This Life Is Joy
Tami Simon: You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today, my guest is Dr. Roger Teel. Dr. Roger Teel is a life-transforming speaker, a gifted community-builder, and a global spiritual leader. He has a doctor of religious science degree, and currently serves as senior minister and spiritual director at the Mile High Church in Denver to over 30,000 members and friends.
Dr. Roger Teel is the author of the book This Life Is Joy: Discovering the Spiritual Laws to Live More Powerfully, Lovingly, and Happily, in which he shows how every moment, experience, and person can be an opening for our soul.
This episode of Insights at the Edge was recorded in the Sounds True studio with Roger and I face-to-face. In this episode, we spoke about the journey of opening your heart, allowing the walls of protection to crumble, and how our strength lies in our vulnerability. We talked about portals of transformation, including the unlikely portals of judgment and disease. We also talked about Roger’s knowing of a being-ness that transcends physical death. Here’s my conversation with Dr. Roger Teel:
Welcome, Dr. Roger. I hope I can call you that.
Roger Teel: Oh, just call me Roger.
TS: Just call you Roger. OK. Thank you for coming and being in person with us here in the Sounds True studio.
RT: I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity. Thank you. Thank you.
TS: Now, [Roger], I know that you have a doctor of religious science degree, and at the same time your work goes beyond—and has evolved beyond—your original training in Science of Mind.
And yet, I still feel that you’re the go-to person, if you will, to help me understand a bit about Science of Mind and some of the ideas that I’ve found a little confusing or even—I might say a little boldly—a little off-putting. So, if that’s OK—if we can talk about that—and just start there.
RT: Sure, Tami. Sure.
TS: OK. So, one of the impressions I have about Science of Mind—and even some of the work that’s come from people who are trained in Science of Mind and gone beyond it—is that there’s this tremendous emphasis on positivity. Being positive. And here the title of your new book: This Life Is Joy. It doesn’t get any more positive than that.
So, I wonder: where does all the negative go and how do you deal with that?
RT: Well, in talking about This Life Is Joy, I’m talking about something deep within us that I feel is a quality of being. If you will, a quality of the divine. A deep, deep essence. I’m making the distinction between the surface elements of life.
You know, the Buddha said life is suffering. At the surface level of our life and our daily human experience, it is. There [are] times of pain, and we have the rollercoaster cycle of ups and downs, pain and pleasure.
I’m calling us to something deep and eternal—a deep joy within us, which is also really, in a sense, the deep essence of life within us. So, I’m not denying that there’s the light and the dark and the shadow. And I’m not denying that there’s the pleasure and the pain at the more surface levels of human experience.
What I also have experience of in my life is that through working at the inner level of my heart and at the inner level of more of the truth of me—that that’s given me the wherewithal to deal better with all the things—the exigencies—at the surface of life.
RT: So, that gets us started into that area. I think when we talk about the Science of Mind—which was my heritage and still is really what I help people with. But over years of meditation and inner work, my life and my spiritual life [have] gone to so many other dimensions—and working with other teachers in the world and having the privilege to be with. It’s become that’s like that’s home base, but then there’s so much more.
I think just in the positivity, it’s helped people at least have a sense that there’s something bigger about them than what they will ever face in their life. Now, I think that it depends on the teacher, it depends on where a student is. Sometimes, it can be kind of a Pollyanna-type positivity if not cautious.
But what I also think is the deeper truth is that there’s kind of a lifestyle available to us—of putting roots down into something deeper. I call it “deeper roots” in a little bit of my book, where I talk about a time when I was troubled in my life.
I went to our mountains here in Colorado and I just laid on a couple of rocks and looked up. I began to meditate upon the trees. I was really in an old-growth kind of forest. As I looked up at the trees, it was such a stunning thing. What I realized is that none of that magnificence would have been possible if there weren’t an equally amazing root system.
Then I thought about my life, and I realized that I felt buffeted at that time. I felt challenged and sad at that time. What it called me to was deeper roots. I went to a deeper level then. I did more meditation. I did more prayer work. Rather than just trying to assault the problems, I used them as a catalyst to go deeper.
So, I would hope that the positive teachings are meant to affirm a person’s being as being superior to their conditions.
TS: Now, let’s say somebody’s listening and they have an intuition: “You’re right, Roger. At the core—at the heart—is this incredible love and joy. This life is joy. But at this moment, I feel terrible. I feel like a pile of dog poo or whatever. So, I can’t access that and positive thinking isn’t going to help me right now. It would just feel phony.”
So, what could you say that would be helpful?
RT: Well, I don’t think that doing things in the intellectual level ever really will help in that situation. I think what’s important is to honor wherever we’re at and not make oneself wrong for that. [It’s important to] not get dejected for being dejected. I think that honoring—
And then, for me, where we go is to the heart. That was the big transformational moment for my life, right out of a wounding that I write about in the book. Deeply painful at the time. I was in the skids.
TS: Tell us about that. What was the wounding?
RT: Sure. It was in my late twenties. I met a beautiful lady, fell in love, and we spent three years together. At the end of our third year, we had talked about becoming engaged after the holidays. I would tell my congregation and she would tell her family. She went to have her holidays with her half-sister in Ohio.
