#213 In life, we learn about history, english, math, and science. But no one ever teaches us how to thrive as a human being. No one ever teaches us about the intelligence of our emotions, about resolving interpersonal conflict, about healthy embodiment, creative self-expression, how to connect to our deepest sense of purpose, and so much more that’s needed to be a happy healthy human being.
In this episode, I welcome back Jeff Lieberman to dive into that with me and share his incredible wisdom with us. Jeff is a jack of all science trades, and many non-science trades too, actually. He is a mechanical engineer, a design consultant, a photographer, composer and kinetic sculptor. He will talk about his spiritual exploration and what he learned along the way, how our beliefs keep us from achieving the fullness of ourselves, and the life changing work he is doing through his Sleepawake Camp to bring a paradigm shift to education and relationships that will educate the emotional and spiritual aspects of people’s being as well as their mental and physical. Tune in to our conversation as he asks us to challenge our perception of what we are, our relationship to the universe, and our relationship to one another.
If you enjoyed this podcast, you may also like: Jeff Lieberman: Overcoming Depression & What Science Taught Me About Spirit
About Jeff: Jeff Lieberman is the creative director of Sleepawake, a 4-week residential intensive for 18 to 24 year olds to explore the potent paths to embodied, engaged, and authentic living. Jeff received four degrees at MIT (Physics, Math, Mech E and Robotics). He hosted “Time Warp” on the Discovery Channel about the wonders of science, and made large-scale art for 15 years. By external measures, he was incredibly successful. But inside, something was missing. This disconnect led him to a deep depression in high school, and chronic pain for almost 20 years after that.
Jeff learned quantum mechanics before learning about his emotions. He marvels at the fact that we can measure the external universe to 10-decimal accuracy, but most of us don’t learn about our insides: our emotions, what leads to flourishing, how to take great care of ourselves. Years of personal exploration transformed him, leading to a determination to not have the road to joy be difficult for others to find.
He has spent more than 15 years training in meditation, personal development, and group dynamics for well being, facilitating high school students through a 3-week intensive and adults through an 18-month program. He speaks around the world on the topics of art, science, education, healing, and consciousness. See more of his work at bea.st.
Key points with time stamp:
- Sleepawake: The 6 Potent Paths to Embodied, Engaged, & Authentic Living (00:00)
- The point where he realized he needed to look more inward than outward to fill the hole that he had inside (02:16)
- His journey of spiritual enlightenment and how it led him into holistic wellbeing (05:55)
- Why and how to deconstruct the beliefs of our minds (10:29)
- Freeing ourselves from the conditioning that makes us fear the fullness of ourselves (15:38)
- Sleepawake: The creative motivation behind this life-changing concept (20:36)
- The priceless secret that no one knows they want (27:07)
- Intense application and interview processes they take 18 to 24 year olds for their Sleepawake camp (34:30)
- Breaking down the 6 areas they cover over the 30 days people spend at Sleepawake (36:00)
- Gearing towards permanently shifting the wellbeing of thousands of students for their lifetimes (42:30)
- Sharing the benefits of Sleepawake with the younger generation (45:24)
- Looking into how your beliefs suffocate the self that you know is inside you (49:39)
Mentioned in this episode:
Here we are. Jeff. Welcome back to the podcast.
Yeah. Great to be with you guys.
Um, I was, obviously we were saying off there, it’s amazing. It’s been literally four years. I wouldn’t be far off to the day. I would imagine something like that. So time flies, time flies. It does. It’s great to have you back.
It’s great to be here. It’s great to have you be a father now and spread, uh, the good vibes
I’m doing my best mate. I’m doing my best. And I I’m ask the same question. Ask everyone on the show before we dive in. Cuz obviously when you flick me an email through, I lit up straight away and I was like, oh my God, we’ve gotta talk about this on the show today. But if you were at a dinner table right now and you sat next to a complete stranger and they asked you what you did for a living, what would you say?
I would say I’m A scientist at heart and an artist at heart. It’s trying to mix the two to figure out how to make wellbeing normal on earth instead of a rare occasion.
What does normal wellbeing look like to you, Jeff? Cause
Yeah, and I wouldn’t say normal wellbeing. I’m saying, I’m saying make full wellbeing normalized. Um,
You know, where, where, when someone Stops what they’re doing and sits still
They’re in enjoying the fact of being the fact of existing, uh, just really pure, you know, I think, I think we have a culture where it’s so used to distraction and numbing ourselves from things and, and people’s worst nightmare. A lot of the time would be in to be in like a white room with nothing in it because they’d have to actually deal with all the things that are inside. And so for me, wellbeing means I’m coherent inside. My inside is coherent. And so actually I, I enjoy just being, it’s not a, it’s not a problem that I have to work through. It’s actually a joy in itself.
Yeah. Beautiful. How long did it take you at what point did you realize that you weren’t being so in your life, there’s always a journey to get to that point isn’t there. And I think once we get to that point, we wanna share the wisdom and what we’ve learned, that’s impacted our lives so deeply that we just wanna spread the message and help others with it. So I’m fascinated with, with you, Jeff, where was the tipping point for you
And the tipping point for where it actually became joyful or the tipping point where I know knew it wasn’t joyful.
Yeah. Or your tipping point where you knew where you thought, ah, I actually gotta look more inward than I would.
