Jonathan Robinson
Enlightenment as a Birthright

I do a very simple meditation that is very powerful. I made a list of everybody I've ever loved in my life. And I spend one minute focusing on thinking what I love about them, and then send them love.

Jonathan Robinson
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Show Notes

Johnathan Robinson (@Johnathan.Robinson) believes that enlightenment is for everyone. He is the author of 14 books, a frequent guest on Oprah, and a psychotherapist. His recent book The Enlightenment Project is an offering to its readers as a guide to support people in reaching permanent states of peace, joy.

Jonathan Robinson set out to discover the best ways to find inner peace by studying with over 100 well-known spiritual teachers. In his books, podcast (Awareness Explorers), and talks he shares his findings in a way that is relatable, realistic, and attainable. Jonathan has reached over 100 million people and has been a frequent guest on Oprah, CNN, and other national TV shows, and his work has been featured in USA Today, Newsweek, and Reader’s Digest.

“When you let go of the grabbing or the tendencies of the ego, what’s left is a place of spacious peace and open-heartedness.” 

Johnathan Robinson

Key Takeaways:

  • Modern Ways to Enlightenment: There are ways to get into the supreme state of consciousness, known as enlightenment, through simple techniques/practices. It doesn’t have to take you 10,20,30 years; if you find a short and effective method, you can quickly reach full awareness and bliss.
  • Emotional Clean-Up on the Path: Clearing our neurosis, past traumas, and negative habitual patterns is vital for a practitioner on the spiritual path. You want to get your vessel clear and free from the ego lens.
  • Who am I: The practice of asking the question, “Who am I?” is fantastic and will help you peel away the layers of false identities and access what is ego and what is not.
  • The Teacher: The saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will come,” is not a cliche. On the spiritual path, you will find your teachers at the right time. Ultimately, when ready, you will see that everyone is a teacher and carries a lesson for you.

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Awareness Explorers Podcast

The Enlightenment Project


Mark Divine  0:00  

Hi, I’m Mark Divine, and this is Mark Divine Show. On the show, I explore what it means to be fearless through the lens of the world’s most inspirational, compassionate, and resilient leaders. I speak to folks from all walks of life; Martial arts grandmasters high powered CEOs, even meditation experts on enlightenment such as my guest today, Jonathan Robinson. Jonathan’s the author of 14 books, has been a frequent guest on Oprah, and his work has reached over 100 million people. Jonathan specializes in teaching people simple ways to tap into the peace, love, and joy within or what we would call awakening or enlightenment. His book, recent book that we’ll talk about today is The Enlightenment Project, in which he shares what he learned by interviewing everyone from the late Mother Teresa to the Dalai Lama. Jonathan, thanks for joining me today. It’s a real honor to have you here. 

Mark Divine 0:49

Jonathan, thanks so much for joining me today on the Mark Divine Show. It’s pleasure to have you.

Jonathan Robinson  0:54  

I’m really looking forward to it. 

Mark Divine  0:55  

Yeah, so we got a lot to talk about. But um, I always start with, you know, wanting to give whoever’s listening who may not be familiar with you just a little bit of a background, like, where are you from? And what were some of the formative influences in your life that led you down this path to be you know, all about awakening andenlightenment, both for your own journey and also teaching others?

Johnathan Robinson  1:17  

I think, like with most people, it starts with some kind of pain in one’s life. And I was blessed to have a pretty dysfunctional family. So…

Mark Divine  1:28  

I like the way you say that, by the way.

Johnathan Robinson  1:29  

Well, that got me because I didn’t have control over that I kind of had my midlife crisis at age 12.

Mark Divine 1:36



Johnathan Robinson 1:37

Where I became like suicidally depressed, and I looked to self-help books or anything to help me out of that. And that led to learning about hypnosis. And then by age 13, I was meditating every day.


Mark Divine 1:49



Johnathan Robinson 1:50

So that’s how I got started. And as I started to feel better, I was looking to see who are the happiest people on Earth. And I saw that was, you know, enlightened people or people who were very awake. So I got into the habit of finding them out, stalking them, interviewing them. And I’ve interviewed everybody now, from the late Mother Teresa and Rahm Das and Wayne Dyer to the Dalai Lama and Deepak Chopra.


Mark Divine  2:16  

 How did that come about? I mean, you didn’t like call the Dalai Lama as a 15-year-old. I mean, that must have been a little later in your life. Give us a little bit more detail on that path.


Johnathan Robinson  2:24  

Well, it did happen later. But, you know, I realized that if you’re going to be persistent, be persistent in an area that might, you might learn something useful. So in fact, as a 30-year-old, I literally found a number for the Sisters of Charity in India, and called there, thinking somebody there might know how to connect with Mother Teresa. 


Mark Divine 2:48



Johnathan Robinson 2:49

Well, amazing story I called and this woman answered the phone, I tell her, hey, I want to interview Mother Teresa. And the woman says, Yeah, this is Ma. 


Mark Divine 2:59

Ha, ha, ha. That’s awesome. 


Johnathan Robinson

Do you know Mother Teresa? And she says, This is Ma. I said, your mother, you picked up the frickin phone. You know?


Mark Divine 3:06

That’s awesome. 


Johnathan Robinson 3:06

Back in 1990. Calling a number in Indian and having Mother Teresa answer would be like calling a random number now and having somebody in the space station answer. And during that conversation, I asked her, Well, how do you meditate? And she said, Well, I don’t really meditate. But the Dalai Lama knows a lot about meditation. Would you like his phone number? And I said, Uh, yeah. So I think when you when you try to serve a higher mission, I was trying to find out the greatest hits of how people can connect with peace and love within. And when you are willing to commit to a mission like that, that helps other people. I think grace can be very helpful. And a lot of miracles have happened along the way. 


