13 Dec An Interview with Rafia Morgan….
Meet Rafia Morgan, an ex-bored introvert teenager who turned into an inspiring leader on psychology and spirituality!
Like many of us, Rafia Morgan turned a life crisis into a quest to a fulfilling life. It led him to not only explore deep territories within himself and fellow humans, but also to teach and travel the world. Co-creator of many workshops and retreats including “Path of Love” and of a training called “Working with People”, his work has touched many lives from the renowned Omega Institute in New York to the serenity of the Greek Islands, all the way to India and Australia.
To reach the interview location set in a lively Corfiot village, a fragrant smiling gentleman picked us up on his motorbike. His warmth, laughter, shiny intelligent eyes and honest sharing made us want time to stop!
Rafia, if you were in front of bored teenagers, how would you introduce yourself?
Bored teenagers… hahaha… Oh, I don’t know… I would probably make some notice of the age difference and tell them that I have found a way to deeply enjoy my life… and… (cracking up laughing….) that I was once a bored teenager, and I decided that that life was not interesting to me and I started a spiritual search inside of myself. I started uncovering all kinds of beautiful inner riches which led me through my life and caused my life to turn into an adventure that was fun and fulfilling and deeply satisfying, and I just couldn’t do the bored teenager thing. You know, it was depressing!
Out of the boredom and the meaninglessness, the feeling of pointlessness… and looking around and seeing the world and feeling like “urghh, I don’t want to be a part of that”, I started searching, because I felt there was another potential to life and… it worked… (laughter…)
Oh, what was the trigger that got you started into searching and into spirituality?
Well, it actually came out of a heartbreak situation where my unhappiness got made even stronger, where our relationship ended and I was feeling very depressed about it. It was my first kind of life crisis in a way. My life hadn’t been particularly traumatic but that was a real crisis and I started reading Erich Fromm’s “Art of Loving” which touched me. I felt like “aaahhh, there is some intelligence out there”! Because it related to me so much, and then I read a book from Alan Watts called “The Book” and it was an Eastern perspective on life.
I was in university at that point and it was the first thing that I ever read that actually made real intelligence to me, it corresponded to something that I sensed or knew in my inner world. Those words were resonant with me, and all of a sudden it opened the doors of so many things that I already knew in a certain way but had no way to imagine how to live, or bring out, or manifest myself in.
And then I was very fortunate that I lived in California at the time when many new therapies and spiritual ideas were coming forth, and I started doing some groups and going to some meditation retreats. Things started opening up inside of me that I had really never thought about or considered were even possible, and it just started bringing this sense of happiness, which started to grow inside of me. I found other people, really in a way, other alienated souls, who were doing the same, who I could connect with, who didn’t feel like they were part of the normal culture so much. That was a relief to me! Other people who felt similar things as me! And then it just went from there, I did lots of groups and I started reading spiritual books and then eventually it led me to go to India and so… it kind of all unfolded out of a heartbreak…
What were you studying in university?
Economics at UC Berkeley. Well actually, I was going to go to law school as I was very much involved with social injustice, trying to make change in the world. I thought being a lawyer would be a great way to do that. And then I had some kind of vision, it was almost like an out of body experience. I saw myself very clearly, and I realised that I wasn’t capable of changing the world until I changed. I was just angry, I was upset, I was blaming, I felt the victim,… I wanted change and I was surrounded by thousands of other people at that moment, who were politically active and socially aware and we did a lot of great things! I still continue to be involved in a lot of the things that came out of the early seventies, but inside myself I started to feel this deep hunger for meditation and for quiet and for some of the experiences that I was having when I was doing the groups.
My focus after that shifted from “I am going to change the world” to “I am going to transform myself”.
Now at this point in my life I feel there is a focus that is coming back into taking social activism, and I am involved in the UK with some young people who want to form new politics and they want them to include spiritual understanding. I feel the world circumstances are such that something else needs to come up! It’s like the things we did in the seventies became part of the mainstream. They lost their power over time, and now we have a lot of the right wing stuff that starts to come up and I trust it as part of the bigger process. I know that it’s going to give birth to another counter-cultural movement and evolution of what happens socially and politically, because there is so much that needs to be addressed right now, and I feel it’s stirring. I feel it particularly in my young friends in London, they are really into it. At the same time they are very spiritually aware, and more or less awake I would say. They want to bring the two together and they see me as this older guy who has lived it already, so they invite me to meetings and to speak: there was a conference in September where a lot of political people from around Europe gathered, and I gave a talk…
It is exciting, and I feel I am in a position right now where I can talk with a little bit more authority from my life’s experiences than I was when I was still really young and I just didn’t know what was going on… I had to sort myself out… (laughter)
You just taught a retreat on true contact, do you have some wisdom or insights for introverts?
