Interview With Philip Shepherd

by Meia Geddes

Below are some excerpts from a wonderful interview with Philip Shepherd. All are found in the April 2013 Issue 448 edition of the exquisite magazine, The Sun. The interview was conducted by Amnon Buchbinder.

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Buchbinder: You’ve said that we have a misguided cultural story about what it means to be human. What does that story tell us?

Shepherd: It tells us that the head should be in charge, because it knows the answers, and the body is little more than a vehicle for transporting the head to its next engagement. It tells us that doing is the primary value, while being is secondary…

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“…We are missing the experience of our own being…” –Shepherd

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“You cannot reason your way into being present. You cannot reason your way into love. You cannot reason your way into fulfillment. If you wish to be present, you need to submit to the present, and suddenly you find yourself at one with it. You submit to love. There’s that great quote from the Persian mystic Rumi: “Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” –Shepherd

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“Indigenous Polynesian sailors use information from ocean waves to navigate their way across the Pacific and find an island up to five hundred miles away — an unimaginable feat to the colonial Europeans who first encountered them and still sometimes got lost even with sextants and compasses. This native navigational tradition was suppressed and prohibited by the Europeans, but it has survived. Navigators are chosen in infancy and are placed in tidal pools for hours, feeling the water’s rhythms and currents. When they’re fully trained adults, they can sit on the ocean in a canoe and feel multiple swells moving beneath the hull. These deep swells are refraction patterns from islands far beyond the horizon, and they guide the navigators across the trackless ocean.” –Shepherd

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“Quantum mechanics tells us that information cannot be destroyed. It lives on through everything it has affected. Eastern philosophy has known for centuries that there is no existence except through relationship. We diminish our sense of being — our sense of our own reality — as we systematically disconnect from body and world.” –Shepherd

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“In the same way that a pond on a still day will visibly register the smallest insect alighting on its surface, but on a windy day it won’t, our ability to feel the whole is directly proportional to our ability to become still within ourselves.” –Shepherd

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“Yes, in England they talk about the “three Bs,” where the greatest scientific discoveries are made: the bed, the bath, and the bus.” –Shepherd

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“Experiments with isolation chambers have shown the extreme disconnection leads to hallucinations. And that, on a large scale, is what’s happened to our culture. We’ve gone mad.”  –Shepherd

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“Once you come to rest in the body, you come to rest in the wholeness that is the trembling world itself. It’s as the Greek philosopher Plotinus said: “All the world breathes together.” –Shepherd

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“There’s a story about George Washington Carber, the brilliant African American botanist. Someone asked him, “How is it that you understand these plants so well?” and he replied, “If you love it enough, anything will talk to you.” –Shepherd

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