Curious Humans with Jonny Miller

Brooks Barron is an experienced leadership coach specializing in nature-based initiations and rites of passage — to help the leaders he works with explore their vulnerability, find their inner wisdom, and surrender to the flow of what wants to come through them.

In this conversation, you can expect to learn:

- Brooks' definition of wholeness as a human being
- The difference between the desire to make an impact in the world from above the line vs. below the line.
- How he shifted out of victim consciousness and took 100% responsibility for his life.
- The dynamics of being nice versus being kind
- The importance of vulnerability and healing
- The benefits he sees in going through a vision quest or wilderness-based rite of passage
- How this enables us to transition into psychological adulthood.


[00:04:07] Positive impact, burning out, seeking purpose, profound change
[00:09:22] Embrace all aspects, shift from fear to love.
[00:14:04] Curious about the good versus bad dynamic.
[00:22:06] Struggling with climate change; personal healing journey.
[00:23:57] Driven by impact, trust, acceptance, and growth.
[00:30:34] Vision quest: therapy vs. transformation, death and rebirth, shift into trust.
[00:37:51] Unfamiliarity pushes people to embrace change and growth.
[00:42:42] Sacred wound: discomfort that creates beauty.
[00:51:45] Struggling to balance passion, responsibility, and self-care.
[00:54:01] Ego keeps me from acknowledging my needs.
[01:01:09] Importance of fitting in while embracing uniqueness.
[01:04:44] "Awakening experiences lead to divine connection, but require rigor."

Official Links

Follow Brooks on LinkedIn
Read Brooks' latest Substack writing
Apply for the Power Awakening Leadership Program
Learn more about Brooks's upcoming leadership training + coaching

Connect + Follow Jonny:

🐦  Follow on Twitter @jonnym1ller
💌  Subscribe to the Curious Humans Newsletter
🫁  Learn more about Nervous System Mastery
🙋‍♂️  Join Five to Thrive — a zero-cost educational email series.

Episode Sponsors

🩸 Inside Tracker — One of the things I've changed my mind on in the past year is the value of getting blood panels taken prophylactically (ideally every six months, according to Dr. Peter Attia) rather than waiting until you have a health issue. Inside Tracker recently added hormone testing alongside a bunch of other important biomarkers that aren't included in traditional blood panels (ApoB, for example). Despite generally feeling great, my most recent set of results showed that I have some work to do to reduce levels of inflammation, and I'll be following some of their dietary + supplement recommendations to address this asap. So I highly recommend making this something you make time for at least once or twice yearly. Save 20% here

🥶 The Cold Plunge — I reached out to the founder of the plunge, Ryan after hearing his powerful ​story on the Danny Miranda podcast. I've shared how getting in icy cold water every day helped me to move through intense grief, and taught me what it meant to surrender. These days I use their plunge every, single, day. It's like a high-stakes meditation—a mirror into my own internal state. The Plunge team have done a phenomenal job architecting what I consider as the world's best cold plunge (it doesn't get grimy like the converted chest freezers that I used to use). For optimal health benefits, I recommend deliberate cold exposure for 11 minutes per week total. Save $150 with the code CURIOUS. Learn more​.

🫁 Nervous System Mastery — this is my flagship 5-week boot camp designed to equip you with evidence-backed protocols to cultivate calm and emotional regulation. Our fifth cohort will be running in April 2024 ~ and applications are currently open. My sense is that if this conversation resonates with you, then you'd likely be a great fit for our upcoming cohort. This curriculum represents my attempt to distill everything that I've learned in recent years about how to create the conditions for our nervous system's flourishing.  It's run in an intensive cohort-based way since this is, in my experience, the most efficient way to embody and practice the protocols. Previous students have shared how partaking not only improved their sleep and quality of relationships but also tapped into deeper states of joy, clarity, and confidence in their lives. We've had over 750 students have completed this training, and many have said that it has been the most impactful thing they've ever done for their personal growth — so if you're intrigued at all, you can find more details and apply to join this year's cohort over at


Further Ways to Support the Podcast:

I use Riverside to record all of my podcast conversations (it's so much better than zoom for podcasting!)
🎧  I also use Transistor to host this podcast, it's fricking awesome, and I would highly recommend.
😎  RaOptics make the world's best Blue Blockers – I wear these anytime I'm out of the house after dark, and it makes a huge difference!
🤖  I use AI wizardry from Castmagic to help with each episode show-notes + timestamps
📹  Want to create a Hollywood-quality home studio? Get in touch with Kevin Shen here & save $500 with code JONNYSENT500OFF

Creators & Guests

Jonny Miller
Curious Human
Rob Johnson

What is Curious Humans with Jonny Miller?

Deep dive conversations that celebrate self-experimentation and ask what it means to cultivate embodied wisdom.

Jonny Miller [00:00:01]:

Welcome to the Curious Humans podcast.

Brooks Baron [00:00:03]:

Brooks thank you so much, Johnny. Great to be here with you.

Jonny Miller [00:00:09]:

How are you feeling in this moment in three?

