Ep 9: From the Himalayas to a Car Crash: Wisdom in Chaos

Published on Jul 14, 2022

Kai Xin  00:04

Hi, this is Kai Xin and you’re listening to the Handful Of Leaves podcast where we bring you practical Buddhist’s wisdom for a happier life. This is episode one of season two, where it’s all about mindfulness, career advice. Yes, we’ve heard your feedback. Today, we have a very special guest from the US dialing in from Portugal. Her name is Amy Edelstein, and I’m so inspired by her. She has such a wealth of knowledge to share with us in this interview. Just imagine being able to meet Nelson Mandela in person, as well as the Dalai Lama. Yes, she did that.

Her life story is amazing. When she graduated from Cornell University (on her 21st birthday), rather than throwing big fancy parties like how normally people would do, she backpacked on her own to the Himalaya Mountains in search for the truth. She then spent several years there with the best teachers she could find, to learn meditation, and to interact with the locals. After those years, when she came back to the US, she started a nonprofit organisation, won many awards for her cause, her work, and that institution it’s called Inner Strength, where it brings mindfulness, systems thinking and social emotional tools to under resourced schools.

In this chat, Amy started sharing what motivated her to start her adventure in the remote mountain areas. She also offered very practical insights for meeting really great masters in the mountains and on how to pick the right teachers to guide us on the path. If you’re thinking that inner awakening and peace is only available in the countryside, or in nature, Amy might change your mind on that. She shared her personal reflections such as surviving a car crash, living in a neighbourhood with rising cases of gun violence, and many more. And amidst all that chaos, meditation can help. Despite all that chaos, experiencing inner peace is possible. This is an episode that is filled with hope and possibilities. And it’s truly inspiring. I hope you’ll be as inspired as I do. And let’s dive right in.

Kai Xin  02:31

Hi good to see you, Amy.

Amy  02:34

It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much.

Kai Xin  02:36

Really a fan of your work. I’ve read so much about you. But for our listeners, it’s their first time knowing you, can you share with them who you are in a few sentences?

Amy  02:46

Absolutely. My name is Amy Edelstein. And I’m the founder of a nonprofit called Inner Strength Education. We bring mindfulness and systems thinking and innovative programme to youth in centre city of America. We’ve worked with over 17,000 teenagers over the last eight years. I am also a co-founder of emergency education, which has published about 60 books on meditation, health and wellness spirituality, from different approaches. And I’m a longtime meditator, I started meditating in 1978 before, I think, a lot of your listeners are born. I’m really excited to be here, I’m happy to share some of my journey which has been varied and interesting. And a lot of my journey was a journey that really can’t happen in our digital age. Now we’re much more plugged in than we were before the internet. There are certain insights and possibilities that I think could be a benefit.

Kai Xin  03:54

Definitely. And I think our listeners are also on a journey, especially the journey inwards to really make sense of this world, especially when it’s so confusing and complex these days. And speaking of journey, I know that when you’re just 21 years old, fresh out of university, you went to the remote western corner of Tibet, and that’s situated in Zanskar, India. So just to give context to some listeners, Zanskar is the oldest Buddhist Valley, and it’s 7756 metres tall, really tall. And it’s also a semi desert area. So you were there, 21 in 1983. And I also know that very few tourists were allowed and cell phones weren’t really prevalent back then. So it’s pretty daring for you to move into that side of the world. And you’ve also spent quite a number of years walking in the Himalayas, studying philosophy and meditation with the best teachers you could find. So it’s really quite an adventure, both inward and outward. And I’m really curious, what makes you do what you do?

Amy  05:05

That’s a big question. And I always like to say that you can often pinpoint the start of your journey in many different ways. Sometimes at the start of my journey, I pinpoint two questions that I was exploring when I was a very small child. My father was a particle physicist. And he used to take my brother and I out to look at the stars. And he would say, where did the stars end? And at the end, what happens afterwards?

Kai Xin  05:38

Wow, it’s really profound.

Amy  05:40

He would ask us questions that didn’t have answers, and get us to contemplate infinity and space, and the connection between our own mind sense of discovery, and the vast cosmos. So those were my earliest memories. Now, of course, when I was four, I would get very frustrated, because I would come up with a really good answer about where the stars ended. Then he would say, “Well, what happens after that?” So that was very frustrating as a child. But it led me to a life of discovery. When I was growing up, because he was an experimentalist, and there are only a few places in the world that have particle accelerators, I happen to travel quite a bit. I had different experiences and different cultures of discovery, familiarity memory. What that led me to understand is that our relationship to life is a perspective. So we can have the same experience, but how are we investigating and interpreting it? And that’s really what propelled me on my journey of discovery.

