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Essential Shifts Interview: Steve Bhaerman

Essential Shifts Interview: Steve Bhaerman

Visionary: Steve "Swami Beyondananda" Bhaerman

Join comedian and political commentator Steve Bhaerman (aka Swami Beyondananda) for a humorous and insightful look at the "upwising" now underway. You’ll hear about Mad Cowboy Disease, the potential for bloodless evolution, and how to quiet a barking dogma. Steve shifts from serious political and psychological analysis into playful parodies and back again, demonstrating a courageous willingness to face the shadowy truths of the moment while also calling forth an American evolution that goes beyond left and right towards a "deep center" that is heartfelt, light, and filled with consciousness. Topics include supply-side happiness, putting the fun back in fundamentalism, speaking our truth to dissolve the wall of lies, and living from faith. He’s the only commentator you’ll find who can juxtapose an Einstein quote with one from Bullwinkle and end up telling a new story that is wise, inspiring, and enlightening.

View Transcript

Institute of Noetic Sciences: So I want to welcome everybody to the show today. We're very fortunate to have Swami Beyondananda, or Steve Bhaerman, depending on which sub-personality is in the foreground at any particular time. Steve Bhaerman is an internationally known author, humorist and workshop leader and for 18 years he's also had the dual identity of Swami Beyondananda, who's known as the Cosmic Comic. And it's really a great treat to have you on the show, and I always love your humor, so thanks for joining us.

Steve Bhaerman: Well, it's great to be here. I'm really happy to be a part of this program and I thing you're doing a tremendous job with networking and creating what we're calling the American and worldwide evolution.

IONS: Right. A lot of folks who are tuning in won't necessarily be aware but you've done a lot of work on bringing together spiritual movement and science with social change and politics and you've really branched out far beyond your original basis in comedy.

SB: Well, comedy's always been a disguise. My original ground was in political science, which of course is an oxymoron, and then I taught history and became interested and involved in spiritual paths and so on. And it's been a very interesting journey with the Swami, and just a few years ago, looking at our political situation, it occurred to me that what we call politics is really much bigger than politics, and speaking to the current global situation that we see, a great yogi once said, I think it was Yogi Berra, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it". And right now we, as a species, are at a fork in the road, because we have to choose between the love-based or fear-based models. 'We're all this in together' versus 'It's every man for himself'. The swami has called this abumdance, where we all get up off our assets and move our bums and dance together versus scarecity where we give in to fear, particularly fear of not having enough; and we've been really goaded into that kind of fear, particularly since 9/11, when, as the Swami would say, "Feargnomes, little gnomes of gnawing fear, were injected into the mainstream, which has made us susceptible to mad cowboy disease". And of course we're suffering from that right now, but fortunately people are waking up, and this is what the Swami has called the Upwising. People are wising up and we do need an upwising right now. But if we look at the choices that we have, Alan Lock's talked about … he's said it's time for us, instead of worshipping the finger, to begin to look where the finger is pointing. You know we've had these barking dogmas and dueling dualities and so on - each one saying my dogma's better than your dogma - and now it's time for us to quiet down and just actually look at what so many of these spiritual teachers from Jesus to Buddha to all the great avatars have been suggesting. And basically they've been suggesting some form of the golden rule, in contrast to what we have now which is the rule of gold. And so this is time for us to grow up and evolve, and the vision I'm holding is a bloodless evolution, where the only things that are fired are a few bigshots; where we, the people, overgrow the current system and where the unarmed forces win. Now I know this sounds very idealistic but if we are talking about evolution we are talking about a radical change and upleveling of what we expect from ourselves, and so that's why this is so very important. Because the current situation, I think we have to face it very, very clearly, that the powers that be in power, the only way that they can stay in power is through increasing totalitarianism. Now you and I know that they can't really control everything but that's not going to stop them from trying. And if we take a look clearly at everything that's happening right now, whether you want to call it the Iraq war or the pending war with Iran, or the primacy of the drug companies or the primacy of Halliburton or any of the outrages, that we go "My God, how is this happening, they're all related to the same thing". They're related to an abusive view of power where might makes right. And I think it's time for we human beings to notice that our spiritual teachers didn't tell us that might makes right is the appropriate operating system for this planet and this world, and it's time for us to have faith in faith, and start to show up.

