September 11th is a day that both reminds me of the challenges, the insanity, the upheavals of our time – and also a day that reminds me of the importance of waking up in these troubled times. It urges me to try to bring more awareness, wisdom, kindness and peace into this world, as best I can. I know this subject matters to you too.
But what does it mean to ‘wake up in the world’ and how can we do that in the midst of our busy lives? That is the topic of this masterclass with one of the most inspiring, authentic and open hearted people I have ever met – Jono Fisher. Jono is a speaker, writer and founder of the Wake Up Project – an organisation dedicated to creating a kinder, more courageous world. He’s now the Executive Director of the Sounds True Foundation (more about the Foundation below).
Much of the wisdom Jono shares in this masterclass he draws from the speakers he interviewed for the soon to be launched Waking Up in the World, a free 10-day online event where 30 leading teachers, activists, and social visionaries share their wisdom and practical tools to help us flourish and and be forces for good during the challenges of our time.
Waking Up In the World was created to support the new Sounds True Foundation.
The Sounds True Foundation’s mission includes funding scholarships for a new generation of mindfulness teachers in areas such as education, social justice, environmental activism, and youth work.
During the Waking Up in the World event we will be learning from some of the great spiritual teachers and social visionaries of our time to discover:
How turning towards our sadness, grief or heartache about the state of the planet can be healing and how it can be a gateway to our unique calling
Trainings in new skills to tap our inner resources to become a force for good
How to find new levels of connection with ourselves and each other and our communities
What it means and what it takes to be a changemaker at both a grass roots level and beyond
Waking Up in the World is an invitation to explore new perspectives, reflect deeply, and join the ever-growing movement of people who are transforming themselves—and the world.
Thank you so much for being part of this community.
With love and respect,
MELLI: A natural place for us to start is that you’ve been through a lot of change in the last couple of years. And now you are doing this amazing new project called the Waking Up In The World Summit. I’d love to here about, not only what Waking Up In The World Summit is but why it matters to you? Why are you doing this, after all the changes you’ve been through this is what you’re working on? Why is that?
JONO: Well it’s a great question because I, in many ways, feel like I am in a kind of a surrendered position in my life right now. My wife and I had, as you know, we had a baby boy two years ago and his name is Max and he is a complete delight. And he kind of came like a grenade into our lives. Exploded. And many things exploded which really kind of disrupted our lives. But in a way the meaning of that is still becoming evident. And one one the things that I think that happened in that time is a realisation that I wanted to be working with other people in a different way. And this opportunity came up to come and work at Sounds True in Colorado. And you know we were living in Sydney and that was a long way to come. And it just felt like the right thing to do Melli. Felt like the right thing to do. And you know like we had kind of built a business over like ten years. We had a very large community with the Wake Up Project in Australia. And yet it just felt like, with the arrival of Max and this invitation to come to Colorado, it felt like the right thing for us to do. There was some logic behind it. Obviously there was some pre-thinking around it but it just felt like the right thing to do. And all the kind of signs were pointing here.
So when I arrived here they had already proposed that they were doing this event called Waking Up In The World. So I kind of walked in to this. And you know pretty ironic that I had come from the Wake Up Project and I’m doing Waking Up In The World. And as soon as I heard this title, I was actually intrigued because it was the in part, Waking Up In The World. And as I dug a little deeper, I begun to kind of discover the backstory as to why they were putting this on. And apparently they’ve had a lot of feedback. So Sounds True, as many people know it’s like a 30-year old company. It has a very big community. And they started to hear a lot of stories from people, people feeling like despair and anguish and kind of a sense of heartbreak, I guess, as to what was happening in the world and people not really knowing how to respond to this. And so they came up with this idea of bringing together a whole bunch of, probably the leading kind of social visionaries, people who were taking really bold, wonderful action in the world, with spiritual teachers. And so what if we bring these two groups together and have a conversation and that tries to respond to this sense of heartbreak that people were feeling. And so that was what I kind of walked into and it felt kind of juicy to me. Not only as a project but as from a personal point of view because I’ve certainly been struggling and continue to struggle with what’s happening in the world and how I can deal with that. And in parallel to that I’m also, my job title here is to found the Sounds True Foundation. So that’s the not-for-profit arm of Sounds True. So the other appealing aspect was this event was going to raise funds for the Foundation, a foundation that’s really going to make Sounds True’s material – it’s books and it’s coursed more available, more freely available to like social leaders and to under-served communities. So really opening up the gates, so to speak, of Sounds True’s teachings to go wider into the world. So it was a lot of things. It’s a long answer to your question, but it’s interesting. I feel like I’ve just arrived here and there’s this project that feels so important to help kind of birth into the world.
