Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer and Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews with spiritually awakening people. I’ve done 530 something of them now. If this is new to you and you’d like to check out previous ones, go to batgap.com, B-A-T-G-A-P, and look under the past interviews menu. We have them all organized in several different ways. This program is made possible through the support of appreciative listeners and viewers. So if you appreciate it and would like to support it, there’s a PayPal button on every page of batgap.com. Some people don’t like PayPal, there’s a donations page which suggests alternate ways of donating if you don’t like PayPal. My guest today is Jonathan Gustin. Jonathan is the founder of Purpose Guides Institute. He guides people to find and embody their life’s purpose as well as trains those who want to become purpose guides themselves. Jonathan has been a psychotherapist, meditation teacher, and purpose guide for over 20 years. He is adjunct professor at JFK University and co-author of “Purpose Rising” with Ken Wilber, Erwin Laszlo, and others. And there’s some notes here that he sent as part of his bio. “Meditation asks, ‘Who am I?’ Therapy asks, ‘How do I heal and become happier?’ Purpose work addresses the question, ‘Where do I belong in the ecology of life?’ Purpose guiding breaks the spell of our default purposes of safety, security, comfort, and outward success and orients us towards our true purpose, which is to embody our unique calling within. When we have the opportunity to live our calling, we can support our collective true purpose, to become co-creators of our species’ evolution. We may, thus, give birth to more beauty, truth, and goodness in the world.” Okay, so maybe we’ll start right out, Jonathan, talking about purpose and purpose guides and all that, and then a little later we’ll loop back to talk about you and how you got into this particular angle or niche. Somehow, as I’ve been listening to you over the past few days and reading things, I kept remembering Henry David Thoreau’s famous saying that most men lead lives of quiet desperation, and that always implied to me that they haven’t found their purpose. They’re like Formula One race cars stuck in a traffic jam on a Los Angeles freeway or something, just revving their motors but unable to go anywhere. And so, I think probably everyone has felt this to some degree at some time in their life, and maybe we all feel it to some degree because our purpose can always be fine-tuned, but I think we have a lot to talk about in terms of what we mean by purpose, whether everyone has one, whether it’s preordained before we even come into this life, or all the various … there’s so many things to talk about around this issue. So, where would you like to start? Let’s start by defining the word. It’s pretty obvious, but what do you mean by purpose?
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. Well, first I just want to say thanks for having me on your show and living what I would call your delivery vehicle. I don’t know what your deepest purpose is, but I know you do the heck out of interviews, 500 plus. I’ve seen some back in the day, like 10 years ago I was watching your show. And so, yeah, I’m just honored to get to have this time to speak with you.
Rick: Yeah, thanks. It’s always an honor for me each week to speak to someone. I’ve interviewed your wife, Kate, I don’t know, six or eight months or a year ago, and it’s like every interview for me is like opening a Christmas present or something, just discovering this whole world that exists in this guest and then this guest. It’s very enriching for me, and people say that listening to them enriches them.
Jonathan: Yeah, I can totally see what an edifying experience it is for you. If we imagine truth as this magnificent diamond, and each person, each human is like a prism, and that truth is refracted through that prism. And so the truth is expressed through your body, mind, and psyche, and my body, mind, and psyche will be different. And that’s so rich. It’s just so beautiful.
Rick: To extend the metaphor, though, I mean, diamonds are valuable because they conduct light so beautifully, and each facet of the diamond sparkles in its own way. Whereas we don’t really value a lump of coal in the same way, even though a diamond is made from a lump of coal, ultimately. So the people I tend to interview on this show are like diamonds in that they’ve kind of clarified their light-transmitting ability, if you will. And it makes the whole thing interesting.
Jonathan: Yeah, no, the diamond is a beautiful … One teacher that I like a lot, his name is Hameed, he also goes by A.H. Almaas.
Rick: Yeah, I’ve interviewed him a couple times.
Jonathan: Yeah, the diamond approach.
Rick: The diamond approach.
Jonathan: I’m like, oh, beautiful, beautiful. Well, so to your question, you know, what does purpose mean, at least, you know, in my understanding? And the simple cosmology I use has sort of three worlds of purpose, to wake up, grow up, and show up. And so just to explicate that a little bit, to wake up the transcendent motion to what you might call the unbounded, the undivided. I can talk about that more in a moment. And then in the middle world, we have growing up into what I would call an emotional adult, which is actually quite rare and quite difficult. I’m still working on it myself. And then the second spiritual dimension is more like growing down, growing down towards what I would call soul, and discovering how do I show up in the world with my soul level purpose as a demonstration of love. And so these three all together, so I ended up studying to be a psychotherapist, so that helped me with that middle world purpose about how to help myself grow up and help others grow up into emotional adulthood. Since I was 12 years old, or no, 10 years old, I was interested in classical traditional enlightenment. It came really early for me, just like watching television, watching, a nice Jewish boy in the suburbs of Toronto. Watching Remember David Carradine’s Kung Fu?
Rick: Oh yeah, Grasshopper.
Jonathan: Grasshopper, and there were these scenes where there would be the flashbacks to the monastery, Shaolin Monastery. And I was just like, that’s it. That was a moment of calling for me. I liked the Kung Fu, I was 10 years old, so I enjoyed that. But that wasn’t the primary reason why I came. There was something about studying with a master, something about Asian masters, particularly for me it ended up being Zen, and that was like a moment of a soul calling. So these three I would call the triple purpose of life. Wake up to enlightenment, grow up into a person who can metabolize joy, who can have a high joy tolerance, if you will, who can give and receive love without any unnecessary impediment to be a quantumist. So that’s like the middle world purpose. But then really for our interview, I’m imagining, because the nature of this show, it’s really like the upper world purpose of transcendence and classical enlightenment, and then the lower world purpose of showing up with your gifts and being in the place that you’re meant to be in order to give those gifts away.
Rick: Yeah, and of course these three phrases are reminiscent of Ken Wilber, “wake up,” “grow up,” and “clean up,” I believe. And also the notion that I find very useful from him of lines of development and how lines of development can be quite disproportionately developed. And one can be quite advanced along one line and quite stunted in others, which helps to kind of make sense of examples we see sometimes of teachers who seem very bright and brilliant and articulate and eloquent and charismatic and radiating some kind of Shakti, and yet are really screwed up in certain ways.
Jonathan: Yeah. So that whole notion of having a person who is well-respected, in fact you experience them as illumined with the open awareness of the undivided itself. You can feel it on them. But maybe they spent 50 years in a monastery and didn’t really get to kind of work out their sexuality. And all of a sudden, they’re placed amongst all these disciples and lo and behold, they’re sleeping with dozens of them. Yeah, so I don’t know that that is the mechanism by which that works, but it’s a good working hypothesis that you can have a high line of development in either classical awakening or potentially in middle-world emotional adulthood or in soul-level purpose, but not necessarily a high level in the other two.
Rick: Yeah, and what those examples have led me to understand over the years is that, well firstly, I avoid using the term “enlightenment” because it has such a static, superlative connotation, but if I were to use it, I would have to define it as being a really holistic development, kind of a full blossoming of all the faculties that a human being possesses. And I would like to, you know, personally I prefer to reserve the term for something like that. And when somebody tells me that so-and-so was enlightened and yet was a raging alcoholic, you know, I say, “Oh, fine if you want to use the term that way,” but that’s not how I use it.
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And also I think the word “enlightenment,” you know, if you mean intermittent enlightenment, that’s one thing, and if you’re talking about abiding enlightenment, that’s quite another.
Rick: Yeah, and of course in Sanskrit and in yoga sutras and so on, they have specific terms for intermittent versus abiding.
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah, no, it’s really key. Yeah, so I think maybe of interest to your listeners is maybe just a little more exploration about what I mean by the word “soul” and “soul purpose.”
Rick: Sure, yeah, let’s do it.
Jonathan: So it’s equally transpersonal, like transpersonal meaning simply beyond the ego, beyond the everyday personality and ego, right? And so there’s one direction where we experience what you might call “unitive intimacy.” When you have a moment of “the world drops away”, or as they say in Zen, “drop body, drop mind,” and you know, the universe could disappear and you wouldn’t care. There’s this open, empty spaciousness in which nothing could possibly be harmed and no desire really arises necessarily. And so there we all experience, I would say, spirit or the great mystery or the Tao or whatever a person wants to call it. It doesn’t really matter to me. But then there’s another part that’s unique, right? So we know we’re unique on the level of our personality, right? Like I love, what do I love? I love organic ice cream and I love skiing and I love jazz. I love it. Jazz just does it for me. But it’s not my sole purpose to go to the San Francisco Jazz Center and listen to jazz. I really enjoy it. I love skiing. I was born in Canada and I raced, but it’s no one’s great pleasure to watch me ski race. I’m not an Olympian, right? So we understand that we have uniqueness at the level of ego and personality and we celebrate that and we try to fulfill some of the desires in a healthy way with moderation. But there’s also transpersonal uniqueness and that’s at the level of soul. And so I found myself asking the question, you know, what is my place? What is my contribution? And I was standing in the hallways in my junior high school and I guess I must have been on a break or there was a bathroom break and I was standing looking at the lockers and it came over me. I had to just contemplate my life right then and there. And what came to me was it was about two things, right? All the normal things. I mean, you know, just the regular things. I would like a girlfriend. I’d like to have a video game or whatever it is. But at the deep level, what came to me is whatever that word enlightenment means, I’ve got to find out. I’ve got to experience that, whatever it is. I had no idea what it meant.
Rick: It’s so cool that you got onto that at such a young age, though. I was about 17 when it first dawned on me and then I took drugs for a year.
Jonathan: Well, that’s pretty precocious, too, you know, happening in the teens. But then the second part of it was how can I contribute? How can I be part of doing good in the world? Those were the two things. And so, you know, flash forward, I’m 53 now. So this is, you know, 40 years, 41 years later or something. And they are still alive in me. And when I was contemplating the second question, what do I do? The poet Mary Oliver put it, “What do I do with my one wild, precious life?” It’s such an important question, I think, for each of us to ask. Whether we even believe in a cosmology of purpose, even if we don’t, even if we’re nihilists, you know, we still have to ask, well, okay, then what do I do? If there is no purpose, what do I do? And if there is a soul-level purpose, how do I find it?
Rick: Even if we think there’s only one life, that’s another question. There could be many. But what do we do with this one?
Jonathan: Yeah, either way, if this is it, if everything that is me completely goes into non-existence upon the death of this body, then it’s a very important question. And even if I have a million lives ahead of me, well, I don’t want to waste this one. This one’s pretty important to me. So I was contemplating this question. I was on a meditation retreat, a solo meditation retreat. I was about 20, 21, in a little cabin in northern Ontario, Canada. And just meditating every day. And between meditations, there was a couch in the cabin, and I was just lying on the couch thinking, you know, asking, what is my place? I mean, I was going to graduate college soon and need to earn a living. And more than anything, though, I really wanted to know what my place was. And I think due to all the meditation, I was in a pretty quiet place. And an image came, and the image was, it said, in English it would say, “whole person midwifery.” Whole person midwifery. And I could see myself in that kind of co-exploration role with a human being, helping them to give birth to their wholeness. And I knew immediately it wasn’t about midwifing actual babies. There was no, I didn’t want to catch babies. That wasn’t the point. But midwife is a beautiful word, right? It wasn’t so much being a teacher or a guru or a professor or any number of things. It was about how can I be a person who helps a person allow the natural process of awakening to spirit, awakening to their emotional adulthood, and awaken to their soul’s purpose. And so for me, the image, the mythopoetic identity, as the author Bill Plotkin puts it, it has that kind of mythic and poetic perfume to it, right? Whole person midwifery. And I wouldn’t put it on my business card because, you know, they’d just think, “oh God, he’s a California freak, you know, he must eat a lot of tofu.” And so what’s interesting to distinguish, disambiguate, is that the image is “that’s my deepest purpose.” And though I am a psychotherapist, that’s not my purpose. I am a purpose guide, that’s not my purpose. I am a meditation teacher, that’s not my purpose. Those are delivery vehicles.
