About Our Guest- Leonard Perlmutter- Unlocking Your Conscience To Live With More Wisdom, Creativity and Joy
Leonard Perlmutter is the founder and director of the American Meditation Institute in Averill Park, NY and is the originator of National Conscience Month. Leonard has presented informative Yoga Science and meditation workshops at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Kaiser Permanente, The New York Times Forum on Yoga, the Commonwealth Club of California, the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, the Washington University Medical School, the University of Colorado Medical School, the University of Wisconsin School of Nursing, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point Association of Graduates, the Albany Medical College, and Berkshire Medical Center and has served on the faculties of the New England Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine and the International Himalayan Yoga Teachers Association. He is the author and editor of Transformation: The Journal of Yoga Science as Holistic Mind/Body Medicine and his Heart and Science of Yoga® course curriculum has been certified by the Albany Medical College, the American Medical Association, and the American Nurses Association for continuing medical education credit.
Full Podcast Transcription
Leonard Perlmutter 00:00
Yoga science teaches us how to use the mind to take actions in the world that will result in benefits both for ourselves and for the entire organism. Whether it’s human, animal, mineral, environmental, because it’s all one, everything is all one. And so when we make one small change in our diet, for example, it changes everything it changes every relationship that I have, and relationships that I don’t even know that I have! Hello everyone and welcome to a another episode of From Doctor to Patient. Today, I am joined with Leonard Perlmutter. He is the founder and director of the American Meditation Institute in Asheville Park, New York, and is the originator of National Conscience Month, Leonard has presented informative yoga signs and meditation workshops at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, Kaiser Permanente, The Inner Times Forum on Yoga, the Commonwealth Club of California, the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Washington University Medical School, the University of Colorado Medical School, University of Wisconsin School of Nursing, the US Military Academy at West Point associates graduates, the Albany Medical College Berkshire Medical Center and has served on the faculties of the New England Institute of Ayuvedic Medicine and the International Himalayan Yoga Teachers Association. He’s the author and editor of Transformation: the Journal of Yoga Science, as holistic mind body medicine. And his heart and science of yoga course curriculum has been certified by the Albany Medical College, the American Medical Association, and the American Nurses Association for continuing medical education credit. Leonard, it is such a pleasure to have you on the show today. How are you doing? I’m doing well thank you very much. Appreciate it.
Diva Nagula 03:42
You have a book coming out very soon. And I’d love for you to tell us a little bit about what
inspired you to write this book. And to talk to us a little bit about what this book is about?
Leonard Perlmutter 03:54
Well, the inspiration I think for the book came about when I was in quarantine, because of the COVID, starting in March of 2020. And I lost contact, personal contact, live contact with students every day in classes. We did go online, which was very, very helpful. But you miss the personal contact. And I have extra time on my hands because of this. So I’m thinking, well, you know, why is this situation coming to me? In particular, how can I go to school on it and what’s the gift that is present in it? And I contemplated that for a while and I thought, what can I possibly do? What can I do to reach people to help them help themselves through this very complicated and painful situation that everybody is in. Because it has so many different permutations with so many different kinds of relationships. And so I thought, well, you know, if I could do something and and tell people about using the conscience, which is, gosh, it’s what separates us from all other animals, we, unlike every other animal, have a conscience. And how great is that? We don’t have to rely on just this mind body sense complex because the conscience has the capacity to go beyond the matrix, to the center of consciousness to what yoga science refers to was the superconscious portion of the mind where Albert Einstein saw a mathematical equations and Paul McCartney hears beautiful melodies – doesn’t mean that we’re going to become songwriters or mathematicians. But it does mean that if we can use the conscience as our guide in thought, word, and deed, we will benefit in in ways that we just cannot imagine at the present time. Yes, I said to myself, That’s what I will do, I will write a book on the conscience. And how do you define conscience? Well, it’s one of the four major functions of the mind. The mind is very interesting, you know, we hear this whole relationship, mind-body. But still, because of our dualistic predilections, we see them as separate, not one. But I know from my own personal experience, I can’t even lift my hand, without first entertaining a thought. What does that mean? It means the mind moves first. And the body follows to me when I when I read that, and I learned it, and I began to apply it, it was a game changer in my life. My richest resource became my thoughts, because my thoughts become my words. And my thoughts also become my actions. And words and actions always lead to consequences that can lead me in one direction or another. So the conscience is the only function of the mind that can discriminate, determine, judge and decide. What is the conscience? It acts as a mirror. And it has the capacity, when used and purified, to reflect wisdom from the center of consciousness, to tell us in real time, the thought to think, the word to speak, and the action to take, that will enable each of us to fulfill the purpose of our lives, without pain, without misery, and without bondage. And when we use the conscience, we know how we feel. And when we don’t use it, we also know how we feel.
