Is it possible to be a spiritual being in a human body? Transcendent, yet grounded? And why is that so many “spiritual leaders” tell us to leave our feelings behind? How is it possible to be truly connected to another person – including on the spiritual level? To get to the heart, body, and soul of these questions, we’re having a return visit from Jeff Brown, author of the recently released book “Grounded Spirituality”. Jeff’s work is focused on connecting you to your precious, unique divinity – in a way that’s practical, connected, and…real. Or as Jeff Brown might say…enrealed.
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If you’re curious to hear our first episode together, you can also check out Episode 118 of Relationship Alive – Crafting an Uncommon Bond and Soulshaping with Jeff Brown.
As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!
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Visit Jeff Brown’s website to learn more about his books and his other projects.
Pick up a copy of Grounded Spirituality by Jeff Brown on Amazon.
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Visit http://www.neilsattin.com/grounded to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Jeff Brown.
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Neil Sattin Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host Neil Sattin.
Neil Sattin It’s always a thrill to get a return visit from a particularly awesome guest. And today is going to be one of those days. Here to talk about the, his new book “Grounded Spirituality,” is Jeff Brown, who is also the author of “Soulshaping,” and “An Uncommon Bond,” and in fact we had him here on Relationship Alive, I guess it was probably about a year and a half ago, maybe, to talk about those two books. And if you’re curious to hear that episode you can visit Neil-Sattin-dot-com-slash-soul-shaping. All one word. And today, we’re going to talk about this approach to living a spiritual life that allows us to be fully grounded in who we are as humans in terms of our unique existence on this planet right now. I’m not going to try to describe the whole thing that’s what I’m here to talk to Jeff Brown for. However I just want to say that for me personally this book came at a really challenged time when I’ve been going through a lot in my own life and I found some of the exercises in this book to be really helpful. And some of the viewpoints represented to help dispel some of the myths that I’ve been carrying around with me about what it means to be a spiritual being in a human body. And and helped me integrate in a in a new way that’s been really helpful and transformative in terms of my day to day life right now. So I found the book to be really inspiring and that’s why I’m so excited to be sharing it with you along with Jeff Brown it’s auth, it’s author.
Neil Sattin So if you want to download a transcript of today’s conversation, which promises to be quite far reaching, then I encourage you to do so at Neil-Sattin-dot-com-slash-grounded, as in “Grounded Spirituality,” not as in your grounded for being a bad human. And you can always text to the word Passion to the number 3-3-4-4-4 and follow the instructions to also get access to the transcripts and show notes for today’s conversation. I think that’s it for starters. So Jeff Brown, welcome back to Relationship Alive.
Jeff Brown Great to be with you Neil. It’s good to be here.
Neil Sattin We’re here to talk about “Grounded Spirituality,” and I gave my off the cuff definition in the intro but I’m wondering if you might be able to give us a quick synopsis of what you mean by a “grounded spirituality,” and maybe contrast that with what people tend to talk about when they’re talking about spirituality and why this distinction is so important for you?
Jeff Brown So let me just read from the book the grounded spirituality definition then go into the second part of your question.
Neil Sattin Sure.
Jeff Brown “Grounded spirituality is an all encompassing experience of spirituality that is rooted in and thread throughout all aspects of our humanity and earthly experience. We begin and end our spiritual quest within the ground of our being, our embodied humanness, as both interpreter of experience and as our individuated portal to divinity we don’t look outside of our human form for spirituality we look deeper with a name and form, cultivating a more refined understanding of the divine reflection that exists right in the heart of our selfhood. We honor its sacred qualities and transformative properties celebrating it as the perfectly constructed laboratory of expansion that it is. With our feet rooted firmly on Mother Earth and in daily life, we become grounded in reality in all its identifiable forms. We expand outward and inward from there. In essence grounded and spirituality are synonyms. They both mean reality. The more deeply grounded you are in your body and selfhood, the more fully you are here. The more fully you are here, the more spiritual your experience. It’s from the depths of your being that you have the greatest access to the everything.”
Jeff Brown So for me you know I mean, my journey really began in the psychotherapeutic process. I didn’t really have any idea of this thing called spirituality so I really… And, and as I went through that process and moved from more of a talk therapy model to working with Al Lowen and doing other somatic psychotherapy techniques, I found that the more deeply I opened and released the more expanded my vista. I felt like at the end of sessions or at the end of holotropic breathwork, I felt completely and deeply here in a unity consciousness field. And, but it happened through my body and it happened through the psycho emotional release. It didn’t happen through anything separate from or distinct from my day to day experience. It was all coming through and threaded through my humanness. So I think I carry that forward and then began to explore this thing called spirituality and it began really with the love experience I wrote about in “An Uncommon Bond,” and coming into a unified field or what I called the Unified Field from the love experience again through my heart and through my body through my being and then I began to encounter people like Bhagavan Das, and made Karmageddon and all kinds of other people in social media that were defining spirituality in a way that seemed to be devoid of humanness. I mean, it seemed to really be about something called transcendence. Something about finding selfhood finding spirituality independent of self, body, ego, feelings, stories — everything about my humanness, everything difficult and uncomfortable was dissed. And spirituality was some awakened consciousness and an absolute consciousness field outside of my localized experience. That wasn’t where I found it. I found it inside of my localized experience and so I, you know, as I’ve continued to work in the area and write in the area and develop ideas in the area, I began to realize that there’s this thing called patriarchal spirituality. There is this thing I call the “new cage movement” there’s this whole industry, industrial notion of spirituality that people are economically dependent on that tries to set off our humanness from our spirituality and that’s just simply has not been my experience, and I feel as though that’s one of the reasons why our species is in trouble because this way as in many other ways we continue to dissociated from our humanness in quest of something outside of it without understanding that the true integration happens has to happen right in the heart of it.
