New Day Herald

Rachelle Zazzu and John-Roger

Life Is a Demonstration Sport — an Interview with Rachelle Zazzu

  Rachelle Zazzu and John-Roger in Los Angeles, [c. 2000]

Rachelle: Okay. So here we are.

David: Here we are. Shall we call in the Light?

Rachelle: Please, go right ahead.

David: Dear God we ask just now to be cleared filled surrounded and protected with your Light. We ask for the presence of the Christ and the Traveler, the Holy Spirit, on all levels. And we asked that that which is for the highest good be communicated here, that which would share the teachings, the loving, the living love that is at the heart of each one of us. And we ask that this loving be our guide. We give thanks for this time to share with each other. And so it is.

Rachelle: And so it is. Baruch Bashan.

David: Baruch Bashan

[David and Rachelle chant the Ani-Hu]

David: Wonderful. Thank you.

Rachelle: Thank you.

David: And thanks for taking a little time on your Monday to connect.

Rachelle: Yeah. I love my church.

David: Yes. That’s what these interviews have really been about. They’re about MSIA, about people’s stories of finding MSIA, of being in MSIA, and the ways that this movement has touched our lives. So, here we are, I’m not sure if there’s a place you want to start…

Rachelle: So this is what I’ll say and if I don’t attend to what it is you’d like me to talk about, you can redirect.

David: Perfect.

Rachelle: So here is my story. I am not by nature a spiritual seeker. I actually had quite a bit of disdain and scorn because I’m old enough to have lived through Hari Krishna at the airport with a dollar and a flower and people walking into our McDonald’s when I was young with little comic books about God telling us to come and worship. And when I heard about spiritual seeking, I thought it was that and it was sort of an eye-rolling experience for me.

David: [Laughs]

Rachelle: And I did insight on the recommendation of my marriage counselor who had done it and she didn’t posit it as personal development or spiritual. She posited it as a therapeutic approach that would give us a lot of awareness and help us to have clarity about moving forward.

Rachelle: In [Insight], I met David Warrilow, sorry to say that’s someone who you did not meet, but he was just an extraordinary New Yorker and actor. He’s in famous things if you want to look him up. And, he said to me, “Do you have $100?” And I said, “No, I don’t.” And he was like, “No, I don’t want to borrow it. I want you to do something with it.” And I said, “Okay.” And he said, “Send it to this address,” Which I did because I had faith in him.

David: Wow.

Rachelle: And then I got my [Soul Awareness] Discourses in the mail.

David: That’s amazing.

Rachelle: I read the first Discourse and I called him up and I said, “David, I know it’s 20-some pages, but I don’t understand it all. And also I’ve been reading the whole thing every day for the last three days. And I keep seeing a man’s face. I don’t even know who the man is. And he said, “Describe him.” And I did. And he said, “Well, you’re already a minister, you just don’t know it.” And then I was like, “Well I’ll read the books because that’s not really spiritual seeking or anything I would have disdain with, It was just reading a book.”

Rachelle: So I read my Discourses not realizing that you read one a month. I thought you moved on when ready. So I read my first Discourse for three months – every day for three months. Feeling like, “Okay, I’m sort of getting it now. Okay. It’s sort of filtering in.”

Rachelle: Then I told Lori Bullock about it and we talked to Kevin McMillan about it and Lori and I decided we were going to go see J-R and meet this person. [Lori] is a spiritual seeker. She is someone who’s been to India and she’s done a lot in her life. I was going to meet the man who wrote the books. I was going to an author signing, “You know?” Like “Meet the author! Have him sign your book!” That’s what I was going for.

David: What year was this when you were doing an insight and you first signed up for Discourses?

Rachelle: 1985. I drove. And on the way, Lori and I decided, “All right, what if he is a spiritual teacher? We like the books very well. We will just pledge our immortal soul to him.”

David: [Laughs] You decided this on the way there?

Rachelle: Yeah. “We will just sit at his feet.” That was a big thing cause we thought, “Alright, if he is a spiritual teacher, he’s probably in robes sitting on the floor and the idea is to sit at his feet. So if we’re going to do that, let’s do that! Let’s sit at his feet.”

David: So you were ready. You were going to go all in at that point.

Rachelle: If we were going to do it, we were going to do it right. Sort of like a what the f*** moment.

David: [laughs]. “Let’s just go for it. Alright.”

Rachelle: Let’s just go for it. We’re doing it, right? We’re reading the book. We like the book. We’ve done Insight. We’re assisting at Insight. You know? It’s [J-R’s] thing, Insight is his thing.

Rachelle: So we have a series of adventures, each one more sacred than the next, that are the experiences every human wants when meeting their spiritual teacher. You want phenomena and you want made manifest and you want proof. And J-R gave that to us in very blatant ways, such that the 800 people in the room could also witness that we sat at his feet. Even though it was in an auditorium, he told me and Lori and one other person that we were in a fire zone and to come up and we sat 15 feet ahead of the front row with our elbows on the stage.

