A podcast interview with Jeff Agnostelli, on the Next Level Podcast on "Navigating the Space Between Stories:" Some of the topics include:
- The old story of who we are, how to be a man, how to be a woman, how to be human, how to live a life
- Different forms of rebellion
- Charles interest in “the origin of the wrongness”
- Why he wrote Sacred Economics first
- What is our true fundamental motivation
- Forging your path in a new world
- The sometimes harsh reality of leaving the old story behind
- Jeff’s story about the first time he left the old story behind
- “Any path that already exists is the wrong path” David White
- Trusting the process of life
- How sometimes regret can be an important part of the grieving process
- The Newtonian world view and how that is potentially outdated
- No action is insignificant
- Rupert Sheldrake and the theory of Morphic Resonance
- Approval as an aspect of control
- Moving from striving to achieve a goal to being in service of a goal
- In the new story… listening to nature
- The secret to expanded creativity
- Being in the state of gratitude and gifting
- What it could mean when obstacles present themselves
- The potential outcome of having inner conflict with creative adventures
- Clarifying your objectives
- The quest for self-approval
- What truly liking yourself can do
- Identifying the habits of struggle
- Change can happen without you making it happen
Transcript: (Thanks to Dr. Kelly Brogan for this transcript)
Jeff Agostinelli: This is The Next Level Podcast with Jeff Agostinelli, episode 19. If this is your first time listening, then thanks for tuning in.
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Today, I’ll sit down with Charles Eisenstein, a speaker and writer focusing on themes of human culture and identity to unpack navigating the space between stories. We’re also going to dive into Charles most recent book, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.
We’ll also dive into topics like forging your paths in a new world, the sometimes harsh reality of leaving the old story behind, how sometimes regret can be an important part of the grieving process, the Newtonian world view, and how that is potentially outdated.
We’re also going to talk a little bit about Rupert Sheldrake’s Theory of Morphic Resonance. Charles is going to give us some hints into the secret of expanded creativity, being in the state of gratitude and gifting and what it could mean when obstacles present themselves.
I had such an amazing time having this conversation Charles. And I hope you enjoy it just as much as I enjoyed sitting down with him. Now let’s dig in.
Welcome back Next Level listeners. Today, my guest is Charles Eisenstein. Charles is the author of several books—and most recently, Sacred Economics and the More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.
This is a special day because Charles is here in my office. And we’re recording this interview live. Today, we’re going to talk about the space between stories. But before we jump in to that topic, Charles, welcome.
Charles Eisenstein: Thank you, Jeff.
Jeff: You are so very welcome. It’s a great pleasure to have Charles here today. And I just wrapped up his book, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible. And to say that it’s thought provoking would be a grandiose understatement because it is so chockful of awesomeness. And it’s just so well written and amazing. And we’re going to get into that in a little bit.
But before we do, Charles, give our listeners an idea of how you arrived at writing about Sacred Economics and the teachings that you bring forth today.
Charles: So, that question is actually related to theme of the space between stories.
Jeff: Love it.
Charles: Because like a lot people—I mean, I’m older than you. But even when I was growing up, I had some sense that there’s something wrong around here. And the life that was offered to me as a normal life or a good life or an appropriate life, was not that attractive.
But I didn’t really have any sense of an alternative. All I knew was that there is something wrong here. I’m not supposed to be sitting in rows in a classroom, learning bullshit, learning stuff that is not even true. It’s not relevant.
And who cares what gift Luis and Clarke gave whatever Indians and such and such a place. Who cares about Vasco da Gama, and what did he discovered? There’s this sense of a void and a wrongness.
And I’ve come to frame all of that as the old story that tells us who we are, what’s real, how the world works, how to be a man, how to be a woman, how to be human, how to live a life.
So, I spent a long time rebelling against that. But there wasn’t a ready-made alternative.
Different people rebel in different ways. Some people rebel through destructive behavior, self-sabotage, addiction. Depression can be a kind of rebellion, even ADD. You can force me to sit on this desk, but you can’t force me to pay attention—or being a slacker or being half-hearted in your participation. Maybe some people listening can, even today, resonate with that.
So, I became interested in the origin of the wrongness. And that’s a long story that led me to write my first book, The Ascent of Humanity, and then further on to Sacred Economics. When you start asking what’s wrong with the world, you pretty much bump into money every time. So I investigated that.
How does the money system work? How could it work? What wants to happen in our economic world, in our economic relations or our economic lives? Is it true that we are fundamentally motivated to maximize rational self-interest? Or do we desire perhaps to contribute something to the world, to do something meaningful and beautiful? And what would an economic system work like if we we’re built around that?
