Embarking on the Journey — AoA Series #2

The Art of Accomplishment
The Art of Accomplishment
Embarking on the Journey — AoA Series #2
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When we are ready to embark on the journey of self-transformation we want to make the most of our time in an effective and progressive way. For this, as with all journeys, it helps to have a compass and a clear map.

A clear map tells us four things about the journey: the necessary conditions, the best approach, what to expect along the way, and impediments where we might get lost. The compass that keeps us on track—our constant reference along the path—is enjoyment.

“There is no way of getting it right. There is no complete. There is no finish line, no done, there is no “I’m going to get it.” There is just “What’s the next experiment?” “What’s the next adventure?” “What can I learn from what just happened?” There is just play.”

Brett: Today we’re going to talk about everything you need to know about embarking on a personal transformative journey, conditions for transformation, what happens on the journey, what we can get excited about and what will get on our way. Joe, tell me what does someone need to know about embarking on a transformative journey?

Joe: There’s a way to look at it that we can dissect it into all the parts of it and let’s do that. Before I even start there, the most important thing that someone should know about in deciding lik, “Hey, I want to do something that transforms my life,” is that it’s a process to be enjoyed. Not only is it a process to be enjoyed because that’s nice, but it’s because it’s more effective.

The only thing to tweak about that is that enjoying yourself is a little bit different than maybe how you’re thinking of it. Most people think or a lot of people think, if someone says, “Hey, go enjoy yourself.” They think, “What am I going to do?” For example, I’ll go play golf or I’ll go and have a conversation with a friend or I’ll go get high on heroin, whatever their idea of enjoying themselves is. That’s not what I’m speaking to. What I’m speaking to is how do you allow yourself more enjoyment in everything that you’re doing. That’s what I mean by enjoy yourself.

If it means that you’re in a satsang listening to a guru, how do you enjoy yourself in that? If it means that you are listening to this digital recording, even if you notice that you’re criticizing yourself, how do you enjoy criticizing yourself? That’s the question. The question isn’t how do I do the things that I enjoy? The question is how do I enjoy the things that I’m doing. That’s the golden mean of the journey, that’s where you guide your footsteps by and then everything else is a technicality that revolves around that sun. It’s like the gravitation, how do you enjoy yourself?

As far as the details, I think you can clump them into four parts. One part is, what are the conditions that need to be set for transformation? There’s an acupuncturist who once taught me this idea of conditions for healing. I was like, “What do you need to do just so that somebody can potentially heal if you’re treating them.”

It’s the conditions that need to be there for transformation to be possible. Then there’s a question of approach, how do you approach it because at the end of the day, you’re responsible and your approach is going to make a big difference in the alacrity, the enjoyment and the depth of transformation.

Then I think you can also talk about what to expect on the journey, because when you really got to get into it there’s certain things that happen over and over again and they can fool you and they can also, when you see them in a slightly different light, they can really propel you. Then I think then you can also talk about what gets in the way? What are the impediments of the journey? That’s how I would break it down.

Brett: Let’s get started on it. What are the conditions that we would set in place for us to enjoy our transformation?

Joe: The most important thing is you need to feel safe. And safe is misused often in today’s world. We’ve got a lot of times people use safety as a way to control. Like, “I don’t feel safe.” It’s not actually a lack of safety, it’s a way that they can control their environment, but you have to feel safe. Fear reduces your capacity to learn. Here’s something that you’ve never seen before.

You’ve never seen two people in a yelling match, where one person going, “You son of a pa-pa-pa-pa and you mother, ba-ba-ba-ba.” The other person say, “Oh yes, you’re right. You’ve got a point there.” It doesn’t happen because it’s neurologically impossible. Feeling safe is really critical to being able to learn. That’s important and it’s really important also to understand the difference between whether you feel unsafe or whether you feel defensive.

There’s a great trick to doing that. Take a moment, pause this or whatever, but feel in your body what it feels like to feel unsafe. When you really felt like your life was threatened or that you were threatened and then feel what it’s like when you were really defensive. Your body has two different signals for that defensiveness and safety and they get confused sometimes. To know the difference is really important.

Brett: What are some examples of what that might feel like in the body? I remember early on going through your courses, a lot of the instruction were like: “How does that feel in your body?” A lot of times it would just be dissociation. I couldn’t quite feel, like, “What do you mean in my body? I’m thinking. This is a thought.” 

Joe: [laughs] Oftentimes safety is felt more electrically in the body. It can be felt in the shoulders and in the belly often, but it’s different for everybody and it’s really based on, when you feel unsafe, if you go to fight, flight, or freeze. Your body’s literally going to feel one of those ways. Defense is a hardening. It’s usually like a more increased rigidity in some way.

Brett: Muscles tightening.