MELLI: Yeah. And if there’s anyone in the world that I know that could just walk into Sounds True at that moment and carry that project, you’re definitely the right man for the job. It must have been tricky, I mean, it must have been a big decision to leave the country and leave everything you build behind. I really think it is very courageous of you to follow your instincts and to follow your heart in that way.
JONO: I’m intrigued with you because I know we’re having this conversation now and when we spoke about this you were really keen to have this conversation. You were really keen for have people know about this event. It was something that you seemed to sense was important about this right now. So I mean I’d be curious to know from you, even before this conversation you were sharing somethings, I’d just like to hear about that as well.
MELLI: I feel like this, is the same as the Sounds True community and yourself, I also experience a sense of grieving and a sense of almost overwhelm in the face of everything that’s happening. There’s so much happening at the moment in the world, you know. We’ve got examples of bad leadership. We’ve got the climate change and the demands of technology and so much more happening. And I think that it’s very easy in this troubled times to almost just sort of either put your head in the sand and just put one foot in front of the other and just keep doing what you’re doing everyday or numb it out or distract whatever because it can feel so overwhelming and to feel what we’re feeling in response. So many of us we care, we really care. We want to change things. But it can be tricky to deal with the difficult emotions that come up in the face of that. So I’m really passionate, in the same way that you’re really passionate, about, I think, have some conversations or outing the facts, giving everybody the space, all of us as a community of people who want to be change agents and really care, to have a collective conversation about: yes, this is hard. A kind of acknowledgement. This is hard and learn to how to be with those difficult feelings and still be forces for good in a troubled world. I think this conversation means more to me. As I am speaking about it right now, I’m really feeling quite emotional about it. This is not an easy time. It is not an easy day and age to live in. And yet what we were speaking about before we kind of started this conversation I guess in a more formal way, is that I also see this as an incredible opportunity for the flowering of human consciousness because when things get very difficult – when there’s a lot of pressure, when there’s a lot of hardship going on – that’s often when we have to rise to the occasion of our humanity with the very best of what we have. And so also, I feel very inspired by what’s happening because I think there’s an incredible opportunity for, we have to grow now as we have to learn how to be more kind and conscious people in order to make it I think perhaps. So I’m both inspired and slightly overwhelmed by the challenges we face.
JONO: I love what you said about the opportunity that arises with difficult times. And I think there’s not wanting to overlook the reality of what’s happening, and I don’t hear that in any way with what you’re saying, but the opportunity for, because you know things are unfolding in a sudden way and there are certain outcomes that are predicted or are pretty clear about what’s happening. And yet I love what you’re talking about this opportunity for humans in the midst of this. In the same way that there might be a flood and what happens to that town when it floods. What happens to people, what happens to community, what happens to outreach, what happens to people’s hearts. You know, a lot of things happen. The flood is still the flood. The town’s still damaged. But often you talk to this people after these occasions or during these occasions and they’re different. It brings out something. I think that’s what I hear you saying is that there’s something that’s coming forward or called for or sometimes maybe even easier or more permiscient, when it’s more challenging.
MELLI: Yeah. I think if you look at the work of Joseph Campbell in The Hero’s Journey – for those maybe who are listening to this and don’t know about his work, he was a Professor of Literature in one of the universities in the States and studied the arc of the stories that human beings tell. And found there was this pattern that was kind of a psychological map for what it is to grow into a fully developed human being, in his words. And often what he saw is that the person takes this journey to become a fully developed human being. Usually what calls the best of a human being forward is the darkest and most challenging of times. That’s why when we watch movies, we often don’t want to watch movies where everybody just gets everything they want and has a really pleasurable time. No, we love watching when somebody is sort of starts as comfortable and then often, their whole lives fall apart or something really weak happens and they have to grow into this, flower is such a beautiful word, they have to flower into a fuller version of a more kind and conscious person. And so I do think that. I remember when there was the floods here in Brisbane when you were talking about the flood. I remember seeing on the news this article about how the whole community was helping each other and out on the streets having parties, clean-up parties. And it brought the community together. So there is an opportunity for us to, I love that certain rising to the occasion of this calling forth of the very best of who we are. And it doesn’t even have to be some grand, huge thing. It could be just committing in whatever way you can to serving this world in whatever small or big ways you can. It’s more of an inner shift than a grand, outer gesture. But the waking up in the world, when I hear you say that, I also realise that now is the time for actually engaged mindfulness to actually do, there’s some doing that we need to do to change.
