Dan Duggan seems to know some really wonderful people as he also recommended Mark to me. We met in a large, quiet room at Bend Community Healing where, among other things, Mark offers community acupuncture. We had a very intentional conversation before the interview began and that set the tone for a very intentional interview. I am sure you will notice as you read or listen that Mark spoke to me with deep thoughtfulness. And it's very obvious that he desires for more of that in this world. We got pretty real with each other during our time together and I left feeling some hope that we can all come together, but also very aware of the huge collaborative effort that it's going to take. I'm going to keep showing up. And I'm going to keep trying. I hope you'll join me.
Who are you?
Name is Mark Montgomery.
Where do you come from and what brought you here to Bend?
Hmmm. Hard to answer where I come from. Born in Kentucky. Then lived in Wisconsin. Then lived in New York. Went to college in Philadelphia. Lived in Europe - Germany and France. Came back, lived in western Massachusetts. Went to acupuncture school in Maryland. Moved to Las Vegas to be with a woman I fell in love with. And then moved to southern Utah from Las Vegas and then moved to Bend from southern Utah. So, a little bit all over.
What was it that ended up bringing you to Bend?
My wife wanted to move here. And so we moved here. And, after three years, got divorced and she moved back to Las Vegas.
What does community mean to you?
I like to make a distinction with what some of my teachers have called pseudo community. And I grew up with a lot of pseudo community. Pseudo community is, for me, being with other people in a way that doesn't have much in the way of authenticity or responsibility - where we're just going through the motions. Kind of engaging with each other out of habit rather than out of any depth or vulnerability or aliveness or reality. For me, real community is being with people who are committed to being alive with each other. There's an 11th century Chinese philosopher and alchemist named Ge Hong who wrote a book called The Master who Embraces Simplicity and one of the lines in Ge Hong has always stayed with me - Most humans are walking corpses. And I feel like I had a lot of experience a lot of my life with being a walking corpse. And I'm in the process of still recovering from that. I'm in a 12-step zombie recovery program (big smile). And it's tricky because it sounds really easy and really obvious, but I think that our culture puts us to sleep at a really early age - most of us. And then we sleepwalk through our lives and then we have countries that are made up of sleepwalkers that do massive amounts of damage to the world around us. Around them, around us. Because we're asleep. To where we're asleep to ourselves, we're asleep to our families, we're asleep to our towns, and our states, and asleep to our countries in the world. And somebody who's asleep at the wheel is gonna do a lot of damage. So, for me, real community is all about coming together with other people who want to wake up - other people who want to live fully, live alively, live responsibly, live in deep connection to our own core energies as well as to the energies of the people around us. Instead of living lives that are mediated by compensatory mechanisms - addictions or habits or just ways of staving off the discomfort of being a human being.
Have you found real community here in Bend?
I have. Or I would say I am finding real community here in Bend. It's tricky for me, partly because of my own habits and my own asleepness and partly because it's a culture that's asleep - that is largely asleep. There are people here in Bend doing really, really good work and leading inspiring lives. But there's also a lot of entertainment: there's a lot of beer-drinking, there's a lot of interacting with the outdoors as a commodity rather than something to meet on its own terms. And I have nothing against drinking beer and I have nothing against having fun in the outdoors, but what really calls out to me in my life at this point is connecting with other people who really want to wake up - as individuals and want to live lives that support a waking up on a larger scale as well. 'Cause I think it's the only way we're gonna survive. So, this place is built out of a vision of creating a sanctuary, really, or an oasis where people can come and they can experience this kind of community where they're with other people who are moving in the same direction of wanting to heal, wanting to wake up, wanting to become more alive. And just through being here I've me a lot of people who are really interested in and focused on that same thing. And I have a lot of friends who aren't necessarily interested in that here in Bend, as well. But that's what I'm passionate about, so that's kind of the wavelength that I vibrate on. And that's what I'm looking for and that's what I tend to attract, as well.
And I don't mean to badmouth Bend. I mean, I don't think Bend is any different from anywhere else in terms of there's good people here and there's people who are pretty asleep here. And we do attract things along the lines of the frequency that we're vibrating at, so somebody who says that they don't see a lot of awakeness in their environment - to me that's a sign that that person has some work to do on their own awakeness. So, as I say that, I'm clear that I'm kind of pointing a finger at myself, as well. So I guess what everything that I'm hearing myself say is indicating to me or is reminding me of is that community starts with my relationship to myself.
What are your thoughts regarding Bend's growth?