Joe: Tightening, yes. It doesn’t always have to be that. It’s very different for each person. Those are some of the signals to look for, such as how much electricity is moving through, what feels like electricity or energy is moving through your body. How rigid your body is, what part of your body lights up? These are the ways to know the difference for you between safety and resistance. Great question. Then, another thing that’s the condition needs to be set, there needs to be trust. If you don’t believe that you are going to transform, you are at a severe disadvantage.

Trusting a teacher if you choose to have one is really important. Trusting yourself is so critical. Trust is a really important thing. The belief that it’s possible to really know that that transformation is there– there’s this thing called the placebo effect. The interesting thing is, that it’s always seen like it’s a glitch of science. We can’t really test it, because some people just think that they will get better and so they do. [chuckles] In this work, the placebo effect is a feature. It’s not a glitch, it’s not a bug. It’s really important that you think that it’s possible.

I don’t mean to do it in a namby-pamby kind of way. [chuckles] I’m talking about doing the research, do what you have to do to find out that it’s possible. Talk to people who’ve been in the course or know that it’s possible. The truth is we have a great success rate in our courses. We’ve had great studies done and we have a consistent shift that’s measurable, but the main part is the belief that that’s possible.

The other thing to see is that some people don’t change. Occasionally, you get someone who goes through who doesn’t change. One of the things that you can always know about that person is they never came in with the confidence that they could change. They were resistant right from the start to the whole thing. If you’re that, just don’t do it. It’s a waste of your time and it hurts the other people that you’re on the journey with. That’s really important.

Another really important thing is seeing beyond your intellect and knowing that your thoughts are only part of the way the transformation happens. Do your research if you need to, to know that there are things like mirror neurons and mirror neurons don’t register in the intellect of the brain. They’re just some way in which we know that our body has an intelligence that if you move differently, your thoughts will be different.

Research things like Sensory Processing Disorder where we know that kids who do not get to inhabit their body in a full way have a different brain function than kids who have inhabited their body in a full way, who have an understanding of where they are in space, they have appropriate perception issues. We know that the way that we move changes.

Our body has an intelligence, our emotions have an intelligence, our intellect have an intelligence. If you are trying to do all of your change through the intellect, you’re going to be screwed. It’s going to be slow. You’re going to be able to describe everything that’s wrong with you, but very little is going to have changed.

Brett: I’ve experienced that myself.

[laughter]

It took some time to realize that, while I could logically create a framework around everything that I was experiencing, I wasn’t able to actually transform until I let the fuzzier logic of emotions and the body make movements that I didn’t have to intellectually understand.

Joe: Yes. For me the journey was similar. It was slightly different, I just deconstruct it. I spent almost 10 years deconstructing all my thoughts so that I could be free enough of them to trust the other ways of knowing. It’s so apparent, it’s just to ask somebody who’s a great gymnast, how they did it and they’re not going to give you an intellectual explanation. There’s knowledge that happens that the intellect can’t describe, muscle memories, examples like emotional memory.

Brett: The endocrine system has its own memory.

Joe: Exactly, hormone systems. Right. Exactly. Nervous system. All of that is very hard to describe. Another really important thing is vulnerability. It’s really hard to have a transformational journey if you’re like, “Yes, I got it. It’s cool. I’m good. Yes. It’s not that bad. Yes. There’s some something that could be done there, but, it’s not that big of a deal.”

If you’re coming at it with that approach, you are not going to have that much transformation. It doesn’t mean that you have to think there’s something wrong with me either. It doesn’t mean that you have to say, “I’m broken. Fix me. I’m broken. I have to fix myself. I need to be healed.” You don’t have to have that attitude either.

Brett: You could create that entire model of yourself and stay in that for years too. [chuckles]

Joe: Exactly, but if you can’t explore the depths of your pain and your constriction and express it to other people, then you’re not going to be able to approach it. You’re not going to be able to do anything about it. You’re not going to be able to understand it better. You know? It’s like unless your attention can go to the discomfort, then your system can’t do anything about the discomfort.

A lot of people have learned how to just not go to the discomfort. Obviously, it builds up. Other things happen. It’s a painful life. That’s a really important thing. I’d say finally and I think I’ve stated it before which is just, if you’re not willing to take full responsibility for your journey, if you start blaming the teacher, if you start blaming your wife, if you start blaming your mom and dad, you have to take full responsibility for the journey.

It doesn’t mean that you shame yourself, it doesn’t mean that you blame yourself, but it just means you don’t shame or blame anybody else. You have to just say something like, “I am exactly where I need to be. I am responsible for this.” That is incredibly important in the journey, because every time you blame somebody else for where you are, including blaming yourself. Anytime you are blaming anything for where you are, you are slowing the process down tremendously.