JONO: It’s interesting you said that too because I had a kind of reflection today on some of the things that I really learnt from this event, from this people. And a lot of things you are talking about kind of came through. But one of the things that kind of stands out as you talk is that, I was speaking to Andrew Harvey who’s a poet, mystic, sacred activist. But it was the same with a lot of them. Matthew Fox who is this great theologian. And they basically, well a lot of people spoke about this idea of like not being so focused on the outcome of things. Like as humans, and particularly as modern humans, we like to know if we do something then something’s going to happen as a result of the action we take. And both of these people and others spoke about we can become paralysed by the resounding scientific evidence or the resounding direction of something or a political influence and go, ‘Oh, that’s happening so that’s going to lead to a certain outcome.’ And I was saying, what if you let go of the outcome? What if you concentrated on some other things like: how do I really open my heart up to loving this world? How do I go about protecting my joy? How do I go about making sure other people feel seen and I can be there for other people? It’s kind of like reframing the story in a different way. And it’s not like ignoring or denying what’s happening. But it’s like, if you want to go into anything and predict an outcome particularly in these areas, then you might look at the outcome or the predictable outcome and go: ‘Well there’s no point. There’s no point for me to engage because I can see the outcome.’ But then they’re going, no, what if you reframe it and go: you have a precious human life right now. You still have the opportunity to bless other people’s lives. You still have the opportunity to cultivate joy. All these things. And that was one the things that reminded me from what you were saying. It just really helped me to reframe what my life is about as opposed to kind of getting swept away in this narrative. That might be true. That might be the larger, macro story but in and of itself can actually stop you from actually relishing and engaging fully with your life right now. Irrespective of what happens.
MELLI: Yeah. And I think the question that is coming to my mind as I am hearing you speak is it’s like, Yes, we’re on a ship that appears to have a few leaks in it and it may even be sinking but who do you want to be in the midst of all of these? How do you want to show up in the midst of all of these? There’s so much that we don’t know. There’s so many factors that we don’t know. We don’t know – technology might save the day. It may or may not. Donald Trump may be in power forever or he may be gone tomorrow. We don’t know how all of these, not in control of it all. And the planet and the universe is much bigger than us. Who do we want to be in the midst of all of these? I have this image in my mind right now of a story that I saw many years ago where there was a captain and the ship was sinking. He was this benevolent, heroic character that was saving all of his comrades and doing all of these stuff. And he went down with the ship in that classic sort of like heroic cartoony kind of way doing the, you know. And the ship went down and he brought everything that he had, he gave everything that he had to the very last moment – that was love and kindness and beauty and courage. And I don’t know, I don’t know if he sank with the ship or if he swam away. But he expended every last bit of his beauty, you could say, in the midst of it all. That’s the caricature that’s coming to mind.
JONO: Yeah. And maybe kind of even danced as all these happened as well. There’s something that I found in these people that I interviewed and such where there was a kind of passion and a joy and a sense of celebration that was so very evident. And these people are the furthest thing from denying what’s going on. They’re kind of on the frontline, very sharply aware of what’s going on. But it’s like they have created protection around the things that means so much to them and also that allows them to keep moving in a kind of a passionate, joyful way. I remember this one lady, her name is Valerie Core. And if you get a chance to watch her, wow! She is a kind of former Stanford law professor and she’s done work in kind of Guantanamo Bay and like in maximum security prisons. Really frontline legal activist for kind of disenfranchised people. And so super smart and yet also, she’s a sikh. She’s very devotional. So there’s a sense of purity about her as well. It’s like, oh my gosh it’s very beautiful to be around because she has this well cultivated life in the midst of this very strong work in the world and also being super smart and grounded. I’ll tell you a little bit about her because it gives some sort of context to what I wanted to share with you. What she discovered in these communities she was helping, whether it was Guantanamo Bay or prisons or whatever – she noticed that the groups she would act on behalf of legally and she would kind of successfully help them, the ones who actually maintain kind of a cohesive sense about them. She pretty much discovered that love was the essence that was holding these groups together and somehow these groups had learned to cultivate this amongst themselves. And she also then looked to great social movements like Gandhi and Martin Luther King and she found that love was so central. But she’s a lawyer. Really, can I introduce love as being the thing? So she actually left Stanford. Started this project called The Revolutionary Love Project which is all about making love a public ethic. She’s developed this incredible framework around this. And she’s working with really mainstream figures to actually develop this as a public policy type of central issue. Anyway, so that’s a bit of background that I wanted to share with you.
