Spirituality and politics are two distinct forces that drive our consciousness, but they are more connected than we actually think. Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen explore this topic with meditation teacher and author Ben Decker, focusing on his latest book Modern Spirituality. Together, they discuss the impact of our individual spirituality on the collective efforts of society and how it shapes politics, particularly in the time of the election. Ben also shed some light on the similarities of world religions, how meditation should help us understand our inner purpose, and how to properly balance our higher and lower natures. Furthermore, they also share their thoughts about Marianne Williamson’s presidential campaign and how her political views changed the game for the greater good.
Listen to the podcast here:
Ben Decker On How Spirituality And Politics Shape Society
We have been having a wonderful conversation with Ben before we hit the record button. I was going to ask him a question, another one off record and I thought, “I’m going to ask this because I’m super curious about this.” I was going through some things in my closet and I came across some poster that was rolled up and tucked away that needs to be organized. I opened it up. I unrolled it and it was the poster I got from Marianne Williamson’s announcement when she was running for president. Jason and I were at that event. We imagine you were there too, Ben. What’s the name of that theatre?
The Saban Theatre.
We were at that event and remind me when that was because everything feels like a blur when we were at in-person events.
That was in 2019. If I remember correctly, she was one of the very first people to even announce that she was running.
No wonder it seems so long ago. Now we have Biden, which is exciting. The reason I even thought about this situation is because we are going to record with you around the time that the votes were coming in and after the election. It feels like so much has shifted even since then. It was so interesting now that I have talked more openly about who I voted for because for a while, I liked to keep it private. I’m proud to say that I voted for Biden and I’m thrilled that he’s been selected. It certainly was sad at the same time because I was so thrilled when Marianne got involved with all of that and was out there on the stage and the debates and knowing that more of the world is being exposed to her. I’m curious how you’re feeling about it, Ben, after you’re working with her on the campaign.
I feel similarly. I’m happy that we are going to be looking at four years without Trump in the White House. I’m excited to see what Kamala and Joe do together. I’m happy about his appointment for the UN and the list goes on. It’s an interesting time. I think that Marianne is so eloquent and she has always spoken to the articulation of a deeper feeling that has resonated for me. I hear her speak it and I say, “I feel like you get me.” Something that she said in an article that she published, “The election of Joe Biden isn’t a healing. It’s a reprieve from an active, overt assault. It’s an opportunity for us to gather our forces and go deeper for the real healing that does still need to be taking place.” That’s the feeling. When I voted, I texted Marianne and I said, “I wish I was voting for you.” That is how I felt.
I got an Apple news alert on the night of the second Democratic debates that said, “Whether you’re there for Bernie, Joe Biden or Marianne Williamson, be there for the debates tonight.” I loved that even though they were joking at how exotic and unusual she seemed to be in that context, I felt empowered and emboldened by her. I originally met her when she announced she was running for Congress. A friend had invited me to go see Alanis Morissette at The Saban Theatre. I go and Alanis performs one song. This woman named Marianne Williamson, who I had never heard of came out and announced she was running for Congress. I was like, “This is a political event. You told me it was an Alanis Morissette show.”
It’s funny because that’s part of my journey of falling in love with Marianne as well. I voted for her when she was running for Congress simply because all of my good friends, including Jason, this is back in 2013 or so when she ran. It was then where I either first heard of her or started paying more attention to her. I then started reading her books and she’s become one of my favorite people in this space. It was incredible. Also, after the results of the 2016 election when Trump won, Marianne did this live video that was incredibly moving.
I’ll never forget it because I was so upset at the results and then seeing her speak eloquently and she’s comforting and she puts things into perspective similar to you. It makes complete sense why you two are working together because you’re so much in alignment with each other in your perspectives and the work that you’re doing to support people through their spiritual journeys and through finding more peace and perspective in life.
She’s been a huge inspirer for me and has awakened a lot of us to use our voices more. To know that how we’re feeling is then being articulated by someone else gives us the power to articulate how we’re feeling. That’s a similar thing. I met her when she was running for Congress. I saw the Alanis Morissette thing and I was like, “I’m going to go talk to this woman.” It was a huge event. There were a lot of people there. I went ahead and emailed and I said, “I’m a publicist. I work with big celebrities. I like what she had to say. Let me know if I can help on the campaign.” Before you know it, I’m in her apartment in West Hollywood and shaking hands with her, talking to her. She was so new to me. I didn’t know a single thing about her. I didn’t know anything about her, but I already had been teaching meditation privately and had already been practicing A Course in Miracles. I found A Course in Miracles when I was ten years old. All of the synchronicity was perfect.
It is interesting because I wouldn’t have known about A Course of Miracles if it wasn’t for Marianne. To your point with her running for president, I remember my friend saying like, “This woman doesn’t have a chance.” Even if they liked her, they thought there’s no way someone her was going to get elected. I thought, “Yes, the chances are slim, but we need someone up there representing these things.” I’m grateful that she spoke her truth despite the fact that the country isn’t fully ready for someone like that. It’s barely ready for a woman as it is, but a woman that’s that progressive and talking about spirituality. It was such a stark contrast to all of the things that Trump’s saying and doing. I’m grateful for her as that reminder that it’s not about finding that perfect president.
It’s about being citizens and us being more conscious individuals. As messianic as she might be, she makes it so clear that it’s up to us and that we have to be the ones that do it. For a lot of the people in her super fan base, which is quite an extensive list of people. A lot of people love her. In that audience, there’s a lot of people that look at her like she’s the second coming. When I see her, I don’t see that. What I see is me. She’s like me to me. When I started to explore her career more, I was like, “I am so much this woman. This is crazy. I did not see that coming.” The rest is history. She was like, “You’d meditate with your PR clients, but you don’t teach meditation?” I was like, “No one’s meditating.” She was like, “If people like you weren’t teaching meditation, of course, they’re not meditating.” She’s always clear and straight forward.
I remember when I saw her speak live for the first time. It was also with Jason at The Saban. I thought, “She goes for it. She doesn’t sugar coat things.” That balance between she’s so strong, but soft at the same time, that is inspiring to me too. It’s funny, Ben, because I see her as someone that I want to grow up to be like. To your point, it’s interesting when we see someone that. Are we already that person, but have we not brought that out of ourselves yet in a way? To hear how she brought this huge part of your career out of you through that one line that she said is remarkable.If people all work together, different needs can be met more efficiently. Click To Tweet
That’s a gift that she has. I’ve seen with a lot of people. She’s inspired a lot of people and people she’s barely even met say that she changed their lives. It’s not that I’m already on her level. She’s a different person in a lot of ways than me. It’s that I see her excellence as an invitation to me to level my game up and to be more involved myself and to learn more myself. She studies, she reads, she learns, she’s out there, leveling her game up. I like that. I see it almost like a challenge and to be able to work for her on her congressional campaign was incredible. She then later endorsed my first book and was very supportive of it. She shared a lot and was a complete angel to me. She texted me one day and she said, “Darling, I’m running for president.” That changed everything. I was like, “I’m quitting everything and working for you.”
That’s remarkable as well. I would do the same thing in a heartbeat. Jason, it reminds me of the first time I met her. Jason and Marianne were both speaking at this event. I wonder if you were there too, Ben. It was called Wellspring. It was in Palm Springs. It was an offshoot of Commune combined with Wanderlust. Were you there?
Yes, I was there with Unplug Meditation.
