Tiffani mentioned Ryan in our interview as they work together in the ecstatic dance and Lucid realm and then she immediately referred him to participate here. I met Ryan at his home and he greeted me with a beautiful array of snacks and dandelion tea and we sat together in a room in his house that has come to be called Temple iZ. Ryan and I clicked right away conversationally and ended up chatting for quite a long time before recording. Eventually, Ryan asked if we were recording and when he found out we weren't, he suggested we start. I am torn on this issue as I often wish the pre-interview conversation was sharable, but I fear that turning on the recorder sooner would then change the tone, rendering that more intimate conversation stale. At any rate, we turned the recorder on shortly after and continued our lovely chat. There were quite a few people outside of Ryan's house when we finished our interview and I got swept up into a few different conversations, which seemed like an appropriate way to transition into the rest of my day. I hope you enjoy getting to know Ryan as much as I did.
ACT: Who are you and how would you describe yourself?
RR: My name is Ryan Re and I would describe myself as a being focusing on the journey of self-enlightenment as the primary focus of existence. And on that journey, I feel like my little bend on it is to celebrate - to have that enlightening experience come to pass through celebration with others, particularly.
ACT: As you go down your path and interact out there, what concerns you? What breaks your heart, makes you sad, in a way that really affects you. I know there's some global concerns that we all tend to use to answer this question, but I'm asking what really affects you. And then, what motivates you to do something about it?
RR: Yeah, interesting - I've not ever been the kind of person that feels like they care that much about other people's sort of plights. I do remember being like five years old and seeing on the television those - it was in the '80s and they had those classical campaigns for starving kids in Africa and there'd be the kids that had the flies crawling over their eyeball while their bellies are distended - and I remember crying. Those are some of my first memories of crying and feeling like, Wow, something's wrong here and I should do something about that. And I think that that was a real strong impetus towards me exploring what can I do about that.
And I feel that I've led a pretty selfish life in a way that I don't feel that it was detrimental to other people - the kind of selfishness I had. I think somewhere I identified there has to be this self-work in order for anyone else around me to gain benefit. So I've got to be the healthiest expression of myself in order to be able to give anything to anyone else. And so I feel like that's the way I've been approaching life.
So, when I think about what's wrong with the world is I feel like I'm someone who's much more inclined to be impressed by people who are like, What's wrong with me? And so there's so many things that are wrong with me. But the things I think about is, What are my daily habits? What are the things I do every single day that take me away from absolute health? But there are these things that if I over-indulge in 'em... they all have their balance and they can all be just fine in the right balance, but anytime they strike that level where I'm actually losing daily energy and losing the zest and appeal to be alive and go out and explore and be present... any of the times that it gets to that level of out of balance, then I, at some point, will catch myself and have to engage some level of self-discipline to kind of get back on track.
So, when I'm looking at what's wrong with the world, I feel like I'm just starting with, How can I be a healthier being? How can I identify these things in my day that make me less of an ultimate person and make me kind of more of a weaker entity? And then what I discover is that when I like myself and I'm living in this way where I would be... I had mentioned earlier, before on record, sometimes I take this satellite view of myself and I look down, I'm like, Okay, if I'm focusing in on Ryan, would I be impressed with the way he walks through his day? When no one else is looking, when Ryan just has the house to himself, what does he do? And would that impress me? And I kind of try to set my life up so that I'm migrating in the direction of like, I'll be really impressed by the person I can be. And what I find out is that when I'm in pretty good balance - and certainly have never felt like I've achieved total, absolute balance, but that might be more distracting than just being in touch with balance - what I found, though, is that when I take care of myself and I like who I am, I suddenly become really nice to other people. And I'll extend myself toward like, Mom, can I give you a massage? My sister, can I hug you? And I feel like that right there translates to the greatest thing I can do for the planet socially or environmentally. When I'm in love with myself, then that love like radiates off and extends to sort of the rest of beingness. I do sometimes question if I should go ahead and make a little more disciplined effort to maybe work at a soup kitchen and things like that. And there's probably a good balance to be found with that, too. But, yeah, that'd be my answer to that question is I pretty much start with myself as the problem and also just self-love seems to kind of heal everything around me.
ACT: What do we mean to each other - individual to individual - out in the world?