Oh yeah. That was a really clear point in my life. So, you know, just to even kind of precursor that a little bit, you know, by the time I was 10, I wasn’t insomniac. I was already seeing a doctor for that and 15 depression and you know, so I knew there was something off pretty early, but in our culture we consider that almost always a chemical impact balance. And we try to add other chemicals to treated instead of actually pointing to the fact that the fact I felt that was actually intelligent. Things were not actually well in my life. So that, that took quite a while. But I, I would say the next 15 years of that, I spent jumping around Maslow’s hierarchy, trying to accomplish every thing that I felt would actually fulfill the whole that was inside. And that took me from, you know, I went to MIT, I studied math and physics.
I was gonna be a professor. Then I went into robotics and I started making robotic artwork, all these things that they were extremely enjoyable and satiated the curiosity and the passion I had in life, but they didn’t seem to actually feel fill just like when I stopped was I was I just feeling that joy of being and that all culminated when I hosted a TV show called time warp on discovery channel. So I hosted that show in like 2007 to 2009 for three years, we did three seasons. And this was one of those moments where it was like, wow, everything on the list is accomplished. You know, I’ve got, I’m making good money. I got a nice place to live. I have a girlfriend, I’ve got this job. People recognize me on the street. Like just what could be wrong, you know? And at the same time I was the most stressed I’ve ever been.
I was the most kind of incoherent just out of balance with myself that I’ve ever been. And when I stopped, it was just like, what is going on? You know? And so when that show didn’t get renewed for the next season, and I didn’t go back to finish my PhD, that I had taken a leave of absence from all of a sudden I had nowhere else I knew to look. And so it was just like, okay, I don’t have any idea what to do now. <affirmative>, I’m just, you know, there’s no more parts of the, you know, I had the social esteem and all that sort of thing. So where do you go? And what that made really clear was that it was really about my mind. It was really not about my life circumstances that were gonna create my wellbeing. It was about me and the way that I judged the way my life was going.
So that was just a huge turning point where kind of everything stopped. I, I had enough money say that I didn’t need to go find another thing, which would’ve become another distraction. And so I just spent the next two years reading about wellbeing and, and just voraciously, trying to find anything that would be not superficial and not symptomatic, cuz that’s all the things that I had found early. You know, I had been on antidepressants and it’s like, they shift something in the direction of feeling better on this much of the surface, but they didn’t act, it was very clear to my body that they didn’t get to the core of what was going on.
Get to the core. Yeah. What do you, what was the first step into that world then for you? So you start reading the information and I’m always fascinated because when, when we get to that point and I, I, you know, I certainly been there too in my own journey. It’s, it’s fucking overwhelming. You’re like, where do I go? What do I do? How do I deal with it? And, and it, and it can be terrifying to start to look at what emotions are being held and, and, uh, sort of diving inward to oneself to discover what that root is. So like what was the, I guess the catalyst for you where you, you kind of went, holy shit. That makes sense. I’m gonna try this. I’m gonna do this. Yeah. And start playing it in your life.
Well, just to give you kind of like a, a, a reference point of how insane I, my mind was in terms of like close-minded views about how to find wellbeing. I, uh, you know, I had learned the basics of meditation, but I wouldn’t do it cuz it was too woo woo. Like new age for me back in this 2008, you know? And so I, the first thing I needed to find was I, I read neuroscientists talking about the benefits of meditation, deeper compassion, deeper sense of gratitude in life, uh, increased wellbeing. And then I was like, okay, like I can extricate this from religious overtones and there’s a clear benefit. So that started me in the cut, kinda like tiniest trickle of something. Cuz I knew it was about something inside in here. Um, but what really started the, the trip out, you know, the emotional landscape didn’t change actually for probably five more years.
But what the, the biggest first tipping point was getting exposed to Naar DAAs work who’s uh, Indian grew from Bombay. And you know, as I said, I was voraciously reading. I was probably reading two books a week for two years and each one I’d go back on Amazon. And like people that read this liked this, and I would just follow the breadcrumb trail basically of, of deeper and deeper and deeper to the core. And I, you know, I read all these things that just felt like you don’t seem to understand at all, what’s really at the, or here. And then I found this Amazon review that, that brought me to tears. And sometimes when I even recount it, it brings me to tears cuz the Amazon review of, uh, transcribed dialogues from this group, uh, Nagata said you’ve been searching long and hard for a book that will actually get to the root of the issues with the nature of reality.
And this is the book, get this book and read it and put it away and put all your books away and do the things that he says to try the experiments on yourself, on the nature of your consciousness. And you will come to know what’s really going on with reality. And you know, this is a girl who like, you know, as I said, I had a lot of triggers around religion and new ness at that time in my life. Now I, there is a whole different landscape we can get into. But at that time that was like a big block for me. But this grew, he’s a Bombay, uh, native. And he sold cigarettes in a cigarette shop and he smoked his whole life and he died of throat cancer and he didn’t follow any of the kind of normal, like I am this kind of holy thing.
He was actually, if you look up, um, videos of him, he’s basically just yelling at everybody. <laugh>, you know, people are asking him questions and he’ll just yell at them that your question is based on false assumptions of reality. And so I can’t even answer your question and that’s how a lot of his dialogues work, they exposed the hidden belief systems that you’re already bringing as a framework into reality. And so one of the hugest turning points for me was realizing that some aspects of spirituality are not at all about adding new beliefs there about letting go of beliefs that you are already have. And that was such a shift for the kind of like atheist mind that I was holding. It was such a shift that it just turned the whole world upside down. All of a sudden I saw these, these certain paths of spirituality as actually that I believed more than they did and that I needed to let go of certain beliefs to open myself up to what might be true. And that, that was just a, a mind fuck for a scientifically oriented mind. You know, that usually was like not interested in learning from gurus and things like that.
