Someday Productions LLC and Pillow Talking are proud to present this Interview with author and yogi, LYRIC BENSON FERGUSSON
Part 1 of 2 Parts
Lyric Benson Fergusson is a spiritual teacher and activist who pushes the envelope of how God is traditionally spoken of. Her mission is to spread the message of peace, love, and Divine-realization in the transformational poetry book, French Kissing God: A Journey to Enlightenment. Lyric grew up in Hollywood as daughter of actor/director Robby Benson and singer songwriter Karla DeVito. She spent most of her young life on television sets such as Ellen and Friends. Before her twenty first birthday Lyric experienced several life changing events: She was a student at NYU during the attacks of September 11th where her godmother passed away in one of the towers, then while studying at Maharishi University of Management in 2004 a dear friend was murdered in front of her in the college dining hall. These circumstances along with a number of personal and family health challenges spurred her to diligently seek freedom from suffering and pursue God within.
At twenty two Lyric became a celibate monk and remained so until she was almost thirty. She devoted her life to silence and awakening, often spending eight to ten hours a day in eyes closed meditation or prayer. It was during these transformational years that she composed her poetic mysticism. Please enjoy this fascinating look at the “magical” Lyric Benson Fergusson.
Part 2 will follow soon (sign up with your email to get an advance preview of Part 2)
PT: So tell us what was it like growing up in California with such famous parents?
LB: Yeah, so basically I grew up in Los Angeles – Hollywood and you know, just as if my parents had been lawyers and the talk around the dinner table would have been bout law and things like that, for me it was always talking about the day on the set. I grew up going as often I could to the different sets where my dad was directing. When he was directing Ellen – especially Ellen – I would go as much as I possibly could. I really loved that set – and then when I got a little bit older I would shadow him. I would learn as much as I possibly could being his assistant and then I ended up going to film school because it felt very natural to continue in that way – I think there are many things that I learned.
First of all, growing up in Hollywood – it’s not all glamour (laughs). You learn very quickly the kind of ups and downs of being in the spotlight and that it is remarkably challenging and how fleeting fame is – a lot of people – they don’t realize that somebody [can be a] household word and in ten years no one has ever heard of them. Growing up in that just made me realize that fame is not everything at all – it’s just a nice perk – and sometimes not a nice perk – of being a creative person. It was very educational actually.
PT: Where did you go to film school?
LB: New York University. Yes, I was in the Tisch Film School.
PT: We have to ask this because Stephanie is a BIG Ellen [Degeneres] fan. How was it to visit her and the set? And how old were you then?
LB: I was thirteen when I was going to the set of Ellen. Honestly, Ellen [Degeneres] was so sweet to me – I felt like she was kind of like an aunt to me for those years. I haven’t seen or spoken to her for many, many years but she will always have an amazing place in my heart just for her kindness. She always made me laugh and [would] be so sweet to me when I would come to the set.
PT: We believe you said you were not religious as a child. Did you have any sort of religious training growing up?
LB: No, not at all. My parents raised me very secularly. I had no interest in spirituality or religion growing up. It was completely uninteresting (laughs). I think that it’s because I had no experience of God. We had classes on religion in middle school and we learned these things and it all seemed so archaic and convoluted and strange to me and all of the dogma without any substance –
PT: What about now?
LB: Now my experience is that there is so much truth in all of the teachings – but it was hard to recognize that because I had no prior experience of divinity or a higher power. It was so boring to me, whereas now I have that very clearly – it’s a constant presence in my life. When you have that then you can kind of look at the other teachings with greater respect and see – oh, maybe there’s some mistranslation there but at the same time there’s a lot of beautiful knowledge as well.
PT: When did spirituality come to you? We know you suffered some trauma in your life. Was that the trigger?
LB: I left to go to NYU and I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I had really bad stomach problems where my digestive system wasn’t even digesting my food properly or at all in some cases – I was always in pain – it was terrible. I was not a healthy person when I went to school.
