In-Depth Interview With Lisa Cairns Discussing her Spiritual Journey (recorded 2020)

In this interview Lisa Cairns talks through her spiritual journey in depth, starting very early in life, leading into Buddhism in her teens, and eventually taking her to India and Australia. Further discussions with Lisa will be published at a later date.

Find out more about Lisa at

Interview & Transcript

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Interview Transcript

Louis: I’m Louis Allport, and today I’m speaking with Lisa Cairns, who has a very interesting story, and has been leading meetings regarding non-duality since 2011. So hi Lisa, thanks very much for taking the time today.

Lisa: Hey, Louis.

Louis: Initially, this may not be questions, these are more statements, and please tell me if any of this is incorrect. And it’s really just to, I guess, get the ball rolling with a conversation. But is it true to say that, like many of us, you looked for answers, or you were looking for answers?

Lisa: Yeah, yeah. For sure.

Louis: When did that start, and I guess what initiated it… when did it start, and in what form did it initially take?

Lisa: Yeah. So that’s so hard to find in the storyline, when it started.  I can see that I was a very curious kid.  So, I remember me and my dad used to go for walks, and I would just ask him all manner of things, and I took everything he said as gospel that that’s the way it was. So I can see that there was always this curious nature, and I used to think a lot and reflect a lot.

I remember at seven years old, laying in bed and reflecting on… I’m sure a lot of people have done that… if my parents hadn’t had sex, exactly that moment, would I have been created? And if I wasn’t created, and somebody else was created, would it be me, would I still be the same person, would I still be experiencing…  All these types of things, so it was obviously there in early childhood.

And then our family, like lots of people, like everybody has to in life, went through quite a lot of trauma. When I was about 9 or 10, my brother had, or was experiencing a lot of mental health problems. He was three years older than me and he got sectioned when he was about 12. And I think this was like a massive turning point in my life. I think his illness prior to that had begun to spark many questions that a nine year-old wouldn’t normally be asking. And then I think from what I experienced through watching my brother and watching my family, I think it began to arise questions about what the nature of reality was, what the nature of thinking was, what the nature of suffering was, how to stop suffering, all these types of questions.

And then I went through my teens… I was a very happy child.  And then when that began to happen in my family, I think that a lot of things changed in my family and I began to suffer a lot more. I began to do a meditation practice that I didn’t know that I was doing, but it was like a self-soothing. So when there were a lot of problems at home, I would go into the lounge and I would put on my mum’s headphones, she had these massive headphones.  And I would listen to music, like all types of romantic music and songs I loved, like musicals.  She always used to take me to musicals as a child, so all types of music that was inspiring and beautiful.

I used to imagine that I had a boyfriend, and this is really a bit embarrassing, but I’ve told it so many times that I just have to overcome that embarrassment. I used to imagine having a boyfriend, and I used to imagine the boyfriend, or girlfriend, it wasn’t actually just a boyfriend, it sometimes could be a girlfriend.  And I used to imagine them loving me.  And I used to imagine all the things that we would do together. And through this meditation, love used to begin to go all round my body. It was very soothing.

Then I’d get to a point in this, I didn’t know it was a meditation at the time, it was just something I started doing… and love would go all around my body.  And then I would get to a point where I stopped imagining the boyfriend or girlfriend loving me.  And then there was just love, I was just in love.

And that was really profound. I think that maybe started happening at 10, 11 or 12… because what I began to learn from that was that I could experience something without having it.  So I could experience something I wanted… so I could experience the love that I wanted from a boyfriend without actually having it or experiencing it.  And that’s quite a game changer. Because we’re always taught in our society, that love, or what we want in the future, you have to get it and obtain it. But I can do it all through my imagination, I could do it all by myself. So I concluded at age 11 or 12, that I didn’t need to actually have me a boyfriend to experience love and being in love.  And that I think had a big effect on me, as well.

So then I went into the arts, and I think I went into the arts because it talked about philosophy. So I was also good at it as well, so I think that was part of it.  But I think that I was attracted to it because a lot of the teachers were more open-minded, and would talk about more philosophical subjects.  And talk about psychology and questioning the nature of reality.

A lot of the teachers that I had, which was very lucky, tended to be a little bit alternative. It wasn’t just Godspell or Andrew Lloyd Webber that they did in drama, in the arts.  They tended to pick really deep plays, Shakespeare namely, but also writers from the 20th century that were really alternative, and really had a different way of seeing the world.  So I went into that, I think that was also a spiritual seeking.  And then officially, the first time that I really heard the word spirituality was when I came across it at university, and I was introduced to Buddhism.

I forget the initial question. That’s when I got into it. The first time was when I was about 19, I went to university and my friend introduced it, but I can see how it was there in my childhood.

Louis: So you said 18 or 19?

Lisa: Yeah, that I heard about Buddhism, and that I got into Buddhism. I was at University, and my friend had been practicing Buddhism since she was 15. This friend, this new friend that I’d made, and I thought that was really cool. I was really impressed by that.

Louis: Okay. I’m not overly familiar with the different types, which type of Buddhism was it?

Lisa: Yeah, yeah. It was predominantly Mahayana Buddhism, but it was called at the time The Foundation of the Western Buddhist Order, and the teacher tended to bring in all traditions. The way they set it up was he encouraged new teachers to teach, and they would bring in lots of different traditions as well.  But he was predominantly Mahayana Buddhism. So that’s I think the more colorful Buddhism… it’s like more colorful, more sutras, more… I think, I’m not positive about this because I’ve got a terrible memory, and this was years ago that I studied it. I’m now 40.