Neil Sattin I love that. And I’m thinking now of like the first place that I want to go with this, is, uh, that notion of transcendence and how helpful it has been for people to explore that to, to explore witness consciousness and, to in some senses let’s just use the phrase rise above their, the drama and the chaos of human existence in order to get some perspective some peace. And your book is written as a dialogue between yourself and this character named Michael who is really rooted in this sense of spiritual journey that’s all about transcending. Transcending reality or being far enough above it that you’re you’re not drowning in the chaos of it. And I think that’s why it’s so alluring to people because it, it’s can feel easy to drown in the chaos of, of life and emotions and circumstances. So. Um.And you of course talk about Eckhart Tolle as a great example of someone who is you know the figurehead in some respects of the modern western transcendence movement. And so I’m wondering for you, where’s the value in learning this witness consciousness and being able to take perspective vs. living there?
Jeff Brown So the simple way I put it is that detachment is a tool. It’s not a life. So for me… And transcendence can be defined you know, definitional stuff is very important and we won’t go too far into it here. But you know what one person calls “transcendence,” another person call something else. So the whole language of rising above being heightened all of that for me is part of the patriarchal bypass movement. That’s not to say that being able to pull up and out and look at your localized self through various meditative and other techniques gain perspective on your habitual range of emotion, on the stories you tell yourself, and the way you move through the world on the various forms of anxiety that operate within you, is a good thing. It helped me enormously to be able to pull out of my very localized experience of Jeff Brown, from that super crazy childhood, and begin to witness myself and recognize and excavate parts of me that I didn’t have access to in my habitual way of moving through the world. I have no issue with it. If Tolle had written, “Power of Now,” a book that I call the “power of self-avoidance.” If if Tolle had written that book and he had said, “Look, I…” As he said in the beginning I think he said, he was suicidal and very troubled. If he’d said, “Look, I had all kinds of problems. And one morning I woke up and I developed, had developed some kind of a technique or access to a particular consciousness that gave me access to my material.” Don’t call it a pain body, don’t talk about it like you’re talking about a car part, acknowledge your tender woundedness, and then he said, “And I spent a lot of time out there getting perspective on where I’d been. Understanding my ancestral context, understanding how this painful material wove its way through my ways of being, and then I developed techniques for coming back down into that material,” as though the material is in fact quite true and quite real and no illusion, no bashing of the ego, no bashing of the self, no bashing of the feelings, no bashing of emotions, no bashing of anything human. Acknowledging it, recognizing it, and understand that you needed to bring another consciousness into it in order to find the balance. The weave. The Holy Holy. That you need to move through the world with a connection to a more unified field and a profound and deep and worked through awareness of the localized self. If he had said that, I got no problem with that book. But he didn’t. He called that a, what’d he call it “a guide for enlightenment” or something in this, in the sub header? When you present the detachment or that as something that is the end of the story essentially to me that’s just dissociative and that’s not going to serve this humanity. We know why people want to do it. They’re uncomfortable here. It’s painful here. So they use the meditation as a drug or they use witnessing consciousness as a drug, and they convinced themselves they’ve gone to that superior place because they’re numbing and detaching from all that material that’s stirring up inside of them. It’s still in there. It still shows up in their personal life. None of these teachers tell you about their personal lives, but you find out things about a lot of spiritual teachers’ personal lives and you realize that this is an industry and they’re telling you a story about their lives that isn’t the whole story. Their stuff is still activated, their stuff is still working on them. They have not resolved work through all those pieces. And so for me what we need to do is develop a spirituality that acknowledges the wisdom and brings techniques to bear on people to be able to pull up and out, to pull back and look at themselves, to do the witnessing consciousness trip, to have a taste of something called “unity consciousness,” and then to come back down into the body with that wisdom and find the weave between transcendence and imminence. That for me is the truest human experience.
Neil Sattin So let’s contrast that with maybe some of your experience around the more human material. So when we come back in and write about how much is tends to be locked in the body and we’ve had right, Peter Levine on the show several times so that’s that’s I think, hopefully a level of discourse that listeners are familiar with, this idea that we’re storing trauma in our body and if we’re not dealing with it, then we’re gonna have to stay in this dissociated state in order to feel like we’re somehow coping, and I could, I could see like the freedom the illusion of freedom in that for people because we can’t live there, there’s that reality of your back in your, within your human form and there’s still some shit to work through.