But she was tells the story after she was watching the election results of the last US election and seeing the results come in and then going, “No, no, no. This can’t be happening.” And her son and her husband were also in the room. And the son was quite young. I think he must have been around two years of age. And they had a particular evening routine before going to bed which included dancing and a story before bed. And it kind of got to time to go to bed and her son said to her, “Come and dance?” In whatever way he says can we dance as a two year old. And she said, “Oh darling, not tonight. Not tonight.” And her husband looked over to her and said, “It’s time to dance.” And so she did. She got her son and she would hold her son when they would dance together and she said, she just recounted how just the act of dancing with her son, there was still joy, fully present, amongst her and her son and her husband in that moment with all these things that kind of happened, but joy was still there. I think there was something very powerful about that story for me that we can all still find that. I think about the captain going down with the ship, I think that what was his response to that even as the ship may sink, there still is opportunity for joy.
MELLI: And there is so much abundance in this day and age for most Westerners. I mean so much abundance. And for many of us, we’re safer than we’ve ever been. We’ve got convenient. Really, there’s actually so much to celebrate. There really is. Gosh, just to be alive one day in a human body.
JONO: Yeah, yeah. And to be grateful too, right? Yeah. I mean the other thing that really struck me Melli about what you said about the difficult emotions as well. And I hope you don’t mind me sharing some of these stuff because these it’s like new learnings for me. Because like you said, it’s new territory, about what’s actually happening and the clarity of what’s happening and the speed of the information coming to us. But the other common theme that I noticed about these speakers in this Waking Up in the World event is there is a lot of aliveness amongst these people. Now we were talking about some things that were really serious in a way where I noticed was there was a quality coming through them or a transmission of energy was these people are really alive! I felt like I kind of had to sit up fuller and actually be here with them. And what I noticed was that these people, because I inquired about this with some of these people, was that they had a way of working with their difficult emotions that was very powerful. And I noticed as I was talking to them how often I disconnect from how I’m actually feeling. So I might say something in the media, or I might hear a story about what’s happening, or I might here some research and I’m nearly kind of a little numb around it or a little arms-length. Just not really engaging with it. And what I heard was a common theme among these people which was to fully feel and allow yourself to full feel what’s happening and to deeply trust your emotions. And it kind of came again as a kind of a paradox. Because at times I feel like I am trying to protect myself or keep myself alive, in a way, you know, that sense of aliveness by not going there. But what I’ve begun to see, what I’ve come to see at early early stage, I think, in my development is that there is something that gets unlocked and unleashed when we really allow ourselves to feel. And I mean, one guy, Matthew Fox was talking about something like grief, to really allow ourselves to feel that and to have practices to move that grief. That’s a different kind of skill set. And then he talked about if you can actually work with your grief. He then talked about the creativity that emerges. He said there was a direct correlation now between your feeling grief, express it, move it, discharge it. And then he spoke about dance and therapy and all these kind of tools. Drumming – to move and to feel what you’re feeling. And he all connected it to this new sense of aliveness that will come into your life. And for me that were very big breakthrough of ‘Aaah..’I can kind of lean in and find these new tools to actually increase my aliveness. It won’t actually flatten it. And I’m just starting to notice that in myself when I feel flat, it’s often because I’m not totally connecting with how I’m feeling. Does that resonate with you?
MELLI: Oh it resonates so, so so, so, so deeply. You know in the last couple of years I’ve definitely been put through my paces with grief. And I was saying to somebody not that long ago how grateful I was, for me my main tool was self-compassion again and again to allow myself to feel what I was feeling and to soothe myself in that moment. So the first thing I would say if I felt a strong difficult emotion, whether it was that same day of the presidential election that you just spoke about or whether it was on a more personal note, the first thing I started to do was just to say: Okay, okay. This is how it is. And if I was feeling grief, then to give myself some compassion. May I be kind to myself at this moment. This is a bit tricky So what I was speaking about with a friend recently, the words that I used is that I said because of being able to be with my grief I feel like my heart got ripped open to God. Those were the words that I used. I could feel everything. I’ve learned when I allow myself to feel everything, not only does it move me more to serve because I can feel that, I can feel the urge to do something or to move forward or to care for someone or to do something. But also I’ve noticed that when I numb myself to certain feelings, I numb myself to life, all of it. So when I’m willing to feel everything, I feel everything. And I feel very alive. And I feel very motivated to serve because I feel our difficult emotions are messengers that want to be heard. We’re responding. You know, we’re part of the wholeness of life. We’re part of the totality of this interconnected web of life and it has an intelligence in it. I think that our, I resonate with what you speak as a saying that there’s an intelligence that’s a different intelligence to intellectual intelligence, an actual intelligence that when we see things and we have certain responses then they’re messengers to be listened to and powerful motivators to change things or to care for ourselves or to be a force for good or just to be ripped open to life and to feel it is a beautiful thing, as well. To be a fully alive human being.
