In this episode, we speak to Laraaji about the celestial aims of his music, the therapeutic potential of laughter, and the benefits of adopting improvisation as a practice in both art and life.

Podcast produced by Ryan Leahey
Original theme music by Kasper Bjørke
Photographs by Clement Pascal

One o'clock pm Eastern Standard Time. New York City, Harlem Village, United States of Awareness. Abundance Zine.

Landon Metz:
Well, Laraaji, how are you? Thank you so much for joining us.

Oh, hi there!

And is this your studio that you're in?

Yes, my little den, my pan-den-mic. [laughs]

Laraaji, one of the things I find interesting about your practice is the way your music has evolved in parallel with your growth in meditation and yoga and cosmic consciousness. They seem like facets of a single larger pursuit. How has your relationship with music changed over the course of your life?

My earlier experiences of music was for joy and recreation and energization, for dance and for communal support: church, hanging out with friends in the neighborhood. It was a communal bonding language. I do remember also that music was a vehicle. I didn't use the word "trance" in the earlier years, but I could shift my sense of environment, my emotional and psychological environment, with music. I imagine that's what everyone did with music, but I acknowledged it, that if I sat at the piano or I listened to music, it was guaranteed an opportunity to shift the psychological environment, the emotional environment, and the emotional imagination.

As I got into the '70s and I was inspired to investigate meditation and Eastern philosophies and yoga, what I discovered was that that is a way of mindful trancing or affecting one's trance state; that meditation allowed me to clear the mind space of non-necessary or non-essential thinking so that the mind, in its uncommitted state, is able to access what I call vertical space time. That's in the '70s.

After exploring, experimenting with meditation, I attracted the sound hearing experience that altered my understanding of the power of music. Up to that point, I was thinking of music as recreation, escape, communal bonding. But after that experience, the meditative sound hearing experience, my relationship with music was that underlying or penetrating this third dimension is another dimension: less dense, more spatial, and eternal, if you will. Having direct experience of that space, while being aware of a specific kind of sound that contained that space, my relationship with music shifted big time. I felt that music could be used to point to a non-apparent space that's right here. Some camps are calling it the fifth dimension, the fifth density body or the transcendental plane. I haven't really locked into what to call it, but Fifth Density, as I'm now finding, seems to match what I've been experiencing: that there's a space here that's non-linear, and as we inhabit this space consciously, we revive our ability to think and feel in a oneness or a non-dual language, in a non-dual mind.

My relationship with music and performance and recording now is to relate to this alternative density, this alternative dimension that's right here; to point to it and caress it and rapport with it through sound, using the imagination, using intuitive improvisation and experimenting with it, because that sound or that space is not out there, it's right here, and my understanding is that in order to point to it, I can't use linear language—that somehow sound and music, light and color, seems to be coming up big time as the appropriate way, the appropriate language. So my relationship with music now is as a language for containing a fifth density realm or transcendental feel that is too now and too near to point to with linear language. And so my relationship with music now is, I'm dependent upon music as my language of self-communion within this fifth density realm and as a way of suggesting states of contemplation and meditation for the listener, giving them a point of least resistance for their own internal spontaneous meditation or connection to this other higher realm. So music now is my platform of teaching and of sharing and of communication. It's more than just recreation, it's more than just relaxation. It is an essential language.

Christopher Schreck:
You mentioned your sound hearing experience. What was it that you actually heard?

I have to admit that I heard nothing. [laughs] The language revealed to me that there's no past for me to have heard anything—that somehow we have to trick ourselves and speak in present time about this, that what I am hearing is multiple layers of brass-sounding instruments weaving this timeless, glorious celebration, and the music is simultaneous with an emotional release, an emotional activation. It says, "I know within my being I am eternal and infinite, and everything everywhere is one," and this feeling is welling up inside of me as this music is playing, as if this music is pointing to the coordinates within my emotional imagination or my dormant memory where I am the infinite universe.

