How to Cultivate Faith

In this episode we explore the mindset of faith and how having “hope” can sometimes backfire in your creative process in life.

  •  What is True Faith?
  •  How the idea of “hope” is built upon attachment to external results and keeps you in a mindset of lack.
  •  The transformational power of non-attachment.
  •  How a direct experience is critical to cultivating faith.

Watch the next LIVE Soul Session in this series on our YouTube Channel.

How to Cultivate Faith


Debra Maldonado  00:01

Hello, everyone, welcome to Soul Sessions.

Robert Maldonado  00:04

Welcome back to this series that we’re doing on mindset. And in this episode, we’re talking about faith.

Debra Maldonado  00:15

My favorite topic.

Robert Maldonado  00:18

Your favorite dessert topping?

Debra Maldonado  00:19

Well, my favorite song by George Michael. He said, gotta have faith.

Robert Maldonado  00:23

That’s right, life requires us to have some faith. So we’re going to explore this topic a little bit. Tell you what perspective we were coming from, maybe give you some hints as to how to cultivate your own faith. And then what we put our money on as far as what we believe and why we believe that.

Debra Maldonado  00:54

This is really about faith in our vision, when we’re working with our mindset to navigate life. A lot of times people say “How do I know I have power in the world.” These are great questions. I want to say what faith means as we move forward. It’s a complete trust or confidence in someone or something. It’s not a kind of have faith. It’s a complete, absolute trust in something or someone. That’s what we’re going to talk about today. What is our approach to faith? We’re not talking about religion here.

Robert Maldonado  01:38

We’re not. Not that there’s anything wrong with religion. It’s very useful institutions, I would say, around the world, they’re great institutions that promote a certain belief in a deity or in a system in a way of doing spirituality. But our approach is more philosophical. Because we want to know what does science tell us about the world? And what does our own experience about the world tell us? Can we trust that? We know at the end of the day, even if we have a religion, or even if we’re born into it, or subscribe to a certain religion, we still have to find our own way of expressing that and living with that.

Debra Maldonado  02:38

So what you’re talking about is blind faith versus direct experience?

Robert Maldonado  02:42

Very much so. It boils down to that. At the end of the day, it’s all direct experience. Really spiritual, because it has to be a living process. It can’t be just “Well, I believe”, right? It’s easy to believe in something, but without really understanding it or questioning it.

Debra Maldonado  03:13

There’s a lot of things people believe, but they don’t have that critical thinking to question it and really try it out. We’re always saying to our students, don’t just believe what we say, try this out, work it through, because that’s really where the faith comes from. You can have blind faith in something or an idea or a system, even non-religious, even a personal development system. But if you don’t have a direct experience of it, it doesn’t have a foundation. So as soon as things don’t work out the way you want or there’s a little hiccup, there’s nothing underneath it to keep you in that solid ground. And what we see in the industry is a lot of people digging shallow holes, looking for answers, but they don’t have that underlying faith of what they really believe in, that philosophical level of who they are, and what’s the nature of the world. They’re looking for glimpses of it, and it’s fine to do that but after a while, if you really want to have a rock solid experience of life, you have to go deep within yourself. And we’re going to talk about that today. So Jung, they asked him about God, because he really was the spiritual psychologist, he was divergent from the regular traditional medical model of just looking at the symptoms and the science. He wanted to combine science and spirituality. And so late in his life, they famously asked him “Do you believe in God?” And he said “I don’t believe, I know.” He said he regretted saying it because people misconstrue, but it doesn’t mean he doesn’t believe in God. He’s saying “I know”, from direct experience. So through my direct experience, I know. What builds strong faith is you having a direct experience of something that is unwavering, in a deep level from experience, that that’s how life is and that’s who you are. So how do we create that? How do we create this faith and concept of certainty of who we are, and how the world works. A lot of times people want to have faith in external objects or external goals, like I had faith that one day, I’m going to meet the love of my life, or have faith that I’m going to have a successful business, or have faith that I’m going to be healthy again. So we use this kind of concept of faith to change our external reality in my personal life.

Robert Maldonado  05:57

For us, we have to ask the question “Who is the one that is having pain?” In other words, what is the mindset? Because this is a series on mindset, “What is the mindset that is asking those questions?” That makes a lot of difference, because we’re coming from the ego persona. We can do the ego persona, that is our internal mind, our internal voice, that little narrative voice that’s going on in our head. That’s the ego. The external, the stuff that we put out there, the way we interface with the world — that’s the persona. If we’re coming from that perspective, and we’re saying “I believe in myself, or I believe in life, I believe in my vision”, that vision is arising from the ego or is very much a part of it. It’s a part of my persona, what I perceived myself to be, and what I project myself to be in the future.

