Neal Allen describes himself as pink, fluffy, love. He’s written a book called Shapes of Truth: Discover God Inside You, which is an interesting book to write for someone who declared himself an atheist at the age of 14. In this conversation and in the book, he lays out some interesting ideas about how we can really get in touch with what’s truly inside us and what’s not. Neal worked for many years as a journalist, and he entered the corporate world where he worked as an executive. Ultimately, he left that to explore a life of coaching and service. A lot of his work has involved looking at the identities we live, how we can dissolve those, and how we can create new and more empowering ones.
In this interview, Neal describes two of the most shaping periods in his life – the “stop believing my story” period and the “burning down the house” period. We get a taste of his transformation process as he takes Brilliant through one that he describes in his book, where we can go deep into an aspect inside ourselves. Neal also takes Brilliant through the enlightening lightning round with him. So not only will you hear his answers in this interview, but Brilliant’s as well. This captivating interview provides techniques to discover ourselves and make the best of who we are.
“When you give yourself the right to look at something like deficient emptiness… it feels like it has actually been seen through… it waves goodbye and disappears.”
This week on the School for Good Living Podcast:
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Neal Allen [00:00:00] It releases into the world a fairly easy technique for finding out who you are at heart or having at least a kind of neat little snow globe view of your own soul.
Brilliant Miller [00:00:17] Hi, I’m Brilliant. Your host for this show. I know that I’m incredibly blessed. As the son of self-made billionaires, I’ve seen the high price some people pay for success. And I’ve learned that money really can’t buy happiness. But I’ve also had the good fortune to learn directly from many of the world’s leading teachers. If you are ready to be, do, have, and give more, this podcast is for you. Hello, my friends, if you are interested to understand yourself more fully, who you really are, why you do what you do, what you want, where you’re headed in life, I think you’ll be interested in the conversation I have with today’s guest. His name is Neal Allen. He describes himself as pink, fluffy love. He’s written a book called Shapes of Truth: Discover God Inside You, which, as I ask him in this interview, it’s an interesting book to write for someone who declared himself an atheist at the age of 14. In this conversation and in the book, he lays out some interesting ideas about how we can really get in touch with what’s truly inside us and what’s not. Neal worked for many years as a journalist, and he entered the corporate world where he worked as an executive. And ultimately, he left that to explore a life of coaching and service. A lot of his work has involved looking at the identities we live, how we can dissolve those, how we can create new and more empowering ones. And Neal talks about something he called his burning down the house period when he was recreating himself in his life, that I think you’ll find interesting and valuable. In this interview, I’m not sure this will be in the final edit, but we’ll see. Neal actually takes me through a process that he describes in his book, where we go deep into an aspect of me. Neal also invites me to go through the enlightening Lightning Round with him. So not only will you hear his answers in this interview, but mine as well. I had so much fun getting to know Neal, learning about life from him, hearing his life story. I hope you do, too. I think you will. And you can learn about Neal at shapesoftruth.com. So please enjoy this conversation with my new friend, Neal Allen. Neal, welcome to the School for Good Living.
Neal Allen [00:02:33] Hi.
Brilliant Miller [00:02:34] Will you tell me, please, what is life about and yeah,
Neal Allen [00:02:40] life’s usually about lots of busy things and that misses the point. Life is actually about enjoying the moment that I’m in. And if I go beyond that, I’m kind of mucking with things, so enjoyment has a peculiar meaning, we think that it means getting a requested pleasure delivered by others or by ourselves. And what joy is, actually is curiosity. And there is no effective difference between the two joy, curiosity, effervescence, beginning. And if life is operating the way it seems to want to operate through me, then I’m going to be able, if I’m noticing, to enter into any moment with curiosity and then whatever happens, happens.
Brilliant Miller [00:03:43] That sounds a lot like being childlike.
Neal Allen [00:03:47] Yeah, it’s embarrassing how when I get down to it, I’m a goofy little four year old and that’s my core self, right? Yeah. In my book Shapes of Truth, I refer to this aspect of God that’s inside me. That’s kind of my core relational self, the way I relate to the world when I am the most open and most kind of myself, my core self. I guess I’m saying over and over again, it’s called pink fluffy love. And that’s a technical term because that’s exactly how it feels. It feels pink. It feels fluffy. It’s a little girl with her Easy Bake Oven. It’s a little boy rolling down a hill. It’s embarrassing. That’s who I am. If I remove my defenses, that’s how I’m meeting people is kind of goofily.
Brilliant Miller [00:04:44] Yeah, just free and open and fearless.
Neal Allen [00:04:48] And fearless is interesting because it sounds like it’s tough and ready and it’s vulnerable inside.
Brilliant Miller [00:04:58] Yeah. You know, I’m reminded of this because I have a seven-year-old daughter and she came down when I was working a few weeks back and wanted me to pull out her tooth. And it didn’t come out for two weeks, but she was ready. And just a couple of days ago, she informed me that she had removed the training wheels from her bike herself and had fallen off attempting to ride it without supervision. I was just like, that’s the fearlessness that I don’t know when I lost that or if I ever really had it. But I suspect I did.
Neal Allen [00:05:27] I suspect you did, too. And I suspect it’s all there. Ready to be tapped again. Yeah, actually knowing about you, you tap it every day.
Brilliant Miller [00:05:38] Well, thank you. Well, it’s interesting to me that you chose to write this book with a subtitle Discover Got Inside You when I understand you declared your atheist at age 14. How did you go from having it all figured out and being so certain to having written this book?
Neal Allen [00:05:55] There are a lot of steps in between, but oddly enough, they didn’t start until I was in my early fifties. So between fourteen and fifty two I was a perfectly happy rationalist and in lots of ways I’m still a perfectly happy rationalist. But I was more more a hyper rationalist. I scorned ideas of God and divinity and irrational and supernatural and those sorts of things. I think I had every right to because they were presented to me through the filters of religions and through the filters of belief systems that were rigid and demanded a particular metaphysics that was concentrated on life after death or on some superior being or on some oneness, that it was not achievable. And that just didn’t interest me. I tried. I tried it out. Everybody my age tried things out, you know, tried out Indian mysticism. And we all fell in love with Allen Ginsberg and Ramadoss. And so we got Buddhism and Hinduism both impressed on us and it just didn’t stick with me. It’s interesting. I’ve been reading the Buddhist, the earliest works, the early Buddhist writings. And Buddha basically says over and over, don’t pay any attention to that stuff. Don’t spend your time thinking about the supernatural or about life after death. That’s not where you encounter truth, reality, yourself, all of those things. But I was happy being a rationalist. I had a newspaper career, so the world was concrete to me. I had a corporate career. So the there was nothing in the way of my being a materialist and an empiricist when I say materialist, I just mean it in the general sense. I wasn’t particularly greedy, I don’t think. And then one day I was dating. Oh, in two thousand, six, seven, eight, somewhere in there, and the woman I was dating said, hey, I want to go out to Spirit Rock, which is nearby, it’s actually now only about five minutes from me, a nearby Buddhist center run by or founded by Jack Kornfield and I want to go see, she said, the spiritual master named Adi Ashanti. And so I said, sure, skeptically. But, you know, we were dating. And so I was going to go along with it. And I sat in a room with a bunch of bourgeois people meditating, and this guy was sitting on a little throne kind of seat up in the front of the room and looking very serene. And he asked us to close our eyes. And I think the last time I had sat in a room with my eyes closed with a bunch of other people was when Allen Ginsberg visited my campus, when I was in college. And so this was odd to sit among a bunch of strangers and close my eyes and not do anything right. It was a meditation sitting. And I don’t know, for anybody who has never done that before, it’s very uncomfortable and it’s very weird. And it goes against everything that you think is normal in the world. And the next thing that I knew a miracle kind of happened. I felt Adi Ashanti pulling my soul out of me. That felt like actually I think it came out of my mouth as dragon breath into – my eyes are closed, I’m imagining this – into himself and then returning it to me. It wasn’t actually my soul. And he didn’t actually do that. But the miracle happened. And it was only a miracle insofar as it told me that there was a realm of the imagination or reality because it felt quite real that I had never encountered before, and that probably had to do with what all of these mystics were talking about that I had refused to entertain before and it just demanded my attention. The interesting thing was that I knew there was a symbolism to it being dragon breath and being cloudy and smoky and all of that. I didn’t care what the symbolism was. And I noticed that. I noticed that my natural inkling as to access things out and to analyze things, and I do that and to kind of figure out what does this mean, and I realized the only meaning that was important was the fact that this odd miracle had happened to me. And then I was off and running. It was like, oh, there’s this other kind of land to explore. It was probably five years into exploring it rigorously, going into several different kinds of traditions and just finding out about identity and self and other and God and all of these things. I would guess it was five years before I kind of shrugged and said, OK, I’m OK with the idea of God. As long as it means like consciousness with a big C.. Sometimes sometimes the guy with the beard up in heaven sometimes hope, sometimes this, sometimes that as long as I didn’t have to be pinned down. But it could assist my personal self, my core self, in explaining multiple metaphysical ways through life, and I was OK with there being a God,
Brilliant Miller [00:12:01] Wow, what an amazing experience and thank you for sharing that. I’m present to the fact that when you relate it. Although I understand the words, I have no idea what the experience was actually like, and I limit that some. But I’m always grateful when when I hear something that was so transformational for someone. That’s amazing. So I read in some of my research about you, about someone who was influential in your life around, I think it was probably around this time, and you mentioned that you were journalists and you were in the corporate world and you connected with somebody named Bob, who I understand helped you to identify and maybe dissolve or eradicate identities so that you’d created again, this is something I’m personally fascinated by. I read Alan Watts autobiography in my own way about how he’d played this as a kind of game, as a team. But so many of us aren’t aware of the possibility of that or we think our personality is who we are and so forth. Will you talk a little bit about about Bob and about the work you did together?
