Thomas is an incredibly unique voice in the Latter-day Saint tradition.
Thomas is an author, developmental researcher and meditation teacher who has been practicing under masters in the traditions of Sufism, Buddhism and Christian contemplation, among others for over 25 years. Thomas is the founder of Lower Lights School of Wisdom, and is currently researching and writing on transformative spiritual practice at Harvard Divinity School. He’s also the author of a brand new book published by Faith Matters Publishing called At-One-Ment: Embodying the Fullness of Human-Divinity. This is, in our opinion, a monumentally important work, and one that has the capacity to powerfully change the way we see the world. The book reminds us that much of Christianity has spent centuries focusing on what to believe. Thomas redirects this conversation to the simple but potent practices we can engage in body, heart, mind and spirit to awaken us to a greater measure of the Sacred right here and now. “At-one-ment” becomes a spiritual reality in which we can all participate, not just a historical event in which a select few believe. In our conversation, we covered some important themes of the book, including how we can all at once seek transformation and already feel whole; how we are both individuals and yet deeply connected to everything and everyone around us, and how the mind, while indispensable and so prominent in our modern society, is far from the only way of knowing.
Hey, everybody. This is Tim Chavez from Faith Matters. Our guest today is a longtime friend and collaborator and an incredibly unique voice in the Latter-day St. Tradition, Thomas McConkie. Thomas is an author, developmental researcher, and meditation teacher who’s been practicing under masters in the traditions of Sufism, Buddhism, and Christian contemplation, among others, for over 25 years. Thomas is the founder of Lower Lights School of Wisdom and is currently researching and writing on transformative spiritual practice at Harvard Divinity School. He’s also the author of a brand new book published by Faith Matters Publishing called At One Mint, embodying the fullness of human divinity. This is, in our opinion, a monumentally important work and one that has the capacity to powerfully change the way we see the world. The book reminds us that much of Christianity has spent centuries focusing on what to believe. Thomas redirects this conversation to the simple but potent practices we can engage in body, heart, mind and spirit to awaken us to a greater measure of the sacred right here and now. At One Mint becomes a spiritual reality in which we can all participate, not just a historical event in which a select few believe.
In our conversation, we covered some important themes from the book, including how we can all at once seek transformation and already feel whole. How we are both individuals and yet deeply connected to everything and everyone around us. And how the mind, while indispensable and so prominent in our modern society, is far from the only way of knowing. We really encourage you to pick up this book. It’s available now on Amazon, and we think it makes a great gift as well. As a note, for those interested, Thomas will also be leading a three-day retreat in Salt Lake City in May 2024, diving deeper into the concepts behind Onement. Please check out the episode notes for more details. Thanks so much, as always, for listening. We really hope that you enjoy this conversation with Thomas McConkey. Hey, Thomas McConkey. Thank you so much for joining us again. It’s always a pleasure to have you here.
It’s amazing to be with you too.
We are so excited to talk about this book that you’ve written, that was recently published at One Mint. I think it’s truly a monumental work. It resonated so deeply with I know with Aubrey and with me, and we’re so proud to be part of Faith Matters that it was a part of publishing this book as well. It felt like, honestly, reading it, it was just what I needed at the time. Not a lot. Thank you. I think a lot of listeners will feel that as well. I wanted to start by asking you about the… I mean, not about the title, but let’s start there, At Onement. Obviously, Red Atonement, that brings up so much for so many people, especially in the Latter-day Saint tradition. I know.
What were we thinking naming a book that? Just put a big bullseye on our head right out of the gate.
Obviously, when you read the book, though, you understand why it’s named that. But if I were a consumer looking at this book on the shelves and I see Atonement, I might think, Oh, this is going to be a deep dive into atonement theory.
This is going to talk about Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, death on the cross, suffering in the garden. The title of the book, though, seems to be addressing something a little bit different than what you might expect. The message of the book is a little bit different than what you might expect while being deeply rooted in faith. Could you talk about what, to you, that primary message of the book is?
Yeah. Well, I think that’s a really fair assessment. At one minute felt like the right title. My own background and faith, my own spiritual formation, it brought me to a personal insight that once I had this insight, I felt just this unbelievable desire to share it, really. The book, it comes from my own spiritual insight that really changed my life, and I felt that I had the power to really deepen faith in our community. That insight was the spiritual experience of wanting to become one with. I talk about this in the book, That can be anything. We can become one with the parts of ourselves we struggle to love. We can be one with the people in our lives that we struggle to love, not to mention the people we don’t struggle to love. We can be one with them and part and mind and soul and spirit, and we can have life-changing experiences becoming one with the divine. A lot of people know that I have a lot of experience in the Eastern traditions where oneness is actually very much on their radar. It’s a spiritually significant experience that they spend a lot of time cultivating.