Jeff Brown Absolutely. It’s, I mean trauma. It’s encoded in the body. Its stored in the body. It’s in the body. So I knew this in a very palpable way, when I shifted from being a talk therapy client to being a body centered psychotherapy client, and I would sit with Alexander Lowen for who was the co-founder of Bio and I would sit and talk for 15 minutes with him and he’d just be looking at my body and he’d be engaging my mind because he knew I needed that to feel safe, and I knew what he was doing but I needed to do it. And then he would say, “All right, you ready to work? You ready to get to work?” And so to get undressed, so I get into my underwear, my shorts whatever I would do and he would start working me, in the body, grounding me in the body, going over the stool, tantruming, kicking, and all of a sudden I would have access to a completely different experience of reality than my waking consciousness. It was painful. It was horrifying. There were memories that I had no conscious connection to in my day to day life, and understandably, I had to survive and get through my life. I couldn’t be in touch with all that trauma but my experience of deep inside of my body was radically and remarkably different than who I thought I was. And I had tried going up and out I had been around the bypass movement I had attempted to be a bypasser. I would love to be a bypasser. But I just can’t be a bypasser, it’s just not, it, it’s not in the way that I’m organized internally. But you know at the same time I was living kind of in between. I wasn’t a bypasser but I wasn’t going deep into the caverns of my own body consciousness. So Lowen, by going to Lowen, manifesting Lowen, what, however we characterize it, I was forced to go back down into that material. I chose to go back to into that material and and then I began to understand this deep and profound connection between this thing we could call imminence, the localized the day to day, the mundane whatever we call it and this thing called transcendence or unity consciousness field or the non-dual world, and then I would encounter it the spiritual world, they were talking about non duality and they all seem flatlined. They talk like automatons, they were they were addicted to meditation, you know, TM-ers, I knew so many TM-ers, who were like yogic flying and their personal lives were utterly insane, you know, there was no bridge. So I began to understand that my body was the bridge. My body is the bridge and it’s the way that I try to make sense of how I can hold all of these threads of consciousness at the same time. And so. And Peter Levine is one of the great brilliant pioneers, and I noted him in the book. So his John Perocco, so is Wilhelm Reich. So is, you know, David Berceli is doing great work. Lowen, of course, did utterly brilliant work these people to me are the true spiritual teachers, because I define spirituality as reality, Neil. So the one who guides us or supports us in a movement towards being in touch with all threads of reality which must begin within the self it has to begin within the self, itself. To me those are the true spiritual teachers, not the ones who master a singular thread of consciousness master witnesses master meditators masters at the art of our premature forgiveness. There’s a million of them out there calling themselves spiritual teachers to me there’s nothing spiritual about them because all they’ve done is perfected one thread and they’re not able to function within all of the threads of the human experience.
Neil Sattin That’s one thing that’s so appealing to me about your, your writing in “Grounded Spirituality,” is this way that you continue speaking to “integrating.” Integrating the spiritual awareness, integrating what’s happening within your body, integrating your emotional awareness, integrating your intuition so that it it all becomes part of you as an alive, dynamic being. And what I’ve seen, what I’ve witnessed, it feels kind of funny to use that word, with lots of my clients who have been going through this sort of thing is that when people are totally focused on the meditative path, it actually creates a lot of challenges in relationship, because there’s all that unconscious material that’s still running them in the ways that they interact with each other or conversely they’re they’re kind of not really interacting with each other. They’re, they’re like two dissociated beings, or more likely one dissociated being, and another, who’s like trying to call them back and then both of them of course have their work to do in order to to arrive at this place of being more integrated and unfolding in that way because I think it’s it’s not a static place, right? It’s this dynamic place where you continually arrive again and again.
Neil Sattin Absolutely. I mean this is why the mindfulness revolution is dangerous. This is why the, you know, the society wide industry now really related to meditation is dangerous. I mean I get that meditation can be a wonderful technique for connecting to the self for pulling away from the localized material for periods of time, to getting a break from what it means to be a human being, you know, or at least to get a break from some aspect of that. But the problem is again, if it’s not also coupled with some kind of re entry process and reintegration process, it’s like we’re moving towards inclusivity with respect to gender, with respect to sexuality, certainly with respect to race, you know, ethnicity, all kinds of ways. But I believe because the spiritual community is the one area in society where nobody’s allowed to critically review it. It’s amazing how well, how effective patriarchal spirituality in its origins has been at preventing us from deconstructing. You just got to go on my Facebook wall, when I put up a post where I’m critically reviewing a teaching, and how many conscious people even, really people who’ve really done work on themselves say, “Oh my God. How can you do that. You have no right to critique that person’s teaching. You have no right to critique that experience.” They’re OK if we critique politics. They’re OK if we deconstruct legal decisions. They’re OK with us critically reviewing religion, but not spirituality. And this is the biggest part of the problem. You know if we’re going to move in the direction of an inclusive world we have to allow for the critical review of everything that is not inclusive and that really includes spirituality because spirituality is growing in popularity, religion is becoming less popular worldwide. And if we keep moving in the direction of this protectorate this nonsense about certain spirituality as being a sacred cow we’re leading humanity away from inclusively while at the same time pretending that we’re moving them in the direction of something more advanced it’s not more advanced if it’s not inclusive. It can’t be.
Neil Sattin I suppose the one thing that really speaks to me in your writing is that sense of the imminence that you talk about being here, in the here and now, partly because I feel like that is really the place where relationship actually springs from at least springs from in its most, most healthy manifestation. You know, it’s two people who are actually being fully here and alive to what’s happening within themselves.
Jeff Brown Right.
Neil Sattin And, and. That’s the thing that I think scares me a little bit about the spirituality movement is the way that it’s discouraging people from actually feeling their full experience here with another human. Because that of course is what propels the growth that happens in relationship with another person.
Right. Well you know this is the trick of patriarchal spirituality to talk about the now, while leading you away from the now. That’s the whole game. “The Power of Now,” that’s a very powerful sounding book title. “Be Here Now.” Wow, what a powerful concept. But what are we really talking about we’re talking about a notion of now-ness that is bereft of individuation. That is not connected to what I call the power of then, that is the true material that you’re holding within your beingness unresolved, traumatic material, unresolved memories, unresolved events and experiences that completely inform your experience of the moment. Can you be fully in the moment if threads of your consciousness and threads that are somatically embedded in structure to defend and in armored ways of functioning, actually prevent you from being here in this moment? How could I be?
Neil Sattin Right.