Debra Maldonado  07:08

When people go, set goals, and do it from ego, they reach those goals, then the ego takes credit for the goal. Then it becomes this inflated ego, but there’s no real satisfaction because that goal out there, that external thing, a person or something defines you and gives you that it’s almost like you can’t have it without the external. It’s not full power, because most of your power is going into those things you want.

Robert Maldonado  07:40

Absolutely. The implications of setting your goals and setting your vision and asking “What do I believe in?” from the ego persona always leads to dissatisfaction, to what in Buddhism is called — in Buddhism philosophy, not the religion — what is called suffering. Because that dissatisfaction is the beginning, it’s the germ of suffering, it’s the seed of suffering, it leads us to chasing our own tails and always looking for the next thing. What is next once I acquire this vision, once I have what I set out to get, what’s next. It just keeps going and going. But there’s an underlying dissatisfaction underneath all that. That comes not from the external, but from our own mindset that we are identifying as persona ego, that we think we are the persona ego, instead of exploring deeper. So then the question arises “How do we get it? What is deeper?” And that’s where the approach to the disbelief or the dissatisfaction comes.

Debra Maldonado  09:05

Instead of trying to build up, “I got to believe, I want to believe”, we’re built having faith. Think about when we’re born, we have faith that something’s gonna take care of us when we come out of the womb. We have faith that I’m going to be fed every day and all those things that we take for granted even, or when someone picks us up that they’re not going to drop us. There’s a lot of faith that we have in our life, drinking water and food isn’t going to make us sick. It’s natural for us. But that disbelief sits on top of that. How do we access that natural emergence of faith that is our natural state? It’s really examining why we disbelieve. And why we disbelieve is because we don’t know who we are. We don’t know the nature of the universe. But when we were babies, there’s this inborn in us that the people around us are going to take care of us, we’re this helpless being. Where did that come from, we didn’t have to cultivate it, it was natural. It’s when we get disappointed in life, and things don’t work out the way we want, it chips and sits on top of that natural energy of just trusting that we’re connected to everything and that we’re part, there’s nothing that can destroy us.

Robert Maldonado  10:48

It’s counterintuitive, because most people think, “If I want to cultivate faith, I’m gonna focus or force my mind to believe more.”

Debra Maldonado  10:58

I’m going to visualize my goal. I’m going to hold my vision there, the goal needs to be held because it’s fragile. There’s that fear around it, that white knuckling through that image.

Robert Maldonado  11:13

But wisdom begins by asking ourselves “Who am I?” That’s self inquiry. We do need the intention, of course, the intention is to free our mind or to move towards self-realization. But the first step is really that self inquiry of “Why am I asking for this? What is the purpose of having this goal, having this vision, and me needing to have faith in it, needing to believe in it?” Jung always talks about these dualities arising. In other words, you can’t create something without creating its opposite. So when you desire faith, when you desire that focus on your goal, the opposite is going to rise.

Debra Maldonado  12:10

We can’t have faith without doubt.

Robert Maldonado  12:12

Reminds me of Mother Teresa, they found something in her journals that was talking about doubt. She was doubting whether God really existed if she was seeing all the suffering in the world.

Debra Maldonado  12:28

And those are the right questions we should be asking yourself, not “You should just believe.”

Robert Maldonado  12:34

And make ourselves wrong for having those doubts. Those doubts are essentially the major part of how we experience faith and how we cultivate it.

Debra Maldonado  12:47

That’s an invitation basically, to explore ourselves.

Robert Maldonado  12:50

Yes. It is counterintuitive, because we’re used to thinking in linear form, if I want something, I need to move directly towards that, I want more faith, I want more purpose, I want more success — let’s move towards that. But the opposite, which is the doubt, the lack, that feeling that I can’t do this, that’s where the good stuff is. And Jung says “If you move towards that, if you open that up, if you inquire about that, that will give you the key to your faith, to your success.”

Debra Maldonado  13:31

Because truly, if you don’t examine it, that disbelief will always be there, that doubt will always be there, it’s just that we suppress it. We all have that, whether we have a solid belief in a religion and our ego likes to make everything positive. So anything that’s negative, or things that are going to impede on our goals, we want to push away. We want to push away those emotions of doubt and fear so that we can work, and in a way it’s good for our functioning, to not be doubtful all the time. But if we resist the doubt, and we push it away, we’re almost making the doubt the enemy. Then the doubt becomes something we’re running away from. We’re chasing faith to make yourself feel better, the pleasure of faith versus the pain of doubt. But we want to open it up and really ask yourself “Why do we doubt? Why do I doubt? Why do I not naturally have this space?” I’m always worried, I’m a worrier, I get that from my family, my conditioning is to worry. And Rob said “I don’t know why you doubt, you always get what you want.” I said “Oh, that’s so interesting.” I’ve started playing this game, and it’s really interesting — how when you let go of the doubt or you’re working through it, you’re seeing it, you’re just like “Okay, I’m gonna play around with this.” This energy, it really is true, you start to see and have a direct experience that the doubt isn’t real. But if we’re pushing it away, we make it actually more real, and we feed it. That’s why we go toward it. It’s counterintuitive, because most people say “Clear the doubt away!” But we want to open it up, so we’re not afraid of it anymore and are like “Oh, I get this. This is the nature of my mind. The nature of my mind is to doubt and worry. But I’m not going to buy into it.” So you’re not pushing it away, but you’re not buying into it. That’s really how we work with it. So the self-inquiry is first listening to this voice and asking why are you doubting. 

