Episode 13: How Spiritual Grounding Supplies What Therapy Can't with Richard Platt
In this episode, we speak with the insightful Marriage and Family Therapist, Richard Platt, who with his wife runs an exciting phalanx of traditional therapeutic and bold workshop practices. As a shrink, Richard discovered that traditional psychology often misses the deeper mark: namely, connecting to root source, touching the core of being. In essence, knowing that you have the power to start over, again and again and again. It is the idea, as he discusses, that "initiation is available in every moment."
This is a powerful, refreshing and inspiring concept. In fact, in my opinion, it can serve as the foundation of a moment-by-moment practice that can turn your intimate life into a broad, easy river that washes over the little dams that our fear quickly assembles to undermine the love we truly are.
Listen, open and enjoy!
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Adam Gilad: Welcome once again to The Fearless Lover here on Personal Life Media. My name is Adam Gilad and this show is The Fearless Lover. Here, we really look every week into the spiritual roots of how can we create a life of as fearless a kind of love, life of love, that we really want to create. Every week we interview people who are experts and have grounding in different traditions. We’re really trying to cull sort of the best of many traditions.
This week, everybody’s special guest, Richard Platt, is a licensed family therapist as well as a certified personal coach and he has grounding in several spiritual traditions and he has a lot to say about how practical spiritual traditions are in the therapeutic world, answering questions that therapy really struggles with.
Richard Platt: If psychology is grounded in touching into source, it’s a great tool. Then there is the answer, which of course happens in relationship because in relationship two people come together. If it’s about love and healing, source is going to be there. But it needs to be conscious and it needs to be that that’s what it’s about because what’s happening in our culture with text messaging and the Internet and all of these things and the media is that we are no longer having any space.
Adam Gilad: So first of all, Richard, welcome!
Richard Platt: Thanks Adam!
Adam Gilad: That’s great! Do you want to give us a sort of couple minute rundown of how you got where you are? First, where you are and then how you got here in terms of your pursuits.
Richard Platt: Sure. Well, I would say that I have been searching for most of my life about how to have a great relationship. I watched my parents struggle quite a bit through many marriages and divorces and this, that and the other and I thought, “Man! These are great people. How come they’re having such a hard time?” And so, I decided to go to school to study marriage and family and relationship and created a marriage and worked through a lot of stuff in that marriage and then dissolved that marriage and it really got clear that a great relationship comes from having a great relationship with yourself and with your source.
From that grounding, I have created an incredible union with an amazing goddess, my wife, and the journey was not over with that and that is continuing to open and deepen and push all my buttons and hers. For the past five years, we have been both teaching relationship as a spiritual practice and living it and enjoying the fruits and struggling with the challenges of that, both coming from a very challenging family situation and this culture that doesn’t give us a lot of navigation points about how to be powerful and alive in relationship. So, that’s where we’re at.
Adam Gilad: Let me jump right on that. I think that’s a really interesting phrase, “powerful and alive in relationships.” As a therapist, what do you see happening?
Richard Platt: Well, I really see an overall cultural breakdown going on and it’s systemic in terms of there being a breakdown of transmission of how to be connected to a source which I find to be the most grounding and important thing. And then, how to take that connection and bring it into a relationship. I see one thing we’ll get into today is working with the teens and families. But I see what’s happening in our culture is that we are more and more becoming mentored by our peers as opposed to our elders and the peer relationship is fraught with competition. It is not always a giving or caring or loving relationship as a parent-child relationship is supposed to be, where the parent sacrifices and that the young person learns that really caring relationship is about doing for the other, the inherent good feeling of doing for the other without external reward.
Adam Gilad: Right.
Richard Platt: And in the breakdown of that, we see what’s happening in our relationships and in the world as people becoming very hardened and not very human and it makes it really hard to then get into a relationship that you want to have be powerful and loving because we’re constantly getting bombarded by things that annoy us. And if we can’t go deeper and connect to a deeper place, that it’s about an act of giving and service and caring, we’re going to constantly be getting our chains yanked.
