Update: Please use YouTube for Transcriptions

Hey! When the podcast first started, my goal was to ensure that the episodes were available via text as well, for those who could not hear. 

It turned out to be a bit more of an arduous task than anticipated (not to mention expensive), but fear not! YouTube actually does a pretty decent job. When you click on any of the videos there, you can simply enable closed captions and it should do an okay job. 

Someday perhaps we'll be able to hire a full-time crew to transcribe. In the meantime, YouTube it is!

Katherine Bennett Transcription

JEREMY: [narration]

 

Hi everyone and welcome to the 'In the shoes of' podcast where I make it my goal to see life as much as possible from someone else's point of view. Just like we all have a unique heartbeat, every single one of us sees life only from our own perspectives. Think about it. Can you see and process life exactly as Elon Musk sees and processes life? The answer is you can't. And it applies to every living, conscious being here on this pale blue dot.

 

[Music plays]

 

JEREMY: [narration]

 

Hey everybody thank you so much for joining me today for another episode of 'In the shoes of. In this episode I discuss quite a few different things with Katherine Bennett, a yoga teacher in Thailand. We discuss some things that I had never thought of before such as parallels between the U.S. military and Buddhist monks, reality, zombies, living in accordance with your true authentic self, and seriously so much more. I hope you enjoy it just as much as I enjoyed having the conversation at, I believe six in the morning, it was it was pretty early! But anyway, it was super cool, and once again for any friends or family that you have that are deaf or hard of hearing, please direct them over to intheshoesof.org where if I don't have it quite yet, please bear with me, but I will have transcriptions of the episodes themselves.

 

[Music plays]

 

JEREMY:

 

All right in line with my M.O. I have to start off the podcast and ask Cathy what shoes she is wearing right now.

 

KATHERINE:

 

To be honest I haven't worn shoes in one year in one year.

 

JEREMY:

 

In one year? No sandals either? No? Nothing?

 

KATHERINE:

 

No.

 

JEREMY:

 

That is so awesome! [Laughs] Well you know what, your shoes are your feet then!

 

KATHERINE:

 

Yeah! [Laughs]

 

JEREMY:

 

That's the first time anyone has said that to me and I love it. OK. First legitimate question. If you had to define yourself in the third person, let's say somebody is asking, "Who is this Katherine Bennett person?" and you were being sly and didn't want to let them know that you were that person. What would you tell them?

 

KATHERINE:

 

That's a very interesting question. I suppose it depends on who I was talking to, because I suppose we all have the desire to be interesting or appeal to the person we're speaking to. So I would try to find a way to connect with the person I was speaking to and tell them something about myself which would establish a way for us to be connected. So it would have to be something which would either pique their interest or some shared -- something in common? So that it's a good foundation for an introduction with the other person.

 

JEREMY:

 

That's totally awesome. And that to me tells me a bit about yourself, that you definitely care about making those connections and that you have a good amount of empathy in your system. Is that accurate?

 

KATHERINE:

 

I try! [Laughs] Empathy is one of those creepy things you know? Because if you're imagining it then, is it really empathy you know? [Laughs] So if we're imagining it, trying to be empathetic with the other person, imagining to put yourself in their shoes, like the name of your podcast. If we're just using imagination then, in a way, is it really empathy? Because we're still ultimately perceiving the other from our own point of view. And it's difficult to step into their shoes and perceive the world from their point of view.

 

JEREMY:

 

I totally agree, and that's a really fair point. And that's why I'm trying as much as I possibly can because there's no such thing as 100 percent empathy. Unless they develop some sort of biotechnology where they're able to meld or coalesce two minds into one or something? Anyway, where are you right now?

 

KATHERINE:

 

I am on Ko Pha Ngan, it's an island in Southeast Thailand. Well known for the full moon party, but it also has a very nice yoga, detox, kind of new age spiritual community on the other side of the island.

 

JEREMY:

 

Cool. So which part of the island do you partake in?

 

KATHERINE:

 

I'm in the jungle [laughs] which is very nice because I can go to either place in around the same amount of time on my motorbike. So I teach yoga in the, kind of, at a detox center, so I would say I'm more involved in that side of the island. But yeah, I like to live in-between it all, it seems more like the middle way right?

 

JEREMY:

 

I like that. So that's what you're doing right now, you're teaching yoga?

 

KATHERINE:

 

Yeah, yoga classes in traditional Tantra yoga. Yeah.

 

JEREMY:

 

That is cool. How did you decide to get into that?

 

KATHERINE:

 

I've got a yoga teacher now since, like 2013, and it's proved a kind of beneficial traveling occupation because I've been traveling since 2012. And it's something I can take anywhere with me, I don't even have to bring my own yoga mat. So it's a very nice, either occupation to make money while I travel, or just a gift to give if I'm -- sometimes I volunteer on permaculture projects, or various farms, and to give my yoga classes as a gift or some kind of exchange has also been really beneficial during my travels.

 

JEREMY:

 

That's really rad. And I want to come back to that and get your thoughts on how you've done certain things so if others are interested in, I don't know, breaking free from the corporate world or whatever it is that they're not content with. But first can you give me a bit of history about you? Can you just give me a bit of history about where and how you grew up?

 

KATHERINE:

 

Yeah I really enjoy this question, because I've noticed that the story I tell about myself to other people changes depending on who asks or how I feel about myself and how I relate to my experiences in my life. So my memories are kind of reinvented over time [laughs] based on what I focus on in the memory. What lesson I learned, how I grew from the experience. So something that may have been, for example, a traumatic or painful experience in my life. As I get older and maybe learn from it and grow from it then I have this gratitude or this appreciation that forms. And so then when I retell the story there's no more pain or trauma anymore, it's just this beautiful experience that I can share which I've grown from. So the story changes, of course, depending on my state of mind and where I am in my life. So you caught me in a particularly beautiful moment in my life where I've been working a lot on gratitude and I'm very thankful for everything that has brought me to this point in my life. 

 

JEREMY:

 

That's beautiful.

 

KATHERINE:

 

So it's a positive story. [Laughs]

 

JEREMY:

 

Good, good.

 

KATHERINE:

 

So I'm from the U.S. I was born in Wyoming, in a very small rural town with my mother and father and two brothers and a sister. My upbringing was very simple, very peaceful, very in nature, with the animals. We had horses and all these cats and dogs outside, and a very small community maybe 1000 to 1500 people. And we were out in the middle of nowhere. So I really kind of grew up mostly with my family and our pets [laughs] and nature as kind of my playground. And I'm very grateful for this experience because I've seen that as an adult somehow I've maintained a lot of innocence and kind of fascination with life and this awe of nature and how everything works. This curiosity of a child has kind of stayed with me into my adulthood and I attribute that primarily to the fact that I grew up with nature and played more with cats than people and [laughs] observed insects and things like this in the natural world which really fascinated me and were ultimately my teachers. So now I can relate a lot more to the Zen, [laughs] the Zen teachings which I study because they're using nature as a guide. Why we should be more like nature and I can relate to these examples because I was able to observe it all of my childhood. I feel a really deep connection with nature and not separate from it, so I'm very grateful for this experience also. It's shaped who I am and how I express myself as an adult. Growing up was, I would say quite average for an American female, in a small town which is all the same conditioning that everybody else has. Fortunately, without the influence too much of -- there's not a lot of crime for example or racism in my upbringing. There was a lot of trust in my community. Everybody knew everybody so I kind of grew up very -- yeah I trust people. And I ultimately believe that people are good because that's what I saw growing up. I feel very grateful for this experience, that I was not jaded about humanity from a young age. And I think that changed, of course, growing into an adult and seeing a bit bigger perspective of the world for good grades. I had a full-ride scholarship to the University of Wyoming and I was not really happy about going there [laughs] because I'm not very good with winter. I don't like cold very much and Wyoming is like these Rocky Mountain States, very long, cold snowy, winters.

 

JEREMY:

 

Oh yeah!

 

KATHERINE:

 

... And I think I was deeply affected by this as a teenager, even falling into a, kind of, depression. I didn't really enjoy all of the outdoor activities, despite growing up with skiing and snowboarding. I was never really happy about it and didn't enjoy being cold. [Laughs] So when I was an adult and had the choice I chose to stay indoors instead of go play in the snow. And I had this seasonal affective disorder experience where I was a bit restless indoors for six months out of the year. So it was a bit difficult to adjust to university when I had dreams of going to Hawaii or somewhere much more tropical. Seeing the world a little bit more outside of Wyoming. I didn't know what to study. It was very difficult for me because, academically I've always excelled due to pressure from my parents, but also my own curiosity with life has led me to be very good at test taking and studying for example. Also living out in the middle of nowhere made distractions very minimal. So doing my homework was never really a problem.

 

JEREMY:

 

Sure.

 

KATHERINE:

 

And so I had this full ride scholarship and I didn't really know what to study because I had such a curiosity in so many things and it felt very strange for me, at the age of 18, to have to decide what career I want or what I want to do with the rest of my life. Which seemed to be what everyone was telling me college was all about. So I also had a bit of pressure from my parents to choose something in the 'real world'. Like some kind of career or degree program which would help me get money because ultimately they wanted my happiness. And in the materialistic society we live in money secures happiness for a lot of people. And I think they, yeah they wanted what was best for me. Unfortunately most of my interests were in the arts or humanities. So I had very big interests in English, philosophy, music, and yet not such a deep interest that I wanted to become an opera singer or a sculptor.

 

JEREMY:

 

Sure.

 

KATHERINE:

 

So I wanted to dabble in everything and take all the classes but I couldn't commit to choosing one of the majors. And my father, the more logical reasonable [laughs] side of the parenting group, was pressuring a bit more towards the materialistic, towards money, and was saying, "OK, you should study business or something. You know you can't make money in the arts". Basically. And I felt very strange that my merit, my worth, all my hard work studying and my good grades which had afforded me this academic full ride scholarship, but then it wasn't my choice to choose what I wanted to study and that felt really strange for me. [Laughs] Somehow I felt like I didn't really understand the system anymore. If the system was to learn and to study what interested you and then eventually go into a career and provide a role in society which interests you, with something you're passionate about which you studied because you were passionate about made sense, but then I felt a lot of external influences telling me, "OK, but not that, and but not that. It's nice that you like that and it's nice that you studied it when you were in high school but in college it's different. It's more serious. [Laughs] You have to focus and choose something, one thing, anything but the arts". [Laughs]

 

JEREMY:

 

Right. Well I guess I screwed up there too.

 

KATHERINE:

 

Yeah?

 

JEREMY:

 

I know, yeah. [Laughs] 

 

KATHERINE:

 

I think a lot of us did in our generation because we're trying to break out of this -- for me I feel like the example that I saw in my parents’ generation is that they had this American dream, this white picket fence ideal of how life should be and how it should play out for -- which they inherited from their parents. It seems like it's from the 50s actually, this model of, you know; you go to school, and then you get the job, and then you get married, then you have the kids, then you buy the house, and have the cars, and then you retire and you live happily ever after. So, [laughs] this American Dream I think our generation saw, well actually it doesn't work. I mean most people's parents are divorced or unhappy or were unhappy in their marriage and in their career. And so yeah we were afforded the luxury of being able to be educated because of the money that our parents earned or by our own merits. Because we can all work hard to make money but -- yeah, I think I saw that it felt strange and it didn't seem to work so I struggled with university. I would attend the fall semester and by the middle of the winter I would be very confused going through an existential crisis, borderline depression, and decide, "OK I can't do this", and I would move somewhere in the spring, whether it be Phoenix, Arizona once, or South Korea at one point to visit my father because I told him I was very lost and very confused. And I did this for three years. Attending classes the fall semester, dropping out the spring semester, attending both semesters, dropping out this semester. And finally I think it got to a point where I was really depressed and having this kind of deep -- Yeah, I feel like it was an existential crisis. Like what is the meaning of life then? Because for me this is not rewarding, this is not bringing me like a sense of fulfilment or happiness. This pressure to choose one thing instead of just studying whatever interested me in life. And so I was, yeah really depressed actually. And I think seeing that it was a serious thing. My father said, "OK", while he was working in South Korea he said, "Come and stay with me for a few months and just, you know, figure your life out". [Laughs] 

 

JEREMY: [narration]

 

This is where Katherine goes through a metamorphosis. Stay tuned because it gets pretty damn intriguing.

 

KATHERINE:

 

It was a funny place to go. Other than Europe in high school and some two week or three week vacation where you tour all the countries, I'd not really left the U.S. and so South Korea was a very interesting culture shock. And it was my first exposure to Buddhism. I was raised as a Catholic by my mother's side of the family and at a very young age I had a lot of disagreements with the priest, and the church, and the ideas of the church, and so I think from a young age I started studying different religions. But going to South Korea was the first time that I witnessed a culture which was a Buddhist culture, and to see how the people behaved and how they -- even within their judicial system, how they treat people who are sentenced to -- you know, if someone murders someone they don't go to life in prison, they maybe do 10 years and then when they're let out they have a whole tradition of giving them a piece of tofu which represents a blank slate, like a fresh beginning, because they have this belief in karma. That once you've paid for that, kind of, bad deed or that sin in a way, then you've done your time and now is a fresh start, and within the society this makes a huge difference. I saw small things like this. Very big differences in how people treated each other and it was very inspiring for me to witness this Buddhist influence. So I started studying Buddhism a bit more in South Korea, and spending a lot of time at a Buddhist temple. And it was there that I first had conversations with monks and nuns and felt a really deep calling to study this religion, even maybe practice this religion. I felt -- I asked a Buddhist nun once why she shaved her hair, and she said to get rid of vanity, because for women the ultimate accessory is her hair. It is the social depiction of her femininity. And so to renounce even that, and to say I'm beyond even my femininity, even my gender, was a really deep and profound statement for me. This image of letting go of anything you're attached to, even your own sense of self, and your own value which your society gives you based on your gender. So I shaved my hair. [Laughs] 

 

JEREMY:

 

I love it. That's great! [Laughs] 

 

KATHERINE:

 

It was a big change! I mean, I used to go clubbing with the high heels and the girls, you know with the breasts pushed up in a push up bra, and then to just shave off my hair was a very beautiful -- it was so liberating for me. I felt like finally I was washing away society's expectations of me and really marking a path for myself. 

 

JEREMY: [narration]

 

I think this bears repeating. Quote: "It was so liberating for me. I feel like I was finally washing away society's expectations of me and really marking a path for myself". Unquote.

 

KATHERINE:

 

I was 19 at the time. I decided I wanted to become a Korean Buddhist nun.

 

[Music plays]

 

JEREMY:

 

That is so cool.

 

KATHERINE:

 

In Korea, because of course, now looking back it's really funny because the desire was that I was unhappy within my own society and I didn't understand how to fit myself into that society without conforming, and losing my individual expression, my freedom in a way. And so here I stepped into this completely different culture. The first other culture I was exposed to and was like, "Yeah, OK, I'm going to take this one". [Laughs] So now it's really funny but at the time I was very serious about becoming a nun for the rest of my life, you know? [Laughs] 

 

JEREMY:

 

Yeah.

 

KATHERINE:

 

My father was shocked and was like, "You know Buddha didn't create the world right?" Knowing nothing about Buddhism and having a Christian perspective he was shocked and very displeased...

 

JEREMY: [narration]

 

Can I just stop right here and say that, the way Katherine speaks is just so awesome! Am I not completely right?

 

KATHERINE:

 

I think, disappointed in himself for exposing me to that culture which gave me such ideas and shaving my hair. [Laughs]

 

JEREMY:

 

I love it! [Laughs] 

 

KATHERINE:

 

But he saw me happy, so I think he supported my decision. And he said, OK well if you don't want to go back to school -- He had been in the Army for a couple of years in which he learned welding and then worked his way up on the corporate ladder in ExxonMobil as a welder and now he's some very high corporate guy. So he said, "OK well if you don't know what to do with yourself, but you want your education paid for and you don't want University of Wyoming, then maybe you should consider the military as an option". And for me this was shocking because I had no positive experiences with a military member. I mean I knew Marines at the bar who were trying to have sex with me by impressing me that they were in the Marines. So this was my exposure to military people!

 

JEREMY:

 

Right.

 

KATHERINE:

 

I perceived them to be under educated, egotistical, and not very interesting. And they were fighting a war that I didn't support. So, military did not seem like an option for me, and my father gave me advice: "If you want to change something, change your system, then the best way is not from the outside telling them to change, but to make the changes from within". And this was a really powerful statement for me, especially coming from him, because it kind of said that he is a part of the system with a desire to change the system. I never knew that about him as a person. I had a lot of respect for him after that, and I decided, "You know what, I'm not going to rule it out as an option". Just because I have an idea of the military and I don't support this, and I don't support that, and I'm anti this, because I'm a bit of a hippie. [Laughs] I actually wasn't very informed about anything. So none of my opinions were real. And, at this age was the first time that I considered that maybe I don't know what I'm talking about! Maybe I should give something a chance to understand it thoroughly before I judge it. So it was a big period of change. I started researching how to study the Korean language so that I could, of course, go back to Korea and become a Buddhist nun. [Laughs] 

 

JEREMY:

 

Of course.

 

KATHERINE:

 

And it turns out, the best language school in the country. The most short term and immersive language program IS in the military. The 'Defense Language Institute' is in Monterey, California. And you basically go to university eight hours a day with native Korean speakers, whatever language, they have all the languages there, and in a year and a half you're almost a fluent speaker of that language. So I thought, "OK actually, this might be one way to do it". And so I joined the Air Force to become airborne Korean linguist, with the intention to study Korean so that I could then move to Korea and become a Buddhist nun. [Laughs] 

 

JEREMY:

 

I have never heard of that happening ever in my entire life. That is so cool. Wow! And so you did it? You went over to Monterey, California and you took the course. And was it a major difference -- I mean coming from South Korea, you were there, I mean you shaved your head, you were totally immersed in that. Then you were probably immersed in, you know, you're coming back to America and to our varied culture, and then even more so going into a military culture. How was that? Was that another bit of a culture shock coming back?

 

KATHERINE:

 

Yeah but the funny thing is, I was so prepared for it because of my meditation, because of my spiritual practices. The Buddhist discipline and meditation techniques that I'd been using to prepare for the Buddhist tradition, prepared me for military. It prepared me for boot camp. It was crazy I had a shaved head. They thought I was G.I. Jane and that I was hard-core. I was very focused, I wasn't -- you know in boot camp they're yelling at you and telling you that if you cry you have to give push-ups. Especially the women. They really hit them, not hit them literally, but figuratively they break them down. Because you can't cry to get what you want in the military. So here I am, I was 21 at the time. It took me a little bit of time before I decided to do this. So I was 21 when I joined and I was with 17 / 18 year old women who went from their parents’ house to the military as an alternative option to college. And a man is yelling at them and they're crying because their daddy never yelled at them. And it was a huge shock for them and I felt like actually, I was very mature compared to my peers. And immediately they put me in charge of people. Immediately my drill sergeant had me running errands for her, which she's not allowed to do, but basically she confided in me and asked me like, "Why did you shave your head?" And I said, "Because I want to be a nun". And she said, "Oh, OK, I see it!" Because whenever they yelled at me I could totally disassociate my emotions. And I don't know if this is healthy, I may have been just repressing an emotional expression but I kind of went into a meditative state. I wasn't affected emotionally, I didn't have any reactions. And I think they had a lot of respect for me. They didn't really mess with me so much because they saw that, "OK, we don't have to break her ego so much because she's playing the game". And I really felt like I was playing a game. You learn the rules, and you learn that, "OK, you have to fold your T-shirt this way, or wear your uniform this way. And if you don't do it exactly right then we yell at you for it. And even if you do it exactly right we're going to mess it up and yell at you anyway". [Laughs] 

 

JEREMY:

 

Right.

 

KATHERINE:

 

Which now that I look at it, look back at it. This training is very similar to the experience I probably would have had if I had become a Buddhist nun.

 

JEREMY: [narration]

 

Did you all just catch that? Katherine is talking about the similarities between being trained in the U.S. military to that of being trained to become a Buddhist monk. How -- I don't know. It's just a new thought to me, but it actually makes a ton of sense. Anyway back to Kathy.

 

KATHERINE:

 

I saw so many similarities. Now, looking back, there's a uniform, you have to wear something which is not an expression of your individual personality, you're part of a collective now. And the collective has a purpose which goes beyond -- You can have an individual purpose, especially with Buddhism, you may be on the path towards enlightenment, or working towards some spiritual goals, but ultimately you are doing it together, and you're not doing it necessarily for yourself. Because in Korea it's Mahayana Buddhism. It’s one of the three major branches of Buddhism and they focus more in that tradition on helping everybody reach enlightenment. Like we're going together. It's a community. It's a sangha of people who come together with a common interest, a common goal and they support each other. And so you're part of the bigger picture and you can't really take your individual ego with you until you are kind of very humble, and a student, and with an open mind. And now that I see it, actually the military is doing the same thing. The intention is a little bit different, they don't have enlightenment as their goal at the end. [Laughs] They want you to be a part of a machine without asking questions and to know what to do when you're told what to do, and to do it without asking questions. But ultimately I see the similarities in that, there's no room for individual personality when you are working towards a collective bigger picture and so boot camp for me in the military was kind of a Buddhist training for me. Now I can really laugh about the whole experience. To understand that something is a game and to agree to play the game, but to not forget that you're playing a game so you don't get lost in it. And I think that's one of the most beautiful lessons I've had in my whole life. [Laughs] 

 

JEREMY:

 

No, it is beautiful actually. And you know it's really amazing -- just the parallel! I never even thought to put those two together.

 

KATHERINE:

 

Yeah! It's really interesting and I feel like in a way I accomplished -- Because after I served in the Air Force for six years as a Korean linguist, flying in planes, so an Airborne Korean Linguist, I was stateside the whole time. So fortunately I never went to Iraq, or Afghanistan, or fought in this 'war-on-terror', or the war in Iraq. I was very fortunate to be on the outside of this because my job was with Korean and focusing on North Korea. Who we were not at war with so my role was kind of a passive one. But after six years I actually no longer felt the need to become a nun. I felt like I kind of checked the box of that experience in some way. So, yeah, it's a very strange parallel.

 

JEREMY:

 

Wow. Yeah, you were an army nun, I guess.

 

KATHERINE:

 

Yeah! [Laughs] 

 

JEREMY: That was your 'nun-life', if that's a word! [Laughs]

 

KATHERINE:

 

[Laughs] It's so funny because I was in Peru before I came to Ko Pha Gnan and I was doing some kind of shamanic work and they called me G-I Buddha. [Laughs]

 

JEREMY:

 

[Laughs] Yes! I love it! Do you still shave your head by the way? 

 

KATHERINE:

 

Yeah! I do!

 

JEREMY:

 

That is so cool! I mean, I shave my head too but only because, you know, lack of hair.

 

KATHERINE:

 

 [Laughs] For whatever reason, it's a very easy hairstyle!

 

JEREMY:

 

Isn't it the best! Seriously, I love it. [Laughs]

 

KATHERINE:

 

Yeah! It's funny because when I was in the military, despite the movie G.I. Jane, where people assume you have to cut your hair. There were certain regulations, during the time that I was serving, that women had to have hair at least one inch in length minimum. And so they forced me to grow my hair out because it did not fit regulations. So, that's kind of interesting. So for six years that I was serving I had to grow my hair long, essentially. I could have kept it any other style but shaved basically! I think that was because it was before the 'Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell' repeal, and because you were not allowed to be homosexual in the military they associated a woman with very short hair to be a lesbian. And so they encouraged women in the military to be feminine and not look like lesbians [laughs] 

 

JEREMY:

 

Oh, interesting. 

 

KATHERINE:

 

Yeah, really funny.

 

JEREMY:

 

Yeah, I had never heard of that. OK. Wow.

 

KATHERINE:

 

Yeah. While I was in the military I finished a couple associate's degrees and I finished my bachelor's degree. I focused on non-profit administration. But I have like a couple of associates degrees, one is in the Korean language because like I said it's essentially a two year university to study the language. They do give you an accredited degree for it. And then I have another degree because I was in military intelligence, so there's so much training for -- I mean I was in three years, just in training, before I did my job for three years.  I never really ended up doing the job because North Korea was not really the focus at the time. It was more the Middle East. So my role was very passive, like I said. The other one is in like, military intelligence and technology, or something. [Laughs]

 

JEREMY:

 

Oh wow!

 

KATHERINE:

 

So I have Korean, military intelligence, and non-profit administration! [Laughs] 

 

JEREMY:

 

Yeah, definitely G.I. Buddha. That's definitely it.

 

KATHERINE:

 

G.I. Buddha! [Laughs] 

 

JEREMY:

 

Yeah, I think so.

 

KATHERINE:

 

So I finished the military in 2012, like I said I did six years, and I immediately shaved my head, my hair, and donated it to 'Locks for Love'. 

 

JEREMY:

 

Nice.

 

KATHERINE:

 

Which is funny, you know, to shave it after the military and go back to G.I. Buddha!

 

JEREMY:

 

Exactly!

 

KATHERINE:

 

And I started traveling, and yeah, the first thing I did was Nepal. I was volunteering to teach English to young Buddhist monks in a monastery in Nepal, like young boys, like aged 5 to 15 or something, and teaching them English, which was a really beautiful experience. But I also learned from that experience that I had an idealistic view of N.G.O.s or non-profit administrations, especially in other countries. I really thought, "Oh yeah, I'm going to help change the world, or make a difference". You know? These kind of charity organizations, like maybe this is where I want to devote my time and my energy. And then I realized, especially in Nepal, its trickle-down economics. So you pay to volunteer, and you pay a good amount of money because it's trendy and people will book it online and think it's a cool idea so they'll pay a thousand dollars to volunteer for a month or two. And then that money, very little of it -- You know these young monks, there are about 20 of them, what they got out of the deal was an English teacher and some blankets.

 

JEREMY:

 

Yeah.

 

KATHERINE:

 

I don't know where my thousand dollars went except into people's pockets all the way down the chain, the hierarchical chain. But I got to learn some Nepali and I got to hang out with some Buddhist monks and see what their life is about. So it was still a beautiful experience, but I learned that, "Hmm, N.G.O.'s maybe are not what I think they are, and maybe this is not how I want to invest my time and my energy. I can volunteer without paying someone. If I wanted to give money I would have just given it to the monks themselves and not lined people's pockets on the way up.

 

JEREMY:

 

Right. Yeah. I mean human corruption and greed kind of, it's everywhere, despite whatever, I guess facade, or whatever face is put on it. Whether it's an N.G.O. or a corporation or what have you. Yeah, OK. So yeah, keep going. This is so wonderful too by the way. I love hearing the story. You're kind of influencing my paradigm a bit which is always really appreciated. So thank you, and continue on. This is great.

 

KATHERINE:

 

Yeah, so that was Nepal, and after Nepal I went to India and did my first yoga teacher training course. It seemed like a good profession and I had been teaching yoga when I was in the military and practicing yoga for about 10 years. So yeah, it seemed like, "OK you go to India. That's what you should do in India" or that's where you should study yoga if you're going to become a yoga teacher. So I did a yoga teacher training course studying Hatha yoga, traditional Hatha yoga in Kerala in the south western part of India. And after that I travelled around India and Sri Lanka, and then went back to the US which was a culture shock because I think anyone who has been to India is changed forever. [Laughs] Because it's a very challenging place and very different from -- The comforts that we're used to and maybe take for granted are not available anymore in India. So coming back to the comfort was shocking. I remember I was in a Whole Foods the first time I went grocery shopping. I went to Whole Foods and I was so overwhelmed. I nearly had a panic attack because I was looking at aisles of food in boxes, and even at Whole Foods where it's the healthier version or the organic version, I really like -- my heart started beating so much. It was difficult to breathe. I thought it was going to pass out. It was a crazy experience where I was like, "Why are we eating food in boxes. [Laughs] 

 

JEREMY:

 

Right! "It makes no sense!"

 

KATHERINE:

 

 [Laughs] Like nothing seemed real!

 

JEREMY:

 

Yeah.

 

KATHERINE:

 

And not that India is more real, but -- I don't know, it felt so disconnected from reality for me to buy something organic and to be healthy but to have no connection with where the food comes from except that it's in a package that says organic. That also totally rocked my perception of reality because here I've been building up this spiritual ego you know? Now I'm a yoga teacher, I've been to India, I was in Nepal and taught English to some Buddhist monks you know? My resume was starting to look very impressive! [Laughs] And then I realized I have no idea what I'm doing with my life again!

 

JEREMY:

 

 [Laughs] Yeah, that happens, I know.

 

KATHERINE:

 

And I think the more times it happens the better because I learned so much from these experiences. When I think -- just when I think I have it all figured out and I really like who I am and where I am. When something comes and shakes the very foundation that I've built, you know its like -- you spend all this time building a sandcastle and then a wave comes and just wipes it out. And it's like, "But no, that was my sand castle! [Laughs] Do you know how much time I spent on that sand castle?" And then even if I tried to rebuild it, you know, farther up on the beach, and it's more elaborate, and I'm better at building it...

 

JEREMY: [narration]

 

Brace yourselves because Kathy is about to get real up in here!

 

KATHERINE:

 

Still I realize that I'm creating my own illusion. I'm creating my own perception of reality which does not make it more real. It's still -- I take a little of this and a little of that and I ignore this which is unpleasant. And when I face that I'm creating an illusion for myself, the way I perceive reality, if I'm creating my own illusion, every time I can see that and it shakes it and destroys it or shifts it, I'm really thankful for these moments, because I grow so much. It's actually so liberating to let go of these ideas of what is real or of who I am. Every time I get the chance to really be shaken and explore what I believe and who I really think I am. I've grown so much from this. And even if I'm just making a new sand castle which will then later be destroyed in a different way, I'm still like learning a lot in the process so, yeah these have been beautiful experiences for me.

 

JEREMY:

 

Yeah. No that's good. And you kind of illustrate just the transience of things and also just the illusions that we believe about ourselves and what we, you know, the way we build up ourselves and all that, just ego I guess is what I'm really trying to say here. It's hard to see -- when our ego is shaken up, when our sandcastles as you put it, are -- And you're right, everything that we do it is, you're right it's a sandcastle that will be swept away and it's still a beautiful thing. Maybe it was a beautiful sandcastle, or maybe it wasn't even that great of a sand castle but, you know, it's all part of this larger thing called life.

 

KATHERINE:

 

Yeah. And for me I realize this has been my journey my whole life. Really questioning these really deep things like why are we here, what are we doing here, and who are we essentially? Are we connected are, are we disconnected? What's real and what's not real? These questions I've been trying to answer by studying most spiritual disciplines because I assumed that for sure the religious people or the spiritual people know what's going on. [Laughs] Turns out that's not necessarily true! [Laughs] Another illusion de-bunked for myself!

 

JEREMY:

 

Right, just because -- I mean people can say things with an absolute confidence like, "This is an absolute statement", but I can I can say that, "Well, you know what", let's say you're at a table and say, "You know what this table does not exist. I say that with absolute... It's true... It doesn't..." You know?

 

KATHERINE:

 

Yeah!

 

JEREMY:

 

Just because someone says something with absolute confidence does not make it true whatsoever which is a trap we fall into so often, because someone is confident saying something. Whether it's religious, or political, or whatever.

 

KATHERINE:

 

Yeah and truly our beliefs shape our reality. If we choose to perceive something a certain way, that's what we're choosing to see, so we're adding filters in our perception. And you know they've done so many studies on this that if something appears before your eyes which does not fit any of the preconceived notions you have about understanding the world, then you disregard it completely. You don't even register it because it doesn't mean anything to you. That image has no associated meaning.

 

JEREMY: [narration]

 

This is amazing. She's basically describing Westworld. I don't want to give too much away in case you haven't seen the show. I mean I almost asked her if she had seen this show but I would that good money that she hasn't. Being a yoga teacher in Thailand who hasn't worn shoes for over a year and really probably has better things to do. But how awesome is this? And moreover how true. If you haven't seen Westworld then you should definitely go see it and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. But... wow! How often do we all go, "This means nothing to me". I mean seriously.

 

KATHERINE:

 

So it doesn't get stored in the brain, it just gets washed away and then you go to the next thing, and this is how people get stuck in patterns. You know, they end up in the same cycle of relationships and then they complain, why this boyfriend was the same as the last boyfriend. Its like, "Well you're attracting the same type of men in your life", you know? [Laughs] 

 

JEREMY:

 

Yeah

 

KATHERINE:

 

So this idea of breaking out of these patterns, for me, has been very interesting for a long time because I really am, at a deep level, searching for like, "What is freedom?" You know? If I don't feel - if I feel like I'm in a game or this is not, like this is some kind of dream and everyone's kind of sleepwalking. Sometimes I look around and I really feel like, "Wow we're all zombies!" And me too! But sometimes I just get a glimpse of - I stop for a moment and I look at all the zombies around me and I realize that up until that very second I was also walking around like a zombie with - in my own world, in my mind, in my own thoughts and just judging everything, or not paying attention to anything in my surroundings. Not really seeing things as they are. And when I get glimpses of this I realize, actually there is something more going on. There is a way to see more clearly. There are little techniques and there are certain beliefs which can reshape the reality to have a more inclusive perspective. And for me this has been very interesting which I think is what kind of got me started on the Yogic, and spiritual path of studying world religions or different spiritual practices. It's a very interesting hobby of mine. [Laughs]

 

JEREMY:

 

Can you elaborate on that then? What are your techniques that you've found to help bring about those moments of clarity? I believe it's even called - is it Satori?

 

KATHERINE:

 

Yeah. In Zen Buddhism, yeah, and it seems like all the different religions have similar words for the same things. Even though Zen is kind of Mahayana or the Korean and Japanese version of Buddhism, all the branches have their own words and a lot of them come from whatever the root language is. So Sartori, I think, is a Japanese word. And so it's more like Japanese Zen Buddhism. But the concept is similar to Samadhi which is a Sanskrit word and you see this word in Hinduism and Buddhism with the Sanskrit background. And, yeah they all have the same idea of getting to a certain state of realisation where you remove all these veils of illusion and you get to a state where you feel very awake and very connected, and then you really understand what's actually going on. [Laughs] And the idea is to get to this state as often as possible, and then try to maintain it in your daily life so that you can be in the world but see through all these veils and then you're not a zombie anymore. You're actually awake and you're walking around and you're seeing reality as it is. And so people get there with different techniques, different meditation techniques. And I think any insight practice is trying to get you to the same place, and many yoga practices are also trying to get you in the same place. At least from a traditional point of view. Because I also started studying Tantra. I guess after that first series of travels, I didn't really stop travelling, I only went home to visit. So I've been travelling for about five years now and mostly in India, Thailand, also Peru for six months doing work with the Sacred Plant Medicines, and it seems like they all have their own practices which are trying to get you to that same state. So practices which I saw in the Andes or the Amazon of Peru where they're working with Ayahuasca, San Pedro, and Coca, the other sacred plants. They're saying the same thing as the yogis in India as the Tibetans and I find it - for me my hobby has been to study the essence - so any of these techniques, there are so many, and I would say people should do whatever they're called to do as long as they know that the end goal of that technique is to help them get to that state. Because I think a lot of techniques now, which I see in the West, is that we're exposed to a lot of things and we don't really know why we're doing them.

 

JEREMY: [narration]

 

We're exposed to a lot of things and we don't really know why we're doing them. That's a good one.

 

KATHERINE:

 

So it's very trendy, and it's cool to meditate, and it's cool to do yoga and it's cool to be into crystals and do Reiki or have some healer balance your chakras. But maybe we're not really sure what's actually going on, or what the original intention is behind these kinds of practices. So for me, the techniques that I use are techniques which I've done - because I'm very in the mind and I like to understand things. My curiosity makes me want to understand things. So I can over intellectualize a bit. But I like to understand the origin of something. So if I'm exposed to, for example a concentration technique, where someone has you stare at a yantra, or a mandala, or a candle flame, or a black dot on the wall. If they tell you to concentrate and focus your attention on that one thing, I'm the annoying student who's raising my hand saying, "OK but why are we doing this? I'm ok with doing it and I can do it and I have done it, but what is the intention behind doing it?" And if the person who is guiding the meditation doesn't know why, they just learned it from someone else or read it in a book, and all they can say is, "It helps focus your concentration". Then for me, it's OK to start with that and to try it and have my own experiences, but what I've noticed about most of these disciplines is, you want to be with a teacher who can get you there. So if the person teaching can't get you there, they can only get you so far, eventually you are going to have to go to a teacher above them. Their teacher, or another teacher, who can really get you to the essence of where it is that you're trying to go. And in the West I see this 'spiritual-bypassing' a lot. This 'pretending to be spiritual' and, it's trendy to be spiritual. And for me this person who wants to understand, and ask a lot of questions and now I'm studying a bit more the texts. I see there's a lot missing. There's a big gap in people being informed, or not being informed about why they're doing what they're doing. Because these practices can be so deep and so profound. And yes, you do start with concentration. Because if you cannot quiet your mind then it makes it hard to get to these high states, these high meditative experiences where you feel very connected to everything, to your true nature, to everything around you, to energy, to vibration. And, you know, if you drink coffee right before you meditate then you've probably experienced that the mind cannot be very quiet and you can't sit still. And if you're not flexible it's even painful to say it! So maybe you'll have to start with yoga in order to open the hips, to even be able to sit in meditation! [Laughs] Maybe you'll have to change your diet and stop eating meat or stop drinking coffee in order to bring some kind of balance to your digestive system so that the energy can go towards these meditative states and in the first place.

 

JEREMY: [narration]

 

I then ask Kathy to give me some links or some solid recommendations for some sources that she would recommend, especially for those listening - if you're curious about what and what makes Kathy tick and where is she getting all this stuff? She gave me some that I'll definitely include in the blog and she talks a little bit here too.

 

KATHERINE:

 

Yeah I have a lot that I would recommend. One person I follow primarily, he's in Berkeley California, his name is Christopher Wallace. I really like his blogs because he's speaking to the average person but he has several degrees including a Ph.D. in Shaiva Tantra which is the form of Tantra which worships Shiva, and he's one of the gods in the Hindu kind of religion. But at a tantric level this is more metaphysical and not literal. So it's not even a religion, it's an esoteric kind of study of something, which for me is like the Ph.D. level of spirituality. These people are able to discuss reality with quantum physics and see the correlation. I really like him because he is a Sanskrit scholar and I think he studied Sanskrit at Oxford. He's quite - academically he's got a lot of credentials which, you know, in the West people value credentials a lot. And so when he speaks he's really studying these ancient texts and talking about the chakras and yoga and why it is the way it is, but also how to navigate it in the western world in order to understand more deeply what it was and what it could mean and how far it can take you. So he's giving really beautiful examples of how the modern interpretation is of the chakras - like the seven chakra system within yoga. It's quite common for people to talk about chakras and yet very few people can cite their sources, even for where they learned this and then they state it as like a blanket fact that this is true. Like, about the heart chakra or the Sacral chakra is to do with this psychological thing and there's a crystal associated with it. But he's saying that actually this came from a woman who wrote a book in the 60s and she only had one text from India that she used and the rest she made up because she was a western occultist and not a yogi. And so when you read a text like this it can shatter your whole reality of - especially in the yoga world because people are very quick to throw around these kind of catchy terms. But most people don't know where it came from originally. And yoga in India is very old. I mean the Rig Veda - there's four books called the Vedas. They're the oldest books in the world. The Rig Veda they think was written in nine thousand B.C.E.

 

JEREMY:

 

Wow, that's incredibly old!

 

KATHERINE:

 

And this is like what the first - it's crazy! I mean, I have no idea what was going on in the world in 9000 B.C.E. All I knew was like, "OK are we - were we cave men at this point? What age...? Had we invented the wheel yet? And these people wrote a book about - basically an equation in Sanskrit metered like so they could memorize it and sing it, like a song, like chant it. It was an oral tradition where children memorized it their whole life to pass it on. And then some guy finally put it all together and wrote a book, and there's four of them. And really, no one understands this book, and it's so old, and it's so complicated, that nobody can translate it.

 

JEREMY: [narration]

 

We then talked a little bit more about modern day spirituality and how in the West, usually a very fragmented picture is painted, rather a cobbled together picture. 

 

KATHERINE:

 

There's so much depth of wisdom to this and these paths were really about something profound. I mean these people had supernatural powers you know? Because of their yoga practice, because of their meditative practice. And now we're like, "Oh, open your third eye and...Visualize this and... Visualize that". [Laughs] So it can be nice, and it can be a good feeling, and it can be a step in the right direction, but ultimately we're like kindergartners. And we can if we want, study and get to the Ph.D. level towards our freedom and towards our self-realization and self-actualization - our understanding and kind of removing these veils of illusion. And for me this is super interesting. If I could devote my life to anything its like, "OK, well why not this?" [Laughs]

 

JEREMY:

 

Right.

 

KATHERINE:

 

And I think a lot of people would agree. They're are also on this path. They just don't know how to navigate it with the stuff that we have in the West.

 

JEREMY: [narration]

 

The next question I asked Kathy was what her ultimate purpose is and whether or not it's to help others remove their veils? The veils which blind them from reality.

 

KATHERINE:

 

I ultimately feel like we all have our own kind of purpose, but I think to really be ourselves in the world, to be the best version of ourselves and really truly meet our potential as human beings, then a lot of work has to be done towards understanding who we really are. And I think understanding who we really are will naturally - those things that we're not will fall away. I mean, we can spend time studying psychology and understanding our childhood and, "OK, our parents raised us like this... My dad told me this, so I believe that" or "This happened to me when I was 13 so then I formed my own opinions about it, and then..." You know, some people go to therapists to kind of undo these things that are not true or are not real for them, don't need to limit them. I wouldn't say it's everyone's purpose but I would say for some people, if they feel a really strong determination to understand the true nature of reality, like what's really going on here, you know they want out of 'The Matrix'?

 

JEREMY:

 

Right! [Laughs]

 

KATHERINE:

 

Then there are ways, and there were schools and people were doing it for thousands of years, like thousands of years! Centuries you know? Not just decades, centuries people were perfecting this science. And they wrote books. And so if you want to read those books, or if you want to find a teacher who can get you there or at least get you part of the way there, then they're out there in the world. Unfortunately we have everything at our fingertips with the Internet these days and the fact that we have money to hop on a plane and travel somewhere is a luxury also. So, I wouldn't say it's everyone's purpose but for me I feel a very strong calling for this. And my limitation is that I feel like I intellectualize, and I tend to study, and I want to understand with my mind. And most of these disciplines are saying, "At some point you have to go beyond the mind". Because our thoughts, and our emotions, and what we believe, these perceptions we have of reality, our paradigm. The way - it has to be let go of at some point. Even the sense of self as we know it has to be, it has to be dropped. It has to be examined and dropped. And if it shatters, if you drop something and it shatters and breaks, and falls to pieces then in a way it's not real and the willingness to let go of something and not hold onto it, especially beliefs, the way we perceive the world, and how we perceive ourselves, the personality we shaped and created. It's very hard to let go of sometimes. And all these spiritual practices, at least with Buddhism they're saying that this attachment is really the root of our suffering. And for me I'm very curious to explore as far as I can go, and actually I just got accepted to a grad school program. I'm going to be returning to the U.S. in the summer. I'm going to be going to Naropa University. It's a private Buddhist University in Boulder Colorado. I'm going to be studying comparative religions, or they call it contemplative religions, and studying the Sanskrit and Tibetan languages. I guess I'm going into the Scholastic. So for me I don't feel like it's my purpose in life. To be honest, I think we can do anything, but it's the intention behind our actions. The way we do it - You know, a chef who knows the recipe to make food taste food is not going to be as high quality of a chef as a person who's passionate about it and really puts their full energy and intention into the food. You know, it tastes better with love. You know, it taste better with passion. And so there's - I think it doesn't really matter what we do, you know our purpose. Everyone has a different purpose and a different role and for me, as long as you reach your potential and remove all these things which limit you from really reaching that. Like really being the best at something you can be. Then the path is to remove all those limitations. That sense of limitation. To really reach your potential. And then if you're a chef or, you know a scholar, or a teacher, it doesn't really matter because you are yourself in the world. And I think that for me if I really know who I am and how I express myself in the world - affects everyone in my life. It affects the whole world. Somehow, it's like a ripple effect. So I don't know. I guess I believe in the evolution of human consciousness, and if you're spiritual and you believe in a soul, the evolution of the soul also that maybe it won't happen in one lifetime. Maybe it's something more than we can understand. A bigger picture than we can understand. And whatever people's beliefs are, most of them are saying the same thing. That there is certain things you can do to get closer to that, closer to your connection with God, closer to your connection to the universe, or the cosmos, the divine. And I think ultimately understand how we're related, how we're connected. And when we establish that connection, how we express ourselves in the world changes completely. And I've experienced that for myself. This unlocking of the things that I believe when I examine them and I drop them if they shatter and I let them go completely, I feel so much more myself. I feel so much more liberated. And it doesn't have to do with ideas anymore, it's just expression. It's this idea of just being who you are instead of thinking about who you should be, or trying to have people perceive you how you want them to perceive you. [Laughs]

 

JEREMY:

 

Exactly. It's very tiring when you get on that route. Right?