Robert Maldonado  15:51

I’d say that it’s listening to higher knowledge because we’re asking “What is the nature of my mind? Why do I want these things?” We’re asking what is my purpose in life. If you think about goals, the vision that we have for ourselves in the future, that’s purpose essentially. But if the purpose is arising from our ego, from our limited conceptual mind, it’s always just about survival, always about me, about how I am going to be perceived by others. There’s nothing wrong with that, that’s our personality. That’s the way we exist in the social world. But it’s not real spirituality because it’s simply the appearance of it. A lot of people make this mistake, they think “If I appear spiritual to people, that’s the best I can do.” If I’m always peaceful, if I talk about religion, or spiritual ideas, that makes me a spiritual person, but that’s not spirituality, because it’s not including that doubt that we were talking about.

Debra Maldonado  17:12

Like Mother Teresa, it’s like seeing the faithful woman and the doubtful woman, and seeing they’re both part of you. When you’re having doubts, when you have anxiety or doubt over your vision, you know that you’re seeing it from the perspective of the ego. That’s where you start to ask yourself, or learn, or listen to higher knowledge about what is my true nature, that’s really what we’re trying to figure out. I’m not the ego. So what is my true nature?

Robert Maldonado  17:44

That’s a good question. We can only find that answer if we approach that question with ego. In other words, we’re affirming, yes, I am caught in limitation, I am caught in this lack mentality, or lack of faith, or lack of vision. If we don’t acknowledge that, then we’re just glossing over it.

Debra Maldonado  18:14

I would just push it away, “I can’t think negative, I got to ignore these feelings and these fears, and gotta get rid of them.” What happens is that they become more powerful the more you suppress them into the unconscious. There’s a lot of techniques that are actually suppressing emotion than really freeing yourself from emotion. We have to watch that if we’re pushing something away, we’re intimidated by anything, we are giving it power. So you’re giving your doubt more power by trying to get rid of it than actually inviting it in like the welcome friend and saying “Come sit down and let’s talk about this.” Through the teasing and examining and understanding the higher knowledge you start to open up to something different. So how do you listen to higher knowledge?

Robert Maldonado  19:03

In the Gita, it says that there’s three kinds of people that come to this work, meaning to spiritual development, not religion — again, we always want to be careful with that, but to spiritual awakening. Spiritual awakening can be done by the individual, we don’t need external sources except that it saves us a lot of time. But anyway, three kinds of people come to this spiritual awakening need. The first one are people that are in pain. Suffering itself forces us to ask the question “What the hell am I doing in my life and why is this not working for me? Why am I so unhappy despite the fact that I have so much?” Those kind of people are approaching this—

Debra Maldonado  20:03

Even if you don’t have much and you’re suffering from that, you perceive that you don’t have what you need, or something wronged you in some way.

Robert Maldonado  20:12

The suffering itself prompts us to seek. The second kind of person, though, approaches his work from the perspective of “I want to know, I’m curious, I want to know, I know there’s more to life than just gaining material success, or being a good person. It must be something more beyond that.”

Debra Maldonado  20:38

So it’s a quite a curiosity about our true nature.

Robert Maldonado  20:44

And then the third kind of person is somebody who has always had that instinct in them that this life is meant for self-realization.

Debra Maldonado  20:58

What’s different between those two, they seem similar.

Robert Maldonado  21:02

They seem similar, but the middle person, the one that is curious about finding something, they don’t know what they’re searching for yet.

Debra Maldonado  21:12

They’re questioning what is life about, like the midlife crisis people talk about? I don’t know what it is and what I’m searching for. It’s that kind of the seeking knowledge, but you’re not sure. And then the other one knows the knowledge they’re seeking?

Robert Maldonado  21:27

They know it’s the self that they’re seeking, this self realization. And the self, in Western culture, we can interchange it with God. Meaning God realization, again, not the religious God, but the personal, spiritual, divine self, the God within, which is what Jung called it. They asked him about the self, and he said “It’s the God within.” That’s the right way to think about it in translation, that you’re seeking the divinity within you, because you’re part of this universe.