When she came back, I noticed she was quite different. She was kind of distant. I thought, “Well, she’s tired and just getting back into the flow of things.” Well, a couple of days later, I came back to my townhome after work and everything of hers was gone. A note was on the counter. It simply said, “Our relationship is over. Please don’t contact me.”
I thought it was joke, actually. So, of course I did what she told me not to do. I called her and her mother said, “I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s going on. She says she’s serious, and so I don’t know what to tell you. You just got to deal with this.”
So, I just dove down into a deep grief. I descended into a deep grief and a deep sadness. I became depressed over several weeks. All this while trying to help people in their own lives as a spiritual leader. I became more and more frustrated, and then it devolved from there. A sort of darkness within me emerged. I had moments of tremendous anger. Even after a while—after a month or I so; I couldn’t honestly say—I was telling people that I hated her, that she was weird, that she was never quite right. I had a story going on about all of that.
And all the while, I was suffering. I wasn’t sleeping well. I wasn’t eating well. It was a very dangerous time for me. I stood the risk of losing just about everything that I cared about—my career and friends.
So, one time I was out having a beer with a buddy—a close friend, actually—and I launched into another tirade about this lady. He said, “You know, I’ve gotten a lot of good out of your teachings. You teach a lot of very powerful things. Ever thought of using them?”
RT: I really could have knocked him off that stool. But I knew he was right.
And I knew it was a call for me to look at that wounding in another way. You see, when we’re in dark times, we start into the story of who did what to whom, what’s happening to me, what’s impinging upon me. That’s sort of a conceptualization that we have of it. But for me in that moment, that was so much more. There [were] so many more gifts there.
I do believe that there are absolute gifts in our darkest of times. That’s at least been my experience.
So, I began to take a look. I began to talk with people who could support me in looking beyond myself. I think that’s another recommendation—embracing whatever the emotional energy is. Get some support to explore other perspectives on the situation.
So, I did that. One of the first discoveries was that, well, the relationship really wasn’t what I was saying about it. In truth, it was more characterized by dependency than real, genuine connection and sharing—a mature, deepening relationship. That wasn’t easy to arrive at, but when I swallowed that bitter pill and owned what was so, that started a momentum for me.
Again, I think in dark times sometimes there’s something we’re not willing to really see that is beckoning to us to see. That would be another tip for anyone listening. Maybe that’s a productive line to explore. Is there something trying to get my attention through this?
So, I continued my search and continued my inner exploration. The real shocking realization for me was—as I really got honest with myself—is that I had gotten into my early 30s—and had even become a spiritual support person, a minister, [and] a teacher—with largely a protected and closed heart. So, people could only get so close to me. I had the walls up. I managed relationships very carefully—I was a workaholic—and you couldn’t really get very close.
So, if a relationship was getting uncomfortable, there was a way I could just move it out of my space. That was characteristic of all of my significant relationships to that point, and most especially this one.
When I came to that stunning realization, the whole nature of the situation shifted. It was no longer about her. It was really no longer even about our relationship. I really got to see that I’d really called in that situation to become the most pivotal and transformational and defining moment of my life. Then I dived into that. I just knew that that was a deep well of potential and transformation for me.
I really want to pay tribute to another person that I quote and was supported by in this time. I went and worked with a wonderful man named Brugh Joy. I did a couple of his two-week conferences. In the first two-week conference, midway—and there’s other side-stories that I won’t get into—but midway through that, I came up against the resistance. I came up against this shadow side and this fear that I had had through a time alone in the desert. I was able to experience that Heart Chakra flying open and a sense of the universality of this thing called love—that love was not just an experience to have, it’s an energy that’s a part of us.
I really got it that when it says in Christian scripture [that] God is love and they that dwell in love, dwell in God—and God in them. That was absolutely true. My whole sense of the divine went to an entirely more expansive level as an omnipresent reality not just out there, but in me. There was another level of relating to the world.
It was transformational at every level of my being. That, then, allowed me to move forward in my life in the most wonderful of ways.
So, I guess another thing about the dark times that you introduced here is, “What is the question?” What’s the larger story about this? There’s the story of what happened, who did what to whom and to me, or whatever. Then, I got around eventually to asking, “What’s the larger story?” And the larger story was about the transformational opening of my heart.
So it was that I went from feeling broken to being broken open. It became a revelation of something more. I believe that that’s a theme. I believe that the experiences and the challenges of our lives always have soul-level gifts, if you will. Gifts of invitations to becoming—into evolving.
Overall, while the journey can be extraordinarily difficult—and for me, one of the more difficult in my life—there’s a positive possibility in that. So, it’s so much more than just positive, superficial thinking. It’s the positive acceptance that there’s something in me that can weave something good and transformational out of this.
TS: Now, I’m so curious about this heart-opening journey and heart-opening process. I’m curious to know what you think helps people go further and further and further in opening their heart. I mean, it’s one thing—as you said—to understand conceptually [that] God is love. It’s a totally other thing to have all the walls actually crumble around our heart—all the barricades.
So, what do you think [are] really the keys to getting people to allow those walls to crumble?
RT: For me, the key is understanding how thoroughly acculturated and trained I have been—and it’s something I still must emerge out of always—how acculturated I have been to fear as the baseline for life.
