Interview With Tom Das Discussing his Spiritual Journey and the End of Suffering (recorded 2020)

In this in depth interview, Tom Das discusses his journey of spiritual seeking, how he one day realised that all suffering had ceased, and how he works with others to help people with their own journeys.

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Interview & Transcript

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Interview Transcript

Louis: This is Louis Allport for ForwardView Foundation. And today I’m speaking with Tom Das, and Tom leads meetings focused on non-duality, but also offers suggestions and approaches for people… for day-to-day issues, including relationship issues, or some emotional issues that can come up, particularly during the spiritual journey, shall we say. So, hi Tom, thanks very much for your time today.

Tom: You’re very welcome Louis.

Louis: And I hope that’s an accurate summary of what you offer, and we’ll go into this in a lot more detail. So tell me if there’s anything you want to correct at this time. Otherwise we can dive in.

Tom: I mean, I think that’s about right, really. My focus is really about freedom from suffering, and I tend to tag myself as non-duality, for want of a better word. And that’s my real focus.

But what I’ve found is that people who are seeking this freedom from suffering, they often have other issues along the way as well. They’ll have maybe issues relating to their workplace and how the spiritual journey interacts with that. Maybe their motivation to work goes down or maybe they’re having difficulty supporting themselves financially.

Sometimes it can have an impact on personal relationships. And sometimes there’s emotional issues, psychological issues crop up as well. So what I find, and this is especially in the one-to-one meetings I offer, I offer one-to-one sessions, is that these issues will come up and we end up dealing with a lot of that stuff too.

So, the focus is on non-duality, but inevitably, because we’re dealing with people as it were, who have got a whole range of life issues, we also touch upon that too, and we don’t shirk away or hide away from those issues and just sort of ignore them. We often talk about them, deal with them, problem solve them, troubleshoot them as well. And that’s a lot of what I do in terms of one-to-ones is that emotional work, the psychological work, those types of things.

Louis: That’s really interesting because one the goals of the foundation was to balance the two, talking about non-duality, but also talking about practical approaches. Because I feel the two go together and often… I mean, some people choose to only focus on one rather than the other. And I like the balance of the two and I feel it’s helpful.

And I had… I mean we could maybe talk about this more later as we go more in depth, but I experienced a lot of the issues you detail as in, oh, I won’t go into detail about my seeking journey, which has gone on quite a long time, but yeah, experienced financial issues, significant financial issues, lot of… I mean the short version is a lot of emotions maybe I’d been hiding from started to come up and that was difficult, so had to learn how to deal with that, and things like that. So it was a whole learning curve and I didn’t know how to deal with it when it started.

Tom: That’s it. Exactly. And that’s why I say what I’m interested in is really freedom from suffering and abolishing suffering. That means abolishing suffering altogether. But it also means reducing suffering where possible too, along the way. And I’m not really interested predominantly in emotional work, in helping people with their finances. That’s not what I’m interested in, but that’s what comes up when I’m talking to people. So that’s where we go.

And sometimes that’s where people need to do a bit of healing or, get their… do some structured thinking and get some structure to their life. Some life coaching kind of thing, you know? So I end up doing a bit of life coaching as well sometimes, but the aim is always not to sort of do life coaching, not just to get the finances, not just for emotional work. The aim is always about full realization, total realization. That’s actually… I’m not interested in other things really. I’m actually just interested in realization. I don’t see it as balancing, although I totally understand why somebody else might look at what I do and see that it’s a balanced approach.

I see it as quite… personally, I see it as quite one directional and narrow in that sense, it’s just about freedom. But in order to get to the freedom, there might be certain hurdles you’ve got to jump through or jump over, sorry, hoops you’ve got to jump through, hurdles you’ve got to jump over. I’m good at mixing up my metaphors by mistake.

So, we end up talking about relationships because if there’s a seeker who’s seeking freedom and then they’re having a tough time with a relationship. Well that’s obstructing their path, so let’s sort that out as well. Let’s help with that, if I can, you know, and I’m not always able to, of course, but I try. We do our best.

Louis: That’s interesting that you’ve clarified, not balancing, but maybe supporting the overall journey. obviously with the pandemic, we haven’t been able to…, we were only able to run one very small in-person meeting And maybe in time we’ll run in person meetings again, and obviously Zoom meetings.

But at. that one meeting we were able to run, it was run by Lisa Cairns and she talked about that and how her one-on-ones are… she offers two distinct approaches as in helping the person, I guess, helping with their life, the emotional side and also pointing towards non-duality. And in the meeting, she mentioned that sometimes people need to settle before they can really start looking at non-duality, or start to hear that side of things. And I think she also mentioned in Buddhism, it’s called the settling of the mind.

Tom: I mean, there’s that aspect to it, absolutely. I mean, it’s slightly more complex in Buddhism, but yeah, I think that’s generally speaking right. Yeah. There’s the whole notion of right livelihood and ethical moral behavior in society as a foundation for developing a settled mind, because one of the ideas is that if you don’t have a settled public life or social life, social life meaning life in society, is often these things can drag you away from spiritual pursuits.

They can be distractions that you… you can be so caught up in those other things. I mean… you mentioned that Lisa offers these two distinct approaches. I mean, I don’t know what she offers, but I wonder if they are two distinct approaches even for her or if she just labels it that way.

I mean, for me, there’s certainly not two distinct approaches and I often get people coming to me wanting to know about self inquiry and then we’ll realize the issue is they’ve got an anxiety issue. They’ve got a social phobia. They have a problem with a relationship. They have a psychological issue.

And it’s not that they’re having trouble with self inquiry. It’s actually this other issue. So we’ll talk about that as a problem-solver thing. And similarly I’ve had, I’ve had people, this is less common, but I’ve had people come to me saying, “Look, I’ve got an emotional issue”. And literally within like two or three sessions, we’ll just somehow manage to sort it out completely.

And they weren’t really that interested in realization, they wanted just to feel better. But through this interaction, they suddenly start to become interested in realization and freedom. So these two distinct approaches that someone like Lisa perhaps offers… I wonder even if for her, it might just be just a front, you know, two ways into the same shop, two entrance doors.

And I mean, that’s what it would be… if I set myself up like that, that’s certainly what it would be. It would be two masquerades, two shop fronts, you know, with different advertising on each one to get different people in. But when they get in, they get into the same place.

Louis: And Jim Eaton, who I’ve also spoken to, he takes a very… he focuses very much on, I guess maybe on emotions or what people are going through there, and often, some people’s personal problems come up, but he keeps the focus on that, into, I guess, a doorway into what’s behind it. I don’t know if that is a good description of his approach, but it seems his meetings or his one-to-ones are very feeling focused, but it often leads to quite a lot more. So, as you say, it’s different approaches all ending up at the same place.

Tom: Yeah. I mean, for me, I never know what I’m going to say to somebody. For me the meetings and especially the one-to-one sessions, they can be very different with everybody. Sometimes I find myself being quite harsh and direct, and other times I find myself being more gentle. And sometimes it’s about emotions, and sometimes it’s just about practice, practice, practice. Sometimes it’s about no practice.

It’s very interesting for me because, what I find is that the person who’s in front of me or who I’m talking to, who I’m interacting with, they draw a teaching out of me. And I don’t know why that is. I don’t really know what I’m doing and it just happens. And it’s, if I may say, it’s rather beautiful. It’s rather beautiful. And I feel like when that happens, both participants, myself and the person I’m interacting with, we both see this beauty in what’s happening, and also there’s a sense that it’s not me doing it. It’s not them doing it. There’s just a beauty arising, and it’s quite healing and lovely to watch. So I’m always fascinated how the teaching unfolds.

Louis: So typically for these interviews, it has a very fluid structure. To kind of organize it a little bit I tend to break it into three sections. So typically the first section is your story, or your journey. However you want to describe it. Second part is more talking about how you share… how you talk about non-duality. Which you say you tend to do that in meetings, but one-to-ones are more fluid. And then the third part, which doesn’t apply to everyone, but as you say, it’s very relevant to you, is suggestions or approaches that may be helpful for people’s lives or people’s emotional wellbeing. But as you say, as a sort of doorway, all leading to the same place sooner or later, ideally.

So if we can talk about your seeking journey… when did that start and how did it start?

Tom: Well, my seeking journey. I don’t know when it started, exactly. It started when I was very young, I believe. And also, I don’t know when it ended exactly either. So there you go.

I mean, I think I was a seeker from a very, very young age, five, six years old. I remember having these questions about the nature of life, the nature of reality, what I’m doing here, these sorts of philosophical questions that a child could ponder about and think about. I was interested in those questions from a young age.

And I certainly wouldn’t have called myself a seeker. And I certainly wouldn’t have called myself a spiritual seeker. I didn’t really know what spirituality meant, or what it was. But I was interested in these questions at that age. And not everybody is, as I’ve since found out. I thought everybody might be interested in these sorts of things, but I soon found out not everybody’s interested in these things.

And that led me to a fascination with science and maths, when I was much younger, and interest in those things. And I was kind of interested in religion as well. when I got a little bit older, maybe 8, 9, 10, but I mostly thought it was a load of rubbish, basically. I just maybe thought, “Oh, you know, these are stories. They’re been invented to help make people feel more secure. And support people who need that emotional support, who need to believe in things.”

But I was also inspired by some of these religious stories, especially what I learned about Jesus. So Jesus was a huge inspiration to me as a child. I didn’t really sort of believe he… I couldn’t really make a leap and believe he was God or anything like that, which is one of the things I was being taught at school. That didn’t make any sense to me. And the whole idea of a Holy Trinity where there’s three that are one.

