March 31, 2023
We return to Joe's journey, where his years-long chase after a momentary experience of oneness slowly expires.
Episode Intro: Welcome to the Art of Accomplishment where we explore how deepening connection with ourselves and others leads to creating the life we want with enjoyment and ease. In our last episode, we began by exploring Joe’s childhood and family life. We now continue with the second half of that conversation, getting into how Joe encountered many of the concepts and tools we talk about in the podcast and incorporate into the courses. Please enjoy.
00:35 Brett: How did your relationship to that heroine hit moment of those eight seconds of oneness shift over this period of time? I am hearing you now describe how you got into all of this work and did everything you could find just seeing what tools work for people and trying them, but what was your relationship to the goal of your search? How was that shifting?
Joe: In my mind, the main drive was that I am not good enough and if I am awake like that, I will be good enough all of the time. That was the thought process, and because I was very head driven, a lot of my work centered through awakening through non dual and meditation. I would say half of it was deeply entrenched in that. What it just did was it filed down the fight in me. Over time, the more I meditated, the less I was fighting with myself. It went from having to do this and not being good enough and in that bigger experiences happened, and then I stopped chasing them as much. They would occur, and I would do this emotional work on the side. My relationship was deeply important. Somewhere early on in the first year or two, the thought occurred to me of what I am. I would ask that question, some version of that question, 10 or 20 times a day for six or seven years or five years at least. I would ask that question all of the time.
I was settling my nervous system from this place of not feeling safe, which is what I learned as a child. That was happening, and that never particularly quit. The search became less and less compulsive, but it was always there. Then I had a meditation retreat. I can’t even remember how old I was, but I was in my 30s. I think 37 or 38. I was at a meditation retreat, and I was in the bathroom. This is that place I really hesitate to talk about, but I was peeing. I immediately had this thought that said the answer to I am was answered. The thought was I am that, nonsensical. It was just a recognition that that place that I touched all of those years ago was what I was. There was no doubt in it.
Then the second thing that happened immediately after that was this evolution never ends. That’s where I think all of that work for those eight years paid off so well. It was because I’ve seen people get stuck for 10 years thinking they are at an end. It is just another form of avoidance and self definition. I was very lucky that way. Then the relationship changed even more. At that point, I didn’t even know. I thought it was just another big experience and I am still in this thing. It was three months later that I noticed the voice in the head was gone. I hadn’t even noticed that the critical, negative voice in the head was mostly gone. The fight was mostly gone. The editor, the one that was telling me about my experience, was gone. I hardly noticed it.
Then I was with Kace at some point, and he was talking about his awakening. I said I had been searching for that for a long time and recognized that that had happened to me. I started laughing hysterically. That was the recognition that the awakening I had looked for had happened and I didn’t even notice it, which was really a strange thing. Then I started to define myself by it as Kace did, actually. Then there was this whole world of people that were in that thing of being people who have had this awakening experience, which is in itself ridiculous. There was this time when I defined myself in that. I identified with it even though it was very subtle, maybe in some ways very subtly putting myself above people in it.
Then, very slowly over time, the whole idea of awakening or all of it just became very unimportant to me. It is like hair color. It is important. I understand because my system works that way, there is a lot more ease in my system. Emotional fluidity was easier for me to capture because I didn’t have the story. There is a lot of benefit to it, and to me it is natural. It happens to everybody if you just keep evolving. It is going to happen. It doesn’t make you better, special or different. That’s the way it sits now. Now it is background. I don’t even notice. If I am ever asked, there is no time when I don’t feel like I am part of that. That’s the way I would describe it.
Brett: There are a lot of really interesting jumping off points. One, you mentioned you identified the identity of the awakened one and you were putting yourself above people. To what extent is it possible to be experiencing that oneness and putting yourself above people? Were you dropping out of that in these moments when you were doing that? Is it possible to hold both?
Joe: I am sure there are going to be some Buddhists somewhere here that will say exactly what that phase of that was. I read some of that and I can identify as moving through those phases, but absolutely. I remember getting a whole bunch of people who taught awakening together and I saw it all over the place. I think there is healed and unhealed in every part of our evolutionary cycle. There is still regulation and dysregulation. There is still balance and imbalance. It is an illusion that there is some sort of amazing eternal balance that forever happens. That wouldn’t be described as balance. Balance is the thing you are always getting back to.
Yeah, absolutely possible, and at some place, there is a deeper place where there is another thing that happens. Thinking that I am better than somebody else is hard to conceive of. I would imagine it is possible, but it is hard to conceive of that that is a possible but I also wouldn’t identify as awake. I wouldn’t identify as anything generally, including awake, so there is something else about that. Also, my mind was very interested in the stages and I remember reading about human development. There is psychological literature on these levels of awakening. [unclear] is really good on this. Then there are different forms of Buddhism and Hinduism that talk about the stages of awakening. I was really interested in it and where I was. All of that has also died out, completely. I could give a shit about any of that stuff.
