10 Questions Series: Rick Jarow

August 13, 2013 by Chris Grosso

Rick Jarow

NAME: Rick Jarow

BIO: E.H. Rick Jarow, Ph.D. has transformed the way the world thinks about their work, purpose and vocation. As the pioneer of the anti-career movement and author of Creating the Work You Love, he has helped thousands open to their intuition, transform their values into action, and answer their true calling… instead of settling for yet another job. In the last few years, Rick’s work has centered around the art and science of manifestation (as offered in his book and workshop, The Alchemy of Abundance). Similar to his work in career and vocation, these teachings transcend the overly simplistic approach made popular by the movie, “The Secret” and other get-what-you-want philosophies. They dive deeper –  into the alchemical possibilities of loving what is, recognizing your greater purpose and moving towards your own healed vision, on both an individual and a cultural level. 


Q: Who and or what, do you attribute the person you are today to?


A: I don’t. The complexity of factors is overwhelming so anything I could tell you would just be the current narrative of my ego and that’s a very slim thread. If I had to, I’d say I attribute it to biology, history and inspired choices if anything.


Q: What are some of the musical albums or musicians/bands that have impacted your life and in what way?


A: Most of the music that impacted me was before I was ten years old but even then I think that impact might be too strong of a word. I’d say the only recording that probably ever seriously impacted me was Bob Dylan’s Highway 61.


Q: What is one of the most shocking experiences you’ve ever had?


A: The first time I took LSD was sort of shocking in an awakening kind of way, a shakti shock if you will. The first shock was the walls disappeared. The second shock was when I looked in the mirror I saw the devil. I was around sixteen or seventeen at the time and fortunately remembered Ivan Karamazov and The Brothers Karamazov as he looked in the mirror and saw the devil and remembered it was his own projection. Then I was walking alone and I looked up in the sky and saw what looked like giant insects coming to eat me but again, I realized they were my own projections. Later on in that experience I had two big realizations sitting near the water by a bridge. I experienced the entire Universe in this act of making love with itself constantly and then just being aware of the reality of the realms of eternal divine light.


Q: What is one of the most beautiful experiences you’ve ever had?


A: The beauteous rapture of the world shocks me every day, that’s what I live for, walking out of my door and looking up at the trees, the rapture of it. Over the last seven or eight years the beauty that’s struck me more than anything is the unbelievable beauty of the changing seasons. They have become the signature of everything for me. I also had to make a conscious decision years ago to embrace winter instead of complaining or cringing about it. I think that was because one of my culture heroes Walt Whitman. I read a tract about him saying he never complained, even about the weather. So I started opening to the abundance of the seasons, the ongoing beauty of the changing seasons.


Q: What is one of the most defining moments in your life and why?


A: When I dropped out of Harvard. That was my defining moment because a kid from Brooklyn going to a public school and then getting into Harvard was a really big deal. I really wanted it and played the game very well. Once I got there, it was the first time I really followed my heart instead of anything else and that set the tone for my life. I dropped out of Harvard and drove a taxi for nine months, and then traveled around the world and ultimately wound up in India. I think that was definitely my defining moment.


Q: What do you believe are the benefit, if any, vs. the dangers of mind-altering drugs?


A: Well the first thing we have to do here is discuss what the word “illicit” means. It’s a relative term generally defined by whoever is in power. So if you look at the fact that psychoactive drugs are illicit and tobacco and alcohol are not, you know right away there’s something wrong with this picture. Having said that, even the word “drugs” is problematic. The college I teach in consistently tells students that drugs are bad and then pump everyone full of antidepressants, so lots of people getting mixed messages. I prefer the word psychoactive to illicit. The danger of psychoactive drugs or substances occurs if the ego tries to use them since the ego tends to   abuse them. Instead of letting your chakras open with the Kundalini you take a pick ax and knock of the lock. It opens but you can’t close it again. So number one, that’s why personally I would not ingest any artificial chemicals and two, these things in my mind are meant to be done in sacred ceremony. When they’re done as such and you’re guided by an experienced Shaman or Voyager and it’s truly done respectfully, then my experience is that there is no danger because that’s how it’s meant to happen.