Jeff Brown If I’m holding onto all kinds of stuff. And as a result of that early stuff I shallowed my breath. I pulled my head up and away from my body I tighten my hips, I rigidified my system, can I say that I’m actually in the now, in a full and complete sense? Of course not. So most of the people who are teaching now-ness are actually tricking you, they uh, or they’re tricking themselves or both. They are the farthest thing from being in the moment because their version of the now is this patriarchal, cave dwelling, meditative absolute consciousness field, where you diss the self, you diss the story, you diss the ego you diss your body sometimes, you diss your feelings. All of that is an illusion, all of that is misidentified. But what’s real is some version of the nowness where you’re floating in the clouds scapes like we’re birds or something? And you’re having some experience of this absolute field of enlightenment, as though there is such a thing, as though we’re not in process, as though it’s not a relative experience? To me it’s a big lie. So then people are going, “Wow, I get to be in the now.” It gets… And the trick is we do get a little bit of relief when we get access to these techniques because they do pull us up but out of that worry-mind. Alright, I get that. But you have to look a little closer because then they go farther, they’re actually taking you farther and farther away from your humanness and it’s particularly dangerous for trauma survivors who really need to have a sense of intactness and integration and we’re being led in the direction of dissolution of the ego, denial of the story, um, dishonoring of their feelings, all of it is unreal and untrue. And you know what, what really got me going in this in 2013, someone I new on Facebook hung themselves after they’d bought into all these new cage and patriarchal notions of spirituality, fired their therapist and when their stuff kept haunting them in the middle of the night, they had nobody to turn to because now they had dissed all of that, and then they ended up hanging themselves and they announced it in advance, it was very clear what was coming. And I called the cops and tried to get them to go and they went and they couldn’t do anything and then they hung themselves and that’s when I really began to understand, and I’m understanding in my “Grounded Spirituality” discu-discussion group on Facebook. You hear these stories about how these bullshit versions of spirituality have damaged and destroyed lives, you know, and then you, you feel, I have felt compelled to find a voice that I’m not comfortable sharing in an effort to try to encourage us in the direction of a new spirituality not one that was fostered by men who couldn’t admit their fucked up ness and had to go into meditation caves and convinced a village that they were the enlightened masters, that we’re bringing great wisdom for twenty years sitting in a meditation cave being served by the villagers. That nonsense is ridiculous, that doesn’t bring us into integration with ourselves or with humanity and now I think we need to move in the direction, as sacred activists, to bring ourselves into integration spiritually just like we’re trying to bring everything else into integration.
Neil Sattin Can you draw a distinction for me, between what, how what we’re talking about is spiritual, and sacred, since you just used that word vs. just, I’m going to a body centered therapist healing my old traumas.
Jeff Brown Mmmm, reframe the question?
Neil Sattin So in other words. How is what you’re talking about different than, like if I were able to go to see, I know Alexander Lowen is no longer with us, but if I were able to go with him, is that in and of itself a spiritual experience? Or is there something more that’s part of the spirituality that you’re talking about? The grounded spirituality.
Jeff Brown So, so, I’ll give you my Alexander Lowen moment because I was beginning to now to question the very beginning of, what is spirituality? So I brought it to him. I think it was in our last session I said, “So, Al, what is this thing they’re talking about? About spirituality. What does this even mean?” You know, and he went: “UFFF.” Like he was annoyed by the question and he said, he said, he said, “Going into your body, enlivening your body, getting your body grounded, and spirited. That’s spirituality.” So I think for me anything that we do that brings us into a more complete experience of reality, I would call a spiritual experience. I mean everything is spirituality. Spirituality is reality for me. My opposition is simply to anything that’s calling itself spirituality because of the way that I define it as reality. Those things that are only limiting our experience to certain elements of the human equation while dissing and disconnecting and boundarying themselves against the other part of it, to me are not actually part of the spiritual experience. So, the real spiritual teacher, if anyone is a spiritual teacher and really I say later in the book really nobody is. But you know for me somatic psychotherapists came closer to that because I felt that because they were taking me into my body and into the body of my experience and through that portal I had more access to a broader and inclusive experience of reality that felt more like a spiritual teaching than going to a non dual meeting and sitting in a Satsang, and accessing one very particular, elitist notion of what it means to be a human being while disconnecting from and dissing all the rest.
Neil Sattin Got it. I’m wondering if you could offer one of the exercises from your book, so that our listeners can get a flavor for the kinds of experiences that we’re being invited into.
Jeff Brown Yeah, I have one called the excavation meditation. In “The truth is the gateway to the moment,” chapter so I’ll read that.
Neil Sattin Okay great.
Jeff Brown Great. Maybe you can do it, Neil. “Sit on a chair on the floor or on a cushion in whatever position feels most comfortable. While sitting do not close your eyes or focus your gaze directly ahead or above you. Instead keep your eyes opened and focus downward looking directly and with great curiosity at your body temple. Gaze at your body as you would a loved one. Begin to make contact with your breath, inviting it into awareness, feeling it move through you. First, start with gentle breathing as if you are gradually warming up. Then, invite your breath to move strongly and pointedly throughout your body infusing your body with life force, pushing into and beyond tightly held regions if you feel resistance do not hesitate or recoil. Breathe even stronger. If you feel emotions do not merely watch them as they float past. Instead immerse yourself in them deepen into feeling, inviting all held emotions and memories to be fully felt. Use the breath as an excavation tool. With your breath purposefully dig deep. Your aim is to bring repressed material to the surface, where it can be released and reintegrated. Allow this meditation to become a kind of visceral physical landscape of feeling and sensation. If there are tears, feel into and move them, to the extent that you can. If there’s anger feel into and move it, to the extent that you can. If there are words or sounds express them fully. If you find yourself turning toward your habitual meditation style that includes a focus on the sensations of the body, return to the breath and intensify it. If you find yourself getting distracted by thoughts return to the breath and intensify it. If you find yourself wanting this exercise to end, return to the breath and intensify it, whatever arises return to the breath and intensify it. Your breath is your excavation tool and your guide. Now you are not just watching the body as it contracts and expands, you are fully experiencing and inhabiting the body, feelings, emotions, sounds, sensations, textures, roars, all and everything. Stay with this process until you have fully abandoned the watcher and have become a full bodied total experiencer feeling, moving, expressing and releasing as fully as you can.”