Fearing in so many ways—and I’m not just talking about terror and panic, that ultimate level of fear. I’m talking about a low-grade fear as the platform for many people’s lives. We are almost called into that fear and we are manipulated by fear. I think there’s so much in our society that manipulates us, whether it’s at the political level or at the consumerism level. We’re called to constantly fear that we’re not enough.
I think that that sense of inadequacy and a lack of peace with who we are is what keeps us closed off and distanced from our heart. It’s of course [what] psychology calls “the egoic level of being.” One of the most seditious aspects of the ego is that it defends against love.
So, I think it’s honestly accepting that I have been trained—and I say this [as] me, and I would suggest others explore this honest realization. I have been trained to defend against love in my life. I’ve been trained to see the world as separate. I’ve been trained to see others as alien—as not a part of me [and] as not a part of that which is. I’ve been trained to think of joy as a product of experiences rather than a part of me. I’ve been trained out of everything valuable and real—when you really come down—to it in the way we’ve been trained in our culture.
I think that that honest admission can start to return us to that deep longing. I believe every one of us—since we are love—we yearn to come back home. There’s never enough highs out there from buying things or from the other things we turn to for lesser highs like sex or food or substances. There’s never enough of that to bring us what we really want. That is to experience wholeness and love.
So, I think it’s that honest admission—and then the training. Every day, I practice attuning to my heart, warming my heart, looking through my heart at the day, and seeking to stay anchored in that place.
TS: Tell me how you do that. How do you warm you heart?
RT: Well, what I do is I place my awareness—and, by the way, at the end of my book is a written-out heart-opening exercise if anyone’s interested. I simply place my awareness at the center of my chest and I relax. I enter into meditation. I simply—at one point—let that center relax.
I sometimes encourage people to visualize that something’s been covering the heart—whether it’s like shutters or doors or something—and just allowing an opening. Just [imagine] that something is opening.
Or, sometimes it’s like imagining that the heart is a tight bud that’s been too tightly closed. And then, just by our permission and our awareness centered there, [we] begin to sense something opening. Just be with that, not trying to push it. Just be with that subtle intention that I open.
As this moves forth—and, by the way, I think there are times when it’s helpful to either be led through this by somebody who’s already attuned to this so that there’s almost an induction phenomenon or to listen to somebody guide them verbally who’s in that state. Oftentimes, that can be very powerful in helping us to open.
Of course, I would have prepared by doing some deep breathing and releasing of fears. But, just to continue that opening, what most students report is a warmth begins to happen here—a vibration and a warmth—and with it, the beginnings of peace.
Now, what tends to also happen is that the old habits of thought come back in and want to deny it or belittle it. But we just say, “Peace. Be still,” and come back. Just like in meditation. We let those thoughts just arise and fall away. [Come] back to that and [be] with that, letting it warm us and just basking in that. What usually we notice is that, eventually, some more profound states of peace and equanimity and well-being emerge when we practice that. The more one practices it, the more responsive—almost by intention—the heart responds with opening again.
It’s just practicing this chakra [and] becoming more agile and available, to bring us into an expanded level of awareness. With this, it’s more than just a physical body phenomenon. With this comes an entirely new sense of life and a higher frequency of consciousness that opens up greater possibilities and realizations.
TS: Now, I’m curious: if someone’s doing this practice, they’re breathing into their heart and maybe it’s a bud that’s opening. The petals are opening.
RT: Whatever image.
TS: Yes, whatever image works for them. But then they have this sense of, “Oh my God! You got to be kidding me. That’s terrifying. There’s no way I’m going to be that vulnerable, exposed, fragile. No way!” What do they do with that?
RT: Well, I think that’s a part of the old voice that thinks that love is dangerous [and] that being vulnerable is being weak.
TS: Love’s not dangerous?
RT: Well, I have found that it’s not. It’s actually not. However, most people [have] been hurt and most people have been betrayed. We’re wounded in some way. If that hasn’t been resolved and the gift hasn’t been discovered in it, then those experiences can get cast in that way—and we can resist it.
But I believe that it’s in our vulnerability and our openness that our real strength lies. It’s in our heart that our real strength lies. To be able to bring our compassion to our own lives and to this world is the highest path we can walk. Eventually, life is calling us to get around to that.
TS: Now, you have a beautiful section of your book—really, the whole second half of your book is dedicated to “portals of transformation.”
RT: Oh yes.
TS: One of the portals that you offer that I wanted to talk to you about—because I found it curious and I’m not quite sure I fully understand it—has to do with judgment. Working with judgment in our life as a gateway to transformation. So, I wonder if you could talk about that. How do we work with judgment when we feel it coming up? Judging other people—let’s start there. Let’s start with others.
RT: Well, I want to first quickly distinguish between discernment and judgment. I feel that out of the grist of our wisdom—the fruits of our wisdom—we have the ability to discern, and we should discern. We should discern the highest and best action that we could possibly take. We have the capacity to discern if somebody has motives that aren’t the purest and highest. If we sense that either because we’ve experienced it before or intuitively or whatever, that’s discerning is important. I don’t think we should deny that.
But then I’m speaking of the harsh and belittling judgments that separate another from us and that cloak them in another way. I think that also: who hasn’t experienced being judged in another way?