Amazing. Yeah. It’s definitely a journey of unlearning. Isn’t it quite often,
Totally with this world, you could say that all trauma and conditioning is stuff that you and your aunt street learned that a lot of the times it’s just over here, so you don’t even have it in your view. And it, it, you know, as young said, until you make that unconscious conscious, you will call it fate and it will determine your whole life and that’s what was happening. Yeah.
Wow. What, what I love about you, Jeff, and you know, even from our last conversation and that is that, you know, you’re somebody, you’re somebody that, um, has got an academic background. Like, I mean, you, I think there’s, I dunno many, it’s not many people that have studied quantum mechanics and that they’ve even had on the show. Right. And, and I guess my question to you is cuz what we are seeing here in Australia is when people come to our workshops and even in the retreat, everything is trying to be solved from the mind which you, you you’re talking to now. And quite often the more academic a person is, the more they lean on the mind to try and solve something that they haven’t looked at that’s beyond the mind.
What would your advice be to your old self or to somebody right now listening to this? Cuz I guarantee there’ll be people listening right now that are right there.
Mm-hmm <affirmative> yeah. There’s a couple things. The first one is that pretty much anything the mind believes can be deconstructed and seen as not fully true. And if you’re open to it, it, you can always find the holes in your own belief structure. Like, you know, if you really, if you really wanna put one of these things to the test, sit with someone and try to prove to them that some of these beliefs are true. And you’ll start to, if you’re open, you have to have the openness to it. You’ll start to see the framework that you’ve created around them. That’s part one, part two is coming in touch with metacognitive awareness, letting yourself actually notice that the thoughts are not you and that you are the observer of those thoughts is a huge shift in your future re relationship with yourself because usually thought and awareness are conflated in an adult and that’s just, we don’t even talk about it.
And so of course that’s what happens. You sit around and think all day, but you, you know, if you stop to notice it, you’re thinking in a language that you learned. I’m not thinking in Chinese, I’m thinking in English. And that took me several years to learn, which means for several years, I existed just fine as an aware being before that language actually came in here and started hallucinating auditorially so once again, if I’m receptive to it, it’s not me. It’s an object. I’m, I’m paying attention to just like my vision is an object I’m paying attention to. And so who is that me? So disidentifying from content and that takes work because we have not only individually, but culturally we have an addiction to thinking. And as you said, so many people like 99% of their attention is here. And when you ask them to identify, where are you?
Well, they’re usually like an inch behind their eyes. None of that stands up to any scrutiny by the way, but that’s where it is. But if you ask like an indigenous native, they’ll often point here where they are or they’ll point to their gut as actually where the center of themselves is, and we have different centers of being, but in our modern world, we tend to really focus our attention on the head. Um, the, the last thing I’d say about your question is that one other thing that you, if you, you have to be really receptive to this one without like working with a coach or something like that to come in touch with it. But to really see that a lot of the time, the thoughts that you have that are uncomfortable are actually contrary to any, uh, it’s like totally contrary to expectation these uncomfortable thoughts that might be like, you know, should I do this?
Or should I do? This are actually a protection mechanism from feeling something more uncomfortable. And so I just to ground it I’ll give a really simple example. I was in a relationship and I was like, should I stay in this relationship? Should I not? And when I was in a coaching session and it got challenged around that, basically like if you couldn’t make that decision, if you had to stay in the relationship, what would happen? <affirmative> it got really clear that I was angry at my partner and I was afraid to tell them that I was angry about something. And so instead of feeling the level of intensity of being fully there in my relationship and the consequences of that, that might come back at me, including anger coming back, my mind would much rather decide, should I stay in this relationship at all? And as soon as I got in touch with that, it was very clear that, oh, a lot of my life was repressing my true self to protect myself from people getting angry and from people having reactivity. And, and it’s very easy to just kind of suffocate your life force if you do that. And when you get somatically attentive, it’s really clear to feel how much tension that puts in the body. So those are, you know, three or four of the ways that I would start looking at the nature of relationship with thought.
Yeah, brilliant. It it’s interesting, Jeff, cuz I am currently listening to a book called the secret of Aboriginal healing, uh, by Gary and Robbie Hoz and it’s a fabulous book. And the first, um, two things they mentioned was the, the first thing to healing and this is what they practice, you know, obviously for thousands of years is willingness is have a willingness to go there and to feel. And then the, the second step then is to have an awareness, which is exactly that coming in to those things. What would you say then to why? Why are we so frightened to go there then? What, what has been your journey?
We as a whole culture, like modern people forget that they’re animals we’ve, we’ve just covered up so many of the full range of dynamics that are in our bodies. And so we’re all conditioned to fear the fullness of ourselves and in a lot of the kind of deepest, you know, healing experiences I’ve had, what it feels like is there’s an eruption of your true animal nature. That’s like breaking through all your ideas of how you need to and should be because of all your conditioning and all your family and all your culture. And so it’s, you know, we there’s been plenty of moments during those kind of, that kind of work where I, my nervous system really thought I was gonna done. I, if I went in the direction of where the fear was, and, and that’s really intelligent because, you know, just to give context, like we all grew up, I still haven’t met anyone who grew up in an unconditionally loving family and society, right?