Brooks Baron [00:00:13]:

Hmm, I feel excited, joyful, and just a little bit scared. It's a good mix.

Jonny Miller [00:00:32]:

If you think back to your early days, do you feel like you were an exceptionally curious child? And if so, could you tell me a story about something that you were curious about?

Brooks Baron [00:00:46]:

Yeah, I think a place where my curiosity really shined as a kid was spending time in nature. So the memory that came to mind was I was lucky to spend time growing up in the heart of the Colorado Rockies at a family property not far from where I live now. And my younger brother and I used to run around in the woods with little sticks that were like our swords or lightsabers or something, and we'd charge after imaginary dragons or enemies or create adventures together. So very imaginative kid. And then my curiosity is like, what's around the next corner? And what's it going to be like? Could I climb a little higher on that mountain? And if so, what am I going to see up there?

Jonny Miller [00:01:47]:

Yeah, I love that. I think my sense of adventure kind of came through video games, which is probably a less playing Zelda and Dungeons and Dragons and things. But no, I really love that. And for listeners, for some context here as well, you're now involved in this wilderness based leadership work. So that completely tracks from your childhood. What was your path into this work? Because I'm imagining you didn't do a career test in school and they were like, oh, you're going to be a wilderness vision quest guy. That wasn't an option on the career test.

Brooks Baron [00:02:29]:

Yeah, no.

Jonny Miller [00:02:31]:

How did you meander your way into this particular vocation?

Brooks Baron [00:02:38]:

Well, it's a great question. There could be an answer to that that would take quite a long time, so I'll see if I can summarize it. But it really tracks back to that kind of childhood experience and that sense of that sense of expansiveness and wonder and what I would call now full, aliveness and presence. Like, just that experience of being so completely engrossed in the magic of what's here now. And I think I got to touch that in nature as a kid, and it never left me. And I was an ambitious young kid, worked hard in school and did well and got some fancy diplomas and wanted to make a really positive impact in the world. I wanted to kind of give back to nature, having gained so much from it as a kid. And I became very concerned about the environment and in particular climate change and kind of dove into the policy realm and then the business realm, trying to make as big of an impact on those issues as I possibly could.

Brooks Baron [00:04:07]:

And somewhere along the line, I could no longer escape the fact that even as what I was doing was objectively having a positive impact on, say, net carbon emissions, it wasn't getting me anywhere close to that feeling of aliveness. And quite the opposite, I was burning myself out and just had to face that my mental idea of what I should be doing wasn't aligned with the feedback I was getting from my body and my soul. So I kind of went out to nature, in a sense, seeking answers when I was in my mid 20s, halfway through my journey of my MBA program at Stanford, I was not your average Stanford MBA. And I found myself out on a vision quest with the Animus Valley Institute at the end of that summer, driven by this deep desire to find a way to imbue my life and my work with that sense of meaning and purpose and aliveness that I knew was possible. And that experience was truly profound, truly life changing. And since then, I just started following that feeling of aliveness more than my intellectual ideas of how to optimize my impact, I decided just to let myself and it wasn't that simple, of course. It was a multi year journey of ebbs and flows and inner conflicts, but slowly but surely, yeah, just found my way into the work I do now, combination of wilderness leadership work and coaching work and guiding work, simply by letting myself be guided by kind of that which lights me up and makes me come alive.

Jonny Miller [00:06:36]:

So I just talked to Jim Deathma, actually, thanks to your introduction yesterday, and a lot of our conversation focused on aliveness. And I actually feel like it might be an interesting segue in the sense of one of the things I wanted to explore with you was you wrote an essay that was basically describing how our desire to avoid being a bad person is inherently limiting, and I think it also limits our aliveness as well. So in your own words, how might it actually be in our interest and others to not strive to be good?

Brooks Baron [00:07:13]:

Can you speak to this?

Jonny Miller [00:07:14]:

Because I think this will be quite a reframe for a lot of people listening who are like, no, I don't want to be a bad person. I do want to be a good person. What is he talking about?

Brooks Baron [00:07:24]:

Yeah, great. Absolutely. Yeah, of course we want to be good. And I'm so one of those people that's how I came to write that essay, is having lived that experience myself, and it still being a part of my reality. But through my journey, what I've come to believe is and what I've seen in myself and in many other people who I've worked with, it is that essentially anytime that we are creating kind of a false binary within ourselves and saying it is better to be one way than it is to be another. Know in the language of Jim Deathmer and Diana Chapman and the conscious leadership group, that's a signal that we're below the line, meaning we're experiencing life from a state of threat. We're kind of in this right or wrong binary view, and that's a totally understandable, natural and normal place to be, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that. And it's actually limiting because it takes us out of our wholeness wholeness from, in my view, is an experience of complete freedom to be completely ourselves, completely authentic, to access within us any part of ourselves, freedom to go wherever we want to go within.