 

KATHERINE:

 

Yeah. And that's why it's funny when you ask someone to tell their story because, ultimately the story I tell you about myself paints a picture, and even that picture is not a reality of who I am. Because I'm so much more than that. I'm so much more than my story. And we're all so much more than our stories. And I really feel that even the story itself can be limiting because the story is only focusing on certain aspects of the bigger picture, and I don't have the bigger picture. I was not there to design the plan of my life, unless I was - a part of myself, maybe was very aware of these things but my conscious mind was not aware that I chose this, so that this would happen you know? [Laughs]

 

JEREMY:

 

Yeah. And you're totally right too. Each one of us is a little microcosm. Seriously, a universe unto ourselves. So you're right, there's no way to completely capture everything, that's most definitely true. And I like that you put that out there. Going back to what you were talking about, you know, with all of us trying to reach - I don't know, maybe the next evolution of consciousness, just getting to that next version of ourselves. Do you think that, I don't know, all the things that kind of ail this planet. Do you think that they can be remedied by more of us focusing on trying to get to that level? I guess what I'm trying to ask is, what kind of hope do you see for the planet, for humanity?

 

KATHERINE:

 

Wow, that's a really good question. You know, to answer the question I would have to look - the way my mind works now, because I study a bit more historical things. I look at the rise and fall of civilizations throughout time, and how it seems that there are periods where we forget and then there are periods where we remember. There are periods where we're very disconnected from ourselves, from nature, and then there are periods of reconnection, and it seems like this is a natural rhythm, a natural cycle. And so I think in modern times, if we focus that the world is in a really - like if it seems very negative, that like the planet's in trouble and something's going wrong with the world now that we need to change or somehow fix. I think even this perspective can be a bit limiting. In order to see that something is wrong with the world and that we need to fix it or change it. For me I see that, I think it's only natural that we evolve and I don't know if everyone will evolve. I mean for sure some people are taking steps backward and there's a lot of ignorance in the world now, especially what we see in the West. To be honest, this idea of like walking around and seeing that people are zombies is a reality. We're very programmed and conditioned to be subservient in our society now. I think that's just the way the system has created itself and whether you believe in these kind of conspiracy theories or not. For me I do see that the way people are educated to not question too much the lifestyle that they have. This idea of like; "OK you go to school, and then you get the job, and then you get married, and then you have the kids, and then you buy the house, and then you have to pay off the mortgage for 30 years, and then you can retire and finally relax. But by the time you retire you probably have cancer, so you have to have chemotherapy and so you have to have good health insurance. And you know, by then its like, how is the relationship with your family? They probably send you to a retirement center because we don't have these tight family units or tribal community support systems anymore. So in a way this could be perceived as really negative, but for me I think that I see so many young people who are really - have the desire, the intense desire to wake up, because they grew up in that society. So for me the things that are the way they are even, if it seems bad, so much good is coming from it. And I don't really like to use this 'good and bad' too much because, for sure there's a complexity beyond the duality of like, "this is good, and this is bad". Because sometimes the worst things that happened to me were the best learning experiences. The most difficult times were the most traumatic experiences. I grew so much from them. So now I really appreciate them and so I could not say that something was bad just because it was not the idea of good that I was taught to believe in.

 

JEREMY:

 

Right.

 

KATHERINE:

 

So I see a lot of hope because I see that people, when they're living in a certain world where they're disconnected, they feel a sense of separation from nature, from other people, from themselves. That detachment, the sense of separation, instils in them a deep desire to be more connected. And, you know, a lot of funny things happen when people want to be connected. You know, we have the social media stuff and there's kind of personas and personalities created which maybe are not authentic because we interact in a different way than in person, or than we used to in the past. But I see that people underneath it all have a deep desire to be connected. I mean I hear people all the time. They go on vacation because they're dissatisfied with their job. They get divorced because they're dissatisfied with their marriage and they say I just want to 'find myself'. I just want to heal myself. Or they're up in the mountains. I meet them up in the mountains in Wyoming if I go home in the summer and I'm backpacking. They say I just want to reconnect with nature. So even though they experience this loneliness and this sense of separation which causes them a lot of suffering and a lot of unhappiness. Underneath it that gives fuel to the fire inside of them which - they desire to feel connected, to understand who they are, to find themselves and find their connection with nature and other people. So for me I don't see that we're in such horrible times. I see that there's a lot of fuel for the fire and if that fire - the more fuel you put on a fire the brighter it's going to be, the larger it will grow. And for me the more difficult times are going to really feed people's deep desire to find happiness, to find connection. To understand what their real purpose in life is because they will see all around them that this isn't it. And for me that's how change naturally happens throughout time. I think this dissatisfaction and this fuel for the fire is usually the beginning of a time where everything changes and society restructures itself, and the world changes. And, you know, in 100 years the people who are running the show will be dead. [Laughs]

 

JEREMY:

 

Right.

 

KATHERINE:

 

I mean most likely unless we have these huge advances in the medical world where people can start to live longer. But I think the younger generation - and for them to see the world, and see that people are unhappy, and see that materialism or capitalism is not the way towards happiness, but it can be a tool. You know, money can be a tool. Then I think they're going to shift the paradigm themselves and I see it already happening in our generation. And to be honest I went home the first time was teaching yoga and my mom was my yoga student, and my elementary school teachers were my yoga students. And it changed their lives. They started doing yoga and now they do yoga, you know? So even the older generation, it's not too late for people.  They also desire this connection. So even if they're very conditioned by their society to perceive reality in a certain way within boxes, and judgments. Still, if they're unhappy they will desire to be happy. And for me I think people will start to understand what makes them happy, and that's the natural progression.

 

JEREMY:

 

Yeah. Yeah. And I think you're right. At whatever age, we all have the chance to wake up, to experience that clarity. There's no age limit where you're, "Nope, I'm past this age, I can't experience that now". [Laughs]

 

KATHERINE:

 

[Laughs] "I'm retired, I can't focus on happiness anymore"! [Laughs]

 

JEREMY:

 

So, what are the best things about life here on Earth? Ultimately, what are you most thankful for?

 

KATHERINE:

 

Wow, so many things. Honestly, just the experience of life. Like, to be human and to see through human eyes and hear through human ears. I mean the whole spectrum of light and color that we can perceive. My reality is very different from the reality of a bat, for example. But we live in the same world! But how about perceives, and sees, and hears, is very different from mine so it might seem like two separate realities. I feel very thankful to be a human and to have this kind of consciousness, and to have this freedom to - I don't have to focus on my daily survival needs, I don't need to worry about how I'm going to get food today and where I'm going to sleep tonight and if I feel safe, or if I have people to support me. I feel it's such a beautiful luxury to even think about enlightenment or self-actualization. You know Maslow's hierarchy of needs, I remember studying it in psychology, and at the bottom is like, you know, basic food, clothing, shelter, and then it goes up to social needs within your family and your relationships. And then there's more and more personal needs and at the very top of the pyramid is self-actualization. And I feel like it's such a luxury to even touch that top of the pyramid that I have all my basic needs met for me because of all the luxuries we have in this life, and for whatever reason, that is beyond my understanding, that I can even spend the time to think. I mean I've been in Thailand for a year, I lived in the jungle, I don't wear shoes, I teach yoga and yoga philosophy but otherwise I survive on very little money. I eat very good quality food like fruits. You its warm, I don't have to wear a lot of clothes. I can watch the sun setting into the ocean every night and I realized like this life is so amazing. And it's not just because I'm here, It's not just because I'm in Thailand and my life is like a vacation. It's that I even have the chance to experience this and to enjoy it at all. And I'm so thankful for the awareness that I have to even appreciate it. Because there were times in my life where I was so in my mind with work and school or whatever that I was not even able to stop and appreciate the beauty of life. And this is where it kind of goes back to the childhood, but I feel super thankful that at least I could appreciate the small things in nature. Like, I could look at an insect, or watch an animal, or see a child playing, and just feel that joy again, that awe of life. And, "wow this is really actually very amazing, that we're even here experiencing this". And, yeah, I'm so grateful for that. And for me that's important to remember because I really have this feeling that, if I can fill my life with that feeling, what I do in life, like I said it won't really matter because I'm spreading that energy of having this joy. You know, a child laughs and they have such a pure laugh. Everyone in the room feels that. Everyone in the room feels this purity, this innocence this, joy for life. And the kid will be giggling because a puppy is licking him or something, it's not even like, this profound thing. And I'm so grateful to still feel that and to not have lost it. There was a period of time where I lost it, so in a way I'm just glad that I've regained it. This awe, and this fascination, and this appreciation, and to just be happy to be here and take it all in no matter what happens you know? I think I will die very happy if that can be my last feeling in this life.

 

JEREMY:

 

One major thing I gathered from this conversation is that, as much as we can get to that state every day, to where we are truly just understanding of, and appreciative of what it is we actually have and can attain, with regard to consciousness. I mean, that to me is just a pinnacle. That's just something we should always strive for and we need to try and get it to become more and more of a daily thing. You know, as much as we can possibly experience that clarity in understanding it the better for all of us I think.

 

JEREMY:

 

Yeah, and I think this is where those techniques and those practices come in handy. You know, whether you meditate, or when you eat your food, are you really with your food or are you with your phone? You know? Are you tasting, are you are you looking around you or are you in your own internal world in your mind? And these daily practices that we do to cultivate mindfulness, I think they make it a lot easier to maintain that state. To maintain that state of appreciation and to really see with open eyes and here with open ears and you know, listen to someone who is talking with an open mind. Without judging everything they say or waiting for our chance to speak. This openness and this appreciation can be cultivated through practices. And for me that's why these techniques these little tricks and things we're exposed to - even if we don't understand the depth of what they could potentially lead us towards, they're still like baby steps in the right direction, towards helping us not drown in depression or drown in our own - you know, whatever we're consumed with in our minds. But to really take moments and to try to lengthen those moments that we can feel that. That awe, and that appreciation, and that profound, deep sense of peace, and bliss, that joy for living. And I think that's why a lot of these traditions have these practices. And for me it's funny, I was in Peru and I was working with the shaman for a while at this amazing place called 'Paititi Institute' where they're doing sacred plant medicine, they have a permaculture project. So we're really like growing our own food, and building our own houses, and working with the sacred plants. And the guy, Roman, who kind of runs it, he's like one of the shamans there. It's a couple who run the Institute. He said, he believes that, "We forget in order to remember, so we can forget to remember". And so I think it's a natural - I really like that he said that it's a natural process that every time you forget you appreciate more the moments that you remember,  and you feel more connected, and more fascinated by life. So the forgetting is also part of the process, part of the evolutionary process. So then it's not really something to be seen as negative. Like, OK there was a period of time that I was really stressed, or very anxious, or very emotional, and you know I lost that connection. When you lose it, and then when you regain it, it's more powerful every time you regain it because you have so much more appreciation for it. So I think it's really beautiful, no matter what.

 

JEREMY:

 

Yeah, that's actually a very good point, and I think that I've seen that to be true in life. Definitely. Wow, that's beautiful. Well, I just have one last question for you, and really it's just kind of to surmise, kind of everything that we've talked about so far. So if you feel that you need to repeat yourself a little bit that's totally fine, but it's kind of an 'end-all' question that I like to ask. But first I have to ask you to imagine something. Imagine that one day you're walking through a lush green park, let's say it's Hyde Park in London. It's a beautiful spring day. You know, just kind of perfect weather. When suddenly a spacecraft appears, yes you get to meet an alien. And out steps an alien who looks just like that British actor Benedict Cumberbatch and speaks like him to. I don't know how he got that British accent! Probably just watched a lot of TV on his way over. But after exchanging pleasantries, the alien asks that you give him the most accurate description of how you see and understand life on this planet.

 

KATHERINE:

 

And how much time do I have to show him? [Laughs]

 

JEREMY:

 

You would have... I know because it's kind of a loaded question right?

 

KATHERINE:

 

[Laughs] He's probably a busy alien I imagine.

 

JEREMY:

 

He's a very busy alien! Yeah, his goal is a little bit overly optimistic to get through a billion people at least, and you just happened to be the first one, so he’s given you about five minutes to answer.

 

KATHERINE:

 

 [Laughs] OK.

 

JEREMY:

 

But you can totally go, if you need to go five, ten, twenty even, that's totally fine.

 

KATHERINE:

 

Wow. I love this question, it's so interesting! I love these kind of imaginations because, yeah how will you present it to an alien? It's very, very beautiful. Alien who took the form of a funny British man. I like it. It's cool that we're in Hyde Park because then we can walk around and it's a bit more connected with nature. So for me this is really good symbolism of how I perceive life to be. I feel like if he's a very evolved being he would be very patient and very - he would listen - is my imagination, because if he really wants to know then he would listen to the answer. And I think I would show him a lot of things without using words, because language - I know because I like to study language - a lot can be lost in translation with words. Because with words there's an associated meaning, and so we paint a picture in our mind when we could just look at the thing and see it as it is, however we perceive it, without associating some meaning towards it. So I would probably walk around the park with him and show him some different aspects of life.  Different things living. Not just from the human perspective of life, but from an insect perspective of life, or maybe a plant's perspective of life. I would probably walk him to some water, and we would sit for a moment and look at the pond. Look at the fish in the pond, all the insects flying above, the plants growing in the sunlight, hopefully. You know, if it's a sunny day in London. More likely it's raining, but if it was a sunny day - I would hope for the sun! [Laughs] Because you can see a lot when the sun is opening the flowers and opening the plants, and you can see them absorbing all this light, and how sunlight brings life into the world and how we need it. I might sit with him and maybe show him when the water is still, and then throw a rock into the pond. And we would watch as the ripples form on the surface and flow out from where the rock hits the water, and watch as the rock goes down into the water and all the fish swim away, and then when the rock hits the bottom of the pond how it stirs up all the mud at the bottom. And then where it was once a clear pond where you could see everything, suddenly it's quite murky and all you see is brown silt and dirt floating around until everything slowly calms down again. All the dirt settles back down to the bottom. And again, it's clear, and again the fish relax and start swimming around or going back to doing exactly what they were doing. Forgetting that they had fear of something in the first place. And, for me this would be a very beautiful symbol of how something can be perceived from so many different points of view, and how clarity can allow you to see more. And yet how when you throw a rock into something and it clouds everything, it can create a lot of confusion for everyone, you know, we can't see the bottom, the fish can't see what's going on, they're afraid, they're swimming around like crazy. Maybe even the insects fly away. And then all the calm resettles and the clarity comes back. And then everything goes back to normal. So this period of like, chaos and then clarity. This period of fear, and then relaxation. Of calm, and tranquillity. And I think this would be a really nice way to start, and then kind of from there, continuing walking around the park. And if we want to have conversations about it, or if - I would assume this alien, if it has a spacecraft, is quite evolved. I would hope not just technologically but also in evolution of consciousness. And I would hope that he would see the symbolism that I was trying to point out. And so I would probably show him flowers, and I would show him something dead as well. You know it's like some insect has been stepped on, like someone stepped on a snail on the path. We would see a live snail, and we would watch it like, nibbling on something or creating a slime trail on something. And then we would look at the dead one for a while, and just stare at it. You know this crushed shell with this soft squishy body of something, and see the flies land on it and the ants start slowly nibbling pieces of it, and see that death is also a part of life, and the death is not the end because everything else feeds off of this. And this decomposes and becomes organic matter again. And to see that death is also a cycle of life and part of life. And to perceive it in silence for me is very powerful because then it's not putting any associated meanings like, "Isn't it sad that someone stepped on this snail. Isn't it sad that the ants are eating it?" You know? Or, "How wonderful it is that the flies now have something which will rot that they can lay their eggs in and then the maggots crawl out you know?" [Laughs] Like to not put good and bad on it, but just see it as it is, and then whatever the alien perceives, from his own point of view, I would hope is something profound for him. And so to just walk around the park and have these moments where we look at flowers and maybe we pick a flower. We watched them all fresh, and alive, and maybe pick one. And as we're walking around the park notice how that flower that we picked slowly starts to wilt. And so the thing that was once beautiful in its life and its vibrancy, and how maybe we wanted to keep that moment. That something we like - how we had this attachment to it, like, "OK I take it with me because it's such a beautiful flower". How slowly that flower changes and in one way could even like lose its beauty because it's starting to wilt and die. And then eventually that flower which is wilted and not beautiful anymore gets tossed aside. And then again becomes organic matter that decomposes into the soil. So I think this cycle and this bigger picture would be a really beautiful picture that I would like to paint for this alien. To see the interconnectedness of everything and to see how there's a whole system. It's not just the human's point of view but it's that everything works together in this cycle. In this system which is very complex and very intricate and beyond my understanding. Beyond my ability to explain to him the intricacy. And I would assume that his perception is different than mine and I would hope that he is more advanced and more evolved and that he can see more things than I could explain to him.

 

JEREMY:

 

That is marvellous. Seriously. I've never had anyone take the alien on a walk through the park. So this is a first. And I really have nothing to add to it and I'm so glad you've taken time out for the interview and to answer that question in such a beautiful way. As discussed earlier there really is no way for us to get the whole picture or the complete perspective from someone else. And I don't even think a decade it is enough time, let alone an hour like right now. Is there anything else you want to share with those listening that would give us an even better understanding of the way in which you perceive life? 

 

KATHERINE:

 

Yeah I mean there is something else I would like to say, and I don't know how many listeners you have or how many people are connected with this podcast because I also don't really know 100% how to listen to the other interviews but I think that, I would imagine this kind of project and your vision might attract a specific type of person who is willing to listen to a long recording of someone else talking about themselves. [Laughs] So I would assume that your audience is people who are very curious to understand how other people perceive the world and are hopefully good listeners because otherwise they wouldn't make the time for something like this. And I think these specific type of people who are open, and are curious, and are looking to perceive the world from someone else's point of view, or at least imagine too. That this type of person is probably looking for a better understanding of the whole picture themselves. And I think for this type of person I would really like to say to them to keep taking pieces of the puzzle wherever they can get it in order to put the puzzle pieces together and get the bigger picture. And to keep going, you know? Not to be disappointed with something. Don't lose their curiosity for life and for understanding because I also have this, and when I lost it and when I felt like society was telling me that I need to put myself in a box and set aside my dreams, or set aside my curiosity, that there wasn't a place for it in the world. I lost my connection in that moment. And if your audience relates to that, then I would really encourage them to find their place in the world. Paint the picture of the world in their own unique way, and then be who they want to be in the world because I think too many times we're told we should do this and shouldn't do this and it limits us. It limits us from really being who we can be. So I have this free education kind of it's like in the post-9 11 G.I. bill so military members get free education benefits for a while. And so it's paying for my master's degree program that I was in the military. And I'm in the same situation that I was in when I was 19 years old or 18 years old in which my education is paid for, but now I feel like I'm living life on my own terms and I decide what I want to study. I'm not letting society tell me what I should do in order to make money, because money won't make me happy, or that I should offer something beneficial to society, and that art was somehow not perceived as something honorable to offer society.

 

JEREMY: [narration]

 

Yikes. I don't know about you but this is really hitting home for me.

 

KATHERINE:

 

And it's funny because I realized, looking at all these schools and all these degree programs, I realized that it doesn't really matter what I study because if I'm interested in it, if I'm passionate about it, if I think it will bring benefit to myself and to the world that I know more about that thing that I can share that with other people, and to inform myself, then that's all that matters. So I would say go for your passions, you know? Keep cultivating that curiosity, that sense of wonder, that sense of awe about life, and don't ever let someone put out that fire in you. And, I don't know. Whatever it takes to get there, whatever it takes to feed that fire, that curiosity, that desire to move forward, to evolve, to know more, and to understand more, to connect more deeply, to be more authentic. I would say just do it, you know? Keep going. And whatever technique - even if in the West we have these kind of, new post-New-Age watered down versions of ancient things. You can follow the bread crumbs. You can take some simple technique, see if it works for you, see if it resonates with you, see if you feel good. See if it helps you let go of the sense of limitation, let go of the stories you tell yourself about, well, one, yourself! [Laughs] It's really good to keep evolving our self and not hold ourselves back with who we were, or who we think we are, or should be, but to continue allowing ourselves to become who we would like to be and take steps towards not becoming, but like almost unveiling our true nature. Removing those veils of the things that we're not in order to see who we truly are and really let that light of our consciousness shine through us. And for me this has been the most powerful thing for me, is that people along the way told me, "You know what, don't surrender, don't give up, don't ever stop trying to reach the goal that you have for yourself". And when you get that goal like maybe you have a certain salary you want to have or you want a certain car, even if it's a materialistic goal. When you get it, if it's not satisfying you're going to learn so much about yourself. And when you do get your goal and it is satisfying, you will also learn so much about yourself. So I would say, keep discovering yourself, keep exploring who you are and what is real, and what is the truth, and be open to learning new things. This beginner's mind that they talk about in Zen Buddhism is so powerful for me because as soon as we think we have the world figured out and that we're right then it's tricky because we start to believe other people are wrong. And I would say the number one thing I've noticed between people, why they have conflicts, why they can't connect, why they disagree, is because one person values their life experiences, everything they've learned, all the growth that they have, and all the opinions they have, all the beliefs they have, they believe to be right. And when they see that someone else doesn't value the same things that they value, they think the other person should, and then they think that person is wrong. And, this doesn't help the connection and it actually closes us off and limits us more. So I think any practice you can do to cultivate that open mind that you can learn from everyone. Everyone can be your teacher. Even if you don't agree with them, even if their life experience is totally different than yours. Maybe you have the same experience and you got two different lessons out of it. Still be open to the fact that you can move so much faster in your evolution if you learn from other people. Because otherwise, if you have to experience everything first-hand in order to learn from it, it's going to be a very slow process. Unless you have a lot of crazy experiences in your life. It can be very slow, but if you take every person as a teacher and learn from every one of their experiences by truly listening to them. Like this podcast, listening to someone's point of view. You can take all the lessons that they learned in their life and apply them to your own life. And you can grow so much faster if you're even just open to not judge and to not see the other person as wrong and yourself as right. And for me this perspective shifted everything and I would really recommend people try it because it takes huge steps. I don't know, I just appreciate people more, and I don't judge them so much, and I don't judge myself so much. I just see that I'm just another person and that is actually very humbling and it really helps with this ego struggle you know? Where we prop up our sense of self and we project how we want people to perceive us. This illusion of who we want people to see. I don't know. Letting that go has really helped me and I think all the spiritual disciplines are saying to be humble is - and to have a beginner's mind or that, one of the most important things to get you there, all the way there. Because you can't go there with the sense of self that you're carrying around like this big burden, you know? And to really see that everyone's interesting and everyone has a story to tell and that you can learn from that story if you really listen to it and don't judge them. That's been very profound in my life and I hope to continue to grow more and learn more from other people. So I would say keep doing that. And I want to say something to you also, in that I think that this is an amazing idea for a project because you're using technology and you're connecting people. And in the modern world you're changing people's lives. I mean I don't know the impact has happened yet, but just the fact that you're doing this and that you had the idea for this is incredible to me and I really respect you for that, and I really hope that if this is your dream that you really feel fulfilled by it and that you're learning a lot yourself and that you're able to share what you learn with others and that they can all grow from it. So I think it's beautiful that you're doing this. Thank you.

 

JEREMY:

 

Thank you so much, I really appreciate that. You've reaffirmed in the last few minutes why I'm doing all of this. I think it's necessary in this day and age. We just need to open our minds up and learn from one another, and be open to one another. Just from this conversation I've learned quite a bit and I'm really appreciative of that. One thing that I want to reiterate from what you spoke about is that it's vital that we be our true authentic selves. That to me is something truly worth fighting for, and it's paramount. I just wanted to say I appreciate you touching on that. 

 

KATHERINE:

 

I totally agree with you. Authenticity for me has been the number one thing that I can focus on that I know will help me grow in the right direction. To be honest, to be authentic, even to say like, the things that are difficult to say about myself. To admit them. I think just bringing the awareness to it, and then the willingness to be open and be honest and expose ourselves to this,  maybe fear of being vulnerable to others, is very deeply healing in a lot of ways and I think it takes huge steps in our progress. We don't need to do therapy for years and talk to our psychiatrist about something. Or we don't have to stay in these same patterns. We can allow ourselves to change as long as we're authentic for where we are now and who we are now. That is going to form the deepest connections with other people and it's going to be the most beautiful expression of ourselves in the world when we're authentic. People relate to authenticity, they connect to authenticity. And it's inspiring. You know, if you can admit something about yourself that's difficult like, "OK I don't know", or, "I did make that mistake" or, whatever it might be. People relate to that. It's a human experience and we're all working on this change, and this evolution, and to just be true to ourselves, to be authentic and express ourselves from authenticity and honesty is profound and it's such a basic stage. You can start with that, you know? You can start with that and so much will happen. You don't have to meditate for an hour a day, like you can just start by being authentic [laughs] as best as you can! [Laughs]

 

JEREMY:

 

That is great. Well I'll let you go now Katherine, but thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking the time out for this. And when you do come back to the states, and if I happen to be up in the Boulder area, let's grab some coffee or something. I would love to continue this conversation.

 

KATHERINE:

 

Next time I get to interview you! [Laughs]

 

JEREMY:

 

OK perfect! I'll bring my shaved head as long as you bring your shaved head.

 

KATHERINE:

 

[Laughs] I want to know what you told the alien who arrived in the park! [Laughs] I'm so excited to see your project continue and I would love to help support you in any way because I really think this is an amazing, incredible idea that you're doing.

 

JEREMY:

 

Thank you so much Katherine. I really do appreciate that. Thank you. It's been awesome talking with you.

 

JEREMY: [narration]

 

Hey. Thank you so much for checking out this episode of 'In the shoes of'. If you like, or don't like the podcast, feel free to leave a review or reach out to me. My email is jnickel@intheshoesof.org. I'm Jeremy Nickel, the host and producer of the show, until the next time, see you later.

 

Aida Vazin Transcription

JEREMY [narration] :

 

Hi everyone and welcome to the in the shoes of podcast where I make it my goal to see life as much as possible from someone else's point of view. Just like we all have a unique heartbeat. Every single one of us sees life only from our own perspectives. Think about it. Can you see and process life exactly as Elon Musk sees and processes life. The answer is you can't, and it applies to every living conscious being here on this pale blue dot.

 

[music plays]

 

JEREMY [narration] :

 

Today I am speaking with Aida Vazin, a marriage and family counselor in Newport Beach which is where we're actually doing the interview. We're doing it outside so just letting you know that, you know, sometimes there's a little bit of wind some background noise and all of that. We're going to be covering quite a few different things here. For one, where she was born, how she had to flee from war, culture shock in other parts of the world, and then when she came to the United States of America. We're going to talk about physical memory, anthropology, mythology, religion, psychology... a lot of stuff. Oh, and including, in case you've ever wondered, which I've definitely wondered: Why do people go in and shoot up buildings and just commit ridiculously heinous acts and Aida, she has an answer. Though it may not be exactly what you're expecting. One last quick note before we get going with this. If you have friends that are deaf or hard of hearing and you think that they could really benefit from, or would be interested in this podcast, then please refer them over to ‘intheshoesof.org’ where I plan on having every podcast episode transcribed or at the very least have a video available with captions. Something of that nature so that, you know, people who are hard of hearing or deaf can also enjoy this podcast.

 

JEREMY :


Aida, thank you so much for joining me. Should I call you doctor?

 

AIDA :

 

No, no.

 

JEREMY :

 

No? Ok cool. I'm going to start off with the first question, which is quite important and it's what shoes are you wearing right now?

 

AIDA :


I’m wearing my black stilettos.

 

JEREMY :

 

Black stilettos?! Nice. Can I get a picture of those too?

 

AIDA :


Sure.

 

[music plays]

 

JEREMY : [narration]


Greg the cameraman pointed out that this was possibly a little bit of a creepy question. Thankfully Aida was a really good sport about it.

 

JEREMY :


If you had to define yourself in the third person. Take a step back. How would you do so?

 

AIDA :


Curious, adventurous, passionate about life, and very joyful.

 

JEREMY :

 

That’s super cool! Can we, kind of like go through a little bit of sequence with your life. So you tell me about where you grew up, how it affected you, what kind of obstacles you faced or didn't face?

 

AIDA :

 

Sure. I actually had quite an interesting journey which is common with a lot of people from Iran who were born in the early 80s or just through the revolution. Iran had an entire revolution in the late 70s and then starting in the early 80s. There was a war between Iran and Iraq, which impacted and influenced a lot of us. And so me along with a lot of other people we were refugees we had to leave.
So I was born in Iran. I don't have any memory because I left before I was two years old. But I have, you know, physical memory. I don't have thoughts that I can go back to. I remember this or I remember that but I have physical memory of it.

 

JEREMY : [narration]


So we found this to be an interesting concept and we didn't really touch upon it until later on in the podcast when Greg, he asked, “What did you mean by that? What did you mean by physical memory?” So Aida delves into it and paints a good picture for us.

 

AIDA :


I didn't have any cognitive memories from my experience in Iran. My cognitive memories
all started in Sweden. I have my first memory when I was in my stroller. I was about two and a half / three years old in our new home. That was my first memory that I remember. So I have a lot of memories in Sweden. But I have physical memory from my experience in Iran. And I'll tell you what that is. There is this Iranian filmmaker Marjane Satrapi I believe I'm saying it correctly, and I think it was the name of her movie Persepolis which is an animation, but it was basically doing the -- like showing the experience of all of the Iranians during the Gulf War and the refugees and what they had to do. And I remember my parents telling me, you know, when the bombings were happening we all had an underground shelter we would go to, you know, we would wake up in the middle of the night or during the day, it doesn’t matter. We'd all run downstairs as a family, hold each other, scared like, “oh my gosh what's happening”, and then. I was quite a precocious child. I was apparently speaking
for sentences at the age of one.

 

JEREMY :

 

Oh wow!

 

AIDA :

 

And so I’m like, “What happened? What happened? What's going on? What's going on? You know? This is my family telling me this, I don’t remember any of this stuff. And then they're like, “oh, it's OK you're safe. Nothing to be scared of. Nothing to worry about. Nothing to be scared of.” And this is just me I guess, calming myself down. I don't know.

 

JEREMY :

 

You were saying that?!

 

AIDA :

 

I was saying that! “Nothing to be scared of! It’s not scary! It’s not scary!” You know? Whatever right? And then I remember, I went with one of my friends to watch this movie Persepolis and I was, I was in my twenties, and we were watching it and, you know, it’s fascinating, it’s cool, it’s this, it’s that and then all of a sudden it goes to a shot where the family is running down the stairs and the sirens are going off and you're hearing bombing, and this is in a movie theater, so you're hearing it, you know surround sound, and I started bawling! And I start bawling and it's just like, you know, those deep breaths, just uncontrollably. I started bawling, it’s like all this that I’m thinking about right now and I'm kind of like choking up a bit. But I'm like, wow, you know I have some trauma that registered in my system because of that. You know, even though I don't have cognitive memories. I don't remember any of that. I don't have a vivid memory of any of that but something inside of me still remembers that. You know, which is true we do have trauma and pre-cognitive trauma that we carry. Which is a true experience. So a lot of us may have reactions, or startle responses, or strong reactions to certain things and we have no idea where it's coming from. Most likely it's pre-cognitive. Yeah, most likely is pre-cognitive that's why trying to figure out where it comes from is not necessarily a good therapeutic approach in my opinion. It's more like OK you have this, let's work on the emotion -- let’s to bring peace to that emotion. And I remember growing up I kind of had a strong startle response in general and I'm like, “OK, well this is where I came from”, you know? So that started making sense to me. But yeah it was very strong, a strong, visceral response. I was like wow! It was just uncontrollable. It was it was this deep pain I guess.

 

[music plays]

 

AIDA :


And we had to flee because wherever we were at they were bombing. So it was either you stay and die or you run and live. And so that was me being introduced to this world, and I didn't know anything  different because this is all I know. And so the first place that we got a visa to -- as refugees was in Sweden. I was about one and a half. And so we migrated as a whole family. So one of my uncles was about to be recruited into the army and so he had to actually leave illegally because again he was either  going to go in the army and die or he was going to get out any which way he could.

 

JEREMY :

 

Pretty obvious choice.

 

AIDA :

 

Right! So we all migrated to Sweden as a whole family unit and we waited there until we got our green cards to come here to the States. And that was interesting because that was a huge culture shock for my family. Iranians you know just like other Middle Easterners are very conservative in nature especially when it comes to things like, let's say things like sexuality. Scandinavian countries, specifically Sweden is extremely open about that. So that was one of the first things that popped out for our family is like, “OK it's just, it's there, it's in your face”.

 

JEREMY :

 

Literally popped out. [laughs]

 

AIDA :

 

Literally! [laughs] So that was like one of the biggest culture shocks or just the weather change you know? Was 10 months of snow! And then two months of sun, 10 hour days of -- just under the sun. So it was an adjustment in that aspect. And then at the same time the social systems were really accommodating to the people that live there. There it’s a very socialist country and a small population I think something like 7 million. So they take care of everybody, very, very well. Which was one of the reasons why we were able to get there so easily as refugees. Right? We were like, “Where can we go? OK, you’ll take us? We’re coming!”

 

JEREMY :

 

Perfect!

 

AIDA :

 

Yeah, right? And I remember growing up there. I have lots and lots of fun memories in Sweden. It was very wholesome. It was very child oriented. They really took care of kids and raising them well and taking care of their citizens. And they were really into creating a wholesome peaceful society. 

 

JEREMY :

 

You didn’t face any prejudice or racism there?


AIDA :

 

I did but they’re very good at controlling it, because everyone there has blond hair and blue eyes, you know, Scandinavians, and here I am this, you know, ethnic looking child. So, yeah, I stood out. I definitely stood out. But then there were other Iranians that have migrated there. So I wasn't the only one. There were other Middle Easterners that had migrated there so I wasn’t the only one. So there
was a sense of tolerance to that. But you know every nation has their pride for themselves and that's the way that they get brought up and whatnot.

 

JEREMY :

 

Of course.

 

AIDA :


And then I moved here when I was six years old. First I was in Los Angeles for like a year and then just straight to Orange County and I grew up here.

 

JEREMY :

 

Oh, OK. How old were you when you came here then?

 

AIDA :

 

I was six years old.

 

JEREMY :

 

Six years old, oh, OK.

 

AIDA :


And I remember thinking to myself about all of the differences. As a child like my first year here, you know, I was thinking in Swedish, I don't remember Swedish anymore because I never practiced it, but I remember I was like, “Wow the children here are so different. They seem really mean and angry!” You know? “Why are they so angry”. They were really hostile. The school I went to in Los Angeles. When I came here to Orange County it was a little bit different. I went to school where they were a lot more embracing. But then the teachers, the authority figures, were a little interesting so my second grade
teacher I remember I was still in ESL. I didn't know English very well and she was talking about, like one of the kids said, “ I just said a bad word”, and she completely implemented the entire judicial system in the second grade. “OK we're going to vote on it. How many people think that she said a bad word? How many people think that she didn't say a bad word? And I was like…

 

JEREMY :

 

What?!

 

AIDA :

 

Yeah, and it was basically based off of opinions of the non witnessing students. And that was what was going to be the final say of what happened. 

 

JEREMY :

 

Wow.

 

AIDA :

 

And I was like, “OK, this is interesting”.

 

JEREMY :

 

That doesn’t sound like justice to me right?

 

AIDA :

 

Well, no. [laughs]. But also, by a different perspective for me here and I'm like, “wow it's the same second graders that are in the court systems right now. I have this expert witness that's going to
tell you that what you said is wrong. And this expert witness doesn't know you, doesn’t know the situation, wasn't actually there when anything happened. But they're going to prove I turned based off of these statements. And that’s exactly the same thing that's going on. You know, I'm like, wow you get socialised very quickly into that. So I was like, “OK, that was interesting”. Also, trying to adapt here to this culture, again family coming as immigrants. They don't know the language very well. They're trying to make ends meet. Things like that. We had to move a lot. We had to move a lot. So I also had to go to a lot of different schools. So I never actually got to connect or find roots anywhere. I was constantly in this observer mode the whole time. “OK. This group of people this school you know they're like this. And then this group of people in this school, they're like this”. And it was always a different vibe everywhere I went depending on the city, depending on the school system, depending on the
socioeconomic status, of the area. I was constantly looking at them, like, “OK, why are these people so different? Why are these people like this?” You know? “Oh, OK I can connect with these people, I can relate to these people”. None of these people even know what a person is! I was always the only one! Like, “OK this is interesting”. So there was, definitely my background, there was a sense of, it was a little hard to connect. But then at the same time I was trained by my life to be very comfortable and
new in unknown situations. 

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

AIDA :

 

So I don't I don't have that fear of change or the apprehension. So there were two sides to it. And at the same time, even though I never really connected to one group, I never got really cliquey. It was easy to relate to people because there was always some aspect that I could relate to someone like, because I looked for that. I look for the point of relating. I didn't look for the point of disconnect. Like, “OK this is what we have in common. OK, this is how we can relate. This is --” you know? And I would just -- That's the approach I would always take.

 

JEREMY :

 

Good. And how did that develop your identity then? I guess. Or did it affect it in a bad way at all? It sounds like it’s positive, actually, the way it affected you.

 

AIDA :


I think so. I choose to look at it that way. And at the same time I'm also not really grounded or committed to one thing. You know, so I could look at that as a hindrance to it too. I've also not been very interested in getting into a serious relationship and getting, settling down and getting married and having children because to me it felt like, “OK some anchor. I have to be stuck here”.

 

JEREMY :

 

Right.

 

AIDA :


So it has had its effect in that aspect. Definitely. You know, I can look at it, I’m 33 years old and that part of me hasn't quite sparked yet. And I can look at it and be like, “OK, well let's have a reality check about that, how much of your upbringing is affecting this, because it is right? And it's not necessarily the family upbringing. It's more along... because my family are very traditional into -- they're always like, “I don't understand why you’re not married because…

 

JEREMY :

 

Sure.

 

AIDA :

 

You know, you have your education, you have your career, you have your life, you're of age, you're probably past age! You know, the coming of age for this?

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah sure.

 

AIDA :

 

Yeah, they don't get it, like it doesn't make sense to them, because this is what you do. These are the steps that you take. You know these are the processes of life. That's all they knew. My grandparents had an arranged marriage, my mom got married when she was in her… when she was 20 actually, 19 / 20. So they were, you know that's what you do, this is what you do, this is what they know. And then now we're here and I’m like, “Well, no, not necessarily. No. No. [laughs] Not me!

 

JEREMY :

 

You don’t have to actually do whatever society dictates that you're, “supposed to do”.

 

AIDA :

Right! So I chose to see it that way. I chose to look at it that way. I've also, I mean you know
again, just in Orange County itself, moving up the socioeconomic ladder has been quite interesting to me as well, too.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah! I’m interested in finding out about that as well.

 

AIDA :

 

Right, because when I first came here we were in a little bit more of a lower socioeconomic status and then the population was different too. There was more minorities and at the same time it was a lot more
aggressive like there was a lot of school bullying going on, actual fighting, gangs, teenage moms or moms involved with drugs. I was starting to be offered drugs from the sixth grade from elementary school, like it was just there. It was there was a part of the culture. It was just part of the environment. And then you know, we started moving to more wholesome areas of Orange County, and I noticed the population was different. The demographics were different. Less minorities in that sense and it was a more peaceful environment. And even in my jobs as well too. So when I was working in the areas
that were serving lower socioeconomic status individuals. I was working with that population of individuals as well too as colleagues.

 

JEREMY :

 

Ah, OK, and that was as a counselor?

 

AIDA :

 

Yeah, as a counselor. Yeah. And the way that the work environment was affected and influenced by that, was very different than when I started doing more let's say administrative or higher corporate work and things like that. It was a different group of people that I was working with. And the way that people related in the systems were very different, very different. I always looked at that. My inner anthropologist, sociologist, psychologist, was always like, “OK, this is interesting. OK that's interesting. This is interesting”. So those things always stood out to me. Those things always stood out to me because I've always had to bear it all the time.

 

JEREMY :

 

It’s almost like that was your own life crash course in anthropology.

 

AIDA :

 

Yes.

 

JEREMY :

 

As opposed to college and studying it.

 

AIDA :

 

Right.

 

JEREMY :

 

You know first hand a lot about this.

 

AIDA :

 

Right, and just something as small as just a little bubble of Orange County let's just say. I've been here for about a couple of decades and I could see so much variance in just the small little suburbs of southern California.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah

 

AIDA :

 

And that’s just that one place, and then of course that's also motivated me to want to go see so many
other places and think, “Oh, OK, If this is what this little tiny area in the world has to offer. Oh my gosh! That part of me that loves change and new experiences and humanity and so fascinated by people.
I can't wait to go see how other systems work and how other people work you know? With the indigenous people of an area and then the minorities of the area, how they're going to work.

 

JEREMY :

 

And so, but right now you're a practicing marriage and family therapist right? 

 

AIDA :

 

Right.

 

JEREMY :

 

And is that something that you're still going to be doing as you…

 

AIDA :


Yes, I'm actually going completely virtual in my practice. So I’m going to do office, Skype and phone. So I'm transitioning my clients out from the office so I can go across the world and travel and do what I love to do which is help people be their -- you know reach their best potential and remove their obstacles, and it's -- this world is not that scary, and it's not so hard to find joy in life let’s just find what's between you and that.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

AIDA :

 

And let's push past it and let's break through it. And that's just super fulfilling, I mean that's a gift to be able to do that for a living, that's a gift.

 

JEREMY :

 

I agree. That’s amazing, seriously.

 

AIDA :

 

Yeah, I'm very very grateful about that. And at the same time learn, absorb, observe all these kind of things. See what this beautiful planet Earth has to offer.

 

JEREMY :

 

That’s so cool. I'm super excited for you there.

 

AIDA :

 

Thanks!

 

JEREMY :

 

I have my guesses about what the answer is to this but, what would you say then is your primary
passion in life?

 

AIDA :


Definitely. I mean it's question since I became a marriage and family therapist. I definitely believe
that the place to start with creating better societies is to start with creating more harmonious couples. 

 

JEREMY :

 

Ah, OK.

 

AIDA :

 

So when couples are doing well, you know they can turn into like a power couple. Then they can, you know, usually they have children, not always, but then they raise healthier children which they start creating better and healthier, more harmonious societies. And that's the approach or premise that I take. So that's one thing I'm very passionate about. Another thing is, culture. I'm super passionate
about culture and mythology. Because mythology drives cultural beliefs and social beliefs. 

 

JEREMY : [narration]

 

Mythology drives cultural beliefs and social beliefs. That is a really interesting statement right there.

 

JEREMY :


Could you elaborate on that? That would be awesome for the listeners.

 

AIDA :

 

Sure. So you know for example the Abrahamic religions are very popular. From Islam, to Christianity, to Judaism. And then there's eastern philosophy like Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and then
there's there's tribal mythology as well. So I'm learning about African tribal mythology of the Usoon and the Orishas, and…

 

JEREMY : [narration]

 

Later on Aida and I were talking and she recalled some more of the tribal mythologies and was kind of like wondering why she couldn’t remember all of them, but to me it was kind of fascinating that she
was able to recall all of these different mythologies and religions and all that in the conversation. Anyway there's some great nuggets of information coming up.

 

AIDA :


I don't know the terminology as well yet, I'm still learning.

 

JEREMY :

 

No problem, this is very cool.

 

AIDA :

 

Right. But, you know, in Native American mysticism from the teachings of Carlos Castaneda actually. The UCLA anthropologist.

 

JEREMY :

 

That’s right, I thought to was here. Yea, UCLA, OK, cool. 

