The play of her light: Interview with Lyric Benson Fergusson
October 29, 2015
Lyric Benson Fergusson is enjoying life to its fullest. She is living in Hawaii with her husband Asher Fergusson and their adorable Goldendoodle Lola. She is about to publish her first magnificent book of poems, French Kissing God: A Journey to Enlightenment, which celebrated authors have already showered with praise.
Yet to know her honest and bold story is to realize: this beautiful flower has emerged from a seed that was once nested in dirt’s dark embrace.
“A chasm appeared between me and wholeness.”
How did you perceive the world as a child?
LYRIC BENSON FERGUSSON: Up to a certain point, growing up was wonderfully smooth for me. My parents showered me with love and attention. I remember feeling kind of at home all the time.
Then, around age 12, a big shift took place. I felt like a chasm appeared between me and wholeness. I became rebellious, a bit hard to deal with, and I started developing all these bizarre health problems.
Around that time, I had an illness that mimicked spinal meningitis. I developed fibromyalgia, massive stomach problems and tons of allergies. Plus I had five compacted discs in my back.
On top of that, there was the constant concern about my dad’s health. He was born with a congenital heart defect that required four open-heart surgeries.
That must have been quite difficult to go through in the always turbulent teenage years?
LYRIC BENSON FERGUSSON: Yes, it was challenging.
But, on the bright side, when I had the meningitis I got to stay home from school for a month and my parents got me a puppy (laughing). At that time, my dad (former actor Robby Benson) was directing the sitcom Ellen (of Ellen DeGeneres), and the whole cast did this sweet huge collage for me.
I am a pretty tough person and I was a bit bull-headed, so I just kept going: being an athlete, riding horses…. I kept it all private; only my best friends knew and understood why it was hard for me to sit still in the classroom because of my back and my insomnia.
When I was getting ready to go to college, the doctors said, “She needs back surgery; she needs to have her stomach tested.” I just replied, “I’m going to college now – see you later!”
And it all got a little worse before it got better…
LYRIC BENSON FERGUSSON: A lot worse, actually!
Three weeks after I got to NYU (New York University), 9/11 happened. A dear family friend was killed in one of the towers. I was very close to her husband afterwards, who was kind of like an uncle for me. To watch him go through this suffering made me inquire deeply into the meaning of life.
I only stayed at NYU for a year and a half. I was at the top of my class for writing, so my teachers put me with the seniors my sophomore year. I guess they saw potential in me, so they gave me a lot of work.
But I was feeling so much pressure and physical pain at that point. My health had gotten much worse. I needed a break.
So I returned home. I had some success with my screenwriting; a company affiliated with Sony Pictures was interested in one of my screenplays. But it was all very showbiz-like. I had grown up in all of that and felt I was not in a point in my life where I could do this.
Interestingly, Jon Voight, who was a family friend, gave me the book Autobiography of a Yogi. That moment was the beginning of my spiritual journey.
“…seemed like she was not even walking on the ground.”
Tell the story of how you ran into your Transcendental Meditation teacher
LYRIC BENSON FERGUSSON:: It was very divinely organized and humbling (laughing). My family moved to North Carolina, and at that time meditation was not as widespread as it is today. I thought that LA, where I had just moved away from, would be a much more likely place to learn to meditate. I remember thinking, “How am I ever going to find a meditation teacher in Boone, North Carolina?” I thought we were going to the middle of nowhere.
Then one day, I was taking my two miniature Jersey cows for a stroll in front of our farm when a woman basically comes floating down the dirt road towards me, and says, ”Hello! I love cows!“ She was like a little fairy, so full of light.
I had never met anyone like that! In LA or New York almost everyone is very hard, and here’s this person who seemed like she was not even walking on the ground.
We started talking and she told me at one point that she is a meditation teacher. I immediately said, “You have to teach me!” She said, “I don’t know. I have not taught anyone in a while.” But I was certain: “No, you have to teach me, please, now.”
Turned out that my parents had bought a farm about five miles from a campus where long-term Transcendental Meditation retreats were held!
So I ended up learning TM from her. At that time I was suffering from depression and my health was also still very bad. Yet, as I started meditating, I literally felt the stress pouring off me. In two weeks, my fibromyalgia, which nothing before had managed to relieve, just went away. My digestion got better, and I felt happier, lighter.