Louis: Okay, I have some follow up questions from that, but if I can jump back briefly…  Just a thought I had from what you were saying about the, I guess visualization meditation, or however you want to describe it. Would you say it is kind of… it sounds like a combination of visualization meditation and then loving-kindness meditation, in a way?

Lisa: In a way, but I would actually say now, it was Tantra. I was doing Tantra.  But I can see how you’d fit it into those as well. It’s all really related. But I think I was actually doing a very fundamental Tantra practice. So in Tantra, I’m sure there’s loads of different schools of Tantra, and I don’t know that much about it, but one quality of it is that in some traditions, is you have a guru, a female guru, I suppose it could be a man, but I think it was traditionally a female guru.  And then the men followers would… she would only take followers that were kind of in-love with her. She didn’t actually have to be alive, it could also be a goddess.  And they would use that in-love-ness to evoke love in themselves.  And then eventually, they would use that love to be able to see it in all other women, and then eventually, in all other humans, and all other things.

So I think that’s what I was really doing was Tantra. But you could see it as loving-kindness, because that’s kind of what loving-kindness… and that was a Buddhist practice I was taught and dearly loved as well was…  We called it the metta bhavana at the Buddhist Center I studied with, and it was about envisioning love and evoking love.

Louis: Okay. I have to say I’m not… I don’t have any knowledge at all of Tantra. I can admit, I’m a sporadic meditator, and I’ve tried different techniques over the years, and I did visualization meditation, which is why that jumped to mind…

Lisa: But it is a kind of a visualisation… it is kind of visualisation, and it is kind of something like metta bhavana, so it is I would say like a loving-kindness meditation.  But it also is Tantric.  I can see how it’s closely related to Tantra as well.

Louis: Okay, because I did vipassana for a while, and I guess it didn’t really… and then I changed over to loving-kindness, and loving-kindness was much better for me in many ways. I really enjoy that meditation, I recommend it to others, just because in my experience it’s easy, it’s nice.  You don’t have to try hard like some meditations. It’s just… I don’t know, I enjoyed the whole process and everything around it.

Lisa: I think it’s really beautiful, too.

Louis: Okay. So you’re 19. How did it… what happened next?

Lisa: Well, what happened next was that I befriended, I don’t know if I should mention her name, but I befriended a woman at university. I tended to bee-line for people that were alternative. It wasn’t a conscious thing. But I think that I struggled to fit into the category in which I was meant to be of a white middle class woman that was meant to behave in certain ways. And I would always, wherever I went, I would always be hunting for the person that thought differently, that was more open-minded or thought outside of the boxes.  But I couldn’t see that at the time. Never can.  It’s only in retrospect you can see these things.

So at university, I bee-lined for a very out of the box thinking woman, and we became very good friends.  We’re still good friends, but I spent I think about five years, living with her just as friends.  But I learned loads from her, and she got me interested in lots of different things. So she taught me about Buddhism, about meditation.  And then I went to the Buddhist Center, but first it was through her and her experiences. And even non-duality, I even think that she began to introduce non-duality.  But at the time, it was just Buddhism really that I went into.  So for five years after that, and up till about the age of 25, I practiced Buddhism quite intensely.

Louis: So quite a lot of meditation every day?

Lisa: Meditation.  One to two hours of meditation every day.  And then retreats, week-long retreats. I did vipassana retreats as well, ten day retreats, solo retreats, and going to lots of classes…  They used to call me a mitra, a friend of the Buddhist center. So it was all the introductory classes, and then eventually from mitra, you went on to be ordained, but I never went that far. But I got all these free classes that I went to.  Like small women groups, there would be ten women, and they would talk about different sutras, and we’d study different books from the guru, or the Buddhist teacher, his name was Sangharakshita.

Louis: Okay, so did you do one or two hours in one sitting or at different times?

Lisa: Different times. I’d do an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. Not every day. I mean, I tried to do it, I aspired to do it every day.  But life sometimes diverges your plans, moves you away. But that was my aspiration, and I kind of… when I commit to doing something, I tend to be quite committed.

The two main meditations that I practiced by myself was Metta Bhavana, which is the loving-kindness one, like you were describing.  It could be slightly different, but it was called a loving-kindness meditation.  And then the other one was the mindfulness of breathing, so the focus on the breath.  Were the two different practices that I practiced by myself. But I did also, when I went on retreats, they taught you different meditations.

So I did vipassana.  I love vipassana actually.  It was intense, but I loved it as well. I mean, meditation can be really hard when you begin, but when you really focus on it and begin to do it, it becomes easier. I mean, sometimes you can have very difficult meditations, but it becomes easier and easier over time. I can remember at first, I could barely do 20 minutes before my mind felt like it was going to implode. And then in vipassana, you’re kind of doing 10 hours a day, and that eventually becomes quite easy.

Louis: Did you experience benefits from meditation?

Lisa: Yes, certainly. I felt like I was quite scared of being by myself before that. And then after that, I felt like I could be by myself a lot more.  It helped me to relax, and not always have to fill my time with doing things.  And there were so many benefits to it.  I felt like it calmed my mind.  I felt like I understood myself a lot better from it.  It gave me a better perspective.

It made me see, most importantly it made me see that I’m not my thoughts.  I mean, one of the fundamentals of meditation is that thinking is happening, but that’s not actually who you are.  Before I started meditating, I didn’t know that my thoughts weren’t necessarily real. I mean, no thoughts are real, but at the time, if somebody was annoying me and I thought, “They’re annoying”, I thought that was true.  Not because I thought it, but because I just thought that was the truth. And meditation began to separate me from my thoughts. So I could see that thinking was happening, and it didn’t necessarily depict what was actually happening.