And so, that would be an example of what I called the new story which gives us different answers to those deep questions. Why am I here? How does the world work? How to live a good life?
But right now, I can’t say that I’m in the new story, or a new story. Sometimes I am, then I discover vestiges of the old.
Charles: Powerful habits.
Charles: …of scarcity, of control, of judgment. And I’ve got something to work on. There’s something to work on me.
This whole thing about being in the driver’s seat, and I’m going to work on my issues, and work on my shadow, and work on this, and become a better person through my hard efforts I think is a bit of a delusion. And it sets us up for failure. And then, sometimes we go through a process beyond our control, an initiation.
Jeff: Right! Meaning like something what some might equate to something happening to us or a circumstance.
Charles: Yeah, exactly.
Anyway, it’s a bit long winded. But yeah, I guess my background is part of this transition. I never caught with the program. I never really had a mainstream job. I never had a high status in any institution.
And I think a lot of people have left the old story and its structures behind. But there isn’t very much of a new world to greet us. So, we have to explore, we have to forge our own path. And we often—not always—but often will not be “successful” according to the standards of the world that we’ve come from.
And I think it’s important not to see that lack of success as a failure.
Jeff: So it’s interesting because as I’m listening and as I’m seeing this picture played out, there are a lot of people in this transition—the transition from the old economic system, old jobs, the old story of “go to grade school”, “go to high school”, “go to college,” and somehow, you magically come out, you shoot the other side, you graduate college, you’re greeted with open arms into a world where there’s plenty of jobs. It doesn’t really exist anymore.
And the terrain of people creating their own way, and making their own path, and becoming authors, writers, speakers, expert in certain topics, seems to be the new norm. It seems to be as if there’s a lot of people coming forward and creating the story that you speak of.
So, can you speak to that for a moment, how you see the transition from the old job into the new way the work force can operate? Maybe just bring some light to that topic.
Charles: A lot of times, people have to leave the old job or it could be the old relationship or the old way of living without any new one to greet them, without knowing what they’re going to do. Or maybe you think you know what you’re going to do, but then when you leave it, that dries up. Or you try to do that new thing, and you don’t like it, and you enter this place where you just don’t know, a place of helplessness and not knowing, and you let go. And that creates an empty space in which something genuinely new can arise.
I don’t know what you have to let go of to start doing podcasts, but I doubt that you went to your college guidance counselor, career counselor, and they said, “Well, you can have a podcast.” That didn’t exist on their radar screen.
Jeff: No, it didn’t. Actually, my undergraduate was in pre-med in biology. And when I first transitioned from what I thought I was going to do to what I ended up doing was going from the path of, “Oh, I’m going to go to medical school, and be a neurosurgeon” to, “What do I do now?” It was really just a clear “no” of “this is not the path I’m really intended to take.”
And when I realized that—I remember where I was sitting in my bedroom at my desk at my parent’s house, it was one of those “Oh, crap!” moments where I literally heard as if it was a gong from the universe, “No, this isn’t the way to go.”
I had to fumble for a bit and see signs and listen to things which brought be to my next “career” at the time which was macrobiotic cooking and being a macrobiotic chef.
Since then, it’s been more of “Here’s the next focus. Here’s what I’m going to do for x period of time.” And then, after that concluded, being a tumbleweed in the wind, if you will, finding the next thing, which led me to the next thing and then the next thing.
And this in an adjunct to pretty much all of that and bringing a lot of it together, and then, bringing folks like you into the conversation, to really just build us out because we’re all finding our way. We’re all discovering what this looks like.
I mean, we can all have ideas in clarifying the picture of what it’s going to look like. And I think we’re defining it as we go. Knowing where we’re going seems to be synonymous with the stories of the past.
Charles: Right. If there’s already a map for it, then it’s a place that has already been discovered and explored. David Whyte, the poet David Whyte says, “Any path that already exists is the wrong path because it was made by somebody else.”
Jeff: It’s an uncertain place. It’s one of those things that the space between stories seems—I know for me—really uncomfortable a lot of times. The idea of comfort, of like, “Oh this is nice” of even being able to relax sometimes can be tough.
Charles: You’re supposed to know what you’re doing. You’re supposed to have a plan. You’re supposed to get your act together. You’re not supposed to stay between jobs for very long.
Charles: We certainly don’t allow months or years—and sometimes it takes months or years.
Jeff: So how do we navigate that space between stories? Give us an idea of your—I guess you can say strategy or your day-to-day, what that looks like of navigating the space?
Charles: It’s almost the wrong question.
Jeff: Free to reframe it. That would be great.
