Tami Simon: Insights at the Edge. Today’s episode is with Jamie Catto. Jamie Catto is the creative catalyst behind the global philosophy, music, and film project 1 Giant Leap, and he’s a founding member of the dance music supergroup called Faithless. With Sounds True, Jamie Catto—along with Alex Forster—has released the album Internal: Music for Dissolving—soothing music expressing both the swirling seas and the serenity that coexist within us.
In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Jamie and I spoke about tuning into our woundedness as a gateway to our creative gifts. We also talked about how to turn our shadow material into rocket fuel in our life. We talked about Jamie Catto’s "Creativity Manifesto" and what it means to take off the masks that we wear every day. And finally, we heard excerpts from three different tracks from Jamie Catto and Alex Forster’s new album, Internal: Music for Dissolving. Here’s my conversation with Jamie Catto.
Jamie, in addition to being a musician, a filmmaker, and a dad, you call yourself a "creative catalyst," helping people get what’s on the inside to the outside. I’m curious—in your work with people as a creative catalyst, what do you see as the major obstacle that people face in expressing their creativity—in bringing their creativity out?
Jamie Catto: That’s a good question. The first thing that comes to mind is the huge amount of limiting beliefs [I] and others have in our head that we were given by parents, [caregivers], and teachers. "You’re not good. You’re not good at this. You’re not creative." When we’re little and we’re getting all this feedback from people who are very unenlightened, messed up, and used to just dumping their stuff on others, including children, we don’t have the intelligence, the screen, or the maturity to know that that’s just their belief. When you’re a kid, you actually believe it’s true—particularly when it comes from an angry mom or dad.
These huge, limiting beliefs we all carry about we’re good at or what are our possibilities or which [parts] of ourselves are allowed to be seen—you know, we’re so approval-addicted by our parents. The way we’re taught how to use our fleshly spacesuit. The way we’re taught to use our hands and feet is by being given lots of approval when we get it right, and having less approval when we get it wrong.
Whenever you give something and take it away, and give something and take it away, that creates an addict. So we become approval addicts, and Facebook is the great proof of that. You check to see how many "Likes" did [you] get—how many approval moments did I get today? That’s our fix.
The problem with that is as we’re growing up, whenever a parent or caregiver [says], "Stop that! That’s disgusting!" you’re sliced by that and you’ll never let anyone see that again. [Audio distorted] . . . can’t. "Oh, be pretty for mommy!" can’t. Every single time we were given really negative feedback, we edit off that bit because it didn’t get approval—it got the opposite. We unconsciously cripplingly edit—violently edit ourselves down to these crippled brochures of ourselves, which are just the good bit—or the bits that we perceive get us through the door. Get us love, get us approval.
In the process, we’ve lopped off huge lumps of our creativity, huge lumps of our outrageousness, the part of us that can be loud and ebullient and fabulous. Many, many people have been told to squash that. Many people have thought, "Oh, that’s arrogant. That’s this. That’s ego. That’s that."
So yes. The biggest obstacle is that we’ve squashed ourselves down to a tiny little brochure version of our huge, unapologetic, powerful, juicy self.
TS: How does somebody break an approval addiction? They say, "Yes, I hear what you’re saying, Jamie. I have that. I want people to think highly of me and that’s an obstacle. I get it. How do I change it?"
JC: By playing with the characters that you thought were forbidden in controlled circumstances. We’ve all suppressed different characters. We’ve all suppressed different sides of ourselves. If you just leave them suppressed forever, then they grow fangs and moss and start leaping out in sabotage-y ways in our lives. So it’s really important to find those characters—find those characteristics—and play with them under controlled circumstances.
It’s like the Tibetans say: Feeding meat to the demons. Luckily, if you’re an artist, you’ve got the great characters of literature—[they] all come out of those suppressed sides. Or lyrics, or music, or playing disgusting games with children. Kids are a great place to play shadow games with when they’re in on it. There’s a reason why kids love the author Roald Dahl so much—because it’s full of snot and poo and disgusting behavior. And kids love that, when they’re in on it.
What we do a lot in the workshops is play with all the things we condemn, judge, and think are forbidden—and let them out bit by bit, oxygenate them, give them more and more permission, and find their hilarious side rather than their traumatic side. The more you find out how hilarious your outrageousness is, the more it’s like blood rushing back into a muscle. You re-inherit a huge amount of creative energy.
TS: I know you recently started a Facebook group called "Sanctuary for Terror." I thought this was interesting. For a lot of us, I think our terror is something that we’re not all that interested in claiming and admitting how terrified we are. And yet, probably a lot of people would say that when it comes to [their] creative dreams, [they] do feel terrified. Terrified that I won’t realize them, to be honest.
So talk a little bit about why [you created] a Sanctuary for Terror.
JC: Well, when I’m going into a huge terror meltdown, I really isolate myself and feel like there’s no one that can reach me—that there’s no [who’s] going to be there for me. And I have one or two people in my life that I do feel supported by, but if I can’t get them on the phone or they’re in a different time zone, I’m going to be suffering and sweating and puking until dawn sometimes.