Neal Allen [00:13:04] It was a beautiful time and it’s so funny. It was so transformational that it’s weird for me to go back and try to remember what it was like. It’s very hard. I am actually, in a funny way, wired differently and wired in such a way that memory is a little tough for me. But I’ll try. And I think it’s I think it may be interesting to people. I met Bob at the tail end of a marriage, I had a short marriage and then a long marriage and my second marriage, we had four kids we raised, and it had fallen apart. And we had gone to Bob on somebody else’s, on a friend of my then wife’s recommendation for couple’s therapy. And it didn’t work, and we didn’t stay together, if that’s what couples therapy is intended to do to keep people together, it certainly didn’t work. But I was there was something about Bob, that isn’t that a movie or something? Anyway. There was something about Bob that was uh, there was a glint in his eye and a kind of piercing but twinkly look into my eyes that I had picked up that was a little different than I had ever run into and a therapist. And so he actually seemed interested, you know, and I noticed that I didn’t feel like I was a a case for him. And so when it was over, I asked him, you know, I’d like to explore optimizing myself. I’ve never gone to a therapist when I wasn’t in crisis. I feel actually like I’m out of crisis right now. I don’t feel bad about how things ended. And I’m looking ahead to a new stage of my life. And I realize I might not be equipped for it. And I said, would would you be interested in taking me on to individual therapy if it’s toward optimizing myself? And he had to get approval from my ex-wife and she gave approval for for me to go see him from then on alone. And it turned out I couldn’t have picked a better guy. For one thing years later I discovered and he told me stories about walking across the Berkeley campus with Carl Rogers talking when he was a student. And and one year Rogers was teaching at Berkeley. And Carl Rogers is the father of positive psychology of optimizing, not looking at yourself as needing help to fix things, but to open yourself up. And then he had also after that, he had trained with Fritz Perls, who’s the father of gestalt therapy and he trained with him at Asselin and then he did other things that took him farther and farther into spiritual work. So we started out in ordinary therapy, you know, what I felt was going bad in my life, what was wrong in my life. And I don’t really remember that part very well. But I think it was knowing Bob, it was very typical. And he probably had me do some, you know, pounding pillows to get anger out and probably had me do some gestalt with my mother sitting in an imaginary chair across from me and and taking her role and those sorts of things. What I do remember is that suddenly one day we were doing something very, very different. And what we were doing was I was having a conversation with my inner critic, my super ego, what Freud calls the super ego what people call their inner critic or their bully or that voice in their head. Right. And I I tried to get Bob years later to tell me whether this was a normal method of his and he wouldn’t tell me. So I never found out whether it just kind of emerged out of him in me or whether it was a technique that he brought to me. And I can’t remember what it was like at first. But the technique was I pulled my superego out of my head and he showed up as a gremlin sitting on my left shoulder. And I just duked it out with him every week. And I had conversations with him about what he was trying to tell me to do. And it turns out your superego is your socializing influence. I mean, this is a whole long conversation. This is actually what my coaching spends most of its time in. But the the short version of it is when we’re five or six years old, we have to learn the rules to maturity. And this superego shows up and says, I’ve got this for you and and gives you a snarky, nasty little voice to scold you when you’re getting outside the boundaries of the cultural norms. And so it’s there to protect you when you’re alone and don’t have a parent around you, which only starts to show up frequently when you’re six or seven years old. But then it also kind of pushes you into a very conservative view of things all the time. It operates like a vampire. If you don’t pay attention to the fact that it’s there, you think that it’s you and you think that it’s you because it’s hidden from you. It talks in a whisper. It’s actually not subconscious. Freud said it was subconscious and it’s part of the three part ego. And that’s mostly true. But it’s not actually inside me. It actually sits slightly outside of me, behind my ear and whispers to me. So it’s more sub vocal than subconscious. If I bring it up, in my case, it showed up as a gremlin sitting on my left shoulder. If I bring it up out into the open, it loses a lot of its force because I get to hear how incredibly stupid it is. It is so simple minded, all it does is clock in circular reasoning that says, well, you need to do this to be liked and you need to be liked because you need to be liked. Right. That’s one of its favorite things to tell you. And after a while, you start to notice when you’re talking to it that, what if I don’t need to be liked? What if I don’t care whether I’m liked by every single person who crosses my path? Does that actually hurt me? No, it doesn’t. It actually kind of turns me into what’s going on. It doesn’t mean I hate people more. It actually means I’m not scared of people. I don’t have to put on a funny face in order to get their attention anymore. I don’t care whether I get their attention. And the more I conversed with my super ego, the more it moved to the side. What I discovered was, it had a different message for every one of my central identities. So I did an identity of wanting to be a good dad. I had the identity of wanting to be a good employee. I had an identity of a person who listened to live music. I had an identity of a person who attracted pretty women. I had all these identities. And in every case, they are presenting a false front because they were basically saying it wasn’t enough for me to be happy to be a father and engage with my kids naturally, as a father, I had to be a good father. And if I wasn’t a good father, I was going to get scolded and I was going to screw up. And and if I wasn’t a good worker, I was going to get scolded by my boss and I was going to screw up. And pretty soon I’d be out on the street and my family would be homeless and we would be descending into hell. And, you know, the super ego tells these incredibly catastrophic stories that never happen to anybody that you know, and that, you know, the nightly news selects out the occasional times that it actually happens and presents it to you and kind of supports your superego view of catastrophic things about to happen to you. And so I moved one by one through those roles and said, what would it be if I didn’t care about whether anybody who was watching when I was a father, what kind of father would I be then? What if I didn’t care about whether my kids valued me as a father? What kind of father would I be then? And you slowly discovered that as a mature human being, you actually know all of the strategies and you know which strategies are wrong and which strategies aren’t. So you’ve tried them on. You failed at the dumb ones and you’ve succeeded with the smart ones. And you don’t need this extra voice in your head telling you what to do. The removal of the extra voice in the circumstance of the role is exactly the same as clearing away an identity. And so I would go in and talk to my gremlin about a role and ask why he was running the show in that role instead of letting me spontaneously run the show without his ridiculously narrow ruleset. And what happens is, when I get away from my superego or inner critics, very narrow ruleset, my possibilities expand and usually there’s something more fun and less fear mongering than the path that my superegos taken me into.
Brilliant Miller [00:23:26] Thank you for sharing. Is this the kind of thing you think that we can do on our own that people can do on their own, or does it require having a guide who can help point things out or just support us in some way?
Neal Allen [00:23:41] Everything that I do, I was guided into. So with my clients, I have a private practice and I have a full schedule of clients who come and we do this kind of gestalt work with the with the superego. They get to meet their superego and and spend time with it. And and I do a few other techniques. All of the techniques that I do are mechanical and they are all learned and all of them require another person. The way I’m answering is, I don’t know. The only way I learned was through dialog with somebody with some wisdom. If there is another way, it’s not what I know about and I wouldn’t know about it. And it could be very specific to me because I went to college and a Platonist school. And so the idea of dialog kind of amplifying truth is natural to me and I enjoy it. And so I’m going to move that way. It’s interesting, I talk about a different technique in my book and in producing the book editors I presented to always ask me, is there a way you can do this alone? And I shrug and I go, if there is, I don’t know it and I can’t talk about it. I wish I could say yes because then the editor would be pleased. Right?
Brilliant Miller [00:25:21] Right. Yeah. So I, I suspect this is what you’re referring to when you talk about the stop believing my story period of your life.
Neal Allen [00:25:31] Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [00:25:31] Which I love that term. And I, I’m just. I’m doing my best, I always do my best to listen how the listeners will hear our conversation. Right. And I suspect there are some, obviously there are many who never tuned in. They’re not interested. There are some who tuned in and they stopped listening. There are others who tuned in and they’re on the edge of their seat and they’re thinking, right. What you’re saying about stories limiting us and the possibilities open when we identify it and we release it and so forth. I personally find very fascinating and I suspect others listening find very fascinating and useful as well. So this whole stop believing my story thing, is such a beautiful way of describing a possibility for living. Yeah, but what’s followed is what you describe follows it. I’m really curious to learn about which you say then there was a burning down the house, period. What do you mean by that?
Neal Allen [00:26:26] Yeah. So this, I think, is an experience shared in most mystical, spiritual paths that go beyond an ethical code. And that’s that as you remove identities, as I removed identities, my life tended to slightly simplify, so it’s hard to it’s hard to remember this. The easy way to think about it is if I don’t need to be a shiny person out there, I don’t need my Jaguire anymore or my BMW seven series unless I happen to like it.. And there are good reasons to like fancy cars.
Brilliant Miller [00:27:20] I understand Osho had like two hundred Rolls Royces.
Neal Allen [00:27:22] Yeah. And by the way, Bob was an Osho guy. But I also might have the experience that when I notice that I don’t care what my neighbors think about me anymore, I don’t have the identity of being a rich guy. I might get bored and sell my rich guy things, right. And the easy part of identity work is getting rid of the identities I don’t like. Right. So it’s easy, and the first ones to get rid of are the ones that like I don’t like my identity of being a know it all. And so I’m going to work on getting rid of being a know it all. I know that I’m a know it all and I’m going to get rid of it. That’s fun. Right. And then to be able to walk into a room and listen to people and not spout. That’s fun, right. If you’re a know it all right. But then I have to get rid of all of the identities that I like. And that’s painful at first. Right. So trying to remember some of them, the identity of being well read. Right. Was very important to me for a very, very, very long time. And then I realized that maybe given a choice between reading a book and taking a walk in the forest, I might want to take a longer walk next time. I might want to take a couple hour walk. I might want to take a three hour walk. I might want to set aside time every day to take a long walk and well, I can’t read as much anymore. And that’s OK. If I’ve gotten rid of the identity of needing to be well read or needing to be, then then I can then all of a sudden look at my bookshelves and I go, why do I still have all of these books? Right. What do I need them for? I’m never going to open them. They just identify myself as a reader or identify myself as knowing a bunch of stuff. Next thing I know, as soon as I’m thinking that, I’m acting on it. And that’s weird, right? I just found myself. I was living in a kind of cabin kind of house out in the woods a little ways away from here. And all of a sudden one day I noticed I was boxing up my books and taking them to Goodwill and I was driving to Goodwill, and I was wondering how did I get here? What am I doing? And then I went, Oh, yeah, I don’t need these books. And I realized that and they’re gone. And then I notice myself just kind of getting rid of stuff. So one thing that you notice when you kind of fall into a mystical path and you kind of start to question, or I did when I started, I shouldn’t put it you, it’s not universal. But what I did when I started to question things was that I noticed that there was actually an odd value to simplicity and that the add value to simplicity is that it has a lot more freedom to roam. So most people think that they live in a world of loss and grief and that if you get rid of something, you’re going to grieve the loss. And we’re trained to do that. And the odd thing is, the more I got rid of identities, the more I noticed that I could look at that as I’ve lost all those books, but I could also look at it that it simplified things. It’s very standard for people, I used to do, I don’t do it right now, but I do hospice volunteering and it’s very standard, the number one subject of, gossip and conversation in a retirement home or nursing home is the loss of faculties, usually the loss of mobility and the loss of sight are the two big ones that everybody talks about all the time and everybody’s worried about. And never once do you hear a person saying “and because I’m losing my sight, you know what? Thank God I don’t have to drive a car anymore. I don’t have to maintain a car. I don’t have to, like, think about driving anymore. It’s kind of simplified my life” or, you know, and the odd thing is we don’t notice that every time we lose something, there’s a little bit of an opening there that I get to. I get to pick what goes in there. I actually have freedom in there. I’m not I’m not sure I’m answering your question.