Amy  06:59

When I went to Asia in 1983, I was looking for wisdom, I was looking for teachers who knew I had a combined major, regional development, educational theory, and political science. What I was trying to learn about is how do you build the structures of culture that will facilitate our higher emergence. So I’m sure a lot of your listeners are in professions where you’re trying to do good in the world, whether it’s in biotech, or it’s in business, or it’s in finance, I think top of everyone’s mind at this point is, how do we create a better world because we experience a lot of complexity and a lot of conflict. And that’s really what I was asking. So I went to a very good university, and I learned from very good professors, but they didn’t have wisdom.

And when I went to Zanskar, which is my most recent book, “Adventure in Zanskar”. It describes a two month period where I was walking in those mountains. And I went there, because the people were steeped in Buddhist ethics, they lived the Buddhist ethics, they didn’t just study them, it was very much infused in the life and I wanted to learn from them. And I also wanted to adventure in the high mountains and test my physical capacity and also really understand my mind, because when you’re walking on your own in the high mountains, the main obstacle is the mind. And I’ve learned a lot about the nature of thought and relationship to thought.

Kai Xin  08:41

Definitely, in fact, I thought your book title clearly summarise this journey. It’s the young woman’s solitary journey to reach physical and metaphysical heights. So I believe you went there to seek wisdom. And that’s the wisdom you didn’t find in school from your professors. Can you share a little bit of what wisdom means to you?

Amy  09:04

Wisdom means, to me, means an orientation or perspective. It’s like the vantage point that you’re standing on when you look out at your experience. Wisdom isn’t an object outside you. It’s not one insight that you grasp and everything makes sense.

To use the metaphor of the mountains, when you walk and you reach the summit of a mountain, you’re standing on top and you look down, and the snow mountains are below you.

Do you see the peaks like spreading in the distance? And from that perspective, you feel like you’re able to take more into account so you’re able to contextualise complexity, you’re able to, if you need to look at a problem close up and being able to understand how to engage with your experience is really what wisdom is. You can see your own blindnesses. You can see your cultural conditioning, you can see your national conditioning. You can see the pressures of globalisation on you, you can see the pressures of materialisation. You can see all of that, and navigate your way. So you’re not just trying to fix every problem or find a static solution.

Amy  10:25

One of the Buddhist basic tenets is that life is impermanent, which means it’s always changing. You can understand that, in a philosophical sense, you can understand that in a physical sense, our world is always in flux and moving the electrons swirling around, the atoms are always moving. Our physical environment is not static. That degree of change creates a lot of insecurity in the postmodern world right now. We feel like we don’t have anything constant.

So people are looking for wisdom that they can hold on to. Yet, as the ancient Greek philosopher said, you can never step in the same river twice, and that was part of their wisdom, that life is always moving. If you can understand that deeply and grasp that, then the way you relate to the world, comes out of an appreciation for change, rather than fighting against change or fighting for permanence. So that’s an example of wisdom or insight, being able to provide stability, no matter what is happening.

Even things that we don’t like, even war, even gun violence, even poverty. Or even the pandemic. Even inequity of economical means even climate change, we’re dealing with a lot of very big and real issues in our time. Wisdom is that perspective that enables us to move through life and engage with events, people ourselves with great compassion, great understanding, and good karma setting in motion effects that will continue to have positive repercussions over time.

Kai Xin  12:19

It seems like wisdom is really being able to see impermanence. It’s not just about seeing, it’s about being able to then navigate around what is fleeting, what is complicated and what seems stressful. And I believe you got a lot of experience, contemplating this topic on impermanence. Can you share with us? What are some moments of awakening when you were up in the mountains or through your epic journey? And how did these awakenings influence how you lead your life after?

Amy  12:53

I had so many moments, through my whole journey, and in Zanskar, also that it was almost a daily experience of deepening and insight and a moving sense of awakening. One particularly powerful experience that that changed me really significantly was, I really had this love of reaching the summits of high mountains. I didn’t have rock climbing gear, I just went with a backpack, I had no guide, I just had a paper map, I just was on my own. Sometimes I met people along the path who were local, sometimes I met a few other travellers and we would go together for a day or two or three, but most of the time I was on my own. The challenge and allure of attraction of reaching high mountains was like, Oh, I’m gonna make it to the next pass. It’s 5100 metres above sea level, and I’m going to do it and then the next one’s going to be higher.