I thought to myself, "God, wouldn’t it be great if there was a place like—" in England, we have a thing called The Samaritans, which is a phone number you can ring and there’ll always be someone on the end of the line. I don’t necessarily want that. But wouldn’t it be great if there was a place where all of us who are terrified—any time, night or day—you could come on and just say, "Hey, I’m melting down. Is anyone there?"
It’s amazing what’s happened on this Facebook group. So many different people have come on and they’re lonely, they’re freaking out, they just had a fight with their husband, or something’s just happened to one of their kids. You know—heavy stuff. And they’re feeling totally isolated or terrified.
Suddenly, someone pops up from Australia and says, "Oh God, I feel like that, too. Thank God you’re there." Or someone from Lisbon in Portugal. Or someone in Nevada. Suddenly, there’s this cross-international conversation going on where everyone’s sharing the same terrors and the same support. It’s incredible, when you take away the isolation from the terror, it halves it completely. Suddenly, conversations are happening and an incredible amount of support, love, and nourishment is getting transmitted through this Facebook group.
I really did it on a whim in the middle of the night once, when I was [sort of] totally lost. I didn’t think—because now I’ve reached my limit of 5,000 friends or whatever. You don’t even think, when you press "Create," that of course it goes on people’s news feeds. Then suddenly it’s like 10, 20, 30, 40, 200, 300 members. Everyone suddenly wanted it.
I always think that every single creative idea I’ve had—the best ones are the ones where I’m the first customer. Like 1 Giant Leap—I wanted a film and an album [that] really showed how greatly the world music players and singers of the world really are—[to] really showcase how incredible they are. I wanted it for me. I wasn’t doing it as a thing for the world. I wanted it for myself.
And it’s the same for Sanctuary for Terror. I wanted for me. And it’s always those things that we want for ourselves that suddenly everyone else relates to and become the most successful.
TS: I’m curious—in your own process as an artist, what do you see as the relationship between terror and creating?
JC: Oh, I don’t know. A lot of my creations have come out of looking for medicine or looking for peace or looking for a lifeline out of my isolation and alienation.
I think the wonderful thing about planet Earth—because we come out of the oneness with Om—we come out of the one into duality. That means we can have experience on planet Earth. You can’t do that when there’s only one thing. But when there’s me and you, we can have a conversation. When there’s me and pizza, when there’s me and music, when there’s me and sex, when there’s me and the countryside, I can have an experience. You always need to have duality—two things—for an experience.
That’s the great thing about planet Earth because you come here and have experience and you have to be in duality to do it. You have to pretend and take a pill that makes you think you’re an individual.
But the problem with that admission—the problem of, the price of coming to Earth, coming as an individual—is that you also have to deal with alienation, loneliness, competitiveness, isolation, and all the challenging things that come with being an individual. And I guess a lot of the things I’ve made—whether it be workshops or films—it’s come from a way to reach out and feel connected and intimate with the things around me.
There was a part of 1 Giant Leap where we were showing all the different religions all saying the same thing. That was really the first-ever idea I had for 1 Giant Leap—[that] surely if we put a rabbi next to a priest next to a Buddhist monk next to an imam and we asked them all about humility or generosity, they’d all pretty much say the same thing. Wouldn’t it be great to put them all in a row?
That’s really my way of wanting to be intimate with the world around me. To say, "Hey, isn’t this obvious to you? It’s obvious to me."
Yes—art, for me, is a way of creating intimacy with the people around me and the world around me. A way to feel connected and for us to all connect.
TS: Tell us a little bit, Jamie, about the new album that you’ve created along with Alex Forster, Internal: Music for Dissolving. What was the genesis of that effort?
JC: Thank you for asking me that. I believe that all the big challenges and difficulty and pain and strife I feel in my life—I normally think it’s about worrying about money, it’s about a problem with my girlfriend, or my ex-wife. But really, if you do Vipassana meditation or many other practices, another way of looking at it is you could just disconnect it from all those stories about girlfriends and money—or whatever—and just feel it as a physical sensation in the body.
And the most effective way I have found to move energy and to heal, really, is to remove myself from all the mental constructs, stories, and characters that I attach to those feelings and just come back to the physical sensation of it. "Ah, what’s going on? Ah, it’s a tightness in my solar plexus. It’s an emptiness in my belly. It’s a cold waterfall in my heart." It’s something physical.
I got really interested in the work of this Taoist teacher called Bruce Francis—who’s the great Taoist, qigong, t’ai chi teacher of our age, probably. Who’s been taught by all the great masters and holds the lineage, and all that jazz.
The Taoists have this funky thing called "dissolving," where you breathe into the place in your body where it feels blocked. You just breathe into it gently, oxygenate it, and you say the words, "Ice to water, water to steam." And you literally begin to dissolve those blocks like a boiled sweet or a piece of ice.
Some tears are hard to cry. Some places are hard to feel. They’re like bubbles that are caught between the ribs—it’s not always easy to really locate the emotion, the feeling, the essence, or the block. It takes some time, and I find that music is a really great catalyst for feeling more, for magnifying, for leading me there.