JONO: Yeah. What I also noticed with that, even in our relationship, you know like I’ve left my home country and there’s been challenges along the way. But even prior to that, I think there’s been something also about the importance of friendship and being able to share that with the another person and to know the other person can hold space for you, and just witness you and be there for you. So there’s something about when you share that, about feeling whatever you’re feeling, it’s like the double burners is when you have someone else or a community of people or family member that can actually share that with you. I think there’s something also about these times, I notice this in my life, where I heard someone the other day talking about the fastest household, growing household is a single person household. I know that’s a bad thing but he was talking about it indicates a thing about where society is going that we’re becoming more and more isolated. I don’t know, I just want to say that to you as a person how much it has meant to me to have you as a friend and how there’s something about sharing difficult times or going through difficult times with someone and just knowing someone’s there – like a voice message or text message. It’s no small thing. And I think that’s also what I’ve heard in this event too. Like it’s kind of more of this reframing the story.
There’s this one guy, Leon Logothetis is his name. He has this show on Netflix called the Kindness Diaries. And he spoke about reframing what it means to change the world.To change the world really means to change the life of one person. You change the world when you change the life of one person. And I think that just comes to mind when you talk because I can’t underscore it enough. Yeah, when I receive a text message from you or I receive a voice message from you like it means everything, like that means so much to me. And I think there’s something about this world of big and large and oh, this huge project that you’re involved in where this thing, that I am talking about, this text message, this ‘Hi, I’m thinking about you’ message can sometimes get lost as a ‘nah that’s not important.’ But for me that means everything, everything.
MELLI: There’s something here Jono, there’s something that I’ve noticed over the last couple of years on that note. I couldn’t agree with you more about the value of having people around you that you can be completely authentic with and completely open about where you are, completely vulnerable. I noticed that in my journey I had to go first before I was able to have, and of course I’m so lucky to have people like you in my life where when I’m having those moments of joy or of despair or anything in between, I can be very open, authentic about it and just say, ‘Hey, I’m having a hard time and I could really do with a hug.’ And just doing those little things to support people if I think they are having a hard time. There’s something that’s shifted in me around what you’re saying like away from the grand gestures of doing a big thing in the world and more to how can I support that neighbour up the road and how can I foster a bit of community around my suburb.
Like last night, I had a meditation and a potluck dinner at my place. Just seven people turned up. But we’re there for each other in that way and that’s enough. The authenticity and the intimacy and the holding of each other of seven people is really valuable. And I think the more that we can sort of return to that ‘How can I be there? How can I show up for the five closest people in my life? How can we support each other? How can we have that authenticity and that support back?’ Yeah, because I really felt that in a lot of my young life, that feeling of being an isolated, I have to do this all on my own. If I’m sick I won’t ask for help. I’ll just have a tab and soldier on. Not really depend on the people around me and not really being there for them in the way that I could have. There’s something in that solidarity and holding each other and that community spirit and that kindness that we really need back. Yeah. We really need back.
JONO: Yeah, I mean I can really relate to that in a sense that we’ve moved into a cul-de-sac. So there’s kind of homes all around us in a little circle kind of dead end street. You know, I’m usually quiet and introverted person and I like my own space and yada-yada-yada. And there’s something about this cul-de-sac that just by its very design really cultivates community. Because when you go out, there’s probably someone else on their front lawn or there might be another mother out there with their baby or something like that. And it’s been very instructive for me as to how valuable it is to have these other people around. Like even recently, there’s a we have neighbours that also have two children. We’re having another child in about three weeks. And there’s been some conversations happened between us about just challenges of being a parent and just open acknowledgement of just wanting to talk about things but also wanting to support one another. It’s taken a little while for it to come forward. But now it’s pretty much forward and there’s this real sense of solidarity between us together. We’re having a dinner next week and there’s a sense of, ‘Oh, were partnering up. We’re partners.’ And there’s even a feeling of like we’re a family. We’re two separate homes but our children and their children, because of the very nature of how close they are, will become like siblings. And there’s something so beautiful about that. So I really hear what you’re saying about the potluck and around not looking too far beyond what’s there right in front of you.
