Connecting to my Midlife Awakening
Mark [0:01] I’d like to welcome Jem Fuller (jemfuller.com) to the World Heart of Connection podcast. I’m your host, Mark Randall. Jem works as a coach in personal development for professionals, CEOs and does a lot of personal development through retreats in India and Bali. Is that right?
Jem [0:22] Yeah, that’s right Mark.
Mark [0:24] Jem, what got you connected to this sort of work – this line of work?
Jem [0:31] First of all, thanks for having me on. It’s nice to meet you virtually in this crazy time. What got me into this work in the last role that I had, when I was employed by someone else was senior leadership for quite a large organisation. A part of that role was coaching, so coaching the people in my teams and facilitating workshops and that part of the role I really enjoyed. The rest of the role around profit maximisation and trying to get as many zeros on the bottom line as possible. That stuff I didn’t really enjoy at all. Then there was a time when the senior leadership team engaged an external facilitator to come in and run a couple of days of leadership development for us. I loved it. I just loved what he was doing, and he ended up becoming a mentor of mine and I changed my career path and went and started my own coaching practice about seven years ago.
Mark [1:30] Well done. What have you noticed the difference between working individually compared to the corporate world?
A Midlife Awakening instead of crisis
Jem [1:45] The whole timing of this coincided with my midlife ~ I call it a midlife awakening. Some people call it a midlife crisis in my early 40s. I kind of got burnt out from that corporate pace and, and really having to push hard to earn big bucks and make big bucks. Of course, my intentions were all good at the time. I had a couple of young kids and was trying to fill that archetype of the provider. I was filling it but to the detriment of my own values and my own connection to self. I was drinking way too much booze, working and partying too hard and not getting enough time in the surf with my boys and all that kind of story. So, I had this kind of midlife, metamorphosis and lost my job and went on this new pathway. That coincided with me really on a pathway to connect more deeply with self again. So, it’s not just a simple switch from a corporate role to running my own business. It was a big massive change in my life when I really came back to learning how to love myself properly which then enabled me to express and expand myself out beyond self and go and start loving and sharing and giving more properly to the outside world.
Mark [3:11] What was the journey like to transition?
Jem [3:16] Yeah, it was full-on.
Connecting to my Coaching Practice
Jem [3:18] I tend to do things in extreme ways. I’ve always been – I used to be – actually prior to this kind of change, I used to be a person of extremes. I’ve been learning how to find peace in the middle. So, it was extreme. I went from earning a couple hundred grand a year to earning nothing. I just started to build our house down in Aireys Inlet. I threw myself in the deep end and went and studied coaching and started my own coaching practice and had no other source of income. So, I kind of threw myself in the deep end and had to make it work quickly. Which I’ve managed to do. I haven’t worked for anybody else since then. So, I’ve been lucky in that regard that I’ve been able to create a successful coaching practice. I love it, the flexibility work, when I want to work, I live where I want to live. I do what I love, I absolutely love the work that I do. I get a lot of satisfaction from it. Then the trade-off for that – is that there’s not a pay-check guaranteed to come. You’re always looking for work and if you don’t have good stress management systems, for me, it’s meditation and surfing and exercise and if you don’t have those good stress management processes, then it can get to people. So, that’s the trade-off.
Mark [4:46] What was it like to connect to the in-between – the balance between the all or nothing or the full-on to not-on what was that connection like – to find that peaceful balance?