IONS: One of the things I love about what you do is that this consolidation of power that really is coming out of fear which is totalitarianism in its early form, is it's very easy to defuse it with a good dose of humor because humor unravels that whole tightness and the fear that starts to armor people up and convince them that they need to have more military and more power and more dominance over others in order to feel safe, so that there's this really wonderful way when you speak truth to these things with such lightness of humor in it as well you're also defusing the tension underneath it.

SB: Yeah, that's really true and I'm also working on a project with Dr Bruce Lipton, the author of Biology of Belief, and we're calling our book The American Evolution, and essentially using science. The first chapter is called 'What if everything you know is wrong?' because we're still acting as if we're in a Newtonian universe of equal and opposite forces, and in a certain sense an eye for an eye is very Newtonian. You know responding to a warlike act with another warlike act is very Newtonian and yet for the last 100 years since Einstein offered an alternative view, we've been discovering, physicists have been discovering, that everything is related. And you know we are now in the throes of living in a world where only matter matters, and everything is about the material world, and yet when you get down to the atomic level there's nothing there, there's just energy, there's just pulsations and it's the pulsations that give forth to matter. So without getting too technical and metaphysical the new story really has to do with what if we lived out of this relatedness, I mean really, and so one of the things Bruce says in The Biology of Belief is that a cell or an organism cannot be in protection and growth at the same time, so when you're forced into this fear, into this adrenalized state, essentially you're out of your prefrontal cortex and you're into your hind brain, and you know where your head is at that point, right? So what happens is that when people are put into fear they're actually made less intelligent, and that certainly serves the powers that be in power but when we laugh it dislodges that fear and creates encouragement. It creates openness to new ideas and that's really the hope that we have. It's coming out of those new ideas, it's coming out of the life that wants to spring forth and that's why we're doing what we're doing.

IONS: So simply if enough people saw your performances we might actually raise the IQ a notch or two, if we take that to its logical conclusion.

SB: We need to raise our EQ, the emotional intelligence as well, but I think that what I've noticed in traveling across the country and doing what other people would call political humor but really which I think is bigger than politics, when people find themselves laughing at these jokes and laughing at these sad jokes and when Swami says the so-called Patriot Act has made our lives simpler – 'They've taken the bill of rights and boiled it down to just one – you have the right to remain silent'. When people hear this, and by the way I'm finding that this goes across the political spectrum, it's not just democrats, that there's libertarians, republicans and just conservatives who are waking up to go, "I don't think we're in Kansas any more, Toto", so because of all of this I think there is this moving forward of people realizing that we've been divided and conquered by being encouraged to be in either the red camp or the blue camp, and the process of fighting each other about things such as gay marriage and abortion and other cultural issues, the common wealth has been stolen, or it's being stolen, and part of waking up is realizing that there's certain values that 97% of humanity have in common and if we began to change the focus to expanding those values and letting the other things temporarily fall aside, we could create huge breakthrough.

IONS: So we're putting our attention on the resonance where we're already out of alignment rather than where we're separate.

SB: Yes and that's where the change is going to come from, from what I call the deep center. It's not the muddly center where you're trying to compromise and just say what you think someone else will agree with, but really it's from the depth of what we know in our heart of hearts is true. And the only way to face the heart of darkness is to be present with the heart of light. And we have to face the heart of darkness, don't you think.

IONS: I'm completely with you on that. So I know you've also been doing some strategizing about how to build something like a movement for this deep center to have a positive uplifting effect on the collective, it sort of ties into our second question. You covered our first question in the global situation, and the second question has to do with what are the most essential shifts required for us to evolve to the next level as a society.