Diva Nagula 08:24
You mentioned conscience, that’s one of the four functions of the mind. What are the other
Leonard Perlmutter 08:28
The other three, are also familiar to us. And you know, we’ve always heard or thought, you know, it seems like I have different voices in my mind. Well, it’s true. We do have different voices in our mind. And each serves a unique, very important purpose. So the first one that I’ll discuss is ego. Now, this is not the ego that we learned in psychology classes. This is not about, you know, being puffed up with self importance. Ego, in the science of yoga is anything that separates me from my essential nature. Well, what is my essential nature? Well, I know that I have a body but I’m not the body and yet the body is constantly changing. I know I have mind with thoughts, desires, and emotions, and all those thoughts, desires and emotions are always changing. But at the core of my being, beyond everything that changes is something that never changes. And that is the background of all reality, and that is consciousness itself. And within consciousness resides an intuitive library of wisdom. And it is the nature of consciousness to be blissful, and full. But the ego sees itself as separate, and works very hard to separate us from our essential nature, because the ego, which is tethered to the reptilian brain is all about self preservation, and the fear of annihilation. So for the ego, the sky is always falling, there’s always a problem, there’s always a crisis, that the ego is going to save us from. Now, the ego, I imagine, walks around with a chainsaw, strapped to his hip. And whenever the ego experiences a relationship, the ego takes out the chainsaw and cuts it in half, and says, oh, this is pleasant. It’s good. Let’s reprise it. And this is unpleasant over here this other half. As is bad, let’s avoid it. But we all know from our own experience, that that which is pleasant isn’t always good for us. Now, which is unpleasant, isn’t always bad for us. So if I get locked in to my likes and dislikes, that mental inflexibility inevitably, is going to change the consciousness of every cell in my body, and those cells will become contracted. And the organs which are comprised of the cells will be compromised. So is the ego bad? No, it just has a limited perspective. Sometimes it’s appropriate, I need an ego right now, to speak to you and to your listeners, I need an ego when I want to drive an automobile. And that limited perspective is appropriate. But a lot of times, it’s not appropriate. How do we know? The conscience always knows. So that’s the ego. The senses; this is the second function of the mind, our mind projects, our creative energy, through the eyes, the nostrils, the mouth, the ears, the hands and the feet, to inspect the material world looking for relationships that will bring me happiness, that will bring me security. Now, the sense is to only have a limited perspective. And we know it’s very easy to squeeze a tube of toothpaste. But it’s very difficult to put the toothpaste back in the tube. So when the mind extrudes, our creative energy through the eyes, the nostrils, the mouth, the ears, the hands, the feet, it’s virtually impossible to get that creative energy back. And if the truth be known, we need a lot of creative energy to fulfill the purpose of our lives. And yet, so many of the desires that the senses has, are not very helpful. So the senses dissipate a tremendous amount of our creative energy. So that’s the second function of the mind. Limited perspective, not always wrong, we have a body, we have senses, lives to be enjoyed, I like apple pie, just as well as other people like other forms of nice little treats. But the question is, what’s to be done and what’s not to be done in the present moment. The third function of the mind is the unconscious. The unconscious is the repository of all of our merits and demerits everything that we deem essential to self preservation. And so, the key to successful living is to coordinate this holistic organism called our mind. We don’t want to get rid of the ego, we don’t want to get rid of the senses. We don’t want to get rid of the unconscious mind. We want them to be healthy. But we also don’t want them to be loud and pushy in insistent that their limited perspective must be accepted. So what I imagine is sitting all of us down around the kitchen table, ego senses unconscious mind and the conscience and me and have a little family discussion. Look, we’re all one. We need each other. Let’s all pull together and access the best that everyone has to offer, and then use that as the basis of our actions in the world.