The Gem of Practicing what I Preach
Jem [5:02] There were plenty of early mornings waking up, earlier than I needed to and lying awake stressing about how am I going to or where am I going to get money from to pay the mortgage and feed the kids. There were lots of that. Lots of practising what you preach in terms of – I’m out there saying to people follow your heart and your skillset and where you can add value and trust that the “universe” in inverted commas will provide. There was a lot of having to practice that and really trust that. I think the deeper piece of work for me through this whole process was re-wiring my belief system around self and doing a lot of work to reframe to myself, that I am good enough. That I do deserve to live an awesome, wholehearted life doing something that I love. Because there’s this racket that a lot of humans run, “which is I’m not good enough”, or “I’m not smart enough”, or “I’m not clever enough”, or “I’m not good looking enough or whatever”. I was one of those through most of my life. I had this background belief that maybe I wasn’t good enough. So, uncovering that and rewiring that was the deepest piece of work. It’s this workaround connection to self, which I know you’re, you’re also interested in. So, this real workaround self-love and self-acceptance and self-connection was the core of the change.
Connecting to my Heart, Gut Intelligence & my Body
Mark [6:39] In reaching that core of the change, would it be fair to say, and correct me if this doesn’t sound sit right? Was it moving out of the intellectual head stuff down into your heart?
Jem [6.55] That was certainly a part of it. I think intellectual head stuff, I think that’s what gets in the way of our, of our connection to and trusting through the heart intelligence and the gut intelligence. There’s a lot of neurons in our gut as well. I think that we can get in our own way intellectually, certainly. Also, we have these background beliefs that are running kind of beneath our conscious awareness. So, it’s hard to ~ it’s hard to change a dysfunctional belief if you’re not even consciously aware that you’re running it. So, the first step really is to become aware and whether that’s triggered through a big point in your life, a tragedy may be in your life. A big turning point for me was when my first, my Dad and then a few months later, my little brother, both died quite close to each other and that was a big trigger as well. So sometimes it takes a big event in life. Or, sometimes not – sometimes it can be meeting somebody who inspires you to understand something about yourself that you didn’t before. When it comes into your conscious awareness, for me it happened in a sweat lodge. I don’t know if your, your listeners are aware of them. I’ve been sitting in a men’s circle down in Bellbrae for about nine or 10 years. Occasionally we run a sweat and we were in in the sweat-lodge and I had this completely out of body profound, an enlightening experience where I went back to being five years old. What came out of that, for me, it was a very prophetic dream about a serpent. I won’t bore you with the details, but at the end of it, I understood – wow, I’ve been having this subconscious belief that I’m not enough. I wasn’t even aware of it until then. I’d been kidding myself that I was fine. So that’s how it came to me and once it became conscious then did the work to, to reset that.
Men needing to become more conscious
Mark [9:05] How many more men need to be doing similar work, to what you’ve been doing, do you believe?
Jem [9:15] Wow, I’m just going to guess. It’s hard for us to really get gauge because we get into our bubble. So, in my social group, with my friends. My male friends, we sit in circle together and we talk about this stuff a lot, and it’s easy to get caught in your bubble. It’s the same on social media, depending on what you like, is what social media feeds you more off. So, you could create a reality where you think, oh, everyone thinks like me, but it’s not like that at all. It’s just that you’ve created your own bubble. But I’m lucky enough to work with a lot of men and women outside of my bubble in the work that I do. I know that most, I say 95% of the men that I work with, have never heard of sitting in men’s circle or talking about connection to the inner child or to their feminine or to their heart or their gut or stuff like that. So, Mark, I just have a guess and say 90% of the Australian male population could really do with some of this work.
What prohibits men’s self-development
Mark [10:22] What has prohibited men from doing this work in Australia, do you believe?
Jem [10:27] Oh, our environment, for sure. Our culture, I mean everybody has the potential and the capacity for this understanding, we’re all human. But we are, to a large degree, we are products of our environment. We’ve grown up in a culture where, the generations before us for various different reasons, whether it was War, or depression or whatever, didn’t have the time or space to, to kick back and self-reflect and ponder and contemplate that get on with survival. So culturally, it became, to be accepted as a man. Again, I’m saying that in inverted commas you had to be tough. You couldn’t show any vulnerability. You couldn’t share your feelings, you had to be tough and strong and just
get on with it.