Brooks Baron [00:09:22]:

I believe that every last one of us human beings has within us the full spectrum of human possibility, from the lightest of the light to the darkest of the dark. And we also have these ego identities or personalities that make up these stories about some of those possibilities being okay and some of those not being okay, it's it's a nuanced point. But what I've found is when I catch myself creating that kind of binary and pause and pull back and recognize, okay, this is a sign that I'm scared. I'm in a state of threat, and let's see if I can slow down and accept myself for being scared, give myself some love and compassion, recognize it's completely human and okay to have these kind of judgments of others or myself. And then the shift is really choosing to come from instead of coming from a place of fear and threat, it's choosing to come from a place of love and trust initially within myself. So this involves, like, being curious and getting to know the quote unquote bad parts of me and understanding where they come from and starting to play with the opposite of my stories around those parts and kind of see if I can open my mind to kind of seeing things in a new perspective and recognizing that maybe things aren't so black and white. Maybe there's actually certain circumstances in my life where an example from my life is, like, a part of me that I might judge as bad as, like, an aggressive my aggressive part. And I fear being a bad, aggressive man who causes harm and hurts others.

Brooks Baron [00:11:42]:

And yet there are moments in my life where that aggression is actually really in service. A recent experience I had was my dog got attacked by two other dogs, and there was a yeah, it was really scary. Yeah, I know. Yeah, moose. And there's a pit bull locked onto Moose's neck like the skin of his, um, he wasn't letting go, and the other owner was there, and we were trying to wrestle them apart. And gratefully I was able and willing to access my inner aggressive. And I kind of last resort, had a moment of, wow, this could be like, the end of Moose's life if I don't do something right now. And what I did was I started kicking the other dog in the jaw as hard as I possibly could.

Jonny Miller [00:12:47]:


Brooks Baron [00:12:48]:

And it took about three kicks and they finally knocked him loose. And Moose is okay. And wow. I don't know if I ever would have been able to do that had I not done the work that I've done around challenging my own judgments of what parts of me are good and what parts of me are bad what are okay and what are not okay and instead shifting to choosing to believe that actually maybe all parts of me have good potential within them or genuine worthiness. All parts of me? What if all parts of me and all parts of all of us are actually worthy of being here? And the challenge for us is to open the possibility of choice, like to be able to consciously choose in the moment what is the attribute or the way of being that is actually going to serve me and my people right now in this moment.

Jonny Miller [00:14:04]:

Yeah, thank you for that story. I felt something imagining another dog doing the same thing to Lola and how I think my inner regressor would definitely come out as well. I think I'm still curious to kind of unpack this good bad dynamic a little bit more. And for me, where it's historically shown up in my life is the distinction between being nice versus being kind. How for me, the desire to kind of be nice and to basically be a people pleaser to some degree and to avoid saying things that might cause hurt or disappointment in others, that was actually holding me back from deeper connection. And it sounds like one of the ways in which this dynamic showed up in your life was around the impact, like where you were basically sacrificing your own aliveness to have a positive impact in how was that dynamic showing up. And you mentioned that you were trying to make an impact from below the line, which you said implies that you had some kind of fear or lack of safety. Can you speak to what that dynamic was for you and how it shifted?

Brooks Baron [00:15:23]:

Yeah, absolutely. So that is exactly right. I was coming from a place of fear, an experience of lack of safety and threat. And what it was was I think driven by a deep desire to be loved, to be loved, to be accepted, to be celebrated, to be seen by others as a good person so that I could have that safety of being loved. So if you kind of trace that to the root, the root of that pattern was a lack of love inside of me. I was creating an experience of there's not enough, I don't have enough love. And that's really scary. That feels unsafe.

Brooks Baron [00:16:38]:

So I'm going to push myself to be so good, to kind of prove to the world that I'm so awesome that everybody's going to love me. Now. I didn't consciously realize that was what I was doing at the time, but with retrospect and having done enough of my own work and built enough awareness, I can say for sure that was exactly what was going on on the deeper levels. So then from there, the shift was slowly but surely over time, committing to a practice of being the source of all of the love that I need, me myself being. Did you have a question?

Jonny Miller [00:17:32]:

Yeah, just that reminds me of Jim's kind of shift from, like it was like, at me to then by me or through me. It seems like that was kind of the shift that you're speaking to.

Brooks Baron [00:17:43]:

Yeah, that's right. It's from to me to by me. Yeah. So the shift of life is happening to me. I'm at the effect of I'm a victim at the effect of my circumstances. That's to me, consciousness shifting to buy me. Consciousness is taking. I'm the empowered creator of my own experience of my life, and I take 100% responsibility for myself.

Brooks Baron [00:18:07]:

So this is exactly some of the mentorship and healing work that I did in my training with Jim and Diana and CLG was the conscious leadership group. Is this commitment around choosing to be the source of all of the approval, control and security that I desire. And for me, again, the big one, especially around this pattern of needing to be good, was approval. So it relates to what I was saying in my kind of first answer to the question around welcoming home, welcoming and loving, choosing to love these different parts of myself that I historically would have driven away or tried to hide from and essentially just really devoting to. Opening my heart to myself with so much acceptance and love that I was no longer at the effect of what other people thought of me. That I could then move from a place of more genuine authenticity because there's no scarcity anymore of love. I have all the love that I need. Okay, beautiful.

