A rabbi and a Taoist monk walk into a clubhouse…
Only the punchline isn’t hilarious — it’s accessing higher consciousness.
Holy people walk all around us. Sometimes, we know them by their cloth — black hats, or robes, or stoles. Sometimes, they’re watching t-shirts and jeans — like me.
Across disciplines, religions, practices, and ideologies, there’s something we all have in common that makes us more alike than different.
We build and rebuild our spiritual hygiene every single day.
The work and the discipline and the years of studying create an energy field around all of us that binds us to a shared purpose — to find true integration, and train the muscles that got us there to remember how to do it again and again and again.
When Rabbi Doniel Katz came onto The Urban Monk Podcast recently, I already knew we shared a ton of experiences.
But truly, even I was surprised to learn how similar our worldviews are — his through the mysticism of the Kabbalah, and mine through qi gong and Taoism.
There are so many ways to interface with a higher power. That’s all religion is, really.
The path we travel to get there — because Doniel and I both agree that organized religion itself can often obscure the actual levity of spiritual enlightenment — is never the same for any two people.
Doniel’s story certainly doesn’t look like mine.
Turning a Big Train Around
When he was young, he knew he was going to be a Hollywood big shot visionary filmmaker. He was Jewish, yes, but not particularly religious.
He worked hard at what he wanted to accomplish and even got awards and accolades for the films he’d made.
But he kept seeking out spiritual experiences through Buddhism, Sufism, Hinduism — basically, everything but Judaism.
He visited Israel for a few weeks, and he went home to Australia.
Then things started to happen.
I was struck, listening to him tell me about it, by how inverted our experiences were. I’d discovered Taoism in my early twenties, and although my background was pretty secular, I took to it — or it took to me — right away.
I didn’t become a filmmaker until many years later when I’d already made decisions about my life as a Western householder and baked discipline into my quotidian life.
Doniel had to turn the train around at the same time as he was coming to consciousness and asking questions about truth, reality, soul consciousness, spiritual wealth, angels, and what was possible.
He had to shelve the ego he’d spent a lifetime building, and give himself the gift of immersion.
He had to admit how afraid he was of giving up his quest for success and following the path that all of the signs and revelations in his life pointed him towards.
“Almost all religion started in revelation and ended in dogma,” he said to me.
The real question wasn’t how to get to revelation, but how to stay there.
More Subtraction than Addition
Alchemy is more a process of removing impurity than creating out of nothing.
That’s what Doniel has spent the last decade or so trying to do — to come out of the forest and express the ineffable by remembering what doesn’t belong in spirituality, and what work has to be done to keep it out.
Most of the tools in your tool belt, you don’t really need. And you don’t even really think you need them…
You just don’t realize you’re carrying them.
Sustained spiritual access is a matter of uncoupling your true self from the self you’ve shrouded in things that don’t serve you.
And it’s hard work. Like kung fu — which translates, literally, to hard work.
Tune in and listen, because it’s one of the most electric conversations I’ve ever had.
- Our experiences with vipassana — a grueling extended silent meditation that turned out to be the best thing to happen to us both.
- How halting the pain-aversion-machine we’re all on is the first chain in the link that binds us to the present moment.
- The hairline difference between the nullification and inflammation of the ego state.
- How the democratization of spirituality ends up sometimes throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
- Why spirituality without reconciliation of your shadow elements and therapeutic reckoning of your egos gets you nowhere.
- Why true levity can only come from grit.
- How psychedelics and consciousness-raising substances are ancient tools that require responsibility and context.
- Why every higher-power-given feeling has its healthy expression.
- And so much more.
Click here to listen to the episode…
And if you’re on Clubhouse, follow me here at @urbanmonk in your app. That way, next time, you can join the discussion!
If you enjoyed these thoughts and think we’ve got something in common, I have a feeling you’re going to love the streaming service I launched last year — by wellness purveyors for wellness seekers. Here’s two weeks free — on me.