Brett: It seems like each of these is, there’s a catch-22 because they’re both conditions and also the effects. For example, with trust, many people might approach personal development, because starting with a position of that they don’t trust themselves, they don’t trust their own goodness or they don’t trust teachers or they don’t trust the process and that’s something th at they’re working with. What advice would you have for somebody who wants to embark on a personal transformation journey but is worried about being manipulated or controlled by a guru or ending up in some woo-woo backwater?

Joe: I would say maybe two or three things there. The first thing is I get back to the first principle, right? It’s enjoying yourself. If you are not trusting somebody, how do you enjoy that movement of non-trust? It’s clear that if you feel safe, there’s a deeper level of enjoyment. If you feel trust, there’s a deeper enjoyment in being vulnerable than there is in being protected.

Brett: Do you have any tips or exercises for anybody who’s embarking on this and finding that they’re having that difficulty with say, trust or vulnerability? Some way to help them just enjoy feeling what they’re feeling rather than trying to change it?

Joe: Yes. Let’s say you are with a teacher and you’re not trusting them or you know that you want to sign up for the course, but you know you’re going to have trust issues; the best thing you can do is just go to the person and say, “I don’t trust teachers and I want to. How can we work together so that this isn’t a burden for you and this isn’t a burden for me.” That would be taking responsibility, being vulnerable and trusting.

Even in saying that, you’re trusting yourself, which is the more important thing than trusting the teacher. In saying all this to your teacher, you’re giving them trust in that moment. If they react in a way that’s just like, “Well, if you don’t trust me, motherfucker,” [laugh] then you pretty much know it’s not the right teacher. Or if they go, “This is all about just letting go into my words,” then you know you don’t have a great teacher there and that maybe that you shouldn’t be trusting them.

Brett: It’s a good litmus test. A teacher should be able to receive that mistrust. [chuckles]

Joe: Yes, should be able to receive that mistrust, especially if you’re taking ownership; and if you’re not taking ownership and they point to the ownership, then also a teacher worth trusting. Yes. That’s an easy way to look at it. Yes, you’re right that to some degree, all of these things are the things you’re working on as well as the things that you need to be successful at it, so then it’s just an order of operations thing. It’s make trust your first thing to work on. Don’t make your mommy issues the first thing. Make trust the first thing. It’s probably relates to your mom issues or your dad issues, but make trust the first thing and really focus there. Yes.

Brett: Another feature of this is that it creates a positive feedback loop. The safety, trust and vulnerability and seeing beyond the intellect, maybe are the things that are initially holding you back, but then as you work on them more and more, the speed of your development increases.

Joe: Yes, that’s exactly right and it becomes more enjoyable, which is the speed, it becomes far less important than the enjoyment. If you enjoy your entire developmental journey deeply, who cares how fast you’re going and who cares when you’re going to get there, you know?

Brett: Yes. You start to get to that point where you feel that restriction: “Oh, I’m interviewing Joe, I’m feeling restriction now.” Then you’re like, “Oh good. This is something to work on.” Instead of, “No, I want to go away.” [chuckles]

Joe: Yes. That’s a beautiful pointing. That’s a great way to think about all of this stuff is, that there is a point in that path, where everything that’s uncomfortable, you trust. That uncomfortable thing approaches and you say, “Oh, I can trust this thing because it’s going to teach me something. I just have to be vulnerable in it and take full responsibility.” Yes. Beautiful.

Brett: Tell me more about how to approach this?

Joe: How to approach [crosstalk]?

Brett: How to first set those conditions and the spiritual path in general.

Joe: Approaching the spiritual path– what I mean by that is, what’s the best way to be on the path, right? If those are the conditions that are important for you, make sure they are met before you even are packing your bag. That’s the tent and the food stores. This is about, how do you walk down the path? When I say, “The approach to a path,” that’s what I mean. It’s like, how do you walk down it? How you walk down the path is– you know some of this stuff, because of the 18-month course you did, but I have it as to five principles of how to be on the path.

One is loving accountability, which basically means that you’re honest with who you are and what you’ve done without shame. It means that you can apologize to somebody, that you can take an honest inventory of yourself, without shame. That you can look at yourself directly and not feel like you have to be any different. That’s loving accountability and it’s approaching life in that same way. It’s asking those around you to meet you in that place.

An example of that would be to say to the teacher, “I’m having trust issues and I don’t want to be having trust issues.” It’s kind of loving the accountability to say I have trust issues because that might be making them responsible. That full loving accountability is that I have trust issues and I don’t want to have them. I want to be able to trust life, I want to be able to trust people. That’s full loving accountability. Then embrace intensity is, it’s not creating intensity, which I think some people mistake it far often, but it’s embracing intensity.