I wanted to learn more and so I ended up enrolling at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa.
“I am done with humanity!”
Yet, in Fairfield you faced another trauma: seeing your friend murdered before your eyes.
LYRIC BENSON FERGUSSON: Yes, this was so unexpected and also very life-changing.
After that incident I became very reclusive. I was like: “I am done with humanity. I’m going into monk- mode!” So I joined the long Transcendental Meditation retreat program for ladies.
That silence, that place of no suffering, where you can have emotions but you are so far back from it, in the depths of the ocean, was all I was interested in.
Nowadays, I feel the integration. My outer life is reflecting the inner wholeness. But at that time there was a big contrast between the two. And I was not at all interested in continuing how I had been.
Yet, once again it was your body that broke down, as if it was the fierce grace forcing you to move towards the balance and integration.
LYRIC BENSON FERGUSSON: Yes, my body has been my greatest teaching tool. It is unfortunate that I was just so stubborn that it took me becoming completely broken before I admitted I needed a change in direction (laughing). Well, I am more attentive to it now. Or at least try to be.
I thought I was going to be a yogi-monk forever, but my body just collapsed. I guess I have other things that I need to do in this world, and the life of a monk was not meant for me. Though my life even now is very monastic. I go to bed by eight o’clock. I’ve married a fellow monk, you know! My husband Asher also spent about 6 years devoted to long meditation.
Very ironically, actually, the first thing I did out of my monk-mode was the show Cabaret at the Sondheim Theatre in Fairfield, Iowa. I love to act but hadn’t done it in about a decade. I was so out of my comfort zone but it was good for me.
It was hysterical: I had been celibate for eight years and there I was chair dancing in fishnet stockings! It showed me I could really experience God anywhere!
You’re about to publish your amazing book, yet in the past you have also recorded music. Do you think music is also something that might resurface in your life?
LYRIC BENSON FERGUSSON: I did the first album with my dad when I was still very inward. I had this great music but I was not ready to put it out there.
Now I am so much more integrated, physically strong and healthy and clear. I feel like I could totally perform it now.
Yet, as my dad said to me the other day, “Man plans, God laughs.” I’m very open; we’ll see what happens.
“It’s allowing my light to play in the world.”
French Kissing God demonstrates your wonderful sense of humor. Has this always been such integral part of your character? It reminds me of the saying that a well-developed sense of humor is the reflection of enlightenment—not having that restricting armor that needs to protect the little ego, taking nothing seriously but the joy of life.
LYRIC BENSON FERGUSSON: Oh, that’s good! I totally get it and I would say yes. Well, my father does have an amazing sense of humor. But for me, it’s only been in the last few years when I have been with my husband Asher that it has come out so strongly. I think my relationship with him has been so integrating. It’s allowing my light to play in the world.
And now everything is a joke. Asher says I should be a stand-up comedian.
I agree. Maybe that’s the next thing.
LYRIC BENSON FERGUSSON: I’m up for it! My own reality show! (laughing)
I honestly think my whole day is basically a constant comedy. That’s how I approach my life. That’s how it flows through me. And in that mode you don’t worry about making fun of yourself. You’re an idiot, you’re really smart— you’re the jester, you’re the king. It does not matter!
The beautiful name Lyric, where did it come from?
LYRIC BENSON FERGUSSON: My dad, Robby Benson, found it one day in the dictionary. He is a musician and loved the idea of naming me after the words of a song. But it is funny, how it’s played out in my life. In Sanskrit, “Li” is the play of Mother Divine or dynamism and “Rk” is the collapse of Wholeness to a point of silence. So “Li-Rk” is the play of wholeness: the words to the song of the Self.
For so many years I have been focused on the collapse into Silence. Now, I am ready to play a bit in the world!
“It’s dirty and it’s clean, and everything in between.”
Your poems are powerful, touching and beautiful, potentially reality shifting. When you write, is there conscious intent or is it more as if the poems were writing themselves, using you only as a medium?
LYRIC BENSON FERGUSSON:At first, I wrote the poems without editing. It felt like God was teaching me. It was a flow, without me thinking.