Amy  14:00

One day when I was crossing a very high mountain pass, above 5000 metres, I got to the top and I had this like explosion of just exhilaration and also a sense of the physical world dissolving. So the sense of boundaries dissolving through the effort, intensity, and concentration, through the passion. I experienced that sense of there was no separation between my body and the sky, and the snow peaks below me and the rocks and my aching feet and everything was just like glittering like you see in the Tibetan iconography where you see these Buddhas and Bodhisattvas floating above these stylised clouds flying in the air on these moon discs, it really felt like that.

When I was up there, so my heart just exploded, there was just so much love. I realise that completely full nature of the present moment, this completely, no problem, nothing missing, nothing unresolved. Nothing about my life had changed at all. The unresolved problems I had didn’t, nothing happened except  something changed in my whole view. They were no longer an obstacle, to happiness, to love, to realisation to non separation, there’s this flash. At that moment, I also realise that any grasping for anything else, the desire to climb another mountain, to reach another remote destination, to sit another long retreat, to have teachings from another great master, all of those things, we’re also grasping for something outside the infinite fullness that is the nature of our being. It’s the nature of the fabric of life. That sense that there was nothing else to grasp for and any longing, an intensity in that way was a movement away from what I always was kind of knocked me off my feet.

Amy  16:36

We can have goals and desires. I run a non-profit, I have a lot of goals, I have a lot of desires, I work very hard. There’s a lot I want to accomplish. I’m definitely not satisfied. I’m busy, and there are a lot of other things that I did after that realisation. (But even with all that desires,) that sense of fullness and perfection that is inherent in the fabric of life never changed.

You can’t really go back. It’s like once you learn to read when you’re a child and all of a sudden letters make sense. You can’t go back to not knowing you can’t like see things that are written. You see children, they’re constantly reading all the signs around them, because they’re so happy. They understand that, and you never really go back to not knowing. You can try, but you can’t. It was like that with that moment, that completeness and fullness and emptiness was a deeper reality.

That was something I had intimations of when I was a young child. It wasn’t the first time, but it was the first time in my conscious awareness that I had no excuse. I couldn’t pretend that I didn’t know it anymore.

Kai Xin  18:07

Yeah, this sounds to me, like you’ve come back full circle to what your dad asked you, to get you to realise infinite nature possibilities as well as space. Then and there you realise it for yourself. I would say that’s wisdom as well, because the insight is so penetrative that you just can’t unsee it. It’s very different, as compared to you academically talking about what space means, what the present moment means. We can intellectualise it or to say it in theory. But yeah, when you’re there, it’s different. And I think probably when you’re saying it now, listeners might also find it hard to grapple. I’m just wondering, in order to reach that, that state, does a person needs to go high up in the mountains, to get there to realise the fleeting nature, the fullness, or can we do it here and now, in this hustle and bustle life?

Amy  19:06

Well, it only exists in the here and now it’s part of the essential nature. So, there are no preconditions. There was a beautiful and powerfully original Indian teacher named Sri Aurobindo, Sri Aurobindo lived in South India. And he was a political revolutionary at the time, right before the British were had left India. He was an Indian revolutionary who was fighting for independence from colonial rule. He got imprisoned during that time for his activism, and he was a very charismatic leader. When he was in prison, he had these powerful realisations of spirit. And at a certain point, he was going to be released from prison, and he asked to stay longer because he was in the middle of this contemplation. He didn’t want to interrupt it because he knew he’d get pulled back into the political mire. So he’s having this realisation in the middle of this prison. Finally, he comes out of the prison and all of his revolutionary comrades join him. They’ve been waiting for him because they need him to help lead the revolution.

He says, “Look, I can’t do that anymore.” I need to devote my life to spiritual discovery and spiritual evolution. And that’s what I’m going to teach. So they were mad. They were really mad at him. But he ended up founding an alternative community called Auroville, in South India. His successor was a teacher called The Mother who was a French woman that some of your listeners may know. And he ended up writing volumes and volumes over decades about the nature of consciousness, and how it evolves and how to go about your spiritual practice in order to meet these times.

