A Moment With Awaken – Richard Drent

“There are too many miracles going on to fuss”

Welcome to “A Moment With Awaken!”

For this month’s board member interview, I had the pleasure of speaking with Richard Drent. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did.

Awaken Pittsburgh:  I would love to hear how your practice started? How long have you been practicing meditation?

Richard: Actually it started way back, in my first career. I was in ministry, Christian Ministry. And there is Christian meditation. When people hear meditation they think ‘Oh you’re Buddhist!’ But you can be just about anything, I can’t imagine anything you can’t be and meditate…I think what we’re trying to do [at Awaken Pittsburgh] is help people discover their value system and bring ‘being’ into that system. And I’ve been at it for a while and tried various approaches. I find it much more liberating now. I don’t have a particular approach to mediation, I have a discovery approach. I just take the time to go ‘Ok, I’m going to be here today, haven’t died yet. So as I have experiences today I am going to learn, I will discover things about myself and what I can create from my presence…So I’m having a ball, I enjoy it tremendously.

Awaken Pittsburgh: It seems like people are almost afraid to give up that striving. It’s silly but we choose to strive rather than rest in that natural happiness. Why do you think that is?

Richard: It’s because we are in a ‘doing’ culture, not a ‘being’ culture… And somehow we believe this striving is going to lead to satisfaction. But you never achieve more, because you’ll always need more. You don’t need to achieve more, you need to achieve enough. And you get to decide where enough is. And when you have enough, you don’t need more. How can you need more when you have enough?

Awaken Pittsburgh. I totally agree. But then it seems like the next thing that comes up for people is the fear of losing it. We’re afraid that once we have enough we might lose it. So what’s the antidote to that?

Richard: Well you kind of have to accept the fact that you didn’t have it when you got here. If your security is in what you have rather than who you are, you can lose it. And a lot of that fear comes from the, in my opinion, mistaken belief, that the universe is out to get you. And it really doesn’t matter whether you believe in a creation story or if you just believe the natural forces of the universe came together and eventually created this. Either way you approach that, you’re right where you belong.

Awaken Pittsburgh: It gets you right Here.

Richard: The only thing that scares us is the people that we share the planet with that want more than they need. We’re the only beings that do that… So we create this fear culture of never having enough. Therefore there’s never gonna be a big enough pie, never gonna be enough to sustain ourselves at the level of more. So we create this environment where we need to protect ourselves. Oh well. 

So I’ll ask people what’s bothering them, but don’t include another human being. Not a whole lot out there. It’s mostly human relationships. Relationships that are needing more emotionally or needing more financially…I’m kind of blunt with relationship advice. ‘I can’t get this person to do this’ Okay tomorrow morning, wake up and pretend they’re dead, now live your life. Why are they controlling your life?

Awaken Pittsburgh: You’ve given them everything, given them the keys to your kingdom.

Richard: Yes. The more you need, the more you can be manipulated.

Awaken Pittsburgh: So in a relationship, when someone is telling us about someone who’s bothering them, how do we maintain this idea while still being there for them?

Richard: Well, I think what they need is to try to come to a self-understanding of: why does this bother me so much? … Unless it’s just something totally contrary to values that you can’t surrender, what’s the problem? You know maybe it’s ‘they talk too much.’ Well, you might have to help them realize that the real problem is maybe they can’t listen that long…And that to me is how we can learn about ourselves through these problems. Something is happening in me that’s telling me they talk too much. That I can deal with because that is in here. 

Awaken Pittsburgh: What are your thoughts on this idea of people saying they’ll be happy once they retire? You’ve seemed to dodge that puzzle by being happy before you retire. 

Richard: When people say that to me, I ask ‘Well what will cause that?’And they’ll often say ‘I won’t have to work’ So you put 40 years of your life into something you did not want to do. But we preach that all the time. I was thinking about putting this out on Linkedin the other day: ‘Is a good job one that gives you a good salary or one that makes you a good person?’ Because a salary comes and goes, but you are you throughout your whole life. It’s much more valuable to find a job that makes you a good person than gives you a good salary.

Awaken Pittsburgh: I hope we are coming out of that as culture, but I just don’t know. I see the growth of things like mindfulness and how it helps, but do you think the world-at-large is changing?

Richard: I think in some ways it is. I hate the way they talk about ‘the woke culture’. The woke culture is just realizing more people are human than you thought. And we’re accepting each other as human and not by color or age or race or gender or transgender or whatever it is. We’re saying let’s find out about each other. And that used to be ‘Oh you’re turning your back on your own.’ No, I’ve just got a bigger ‘own’ now….

What makes life fun is finding out what you’re going to learn today; about yourself, about how you’ve been taught to look at the world. And are you willing to allow the world to reveal itself to you? Or do you have to impose your image of it? With people, do you have to have people that are like you or can you just like people? And it’s a whole lot more fun this way.

So the place for mediation is when I get to come home, and sit out and look out the window, and put everything together. Just let it marinate in there like ‘Oh I noticed this happened today and I noticed this is how I felt about it. What’s that tell me about that and me?’ … I remember thinking one night, just after this meditation, ‘I am really enjoying seeing the sunset. And the thought crossed my mind ‘I’m part of this universe, I wonder how much I would enjoy being the sunset. Wouldn’t that be cool?…This whole deal here. ‘This flower smells good.’ That flower is part of you. It’s here for you and you’re here for it. It’s cool. There are too many miracles going on to fuss. Just enjoy it.

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