It was, of course, a very new insight for me to feel this. But I think I was prepared through my meditation practice and investigating Eastern philosophy, that this magnitude of an internal experience is welcomed and it's not bending me out of shape. I'm in awe. I might have cried, because it is feeling like my heart is cracking open. I'm falling deeper in love with this universe, this thing, this environment, this world. I am also wondering how this is happening. No one in the house at 12 at midnight is playing this kind of music, and this sound is not traveling linearly, it's not carrying the information as if it was initiated somewhere feet or yards from me. The sound is omnipresent, omni-vibrant, no suggestion of a duality or an otherness or linear space time. It's an environment within which I am immersed and occupied with this moment: how infinitely wondrous this life is, this being is, and how mysterious this is all. Mystery is another experience. But it is brass-sounding instruments constantly weaving this never-ending, never-beginning sonic pad.

What do you feel is the role of formal language in expressing this fundamental reality, as opposed to a more embodied practice like your musical practice? Do you feel as though there is a creative gesture on your behalf to discover these sounds, or are they revealing themselves to you?

The acting challenge here is how to communicate, let's call it, that Fifth Density field. The goal was to communicate the fifth density field to a third-dimensional mindset. What kept coming up is that when I work with the fifth dimension, there is no third-dimensional mindset. In other words, I'm not trying to communicate to the third dimension. The search for the proper language, I noticed at the beginning, when I tried to talk about it, it was failing because when I'm talking with this linear language, I am actually supporting the mental state that is an obstruction to knowing this place. The famous spiritual quote is, "Be still and know." So the mind, as I am experiencing, must be still from processing linear thought, however ridiculous that sounds.

I believe we all experience that place—in fact, scientifically, it's said that we bounce in and out of that place, into the absolute and back into the linear, many times per second—but we don't have a language for recalling that place. Meditation, contemplation, and inner work is for expanding our awareness of that place so that, like a dream state, we wake up from the dream but carrying a clearer memory of that place. So I think the question was, "How do I communicate that place?" And it is a learning experience. I've been around some spiritual teachers, and I kind of observe how they communicate that place. And I think, essentially, what they do is they might talk about it, but then they'll suggest that the student or the seeker goes into meditation—preferably at least a half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the evening—and that prepares us to receive subtle information, to become aware as a medium processing or channeling subtle information where I am, information that doesn't belong contained in words.

I have noticed in my years of performing music for meditation and relaxation, that my role is suggesting contemplative states or peaceful states or peaceful environments, so that my music is functioning as an environmental suggestion of least resistance to having spontaneous meditation—and in that meditation, the communication is completed. The student has their internal experience, the experience that I cannot give by words. So out here, I say my language is the experiential, suggesting that the listener is in trance, the listener is in vertical contemplation, and that's playing with my imagination to imagine that your listener is in a deep state of trance and relate within that understanding, and see what kind of music or behavior comes—and the language that comes is a language that is non-linear. So we get tones, we get harmonic pads, we get drones, and we get music that moves in a way that it doesn't move when it's being generated or created by a linear intention. The music that comes is spontaneous improvisation. It's channeled, it's revealed, and the way that it falls on the recording or falls in the performance is a way that it wouldn't fall if it were meticulously designed by a lead sheet or a premeditated performance. So the performance is spontaneous because spontaneity is a gateway. What's the opposite of kill switch? It's an activation switch. Spontaneity, especially in improvisation, takes me into worlds that I wouldn't know how to get to mentally. I find myself in those worlds, and then my discipline is to stop and let those worlds evolve and experience themselves. I feel like those worlds are—could be nothing less than—the infinite wonder itself, witnessing itself through me, through sound, in a sound environment, in a sound setting, and this shared channeling, this shared witnessing with the listener or the person with whom I'm having a conversation, they're in this moment with me. So I'm not talking to them about this place anymore. We're having a simultaneously shared immersion experience.