But this figure of Jesus really inspired me, and still does to this day, actually. So I was interested in some of these questions about life, about science, I guess, philosophical questions, and about religion too. But it’s when I was a young teenager, I found a book on my parents’ bookshelf written by quite a famous… now, well, from the part of India where my family are from. Very famous holy man, or a Sage, or a saint, called Swami Vivekananda. And there was a book of his called Raja Yoga. And the first half of the book is a collection of his essays. And the second half of his book is a commentary on an ancient yoga text, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

And I started leafing through this, and these essays completely grabbed me. I was really hooked by these essays, because Swami Vivekananda, he was saying, and this is the first time I’ve ever heard this concept… And what he was saying was that God is not something that you have to have faith in. It’s not something you have to believe in, but God is something that you can experience for yourself.

And in fact, he went quite further. He was quite bold, and this is very typical of his presentation. He was very bold. He said, “Not only do you not have to believe in Him, but actually I say you should not believe in Him until you know Him, you’ve experienced Him, or Her, or It, or whatever. Until you experience God for yourself. You should not say I believe in God until you’ve experienced God.”

But he didn’t just leave it there. He then went on and said, “Now, this is the purpose of… these teachings are for you.” Which I found to be called Vedanta teachings, this type of Hindu teaching or Hindu style teaching based in Vedic texts and the Upanishads.

He says, “There is a teaching, the Vedanta teachings, that give you a method. And if you follow this method, you will discover the divine for yourself. And this is a scientific thing. It’s not a matter of belief. It’s not a matter of faith. It’s not a matter of creed and dogma and sectarianism and tribalism…”

And all the sorts of things that I’d seen that as being negative, and didn’t make sense about organized religion so far. I’d already sort of thought these things to myself. So his presentation really spoke to my sort of more scientifically orientated, inquiring mind, my questioning mind. And it really inspired me to think, “Oh my gosh, this whole religion thing, there’s a potential to apply a scientific approach to it. An experimental, experiential approach and a methodology I can follow even, and apply and test.”

This was wonderful to me. So this really sort of grabbed me. I read Raja Yoga several times, that text, and I found a copy of the Bhagavad Gita on my parents’ bookshelf as well. And I was always taught about how the Bhagavad Gita is a very important holy book.

And I’d learned about the Mahabharata, which is, I guess, loosely speaking, the story of Lord Krishna. And the Bhagavad Gita is one episode in the Mahabharata, this great Indian epic. But I didn’t know anything about the Gita. I’d learned a lot of the stories, the Mahabharata, but hadn’t really learned about the Gitas.

And people are saying this is really important holy book, but I didn’t know anything about it. So I started reading that as well, and it didn’t really make sense to me. And I thought I understood bits of it, it didn’t make sense, and I’d just carried on seeking and seeking from there really. I mean, I could go on and on about this, I guess maybe I should speed up a bit.

And I kind of became interested in Buddhism, in Gnostic Christianity, in other… in Zen, in Zog Chan. I became very interested in the writings of J Krishna Murti. And what else? Yoga, meditation. I started a yoga practice. I wasn’t very good and I wasn’t very good at keeping it regular, but I did Hatha Yoga, and I found a couple… One of my friends, also family who had migrated to the UK from India, their parents had got some books on yoga. So I remember borrowing some books on yoga and meditation from my friend. Because I was a young teenager, I didn’t have any access to any materials. There was no internet at that time. So it was sort of scavenging what I could find wherever I could find it, going to a friend’s house, raiding my friend’s parent’s books.

And I remember talking one of my friend’s Dad, a gentleman of Indian origin about the Upanishads and he wasn’t very religious minded, but he’d been educated in the Upanishads. He’d learned about the Upanishads in his school. He could read Sanskrit. So he used to talk to me about the Upanishads, even though he wasn’t sort of an adherent. And Indian family, friends, some of them were very religious and sometimes I’d talk to them a bit, sometimes. So a lot of seeking as a teenager and… Sorry, did you want to cut in there at all?

Louis: Would you say you were doing any practices at this time? Was it just… beyond the taking in different sources of information, I guess, or discussing this with people, were you practicing anything or how were you approaching it as well, in that way?

Tom: Yeah. So first of all, yes, I was doing a lot of reading. I was taking information through reading and I was trying to talk to my peers about it because I found it so fascinating and you know, it didn’t work very well. Most people were not interested and occasionally I’d find somebody who was interested in philosophy, but I found it became a bit dry and only went so far. And I also found I could talk to people who are interested in religion like Christian people and maybe some Hindu people I knew.

Again that was quite interesting. And again, I often found that my personal experience with talking to people is that they had their own sort of strong beliefs. And you couldn’t really inquire past there. But to answer your question in terms of practices. I was meditating, So, actually, my mother had already taught me when I was about 9, 8, 9 or 10 or something like that. Maybe 9 or 10 years old. She had already taught me some basic yoga and meditation practices.

Mantra meditation, following the breath meditation, and some prayer as well, actually. So, prayer, meditation, yoga, and pranayama. So I used to do pranayama from a young age, before I went to bed actually, I used to do pranayama. And that did two things. One, it really settled and calmed my mind, and two it really increased my lung capacity.

When I was younger, I could sort of hold my breath for… I don’t do these practices so much now, basically, but when I was younger, I could hold my breath for quite a long time. And I had quite good lung capacity because I was doing all these breathing exercises.

And, I also, when I was six, I started doing Aikido, which is a Japanese martial art. So I was doing that too, once a week. And so by the time I was a teenager, I was quite proficient in it. And again, I didn’t think of it that way at the time, but there is a huge spiritual element, and there’s a focus on breath as well.

And I didn’t think of it as being spiritual. I didn’t think of any of these things as being spiritual. I wasn’t taught about it as being spiritual. I’d been taught about it, these are good things to calm your mind, to reduce stress, to improve your memory, to improve your concentration, to improve your lung capacity, to improve your fitness, and align your body.

But I wasn’t taught about any spirituality stuff. It was only when I read Raja Yoga. And then the subsequent things that I started becoming interested in yoga and meditation as a route to discover the divine. So that’s what I… I didn’t realize that these things were meant to be technologies for which you’re able to discover something infinite, immeasurable, and something that essentially is you.

When these things were introduced to me, when I was very young, under the age of 10, but in my teens, then I realized, “Oh, these things that I’ve been taught, that have been handed to me, apparently are part of this methodology.”

So I tried to implement it, but I didn’t really know… I just tried my best as a kid. You know, I was really diligent for like four days, and then I forgot about it for a couple of weeks. And then I started up again for like a week or two, and then I forgot about it for a month. It was always there in the back of my mind, but I was a kid. And I was doing other stuff too. It was not like I was just obsessed about this. I was into video games, and I was trying to do my homework and all this other stuff too, you know?

Louis: So just out of interest, did you grow up in London or…?

Tom: Yes, I did. Born and raised. How about yourself? Whereabouts are you?

Louis: I’m in Berkshire. Maidenhead, which is sort of halfway between London and Oxford. Grew up here, moved away and then moved back. And the reason I mention London because I know when you able, you used to run meetings twice a month, if that’s right? I think, I can’t remember exactly, it was above a pub. I think.

Tom: That’s right, yes.

Louis: I was going to attend at some point and I started looking into it and I never did. Because I met someone, I really can’t remember his name. Someone who was, it was actually at one of the Pamela Wilson’s meetings, I met someone who I think went to all your meetings and he’d had quite a dramatic, he has quite a dramatic story. I think he was homeless for a while…

But now I think, he came out the other side and he’s fine. And, he had a really interesting story and he was very keen about your meetings and he sold me on them, but I never attended. I attended your zoom one, but yeah…

Tom: I think I know who you might be talking about as well. A chap who used to come along to my in-person meetings in London. And we used to, before the coronavirus pandemic hit, we used to meet above a pub called the Druid’s Head. And then afterwards we used to go for a drink, for people who wanted to stay and chat afterwards. And some people preferred the meeting, some people preferred the drink afterwards, and it’s all good either way, you know?

But I mean, one thing I probably should mention in terms of my seeking journey is that it started when I was a teen, but then it went through my twenties. I went to university and got a degree, got a job, got married.

And then it was only later on, late twenties, early thirties, I came across the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, who I now consider to be my guru. And, when I first came across his books or his teachings, I really was not into him at all. It didn’t really do anything for me.

I don’t know. I just wasn’t interested. I was too scientifically minded as it were. I was more… He didn’t really speak to my scientific mind, my inquiring mind, my seeking mind. But a few years later I came across his teachings again. And, I ended up falling in love with him and his teachings, especially him. I fell in love with him really, and a sense of devotion and love, overwhelming love and devotion developed towards him in a way that was very shocking to me because that was not something I was ever very interested in.

If you remember earlier, I was talking about how I thought, you know, organized religion was a load of rubbish basically. Although I could understand it, I had empathy and, you know, what’s the word, I felt like I could understand why people would go down that route as it were. But for myself, I thought “This isn’t logical”.

And similarly with this idea of gurus, especially a human guru, occasionally I’ll go to… when we had family trips to India and when we visited Indian family and friends in the UK, occasionally you’d see on someone’s mantlepiece or in a shrine, you’d see a picture of, often a man, or sometimes a lady, lady’s face, and it would be decorated and adorned. I’d say, “Who’s that?” And they said, “That’s my guru”. And it would be a human being, who’s alive.

And I always thought “That’s really bizarre, that is really weird. You’re worshiping a human being and you’re putting like, the red bits of paint on them, and decorating them with the garlands and incense and prayers, praying to them.”

I thought, “This is really bizarre”. But it was something that I was exposed to as a child and it’s something I saw people doing that I always thought was weird. And then, and then I find myself falling in love with this man who died in 1950, you know, good few decades before I was born.

And, it was very strange and bizarre for me, shocking, but it didn’t feel wrong. It felt totally right. It felt totally good. It felt so natural. So my mind was kind of shocked by it, but I didn’t mind. It was totally fine. Just full of love. It was such a positive, overwhelmingly positive experience. And I’ve since discovered since teaching, that a lot of people when they’re waking up, it’s not very positive for them.

