Who is Thomas McConkie?
Thomas has such an incredible story. After dealing with severe anxiety and depression, he found his solace through deep levels of meditation. This journey took him to incredible roads where he saw that human rights issues could never be resolved until the human heart was made right. Diving deep within and finding his purpose, he created the Lower Lights Online course, a series of lessons intended to help us find rest in the present moment. Hope you enjoy the podcast!
Mindful meditation is a powerful practice that amazes anybody who approaches, and which benefits have been recognized by scientists and non. Nonetheless, starting to practice meditation without the right guidance, compassion, and encouragement can be challenging.
And so, we all, in a way, look for others’ experiences with the practice or for a mentor that can help us further the depth of our practice. And that, maybe, is why you have discovered Lower Lights and its founder – Thomas McConkie. Let’s find out more about him.
Founder of Lower Lights School of Wisdom
Thomas McConkie’s life has been revolutionized through the discovery of mindful practices and meditation.
The practice has set him on the right path to fight anxiety and depression, and, finally, heal the wounds inflicted by a challenging past. In his journey of discovery, Thomas McConkie understood the practice of meditation a little better and developed a better way for individuals to introduce this practice in their lives and find rest in the present moment.
Past and Background
Raised in a Latter-Day Saint household in Salt Lake City, Utah, Thomas has experienced life in a deeply religious family. However, just after turning 18, young Thomas met Buddhism and set sail on a journey that would change his viewpoint on life and allow him to discover the power of meditation.
After falling out with his family, Thomas traveled the world and met an order of Zen Buddhists who introduced him to the practice of meditation and its benefits. By learning how to steady his mind, Thomas started to understand that wisdom and freedom can be accessed through the stillness of body and mind.
Life-Changing Experiences and Inspiration
After a brief introduction to this mindful practice, Thomas wanted to find the best teachers around him, anywhere he went. And, in just a few years, he started to experience deep healing and transformation.
When looking at exploring this practice even further, Thomas discovered the school of Western developmental psychology and the adult development approach. This method helped him make sense of the experiences he had lived and the transformation he completed through regular meditation practice.
As he starts to blend together the power of meditation and the adult development approach, Thomas starts better to understand the transformative power of such a method.
One Mission – Finding Rest, Unity, and Compassion in the Present Moment
After 13 years of traveling, experimenting, and discovering, Thomas returned to his hometown — Salt Lake City. The city, which is founded on religious beliefs and represented, for him, such a devastating cause of pain, was now offering him the chance to integrate the teachings and lessons he had learned.
The experiences lived by Thomas sparked curiosity across his friends, who wished to know more about his life-changing experiences. And so, a small community started to gather. This community has not stopped growing since, and hundreds of people coming from several backgrounds and walks of life have joined the meditation sessions.
Today, the community has transformed and has become ready to help and welcome an increasing number of people. Participants have the chance to gather information about meditative traditions and techniques from around the world. And thanks to the deep knowledge about adult development approaches, Thomas and Lower Lights can today offer rituals, practices, and techniques that can help the community members to find rest through mindfulness.
Lower Lights – A Compassionate Community Built Around Mindfulness
The practices and frameworks introduced and experimented during the sessions of the Lower Lights community transcend religion and cultural backgrounds. They are designed to enhance both individuality and community unification, and they are complementary to the beliefs you now hold.
The Mission and Vision
Lower Lights aims to support positive transformation, enhance restfulness, and nourish body and mind. The community, along with Thomas McConkie and the highly qualified team of doctors and experts at his side, promotes unification, mindfulness, integration, and contemplation.
Lower Lights offers a unique blend of approaches based on adult development methods and mindful meditation practice. A combination of the two means that members of the community can focus on healing their minds and encourage positive inner transformation — all this while developing themselves further and understanding the link between all members of the community.
Ultimately, Lower Lights presents itself as a community for meditation and mindfulness, without putting any limits on who can join. If you wish to transform your inner self, improve your relationships with others, and alleviate the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression, this community can help you find the support you need to set sail on your own life-changing journey.
Thomas McConkie Podcast Transcription
Charan: What’s going on guys, this is Charan Prabhakar with the Lemonade Stand podcast, and I’m here with Thomas McConkie. Thomas and I have just met very recently and immediately were like, okay, we are soul brothers. We connect on a level that is so deep, and it is so meditative, if you will. It’s been awesome just to get to know you man.