For this shared experience to be meaningful, does that third party, this other person, need to be in a particular space? Do you feel that the communication is accessible to everyone always? Or is there a certain state or stage in life that one becomes more receptive to hearing it?

Oh, a funny thing about answering that question is, who am I to assume that whoever I'm with is not already there, and I'm the one straggling behind? [laughs] But then another point is, "Well what if everyone is suffering and you're there, you're needed to do something to provide a ladder or a bridge or a connection?" So I say the safety in the role of the bodhisattva is that, just in case everyone is not there, maybe I better just throw out a lifeline, in case there's somebody out there that needs this. So what I do in music, in my performances, in my recordings, is to rapport with the universal presence, this infinite wonder, which is equally present everywhere, and my prayer and my affirmation is to understand that because this infinite wonder is everywhere, I'm relieved of the task of having to bring it anywhere. All I do is channel it where I am. In the music or the language or the mantras I use, I am holding space for the coordinates of wherever the listener is. I'm actually radiating that where I am is the infinite wonder, and if I do it and I'm surrendering with enough sincerity and fullness, my presence, through sympathetic vibration, will generate an activation where the listener is, and they have the experience where they are—not because I'm giving it to them, but because I am suggesting that they are in a place of receiving, whether I'm suggesting that they are in a meditative space, or they are in a trans-aligned space. Specifically, I'm using music to suggest a trans-aligned space, and the listener takes that suggestion and finds themselves performing as a trans-medium, in that we are sharing this collected channeling.

Maybe we can speak about some of the methods for channeling and exploring that state of consciousness that you've developed musically. For instance, a big part of this seems to be your choice of instruments. You're accomplished as a multi-instrumentalist, but I'm especially interested in your use of the autoharp. I wonder what attracted you to that instrument, and what makes it a useful vehicle in the context of your practice?

My first experience with the autoharp was like a silent witness during my years of doing standup comedy in Greenwich Village in hootenannies and cafe houses and programs that were scheduling, in addition to comedians, folk singers, and now and then there would be a bluegrass ensemble. During the bluegrass ensemble sets, I would see a bass, or see maybe a violin, and see a guitar player, and then I would see this chunky-looking instrument that I found out was called the autoharp. It was played very gracefully, very timidly, not out front, but strummed and plucked.

So fast-forward to the year '74, when I attracted that sound hearing experience, the experience that left me in awe, I knew it was a sound that I couldn't produce with a physical instrument, nor could I record it. (And once again, that experience didn't happen, but it is happening.) A month or so after that, I was in Lincoln Center Music Library researching as much as I could find on that experience of sound hearing, paranormal sound experience, music of the spheres, the cosmic sound current, nada yoga, and I was relieved to discover that that experience was not just my inner isolated experience, but it was referenced in spiritual teachings, and that the sound is non-linear—it can be argued if you want to call it a sound, or some call it just cosmic field pulsation, or it's the infinite field made audible—and as we listen to nadam, that inner sound current, we can easily accept that it's not a sound of an external event. It's not the sound of a human private emotional event. If I were to stretch my imagination, I could say it is the sound of the cosmic nervous system, and as I listen to it, it draws my nervous system into alignment with my infinite presence, with my cosmic truth, where I am. This sound, this nadam, this cosmic sound current, as I explored it, came in as many as 10 different ways that an individual would have that experience, I guess, according to their lifestyle, and I'm receiving this sound as a brass choir. Now this sound is non-linear, has no ending or beginning, and as my research continued, I became like, "Wow, that's something I'd really like to share. I'd like to be more of that."

