Episode 42: Cheri Huber: From Awareness to Compassion to Love
About 20 years ago, I was looking around a bookstore that specialized in “spirituality/new age” fare and a little book titled “The Key and the Name of the Key is Willingness” by Cheri Huber, jumped into my hands. I opened to a page at random and discovered it was not set in type, rather it looked hand-written. The words were direct, simple and clear, with no jargon and nothing “woo-woo” or “airy-fairy”. The writing immediately gave me insight into some of the sources of my suffering and showed me a path out. My guest, Cheri Huber, has been a student and teacher of Zen for over 30 years. She is the author of 19 books including There Is Nothing Wrong With You; Be The Person You Want To Find; Sex and Money…are Dirty, Aren’t They?; The Depression Book (she has been acknowledged as the country’s foremost expert on depression and spirituality); When You’re Falling, Dive; and her most recent, Transform Your Life: A Year of Awareness Practice. Join Cheri and I as we talk about the processes of learning to love yourself, developing unconditional self-love, living in compassionate awareness, and transforming our sense of separate-ness into connection. Listen in as Cheri talks about relationship as a path of spiritual growth and awareness. And don’t miss Cheri’s lovely exercise for you to try at home.
Female Announcer: This program is intended for mature audiences only.
Chip August: Welcome to Sex, Love and Intimacy. I’m your host, Chip August. Today, on the show, we are talking about Zen, about Buddhism, we are talking about awareness, we are talking about meditation, we are talking to Cheri Huber. And Cheri Huber, I’ve been a big fan of Cheri Huber for years. Cheri Huber has been a student and a teacher of Zen for over 30 years. She is the author of 19 books, including “There Is Nothing Wrong With You” and “The Depression Book.”
By the way, she’s been acknowledged as the country’s foremost expert on depression and spirituality. She’s also written “When You’re Falling, Dive” and her most recent, “Transform Your Life: A Year of Awareness Practice.” Cheri founded the Palo Alto Zen Center and the Zen Monastery Peace Center in California. She conducts workshops and retreats at these centers and at venues around the US and internationally.
She has an Internet-based weekly call-in radio show, “Open Air.” Cheri is a member of the Social Venture Network, a national organization that combines social responsibility, spirituality and business. She is the founder and director of Living Compassion, a non-profit organization dedicated to peace and service.
Cheri Huber: You simply sit and let your eyes go soft and sort of unfocused and then you just notice. And that’s the key to the entire thing, that is the fast track to freedom. You simply notice. You’re not trying to clear your mind, you’re not trying to see something, you’re not trying to figure something out. You’re just sitting there noticing everything that happens.
The basic understanding that I’m coming from is that life is not separate. And contrary to what our senses tell us, if we think about it for just a split second, if we actually were separate from life for that split second, we would be dead because we are absolutely connected to everything else that is alive.
Chip August: She’s a terrific writer and a terrific speaker and I’m really glad to have you on the show. Welcome to Sex, Love and Intimacy, Cheril Huber!
Cheril Huber: Well, thank you sir. That was great!
Chip August: Yeah. You’re pretty great. I have to say that your book “There Is Nothing Wrong With You,” I see clients and I lead workshops in love, intimacy and sexuality and my listeners know this, it’s a book I actually give my clients to start… It’s a place where we start. I hand them my book and say, “Maybe the place we need to start is just our own experience of self love or the lack thereof.”
Cheri Huber: Yeah, yeah. Oh, that’s very good. Thank you. Thank you for that.
Chip August: I’m going to read a little passage just to give my listeners a sense about what you sound like and what you say and it’s not particularly… 19 books, how do you pick one passage? So, this is from a book you wrote called “Be The Person You To Find: Relation and Self-Discovery.” It just kind of gives the reader a sense of your voice when you write.
You wrote: “In the beginning, I fall in love and find that I’ve tapped into the very best within me. I am loving, generous and understanding. Life is easy, bright and joyful. I don’t mind traffic, paying bills, my co-workers, household chores… I’m in love! Birds are singing, the sky is blue, the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, children are laughing, everything is perfect.”
“A little time passes and the stress of the heightened energy of being in love begins to take its toll. What was spontaneous and thrilling begins to feel a little chaotic. All the things I’ve let slide are starting to feel overwhelming. I miss my structure, my habits and schedule, my friends and family, my workout, having the Sunday paper to myself. Instead of being carefree and joyous, I’m irritable, edgy, bristly.”