RR: You know, when I feel like I'm at my highest self, I feel like all I need to do is just be present and then if the other person and I have something to express with each other, it will sprout. Like, if I come into contact with you and you don't have the sense that I'm here to try to hear you or find out what's wrong with you or give you advice on what you could be doing better and I don't feel that reflected back from you, then I feel like we come into contact and like either the power of our connection gives like a bolt of inspiration that we need to pass or we just silently move away from each other 'cause there wasn't something necessary for us to do with each other. And so, what do we mean individual to individual? I'm thinking... I have this sense that there's a unity quality, but also a recognition of each other's intrinsic value as individuals. Like, you getting to geek out on you is beautiful. And I don't even have to recognize it or acknowledge it in order for it to have value.
ACT: Kind of growing that individual to individual relationship, what does community mean to you and what does it mean to be a part of it with all these different agendas, and itineraries, and values and some of those things being in conflict? What do you do with some of the chaos or abrasiveness within community?
RR: That's a cool question 'cause I feel like I go through these eras when I really want to be involved in community and I've sometimes even been identified as a community leader because I'll host a lot of events or I'll do things that bring people together and then people will have these very big sort of expressions of themselves where they feel very much accepted for who they are or they feel ignited by being around a bunch of people they didn't know before. Or they just develop friendship, which is probably the greatest thing. And so, I'll go through these eras when I really want to help create those containers where people expand.
And then I'll go through these eras when I don't feel like I want to do anything with other people and I don't want to be part of organizing things for other people to be a part of. And I can sometimes... I've had to learn what am I going to do during those eras. Am I gonna feel bad about myself? Because one thing is the community around me that's sort of gotten accustomed to me being a pillar and someone who's a big part of supporting these events happening and these things they're feeling. What am I gonna do during these eras other than just feel bad about myself or self-judgment about like why am I going through an internal phase? And one of the things I've found is really effective is during the eras when I'm feeling like being a community-building presence, instead of it all being about me - rather than me being the central pillar - right away, I need to take steps towards empowering as many other people who are at that time going through their own expansion of, I want to be around people. I want to make friends. I want to do events. I want to do stuff with other people. Getting those people empowered to start leading themselves so that when I suddenly go back into like, I just want to be by myself, there's five, ten other people in the group who are ready to step in and have the potluck at their house - organize the Friday night event themselves - and soon the community has multiple pillars.
And then, as far as conflict within that goes... that's a good piece of it 'cause there certainly is personal conflicts that arise and I've definitely been a part of many of them. And I've definitely many times approached it from not the best path. Where, like ,coming out the other side it just seemed like people lost friends was the vibration. If I take the latest case that's on my mind - and I won't use names - I think what I saw about myself is there's just an immature tendency in me to want to be right and there's a righteousness that came out in this last sort of disagreement where me and one other person didn't get along on a certain issue and the communication about it was immature on my side where I wanted to show that other person that the way I thought was the correct way. And the result was a kind of disagreement where that person and I just don't really hang out anymore. And so, I feel like what I could have done better is just really more listen to them - hear what they were dissatisfied with, what challenged them - and then just really accept that.
And so, this sort of nonviolent communication practice that I feel pretty weak in seems like a right way. There's a gigantic lack of great communication in our society. I don't know if we need more sort of training in debate so we know the difference between argument and conversation, but it seems like a lot of us lack the skills to disagree peacefully and just be interested in like, What? Oh, you think differently than me. Let me learn from you. Instead, I feel like there's much more of a tendency - and also within myself - to be like, You don't think like me? What's wrong with you? I guess a community that also is entrenched in friendship hopefully is going through the process of learning communication skills. Sometimes what seems like five-year-olds should have been taught adults are having to deal with, but it is the case and I guess it is something that has to be gone through.
ACT: Do you feel a sense of purpose or a compulsion to live up to a value system? Or a responsibility to affect positive change?
RR: I do experience that within myself - really connected to that earlier question of What would I change in the world? What do I see wrong with it? I just start with myself again. I'm definitely my own worst critic. Basically, I do feel the most important thing is to be fully present. The total cliché - Be here now. Great cliché - I'm glad it's entered the realm of being mundane. I really do feel like when I check in and I'm like, What's the most valuable thing? It's like, How am I gonna celebrate today? How am I gonna have the feeling that all day long I'm doing what I want and at the right pace for me? That there's no hurry; there's no stress. Just being myself is the right thing to be. I feel like that's what I want to be when I'm old. Like, when I project myself as a 70-year-old man and I have my beard and it's time to walk downtown for whatever reason, I imagine I've gotten up in the morning; I've moved at a pace that feels exactly right for what I want to accomplish and do to keep myself healthy; and then I'm just moving throughout life - every moment.