SB: Well you know, 'Shift happens', let's face it. People say 'Why is this shift happening to me?' But I think first of all that having the most important shift and the most important focus, I'm coming to feel, is having… of course the shifts are spiritual, personal, political and economic, but first and foremost is having faith in faith. If you really believe in a loving universe now is the time to actually live as if that's true. What does it mean if there is a loving universe - what am I afraid of? And why can I get manipulated into thinking I'm only in it for myself here or is there a bigger and more expanding story? And it also means bringing on a personal level your actions in alignment with spiritual truth and releasing the old programming that keeps us from living the wisdom that we know. How many people are saying, 'Well I read all the books so why does my life still suck?' And I think it's partly because the dominant field has imbued us with a lot of obsolete notions about what it means to be human. And one of the great tools that my wife Trudy and I have discovered over the past year through our association with Bruce Lipton is a tool called Psych-K, which was developed by psychologist Rob Williams, and it's a technique for essentially identifying some of this old programming and changing it in the subconscious, so there are other tools for doing that I know, there's many tools out there right now, but something that actually makes a change in your behavior so that you're in alignment with you what you proclaim that you believe. On a political level I think it means coming to think comprehensively and not being stuck reacting to every perpetration du jour. You know if you're on these mailing lists you'll go, "Wow, save the whale; save the environment; save social security," and all of these things. There are so many of these assaults that are coming on a daily basis, and so the wisest thing we can do strategically is to begin to understand how all of these are related to the same abuse of power. What we have is a regime that believes in might makes right, even though they proclaim to worship Jesus, but as you know Jesus never said, "Doodoo onto others before they can doodoo onto you." So we have to understand, it's not so much the people that we're up against, it's simply a mindset that we perpetuate with our acquiescence to it, so one of the things that we have to do is to begin to tell the truth and speak the truth forward, because as the swamis says, 'The truth shall upset you free'. And that's true. They want us to be afraid, but we have to not be afraid of the truth. People go – you know when you start hearing about some of these darker aspects of what the government has been doing – people say 'I don't want to go there.' Well look, there is already here. So now is the time to do something about it, because, as the Swami would say, 'Because it's too late to do it sooner, that's why'. So anyway that's really what we need to do, and of course, economically it just means understanding the difference between making wealth in a way that simply extracts wealth or something which also creates value and we need to look at our local economies and see how they could be more sustainable and then put our own spending personally in line with supporting those things that are value-adding rather than wealth-extracting. And one more thing on shifts – there's a really excellent book that just came out, you probably have a copy of it. It's The Left Hand of God, by Rabbi Michael Lerner. And Michael Lerner is presenting at the second annual spiritual activist conference in DC, and one of the things that he identifies as something which needs to be changed is the dominant belief in cynical realism. We've had fifty years of deconstructing culture, and with everything deconstructed it essentially leaves the field open for people to say, 'You know, we don't really know what the truth is. There is no truth'. And people simply hang back because they don't want to be fooled, they don't want to be stupid, so 'I'm not going to allow myself to have faith. I'm not going to be a fool for love.' But when you choose to not be a fool for love you end up being a fool for the devil, in the sense that all of these people who say, 'I'm not going to be fooled into being idealistic, I'm just going to work for whatever company and take what I can.' Well that's who you're working for, that's what you're feeding.

IONS: Very interesting. So I guess we could move into the third question here and just go into a little more about the current work that you're doing with Bruce Lipton and elsewhere and your current passions and how do you see these fitting in with the larger shifts we're talking about.