Louis: So a couple of related questions to that. Did you experience difficulties, especially at the start of the meditation process? And how did you overcome those, and what was the motivation during all those years to keep going and keep moving forwards with that?

Lisa: I think motivation is very complex, so I think there were lots of different motivations. I think one of them was that I had an idea that I wanted to become enlightened. I didn’t see the point in starting my life if I couldn’t have a basis of being happy. So I didn’t see the point in getting resources, if I couldn’t start from a base level of happiness.  I didn’t see that getting myself resources would fix my own unhappiness.

So I wanted to become enlightened.  I was really young and quite innocent (laughs).  I thought that that was possible.  And I thought… maybe if I didn’t think it would be enlightenment I thought, “I have to get more peace of mind”.  So I was determined to do it, before I started the game of getting resources or making choices about my life… that I would become more happy and balanced. So that’s one side of things.

I’m sure there was most probably many ego delusions in there as well. I liked the identity of it. I liked the idea of it. I’m sure there was also competition with my peers.  You know, you go into the Buddhist center, and you make friends. I’m sure there was also competition with other people appearing, competition with my partner who was also a Buddhist.  All those different types of things. But the one that seemed the loudest was that I didn’t want to start my life without sorting out my mind.

Louis: So if I can just ask… I think it’s probably true to say, like anything really, when people experience difficulties in something, they might give up, or there’s a good chance they’ll give up, especially if those difficulties are persistent. And obviously, something that applies to everyone is probably fitness goals. Of all the people that join the gym in January, probably not many are still going in February. And maybe meditation is similar.  If you don’t feel you’re making progress, or if life keeps getting in the way, or maybe you’ve simply chosen the wrong meditation style for you and you’re not aware. Did you have some of those roadblocks, or was it quite a smooth process?

Lisa: No, it wasn’t smooth. Meditation and training yourself to do that is difficult. But I seem to, it’s funny isn’t it, I seem to have determination for that.  You could say it’s God’s will.  I just had the determination for that. I mean there’s other things that I can’t keep up.  You say, “I’m going to do this every day”, and I couldn’t keep it up.  But I was absolutely convinced that this was the way to go for more peace of mind.

So there was, for some reason… I mean, I only did it for five years. In a way you could say I still meditate but it’s in a different manner. But I only did it that intensity for five years, but I was so determined that that was the way to do it. And there was just conviction there.  It’s really most probably God’s will, because there’s other elements that I say, “I’m not going to do this again”, or “I am going to do this again”, or “I want to do this every day”, and that doesn’t stick.  But, this did stick with me.

Louis: So if you don’t mind if we just go step-by-step, as I just like to I guess picture the entire journey, or map out the entire journey, if it’s helpful for other people.  Because obviously, the journey, whichever form it takes is different for everyone. And for some, it may be easy and for others it may not be easy.  I hope I don’t speak out of turn, but I would assume it’s more of a zig-zagging journey rather than a straight line.  So you were meditating daily as much as possible for five years. Did that fall away at a certain point?

Lisa: Yeah, it fell away when I got into non-duality. I mean I’d already got into non-duality through Eckhart Tolle, so in those five years, I’d read Eckhart Tolle, and I knew about Ramesh Balsekar. But then, I met a teacher called Tony Parsons, and that’s when the meditation fell away.

But in a way, I was still meditating, but just not formally. I know, that sounds like a cop out, but I was kind of sitting there.  I was… because after you’ve done those five years, you’ve become very comfortable with just sitting.  So if you’re just sitting at the bus stop.  And one meditation the Buddhist center taught us was called, “Just Sitting”, where you just sit there and you let your mind actually do whatever it wants to do.

And I was a lot more relaxed and I was a lot more comfortable doing that. So in a way I was still meditating, but just not in the formal way because Tony Parsons was so, “It won’t lead you to enlightenment, it won’t lead you to freedom.”  And I misinterpreted a lot of what he was saying. And so it just kind of collapsed, the formal sitting, and the whole Buddhist center as well.  I gave up with my studies and moved on from the Buddhist center.

Louis: So were you in London at this time, or just near London?

Lisa: Yes, I was living in London. I went to university in London.

Louis: So was Tony Parsons your first experience with a non-dual meeting?

Lisa: No, he wasn’t actually. First experience that I had was through the friend that I told you about at university. She and her friend took me to a John de Ruiter satsang.  This was maybe in 2001 or 2002, and I was still in the Buddhist group. And I remember being really impressed and really loving. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of John de Ruiter?

Louis: I’ve heard the name, but that’s as far as he goes.

Lisa: Yeah. I don’t know if he’s called a non-duality teacher. But I mean he does satsangs… yeah, I don’t know what you’d call them.  So that was the first teacher I went to, and I really loved it. He sat in silence the whole talk and just stared in people’s eyes. And I remember at the time being like, “What is this?!”  I was so curious, and I really enjoyed that. That was the first one I went to, was John de Ruiter.

Louis: So, you had a positive… so you enjoyed that process?

Lisa: Yeah. Yeah. I was really open-minded I think. And so just everything. I was just devouring everything that came into my… so this was before the internet where you couldn’t…  So that was another thing that might have made me more determined with meditation, was that was my first entry into Buddhism. I mean, I had the internet in 2001 when I was at university, but I really don’t remember using it that much, like we use it now. I don’t know how old you are. I can’t remember researching things like Buddhism on the internet or anything like that. So it was like the Buddhist center was my way to information.

