Donna Quesada: Jonathan Robinson is with us today, and I would like to first start by thanking you for spending an hour with us and with Awaken.
I know that our listeners will enjoy everything you’ve had to say. You’ve written on topics ranging from money to relationships to God, and so you have a wealth of information. And I’m thrilled that you’ll be sharing it with us today. Thank you for your time.
Jonathan Robinson: Thanks for this opportunity!
DONNA: Of course! Well, we have a…First of all, before we jump right in, in case anybody out there doesn’t know who you are…Your best selling books are, The Experience of God, The Little Book of Big Questions, Communication Miracles for Couples, and Love, Less Conflict. So, congratulations on all of your work. So, you’re a psychotherapist by trade, is that correct?
JONATHAN: Yeah, and I was an impatient one. So, I got into the genre of books that are Oprah-like, so, my first few books I got on her show, which was very lucky because my style of psychotherapy was to tell people to just stop doing the bad behavior that is not working for you.
DONNA: Well, double congratulations for making your way onto the Oprah show and for all of your success. It reminds me of that Jackie Mason joke, where he complains, “It hurts when I walk like this.”So, the doctor says, “Just don’t walk like that anymore.”
DONNA: Well, we have a tradition here on Awaken, and I’d like to start by simply asking the question, what does it mean to awaken? And so, I’m wondering if you can share your thoughts on this vast subject with us?
JONATHAN: Yeah, you know, I have my thoughts and I’ve also asked everybody from the Dalai Lama to the late Mother Teresa that question. And there’s actually a lot of agreement as to what it is, and what the purpose of human life is. So, I think, in general, human beings are here to find the peace within themselves, and from that abundance, serve the people they care about and humanity. But really, awakening is really a shift in identity, from your personality and ego, to pure awareness. And when that shift happens, it can happen in moments, or it can happen in one big blast, all at once. But when we are pure awareness, we have a much more expanded view of ourselves, and we also have a lot more peace and love in our hearts. Because when we become part of that entity or that whatever-you-call-it, the result is an incredible amount of peace in one’s life.
DONNA: Now you said that an awakening involves a shift in our identity. This is fascinating. In one of your books, I believe it’s Life’s Big Questions: 200 Ways to Explore Your Spiritual Life, one of your chapters is titled Who Are We? Or Who Am I? And this is of course, one of the most universal questions in all spiritual traditions. You know, one of those questions that the guru tells you to meditate on, meditate on this question, “Who am I?” And so, you’re saying…you’re really bringing it back to this fundamental question, in a sense, of getting down to the nitty gritty of who we are. And that when we start to wake up, we start to become…and correct me if this is not accurate…get more clear on who we are, or perhaps we dismantle altogether or deconstruct altogether this false perception of who we thought we were?
JONATHAN: Well, take it very simply right now. I like to use methods that are very simple that get people to a place of peace in under a minute if possible.
DONNA: I like that!
JONATHAN: And hopefully, I’ll reveal a bunch of these methods. I like to reveal a bunch of these methods in these interviews because if one of these methods works for you, then you’ve made a friend for life.
DONNA: Then you just changed someone’s life.
JONATHAN: Yeah, yeah.
JONATHAN: So, right now,we’re interacting. Like…you’re “Donna,” and I’m “Jonathan.” But, if you took away our story, our past, or our future, and our ego…right now, I’m just looking at a screen. You’re looking at a screen. Well, what’s looking at the screen? Really, it’s an awareness, when you…we just got here. If you took away all your past and all your thoughts, we’re just here. That hereness is just an awareness. When you start to identify just with that present moment of being here, you lose a million pounds of baggage because life comes to us one second at a time. And you start to realize instead of being an ego with a story, and I’m in this story doing this interview…You’re just right here, right now. And in that moment, there is peace.
So, over time, I’ve shifted my awareness from being a guy, doing stuff, trying to get stuff done, to…I’m just here in this moment, and I start to identify with this vast awareness that some people call Spirit or God. Or, some people call it just being totally present, and that’s not a hard thing to do. It’s really a relaxation into what is in this moment. Once I went to…a funny story. I went to India, and I went to see this guru who was a devotee of Ramana Maharshi, named Papaji, and he has you sit in front of him and he says, “Who are you?” Well I didn’t know what to say. I was busy being caught up being Jonathan. So I said, “I’m an author,”and he said “Nah!”And I said, “Well I’m a husband,”and he said, “No.”He kept shaking his head. “I’m a man”…”No.”And I didn’t know what the right answer was.