Which is also somebody that Jason’s worked with. There are so many connections here we’re putting together. Jason had a book signing and he wrapped up his book signing. Before he could leave the table that he was at, Marianne Williamson walked over to do her book signing. She sat down right next to him and introduced ourselves to both of us graciously before this huge line of people showed up for her. We have a photo of that. Along with this photo of Jason, grinning from ear to ear. Jason, not only are you sitting next to her with your book but weren’t you holding up her book? Did she sign it for you?
It was such a special moment because I knew Marianne was going to be at Wellspring and many other wonderful friends and colleagues that I had never had a chance to have maybe a deeper, more meaningful interaction with. I had planned if I meet Marianne, I’m going to have her sign my original first-run copy of A Return to Love. It’s dog-eared and weathered. I’ve had this book for so many years and I thought, “If I catch her and it’s a good moment, I’m going to ask her to sign it.” Lo and behold, she sits down right next to me for the book signing. Before she got started, we introduced ourselves and said, “Marianne, would you be so kind as to autograph this book?”
I pulled it out and it’s this dog-eared, weathered copy. She’s like, “Absolutely.” She reminds me of my mother. Her demeanor, her temperament, her even keel, her ferocity and her compassion. There are so many intrinsic elements of what I’ve gleaned from my interactions with her and then seeing her on a stage. Every single time, I’m like, “You remind me so much of my mom.” Someday I hope to tell her that because it’s a compliment. The interesting thing too, Ben, that I wanted to go a little bit deeper into the intersection of spirituality and politics. I remember when I was watching Marianne speak, the next day, there would be some caricature, Saturday Night Live skit or something on Last Week with John Oliver, where they would be making fun of the fact that she was introducing the ideas of love, compassion, equanimity, fairness into the political conversation.
It’s almost like they were trying to make the idea of love, fairness, equanimity and an esoteric type of conversation. It’s like, “When did love become an esoteric conversation?” For me, my curiosity to you is when we see in the political sphere in our culture so much, especially coming out of the darkness during the Trump administration, we’re seeing so much anger of don’t give people things for free, don’t support people. People ought to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, no free handouts. There’s a lot of rhetoric of we take care of ourselves and anyone outside of our little circle, good luck. Fend for yourselves. It makes me wonder why love, compassion, equanimity and fairness seem to get such a visceral reaction from people on a spiritual level. What do you think that’s about? Why do you think people are so resistant to the idea of helping and loving one another?
You’re bringing up a lot of good points. The entire culture, the pop culture reality of all these different shows, these comedians, they have their audience based on making fun of people. We don’t have a culture that’s built on fairly discussing people. We have a culture that’s built on making fun of people. We could sit here and talk neuroscience and how it’s more shallow, it’s easier to understand. It’s a quicker process. You get a quicker laugh, a quicker dope release. We’re in an instant gratification world. A lot of people don’t realize Instagram literally means instant gratification. That’s what it comes down to. That’s what it’s from. That’s what the name means.
That’s the field, that’s the game board that we’re playing on. One little corner of the game board is politics and it, unfortunately, affects everything else. There were definitely these very interesting conversations where it’s like, “When did prayer become something we can’t talk about? When did love become so unusual and so strange?” Our community learned a lot through all of that because Marianne is such a good teacher. She reminded everyone who was willing to listen that the Suffragette Movement came from the spiritual community and the religious communities. The Abolitionist Movement came from the religious communities. If we’re going to talk spiritual, the forces of darkness, the lower nature, the forces of greed. Lower nature is how I refer to it in the book, Modern Spirituality, my newest book.
That’s where the greed and the selfishness and those kinds of energy dynamics come into play. There are animalistic tendencies. The idea with the government is that when we come together, we can override, we can overcome our lower, more basic needs. If we’re all working together, we can have all of our different needs met more efficiently, many hands make light work. Over time, over thousands of years, we’ve had to battle against the lower nature. The Bible says we don’t battle against flesh and blood. We battle against principalities and powers. That means a principality is the perfect, pure archetypical concentration of a concept like greed. We’re not battling against this person. We’re battling against the corruption in their consciousness that’s causing them to partner with the principality greed. It’s this idea that every soul is of infinite value.
Every individual person is valuable, lovable and good. Corruption sets in. The reason we don’t want to give each other the freebies or the handouts, so to speak, is partially because we’re afraid that there won’t be enough to go around and I won’t get what I need. Also, because propaganda is real and active. We talk about marketing psychology. Another word for marketing psychology is called mind control. There are all these different subtle mind control marketing psychology techniques worked into campaigns, some more sophisticated than others. They say, “Don’t give that person a handout.” They overemphasize, they’ll market and promote, “Don’t do this handout.” Meanwhile, they’ll silently, without a trace, facilitate an enormous handout to a different population. If you look at what we’re doing, we’re not that opposed to handouts. What we seem to be opposed to is knowing about them. We like super-rich people. We worship them like royalty. It’s the royalty in the world now. We could hardly care about someone who’s noble or wise. We’re more attracted to someone who’s ultra-rich.
This is an interesting offshoot in these terms of creating pseudo deities in our culture of rich people, famous people, celebrities that are worshiped as our kings and our queens in modern society. The concept of materialism is interesting in relation to spirituality. To me, if one is to adopt a philosophy or belief system that God is all spirit is all, then money, houses, fancy watches, yachts and Lamborghini’s are all God, as much as the pebble, the stone, the person living in the dirt. If it’s all God, then the interesting thing comes in to this concept of unchecked capitalism and materialism.
It’s something that I struggle with sometimes because I acknowledge that I have material desires. Sometimes I find myself being like, “You know don’t need that. Why do you want that? What do you think that thing is going to say about you? Do you think it’s going to get you more approval, attention, significance or recognition? Is that why you want it? Do you want it because all your friends are getting it?” The intersection of spirituality, capitalism and materialism is such a nuanced conversation. My question is for both of you is how do we reconcile our material desires and this incredible unchecked wealth and seeing people rewarded for it with our spiritual practice in life? How does that manifest for you for both of you?
The idea that initially comes to mind is a metaphysical universal law. It’s up there with the Law of Attraction and repulsion, but it’s not as popular. It’s called the Law of Consecration. To consecrate something is to make it sacred and holy. The Law of Consecration indicates and says that all things are holy, all things belong to God. Even when you have wealth, when you do have a car or a possession of any kind, you’re temporarily the custodian of that thing, but it’s God’s. The metaphysical Law of Consecration is the recognition that if a door is not locked, anyone can go in and whoever has the key can go in. We have rules, laws and boundaries that we’ve put into place around ownership to protect ownership.
We say possession/ownership is nine-tenths of the law. Theoretically, I don’t know how true that statement is. The idea is that first and foremost, everything in the entire universe belongs to God. Everything that lives in the universe is a creation of God. If there is life, there’s divinity. Life is spirit. Life is divinity. That’s the premise of this idea. When we think that way we realize everybody does need a home. One of the things that Marianne Williamson said that stood out to me was, “This country should not be run like a business. This country should be run a family.” Let me tell you a couple of things about this house. If I’m the father of this house, guess what? Everyone gets somewhere safe and warm to sleep.
If I’m the father of this house, everyone gets something to eat. Everyone gets an education, healthcare and clothes. Everyone gets to use a clean bathroom to bathe themselves and take care of themselves. That’s how you run a family. We’re clearly not doing that. We have separate families, we have separate tribes. My religions, your religion. My community, your community. A lot of these questions are more existential and it seems to me, and then I want to hear from you, Whitney that all this talk of a massive awakening, a global transformation, a pole shift of whatever people are saying, it’s happening. It’s happening because we’re asking these exact questions because what happens when you ask a question, answers manifest.