Charles: No. I can answer the question. But there’s something like this craving for a map or for a strategy or, “Here’s what to do.”
Jeff: Well said.
Charles: I think the essence of it is that you don’t know what to do. That said, I can say, trust the process of life in this space.
But that’s not actually an instruction you can carry out through an effort of will-trust, surrender, letting go. I find that when I try to carry this out willfully because I’m supposed to, because someone said, “Okay. You got to let go,” what I end up with is “fake letting go.”
In my experience, real surrender happens when I can’t hold on anymore. Something larger than me forces me to let go. And maybe there is a moment when I feel like I’m making the choice to let go, but it’s taking a lot to bring me to that moment. Therefore, I can’t offer it as a prescription.
But nonetheless, speaking it out loud, is so useful. Somehow, that idea of “I could just let go,” it worms its way into our psyche. And perhaps when that moment comes, it’s infiltrated us enough that we’re able and willing to let go at that moment.
I don’t know. It’s mysterious. But just that whole way of operating where you find a set of instructions, a set of principles for life, and “Now, I have something to follow. Now, I have something to rest on,” in subtle ways, very often, those principles are built from the filaments of the old story.
And take all this with a grain of salt. It’s not like a one-time thing where you go through this space between stories and then you’re good to go for the rest of your life.
Jeff: Especially these things accelerate. It seems as if—I know for me I’m being catapulted into new—it’s almost as if there’s this space between stories. Within that space, there’s another space. It’s like the space within the spaces. And even in those micro-moments, there is an opportunity to really trust in the process.
I know a lot of these catchphrases can seem new-agey or whatever they are. There’s a lot of weight in them. And I think our conscious mind wants to hear the tactic, hear the strategy, hear the bullet point list, hear the one, two, three, four, five, so we can grasp on to something and say, “Oh, that’s it!” when that’s literally the antithesis of trusting.
Charles: Right, although there are territories in this terrain that are familiar to people who have gone through it. For example, there is the time of looking over your shoulder and regretting that you left the old world behind. Not everybody goes through that particular area, but many people do.
And that is not necessarily something to just get over. That could be a really important part of the grieving process for what’s lost, an important part of the integration process.
There is the time of trying lots of different things. Even as you know that none of them are it, but you try them anyway. There’s a time of maybe actually returning to the old story and clinging on to it as tightly as you can.
There’s a time of utter stillness, of being totally in the moment and finding any kind of strategizing or plan-making repellant. There’s a time of getting excited about a new plan. And then tomorrow, dropping it, and then doing it again, and getting excited about one thing after another, and none of them are it.
All of these, they’re not wrong. There’s the time though of feeling like you’ve been doing it totally wrong your whole life and really sinking your teeth into that feeling.
So, the process takes us through it. It has its own intelligence. My mind quails at the idea that there’s not a way for me to do it right, that it’s not up to me. That’s such a vulnerable place. You want to be in charge of things. You want to have a handle on it. You don’t want to be surrendered to something that who knows where it will take you. You could die. You could.
Jeff: Do you think that men are more susceptible to this, wanting to control, than women are? Or do you see it synonymous between?
Charles: Yeah. I think that there might even be a biological aspect to that, and there’s certainly a cultural aspect to it in a patriarchal society. Women are, in certain obvious ways, are much more given, surrendered to biological rhythms than men are.
Jeff: Charles, within the The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible, I extracted a few quotes of you, a few highlights from specific chapters that I would love to dive in here.
So, in chapter three of Interbeingness, you talked about the story of interbeing in which no action is insignificant. Can you dive in to that a little bit? Just unpack that.
Charles: Yeah, sure. So, in what I call the old story (which is kind of a Newtonian worldview), your impact on the world depends on how much power or how much force you can exert. If you have lots of money, if you have a big army under your command, if you’re the president of the United States, if you have a big platform, if you have a hundred thousand subscribers rather than 10 thousand, then you’re going to have a 10 times bigger impact.
So, if you want to be a success in the world, whether it’s in conventional terms, or even in terms of making a big impact, making a big change, then you’ve got to be big, you’ve got to be strong, you’ve got to be powerful, you’ve got to have a lot of something—a lot of money, a lot of audience, something like that.
And that is all based on a world view or a theory of change that says change happens when you exert a force or a mass.
And of course, your personal force is limited, but you can organize lots of people and compel lots of people to do your bidding, then you’ll have a magnified amount of force.
Charles: Well, that way of thinking devalues certain actions, certain ways of being that, in our hearts, we feel are really important and impactful, but that do not result in measurable outcomes on a big scale.