Rick: Yeah, they’re means.
Jonathan: They’re means, exactly. So like if you order a pizza, the pizza can come by foot or by bicycle or by truck or by car. It could be delivered in a Sherman tank.
Rick: A drone maybe.
Jonathan: And you can division it. Pretty soon we’re going to be getting our pizza pies by a drone. And those are the delivery vehicles. But the nourishment is the pizza pie in the box. And so that’s one of the things I help point people towards is not just like “what is your vocation, small v, meaning, you know, I’m a doctor, I’m a lawyer, I’m a teacher.” Great, that’s important. It’s really important to dial in your delivery vehicle or as Bill Plotkin puts it, delivery system. But underneath that, we know we have what, 10,000 kindergarten teachers. That tells us a lot. But then each one of them has their own light, their own true gift. What’s animating them? And each one of them is a little bit different. You’ll get a very different experience being a five-year-old with one teacher rather than another. So it’s really more about the purpose, the deep imagistic purpose at the center of our being, whether we’re conscious of it or not. And I would say being conscious of it is way better than being unconscious of it. And allowing that to shine through the delivery vehicle.
Rick: It seems to me that there must be a hierarchy of purposes. And you wouldn’t necessarily, once you begin asking yourself that question, what is my deeper purpose, you wouldn’t necessarily encounter your deepest purpose in the first step. But you might go through a series of steps deeper and deeper and deeper. Like the doctor might say, well, or someone aspiring to be a doctor might say, well, I want to make money. And I also feel like helping people. But, okay, then why do you want to make money? And why do you feel like helping people? And then there might be a deeper realization of why you want to do those things and so on and so forth. Do you find that? That you kind of take people through a series of steps?
Jonathan: Yeah. I’ll use an example of someone who wasn’t a student of mine. She’s my sister. So she’s a palliative care doctor, which is a pretty difficult thing to be right now in the time of COVID-19. And I asked her why.
Rick: What do they do? Are they helping people who are chronically?
Jonathan: Pain management, end of life, hospice work, a whole number of things. Yeah.
Jonathan: And she, originally she got her master’s degree in psychology and then she switched to medicine. And then years later I said, well, so what lights you up about being a physician? I said, are you interested? Is it the science? Right? You have to have a good science mind. Medical school is so difficult. I said, do you really love the craft? She says, “no, no, no.” “That’s not, there are people like that who geek out on the medical science. She says, I’m not like that at all. It’s the bedside. It’s the relationships. That, and I wanted to do it in like these critical situations in the hospital setting.” So in a way she could have been a psychotherapist or any number of things. But what’s important is like you have, if you take 10 palliative care physicians, put them in a room and ask them, why are you here? Like what’s your deepest driving desire in being a physician? You will get 10 different answers, especially if they’re self-aware.
Rick: The thought just occurred to me that those of you in the live audience, it looks like we have about 130 right now. Some of you might want to, I mean you could even question Jonathan through our question system here and say, well I’m a such and such, but it doesn’t really mean anything to me. And maybe we could probe into some actual real life situations. It would be a little easier to do it verbally, but we don’t really have that set up. But because I imagine that a lot of people, I mean think of probably this audience has given a fair amount of thought and feeling to what their purpose is, and maybe many people would say that they found it. But if you interviewed everybody who works in an Amazon warehouse, or everyone who drives a UPS truck, or you know, does this, that, those kinds of jobs, who works at Walmart or something, I bet you’d find a fairly small percentage of people who feel, yes, my purpose is to work in this warehouse, you know, and it’s everything I ever wanted. I think most people would have an underlying feeling that there must be something more, and yet we need people to work in those warehouses and to drive the UPS trucks and to work in Walmart. So how do you kind of reconcile all the apparently necessary jobs, and we’ll see how necessary they are now since hardly anybody’s doing them at the moment, with the fact that people need to do these things, with the fact that people also probably, you and I would agree, have a right to discover and live their purpose, and they shouldn’t just be tools in a cogs in a big machine, you know, sacrificing all fulfillment for the sake of, you know, being able to get things in two days on Amazon Prime.
Jonathan: Yeah, no, that’s a great inquiry. So first of all, I would disambiguate. I’d separate out two different types of dances in the world. There’s a teacher named Harley Swift here, and he said there’s a survival dance, and there’s our sacred dance. So I can’t speak for everybody, you know, in an Amazon fulfillment center, but I’m going to guess many of them, it’s just going to go on a limb and say many of them are not thinking that this is their purpose. They’re like, this is not where I like to do my 40 years of service to the world.
Rick: Yeah, but thank God I have a job at the moment, you know?
Jonathan: Well, exactly. So being able to think about our soul level purpose is predicated on a couple of things, right? If you look at Maslow’s, you know, pyramid hierarchy, you need safety and security, right? We need to eat. If I’m in California right now, if an earthquake started to happen, my purpose wouldn’t be to have this really rich spiritual dialogue. It would be to like get under this desk and save my hide. So it’s a sliding rule. We don’t always have the priv- if we were in Syria right now, with the bombs falling and so forth, I would just try to save my life and the life of my child and my wife. So let’s make a division between our sacred, our survival dance, which we absolutely have to do. We need to pay the rent and we need to eat. I mean, there’s more, but those are two big ones.
Jonathan: Okay. I don’t want to be homeless and I don’t want to be hungry. And I’m really uninterested to experience what that’s like. I hope, I hope I escaped this life without experiencing that. Now, once you have that survival dance mostly taken care of, not perfectly, you know, I mean, unless you’re really rich, but you know, you’re not, you’re not suffering caloric insecurity or homelessness. Then there is the possibility you come home from Amazon and you ask this question, right? What is my deepest purpose? Now, there’s a whole lot of soul encounter or soul work technologies that I can discuss in a moment, but putting that aside. So it’s possible to, there may be many people working in the Amazon fulfillment center who actually do know their purpose, but they haven’t made it, they haven’t brought their purpose and their survival dance together. So they may be doing amazing activist work. They may be doing amazing, you know, a church lady who is just doing the heck out of serving her community. She may be right in the spot, but during the day she’s bagging groceries or whatever it may be. So I really want to disambiguate the idea that our, our work is necessarily our purpose. If you can make it such that’s the, to me, that’s the gold standard. I, I do this thought experiment is if I won the lottery, I don’t play it, but if I won it and I had a hundred million dollars, right? what I, what would change in my life? Well, I’d drink better wine and I’d go on nicer vacations to be honest, but, but what would really change? Would I continue to do the work that I’m doing? And the answer for me is yes. Now, of course it hasn’t been tested. You know, if I get the hundred million, I’ll, I’ll come back and you know, so I do need it as my survival dance as well. But there it is. Like if you would continue to do what you’re doing, no matter, no matter that you don’t have to do it, there’s a higher likelihood that you’re living your soul’s purpose.
Jonathan: And if – you can go ahead.
Rick: Well, yeah, I, I’ve played the same game and you know, all, the only thing I can think I would do differently is take the donate button off of Batgap because I wouldn’t want people to donate if I had a hundred million dollars. but otherwise I’m doing exactly what I want to do. In fact, before I started Batgap, I sort of had this vision of, I’d like to be able to like walk in the woods, listening to some spiritual thing, talking and then be talking to spiritual people and somehow have it generate passive income so that I could do that stuff and not spend most of my waking hours crawling under people’s desks and fixing their computers, which is the kind of thing I was doing before or doing search engine optimization, which is another thing I did for well over a decade, which was kind of tedious. and uh, you know, having done those things after some decades of teaching meditation, it might have seemed like, Oh, I’ve totally lost my purpose because teaching meditation was so purposeful, but I saw it at the time as a necessary phase, had to earn some money and actually, you know, understanding computers a lot better and search engine optimization has helped a lot with Batgap. So it all kind of came together finally.
Jonathan: Yeah. So I think your story is really illustrative of, of what we’re talking about, that you had a survival dance, right? You, you did search engine optimization, you did tech work with computers and this gave you sustenance. It was, it was right livelihood. You did decent work. and you also had this spiritual impulse. Now I don’t know yet what your, what your mythopoetic identity is, but whatever it is, it was shined, it’s shown, it illuminated through your being a TM teacher. It’s illuminating you right now as an interviewer on Buddha at the gas pump and maybe in five years, it’ll illuminate in yet another way. I don’t know.
Rick: And so what is, what does that mean? Your mythopoetic identity? I don’t know what mine is either, but maybe I do know, but I just wouldn’t use that term.
Jonathan: Yeah. So I believe the mythopoetic word came from, let me think, founded in Robert Bly and then I believe he got it from, Oh, J.R. Tolkien, the Lord of the Rings, right? So you have the Gandalf character and the Frodo character and they’re the, one of the reasons we remember them so well is they weren’t just, I’m a wizard and I do wizardy things like you could feel that the, ah, I mean, he never actually said what his mythopoetic identity is, but you could feel the deeper soul level purpose in these characters like Lord Aragorn, Strider. And so then, uh, uh, this fellow that I’ve already mentioned a couple of times, Bill Plotkin, author of, uh, Soulcraft. Have you interviewed him?
Rick: No. I’ve heard you mention him, but I didn’t know much about him.
Jonathan: Yeah. So wonderful teacher, highly recommend the book Soulcraft. And, so he adopted it and he called it a mythopoetic identity. So we have all these different identities, right? In the everyday personality and ego, I’m a father, I’m a husband, I’m a teacher, I’m an adjunct professor, blah, blah, blah, blah. I’m a friend. at, in the upper world of spirituality, the undivided, right? I am Sat Chit Ananda. I’m being consciousness bliss. I am awareness itself. Now, at the level of soul, what is your soul name? What is your, the image? It’s not necessarily in words. And so for me, that whole person midwifery, no matter what I do, I know who I am. So here’s a little story. Years ago I started, some of my teaching work at Kaiser Permanente, a big hospital setting. And first they had me teach, I think overcoming depression because I was a clinician. And, and I got the highest feedback scores in the department. I mean, you know, big fish in a small pond. It was, there’s what, 10 or 20 of us, maybe, maybe a dozen. I don’t know. And they said, “how did you do that?” And I said, oh, I don’t know. And, and they said, well, teach another one. So teach, so I, then they had me teach mind body medicine. Then they had me teach mindfulness based stress reduction. Then they had me teach couples communication. And, each time I got these really elevated, feedback forms. And so the supervisor said, well, I don’t understand. These are very different curriculums. You know, they said, are you teaching those curriculum as we’re asking you to? I said, absolutely. And so I didn’t answer, you know, to that person cause it might’ve sounded strange. So, but I’ll tell you the truth is wherever I am, I know who I am and what I’m really there to do, which is to midwife wholeness. Now, of course I do that differently with the group of people who are experiencing the devastation of depression or difficulties in their relationship and so forth. So if you really know the, like, if you look at Jung or Hillman, they say that imagination is primary, right? And non-duality, they say, awareness is primary, but what if it’s Satchit imagines, right? Or Satchit imagination, right? So it would be being consciousness imagination. And so in this, understanding, there’s a whole imagine a matrix, a whole world of imagination and Sufism, Ibn Arabi and, Sujurwardy, uh, we talk about Alam Al-Mithal. You can see their pictures in this little thing here. There’s two of one there and one there. And these old Sufi masters, I’m not a Sufi, but I love to learn from them. talked about Alam Al-Mithal, which I translate as the imagine-a-matrix and Henri Corbin translated it as Mundus Imaginalis, the imaginal world. And when you’re in touch with that, you experience that your ego is actually in service to a greater identity, a greater name. Your parents named you, Rick. My parents named me Jonathan, but that’s not real. I mean, I could be Pete, I could be Jack. It doesn’t really mean much. So that day when you realize what is your true name, there’s a level.