When I brought those fresh eyes to our tradition, to the restored gospel, I realized we know this and we care about it as much as anybody. Not only that, but we have a unique voice in this. I believe there are gifts and unique perspectives, insights and possibilities through our particular revelation, our stream of wisdom, you could say. But I just want to share so much with others. A lot of the book was taking what in my heart has been life-changing in terms of my own faith, my own development and formation, and how to language that in a way that I really tried to discipline myself and look like, What’s here? What’s the soil? What’s the soil that I can really work until right here? Not trying to draw Buddhist mindfulness in. Fine. Ithat I’m as big a fan as anybody of the traditions. But I want to see what we already have right here and to develop that so that as a worshiping body, we have more of a language and more of a heightened awareness of like, Wow, we can be one heart, one mind. In fact, we are already more one heart, one mind than we realize.
We’re already more of a Zion people than we realize.
I love that. I have a propensity, I think, for feeling existential, overwhelmed whenever I start a book that has something to do with growth. It felt like you maybe sensed that because right in the beginning, you talk about this idea of intuitive transformation, and that just calmed everything down for me. I’d love for you to talk about that before we really get into the meat of the book because it was such an important page for me. Oh, good. I think my habit is to… I literally always read with a notebook and I’m making lists. This idea that you’re going to read and just recognize what, I think you call it tasting good, what just feels delicious to you and what do you recognize in yourself that’s really lighting up and maybe that’s the one thing that you’re going to take. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Yeah, well, I feel really encouraged that you enjoyed that page and took that message from the book because I really intended to write the book of anti-lists. My sense in our culture is that we feel pretty bogged down and inadequate to the task of constantly improving ourselves. I’m really serious when I won’t talk about the book. Right now between me and you, I found that the most powerful orientation towards our spirituality and our being is to start from wholeness, to actually take ourselves to be whole right now and learn a new rhythm of, we could say, growth, development, expansion where we’re overflowing into the next embodiment. We’re not seeking for something because we’re broken and lacking. We’re already whole. We’re already made of the divine substance. When we establish ourselves in that identity, we just overflow. It’s our nature to overflow and to give ourselves fully away. It feels so much different to live a life that way. Yeah.
The phrase that really resonated with me around that same part was we don’t have to… I think you said we don’t have to hate ourselves forward anymore. That was.
Really- It’s trying to be really dramatic. Really put a fine.
Point on that. At the same time, that resonated deeply for me, especially as a young person in the church, as a missionary. I think I was hating myself forward in a lot of ways.
As we mature spiritually, we realize hating ourselves forward is a total contradiction. It’s an oxymoron because when we’re supposedly moving forward by cracking the whip and denying ourselves basic comforts and kindness, the fruit of our spiritual life is actually that lack of kindness. That’s actually what we’re making more of. If we don’t start with wholeness, we won’t somehow arrive at wholeness from fragmentation. It’s got to be now.
What is it about your faith or your experience that says it’s not a danger to growth to tell people that they already are enough, that they already are whole, and that whatever they need is going to flow to them?
This is tricky. Let me make a prefatory remark that I wanted to say at the beginning of this conversation. I’m in a difficult moment with this book because more than anything I’ve ever shared, it represents what I deeply care about in human life and the body of the saints and all human beings and all beings. I could hardly care more about it. I’ve never felt so inadequate to try to talk about it. Nothing I’ve said in the book is quite it. Now I’m seeing copies of it floating around and cousins and neighbors like, Hey, I got your book in the mail. There’s a part of me that’s just like, I hope I’ve even captured a sliver of the wholeness and the oneness that cannot be named. It’s too full, it’s too whole, it’s too one to even name. I’m very self-conscious about how inadequate the book is on that level. I say thatthat to as a prefatory response to your question. Because when you ask that question about wholeness, what in your experience tells you it’s okay to just be whole and that won’t prevent future growth, it won’t your sense of motivation? I don’t have adequate words for it.
I know at the level of the mind, we’re so accustomed to feeling like we lack and therefore set a goal and work towards it. That is the most natural way in the world to get somewhere. Like I say it and your heads are nodding, it’s like, Yeah, how else could you possibly think about it? What I found just in the living of it and in the modeling of it from mature spiritual beings in my life, both on this side of the veil and the other, is that if, and again, the word is inadequate, but if you can touch into your divine wholeness, even just a drop, just taste it with the tip of your tongue, you will be so overjoyed with divine power. The most spontaneous movement in the world will be to give everything you have to share it, which is like the very definition of the Christ-like service we aspire to, I think, in our tradition. So logic would tell me, Well, if I’m already whole, I’m just going to sit around and be complacent. But the lived experience of it for me has been when I really feel my own wholeness, I realize in a direct way that no matter how much I give, I’ll always have more.