Brooks Baron [00:19:45]:

So from here, what feels exciting, what draws me to it, what feels beautiful and inspiring and what makes me come alive? I'm going to go do that. And of course, it just so happens, kind of ironically, it's been since choosing to make that shift that I would say I've actually started to make an impact that I feel proud of with my work and in my life. But it's been coming from that place of love and just the natural generosity. I believe that love is our essence as human beings, and therefore love and generosity is simply what naturally flows through us when we allow ourselves to open, when we shift out of a state of fear and threat and contraction and into a state of openness and trust and love. We are love, so we give love.

Jonny Miller [00:21:09]:

So coming back to the word impact, it's still a word that I think I struggle with or I am skeptical of using for myself because to my mind, or at least maybe this is like an older definition. It's kind of measured by something that happens in the external world. And so you could justify why spending your time on, let's say, fixing climate change is better than looking after your kids or caring for someone who's things like that. So I think I'm very wary of that word because me at least it does seem like it has this kind of tie to what happens in the external world. And is this good or bad, basically? How do you relate to it and how do you kind of bypass that trap?

Brooks Baron [00:22:06]:

It's such a good question, Johnny. And I'm wary of it know, especially given my history with it where I tied myself in so many knots around this pursuit of impact. I was really in bad sorts when I ended up going out on that first vision quest that came from a place of real desperation. And a lot of that desperation was the burnout that I felt as a result of being so maniacally focused on this big global problem of climate change and so incapable feeling feeling incapable to actually do anything about it. But I was stressing myself out about it so much that I was kind of neglecting my entire life. And and yet, you know, even as I have walked this personal healing journey and even I would say kind of more and more so, I still find myself looking out at the world and feeling a lot of sadness, feeling a lot of anger, feeling a lot of fear around some of the realities that we are living in as a species. And it's an edge for me too. And I would say it's probably the bleeding edge of my practice.

Brooks Baron [00:23:57]:

And an arena where I still feel like a beginner is what does it look like to be driven by impact from above the line, from a place of openness and curiosity and trust? Which inherently means that I'm also in a place of full acceptance that I can fully accept and welcome reality and the present exactly the way that it is that I can let go of my need to control the world out there and make it different. And for me that involves kind of recalling and recalling that there's a much greater intelligence moving through the universe than I am privy to or can possibly understand. Maybe I get glimpses of it in some moments, but by virtue of being a human being in this consciousness, it's not entirely for me to see. So can I come back to that place of trust and maybe even open to the idea that the world is as it is right now for me and maybe even for us to help me wake up, to help me keep learning, to help me keep expanding. And it's paradoxical, but I do believe that it's possible to hold that space of trust and acceptance from which I'm also genuinely caring for myself, caring for my life, caring for those who I love and also kind of taking a big swing at, let's see if we could build something better, because why not? Because even if the world is already perfect the way it is yeah, why not see if we can make it even more beautiful? Could there be a more exciting and fun and inspiring orientation to life than that?

Jonny Miller [00:26:19]:

Yeah, I love that idea and the kind of philosophy behind that. Something I wanted to touch on was you mentioned that you went to your first vision quest when you were quite desperate. And I guess I have a curiosity of like, does anyone go on a vision quest when everything in the life is autumn? Is it almost like a requirement you are going through some kind of personal, existential health crisis for it to even be of use or relevant? What are your thoughts on that? And what are the benefits that you got from this, from this vision quest? And why would it be something that, let's say someone listening is going through a challenging time? Why might it be something for them to consider when they're like, no, actually, I just need some therapy or I need a break. Usual responses?

Brooks Baron [00:27:21]:

Yeah. Wow, what a great question. There's so much in there. To answer. The to start with, the first part of the question, do you need to be desperate to go out on a vision quest? I would say it certainly helps. It is an opportune moment because to me, that desperation signals that there is a deeper level of change or transformation within yourself and your life that is ready to pop and the nature of a quest, especially. And then I think it's important to bring in some cultural context here, too. Like in our sort of modern, western secular society, I would say often, if not always, there is some level of desperation among the people who choose to go out on a vision quest.

Brooks Baron [00:28:40]:

And part of that is because it's not something that is necessarily part of or encouraged by our mainstream culture. It's a countercultural choice. And it involves intentionally letting go of a lot of the things our culture prizes, at least for a short amount of time, like being out alone in the wilderness with no food for several days. It's it's it requires some level of motivation to do that, for sure. So that motivation can come from desperation. And and and often, I think, does in terms of like, our modern present day western culture historically, it it wouldn't necessarily need to. And also in in current nature based societies, you know, indigenous societies around the world who many of whom are maintaining these sorts of rite of passage or initiatory practices where it's an expected part of human development. And when a when a young person, an adolescent person reaches the right moment, you know, and different cultures have different ways for kind of defining when that moment is that young person would be initiated in this way and it would be seen as a beautiful moment of reaching the next layer of their potential.