So what if you spend—one example might be the person, a lawyer maybe, who spends 5 or 10 years trying to free somebody from death row who’s been wrongfully convicted or the activist who spends 10 years trying to free a single orca from captivity.
In the big picture, you think, “Well, okay. That’s very nice. But what’s freeing one man going to do in the context of climate change, in the context of all these global injustices—world hunger, mass incarceration? This person should be looking on a bigger level than just this one tiny little thing.”
What about the woman who spends 10 years taking care of her grandmother? All her friends are going out, having a good time, developing their careers, working for Green Peace, doing big things, and she’s just taking care of one old lady who’s going to die anyway and no one will even know about it.
So, our mind say, “Well, that’s very admirable, but she’s really not having a big impact on the world—not compared to Vandana Shiva or not compared to Bill McKibben or not compared to somebody who’s got a loud voice.”
However, there is another logic that validates those small, private, invisible acts that feels so important. It could feel like it’s the most important thing in the world maybe to be at your grandmother’s death bed as she’s dying, and you would sacrifice almost anything to be there if you’re close to her.
Or if you have a friend in need, in desperate need, you’ll put down anything. And it feels like that’s the most important thing in the world. And you feel like if you didn’t do that, you would be abdicating your duty.
So, the heart has one opinion and the mind has another opinion. The mind’s opinion though depends on the story that we’re living in, the story of how change happens in the world.
A new story says, “Okay. We’re not actually separate individuals in a world of force and mass, but we are all connected to everything. And everything that happens in the world is mirrored in myself. Every action that I take ripples outward and affects the cosmos.”
Rupert Sheldrake calls it morphic resonance which is the theory that any change that happens anywhere creates a field of change that makes the same change happen more easily somewhere else.
So, any act of compassion strengthens the field of compassion. And across the world, somebody else in a situation where he can choose between selfishness and compassion, maybe he’s tilted a little bit more towards compassion because of what you did that’s seemingly unrelated.
And then, what happens when the field of compassion grows so much that it begins changing our political culture. So maybe the things that we think don’t have impact unless they can scale up, unless they can go viral, unless you can broadcast them, what if that is just a delusion based on the story of separation?
Jeff: Yeah. You beautifully outlined it. I believe its chapter 11 on Morphogenesis, and Rupert Sheldrake’s The Morphogenetic Theory and all that, love! It was funny. That’s where I was going to go next. You beautifully already brought that.
So, in the topic of interbeingness and in the topic of morphogenetic fields, and adding to that, I guess you could say global resonance of compassion or of tipping the scales on a brand new direction, what would you say is the number one area where you’ve had to—
I don’t know, it’s funny. For me, I use the word “grow up.” I’ve had to grow up in a lot of areas like if I’ve had to have more compassion or if I’ve had to [inaudible 00:23:31] I’ve had to get bigger than myself. I’ve had to get unselfish to some degree to allow space for other people to be able to provide and to be able to have more empathy and to see from a different perspective.
Where would you say in what area would you say you had to grow the most?
Charles: Well, I’m not sure if I can say which one’s the most, but what’s coming to mind right now is how I’ve come to realize that my life was strongly governed by my desire to gain approval from others.
I would say it’s a habit of control. If I make everybody like me and approve of me, then I’ll be safe. It’s a way of controlling the situation, controlling other people.
And that impulse to control in me comes in part from a lack of trust or faith in the intelligence of the universe. If you don’t make it happen, then it’s not going to happen. If you don’t control the world outside you, then you’re going to be in trouble.
The world doesn’t care about you. And there’s no unfolding purpose in the world outside yourself. You have to impose a purpose. You have to impose intelligence on to the world.
This was deeply ingrained in my education. And it’s in our culture too.
Jeff: Oh, yeah, for sure.
Charles: Nature is an object to be manipulated and extracted from.
Jeff: Which we know, it definitely doesn’t work out like when we’re battling waves. Say we’re in the ocean, the wave will win. No doubt about that.
It’s an interesting story too because giving up that sense of control in being—I know for me I have a sense of what’s the purpose then. If I’m not supposed to define that target and define that aim and strive for that goal, then surrendering to a story, is it my goal now to notice a story? It’s so funny because our mind automatically goes into this strategy mode.
Charles: Well, I’m not actually saying that we should never exercise our linear, rational powers in pursuit of a goal. I would reframe it maybe “in service of a goal” and say that visions and goals have an existence outside of ourselves that we don’t necessarily have to create them, but we can listen for them.
Jeff: Love that.
Charles: So, a different view of technology—I’m not advocating the discarding of technology either. But in the old story, technology involves imposing our will onto nature which we can do with impunity because nature does not have a will of its own.