Thomas: I feel the same. Thanks man.
Charan: Yeah I know, it’s so great. Thomas has created, you could say, a course called the Lower Lights. It’s all about… I guess you could say, mindfulness and meditation and using those type of principles to help you deal with anxiety and stress in the daily work that you’re doing, but also allow you to have more soul into what you’re doing, right?
Charan: And really chaining your personal heart so you’re not doing things just for the motion of doing things, but actually have real intent and real power behind everything. Truthfully, I really believed, as I’ve been going through the course, it really is the secret to joy and happiness. It’s great because we belong to a community in Utah here that is… From a religious aspect. A lot of people here are LDS — members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ,to be clear. I know Thomas you belong to that faith and so do I.
Charan: It’s been interesting because I’ve also noticed that a lot of members of our faith, and I don’t know why this is the case and maybe some place is more than others, but I’ve noticed that a lot of them are full of stress and very unhappy. Which is contradictory almost because we keep talking about the plan of happiness and the plan of joy and yet I see miserable people all over the place.
Charan: I know, Thomas, you were one of them. You suffered from anxiety for a while. I’d like to talk a little bit about that journey. Then some of the work you did: you were mentioning you were in China and you did some work over there and that really lit your mind up and said, Okay, there are things that need to be done from our own perspective.
Thomas: Yeah, totally.
Charan: So Thomas, thanks man for joining me and I’d love to hear a little bit more about your path into entrepreneurship.
Thomas: Yeah, for sure. Happy to be here, Charan. Thanks for the introduction. I was a troubled youth and had clinical anxiety, depression, insomnia. Just wasn’t in great health. My interior life, my emotional life. Just mentally I wasn’t… You could say, firing on all cylinders. I was underperforming. Without getting into all the contributing factors of that growing up, I realized — by the time I was 18, I moved out and I started going to college — and I realized I can barely do my laundry let alone keep up with my college classes.
Thomas: I thought I need something to really take care of myself. Out of nowhere I thought, well, I’ve heard of meditation before. What’s that about? I got curious about it. I was lucky to meet some really great teachers early on. Just like a fish to water, I just took to it and I’ve been meditating every day over 20 years now so it changed my life.
Charan: That is just crazy because people’s environments, a lot of times, I guess as a reason for some of the anxiety that we go through, depression and feeling like we’re not good enough, feeling like we’re not worthy. Having too many expectations in the future or having things that you’re thinking, this has to happen a certain way. When they don’t and the rule book or the checklist of stuff that you expect to have happened in your life doesn’t happen, you can slip, right? Did you feel like some of those things were happening in your own life before meditation found your way into life?
Thomas: For sure, like every everything you just named and more. We could have a whole conversation about my specific challenges. A lot of it had to do with just being caught in the thinking mind. Disappointments from the past, anxieties about the future and how do I learn to just rest in myself because when we rest in ourselves, in the present moment, we realize there’s just this great fullness, a fullness of possibility. We can create from that place. That’s really what I learned over the years. Once we learned to really rest in the present moment, we have the fullness of possibilities at our fingertips to express ourselves creatively in the world.
Charan: Gosh, I love… Oh my gosh. Dude, I could talk to you about this forever.
Thomas: Me too. I love it. I love talking about it.
Charan: Because here’s the thing. You mentioned you were caught up in the thinking mind, right? The mind of narratives. Now, it’s interesting because… I’m a big movie guy. I make movies and TV shows, act. That’s what I do. I tell stories. I tell stories for a living, right? When I go to a movie theater, if it’s a good movie and everything, I get sucked into that movie. The anxieties of that character, I feel. The pains, the struggles, but then their triumphs as well. If they have great triumphs, I feel joy and euphoric within myself.
Charan: Then I leave the movie theater and I’m like, wow, that was good. That was great. That was awesome or whatever it was. But I do know, I have left the movie theater behind. Right? That story’s behind me now. But in our own lives, I feel like we’re in that same narrative. We’re still in the movie. We’re still living in the movie. What you said about resting in the present moment, so many people are not at rest, man. It’s crazy that you have, I don’t know, discover that for yourself.