 

AIDA :

 

And he definitely inspired the inner anthropologist and me. It's very, very interesting to see how
different belief systems work. But how much connection there is among them I guess. I'm I'm definitely more into seeing the connections and the things that create a whole not the separations and the things that create division.

 

JEREMY :

 

Right. And do you think with the mythology that you studied so far, have you found that there are some that are better for promoting a better and healthier society or some that are worse or some that are just -- Or it’s just you know? There's no good or bad about it?

 

AIDA :

 

I haven't delved that deep into it. I don't have quite a personal opinion about it yet. I don't know as much yet to have a personal opinion, but some of the things that stood out to me are that they all seemed to be like teaching grounds. You know they teach people about life and everyone has a certain thing that they get drawn to or attracted to. One of the things that really stood out to me in that one course was the fact that there is a belief system in every society from you know Eskimos to Aborigines to you know Western societies to eastern philosophy. Everybody, everybody, everybody has a belief system. And one of the premises behind that is to try to explain the things that we don't have control over and why they happen. I think there's validity to that. And I think there's validity to the fact that there may be something beyond what our five senses can grasp.

 

JEREMY : [narration]

 

This has been an interesting recurring theme in a lot of my conversations. 

 

AIDA :

 

You know our five senses are quite limited.

 

JEREMY :

 

Definitely -- Our perception of this reality right?

 

AIDA :

 

Right! I always use the dog whistle as the perfect example. Where there's a spectrum of sound, or a sound wave, and our ears can only hear one portion of that. The dog can hear the other portion and that whistles going off and the dog can hear it but we can’t. So just because we can't hear it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Same with if we can't see it, touch it, smell it, taste it, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. So there's something more that's driving us and humanity than meets the eye. Which takes me to another place that I'm really fascinated about which is science, and physics, and chemistry, and how everything works is super fascinating and I’ll elaborate on that. You know when you look at how our solar system works nothing new is actually happening. We're constantly just circling the sun and the
earth is spinning around itself and circling the sun.

 

JEREMY :

 

Pretty fast too. It’s kind of crazy.

 

AIDA :

 

Right. So we're just reliving the same thing over and over and over again, which is that cyclical nature of our patterns as humans as well. And then at the same time you look at it there's a very clear order to how all of it works. You know from all the planets and their positions and they never deviate and it works and how there's all this space, but then there's the pull of gravity. And when you get down to an atomic level the atom looks exactly the same as our solar system. It has a nucleus and a proton and electrons are circling around. You know I don't think there's a coincidence with that. That's not like, “oh that's a cool coincidence”. It's more like, there's an intelligence behind that. Right? And so I think human behavior and motivation, mythology and belief systems as well as science, I think those three combinations definitely speak to who I am as a person and why we work the way we do, why do we live the way we do. What's the purpose of life?

 

JEREMY :


Yeah, yeah definitely so -- Wow, you're like almost answering some of my other questions that I have too which is really cool. So when you say mythology I almost feel like. Instead of saying religion you're saying mythology you know? Do you have kind of a, more or less an idea of what your belief system is with regard to that. And coalescing you know your understanding of science and mythology?

 

AIDA :

 

I've read some religious texts I read some books about mythology and Eastern philosophy and obviously native American traditions I’m learning about some African tribal traditions and I think because that part of me, you know, the first word that I used to describe myself is curious. That curious aspect of me is just constantly just trying to absorb and learn and just find a connection between everything. I have haven't committed to one or the other yet. I’d love to, but it’s like, “wait, but I could go over there!” [laughs]

 

JEREMY :

 

Exactly. Exactly.

 

AIDA :


And this is still building up towards something because obviously what I'm going to -- create research and I'm going to go from an angle and a lense, I need to, have to choose a preference or a belief that
I'm going with. So to answer that question I'm still developing it.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah, I think that’s a very fair answer too, definitely! And I like that answer, because too often I hear people who are absolutely positive about a certain thing, which always scares me when it comes to dogma, and all of that, you know?

 

AIDA :

 

Yes. Yes. Yeah I don’t reject quite anything completely, but I don't fully say that this is it. This is the only
thing I like. OK, “I like this part of it. I like that part of that, not too crazy about this part. I don't know about that. Well let me find out more,let me find out more.”

 

JEREMY :


Yeah. And I think you probably hit on something earlier that kind of summed it up. It’s that, it’s almost like we're, and I don't want to offend any of the listeners but it's almost like we're creating things, creating these stories and these mythologies to explain things that we just don't quite understand
in our limited capacity as human beings and our finite understanding and finite lives.

 

AIDA :

 

Right, right. And that's what we're constantly doing, that's why research exists. That’s why science exists. That’s why mythology and religion and all the kind of things exist because of exactly what you said. We're trying to understand that’s why psychology exists. That's the whole point of it. It's like, why do you do what you do? You know? I was talking about this yesterday. You know how you said the mythology is trying to explain things that we don't know? I was also attributing in that same dynamic to maladaptive coping skills for example. We use the only tools that we know when we come across a feeling that we don't know what to do with.

 

JEREMY :

 

Right.

 

AIDA :

 

Right?

 

JEREMY :

 

Could you explain or elaborate on that a little bit. 

 

AIDA :


Right. I was talking about someone that's under stress or is dealing with grief or abuse or trauma
and maladaptive coping skills. Some people you know may go towards substance abuse or emotional eating or excessive sleeping like numbing themselves away or excessive TV watching, exercising vigorously to the point where they're you know taxing their body or injuring themselves and stuff, because these things exist and at some point, to some extent they give you feel good hormones and they make you feel better in one moment but too much of it too often they're maladaptive when it comes to emotional coping it doesn't address the underlying pain, fear, grief. You know? Anger. Whatever is going on there, it's not ever addressing all of that. But we're going to go ahead and use the only things that we know that are available to us that we know give us immediate feelings of feeling better when we don't know what to with an uncomfortable feeling. Which is the same exact thing. So people will create mythology and religious systems to explain things like natural disasters, why volcanoes erupt all of a
sudden for no reason, why a tsunami happens, why this area of the world just got wiped out because they don't know what to do with that. There's no control and they don't have the coping skills for it or maybe technology wasn’t built to have buildings that will keep you safe in a flood or something. You know what I mean? In an earthquake? And so they needed to create belief systems to address those fears. I mean that's scary to be like, you know this earth can swallow me alive any minute, and it does, and I have no say in it whatsoever.

 

JEREMY :

 

Right. “Please elder, tell me why this happened?”

 

AIDA :

 

Yeah, “what can I do to not do that again and not be swallowed up by the tsunami”, or something. Yeah.

 

JEREMY :


We want to survive, for sure.

 

AIDA :

 

Right.

 

JEREMY : [narration]

 

At this point I asked Aida when she decided that this was what she wanted to do to help people in this capacity as a therapist. By the way, the wind picks up a little bit so it's a little bit annoying at first but just bear with us. 

 

AIDA :

 

I remember when I started college I wanted to go into the scientific field and you know I was taking my intro to biology, history, and physics, and you know it was really nice, and along those lines I had to take a humanities course, “Oh, psychology looks interesting”, I took psych and I was like, [laughs] you know
I've never been so excited about anything the way I was about -- “This is fascinating! This explains..!” And then all of a sudden I'm like, “oh this is my neighbour, this is my coworker, this is my cousin, that’s definitely my -- Oh, this one’s me, that’s definitely me!” I decided for my bachelors, I would study sociology and cultural anthropology to get a better picture, because I was like, “oh if I'm just going to do only psychology it's going to be such a burden -- like such a tunnel vision in my opinion, that's my opinion. You know I'm like, “OK, I keep learning about the psyche of this person in a very, very deep and profound way. Well what about this person in this society what about this person and their cultural upbringing?” You know? I’m like, “oh, I need to absorb that information as well. I never thought I wanted to go into research. That developed after I'd been such a consumer of other people's research and methods and when I started putting everything into practice I started with myself, I started with my family, I started with friends, and then colleagues and clients. Just pretty much anyone who was open to it. It was like, “oh wow some of these have real bad shortcomings you know? Like, “This is not feasible! You can’t tell a person that's in the middle of an argument to be like stop!” You know? That’s their patten, like you work on something else first and then you address this. Or you need to work first on their internal coping mechanisms before you start adding all of these tools and techniques and some of them just were not feasible you know? Because they just didn't resonate with a certain population. Like “no I'm not going to do that”. Or, “No I'm not going to say something back to my parents”, like, “please don't talk to me that way”, because maybe you come from a culture that you respect authority so much that something like that would be extremely disrespectful. So how do you address that? How do you address that with a person's background?

 

JEREMY : [narration]

 

It's really encouraging hearing Aida talk about taking a holistic approach to her practice. She's not a
believer in boxing things in you know? Like, “things must be done this way”! So kudos to her right?

 

AIDA :

 

And not to sound so negative about the field of psychology, because they're really working on addressing that. They're really, really work on addressing that. But then I realize, well if I'm using all these tools that we have and I'm finding shortcomings why don't I produce something for that gap? There's a gap there. There's a gap in this area. Well, you know that's what you do, then you start creating, rather than just observing. So this is -- And then I realized that since I tend to think on a grand scale, like you know the whole globe, and everybody, I'm like OK well I can't do it in this tiny little bubble called Orange County, I’ve got to go out there and see the rest of the world because what I have to say works for this little area. Can it transfer, is it generalizable to another area in the world.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah, That’s super cool.

 

You've seen a lot of things. I mean you've talked with a lot of people but you've seen probably for lack of a better word the “dark side of humanity”, I guess?

 

AIDA :

 

Oh, yeah, yeah.

 

JEREMY :

 

What, in your opinion, and you alluded already to a few things like, you think the secret to really creating better societies is better couples, better -- you know, parenting essentially, what else do you think are like the ails? Things that just like ail society right now? And if you have any ideas for solutions too?

 

AIDA :

 

I think it's just so fear driven, and I think the fact that people are not as curious as they should be, they're just very open to being spoon fed something and they don't go out there to learn more. My true belief, knowledge is power. Learning something new is extremely powerful and empowering. When you put it to practice you know? People feel very lonely, people feel very isolated. Again this could probably be very much specific to this area because other areas of the world they have a strong sense of community too.

 

JEREMY :

 

True, yeah.

 

AIDA :


You know so this might be an ailment in this area, but I think if anything this is this is a part of humanity
that we have to accept. Humanity has got a really ugly side to it. Humanity is primitive, period. [laughs]

 

JEREMY :

 

We really are, no matter how we try to shine it up right?!

 

AIDA :

 

Yeah. The fact that we can put a leash on a dog and have it be our submissive little pet tells you something. I mean it's super cute and I love dogs and I want to pet myself too and I would, you know. I'm not saying that I'm beyond that or past that, just acknowledging that, that’s part of humanity that we can do that. You know, I’m just saying.

 

JEREMY :

 

And that’s a mild example, right?

 

AIDA :

 

Right. That’s a mild example but it's just kind of how we work. And so there's a there's a sense of hierarchy that exists in our mentality, and in all forms of life. You know bees have a queen bee or, you know in the jungle the lions -- you know something like that. I’m gettings really Disney here! [laughs]

 

JEREMY :

 

That’s fine!

 

AIDA :

 

You know hierarchies exist everywhere. And so when hierarchies exist and then tribes also exist, cliques also exist, you stick to what you know, and then fear exists then that creation of us versus them starts existing. And that's where I think is the biggest demise of humanity us versus them. There's no us
versus them. You know? There's there's no us versus them. That doesn't exist. That's a lie.

 

JEREMY :

 

Right.

 

AIDA :

 

You know, it doesn't have to be that way. And I don't like the role media plays in it. Media is very skewed, media is very one sided. The people behind productions have their own agenda. But that's true everywhere. OK I'm just saying all media is bad media, it’s also very good. Like look at something like this. This is also media. But I have to choose to go out of my way or I have to be a person that's interested in these kind of things, this is not mainstream.

 

JEREMY :

 

Exactly right. True.

 

AIDA :

 

So I think there's something missing in that area as well too. To make other perspectives mainstream.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah, I agree with you for sure. That’s some pretty heavy stuff. I think that you're really hitting on some  major things there. Especially in this day and age in our society. I agree.

 

AIDA :

 

I looked over your intro for what you're doing and just your premise behind what you're doing and I could totally relate. My belief is now that the Internet exists we are all pulsating at the same beat. We're connected all at the same time, doesn't matter. Across the Ocean, time zone, doesn't matter. We can all
communicate instantly at the same beat. There is no more arrhythmia there right? It’s the same
Heartbeat, you know? With the information just pulsating at the same time, and real, real
time right? So I think it's beautiful, I think that’s beautiful. I think that is probably one of the biggest strongest tools and technologies and creations that we have to reduce and possibly at some point eliminate that us-versus-them mentality and things that I liked about it, like a couple of things that really stood out -- I remember there was this video that went viral on Facebook, and it was this really, really probably impoverished area of Malaysia, they lived in huts or something, I’m getting into the dark stuff because I'm a psychologist I go there.

 

JEREMY :

 

Of course, of course, feel free.

 

AIDA :

 

So it was about a 10 month old little baby girl and this mother was beating this baby severely -- and in the corner was probably six seven year old boy watching this. So he's recording this in his mind, learning. Learned behavior right there. I don't know who is related to whom in what way but I'm just watching. OK. And this is how a cycle of darkness and humanity works. We don't know that mother's
background of why she's doing this. Obviously she's come from some kind of trauma herself too or she is sick or something you know? We don't know. We don't know and we're just seeing that snapshot. Why does something like that go viral? Because it was so painful to witness, you know? Because we know so much better. Like, you don't beat a 10 month old baby, like that severely. I personally didn't even want to believe it was real like, “it's probably a doll”. Like, you just can't hit a baby that much and the baby keeps getting up and trying -- it was it was really painful to watch, to say the least. And of course, whoever is recording is saying things afterwards. I was like, I can't just, you know witness something like that and not know more about it.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

AIDA :

 

OK. So I started researching that, seeing what was going on. So because of that video, a neighbor -- that was a neighbor -- so I guess the neighbor was saying, “hey stop hitting your child, you're hurting them, you could you know kill your child. Stop that”. And because of that video, again technology, that video got to the local police and they took the baby into foster care and they put the woman in jail. Now
if that wasn't there then this baby, who knows what would have happened to this baby? You know what I mean?

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah. Exactly.

 

AIDA :

 

And I got to know a little bit more background and I was like, “wow this is…” As painful as it was to witness that, look this is from just a really, really, really, tiny, tiny, tiny little corner in the world that I would have never known existed. I would have never known this existed. This went viral on Facebook and I'm seeing this. You know, because of that people were very passionate about it, “this is wrong”, and this and that and because of all of this some justice came out of it. You know I'm not saying we have the best systems out there yet, but some justice came out of it. Something came out of it something proactive came out of it. So that's also what I see where I think this could be a very, very special era with all of this access to this technology. And I think it also brings accountability into
place. I thought when ‘UBER’ first came out, I was like, “oh you rate the driver and the passenger”, I love that. I love that because this is what happens when people go -- and like the sociopath's that have done some of the sickest crimes out there. What gives them the capacity to do that? They isolate and there's nothing monitoring that right? And societies where they’re very community based and everyone kind of knows each other's business. It's really annoying in one aspect because you can't get away with anything but it keeps people in check because you can't get that sick. 

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

AIDA :

 

Right? Because you don't isolate, you don't marginalize, you can't go off in a little corner and start creating some sick bombs and like go bomb people and kill masses and things like that. And so things with rating systems like this also keeps people accountable for what they do. And what role they play in anything. So I also think things like that bring a little bit more sense of community. Even though it's virtual, even though there's a lot of room to grow in that area. But I also believe that helps in that aspect too. 

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah, I agree with you there. We don’t have to talk about it right now, but I'd be interested in getting at some point you’re opinion on the psyche of a person who actually goes out and feels the need to shoot up a school or something horrendous like that, like what is going on in the psyche. Is there a general -- “Well this Is probably what's happening…”

 

AIDA : It all comes down to fear.

 

JEREMY :

 

Fear?

 

AIDA :

 

Fear.

 

JEREMY :

 

OK, how so?

 

AIDA :

 

It all comes down to fear. So you know I've worked with severely mentally ill population like people with psychosis, sociopath's, perpetrators and whatnot, and the more I get into their psyche the common thread between all of them is fear. Whether their fear is being expressed through anger, whether it's through hostility, whether it's violating other people's boundaries, whether it's killing someone off, or masses off, but it's fear.

 

JEREMY :

 

What is the object of their fear?

 

AIDA :

 

I guess that is a little bit more personal, but it goes back to the us- versus-them mentality. A person doesn't want to get rid of a certain population unless they feel that there is a threat from that population. And the reason why I say fear is because that is the core of human motivation. Safety and security, and the core of survival. So anything that comes and taps into that in any way can create sociopaths, and mainly sociopaths. And you know psychosis actually. Most people with psychotic disorders are very, very scared. I mean they're so scared, they’re scared of their own shadows. Working with perpetrators that have sexually abused and molested young children and things like that I guess. Again the entire session they're like this, they're they're just scared. They're just, they're scared.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah, OK, let me ask this because I’m curious. So whenever I hear cases, and I have the utmost respect for people who can actually work with them and try to, get them better, address some of the things that are going on and I don't know if the answers about actually solve any of that. Anyway my question is, how do you resolve like your inner, there's got to be something within you that's like, “alright, this is horrific and I can’t stand these actions that this person has done”, and then your professional side that's like, “I'm here to help you”. How do you do that?

 

AIDA :


Luckily you know the stigma of a psychologist is that safe place you can go to, right? And if you make that person feel safe they can open up to those vulnerable places. And that's one of the things that
a psychologist does is create a safe space, a safe environment, and makes it safe it's safe to be you and whatnot.

 

JEREMY :

 

Whatever that you is.

 

AIDA :

 

Whatever that you is. It's non-judgmental, it's accepting, OK, “I'm not here to make you feel bad about your decisions in life. You clearly have yourself and other people in your life that are doing that for you. I don't need to add to that mix. OK so let's work past that and let's see your motivations behind what you've done. Let's see what the core is, what's charging all of that. Let's work through that, let's bring peace to those areas. 

 

JEREMY :

 

Oh, Gotcha. OK. So I want to get at a little bit lighter topic. [laughs]

 

AIDA :

 

[laughs]  OK

 

JEREMY :

 

No, no! This is good! Because I myself can be like, “let's just talk all day about whatever”, you know, go down any sort of rabbit hole and dark place, but I kind of want to know what brings her joy and what her day to day may look like.

 

AIDA :

 

Things that bring me joy? I love being outdoors. I love nature. I love nature, from bugs to worms, to dogs, to cats, to butterflies…

 

JEREMY :

 

From bugs to worms too?!

 

AIDA :

 

Yeah, like I’ll play with bugs and stuff like a…

 

JEREMY :

 

That’s so cool!

 

AIDA :

 

Yeah, it’s really fascinating. Like, “Oh, you move like this and that's so cool. You can just crawl forever
and I can just do this and you can just keep crawling”. So I go and I look at, you know, the back bay here has its own habitat and there's like there one armed crabs and I think they're so fascinating they just sit there and they just go like this with one arm, or one claw.

 

JEREMY :

 

And they’re not born like that right?

 

AIDA :


I don't know. I mean there's a whole bunch of them! So maybe I don't know it's a genetic mutation or that's just what they are it's just, they just stand there -- if you stand still -- it’s like the coolest thing. I just get so fascinated, I just sit there and look at them and think, “that’s so cool”.

 

JEREMY :

 

Mesmerizing.

 

AIDA : 

 

Yeah! So those thing mesmerize me. And let’s say about people, you know I have clients, they mesmerized me as well too. A lot of my clients have honored me by opening to their deepest
vulnerabilities and growing from it and it's just beautiful. It's just beautiful to see a human being go through that, just beautiful. 

 

JEREMY :

 

I bet you get chills sometimes!
 

AIDA :

 

I do.

 

JEREMY :

 

I would, I sometimes get chills in interviews. It’s so amazing what’s happening! So yeah, that’s cool. I mean, when you think of humanity and just kind of going through life in general it seems to me like what you're being -- it's almost like when I look at the sky here it's blue and sunny and, you tend to have
more of a brighter outlook. What do you think about the future of humanity, where we’re headed, and the general purpose of humanity?

 

AIDA :

 

I could use maybe some psychological terms that I've learned. You know, like in behavioral analysis?
 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

AIDA :

 

So when a change is ready to happen you go through something called an extinction burst.

 

JEREMY :


Extinction burst?

 

AIDA :

 

Yes. Which means it's going to get as bad as it can get, and then the change is going to happen. So based off of what I'm seeing, and how things go, and looking at the cyclical nature, looks like we're probably going to go through one really, really ugly global mess and then from there we're all going to be like -- especially because we have that we're pulsating at the same beat -- we're all going to be like, we’ll be like, “No, this is just… no… we  just can’t do this anymore.

 

JEREMY :

 

Right.

 

AIDA :

 

“This is not for us”. But it's going to go through probably an extinction burst. Which is probably as bad as it can get because without this singular pulse going on, which means the ugly side is also connected.

 

JEREMY :

 

It’s pulsating right --

 

AIDA :

 

Yeah. But I believe in a balance, life balances itself out. This earth has always balanced itself out. And so I think we're going on our way to an extinction burst.

 

JEREMY :

 

Ah, OK. Well that’s a really good way to put it. I’ve never heard anybody call it that. That’s a really cool way of saying, “it's going to get ugly before it gets better”. Get uglier I guess…

 

AIDA :

 

Yes. Pretty much. 

 

JEREMY :

 

Pretty ugly.

 

AIDA :

 

Yeah, really bad! [laughs]

 

JEREMY :


Cool. I just have a couple more questions. The first one is kind of a little bit deeper and very personal to you. When you're on your deathbed and you're looking back on your life. What is it that you want to say, “Oh I'm so glad this has happened. I’m so glad that I’ve built up this legacy and this is what I’ll probably be remembered for”?

 

AIDA :

 

Probably to have opened up an avenue for humanity to be more evolved. I think that whatever avenue that is, but just a path. A path to help people be their full potential, and their best, and to create more harmony in the world. 

 

JEREMY :

 

Aha, that’s cool.

 

AIDA :

 

Yeah. Very, very, very, clear, straightforward. Just more harmony.

 

JEREMY :

 

One last final question. This is one where I’m going to set the scene a little bit for you. And so I want you to imagine that one day you're walking through, let’s say that you’re in London actually, and you've begun your travels, and you're going to have to bear in mind this is going to get a little bit Sci-Fi but that's alright! You're walking through a lush green park. Let’s say it's Hyde Park and all of a sudden this spacecraft comes down, because obviously spacecrafts always come down in the middle of Hyde Park! Out steps an alien who looks like that actor Benedict Cumberbatch, he even speaks like Benedict Cumberbatch for whatever reason, we don't know why! He does but he's like, “I only have 10 minutes here”, and I'm not going to even try to emulate Benedict Cumberbatch. “I only have 10 minutes here but I really, I'm part of -- I'm on a mission to find out what life here on Earth means and you, you've been selected”. You're the only person that this alien is going to interview, about how you see and perceive life on this planet. Would you tell this alien?

 

AIDA :


Oh wow! Great question. What would I tell this alien? I would know, I would know what to say. This is a  very beautiful place. It's majestic. It's quite majestic. The world has so many vibrant colors and experiences to offer and along with everything else that exists there's a duality to our nature. So with the beauty there's an ugly side to humanity as well. And I find that it's very beautiful that we can still
maintain our beauty within the ugly. And there's a lot of variation to experience. From speaking humans to barking dogs to insects that coordinate on a level we don't even understand, you know? So enjoy, that enjoy the variation and how different expressions of life can exist from the one armed crab [laughs], to the little worm that wiggles you know? Welcome to our world! Not a bad place to be.

 

JEREMY :

 

That’s so cool! Well alright, I think that, I think that you have a pretty good impression then so, cool, thank you.

 

AIDA :

 

Thanks.

 

JEREMY :

 

I Love that, that's a really explanation.

 

AIDA :

 

Thank you.

 

JEREMY :

 

Cool. Thank you so much for joining us on this episode of ‘in the shoes of’.

 

AIDA :


Thank you. Thank you very much.

 

JEREMY : [narration]


Hey, Thank you so much for checking out this episode of ‘In the shoes of’. If you like, or don't like the podcast, feel free to leave a review or reach out to me. My email is jnickel@intheshoesof.org . I'm Jeremy Nickel, the host and producer of the show, until the next time, see you later.

 

[music plays]

Dr. Abdullah Kudrath Transcription

JEREMY : [narration]

 

Hi everyone and welcome to the 'In the shoes of' podcast where I make it my goal to see life as much as possible from someone else's point of view. Just like we all have a unique heartbeat, every single one of us sees life only from our own perspectives. Think about it. Can you see and process life exactly as Elon Musk sees and processes life? The answer is you can't. And it applies to every living conscious being here on this pale blue dot.

 

[Music plays]

 

JEREMY : [narration]

 

Salutations everyone and thank you so much for joining me today for another episode of 'In the shoes of'. Today I have Dr. Abdul Kudrath. He is an E.R. doc, an emergency room doctor for you lay people! Just kidding. So he hails from Guyana, that's where he was born and then — Well I won't give it all away right now, but anyway — Dr. Kudrath, we talk about a lot of different things, about how he lives his life about how he sees the world, obviously, and we also talk about the current political polarization, and just polarization in general. Not just in the states but across the world. And, seriously, the way he puts it, the way he discusses, is probably the most diplomatic and best way possible that I've heard so far. Anyway we talk about that and much more. And without further ado, Oh wait! Yes further ado — If you have friends or family who are deaf or hard of hearing please direct them over to 'intheshoesof.org' where I either have or will have transcription notes or some form, or some way, for them to be able to see the podcast, as it were. OK, now without further ado let's hear from Dr. Kudrath.

 

JEREMY :

 

Dr. Kudrath, thank you so much for joining me today. It's really a pleasure to have you on the show here.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Yeah, thanks for having me here today.

 

JEREMY : [narration]

 

So every podcast session I start off with asking the person I'm interviewing, probably the most important question of the whole interview which is; what shoes are you wearing right now?

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

[laughs] You know what, I think these are Cole Hann's.

 

JEREMY :

 

Cole Hann's! Well there we go then! [laughs]. That's awesome! How would you define yourself, if you had to in the third person?

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

I would define myself as a person, an individual, who is trying to figure out what his purpose is and what he should do with his time, things he should do better. And essentially a person who's trying to navigate through life.

 

JEREMY :

 

How is it navigating through life right now? Is it going well?

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

It is. It is. You know? Because every day is a new opportunity to learn.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

And that's not just the good times, but also the bad times. So as we navigate through life and, I think if we remember that, that even the darkest times, the most troubling times you have the opportunity to emerge stronger than the entire journey, the entire time you're navigating through life. It's a very enjoyable one.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah, I agree with that. Definitely. So can you tell me what do you do for a living? I mean I probably gave it away a little bit with the title but I want to hear from you what you do.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Yeah, I'm a physician, I'm a doctor. Board certified in emergency medicine, so I worked in the E.R. So as you know in the E.R. anything can walk in at any time. So I will take care of anything from trauma, gunshots, stabbings, heart attacks, stroke, medical type things, fever, and pain anywhere. Pretty much any age, any problem, any time. Whatever walks in, I have to be ready to handle these type of situations.

 

JEREMY :

 

And how long have you been doing this?

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Well I've been completely outside of my training and finished on my own for almost three years now.

 

JEREMY :

 

Oh wow! OK cool. So the E.R. How did that affect you and how has it kind of shaped you even to the person you are today?

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

You know I think our professions and what we surround ourselves with, whether it's our friends or our profession. Wherever we spend our time has a very big effect on who we are, and I think the E.R. has changed or developed me a lot, in many different ways. In some ways I wonder if it's negatively affecting me. Right? Because you have to remember that I'm there for people during their darkest hour. Right?

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Sometimes I see some of the worst aspects of humanity. You know, victims of senseless crimes, trauma they could have been avoided, abuse, these types of things. In moment I have to be a machine, I have to do what's necessary just for the health aspect. Whether I'm dealing with the criminal themselves or the victim. I have to not think about those things and just practice medicine, get people better.

 

JEREMY :

 

Of course. 

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

But anything that we expose ourselves to, I think has an effect on us. Whether we understand it or not, and it may affect you today or tomorrow, or several years down the line. So I am always curious as to what this exposure, this onslaught of emotions and situations, what effect it has on me. But I think in a positive way it keeps me in touch with life and death. Right? Imagine when I walk into a room and I have my CAT scan results and I find out that someone's pain is actually a terrible cancer. Right? And I have to talk about this to somebody, and I have to break this news to them. Right? It puts a lot of things in perspective for me. All of a sudden all of my worries, all of my problems become very, very miniscule. So when I leave the E.R. I have nothing to complain about. In a way I think that's a positive thing because it's a reminder to me how special every moment we have is. Which charges me up. It vitalizes me to do as much as I can with the time that I have. The E.R. is very busy, very fast paced. It's not like I see one patient at a time, and then the next, and then the next. It's that I'm seeing all the patients as fast as I can, as efficiently as I can, and as safe as I can, because I can't let the waiting room back up. And on top of that I'll have a helicopter dropping off a critical patient. Now I have to stop whatever I'm doing for this patient for an ambulance coming in with a critical patient or someone's decompensating. So it's very chaotic and I have to be very pragmatic and efficient in my approach. And I think I've modelled my life after that, because I have to stay busy all the time. Sure any time to relax...

 

JEREMY :

 

OK. Can you elaborate on that a little bit, about how you model your life after that? That's very interesting, it's kind of a new concept to me, because you're obviously in a state of extreme flow during, you know, when you're there and however it affects you or not in the future, we don't we don't know for sure, but it sounds like it's been a positive experience for you. But yeah, can you elaborate on that?

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

I wonder if I was like this coming in, or if it's shaped me through the process, but I have to do multiple things all the time, and I have to carefully juggle a lot of things in my life in order for me to feel satisfied. Maybe it's because of the pace I maintain in the E.R. So for example, yes I work as your physician, but I want to learn new things whether it's language — I've got a little bit of acting, a little bit of this, whenever someone else has a project I want to get involved because I want my schedule to be as busy as possible. [laughs]

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah, yeah.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

And it's just like how it is in the E.R. Multiple different things going on simultaneously.

 

JEREMY :

 

That's really cool. I think I'm going to start taking cues from you. Maybe you can be my life coach or something? [laughs]

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Hopefully I've learned a few things along the way. I've been fortunate to have good mentors along the way and I think that's the key right? And now we're getting into a whole other topic but...

 

JEREMY :

 

That's fine.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

What makes us who we are? Right, what drives us? Does it really come from us? Any of our success, if I have any success in my life, how much can I really take credit for? I didn't choose my parents but I was fortunate to have good ones. Right? And I was fortunate to have good mentors along the way. And I didn't have any huge catastrophe that knocked me off my path. So how much credit can I take when a lot of it was good fortune? So knowing that, knowing that the external influences us so much I think we have to be very careful in how we spend our time and how we choose our mentors because that's going to create us along the way.

 

JEREMY :

 

Who are some of your mentors?

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Well you know, of course the big one is my father. A very wise person, and one of the things I appreciate about my father is he still, to this day, I'm a grown man now, will give me advice and look after pitfalls for me right? In a way I'll always be his child. I'll always be his baby, and he always wants to do the best for me. So of course he has been a lifelong mentor. It's great going back to the house and spending time with him because I still feel like I have so much more to learn. And of course there's my brother, my mother, other people, my family, close friends along the way have a big effect on you. My father used to say, "show me your friends and I'll tell you who you are".

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

So the company you keep is very important. Through my medical training some very wise doctors who have decades of insight, when I would maybe think things in the wrong way, or be too rash or emotional they would remind me of a case, or a story, or a lesson they've learned which would allow me to put things back into perspective. Then of course mentors can come in any shape or form. I've learned lessons from sitting on a bench in a park for the person next to me. Everyone has their story. That's why I love this program and I'm really looking forward to hearing from some of the other people because you can learn so much by putting yourself in their shoes and trying to learn from their story.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah, that's cool. I really like that part about your father saying, "Show me who your friends are and then I'll know who you are". Right? I really like that. Well that kind of leads to a good segue into what I wanted to address next which be, how you grew up, where you grew up, how your childhood was? It sounds like you were pretty blessed then with your childhood? And what religion you grew up with and what religion you have or don't have? If you could address — I know that's kind of like, "wow, I'm asking for a lot right in that one question". But we can break it down!

 

DR KUDRATH : 

 

Yeah we can go through the timeline because there's a lot to learn from the timeline and I think, because I think that shaped me as well. Yes, I was very fortunate in that our family was very close, and again catastrophe didn't strike us so we stayed together. We were blessed in that sense, but also we had our struggles as well. When my parents came to this country from Guyana in South America we had next to nothing. But I'm glad I had that upbringing because that taught me that content and happiness doesn't come from material items or money. We had a big family, there were seven of us total. At the time we didn't have my little brother so there were six of us. They came from Guyana to New Jersey. We lived very modestly. I mean if my mom came home with a Snicker bar and we split it five ways, that was a party. 

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah [laughs]

 

DR KUDRATH : 

 

Right? But looking back, we didn't — I say it's a struggle now but it didn't feel like a struggle back then, because we were happy, we had each other. The important things in life I think are friendship, communication, learning. These are the best gifts we can have, and none of that costs a dime really. It's good to have nice things. I mean don't get me wrong. Now I'm in a part of my career where I'm making decent money. These nice things are the icing on the cake. Enjoy it if you like it, but don't let these things define your self-esteem or your self-worth. I think that's when we cross into a dangerous territory. You should always feel, no matter what you have, if it's a nice car, nice house, nice apartment, nice clothes. You should always feel that if it was all taken away from you today, you'd still be happy tomorrow. And it's a struggle, it's a process because I feel that money and success can change you. And it's a very slow change, and you don't realize it's happening. So I struggle with it I have to find ways to protect myself against that change. And again, it's a slow one.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah. Do you think — does maybe being in E.R. help with that?

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Oh absolutely! I've learned so much from my patients. I've learned so much. I remember a gentleman many years ago who found some oil on his land. Right? So all of a sudden he went from low to middle class to being very wealthy. I mean he was getting checks of tens of thousands of dollars every week, and it was only going up, and he was recently diagnosed with a type of cancer. OK? And I was still a student at the time and I was chatting with him and he said, "Abdul I've got a check sitting there in there in that book for $60,000 and there's more coming", he said, "but that means nothing to me because I can't buy a new stomach". So that kind of stuff reminds me what are we chasing? The money doesn't matter, when we have the health right now, enjoy it!

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Right? Again, the money has to be the icing on the cake. If something makes you happy, whether you have a hobby or this or that, you like to travel — great, get the money, accomplish your goal, but understand that it shouldn't define you, and it should bring happiness.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah, and we don't take that to the grave whatsoever.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

[laughs] That's right.

 

JEREMY :

 

I remember, some of the happiest moments in my life definitely were not, you know, having this or that. It was like, maybe even riding a bike in college in the snow and up in Nebraska with my pants freezing from the dish water that I got on there because of washing dishes at a restaurant or something like that. But I was happy, you know? To that point to, health is just paramount, it really is. I mean you probably know that more than anybody in this room for sure.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Yeah. I'm inspired by people. We were talking earlier about your trip when you did some travelling.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

In the past a lot of people would have — their model was to wait until they're older and retired to travel, but imagine the lessons you learn while you travel. You took time out of what you were doing, and I'm sure it was a struggle and you had to make sacrifices, and you took this time to travel and learn from your experiences and from people out there and now you take those lessons for the rest of your life, instead of waiting until your retirement age to get that lesson. So I think with the health that you have with youthfulness, at any stage, whether I'm 32 now or 60, whatever health I have, we want to make the most of it and learn as much as we can. And sometimes we can be distracted by chasing certain things like money or status and things like that. But going back to the timeline, we grew up in New Jersey, very modest and then came to Texas when I was in elementary school. So I think that's given me a unique perspective. If you're born into a certain situation and you grow up into the same environment it's easy to fall into the same habits and pitfalls of your culture or your community. But because I was spread out a little bit in early childhood and I was exposed to different things — You asked about religion.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

DR KUDRATH : 

 

So I was born in a Muslim household. So I got to learn the teachings of Islam.

 

JEREMY :

 

Sure.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

But the interesting thing, and we're getting into religion now, but I think it's interesting. The religion should be the same wherever you practice it. Correct? So should a Christian from Australia be different from a Christian in America, or Africa, or Saudi Arabia.

 

JEREMY :

 

Right.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

You think not because the religion is same. Same thing with Islam. Why is it that a Muslim from Pakistan versus Ethiopia, or Saudi Arabia, Australia, America. Why is it so different? Really it should be the same. We talked about this earlier before we got on camera but you know I think sometimes we fuse cultures and old habits into our religion and then we sell that as part of a religion. So then what have we done? We've put bad habits into a religion. Culture is great because it gives us a lot of richness to our history, but some parts of it can be left out, the bad parts the parts that can be improved. So I think because I had that in-between type upbringing, raised in a Muslim home, grew up in New Jersey with all my friends being Christian. We've come into Texas and gone from the north to the south. You get to be exposed to different lifestyles, different people. And I think that helped me not fall into the pitfall of doing what's always been done. Whether it's from a religious point of view, from a family point of view, or cultural point of view, or a geographical location point of view.

 

JEREMY :

 

Sure. And do you consider yourself a Muslim right now. 

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

I do. I do. But like anything. Faith and religion goes in cycles. You have periods of highs and lows.

 

JEREMY :

 

Sure. 

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

But I think that's good because I think religion should be an arrival process right? You have to get there. But I think if you follow the foundations like we talked about, doing right by people, trying to do your best and not do any harm, then you will arrive at your religion, your way of life with the right foundation.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah. There's a lot of just interesting, interesting probably not even the word, but there's a lot of rhetoric in the political world over just 'Nation of Islam' itself. You know? And a complete, to me, there's a lot of misunderstanding. How has that affected you and what are your thoughts on that? I really want, for anybody listening in the world, because a lot of people are curious around the world about what's going on in America. For one thing politically and what's going on with the religious stuff too. All of a sudden we have some weird stuff going on. And also for people in America who maybe there's something — is there something that we're all missing that we should probably know about. Can you speak to that a little bit?

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Well you know situations are so complicated, and there are so many layers and levels to it.

 

JEREMY :

 

Of course.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

And I can't speak for the entirety of a religion or Americans but I can give my insight on what I've gathered along the way, and there's a lot of issues that have arose recently. There's a lot of misconceptions as well. And whenever you have divisions in groups, people will find a way to fight. Even if there's no reason to. It's like that experiment when they had the high school and they arbitrarily divided them into two groups the red team and the blue team or whatever it was. Big fights broke out! People were very fervent about their team. Even though it wasn't based on anything, it was arbitrary.

 

JEREMY :

 

Right, right.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

So whenever we have divisions across our country, across our planet, fights are going to break, misunderstanding is going to happen. We'll attribute horrible things to the other side. I think remembering that the more we learn about each other the better things will get. We'll drop the misconceptions and then we can unify again. Whenever we have, whether it starts from foreign policy or a bad group or sect of people within a big religion or within a big political arena that's all you hear about in the news. You start stigmatizing and antagonizing people. Then there is responsibility. We all have to take responsibility. For example as Muslims we have to understand where we're making mistakes. There's a lot of people in Muslim countries that are making mistakes. 

 

JEREMY :

 

OK. Can you speak to that a little bit?

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Well for example hate and violence should always be avoided. 

 

JEREMY :

 

Right. Of course.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Now, it's hard for me to speak in their shoes because I'm not living their life, right? It's not me that has to worry about bombs falling on my head or my children dying in the street, or being kidnapped, or something like that. I'm not in their shoes right now, so I'm trying to think about it, and I'm sure they're scared, desperate, and angry. And people react out of emotional states, and they may react in the right way or the wrong way. They may do something that fans the flames.  And then if some person does something over there and we see it, what are we going to do? We're going to attribute it to the entire religion, the entire country? Without really understanding deeper aspects of the problem?

 

JEREMY :

 

Right. Like it's — meeting someone, let's say you've never been out of the country and you take your first flight and let's say you meet a woman or a man or whomever from, I don't know, Bangladesh, let's just say. I'm sure all Bangladeshis are great people, but let's say that there is this one person on the airplane who was completely rude and just wasn't a great person at all. And then that person, possibly, would go home and say, "you know what, everybody from Bangladesh, horrible people!" Right? Which is — sounds like what you're saying is that's kind what we're seeing here.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Absolutely.

 

JEREMY :

 

What we were talking about earlier to, is like — now we have this tribalism that's going on with technology and we're all becoming even more divided.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Absolutely. It keeps adding onto itself. So we see that one person in this group or religion that's bad. "Oh they're all terrible". And that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because as soon as somebody else does it, it becomes, "Ah, I told you there's two people, there's three, there's five, there's ten". We may not look at the millions of people who are not doing that. The millions of people who are being hurt by that.

 

JEREMY :

 

Exactly.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Who would support us against that, but are part of that group. So we have to avoid, like you said, tribalism. Because what that does is it shuts off the pathway to a resolution. If we understood a situation a lot more deeper than, kind of, oversimplifications, then we can actually find solutions. So then what's my responsibility as a Muslim in this country, and as a physician in this country? Right? And really it's just to show people that we don't have to be mutually exclusive. Right? Because there are some people who may have never met a Muslim physician or even a Muslim friend. 

 

JEREMY :

 

Totally, yeah.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

So it gives me a responsibility to be an example, and if people have questions, to answer these questions.

 

JEREMY :

 

That's cool, I appreciate that.

 

DR KUDRATH : 

Right, and that means that I need to also be knowledgeable about certain things because now I become a representative for my religion. Right? [laughs]

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah [laughs] Right. Whether you wanted to be or not! [laughs]

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

But I think that's a good thing.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

And not to get too political but things are getting polarized right now.

 

JEREMY :

 

Of course.

 

DR KUDRATH : 

 

But I always try to look at the silver lining.

 

JEREMY :

 

And you can get as political as you want [laughs]. I'm just trying to stay on the side-lines a little bit, but feel free. This is all about you and your perspective so feel free to dive in as you need to.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

OK. Absolutely. And again I don't want to fall into the same trap of polarizing issues because then I'm going to block any resolution or the search for resolution. But as things have gotten a little polarized maybe certain problems that were festering before or misconceptions, or misunderstandings are just now being brought up to a head. Now we could see it, now we can address it, now we can come to a common ground. Whether it's fear of other people, or immigration, or financial issues that the country has. These emotions can cause turmoil. So even though things are polarized I'm seeing the silver lining. I'm seeing people come together to talk about important issues. Right? I mean for example we talked about Islam and being a Muslim right? We have this big travel ban, people being detained in airports...

 

JEREMY : [narration]

 

Just letting all of you listeners know that this was recorded back in March of 2017. And since that time, well it's been for lack of a better word a bit of a cluster *beep*! In fact just recently President Trump has released a revised travel ban appeal. The date of this recording is May 20th 2017 just to let you know. Depending on when you're listening to this, I mean this may all be completely in the past or it may still be going on. You just never know these days right?

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Now already people were a little apprehensive about Muslims if they were wearing the traditional gear in the airport. Even if they didn't mean to be racist or scared after what they see in the news in the movies they see they might be a little apprehensive. If a Muslim guy started praying in the middle of the airport they might feel uncomfortable. I was watching some videos on 'Snap Chat' and some other things of people first hand. And somehow through this travel ban you see protests and people sticking up for one another.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Someone holding a sign saying, "We are all Muslims". Figuratively saying that we're all together. In one video there were three Muslim people praying, and people were cheering them.

 

JEREMY :

 

That's cool!

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Before this travel ban you would never see people cheering Muslims praying in an airport. 

 

JEREMY :

 

So true. Good point.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

So is there a silver lining? Yes. Because should we be enemies? No. But as we start talking, as we start learning each other, the walls come down, the barriers come down, and we start working together as Americans first as humans next. And all these arbitrary divisions that we keep trying to fight for, they're gone. Now we fight shoulder to shoulder with each other for the same core principles. So there is a silver lining, I think, in the discussion being brought up through what seems like polarization. 

 

JEREMY :

 

Very well put. 