Amy  21:06

Here’s somebody who’s in the middle of a bitter fight for independence for British colonial rule, and which was not pleasant or easy. He was in prison, he had the pressure of all of his colleagues and comrades who were forcing him into this revolutionary life. Let’s just say it wasn’t perfect circumstances. I think really also, sometimes under the pressure of worldly demands, we can take a real leap.

We can try to fix our circumstances. I have childcare, I have work, my boss is not understanding, I’m in the middle of the pandemic, I’m in isolation, I’ve had COVID, or I’ve had to quarantine again, because my co-workers had COVID, and I’m isolated from my friends and I’m lonely. All those things  affect us deeply. But sometimes when we just try to solve a little part of that, we can’t reach to bigger solutions. So suffering conflict, pressure, busy life, financial worries, there are a lot of economic worries these days, they’re real climate worries, they’re real. They can create a lot of emotional pressure. But they can also allow us to release into what’s really going to work.

I can give you a very personal experience of this from just the last three weeks in my life. I know most of your listeners are in Asia. I live on the East Coast city in America. And America is really violent. It’s really sad. I live in Philadelphia, which is where the constitution of America was written in 1776. It’s where Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin and John Adams all lived, you know, all the people who crafted the American democracy. There were issues of colonisation and slavery.  I’m not saying it was perfect, but they had a vision for democracy, which has inspired countries around the world. And that’s exactly where I live in that historic centre of town with, you know, my house was built in the 1700s. And it’s lovely. But it’s gotten more and more violent. There’s a lot of gun violence.

Amy  23:55

Three weeks ago, a block and a half from my house, there was a shooting where 14 people were shot, three died. There was a gang of 60 youths just randomly beating up people in this historic square where everyone’s just out having dinner in a beautiful summer evening. Three or four other incidents in that neighbourhood. When all of this violence happened, I just felt the pain of humanity descending to such a low level that people would just randomly be violent towards other people for no reason. It’s not a political know, there was no reason. I decided my husband and I are going to move and but what happened at that moment, I just recognise the depth of my pain around this situation, not just fear for us, but just loss of decency, and vision and hope and care that I felt something really shift.

Amy  25:09

All of a sudden, it was, again, like that realisation on the mountaintop of being rooted in that sense of fullness so that I could have the strength to deal with the pain of humanity. Sometimes in the middle of a life is really not working well, or a country that it was really not working. Or a situation that is really difficult and dangerous. We can also let go in these deeper parts of our being so that we have the strength to not crumble under the pain of what we’re experiencing. And that’s what we need. At this moment, in order to lean in to the province of humanity, we need to be drawing from a reservoir of love that has no reason, you know, love that is prior to the conflict, because we’re not going to work our way out of it. It’s just too messed up.

So, I hope that example helps your listeners who feel like I need special circumstances, I need a retreat, I need peace, I need my, my two year old to stop asking for things from me, I need my husband to stop needing this, that the other or whatever, we can always postpone. And then when it comes to those really difficult moments, and we realise, no, we need, we need that love to help us through and that’s the only reliable thing, then we can really profoundly experience the riches of meditation.

Kai Xin  26:48

Definitely. It’s really what we make out of our situation and circumstances. It reminded me of the teachings, first noble truth. The Buddha didn’t start his teaching, talking about Nirvana. But he started with the realities of life that there is hardship that is suffering. It’s how we see through that, and stop grasping, stop waiting for the perfect moment. And right here, right now, I think wisdom can blossom. I am just wondering, are there proper steps for you to gradually train your mind to start to let go, start to develop compassion so that when times are hard, we have this reservoir of love, to even share? Because I know that many people are struggling to even have the capacity to love themselves. So how do you even start?

Amy  27:45

Definitely, practice is so important. I’ve done so much practice in my life. The main thing with your practice is resist the temptation to judge how well you’re doing. It’s just the constant repetition of practising how to let go over and over and over again, letting go of thoughts that are troubling you, letting go of the desire to move, if you’re sitting in still meditation, letting go of feeling like a failure because you had thoughts that has nothing to do with success or failure meditation, it’s totally fine. But practising over time, it creates these grooves of letting go. So when we need to, we can. 