Debra Maldonado  22:10

It’s the nature of reality, we always talk about. Do we live in a conscious universe or material universe? Who am I, am I that consciousness? And then the higher level is “I want to understand myself on that level.” Yes, it’ll alleviate suffering, or help me find some answers, but you’re really on that “I want to find the God within” and that higher knowledge versus just dealing with dissatisfaction or just curiosity. Almost like Bhakti yoga, that love of God, wanting to know and love God, that soulful you.

Robert Maldonado  22:54

In the Gita, it says that the bhakti yoga approach is the most accessible to everyone, because it simply requires us to seek that love of the spiritual. If you think, there must be something in everyone’s life that has shown them a little spark of divinity, in nature, or in a dream, or a vision.

Debra Maldonado  23:27

A grandmother that was so loving, someone that gave you love, or birth of your own child. When I was a hypnotherapist I would say “What is the happiest moment of your life?” I’d ask that question. Most mothers would say “When I held my first child in my arms the first time, such an incredible amount of love”, or “When I was around my grandmother, when I was a little girl, she always gave me that love.” So we know what love is in that way.

Robert Maldonado  23:52

Bhakti practice would simply be think of that, cultivate it, expand it, create the conditions for it to grow.

Debra Maldonado  24:04

This reminds me of that George Harrison song, “I really want to know you, I really want to be with you”. My Sweet Lord. He talks about Krishna. “I want to know you, I want to be with you. I want to find out more about you.” That’s the kind of devotional seeking that self-realization. So there’s those levels. You ask yourself “Where am I in the level of my suffering, I’m just trying to get out of suffering”, which is always the best place to start. Most of us have suffered. That’s where I started, finding my loneliness and going “There has to be a better way.” Then I got curious. Now I’m at the stage where I just want to know what I’m made of. I fell in love with reading books about spirituality and the ancient texts, and studying them and understanding consciousness. I’m not doing it in order to get something. That’s, I think, one of the biggest tragedies in the mass spiritual movements that a lot of people are using spiritual knowledge to get material things. That’s backwards, your ego’s just borrowing those techniques and those things to get material things. I guess that’s what I still have started to, but then I think more people need to find those higher levels.

Robert Maldonado  25:39

If you think about that principle, that’s the low base. Because you’re saying “I lack something, and something is going to make me happy. If I pray, or if I meditate, or use these spiritual principles, I’m going to get those things.”

Debra Maldonado  25:59

That’s how I started, then it got to this attachment and self judgment of when I didn’t create something that I wanted, I’m doing something wrong. If you don’t move to the next level you stay in that suffering, it temporarily gives you that “I feel like I’m making magic”, and then “Wait, I didn’t get this.” Feeling pull back a little bit. If you’re there, then think about “Let me get curious about the nature of my mind.” That’s really what you’re saying, that self inquiry of who am I and what is the nature of reality? When we think about it, the higher knowledge in Eastern philosophy, in Vedanta is that everything is consciousness, it’s a conscious universe, not a material, the matter arises out of consciousness. So the foundation or fundamental building blocks of everything that we see is consciousness, we are that consciousness. We’re one with, so everything we see is us, which is such a hard thing, I think, for the western person to realize, because it’s so anti, the West, we’re so materialistic, and we’re so about attaining things and thinking of things very externalized, where the East is more internal, self realization is really the prize versus the material success. How do we take our Western world and our culture and live in unity? And I think Jung talked a lot about this in his book “The Secret of the Golden Flower”, 100 years ago he was talking about how the Western mind takes the spiritual principles and tries to make it more materialistic. So how we do that is that we have to study it, and we can’t just read a book and say “Oh, that makes sense. I get it. I believe in it.” How do we have a direct experience of it, this knowledge of “I am consciousness, I am one with everything”? There’s no need to fear, all I have to have faith in is myself.

Robert Maldonado  28:07

It is a process, of course, the self realization. If you think about the word “realization”, it’s awakening to a deeper reality. It’s not simply an intellectual understanding, it is living that experience. It begins by hearing this higher knowledge just like you guys are doing right now, you’re hearing about this. The second stage that you have to take it to is contemplation, meaning you have to ask these questions, like that self inquiry that we were asking “What does this mean for me? Is it really true?”

Debra Maldonado  28:54

Contemplation is not just letting your ego run, it’s that awareness and watching yourself think about it?

Robert Maldonado  29:03

The knowledge is instructing you on what is the mind. Because, ultimately, the Upanishads, which we consider and we’ll talk a little bit more about, as the ultimate source of knowledge, is saying “You are not your mind. You have a mind just like you have a body. But you are the witness of that mind. You are the consciousness in essence of that mind.” That’s a very different perspective than the West which considers the brain, the mind as the origins of everything we do. So what the higher knowledge is instructing you already is to understand what is it that I’m observing when I’m observing my thoughts, and my emotions, and my actions.