I didn’t have any contradictory information that was saying that, “Buddhism was bad” or “Meditation was bad” or offering different meditations.  I just had what they taught me at the Buddhist center.  And I was so open-minded and I just really went with it.  Maybe also there was a naivety there as well. I just was like, “Okay, this is what you got to do”. And then I went, and I didn’t have anything that was saying you could do this, or you could do that, or I could start this other one next week.  It was just that one.

Louis: I guess the internet 20 years ago was smaller, so maybe there was less information, which may be good in some ways. And obviously it was dial-up so everything was slower. It’s true, there’s an abundance now and maybe…

Lisa: I don’t think I ever considered going online to look up Buddhism. So I just had the library at the Buddhist center.

Louis: Okay. So did you go to quite a few different meetings? Did you have a variety of reactions, because I know some people love non-dual meetings immediately, and others have very strong reactions?

Lisa: So then, I can’t remember if it was Tony Parsons, or Nathan Gill, which was the first teacher I actually went to.  I think it might have been Tony. But I actually had more of a resonance with a teacher called Nathan Gill, who’s passed now.  And I just found his way of expressing so beautiful.  I think he used to do the talks in somewhere like Notting Hill.

Louis: Yeah, I went to a couple of his.

Lisa: You did too?

Louis: I’m trying to remember. Was it Barons Court, is that right?

Lisa: Somewhere around there, I can’t quite remember. But I remember it being this old house, and the walls were made of wood. And I remember the way the sunlight used to come in the window and reflect on his face.  I don’t know, there was something about those talks which I found really magical, like really heavenly. And then he stopped after that, he got ill. So then that maybe meant that I got pushed more towards Tony.

Louis: How did those meetings… why do you feel they made meditation fall away?

Lisa: I think that maybe my personality is quite, or was quite, extreme. And also, lack of information at that time. And also just an absolute love for non-duality, or not even necessarily non-duality, because it was what I was hearing in Buddhism. So when the Buddhists said about being in the moment, that was what hooked me.  I could feel that, I knew it from those love experiences of childhood.

So when the meditation was about being in the moment, there was something deeply inside of me that knew that. And then when I met Tony, and when I met Nathan, I just resonated so much with what they were saying. And what I liked about it, as opposed to Buddhism, was that it was alive, rather than listening to somebody who had passed or listening to a very old text and deciphering it.

I think I was resonating with their energy.  I was kind of resonating with the energy in the books of Buddhism, but a lot of the teachers that taught were teaching like in a schoolroom format.  Teaching, not from their knowledge, but from what they’d learned.  And when I went to Tony’s talks, and Nathan’s talks, it was like I could feel that love and that presence so strongly in the room. And then I think my personality is extreme, so then I heard the intellectual message, and then I was like, “Yeah, this is the way!”  And I was on the next path, “This is the way”… the “no way” to enlightenment.  But I think that it wasn’t so much the words, it was really that when they were talking, it was like a meditation. It was just pointing back to the presence of this moment.  It was beautiful.

Louis: I can’t actually remember how I reacted the first time I went.  I mean first time I went to Tony was a long time ago.  I’d read his books beforehand, so I wasn’t attending a meeting cold.  So I guess there was a little bit of a warm up there.  And I was interested in it in general.  And I did go back quite regularly, but I don’t think I really got it, but I went anyway.  And I mean just recently, maybe a year or so ago, I did take a friend there who’s… at best, he’s got a passing interest in this sort of thing, and he really hated it.  He found he didn’t like the way the message was presented, I think some people react that way because it’s very direct, and very, “This is it” basically.

Lisa: Yeah, and really… Tony’s personality is very much like alpha male, like, “This is the right way”.  I really love… that’s not a criticism of him, but he’s got that kind of very direct way.  I think he owned his own businesses beforehand, he’s just got this very tough personality.  There’s also something really innocent and childlike about Tony that I really love, the way he speaks.

Louis: Just from something you mentioned about meditation falling away, I’ve actually found that myself. And it actually really confused me for quite a while… is when things fall away.  You have a technique, and it’s working, and you’re seeing progress, incremental progress, or maybe slightly faster progress. And then something happens and it either stopped working, or you just can’t do it anymore. And that’s happened quite a lot.  And initially, I found it very confusing, because I think, “This works for me, I’m going to stick with it”.  And then I just, I couldn’t do it anymore.

And I don’t know, for whatever reason, it seems… I don’t do anything anymore really, I just don’t seem able to. The only thing I do is attend meetings when possible. And obviously, looking to build up the foundation now, so I won’t be leading meetings, but organizing meetings, I’ll be attending those.  So that’s kind of all I do now.  So it’s interesting that you say as well, that something you’re so invested in and so experienced in, just kind of falls away.

Lisa: Yeah. Yeah. One thing that… back to the question that you asked earlier about the stamina for meditation.  Was that one thing that they really indoctrinated into you at the Buddhist center was no expectation.  So I never really… even though I had meditations which were more pleasurable, and seemed more expansive, I didn’t really have that mentality on it.  Because they indoctrinated that in you… no expectation of what the meditation should look like.  You just have to turn up every day.  This was helpful for me, and I was so young. I just bought everything.  I just was like, “Yeah okay!  So, no expectation, it doesn’t necessarily give me pleasure, but I just got to do it every day!”.  Just this young innocence.

Louis: So like discipline in a way?

Lisa: Yeah, but also that I just had no expectation. So I didn’t think that… it wasn’t like maths where I thought I had to get better at it through practice. I just thought I had to do it. That sounds really weird, but they really indoctrinated me in that way, that no expectations in the meditation practice… that it will be good, that you’ll get to more bliss, that you’ll get more peaceful, or you’ll get more happy or more balanced.  It’s just turning up, and this might take lifetimes.  Obviously, I hoped it wouldn’t take lifetimes, but you just have to turn up. And that is enough. Even if you have a disastrous meditation where by the end of it you feel like you’re in hell.