It’s just like basketball players, they practice catching and releasing the ball really quickly. They do these drills where they’re like in lines across from each other, and they pass it back and forth as fast as possible. Because you’re creating this muscle memory in your fingers that as soon as your fingers touch the ball, you release it. Because if you’re being guarded in your high stakes game, and you’ve got somebody right all over you, you might only have a fraction of a second to let go and, you know, get the ball away to your teammates, so they can score the winning goal. So you have to practice that muscle memory. So if you go into a game, and you haven’t practised, your finger is going to be slow, they’re going to be dull, you’re not going to be able, you’re not going to have that muscle memory. And it’s the same with our thoughts. We have to keep practising.

Amy  29:18

I can tell you another story where I really experienced the benefits. I started meditating when I was in high school. So 1978 I taught myself from a book and I did lots of long retreat, and I used to have a daily practice for decades. I did daily practice of a couple hours a day and six eight hours on the weekend and long retreats when I could, and I still struggled with thought you know. Even though I had like beautiful experiences, sometimes I’d feel like it wasn’t getting anywhere because it was just like, I was just going through my to do list and okay, I’m sitting still and I’m not moving in two hours or up, but I just felt like, okay, I’m doing it. I’m not really sure if I’m getting anywhere.

Amy  30:07

About 12 years ago, I was driving home from I’ve been working in Manhattan. I was driving home to Western Massachusetts, which is a beautiful country, which is where I lived. I was on this country road that was just windy and narrow, you know, through these little tiny towns, and it was that kind of summer evening where it was a little bit drizzly and a little bit like everything was blurred. It was like an impressionist painting. I was super happy and everything was great. The next thing I know, I opened my eyes, and the steering wheel is crushed against my chest, I can’t move. There’s this warm, wet dripping down my face. I had all this crunchy stuff in my mouth. I realised that my car head was completely crushed against me. I had no memory of the moment of impact.

An 18 wheeled tractor trailer hit me head on coming the other direction. Massive truck. So within about 15 minutes, or about 30 people surrounding my car, they came from this tiny little town, little farming town, and they couldn’t get me out of the car. Because the metal was so twisted up, there’s no way to get me out.

I was just in extreme excruciating pain. I couldn’t feel my legs. I didn’t know if they were there or not. But they were, you know, just like searing, you know, white hot pain. I didn’t know if my back was broken. I didn’t know, if I had a head injury. That would mean, I only had a few more moments of consciousness, you know, I thought, well, I might not make it out alive. I might not make it out of a coma, or I might not have cognitive capacity.

They had to cut the roof of the car open with these big things. They’re called Jaws of Life, but they’re like a can opener. So every time they cut, or, you know, the car shakes, and I was trapped and there was metal that had pierced different parts of my leg.

I could feel my consciousness was just like, I felt these waves like a tsunami undertow of fear and panic. Then I kind of come back and then I feel this fear and panic, then I come back. You know that anyone who’s had even a mild anxiety attack, that feeling that the anxiety is pulling you in.

At that moment, I just wanted to let go, you know, I wanted to like, okay, I’m afraid it hurts, I feel completely justified. I’m just going to freak out. I’m just going to give in to that undertow of emotional fear and panic.

I had done so much meditation practice that there was another part of me that just said, no, not strong, no, not commanding. No, it’s just, no, I’m not going to do that.

It was that muscle memory of meditation where I really felt like, at that moment, the first thing was I looked out at these 30 people, and I thought, if I just panic, if I get hysterical, I won’t be able to help them. They’re all trying to help me it’s not fair. It’s an incredibly selfish, so I’m not going to do that. I also thought, you know, I dedicated my life to meditation. If this is going to be my last moment, or my last conscious moment, I don’t want it to be filled with fear and panic. I want to be clear, I want to be present. I want to be connected with all those people around me. So from this very quiet place, I just stopped panicking. That was it. I never panicked.

I had many surgeries. I was in a hospital bed for six months. I mean, there were a lot of very complicated issues. But I was never victimised by it. Because at the moment that it really counted, my meditation was there. I was able to just be steady in the midst of this experience. I know it helped me heal. I can’t document it. But I know my doctors were very amazed because they didn’t think I was going to walk again. They were very cautious about what I was going to be able to do or not do. I couldn’t do maths for six months. I had to relearn left and right. There were many cognitive issues.

But that’s when you realise that sitting through that meditation that you think is not doing anything where your to-do list is going on, and you feel like you’re a failure because nothing’s happening. Everybody around you looks like you know if you’re meditating with others, they all look completely still. Or if you’re doing it with a YouTube video, all the teachers look really still, and you’re thinking that you’re not getting anywhere, but you’re developing that muscle memory. And when you need it, it’ll be there for you.