What happens is that we assume that—because we know a person’s past, are aware of certain behaviors, know what they look like, and how they usually show up—that we are in then empowered to brand them in a certain way. We all do it, and it’s pretty typical. It’s all done too us as well.
In really looking at myself as honestly as I can, I realized that I judge others from the basis of my own self-judgment. It’s out of my own sense—at whatever level it’s happening—of not being enough, my own sense of inadequacy or unworthiness, my own sense of needing to be lifted up. It’s out of that that I tend to lay that on or project that on to another.
So, often I see myself reflected back to me in my judgments of another. Another person is so much more than their past. I am so much more than my past. Whoever’s listening is so much more than their past. We are so much more than our mistakes. We are so much more than the verdicts that have been declared about us. I think we are organic, changing, alive beings. My own self-judgment can keep me anchored and limited, rather than freeing me.
So, I wrote that to give us the opportunity to look at how our judging of another is yearning for something. What we’re really deeply yearning for is assurance—the assurance that we are valuable; that we have more potential than we’ve yet expressed in whatever area matters to us; that we are vital beings; that our life means something.
It’s my sense that the proclivity to judge tends to fall away the more we are placing ourselves in that sense of assurance.
TS: So, I want to give you an example, because maybe you can help me understand it. This is actually occurring within a circle of people that I know—which is, somebody is having an affair. Somebody’s having an affair and thinks that she has every right to in her situation—and is not being honest. Other people are quite judgmental. “You have a child. This is not right for your family. This is wrong. You’re lying. This is bad.”
So, I guess I’m a little confused about [how] that’s not discernment. That’s clearly judgment.
RT: Yes. It really is.
TS: How does that really relate to the people who are judging? Are they looking for some kind of assurance? I don’t quite see that. Or maybe I’m missing something here.
RT: I would ask those judging what the intent of the judgment is. I would suggest that the judgment comes from a place of needing to be right and of feeling that this person is wrong.
I would then ask the question, “What do you think that person really needs from you?” Apart from advice, by the way. What do they really need?
Perhaps what they really need is prayer. Perhaps what they need is core of people who are willing to set aside that tendency to judge and stand in a higher truth about this person. Know that something is being explored here and worked out in her consciousness—in her life—that’s so much more than this affair. Also, something remains in her that is valuable and beautiful and holds the answers for her, too.
Now, it’s far more powerful to make that choice of standing in a higher truth for that person. Of course, if that person ever says, “I have misgivings. I’ve started down this path. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve started into this affair . . .” and asked someone who cared about them, then you can say, “You know, I would worry about this, this, and this.” So often, we judge when there’s no chance that we’re going to be asked.
So, I think that we have to look at the intent there, because that comes from a place of truly regarding the person as on a journey bigger than this affair and that this affair is a part of them setting themselves up for their next greater realizations in one way or another. I get to then hold them in that kind of compassion and love, and know the truth about them—that there’s something that can guide them. This ultimately will lead to some kind of growth for them.
Does that kind of help a little bit?
TS: It does. Well, the idea of actually stepping back and praying—stepping out of the fray. I’m curious: what kind of prayer would you offer in a situation like that? If this was something happening in your world—
RT: You know what I would do? I would know that—beyond her behaviors and whatever is going on within her—there is a core of wholeness within her. She is—as I write earlier in the book—a being of light.
Of course, we are all on a journey of greater self-discovery in our life. So, I would know that she is whole. I would affirm that she is protected and guided, and that there’s deep wisdom within her that is available for her to access. I would surround her in my heart with love and I would know that she is unfolding in a way through this that is beyond my capacity to know.
So, I humbly release her to the higher path and that deeper source within her to guide her, and hold her in light and love.
TS: Thank you. Now, one of the other portals to transformation that you offer in your book, This Life Is Joy, is disease as discovery—that we can approach disease as discovery. I love the way that sounds when you can really do it. But I also imagine someone who at that point says, “You know, Roger, you’re a really great man. But I don’t know.” I’m talking to a minister, so I don’t want to say what I think the person might say inside themselves.
But you know—it’s pretty hard. Especially if you’re really suffering with a disease.
RT: It is. It is. I think it’s the most difficult. I think, really, when our bodies are breaking down or there’s something out of harmony, it’s even more difficult than the deep emotional traumas of our lives. I think it’s probably the most difficult aspect of being in a human body at this time.
The intent of the book is basically to make everything in our life useful, because I believe it is at some level. Apart from the pain or discomfort—whatever the situation may be—I suggest in [the book] that, first of all, there are healing energies available. I believe that healing can be possible within us [and] of course in the medical world. But I think that there are even greater healing potentialities within the heart and within the being-ness of a person.
I have had so many cases of being privileged to witness individuals who came to a core realization in their life and saw their body situation shift. I’ve seen individuals fighting significant, traumatic, even life-threatening illnesses who have made a huge change in their life and have begun to speak with honesty and love—or let go of something that wasn’t fulfilling them. A career path or whatever it was. I’ve often seen remissions occur.
