Snipped from The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts: Jack Kornfield (#684). BoldItalic added by me for emphasis
Jack Kornfield: In all these years, my understanding really is that it comes down to love. I’ve met [inaudible 01:05:26]. And lamas, and gurus, and lamas and everybody else in between in my industry. And some of them are fabulous. But there’s a really interesting thing that you can have these powerful experiences and still be a little bit of a jerk. Just getting real about it because —
Tim Ferriss: There’s a lot we have going around.
Jack Kornfield: Our consciousness is like a mandala and we can awaken some dimensions of it. So you have an Olympic-level athlete who’s an emotional idiot. You have a professor of nuclear physics, most brilliant, and she can’t find her shoes or her body. We can develop ourselves in some areas, but it turns out unfortunately, that doesn’t always go over to another area. And so there’s a kind of halo effect where people think, “Oh, this person is a spiritual teacher and they’ve had these spiritual experiences. I’ll go ask them for marriage advice or advice for sexuality.” They don’t know shit about marriage.
So this is our human nature. If we’re actually to become wise, we need to direct our attention to body, to emotions, to relationships, to thought. We actually need to become wise in those major dimensions of our life. And we can’t expect that of people just because they have a certain title or robe or anything else. But having said that, my measure now for myself: are you loving? Am I loving? Are they? And that love isn’t just like, oh, sweet Valentine love, but can you be in this world and can you love it with all its imperfections? And can you bring that spirit of care and love in the middle of what’s tragic and what’s beautiful? That’s a liberated heart.
Tim Ferriss: So love, let’s underscore this. For people who are listening, this might sound like a really strange question who are thinking to themselves, “Well, I love my dog, I love cheesecake. Love my kids.” If they have kids, let’s say, but maybe they’re like, “I’m not sure if I would recognize or even know the feeling of what it is to love the world.” Maybe they feel like they might be color blind to the first-person experience of feeling that.
Jack Kornfield: It’s a gorgeous question.
Tim Ferriss: Is it just something they can intuit or could you expand on that?
Jack Kornfield: It’s a gorgeous question. You remember Einstein said that, “The task for humanity is to widen our circle of compassion, or you could call it love to include all of humanity and all of nature in its beauty.” And so we start by loving that which is right around us. It’s natural, your dog, your children, the partner, the people you care about and maybe your neighbors. And now we’re talking about, “Well, what is wisdom and what is liberation?” And it’s that widening of the circle so that when you are moving through the world, it’s not just that person over there is an object, but they become more and more a part of your family.
There’s a beautiful monument to a mystical experience. Going back to your asking about that in Louisville, Kentucky on, I think it’s on Fourth Street, Fourth and Walnut. And the great Christian mystic Thomas Merton left his monastery and was walking down the street in the middle of Louisville and he said, “I’d come from the monastery. We were all trying to be holy and close to God and have all these spiritual experiences the way one does and pray and so forth. And I was walking down the street and all of a sudden it came to me. I looked in the eyes of everyone going by and I saw their secret beauty that was born in them that no one can take from them. That magnificence of spirit, soul, whatever you want to call it.” He said, “The only problem would be I wanted to fall down at their feet and worship each one that went by.” He said, “If we could see each other that way there’d be no more need for war and cruelty. The world would be a different place.” So this monument, a public monument to a mystical experience, what it does is it says that this is possible, but more than that, there are beautiful trainings to do it.
One of my favorite trainings is trainings in loving-kindness meditation. There’s bunches of it on my website in [inaudible 01:10:17]. And lots of other colleagues and teachers. And it turns out if you practice it like anything, it grows. You start with people close to you and then those in a little wider circle and gradually extend it. And for me, for example, I’m out on the street or I’m driving or something and I’m a bit of a speed freak. I can sit quiet in temptation, but my general M.O. is to get stuff done and move through the — just — anyway. And so if somebody’s driving slowly and meandering and not being a good driver in front of me and I get annoyed or even on the sidewalk, people are blocking it and not aware that I have something important I’m trying to get down, whatever, and I feel a little moment of irritation arise, which it will, I look and I see them, not as they are now, but as they were — as I imagine them at three or four years old, completely innocent child, they all were that no matter what things happened to them. And I go, “Oh, yeah, I see who’s in there. That’s like [inaudible 01:11:24]. I see that there’s that person doing the best they can and there’s that child that that’s in there.”
And instantly my heart changes and I go, “Oh, yeah, there’s a kind of — I wish them well, may they be safe and whatever dance they’re in, may they be protected.” And this quality of love, and kindness, and compassion, it’s grown because I practice it some, it’s where I want to live, but it’s more than that. I see it or sense it as the best expression of enlightenment. All those other things or experiences, they lead us back to love. And if they don’t, I’m not sure that they matter that much.