Louis: So I know we’re going through this chronologically. So I think we’re at about 25 now.  What happened for you after that?

Lisa: And so then after that, at Tony Parsons’ meeting, I met somebody that was really open-minded.  And they used LSD as a way to get to this.  And I’d never really taken drugs before, so I’d never really done that type of thing before. And when I was a Buddhist one of the things was, “No interference with the mind”.  So it was like no alcohol, no drugs.  So I had drunk and I had smoked a bit of weed before, and maybe some other drugs, but never really… when I was in my teenage years… but really, never.  I was really indoctrinated, and my friends were really like that as well, “Drugs were bad, alcohol’s okay”.

And then I went through the Buddhism where it was no drinking and no drugs. And then I met this person that was into using psychedelics as a way towards enlightenment.  Which is also a massive path, I’m sure you’ve explored it on the internet.  So then I went through a year of studying this.

There are some amazing teachers on the internet if you look it up, like with mushrooms.  I mean, one of the really famous ones is Ram Dass.  I think this is why he got expelled from Harvard.  I don’t know though, I’ve got terrible memory.  Because he was experimenting on LSD and enlightenment. I think it’s Ram Dass.  And there’s lots of different… I forgot his name, like a very famous teacher that did it with mushrooms.

And so then I just experimented with this. And the first time I took it, I was really scared of doing it, that a monster would come out of me.  And when I took it, there was just this… I was looking into the fire, and there was just this really beautiful sense of that love that I’d experienced in childhood, that I told you about.  Just that presence.

When Tony Parsons was saying, “This is all there is”.  Or Nathan Gill, of when the Buddhists were talking about being in the moment, it was just this immense sense of presence that came about.  And I just remember saying to my friend, “This is it!  This is what I’m looking for!  This is it, this is it!”.  And so then I went into a year of exploration with psychedelics.  And I’m not recommending that in any way, but I’m just saying that to protect my ass.  I’m not recommending it to anybody else, but that’s what I did.

Louis: So you say that lasted for about a year?

Lisa: About a year, yeah.  It was like polar opposites.  It was really divine, and really hellish, as well.  Because it’s maybe firstly not so good for your body, I don’t know.  I think there are some hallucinogens that are better for your body, but maybe LSD is not so good for your body.  But secondly, it can really bring up hell.  If that’s the way it goes on some trips, you can really really go to hell.  Like really hell.

You can go to heaven, and you can experience all types of things, and then you can also experience really hellish experiences.  But I did it all in the idea of it being spiritual progress, I was obsessed with the subject.  So when hell came, it was seen as a way to look at this dark stuff, and to stay with it and not run away from it, and not let my mind take over.

Louis: Just as a side question from something you’ve said, spiritual progress. I think that’s probably where most of us come from at some point. As in we think of it as a progress. It’s a journey. These are steps, this works for me.  If I keep at it, if I keep at it, if I keep at it.  And I think in non-dual talks, especially, it’s the opposite.  As in, “There is no progress. There’s never been any progress.”  I think it’s something we all have.  Well, at the start of the process especially and maybe for quite a while.

Lisa: Yeah, totally. And that’s so beautiful, that contradiction.  When you say that, it sends shivers up my body.  Because there is absolutely nothing that’s happened.  Which is kind of the divine joke, that there’s nobody that progressed.  And yet we seemingly talk about it.  But, that’s so beautiful.  That sounds really bizarre if people aren’t into this subject, of how that could be beautiful. But when I hear you say it, my heart just resonates with that.  That’s beautiful.

Louis: A friend of mine, who’s to put it mildly, he was a very dedicated seeker. He was very into it, very into the lifestyle, he went to everything, good at meditation, all that.  And he could talk about things which I didn’t understand at all, because I just didn’t have his level of knowledge or experience.  And for whatever reason, at a certain meeting, I won’t give the whole story away because it’s his story, and maybe he’ll talk about it at some point.

But at a certain meeting, something happened and it fell away for him.  And actually the transition… I remember seeing him during the transition period of a few months. And he wasn’t in a good way to put it mildly, he wasn’t in a good state for quite a few months. But he was fine after that. And now he kind of feels a bit stupid for all of his seeking.  He kind of says, “Oh I can’t believe I was that invested in it.”

It’s just interesting because I guess I saw the entire journey for him. Well, not the entire journey.  But I saw the transition, which maybe happened particularly over a few months.  I’ve known him for quite a while, but that happened over a few years in total, I guess.  When he was really into the lifestyle and then something happened.  It’s just interesting seeing that, and how he’s changed.

And maybe not to dwell too much on things which may not be too important, but his whole vibe has changed.  Some aspects of his personality have changed.  And he still goes to meetings, he still does some sort of… well he does sitting meditation.  He just sits really, he doesn’t do anything more specific.  So he still enjoys meetings and so on, but I think just because he enjoys it now, not to get anything out of it.

Lisa: Yeah, yeah.

Louis: Okay, so I think that may well have been a tangent.  So I’m just trying to go back at your chronological story.  So after a year… so what happened after a year?

Lisa: Then I went to India, to meet Ramesh Balsekar.  Have you heard of a teacher called the Ramesh Balsekar?

Louis: No. Doesn’t come to mind. No.

Lisa: So, he was a translator of Nisargadatta Maharaj.  You know Nisargadatta?  “I am That”, you know the book, “I am That”?

Louis: I know the name. On some aspects or many aspects of this, I’m not as well read as maybe I could be.