It’s a business theory as well. It’s like being a great CEO, one of the biggest things about it is just making sure the right amount of attention from the organization is going to the right parts of the organization. Are we being attentive to our problems? Are we being attentive to being proactive? Are we being attentive to our culture? Are we being attentive to our customer? How much attention is going where and the most–

Brett: And where there’s intensity, that’s generally where that attention needs to go. [chuckles]

Joe: Correct. That’s right. Just like in the body, if there’s pain, it’s that pain is telling you, “Hey, this is where you pay attention.” If you want to take care of yourself, pay attention to the pain. It’s the same thing. I call it intensity because it’s not all pain because it can be pleasure. Often what we avoid more than pain is pleasure. People have a hard time seeing that, until they see it and then they’re: “Whoa.” I always say it’s subtle till you see it. In that moment when you actually notice: “Oh, it’s more intense for me to be in deep pleasure than it is for me to be in pain,” that’s a moment. That’s embracing intensity.

The other principle is everything is an iteration. It just means that there’s no way of getting it right, there’s no complete, there’s no finish line, there’s no done, there’s no I’m going to get it, there’s just what’s the next experiment? What’s the next adventure? How do I learn? What can I learn from what just happened? There’s no blame, there’s no shame, there’s just play.

There’s just moments of, “Let’s do it this way, okay now let’s do it this way.” There’s just a trust that you’re going to keep on iterating and it’s going to keep on getting better and you’re going to learn and there’s no need to think of anything that you’ve done as right or wrong.” I can hear the brains out there already going, “But if you kill somebody that’s wrong.” I would agree that killing somebody is not how we want to behave.

If there is a person out there, who has killed somebody and they’re not going to be caught, my hope for them would be that their mindset is that of iteration. That their mindset is for example, “Okay, well that felt shitty in my body and I feel horrible and I’m still thinking about this thing and my guilt is creeping up on me and my life has gotten worse and it didn’t make me any happier and it didn’t solve my problems, so let’s do a different iteration next time I have a problem with somebody.” That’s what I would hope that they would do. 

Brett: That brings up a great point because a lot of what happens and soldiers that come back from war with PTSD, a lot of the PTSD isn’t around what happened to them personally but it’s perhaps around the fact that they killed somebody and they did it in anger or rage in the intensity of the moment and that they actually enjoyed it or just something about having done it makes them feel like a monster. They think that that’s just some core part of themselves that’s unchangeable and makes them bad. Then holding that core belief, just causes so much more suffering and pain in their lives and the lives of those around them.

Joe: Yes, that’s right. That’s exactly it. We are never finished. There is no moment of perfection; and we are reacting to an environment and we’re iterating– that same person– never going to Iraq or Iran or wherever people are fighting these days, that same soldier, if they hadn’t hit that environment, what would they be thinking about their core selves? It’s a very iterative thing and I think it’s really important to have that mindset and that change not only can happen, it’s the only thing that you know will happen. Yes, so that’s it.

I would think being curious is really important as well, that’s the other way of approaching the path that’s really important is being curious. This is one of the most enjoyable ones. Let’s take that person as an example who feels like, “I’m a bad person because I killed people.” What if you’re curious about that? What are the questions that actually come up? Instead of knowing that you’re a bad person, what would be the most curious questions about it?

Brett: What was I feeling, that led me to take that action?

Joe: Yes. What makes me not want to kill everybody right now? If that’s who I am, what’s stopping that in me right now? If that’s who I am, what’s making me keep on beating myself up over it? What’s the part of me that’s beating myself up over it, if it’s essentially who I am? If it’s essentially who I am, what makes me not go to the grocery store and kill a whole bunch of people? There’s just curiosity and it frees it up because your fear and curiosity can’t exist at the same time.

If you imagine yourself running from a tiger. Really, close your eyes for a moment. You’re running from a tiger, this tiger is fast and it is hungry and you are running and feel the fear coursing through your system and you’re moving as quick as you can and it’s catching up on you and you can hear its breath and it’s going to get you. You can feel that fear in your system and now wonder how much does the tiger weigh? [Brett chuckles] All the fear goes away. You can’t operate from fear if you’re curious.

It doesn’t just operate in the way that I can be curious if I’m not scared. It’s why safety is so important from earlier right, because you can’t learn, when you’re scared. You can also just turn on curiosity and it just reduces fear, just like if you turn on fear it reduces curiosity. That’s a cool one. Then the last one and I’d say the most important one is connection. That it’s really important to stay in connection, in connection with each other, in connection with yourself, in connection with your body.

Brett: What does that mean?

Joe: It means being in contact with. It’s being in contact. Like you were saying earlier that before when you’re thinking about emotions, you’re like, “Well, I don’t know how to be in my body, all I have is disassociation.” A contact means literally like touching. It’s to have that point of contact.

