Dean Sluyter (pronounced “slighter”) has taught natural methods of meditation and awakening since 1970. His five highly acclaimed books include Natural Meditation (Amazon #1 stress management bestseller, and Nautilus Gold Medal winner for best mind-body-spirit book) and Fear Less: Living Beyond Fear, Anxiety, Anger, and Addiction. Dean gives talks, workshops, and retreats throughout the United States and beyond, from Ivy League colleges to maximum-security prisons. His media appearances have included National Public Radio, The New York Times, New York Magazine, Coast to Coast AM, The Dr. Oz Show, and O, The Oprah Magazine.
A grateful student of Eastern and Western sagesin several traditions, Dean has completed numerous pilgrimages and retreats in India, Tibet, Nepal, and the West. He is known for conveying authentic teachings in forms that are relaxed, accessible, and down-to-earth. When not writing or teaching, he narrates audiobooks, administers the Awakening Prison Art project, makes music, and happily tools around town on his Vespa.
Born into a family of musicians and political activists, Dean grew up in New York and Los Angeles. He dropped out of college to hitchhike around the country and embark on a path of spiritual investigation, eventually returning to earn a B.A. in English and an M.A. in interdisciplinary education.
Dean lived in New Jersey for 33 years, where he was married to the late artist and teacher Maggy Sluyter, with whom he raised two children. There he taught English and developed classroom meditation programs at The Pingry School and worked with inmates at Northern State Prison. He now lives in Santa Monica, California, where he leads meditation sessions regularly and is on the faculty of the West Coast Writers Conferences. He is married to documentary filmmaker Yaffa Lerea.
Please enjoy my conversation with Dean Sluyter.
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Follow Along with the Transcript – Episode 110
Dean Sluyter 0:00
When when awakening is in the house it starts to clean up our act we we start yeah I don't feel like smoking those cigarettes anymore right I don't feel I don't feel like picking a fight with my girlfriend anymore this stuff starts to fall away things start to get cleaned up.
Alex Ferrari 0:27
I've been able to partner with Mindvalley to present you guys FREE Masterclass is between 60 and 90 minutes, covering Mind Body Soul Relationships and Conscious Entrepreneurship, taught by spiritual masters Yogi's spiritual thought leaders and best selling authors. Just head over to nextlevelsoul.com/free. I'd like to welcome to the show Dean Sluyter. How you doin Dean?
Dean Sluyter 0:59
Great! How you doing Alex?
Alex Ferrari 1:00
I'm doing good my friend. I'm doing good. I feel like there's a we are two souls that understand things at a different level because you love movies and you love spirituality and the mixture of the two I think we're gonna have a interesting conversation to say the least. Yeah, let's play. So first question, my friend. How did you start your spiritual journey?
Dean Sluyter 1:24
It's it kind of chose me. I started in childhood to have some completely uncalled for experiences of of opening up. And in fact, in the the introduction to my latest book, I I start with the story of how when I was 11 years old, we were actually about to go out to a movie to a drive in movie that's that's how old I am. And my my mom sent me out to the garage to clear away all the comic books and toys that my brothers and I had left in the backseat of our Nash Rambler. I Rambler stationwagon Wow. And, and my mind was already at the age of 11, doing a lot of kind of habitual anxious, churning, logos. Next thing I pick up, as I'm picking up these comic books, next thing I pick up is a copy of, of Mad Magazine. And as usual on the cover, there is their idiot mascot. Elfi and Newman, yes. And his motto, what me worry. And suddenly, I just my mind saw very clearly, oh, this churning this anxious thing that it's been doing, this is a thing I'm doing. It's not happening to me, that engine is constantly revving because my foot spin on the accelerator. And I can, having seen that I can take my foot off the accelerator. And I did, and my mind went, like, all I can say is boundlessly, silent boundlessly deliciously silent, kinda like the top of my head being taken off and, and just kind of melting into the sky. And I floated in that blissful state all through the rest of that day that night. And so that was the age of 11, or 12. And about by the age of 16, or 17, I was starting to read some of the Eastern texts and going, Oh, this is what's called Satori or Samadhi, or in the West, it's called grace. Or, you know, orient, Zan, it's called Kensho. And other people have experienced this. And it's sometimes just happens unbidden, like that, you know, just kind of comes in through a side door, but also, there are ways that you can cultivate it regularly, the prime one being meditation. So, you know, the, the path kind of happened to me.