A month later, I'm in this pawn shop in Queens, New York, pawning a guitar, an acoustic guitar that I wasn't using much at the time. It was also a time that I was loosely attending Sri Chinmoy's Meditation Spiritual Center out in Queens. I was also doing New Thought religion, exploring metaphysics and New Thought religion. [The idea behind] New Thought is that if you can think of a new thought, you can change your life, so I was always welcoming an opportunity to change or shift out of a habit. So there I am in Queens, pawning this guitar, and as I walk into the shop, I noticed this autoharp in the window. And I'm saying, "Hmm, there's that chunky looking instrument." And I thought nothing more about it. I went in, presented my guitar to the clerk. The guitar was a Yamaha Steel six-string in a Martin's fiberglass case. I thought, at that time, it was worth $175, and the clerk offered me $25, and I said, "Whoa, no, I need money. What are we going to do here?" And that which I could translate into a voice, a vibrational intelligence that I immediately interpreted as guidance, [told me] to not take money for the guitar but swap it for that instrument in the window. As this was occurring, I'm thinking, "How is this communication happening? This is very clear, it's nothing I can brush off as just a hunch. This is a real communication of some kind." And I said, "Well, I'm going to follow this rabbit hole." And here's my New Thought religion kicking in. Here is a very new thought. I'm going to go with it and see where it goes. So I swapped my guitar for the autoharp and $5, and I left. I went home and began experimenting with my favorite guitar open tunings in the autoharp.

I didn't make the connection that this autoharp was connected to my vision of referencing that mystical sound hearing experience until I was in Manny's Music in New York, looking for a way to amplify this autoharp, and as the door person there showed me that there was a DeArmond pickup for the autoharp. He showed it to me, and we set it up so I could test it out, and as I strummed the autoharp in the open tuning in Manny's Music, from across the store, this voice sings out, "Oh, I'm in heaven!" And still, I didn't make the connection that this instrument was somehow connected to my bringing forth my experience from that paranormal hearing experience. Years later, I'm starting to make the connection, and I'm even getting better at explaining what happened. I was so involved with thinking that I heard "music" that I forgot to notice what I was noticing: I was noticing the subtle space of the fifth density realm. This sound was pointing to a non-linear field, a timeless nowness. And as I got better at recalling what happened, my relationship with music got finer, and I realized I wasn't interested in "playing music," but I was interested in pointing, using music as an ambient focusing experience to focus on a subtle density field, a field of infinite nowness.

Then I found that things like reverbs and delays and other sound treatments allowed me to go into what's called "sound painting." During improvisational sound painting, my inner meditation, my inner contemplation upon the fifth density, would shine through automatically, spontaneously, without me thinking, "Oh, I have to reflect the infinite dimension." It would shine through in terms of drones or pads or the way that the music would come together. So one, the term "autoharp," as I learned, it means "auto-harp": auto- is self, so it's "the harp of the self." Secondly, the autoharp has 36 strings, and numerologically, three and six breaks down to nine, which is the number of completion. And that I relate to the autoharp as the universal field, meaning when I'm playing with it, I'm interacting with and rapporting with the field. So the act of performing the autoharp is symbolic of conscious interaction within the vertical field. Later on, as I developed the instrument, I learned that the field where everyone is can be contacted through inner states, inner meditation, so that my music had to be more of an inwardly mobile hearing experience for the listener, not an experience that draws them out (although I do dance music). This specific function of music is to provide a soundscape for inwardly mobile listening, somehow to suggest that the listener is in an inward-focused trance in order to be available and receptive to this subtle awareness, whether it's the awareness that self is not a victim of temporary life, but the self-as-consciousness survives and thrives beyond physical inclination. This kind of understanding was supported and confirmed through the investigation of metaphysics and Eastern philosophy.

