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#59: Mary Karr, Best-Selling Poet and Master Memoirist

Mary Karr has shared many dark pieces of her past in her memoirs, from a painful childhood, to a long struggle with alcoholism and depression, to living her entire life as an agnostic before becoming a Roman Catholic. It was when she said she found herself "sober in a mental institution" that she first began to pray and meditate, both of which are practices she continues today to stay centered.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
If this is your first time listening to the ten percent happier podcast a welcome and be, if you like, the show do me a favor, take a second and subscribe rate, the podcast, and if you really want to hook me up, tell some friends about how they too can find us. Now. Here's the show from ABC this is a ten percent happier podcast of Dan Harris. I guess some now a a memoirist and we were in one book, but I suppose you could call it a memoir. The person who is widely acknowledged to be one of the master. Memoir arrests in american culture, though, is Mary car, she poet by training but she's, written a bunch. Best selling memoirs, including the liars club and lit in which he tells very colorful story. About her own life, which has been truly truly fascinating. And in recent years one of the interesting parts of american life is that she's become meditated
Oh, I invited IRAN and we had a fascinating discussion. I think you're in a joint here's Mary, so the question of when you first is You got into meditation. How did that happen? I found myself newly sober in a mental institution, and when you find yourself in a mental institution- a lot of suggestions that people have made that you were too cool to take you're suddenly you realize you know my approach to things, I'm in a mental institution or our efforts it's not working so Oh, I began to Who prey in marriage? a prey on my knees and pursued initially and still centering. You know on the Serb non
Religious centering meditation, where I counted my breasts. One to ten is what I started with an absence branch down under various forms, but that still is a large part of my practice, so that was some twenty think. Twenty six years ago, twenty seven years ago, I started let limited bag of brazilian for those there, maybe some people dont know your story for those people tell them. How did you end up in a mental men? How did I end up in a mental institution? Well, I mean in some ways it's a story that fills many profitable volumes of my memoirs, liars club Tyrian lit, but well I think you know I ice I've been hold. I come from a dysfunctional family and I always say that any family with more than one person in it so ah well, yours, I may not. Having listened to the lion's share of lit, did pretty,
special and water air, my mother's Mary, seven times they were both my parents were drunks. I was raped when I was a child, you know whip it wasn't I mean the great thing about a childhood like mine. Is your upwardly mobile, the minute you get? You leave the house, you know if you dont go the pennant state penitentiary or the Looney Bin, but I think I was depressed my whole life really when I look back suicide attempts his child. When I was about ten and and I had what was called, I was married- I had Baby I was living outside Cambridge Massachusetts with a very patient husband, and I was super depressed when and when I could see what I quit drinking. I kind of awoke to that depression. I mean you know, alcohols depressant drug in it it at aggravates depression, but at the time it also feels like
static to you. I think so, when I put that an aesthetic down the amount of noise in my head, and none of it was good news, unites my mind had nothing optimistic to say. You know every Bruce was bone cancer and Vienna. The Jaguar would get the parking place and I would have to carry the baby on my hip Vienna for six blocks in a blue You know it was just. I was memorizing the bad news, I think for my whole life and dumb, and that's that's what that's, what led to you living in a mental institution or was it doing so is after you gave up alcohol. I was, I was nine months sober and that was a triumph, but you know I've been talking to a but people out. I don't go into a lot of details about it. I've been talking to other people are equipped drinking and I had mental health professional life span,
to an end at people were trusting to me that I needed it develop a spiritual practice that quitting drinking was poor, for that, but that I also needed to find a way to think about my life in terms of service to other people which really didn't interests me. I was interested in service to myself and that I develop some sense of a higher power and I'd been an agnostic, my entire life, even as a child, we had no God in our house, and so your mother was injured. Buddhism. She wasn't, she was sort of interests you. My mother was a deal a little bit of Adela timing. She was also an intellectual and a place when there were there weren't any in this kind of Texas Backwater where I grew up so she wasn't. She did yoga nineteen, fifty six Emmy while she was said ahead of her time and she was a feminist and she was news report as she was a lot of interesting things, but.
But not really anybody with said discipline practice in terms of anything, including in our being apparent, probably but Yeah, so I know what I mean I was just very depressed and I got sober and I got more depressed and I developed a suicidal ideation and it felt like the greatest defeat of my life going into custodial caring. You know to check into you know Maclean Hospital, which is what I call the mental Maria typing and lit, It was pretty nice. I mean the campus look like harboured. I mean did look that different from Harvard College, so it was kind of a high rent, a place to go in, and but while I was are the people have been counseling me and swear, trying to steer me in a direction of developing a prayer and meditation practice. I just decided somebody said you know what do you have to lose
Yo prey on your day on your knees every day for thirty days and see if you feel better- and I thought well I'm here for three weeks anyway and I began to pray meditate there, we'll get the meditation a second, their prayers, where I want to ask you out first, because here at the point in the book were you have repeated wherein over again how would have sort of virulent atheist. You were you said no evidence for the divine. So how did you get yourself to pray and what sort of metaphysical beliefs have you subsequently adopted?
and how well I I literally did it completely by rote odd there were somebody had given me a book that had a prayer, that's a catholic prayer, the prayer of Saint Francis, but I didn't know that there are probably wouldn't have said it. But it's you know, Lord make me an instrument of your peace. Were there's hatred. Let me so love where there is conflict, pardon for theirs doubtful. Where there is despair, hope- and I thought I was just saying- the sentences just as sentences to say if you were saying a jump- rope rhyme. That said these things- you know it's kind of like a positive affirmation. These are bad things to wish, for you know to be a peaceful person. I've never been particularly peaceful. I'm not peaceful now, but I'm an alarmed and that's a good thing, and so on So it would I begin to pray that prayer I little? I set it to the light fixture. Oh, and I also prayed I asked to for help not drinking.