So, we began to make music for the dissolving—music to help us find the sadness, the sorrow, or the grief. [To] help us locate the triggers—locate those difficult-to-find bubbles of emotion that I want to dissolve. It began like that.
That was the Music for Dissolving album. That’s how it came into being.
TS: I’d love to play for our listeners a track from Internal: Music for Dissolving. What would you suggest?
JC: Well, if you want—if your listeners don’t mind synching into a deeper wound—if they want to contact one of the deeper wounds, which is actually is a gift. Wounds, I believe, are signposts to what is our great gift for the world. I feel we get wounded [and] it’s like we’re getting shoved down into the dark mines. If we come up, we come up with a jewel in our hand, which we share with everybody else. Like Chiron, the wounded healer.
One of the great tracks for that on the album is called "No Trace."
TS: Let’s listen.
["No Trace" plays.]
TS: And that’s "No Trace," from Jamie Catto and Alex Forster’s new album, Internal: Music for Dissolving.
Jamie, you mentioned about how listening to music like this—in your own experience—one could tune to a feeling of woundedness and that it could become a gateway, if you will. A gateway for our gifts. I’m curious to know more how you work with people in the workshops that you teach to help people have that experience. I mean, I can imagine someone listening who says, "My wounds feel like wounds, thank you very much."
JC: [Laughs.] You’re welcome. Really, the truth of something is malleable. It’s changeable. How we choose to look at it—how we choose to frame something—is what the truth of it is for us.
I always tell this story about how, when I first split up with my ex-wife, I was having this full-on dark night of the soul. I was like, "Oohhh." She was already screwing some other guy and he had his socks in my drawer. The kids loved him. Total nightmare.
I was wandering around—left Spain, where we were living. And I was like, "Where am I going to live? How am I going to see the kids? How am I going to afford this?" I was on the London Underground, listening to my iPod with Peter Gabriel’s Passion album playing. It’s an incredibly sad bit of film music. And the more it was playing, the more I was looking around and every face seemed lonelier than the last. All the plight, all the things, and all the challenges were squashing me.
And that was totally true for me. Everything that was happening to me, I was a victim to it. I was under it. And that was totally true.
Lucky for me—because I always keep my iPod on "Shuffle"—the next thing that came on was The Clash—this jubilant bit of rock and roll music, playing "London Calling." Suddenly, I was on my feet. I was like, "Who is this hero?! Who is this maverick?! Look at all these challenges he’s facing! He’s incredible!" The music sort of lifted me.
Suddenly, that became true. It made me realize that the truth of how something is is by no means a fixed thing. So you want to look at the wounding that’s happening to me through one lens and go, "Oh, look at the heavy stuff that’s happening to me. This is so unfair. I’m such a victim." Which is the usual software we’re born with—the usual cultural programming we have is Newtonian physics. I was standing still and this thing came along and hit me. I’m innocent. We’re programmed to think we’re victims.
But there’s another way you can frame it. Like Gabrielle Roth says, it takes tremendous discipline to be a free spirit. Yes, you can look through the lens that says, "I’m a victim." But with a bit of discipline, you can click that lens and turn it into a lens that asks the question, "Hmm—how can this be benevolent? If I was living in a universe where everything was actually trying to do something loving for me, how is this an illumination? How is this potentially a gift? What am I maybe being trained in here? If I was getting something from this, what would it be? If I can set this up as a special training simulation, what was I trying to show myself?"
When you ask [these] questions, suddenly you become incredibly powerful instead of a victim. It’s a choice. You can look at it as if it’s happening to [you], or you can ask the questions that make us powerful.
I choose to do the latter and try to train myself to ask the questions, "What is in this for me? What am I getting from this? What is the training here?" Usually, another question is, "How is this showing me me?" When I ask those questions and a few others, suddenly I become really empowered, and the so-called wounding—the so-called challenging things that are happening to me—suddenly become soul training instead of me being a victim.
It’s all a question of how I choose to frame it—what lens I choose to look through. Am I looking through the victim lens, or am I looking through the gift lens?
TS: Now, you said this question—"How is this showing me me?" What did you mean by that?
JC: I mean that, usually, the person I’m judging and hating is usually my body’s genius, trying to show me me. Like I was saying before, we’ve all edited ourselves down to this tiny, smaller shape of ourselves. The human body is hardwired to self-mend. If you scratch your skin, it heals. If you break a bone, it mends. Your body is scanning yourself all day and night for viruses and bacteria, and making its own drugs to flush them out. The human body is the most incredible self-healing, self-mending item in the whole universe that we know of.
But I don’t believe it’s only just self-mending the physical. I think it’s self-mending our emotions and our mental screw-ups as well. It’s constantly mending that. And I think the machine—that the process that the human species is using to heal our mental and emotional trauma—is each other.
I believe that the human race is seven billion mirrors—seven billion challenging ways we can see ourselves. The very thing that you would judge in someone is different from what I would judge in someone. The thing that your brain and judgmental system throws up for Tami to look at is relevant to you. The thing that I [throw] up in my mind to judge and look at is something that’s relevant to me. So when I start looking at my judgments as a way that the universe is trying to speak to me, instead of, "Oh, it’s that person. I’m pointing the finger over there."