I once gave a talk at Vassar where I spoke about my drug experiences and how I was reevaluating them, and a student asked, “Why don’t we forget all the accouterments and just take the substance?” The whole point is that if you take straight DMT you’re asking to get whacked, whereas if you take ayahuasca ceremonially, which has DMT as the active ingredient but allows everything else to work, you most likely won’t. This is why the people who don’t know how to work with the plants and try to extract the chemical from the plants is akin to the ego trying to force its way in. So I see psychoactive drugs as an upaya, a gift of nature, but like any gift, they can be and has been abused, but if they are used appropriately, I believe they can interact with humans in the most insightful and creative ways. The fact that we don’t do them is a commentary on our lifestyle. People are too busy with money, power and military games to look inside themselves.

When Leary and Alpert wrote The Psychedelic Experience, even then they realized the importance of “set and settings.” In 1962 with the Walter Pahnke Experiment (when protestant divinity students at were administered psychoactive mushrooms and/or placebos before the Good Friday Service at Boston University’s Marsh Chapel.) It is interesting that Leary wrote something criticizing the way that experiment was done because they didn’t have a control group, but the fact of the matter is that there was interaction between bio-environment, they go together. So without the genuine sacred environment it’s very hard to navigate those really dark places, but with it you know that there’s a container. You need a container to do this stuff. I think another good example is tobacco, it’s a sacred plant to many people but we have turned it into a distractive, unhealthy habit.


Q: What are some films you’ll never forget seeing for the first time and why?


A: It’s funny, it’s not that I don’t like films but I can’t say that I’ve ever actually been really moved by a film. There’s a few films that may have struck me at the time but I can’t think of a film that is life changing that I go to see over and over again. I had fun with Terminator 2. Ben Hur, a film I didn’t see at the time of its release, but about 20 years later sort of got me. So it’s not that I don’t watch films but they don’t really resonate strongly with me.


Q: Does God exist and if so, in what capacity? If not, why not?


A: I don’t want to be presumptuous but in my view, I don’t have a view. I’ve been blessed with faith so I don’t think God exists, I know God exists. I have no doubt God exists. I look up at the beauty of the moon and the stars and the changing of the seasons, breathing the air that’s full of grace. I try to stay out of the theological jungle however. I know there’s a lot of Buddhist people participating in this book as well, and I think a lot of the reasons Buddhism has become popular in many circles in America is because people have been so religiously abused. People profess God and then do sick things like the crusades or countless other acts of violence etc. Buddhism and Taoism take God out of the equation so one doesn’t have to deal with that. I find that in my humble estimation it leaves something out, there’s something missing and it is this: if you say God is love, our desire for love, the human desire for love, is necessary and profound. It is the deepest, most profound desire and the love inside of us is so great that it can only, in my estimation, ultimately be fulfilled by love from the divine realm. Whether you call it God, or compassion, whatever you call it, my experience is the separation of head, heart and body is one of the real tragedies of our time. I think one of the tragedies of post enlightenment, not Buddhist enlightenment, but Western rational enlightenment, is that the mind and the heart got separated.

When the mind comes back into the heart, the question “does God exist or not” becomes a mind question that the heart doesn’t need to ask. The heart is able to follow the depths of love, compassion, devotion and truth. William Blake, one of my gurus or culture heroes spoke about the Deist fallacy, which is the belief that God is “up there” as opposed to God is everything, everywhere. I think this is my life’s work, moving into deeper and deeper exchanges and dialogues with that which is called God and it’s these experiences that I and so many other people have had which are incredible. There’s also a level of abuse, misinformation and pernicious lying however that goes around the word God that is just as incredible, so it’s a loaded thing. I don’t think you can ignore it however. In my own career counseling work I’ve found that one of the most important questions to ask people is, “What do you think is going on here?” and not just for you, but for everyone, which will determine how you set your parameters in life; what you believe is possible. So if I had to put this as succinctly as possible regarding that question, the closest I could come is William Blake’s quote, “And we are put on earth a little space, that we may learn to bear the beams of love.” and that’s what I think is going on here.