And so I get on my knees, I actually sort of started that before I was in a mental institution, I get on my knees in the morning and say: keep me away from a drink and I would get on my knees in the evenings say. Thank you! So for not drinking, so I didn't have a sense that some higher power or God or something metaphysical was keeping me sober. I thought I was like doing some kind of bio feedback or something with my big smart brain. I just thought. Oh, I'm just thinking happy things. You know the way you would want,
Mr Rogers and pretend you know he was really your friend, so I had Ciro. Ah ah theology, my head zero men metaphysics. I had no idea concept of any kind of God. It was just completely rope, completely rope and an dumb, and when I try to do centering per that breath counting thing there was so much noise in my head. It was like being got me now: beastly you're, a meditative like being with a caged animal yeah. At best, it's like you're, being your locked up with the enemy, yes Sure, like one, you know you count one breath you count to breath sure like. Why did that also be? Do the and then and just every resentment in gripe and terror? And it's like being
locked in a room and so on, but something started to happen both in the prayer and meditation. Is that I get moments of quiet and they begin to permeate my life. When I wasn't meditating, I developed its almost. Physical space is the only way I can I can describe it. Is that all my life I mean I'm somebody obviously with an active mind, an overactive mind my had it been chattering like Kapital Monkey me and suddenly I would have these moments of quiet that were south of my neck is the only way I can and I would have ideas that felt they didn't come from me because they were not the kind of idea. I've ever had, and so our member specifically being with my son, was a toddler little.
Bigger than that and our car broke down and store drive one day and it was snowing and we had to be somewhere, and I was late for something and we didn't have AAA in those days and we didn't have any money and I have flat and Didn't have a jack in the car? Didn't have a spare.
And it was a beautiful sunset. The weather was kind of coming in Babbitt. There is his piece of sky that was beautiful and dumb. I just had this moment where it was like. Thank you know. No tiger is eating me, you know, will get the so eventually we'll get the car fixed it'll be ok will find a way to pay up, we'll be fine, and these people came up that I knew who are also people trying to quit drinking and wound up helping me fix a car, so dislike serendipity. I I didn't think God brought the good people to help me changed my car now. I cannot think that now I can, I think, that's the leap, I'm interested How do you get from that kind of sick scepticism in your case, deep cynicism to actually believing that there may be truly a higher power?
I began to come. I begin to make decisions based on prayer. Ah, I began to like someone to advise me? I see how do you know said. God is telling you to do things him in my mind. Tells me too by gun and and kill everybody on the subway Emmy. Might you know my mind tells me all kinds of bat. None of it is particularly happy, I'm so happy what how does God speed you and people began to tell me their experiences and they would say things like: you never get a long term plan and I'm thinking well. What good is that I mean? Don't you want like a five year plan from cod in their peoples who will know You'll get a like in the moment and it'll have a lot of quiet around it and I'd never had any
quiet in my head or in my life at all, really, even when it was quiet, I my mind was: I was highly highly anxious and very and secure and very afraid most of the time, but I didn't perceive it that way. I didn't understand. I guess identified with my fears- is the only way so I guess there began to be through premeditated. I guess it. S way can describe it. I have a I talk to young woman. Who's. Trying to get sober now has little kids in his.
Currently, there are no money and is doing everything she can do and as frequently frustrated by children and calls me and says you know I'm screaming at my kids in and one day she call me in situ screaming at my kids and- and I think I've lost my mind like I think I've lost my mind. I hit my daughter and I can't this is not who I wanna be, and I think she thought I was gonna colder and I said, and she said but but she was crying. She was quite hysterical, and I said ah: ok, ok, ok, wool noticing that you ve lost your mind. Who, who is telling you you ve, lost her. My who told you to call me if you lost your mind, you'd be beating them. You know you had a moment a loss of control, which many parents have an obviously yet a man. I don't need to tell you that you know you don't have triggered just said you didn't,
better, and you did it anyway and it's scary to be scary. To me to it's. So that seems healthy, I mean and then so I guess I begin to have this notice herself that I identified with more than the voice of fear that was in my head, and I guess I begin to think of that as God again for a long time, I would say for three to five years: it had very secular terms on it. It would be like I had a sober sell for. I had a sane sell, for I had us That was not afraid and it didn't really feel external to me. I had a girlfriend who was literally a rocket scientist at MIT who was also trying to stay sober and she prayed, and she said I have this sober self. I pray to, and I thought will it still harmless enough?