Jason, you’re going to have to help me remember the name of the speaker that we saw years ago at another conference. It was the Longevity Conference. There was a woman whose name is escaping me at the moment that was talking about different levels of consciousness. Is this ringing a bell to you, Jason? She was saying how it’s almost like an apartment building and we’ll be on one floor, but somebody could be on the floor underneath or above. That’s not to say that one is better than the other, but that we’re simply on a different floor than somebody else. If we look at our consciousness or our perspectives on lives and one point that you make in your book, Modern Spirituality, Ben, is about the stories we tell ourselves and how we have these core beliefs. Jason, do you remember the name of that speaker? She’s also an author.
It was Caroline Myss.
That stuck with me because it was such a great visual perspective on this. How it’s not that we’re supposed to get in our ego and say like, “I’m more evolved than you,” which is a huge issue. We see this play out in politics. It’s like, “I’m better than you.” We have all this fact-checking that goes on about like, “Did you say the right or wrong thing?” What’s sad to me about politics is that it does separate us. We’re not at a place of unity yet. We’re at a place of people looking at this side versus that side, right versus wrong. This is part of the reason I felt uncomfortable talking about who I was voting for, even though anyone who knows me, it’s pretty clear that I’m not Republican. Also, I realized that I’ve been in this bubble of my own thoughts, my own beliefs.
There’s so much about the Republican perspective or people that support Donald Trump that I don’t understand. I have to walk my talk. I shouldn’t be judging other people because they are Republican or because they did vote for Donald Trump. That was an interesting thing that came up a lot. Some of my friends who I consider very spiritual did get to this place where they were saying things like, “If you say that you’re voting for Donald Trump, I’m going to debate you on it or I’m not going to be friends with you anymore.” I kept wondering like, “Is that the best way to go about this? Just because of somebody who they’re voting for or voted for, you’re going to cut them out of your life?” I’m curious about your perspectives on that, Ben.
That’s a tricky one. It’s a bipolar political system, left and right. The challenge that we see with all of that is that we’re not meant to be bipolar individuals. We’re not meant to be a bipolar nation. We’re multifaceted. We have a lot that we want to do, a lot that we want to experience and a lot of opinions that move around. To have such a large nation with so much influence over so many people have an institutionalized bipolar system is insane. That’s a bummer, to begin with. When it comes to our relationships, because of this bipolarity, we’re going to have people who are on one end or the other of that bipolarity. It’s a tricky one for me too because the only thing that evil needs to succeed is for good people to do nothing.
It’s a tricky situation because we have to speak the truth. You mentioned when talking about Marianne Williamson, what you said was she speaks her truth. One thing that we talked about on the campaign was that she was speaking the big truth. The big truth with a capital T, the truth that’s going to always be true, which is more than her truth. It’s more than my truth. It’s more than your truth. It’s universal truths. With all of these different ideas, we have to realize we’re dealing with the minds of people. The mind of an individual who was raised in a certain religion, what’s a universal truth to this person? That God is this, people are that and the devil is this. That’s a universal truth to this person.
Meanwhile, the English language is improving in its ability to be utilitarian. It’s getting better and better, more advanced with every generation. We’re using the language more effectively. We’re still looking at the old interpretations of these ancient words. English is utilitarian and ancient languages like Aramaic, Greek, Latin, Sanskrit and Pali, these languages are poetic. Those ancient languages have a magic to them, a poetic symbolism programmed into them. We’re trying to study them with utilitarian minds. Too many people are looking at these old things and completely misunderstanding them and misinterpreting them. What they believe is spiritual is a distorted belief around something. There’s a question at play about what truth is and this is where every individual has to show up for ourselves.
We have to say, “I’m alive right now. Only I’m in charge of my soul and only I’m in charge of my body and my mind. I’m going to make the decisions that are going to make the most sense for what I’m seeing. I’m going to try to do the right thing that I see is the right thing to do.” That’s what I see Marianne doing. She’s trying to do the right thing. She ran because she thinks that that was the right thing to do. She didn’t run because she had a professional or career ambitions in that direction. I know this woman. She’s not ambitious in the traditional sense. She likes to do what the right thing is. When we’re looking at these tricky situations like spirituality and politics, it comes down to what does spirituality mean to you and how is that going to translate into these different things? Here’s the thing. Some stuff is not cool. It’s hard to say, “Is it my place to correct you on that?” Sometimes it is your place to correct someone on their dysfunctional view. Sometimes it is the right thing to do to say something that might even seem uncouth, faux pas or impolite in a situation. Something Marianne says, “It’s not negative to yell fire if the house is on fire.”
That is such a great way to describe this because it gives you a visual. That answers the question that I was thinking of as you were speaking, Ben. There are things about Donald Trump that I am strongly against. We have to stand up against things like racism and any of these major judgments and discriminations we have. If somebody is representing that, certainly I’m not in alignment with it, but it does come back to this idea of like, “I’m strongly against those ideas, but I’m sure there are things that appeal to people that are outside of those ideas.” Maybe I’m from a place of overly compassion. I imagine there are good qualities in Donald Trump that some people see and I might not be able to see them, but there’s got to be more to him than those belief systems.
There are a couple of interesting things that you’re bringing up. At the beginning of the COVID pandemic, Donald Trump did these daily briefings and they were two hours long. Some people sat there and watched them every single day. I was there with my dad and he was one of those people that watched them every single day. We sure learned a lot about each other on that visit. What was so interesting to me is if you sit there and watch him speak, you see Donald Trump being relatable and he’s casual. There’s a lot of people that feel like he’s speaking to them. He says things like they make perfect sense.Everything that lives in the universe is a creation of God. If there is life, there's divinity. Click To Tweet
Most importantly, he’ll say things that are not true to justify certain things. I don’t have an immediate example, but there was a period of time when I was working for a presidential candidate. We were fact-checking ourselves and fact-checking what he was saying and doing so that we could make sure that we were campaigning ethically. What I discovered was this is a master manipulator we’re dealing with. It’s hard because a true supporter is not going to want to hear that. They’re not going to be receptive to that. The same goes for someone who’s a true blue Biden supporter. I was happy with the choice.
I voted for Biden, you could say I was happy with it. It’s not who I voted for in the primary. I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary and I’ve found Bernie Sanders through Marianne Williamson. She introduced me to him and that’s how that came through. The thing that I see with all of it is this idea that even the racism, it’s not something that these people are saying, “I’m openly a racist person so I’m going to elect my racist candidate.” We have these unconscious things that make us make decisions. When they say, “You’re all calling us racist. Every single Republican’s racist.” They start to feel offended. They feel shamed.
I know a lot of Republicans that don’t identify as racist and I also know some of them have very seriously dysfunctional views of people of other races and limited thinking. I have to say, I do have a little bit of a concern that it might be aggravated through isolation and quarantine. Part of how I learned about the world is travel. Going to Egypt, going to different nations in Africa, going to the Philippines, going to Thailand, going to Costa Rica, going to different parts of Mexico. That’s how I learned. That’s how I became cultured. That’s part of how I learned these things that I was taught when I was a little kid, we’re one teeny tiny little part of a much bigger puzzle.
That also reminds me of something that you cover in your book about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It’s such a fascinating thing to examine because as you show in there, which is on page 83.
In Modern Spirituality, page 83. It’s such a colorful, beautiful page. It’s one of my favorite pages in the book.