You know I heard a story the other day about this guy who’s really interested and curious about reinventing kind of ancient practices or even religious practices. And he was talking about the power of the confessional. He said this isn’t kind of like a random thing. You know, the Catholic Church just didn’t go, ‘Oh, let’s do a confessional.’ There’s something very, very powerful about this for the human being. And so what he decided to do, I think it was three years ago, he decided to invite a bunch of friends around and they would basically just share where they felt like they were not good enough, or where they were failing, or whatever. I think the group just wrapped up after about three years. But you see what happened was by airing what people felt they were failing in, they all got to see that they’re all kind of the same. And the sense of like relief and the sense of like, ‘I don’t need to carry this in private and when I do it turns into something like strange and weird and out of proportion.’ And it is an extension on that as well. But I think even in just subtle ways, just sharing stories with one another. Just even me hearing the story about the potluck with you and your friends. Just sharing the stories is very powerful amongst people. And I just think, in the age of social media and this also came out in this event, was this human-to-human contact is so, so important.
MELLI: I think the thing that strikes me about the confessional as well is, and I’ve experienced this is in very vulnerable conversations with my friends over the years, is that the façade, you just completely dismantle your façade. And you go, I don’t have it all together. Guess what? I’m struggling with this and this and this and let me show you the places in me that part of me would really like to cover over and have a shiny kind of like thing going on but actually I’m just going to take that off and here is the parts that I don’t want you to see. But here they are. Such a connecting, brave and vulnerable thing to do. And it’s really beautiful.
Another thing I did want to say on that is we were speaking about how a lot of your, the people that you’ve been interviewing have this amazing way of being with and accepting and listening to their difficult feelings. And it just struck me that, I did read a research paper recently that said that loneliness in Western countries is at an all time high even though there’s billions and billions of people. And I think I just wanted a moment to acknowledge that if many of us are feeling lonely that that is a challenging emotion to be with, but by opening up to the feeling of it and just saying, ‘Yes I am lonely. This is how it is. I am having this feeling. I’m missing human connection.’, then that feeling is a beautiful teacher and has a message to say, ‘I want connection.’ And that we can all create that in our lives by listening to that feeling. So I just kind of wanted to note that. I just kind of wanted to fly that.
JONO: I like that. I love that, Melli. And I think the other piece of that really relates to the work you’re doing is like a larger loneliness as well. Like there’s something that’s happened in our culture where we feel really disconnected and really lonely from ourselves. And then you speak about this idea of coming home to yourself. It’s sort of something that’s another level, I think, of loneliness is because we’re looking at Netflix or we’re looking at something outside of us to try to cure this feeling which is like a very kind of primal human feeling. And then I would even probably go beyond that to, and I think it completely relates to your work as well, there is this dissolving of self and connection with life that happens through meditation, through mindfulness that isn’t like a – I’m not trying to suggest that that’s like a replacement for human connection, but I also feel like it’s a part of a kind of malaise of feeling lonely in the world. You know, I’m lonely, away from myself, I feel lonely from the elements and the plants and the animals and the kind of cosmic sense. And I’ll probably even go as far as to say as like there is a loneliness from God. Like neither of us is speaking about the Man in the sky, but like the sense of intelligence, sense of greater intelligence and love that’s present and when we feel astray from that, it’s so lonely, so lonely. Yeah, I think when any of us have an encounter with the divine, or life, or love – the feeling that comes from that I think is most predominant is the ‘you’re not alone.’
MELLI: Oh! It’s the first big thing. It’s that feeling exactly. That feeling of you can never, the closest I can get to describing it in words, is you’re home, absolutely home and that the love that you are looking for, the things that you’ve been looking for, searching for – you are immediately touch something where you realise you have them now. I really love this quote by Black Elk. I sent it to you the other day, it goes: ‘Peace comes into the hearts of men when they realize their oneness and their interconnectedness with life.’ Their place in the universe. I was wondering, I guess addressing this question to like yourself and maybe to what you listened to or learned from the speakers. I have a philosophy, my own personal philosophy about the interrelatedness between the changes that need to happen inside of ourselves and then changes that may evolve outside of ourselves. But what do you see or what have you heard about the role of I guess of you can say, spirituality or awakening to those deeper dimensions of who we are in how we want the changes to unfold on the outside?