Kai Xin  35:19

Right, that is so good. It just goes to show that sometimes we really don’t know that things are working well until we need it. I can say from that story, meditation literally saved your life. I’m so glad that you’re alive because you’re doing so many good works right now.

One of the many things that you’re doing is running the Inner Strength Education, where you teach teenagers, mindfulness, social, emotional tools. A very big part of it is really to help develop this inner strength, which you illustrated in your story, that strength to overcome a really, really challenging situation. So yeah, it’s not so much about having a good sit, where we have no thoughts, but the ability to train that muscle and let go. I’m wondering, for our listeners who want to practice mindfulness meditation, in their very busy life, how can they go about doing so?

Amy  36:16

Well, it’s probably easier now than it ever was. Because if you don’t, you know, and also with COVID, you need to be a bit cautious about where you gather. But there’s so many good online lessons and lectures during COVID, Jon Kabat Zinn did a free meditation for an hour, sometimes an hour and a half every day for like three months. And I think those are all online for free. It’s good to practice with the teacher, you feel has experience and dedication, you don’t necessarily have to feel they’re the most awakened in the world. Because sometimes that’s hard to translate.

Or if you see something that was recorded in the past, and then you’re trying to apply it in your present, sometimes they’re responding to contexts that you don’t know about. You want a teacher who has good morality, you want a teacher who is trustworthy, and then just don’t worry, to start somewhere. You can change over time, you can find different people, you can read different books. But to start, don’t worry about finding the perfect environment.

You know, the problem right now is we have so much choice, that we feel like, if it doesn’t work, we made the wrong choice. And just resist the temptation to kind of reject your experience or reject what you’ve chosen and just go with it. It’ll be good enough to get you started.

Amy  37:52

You know, the Buddha was with these amazing teachers, and he practised all these ascetic practices, and he really did it, you know, and he was, he almost starved himself to death. He did all of these things. Then in the end, he said, “Look, this isn’t really getting me where I want to go, I’m just gonna walk, I’m just gonna sit, I’m gonna watch my breath, I’m gonna watch life as it is, and touch the ground.” He said, “Look, the earth is my witness, I’m not going to move until I penetrate the nature of reality”. So he didn’t need the perfect teacher, he had a lot of perfect teachers, and he got tied up in knots. You know, then he finally just said, okay, and it was really just his own intention, at that point to penetrate the nature of the mind, that did it for him. So don’t worry, just start somewhere and mainly be kind to yourself, resist the temptation to be the Dharma police, you know that voice in your head that’s like always judging you and giving you tickets for not doing the right thing. Just don’t be your own Dharma police in your head.

Just be kind. Be encouraging. Be clear, you know, if you’ve said something that was unskillful, and kind of mean to somebody apologise, don’t use the Dharma to escape. We all do things that are unskillful we respond to them and we grow and we learn that’s okay. But be encouraging. Be kind to yourself, use that voice to yourself that you would use to your child or your niece or nephew, they’re 12 year old who’s struggling, you know, they don’t need to be yelled at. They need a little encouragement and we all need that as well. So that would be my advice. Don’t worry too much about it. Just start. Because what happens is, the love of practice will take over, it will bring its own momentum.

Kai Xin  39:52

That is so true because I know just the thought of having to sit for one hour with the eyes closed can seem quite daunting and it creates this mental barrier for many people to even get started. And you also mentioned a bit about finding the right teachers, teachers with good morality. I believe you’ve come across many great teachers, you specifically went out to look for them in the Himalaya Mountains. I’m wondering, was there advice that you hear consistently across teachers that you can share with our listeners?

Amy  40:29

Teachers from different traditions are different. But the most amazing teachers who I always met, had a quality of a lightness of being, they were almost transparent, you could almost see like their skin was bright, it was like they glowed from the inside out. They always made me feel like spiritual progress was possible.

So if you’re with a teacher, who makes you feel like you’re very far away, choose a different teacher, no matter how smart they are, how awakened they are. Because the most important thing is our own intention and encouragement.

Those teachers who make us feel like it’s possible, those are the ones that we should be with. I’ve had the good fortune to take teachings and interview and meet the Dalai Lama numbers of times, both in Asia and the West, mostly in north India. And no matter what, he always makes you feel like goodness is possible. Other teachers that I met were similar. I met Nelson Mandela, in 2002, in South Africa, and he was the same he made you feel like goodness was possible. And he had that same shine in his eyes.