Brooks Baron [00:30:34]:

Then the one thing more thing I'll say on this for now is kind of circling back to the second part of your question. The reason that a vision quest is different than going to therapy and kind of how you could, how how one how a person could could know what's the right fit for them or what is going to get them more of what they want. To me, it comes down to the question of are you wanting to remain in your current identity and your current way of being? Are you wanting to kind of hold yourself together and maintain the status quo or are you wanting to fundamentally transform and shift into a new phase? And what characterizes a vision quest, in my perspective and certainly in the indigenous traditions that I've studied and learned about is a very clear sort of death and rebirth process. Like part of going out on the it's a ceremonial death journey and certainly the way that I guide them today, it's always an invitation. The quester has to choose for themselves if they're ready for that or to what extent they're ready for that. But there's a very explicit opportunity to enter into direct conversation with that which is greater than ourselves. So with spirit, with mystery and with Mother Nature and essentially declare these are the parts of my life or the parts of my identity or the parts of myself that I'm willing to let go. And you can feel the undercurrent here of like this is a shift into trust.

Brooks Baron [00:32:42]:

This is a choice to relinquish control and say mystery, I recognize how much more wisdom you have than me and I surrender to that wisdom. I give you my life in trust that you'll give me back everything that serves and you'll let go everything that doesn't. And then there's this magical way that wild nature and wild beings in wild places kind of mirror and amplify and accelerate that process and respond. And also the dream realm plays a role. Working with dreams is a big part of the way that I've been trained in that I guide vision quests. It's another kind of portal into the mystery and our souls and a way to kind of go around the conscious mind and the ego identity. So we'll write a passage like a vision quest, in my view, has this very intentional death of the old identity and this kind of surrender and opening up to receiving and being guided by something greater than ourselves, whereas a sort of lower stakes approach like psychotherapy at least I would say depends on therapist maybe. But most therapy I would judge in our culture is going to be more oriented towards kind of helping you put yourself back together and certainly make some incremental improvements, help you help things get a little easier or have more healthy relationship with yourself and your life.

Brooks Baron [00:34:23]:

And there's a really valuable role for that. I don't mean to criticize that work at all. It's crucially important, but I do think it's critical for us to also kind of be clear about what's the role it's playing and, and what are we, you know, what's what's the role that it's playing and what else are we, are we seeking and is there something beyond that might actually get us what we really want?

Jonny Miller [00:35:03]:

Yeah, thank you for that answer. So it sounds like there's almost like a fork in the road where you can decide, okay, I'm going to be more functional if I go to therapy or I'm going to die and go into, let's say, maybe short term dysfunctional.

Brooks Baron [00:35:21]:

In the beginning.

Jonny Miller [00:35:22]:

Something you mentioned earlier was that these initiations help to help people to reach their full potential. And I think that might not be an obvious connection for people. So can you explain? I mean, it sounds ridiculous on the surface of like, how does letting go of all these identities and ceremonially dying.

Brooks Baron [00:35:43]:

Was the phrase you used.

Jonny Miller [00:35:45]:

How does that enable someone to reach their full potential? Because that sounds insane and absurd.

Brooks Baron [00:35:51]:

Yeah, it does, right? It does. And especially again in our culture today, going through that kind of process does in some ways maybe create some dysfunction in the sense that at least dysfunction as it might be judged by the mainstream view. In the sense that coming off of a vision quest.

Jonny Miller [00:36:19]:


Brooks Baron [00:36:19]:

We are we are likely to not just go back to our kind of nine to five job and be little productivity monkeys grinding out. And that can be a problem. That can be a problem if that's the way that you've built your life, that you rely on that job for your livelihood. This kind of experience can really shake things up. And again, I think in a healthier, nature based culture, we would have systems and customs and elders who have been through that kind of transformation themselves to guide the initiates. And the culture would kind of know people. People would know as the initiate comes home to the village that they're not their same person anymore, so they wouldn't be expected to be. In our culture, people often expect us to stay the same consciously or unconsciously, and actually have quite a difficult time with allowing others to change.

Jonny Miller [00:37:48]:

Why do you think that is?

Brooks Baron [00:37:51]:

Well, I think it's unfamiliar is a big part of it. For someone who hasn't gone through this kind of experience to self to themselves, to see someone else do it is maybe kind of going to push them into the unknown, and it's going to challenge the ideas of, like, whoa, does this mean that I have to change, too? And I think that's a major part of it. Again, that's kind of a function of the consciousness that we're living in that prioritizes the ego consciousness. Ego wants to maintain control and is therefore scared of change and generally going to resist change. So when we see someone, a colleague or a loved one or a friend who is radically transforming, that's kind of scary because it shakes our idea of what's possible for ourselves or what should we be doing? And is this going to mean I'm going to need to change too? And I think that can connect us back to that other piece of your question around reaching our greatest potential. So I think Bill Plotkin of the Animus Valley Institute has a really useful model to bring in here, which is the model of, I believe he calls it the eco soul centric human development wheel or something along those lines. It's a worry, yeah, but it's a great framework. But the essential idea that I would pull from it is the idea that there's a difference between psychological adolescence and psychological adulthood.