In the new story, technology involves listening to nature and listening for what is the thing that wants to happen. What is the dream of the land? What is the dream of the earth?
And probably, the people listening have had an experience before of almost receiving a vision. “There it is. And I’ve seen it.” And then when I’ve seen it, when I speak about it, people believe me because that gets telegraphed, that I’m not making that up.
Certain people, you may have run into people who have a seemingly magical ability to just speak things into existence. “This festival is going to happen.” And you have no doubt. They say it’s going to happen and I know it’s going to happen.
Jeff: A hundred percent certainty. I can feel it, I can see it. I just know it’s going to happen for sure.
Charles: You know it’s going to happen. Therefore, you’re willing to participate in making it happen Jeff: because you know it’s going to happen.
Whereas if someone comes with this kind of bravado and, without really believing it, says, “We’re going to have a festival happen. We’re going to have an intentional community. We’re going to have this or that,” but it’s not because they’ve actually seen it, it’s because they think there should be one, then their words have no power. People are like, “Oh, yeah. We’ll wait and see.”
Jeff: You did that tone perfectly by the way. One is exactly that. It gets spiraled into doubt, questioning, “What are you talking about?” And the other one is like, “Yes, zero questions. Just a hundred percent yes.”
Charles: Yeah, right. “Yeah, I’ll see. If other people sign up for it, then maybe I will too.” We don’t really believe it, and they don’t really believe it either. So if you’re trying to impose something like that on to reality, your power is limited. It’s limited by the amount of force that you have at your disposal. You could pay people to do it, you could coerce them to do it, manipulate them to do it, but that’s all relying on your force.
But if it’s something that wants to happen, and you enter into service to that thing, then miracles start happening. Things fall into place. The right person shows up at the right moment with the right resource. Synchronicity’s converged, and you find yourself at the center of a creative process that is far beyond you.
The money comes in when it’s needed. You don’t have to worry about that part. All you have to do is devote yourself. That is the secret to expanded creativity.
And I really want the social justice and environmental movements to understand that because if we are left with what we can make happen by force, we’re going to lose. The situation is impossible without the kind of miracles that come from beyond ourselves.
The universe is generous. And this is one strand that relates it to my work on economics and gift. Really, all of our creative power has been given to us. Even our lives are not something that we earned by staying in that state of gift and of gratitude. We’re open to the flow of continued gifts.
So, we give forth creating an empty space that channels more gifts through us.
Jeff: Do you have a specific example where you’ve received maybe that vision or had the inner prompting to initiate that—your example here with the festival and the rally. Do you have any example where you’ve had that very clear strike of intuition, and then preceded with action? It seemed that everything was beautifully orchestrated, already done, just fell right into alignment?
Charles: Not on a large scale, no. I mean, many small things in my life.
I fear I over simplified the process. Another part of the process, especially when you step out of the world of control and the old story and devote yourself to something like that, the universe will say, “Are you sure?” So, the first thing might be an obstacle. “Do you really want to do this?”
That happened with me when I wrote the ascent of humanity. It took me four years to write that. And I did have this vision of this book that wanted me to write it. That brought me to my needs with its power and beauty.
But very quickly, my ego took over, because it was so amazing and beautiful, “Well, I’m going to become rich and famous from this book.” So I sent out partial manuscripts, book proposals to publishers, certain that they would be overcome as I was, intoxicated with its majesty.
But guess what? Not a single publisher was interested in the book. I didn’t get a six-figure advance. In fact, I had to self-publish it. And it was as if the world was saying, “Why are you really doing this? Is it because you want to get rich and famous? Are you still going to do it even if you have no possibility of that? What are you really serving here?” So, I was given that opportunity to clarify why I was really doing it.
If you have mixed motives in your creations like I did, you will be faced with a similar generous opportunity to clarify why you’re really doing it.
If you enter into it without that inner conflict, then the crystallization of miracle and synchronicity around you is much more likely to manifest right away. If it isn’t manifesting, it could be a symptom that there’s inner conflict that needs to be resolved. Therefore, we can be grateful when those things happen.
We can be, although rage and despair might be a more authentic response to it. But eventually, we come to gratitude, realizing, “Oh, I’m really glad it happened that way. If I had gotten rich and famous right away from that book, I’d probably be full of myself right now. And I probably wouldn’t have expanded beyond that.”
Jeff: So, it almost sounds as if the lessons that we’re meant to learn—or in this case, I would call that maybe being humble—that we’re given opportunities to enter into almost the new story, the new story of what it would be instead of self-fulfilling prophecy or just—well, not really a self-fulfilling prophecy, but the thing of inflated ego, really wanting recognition or wanting approval and having that be the barometer by which we judge our efforts, saying, “If we got this many likes…” or your example from before, “If we had this much influencer, this many people on our list, then I did a good job.”