We’re all passing down conditioned patterns, trauma for thousands of years at this point and have had, if we’re lucky, we’ve had a little exposure to that. We can do something with that, you know, but most people haven’t. So we’re all walking around kind of like neck up terrified of the, the animal intensity that’s waiting for us underneath. And that it happens to be our freedom. It happens actually be where all the liveliness and of being is, is waiting. Um, but there’s this like if, you know, like in, to use a chemical term, um, there’s an activation energy that’s required that willingness and that awareness are an activation energy that allow you to go to, into a place that you’ve been resisting your whole life. And then to unlearn the pattern that your nervous system has learned about what’s actually, okay. You know, the first time I let myself, for example, let out anger in my body that I had repressed my whole life.
Like I had never had a memory of letting anger out in my life. And the first time I let it through my nervous said, if you do this, you’re gonna get attacked. You know, cuz that was actually in my conditioned patterning. So to do it in a safe environment and to not get attacked and actually feel the relief of that, it’s safe to feel this thing fully. And I come out on the other side more free was, is utterly profound. And I think it’s something that like, it’s just such a, not the cultural norm right now that we don’t have examples of it. And actually one of the things that’s most interesting to me is you’re starting to see in media, well known people like famous celebrities and things like that, starting to be open about these facts and you are start to see the tide shift where in 10 years, I think it’s gonna be a cultural norm where people actually are discussing trauma and, and understanding conditioned patterns. And it’s one of the most beautiful things to me in the world. Because as soon as the people that we look up to permission that it’s okay to feel all this stuff we’re gonna, that’s when we’re gonna really see the acceleration of it.
Yeah, totally. You know, we’ve seen a shift here, obviously the, the last two and a half years haven’t helped in, uh, separating people and isolating them. But even just from the workshops we ran on the weekend, people are coming in close, you could see they’re all in their heads, they’re all, you know, wary. And by the end of the day, there’s a, there’s a, and a hunger and a, a real deep connection for everyone and respect for everyone in the room that just isn’t happening in society. And it’s like, everyone’s thirsty, but they, they don’t know quite how to have it take a drink yet, um, to, to feed that. And uh, and they’re looking so that’s exciting to me.
Um, yeah, there’s a thing that I’m sure that you’ve seen. <affirmative> go ahead. I was just gonna say, I’m sure you’ve seen it in your workshops where, um, there’s a thing that I call a permission spiral, you know, as soon as someone steps in and does the difficult thing, and everyone gets to witness that the whole group just shifts down into a new place. And that’s one of the things that interests me about setting up a 30 day long container is actually like letting the nervous system reintegrate deeper and deeper that actually all these things are safe and I can just stay there for weeks and let my nervous system, like remember what it was like to be deconditioned and unconditioned.
Well, 100% never heard it being called that permission spiral, but 100%. And, and, and it happened on both workshops. And what you see is that it’s almost like it gives everyone permission to go. Actually, we’re not here to have a, just have a good time. We do crack a lot of jokes and have a bit of fun along the way, for sure. You know, we wanna keep it joyful, but at the same time, we’re actually here to do work and, and if you’re ready, let’s go kind of thing, you know, and it’s, it’s a beautiful thing to witness. Hmm. So my next question to you is, uh, which is, you know, why we’re back on a show today is to talk about your new project, sleep awake. And I’m, I’m intrigued to know when did the concept come about and why did you call it sleep awake? Like what was the, the creativity brewing behind it that led you to take action and actually go ahead and do this. Because as somebody I facilitates myself, I can appreciate how much energy and effort it takes to, to not only conceptualize something, but then action it, put it together and make those visions a reality, which is what you’re doing, which by the way, it’s amazing, mate. I just love it.
Love it. Thank you. Yeah. Um, yeah, thanks for asking. And it’s it’s as someone who’s made a lot of large sculptures, you know, hundred foot long sculptures and atriums and things like that. I, I have a deep appreciation for the fact that the idea is two to 3% of, of a thing, you know, and actually putting in the time and effort and work to, to transform it into the manifest universe is where most of the work actually is. Um, and I love a lot of the ideas that I’ve had, but, but it’s nothing to keep it as an idea. It’s real, really about that transformation into the manifest world. So I was doing group facilitation, work out in California, really beautiful, uh, scenarios, like the ones that you’ve referenced about really seeing people transform with each other and mostly adult professionals and COVID hit all that kind of stuff.
I stopped working out in California. I moved back to Boston. Um, and in that depth of that shutdown, I was really trying to focus in like, what, what do I want to do with this? You know, um, I it’s like everyone was put on hold in some way or other at when COVID hit from their normal patterning. And, and there’s an author David data, I assume that’re are, uh, familiar with. And he talks about kind of masculine and feminine dynamics. And one of the things he talks about with the masculine and that’s, that’s a whole rabbit hole of just defining masculine and feminine. But one of the things about masculine energy is, is finding that sense of connected purpose. And he really, I really love the way that he said, he said the way to do it is to just sit still and just be uncomfortable with not knowing what that is and just sit and just sit and just sit.
And that’s what I did for probably six months after I stopped working in California, I just sat and I was just letting myself be uncomfortable with not knowing what that next thing was, but not overly distracting myself from it. And, and then just following these breadcrumbs of, of excitement. And for me, it just, all of a sudden everything just kind of the, all these swirls that have been happening for months, just kind of like coalesced immediately after immediately after six months. And they, they all pointed to the same thing, which is what would’ve created the deepest shift in my wellbeing in my life. At any point, if there could have been an intervention point, what would it have been? And, and I realized that it would’ve been right around there’s this Goldilock zone right around when someone goes to college, you know, 18 to 24 is the age we’re targeting right now.