JONO: Well it’s been central to all these kind of conversations because so much of this event has been around the intersection of spirituality and action and how they relate to one another. You know, I think at a deepest level for me, well not the deepest level but at a level. Andrew Harvey shared this notion of honouring the ordinary lineage. And I thought what do you mean by this ‘ordinary lineage’? And he spoke about this really great, well supposedly great people in history. You know, everyone from the Gandhis to the Martin Luther Kings to even to the likes of a Jesus. And he was very strong about this. He said these people are from ordinary lineages. These are ordinary people who have tapped into something, who are connected to something, and who are fuelled by something. Totally ordinary but they’re animated by something. And then you see their actions, you see their way of being, you get around these people and you go, what is it? And some people say, oh they’re special people. But Andrew says they’re not special. They are just animated and connected to something. And what he also then went on to talk about was the need to find your kind of non-negotiable practices in your life that really connect you to this animating force.
And the reason I share that and the reason it really touched me as well was, I think over the history and the religious history and spiritual history, there has been this kind of projection onto these kind of people as, ‘Oh they’ve got something that I haven’t got.’ There’s this other story created about them to make them different from you and I. And I think I come away from this event, Waking Up In the World event, realising that we are all from an ordinary lineage. We all share ordinary the qualities of being a human, you know and the flaws, and challenges, and the emotional life. And we also share this capacity to connect with something much, much deeper and much, much more vast than our small selves. And that’s just been so inspiring for me. Like I feel like, Ahhh I can begin to head down that journey or actually I can also connect to that right now with you because it’s also not grandiose, as you were talking about at the beginning. And yes, so to answer your question I think it’s everything and I also think, as I notice the people who really are kind of potent to me in this event, particularly someone like Valerie Core, whom I spoke about before. When she kind of uttered this kind of mantra, this prayer at the beginning of her presentation – the Sikh Prayer. My whole kind of being was kind of electrified by it. And I think there’s something about, what I loved about the event too was the living in such a kind of rational world. Sometimes when we live in that – and I love the rational part of me, I love science, they can be wrong there’s nothing about that – but there’s something about the mystery, and the mystical, and the unknown, and the magical that can sometimes get lost as we go to flag down the left brain kind of process. And there’s something that’s just so enlivening about hearing about people’s genuine spiritual practice, whatever that might be. And it’s like unapologetic. Like finding, and I think that was another theme in this event, finding what it’s uniquely – and uniquely is so good for your soul, what’s so good for you. And things for me like prayer are kind of coming alive for me again. Because it doesn’t have to mean what it may have meant like when I was seven sitting in a chair through Sunday school. It can mean something very, very different. And a devotion. All these things that have somehow been squashed in the pursuit of knowledge and science, I think have their place in all these in a world of mystery and a world of mysticism that I really get to see is a lot of the missing fuel for each of us right now at this time. So I know that deeply relates to you. I know we’ve had conversations about this. And I’d also love to hear your thoughts about that because I know this quality of spirituality and the sacred is so important to you.
MELLI: Ram Dass has this beautiful, I have spent the last 20 years of my life, I love taking in a lot of information on a lot of different takes on spirituality, on wisdom teachings, on waking up. So I’ve taken this broad kind of spectrum of ways of voicing that. And the beautiful thing is that when you take in a lot of information you get to see patterns very, very easily. They start speaking so loudly to you – there it is again, same message again, same message again. And what I heard very many times is what I think Ram Dass sums up very, very well in his language that we have this amazing cognitive mind, this intellectual intelligence that works very much like a survival machine and it’s an incredible gift. And also a very hard thing to be with if you don’t have a skill for a relationship with your mind and that can be very difficult. But just underneath that there is a whole other dimension of who we are. And when we’re lost in the mind all of the time, we can’t feel it. We don’t have any access to it and we constantly feel like something’s missing. We constantly feel unease. We constantly feel like we’re searching for something more. There’s a feeling of basic restlessness when we aren’t full connected to our innate wholeness and interconnectedness. When we can’t realise it directly, we miss it like crazy. But what’s there in the words of Ram Dass is that loving awareness. Your awareness and kindness or love is they’re one and the same thing. And I love that terminology. And what I’ve found to be true, in my own direct experience as well as hearing many voices with the same message, is that when I touch that, I stop looking and I start serving. Because it’s the only, because when I’m whole and when I’m in touch with that deeper dimension of myself, and I’m not always. I still do get lost. I forget. Then I remember again. Then I forget and then I remember again. But what I do notice is that I’ve come to the very firm belief or conviction that it is touching that that will change everything. Because we all become sort of a light unto the world, if you will. We all become a force for good and it might just be the tiniest thing. It might just be taking care of a neighbours and our children, taking the recycling out, and writing letters to our MP about climate change. It might be just like, you know, but just caring and loving and serving and being that presence. You know, being one of those alive people, can’t help but affect everyone around you.