 

DR KUDRATH : 

 

And then on the other side, people on the more conservative side, they have some legitimate thoughts that they want to bring out and talk about. So we can't just ignore those ideas and only talk about ours. We have to listen to those. What are their reservations? What are their concerns? And then come to an agreement together.

 

JEREMY :

 

Very cool. 

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

I mean to take immigration for example. There are legitimate concerns about immigration. The question is, what's the appropriate solution to make everything work well as a country, to be loving to our neighbors. But certainly we can't be blind to the fact that financially and structurally countries have to limit immigration. Every country does it. 

 

JEREMY :

 

Of course. 

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

So as we stop fighting each other and start talking to each other solutions will be born.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah, I agree. So how do you think that given your background being a Muslim growing up in a Muslim family having excellent parents and having — but being from Guyana and going up to New Jersey and being a physician. All of these things all of your background. How has that played a part in, I guess, how has that played a part in your life with regard to what you struggle with, what you've had to come up against? And how has it been a pro for you?

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

I look like an outsider. When I went to school I was the only one, what would we say? Brown guy? The Desi guy? The Indian guy? It was mainly white, Hispanic, a few black. So yes there were some issues I had to deal with because I was different. There's always bullies. So people would pick on me because I was different. But of course my parents instilled to me the principal, so I was still hopefully a good kid. So I had friends, therefore I had alliances. So they would stick — I didn't have to fight my own fights. They would say, "Hey, you leave Abdul alone, that's my friend"

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

DR KUDRATH : 

 

And then sometime down the line maybe that person was picking on me. I have tons of examples like that! We became friends and we're still friends.

 

JEREMY :

 

Wow

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

It's usually because of fear of the unknown and maybe they were brought up a certain way and didn't experience a different way of behaving. So instead of fighting them why not come up with a better solution? Right?

 

JEREMY :

 

Cool

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

There's so many ways to come about an answer, and our first rush to the emotional response is not always the correct one. Most often it's the incorrect response. So being a little different, being Muslim, being, you know, of brown color, coming from a different country, all that kind of stuff. It also helped me in a way because it intrigued people, especially as I got older, to want to learn about me and what my story is. And like you said it helped me not create barriers on my thinking. To where I can help relate to people a little better. And I think that's helped me in my career. I really try to see people through their paradigms so I could better understand the problems that they're going through. You know, my patients have — I have to talk to them a different way depending on where they're from.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

I might not strike a chord with them if I speak a certain way versus another way, and because I've had so many friends in so many different ethnic origins I'm able to converse and build rapport in a matter of minutes. Because remember they have to trust me with their lives on decisions and they've met me for the first time. And the only way I can instil that trust is 1; making sure I understand them and verbally talking to them so they can see that I understand them and their nuances, the differences and cultures. Maybe religiously they don't believe in a certain way of treating a problem or if there's alternatives we can talk about them might give them. I give them options. So I think having that varied upbringing has helped me, even through the struggles, even getting picked on, I think that's helped me. Remember we talked about dark and troubling times? Difficult times, is what shapes you. I would not trade for an easier, because how would I have learned the lessons I needed to learn? So I say that to anyone listening: If you're going through anything troubling during your 'now', or in your near future, embrace the fact that that's going to make you stronger and you'll emerge on the other side as an entirely new person altogether. Someone stronger, more wise. And that way whenever you are in that deep, dark moment in your life you're not going to turn to cheap fixes like drugs, alcohol, rebounds, self-destructive behavior. You embrace it, you'll look for solutions, and you'll look forward to coming out the other side stronger and wiser.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah. Very well put. Is there a period in your life that you would say was a little bit darker than another period?

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

I'd say so, I'd say we have different categories of trouble. We have our professional lives, we have our relationships, and there was a time two years into college where I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't know that I wanted to be a doctor at the time. I just kind of going through the motions of college that my parents expected me to right?

 

JEREMY :

 

Right.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

My heart wasn't into it. I was more interested in riding around on my motorcycle and hanging out with friends rather than studying and going to class. But then at some point you know we talk about an arrival process. No one can tell you what to do. My parents couldn’t tell me what to do. In fact maybe I rebelled a little bit, but during this time of being lost and not knowing what the future holds for me. I think that really motivated me to start searching for some purpose. To find out what I'm interested in. I did a little bit of traveling. I broke out of my shell and at one point it came to me that the knowledge that inspires me and excites me is the knowledge about ourselves as humans. What are we? How is it that millions of cells could come together and form a thought, an emotion, and share it with each other. That's fascinating! I wanted to learn about us! How is that even possible? How do we work? How do we break? How can we fix it? We all have to find out what excites us, whether it's art, law, engineering, creativity, medicine, whatever it is, and use that drive to push you into greatness. Because now that I said, "OK, well maybe I want to be a doctor. Maybe I want to learn about us". Well of course no medical school will take me with these type of grades and this type of work! Right! Well now I had a purpose. I transferred from my community college to the university and I applied myself and I made nothing but A's. Not because I was so smart, but because I finally had a conviction and direction. And if your heart is truly into something you can't fail because you will find the steps necessary to get there. And if you truly believe in that goal the journey will never deter you. No matter how hard it is, you'll get to the other side. But your heart has to be there. And I wouldn't have got to that if it wasn't for the darker time in my life where I had to do some soul searching. And of course there's emotional troubles with relationships. We've all had that. We've all had heartbreak. You know, my biggest heartbreak came later in life. But that heartbreak, I would never take away that experience. Because although maybe was physically tough, I worked out, I was never emotionally tested. So I needed to go through that. I needed to make sure I avoided the pitfalls. Drugs, alcohol, rebounds, whatever it is and cope with it and came out stronger and learned from it. So now I can say that I have been emotionally tested. So those, again it was a reminder to me that, those dark times, those troubling times, whether it's a relationship, work, family, friend, financial, whatever it is, those dark times are what make us who we are.

 

JEREMY :

 

I agree. Yeah, I think they're essential for any type of growth you know? For us to evolve emotionally in all kinds of ways. I agree. Switching gears from, you know how you grew up and all that, but I want to take you all the way to your grave. And when you die is there something that you would like to be remembered for or remembered as being some of your attributes? A legacy you want to leave behind.

 

DR KUDRATH : 

 

I mean if you think about that it's a very deep question right? To think about our grave. Most of us avoid that thought.

 

JEREMY :

 

Right.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

But I think it's a great question and I think it's a great thing to think about. One time I was at the park just kind of hanging out. I used to take my motorcycle out there and just kind of sit around. And I saw this group of elderly senior citizens walking in the park and they were so excited, so fascinated by something, I thought, "what could it be that they're so happy about"? So I looked to see what they were looking at, and you know what they were looking at?

 

JEREMY :

 

What's that?

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

A few ducks by the pond. A few ducks, that's it! And I'm like, "what the ducks?" And then I looked a little closer at the ducks and realized how fascinating that is! That we're not the only lifeform on this planet, that we come in all shapes and sizes. And there's so much beauty in our earth right in front of us that once they got closer to the grave they finally started looking at it. And I don't want to wait until I was a senior citizen to start appreciating what's so beautiful right in front of me, and it was a very important lesson. This was before medical school, and now, being with people when they have terminal diagnosis or catastrophic injuries, being closer to death I'm forced to think about it a little bit more than the average person. But I think we can all think about that because when we talk about any goal we have to find the steps. So we should have our 5, 10, 15, 20, and lifetime goals. Because if we don't think about it we won't find the steps. So if my if my answer to your question is that I want to leave behind knowledge, or people who have been inspired by me. They can carry on good deeds. I want to leave behind charitable organizations, whatever that is, whatever that answer is, I'm not going to think about it unless I put myself in the position 30 to 50 years down the line. However many years God gives us, we don't know. But if we're so fortunate to get another 50 years, another, any year! We have to have that plan in place. And it is a great question. So I mean specifically for me, I just want to learn as much as I possibly can. Because there's so much to see. There's so much to experience, to learn from one another. So that's my quest. With every year my only hope is that this year is different than the last year. Because if I'm doing the same thing I did last year maybe I'm wasting a little bit of time. If I haven't learned something new, and it could be any new skill, or trade. I mean we live in the Information Age. 

 

JEREMY :

 

Sure.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

I mean, you can learn anything from 'YouTube', anything from a book you can order on Amazon. But yet we don't do it. We don't do it, because there's a lot of distractions I think. So we have to avoid that. It’s fun it's entertaining, but we have to set goals for ourselves. And if your goal is to always get better and that comes in all different shapes and forms. Whether it's working out, you want to get more in shape, you want to learn a new language, you learn a new instrument. Set the goal, believe in the goal, and then the information is at your fingertips. So hopefully by the time I meet my grave, whether it's today, tomorrow, 50 years from now.

 

JEREMY :

 

Sure

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

I hope I can say to myself you did your best. You didn't waste time when you were relaxing you relaxed with quality people. When you were working hard towards meaningful goals. You have no regrets. And a part of that, another thought along those lines. To have no regrets is to also do right by people. And we can't always do that. So if I feel like I've done something wrong by somebody I have to make it right. And part of that is making sure that you point the finger at yourself constantly to see what you can do better and what you've done wrong and make it right. Whether it's an apology or some kind of correction. That way you cannot have any regrets going forward. We were getting really philosophical and deep into this conversation which I like!

 

JEREMY :

 

No, that's fine, this is good!

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

You know, we don't always have an opportunity in our lives to talk like this. So I love it. I love to embrace it. 

 

JEREMY :

 

Good.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

And I was just having a talk with a friend earlier today actually. We were talking about honesty and white lies. Sometimes we all find ourselves in a position where we tell a white lie. But I really try my best to avoid that 100 percent. I don't want to get good at lying.

 

JEREMY :

 

Right.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

We shouldn't have to. This world is yours. Do what you feel is right and own up to your choices. There's no reason to lie about anything right? Face the music if you've done something wrong. Apologize, try to make things better. The truth can be uncomfortable and hurt. I think dishonesty causes long lasting devastation. So another goal of mine is to make sure that I try to be as honest as possible. That when, if I say something I mean it. Now of course that's a sticky situation because there are times in my career where how honest can I be with somebody? For example someone has a terminal cancer. Do I just walk into the room and say painfully, honestly say, "This looks like, you know, pancreatic cancer, you're going to die in a few months. Well I better get to the next patient". I'm not doing anybody a favor there. Right? Will they be able to sleep that night, the next couple of nights, will their family be able to sleep until they get follow up to find more information with the oncologist further tests. So yes, sometimes you have to be careful with the truth and be careful with your knowledge. Give people it in doses. I'm not saying let's be rash and inconsiderate, but whenever possible, remember that the foundation is honesty and integrity. So in these cases for example, I might say, "you know there some really concerning findings I found on the CAT scan". Maybe I won't use the word 'cancer', I'd say there's a mass, there's a tumour. People freak out when they hear cancer.

 

JEREMY :

 

Of course.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

And, "we want to make sure that it's not the dangerous type, so it needs further tests. It needs a biopsy. I've already called the oncologist, I've told them everything. We got the appointment set up for two weeks no issues if you have any symptoms come back and see me I'll be here in the E.R. or one of my colleagues. Don't stress or this, it's too early to stress over it because the truth is, we need more time". And then have them follow up on an outpatient basis. So was I lying to them? No. But with I rash in disclosing all the truth. No. So I'm saying be considerate to all factors, but in your heart you should always try to do what's right and what's honest. 

 

JEREMY :

 

Yep, yep.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Sorry man we're getting so deep on this. I didn't mean to get all philosophical on you! [laughs]

 

JEREMY :

 

No, no! I love this stuff, seriously, this is the -- These are the kind of conversations that I live for to be honest with you, so yeah. Feel free. I love that too. I think that's good. Just to encapsulate what you were saying, it sounds like — I mean part of your legacy then is, you want to be remembered then, as someone who utilized your day wisely, your time wisely, learn what you can, and treat others with respect, with dignity, right? And be honest in your dealings and in all facets of life. Does that, is that a good summary kind of? Or?

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Yeah, I think so. And honestly it sounds like very, I don't know, story book, or very idealized, but that's what we should do. We should have that idea.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah. Hey, if it's the truth then it's the truth right?

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Yeah. Why not strive for this.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Sometimes my friends joke and say I'm always trying to be Batman or something like that. [laughs] I mean that's a great goal to have right?

 

JEREMY :

 

I thought I saw a suit in your backpack now I think of it. [laughs]

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

But you know, we should aspire for these things. And for whatever reason at some points in our life we lose sight of these goals. And I'm sure in a year maybe I'll lose track of one of them and I'll need a friend to pull me in, or I'll need a podcast of someone talking about something that strikes a chord with me to reel me in to have me think in a new direction. So these things fluctuate but we our goal we should be very clear. Our goals should always be improvement. Right? Not hurting anybody else and making the most out of our time.

 

JEREMY :

 

What are some horrible things about the world right now and what are some things that are really great?

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Ever since mankind has walked this planet there's going to be bad.  There's going to be people focusing on other principles than what we talked about, whether it's greed, money, power. And sometimes to get those things they avoid or they're inconsiderate to the basic foundations of honesty, of doing no harm. Things like that. So even today we see this bad. We see people motivated by greed, money, power. And unfortunately so many people have to feel the consequence of those actions. Whether it's war, financial issues. So it's there and it's always going to be there so I'm not surprised by it and I'm not disheartened by it because there's also, like you said, the good in the world.

 

JEREMY :

 

Of course.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

And that good is the people who do want to see better, not just for themselves but for the people around them. Sometimes it takes a few bad apples, or a few bad leaders, to overshadow a lot of good people. 

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah. 

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

But in the world today I still see people wanting the best, avoiding the pitfalls of hate and division. And I think from that good, it's going to help mitigate. We'll never get rid of badness and evil altogether but we can try our best to want better for the world and to try to minimize it with the goal of someday eliminating it but maybe that's a pipe dream. [laughs]

 

JEREMY :

 

It's one of my pipe dreams too, yeah, but it's a good goal to have I think.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

And I mean, it sounds very Kumbaya, but the point is there. We would all live better if we followed that principle.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

People always ask, "Well why did you do that? Why did you care?" Because I hope they would do it for me if I was in trouble. 

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

And that's the simple answer. I got things good right now, but five years from now, a year from now, maybe I hit calamity, maybe I'm struggling and I need help.

 

JEREMY : 

 

Yep.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

I hope the people around me would do the same for me.

 

JEREMY :

 

Totally.

 

DR KUDRATH : 

 

Whether it's tough love, you know sometimes we need tough love, or compassion. If we stick to that principle we'll help each other out, regardless of our differences whether it's political, religious, race.  You know, talking about race even right now we see so much polarization in this country white-versus-black. Things like that. But I'm seeing more and more people bridge the gap to try to understand each other. And when that happens we find solutions to the problems, like we talked about earlier. So when you ask about the good in the world, I see it. And sometimes things have to be shaken up, and sometimes the waters get rough before they get calm again. And I think in this country we're having some of those rough waters. But this is when we come together so that we can all sail smoothly afterwards.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah, I like that. What are you most thankful for right now in life?

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Most thankful right now? Opportunity. And opportunity, it comes in a lot of different forms. I had this opportunity because of my health. I had this opportunity because of my friends and the people around me. And that's what makes me very appreciative of every day that I have. Because every day I wake up I have opportunity to do something else, to do something new, to learn something new, to help somebody out.

 

JEREMY :

 

That's really cool.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Opportunity.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah, that's a new one. That's a new one, I mean, yeah. I like that. It's always good to have opportunities. I believe I just have one more question for you. This is like the main one, aside from of course the, "what shoes are you wearing?" Question. But first I'm going to take you on a little imaginative ride. It's not very long, but I want you to imagine that one day you're walking through a lush green park. It's a beautiful spring day. Let's say you're in Hyde Park in London. It's a beautiful park. Just walking around. Suddenly a spacecraft appears out of nowhere. It appears to be an alien spacecraft. It's unlike anything you've ever seen before. And out steps an alien who introduces himself by the name Ford Prefect and he looks very similar to the British actor Benedict Cumberbatch but doesn't blink much, if at all. And after you guys exchange pleasantries about cricket, about the weather, about life on earth, (he's a very cordial fellow), and you find out that he is an intergalactic journalist. And he's here to find out about life on Earth, about how people see life on Earth. And he only gets to interview one person and you happen to be that person. So you have to represent just your view of what life is. So he asks this question. He asks you if you can give him the most accurate description of how you specifically see and understand life on this planet. What would you tell that that alien? And there's no way he can — He has these like special lie detector things that he can tell if you're, you know  — so you have to tell the truth and it's just essentially, how you see and understand life on the planet.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

I'd welcome him to a very beautiful place, a beautiful place full of diversity and full of people working together. I mean, he would see not only the physical beauty of our world that we live in and all the varied life forms. But as he interacts with me as a human to try to understand our species, I would show him how different we are but how well we can work together. And he's going to probably point out, "Well what about all this? What about this war going on here? What about these people fighting over here?” And I'll remind him that we have to go through struggles, we have to go through those dark times because through that we will learn, we will get stronger, and we will emerge as better, as more unified. So I think he would understand that. I'm sure they have their own struggles too, wherever they're from.  He might tell me a story or two about his world. And we will both look forward to coming out on the other end wiser strong with more understanding of one another.

 

JEREMY :

 

That's awesome.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Cool.

 

JEREMY :

 

Dude, this has been ridiculously cool, and I seriously thank you for agreeing to do this. I know obviously you have a busy schedule, you're learning how to be an actor, you're probably reading I don't know how many books, you're probably writing books, but you're starting your own practice right? 

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Yeah, I just opened an E.R. south of Houston which was a big experience for me. You know they don't teach you business in medical school but this was my crash course in an MBA. I had to make it work because I already started forward. I had millions of dollars on the line on loans so you have to make it work. But like we said, every year we should be learning something new. This was my year to learn architecture and business contracting, management operations, and I'm still learning. But it would have been easy for me to be afraid of the change. But again if we embrace learning something new, you'll find success. That's just my other side point. Don't focus on money that focus on cars focus on bettering yourself. And I promise success will come, in the form of money and cars and all kinds of other ways.

 

JEREMY :

 

Is there a website that anybody can go to if they want to learn more about your practice or about, I guess, anything you're involved in right now?

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Yeah. You know, our website we're in Angleton Texas, so it's a small town south of Houston. So our website is angletoner.com

 

JEREMY :

 

angletoner.com. OK. How do you spell that?

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

a n g l e t o n e r dot com. So, yeah, if anybody has a question for a doctor they can reach out to you or reach out to me directly through the website. I'm always fascinated teaching other people or learning from other people sharing ideas.

 

JEREMY :

 

Cool. Awesome. All right, well thank you once again. It's been a pleasure.

 

DR KUDRATH :

 

Thank you very much. It's been a pleasure to be here.

 

JEREMY : [narration]

 

Hey, thank you so much for checking out this episode of 'in the shoes of'. If you like or don't like the podcast feel free to leave a review or reach out to me. My email is jnickel@intheshoesof.org. I'm Jeremy Nickel, the host and producer of the show, until the next time, see you later.

 

[Music plays]

 

Zak Flying Around Transcription

JEREMY [narration]:
Hi everyone and welcome to the In The Shoes Of podcast where I make it my goal to see life as much as possible from someone else's point of view; just like we all have a unique heartbeat, every single one of us sees life only from our own perspective. Think about it. Can you see and process life exactly as Elon Musk sees and processes life? The answer is you can't, and it applies to every living conscious being here on this pale blue dot.
What up everybody? My name is Jeremy Nickel. This episode of In The Shoes Of, I am interviewing Zak Flying Around, in beautiful Los Angeles at Wilacre Park,  a place where many of the esteemed go to discuss amazing matters of I don't really know, but anyway, it was really cool, really nice, beautiful, and Zak Flying Around is a stone mover. "What is this stone mover?" you may ask. Well, I guess you're going to have to listen to find out, now, won't you? On with the show! Let me try that again - on with the show!


JEREMY :
The first question, though, before we get into the meat of the things. Can I ask you what type of sandals those are?


ZAK :
Oh, it says, "Rainbow" on them.


JEREMY :
I like them. Can I take a picture of them? 


ZAK :
Yes.


JEREMY :
Perfect. 


ZAK :
I think I found them at the beach.

 
JEREMY :
Oh, that's awesome. Okay.


ZAK :
Santa Monica. They do look pretty leathery, though. I think they are leather.


JEREMY :
All right. Got the picture there. I'm going to jump into this. Usually, I start off with a few, different, other questions, but I'm really--something that's really been on my mind and what you've kind of alluded to is, you found out exactly what you were born to do, what your what kind of, like, life mission is, for lack of a better word? Maybe you can correct me on that. And, if you can explain to me and to everyone listening, what it is - what is your mission here on Earth? What were you born to do?


ZAK :
Okay so, my inclination was to move stones. So, all I know is that lately, I've been thinking about it, within the last five years or longer, about how my first memory in life was--actually, my first memory in life was standing on the beach in Port Hueneme, which is not too far from here. I think I was two years old, standing on the beach in Port Hueneme and looking towards the Channel Islands--well, one of the Channel Islands in particular. This is a completely true story. It was my first conscious memory in this life. And, I was down at the beach because I was searching for little stones. And I remember wanting to go across that island. It looks so peaceful, I could see the reflection of its highest mountain. Or one of its highest mountains - its eastern-facing mountain, in the reflection of the still water. See, that's how it is when you are a child, you don't know things. So, I was wondering why the mountain--there's a mountain way over there in the distance. It was kind of partially obscured by fog a little bit, but you could see it. You can make it out. But then you could see the mountain in its reflection in this perfectly still--it was the morning, right as the Sun was coming up so that's... I'm just painting this picture for you. That's what it was. And I was two years old so what year was it? 1965? I don't know, because I'm 53 now. So anyway, I remember wanting to go to that island and look for stones. And then, there's a story about how I left, my father went off to work - he was in the Navy. And then I went off and I ran away from home. I was only two years old. A neighbor found me, with no clothes on because I had lost my diaper, and she put her women's panties on me.


JEREMY :
[laughs] Really?


ZAK :
And called the base police. And then the base police found my mother and my mother took me back to the house. But anyway, that's the story that I could tell people about how early I wanted to be a wanderer, and so anyway, getting back to this thing about the stones. You wanted to know why I feel that I was meant to be a stone mover?


JEREMY [narration]:
Just letting you know that it's going to take a little bit of time. It takes a little bit of time getting around to the full story from Zak Flying Around. But the wait is well worth it, so, hang in there with me.


ZAK :
When you're a child, I don't know if you remember it, but you had this compulsion to pick up stones and throw them. You and your brother, or you and your friend, would throw them for hours. You don't know why, you just knew that you just had to keep throwing those stones. And so, I guess it's probably an instance long, long ago, our earliest ancestors were roaming the Earth and everywhere they went they brought stones. This is what I was told. And I was trying to understand what that meant, but we were definitely roamers.


JEREMY [narration] :
Alright so, I did a little bit more research into this and I found that Zak Flying Around was probably talking about Homo habilis, the species from eastern and southern Africa who lived around 1.4-2.4 million years ago. I got this from HumanOrigins.si.edu. Disclaimer: I didn't totally fact-check everything but, you know, I don't know. I'll provide the full link, of course, in the blog. And then I looked also at ToLweb.org, and they have some information there about how that species used rocks as a defense... Probably, I think. I'd have to read the article again. Anyway, on with show.


ZAK :
We're talking about our Neanderthal ancestors, I guess, or early ancestors that came out of Africa, and we didn't need stones for our defense at some point because we had spears and bows and arrows, and we kept carrying stones anyway because it had become kind of a spiritual endeavor. We realized that was the whole point all along. Some people believe that we were given this gift of consciousness and we were assisted by the earlier sentient beings that were here way before we were here, and some tribes, some of the Indians, or some of the people around the world, refer to them as the "stone beings." You've heard that before. You've heard people say it, talking about the stone beings.


JEREMY [narration]:
Alright so, I couldn't really find too much information on this topic online. So, if anyone has any additional information or can provide some additional insight, please let me know - JNickel@InTheShoesOf.Org.


JEREMY :
Yeah, maybe elaborate on that, because I'm not really familiar.


ZAK :
Well all I know is just--by hanging out with Indians my whole life--I've heard people talk about the stone beings and they're the oldest beings that were here before any of this life existed. Anyway, this is all something that I thought formulated later. All I knew when I was younger was that I was in love with stones, just like any young person I suppose. I don't know if you remember, but when you were playing and you came inside, and your mom cooking and you, just this young child, maybe three or four years old, and you had some stones to show her, these little rocks that you brought in from when you were down in a meadow not far away, or out in the backyard. And she wanted you to get those off the counter. Or your dad said, “Get those off the table, we're trying to eat dinner." Very innocent. And here's the reason why I do this - because I started moving stones when I was a younger man-


JEREMY :
About how old were you?


ZAK :
Right around the time, just before I went up to Alaska, I suppose.


JEREMY :
I didn't know you went to Alaska. Wow.


ZAK :
Yeah, I've been a wanderer most of my life. I've been a hitchhiker, and a hiker, and then walking along coastlines I suppose.


JEREMY :
And a wandering child at the age of two. That's when you when you started all of it! Yeah, okay.


ZAK :
I mean, whenever it was possible, but the reality is I had to go to high school and, you know, I had to have a work life, had to have a career, and I was married for a long time, and I've owned a couple of businesses - a couple of small businesses.


JEREMY :
In Alaska or?


ZAK :
No, in California.


JEREMY :
Oh okay.


ZAK :
I don't know, I was the handyman. I was a carpenter for a lot longer than it was anything else, but I've done other things. So anyway, I'm a stone mover because I started moving stones and I couldn't stop. I pick up a stone. You're walking along a trail or an on a street or in a neighborhood or somewhere, and you see this little stone. It's an ugly little stone and you pick it up. Just like, everyone does it and you take it home and you don't know why you. You seem to identify with it - it's the ugly things that we seem to identify with. And you put it somewhere. Long ago, you would have put it in your little medicine pouch or the pouches that you would carry along your side or, you know, we were tribal people - and it was just a little, tiny stone so it wasn't taxing you physically to carry it. You just carried it with you everywhere you went for a few years until you got tired of it or until--the old saying was, or the old thought was that 'until it was ready' to be given back to the world.


JEREMY :
Ah, okay.


ZAK :
It wanted to be given back to the wilderness, or being given back to the Great Spirit, or the Great Spirit of God or the Spirit of God ,you know, whatever we call our God.


JEREMY :
So how has that affected you spiritually when--with regard to moving stones, do you think that has uplifted you or given you kind of a sense of purpose?


JEREMY [narration]:
Notice that when Zak Flying Around talks about prayer it's different from the way we normally think of prayer, especially from the perspective of a Muslim or a Christian. 


ZAK :
Yeah so, it's funny but the old timers... We're talking about a prayer that is so old, it predates anything. I mean, it's not--I don't know if it's the oldest prayer of man, but it's one of the oldest prayers of men. The idea used to be that you could put your little thoughts on a stone and then give that stone back to the world. And why was that? Well, we were wanderers and so we had to be relatively free and uplifted and not be burdened and not be weighed down. And so, the idea that you'd be free of you of some of these heavy thoughts, just your anxieties and fear, and also your appreciation too. That can weigh you down and prevent you from going forward in life. Like I said, long ago we were wanderers and we were exploring the world. I think that's true.


JEREMY [narration]:
I'm sure not everyone will agree with me here, but I find Zak's uncertainty about things and his complete lack of basically any absolute statements to be extraordinarily refreshing. In a day and age, especially it seems like in the States, where confidence is key, even if you don't know shit, you know, I just love that. So, I mean, I understand you have to have confidence in certain situations and all that but, you know, it’s okay not to know everything because, you know what? We don't know everything. And if you think you do, then... Okay, I'll stop there. I'll stop.


ZAK :
And so, we would just entrust all this extra baggage to the Great Mystery. You know, we felt there was this thing that was alive that was outside of us that was watching over us, or it was the compassion of the universe. And it actually was a living, feeling, thinking entity. And so, we would just kind of like, release all this extra stuff that was in our head and set it down. So, in other words, we were putting our prayers on a little stone and giving it to God. And then don't worry you're going to find another stone, because we always do.


JEREMY :
You're talking just metaphorically. You put it, "I'm putting like my anxieties and worries in the stone" or "my prayer into this stone." Or would they actually physically etch it onto the stone?


ZAK :
I don't know, but at some point, it was just... We knew that our prayers are powerful and the energy of the fact that we were carrying the stone - it was vibrating or we were sharing a higher vibration or I don't know -  I'm not a New Ager but I tend to talk along these terms because I hang out with them occasionally, over the years, quite a bit. So, I end up talking like them, but what I'm saying is: you put your payers on a little stone, set it down, walk away, and be free of this extra stuff that was preventing you from going forward. And so, this is just some stuff we've shared in conversations all my life, from hanging out with lot of Indians, around a fire, or after some sort of a gathering has taken place, or during a special prayer gathering. These are just some things that we talk about, and it just seems to come naturally to our minds. It's almost as if we haven't lost that innate memory. But like I said, it's one of the oldest prayers of man. This prayer existed before those Asiatic tribes came to America. Anyway, this prayer tradition is much older than the 40,000 years that have existed in America of human beings having come here and discovered two beautiful, huge, vast continents. At some point, it became a bonafide spiritual practice and every tribe had their little stone mover.


JEREMY :
So, was this stone mover in the tribe - is it almost like a shaman?


ZAK :
No, no, not at all actually. 


JEREMY :
Oh okay. 


ZAK :
I am not a shaman or a medicine person or a holy man. I don't really claim to be one in any way whatsoever. A stone mover is a little bit like a holy man, so I could say that, but I can't say that I'm a shaman. I don't have powers. I don't have knowledge. I don't have powers to heal people. No, a stone mover is simply a mailman.


JEREMY :
Oh okay.


ZAK :
I'm just a deliverer; I just deliver other people's prayers for them because, long ago you'd have a stone and you wanted to give it back but you can't remember where you found it. So, you want to put it up high somewhere, or you want it in some sacred place. So, you go for a walk into the wilderness, you know, half a day or a day -  the weather is warm, it's springtime or it's summertime or it's the end of the summer, and you want to deliver your stone. Once a year you'd deliver your stone and, don't worry, you're going to find another one, and you're giving your prayers to God - your appreciation, your happiness, your love. And you want to put it in a sacred place- it's quiet and there's not a whole lot of people because there's a lot of clamor and noise and a little negativity where we see a lot of people. So, we used to deliver our stones away out some place, maybe on an ocean, on a cliff overlooking the ocean, or someplace quiet. It's every place--everyone's different, but it's just some quiet place away from people. And on a hill, or up on a mountain, I tend to be someone who likes to deliver things said the top of mountains because I have this ego that I haven't quite gotten rid of. I haven't gotten quite rid of all my ego yet. But I've gotten rid of a lot of it.


JEREMY :
That's great; that's commendable. 


ZAK :
So anyway, every year or every couple of years, you give your stone back to the world. And so, that's a beautiful religion, isn't it? That's a beautiful belief system.


JEREMY [narration]:
What do you think? Do you think it's a beautiful religion? A beautiful way to think? Let me know your thoughts. You can comment on the blog at InTheShoesOf.Org, or feel free just to send me a personal e-mail at JNickel@InTheShoesOf.Org. 


ZAK :
And so, at the end, you feel like you're connecting to this little prayer web, because that's what you're creating. You're creating a prayer web, or a spider web, or a dream catcher, that is composed of all of your thoughts and memories and your prayers. You know, it might be long--your tribe might move 200 miles this way in the next 10 years and you won't even remember where you put these stones, but no matter how much time or distance is transcended between you and that prayer stone, it's always yours. And you have a connection to like a string - like the string theory of quantum physics. You're always connected to that stone and to that line of communication with the Great Spirit, or the line of communication with God. So anyway, that's what we used to believe. If you could establish lines of communication with God by putting stones in sacred places throughout your life, and when you get my age, I'm 53 - of course, I'm kind of a stone mover so I've got at least a hundred personal stones that I placed in wilderness, or about that many - you don't abuse it. It's not something you should really abuse at all. You just know that when your stone is ready to deliver, that wait for the warm season to come and you'll know where--you'll either know where to put it, or you'll go hiking and you'll find a place to put it. Now, long ago it wasn't that safe to go do it, because you might not come back... To go into the wilderness, a lot of times it wasn't really that safe. It's kind of a dangerous thing, so there was always some young person who had kind of a spiritual inclination, and you would give it to him and he would deliver it for you. Or she, you know. I'm not a sexist. And so, that's how stone movers came about. We were just - they were just delivery people.


JEREMY :
Yeah, okay.


ZAK :
And that's all I really know, and that's all that was really explained to me. Some of the additional information that I know has come to me in dreams, I suppose. 


JEREMY :
Hm, okay.


ZAK :
And that's how I find other places to put other people sounds too. They give me a stone and I might have it for a little while - I just wait for the inspiration, or maybe a dream or something, to tell me where to put it.


JEREMY :
Have you ever had anybody just randomly come up...? Because I'm assuming that's people that you know, and you've spoken about the stones already and they say, "Here, I have this stone" and they need you to place it somewhere, or have you ever experienced somebody just randomly coming up like "I just feel like they need to give you this stone for you to place-"


ZAK :
That's happened a few times and it's really unusual. It's unusual, but it's--and you never know who it is. You might think it might be some sort of a psychic lady or something, no. No, you don't know who it is. It is just anybody - could be a truck driver, or some child with cerebral palsy, or something--like it's so deep in our consciousness, way back - it's completely forgotten, don't get me wrong - but it's so back there that it can come out. It can come out sometimes, some freak occurrence. I mean, I have been known to go into - they'll kick me out because they think I'm a weirdo - but I'll go into a convalescent home where these folks are, you know, 70 or 80 years old or 90, and all I have to say is that my name is Zak I'm here to get your stone. Does anyone have a stone for me? I'm a stone mover. They don't know what a stone mover means, but they just know that somebody there has come to--because they're in the recreation room or they're watching TV and then all of a sudden, I'm showing up and they said, "Yeah, I have a stone. Wait a second, let me roll over to my bed over here. I'll pull it out my dresser drawer and I'll give it to you." Or another person, a Jewish lady might say, "Oh I've got a stone, but it's at my house and I have to call my sons and daughters. I hope they haven't thrown away all my stuff." Anyway, these things happen, and I go into a little elementary school. You can't go into a kindergarten because they'll just make fun of you. No, I'm talking about the little preschool places, where the kids are three years old. "Hi, my name is Zak Flying Around. Does anybody have any stones for me?" and they're all, like, running. They're all jumping up and down for joy. "Yes, I've got to stone for you! Come back tomorrow! Yeah, I'll go home and get it. I know exactly where it is under my pillow," or somewhere they put it. So, in other words, I think when you're very young and when you're very old, you remember what this is.


JEREMY :
Yeah. And are you carrying stones right now?


ZAK :
Well, I have a stone that someone gave me the other day. I'm going to deliver it.


JEREMY :
Wow. I don't know if it's wrong to do so, but can you show it to us?


ZAK :
Well I probably shouldn't, because it's a personal thing I suppose. It's her personal stuff and she gave it to me.


JEREMY :
I respect that.


ZAK :
I have a feeling I already know where I'm going to take it. In fact, I told her where I think I would like to put it. But it's always a mystery. It's always a mystery. Out beyond, away somewhere, and then I'll discover that it really wanted me to take it somewhere else. I got the dream to do it as a child. And so, I can stop doing it any time. It's just what I want to do right now. I ignored it for years. I wanted to do it, but I couldn't. And now that I'm free now, because I was divorced less than ten years ago now, and my son is in college. He's going to Cal Poly. I'm still young and I'm still strong and I've got the motivation and the will to do it. So, I'm going to do it. I'm going to do it.


JEREMY :
Yeah, that's really cool. I'm going to... See, you have me interested now, I'm like, "I want to find my stone!" You know, but I think that has to be a natural type of thing too, right?


ZAK :
This is just how we used do it. But it has to be an ugly stone, believe it or not.


JEREMY :
It has to be an ugly stone?
They believe that the ugly stones are God's favorite stone because, even in the Bible, you know, as far as Christians, they say that the meek shall inherit the Earth. There's lots of references to that notion about how there's beauty in all things, particularly in the things that don't look beautiful. There can be more beauty, in fact, there probably is more beauty in the things that are not beautiful, because things are not beautiful have taken on--have chosen that path out of some sort of faith, really.


JEREMY :
Yeah, and it's so needed in this day and age.


ZAK :
This is what was told to me and I completely agree with it. It confirms my dreams. Our prayer stones were always just these common stones, nothing pretty about them. They weren't crystals or they weren't bright colors. And my job really has been to simply take your stone and I find a sacred place. It might take me a while but I'll find it. I'll find a place and usually - it's pretty easy though - I'll find a place and I put it down on the ground and I walk away. So, it's just being a mailman; it's just delivering other people's things to other buildings, that's all it is. I'm not some sort of a superman or have any kind of superpowers or anything like that. But, this is my special gift; I can be of service to others because it's all about being of service to others. I want to be of service to others and this is all I can do.


JEREMY :
We talked about human consciousness and we talked about how we've evolved, you know, we came down from the trees and now we have this new level of self-awareness that we've been dealing with, really, not too long and coming to terms with it. But we have all these things going on in the world, too, that are obviously not good. You know, like war and famine and what have you, all the typical things. How do you think--well I guess my question is twofold. One is: what do you think is the next level of consciousness, the next level... How do we need to evolve from here? And how can this help with that getting to that state?


ZAK :
Yeah. So, I'm not a wise person, I don't really know. I will leave it to the elders to answer these questions, but I can speculate on it.

 
JEREMY :
We'll take your speculation!


ZAK :
Yeah, you might want to take this camera and go talk to some elders. My favorite elders right now happened to be some Paiute elders up at Walker Lake or up in Pyramid Lake. I call them the Ghost Dancer elders, but that's not what they call themselves. I just like to them call that because they kind of descend from that particular spiritual tradition. It goes pretty far back actually. I think that type of round dancing goes back... I don't know how long, thousands of years. Indians in America are doing a couple of different kinds of prayers right now. You know, they’ve been doing the tobacco prayer for about 9000 years.


JEREMY :
Tobacco prayer? I didn't even know that was a thing.


ZAK :
I don't really do the tobacco prayer, although I understand why it's really important. And then we have Indians who are doing the sweat lodge ceremony. That's a prayer tradition; the sweat lodge prayer is super old.


JEREMY :
Does that involved use of like, where is it--there are traditions that involve like peyote too? Is that correct?


ZAK :
Yeah that's probably a prayer that goes back some thousands of years. There's a few tribes that like to experiment with the substances, the plants that that are very powerful and give you visions. I don't really mess with that stuff. I don't mess with it because it's just--I could tell you that my mom's tribe doesn't really- it's not been part of their prayer tradition for a long time, for forever maybe. I don't know . She's from Montana, she's from a place called Rocky Boy. In fact, she lives up there now. But I was advised not to use drugs or alcohol by my parents so - I know it sounds kind of unusual, you can believe this. I'm 53, I've never been a user of drugs or alcohol. I tried it a few times. In 1985, I tried it, I hated it. Once in a great while, someone put a glass of wine in front of me and I'll just take a sip, but I just don't like it, it makes me sick. I think I'm one of those people that's completely allergic to alcohol, and I'm a lightweight in general. Drugs just don't help me. I think I was supposed to do this - what I'm doing now. 


JEREMY :
I like that. Yeah. 


ZAK :
But yeah, there's different kinds of prayers that Indians are doing. There's lots of different kinds of prayer traditions that they're doing. My favorite prayer tradition that the Indians have been keeping alive for a very long time and nobody knows how old it is, it's a circle prayer. It's the pow-wow.


JEREMY :
Oh yeah!


ZAK :
The making a circle, or they're making and creating a whirlwind of energy. That's what that circle dance is, you know, it seems to be clockwise - I've seen some dancers go counterclockwise. And so anyway, I've been going to those for years and years. I don't know, maybe 30 years or so, 35 years. And so, I enjoy going to those.


JEREMY :
Yeah. 


ZAK :
But like I said I'm a little bit different. You know, I’ll go to a pow-wow and I'll tell people--this is how it's been for me forever. I'll share with people who get up the courage and tell them that I'm a mover of stones. And a lot of the Indians nowadays, you know, they don't remember what that is. They'll ask me what that is. A lot of Indians now are Christians. 


JEREMY :
Oh really?


ZAK :
They are praying to Middle Eastern God on the other side of the planet that was brought here by their invaders. And so, I knew--that's one of the earliest things that I also learned and I don't know why, but it must have been taught to me by my parents, that that's not something that I want to do. I'm not going to do that.


JEREMY [narration]:
At this point in the conversation, I did try and ask Zak Flying Around what he thought about the attempted genocide; when the invaders from Europe came over and had that crazy idea of manifest destiny in their minds and, of course, the resulting bloodbath and all of that. But I really couldn't get a solid answer, which is fine; he really wanted to stay focused on his message which is about stone moving, and that's totally cool. No problem at all, but I do think it's something that should be acknowledged and, you know, I would love to have somebody give me their perspective on Native American culture today, and how it relates to what happened a long--well, not so long ago actually in the grand scheme of things.


ZAK :
At times--sorry, we got away from that question--but you're wondering why it would be a good idea, or it would be a thought, that we could bring back some of these old prayer traditions or try to understand elemental things that may have been part of our past, right? So, I think that it's important because we better try anything ,you know? When you start getting the dream to move stones when you are a child, it's like your parents are sad. They don't want you to do that. It's like, they discourage you from doing that because they know that you're going to have a hard life, you might leave the village some day and not come back. Anyway, that's probably what it was like, or that's what it was like when you announced to your parents that you wanted to deliver other people stones. 


JEREMY :
Kind of like, it's like, "Are you sure you want to do that?"


ZAK :
Yeah, because you probably might not come back. There were a lot of predators a long time ago and lots of other dangers. We didn't have paths that were created, you know.


JEREMY :
Yeah, good point.

 
ZAK :
Nowadays I'll announce to people and they completely ignore me. They're a little annoyed. I'm one of those crazy people, you know, that they have to walk by on their way to work. They got off the subway, they got off whatever they call it here in L.A., and then they had to walk through all these people who are without homes.


JEREMY [narration]:
Talk about being unashamedly himself. That's pretty rad folks, don't you think?


ZAK :
And a little bit mentally unsound, or going through various mental difficulties, psychotic or in some sort of some state of psychosis - and they might think that I'm one of those people, you know? Because I walked up to somebody, I give them my card, "Hey I'm a stone mover and, if you ever need a stone delivered, just give me a call. I'll meet you someplace, in a Starbucks, give me the stone. You won't have to talk to me, I won't talk to you because I tend to annoy people. Just give me your stone and I'll deliver it to the wilderness and that's all I really want."


JEREMY :
Yeah. Well, that's amazing.


ZAK :
And people think that's a little strange. Well. it is a little strange, but it's what I do. It's what I do and I've been doing it for a long time now and I've never charged money.


JEREMY :
Oh wow.


ZAK :
Now I look for supporters, but if someone gives me a stone, I won't ask for money and I won't even bring it up. It's just my way and it's just something that was taught to me by other Indians, to do your spiritual practice and to share with other people, you don't ask for money. You might tell people that you need some support in some way, but it's not contingent on you being able to do what you do or to share it with other people.


JEREMY :
And have you had people come back to you and say, "Hey this has had a really cool impact or great impact on my life."


ZAK :
I can tell you how it has made me feel. You know how drugs make you feel like you're elevated and on top of the world, or operating on a high frequency or vibration, not to talk like a New Ager again. But when you have been delivering stones for a little while, when you personally have a few stones you've been delivering, it's just something that you do, you know. We do lots of things in our lives. This is just one of the things that you could consider your spiritual food, or you can consider it your spiritual spice, you know, like it's a little salt and pepper that adds to what it is you're already doing. But for me, it's been my primary practice. When you feel like you have created this dream catcher or this spider web for your life and it just kind of like, lifts you up, it brings you a little bit closer to the light of God.


JEREMY :
Wow. That's pretty potent.


ZAK :
It just kind of increases your faith in God in a way that is solid like a rock. And so, that's my story. That's what I do. I can talk about it for a long time though.


JEREMY [narration]:
Alright, in the next part, Zak is going to tell us a little bit about his recent journey and how he met with some elders. It's really cool.