Well, the funny thing about true contact is, when we think of contact we think it’s something that happens outside of us. And it does manifest that way in the end but the real contact that needs to happen is inside, so in a way introverts are a lot of times quite close to that, and can access it!
And then through that, they are able to work on their patterns of isolation and alienation and separation, and to go into the history of that and feel those things and take some risks. Because I think introverts are very rich inside, and I am quite introvertive myself, even if I have an outward going personality at this point… introverts got a bad name in this age where everybody is supposed to be so out there and so contact full and so engaged with everything. And yet they are often the most sensitive people who can have the intelligence to see through the meaninglessness and the hopelessness and the stupidity of a lot of the social activities!
And yet they still have a very strong yearning to make meaningful and deep contact, and so I think these people need to heal then. Some introverts really suffer in isolation and so it’s important to go in, and really face what that isolation really is about, where did it start, what are my habits and how do I continue to perpetuate that place of isolation. Because we fix it in a certain way and then we become geniuses at gathering the evidence to confirm a safe place in our personality, and that safe place can be introverted, but then it becomes very lonely. And so there is that need to do a little healing… because oftentimes there is a big wound in there where the person gets the sense that “I am not loved, I am not precious, I don’t have a place here”.
“I don’t belong” is probably the real core belief a lot of times of people who are really introvertive. They often see themselves as outside of everything that is going on.
And yet I find most have a big longing to belong, to feel connected, and to be able to make true contact, not fake contact, not “hahahaha” you know, fake happy contact, but true contact. And to be in true contact, you have to be true to yourself and to be willing to say the truth to the people that are around you. The truth connects us in ways that are deeply satisfying to the soul, but you have to tell the truth. And the truth often feels risky, because maybe you grew up in a way where the truth wasn’t always appreciated. And there is a great line from A.H. Almaas that is: “Joy is the radiance from the heart, when truth is appreciated”. And I love that line because we appreciate the truth, it makes our hearts happy, and we become radiant in that, and that radiance is also very attractive! Then it becomes more easy to make contact or it attracts the people that will understand it, like very sensitive introverts. Because to be in isolation is a really painful situation. Many people suffer in it… a lot…
How often do you meditate and how do you meditate?
I used to have a very regular practice for many, many years, and there have been times when I was really fanatic about it almost… when I would meditate many hours in a day. Now I don’t have a practice, to be honest, not that I could honestly say is regular, that I sit down for a particular amount of time in a particular time during the day, as my meditation time. But after doing it for so many years, I kind of recognise when I feel like I start to get a bit lost in myself, or if I start to get too busy, or feel unhappy or discontent or something like that. The best medicine I can take really is to sit down with myself and be present.
I’m not trying to get anywhere with meditation, not trying to get to some other state, it’s more like to sit down and really be present with what is. In those moments it’s maybe being too speedy or too busy, or a bit irritable because I’ve been doing too much, and then I just go there and stay with that, I really stay with it and stay with it and experience it and feel it, and I am quite connected to my body and I have the capacity to be able to do that, and part of that is being grounded. I really ground myself, I really sit, until I feel like I am really present in my body and then I visit whatever is going on inside and stay with it. And that’s kind of alchemical in itself, the presence that can stay with something, it becomes a meditation, which creates a transformation and a shift, and an insight, a relief. And then I sort of meditate when I feel like I lose the inner beauty… of being alive. It’s more like that right now.
I still like to do meditation retreats sometimes, I like to go to some place and say “ok, let’s see what happens if I take a week, or put myself in a room for a few days and turn off all the machines, and just stay with myself” and then the whole thing is meditation and it sometimes is quite challenging until the feeling of really dropping in happens.