Brilliant Miller [00:32:10] I think what you’re I think what you’re doing is describing really beautifully what what you mean by burning down the house period. Right. Because many people, my experience as a coach and just living as attentively as I guess I can bring myself to do, is that many people live, like you’re saying, is as though they are the ego, they are the voice, the gremlin. You know, they don’t they don’t have that distance. But even if they manage to, even if we manage to, and we start to identify and deconstruct or create new identities, there’s this this process we’ve got to go through, I think, to get there, which is what you’re saying now about when I asked you about burning down the house.
Neal Allen [00:32:47] Yeah, I think that that, you know, it it’s in traditional Buddhism and traditional, all the different forms of traditional collected into the word Hinduism. There is an expectation for some period of time either at the end of life or earlier in life, to become a mendicant, to strip your life down to clothes, food and shelter and and the food you actually beg for. Right. And and the idea of being a mendicant is to see that you actually only have three needs and everything else you think might be a need, but is actually just a desire, something you want, but you don’t need it. And that’s our conflation of need and want is what gets us in trouble. There’s nothing, by the way, ever wrong with wanting things, we’re pleasure seaking, were curious, wanting and being curious is the same thing, right? Joy and being curious is the same thing. Curious and wanting is the same thing. What’s the curiosity of a child, a red ball that he doesn’t even have the word ball for? He wants it. But why does he want it? To pull it closer, to see and lick it and feel it and see what it is. Out of want, w and curiosity of the same thing. You see this particularly when you see mothers and daughters shopping in closed stores together, is they have a socially acceptable period of time to have no expectation of buying anything but to just go through a rack and a rack and another rack and another rack of goods going cute, cute. Oh, isn’t this cute? Oh, isn’t this cute? Oh, that’s so cute. Right. There’s only one word. They use it over and over and over again. But what they’re doing is that they’re allowing themselves to want and want and want and want with no expectation of getting it, right. It’s called window shopping. And it’s lovely to watch people doing it. They may buy something, right. They can still interrupt this with buying something. But most of it is we are taught not to want things rather than being taught not to expect to get things. Then you get in trouble when you expect to get something. Yes, then you’ve turned it into a need instead of just a casual preference to want to be curious about it, to see it come in, come your way. And then you have most things that you want that you discard fairly quickly. You lose the new car smell of everything. Yeah. And then you want a new one.
Brilliant Miller [00:35:33] That’s right. That’s my experience and you say three needs. Is that is that what you’re saying? The food, clothing, shelter as the three needs. Yeah.
Neal Allen [00:35:41] Yeah, that’s it. You know, people say you need love. We’ll tell that to a happy hermit. People say you need friends. Tell that to a misanthrope. Right. They don’t need them and they live to old age. And that’s that’s the goal. Right.
Brilliant Miller [00:35:55] Biologically for sure. Survival and reproduction. So awesome. OK, so let me ask you now a bit about what you’ve included in your book, Shapes of Truth. I’ve read it. Thought it was pretty fascinating. I love that it draws on a number of wisdom traditions. I’m really curious of all the things you could have written in your life experience, why did you choose this? How did you how did you settle on this book? And maybe it’s also a useful entry point to ask, who did you write it for and what did you want it to do for them?
Neal Allen [00:36:32] Yeah, so this went through, to me, an interesting question and interesting answer. It went through several very distinct phases. I had studied under a particular spiritual master in Berkeley who has a modern day mystery school, like a Platonists mystery school or or a Sufi mystery school. Anyway, it isn’t attached to any particular tradition. It’s eclectic. A Guy named Hamid Ali. And he writes well accepted spiritual books under the name A.H. Almos. That’s his pen name. The school is called Diamond Heart or Diamond Approach or the Ridwan School. And it’s a school, but it meets in – the version that I went to, – met in, about 60 of us met, eight days in retreat’s, eight days of meditation and dharma retreats and self inquiry twice a year. And so I did this for a number of years and sometimes he spoke and sometimes other people spoke. Who he had taught to speak about these methods and discoveries of his. And one thing that he had discovered was that there are some aspects of God that have their own vocabulary as distinct things that are universal, that can be seen within your torso, which is very peculiar, and woowoo and crazy, right. And so the idea is. If I, I should be better at this. My wife, who is extremely pithy, my wife is an Anne Lamott who some of you may know, and she’s a melodist and she’s just very, very Brilliant and smart and pithy. And she can crack you up and explain things in ten words and it drives her crazy that I don’t do that. But hidden in your body is a set of thirty five divine objects that represent aspects of God. And what Hamid showed his students is that they can grant, if you discover them, immediate relief from an everyday suffering, an emotional conflict, and that over time you can discover that they are who you are deep down inside. And, you know, if you want to know more about all of that, read the book. But what happened was, as I was studying under Hamid and learning about these things and, you know, one object represents divine will and I can find my own will through the divine will by knowing more about divine will. One one represents divine curiosity. And I can free up my curiosity. And each has a color like curiosity is yellow, will is white and a shape and a texture. And if I find yellow inside me doing these exercises, it’s the exact same yellow as you find inside you. And so there’s a universality to this vocabulary of about thirty five colors that can be investigated inside. I noticed as I was listening to him and learning this process and seeing its benefits, that it seemed to me that it had a relationship with something that I had studied in college, which was Plato’s ideals, and so I thought that that was interesting and that Platonist scholars would be interested in this and that it could open up a kind of interesting little avenue for scholarly research and Hamid would get credit in the outside world for this discovery that that might have repercussions outside of this little mystery school and might have benefit outside of his mystery school. And so I had actually left the mystery school, by this time. I had left the diamond approach. It had done what I thought it needed to do for me. And I was ready to go on and do other things. But this nagged me that nobody was giving credit to Hamid for this discovery. And so I emailed him and I said, you should write a book. You’ve written 15 books, write a book, I think the world needs to know about the connection to Platonism and the oddity that there’s this corner of Platonism that seems to be probably was known to Plato and Socrates, but has been hidden for twenty five hundred years. And he wrote back and he said, yeah, that’s a good book, an interesting book, but I’m writing other books. I don’t have time for it. If you want to write it, I’ll help you. And so I owed it to him, so I wrote it as a as partly a debt in a funny way, but partly because I thought the world needed to see it. And so the first version I did was erudite and scholarly entrace Western philosophy into spiritualism and had all sorts of interesting corners. And I did a lot of research and all of that. And the first publisher who bought it said, well, that’s all nice. I bought the book and I thought I would publish it as is. But I’m not going to because, you know, nobody’s going to buy that book.
Brilliant Miller [00:43:01] Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours.
Neal Allen [00:43:03] And it was yeah, it was a little frustrating at first. And so I bought the book back because we just I rewrote it kind of, but I wasn’t really hearing him, I don’t think. And I still thought it was Hamid’s book at that point, so I sold it to another publisher and he said, I will only buy it if you make it more about the benefits and less about the history of it. And so I got out and thought to myself, yeah, that’s really what the first publisher was saying too. And so I rewrote it for the second publisher and. I kind of liked it, I kind of thought it was a little awkward, and then he had this other idea to flip it upside down. It’s complicated. But then I rewrote it a third time only after I had rewritten it a third time did I notice it was now my book. And so I wrote Hamid and I showed it to him and he said, that’s fine. It’s your book. I don’t mind. And so I felt like I was clean that way with him. And then the covid got in the way. The book was getting delayed. I bought it back a second time and then I ended up putting it up myself, before I put it out myself, I did a final draft of it. And only then did I know that it was there really no longer at all for scholars of Platonism or linguistics, and there’s a little bit of Chomsky left in a tiny bit of it. And it’s no longer for those people. It’s really for every day spiritual seekers, probably people who have already experimented for a while themselves. And if there’s a value to it, which I can’t tell you what it is, it is that, it releases into this into the world a fairly easy technique for finding out who you are at heart or having at least a kind of neat little snow globe view of your own soul. Periodically.
Brilliant Miller [00:45:28] Well, that’s pretty pithy right there, the snow globe view of your own soul.
Neal Allen [00:45:32] Yeah, and he loves the snow globe. When I came up with that, she said, use that. Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [00:45:38] So with these forms, I’m really curious, are they things that people learn and then they imagine or invoke are the things they go into some kind of a meditative state and then introspect and discover?
Neal Allen [00:45:54] Yeah, it’s it’s the latter. I mean, I can do it for you really quickly. We can do it. It takes a few minutes. OK, so close your eyes, take a couple of breaths and I just want you to go into your head, neck and torso and look around for any localized little sensation. It might be a feeling of tension or a warm spot or a cold spot or as long as it’s not gastrointestinal. And I don’t want to hear about your chronic pain in your lower back, but something that’s just kind of sticking out that’s very local. And tell me when you found it.
Brilliant Miller [00:46:41] You’re saying only in the head or neck,
Neal Allen [00:46:43] head, neck or torso,
Brilliant Miller [00:46:45] oh, head, neck, or torso.
Neal Allen [00:46:46] Yeah, just not in your limbs. I’m putting you on the spot. I know it’s kind of funny, it’s you know, it’s often it’s quite often a feeling of tension or clenching.
Brilliant Miller [00:47:09] Yeah. So, OK, so I found something,
Neal Allen [00:47:11] OK, where is it?