but after making decisions out of this quietness, my life got better because I was acting. I mean, if you think of it in psychological rather than spiritual terms. I was acting less out of fear and if I didn't know what to do, I would just not make a decision If, if I was still have a lot of noise and fear, I would try to just postpone whatever the decision was. What time I was supposed to teach, I don't know, should I teach at eight in the morning? Should I teach at three afternoon, I would pray about every little dumb decisions should I use this day care provider that take care provider should but also, should I take this job I apply for at Sarah Lawrence and Syracusan. Oh sir,. Where are my heartburn has been my baby daddy and I were talk about where we wanted to live. We bidding Cambridge along time over sort of sick of it, and I too,
down the job. I now have it Syracuse through prayer and the third time I was offer an every time. They came back with more money and and the third time the guy called. It was strange. I just said yes I'll, take the job. It was the strangest thing, just felt very quiet. Any he you know. I had the next person on the list. This bizarre last offer but you're the hardest negotiator I've ever negotiate. And I said you're negotiating with god- that's l, a sort of I felt like you know, and later I met the guy and I got to know him and it turned out. He was sober, and I said you won't believe this, but I like I wasn't negotiating if I if our negotiating, I would have taken the first offer, because I was so and secure, and instead I was, I dont, know how I came to the decision it just when it got quite enough.
Decisions are made and so on, if you about it when you're you know, and so but then also weird things begin to happen. Like I prayed on my knees for money, I had a girlfriend. She was a Harvard social theorist and she's the one that you pray for what you want. What do you pray for and I'm, like you know, I pray to stand it. I pray to get through the day and she's like we want. I was like widely. I made nine thousand dollars this area, a poet I'd like to generate more income, and she said, well then pray for money. I thought oh great, I'm like one of those crazy women's putting her hand on the tv sang Lord. Send me an email, thirty dollars. And literally like three weeks later, I got this grant that I got a wife. Writers over which you can apply for- and you know so it literally fell out of the blue. It's not so I'd applied for was waiting to hear so And she said, then, that same persons
an noble. So now you believe in God and like no because they were head denominate me when I was still drinking and I wasn't praying, and so so I guess you this decide in a way, there's a there's, a point of decision on the other thing this person made me do, which is incredibly pure I'll, If you think, if somebody is hard headed is, I am, it makes more sense. She may be Acre gratitude list every day, because I was such an ingrate for every letter of the alphabet, and this will be a Harvard social tears. I think she wrote on Durkheim or something for her phd dissertation and so think about you, Norman. Like you know, for the apples that we bought. You know for the, but then I noticed that I did. I was being grateful for things not that I was actually grateful for, but thing
that. I thought this invisible god. I didn't believe in would take away from me it didn't say I was grateful for them, so I real ized sort of through this quietness that I already had all kinds of magical sinking and all kinds of superstitious nonsense in my head, even though I call myself this sort of rationalistic. Person, but I realized I thought I certainly believed in evil. Had nobody. I ain't no prom believing in evil, and so I guess, I began to make a decision and then eventually, as you know, I don't know how far you are in my in let but eventually, strangely enough I became a roman Catholic. So yet that's the guy, I'm I'm not, to that point so that I could identify lay straight you, I've, Google, you, and so I saw that you that, as part of the book, you became sober and became a Catholic.
Yes, I know it's such a leap from where I am in your narrative. That's the pardoned, I'm trying to understand here's what I want. I want to actually talk more about meditation, but that this them the metaphysical part, the cow. Do you go from from? doubting so severely to actually buying a pretty big body of theology. Well, the catholic church everybody thinks about in terms theology and its words like any theological structure. People, sale, Lima, cafeteria, Catholic, everybody's cafeteria, everything I mean Jesus, you know was cafeteria belabour if you buy I the idea that he was in the garden of guests, me saying I don't want to do this. I wanna be crucified. You know it's not like you saying oh yeah crucify me: oh yeah billina. Who cares you know, I'm so play? I don't mind: so my son
decided he wanted to go to church. He was a little kid came in his like, spoke Guenaud, Batman, pajamas and said you don't want to go to church, and I said why, and he said I want to see of God's there, which is kind of like the only sentence he might have said we did this thing that we called God Aroma were anybody. We knew who went to any kind of churches and our temple or anything we would go with them to their place. You know, and so I found myself in this catholic church, I mean there are a lot of interesting people there to Vice Wolfe. Was there a writer whose friend and colleague of Mine and Syracuse turns out the baron's? Were there those those crazy, lefty the Jesuits ah Jerry being Karel Berrigan were both members of that parish, but the priest wise, a guy, I became very close to.