Who doesn’t live all these colors? Obviously, I’m a visual learner too. These always helped me. You show this pyramid of these needs and at the very base, it’s the physiological needs. When we go back to this idea of being on different floors of an apartment building or levels of consciousness, some people are focused on their basic needs and not everybody has an easy time meeting those needs. To your point, when somebody comes around and is good at manipulating the public and convincing them that they’re going to meet those needs, which is not happening in our politics, of course. This happens in our personal relationships with family members, friends and romantic partners. Somebody can easily convince us that they’re going to meet our needs.
Since that is so important to us as human beings, we might disregard all of these other elements or we might not be ready to level up to the other needs like our esteem, our cognitive, our self-actualization. That also reminds me of something that came across our email inbox for me and Jason, which was somebody who enrolled in one of our courses through somebody she was referred to our course from somebody else. She didn’t know me or Jason and she didn’t even know much about our course, but she signed up for it. Within a day of signing up, she emailed us saying that she wanted to be taken out of the chorus because we covered meditation. It was such a fascinating email to receive because our course is not about meditation, but meditation is a huge part of the work that Jason I do.
That’s why it’s so wonderful to have you on here, Ben because we love exploring this and what it means to meditate and be spiritual. We integrate that into a lot of our work. This course specifically is The Consistency Code. That course is about creating habits that are sustainable for your life. We believe that meditation is either a path to achieving your habits, but also something that should become a habit for you. We mentioned meditation in one of our emails and got these two emails from this woman, almost as if she was panicking. She said, “I’m not comfortable with meditation. I want to be taken out of this course.” It’s not a meditation course, it’s a five-minute part of an hour-long training that we did, but that one five minutes disturbed her. Stepping back, I was thinking, “I wish I understood. What is it about meditation that frightens this woman so much?”
It’s the religious consciousness. I like religion. I like spirituality. I liked studying different religions. The difference between religious and spiritual, religious is someone who’s going to rigidly commit to structures or rules that they don’t necessarily understand or that there aren’t clear intentions behind. Spiritual is someone who’s going to be more present and can make decisions accordingly. My first book, Practical Meditation for Beginners was intended to present meditation in a secular, non-religious, scientific, therapeutically, psychologically viable context so that you could practice different meditation techniques and even more advanced techniques. I got a lot of backlash from that book. You think a book called Practical Meditation for Beginners would not be that big of a deal.
Honestly, it sounds controversial.
It was, for two main reasons. One direction was I got some backlash from the Buddhist and Hindu communities saying that some of the techniques I was introducing were not for beginners and that they were very advanced techniques and they have no place in a beginner’s book. Another criticism I received was from the Christian community saying that meditation is one of the ways that the devil gets people to let go of Jesus so demons can occupy them. You can be possessed by demons. First of all, it didn’t feel like you understood meditation. I also felt like, “Maybe read my book because you’re not emptying your brain out.” There was a whole lot to unpack and that was part of why I wrote my second book, Meditations on Christ, to be able to introduce meditation and meditation techniques to a Christian audience that understood it a little bit better.
There are people who aren’t Christian who feel similarly about meditation. They don’t understand it. They don’t know what it is. What I’m seeing is this movement towards massive bipolarities. One of my friends, Gerry Powell, who’s the owner of Rythmia Life Advancement Center in Costa Rica, where I teach my retreats twice a year. As soon as COVID happened, I was there when the lockdowns happened. We had to end my retreat early. They sent me back to America and he said, “Two things are going to happen. The church is going to go way up and so is sin.” Some people get particular in one direction. Other people get particular in another direction. What we’re seeing is the fact that there’s a major unfolding of massive and collective stressors all around us.
People don’t know how to deal with it. You want to say, “Meditation can help you deal with it.” It’s not going to work for everybody because some people are even going to get triggered by that. In my mind, meditation is important, but the reason my third book is Daily Mindfulness. I put an emphasis on physical exercises more so in that one, as well as philosophical reflections. In the most recent book, Modern Spirituality, I openly say like, “All of the ancient traditions have a couple of things in common. One, everyone is good. Everyone’s divine in their original nature.” We got to back up a little bit on our harsh judgments of each other.
Another thing that they all agree on is that there will be a great event that takes place. They all prophesied of a great event that will take place that will initiate an era of peace. To the Christians, it will be the second coming of Christ. He will return in glory and every knee will bow. Every tongue will confess that Christ is Lord and he will reign. He will rule as King of Earth for 1,000 years of peace. In the Buddhist tradition, there is the future and final Buddha whose name is Maitreya. The Maitreya will incarnate, reign and rule over 1,000 years of peace. Everyone in the world will be blessed by this peace through this Maitreya Buddha. In the Hindu traditions, we have the Kalki avatar, who is the final incarnation of Krishna. We also of course know that Krishna and Christ have similar etymological roots. One of the core, most ancient definitions of the word Christ means truth. One of the oldest definitions of the word Krishna means truth.
We’re talking about the truth here. When you start to see other traditions saying similar prophecies about the future, there might be something to it. When you start to study those prophecies, you start to realize they’re all talking about the same thing. It’s not necessarily the way we’ve always thought about it. It’s not necessarily that one guy is going to come and fix it all. It’s that something’s going to change. Of course, how could I leave out the Jewish tradition? They don’t even think the Messiah came in the first place. They’re still waiting for the Messiah who will set everyone free and reign over a peaceful world. All these different things, all of our ancient ancestors have been talking about something’s going to happen and we’re all going to get along.
My theory on it, it’s us. We’re here. We are the Buddha. We are the Christ. Some people find that offensive. If you’re Christian, you don’t understand your own religion if you’re not trying to be more Jesus. If you’re Buddhist, you don’t understand your own religion if you’re not trying to become your own Buddha. The idea in my mind is this is not a little thing that we’re trying to undertake. This is a huge thing that all of our ancestors that no one in history has ever been able to do, which is inaugurate a peaceful, collaborative sense across the globe. Something that you talked about, Whitney, is levels of consciousness as described by Caroline Myss. The two things to look at with consciousness are states and stages. States of consciousness versus stages of consciousness.
The elevator example is good. I’m going to use more real-world examples. Someone who has been praying, meditating, trying to open their mind, trying to advance themselves and seeking truth over a long period of time will accumulate. They’ll get better and better. They’ll learn. That will take them to a higher stage of consciousness. Someone who does ayahuasca is going to enter into a very high state of consciousness. The state of consciousness is temporary and the stage of consciousness is consistent. A stage of consciousness is related to more climate, whereas a state of consciousness is like the weather.
My stage of consciousness is who I am, how I am, how I’m showing up in the world, the progression of who I’ve become, who I am and who I’m becoming. The state of consciousness is I’m triggered right now or I’m enlightened right now because I’m super present. The list goes on. When we start to realize that with one person, you can have varying combinations of states and stages of consciousness, varying combinations of understandings and misunderstandings about the world, about the universe, about each other and ourselves. We realize that there are seven billion of us. It’s like, “Everyone take a deep breath. We got our work cut out for us.”
That’s such a wonderful distinction, Ben. It brought up so many things for me to respond to that wonderful explanation. The first thing, which I have to laugh at myself, is that I have noticed over the years that I have a bit of jealousy flare up sometimes when I perceive someone had a certain spiritual experience. Maybe the more accurate terminology would be like, what am I doing wrong or what’s wrong with me? Specific examples of this would be when I have spoken to friends and acquaintances, many of which we probably all know of their experience with lucid dreaming. Being able to somehow manipulate an out of body experience themselves on a consistent level and being like, “I want to learn how to do that.” Doing the techniques that they’ve shown and then not being able to do it.