They have a lot of troubles along the way. I didn’t realize, when I started teaching, when I started sharing this message, this realization, I didn’t realize how difficult people would find this journey. I had a lot of difficulties when I was younger, a sense of isolation, loneliness, not being able to talk to anybody about this from such a young age, but I got used to it, through my adult years, I started getting used to it, and I just accepted it.

And then I fell in love with Ramana and totally found myself unconditionally surrendering to him and my suffering disappeared and dissolved in that. And I don’t know exactly when that happened, but I remember at some point waking up and thinking, “Oh, I’m not suffering anymore. And I haven’t suffered for ages. What’s happening?”

And I had to look back retrospectively and try and piece together some pieces. I didn’t have to, but I started doing that, but it must’ve been like, I don’t know, nine months, a year, I look back on, “I haven’t suffered at all. Sometimes I’ve got an issue here. Sometimes I’ve got a bit of stress there. Sometimes something annoys me here, but actually none of this annoys me. None of this stresses me. I’m actually, there’s something transcendent that’s been there forever and is always there. I don’t know…”

I hadn’t put anything in words. And I started to realize in retrospect, “Oh, there’s been no suffering for ages now. For months and months and months. I don’t know how long.”

And I couldn’t really remember what it felt like to suffer again. I found myself falling in love with Ramana and then I realized, “Oh yeah, this is what it means to have a guru”.

I never thought of him as my guru. It was probably a couple of years after that, that I even realized, “Oh yes, he’s my guru.” I hadn’t thought of him as being my guru. I just fell in love with him. And I didn’t use that word guru in my own kind of mind’s vocabulary. It was only like a couple of years later, when people ask me about my journey and stuff, and I started to realize… Even when I first started teaching or sharing this, I didn’t consider him my guru because I didn’t think of him that way.

He was just somebody I was in love with. And then I realized, “Oh yeah, that’s what guru means really.” In a way. That can be what guru means anyway. That’s what it means for me now. It’s part of what it means to me now.

So there you go. I mean, it’s not something when I was a teenager I could ever have imagined happening. And if I imagine myself discovering something divine, lasting, and totally whole and complete, I never would have imagined, “Oh yes, it would be through falling in love with a human being who had died several decades before you’re born.”

I thought I was going to figure it out or do it through my own volition, through my yogic practices, through my meditation practices, through my readings, through my intellectual gymnastics.

Louis: So I’m just thinking of follow up questions to that.

Tom: Take your time Louis. I think the best thing is, you don’t have to worry too much about the interview, but does anything come out of that for you , that you’d like to ask?

Louis: I mean, I think… for a long time, and maybe a little bit now, but less so, I was looking for a technique, I guess, and something I can do, which takes me where I want to go. And as you say, you’ve used the word scientific, you were looking for something scientific and you’ve mentioned that. I guess maybe a lot of people listening have a similar thought and it was very much a case of me for a very long time.

And, there’s still looking for something, but I don’t know. Yeah. So I’m trying to organize a point or a question. Would you say, maybe try to phrase it this way… would you say that is all sort of trying to control the process and… would you say that’s true?

Tom: Yes. If you’re trying to use a technique to gain liberation, of course there’s an attempt to, I guess I wouldn’t use the word control, although it is a form of control, I would say you’re trying to generate something. You’re trying to discover something, that’s what you’re trying to do.

And that is, if you’re trying to discover something, there’s an element of yeah, you’re directing your efforts in a certain direction aren’t you. If you’re an Egyptologist and you’re trying to discover Tutankhamun’s tomb, and you’re digging in a certain spot, you’re probably digging in Egypt aren’t you, you’re not going to be digging in Alaska.

You’re directing your efforts in a certain direction based on what you know. So that’s what the seeking journey is. You have a certain amount of information that you have available to you based on what you’ve experienced, based on your insights, based on your knowledge, based on what you’ve read, based on what you’ve heard, and maybe a combination of all these things. And you do your best to seek and discover based on your own genuine intuition, your own genuine insights and what you’ve heard and read, et cetera. You know, this whole hodgepodge of things and you seek in that direction, and that’s what I was doing.

Now, I just want to say that that’s natural when you’re a seeker, that’s normal. Is it a form of control? Yes. You’re directing your efforts in a certain direction in order to attain something that you perceive is worthwhile, even if it’s just a projection of your own imagination, even if it is a projection of your own mind, that’s what you’re doing.

But as a seeker, that’s often all you can do. What else, what other choice do you have apart from, to seek based on what you know, and based on what you have had insights and intuition to, and what you’ve heard. That’s kind of like the seeker’s lot. That’s the situation that the seekers find themselves in through no choice of their own.

You find yourself dumped into this situation where it’s kind of like, it can be quite oppressive at points because you know, a lot of people think “Why did I end up… Why me? Why am I a seeker? Why do I have to… why can’t I be just like everybody else? Why can’t I just have a normal job and a normal life and not be worried about all this stuff? Instead I’m obsessed with this seeking thing, or I’m interested in the seeking thing and spending my time, reading these things and listening to these YouTube videos and attending these meetings and going on these retreats.” And it can feel like that sometimes. I come across that all the time, people like that.

Louis: Yeah. I’m still trying to structure a logical question. As you say, well, for myself, my interest started young, in my teens. I was very sporadic in my efforts probably until my mid twenties, and then went to Tony Parsons’ meeting every month, for quite a long time and actually have on and off for 20 years or 20 plus years. And also other people.

And for a long time, for a number of reasons, the process wasn’t enjoyable, but it’s a lot easier and more enjoyable now. And I’m still, I guess, seeking. I still feel this isn’t it, but it’s quite an enjoyable process now. And I mean, I don’t really like the thought of the alternatives of just… I guess I enjoy the process. And I’ve kind of got used to it as well,.

But, so what’s my question. I guess, like you said, it just happened, the surrendering, and maybe some people listening, and maybe myself, we try to systemize it. So, “How can that be turned into a system? How can it be made more predictable?” I mean, what were your thoughts maybe around that?

Tom: I mean, what your question comes down to, is there a method or maybe series of methods that are going to help people in this quest, in their seeking? Is there a methodology? Is there a means? Is there a practice? Is there something… what can I do?

That’s the basic question, isn’t it? What can a seeker do? What can I do? What can a seeker do? And what I encourage people to do is turn towards the teachings of my guru Sri Ramana. Sri Ramana Maharshi. His teachings, my view, we’re so blessed, we’re so blessed to have them.

Very, very few teachings are radically non-dual. Utterly, radically non-dual and show the way to the end of suffering. And, totally logical and rational, and provide us with a methodology which we can follow that suits our temperament.

Very, very rare to come across it. I mean, I’ve read so many different things. And some have great methodologies, but when you follow them, they don’t work. You know, they’re still dualistic. Others are uncompromisingly non-dual, radically non-dual, but there’s kind of no methodology there. And there’s something lacking often.

But Ramana’s teachings, how can I say, they’re the real deal. In my view. I can sort of testify to them. And he unfolds a methodology that is actually a timeless methodology. It’s the same essential methodology that is found in these ancient scriptures and the same methodology crops up in different times in different geographical places, throughout human history, it spontaneously arises.

It’s the same sort of universal teaching, but he teaches it in such a direct simple way. An unambiguous way. And it’s essentially the path of self-inquiry. And there’s another version of it called the path of self surrender. So Ramana said there’s two ways, there’s the path of self-inquiry and the path of self surrender.

And we discover that again, it’s two ways in to the same room, two different entrances, two different doorways into the same place, two different ways we can get in. And they’re actually infinite numbers of ways. Infinite number of ways, we can get into this room as it were, this room of liberation, but they all coalesce into one of these two ways. Self-inquiry or self surrender .

And whichever door you take, it coalesces and ends up with silence, ends up coming to total silence, stillness of mind in which the true self is intuited non-verbally, non-conceptually, not with the mind. There’s not something you can know. It’s not like knowledge in the mind, but it’s beingness, let’s say.

It’s actually something that cannot, cannot ever, ever be put into words. No matter how much the mind thinks it can be put into words, no matter how much the mind thinks it understands this, it cannot ever be put into words. Cannot. And the reason I emphasize that is that one of the dangers on the path is that you think you understand it. And you do not, and you cannot. The mind, the brain, the thinking mind, the emotional feelings… you cannot understand it.

I cannot understand it. No one can understand it. It’s incomprehensible. And yet it’s somehow, in quotes, “Is known”. And that cannot be, I can’t explain how, but it just is known, let’s say, without being known, it’s not knowable, but it is something that we come to in quotes, “Know”.

I’m just using that word because it’s a word. No words will actually work. So I’m just using that word as a word. We come to… Actually what happens is the we that we think we are dissolves and what actually is, is.

Yeah. So this process of self inquiry, and fortunately, or unfortunately, it’s basically the only solution we have, it’s the only way to liberation. Now that sounds very narrow, I know. If you say “This is the only way”, it’s by definition narrow, you’re excluding other ways.

But it’s the only way to liberation. It can happen spontaneously. You don’t have to have heard of Ramana, you don’t have to come to my meetings. It can happen in a different way, and you might not call it self inquiry, but that same process, that self-inquiry, that the words, that the phrase self inquiry refers to is the only way to liberation. Because self inquiry essentially is abiding as the self. It’s silence.

And this silence, this self that you abide as, these are just words… is what you are, is the reality. So the only way to come to the reality is to be the reality, and it might sound narrow when I put it in words, but actually it’s just the only way it is… and this is what Romana said, time and time again. And he wasn’t being dogmatic. He wasn’t sort of saying, “My way is the only way.” He was just saying, factually speaking, “This is the only way”.

Louis: So I think we are moving onto the next section, but if I can just ask, so was that the end of your… As you said, you actually… Did you say you weren’t sure, that you can’t exactly remember or you don’t exactly know when your seeking effectively stopped. Was that the end of your seeking journey, would you say?