Mark Divine  3:52  

Yeah, and one of the first points you make in the book is that the student must be ready, right. And when the student is ready, the teacher appears. I mean, what does that mean to you? Like, what is what was your readiness? I know, you said it started from pain and then a seeking. So is it recognition that things aren’t working? And then seeking an answer is that when the student is ready?


Johnathan Robinson  4:12  

Yeah. And of course, there’s different levels of readiness. I think that having the intention to learn, like you really want to learn something is really important. More important than who you pick as a teacher, a story that comes to mind as many years ago, I was leading a movie group of profound movies, I’d show profound movies to this group. And one week I wasn’t going to be there so I thought I gave the movie Gandhi to a friend to show to this group that was actually in the movie Men in Black 2 have you seen that movie?


Mark Divine  4:46  

I think I might have a long time ago. Yeah. I remember Men in Black and I’m sure I saw men in black too. And it was probably underwhelming to me.


Johnathan Robinson  4:53  

Men in Black 1 and Men in Black 3 were pretty good movies, but Men in Black 2 is very bad. So anyways, these people are used to seeing a profound movie from me. And they’re watching Men in Bla2. And then they write about and they say, Oh, this was so profound, it was life changing, you know, their intention to find something profound and learn something with with more impactful than the actual inanity of the movie. And I think, you know, if you’re really hungry to learn and grow, you know, your dog can be your teacher or your child or the person down the street. So that’s why when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Because if you’re really ready, everybody is a teacher.


Mark Divine  5:34  

Yeah, absolutely. And every situation, right, I agree with that. 


Johnathan Robinson 5:38



Mark Divine 5:38

I want to get into like paths and processes or practices. So I know you’ve got a lot of different experiences, and also the difference between a practice or a sadhana and a religion, right, because there’s a distinct difference there. But let’s just first discuss what what is enlightenment mean to you? And also, what’s the difference or distinction between awakening enlightenment, and I’m curious, you know, words, kind of contract like words do not do justice. As soon as you name something, then you limit it, in its sense of what is really what the essence is. And so these these words, awakening and enlightning are similar. It’s a contracts meaning and it means something different to practically everyone. So what is your take on that?


Johnathan Robinson  6:23  

That’s very true. Well, I like Adyashanti’s definition. When I interviewed him, he said that enlightenment is seeing the world without the lens of the ego. I think we’ve all had a moments of that, where you know, you’re looking at a sunset, or you’re making love with someone and your ego is not there. So it’s not that people don’t ever have those moments. But enlightenment means that you’re living in that all the time. Awakening means that you’re in the process of having more and more of those moments. And hopefully, you’re doing some practice that helps you to have more of those moments in the Enlightenment Project Book, I try to list like the greatest hits, of what science has shown leads to more of these moments and leads to sometimes persistent enlightenment, which is possible in this lifetime.


Mark Divine  7:16  

Right. Yeah, what’s coming to me right now that a recent conversation I have with Dr. Tony Nader, who runs the TM organization now. And in his recent book, The Unbounded Notion of Consciousness, he describes seven stages of consciousness. And the first three are normal, right? Sleeping, dreaming, and waking. And then the fourth stage is really what you’re talking about with awakening is the recognition that there is this more ephemeral way of being with the self that is beyond thoughts, and what you described as ego. And ego would be like the thinking, analyzing, rational judging, projecting mind. And that’s only the fourth out of seven, right? So then the fifth would be probably the early stage of what most would consider enlightenment, that is a persistent stabilization in that awakened state, which is what you described as enlightenment. And then the sixth is beginning to recognize the oneness in all other beings. 


Johnathan Robinson 8:14



Mark Divine 8:15

And then the seventh system is basically everything becomes an energetic state of bliss. 


Johnathan Robinson 8:20



Mark Divine 8:20

Which is fascinating. And I think those higher stages are very rare. But the fourth, and the fifth stages are actually somewhat, I mean, they’re very accessible. And I think you’re right. Many people have had that fourth stage of, hey, then you might even equate that to like being in a radical flow state, or that moment of when you’re handed the newborn baby, or the sunset, and all time just stops. And you’re in that stillness of just being purely present in that non-moment. So what is your experience with these concepts?


Johnathan Robinson  8:50  

Well, I’ve tried to find what are the methods that I can do in the shortest period of time, that will raise my consciousness, the most.


Mark Divine  8:58  

Classic American, right, we want to take the shortest path to the greatest results.


Johnathan Robinson  9:01  

I admit it, I admit it. So that’s why I interviewed 100 spiritual teachers because I noticed that the technology for getting to these higher states has gotten better. You know, a lot of people are using methods from 2000 years ago, but they wouldn’t even think of using a computer from 20 years ago.


Mark Divine 9:18

That’s Fascinating


Johnathan Robinson 9:19

That’s the methods I find are getting a lot better. And so I tried to give my favorite 30 or so in the Enlightenment Project Book, and I can even talk about some of those methods. A lot of them just take like 20 seconds, and I can get into a fifth state or even sometimes a sixth state of consciousness. And I think a lot of people don’t realize that, how close they are, if they can find a technique that works for them, and different things work for different people.


Mark Divine  9:47  

Yeah, one of my favorite spiritual teachers is a guy named Sri. Nasargadatta. Nasargadatta, did I say it right Maharaj.


Johnathan Robinson 9:54

Uh huh.