Lisa: A lot of people don’t know about Ramesh now.  Again, I don’t know if I had that much internet access to non-dual teachers and he seemed to be one that was spoken of a lot in the non-dual scene.  So I went to India, to Mumbai to see him.

Louis: Okay. So you were living there?

Lisa: Yeah. I was sort of traveling, I suppose.  But I went and stayed there for a couple of months.  And he did talks in his house every morning.  There was only like 40 people that went. So he did satsangs every morning. And I would go to the satsang every morning until lunchtime. And then I would hang-out with other students for a bit, and then spend the rest of the day by myself in Mumbai.  So I did that for a couple of months.  And that was really beautiful and intensive.  Because it was quite intense being in India by myself the first time.  Yeah, that was quite an experience.

Louis: So what actually led you to India, just to explore further?

Lisa: It was predominantly I think to go and see him.  But also my friend that I told you from university, she had always, the whole time I’d been friends with her, she’d always gone on about India.  And her and her friend went to India.  So it was this friend that I met at university who had a big impression on me.  But I predominantly went there to see Ramesh Balsekar.  I’d also known about him for years, most probably before Tony Parsons.  And I’d read books.  And I knew one of his students, a couple of his students.  And so I went there predominantly to listen to the satsang.  And also my contract at work had stopped so it was just the perfect opportunity to go.  I had a contract working with kids and it had stopped, the funding had stopped.  So there was a gap that I had as well.

Louis: Okay, so after a couple of months, you travelled further or…?

Lisa: After a couple of months I got really ill, and close to Mumbai is… do you know Osho?

Louis: Again, I know the name but not a huge amount more.

Lisa: So Osho is a really… if you ever feel like watching them, I think it’s called Wild West or something [Wild Wild Country].  It’s a documentary on Netflix about Osho.  He’s a really controversial teacher, and there’s all this speculation that America killed him, that the CIA killed him.  Yeah, it’s quite big.  But he set up an ashram in Pune, which is near to Mumbai.  So I had been really ill, and I’d been in a hospital for like a week. I knew that this Ashram was really clean and really friendly to westerners.  So I decided to go there to recover, because I was quite weak by this point.  And also, I wanted to explore it a bit as well, see what it was like.  But I predominantly went there to recover.

And when I was there, I was sitting in the ashram having my lunch… this was after a couple of months, not a couple of months, a couple of weeks.  And this guy, this Australian guy started to talk to me.  My response, even to this day, is never to be too welcoming to outsiders coming in.  I never normally am looking to start conversations with people.  That sounds really rude, but I’m just a bit of an introvert.  And so normally, I tend to shy away from that type of thing.  And he started trying to talk to me, and he asked if he could come and sit with me, and I told him he couldn’t.  And then his friend came along, but I knew his friend from Ramesh, so we’d spent weeks together visiting Ramesh.  I’d got to know her, we used to go and socialize with the people that went to see Ramesh.

So she came and sat with him, and then I was like, “Oh, hey!”.  And I said her name and we started talking.  And then both of them came over to my table and I started talking to them both.  And the other guy was called Roger, his name’s Roger Castillo.  He’s a non-duality teacher.  At the time he wasn’t a non-duality teacher, but now he’s quite popular.  And I started talking to him, and he just really impacted me.  He had quite a big effect on me.  I was still only I think 26, and I’m very open-minded.  And so he started teaching me different things from the very beginning.  He started pushing my concepts about non-duality, and teaching and confronting me, and it really had an impact on me.  Like, it was like one-to-one satsang.

And then I didn’t see him again.  And then I went back to Ramesh.  And then after Ramesh, I went back to England.  And then he came to England to visit me.  And we began a romantic relationship.  And then a few months later, he invited me to go and see him in India.  So I did, and then we went.  And he invited me to go and see his place in Australia, so I did.  And then we started like a three-year relationship, and I moved to Australia.  But it was very much like teacher-student relationship.  It sounds really psychologically weird.

Louis: Okay. So you lived in Australia for three years?

Lisa: Yeah. I lived in Australia, but the story gets more intense.  So after three months, we went to see Ramesh together.  He was also a disciple of Ramesh, and he considered Ramesh his guru.  And you know how I said that I’m very focused.  When I decide to do something, I’m very focused.  So after three months of being together, and I didn’t know his relationship with Ramesh, and I didn’t know him from being at Ramesh, I’d never been at Ramesh with him.  I just knew him through a friend of Ramesh.

And then when I went there, Ramesh knew me from the previous visits.  And he came up after one of the talks, and he realized that me and Roger were in a romantic relationship.  And he said, “If you want freedom and peace of mind [peace of mind to Ramesh means enlightenment] then you must listen to Roger.”  So I did.  Just like when the Buddhists told me to meditate, I did.

Louis: So how long you were in India there, was that a brief stay?

Lisa: We just used to go for a month because Roger couldn’t leave that long for work.  So he used to go for a month to see Ramesh,  And then I moved to Australia after that.  And we lived together for three years in quite a remote place in Australia.  And I listened to everything for three years, so it was like 24/7 Satsang. And I think at the time Roger was learning how to be a teacher. So he also had excess energy to talk about it. This was prior to him speaking to people publicly. So I think I was his first student, and he was practicing, not consciously, but I think that’s what was happening between us.

Louis: Geographically and time wise, I only know the detail of this from your website, about something that happened in Bali. And also Australia is quite close to Bali, are we…  I guess what I’m asking is, from that point, how did you get to what you talk about on your website?

Lisa: So then me and Roger went through this really intense process together.  Like what you read about in the Sutras, when students meet their guru.  It was really intensive, I kind of broke there. It wasn’t any easy task. We lived really remotely and I had no friends, I had very little contact with my family, it’s very far away, I lost a lot of my friendships.