So again, whether you call it God, or Universal intelligence, or the Tao, that’s your call, it doesn’t matter to me. The other reason people are so suspicious, and justifiably so, about the word God, is because in our culture its’ been hijacked by the religious right. It’s the old story, my dog is better than your dog, so the way I see it is in relation to the third chakra in terms of the larger level of reality. The third chakra mantra is “I am right” and it’s only when human beings ascend to the fourth chakra consciousness that being right doesn’t matter as much anymore and you can respect other people and their paths. Then on the fifth, it can move from respect to actual synergistic creativity with diversity. The problem with “God” is that “God” gets closed in third chakra religious paranoia but that’s always been and that’s why historically people feel religiously abused. I think part of the work of coming generations, and you can see it happening now, is that new paradigms of living the sacred are emerging and it is post-religion, post-history and deeply inclusive, and not just with humans, but plants, animals, nature and cultural. People are moving toward a much deeper and inclusive celebratory and participatory vision in process of enacting the sacred reality in our lives.


Q: What do you think your greatest contribution to humanity is?


A: None. I would like to flip that around. I think the greatest thing I’ve done for humanity and can do for anybody is be true to my heart at every moment, then I feel that I’m in the game, I’m in the Tao. Everything we do, think or say will be forgotten but when you have that feeling or experience that you’re in your right place in your right time and you’re not just a piece on a monopoly board, but you’re a part of the whole, it becomes more of an integrative experience, that is the contribution. The other way of looking at it is that every being has what’s called a bhav, or a certain inner mood in which they authentically relate to reality, and when you’re in your bhav, whether it’s physical fitness, research, marketing, gardening or singing, when you’re in your bhav, you’re part of the solution and not part of the problem. So if I try to make any contribution it’s really trying not to be part of the problem.


Q: What does the human experience mean to you?


A: I always start out with a cynical phrase that the human experience doesn’t mean anything. The reason I say that is because again, anything you say or mean will be forgotten. Meaning is a mental construct. Having said that, my Buddhist brothers from Asia talk about the possibility of getting a human birth and how it’s equal to throwing grains of rice from ten feet away and having them land on the tip of a needle. Human birth is supposedly this wonderful opportunity. The question then becomes, what are you going to use the opportunity for. I think about this a lot, in a different way because I constantly meditate on my death, not in a morbid sense but because I see it coming sooner or later. I see this particular human experience as just a blip on the screen of consciousness. I like what Bertram Russell said in respect to this, he said, “I want to be thoroughly used up when I die.” To know I’ve given everything and there’s nothing left. My teacher Orestes Valdez, who was a great Cuban Shamanic healer, after five or six hours of working with people, often around 1 a.m., would say, “I feel so good I could die right now”.

So if you get there, today would be a beautiful day to die. Not making it up, but that you’re so full of the moment that if it is you’re moment, you’re ready to walk to your next place and then the earth experience has done its job for you. That gets back to the contribution, which is doing what you came here to do and not living somebody else’s life, and that’s very important. It takes a lot of courage to live your own life and not someone else’s. I feel when you live your own life you can die with integrity. And what is the meaning of the human experience? I’d have to say “ah,” just “ah.” Meaning is just so small, and the human experience is so vast; I can’t even wrap my head around it. I feel smitten by the experience of being here on this planet. It’s like an unbelievable, inconceivable, magnificent gift. It’s unbelievable. There’s actually a mudra, which is a hand gesture in India for “wonder” where you put your palm up in the air in this exclamation. There are times when I’ll be walking down the streets there, and I’m filled with such a sense of wonder. So I end up with a sense of wonder, which in a way brings things full circle with shock, beauty and gratefulness. The Pentagon got it wrong when they said “shock and awe”. Think about this, in order for them to achieve shock and awe they needed to launch millions of tons of explosives and blow people up, whereas with Zen master Dogen, a leaf falls down from a tree and he’s in shock and awe.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • email
  • Digg
  • Tumblr
Chris Grosso is a writer, public speaker, mental health youth group facilitator, and author with Simon & Schuster. He also writes for Revolver Magazine, Fangoria, and has spoken at a bunch of fancy-schmancy festivals and conferences (as well as even more events that were significantly less than fancy-schmancy). Chris's podcast, The Indie Spiritualist, is hosted on Ram Dass's Be Here Now Network.