Right now, I read a lot of books. As you can see in the shelves behind you, I read a book about every few days. And this book, it’s provoked more thought than I think any book I’ve read a number of years.
I think that we’re given these tests to—it’s exactly as you said. Are you going to do it no matter what? And is it going to be something that you’re going to leave your footprint, your fingerprint on the world? And are you really going to do it?
Charles: Is not really a test necessarily that you pass or fail. It’s an opportunity for clarification. Maybe the result will be that you give up on it, and then you also learn something about yourself. You learn, “You know? Maybe I really wasn’t in service to that vision. Maybe I don’t care about that that much. Maybe there’s something else, in this world that I care about so much that I will be unstoppable.”
So, you hear about unstoppability as this positive characteristic in some of these self-help training things. Unstoppablity is, again, a symptom, and not a cause of success. When you find something that you care enough about, you will be unstoppable.
If your child is drowning, there is nothing that will stop you for you to rescue that child. I don’t care if there’s ice floating in the pond. No matter what, you will exert your capacities to the outmost to do that.
There is something like that for everybody that you care so much about that you will abandon all the things that hold you back. If you find yourself being held back, if you find yourself being stopped, being stoppable, you could beat yourself up about it and say, “I’ve got to try harder to be unstoppable“ or you could say, “I haven’t found it yet.”
One more thing that came to me when you’re talking about the number of likes and the big audience, what if you were told, “Jeff/Charles…”—and I do a podcast too, sort of—“you’re only going to have an audience of five. And one of those five will be so inspired by this that he will end up changing the world. But he will never give you credit, and no one will ever know that it was because of you.”
Would you prefer that to having a hundred thousand likes or a million likes?
Jeff: Phew! That’s a big question.
Charles: If there’s a conflict there, guess what? You’ll be given the opportunity in some way to clarify that because the universe is generous.
Jeff: Wow! It’s funny, because I have this list of questions here, this list of quotes. The conversation is so intriguing for me. And it’s funny, I think a lot of people are going to find this really interesting because if anyone is in the space of personal development, they know what this push looks like. They know what this conversation looks like—facing adversity, feel the fear and do it anyways. I could spout catchphrases for the next 20 minutes—obviously I’m not going to.
But I love what you said here in Chapter 16, A Newness. You’re talking about the three seeds. In the segue to that, you said, “It was a journey with a purpose to experience the extremes of separation, to develop the gifts that come in response to it and to integrate all of that, in the new age of reunion,” and then you go into the three seeds.
Can you bring a little light in to that conversation here? You talk about the three seeds of wisdom lineages, of sacred stories, and of indigenous tribes, of integrating some of that tradition into the new story—I guess if I’m interpreting that correctly.
Charles: Yeah, yeah. I’m just thinking that I don’t want to go there now because, really, to do that, we should tell the story. And maybe it’s better if we don’t spend our time in that. People can read it.
Jeff: Totally cool.
Charles: But the thing about the push—like you were going to spend 20 minutes saying those phrases, “feel the fear and do it anyway,” all those things—one thing that all of those have in common is that if you do it, then you get credited for it. You did this hard thing. Unlike that guy over there, he felt the fear, Jeff. But he didn’t do it anyway, you you did.
Jeff: Yeah, I get bragging rights.
Charles: Yeah. You get to approve of yourself. So again, here’s this deep conflict, this mixed motive that has been very alive for me. Are you doing it to be good, to be able to like yourself, to approve of yourself, to win self-approval, to put yourself high on some standard of virtue?
Or are you doing it because you really care about something beyond yourself?
Why are you doing it?
And I noticed, this was a big thing for me. I noticed just how much of what I was doing was simply to give myself permission to like myself.
I get to like myself, I’m okay because I did this, because I felt the fear and did it anyway, because I wasn’t selfish, because I didn’t give up—all these becauses, therefore, I’m okay.
Now, of course, that desire for self-approval, originates in the quest for parental approval, approval of mother authorities. I think that maybe that is a natural part of the human psyche. But in our day and age, that approval is so tied into abiding by the strictures of the world destroying story.
So, I think we need to defy that. And for many people, it will really be liberating to say, “I’m going to do it just because I want to” without even worrying if that’s okay. Because the universe is generous, someone in your life will ask you to justify that. “You can’t do that because this, that and the other thing…”
Someone will be personally triggered. The temptation will be to justify it, “Oh, it’s okay to take that trip without you because I really am tired and I deserve it and because you took a trip and because this. And therefore, it’s okay.”