Rick: My parents actually named me Murgatroyd before I was born because they didn’t know what I was going to be.
Jonathan: They named you what?
Rick: Yeah, as a matter of fact, when I was born, my uncle sent a telegram to my parents congratulating them on the birth of Murgatroyd and the telegraph operator was so pissed that she basically wouldn’t send it.
Jonathan: You’re pulling my leg. On your birth certificate it said Murgatroyd?
Rick: No, no, no. They named me that before I was born.
Jonathan: Oh, okay, okay.
Rick: Because they didn’t know whether I was going to be a boy or a girl and therefore what they were going to name me. So I was referred to as Murgatroyd.
Jonathan: Okay, now I get your humor. Like your parents had it. There’s a lineage of that kind of humor. That’s great.
Rick: Didn’t mean to throw you off your game.
Jonathan: No, no, it’s fine. That’s lovely. Murgatroyd. That’s great. Well, so that there’s what we would call the solid world, right, the so-called material world, although no one’s ever found the material world, like ever. You can’t actually find it. You go down to the subatomic level and it’s mostly space, right? And then there’s the so-called, you know, non-duality we’ll sort of call awareness or consciousness, undivided, pure being. But the archetypal and depth psychologists tell us that actually the world is made of imagination, pure imagination. So I like to actually take both of them and say being, consciousness, imagination. And in that imagination, we can discover our soul name. And that is the mytho-poetic identity, mythic because it’s not just about being a therapist or a purpose guide. It’s something much larger and more cosmological and poetic because it’s not direct. It won’t tell your intellectual discursive mind, “Oh, he’s a doctor. He’s a therapist.” Rather, it’s something mysterious. And I had to apprentice to being a whole person midwife to discover what it was. So waking up to it at 20 wasn’t sufficient. It was a brief Kensho or Satori, but then to embody it took, well, decades and decades that I’m still working on.
Rick: Yeah, so it sounds like what you’re saying is that, you know, starting with the unmanifest, universal, satchitananda, pure consciousness, whatever we want to call it, there’s a kind of a sprouting or an individuation that takes place. And it’s not just taking, I’m not talking linearly in time, but even right now, we have that level of our life which is universal and impersonal, and then there’s a very deep level at which we begin to manifest as an individual and it becomes more and more concrete. And we can actually fathom all these levels experientially. But what it sounds like you’re saying is that just as we look different on the surface, our physical appearance, and have different personalities and so on, there’s some differentiation or uniqueness going all the way down to the point at which we’re all one. And that very initial sprouting of our uniqueness is somehow akin to our soul purpose. Our soul purpose resides there at that level. Is that fair to say?
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think soul is a really interesting word, and I don’t have the market cornered on what it means. In fact, soul generally eludes really good definitions, just as the word God or mystery does. So I’ll say my opinion. I would say, following the Sufis, that soul is perception. It’s an alternate way of knowing. It’s not a thing. It’s not a noun. It’s more of a verb. So in Sufism, they talk about alternate organs of perception. So we know, we love thinking. I love thinking. I’m a huge reader and I’m a cerebral guy, and that’s great. Nothing wrong with that. But on the meditation cushion, it does me squat to have that.
Rick: I can just as soon turn it off at that point.
Jonathan: Yeah, in fact, it could be a little bit of a hindrance because my mind likes to go chat, chat, chat. So then the question is, what’s the right tool for the right job in discovering our soul-level purpose? Well, to activate soul, soul’s already there. So to actually sort of take the backwards step and allow soul to come to the foreground of awareness, then we see through soul’s eyes. So you could say that soul is a way of perceiving life. So instead of just seeing a tree outside my window here, and I just name it, my intellect goes, “Tree, that’s a bay tree. That tree is leaning over my house and it’s going to hurt,” you know, da, da, da, da, da. Rather, you know, you can actually be in relationship to a tree. This can sound animistic, but actually there is a presence. There is a life force to it. And if you actually spend time with anything, even just a rock, a so-called inanimate object, you will find that it has a presence. It has a life force. So I would say it’s soul, it’s soul’s eyes that allow us to see, to feel, and experience the imagination, the imaginal realm. And that’s another word I would use for soul. Soul is imagination, right? It’s so that when we experience our soul image, we’re experiencing soul itself. It’s not a decontextualized soul that just sort of transcends everything and hovers. It’s very much rooted in time and place. When COVID-19 struck, immediately soul — I mean, my personality went, “Ah!” I’m like, you know, “Shit, this is really serious. My elderly father is in Canada. If he gets sick and dies, I can’t fly there. The borders are closed.” So my personality has its totally understandable reaction. Then, at the level of pure spirit, I’m like, “It’s okay. It’s the play. I can’t be harmed. Nothing can be harmed, and I’m good.” And then there’s another level that says, “What can I do? How can I be of service?” And so in my case, I’ve done just a few things. You came to a thing, I called it “Pandemic is Purpose,” and I can describe that if you want. But the idea here is that a soul is the source of deep and profound spiritual imagination. It’s not the imagination of, like, if I win $100 million, I’ll get a yacht. I’ll get a yacht with not one helicopter pad, but two helicopter pads. Okay, that is imagination, but it’s kind of the grade of that imagination is clearly coming from my ego. Whereas soul’s imagination, you discover it. And this is so important. You don’t get to choose your purpose, and some people get a little disappointed when they hear that, but I actually think it’s great. And the metaphor I use, or analogy rather, is when you discover your sexual orientation, you don’t get to choose. So when I was a kid, you know, at some point, I woke up to the fact that I thought girls were just so pretty. I just was like, “Oh my God, that girl, I can’t stop thinking about her.” And so had I done it intellectually, I would have actually picked bisexuality. Why would I leave out all the nice-looking young men and so forth? But one discovers their orientation, gay, straight, bi, or whatever it is. Same thing–and you’re not disappointed. You’re just happy. Unless you live in a homophobic world. I’m putting that aside for a moment. You’re just like, “Oh, I am attracted. My sexual attraction is moving. It’s flowing.” You’re so happy. Well, same thing with your purpose. When I discovered the whole person midwifery, I didn’t go, “Oh, dang. I wish it was sexier. I wish… I’m in midwifery. Jeez, I’m a 20-year-old man.” No, it was more like, “Oh my God, thank you, mystery. I will now spend the rest of my life attempting to be of service to that image.” So that’s why I call it “soul purpose discovery.” You discover that which is already there. Same thing as in classical enlightenment. You don’t become enlightened. You discover that enlightenment as such is always there. Like in Zazen, they say, “You don’t sit to become enlightened. You sit to express the enlightenment that is already there.” You’re already Buddhas, but you don’t fully know it yet. You already have your soul’s purpose, but it’s unlikely that your parents or society have helped you discern or given you the tools. This is why I would say there’s at least three, four, maybe five forces working against discovering our soul-level purpose.
Rick: We’ll have to get into those. As you’re speaking, I was reminded of, I think the guy’s name was Rob Schwartz, whom I’ve interviewed. He’s sort of in the line of thinking of Michael Newton, if you know who he was or is. But his whole thing was regressing people hypnotically to the period between lives. And then Michael Newton initially discovered this accidentally. And then doing so many people and correlating what they all had to say, that he mapped out a very clear and consistent picture of what supposedly happens to us between lives. But pretty much everyone says, “Alright, you review where you’ve been, and you’re working in consultation with guides, and you kind of hatch a plan for what your next life is going to be and what your main experiences in that life are going to be, even traumatic and horrible ones that have somehow been designed to help you work out karma or something. And also it would include your soul purpose. What is your ideal? What are you meant to accomplish in this life if you can?” So, you know, in a sense, yes, we don’t choose what our soul purpose is, just as we don’t choose our sexuality, as you were just saying. Perhaps we do if this whole picture is valid. You know, we kind of work it out, and then we come into life, little baby, we forget everything, and then we grow up and have to kind of discover what it is we came here to do.
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah, no, I like that. So I don’t know anything about that. I won’t presume to be able to piggyback on that particular work. Either as poetry or as fact, so you can take this story either way, I’ve imagined a game in the Imagina Matrix, right, that we could call “acorns to oak.” And so Aristotle had this beautiful Greek word, “anteleki.” And in “anteleki,” he said, “of the acorn is the oak tree.” That acorn is absolutely not destined to be a maple tree or a human or a spider or a shark. Almost you could say that the oak tree exists in the acorn itself.
Jonathan: Now let’s imagine.
Rick: On the level of DNA, it definitely does.
Jonathan: Yeah. But you could say the soul, it’s that full, not a thing’s full potential, but it’s full actuality in a sort of mystically layered way. If you sort of drop the notion of time, it’s all there simultaneously. And so in this game, let’s say that before we’re born, we’re playing a game called a collective, a multiplayer game. Right now there’s like whatever, 7.7 billion people playing, you know, get an Earth suit and then get into this game. And the ultimate goal of the game, I would say, is to midwife more beauty, truth, and goodness. But it’s a very dangerous game because at some point, about 200,000 years into the game, which is the age of our species, give or take, or 40,000 years for modern homo sapiens, just at that time, we become so powerfully intellectually that we can build bombs and burn carbon like crazy. And we all become carbon addicts, right? We’re burning it in our engines, we’re burning it in our furnaces, we’re burning it when we fly. So here we are, 7.7, acorn to oak tree, Earth suited addicts. And so it becomes very dangerous. Will we live or won’t we? And so we come to this moment and there’s this pivotal decade called the 2020s. And we can go either way. We can just keep burning and global warming, we should get to that at some point. It’s just really, it’s talk about a psycho-spiritual pressure on this game. And so we can continue as business as usual and let our default purposes, right, more comfort, more safety. And it’s not that there’s anything wrong with comfort and safety. I crave it just as much as the next person. But if it’s the deepest driving desire of your life, then we get into trouble. You get into trouble in your personal life and in the collective life. So our avatar, our Earth suit, we wear it out after 80 years or something and we can come back to the game. But one of the big points of the game is to remember our mythopoetic identity, our soul image, and define what the theologian Frederick Buechner called “Find the place where your deepest gladness and the world’s hunger meets.” I’ll say that again. Find the place where your deepest joy and the world’s great ache and need meets. And when you know what that is, you are by definition a happier person because you are behaving organically and indigenously to your very own soul. And when we’re not, we feel some dislocation, right? Our relationships don’t seem to work as well. Our work life doesn’t seem to work as well. Our parenting doesn’t seem to work as well. Just driving down the highway when someone cuts us off, it doesn’t seem to work as well because we’re not well-seated in ourselves. When you’re well-seated, right, then you can imagine that these things, you have a buffer because you feel at one and undivided in your soul.
Rick: Yeah, of course, Joseph Campbell’s famous phrase, “Follow your bliss,” and by that, he didn’t mean do whatever makes you feel good. I think he meant, you know, follow a higher purpose, which actually leads to bliss because you don’t associate the word bliss with getting a new car or, you know, getting a bigger house or many of the things people strive for. Bliss is a term that’s usually used in a spiritual context, ananda, for a degree of happiness that’s sort of beyond that which relative things can provide. And I think that if we’re moving in the direction of finding that level of life where such happiness resides, then, you know, bliss is an appropriate term and the mind has a natural tendency to want to move toward it if it can see a way to do so and if it can be allowed to do so. If its natural tendency isn’t thwarted. One more quick point to throw in before I forget it is that, you know, regarding fundamental purpose, we were talking earlier about Amazon workers and people like that. I think that whatever one finds oneself doing in life, perhaps needs to do under the present circumstances of one’s life, one can add to that a spiritual practice. So you meditate in the morning, you go to work at Amazon. You come home, you meditate again, you do yoga or whatever. Do some kind of spiritual practice because that begins to shift everything in ways that you can’t possibly foresee and that will end up being very profound if it’s fruitful and if you stick with it, you know, religiously. And chances are you won’t find yourself working at Amazon in five years because your life will have shifted so auspiciously. But even if you are working there, you’ll find that your level of contentment and meaningfulness in life has risen significantly over that period of practice. So anyway, I just want to throw that in.