Tom: Yes, exactly. The seeking, the seeking and suffering, which are the same thing, or the same process, that’s ended, but I couldn’t tell you when it ended. But I could tell you that it ended, and it ended maybe over a period of… some point between a two or three year period or something. I don’t know when, exactly.

Louis: Because… I remember reading your website, quite a long time ago and something… or maybe it was watching a video of you and something stuck in my mind. And I did wonder if I misremembered it, but it’s still stuck in my mind. And you’ve kind of reiterated that now, is the process for you was maybe not gradual, I don’t know if that’s the right word, but for some people there’s dramatic events and so on. For you, it’s almost, I don’t know if this is correct word and please correct me if I’m wrong, but you said it was almost imperceptible. It’s just one day you realized, “Oh yeah”.

Tom: Yes, exactly. It was in retrospect that I realized what had… because it’s not that something happened. It’s something fell away. And I didn’t realize. It’s not that I gained something. You know, like if you get a Christmas present, you’ve got to present, you gain something, something has been added to you. It’s more like losing something. So maybe, I don’t know, you lost your watch or something. And then you realize sometime later, “Oh, where’s my watch gone?”. And then you have to think back to when you last saw it and where you last put it and then you can realize, “Oh, I lost it sometime between Monday and this current time. I last, I remember I saw it on Monday now it’s Thursday.” Or something. I don’t know.

I’ve never used that analogy before actually, but I think it’s like that. I think it’s something like that. This is what I mean, after all this time no one’s asked me that question. So, yeah I think that’s what it’s more like.

And again, it’s surprising. Because in the same way I didn’t expect to fall in love with a dude. Again, you hear these stories of realization where it’s this amazing event, flash of bright white light or something. I’d had those experiences, many, many different types of experiences, you know, like yourself I started seeking young, started meditating, yoga, you get all these… every now and again, you get these kinds of experiences.

I had a very profound experience when I was 18 of the sense of self, the sense of being a me falling away and just being one with everything, and the sense of time stopping. And everything sort of being one. And then that sort of went away within like minutes. Within like, I don’t know, an hour or 90 minutes or something like that.

I don’t know. The sense of time had gone. So I couldn’t tell you how long it was, but it wasn’t over a day, you know? And I had lots of things like this over the years. I had sort of these events and these realizations and they all faded after some time, but this was different. This was like, “Oh, actually, where’s my suffering gone? Where is that watch? I used to have that watch with me. I used to have that watch with me everywhere I went. I’ll carry this watch around. It was on my wrist, I could tell what time was, where is it gone? Oh.” That’s what it was like.

Louis: With the more dramatic events at the time did you try to hold onto them?

Tom: Oh yes. It was, even when I realised… when I was 18, I tried to hold onto it for a few years. Probably for like three years, I was chasing that event, chasing that experience. And then I cottoned on to the realization that me chasing it is preventing it. But even when I cottoned onto that, there was this drive to chase it.

And I realized with subsequent sort of awakenings, even though I knew that, “Look, if you chase it, it’s not going to happen”. And then you get twisted up in that as well. But the actual event sometimes has such a profound effect on your consciousness. It has such a profound effect on your memory and your experience, it’s such a profound experience that your brain just goes into seeking overdrive. And it’s not something you can even control.

You know, it’s such a profound experience sometimes that your brain just goes, “Oh my gosh, I need to discover more about that”. And you just are compelled to seek and try and get that again, get that experience back again.

Sometimes I try and convince myself, “No look Tom don’t do that because you’re never going to get it if you do that”. But sometimes the impression of these experiences is so strong, it compels you to seek them.

Louis: Because what you’ve said, I mean, what you said in the YouTube video… I honestly can’t remember which YouTube video it was, but again, it really stuck in my mind. And what you’ve just said, I would like to think, hopefully it’s an educated guess, that it’s not that rare, but I don’t really hear it talked about because you know, almost everyone I can think of who leads meetings, they have the moment and they can tell you about the moment. And they all have it. So that’s why, what you’re saying seems more unusual, but I would guess maybe it isn’t?

Tom: I think you’re right. You know, I think you’re right. I don’t think it’s that unusual. I don’t know is the honest answer, but I would say that for me, it was a very natural process. You see this falling in love, this surrender, this dissolving this diminishing, this withering away into nothing. And then all that’s left is Ramana. All that’s left is him, shining.

It’s a very beautiful, natural process. It’s, very joyous, very healing, very wonderful. And you know, you’re not so concerned about attaining liberation and attaining these things, you know. And the intellectual mind is not seeking any more really during that process, you’re just falling in love.

It’s just like you’re falling in love, and you’re falling in love. And it’s just so nice, and it’s so wonderful, and so healing and joyous and expansive. You know, who cares about non-duality and realization. And so the mind is not kind of monitoring. You know how there’s like a watching function of the mind where it’s watching, monitoring, commentating, analyzing, drawing conclusions, formulating what it can do next.

That kind of thing wasn’t really there. So it’s not surprising actually talking about it now, with you, again this is the first time I think I’ve spoken about it in this way after all these years… it’s not surprising looking back that I wasn’t aware of a specific moment because that part of the mind wasn’t really there. It wasn’t really functioning in that way. It wasn’t interested.

Louis: Okay. So I think we are moving on… well we’ve kind of touched upon it a little bit… sort of the next section. But something you said which I made a note of, you said there’s a danger on the path of you think you understand it. Can you just clarify what you mean by that?

Tom: Yeah, I mean, there are a lot of genuine insights that can occur along the way, and they are genuine insights. For example, you might realize that… you might realize on some level there’s no free will, that there’s no center that’s making decisions, that things are just happening spontaneously. And so that’s a genuine insight and with that can come a lot of freedom. You can have freedom from things like blame and guilt and things like this.

But that’s something that you can understand, and that’s something a scientist or a philosopher can talk about. But that’s not necessarily the cessation of suffering, and that’s not necessarily the collapsing of duality. That’s still something that is known on the level of the mind, that is freeing, that’s a genuine insight, but essentially the root concept “I’m a person” is still actually subtly there.

And there can still be a fear about, “Okay, how am I going to make money? How am I going to live? I’m going to die at some point, what’s going to happen if I die? What’s going to happen if I fall unwell? I’m worried about my loved ones and what’s going to happen to them.”

Whereas when the duality collapses, all these worries also collapse totally as well. Although… yeah, they do. On a subjective… they totally go. Although just to muddy the waters a bit, Tom would often think about these… you will often catch Tom thinking about these sorts of things, but they’re subjective experiences, there’s no worry or concern, but you know Tom will still think and plan, but there is actually no worry, even if Tom’s sort of concerned about something.

Louis: I’ve heard said, and maybe you’re saying the same thing just in different phrasing… suffering continues, it’s not going to fix your life, but there’s no ownership anymore.

Tom: Yeah, my experience is that there’s no suffering anymore and there’s no ownership anymore. But again, maybe if I’m doing some DIY around the house, which is pretty rare to see me doing that, you might see me hit my thumb with a hammer in a cartoonish style and yelp and scream and shout.

And you would be saying, if you’re into non-duality and you’ve heard me speak you might say, “Hey, there you go, you’re suffering.” And I’ll tell you, “Oh no, I’m not suffering at all.” . You say, “But what about your pain? What about your thumb?” And I’d say, “What about it?”

So it’s something that, even that gives you a sense, but it doesn’t really. It’s not something you can really put into words at all, at all, but also what I’ve said is it gives you a sense, but it’s also very misleading as well.

So when you think you’ve got it, on the mind, that’s not it. So, you can imagine somebody thinking oh they understand it, or it all makes sense to them. That should be a red flag to you. If you’re one of those people who are seeking and you think, “Oh, I’ve got it. I understand it all theoretically, it makes sense to me.” That should be a small red flag to you that actually, there’s still some further way to go, perhaps. That’s my suggestion anyway. Each one can decide if that’s right for them.

Louis: So I’ve been to one of your meetings and just for people who aren’t familiar with you, or haven’t attended one of your meetings. Would you say these are very similar sorts of subjects you cover or do you present it or approach it slightly differently?

Tom: It’s… I mean, I don’t have a methodology or a presentation style in my view. I just turn up. That’s what I do. So you very kindly requested to interview me and I’m very happy to be here and chat with you. And then my role, if you can call it that, is just to turn up. And then see what happens.

So whether it’s a one-to-one with me, whether it’s a meeting with me, whether it’s an interview with me, or whether you’re a friend of mine and we’re just meeting up for a coffee or something, I just turn up, as it were.

And then, whatever happens, happens. If I’m meeting up with a friend, we might not talk about non-duality, you know. We probably won’t, in fact I very rarely do, we might talk about something else. And, if I’m talking to one of my children, I’m just talking to one of my kids. And occasionally this kind of topic turns up, I mean crops up, but often it doesn’t.

And whenever I have a meeting, I just turn up. Of course I’m aware that at my meeting the purpose of the meeting, the stated purpose of the meeting is freedom, liberation, so that guides what I talk about. But there’s no sort of set presentation as it were. It’s just a spontaneous unfolding.

What I did try and do a few years ago, I tried to systematize it more. I did actually try to systematize it more. I did a couple of things. When I first started sharing this, I didn’t talk about Ramana and God and devotion that much, because I know that there are a lot of people out there who are kind of allergic to these words. Who have had bad experiences with organized religion.

And I wanted, in my mind, I wanted the teachings to be as open as possible and not detract people. If I start wittering on about Ramana, that might turn a lot of people off. And I also tried to systematize the teachings to teach in a step-by-step way.

And it just didn’t feel right to me. So I sort of abandoned it. And, it was an interesting process to go through. And I realized part of my expression is to talk about Ramana, at least right now, it is. And my love for him, and my devotion for him, and to steer people towards his teaching because it’s so powerful.