There’s a Goldilock because the earlier that you can work with someone on the depths of their understanding about the nature of being human, their emotional intelligence, their relational intelligence, their embodiment, the earlier you can do that, the easier it is to shift condition patterns, but I’ve worked with people in high school. And when you work with someone in high school, at the end of the day, they go home to their family, which is usually the source of all those condition patterns. And so if you start to open those up, you know, the intelligence of these condition patterns is that you learn them to survive in your family. We all had to learn different strategies to actually survive, whether that’s people pleasing or repressing our emotions or getting aggressive, even like all those things were intelligent at the time. And so I find that if you open those things up too prematurely, it can destabilize their family dynamic before they’re in a place where they’re actually okay to do so.
And that doesn’t feel really responsible and safe to me. So right when someone leaves home, they’re already shifting their entire social dynamic and you can really expose the condition patterns and the habit patterns that they’ve formed for their survival. So that’s true for me as well, you know, between 18 and 23, would’ve been like, just this perfect. Goldilock where I was repressed saying so many different feelings that all felt wrong and no one around me was doing any different. And so I didn’t have any example of how, how else to be. But if someone had come in there and said like, oh, look, here’s all these limiting beliefs that you have about life. Here’s all these emotions that you’re repressing. Here’s how they work together. Here’s the ways you’ve disconnected from your body, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Here’s your metacog of awareness about the fact that you aren’t actually your thoughts?
Most of my depression was rumination and being completely identified with my thoughts and every night going to sleep, just like thinking about all the social dynamics that had happened and trying to understand what people felt inside and, you know, really overanalyzing, uh, my mind, the physics and math mind and me was just applying itself to so social dynamics and had someone had the tools that I now have in a month. They would’ve just like pulled the rug out from any of those things, being able to exist in the same way. You know, a lot of these things, I’m sure you’re familiar with, um, when people get exposed to certain things like metacognitive awareness, you cant can’t unsee that anymore. Mm. You might like it might get cloudy again, but that doesn’t matter. You, you, there’s a seed, you know, the seed of enlightenment, you know, it’s not, this is not tore enlightenment, but there’s that seed that, you know, NA Saada would use the phrase like there’s an Ember that’s burning, but you know that the whole barn is gonna burn down.
Eventually, it’s this, you know, you can’t change that. And so that would’ve been the case for me. Had I been exposed to these tools at that age, it would’ve been a one way street out of depression. And it also would’ve been the first signal I had had in my whole culture that said that all my feelings were intelligent, that they weren’t a problem, that they weren’t a chemical imbalance. We are the loneliest culture that humans have ever been. You know, there’s a study that came out a couple years ago that said 39% of people in the United States said that they’re not close to anybody anymore.
Like that’s, you know, that should be at the top of our list of problems that we need to work on, but we’re all in ignorance. And, and very few people seem to know a way to address that.
One, one thing I struggle with, right? It’s like, I’ve, I feel like I’ve gone through this, this journey. You, you learn, you learn all this, you learn all this about yourself and you, and, and it’s like, I sometimes feel like I’m sitting on the, the greatest secret, but the most obvious one and it’s as plain as the nose of my face and it’s, and then you really start to connect with others and really have a sense of compassion and feeling and, and start to see the pain behind the, the facade that’s, that’s driving that they’re using as a protective mechanism. Right. And, and I’m like, surely we should all know this or society just kind of spiraled in a direction that it just doesn’t know itself anymore. Like, like what the fuck is going on? Like seriously, you know, you know what I mean? And then you have something like the last two years, uh, and it’s like, do we already know this to people know this? Or, or not? Or is it just where we are as humanity? Uh, I mean, what are your thoughts around that?
Yeah, it makes me think of the, uh, the frog and boiling water. You know, the boil, the water boils. That’s not actually true, just so I don’t spread any false things. That’s sign, not actually the case. The frog will jump out of the water, but it’s a great, uh, it’s a great anecdote, right? It’s like you grow up, you’re born, you know, your child was just born during COVID, right. It’s like, that is the world, whatever world you’re born into, that is the way the world works. And so these trauma that have expanded and deepened over thousands of of years are just totally invisible. You know? And from that perspective to me, the people with, you know, diagnosed depression and anxiety are actually the canaries in the coal mine. They’re the most sensitive people that are the first to be thrown totally out of balance by how out of balance and insane our culture is right now.
And instead of being told that they’re actually really intelligent antennas for what the world needs and the kind of cohesion we need as a, as a herd animal, we are a herd animal. We are a social mammal that you cannot live alone. And anyone that thinks otherwise is, is basically diluting themselves. You know, I have, where did my one come from, right? This whole infinite structures of infrastructure to, to connect us. So this is all invisible to most people. And so I really see the, the people like myself, that, that suffered so deeply as the ones that are potentially pointing us to these deep, deep human needs. But at the, at 2022, most of them are telling, are being told that it’s chemical imbalance and you just gotta add another chemical. And what a, what a tragedy. I think we’re gonna look back a hundred years from now.
If we make it through the next hundred years, we’re gonna look back just the way we look back hundreds of years ago. And we see people drilling holes in their skulls. And we’re just like, how would you think that this would be a good thing? We’re literally like, we’re just not addressing the problem at all. We’re, we’re living by these kind of weird, uh, folk belief systems that are, that are not even backed up by the evidence anymore. So it’s a, it’s a tr of such incredible proportions. And like you said, it’s that it’s, it feels like you get exposed to this secret. That is priceless. Someone’s put it really well. They said it’s like this priceless secret that no one even knows that they want, because as you said there, that willingness, that openness from what I’ve seen is usually only gotten to, by people that have a sufficient amount of pain. Yeah.