Jonathan: Yeah, no, I love that. Yeah. So, you know, I’m quite clear that I wouldn’t want to work on the Amazon floor. But if I had to, if there were two flavors of working on there, one is I know my soul level purpose and the other is I don’t know my soul level purpose. I’ll take number one because with number one, I don’t know how I would do this exactly, but I would live my purpose to whatever degree possible on the Amazon floor. Right? So it’s not impossible. I’ve worked with incarcerated people. There’s a prison about ten miles from me called San Quentin. It’s a really huge prison here in California. Yeah, it’s a famous prison, infamous prison. And so I’ve been there a few times teaching this purpose work. And so, you know, I thought, well, my God, some of these people are lifers. And, you know, how does this work? And it became clear to me very quickly that so I asked myself, well, what would I do? You know, and I was like, well, it’s a community of 4000 people. I mean, it’s a huge it’s like a city in there. And I thought, well, I really actually believe whether I’m deluded or it’s actually true. I really experience myself at a deep level doing this whole person midwifery work. So I will do I would do it there. Yeah. With whoever, obviously only a fraction of the guys would be interested. Some of them would want to beat me up if I said the truth. But some would go, yeah, I can’t think of a better way to spend my life in prison than to discover who I really am and then help some of the men in this miserable, forsaken prison have a better life.
Jonathan: So, you know, that’s a much worse situation than being on the floor of Amazon or bagging groceries. So it is really quite possible to live your purpose in almost any circumstance.
Rick: And if you consider that whatever our specific purpose may be, and there’s various purposes among all of us in the world, we all have a fundamental purpose in common, which is to evolve spiritually. And you can do that anywhere if you play your cards right. You can do that in a prison. I interviewed a guy named Damien Eccles about a year or so ago who spent 18 years on death row for a murder he didn’t commit. And he dedicated himself like eight hours a day or more to practicing ceremonial magic, which he attributes his sanity and survival to. And he said that, you know, he went in at the age of 18, came out at the age of 36, and so he spent half his life there up to that point. And he said that if he had it to do over again, he’d spend that time in prison again, because if he hadn’t, he would never have gotten into this spiritual practice that he does the way he was able to. So it was a horrific situation. I mean, mosquitoes chewing on him, no light, no, lousy food, and it was really a bad prison down in Arkansas, I think. And yet he’s grateful for it, because it was so conducive to him getting on this spiritual path.
Jonathan: Yeah, it’s so often the case, it doesn’t have to be, but it’s so often the case that a crisis precipitates a deep spiritual inquiry. So in some, it can be like right now, you know, at this time of this recording, it’s, you know, COVID-19 is raging, and it’s just increasing. And if I had a magic wand, I’d wave it and it would go away. I don’t want it and I’d pass on its spiritual treasure, quite honestly. But it is here. And so what it’s doing is it’s creating ego destabilization, right? It’s cracking us, like I’ve been in this house for weeks now with a 10-year-old boy bouncing off the walls. You know, we can’t go to our offices to work. We barely can go out to do anything. It’s hard. There’s a hardship. And of course, some people have it way harder, because they’ve lost their job, and they’re living paycheck to paycheck, and how are they going to even buy the next bag of groceries? Well, if you can’t get rid of it, and we can’t get rid of COVID-19 today, then we can use it as grist for the mill. And so what it’s doing is it’s cracking us open, creating these fissures in ego to let more soul in. So it’s a forced, it’s like this psychospiritual oven that’s so hot that it’s cracking us.
Rick: Is it really? I mean, maybe it’s doing that for you. Do you think it’s doing that for most of the people in the world? Is it doing it for people you see on the news? I mean, what do you base that assertion on?
Jonathan: Sure. Yeah, no, that’s a great thing. But what I feel some degree of certitude in is that the pandemic is disturbing and agitating deeply to everybody. We know it can come for us, and from the older side, we know that our chances of dying are a little on the elevated side. And so we’re concerned, we’re nervous, some anxiety comes up, some fear. So the cracking begins to happen. Now what I said is it can let more soul in. So the space opens up. Now the question is, do the antibodies of default purpose come swooping in, which they will, and disallow that upwelling of soul? So just because you have the opportunity doesn’t mean you’re not going to get right in the way and tamp it down.
Rick: Yeah. So what you’re saying is that you just used the word opportunity. This could be an opportunity for people if they can see it as such and do the appropriate things to really actually benefit from it.
Jonathan: Yeah, well, I mean, a simple one is I took it for granted that I could go outside my whole 53 years. I could go outside and I could be in company. I just thought that was the normal way, and I thought I needed it. And I realized I don’t. I prefer it. I want it like a lot, but no, I actually, my freedom isn’t dependent on that. I’m finding that. I know there are moments, I want to be honest, there are moments where I’m like, yeah, I’m feeling like I really need to get out.
Rick: Yeah, well, you can get out a little bit, can’t you? I mean, go.
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah.
Rick: But can you go walk on trails around there or something?
Jonathan: No, I can. I can. What I meant out is like go to an office or go to a movie or go to a restaurant.
Rick: Yeah, yeah.
Jonathan: Be with friends.
Jonathan: So I thought being with friends was a necessity. And it is one of the great joys of life. One of the great things is to be in community with people, live. And that’s not possible right now. And so to the extent that I was attached and I was sort of dependent unconsciously on it, there is some liberation to be had and realized, yeah, actually, I don’t need that. And then I had some money in the, what do you call it, the retirement account.
Jonathan: And boom, the Dow Jones goes down. So did I need that money? Well, I’m sad that I lost it. Anyone who invests in their potential retirement would like it to not get cut in half or whatever it did. No, I’m okay. So we discover again and again that our freedom wasn’t dependent on really anything. Now, for a while there, there will be the tectonic plates and we’ll be like, no, what are you talking about? I need all these things. And, of course, if I had no money, then my survival and safety would be threatened. And I think that would be a different scenario. So that’s one of the freedoms that we can discover and deepen as a result of this imposed spiritual retreat that we’re made to do.
Rick: Yeah. Okay, I have a question that’s been kicking around in the back of my head all week as I’ve been listening to. It’s like in a Shakespeare play, let’s say, there are good guys, or in a Western, you know, there are good guys and bad guys. And if all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players, then in the play of human life over the millennia, there have been all sorts of characters playing different roles. If you have a sort of bad guy role, such as Adolf Hitler, to take one extreme example, are you living your life’s purpose? Is that his purpose, to play such a role in the game of life? Or could he have found a higher calling? He didn’t, so maybe he couldn’t, to paraphrase Byron Katie. But, you know, do we have like choices from low to high, and we can possibly always have chosen a higher purpose than the one we chose, particularly if we choose some nefarious role to play?
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. I love that question. So, yeah, let’s use Hitler. I mean, everyone knows him. Clearly his soul core powers, at some point if there’s time I can elucidate, there’s sort of eight facets of purpose in my cosmology. And one of them is our soul core powers. And he had, amongst other things, he was very organized, and he had the power of oratory. I mean, I don’t speak German, but you know, you listen to one of those things and he’s like, you know, and people are just cheering. So he was a powerful guy. In my estimation, he absolutely did not live his soul’s core purpose. It got twisted. He was, you know, you can see the strand, the pure strand, and then the twist. The pure strand is he was very into evolutionary, what shall we call it, development of humans. The master, the ubermensch is what Nietzsche called it, right? So to be the superman or superwoman, to be this person and really fulfill the destiny of humanity. And so he kind of pushed that forward, but he did it in a terrible way. He picked out one race of people and burnt, you know, millions of others. So he clearly was on to something and then went berserk in the wrong direction. So let’s do a thought experiment. He comes to me, God forbid, I wouldn’t want him as a client. He comes to me and says, I want to find my soul level purpose. I’m like, great, let’s do it. And once he found it, by definition, a purpose is a purpose beyond self that serves others. It always serves something else. When I studied with this one shaman, and shamans are into power in a good sense. He says, you must never use these abilities for yourself. Don’t use them in a self-serving, narcissistic, selfish way. Only use them in service of others. He didn’t do that. Now if he had used that oratory, if he had used that passion and that, you know, work ethic, and all that he had at his disposal and had discovered his soul level purpose, he would have been an unbelievable force of nature. So yeah, I don’t believe for one moment that his destiny, like you and I, I’ll speak for myself. There’s a part of me that is, it’s not a part that I exercise. Let’s call it the criminal Jonathan. Well, you know, bank robbery, you know, that joke, you know, the judge says, so why did you rob the bank? And the guy goes, because that’s where the money was. So there’s the bank robber in me. Well, I don’t do it. Why? Even if I knew I could get away with it, I could say, well, it’s, you know, Bank of America or Citibank. They have enough money. They won’t, you know, I don’t want to scare people. I don’t want to be part of corrupting and harming society. Right? So it’s not like it’s not there. It does exist. It’s a voice or sub personality. You could call it evil. I’m not in touch with, at least not consciously, my deep Hitlerian evil. But, you know, I can imagine bank robbery. Yeah, I could bank rob and da da da, break into people’s homes. That’s the choice. Right? That’s a selfish, egoic desire to have money and do it efficiently and quickly at other people’s expense. By definition, that’s not a soul level purpose. It doesn’t bring more beauty, goodness or truth into the world.
Rick: So based on that explanation, we could generalize to say that everybody in the world who is doing something selfless and helping others is more likely to be in line with their soul purpose, with their higher purpose. Such as, for instance, all the healthcare workers now who are working in the hospital, you know, long hours, many of them getting sick with COVID-19 in the process. And anybody who is doing something out of selfish motives or anything that’s hurting others is not in tune with their soul purpose. I’m not saying that’s necessarily true, but I’m just saying based upon your explanation, that would be a conclusion.
Jonathan: I wouldn’t quite say it that way. Because let’s say you come from a lineage of doctors. Your grandfather was a doctor. Your father was a doctor. Your mother was a doctor. And you just went into medicine because that’s the family business. Now you’re a good doctor. You help people. Terrific. So you’re still a net benefit to the world. But that doesn’t mean you’re living your soul level purpose. So you can be doing great work in the world and hate it.
Rick: It’s true. Some people do.
Jonathan: It happens. It happens. So what we want is that sweet spot where it’s your greatest joy meeting the world’s hunger. That’s the metric. That Frederick Buechner line is worth its weight in platinum. Find that specific one place where your great joy and the world’s hunger meets. No one wants to watch me ski race. No one wants to listen to me jazz drum. I would have been a jazz drummer if I had the talent. Didn’t. And I would have enjoyed it. And I got into a certain place, maybe it would have served others. So, so no, that’s not my destiny. So found, okay, what are my soar core soul core powers and talents? And where is the mystery or life asking me to deploy them?
Rick: There was a song by the band, which was backup band for Bob Dylan, and they were from Canada. Just for the context. And the line was, I’m a thief and I dig it. So, you know, I guess the question here is, can you be doing something that’s not life supporting, but it’s you dig it. So in that case,
Rick: you said,
Rick: it provides satisfaction to you.
Jonathan: Totally. It may occur. I mean, I don’t think it will, but it may occur. And I would enjoy this. I take two months off of work. I take my kid out of school and we become ski bums for two months in the winter.
Rick: Sounds like fun.