Adam Gilad: It’s true, because the culture is built around acquisition and that means acquisition of experience and acquisition of feeling good and not just the acquisition of things. So, I see what you’re saying about culture. I want to ask you, when you say “touching source,” what exactly do you mean by that? Give me an example or give our listeners an example of practically, what does that even mean and how can they apply that in a troublesome spot in a relationship? That seems really interesting.
Richard Platt: What’s been coming to me very powerfully is that… And I’m going to link both things together because what’s happening in our culture with text messaging and the Internet and all of these things and the media is that we are no longer having any space. That if that we’re not having space throughout our day, throughout our week, throughout our existence where we have time to just be, whenever we feel the moment of boredom, we check our messages, we check our emails and what’s happening is that we’re filling up all of the space with activity and it becomes an addictive cycle.
The most important qualities of connection and being human are about experiencing things in space. Let me explain what I mean by that. All of the wisdom, traditions and [David] data and Tantric Buddhism and all these things talk about there being two aspects of reality. One is that there is the space nature of mind and reality and the activity nature of mind and reality. In other words, if you create a perfect vacuum in science, particles will appear in that vacuum out of nowhere.
And so, quantum physics and all of these stuff is proving this. But if you’re filling that space with all of that activity, there’s no room for activity to happen. There’s no room for inspiration, for creativity, for love, for joy… Anything that comes from this place that I’m calling “source” gets pushed out because there’s no space because you’re filling that space with all of your activity. And it gets into this reactive cycle.
I read yesterday that the most creative people we know of are the people who can withstand great amounts of space or boredom. If you think of Albert Einstein or Picasso or a writer, these people create a lot of space in their mind and their lives and they just hang out there and let the inspiration fill it.
Adam Gilad: Well, let’s see if we can create a parallel here between creativity and love because I think there is. The origin of the word “genius,” I don’t know if you know what the origin of the word “genius” is…
Richard Platt: Go for it.
Adam Gilad: Literally, it’s a genie. It’s magic.
Richard Platt: Yeah.
Adam Gilad: The idea of genius was that there was basically a guardian angel or a genie, a magical being who would plant things in your mind but you have to have, as they say, you have to have fertile soil. This notion of creativity and this kind of magic, where do these ideas come from, how do they write these? Where did this song from? I don’t know and if you talk to creative people, they’ll often say, “I don’t know, it just came and popped up” or as my son used to say when he was small, “My brain did it!”
Richard Platt: [laughs] Right!
Adam Gilad: So, I absolutely understand from a creative perspective that when you create this kind of space, magic can happen. Now, what’s the parallel there with creating love in a relationship?
Richard Platt: Well, I would say that it’s the same thing. I mean, creativity and romance are the same thing. We want to create this feeling of love, we want to create this feeling of connection and inspiration and that juice we get that feels so alive. If you look at relationships that have had that in the beginning, that burst of creative power and juice and then lose it over time, it’s because they haven’t continued to create the space for that genie, they haven’t continued to rub the bottle. I think it’s one and the same, I think it’s the same thing.
Adam Gilad: It is. It is interesting. The obvious condition that comes to mind is typical hardworking two parents, kids, work, house, mortgage, cleaning…
Richard Platt: Right.
Adam Gilad: No opportunity for magic genies to appear.
Richard Platt: Yeah, and what people have to do is actively… I mean, Einstein said it’s 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. They have to work hard at creating boundaries around their time and protecting their relational time and keeping the media out of it and keeping all the sports activities clear. There is the work of this amazing guy, Gordon Neufeld. He is a Canadian theorist who’s basically saying that the relationship between parents and children is sacrosanct and what’s happened is that it’s gotten taken away.