So, those teachers make you believe it’s really possible to live a human life and to be close to one another, and to do good in the world and to come together. Those are the practices to follow. And if you feel like, you know, you’ve heard about this teacher, and they’re the most amazing teachers, and they’ve got this amazing realisation and these books and these followers, and it all sounds good, but it makes you feel far away, then it’s not the right match for you. And there are plenty of approaches. So, it’s not that we’re spoiling ourselves. But we need that encouragement in our lives. It’s an essential part of the meditation.

Kai Xin  42:40

I’m just taking a moment to digest it. That’s so great. I was kind of looking for an advice. But this is way better because it’s something that you observe, just that sense of possibility of what we can achieve. But at the same time, not striving too hard to want to get somewhere. Yeah, that is so great.

It’s a very good encouragement for all of us. It also kind of sums up nicely what we’ve just mentioned that even if we are living in a very complex world, we are not high up in the mountain. It is possible to get that you know weakening. We just have to be a bit patient, train our mental muscle. Let go bit by bit, no matter how small and yeah, eventually we would get somewhere that realisation at times when we need you might not even know when that will be. But it will come. And I think we just need a little bit more faith.

So thank you very much, Amy, for this wonderful interview. And I’m wondering if our listeners want to find out more about you or read about your work? Where should they go.

Amy 43:47

So the two best places to find me my work with youth is that inner strength education.org. And my books and courses can be found at emergence education.com send through there, you can find courses as well.

Kai Xin 44:04

And I know you’re also a teacher on Insight Timer app. So if you want to check out Amy’s guided meditation, you can go inside timer, more information, it’s in the show notes. As we enter this episode, are there any last words you want to say to our listeners?

Amy 44:22

I just want to thank you so much for having this podcast and for inspiring people and helping people feel connected and part of a community. So there are a lot of good people in the world who are searching. And it’s nice that you’re creating a space for everyone to share that love of wisdom, kindness inside of really making those profound and timeless teachings relevant during our time, so much appreciation to you.

Kai Xin 44:57

Likewise, very thankful to have you here today to share that wisdom. I know that your book has been launched. How long has it been?

Amy 45:06

It’s launched a few months ago and it won a Nautilus award. Nautilus award is a judged award for books that bring about a better world. So, i’m very excited about that. And it also won a Publishers Weekly, Ben Franklin Award, which is for quality of narrative. So, yeah, please do find the book. It’s on Amazon. Adventure in Zanskar. And if you want to know more about the programme, I have a book called The conscious classroom, which is the philosophy behind the programme. It’s not a how-to enact it. It’s the philosophy behind it. That’s very readable as well.

Kai Xin 45:42

All right, thank you very much. And again, links in the show notes. Thank you so much, Amy.

Amy: 45:48

All right. Stay well, everyone.

Kai Xin: 45:50

Thank you. Thank you for tuning into this episode. It’s truly wonderful and inspiring, isn’t it? If you have benefited from this, please do remember to share it with a friend or many friends and do give us a five star review on Spotify can really help the algorithm.

And also if you’d like to support this podcast, you can be a sponsor, just go to www.handfulofleaves.life/support and more information is there.

If you would like to learn more about mindfulness meditation, or you have questions about Career, do drop us a message on telegram and we’ll try our very best to address these questions in our podcast episodes with our guest speakers.

Lastly, we’d like to give a shout out to our dear friend August Lum, who has created this original soundtrack for this podcast. You can check out more of his work via the link in the show notes.

Till the next episode, may use stay happy and wise.

Amy and her work:

Book: Adventure to Zanskar – A young woman’s solitary journey to reach physical and metaphysical heights

Book: The conscious classroom – The Inner Strength System(TM) for Transforming the Teenage Mind

Organisations: Inner Strength Education, www.EmergenceEducation.com

Personal: www.amyedelstein.com 


FB: https://www.facebook.com/AmyEdelstein.Educator | https://www.facebook.com/InnerStrengthFdn

IG: https://www.instagram.com/innerstrengtheducation/

Insight Timer Guided meditation


Jon Kabat-Zinn: Mindfulness Practice digital downloads (FREE)

Special Thanks to:

August Lum for creating the new sound track for our podcast: His work here

Sopisa for editing the transcript for this episode

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