Mark Divine 9:55

And his work is just sublime. And he talks about this idea that you just articulated that it’s really not something that’s out there, requiring 20 years of meditation, you know, it literally is like right here right now. And it just requires a letting go or surrendering of your attachment to the mind and the body. He’s like Ramana Maharshi’s path of just really studying the nature of I am. And also by looking at the opposite of I am not that and I am not that I’m not this body. And I’m not those thoughts. And I’m not this identity, and I’m not this, you know, these credentials on the wall, and I am not this bag of emotions. And if I’m not all that, then what am I? 


Johnathan Robinson 10:35



Mark Divine 10:35

And they consider that to be the most direct path. That’s become my path, because it really doesn’t require any, any mantras or any special concentration techniques or mindfulness. It’s just the complete surrendering to the absolute present moment and asking, Who am I? 


Johnathan Robinson 10:50



Mark Divine 10:50

And so in that moment, I guess my point is, you recognize that this isn’t really some crazy, like, super special. I mean, it is, but the specialness is in its simplicity.


Johnathan Robinson  11:02  

Yes. And when you let go of the grabbing, or the tendencies, the ego, what’s left is a place of spacious peace and open-heartedness. And if people realize how easy it is to get there, instead of this model, that I must do X, Y, and Z for 20 years before I can experience it, I think more people would experience it. And that’s why I’m trying to put out these really Greatest Hits methods to as large an audience as possible, because I think the world will only change when enough people are experiencing persistent peace.


Mark Divine  11:39  

I’m 100%, in alignment with that, and that’s our mission here is to scale consciousness, which we can do for the first time that we’re aware of, because of the communication technologies we have, such as this podcast, and such as the broad distribution of books, like yours through Amazon and whatnot, you know, and we also have this growing sense that consciousness is in the vibration of the planet is also evolving quickly. 


Johnathan Robinson 12:04

Yeah, right. 


Mark Divine 12:04

And that that would be supported by the yogic philosophy of, you know, coming out of the Kali Yuga, and entering kind of a higher state of energetic consciousness based upon kind of our galactic positioning in the universe, which is fascinating, but more philosophy philosophical. So in the beginning, what paths Did you explore that maybe you found useful, and then later abandon? I’m curious?


Johnathan Robinson  12:28  

Well I wouldn’t say ever abandon a path. You know, it’s like a bicycle wheel with a lot of spokes. On the surface. You could say that Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, are all different on the surface, very different. But if you traveled down that spoke, they lead to the same hub of an open hearted, loving, peaceful person with clear seeing, I got Bar Mitzvah, I was born Jewish, I spent six months in a Christian monastery, six months in a Hindu monastery, six months in a Buddhist monastery. 

Mark Divine 13:01

Oh, wow. 


Johnathan Robinson 13:02

And then I spent 15 years with a Gurdjieff teacher. So I have a lot of respect for the different traditions, I think, at different times different things worked for me, or were the next step. You know, I’m a pretty intellectual guys. So exploring Christianity, which is really a devotional religion was very interesting and growing for me. And now, you know, because of the internet, all these great techniques are out there, a lot of the best techniques I put in the book have only been invented in the last three years, just like the best iPhone has only been invented in the last three years. And I think our mission should we decide to accept it, is to keep asking, What do I want now, in terms of my spiritual growth? And what would be what would work for me really well now? Because what worked for you 10 years ago might not be the thing that does it for you today. You know, I did TM, I’ve done Zen meditation, I’ve done yoga. But now I do a very simple meditation, which has been very powerful is I made a list of everybody I’ve ever loved in my life. And I spend one minute focusing on thinking what I love about them, and then sending them love. So you do that for 40 or 50 people, you feel like totally engulfed in love. Well, there’s no better vibration than feeling total love. So you know, these are really simple methods, but they can be very powerful.


Mark Divine  14:27  

I got my start in Zen as well. And I found it to be useful because of the structure and the teacher who was also my martial arts master 10th degree, I was just a pure blessing that he was also a Zen master. I don’t think I would have found Zen if I hadn’t. But I was the student who was ready and that’s what I needed. So then I studied everything I could about Zen, right. And then when I got into yoga after reading Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi and and Patanjali yoga sutras and going deep into the philosophy and the meditation Praxis in 1000 hours a yoga training, then I begin, I kind of transferred some Zen and the rigidity of that into more of a yogic eight limb practice. And what I found useful about those, although I agree with you 100%, that there are really profound techniques that are coming out today that are maybe more like direct paths or even hacks. I hate that term. But what I found useful, personally about those more traditional lineage paths is that there was a lot of insightful teachers who could help you along the way, right. And so like, you go have the interview with the Zen master. And he can point out where you’re gone off path or where your ego has gotten involved or, and then he could prescribe or she could describe maybe some shifts in your sadhana or your practice. And I think that that’s what’s a little bit missing in kind of the American approach of like, hey, try this hack or this app, or, you know, this variation. And you could be missing kind of that erudite and wise, kind of what used to be a guru relationship where they can help customize and guide you. What do you think?


Johnathan Robinson  16:04  

I actually agree with you, not everybody has access to those teachers? Or has the time I actually lived with my teacher for 18 years.


Mark Divine 16:12



Johnathan Robinson 16:13

In the same house.


Mark Divine  16:14  



Johnathan Robinson 16:15



Mark Divine 16:15

Is that that you called the I didn’t recognize the term you said Gurkha was or not..


Johnathan Robinson  16:20  

Uh no, well his name is, is Justin Gold, okay. And he’s an American, American spiritual master, and allowed very close access to him, which totally changed my life. So that’s one of the things that helped me to know the value of having a guru, but not everybody has access like that. But everybody can have access to their wisdom, you know, either through YouTube videos, or I share my favorite guru stories, because I’ve met pretty much all of them, well not all of them, but a lot of them in the book. And there is something to having a mentor who can watch over you and give you help, advice, guidance, that is very hard to do for yourself. So I think that is an important ingredient.