Diva Nagula 15:19
What’s interesting to me is, you know my development spiritually has been all about letting go of the ego and trying to appreciate, understand, experience the oneness. And until you experience the oneness, it’s really hard to identify with the oneness and let go of the ego. And so can you expand on that a little bit and how the ego relates to the oneness and how a person can through various techniques appreciate and experience the oneness?
Leonard Perlmutter 16:52
Well, if we truly believe in the oneness in the unicity, within the diversity, it means that every aspect of the diversity, including the ego, is part of the oneness. So yoga science says include all and exclude none. And so we need an ego, it’s part of our holistic organism. I don’t want to get rid of it. But I have a responsibility toward it, I need to parent it. I need to parent it. Because it’s not always correct. Not based on what I think I defer to the superconscious wisdom reflected by the conscience. And my job is simply to be in service to that. And to parent, the ego, the senses and the unconscious mind to go along with it. Now the highest principle of yoga is a word called Ahimsa, non injury, non harming, non violence, which means that for me, when I step on this path, I’m not to do any injury to me, as well as to others. So in a strange way, it teaches me to love myself, to love my liver, to love my pancreas, to love my brain, to love my eyes, to love my joints, to love my ego, senses, unconscious mind and conscience. And so the more that I can do that, with relative ease, rather than taking on too much too soon, which would not be kind to me, or anyone else. If I can start with small things… I started myself with food. So I began cutting back some food. Now some food, I didn’t want to cut back the personality, the senses, the unconscious mind, the ego didn’t want to cut cut it back. So when I was faced with the choice of am I going to have this cookie am I not going to have this cookie? Initially, I was not ready to give up the cookie. But at a certain point for the sake of a scientific experiment. I agreed to giving up a quarter of a cookie just to see how I would feel. And not only did I feel better, but the ego felt better, the senses felt better, and the unconscious mind felt better. Okay, now we have a shared experience of giving up something that we benefited from that little beachhead can be built upon through the experimentation process in other relationships.
Diva Nagula 19:51
Also, on a personal level, I’ve been trying to really expand and raise consciousness and I’m
curious how we can utilize our own conscience to raise consciousness?
Leonard Perlmutter 20:06
Great question. It happens quite naturally. When I have a relationship, there’s either something to do or something not to do. How do I know? Well, if I rely on the conscience to tell me what’s to be done and what’s not to be done, invariably, in that process, I’m going to get pushed back from the ego, the senses and or the unconscious mind. So in real time, if I can sacrifice the personalities, Leonard’s attachment to the limited perspective over the ego, senses and unconscious mind in this situation, instead of serving it, if I can sacrifice it, if I can make it sacred by offering it back to the origin from which it came, because it too, is a manifestation of the one, if I can sacrifice it, so that my outer action reflects my inner wisdom, that contractive power of that second jelly doughnut, or whatever it is, I’m using a metaphor here of food. That that contracted and debilitating power of that desire, or that fear, or that anger will be transformed, and repurposed into healing energy, an expansion of my willpower, and an increase in my creativity, my access to the wisdom of the superconscious mind. So it’s in giving that we receive, we have to give up something that we value that is in conflict with our inner wisdom, I’m talking about judgments and anger and fear and certain kinds of desires. We learned in fifth grade, that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, but it can be transformed. And the same is true with desire, fear, and anger, these are all. It’s all energy. And we can keep it in the kinetic state, or we can transform it and put it into the the state that is is not used right now, the potential state that I can draw on later on. That’s how we expand our consciousness, our access to the superconscious portion of the mind, by giving, by sacrificing something that the conscience is asking us to sacrifice.