Jeff Brown So I think for me you know this notion of monkey mind was very interesting, you know, it was like, OK I’ve got a monkey mind and I, so, when I wrote “Soulshaping,” I was kind of a little bit more in that version of spirituality and talked about the monkey mind, and then I began to realize that really it was a monkey heart. You know, that focusing on the mind, getting inside of the mind, witnessing the mind, having various meditative, meditative techniques within the mind itself didn’t seem to get me anywhere. I was just sort of going into one part of the mind to try to calm down another part of the mind. It felt like a very safe and irrational way to go about it, because when I went down into the body when I opened the material in this this armored temple of mine, I excavated feeling. I excavated sound. I excavated the need to rage or cry or whatever came through me. At the end of those discharges, I felt as though my mind completely calmed down. So it seemed very clear to me that this notion, this patriarchal notion, that everything is happening up high, and the mind is to blame for everything, which seems to be at the root of almost all of those spiritualities, if you read them, they’re always blaming the mind, seemed to me to be a very safe and convenient thing, it was like talking to Michael, it was like Michael was at a safe place, was like how women have been perpetually frustrated by men who haven’t accessed their feelings — it was all the same thing.
Jeff Brown It was like a little boy who, who, who had pain and and didn’t want anyone to know he was in pain so he, he picked up the Captain America shield and said, “I am Captain America,” became a master. To me all of this mastering the mind nonsense didn’t seem to get me anywhere. The only way that I ever changed anything inside of my mind really fundamentally was to change something inside of my heart and I think at the heart of patriarchal — grounded spirituality is the belief not only that we live inside of the body, and through the body is a portal to all of it, but also that we understand the importance of clearing this emotional debris that obstructs our, our lense, that obstructs our presence. That makes it impossible-possible for us to actually be in the now. We could be in the now in a cerebral sense. We could be in the now in a tangible literal sense, but in a felt sense if we’re not in the now we’re not in the now at all.
Neil Sattin So I’m sitting with all of your words and also just with my experience from being guided through that process earlier and. And it rings true for me on the show I’ve recently had a triumvirate of AEDP therapists. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with that modality but it’s, I wouldn’t, it’s not body centered, per say, but the whole focus in that modality is on healing early attachment wounds relationally, through, with your therapist and they, they bring this whole skill set of co-regulation that I’ve found really helps me access these deep places, these deep wounded places, and heal in relationship with another person.
Jeff Brown Great.
Neil Sattin And at the same time what that process is with those, with that therapy has helped me see is just how much I am carrying around at any given moment. And you know I’m 45 years old. I’ve got probably, at least 45 years of things coming at me crosswise and it’s not that everything has come at me crosswise, there, I’ve had a lot of blessed experiences in my life as well.
Jeff Brown Right.
Neil Sattin But those crosswise experiences I wouldn’t say that I had the proper support as a kid to really handle those big feelings and I don’t think many people do.
Jeff Brown Right.
Neil Sattin And so the technique that you just offered with connecting with the breath and, and you know, I loved how it started and even though I read it in your book I still like, when you said, when you invited me into the exercise, first thing I did was close my eyes you know and then the next thing you said was, open your eyes, and it was just like pretty amusing for me. And, and then I felt like by going through it, it really did help me access something that’s here within me now. And you know for me it was this sense of, “Oh there are some tears there.” Like I said I’ve been going through some challenges right now, some personal discovery that that’s been like really eye opening for me as I look back over the landscape of my life. And so here in this moment I was super present to some, some grief and, and it was mixed with love that invitation to be looking at my body temple, as you name it. I think how also helped me connect with not only the sadness I was feeling in that moment but also the love that I had for this vehicle, this vessel for my, for my earthly experience. So I’m, I’m really just appreciating I, I felt within me like, OK if I weren’t sitting here talking to you for the purposes of having a podcast like there, there are real deep aspects of that experience that I could have gone into and that moment right.
Jeff Brown Right. Right. And end of an end for all kinds of various reasons we, we don’t you know or we can’t. Even though I could probably easily hold the space for that. And as you could for me, I think. You know we our adaptations and you know survivalist tendencies and practical response, all that stuff. You know, one thing I understand, it’s very simple in a way when I think about this thing called spirituality, is that everybody I’ve ever known as part of this human collective at this stage of human development is carrying an enormity of unresolved individual, very personal and ancestral material collected material and you know we approach this question of, What is Enlightenment? What is awakening? All these kinds of things. And it seems kind of preposterous to me, and I actually mean that with some compassion, that we try to answer these questions when we’re not actually fully inhabiting our bodies. When we’re walking around in these deeply armored and obstructed temples and then trying to ask the question, what has meaning? You know, what has, what is awakening. What does it mean to be an enlightened or enlightening consciousness? What is enrealment? All these things if we don’t begin within clearing the emotional debris that obstructs us and affects our beliefs and our behaviors and our energies and our, and our relationships. I mean we see this all over the relationship field where at this stage of human development it’s all most people can do to figure out who they are individually, let alone try to work it out with another person in the room for 30 years. I mean if you think about it it’s a great miracle when two people can survive 30 years or even 30 days together given the amount of material we’re carrying. And so for me and it’s kind of simple. Before we go farther into the question of what is the most expanded consciousness, we need to clear the debris. You know it’s like trying to see what a room looks like when the room is completely filled with garbage, you can’t. You can see the dimensions, maybe the size of it, but you can’t really get a sense of that room. And I think that that’s where we are. And I think that the more techniques we develop, not to pull us up and out, sure, for survival purposes. Sure, when we need to disassociate because sometimes we do, and I honor that and I’ve employed those techniques. I still do, I’m employing them right now in the last couple of weeks but at the same time until we start to develop takes to techniques, like Peter Levine’s work, like Logan’s work, that really bring us down into the truth of what we’re holding not calling it a pain body like it’s a car part, but acknowledging our tender woundedness and the tender woundedness of the collective. Finding ways to get into that material, to hold it safely, individually, collectively, therapeutically. Move it through so that it’s resolved transformed whatever can be healed, can be healed, whatever can’t be healed is managed. All of that, I don’t think we even know what we’re talking about when we talk about awakening. I think we’re just full of shit to be honest. And I think that’s because we’re literally are full of shit and we need to move that debris but before we can begin to access the truer and deeper questions of our lives.