David: Oh my God, you were there at his feet!

Rachelle: Literally. That was our intention. Our intention was, “We we’ll know he is real if and when we sit at his feet.” That’s just one thing that happened, there were four or five episodes. It was an amazing experience. And I always say to people, “I wasn’t shopping when I bought it.”

David: Yeah.

Rachelle: Here’s the thing that every single person in the Movement [of Spiritual Inner Awareness] knows: whatever you believe and whatever you think, what you know is that to stand in front of J-R when he is loving you changes the rotation of the sun. It changes everything. There’s a life before that moment and there’s a life after that moment.

Rachelle: And after that moment [for me] was giving up all drugs and giving up the people who were associated with drugs and going to Steve Fogel’s house, it took me an hour and a half by subway to get to this house, and listening to a J-R seminar on audio (cause it was audio in those days). I did Insight I, II, III, IV. PAT I, II, III, IV. Leadership [training]. I assisted at about 20 PAT trainings in three years. I assisted at probably 15 Insight trainings in that same time. Windermere wasn’t even called Windermere yet. It was just called “the property” and no one lived there. I lived there by myself with Jack Espy coming up on weekends and Chuck Krueger giving me my assignments of what to do and I would clear fire trails and clean and just do whatever they told me to do.

Rachelle: I was on the property because I just did not want to not be in J-R’s energy because when you know that kind of love exists on the planet, then every decision is already made. Right? Which is go for that loving, support that loving, participate in that loving, and everything it takes. I gave up my life. Moved to California. And moved into the seminary.

Rachelle: The purpose of life becomes very clear. And that is not to say that I am a paragon of anything. I have done some mean and unkind shit while I’ve been in the Movement. But I understand now that’s part of my humanity and J-R never stopped loving me in it or loving me past it or in any way making me feel that he was taking himself away from me. He did give me the tools, which is the greatest part of MSIA. It gives you the tools to lift yourself out of it if you’re willing. And then once you’re willing, and that willingness is authentic, and not a workshop or a begging, but when you really became willing to lift yourself, that’s when grace is extended and you don’t have to because J-R lifts you. And it has been that way [for me] ever since. And that’s my story.

David: [Laughs] Period. That’s a profound story. There are so many layers of what you’re sharing. And first I just want to say thank you for that.

Rachelle: You’re very welcome. Thank you for listening to my story.

David: Yes, absolutely. I think there’s much to be said in that life-changing moment and yet life was still there to be lived. Life was still to go on and you were still there and there were things that changed right away and things that didn’t.

Rachelle: Right. ‘Cause I was still me. The part of me that lied was still me and the part of me that did drugs was still me and the part of me that had lack and fear was still me and [J-R] never stopped loving me and those aspects of me until I rose to wherever I could rise above them. And I imagine those are things that I’ll work with ’til I die. Although I find myself to be a truthful person who works with compassion and loving in my life. And God has given me an opportunity to demonstrate it 24 hours a day. Because during the day, I’m a hospital chaplain and I moved back to New York to take care of my mother who has onset of Alzheimer’s. So I’m getting opportunities to demonstrate that in ways that every day I try to live up to my own criteria of making J-R proud of me.

David: I’m thinking about what you said, to know that you are loved regardless of anything that’s going on, and what that did for you in your consciousness. And also how, with the last comment that you said, that there’s this thing that’s like how do I live up to that? How do I make J-R proud? How do I live up to be worthy of that unconditional love, which is a paradox because of course you’re worthy of unconditional love because of what it is.

Rachelle: I didn’t say “To make myself worthy” cause I believe I’m worthy. I said, “to make [J-R] proud.”

David: To make him proud. Right. Yeah. That’s beautiful. So what does that look like? How do you do that? How do you make J-R proud? I’m thinking also of “To glorify God in heaven,” those lines in [the Bible].

Rachelle: Exactly. Those lines, which I say at bedside every single day when a patient dies at the hospital. I’m the hospital chaplain so I’m there before, during, and after. But what that looks like is, when I’m tired, cranky, and bratty, and I know that nobody knows if I leave a half-hour early and I want to. I don’t.

David: Yeah.

Rachelle: I’m completely autonomous in my job. My supervisor isn’t even in my borough. So when I come is on my integrity and when I leave is on my integrity and what I do during the day is on my integrity. I could just lie and never show up and it would be a week before anyone would know because I have so much autonomy. But I don’t do that. I go in and I ask the Traveler to be with me and that family or me and that patient or me and that staff member and I stay very present with them. And when they say, “I know you have a lot of people to see,” I say, “There’s no one more important than you.” Because I never stood in front of J-R where he made me feel somebody was more important than me in that moment.

David: What a gift.

Rachelle: What a gift he gave us.

David: Yeah. And a gift that you can extend now through your work. I’d love to be bedside with you and watch that process…

Rachelle: People say that but you know, it’s heartbreaking because what’s happening is people are dying.

David: Right.