So tricky. Because it's a classic example of the people who are already in wanting to slam the door on everybody else who wants to come here. And I can understand that. This week this parking lot has been massively crowded, you know. In the past there's always been plenty of parking for people to come in and park here. The last couple days this week it's actually hard to find a parking spot in front of our office, which is like outrageous by our standards, right? Of course, you come somewhere else like San Francisco or New York and that's absolutely the norm. But I can understand people being triggered, even if just on a symbolic level, by seeing that sort of development - that sort of growth. And then hearing stories about things getting stolen or even having things stolen oneself, there's a visceral reaction that happens to that that I feel and I think lots of other people feel that leads us to want to slam that door on other people. But I don't think that we can look at this in isolation from everything else. There's a lot of climate refugees coming from California now because California is changing with the changing climate. And coming from other places, as well. And that's gonna continue. There's no way to stop that. If we allow the climate to change in a way that makes some parts of the country where lots of people live undesirable to live in, they are going to go to the places that feel or seem more desirable. So we can't isolate ourselves from that. We can try to close the door, but the only solution is to do whatever we can to make all the other places just as beautiful and desirable, so that people want to stay where they live and enjoy what they've got there. We can't just say, I've got mine and screw everybody else. It's just not a workable solution anymore. Maybe if you're rich enough - you can buy an island for yourself - it is. But for those of us who aren't in the top one-tenth of one percent, it's just not a solution. We've gotta look at the bigger picture and be working on the bigger picture. Especially as things develop and the situation becomes more and more acute - it's just gonna become less and less workable.
What do you wish for the future?
One thing that comes immediately to mind when I hear you ask that question is that there's these massive fracture lines in our country and in our world between people of different classes, people of different ethnicities, people of different genders, people of different subcultures. It's like all the fault lines have been exposed and some people are working really hard to create more division and to create more conflict and to drive us into a civil war. And it's not that hard to create a civil war. You just have to have enough people on both sides willing to demonize the other. And to want to win. And so I see that as a very real possibility - a civil war in this country. But I also see there being a possibility in this point in time to move through those divisions and those conflicts in a way that we've never really been able to before. And just one example of that is this incredible conflict that's cropping up in our country now between science and religion and people who are Christians more and more insisting that science is not valid and deprecating science and doing everything they can to undermine science. And I think that that comes out of fear. But I think we're actually in a point in time where science and religion can actually work together really, really well in illuminating different sides of the same coin. And so, I guess my hope is that with this evolutionary impulse that feels like it's muscling its way in right now that we can find a way to open to allow the honoring of all the different needs and all the different sides and open to and honor all the different insights that come from all the different sides. It's like there's a lot of trashing of political correctness right now, but I think that's all straw man arguments. I think that what needs to happen is we need to recognize the validity of each other's viewpoints. That even somebody that I can't stand, even somebody who's saying things that I hate, there's a need that that person is expressing. And to be able to go underneath the ideas that I can't stand and really be able to feel the other person's need and to want to support that person in getting their needs met. So for us to create a culture where we actually care about each other's needs and supporting each other in getting our needs met. That's what makes the most sense to me and what I think I want the most. And of course not just limiting it to human beings, but limiting it to the environment - what does the environment need? What do the oceans need? What do the forests need?
What would you do if you had more time?
Ah, there's always so much more to do! You know, I love that question because for me what shows up - what it points out - is the impulse that I think we as a culture have and I think I have as an individual to want more. So to put the focus on quantity. And I don't think it really is about quantity, I think it's about quality. What is my relationship to time? Because if I'm actually completely present with you right now time doesn't - I guess I'm repeating what the first person said - but it doesn't even exist. If I'm with you right now, yes, I may have to look at my watch to see that I've got something else I need to do or somewhere else I need to go, but time doesn't even exist. So there's a way that we meter time with our watches and our clocks and our calendars and commoditize time, but there's another way that everything that's valuable and worthwhile has the potential to bring us into a relationship where time doesn't exist - where we're not counting the minutes or we're not counting the hours - we're simply allowing ourselves to be with each other in a way that drops us down into an experience that's more valuable than anything than the measuring of time could give us. So just making sure that that's a bottom line value rather than wanting more time. Am I really inhabiting and filling the time that I've got right now? The way that gives it its full value or am I wasting it and wanting more? It's like what we do with our water. I read that like 50% of all the water that comes from water sources in the United States is lost in the pipes! Before it even gets to the places it's supposed to go to. And it's like time is the same way - we feel like we want more, but most of us are never even really fully inhabiting the time that we've already got.
I worked on Wall Street before I went to acupuncture school and it was not uncommon for us to have 120-hour weeks. And there were even some days where we would arrive at the office at eight o'clock in the morning and work until five the next morning, go home and shower and be back by eight. It was total insanity. And it was a great education in the complete worthlessness of any resource that we don't have the means to process. Because I earned a shitload of money and I had no time (laughs) to spend it. And I got sick. And the people around me were all getting sick. And it was like insanity. Madness. Total madness. Divorce from life.
Do you have anything else you want to put out there?
I just really appreciate you doing what you're doing. I appreciate the sensitivity that you have. Your project feels like an expression of what I call the self-healing impulse of the world. It's like this evolutionary impulse moving through you in a way that opens other people. And in whatever way it can it moves all of us a little bit closer to where we need to go. Just wanting to express my appreciation.