Toxic Masculinity – our old conditioning
Mark [11:21] There’s a term that’s been mooted a lot about the social conditioning – it’s been termed toxic masculinity. How do you sit with that terminology?
Jem [11:34] Yeah, I get it. It makes sense to me. There’s masculine energy styles and feminine energy styles. I think we all have access to both. S,o masculine doesn’t necessarily mean man and feminine doesn’t necessarily always apply to a woman. A woman can access a masculine man and a man can access to his feminine. So toxic masculinity is just when the masculine energy style is turning up in a dysfunctional way. In a way that’s not good for the person or the people around them. So, then they will be functional or dysfunctional functional. So, functional masculinity is when that masculine energy is serving a purpose and serving it well and it’s good for the individual and good for the people around.
Mark [12:26] How does it impact on men’s connections with each other?
Toxic Masculinity Blocks Men’s Connections
Jem [12:31] Massively.
Jem [12:33] Yeah, massively. The anecdote of men can only kind of get emotional with each other or speak a half-truth when they’ve had a few too many beers.
Mark [12:45] It’s quite fascinating that isn’t it when you watch them in hotels, they’re all over each other and tell each other deeply how much they love each other? But it must be under the influence of the truth drug, so to speak. (Laughter)
Jem [13:01] Yeah, it’s quite a phenomenon.
Mark [13:03] Do you have a daily practice in terms of keeping yourself connected to yourself? What’s your daily practise or your daily routine to facilitate your ongoing connection to self?
Connecting to my Daily Routines
Jem [13:19] Yeah, there are a few things that I do. The first thing I do most days, not every day, but most days are meditating. The form of meditation that I prefer is mindfulness meditation. There are other forms of meditation, obviously transcendental and contemplative and various other forms. But for me, a practice of mindfulness meditation is the first thing I do. Throughout the day, I’ve created some healthy habits. One of the most effective ones which are so simple that people could almost think it’s too simple to be effective. I call it ‘pause moments’ and so regularly throughout the day, in between doing something or whilst doing something, I’ll pause and take a breath, just observe where I’m at, just check-in, drop the judgement. So, if I’m feeling stressed, drop any judgement around that or if I’m feeling anxious, or if I’m feeling under pressure or whatever I’m feeling just dropping any judgement around it. So being easy on yourself and just simply noticing physiologically where you’re at for a few seconds and then carrying on. So, I call them, ‘pause moments’. They’re a highly effective way to just keep reconnecting with yourself. Also, a remnant of the initial work I did on the self-love stuff, was a mantra, I guess you’d call it. Where I used to just say to myself a lot, out loud, “I’m good enough just the way I am.” So now, not every day, but quite often, I’ll just take a moment to stand and look put myself in the mirror and smile and go. “you’re alright mate”. You’re exactly who you suppose today and you’re good enough just the way you are.
Connecting to our Flow-State
Mark [15:11] When you’ve got that connection, you really connected in – do you come into a flow-state within yourself?
Jem [15:20] Yeah, I reckon you do.
Jem [15:24] When you drop all your comparisons, I should be more like him or I wish I was better at that or you know I’m not good enough at this. When you’re going into this comparison state it can be really blocking. But when you practice coming into complete self-acceptance, then you’re not trying to be something that you’re not. You’re just being – which is flow-state when you get into that beautiful state of just being.
Men’s Life would be different in Flow-States
Mark [15:58] How would life be different for men, if we’re all able to work at coming into a connection to that flow-state?