Finally, I just looked into his eyes, and as I looked into his eyes I became present. I became so present, that I realized…I tapped into a feeling of deep love and peace that was always there behind all my thoughts and stuff. And I started weeping and I felt overwhelming love and as I’m doing that he pats me on the head, and he said, “this love and this peace is who you are, and your job is never to forget that.”And that stayed with me, so that’s my job. And I think that’s everybody’s job, to find that peace and love within themselves.
DONNA: So to bring it back and make it very digestible. Awakening is the willingness and the journey into breaking through this false armor we put on, that we might call “ego,”that prevents us from being here…from being in a peaceful, loving state…and a loving kind of presence.
JONATHAN: And yeah, that peacefulness of right now is really like a portal to another world. At first you feel it, like a little bit of peace and just being more present. But as you go into it, it gets bigger and bigger, and it gets less personal. There’s really just one of us here in drag…there is one awareness. We’re all one, we all get to partake of this awareness, and it’s kinda like this awareness is… takes on a human form, so that we can play in this material realm.
DONNA: Yes. And so, it’s almost like this question, “Who are we” or “Who am I,” answers itself not with a thing or a noun, but rather with this kind of flow of…of…interacting in an authentic way.
DONNA: So it’s not really a thing, so to speak…it’s a doing. It’s a bringing.
JONATHAN: Well it’s a being, and in a being, there is no…that’s why it’s hard sometimes to connect with it…because it is always there. It’s like a fish in water. Try right now not to be aware. You can’t do it. But normally not identified with our awareness, we’re identified with all of our doings, and that keeps us pretty busy. It keeps this background awareness, this background peace, somewhat hidden from us. So, I’m a big believer in methods that help people to become more aware of it. Because most people have had an experience of it, whether on drugs or meditating. But, they have a hard time bringing it into daily life. So, on my podcast, I introduce methods that take under a couple minutes, so that people can become more aware of it. And then let go or surrender to it, so that they have more and more peace in their daily life.
DONNA: And so, in the beginning of our time together, I was saying, sort of in fun, how you’ve written on topics seemingly so diverse, from money, and relationships and spirituality…but in reality, they’re not so diverse because the common ingredient is bringing this quality to all these areas of life. Would that be true to say?
JONATHAN: Yeah, I was blessed with a miserable childhood. So, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to find peace in the world so easily, ‘cause of my family upbringing. So, I became focused on how I could find peace within. Well there’s a lot of different ways. There’s trying to have good relationships, there’s trying to make money, there’s trying to find…to be awakened. And I think it’s good to have a variety of ways of finding peace and love. And if one way is not available to you, like maybe you’re in a situation where you’re in a bad marriage and you can’t get out, well, you can still find peace within because there’s a lot of ways of doing that. So the commonalities…I’m always looking for very simple methods that actually work for people, despite our busy lives.
DONNA: I like the way that you said “I’ve been blessed to have a rotten childhood. ”Does that mean everything in life is a lesson, ultimately?
JONATHAN: I think so, or at least, that’s a good way of viewing it, you know? I don’t know the ultimate reason of why some people go through hardship. But I think you could always use that hardship to make you stronger. You know, I got to know Oprah pretty well by being on her show a bunch. She had a horrible life, you know? Never lived in a house that had running water. Was raped twice by the time she was fourteen. Had a stillborn child by the time she was fifteen. But, that made her really strong because in overcoming those challenges she learned that what’s really important is finding peace within. And finding connection with other people. And I think that’s what really leads to happiness.
DONNA: How have you brought your own journey…and can I call it that…a “spiritual journey,” as a psychotherapist? And can you imagine doing the work without that spiritual dimension?
JONATHAN: Well, I think that psychology, you know, psychotherapy, can be useful and spirituality…It’s really that they’re very related topics. But I think really, it’s a very specific journey for people. And the journey is always, what works for me, now? That should be everybody’s mantra. What works for me, now? Not what worked for me 20 years ago. Not what my psychotherapist said. Not with my spiritual teacher or religion says. But, have an attitude of experimentation, and say, what seems to be helpful to where I am on the journey, now?
And, that’s changed for me. At one time, it was one religion, or one teacher, and at another time it was a different one. So, if you focus on that key question, and you’re willing to experiment, you find stuff that opens your heart, or opens you to the next level of evolution. Now, at one time what was important to me was having lots of sex as a teenager. That’s not so important to me now. What’s more important to me is contribution. So, everyone is in process. So, you don’t want to get stuck with some old belief system or old method that’s no longer working for you.
DONNA: You talk about prayer. And I’m wondering if prayer is something that you have found most helpful to those you work with, and also to you, in your own journey. And there’s one story that sticks out in my mind in one of your articles, about the Native American teacher. His way of praying is very different than most people’s way of praying. And I bring this up because I have found prayer most helpful to me when I was going through tough challenges in life. But, the way people pray is not the way that you discovered is the most effective way to pray. In fact, you fell upon gratitude as the most important ingredient in prayer. I’m wondering if you could share that story with us.
