Donna Quesada: What struck me about your magic trick and having a way out is that the way out doesn’t need to be arduous.
And this kind of takes us into Dr. Martin’s finding that we don’t need to sit and meditate for 30 years in order to have a shift. That will be a kind of lifesaver, no matter what kind of suffering you’re in, whether it’s a broken heart or depression or anxiety… or you know, in your case you wanted to kill yourself. I think a lot of times we don’t seek help because we think it’s going to be arduous. And we think, Oh, we’re going to have to go to counseling for 20 years, you know, like the old Woody Allen movies… We’re in counseling forever. Like you’re saying, and Dr. Martin said it… It doesn’t have to be that arduous.
Jonathan Robinson: Well, there’s really two things… there’s awakening to your true nature as awareness… with the right method, should take five minutes or less.
Donna: See this is mind blowing. This is this is huge, like highlight this. To take five minutes or less. This is huge…
Jonathan: But let me use a caveat. We also have a bunch of conditioning… and psychological traumas, and our stuff… that actually takes a long time to work through… that I call deconditioning. And think of it as like two wings of a plane here.
You know, you have a lot of people work on the psychological wing… and the spiritual wing, where they think it takes 20-30 years… and this wing is very strong, and they do it for a long time. And that’s what’s called the direct awakening wing… it’s very weak. Now, if you have one weak wing and one strong wing, what you end up doing is going around in circles for a long time and eventually crashing.
Donna: That’s right.
Jonathan: Now a lot of people do develop this very quick awakening thing, and then don’t work on their stuff. That’s like some of these gurus where their stuff comes back and bites them in the butt because they haven’t worked through all their issues from the past. But when you have both wings working the direct awakening wing, which should be very quick, and you’re also looking at your blind spots, that means you have two strong wings and two strong wings leads to soaring… and very much a stable ability to stay awake and in a good place.
Donna: So, this is fascinating… in in the Japanese Zen tradition, there’s a term. You probably know it, called Satori—this kind of sudden awakening experience. And I think that a lot of people have these kinds of experiences with psychedelics as well. But it’s like David and I were saying… to have an awakening experience is not enough. And I think that’s what you’re saying. It’s one thing to wake up, and it’s another thing to grow up… to stay awake, to have the tools that you nurture… you know, that are going to rescue you time and time again.
Jonathan: Yeah, and part of that is being able to see your blind spots and work through them. And part of it is getting better at having more and more glimpses of awakening. So it’s not like… when was the last time you had a deep spiritual experience? And they’ll say, you know, 2004, and I say, well, it should be like 20 times a day that you have a glimpse of awakening, and that gives you less identification with your ego. And then it’s actually easier to look at the undone stuff in you, you know, the blind spots.
And one way to know your blind spots, that I mentioned in the book… I give a lot of methods for seeing your blind spots in the book, but the quickest and easiest way is to ask the people you know. Say, “hey, if there’s anything I’m doing that you think is like a little weird or out of whack or or not very harmonious, let me know.”
Donna: Well, this is a fascinating… I really wanted to talk about this with you. First of all, what is a “blind spot,” so that we can be clear?
Jonathan: Yeah, it’s, you know, sometimes even called the “shadow” element. It’s something that is influencing your behavior, that you do not have an accurate view of. So, for example, I have a part of me called…I call it a self that is impatient. And my wife has mentioned it a bunch of times. And, you know, first I used to rationalize it. Well, I want to get stuff done. I’m trying to serve people… blah, blah, blah. But no, basically, I’m impatient. That part of me is impatient. And it’s not a good thing. It doesn’t help my connections with people and sometimes it even interferes with stuff getting done. Well, being able to see it clearly without making an excuse for it helps to let go.
And in fact, a lot of the most enlightened people I interviewed… I asked them, how do they deal with their shadow blind spot stuff and they say, when it comes up, I love it into submission. Because that kind of melts it like that impatient little boy in me. And when it comes up, and I feel it, I feel it in my body… I go, it’s okay. You know, I send it love. And in doing that, it kind of disperses and I am not nearly as impatient as I was even last year. And you start to see that all these obstacles in us start to melt away and what’s left is awareness, love and peace.