Jonathan: you spend January. It does. I would totally dig it. And you know what? That would be a lovely thing to take a break and just do something that brings me alive and makes me have a lot of fun. Now, it doesn’t have to serve enlightenment. It doesn’t have to serve soul level purpose. It can be just enough to have a prolonged period of digging it and just being a ski bum.
Rick: and it wouldn’t be hurting anybody unless you were like decimated your family’s income, you know, finances or something. Whereas robbing banks or stores or something would be hurting people.
Rick: You might find it gratifying if that was your proclivity.
Jonathan: Yeah. One of the thought experiments I like to run with people is, OK, let’s use the lottery. You win the lottery. And then enforced in the thought experiment is you get to take six months and have fun. Do whatever you want. Let’s do a thought experiment that you’ve won the lottery. You’ve 10 million, 100 million, whatever. And so the first thing is, question is, what do you just want to do that you always wanted to do that you couldn’t afford? I’d want to be a ski bum. I’d want to take several months and just ski with my son. Then I’d want to fly around the world and stay in five star hotels and eat at five star restaurants. I’d want to. What’s the word? I want to be a hedonist. I want to experience what it would be like to be a hedonist. But here’s the thing. After six months, I think I’m done. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life just eating, you know, whatever. It’ll be fun. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m going to really enjoy the museums in Paris and the food in Japan and all of that. So at some point we allow ourselves to feel satiated. We have to allow it because you can always go to the next, you know, I made the joke, one helicopter pad on your yacht and then I didn’t need to. So at some point we go, okay. So I took the time to really enjoy, be happy, but it never brought me deep joy. Not that deep bliss. It’s wonderful, but it isn’t sustaining and it doesn’t have the depth. And then we ask, okay, now I don’t have a survival dance need. What can I do again, like with Mary Oliver, with this one wild, precious life? And the thing that I would want to do is twofold. One, I’d want to go see how far does this spiritual well go, whatever this word awakening is. It seems to me so far it must be endless. It just keeps going. So that’s number one. Number two is how much can I love? And Canada will say, you know, leave it all out on the ice, right? You know, playing hockey. I would like to love so exuberantly, so deeply and fully that on my deathbed in hospice or surrounded at home by loved ones, I’ll like, yeah, I really, I was a demonstration of love in the world. I proved to the people around me that true love exists. And so I would refrain or at least cut back from being a ski bum and traveling the world and see what do I, what’s inside of me, uniquely inside of me that I can offer. And it’s not just choosing anything, right? If I had the ability to be a doctor, I wouldn’t want, I don’t want the blood and the pus and the guts and the, it’s just, it’s not me. What can I say? I’m squeamish, I don’t even like needles. I get a little, so, so then we asked the question, what am I called to? What is life calling me towards? And we ask the right thing. We ask soul. Because if you ask, if you ask your parents, my parents, the best they could come up with, which was still pretty good. They said, what do you want to be when you grow up? And what they meant was, how do you want to earn your living? So it’s not a bad question because it turned out they were right. After I got out of college, the money spigot stopped and I had to earn my own living. Okay, good question. So that take care of the survival dance. I became a psychotherapist, etc. But then the question is, but how do I occupy what is actually authentic? What is actually indigenous, you know, and organic to me? And so I discovered soul work or depth psychology, archetypal psychology, the vision quest ceremony, and so forth. And so all of these things are a road, a pathway between everyday personality and ego that poses the question. And then the answer, which is embedded, is in fact a living force inside of you I would call soul.
Rick: Yeah, well, you know, the Buddha, he kind of won the lottery, right? He was born in this as a prince and he grew up in a palace and he had it made materially. And yet he realized something was wrong in his little sheltered existence that, you know, he wasn’t, there was a higher purpose, which he wasn’t being shown in the life that he was living. And he realized he had to find.
Jonathan: I love the Buddha, but I’m also a little critical. So I was lay ordained in the Zen tradition, so I’m a great, great, great lover of the Buddha. But let me just look at this, the Buddha’s story.
Rick: You didn’t like the way he left his wife and kid?
Jonathan: I did not. Because I think one of the things it shows, and of course it’s beyond my pay grade to state unequivocally that one must never leave their wife and kids because, you know, who am I to say such a thing? But I will give my very impassioned idea that when one wakes up as he did, that there wasn’t enough to just be a prince and have a wife and children. He woke up, he had a mini-wakening before he went out and had the big one under the Bodhi tree. It is usually, almost never important to become a deadbeat dad in the process of finding your life’s purpose.
Rick: No, especially in our modern society. He’s very famous.
Jonathan: And he didn’t come back. It’s interesting. Upon awakening, upon having this maha, right, the great enlightenment of the Buddha, he didn’t actually come back to the palace and say, “Hey kids, I’m sorry. I had to do this.” So I think it’s illustrative of the passion and ardor, the love he had for his path. But I don’t believe that one needs to completely just blow up one’s middle world life in order to find and live their purpose. He could have visited on the weekends, so to speak.
Rick: You know, we haven’t mentioned the word “dharma” in this conversation. I think that word is very much synonymous with purpose. But there’s a verse in the Gita which says, “Because one can perform it, one’s own dharma, though lesser in merit, is better than the dharma of another. Better is death in one’s own dharma. The dharma of another brings danger.” So, you know, perhaps his dharma was to be a monk, perhaps it was to be a householder, and he abandoned that dharma. But in any case, dharma is that which we are capable of performing well, and to try to live somebody else’s, let’s shift to the word “purpose” here, to try to live somebody else’s purpose can be downright dangerous, because it’s not suited to you.
Jonathan: Oh, perfectly put. Yeah, so I coined this word, maybe others use it too, but I call it “default purpose.” So in my cosmology, my understanding is that we all, all 7.7 billion people, live on purpose, because we are meaning makers, we’re storytellers. We cannot help but tell some story about life, because nature abhors a vacuum. So even if you’re an nihilist, you’re like, “There is no meaning.” Okay, well, you’ve just decided that it’s a meaningless universe, and that you live in it.
Rick: That’s meaning for you.
Jonathan: That’s the meaning. There’s no meaning. And then if you can make one up or not, and it’s pointless to say whether you should or not. Okay, so default purpose is insidious, because if you don’t actively ask, “What is my original or my organic purpose?” You will inherit, it’s another word I like, is inherited purpose, which is to say, “My family basically gave me the, you know, be financially successful, have a nice family, be a good person.” So that’s not bad. I mean, you know, better than many others, you know, so better than being the parents of, I don’t know, an ISIS terrorist. So they didn’t tell me to start a caliphate and kill every infidel. So it had that going for it. But a default purpose, we will cling to it without, if we do not ask if there is a higher or deeper or more organic purpose to us. And we can run with that all the way. We can run with it to death. I mean, we can see the current occupant of the Oval Office, you know, be big and flashy and showy and billions and rich and all that. It’s just, it’s overtaken so very much. So we can see that you can become absolutely filled with a purpose that is not truly yours at a soul level.
Rick: Yeah. Have you put together a list of really great “find your purpose” movies?
Jonathan: No, I haven’t. That’s a great.
Rick: Here’s one for you that came to mind as you were speaking, Dead Poets Society.
Jonathan: Yeah, that’s good.
Rick: Yeah, that would have been, so that’s your number one on your list. There’s all kinds of movies in which they play that theme. And it might be a cool thing to recommend on your website or something.
Jonathan: Good idea.
Jonathan: Yeah, well, we all hear the call. I think, well, no, let me back up. Many of us hear the calling, but we just, we brush it off. Even Ramana Maharshi, who I consider, so he’s, you know, classic Indian sage. Many, many people know him. His picture is right here. I got to meet him when I was 16, not in the flesh, but, he died in 1950. I wasn’t even born.
Rick: Last life.
Jonathan: He was instrumental. He was the classic Indian sage who came to me at 16 through his books. And I got this like image, right? But he’s like what? A one-loin cloth type of guy. He just sits there at Arunachala. But even he had a calling. At 16, he went through his, or maybe it was 17, he went through his sort of, you know, experiment with dying. And then he felt this calling to go to Arunachala. The mountain called him and he obeyed. So even though he lived what I would call a very upper world heavy, you know, spirit, you know, what would we call it? Samadhi-oriented life, even he was obeying a calling. And so many of us have heard a calling again and again and again, sometimes induced by a crisis like a divorce or a sickness, and we just brush it off. So it’s there. And some people haven’t heard it for many reasons. One, they’re stuffed up with default purpose, and so it’s important to clear a path and actually have the ability to kind of open up the line between self, small self, and soul.
Rick: I think one good aspect of what you’re doing is that it might awaken in people the realization that they might have a deeper purpose, which they hadn’t even… I mean, if you don’t know that such a thing might exist, you’re not likely to look for it.
Jonathan: We live in a…
Rick: Yeah, you get them to sort of realize that maybe I do have a higher purpose, and then what could it be? So it can kind of get the ball rolling, you know?
Jonathan: It’s so important to introduce this idea to our children. So I have a 10-year-old, you met him for two seconds before the meeting. So I’ve said to him, just once a year, because, you know, he’s only 10, I said, “Did you know that deep inside of you is a soul-level purpose?” And he’s like listening to me like, “Yeah, well, you’ve always told me that, Dad.” And I’m like, “Do you have any idea what it is?” And he goes, “I have no idea.” And I said, “That’s okay, you’re 10, you don’t need to know, but I just needed to let you know that if you’re interested, it’s waiting for you.” And my parents didn’t say that, and society doesn’t say that. So if you look at the… So mainstream today, psychotherapy is now much more accepted, right? Psychology in general. But it’s mostly about making that which is unconscious conscious and bringing us into, you know, healing, healing and joy. Well, that’s terrific, but that’s as far as it goes. Now, if you look at classical or traditional non-duality, it’s not really heavy on the soul’s purpose piece. It’s embedded, it’s in there, but it’s not in the foreground. It’s more about awakening from the delusion of separation, but it’s less heavy on the last ox-herding picture, which is coming back into the marketplace. And then the question is, what does that sage do? So you could say that we’re in a really optimum time, that the technologies of psychotherapy are here to help us to become more happy, more integrated, more full functioning egos. The technologies of non-duality from Nisargadatta Maharaj to Ramana Maharshi to modern teachers like mine, like Adyashanti and Rupert Spira, they are teaching just wildly beautiful iterations of classical Advaita. But what isn’t presenced as much is this underworld journey to soul. This underworld journey to soul. And so actually, lucky me, I asked Adyashanti, would he do a book club with us? He wrote an original piece on purpose and soul for my institute, Purpose Guides Institute, and May 7th he’s going to come and start doing an online thing. And so my attempt, and it seemed to have worked, is to ask a master, who I regard as a master, Adyashanti, to teach to that piece of soul and purpose. And lucky, he was like, yes. So I think the non-duality of the future, so to speak, the one that’s fleshed out more, because I think the two-stage model, the old model of illusory separate self and then pure open awareness, I would like to take that scroll, roll it up and put it in the Advaita Museum and leave it there. It has some problems. I would want to add this whole lower world of spiritual dimension that a Jung, a Suhrawardi, the Sufis, Hillelman, the shamans have pointed out. Then we’ve got a true non-duality, in my opinion.
Rick: Yeah, I think this whole notion of the world as an illusion has been misunderstood. I think what it really means, the word “maya” itself comes from roots which mean “which” and “not,” so “that which is not.” But I think, to my understanding these days, what it really means is that we’re not, it’s not that there is no world, there is no person or anything like that, it’s just that we’re not perceiving the world or perceiving the person in their full value. We’re not perceiving them in terms of what they actually are. We’re perceiving some distorted, limited, smudged glimpse of them. And so, if you could really see the world aright, you would see it as glorious, beautiful, divine, totally profound, not in any way accidental or something that we only got stuck into through some descent or fall and that we have to do our darnedest to get out of once and for all. You know, that whole way of thinking, I think, is misguided.
