The eyes are the window to the soul.
This is the kind of thing my Dad would say to me when I was growing up. On some level, I understood what he meant but for the most part, my eyes would glaze over. The annoying thing about our parents is their wisdom often stays with us and worse, we start to use it on our own kids. In this case, I’m glad. This really is a beautiful truth and one I fear has been forgotten by our culture. Yes, my kid’s eyes glaze over too.
If our eyes really do show what’s actually going on inside of us, is it any wonder so many of us look away? If we don’t like what we see in ourselves, it’s unlikely we’ll allow anyone else to take a look. Which is why we look down. Draw the shades. Close ourselves off. Thank god we have a phone or we’d look anti-social. Cough.
The great irony with all this is when we look down at our phones, we break the very connection we actually need. Feeling this disconnection, we scroll desperately on social media looking to re-connect. The problem is everyone else is scrolling disconnected too, making any real connection impossible. Besides, there will never be enough likes to fix a broken connection.
If we hope to connect with others, we must start by reconnecting with ourselves. When you look in the mirror, what do you see? What would it take for you to not look away? We’re in desperate need of some prolonged eye contact. Not necessarily in the Bo Burnham sense but as a habit of looking deep within and truly connecting with what’s going inside. Once we make peace with our imperfections we can look up and truly connect with another human being.
One of the many things I love about being a Podcaster is I can’t look away. For 2 hrs every week I lock eyes with our guest and my podcast partner and we truly connect. No phones. No distractions. No drawing down the shades. We share who we are. Warts and all. And we don’t look away.
“We need to sacrifice ourselves. Not just in big things but in little things every day.”
“I’m continually trying to become a better person and I intend to do so until the end of my days.”
“I’m just an ordinary man trying to do some things which are sometimes more than I’m capable of.”
“The ordinary people did extraordinary things. The heroism I saw all around me astonished me. It has lasted me a lifetime.”
Recently, I had the conversation of a lifetime when I sat down with George Brewster, a 96-year-old veteran of WWII. Andrew and I were interviewing him for a special Obstacle Course episode for Remembrance Day. George spoke with the passion and energy of a man half his age as he shared tales of combat, leadership, life, and death. His perspective was refreshing and it echoed values that have slipped in modern life.
Every Remembrance day we say things like, Lest we forget. What is it that we are not meant to forget? The sacrifice of the soldiers. The fight for our freedom. The end of Tyranny. These top the list and for good reason. While talking with George, it occurred to me that while remembering the soldiers’ sacrifice we have forgotten the values that allowed people like George to get in a plane and fight in the first place. Values of respect, self-sacrifice, brotherly kindness, courage, loyalty, honor, humility and perhaps most importantly, love. We live in a toxic time and we need these values now more than ever.
Lest we forget.
Since I came out of the closet of doubt, I’ve received several messages from people thanking me for sharing my story. Many of the people I hadn’t spoken to in decades and some were complete strangers. These ‘strangers’ have opened up and shared bits of their own journey with me and some of them have even asked if I’d grab a coffee with them to continue the conversation. It’s been amazing.
Why do we waste so much of our lives journeying in secret? Is it pride? Fear? Lack of vulnerability? Shame? The answer is probably a big YES to all 4. It’s difficult to leave what you know even when you know it’s no longer for you. The difficulty is the knowledge that we’re not only leaving an ideology or belief system – we’re leaving people! Family. Friends. We’re leaving a way of life!
When I walked away from my Christian faith, I left almost everything.
It’s a sobering list and even now it’s tempting to think, was it really worth it? It’s THE question we all must answer for ourselves. And this question goes beyond religious faith.
If I walk away from my current way of life, what am I willing to leave? It’s a tough question that may take years to answer.
What freed me was when I finally had the courage to turn the question around.
If I stay, what am I willing to lose? ‘Myself’ was no longer an option – which is why I ultimately walked away.
If you would like to continue the conversation, I’d love to talk! Email me at email@example.com. Thanks for reading.
7 Weeks ago today, I decided to jog up Mount Prevost in the rain. What could go wrong? A lot. For instance, one could slip and fall backward and then plummet to one’s death. Yes, even while wearing brand new Saucony trail running shoes. Thanks for nothing Saucony.
Fortunately, when I did plummet I landed on my right shoulder (instead of my head) thus escaping said death but dislocating my shoulder. The pain I felt shortly after was akin to death although death is the absence of everything, so. hmm. Anyways, I’ve shared this story on a recent podcast episode so if you’re curious if I made it down etc. check it out!
In the first month, I couldn’t really do a lot. Sleeping was uncomfortable, sitting was uncomfortable, not working with my crew was disappointing and even Crave TV/Netflix got old quick. To keep the mental gremlins away, I would go on random hike’s with Angie but not being able to go at my usual speed, I started to avoid that too. Before I knew it, days turned into weeks and I had become a SLACKER ASS. It’s exactly what it sounds like. As someone who values physical fitness and mental well being, this realization SUCKED. Initially. And then Andrew’s wisdom hit me.