You can translate that into a marriage or into parents or into any sort of couple relationship. If you’re not creating a sacrosanct space, a sacred space to relate… And the other thing is, if you’re not creating that for yourself, you can’t just create it for your relationship. But if you’re not carving out time for yourself to meditate and to exercise and to connect to source… And not only active things but just moments of doing nothing, absolutely nothing, which is like a radical concept in our reality, to have moments of nothingness where you’re not even trying to meditate, you’re not even contemplating, you’re just staring into space without doing anything.
Adam Gilad: Does this go for those of us who own iPhones as well?
Richard Platt: Absolutely! I mean, I have made really important structures in my life where like, when I’m driving, I’m driving. I am not checking my messages. Only last year, I was doing that and it was driving me nuts. And it’s like, I changed my phones. I don’t have a PDA anymore. I’ve got a cell phone that’s just a phone and my contact book and my calendar is paper.
Adam Gilad: What a concept. I need to take a break. I want to come back in a second and talk about the particular practices. I know you’re very involved in Tibetan Buddhism and I want to talk about how with the ideas you’re talking about, either grow out of Tibetan Buddhism, the work that you’ve been doing and what other ideas you bring to your personal life practice which sounds like it’s a spiritual practice on its own and to your clients. So, we’ll be back in one second. This is Adam Gilad. You’re listening to The Fearless Lover and our guest today is Richard Platt.
Adam Gilad: Hey, welcome back! This is Adam Gilad. We’re here at The Fearless Lover and our guest this week is therapist and certified life coach, Richard Platt, who works very much in the area of relationship. Not just intimate relationships, but men’s, work and also boys, young men and coming into the world and transitioning into manhood. I actually want to get to that, maybe we’ll do that next week.
I want to particularly talk, Richard, about… Since you have so much grounding in so many spiritual traditions, I want to talk about transitions and rites of passage which so many of us don’t have. Not only boys into men or girls into women, but into a relationship and within a marriage, I’m sure there are several points where things really shift and you need to acknowledge that transition.
Richard Platt: Yeah, I would say that that’s a moment to moment experience. I mean, my experience is that initiation is happening all the time.
Adam Gilad: Let’s talk about that right now. We’ll get to Tibetan Buddhism next week. That’s a great statement, “Initiation is happening all the time.”
Richard Platt: Yeah. I mean, as soon as you achieve a transition, guess what? The next one’s on the way. And you get a moment of breathing and that’s your moment. Take it, go deep with it, but the next thing’s going to happen very soon on its heels if you’re awake. I would say that the way to deal with that, without wanting to put up a lot of walls, which is what most people do, it’s like they want to control the initiation.
They want to stop it because it’s too much and it pushes them into very uncomfortable places. I mean, that’s the design, right? It’s like we’re all on a one way ticket to wake up and we either want to shut that down and avoid it through our various addictions or we open up to it and get on this incredible ride that is very joyful and powerful but also pretty scary, which is why your whole thing is called “The Fearless Lover.” It’s like, yeah, when you dive into love and initiation, guess what? It’s all about releasing fear and moving forward. That’s what initiation is about, it’s about going through your fear and getting to the other side and seeing that it was a paper dragon, basically, but it was running your life.
The only thing that I have found besides repeated experience, where you’re facing that dragon and you relax and you go through it and you get to the other side and you go, “Phew!” that was that. But the only thing that I found that allows me to do that, as challenged as I am personally by this ongoing initiation is coming into connection with source because nothing provides that, not my bank account, not my wife, not my friends, not a spiritual practice.
Those things can become ways where I connect to source but it is the connection to source. And so, that, of course, is an individual path. I mean, everybody’s got their way to get there but it’s the fundamentally important thing. Being a therapist for the past 15 years and studying the 10 years before that and being in therapy all that time, I really found that the answer wasn’t in psychology. I mean, if the answer was in psychology, Woody Allen wouldn’t be marrying his daughter.
Adam Gilad: [laughs] So the answer… What you’re saying missing in psychology is that there’s no touching that source, that it’s always about the dynamics of relationships?