Donna: This is fascinating. You know, on one hand, I can kind of see from, you know, the eyes of the general public, who might say, Oh, that sounds corny, or that sounds cheesy. You know, “I love you… thank you.” You know? How does that mechanism work, by welcoming it and loving it? How does it necessarily diminish it? That’s the “A” part of my question. The second part is… is this game all about self acceptance or self improvement? In your example, it’s kind of like both are happening. I accept it and so I become better about it.
Jonathan: Yeah, they do have an overlap. And yes, how does it work? It works through something called PFM. I don’t know if you read that part in the book. PFM is how a lot of things work on your iPhone and computers, and PFM stands for “pure fucking magic.”
Donna: I love that. I really do.
Jonathan: You know, we don’t know how anything really works. I don’t know how my toaster works, but that doesn’t prevent me from using it.
Donna: PFM… It’s a very technical term, but we’ll try our best to work with it!
Jonathan: Exactly. And you know, love is like a great dissolver. We have this constriction that keeps us from the love and peace within. And as you love these constrictions… as you welcome them… as you embrace them… as you soften towards them… Then they naturally disperse and they don’t have the energy that they used to have, you know? What you resist persists. But the opposite is true. What you embrace tends to let go and dissolve.
Donna: So we let go of the fight. We let go of the resistance, and now it’s a paper tiger. It has no more power over us. Yeah, not a threat.
Jonathan: Yeah, an analogy I used… I did this in the previous interview, but let this black dot represent your biggest problem. And it’s on a white piece of paper, which means that the white represents our awareness… our infinite awareness connected to everything. Well, most of us have our eyeballs glued to this black dot. And with your eyeballs glued to it, things look dark… it’s like it’s black, as far as I can see. A lot of these tools are to give us some distance from that black dot. So we see that it’s just a small black dot on a very large screen of awareness. And there are ways to create that non identification, or that distance very quickly nowadays.
Donna: Putting your eye up to the paper like that reminded me of another very, very magical occurrence in your stories with one of your teachers, Justin, who was your teacher for a very long time. And he said “Look into my left eye.” What happened at that moment?
Jonathan: Well, he didn’t even mention… this is early on in my association with him. And I didn’t know he had magical powers. You know, he came off as a very regular guy, just teaching stuff and and so, you know, he said, “Are you doing anything for the next couple days?” I said “no.” He said, “Okay, well look at my left eye for three seconds.” So I did. Well, about five minutes later, I start melting into the universe.
You know, I’ve taken a lot of drugs, like psychedelics, but this was better… it felt like, like liquid love, peace, bliss and it was so profound. And I said, “Did this have anything to do with, you know, looking in your left eye?” He said, “Yeah, I can transfer my experience to other people.”
And he said, “Now that you’ve taken me on as a teacher, I want you to know what my experience of life is.” Well, that changed my relationship with him because he looked normal. He didn’t charge money at that time. He didn’t have many students. So, I thought he’s kind of like me, just a little bit smarter. And then I realized, he’s like a different species.
Donna: That’s fantastic. That’s like, that’s the kind of stuff that just lights, lights my world up. I just, I love it. I eat it up.
Jonathan: And you know, I’ve been blessed to see a lot of magic and miracles from hanging out with all these gurus, and I have a lot of stories in the book about that. But really, it comes down to what helps you to find the peace and love within you as quickly as possible, as frequently as possible. Because once you have that, then it opens up all the other doorways.
Donna: I especially love what Ram Dass said to you, “either you’re on a mission from God, or you’re a complete lunatic.”
Jonathan: Well, you know, that came from my wanting to interview a lot of people and I kept on trying to interview Ram Dass. And one day he just calls me up and he says, “You know, I just don’t do these interviews anymore because I get so many”… But then he said, “You know, I’ve never seen anybody as persistent as you.” And of course, I told him, “I’m on a mission from God.” Then he said, “Okay, I’ll do the interview.”