It’s more on my own now at his point, I once went to a Tibetan monastery, and sat in a room for 21 days and they would just put my food outside the door.. you know…. That was pretty intense… I’ve done several 10-day meditation retreats, and some of 3 days and of 7 days, and then I lived in an ashram in India for quite a while and it was so much meditation everyday… it’s pretty engrained in me right now but I don’t meditate to try to get somewhere else other than to be more present, here and now. I think when I started meditating I really had a lot of spiritual ideas about things that were out there… and I was trying to get there…. And I had some glorious experiences with that, but I was always trying to get back there and that created tension in my meditation and it brought a goal to it. I see meditation more as an unfolding event, rather than I getting somewhere… which is just like if I want to get somewhere, then I am… pretty lost hahaha…
Would you agree to describe and share one of your glorious meditation experiences?
Ummmh, there is nothing much to say, I just had meditation experiences where I just felt pure and utter bliss. I felt like I was somehow touched by the divine, and somewhere where I was full of light and really in a certain way, like almost erased as a person, and sometimes it lasted for a couple of days… you know, I mean… that happens… Just like everything is in its place and just completely… aware… and bliss…
Bliss, you know… then what happens is that it’s generally called a “satori” experience which means to be connected with the universe in me, but satori comes and goes, but then it leaves such a thirst inside, to get back to it. I once spent, after a really strong satori experience, I basically spent a year in my room, and every opportunity – I was working at the time – but every spare minute I had, I was meditating until I realised that nothing was happening! I was trying to get back to something, that had already happened! I was trying to duplicate the conditions and the meditations and all the things, and I was actually making myself quite unhappy! And then I saw it… but it took a long time, it took almost a year because the experience was so strong. I don’t say that that wasn’t a wonderful time also, because to have that kind of intensity of longing and that willingness to practice, and to demonstrate to myself that I can have that kind of discipline, that hunger was so great, was something valuable… But then one day it just… I was sitting in my room and then heard a voice, from down below the house. A friend had arrived and she was calling up to me and I heard her voice and I realised “oh, I am so happy, that somebody had come”… I just stopped that day, the whole thing, ran downstairs… got in a relationship with her and stopped my meditation for a while, in the way that I was doing it, which was starting to get a little compulsive…
Do you ever feel disconnected from yourself and from the Divine?
Well, could you share why that may happen, or describe an experience you had?
The thing is, I feel like life is like a constant learning and unfolding of self-discovery and truth, and there is certainly something called enlightenment, that hasn’t happened to me in a way that I have a concept about it anyway! I remember Osho saying one time that you don’t really understand enlightenment. You think that it means infallibility, that you are so in touch with everything, that there is no more learning, that there is no possibility of mistakes. He said it’s not true, you are anchored into the divine and you have access to it all the time but you are still evolving even in that state, and there is still an unfolding that is happening. And when I heard that, it was such a great thing to hear because I stopped looking for the big bang/finish of everything, and started to see my life as an unfolding.
In some way it’s about becoming more and more human, rather than getting more and more divine, although divine and human go together for me very much. So yes, I am faced with challenges, I make mistakes, I react to things. My practice has a lot to do with inquiry right now where I try to stay very curious about whatever is coming up inside of me, and to be present with that, which is a kind of meditation. But in that I see myself get too busy, overwork, overcommit, not have good enough boundaries, have fights with my girlfriend, I mean all these things are part of life, but they become opportunities to learn and to realise another part of my being, and I see it that way. So when I feel lost, then I inquire, “what is this right now, where am I, what is this all about?”, and then that leads me somewhere. And then I see some other aspects that were unknown before, or some pattern that’s been going on unconsciously inside of me, and that’s still part of my old personality structure that hadn’t really been fully exposed or understood or looked at, so yeah, I get lost hahahaha…
What dreams did you realise?
I love my life right now, the work I do with people, I feel so blessed to do that. I am in an environment where people open up so deeply and are so in their true nature that it sometimes is like taking a bath in beauty of the people around. On that level I feel really blessed and I couldn’t imagine a better work, if you want to call it work, than what I have! And I have developed a skill and a capacity to be able to inspire people to look at themselves and to open up, and I can connect very deeply with people in the heart.
