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Bliss and Grit

Long time friends Vanessa Scotto and Brooke Thomas are having conversations about being spiritual practitioners in the modern world. How do you find sacredness in today's materialistic society? Is there a place for psychology in the realm of spirituality? Can embodied meditation lead to greater evolution? How do we ultimately embrace more aliveness- all the beauty and crazy, the joys and messes, the bliss and the grit that is a human life? Join us as we feel our way through the path by integrating somatic practices, psychology, spirituality, and transformation through meditation.
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Bliss and Grit
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May 15, 2018

This week we had the great pleasure of recording actually live and in person! And we had the chance to be together right after Vanessa’s time on retreat with Matt Kahn. So, needless to say, we spent a lot of our time together like the geeks that we are going over her notes. In this episode we went over a portion of her notes that we found particularly resonant. We’re talking about not knowing; And how and why “I don’t know” is a powerful, clear, open, and relieving position to come from.

May 1, 2018

In last week’s episode we touched on the benefits of bringing mindful attention to thoughts and patterns. This week, inspired by a quote from Gangaji, we’re taking it deeper with a conversation on the importance of vigilance. If you’ve been listening to us for a while you know we’re usually speaking on how hyper-vigilance can create tensions and feed fears of unworthiness, yet, we also want to stay alert to ways in which our unconscious programs are running. Moreover, we are served in bringing our attention towards our own innate wholeness. In this episode we kick around the concept of sacred vigil, and the deep power of our attention.

Apr 24, 2018

We’ve talked recently about bypass in the last several episodes as seeking to only feel bliss, to avoid the messiness of a human life and human emotions. Which can bring up the idea that maybe we really need to double down on the grittiness of life in order to be on a genuine path. What about when suffering becomes the bypass of choice- as always, unconsciously and in innocence- we can subconsciously emphasize the struggle. Or over-tolerate the struggle. In which case we lose access to joy, to ease, to the nourishing movements of life. We talk about the expectations and projections that our paths and lives should look a certain way and how that can play out at the two poles of the bypass pendulum. We also discuss how to discern what habits, expectations, and projections are operating in us, and how to relax into unfolding rather than manage ourselves into what we think it “should” look like.

Apr 17, 2018

Amoda Maa is a contemporary spiritual teacher, author, and speaker. After years of spiritual seeking, meditation, and immersion in psychospiritual practices, an experience of the dark night of the soul led her to a profound inner awakening. Her teachings are free of religion and tradition, and she brings to them a deep understanding of the human journey, born out of her own experience.

Amoda is the author of several books her newest being Embodied Enlightenment, a book that Brooke and I both loved. It is about the journey of being fully awake and fully human, and we highly recommend it.

Amoda offers private meetings and retreats, and is a frequent speaker at conferences and events. To find out more about Amoda Maa please go to, visit http://www.amodamaa.com.

In this episode with Amoda we cover so much. We speak of course about being fully awake and fully human, we touch on spiritual bypassing, agendas, tenderness, and common misconceptions about the spiritual path. The whole conversation is a treasure that you can listen to over and again.

Apr 3, 2018

Today we’re diving into the issue of spiritual bypass. As I mention in the episode, I have beef with how common bypass is held up as what the spiriutal path IS. When in fact, it is in direct opposition to what the path is. As Dorothy Hunt says in her book Ending the Search, spiritual concepts and spirit are not the same thing... It is the use of an idea of spirituality that keeps us unconscious” Or as Vanessa says, bypass is using the spiritual path to avoid your shit. Usually while wearing the identifiers we call “spiritual person”

Now, of course, bypass is something we will all do to some degree as we walk this path. I have done it plenty. So we’re not trying to create vigilance against this thing called bypass, But having a good working understanding of what the path is and what bypass is- and that they are not at all the same thing- can help us to have a deeply meaningful and transformative path and to stop unconcsious harm towards ourselves and to the world.

Mar 27, 2018

In today's episode we are sharing a conversation that we had with our special guest, Dorothy Hunt.

Dorothy serves as spiritual director of Moon Mountain Sangha and is the founder of the San Francisco Center for Meditation and Psychotherapy (SFCMP). Inspired by the legendary sage Ramana Maharshi and Adyashanti, she is the author of several books, including her latest Ending the Search. Dorothy currently offers meditation and satsang gatherings, weekend intensives and retreats, and also sees individuals for both psychotherapy and for what’s called dokusan- a private meeting with a spiritual teacher. For more on Dorothy, please visit dorothyhunt.org.