Richard Platt: Right. If psychology is grounded in touching into source, it’s a great tool. Then there is the answer, which, of course, happens in relationship because in relationship two people come together. If it’s about love and healing, the source is going to be there. But it needs to be conscious and it needs to be that that’s what it’s about.
Adam Gilad: Well, let me ask you two questions… You talk about every moment is an initiation and it’s a beautiful ideal and actually, it’s a beautiful wakedness. It’s if you are awake, then yes, everything’s shifting all the time. How do you balance that kind of spiritual openness to change with the duration and endurance of a relationship? There’s fear, it immediately comes to mind because change within what’s supposed to be a stable relationship can be very threatening to one partner if someone’s really changing and open to change.
Richard Platt: Yeah. Well, that’s where the self-care comes in and taking time to be changing yourself and growing and deepening and sourcing, increasing groundedness for yourself so that you’re keeping up with your partner. That is like I would say the number one challenge for men because my experience is that women really are powerful and multi-tasking and much more connected to life, the vibrancy of life, and if we don’t really take our time as guys to ground ourselves and get powerful and do things with other guys and do things with our source of power, that we get blown out of the water. We can’t keep up and we start retreating and defending. And also, comparing ourselves negatively and then getting into a power struggle where we want to dominate them and keep them down and it’s just a bad scene.
Adam Gilad: And that’s about a power from actual internal power, it’s sort of forcing yourself on someone as a…
Richard Platt: Right, because you don’t feel powerful so you’ve got to keep them under your thumb so they stop bugging you.
Adam Gilad: What are some practical… You said doing things with other guys. What are some of the kind of things… I know exactly what you’re talking about. I mean, I’ve been doing a lot of this kind of work in my life and it’s always amazing how little we know.
Richard Platt: Yeah, yeah.
Adam Gilad: Aren’t we advanced? But what are some of the things you recommend or do with clients, for men, so that they’re growing spiritually so they can keep up, as you say, with their women?
Richard Platt: Well, I think men coming together and with this focus of getting deeper and more powerful together and more grounded and getting this awakening technology that you and I have tapped into is one of the most important things because that’s the way for them to get the insight to wake up to the struggle that they’re in. And I’m in that struggle, I know you are too. So, it’s like we don’t come out as models of it, we just come out as like, “Hey! We’re here struggling along and let’s do it, let’s bring this back, this awareness that we are different and the differences need to be celebrated and guarded so that we can come together and enjoy the differences and not fight over them. So, that’s one really important thing as men coming together with that focus.
I would say the other thing is coming together with just the focus of having fun and playing and being knuckleheads and just like being out of striving because so much our reality, I think we’re over striving, we’re in this workaholic mode. And then, when we come out of that, we just want to totally fuck off and drink beer and watch TV, which it doesn’t really move us forward. I think there’s a way to powerfully fuck off and have it be empowering to us. And that, generally for us, the best way is through sports…
Adam Gilad: That’s a great title for your next book, “How to fuck off…”
Richard Platt: Yeah, through doing sports ourselves, not watching it on TV. That’s vicarious and doesn’t really empower us. It’s fun and I’m not saying it doesn’t have its place. It does, it is good to drink beer and watch TV occasionally, but we need to be out there and moving our bodies. And that’s the thing that I have really discovered as the most important thing to stay grounded in my body because if I’m not grounded in my body as a man, I’m screwed when it comes to dealing with the powerful forces that are inherent in the world and in relationship.
And then, the other thing is staying powerfully grounded in my mind and in my spirit through taking time to meditate. I mean, if you’re not meditating, there’s no way you’re going to be able to handle life.
Adam Gilad: Why?
Richard Platt: It’s as simple as that.
Adam Gilad: For people who don’t meditate, why?
Richard Platt: Well, there is no space in your mind from your own reactivity. There’s a lot of things you can do in the world, you can have a successful worldly life without meditating, given whatever your background is, but you’re not going to be very happy because you will be governed by your desires and your attachments and your aversions. See, the monkey will be on your back.