Can I just touch into the emotion? Can I just touch into the pain? Can I just touch into you? Can I just touch into me? Can I touch into that part of me that I don’t want to see? Can I touch into that part of me I’m not proud of? Can I touch into that part of me that is proud?

It’s connection. It is what allows the tree to evolve, it’s what allows us to evolve, is a connection.

Brett: Tell me more about how embracing intensity or being curious about the lion that is about to eat you, how is that enjoying yourself? [chuckles] How does that help you get away from the lion?

Joe: Yes, that’s a great question. On the lion part. Obviously, I’m not suggesting that you should wonder how much a lion weighs or a tiger weighs if they’re chasing you. Our system isn’t curious when we’re in fear for a reason. If you are in fear over something else, like what color of car you should buy or if you’re going to get fired, yes, being curious is far more enjoyable than that. Being curious about being fired is far more enjoyable than worrying about being fired.

The curiosity is– you can just feel that in your system. If you just take a moment and you can pause here; and just feel what it’s like to know shit and you say “I know, I know what you are, I know what I am,” and then to be curious about who you are. You can just feel there’s more enjoyment in the body.

Embracing intensity is a little bit more complicated as far as enjoyment goes. It’s the embrace part of it that makes it enjoyable. Intensity happens, you can’t stop it. The Buddhists talk about it and they say, “Pain occurs, suffering is the choice.” It’s the embracing of the pain that prevents the suffering. The enjoyment is embracing something that you can’t avoid or that if you avoid, it’s less enjoyable.

Meaning if you’re a heroin addict, you can avoid the detoxes, you can avoid withdrawals, but it’s not going to make an enjoyable life. At that moment, you want to embrace the intensity of the withdrawals. Part of it is the embracing of it when it needs to be done or when it’s unavoidable or when it’s just better to face the intensity than not, which is almost always. Sometimes we create intensity which is not necessary, but if we’re not creating it in a conscious way, then embracing it is great. In fact, embracing intensity is one of the great ways to stop intensity from happening in our lives.

Brett: Got it. In a way you let it move through you and change you. Then you learn the lesson in the intensity.

Joe: Exactly. Yes, that’s exactly it.

Brett: Tell me more about what happens on this journey? What are some of the pitfalls, or some of the things that might be surprisingly enjoyable?

Joe: Being on the journey, the pitfalls in my mind are slightly different but the being on the journey is there’s just some things to know about it. One of the things to know about it is that the way human beings learn is a back and forth nature. It’s a pendulation, is the word. I don’t even know if it’s a word, but it’s the word I made up or I’m using depending on whether you can find it in a dictionary. There’s a back and forth nature to it.

If you look at a baby and a baby learns to walk, they don’t just crawl, then one day stand up and walk and then never crawl again. That’s not how we learn. We don’t learn all at once. We learn by going back and forth. In fact, what they know is that when that back and forth doesn’t happen, particularly in babies crawling, that their brain develops differently and it’s not a good thing. If you pull a butterfly out of the cocoon, it won’t be able to fly. What we think to be struggle or friction, that pendulation of going back and forth, is really a necessary part of the learning process.

What you’d normally hear people talking about when they’re on the journey, they say for example, “Man, it was doing so good and now it’s all gone.” Or something like, “Man, I was feeling so blissed out and now all that’s gone. How do I get it back?” The other way to look at it is to say, “Oh, cool, that’s gone. I’m in the learning process. This is how learning goes.” There’s a way of looking at it that says, “Oh, cool, it’s gone away,” which means that I am as much in the learning process as when it’s there and I am getting closer; because it’s gone, I’m getting closer to a life where that’s fully understood and fully recognized. That’s a really important thing.

Brett: That relates to something else I’ve seen when somebody starts going through this journey and then all of a sudden they start feeling more emotions that they label as negative and they’re like, “Oh, no, I had done all of this work and now all that work is undone and I’m a total mess.” 

[laughter]

Joe: Right, which is not. That’s beautiful. It’s not at all the case. One of the things that could be happening is they’re just recognizing that they’re having the emotions instead of just taking them out on people when they didn’t recognize it before. That’s common. The other thing is that they’re able to handle them now. One of the things that I’ll talk about often, is that we’ll do a lot of exercises, where people really increase their love and you’ll just notice this happiness.

It’s like when people can love themselves, then every part of themselves that was unlovable, comes to the surface to be loved, or the next wave of them. It’s like shining a light in the water at night to attract cuttlefish. The more work we do, the more attuned we get. If I make an album, which I did in my 20s, I made a RocknRoll album, I can’t listen to songs the same way before and after, I’m so much more sensitive to it, but that allows me to understand and enjoy music in deeper and deeper ways. That’s the same thing. There’s that sensitivity. That’s a beautiful point.