The more I give, the more I have to give. That’s a dimension when I think of the gospel that is so present in our restored gospel. There isn’t as much language around it.
It feels to me like one of the first things that comes up is that we really can very easily get trapped in words, trapped in our minds and trapped in the list, like you’re saying. One of the first things that you explore is these other ways of knowing. For me, there were several moments in the book where I felt like that took over inside the book. It stopped being a list in my mind even, and I felt like you were telling a story or talking about some experience that gave me the feeling of this expansion that you’re talking about. One of those moments was when you talk about other ways of knowing, and specifically the way our bodies and our hearts can actually comfort and sucker people who are suffering. Maybe it was toward the end of the chapter, but for that moment and imagining what it can look like to do something besides talk to someone, how healing, using your body or using your heart can be just… It felt like a moment inside a moment where my body was recognizing truth. I could feel myself light up about something that I don’t think I’d ever quite articulated.
Can we talk about other ways of knowing? I think we’re pretty comfortable with this mind knowing and using words to worship and using words to do just about everything. But what does a heart-know-ing look like and what does knowing with our body look like?
Yeah, thank you. Again, I’m encouraged that the experience of being in the book pointed to something beyond the words. In the book, I talk about the wisdom, the intelligence of the body, the heart, the mind, and also the spirit, just what we call in Latter-day St. Theology, pure intelligence or light. It seems pretty apparent to me. I’ve been involved in developmental studies and research for a long time. We not only look at individuals and how individuals develop, but we look at cultures, and we look at civilizations, and we look at epochs. We look at development across time. It seems very clear to me that we have an unusual bias in our current modern world around — what can I say to point to it? — rational thinking, knowing the logical, linear, scientific mind, that whole thing that really came to ascendancy and the European Enlightenment, we’re creatures of this cultural container. We think it’s very normal to think about things. We think it’s very normal to relate to ourselves via the thinking mind. That is incredibly powerful and incredibly limiting. In the book, I’ve tried to point to and invoke, more than describe it, like invoke it.
Can you just smell the perfume of the fullness of divine embodiment? How many countless strata of body, heart, mind, soul, spirit, and beyond that we are. This is our reality. We can’t even begin to fathom it with the mind, but we participate in these realities. Let me tell a story to make it really vivid. I had a difficult relationship with my grandad and the conky. It was a relationship neither of us quite knew how to work out in this lifetime. One night I had a dream, which actually it was about my grandfather’s father, Oscar senior. Interestingly, it occurs to me in the moment, Oscar senior would talk about these very spiritually potent dreams as night visions. He didn’t call them dreams. He’d call them night visions if you had a spiritual experience in a dream. I don’t think he coined that. I think that’s doctrine on scriptural, but just the detail I’m remembering. At any rate, I never met Oscar senior when he was alive. But in this dream, I was in my grandparents’ kitchen of all places, and Oscar senior, who I never met in the body, he descended like an angel in the dream, and he was translated.
He was recognizable. The moment I saw him, I’m like, Oscar. He was more clear to me in the dream than you two are as I’m staring at you right now. His presence was potent. I knew I was in the presence of a being who was light, you’re just exalted in the process of his eternal progression that he was wise and his love was potent. Just being in his presence transformed me. I woke up from that dream. I hadn’t even been dreaming. It’s like I opened my eyes and I couldn’t even tell what was wake and what was sleep moment. I never felt the same way about my grandad again. Not only did I get to meet my great grandad in that dream, but this man who I think I had hard feelings towards, I had a hard time forgiving, in a moment I just recognized we are in this process that is eternal and unfathomable. And what my great-grandfather communicated to me from beyond the veil, split second with the force of his heart and his presence, said more than I could ever describe in a million years about it. That’s what I’m talking about in the book, that when we’re willing to just turn the volume down a little bit on the mind, we still want the mind.
It still does beautiful things, but when we turn the volume down on the mind, we receive these impressions, these revelations that are completely life-changing. From my money, I think God just loves it when we’re willing to listen to that.
Thank you for sharing that. Very sacred experience. I thought it might be really interesting, and this is just something that came up for me as I was reading the book, to talk a little bit about what is maybe the most commonly cited Latter-day Saint epistemological method, which is Moronah’s promise in Moronah 10. Just to give you a little indication of how I thought about Moronah’s promise since I was maybe a 12-year-old who had just completely reading the Book of Mormon for the first time, I thought what’s going to happen here is I’m going to get on my knees and pray and I’m going to feel some sensation or best case scenario, see some or maybe hear a voice, if not burning in the boosom. That is then going to be sufficient evidence for me in my mind to say, Okay, these things are true. By the Holy Ghost, you shall know the truth of all things. And it was going to be the Holy Ghost essentially taking me a mind to that courtroom, giving me the evidence I needed, and I can render a verdict.