Adam Gilad: Right, and in your minds.
Richard Platt: Right.
Adam Gilad: It’s interesting, when I hear you speak, I hear there’s so much parallel between, for example, NOP, which is just really trying to break the habits of how your mind has patterned itself and Buddhism which also teaches you to break the habit of just running chatter through your mind.
Richard Platt: Yeah. There is a very powerful book I’d like to recommend to your listeners. It’s called “The Presence Process” by Michael Brown. It’s a non-spiritual way to very quickly cut through a lot of emotional baggage in a very simple breathing and meditating practice. I recommend it to a lot of clients and I use it myself. So, it’s not Buddhist or Christian or anything. It’s just like a real powerful tool.
Then, the other thing that I’ve got to highly recommend because after all these experiences, the other thing that I’ve discovered that’s very helpful is community and that is something that our culture has antibodies to. When they find it, it wants to destroy and take it apart. I’ve discovered community through a 12-step program, through my spiritual path, through the men’s work, through creating community. Now, I’m really working on creating intentional community and we’ll talk about this later about initiating young men.
And basically, that’s where we’re headed. We need to create community ASAP because the economy is about to hit the shitter and when it does, if we don’t create community, we’re not going to survive emotionally and potentially, physically because we’re so dependent as a culture upon our economy now. There’s no roots into the earth through agriculture or through industry that when the economy goes, it’s like how are we going to have food and jazz like that. We better come together and figure out how to connect and how to be in communion with each other, just from a simple survival standpoint.
But in the meantime, I mean from emotional survival standpoint, as men, we have to create that and that’s something we can get really active in and inspired by and be proactive in a very masculine way to connect with each other and with a deep sense of purpose because as you know from all your studies with David Data, if there’s one thing that grounds us as men, it’s a sense of purpose.
Adam Gilad: Right.
Richard Platt: And that grounding and a sense of purpose and dealing with what’s happening in our economy and in our environment and in our society and that we’re doing something about that. Then, at the end of the day, if you’ve done action in that regards, you can show up to your woman nagging at you or your finances going south or whatever the world throws at you with a sense like, “Well, you know what? I’m a stud.”
Adam Gilad: [laughs]
Richard Platt: If I just died today… The shit could all hit the pan, but I did what I needed… Today was a good day to die because I actually showed up deeply responding the suffering of the world.
Adam Gilad: Well, that’s beautifully stated. For a show called The Fearless Lover, you gave us quite a little vision into the future there a couple of minutes ago. The economy collapsing and all of us forming together in small communities, but I like where this ended up. We were talking about purpose, a larger purpose because I think really at the heart of what I’m trying to get at in this series is being a fearless lover of a woman or for a woman, a man goes obviously way beyond that at just the center. I think part of the problem in this culture is that people are so separated. And not just from community, but from extended family and we’re expected to be everything to each other.
Richard Platt: Absolutely.
Adam Gilad: That gave a lot of disappointment and a lot of stress, obviously.
Richard Platt: So much pressure.
Adam Gilad: It’s an impossible task.
Richard Platt: Oh my God!
Adam Gilad: And I think what’s important for people to have is to get yourselves out into a third world country and just spend some time with locals and you’ll begin to see the kind of support systems that existed well throughout human history until about 50 years ago.
Richard Platt: Absolutely.
Adam Gilad: Well, maybe 200 years ago, but more so in the last 50 years. Richard, thank you. We’re out of time right now, but next week we’re going to pick this up. I’d like to specifically, as we said, to get into how Tibetan Buddhism has move you into this and through your fears and how you use it to help men and women move through their fears and I particularly want to start with the term you used with me privately, which was that created “joy bombs.” So, a different kind of bomb for us in America next week?
Richard Platt, thank you so much. This is The Fearless Lover. This is Adam Gilad. And Richard, thank you.
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