So, I want to first of all voice that our bodies are incredible vehicles. They’re basically intelligence and energy. They’re coded to be strong and resilient. Healing is possible—especially when we introduce the spiritual energies that are within us. The bottom line—as Duane Elgin writes—is our bodies are biodegradable vehicles for soul-evolving experiences.
So, that’s one of the main thrusts of that chapter: many times, the body is sending us messages. If I remember, there are three of them. The first is simply body messages. There have been times when my body couldn’t take me anymore. When I was so much into workaholism—which had a deeper challenge, as I just earlier described—or when I wasn’t eating correctly, or when I wasn’t resting enough and things like that.
[Often,] the body will try to send us messages and then—if it can’t get through—we get sick. One of the basic messages is, “I’m strong and resilient and magnificent, and you got to take care of me.” Like our cars are the vehicles we get around in. These are vehicles.
So, that’s one of the messages. The other is awareness messages that oftentimes the body is reflecting back to us toxins in our own way of thinking—our own dominant attitudes, emotions, and responses to life. Often, the body—since it’s an intelligent process to express itself in harmony—is disrupted by the frequencies of our own thinking, whatever they might be. Or our own mental, emotional states. So often it’s a mirror. The body is mirroring awareness states to us.
Thirdly, I suggest that oftentimes the body is the vehicle for the soul—the core essence of us—to bring us messages. We’re not any better at listening to the soul than we are at listening to the body. I think it’s possible, by the way, to have a closer relationship with the body—to listen to it. I think one higher degree of mastery is to tune into the body and let it tell us more of what it wants to eat, how much it needs to eat, and when it needs rest. I believe there’s a response there.
But then I come back to the soul. I think that we so often live at the surface of our experience and our awareness that we don’t meditate enough. We don’t get still enough. We don’t attune enough. I’m speaking culturally, here. We don’t attune enough to the core truth of us—the core essence of us. Call it the soul; call it whatever word feels best.
So very often, this authentic self of us has a hard time getting a word in edgewise. So, very often, physical experiences—physical states, illnesses—are the vehicle by which the soul seeks to get our attention. Really, no matter what our current goals and agendas are in life, we’re on a soul path here. I feel we’re here to give things, learn things, evolve things at a soul-ular level.
So often, when we’re off-course, the body’s the vehicle by which the soul gets a word in edgewise. As I say in the book, sometimes it’s messages like, “It’s time to play more and work less.” Sometimes it’s the message, “It’s time to really return to love here. You’ve been in fear or separation or isolation too long.” Sometimes, it’s time to let go of that security blanket of that job and do what you really want to do. So many of these soul messages [are] time to speak your heart.
Or it’s time to open up again to the awe of life—to the wonder of creation—rather than just seeing it as cold, hard stuff. Or turning more to the mystery and the miracle of life. Sometimes, illnesses are actually the way the soul calls us to some deeper and truer path.
Since I believe that we are spiritual entities so much more than this body, sometimes diseases—especially terminal ones—are the soul saying, “This one’s done. This lifetime’s complete and it’s time now to spread our wings. It’s time to move forward.”
So, I offered that chapter to remind me to not just see disease as something to get rid of as quick as possible, but to pause and say, “What’s here? What’s going on here?” And maybe I can get value from it.
TS: Now, you talked about being a soul much more than the physical body. A sense I got both from reading the book and sitting with you is that you have a deep knowing—if you will—that there’s a continuity beyond physical death. I’d like to know more about how that is a knowing for you. What in your internal experience has created that knowing?
RT: Well, there was an earlier time and there have been more frequent times—but there have been times in extended periods of meditation and stillness where the knowing-ness of that which I really am—so much more than my history, my roles, my personality, my body—has become undeniable and indisputable to me.
There was a time when I was about six years old that I write about early in the book where—and at the time, I didn’t know what was happening to me. I was laying on my front lawn. My dad had just mowed the lawn. I was just looking up at the clouds. In that moment, I became what I was looking at. I was no more. I was the clouds. I was the sun. I was the sky. At one level, I thought I had died. And I don’t know how long I was in that state.
But when I came more into my local self-awareness, I remember as a child having to grab the grass. I was vibrating so intensely. I hid that away. I was scared. I thought maybe something was wrong with me.
But from that moment on, I began to have a sense of the greater parameters of life. Later on—much later on—when I was studying spiritual things and studying the experiences of the mystics, I remember reading about the dissolving of the subject-object dichotomy. I realized, “My God! In my own way, I stumbled into that as a young boy.” Evidently, not having so many barriers between me—not having heaped on the sense of, “I am a separate self. I am a personality and I am my roles and my stuff and all this that we do.” And I guess I must have been available to something at that time. Then I began to understand it later on.
Ever since that time, it’s what impelled me into doing the work I do, [as well as] seeking to continue to grow and follow this path. That’s when I came to know things I don’t know how I know. It’s how I came to know that there is a seamless unity that undergirds all of life—that love is the reality of life. It’s how I have a knowing-ness I can’t logically defend. But in my own heart, it’s how I know that I have been before and will be again.
Of course, then I’ve studied with individuals who teach about many lifetimes and things. That’s always tantalizing, but what I found was it really resonated with the knowing-ness in me that is beyond anything that I acquired intellectually.