Gifts of Connecting to our Flow-State
Jem [16:10] A lot less stressful, a lot healthier and I think we’d be drinking less. I think we’d be living longer. I think our partners, whether our partners are women or men, but our partners and our families, our children, our communities, we all greatly benefit from it. Just on that level, I know that my past relationship, which was the one with the mother of my kids, and the woman that I married, that was prior to this big massive shift in me. I couldn’t show up for her anywhere near the way I can show up for my current partner now, as a more conscious man. Because I was that version of before and I could have been so much better for her if I knew the stuff that I now. So, now in the relationship ship that I’m in, I’m lucky enough and my partner is lucky enough that we get this stuff and we practice this stuff and it’s a truly beautiful relationship because it’s conscious and aware. We know masculine and feminine energies, we know how to use them, how to play them, how to make them work for the relationship, and a whole lot of other stuff as well. This just makes it – life is just so much more enhanced and, and easier. So, when people can get this and when men can get this, their lives just become a lot more enjoyable.
Showing Up to Self & Others
Mark [17:40] When you’re showing up, you’re showing up within yourself, are you then more connected to your partner?
Jem [17:46] Oh completely.
Mark [17:49] And other people?
Jem [17:50] And other people.
Jem [17:52] Completely. I reckon that the more of your own stuff that you’ve got with yourself. So, the less resolved you are with yourself, the thicker the layers or the filters or the lenses in between you and the outside world. So, if you’ve got a lot of unresolved stuff, whether it’s conscious or unconscious, it creates this lens or filtering system between you and the outside world. And you can’t truly be present for somebody else because you’ve got so much of your own crap in the way.
Connecting to Self and Clearing our Filters
So, this journey of self-acceptance and resolution and connection to self ~ is stripping away the layers of gunk so to speak. That just means, when I’m sitting with someone and listening to them, I can be much more present for them because I’ve got out of my own way. It’s not about me anymore. I’ve done the work. It’s not a box you tick, sorry, I haven’t done the work and don’t have to keep doing it. It’s a practice. So, I’m daily doing daily practices to keep this connection to self-moving along. The more we do this, the more present you can be there for the other person, whether it’s your partner or a colleague or a client or a kid. Because you’re getting out of your own way and not making it about yourself anymore, and that opens the space to make it about them.
Connecting to our Open Heartedness
Mark [19:20] Would you be more open-hearted in that space?
Jem [19:24] Yeah, definitely. I think also, another part of that open-heartedness is that when we understand that we’re going be safe, that we are okay, that everything will be okay, regardless. When we understand that, on the other side of any event, we are quite resilient creatures and that we’re going to be okay. You don’t need to protect; you don’t need to guard your heart anymore. You don’t need to protect or put walls up for fear. That’s a fear-based way of life. For fear of protection or will I be okay? If this person hurts me or leaves me. When we can practice trusting and coming from a place of love, I’ll be alright. At the end of the day, every relationship you’ve got is going to end in the physical sense, everyone’s going to die either before you or after you. So that’s a given. When you trust that just ‘is what- it is’ and that you’ll be okay with that. Then you can be more open-hearted, and you can be more wholehearted in your relationships and you’re giving to other people.
Old Wiring blocks Men’s open-hearted
Mark [20:39] What’s blocking men from becoming more open-hearted?
Jem [20:46] Look, I think there’s a there’s a very deep-seated fear in men that’s evolutionary wiring around competition. Being the leader of the pack and protecting your brood. For a man it’s not a brood for a man, it’s the family of the tribe. That’s old evolutionary wiring.
Mark [21:16] It’s a bit reptilian, isn’t it?
Jem [21:18] Yes. Yeah, it is, and it comes from the reptilian part of the brain that all wiring.
Living out of our Reptilian Brain
Jem [21:25] So, rather than trying to negate that, or erase that, or pretend that’s not there. I think it’s probably better to look at how that can be functional or how sometimes it can be dysfunctional and get in your way. But certainly, we need to have these conversations. That’s why I applaud you for this Podcast and others like you that are having those conversations because it’s through conscious conversations that we create a change of ideas. There’s a Podcast I love listening to, which is Sam Harris and his podcast “Making Sense”. He says that – it’s not so much that there are bad people per se. I mean, there are of course there are, unfortunately, there are psychopaths, that’s a different story. I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about non-psychopathic people. It’s not so much that there are bad people, there are just bad ideas and people get sold on a bad idea. So, if we can start talking about good ideas, good ways to be more conscious, and functional ways to be a man in our culture, and those ideas catch on, then we can create change and we can evolve.