Very mind-oriented way of looking at that promise. Is there more subtle or potentially more mature way to look at that promise?
I don’t know. In the sense that I really love what you’re saying and honor it. Everything you said is a yes to me. That process you described has so much maturity and integrity that it is good as far as I can see in and of itself. For anybody who has intuitions around something else, brewing, smoldering in their spiritual lives, I might suggest that sometimes we get a burning in the Bosom and we mistake our mental furniture for the proof that that burning was true. In other words, we quickly settle into beliefs and ideas that we’ve carried with us for a long time. In my experience, the transformative process, sooner or later, just completely incinerates those forms. I mean, in other words, there’s no place we can just hang out and say, Cool, I got the blueprint of all three kingdoms, and if I just follow this map. My experience is in the transformative process, as our faith deepens, our willingness to just not know also deepens. I don’t know if I’ve articulated that adequately, but I’d say the experience you described is amazing and it’s potent. To me, faith is a freefall. It’s being willing to let go of what we thought we knew for something even better and something truer.
That implies that we’ll spend long periods in openness in a darkness. I wonder what you two make of that.
It’s a good question. I read that verse, Moronai 5, and by the power of the Holy Ghost—I think I cited it incorrectly before—and by the power of the Holy Ghost, you may know the truth of all things. I don’t know, my sense is that, like you said, we certainly shouldn’t dishonor what I described. I think it’s valid. You don’t do this in the book either. You don’t dishonor the mind, centered knowing by any means. We just need to elevate the other two maybe a little bit more than we do in our society. That’s how I took it. But my sense is that potentially that there’s something underlying those words, something about this phrase, the power of the Holy Ghost, that might mean something beyond or could for a certain person at a certain point means something beyond giving you rational evidence about some truth.
Yeah, I agree with that. I just keep coming back to my own experience. I know when I’ve had really profound spiritual experiences, it’s as if I can’t really sustain that degree of power, that degree of glory, we could say quite literally, I think. I come back into a more comfortable holding pattern in the mind where it’s like, this is what that meant. I’ve come to a place in my own spiritual life where, and this is not to denigrate the mind, but I recognize on a certain level that everything I think about God is a form of self-defense. It’s like a mask I put on God to make God more knowable and manageable, even though I know in my heart of hearts that God is so awesomeawesome and infinite that if I were to open up even five more %, it would just blow me to smither in. That’s interesting. I think as a people who believe in eternal progression and theosis, what does it mean? I’m just musing here that divine power is in us and through us. It’s beckoning us to grow and expand. We can only tolerate what we can tolerate. That’s really humbling to me and interesting to me.
I tell a story in the book about one that many people have heard of Sidney rigden and Joseph Smith. To me, it’s like such a great story in our tradition that points to this reality that Joseph, a spiritual giant, like a person we revere, he seemed to just have this incredible gift to dwell in light. Then Sidney rigden, the foil and the story is just like hanging limp, looking sickly and pale like a rag. A limp rag, I think, Philodibble describes him. In some moments were Joseph and in some moments were Sidney rigden. It’s fascinating to me that we can learn to be more fully embodies and to receive more glory in our bodies here and now.
I love that. Thank you. Before we move, I want to talk about energy centers, of course. But there’s this I really want to ask you about the prodigal son.
Because- Yeah, totally.
I had to really think about this. I read it a couple of times, and I realized I think I’m feeling resistance because I have always related to the story of the older son. I think I’m just a rule follower. I think I just came with whatever the makeup is, it’s been easier for me to follow the rules, and I think it’s just a habit. And so I wanted to pause it and really ask myself, What is my motivation? Why do I follow the rules? I can see that the younger son had this really dramatic experience that was humiliating in the best way that brought him to God. It really made me wonder how easy it is to live this unexamined life when rule following comes easy to you. I think if you’re raised in the church, there’s probably a lot of people who have that experience that I’m- Yeah, I’m not really sure why. It’s easier to follow the rules.
I talk to anybody who feels like they are the older son, who I think you say is truly the lost son.
In the street. Yeah. Your struggle, I hear you’re not totally contesting my take on the prodigal son.
No, I felt convicted.
The prodigal son, he comes to himself. How much clearer could they make in this? He had a full transformation and change of heart. Bam, right there. He was never the same. The story ends where he’s celebrating with the father and the Kingdom of glory. It’s like, Bam. But you know what? So read the book if you want to hear my hot take on the Prodigy of the Sun. But as you asked that, Aubrey, I’m so glad you asked that because the scriptural account stops there. As far as I remember, the older son is left outside pouting, and he doesn’t get a sing, he doesn’t get a dance. He’s just bitter. I think my wife would be delighted if I shared this story with you. It’s a story from her mission that’s really moving to me. But she describes herself as somebody who is just like a total stickler for the rules. If they left their apartment two minutes late, she was the one getting on the sisters because we’re not going to get the blessings we need to help all the people out there. She was that. She was the drill sergeant. And one time, her mission companion had a situation back home.