Can I give you a quick example? I’ll tell this as quickly as possible.
JC: I was driving around in the car recently and I started having a memory of a teacher from 35 years ago at school. I haven’t thought about this guy since. He was a teacher, actually, from another school who we were playing football against. And this guy had major, major anger management issues. Some kid on their team had been unsportsmanlike and kicked the ball away. This teacher laid into him—like screaming at him—"You stink!" This poor kid was cowering on the ground while this big guy was sort of pointing at him and screaming his anger straight at him.
Anyway, I had not thought about this for 35 years. I remember at the time thinking, "Something’s wrong here . . ." but didn’t hold onto it. Thirty-five years later, I’m driving around in my car and I start thinking about this teacher.
Then I start getting really angry about it. "Someone should do something about that guy!" I mean, this guy’s probably dead now. No one’s going to do anything. But [I was] thinking, "God, someone should have said something." I started getting really judgmental and really kind of heated about it.
Then I think to myself, "OK, let’s just try out one of those things you tell everyone else do in the workshops just once. How is this me? How am I showing myself me here? How is that guy just like me?" That’s the genius way. Why would my mind throw that up?
So I start thinking and then I realize that the day before, I’d really shouted at one of my kids in a really irresponsible way and made her cry. I hadn’t actually made amends. I hadn’t processed it with her and apologized properly. And it was the most brilliant reminder—it was like, "Thank God." My genius brain had thrown up that memory of that old teacher that I needed to judge so that I could lead myself on a path to reminding myself I needed to say sorry to Lola.
And that is how genius the body’s self-mending system is. All our judgments are actually part of our innate genius, as a way to show us something we need to remember—usually about ourselves.
TS: Jamie, here’s something I’m really curious about: I’m really curious to know why you want to teach workshops helping other people realize their creativity [and] enter their wounds. You teach a workshop called "Transforming Shadows into Rocket Fuel." I get why all of these principles and ideas are important to you as an artist and in the creation of your own art. But I’m curious why you’ve made this development in your life—to be teaching other people these ideas in a workshop setting.
JC: Yes. You’ve got me. I don’t know how it happened. I can’t remember when it happened. I was just gladly making films and music—had all my weekends free. And now all my weekends are doing this. I teach three weekends a month [in] workshops and have one weekend with the kids.
I know why I’ve carried on doing it—it’s because there’s nothing more fun than being in the presence of transformation, in the presence of all that courage and bravery, and being next to someone when you see them put something down or having a heart moment. [It] is a big turn-on. To see somebody’s exploded their creativity and go from limited to unlimited is amazing.
One of the workshops we do is called "What About You?" and that is my project-kickstarter workshop, where you take your big gift for the world—the big project you’ve always wanted to do, [but] we’re never really taught how to do our projects at school. I teach how people how to take an idea out of your head into the world with a barcode.
We’ve now green-lit about 3,000 projects in two years. To see people now living the life they want to live instead of working for some guy they don’t respect, doing a job that doesn’t inspire them—to see them put that down and actually dare to leap into, "Wow! Doing what I love all day maybe isn’t just for other people. Maybe I could do that too!" To get people to really ask that question of themselves, "What do you really want to do after breakfast? If you had all your life expenses already paid, what do you want to do after breakfast?" To come up with that answer and people start to live the dreams that they can actually do what they love all day and not just be a slave to somebody’s else boring job is just such a turn-on to be around.
It also gets me to really challenge myself and try out my own principles—like all the payment on these workshops is voluntary. I don’t want to feed a model in the world that says, "Money equals participation." So even though we do have a price for the workshop, there’s a drop-down menu if that’s too much. It takes it down in increments of 20 and down to 5 bucks, or even zero. I mean, we’ll pay your travel to get there if you want to be there and you can’t be there. I believe that all payment should be voluntary, and I want to live in a world where no one has to pay more than they want—more than what’s comfortable—and yet there’s still enough to go around.
So the best way to build that world is to be that world. All my business, now, is voluntary payment. It’s been a huge challenge for me—who is somebody who has three children and two ex-wives and tons of overhead. It’s a great sort of ashram for me to be challenged, and keep letting go and letting go and letting go. It also helps create the world I want to live in, which is where there’s enough without anyone having to only be able to participate if they’re wealthy.
TS: Jamie, let’s say someone’s listening to this and they might not make it to one of your workshops. [It] might now be in their geographic zone. As I’m speaking to you, you’re in the UK, right? And most of these workshops are offered in the London area?
JC: Well, no—England, Amsterdam, Berlin. Just did three weeks’ tour in Australia. In Thailand. I’m hoping to do a tour in America once that gathers enough momentum. I haven’t refocused on that so much because there’s just so many other places nearby where I’m asked to come. I’m sure it’ll happen one day.
TS: OK, so continuing on. So, somebody may or may not make it to one of the actual workshops, but they have a big idea in them. A big idea. They even kind of, sort of know what it is—even though they might be afraid to fully admit it to themselves. But they have a big, creative thing they have always wanted to do.
What could you say here, in this conversation, that could at least point them in the right direction? You’ve mentioned a couple of things about going into those parts of ourselves that we’ve banished. But how can you help this person bring their big idea into reality?
