Donna Quesada: Ora, what is your background? Do you consider this a spiritual or part of a spiritual path that you are helping people embark on?
And do you come from a spiritual tradition yourself?
Ora Nadrich: I do consider this work very spiritual. I feel called to share this wisdom, this teaching, these methods, these skills…really based on my own story, my own history that I experienced. I consider myself a seeker. I’ve always been a seeker even as a young girl. I realize I was an unintentional existentialist. I didn’t know that I was but I was writing very profound poetry at ten years old and I was asking the questions. Maybe with not the same sophistication that I have as an adult. But I was always a seeker. I come from a…not religious family, but I would say, a spiritual family.
My father was very versed in Kabbala. We would have many family gathering around the table. Sundays were family day. We talked about life and we talked about the meaning of life. And we looked at life in a much deeper way. So, I had a sense of that in the household. And Sunday felt like a holy day for me, even though we didn’t go to church or temple but I felt like my home was that. My father also watched all of the religious programs when I was growing up and he had this deep understanding of all religions. And that definitely impacted my life for sure. So, I think that was always there. And then I evolved and had this incident that happened to my sister which was really devastating. And it took me on a deep, psycho-spiritual journey to understand the thinking mind better. And having done that and coming to understand what that is, certainly what that is for me, my process and my journey, I felt that I could help so many people understand that they didn’t have to deal with the effect and suffer as much as I’ve seen—suffering because of the thoughts that we hold true in our minds.
DONNA: Wow. It’s almost like…you hear spiritual teachers, like Eckhart Tolle, talk about limit situations,or in some traditions, the dark night of the soul. Which is a little more dramatic. Do you believe that we have to have a moment like that, that launches us into a desire for awakening?
ORA: I don’t think that we have to have it, but I think that we must not try and stop ourselves from having it. And we live in a time when the Opioid crisis is quite alarming in that people want to numb themselves from feeling the things that I really invite people to come closer to. To not be afraid to come to know oneself…the inner journey. And I understand that so many people are afraid to venture. They don’t want to go into areas that seem frightening to them. Or what Jung called, “the Shadow.” The Aspects of the unconscious that are not known. To know oneself, one must know all of oneself. I’m very much in favor of the inner journey. The Dark Night of The Soul. I don’t think that’s anything that someone would seek out or ask for, but I think it’s the most valuable understanding of what our pain and suffering really is about. We mustn’t numb ourselves from it. We must not be afraid to go towards it.
The basis of my work really talks a lot about that. And I’ve just written a new book that goes much more into it. You know, meet yourself. Go into the unknown. Go into the places…go into the areas of yourself so you can come to know all aspects including the aspects of yourself that you could consider the dark night of the soul. The darker aspects. What Jung called “the Shadow.”
To put it in a simpler way to understand it…the Crayola Box has every color in it. It has grey and black. You wouldn’t be able to really color a picture properly if you didn’t have all the colors. You couldn’t play the piano if you didn’t have all the spectrum of the keys. This is life. We must have all of these. We must embrace all of these aspects into our being and understand that these aspects of who we are make up for the whole being. So, I really want to support that. I think my work is very much about that. My work is about starting by questioning your thoughts, so you can understand them better. So you can know them…and that by going towards your thoughts…I say in Says Who? “Own your thoughts!” Not just the pretty ones. Own your thoughts!…all of them. They will tell you who they are. You will come to know yourself better than you ever have before.
DONNA: As our website is Awaken.com, let me ask you, is this what it means to awaken? Getting to know yourself in that way...all the parts?
ORA: Yes, this is the journey of awakening. The definition of Awakening is rousing yourself from sleep. What does it mean to be awake? I think we’re awake to varying degrees. I think the only way we can be fully awake and aware and conscious of our beingness and who we are, is to go into the places that we are talking about, like, not shying away from the more difficult or painful aspects of who we are. I don’t believe we can awaken…I don’t believe we can be fully conscious until we awaken to who we are in all of its entirety. Do you know?
DONNA: I think I do. And also, I want to ask you. Is this something we can do alone? If I can use the G word, God. I know it can be a problematic word because people have different ideas about what it is. So, sometimes it’s safer to use words like Source or Infinite or things like this. Do you think to fully awaken…can we do this on our own or do we need to surrender to a higher power?
ORA: You know, again…these are such personal decisions. I think, going into the unknown and going into the great unknown…life has areas in it that are foreign and unknown and it can be very scary and frightening. For some people more than others. And I believe that it’s really to one’s own comfort…what you feel will assist or aid you in this process. For some seekers…they walk the journey alone. For others, they are held up by beliefs, or religion, or their faith, or whatever bolsters or strengthens the journey for them, so they don’t feel alone or so isolated on this journey. I think these are really personal decisions to make. I feel that if you want that help, or guidance, or support, or nurturing, and you can name it as such, whatever that is for you…then that again, is a personal decision. For some people, they doneed a guru, or they need a priest, or they need a Rabbi, or they need a teacher, or they need a practice. And for others, they need other things. So again, this is a very personal choice. This is our life journey. These are our life journeys that we are on. And if you look at your life in that way, that you are on this journey to awaken…this is what being here is. It’s to become more conscious. To raise our awareness. To awaken from our unconsciousness. I support anybody in doing whatever they believe can help them in that process.
DONNA: Do you, yourself, have a teacher or did you have a teacher?