And you might have a tacit agreement with that person that if you can provide enough justifications that fit their story, then they’ll let you do it. But to say, “No, I’m going to do it because I want to. I don’t have a justification. But I feel yes, I want to do it,” that can be really triggering.
This is more than just personal, psychological, spiritual relevance because—I say this in the book—if we have a secrete motivation of gaining approval, being right and good, then what we will achieve will be that even if it’s for thinking that we’re going to create change in the world. But if the real motive isn’t that, then we’re not going to achieve that.
Jeff: That’s huge, just that one point in and of itself, the approval seeking, the being right conversation. Big, it’s a big thing. It’s a really big thing.
Charles: I learned this in prison. I was visiting the prison. I’ve been in jail before, but not prison. But this guy was with the quicker group. And as one of the warm-up exercises, you have to spend three minutes telling your partner why you like yourself—really hard for me.
I had a few things that I said, and then I petered off. I couldn’t fill up three minutes with why I liked myself. Then it was my partners turn, a convicted murderer, and he had no problem.
“I like myself because I’m a good person. I like myself because I’m a good father, because I love my children. I like myself because I like myself.” And every word he said was true. He really truly liked himself. Therefore, he would not be under that burden, under that slavery of always trying to gain self-approval.
If you like yourself for real, deeply, then you’re not a slave to this quest to be a good person which makes you controllable by other people. And there are people who are experts at controlling people through their judicious extension of approval or disapproval. They say the right word at the right time, and you just want to do more for them. They’re feeding you this approval that you’re not able to self-source.
I don’t want to get too pop psychology here, but it’s me.
Jeff: I know for me, I’ve struggled with some of these things myself, the approval-seeking, being right. I think on some degree, we all love to be right. And there’s definitely an emptiness though. When you’re right, at the end of the day, what does it really matter? It’s questioning our motives.
I think for me, one of the big take home points for this conversation is really understanding what our true motive is, and being clear and allowing what we would call a test in the past to really be that clarifying moment to understand, “Why am I really doing this? What is my true motive? What’s my true intent?” and to continue to clarify that because we all know we don’t have to prove the truth which you so beautifully have said. The truth is the truth, especially if it’s ours when we’re not seeking approval, when we’re secure.
When we have that self-assurance, self-security in a genuine sense, everything else is frivolous. There’s not a whole lot other stuff to do to go out and prove to be right, and then it becomes a sharing, and not a contest of who has more likes, who has more shares, and all that good stuff.
Charles: Yeah. There’s another habit I write about in A More Beautiful World, habits of struggle.
So, one way that that habit may manifest is, okay, you have this moment of realization, “Oh, my God! So much of what I’ve been doing was just to think of myself as a good, ethical, worthy person. I wasn’t really trying to help the world. I was actually just trying to prove that I’m good. No wonder people thought I was so self-righteous. I was!” you have that moment, then the habit of struggle kicks in. “I’ve got to conquer that.”
Jeff: “I got to fix it.”
Charles: “I got to fix it!” But actually, just that moment of realization is super powerful, and just to say, “Yeah, that’s what I’ve been doing.” You could even say, “I’m going to keep doing it because I like that feeling.” You could do that. But once that moment of realization happens, at least it isn’t hidden anymore.
And I think almost always, it’s just gets weaker then. You see it operating, and change happens without you making it happen.
Charles: That is totally anti-Newtonian. In a Newtonian world, nothing changes unless you exert a force.
Jeff: Of course, inertia. We all learned that.
Charles: In the quantum world, it’s different. In the quantum world things happen acausally. It just happens. And you can’t say that something made it happen. Why did that uranium atom decay? And the other one didn’t? It’s not because that there was something pushing on the one and not the other. Physicist call it random or acausal. And for me, that’s really liberating.
Jeff: Yeah, it’s hugely liberating. Oh, my goodness! It’s funny, we could literally talk about this stuff all day. It’s absolutely amazing.
And for our listeners, definitely, if you’re a reader, if you’re into this conversation, and you want to learn more about Charles, and you want to hear more about how he unpacks all of this, the book is called The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.
Definitely pick it up because like I said, for me, I have a list of a million questions. And to keep this somewhat brief, we’ll save that for another time. And who knows, maybe we’ll jump on again sometime in the future.
But before we conclude though, I do have a couple of questions for you Charles. One of them is—forgive the wording ahead of time, if you will, but the question I ask all of my guests is, number one, what keeps you motivated to continue this work? And I know motivated is probably a questionable word here mate.