Alex Ferrari 4:05
How so I have to ask you the question, though, because you said, everything went silent. I know, most people, I'm gonna say all but most people want to have the ability to shut their monkey brain off. What at 11? What did you do? Was it just something that when you said, Oh, I'm doing this, I'm going to stop now. And it just stopped. Or
Dean Sluyter 4:29
I didn't even say I'm going to stop now. I mean, that's sort of me unpacking it here, but it just it stopped. And I'm glad you brought this up. Because, you know, I've been a meditation teacher for my whole adult life. And I was very fortunate that early on at the very beginning. I was with teachers who gave me the typical thing I was actually with a couple of Zen teachers of, you know, sitting and trying to, you know, approach arching this idea of oh, here's this monkey mind, and and you have to, you know, catch that naughty monkey and suppress it, tie it down and make it stop jumping around from branch to branch. And I discovered very quickly that I couldn't do that I was way too fidgety to sit still, for that long in my mind was way too fidgety to to steal itself. And so I flunked I flunked out of Zen very quickly. And what happened was, I was very fortunate to find that teachers who said, No, Dean, you're not the problem, you're just normal. Almost no one can do that. And the Zen teachers will tell you that they'll say, you know, Zen is for like, 1% of people who can do that, that the problem is not, you know, this whole model. And actually an another book that I wrote called natural meditation. And I have a chapter I couldn't wait to write this chapter. It's called the myth of monkey mind. Right? All these people Oh, my monkey mind, and you hear them, they're almost boast about it. You know, oh, I've got the worst monkey. I've had so many people come up to me, like at the beginning of a workshop, I say, Oh, if you contain my monkey mind, you know, it's like, I got the championship. Monkey Mind is bullshit. It's, it's because this idea oh, my mind is full of thoughts pop up. Okay. First of all, thought number number one. Okay. Now, look, I'm about to ask you a question. And I want you to look for the answer. Don't think for the answer. How many thoughts can you have at one time? One? Yeah. One or occasionally zero. It's always between zero and one. Correct. Okay. So as soon as we start saying, Oh, my mind is full of all these thoughts. It's because you're remembering the past five minutes, five hours, five seconds ago, you're projecting into the future, five minutes, five hours, five seconds ago, if you pay attention to right now, All there is is one, Max. Okay, so that's the first thing seeing clearly what's going on. The second thing is the monkey, the so called Monkey is not swinging aimlessly from branch to branch, the monkey is looking for a freaking banana. Right? If you get the monkey turned in the direction of the banana, he'll very happily settle right down with it. Now the banana is our true nature. The banana is our beingness, which is here, in its fullness right now, underlying our being is here right now underlying our feeling and our thinking and our doing, right. We're looking for it. We're trying to get back to that all the time, every motion that you make with your body, every motion you make with your mind. You know, when you're standing in line that the Ben and Jerry's and you're looking at the menu, okay, do I want the rocky road or the you know, the coffee Bonanza or whatever? What you want? The answer is no, neither what you want is nirvana. You want the self, but it ain't on the menu. So you you settle for the closest available facsimile in any given moment. We're like heat seeking missiles, we are Nirvana seeking organisms. So what my teachers showed me after I flunked out Zen was that, rather than try to push things, you allow that drive to pull you, it's like gravity, if you allow it, it just, it pulls you right down. There's no need to get rid of the thoughts. Because that getting trying to get rid of the thoughts is like trying to flatten out all the waves on the surface of the ocean, it's a game of Whack a Mole, that that you can't win, all you do is you stir up the water more, what you do is you allow gravity to pull you down a couple of feet below the waves to where the water is always already silent. Right? Only thinking and feeling and doing our active being is silent by nature.
Alex Ferrari 9:17
Right! And, you know, I've been a meditator now for many, many years. And I've had the pleasure of speaking to some Buddhist monks and some very heavy meditators as well. And it is my experience as well that the silent mind is almost a myth, in the sense that you can't I mean, I was talking to a Buddhist monk who, who's been meditating for 3030 years and he's like, it's bullshit. Yeah,
Dean Sluyter 9:44
There's no such see that see, there's the term silent mind is a contradiction in terms. What is mind? Again, I'm inviting you to look don't think look, what Mind Mind is thought. Mind is thought mind is the activity. It's like wind. We say, Oh, the wind, we say the wind is blowing. And because there's a subject and a verb, it sounds like there's a thing, and then an action that that thing does. But when the blowing stops, where's the wind? Right there, there is no wind separate from blowing, there is no mind separate from thinking. So this idea of a silent mind is a contradiction in terms. It's like your mind is supposed to think thoughts just as, as the eye as opposed to see shapes and colors. So if you say, Oh, gee, I can't be at peace, because these thoughts are going on. It's like saying, I can't be at peace, because there's all these shapes and colors in the room. Now, the Buddha doesn't say that. Right? Buddha, the Buddha, the enlightened one, which we all are, in essence, knows, no, it's, it's just, it's not a matter of trying getting rid of this stuff. It's a matter of being fine with it, of settling down in my own beingness. Law and peacefully coexist with all this stuff. That's why the Buddha right as it's recorded, I'm sure you're familiar with this beautiful story, that the Buddha after, at least according to the legend is 49 Days and nights under the Bodhi tree, which is close relative to these ficus trees we have here all over Santa Monica, and I've got surrounding my backyard. After his 49 days under the Bodhi tree, when he finally awakens, he says, how wonderful how wonderful. And then he doesn't say how wonderful how wonderful, I finally got my mind to silent. How wonderful how wonderful. I finally he says, how wonderful how wonderful. Everything's fine the way it is.
Alex Ferrari 11:44
Right! Exactly. And from originally when I that was one of the reasons why I stopped meditating years ago, because I kept like, I'm failing, I'm failing, failing. It's not, I can't quiet my mind. It just keeps going. Till I finally just sat down, I'm like, Well, I'm just gonna keep this. I'm just going to keep showing up every day until I until something happens. And slowly but surely, just being quiet with yourself. Yeah, I love the analogy of going underneath the waves. Because when you're going underneath the waves, it just goes, it doesn't naturally you don't force it, it just is. And when you get there,
Dean Sluyter 12:21
Yeah, you finally attained the the wisdom of giving up.