DONNA: …the Native American teacher.
JONATHAN: I have a couple of stories about that. Well, one thing that got me focused on gratitude is when I asked 40 spiritual leaders, like the Dalai Lama or Mother Theresa, what was their one greatest piece of advice for connecting with peace, or connecting with God. The number one answer to my surprise, was focusing on gratitude. So, I became very interested in that. And, one time I was with a Native American medicine man and he said, “Let us pray.”And I said, “Oh, sounds good.”And he started prayer. Now normally, we think of prayer as asking for something. But he was…we were in the middle of a beautiful spot…and he looked at every rock, and he said, “Thank you rock, for showing me the power of strength.”And then a bird would fly over head and he’d say, “Thank you bird, for showing me the possibility of soaring.”And you know, this was nice for a couple of minutes, but it went on for twenty minutes. And I’m getting more and more annoyed, and finally, I said, “Well how do you connect with spirit?”And he said, “I just showed you how to connect with Spirit. I give thanks for every person and thing in my environment.”And it sounds like a nice lesson, but I didn’t really know how to bring it into my daily life. So then I found another guru who supposedly had this magical mantra for feeling overwhelming gratitude. So I went all the way to India to ask him what this magical mantra was, and you know, flying 18,000 miles…I have jet lag, and I’m really worn out, but I really wanna know this method. And he says, in an Indian accent, “Yes if you want to feel overwhelming gratitude I have this magical mantra.” And he whispers in my ear, “Whenever possible repeat these words…the mantra I give you are the words, thank you.”
JONATHAN: Well I looked at him…I traveled 18,000 miles to get this. I said, “Thank you…that’s it? I traveled 18,000 miles to get that? That’s it?” And he says, “No. That’s it is the mantra you had been using that makes you feel like you never have enough. My mantra is thank you. Not that’s it? That mantra will take you nowhere.” So, I was still pissed off, but you know…He said, “if you say it from your heart, many times a day…you take five seconds…”I like five second methods, like right now.
DONNA: It’s a busy world.
JONATHAN: Yeah, yeah. I get to speak to you about this stuff. Well, thank you for this opportunity. We’re speaking on Skype. We’re talking across the world for free, instantly. Thank you for that. Over here, on my right, I have my dog, sleeping. When I look at him, and I say, “Thank you for his health. Thank you for my health.”I had a toothache last week. I don’t have that now. I say, “Thank you. I don’t have a toothache today. ”These little things actually can fill you up, and that’s a very different mantra than that’s it? That doesn’t take you anywhere.
DONNA: Why does it…and it seems…and we’re talking about things that work, and bring us peace. And it seems like you bring this up in your writing…the quickest way to come to that place of peace. And we call it prayer, but it’s a different way of looking at prayer. And this is one of my favorite topics because this is one of my favorite things that helped me the most when I was going through my challenging times. And so, I would like you to speak to that. Why…Why does it work? Why does it bring us peace so quickly and so effectively?
JONATHAN: Mhmm. Well, you know, there’s different types of prayer. There’s a prayer where you’re asking God for something. And that’s fully valid if it works for you. And there’s a prayer of thanks-giving, which we just talked about. Well, why did they work? Well, I think everything works because of “PFM,”when it comes right down to it. My iPhone works because of PFM. Prayer works because of PFM. PFM was a term that Einstein came up with to describe why quantum physics works. In case you don’t know what it stands for, it’s just“Pure Friggin Magic.”
So, in a way, we don’t know how anything works, but we can try it out, and see if it does. So, that’s been my philosophy…trying different stuff, and not focusing on the theory, but focusing on did it lead to peace? Or, did it lead to more of a connection? But, I think a quick answer to why is whenever we get beyond the ego and broaden our perspective, in trying to connect with God or other people, it makes our problems much smaller. And makes this other energy that’s always there, that’s really made of love…then it becomes more a part of our consciousness.
DONNA: So your approach is very practical.
DONNA: And with regard to gratitude, I can’t help but think of Buddha’s teachings. You know we bring ourselves so much self-inflicted suffering because…and going back to the ego, which you just mentioned…the ego wants. It’s always in lack. And so, gratitude in this particular method of prayer, nonplusses that wanting, and in the act of quelling instantly, that wanting, now I feel complete, and whole…
DONNA: …and satisfied. And it’s peaceful to feel satisfied.
JONATHAN: Yeah. It’s like quelling a thirst. It calms the mind down, so that you are aware of how much you are given.
Read and Watch Part II Here: How To Align With Your Higher Self
Read and Watch Part III Here: Get To The Place Of Witness Consciousness