I never had so many dreams like fame, fortune or material possessions. Things like this were never that particularly important to me… I mean I live comfortably, and I make plenty of money so I have a lot of freedom in life and that’s great… And I have wonderful friends that are all around the planet, there is almost no place where I could go where I wouldn’t be welcomed, and I have a beautiful relationship and I have a son that I have a wonderful relationship with. He is in America, we talk these days almost every day, you know just for a few minutes. So dreams, I can’t think of any…
I guess the only dream now would be like the next phase of life. I have been very engaged for a long time, I still don’t have any desire to retire because it’s like “retire from what?”! Maybe work a bit less and have more time in nature, because I am often in cities and in planes and travelling and sometimes I feel if I have a longing inside it’s for the wilderness of nature, and that kind of contact is… I just want more! I know it very well… and I’d like to organise my life in a way that I have more time for that, as it nourishes me in such a deep way.
Who would you love to have dinner with, and what questions would you have?
Ohhhh… I don’t know… Well I am interested in this guy named Jordan Peterson, who talks about interesting stuff and I am listening to him right now and I am hoping to meet him… so let’s just say that! We have a similar background and I would just like to share life stories and see what came out of that… No specific questions come to mind, but something would evolve out of it.
What would be the 3 books you would take on a desert island?
Well, right now I am reading Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”. I don’t like it so much but I have a feeling I have to read him again after all these years. I’d probably take one classic from him, maybe “The Brothers Karamazov”, it’s a very famous book by him I’ve read many years ago. I just started “Crime and Punishment” the other day as I heard about it, it’s still really good but I am questioning whether I want to finish it. The character is so crazy, it kind of makes me feel crazy when I read…
And I would take one spiritual book, maybe either from Osho or from Almaas, and I would probably take one spy detective novel, something like that for sheer relief, not thinking about anything deep… (cracking up laughing)… just for fun!!… but I don’t know which one I would take, as I like to have a little distraction, sometimes I read a spy detective, mystery, something like that… when I am travelling, basically.
What does positive living mean to you?
Positive living means telling the truth, and loving the truth, and being honest with yourself, and with people around you, and out of that, you know many positive things start to happen. What’s not positive is when we lie and manipulate, when we allow answers and wishes and desires to fit the perceived audience, or the person we are with. And, we just have to be true, and that’s a process, to learn to be in touch with yourself, to learn to be able to take risks to tell the truth. Positive living is a consequence, it’s not a goal.
When it becomes a goal, it becomes a manipulation, and it loses some truth and some value. So I would say positive living happens when telling the truth and sharing myself openly and honestly with the people around me. And that includes also having boundaries, so I don’t override myself. And then the consequences will be positive, even if it’s a little bit uncomfortable at first, because people basically are not conditioned to telling the truth. And then it’s good to have good habits that keep your body healthy and your mind clear: exercise, food, all these things are part of it.
And do you have a tip for us?
Tell the truth, get plenty of exercise, eat good food, be open and honest, take risks. Don’t stay locked, challenge your own conditionings and belief systems: they probably came from somebody else, and they probably won’t work nor make you feel happy. And do inner work, be curious about the particular way your personality functions, and come to discover deeper parts of yourself… Meditation, fantastic also!
Yes the tip is that we are all a lot more than we think we are and have the conditions to be, and in order to come out of the box of our strategy to survive and our conditioning, we need to be curious about why we behave the way we do, and out of that there will be very good consequences… guaranteed… Also, the company that you keep is important. Make sure you relate to people you really want to relate to and that you have a longing to realise your deepest potential! Let that longing guide you, more than your habits and your mind! It will take you where you need to go… as we say it!!
Bonus question, this blog is called “Star Family” and we feel curious… What does “Star Family” mean to you, what does it inspire you?
It indicates mystery! It indicates that we might be part of something bigger than our usual identity, it sounds a little bit like… well it opens up to “there is a lot more happening in this universe than is just in the moment apparent, here on planet earth”. And for me, if we talk about the stars, I have had my most mystical experiences just lying on my back, staring at the universe, looking at all the stars, and just sensing the magnificence and vastness of it… And in a way finding a place where my mind doesn’t work, it goes beyond my mind, and then I go into another dimension somehow. So that’s what comes up for me when you talk about and use the word “star”. Star Family I have no idea, really for that particular thing but yes, something universal, big, that I belong to… How is that?
Oh wow thank you Rafia, that is wonderful!! We love it, and we feel very honoured and very touched by all the wisdom and experiences and kindness that come with your words!! Thank you thank you thank you!!!!