And soon after I got there 9/11 happened and I was right there, downtown, and our dear friend passed away in one of the towers. She worked for Cantor Fitzgerald. I spent the next year as a dear friend of her husband. I ended up living with him at a certain point. You just see someone going through that – that grieving – to have experienced that intensity. I don’t know if you guys were in the city during that – but even if you were out of the city, the whole country experienced that.
PT: Yes, Wayne was working in midtown at the time when it occurred although he wasn’t in New York that day. He was acquainted with some people who passed away. It was a very dark time.
LB: Yes, as you said it was very dark and very intense. And you just start wondering, what is the purpose of existence? You know, you just start really thinking – that was my experience – and wanting to know what the point of life is. So I came back home to Los Angeles. I took a break from school. I was kind of a mess – I was suffering from depression and all this kind of stuff.
Of all people, John Voight gave me this book, Autobiography of a Yogi. I read that book and thought, Oh my God! I need to learn this meditation! This is incredible! And funnily enough we were moving; my parents were moving to North Carolina that was right by a meditation center for Maharishi Mahesh Yogi which was different than Yogananda who wrote Autobiography of a Yogi, but both were amazing spiritual teachers.
I ended up learning transcendental meditation when I was nineteen and then within about three weeks my fibromyalgia completely disappeared.
LB: And that was after trying everything. I was an insomniac – I mean, it was just so many things that just completely, completely disappeared – challenges and all of those kind of things. And I wanted more of course.
And [because of that] I began to experience a peace and a silence within myself that I had never even tasted in my life. It felt like my soul was beginning to unravel, you know, and I was beginning to become more whole – and still I was not religious at the time. The term religious is a loaded gun (laughs). I didn’t even know what I was experiencing or [did I] associate it with the term God at all. It wasn’t until much later that my experiences became very, very clear and very – oh, my gosh — almost overwhelming at times with the presence of the Divine. I realized that this was God – here (laughs).
PT: A theologian or philosopher once said that religion is man made and spirituality is divine.
LB: That’s beautiful — very beautiful.
PT: What would you consider yourself religiously?
LB: I feel that I am really all-denominational (laughs) I don’t really associate myself with any particular religion. I would say that I resonate very deeply with the Vedic tradition which is from India.
PT: You refer to the Vedic tradition in several footnotes in your book.
LB: Yes I talk about the Vedas. That was where the meditation that I practice comes from. I love India – I just love that country. I feel so at home there. I love the culture. But at the same time throughout my spiritual journey I’ve had visions of Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed — from all of these different religious traditions. I feel they are all preaching the same truth. When I experience them I experience them as messengers of fullness who express [themselves] in slightly different ways.
PT: We interviewed actress Sally Kirkland and she referenced Autobiography of a Yogi and also does yoga and meditates, and even teaches it. (Sally Kirklnad Interview)
LB: Really? Fabulous!
PT: Yes. We will send you the interview. What is the difference between meditation and transcendental meditation?
LB: Transcendental meditation is an effortless practice that is taught very systematically around the country and around the world actually — it does come from the Vedic tradition and was originally taught by the Mahesh Yogi. It is actually a 20-minute, twice-a-day practice where people sit in silence and they use a mantra to effortlessly take the mind beyond thought and to experience the transcendental field. In science they describe it as the unified field of all the laws of nature — but in spiritual practices you can call it the Self — the big S. Fullness. Being. God. Any of those words and you begin to experience that and you begin to tap into that and it just establishes enlightenment systematically within the human body. It’s very beautiful.
PT: When you first started how quickly did you achieve that peaceful state?
LB: I think it was the first meditation really.
PT: Wow. Really?