In this conversation we explore with Dorothy what the term awakening means to her and what it would look like to “end the search.” We also speak on unconditional vs conditional love, how we can come closer to our true identity, what it means to be fully human, and so much more. We're so pleased to offer you all this beautiful, heartfelt conversation with Dorothy Hunt.

*Please note that this episode was recorded over the telephone, and therefore, does not have the optimal sound quality we aim for. The conversation however, was so rich that we knew it would make up for it.

Mar 20, 2018

Today we’re talking about agendas that we are frequently, unconsciously and in innocence, acting out in our lives. These agendas may have helped our younger selves to feel safe but they are not who we fundamentally are, and they can create exactly the opposite of what we are desiring in our lives. We discuss how to have tenderness when we greet our own shadow, what is the difference between agendas and who we are? And we call out some of the top agendas that we all take on- the tough one, the victim, the martyr, the good girl or boy. Importantly, we ask the question why are we talking about this- because it is not because we believe anyone is broken and needs to fix themselves actually. But on a relative level these agendas are creating repetitive painful patterns in our lives. And it’s nice to have lives that hurt less and are more satisfying on a soul level.

Mar 13, 2018

In today’s episode we’re speaking about what we’re calling Micro-shaming; which we could describe as the subtle ways we can inadvertently shame people for being different than us. If you’ve been listening to us for a while you know that exploring and dismantling shame is dear to our hearts. In this conversation we cover a broad expanse of topics such as “sick shaming,” shaming others for their emotions, beliefs or relationships, as well as how shame can show up in our medical and wellness industries. This topic felt especially relevant in this day and age where we have so many “gurus” out there giving well-intentioned, but sometimes unhelpful, advice that may be creating patterns in shame in us without us even noticing.

Mar 6, 2018

Today we are being with our heartbreak, grief, rage, and helplessness after the latest US mass shooting. With our work on Bliss and Grit we do our best- as fallable humans who are subject to all the fallable human things- not to promote a spiritual path that is a bypass. That is not about up and away to that magical no suffering place over there. To be human is to have a human experience and that includes suffering. And it also includes heaven on earth. And everything in between. In this conversation we really just inquire about how to be with the really massive, raw emotions when they do come.

Feb 27, 2018

This week, inspired by Brene Brown, we’re speaking about true belonging. What fascinates us about this topic is that while the drive to be a part of a community is so primal, it seems that to find the type of connection we’re all looking for we must first belong to ourselves. In this talk we’re discussing the differences between fitting in and belonging, the experience of being in a group and still feeling lonely, and the role that shame may play in creating our sense of isolation. We also go way down a rabbit hole on the origins of shame and the relational damage it can create. Tune in to hear more.

Feb 20, 2018

We are still very enamoured of our weekend with Matt Kahn and we decided to zoom in a bit on a day of the retreat where we explored forgiveness. Really this is millenia-old spiritual wisdom - to forgive. How do we forgive? How do we forgive ourselves when we can’t yet forgive? How do we at least move towards it and soften in that direction and- really- let’s look at the benefits of actual lived forgiveness instead of the typical “you should forgive” platitude. Ultimately the internal process of forgiveness can be the most powerful healing remedy both for ourselves and also for the world.

Feb 13, 2018

Today we’re having a conversation with Lissa Boles of The Soul Map about purpose. One of our real calls with this show is to marry the spiritual path with our tangible human lives. In reality, they are exactly one and the same of course but they do often get divided. That said, one of the things that we hear from you all about frequently is the issue of living one’s purpose. Lissa’s work is really the marriage of the spiritual path with how we live out our purpose particularly in the area of our career, or how you follow your being to your right work, so we thought she would be a fantastic guest to have on!

In our conversation we touch on conscious culture making, how actively intending to change culture is an extraordinary thing- and really uniquely front and center at this particular time in human history. We get at how to recognize that we are part of a creative process and how to see our lives signs and signals as cues to our own unique process and right work. We also touch on the trouble with “I don’t know” which, if you’ve heard me say it before, tends to be one of my favorite mantras, but Lissa exposes its shadow side here.

Feb 6, 2018

In our conversation with Sangoma John Lockley he was kind enough to offer a beautiful meditation and song. It was so lovely that we decided to add it as a bonus episode in order to make it easier for listeners to return to it and use it within their own practice. You can find more about John, his book Leopard Warrior, and his available sessions at his website.