Donna: Well, I love this man. I mean, Ram Dass is one of my number one influences and heroes of all time. Him and Alan Watts, and so I’m completely jealous that you had that time with him. And pray tell, what, what did you most get from your time with him? And how did it influence your own practice and outlook?
Jonathan: Well, in his later years, he was so heart oriented, you know? After the stroke, yeah. That we were just hanging out and looking at each other. You know? And, melting into pure joy. But I also got that he believed that his guru Maharaj Neem Karoli Baba was behind a lot of things. You know, like there’s a master puppet that’s also working. There’s grace. You know, when we make efforts towards more awakening, we sometimes forget that there’s another force that wants to pull us up. We just have to raise our hands and say, “Hey, I’m available!” And when people take a retreat or buy a book and they’re sincere, then Grace is more interested in you and things happen. So, I would tell him about experiences in my life, and he’d say, “yeah, that’s Maharaj-ji working on you.”
Donna: Well, this brings up an interesting point… this belief that we carry on, you know… we’re getting kind of into a deeper philosophical or metaphysical level here, of course. Ram Dass felt that his teacher didn’t go anywhere. He was in spirit form. And my teacher used to say that too, you know… “After I’m gone, I’ll be as close as the nose on your face.”
But we’re so locked into the material form of things, that we don’t see it. And in fact, Ram Dass and his lifelong friend, Timothy Leary, diverged on just this issue. He said to Timothy Leary, when they got together years later to have a conversation… He said, “How is it possible for you to have had all of those psychedelic experiences and still remain a materialist?” In other words, “still maintain that the heart is just this physical organ that the blood flows through and nothing more?” And when you die? That’s it? And the brain is responsible for all of these funky states that we get into and that’s the end of the story. How is that possible? When we’re so much more… we’re spirit, and the soul is in the heart, and the soul is eternal… I know that was long winded. But what is your position on that?
Jonathan: Well, you know, Timothy Leary, who I knew, just didn’t have certain experiences that Ram Dass, or I, or perhaps you and other people have had, and and the experience of… let’s say, that there’s a God, whatever that is… it is a very big experience. It’s very much beyond oneself. And you can have all kinds of great psychedelic experiences and higher consciousness and not have that final experience, we’ll call it, but you know, all these things are more philosophical than practical. I’m a very practical person. The question I’m always asking is, What is my next step?
And what would help me get there? What or who will help me get there? And if you focus on that question, and you’re looking for the helpers, the books, and the people that will do that, then you know, when you’re very high and you want to know if there’s a beam throughout the universe called God, that’ll be your next step.
Donna: That was kind of Buddha’s approach. What really matters is my suffering right here right now. Yeah. And that’s why you love those really easy to reach fixes that actually work, and that don’t make you sit in a retreat unnecessarily, you know, for 25 years!
Jonathan: Yeah, I think we get caught up in in ideas and myths about enlightenment, rather than say, “hey, I really want to experience this stuff.” And that’s a different focus. And a lot of… I know a lot of spiritual people just get caught up in their head, and they have a lot of ideas about God and spirituality, but they don’t have much experience of beingness and of being awareness of being… open to the pure love running through them as a vehicle. And that’s what’s really needed at this point in our world.
Donna: Now is that to say that meditation doesn’t have its place? We were talking about new approaches for new times. Does that mean that meditation doesn’t have its rightful place along with those easier to reach fixes?
Jonathan: Well, meditation is often using these easy fixes just for longer periods of time, you know? For example, one one of the techniques that’s been found by research to be the most effective, is to focus on people that you love. You know, write a list of 50 people you’ve ever connected with, or loved in your life, and then spend one minute focusing on each one. Well, you can do that for one minute. Just focus on somebody you love, and that will raise your vibration. But if you do it for 15 minutes with 50 people, you are bathing your entire being in love for almost an hour, and that experience is incredibly expansive. Now that’s how I meditate most of the time. I just tap into people I love and soon it becomes not so much people I love, but I’m just opening to love. And that’s a valid form of meditation. And studies are showing that these types of meditations are more effective in creating deeper levels of peace and changing your brainwaves in beneficial ways.