Charles: Yeah. I mean you’re asking me at a funny time. I’m not motivated to keep doing this work. I’m entering a very profound space between stories myself.
I’ve had quite a ride. Five or six years ago, I was completely unknown. Then one thing after another, after another happens. And pretty soon, I’m getting invited to speak around the world. I spoke in 2012, 2013, 2014 probably, including interviews like this, 200 times a year. Fifty keynotes, just this crazy schedule.
And at some point, about a year or two ago, I started to feel weary. I started to feel like I was just beginning to reshuffle the same ideas. I could milk them and play them out for decades probably and do okay at it. But I had this growing sense of futility and phoniness.
So, I’ve been drawn to letting go of it all, coming in to a still point, go on a deep retreat. And that was in the back of my mind. I couldn’t really shake loose very well because I’m getting all these invitations. I have all these commitment off into the future.
What the conscious mind is too scared to do, the unconscious mind does for you.
So, I started having health problems that really made me unable to continue as I had been. So right now, I’m on the mend. But still, I have this fatigue. Anytime I do something I really don’t want to do, I can’t do it.
Jeff: That’s a cool place to be.
Charles: I have an ally. I think I’ll probably end up writing more books and continuing using my gifts as a speaker, but that isn’t actually what I’m motivated to do.
Jeff: Got it! Beautifully said though too. There’s a space for “motivation.” And there’s also—I would say, within that, the story right now that you’re in between or in the story that you’re in, the motivation is pure.
There’s a curiosity, instead of a motivation. There’s something different acting, instead of—you have this new gauge of, “I’m going to do this thing. I have plenty of energy for it” or “I’m not going to do it” and then your body speaks for you almost.
Charles: I’m not goal-oriented right now. I have nothing against goals and goal-setting. Right now, I’m not doing this interview because of a goal. I could say, “Well, I could reach a new audience and so on and so forth. And this is what I have to do as an author and so on.” But no, I don’t have a goal actually. When you asked me, I felt, yes, I don’t have a reason.
Jeff: Cool! Fun place to be.
Alright, then the next one here is another funny one, but I’m going to ask anyways. But do you us one specific strategy to keep yourself going to the next level?
And I know the next level could be an ambiguous term. But for me means the next level of evolution or your next level of personal contribution or your next level of who you are.
Charles: So I’ll refrain from again rudely questioning the assumptions of the question and stuff. I think that these are beautiful questions actually.
I’ll give you a strategy that’s worked for me. It’s contrary to common advice. It’s to believe everything I read and everything that people tell me.
What I mean by that is even if it’s the most odious opinion imaginable, to understand where that’s coming from, to understand that in that person’s world, it’s logical. It makes sense. It fits into their story of the world.
So, I try to go into that with them. What would it be like? How would I have to be? What would I have to believe? What would I have to think for this to make sense? I can visit ideas that are diametrically opposed, and enter into that universe. And then, sometimes, I’ll find that that universe has something to offer mine that expands me.
So it’s a practice of letting go of being right about things. That’s what keeps my brain young.
Jeff: Cool! Awesome, thank you. And then if you had to guide your life by one quote—whether it’s yours or one you’ve heard—what would that be?
Charles: Different times of my life, different quotes come up. One of my favorites was from the 60s entertainer Sun Ra—very flamboyant character. He said, “You’ve tried everything possible and none of it has worked. Therefore, we must try the impossible.”
Jeff: Ooh, I like that. Awesome! And then, for our listeners, what’s the best way to find out more about you and to dig in to some of your work?
Charles: CharlesEisenstein.net, that’s the hub that has enormous amount of content as they call it—videos, interviews and books. You can read my books even online. Essays, I have a lot of essays. I have a blog/podcast that’s called A New and Ancient Story.
Jeff: Cool! And I’ll link all these in the show notes too, so people can just go right there and click on them. I know that you’re pretty active on Facebook too, yeah? Somewhat.
Charles: Yeah. Usually, if I write a blog post or something, I put it on Facebook too. I’m not sure. Facebook has gotten really weird these days.
Jeff: Yes. All those social platforms are changing so fast. It’s ridiculous.
But before we wrap up too, I just want to say a huge thank you for carving up the time to come over today and to get on the mic and to dive into this conversation and extrapolate on it and to play with ideas and to just offer so much more as you already do. So thank you for that.
Charles: I really enjoyed it. Thank you.
Jeff: Awesome. You’re Welcome Charles.
There you have it. That wraps up another episode of The Next Level Podcast. For the resources and show notes mentioned in today’s episode, be sure to head over to JeffAgostinnelli.com/019 and jeffa.co/019.
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