SB: Interestingly I see this happening with a lot of people right now, that all of a sudden all of the very diverse things they've done in their lives that don't seem to relate, all of a sudden they're coming together in some kind of a package and 'My God, all these things somehow relate.' And so my own background in political science, the spiritual path that I've been involved with over the years, the curiosity about psychology and of course the humor, they're all coming together and right now there's three major projects that I'm really passionate about. The first related to humor of course is another Swami book. Swami has decided that what the world needs is a new non-religion, called fundamentalism (accent on the fun), and the slogan is all for fun and fun for all. And if you think about it, in a world where the operating system is all for fun and fun for all you can actually increase the happiness in the world. And Swami talks about supply side spirituality, and this is essentially how to overcome the law of supply and demand, 'Be more supplying and less demanding.' Very simple. And so I'm very excited about working on that project and I have a publisher for that book. The other thing that I'm very, very excited about is the book with Bruce Lipton on the American evolution, because again, who was it who said, 'No story, no world', our world is based on an obsolete story and the obsolete story is the dominator story. And the Swami would say, 'Let's go for the highest common denominator rather than the lowest common dominator,' and that's where we've been and so the excitement about working with Bruce is that his passion is making sure that everything that we say is grounded in empirical science, and springing forth from what we've discovered about how cells interact and how the quantum physics essentially is saying that everything is related and some of these distinctions that we've created about this versus that, Einstein insisting that a problem cannot be solved at the level of the problem, you have to go to the next level. So we're looking at going to the level past dueling dualities to the overriding truths that are beyond that, which is that everything is related, we're all one with the same one. The other thing which I'm doing, which is going back to something you asked earlier, which is about the strategizing about what we can do right now, we're about to launch a website called 'Stand Up Americans' and we're actually encouraging – this is taking the political conversation and making it a more comprehensive conversation. We are for government of the people by the people for the people where the government does our bidding, not the bidding of the highest bidder and we're acknowledging that our government and our country has been lowjacked by gold-collared criminals. Those are the criminals that have managed to collar the gold without getting collared themselves. And they don't pay taxes because they figured why do that when you can pay the legislators directly.

IONS: Much better results.

SB: Yes, it's much more efficient. And they have used their energy, what the Chinese call chi, to gain unfair advantage – this is called chi-ting. So we're acknowledging…you know, everybody seems to be beating around the bush, and really looking at this is that our government has been taken away from us. We don't really have our hands on the controls any more. The checks have been cross-checked and the balances have been unbalanced and we have to begin to tell the truth about all this, otherwise we can't get anywhere. Rather than pretending that it's politics as usual, and somehow if we elect democrats in the fall, which is highly unlikely because the democrats are not standing for anything and there's still some very, very deep questions about the viability of electronic voting and so on. So we have to understand that we the people are the leaders we've been waiting for. And to take that very, very seriously, if you look around, where are the leaders of this new movement? They're not on the radar. So what we have to do is we have to create fields so that those people who are in the government in higher up positions will have the courage to come out, and these leaders can stand on our shoulders, but if we at the grassroots take this lying down then we will not encourage any courage. So if we start moving, and if we begin to call for impeachment – in fact one of the playful things that we'll be doing on this website is encouraging people for July 4th to bake impeach cobbler – 'It's as American as apple pie' – and simply begin to stand up and they'll have buttons saying 'Ask me why I'm standing.' You know, marching is ok, but there's something about standing, that you're standing up to power, you're standing up, I think…our intention is standing up for the heart and soul of America, to restore that. And some cynics would say, 'Well you know, from the very beginning, we had slavery, we had the genocide against native peoples, blabitty blabitty blah, but the truth is, along with that, what the founding fathers came up with was truly inspired and truly evolutionary and now we have to pick up the thread of that evolution where the founding fathers left off. This is the call to our generation. You know, if you look at what we're asking our armed forces to do in Iraq, the young people who are dying, killing, being maimed and maiming other people and damaging the entire rest of their lives possibly, we're asking them to make these sacrifices for us, and the nature of the evolution that I think we're called upon to make right now is that we, every one of us, has to begin to step outside the matrix of what we consider ordinary politics and stop pretending that the show game is really the game. And I think more and more people are willing to do this and I'm very encouraged. I just came back from meetings up in Oregon, and two things happened. I met with Tom Atlee who has been involved with bringing groups of diverse people, diverse opinions together in commonality for many, many years and he's described some very exciting processes for doing just that – bringing together left and right. And then I met with Jeff Golden who wrote a book called As if We Were Grown-Ups, and that's about, 'What if politicians talked to us as if we were grown-ups. How would that be?' And just recently in Ashland, Oregon, there is a new movie which is interestingly coming from the right. It's by a producer called Aaron Russo, and it's called From Freedom to Fascism. Are you aware of this, maybe?