Mark Divine  17:06  

Yeah. And at the same time, and I will play devil’s advocate to my own kind of line of thinking, ultimately, it’s what the yogi’s would call the Sadhguru, which is the ultimate guru, right, which is your internal guide, your your inner, your inner voice. And so eventually, you need to turn away from the other as the guru and turn inward, to listen to your own Sadhguru. So the quicker you can find that, I guess, the better off you would be right?


Johnathan Robinson  17:32  

Yeah, yeah. Well, my guru was fortunate, I was appreciative of him that after 18 years, he said, you’re done go out on your own.


Mark Divine  17:40  

Time to leave the nest. 


Johnathan Robinson 17:42



Mark Divine 17:43

So let’s talk about like experience, because most people listening if they haven’t, or maybe they’re not sure, if they’ve had an elite, they might say, Well, yeah, remember flow state, but that didn’t feel like awakening.


Johnathan Robinson 17:54



Mark Divine 17:55

What is the experience like for you? Or for those that you’ve interviewed? Like, what does it mean, you know, suddenly, before an awakened experience and after? Because something shifts? 


Johnathan Robinson 18:04



Mark Divine 18:05

Permanently, after an awakened experience? What does that feel like? What’s that experience like?


Johnathan Robinson  18:10  

Well, the more you awaken, the less identified you are with your ego. And the more identified you are with what could either be called your soul, or pure awareness, or pure love. So highly awakened people, they realize they have a body, but they don’t feel identified with that body, they feel identified that, like they just got here, like, I’m open-hearted awareness had just arrived here. It’s almost like a newborn child. And in fact, one of the ways you can kind of tune into that is imagine you were just born you are you you’re an alien being that just walked into a human body, you don’t really know anything means you’re just looking at the sensations and the sights, you’re an awareness. And when you don’t identify with the thoughts and emotions, but you’re identifying as just a pure open awareness. That’s what I’m calling moments of enlightenment. And some people actually live in that state. I don’t, but more and more, you know, gradually, more and more, I don’t so much identify with the character of Jonathan. He’s a useful tool. He can do podcasts he can speak. But the one that I really appreciate is my true nature, which is a loving awareness.


Mark Divine  19:28  

Right. In pure awareness. I think a lot of people have this fear that they’re going to lose something. 


Johnathan Robinson 19:35

Yeah, you do. 


Mark Divine 19:36

Yeah, you do lose something, but it’s not you gain a lot more, I guess is where I was gonna go with this, right? You lose the attachment, the body and the thoughts and the identities, but what you gain is so much more.


Johnathan Robinson  19:47  

Yeah. So you lose some of your attachment to your neuroses. And you gain a lot more love and peace. I think it’s a pretty good deal. It’s a it’s a good exchange.


Mark Divine  19:57  

It’s a good trade off. There’s a Japanese term, which always inspired me Shibumi, especially when you know, as a martial artist, and I’m a lifetime martial artist, and Yogi, it’s effortless perfection. And to me when you’re in a state of pure awareness, that’s really what activates flow. Because flow is this effortless perfection, right? Things just are spontaneously coming out of you and you feel like you’re not even in control. It’s just, it’s just happening. And typically we talk about flow in the context of an expert who’s really mastered a particular skill, like the advanced martial artist or the, you know, the skateboarder or something, but it can happen with anything or any skill, and you don’t even need to be an expert, it’s just being in that state of pure awareness, where time stops.


Johnathan Robinson 20:40



Mark Divine 20:41

And your relationship to space also changes, right. And that’s why you can feel much more richer like the experience gets really thick. And it’s almost like everything is just this one kind of holographic projection emanating from a central point within you, that’s been my experience.


Johnathan Robinson  20:58  

There’s two ways to get to those experiences. One might be through sports, where you’re having a wonderful, amazing tennis match, and you’re so in the moment, but you can’t always do that. So the great thing is through meditation are some techniques that take as little as five seconds, when you get good at them, you can tap into that flow, as you’re walking into your car, or really anything because that state, that experience is in you. It can be triggered externally, sometimes, but better than be triggered internally, so that you can have it during almost any moment during your day.


Mark Divine  21:37  

I want to get into some of these techniques that you’ve uncovered. But my experience in teaching these things, first off, there’s two things one is people are really distracted. And so they find that they don’t have time, they don’t think they have time, I recommend, you know, short little practice during the day, which are called Spot drills, I also really recommend that people book in their day with a longer practice of some sorts just to really begin to retrain their minds where this is really what we’re talking about is mental training. 

Johnathan Robinson 22:02



Mark Divine 22:03

Yoga is the science of training the mind for reintegration. And I find that a lot of people resist that. Because again, their mind has been trained to be really distracted, and also outwardly grasping. And so just turning within is a challenge. So that’s the first challenge is people don’t think they have the time. And also, their mind is really distracted. So they have difficulty sitting and doing some sort of dedicated practice, like a yoga or sitting on a bench and meditating. And the second thing is, I found is that many people aren’t ready. And so they’re physiologically agitated, they’re out of balance, they’re burned out, they’re unhealthy. And so they require some preparatory work. And I think you even addressed this, like, it’s, it’s really important to get your body healthy, which is going to get your brain healthy, get your sleep dialed in all these things. So that then you can begin the process of turning within to find the stillness, which is where the awareness is found. What do you think about those two themes? Have you had, you know, similar experiences?


