It’s hard to take a guy who wears a lace headband and a purple orchid in his hair seriously, especially when he’s telling you how to become gluten intolerant and “ultra spiritual.” And if you’re confused whether JP Sears wants you to believe him or not, that’s just the way he likes it. The soft-spoken, ginger-headed, Youtube self-help guru is such a master of dry, deadpan comedy that it’s difficult to tell when he’s poking fun at the culture of life coaching versus when he really wants you to connect with your inner child—but, as he’ll tell you, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to do both at the same time.
Sears, a veteran “emotional healing coach” with a legit clinical background, is redefining what a granola, gluten-free, hippie can be, using humor to (in his words) “till the soil for a more sincere seed to be planted in [your] heart.” The 36 year-old star of such viral videos as “If Meat Eaters Acted Like Vegans” visited Onnit HQ recently to talk spirituality, healing, and just who the hell he really is.
In his late teens he began a search for something more. Something more than status and achievement. He just felt an emptiness inside, like there has to be more. He sure as heck didn’t know what he was searching for when he began but thought his mind started to open.
This lack of meaning he felt inside got him to open his eyes to what else life might offer. From there he encountered some important mentors who opened him up to the spiritual world, which he would define as the world beyond the five senses.
He was raised pretend Catholic. His mother was Catholic and wanted his sister and him to be Catholic to please her parents because that’s how she was raised. But his dad was an atheist. So there was a nice balance. He got a taste of spirituality but not the kind of overwhelming dogma that can be traumatizing. The answer would be that he was very emotionally disconnected as a child and through his teenage years, and probably still to this day—although he's working on it. He think the emotional disconnection really created a sense of emptiness—if he's not connected to himself, of course I felt empty.
He would disconnect from emotions because he was trying to be the stable one in the family. He's not allowed to be afraid or angry or sad because he need to be the one who brings balance and stability to the family. He needed to take care of mom and dad. But what that really was was he not giving myself permission to be a child, and one of the important, beautiful gifts of being a child is being connected to your emotions
Paul Chek [founder of the world famous C.H.E.K. Institute] was his first mentor. At first, he was interested in exercise and nutrition, so he sought out Paul. That was in 2001. At the time he wasn’t really open about his spiritual beliefs and teachings, so it was a surprise when I started learning spirituality from him—how people’s emotional health would heavily impact their physical health. His interest in him through exercise and nutrition was essentially the gluten-free breadcrumb trail that got me interested in the subtle aspects of life, like emotional health and spirituality. He was the messenger who could deliver it to me. I saw Paul at the time as a rock star.
If some boring-looking dude in a suit had shown up and started talking about emotions, I would have said “Whatever. I don’t want to hear about it.” But when it’s Paul Chek, I thought, “Yes, I DO want to hear about it,” because he found him very interesting.
The next mentor he had was John McMullin [journeysofwisdom.com], and he’s more directly all about emotional healing. He’s an amazing person—an angel inside of a human body. I learned how to work with people at the heart level. How to resolve pain, wounding, trauma, self-sabotage, and self-imposed limitations. The most integral part of my journey, of course, has been working on myself.
He was 21. He had been working with Paul Chek so his mind was open but his heart hadn’t quite arrived yet. It arrived on December 3. It was the afternoon of his first class with John McMullin. He’s very intuitive and he saw through the stoic façade he had—the “I have everything put together in my life.” This was such a persistent façade that he thought it was real. I thought this is how he was, so strong, stable, and put together. He hadn’t cried for at least six years before that day, probably longer.
John brought up a time when he was seven and my parents were going through a separation and his sister was relying on him as a father figure. John brought up questions that made him look at that and realize how tough that was for him and he really hated it but he started to connect to emotions. He started bawling his eyes out and that was so unnerving for him because who he thought he was was suddenly shattered. It’s not what he wanted but it really was what he needed. He opened his heart to emotions, unresolved pain. It initiated an ongoing journey to connect emotionally to who he really is.
A very common example is when people show up and they’re depressed or dealing with pain. He’ll ask, “How are you benefitting from this pain and depression?” Of course, it’s easy for them to say, “I’m not. I hate it.” Yes, part of you hates it, and how does part of you potentially love it so much and find so much comfort through the recurring discomfort of it that you won’t let it heal? How might that be possible?H
He will challenge them to find the more deeply-rooted pain. I help them create awareness and ask specific questions. A lot of time it goes back to childhood. That’s what causes our blockages. So I help them reframe childhood experiences.
People should probably definitely not live the way that he thinks they should live. They should live based on their calling. As a generalization, I think meaning and a sense of purpose in life comes when we’re willing to explore mystery. He or she who’s willing to step deeper into mystery will always find more meaning relative to if they stay in their comfort zone. Become a curious student of life who’s willing to move toward discomfort and challenge him or herself rather than avoid discomfort. This challenge is hopefully physical and mental.
Some big-time athletes get addicted to challenging themselves only physically. They’ll do amazing things but that might be a defense mechanism to avoid things psychologically. Then there are people who are really tapped into their heart and they completely bypass the fact that they’re in a human body too that deserves to be challenged. When we grow we realize more of the magnitude of what we already are and always have been. Our awareness expands when we’re willing to embrace discomfort.
This audio interview was recorded shortly after the Icon and teacher Ram Dass had left his body. Ram Dass had a big effect on JP Sears as he had on a whole generation of folk.