Brilliant Miller [00:47:13] It is in the upper part of my head, it feels like the inside of my skull in the back.
Neal Allen [00:47:20] OK, inside the back of your skull. And what’s the sensation that you’re feeling back there.
Brilliant Miller [00:47:27] It feels like.. I would say pain, it feels like a little bit of it almost feels like like a plane, like a board is attached against two parts of my skull, kind the top in the back.
Neal Allen [00:47:43] OK, so you have a feeling of pain and a board attached to the back of your skull. How tall is this board pain feeling? In inches.
Brilliant Miller [00:47:53] I mean, maybe three.
Neal Allen [00:47:55] And how wide is it?
Brilliant Miller [00:47:57] It’s uh, because it’s a square, it’s not a cube, but it’s a square, so it’s like three by three,
Neal Allen [00:48:02] three by a three and front to back out how big is it?
Brilliant Miller [00:48:07] Probably a centimeter or a half an inch, a little less than
Neal Allen [00:48:10] three by three by a half, does it have sharp or rounded corners?
Brilliant Miller [00:48:14] Sharp.
Neal Allen [00:48:15] And you said it feels like a plank. Does it feel like wood or rubber or is it solid?
Brilliant Miller [00:48:22] It is solid
Neal Allen [00:48:24] What’s it’s density? Is it more like wood, rubber, steel, which?
Brilliant Miller [00:48:27] It’s hard. It’s not as hard as metal, but it’s like wood, almost like plywood.
Neal Allen [00:48:31] OK, and is it floating or is it.. I think you said it was attached.
Brilliant Miller [00:48:36] It is.
Neal Allen [00:48:37] Can you see where it’s attached?
Brilliant Miller [00:48:39] Yeah. So, yep I can.
Neal Allen [00:48:41] OK, and is it moving or is it still?
Brilliant Miller [00:48:45] It’s still.
Neal Allen [00:48:47] What color is it?
Brilliant Miller [00:48:50] It is brown. It’s like wood,
Neal Allen [00:48:52] like wood, and is it shiny or matte on the outside?
Brilliant Miller [00:48:56] It’s kind of a it’s more like matte,
Neal Allen [00:48:59] so it’s the same wood, it doesn’t have a skin, it’s the same word on the outside as on the inside. Yeah. And go into the center of it. I know it’s only a half inch thick, but go in a quarter inch. Is that the same color in the very center or is it darker or lighter?
Brilliant Miller [00:49:19] You know, now I’ve introduced myself this idea of plywood, so it seems to be varied like strata throughout, but in the center, it’s therefore also that same variation.
Neal Allen [00:49:32] OK, so it’s it’s like plywood, three by three by a half inch. It’s got a feeling of pain or tension. It’s attached in two spots. It’s brown like wood. Does it have grain like wood? Yeah. OK, all I want you to do now is look at it. All you care about are its physical characteristics. You don’t care why it’s there, how it got there or anything. And just look at it and take your time and let me know if anything changes or let me know something you haven’t noticed about it before. If you notice anything else, you can look at it from the outside. You can go into it however you want to look at it.
Brilliant Miller [00:50:16] So I do notice two things. One is that my perspective of it is fixed so I can see that I’m only looking at it from a certain angle. I don’t seem able to view it from another angle and I notice that there seems to be like a bolt that has appeared in the center of it, like a metal, now there’s a metal component to it.
Neal Allen [00:50:40] And describe the bolt to me.
Brilliant Miller [00:50:42] So it’s. Chrome, it’s like almost like a bolt on the leg of a pinball machine just again in the center. It’s now seems to be protruding from it.
Neal Allen [00:50:57] Protruding back toward the back of your head?
Brilliant Miller [00:51:00] Yep.
Neal Allen [00:51:00] OK. So now you have a plank and a bolt. Which do you want to concentrate on?
Brilliant Miller [00:51:08] The bolt,.
Neal Allen [00:51:09] OK? Look at the ball. What else can you tell me? Is it shiny, is it black, is it silver, is it. Oh, chrome, you said it’s chrome OK.
Brilliant Miller [00:51:19] And I can see that it’s clearly manmade. It’s it’s threaded. It seems to seems to have maybe multiple components where there’s like a shaft that’s threaded. But then it also has another another part to where it attaches to the wood.
Neal Allen [00:51:39] It’s threated, it’s in parts that prove it’s quite manmade and assembled. Is it chrome through and through?
Brilliant Miller [00:51:52] Yeah, although the eye can see the like the shaft is not it’s not chromed, it’s just steel.
Neal Allen [00:52:03] And what’s happening with the plank now?
Brilliant Miller [00:52:10] It seems to be moving more toward the center of the skull. It’s not not as fixed. Still attached, but it’s there’s a sense of movement to it now.
Neal Allen [00:52:21] And is it carrying the ball with it as it moves toward the center of your skull?
Brilliant Miller [00:52:25] Yeah,.
Neal Allen [00:52:25] Just watch it move toward the center of the skull. Is it more like it’s floating now and less like it’s attached?
Brilliant Miller [00:52:34] Yeah, it is. It’s almost like it’s flattening and expanding a bit, almost like it’s even though it’s becoming bigger, it’s becoming less, has less mass.
Neal Allen [00:52:44] So it’s losing its density, more porous. But it still looks like wood. Is it the same color? Yeah, and how wide would you say it is now?
Brilliant Miller [00:52:57] I think it’s probably doubled in, more than doubled. Its like at least six by six.
Neal Allen [00:53:01] And how about how thick?
Brilliant Miller [00:53:04] It’s a little thinner now. Maybe now it’s only a quarter of an inch.
Neal Allen [00:53:13] What’s happening now?
Brilliant Miller [00:53:18] It continues to thin almost almost like is disappearing. I don’t have the sense that it will totally go away, but it seems to be losing substance.
Neal Allen [00:53:29] So keep your attention on it. You’re watching it with lose substance.
Brilliant Miller [00:53:34] Yeah, basically, it’s it seems to have dissolved, but the bolt is still very present,
Neal Allen [00:53:42] so it’s dissolved. Now you’ve got the bolt left right before you turn to the bolt, just look around and see whether there are any fragments of the plank left.
Brilliant Miller [00:53:53] I don’t, I don’t see any, I don’t I don’t sense any
Neal Allen [00:53:56] did it leave an impression of itself or is it completely gone now?
Brilliant Miller [00:54:00] It’s just gone.
Neal Allen [00:54:01] OK, now go now turn to the ball. So now you’ve got a chrome bolt. And so chrome is like a silver mirror, right? And then the the the threated part is less shiny,
Brilliant Miller [00:54:15] but it too seems to have changed to where it now has like extensions, almost like a propeller to where I can sense that it’s also connected where the wood was to the skull and then it has like an elbow and it extends maybe six inches. And now it has two arms, almost like a little propeller.
Neal Allen [00:54:35] OK, is it moving at all as it as a change of shape?
Brilliant Miller [00:54:41] Yeah, as I talk about it, it seems to become like a jet turbine and it even has like a little red cap and now it does have .. it is moving.
Neal Allen [00:54:53] It was moving fast or slow or medium or.
Brilliant Miller [00:54:57] It’s is moving very quickly
Neal Allen [00:55:00] what happens as it moves?
Brilliant Miller [00:55:06] Nothing.
Neal Allen [00:55:07] OK. And the redcap tell me about it.
Brilliant Miller [00:55:10] I would imagine it’s aluminum, it’s kind of cool, it’s clear to me whoever made it could have just made it aluminum to match the rest, but it’s a little adornment. It’s a little colorful.
Neal Allen [00:55:36] What’s happening now?
Brilliant Miller [00:55:41] And now it just seems like a turbine, like it doesn’t seem to be as connected as it was, it’s just kind of there seems to be like a machine in the middle just floating, kind of floating in the middle of my head like an engine.
Neal Allen [00:56:03] So it’s got a red cap and it’s got a screw. And the screws more like a turbine.
Brilliant Miller [00:56:10] Yeah. So now it’s got like a housing like a really cool, a really cool piece of aircraft equipment.
Neal Allen [00:56:22] When you go inside it, what color is it on the inside?
Brilliant Miller [00:56:28] Is also kind of aluminum.
Neal Allen [00:56:34] When you look up, when you’re inside out, what do you see?
Brilliant Miller [00:56:41] Just I sense it is dark. It’s kind of dark and there’s a smooth, like a smooth interior wall and I can I can just see that that barrel shaped. And it’s hollow, now it’s hollow.
Neal Allen [00:57:03] When you look down, what do you see?
Brilliant Miller [00:57:07] Same, just that it’s a circle. It’s like being on the inside of a barrel.
Neal Allen [00:57:14] Now, come back outside of it and tell me about it. Is it going at the same speed
Brilliant Miller [00:57:20] and now it doesn’t have a sense of motion now, I’m aware that it’s just a hollow it’s like a tube. And it does have, it looks like an engine, but it doesn’t have a sense of motion anymore. It’s just. It looks identical, but now I know it’s hollow.
Neal Allen [00:57:39] How long is this tube?
Brilliant Miller [00:57:42] Three feet.
Neal Allen [00:57:43] And does it have.. Is it open at the top and bottom?
Brilliant Miller [00:57:49] Just at the back.
Neal Allen [00:57:50] Just at the back. Yeah. So which I’m sorry, what direction is the tube going? Is it horizontal or vertical?
Brilliant Miller [00:57:58] It’s angled, it’s horizontal, but it’s tangled up a few degrees. OK.
Neal Allen [00:58:05] If you had to guess what with the wall of the to be made of.
Brilliant Miller [00:58:10] Aluminum,.
Neal Allen [00:58:11] Aluminum. And it’s hollow, it’s capped on one end. Is the cap still red?
Brilliant Miller [00:58:25] It’s hard to say, it’s different from the rest of the material, but it’s darker, just darker. I don’t think it’s red. Now, it’s the whole thing is just kind of a gray and the cap is now just like a darker shade of gray.
Neal Allen [00:58:41] Yeah, just look at this gray tube that’s like a turbine with the darker gray cap. Let me know if anything changes.
Brilliant Miller [00:58:57] Just that it seems to have settled almost my sense is that now and where before the plane was on the roof of my skull, this is like it’s sunk to the bottom. It’s just resting
Neal Allen [00:59:10] of your skull, of your head or where?