JC: Apart from having a Skype call with me?
JC: I would say, in practical terms, just get on with it. Just get on with it. All your limiting beliefs around, "I can’t do this . . ."—they will all dissolve. Just start doing it. Decide how many hours a week [you can] schedule. How many hours a week can I dedicate to this? And even if it’s only three hours a week, do three dedicatedly, undisturbed hours towards it.
There is so much you can do before you need someone else’s money or a budget. 1 Giant Leap was largely completely composed before we got any money from anybody else. If you feel passionate about it, you can go all day and all night. You make your own vitamins. No one can stop you to come and have dinner.
When you don’t want to do something, you can barely drag yourself to it. You overeat to get yourself the fuel to do it, you’re exhausted, you do it late, and it’s not good work. But when you want to do something—when you feel passionate about it—that is its own fuel. So if you truly feel passionate about it, promise yourself that you can do three hours a week.
And don’t over-schedule. Don’t say, "I’m going to now do yoga three hours a day for the rest of—" Don’t say, "I’m going to do 20 hours a week." It’s better to schedule three and do six hours and feel great about yourself, than to schedule nine, and do six hours and feel terrible about yourself. Be really honest about what you can actually schedule realistically. When you dedicate yourself to actually just step-by-step doing it, it’s incredible how the forces of life rush to your aid.
We have one of the concepts in the workshops called "God’s Deaf Waiters." God’s Deaf Waiters are like these invisible waiters that work for God that are all around the room. All around the room you’re in—all around the room I’m in—are these beautifully dressed waiters with towels over their arms and immaculate costumes. And they’re waiting to bring us all incredible resources and luck and opportunities for our projects.
But the thing is: they’re deaf. They can’t hear our orders. They can’t hear what we want by us saying it. They have to see our actions. The moment you start taking action based on your excitement, suddenly they say, "Ah! Tami’s doing that! She’ll want one of these. Here, let’s send her one of those." The moment you start taking action, all kinds of magical things come along to support you—unexpected gifts. Unexpected bounty comes along.
There’s a great guy—an extraterrestrial that lives in a spaceship close to Barcelona—called Bashar. If you come across him, he’s just a wonderful being.
TS: Oh, he’s one of my best friends! No—I’m just kidding. I’ve never heard of this guy.
JC: Oh, it’s the best. Go to bashar.org. It’s the best, most concise wisdom available, I think.
His thing is: take action based on your excitement, with no attachment to outcome. If you do that, you’re safe. You’re off and running. And often, your project—you thought it was this, [and] it will turn into that. You’ve got to remember that your project is a bit like your child. You’re not exactly designing it. It has its own life. So you have to listen to it. We are not designing the tomato plant—we are putting the bamboo there so that the tomato plant grows strong and has its best chance of growing.
So it’s very important to have no attachment to outcome. We’re doing it because we’re passionate about it. But I don’t know whether my project’s going to turn left, turn right, go up, go down. A great example is doing these workshops. I’ve really found so much passion and joy, and it supports my family. It’s incredible. But it really sprang from 1 Giant Leap.
It sprang from the screenings—of having all these conversations. After showing the movie, we would do a Q&A, and people would ask all these questions. Because the subject of the movie is very much about the self and about awakening, these conversations would be very deep, very tender, and touching. It was never long enough. We always wanted to go on and on and on into the night. That’s really where these workshops—the idea, the spark—came from. Just carrying on these conversations about going deep.
Who knew that me wanting to go around the world and do world music was going to end up with me teaching people about exploring into their true selves and their creativity [three weekends a month]? Who knows where it’s going to go? If you’re really happy to let it go where it wants to go and just be followed by your inspiration, you won’t go far wrong.
So really, the short answer is: get on with it. Get on with it, find other people who are into it too, and get on with it. Even if it’s only a little bit, dedicate yourself to as much time as you can. It will grow. Your attention and love is like sunshine. You shine it on things [and] it grows. It’s the same with your project. You give it your love and your attention, [and] it will grow.
TS: And in that spirit, let’s listen to a song called "Open the Floodgates."
TS: This is the first track on the album Internal: Music for Dissolving by Jamie Catto and Alex Forster.
["Open the Floodgates" plays.]
TS: What a beautiful song. "Open the Floodgates."
TS: Gorgeous. From the new record, Internal: Music for Dissolving. I’m talking with Jamie Catto.
Jamie, you were part of a band for a long time called Faithless. Here we are—you’re talking to Sounds True, on our program Insights at the Edge, a program that—in general—is filled with quite a lot of faith. I’m curious how you relate to this idea of faith and faithlessness.
JC: Faithless was called "Faithless" because one of the tracks was about a man who had lost his faith. So it wasn’t a band that didn’t have any—far from it. The rapper and lead singer of Faithless is a Nichiren Daishonin, everyday-chanting Buddhist called Maxi Jazz. He’s very, very deep into his faith. All the lyrics of that band are deeply about faith.