If you’re comfortable enough and you’ve, you’re, you’ve set up your life well enough to distract a numb from that pain. You’re not gonna want to go to those darker places. And, and yeah, it comes back to this animal thing, you know, it’s a couple hundred thousand years ago, we’re not homo sapien, and now we are, and now we’re like super modern internet connected, super addicted homo Sapian that think that it’s a norm that you have a partner and a child in a house disconnected from the tribe. And then you see every parent get like overstressed by the amount of work it is to try to do that. And he’s like, no, this is a, that’s a signal of the insanity of our culture. Right? Know, it doesn’t need to be like that.
Totally, totally. So bringing it back to sleep awake, I went off on a slight tangent, but, uh, it just, oh, it just gets me, um,
Is me too.
So when conceptualizing the, the camp and bringing it together, I believe, is there more than one of you that are doing this? Mm-hmm, <affirmative>
My good friend, KA Tweety. Uh, we were in undergrad at MIT together, like 20 something years ago. And, uh, when I shared the idea with some friends, she called me up and said that she wanted to, to make it with me. So we’ve been working on it together, and now we have all the counselors and, uh, that’s all up on the website and you can see all the counselors that are teaching all of the different pillars and
Yeah. Amazing. And, and it it’s in Hawaii, I believe the first one. And, um,
Yeah, it’s in,
When is it? Yeah,
Yeah. It’s end of July. It’s end of July to end of August. Basically it’s a 30 day program on the big island in the Southeast corner of the big island, which is like the most wild of the big island. It’s really jungley out there and it’s really feels fit for transformative work. You know, you’re in that thing, uh, in that, that heat of the jungle and we’re on a, this beautiful property that’s been used as a retreat center for 40 years, with 300 fruit trees on it, we’re gonna be working the land as part of the camp, you know, so you’re really gonna be, for example, one of the pillars of camp is, is nutrition, really take, look, nourishment. We would even call it beyond nutrition. And, and part of that is learning how to get your hands in the soil, how to plant the plants, how to actually harvest them, how to turn them all the way from sea to plant into the, onto the plate. And, uh, that’s a, for example, one of the many things that I never learned, I didn’t know how to cook for myself until my thirties. And that drastically changed my level of wellbeing.
Wow. Yeah. It’s funny. I hear, uh, Chris KRESA, uh, he put a stat out. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Chris Kresser, but he’s an amazing guy in America, uh, like a holistic practitioner. And, uh, he put a start out that between the age in, in America, between the age of 12 and 18 or, or whatever the average kid is, I think 75% junk food is their diet now process and junk food, like hu like ridiculous stats, you know, you just like, yeah. That going back to that and say in culture, you know,
Totally. I mean, just to point out a, around the pillar of nourishment and nutrition, you know, we’re gonna be doing a lot of incredible tools. We’ve just learned so many things over the last 15 years, searching for myself and cat as well. And all the counselors have their, their specialty, but the baseline is that you’re going to be away from internet for 30 days in nature, off of a computer eating clean food. And that’s just the baseline before we do anything and you’re gonna be exercising every day. So like before we teach you anything about tools, about emotional regulation or relational intelligence or anything like that, most people have never spent more than a day off the inter if they’ve grown up in this kind of internet world. And so that’s a nervous system, utter nervous system reset that people won’t have ever had.
So it’s just like that those things feel like the super easy shifts.
So, so how do you, like when putting this out there? I, I wonder cuz one thing we get after our retreats is, is quite often, oh, you gotta do something for the kids and, and this and that. And, and my, my, uh, answer’s always the same. Well, if, if you want, if you wanna impact your children, you’re gonna impact yourself and be the example. And it all starts from, starts from there. So when it comes to 18 to 24 year olds, are they gonna come kicking and screaming and saying by their parents or are they when they come by their own listen or
They won’t get in, if they’re kicking and screaming, we have a pretty intense, uh, interview and application process. Even we, we design the application itself to be a transformational process. So even if someone just has curiosity, we really invite them to fill out the application because it will, you, it will engage introspection about their life and the nature of their life. And how do they feel about these different aspects of their life and what are the challenges they have in relationships, for example. So they have to go through that and then they have to have an interview with us. And, and yeah, we, we are very tuned into where the motivation is coming from. Is it sourced internally or is it because a parent thinks it’s the best thing and that person’s not gonna make it into camp. It’s not our interest because as you said, if the internal willingness is not there, nothing else is gonna happen.
Yeah, absolutely. And then, and then once they walk through with that door, you know, they’re ready and, and it’s a, it becomes a joy to work with, you know? Yeah. The, um, let, let’s, let’s touch on the, um, let’s touch on what you’re gonna cover then while, while we still got time. Cause I’d love to dive in. Cause I believe there’s, there’s six areas that you kind of cover over the 30 days. And we obviously touched on health and nutrition.
Yeah. Um, I’ll just kind of rip through ’em and then we can go down any rabbit hole that’s of interest to you. Um, you know, the first one we call physical health and nutrition. So you’ll be doing yoga every day, which helps you synchronize your breath with your body and helps you stretch and helps you engage through your core and all that sort of thing. You’ll be doing exercise every day. You’ll be tracking your hydration. For example, I was dehydrated until I was like 38 years old. I didn’t even know because it was the kind of baseline. Um, and you’ll be doing exercise every day and you’ll be learning how to cook and how to garden and all those kind of really baseline feet on the ground elements. That’s the first pillar. The second one is self-awareness. So learning about the relationship between awareness and thoughts and metacognition and the fact that you can dis-identify from those thought processes.