And the Bhakti, which means devotion, love and surrender, is such an important part of the teaching. And I tried to downplay it all because I wanted it to be more scientific and logical. And to be honest, devotion, it doesn’t necessarily speak to the scientific mindset much. So I tried to downplay that a bit to attract more people in. When I say attract more people in, I wanted the teaching to be as open to as many people as possible, but I realized that that’s not an authentic expression of what’s happened to me and where I’m at, as it were.

So, this is the way it happens now. There’s not much structure and it’s really wonderful to me. It’s really beautiful. The way the teachings unfold based on the people that turn up and the questions they ask. And sometimes, we’ve had a few meetings where nobody’s asked any questions, which is amazing, and we’ve just sat there with each other. It’s been some of the most beautiful meetings, just to be, just to be.

Louis: So, would you mind clarifying, or maybe offering more detail regarding the path of self-inquiry and the path of self-surrender? And how they differ and how maybe people can… maybe this is an impossible question, but how people can maybe find the right approach for them or the approach that feels right for them, and how they can get started, or how they can follow it?

Tom: Yeah. I mean, first thing I recommend is that I’ve done several YouTube videos, which you can see on YouTube. Well worth checking them out. And if you look on my YouTube, what’s it called… profile? You’ll see there’s also… YouTube Channel, that’s it… if you look at my YouTube channel, I’ve created some playlists, and what’s happened is that we’ve got some volunteers who come to the meeting and they very kindly edit the meetings that are recorded and create these YouTube videos, which I put online.

So there’s a whole load of stuff you can explore. And, the feedback I get is that there’s some really useful information there. So do check them out. There’s videos on self-inquiry, videos on devotion, surrender. And I’m very happy to talk about sort of techniques. There’s also a recommended reading list that you can find on

And I’ve given a general set of things you can read. And then I’ve given, I’ve said, “Look, if you’re interested in Ramana, maybe read these ones. If you have no interest in Ramana, but you’re interested in liberation, then maybe you can read these ones. If you’re interested in a more traditional… if you’re not interested in Ramana, but you’re interested in Vedanta then maybe you could read these ones.”

So I’ve given a suggested order as well, depending on whether you are a devotee of Ramana, like how I consider myself. Or if you’re not one, you’re not interested in all that kind of, you know, Indian mumbo-jumbo, you know, the Vedic, if you’re not interested in that… and also, if you’re interested in the Indian mumbo-jumbo like traditional Vedanta, and no disrespect of course to these traditions, which I love. If anyone’s listening and feels offended, I’m sorry.

But if you’re interested in these traditions, but not so interested in Ramana, then there’s a sort of recommended reading list. And the book I tend to recommend most often is, The Path of Sri Ramana Part 1. The Path of Sri Ramana Part 2. And there’s kind of a part three, which is a bit called Sadhanai Saram, which means the essence of spiritual teaching.

And the Parth of Sri Ramana Part 1, explains in quite a lot of detail the method of self-inquiry. And The Path of Sri Ramana Part 2, explains it again, quite a lot of detail, the path of self surrender. The path of self inquiry is also known as the path of Jnana. Jnana is a Sanskrit word which means knowledge, the path of knowledge. And we realize this word knowledge doesn’t actually refer to knowledge in the traditional sense, in the common sense, because this can’t be known. And the path of self-surrender refers to the path of Bhakti, which is a path of love and devotion.

Which path is right for you? Well, you kind of alluded to it the way you phrased the question. It’s the path that feels right to you. That’s it. It’s that simple. Some people don’t know, and sometimes a conversation with me can help them sort of discover which path is right for them.

A lot of people want to do the path of self-inquiry because it’s kind of like the more direct of the two paths. But actually the most direct path is the path that you are intuitively drawn to, or you feel is right for you. That will be the most direct path for you. It’s like whether you want to go to your destination by crossing over the mountain, which is like inquiry, it’s like the straight line between yourself and your destination. Or whether you want to walk around the mountain, which is more scenic, more pleasurable, an easier route, but takes a bit longer, which is like the path of devotion and Bhakti.

And which one is right for you? Well, the one that you are fit for, the one that you are made for, the one that feels right to you will be the quickest route for you. So the scenic route was my route. And it all ends in the same place. It all ends in self inquiry. It all ends in silence. But the wonderful thing about the path of Bhakti, you don’t even have to know any theory at all.

Nothing. You just go along with it. I’ve said it’s a bit like those theme parks water slides, you just get in the top, you sit at the top and it takes you all… I mean it takes you on this slide down, and you end up going whoosh into the ocean at the end, in oneness.

And someone says, “What happened?” You say, “I don’t know, but it was great fun.” And now, I’m splashed out in the ocean. So, I do recommend people read those resources because it saves me having to go through it all, to be honest. And half the time, I can’t really be bothered to talk about it all, but I do talk about it when people ask.

Louis: Where would you say meetings then fit into that? I mean, for example, the meetings you run, where do they fit into the two paths?

Tom: Well, I think the meetings can be… The meetings are optional, obviously. It’s up to you whether you want to come to a meeting or not. And, you don’t really need the meetings, to be honest. You don’t. I would say, if you’re lucky, you will start to be drawn towards Ramana, and his teachings, and his presence.

Of course, I’m biased because, that’s what happened to me. So that’s the way I share it. So say if you’re lucky you’ll be drawn to a guru, let’s say. It doesn’t have to be Ramana, but I can vouch for Ramana’s teachings. If you’re lucky to be drawn towards Ramana’s teachings, and you follow them and that’s it, that’s all you have to do.

You don’t have to come to any meetings or anything. So in that sense, the meetings have not much value, but because really the value is in coming to Ramana, coming to yourself, discovering this for yourself. And the meetings are just there as support. That’s the way I see it, actually. If someone doesn’t understand, there’s lots of questions and lots of doubts, then come to the meeting, have a conversation with me, and see what happens.

The other thing people feed back to me, this is not something I’m that aware of myself, although maybe it is something… no actually it is something that I’m quite aware of myself, actually. But it’s something that people feed back to me is that the meetings can, for some people, if you resonate with what’s being shared have a huge healing impact. And they can be hugely expansive, joyful, and purifying.

And they can help… There’s a power in the meetings that is beyond the meeting, beyond the words, beyond me, certainly beyond Tom. Tom as an individual, you know. Of course ultimately that’s a fiction, an individual of you and a me. But there’s a power that’s there that can facilitate, transform, catalyze.

It’s the power I’ve witnessed there in the meetings. It’s power I’ve seen work in others. And I don’t take any credit for it at all, personally, you know. It’s nothing to do with me, really. I just turn up, as I said, and then this happens. But a lot of people give that feedback and I’ve seen the positivity it’s bought to people’s lives on a human level, which is wonderful, right?

Wonderful to see when people come in suffering and they finally feel themselves happier and happier and more peaceful. And it’s a power that ultimately is the same power that’s inherent in each and every one of us. That we come home to and dissolve into and become one with. It’s what we could call Ramana within us, or the self within, or God within, or the inner guru.

So, I think the other power of the meetings, and one thing that Tom’s quite good at, and one thing I’m quite good at, perhaps, is… one of the hindrances in the spiritual path, is your spiritual concepts, your spiritual ideas. And so if someone talks to me about that in an open way, we can sort of dismantle them quite quickly.

In hopefully what’s quite a gentle way. I’m not into humiliation or scolding people and that kind of stuff, as I’m sure you can see. In a very gentle way we can unpack these spiritual concepts that are… it’s a very freeing thing to do. So what can sometimes take people some years to figure out by themselves, through conversation with someone like myself, we can get through some things very quickly because Tom has an ability sometimes, to sort of just see through all that clutter and pinpoint what the problem is. So sometimes that can be happening… that’s very satisfying when that happens.

Louis: So…

Tom: Does that answer the question?

Louis: I think so. Would you say it’s important people ask questions in meetings, or are you happy if they just… is if fine if they just…

Tom: It’s zero importance to ask questions. Thanks for asking that because… it’s not even important to understand what I’m talking about. I mean, just to come to the meetings, and be there, is enough. And asking a question is kind of incidental really, and the words that are uttered are kind of incidental really. The power is not that, but sometimes it’s great to ask questions and listen to an answer and receive the teachings on that level too. On the intellectual level, on the verbal level, that has value too, you know.

And so, often when someone asks a question, after our meetings, what we do, I often disappear off and I leave the meeting open and then the people who are at the meeting have a chance to talk to each other, get to know each other, and discuss things or just support each other, or just have a chat.

And what people often say, I’ve had feedback, is that, “Oh yeah, that question you asked, about five or six other people, the answer to the question they asked was really helpful to five or six other people, or three or four other people in the meeting had that exact same question. They weren’t sure whether to ask it.”

I think that’s a very common experience in these kinds of meetings. And were certainly very common in the meetings I hold and people say that all the time, “Oh yes, that question you asked is exactly what I wanted to hear.” And a lot of people say, “I felt like Tom was speaking directly to me.” When I’m answering somebody else’s question, a lot of people say, “I feel like Tom is speaking direct to me.”

And that’s really interesting for me to hear because, it’s not like I’m doing it on purpose. It’s just, I don’t… for me, it’s like a magic. For me, the teachings, and the meetings, and life generally, but the teaching and the meetings is what you’re asking about. They’re like a magic for me. There’s something magical there. And I feel like I could say that because I don’t take credit for that myself.

Louis: Maybe just a slightly unusual follow up question to that. If people are drawn to meetings, or if they find value in meetings, do you feel, or is there, I don’t know if there’s a tangible answer to this, but is there more value then in a retreat, and how would in-person compare to zoom? I’m sure, I can’t be the only person who’s had these questions. So I guess it’s…

Tom: No these are great questions. I always tell people, “Look, if you’ve got a question, there’s probably loads of other people with the same question.” Because some people ask these questions, they seem so… some of the best questions I’ve been asked are very what’s called superficial, you know, and someone asked me about their pets once, worried about something to do with their pets.