Neil Sattin How would you suggest someone know whether or not, because this, this experience of accessing, the, you know, let’s say you rise above, you see the, the garage full of boxes and boxes of old stuff and then you’re like, Okay, I’m not going to stay in this risen above state I’m gonna go back and I’m going to start cleaning things out, I’m gonna clean house. When do you think someone needs help and support in that realm? Because I think that’s you know the illusion that we have about big feelings and this is, I think, part of the cycle is when we’re young those big feelings, especially when we’re not given a safe container for them. They do feel like they’re there too big they overwhelm the system and our nervous systems aren’t, they aren’t essentially capable of handling them. So, so then we have this irrational fear as an adult that we can’t move through them when in fact like going into a feeling like that it does… It comes on strong and then it does subside and leaves you in a better off place, at least that’s been my experience. And yet at the same time, I also have this feeling that for some people they may need a container or someone who’s there to kind of help hold the space for them to have those kinds of experiences and so how in your opinion how would I know where I was landing on that spectrum?
Jeff Brown I mean, I don’t know that you would. I mean a great many — most people walk around you know living far distance from their body. Was that a line from I think it was, Walter Mitty or something: “He lived a fair distance from his body.” Um. You know, I feel like what has to happen is this conversation has to be normalized and, within society. And I think it’s beginning to happen and I think that it needs to begin to happen in the school system, where, there’s some forum created for emotional attunement because we’re talking about not being attuned at an early age for a healthy emotional release for supported release within the school, within the classroom, with teachers, with practitioners that are part of that. I think it has to happen in corporate environments where we learn how to attuned to and move material that’s preventing us from being most effective. I think we need to have some kind of release chambers on street corners, where people can go inside and smash a cube with a baseball bat and normalize it, normalize healthy anger release, because it’s, anger has been so deeply stigmatized that now all of it’s restrained, repressed, and gets acted out in all kinds of weird passive aggressive, inappropriate ways. I think we just have to make this part of our every part of society so that attunement and release are normal and are considered to be healthy steps towards a healthy society. And, and then people will be able to gauge themselves. So right now you have people walking into a b- a body centered psychotherapist room who’ve never really enlivened their body. Who’ve been adapting, amoring in a million different ways. All they know is that consciousness. That’s how they’ve organized themselves to survive in the crazy world and and then they have the super extreme experience of grounding, opening it. “Oh my God, what is this?” And many of them leave. Many people will go to somatic psychotherapy sessions and never do more than one, because it’s, it’s not normalized within society. It’s startling. It’s stigmatized and it’s a radical experience of opening in a system that’s been closed. So I think it’s on all of us to create some kind of a reality where the conversation about how angry I am or I’m at level four in my anger quotient, or I’ve got grief at Level 2 or however you want to language it, begins part of our day to day conversation. So when people cry in a coffee shop people don’t look at them and make faces. They come over and they sit around them and they hold the space for them. Those kinds of things need to happen. I believe they might happen and they are beginning to happen in some ways but not happening quickly enough.
Neil Sattin Yeah. Yeah. I agree.
Jeff Brown So you and I, so you and I are good examples. So you know it happens between people you know. I mean we’re damaged in relationship and we heal in relationships, so here are you and I. I read the meditation not even thinking you might be having an experience of it. You have an experience of it. So then the question is how can I hold the space for that experience for you, so that you actually make some progress internally, resolutionally in a 10 or 15 minute period and model that to humanity and then as we model that to humanity, especially as men, which is so important to model this to men, in particular. And not only but in particular, then we begin to make progress.
Neil Sattin Yeah. Yeah, I think that’s really true. That’s really true. And it feels true also in terms of my experience. You know when I take something like a moment like this and then go out into the world then I start feeling those innately, I’m putting, I’m making the little quote marks with my fingers, those spiritual unity consciousness type experiences and I think they emerge from being really deeply in touch with…
Jeff Brown Your feelings.
Neil Sattin Yeah. My feelings these real parts of me.
Jeff Brown Yeah. This is… I’m not opposed to unity consciousness but I’m not interested in a unity consciousness experience that is limited to a transcendent field. I want my connection to the everything to come from the heart of the body itself and the emotional body. And then it feels like a more sustainable experience. And it actually feels like a more expansive experience for me. And I also feel safer because I haven’t had to bifurcate my consciousness to have that experience. So now I’m afraid to come back down to earth and I’m going to crash at some point because you know I’m not bridging the two. If I start from within the body… So, so you know in interacting with Michael in the book was a kind of one of my struggles. It was like, what he’s calling awakening or transcendence is something that’s very different, may be very different from what I experienced as awakening or transcendence. Because I did it from within my body, my feet grounded on the earth plane. So are we even talking about the same experience? His feels flight, you’re more kind of motivated by or intended in the direction of getting away from something, whereas mine felt like it was about really trying to be here for all of it. You know the real “Be Here Now” the one that actually starts within my body, not renaming myself, as Ram Dass did, but as Jeff Brown. Jeff Brown with Jeff Brown story. With my bubbie Frannie Perlove . With my grandfather Zeyta Deela Perlove.