He was not a fire. Brandy was in a jazz what he wasn't an intellectual. He wasn't, but he was but he was incredibly humble and not at all wet. I don't know how to explain it in that british terminology. You know he was just beery Dona well, yet it just peering matter of fact, Kai, but very kind and very humble, and so I would bring my son to Sunday School in most of the time I bring a lie tat in a bunch of papers. Degree in, unlike Sid, back row and sort of you no great papers and have a coffee. Because I wanted to know what they were teaching him in this in this church. And I got very moved not by really said, o everybody, you know writers and they like the ritual that
some kind of boring. I actually like it better now, but at the beginning I just pennant darkest. They just did the same thing over and over and it didn't seem interested but at the time, but I liked was the faith of the people. There was a moment in mass where people call out their intentions. And that means that whatever their hoping for praying for, they say out loud, so they would say a warm and saying you know and gratitude for my son's heart surgery or my daughter's back from Afghanistan or you know my mother just died or we just got a job and were thankful for Thou, whatever sang
I just think about appear in a room full of people. Think just imagine a restaurant. If, suddenly you know there was the bubble visible over everybody's head, were you could see what they were afraid of or what they were terrified about her with you know what burdens they carried and something about I was just. I would just cry every time a mass whom people were saying there things I just thought: I'd walk into the church, and I think these are church people. You know they looked very You know Turkey compared to me my little bohemian self Anna and then they would say those things in Anna. I would tear up and I would find myself feeling like them. Also the thing I love about Catholicism it. It's gonna, sound, very dumb, but its very carnal. It's very much about the body. You know incarnates added that that is opposed to say other christian
purchase it, there's a body on the cross, you know and so nobody's gonna walk in and look at that body and think, oh you haven't suffered, like you, don't know anything about suffering. You know that I think the I was always very aware of suffering in the presence of suffering. You know crucified Jesus suffering, I don't know I just I think people suffer a lot and I think I've always been tender hearted. I think so I get why get while out of that would be moving, meaning but too I guess I'm trying to drill down on at what point? Did you make the leap to believe Maybe you don't that Jesus is the Son of God who was born immaculately and then died and then rose from the dead, the debate, the basic fundamentals of
I certainly believe in the resurrection I've I read. There's a group of sort of wild Jesuits call the Jesus seminars that to a lot of research on the historical source this and and one way I read- and maybe this is I'd this obviously disputed by the the church. Is it a virgin birthday? The word virgin it as its used in the Greek Bible also refers to a woman who hasn't had children. So obviously that's not the rap, ah in the scriptures, but ah. Kind of a day at a time and a year. At a time I found myself. Going to mass and being very moved and comforted by mass, and also the sacraments of you know they can communion. I wound up taking communion whose
Funny moment I got kicked out of of instruction of you know, there's a ritual four people were your spouse to taken structure that anyway, gotta fight with the lady who Ryanair? cheese kicked me out and so on. So I got this whole parish, irish parish, priest, Joe Cain, and I say you know well do? I have to travel and she says that I can't be baptized and he says: look why don't you just go talk to Toby Toby's, a friend of yours? I should go talk to him about Jesus you're, always saying you think Jesus is creepy. I said I do. I do I think he's creepy you think he psych. You know this idea of somebody open it. My idea of hell, ah somebody says in a poem, is this guy opening his shirt sang? Look what I did for you. You know it's just they who needs it. You know, and and so I started meeting with Toby and reading the gospels. You know the Greek Bible with him in and having talks also with Father Joe,
Jesus in, and I saw TAT a lot of barnacle home thy superimposed on to him a lot of stuff that I thought was churches that wasn't nest. SARA Lee True, and I also noticed something I was. I was involved in something called a peace and Social Justice Committee, which is the you know, chain yourself to the nuclear reactor people and bring the orphans from El Salvador and get you no go to the prison, and- and I notice it all these people varying Jesus and also very ended doing stuff for the poor. Not just writing the check
I'm going down to Salvador going building. The house is moving people into your home, taking care of you, no children in prison, ministries and food soup kitchens and all of this, and they all talked about Jesus, just Jesus Jesus Jesus, and I don't know how to explain why these people were attractive to me. But they were. They had a quality of. They were matter of fact. I don't have to explain it, but they just didn't seem drippy. You know like sometimes you go to a church. This is also true. Protestant churches and I've seen it and temples have seen another other religions there were somebody. Does this really slow thing up at the front? You know to show Holy they are, you have a priest, will say the thing everything's really slow and an just people are drippy and can of creepy on you feel like they're, they're, phony, or instance,
there are in some way. I just noticed that all these people, really in De Jesus, they say very realistic, and they were talking in a very active way about power her in meditation and an numb, and I wound up doing something called the ignition exercises. Eventually, because a friend of mine, it was an olympic swim coach. Had these three girls go to the Olympics from doing the spiritual exercises so really out of this totally selfish being all like. You know Tony robins like do this,
your life will get better. I thought well I'll. Do these exercises everybody's into Jesus seems a lot happier than I am so I can't I don't get Jesus all do this and see how I feel and dumb, and they taught many different kinds of meditation on many different kinds of prayer methods of prayer, Lecter, Yoda Bina. You know where you pray with a religious scripture on there's a visual asean. You do that prince of Mine, George Saunders, who said to bed and Buddhists and Michael Hair, who just died recently also Tibetan Buddhist said, is very much like something they did in their practice. These different kinds of meditations and prayers.
And it's a thirty week saying that you do rewind up, praying like I don't know hour hour and a half everyday, so that was very that's really where before then I've got to say it was pretty vague. When I got baptized, I said to Father Joe, you know, I don't think the Pope is the ultimate religious authority and he said maybe we'll see, Who is like this theological ninja? You know go. Adamantite say only think women should be priests, and I think we should practice open communion, because if Jesus is such a good egg, you know why would he do and have somebody to your house and not feed them and and instead of him arguing with me to say only Father praise about that. A lot of you just say the subtle sweet thing that isn't that just not answering the question sort of yeah! I get you something aspiration one.