Another thing to understand is that when you have big jumps in development, when these big moments happen, there’s a natural step that happens which is, things go from unclear to clear to being able to affect the change. Easy way to look at this is with kids. The first thing infants– they don’t even know it’s their hand, it’s hitting them, it’s scratching them, they don’t even know it’s theirs, then they recognize it’s theirs, but they can’t control it and then they can control their hand.

Piaget calls this primary, secondary and tertiary circular reaction I think is the terminology for it. That doesn’t happen just for the use of our hands, it happens when people fully access for the first time, let’s say, their emotional intelligence or their somatic intelligence or their awareness. If they’re finding that moment of seeing that they are their awareness. Oftentimes, they can’t even talk. They’re say, “What’s going on?” They try to reconstruct their life, because they’re like, “Everything I believe is gone, what the hell is going on?” That’s the way it works.

It’s as if they’ve walked into this new world that they can’t control and they can’t even identify the parts of. Slowly, you just hang out in the world and everything takes care of itself, just like it does with an infant. If you don’t get scared about it, then you’re just, “Okay, yes, I don’t know anything and I don’t have to reconstruct anything.” Pretty soon you’re talking from that place. That’s another thing to know.

Development moves like a corkscrew, that’s really important. If you think about a corkscrew or stock market, you’re moving up into the right, in human development, just like a stock market, you’re moving ahead. It’s like a corkscrew. Every time you’re at the bottom of that corkscrew, it’s like daddy issues and every time you’re at the top, it’s mommy issues. Then you can have abandonment issues or whatever.

You have these core things going through your life and you’re refining them and they’re becoming more and more subtle and more and more different as you become more and more sensitive, that you can notice more and more of the pain and agitation that you’re feeling. What people often say is, “I thought I dealt with all my dad issues.” It’s like before awakening dad issues, after awakening to dad issues.

Brett: I was just going to say there’s that one meme, where it’s like before awakening and there’s a child with a boot on his face. Then after awakening, it’s the child with the boot on his face, but you can see it’s zoomed out and he’s holding the boot to his face.

[laughter]

Joe: I haven’t seen that. That’s funny.

Brett: That’s great.

Joe: I would say after awakening, he’s loving the fact that he’s putting his own boot on his face.

Brett: It’s the unclear to clear part saying, “Oh, I’m putting the same boot on my face.” Then the corkscrew is like, “Oh, these are all the different ways I put the boot on my face.” It’s the same way each time around, but I just keep finding more and more subtle ways to heal it.

Joe: Yes, that’s exactly–

Brett: That comes back to that pendulation, which is, “Wait, I thought I dealt with all this before. How am I–” Sometimes you’re just seeing a new spin, the new turn on the corkscrew. 

Joe: Right, a television show isn’t enjoyable if it’s just everybody’s celebrating the whole show. If you can enjoy being in the not clear as well as the clear, if you can enjoy the corkscrew– there’s this great metaphor and truth, it’s not a metaphor in a way. They know that if two people are on a roller coaster and they’re going down, same exact experience and one of them is like, “Woohoo,” and one of them is, “Oh my God, I’m so scared.”

You go into their neurochemistry, what they know is that the one, that is scared, is releasing carcinogenic chemicals into their body and the other one is releasing anti-carcinogenic chemicals into their body. The exact same experience can be used to destroy somebody or to heal somebody.

Brett: It’s the same as learning neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.

Joe: Yes, that’s right. The cortisol is carcinogenic if I recall correctly. That’s what it is. It’s, you’re going to be on the roller coaster ride. How do you enjoy it? That’s the question. How do you allow enjoyment to happen? That’s the real question. The last thing to think about on this is, that we have our three brains. We can call them the head, the heart and the gut, or the human, the mammalian and the reptilian, or the nervous system and the emotional and the intellectual. They limit each other.

Even though they’re really all one, if you’re really developed on your intellectual side and you’re not developed on your emotional side, it’s like having three pencils attached by rubber bands. One can get only so high if one is so low. The most bang you’re going to get for your buck is to move the low one higher because it gives everything else the most flexibility. It’s just important to know that, if the path that you’re working on has stopped working, you probably neglected one of the sides of yourself, one of the parts of yourself, so that’s a really important thing to know.

Brett: Tell me about enjoying those things? Because this process we’ve just discussed is that there’s going to be pendulation, you’re just going to go from, “Oh, I’m healed to I’m still a total wreck.” Of course, going through the same problems over and over in different ways, spending a lot of time feeling unclear and then playing whack-a-mole with these three [chuckles] parts of our nervous system. How do we enjoy this process?