Debra Maldonado  30:02

I love that because a lot of times people think “I gotta change my thoughts, and they change my life.” Then they wrestle with this flow thought by thought. And the easiest thing is to step back, watch the thoughts and say “I am not those thoughts, I’m seeing my mind.” Then all of a sudden, you start to have more power. It’s like going into a rushing river and trying to save a drowning person going “Don’t think that, don’t think that.” You could stand on the side and go “That person is drowning, but that person’s not real.” Then all of a sudden, it’s panicking for no reason, because that person is a mirage. It’s not as real and solid as I think. So that’s really that contemplation “Who am I?”

Robert Maldonado  30:48

Then finally, you get to meditation. When I first heard about meditation, I went home and sat down and tried to meditate. But, of course, that doesn’t work. You have to prepare for it. But real meditation is, especially as the Upanishads are saying “You’re going to meditate now on that fundamental truth that you are the self.” In other words, you’re going to saturate your mind and your thoughts with that understanding, not just as an intellectual exercise, but as a lived experience.

Debra Maldonado  31:28

You’re basically turning your external power, light from the external, grasping at the external to moving inward and going toward the center of who you are versus scattering your attention and your consciousness out into the world trying to pull things in. You’re going in and right to the source of who you are. Once you find that and have that direct experience, the other things will just appear when you need them and are not as attached. Let’s go deeper. Let’s talk about meta spirituality.

Robert Maldonado  32:03

One last thing on the meditation, though. Psychologically, what’s happening is you’re realizing that because your ego persona self is always changing, and always in flux, that cannot be the real you. You’re essentially falling back into that question of who is the one observing that reality, that experience that leads the meditator to the realization of the self? In the Upanishads — this is an interesting part because people have asked “Why do you guys believe so much in the Upanishads teaching?” Because it’s the only system that is not a religion. Here’s the way we make the distinction between religion and philosophy or higher knowledge. In religion basically, you’re buying into a dogma, meaning a set of beliefs and practices that are practiced in a certain way. You’re not really free to question them or to ask that question if it is as real or as true. The main objective is for you to believe.

Debra Maldonado  33:25

Which is why that whole diary of St. Teresa was so appalling to all the Catholics. Oh, she didn’t just have blind faith! But it was a healthy, conscious experience of “What is this about? What is this?”

Robert Maldonado  33:40

Obviously, I’m oversimplifying, because many religions are a good foundation for spiritual practices because they allow for prayer, for meditation, for self inquiry, all those things. So we’re not putting religion down.

Debra Maldonado  33:58

We have to understand — are we having faith in a religion or are we having faith in a higher knowledge, pure knowledge. What I love about the Upanishads, the scientists now studying quantum physics and reality are like “There really is no such thing as matter. We can’t find it. We think it’s there”, these things that these ancient seers saw thousands of years ago, they had this insight, where did that come from? It came from this pure, higher knowledge. It’s within us. It’s in all of us.

Robert Maldonado  34:34

We call it a meta spirituality because it’s the only philosophy or higher knowledge that criticizes its own self. It’s looking at its own literature and saying “You want to practice and get to the point where you don’t need us anymore. You won’t need these books, because you’ll find it in yourself.” That is a radical revolutionary idea. I’ve never seen it anywhere else where a scripture’s telling you “Practice, so you can find it within yourself, and then forget about the books.” That to me is so liberating. It is the foundation of a real spiritual practice that has the capacity to free your mind completely. So meta spirituality is one of the key points. The other one is that it says there are many ways to reach that truth. That’s very different than a religious dogma. Most religions lay out a path and say you have to follow that path and do it this way. In the Upanishads, we see that it’s saying “There’s many paths to finding this truth.”

Debra Maldonado  36:12

Even Krishna said “Whatever path someone’s on, encourage them, because it’s all leading to the self.” So even if you’re in suffering, you’re trying to manifest something and doing a vision board, it’s leading you to that, because there’s something else, you don’t feel helpless here, you’re starting out that way. Whatever someone’s doing, it’s not bad. It’s just we want to keep expanding their consciousness to see that there’s also more to them and give them more power in the world. But starting out that way is perfect. It encouraged them, because they’re seeking some sort of non-physical, non-material solution to their life. One of the two practices that I think were really helpful for cultivating faith, dispelling doubt, is when we think about attachment. The reason why we get scared when we don’t get the things we want, there’s a question “How come I don’t manifest what I need?” It’s this idea of attachment, a lot of times our ego’s attached to getting certain things. We have that doubt that we can’t have it, we don’t really assume it’s already there for us. We have to go in and move toward, again, the emotion of the attachment. Non-attached doesn’t mean we don’t care. Attachment means that we’re not afraid of not having it. I always feel like if you’re okay either way, and you’re just like “Let’s just be more playful about it”, you tend to have less stress and tension around the things you’re creating. But you also want to understand, is your ego desiring this or is this something coming from my higher self? And this only comes through experience. You can’t say “When it’s this way, it’s that way, it’s the ego.” But a good rule of thumb for people that are just starting out in this kind of process is if there’s fear around it, the ego’s involved, the ego has infiltrated this beautiful divine desire for things to express itself. There’s a saying that the divine wants to express itself through you. If we have a desire or vision, that’s our truer self saying “Let’s create something as that creative mind that we have.” Then the ego just jumps in and says “Who do you think you are? You can’t have that. Or if you have that something bad’s gonna happen.” Our conditioning and our patterns shut down this beautiful full self expression. But the non-attachment is that trusting in the divine.