Feb 6, 2018

John Lockley is one of the first white men in recent history to become a fully initiated sangoma (shaman) in the Xhosa lineage of South Africa. He trained under Zen master Su Bong from South Korea, and spent ten years in apprenticeship with Mum Ngwevu, a medicine woman from the Xhosa tribe. Recently John authored a book called Leopard Warrior, which is not only a great exploration of African Teachings on ancestry, instinct, and dreams, but a wonderful autobiographical account of his journey to becoming a Sangoma. 

In this episode we’re discussing what it means to be fully human, how aliveness can be a messenger of our purpose, cultural appropriation, how to heal your ancestral lineage, the danger of avoiding the shadow, and aligning with your own wild nature. John shared with us that his reason for doing this work is to support people in becoming intoxicated with the sweet spirit of Mother Nature, and you can feel it in his words. 

For more on John’s book Leopard Warrior, or for info on private sessions with him, visit johnlockley.com

Jan 30, 2018

We are very recently back from a weekend retreat with Matt Kahn at Multiversity 1440 in California. This talk was recorded pretty much immediately after we returned home and we were truly deep in digestion mode, as we continue to be. However, from through the fog of integration time we brought forward just a few of the threads that we resonant for us in a weekend that we both found remarkably transformative and powerful. Much of what made it that was was the time to be steeped in Matt’s presence which demonstrates what it feels like when everything is truly and wholeheartedly welcomed. Being with him and experiencing a space where nothing gets pushed away shook something loose where we were in a state of love. So what happens when you can no longer find your shame, your guilt, your pain? What does life look and feel like post-healing?

Jan 23, 2018

Last week’s episode on aliveness brought up one of our favorite questions again- 'What if nothing in life is actually a problem?' So this week we decided to take that question and go deeper. This has been an exploration for us for a while now in our own lives, and in many of our episodes. In today’s conversation we get into topics such as how concepts like blame, deserve and fairness are beliefs that can contribute to problematizing tendencies, how making ourselves into a problem is an epidemic, how to see life through a different kind of lens, and how to hold yourself from the part of you that knows there is nothing to solve. In our modern culture that hyper-focuses on problems and solutions, this talk can be a very medicinal invitation to ease.

Jan 16, 2018

The holiday season is still a recent memory, and we all got a good dip into family personalities and patterns. Usually when we are on a spiritual path and we dip into the old family programming- or I should say anytime we bump up against the more gristly bits of life- it often brings up the questions what is the point of these practices I’m doing if I can’t meet this with some of the more stereotypical images of “the spiritual person”. You know- the unruffled person, the perfectly equanimous one, the endlessly compassionate one. Is it possible that the more challenging aspects of life are supposed to affect us a lot? To touch our hearts deeply? To hurt even? Why do we make suffering- our own and others- a problem rather than just a part of our alive nature? What we may not realize when we begin these practices that the root question of the spiritual path is actually are you going to live or not? Are you willing to really be alive? And instead of some magical finish line that you cross and become the good spiritual person, perhaps aliveness is its own ongoing reward, even in the challenging times.

Jan 9, 2018

John J. Prendergast, PhD, is a psychotherapist, spiritual teacher, and founder and editor-in-chief of Undivided: The Online Journal of Nonduality and Psychology. John met his first teacher, Advaita master Jean Klein, in 1983 and began studying with one of our favorite teachers, Adyashanti, in 2001.

For 23 years John was also a professor of psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco where Vanessa Scotto went to grad school. He is the author of an amazing book called In Touch; How to Tune In to the Inner Guidance of Your Body and Trust Yourself.

We first came across John on the Buddha at the Gas Pump podcast where we were immediately drawn to his simple, yet profound, integration of Psychology and Spirituality. After Brooke Thomas sat with him on a weekend retreat a few months back we knew we needed to bring him on for a conversation we could share with all of you.

In this conversation we cover so many topics including how to trust yourself and tune into your intuition, how to access genuine safety, and why the Ego is doomed to fail. This conversation is a delight and a revelation that can affect you for years to come.