I’m being like, “Why the hell did it work for them?” There’s this fascinating aspect to people striving to “be more spiritual,” be more conscious, self-aware, enlightened that almost I’ve noticed myself trying to gamify it. Put it in a context of like, “You need to do these steps so you can become more self-aware like that person, lucid dream like that person or be able to channel spirits like that person.” I found that it doesn’t work that way. It’s almost as if there’s an inexplicable, almost wordless sense of grace in moments that I have had where I have felt so deeply connected to the earth life. Real experiences of oneness that words almost can’t encapsulate.
It wasn’t because I did certain steps to get there, I hacked it or had a formula to feel oneness. Maybe it’s these years of practice you described, the accumulation of these experiences. Maybe we do get graced with these kinds of moments that we can’t invoke instantly. Maybe they come to us. It’s such a fascinating thing that I reflect on these moments of my life. It wasn’t because it was like, “Open all your chakras, here we go. Are you ready? All the work we’ve done to get to this moment of oneness.” It’s like it happened without me forcing or invoking it.
That’s one of the higher ways. That’s a gift. Thank you for sharing that. In Kabbalah, they say there are two paths back to God. One path is the path of pain. It’s not even technically a path because you’re already on it. All of us are automatically on the path of pain. There’s the path of what they call Torah and mitzvot, which essentially amounts to study and practice or joy. The path of pain versus the path of joy, the automatic path of the default reaction to life and then the path of study and practice. The thing is no. In those individual moments that you’re describing, it doesn’t sound you did a ritual, got the right crystals, the right candle and said the right mantra. You were present. Sometimes, to experience presence does take Torah and mitzvot. It does take study and practice over years of time. I love that you are working so much with the concept of consistency. When he said that the class was called The Consistency Code, that’s powerful, doing something consistently.
When I’m meditating and practicing, am I over here thinking, “I’m going to be a Jesus and I’m going to go perform miracles?” No, that’s not the deal. It’s because I feel called to a higher thing so I implement my practice, but we have to be humble. Also, there has to be a sense of proportion. When it does come to those special gifts, people who have instantaneous healings or out-of-body experiences or what we call spiritually transformative experiences, STEs of any kind. The real gifts, that’s what I’m talking about. It’s less about the moments, but more about the gifts, the skills. Someone who can lucid dream on command, someone who makes great decisions, someone who can create beautiful art, someone who can sing beautifully, someone who can write well and someone who can understand certain things well. All of these are gifts.
When you think about it, a gift versus a competition or a comparative thing, it’s helpful to start to think a little bit like in the secular spiritual mythos of comic books, stories and narratives like Superman. Superman came from Krypton. His planet was dying. They put them in a pod. They sent him to Earth and Earth is a totally different solar system than where he’s from. His skin, his eyes and everything reacts differently to the yellow sun. Where he’s from, there’s a red sun. The yellow sun gives him all these powers on this planet. Over time, he starts to meet all these other members of the Justice League or whatever. Everyone has different powers and different gifts because not everyone’s a Kryptonian. He’s a Kryptonian.
For me, you could line a whole building with kryptonite and it wouldn’t affect me in the same way that it would affect Kal-el, Superman, because I’m not a Kryptonian. When I was a little kid, I had astral projection experiences and lucid dreaming. Those are things that I never necessarily made a long-term life practice of creating in my life. Some people think that that’s good. For me, when you start to find yourself saying, “I’m going to channel this thing. I’m going to channel this entity or this spirit. I’m going to do this magical ritual.” To me, all of that feels a distraction from the thing that the universe is taking you through, the thing that God is already taking you through.Try to manifest getting better at the things you're already pretty good at. Click To Tweet
These could be ways to cope through it. There could be ways to reinforce intentions, but when we start to put the power in the rose quartz rather than in your heart, you’re missing the point. Let’s say you’re doing a love spell ritual. The point of having the pink and the red candles, the rose petals, the rose oil, the rose quartz, all that lovely pink and red stuff is to get you in the mood so that your energy can be ready to go for love, to get you ready for love. The whole thing of setting an intention around abundance isn’t to supernaturally bend the laws of the universe so that you win the lottery. I always say, if you’re trying to manifest winning the lottery, you don’t understand manifesting. What’s better is you trying to manifest getting better and better at the things you’re already pretty good at. Generating wealth from your own thing, from your own gifts, from your own space. Some people are channelers, maybe you’re not a channeler. Maybe you have other gifts.
This thing that you’ve been talking about in studying so many world religion, seeing so many commonalities and similar archetypes, similar themes, similar life lessons, I’m curious to loop that back, Ben, to suffering. The idea of suffering as a means or a mechanism to growth and spiritual evolution. This is a nuanced thing because if we look especially at the suffering of 2020, I’m not blaming 2020, but this has been a year of, in many cases, a lot of deep pain and collective suffering and individual suffering. Certainly, it would seem that to loop that back to the religious thread, through that the concept of Armageddon, Kali Yuga, all of these kinds of themes before these archetypes of saviors or Messiah’s return is a collapsed destruction, breakdown and reformation of earth and society.
With suffering, it makes me think about are we all subconsciously, to a degree, bringing about a proverbial Armageddon, Kali Yuga and rebirth of the planet because maybe we all know that it needs to be transformed? It’s a longer question of what is the purposefulness of suffering and all of this, not on an individual level, but the collective suffering we’re all going through right now. What do you think is the purpose of all of it?
First of all, you’re bringing up such important stuff. There’s individual suffering and collective suffering. One of the things that I loved about A Course in Miracles is that there’s only one miracle that ever needs to be performed. That miracle must be performed in infinite ways. It is the correction of our worldview. It’s the transition from a perspective based on division, fear and lack to a perspective based on unity, love and infinite resources. The idea of all this suffering, there’s this idea like you’re talking about breaking down society, rebuilding the collapse. What that brings up for me is the fact that society is a manifestation of our collective expressions. It’s what we’ve done together. It’s what we’ve created together. Society is what we’ve done. Nature is what God did and society is what we’ve done.
The reality of our connection to God takes us into this deep place where we start to realize there’s some stuff we know that we don’t realize we know. There’s plenty of things that we don’t know that we don’t realize that we don’t know. It’s the part of wisdom to say sometimes things must be disassembled, rethought and recreated. In the Judeo-Christian scriptures, in the beginning, God created. What’s the first action we ever know about God is creativity, creation, taking something and creating something out of nothing, creating something new. To access our creativity is to create something new.
What I see is the need for a Renaissance of creativity when it comes to government and society. That’s one of the most important things I see, but then also the recognition that we aren’t separate from nature and therefore not separate from God. Let’s say, you two are like, “2020 is coming. We’re going to have our New Year’s resolutions good to go and let’s go get our BMI done so we know what our body fat percentage is. We know what our muscle percentages and let’s set some real goals for ourselves.”
To build more muscle, you’ve got to break down what’s there so that there’s room for something new. There’s so much that could happen, but sometimes that could happen that you don’t even have the container for it. I see this thing that we are collectively, maybe unconsciously co-creating, one notion of the end time, so to speak, that I was raised with is this idea that the final war would not be a war of weapons. It would be a war of ideas and intelligence, which we are clearly in now.