Diva Nagula 23:03
Again, going back to the conscience, what kind of problems can be solved by relying on our
Leonard Perlmutter 23:10
Well, the first problem that we can solve by relying on the conscience is to realize we have no problems. Now, what does that mean? We all know that we have problems well, do we really have problems? What is a problem? So if your listeners can just bring that word, into their heart center, midpoint between the two breasts and the center of the chest, just bring that word in, and close your eyes and just listen to the word, problem. Problem. Problem. I have a problem. And then evaluate, how does that feel? What is the weight of that word? And to me, it’s heavy. It’s onerous. It’s debilitating. Oh, I have a problem. I feel like I’m being shut down. But if you if you can switch that word problem, to the word, situation, situation, situation, I have a situation. Oh, that’s much lighter, filled with many possibilities that I am capable of? Yes, maybe it’s going to mean a little work, but I’m up for it. Because I have a situation. So why do I bring that up first? Well, you use the word problem. And I say we have no problems. Because the word, our language, triggers us, just words trigger us and diminish the minds capacity to act to the to its fullest capacity. So I say watch the mind. Watch the thoughts that come and use your thesaurus, you know, look for a different word for problem. And instead, I use situation. And I find that a much more fluid and much more creative in that regard. And so previous problems are fixable. If I look at it as a situation, and I use my conscience as my guide.
Diva Nagula 25:30
In your book, you mentioned several types of experiments focusing on attention, breath and
sleep. What’s others that we can try?
Leonard Perlmutter 25:38
Well, as I mentioned, Diva, right up front. Food Choices are very powerful. And they’re filled with creative energy. When I was 13, or 14 years old. And we all remember when we were 13- 14 years old that this was the crown of creation. When we were 13, or 14, we knew everything about everything. Not really, but we thought we did. And so what I tell people is that if I were living today, with that same mental software that I had, when I was 13, or 14, either I would be dead or I would be seriously ill. So in the process of practicing different experiments, I began to give up food, just because I love them. And instead, I look for food that loved me, loved my spleen, loved my pancreas, loved my joints. And slowly, slowly, I felt better, I had less pain in my life. So those are the types of experiments that are very, very helpful. And we can start with relatively easy things. Even brushing your teeth, you just finished dinner. So the conscience says, Oh, well, this would be a good opportunity to brush your teeth. Well, let’s take a let’s take a survey here. What is the ego say? I’m not really what do the senses say? I’d like another jelly doughnut. What is the unconscious mind say, Oh, well, I’m with the other two. So it’s my job to parent them. So that they listen to the conscience and see for the sake of an experiment, the value of it so that we take a couple of minutes after dinner, and brush our teeth.
Diva Nagula 27:48
Going back to the foods that you’re just previously discussing, are you referring to our choice of foods that are more have a relation with our dosha? Or are you referring to foods, specifically avoiding the standard American diets and eating more organic and less processed foods?
Leonard Perlmutter 28:08
Well, for me, it’s one in the same Ayurveda has been extremely important to me on a very practical down to earth level. It has taught me the positive aspects of this particular Mind-Body sense complex, and also the limitations of it. And so my primary dosha since childhood, of course, has been Kapha. I’ve been led by Kapha. Kapha is the heavier elements of earth and water. And of course, as a young child, I love those types of foods, I stuffed my mouth with bagels and cream cheese and ice cream. And I felt terrible. And I had very bad stomach pains and terrible allergies that came from that. And so that taught me in a very practical level, by experimenting with those foods and changing them out for foods that had more fire in them, and perhaps a little drier, more Vatta and more Pitta that I could balance my body and my mind a little better, quite a bit better! And I was healthier. I lost weight. I felt better. I didn’t have the stomach pains. It was a miracle. Not really, because there were 1000s of years ago there were these women and men that had the same issues that we have. And they experimented with these principles of Ayurveda. And their dough shows their body constitutions. And they honored that in the food choices that they made. It made them feel better. And as I experimented, I concurred. I feel better.
Diva Nagula 30:06
And you’re often very knowledgeable and your teachings are through the yoga science. What
exactly is yoga science? And how are we able to use its practical applications in today’s world?
Leonard Perlmutter 30:20
Well, yoga science is the oldest mind-body medicine on the planet. They say it’s about 6000 years old. You know, it goes deep into prior to recorded history. Yoga science is just an educational body of knowledge, that teaches us how to use the mind to take actions in the world that will result in benefits both for ourselves and for the entire organism. Whether it’s human, animal, mineral, environmental, because it’s all one, everything is all one. So any choice that I make, has profound effects. It’s it’s a little bit analogous to taking a pebble and dropping it into a pond, and seeing all the ripples that it leaves. And so when we make one small change in our diet, for example, it changes everything, it changes every relationship that I have, and relationships that I don’t even know that I have!