I saw somebody who didn't wanna betray his bows right an end. Yet Who wanted me in his room. You know there is a woman who had gotten upon who actually got up in the middle of mass one day and stormed up on the altar and and to a fit ranting about the Vatican and the Pope and women priest in a bunch of stuff and then said, I'm never coming back, current. All this has changed and stormed out, and then I know it's like a few months later she came back and I I ass Father Joe, I said window. How did you get Nancy to come back? He said I just look up and said you know Nancy. We really mission. We wish you'd come back, Sis which, just like you just this week, I you know, I don't know he a gay and lesbian masses in, and he was kind of right wing guy,
but he was somebody them me another something in that can to where they say you, you there's something called informed conscience, which is kind of the great loophole for fur roman Catholics where if in the moment the Holy Spirit, you feel the Holy Spirit is guiding you to oppose church doctrine so thereabout to burn somebody at the stake and you have a chance to protect the person and the churches saying what we ve got: a burn him at the stake wall. Maybe your conscience move, she D say now. This is a bad idea, so Father Joe, I think, was very big, uninformed conscience. I promise our listeners that I will start talking to you about more about meditation, but I'm just gonna do one.
Question on on your embrace of Christianity because I just think it so interesting, and anybody who read your book, or at least as far as I have in your book, will find a very interesting you talk about Jesus and I am not an expert in anything really, but definitely not an expert in Christianity or nor mine is an expert in Jesus, but what I do know but Jesus he sounds like incredible human being. I didn't like him. Well, Love thy neighbour as thyself is really radical Joseph rating for other people. I'm not sure I can do it like a great bar to shoot for and hard to argue Libya? Is that the first person I mean that the golden rule I mean you know the Jews were saying that thousands of years before the Buddhist semi, they're all set all religions have a kind of don't be a jerk. I bet ya, a nasty person I have
cancer backwards for it, but nonetheless, so you you'd. Let me play the sceptics projecting where I think we can all agree that if you look, if you judge Jesus by the words most of us know of that he is said to have uttered Charles ago phenomenal guy. But why do you have to take the leap to oh yeah? He rose from the dead I dont think everybody does know what you do and I'm interested how you got about a cavalier I have a very ecumenical. I believe the Holy Spirit assumes many forms and saw Don't believe that everybody who doesn't believe that Jesus rose from the data is gonna burn in hell or anything Do you know what I'm saying I doing us more curious? How about me? How do I go? How did it go for this? I guess gradually you begin to see that there are things that happen, that don't make any sense I'll give you one example what I was doing, the exercises, there's a period and lent, were you pray every day
be shown your own sinfulness and all its ugliness Andy, it's kind of a scary time. Its people often describe odd things happen. I, my mother, long complicated person in my psychological life. I was moving. Her out of the house had grown up him. Were she leaped bullet holes all over the house and tried to kill me with a butcher knife and- and I was feeling very pious and kind of sulphur, Just that. I'm helping this woman and I wound up at her new house which had bought for her eye and outside Houston and dumb. I had lot left my bible, which shows using a prey. It's on the airplane, and so I wound up having this huge, screaming cuss fight with her. Where essentially spoke to her the way, no one should ever speak to anyone, especially an eighty year old woman is just moved out of the house.
She's been living in for fifty years and in some and then I had these terrible night terrors like terrible like just awful, and I woke up, and I have been given these prayers to pray by my spiritual director in this program. So I can find in her house we're just moved, was her bible that she had when she was a little girl. So my mother's born in nineteen, twenty one so she's from like one thousand nine hundred and twenty six twenty seven, this whole Bible is the only passage is marked in the Bible where the passages I have been given- and my sister was a physics major remember, calling her they're marked in blue chalk, and I remember calling her and saying what are the odds of this.
What are the odds? I'm sorry, I was given three passages. Two of them were marked. What are the odds and it's not like? They were like one of MS, very famous song, one of them not so much so you could say: well, that's just a coincide but it's a very I it's not like the bullet going, but you know going in the front of your helmet and coming out the back and your head's. Not touch is not that kind of miracle, but it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck, and a number of things like that that feel I had a breast cancer scare. It's a long story, not that I didn't have breast cancer, but. I wound up running into a breast surgeon running into abreast surgeon who, whose daughter I hid couched in little league,
when they were telling me they could not buried on me, and he said, oh I'll. Do it like right now, like bizarre just things for like if you would turn left instead a bright coincident, complete coincidences, but things that were very odd, and I guess you one begins to think you begin to credence those things, and you say what, if I know you had the experience of not having talk to somebody for many years and then you think of them and they call it is ever happening, but I feel it has, but I cant figure specific gave it does it. People's here would have us my husband or wife or whatever they. They call all the time and you think about them. All the time, but are often I have something you know very odd to my talk too in twenty years and they'll call- and it's just a very strange- it's very odd. So so I
There are things that we don't know about. So it's almost. If you think about the odds. Tat. Jesus was born a first century jewish peasant who pissed off all the religious and civil authorities to such an extent that they killed him. Everybody grace a bad guy, they killed him. What are the odds were still talking about him? How likely, as that, think of it help. How likely is that? Not so I mean it even if you look at other religions, everybody's, a prince or king or he's he's born on third base. You know he's Donald Trump he's got a head start, you know, but this guy's, just from loser veil, every like a health angel, his little sector, whatever the hell it was in. In the first century the comment. It is easier for me to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Then it is to believe that the make will inherit the earth
given what I know about the meek and the earth hard for me to buy top self Lord, but So I guess you begin to believe many things and the idea of him rising from the dead and it's not just a resuscitation. You know, but is an actual resurrection. Something is actually happen him. Ah sir. I believe them ok, so meditation regional meditating every day, and what is your meditation practice? Why have several? things, but in the morning the first thing I do as a centering prayer- it's just a twenty minute. Ah rest count not breath counting budget. Following your breath, I was at prayer. While the prayer comes out, ok. The prayer that I do then folks do counting. The brethren
right and it's a centering prayer. No, but after there's something I do call the examined of conscience, which is a part of this Jesuit spiritual practice. So I do that for twenty. And then I do something words like you're supposed to do it at night, but I'm always I wanna watch tv at nights. If I don't, as so, I do this meanest thing, and then I do this thing where you like go through your day. Emptiness thing was. I mean I mean you know your clear your head. Women do centering prayer You got a lot of noise. What about this? For about that, my turkey? What about who's going to come? I need a tree. What am I going to get you know? Will I win this? The lottery and all those things all the stuff in your head, so you this sitting for twenty minutes, sometimes thirty, right now, I'm in twenty cuz, I'm lazy.