So as much as I talk about it, in the midst of this talking, I know there is the place that we get to by stop going somewhere, stop leaving. That's another function of music, is to encourage the listener to stop leaving, and the leaving is done with the thinking mind. Thoughts are vehicles. When we are thinking, we're on those thoughts, we're in those vehicles, and we must go somewhere along the linear line. I think of the thoughts of like a bus or a vehicle, and when you get on those vehicles, you must go somewhere. If you're involving yourself with thinking or the thinking mind, you must be going somewhere. So in order to stay here, I suggest that the listener get on the bus with the flat tires. Don't go somewhere, stop going somewhere. Stay and just be here. As Ram Dass said, "Be here now." And I understand that being here now is not easy for someone who is entangled in the thinking mind. So that's where myself as an artist comes in: I can use my inner experience to craft a musical hearing experience that is inwardly mobile, to a music that helps the listener to stop leaving, to stop going somewhere and hold up here long enough for the mind to catch the subtle winds, the subtle current, and be an affirmative experience that the self of eternal nature is right here, right now. And that's good and that's bad: it's good because it's the truth; it's bad because, as much as we look for it in the world, we overlook it. Music, sound, light, and inwardly mobile practices are the ways to stop leaving, so that we become concentrated with this subtle memory.

You mentioned two things earlier: surrender and improvisation. I'm wondering how they correlate with one another. Is improvisation a means of arriving at surrender for you?

Surrender and improvisation. It happens so quickly that I don't think about it. I sit down with an instrument and just touch it and free associate from there. Music is an instant trance for me. Suddenly, I'm in trance and I just free associate without thinking where I'm going, feeling a momentum that unfolds the performance, the composition, the recording track. It happens without me thinking. It's spontaneous unfolding. We could call it intuition. I think of intuition as a creative action, like I can intuit. We don't wait for intuition to show us something. We can also intuit, use intuition to create. Let's say I can intuit you are feeling much better an hour from now. What I'm doing is I am intuiting and I am holding the space. I am feeling the presence of your smiling, laughing, dancing and feeling great an hour from now. Or I am intuiting that this audience is enjoying the music. Intuiting is creative. Instead of saying, "I'm imagining the audience is enjoying the music," or, "I'm imagining it's going to rain," I say, "I'm intuiting we're going to have rain, I'm intuiting rain."

Learning how to use the term intuition as a personal, planetary, cosmic creativity instrument, we could get to a point where we don't need musical instruments. I'm intuiting the audiences having an infinitely wondrous internal hearing experience. When I'm working and collaborating with artists, my experience is that [with] the autoharp or the piano, I'm usually invited to suggest the direction that the improvisation will take. But being spontaneous, collaborators themselves don't even think. Suddenly we're in a current, we're in a momentum of sound, and we are intuitively, collectively channeling this sound revelation together without talking to one another. We're not discussing what keys, where we're going to go to. It's all like a nonverbal conversation. I call it sonic telepathy, that we are spontaneously unfolding within this revelation, whether it be a rock jam or whether it be meditative soundscape, we channel without talking. At the beginning, I might inform the collaborators of what key or what mode the autoharp is tuned in, and then that's all we need to do.

I do recall earlier improvisations when I lived in Park Slope and we did late night coffee house jams. Just to keep chaos from happening, we would assign different artists a role: like the flute player, we'd say, "You are the clouds." And we might say to the bass player, "You're a whale in the ocean," and another guitar player, "You're like the waves of the ocean." We would create this pictorial soundscape so that we all had roles that we could free associate within and evolve this spontaneous soundscape. The language is feeling, and maybe it's telepathic. My experience is that in 90%, maybe 100% of the collaborations and improvisations I've participated in, all evolved and were significant experiences for everyone involved in it. It may have something to do with my tendency to intuit our fifth density field while playing. My sense is that if I am doing this, if I am suggesting the infinite cosmos where we are, and the other performers are vibing with this, if they are feeling this intuitively and not necessarily able to explain it, then we are all in this infinite wonder celebration together, grooving, speaking, laughing, celebrating with our sounds.

At the same time, it's interesting, because we've been speaking to the role of improvisation in your music, but it also seems to embody an approach that you've taken in your personal life. It does seem like some of the more decisive moments in your journey have arrived through your being receptive to what you've referred to as "guiding forces." There's your discovery of the autoharp, but we could also point to the way that you've used affirmations to attract producers, or even in how you came to receive the name Laraaji. I would be curious to hear more about how you've come to understand these guiding forces, and whether you see them as coming from an internal or external source.