Alex Ferrari 12:26
You have to you can't fight this. Like, it's like having an everybody listen to his if ever has ever been to a beach, we've all tried this. We've all tried to fight the wave when we were kids, we all tried to go in there and like fight the wave or control the way it's possible. It is not a is not a feasible thing. So if you just let the wave go flow with the wave, then life becomes a lot easier.
Dean Sluyter 12:52
So So meditation is the one thing where working doesn't work. Not working, not working works. Right, just being just beat up just it's just being exactly I actually put out a meditation CD years ago, it's still around available as a download called Gold just being Oh, and let me just mention if I may, right now, before I forget that I offer meditation, I guide meditation, via zoom three times a week, usually open to everyone, and it's free. And if people come to my web website, Dean slider.com, you can sign up for that.
Alex Ferrari 13:33
We'll put it on that we'll put it in the show notes, make sure everyone can get access to it without question.
Dean Sluyter 13:37
Because one, once you've been guided even a few times, it's just kind of it does generally take having a little bit of guidance, at least at first, to have someone to kind of pull that rug of effort out from under you. And then you go Oh, right. It's so natural. Why? Why? Why? Why did I even need to be shown this?
Alex Ferrari 13:57
Exactly. It's like, oh, I'm, I'm breathing now. Okay, I should have been doing this naturally. Yeah, it's really interesting, because it's, now I can go effortlessly, like I just sit down and within a couple of minutes, I'm there. And then it just, I'm just kind of just sitting there and it's it's kind of blissful. And some days it's very blissful. Like you, I get high, almost from the bliss. And other days it doesn't depending on the where the mind is that day or what's going on. Generally I get something out of it. It's different variations of it.
Dean Sluyter 14:27
And and one thing that I point out that raises a good point, one thing that I point out is the subjective experience of Oh, today this was a deep satisfying meditation that today I was more kind of perking along. I guess, Mr. Coffee doesn't matter. Yeah. There's the subject, the subjective experience, you know, sometimes you will experience I'm sure this has happened to you sitting there gone, and nothing's going on here. I'm just thinking thoughts. And then you get out and you you go back into your day, which is really where you find out what happened in the meditation you go and I think Things are, things are smooth. No question. And that's what meditation is for. It's not just for, you know, 20 minutes or whatever, of, of bliss and then you come back to the same old, same old, it's just more it's like you throw a dry sponge into a bucket, it comes out wet you, you put the you throw the mind into the bucket of meditation, and it comes out, you know, juicy with that, that that beingness, that expansiveness, that peacefulness and that clarity, which comes to bear on all the your relationship stuff and your work stuff and all that, and it just more and more it permeates your life. No more and more and more the the line between so called meditation and so called life that that artificial line gets erased.
Alex Ferrari 15:51
Now, you wrote a book a few years ago called cinnamon Nirvana, cinema, cinema, Nirvana,
Dean Sluyter 15:58
Cinema, cinema, Nirvana, enlightenment lessons from the movies. And by the way, I came up with the idea for the the cover design of the Golden Buddha clutching the box of popcorn, but I thought, is this a little too irreverent? So I went to my Buddhist gov got, you know, teachers from various traditions. So I went to my Buddhist, my Buddhist teacher, I said, is, is this okay? They all laugh. They said, Yeah, it's fine. You're fine.
Alex Ferrari 16:25
Yeah, he's not holding an M 16. You're good. You're good. So So what are some spiritual lessons that we can learn from our favorite movies?
Dean Sluyter 16:36
Oh, yeah. Well, first of all, let me mention that when people when I told people I was working on on the book would have enlightenment lessons from the movies. And they all said, Oh, you got to write about the matrix. And you got to write about, you know, all that like obvious stuff. So I kind of made a mental list of everything that everyone suggested and didn't write about any of that. Because they're
Alex Ferrari 17:02
Very keen marketing mind you have, sir.