Someone recently said, What's the great teaching of a Buddha? Of a person that is living at that absolute stillness of peace and comfort and trust. First off, how did they attain that? How are they maintaining that? And what's their message to somebody else as advice? This person was saying it's not, Always be in love. Always feel compassion. Always do the right thing. The message was, Discernment. That life at every moment has choices. There's always a choice in this life to go this way or that way, to do this thing or that thing, to put this thing in my body or not put this thing in my body. So, there's just choice at every single moment. And then, what's the most powerful thing to recognize or to build skill in is discernment. And so I'm thinking as myself, I project myself in the future, just really skillful at choosing. And that's what I... I keep forgetting what your question was (laughs).
ACT: To what end, though? Why do you want to find that equilibrium? What does it have to do with somebody else?
RR: I almost feel like the why is almost like this little bump in the road that wants to trip me - that's not important on the walk. The walking itself is what's important. And the Why am I walking? is just the thing that keeps tripping me and keeps me from being in the feeling of, Oh, it feels good to walk. This is what walking feels like in my skeleton, through my hips. Keeps my eyes down on the road rather than up on the horizon to take in the birds and the feeling and the smells. So, I feel like the why's actually, I think, the trap. This is just kind of my personal belief is that it's much more important to just be focused on what feels right to me and have that sort of discerning mindset and become skillful with that.
I think there might be an intriguing way to question that approach. Is there some kind of balance to strike with selfishness? Can you only focus on yourself and that's good enough in this world? Do we need to bring in the other to consider? But I keep having the feeling that, once again, the more I like myself and the more I have sort of this approach to my day where I'm just not hurried, not stressed, not worried, that I just start to naturally do good and nice things that are the best expression I can be. And then I don't so much have to worry about how I'm gonna help other people. It's like my presence is almost like this salve. Maybe people want to eventually come and put it on themselves.
I do think about these really powerful leaders or people who have sort of cultivated this presence where people want to be around them. If it's like that Ammaji who gives all the hugs or someone who's a guru - it seems like they don't actually go out into the world looking for the students or the people that want to be around them to learn, they just stay and they just are themselves and the next thing you know, those people that feel attracted to learn from that arrive. I feel like that's more the direction I would want to cultivate myself. Rather than how should I expend my energy to be doing the right thing for other, it's like how do I get myself in such balance that I.... it's sort of like when two gyroscopes are next to each other and somehow they balance each other out and come into this harmony where they're rotating - one starts with a wobble and the other one starts straight and just having them near each other, then they suddenly both start to come into this harmonious sort of spiraling next to each other.
ACT: Is there anything that you'd like to ask me?
RR: If you imagined yourself tomorrow absolutely content, what would have to change between today and tomorrow?
ACT: (Long pause) Hmmm. That's a brutal question. I don't know. I'm not sure that's what I'm after. Even though sometimes I might think that I am. I struggle a little bit with the concept of contentment and it's near cousin, happiness. I'm not entirely sure it's the point.
You know, there are a number of things in my life that I have great appreciation for at the moment. I'm very much in love with my partner and I'm really grateful for the relationship that I have with her. I care deeply for my dog. I like where I live and its proximity to town, so I can walk. And there's generally good things about the quality of my life. I have body aches and pains that I'm trying to address and I'm grateful for being on the Oregon Health Plan, so I don't have to worry about that financial stress. I get to do something that I like by way of work and doing these interviews. I have a best friend who I really appreciate. There's a lot of things... if you were to just write down a list of what do you want in life. I occasionally do some traveling...
But I'm definitely not happy with myself or how I handle many situations. I'm irritated by what seems to me to be a lack of values, like we talked about earlier, out in the world. I dislike that I'm being told what to do by people who I don't really respect on a governmental level. So, contentment is a hard question for me because I don't exactly know what the word means to you and what it means to everybody else and what I'm meant to experience in it. I think a greater level of compassion, a greater level of empathy, being a little bit slower to anger, a greater ability to set some level of worry aside so that I can be more present in the minutia - the things that seem to be less important than my worry are generally more important than my worry, but my worry pushes them aside.
This could be an all-day answer. Maybe I'll leave it with that for now. (Long pause) It's a good question. Just to say one more thing, what you talked about - looking down at yourself from 10,000 feet above with binoculars - or however you put it - and wondering if you are being a person that would impress you - I think it's fair to say I often am being who I want to be. But what stands out to me are the times that I'm not.
Do you have anything else that you'd like to say in closing?
RR: I really like the way that all just wrapped up. That felt really good. I think that segued really well into your response. Yeah, it feels good. I appreciate you. I love this. This is awesome - such a good example of someone really doing their genuine passion and just following the journey of the heart. So, that's impressive. I feel like I'm moved by that. I'm encouraged by that.