Well, I grew up in the Baptist church, and so Jesus is at the helm. I remember the image and the character that was presented to me in the Sunday schools and in church of Jesus. And I remember saying, "Wow, that's an awesome character. I want to do that!" So I held that space for the Jesus that was presented to me there. As I just stayed open to more that I could learn about this figure called Jesus, I started hearing conflicting reports, and one of them was that he was taken to Egypt and was exposed to the mystery schools and mystery teachings, and that's where he got his more mystical skills together. And so I said, "Wow, I'm going to do that, too!" I found a parallel to mystery schools here in the West to study occult and mystical teachings, and [learned ] that yoga and meditation were ways of opening oneself inwardly so that mystical and occult teachings could make sense, you could receive them.

Another teaching was mind science, [the idea] that you can create your reality if you can imagine it, if you can conceive of it. The trick to conceiving means not just think about it, but you would actually relax, sit in a chair somewhere and emotionally put yourself in the here and now of the situation that you want to create, and so you can feel it. You make it less of a two-dimensional image and you bring it in a third dimension. That is, if you want to fly to Costa Rica, you just don't think about it—you actually visualize going to the airport, handling your luggage, interacting with other passengers, getting on the airplane, the texture of the seat when you sit down, the sound of the airplane interior as the plane takes off, and the sensation of the weather conditions that touch your skin when you get off the plane in Costa Rica. So you are really getting into the here and now, and you're creating it in your imagination. You're intuiting it. So this practice was made more practical for me. I could actually do it.

Mind science sort of encourages one to conceive of whatever you want, conceive of it, act like it's here, act like it's now—and at that particular time, playing the autoharp and making my own cassettes, I began sensing, "Gee, it seems like people who have producers get further into this field, producers who understand the studio and the technology of higher recording." And I tried to conceive the right producer coming into my creative life, the right producer. The word "right" was the key: instead of a specific [person], you learn how to not be too specific, so that you leave the creative moment to provide the specifics that are right for you at the moment that it tends to demonstrate. So [I used] the word "right" producer, and I left all the details open, carte blanche. So [I was] playing in Washington Square Park in 1979, and one evening this couple came up to me and talked to me about Fripp and Eno and suggested I listened to their music. I didn't get a chance to do that until a month later. Then, Brian leaves a note in my Zither case in Washington Square Park. My eyes were closed, I was playing, and he leaves a note: "Come, we'd like to talk to you about participating in a recording project." Signed, Brian Eno. And I said, "Wow, look at this happening!" I spoke with him the next day, we decided to go into studio and we began the production of what's now called Ambient Number Three: Day of Radiance. And I have done this over and over again. Even before a performance, backstage, [you] conceive and get in touch with what it's like to have done a good performance, project yourself beyond the performance, after the performance, people coming up to you and saying things like, "Gee, is that on recording? Gee, it really took me into some place." You initially feel the reality of what you want demonstrated. And so I use it backstage before a performance. I use it in life in general. Sometimes I don't use it consciously, because I'm happy with the way things are going.

You spoke a moment ago about working with others. To transition just a little bit, you began practicing laughter meditation in the 1980s and eventually began holding your own workshops. Laughter is an interesting topic because it can be a playful release, but in a public context, it can also be a source of vulnerability and even of embarrassment. So as an instructor, how are you helping other practitioners embrace that vulnerability, and what are the benefits that they enjoy by doing so?