Brooks Baron [00:40:08]:

And that difference, essentially, is that when we are psychologically adolescent, it doesn't matter actually how many years of age we've lived on this earth. But from a psychological development standpoint, when we're in this adolescent stage, our ego is primarily focused on serving its own needs. And that's where we get caught up in that resistance to change. For example, when we've made the transition into psychological adulthood, our ego has gone through this death and rebirth process. It's fallen apart. We've allowed ourselves to descend to soul, as Bill says, to dissolve and fall apart so that we create an opening to connect with an even deeper part of ourselves, which Bill calls soul. It's this part of ourselves that is inherently connected to the divine. It's infinite and timeless and part of a much greater story than our human lifetime and yet also connected to the special uniqueness of this lifetime and maybe holding the keys, the blueprints, for the greatest potential that we could have in this lifetime.

Brooks Baron [00:41:38]:

And so when we make it to psychological adulthood, we've gone through that journey of the descent to soul. Our ego has fallen apart and died, then been reborn and rebuilt itself to be to act primarily in service of soul. So psychological ego or adolescent ego operates in service of itself. Adult ego operates in service of soul. And if you believe, like I do, that our ego, identities and personalities are part of us, but just a very small sliver of the greater truth of who we really are, then it would follow that to really reach our full potential, that would require us to transcend that smaller self and open to this bigger, more mysterious self.

Jonny Miller [00:42:31]:

I like that. What do you mean by the wound as the gift and how does it relate to what you just shared?

Brooks Baron [00:42:42]:

Yeah, so that phrase refers to the idea of the sacred wound. And I'll use a metaphor again from Bill Plocken here because it's very helpful. I think he writes about how the pearl of an oyster is actually created thanks to a little grain of sand that gets stuck inside the shell and creates just enough discomfort, just enough of an abrasive wound that the oyster is motivated to cover it up, and it actually creates the pearl around this grain of sand. So this beautiful essence, this gift of the oyster, is only there thanks to a wound. And so the idea of a sacred wound and the wound is the gift is to suggest that perhaps there's a greater reason why each of us as humans has some wounding. And I don't think it's too radical of a thing to say that we each do. It seems to be a natural element, a natural piece of coming of age and growing up, being a human, that we each carry some kind of wounding from our childhood.

Jonny Miller [00:44:13]:

I actually don't have any.

Brooks Baron [00:44:14]:

I escape that. Well, you have to tell me more about how you pulled that off. Yeah, right, exactly. And many of us would love to believe that. Yeah, I actually hear people say that seriously often, which I think is related to the fact that it's really, actually scary and uncomfortable to confront our wounds and sometimes even to acknowledge them.

Jonny Miller [00:44:46]:

Yeah. And I think also expanding the definition of what wounding means because some people well, I wasn't sexually abused as a child. I didn't have any kind of enormous traumas. I think it's like expanding or maybe shifting the definition.

Brooks Baron [00:45:03]:

Yeah, I love that. Yeah. And I very much relate to that. A big part of my story was for some time in my early journey with the work that I do today. And actually it relates back to impact, too. Part of the kind of fear driven motivation to impact that I had as a young man was recognizing my own privilege, how lucky I am to have been born into this body and this life and this family and these circumstances. I've been given so much, and there was a fear that lived inside of me that I'm not worthy of, that I have to earn that or justify that it's not okay and it's not fair. And there's so much value to this voice.

Brooks Baron [00:45:51]:

Like, it's not fair that I get all of this and other people don't. Other people have incredible the relative scale of wounding and trauma I think is very real and important to bring in. And at the same time, I did have wounds, and ironically, kind of my wounding was wrapped up in that. In my circumstances of privilege, it's almost like no matter what our circumstances are, we're going to find some way to be hurt by them. In this case, it was like, wow, I've been given so much, my life is so good. Oh, no, I'm not worthy of that. Right. So there's this idea that, well, so I asked the question, well, maybe.

Brooks Baron [00:46:48]:

And Bill Plucken writes about this too. Maybe that's by design, maybe there's a greater reason why we are that way, that our personalities find some way to feel hurt by whatever our circumstances are. And in my experience with that, it rings very true. And if I were to take a shot at what that reason might be, my best sense of it is that it's exactly that vulnerability, it's exactly that place of hurt that drives us to continue to deepen and expand our consciousness, to continue to do our own healing work, to go through an experience like the descent to Soul. Coming back to that again, that experience of the value of desperation, being wounded in some way, having some kind of vulnerability or pain. That it's like something that calls us to tend to ourselves and to step out of just the usual routines and maybe open up to a more radical possibility, maybe take radical action like going out on a vision quest. And then through that process we find our own way of healing ourselves. We seek and pull together the medicine that we need for our particular wounding, whatever that may be.

Brooks Baron [00:48:36]:

And then that gives us something very unique and special and powerful to offer to the world. By virtue of the fact that each of us human beings are such unique, we are so unique. No human experience is exactly the same. No human wounding journey is exactly the same. No human healing journey is exactly the same. So if you commit to really tending to your wound, even trusting it, honoring it, revering it as sacred and following its call, in my experience, where that will lead you is actually through the other side, not only into. An experience of healing and empowerment for yourself, but also into kind of the pulling together of a particular set of ingredients and concoction that is then kind of yours and yours only to give back to the world.