When it came time to publish I first felt these poems just flowed through me and I didn’t have to do any editing. My husband Asher then gave me a lot of great feedback and he was like, “Oh, well, actually….This doesn’t make any sense to me.” (laughing)
Then I realized that because the writing was so much based on my experiences, which some people might not have had, I would have to speak in a language that others would understand.
I began looking at the poems in a slightly different light. I had evolved so much since the poems were originally written. Now there was a deeper teaching to share. So I began looking at my words and thinking, “Is this what I want to say, want to teach? Are these words representative of the vibration that was flowing through me at that moment when the poem was first conceived?”
So I would sit with a poem like a sculpture, carving the fine lines and looking at every little word. For me it felt like a spiritual practice; it was never work. I was re-teaching myself, through my Self.
Could you capture in few sentences the essence of your message in French Kissing God?
LYRIC BENSON FERGUSSON: God is so intimate. It’s not outside of you. It’s dirty and it’s clean, and everything in between.
Enlightenment is possible. I’m not saying that I am fully realized, but I live in a vibration that I feel everyone in the world deserves to live in.
Be empowered, find your path. God is you, so just do your thing.
Reading your poems and knowing your life story, the theme that seems to come up is embracing life. As it is. In good and bad.
Lyric Benson Fergusson: Of course! The [Bhagavad] Gita also talks so much about it: the equanimity in pleasure and pain.
That is a constant thing that comes up for me – embrace the situation and yourself as fully as you can. No matter the emotion — you embrace that.
I don’t expect that a situation like 9/11 or my friend passing away will never happen to me again. You hope that it won’t, but we live in a crazy world.
Whatever happens, it’s how you embrace that elevates your consciousness.
In the West, if you say “equanimity in pleasure and pain,” it often gets projected in the image of an old guy sitting in a cave and not caring about anything. But the way you express it and your poems express it, it’s the love that does it. It’s the love that embraces.
Lyric Benson Fergusson: I’m so happy that idea came through! You just said it. And that was one of my biggest lessons. I did that: “I am in a cave, goodbye world!”
You run into the cave to experience equanimity — and then you stay there because you try to maintain equanimity by avoiding both pleasure and pain, and therefore life! It’s funny how the unenlightened intellect is always doing that, trying to figure it out logically, and mostly misunderstanding! “Dodging karma” (as Asher called it the other day).
I needed the safety of the cave to transform — it was essential. But even a monk can’t dodge karma! A bird could poop on him while he is meditating under a tree. But how he reacts to the bird poop — how much love he feels for the bird and its poop — that’s where the true test is! (laughing)
This is my continued lesson. Life is full of ups and downs. But to be with the Self during whatever hits you, to be the presence of unconditional Love: that’s God — and that is the equanimity!
God’s French Kiss
Last night God offered me a kiss…
Of course I accepted!
I could never deny such a handsome being as He.
I began experiencing uncontrollable affection
Then, I was warned by some flirtatious angelic onlookers
that sudden and/or gradual death of the ego is expected,
lack of verbal communication with others, reclusive behavior,
fits of uncontrollable laughter, excruciating bliss,
and possible mental confusion might occur
for every creature I could see…
as my life crumbles like pebbles,
from a disintegrating mountain
to my feet.
They never mentioned this in the storybooks.
All in all, those amorous heavenly beings were right.
It was an intense night,
let me tell you.
But by morning I found the sun kissing my toes
requesting me to stir.
Wiping the sleep from my eyes,
feeling quite transformed,
I regained awareness and realized
that God was standing by my bedside
asking me to use my newly revised tongue to speak.
To enlighten this earth with the playful words
of my own cosmic sunshine.
Hmmm… quite a task.
Especially for one little being,
sitting up in bed,
and recovering from God’s crazy
Honestly, I almost declined.
But then, I began to feel something flopping dramatically around in
and I realized…
My tongue has become quite powerful.
“Wow!” I exclaimed.
“What an honor, to birth my love into this world
“Yes,” He said,
“For You have consumed God’s cosmic breath.
And all of life is born from here.”
Well, I thought, “It’s a good thing You brush your teeth often.”
Then with a smile God remarked,
“Would you like another French Kiss?”
How could I decline such an offer?
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