But yes—my faith. I believe that, as I said, on planet Earth we’re all in duality. We’re all in two places. We’re all living a life where we are going backwards and forwards between the part of us that has total faith and the part of us that doubts. We’re an individual that thinks we’re going to die and that’s going to be it. And we’re also totally wise. I sometimes say that we are each of us a wise guru in charge of a mental patient.
JC: That’s the closest description to my life I can come up with. All of us, really. And the mental patient is constantly doubting, constantly going, "Me, me, me! Ouch, ouch, ouch!" while the wise one is sitting behind it all, knowing that it’s OK in its faith. The faith never goes away.
So the greatest skill, the greatest muscle, or the greatest thing that we can all learn to do to be able to navigate that and have more chance of drinking our faith is the ability to pause, I feel. The ability to pause for a moment is the skill [that] allows us to connect to our faith—and not be in the knee-jerk terror, the knee-jerk reaction, the knee-jerk victim, the knee-jerk [pushing] someone away [and] blame them. It’s all very instant. It’s an instant volcano. If you upset me, you make me jealous, you treat me unjustly, or whatever, I feel this instant contraction or this instant volcano in me—and I immediately act.
We’re living in the age of email, now, which is terrible for that. The amount of bridges that I’ve burned with my over-reactive diva behavior—and it’s too late by the time I press "Send." In the old days, you had to write it, then you had to lick the envelope and post it. By the time you’d done that, I would have screamed out half of the stupid things I’d written.
But we’re living in the age of the knee-jerk reaction now. And I think that the greatest skill that we can all develop in order to be intimate with the world and see what’s really going on—and intimate with myself. When something happens, to pause for a moment—to put my hand on my chest and go, "OK, OK, Jamie. That’s a big reaction. What do you need right now? What do you want right now?" How often do we ask [ourselves] the question in any given moment, "What do I want right now?"
That’s intimacy, to me—is to pause for a moment, put my hand on my chest, and ask myself what I want. What do I need? When we do that, the part of us that’s faithful—the part of us that knows and nurtures ourselves and is a bit more in equanimity—comes to the front. It’s only when we’re in the knee-jerk, instant-instant, bing-bang-bong, reactive, pinball reality that we get stuck into the reactive, [faithlessness]. The way to stay within the faith, for me, is to develop the ability to slow down—even to pause.
TS: Now, there’s a great photo of you, Jamie, on your website. I really like it. You’re not wearing a shirt—and that’s part of what I like—but there are these words that you have taped, it looks like. Or it looks almost like they’re tattooed on your body. Words like "bitch" and "selfish." And then there’s a big word on your forehead, taped on, called "FAKE." Jamie Catto, fake. It’s a great photo.
And I wanted to talk a little bit about the inspiration behind putting these words—bitch, selfish, et cetera—on your body and the word "fake" on your forehead.
JC: We are all everything. We are all a bitch. We are all fake. We’re all manipulative, we’re all a bully. We all have everything in us. Like Gabrielle Roth used to say, why get up every day and try to proclaim that you’re not? Yes, one day I’m a bitch. One day I’m a bully. We all have the potential to be everything. And this constant, "I must only be the light, not the darkness! I must only be the nice bits!" is totally unauthentic.
It’s only when I’m denying that I’m all those things [that] those parts of me keep leaking out in unexpected ways. That’s what we do a lot in the workshops—is to play with those parts of ourselves under controlled circumstances in harmless ways so they can get some oxygen and they don’t need to leap out in self-sabotaging ways.
Because we have all of those things. You only need to Google the Stanford Experiment to see that all the dark sides of our nature—they don’t take a lot of encouragement to start coming out. They had a thing in this country recently where they had to stop the gasoline—the petrol—in the petrol station for a couple of days. Fights were breaking out in two seconds flat. We’re terribly civilized until people take us out of our comfort zone. And then we totally turn into incredibly manipulative—I mean, another thing we say in the workshop, for example, is, "Never pretend to anybody that you like them more than you do in order to get their money or their resources."
But that’s not what happens at Harvard Business School. You can do a DVD box set to show you how to perfectly not be yourself to get that job. We’re incredibly manipulative and fake, but in the world of business, it’s considered to be OK.
We all have all these dark sides and light sides—all these sides—to us. For me, to be a great creator, to be a whole person, to be a juicy lover, to be a radically fun parent—to be all the things I want to be, I have to include my wholeness. I have to include all the dark and the light.
We play games in the workshop where everybody finds out what they judge most in the world, and it becomes a sticker that they wear. And then they have full permission over the workshop to be the 110 percent version of everything that they usually condemn in the world, and give themselves permission. Because if you don’t give yourself permission for the things you condemn, you become them in unexpected, insidious ways that can sabotage your life. But if you do give them permission in fun ways, they don’t need to leap out and destroy and be destructive in your life.
So, it’s great fun for us to muck around with those stickers—with those things that we usually condemn—and give them a little bit more permission, and lighten up around always having to be good.
One thing I noticed [with] this sort of Mayan calendar and 2012 and all that stuff—was there a shift? One thing I’ve noticed that has actually really shifted was that before, in recent years, we were all feeling we were terribly spiritual—on a journey towards the light, away from the darkness. We’re all light beings—light warriors! And actually, I think that’s entirely inauthentic. I think the spiritual journey—or the path of awareness—now is much more fun and much more juicy. And it’s not a journey away from the darkness towards the light. It’s on a journey towards darkness and light, including it all.