09:20 Brett: Others have asked me this question because I am close to you, and I have had my own thoughts on an answer but I don’t know your answer. I am going to ask you this now. You credit the eight years of meditation largely for a lot of what this experience has been for you, and yet only in the most recent in-person course was there actually meditation as meditation for 10 minutes. Your instructions were not to manage. And yet doing all of this work, I have had a number of experiences that fit a lot of the descriptors of what you said where after I have had an emotional movement or somebody else hold roles for me in a group, and just experienced different aspects of myself, there is an experience where I pop out of whatever pattern of self I have identified with and experience a vastness much larger than that. My path, doing it through this work and not being very focused on meditation though I have done a lot of meditation in Head Space apps years ago, for me, it seems like it hasn’t been necessary to meditate to that place. It has been more important to do the self exploration whatever form that takes with whatever comes up than to follow any particular…
Joe: I think there is a dissolution of self and there are lots of ways to dissolve self. Our nature, the nature of humans, is to move from a very tight sense of self, where as a little kid we think I am this and everyone else is also this. What do you want for Christmas? I want GI Joe with a kung fu grip. What does mom want for Christmas? She wants GI Joe with a kung fu grip. Then, naturally that sense of I expands, and it expands to my family, to my team, my society, my humanity, the whole ecosystem, and the universe. And so that’s our nature to develop and to open our sense of self. In that opening of the sense of self, all of the ways we define ourselves have to go away or it can’t reach everything. It can’t be to all.
Held emotions create a very deep sense of self. The critical voice in the head creates a very deep sense of self. Seeing yourself as separate from a group or as the group, those things start messing with the sense of self. What I am doing in the work and the tools are all very subtly pointing to a dissolution of self. I think meditation is one really great way to do it. It has its pluses and minuses, and then there are a whole bunch of others. Groundbreakers 1 is all about the critical voice in the head. In that, we start asking the question. Who are you if you are not the critical voice in your head? Who is the critical voice in your head talking to? That is part of the exploration. There is another weeklong course we have coming up on roles. If you are dropping your roles, who are you? It is in everything we do.
I know plenty of people who have had awakening experiences without any meditation. I love meditation, but there are just a ton of tools. The thing about meditation and the reason I know that it is not my calling to teach is there are plenty of really great people teaching it and you can sit in a defined sense of self in meditation on a pillow because you are not bucking up against the world. Our stuff is very relational because you can’t fool yourself when you are in a relationship like that. It is a lot harder. Also, in business or in a marriage. It is easy to do when you are sitting there by yourself on a pillow. Our stuff is that. It is also where humanity is today. We are not farmers where we are sitting quietly in a field a lot. We are constantly moving. Endless numbers of people have told me that VIEW, vulnerability, impartiality, empathy and wonder, and when they are in that with somebody, they feel like they are meditating in a conversation. It is all pointing to the same thing, and it is designed that way. Our tools are designed for that. We have had, that I know about, at least 100 people who have had deep awakening experiences in our work.
Brett: I like what you alluded to a little bit early about this happening naturally. I have spoken now to a lot of people who at some point in their lives something happened meeting the describing of what people describe as awakening, and one way I have come to see it is over time we build these models for ourselves, for reality and the way things are. Eventually more information accumulates in our system that eventually overwhelms that model, and then it crumbles. In those moments, when it crumbles, then there is this expansion. Then a new model can form. A lot of people describe this having happened a lot to them as children, early on in neurological development and then maybe less so later in life unless they are doing a lot of this kind of work. I like seeing this as a natural state.
The framing of VIEW, the thing that really landed for me in this work and attracted me to it from the start was that recognizing that the way of being you have pointed to in VIEW is something I recognized as present throughout my life when I was most authentic. Those were the times when things were flowing most for me. Back propagating that and recognizing there is not a new there there, it is just seeing through the technical depth of my awareness, consciousness and intellect to get to what is actually much more natural. I guess everything is natural, but to get to more of a default state.
Joe: The other thing about teaching it in this way that was useful to me and for the people I notice it happens to is it is not something you seek after this and then we find it. That illusion is gone. What happens instead is some people don’t even notice it. There is no definition of it. There are tons of people working with us who had no idea that this was a possibility. They are not trying for it. That’s not what they are here for. They are here because they want to communicate with their husband or wife better, and then this thing happens and it is like whatever that thing was. I feel like that’s a far more natural way that it moves and it feels like a healthier, more integrative approach rather than there being this one aspect of development I am going to go after. That’s the other thing. It feels like it is more integrated and healthier when it is not the way that it happened to me, struggling for it.
Brett: One thing I am noticing is that this is the first time on the podcast we have touched this topic. I guess I could ask you why this is.