Jonathan: Yeah, beautifully put. There’s a saying, I can’t remember who to attribute it to, when I do I’ll say it, but the person said, “For a thing to be here, it needs to be mostly somewhere else.” For a thing to be here, it needs to be mostly somewhere else. So that is to say that I don’t picture soul being inside of us, though we can take the inward-facing path and discover souls, as it were, inside of us. But ultimately, I actually see that we are inside of soul and soul inside of spirit. So in that video game, you know, Acorns to Oaks, it’s actually, this is the three-dimensional or four-dimensional video game and it’s a liveware space video game that’s taking place in soul. And this is just the avatar. This hand, this hair that’s falling out of my head and graying in my chin, you know, is the avatar. It’s an aging avatar, but what are you going to do? And that’s not what I really am. It’s my Earth Suit interface. And we mistake the Earth Suit interface for the real deal. When we get really lost in Pac-Man, I actually think the ghosts are coming to get my Pac-Man. And I’m like, “Ah, I died.” I’ll even say, “Oh my God, I died.” No, I didn’t. My avatar did. And so we just have to place our Earth Suit avatar very carefully in what is real.
Rick: When you said that, you know, for a thing to be here, it must exist somewhere else, what came to my mind is an iceberg. You know, okay, I see this iceberg sticking out of the water. There must be a whole lot more iceberg underneath the water that I don’t see. So anything we see, a tree, a person, a dog, a cat, you know, anything, we’re seeing the gross surface value of it, but they’re subtler and subtler and subtler, more refined, right down to the celestial level of these things, including rocks and anything. And then beyond that or within that is the transcendent, you know, the universal consciousness. Or we could say everything is within that. It works both ways. That is within everything and everything is within that.
Jonathan: Yeah, that’s a great metaphor because we see the, what, a tenth of the ice of the magnificent iceberg above the surface. That’s what we’re conscious of. But underneath is so much. Another metaphor I like is consider a probe, like a space probe. So you see the space probe, it’s going past Saturn.
Jonathan: Voyager. And you think that’s the probe. And the answer is no. It’s just the tiny little extension of something that mostly exists at NASA, you know, Cape Canaveral, with 60, 100 scientists sitting at computers. So for a thing to be seen, Voyager spacecraft, it’s mostly unseen. Most of what the probe is is back at Space Command. So you, Rick Archer, are a probe sent from, you know, the multidimensional, you know, reality, and you get hopefully 80 years out of this probe and, you know, it goes eventually. But it’s not who you are. That’s not who I take you to be.
Rick: We’re sense organs of the infinite.
Rick: A couple questions came in, let’s see where these take us. This is Ravi from the United Arab Emirates. He asks, “Many of the Western masters speak of purpose, but most Eastern masters transcend purpose and teach,” this is kind of relevant to what we were saying, “and teach that there is no real purpose for the individual soul except to find out and experience the ultimate reality and to establish in that state. How do you reconcile the two views? Is there a spiritual evolutionary ladder from purpose to no purpose?”
Jonathan: Yeah, that’s beautiful. Thank you, Ravi. So yeah, the classical teachings, right? So you know, you’ve read many of the same sources that I have. There are some, I would call them the radical fringe, and that’s fine. They’re real specialists, and they say the deepest purpose is to transcend any story, any narrative, any purpose, soul level or not. And in a sense, that’s correct, right? Because even beyond any purpose is just, what shall we say, awareness, at rest, at peace as itself. But I would also say though, that pure being is one face of life. There’s also the becoming, the evolutionary impulse to move. Humans, so far as we can tell, we also want to move and do, contribute and love. So the wisdom or discriminating part of Advaita, I agree with, is to transcend all purpose. But then the question is, “All right, I’ve transcended all purpose. It’s the 10th ox-herding picture. I’ve come back into the marketplace. What do I do?” And we want to be of service. We want to love. So if love isn’t in the mix, and love doesn’t want to express itself as support and some kind of activism, then I’d say it’s a drier Advaita, drier non-duality.
Rick: And most sages who have realized the self do something with it. Some of them will just stay in a cave, but very few of them would ever say, “You know, I’ve got mine, to heck with all you people.” Most of them knock themselves out trying to help others, sometimes in very manifest ways. You know, some of them, like Amma, building orphanages and schools and hospitals and all that stuff, or just sitting and teaching, like Ramana. But still, he was very involved in his ashram, crawling around on the floor, picking up grains of rice, teaching people not to be wasteful, and you know, involved. He could have just sat in the cave, but after doing that long enough, I think he was ready to roll, and he came out and served a purpose.
Jonathan: Yeah, he was called by his people. He apparently, the stories that I’ve read, I’ve got a bunch of the books, he was pretty happy to sit there in samadhi for years and years and years. And eventually people were like, “We want to learn,” and he accepted the invitation. Because he could have said, “Nope,” or he could have just stayed in samadhi and let the ants eat him up, and he’d be, you know, leave it at that. But life called him and he responded. To me, that’s the movement of enlightenment. That’s enlightenment in action, or rubber hitting the road, as Ajah says.
Rick: Yeah, that very often happens too. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s teacher, Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, left home at the age of eight and was just living in jungles and caves and whatnot all of his life, and attained realization at an early age. And he was, I think, about 70 when they finally managed to recruit him to become Shankaracharya. They’d been working on him for about 20 years, and finally he just kind of went with the call that was hitting him and served in that function for 13 years. But, you know, I think a lot of times sages are responsive to the, I’m thinking of Carlos Castaneda’s teacher at the moment, he would see everything that happened in the environment as meaningful and as indicative of something, and not just as accidental or meaningless. And so sages are very often responsive to the calls of devotees or circumstances or whatever. They take it, they’re so in the flow that all of that is part of the divine orchestra.
Jonathan: Yeah, well that is one, that’s another path to sole purpose is through transcendence. So one could say that, so when I go on retreats with Rupert Spira, and he’s a very, you know, to my mind, kind of a classical non-dual teacher, doesn’t really speak of purpose and narrative and story, but here he is just doing the heck out of, you know, such precision. He’s using his soul core powers, you know, magnificently. And so what I see, the way I see it is, he’s had this Maha awakening, and then he’s being used by life for a purpose. And in my conversations with Adyashanti in preparation for this book club, same thing. He said, “Yeah, you know, early on I didn’t really talk about it. I thought purpose was sort of like, you know, second fiddle. And now,” he said to me, “I realize that I was living a purpose all the time, but I was unconscious of it. Like, what were the actual essentialities of what I was meant to do in the world?” And so now he had like, how you would say, a post-awakening awakening to purpose after having become so ardent around classical enlightenment.
Rick: One thing I like about Adya is he’s very cognizant of the fact that he’s still a work in progress, and things are always evolving for him.
Jonathan: Yeah, his humility knocks me out. Really, he just, I’m blessed to know someone that humble who’s gone so far.
Rick: Before I forget to ask you, when is this book club with him, and how can people participate in it if they want?
Jonathan: The preview call, kind of the intro one hour that anyone can come to for free, it’s live on May 7th at 6pm Pacific time. So just go to PurposeGuides.org and you can sign up and come and be with Adya live, and hear him talk about purpose. And then we have a two-session book club two and three weeks after that May 7th date where you can actually study with him and ask him questions specifically around finding and living your life’s purpose.
Rick: Good, okay.
Rick: A question came in from John in Strasbourg, France. You mentioned earlier, he says, that you would get back to talking about the three or four forces which work against the fulfillment of one’s purpose. So let’s talk about that.
Jonathan: Yeah, so one is we live in a soul illiterate culture. It’s just not, we’re illiterate. We don’t, it’s not in the mix, right? As I said, my family, standard decent family, my grandparents never asked my parents, “Do you know what your soul level purpose are? Do you know that you have one?” It wasn’t in their tradition, it wasn’t in their background, and that’s fine. But we could have, a la the Sufi tradition, a la some native indigenous traditions, this idea that actually there is something that is uniquely ours to serve the tribe. So, then the vision quest ceremony, fasting and praying for four days out in wild nature. An elder in the community, we don’t have this now, but they did and maybe still do in some places, an elder would be able to see when the young person was ready to go out and find out what was theirs. They would call it the giveaway. I don’t remember the actual Native American word for this. And they would fast and they would pray. I think it was called humblekcha, or humblekcha (Haŋbléčeyapi), and that’s the translation of the word for vision quest. It means to lament, to cry, literally crying for a vision of your mythopoetic identity, for what your true occupation at a soul level is to give into the world. And so, I didn’t have that. I had a bar mitzvah.
Rick: Your parents never told you about any kind of life purpose or anything like that?
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. So, let’s see. Yeah, so the question is, what are the forces working against our awakening to our soul level purpose? So, yeah, one of them is we live in a soul illiterate culture. So, in the old days, there would be, things are just popping up on my screen, got to get rid of them here. In the old days, an elder could spot when a youth was ready to go out into the wild and do this fast, do this vision fast, right? Humblik chah, meaning this lament, this cry, I want my life to be true. I want to live in accordance with what is really mine. And then they would come back and they could offer their giveaway. The thing that was theirs to truly gift the community. So, yeah, I said, you know, in my case, the rite of passage or initiation was a bar mitzvah. Well, you know, that’s fine, but it didn’t exactly get me my soul level purpose. So a soul illiterate culture, I wasn’t taught it in the schools. I was a religion major, a psychology major, a philosophy major, you know, it wasn’t there. I didn’t find it, though I was looking for it and didn’t get it from my family, didn’t get it from TV. So, it’s not there.
Rick: Yeah, it’s not like they’re all conspiring to hold out on you and conceal it because they haven’t found it either.
Jonathan: Exactly, exactly. Yep, totally. And so, another is simply competing commitments. We can take the first levels of Maslow’s hierarchy, safety, security, belonging, and esteem, and we can build an entire life’s purpose around those, right? I want more fame, more money, more safety, more security, more friends, more likes on my Facebook posts, more whatever, you know.
Rick: More people at my rallies.
Jonathan: More people at my rallies, you know. So, okay, you know, that’s fine. Of course, I would like my programs to be well attended, so there’s nothing wrong with that. I would like you to think I’m intelligent and not dumb. Okay, fine. I would like to feel safe and secure. That’s fine, and it’s necessary, but then we can, if, sans knowing our deep soul level purpose, those become our abiding purpose. Those become the center of gravity. So, if we are always thinking, “Well, I want 10 more thousand dollars, and then I’ll be happy.” Well, you know, I tried this when I was a psychotherapist. I started off, I earned 30,000 25 years ago, and I thought, “Well, if only I could earn And then I did, and then guess what I thought? “Well, if only I could earn 50.” And I mean, this is gonna, you know, this would go on endlessly. I’m quite certain, if I keep running the experiment. So, our competing commitments can become addictions. We can become so attached to them that they drown out anything else. And along with that comes just the fact that we actually have, unconsciously, layers of default purpose or inherited purpose. We actually feel like we’re driving towards something. And in some ways, that’s true. We want to become more erudite. We want to become, get a better body and stronger. We want to have more friends or whatever it is. And they’re wholesome to a degree, but they don’t touch. They’re usually purposes that are of the ego and personality, and not our true mythopoetic identity. So, those are some of the forces working against. And just the safety one. Like, sometimes when I ask people in an introductory class, I say, “If I had a magic wand, which I don’t.” And I could wave it and you would have your soul level purpose. “Is there any part of you that wouldn’t want it?” And they raise their hands and they say always the same things. They go, “Well, what if I’m not good at it?” “Okay.” “What if I can’t make any money at it?” “Ah, okay. What if people laugh at me?” “All right.” So, what we have here is different voices, different aspects that have other purposes. I don’t want to be laughed at. I’m not particularly terrified of it. But, you know, if you get a hundred emails in your comments, you know, “That joker is an idiot,” you know, I’ve got thin skin. I’ll feel it. Right? So then maybe that will push me away. But if you’re really on fire with your purpose, you can take it. It’s not even taking it, it moves actually through you.