ORA: You know, I embarked on my psycho-spiritual journey rather young. And I didn’t even know to ask for anything. I feel like a lot of my journey has been very…I call a lot of it divine providence. Maybe unknown to me what I longed for, I was met with. I knew that I wanted answers and I knew that I was unafraid to find them. So, whatever I was met with at the time was the perfect guide or teacher that I needed. Being that I grew up in the household that I told you about…I was very drawn to reading. I read a lot of books on Kabbala philosophy…psychology. So, I was really, very hungry to know answers to my questions. And then along the way, I had the good fortune of meeting wonderful teachers along the way. Partaking in different methods and modalities…always trying to lean more.
And then, when I was really suffering terribly because of what happened with my sister, I knew that I needed more psychological guidance…that I sought out a Jungian analyst and it was the most perfect thing I needed at the time. They say when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Well, the teacher comes in many manifestations. The teacher can be looking into a river. A teacher can be wearing a saffron robe. The teacher can be in a church, the teacher can be in a temple, the teacher can be someone that you encounter on the street, that is a stranger and you had an encounter with them and something happened. Well, what did you learn from that? If we look at everything as an opportunity to be learning, an opportunity to help in the awakening…I view everything as a meditation. Everything we encounter helps us to become more awake if we see it that way.
DONNA: So, would you say that meditation doesn’t have to take the form of sitting on a cushion?
ORA: I started meditating when I was about 19 years old. Again, I feel very blessed that these things came to me because it’s my understanding that I sought them out whether I articulated it verbally or just thought it. Again, the power of thought. And I’m very grateful that I learned transcendental meditation, which helped me become a very disciplined meditator. But fast forward to today and I also became a mindfulness meditation teacher years later and became very ensconced in mindfulness. I, today, really see how meditation is not only important when you are sitting on a pillow or a yoga mat, but where its greatest testing is out in the…It’s not just for the time when one is doing it, but when one has completed the meditation. It’s as if now, you go and you use your meditation out in the world in all that we do.
DONNA: What is the relationship between oneself and the peace that one brings to the world. I think this is an ongoing point of controversy…when people hear yogis and people who practice meditation talk about the importance of it, and they think, you should be more active…and you hear it a lot in yogic culture, “I’m changing the world in more profound ways just by making myself a more peaceful person.” Perhaps even more than if I were marching, or more than 10,000 unconscious people marching. And there seems to be a relationship that is not realized between making oneself more peaceful and affecting the world, even if it’s in a less direct way. Do you have any opinions about that?
ORA: I don’t think that they are mutually exclusive. I think that we…one of my favorite quotes is, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” that Gandhi said. Well, how are we becoming the change? What are we doing that is becoming the change? Or, being the change, if you will. Not to put it in a future tense but a present tense. I think that all that we do, waking, sleeping, actively or internally, is that. That is what we are contributing out into the world. By just who we are in our beingness. And how you choose to be in your beingness and your doingness, if you will, is what affects change. Do you know what I mean? It’s who you are,whether you are sitting in meditation or you are in your car driving and you let someone go in front of you or you walk into a place and you don’t slam the door behind you, but rather look behind you to see if someone is walking behind you and you can hold the door open for them. Or you are marching because there is a movement and it is asking you to participate. You know, we are being asked all the time to be these more conscious human beings and it’s not that, oh, I choose to be more conscious over here but not so much over here…I believe that it becomes conscious awareness and participation in all the areas of our lives.
DONNA: And it reminds me of something else that you coined when I was watching a few of your videos. You have something cute, called Morning Cup of Coffee,to make this practice of meditation more attainable for busy people. Can you tell us about that? How could the average busy person incorporate that into their lives?
ORA: As a meditation teacher and a meditator myself, I really wanted to share with people…When I heard…many people would say, “Ora, I don’t have time to meditate. I’m too busy.” I started to hear that, or when I was teaching groups meditation, they all loved it when they were doing it and many of them weren’t practicing meditators, and they would say “I just don’t think I’m going to do this when I go home…I really like doing it with you, but I don’t think I’ll do it when I go home.” Or, then I would see them for the next meditation and they hadn’t meditated. So, for me, I don’t want people to think that the only way to meditate is to sit down on a pillow or a yoga mat and that, as I said earlier, you can turn everything and anything into a meditation.
Now, that may sound somewhat abstract for someone who is not used to sitting and being quiet. I’ve really encouraged people and I’ve been on many radio shows where I would speak about this and say to people who had never meditated before…I’d say, “can you just sit quietly for ten minutes?…or, let’s just say, five?” Let’s not even put a time frame on it. And I’d say, “If I were to ask you to just close your eyes right now, can you do that?” and they would say, “Yeah, I can do that.” And I’d say, “Ok, well, why don’t you just be with me and we’ll have our eyes closed together…now, locate your breath…can you do that? Whether you put your hands over your heart or you just close your eyes and visualize your heart pumping…can you do that?” And they’d say, “Yeah.” And they would get quiet. Suddenly, there would be total silence. And I’d say, “now, open your eyes.” And they would say, “that actually felt really soothing or calming.” I said, “Well, you were meditating!”
That’s a form of meditation. Just to get quiet with oneself. I’m not talking about a meditation that is practice based, or mantra based, or anything that has to do with some particular practice of meditation. I’m talking about finding time just to be still, which can happen just for a couple of minutes. To understand what it means just to be still. Just to be quiet. Not to do anything. To sit quietly and not have to fidget. Not have to step out of the present moment and be in any other time frame, other than the present moment. Well, this started to introduce to people that there really is no time better than the present moment to be still, if that is something you choose to be.
Continued in Part III