Connecting to Self-acceptance of our Vulnerability
Mark [22:40] Is part of that acceptance, learning to accept that as men, we have a very fragile part to our psyche of vulnerability. Instead of seeing it as a weakness, changing the social construction of that to accept it, just an inevitable part of being human?
Jem [22:59] Yeah, that’s such a great point, Mark. That’s, so poignant and I completely agree with you. It’s crazy for us to think that vulnerability is a weakness. We are, by the essence of being human, we are vulnerable. I mean, now, that’s obvious right now ~ there’s one pandemic that’s sweeping around the whole world, and we’re all vulnerable. Suddenly, we’re all having to stay at home and people are losing their jobs, and some people are losing their lives and so we are, by essence, vulnerable. So, it’s kind of crazy that we’ve created that to be a weakness. Quite often when I’m coaching leaders in organisations, we talk about vulnerability being a strength. The way that it’s a strength and I think, to your point, a strength for male to male connection, is that if you pretend you’re not vulnerable, you’re being inauthentic and people can’t connect with you completely when you’re being inauthentic because humans have a very astute bullshit radar. We can tell when someone’s being inauthentic. If you pretend that you’re not vulnerable, there’s an inauthenticity there and people can’t completely connect with you. So, you can’t lead them to the best of your ability or collaborate with them, or innovate together. But if we can allow our vulnerability, if we can have moments where we go, do you know what? I don’t know what is going on right now in our organisation with this COVID thing, I’ve got no idea, we’ve never been here before. But I’ve got a plan, let’s give it a crack and see if we can get through. Now there’s a vulnerability in that and by being vulnerable, the people that you’re leading can connect with you ~ it’s a strength. If men could be vulnerable with each other without having to drink half a dozen beers. If men could be vulnerable with each other, that’s a strength because the formation of relationships would be much deeper, and we could do much better work together collaboratively.
Mark [24:54] And it’s not before time.
Jem [24:57] No, that’s right.
Mark [24:58] It’s imperative. Men’s evolution into connecting more to themselves, to others and to the ‘All That Is,” it’s going to make this world a much better place, which it can be.
Connecting to my ‘All That Is’
Jem [25:11] Yeah, completely. There must be some – I agree with you. There must be some dramatic change in the way we do things, you know, the old toxic masculine – not completely toxic masculine. The old masculine way of running the world, of, it’s the result that counts, get the profit at all costs. Don’t worry about the human part of the equation, just, smash it out, with not too much emotional intelligence. Just kind of being very focused on getting results, that’s becoming less – it’s not working so much anymore. We need to have a look at changing this. We need to come back to being more human-centric, we need to engage more emotional intelligence. More vulnerability, more feminine. So, it’s not so much just about having more women in powerful roles which we need, but it’s also the men that are in these roles. We need these men to start engaging with their feminine, they’re more emotionally intelligent sides. We need to change the way we can be like males in our society. Yeah, I agree with you, it really should happen.
Mark [26:23] As part of the conversation, I always come to the point in connection to the ‘All That Is’, when I use the term ‘All That Is’, what does that bring up in your consciousness?
Jem [26:36] I relate to it immediately and it just means very literally what you said, ‘All That Is”.
Connecting to my Experience of ‘All That Is’
Mark [26:42] What do you experience happens in your psyche when you’re connected to the ‘All That Is’ within you and beyond?
Jem [26:51] A few things. When I connect to be a part of the ‘All That Is’ my problems disappear, at that moment because they’re not important. My ego disappears because the ego is not about the ‘All That Is’ – ego is just about itself. Ego is not necessarily a bad thing. We all have one that’s part of being human and it’s nice to be able to keep it in check.