Johnathan Robinson  23:01  

One way I look at is, what is your weakest link that’s keeping you down? Because a lot of these gurus say that bliss and love and peace is your natural state. And that if you’re not experiencing a lot of that, it means that there’s something in the way, there’s some obstacle. So you know, it might be that your body is not in shape. Or it might be that your mind is out of control and thinking negatively. Or it might be that you have some trauma that you had in your past that you have to more resolve. Or it might be that you just don’t have the proper technique or mind training, or you might have a wrong idea. You know, you might think that you have to do 30 years of something before you can experience your true nature. You know, one wrong idea or one wrong belief, you know, that you’re a sinner and that you’re a bad person. All these things can interfere with you experiencing your true nature. And sometimes, a really simple technique can make a huge difference. I’ll give you a story of when I was interviewing these 100 spiritual leaders, I was surprised at how often they mentioned that gratitude was a doorway to higher consciousness and even God. So I became focused on okay, you know, what about gratitude? Well, I happen to be pretty lazy. So I don’t like to keep a gratitude journal. But a friend of mine went to India and he came back and he was filled with gratitude and filled joys I said, You know what happened? He said, Well, my guru gave me a magical mantra for feeling gratitude all the time. And I said, Well, what’s the mantra, I want the best tools and he said, You gotta, you gotta go to India and get it directly from the guru. So, have you been to India and Mark?


Mark Divine  24:46  

Not yet. I’ve, no. 


Johnathan Robinson  24:49  

Well it’s a long way away. And while I went all the way over there, and I travel 18,000 miles and then I take a rickshaw for three hours. I I’m jet lagged and worn out. I finally get a chance to talk to This guy, I say, what’s your magical mantra for feeling gratitude. And in a deep Indian accent, he says, Is my mantra is the most powerful mantra on earth. And he leans into whispered in my ear, and he says, whenever possible, repeat these words. A mantra, I give are the words, thank you. Well, I look at I figure, he’s joking, but he’s totally serious. I go, that’s it. I traveled 18,000 miles ago. Thank you. That’s it. 


Mark Divine 25:31

I love it. 


Johnathan Robinson 25:32

No, no, no, that’s it is the mantra you have been using that makes you feel like you never have enough. My mantra is, thank you not, that’s it, that’s it will take you nowhere. I’m totally pissed off. So I say, well, thanks for nothing. And he says, Thanks for nothing is not the mantra you must say it from your heart many times a day. So when you eat good food, say, thank you, when you see your child or your sunset, or your pet, say thank you from your heart. And soon you feel gratitude. Well, I’m still pissed off, I figure if I travel that way, I’ll give it a shot. You know, I leave the ashram, I enter a taxi that has air conditioning, you know, unlike in here, it’s about 105 degrees in India, it was 105. And I say, Oh, thank you for the air conditioning. And then I go to my hotel room, there’s a bottle of clean water, I say thank you for the water. Now I open up my computer. I mean, you know, these are amazing machines, thank you for that. I each time feeling my heart and then saying thank you to the universe, I skype, my wife, you know, thank you for Skype, my wife shows up, you know, I say thank you for my wife and tears rolled down my face, because I realized that we’re surrounded by so much. And my wife says, that must have been some mantra he gave you and I said you have no idea. 


Mark Divine 26:51

That’s a great story


Johnathan Robinson 26:52

But you know, five seconds of feeling your gratitude for all the things in our lives, doing that 20 times a day can tap you into a totally different state of consciousness.


Mark Divine  27:05  

You know, and that that idea that gratitude is the doorway is profound, because the soul or the spirit, you know, is considered to reside in the heart. 


Johnathan Robinson 27:15



Mark Divine 27:15

Let me put it this way. Awakening certainly leads to heart opening, or you might even say heart opening, leads to awakening or they have to happen, they’re kind of like hand in glove. Because without that you’re just stuck in your head.


Johnathan Robinson 27:26



Mark Divine 27:26

And the brain is powerful as it is, is the source of basically not being present, because it’s always going to keep you in a past or a future state, right, you’re always going to be because our entire construct of the world is based on memory. And so when event happens, we immediately either store it, we stored as memory, and then we go back in our memory, and we try to relate it to past constructs and events that happened. And then immediately we’re removed from the present into the past. And then we ruminate about the future, we’re basically projecting memory into the future. And so we’re not in the present. But the heart has no capacity to be anywhere but the present. And so when you have a practice, like your thank you mantra, and you continue that process of opening the heart, then that feeling of being radically accepting present, and love starts to flow. And I think that’s really where that transformation begins.


Johnathan Robinson  28:18  

Yeah, they call it the present, because it’s a gift. And when you are acknowledging that gift, and relaxing into that gift, rather than listening to the mind, which is basically a constant complainer, you know, then you start to open up to these other energies of love, bliss, peace. And as you said, it’s kind of a training. And when you have the right training tool, it is not that hard.


Mark Divine  28:47  

Jesus teaches that another master key is forgiveness, which is love in action, giving forward of Your grace. Right? Yeah. First yourself and then to others. So those are really powerful practices you’ve already described two, one is the mantra. Thank you. And then your gratitude meditation, which is profound. What are some of the others that you have kind of come across in some of these interviews that have been really, you know?