Donna: Shameless plug again… I know that you have mentioned Insight Timer and I have meditations on Insight Timer as well. I think that’s where guided meditations can be very helpful for people who have a hard time sitting…
Jonathan: I agree. And another shameless thing is on my website, awarenessexplorers, which is In the navigation bar, there’s meditation. So when I interview somebody, like Adyashanti, or the Dalai Lama, or Byron Katie, I say “give me your best, most effective 10 minute guided meditation.” And now we have like over 100 of those from all these different teachers. They’re completely free. And you just press play and you’re guided by Adyashanti, or somebody like that, in their most effective guided meditation, and I think that’s a way that people can tap into these higher states really easily.
Donna: Jonathan, can you give us your best guided meditation, in one minute?
Jonathan: In one minute… Let’s see… I have several one minute guided meditations. But let’s try this one. Okay, this is an advanced group, so I’ll try the advanced meditation. You can close your eyes or not. And just get a sense of yourself what it feels like to be yourself. Like, “I am Jonathan”… I am (your name)… And then, imagine what it’s like to let go of the part after “I am” and you’re now just “I am.”
So, you’re just an awareness in this moment. And then, see if you can let go of even having any sense of “I” and you’re just an awareness… a sensing awareness, there’s just aliveness. So, you might register thoughts and sensations and sounds, but there’s no person behind it. There’s just direct experience of reality in all its complexity in this moment. And then maybe a sense of a character and ego comes back, and then you relax back into just sensing all the things in this exact precise moment, as I am.
And you tap into how silent it is. And still it is in this exact, direct experience of reality. And when you’re ready, you bring back that sense of ego, that sense of… you’re a person doing something, and when you’re ready, you can slowly open your eyes and come back.
Donna: You know. A few things… it’s like…The first thing is, even though I, myself, do guided meditations, there’s something special about being the recipient. It’s like having your hair brushed, you know? It’s just warm and cozy and wonderful to be able to not be the one doing it and to just have the experience and enjoy it and melt into it. And so there’s that.
There are these layers of experiences… And then, you know, when I had this… even though it was just a second or two of really letting go of my responsibility of, Oh, I’ve got to come back, you know, and just really give over to the experience. There were just the sensations.
My partner is a musician, so he hears everything, and I do too, but he says, Well, we can’t record here because you can hear the freeway from here. He’s right… I hear the freeway and and I hear kind of… ambient sounds of various sorts, and things moving… or the breeze, or something, or a squirrel munching on a nut or something. And my arm twitching… and they’re just the sensations. And it’s really lovely.
Jonathan: Yeah. And as you do that, it’s a portal into the world of awareness and of presence. And as you go down that rabbit hole, you start to experience more bliss and love and more connection to everything. There’s less separation. And we practice… you get better at techniques like that, which are very direct, you know, and you learn what kind of works for you. Because different people like different types of ice cream and different people like different types of awakening methods.
Donna: I love that. Different methods for different strokes. And just to circle it back before we round out our time together. The many paths… which was so beautiful… that was one of the things that you loved about Hinduism, is that it readily acknowledges the role of different paths for different tendencies. Different personalities. And I think that that’s what we tend to miss with any dogmatic kind of religious system, is that there are different paths that may be valid for different people. Is there any path that you relate to more now in your life, than you did before?
Jonathan: Well, I relate to a combination of Christianity and Buddhism. Christianity is really at its heart, all about love, and Buddhism at its heart, is all about awareness. And once again, like the two wings… you put love on one wing and awareness on the other wing, and they work together to help you to soar. I find people who focus too much on one of those often lose the other. So it’s really a matter of balance, after a while, and having a couple of approaches that kind of counterbalance each other, I find, has helped me both to be effective in the world, and also to be a very loving human being. When I’m at my best…
Donna: I love that. And how about your Jewish roots? Are they alive in your practice at all?