That’s why I’m so incredibly turned on by artists like Pema Chödrön, who I think has totally nailed it and I would follow her to the ends of the Earth. I always have a Pema Chödrön book near me. I wouldn’t go anywhere without one. I think she’s totally got it and I love her. I’d like to say that out loud on your show.
TS: OK! You just did. It’s wonderful.
Now, in your workshop, "Transforming Shadows into Rocket Fuel," how do we actually take these things—whether it’s what we judge outside of ourselves, and going around, "I hate people who are greedy. They’re so greedy. They’re so greedy." OK—now I have a big "greedy" sticker on my forehead. But how do I actually turn this shadow material into "rocket fuel?"
JC: OK, well, there’s a few ways. I don’t want to sort of ruin everything, but—if you’re wearing the sticker of "greedy," I would say that you could be more greedy. You’re so down on greediness that maybe you’re being a bit too frugal in actually taking what you want for you. So, there’s a grain of greediness that maybe you need more in your life.
The first thing I would ask someone with a "greedy" sticker is to reflect, "Are you taking too little for fear of being greedy? So you’re not actually getting your share?" That’s usually what people who are down on greedy people are doing. They’re taking less than they deserve, just in case they could ever possibly be called greedy. They’re so terrified of ever possibly being called greedy that they take less than they need. So they could maybe do with a little grain of more self-selfness in there.
Also, the greedy character in us—I like to interview them. I like to do interviews where you ask questions by writing. You put the pen in your usual writing hand and you ask the character who’s a self-destructive, greedy character, "What is your message? What do you have for me here? What is your point here?" And then you ask them questions like, "What do you need?" Having written that question—"What do you need?"—you transfer the pen into your unusual writing hand, and you empty and empty, and listen and listen. And you hear an answer from that character. You transcribe it in your wonky, wrong handwriting. This conversation—this dialogue—starts happening.
The million-dollar question—once you get into dialogue with one of these dark characters—is, "OK. In the past, I’ve looked at you as a self-destructive energy. With your skills, what new job could you now do that isn’t self-destructive that would be in harmony with my life now?" Suddenly, that greedy character that used to be destructive is now like, "Well, I could make sure you’ve got enough, at least." And you go, "OK! You’re now officer in charge of enoughness!"
What used to be a negative, dragging-you-back demon has now become your officer in charge of "me having enough." Now you’ve got a new ally. We’ve transformed a demon into an employee.
I always ask those negative things, "What could be your new job in the Evil Empire?"
TS: You turn these parts into employees. That’s an interesting phrase. Can you explain that a little more?
JC: Just asking them, "What could you now do instead? In the past, you’ve been sabotaging my life. But I don’t want you do to that anymore." A lot of these self-destructive behaviors [were] once created as a benefit. We just didn’t realize it. Let me give you an example:
The youngest of six siblings. When he was young—and he was the youngest of six siblings—when he was at the dinner table, he needed to elbow other people out of the way to get food on his plate. He needed to grab, snatch, interrupt people, shout, and be this loud, kind of dominating character because he was the smallest of six. He had to create that character to survive. Now that he’s 36 years old, it’s not working for him anymore.
But these characters that we have that are sabotaging our lives—what we forget is that we once invented them earlier on, at a time when we really needed them. We just never told them to stop. So if you think—or any of your listeners, now—you want to think about one of your characters, one of your behaviors—one of your repetitive, dysfunctional behaviors—that you wish you didn’t do. If you reflect for a minute and ask yourself the question, "OK, I wish I didn’t behave like that now. But at what point in my life, earlier on—maybe in my childhood or back—at what point of my life was there something going on that was so overwhelming that I needed to create this character to be like this?"
I guarantee you that you once created this character that may now be self-destructive, but back then was essential to you—was an essential support to protect you. And we just never told that character to stop.
So I’m a big believer—every one of our dysfunctional behaviors was once a benefit that never got told to stop. That character is now here for life—it’s never going away. It needs to be given a good job, because it’s going to be doing something. So let’s get it doing something that’s in harmony with our life now.
TS: Jamie, I want to end our conversation on the note of the "Creativity Manifesto" that you’ve written. It’s a strong word, "manifesto." And I’m going to read a couple paragraphs of it. Not the whole thing, but after I read this maybe you can comment on it. How does that sound?
TS: OK, here we go. So this is from Jamie Catto’s "Creativity Manifesto:"
"We need to collectively admit that we’re not fine, we’re not confident and balanced and good. We turn up to work every day pretending we’re not neurotic and obsessed and insatiable and full of doubt, and we waste so much energy keeping up this mutual pretense for each other because we think if people saw the truth, if people really knew what was going on in our heads, all the crazy truth of our dark appetites and self-loathing, then we’d get rejected. But in fact, the opposite is true. It’s when we dare to reveal the truth that we unwittingly give everyone else permission to do the same. To stop holding their breath for a moment and actually come into the room. Be here, present, vulnerable and authentic.