Johnathan Robinson  29:12  

One of them, which I mentioned quickly earlier, was that I wrote a list of all the people I’ve ever loved, I spend a minute thinking about what I love about them, and sending them love and that surround you in love for an hour or whatever. That’s very powerful. One of them is, people can do it right as I speak, right now, as I say, Okay, what am I aware of? It might be I’m aware of, you know, some problem or story in my head. Okay, I’m aware that, you know, I need to do all these things today. And then I say, what else is there? Well, I’m aware of sitting on this chair, which is comfortable and warm, and what else is going on? And I’m aware that I’m talking and then can I also include that I’m aware of these things? Can I include that I’m also in awareness? So you start with what you’re kind of focused on and then you kind of zoom out into, you know your moment to moment sensations and more of what’s going on. And include that you are an awareness. I call that the include technique.


Mark Divine  30:14  

I love that, I have a practice we teach where you move from thinking to meta-cognizing. So meta cognizing is the capacity to think about your thinking, to witnessing, which is basically being aware of your thinking about your thinking. Another way to say this is that thinking is one level of mind maybe that you consider that the lowest level, and then consciousness is the cognition of your thinking. And then awareness is the cognition of cognizing consciousness itself. Yeah, I just said the same thing that you described just to be using different terms. And I find that it’s helpful for people too because they have different, like we said earlier in the podcast, different understandings of the words, you know, so you can use multiple different perspectives or words to describe the same thing. And you’ve heard that through 100 different interviews, right, that use different words to describe a similar experience.


Johnathan Robinson  31:06  

Yeah, you know, I have a podcast myself called Awareness Explorers, and I interview all these different teachers. And it’s helpful to hear it from different ways of wording things because some of them will resonate. And some won’t, just like some religions might resonate, or some techniques might resonate, and some won’t. And I tell people, as a seeker, what you’re seeking is what really resonates with you. And once you find a teacher, or a book, or something that resonates with you, then you have a friend for life.


Mark Divine  31:37  

We talked briefly about religion, but what are some of the benefits to being, you know, an inherent? And what are some of the limitations?


Johnathan Robinson  31:45  

Well, every religion has a dogma, which basically says, this is the best way or only way, which is unfortunate. But you know, think of it the different religions have different approaches, or different types of food. You know, it’s not like there’s broccoli is the only good food for you, there’s a lot of different types of food, that all can nourish the soul. And I think of the different religions as you want your protein or your steak, you know, and that’s one type, and you want your vegetables and you want your carbohydrates and the different religions are really different approaches to unleash your true nature. And I found that different points in my life, different religions, and different approaches really spoke to me. And luckily, they also have a support group. So if you find that Buddhism really works for you, you know, you hang out with other Buddhists. And that support can be really helpful as well.


Mark Divine  32:38  

I like that. And I think the dogma, it can be a limitation, I think, also believing that the path is external, through the institution is a limitation. 


Johnathan Robinson 32:49



Mark Divine 32:50

Right? Because ultimately, like we said, Sadhguru, or the inner Guru is the ultimate guide. Right? So his idea of God being out there something that, you know, you need an intermediary versus God being in here that only I can access and have a relationship is the difference between, say spirituality and religion.


Johnathan Robinson  33:07  

All these religions kind of have a surface level where, you know, you have to look at to somebody first. But I think ultimately, their goal is that you would, through their community through their teachings that you would find that still small voice within, so you can self-guide yourself.


Mark Divine  33:25  

I would say that’s true of the original teachings. But over the centuries, in ages, a lot of those original teachings have become obscured and also a little bit bastardize for the benefit of the institution. 


Johnathan Robinson 33:37



Mark Divine 33:38

But that’s, that’s my point of view. And not everyone would agree with me, especially those institutions.


Johnathan Robinson  33:43  

Right, right.


Mark Divine  33:44  

There’s a lot of talk these days, in the last 20 years with a new age movement, everything about powers, such as, you know, psychic abilities or channeling and et cetera, et cetera, or even a occult or what use you know, the term occult just means hidden, but you know, the word was co opted to mean negative or dark powers. For those who are worried about or concerned or even looking for, you know, psychic abilities through a spiritual practice. What do you say about that? And what is your experience with that? And how would you, is that good? Or is it something to be avoided?


Johnathan Robinson  34:18  

Well, the question is, can your ego handle it? I’ve known gurus that had powers, some very intense powers, and they seem to abuse them. And then I’ve known gurus that had intense powers. And they almost never used them because they didn’t want anybody to know. So on my path, certain weird things did start to happen. And at one time, it was a problem for me. You know, I used them to like impress women, not the highest use of those things no.


Mark Divine  34:50  

No, but we have seen a lot of like, a lot of spiritual teachers have succumb to that. 


Johnathan Robinson 34:54



Mark Divine 34:55

You know, Shaktipat kind of sexual energy that they develop, and then they take a big fall. So that speaks to the need to do a, you know, check your ego, right? Because true humility is the non-attachment to feeling like those powers are you make you special. But also the need to do the emotional development, which is something you address, I was really happy to see that, you know, overcoming childhood trauma and your blind spots and letting go of those triggers. It is kind of like Ken Wilber coming on, say, Yeah, wake up, grow up and show up. But you also have to clean up. Right? 


Johnathan Robinson 35:26

Yeah, clean up. 


Mark Divine 35:27

Clean up, yeah. I think that’s an important point. And if you don’t clean up, then when these these special powers start showing up for you, whether it means that you’re starting to hear the voice of non-physical teacher or something, and you’re like, Wow, look how special I am. It’s because you hadn’t cleaned up and your ego is still really attached to identity.


Johnathan Robinson  35:45  

Right. So in the Enlightenment Project, I tried to talk about some cleanup methods, because I think a lot of the people who go into spirituality, me included, originally want to kind of use spiritual bypassing, like, don’t want to admit that they have all that stuff, or just want to tap into this, you know, but part of the spiritual process is you are trying to become a pure vessel for these higher energies to move through you. And if you have a lot of stuff from your past, that has not been cleaned up, it’s going to show up eventually, in some kind of problem. You know, even getting help from your friends. Hey, you know, let me know if you see anything off, because I’m trying to clean this stuff up, and I can’t always see it myself. So having a group or some friends that can keep you honest, is really helpful.