Neil Sattin I’m just laughing…
Jeff Brown With my very difficult mother Barbara Brown. All of that is real. That is not not spiritual. That is so spiritual that’s my lineage. That’s my ancestry. That’s my flesh and bones baby. And if I’m not in my flesh and bones there’s no possible way I can access an awakening consciousness.
Neil Sattin I’m just laughing because I’m thinking of the place in the book where you talk about Eckhart totally changing his name and then…
Jeff Brown Yeah his name is Ulrich.
Neil Sattin Right. And then like if names aren’t important, then why are people changing their names?
Jeff Brown Yeah yeah. He’s got this quote about like you know “formlessness over form,” it’s like, well you know, and “ego is the enemy of the sacred,” whatever all these people are talking about. And then they change their names. Well clearly it’s important enough for them to take on another name in order to disconnect from their birth — their name of origin. And you know, I understand the purpose that serves it gives a lot of people a break from what it meant to be, their, their origins. But because their origins are them and their origins are encoded in their bones and in their cells. Changing the name can be a temporary reprieve. But ultimately you still got to come back down to do the work inside of “Ulrich Tolle” and, Ram Dass has to still do the work that is Richard Alpert and Ram Dass wouldn’t disagree with that, I think. You know and that’s everywhere in the community. Bhagavan Das’s real name was Kermit Michael Riggs. He’s walking around carrying everything that’s Kermit Michael Riggs. He can call himself whatever he wants, he’s still carrying Kermit Michael Riggs and he is Kermit Michael Riggs. So I think you know, if we’re going to go down into the body, into the feelings. And I realized because we don’t have templates we only have a few models, a few techniques developed, it’s very difficult to invite people in this direction because then how do we get them there to stay there because there aren’t that many integrated models, most of what we’ve been calling spirituality is bifurcated and if you really look closely, even yoga was… If you look at its origins it’s called “Yoke” It means unity. But really what they’re talking about is a version of unity that gets you away from and perfects the toxic body beast again. It’s still dissociative. It’s still the bypass. And what we need now and what I try to ignite and support in the call to action is: people, all the people, young people out there who were interested in somatic psych, a lot of them going into inclusivity, begin to co-create models that unite these various techniques that pull us up and out or in a way to look at ourselves through a more expansive lens, whatever we call it, with the desire to be deeply living within our body and healing the trauma that obstructs our consciousness. And finding a way to weave transcendence and imminence into the holy holy what I call a “We-stern” consciousness. The quest for unity consciousness and essence fundamental to Eastern traditions and the quest for a healthy self concept, and a work through, an embodied experience of the moment, that’s more fundamental to Western consciousness. And when we find that weave, then we’re really going to be here for our awakening.
Neil Sattin So I’d like to spend. Our last few minutes together today bringing this into the realm of relationship. And what I’m thinking of is how, in your book, The Evolution of this starts with being in the body and and there are a few other exercises that you offer that are all about accessing what’s happened, the material that’s happening within you now. And then that leads to this place of that being able to fuel a sense of who we actually are, beyond who we think we are and and mining ourselves for that, the uh, I forget the term that you use for it. But for those aspects of us that are about who we are uniquely able to be in this lifetime in this body. And I think for a lot of people there’s this question of their journey found them, let’s say to this place of relationship with this person, and then they start wondering well how do I know if this is a true connection, where we can grow each other, versus one where we’re just going to be trapped in our woundedness together? So I’m curious to know how you would connect this body centered awareness with that question of: Is this the right person? Is this the right choice? Is this like, is this the work worth doing? Because we have all our own material that’s right there for us, and then we’re in, we can be in choice about the material we want to work on with another human.
Jeff Brown Yeah I mean, I mean so the distinction let’s say between “woundmates” and “soulmates,” or something. Yeah, I mean, I think that you know, I think one of the dangers of the therapeutic revolution with respect to the shadow work that I am encouraging people to do, is that we make the mistake of thinking that every trigger filled connection is worth our while. I don’t believe that. That has certainly not been my experience. There, you know, there are certain criterion that would determine whether or not it’s worth our while and whether it isn’t. And one of the most obvious ones is whether both people are willing to do the shadow work, is the most basic level question, you know. Because if, if they’re not if one of them isn’t, then you have a problem. You either adapt your consciousness kind of lowest common denominator to the vibration of the person who doesn’t want to do the work or you walk away. But even in an experience I’ve been in experiences where there was a willingness for two people, myself and the other to do the deeper shadow work. But the relationship was like a nexus for so many triggers, both very obviously, individually rooted in individual experience, and all kinds of inexplicable… You know it’s so difficult to language collective, ancestral, familial material, that it didn’t matter how much work we did therapeutically, there was no way it was ever going to become anything other than painful. And I do not believe that we need to perpetually live in suffering in order to become conscious. I mean, we have to do work within the pain material for sure. So, I think that you know as you move into this kind of consciousness, authentic relating more deeply attuned to your material and the others, you have to ask the question, is this the kind of experience where for whatever reason without having to judge it, perpetually, we’re not going to be able to move our way through this to transformation in a way that feels healthy positive and forward moving? Or is this the kind of connection that has the hope of becoming what I call a “wholemate,” you know a connection that really has that more subtle, essential, soulful quality to it. And the same time is grounded in the real world in the day to day life experience and also in the working through the shadow material in a way that’s forward moving. And you have to always ask that question, because not every connection, even with the best of intentions is a connection that’s going to allow you to grow and evolve.