ZAK :
So about five years ago, I was invited to a ceremony on the day of a solar eclipse in 2012. I didn't know why, I just thought it was going to be a round dance. But this man had it in his mind that I have got to go. So, I went. I went and he knew what he was talking about because he had close relations with these elders at the time. His name was Ryan. I went there and I met the chairman of the tribe and he found out that I was a stone mover, just like Ryan knew I was a stone mover. And he said, "Well you've got to come to the summit, you have to come. Do whatever you can to make it." And it was only a few days away, so I went back into town, it was in Fernley, I camped out in Fernley, and went back up to that reservation, Pyramid Lake, and there it was, in a round dance on the day of the solar eclipse. And during the solar eclipse of 2012, May 20th, 2012, they had a ceremony there. I won't talk too much about it because it was too special. It was too special; it's something that could only probably share with someone off-camera. But anyway, it was a very special day, very, very special day. Some very mystical things happened during the course of that ceremony. And the elders who were there that day, three particular elders, asked everyone to do what they do for a year. It turns out, everyone who showed up for that event, for that ceremony, were prayer people of some kind, and I happened to have been one of those prayer people. And I looked around and I thought, "These people are singing songs I've never heard before. They're singing these ancient songs that I've never heard before and everybody around here seems to be some sort of holy person. And I'm leaving because I don't belong here." But I didn't leave. I didn't leave. And at the end of the ceremony, everyone was asked to do what they do for a year or longer. The option would be to do it for four years, if you wanted to do it for longer than a year. It was 2012 by the way, I don't know if you remember, it was a special year and there was a lot of hoopla and a lot of people were making claims and a lot of people were saying certain things and the Indians were telling everybody to just be calm. You know that saying?


JEREMY :
Oh yeah, "Stay calm and-" yeah.


ZAK :
Yeah. Well anyway, the Indians is we're just saying, "Stay calm; the world's not going to end, but this might be an opportunity for us to put our prayers together, put all of our practices and ways of praying together and see if we can make something happen." So that's why we were invited. We were told to go out into the world and do what we do for a year. Being a stone mover, there was no way I could say no. I had been waiting for someone to ask me to do this. What I did for the next four years was epic. Incredible. And it's not something that you are empowered to choose independently, you have to be asked to do this by somebody who is really, like a powerful elder-type medicine person. And those were the people who were there that day. Well, they asked everybody to do this. And so, I immediately--it took me a few minutes, but then I realized I had to do it and I did it and I did it for four years. I did a special type of stone moving that involves moving stones from sacred place to sacred place, so I wasn't accepting stones that belong to him or you to deliver. I was delivering stones that belonged to wilderness. I was taking stones that already belonged to God and they have been given to God at some point through the ages. Who knows, I don't know. But I was going from sacred place to sacred place and I happen to be someone who likes to go to mountain tops. So, I went to the highest peaks in America, or on the west coast, west part of America, moving stones from one peak to another for four years. That's what he did for four years and I finished in May. In May of last year, I finished.

 
JEREMY :
That is amazing, really?


ZAK :
Yeah. I went completely broke, I went through all of my money. At one point, I was so broke I was appealing to some of my spiritual supporters who I had known in the past. They were helping me a little bit along the way. But I also had a gas can, sometimes I had a sign, sometimes I was collecting cans and bottles. I was just asking random people to help me with gas money so I could make it to the next mountain - it was all about getting to the next mountain. 


JEREMY :
Yeah. Gotcha.

 
ZAK :
In year two, I ran out of money so I resorted to just doing whatever I could - getting a little bit of money. I mean, I was not averse to standing in front of a lumber yard and getting a day's work or a couple day's work. I had no money whatsoever and I wasn't really used to that, by the way, because I'm used to having--I was used to having a little bit of money throughout my life, so it was hard but it was something I was prepared for. And I knew that I had to do it because I was already 48 when I was asked that. And that's probably not something that you should choose to do when you're already that age. A stone mover is usually someone who is young and strong, you know, in their 20s or 30s. But I guess that there was nobody else to ask. There are no more stone movers, we're all gone. 


JEREMY :
Do you have any regrets about doing it? 


ZAK :
No. I had the time of my life; in fact, when it ended in May of last year I was a little bit sad, I  cried a little bit because it was over. I was really glad, but I was in the wilderness for four years. But that's good, we're done. I think we're done, are we?


JEREMY [narration]:
At this point in time we have to swap out the memory card in the camera. Yes, we were filming this and I will have that up at some point in time on YouTube and who knows where else. And yeah, so that's why it seems like all of a sudden, we're just done. But we're not! Oh no, we are not done. So, continue. Let's continue. 


JEREMY :
We're done? Okay. Yeah, if you want to be done - oh, if I can ask you just one more question, though. This is like something, in fact, I'd like to get this one on camera too. 


ZAK :
So, I'm just hoping that I'm doing the right thing by sharing this with people in this way, because this is what I decided to do. I don't--so I'm in uncharted territory. I've never actually conducted an interview of this kind - talking about what it is I do. You know, the first three years that I did it, it was actually a secret. That's how sacred it was. I didn't tell anybody. In year four, I decided to start telling people - I don't want this prayer tradition to die out. I want other people to do it.

 
JEREMY :
Well, and I respect it. I want you to know that, and I want you to know that if you told me, "You know what, Jeremy, I decided I don't want this at all out there." I would delete it. 


ZAK :
We'll give it a try.


JEREMY :
Okay cool, you let me know and I can run everything by you before I publish it, the audio and the video, so we can get your final word on that to make sure that you're comfortable with whatever it is that I put out. So, I just want you to be comfortable because I respect it, you know, especially when it comes to these sacred traditions. It's a really cool thing. So, I want you to be comfortable knowing that I'm going to take care of it for you and be respectful of it. 


JEREMY [narration]:
This is something that's very near and dear to Zak's heart and he hasn't shared this with the world. And this is his chosen medium for getting it out to the world. And because of that, I want to show the greatest respect for what is being talked about here. This is his gig, right? So here I'm just trying to assuage them a little bit and letting him know that I do respect it. So how cool, right? I really dig that. 


JEREMY :
Alright, cool. Well Zak Flying Around, I appreciate all of your time here. I just have one more question for you. I want you to imagine that you're walking along this path, however, there are no people on this path whatsoever, and all of a sudden out of nowhere - and you have to use your imagination here this is unrealistic - but all of a sudden, someone from another planet, you just know that this person is from another planet, appears. And for some reason, you understand them too; they speak an interesting form of English. And they ask you--well, they tell you first, "I'm here just for 10 minutes and I need to know what life is here. What does it mean? How do you yourself-" and it's only you, he or she is only asking you, no one else. You're kind of representing, I guess, humanity like, how you see and perceive life on this planet. What would you tell them? 


ZAK :
I'd say, "Welcome, welcome to this planet. How long are you staying? I happen to be someone who is a little bit closer to the Earth than some of these average folks here, and my beliefs are very unsophisticated, and I feel like I'm a little bit closer to this Mother Earth and - in this world, we breathe air that's very clean and we drink water that's very clean and we live under the light of one sun. The sun comes out during the day. At night, it disappears on the horizon over there. And they say that it goes to the other side of the world, which is true because we know these things. We're not dumb and we have science here in this world and we figured out a lot of different things. We are observant of the stone prayer. And I happen to be someone who delivers stone prayers for those who still believe in it. And I'm hoping it'll come back. And do you do the stone prayer?" So anyway, it's just like, I'm sharing this with the world now. And so, you're welcome to contact ZakFlyingAround@Yahoo.com.


JEREMY :
ZakFlyingAround@Yahoo.com. Okay, excellent. That's perfect. Thank you, Zak, seriously. Zak Flying Around, thank you so much for sharing your time and your knowledge. I know that you say you're not a wise man but I feel like you have wisdom to impart still to the world, so thank you so much. 


JEREMY [narration]:
Hey, thank you so much for checking out this episode of In The Shoes Of. If you like or don't like the podcast, feel free to leave a review or reach out to me. My email is JNickel@InTheShoesOf.Org. I'm Jeremy Nickel, the host and producer of the show. Until the next time, see you later.

Yossarian Cole Transcription

JEREMY [narration]:
Hi everyone and welcome to the In The Shoes Of podcast where I make it my goal to see life as much as possible from someone else's point of view; just like we all have a unique heartbeat, every single one of us sees life only from our own perspective. Think about it. Can you see and process life exactly as Elon Musk sees and processes life? The answer is you can't, and it applies to every living conscious being here on this pale blue dot.


JEREMY :
And it's In The Shoes of episode time, and today I have an old friend by the name of--


JEREMY [naaration]:
Just letting you know that I had to make a last-minute update to this episode, which is why the quality is a little bit different for these few seconds. I'm actually outside of a coffee shop in my car right now. For reasons I won't get into here, I will not be using the real name of the interviewee today. So, the title of the podcast will include the fake name of Yossarian Cole. Anyway, the content is still there, still great, and thank you for understanding. Enjoy this show.


JEREMY :
--who is a self-proclaimed burned out night shift E.R. nurse, aka trauma junkie-- you're going to find out that he's much more than that, obviously. We're going to delve into some pretty heavy stuff here, and some lighter stuff, but I mean to give you an idea - electron transport systems, collective hypomania, vagus nerve communication, suicidal contagions, alcoholism, e'erthing and more.
We've kind of started but, well not officially but whatever. Have you heard of Wim Hof, the Wim Hof method, or the Iceman?


YOSSARIAN :
Oh definitely.


JEREMY :
Oh really?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah well, Tim Ferris talks about him.


JEREMY :
Oh okay.


YOSSARIAN :
But I have his book, I bought it a couple of weeks ago. What the real benefit of that - cold therapy is tweaking your vagus nerve.


JEREMY :
Oh, that's right, you're kind of an expert on the vagus nerve.


YOSSARIAN :
Definitely. That's kind of my whole mission in life, is to help people fix their vagus nerve.


JEREMY :
Can you explain, just before we even get into that, what a vagus nerve is?


YOSSARIAN :
The human body has two biggest nerves - it's a pair, so a big guy. And that's Cranial Nerve #10 and, you may have heard of heart rate variability? Extreme athletes are checking their heart rate variability, often first thing in the morning. It tells you how stressed you are, how much stress you have, and by stress, I'm not talking about some vague emotional state of being. I'm talking about physiologic stress.


JEREMY :
Right.


YOSSARIAN :
And a huge stressor is an extreme workout. So, if you go run a marathon today, that is a tremendous amount of physiologic stress, and then your heart rate variability would tell you the next morning basically whether you should workout or not again that day, and how recovered you are. And so that heart rate variability is the vagus nerve and its influence on the heart.


JEREMY :
Oh okay.


YOSSARIAN :
The vagus nerve is the brakes to the heart basically. It's what slows the heart rate down. And this is all talking about the parasympathetic nervous system.


JEREMY :
Okay.


YOSSARIAN :
Opposite the parasympathetic is the sympathetic nervous system and that's what we think of when we're talking about ‘fight or flight'. So, a bear jumps out of the woods to eat you, and you freak out and take off running, or maybe pull out your bowie knife and fight the bear. But your fight or flight is kicked in - it's all revved up, and that is the sympathetic nervous system.


JEREMY :
That's the sympathetic, not the parasympathetic. And so, you're saying the vagus nerve - does it moderate the parasympathetic system?


YOSSARIAN :
Yes exactly. And so that is the 'rest and digest' system, the 'feed or breed' system.


JEREMY :
Oh okay.


YOSSARIAN :
So, the opposite, or antidote, to stress is the parasympathetic nervous system.


JEREMY :
Oh okay. So, if it notices that you're stressed, it will do something to compensate for that stress somehow?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah.


JEREMY :
Like, when you told me one day when I was really stressed out and I was traveling in… I think I was in Thailand or Malaysia or something, and I was texting you about how stressed out I was about something and I was telling you about how on a Friday I went for a run and I was like, extraordinarily just peaceful - blissed out beyond words. And you told me that it was probably my vagus nerve that kind of kicked in, or my parasympathetic nervous system kind of kicked in, to say, "Hey we need to chill out, otherwise bad things are going to happen." Is that the gist of it, kind of?


YOSSARIAN :
That's exactly it. And we call that parasympathetic overshoot, which is the exact same thing that happens to an opossum when it plays dead. So, if a possum is confronted with a life-threatening situation - bam! it is paralyzed, immobilized, can't move, because the vagus nerve of the opossum shuts his entire body down. And that's called parasympathetic overshoot, and the interesting thing about overshoot is that is what--there is a seminal research article from 1990 by this guy named Baumeister, entitled Suicide as Escape from Self.


JEREMY :
Hmm.


YOSSARIAN :
And it's not entirely true, but it was very profound at the time in 1990 when he wrote this and he talked about this phenomenon called cognitive deconstruction.


JEREMY :
Okay.


YOSSARIAN :
That is when, basically, your brain stops working.


JEREMY :
Really? Well, doesn't that equate to death, if your brain stops working?


YOSSARIAN :
Well, it is highly lethal, because that's when people kill themselves.


JEREMY :
So, what do you mean when you say, "Your brain stops working." What do you mean by that?


YOSSARIAN :
Well, we can actually see this on functional MRI brain scans now. This comes from studies of alcoholics -abstinent alcoholics, when they are confronted with a high amount of stress which means their vagus nerve is shutting down, their prefrontal cortex, the front part of your brain right behind your forehead, the part of your brain that makes you human, in the abstinent alcoholic, It just simply turns off.


JEREMY :
Oh really?


YOSSARIAN :
When confronted with a high amount of stress.


JEREMY :
Wow, so are you going back to like the primal... Like a reptile brain then, at that point in time?


YOSSARIAN :
Definitely. That's exactly what's happening. So basically, instead of your human brain working, you're in crocodile brain mode. And the only thing that crocodile brain is good for is instinctual reflexive behavior. So, a crocodile sees something move and it automatically tries to eat it. It's just very--they call it the appetite of tri[00:07:26]. And basically what your prefrontal cortex, the human part of your brain, is good for is executive functioning. And executive functions are-- there are dozens of them, but things like inhibition; your ability to inhibit a behavior is an executive function. And so, it just stops working.


JEREMY :
Wow, sometimes the mind really stops working. There are just points in life where that really happens.


YOSSARIAN :
Yep, and that's kind of, in a roundabout way, modulated by the vagus nerve.


JEREMY :
Really. Okay.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, and the vagus nerve is fascinating. In the human, it has evolved to where we have three distinct branches, at least, of the vagus nerve. And this is... A guy named Stephen Porges came up with the polyvagal theory. What that means is, it's all based on evolution - and over the millennia, we have evolved a newer branch, and then an even newer branch. And so, there are at least three branches, each one newer than the previous one. And so, the most recently-evolved branch of the human vagus nerve is responsible for social interaction.


JEREMY :
Really? There's just one nerve, like vagus nerve, that's responsible just for that - for social interaction?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah - the vagus nerve has branches throughout your body. So, when you think one nerve, it's branched throughout your entire body. And we know, for example, acupuncture. Acupuncture has been around for 3,000 years. Well, when you mapped every site that they are trained to puncture with a needle, every single site is within millimeters of a branch of the vagus nerve.


JEREMY :
Oh really? Wow.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, and so that's the benefit of acupuncture and why it actually does help people. It's not a dramatic treatment effect, but it does--for example, you can have your ear pierced with an acupuncture needle for smoking cessation.


JEREMY :
Really?


YOSSARIAN :
Because there is a little branch of the vagus nerve, called the ‘auricular branch', that runs through your ear, and it seems to help some people quit smoking.


JEREMY :
Neat. I mean, I just got a GroupOn for acupuncture, so this is going to be--I'm going to put this to the test! See what happens.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah definitely. I've always meant to do it, I just haven't got around to it.


JEREMY :
So, do you think that we can influence--kind of like going back to Wim Hof, it seems like his belief, and he seems like he's pretty much kind of proven it too, is that he can override some of our ‘fight or flight' function, some of our parasympathetic or sympathetic reactions to life, and even kind of influence how our body reacts to viruses and things of that nature.


YOSSARIAN :
Oh definitely, the vagus nerve is responsible for immune system functioning. It's the brakes of the heart. And we've known this for years you know, probably 20 years ago when I was in first taking ACLS, which is called Advanced Cardiac Life Support. If you have a kid that comes in with a heart arrhythmia, called SVT, their heart is just beating way too fast for no apparent reason and could be running like--I had a kid once whose heart rate was 240.


JEREMY :
What.


YOSSARIAN :
Running way too fast for no reason. Kid looks terrible; there's a chance he might die. So, we got to slow that heart down. And there are various ways to do that, but one of the earliest things that we used to do is simply dunk their face in a bucket of ice water.


JEREMY :
Oh really. You're using the Wim Hof Method without knowing about Wim Hof at that point in time.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, this was before when Wim Hof named it "Wim Hof".


JEREMY :
[laughs]


YOSSARIAN :
A doctor could have been using an ice bucket to slow rapid heart rate, and often quite dramatic. The poor kid thinks they're dying of course, but their heart slows down because what the ice water is doing is powerfully stimulating the vagus nerve.


JEREMY :
Yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
And the vagus nerve is the brakes to the heart.


JEREMY :
Wow.


YOSSARIAN :
It can actually be dangerous you can slow your heart rate a little too much even if you're not careful.


JEREMY :
So where are you currently living right now?


YOSSARIAN :
I currently live in Nebraska.


JEREMY :
Cool.


YOSSARIAN :
Lincoln, Nebraska - Home of the Huskers.


JEREMY :
Yeah [REDACTED] and I actually met in Nebraska. He was -- he and his brother moved there, to Nebraska, from, where was it, Pasadena? Is that right?


YOSSARIAN :
Yep, Pasadena, California.


JEREMY :
So, from there it's been a wild ride. What shoes are you wearing today?


YOSSARIAN :
I am glad you asked. I'm wearing a pair of Earth Runner sandals.


JEREMY :
Earth Runner sandals! Whoa!


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, these are--I'm not really wearing them actually because we started talking...


JEREMY :
Yeah, me too, same thing. That's probably how it's going to go--


YOSSARIAN :
--I feel like I'm out of character. No, but I just I love these barefoot running sandals. The fascinating thing with these: they're handmade in, I believe, California and they're not super expensive - I think I paid $80 for mine, but the neat thing, the little catchy part to the Earth Runner, is that they have some built-in copper grounding wires.


JEREMY :
What? Okay.


YOSSARIAN :
There's actually fascinating science building on this idea of "earthing" or "grounding." Which means that kind of from an evolutionary perspective, our feet were meant to touch the ground.


JEREMY :
Yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
That's how we evolved over the last million years. And so, with the invention of these high-tech running shoes and things, our feet are no longer in contact with Mother Earth, and there actually seems to be a little bit of science behind that and, I don't quite understand it, but it has to do with every cell in your body is fueled by mitochondria. And in the mitochondria, this process called the electron transport chain is taking place and we actually collect electrons from the ground.


JEREMY :
Oh wow. Really? And this is proven stuff?


YOSSARIAN :
Well, the science is still out there a little bit. It's not super robust, but I think if you could just look around, you'll see people benefiting from grounding. There was a recent study that showed barefoot running increases working memory by something like 14%.


JEREMY :
Whoa.


YOSSARIAN :
Which is a huge thing? So basically, you go outside and run around with no shoes on, your brain is working better. What kind of sense does that make?


JEREMY :
It makes no sense on the surface.


YOSSARIAN :
Science doesn't lie. And so, I was walking around downtown Lincoln on Friday and just kind of enjoying myself and collecting data. I'm a people watcher and I am very interested in why people do what they do. And I walked past a homeless man sleeping on the ground and it occurred to me that he is gaining some benefit from sleeping on the ground. I know this because the homeless shelter is only a couple of blocks away - he could very easily have been sleeping inside in a warm environment. But for whatever reason, he chose to sleep right there on the ground. And Edwin Shneidman is a man I want to introduce you to, he's the founder of the entire science of suicidology.


JEREMY :
Oh okay.


YOSSARIAN :
He was the world's first suicidologist. Why do people kill themselves? Edwin Shneidman has passed away; he wrote his last book when he was 88 years old.


JEREMY :
That's awesome.


YOSSARIAN :
So, he's written something like sixty books on the subject. And he says, his quote that I live by is that "therapy is anything that helps."


JEREMY :
[laughs] Yeah right.


YOSSARIAN :
Anything that helps. And I believe that's, for this man, sleeping on the ground made him feel better. For whatever reason, it may feel--


JEREMY :
Yeah, just having that nice, cool air on his face maybe? maybe being able to see the stars? I don't know.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, and potentially grounding with Mother Earth, tweaking his electron transport chains in all his mitochondria. I don't know. So that's why I do have a pair of Earth Runners because I like the idea of running barefoot, but we also do see a lot of injuries in the E.R. from people stepping on stuff.


JEREMY :
Oh yeah, I'm sure.


YOSSARIAN :
You know, you get outside and take off down the trail barefoot, and then they step on a piece of glass and can't run for a month. I think you have to be smart about it.


JEREMY :
I'm going to have to look into some Earth Runners then. Connect me to Mother Earth a little bit. That's really cool. Cool - so the next question--and these are just kind of questions I want to ask everybody in this podcast, but I want to know… Who you are today and if you were--let's say you were pretending to be someone else and you had to speak about yourself in the third person, and someone asked you, "So tell me about [REDACTED]? Who the hell is he?" What would you say? What would you tell them?


YOSSARIAN :
Well, [REDACTED] is a registered nurse, currently a mental health nursing instructor at the community College. He's been doing that - teaching about mental health psych type stuff - for the last ten years, since 2006. But really at heart, he's just a burned out, crusty, sarcastic night-shift E.R. nurse. a former trauma junkie with the little whiff of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Just like all of those guys have, and a large whiff of alcoholism. So that's... That's who he is.


JEREMY :
Okay. Yeah, I'm going to go out and just run with that then. Can you tell me a bit about how and where you were brought up?


YOSSARIAN :
Kind of my formative years were in Pasadena, California. We lived there until my first year in high school. And so, we were the only white family on our block. And I sort of grew up with this fear of drive-by shootings and things like that. Fell asleep at night in listening to sirens and the distant sounds of gunfire. A lot of those inner-city areas are still a war-zone. I talked to an E.R. nurse from UCLA Trauma Center in Los Angeles and in her career, she worked there for something like fifteen years, they saw more gunshot wounds in that E.R. than the entire Vietnam War.


JEREMY :
What?


YOSSARIAN :
So, where the real people are dying and things like that are often not where the news media tells us they are dying. So that's kind of the background and then landed in Nebraska.


JEREMY :
What year was this, when you landed in Nebraska?


YOSSARIAN :
Maybe 1989.


JEREMY :
Yeah, that sounds about right. Some good Metallica albums around that time. And then you started teaching me a little bit about how to actually throw a little bit of rhythm and funk and hip hop into my drumming, as opposed to just straight-up speed metal type things and thrash.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, that's a funny story that I tell and I've exaggerated it over the years. It's kind of got a life of its own now when retelling it. It's basically a real high school musical sort of a deal, where the skinny blond kid shows up, and you and the other best drummer in town Jeremy Dutcher - this is how I tell the story- are like, "Oh so you're a drummer. Let's see what you got."


JEREMY :
Yeah, right! [laughs]


YOSSARIAN :
And I'm like, "Well okay, I guess I could." I don't know, it's not true.


JEREMY :
That's awesome. Wow, that could be another podcast in and of itself. Just like music in high school. I don't know if anybody would really listen to that one, but you know. Well, how much do you think that your upbringing contributed to who you are today?


YOSSARIAN :
Well, I honestly don't think it contributed much at all. My real formative years, I would say, were the nights I spent in the E.R. I did that for probably about a decade. Ten years working three or four 12-hour shifts a week in the E.R. I've never taken a vacation. I always just worked.


JEREMY :
Oh wow, this whole time you still haven't --you still haven't taken a vacation? Is that what you're saying?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah no, I really have never gone on a vacation. I should do that, it's on my bucket list.


JEREMY :
You've got to do that; we've got to go. I think you would enjoy that, man.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah! But that being said, I thoroughly enjoy what I do for a living too. And so, I am one of those guys that honestly, I don't feel like I have a job because I can't believe they let me do what I do every day, so there's that. That's nice, but--


JEREMY :
Oh, it's awesome.


YOSSARIAN :
As far as childhood events influencing adulthood outcomes, a lot of people really latch onto their parents' parental style of... Their cold and distant father or whatever, or their codependent mother.


JEREMY :
Yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
Things like that. But there's actually, this comes from the field of positive psychology, the research really shows that childhood events have very little influence on adult functioning. Which is surprising, but it is a testament to, I believe, the resiliency of the human organism. We tend to bounce back and often we bounce back even stronger and better than before.


JEREMY :
Yeah. I feel like there is a way that a lot of people can, you know, whatever happened in the childhood… Sometimes we can let that become part of our identity today. Which really isn't necessarily beneficial, but once again, I can't--I don't know that I can judge that whatsoever. But--


YOSSARIAN :
Oh no, I don't think so. You know, I think for some people it is beneficial; it makes them feel better to blame their parents or whatever. And there are, of course, definitely cases of severe--


JEREMY :
Oh yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
--continuing child abuse and things like that. I'm not talking about that.


JEREMY :
Yeah, okay.


YOSSARIAN :
But as far as... Like the reason I have anxiety, for example, I like to say, "Oh it's from working in the E.R. and I have literally seen a thousand different ways someone can die."


JEREMY :
Yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
But that's not actually true at all. I had anxiety before that, and I most likely inherited it from my mom, who inherited it from grandma, you know. So, it's just a long history and largely genetic. Some of it is not genetic and we can influence it. Some of it is.


JEREMY :
Yeah. That makes sense. Wow. So that kind of leads me to my next question then: How did you decide to become an E.R. nurse?


YOSSARIAN :
I became a nurse initially because I didn't have a choice. I had a new baby and no decent job, and for whatever reason, it seemed like this was the only thing for me - was to go to LPN school. I became a licensed practical nurse - it was just a simple one-year degree and suddenly I was making a little bit more money. And then that led me to become a registered nurse, making a little bit more money. And not excellent money, but it's at least a profession.


JEREMY :
Oh yeah, for sure.


YOSSARIAN :
So I never wanted to be an E.R. nurse because I'm a big coward at heart. I'm terrified of everything, all the time. So I was an ICU nurse, and ICU nurses - we tend to have a decent amount of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, I think. Good ICU nurses fit the criteria for OCD.


JEREMY :
Yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
We like to have all of our lines and tubes in perfect order and lined up, and everything well-controlled, and we'll kind of fuss over just one or two patients for an entire 12-hour shift and nothing is too dramatic. We like to think that we're super bad ass because we're ICU, but there's never anything real... You know, our patient might code and die, we do CPR, we shock them but then they come back. But it's only one patient. The E.R. is a completely unpredictable, chaotic environment that you cannot control. Absolutely terrifying.


JEREMY :
Can you go into that a little bit?


YOSSARIAN :
I think there are a couple of things that TV tries to capture, the just insane chaos of an E.R., but it just can't capture what is really happening. Let's say during flu season - one flu season, we had an additional 7,300 patients check-in over the month with just flu symptoms. So you're just overrun, you've got people stacked up in the back hallways, everyone needs you now. And as an E.R. nurse, your only priority is to figure out who is the most likely to die in the next two minutes or so. So you have to triage everything that you do, every step that you take has to be with the priority patients in mind.


JEREMY :
Yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
And so, the other component to the E.R. that television cannot capture is your sense of smell. Your sense of smell is, from an evolutionary perspective, it was the oldest and first developed sense.


JEREMY :
Oh really? Before eyesight even?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah! Yep, so actually that nerve, your olfactory nerve, is the only nerve that bypasses the thalamus, which is the filter in your brain that filters stuff out. The olfactory nerve doesn't get filtered out because it's the oldest, from an evolutionary perspective. That's why crocodiles and snakes and different animals are good at smelling stuff.


JEREMY :
What about... What about fish? They don't really smell, Do they? Or... Or do they?


YOSSARIAN :
I don't think so. I honestly don't know.


JEREMY :
Oh okay. Anyway, anyway. We could go down another rabbit hole there, but yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
So your sense of smell is tied directly into your amygdala, which is the emotion processing area of your brain. Really strong emotions are modulated by the amygdala. And so, you can't capture that on television - what the mixture of blood and alcohol smells like, for example. That's a smell that's permanently attached in my brain.


JEREMY :
Really?


YOSSARIAN :
Vomit - you can't capture the smell of vomit.


JEREMY :
Probably a combination of vomit and alcohol and blood at the same time… That might have been a common kind of mixture.
YOSSARIAN :


Yeah, a very common smell. It's just a very common smell that has emotional ramifications. But that's why, I'm just off on a tangent, when we're talking about quitting smoking, this is a little key that WebMD will not tell you. If you get on WebMD and you're like, "I quit smoking and my sense of smell is returning." They'll be all like, "This is a great thing." It's not necessarily a good thing. If the smell of autumn reminds you of some child that got shot to death that you did CPR on, you don't want that smell to come back. You don't want those memories. Smoking is a simple way to eliminate that problem - you can't smell!


JEREMY :
[laughs] Right!


YOSSARIAN :
I'm counseling people who are trying to quit smoking, I'm like, "Just be aware that you're going to have some memories that you had long forgotten about come flooding back, and that may make you want to go buy some cigarettes."


JEREMY :
Right!


YOSSARIAN :
If you're aware that that might happen, then you can sort of prepare for it. For instance, you might say, "Oh this just happened. I haven't thought of that former lover" and you smell perfume that she used to wear, you know. "I hadn't had that thought or emotion for years."


JEREMY :
Yeah. So how much has that affected you then, the E.R.? And you probably have - I'm sure you have a lot of smells that are you associated with E.R.?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, I wouldn't say that - I can't say that it's affected me, you know, horribly--


JEREMY :
Okay.


YOSSARIAN :
--one way or the other. It has changed the trajectory of my life, for certain. But what was really the culprit was the drinking myself to sleep at night.


JEREMY :
That was after you'd get off work or whatever - you'd come home and just pour yourself a couple martinis or whatever?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, that was, I believe, a much bigger impact. And so, we tend to really minimize that when we're talking about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or anything like that. The problem with alcohol before bed is it really puts the damper on R.E.M. sleep.


JEREMY :
Yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
So, you might fall asleep easily because you're drunk or whatever and you might sleep for a long time, but it's not a restful sleep. Because during R.E.M. sleep is when our brain processes memories, for example. And basically, that's the phase of sleep in which our brain heals itself.


JEREMY :
Really? Okay.


YOSSARIAN :
Other phases, the deeper phases of sleep like the non-REM, that's when our physical body recovers. Things like growth hormone are secreted, that's when our muscles build up during non-REM sleep. But R.E.M. sleep is vital for memory consolidation and learning and processing emotion. If you eliminate that phase of your sleep with alcohol or benzodiazepine, yeah, you're going to struggle with symptoms of what looks like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. So--


JEREMY :
Ah ha! And so, how long--How long did this go on where, you know, and I think this is this is very… I think a lot of people can relate to this because a lot of people-- and even in jobs that maybe it's not an E.R. where you know, wow, Crazy stuff happening. You never know what to expect. But even just the drudgery of like, for me, I think sometimes every, you know, you’ll be working something and just kind of, you know, just the mundane aspect of it. And you just feel like, “Well, I need a little bit of a something else to get me through the day.” And so, you have a couple of drinks, or more than a couple as was often the case with me. So how long did it go on for you?


YOSSARIAN :
You know, years. Years and years. But I can't say exactly at what point it became a problem.


JEREMY :
Yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
And part of that is because of the impact on memory that alcohol and benzos have on a person. You can't ask a Xanax addict how many Xanax they took in any given day because Xanax itself is an amnesiac.


JEREMY :
Oh wow.


YOSSARIAN :
They're not lying to you, they just simply can't remember.


JEREMY :
They have no idea. Wow.


YOSSARIAN :
And it causes retrograde amnesia which is fascinating. So if you pop a benzodiazepine, your memory for maybe two hours prior to taking that is gone. So not only can you not formulate or create new memory, but your previous two hours is gone as well. And so a lot of people don't recognize that and don't even realize they have a benzo problem, because they simply can't remember.


JEREMY :
Wow, that sounds like it could turn into a really interesting and probably not-so-good cycle, right there.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah.


JEREMY :
Wow. Okay. So in addition to like -I don't know, how you made the switch? It seems like at some point in time you were in E.R. and ICU, and then you started working in a psych ward over in, was it Grand Island or Hastings, Nebraska?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah.


JEREMY :
Oh okay. When did you do that? When did you switch, or did you switch over, or was it just a combination? You were working there and as a nurse or--


YOSSARIAN :
I was doing both for a lot of years. Basically, the way I fell into becoming the psych instructor at that college, there's a different college that's similar where I'm at now, they had no one apply for the job. And I was friends with the dean there because I was doing some part time - I was teaching like one day a week for them. And no one applied for their mental health nursing job and they had a whole year’s worth of students lined up to graduate as RNs and they had no instructor. And I said, "Well I'll do it. Sure, sign me up." And one of my E.R. doctors printed a research article because we had to prove to the State Board of Nursing that I was - that I currently took care of psychiatric patients even though I did not work in actual psych ward at that time - I was just an E.R. nurse. And he printed off the research that says at least 50% of night shift E.R. patients are there purely for psych reasons.


JEREMY :
Oh well, there you go. There's your in.


YOSSARIAN :
Whether it's a psychotic break or substance abuse, that's why they're in the E.R. is for mental health. And so, the State Board of Nursing said: "Yeah you have the expertise; go ahead teach psych." So that's how I got started.


JEREMY :
Wow.


YOSSARIAN :
And then I did a ton--You know, I had to get myself up to speed, just reading tons of research over the years.


JEREMY :
Oh yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
Learning as I go, kind of.


JEREMY :
That's pretty fascinating as--I'm always fascinated by neurological disorders. Of course, just even from having a little bit of, you know, a little bit of mental muckups here and there. Can you tell me a little bit more about working in the psych ward - how it's affected you, what you've learned, some of your I guess big takeaways? How this maybe influenced even your worldview?


YOSSARIAN :
I think between the psych ward and E.R. it's given me, hopefully, a down-to-earth approach to life. That has changed my perspective on life. I get two common questions from my nursing students. I've had maybe four or five hundred registered nurses go to my class and the number one question is: "What the fuck is wrong with me?"


JEREMY :
Oh, from the nursing students? They're asking you what's wrong with them.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah. Not - I'm not talking about psych patients. I'm talking about-


JEREMY :
[laughs] Right - The actual students.


YOSSARIAN :
Actual professionals, Yeah.


JEREMY :
And so, what do you tell them?


YOSSARIAN :
I say, "Well the nice thing is I'm not a doctor. I'm a nurse. I can't make a diagnosis!"


JEREMY :
[laughs]


YOSSARIAN :
That's my cop-out. “When this says M.D on this name tag, then come to me. But I'm a nurse. I can't give the diagnosis.” So that's my little cop-out. But the other thing of it is, you know, I don't know, people will worry, "Maybe I have Anti-Social Personality Disorder." Well simply by asking that question or worrying about it, it pretty much means you don't have that problem.


JEREMY :
Oh yeah, right.


YOSSARIAN :
And that's one of the number one predictors of morbidity with all of our different mental illnesses is lack of insight.


JEREMY :
What do you mean?


YOSSARIAN :
So a patient with schizophrenia who knows he has schizophrenia is going to do way better in life than a patient who doesn't know he has it.


JEREMY :
Yeah. Most definitely. Anytime you're cognizant of what's actually going on inside of your - being able to see... Yeah. Because otherwise, if you're just in the throes of something I can imagine, I mean, I can only relate to it in my own way and like, with OCD when I didn't know what it was I just thought, "Wow I'm just like messed up. I don't know what the heck - it's all this anxiety and thoughts and whatever." But yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
So, one of my proprietary catch phrases is: "If you got it, own it. Life will be so much better."


JEREMY :
Yeah, just own it!


YOSSARIAN :
And when they realize, "I'm a bipolar, borderline," whatever. Life will be so much better if you own up to it, learn as much as you can about that, and then I think you will end up happier in the long run. And the second most common question is: "Should I leave?"


JEREMY :
Should I leave?


YOSSARIAN :
And people wanting relationship advice.


JEREMY :
Oh, really? You get students that are like, just seeking out relationship advice from you?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah and that in itself I consider to be a boundary violation.


JEREMY :
[laughs] Right? That is really interesting. It's almost like you need to do a self-help course or something, instead of, you know, in addition to this.


YOSSARIAN :
But basically, the answer to that is, "No idea. I have no idea-"


JEREMY :
Yeah.
YOSSA

RIAN :
"-If you should leave." And so that's kind of funny because that's the name of a book written by a psychiatrist - Should You Leave. And he discusses that exact question because he gets it all the time, too, in therapy. "Should I leave my husband," "leave my wife," "he's a blah blah blah." And then the basic answer, according to the book, Peter Kramer is the author, by the end, he's like, "Hm, I have no idea."


JEREMY :
[laughs] Seriously? And so, working at the-- and then you worked actually in the psych ward too. In addition to just teaching, you worked with patients, right?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah. Yeah.


JEREMY :
Cool. And I know you probably, you know, of course there's the HIPAA code and all that stuff you can't really probably delve into a lot of that, but I imagine you saw some pretty... You had seen some pretty crazy stuff and I imagine it had to have affected your psyche in some form or fashion.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah definitely. So I probably saw more just batshit crazy stuff when I was an E.R. nurse.


JEREMY :
Oh really?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, honestly. Because the truly sick people actually don't end up on the psych ward. They have to be what we call ‘medically stable’ to end up on the psych ward. So the guys who, let's say they take a knife and eviscerate themselves and pull their small intestines out - they're not going to end up on a psych ward. They're going to have to go to surgery and end up in the ICU.


JEREMY :
And you've seen this?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, the truly bizarre things, honestly, we don't see in the psych ward because they're not mentally stable. I could tell story after story of things like that.


JEREMY :
Yeah. Wow. Is there anything you could tell us that stood out right now without violating, I don't know, whatever. Whatever you can't violate.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, I don't want to tell any stories because the interesting thing about health care is it's such a small world and I found that when I do tell stories, people always know people who know...


JEREMY :
Oh yeah. No, totally, I just thought I'd throw it out there to see if this, but you know.


YOSSARIAN :
I will say a couple things. If you want to get six pack abs and truly look amazing, just combine steroids--anabolic steroids and methamphetamine.


JEREMY :
Really, that's all you have to do?


YOSSARIAN :
The meth will shred you. You'll be ripped, 3% body fat. The steroids are going to bulk up, you’ll look amazing.


JEREMY :
Wow.


YOSSARIAN :
Now you will also be completely batshit crazy. Just psychotic. And so, the few times when I truly felt in danger for my life were these humongous bodybuilders who were just completely psychotic, and I've had a couple of guys come after me for various reasons.


JEREMY :
Oh really? Wow.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, a few times I felt afraid... One guy was a former professional football player, actually, developed a meth habit. So, it's very interesting.


JEREMY :
Yeah. Yeah, that would be interesting.


YOSSARIAN :
So one other thing, I think to answer your question on how has this changed my view. This idea of demon possession, that's something that I get questions about a lot like, "Isn't schizophrenia just demon possession?"


JEREMY :
Wow, you actually get questions like that a lot?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah.


JEREMY :
Wow.


YOSSARIAN :
And there are still people that believe this, and that the thing was that psychosis and schizophrenia and things like that, hearing voices, is that we can see--we're starting to be able to see with the functional MRI the exact part of the brain that's not working correctly and that's the same part that processes hearing - just a little module that tells you that this voice is coming from inside your head. Like, we all talk to ourselves inside of our brains.


JEREMY :
Oh, of course.


YOSSARIAN :
But that little module is dysfunctional and so they can't tell that it's that our own process. It sounds like a scary man's voice coming from outside their head.


JEREMY :
Wow. That's probably the best explanation I've ever heard of that phenomenon. Wow, okay. Go ahead. That was good.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah. And so, a lot of times when I explain that to people they’re like, "Well that's interesting. So it's not demons...?" Well, probably not, especially considering the fact that we can recreate psychosis by taking, you know, hallucinogenics or whatever. We can have very similar experiences. In fact, in the E.R. we can't tell the difference between a first psychotic break in schizophrenia and a drug-induced psychotic. You know we had a rash of junior-high kids Robo-tripping one summer.


JEREMY :
What's Robo-tripping?


YOSSARIAN :
That's where they take Robitussin DM, the dextromethorphan in Robitussin, if you take high amounts of it, it's a hallucinogen. It'll make you become psychotic and it's usually not described as a good trip. Most people are like, "Holy crap, I never want to do that again."


JEREMY :
Wow.


YOSSARIAN :
But so, they would come in Robo-tripping and we honestly can't tell whether this is schizophrenia or drugs.


JEREMY :
Really? So they're kind of doing case studies right there for you. Really.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah. That right there is telling me it's not demons - if we can do it to ourselves.


JEREMY :
Right?


YOSSARIAN :
By drinking too much Nyquil or whatever.


JEREMY :
Veering off a little bit, I did want to make sure I asked, and probably and do a few plugs for you here too, because you've written like... How many books have you written? Where are you at now with that?


YOSSARIAN :
I have a couple of published books. Where I'm currently at with writing is just hammering out my word count. I'm not really trying to conquer the world and solve all the problems, I just want to see if I can write a book a month.


JEREMY :
Oh, one book a month? That's awesome.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, I did do that in 2015.


JEREMY :
Are you serious? You wrote a book a month in 2015?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah. But that's based on my word count of 50,000 words per month. And that's just something I've done for years. And so, in 2015, I achieved that goal - I wrote 50,000 words a month, and in November I wrote 100,000 - I just wanted to see if I could do it. And then in 2016, I kind of fell off the writing bandwagon a little bit and that was because I was building a new course at the college and different... Just doing other creative endeavors. And so, I'm back on my word count goal for this year. And I've changed things up this year. I'm taking a screenwriting class.


JEREMY :
Oh really?


YOSSARIAN :
And I'm just thoroughly enjoying that.


JEREMY :
Oh, That's awesome, man. Wow. I may need to ask you for some help at some point in time then, in regard to screenwriting. That's actually really cool that you mention that.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah that--I signed up to the class and then I am also in grad school you know, and working two jobs and so I thought, “You know, I'm too busy. I don't want to go.” But this has been on my bucket list for about 10 years. And so, I just drag myself to class on a Monday evening and it was literally a watershed moment of my life. Where--have you ever had a moment where you knew your life would never be the same from this point forward, but you are conscious of it happening in real time?


JEREMY :
Yeah, I mean I think I have.


YOSSARIAN :
Most of the time it's you know, in recollection… You think back, "Oh that was a watershed moment. My life changed its trajectory at that point, but I wasn't aware of it at a time." Maybe five or ten years later, it's like, "Oh, my choice to become an E.R. nurse changed my life." That, I wasn't aware of it at the time. But when taking my first screenwriting class, I was aware of it happening real kind-


JEREMY :
[laughs] Wow! You could actually see the... Whatever kind of emotions that were happening.


YOSSARIAN :
-my future self has changed today.


JEREMY :
Wow, that's kind of awesome. I want to... Wow, maybe at some point, I want to talk to you more about your screenwriting, for sure. Because I have some ideas myself too and I could use for your input and you're making me want to go back to school. Man, this is... anyway. But you're working on right now a book about biohacking, right?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah. I have two books in the works. One is biohacking as the solution for alcoholism or biohacking for alcohol. And I finished that book a couple of years ago. And by finish, I mean it's about 14,000 words. But I decided it's all crap. And I'm like...


JEREMY :
You're just like, throwing it out, time to jettison that.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah. It's got some good points, but then it's... I've learned so much in the last two or three years that I just want to sort of... But the one I'm currently working on is biohackers guide to smokers cessation and that's been taken me down some fascinating paths as far as the substance of nicotine. It's way more complex than we had any idea. The interactions with different hormones in the body and things like that. So, nicotine is the perfect neurotropic, meaning the perfect smart drug, in the sense that it simultaneously hits the sympathetic nervous system which gives you that alertness and focused attention, and it simultaneously hits the parasympathetic nervous system which gives you that sense of calm and stress relief. So that's why people smoke - it's because they're, you know, tweaking both branches of their nervous system simultaneously. It's one of the few substances on Earth that we know that can do that.