Mark Divine  36:34  

Yeah, I agree. I’ve, you know, had exposure to Kundalini yoga, and, you know, Wim Hof, I did a podcast with Wim Hof, you know, the breathing guy. And I had to actually pause afterwards and record a warning to people, I say, this is a super hyper arousal, intense breathing practices moving a ton of energy. And if, if your mind isn’t ready for it, be very careful with this. And a lot of Yogi’s, blew a gasket in their brains with with not using the right breathing practices or not being balanced in their pranayama practice. And, and there’s examples of Kundalini practitioners, you know, having a sudden kundalini awakening in their body and brain, we’re not ready for it, right. And so they kind of blew a gasket, they, you know, they were not acting anymore, like you and I would consider to be sane. So I want to just address those kind of like, extreme practices, and also include psychedelics in here, because I’m not suggesting that breathing, or even a Kundalini or kriya yoga practice, or even the use of psychedelics are bad, per se. But if that’s your only thing, or if you do it to an extreme, right, or if you do it with unskilled teachers, then they can be dangerous, in my opinion.


Johnathan Robinson  37:47  

Yeah, that’s why I have some chapters about the in the Enlightenment Project, where I talked about how to use these powerful energies, whether they be plant medicines, or Kundalini, and how to be careful with them, how to avoid abusing them, how to possibly make use of them. And people don’t talk about that much, then there is a big possibility of abuse if you’re not careful. So that’s why I included a lot of information about that. But you know, plant medicines and Kundalini have all been great aids. And if you use them carefully, it can be really helpful additions on the path.


Mark Divine  38:23  

I like that especially what you just said, they’re they’re kind of additions or their support mechanisms to move some energy to clear up some chakra energy or even I love this idea that there’s no one practice for anybody, one individual, and there’s not any one practice for you for your entire life. Because as you change, your practice will need to change. 


Johnathan Robinson 38:42



Mark Divine 38:42

I think that’s profound like as you unlock a pattern or a trigger, or samskara, then you shift your practice to really focus on letting go of that. And once that’s cleared up, you might go more to the traditional back to your gratitude practice or something like that, until the next samskara, or, you know, hidden trauma pops up and rears its little things. And then you got to deal with that. So I love this idea that a practice is ebbing and flowing with the seasons of your life and with the ups and downs and with what’s showing up in your life. And also that I want to I know we’ve got to wrap up here soon. But um, we started this conversation with you placing a call and getting Mother Teresa on the phone, and she says, well, I don’t meditate. And so a lot of people are thinking, Oh, geez, like she’s a saint, like she’s advanced spiritual practitioner, but, but she found it through her her Dharma path, you know, her, or her, you know, her calling, I guess, her mission, her service. And so that’s another really powerful path in and of itself is just do what you’re meant to do and do it with your full being with love.


Johnathan Robinson  39:44  

Yeah, she said, it doesn’t matter what you do, all that matters how much love you bring to it.


Mark Divine  39:51  

That’s amazing. So what if someone listening says that sounds great, Jonathan, but I don’t know what my calling is.


Johnathan Robinson  39:57  

Here’s a metaphor I use is that you remember the hot and cold game you play as a kid, somebody hides a pen and they tell you if you’re getting warmer or cooler as you approach it. Well imagine the universe is playing the hot and cold game with us. If you keep taking small steps, the universe will say, if you’re getting warmer or cooler, you know if something feels right, that’s warmer, you get great results that’s warmer, if it’s something feels boring or meaningless, that’s cooler. So I think if you listen to the messages you’re getting from your life, as you take small steps, you can soon find, oh, this seems to be where it’s saying, I’m red hot baby go in that direction. You know, I was a had a different career. But the first thing I wrote, landed me on Oprah.


Mark Divine 40:40

That was red hot. 


Johnathan Robinson 40:41

So that was the universe saying your red hot baby, maybe maybe you should be a writer. 


Mark Divine 40:45

That’s awesome. 


Johnathan Robinson 40:46

I never had the idea. I’d be a writer. But you know, that was a pretty clear message. I’ve done other things. And the message was, Wow, that feels terrible. No, not getting any results. That’s the universe saying you’re freezing baby, you know, go somewhere else.


Mark Divine  41:02  

That’s back to the inner guidance system he talked about.


Johnathan Robinson 41:04



Mark Divine 41:05

If it feels good, you’re getting hot. If it feels bad, you’re getting cold. I love that. I mean, that’s like, to me the foundation of what you call creating your own enlightenment project, which is the title of your book. First is to kind of move toward the hot right to find your calling. So you can live that calling with love, and what are other aspects or attributes of creating your own enlightenment project making, you know, creating your own sadhana or practice?


Johnathan Robinson  41:31  

Well, I think having the right attitude, like you’re a scientist experimenting to see what works for you, like call an experimental attitude, I’m gonna try this for a month, see if that works. I’m gonna try it out for a month, see if that works. And then when you find something really, you know, go deep with it. That’s one thing, I think, finding books or teachers that inspire you a group that inspires you that you can share stuff with, I have a website, https://www.theenlightenmentproject.net/, which I give for free, the five, my five favorite methods for quieting the mind in under a minute, I think trying different methods. And seeing, oh, that went really worked for me, I’m going to use that one that can be very helpful in in moving your enlightenment project forward. So you know, people can go to that website and download that for free, and see if something there is like, oh, that that’s something that I know quiets my mind. And the quieter your mind is, the more you’re going to be able to awaken, the more you’re going to be able to hear your own guidance.