And without even thinking about it, her mission companion just makes a call, just calls up her sister, and they’re talking. Glo describes the situation where she was just in knots. This is not a designated time. It’s not Christmas. You cannot be on the phone. As Glo tells the story, this missionary just hits her right between and she says, sister back. It’s not about the rules, it’s about the people. The way, so Glo’s, we’re all that older brother outside who’s just we’ve been trying so hard and where’s our reward? Glo describes in that moment where she knew it was true. She knew she’d missed the whole point. She had a change of heart right then and there, and her mission was never the same, and she was never the same after that. In my relationship to that scriptural account, we get to enjoy the prodigal son’s return, but in God’s ultimate goodness and grace, both the sons and all the daughters come home. There’s something that cracks us open. In my world, I know that the brother at some point realizes, I miss my brother. If I can’t celebrate with them right now, what are all these rules worth?
Our heart is such that it can’t bear to stay outside the divine banquet for long. That’s how I take it.
In your mind, there doesn’t need to be a prodigal son-type journey in order to eventually at one. Let me.
Just name something. They’re both prodigal sons. Let’s just put it.
That way. Yeah, okay. A younger son-type journey because I’m with Aubrey on this one. Yeah, for sure. Ican tell you, as I read the book, there arose in me a certain jealousy might be the word. Because to me, the way I read it was, Thomas McConkey is the younger son, and look at these amazing, transformative experiences. I, as I read this, I was the older son. To be honest, I felt like… Shoot, I’m so sorry. I guess I felt like maybe I had missed out or you related with Glo, that I had missed the point for so many years. Can you speak to the guilt of the older son for missing it?
Well, you know what I can do is speak to the guilt of the younger son. I identify more with that particular son eating corn husks. Although my path has been different than yours, Tim, I can absolutely resonate with the grief and the regret and everything that’s come up with the people I’ve hurt and the opportunities I’ve missed. To me, there’s this powerful parallel in either path. To me, the story is a testament of how good God actually is. If I’m the type who can better transform through this path, God and their goodness will give me that path and vice versa.
Yeah, I think that’s right. It speaks to that great enoughness that you were talking about.
I think it’s always… I know that it’s always problematic to compare one story to to someone else’s.
I’m really moved. Just your moment of revealing yourself and your heart breaking open. It just feels so clear to me that God orchestrates these conditions to bring us to this moment. God does not care how we get to a broken heart. At certain heart, a certain level. We all need it a different way. All I can say is how moved I am by your heart in the moment.
Thank you, Thomas.
Near the beginning of the book, you talk about, I think you call it, The glory of now. I think maybe this is a little bit what you’re saying, but I think there’s a tendency to believe that another way or another time will be better for our growth. It felt like that was a real message of this whole book that it’s always about right now and God is so good there is not a condition that can’t be used to make our lives and ourselves holy.
It’s super annoying when I hear you say it like that. I’m like, Oh, no, the glory of now. I got to be present and mindful and appreciate what’s right here, but I don’t appreciate it. It’s drudgery. I want to just call that out. And yeah, it’s holy, the now… I don’t have words for it. I wonder if you do. What about the glory of now struck you?
Well, I’ll tell you really specifically. The This afternoon I got a text that was very kind, but it was firmly critical of something that I had spent a lot of energy on. I felt a lot of resistance to that moment.
But I had- I’m trying to… I’m running through my mind, thinking about the text that I.
Sent Aubrey. Are you implicated.
To them? I don’t think so.
But I felt like I had… I knew we were going to be talking to you today, so this book was very fresh on my mind. There’s an exercise or a meditation at some point later in the book after you address energy centers and these core vulnerabilities that we had. There’s this invitation to, instead of closing up when we have those disturbances and we recognize a real disturbance inside us, instead, just try to stay open and recognize what vulnerabilities feel especially alive. Even though it felt like such an exception because it was because I felt really bad, I did try it and it felt dangerous. It felt very foreign to choose to not get busy and not… I think that’s what I do is get really busy in my mind or I start cleaning. There was this strange moment of just sitting and really giving all my attention to what genuinely felt like burning. It felt like there was a small sun in my solar plexus. It was so hot. Then it’s.
Just- You’re in it, Aubrey. You’re really doing it.
