Spiritual is the new cool.
Maybe it’s just that I live in Venice Beach, go to Burning Man, attend tea ceremonies on the regular, and ultimately have become immersed in a #blessed crowd that is #grateful for seemingly everything they post on Instagram, but spirituality is everywhere... And quite often it’s followed by a whiff of bullsh*t.
Don’t get me wrong, I drink the kool-aid too: I’m a meditator. I’ve listened to hundreds of hours of lectures from people like Ram Dass and Alan Watts, and have a slight affinity towards girls that like crystals and wear essential oils...
But for me, I haven’t been able to escape the feeling that so many use the cloak of spirituality for personal gain, even if behind it they’re actually about as deep as the kiddie pool.
Did yesterday’s football captain put on prayer beads and tie his hair in a man bun because he suddenly become enlightened?
Possibly. Or is it maybe that he just discovered yoga is a great way to meet women?
There are certainly worse trends to follow, but someone needed to bring to light the ridiculous, and hilarious aspects that come with this scene.
And this is why I love JP Sears.
I first came across Sears’ “Ultra Spiritual” series earlier this year through friends sharing “How to Take Yoga Photos for Instagram” video on Facebook (now at over 8m plays between Facebook and YouTube).
Other titles include “How to Be Gluten Intolerant,” “Genius Uses for Coconut Oil,” and “If Meat Eaters Acted Like Vegans,” and are all reminiscent of conversations you might overhear any given night at Cafe Gratitude.
In diving deeper, what I found most interesting is that JP is not just a comedian who identified a scene he could poke fun of, he’s actually an incredibly aware and genuinely spiritual person who’s also a life coach.
I wanted to learn more, so I caught up with the Charleston, South Carolina-based Sears to learn about how he got started, what he’s looking to achieve, and how to get more hearts on my Instagram photos.
Brandon Deroche: What was your original inspiration for the Ultra Spiritual videos?
JP Sears: It was really through my own experiences and realizing how my own imbalances are actually interfering with my spiritual life.
To me, spirituality is all about unity, and I was seeing how I would use my practices and beliefs, and they'd create more division.
Like, "I only want to associate with like-minded people, so you need to meditate. You need to be walking the path." Which is division. It's not acceptance, it's rejection.
Shining the light on my own imbalances through the videos became my therapy for this. I could unfold my inner dogma, see it, and and have a sense of levity rather than internalized gravity about it. That was huge.
Certainly living in Southern California for ten years in addition to observing my life, I'd observed the community around me, the yoga communities, the meditation communities, new age spiritual communities, vegan communities, every kind of health or nutrition philosophy you can think of communities... There was a lot of observance going on that I soaked-in over the course of those years.
That, I would dare say, was probably the heart of my inspiration.
Brandon Deroche: How do you choose which topics you’re going to cover?
JP Sears: Not to sound too ultra spiritual, but I feel like I don't really pick the ideas. The inspiration for a particular idea will come to me. I don't know where the hell it comes from, but nonetheless it comes in.
The ideas tend to come in faster than I can make them into videos, so I have an ongoing list, and let whatever is inspiring me at the moment determine what's next.
Brandon Deroche: Do you see spirituality right now as a trend, or do you see it as an overall shift that may be taking place on a bigger level?
JP Sears: Both. I think there's incredible trendiness within actual spirituality, and I don't think trendy spirituality is spirituality. I think it's just a trend.
It's hip to say you meditate. It's hip to do all these different things, and we can find a sense of belonging by being a part of some of what we call spiritual practices or philosophies.
When it's all boiled down though, some of our participation, including some of my own, is sort of for those trendy reasons. It'll become like bell bottoms to some people and I'm grateful for that, because the trendiness of spirituality is getting a hell of a lot more people in the door that otherwise just wouldn't get in the door. You know, I got into it for trendy reasons, like, "Oh, this guy I respect is into it, so let me check it out. It's cool."
Thank god I had that sort of shallow relationship with spirituality, or else I wouldn't have developed what for me is a deep and meaningful relationship. I'm biased, so of course I have to call my relationship with spirituality deep and meaningful.
And beyond the trendiness, my belief, whether it's super delusional or just mildly delusional, is that we're at a very special time in human evolution where I think we've reached the point where no longer can people purpose their lives around the five senses - finding value just off those things we see, smell, hear, taste, and feel. I think we've woken up too much for that.