Dec 19, 2017

Today we’re talking about how extraordinary it is to come home to our ordinariness. One of our favorite Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche quotes is “we have to be willing to be completely ordinary.” In a culture where the goal is always to become extra special, more unique, more successful, or just to strive towards being a SOMEBODY it’s worth pondering what the true gifts are of allowing yourself to rest in your ordinariness. How does our resistance to our ordinariness tie into our stories of lack- how we’re not good enough, not worthy enough, how we only exist if we are approved of... what if that fell away? You’d probably land somewhere quite ordinary and also, ironically, somewhere totally nourishing and miraculous. As we head towards New Years and the resolution making season- maybe this year we can make a resolution to embrace our divine human ordinariness...

Dec 12, 2017

This week’s episode is about positivity; and wow do we have a lot to say. After reading a question from a listener who was exploring the merits of being a “positive person” versus embodying a state of authenticity, we got deeply curious. Given that spiritual teachers and traditions, even neuroscience, point us towards the wellness benefits of positive states should we focus on bringing our attention towards what uplifts us? This conversation feels especially timely to us as we enter the Holiday Season, which can be full of high expectations about how happy and grateful we should be. We went to town exploring this topic covering heavy hitting questions like; what happens when the idea that we should be positive actually evokes states of shame that inhibit presence and healing? What is the soil for genuine positivity? Can our attachment to being happy decrease our ability to be genuinely positive? If we shift from always trying to be the positive people how do we show up authentically in relationship to others without adding our distress to the mix? We even tie the episode off with a holiday bow by throwing in some of our tools in on how to relate authentically even when you’re in the trauma vortex. Happy listening!

Dec 5, 2017

We’re talking about the age old question, “Am I responsible for others?” It’s a trickier question than at first glance- it can be utilized and lived out in a myriad of ways: We can wear it as a weighty mantle where we are carrying others on our backs. We can take an “I know better than other’s and can control or fix or sort out things better than they can” and we can swing the pendulum to the opposite extreme and say that if everyone is living their life just as they should, if there are no errors and I am not in control of everything- well then I can “let go and let God” and hide out as the transendent one. If we can’t fix, control or save people, and if doing the spiritual person disappearing act isn’t helpful, what does genuine responsibility to one another look like?

Nov 21, 2017

This week’s episode is about exploring the ways in which we can come to identify with ourselves as “someone with problems.” Acknowledging aspects of ourselves that are unhealed or messy can be painful, yet we can still have this funny way of seeing and representing ourselves as the broken one. In a recent retreat with teacher John Prendergast Brooke had a revelation that some of her patterning linked back to getting rewarded earlier in life when she wasn’t well. This understanding kicked off a beautiful conversation for us where we explore safety, holding complexity and the real habitual tendency we can have to downplay ourselves and stay small.

Nov 14, 2017

We are all about the embodied spiritual path over here and we have endless respect and gratitude for these miraculous bodies that we get to live in. But can we over-identify with our bodies? What are the repercussions of that? It seems in spiritual worlds we swing the pendulum between ignoring the body completely to making it the total focus of attention. What do those extremes look like and what might a useful middle way be?

Nov 7, 2017

In this episode we’re talking about what happens when you lose the sense that you “have it all together.” As humans we’re always trying to pin things down. We want to categorize, create step-by-step action plans, essentially identify and solidify life, including ourselves, in As we evolve on our own paths, we’re noticing that our ability to conceive of ourselves as people who have it all together is slipping through our fingers, and we’ve got a lot to say about why that’s challenging. In the process though, we’re also offering a potential new way to orient towards life as the ability to pin things down falls away.

Oct 31, 2017

Today we are thrilled to be joined by teacher Jeannie Zandi. Jeannie is a spiritual teacher who experienced a years long profound dark night of the soul, and here is what she says in her own words about her teaching, “I will use anything I find at my fingertips or that upwells within me to teach and hold space for those who are hungry to turn themselves inside out and live their essence. I will take you to the edge of the abyss and lovingly hold you there. I will tenderly call your name, sing to you, expose your funny spots, hold a radically protected space for your tenderest gooey center, and welcome you into the arms of the nourishing moment to shine as the living presence that you are. I’m fearless, fully engaged, and utterly reliant on the holy." And boy howdy, did we find that to be true. In this conversation we get into our own tender spots, as we always do, but this time with Jeannie holding space for them. We talk about inadequecy and unworthiness, fear, outright terror, and the desire to finally get it together and have it all tidied up. Trauma, the inner tendency to push and to eradicate all the “badness” in us, and our dominant culture of unhealthy yang which can barely even fathom healthy yin. We talk dark night, the creature of the body, and mercy, mercy, mercy for this whole human journey.

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