"We’re on a mission to make self-reflection hip for just a moment, just long enough to save us. If we can all collectively acknowledge our insanity, shrug and roll our eyes at each other at how nuts it is being a human, let alone having to pretend every day that we’re "normal," the amount of energy we’ll inherit that has been wasted on the mask will be enough to creatively solve any global crisis."
JC: I’m in. I love hearing you say it.
TS: "Taking off the mask." The mask that has been siphoning off our energy. And then we’ll have enough energy to creatively solve any global crisis. Was there something specific happening when you wrote the manifesto?
JC: Yes. I was making 1 Giant Leap, and we had to present some of it to the backers—to the people that paid for it. They were a very posh, groomed bunch of people. Very, very top entertainment executive-type group of people. I sat in the room, and as usual I had no speech planned. I usually just turn up empty and see what comes out. I learned that from Ram Dass.
And I looked at all these groomed people. I looked at them and I thought, "Wow, look at you all. You all have to turn up to work every day and you have to be a winner and you have to be on top of things—no matter whether your kid’s just been expelled from school or your wife has just had an affair. You can’t show that at work. You’ve got to be a winner. You’ve got to be confident. You’ve got to inspire confidence. You have to basically suppress and hide all the drama, all the terrible weaknesses, and all the terrors. That must be exhausting."
Isn’t it extraordinary how we exhaust ourselves wearing masks for people that will only hang out with us if we wear a mask? Those are the very people I don’t want to hang out with. So I’m exhausting myself wearing masks for people I don’t want to hang out with. How about taking the mask off and seeing who stays? And yes, some people will leave. But the people who stay really love you. They really get you, and nourish you. Those are the people you want to be around.
That was really how I began my speech. They didn’t totally look comfortable. But then they played the KD Lang song "Wounded in All the Right Places" and everyone relaxed.
I’m a big believer that we are exhausting ourselves wearing masks. We’re so terrified that if we showed the real us that everyone would run away. But the truth is that when we actually are intimate with each other and [are] a bit more visible in the things we think are unlovable about ourselves—I might think, "Ah, this is unlovable about me," so I hide it forever. But then when I sit with you and I let you see a bit of it, you might go, "Oh, I can love that."
The best way to love yourself is to let everyone else see a little bit of what you think is unlovable about you and let them love it. Let them lead you to loving that about yourself.
TS: Beautiful. Jamie, to end our Insights at the Edge episode, let’s hear one more song from Internal: Music for Dissolving. What do you suggest?
JC: I’d love for you to play this one, "Let It Go," because we do a meditation in the workshop where—as I say to all activists, everything you want to heal in the world, everything you want to fight out in the world, is a 3D representation of something unfinished and unhealed inside yourself. So if everybody on the Occupy Wall Street activism thing asked themselves the question, "How is my own corruption and greed doing?" then that could have had wings. But because no one asked themselves that question, it didn’t really go.
Everything you want to fight out in the world has a mutual relationship of an unfinished or unhealed part in yourself. Whatever you’re an activist about—whatever you’re fighting or healing out in the world—what is that match in you? What is that part it represents in you? Then when you start getting into the relationship between the external and the internal—that the thing that you’re healing out in the world, the thing you’re fighting out in the world is also something within you yourself that you’re working on and that you’re processing. When you get the relationship between the external thing you’re looking at and the bit in you—back and forth, back and forth—it becomes this mutually healing, mending, illuminating relationship.
And the track that is about that—to feel grateful for everything out in the world that I’m struggling with, that leads me back to myself. Always a mirror, always leading me back to myself. The track on the album that we wrote for that is called "Let It Go."
["Let It Go" plays.]
TS: Jamie, here we are at the end of our Insights at the Edge interview and I always love to know, in these conversations, what people’s current "edge" is? And what I mean by that is, what you’re really working on—we could say—internally (just a pun there). But what you’re really working on in your life. Your mask is off. Here’s the edge.
JC: My present challenge is to stay steadfast—giving all my gifts freely, open-handedly, generously, and not be so swayed by the external signal. The many, many different mixed external signals I get about what people think of me or whether I’m doing it right. Not to be so reliant on the external mirror for how I feel about myself. Not to be so dependent on the nipple of the external feedback for feeling good about myself. To be steadfast and trusting and loving myself, knowing that I am the one that has to parent myself—not [to] keep handing the little child over to someone else to love.
That’s my edge—is to be rooted in loving myself and trusting myself without always being dependent on the external for the feedback that makes me feel good about myself.
TS: Beautiful. Thank you.
I’ve been speaking with Jamie Catto. Jamie Catto, along with Duncan Bridgeman, [is] the [creative catalyst] behind 1 Giant Leap. Jamie Catto has teamed up with Alex Forster to release a new record through Sounds True called Internal: Music for Dissolving. Jamie, it’s great to talk to you—to learn about the workshops you’re doing and the writing. It’s just beautiful. Beautiful to be in touch. Thank you.
JC: Thank you so much. It’s always lovely to connect. Tami, thanks for having me.
TS: SoundsTrue.com. Many voices, one journey. Thanks for listening.