“You can’t think yourself out of a bad mindset. Take action!”
Fine Andrew! Gawd. So I did! Right then and there while slumped in my chair with potato chip fragments still clinging to my chest I started a movement.
The picture above was from yesterday- my first trail run in months. As you can tell, It was a slog. 7km of beauty that I couldn’t appreciate because it had been preceded by 2 months of inactivity, over-eating, and pity parties. No wonder the run was a slog. That’s a lot to carry.
Maya Angelou famously said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Um.. Maya.. so… what if you already knew better? What then?
Day 4. Slog City, here I come.
I’ve recently started activating the Do Not Disturb feature on my iPhone. I can go days with that feature turned on blocking out phone calls, Facebook notifications, TSN updates, loved ones, etc. For the modern human that wants to hide, Do Not Disturb is the ticket.
One of the themes that came out in my Podcast episode was the realization that my True Self had been trying to make contact but I had him on Do Not Disturb for like a decade. True Self is the real me. Which of course begs the question, who was the other John? Whoever he needed to be.
For years, my true self (let’s call him Big John) had been trying to reach out to me via whispers, shoulder taps, and small humiliations/failures but Little John had been too pre-occupied, scared and willfully distracted to listen. Unwilling to be ignored any longer, Big J had brought the nuclear bomb in the form of panic attacks. They shattered Little me. With Little J down, Big J was able to finally do his life’s work.
For the past decade, I’ve been learning to become whole again. When I was forced to stop and listen, I was able to see who I had become. A lie. Whoa, kinda harsh Big J! Big J doesn’t mess around. But Big J was right, I was living a lie. Not in some Wall Street way but I was denying my true essence. I had done the most human thing imaginable and fell in line. Went along with the status quo. Sang the songs. Drank the Kool-Aid. And it had nearly killed me.
One of the reasons I started the Leaping Connection was to create a safe place where we could learn to MOVE – specifically away from our small self and towards our True Self. It’s frighteningly easy to live a lie. All it takes is to silence our True self and ta-da, we’re living a lie! I know this sounds harsh but harsh is the only way we tend to make a move.
How do we know if we’re living a lie? Remove the Do Not Disturb off our life and listen to that still small voice within. Lean in and really listen. What do you hear?
As you may know, I co-host the podcast, Obstacle Course, along with my good friend Andrew Langford. We interview courageous people and learn their process for overcoming obstacles of all kinds. We’re 35 episodes in and we’ve interviewed Olympic Athletes, World Renown Speakers, Symphonic Conductors, Business Owners, Politicians, Explorers, Moms, Dads, 11 year olds, 96 year olds, Veterans, Drug Addicts, Under Cover Cops and many more. We also record LIVE at events to help capture the real time reactions and reflections of all involved! This podcast is our passion project and we love what we do!
This week, the questions were directed at me as I shared my past life as a preacher, how I lost my faith, what happened when I walked away, how I knew I was living a lie, how my family responded, how mental health played a role and how I’ve rebuilt my life and found community on Vancouver Island. It was a great conversation and I think you’ll find it illuminates your own journey. You can find it here!
We’re all seekers of truth and we can all find ourselves living apart from it. Once we know, we must exercise courage and begin to live again.
Our Podcast can be found here or wherever you listen. If you find this episode illuminates your own journey, please share it and leave your comments at Apple Podcasts, Facebook, Instagram or wherever you listen.
Thank you for listening!
Ever find yourself restless in the middle of the night? *John raises hand* I usually resist/dread these early morning sessions but I’m slowly learning to embrace them. It’s the only time my hyper brain actually pays attention.
These sessions always start the same. I’m snuggled up minding my own business when BAM I’m shaken awake like the house is on fire. The rapid heart beat, laboured breath and swirling thoughts that follow SUCK. I used to blame late night alcohol and cheese but I’m starting to think there’s more to it then that. Like something or someone is trying to get ahold of me. It makes sense actually. I’m not the easiest guy to reach. If I was trying to get in touch with me, I’d likely choose 3 AM too.
I’ve come to learn that it is actually me trying to get in touch. Not the John Close I think I am but the Me that is who I am. In his defence, Me/ my true self tries to get through me during the day but because I have selected Do Not Disturb so the messages don’t get through. With nothing to distract me in the middle of the night, True Self knows I’ll be all ears. He’s right, but I’m also out of it and so his messages are often lost on me until I can manage to calm my mind, lean in and listen. In the end, I’m always glad we talked but that said, undisturbed sleep is important to me so I’m going to start making time during the day to connect in hopes that I sleep through the night. I’ll let you know how it goes.