Speaker: Jonathan Gustin

Uncovering Purpose: Ascending to Spirit and Descending to Soul

When Jonathan Gustin was around 12 years of age, he was enthralled by a 1970s’ television show that featured a blind Buddhist priest teaching a boy his age about enlightenment and duty.  “I would live for these scenes where the priest gave the boy spiritual instruction!” he recounts. That early fascination with enlightenment led him to meditation, and travels through China and India in search of a master. Then, at age 20, he found himself on a solo meditation retreat for three weeks in a log cabin in Northern Ontario, Canada – “alone in wild nature” with “no human company, no distractions, just wild nature and meditation practice.”

During the self-retreat, between periods seeking transcendence through meditation, he slipped into another more worldly, but equally profound, contemplation: “What is my place in the world?” he asked. “All at once, an image arose, like the scratchings on an ancient wood block, I saw a scene of a person (me) supporting the birth of a person’s full self,” he later wrote. “The two words that arose alongside this image were, Whole-person midwifery.”

Through decades of study and practice, Jonathan eventually learned how to become the image that was revealed to his 20-year-old self. He now is a purpose guide, psychotherapist, meditation teacher, and integral mentor in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 25 years, helping midwife the birth of a person's full self.

He combines all three disciplines – meditation, psychotherapy, and purpose guiding – to support individuals seeking to answer the question that came to him in that Canadian log cabin: "what is mine to do in the world?" He helps navigate them in the journey toward wholeness through what he calls the “three worlds” of the human experience – the “upper world” of spirit seeking transcendence and enlightenment through practices such as meditation (“waking up”); the “middle world” of personality and ego seeking emotional healing through practices such as psychotherapy (“growing up”), and the “lower world” of soul seeking embodiment and offering gifts to others through soul work practices (“showing up”).

He has been referred to by a luminary peer as a “rare example of a seasoned meditation teacher who understands the spiritual necessity of the descent to soul and sacred darkness — as well as the ascent to the light and the One. He guides his students in both directions, down as well as up.”

Jonathan teaches that Purpose Guiding breaks the spell of our default purposes of safety, security, comfort and outward success, and orients us towards our true purpose, which is to embody our unique calling within. He passionately and skillfully invites his students to this contemporary Koan, “Where do I belong in the ecology of life?” – or, as Frederick Buechner famously wrote about life’s calling: “Where does my deep gladness and the world’s hunger meet?”

Jonathan writes that finding our purpose is not a choice. It’s a discovery. We can co-create the expression of our purpose, which is where originality and joy happen, but the core of purpose is that we receive it. It is a spiritual revelation from the soul – not a stated desire of the ego – and arrived at largely by subtraction of all that is non-essential, not through formulation or addition of goals and desired impact. It is the “deepest conversation you can have with life,” he says.

Jonathan is the founder and lead teacher of the Purpose Guides Institute and Green Sangha, and co-author of Purpose Rising: A Global Movement of Transformation and Meaning with Ken Wilber, Erwin Laszlo, Bill Plotkin  and others. He also serves as adjunct faculty at John F. Kennedy University in the Consciousness and Transformation Studies program. He has taught at the California Institute Of Integral Studies, Green Gulch Zen Center, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Open Circle, Bay Area Integral, The Nondual Wisdom & Mental Health Conference, iEvolve, San Quentin State Penitentiary, Marina Counseling Center, and iRest Institute.

Jonathan says, “When we all have the opportunity to live our calling, we can support our collective true purpose: to become co-creators of our species’ evolution. We may, thus, give birth to more beauty, truth and goodness into the world.”

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