And, and what do you want your relationship with your thoughts to be and what is the nature of consciousness and how does it relate to your life? Um, I just like pause because I really like taking in for a second, like, wow. Like someone could have just said some of these things for 10 seconds when I was 18 and they would’ve just already shifted, you know? And so I’ll just say the thing that was in my head like right now, if you’re listening, you can just make your thoughts, say this is the voice that I’m listening to and right. There’s a subject object. At least there should be confusion because there’s some kind of auditory hallucination happening and I’m noticing it. So what is going on? And the fact that I can make the thoughts say different things consciously, but normally they run my life.
So that’s like a little micro experiment just to kind of course correct something. Um, <laugh> the third pillar is embodiment. So yoga starts to get into that, but actually learning about authentic movement about the intelligence in your body about healthy sexuality, which is things like consent and boundaries. And the fact that your body can be a really deep vehicle for, for joy set of something that you have to like deal with to get around, to, to move your head around, which is how a lot of the culture that I grew up in works. Um, the fourth pillar is creative expression. So I’m a musician and a visual artist, and I’ve worked a lot on how to actually widen the bandwidth, like widen the path for how much of my really deep true self can come through my creative expression without being bounded, by shame or worry about people’s judgment.
And that we all have this really unique void that gets kind of averaged out and rounded off because we wanna play it safe. So doing a lot of specific practices around opening that channel in your throat and, and getting your unique self out the fifth pillar is kind of like the permeating pillar that coheres everything, which is the emotional and relational intelligence pillar and that it’s everything about stress patterns and how does your body react to them and how to work with them, how to ground yourself, how to stay in connection with other people, how to work through conflict, um, how to track your intelligence connect to the mind and body together. There’s, there’s all these things. Of course we could go on for, you know, hours and hours about any one of these pillars. Um, and then the, and, and the, maybe the core around that is that your actual authentic self is the deepest pathway to your healing and your deepest relationships.
And a lot of the people that feel the most disconnected are holding like 80% of themselves hostage because they think that it’s gonna get a, in the way of connection, but it’s actually the real pathway to connection. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. So that’s the fifth pillar, as I said, which is kind of the unifying factor. And then the last one I’m calling mental maps. You know, for me, I was never given any maps of these things. For example, trauma patterns, stress patterns, the different sources of intelligence in the body, the way that consciousness into adulthood. And so you’re actually made up of the way that the map that I’m making is you’re made up of seven different forms of intelligence. And that’s of course like just like Roy G B is an approximation of infinite amount of color. You know, you’re, you’re somatic intelligence is very different from the forms of thoughts that you have.
So learning that there’s a map of all these different things and getting to reference and learn and gain fluency in those different dimensions. So this that’s an overview of the, the six pillars of sleep awake. Oh, and just to answer that other question, you know, sleep awake, um, was just a play on words. I went to sleep awake camp for, um, I think eight years, I went for two months, every summer to a sleep awake camp. And those were some of the best times in my life growing up. And so I have a deep affinity for sleepaway camp, and this is technically a sleepaway camp, but it’s really about the fact that in some sense, a, a large fraction of us as an adult is typically walking around to sleep. We’re, we’re just dazed, we’re numb. We’re not fully awake to ourselves and into our moment by moment authenticity and being, and so it’s a, it’s a nod to that.
It’s a pointer to the fact that you can actually be awake all the time. And in fact, if you go down the deep meditative traditions, there are plenty of people that literally are awake all through their sleeping hours. Their awareness is so pervasive and foundational that it never gets obscured. There are no clouds that ever get in the way anymore. So we won’t try to get anyone there between 18 and 24, but there’s pointers toward the fact that this is even a possibility, like no one told me that this was even been a possibility until, you know, 10 years ago. So that was a mouthful
<laugh> well, no, it it’s, it sounds incredible mate. And, and I’m putting myself back to my 18 to 24 year old, you know what I mean? And I was so lost <laugh> so, so lost. And for you to be setting up an environment like this to, to, to give people an adult essentially, you know, to step into world and an opportunity like this to like, wow. It just, the tr the trajectory that could intersect and change of a person’s life is just mindboggling when you think about it. Absolutely. Mindboggling the potential it has. What are your, what are your visions for this moving forward? You know, like where, where, where do you see it going, or is you just in the creative flows? And, uh, you just rolling.
It’s a really strong creative tension right now to hold a long term vision and to completely focus only on this year, you know, that’s the, that’s the balance that I’m holding all the time right now. And <affirmative>, um, so right now we’re really focusing on getting the right campers or students or whatever the name should be for, for this inaugural season. But the, the initial vision was that, you know, we’ll be taking data and we’ll be tracking not only what does this make someone feel like the day after camp, but a year later, our, are they really integrating all the shifts that we’ve given, all the tools, cuz I’ve been through so many workshops where you have these cathartic shifts and then two weeks later, you’re exactly where you were before because you didn’t actually evolve yourself. So I wanna actually make sure that these things stick, you know, that this is not some kind of temporary shift and, and so we’re gonna be data tracking.