JEREMY :
Really? It's one of the few that can actually hit both the same time. That is... Man, I can't deny it - I'm going to go out and buy some nicotine. I don't know. I'm tempted to buy some.


YOSSARIAN :
I would stay away from it if I could, just because it's so highly addictive and so once you have a daily habit- you know, quitting that daily habit is virtually impossible, and it's expensive. You know you can spend a lot of money on nicotine replacement.


JEREMY :
Oh okay. Note to listeners, I guess.


YOSSARIAN :
I just want to throw this out, there are some new psych meds that are coming out that seem to mimic that. So that'll be interesting to see in the next couple of years. But anyway, just as a side note if you're addicted to cigarettes, you're not actually addicted to the nicotine in the cigarettes. That is a big component, but the real thing that is causing addiction to smoking cigarettes is the additives.


JEREMY :
Really?


YOSSARIAN :
And this is my conspiracy theory, but it seems to be true. For example, sorbitol. Sorbitol is a grass additive, which means that it's generally recognized as safe. And so they can add it to whatever, and it's added to tobacco leaves to keep the cigarettes somewhat moist so they don't dry out. Sorbitol is extremely addictive when it's lit on fire.


JEREMY :
Really? 


YOSSARIAN :
In a simple way if you're a smoker to test my theory, go buy some cigarettes with absolutely no additives and see how much you like smoking.


JEREMY :
Really. You mean like an American Spirit, for example?


YOSSARIAN :


Yep.
JEREMY :
So, you're pretty much doing away then with the biohacking one about alcoholism?


YOSSARIAN :
I hope to get it done this year. So that's my sort of goal right now. But I'm currently working on the smoking one because, you know, that's currently what I'm struggling with the most. I haven't smoked for about eight months but--


JEREMY :
Oh wow.


YOSSARIAN :
--I still am tempted. Still, into, you know, eight months.


JEREMY :
Oh yeah, I remember I was still tempted. I still wanted to smoke, for sure.


YOSSARIAN :
Even talking about it, I'm like, "I really want a cigarette."


JEREMY :
Yeah. Well, can you talk a little bit about alcohol? Do you consider yourself an alcoholic?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah. But I do want to clarify that term. An alcoholic is not what AA will lead you to believe that it is. The science doesn't support this idea of everyone who drinks a little bit is on this pathway of eventual destruction.


JEREMY :
Right.


YOSSARIAN :
About two billion people in the world drink alcohol every single day, and not all of those people end up in liver failure.


JEREMY :
Yeah. And did you experience something like that, liver failure or anything like that?


YOSSARIAN :
Yes, I did have some catastrophic organ failures. Pancreatitis, primarily. But the research shows about 72% of people who are alcohol-dependent, which means if they don't drink on any given day they will go into withdrawals. So, alcohol-dependent individuals, and that's potentially life-threatening by the way, you can die from not drinking if you are dependent on alcohol, so I highly recommend close medical supervision if you are dependent. But 72% of people that are dependent on alcohol are only dependent for about three to four years once in their entire life.


JEREMY :
Oh really?


YOSSARIAN :
And then they're just done!


JEREMY :
So, you can be... You can be a temporary, I guess. Yeah, that was actually, to be honest, that was my idea. My thought was that, "Okay, once a person is an alcoholic then they're always an alcoholic." Something like that. But you're saying that it's just a temporary thing.


YOSSARIAN :
Yes, 72% of people that's simply not true. They realize one day, “This is not working to improve my life. I'm just not going to do it anymore.” And they quit without any treatment of any kind. And they never drink again.


JEREMY :
Wow, it makes me wonder if I an alco--anyway. Wow. okay.


YOSSARIAN :
The other percentage, the remaining percent, whatever 72 minus 100 percent is, and those people are more of what I think of when you're talking about a chronic, long-term you know, those individuals tend to be dependent for three to four years at a time. And it happens over and over throughout their life. And so those are the guys who end up homeless with liver failure and things like that so. So, of the two billion people that drink every single day, 72% of them are just going to say, "You know what. This is not helping me achieve my life goal. I'm not going to do it anymore."


JEREMY :
Yep, gotcha.


YOSSARIAN :
I do fit in the latter category, where I have a lifelong problem and I have to--will always have to be cognizant of.


JEREMY :
Yep, gotcha. An d so do you think- I did want to maybe go into a little bit of murky waters and ask: Do you think that it affected your relationship with your family in any way, with getting into that?


YOSSARIAN :
Oh yeah, I think so. Definitely were some tough times there. So hard to see your dad be a homeless alcoholic preacher[00:52:29], which is my profession prior to moving to Lincoln. But then, on the other hand, I think that the bounce back, the resiliency, is the important lesson for me in my life. And that's really the research that I've been digging into is how do you help people bounce back. Because especially E.R. nurses, paramedics, law enforcement, firefighters - these guys see horrific things day in and day out, day in and day out. Suicide rate is high for firefighters. 


JEREMY :
Really?


YOSSARIAN :
The divorce rate is almost 100% for career paramedic firefighters and for E.R. doctors. The substance abuse rates, you know, are sky high for our military veterans. And so, people that have seen the shit go down over and over again, day in and day out, they are affected by that. And that's really where I want to spend my time as a researcher and an educator. How can we empower people to bounce back? How can we take care of the frontline providers, the people that are absolute heroes in my mind? Our volunteer firefighters, EMT, most of our ambulances are driven by people who are doing it for free.


JEREMY :
Oh wow.


YOSSARIAN :
Because that's their mission in life. They're absolute heroes and they suffer.


JEREMY :
Yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
They suffer. I'll just throw a statistic out there. For example, if a firefighter witnesses or cleans up a suicide. One thing we know about suicide is, it's a contagious process. It's contagious.


JEREMY :
Is that something do with the vagus nerve?


YOSSARIAN :
Well, we don't know. We don't know, but possibly - that would make sense to me. And so, I mean it's almost like the influenza virus. You're around it too much, you catch it. And so, for a firefighter at what point has he seen too much shit?


JEREMY :
Yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
Well with cleaning up suicide, there's a magic number. The number is 12.


JEREMY :
12?


YOSSARIAN :
If he's cleaned up 12 suicides, he is then suicidal himself.


JEREMY :
Really?


YOSSARIAN :
A very high percentage.


JEREMY :
Like what percentage give or take? Do you know? 


YOSSARIAN :
Like 50% of those guys will then have chronic suicidality.


JEREMY :
Wow. And it will... It's not just a temporary thing that, let's say they you know help clean up... We'll go to a site where there's been a suicide of 12 times. It doesn't just like, fade after time, or is something that sticks for a while?


YOSSARIAN :
It seems to have some sticking power, which is very frightening.


JEREMY :
Yeah, no kidding. That's very frightening. How do we even get onto the topic of firefighters and in all that?


YOSSARIAN :
Oh well, I just was talking about how that does affect people's lives and the numbers prove it. You know, the E.R. doctors -- the profession with one of the highest suicide completion rates are pediatric oncologists - cancer doctors for kids.


JEREMY :
Oh.


YOSSARIAN :
And it makes sense to me. I mean, they're fighting a losing battle most of the time. They pour their entire life into trying to save these kids' lives and often don't succeed and that creates this helplessness, and helplessness and hopelessness are the two fueling emotions for suicide.


JEREMY :
And do you see that where, you know, people have, you know, there are some suicidal ideology going on there but have you seen it happen where there's like a... What percentage of them actually go through and actually commit suicide?


YOSSARIAN :
Oh, the percentage is so small, it's to be almost not measurable.


JEREMY :
Oh okay.


YOSSARIAN :
In reality, and that's an interesting point because the idea of suicidal ideation, people who think about it.


JEREMY :
Yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
We're talking 20 to 30 million Americans in any given year. And so, that's not the same population as the people who actually do it. And so, what we actually know about "completers," people who actually get the job done, we don't know a damn thing about. We do not know.


JEREMY :
Really?


YOSSARIAN :
And the reason is that we can't study a population who’s dead.


JEREMY :
Yeah and they, maybe they don't really give many indicators beforehand - is that true or do they give indicators or can you tell?


YOSSARIAN :
So, it's so hard to tell. So yeah, but there are some things we look at. Substance abuse, for example, and the heroin overdoses definitely. Whether that was an intended suicide or not is hard to tell. But if somebody has an IV heroin problem, they're at a high risk for death. And so there are definitely things we can look at.


JEREMY :
And you said also that you struggle with bipolar disorder. Is that kind of go along with bipolar because... Do you have like have you struggled with suicidal ideation too?


YOSSARIAN :
Well that whole bipolar thing, I've never been actually diagnosed by a doctor.


JEREMY :
Okay yeah, neither have I.


YOSSARIAN :
So yeah, that's a total self-diagnosis, but the interesting thing with any of those diagnoses in the DSM V which came out in 2013 - that's the most recent bible of mental illness. Any of those diagnoses, they all have a disclaimer at the bottom of the page which says, “If you are currently abusing substances of any kind, then you don't meet this diagnostic criterion.” You can't say that someone is bipolar if they are currently alcohol-dependent.


JEREMY :
Really. That is interesting.


YOSSARIAN :
So I've been playing with this idea as we do clinicals at nursing school. How many of our patients who have the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, how many of those people actually have a Substance Use Disorder, because they don't technically meet that diagnostic criterion if they're high on meth all the time. And so that's what one of the assignments I have my students look at is, "Dig into this patient’s history and find out what substance they're abusing." And we've been doing this for the last year and a half, and quite honestly haven't found very many people who don't abuse something. And the most common thing is your benzodiazepines, because that's not considered abuse if your doctor prescribed it.


JEREMY :
Right. So it's almost like a rat chase to find out what is the cause and effect. Is a person quote unquote “bipolar” because of or there are showing the symptoms because of this you know substance or are they-


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah. So hard to know. But so, then my premise is just eliminate all the substances of abuse and wait a few years and then see. Guaranteed most people won't get the diagnostic criteria after they've been sober for seven or eight years.


JEREMY :
Oh okay. So you're in line then with the DMV.... Is it the DSM?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, DSM.


JEREMY :
[laughs] You're also in line with the Department of Motor Vehicles.


YOSSARIAN :
They would agree with me too.


JEREMY :
I'm sure. So with the DSM. Wow, okay. That's crazy. Do you still diagnose yourself then as bipolar?


YOSSARIAN :
I honestly don't. I'm definitely hypomanic, which is a diagnostic criterion for Bipolar Type 2, meaning I have high energy, grandiose ideas and things like that. And so, but the interesting thing with that is there is this discussion that everyone, especially in America, fits that bipolar spectrum somewhere because... Here's the deal, if you're grandiose enough to leave your country, to go to the new country, the United States, to create a better life. That's some pretty serious grandiosity. And then to have the sustained energy level to get that done. BAM, you're hypomanic. If you're an immigrant, which we all are, unless you're a Native American, if you're from an immigrant, you have the genetic predisposition to Bipolar Type 2. Just the fact that you're making a podcast - that's pretty grandiose and then have the energy to get it done. You're Bipolar Type 2.


JEREMY :
Oh yeah, I definitely am, I fully admit. I think you're just... Yeah, I've probably got some weird form of hypomania and it sounds like you're saying we have a collective hypomania in the States.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, so the idea is that in America, or any country that's primarily made up of immigrant population, is more hypomanic, is part of why we dominate with business, new business creation, and things like that. New technology. Because we tend to have a higher percentage of people on the bipolar spectrum. So the question then the DSM would ask is, "At what point does this become a disorder?" Because that's the key. Bipolar Disorder and that means it's getting in the way of your life in some way.


JEREMY :
Yeah. Wow, this is fascinating, because basically I mean, in a nutshell what you're saying is because it's so widespread in the States and probably a lot of us or most of us have hypomania because of that, that's why we've been so robust in a number of areas like commerce and business?


YOSSARIAN :
Oh absolutely. So the idea of it being mental illness is totally subjective. You know, if that person gets so profoundly depressed that they commit suicide, obviously that's a problem. But they go out and start a company like Facebook? They meet the criteria--


JEREMY :
Wow! That is just fascinating to me. I love it. I think I'm going to have to put that in the title of this podcast or something. Seriously. We're all bipolar and that's the reason why we're doing decently or whatever. Wow, that's really cool. Okay, so the final question then is: Imagine that you were, well first you have to imagine something that - you were visited by an alien who spoke flawless English with the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch. You know, the U.K. Sherlock version guy. And after exchanging pleasantries, the alien then demands that you give them- give him or her or it - the most accurate description of how you see and understand life on this planet. And if you don't, they guarantee you that you'll lose your eyesight for a year and you may wake up the next morning missing a kidney. And you cannot lie because they can totally tell if you're lying. So basically, I'm asking--the alien is asking you to give them, and you're giving the audience here and myself, the most accurate description of how you see and understand life.


YOSSARIAN :
If I was visited by an alien that'd be totally kickass, especially if he had, you know, Sherlock Holmes sort of accent and everything. So here are my thoughts on this Earth. We are very limited in our perception of reality by our senses. You know, we can only perceive reality based on what inputs into our brain we get, and we're somewhat limited. For example, we can only see a very narrow spectrum of light waves and things like that. So, our perception and senses are very limited. And so, we're doing the best we can, sort of muddling through life without being able to have this big picture very well. And one of the things we're limited on is our perception of time. Time is such a bizarre construct and actually, you were with me when we are talking to our friend Tim Stratton and he mentioned that physicists have really not been able to prove scientifically, mathematically that time is truly linear.


JEREMY :
Oh yeah, that's right.


YOSSARIAN :
That one day comes after the other. And so, as citizens of this planet we're very much stuck in this idea that tomorrow comes after today. But does it? Mathematically, it makes more sense that time is all happening at once. So we're very limited as far as that goes. But that ties back into the suicide discussion and depression discussion because we know that a suicidal individual that truly gets the job done or even somebody that is profoundly depressed is not processing reality correctly in their perception of the past. They cannot remember, for example, ever being happy and you can show that person a picture of them being extremely happy maybe three years ago at their daughter's birthday party or whatever but they don't remember.


JEREMY :
Really.


YOSSARIAN :
And so, with this whole idea of memory is just simply by accessing a memory our brain changes that memory. And I heard a neuroscientist say here a week or two ago that we don't have the scientific capability to even understand how memory works and probably won't have that capability for another hundred years. We don't even know what memory is or how it works.


JEREMY :
Wow.


YOSSARIAN :
And so here we are, going through life trying to figure out what the fuck is wrong with me and we don't even know how the brain works yet. So sort of my life's mission is to go around helping people to increase their executive functioning, which is the working of their prefrontal cortex, and the best way easiest way to do that is by increasing the working of your vagus nerve. That's kind of my mission in life. And simple, simple ways to do that. Simply sleep better and eliminate all the crap that you eat. We ingest so many toxins on any given day that our body isn't designed to like them. High fructose corn syrup or whatever that it really shuts down our vagus nerve and that directly impacts things like our social functioning - how nice we are to other people. If our brain shuts down, our prefrontal cortex shuts down. We are in fight or flight mode, which is our crocodile brain and so other people seem threatening to us. We feel threatened by other people and we see that dynamic play out in politics and in the broad picture of an entire nation who is scared of each other. And so then, people do really weird things when they're living in their crocodile brain. They lash out at other people. They have road rage. They beat up their spouse, you know. And so that's kind of my mission in life is if we can increase executive functioning, that will eliminate the alcohol problem in the world. Two billion people in the world drink alcohol every single day. This another interesting statistic I've been ruminating on is clean air. Clean air - that's on the World Health Organization's Top Ten List. It's the number 10 reason people die in this world. They don't have clean air to breathe. Three billion people in this world still cook their food over an open fire inside their home. And then they die. They die from lung disease and air pollution, indoor air pollution. So we don't have that problem solved. No wonder they're not able to use their executive functioning. And they're stuck in this self-perpetuating cycle of homelessness and poverty, because to get out of poverty you have to have a prefrontal cortex that works. So does that answer the question? That's kind of what I would tell this alien what I see going on is a lot of vagus nerves not working.


JEREMY :
The cool thing about your story is you practice what you preach - you know what it's like to be going… Basically just having the reptile brain or whatever, to have the prefrontal cortex or executive function just not function properly. So I feel like that gives you a lot more street-cred, a lot more cred you know, to be able to say, "Hey, this is what needs to happen and here's why." Because you actually know too; you've researched, you understand it, you're intelligent, but you've also been in a lot of people’s situation before, that in a not-so-great situation. Does that make sense?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, I agree.


JEREMY :
Cool. Dude, well this has been ridiculously awesome. I appreciate your time man, and I know you're busy with a million jobs, and a family, and now you're taking screenwriting courses, and who knows what--and writing a million books a year, so that's... It's freaking awesome man; you're inspirational. I hope that listeners out there, too, are inspired by your message, and inspired, really, to really think about executive function and how to kind of get past our reptilian responses, especially when you're talking about, you know, working with one another and trying to get past political hurdles and things like that. But yeah, so I appreciate it, man.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah cool, thanks for having me! It was awesome, I enjoyed it.


JEREMY :
Cool. All right man, we'll talk again. Take care.


JEREMY [narration]:
Hey, thank you so much for checking out this episode of In The Shoes Of. If you like or don't like the podcast, feel free to leave a review or reach out to me. My email is JNickel@InTheShoesOf.Org. I'm Jeremy Nickel, the host and producer of the show. Until the next time, see you later.

Tina Russek Transcription

For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, we wanted to be sure that you could listen to the podcast with your eyes. Following is the transcript of the interview with Tina Russek, who is the gifts-in-kind manager at the L.A. Mission in Los Angeles, CA. 

JEREMY [narration] :
Hi everyone and welcome to the In The Shoes Of podcast, where I make it my goal to see life as much as possible from someone else's point of view; just like we all have a unique heartbeat, every single one of us sees life only from our own perspective. Think about it. Can you see and process life exactly as Elon Musk sees and processes life? The answer is you can't, and it applies to every living conscious being here on this pale blue dot.
Have I mentioned that I love L.A.? Seriously, I dig that place. I dig all aspects of it; it's like a microcosm in and of itself. One part of L.A. that not everybody can probably dig, but you know, I dig it, is Skid Row. I don't dig it like you know, like, "Oh, what a fun place to visit. Let's go have a great time in Skid Row and you know, whatever." But I like to go there and just, it gets real. Gregg the camera guy, and I, we went over to the L.A. Mission and talked with Tina Russek. She's the gifts-in-kind manager over at the Mission, and she gave us a tour, talked a lot about what the Mission is all about. So, check it out.


JEREMY :
What's your background again, then?


TINA :
So, I had my own radio show called Tina Talk on KRLA for several years - Girl Talk radio. I also have an extensive background in hotel catering, and that was always in catering, never rooms. So party planning, event planning, all the socials, the bride, and the bridezillas, all that - I did that for years, but that gave me all this background with kitchen and banquets and doing party planning and events, so that was great. I also had a background in sales and I won a Salesman of the Year a couple of years with a company called TV Fanfare, and it was supermarket advertising - there's nothing harder. Talk about making a no into a yes. And that now applies to me going out as a gifts-in-kind manager saying, "All that bread that you don't need, because you have to take it off the shelf, would you give it to us?" You know, and so I bring in the non-monetary donations. It's been amazing that God and His Grace and Magnificence would say, "Oh I have such a great plan for you." And here I was, you know, at one time in the palatial mansions of Bel-Air and Beverly Hills, designing closets and organizing, and yet the closet companies were so awful to their designers, you know, and if you didn't already have a following and you could have these people just say, "I want you here. Boom - your designs I'm buying it--" And I found myself feeling like I'm working so hard for nothing. And I screamed out,  I said, "Lord, what do you want me to do? I have all this talent. I look lovely; I'm very well-accessorized. Where do you want me?" and he said, "Anne Douglas Center." "Our church is very busy down there, isn't that like Los Angeles? Oh Lord, isn't that on Skid Row? You must be thinking of someone else." You know? And so, I came down here and I fell in love with the women because this is a house of second chances. We are actually designated as a church. 


JEREMY :
Oh really? Okay.


TINA :
Our 501(c)3 is actually a church. And so, we have been serving Skid Row for over 80 years and, we're not the oldest, and we're not the largest, but we do feel we're the best. Our program is called Fresh Start. We are an in-house residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation program and we have 446 beds. Most of these people have been in their addiction 10, 20, 30 years, living in a cardboard box with a needle in their arm, ruining their family's life. And now it's like, if this is their last, last, last, last chance, we feel, as faith-based, the only way you're going to get through this is through God. We're not a 12-step program, but we do have the Chicago School of Psychology here also. So, it's like, where did all this start? Was it a bad Thursday? No, this is years of abuse. Years. And it's also, when I say we save--we don't want to save a person, we save a family. We save a family, because that person, in that addiction all those years, has borrowed the last dollar, has stolen the last car, has ripped off grandma's brooch, has done everything, you know; the parent that has disappointed the child over and over again, now the kids coming in, "You know what, I can't trust her anymore." And that is part of our rehabilitation - reuniting the family and getting someone involved with the church and getting them a job, because we’re kind of a one-stop shop. We also offer biblical training; their education is here with our Urban Training Institute. U.T.I., which is very successful. Everyone that leaves our program upon graduation, and this is a 13-month program for the computer illiterate. And then we also have a career center.


JEREMY :
Oh wow, I love that. One thing, before we even take off and go along, I want to know what your thoughts are and what kind of misconceptions are--I kind of feel like there are a lot of misconceptions in America in how we view it - when we're on the road and we see someone begging for change. A lot of people probably are like, "Ugh, scammer," or whatever. What would you tell the rest of us?


TINA :
You know, there are so many different phases and levels of homelessness. I would say the most common issue would be mental health. And of course, addiction. Once you're in your addiction, whatever level of dignity, whatever level of shame, is gone. You will do anything to get high. So that will tear that person apart. And of course, their family. So, once you say, "I'm going to give up my home," you know, "my money, my job, I will give up my children," you're a goner. And so, to get out of that addiction, everyone says you have to hit bottom, and you do. Everyone has a different bottom, and sometimes they say, "I can't do this anymore." And, by the grace of God, an angel comes along and says, "I have ever been to the Los Angeles Mission?" And we have those stories, where there is like, literally some guy had the last thing on his body. He was totally ripped off, beat up, was laying there without his shoes, and he had, like, a token for the bus. And he's on the bus and he's sitting there, and this is a true story. And you know, he's riding like this, "I'm a mess. I've lost everything. I'm scum, maybe I'll just kill myself. I'm going to kill myself, that's what I'm going to do. I'll get off the bus - why I'm on this bus?" I mean, totally disoriented. This guy comes and sits down by him, kind of chilling out, listening to some tunes. He goes, "How are you doing?" He says, "I think I'm going to kill myself." He says, "You're having a bad day. Okay, you know what I think we should do? Let's go to Los Angeles Mission." "Well, what's that?" "Well you know what, let's just go there, I'll introduce you to one of the chaplains." "I don't like that. A chaplain, you mean it's religious." He goes, "Well you're going to kill yourself so, give up one day. You know, give it a day, you know." And so, this guy who was impoverished, who's, you know, literally ready to slit his throat or something, sits down with one of the chaplains--oh I have digressed. So, he gets off the bus and he turns to the guy, and the guy's gone. It's like he just evaporated. You know, all they see is the guy walking into the Mission. He goes, "Oh thanks for waiting for me." So, he's in the Mission, and before he knows it, he's talking to a guy, another chaplain named Keith Newton. He goes, "Hi, I'm the intake chaplain. You want to talk for a minute?" He goes, "Nah, I want to kill myself." He goes, "Let's do that later, okay? Let's talk. So, what's going on?" And this guy says, "You don't understand. I've done it. I've had it. I've ruined my life because--" "You know what we need right now?" He goes, "No, what?" "Ice cream!" he goes, "Let's go get some ice cream!" So, they go across the street to the Green Apple Market, and as they're getting the ice cream there's the guy that he met on the bus. He goes, "I went through the program. I have a job now. I’m getting my family back. I love the Lord, God, with all my heart. You're going to go through this program." He said, "No, I'm going to kill myself." "Go through it one day and talk to me tomorrow." Anyway, the guy graduated, has a brand-new life and he says, "It was the Holy Spirit. There was no reason why all that would happen. It's not by chance; it's by design." And so, there are people that are definitely down in there. There are people that choose to be in their addiction, and some people- and many people will die. They'll die on the street by exposure, by the hand of another, by suicide, by overdosing. But you know what? It is a choice; we are born with choice. And the thing is, when you do want to turn it around, you have a plethora of help around here. The missions are here. This is--this is where the rubber meets the road. So, when you have someone that says, "I'm not ready yet. I'm not ready yet. I'm not ready yet. I'm going to go to that sermon. I'll have that meal from the Los Angeles Mission. I'm not ready yet. I'm smarter than this. I don't need a god. I don't need-" and then suddenly boom - something hits them and they're going, "Well, maybe I do need a god... Maybe I do need something." So, I always want to say, "How is it working for you in the tent? I'm sorry, in the cardboard box. How's that working for you?" You know. So, you see this transitional person who has done everything wrong.

JEREMY :
Do you find that it's primarily drug abuse?


TINA :
Ninety percent of it. You know what, even living out in the elements without any shelter will make you crazy. There's still a huge issue with alcoholism. Huge. There are the drugs, there are the designer drugs, there are the drugs that one whiff will kill you because they're mixing it with rat poison.


JEREMY :
And who knows if the, you know, the mental illness is like, a direct result of taking the drugs, or if it's the other way around.


TINA :
The chicken or the egg.


JEREMY :
The chicken or the egg - exactly! Yeah, which one is it? Doesn’t really matter I guess, at that point in time.


TINA :
The beauty of our program, too, is that we do have like a sixty-three percent success rate. So that, when people graduate in five years they're still clean, sober, with a family, involved with the church, and have a job. This is not my expertise, but you know, when you kind of get over that four- or five-year hump of "I'm sober now..." Do people fall from grace? Yes, they do. But the people that are our poster children from this program say, "I will never do anything to jeopardize my sobriety. I am a recovering alcoholic. I'm a recovering 'fill in the blank'." There's every -ism there is out there. And when you see that person that's clean and sober and happy, it's like, "What was I thinking?" But that was their journey. So, you want to see my mission?


JEREMY :
Yeah, let's  do that. Let's walk and talk.


JEREMY [narration]:
As a reminder, we'll be taking a tour of the facility and we will have audio for it too, but with the visual aspect, obviously, you'll have to use your imagination for a lot of it and I'll be cutting some of it out that's, you know, obviously irrelevant - you need to actually see it. So, just letting you know.


TINA :
This is our executive floor. So, we have the president up here and me, because you know, we're like this. This is our Hall of Fame also, with all of our graduates. You'll notice that back in the 20s and 30s, it was like, old bums and winos. Well, that changed dramatically when the drugs came in--when the designer drugs, and then the domestic violence, and women were leaving the home with literally the shirt on their back, a kid on their hip, and their handbag, and literally racing for their life. So then, as we walk down the hall, you're going to see that women are suddenly populating the area. And this is our Career Center and our Career Center is - we get a lot of entry-level jobs.


JEREMY :
So, do you have a separate place for just families then?


TINA :
Good question. We do not. We do not. Now, Union Rescue Mission has more of a--they're a bigger mission, they have a family piece. They have a shelter. We have 200 beds for shelter status, but those tickets are only good for 15 days and then you give them up for five. And we're trying to be a little bit more of a mission without walls, but we only have so many beds and we do want to process the, we call them students because they're always learning something, they're always in school, and you know, eventually we go to a cap and gown. Some of these adults. this the first thing they've ever completed in their life. And some of them are highly degreed. So, you've got every kind of mix you can think of. And this is Processing--our data processing.


JEREMY :
So, in your own words, how would you say, if you were to describe the perspective of someone before coming to the mission and the perspective after they get out, let's say after a year, what are the differences there? What are the fundamental differences?


TINA :
I think they have the foundation. They now have the foundation to believe and build on. They have a faith. No one leaves this mission without knowing the Bible. I feel that they have regained their dignity and... If they want those kids and they want that family back, they're going to have to work for it. And I have so many stories of redemption and so many stories of, I mean to witness around here is remarkable. And you know, it's not like, "Oh, you know, I had a couple of bad years. I don't know what went wrong." You know, when people come here usually this is the last, last, last, last time at the rodeo and they're going to--they have to fight for this. No one's going to hand it to them. We will feed and clothe them and we will give them a place to live and give them a second chance and they will be loved. And so many people, by that time, do not feel lovable. They've been living in their denial for so long. And of course, in their addiction. This is our express elevator. Oh yes. Is it still Monday? Criminy. And I'm giving you the freight elevator, so, you see all the glamour.


JEREMY :
I love it. Yeah, I'm all about that glamour.


TINA :
There's so many stories of redemption. And I think that's also the beauty of what we offer. Oh, here it comes now.


JEREMY :
Are there any stories where people come out and they actually do well but they still haven't accepted the faith, or maybe they went to a different faith, or...? Because you know, this definitely sounds like it's Christian or-


TINA :
Well, we're Christian. We're Christian, yeah. We will accept anyone in here. This is our ball and our ballgame. So, you're going to hear this sermon, and if you choose to be whatever you choose - Jewish, you know, our Jewish brothers and sisters. That's fine. But you know, we are giving you this second chance and it will be with our program. And a lot of students go, "Oh yeah, they may be doing pretty well. But let me tell you how I'd run the program." Yeah, we're not going to go there, okay? So, we are on one 157,000 square feet of four floors and a basement. We have a Spanish chapel for the Spanish community, before they are given their meal they are going to hear a sermon. It's never killed anybody yet. So, we assume that you're just going to grin and bear it. Our information center is part of our serving  the community. It's not just the students within our four walls. And we have an opportunity--when you're homeless you don't have an address, so they use our address for the GR, government relief.


JEREMY :
And so, to dig into your past a little bit. That sounds so ominous - dig into your past - but when did you come to the faith? Was it always that way or like, when you were in the palatial...


TINA :
Yeah, the palatial mansions, you know, and everyone ripping me off with my designs. I'm screaming out to Jesus - I was raised in a church, so it wasn't anything necessarily odd, but it was--it was knowing that I had a calling. It was just waiting for 'it'. And then I'm going to Skid Row? Oh my gosh, it's so... When I look like this, you must be kidding. And then it was like, "Oh I definitely have to dress up the place." You know? Can we sneak through real quickly darling? Thank you so much. Excuse me.


JEREMY [narration] :
What you're hearing in the background there are metal detectors. In order to enter the building, you have to go through one of those. I think for obvious reasons, right? And we had to go through it just to get outside as well. It's actually kind of surreal being in Skid Row, especially when you compare it to the Hollywood-esque glitterati imagery that L.A. is often associated with. And I'm not even saying that one is better than the other. I love going to Skid Row, but I also dig Hollywood.


TINA :
So, this is our courtyard. We also have four major street events a year - Easter, the end of the summer block party where we present 1,000 backpacks full of school supplies to the kids.


JEREMY :
And so, how many people are here actually at any given time?


TINA :
You know it's hard to say. For example, we serve 1,600 meals a day. We have like, what is it, four breakfasts, four lunches, three dinners. And so, it's very structured. We have to have--everything is constantly rolling. Constantly in movement. But what's great is that we want to offer haircuts, we always offer underwear. This is huge, and socks. 


JEREMY :
It's something that most people just don't think about. A lot of people don't think about, you know?


TINA :
It's very, very, very difficult to even wrap your mind around the general necessities - a toothbrush! That's why I always ask my donors to create an assembly line of hygiene kits and throw in a nice white pair of socks, and your toothbrush, and your toothpaste, and hand cream because your hands get so chafed out here.


JEREMY :
Let's say somebody would ask, "Well, what's the solution to all this then?"


TINA :
You know, there is not a one-word solution. We need the housing. Some people don't even want to be in four walls, if they're so feral that they actually feel that they're going to be better outside, because they think they’ll be taken advantage of, they're going to be violated in some way, shape, or form. And so, it's offered I think, it's always program and education. And once they can dry out and, you know, there are some people that are--they have to be ready. It's like dragging anyone else, you know, kicking and screaming into a program - it's not going to happen. They've got to want to come by their own volition. But, I would say ninety percent of it is drugs. Well, and again you know, I'm not an expert. I'm not an expert, but it's got to be the mental health issue and the drugs.


JEREMY :
Let's say there’s a place in Siem Reap in Cambodia they, all of a sudden, have a homeless problem - I know nothing about it, but let's... Hypothetically, what would be your advice to them? Considering that it's like, it's totally different--and my question to you is almost twofold; I kind of want to know what your thoughts are on the differences between homelessness in America and L.A.


TINA :
So much of it is just housing. And yet even with the housing, I have to go back to 'it's not just giving them a place to live' because they're still going to use, you don't want to put women in a situation where they're just going to be in another room where they can be raped and violated, you know? So, it's really, it's back to the education and the program and drying them out and giving them purpose. I mean, even just finding your own happiness in your own identity is such a struggle with some of these folks. You know, that's why it's, for us, it's all about Jesus - sorry. Oh, I can talk about everything else, but not...?


JEREMY :
Well no, you can talk about anything you want. You have free reign, actually, in this. This is all about, you know, your perspective.


JEREMY [narration] :
So, after I let Tina know that it was totally okay for her to talk about anything under and behind the sun, including Jesus, we then walked over to the chapel where these sermons were held. 


JEREMY :
Can I go up there and play the drum set? Seriously, I love the drum set. Yeah, so, this is where like everybody goes before going to get a meal?


TINA :
Yes, they're going to hear the sermon. And a lot of them just absolutely pass out because they've been up all night. You know, either in their addiction or just so someone else doesn't kill them. Or their bodies just ravaged with so much...


JEREMY :
And it's just, "Finally, I have a safe place - I don't have to actually worry and watch my back all time."


TINA :
Exactly. And we have all of our graduations here. We have three graduations in here February, June, and October, and we graduate any number from--I think our smallest group was about twenty to thirty-three. Men and women - there's not a dry eye in the house.


JEREMY :
Yeah. Oh, I'm sure. Yeah, they'd be very extraordinarily touching.


TINA :
It's the families that said, "You're not going to drag us into the pit of Hell, we're leaving now." And then when they see them, you know, have a personal revival.


JEREMY :
It sounds to me like you've kind of found your ultimate purpose in life to them. You know, in doing this; would you say that that's true? That this is your purpose?


TINA :
There's nothing like kind of--Hey girl. How's my girl? How are you today? 


STUDENT :
Good.


TINA :
Are you good? Okay, have a kiss. Take care of yourself.


STUDENT :
Oh yeah, you too. Good to see you!


TINA :
But you're okay?


STUDENT :
Yeah, I'm fine. Thank you.


TINA :
Take care, okay? 


STUDENT :
Oh, Miss T!


TINA :
Yes, what honey?


STUDENT :
I did want to tell you about something.


JEREMY [narration] :
For obvious reasons, I've edited out the conversation that Tina had with one of the residents, as it was private, right? Tina, of course, still had her lapel mic on and the recorder was doing its thing.


TINA :
This is where they're really going to take a minute. And this is our dining room. 


WORKER :
Our dining room, this is where we serve 1,600 meals a day. Hey.


JEREMY :
Hey, it smells good! I got to say, it smells really good.


TINA :
In fact, if you want to break for lunch, you could do that too. We have all the students work the program--it's a work-therapy program, so that they are working the kitchen ninety days, working the grounds ninety days, working facilities ninety days, and then they get a certificate for that. This is-whoa! This is a full service stainless-steel kitchen. Everybody works in this program. I will be back. I hope you can save me a plate. I will be starving.


JEREMY :
You have volunteers to come out and help out in the kitchen, right?


TINA :
We have a huge volunteer department. Yeah, we have about, I think, ninety-five on staff to run this entire mission. And then we do depend enormously on our volunteers, and a lot of charities do. Because you know, it's just doing... Stuffing envelopes and that type of thing, it just really helps keep the lights on.


JEREMY [narration]:
We then ran into someone who was going through the program for a second time.


TINA :
Rodney, darling, how are you? Are you good, my friend? Are you okay? He was in the program and fell from grace and he's back.


JEREMY :
Oh okay. Is that kind of a normal occurrence?


TINA :
It happens. But I'm just glad they come back. Yeah, I know a lot of them. And he graduated with honors, I mean you know. Just because of the time, let me take you over to the Anne Douglas Center. We're not supposed to be walking across here, but do you know who I am? But, c'mon. And I go--by the way, when I when I first got here I wasn't a pastor, but as manager I said, "I don't want people to call me Tina. You're not going to call me Miss Russek, but call me Miss Tina or Miss T." Well, Miss T stuck. So yeah, so then I go by--then they started doing 'Misty', then it was 'T-Dawg', then it was 'TT", 'Gangsta T', then 'OG T - Original Gangsta T'. It went all on. So, one guy, I have to tell you this. So, this guy was working the dock and he walked into my office, used to be right in there because I was a facilities manager for the Anne Douglas Center and he says, "You know what, Miss T? I've watched you and... You're a lady. I don't know women that have been ladies in my life. My mother, she beat me. She was nothing more than a crack ho. And I hated her and I ended up beating up a lot of women in my life." But he says, "But you're a lady, so may I call you Lady T?" I was like, "Well, if you want!" I was probably sobbing at the time. He was so sweet; it was so sweet.


JEREMY :
I think I like that one the best.


TINA :
Yeah.


JEREMY [narration]:
After listening to this again, I realized how, despite the gravity of the man's words, we were able to joke a bit about the playful nickname of Lady T. I guess that's just Skid Row life - can't be sweatin' everything, right? Especially those things that are in the past.


TINA :
This is the Anne Douglas Center for Women. This is actually composed of twenty-five beds—twenty-seven beds, it is 25,000 square feet. I was here and, with the background I had as a closet designer and I could draw the scale and I could help the architects, I was very involved with remodeling the Anne Douglas Center for Women. And so, this was really, oh. Miss Barbara? Hello. We have gentlemen on the floor. I should have told him. Let me just tell them. Excuse me.


JEREMY [narration]:
Lady T then went in and announced that there would be gentlemen entering the premises. Does she know who we are, I mean, 'gentlemen'? Anyway. Obviously, guys are not usually allowed in there, but this was a special circumstance. So, thank you Gina. Thank you, Staff at the Anne Douglas Center. Really appreciate you letting us cruise through your home right there.


TINA :
And the elevator is still out of order. The stairs are our friends. 


JEREMY :
I like friends. 


TINA :
Yes. You know, it's like--I do this in six-inch heels, so I don't want to hear any grumbling. 


JEREMY :
Oh no. Are there any differences between the facil--I mean, obviously there's going to be some differences between how the men's facility is run and the women's facility? But what--are there any?


TINA :
You know what, not really. I mean, the men have a few more privileges. This is a very structured program. It's not like you're in-and-out, see you in a couple of days. You have to earn your passes. It is a four-phase program. As you progress in the program, you're given more privileges, but men do have a little bit more just because they're men. But, you know, you're out here where, you know, anything awful can to happen to a woman. 


JEREMY :
Oh yeah, of course.


TINA :
So, we are protective. We have the living room. And when I was the facilities manager here, I said, "For a year we are your family and for a year, this is your home and you better take care of it." And so, it was really a great opportunity to really bond with the women and hear their stories and see their transformations. It was really remarkable. And you know, and of course, so many of these women have kids and they want those kids back.


JEREMY :
Of course, of course. I imagine it's a bit heartbreaking to hear. You know, and that's probably an understatement.


TINA :
Oh, it is. It is. This is our beauty parlor, salon, and laundry room. When we had the last few requests for proposals go out, we had this one architectural firm step up to the plate and they sat down and the two architects were Melissa and Kristen and they said, "Oh no, no. We should have this room popped out four more feet. We need to make beauty salons; we need to make stations. We should definitely have the women feel comfortable, where they can be female again, and work with their sisters, and primp with the hair and the makeup." And I said, "You had me at 'hello'." They got it. And so, when I was working with them and we decided to just make this definitely a home - I want this to be more residential versus institutional. Because of all the, you know, the metal furniture. And so, we wanted to soften it up a bit. And the girls really do love this space and, by the way, this is named after the Anne Douglas Center for Women, of course, the wife of Kirk Douglas who turned 100 last year and we are now celebrating her 25th anniversary this month. Or is it next month? I know it's actually--well, it's actually her--when they dedicated this space, it was February 14th, 1992. So, on Valentine's Day, this is always a very special day to celebrate her kindness and generosity.


JEREMY :
That's really cool. Yeah, I remember reading a little bit about that.


TINA :
Yes. Yeah, they are extremely generous and very philanthropic.


JEREMY :
And so how many--what's the ratio like, between how many males and how many females, you know?


TINA :
Well, just for an example we have 446 beds and 27 of those belong to the women. The women population is obviously smaller on Skid Row, but unfortunately, it's growing. And as I said, one of the newer populations would be an entire family - a father, a mother, and a child. They do live in cars, they do live in every conceivable--I mean, the tents, perhaps you noticed the tents. Out of control. So, but you know, there's all the dynamics of politicians and what they do allow and what they don't allow and you can impede a doorway. You know, it's just--and the fact that we are the Homeless Capital of the World because--well, of the United States, because of our weather! You can actually live outside almost year-round.


JEREMY [narration]:
Can't argue with that. That's where I go! SoCal weather is off-the-hook nice.


PA SYSTEM :
Ladies, it's lunch time. Please join us; thank you.


TINA :
Okay, she's so sweet.


JEREMY :
That's so cool. Oh, is there a dog in...?


TINA :
That's actually a playhouse. 


JEREMY :
Oh, it's a playhouse! I'm sorry, I thought it was a doghouse from the back. 


TINA :
This is where--we have this family room, which has actually been designed for a mother and her kid. This would open up into a sleeper and the mother could be with their kid to reunify and have a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and learn to trust each other again. And the child could go play out, you know, safely on the patio, and then Mom could watch some videos. But she was separated from the rest of the population of the building, so they could have that private time together and that's been very successful.


JEREMY :
You mentioned politics a little bit earlier. From an operational standpoint of the mission, does politics come into play more than you would like it to or…?


TINA :
I think, you know, with Measure H and HH and all that--


JEREMY [narration]:
Measure H is a sales tax measure to fund homeless services and prevention in Los Angeles County. And voters on March 7th, 2017, approved it. So, pretty cool.


TINA :
I think the city is trying to work on the problem. It's just, this is just not a one-word answer. It is so layered. But once that person, I'll tell you one thing, when we have someone in and out of the program that's successful, they are the best disciple in town. Because they, you know, they are going to spread the word and you can see that they, again, when they come together with that family and as I said, we don't just save a person--hi there. We don't just save a person; we save a family. And it's pretty remarkable. And during our graduation--Sheila, oh, Miss Sheila, a volunteer director. She's amazing. And Jeremy and Gregg, our lovely cameraman.


JEREMY [narration] :
We ran into a very sweet lady by the name of Sheila for just a bit before she had to get on with her work. Seriously, she was there and then when I glanced over, she was gone. So, then we headed back to Tina's office and we started talking about the people who worked there and, of course, about the residents, or 'students', as she called them. It always circled back to them because, well, that's the whole point of the Mission, right? It's all about helping those people out.


JEREMY :
What are some of the most remarkable stories you've heard? I mean, I'm sure they're all remarkable in their own way, but what are some stories that stand out to you?


TINA :
You know, I'll tell you. There's a graduation we have the Anne Douglas Center Honors Evening which, because the women are women, we have a separate graduation sort of affair in the Spanish chapel, a ceremony for that evening-- a get-together, a little reception, where three, four, or five women can witness to an audience and usually their families.


JEREMY [narration]:
Now if you're not religious, and specifically not Christian, then the use of the word 'witness' may be a little bit vague to you, which is totally cool. And I thought it was kind of a colloquial religious thing, but turns out Merriam-Webster Online has a definition for witness. You know, among all the various uses of the word. This one is '5a: something serving as evidence or proof' and '5b: public affirmation by word or example of usually religious faith or conviction'.


