.S.



Credits

Produced by Tara Anderson
Audio mastering by Christian Parry
Digital Production by Jason Waterman and Isabela Acebal
Social Media by Isabela Acebal

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