And if the data starts to show that tracking integrated shift, we’re working with some universities to try to actually get them to pick up long term. Maybe we can get some, some portion of their incoming class to learn these skills. And then, you know, there’s, there’s some, I’ve seen some data that says once you have about a five per five to 10% of a culture, have a certain type of consciousness that start, that tends to proliferate through the culture. And so that’s one of the things I’m really curious about right now, if you could have, for example, at MIT, when I was there, it had one of the highest suicide rates of any university. It was very hard cause so much pressure, self, or critique, critical thought, all that sort of thing. And once that’s, um, once that’s there, sorry someone’s ringing the doorbell and I’m, I’m not gonna get it.
So they’re just distracting me a little bit. Um, once that’s there, what really happens, you know, what happens? Can you actually infuse 50 of the incoming thousand students with all these tools and then does that actually permanently shift the wellbeing of all the, all the students for not only for the four years, but for the rest of their lives? That’s the real question. So that’s the big vision, you know, if we can make a proof that that starts to actually shift cultural norms, then that’s a one way street, I think, where people will want this to become a normative part of our educational system and not any longer, this kind of weird side program.
Yeah. It totally makes sense. Doesn’t it like if I had even somebody then I was around, that was set in an example that I was embodying this work and then could start to really impact somebody else within, you know, your circle of influence that that’s becomes a very powerful thing off the bat right there, you know, without a down absolutely one question that came into me, um, then is that like looking at, you know, people that come to our retreat and, uh, the stats we have and, and transferring over to the podcast, the average age is between 40 and 50 years old. Okay. They, they’ve kind of gone through a life cycle if you like within it. And then, and now they’re like, shit, why me what now? And then, and then they start looking into this work. Not everyone. We do get younger people coming through, but it’s the, it’s not the, the norm.
So I’m just thinking of the listeners right now. They might have teenage kids, they might early twenties, you know, definitely they’ll be in that spectrum of listeners in that. What would your advice be or suggestions to them if, cuz they’d be pricking up because I’m sure if as a conscious parent, if you’re gonna be a conscious parent listening to this podcast and, and certainly wanting to evolve the self instantly, you’re gonna go, oh my God, I really want my kids to go there. That sounds amazing. You know? So like it’s only natural. What, any tips or advice of how we, you would then present the work like this to that age group to, to look at, uh, what you were doing without feeling, um, invasive.
Yeah, I think that’s a, a great pointer and question. And also the word that you used invasive, I think is the core of my answer. I would, I would share it with excitement and with no form of pressure. You know, in my experience, the students that we’ve talked to, that this is right for, they are head over heels ready for this they’re they ha didn’t know they were waiting for this kind of opportunity. They’ve already see the struggle. You know, there’s more and more people. This is the kind of irony of the whole situation. Mental health is the going, not going well at all right now, it’s actually accelerating worse. We’re in the worst kind of rates of depression and anxiety that I’ve I’ve ever seen. And, and they’re, they’re accelerating worse. So the people that are exposed to this that are 20 years old that are already feeling all that they know something’s wrong and they will find they will already have that internal willingness.
So if a parent needs to kind of, there might be of course be resistance based on fear, but that’s a very kind of thing, different thing than resistance based on mom, you’re pushing this on me. And so I think if a, if a parent can just check themselves, you know, am I doing this because I’m interested or am I, am I sharing this? Because I, I feel like they really might be interested and pull themselves in. That’s the only way it’s gonna work. Anyway, someone can very easily go to this camp, walk the walk and get nothing out of it because they’ve, they’ve disassociated the whole time because they’re not interested. So in that sense invasion and, and pushing won’t actually be of benefit to them in the first place. So it really is, you know, where I was at 18, I would’ve just clamor my way up a mountain to get access to something like this. And that’s been our experience in the interviews that we’ve had so far. It’s like the people that are resident are like, thank you for making this an existing offer. So that’s how I want the camping system to be. I, I wanna just let the people in that are, are wanting it deeply
Amazing. So if they wanna reach out and, uh, so I’m assuming the, the sleeper awake, website’s the best place to contact you to, to take the, the application further from that point there?
Yeah. So there’s, our website is sleep awake.camp and I’m sure you’ll have the link and everything like that. Um, there’s a, on the apply page, you can schedule a 30 minute intro call with us just to get to know each other, ask any questions you might have. There’s a 30 video where we really outline the curriculum more. Um, and you get to feel cat and myself. And then there’s the application and interview process that would follow that. And our emails are on there as well. So it’s pretty easy to reach out directly with any questions.
Incredible well for everyone listening, whether it be YouTube, Spotify, iTunes, whatever you’re listening to this, there’ll be, you can pull, there’ll be links below, um, in the show notes underneath. I got one last question for you, Jeff, before we wrap things up. And that is yeah. With everything we’ve covered today. Is there anything you’d like to leave the listeners to ponder on?
What would your life look like if you were internally coherent with yourself? And the flip side of that is what are the ways that you are actually suffocating? The self that you know is inside based on beliefs and how sure are you that those beliefs are real and not just a bridge action from your history.
Perfect. Amazing. Jeff, I just wanna thank you for coming on the show today. Yeah. Thank you for, um, it’s been amazing. Everything that you’re doing, um, is just wonderful mate, and, and I just wish you all the very best for the success of it all. And I’m sure it will be a roaring success and hopefully in one day we’ll meet in person mate at some stage in life as, uh, as we go through. But, um, thank you.
Yeah. Thanks so much for having me guy. It’s great to see you again. And, uh, I agree sometime when we’re in a different phase, we’ll, uh, we’ll have one of these chats in person.