TINA :
One story was so great because Stephanie was up at the microphone giving her story and her witness. And it was like, she says to her mom, "You raised my babies. Can you ever forgive me for what I did to you? Can you ever forgive me?" and she says, "This has been a gift from God to be here; I will make this up to you." And you hear this little baby say, "I love you Mama!" And she says, "Honey, I'm coming home." It was like, {inaudible squealing}[00:32:28] . And stories like that. I mean literally, and she's done very well and she's been totally reunified with her family, so you know, between our serving the community, between me dabbing my eyes, it's like, every day there's something that is so remarkable. I mean, when I first got here, a wonderful woman who's now retired but we're still very, very close, Barbara said, “Prepare yourself for miracles. It's like there's no other explanation." We've had people die flat on their back come back to life, and we've had people also pass away here because their body couldn't take anymore. And finally, they could take the time to take that deep breath and their body just finally failed, which always just tears your heart out of your chest. But they now are at peace. They didn't die on the streets with a needle in their arm, or by the hand of someone. It's just a remarkable place to be. There's no, you know, it's like, we have our little grumpy-grump days. But, you know, to see this kind of redemption and this opportunity to see lives changed, and to see a kind of happiness and inner joy. And it's not about making the big bucks, and it's not about driving the new Mercedes, you know? You see joy here, and even on the streets, when some of the folks who just kind of hanging out and walking by and say, "How are you doing?" You know, and they just say, "Thanks for even talking to us," and I say, "Well, you're a child of God. What's up?"


JEREMY :
[laughs] What's up? I'm Lady T, by the way, you may have heard of me. I don't know. Okay, so, I know you have to get going. One final question: can you just give us a maybe a synopsis of how you see life on this planet? Any perspective that you can give us about how you perceive life would be really-


TINA :
I think that's an outstanding question. I think so much of life is giving back. It's not--it's not boiling down to 'give me, take me, buy me.' It's because when you feel so blessed and your cup runneth over and when you've been saved or I've seen the face of God, you know, I have to go out and I don't care if it's at a soup kitchen, I don't care if it's wrapping up eating utensils with a little napkin and a rubber band. There is something about--the greatest thing is touching another human life and I feel blessed beyond my personal, wildest dreams. I've got a great life and I can't imagine working any place else because if God has given me those gifts, and God has given me this opportunity, and I can say to someone, "You know what? I believe in you. You stopped believing in you, but I'm going to keep believing in you." And you know, for that person to say, "Alright, I'm going to give this one more chance. This is my last, last, last, last chance.” And you are surrounded by miracles. And I think that's where you find the greatest joy in life. And, you know, especially if you're counting your blessings. And I believe that if you really stop thinking about yourself and your little problems, even if they're big problems - and we have some huge problems in life - but if you say I'm going to stand on my faith and by God's grace and biblically, His Grace is sufficient enough. And so, when you start saying you know what, the minute you start giving more to the next person, you start saying, "Wow. Not only I've been blessed, but I'm feeling a little bit better about life." There is a lot of good in life; there's a lot of bad. But I believe that the good--the bad is trying to keep up with the good. That, you know, the bad is there - and of course, the bad is what we report on. But when you see someone really, truly saved and it's like they they've got something that everybody wants. That inner joy. So glad you could be at the Los Angeles Mission.


JEREMY :
Thank you so much. I seriously appreciate - I appreciate that so much. Yeah, it's very beautiful what you're doing.


TINA :
Well, you may come back. Am I a mess? Am I a total mess?


JEREMY :
You are not a mess, no. You're fine. Thank you so much. 


TINA :
Thank you so much for coming and for caring.


JEREMY :
Of course.


JEREMY [narration]:
Whatever it is that you believe - whether you're an Atheist, Christian, Agnostic, Buddhist, Hindu, Jainist, Muslim etc. etc. I think we can all agree, at least I hope we can all agree, that when Tina was talking about living life for others gives us the most abundant life, she is speaking some hardcore truth there.


TINA :
So, they've got your car parked here so, I don't know.


JEREMY :
[laughs] Oh, that's alright. We can walk more. You know, we're not wearing heels or anything. See you Tina, thank you.


JEREMY [narration]:
Hey, thank you so much for checking out this episode of In The Shoes Of. If you like or don't like the podcast, feel free to leave a review or reach out to me. My email is JNickel@InTheShoesOf.Org. I'm Jeremy Nickel, the host and producer of the show. Until the next time, see you later.

Shintaro Shimosawa Transcription

NICKEL :

Hi everyone and welcome to the In The Shoes Of podcast where I make it my goal to see life as much as possible from someone else's point of view; just like we all have a unique heartbeat, every single one of us sees life only from our own perspectives. Think about it. Can you see and process life exactly as Elon Musk sees and processes life? The answer is you can't, and it applies to every living conscious being here on this pale blue dot.

[intro music] 

To quote Zaphod Beeblebrox from Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, 'Hi.' [pause] Wait, there's more, there's more -- I'm going to say more than just 'hi.' So, I have a great episode today! I had the privilege of interviewing Shintaro Shimosawa. He's a writer, a producer, a director in the film world over in L.A. He's worked with greats like Al Pacino, Anthony Hopkins, and just about a million other names that would be fun to drop, but we just don't have the time. And he has some really cool perspectives to put forth here and some great advice about taking some risks and actually doing the things you want to do in life, as well as some really cool advice you received from a head coach back in high school. Shintaro Shimosawa -- did I pronounce that right?

SHIMOSAWA :

That's correct. 

NICKEL :

Boom! All right, cool. ...When did I start saying 'boom'? Where does that originate from - the last name?

SHIMOSAWA :

I'm Japanese. My father is from Nagano. Now you know my mom was from Kobe, around Osaka.

Nickel

That's so awesome, man. We're going to have to get into that a little bit because I really want to go to Japan... Really bad, so you--and I'm sure you're probably familiar with the country.

SHIMOSAWA :

It's the coolest country in the world and-

NICKEL :

[laughs] Dude! Man, now I'm going to have to get a plane ticket and go, like, tomorrow. 

SHIMOSAWA :

I highly encourage it. 

NICKEL :

Yeah. All right. Well, it's settled then. I'm going to do it. 

NICKEL [narration] :

Shin and I talked a little bit more about Japan and how freaking cool it is. He had some excellent Airbnb advice which also contains some good cultural differences that I thought were really relevant to the podcast.

SHIMOSAWA :

I recently Airbnb'd my stay in Tokyo and, it's a cultural difference, but the way that the Japanese kind of take care of their homes is pretty pristine so any Airbnb you go to, including the one my friends stayed at, any Airbnb you go to is, like, absurdly clean and very well-serviced. So, I'd highly recommend doing that, because hotels are very expensive. 

NICKEL {narration]:

While we were on the topic of Japanese culture, I wanted to get Shin's opinion on Haruki Murakami.

NICKEL :

Have you ever heard of Haruki Murakami?

SHIMOSAWA :

There's two Murakamis. There's a poet and an artist. Which one?

NICKEL :

The poet. Well, the author. Yeah. I really like 1Q84. Oh my, this guy is awesome man.

SHIMOSAWA :

He's pretty intense, yeah. I mean, he's a very internal guy. It's very seldom that you find a truly soulful Japanese artist. I know that sounds weird, but again I think it's a cultural thing, that they don't put that much currency into it creative. They put a lot of currency into business.

NICKEL :

Yeah, he embodies what all that is creative and introspective, like you said. All right. I think it's time to get to the first question. What shoes are you wearing right now?

SHIMOSAWA :

Uh, Nike Frees.

NICKEL :

Nike Frees, nice! 

SHIMOSAWA :

Yeah, they're like, they're like running shoes. They are insanely light. I got them on Black Friday last year. 

NICKEL :

Nice.

SHIMOSAWA :

For really cheap and I love them. They're so light. It's like walking on air.

NICKEL [narration]:

You are welcome, Nike.

NICKEL :

Dude... So, that's cool. So, how would you, if you had to, define yourself in the third person? How would you do so?

SHIMOSAWA :

Creative. Not confident. Wishy-washy. And Japanese.

NICKEL :

[laughs] That's awesome. That's super cool though. I admire and respect the honesty there - the wishy-washiness - because I can totally relate. And you reminded me of, well, Henry Rollins, who said, "I don't have any confidence and I don't want any." It kind of keeps him going I guess, I don't know if you can identify at all with that. 

SHIMOSAWA :

Yeah. Yeah, that's interesting. 

NICKEL :

Yeah, because he looks like an absurdly confident guy.

SHIMOSAWA :

100 percent.

NICKEL [narration]:

Don't worry, I'll throw in a link to the discussion Henry Rollins had about confidence in my podcast blog notes at InTheShoesOf.Org.

NICKEL :

So, in light of that, what is your fundamental passion in life?

SHIMOSAWA :

Well, it depends. If going from like, a macro... I like inspiring people or being creative or moving people in some way. A little more micro, my passion... I was a DJ in L.A. for about ten years, that was my day job-

NICKEL :

Oh.

SHIMOSAWA :

And I still voraciously DJ every night, just in my bedroom and I just, I just love music. I love blending things and mashing things up, so DJing is my passion. And I guess filmmaking is my passion under the umbrella of being creative. 

NICKEL :

Dude, that's really awesome. To you, is there absolutely no other way? No other thing that you would even consider in life?

SHIMOSAWA :

Yeah, I mean, if I had to start over, I would love to be working for a couple of more charities. You know, as you get older, you realize that there's a lot of people in need in the world and I wish I was doing more, in that regard. So, if I had to roll it back and start over, I would do that.

NICKEL :

Well that's super cool. But there are probably a lot of opportunities, right, to do it--well, it depends on how--you're probably pretty busy, right?

SHIMOSAWA :

You know, I help out where I can and I try to belong to a couple of groups that do help out. But, you know, it's very localized. I meant like really dedicating your life to--like a friend of mine, one of my best friends, his name is [5:57]Erica Tortiells, she moved to New Orleans after Katrina hit and helped and joined an organization that helped rebuild homes. And it was a big life change for her and I really have always admired that.

NICKEL :

Yeah. It's super cool, for sure. I think, well it's pretty obvious too, that it just impacts your life so much when you can actually get out there and help others truly. Can you expand on where and how you grew up?

SHIMOSAWA :

I grew up in Chicago, Illinois, in the not-so-greatest neighborhood; it's called West Rogers Park. And back then in the 80s, it was a pretty bad neighborhood, so it was... I had a very interesting upbringing. I went to a grammar school that was kindergarten through eighth grade and it was all pretty rough. And then we moved to a suburb for high school and then ended up in Washington D.C. for college at George Washington University.

NICKEL :

Oh, no kidding? In D.C., nice. Like, when you talk about it being a little bit rough, what do you mean?

SHIMOSAWA :

I was held at gunpoint probably three times before the age of 14. It was constant fights. There was gangs. It was probably about 96 percent black, and I know it's not PC to say that now, but back then it was a thing, it did matter. Like, there was a black neighborhood in Chicago and in those neighborhoods happened to be really, really rough. And since then, things changed quite a bit, but you know in that little pocket of time there were--Chicago, I mean for what it is I love the city, but it still feels segregated sometimes. But it was always very segregated when I was growing up.

NICKEL :

Yeah, and you growing up, you know, with your ancestry being Japanese, how did that come into play in those types of neighborhoods?

SHIMOSAWA :

Well, it was funny like, in that neighborhood everybody's racist. It just happened. And, you know, I got my taste of racism, you know, like, I got into a lot of fights because of it. It was part of my identity and, you know, to be quite honest, growing up when you were a little kid you kind of--and you know Chicago was my world and the world was white and my neighborhood was black, and I had wished I was black or white when I was a kid because it was just easier to assimilate, to fit in, when you were a deep minority. Not just the slight minority, a deep minority. So, it did affect my upbringing. You know, I probably didn't embrace my culture as much until I got a little older. Meaning, I didn't speak English until I was about five-years-old, then I didn't speak Japanese, even though my mom forced me to go to a Japanese school, I didn't really speak it until I was out of grammar school an into high school.

NICKEL :

Yeah. And did you--growing up, did you take trips over to Japan to kind of get to know...

SHIMOSAWA :

Yeah, all the time and I loved it. 

NICKEL :

Aw, I bet, man. That's awesome. 

SHIMOSAWA :

It was tremendous. It's one of the most beautiful countries, in my opinion. The people are just so unbelievably nice there, and they're unbelievably gracious and giving, and I have a major love for that place.

NICKEL :

And so, Shin, you're a filmmaker, a producer, a writer, all that. Is that, if I'm not mistaken?

SHIMOSAWA :

That's correct. 

NICKEL :

When did it come into play that you realized, "You know what I am? I'm a creative here, I don't care, you know, whatever is going on here or whatever kind of obstacles I'm facing." When did you decide, "You know what, this is what I'm going to do. This is my purpose on earth."

SHIMOSAWA :

Creative... You know, I was always, you know, drawing and just thinking about things and thinking about how to interpret things. But I think, once I was out of college and, you know, I moved to Los Angeles because I wanted to make films and just kind of get my foot in the door. What's really great about L.A. is it does have a collection of people that are very like-minded so you don't feel like you're different or you're a pariah. You come in and you just feel like you want to be creative and you don't know exactly what your outlet's going to be yet, whether it's making films, or writing, or writing novels, or composing music. I mean, there's just so many creative people here and, you know, there's pockets of New York City that are much the same. I think when I got here in L.A. I really just started to embrace it.

NICKEL :

That's so cool. And I know exactly what you're talking about, whenever I go to L.A., I don't know what it is, but I tell people, and not everyone agrees with me. Some people don't like L.A. But when I go to L.A. I'm like, "Dude I love--I feel so at home and I feel like, my god, the people are--it just resonates with me. The vibe is, I don't know, it coalesces really well with me. 

You grew up in Chicago, you went to college in D.C., and then you landed in L.A. What kind of struggles did you face there trying to get in, especially for the rest of us who were in various parts of the country we think of L.A. and we probably think of Axl Rose and Welcome to the Jungle, or something you know. People trying to go out there and making it. How--did you find that it was, you know, a struggle?

SHIMOSAWA :

Absolutely, I mean, it was it's really tough. When you first come to Los Angeles, in particular as an actor, or as writer, or as a director, can be very difficult. Only because there are so many people that are coming at the same time and wanting to do the same things. It can feel very competitive. The one thing I did learn was if you are able to navigate and keep your head above water and basically just get a job right off the bat - waiting tables or just having money to live - and being creative at night. Eventually those two things will coalesce; eventually, you will be working at a job where you can be creative. But it does take a little bit of time and it's very scary for a lot of people to come and feel like they're in a sea of others. But if you are creative and everyone in your family is telling you you're creative or you should be making films and people, whether it's teachers, or whether it's peers are saying you should be in Los Angeles either acting, or directing or should be writing, then you probably have it and you probably have a lot more than the flood of people do come to Los Angeles, so I highly encourage it.

NICKEL :

If it's obvious that you have that little spark of something where it's like, you have a natural knack for it maybe, then most definitely. 

SHIMOSAWA :

Yes. I mean, there's--well, for all the flood of people that do come to Los Angeles, there are people that don't have a natural knack for it. There are people that are just saying "I just want to do it" and they might not have exactly what's required and, you know, what's required isn't rocket science. If you understand films or if you understand television, and you understand that it is a fantasy world that is created by people, and that creating that fantasy world is exciting to you, and you feel like you can do that, then I would highly suggest people at least try it. I mean, you know, for me, when all throughout of my 20s and all throughout even my early 30s, there was a lot of friends that would call and say, "I'm thinking about making the move" and, it's not a marriage, you know. You can come here for a year or two, try it out. And if you don't like it, you can always move back. It's not it's not a be-all and end-all, so. For me, I always encourage it, because if people don't do it, and I've had a lot of those friends that have never done it, I do feel the regret on their end. I do feel like they felt like they could have taken their shot and they just didn't. And then, you know, as they get into their 40s, they get set in their ways. They get families and it's a little harder to make a move. So yeah. While people are young, I highly encourage just trying it out.

NICKEL :

Yeah, I mean, if you think about it, at the end of our days--I always bring this up and, especially when we get into more, like, deeper discussions about life and actually doing what we want to do and not in accordance with what society dictates or what puppet masters dictate, like, when you look at your deathbed self, you know, what you want to look back and think--you don't want to have those kinds of regrets. 

SHIMOSAWA :

Absolutely not. 

NICKEL :

You know, like, what we have to lose, right? So, yeah.

SHIMOSAWA :

What do you have to lose. You definitely don't want to be there saying "I wish I would have taken my shot" and, you know, there's even films about that, that are really interesting.

NICKEL :

Totally. 

SHIMOSAWA :

You know, so if you want to make sure that if you are a storyteller, or if you are an actor and you want to interpret something, you're a very emotional person that feels like that emotion can translate on screen, why not?

NICKEL :

Yeah. Well, that's super cool, man. Seriously. That's--that's encouraging, man. I appreciate that. 

SHIMOSAWA :

Oh, of course. 

NICKEL :

I'm sure a lot of listeners will appreciate that, too. So, I want to get a little bit deeper here then. We talked a little bit about--even just mentioning the deathbed self--when you die, how do you want to be remembered?

SHIMOSAWA :

I don't know why, but I have had this idea in my mind where, I just want to have a bunch of friends there and two big speakers and just blast Radiohead's The Bends. It's not that the lyrics feel like they're my life or anything, but I just like the cadence of the song and I like how it builds. To be remembered, you know, obviously like, one of the great things about making films is that they last forever. So, you do have a legacy. And having children would be something that that's in my future also. But you know, having those two things as a legacy would be really satisfying for me. 

NICKEL :

Yeah. 

SHIMOSAWA :

And, you know, being remembered... I don't mind if I'm not remembered just as long as I get to keep the family bloodline going.

NICKEL :

That's awesome.

SHIMOSAWA :

It'll be like, "Oh yeah, that guy. That guy used to make movies." Watching his crazy ideas on TV.

NICKEL :

It's awesome. And so, you said you're planning on having kids at some point? Not to get too personal.

SHIMOSAWA :

Yeah, at some point. 

NICKEL :

Yeah, cool.

SHIMOSAWA :

For sure. 

NICKEL :

Yeah. Do you believe that all humans have a purpose here on earth?

SHIMOSAWA :

I do. Yes, 100 percent. It's interesting, because when you make decisions and affects people on a very micro level, you can see how it does change the world; it changes people's perspectives. A great example of that is, for whatever reason, sometimes I remember somebody saying something that was probably insignificant to them, but it was very significant to me. And it did change the way that my life path has gone, or at least it did influence it, it influenced the type of person I am and if I do have children, or even in in the stories that I try to put on screen, those two things are always permeating to me and hopefully if those two things do affect somebody else down the line, then I do believe that the purpose of humans is to interact with one another, love one another, and then create a future for one another.

NICKEL :

Yeah. No, I agree with that. 

SHIMOSAWA :

It was Bill, Coach Bill Richardson at Niles West High School. I was a junior in high school and I was playing on the varsity team and our football team was playing for the state sectionals. And I remember him pulling me aside during halftime and saying, "You really have to know the plays." Which I didn't, and then I assured him I did, and we went out on the first play - it was a really important play coming out of halftime. I ran the wrong direction and Coach Bill Richardson yanked me aside. I remember, he gripped my face mask on my helmet, he yanked me towards him and, in a very growling voice said, "When you don't know where you're going, just put your head down and run as fast as you can." And at the time he had referenced, you know, clearly, he's referencing my plays, or lack of knowledge of those plays. But that phrase always kind of stuck with me and I remember when I was on a TV show at my first staff job, we were on a show called The Dead Zone, and I had a writing partner at the time. And our show runner was really angry at how we were handling certain situations and he was kind of coming down on my partner, and he looked to me and said, "Do you understand what I'm saying to you guys?" And I remember just repeating that phrase back to him, because it was what I always thought of--but it was true--when I didn't know what I was doing I always just kind of ran as fast as I could, and I repeated that phrase to him. And he kind of smiled and wanted to know where I learned that because he was going to use it in a script; he thought it was very funny. And I told him it was just one of those things that always kind of stuck with me no matter what I was doing or what I was trying to do. I always just follow that mantra and thank you Coach Bill Richardson for saying that to me.

NICKEL :

Thank you, Bill. Can you elaborate a little bit on that? I was honestly expecting more of a "you know, when you don't know where you're going, 'insert platitude here.'" You know, one of those pictures on the wall, you have a mountain in the background and all that. Yeah, so if you could elaborate on maybe some recent experiences where that was very applicable in your life.

SHIMOSAWA :

All the way through. I don't know, I think after I heard that it was one of those things that carried over into college and then moving to L.A. for the first time. And then, the first time I ever produced a picture was a film called The Grudge with Sarah Michelle Gellar and we had hired a Japanese director and a set of Japanese producers to film the movie in Japan and Tokyo. And Sony Pictures had sent a bunch of us out there as American side, as the American producers, to co-produce the film with them. And I kind of talked my way into doing it because I was bilingual - I spoke Japanese and I spoke English and I speak Japanese very well. But when I got there, I realized that I had never been on set and understood the real mechanics of making a film before. Which is hard enough, but to be in charge of doing that for another country was also very, very difficult. But I remember getting there and just kind of putting my head down and running real fast and working really hard and, probably towards the middle the shoot it was very clear to the crew, and to Sarah Michelle Gellar, and to a lot of the other actors, that I really--this was my first time but I was working so hard and I was like, the first one there and the last one out, and I was working so hard that I was able to do my job correctly and just kind of navigate through a very complicated process of making a film. And more recently, I was given the opportunity to direct my first feature film myself. I had been a writer and a producer for a long time, but I got to direct my first film and it was with Anthony Hopkins and Al Pacino. And these two guys are incredible personalities in the business. They both won the Academy Awards and they rarely work with first time directors, but the idea of working with these two guys, with these two kind of titans of the industry, was so intimidating and so scary and the same rule applied. I remember just saying, "Okay I'm going to just put my head down and run as fast as I can because that's the best thing I can possibly do," and you know to call cards up with them. I told them that I had never directed a film before, I'd never ever directed a short film, or a scene, or a commercial, or a play, or anything like that. So, this is my first foray into it. However, you know, I was able t--with the one thing I do understand is film making story just because--more because I watch a lot of films, more because I understand what should happen at certain points, and you know, without knowing everything technical that I should have learned if I had I gone to film school and directed my own films. In lieu of that, I was talking to them as a writer; just through story and through elements of how to tell a story and kind of how to tune a character over the course of the film and then, you know, what is building up to a certain climax, and then what is happening after that. So, it was a language they could both very much understand. So even though I didn't really know what I was doing technically as a director, I did know how to talk to them on a very film-maker level. And that's one thing they both really appreciated.

NICKEL :

That's super cool, so they didn't come down on you like, "How dare you, Shin, bring us-" well, you know. I don't know how they'd actually-

SHIMOSAWA :

At least not to my face. 

NICKEL :

[laughs] Right? I mean, I can imagine. Al Pacino, I mean, hopefully wouldn't break some of his crazier cartel mafia boss roles and, you know, that would've been crazy.

SHIMOSAWA :

He's a very large personality and for good reason. He's knows how to become many different characters. It's very interesting to watch. You know at the end of the day we all know Al Pacino as like, as Don Corleone, or Michael Corleone, sorry, or Scarface, or de Brasco, or Scent of a woman. But, you know, he's effectively been able to embody a bunch of different types of characters and wear many different masks and-

NICKEL :

Totally.

SHIMOSAWA :

-Over the years. He knows--he just knows exactly how to tune that stuff so, it was just very interesting when we got to talking about character and we're talking about a hypothetical person that he had never met before, so we were talking about how to make that person into a reality - it was pretty awesome.

NICKEL :

One of my big takeaways here from what you're just telling me is that, probably you know for the rest of us, it's a good take away, is that despite not having necessarily 100 percent confidence in something or, I don't know, feeling like "oh, you know, that's only those people over there in Hollywood that can do that stuff." But, you know, whatever it is we want to do to... Hey, you know, whatever it is we're doing, even we don't know completely what we're doing. I mean, seriously, just run like hell towards whatever. Run. Right?

SHIMOSAWA :

Absolutely. 

NICKEL :

I really like that. As opposed to just like staying in one place. So that's something we can all take away from that. I don't think we have anything more to learn now, Shin. What kind of future do you think we have as humans?

SHIMOSAWA :

You know, it's interesting - when I was, like, a little kid, I used to, like, read these comics and I was like, "You know what, In the future this is what it's going to be like. In the future, they're going to cure cancer. In the future, if I have anything wrong with me, they should have some technology that will fix it." And not much has changed and in a good way. What I'm saying is, I think the future of us, I don't think things are going to change all that much. I'm writing on a TV show right now where it's 10 years in the future. It's just 10 years, right? But however, there's a lot of care and attention put into what things will look like in 10 years, whether it's how doctors operate, or how cell phones are being used. But there's a lot of other considerations that get thrown into these creative meetings, where we're like, "I don't think fire trucks are going to look as different as we think they're going to look in ten years."

NICKEL :

[laughs] Right.

SHIMOSAWA :

Because if you go back to 2007, nothing looks all that different. I mean, you know, we had the iPhone4  maybe, or EGS .

NICKEL :

[laughs] Right.

SHIMOSAWA :

And right now, we're at the 7, so I don't believe things are going to be all that different in the next few decades. However, there are things that we are doing now that might affect how that how that turns out, so.

NICKEL :

Yeah. I want to watch the television show, man. Can you give out the name, is that, or is that under an NDA or something?

SHIMOSAWA :

Oh sure, it's called Zoo and it's on CBS. It's going to be premiering this summer; the third season is premiering this summer.

NICKEL 

What are some things that you're completely, just, thankful for?

SHIMOSAWA :

Friends. My mom was a single mom raising me and it's just my mother and I. So, number one thing I'm thankful for is her. But outside of that, without a family, you know, the rest of my family was in Japan. What's great is my friends have become my family by proxy and I'm just very thankful that friendship exists in the world, that people do support each other when it's really necessary. And I'm also thankful, like, you know, when I see tragedy on TV it burns me every time. But I'm also thankful when I see how people just rally in support and kind of come in and, you know, like, when 9/11 happened, I remember watching the news and just seeing people from all over just want to come to New York and help and that is really inspiring to me. So that I'm very thankful for. I'm also very, very thankful for creativity because it allows people like me an outlet to put our ideas out into the world. Whether it's on paper or whether it's on screen.

NICKEL :

Yeah most definitely. That's an awesome thing to be to be thankful for, for sure. So, let me get to the last question here and it's kind of--I'm going to set the stage a little bit. So, let's imagine that you're strolling through Manhattan on a clear day, when suddenly a Firefly-esque spacecraft appears and out steps an alien who looks remarkably like Harrison Ford. Now, for some reason nobody finds this unusual. You're in Manhattan, after all. And the alien proceeds to ask you some questions. So, after you explain where to find the best pizza and how to use Twitter to reach out to Val Kilmer, you know, things like that, The Harrison look-a-like gets real with you. He lets you know that he's been sent on an intergalactic journalistic mission to find out, not only the top things to do on planet Earth, but to ascertain how you see and understand life on this planet. And you have about, I don't know, five to ten minutes, and he has a lie detector - you can't lie you, have to just be straight up honest with him. What would you tell this alien? You represent the human race here.

SHIMOSAWA :

Wow, this is a lot of responsibility. You know, it's interesting because like, if you ask a writer this, they'll be able to tell you what their hero of their story would say. They would be able to embrace those great things about humankind. And some of the pratfalls in a very elegant and eloquent way. If he asked me, I would be like, "Holy fuck, I don't know, man. People are complicated. You know. People are loving, and they also backstab each other. I mean, it's going to sound like a lot of hypocrisies.

NICKEL :

Yeah.

SHIMOSAWA :

It's going to sound like a lot of conflicting ideas because, you know, with every good thing there's also a bad side to it. I mean, when we talk about what makes earth so special or what makes mankind so special, there's always the good and the bad, and there's always the darkness and the light. And I guess that's what keeps it interesting for us, and that's what keeps storytelling interesting. But on the reals, if an alien were to say, "I'm bringing this back to my people and they're going to make a decision on whether to attack you guys or how to attack you guys," I mean, you know and he has a lie detector test and I was honest... I don't know if they would walk away with the most clear ideas from me, in particular.

NICKEL :

[laughs] I appreciate the honesty, though. But what if he asked you to elaborate on what, like, what do you mean when you say that the darkness and light - maybe that's a--for a-- a little bit of a foreign concept to him.

SHIMOSAWA :

I guess when you leave people to their own devices and they're completely autonomous, humans will have a tendency to, for every good thing that they do, may end up doing something bad. Or it may have the inclination to do something bad. And that is kind of a bummer, but that is that is what happens, so that's what I mean by light and dark. There's people that spend their whole lives going to the light and then they'll have a mishap and dip their toe into the dark. Or there's people that just sprint straight for the dark - and they understand what light, is but they just don't go to it.

NICKEL :

Yeah. Do you think in what if he asked, you one last question from the alien, then he has to go get that pizza that you recommended. He asks you, "So-"

SHIMOSAWA :

It would be artichoke. 

NICKEL :

It would be - oh, artichoke. Oh, okay. Excellent. So, what if he then asked you, "So do you believe that there are more people heading toward the light here on the planet or more people heading toward the dark? Or is it just a mishmash?"

SHIMOSAWA :

I'm an optimist. I would explain that to him, first and foremost. I'd say that I think about 80 percent want to go towards the light.

NICKEL :

I agree with you, man. Especially after traveling through, you know, whatever nation it is, I find that most people just want to do good by, you know, their friends and family and those around them in their communities. I'm an optimist too, so. 

SHIMOSAWA :

Yeah, and one of the one of the hard things is, when you watch people do horrible things on television, in the news, and in fictional TV, it does mess you up a little bit. You're like, "Wow, there's a lot of darkness in the world. However, you know, the reality is like, I was on a spin off for a show called Criminal Minds, and they have a serial killer every week and there really isn't that many serial killers in the world. But the ones that we do know about, we want that information graciously because we are afraid for our own safety, our children's safety. But the reality is, there's not many.

NICKEL :

Right.

SHIMOSAWA :

So, you know, for the most part they're very good people in the world. So, for the select few, there's some really bad.

NICKEL :

Yeah. And the really bad get quite a bit of attention, unfortunately. You know?

SHIMOSAWA :

Oh, 100 percent.

NICKEL :

Cool. Well, dude, I appreciate you doing this man. It really does - it means a lot to me, especially since I'm just getting this off the ground and everything. So is there any site that you would want people to go to learn more about you, or any other, you know, movies or television shows, or any creative endeavors or, I don't know whether you're DJing somewhere that you'd like to plug in right here.

SHIMOSAWA :

Last year I got the opportunity to direct a film called Misconduct and it's on iTunes now, it's on probably Stars or some kind of cable outlet. If you get a chance, check it out. We got to create an art film wrapped around a legal thriller and it's, I think it's a really fantastic film. So, check it out if you can.

NICKEL :

Awesome, thank you. Miss Conduct - I'm going to check that out too. Maybe I'll get some--maybe I'll go up and get some good pizza. I got to go to New York now too. Again. 

SHIMOSAWA :

Go to New York, go visit Tokyo. I mean, life is too short.

NICKEL :

You're totally right, you know? Seriously though, I'm going to reach out to you and be like, "Dude, I'm actually going now to Tokyo, and this is why my credit card statement looks like this."

SHIMOSAWA :

You know, there's this new--I just caught the end of this on the news the other night, that there's this new website where you pack a bag, go to the airport, and they kind of don't tell you where you're going until you get on the plane. 

NICKEL :

No way! Whoa! 

SHIMOSAWA :

Yeah, and it sounds pretty insane but, like, you know, when they were interviewing people you can really see the types of people that were down to do it. And then there were people that just weren't. And what was interesting to me was there were--there was like a single mom who had like, two kids with her and she was like, I would totally do it. 

NICKEL :

Yeah.

SHIMOSAWA :

It was almost like the backwards effect of who I thought would do. There was kind of like a backpacker-type kid who is like, "Nah, I don't think I would." It was interesting because I think people do have an inclination to want to just, get out and do something and sometimes just taken that last step and, myself included, taking that last step is really hard. Like I want to go to Egypt but I wish I could just teleport there. I don't know if I willing to book a flight and go through all the hotels. However, you know, the reality is at any point any of us can just throw down and do it. You know, it might be a stretch financially but you can do it. And for me, again, like when you're talking about life experiences and things on the macro and what kind of regrets you would have before you pass on. Those are the things that you would you're going to wish you did, you know.

NICKEL :

Yep.

SHIMOSAWA :

I'm very guilty of it all. But as I get older, I'm like, "You know what, I'm going to tell the girl I like that I like her. You know what, I'm going to buy that bus ticket to, you know, whatever Reno and check out the casinos there. You know, it's just things that I've always wanted to do, I should just check it out and do it.

NICKEL :

Yeah. No, I agree. And, I mean it sounds almost kind of cheesy, but to... I mean really not let fear get in the way of us doing things that we really want to do because we're so good at self-sabotaging. I know I can be, so. Totally.

SHIMOSAWA :

And you know in a very real way that is how Hollywood runs. In a very ideal level, I can sit here and say it's an amazingly creative and fun space. However, commerce plays a huge part in it and you know like-  it's the business of Hollywood can be very unforgiving. Meaning: you can have a film that you really want to make, but Hollywood might dictate that you put somebody in the movie that you don't want in the movie. All right? So, let's just say, you're making a film and you envision Sam Shepard as this great stately senator. But the studio says, "You know what, you've got to put Bill Murray in there." It changes things, however, the metrics of Hollywood on the other end really do add up to, "We need to put this person in this film" and sometimes that can hamper things. So really, being creative is also by ducking and jiving and that's why lately I've just seem to like independent film more, because, you know, the filmmakers can really just embrace what they want to embrace, you know, and then talk to their financiers and say this is what the deal of a film is. But I think it'd be really special of Sam Shepard were in the lead, not Bill Murray. Those are totally random examples, but that is the financial reality of some of these things can also really, really weigh down the process.

NICKEL :

Oh yeah, I totally get that. And I think that's probably why there are some authors, not all of them of course, some authors that when they talk about Hollywood, it's almost like they have a bad taste in their mouths. Like, "Oh no, my book will never be made into a movie because there was so much"-- I don't know if bureaucracy is the right word but just, you know, like they felt their book was going to be so mangled. I don't know if that you know kind of plays into what you're talking about too.

SHIMOSAWA :

It does, I mean it is a financial machine so--I also worked on the other side of it. I worked at a studio and understanding what people respond to on a global level means you have to do particular things. Meaning like, the story has to be clear, the story has to--generally if you're packaging a romantic comedy, they don't both die at the end and have a downer ending in a romantic comedy. Because you're packaging something with certain people in the leads. And even though the story might dictate that both people must die at the very end, the metrics of 'we will make 60 million dollars' versus 'we will make 2 hundred million dollars' is a very, very large metric, you know? Like those things do--they do come into place, so it's up to filmmakers to try to change people's minds, to get them to a place where eventually they'll be like, "Oh I love that romantic comedy, it was so funny and it was so great and I loved that they both died at the end."

NICKEL :

[laughs] Right? I laughed and then I cried. You know, it was beautiful. Well, I appreciate it. And for everyone listening, this has been another episode of In The Shoes Of with Shintaro Shimosawa and, man, it's been freaking cool. And until next time.

NICKEL {narration]:

Hey, thank you so much for checking out this episode of In The Shoes Of. If you like or don't like the podcast, feel free to leave a review or reach out to me. My email is JNickel@InTheShoesOf.Org. I'm Jeremy Nickel, the host and producer of the show. Until the next time, see you later.

Amy Teets Transcription

JEREMY [narration]:

 

Hi everyone and welcome to the ‘In The Shoes Of’ podcast where I make it my goal to see life as much as possible from someone else's point of view. Just like we all have a unique heartbeat, every single one of us sees life only from our own perspectives. Think about it. Can you see and process life exactly as Elon Musk sees and processes life? The answer is you can't, and it applies to every living conscious being here on this pale blue dot.

 

Hey everyone! Thank you for joining me today for ‘In The Shoes Of’. Today I have Amy Teets straight from New York, a costumer, a… What else? A user experience designer. Today we're going to talk a little bit about small-town drugs coming from small towns going to New York, working as a costumer, modern day misogyny, and a few other things which you're going to hear pretty soon here. Also, if you have friends or family members who are deaf or hard of hearing, please direct them over to intheshoesof.org, where I will be having each and every episode either transcribed or available in video form with captions. And if it's not there just yet, know that I'm definitely working on it. On with the show.

 

JEREMY :

 

How you been anyway? Before we get going with this, even though we're recording, but...

 

AMY :

 

I've been really--I've been good, I've been good! I just got a puppy and we've been here... I was in Ohio, I picked him up from Indiana and I was with my parents for like a week and a half with him and then we've been in New York for a week, so we're just getting adjusted to each other.

 

JEREMY :

 

Oh wow. That sounds cool. What is it - a him or a her?

 

AMY :

 

It's a him. Yeah, he's a little maniac. He thought, he was all like, hyper and then he just fell asleep on my foot, so...

 

JEREMY :

 

Is his name Toby?

 

AMY :

 

No, why?

 

JEREMY :

 

It's not! Oh, I don't know, I just, I always tend to call my friends' pets, when I don't know their names, Toby. I don't know why, like my friend has a parrot named Squawk I think, I don't remember the real name, I just call the parrot Toby.

 

AMY :

 

That's awesome.

 

JEREMY :

 

So, yeah, every pet is named Toby to me. What's your actual pet's name?

 

AMY :

 

His name is Ash or Asher. I think it's Ash to me, but...

 

JEREMY :

 

That is so cool! I love that!

 

AMY :

 

Thanks!

 

JEREMY :

 

Asher is like, the coolest name ever. Have you ever read any Christopher Moore books?

 

AMY :

 

No.

 

JEREMY :

 

Oh my God. I don't know if you're in fiction at all, but this is like, if you're ever stressed out or just anxious about whatever, just pick up a Christopher Moore book and you'll be taken into this wonderful fantasyland of humor and beauty. It's just, it's just, they're fantastic. Anyway, Charlie Asher is in the book, called A Dirty Job and yeah, it's phenomenal, he's one of my favorite characters. Totally beta-male character that I can relate with on a number of levels. Really cool shit.

 

AMY :

 

[laughs] Awesome.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah, it's awesome. Anyway, you're probably busy so we can probably get started here, and I want to just say to Amy - thank you so much for joining me today and agreeing to do this, to go through, actually, this interrogation. I don't know if you knew it was going to be an interrogation.

 

AMY :

 

Alright, I'm ready. I'm ready. How honest are we supposed to be like..?

 

JEREMY :

 

As honest as you possibly can or are willing to be.

 

AMY :

 

Okay. If I go full-on honest, we might not use last names. We can decide at the end.

 

JEREMY :

 

Totally! And I can always edit out whatever needs to be edited out. First, I have to ask possibly the most important question of this entire interview, which is: what shoes are you wearing right now? And if none, the last pair that you wore.

 

AMY :

 

This is really important to me, because shoes are like everything. You know, I’m a lady with many shoes. But lately, I have been obsessed with this one pair of shoes that I wear all the time that are these wedge sneakers that I've had for like three years, I have the leather. And they're, like, falling apart. So, today - it's a nice day out, so I wore my black suede version of those since it's not like a crappy winter day. And so, that's what I wore to go pick up something from the vet around the corner. And I wear them all the time, I always, like, basically never wear flats. Ever.

 

JEREMY :

 

Oh wow. That's really cool. What's the brand?

 

AMY :

 

They're called Ash--oh, see! [laughs]

 

JEREMY :

 

[laughs] Whoa, amazing!

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, that's kind of an accident - I mean, I definitely like named him after something else. But yeah, these I'm obsessed with-

 

JEREMY :

 

Wait, they actually are called Ash?

 

AMY :

 

Yeah.

 

JEREMY :

 

Holy…

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, it’s this like designer brand. They started the whole, like, wedge sneaker trend and yeah.

 

JEREMY :

 

That is actually awesome - I thought that was just a mental slip, but no, it's actually Ash. That's really cool. Okay well, I'm going to go pick up a pair of Ash wedge shoes today. Do they make them for men too or no?

 

AMY :

 

No. Like some of them are like, hideous, but like there's, you know, it's like this fine line of like, yeah.

 

JEREMY :

 

Okay. Cool. So, what do you Miss Amy, do for a living?

 

AMY :

 

I am doing two things right now. For the last 14 years, I worked in costumes in film and TV, which I got into right out of school when I was… I went to school for fashion in Philly and I wasn't super interested in the fashion industry, but I got into film and TV, worked on a TV show there, then moved to New York, and been working on really, really big projects with the crew here. And the industry here is a really... We kind of all know each other and, especially since Facebook, we sort of all connect.

 

JEREMY :

 

Sure.

 

AMY :

 

And we're all married to each other and everybody's got like kids together and you...

 

JEREMY :

 

That's some major polygamy going on right there.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, totally. But because we worked together, it's like 12-hour days, like 10 to 12, to like, sometimes 16-18 hour, like, it's crazy how many hours you work together. So, they're like family. And I've been doing that for a long time and there's a lot of times I've been like, I need to do something else and get out of this. And, you know, transitioning careers completely from industry to industry is really hard. Plus, people don't really understand how much goes into the back end and like, why there's so many people on the credits of a movie and TV, they don't really credit everybody who worked on the show. But there’s, you know, hundreds of people who work on almost all of these projects. So, it's hard to explain when you're trying to switch industries like, how what I did applies to the new one. So, my new job is, and I'm doing like a freelance gig for that right now too, is user experience design, user interface, designing for like, apps and web sites. And right now, I'm working for a company designing a music festival web site, that's like, a brand-new music festival, kind of like Bonnaroo, which is really fun because you can basically do anything.

 

JEREMY :

 

That's really cool.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, it's a short gig and I can think, you know, it's only going to be like 40 hours of work, but it's like really fun and I think I get, because I've been freelance for so long and I've just been like, I'm like open to it. I get offered a lot of freelance gigs on that end as well.

 

JEREMY :

 

Awesome, and are you still doing both jobs then? Are you still in the, you know, costuming for the TV... And that's what it is, you're a costum… is that the word?

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, it's called costumer. I guess it's not actually like, I mean it's always, when you type it in, it always says it's a misspell. But that's what we call ourselves is a costumer. A lot of times I've been costume supervising like, really big period shows. I did the Vinyl pilot and The Get Down show on Netflix. I did like the first three or four episodes.

 

JEREMY :

 

That is cool.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, they're like, really big things and like, what I do is, the extras have to be pre-fit and their costumes have to be like, wrapped and sent to set and they all have to get dressed in the morning, before they go to set. It's like, this is just chaos. So...

 

JEREMY :

 

I imagine! And have you ever had any missteps happen? I mean, let's say just something went completely awry or, I don't know, maybe someone's blouse came completely undone at the back or something?

 

AMY :

 

I mean, always. There's always some fire. You know, there's always something. It's like, whenever you're doing anything like that, it's like, it's so on the fly. You do have a schedule and you have ways that you prepare for everything, but your entire job is like, "Well, we're not going to shoot that on Friday anymore, we're going to shoot it on Tuesday, how do we get these two hundred people ready?" You know, "Who can we get to be there? How do you make the calls, how do you adjust-" Like, it's all about just like, this high stress. Like last minute, you know. So, you try to do your best.

 

JEREMY :

 

Wow. So you essentially - you have to dress two hundred people, essentially?

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, some days you have to get three hundred people dressed in the morning, you know.

 

JEREMY :

 

If parents thought their job was hard getting their kids ready for school, for most of us, the layperson who's not in the entertainment industry, we’re like, "Wow, that actor is fashionable and probably just wore that leather jacket into work that day in the clothing they're wearing." Right?

 

AMY :

 

[laughs] Exactly.

 

JEREMY :

 

We don't think about all the Amy Teets in the background going through utter chaos, getting actors ready to do their job, right?

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, and it's really stressful for everybody. What I always do is, you know, we have everybody come in ahead of time - so you have a big day coming up and it's two hundred people, so you set it up so everybody, you know, people come in every 20 minutes and it's like going to the doctor's office, you're like, "Come on in. Take off your clothes, put this on. See if it fits, take a photo, send it to somebody to improve." We get it ready in the morning and then, you know, I don't always go to set, but when we do go to set and everything it's like, it's a brand-new location. We're in a church basement almost always. So  

yeah, the film industry is like… I was thinking the other day about how much money we give to the churches around here just because they let us use their basements.