Brilliant Miller [00:59:14] I would say like of the bottom part of my head.
Neal Allen [00:59:19] So where your jaw starts?
Brilliant Miller [00:59:20] yeah.
Neal Allen [00:59:24] Still about three feet long?
Brilliant Miller [00:59:28] Yeah.
Neal Allen [00:59:31] What’s happening now?
Brilliant Miller [00:59:36] You know, now. I’m just having the sense that, you know, like the impossibility of something three feet long, being inside my head and being somewhere outside of me after all, and that it’s in a marsh like where my field of view is and where this thing is, is in a is like lots of grass. There’s water. Yeah.
Neal Allen [01:00:00] And what color is the grass,
Brilliant Miller [01:00:03] it’s green
Neal Allen [01:00:04] and can you dive into the water?
Brilliant Miller [01:00:08] I could, it’s almost like a swamp or a marsh. It’s not it’s not icky, but I can say that it’s not appealing.
Neal Allen [01:00:17] OK, and where is the tube in relation to the marsh?
Brilliant Miller [01:00:22] It’s just right in the middle. It’s almost like it fell over.
Neal Allen [01:00:28] Is this now outside you or inside you?
Brilliant Miller [01:00:32] now it feels like I mean, it feels like it’s outside me,
Neal Allen [01:00:40] And just keep looking at the tube in the marsh. Is it still moving away from you or is it?
Brilliant Miller [01:00:52] No, I just it’s just sitting and I seem to be stationary, just viewing a landscape with the tube just in the foreground.
Neal Allen [01:01:05] So pay particular attention to the tube and scan it, go down its full length and see around it and take it all in and tell me what you notice.
Brilliant Miller [01:01:23] I notice that it has just a little bit of like it’s clearly manufactured, right? It’s like almost segmented. It’s been put together. Still, it’s hollow. It’s gray, it’s almost like a, like a primer before you paint a car or like on many military aircraft, it’s just kind of like a dull gray.
Neal Allen [01:01:46] And how big are these segments? How many of them are there?
Brilliant Miller [01:01:53] I only see one and it’s. You know, almost divides it in half.
Neal Allen [01:02:01] What’s happening now?
Brilliant Miller [01:02:06] I just have to have a feeling of I have a feeling of peace and I’m also present to the kind of a juxtaposition of here’s a natural landscape with something that’s clearly manmade and purposeful, like it’s an object of travel, of power that’s in this moment just stationary. It’s kind of interesting to see nature and the manmade just kind of resting. It’s just really serene. And then and then I have the sense that I’m moving away from it like it’s diminishing.
Neal Allen [01:02:45] So watch it diminish. So it’s getting smaller. You’re moving away perspective. How big is it now, how big?
Brilliant Miller [01:02:59] You know, it appears to me to be because of my distance from it now, like, millimeters.
Neal Allen [01:03:07] Tell me if it disappears.
Brilliant Miller [01:03:11] I can’t see it any more.
Neal Allen [01:03:13] And look around, see if you can see any remnant of it.
Brilliant Miller [01:03:19] No, I don’t.
Neal Allen [01:03:22] Okay now go into your torso. And what color do you see on the back wall of your torso?
Brilliant Miller [01:03:30] I feel like I’m having a hard time turning to see the back wall. Yeah.
Neal Allen [01:03:35] So just be in your torso however you want to be in your torso. So I’m going to just for a second, I’m going to ask, how do you feel right now?
Brilliant Miller [01:03:44] I feel good. I feel really good and peaceful.
Neal Allen [01:03:49] So now just look around and see if you notice anything.
Brilliant Miller [01:03:57] Yeah, so what I noticed is that I, because I imagine being in my torso, that it seems to be some kind of shaft. You know, it’s almost like a mineshaft. But it’s much more industrial, like there’s metal and steel all the way down and then, like ladders, metal ladders and so forth, and I have the sense of great depth. But I still think I’m having a hard time, like I said, like turning to view, I feel kind of fixed toward the front.
Neal Allen [01:04:34] OK, so what happens if you go down those ladders? Can you make it all the way to the bottom of the mineshaft?
Brilliant Miller [01:04:45] I have the sense that, I mean, I can descend, but. It’s just like there’s blackness down there
Neal Allen [01:04:51] who don’t you just descend into the blackness. Tell me about the blackness. Is it dull? Is it shiny?
Brilliant Miller [01:05:04] It’s like a mist. I don’t notice it changing temperature, but. I have the sense that I’ve reached.. I have the sense that I’ve reached the end of where I’m comfortable going,
Neal Allen [01:05:29] So you don’t want to go any further down right?
Brilliant Miller [01:05:32] Yeah, I mean, I know there’s more down there, but I don’t know what it is. Yeah. It’s almost like a smoke, like a. I guess pretty dark. It’s like charcoal, almost like charcoal colored dust or smoke.
Neal Allen [01:05:51] So I’m going to bring you out of it. So just open your eyes and come out of it. So that’s what I do. The first object that arises is your belief in, an emotional self and issue, and typically the first objects, gray or brown and dull, in that sense, a dull color, it can be shiny, but it’s a dull color. When it when it turns into a tube I’m you’re pretty sure that you’re looking at the deficient emptiness that sits underneath the personality, your identities are a big structure that depressingly have nothing underneath them, no meaning, no purpose, nothing underneath them. And you get to spend time with that. Right. It’s not unlike certain forms of what we call depression, meaninglessness, alienation, feeling. Right. So it’s it’s a belief that if you lack identities, if you lack a personality, there’s nothing there. It’s deficient. And then when it eventually clears away, either a stronger view of the same thing arises, which is what arose for you. The mineshaft was much more directly that deficient emptiness. And you dive down to see what’s in the bottom and it gets more and more uncomfortable. Right. If we had stayed with it, it’s just kind of boring radio or TV for other people. So I brought you out of it. But if we had stayed with it, eventually the mine shaft would disappear too. And then you’d get introduced to the possibility of a different kind of emptiness, a spacious emptiness, a full emptiness, a vibrant, dynamic emptiness that is hidden by the deficient emptiness. It sits on top of that or it gets in the way of the true emptiness, which is a lovely experience. But interestingly, in the transition between the first view of it in the and going deeper into it, you had a very typical experience of when you’ve given yourself the right to look at something like deficient emptiness or some other emotional conflict in a concentrated fashion without trying to fix it or avoid it or deny it or do the normal things that we do when that same conflict shows up in words in your head, when it shows up in these body forms inside you, they seem so benign that you get to spend time with them. And so my sense, the way I put it, you know, I’m just making up these words in a certain way, is when it feels like it has actually been seen through, it waves goodbye and disappears. And inevitably there’s a feeling of well-being that arises. And the funny thing about the feeling of well-being is it’s not just I’m glad that that particular emotional conflict that I was looking at that triggered that particular symbol to show up inside me is gone. It’s I feel good about that. It’s no I feel general equanimity. I feel general contentment. Like not only is that not wrong with me, there’s nothing wrong with me.
Brilliant Miller [01:09:32] Now, that’s that’s beautiful. And I’m really grateful to you. You know, it’s interesting, super interesting in that whole mineshaft experience is you were saying like, that was amazing because, you know, for the first 90 percent, I’m sitting there going, “I’m making this up. Am I really seeing this? Am I doing it right?” And then that experience of descending like I mean, I think you can see I’m crying like something real was like, whoa, there’s something, there’s an experience here that, you know, was really powerful. But I do feel peaceful now. And yet I wonder what happened if I went deeper. I mean you just told me but.
Neal Allen [01:10:15] Well, I mean, it doesn’t really matter because like you said, the tears of gratitude are showing your compassion for how difficult your life is in the mine shaft right now. That’s nice. It’s a nice experience. You know, I have this funny, funny theory I play with a kind of almost don’t dare to say it aloud because it’s so counter to what seems obvious. But I tend to think that at least often, if not almost always, the tears part of greif, are gratitude. They are the resolution of grief and to you know, even that brought me here and even if it was difficult, I’m here. You know, not I’m here as a survivor, but I’m here as if, you know a lot of Buddhist confusion and Hindu teachers talk about how when you go down a spiritual path, the suffering becomes your teacher in a different way. It isn’t just well, I survived that and the kind of I overcome difficulty. It isn’t like that at all. It’s that, aha, bottoming out ain’t bad. It takes me into “when I bottom out and I lose my beliefs”. You know, this is where Jesus said on the first line, first thing he states when he comes out into public, first line is “blessed are the poor” in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Right. He’s saying I’ve been walking around on this earth and the people who people call losers actually have it together.
Brilliant Miller [01:12:12] Oh, my goodness. Yeah, that’s amazing. Thank you for that.
Neal Allen [01:12:20] You’re welcome. I love doing it. It’s fun. It’s it’s trippy as hell. And the oddest thing is I do it with very rational people like my family and people who have no interest in spirituality or religion or any of that. And they have the same weird sense that, yeah, that just happened to me. That was real, which was exactly what happened to me with. Adi Ashanti, right? Oh, that happened to me. I can’t explain it, but it was real. There’s a realm of imagination that has reality baked into it in some different way than I’m used to.
Brilliant Miller [01:13:00] Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, this is something I’m just so fascinated by pretty much every morning when I wake up about how experience is real. The experience is real, but the inputs of our experience are not always real or we have, you know, some or a lot of latitude on what we choose to focus on and what we make it mean and like all this. So I know you do this, you mentioned already that you coach others. How can – let me just ask this here, – even though I do have a few more questions for you, if you’re going to keep going, I have an enlightening lightning round.
Neal Allen [01:13:34] Oh, sure. And maybe one or two any time plus, you know, I don’t know what kind of TV or radio that it is watching should anybody go through this experience? My guess is you’re going to have to collapse that a lot. But I don’t know.
Brilliant Miller [01:13:48] I might. And that’s where I realize is as interesting or valuable as people might find. It probably doesn’t even come close to the value people would find from experiencing it themselves.
Neal Allen [01:13:59] Yeah, that’s the problem, that this is phenomenological. It’s not metaphysical. And in the sense of being an explanation of the truth of things, it has to be experienced personally.
Brilliant Miller [01:14:17] Yeah. So if people were interested to connect with you to have an experience like this, to learn from you, what would you have them do?