“Before this relationship, life was calmer and more predictable. I wasn’t required to be available and generous all the time. I had time off to rest or recuperate, time for me, for my life, for who I am. Now, I find I’ve tapped into the very worst within me and I’m not aware of exactly what’s gone wrong. I can’t find the balance. I lose my ability to communicate and I go into my survival behaviors. I become bitter, angry, resentful and punishing.”
Boy! If that just isn’t the story of a million, billion, trillion love affairs!
Cheri Huber: [laughs] Haven’t we all been there?
Chip August: Really! You just sort of nailed it in two pages.
Cheri Huber: [laughs] But that comes to two pages because as you know and your listeners probably don’t, it’s written like a kid’s book so we cover a lot of territory there.
Chip August: My experience of your books is I can pick up any one of your books and open to any page and there will be some nugget right in that page. You’re just a terrific writer. So, let’s start by just talking about learning to love yourself, that’s a great place to start. Okay? Let’s start with where does it go? I mean, it seems to me we’re born loving ourselves. Why doesn’t it hang on?
Cheri Huber: Yeah. Of course, now, Zen is my thing. So, what we’re actually born with is not being separate. So, we are not standing outside of ourselves, judging ourselves through any sort of system. We’re just more along the lines of puppies and kittens. We are alive, we are life, we express that, there’s no problem. And then we go through this rather brutal process of socialization that enables us to sort of fit into society, but mostly, causes us to feel separate from ourselves, puts us in that standing outside of ourselves and outside of life with this voice in our head that’s constantly telling us what we’re doing and how we’re being and how we should be and what’s wrong and what there’s not enough of and how we should improve and that sort of thing.
So, yes, we go from a place that we could call love because there’s nothing there that isn’t love. It’s not a love as compared to something else, it’s just life. That there’s the little child fully alive in life, through this process of separation to where now, something is lovable or it isn’t. It’s okay or it’s not. And that’s the place, of course, that most conditioned adults find themselves in. And the message that we got most clearly through that process is as we are, we are definitely not lovable.
Chip August: Yeah.
Cheri Huber: We’re a self improvement project going badly.
Chip August: [laughs] Yeah.
Cheri Huber: Yeah.
Chip August: It’s all those messages of you’re not getting A’s and stand up straight and eat your food and don’t play with your food. Right, it’s all…
Cheri Huber: That’s right. You got picked last for the sport. And then, you hit adolescence and you weren’t the popular kid and you weren’t the… Yeah. So, what we focus on in then is not so much love for yourself as compassion and understanding which leads to love. But there’s that interim step of first of all, being able to see one’s self as we really are, not as we’ve been taught to believe we are.
So, we look at ourselves the way we would look at any other pretty nice, basically decent, somewhat flawed, regular, old human being. And that critter is lovable.
Chip August: How do you come to know that? Because I’m looking through these eyes that tell me I’m too fat and I’m too old and I’m too… I don’t know. Pick a…
Cheri Huber: Yeah.
Chip August: Yeah.
Cheri Huber: Yeah. So, what we learn to do is see those eyes and that viewpoint for what it is. There’s a really quick, down and dirty way to do this. And that is that almost everybody has someone or something that they’d love unconditionally. For a lot of people, it’s our children. But it can be a brother or a sister. It can be a dog or a cat. It doesn’t actually matter what the object is, it’s someone or something that we love unconditionally.
So, we look at whoever that is and then imagine trying to say to that person or creature what the voices in our head say to and about us. And there’s no way we’re going to look at our best friend and say, “Well, you might as well just hang it up because you’re old and you’re fat and nobody’s ever going to find you attractive and you’re never going to have the relationship you want so why don’t you just forget it?”
In fact, it would take a great deal of torture to make us even consider saying something like that to someone we love. So, through that sort of process of self awareness, we begin to have a sense that, “Wait a minute, there’s something screwy happening inside this head.” And of course, as we pursue that line of awareness, we… So I talked to my best friend and come to find out she or he has the same thing going on. And you look at that person and say, “But you’re wonderful! You’re wonderful!” “Yeah, but this is what the voices are saying to me…”
So, we close in on the realization that that voice that talks to us inside our head; it’s not kind, it’s not loving and it’s not right and it’s not particularly smart. So, as we separate ourselves from that… And to cut to the chase, the bottom line of Zen is we begin to realize that we are the awareness that is aware of all of these rather than either that voice or the object, the victim of that voice.
To be completed soon!