Joe: A good story from my life was that there’s this time when we got kicked out of the house for and at the time I felt like very unjust reasons in retrospect, it wasn’t a match. It was a long time ago. Every time I saw the people involved or the house, it just like this knot in my stomach just was so there. It would come and go, as all emotions do, they come in waves. At some point, I’m: “Oh, cool. There’s something there that I get to learn from.”

It got to the point where I would literally drive by the house to hope that that feeling would come back so I could be with it and I could love it and I could spend time with that, I get to attend to it. That’s what I did. I learned how to enjoy the thing that I felt was uncomfortable. That’s critical and that’s what it is, it is to not buy in–

Even this story is a way to help you enjoy it because if you buy into the pendulation that you’ve lost it, then it’s very hard to enjoy. If you realize it’s a learning process, then it’s very easy to enjoy. If you are enjoying it, the learning happens quicker. It’s like a virtuous loop. The more we enjoy it, the more we want to approach it and the easier the whole situation gets.

Brett: A feedback loop that we were talking about earlier.

Joe: Yes, that feedback there. Exactly. Clear to unclear is another great example of it. It’s really easy to enjoy not knowing. [chuckles] It’s really easy to enjoy being taken. Get in a car with somebody and ask them to drive you somewhere, but not to tell you where they’re driving you and not to tell you how long and just see, that can be just as enjoyable, if not more enjoyable. It’s really how do you let the enjoyment in, is the question in all of this stuff. That’s really the key to preparing for the spiritual journey.

Brett: That’s great, something to be curious about the entire way.

Joe: The entire time, yes.

Brett: Now, before we run out of time, I would like to get back to touching on these impediments and pitfalls. What kind of things can happen that can block this whole process?

Joe: There’s so many little ones that I’m thinking about categorizing them in big ones. One of the pitfalls is thinking that you should do anything. That’s a pitfall. It’s like finding the wants behind your shoulds and letting your wants motivate you instead of your shoulds motivate you. In essence, the journey of self-development is the discovering of the self.

It is self-realization, it is self-awareness and a should in its nature is saying that you need to be controlled, that who you are in general needs to be managed, controlled, modified. Your wants are there is a general trust in who you are. If you think about it in a developmental perspective, an infant from zero years old until seven, they don’t have any shoulds, there is no should in their brain. I don’t know for sure, but I bet there’s a culture where there might not ever be shoulds ever.

In that time period, they develop more than any other time period in life. They just follow their wants. Following your wants is really the most effective way to transform and following your shoulds is the least effective way and to make it a should is really just a doubt of trust of who you are.

The other crazy thing about wants that I think is really important is you take a five-year-old and they want something, they shout, “No. No. Yes. No,” and they throw a temper tantrum.

Obviously, when we get older, we don’t want to throw temper tantrums, so we say we shouldn’t throw a temper tantrum instead of getting in touch with the fact that we don’t want to throw– we have iterated, we have evolved, we now want something different, but we turn that into a should, we change that natural impetus inside us into something that we should do.

Resisting resistance is another big one. People don’t embrace the resistance, they don’t embrace that intensity of resistance. There’s a great phrase that just says, “If you can’t love it, love the resistance to not loving it.” That’s really an important thing, is that don’t fight the resistance, that’s just more resistance. Another one is–

Brett: How do you not resist that resistance without creating a new resistance around that? [chuckles]

Joe: Yes. Right, exactly. In a war with yourself, who’s going to lose? Exactly, yes. There’s no way to do it, but to drop it. You just have to just stop. It’s the only way. I remember that, I think it was the first time, I was about 24 years old, I went out into the woods to fast. I was looking over this ridgeline and I was noticing that I was fighting myself. Then I was noticing that I was fighting myself to stop fighting myself. Then I was noticing I was fighting myself to stop fighting myself to stop fighting myself. I was just ending up saying, “Yes, this isn’t going to work.”

[laughter]

Joe: I just stopped. That was the first moment that I realized that it’s not a matter of effort, it’s a matter of acceptance, it’s a matter of not efforting, it’s the stopping of the trying, it is the trust. That’s important. Another piece that’s important is skepticism. There’s two forms of skepticism. One is important, one sucks for the spiritual journey.

The important one is, hey, if it’s not true for you, you should know it’s not true for you and you shouldn’t think that it’s true for you because some guru said it or because some Bible said it. If there is a truth, then that truth will be apparent in you and it will resonate in you and you will know it. Being skeptical of truth until you understand it and fully feel it, is important. 

Being skeptical prevents you from trying, preventing you from experimenting, preventing you from being open enough to see a truth, that level of skepticism, it’s getting kneecapped. It’s like getting your legs cut off in a race. Then spreading that to other people is violent. That’s that. Another important one is just notice when you’re future or past living.