So, that’s kind of how it is with me. I’ve dabbled in past-life regressions and things like that. But those aren’t as fundamental to me as those times in the deep, prolonged stillness—as well as that early time.
TS: Those times in the prolonged stillness—I presume they’re periods of meditation or something like that?
RT: Yes, yes.
TS: In the more recent part of your life, I’m curious to know more about that. If you could describe for me—if that’s possible—what that experience is like.
RT: You know, in those times of deep stillness, there have been a few times—peak moments—where realizations have simply emerged. I don’t know if it’s clear-seeing. I don’t know what you would call it. Realizations have emerged—not fought out, because of course in the deeper times of meditation, hopefully the mind is poised, still, and quiet. We’re with our being. We’re in our being. We’re just being.
There are times when we come to realize the nature of that being in those still moments—the being that we are. The activity of being that we are. Its qualities become apparent at a deep knowing-ness level. Again, not an intellectual level, but a deep knowing-ness level. That’s the best way that I can explain this.
TS: Now, one of the other themes that I felt throughout reading This Life Is Joy is that the universe is good. God is good, if you will. There’s this deep bedrock of goodness in being alive and being here.
That’s actually my inner experience, and it’s something that I’ve felt my whole life. However, I’ve had really good friends who are more scientifically oriented or super-inquisitive by nature. They’ve really poked and prodded at that, and have said, “Look, Tami. In my experience, life isn’t anything we can call it. It’s neutral. Or it’s both good and evil. You like this goodness thing. It fits, and it’s your naive happy-person thing. But, come on!”
I realize when I talked to people like that, there’s this divide that I don’t know how to cross. So, I usually just drop it.
So, I’m curious: What do you feel when somebody says, “I’m not convinced that life is inherently—at its true, basic nature—good. In fact, it might be neutral.”
RT: You know, our words sometimes get us into the most trouble around this. When we say “good,” we often then evoke a sense of, “Yes, but it could be bad.” So, we think of it in terms of opposites and the polarities that we’re used to.
Here’s a metaphor: If we think of life most commonly lived as the surface levels of an ocean, there are times when the surface level of an ocean is very placid. Then there are times when it is churning big-time. But down below—at a depth level—it’s not. It’s neither placid nor churning. It’s just there supporting the activity of either the peacefulness or the angst and the churning.
So, it’s: where am I looking? Am I in a debate about the surface churnings—the birth-death cycles there? You watch a film and you see a lion devastating an antelope in the African jungle. You say, “Where’s the good in that?” But down below, there is something that I believe [is] supporting that dynamic of life at the surface that is the wholeness of life.
We come in meditation and spiritual practice more to that deeper level. We come to know that all of this up there—there are times we might define it as good. Sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes it’s awful. And yet, it’s just the play of life upon itself. It’s just the unfolding of conditions and life supporting itself. Even the lion feasting on the dead antelope—there’s an elegance to that if you see it in a different perspective.
Of course, somebody might say, “Yes, but what about the antelope’s perspective?” And yet, if you look at the bigger perspective, that is life continuing to energize life in its own progress.
So, when I talk about life as good, it’s not choosing good over evil. I’m suggesting that there is a depth of being-ness infusing and supporting all of life. It is simply what it is. It is whole and it is complete. That’s what I’m referring to.
TS: But what if somebody said, “Even that being-ness—even that depth of the ocean—how can you call it ’good?’ What if it’s kind of neutral?”
RT: I call it good, again, for lack of perhaps better words—an absolute good for which there is no opposite evil. The reason I call it “good” is that it is unfolding “itself”—I believe, again, with quotes around “itself.” It’s not a separate thing. But it’s unfolding out of that which it is and ever shall be. It’s not against itself and there’s nothing working against it. It’s bringing forth the dance of life to express itself.
So, again, when we go beyond our assessments of our experience of life, we find that life is simply unfolding and celebrating itself in all of its ways. Certain life-forms arise for a short time and they celebrate life—like this picture of the pelican or the bird behind you there. It’s being magnificently that until that expression is over and it falls away, back into the invisible essence of life. Life arises in another visible form.
Ultimately, if we can back away from our judgments of things, we see it as just—wow—this magnificent symphony of being.
And that doesn’t mean that at our experience level, we don’t have our ups and downs. None of us denies that. It’s talking about a deeper joy.
I actually think of it as joy. Life, in its depth, is joy. We can experience some of that within ourselves. In the book, I distinguish between the pleasure-pain syndrome. A lot of our culture and our society is very much bent on manipulating and orchestrating pleasure experiences. Usually, those are at the superficial level of conditions. It’s a happiness and pleasure that is derived because things turn out a certain, desired way. We do everything that we can do to manipulate that.
When that doesn’t happen, we tend to experience pleasure’s opposite at the surface level, and that is pain. That’s unacceptable. So, then the tendency within our society is to find ways to numb that pain. Of course, the ways are many. Of course, I believe that is what sponsors the widespread addictive tendencies of our culture. Not just substance addictions, but the many addictions that are available to us.
When I speak of joy, I’m talking about something deep within—the wholeness of life that we can put a tapper down into—that is so much more than that surface pain-pleasure dance. [It’s] so much more than being happy about something. We have a deep participation in the joy of the being itself. We can learn to dance with that.