It was a really incredible experience to just have these two things so fresh right next to each other because I think otherwise it would be very tempting to just move on. But I felt like what was very alive was this energy center of esteem. You talk about this need for having people think highly of you. It was so interesting that a single text could make that feel so threatened. Just by doing the opposite of what felt natural, I really got some clarity about things that often cause disturbances inside me. It felt encouraging. This is work that is uncomfortable, but also I can feel myself growing through hard things in real time. That was such a small thing that I wouldn’t have thought about at the end of the day. But there.
Are no small disturbances. Exactly. I mean, it’s of cosmic importance how you relate to your disturbance, it seems to me.
Will you say more about energy centers? I know I teased one, esteem, but maybe can you just talk about what are some of the things that often cause disturbances in us on a daily basis that may distract from this feeling of being at one with the people around us and.
With God? Yeah. The energy centers, it’s a term I picked up from Father Thomas Keatings, the real spiritual giant in the Catholic tradition, the contemplative tradition of Christianity, who died only a few years ago, a real hero of mine. The energy centers point to our core vulnerabilities, really, that if we’re present, if we’re embodies and paying attention to just moment-to-moment experience, they will realize that dozens, who knows, hundreds of times a day were disturbed at some level, meaning something touches on our sense of vulnerability and we feel threatened, either a little threatened Oh, that text, this person doesn’t love me as much as I thought they love me, or super threatened, This person I depend on for everything might leave me. All of my life savings that I had to take care of my kids and family are wiped out. We go from a little disturbed to way disturbed. If I were to tie it back to the now, it just seems evident to me that as human beings, as natural men and women, we have a deep orientation. Anytime we feel disturbed, we do everything we can to escape it. The fact of the matter is 99.9 % of the time we feel disturbed.
It’s not life-threatening. It’s not even dangerous. It’s just we don’t want to feel this way in the body. We immediately move towards behaviors that in the short term might relieve the pain a little bit, but in the long term, it trains us to just avoid the moment. We spend a whole lifetime avoiding how this actual now feels so that by the time we’re however old, like the three of us, there’s no moment that’s quite adequate. We’ve avoided so many nows that this now is just as… I’m just as ready to avoid this one as the last 10 trillion. You just described the opposite movement, and it requires this radical orientation or repentance, a total turning of the mind and heart to say, Whatever is here right now, this text where I just, Oh, man, it hurts. I can’t believe my friend said that. It’s just like burning in my chest. You just said it so beautifully. The moment we turn towards that and open to it, I think we’re mimicking something at the heart of our tradition, which I look to Christ’s moment in Gethsemane. I mean, talk about more than an unkind text message.
It’s in the scriptural record itself where Christ himself says, I didn’t want this to happen. This great soul and spirit who has so much capacity said, Not even I wanted this. Not even I want to deal with this. Nevertheless, if this is the now, I’m going to swallow it in one gulf. I’m just going to take it all in. That was a real epiphany for me in my own spiritual life when I realized that the micro-Gethsemane is like 100 times a day, 1,000 times a day. There’s this bitter cup that I would rather not drink, but just the gesture of turning towards it and taking the cup, it’s telling God like, no, I’m committed to this life. I’m committed to this body, to this experience. I sacralized the moment. I really consecrate it when I open myself to it. Then that, the same way we build a habit of avoiding the now. If you do this for a little while, you get so many nows under your belt, we’re like, no, I know what to do when I feel awful. I’m just going to really actually acknowledge how awful I feel right now. Pretty soon we developed this confidence where whatever is happening in the now, I’m bigger than it.
I can hold it in my heart and somehow love it even. It’s a radically transformative path that I feel is really deeply grounded in gospel patterns. It’s a difficult practice, but it’s simple in terms of just the basic, can I be with the truth of what I’m experiencing right now? There’s a lot of that in the book. It’s a very practical approach to learning how to be one with right now.
I think it might be a different context, but you talk about this metaphor of falling and that faith is like a free fall, except that there’s no ground. That feels like the tiny experience of choosing to feel something really awful. It does feel very disorienting and there’s no stopping it. But also you never quite hit the bottom. It’s okay. It does feel like something that you could learn to trust by doing it over and over. But it’s still like falling.
Yeah, exactly. That divine confidence, the way a teacher of mine put it, as you go through endless rounds of this embodiment practice, you realize your greatest fears won’t destroy you when they come about and that your greatest hopes won’t save you. When your hopes and desires are fulfilled, that comes and goes and it didn’t save you. Your greatest fear, sometimes those happen too, and those pass too. We develop divine confidence that way to just live our lives and to be here for it. It’s really powerful.
I wanted to ask about a polarity that’s really at the heart of this book and its message. That is that all at once, each of us is an individual, but also part of a greater divine whole. Could you… I don’t know. I’d love for you to talk about… Those are my words, but to the extent you agree with that assessment. What you mean by that radical connectedness? Because I think we’re all much more comfortable generally with the idea that we’re individuals. What’s the danger of leaning too far on either side and only embracing one of these truths?