That's very much a spiritual phenomenon, and so I do think there is a shift that's very real.
Brandon Deroche: Why do you think that's happening now?
JP Sears: That's a good question. I definitely don't know, but that's not going to stop me from having a delusional opinion.
I would dare say we've experienced enough of the opposite.
We've experienced it at a societal collective level.
We've experienced enough decades of trying to find meaning in life by making enough money, getting enough status, having the right amount of kids, the right number of marriages, and the right color car.
We've tried that for a long time expecting it to work, and honestly, my experience in acquiring a new level of money, a new level of status, a new level of recognition is satisfying... for a little while.
Nonetheless, I think it's kind of like trying to put a pair of pants on that's too small. After we try that for about 100 years, we finally realize, "Oh, I guess they're not going to fit."
Not to say that we need to pretend we're monks and just push away the money, status, and recognition, but to stop looking for the juice of life where it's not.
I think there's a river of life that offers far more quenching meaning to our inner thirst than the material realm. I don't think we could go beyond the material realm until we've tried to live within it, and tried to find meaning in it for a long time.
Brandon Deroche: What got you into spirituality initially?
JP Sears: Who I would consider my first mentor, a guy named Paul Chek, I took my first course with him when I was 20 years old.
At the time he was an exercise teacher, and would have these little pockets of discussion on spirituality and the emotional side of the human. All of that was super foreign to me.
But here's this guy I respected, I was interested in. He was like a rock star to me at the time, so despite being previously uninterested in these things, because he was an interesting person I respect, I became interested in the same topics. Especially because he was framing the spiritual talks in a way that were grounded in reality, like how this can actually impact a person's physiology.
It was grounded, not just airy fairy abstract, so I definitely credit my experience with him. He was the gluten-free breadcrumb that helped me trail along and have an interest into the spiritual side of things.
Brandon Deroche: Where did that end up leading you to?
JP Sears: The next step was reading dozens of spiritual books. Then from there when I was 22, I connected with a guy who became a phenomenal mentor named John McMullin.
John's work is all on the emotional/spiritual realm - I don't really differentiate the two, even though they're two words.
I immersed myself in working one on one with John, to help work on my own life, but also in hundreds and hundreds of hours worth of courses with him, which really helped equip me with skills to coach people in the realm of their heart. He was super instrumental in helping shape the work that I do.
Brandon Deroche: What’s next with your career? Where do you want to take things from here?
JP Sears: I'll give you some literal answers in a second, but first a big picture answer.
Where I hope it takes me is to continue to be true to 1) the creative spirit that I dance with and 2) the heart and soul of my mission, which is ultimately helping people to help themselves, and help myself become more connected to myself as well. To me, that's what's most important. Whatever shape or form that takes is, at best, secondary importance.
With that said, some of the secondary importance things that are happening next - I've got a book coming out in a few months called 'How To Be Ultra Spiritual' that’s published with Sounds True Publishing. It’s written completely in comedic character, and it is just an absolute blast.
I'm also now signed on with a production company in L.A. where we're putting together a TV show based on my character, so that'll be a new creative expression to reach new people.
Brandon Deroche: You've done a couple videos in relation to the election, what would be something that you'd say you've learned from this presidential race?
JP Sears: Nothing is as it seems, period, or comma.
Another thing I've learned is we can't rely on other people to tell us what the truth is.
Brandon Deroche: Have you actually been to Burning Man?
JP Sears: I have not been to Burning Man, no.
Brandon Deroche: Do you have a desire to go?
JP Sears: Yes, I do have a desire to go. I don't know if that desire is strong enough yet to get me there next year, but I do have a desire.
Brandon Deroche: Do you eat gluten?
JP Sears: I do not eat gluten.
Brandon Deroche: What's the most effective yoga pose for my Instagram?
JP Sears: I think the most effective one for Instagram is the one that's in the most life threatening location.
Brandon Deroche: To close this out, what would you say is the greatest action that someone could do for betterment of themselves and/or the world?
JP Sears: Speak words of gratitude to another human being today.
Brandon Deroche: Is there anything you want to add?
JP Sears: I don't think so, other than I appreciate the living heck out of you inviting me to be a part of this conversation, and part of your offering to the world. I appreciate you, Brandon.