No sir. I'm then I do something colleague examined a conscience words like you, you press a vcr play on your day from the twenty four hours before he sat down and go through your whole day and you look at moments where you think God was present in your life and the word Saint Ignatius uses? Is you save her those moments I cute literally take them and you're supposed to like put yourself physically back in that moment, so on. Just a sweet exchange with somebody in the bakery. You know. Not I mean sometimes it's eating something yo me or you get something you want, but more often it's these small. Ah summary, I was angry with I just I
rate about, and I just had a sense of them and how much I love them and how great they are, and it had nothing to do with but I remember that feeling and so you're supposed to go back to each of those moments and safer them and feel grateful for them. And then you can do the same thing. You play your day back and moments where you send an so sin. The way I was taught is not breaking a rule. It's like any moment. You turn away. God so any moment. Were you say you want to kill everybody in the subway or you are you, also somebody harder than you need to, or your brusque with someone you should be kind to or yourself set. Certain kind of self centered fear for me begins to eat my head up,
I see I just cease to be present. I'm not I'm not there anymore, I'm in somewhere else, I'm like a dog over a growing over a bone. So I'm an you asked for forgiveness for those moments, so anyway. That's the other thing and then at night. I do all these other prayers for people. Ah, young people are sick curve, Minos struggling or you know, for leaders or something you know, people at work people are hungry, you describe what or what you described as centering prayer, which is actually been some trick buddhist treasures. Just basic meditations You ve been doing efforts to get more than two decades. Now, twenty seven years to have, you you describe your early experiences in a mental institution, as you know, it being very, very difficult is still very, very difficult, some dice, but
It's funny. I just meditated with a friend of mine is a buddhist practitioner. Anna Sap sat with him and I he re little piece a doormat before we sat were it said it talked about not being attached to how your practice supposed to being greater vice and- and I realized that I mean again in this crazy spiritual thing- I do there's something called consolation and desolation, and so you consolation clearly better. You know big chocolate cake better. Then you know bag full of coal. So, but in that moment I realized tat. I had that kind of grasping mind that the Buddhist talk about where I for you, that punishing voices, his you're not doing it right were. I live with a voice. We
while we all do nobody, especially meditation, were absolutely but a bad. I think I've gotten better just the past five years at real I think, there's a great christian practitioner named Thomas Keating. I don't know if you know about him we'd also. We talked a lot about Buddhism and he's a very ecumenical kind of guy. You can follow online, but he's kind of the Rihanna one of the big Christian he's a Cistercian. You know one of those don't talk, dudes monks so He talks about how, even when you don't realize you're being healed by centering prayer, that you are that it sort of like. Ah, I will, I often say to people it's like lancing a boil and when you first start to do it, it's like the infection Hester drain off But it's also just in your day, he describes it likes
But the just sitting there? You might not have that clearness at all, and I guess this is where the faith comes in for me as a Christian that that God is healing here that, but you know, let's say, you're, not you're listening to us today, you're, not a Christian, you think I'm full, of course Turkey, which is also good. I just heard you to try meditation because for the leave your being cleared or not. They know that you're moods, better, your immune systems, better, your stress levels, better, your blood pressures, lower. You know you're smarter, faster funnier. If you meditates, Oh, you know whether you believe God is healing you or you believe your big smart mind is, is just being cleared out of its fear and you think of a psychological terms, its two different models, but it's the same. He believes it.