Robert Maldonado  38:56

The Upanishads set up this non-attachment as primary superpower. To me, when you read the whole literature of both East and West on what is the mind and what is spirituality, this stands out above all, like this is the greatest idea anyone had. I know in the West, we used to think of Darwin’s idea of evolution as the greatest idea. No, I think this is the greatest idea. The idea that you can act and continue to act in the world with non-attachment, which means you’re not incurring any karma. Now, what that means psychologically is that you’re not getting attached by the results of your actions.

Debra Maldonado  39:54

What it means “I’m good when this happens”, or “I’m doing it right when this happens”, “I’ll be better when— ” That idea of hope, a lot of people hope that things will work out. What is that hope about? It’s actually building more attachment when you say “I hope something”, because you’re saying “I hope one day, everything’s gonna work out for me.” And that hope can cultivate suffering.

Robert Maldonado  40:20

What happens when we take actions with attachment is that the result of our actions, whatever outcome that action produces, has a conditioning effect on us. This is well documented in psychology. Conditioning has a power of behavioral effect on us, where it determines what is the next behavior that we’re going to emit. By the time we know it, we’re conditioned by our environment. We’re not really making free choices, we’re acting out of conditioning, it’s molding, shaping, determining our behavior. That’s basically the idea of karma in the Upanishads. The greatest idea was that you can act, simply by renouncing the attachment to the results, you’re completely free from the results of that action. It has to do with the execution of the action.

Debra Maldonado  41:28

You do it out of love regardless. I’m going to feed a million people, spend money. I don’t need someone to say “You’re a good person now” or people to appreciate it, or if the food gets to the person. You’re saying “I’m doing this act, and I’m handing it over to the results.” Because the act itself is fulfilling.

Robert Maldonado  41:54

Philosophically, we’re all caught up in it. Again, those dualities that we spoke about in the beginning, we think we’re moving towards the good and moving away from the bad. But that duality is false. It’s a false dichotomy. In other words, we don’t really know what impact our behavior is going to have on the world. You say “I’m gonna do something good. Today, I intend to do something good.” That sounds great. Nobody questions that, they applaud you. But are you really doing good?

Debra Maldonado  42:31

Then if someone says what you did was not good, you’re like “I failed.” And then that’s attachment.

Robert Maldonado  42:37

We see it over and over. People create harm out of their best intentions, they want to do good, they want to go save people in the Amazons. But in doing that, they contaminate them with the germs from the outside, and a lot of people end up getting sick and die. Those kinds of things are happening.

Debra Maldonado  42:58

There’s this story where they saved a young boy from death or something. What if he turned out to be the next Hitler? You don’t know if your actions are good or bad, ever. You can’t really see the long term because there’s so many things after you take that action, that result has a ripple effect. You can’t control any of it. Another thing too, I went to attachment because the comment was “I can attract or manifest with ease some things and some not.” There’s also an attachment to things being easy. I would examine, why do you need it to be easy? Because I found that the things that didn’t come to me easy were my greatest teachers. You want to have that openness to — it’s not the thing out there that you want to manifest, you want to come from the place of I want to have higher knowledge, leave the desire for knowing myself to have the higher knowledge. If it’s easy, you may miss out on something that could be really profound. I found the easy stuff is like “Oh, good, that’s nice.” But the life of ease is not really why we’re here, we’re here to wrestle with the things that we struggle with, so we can have the higher knowledge that should be the goal, not the objects that you want to create. When you do that, then everything becomes simpler. But we are Western, we want our goodies. We want the money and the love and the health and all those things. Culturally it’s hard to stay out of it, no matter how spiritual you are. We have to remember what is the purpose. If our purpose is growth and self realization, we always win because it doesn’t matter what that result is. Oh, it’s not what I wanted. Okay, how can I use this for my higher knowledge? You’re always dedicated to that, like Krishna said “Dedicate it to me. Dedicate your actions toward me, toward the self.”