And it was such a lovely question. And to me it’s not superficial at all. That’s a question, you know. And we had a question not too long ago about killing spiders, somebody wasn’t sure about whether… they live in a part of the world where you’ve got quite a lot of poisonous spiders and they weren’t sure about harming spiders, right?

And that was a dilemma they’d been sort of wrestling with, you know. And it led to a beautiful answer. And a lot of people commented later how interesting the question and answer were, and how much it moved them.

I don’t know, to be honest in terms of, I mean, my sort of view is that time and space are no barriers. So I at the moment hold twice weekly zoom meetings, on a Thursday and a Sunday. Thursday, eight o’clock UK time, Sunday, 3 PM, UK time, Thursday, 8:00 PM, UK time. And, we do that by zoom. To me it makes zero difference if it’s by zoom or if it’s in person, but there are few people who have met with me in person who say the zoom meetings aren’t as good.

They’re just not as good, they say. They say the sense of presence is not as strong, it’s much stronger in person, but I’ve had a couple of people say the opposite. Couple of people have said to me, “Actually, with zoom, we just see your face. We’ve just got you on the screen and there’s no one else around. And I don’t have to worry about traveling to the meeting, and if it’s raining, or if the bus is late, or the traffic’s there or something. And I’m in my own home and I’m comfortable. And actually, because it’s just you on the screen, it’s so much more present.”

In fact, the first time I ever did a zoom meeting, it wasn’t a zoom meeting, it was a Skype meeting back then before zoom was that big a platform. I’d never heard of zoom. So we started doing Skype meetings, and the first meeting we ever did on Skype was a meeting with just people who we used to go to the Druid’s Head with. So all the people on that Skype meeting had only done face to face meetings, and they all said it was so much more powerful. Or, it surprised them how powerful it was on the Skype.

So, I don’t know, really. I think the best thing to do is come along and see if you like it. I don’t claim that what I share is for everyone. If you resonate then come, and if you don’t, then you don’t have to, of course. I don’t mind either way. I’m happy for you to try as it were, and see if it’s for you.

And retreats as well. I don’t hold retreats. I’ve got a wife, I’ve got two kids, and where I’m at in my life at the moment, I don’t really want to take time away. If I had to hold a retreat to take time away from my wife and kids, it’s not something I really want to do. I like to be around my kids and my family. That’s most important to me personally.

So I don’t, I don’t hold any retreats. But I’m sure, they’re great. I’m sure it can be a wonderful thing. But I offer one-to-ones and twice weekly meetings, so that’s what I offer at the moment. And yeah, come along, if you haven’t been along already, come along if you’d like to. You Louis, and obviously anyone else, I know you’ve been already, anyone else listening, see what it’s like, see if it’s right for you, ask a question, if you want to, or just hang out really and chat to the people afterwards.

What I will say is, I’ve noticed the people who come to my meetings, and I don’t think I’m biased in saying this, they’re just a lovely bunch of people. I’ve just noticed. I’m just so grateful to the people who I’ve met. Just a lovely, open hearted. caring bunch of people that are just open to different people’s issues and problems, and not judgmental, and not holier than thou, things like that. So it’s a great crowd that I feel is attracted to what I share. So it’s good for that as well, just to sort of meet people, perhaps like-minded, hopefully like-minded people.

Louis: Yeah. And obviously one big benefit of zoom is it makes it a lot more accessible to people. Because again, even though I’m fairly local, I don’t know how far flung some of your attendees are, but I’m sure I’m local compared to many of them, but I didn’t manage to make it to, was it north London? I can’t remember which night you used to have it, the meetings,

Tom: Exactly. We have people attending, I mean, it’s not a huge meeting, the zoom meetings that I hold. But we have people attending from all over the place. We’ve got a few people from the UK, from the US, South America, Australasia, India, Europe, Africa, people come from all over the place.

It’s amazing. It’s amazing, and it’s great to meet people from all over the world as well. And I think it’s great for the people who attend the meeting. Some people have got to know each other quite well through the after-satsang. The meeting, we call it the satsang, and after the satsang where people get to chat, we call it the after-satsang.

So they’ve got to know each other, form friendships from people, people living in Italy, people live in New York, people living in the UK, people living in Australia, whatever. Get to know each other as well. It’s not something I intended for the meeting personally, I’m interested in liberation. I know people who come to the meeting find that beneficial as well, just to have contact with other people. And it’s interesting.

Louis: Yeah. And it does make things a lot more convenient, because it just makes it much easier to attend meetings because I can fit them into my work day rather than losing hours in traveling. For example, fairly recently, about a month ago or so, I attended a five day Rupert Spira retreat, retreat at home. And I was able to do that with fitting it into my work day. I mean,it did impact my work day a little bit, but nothing close to having to travel to wherever and…

Tom: Yeah, exactly. It’s amazing really, this technology we have. Yeah. I mean, some people I know they sort of take an extended lunch break on Thursdays, especially if they’re stateside. Because of the time difference, and they can, they’ve sort of reconfigured their work a bit, so they can come to the meetings, and things like this, it’s so much more accessible. How did you find an online online retreat then? What was that like?

Louis: Rupert tends to balance, I mean the first session of the day is meditation and as I’ve discovered I’m awful at meditation, I just, I have trouble focusing. I can only do one type and it wasn’t the type he was doing. And then the second session is just a talk really. And he has people from all over the world. And interesting…

Tom: How did you find an online retreat, how did you find that in general? I mean, I’m assuming it won’t be, it’s not gonna be anywhere near the same as a retreat retreat, in person I’m guessing.

Louis: How do you mean? In which way?

Tom: Well, I can imagine, I used to go on, years ago before we had kids, my wife and I used to go on yoga retreats fairly frequently. We really enjoyed them, but you know, you’re in a different place, a different setting, you’re away from all the stresses of your everyday life.

And nowadays, I guess you can be, you can if you want to be away from your phone, away from technology, the internet as well. And they’re often, these are retreats are often held in beautiful places, you know, where there’s nature around you.

And you’re immersed in something, and in that immersion, on one hand it’s removed from everyday life. So it’s an artificial setup you could say. But on the other hand, it’s a setup that’s very conducive to going inwards and discovering truths inwardly. Whereas the everyday world is often distracting us from that. So you can actually, even though on one hand it’s removing yourself, you’ve taken yourself away from your daily life.

On the other hand, you have the opportunity to discover something very deep and profound that is often not available in everyday life. I can imagine an online retreat, because you’re kind of mixing it in with your every everyday life, you’re not so taken away from your everyday life. Those advantages aren’t there so much, but you’re getting the advantage you say of accessibility, and maybe you’re getting the advantage of integrating that into your daily life. So those are the sorts of things I’d be thinking, but I’d be interested to hear what your experience is.

Louis: I’ve never actually been to a full retreat. I’ve only attended, for a number of reasons, which I’m not entirely sure why, but I’ve attended days. I’ve attended plenty of days. And I attended one day of a retreat which was fairly local, but I can’t remember why I didn’t attend the other days.

So I can’t actually do a comparison. And so, my first in-person retreat, or my next in-person retreat, would be my first in-person retreat. And I’m attending a lot of stuff on zoom. And as you say, it’s very accessible, you can fit into your work day. So there’s pluses and minuses, but I did want to actually attend a retreat, or I was trying to attend a retreat start of June. So in the next week or so, but it would have meant almost taking 10 days off work, which I just can’t do.

I think I may have, I may have… not, I mean, not in a dictatorial way, but I may have been allowed to answer emails, but the whole point of a retreat is you don’t go there and then have your laptop open half the day. You’re meant to shut off. And I would have been so worried about work and stuff that I wouldn’t have been able to mentally shut off.

So I think for my next, for my next retreat, I would have to plan accordingly. So that’s a shame because I would have been nice to attend, but just practically it wasn’t an option. And I think it’s going ahead, you know, I think things opening up and that would have been in Devon. So I don’t know if that answers your question, but I mean, I’d like to attend retreats…

Tom: How does it, because if you can’t compare an online retreat with an in-person retreat, how does it compare to going to a meeting or something like that then? Or is it much the same, or is it like, was there more intensity or a deeperness?

Louis: There’s been hardly, I mean, there’s not really, there hasn’t really been any events in Maidenhead. There has been in the past and I used to attend those…

Tom: But you’ve been to some online meetings haven’t you? How does the online retreat compare to like a single solitary online meeting?

Louis: Oh, you’re comparing zoom meeting to zoom events, zoom retreats?

Tom: Yeah.

Louis: Oh okay. I’m trying to think. I’m trying to think if I can answer that question. Because for example, like your zoom meeting, I often work in the afternoon and evening just because it suits me and because I work with America, so I would work until maybe five to eight or ten to eight, and then I tend to attend meetings on my phone just so it’s slightly detached from my computer.

So I would switch over to your meeting on my phone for a couple of hours and then maybe go back to work. Um, how does that compare? I mean, for the retreats, because it was Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. So Thursday, Friday, Monday, would be normal workdays apart from the retreat parts. So for four hours or so would have been the retreat.

So really just feels like half days. And then over the weekend, there was two meetings a day. I don’t know if I’m really answering your question, but it didn’t, it didn’t feel that different. I would say. It’s just an ongoing balancing act really. And also because you are at home, or I was at home, as you say, it’s difficult to get away from distractions because your TV is there, your computer’s there, your phone’s there. You’re in your usual routine, you’re just breaking it up a little bit, but your mind is still going in the same places. Does that answer your question at all?

Tom: Yes. Yes, it does. I mean, I’m not looking for a answer. I’m just looking to see what your thoughts are, and it’s interesting what you’re saying. Hopefully it’s interesting for you as well, because it can help you understand, if you go to a retreat again, what you can do to maybe get more out of it, or is it even worth you going on a retreat, if it’s not very different.