And I didn’t work the first year I was there, I didn’t have a visa to work.  And then the second year I got a visa, and I didn’t do that much work. I worked at a retreat center doing massage, and so there was very little contact outside of our house, and the property we lived on.

And it really was… it broke me. It was more intensive than anything I’d been through prior to that.  And it brought out all my demons, and it brought out all my love and all my peace as well.  And then after three years, he then one day woke up and said that it was time for me to leave.  And that was really shocking, it was really unexpected. And so I left and I went to Bali. And then I had this energetic shift in Bali after that.  Massive energetic shift.  So that’s the story.

Louis: I think a couple more questions just related to that, just from what you just mentioned, and I think we might have got to the end of the section of the conversation. So first of all when you say it broke you, what do you mean by that specifically?  Or what was the experience, and how did you deal with it?

Lisa: Maybe it’s like, have you ever experienced a tragedy or something in your life where it’s really broken you?

Louis: Like a period of mourning, would you say?

Lisa: No, no, it was like… it broke me.  I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced that being broken.  It’s like…

Louis: Do you mean dysfunction?

Lisa: No, not dysfunction.  It was like… when I was in London, I had quite a prosperous life.  I had studied playwriting, and I’d done quite well at playwriting.  I worked with kids with learning difficulties.  I had friends. It was quite a prosperous life. And then when I went out there, everything went, everything left.  And all I had was 24 / 7 non-dual teaching. And then I kind of lost all my goals, or my aspirations… it sounds really awful. In some ways it was, but it was like a stripping clean.  I just didn’t care about anything.  All I cared about was just what I was doing in that moment.

There were moments when I cared more about things, but it sort of got me to the point where I just only cared about peeling the vegetables, or walking the dogs.  Like I had nothing to live for anymore.  That sounds really awful and in some ways it is.  And I don’t recommend people do this light heartedly.  I gave up on life.  100%.  I could have been struck down dead and there was some part of me that didn’t care.  Not out of a depression, just that I just didn’t care.

There was nothing I had left in life that I cared about.  My whole mind crumbled.  My whole perception on life crumbled.  I had nothing that I was invested in. It wasn’t like I had kids, or had goals for the future, just had nothing. And I think this often happens when people experience tragedy, that their whole reality crumbles away. They have nothing.  They can’t imagine the future anymore.  So that’s what happened there, it was so intensive.

My personality is so extreme, when the Buddhists said meditate, I meditated.  When Ramesh said, “Listen to Roger”, I listened to Roger.  When the LSD came about, I really went for it with that.  I just was that type of personality.  And then when I left and went to Bali, I just had this profound sense that nothing had changed.  It was so deep.  That it was the same moment.  Obviously, everything else had changed, but I didn’t care anymore about everything else, like the scenery.  There was just this profound sense, that innate sense of being, the aliveness, that the consciousness hadn’t changed.  That it was all the same, same, same, but just sort of looked different.

And so there was just this really deep surrender that sort of happened in Bali, but it wasn’t my doing as such, even though it sounds like my doing.  It just was what happened.  And then this sort of profound energetic shift happened.  And I didn’t even care about that anymore, I didn’t even care about energetic shifts happening anymore. I just really cared about what I was doing in that moment, and what my body was saying.  I didn’t even have this goal or aspiration to become enlightened.

Louis: Okay. Are you able to describe that process or energetic shift further, or is it difficult?

Lisa: It’s difficult for the other person to imagine.  But it’s not difficult for me to actually describe, but when I’m describing it to people they look at like, “That’s really weird”.  And so then I sort of lose momentum in describing it, because I can imagine it doesn’t come out like it felt.

But what happened was, first of all, I started looking at the waitress and thinking how beautiful she was. And I was like, “Wow, I’ve been in this restaurant many times…”  I was sitting in a restaurant. And I thought, “I’ve been in this restaurant many times, and I didn’t realize how beautiful she was.”  And then I started looking around the restaurant, and I was like, “Wow, this restaurant is really beautiful. I didn’t realize how beautiful this restaurant was.”  Like everything was beginning to glow.  Not literally glow, but there was just this magic to it.

And then I felt like an energy began to come out of my eyes.  So, I felt like my beingness, my sense of existence, or what people might call the I Am, began to come out of my eyes.  And then it sort of went into the room. And then it sort of went into everything. And then my consciousness became very empty.  So then it felt like… everything felt very empty.  Like there was no back on me.  Like everything went very much into this moment.  And everything felt like it was empty, it was free, it was no longer positioned anymore, it just went on endlessly.

So there was this beingness, this I Am-ness, that felt like it was in everything. And then this consciousness… my consciousness felt like it was totally empty.  Again, it almost felt like at some points I was going to pass out.  Felt really like that point between being awake and passing out, because everything felt so empty.  And then everything felt like love on the I Am side.  So it was really intensive, because it changes your center of gravity.

Everything felt very different.  I couldn’t cross the road.  It was really intense watching cars go in front of me, and working out what distance was.  And I couldn’t really think very much.  It was like everything was so sucked into this moment, I sort of lost… I could think but not really.  And I couldn’t really think about myself.  I kind of felt like I was walking around… now when I look back on it, I was walking around like I was stupid or something.  That sounds really awful, but I couldn’t really think.  So I couldn’t think, “This is good” or “This is bad” or “I should or shouldn’t be doing this.”  It was like everything was empty.  So there was just movement happening and I had no ability to reflect on it or to think about it.