IONS: No, I've heard of it but I haven't seen it.

SB: Well, it really is about the illegitimacy of the Federal Reserve and the IRF, but it also is against the Patriot Act and the Iraq war. And so there we were a group of about 500 people who saw this movie in Ashland and Medford, and I'm thinking that this is happening all over the country as well. And Jeff Golden, my friend, has a radio show on public radio in Ashland, and there is another radio guy who is a Rush Limbaugh clone who has a radio show up there as well, and the two of them got together and decided to show this movie. So they got about 500 people to see the movie, and roughly half were from the progressive camp, half were from the conservative or right wing camp. At the end of the movie the entire 500 people are up cheering. So this is bigger than politics as usual and I think that these people on the right understand that this regime is illegitimate, that they've used their power illegitimately, and the only way that things are going to change, I believe, is not because the Democrats can squeak by a victory and muddle about for another bunch of years, but if people let go of left and right and come from the center to face the real situation, which is that our country has essentially been turned into a corporatocracy and that the major issues of our time, such as global warming and peak oil, etc., etc., are being ignored and we cannot afford to ignore those any more and we have to come front and center to face the music and dance together.

IONS: I've written a bit about how it's really a new operating system that we needed. To use the computer metaphor, it's not that we just need to play the tug-of-war on the same level of operating system, but really to leverage up to a whole new operating system

SB: Absolutely.

IONS: Great, so I really love your analysis of where things are at, I think it's very spot on and very timely, so I think the last piece that we like to give everybody is bring them down to the most personal level and get something from you about what you think are the personal things that we can each do to have the highest impact on creating this new larger shift that we're talking about.

SB: Well again, this is all about consciousness, this entire conversation. The politics, as usual, has to do with trying to make changes outside yourself and this really is about consciousness, so it's about our own impeccability, because if we are peccable they're going to peck us. So we have to also ask ourselves every day, 'Are my actions congruent with my faith? Do I have faith in love? Do I have faith? As Einstein said, 'Is the universe a friendly place?' And as Bullwinkle said, 'Should be, just listen.' So I challenge myself and I challenge everybody else to be steadfast in what we stand for and that's a magnet for other people. It's a magnet for people who are looking for authenticity. And secondly, I think we have to fearlessly and cheerfully speak even the most unpleasant truths forward – our suspicions about the 9/11 story, voting fraud, of all of the abuses of power which are too dark and dangerous for us to want to take a close look at. But last year, one of the things I discovered in the summer, I was very disheartened and I did my meditation and prayer and yelling at the sky and all of that stuff, and what came back, because I said, 'What do I do, what do I do?' and sometimes the thing to do is to not do but to simply build the field, and what I noticed after a year of people building the field and speaking the truth forward, all of a sudden these things happened – that Cindy Sheehan came on the radar where she hadn't been on the radar before, and we got to see the true colors of the current regime as we watched them deal with Katrina and various indictments and so on. So I think it is hugely important, if you want to look at what's happening today, imagine that there is a wall of lies and imagine the kind of energy it takes to keep the wall of lies in place and there is a building surge of truth and there's going to be leaks here and leaks there and pretty soon the wall of lies will just come down in this flood of truth. In order for that to happen we have to quietly and persistently keep building the truth forward, so that when we're in conversations with other people we ask them – I always ask people, 'What do you think about the official 9/11 story?' And I always start by asking questions and finding out what people really, really think and what you find is that most people are suspicious of the most basic things that this administration is doing and yet, because they get no agreement from the media, they think that maybe they're crazy or isolated or misled. So if you can't get it on television, tell a person is the next best thing, so it's important to speak these truths forward. One of the things I launched was called the empty envelopes campaign where, being solicited for funds by the Democratic Party, we decided empty envelopes for empty promises was appropriate.