Neal Allen [01:14:26] Well, if you go to my website, there’s a there’s a page where where you can get on from time to time – right now, I have a full plate, – but that changes month by month. I have a very short waiting list right now, but you can sign up there. The other thing is, while you can’t do it by yourself, you can do it with a friend. You don’t need me. And the book describes it. It’s you know, it’s a little clumsy to ask a friend, come over, sit in a chair across from me and ask me these questions. But it’s that simple. It actually works that way. I don’t have some magical transmission power. And if you listen to my questions that I was asking you, because I wanted to kind of keep things going, I ask one or two leading questions, but I try to ask zero leading questions. I simply ask in succession what anybody sitting across from you could ask, which is close your eyes, go inside, look around for something that’s sticking out. And then I ask, how wide is it? How tall is it? How thick is it? What’s its density? Does it have sharp corners? Is it shiny or matte? Is it floating or is it stuck? Is it moving? And does it look like a material you’re used to seeing? And then finally, what color is it? And I asked the exact same questions every time. And they’re dumb questions. But what they do is they allow me to instead of think analytically about my conflict, to see a little structure that represents that conflict and somehow includes all the pieces that the analytic study would be looking at, but includes them in a way that they’re not scary or to be avoided. And I can just stick around and watch them for a while. And as if I’ve analyze them with my mind, they do what what normally venting does venting about something, you know, complaining about something gets rid of it. Right. Well, so when you’re venting and complaining, you’re just reliving it and seeing it again and again and again. Well, this does that in a very concentrated way.
Brilliant Miller [01:16:53] That’s really amazing. And I know many, many great teachers have pointed this out. But again, I find it just so fascinating that in our experience, we do describe things, you know, examples are hard like wood is hard and so is a subject perhaps. Yeah, or dark humor can be dark and then the sky can be dark. And just what you’re saying about these shapes inside us that can represent or give us access to understanding or resolution that we wouldn’t have necessarily if we did it through our rational thought or through words. It’s really beautiful.
Neal Allen [01:17:26] It’s a it’s a whole different sense of metaphor, metaphors that are real are really peculiar and powerful. Right. And then, you know, I got very interested in metaphor and. Well, that’s a different conversation.
Brilliant Miller [01:17:48] Yes. And the website you mentioned, shapesoftruth.com, so people can can learn more about you and sign up, at least for the waiting list.
Neal Allen [01:17:57] I have. I had I was thinking earlier, can I can I interject one other example?
Brilliant Miller [01:18:02] Absolutely.
Neal Allen [01:18:11] Before I focused more on the spiritual side of these techniques. I came out of an executive coaching tradition after corporate life. 15 or 20 years in big public corporations and one thing that you asked about during the transition from not believing my story to burning down the house, part of not believing my story was training myself to get rid of my story, and I found that doing that in a corporate setting was a really easy way to train myself, that it was by – at work, I could train myself to get rid of my story. – And then once I got used to it, I dared to bring it to my closer friends and intimates who it’s much scarier to make myself vulnerable to. So I’ll give an example. I had an enemy at work, or at least I perceived him as an enemy and he kind of got in the way of my projects. It was a Matrix organization and he was never, he was always promising and failing and he seemed to be improved later to be after my job. And he was supposed to be a peer and I got used to just thinking he is going to undermine me or sabotage me. Right. And I and I realized this could be paranoid, but I’d been long enough in those reaches. And that’s, you know, at the at the top three or four levels of the big public corporation, people are like that. A bunch of alpha dogs who are out for their own interests and want the top job and they tend to be overly aggressive. And so I put this guy in that camp, but I needed him, we were matrixed. And so I needed his support for my projects. And I was supporting his projects, but he needed to support my projects and he wasn’t. And I was pissed off. And I just didn’t even like looking at the guy. One day I discovered the “I don’t know” approach, which was the next time that I went in to ask him for something as I walked into his office. I said to myself, I don’t know him, I don’t know anything about him, and I walked in with a completely cold slate, I could barely remember what I was asking for. Right. That was how little I knew about him. And I walked in and I sat down and we exchanged pleasantries. And I kept saying to myself, I don’t know him. I don’t know him. Just, you know, mentally to myself. And when the topic came up and I made my ask, instead of feeling bristled and narrow and watching for his, you know, typical reaction, which would be Two-Faced. Right. And watching for the two faces, I didn’t think Two-Faced and I looked and sure enough. I saw this little insecurity being exposed over here on his part that I felt really compassionate for, and that offered an opening for a conversation that I did, oh, maybe you’re worried about this happening, if we do this, how can I help you with this? I’ve forgotten all the details, but I walked back out and it didn’t mean that he was going to agree to do what I wanted immediately or any of that sort of thing. It doesn’t have perfect salutary effects. But over time, I learned wow the more that I go into a room saying I don’t know, particularly if it’s somebody who I have tension with, a conflict with, the less likely I am to go down my narrow, paranoid path.
Brilliant Miller [01:22:18] Wow, the “I don’t know” approach
Neal Allen [01:22:25] I thought I should offer something to the people who might still be sticking around looking for regular executive coaching here.
Brilliant Miller [01:22:32] Yeah, well, I know I could live more from a place of I don’t know. And I certainly wish others would. That’s great. Thank you for sharing that. OK, well, with your permission, I want to go ahead and transition as to the enlightening lightning round. It’s a series of questions on a variety of topics. Pretty, pretty brief, but you’re welcome to answer as long as you want.
Neal Allen [01:22:56] Do you answer them too?
Brilliant Miller [01:22:58] I, I have never answered all of these questions
Neal Allen [01:23:03] any that you haven’t answered. Make sure to stop and answer yourself to a man.
Brilliant Miller [01:23:08] Man I’m realizing the day you ask me, I likely give you a different answer, at least for some of them. OK, question number one, we will create the enlightening lightning round. Question number one, please complete the following sentence with something other than a box of chocolates. Life is like a:
Neal Allen [01:23:35] So. Life is like see, life isn’t like anything, life is. OK, life. Life is like these images of the Buddha where his heads cut off. Sometimes it’s cut off here and sometimes here. I love the ones where it’s cut off here because life is like this dynamic sky. How do you answer that one?
Brilliant Miller [01:24:05] Life is like, in this moment, my response is a Category five hurricane. There is peace. But there’s also incredible turbulence. It’s just a matter of where you put yourself, I think. OK, awesome. Question number two. Here I’m borrowing, excuse me, mute button so far for me. OK, question number two here. I’m borrowing Peter TEALS famous question. What important truth do very few people agree with you on?
Neal Allen [01:24:40] That the trauma theory of childhood is a cultural, temporary, cultural fad.
Brilliant Miller [01:24:52] OK, what mind is that change exists. OK, question number three, if you were required every day for the rest of your life to wear a T-shirt with a slogan on it or a phrase or a saying or a quote or a quip, what would the shirt say?
Neal Allen [01:25:08] So I have I have gotten rid of all of my slogan t shirts, but I found myself. I bought one. I only have one now. OK, it says “if you don’t know yourma, you don’t know Jack”, you have to be a Jefferson Airplane hot tuna fan to get it
Brilliant Miller [01:25:29] and you actually have it.
Neal Allen [01:25:31] I have it, I’ve actually worn it in the last week.
Brilliant Miller [01:25:35] That’s awesome.
Neal Allen [01:25:36] How about you?
Brilliant Miller [01:25:37] If I were to wear one with a slogan on it I think, the first word that comes to mind is just yes, yes. OK, question number four, what book other than your own, have you gifted or recommended most often?
Neal Allen [01:25:56] Yeah, there’s a book by A.H. Almaas called The Void. It’s very thin. It’s the easiest of his books to get through, I think. And it’s fascinating. It actually talks about four different versions of space, the emptiness that we get to know. And one of them, for instance, we looked at in your encounter with yourself called deficient emptiness and then the three other that are more lovely, divine forms of space and the void different ways to experience emptiness. You know, Buddhism talks a lot about emptiness and and it gets confusing. Which emptiness is being talked about?
Brilliant Miller [01:26:42] Yeah, I love that because someone pointed out to me the difference between nothingness and emptiness, and I hadn’t realized that other types beyond that. So maybe this is just reading for me.
Neal Allen [01:26:55] What’s your favorite book to recommend?
Brilliant Miller [01:26:57] Oh, man, I hate recommending books because I think there’s so context specific and what worked for me might not work for you and so forth. Nevertheless, the book I find myself recommending most often are sharing with people that had a powerful impact on my life was Autobiography of Yogi.
Neal Allen [01:27:15] Oh God. Do you know George Harrison kept stacks of it. He handed it basically to anybody who he hadn’t met who came through his house, who he hadn’t handed it to. He handed it to. He’s such a sweet, lovely man.
Brilliant Miller [01:27:31] Is he? He’s the one that became a gardener, I think. Right. Somebody told me a story.
Neal Allen [01:27:37] I met the yogi was such a sweet, lovely man. Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah. George became sort of a gardener, but he was always a musician primarily.
Brilliant Miller [01:27:45] Yeah. That that book I discovered when Steve Jobs died and I read, I was at a difficult time in my life and I read the article in Rolling Stone about when he arranged for everyone to get a copy at his funeral. It was the only book downloaded on his iPad when he died. And it was the book that he read it every year of his life. And it was what inspired him to go to India. And I’d never even heard of the book at that time. So I bought it and read it and then became a student of the Self Realization Fellowship, doing their course through the mail. And it really changed my life. So, OK, that was question number four. Question number five, this one’s about travel. So like back in the good old days and the days of returning, traveling again, what do you do when you travel to make your travel less painful or more enjoyable?
Neal Allen [01:28:32] So I actually I’m slightly unusual. I love airports and I don’t mind airplanes. And the thing that I noticed years ago about airports is that about half the people are slightly oblivient, their families going somewhere and some of them are families coming home after drag. And some are business people are very grim. But there’s a there’s a level a slightly subtle level of excitement that can be seen in airports. The other thing I like about airports is they’re these huge, cavernous, boring buildings that architects have just done such nice things to make me feel comfortable in. I feel like when I see that they’re doing things to kind of reduce the scale and make me feel more human as I’m walking through, I’m like, thank you, architect. You were thinking about me. That’s so cool that you were able to pull that off, that’s all. And everyone’s wrong. You know, I’m in a in an airport where they didn’t have the money or the time or inclination to do that. And I reminded people really worked hard in those other airports to get me to feel comfortable and human.