Jonny Miller [00:49:37]:

How have you been wounded by fatherhood and what has it taught you so far?

Brooks Baron [00:49:45]:

Oh, boy. Great question. Yeah, so for our listeners actually, today is my daughter's nine month birthday. Yeah. So that's a fun coincidence. And she's our first. So I am new to this fatherhood journey over the past year and it has definitely brought me into my vulnerability, there's no doubt about that. It's taken away my sleep in many moments.

Brooks Baron [00:50:24]:

It has required me to release my attachments and my ideas, or my control over my schedule, or the thing I want to be paying attention to right now, or my precious hours of my morning routine that I use to get ready for the day. Oh God, that's going to change when, when a newborn comes into the picture. And at least I chose that. And I do choose that. In that I want to be a present dad. I want to be available and engaged to support my daughter, to support my wife. And yet I also have these parts of myself that are so important too. And so it's been a real challenge for me, a real growth experience, for sure, to kind of endeavor to hold all of that.

Brooks Baron [00:51:45]:

And actually it hasn't been holding at all. Some of the best things I've been able to do is drop and let go of things. But this walking, this line of how do I stay dedicated to my own aliveness, my own essence, my own purpose and my work, which I'm very passionate about, and also my own mental health and personal time and time with friends, all these things, while also really showing up fully in the way. I want to show up for this new responsibility that has stretched me and that has humbled me deeply. It's helped me really encounter over and over again the tendency I have to think I can do way more than I actually can or think that I need less than I actually need. So in the worst moments that's looked like complete meltdown, like, I've I've I have had some I've had more of these moments the past nine months than probably the several years prior of just, like, being totally at the end of my rope. That's part of the humbling aspect. And then part of the gift of that has been choosing to come back around again to trust in openness and curiosity and wondering, okay, how is all of this for me? How am I unconsciously creating these circumstances to continue and deepen my own growth and development? And wow, I've gotten a lot from that and it's actually helping me to operate a lot more efficiently, to be a lot more discerning away or something.

Jonny Miller [00:53:45]:

An insight that came up.

Brooks Baron [00:53:49]:

An insight that came up about can you sorry, clarify the question again, an insight as.

Jonny Miller [00:53:54]:

To how you've been creating the conditions for ending up at the end of your rape or the end of your tether.

Brooks Baron [00:54:01]:

Yeah, often it comes back. The big one for me is coming back to those patterns around thinking I can do more than I can or thinking I need less than I need. And, you know, I think about yeah, I think about that as one of my that is that is one of my core the core patterns of my kind of central, repeating patterns of my personality. And when I have those moments, part of what I mean by that is my ego is really adept at keeping me away from my neediness. There's kind of like an underlying architecture to my personality structure. That's a story that to be loved and valued, I need to be good, I need to be helpful, and I need to give to others and not have needs of my own. And by virtue of that, my mind has become very adept over my 35 years of life to keep my neediness in my blind spot, to kind of keep me away from seeing it. And when I don't see it and don't act as though it's there.

Brooks Baron [00:55:37]:

That's how I burn myself out. That's how I end up at those moments at the end of my road. So this experience of fatherhood has just helped me be a lot less able to get away with that. I've gotten better at being honest with myself about what I need and being willing to do the uncomfortable thing of being needy so that I can show up as my best self in all of my roles.

Jonny Miller [00:56:15]:

Yeah, I really like that. And it reminds me of we did a light, dark experience, a few, and one of their they called these darker types, and one of the core darker types was what they called the Needy Wretch. And it was interesting to explore all the ways that I actually judge Jet ignore. No, that's just bad. That's not helpful, actually, seeing what you just pointed to, which is like, the inherent gifts that the Needy Wretch, which we all have to some degree or other, is actually pointing at, like, no, actually, you have these desires and these needs and they contribute to your aliveness and they're around you. That was interesting for me, too. I think in my shadow of appearing like a whiny little bitch is just like, totally is like repulsive. It's like oh, no.

Brooks Baron [00:57:20]:

Right. Yeah, you and me both, brother. Yeah. And yet there's such gift to that one, as you're saying. As you're pointing to.

Jonny Miller [00:57:36]:

Yeah. So one more theme I'd be curious to explore, and this actually came up for me. I was listening to wonderful podcast called The Emerald, and he did an episode called Animism Is Normative Consciousness, which sounds like a bit of a mouthful, but listening to this two hour long episode, I was like, whoa, this guy has a really good point. And I know that part of what you share through your leadership training and through your coaching is basically this, like or the way that I interpreted it was like this experiment of try understanding the world through a more animist lens and that that is actually a worthwhile perspective to inhabit. And the question I have for you is both what is the value in that and how is it distinguishable in your mind from the kind of new Agey superstition? Kind of like, how is that different and what is the value?