We’re clearly there. We’re in a world of ideas. It does stand to reason that if we want to have a new millennium resolution together, like you, Jason and Whitney, might have a resolution to get into the best shape of your lives in 2021. Humanity might say, “Why don’t we get our shit together as a New Year’s resolution?” Some of that is going to be hard. If you’ve ever tried to do perfect push-ups, there’s only so many you can do before your butt starts sticking up in the air and you start to maybe not go down all the way.
Why? It’s hard. You’re breaking down those muscle fibers, it’s not as easy. Now, what do you got to do? You got to rest a little bit. Those muscle fibers, those tears, those micro contusions that have happened because of the exercise can be healed and fill in. What happens? The muscle is stronger. The muscles more toned. When you break a bone, if you reset that bone correctly, you nurture it and you facilitate the correct conditions for healing, it will be stronger where it was broken. There are areas in our society where we can say, “Let’s do this.” I’m not saying we need to take a baseball bat to the shins of society, but maybe take society to the gym. Let’s do some lat pulldowns as a society.
What I mean is not necessarily actual fitness exercise by the humans of society. What I mean is let’s look at it as a collaborative art project. Sometimes in art, you’ve got to break it down. You’ve got to trim stuff away. In design and art, it’s not always about adding more. Sometimes it’s about taking something away too. There’s an exercise, a building and strengthening. There’s also a finesse, a style and an art to it all. That’s why in my book, I talk about healing as an art, not the healing arts as in I’m going to come heal you because I’m an artist and I’m a healer and healing is my modality or whatever, even though that’s the thing too.
What I’m talking about is the art of your own life. An expression that I use in the book Modern Spirituality is Akashic theater. We sometimes hear people talk about the Akashic records. The Akashic records are everything that’s ever taken place in the entire universe is recorded. It’s imprinted in the universe. It can be accessed through the Akashic records. What I like to think of it is an Akashic theater. The Akasha theater is who is Jason? What is this character of Jason? What is this character of Whitney? Who is Ben Decker? We get to self-create. We’re the director of the play that we’re in and we get to deliver it. You learn the true test of the human’s character is when they are unwitnessed, when they’re doing things when no one sees them. What are they doing in private behind closed doors? Who they are?
Something Marianne says is, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” I believe that’s from The Twelve-step Community. There’s something very powerful about the year 2020. Yes, we can say 2020 brought all kinds of craziness, but 2020 it’s almost like the 20/20 vision. It’s like we put our glasses on. We collectively put our glasses on and now we’re looking around and seeing how filthy the kitchen is, how filthy the whole house is, the challenges that do surround us because we can see them right now. Sure, we didn’t have a particular pandemic that we could name that was one thing covering the entire globe, but we did. It was selfishness, greed, delusion, separateness and all these other things that we could sit here and say that have been plaguing the entire planet or that they are a global pandemic.
I see 2020 as a time when we are seeing what’s already there. For me, maybe I’m a little bit of an ambitious person. For me, I’m like, “If Jason gets it, if Whitney gets it, if Marianne gets it, if all these people that are reading this get it, we might be able to get into the best shape of our lives. If we’re in it together, we might be able to do something.” When you have a personal trainer, if you’ve ever worked with a personal trainer use, they do that diagnostic, they do that assessment. You see them, you see what they’ve demonstrated with their own body. It’s like, “I might be able to do something. I might be able to get into excellent shape because of the possibility that this person created by being here in this process with me.”
That’s what Marianne represents. That’s what you guys represent with your show. I strive to represent that also with the content that I release into the world. We are the personal trainers. We’re the AA sponsor that humanity needs right now. Does the AA sponsor have all the answers? No. The AA sponsor also needs to work hard on their own self-care. The AA sponsor also has to make sure they don’t get triggered. The personal trainer still has to go to the gym. That’s what I liked about Marianne running for president. One of the first things I said after it was all very public, I said, “Marianne Williamson is the AA sponsor America needs right now.”
I love the subject matter too, Ben, because the way that I was originally introduced to your work was I was volunteering for a while at DEN Meditation, which was a transformative experience for me. For the reader, the DEN, I know they shut down their La Brea location where I used to go. We have the one in the Valley, Studio City.
It’s COVID stuff. I’m optimistic that they’ll be able to reopen. No one has taken over that space. No one has remodeled it. It’s still as is, just empty.
I hope so because if you are in Los Angeles as a reader or visiting, DEN Meditation is a magical place truly. It was a huge part of my meditation journey because when I was volunteering there, I was going several times a week. I probably did some weeks of every single day taking classes from people like Ben and going to different workshops. We had Jason’s 40th birthday party there. They donated the space for us, which was an incredibly magical experience. It was unbelievable. Tal, who runs it, is such an incredible person. Every teacher there where I would have these transformative experiences with them during class after class and on and on. What was interesting about that experience is that I learned about all these different forms of meditation. Before I started going there, I didn’t realize how many different ways you could meditate and how many different styles there are, which is something that was so important to learn.
A lot of people have this very specific view of meditation. I certainly did previous to that. Also, seeing the humanity in the teachers. To your point, Ben, these people are up there leading these classes, leading these workshops and practices. Every class was a little bit different depending on where that teacher was on that day and what the students were in the class, the collective energy that was brought to that room. This is true, I’m sure, of every meditation space, not just the DEN. Being there to witness all the different experiences and know that like yoga, the reason it’s called yoga practice is that it’s not about mastering it. I’ve been doing yoga myself for many years and I don’t feel anywhere close to mastering it because it’s an ongoing practice. It’s not about becoming this perfect Yogi or a perfect meditator. It’s showing up and knowing that the teacher is on the journey like you are as a student.
The expression that we sometimes say is we’re in the era of self-exploration, direct experience versus authoritarian indoctrination. It does express itself in this new spirituality, the modern spirituality of people who have totally different backgrounds, totally different religions, totally different proclivities who sit down together to meditate. That’s a big deal that we can have. One of my roommates is from Syria. Two of them are from Japan. One’s from Australia, two are from Russia. When we meditate together, it is so meaningful to me because we’re in a world where this is even possible. The fact that we can sit together and have these different backgrounds, but also find a new way to express and experience spirituality together. When I did my meditation teacher trainings, when I was teaching, I was certifying all these different teachers and everything who are all now amazing teachers out in the world. I’m like, “You all took my work. I got to do something new.”
When I was in that process, what we emphasized was being a guide on the side versus a Sage on the stage. The idea is the namaste in yoga. Namaste is the divine in me recognizes the divine in you. What I was taught about Jesus when I was growing up, I was taught that he was my brother and I’m about to go do that. If you believe in Him, you’re going to go do greater things than Him. The divine that’s in Him is also in you. My parents named me Benjamin. One of the definitions of what that word means child of God. I was raised being told, “You’re a son of God. Jesus is also a son of God. He’s going to show you what to do.” It’s the idea that even Jesus was supposed to be a guide. We have a world where so many people are like, “I worship you, Jesus. You’re the only God, Jesus.”
Worship however you want. I don’t resonate with some of these older ways of thinking. I feel like Christ consciousness that’s in me, it’s a potential attainment. I was also raised to believe that we didn’t have hell in the Christianity that I was raised in and the highest place in heaven that you could go is when you would become a God or a goddess. There’s a lot of humility that comes. It’s the opposite of what you think. You might think that there’s crazy arrogance that comes in when you think that you will become a God, which it can.
In its most sincere expression, it’s humility that happens when you realize all those little screw-ups that you have, all those weird defects that you’re navigating, there’s a possibility for all of those to be purified and for you to literally manifest divine consciousness. Become a God or become Christ, or become a Buddha or whatever. For me, at least, it is this idea of, in my own private meditation, in the temple of my own heart, me and God have a relationship where I’m trying to let God change me so that I can be a perfect prototype of what God wants me to be. When I’m out in the world and I’m interacting with you guys, I’m one of you guys. I’m not coming to you saying like, “I’m so special. I have all this information and I’m a God.”