Brilliant Miller [01:29:56] I’ll bet you’re great to travel with.
Neal Allen [01:29:59] I don’t know. I don’t tell my my kids would say the opposite. That was a different time of travel. We had four kids and it was moving in the army to get the six of us going. So I was a taskmaster. But I actually enjoy the rudimentary parts of travel more than most people seem to.
Brilliant Miller [01:30:24] That’s wonderful. There’s so many things I do when I travel, I used to travel before in the few years before the pandemic. I was gone about one hundred and thirty nights a year. It was a lot
Neal Allen [01:30:35] I’ve done that
Brilliant Miller [01:30:37] and over that time so many things. But one, when I travel with my kids and I do this even when they’re not there, but when they are, I play a game with them where we’ll look for loose change as we go through TSA. Oh, also we count the smart carts, if we can get. So who has collected the most coins by the time we get on the plane
Neal Allen [01:30:54] and to say not the most amount of money, but the most coins. Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [01:30:57] So that one we do. And then the other thing, it actually prolongs the amount of time it takes me to pack, but it reduces my anxiety is I do use a checklist and I just keep it in an app on Trello. And it’s so convenient because I just drag the cards once I’ve got it packed and I virtually never forget anything and I don’t take things I don’t need. And then when I leave to go home, I can make sure I’ve got everything.
Neal Allen [01:31:22] The only thing that I leave chargers still, I’ll leave chargers. You don’t leave charger’s in hotel rooms.
Brilliant Miller [01:31:29] No, because when I went to Kilimanjaro a few years ago and just hiking that mountain changed my life, I don’t know exactly why, but I figured it was the labor saving. You get to like fifteen thousand feet and every step is difficult. And I just determined everything is going to go in its own place. My headlamp is going in that pocket and my gloves are going over here and my boots are right by the door. And then I’ve carried that when I travel. So even charger’s, it’s like right by the bed, right in this pocket of my bag. I just. I don’t
Neal Allen [01:31:59] sounds so Zen too, so thought about.
Brilliant Miller [01:32:03] Maybe a little closer to OCD, I don’t know. OK, so question number six, what’s one thing you’ve started or stopped doing in order to live or age well?
Neal Allen [01:32:15] gardening. I fell into it about three years ago. Annie and I bought a rundown house with a really big yard and overgrown, it hadn’t been intended for five years. And she wanted a rose garden. And so I said, I’ll figure that out and I’d never garden before. And so after I kind of put together a little Rose Garden for her, I started looking around and thought to myself, I can do this. I don’t have to hire somebody to landscape or whatever. In fact I lucked out because we tried to hire a landscaper, but she just kind of dawdled. And finally I just kind of in frustration said I’ll draw it out and figure it out myself. And now I have, I counted one day, I think I had inherited 70, 50, 70 viable plants, trees, flowers and I now tend four hundred and fifty of them not counting all the bulbs. So the bulbs and then I’m not counting like right now I’m looking out my window and I’m seeing all of the California poppies that just jump up. And I don’t tend that just show up every year. And it offers me a whole different view of life, particularly the roses, I love roses, they’re so smart, they know exactly when to conserve strength, when to open, when to close, when to grow, when to do this, when to do that, you can’t you can’t do it wrong with a rose plant. They’re so smart. And you see, you know, it’s like dogs. You start to see the relative intelligence of different plants. And I don’t believe plants are sentient beings. Don’t get me wrong. But the kind of natural intelligence of adaptation, some are more adaptable than others. And then the ones that are less adaptable, it’s kind of oh, I get my own sense of there’s a preciousness in their fragility. And I also had to learn that there was a big lesson that some of my plants were going to die and I had to get used to that and I had to notice that I’m going to fail in my duty, if that’s how I want to look at it or I can look at it, that I know what I know and I’ve learned what I learned. And one thing that I told myself when I entered into it is I am never, ever going to want to be or try to be a master gardener. And I’ve mastered too many things in my life and it’s painful. And I’m happy to ride on the things that I’ve already mastered. And if I want to master gardening, I’m going to want to be a virtuoso and that’s going to really screw me up. And so I’ve felt very laid back as a gardener, but I have a whole lot of responsibility as a gardener.
Brilliant Miller [01:35:39] Wow. That’s a beautiful, you know, at some point. I’d love to have you visit our home we’re building. My wife has seven thousand rosebushes in the ground right now.
Neal Allen [01:35:53] Oh, my God. Seven thousand
Brilliant Miller [01:35:57] crazy.
Neal Allen [01:35:58] Wow. Yeah. So she’s like she can’t turn those herself. Now you must have a brilliant irrigation system.
Brilliant Miller [01:36:09] It’s pretty remarkable. And she says she wants forty thousand and she has a plan for it, I’m so lit up by the fact that she’s just having so much fun and she’s got a whole plan
Neal Allen [01:36:22] I get it. They are such remarkable beings. Roses are really out of this world.
Brilliant Miller [01:36:29] Yeah, absolutely. That’s really cool. Well, OK, so my answer to this is and by the way, I did want to say this, I love your view of just the wisdom that you have about I’m not going to master this and I’m just going to do it. OK, so that question, my response to what I started or stopped doing to live or age well. This was probably close to 10 years ago, I quit drinking. Yeah, I just realized I think I’m less of a jerk. I’m way less impulsive. I think I sleep better, probably weigh less. So that’s mine.
Neal Allen [01:37:05] Did you did you do a 12 step to quit?
Brilliant Miller [01:37:08] No,.
Neal Allen [01:37:08] You didn’t have to do that? So one great one great really heart felt learning that I’ve gotten out of meeting and marrying Annie Lamont is going to 12 step meetings. I don’t think there is a more accurate and open and available spiritual community, then the 12 step community, you know, I can get a comparative in all different ways from one spiritual group type to another and all of that. And the one thing that pours out of twelve step meetings is the beauty of the dark night of the soul, the beauty of the fact that when you bottom out, you know, until recently I thought when you bottomed out, there was a wormhole that took you to consciousness or something more divine that some people call God. But I think it’s more like somebody I heard it describe as it’s a false floor. And then you the false floor breaks when you bottom out and then you discover that underneath it is this wonderful realm of a deeper, empty reality that is supportive. Wow. I also I do recommend sometimes to people, I’m not full of a lot of advice, oddly enough, I don’t think but maybe I am. But I do sometimes recommend to people who have never gone to a 12 step meeting to go to one and just I think most 12 step meetings are amazingly open, vulnerable, raw and divine all at once.
Brilliant Miller [01:39:10] Yeah, my brother, he passed away three days short of his forty fifth birthday, but he was an alcoholic. And that’s been part of why I think it hasn’t been hard for me to abstain.
Neal Allen [01:39:24] Yeah, I’m sorry that he had to live such a hard life.
Brilliant Miller [01:39:28] Yeah, thank you. Question number seven, what’s one thing you wish every American knew?
Neal Allen [01:39:38] Oh, God, civics.
Brilliant Miller [01:39:44] Yeah, I would say for me, I would answer that how to speak another language, uh. OK, question number eight, what’s the most important or useful thing you’ve ever learned about making relationships work?
Neal Allen [01:40:00] Oh, yeah. As soon as I know that I’m in a conflict and I’ve gotten out of the “just remove myself” or “found myself one step removed from” my reaction; and I don’t care, I’m going to react, I’m going to get triggered, I’m going to get into conflicts, I don’t worry about that. What I worry about is what happens the second that I’m recognizing that I’ve been in a conflict. I have to take one hundred percent blame and responsibility for the conflict. And it took me a long time. It’s weird. It’s strange. And I had to figure my way through it. But only if I take full responsibility for the conflict can I go to the person who I am having the conflict with and say, hold on a second. I don’t think I was listening. Tell me what you need. Because all conflicts are simply one person believing they need something. They don’t, we only need food, shelter and clothing, but anyway, believing they need something that conflicts with something that the other person believes that they need and the only responses to that that are possible or yes, no or maybe and it’s pretty simple. But, when I’m in the heat of the conflict, I’m not noticing that and for me to notice that and to get that it’s 100 percent my responsibility to notice, it can’t be Annie’s responsibility, 10 percent or 50 percent. It also gets me out of postmortems, right. If you can avoid postmortems, if one of the one of the two people in the relationship, in the conflict, stops and simply says, oh, wait a minute, we’re not listening to each other’s needs, what’s the need? And I’m insistent that I do not beat myself up for getting into the conflict. It doesn’t matter. I’m going to be reactive and triggered for the rest of my life. I have my neurotic response and I have my habitual response. I don’t care about that. I care about what happens next. So I don’t have to think about nonviolent communication while I’m hating Annie temporarily, you know, and angry. Or telling her I’m right and she’s wrong. I don’t have to think about nonviolent communication. I don’t have to think about how I could do this better. That’s for next, that’s for when I come out of the reactive period.
Brilliant Miller [01:42:40] I love that perspective. Thank you for sharing. I would say for me, the most important or useful thing I’ve learned about making relationships work is choosing to view my intimate relationship from the perspective that it’s my greatest opportunity for spiritual growth.
Neal Allen [01:42:58] Yeah, yeah. That’s a cool thing to learn. I’ve heard that one. I think that’s true. I think it’s true and
Brilliant Miller [01:43:08] sometimes I’m still selfish or ignorant, but it changes the way I relate with my wife for sure.
Neal Allen [01:43:15] Yeah. How how similar are your kind of spiritual tendencies?
Brilliant Miller [01:43:21] Pretty similar. Even when we take personality profile, Myers, Briggs or the desk assessment or, you know, things like that, they’re so similar. It’s amazing.
Neal Allen [01:43:33] Do you do Enneagram?
Brilliant Miller [01:43:36] I have never done it. I’ve had a coach I worked with who told me what he thought my type was, but my wife and I haven’t done that together.
Neal Allen [01:43:43] You should. It’s so fun. I think of all of them, it’s the most fun. All right. It also has, by the way, levels to it that go well beyond the personality. So there’s a book called Facets of Unity that has the level of the Enneagram of the holy ideas, which is not as fun, but kind of takes it in a different direction. But Enneagram fun
Brilliant Miller [01:44:11] facets of unity. That’s a book. Yeah. Awesome. I’ll check that out for sure.