Dean Sluyter 17:05
Well, that was just, it wasn't even mark actually, that that yeah, that would have made it easier to mark it probably. But it was like, Okay, if everyone else is already seeing that, that's got Dharma content, spiritual content, then then there's that's no fun. So I wrote about jaws and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and invasion and Shani snatchers, and the Godfather, Casablanca. And so an example. So Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, right? I say, Hey, Alex, how are you say, Oh, I'm, I'm sleepy. And then another time? No, I'm, I'm, I'm happy. Right? All these things interesting. In the at least in the English language, we say I am. We say I am hungry. Hungry. It's not true in all languages in in Spanish, she would so say what, you know, you'll Tango on. But I have hunger. Yes, exactly. Right. But in English anyway, we say I am this as if that's your identity. So you know, you say, Oh, I'm happy that I see you the next day. You say I'm sad. Right? Wait a minute. You yesterday, you said you're you're happy now you're like and what this points out is that these things that we identify with these moods? And these traits that we identify with? Or not what we are? They are they are ways that we function. There are ways that we express they're smaller than what we are. They're dwarfs. Right? So these are the seven dwarfs, we have doc and happy and, and the NIT. And then I go through, you know, Doc is the is the rational mind. Right? Doc is the part of us that wants to turn everything into a doctoral thesis, right? He's the one that's wearing glasses and tries to use big words but he always gets the mixed up. And the glasses don't really fit his eyes. Because the the the the intellect in the thinking mind is the wrong tool. For it's the right tool for rock. It's the right tool for writing your doctoral thesis. It's the wrong tool for approaching awakening. Right and just the right tool for right when that because awakening is is Snow White. That's our true nature. Our true nature is like the driven snow. Right? It's it's it's it's it's pure. It's it's as as my old teacher, Maurice, she wants to describe it. It's just nothing. But there's something very good about it. You All right, you know when we're floating around here in the world of doing and thinking and feeling that all has attributes you know this this thing is green this thing is blue. This thought is jumbled this thought is smooth all these textures and colors, all these attributes. When we settle down into our being this there's no attributes. There's no There's no conditions there's there's no qualities to it. And so the so that's represented by Snow White she is she right? Like like like the untrammeled snow ever virginal? Right. In the in the in the Christian mythos. That's the Blessed Virgin, right? And the end, and it's the Blessed Virgin that gives birth to the Christ, which is awakening. Right? Right. Right. So so the Snow White has come to the, the cottage of the Seven Dwarfs with and remember it's all messy, and it's all the sink is full of dirty dishes and all that and she Whistle While You Work, she cleans the place up because this is what happens when this Snow White pure awareness is due this influence of awakening comes into our you know, when when when awakening is in the house. Right? It starts to clean up our act. We we start? Yeah, I don't feel like smoking those cigarettes anymore, right? I don't feel I don't feel like picking a fight with my girlfriend anymore. This stuff starts to fall away, things start to get cleaned up.
Alex Ferrari 21:32
It was there's this one great story of Paramahansa Yogananda that I absolutely adore. And it's a story about one of his this one of his disciples came up to him. He's like, you're going on? I don't know if I'm gonna be able to do this. You know, I drink I smoke. I do drugs. I mean, I don't I don't want to stop this stuff. And he's and then Yogananda says, Do you do? Are you promiscuous with lemon? He goes, Yes, I am. You may continue. Do do you? Do you like to drink? I do. You may continue. Do you? Do you smoke? And you do drugs? He does? Yes, I do. You may continue. And he's like very confused about it. He was, but if you continue to take my teachings, I cannot promise you that you will want to continue those actions. So it's very similar to what you just said.
Dean Sluyter 22:22
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And that's and yeah, this, this, this stuff happens. You know, when I first started going away on weekend meditation retreats, after I came back from about my fourth or fifth retreat, my my girlfriend at the time said, you know, every time you come back from one of these, you're a little bit nicer. My kids say this. Yeah, it's that simple. It's that simple. And I said, I am. I didn't notice I was nicer. I wasn't trying to be nicer. You know, that's the, you know, when you're really marinating in that Snow White nature of beingness itself. That's the way it happens that the purification is so organic, that you know it, it's like a child growing, you don't see the child growing from day to day, but then something happens, you put his, you know, Winter's coming, you put his old sweater on him, and now the sleeve is up to here. So in the same way, you know, people experience I don't know if this meditations happy, and then one day, they have a very challenging day, you know, the shit hits the fan at work, and there's a relationship challenge or someone in the family is gravely ill or something. And you know, at the end of the day, you're sitting on the edge of your bed, taking your socks off, and you're gone. Wow, I really handled everything. And I kind of feel like nothing happened today. No, there was a there was a there's a kind of a friction lessness
Alex Ferrari 23:51
When you tap it away, when you tap into that kind of stuff. It is. It's life altering, and it's in it's subtle, and it's quiet. And it's not it's not a spectacle in any sense of the word. It is. It just is. It is just it's the same energy. I would say that inside of a seed that you plant in the ground and it effortlessly grows into an oak. And you're just like it to see didn't go I have to grow I have to grow I have to grow. It just is what it is. Yeah. In many ways, and you just
Dean Sluyter 24:25
It's all it's all an inside job.
Alex Ferrari 24:29
Well, that's a great line. That should be the name of the book. That's the book title right there.
Dean Sluyter 24:32
It's a job you know, the there was just this Supreme Court ruling about this high school football coach. Yes. who insisted on on praying on the 50 yard line at the end of every game. And and and I don't know if you saw the videotape of some of these things and it's this this you know, just commotion and geyser you know, you know he's it's it's a public space Practical, and okay. Whatever your opinion of the, the legalism of that and how the court should have decided, you know, if you go back to the Gospel of Matthew, well, what did Jesus say about this? He says, When you pray, go into your private room, close the door, meet with the father there in secret. Don't be like the hypocrites who like to pray in public, because they have their reward. You know, I can just hear hear that kind of is that he's just like, kind of poking you there. They have their reward. What is what what's their reward? Oh, well, they wanted everyone to see how holy they are. In other words, they just wanted approval, this superficial level of approval. That's what they get. That's what they get. He said, But meet with your father and secret, you know, in your private room, and there, you'll get the real reward.