Diva Nagula 31:29
And meditation, how does meditation fit into all of this?
Leonard Perlmutter 31:33
Now, meditation is really the key to provide me the skill set to make these kinds of choices. So meditation is not about eliminating thoughts, which is impossible, the mind thinks, and it does that for a livelihood. And we need a mind that can change the channel at the drop of a hat. But when the mind becomes so habituated to changing the channel, for no good reason, other than restlessness, then it needs a little discipline, it needs a little training, nobody has ever taught us to train your mind. And so, in meditation, we accept that only one object will be given my mental energy to, we call that mantra, and every every spiritual and religious tradition has mantras. Mantras are a word or a series of words containing the name of the supreme reality, this perfection, this supreme intelligence. And so, when I give my attention to that, several things happen. Every time I give my attention in meditation, to that mantra, the mantra is always generating love and fearlessness and strength, which is then deposited in my unconscious mind. And when interceding thoughts, images or sounds come, it’s not a problem, I recognize, oh, that’s just part of the habit of the mind. And it’s also an integral part of meditation. So instead of being upset, that I can’t just focus on one object, I honor and witness the interceding distraction, I sacrifice it by offering it back to the one origin from which it has come from which everything has come. And then I bring the mind back to the mantra. So what I’m doing for the one minute or two minutes or five minutes that I’m learning to meditate, I’m creating the skill set of one pointed attention, which brings about genius in every human being. One pointed at attention, not multitasking, which is impossible, it only creates a depressed immune system and depression in the mind, it’s impossible to multitask. But if I can learn through meditation to have one pointed attention. Now, what happens that allows me then, to also create a space between the stimulus of a distraction and my ultimate response to it. When a distracting thought comes, or an image or a sound, with one pointed attention, I can create a space between stimulus and response. And in that space between stimulus and response, I now have the freedom to redirect my attention toward the conscience and the conscience will tell me whether this distraction is appropriate to give my attention to or it needs to be set sacrificed. Now, when we meditate, we automatically accept that any distraction is to be sacrificed just for the sake of training the mind. Only the mantra is to be given our attention for the one or two or five minutes that we start with. And so when that occurs, and a distraction comes along, I create a space between stimulus and response. That creates the tool and the skill of detachment, unlearning detachment, I don’t have to be a reactionary, if somebody offers me poison, I don’t have to drink it. I don’t have to consume it. It provides me the wisdom of my conscience. And if I can do what has to be done, based on what the conscience is saying, namely, sacrificing these interceding distractions, I can build the muscles of willpower. So meditation teaches me one pointed attention, detachment, discrimination from the and wisdom from the conscience, and willpower. Hey, I can use those tools all day long in every single relationship to do what’s to be done, and what’s not to be done.
Diva Nagula 36:32
And Leonard, I’d like to understand how people can find more about your teachings where they can find you on the internet, and specifically, more importantly, when and where can they purchase your book?
Leonard Perlmutter 36:47
The book, I guess, is available right now, you can get it at any of the fine booksellers. Amazon has them, Barnes and Noble, any of your local stores that sell books. We have a website for the book called www.yourconscience.org and that can give you information about the book in detail and also ordering instructions. And so far as me personally, I teach through the American Meditation Institute, and our website is AmericanMeditation.org and I’d like to extend an invitation to all of your listeners and to you have to do that every Sunday morning from 930 to 11. Every Sunday 930 to 11. We have a free guided meditation, and we call it a satsang. But it’s very similar to what you and I have been doing right now Diva having a philosophical and scientific inquiry and conversation. And so you can get a free link on the homepage of our website, AmericanMeditation.org. If you’d like if anybody would like to reach me personally, my email AMI@AmericanMeditation.org We’ll include that in the show notes as well. Thanks, Leonard. It’s been a pleasure to have you on the show. And I wish you all the best and congratulations and good luck with the book launch! You very much, thank you for your time and your interest!