Neal Allen [01:44:16] Oh, it’s by A.H. Almaas.
Brilliant Miller [01:44:18] OK, all right. And then the las question here is about money. What’s the most important or useful thing you’ve ever learned about money?
Neal Allen [01:44:29] Yeah, notice that money flows. And by noticing that money flows, and I think my dad kind of invested this in me that not consciously, but I never had a sense that money was to be hoarded. That doesn’t mean I can’t save to a certain extent, but it’s not to be collected. It’s not to be hoarded. It’s to be kept in circulation. And the reason it’s kept in circulation can be seen when if I’m paying attention and I’m getting my car repaired and I’m having the experience that almost everybody has, the the engine of a car is enough of a black box that the fear is I’m getting ripped off. Right. It’s a headache to find a new trustworthy auto repair shop. Right. Everybody’s got that experience. But what I never notice is because I’m tied up with this trust issue of being ripped off or not being ripped off, I never notice that. The fact is that roughly the same amount of money leaves my pocket and when it goes into the other person’s or into the cash register, it’s going into the pocket of the person at the cash register, the owner, the other guys who work there, and it’s not getting hoarded, it’s actually getting spent on taking the kids to Disneyland. Those are the words that I remember to pull myself out of that that tunnel vision that I might be, this is a rip off, or I can’t stand giving that much money away is.. Wait a minute, I’m giving money to somebody to go to college or go to Disneyland. Right. Why wouldn’t I? What do I care? What do I care whether they deserve it or not? They’re going to just spend it on their kids anyway.
Brilliant Miller [01:46:40] What a beautiful perspective. That’s great. For me, the most important or useful thing I’ve learned about money, and there’s so much that my dad used to teach us about money. But my favorite is, he would say, well, he would talk about as you get older, almost certainly your income will increase. Don’t allow your expenses to rise to match your increasing income. So he would say that. And so he said then determine what is sufficient for your needs, what you’ll do with the rest, including how much you’ll give away, and underneath all of that was a view that money – these were his exact words, – that money is nothing but numbers on paper and a tool for doing good. And he lived that way. He was super. Not that he was even frugal. He was just humble.
Neal Allen [01:47:29] Yeah, that’s good.
Brilliant Miller [01:47:31] That was good. OK, so congratulations. You survived the enlightening Lightning Round. Thank you for coming along. As an expression of gratitude. And speaking of money, I have gone online to kiva.org and I’ve made a one hundred dollar microloan to a woman entrepreneur in Samoa named Teresa. She’s fifty five years old. She’s single. She’s raising a child and she’s going to use this money to buy a fridge, a freezer – this is part of a loan, a larger loan – that she’ll use to to buy things that she will sell and support herself and people in her time.
Neal Allen [01:48:05] So you’re funding the money?
Brilliant Miller [01:48:07] Yeah. And the thing is, the way this model works is I don’t receive interest payment, that actually goes to the field partner who manages the loans in Samoa, so I like to think this has a ripple effect. Nice. So thank you for giving me a reason to do that.
Neal Allen [01:48:23] Yeah, thank you.
Brilliant Miller [01:48:25] OK, so we’ve reached the end. I normally go into a pretty good exploration of writing and creativity. I propose that we just ask one question. You’re welcome to share anything that you want related to writing creativity. I know we’ve been going a long time, but the question I would ask is just what advice or encouragement would you offer anybody listening who is either in the process of writing their own book or who is harboring the dream? And then if there’s anything else that you’d want to share about the journey that you’ve undertaken, I’d love to hear that. But I want to also just be sensitive to how long we’ve gone already.
Neal Allen [01:49:01] So two things. One is. It’s just like being an entrepreneur and starting up a new business, it will take many more steps and longer than you think and it always does. And every entrepreneur discovers this, everybody who goes out and puts a shingle out and becomes a contractor and they discover that there is no easy way to develop a market. Well, the same thing is true of books. Books are very complex affair, and it will take longer and it will take more steps. And then you expect and just know that and recognize that. You’re there to watch the steps as they happen, the steps aren’t there to get to a conclusion, the the conclusion you think is the meaning of it when all the conclusion is is a conclusion, right. So that you can leave it behind and do something else next. So it’s just like any other task. The second thing is for the craft of writing, I came up through journalism. And so for me, I learned the craft of writing through the osmotic process of reading high literature. So read high literature. If you read high literature, you’re allowing in more complex sentence structures. If you’re reading popular literature or non literature, you’re seeing the same sentence structure, subject verb object over and over and over again. All the sentences look pretty much the same and that doesn’t make good writing. But for the other side of it, learning techniques. I learned it in journalism, and so I learned, I developed a kit bag of rules that allow me to go back through anything I’ve written and take another pass. And there about thirty five rules that I rely on and that you sometimes feel like they’re well settled in me, other times I have to remind myself of them. But that, I find are most of what I do when I edit are are located in those thirty five rules. Like my wife says she’s famous for this term “Shitty first drafts”, do that. Just get it out and spend fun time editing. But to spend fun time editing, I do it through these rules and you can see them, they’re listed. I have a little essay that lists them all on shapesoftruth.com. If you go to the page that’s called essays, which is I think shows up on the top homescreen you see essays. It’s clear it’s either the second or third down there, like 30 some rules for writing that I find I use.
Brilliant Miller [01:52:10] Awesome. I’ll definitely link to that in the show notes. And as you mentioned, you know, people can navigate their on their own, but try to make it easy for people to find.
Neal Allen [01:52:19] What do you know about writing?
Brilliant Miller [01:52:21] Oh, my gosh. I think it never gets easier as a process. I think our writing improves, although as I talked about, progress and change are an illusion. So I think is one of these things. I think it’s true that.. I hate to say this, but I think people either are writers or they’re not. And I think people feel called to it. It feels like something that they’re in the grip of that they can’t turn away from or they don’t. And I think we have to engage with it to really discover that for ourselves. And that’s still a spectrum like I love the story when Isaac Asimov was asked, I think by Barbara Walters, if you only had 60 Minutes to live, I think that was a question, if you only had 60 Minutes to live, what would you do? And he said, type faster.
Neal Allen [01:53:14] He was about as prolific as they come. Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [01:53:16] Yeah. Like five hundred books he wrote and edited. So there’s people that are that way through and through, the people that wake up at 4:00 in the morning. You know, like I’ve seen that as I’ve asked people that their habits and routines on this program. One hundred fifty interviews now, all with authors and many of the people who publish, they say that I get up before anyone else, I’m up for hours. And then another thing that I’ve seen is, as I read and this was a book Mason Currey wrote about, I think it’s called “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work”. Have you seen this book now? I love it. He went and did profiles of authors and artists and even a few scientists. And what he found was that people and these were Victor Hugo and Benjamin Franklin and Joseph Heller and so many well-known people, but that many of these people, they only work three hours a day. Yeah, but they were in their zone of genius, doing something they loved, and they did it for decades. Yeah. And it’s like that little by little. It does result in something. So, I’m fascinated by words and creativity and human interaction. And so I love it and I hate it.
Neal Allen [01:54:24] Yeah. I mean it’s interesting, I got interested in that, you know, two or three hours a day thing from another statistic, which is how many words a day do the great novelists of our time write? And it’s a very narrow band. It’s five hundred to fifteen hundred. Yeah. And whether it’s Ian McEwan or I think Marilynne Robinson, it’s 50 but she’s the only writer I know who doesn’t do a second draft. Well, actually she thinks through everything about every word that she puts down. And she also lets she doesn’t have a lot of authors going to have this. She doesn’t have a plot planned out. She starts with a scene and then she lets what happens happen from that point on. And she’s very rigorous about how she thinks about what the next sentence will say. So she’ll at most do fifty works, but most if five hundred to fifteen hundred, which is, you know, that’s doable. Anybody can do that in a few hours.
Brilliant Miller [01:55:30] Yeah. If you’re if you’re consistent. Right. And I think to organize one’s life around it, to treat it like a practice or a calling or purpose and so forth, and then to this idea that there is no one way. I mean there’s what works for me. And people write with music. Some people write with only instrumental or classical people writing coffee shops or at home. And it is this wonderful opportunity to get to know ourselves and our preferences and aversions. And I call that.
Neal Allen [01:55:56] Yeah. Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [01:55:58] Well, Neal, I have really, really enjoyed this conversation. I’m so grateful to you for being so generous with your time. And I mean, agreeing to come on in the first place and then going so deep. It’s been wonderful. So thank you.
Neal Allen [01:56:12] I had a lot of fun. Thank you. And it’s really good to meet you. And I hope we meet again.
Brilliant Miller [01:56:17] Yeah, for sure. Well, OK, everybody listening today. My guest, Neal Allen, his latest book, Shapes of Truth, Discover God Inside You. You can visit him, as we’ve talked about a couple of times on Shapesoftruth.com. All right. And we’ll wrap there. Hey, thanks so much for listening to this episode of the School for Good Living podcast. Before you take off, I just want to extend an invitation to you. Despite living in an age where we have more comforts and conveniences than ever before, life still isn’t working for many people. Whether it’s here in the developed world where we deal with depression, anxiety, loneliness, addiction, divorce, unfulfilling jobs or relationships that don’t work, or in the developing world where so many people still don’t have access to basic things like clean water or sanitation or health care or education, or they live in conflict zones. There are a lot of people on this planet that life isn’t working very well for. If you’re one of those people or even if your life is working, but you have the sense that it could work better, consider signing up for the School for Good Living’s Transformational Coaching Program. It’s something I’ve designed to help you navigate the transitions that we all go through, whether you’ve just graduated or you’ve gone through a divorce or you’ve gotten married, headed into retirement, starting a business, been married for a long time, whatever. No matter where you are in life, this nine month program will give you the opportunity to go deep in every area of your life to explore life’s big questions, to create answers for yourself in a community of other growth minded individuals. And it can help you get clarity and be accountable to realize more of your unrealized potential. It can also help you find and maintain motivation. In short, is designed to help you live with greater health, happiness, and meaning so that you can be, do, have and give more. Visit goodliving.com to learn more or to sign up today.
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