Alex Ferrari 25:58
Absolutely. Now, there's a movie that you talk about in your book called The Truman Show, which is what I love The Truman Show. Yeah, I love to hear your thoughts on The Truman Show and the spiritual, spiritual lessons, because just from just from not having read that chapter in your book, but just knowing the Truman Show, there's layers upon layers of things that I could just see in the movie, if you look at it through spiritual, I'd love to hear what you think.
Dean Sluyter 26:23
Yeah, you know, this idea that, you know, we think of the reality that we live in as well, this is this is reality with a capital R, this is the, this is the, this is the, this is the wall of all the great spiritual teachers one way or another, you know, they use these various metaphors to point out well, it has its reality. Yeah, but it's, but it's a show. It's my right. It's, it's my, it's kind of like a show. You know, it's like, you know, when you have a dream when you when when the tiger is chasing you through the jungle, in a dream, right? And, and oh my god, this is, you know, your terror. We call it a dream after the fact after you wake up, but while you're in it, your terror is very real, your, your heart is pounding. The these people that, you know, this thing is chasing after you. And there's this assumption, you know, it's, it's completely terrifying. Because to you, the tiger is real. It's made out of things and fur and claws and Tiger DNA, it's made out of matter. And you're made out of matter which is right, which is very fragile and vulnerable to being chewed up by the tiger. Then you wake up, and you say, Oh, it was right past dance. Oh, it was only a dream. We never say that in present tense, because well, it's going on. It's it's, it's your reality. Oh, it's only a dream. It was It wasn't made out of Tiger DNA. It was made out of awareness. The whole thing was constructed out of my own awareness. Okay, now, there was a Hindu sage and ancient sage in the Hindu tradition, Yogi Vasishtha. Who said, there's two kinds of dreams, the short ones, and the long one.
Alex Ferrari 28:37
That's awesome. That is, awesome.
Dean Sluyter 28:39
Right, you know? And we go, oh, well, now now I've woken up. Now. This is real. Now this here's a table. Here's a computer. They're made out of matter. Well, the well we were in the the tiger movie. It was made out of matter as far as we knew. Right? But but our turn then we realized in retrospect, oh, the experience of the Tiger was all taking place within my awareness. Well, where's your experience of your computer and your table and your microphone and this conversation? Where's that experience taking place? The awareness within the awareness? Can you ever experience anything outside of awareness? That's a contradiction in terms. Right? And and what all the sages tell you to tell us is when you wake up, we can wake up from this one. We don't have to wait till we die to wake up from it. We enter this enlightenment we wake up and we continue to participate in this long dream, but it no longer can get its claws into us It no longer has that whole that that false absoluteness to it. And that's why is what we were just saying a few minutes ago. You know in a Three very simple straightforward way, you know, you meditate, and then somehow the day goes more smoothly, somehow stuff is not so overwhelming somehow more and more everything is frictionless flow. And really what that is, if we look at it deeply, is we're moving more and more in the direction of seeing the, the Maya, like quality, the movie like quality of this so called absolute reality that we're living in.
Alex Ferrari 30:28
So then Jaws
Dean Sluyter 30:32
Yeah, well, let me just make one. So The Truman Show in an, you know, I have a wonderful time with all these going into detail because God is in the details. I mentioned, I think at the beginning of the book, that in once upon a time, I spent a bunch of weeks in Tibet with a wonderful Buddhist teacher from Switzerland, Charles Jinu, who's an expert on iconography. So we, you know, we go into all these temples and we'd see all these, these these roupas, the, you know, statues, statuettes, and then the Tonka is the, you know, the fabric paintings on the wall, but all these representations of these different Buddha's and Buddhist gods, and he pointed would point out how each little detail is, it's all non arbitrary, it's all symbolically representing different facts about the, the whole drama of the unfolding of our awareness into into enlightenment. And so what I, you know, just like, like the Lord Ganesh, that you see over my, my shoulder there, you know, he doesn't have an elephant head, cuz, you know, I'm got these crazy, superstitious notions, and I think a guy's gonna walk through my door with an elephant said, it's because that rip, the elephant is the biggest animal. So that's like the vastness. He's got a human body because we continue to function physically on the earth in our material life, but our awareness is was out here. So what I did was I realized, okay, I want what I need to do is approach movies. With the method of iconography. Look at all the details. So for example, The Seven Dwarfs five of them have brown eyes. Right? This is one of these things that was so exciting. It's like God, has anyone noticed this before? Five of the dwarfs have brown eyes. Grumpy has little black dots. He's got no pupils. He can't let the light in. Right that and grumpy is the part of us that resists opening to the light. Right? We can't let the light in that that that resistance part. But we need them all. We need all seven doors. We need the part that's happy. We need the thinking part that's done. Interestingly, when Snow White is dead, or they think that Snow White is dead, grumpy is the one who sheds the most bitter tears. Right? Grumpy that part of us that is so cynical and skeptical of the whole thing. When it's taken away. We that part really misses it. The sevens dwarf dopey has baby blues is innocent. He's innocent. He's the holy fool he's in he's the only one without a beard. Right to enter into the kingdom of heaven be like a little child. Right? That's that's Dopey and so I started to say before when the dwarfs come home from work from digging in the mind you're not gonna go oh, what does it mean to be digging in a mine and the diamonds of the rubies but so they come home to where their house and they you know they're so scared because oh, that's something some something's cleaned up the house and they got to send someone into record Noida who did they send? dopey because that's how to meditate innocently. Use the Zen Mind as the beginner's mind, be like a little child. Now, in The Truman Show. One of my favorite pieces of the iconography there is what is Truman's first tip off that this world that he's living in that he thinks is the real world is really just a big, you know, quote unquote reality show. His first tip off is one day all of sudden let's write it always knows. Right? A light falls out of the out of the sky. And he picks it up and it's a studio light and its mark you know, serious x three or something. What is one of the stars from his sky has fallen. Right now this is what it takes for most people to Get on the path. Now in my case, you know, just fine for whatever God knows whatever reason this thing happened to me when I was 11 or 12. But for most people, something's got to not add up. Something their old model has to something has to not work in their like, like their old model was, oh, I'm in this relationship with this person and we are soulmates and Romeo and Juliet, now we're gonna live happily ever after. And then it doesn't work out.