Joe: Same reason as I am talking about, it is distracting and there are plenty of people who teach it really well. The name of the teachers that I went or read from, there are just so many of them. I don’t think there is any need for another of that. I think it is a saturated market to speak business about it. It is also just that knowledge is there and has been there for eons. That’s one of the reasons. Another reason is to me it is a bit of a distraction from the whole of humanity that’s available. The amount of joy that comes from the heart opening and awakening part of it tickles me more. I like being in that reality. I don’t know. I am just drawn to it. What I noticed was in the early times of teaching when I would talk about this stuff, it was distracting. To talk about it and to talk about my work and the awakening of it or about the awakening, it just didn’t seem to serve anybody.
If you have seen the rapid fire coaching like you have, there is a way that I could just sit down with somebody and bring them into that space that I hit. There is this thing I could do and I would do it. I stopped doing it because it didn’t feel like that was serving anybody. It felt like that was the same kind of experience I had rather than an integrative, whole, heartfelt, embodied situation. I just stopped doing it.
19:20 Brett: I think a lot of that can relate to exploring psychedelics, you can have this big experience that hits a lot of those notes, and it doesn’t mean you are going to be able to bring that back into your life. It is not going to necessarily bring you additional seeing or capacity unless you really integrate all of the stuff that was between you and that place to begin with. What has been interesting to me about this week is I came here with a business question, with the problem that was in front of me was I wanted to see this narrow problem more clearly, which is the same thing. It is basically an awakening on a small scale.
Clearly there is something going on where there is some amount of not seeing or illusion. How do I see through that illusion to see a little bit more of direct reality, whatever that might be, or include a little bit more of my innate processing capacity? That’s, I think, what everybody wants somewhere in their lives whether it is a relationship or a business or some sort of spiritual awakening or salvation. Whatever it is, I want something I don’t currently have or feel I don’t currently have. Starting from there, I am having a challenge with my partner. What’s the challenge? What are the emotions holding the pattern in place? When that starts to move, then more seeing occurs. That is the process. It doesn’t have to be distracted by thinking that at the end of this road, there is another road and you are somewhere on it. Now you are measured, and there are certain steps to get it right you could intellectually learn and trap yourself in. Where are you right now and what’s the next step?
Joe: I want to be clear that there is a way that somebody can be listening to this and think we are speaking poorly about psychedelics, non-dual teaching or salvation. I honor all of it. All of it has its shortcomings. There are cults in all of it. There are backwaters in all of it. I just want to make sure if anybody is listening that you should explore the path you feel called to explore. Don’t take any of this as judgment. For where I am called, it is definitely not creating a false sense of end that people run towards and then think they are done. We just keep on dancing. We just keep on evolving. We just learn to enjoy more, more and more. We become kinder, more loving, more compassionate to ourselves and others. There is really no end to that. Hopefully there is no end to that.
Brett: Something I have come to appreciate is whatever path I am on, whatever story I am in, whatever I think I need in the moment, follow through on exploring that path and just being as aware as I am capable of being is what gets me the furthest, not deciding which path I am or if it is the best path. That, itself, is also part of the path. What should I do?
Joe: Lovely put. I’ve done so many different kinds of work. I love it when I see folks in our workshops talking about different kinds of work and how they interact with each other. I think it is just such an important part of it. I think that I was lucky with my upbringing. With the internet, there are so many ways, but I was born and raised without the internet. There weren’t 20 different modalities. For my peers, it was definitely that this is the way. One of the things I appreciate about society now, especially with the folks I work with, is nobody thinks my way is the way. It doesn’t happen, which is such a fucking relief because that’s so limiting.
I remember the first meditation retreat I went to, they said pick your path but once you pick it, commit to it whether it is this one or another one. I do agree there are some things that are really important to commit to. I think picking some paths to commit to is very useful. There is so much wisdom everywhere that can sweep some corners but not other corners. Everyone has their limitations. I am really grateful that in today's world I don’t come across anybody who thinks this is the way. I think that’s part of it, too. One of the other reasons I don’t like an end stage, like having an awakening and you are done, is because that propagates the idea of a religion or a way. There is a state and then there is a way and a teaching. All of that doesn’t feel helpful.
Brett: Then everything you experience that might feel like an awakening might be a prelude to another experience. It is all an evolution.
Joe: Absolutely. Every epiphany is a future rut.
Brett: This has been lovely. I love doing this longer format conversation and getting more into the details. I loved hearing more about your history and your childhood.
Joe: I know I said at the beginning. There is this thing I want to say. If you have listened to this whole thing, there is this time when it is really important to believe in your parents and there is a time when it is really important to get angry and realize your parents are fallible and they fucked you up. Then there is a time when it is important to have forgiveness, and then there is this thing that happens that is natural, which is gratitude. I just want to say that about my folks, how much gratitude I have for them and how much they pushed the ball forward that allowed me to be here. Also, I just think it is really important to respect their work and to respect what they have given me. It is important to me to be very honest about it. It doesn’t in any way say that I don’t love or respect them.
Brett: Thank you. I enjoyed this. Thank you, everybody, for listening. We would love to hear from you on this. If you have any further questions, maybe we will do some follow-up episodes. I would also love to do one on my history. If you have any questions on that, please send them. I’ve got some stories. I just have to figure out what to tell.
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