Yeah, that’s a really profound question and a lot of ways we could talk about it. Something that occurs to me coming full circle in the conversations… I think that there’s a lot of precision when we talk about oneness, when we talk about at-wanting, certainly in the Eastern traditions, Buddhism, Hinduism, et cetera, there’s a, they wouldn’t call it a theology, but there’s a basic worldview that the self just disappears into the one. That’s the whole story that we don’t need to get into. But I bring it up because it’s very distinct from, I think, think how, as Latter-day Saints, we understand what at one means. It’s exactly what you named this polarity that somehow we can be absolutely one heart, one mind, one body in Christ and sacred reality for all eternity. That sacred reality honors our unique personhood. Here we are in another moment. I don’t have the words that are adequate to say anything more illuminating about that, perhaps. But what a glorious contradiction that we can be utterly one with and with all beings, all creation, all of our brothers and sisters. Still, that oneness longs for our unique contribution to it. That’s very much at the heart of the book.
It’s my sense of the fruition as we’re coming to fruition moment to moment in our divine eternity that God utterly values our personhood, our uniqueness, our signature in the cosmos, and somehow those are both preserved. If I were to take on your question then, too much communion, too much absorption in the collective body, and we never quite stiffen that spine and say, This is who I am, and this is what I stand for, and this is my uniqueness. I’m trading my integrity. I’m purchasing belonging by trading my integrity for that belonging, that can become really problematic. I think I see the way we struggle with that in our body right now in the gospel as we’re growing up, and then the opposite where we’re so unique. It’s like, how can I top the uniqueness I created just five seconds ago by being even more? The uniqueness can run away with itself. Of course, if we’re not connected to the body, the collective body, we can be a rebel, an individual deviant for its own sake. It’s a reality. It’s the opposition and all things were given to embrace and hold and live into.
Yeah. This conversation that we’re having right now has echoes of development, which you get into in the last or one of the final portions of the book.
Yeah. I mean, the last quarter of the book, it’s quite a bit. When I looked at the actual word count, it’s like, Oh, even when I don’t try to, I’m spilling a lot of ink on development. I see it as being so in line with our theology of progression and theosis. If we’re growing in eternity, well, eternity is now, baby. Time and eternity. How did William Blake say it? That eternity is in love with the productions of time. If we’re progressing eternally, we’re progressing now. I’m really fascinated by what those transformations look like in a human lifespan. I talk about development a lot in the book. Yeah.
Let me ask this question on this. What came up for me as I was going through this section, I’m sure you see this all the time in your developmental work, was wanting to A, assess my own stage, and then B, okay, if I’ve got it figured out, then how am I going to get to the next stage? Which is my total Western, achievement-oriented, mind-centered perspective. Could you talk about what.
Coming up? I’d be happy to assess.
On this podcast right now, I think.
No, the question is… The question is, how should someone approach this portion of the book? Because I don’t think that’s it.
Yeah. Thank you. Just the question itself is telling. It’s so thoughtful and sensitive to how I meant to write about development in a word. I’ve been working with researchers, developmentalists, people in this area for about 15 years now. I find the models to be very useful, and I consistently find what I often experience is a preoccupation with what’s the next stage? What’s the next stage? Vertical development, growing up into later perspectives and stages. I think that’s natural to an extent, and I think human beings are naturally curious about what we’re becoming. But I do have a sense that in every stage, in every disclosure of divine embodiment and reality, there are virtues and gifts and powers and divine emanations. Right now, here’s this theme again, right now, not when we get to some other stage, but right now, we have in our divine capacity to cultivate these powers, these gifts, these divine virtues. We’ve been so busy looking at one axis that I think we’ve forgotten an entirely different reality that, for all I know, is much more important for our present purposes to be virtuous and charitable and to move forward with a perfect brightness of hope.
These are virtues that are life-changing when we come into contact with them. I’ve had many experiences in all sorts of situations where someone said, The way that person was present with me when I was hurting changed my life. The way that person encouraged me when I had lost all hope, it changed my life. Virtue changes the world. I know that. Late stages of development, I think the jury is way out on those. I think it would be irresponsible to ignore them, so I don’t ignore them. But I also engaged that conversation vigorously as a latter-day Saint-Job, right?
Yeah. I know we need to start wrapping up, but there was one thing I really loved so much near the end where you talk about projection. Oh, yeah, projections. Yeah. It’s so interesting and positive and negative projections. Sometimes we easily dismiss and judge people and have a lot of negative feelings about who they are. But also sometimes we hold people up on a pedestal. Either way, there’s a lot of separation happening. I loved hearing you talk about that and it feels like it’s something that you could practice all day long because it’s so easy for people to fall into… To judge them positively or negatively throughout the day. Could you talk about projections before we wrap up?