So those sorts of questions. One thing I do, one thing that’s interesting to me is that I hold satsangs twice a week and I would’ve thought, well, you know, who would want to come to my meeting twice a week, but a lot of people come twice a week. They come to both meetings.

Some only come to Sunday’s, depending where they are in the world and what time zone they’re in, and what they’re doing during the… and some only come on Thursdays again, depending what time zone they’re in, because Thursday’s is in the evening UK time, and Sunday’s is earlier in the afternoon.

So different people in different timezones come to different ones. But a lot of people love coming to it twice a week because it gives them that stability throughout their daily life. For some people, you know, it gives them that peace and anchors them somehow, grounds them. That’s the word. And so that’s a really nice ongoing thing that can sort of be a nice… that’s what people have again fed back to me.

And again, that wasn’t my intention. My intention was just to hold it twice a week so different people in different time zones, some people who can come on weekends, some people can come on weekdays. Yeah, to allow accessibility.

Louis: Yeah, sorry I’m still thinking about your question because I think it bothers me when they don’t answer a question properly. Maybe an accurate way to describe it for me, because my day was fairly normal apart from that, it felt like meditation breaks in my day. That’s probably, maybe the most accurate way to describe it.

Just a little meditation break and then back to work and back to whatever I was doing. Because I used to enjoy in-person meetings, but yeah, it was often a bit of a slog getting back to London, two hours each way and everything else.

Tony’s is fine because it was Saturday afternoon. But for many years I went to Roger Linden and his was Tuesday nights, north London. So I’d have to leave at five to get there for half seven, back at like midnight or past midnight. It kind of affects the whole meeting experience as well, just because there’s so much traveling involved, so that kind of affects… Okay, how are we doing for time?

Tom: Interesting.

Louis: We’re coming up to quarter to three. I was kind of leading into the third section, but I’m mindful of time as well, but maybe if we can talk a bit… so we’ve talked about your journey, we’ve talked about meetings and what you discuss in meetings, and your suggested approach. Maybe to tie it into the third section, how would you say meetings are similar, or different, or both, to one to ones?

Tom: Well, as I said in both cases, I just turn up, so there’s no fundamental difference, but what I’ve noticed is that in the one-to-ones, because I’ve got an hour just with one person, we can spend that time to explore emotional issues, psychological issues, relationship issues, personal issues, in much more depth.

Whereas in a meeting, often that won’t happen. Either because some people don’t want to discuss these issues in a group setting. Totally understandably. And also, I’m also mindful that I don’t want to spend an hour just with one person in a group meeting.

There might be a number of people who want to ask questions, or have conversations with me. And so I want to make sure there’s enough time. So often that depth of exploration won’t happen. In essence there’s no difference, but this is the practicalities of it really. And what I’d normally suggest is if you have an issue that’s more emotional, you’re very welcome to ask me in the meeting. And that might be what you need as it were.

But often, this is where one-to-one meetings will be more useful. And also again, some people have things, whether it’s personal or spiritual questions that they find embarrassing to ask, for whatever reason. They shouldn’t really, but especially the spiritual things I mean.

And then there’s some people who’ve never come to my meetings really. And I just have one to ones with. And I’m happy to do that too. So if you go to and then you can see what I offer. And there’s a tab one-to-one meeting’s and you can see broadly speaking, the kind of things I talk about, the kind of things I offer at a one-to-one meeting. But there’s not really much difference.

Louis: So where does your approach for those come from?

Tom: For one to ones?

Louis: How did you come, I mean…

Tom: Well I just offered them to people, and what was interesting was that… well there was a long time I wasn’t able to do them, because of work. And there are times I’m not able to offer one to one meetings, just because I’m too busy basically, because of work, because of family commitments. So there was a time when I wasn’t offering them and people asked me, “Do you do one-to-one sessions?” I was like, “I’m sorry, not offering any one-to-one sessions.”

So then, at the moment I’m able to offer them. So, people request them, I’m able to offer them. And then again, I just turn up. I just turn up and then, people talk about things. And what I find is that. I am very quickly able to see, within like a couple of minutes, I kind of get this information download.

It’s not quite like this really, but it’s almost like I see through the person, and I can see where all the issues are. But I don’t see it… I don’t see it verbally or conceptually. It just, I don’t know how to explain it. It just comes, and it’s not in words. So then there’s a process of me communicating what… it’s like a feeling. It’s not a feeling though. It’s an intuition, I guess, but it’s some kind of non-conceptual knowing or something. I don’t know.

I get a sense. I’m able to see through the issues and then I just communicate whatever. So, say you and I were having a one-to-one, we’ll be having a conversation, suddenly I get an impression. And then I usually just say, I usually just blurt out, what that impression is. And it’s like throwing a load of gunge at a wall. And then you’re seeing what sticks. So I just say what comes to me, and then I rely on the other person… I’ve no idea if what I’m saying is right or not, but it’s just an impression that’s come to me.

It’s like if you open your eyes in the morning, you see your room, you’ve got all these visual images that come to you. Now over time, you’ve learned to trust that that’s actually what your room is and what your room looks like. But that’s what it’s like for me, I get this… it’s like a sense that I get and I just describe that sense to them.

And almost every time the person goes, “Yes, that’s exactly, you’re exactly right, that’s exactly what’s happening.” Sometimes, it’s “No Tom, you’ve got that horribly wrong.” I’m like, “Oh, sorry about that.” But actually I must say, almost every time, it’s really opening. So that’s what I do. I just turn up and be with somebody, listen to them, maybe ask them a few questions, and then reflect back to them what I sense.

And then the feedback I get almost every time is, “That’s amazing, that’s really helpful.” Again, I don’t promise that, if someone’s listening to this conversation, they book a one to one, I can’t promise that will happened to them, I don’t know. But it’s again, I feel like it’s magic. I feel like it’s a magical thing.

I had a one-to-one with somebody yesterday, and it went in a completely different direction than either of us could imagine. And it wasn’t some sort of technique that I’d done before or anything, and it was so freeing. It was so wonderful. And the person sent me an email later saying, how amazing the meeting was.

And I was thinking, “Yeah, that was really amazing. Some of the stuff I was saying was really insightful.” And again, you know, how, why? I don’t know. It just is, it’s not me really. It’s also not channeling or anything like that. It’s not not me. It’s not like I’m channeling an entity or something. No, it’s not like that, do you know what I mean?

Louis: Yeah. I mean, does your approach for those come from your own journey and what you’ve learned, or is it just…

Tom: Well, sometimes, I think so. I think there’s definitely that. I think, there’s definitely… whatever comes through me, let’s say, part of what that is, is based on what Tom has experienced in his life. But part of it is just a seeing there. That may be a bigger part of it, I don’t know actually. It’s just a seeing of that person and seeing all the issues. Talk to someone. I see the issues drop down. It’s like, all the things that are blocking their liberation kind of drop down in front of me, and I’m saying, “Okay, this one here, that that’s problem, I’ll explain that one to you. That’s that problem. That’s that problem. Okay. That’s done now, sorted.”

That’s kind of what it’s like. But sometimes I speak and it’s, “Oh yeah, I’ve experienced something similar in my own life, and I’ll draw upon my own experience.” But to me, there’s no difference. It’s just… it’s like a seamless whole, the way it works.

Louis: I’ve found them helpful as well. Because I’m not, I don’t tend to really contribute much in meetings I’ve found. Some people it’s amazing what they share, and how they open up in the group. Typically I tend not to do that, but I’m quite happy to do it as a one-to-one and sometimes it’s helpful just to get questions answered…

Tom: Exactly.

Louis: I don’t know if this is the right phrase, as a sounding board, or just to kind of… just as a more focused meeting in a way. I mean, it feels a little bit, feels a little bit self-absorbed when all the focus is on me, but it kind of feels helpful… I feel it can be helpful, and it’s like a concentrated meeting, so you can…

Tom: Yeah. And it is, it is self-absorbed, but I wouldn’t call it self-absorbed, because self-absorbed is a negative, has negative connotations. I’d say it’s a me-focused or self-focused, and that’s the way it should be really, if I can use that word should. I know people sometimes don’t like to use the word should in spiritual things, but the way I see it is ultimately while it’s all good talking to other people, your spiritual journey is your spiritual journey.

And the aim is your own liberation. It’s not helping others necessarily. It’s actually, I encourage people to just look into themselves. And it’s about your liberation. That’s the point in the meeting. It’s not about somebody else’s liberation. It’s about your liberation. So that’s what the meeting’s about.

It’s for your liberation. It’s not for somebody else’s liberation, or for me to talk. That’s not the point in the meeting. The point in the meeting is for you to discover something for yourself. So, yes, that’s the focus of the meeting. That’s the point of the meeting. And that’s the point of that one-to-one is to focus on you or whoever’s having the… it’s not about me.

The focus is on you and you discovering something for yourself that is beyond doubt. You don’t have to rely on anybody else, anything else. And it’s something that is beyond doubt. Something cannot be doubted. And then there’s no need for belief or anything thereafter. So it should be that way.

And I encourage that. And I think a lot of people, especially as a Western paradigm, that’s quite selfish, that’s quite self-centered, but actually that’s the way it works. You need to focus in on yourself and what your issues are and then go beyond that. So that’s the the way it is. That’s the essential nature of the spiritual quest is it’s a solitary affair in that sense, you know. It’s an inward affair where you are going inwards to yourself.

So yes, that has to be the focus. That should be the focus. It’s not about creating harmony in a group or a society. They might be useful side effects. They may or may not be useful side effects, that you can help other people, and you can help society. But the primary purpose is for you to attain liberation.

The strange thing about liberation is that when you attain liberation, everything else is spontaneously liberated at the same time. So there’s no, there’s no duality. It’s not like “I now have attained liberation. You haven’t.” Because liberation is not for an individual, actually. It’s not that Tom has attained liberation at all.