Rachelle: People are losing their wife of 60 years and their four-year-old child and their mother. So it is spiritually very full and it’s also heartbreaking and it’s why a half-hour early, I’m like, “Oh my God, I could just leave now.” But I don’t.

David: What do you when someone’s losing their child? How do you [handle that]?

Rachelle: Well, it sort of depends on them. If they have an identified faith tradition, I asked them what about their faith gives them strength and courage and what do they have faith in. I try to make a fellowship around it so that we are in it together and sometimes I will just cry with them so they don’t cry alone. And sometimes I’m telling a three-year-old that her mother died because the family literally doesn’t have the courage to do it.

Rachelle: And sometimes I’m doing a bedside memorial, which is an entire religious service predicated on their faith traditions. So I’m there with the Bible or with the Torah or with the Koran and I’m doing their bedside memorial in the name of Allah or the name of Christ or in the name of Jehovah. And sometimes when they say to me, “What the f*** could you do for me? The doctor just told me I was dying.” I say, “I could get mad at God with you.” God gets mad 600 times in the Bible. We’re allowed to get mad. I can get mad at God with you. I can cry with you. I can listen while you tell me how meaningless my job is because I can’t change the trajectory of your life. And then after you’re done telling me that, I will pour you hot coffee.

David: [Laughs]

Rachelle: Right? The idea is that you normalize their experience through love.

David: And you just love them.

Rachelle: You just love them in a way that they recognize and they want in the moment, not according to what I want or what we do in the Movement, but according to what they want. And the way that we are in the Movement, because we’re ecumenical and because we embrace so many different faiths and so many different kinds of people, is a good training ground for learning how to give people the space to express what they need and then holding for the highest good. And creating boundaries when what they need is not for the highest good.

David: It seems like what you’re sharing is such a needed and huge skill – to be able to meet people where they are in loving.

Rachelle: And what else did J-R do for us?

David: Right.

Rachelle: This and so much more.

David: This and so much more. It’s true.

Rachelle: So that’s my saga, from here to there.


Rachelle: Did I lose you?

David: No, I’m here. I’m just sort of enjoying everything that you shared and floating in my own experiences of being around death and being with people in loving. And the joy of the experience of having a moment of overcoming the distance between myself and someone else and to express loving and to experience that it was understood or received even through the limitations of humanness and communication and, it’s just so wonderful.

Rachelle: Yeah. Well here’s the thing about life: Life is a demonstration sport and if you want someone to feel loved, you do it the way they want, not the way you want.

David: Yes.

Rachelle: And if you can’t, then you’re not the one to love them. Walk away and let someone else who can give them what they need, come in and give them what they need.

David: Wow. And also it takes courage to try.

Rachelle: Yeah.

David: It takes courage to try; to tell someone, to communicate, to demonstrate the loving as you said. And it also takes courage to say, “I can’t do this.”

Rachelle: Exactly, “So I’m going to step aside and let someone who can, do it.”

David: When you’re navigating that, what is your process? Are you saying, “How does this person want me to love them?” How do you know?

Rachelle: For me, at work, it’s pretty easy because when they say, “Can you give me communion?” I say, “I can not. I am not a Catholic Priest. I’ll call the priest for you.”

David: Yes.

Rachelle: Or when they say, “Can you please pray to Allah to forgive my husband for his sins so that Allah will cure him of his cancer?” I say “I can, but I’m not an imam and I don’t know what words to say other than to ask God for forgiveness. If there are words that you need me to say, I want to call someone who can say them for you. And if what you want is someone who will hold with you while I pray to God for forgiveness, I can do that for you.”

Rachelle: And then at home, dealing with someone who has Alzheimer’s, I have made a very clear distinction, which is: I am not her boss and I am not her jailer. I’m her caregiver. So if I can do it, I do it, that’s all there is to it.

David: And if you can’t, you find another way, someone who can.

Rachelle: Or I find it to be profoundly unhealthy and unsafe and then I don’t help her and I don’t offer someone else who will. Right? Like, “No, I’m not helping you get on this step ladder and no, I’m not taking out the step ladder so you can get on it while I’m gone. No. I’m not.”

David: There are the boundaries of loving.

Rachelle: That’s the boundaries of loving. Right? And that’s because one of us is lucid and rational and yet I’m not her jailer. So if she wants to bend down, which I know is going to be painful for her and hurt her for three hours. I’m not her jailer. Does it make her feel good about herself for me to say, “don’t bend down and hurt yourself” or is it better for her to bend down and hurt herself? It’s a better experience for her. Because I’m not her jailer. So it’s having the awareness to step back and where to step in and to make those boundaries as respectful and honorific as possible through the filter of the other person’s perception.

David: That’s beautiful.

Rachelle: Thank you. And on that note, I must end because I am in the lobby about to cook dinner for that same woman.

David: [With tears] Wonderful. Bless you and bless her.

Rachelle: Thank you. And you and the work that you’re doing.

David: Thank you so much, Rachelle.

Rachelle: Take good care, David.

David: Alright, take care.

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