You know, usually something has to not work. There's got to be some discordant thing. Oh, my, my parents in their religious teaching white parents and their political indoctrination said x, y. And wait a minute, that's not things are different from that. Or, or, Oh, I was sold on this American dream, get this job and this money in this car and this house and bah, bah, bah. And then I'll be happy. I did all those things. And yes, it's not working. I'm still dissatisfied. Now. What? So there's got to be that falling light, one way or another for most people.
Alex Ferrari 36:08
And I just have to ask Jaws as a horror movie. Where does that lean into the spirituality of love to hear what you come with?
Dean Sluyter 36:14
Yeah, well, JAWS is a harder movie from the point of view of humans, right of the humans, but I look at I analyze draws from the point of view of the shark. Let's get into it. Right now, here. Here's a good good movie trivia question for you. What is the very first shot in Jaws?
Alex Ferrari 36:34
Or the girl in the in the ocean? Nope. The very first or the very first shot? Oh, geez. Very first shot I've seen I haven't seen in forever. What is it right? Is it the dengue? Is it the dinghy by itself? Nope. What is it?
Dean Sluyter 36:46
The very first shot? It's a long long tracking shot under the opening titles? Oh, of course. And it's the it's up shark's eye view is going through the sea weeds.
Alex Ferrari 36:58
Sequences that are sequences with John Williams.
Dean Sluyter 37:01
Yes, fantastic. It's the it's the title sequence. And it's very subtly putting us behind the eyeballs of the shark. We're looking for food. So from the shark's eye view from the sharks point of view, JAWS is a film not about horror. It's a film about hunger. Right, insatiable hunger, and we're all freaking insatiable. Because, you know, as I think it was Pascal, some French philosopher said, you know, man is born with a god's size hole in him, and he keeps trying to fill it up with other things.
Alex Ferrari 37:40
And you're right, you're right,
Dean Sluyter 37:41
We all have the craving for the infinite. And we keep trying to fill it up with things that are finite. And then I do a whole I go into all this excruciating detail on like, the three guys who go after the shark represents the three different basic attitudes on the spiritual path, which are fundamentalist, Hinayana, and Mahayana. But you have to read the chapter for that. Too much. But one of the wonderful this kind of discovery for me, was when I realized, you know, the, the main section, the middle section of the film, when they're out there, hunting the shark. happens in the deep water, they're out of sight of land. Right? Right. That's completely illogical. The shark has been attacking people near the shore. Right? Right. But no one ever notices that because, as in any good film, if you get caught up enough, in the rhythm of it in the, in the because it's logically not valid, but it's psychologically right on because psychologically, to confront our shark to confront our insatiable hunger for the infinite, we got to go into the deep waters.
Alex Ferrari 39:03
Right, right. And you're out there alone? And, you know, in many ways,
Dean Sluyter 39:09
Yeah. Well, in one way, we, you know, you've got to walk that lonesome Valley. For yourself, nobody can walk it for you. That's on the one hand, that's true. On the other hand, you know, the, in the, in the Buddhist tradition, there's three, there's what they call the the Triple Gem, right, the three things that are the, the essence of, of the spiritual path which are Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Right, Buddha is awakening. Right? It's not a person. It's, it's, it's, it's the phenomenon of awakening. Buddha, Dharma, dharma is all the teachings all the path As of, of the process of awakening, and Sangha is the community is the community of fellow seekers. It's really it's, it's the crew that's in the boat, right? We it's really, there's, with some very rare exceptions, we can't do it on our own. Ultimately, you got to sit down and close your eyes and do that, you know, you're, you're yourself, go into your own insights. But it's, it's, you know, that's one of the reasons why it's so great doing these, these zoom sessions that I do three times a week, it's, it's not only okay, I get to be the bus driver. So every and and narrate the little bit to the meditation, so everyone else can just sit back in the passenger seat and relax. But then we have discussion, and everyone gets strengthened and reinforced by hearing other people's experiences. And other people, you know, because most people, as you know, Alex, don't know about this stuff more, as far as most people are concerned, we're nuts. Many, many people do believe that. Yes, yeah, we're, I mean, it's, it's, it's much better. Now, when I started, I started teaching this stuff in 1970, I had to convince people, it wasn't some weird, you know, call the cult with, with with beds and nails and crystal balls, flying carpets. Now everyone's got, you know, a brother in law, who took a meditation course at the Y and lowered their blood.