I have my favourite Chinese parable that I think really sums up, I say it at the end of every retreat that I teach because it sums up my, I think, my conviction very beautifully. And the parable is: If there is light in the soul, there will be beauty in the person. If there is beauty in the person, there will be harmony in the house. If there is harmony in the house, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world. I feel like that really speaks to the power of becoming awake in your world and how it ripples out. How each one of us can become kind of the beginning of a little ripple that, and you don’t know, you don’t know what effect that ripple will have – how your kindness and your presence will touch people around you. So yeah. I believe it’s the most important work that we have is to touch the peace and the wholeness and the kindness at the heart of who we are and then just let it flow out unimpeded. And to trust it. Trust it. In a world where if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist – it takes some time to start to trust this non-verbal, different form of intelligence, which I would call wisdom. Like we have intellectual intelligence then we have this other intelligence.
JONO: Yeah. Yeah, and I think that’s the whole invitation for this event. You know, is it’s an invitation to a whole, new way of being. A way of being that’s fuelled by kindness. It’s fuelled by courage. It’s fuelled by awareness. You know the things that you were talking about. It feels like we’ve done a full circle, in a way, in this conversation to see these times as an invitation for you. And I’d like to really invite people who are part of your community to come and enjoy this event and come to be part of this community of people who are having this conversation that’s so important at this time. I don’t think there is any coincidence that’s happening right now this event. It’s a free event, so you can just participate over a 10-day period and enjoy the recordings. But I think it will provide a sense of renewal and it will also provide some really tangible tools. Like there’s a whole new training in these new capacities. I feel like I need right now and we touched on some of those today. But then it also allows and really helps us to take inspired action in the world, in exactly the same way you were talking about. That can sound grandiose but inspired action could be just you know, I just want to be more gentle with myself or this person next to me, or it might mean, you know what? I’ve got this huge project I really want to get off the ground. And I know it can make a huge difference to lots of people. But it’s all good. In that spectrum, it’s all good. Not one’s more important than the other. It’s like, listen to what it is that’s alive in you right now in your life. And on a whatever that is, as small or as huge as it might be, that feels like the task right now. Yeah, I just, I feel like I’m wrapping up and I don’t know if I should be wrapping up, but I just really want to say thank you for this conversation, this time together. Yeah, I’ve always felt like you’re a very special person and the work that you’re doing is such an expression of who you are. It’s not like a fabrication of getting onto a trend. This is actually, because there is a mindfulness trend right now. And there are some people who are in it who are really in it not because this is who they are. And I just want to sort of call that out right now that I feel like you’re one of those people who, you know, I’ve known you for a long time now and this has been a part of your life for a long time. And it’s like it’s just naturally expressed itself into the form of the work that you’re doing right now. So in so many ways, what you’re doing and the work that you’re doing is a model, in some sort of way, of what this Waking Up In the World event is all about. Not that everyone needs to become mindfulness teachers and start incredible projects like yours. But I think there’s something about you just having followed this deeper impulse that has lead you here to where you are today. Yeah, and I just wanted to name that right now.
MELLI: Oh, thank you. Thank you so much. I really, really appreciate that. And I do feel, you know at the beginning of this conversation you were speaking about trusting that impulse to do what felt like what was the thing that you needed to do in this time in your life. And I do feel I could have that same kind of trust in just following what lights me up and following what I love and trusting that it will unfold as it need to unfold. So maybe there’s something in that for, there’s a beautiful quote that’s coming to mind right now by Howard Thurman, ‘Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what lights you up because what the world needs is people who are lit up.’ So maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s it.
So I also just want to say obviously that me sharing this with my community, I only share things with my community that I really believe in and this Waking Up In the World Summit is the one summit this year that I’m going to be following along every single episode. And I can’t wait to be a part of it. So I’m really excited to share this with our community. And I hope everybody can come along and be in it together and see what unfolds. Thank you. Thank you for the work that you do.
Thanks to everybody at Sounds True as well for responding to that outcry from the community. Deep bow for that.
JONO: Right back at you Melli.
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