Neil Sattin In your book you offer “the beloved meditation exercise” and I don’t think we necessarily have the time and space to go through that whole thing right now. But I think it’s it’s actually a great, it’s a great way I think to explore that question from a centered place.
Jeff Brown Yeah. And from an embodied place. Not as a concept. You know, I had a cousin who kept asking me if a relationship, every relationship he’d say he’d asked me if it was a fit. Like I knew I would say, well you know I’d say I don’t know, how do you feel? He go, “Well I think…” And I’d go: You’re not answering it from I think you keep trying it’s not working you need to go into your body. He didn’t want to go into his body. He was very, very detached from his body and only when he finally did have a forced, kind of a forced embodiment experience, as the trauma built and built and built into kind of like a breakdown. Did he actually come to access the answers that he actually had and always knew and always carried as to whether a particular connection he was in was a fit for him. It has to happen all of it inside the body so with the beloved meditation, my effort in a way was to try to invite people inside of that temple in order to ask that primary question whether or not that connections really a fit going forward.
Neil Sattin Right. And it’s questions like, now I have it in front of me: Is this person still part of my future? Are there still lessons we need to learn from each other? Or are we complete together? Are there lessons I now need to learn on my own outside of this present relational form? Are we meant to walk together in the coming moments? Or is it time to take leave of each other? I mean these are great questions and they have to be answered from a place where you’re fully…
Jeff Brown Feeling.
Neil Sattin Exactly. Like if they’re, if those answers are coming from a place of fear then we already know what the answers are gonna be.
Jeff Brown You can, you can answer a question about whether someone’s a fit for you from your mind if you want to do a practical pros and cons list or something. But if you’re asking the question of how you feel you can’t answer that question conceptually, you have to enter into that very scary terrain for most of us which is the emotional and physical body. And to me, they’re kind of synonymous, and drop down into that and let your body tell you what your answers are. And that’s why a lot of people remain stuck, you know, and then they go and they go to a workshop experience, that has in it a body component at the end of it they know whether or not to end their relationship or not, or to go deeper because they finally access their body which is very hard to do in our cultural, overstimulated, survive, by your wits, culture. We have to have an experience of the body in order to figure out what direction to walk in our lives.
Neil Sattin Yeah and I’m… It’s interesting for me. We, Chloe and I, actually have this whole practice of using muscle testing and kinesiology to to tap into the body wisdom. And at the same time, I’m, I’m curious to see how these deeper and deeper emotional excavations will inform the body’s wisdom, when we’re asking those questions.
Jeff Brown Yeah. Yeah. There’s such important questions and they’re not just about relationships. They’re about, you know, I use the term, “truthaches,” in the book, in “Soulshaping,” because there are many indicators we’re off-path and the way we again determine that, is we do something embodied, whatever that happens to be. Osho’s dynamic meditation, holotropic breathwork, some Somatic Experiencing work. You know, bioenergetics your core energetic sessions, core energetics is amazing also and something you know that allows you to really enliven the body and let the body speak its truth. It wants to. And that’s what it’s built for.
Neil Sattin Right you’ve got to help your body speak, and then tune yourself so that you’re actually listening to what your body’s saying.
Jeff Brown Right on.
Neil Sattin Well, Jeff I really appreciate you’re here being here to join us again on Relationship Alive to talk about your work the book, “Grounded Spirituality,” is a fascinating journey of a book and I appreciate that you gave me the time because we were actually in dialogue about when to do this conversation, that you gave me the time to really explore it, and try things out and it was helpful for me in my personal life and in being able to have this conversation with you. Of course because it’s a really long book we could talk a lot longer, but I think I always have that feeling with you honestly that there’s, there’s always more to say which leaves me excited for the next conversation.
Jeff Brown Great.
Neil Sattin So thank you so much for joining us here today. And if people want to find out a little bit more obviously, they can pick up the book “Grounded Spirituality,” and how else can they find out about you and your work?
Jeff Brown They can check out soul-shaping-dot-com, my older site. There’s some course downloads and things there are lots of stuff to read. Soul-Shaping-Institute-dot-com. I’ve got a couple of writing courses coming up writing your way home courses and my new Jeff-Brown-dot-co, web site will be up soon. I’m very excited about that and start doing a lot more video, start a podcast and all that and just join me on Facebook and Instagram and there all the time and interactive. And thank you Neil. I appreciate your support.
Neil Sattin My pleasure. And just a quick additional plug for your writing course. Those are all about using writing as a vehicle for healing and finding your authentic expressed, grounded voice, right?
Jeff Brown Absolutely. I hold a very tight and safe container for people to excavate their material and write through it, and bring it in the direction of healing without any emphasis on perfect writing or perfect grammar any of that stuff. It’s… There are some people who do the course and don’t join the Facebook private group and go off and write and write books and a number of my students have been published but the Facebook group component, which is about 60 percent of the student body for each course, is really focused on helping to support one another to just say and to express the things they’ve never ever felt permission to express before so it’s a really beautiful experience.
Neil Sattin Such important work. And again if you are interested in finding out more, you can get all the links to Jeff’s websites etc. through the show notes page which you can get at, Neil-Sattin- dot-com-slash-grounded, as in “Grounded Spirituality, where you can text the word “Passion” to the number 3-3-4-4-4 and follow the instructions. And thanks again Jeff for being with us today.
Jeff Brown Thank you Neil. Appreciate it.
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