Jonathan: They’re alive in terms of the curiosity. One of the things I got from Judaism is just a nonstop curiosity about how things work. You know, what works, how things work, that very intellectual way of looking at things… what actually gets me a result. And so, I think that I don’t have to work on it because I was kind of born into it… the other things I’ve had to develop.
Donna: Well, I love that. There was a funny word in the Zen Center. There were a lot of people of Jewish ancestry and they were called Jubus, Jewish people who love Buddhism. So, there is this curiosity, this kind of openness that I appreciate in Jewish people.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about your your wonderful new book, The Enlightenment Project, which is behind you on your shelf with the bright purple color? Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers in terms of how they can access your work, your website, if you’d like to say it again, or anything that I didn’t ask you that that I should have, or that you may have wanted? You know, in terms of questions you’d like to share or get into?
Jonathan: Well, I’d like to just say that I’m trying to bring the best methods and best ideas out to a larger audience. So when people go to , and they put in their email address, they’ll get the ebook and audio meditation and my five favorite quick ways to awaken to peace, and they also get Chapter One of the book for free. So, I think that’s helpful.
Also, at , all the guided meditations are free, so I really want to emphasize to people that ideas are nice, but they don’t feed you directly. An idea of a pizza is not as good as a good pizza. So, I want people to actually have these experiences and develop that sense where they have found the peace inside them, so they can create service in how they approach the world.
I don’t know if I shared this in the last interview we did, but when I went to see Guru Pundit-ji in India, he went up to me… I was at his ashram and he gets up to me, big bald headed guy, and he he says, Who are you? And being that I didn’t know his protocol, I said, “I’m Jonathan, from the United States.” And he started laughing hysterically. He said “No, I mean, who are you really?” So, I went through all the roles, like, I’m a father, I’m a teacher, I’m a husband, I’m a dog lover, I’m a therapist… all the roles you play… and he’s just going, No… that’s not it… that’s not it…
Finally, I look in his eyes, and I just felt the love come from him. And it hit me like a tsunami so strongly that I just started crying in his lap because I’ve never felt quite so much love. And as I’m crying in his lap, he taps me on the head and he says, “This love and peace you feel now… that’s who you are. That’s who you are. And your job in life, is to find your way back to it.”
And I think when you realize that that’s really our job in life… because once we have that peace and love, we’re much better able to help the people that we love in our life and help to create a better world. So if you think of this as your job, find what works for you, and then we’ll create a better world together.
Donna: Even though that would be a fine place to end, I’m not gonna because I have to tell you this… You know, I had that experience with Jane Goodall.
Jonathan: Oh, really?
Donna: I was too young to even appreciate what I was experiencing. But I always loved animals, like you do. And I had seen that she was giving a talk in my neighborhood bookstore about her book that had just come out. And I had the book. So, I ran home and got the book and got in line. And I had these questions I was going to ask her, and I was going to tell her how much I loved her. And I was this new professor at the time, and all full of myself and I was going to get all the answers. And do you know what happened? When I got up to her and I got to say, hello, I couldn’t say a word. I couldn’t ask anything. I melted into a puddle and I started to cry. I was most literally in the presence of a saint. That woman is a saint.
Donna: And I couldn’t say anything. It was just all love, all vulnerability, all humility, all everything beautiful. And words simply didn’t even exist. Not only were they not adequate, but they just didn’t even exist at that moment. I couldn’t even summon them.
Jonathan: We’re all trying to get out of this. This word prison we’re locked into… some of those beautiful states of consciousness… and and having guides like that is wonderful. Having a way to find that yourself, so you can become that same thing for other people is even more wonderful.
Donna: Well, on that I will thank you for joining us today, Jonathan. It was just a pleasure to have this conversation with you. And we’re both on a similar mission and I love that we’re colleagues now, you know… we’re both part of Awaken’s mission and it’s just a joy to have had this time with you.
Jonathan: Thank you so much, Donna. I always enjoy spending time with you.
Donna: Thank you, Jonathan. And thank you for your book!
Watch or read Part 1 Here: Awaken Interviews Jonathan Robinson Pt 1 – The Enlightenment Project