And I remember somebody was laughing at me. And I remember a thought came up like, “They get it too!  They get it too!”  And so I started laughing. And then we were stood laughing at each other.  And then the thought came, “Oh, I think they might be crazy.  I think that they’re on drugs or something.”  I mean, I think I was being crazy.  But the thought came up, “They’re not in this reality.”  Not that I was in this reality either.  But I knew that I should move away from them then.

And that went on for hours.  I remember just standing at the side of the road for ages, not being able to cross the road.  And then somebody led me across the road, helped me across the road, because I couldn’t work out the distance between traffic.  It was so shocking.  But there was nobody there to be shocked.  It was such a big contrast to what I knew.

Louis: Of course you found your footing. So did it take you a little while to find your… I guess day to day footing again?

Lisa: Yeah, I think I’m still finding it 10 years later.  I think that since then, there’s been a big bodily process that’s happened.  Integrating that more and more.  And I don’t have any expectations of it coming to an end, or not ending.  But yeah, still have bizarre, sometimes energetic experiences, and the body changing.  So I think that there’s still an integration of that happening.  At first I thought that the integration would stop, and then I just kind of gave up thinking that.

Louis: Would you say that’s when seeking stopped? Or had it stopped before?

Lisa: I would say that’s when the seeking stopped, primarily.  I still think that there’s sometimes seeking patterns.  Old ways of being that arise in me, and come up to be examined.  But yeah, that’s when primarily the seeking stopped, and everything was different after that.  For me, it was a very clear moment.  My life radically changed after that.  It was big.  It affected my character a lot.  And it was just really… blew my brains out.  It was really big, it really affected me.

Louis: In which way, particularly you say it affected your character, in which way did it affect that?

Lisa: In so many ways. I mean, there was a point for a couple of years where it was so empty, my experience, that I had absolutely no will.  And that’s a very funky thing to be, to be a person in this world with no will.  Or very little will.  I mean, I’m sure there was will there, you have to otherwise you wouldn’t drink.  But when I say will, I had very little desire, very little anything, I was just so… there was so much emptiness that I just didn’t really care.  And that affects you a lot.

It can make you very easy going. That’s a bit of a fake result.  That’s what other people see, because you’ve got very little will it doesn’t contradict their will.  So it doesn’t annoy them.  So it can make you very easy going, if you’re kind of quite happy with everything.  So there was that that happened, and also a lot of bliss as well, a lot of bliss.  So that was the first few years.  So there was a massive change in my personality, with Lisa.  That was so strong.  And also I kind of had this underlying sense that everything was love.  It was so different to the way I saw things before, so I’m sure it affected the personality a lot.

Louis: So in time would you say some external sense of normality returned?

Lisa: Yeah, I would say that… the first part that I went through of being so empty, is not healthy.  It’s healthy, like it’s really beautiful and blissful. But it’s not a healthy way to relate to the world.  So what I had to do was I had to really pay attention to very subtle wants and desires and rejections, in order to determine reality.  So I had to practice, in a way, learning will again.  That sounds really weird.  But I had to because if you feel so empty, like that, then it means that you become very passive in life.  And that’s very difficult to navigate.  If we had a whole society that’s enlightened, or you lived in an ashram or anything, then that’s fine.  But if you’re trying to navigate this society, it’s very difficult to navigate.  So I had to learn desires and human interactions to an extent.  Again.

Louis: When did you start sharing this with people?

Lisa: I started about three months after that big awakening.  With my neighbor.

Louis: Okay. So this was Australia still?

Lisa: Yeah, is I was back in Australia.  So me and Roger lived together for another nine months.  So that was a very… life is very… quite amazing the way it works.  Because after that I went back to Australia. And the plan was that then I would leave or do something. But then a very good friend of me and Roger’s began to die.  And he’d been ill for quite a few years, he had cancer, but he’d managed to take chemo and it had extended his life for nine years.  But then he began to die.  So I went back to Australia, and then Roger wasn’t there, so my ex-partner wasn’t there.  And then I was there.  And then he began to die.  He was dying of a brain tumour, so he couldn’t work.  And I began to drive him around, I began to help him with his work, and began to spend more and more time with him.  And then I just started talking about it with him.  It just began to pop out.

Louis: Was there confusion, was it curiosity, how did he react?

Lisa: He was into the subject because Roger had also spoken to him about it, so he knew about it. But he was confused to an extent because he had a brain tumour that was growing, so he was beginning to lose function of his body.  And there was confusion.  But there was also a real beautiful resonance that happened between us.  It was really sweet.  Yeah, I was off my head on bliss, and he’s losing all the functionality of his body.

And we were kind of… I was having problems with my brain and my functioning. And he was having problems with his brain and his functioning. And we kind of met in the middle.  I didn’t really tell him about my problems with functioning, and all the bliss, and all this emptiness stuff that happened.  But I talked to him about freedom, a lot.  But we were quite funny together, driving around trying to… he had a whole company and everything, trying to do his work on two half brains.

Louis: Well, thanks for letting me go so in depth into your story, and I think that leads nicely to the next section of interview with you. The first half is your story. I guess the second half, which is sometimes broken up into two halves itself, is talking more about your perspective… I know some people don’t like that word, but I guess it’s the easiest word to use in this instance.  Your perspective, your communication, how you communicate, why you communicate that way.  Or what you share specifically, and then also… I guess the next half of the interview is a balance of, again apologies if these words are a little bit, not accurate, but it’s balancing the philosophical with the practical.

Okay, so we can take a break now or we can stop now or we can keep going. So I’ll take your lead.

Lisa: I think that that’s enough for me for today.

Louis: Sure.

Lisa: And then, I’m happy to do this next week or in the next coming weeks while I’m in the UK, and we can carry on and finish and do the next two sections.