Like sediment that its being cleared and often yeah at the end of a meditation there, still what they're, still noise and you'll think I will. I didn't get there, and so that's what was good about that's what's good about sitting with other you know, Buddhist Buddhist Christians or whoever. Yes, Well, three things one in yes on that last point. Absolutely I refer to group practice. Are practising with what he other than yourself as like an HIV Lane acts? I do think you you can move faster use. Have somebody there to point out to you where you're in called the sex, but why? Even if they don't talk, why is it I know obviously given serious enough meditation bright? The two you ve noticed this, that it's better when you meditate with other people, s name referring specifically to meditation, just referring to doing life together, where
you're with people who you can talk about your practice. But, yes, I do think there's any powerful de meditating in a room together. I dont know that I can argue, for that is powerfully, as I can argue, for having some sort of community of people who are like minded. Even if it you may have metaphysical dispute, but you're you are doing some sort of four. But their term spiritual practice, because there are a lot to call the second which you can find yourself and in just discussing these things with other people who are doing the same thing. There's is that there is a real power to that. No question no question about, but I I actually think there's something really of fear
He does like you say it's HIV Lane, there's something really obviously talking to people but there's something magic that happens through meditation. I mean I in a group, or just just even more just two people, even if it's not thirty, p bright, there's something I started up. I don't know him full years ago, back at Syracuse University, where I teach with my graduate students, meditation group, just centering. You know we just sit like one day. We always amazed much better, my practice practices when you're with groups just weird. I have a thing where I get with a group and I start having the swallow up the spit in my mouth and then I get given and then other people. I notice it's like this. It metastasized around the room and a gift super self levies. Just don't ruling yeah after all, just spit? Thank you. Maybe I would urge people little copyrights paper containing Bernard. Unlike caught a tight around my mebbe yeah, I beg the
today those same in response to the few paragraphs ago. One is in terms of faith and made for sceptics. I would just three position that, as evidence, the science that you read? You reference that the meditation is doing a lot for you it is it really important to know that he can, or as my colleague Robin Roberts was told by her meditation teacher some sits, you're not gonna, go to the demand that the pool but you're still getting wet. Well, my arm A minor runs the EP, but New York Hospital Cornell Medical Center runs the internship programme for shrinks. You know sent me, you know a double bind study, maybe three or four years ago. You know tens of thousands of people over many many years you produce met that meditation is as useful as as medical,
Yes, M M, relieving symptoms of stress and a proud, and so I mean it's, it works and all you have to do is do it and you don't even have to do it well or right, but that's that then that's the whole! That's why I love this buddhist friend of mine. Given me the soul, when do I sought? Ah I've been doing up in doing that for, like nine months, sure I'm like. Why am I not more peaceful? Yes, so that was the third thing I wanted to say in response to it, because I was on the phone last night every couple of months I get on the phone our with my meditation teacher- and I was my constant meant. Is I'm not doing it right and I know That's. That is not a that's, not a constructive thing to be mauling, but I just can't help it part of it is because I Reed somebody books and interviews zoning over this stupid podcast that I get him, everybody's got these different conceptions about how to do right. I should get on my head around it and he said that he had been playing with this thing recently of just
dropping in a little mantra, little saying into your meditation of not wanting justs ever throughout the saying not wanting, and that will reveal to you all these subtle ways in which your wanting your current experience to be different, you wanting more clarity. Achieving your wanting a cookie and Just seeing that is what takes the teeth of it, it's like they say and recovery. The first step is admitting it right. It's also, I think it's together pressing the bar to get a pellet and that's how we live our lives and so, but also, I think, the young ass. I might that my little friend I say little book she's physically little with the children, Nude smacked her kid lemming
it's not. The kind of person smacks or caving. That's happened once and you know eight years, but when you correct yourself, there's so much aggression in it. When you criticise yourself, yes, yes, that it increases the noise. Yes, and so that's that's the problem with it and that's what I said to her about the you know. I said: look out your kids five years old, you apologized, you said this was a wrong thing to do. You know you corrected it. She don't remember she's, like a dog for cat who can talk. You know I mean you gone Patsy.
It's over just looking just go over and stop you're making it bigger in your own head than it is in it, and that's often what I think is true for myself with meditation that anything that has aggression around it makes you more attached. Your performance absolutely and that's why I mean I know the move, at least in my school of meditation, the movies just to make a soft mental note of all your judgment, judge anger whatever it is in that can can can detect. To from that process? It just that I suck making that move where I have to make it so many times that I started doubt whether I'm making it correctly unless it is. That is my experience. The move to make but haven't who always haven't you noticed, then you'll get in those places for sailing yeah, yes, and then I wrote it
Did I notice on sailing unit awesome you're, not rule out best you're the best and the very best fine? I would ask you, but a quote that I love from the part from lit where you're talking about giving birth to your one, an only son, Dev, yeah young deaf and your document describe what you're feeling is in that moment, how old is definite? Thirty, ok, Sweden, still young, but not a toddler. I've. A toddler guide, lovey, we're he's, he's the delight how old in his own, to master of destruction. Oh my yo yo, you may say oh yeah, he's really gotten into ordering me around. That's where he started screaming last night and I needed to March, and then, if I stop marching, he cried that I start my anyway, you talk your time. What your emotion in that room- and you say quote joy
It is which I have never known before. Only pleasure or excitement joy is a different thing, because its focus exists outside the self, the light something external, not satisfaction or some not satisfied. Of some inner craving. That seems to me, you're, hitting on something was huge and Buddhism. The difference between happiness. Pleasure excitement. Yes, exactly well. Why thing from all my entire drinking life- and I got sober against those stored? Try most thirty, I guess by tones thirty three, a m I started put in time together- thirty two! Ah ah, but I ain't theirs. I later found a quote from Merton who Thomas Moore, Thomas Merton, Catholic, trappist Monk, who also studied Buddhism ah M.