Brooks Baron [00:58:40]:

Tell me just a little bit more of what you mean by the new AG superstition.

Jonny Miller [00:58:45]:

It's the kind of stuff that you see, honestly, on Instagram reels a lot of the time.

Brooks Baron [00:58:52]:


Jonny Miller [00:58:53]:

There is no, or at least in my interpretation a lot of the time, no substance and no kind of certainly no rigor and not really much, I'd say, healthy skepticism in this stuff.

Brooks Baron [00:59:14]:

I got you.

Jonny Miller [00:59:17]:

Bypassy has bypassy. Yeah.

Brooks Baron [00:59:19]:


Jonny Miller [00:59:21]:

Yeah. I struggle to actually define it, but I know it when I see it. You do as well.

Brooks Baron [00:59:27]:

I'm with you. Yeah. Thank you. And it's another really good question. So, yeah, kind of starting at the basic level of what is animism? I see animism as a way of viewing and experiencing the world from which life forms and beings, all life forms and beings, and specifically beyond the human, are experienced as animate as sentient and conscious actors. So for me, I always had grown up as a kid just playing in the mountains, and my family wasn't particularly animist or anything like that, but I always had this sense of like, yeah, there's an intelligence to nature, and I actually think there's an interconnectedness to all life. And then something I was challenged by on my first vision quest is like, well, what if you actually acted as though you believed that? How would that change the way you go out into nature? And for me, what changed is I open myself to actually being in conversation with the more than human world. And that, especially at first, was a great challenge for me.

Brooks Baron [01:01:09]:

I had some loyal protector, parts of myself who had learned at a young age that it wasn't okay to be weird and that being weird at school was going to cause bad outcomes. And so it's important to sort of fit in and be normal. So I was out on my first quest and starting to having conversations with the trees and the rocks and then these parts of myself, like, screaming at dude, like, hopefully nobody's watching this, right? Like, oh, God, you got to make sure you're so I love what Josh Sheree is doing there with the enrolled podcast. And that argument, that point he makes of actually what if this is normative consciousness? And for me and how animism plays into my work is well, first of all, I think it's helpful to I like to cite Charles Eisenstein, who I know you've had on this podcast, who speaks about the old story of separation and the wound of separation, this story of seeing ourselves as completely separate from the rest of the world. And then he calls us into maybe the discovery of a new story around inter being. And he's one of many, many teachers and wise people out there who remind us and traditions all over the world, wisdom traditions, remind us. Yeah, it's that viewing ourselves as separate and different, that's actually the source of so many of our ills in our time. So if we want to be impact driven leaders, especially if we want to endeavor into this kind of great unknown territory of what does it look like to make positive impact on the world from above the line, from a place of openness curiosity and trust? I believe part of that involves actually recognizing and acknowledging that we are not separate.

Brooks Baron [01:03:24]:

We are inherently part of this Earth, and we are of this Earth. We're born of this earth. Like, the Earth is our home. The wild is our home. Originally, we've separated ourselves from it in many ways in modern society, but innately, that sense of wildness and being at home in the wild is still in all of us. And therefore the ability to be in conversation and in communion with the more than human world, I believe is as well. As we get into this, we handicap ourselves if we don't take advantage of that intelligence. There's so much wisdom, there's so much power, there's so much insight that's available in conversing with the natural world and then also conversing with maybe the more kind of bigger archetypal, spiritual entities out there that I believe nature is often a conduit for.

Brooks Baron [01:04:44]:

And then to your quote to bring in, to circle back to the New Age spirituality piece and the bypassing thing. Yeah, it is something that I see happening too. As we kind of are experiencing this consciousness revolution and more and more people are having awakening experiences through psychedelics or breath work or meditation or whatever avenue, people are waking up to the fact that we can, as human beings, contact the divine and we can converse directly with the divine. And that's amazing. That's beautiful. I think that's generally a very good thing. Where I think it gets that quality of kind of untrustworthiness or sort of flimsiness and not rigorous that you're pointing at is when people are kind of only focusing on the exciting, nice, happy stuff of, like, the of that connection with the divine, without pairing it with the appropriate rigor of doing their own work, essentially, and tracking their own. And a lot of what that comes down to.

Brooks Baron [01:06:09]:

And this is part of why I love, again, the work of Jim and Diana and Conscious Leadership Group and a way that I use their tool sets a lot. And my work is, again, part of what it means to be below the line in a state of threat is we're committed to being right. It's important to us that we're right about what we're saying or what we believe. When we're above the line in a state of trust and presence, being right, it doesn't feel important. And we are kind of just like wandering in the mystery almost. We don't know what's going to happen next, and that's no problem. We can't be entirely sure if what we heard was something the tree said to me or something that I made up. There's like a humility in that.

Brooks Baron [01:06:59]:

And then there's also a discernment that we can build over time to sort of identify. What does the voice of the ego sound like and feel like? And what does a voice sound like and feel like that comes from outside of ourselves?

Jonny Miller [01:07:13]:

Sorry. It sounds like it's acceptable if it's if you feel safe and if you feel at home in your body. Um.