Rick: You know that Gita verse I quoted, “Because you can perform it, your own Dharma is better than the…” Is it true of one’s sole purpose that you are likely to be good at it more so than anything else? Because it is actually your sole purpose?
Jonathan: Yeah. So, it’s above my pay grade to understand exactly how this works, but it also makes intuitive sense. If this cosmology has the perfume of truth, of course everything I’m saying isn’t the truth, it’s the facsimile. It’s a word story that points to the truth. So, by definition, when you’re living your purpose, you are made to do it and do it well. So, it’s been noted that everything in the world lives its purpose naturally and organically except for a homo sapien. Because a homo sapien, I was watching Yo-Yo Ma and dreaming the other day, like, “If I had the talent, I’d like to be Yo-Yo Ma.” But, I’m not. I wasn’t meant to be. When I was 16, I watched Gandhi came out, the Ben Kingsley version, and I just was like, “I want to be Gandhi when I grow up.” Well, it turned out I didn’t, and the reason is obvious. I’m not him. He did what he did. So, by definition, and you don’t have to trust this, but I would ask people to consider that you will be good at it. It will feel natural, it will fit you like a glove, it’ll be a bespoke tailored suit or dress because it’s the most natural thing in the world for you to do the thing for which you were created.
Rick: Yeah, that sounds good. I think we wanted to talk about climate change a little bit and we can perhaps make this conversation segue into it. I’m showing a graphic on the screen right now that you showed in your webinar yesterday with a bunch of sharks. People can see what I’m showing and you know what I’m showing, so it’s pretty obvious. I’ll let people look at it for a minute while you explain it. And how is it that this … why did you show this graphic in your webinar and how would this relate to our whole topic of today?
Jonathan: Yeah, so as I said, I really believe that the meta purpose of humanity is to midwife more goodness, truth and beauty. Here at the time of COVID, I’ve been watching videos with my 10 year old, I mean the poor guy’s bouncing off the wall. So we did Beethoven’s Fifth on TV last night, two nights ago we did Beethoven’s Ninth and Yo-Yo Ma’s Bach concertos, not concertos, but Bach somethings.
Rick: So you’re watching videos of symphonies?
Jonathan: Yeah, I’ve got to do something.
Rick: Those are great ones. Do Beethoven’s Sixth also.
Jonathan: Okay, Beethoven, it’s just, you know, he was what, somewhere in the 1700s. And I’m just saying to my son, I was like, this German fellow who apparently couldn’t even hear the Ninth Symphony because he was deaf at that point. And I was just like, just unbelievable. There’s a guy living his purpose. Now, was he enlightened? Did he fulfill the wake up part? I have no idea. I don’t have a sense that he did. Was he a mature emotional adult in his middle world? I don’t think so. Maybe he was, but maybe he was a very hard guy to get along with. But what he did do is he had the soul core power and he did it to the hilt, to the hilt. He was made to do it. He could do it even deaf. So it’s just an amazing thing to be a human. So if we all were to awaken to our own soul core power, and we may not end up doing it at the level of a Gandhi or a Beethoven, in fact, we will likely not do it at that level. I don’t think that’s what’s in store for me. If it is fine, but you know, I don’t think so. We play it to the level that the mystery brings us to. And it feels so good. So one of the things that I,
Rick: I just want to interject that, you know, Kabir was what a potter, a weaver, a weaver, and, you know, wrote all this beautiful poetry. Rupert Spiro, when I first interviewed him, I think, I think he was still employed as a ceramic artist. And then he finally gave that up to be a full-time teacher.
Jonathan: So, yeah, when I met Adyashanti, he was a machinist. He had a survival dance.
Rick: That’s right.
Jonathan: He was living his purpose because he was waking up in the morning, he had a meditation hut and he would meditate three hours a day before doing this blue collar job, maybe low paying, right? But he was, he was on there. So just because you’re doing a job that isn’t sort of your soul’s purpose doesn’t mean that you aren’t on fire with it.
Rick: Yeah. And the time will, you know, nature will conspire to get you to do your soul’s purpose full time. I have a friend whose husband felt like, well, I’m an artist and I don’t want to do anything other than my art. But the family was like starving. She ended up having to leave him with the kids just because it wasn’t working, you know? So I think if you really have something you’re meant to do, it will be, it will emerge. It will be irrepressible. But you may need to do something else at the same time until it has a chance to sprout, you know?
Jonathan: Yeah. Yeah. For a while, you’ll almost definitely need to be doing your service. Like when people take my course, I say, please don’t quit your day job within six months of taking the course.
Rick: Good warning.
Jonathan: Because if the course does its, if the program does its job, people in fact, waken up partially or fully to their soul level purpose. And then some people get very excited and they’re just like, oh yeah, I want to quit my job. And I’m like, no, no, no, no, wait, wait. I’ve never said and will never say that eating and paying your rent is irrelevant. So take a little time to do your sacred dance for free, getting good at it, right? Before you have it be your survival dance as well.
Rick: Sure. Okay. So why did we show this graphic? Let’s get back to that.
Jonathan: Oh, the graphic. Okay. So look, a human being on the human realm and all the, all the other animals and life on planet, we’re not actually able to discover our purpose and midwife more goodness, truth and beauty if we’re dead. If we’re extinct, there was a picture of a couple of monks and maybe they’re Tibet monks and they had a sign and it said, climate change is important to us because we can’t meditate when we’re extinct. Everything. Like it doesn’t matter if you’re a renunciate and you’re a hermit out in the middle. Everything depends on, at least in this realm on planet earth, everything depends on living in harmony with the ecosphere and it is part of us. In fact, we’re part of it. We are an emanation of the earth. We are a recent innovation of the planet, a beautiful innovation with a self-reflective conscious ability that can even imagine, I can imagine being Yo-Yo Ma, though I’ll never be him, which is why a tulip won’t imagine being a daffodil or a rose. It doesn’t have that self-reflective capacity. I live with three cats, three felines and what I can tell is they don’t reflect on, oh, I wish I was like that big, tall, gangly ape guy named Jonathan. They’re happy being what they are because they can’t imagine other possibilities. So it’s a burdensome privilege, a burdensome privilege to have the ability to imagine alternate purposes than our own. It’s great that we can imagine it, but then we get lost in imagination and don’t learn to actually listen. So that picture of the sharks, so you have the human being representing all humans, then you have COVID-19, which is going to, or is in the process of taking out hundreds of thousands. We’ll see what happens, millions at this point, it’s, what is it, April 3rd. We don’t know what’s in store exactly. And then behind that is a bigger shark and the bigger shark is the economic destabilization that is occurring. Long after we beat COVID, if we do, we will still have the situation where a lot of, you know, I’ll just say it in 30 seconds. We have the fact that, you know, the landlords aren’t getting paid because the renters can’t pay and they have mortgages to pay the banks. And then, you know, it’s just the whole thing. And how do you buy groceries? And it’s a big mess. But here’s the thing, COVID and the economic situation are a tsunami and they’re beginning to wash through our country and countries across the planet. And it’s creating just deep suffering. But off the shore is a tsunami that is, I don’t know, 100x as big, and that is climate change. And depending on who you, you must have interviewed Catherine Ingram at some point.
Rick: Yes. I’ve read her article too. and corresponded with her about it. And also Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, I was corresponding along similar lines. But go ahead and say what you’re going to say about her.
Jonathan: Yeah. So this one journalist and Advaita teacher, Catherine Ingram, wrote a thing, I think it was called the extinction crisis, something like that. And basically she’s saying that there was a, granted it’s a minority, but a good amount of climate scientists who are saying it’s not like the year 2100. It’s not just like the year 2050. It’s on our doorstep. We are months or years away from one of these feedback loops that can happen. And people just don’t know that part of it. They’ve been told by the International Climate Project on Climate.
Jonathan: Exactly. And so, that’s a conservative organization that only takes into account the things that they can verify now. And they’re open about that. They’re not trying to dupe us, so far as I can tell. But here’s the thing. You have to account for the feedback loops and the albedo effect and all these, these, these loops, the methane.
Rick: The methane, right.
Jonathan: Methane is being released by just in metric tons and it’s 86 times more powerful than carbon. And so anyway, the bottom line is we, it’s possible. I’m not a climate scientist, so take what I say with a grain of salt. There is a possibility, and it’s not a random outside one, that we have a handful of years left. And so the climate change thing is coming and talk about a psycho-spiritual pressure. So my contention is this, this whole wake up, grow up, show up thing, it’s not just for middle class people who have the time to think about such things. This is an all hands on deck moment. We’re on the Titanic. It’s sink. The real Titanic took two hours and 40 minutes to sink. Well everyone was, you know, or actually in the James Cameron movie, they showed some wealthy people in the upper class deck, you know, smoking cigars, drinking port saying “they’ll fix it.” Now, of course, you know, within 20 minutes they, they realized that it wasn’t the case. Well, we’re a bit like that. We’re like, well, you know, it’s fine outside my window now. How could it change so quickly? Well, it can, and it is, you know, thousands of species are going extinct every year and we don’t realize that we could be next. So one of the things I did is I called it “climate change as spiritual practice.” I also have another one called pandemic as practice. And the idea being that our activism and our spiritual life, they’re not separate. They’re expressions of one thing. Years ago I founded an organization called Green Sangha and it simply was spiritually engaged environmental activism. Well the times of call, I read that article by Catherine Ingram and I felt sick to my stomach. I just wanted to vomit. And I was walking to the library to just do work for Purpose Guides Institute. And I’m not a guy given to self-hatred that much. It’s just not my thing. But I was feeling it. I was like, oh my God, I’m a carbon addict like everybody else. I burn, you know, in my engine, I burn it in my furnace, I burn it when I fly occasionally. And I was like, I have to do something. I was called, called to attempt to do something. And so I created climate change as spiritual practice. And so we have these events and these gatherings and we, for, it’s for a very narrow group of people. People who are interested in non duality and spirituality. You want to find your people. So even if you’re a fundamentalist born again Christian, great. And you’re a Republican and you love Trump, fine. But if you want, if you love the values of which he stands for, the Republican Party stands for, or a traditional church stands for, you’re going to need a viable biosphere. So find your people who you want to work with, you enjoy working with, and then work with them. So I call them my people, people who are non-dually oriented activists.
Rick: Yeah, and if you’re one of the people you just described, listen to Katharine Hayhoe, you know, who is a fundamentalist Christian raised by one and is speaking to those groups about what’s going on with the climate. Yeah, well, you know, you have your graphic with the sharks. I also posted a graphic recently, which is that of an airplane’s tail with little trim tabs on the rudders, and there’s also trim tabs on the rudder of a ship. And I saw Buckminster Fuller speak in 1971, and he used that term a lot, trim tabs. But a trim tab is a little thing that helps to move a larger thing. It would be hard to turn the rudder of a ship or of an airplane without the trim tab. It sort of creates a resistance in the opposite direction, which helps to turn it. So I’ve kind of thought of this COVID thing as possibly a trim tab, which is going to help us move the larger thing of climate change. And perhaps when the whole thing blows over, we’ll sit down and we’ll think, all right, now, what else might we be ignoring that’s kind of looming on the horizon that could do us in? And certainly we’ll look at the possibilities of other pandemics. But climate change is the big shark.