Makes a distinction between pleasure and joy and says: if you don't know the difference between pleasure and joy, you haven't begun to live and I remember the the for me. The distinction always involves somebody asked me what it was. It always involves. Others, even if you aren't in the presence of others it some ah not thinking about yourself thing they were able to color. You know cracks back of gathers of book by Jennifer Senior about child rearing, called all joy and no fun, I disagree with that. I think its tremendous, not a fund but is also a ton of joy and it's not always fun without always exciting. I mean I can sit there tv yellow sitting watching, my son take a bath and I got that there can be enormous swells of joy. You know it's dead
Can we not fund by any conventional measure and less like I'm really something? No, no. It's not funny suffers a lotta repetition, yeah lotta, poop, yes, tunnel, lotta, plot a p lot of food, and when my buddhist friend said the whim of my baby came, he said is a main emails that there's nothing more grounding them handling. Human feces cash tee. I wonder where I might have a single woman Well go working a nursing home, I guess so or windows has again line actually now he has a pin. Oh puppy. So, oh you, I would grandmother to a pit lot and I quite humans actually do the three books in the p S series were liars club cherry and lit, but you ve also, you have some volumes of poetry,
I published at our know. How many I am no four five and I have a book out just out called the art of men were right just out of paper batches. The mountain paper and will? Let me ask you about that about that book. But let me ask you from very selfish standpoint because I have only written one book and it was a memoir and it was also published by harbour cons other my next one is not going to be and I'm actually gonna write a sequel and what are they I find it interesting that you, because lit is the first book of yours that I've read, although I guess I'm listening to it. So I don't know if that counts as reading, but you do some things. Were you I'm curious, how you made it so satisfying in and of itself, without having to go back and read the others. Because I want to write a sequel to ten percent happier, but I dont want people to have to have read ten percent happier in order to read this next book. So, but an you do some deft things were you
EL things that were in those previous books. You say I skipped forward if you read those, but and he any advice for somebody like me using this. Did you write another memoir, but not wanted people to have to go back and will want to be able to sell that memoirs as as, if not a sequel, that's dependent on having seen the first just go ahead and an do do that dumb work of writing down everything, the information you think things I bet you could do it in three pet three to five pages. It feels forever forever big. The other thing is to find and organizing principle- and this is one of the major suggestions and ordered them or and organizing principle for your new book, which I don't expect you know before you write it with that. As you put things down, I think you'll find one.
Away, you're in conflict with yourself like an inner enemy and organise had around that enter enemy. So what what is it struggle after ten percent happier going forward and what you're They do it you're gonna start in that struggle and the urine have a little flash back and it's gonna be Just put it all in there. Maybe it's three or five pages, and then soldier on and don't think about it and but the pie album. Is we all we have that language in our heads from that other book and it's so delicious to have those sentences standing there you already written ready to deliver and that's the hard part is just getting your head out of the other book. I think. Yes, is that it is that you guys are really yes, it mean basically the answer when I was
going. We rang the first book, one of the people. One of the best piece of advice I got was just sit down and do the thing put some clay on the wheel and is actually my friend Marquis Friend, who wrote game change, set up an end and it was just puts in planning and actually took me four years and putting a lot of terrible clay. Ricky wheels and then finally, gaping it. But you really nothing happen, unless you just vomit up what whatever you got right, my friend my friend broadening crown was working on a memoir and he said I'll give you some pages, and he gave me about thirty pages, and I gave him back for, and I said now write me a hundred fifty pages I'll, give you thirty Yeah, that's about the IRA when I handed in my first draft was Weiss as long as what I ended up published so that
normal people assume that if they can, I threw away twelve hundred pages of let woe toil and muttered pages vanished pages, not draft finished page it as a ton of ages, tuna pages I threw away and it took me seminary. There should be a long time so three memoirs and then the art of memoir and a bunch of poetry books are you gonna do another member ways and that the big question actually work in a novel. Now I'm trying to finish a book upon. So that's a big league going into a novel. I know right, although your demand, I've read- is quite novel. Novelist Stick is that then told I've been told that they that they read like novel. Yes, they do arise, and I don't know what that means accepted there not boring. I don't know without that, that's what we're going to have to live and where we're going. Also it so it's it's somebody of twists and turns, or so like unbelievable, but them like flat. Does this stuff that you lose?
did that your mom did with you. She was hair raising night ass. She took my kit should play pulp fiction for my kid one Thanksgiving government gun to play with I mean you know she was choose just tat. Well, you found her hair stand over you with a hat with a hatchet or of, what I do not know exactly how to put in the hatchet feel. Yes, sharp look at each girl. She was swinging a sharp. It's been great to speak with you, so fine talk any thanks for I thank him for this Ok, there's another edition of the ten percent happier podcast. If you liked it, please make sure to subscribe rate us and If you want to suggest topics, we should cover a guess. We should bring Hit me up on Twitter at Dan be Harris. I also want to thank heartily the people who produce with Pakistan really do very much out of work
Efron Jacko Hand, Sarah AMOS Andrew Kelp, Steve Jones and the head of ABC Use, Digital Dan silver attacking Excellency there's not a person in Amerika who hasn't been impact it in some way by the corona. I was pandemic, but it every community there are pockets of people who were sitting up every day this is my my day last day of the cylinder stretch of proteins for one of our time in these or America's essential workers, the people who are keeping moving. I turn into a home school mom and now in a new plants from Ebay, see news you going from damaged and even worse I she went back to my office inside crying because it's not fair hearing here, making sorry that our community smiled faintly moraine. This is essentially inside the from the urgency, by the police cruiser to the czech outline. You hear what this pandemic sounds like the people putting themselves.
No one's way, there's always a risk that I could breathe is home to my kids. Are my husband or my parents? Listen to the essentials inside the curve on Apple podcast revision, podcast him.
Transcript generated on 2020-05-29.