Well, "vulnerability" is very observant, because in the laughter workshops, people do wind up crying because they're vulnerable, they're emotionally vulnerable, and that thin line between laughter and tears comes up big time. At the beginning of the workshop, myself or myself with my partner, Arji OceAnanda, our role is to present a safe, mothering, nurturing space, a safe space for people to have fun, play and drop boundaries. We get into the water body at the beginning of the workshop, and everyone gets to feel their water body. This is automatically loosening us up, so we step out of the rigid body into the water body, and this goes a long ways to taking off our uncomfortability about being vulnerable. Vulnerability is a real thing here, because you're exposed, you're open. I know in Japan, when we did these workshops, we'd find people cover their mouths, and I wondered why they did that. [It was] because the teeth is one area of vulnerability adults feel, exposing your teeth when you're laughing. (Children have no problem with this.) So our role in the workshop, at the beginning of the workshop, is to get people to a place where they're free to laugh and expose themselves. The water body takes us out of trying to maintain this posture of the "cool, calm, collected, grounded adult," so that when we get into the laughter with the exercises, we play and we have fun. And if we're open, we let it all hang out: our teeth are exposed, our type of laughter is exposed, our body language is exposed, our breath personality is exposed. And there, we are into vulnerability and feeling safe about it. Maybe one or two people in a 20 or 30-person laughter workshop may have challenges about letting go. They might still be holding on to rigidities, imagery or the thought of, "Can I take this vulnerable self out of here and back home to my life situation?" That's where the music part of the laughter workshop comes in.

After we go through the laughter exercises, people get to lie down, they're left lying in the floor, still in a meditative trance. And our role is to move around with music and sound to help them to ground or integrate that very still place where they have exposed themselves, they're open. In a place of vulnerability, you're not just vulnerable to slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune; you're also receptive and vulnerable to a sudden influx of cosmic information where you are, the information of your eternalness, the information of your weightlessness, your transparency, that the physical boundaries of your body are not the physical containers of who you are. You start feeling this. This is the perk of being vulnerable: you're not only vulnerable to bad things, you're vulnerable to infinite wonder, revealing itself through you, and you're seeing through the eyes of the infinite wonder where you are.

There's something very empowering and redemptive about greeting ourselves and others with laughter, especially in light of the trauma and uncertainty of the past few years. I wonder how your laughter practice, along with your meditation and music, have helped you continue to grow and evolve, even in challenging moments.

Well, when people say, "How do you survive in New York?," I remind people that I'm no longer in New York. After the transcendental hearing experience, I'm not bound up in the third dimension. How many of us are entangled in the third dimension, but don't realize that's where we are, and we might be suffering third-dimensional claustrophobia? The anxiety of being here and not knowing that we have an option of getting out can feel [like] something close to madness. But the idea of meditation, dance, laughter, and conscious inward mobility exercises is to lift the sense of self out of third-dimensional, claustrophobic situations in order to breathe the open sky of our infinite wonder, this eternal non-linearness. Someone who is not aware of this infinite wonder where they are is subject to the anxieties of being in the world. Laughter is one tool that helps to block the thinking mind, or it blocks the mind from being absorbed in thought, so that while laughing, one is also channeling breath—and breath contains the prana, the open ocean, the cosmic ocean feel. So in breath work, we are bonding with the subtle presence, and we're also obstructing the mind from being over-occupied with thought. This leaves us in a state of buoyancy, lightness, and luminosity, if we do it, I'd say, for at least 15 minutes. I once tried it for 70 minutes, and wow, that is a trip, to leave the thinking format of our mind for a while and be in the non-thinking format. The non-thinking format is the pure "I am." It's the "I am" without any attachments or titles, and if there's no titles to it, then there is no linear thinking going on, and we're not leaving. In the pure mind, the "I am," we are here, we're staying here, and we feel that to which we were previously blind.