That’s not really what it is. At all. It’s just that there is liberation and the entity that was striving to attain it is a fiction. So in that sense, in that way, everything is kind of liberated at once. Everyone you could say. There’s a bit of poetic license when I’m saying that, but yeah.

Louis: That loops back a little bit to I think something we spoke about much earlier, is how you say… I was trying to break up the different approaches to one to ones as separate paths, but you said it’s all heading towards the same place just a different starting point. Is that right?

Tom: I guess so yeah.

Louis: Okay. We’re coming up to three o’clock…

Tom: Like you said, you know, if you’re sitting there thinking, “Should I go to a meeting? Or do I book a one-to-one? Or do I do neither? Or do I do both?” I would just say, “Well, what do you want to do? Which one do you like to do? Which one are you drawn to?”

And most people know, “Oh, you know what, I don’t really want to go to meeting or a one-to-one. So I won’t. Maybe I’ll just watch some videos. Maybe I’ll just tune out, do something else. Or, “Oh, you know what, I’d like to go to the meeting.” Or, “You know what I’d like to have a conversation.” Or, “You know what, I’d like to do both for now.” Just follow that and what else can you do?

Louis: So you would suggest people go towards what feels right for them and try it out?

Tom: Yes. And often through a conversation with me or someone like me, sometimes if there is a lack of clarity, sometimes clarity can emerge from that.

Louis: Okay. That’s great. So as I said it’s coming up to three, I’m mindful of your time and I very much appreciate you allowing me to go so in depth into all these topics.

I’ve asked this question in the past, it didn’t work very well because it’s maybe too open-ended, but I’ll give it a go one more time. Is there, just as we wrap this up, is there anything I haven’t touched on, you haven’t touched on, which you feel it may be worth just talking about briefly as we end this conversation?

Tom: That’s interesting. I mean, I didn’t have anything else I wanted to say, but as soon as you’ve asked the question, something’s come into mind. And one thing that comes to mind that I come across quite often, especially in the UK, or people who are based in the UK, but everywhere, is when speaking about non-duality, when speaking about liberation, realization, whatever you want to call it, enlightenment… I always encourage people to speak in the language that feels right and natural to them. Use words and use a vocabulary that feels natural to you. Don’t be afraid to say “I”, “Me”, “I did this”, “I felt this way”.

The reason I say that is that I come across… this is more in one to ones, I’ve come across a lot of people over the years, and they’re self-censoring their thoughts and the way they express themselves by using… sometimes they’ll say, “Oh, well I want it on, well, not I, but you know, wanting a rose”, or something like that. They will change the way they naturally express themselves in order to fit a preconceived notion of how they should be talking, or what they feel is a more accurate way of speaking.

And there is value to speaking in a more accurate way, but there’s also value just to expressing yourself in a way that’s natural for you. Now, this might seem quite superficial, but what I’ve noticed is that when people express themselves in a way that’s natural to them, it’s more real.

There’s a communication, and a depth that can come through, that because the teaching is not in the words fundamentally, ultimately, it’s beyond the words. So the teaching that can come through beyond the words, when we speak in a natural way. And as a seeker, if we express ourselves in a natural way, even to ourselves, that can create or allow a clarity to arise. It doesn’t arise when we kind of self-censor or change the words. I don’t know if you’ve come across that kind of thing before Louis?

Louis: Do you mean trying to use, for example, nondual language, just in normal conversation?

Tom: No, just when talking about non dual… because I’m usually talking about non-duality and liberation with people. So even in those kinds of conversations, even.

Louis: Okay.

Tom: That’s what I suggest. I’d suggest just using what… if you’re describing your own experience, then just describe your own experience in language that’s natural to you. If you’re describing your own insight, then describe it in a language that is natural to you. If you want to talk about something, just talk about it in a language that’s natural to you.

If you want to… it’s useful, it’s useful to do that. If you’re not doing that already. Some people sort of change the way they speak or they limit themselves with these ideas, “Oh, I shouldn’t think this” or “I shouldn’t do that”. Well, no, if you are thinking this, then you’re allowed to say, “I’m thinking this”.

Louis: Yeah. Thinking back, and this is a long time, I think I went through a period of right and wrong approach. I think that went on for quite a long time. And now, I guess now I don’t think… I mean I probably do to some extent, but I think much less I filter myself… I much less filter myself internally if that makes sense, I allow a lot more. But then at the same time, I think I’m more selective about what I externalize and actually just being a bit more selective solves a lot of problems rather than just blurting out the first thing that comes to mind. I don’t know if that really answers the question.

Tom: I think that’s a slightly different point, which about discerning what you say, isn’t it. When you speak and what you express, and sometimes by not blurting something out by keeping your mouth shut, you can learn something that way too sometimes. Is that what you’re saying?

Louis: Yeah. I guess what I’ve learnt and it took me a while to learn is, I mean whatever you’re feeling is whatever you’re feeling, whatever you’re thinking is whatever you’re thinking, and often if I’ve got a particularly strong feeling, especially if it’s a persistent feeling, that’s usually important to me and often needs to be expressed. But I have found, I wasn’t really able to do this when I was younger, but I think hopefully fingers crossed I’m getting better at it, as there’s a thousand ways to express a feeling. And some of those ways are much more productive than others. And I think I try to aim more towards sharing feelings in a productive way that actually resolve and even improve situations rather than inflame situations.

Tom: I totally agree. I totally agree. That’s like the triple filter or the quadruple filter. Have you heard of that kind of thing? It’s like, you probably have, well maybe have, before you say something, think to yourself, “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? And is it useful or helpful?”

So before you say something to somebody, if you think about these things… Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary to say at all? And is it going to be, is it going to help the situation? These are great ways to look at what we’re saying before we say it and help us discern skillful action from unskillful action in that moment, when you’re talking to someone, or we’re communing with someone, communicating with someone.

Louis: Yeah. And people often say, when you have anger, it’s about boundaries and that can be expressed in very unhealthy ways, or it can be expressed in a way that actually improves the situation.

Tom: I mean, that’s something I talk about a lot in my one to ones with people. Boundaries and boundary setting, because a lot of spiritual types, obviously this is not always the case. Obviously I’m just generalizing, but a lot of spiritual types often are very poor at setting boundaries because a lot of spirituality is about opening up and letting things in. And a lot of people who are interested in spirituality had emotional trauma and difficult times and parts of their life, and that’s often what’s turned them toward spirituality.

So a lot of psychological issues. And boundaries are one of the things that a lot of people have difficulties with. I mean I’ve had a lot of difficulties with boundaries myself. So I’ve learned about that. So I share a lot about how to create and enforce boundaries in a healthy way, that’s also non-confrontational, but is also affirming with integrity, your own boundaries, and what your boundaries are and how to develop them.

So that’s something that I talk about fairly frequently, depending on the person. Sometimes it’s about how to create and affirm boundaries and implement them. And sometimes it’s about actually letting them go, letting go of the boundaries. It depends on the person you see, depends on the personality.

Louis: Okay. I think that covers… I did actually mean to ask you a question earlier and I completely forgot, and it’s a bit random, but just out of curiosity… So we’ve discussed zoom meetings versus in-person meetings and so on. Again this is going to seem an odd question, but often I know most people encourage, like I think you encourage having the camera on in your meetings and people often do, but obviously it’s voluntary. Would you say there’s any particular benefit or doesn’t matter if people just sit there…

Tom: Well I mean, I don’t mind if someone has their camera on or off. If someone comes to my meeting and have their camera off I don’t mind at all. So if someone wants to come to my meeting, they don’t feel that they wanted their camera on, that’s fine by me.

What I would say though, is if you come to the meeting, the more you put into the meeting as it were, the more you get out of it. And what I mean by that is not that you have to speak, not that you have to ask a question, but to be present in the meeting. Now, if your camera’s off, there might be a temptation or a tendency to sort of not be as present in the meeting.

So it can be beneficial for you to have your camera on because you know, the camera’s on you, you’re at a meeting. You’re not going to just sort of, wander around the room so much perhaps, and be distracted by your everyday things. So you’ve got more of a chance to have an immersive experience, if your camera’s on.

Now, I don’t mind whether you have your camera on or off. If you come to the meeting and never put your camera on, I don’t mind. I’m happy you’re there. But I must say I prefer to see your face, because it’s nice for me. It’s nice for me to see who’s here. But I totally appreciate that some people feel less comfortable with that, and so I want to be open and inclusive.

But if you can turn your camera on, it’s better. It might be better for you. I like it. I like to see who I’m talking to. But ultimately, I’d rather you come and have your camera off, than not come at all.

Louis: Okay. That’s interesting. I mean, hopefully it’s interesting to someone else, but I find that helpful just because… I do that, I often have my camera off and just sit there in the background, so to speak, but maybe there’s benefit to actually getting more actively involved.

Tom: As I said, there’s a teaching in the words. There’s a teaching that comes through the words that is not the words. And there’s a teaching that’s beyond the words. Simultaneously, and they will all be going into you when you’re at the meeting, depending on how open you are to it. Your body, your mind, your soul, your spirit, how open you are to the teaching.

So that’s the real thing. Are you open to the energy, the meeting, the teaching, the silence, the presence. And for most people, if they have their screen on, I think it’s going to be… it’s easier for them to be there. But, it doesn’t matter really.

Louis: That’s interesting though. I mean, it’s interesting for me and hopefully it’s interesting with someone else. Maybe a slightly odd final question for the interview, but it felt unasked.

Tom: Great.

Louis: I know we’ve gone over a little bit, so thank you so much for your time. It’s really appreciated.

Tom: You’re welcome, likewise. Thanks for inviting me. And, thanks, you’ve got great questions, I really enjoyed them. And some of them were a bit different to the ones I’ve been asked before. That’s really interesting, because I got to talk about it in a slightly different way that I haven’t done before. So thank you for that.