In a sense, it just occurs to me, projections are like everything else we’ve talked about, in that projections are another strategy for avoiding the now. Only this time, the now we’re avoiding is like, There’s some quality in me that I’m not comfortable with. So I avoid it by projecting it, by seeing it in other people. It could be a positive quality, it could be a negative quality. If it’s a negative quality, it’s like, I’m not comfortable in this moment with my anger issue. So lo and behold, I tend to see anger. I see angry people. Everyone’s angry but me. And the more honest, vulnerable, naked move would be eventually to have a direct relationship with my own anger. That’s really difficult. And by the same token or by the opposite token, how do you say that? On the other end of the spectrum, maybe we’ve had this experience where we look up to our spiritual heroes, our mentors, our teachers, et cetera, and some quality they have just feels like otherworldly. They feel saintly to us. They’re so loving, they’re so kind, they’re so patient. Actually, we’re actually getting something out of that projection and that if they’re that good and I’m not that good, well, I can just still be my prodigal son self misbehaving because I’m not a saint.
I’m no saint. But then the moment we see that virtue in ourselves, it’s like, Oh, I actually am this good, and I have to live up to this. It’s quite difficult to have a direct relationship with our own virtue and glory and saintliness. That’s another… It’s this theme of being one with all of divine reality, and I think the ways we managed to avoid the intensity of this now. I want to offer some compassion here. Projection is necessary, and there’s even literature that talks about it being healthy because maybe at a certain time in my life, I’m not ready to take on to encounter all the skeletons in the closet. It’s actually a protective function to see everyone else is having problems, but I’m actually okay. It all plays, it all serves its purpose. I think one of the themes in the book, something I just came to organically, was that God seems to be drawing us into greater responsibility, greater spiritual intensity, broader stewardships over all of creation. In my world, God’s patient is infinite. It’s not so much the threat of punishment that drives us to improve, but the more embodies we become, the more painful it actually becomes to avoid the now.
The parts of us that aren’t awake, the parts of us that are avoiding the truth of what’s here, it’s actually too painful to stay away from the divine. This gravity, this magnetism of the divine draws us back, and it does it in its own time. And it’s the human adventure and it’s remarkable.
Beautiful. I feel like in this conversation, we still barely scratched the surface of what’s in the book. We have probably 20 more questions written down that we could go through and just don’t have time. I want to just-.
I have a patron channel for the three-hour behind-the-things conversation.
I just want to give you the chance to close it out with anything that you felt that you feel is really important to mention before we close.
Well, as always, you two have been so thoughtful and I’m touched that you took some time with the book to let it into your body, your heart, your mind, your spirits, and to respond in this way. It feels really gratifying to just interact in this way. I feel full. My heart feels full after this conversation. I’m just taking a moment to check in and see, is there something unsaid about the book? I’m curious for you to book or no book this conversation, what you’re left with. Back to the anti-checklist. Not as a checklist, but something that’s just bubbling up in you, like where life is calling you to go. I think to me, that’s the exciting thing that when we open our hearts to divine reality, this spring of living water, it gurgles up and it overflows and we find ourselves doing something new. I’m curious what that is for you too.
I can tell you right now. For me, it was that word. It was gravity. I think what I was taking in almost every chapter was this idea that there’s nothing wrong with the way life is coming to me and that like gravity, it’s something I can trust to bring me exactly what’s needed. It’s not broken or going wrong or needing to be something else. It just felt like this constant practice from so many different angles to trust what’s flowing in that maybe this is exactly what my soul is asking for. In a way, I think by the end of the book, I felt like I trusted this idea of wholeness in a different way. In that way, it feels like maybe everything I actually need really is here, even these disturbances. Maybe this is exactly the work that my soul is ready for. A wholeness, I think, to me, feels like gratitude. That was the feeling of the book, just some real peace about exactly what is and trust that that’s what I need.
That’s beautiful, Faith. Aubrey, I’m so happy to hear that. Thank you.
Thank you for the book. It was a sermon.
For me, it’s that word one that I keep coming back to. I mean, the word itself carries these dichotomous definitions. One can mean individual and one can mean totally completely connected. When I look back on my life, I see these sometimes wild swings between the two definitions and what I’ve prioritized. For me, it’s further impetus to try to integrate both at the same time.
Yeah, amazing. Well, it’s fun to interview you two for a moment about the book. I really appreciate this conversation. I’m touched. I always love to be with you too. Thank you for.
The time. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thanks, Thomas. Thanks so much, as always, for listening. We really hope that you enjoyed that conversation with Thomas. Of course, a huge thanks to him for coming on the show. Again, Thomas’s new book, At One Mint, is available now on Amazon. Thanks so much again for listening. As always, you can check out more at faithmatters. Org.