Alex Ferrari 41:29
I mean, there's CEOs who take you know, who are meditating and yoga is a thing. And, and, you know, out of body experiences are things that people talk about. And, I mean, these are all concepts, you know, karma and reincarnation, these are things now that are in Zeitgeist, which were never, forever. So I could only imagine in the 70s, in the 80s, the uphill battle now at least there's a reference point to a lot of stuff. But all this stuff has been talked about for 1000s of years. You know, I always I always talk to people, when people ask me, What do you talk about on the show, I try to keep everything within the realm of the ancient texts, Buddhist, Hindu, Christianity, Judaism, I try to keep every like, within that world with things you know, and not to go off the reservation too much. Because that's, is what draws me into truth. That's truth to me. And that's what I'm always that's what the show is.
Dean Sluyter 42:25
That's the stuff that's been road tested.
Alex Ferrari 42:27
I mean, I mean, seriously, it's been pretty road tested. It's not
Dean Sluyter 42:31
But but also see to me, and this is what I tried to do in all my teaching, and in all my books, I've written half a dozen books about this stuff from various angles, is to keep to that essence that's been road tested since the ancient times, not just making up some, you know, new age, you know, fantasy stuff, which there's plenty of that stuff in the air, especially here in LA. But, so to keep to that, but in every generation, it's got to be re expressed. You know, I've got to say a quote at the beginning of my book, cinema, Nirvana, this thing that the that the Buddha said just, shortly before he died, he said to his disciples, he said, Go throughout the land and spread the Dharma in the dialect of the people. Right. So the dialect of the people in, you know, America in 2022 is not the dialect of the people in, in northern India 2500 years ago,
Alex Ferrari 43:35
Right! I mean, I taught some of those books that I've read, they're not easy. They're not easy reads. They're, they're, they're tough reads because it's the dance and they're not prepped for people.
Dean Sluyter 43:49
The tradition is you need a notch Aria, you need a, you need a teacher, or at least a teaching assistant, to help walk you through it to help you parse it. So so that's what I tried to do. And so you know, in cinema Nirvana, what's the dialect of the people you know, as I presented in terms of movies, now, my new book in the Dharma bums guide to Western literature, I deliberately took the books that we read in in high school or in, you know, in college and English 101 that we read, or were supposed to read. So again, it's what's familiar. So we've all we all read over, we're supposed to read Macbeth and Huckleberry Finn and The Great Gatsby and, you know, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson so I take them and I break them down and show Okay, all the all the the teaching the same ancient teachings of the ancients that that's there in you know, The Catcher in the Rye.
Alex Ferrari 44:47
Exactly. So and where can people find the book?
Dean Sluyter 44:52
They can wherever books are sold, Amazon and everywhere else.
Alex Ferrari 44:56
Now, I'm gonna ask you two questions ask all my guests. Oh, What is your mission in this life?
Dean Sluyter 45:06
To to lead all sentient beings out of suffering and into happiness.
Alex Ferrari 45:14
A tall order, sir, but
Dean Sluyter 45:16
Yes it is but but as the poet said a man's reach should exceed his grasp?
Alex Ferrari 45:22
Absolutely. And what is the ultimate purpose of life?
Dean Sluyter 45:28
To get out of suffering and into happiness
Alex Ferrari 45:31
And where and where can people find out more about you your work and the things you're doing?
Dean Sluyter 45:35
Yeah, if they come to my website, Deansluyter.com and I know you'll post this but Sluyter is tricky to spell because it's got a U Y in it. So it's Sluyter Sluyter deansluyter.com or if they just if it's easier to remember to just Google Dharma bums guide to Western literature or Google you know, cinema Nirvana then they'll they'll find you they'll find my name.
Alex Ferrari 46:03
And one last question which I think is a question you're gonna like why did the chicken cross the road?
Dean Sluyter 46:10
So you so you know, I wrote
Alex Ferrari 46:15
Yes, I know. That's why
Dean Sluyter 46:18
I wrote a book My first book was called was posed as the answer why the chicken cross the road?
Alex Ferrari 46:25
Yeah. So I'm just curious I didn't chicken cross the road?