 

JEREMY :

 

I didn't realize there was a correlation there between the entertainment industry and church basements in New York, at least.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, it's like - because they have a lot of space and it's like, a really great way for us to kind of like, load in and use their space and they're also like, not in use like, during the week in the mornings, like, no one's using them. So we set up, you know, two hundred people is probably like, ten racks and they're like, five, six-foot racks. Like long, like these huge metal industrial racks. You set up this huge space and changing rooms, and all the extras come in and they're all discombobulated and they're like, "Where's my stuff? Where's my form?" Like, "This is my first time." You know, they have to put on these random clothes everything gets, you know, you just have to like, control all of this chaos. It's pretty crazy.

 

JEREMY :

 

So what made you decide to transition from this?

 

AMY :

 

You know, they're a bunch of different reasons. When I started it was like, I did a TV show like, it was a cop show and I would start Monday morning, I was on set all day. Monday morning, you'd start at five or six in the morning and you would like, every day you get later and later because you have a 12 hour, a 10 to 12 hour turnaround, which means you have to be down and then you go back in. So then Tuesday you go in at 9:00. Wednesday, you go in at like 11. By Friday, you're going in at like noon or 1:00 and then you work all night. And I did two seasons of a TV show, like a cop show, like that and it was just so exhausting. I was like, "Is this something I really want to do until I'm like, 60 years old?" You know, it's like, you don't really have a life, there's no real work/life balance. So, over the past couple of years I've been trying to think about where I can do and get out of it. I took like a yoga teacher training and, you know, because there's so much money in yoga. [laughs] But I like, left Boardwalk Empire and took a month and like, got my teacher training, which is really great and really fun, but not a sustainable career. But then, it's really physical as well. And about three years ago, I had tendonitis in my arm from like, my wrist to my neck so badly I could barely like hold a cup.

 

JEREMY :

 

From your wrist to your neck. I don't think I've actually ever heard of that.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, just the costumes it's like, the amount of lifting and like... On Boardwalk, those like overcoats they were like 30 pounds and you're like, lifting everything like over and over and, you know, it's the repetitive motion of like, pulling the clothes out of the bags and putting them on the rack and then holding the st

eamer, which can be like really, you know, it could be a metal steamer which is really heavy and it's just really physical. You're on your feet for like twelve hours a day a lot of times. Yeah, so I started to get really worried. I'm like, "Well now I don't even know if I can do this." You know, I've always been like, "I don't think I want to do this forever," but now I'm like, really had to think about, "I don't think I can do this," you know. And it's really taxing. And so, you know, New York's been lucky, it's been really busy here. But it also made us all kind of get really great jobs at young ages, so all the people who are in their 30s like, we all have like great supervising gigs, whereas like it used to be that the supervisors were in their 50s and stuff. But now, all my friends are like, "Well we're in our 30s and like we've done all the jobs we want to do." Like, "We've done all the big jobs.

 

JEREMY :

 

Oh wow. So it’s time for something else then?

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, it's like, "Oh okay," like, "I just supervised a job for Martin Scorsese's thing, and like, Baz Luhrmann." And another person, you know, she supervised for the Steven Spielberg movie that was in town. And there is just like all this stuff around and we're, you know, all like, "Okay, now what?" Like, we did it, so do we do this for another 20 years?

 

JEREMY :

 

Right, and get tendonitis in both arms.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah. Or, you know, like have to have back surgery by the time you're 40 and, you know, it's not all like that bad, but you do have to be really careful.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah. Oh, I checked out your website and I think I should plug that right now, and I'm going to. The website is AmyTeets.com. That's 'A', 'M' as in Mary. 'Y' as in yellow. 'T' as in teeter-tot. 'E E T S' dot com. AmyTeets.com. Go ahead and check it out today, because it's awesome. Amy, if you had to define yourself in the third person, what would you say?

 

AMY :

 

What I would say about myself is that like… this is how I feel I am. I grew up in like, a really rural area and now I live in the middle of Manhattan, basically.

 

JEREMY :

 

Where did you grow up, by the way?

 

AMY :

 

Like an hour north of Cincinnati.

 

JEREMY :

 

Oh, okay.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, like near Miami University of Ohio, which is like, actually in the middle of nowhere, just like a really rural area, you know. We had goats growing up as a kid. I was in like, the county fair and in 4H and everything. I mean, you’re a blank, and it's like, it's like basically the Post Office. Which, by the way, the Post Office now is open from like, 11:00 a.m. to like 2:30 p.m. The people who work there only work there like, four hours a day.

 

AMY :

 

I'm sending in my application immediately after this interview.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah. I would describe myself in the third-person as someone who can kind of like, fit in with anybody, and sort of be at home and like, find commonality with pretty much anybody. And I think it's possible for everybody, if they just kind of like, open their minds a little bit. But I think because I grew up in this really small town and, you know, understand where those people are coming from, and then live here among like ex-Pats from other countries and, you know, my friends here who are all transplants, and the people who are from New York and all of this, and sort of get like an idea of like, what people are about.

 

JEREMY :

 

Would you be able to find commonality with a Trump supporter? I'm assuming that you likely didn't vote for him this past election.

 

AMY :

 

It's been funny because on Facebook, you know, when I truly have hidden like most of my high school friends, and I do have some friends who live there, and I just saw him when I was home and I posted on his wall something about, I’m like, "You know, we're in it together, like I was just at the Women's March, you know. Don't like… we're going to get through this." We're like, the energy in New York right now is palpable. Everybody is fired up. We're all meeting. We're like, calling our Senators. My entire Facebook feed is full of people and like, numbers to call and actions to take. And everyone is really fired up and I'm like, I think that whatever it is or whatever change can possibly come of this. People here are really excited about, like, very energetic about it, and you can feel it. Like, you can feel it in the air and, I posted on my friend's wall like, you know, “I'm with you, you know, this is really scary. I've been listening in another podcast called "Pod Save America" and I'm like, “You know, the Russian thing is getting even more terrifying”, and, somebody like, wrote on his wall and try to get in a fight with me. [laughs]

 

JEREMY :

 

Oh really?

 

AMY :

 

And I'm like, never on Facebook, ever, I never post anything. I'm a really open person when you meet me, but like, I'm very private online. I feel like it's really dangerous for women to express opinions on the Internet. Let's take Leslie Jones, for example. So I am really careful about like, what I put out there. It's been really hard actually, even just to like, post for my website-like blog. For me, it just feels, like, dangerous. You know, it doesn't feel safe there.

 

JEREMY :

 

That's unfortunate.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, I don't know. I mean, and I don't know like, apparently no one gives a fuck about like changing policy on it, so you can just do whatever you want and like give up people’s home addresses and tell them you're going to like, murder and rape, like, women all the time, and like, no one's doing anything so...

 

JEREMY :

 

Have you experienced any of that?

 

AMY :

 

No, but I'm like, terrified of it. I've read so many articles about how helpless you can be. There's nothing to do about any of that and how no one's safe. I just read an article about somebody who, and Wikipedia apparently, only like 90 percent of the Wikipedia editors are men and this woman now, but like 10 years ago when she was 12 she started to make tiny edits on Wikipedia and she gets internet-trolled from other Wikipedia editors like, on the reg.

 

JEREMY :

 

Wikipedia editors? That's just crazy to me.

 

AMY :

 

I know, I was completely shocked as well when I read this article. So, every time she gets like the same thing - giving out her address, telling her they're going to rape or murder her all the time, because she wants to contribute to Wikipedia. So every time she gets, I guess, the article was basically like, every time she gets internet trolled, she'd then post another Wikipedia page for a female scientist on Wikipedia and dedicates it in the honor of the internet troll who just trolled her.

 

JEREMY [narration]:

 

Just an FYI to my listeners out there, I had some weird things happening with the audio, so it kind of interrupted the flow of the conversation, but we'll definitely hop right back to it. Thanks for bearing with me on this one; still working out a little bit of the audio kinks, but we'll get through it! Amy Teets is a very interesting and awesome person, so on with the podcast.

 

JEREMY :

 

So, do you have the name of the Wikipedia editor who keeps getting trolled?

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, her name is Emily Templewood.

 

JEREMY :

 

Emily Templewood.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, and if you go on Medium and just search for 'Wikipedia' and her name, that will, it's like, from February 6, so.

 

JEREMY :

 

I'll definitely check that out, thank you.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah.

 

JEREMY :

 

Okay, my next question is, and, we don't have to go too far down this rabbit hole or anything...

 

AMY :

 

No, it's fine!

 

JEREMY :

 

Okay well, my question then is: How bad do you think it is now? Are we talking about, once again, rampant misogyny here? In both a, not just in a psychological sense, but kind of the crazy, weird, passive-aggressive stuff guys do, but also in a physiological sense. I mean, what's going on out there? How bad do you think it is?

 

AMY :

 

You know, it's funny, I was trying to convince my mom that I didn't think Hillary should run, because I didn't think she could win because of like, the context of the world that I actually work in, and how the film industry is like, pretty blue-collar in that way, and we don't have like, an HR department... Oh, I probably mentioned how I had to have somebody kind of let go for sexual harassment, and after I went to the producers, it was sort of like, I wrote it all out, I was like, "Wow, this was something I and a lot of people sort of tolerated and don't really think about" or, I don't know, I guess being a gen-Xer, I don't really feel like my voice is… or maybe I just silenced my voice for a really long time and now I'm like, older and I'm like, "I don't give a fuck." I think in particular what we were talking about was I was on this job and this guy was just always really sleazy, and I just always got a really bad vibe from him. What ended up happening was that, I wrote it all down because it had gotten pretty bad, and I was like, "I don't want to deal with this anymore." And I realized that if I didn't protect the extras that were coming in and having to deal with him and his comments, you know, if they complained and I hadn't said anything, it's like, it's not just about me and protecting myself. It's about protecting them and my crew, and I was like, "Well, let's get all the examples and write them all down," and it ended up being like, three pages of examples of how he was inappropriate, or like just didn't do his job. And then when he did get let go... I went to my female unit production manager who like, runs the money and the office, and then the female producer on a female-created show, and my entire department was women except for the head designer, but... We all went in and we talked to our female producers and it was like, they were like, "We had no idea it was so bad." And what had happened was that he got given to us to work behind-the-scenes checking in extras because the lead of the show I was working on didn't like him and said that she didn't want him on set anymore. Because of the same reason. And I'm like, "This is just irresponsible." Like, if one of us says that he's a creep, I don't know, it's like - we're taught we can't really trust our instincts, but we need to look out for each other. And so, they gave him to us, even though the star of the show said he was a creep. And he got let go.

 

JEREMY :

 

How long did it take for him to get fired?

 

AMY :

 

It was 10-episode season, so it was one full-season of him and then maybe I guess I got through half of the second season, and I was like, "I can't do this”. Because, we had actually asked for him not to be allowed back, that we wanted to hire somebody else, and the producer who ended up firing him was like, "Oh it's fine. I already promised him the job. He contacted me privately because, you know, he's a creep." And she's like, "I'll talk to him.” And then she didn't talk to him, so then she didn't want me to call the lawyers or like, get anybody from the studio involved in L.A. because, you know, first of all, it would come like, way bad on her for not talking to him and rehiring him, even though we asked that he not be hired. Because, you know, we're working directly with him. Like, I guess I hadn't said it loud enough, you know. And that was on me too. You know, it's my responsibility to kind of like, say it a little bit louder.

 

JEREMY :

 

That's not something you should have to say loudly whatsoever. I mean, if someone just whispers something like that, people should immediately pounce on it. That's just, you know, common sense to me.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, and that's what happened was that I whispered it. I was like, "Can't he be on set some days? Like, I'm over this guy. He’s a… I don't like him, I don't like having him all time. Can we like, split it up with somebody? Can we alternate episodes?" And that's when I found out he wasn't allowed on set at all. And I'm like, "Well this is bullshit." So after I found out about that, it took me about a week and I got him out of there and, you know, he said at first, he was going to fight it and then he didn't. Like, he didn't have any... There was no moral standing and so, I made a few calls just to let other people know like, this is what happened. Like my ex-boyfriend and some other people who might be hiring him, because he works in the production department like on-set so, you know, it wasn't like I could like call my union and get protected through that. So we have to go through, like, because we don't really have an official HR department, there's like a lot of different ways that these things can fall through the cracks.

 

JEREMY :

 

Gotcha.

 

AMY :

 

And, you know, I haven't seen him since. Which is fine. I'm not like scared of him, I guess. I'm glad that like, he never reached out to me on social media or anything and tried to like, retaliate, or say anything. I was very lucky. But after he left, I got approached by like three or four different people and they were like, "I never liked that guy" or "he used to harass me as well" and "I'm so glad" or like "I yelled at him last year because he used to harass one of the office PAs" and, you know, I got a lot of people come up to me afterwards to tell me that they were glad he was gone.

 

JEREMY :

 

What you reminded me of was this guy from Australia. He took a trip to Thailand and he was stationed in Bangkok and evidently, he was surrounded a lot of times by guys who were gay but really just they didn't care about, you know, doing the catcalls to other guys. It was like, pretty intense like, I think he was probably propositioned a number of times and it got pretty intense. And he was like, "You know, I used to do this stuff to women. Now I understand that, wow-" it kind of gave him a really sick feeling and kind of made him kind of scared and objectified and all this stuff. I'm like, "I wish every guy who totally objectifies women like that, they should go and experience something like that." Seriously, I think it's needed, you know?

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, there was something - it might have been on This American Life and this woman was like, interviewing a bunch of guys from Australia and he's like, "No, they like it. They like it, they think it's fun." Like, when...

 

JEREMY :

 

I heard that!

 

AMY :

 

Did you listen to that one?

 

JEREMY :

 

Yes! That was a crazy episode, wasn't it? Like, "No, they like it." I can't do an Australian accent. But yeah, that was insane to me. Even the girl, God bless her, she was like, so intent on making them understand, trying to bring some reason into their lives and showing them statistics and facts and all that. But some... I don't know, it was like the guy was barely convinced at the end, you know?

 

AMY :

 

Yeah. I mean, and it's funny because like, living here... I don't know, I think I used to get catcalled worse in Philly, like for some reason I found Philly to be like, a little bit louder. But it's hilarious to me because like, I always joke with like that video of that woman get a catcalled and stuff, I'm like, "Well, it's like an African-American thing." Sometimes it's like more that, like during the day, like they do it when they're sober, and then the white guys always do it when they're like, wasted. So it's like, walking around my neighborhood during the day it's like, you know, my African-American friends, and at night it's like these dumb, drunk white boys, you're like "Okay."

 

JEREMY :

 

Okay, great! Getting hit from all sides here!

 

AMY :

 

Yeah.

 

JEREMY :

 

Let's switch gears a little bit - I wanted to ask you: When you die, what, if anything, do you want to be remembered for?

 

AMY :

 

I want to be remembered as a person who was giving and loving to her friends and family, and that the people in my life feel like they have been supported and loved. And I think that's it, that sums it up.

 

JEREMY :

 

That's really cool. That's some fundamental life stuff right there. But going on to a different direction then, is that part of your fundamental passion in life? To be there for family and friends, or is your passion like, you know, is it the user experience designer, a costumer, or is it you want to do something else? The new… this Amy actually eventually wants to go overseas and become a doctor without borders

or something like that.

 

AMY :

 

No, I mean I think, I guess the whole thing that feeds into it is like, with the costuming thing, and then got me into the U-X, is that I love to make, you know, that chaos and like creating that moment when they walk in and they're so like, disoriented and making it easier for everybody and less stressful. It's like how, I think that I'm a really efficient person and I understand, like I said, like a bunch of different point-of-views and can kind of see like big picture stuff and like, learning about how people learn and how people understand different things. And that's the part of the costuming and the costume-supervising that I loved, was to make things easier for everybody and easier to understand and things to run smoother and be less stressful. And that's the passion that I take into like, designing websites and - because like I mean, how many times, I don't know if your parents call you and ask you to teach them how to use their iPad, but mine do that like on a regular basis. Or how to use their iPhone and I'm like, "Well, if my dad can work this thing that I'm making while he's drunk in his hot-tub, then we've succeeded." You know, as long as my dad can use it, like, while he's drinking whiskey, like whatever doing his thing, that's a good product and it's easy to use. And I think that it kind of goes into my whole thing of just like, being there for friends and like trying to make their lives easier and, you know, this morning I was just thinking about... I had like a whole thing because the dog has like, some parasite. And I was just like, really overwhelmed with the vet's message, and the first few visits to the vet are really expensive, especially in New York. And you're like, "Alright, so is my vet ripping me off?" And I called three friends and, you know, they all call me back, basically all the same time even though like, I text each of them at different times and my first friend was like, "Yeah, this is how we do this." Like, you can't navigate New York without double checking with all your friends, because like you can't even trust Yelp, you know. And so you're like, "Well is my vet ripping me off or is this actually a thing," and it's like, "Do I really need to give them all this medicine? Is this like the, you know, a comparable cost?" And it's like that with everything here, it's like: “Well, what about your dentist? What about your hair stylist? Like, where are you going to get every last little thing?” You just can't do anything on your own. You know, I've been thinking about that a lot lately. To go off on my own tangent, is like - when I was in Ohio, my parents had workers in their home and this woman who I had been nice to for like, three or four days and introduced her to the puppy and she's like, "Oh, where do you live again?" And she's like, "Where are you visiting from?" And I'm like, "Well, I'm not visiting" Like I still consider that my home. You know, that's where I'm from, that's like, part of who I am, you know, is this small-town part, like, small town girl. This farm girl - like that farm girl was always there. "Oh, where are you visiting from?" I'm like, "New York." And she like, literally flinched. She flinched!

 

JEREMY :

 

Really? Flinched?

 

AMY :

 

Yeah. And she like gave me a look and I'm like, "We've been friends for three days!"

 

JEREMY :

 

Why?

 

AMY :

 

I think there's this fake news out there about how New Yorkers are all... Like elitists, like liberal, like assholes, and that we think we're better than everybody else. Somebody said like - I don't know where I read this, that they think that we're like the Capitol in the Hunger Games.

 

JEREMY :

 

[laughs] Really?

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, and I'm like, "Uuuuhhhm..."

 

JEREMY :

 

Wow, talk about putting something huge into a small box.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah. And I'm like, "Guys but like, you know, like I don't know if you all work like, 60 to 80 hours a week like where you live. But like, that's what we do. So I don't really think that that's comparable. The people in ‘The Capitol’ in the movie like, don't really like, work at all, so..."

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah, that's really unfair.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, I mean it just it really bothers me because it's like, they all want the same thing. Like, knowing them and growing up with them, and then being here--and it's like they're truly just like, turning us against each other and making us into two different colors, which makes no sense to me when, you know, we all want, like, a good living. You know, being from, like seeing both sides. I mean I was raised in a very, don't get me wrong, I was raised in a very liberal house. You know, that we watched the news every night, I was like, raised on Dan Rather and, you know, my father was never into Republicans. And I was definitely raised in like, at my high school--you know, my parents had their Master's degrees but like, a lot of people that I went to school with, you know, lived in trailer parks and their parents didn't make a lot of money. And so there was a lot of growing up - I was always like, trying to be the voice of reason and being like, "Well, you know, black people aren't all bad." That's an actual phrase that would come out of my mouth, like, growing up. "They are not all bad."

 

JEREMY :

 

You had to actually convince people that not all black people were bad?

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, these like political debates you get into in high school are like, basically so base.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

AMY :

 

And I mean, I don't mean to generalize everybody I graduated with, but like there was some serious racism there and it's overt. It's not subvert at all.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah, and that's been coming out a little bit more recently too, with this past election I think, you know?

 

AMY :

 

Yeah like, that was twenty years ago, you know, the only thing that like, has changed really in my area is the heroin epidemic. And I was just talking to a friend of mine who was like, "How many people have we gone to highschool with and we graduated with who are dead now?" Like O.D.ed. It's like, it's a lot.

 

JEREMY :

 

Like what is a lot?

 

AMY :

 

I mean she said, "Oh do you remember this person and that person?" And I'm like, "Yeah." And I'm like, "Well I don't know." And she mentioned like, three or four people from her graduating class and she's a couple years younger. And I said, "Oh, you know, this person and that person is dead," and I'm like, "this person was found in a ditch," and I was like, "Whatever happened to that girl in that class that they said she got murdered?" And they're like, "No, she just O.D.ed and he stuffed her in a closet-" like, crazy.

 

JEREMY :

 

What?

 

AMY :

 

Yeah.

 

JEREMY :

 

And this is all in Okeana, Ohio?

 

AMY :

 

Well like, what's happening in the Cincinnati area, in the Midwest. I mean, pretty much like in West Virginia and stuff is the oxy epidemic and I guess New Hampshire had said that that was one of their main issues this election is like, the oxy and heroin epidemic is insane right now. You know, my little brother was a drug addict for twenty years, so I definitely have like a personal... And now he's a drug counselor, so I have a lot of information about it because he's been sober for like five years and working at a drug treatment facility. Yeah, I mean there's at least in my grade, there's at least--right off the top of my head, I know there's at least one or two people that I graduated with who have passed, that have O.D.ed. That's at least. I mean, we were just talking in casual conversation over the years we could think of like, six people within like, three grades and that's - we don't even know everybody, you know.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah. Is crystal meth also something that's still rampant?

 

AMY :

 

I was asking my brother about that and he's like, "Not as much." You know, they don't see it as like, as often in their area, it's just mostly like oxy and heroin.

 

JEREMY :

 

Oh, okay.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah.

 

JEREMY :

 

Gotcha. Are you religious at all? I mean, growing up in rural communities, a lot of times there's pretty strong religious roots there.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah. My family was... that's a pretty, it's a very like kind of long story.

 

JEREMY :

 

Go for it.

 

AMY :

 

My family - we didn't go to like, organized church. You know, I think my dad considers, like, nature to be his place of like spirituality. And I would say that he probably would say that he does believe in God I think, but we don't really, you know, we didn't grow up in a religious house. My mom was raised Quaker, so she  went to boarding school and she like has her own--she can be really quiet. You know, like they have like a very meditative prayer practice, so at meetings and the whole thing, but we never went to meetings growing up and... Pretty sure my mom prays and she has her, you know, she considers herself to have a relationship with her God to use turn a phrase from the Christian community.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah

 

AMY :

 

In my high school experience, there was a secular youth group called Young Life. And because my brother had started using in like sixth and seventh grade and I was two years older, right when he started using and my home life got really chaotic, I started to go to this youth group and got really into church like, all through high school. So I was like born again in high school, actually.

 

JEREMY :

 

Oh wow. But it was a secular church?

 

AMY :

 

Oh yeah. It was a secular youth group that they do through high schools.

 

JEREMY :

 

Oh okay.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, and then you like after that--when I got my license, I would like either go with friends to church on Sunday and then Bible study on like another night. And then, this youth group on another night and I ended up at a First Baptist Church I guess. One of the youth leaders there was like, my youth leader from the other thing, so.

 

JEREMY :

 

Oh okay.

 

AMY :

 

But the whole thing like fell apart in like this royal, amazing way. My youth leader got his girlfriend pregnant and had to quit the church and the youth group, and Danny was just getting worse. And it was like, my family for a little while and it just wasn't--it just wasn't safe anymore.

 

JEREMY :

 

Right.

 

AMY :

 

Like, it didn't feel like home anymore. You know, I was just kind of like lost all over again. But like, you know, it meant a lot to me at that time and I understand, like, why it was so important. And that's another way that I like, I guess I can see from that point of view and like how they believe so passionately about things. But it was like, a lot of the things that when I was in high school, you know, are still kind of hard to swallow like, the whole gay thing and I'm like, "Come on you guys. Like, it's not a choice." And I just think that like, you know, growing up in a very accepting home, it's really hard to learn hate I guess. And some of what I saw is like, it comes from a place of hate. I mean, not saying that like, all these people were but they, you know, a lot of them were. Like, they do use Christianity as an excuse to hate. And anybody who tells you differently is lying to themselves and lying about people they're hanging out with, because I mean, I saw it, I was in it. It was like--it wasn't always like, up front and center but, you know, people bring their prejudices to wherever they're at. Even if it's a church.

 

JEREMY :

 

Of course. Yeah, and you can always use scripture to, in whatever context you want to, defend your weird point of view or whatever point of view - even if it's a good point of view. I mean, you can totally use it.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah exactly. Which is dangerous.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

AMY :

 

And over the years - like in college I, you know, at the end high school I like, pretty much all but dropped out of like, going to church, and in college like that definitely was not on my agenda. Just like, not like sort of a crisis of faith, I guess. In college, I started doing yoga, started focusing like more on that. And like, thinking about meditating and stuff. Then like, over the years, it sort of started to be more of my life and like, seeking some sort of like spiritual side. And last November, right after the election actually--it came at a really good time. I learned Vedic meditation, which is mantra-based meditation. Let's see, how many months is that? Three months now.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

AMY :

 

I've been meditating twice a day for twenty minutes a day.

 

JEREMY :

 

That's really cool.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah.

 

JEREMY :

 

They say it's really good, I mean it helps in so many different ways, like even with physiologically speaking as well as just helping us focus and, in all aspects of life it's totally beneficial.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah and it's been really great and it's like, not any other - like I've tried a bunch of different types of meditation and this one like--I think is just a matter of finding the one that kind of, like, clicks with you and it's the same with finding your God and finding your own space, if wherever that journey may lead you. So for me, this really clicked and it's been really awesome. It's really intense at first because you're sort of like, bringing up all these past stresses. And so, one of the funniest things was like, I felt really at peace but I was like, everything was so on the surface. And I had a couple of people pick fights with me. This background person called me a fucking bitch at work. And it was... [laughs] Like the week after the election, so like no one was having it. Everybody was like, "You don't get to talk to women like that. This is not anything we're doing," like you know, people ganged up on--like I didn't even have to say anything. And I have never been spoken to before like that at work, like that was unbelievable.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah seriously! What the hell did you do that would prompt such a ridiculous response anyway?

 

AMY :

 

I mean it was so over the top. I was like, "Whatever rage you're feeling makes no sense like in so many ways." Like he was mad that he had to stand in line, even though I said he shouldn't be standing in line. And then he was like, "When are we going to get wrapped? This is nonsense. I've been standing here for 10 minutes," and I'm like, "Yeah but you're getting paid for another four hours. So like-"

 

JEREMY :

 

So shut up.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, so like everything about his anger was completely absurd. But it was like, I had turned myself into a lightning rod. It was like hilarious - and I almost got like--some girl tried to start a fight with me at a bar, and I was just like completely... I was like more furious than ever, but I was so calm.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah. Totally.

 

AMY :

 

It was the weirdest thing. So yeah, so that was really funny.

 

JEREMY :

 

So that's how it's helped you, I guess, in your day to day life - to just deal with--to not take things at face value. Like, that's their problem. You're not taking that on a personal level. Is that what you're saying too, that it's helped you do that?

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, I mean the funniest part is that like that's neither one of those things really--they rarely ever happen. And it was somehow like me being so sort of like Zen out was like a lightning rod for people to kind of like... It was like attracting this anger for like a week. It was just really funny. But since then it's like every--you know, I haven't gotten yelled at, it's just sort of like you're in the flow and like, very specifically for me, just like sort of being content with where I'm at in life, and trying not to get so stressed out about the past and the future, and being really in the moment. I mean it's so cliché, but it's like really true and it's like this feeling of, kind of like a wanting or that like longing for something else is sort of fulfilled in some way and you're like sort of it's like ineffable. If you feel that I guess and like you have that in your life then once it goes away you're like, “Oh that's gone now. Cool.”

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah. It is such a relief. People say live in the moment and all that but it is your right. That’s a fundamental truth that we always tend to forget and it's almost like maybe there's something hardwired in our DNA that tries to pull us away into the future and pull us back to the past and both are just... It's neither beneficial unless you’re like, you know, goal setting and practical matters for thinking about the future but not stressing out about, “Well what if what if I grow a fourth arm?”, assuming that you had a third arm already, you know? In the future and that's going to cause me something exciting because I've already dealt with the 3rd arm before, you know? Things like that in the past like, “I can't believe I stole that ice cream truck when I was 10!”

 

AMY :

 

I guess it was probably from like a hard wired like, you know where the danger was before and you're like looking out for the danger ahead. But, you know, we can get really mired in it on like the stress and all that, and everything.

 

JEREMY :

 

So what do you think Amy are the biggest things, and you can take some time thinking about this one and maybe just focus on three, the biggest things that need to be fixed, on this planet, this day.

 

AMY :

 

Today? Just today?

 

JEREMY :

 

Well, let's just say that during this period of time, at this at this very point in time, what are the biggest things that are wrong in your eyes with this -- with what's going on the planet. It doesn't have to be political, it can be or environmental or it doesn't have to be just completely on the liberal side of thought. It can be whatever.

 

AMY :

 

I think that what needs to be fixed like in the immediate is, clearly climate change is real. We have to get on top of that sooner than later. Doesn't look like it's happening any time soon because everything that is going down is just like a hot mess. I mean it's 60 degrees right now in New York and it's February 20th. Like that's not right.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah. It's like 200 degrees here in Austin. So that... there's something wrong there.

 

AMY :

Yeah exactly. It's, you know, only because I don't think it's reversible so, I'm not sure. You know I feel like that's an immediate issue. I think the second part is, just seeing people from... like allowing people to have their own their own space to find their own god. Stop trying to make your god the right god.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

AMY :

 

That I think will get us to a lot farther place and maybe just a kinder place and then people if they're interested and they can find it themselves. And then there's a safer place for them to, you know, root out their own truth and like find their own their own safe place and their own happiness. There's like a real, with like my meditation is, especially if you're going to teach it is that... I forget the phrase exactly but it's like you have to ask a few times about it and show genuine interest so when -- unless people show me genuine interest and want to go to learn more about my particular type of meditation, it's not like I'm going to like -- the rule is like don't unless they ask like a couple times like, you know, of course like send them in the right direction. But, you know, giving people the freedom to find their own find their own place.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah. No shoving things down the throat.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah. It's like, you know, some of the other stuff that I've been listening to about how we create radical Islam and our responsibility in that. And that by persecuting regular Muslims and it makes me... it just breaks my heart.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah, me too.

 

AMY :

 

Because it's like you can't to say that these people are just like fleeing to radicalism on their own. Like something happens to them and I don't know if that's all, number two and then number three, I just feel like we need people to seek the actual truth. And like what's happening in the news right now and I was just watching the documentary, is it the 13th? Or the… It’s 13th. About the 13th Amendment and it's about black history and preventing African-Americans from voting and the prison system and the drug war and... I think that a lot of those things really need to be addressed in order for us to make real change in our country. I guess that’s four. [laughs]

 

JEREMY :

 

No no, that's fine, you can list as many as you want. This is good stuff!

 

AMY :

 

But I think the most important thing in, to go back to what you said earlier about like a person who kind of was like a dick to me on Facebook and he was like, you know, “give this person a chance. If you don't like it then you can leave.” And I'm like “OK, number one I don't have to like…” And I said this, I'm like, “It's America. I don't have to like the president just like you don't”. That’s our freedom and I could say that… loudly!

 

JEREMY :

 

Exactly!

 

AMY:

 

On every social media site. It's still legal to do that! It’s still legal. And I don't necessarily need to be bullied into trying to shut up but that's my actual freedom in this country and somebody else was like “you're making Russia a scapegoat”. And what terrifies me about the people who are on the other side of this is that it's so hard for them to decipher what actually is the truth and they're getting half-truths so much and like taking them as the law and rules and as this is actually happening and it's so easy for the current administration to tell so many half-truths and actual total lies.

 

JEREMY :

I believe they're called alternative facts

 

AMY :

 

Alternative facts?!

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah, just to correct you there!

 

AMY :

 

Exactly. To me that's one of the most dangerous things right now in this administration is telling lies as if they're truths and then convincing people of those things and then people not caring enough to actually find out whether or not it's actually true. And like fact checking it and the whole thing about the fake news was that the guy who was posting the fake news is like well, “when I put out fake news about...”, unlike liberal sites he's like, “the liberal people like completely debunk it within like the comment section within like the first four comments”, and he's like, “if I can put out fake news on the alt right sites no one debunks anything.” I mean I don't, maybe I'm paraphrasing it, but it's dangerous.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

AMY :

 

And I'm sure there's an article about this but it's something that we've been talking about and it's a dangerous place to live when you don't know where the actual truth is.

 

JEREMY :

 

Well I just heard an interview with Stephen Colbert, I can't remember the podcast but he was saying, “you know, when we can't all agree on what reality is, then we have no basis for a discussion.” I mean I'm paraphrasing that for sure but that's what it is. Like, reality now is all of a sudden…

 

AMY :

 

In question?

 

JEREMY :

Warped. Yeah.

 

AMY :

 

And the minute they start to create an alternative reality, then they can do actual dangerous things and get away with it.

 

JEREMY:

 

Yeah.

 

AMY :

 

You know it's this alternative reality that Hitler started... It's very, very close to what happened. It's like terrifying to me. Now there's immigration stops, somebody posted on Facebook there was an immigration stop in Queens and they're like, “it's between this block and this block, avoid it.” I mean, this was a white friend of mine reposting it on Facebook. It's like, this is really happening in New York right now, where it used to be like a safe haven for people to try to get on their feet and, you know, they all pay taxes! So… [laughs]

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah, and Lady Liberty is right there too, you know, walk over there... Yeah [laughs] I know what they're saying that's it. You know, some people would probably think, “Oh Amy, that's just hyperbole”, about the, you know, referencing Hitler and whatnot but I mean you got to think about how... I mean I'm no expert on the subject, historically speaking, but yeah that's -- I think there are some definite there's some definite parallels and a lot of people would agree with you.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah. That's what I mean and this is how it started it's like, he created a world where they don't trust the media and more and they don’t trust the news. These are the first steps. It's really scary to me. I was at home with my dad and he puts on CBS News and, you know, for him that's his news or whatever and that's his choice. The interview was like, “How do you think the new president is doing?” And they went to like a diner in the Midwest and interviewed a bunch of likes, fifty / sixty-year-old white dudes.

 

JEREMY :

 

[laughs] Right.

 

AMY :

 

And I was like, “Okay, so we know how fifty and sixty-year-old white dudes feel”, like they had a voice for the last 200 years. I mean I am really curious about how many white dudes there are in America and how much, [laughs] you know, how much voice they have. Like what's the proportion? Like you're killing me.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah yeah I know it's -- Do you know, being this like kind of middle aged white dude. I'm like wow I'm in this weird demographic right now or I'm just going to start saying I'm a very light complexed Latino. [laughs]

 

AMY :

[laughs] Yeah. It's like “guys, we’re fucking coming for you.”

 

JEREMY :

[laughs] Seriously! I'm like yeah that's probably about time, you know!

 

AMY :

 

With my liberal gay agenda… [laughs]. My single lady…

 

JEREMY :

 

You know, I think if anything though out of this whole political like you said ‘hot mess times 10’ really is that, wow! It's really, like you said earlier too, is that it's firing people up. There's an energy in the air and people are rising up, you know? The gay population, women, minorities. And that to me is probably, if there is a silver lining to it, that's a beautiful silver lining right there. People are standing up they’re not just -- it's like, what 50 years ago or so? We just got, supposedly got rid of like segregation, even though I've heard stories of schools in the south still having to be federally mandated to not segregate their children but I don't know that -- I can't. I'd have to look that up. Maybe I’ll try to find a reference for that.

 

[music plays]

 

JEREMY :

 

You know, what I mean? It's like why we can't regress. But at the same time I'm glad to see that people are rising up, you know?

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, it's mobilizing people I guess? It's inspiring people to get more active for sure and be louder. And when you realize that you're not the only voice or you're not the only one who feels like that it's easier to kind of say your truth and speak your mind and fight for it, you have to fight. Like now we have to fight for it which is -- I guess we were being a little naive about it before when the Koch brothers have been winning state elections and preparing senators and for years, and that's where, you know, the one side has now come into really strong power

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah, very strong power. Well I have just two more questions for you. The first one being, and since we delved deep into a little bit of the murky waters of the present state of things. What do you think are the best things about life here on Earth how does -- what does Amy Teets see as being, “Wow, this is a really beautiful thing that's going on my planet and what…” I don't know, it could be you’re grateful for this blade of grass that Toby A.K.A. Ash gets to go play in sometimes. I am going to call him Toby, by the way.

AMY :

 

No worries. I like it. He's been sleeping the whole time, it's been nice.

 

JEREMY :

 

[laughs] Amazing!

 

AMY :

 

[laughs] That's what I'm thankful for! [laughs] he's like napping. I'm thankful for every puppy nap. Everything aside, I am really lucky that I am a woman who came of age during this time and that I have my own career, my own life and, you know, I can have a leadership role in my life and I can provide for myself. And that wasn't always the case. You know and that there is a place now for women who are unmarried and I’m not looked down upon like a social pariah or something like that and I can just live my life.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

AMY :

 

And I'm thankful for that. I mean, I guess it was just in the 70s and the 80s that like a woman couldn’t even in certain states you couldn't get a credit card without your husband's permission [laughs] and stuff like that.

 

JEREMY :

 

That’s crazy

 

AMY :

 

Yeah. Just like, you know, simple things. And yeah, I'm really thankful that I get to live here. And that was something I've always wanted to do. Ever since I was little on my goat farm, I've always wanted to live here and that I could like make that a reality.

 

JEREMY :

 

So cool. Were you like drawing pictures of, I don't know if you can draw pictures on goats, but like a map of New York with a goat friendly marker? [laughs] I don't know, but…

 

AMY :

 

It was just something I always wanted to do and I was like, “I have to get out of here”, or I just like, “dream big” and, you know, it really is -- I guess, like growing up, it really did surprise my parents they were like, “Where are you going? What?” They love their rural life, and it's like really quiet and I'm completely the opposite. So it really surprised them. But I was really happy that I get to live here and provide for myself. Some days it's harder than others and it feels like everything costs so much money here. But for the most part it's really great to be part of, you know this city has its own energy and it’s like a living breathing thing.

 

JEREMY :

 

No, I truly believe that too.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah. And once you finally get into the rhythm of it and you're in the zone with it. You can be, you know you’re simpatico with the city of New York and you like find your place within it. It can be a really great thing. It takes a little while, there's some bumps in the road as you start when you move here [laughs]

 

JEREMY :

 

Of course, yeah.

 

AMY :

 

It’s a harder place than most. But, like I said once you get your family here, your ‘friend-family’ and all that. You look out for each other.

 

JERMEY :

 

Yeah. I love New York. I need to go back. I want to go back. I'm going to get a plane ticket tomorrow. No I can't. But I want to.

 

AMY :

 

You should! come visit!

 

JEREMY :

 

...seriously. I'm going to visit, for sure. My last question actually is going to start off with having you imagine something for me.

 

AMY :

 

What?

 

JEREMY :

 

So. Imagine that one day you're walking through a lush green park. Let's say it's Hyde Park in London, on a beautiful spring day when suddenly a yellow spacecraft appears and out steps an alien who looks and talks very much like the British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, but does not blink much if at all. After exchanging pleasantries about the weather and what cricket is, the alien who has identified himself as an intergalactic journalist by the name of Ford Prefect from another more fashionable part of the galaxy, asks that you give him the most accurate description of how you see and understand life on this planet. What would you tell this alien?

 

AMY :

 

Urgh! It's so hard to answer the question without knowing his context of his life experience and how he understands it.

 

JEREMY :

 

Well, let's just say that he, you know, borrowing from probably some terrible B-movie I've seen in the past, that, he's been watching us from afar for a number of years anyway and he's just still -- he's kind of doing this little -- He's just researching the planet, you know? But he knows enough about it, you know, he knows enough context to identify what you're talking about. He'll know what you're talking about.

 

AMY :

 

OK. I guess that I would say that everybody has their own their own journey and everybody is sort of looking for what it means for them and for some people it's being creative and for some people it's making money and for some people it's finding God. And for some people it's finding love or a family or friends and family and their relationships, and that it's different for everybody. And that everyone’s sort of searching for their own place in the world. And that's sort of what the human journey is about. And I would also ask him why he looks like Benedict Cumberbatch.

 

JEREMY :

 

That's really cool. And yeah I did actually talk with him because this is a real person. Well, alien. I don't know if they call themselves people I didn’t ask him that. But yeah, he just saw an episode of Sherlock and thought well I'm going to mimic that. So he had actually a costumer put together a Benedict Bumberbatch costume.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah,I just finished watching that series. It's so good!

 

JEREMY :

 

Oh, it’s so -- I love that series. Seriously. Yeah, I still have to watch the final season but it is the final season right?

 

AMY :

 

Yhea, I think so. I mean because he's getting so famous, but, oh my god the final season dude. I just watched the final episode like last week I like saved it and then I was like, “no there's two of them!” Oh, it was the best.

 

JEREMY :

 

Really. Oh…

 

AMY :

 

I thought there was only three episodes but I think there's four or something and I was like I didn't realize that I was going to get to watch two more episodes. I was so stoked. And then I went back and rewatched. I like rewatched them all the time so I went back and like rewatched them from the first season.

 

JEREMY :

 

That’s what I just did too! I rewatched all of them up until the first -- this recent season -- so I can't wait. It's going to be awesome. Heck yeah! And I like that. I love your explanation too of how you see, you know, life and explaining kind of the, I don't know the human condition, what we're all after. That was cool. I can't wait to put this on the podcast and get this out there for whomever to listen to. So it's going to be cool. Well, Amy, thank you. Seriously thank you so much for taking time. I know you are incredibly busy so I really thank you for taking time out to talk with me. Give me your perspective on things. Is there anything else the last minute thoughts about like, “oh, you know what, this is actually part of my perspective! This is what defines me. Any last thoughts that you really want to get across about yourself?

AMY :

 

No, just that, it's so nice to talk about kind of like a higher truth or the reasoning behind certain things and kind of get into this idea of the human narrative and human existence because like this morning I was just feeling like, you know, when you feel like sort of overwhelmed and bogged down by the day to day. Because Toby over here has some sort of parasite that I have to give him, you know, like three things a day for the next week and I'm like, “Oh my god.”

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah

 

AMY :

 

And you're like I'm in charge of this little thing and it's or whatever. He doesn't seem sick. He's fine, you know, but he has something that could make him sick and I'm like, this sucks. And getting bogged down in the little tiny -- truthfully, the figurative and literal parasites of life [laughs]

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah

 

AMY :

 

Can be really overwhelming. But it's nice to -- That you took the opportunity to kind of like talk about something a little bit bigger than all of us.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah that's cool. I think we have to escape our ourselves a little bit and ask -- and you though, even though of course this is --  This episode is about you and your perspective but I know exactly, exactly what you're saying. Escaping the kind of micro-cosmic things that go on and start taking a lot of our attention, you know? I know what you're saying.

 

AMY :

 

It's like whenever I start to get bogged down by the minute details of some job I was trying to do and, you know, “we don't have like enough shoes for this scene and they want to put a bunch of people doing this in that scene and there's not the right color” and it's just all the minutiae of all this. I just call my parents and I'm like, “So what's happening in the country? What are you growing in the garden?”

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah.

 

AMY :

 

“Oh well we're having problems raccoons eating all the corn” [laughs] you know? Anyway, well thank you. I needed that.

 

JEREMY :

 

[laughs] Yes, seriously, even there, even you telling me that right there I was like, oh that sounds kind of --there’s something peaceful about that. I don't know why.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, that’s the biggest problem right now. They're like, “oh God the corn.” You know, “we just didn't get enough corn last year.” And it's, yeah it's a beautiful thing.

 

JEREMY :

 

Yeah it really is, there is something to simplicity. To be honest with you. So I understand. So cool. All right well, Amy thank you again, and take care of that Toby / Ash

 

AMY :

 

Thank you. I’ll send you a picture.

 

JEREMY :

 

Please do. Yeah! That would be cool.

 

AMY :

 

Yeah, totally.

 

JEREMY :

 

Well, Amy, you take care.

 

AMY : You too. Talk to you soon.

 

JEREMY [narration]:

 

Hey, thank you so much for checking out this episode of In The Shoes Of. If you like or don't like the podcast, feel free to leave a review or reach out to me. My email is JNickel@InTheShoesOf.Org. I'm Jeremy Nickel, the host and producer of the show. Until the next time, see you later.

 

[music plays]