We’re here together. That’s what has been so powerful about this movement with the opening of Unplug Meditation and The DEN Meditation and other businesses similar in scope where we get to experience people who have wonderful gifts. One of my clients was like, “What the fuck are you? Where did you come from?” After one of our sessions, he was like, “What was that?” It’s like, “I’m not a Kryptonian. I’m just like you. We’re all in this together. In some moments, more than anything. I need another person to be the strong one so that I don’t have to be in some moments.
The thing you talk about humility, Ben, it’s such an interesting thing when you look at the arc of when a particular human being can get a certain level of attention, notoriety, significance, fame in the spiritual community that we’re seeing. Our community, general community, that we’re in the wellness, spiritual community, maintaining one’s perspective and humility when there are so many temptations for the ego is an interesting thing to look at. Almost archetypically in a lot of the mythologies and religions, this idea of the shift from I suppose the question what do I want toward what does God want or what does life want?
I sit with that question a lot in terms of how can I get better at detecting the nuance between what my ego is communicating it wants versus quietly and patiently listening for what God or life wants to show me. It’s an interesting thing because I literally sit physically between like, “Is this ego? Is this life? Is this God? What is this voice? Where is it coming from it?” It’s almost like getting attuned to the subtleties in my being, letting me know whether that’s ego or whether that’s God, life, spirit. It’s fascinating.
You got to be so honest with yourself in that. That’s where the humility comes into play. You’ve got to be honest. My ego does not want me to blank, so what I’m going to do is blank. The question of what’s the right thing to do, I put that in my book Modern Spirituality. There’s a section about our purpose. The idea, the way I explore it and the way I present it is the notion that we have one shared purpose and that is to love and grow. That’s your purpose. When it comes down to it, there are a lot of different ways that that can express. There are a lot of different ways that that can happen, things that you can do to do that.Nature is what God did, and society is what humans have done. Click To Tweet
I keep forgetting that I included all this in the book. I love that fourth book, Modern Spirituality. I know we were joking beforehand. You’re not supposed to pick a favorite. That’s totally the favorite. I talk about a thousand-armed bodhisattva. This archetypical entity that is living for the highest possible good. In the Buddhist tradition, they believed that Christ was a bodhisattva. There’s a thousand-armed bodhisattva. In each of her hands is a different tool. I sometimes joke she would only need two hands. She would need a phone with 1,000 apps on it. The thing is, it’s about expressing that higher divine purpose in your creative way. Life is a co-creation with God. That’s why it’s the art of healing.
The art of healing implies and indicates that there’s a creative license given to you. It’s not that every single thing God needs to control. Something my mother told me when I was a kid. She said, “Did you pray about that?” It was something that didn’t seem like something we would talk about at church. It was that didn’t seem like we would talk to God about. I was going to acting school and I wanted to get this new agent. I must have been 13 or 14 years old. My mom said, “Did you pray about it? Why don’t you pray about it?” I was like, “I don’t think it matters to God.” She said, “If it matters to you, it matters to God.”
There’s a couple of different facets to an idea that where it’s like, “If it’s important to you, it’s important to God.” Within that, some of these things are our creative decisions. We get to decide how we do our hair. We get to decide what clothes we wear. We get to decide the title of the book. Maybe God has a good idea for your next book, Jason, and maybe he’s down with you picking whatever title you feel like going for. It’s knowing that we’re a part of a process. Sometimes we call it the great plan for evolution and for happiness. There’s another component of our life that’s not part of that plan.
It’s an open space where it’s programmed into the plan for you to have free will, for you to be totally creative in some of those areas. Yes, the ego can say, “This is a free will move,” but that’s where the rubber meets the road. It’s like, “Do whatever you want, but there are other laws in this universe.” It’s like karma. You’re going to have to deal with it. If it’s God’s, if it’s pure, and if it’s God giving you that thing, then you’re going to have good karma, merit, no karma or whatever versus doing something that’s legitimately born of the lower nature. One of the ways that I have a little bit of a chart in Modern Spirituality and it says higher nature and lower nature.
The higher nature is God. It’s that part of you that overlaps with God. The lower nature is the part of you that overlaps with the animal kingdom. There are certain qualities and in my book, Meditations on Christ, I emphasize these. In the Bible in Galatians, there’s something called the fruit of the spirit and the fruit of the spirit are love, joy, generosity, faith, kindness, goodness. Those things manifest when you are tuned into God, when you’re tuned into your higher nature. There are things like greed, lust and violence that manifest when you are operating out of the lower nature or the ego. That’s the diagnostic I work with.
Talking about the rubber meets the road, as we’re coming toward probably closer to the finish line of this particular episode. This is maybe a question for not just you, Ben, but you Whitney as well. How do you wrestle with that? Discerning between ego and the higher calling, literally, what are some of the techniques, if any, that either of you use to try and discern between those voices? Does it get any easier? Are there even techniques to use for this?
I would say a prayer. Asking, getting into a comfortable place. I like to meditate a little before and after prayer to make sure I’m focused on what I’m doing. Sometimes they say prayer is you talking to God, meditation is you listening. If there’s something that’s challenging, you got to pray about it. One time, I was distressed about something big, larger in the world. I was looking at what’s happening in the world. I follow the UN briefings. I was concerned about the typhoon happening in the Philippines and some other things. What was the right thing for me to do because I felt so powerless in the face of all these different challenges?
All I got in the prayer was you have a personal training session scheduled and you need to have your pre-workout 30 minutes before that. I laughed because it was a realization where it’s like, “I have stuff to do right now. I’m going to stick to my commitments right now. I’m going to live now.” Some of these things are not going to be solved right there when we meditate about them or we pray about them. I would say even if you don’t have a full understanding of what God means to you and you don’t have a whole storyline that works for you about what that is, just pray and ask to be guided. Ask for that guidance, ask for the clarity, ask for the signs and the synchronicity and then move in faith. Take action based on that inspiration, that thought or what feels right for you. These are the creative decisions. This is one of those things where sometimes we make good calls, sometimes we don’t. I’d be interested, Whitney, what works for you in that way?
I got so caught up in listening to you, Ben, that I forgot how Jason even phrased his question.
It’s about the higher nature and the lower nature. How do we discern? Are there techniques, practices or exercises to fall back on when we don’t know what that idea or that desire is coming from? Is this desire ego-based or is this desire sacred and divine?
It’s interesting because listening to your response, Ben, I was reflecting on my relationship with religion, spirituality, God, prayer, etc. It’s ever-evolving. I’ve gone through phases where I was going to church, I was reading the Bible and I was being very mindful. I’ve gone through phases where I have meditated more frequently than others and times where I’ve journaled or been into my yoga practice. It’s all been a lot of noticing, I suppose and experimenting, for lack of a better word. Trying to see what feels right to me. I’ve gone through those phases of practicing manifestation and visualization. It’s funny to hear some of your comments about how we can get so confused about what it means to manifest. I’m more curious about it all.
I suppose as I don’t have a regular practice with any of that, I’ve been simply noticing myself each day and trying to take the pressure off of doing any of these things the right way. Even giving myself grace because I haven’t been consistent. As much as we advocate for consistency, sometimes my consistency is simply feeling into myself each day and listening. To your point, Ben, listening to yourself, listening to God and listening to other people, I learned so much from all of that and that practice of listening more than speaking or listening even more than taking action. That has helped me reflect and understand my actions, my thoughts and all of that a lot better than when I’m constantly moving.