Mark [27:19] Can ‘All That Is’ oh sorry. Can the “All That Is’ – when you’re in that ‘All That Is,’ can that they’re notice and witness your ego?
Jem [27:27] yeah. The ‘All That Is’ ~ is the state that I sometimes have little glimpses of in my meditations. When you experience what it is to be consciousness and not the object ~ in consciousness. Then you can observe the objects as they show up in consciousness.
Mark [27:45] Do connect with it out surfing?
Jem [27:49] When I’m lucky enough, (Laughter).
Mark [27:53] I had a laugh…as an amateur surfer
Attaining an ‘All That Is’ ~ Stargazing
Jem [27:54] I’m not a very good surfer and, but I love it. There are moments where I will sit and consciously do it. Then, there are moments when very occasionally when I get a great wave and I’m completely in the zone and loving that. I connect with it more in some of the practices that I do. So, I’ll do a conscious stargazing practice on a clear night where I’ll go and lie on my back and contemplate the actuality of the universe. Quite often, I’ll look at the black instead of looking at the stars, I’ll look at the gaps between the stars to really try and comprehend the distances and the physical and time location that we’re in.
Mark [28:02] Do you hit an oneness when you do that?
Jem [28:42] Yeah, again, look, I occasionally, yes. I don’t sit there like, you know, like a monk in a cave in spending hours in this state. I’m very lucky to occasionally have little glimpses of it in my practices – in my meditations, but I’ve been doing this for 20 years. So, I’m familiar with the state and it’s lovely. It’s a moment where you’re not out of the body, you’re not in body, your kind of both and you lose your sense of where you finish, and the rest of the universe begins. You completely lose a sense of-of self – of existing separately from everything. So yeah, it’s a lovely state.
Men’s Connection to the ‘All That Is’ ~ Letting go of our Ego
Mark [29:25] If more men were able to attain that space or have access to that space, what would that do to improve their connections to each other and to our community?
Jem [29:37] Oh, look, I think, men especially again, I’m generalising but men especially a very rooted in ego and ego is all about itself. Ego is necessarily defensive. It’s fuelled by fear. Our ego resists change. So, yes, we need an ego, but it can be abrasive. When men are caught in their ego, they’re less open to alternatives. They’re less flexible, they’re less able to adapt and change and include. So, when we can practice this state of losing oneself, losing your sense of self, and opening up to being a smaller part of a much bigger thing. Things like collaboration, things like inclusion, relationship, all that kind of stuff flourishes.
My advice to a younger Jem ~ “You Are Enough”
Mark [30:41] Just in drawing it to a close if there was a young Jem coming through the world, what advice would you give that young Jem, right now, in his journey or coming journey?
Jem [30:55] I’d certainly say to him, you’re enough. You’re enough. Just you are, you deserve to be loved. You deserve to be accepted. Don’t try and be anybody else. Just do you.
Mark [31:09] Just be you.
Jem [31:11] Just be you and I would say, have the courage to live and love wholeheartedly.
Mark [31:19] Well done. That’s wonderful. Thank you very much, Jem.
Jem [31:25] No, you’re welcome Mark. Lovely conversation.
Mark [31:26] It’s lovely to connect to a male in this sort of zone. I think it’s really – my sense is – it’s starting to happen more often. There’s a movement of afoot. Yeah, there’s – I hope there’s really solid energy that’s moving there for men to make the changes. To open their hearts and to find themselves and connect with themselves and others and ‘All That Is’. I really appreciate this opportunity to have listened to your wisdom and for you to share your wisdom and I hope it touches many other men.
Jem [32:05] Yeah, well thanks so much for having me on Mark. Thank you so much for playing your part in helping everything that you just spoke about then. Anything I can do to support you and other men on this on this worthy mission is here for you.
Mark [32:23] Namaste.
Jem [32:24] Namaste.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai