In a 1967 interview, "What I Believe," John Lennon opened up to the world about how he discovered God.
"You don't have to have a great faith or anything. The whole thing is so simple -- as though it's too marvelous to be true," Lennon said of discovering Transcendental Meditation in India with guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, during the interview with The Daily Sketch. "I don't and never did imagine God as one thing. But now I can see God as a power source, or as an energy."
Lennon went on to say, "It's all like one big jelly. We're all in the big jelly." Now, with nearly one in five Americans identifying as "spiritual but not religious," and countless successful people in a range of professions saying that meditation is their greatest secret to success, some of America's most beloved public figures and successful business leaders are following suit, opening up about their first "big jelly" moments of spiritual awakening -- and telling the world why they believe.
Here are 10 amazing spiritual "coming out" stories from successful thinkers, performers and business leaders.
In 2009, Jim Carrey gave a heartfelt talk about the first time he realized that his self was something bigger than his mind, body or thoughts. Carrey said of his spiritual awakening:
"I understood suddenly how thought was just an illusory thing, and how thought is responsible for, if not all, most of the suffering we experience. And then I suddenly felt that I was looking at these thoughts from another perspective, and I thought, 'Who is it that is aware that I'm thinking?' Suddenly, I was thrown into this expansive, amazing feeling of freedom -- from myself, from my problems. I saw that I was bigger than what I do, bigger than my body, everything and everyone. I was no longer a fragment of the universe. I was the universe."
In a 2006 "60 Minutes" segment, Carrey also said that spirituality has helped him through bouts of depression, and helped him to engage with the world from a more loving place.
New York Times best-selling author and guru to young professional women Gabrielle Bernstein was a hard-partying New York City PR girl (and cocaine addict) when she "hit bottom" -- and turned inward to find a new way. Bernstein said in a TEDxFiDiWomen talk that she woke up one morning and heard a voice tell her: "Get your life together, girl, and you will live beyond your wildest dreams."
After 25 years of looking for direction and happiness "in all the wrong places," Bernstein got clean, began following the metaphysical text "A Course in Miracles" -- which she says helped her move from a place of fear to one of love -- and soon afterward wrote her ultra-successful self-help book, "May Cause Miracles."
Steve Jobs was a practicing Zen Buddhist. At 18 years old, the tech visionary dropped out of Reed College and went to India to find himself -- and came home with Buddhist values that would shape the rest of his life and career. At his memorial in 2011, Jobs had arranged for guests to be given copies of "Autobiography of a Yogi," the classic spiritual memoir on the power of self-realization.
"That was the message: Actualize yourself," friend and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who attended the funeral, said at the 2013 TechCrunch Disrupt SF conference. "If you look back at the history of Steve and that early trip to India ... He had this incredible realization that his intuition was his greatest gift. He needed to look at world from inside out ... His message was to look inside yourself and realize yourself."
When "Ellen" host Ellen Degeneres first came out as a lesbian in 1997, the reaction from Hollywood was devastating: Advertisers pulled their funding and she was forced to cancel her show for three years. During that period, Degeneres told TODAY's Ann Curry in 2012, she began to look for happiness and wholeness within herself.
"I don’t think it was a failure, but it certainly gave me a lot of time to sit still and go, ‘Who am I?’" Degeneres said.
During that period, Degeneres found her center and created a spiritual lifestyle by becoming a vegan, yogi and, in 2011, a Transcendental Meditation practitioner. "[TM] just gives me this peaceful feeling and I love it so much," Degeneres said at a David Lynch Foundation event.
Oprah Winfrey has become a guru for modern Americans, doling out self-help, spiritual guidance and meditation tips. Winfrey has said that the only life is a spiritual one -- something she knows because she has "lived in the space of spirit [her] whole life." Oprah knew this truth even when she was four years old, she claims, when she profoundly felt the truth of her favorite Bible verse, Acts 17:28 ("For in him we live and move and have our being").
"There is a force/energy/consciousness/divine thread that connects us all spiritually to something greater than ourselves," Oprah said during an Oprah's Life Class program in 2012, defining spirituality as "living your life with an open heart through love."
Tina Turner turned on to Buddhism in the 1970s when she was struggling to put an end to her abusive relationship with husband and fellow musician Ike Turner. Turner now follows a sub-sect of Buddhism known as Soka Gakkai, which emphasizes chanting and follows the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. Beyond, an album of Buddhist and Christian music, features Turner chanting the Lotus Sutra ("Nam Myoho Renge Kyo".
"I feel that chanting for 35 years has opened a door inside me, and that even if I never chanted again, that door would still be there," Turner told Shambhala Sun in 2011. "I feel at peace with myself. I feel happier than I have ever been, and it is not from material things. Material things make me happy, but I am already happy before I acquire these things. I have a nature within myself now that’s happy."
Congressman Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), author of "A Mindful Nation: How A Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance and Recapture the American Spirit," has been instrumental in bringing mindfulness to the nation's capital -- and into schools and communities across the U.S. Since last December, he's led a silent meditation time on Mondays for members of Congress, the "Quiet Time Caucus."
The Catholic former high school football player turned to meditation (which he now practices for 45 minutes every morning) when he was feeling stressed and overwhelmed with campaigning and constant work travel. So he went on a five-day mindfulness retreat in the Catskills with Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction -- and the trip changed his life.
“I had two BlackBerrys,” Ryan told the Washington Times. “I checked them at the door. You learn to follow your breathing, appreciate how your mind works. When it starts to wander off, you come back to your body."
“By the middle of the retreat I felt my mind and body sync up. Like being in the zone."
In 2008, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey was going through a rough patch in his life. Whole Foods was being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission after acquiring its largest competitor, Wild Oats, and Mackey himself was caught in the middle of a stock market scandal. It was then that the "Conscious Capitalism" author turned to spirituality.
Mackey found solace in the practice of holotropic breathing, which led him to several important epiphanies and acted as something of a spiritual awakening.
“I had this very powerful session, very powerful. It lasted about two hours,” Mackey said in a CD released with his "Conscious Capitalism." “I was having a dialogue with what I would define as my deeper self, or my higher self.”
Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna
Like Mackey, Bertolini turned inward and explored alternative healing remedies in the wake of a traumatic event. After the Aetna CEO broke his neck in a skiing accident, he was hooked on painkillers for a year. But then he found natural pain relief through mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation. Now, he's been practicing viniyoga for nearly seven years.
Bertolini has become an outspoken advocate of mindfulness, which he credits with improving decision-making skills in the workplace. At Aetna, he introduced a 12-week mindfulness and yoga program for employees, and according to Bertolini, it's resulted in dramatically lower stress levels and increased productivity among its 34,000 participants.
"Every morning I get up and I do my asana, pranayama, meditation, and Vedic chanting before work," Bertolini said in an interview with yoga website Alignyo in May. "It’s helped me be more centered, more present."
Paul & Sonia Jones
In 2012, Tudor Investments founder Paul Jones and his wife Sonia donated $12 million to establish the Contemplative Sciences Center at the University of Virginia. The exploration of contemplative and yogic practices is close to both of their hearts.
"We both started practicing Ashtunga Yoga in 2000 and it changed our lives," the couple said when they announced the gift. "Our hope is that every person that goes into the Contemplative Sciences Center can have the same great experience that my wife and I and our family and all our friends have had."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the author of "A Course In Miracles." The article has been updated.