Jason and I have spoken so much about how we don’t resonate with productivity and hustle as much as we find that simply resting and giving ourselves permission to do nothing. In a way you can, I was going to say accomplish so much, but even that word accomplish ties back into this hustle culture. I feel sometimes doing less or simply doing nothing teaches me as much, if not more, than trying to do all of these different practices and hopes that I’m going to gain something from them.
It’s deeper than saying that is a greedy thought or a greedy idea. It’s from my lower nature, next. Feeling into yourself, that is a practice and it’s more intimate than a practice that someone else can assign you. It’s developing a relationship with the incarnation that you are. That’s what Jason was saying. He was tuning into those subtleties, those little nuances. Sometimes I’ll even do guided active imagination dialogues is what we call them where you will sit there. One thing you can do is have Voltaire, Mozart and Jesus sit in a room and let them know what you’re concerned about and hear their advice.
Another thing you can do is sit there and have different aspects of yourself sit in a council together. There’s a part of me over there that still does that hustle thing and likes to be hopped up on caffeine, get a bunch of stuff done and high five. There’s another part of me over there that’s super Zen and it’s like, “No, that’s not the way. Let it flow.” There’s another part of me that is insert different aspects of ourselves all around and you can hear the different parts of your own mind and the different dimensions of yourself explaining themselves, saying what they need and where they came from. You develop that discernment and that relationship with yourself. The biggest thing is knowing your identity. Who are you? That’s a hard one, but what it’s come down to for me is I’m a good person trying to do the right thing. I’m trying to be a loving person.
I know that I’m in this big universe with all kinds of stuff that I’m never going to understand, but I want to understand it. There’s a bodhisattva vow and it says, “The Dharma is unknowable. I vow to know it.” It’s like the meaning of life, the purpose of life, the purpose of this whole universe is unknowable, but I vow to know it. It’s that paradox existing within the dimension of a paradox, allowing oneself to expand and knowing that it’s not always going to be perfect. It’s a beautiful, artistic way of dancing and moving through life.
That’s an eloquent way of explaining and summarizing this because that there’s a big difference between, as you were saying, manifesting because you want to make more money. “I’m going to use this tactic to get something that my ego wants or that is going to serve me.” I used to do all sorts of practices, hoping that they would help me manifest the right romantic partner in my life. I remember going through these phases of like, “I’m going to try repeating this mantra over and over again.” As you were saying, I’m going to bring in the rose quartz, I’m going to grid my house and I’m going to write out a list of everything I want.
I was actively pressing myself constantly to do the right things in order to bring this person about in my life. Ultimately, it was like forcing something as opposed to allowing it. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that allowing process. There’s nothing wrong with going through those practices. I certainly love rose quartz. I love music, mantras and meditate, all of these things that we’ve been talking about, but there’s a big difference between enjoying them for the sake of enjoying them versus using them for some ego-based gain or trying to manipulate something to get what I want versus simply being with them.
All of this is such a wonderful balance between maybe some of these longer, more existential musings and practical things that we can do every day to feel better in our bodies. It seems that in our entire conversation, there seems to be an interesting balance of these may be more long-form esoteric musings about who am I, what am I, what is my purpose? What am I here to do? Where’s my popcorn? The important questions in life. The practical rubber meets the road daily practices that we can use to cultivate more balance, peace, wholeness, stillness, action or whatever it is that wants to arise in us. I feel we could go on literally for hours and hours with you.
We definitely need to hang out because it’s been far too long and I have loved immensely the deep dive we’ve taken with you. It feels we could literally have one of those five-hour Joe Rogan podcasts with you, which may be for the future. We’ll sit down when we hang out and have a cup of tea and record that too. What’s on your holiday list, Ben? If people want to send you, what do you want?
I would like world peace for Christmas. For me, I’m trying hard to stay healthy through this whole thing. I saw something that said, “After COVID, you’ll either be a monk, a hunk, a chunk or a drunk.” I was like, “I would to be a hunky monk, please.”
There’s an idea in there, Ben. We’re going to need to have a brainstorm session offline, The Hunky Monks.
Rebrand yourself into that. I’m going to look on Instagram and see if there is a hunky monk.
I’m sure someone’s got it. I’m far from a monk and I’m far from a hunk, so we’ve got a ways to go.
Give yourself more credit, Ben. Dear reader, thank you for getting uncomfortable with us. If you were uncomfortable, you might’ve been comfortable the whole time, but maybe we touched on some stuff that made you uncomfortable. Either way, thanks for being here on this journey. Ben, thank you so much for such a deep, juicy, beautiful and love-filled episode. We will catch you soon with another episode. Thanks for being with us!
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- Ben Decker
- Unplug Meditation
- A Return to Love
- Modern Spirituality
- Caroline Myss
- The Consistency Code
- Practical Meditation for Beginners
- Meditations on Christ
- Rythmia Life Advancement Center
- Daily Mindfulness
- DEN Meditation
- Wellevatr’s Bookshop List
About Ben Decker
Ben Decker, is a social activist, meditation teacher, energy worker, and entrepreneur. He’s the author of Practical Meditation for Beginners, a cross-disciplinary guide to ten different meditation techniques, the traditions that practice them, the scientific studies revealing their physiological efficacy, and instructions for their many real-life applications.
His love for meditation & the spiritual teachings of ancient traditions goes back to childhood. Ever the idealist and enthusiastic learner, this enthusiasm for meditation has won him praise by Conscious Lifestyle Magazine as “one of the world’s leading meditation teachers,” and Well + Good as a “superstar meditation instructor.” Ben has shared his love of meditation with thousands. His work is universal, well-rounded and rooted in ancient wisdom & modern pragmatism and has also been featured in Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health, Face the Current, Evolve & Ascend, Spirituality & Health, Thrive Magazine, LA Yoga, and more.
Ben is a founding Meditation Teacher at the most prominent meditation studios in Los Angeles, including Unplug Meditation, The DEN Meditation, Wanderlust Hollywood, and Mystic Journey. A lifelong meditator, the spiritual household of his youth held strong emphasis on discipline and spiritual development. Extensive personal study and life experiences have deepened his understanding of meditation, ultimately guiding him out of his prolific career in PR and into a more active role sharing meditation with those who need it.
Modern, entertaining, and easy to understand, Ben’s classes take even the novice meditator into a deep exploration of their own psyche.
In Fall of 2016 he launched his first online meditation offering on the Unplug Meditation Guided Meditation App.
He worked closely with anti-human trafficking organization Unlikely Heroes in the United States and The Philippines and received the Unlikely Heroes Legacy Award in 2012. He also supports the efforts of anti-human trafficking organizations Children of the Night, Saving Innocence, International Justice Mission, The Somaly Mam Foundation, and Together 1 Heart, as well as humanitarian aid organizations Generosity.org and the American Red Cross. As a political activist, he is endorsing and publicly supporting Marianne Williamson’s 2020 Presidential Campaign. In the past he volunteered for Williamson’s 2015 Congressional run, and has also volunteered for Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressman Tim Ryan, and hosted a rally for Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.
Once praised by Forbes as a “legendary PR maven,” and “a shining example of the talent the philanthropic community needs to attract,” Decker left a prolific career in Hollywood to dedicate his professional life to sharing the universal teachings of global ancient traditions and conscious activism.
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