I tell the story of the Israelites in one level of their captivity—the Babylonian captivity—where they were sorely oppressed, suffering, and working. At night, when they [went] back to their encampment and weren’t under the watchful eyes of their captors, they would steal down to the river, where they’d [hidden] harps and lyres in the reeds and the willows. They would take them out and dance. It’s like freeing that something within them—so much more than their servitude and their suffering.
I remind myself that when life and being human gets difficult, there’s still a depth in me that’s willing to dance if I’m willing to let it. I guess the question is: do I have a harp in the willows in my life?
TS: Now, Roger, one other topic that I want to talk with you about. In a way, it circles back to how we began our conversation by me asking if you’d help me understand some of the ideas in Science of Mind that I found a little challenging and realizing that you’re evolving those ideas in new ways in your work and in your book.
But it has to do with working with thoughts and the power of thought in our life. You have a section of your book, This Life Is Joy, where you talk about ideas being substance. What I’d love clarification on is: how to work with thinking in a good and positive way that doesn’t feel like a manipulation or some kind of surface-level—
RT: Trying to manifest the law of attraction and all of that.
TS: Yes. That kind of thing. So, how do we work with thoughts?
RT: Well, first of all, there are two chapters that partner with each other. One is “This World Is Consciousness” and the second is “This Idea Is Substance.” In “This World Is Consciousness,” we draw not only from ancient wisdom but modern quantum science to bring forth the realization that reality isn’t fundamentally material. It’s invisible. It’s characterized by energy, information, and love. There’s this invisible, infinite field of potentiality that is revealing and emerging as forms and experiences and cosmos and all manner of matter in the universe, known and unknown. [This is what] the ageless wisdom has suggested, and now quantum science seems to be revealing to us.
So, with that as a sense that reality basically invisible, and it moves temporarily into visible form and back into the invisible energies. We then bring forth the idea that ideas themselves are not just airy-fairy passing things, but that ideas have the capacity to be the building blocks of expression and of form.
Of course, we know at a practical level that any invention began as an idea in somebody’s head. Whether it was those couple of guys in a garage tinkering and all of a sudden Apple Computer gets born, and et cetera. Ideas are the genesis for all creation.
And if we even go more into the metaphysical dimension, I suggest—and others like us suggest—that the ideas most deeply held as our truth are actually helping form our experience. We too are passageways, if you will, wherein the invisible is becoming the visible in our lives. In this way, we are what might call a co-creator with the infinite to reveal life-forms.
So, the whole idea that an idea—once activated and fully accepted within us—becomes a template for experience and form—it actually calls in forms [and] calls in experiences—is what this is about. As one looks at, “How can I work more masterfully with my life?” it’s to look at what deep conclusions [I have] arrived at about me that have been calling in experiences to announce those deep conclusions [and] to give me input about the way I’ve sized up my life. The mental models, as it were, that I’ve created about my life.
In that chapter, I talk about the stories that we tell. The old, the cold, and the told. It’s like the old stories from our past. The cold stories that are heartless, demeaning, and without compassion for ourselves or others. The told stories—the way we’ve been labeled. We keep telling those stories. We keep anchoring our identity in those, and our identity tends to call in experiences and also express through our body that ideas are a very powerful creative seed in this life.
I think the way that’s best to work with this is not so much to necessarily say, “OK, I’m going to create a new seed of this wealth that I want. I’m going to accept it and go for it.”
TS: That is, though, the first place I think a lot of people go.
RT: Yes, it is. But you know—until we have arrived at peace with ourselves and a sense of who we really are, the attempts to manipulate conditions are either futile or not fully satisfying. Or not even really lasting in our lives. I think that the thoughts we most have to look at [are], “What quality of relationship do I have with myself? What sense of relationship do I have with the rest of life? Have I healed and forgiven my past? Do I have a sense of open-heartedness for myself and others?”
It’s when we get whole with ourselves—right with ourselves and with life itself—that then we sort of automatically begin to see the rest of our life uplifted. Again, nothing in this suspends us from change or painful experiences in our life. But our reservoir of response to those even goes to a higher level, as we’ve done healing work with the deep thoughts that we’ve encoded within us.
TS: OK. So, let’s just still say that somebody says, “OK, I can activate a thought and then that will turn into a physical reality in my life. The thought I want to activate is . . .” We won’t pick the wealth one, even though I think that’s the one place where most people go. But let’s say I want to have—
RT: My prince or princess! How about that?
TS: Yes, I was going to go there. That’s the next—you know exactly where the public is going. I want a fabulous partner!
RT: We’re an immediate gratification society, and we want things before we have expanded our consciousness to be worthy of those things. So, that’s an immature use of that principle.
What we really can work on is transmuting the whole environment of our inner life—wherein automatically we can start to attract beautiful people in our life. When I finally opened my heart and got over my fear of love, everything in my life shifted. And I didn’t have to do a thing about it. I didn’t have to take a specific thought and send it out into the universe.
You know, most of the people who work at that immature level are actually still fear-driven. They feel like they really aren’t worthy of that, so I’m going to take this idea and use this process to get this in my life, which I’m not naturally generating right now. The real question is: Why am I not naturally generating this in my life right now? Let that take me deeper into, “What’s my real, deep belief about me and my worthiness? What’s the state of my consciousness, my love, my vibrancy, my inner peace?”