Jonathan: I love that image of the trim tab. So imagine, if you will, that the planet Earth is like a giant, you know, 747, 747, that’s what they’re called. And you have 7.7 billion people and the engines have cut and we’re on a long descent, right? But we may crash within five months, five years from climate change. And the question is, what do we do with the trim tab? How can we be the trim tab and find our place in it? You can sit there in the plane and we can all sit and watch Dumb and Dumber or Star Wars or whatever, you know, for the next 10 years and then we all die. But my response is to get outside and work with that trim tab. What can I do? What’s in me that I can offer and can we join together? And so it’s not just something I do at Purpose Guides Institute. I’ve joined several other organizations that I’m working in concert with, right? Working at different levels, working at the level of government is really important. The citizens climate lobby is getting the right politicians in. By right, I just simply mean ones who are capable of reacting proactively to the situation. And the other thing is to put pressure on them to do the right thing. So this is part of our work, practical.
Rick: Yeah. Yeah. All righty. There’s more we can say about this, but we probably should get onto some general wrap-up points. Let’s switch back to if a person were to decide to work with you and to find their help you find help to have you help them find their purpose, what would be involved? I mean, how much time would be involved? How much money would be involved? What kind of things would you do to help them find their purpose?
Jonathan: Yeah. So the practical questions is once a year, I start a new group. That happens in the fall, every September, costs $1,200. So we meet 12 times. So the way I did is I synthesized the learnings, the things that I found were best in the literature. I’m obsessive, studied with so many people, read so many people and experienced so much. And so I sort of gleaned out the pieces that I thought were most effective. And so there’s 12 modules and I do it like a reverse classroom. People go on to the library. And the first thing they do is they simply read like a seven page article that I wrote on that particular subtopic around purpose. And then they listen to a lecture. And then here’s the most important thing. They do the experiential piece. So that will be like a soul-centric kind of meditation, a guided meditation that is not bringing us necessarily to the cessation of separateness or to, you know, the unbounded, but to listening to soul. And part of it, there’s the inward facing path where we can go inside, but there’s the outward facing path where we actually experienced the clues of our destiny out in wild nature and spending time out in nature and allowing ourselves to experience outer nature as coextensive with our very own being, which ultimately it is where we couldn’t possibly be separate from it. So you could call these soul encounter technologies or soul encounter practices or techniques. And so, you know, there’s I think about 18 of them I use in that particular course. But simultaneously, we also need to work with resistance because, you know, you could say this about upper world spirituality too. If I had a wand and I said I could wave it at you and you would have Ramana Maharshi caliber abiding awakening, do you have any reservations? Well, you might. You might kind of go, well, what would happen to my friendships? What would happen to my show? What would happen to my, would I still like, you know, eating ice cream? You know, you just, your identity would be so changed. So we need to actually work with the voices, the minority voices. The majority may say yes, if soul purpose exists, like this guy is telling me, like Carl Jung said, like Suhrawardi and Ibn Arabi and James Hillman and Bill Plotkin and all these people. If this exists, if Joe Campbell was right, and there is a bliss to be followed, that is that place where is deeply joyful for us that serves, then what are the voices that say no, let’s say I need some, I need some attention. So a part of the course is working with that. Part of it is working with that. In Zen, they weren’t so great at working with resistance. They’d hit you with a stick and you kept going. That’s fine. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, I don’t know. But you know, hey, Zen worked well for me, so I’m not really complaining. But I actually find with my background as a therapist, that working with the resistances instead of like just trying to push them to a corner is really helpful. So those are the two wings of the bird, right? On the one hand, working with resistance, on the other hand, working with the passion and love that we have for the possibility of living from this deeper place. So that’s the program. And it’s not like you start it and then at the end, I guarantee you perfect soul purpose awakening. Good God, no. That’d be like going to an Adyashanti retreat or Rupert retreat and inferring that they were trying to tell us that we would become out perfectly enlightened. They don’t and I don’t. What I do say is give it a year, take the course for three months, experience the different moving parts, have me as a guide to help you with the resistances and the challenges, and then keep moving with the practices. Like going on a three month meditation retreat, then the Roshi or the teacher doesn’t say, “Okay, well, you’re done.” They suggest have a daily practice. So you know, you become what you attend to. So if you attend to soul, soul will attend to you.
Rick: Give us a couple of examples of actual people who’ve gone through the program and how their lives have changed.
Jonathan: Yeah. So one fellow, he’s on faculty now. So he was a businessman.
Rick: On your faculty.
Jonathan: My faculty, yeah. He was working in the corporate world, earning really good money, really great guy. But his side gig, I mean, you know, he called it the golden handcuffs. You know, I once asked him, I said, “Well, how golden are they?” You know, and he told me, I was like, “Oh my God, wow, I get it. I too would be loath to leave a job that paid that much money. I mean, you know, in my wildest dreams, I doubt I’ll be ever earning that.” And he was having a hard time breaking them. And interestingly, he got lucky. But I put lucky in quotes because he lost his job. They were bought out by a bigger company and they got rid of middle management or whatever. And summarily after, I think it was about 10 or 12 years of really high quality work, he was out. And the first night he said he was in terror, which I get it. His wife was shaken. You know, how are they going to pay the mortgage? And they had become accustomed to a nice lifestyle. And then he realized that he had been given a privilege, it was a privilege to lose this job. And so he’s fallen in, he was already in love with, he’s more of a shaman than I am. I’m not really a shaman, but he studies, you know, with indigenous people. And so he’s really picked up that mantle. And it’s amazing how quickly I think all the work he did as an executive has actually really helped him. So he’s working with people that aren’t really my people. So you know, if someone’s an executive and they want a purpose guide, I’m not saying I wouldn’t work with them. But I think this fellow, Brody Hartman, is like a better choice. He just, he knows that.
Rick: I thought you were talking about him. He was the guy who was on the call the other day.
Rick: Yeah. Yeah. Brody Hartman. I don’t know if you know him from quorum.com, but Brody Hartman. And he, so that’s another question, right? It’s like, who are your people? Who are the people for whom you are meant to work with? My people tend to be people who do have a meditation practice. They are interested in classical enlightenment. They are interested in being mature adults. I have had a few corporate types, but you know, that’s mostly not it. So yeah, so he’s an example. And he went through a hard time losing his job. But that forced him to actually take his sacred dance and make it his survival dance. And amazingly, he’s thriving.
Rick: Can you think of an example of someone whom you’ve worked with who wasn’t doing well financially and found his core purpose and now he’s making a heck of a lot more money than he was? Because we don’t want to always make it seem like, you know, we lose the corporate job and we end up doing something profound, but you know, doesn’t pay much.
Jonathan: Yeah. Well, I’m making more money now as a purpose guide than I was as a therapist. So I was making a good income as a therapist and I’m making a better income as a purpose guide. And it was a risky proposition because, though I of course did not invent purpose guiding, it’s been around for thousands of years, that particular formulation, purpose guiding is my iteration. Well, quickly I was met with a big marketing problem. I’m selling something that no one’s ever heard of. When I was a therapist and a meditation teacher, well, I still am, I could market those easily because people understood what that was. You could say Zen, I could say Advaita or whatever, you know, to those in the know. So at first it was hard and there was a pay reduction. And then I found over time and, I trusted and it turned out to be right in this case. I was like, but this is my deepest purpose. I think this is my offering and I think when people recognize me as their future guide, and most won’t, but some do, they’ll go, ah, there’s something about what he’s saying. Whether they like the personality and the packaging or not, you know, they may like it, they may not. But the perfume of the teachings, that I’m part of a lineage, right? It’s not, you know, I didn’t invent this. They come and they’re coming in bigger numbers. So in my case, yeah, the income has increased.
Rick: Yeah, it seems like this is a time when a lot of people are going to be looking for a purpose and, you know, but they’re also out of work. So they may not be able to pay your tuition. But have you written a book about this or something that people can read inexpensively and how can they get more knowledgeable about this without pay?
Jonathan: Lots of free offerings. So on the site, the first tab says free stuff. I don’t think it says stuff, but you know, something like that. I made a movie. I interviewed like, you know, all these people have been talking about, Adyashanti, Rupert Spira, Michael Mead, just really beautiful souls. And I actually asked them to make a statement to my son when he turns 18, which will be eight years from now. And I said, if it arises in him that he wants to know his soul’s purpose, what would be your best wisdom? So Rupert Spira looks in the camera and says, “Yi,” that’s my son’s Korean, said, “Yi, happy birthday. Here’s what I would do.” And then you see like 10 teachers in a row. So that’s free. What else? There’s a paper I wrote, part of a book called Purpose Rising. Ken Wilber had a chapter, Bill Plotkin had a chapter, and I put it up for free on the website. So that’s like about 28 pages long. So there’s plenty of free stuff. No, you know, if you don’t have money, just go there and you’ll get quite a bit. There’s a YouTube channel, me interviewing these wonderful teachers, all free.
Rick: Okay. Now, you’re going to be doing on Friday, I think, a webinar similar to what you did yesterday. And tell people a little bit about that.
Jonathan: Yeah. So there’ll be one after if you’re listening to this, you know, later than that. But it’s called Pandemic as Practice. And it has three components. It’s two hours on Zoom. It’s free, talking about, you know, things that you don’t have to pay for. And the first part is simply like unthawing ourselves. A lot of us, including me, sometimes feel agitated and a little like, “Oh, my, deer in the headlights. What? COVID? It’s coming? Will my dad live? You know, it’s disturbing.” And so there’s an opportunity just simply to speak to that anxiety. And you can just be a watcher and listen. You don’t have to speak. You know, no one’s forced to talk. But it can be helpful to express your concern, your fear, if there is any. Second piece is, or second and third, they’re really together, is there’s a meditation part where I ask people to touch, I guide them, attempt to guide them, to touch that place that is absolutely safe. So we were on that call, and I got an email from someone. And they said, I guess they were a person who didn’t know about Advaita. And they said, “You know, that part where you invited us to feel the part that is absolutely safe?” He said, “I had this opening. I don’t even understand what happened.” And they were like, “Thank you so much.” So that’s a part of it, that whole upper world of being the unbounded that is, COVID is not a threat. And then the third part is, what am I called to? What is COVID? And I mean, you know, unless you’re 120 years old, no one alive remembers the 1918 Spanish flu. This is unprecedented for us. And so the question is, well, what am I going to do other than, you know, put on gloves and a mask and stay away, and keep social distancing? And my joke is drink more wine and watch more Netflix, which I am. And then the question is, well, what else? And so the question I have is, in the year 2030, when your children or your friends’ children say, “Well, Rick, what did you do?” You know, you don’t want to just say, “I only watched Netflix.” You want to say, “Well, I had this show and I talked about it, and thousands of people watched it, and I think maybe some of them were inspired to be a demonstration of love.” And so I want the people listening today, you know, whether I’ve ever worked with them or not, is to ask that question, “What can I do at the time of the COVID crisis?” And really imagine that you were courageous, like very courageous. You weren’t like, “Oh, shucks, I’m not X, Y, and Z.” Who cares? But you can do something. So that’s pandemic as practice. And it’s free. It’s two hours. It’s on Zoom. It’s live. Go to PurposeGuides.org and sign up.
Rick: Good, I’ll link to that from your page on bathgap.com, and people can leap from there into that and you’ll be—
Jonathan: Like climate change.
Rick: Yeah, all that stuff.
Rick: Okay, great. Well, thanks, Jonathan. This has been a lot of fun.
Jonathan: Yeah, thank you.
Rick: That’s funny. I look like I’ve been beat up. I’ve got this thing going on here.
Jonathan: You do. Poor guy.
Jonathan: No big deal. Good for you.
Rick: All right, so thanks to those who’ve been listening or watching, and we’ll see you next week. Next week I’ll be interviewing a woman who is into the Toltec path, which is what Carlos Castaneda wrote about. And I really haven’t covered that. She’s a student of Don Miguel Ruiz. So go to bathgap.com if you’d like to see who we’ve got scheduled or sign up for the email newsletter or make a donation or sign up for the audio podcast or any of that. And thanks for listening or watching. Thanks, Jonathan.
Rick: Bye. Bye.