One of the biggest impediments is somebody who’s either future living by state-seeking like, “Oh, I want to be in that experience of state again. Oh, I want to enjoy again. Oh, I want to be awakened.” The opposite of that future living, which is, “This is going to be so hard. Oh, my God, I don’t want to have to do this work. Oh, I have to feel my emotions again. This sucks.” Like that. Oh, boy, both of those things, it’s not enjoyable. [laughs] It is not enjoyable.

Brett: Just having an idea of what you’re going to look like, who you’re going to be once you’ve transformed.

Joe: Yes, exactly. Not enjoyable.

Brett: Projecting your current self onto your future self, “Oh, if only I was perfect in all of the ways that I currently think I should be, then I’ll be done.” [chuckles]

Joe: Yes, exactly. [chuckles] Not enjoyable. It is like the moment is far less enjoyable when you’re thinking about how you’re going to end up than [laughs] enjoying this moment. If you think about the moments that you’ve enjoyed yourself most, you probably weren’t thinking about your conclusion. [chuckles] Some of the times we enjoy ourselves most is when the proposed conclusion just happened and so there’s just nothing to strive for in that moment. Then, you come to the conclusion, “Ah,” and then you create something to strive for and then you don’t enjoy yourself anymore.

Then there’s the future and past living in the past. Comparative mind is a form of this, of who’s better and who’s worse, it’s like that requires future and past living to be able to do that. Anything like that it’s also, they’re big pitfalls, they’re stalls in the journey. Then, the last thing about the journey that I think is really important–

This is the one that gets the most is that there’s this natural cycle that happens that people go through and I’m sure you can recognize it. It’s, you think to yourself, “Oh, I really want to–” I don’t know, we’ll pick anything. “I really want to stop smoking.” We’ll pick an easy one, “I really want to stop smoking.” Then, “Okay, I got to do it. I got to really do it. You should do that. You should do that. You should do that. Why aren’t you doing it? Why aren’t you doing it? Okay, I’m good.” Then, you do it.

Then as soon as you do it you’re like, “Oh, okay. I hope this lasts. I hope this lasts. I hope this lasts.” Then it’s, “Oh, it’s already going away. I already noticed that I’m wanting cigarettes again. Oh, shit, I had a cigarette. Oh, it’s all over, I’m going back into– Oh, crap, fuck, now I’m smoking again. I got to quit smoking. I got to quit smoking.” That’s the routine.

All of them rely on each other and you can cut it off at any other point but one of the easiest places to cut it off is when that moment when you actually have quit smoking or you have stopped yelling at your wife or you have stopped being a victim, is to appreciate it, is to actually just appreciate that moment and to keep on appreciating it. Instead of trying to hold on to it.

Brett: Right.

Joe: The idea that it’s going to go away, it is the thing that creates it going away. The only thing that’s really there to do is just to enjoy this moment. Enjoy that it’s gone and the same thing can be said when you’re smoking. If you’re in the middle of smoking a pack a day, how do you enjoy each cigarette? How do you enjoy the hell out of yelling at your wife if you’re going to do it? Because nobody really enjoys yelling at their wife. If you can really enjoy yelling at your wife, I bet the way you yell at your wife will change. It’s not going away.

Brett: That circles back to a lot of the goal isn’t for things to go away, it’s to just watch how they shift and how they change. What is the impulse behind the behavior? Trying to be, rather than what our resistance changes it into. All of these impediments that you’ve just listed, all seem like different forms of resistance and so to wrap this up, since we’re running out of time, I just want to ask you, how can you enjoy resistance? [chuckles]

Joe: You just pointed to something which is really great, which is if you want yourself to change, it slows down the process. Want is the wrong word. If you’re getting angry and you are trying to change the fact that you get angry, that is a slower process, than if you love your anger and you invite your anger in and you welcome your anger. That is a far quicker process.

Brett: How can we do that without hurting people?

Joe: Wait. Unless you start doing it to try to make it go away, for example “I’m going to welcome my anger to make it go away”, then it doesn’t work anymore. I’m not saying welcome your anger at people, I’m just saying welcome the experience of anger that one feels when they’re angry. I’m not suggesting to go and be angry at people, but to welcome your anger, to accept it and to love it. To express it in a way that’s safe, it doesn’t create more shame.

I just want to point that, what you said was brilliant and then I think your question was, how do you enjoy resistance? That goes back to that statement of, if you can’t love the thing, if you can’t love the anger, love your resistance to the anger. How do you enjoy resistance? How do you love your resistance? This is the whole question of the spiritual search and the whole way to prepare, is how do you enjoy this process?

Brett: That’s great. This has been amazing. I think we’re running out of time now.

Joe: What a pleasure.

Brett: Yes, this has been amazing.

Joe: Awesome. Well, I look forward to the next time and it was good talking to you. More to come.

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