LB: Yes. You just do the technique and then you experience that peace, that fullness. I remember you transcend and then suddenly the meditation teacher is like, “Okay it’s over,” and you are like, “Whoa what just happened?” (laughs). The session has gone by so quickly. I think it varies over the years. When I first started that silence that I experienced in meditation it was very silent, but after years that silence begins to become very dynamic and you begin to experience the interacting dynamics of creation – very subtle levels of this manifest creation – and that was after many, many years of practice. I did very long meditation programs. I did the TMC which is the advanced techniques and then I joined the group Coherence Creating Group. I meditated sometimes up to eight to ten hours a day – a lot of time in the silence.
PT: How was it possible for you to meditate for that long?
LB: It was split up into two sessions. In morning it was about four or five hours and in the afternoon it was another four or five hours. You wake up and your body gets so used to it. It’s like taking a bath – you go and you just sit and then you just sink into the silence and you do the practice – the practice is very specific. It’s not as if you are just sitting there doing nothing – you have a mantra and then there are other practices you do in the silence. It is very possible. And for me the silence was so delicious and powerful that I didn’t want to come out. I didn’t want to go back and have lunch and that was my experience often – that I would meditate part of the way into lunch (laughs).That wasn’t the best choice because I would get there and there wasn’t much food left for me.
PT: Other people who meditate and teach meditation talk about “Kundalini” and you mentioned that you had a Kundalini blowout. Can you explain that?
LB: Yeah sure. Basically what happens is that when someone is waking up spiritually their body begins to evolve and process energy very differently than before. It’s actually like a higher voltage – is a good way to describe it – and that energy is the Kundalini energy. It actually comes from the earth and enters the body and during spiritual practices that are very powerful, what ends up happening is that the body kind of takes in so much more Kundalini energy and begins to process it through the physical body. For me what ended up happening is that because I learned meditation and doing these hours so quickly my body – my physical body – wasn’t quite ready to handle that intensity of energy. It kind of short-wired my nervous system and it was very intense – I had seizure-like episodes that lasted hours and hours at a time. It was really terrible. I think that it’s important for spiritual seekers to realize that these technologies of consciousness can be very powerful and do not ever underestimate them. So what this experience taught me was the importance of imbalance – and this happened after about three years of very long practice. Then I came to work with Matthew Reifslager who is a very powerful energy healer who basically helped to rewire my body in order to allow it to process that amount of Shakti or Kundalini energy flowing through it. So now I have that amount of energy running through my body but my body is able to contain it and process it and metabolize it in a completely healthy way. But also during that time I learned the importance of grounding – the importance of being integrated – and I continued doing long meditations, but during that time I spent a large amount of time in nature, a large amount of time in connecting with the earth just in order to help me ground and process all of the energy flowing through my body.
PT: When you were a Yogi for over eight years, what was a typical day like and how did you support yourself?
LB: Basically my typical day was I would wake up early, typically around 3:45 a.m. and I would go directly into meditation, then I would meditate until mid-morning until I would eat my breakfast and then I would spend a good chunk of time in nature and also in silence. I also was doing a lot of work with Matthew Reifslager, a beautiful energy healer, and I would work with him on some of his healing work – so it was a lot of time in healing and in silence – I was in silent mode. After, I would eat lunch, do some writing, then I would go back into meditation until dinner time when I would eat some dinner, go for a walk and then I’d be in bed usually around 7:30 – 7:45 in the evening. And that was my routine for many years.
How I supported myself was – when I part of the Coherence Creating Group for world peace, my routine was slightly different than I just described but people actually can support the group through tax deductible donations. And that was one way in which I was able to sustain myself there. After I left, my dad and mom supported me – I was very, very lucky and they helped me through those years because they believed in what I was doing. I lived very simply – I didn’t ever buy clothes or things like that unless I really, really needed something but they supported my housing and my food costs so for that was very, very lucky.
END OF PART ONE
STAY TUNED FOR PART 2 — Lyric talks about writing and publishing her book, French Kissing God. Sign up with your email to get an advance preview of Part 2.