Mark Divine  42:34  

I totally agree with that. And I think one distinction I would like to make is, I think it’s important to you may try a number of things. But if something feels kind of close, it’s important to stick with it for some time, and then not chase this shiny bouncing ball. And I think a lot of people will do that even some of these apps, meditation apps, right. So if you do a different technique every day, your mind is kind of like getting trained in different ways. And it’s getting bounced around, and you’re not really making any significant progress. So you really need to find a technique that resonates and then stick with it for some time. Do you agree with that?


Johnathan Robinson  43:08  

Yeah, well, that’s why I spent 18 years living with a teacher. Yeah, once I found something that really worked for me, I was like, Okay, I’m gonna go deep here. But a lot of people are only exposed to one or two things. And those things really don’t resonate. And then they stay with that. So I say at first, you really have to try a bunch of stuff. Then once you’ve done that for a bit, then choose, okay, where am I going to get? Where am I going to plant my flag and go deep with? And


Mark Divine  43:35  

So someone’s listening and say, Great, what’s the best way to start? I guess, besides going and in addition to going to https://www.theenlightenmentproject.net/. And, and learning, you know, what your best your top five techniques are? How else is someone like, start along this path?


Johnathan Robinson  43:49  

Well, you know, podcasts like yours or mine, where they’re listening to different teachers, and getting inspired. My podcast is Awareness Explorers. And, you know, if you can find a teacher or group that you resonate with that support, you tend to become like the people you hang out with. So I try to hang out with the highest beings I possibly can, hoping that some of that will rub off on me, you know, so I think that’s the next step in a person’s enlightenment project is finding the group or the people that you resonate with, and hopefully then you can launch together.


Mark Divine  44:25  

And make them your team or tribe, or what the Buddhists would call us your sadhana, your practice group, your community of practice would be the academic term. I mean, doesn’t matter. But I agree with you. It takes a team to really evolve as a whole person, I think.


Johnathan Robinson  44:39  

It does. I can end with a story you mentioned earlier, Ramana Maharshi and his Who are you technique. I was in India visiting a guru named Panditji. You may have heard of him. He was a student of Ramana Maharshi. And when I got there, he told me to sit in front of him. I didn’t know anything about him. So I sent him front of him and he gets up close to me. He says, Who are you? And since I didn’t know anything about this technique, I said, I’m Jonathan Robinson from the United States. And he just started laughing. He thought that was hysterically funny. And then finally he said, No, who are you really? And I said, you know, I guess I’m a writer, and he kind of shook his head. No, he said, I guess I’m an American. No, I guess I’m a spiritual seeker. No, I tried, I went through like 20 different roles. He wasn’t having any of it. Finally, I just quieted and looked in his eyes, which were like, beams of light coming out of.


Mark Divine 45:34



Johnathan Robinson 45:35

And as I let go of all those roles, I realize I’m just a presence. And I was like, eye to eye with him. And then this wave of love just hit me. And it was so powerful that I just started crying in his lap. And as I’m crying in his lap, feeling all this love and peace, he taps me on the head and says, this love and this peace you feel now, that’s who you really are. And your job in life is to get back to that place as soon as you can. And that always hit me like, that’s our job in life. And when you do that, not only do you serve yourself, but you serve the world and the people you care about.


Mark Divine  46:16  

Yeah, let’s end on that. Thank you. Jonathan Robinson, I really appreciate your time today. Thank you for your work with the Enlightenment Project and what you’ve written and contributed and what you will in the future, on our way back to joy and peace.


Johnathan Robinson  46:31  

Great pleasure, Mark. Thanks for having me.


Mark Divine  46:33  

Thank you very much. Another fascinating session with Jonathan, I really, really love this conversation because I’ve been a longtime practitioner of Zen and Yoga and different meditation techniques. And it was great to hear someone who’s really experienced a vast array of techniques and has spent a lot of time trying to simplify and to understand what works, what doesn’t and to bring to us simple techniques. His book, The Enlightenment Project, you can learn more about that the enlightenment project.net or awareness explorers.com. Show notes and transcripts are up on the site at MarkDivine.com. And the video is on our YouTube channel, Mark Divine.com/youtube, you can reach out to me at Twitter, @ Mark Divine, and on Instagram or Facebook at real Mark Divine, or on my LinkedIn channel. Quick plug for our newsletter Divine Inspiration, which comes out every Tuesday with a synopsis of the podcast or the show for the week, as well as my blog and other really interesting things, including shows that I’ve been interviewed on, which I tend to think, are some of my best work. So go to Mark Divine.com to subscribe if you’re not already subscribed and share it with your friends. Special shout out to my awesome team, Jason Sanderson and Geoff Haskell and Jeff Torres, and Q. Williams, who helped bring the show to you every week with amazing guests such as Jonathan. Reviews and ratings are really, really helpful. If we hadn’t done so, consider reviewing it and rating it wherever you listen. This year, I have a goal of getting 500-5 star reviews over an episode. Thank you for doing that. And also thank you for being a supporter and thank you for sharing this work and thank you for doing their work. We’re living in a challenging world is complex and VUCA and lots of threats and lots of violence and chaos and fear out there. And the path through that is through practicing our own integration, tapping into more caring concern, and opening our hearts so that we can be the change we want to see in the world at scale. So let’s do that. And I appreciate you being part of that journey and for supporting the Mark Divine show till next time, Hooyah!


Transcribed by Catherine and https://otter.ai



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