Robert Maldonado  45:00

Psychologically, what that means is that you’re acting out of the realization that you are the self. In other words, you’re not really acquiring anything from the external. Because the external is an appearance of reality. In the ultimate reality, the absolute reality, everything is arising from the self, and everything is the self. There’s nothing really to acquire. So often people here ask this question “Why act at all?” If we’re not acting for the reason you have, we’re not acting for the result, if we’re not out to get the goodies, like you said, why act at all? It simply means that we’re free from the conditioning effect of our actions. So we continue to act, and we want to act. But we want to do it in a liberated way.

Debra Maldonado  46:01

I just got that at another level, just hearing you say that we’re free of the conditioning effect. Because if you get things that you want, and then you’re like “Oh, I’m good”, and when you don’t, you’re bad, then you’re still caught up, even if it’s a positive result. Another question, I think it’s really important. “The Upanishads say, you don’t need us anymore. Does that apply to us to do it not? Am I always going to need coaching?” Well, here’s the thing, you may find another coach that knows more than us. But as you evolve, you have to seek out, hire someone who knows just a little bit more, or has a little bit more direct experience, so they can keep pulling you forward. The Upanishads always say you’d have a guru. There’s that ancient tradition of having that guru to help you see what you can’t see. Once you have the foundation of the knowledge, it’s about having a direct experience. So coaching is really not about getting knowledge, coaching is about helping you integrate more of that knowledge. Someone who knows more, has more experience integrating that knowledge is going to be beneficial for you. Because if you’re trying to figure it out on your own, your ego’s going to be coaching you. So definitely you may evolve and head to other coaches, based on where you’re at. But I always think that we need someone, a mentor or someone to help us if we want to continue to grow. If you’re like “Okay, I’m done. I’ve reached the mountaintop, there’s not another mountain, I’m just good”, then that’s fine.

Robert Maldonado  47:53

Let me help you with that. It’s not saying you don’t need the Upanishads. It’s saying, you don’t need them forever. You do need them in the beginning, because it is the higher knowledge, and we’re steeped in lower knowledge. Lower knowledge simply means that we’re buying into the senses, we’re thinking the reality is what we are experiencing through our senses, what we see, hear, touch, taste, all that. The Upanishads are saying, that’s not the reality, it appears to be the reality. The absolute reality’s that you are the self, that you are consciousness. In the beginning you do need the Upanishads because it is the higher knowledge of the true, absolute reality. It requires that retraining of your mind to let go of that attachment that we have to this external reality.

Debra Maldonado  48:59

But there’s a difference between reading books and actually putting it to work and having someone also guiding it.

Robert Maldonado  49:07

The ultimate aim is for you to embody that truth, then you become the living word for others. You’re the living example. And ultimately, once you don’t need the scriptures or the gurus or the teachers, you become the teacher, so you can free other people’s minds.

Debra Maldonado  49:37

But I want to distinguish that once you’re done with the text, reading text alone, you need someone to help you because your ego can interpret the text in different ways — someone who has a more direct experience. You want to meditate on it, you want to look but there’s a reason why all the swamis had gurus. Could you elaborate on the question why act at all? You said something about being free from conditioning, I just need help understanding that. Conditioning is the suffering of life. It’s that duality of positive or negative lack in abundance. Early in life, we get conditioned to go toward pleasure and away from pain. If we’re acting purely toward pleasure only, we are caught up in that attachment. We’re not really free, because we’re only getting that positive, because we are escaping the negative. I’ll let you elaborate on it too. What we’re doing is letting go of the positive or negative, is it good or bad, this result, and that actually frees us. If we’re only feeling good when we get good results and bad when we get bad results, we’re caught up in that external, it has so much power over our own feelings, our own emotions, our own life, and our own joy. And by non-attachment we get to have joy, regardless of what shows up. We get not a happy joy, but more of a pure bliss experience. You’re free of that duality.

Robert Maldonado  51:19

It’s a great question. It goes deeper than that too. It goes into this idea that we cannot not act. You can try it and actually verify this. You cannot sit still without any action at all. Action in the Upanishads is also a thought. Because thinking is like we’re imagining the action, we’re running through it in our head. There’s actual movement and action going on in our mind brain. Action is never off the table. In other words, it’s a condition of being alive, having a body, you cannot not act.

Debra Maldonado  52:05

Even if you can’t move your body, your mind is spinning. And even in a coma, they say, the brainwaves, people are still, it’s active. There’s something going on.

Robert Maldonado  52:15

So if we can’t take action off the table, then we have to ask the next question. What action should I take? And what is the intention of that? That’s where the Upanishads instruct us in a very particular way. It says “You’re going to continue to do your duty.” And your duty is essentially the role that you’re playing right now. In other words, you’re going to continue to do the task at hand. If you’re working, continue to work. If you’re raising a family, continue to raise family.