The laughter work, the meditation work, dancing, the 5Rhythms Dance here in New York, is a way of using the body to get out of the past and get out of the future and bring the self into present time. Dance movement, breath movement, walking in the parts, laughing, spontaneous improvisation—these are ways of staying and not leaving. For someone who's not an artist, I noticed that often people will say, "I don't have time to meditate." It's because they have prioritized their being in the world. That is more important to them. The idea of stepping out of the world and becoming infinite again is not that important, until they reach their fifties or sixties and they've done the house, they've done the job, they've done the relationship, they've done the career, and now they don't want to do boredom. So you can travel around the world, but mostly, what starts facing you is your body, and you say, "Hey, I better do something more significant with my life before I cash out." And that's when I think people are really ready to take it serious, to do the inner work and come into the omnipresence. There are some cultures where men, after 50, they leave the family, the wife, they provide for the family and the wife, they take up a robe and a begging bowl and they go into the forest and hang out with a teacher, because they're ready to transcend the third-dimensional, claustrophobic life and they're ready to embrace their eternity. So those practices help to quiet the mind. "I want to quiet the mind." Of course, a good shot of Cutty Sark can help, but there is the way of, "How do you do it?" You're on your own. How do you stop leaving? How do you cut through anxiety? Breath work. If you can slow your breath down and keep it connected wherever you are, you've got a portable device for helping you. If you do this on your own until you learn your breath and learn how to use your breath to get out of anxiety jams, then you're ready to use it when the situation calls for it. So breath is a portable tool. If you know how to laugh, you get into laughter meditation, you send your laughter inwardly to your head, your throat, aha-ha-ha-ha, your chest, your abdomen, clearing your lungs, so that the internal work vibrates you up and you become a lightness, you become a more open spaciousness, and you become more vulnerable—and funny as it may sound, being vulnerable may be where the party really is.

So Laraaji, based on everything you've just said, I have one important question, at least for me. Your life's practice seems to be about dislodging our experience from this vulnerable form. What does death mean to you?

Death. Very good. I keep evolving my understanding. I think the only thing that dies is death. By that, I mean that as I become clearer in the eternal present time, I'm realizing that life after life after life, there's no life after death. There's life during death. I look at this thing we call and label "death" much differently. I understand that when we grow up, we have a family, we have loved ones, and we just automatically identify them with the body—and if the body goes, we have an upsetting experience. We just don't know what to do with all this love and this focus that we're used to giving to a physical human body form.

In the inner practice, we learn that everyone has the same eternal body, the eternal present moment, pure "I am." There's no "I am John," no "I am Susie." There's no "I am your uncle." There's just pure "I am." And if we learn how to identify ourselves with this pure "I am," then something magical happens. It takes a big chunk out of the tendency to be anxious about the thing called death. When Aunt Emma dies, if we have practiced knowing that in the presence of Aunt Emma is the fifth density, the infinite "I am," and we learn to love and rapport with that "I am" while we're hugging Aunt Emma, then when Aunt Emma's body deceases, we have established a connection with the aspect of her that does not die. The only thing that dies is death. Whatever we thought death was, it goes when we realize we are an eternal continuum. This might be an anguishing thing, to understand that we are eternal. But underlying in the midst of these zoot suits, these earthly clod bods, we are something that's an infinitely wondrous setup. We're eternal. When people ask, why do I wear orange? I say, "It's because I'm doing eternal time." We are here eternally. When I say "here," I don't mean just the earth plane; we may be traveling throughout the galaxies, taking different forms, and maybe the higher forms will be luminous forms or tonal forms, tone as a living consciousness. This might not be easy to imagine, but then it might be practical to imagine that if we're going to live in constant present time, we need a different kind of body than the electromagnetic carbon based-body. That luminous field body or an etheric, crystalline body comes up on the radar, so that what has died was death.

Death used to be, "Oh man, wow, that's awful. I'm feeling sorry for you. That's bad news." That whole thing dies. The whole death culture language dies when we rise into our blue sky, our infinite wonder where we are. So big time is this present moment. Cultivating expanded internal awareness as this present moment is our salvation, is our way of getting out of being a victim of the world's narratives. The world's narratives can run amuck on us, and if we don't know what to do, stop leaving. Stop going somewhere and be here now.