IONS: Did a lot of people respond to that?

SB: Yes and I think people are really looking for ways to express themselves, so just recently I read that Arlen Specter, the Republican senator for Pennsylvania, who is wanting to investigate the National Security Agency spying scandal and all of that stuff, he's asking for people to show up; he's asking, 'Well, what do you think?' So I'm recommending that people send letters. Now emails are great, phone calls are great, but there's something physical about a hand-written note, it doesn't have to be long, it doesn't have to be elaborate, but it's heartfelt, hand-written and personal from an individual. Imagine Senator Specter's office getting 50,000 of these hand-written notes saying 'Investigate the administration'. It's going to have an impact, and even if it doesn't have an impact, it has an impact on the morphic field. There is a field, and the more truth that's told, the more the ordinary people on the ground are saying, 'You know, we don't believe this administration any more, they've become kind of like one of these burnt-out stars that's light years away that doesn't know it's burnt out yet'. So that's what we can do, and have courage and, of course, have humor, speak with humor. One final story here. In his book, Man's Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl talks about being in a Nazi death camp during World War II, and he and a fellow inmate made a pact with each other that every day, in some way, they would laugh, because if you're laughing, if you're able to laugh at your situation, there is a part of you that can't be put in prison. And to give you an idea of the power of this, one of the jokes that actually circulated among the inmates in the camps involved these two Jewish guys who decide they're going to assassinate Hitler, and they know that Hitler's motorcade passes a particular intersection every day at 11:00 in the morning, and they're waiting for him. 11:00 in the morning, Hitler doesn't show up. 11:15 he's not there, 11:30. When he's not there by 11:45 one of the assassins turns to the other and says, 'Gee, I hope nothing's happened to him!' So that's the power of humor to get leverage over your situation and I think you noticed, there is just this piece, where nobody, I think Jay Leno and Jon Stewart both turned down the opportunity to go to the White House and do a spoof of the President, and this other guy, Colbert, went.

IONS: Stephen Colbert? Apparently that was not very well received.

SB: Oh, it was very well received, but not by the president and his wife. It was very well received by millions and millions of people, and so all of these things make a difference. And you know, it's not about abusing this one guy, George Bush. I think that George Bush – you know we ought to write him a big thank you note for helping to focalize the shadow in such a way that we, as a people, come to deal with it. And I appreciate, Stephen, the communiqués and the understanding that you have about the importance of facing the collective shadow and the psychological and psycho-spiritual aspects of this whole thing that we call politics, because that's what has to happen. We have to uncover these stories so we can heal, and we need to have enough love and understanding and wisdom to metabolize these topics.

IONS: And I just get over and over again how important the humor of peace is in that. It's like the healing bomb that comes in when people start to look into the shadow, they tend to compress out of fear, it's like, 'Oh, I can't even look at this,' but then, with a bit of humor, the truth of that situation can then be healing and redemptive rather than oppressive.

SB: Right and that's the courage that we have to keep and keep moving that forward, and people everywhere will … this will eventually … I'm optimistic about our prospects, even though it really involves doing stuff that we humans have never done before.

IONS: Great, all right, well I think that about wraps it up for today. Really terrific insights and very funny as well. I so appreciate you sharing all that with us.

SB: Well thank you. I appreciate what you're doing and I look forward to listening to these and circulating them around.

IONS: Great. And just if people want to contact you, is the best way and you have a tour schedule and that sort of thing. And I recommend that folks get on your email list because you send out some terrific stuff. Trenchant criticism of the system mixed with a lot of humor and a lot of fun.

SB: Thank you.

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"The Essential Shifts" Interview Series

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