We do that deep healing and get in touch with some of the old thoughts—misguided stuff we bought in. The false self we’ve constructed. We start taking that apart and standing in a sense of love and light within ourselves.
This is very similar to what Jesus is supposed to have said: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God,” (which of course he located within us), “and all these things will be added unto you.” That’s the approach that I recommend.
TS: Beautiful. OK—I just have two final questions for you. You know, Roger, I have to say I don’t know very many ministers—people who run big churches—but you’re definitely one of my favorites. You’re such a fabulous human and I think what you’re doing is so incredible.
Here, in our state of Colorado, you run this huge Mile High Church. I’m curious to know: During a time when many churches are shrinking and losing members—and in general, churches seem not to be bringing in new congregants as people are becoming “spiritual but not religious,” not going to church—what in a nutshell would you say is your dream or your vision for Mile High Church to be a relevant force in people’s lives in the decades to come?
RT: Wow. That’s a big question.
I want us to help the cresting wave of healing consciousness. I want us to be a place of support as our hearts are broken by so much of what’s going on in the world—such that we don’t fall into skepticism and discouragement, thus [closing] our hearts again to the potentialities we all have.
I believe that all of this stuff going on in the world is our wake-up sign. It’s calling us to see what the embedded fear and sense of separation in the collective consciousness of humankind continues to bring forth. It has for centuries.
We’re called to use this well. A dear friend—Barbara Marx Hubbard—that I quote in the book says, “Our crises are our birth.”
I see this spiritual community of Mile High Church as being a part of the many who are trying to midwife a birthing of a more expansive consciousness—the birthing of the compassion that is holding us [and] the Dalai Lama keeps calling us to be our watchword in this world.
All who are listening: We have to take a look at, yes, the heartbreak we feel about these things—but yes, also the opportunity. Can we look upon the things going on with compassion? Compassion for how the human experiment within this divine life continues to struggle with fear and with a sense of estrangement. Can we bring more of that forth in our own life?
So, I don’t know how I got off on that. But I simply want us to be a place where people can discover that they are powerful contributors to this life. By working with their own healing and their own reintegration, they are a part of something more.
Maybe you feel it in your work, Tami. I’m wondering. That there’s an even more intense yearning now—a seeking—to be a part of awakening not just for one’s own personal benefits, but because we seem so pregnant right now and ready to give birth.
RT: So, we have a large spiritual community. We got branded as “church” a long time ago and got so well-known as that that we still have that moniker. And yet, we’re really a center that has departed from a lot of the old trappings of church. In fact, our motto is, “It’s different here.”
We seek to help people do the healing work that I’m talking about. We’re very much getting more in community service work and relief work. We want to play a positive role, whatever it can be.
I used that word again. How about a “beneficial” role?
TS: Sitting here with you, I feel very positive, Roger.
OK. My final question.
TS: This program is called Insights at the Edge. Part of what I’m always curious to know is what someone’s personal edge is—as in the kind of growth challenge that they’re working with. Really, truth be told, if they’re willing to share it. What are you really working with? What’s your growing edge, if you will?
RT: Well, can I share two? Or is there just—
TS: Oh, no. You can have two. You can have three!
RT: First of all, as I stand here at 62, I’m working more with the reality of aging. I’m just looking at the spiritual opportunities with that. As we talked earlier, [I’m] seeking to really listen to my body more, [as well as] honor it and support it because I’m not done here—at least, as far as I know. So, I want to remain vital.
But also, as a lot of my friends and congregants have dealt with parents who have been transitioning and leaving us—or being put in assisted care. There are individuals who feel that, on the horizon, it’s just a real opportunity for insight and compassion—for me.
I think the other one is—the leading edge for me is one of the areas we touched on briefly. That is the real sense of the expanded parameters of life. You know, the founder of our movement—Religious Science, Science of Mind—Ernest Holmes had a great evolution in his work. He went from a more simplistic approach to becoming really a mystic in his own right in his last days. At one time—just a year or so before he passed—he was dedicating one of our centers. He had this experience, wherein he said, “The veil is thin. I see.” He had this altered experience.
I’m feeling that beckoning to me a little bit. I’ve had moments where I’ve sensed that there’s more going on around us than we’re seeing—more spirit forms, guides, and entities around us than we are usually aware of. Of course, that’s where people get really weirded out and think, “Oh my gosh—where have you gone?”
But life is so much more than I can pick up with any of my senses or my intellect or any of that. So, I’m just surrendering and letting life show me more of its mystery.
TS: Beautiful. Beautiful.
RT: Try not to control it, too.
TS: Thank you so much for this conversation. Really beautiful. Thank you for your good work and your openness and transparency. I really appreciate that. You even talked about spirit beings and entities at the end here.
RT: I know it! I know it.
TS: True to Insights at the Edge. Thank you!
RT: Bless you for what you’re doing, Tami.
TS: Roger Teel, the author of a beautiful new book, This Life Is Joy: Discovering the Spiritual Laws to Live More Powerfully, Lovingly, and Happily.
Thanks for listening. SoundsTrue.com. Many voices, one journey.