Debra Maldonado  52:58

Even if that act is “I want to get out of suffering.” Like you said, that first level. Let’s start where you’re at. For me, I was lonely and single and wondering why all my friends got married, and I’m still alone. That’s where I started. That led me to meeting this guru over here. But my intention wasn’t self realization, it was more “get me out of suffering”. So wherever you are, that’s how you act.

Robert Maldonado  53:30

Let me just finish this thought. Then you continue to take action, and whatever the task that you’re performing as part of your duties, the only difference is that you’re going to drop the attachment to the result of the action. Now what that does psychologically, it liberates you from the conditioning power of those results. If you get a positive, you’re okay, you’re neutral. If you get a negative, you’re neutral because you’re not attached to those results. When you’re attached to the result, then a positive instructs you or conditions you to repeat the action and to want more of that. The negative conditions you not to want more or not to repeat the action. Very much like addiction. So what that liberation does, now you start to really have a choice as to how you’re going to act in the world. Whereas before you’re acting out of that conditioning. In the Gita it says you’re being moved like a puppet with the strings. Your actions are compelled by your past conditioning. So that freedom really starts to liberate your mind from that conditioning effect, then you’re able to act as a free will.

Debra Maldonado  55:17

So we’re almost out of time. What would be the culmination of everything we talked about today? We went that in order to have faith, what we’re doing is not having faith in the things out there, but faith in ourselves and who we are as conscious beings, that we can’t get it through blind faith that we just believe what we read or see, we want to have a direct experience of it. So we want to learn higher knowledge. But then contemplate, listen, meditate on these things, try them out. Even try this idea of non-attachment, practice just doing something for the sake of doing something and letting go the attachment, and notice how free you become. These concepts are so against the grain of how we were conditioned, that’s why it feels so weird and awkward. When we try it, we get this other experience of ourselves and another way of being that is free.

Robert Maldonado  56:19

Just one last thing on the conditioning. You are able to enjoy the fruits of the action. Because it doesn’t prevent you. Anytime you take an action, there will be a result, you’ll still enjoy it, you still perceive it, but you won’t be attached to it. In other words, all we’re doing is dropping the attachment so it doesn’t have that conditioning effect on us. But we’re still able to enjoy those things.

Debra Maldonado  56:48

I have a good tip for people who think this is impossible. Love every result. If you at least start there, you can just love every result. Oh, that didn’t work out. Great. That’s awesome. That worked out, great. You’re neutralizing that duality. Start with loving everything that comes up, embracing it. I think that’s probably easier for someone than just be let go of the positive and the negative. Just make everything perfect. This is just perfect.

Robert Maldonado  57:20

The point is we’re not numbing ourselves to the beauty and ups and downs of life, we’re still participating in them and enjoying them.

Debra Maldonado  57:29

But we want to examine why we’re in suffering or we’re not having what we asked, or why we’re in suffering with the doubt. Going toward that, and what is that about? There’s so much richness in there and so much light and insight. Through that going inward and asking yourself why versus “That didn’t work out? Let me keep going and taking lots of action externally and not really examining why is it so painful in the first place? Why is it so bad that I don’t have this or that?”

Robert Maldonado  58:00

If I had one piece of advice for people that want to cultivate that faith in themselves and in their vision, it’s this. You have to be very clear on this idea. You have to cultivate it. In other words, we all have it, it’s given to us, it’s given to everyone. But you have to cultivate it, you have to consciously approach it and say “I’m going to make this priority, I’m going to put it at the top of the list. I know, I have to pay the rent, I have to work on other stuff. But priority is awakening this principle in my mind and working on it.”

Debra Maldonado  58:44

And a lot of times the vision we have that we want is not the real result. It’s the means in order for us to self-realize. The divine gives us these desires to make the world a better place, help others, do these things. But that’s not the end result. That’s the smaller goal. The big goal is that you get to know who you are. And so you use these smaller human goals and these visions to self-realize. When you do it that way, it all becomes wonderful because growth will happen either way, whether you get what you want or don’t in the short term, you’re going to grow from it. And that’s really the price. The price is you. Okay, great questions. Thank you for joining us. We will see you next week for another fabulous episode of Soul Sessions. Don’t forget to subscribe, there’s a button here on the corner to subscribe to our channel. And also check us out on Spotify and Buzzsprout and all those wonderful— iTunes. And again, leave a review, let us know what you think about it. We’d love to hear some honest reviews. It helps other people find us as well.

Robert Maldonado  1:00:03

Thanks for the great questions.

Debra Maldonado  1:00:05

Thank you so much, everyone. Have a great weekend.

Robert Maldonado  1:00:07

Thanks for watching. 

Debra Maldonado  1:00:09 

Bye bye.

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