Dean Sluyter 46:32
To get to the other side Alex, everybody knows that. But but but now having been on the spiritual path for some years, you've got a deepening deepening understanding of oh the other side. What is the other side this is you know, when the Buddha talks about getting on the raft and crossing from samsara, to Nirvana, samsara you know, the life of ordinary literally samsara means going around in circles, which is which is like, which is what we do, which is life as as it's live by, you know, so called ordinary people by people, right, just going around Oh, am I hearing that's like, oh, I want this. You know, it starts you know, Christmas is coming Mommy Mommy, please buy me the Barbie dollar or buy me the GI Joe. If he'd only bind me the Barbie doll that'll be it I'll never want anything else again. And this being America the land of plenty most of us got the Barbie or the GI Joe and it really see oh, this is a yet this is so great, you know for a couple of days. And then And then what's next? Oh mommy, Barbie Barbie is lonesome Barbie needs Ken Barbie needs Miko. Barbie is homeless. She needs Barbie, she needs the dream home Barbie is homeless. And then and so we go through the cycles of desire, fulfill fulfillment, dissatisfaction new desire, that samsara we keep going round and round. And we and we get fooled every time we keep thinking, Oh, you have that last thing I thought that was going to be but this next one, this is the one that will just make my head explode with happiness. And I'll be incapable of ever desiring. It'll be the ultimate 24/7 orgasm of psychedelic happiness. And it never is. Because we're trying to give back to the Johnson we're trying to fool to fulfill our infinite longing with finite experiences with finite things. The only thing that can fulfill this, in this infinite longing we have is our curse. Because it keeps us dissatisfied. But it's our blessing because it keeps us dissatisfied till we realize oh you have to turn that infinite longing in on itself. You have to settle down within yourself and then you find it in here and then more and more as it gets integrated in your life. You're also finding it out there in you know the the dish of ice cream and watching your your grandchildren play.
Alex Ferrari 49:13
I eat and it's so interesting because you It's what you've said is that little cycle that we all go through. I think everybody can identify with it because we all go through it. And Jim Carrey, the famous comedian actor said something that's such so brilliant and he's like, I wish everybody could get everything they ever wanted. So they would understand it's not it doesn't mean anything. Right. And and he literally biggest movie star in the world. Money beyond all their power. Yeah, you had everything you wanted. Yeah. And yet he's like, but I wasn't happy.
Dean Sluyter 49:49
Yeah. And he had that he and he somehow had the wisdom to get it. And you see, you know, it's tragic. You see so many movie stars who you know I mean, they're they're the modern equivalent of Gods they've attained godhood. And, and, you know, if they bought into the you see some of them you feel no, they never got fooled. You know, you see someone like, I mean, this is just my, my take, but I was just watching an interview last night for his latest movie with Tom Hanks. And you go, he looks like a guy that kept his feet on the ground. You know?
Alex Ferrari 50:26
Denzel, Meryl Streep, yeah,
Dean Sluyter 50:29
They, they, they, they, they, they, and then you see other people and it becomes so I won't name names, but you know it and it just be it becomes a one way ticket to disaster.
Alex Ferrari 50:40
Oh, you can? I mean, I won't name names, too. I mean, everybody listening knows I've been in the business for a long time. So I've worked with movie stars. I've been in the room with them. And yeah, you know, when the egos out of control, you could just sense it and you hear you hear stories in the news of these movie stars are like acting up acting up on set and their little egos and they're just scared. They're just fearful. They're just insecure. It's, it's the secure ones who never, you never once hear Tom Hanks acting up Zell Merrill because they just know who they are.
Dean Sluyter 51:15
And then, when I used to live in New Jersey, when I lived in New Jersey, my neighbor across the street was a flight attendant. And she used to tell me stories about the movie stars on her who would her flight to would start demanding stuff. And the end sooner or later they trot out the line? Do you know
Alex Ferrari 51:34
I am? You've gone off the deep end. If you hear someone say, Yeah, you know who I am. It's over you. That's it means
Dean Sluyter 51:46
It means it means that that person does not know who they are. Absolutely. They've bought their own, you know, they they're believing their own press releases.
Alex Ferrari 51:56
Right and and then someone like Keanu Reeves, who is so famous for being just the nicest, sweetest down to earth person and who has gone through immense tragedy in his life, even man's tragedy and loss. And yet, he's so zen almost about,
Dean Sluyter 52:17
And maybe not maybe maybe even not yet. But therefore, you know, that's again, that's like in The Truman Show the the light falling out of the sky. You know, maybe in in the chaos news case, you know, that those hard, horrific tragedies that happened to him, were the thing showing, okay, this old model of life that most people live by, it doesn't work. How do I go deeper somehow? How do I look deeper? And sometimes, you know, that that will wind up taking up a formal enlightenment practice of meditative practice. And some people, you know, I don't know, if Keanu who meditates or some orange and some people, it just, it's more of a subtle intuitive a turning within the finding is finding that kind of deeper value within themselves.
Alex Ferrari 53:08
Yeah, it's, it's, it's, it's very interesting. And being around Hollywood for most of my adult life, it's it's, I could see where people have gone down the wrong path. It's just it's very intoxicating. It's when you've got people around you saying that you're the best all the time. Yeah, it's it's tough. It takes a strong. Yeah, very lightened person to just go. Everyone calm down.
Dean Sluyter 53:35
Yeah. And you got to remember that all those people who are telling you that they're on your payroll
Alex Ferrari 53:41
Many times, many times they are they want something from you, or they want they want they want they want something from you. Yeah, of course, Dean, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, my friend. Thank you so much for coming on the show and for the work that you do for the world. So I appreciate you. Thank you again.
Dean Sluyter 53:56
Thank you, Alex, and thank you for what you do. This is really great.
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