Thomas: Yeah, totally. Well, I love your analogy. It’s a really apt one. I think the difference between the movie theater analogy in our own lives is that most of us don’t know how to leave our own movie theater. We’re trapped in our movie, and the ups and downs of the drama. I think what a mindfulness practice teaches us is that it’s a wonderful thing to be able to take a vacation from ourselves and our stores. Then we feel real freedom and we can come from a place of real abundance and power in our lives.
Charan: So, can you walk me through a little bit of, you said you discovered meditation. How was that process for you? How was it like when you first meditated, realized what am I doing?
Thomas: Yeah, it’s miserable. I mean, starting meditation was really difficult. This was in the 90s. I mean, now, one who starts a practice has a lot more support, I think, and even friends and culture and different things we can rely on. At the time I was just an oddball. I didn’t know any meditators. I just was struggling through it and checking out with my teachers who kept me on course, but it was really difficult. I think every day for 10 years I had just this stream of thoughts like, you’re no good at this. I don’t even… Who are you kidding. You can’t meditate.
Thomas: But I remember, this is significant. I think anyone listening is totally poised to have the same experience. After a while, that voice that was saying, You’re no good at this; you’re doing it wrong — one day it’s like it exploded into smithereens. That voice, that story, “You’re doing it wrong,” exploded. I realized that not only did I have that voice going about my meditation practice, in my whole life there’s this voice saying, You’re doing it wrong.
Thomas: Once that voice exploded, once I stepped out of the movie theater of that narrative, it was like, there’s no such thing as doing it wrong. If I do it wrong, then I learned, which is doing it right which means I can’t fail. So I came out of life feeling like, I can’t fail if I just experiment. If I just take risks I’ll learn and grace will pick me back up and I’ll keep going. So I just developed this huge confidence from the practice.
Charan: That’s amazing. I like to call it the inner roommate, right?
Charan: The chattering monkey. We’ve all heard of that. Where it’s like, constantly going, going, going, but what made that voice explode? Has it ever come back?
Thomas: Well, yeah. The voice comes back. The only difference is… If it’s a roommate, it’s like, oh, I had a roommate for 10 years and the longer we lived together, the more we realized we weren’t meant to live together. This relationship isn’t working out. But that roommate, he moved across the country. He moved to Florida, but every once in a while he’ll come by and visit, but I know he’ll visit us. I’ll know that. Okay, I can do lunch with you, but I can’t live with you anymore. I can be nice. I can be friendly, but you’re not running the show anymore [inaudible 00:11:05].
Charan: That’s amazing man. So you went through this beautiful practice of meditation, and 10 years you kept at it, which is a long time to be frustrated with yourself, but then realizing, oh, wait a minute, maybe it’s not me being frustrated at all. It was my roommate telling me how bad this is.
Charan: Then he destroyed you or he was gone. He left.
Thomas: Yeah, like a soap bubble. Just one moment, it’s like…
Thomas: My world was so quiet. Never been so quiet in that moment and it showed me a whole new side to my humanity.
Thomas McConkie Talks About His Work in China
Charan: Now, you also mentioned you have done a lot of work in China and stuff. Can you talk a little bit about some of that work?
Thomas: Well yeah, I mean, part… So, I was learning to meditate from the time I was 18 years old. I made my way through school. I moved to Europe after I graduated. Basically I was in a Spanish-speaking environment and I also studied abroad in China so I learned Chinese. Those two came together in an interesting way. In my late 20s, I started working in human rights, and I would tour sweatshops across the world. My specialty areas were China because of my language skills, as well as Central and South America because of my Spanish.
Thomas: I started working in human rights, and I was interested in global supply chains and where do our T-shirts and our lamps and our computers come from. I got really interested in the global political economic system. But I realized after years of working in human rights, particularly in China, that the reason these problems exist is because we haven’t had a collective change of heart within. If we had a collective change of heart as humanity, we would take care of these problems before they came up. We would treat each other better.
Thomas: It’s like, my attempt to move from my inner life of meditation to “I’m going to do something in the world” and working in human rights which I thought called to… realized, okay, that’s good too. We want drinking water in the developing world. We want human rights, et cetera. But if we haven’t changed within, we’re going to keep creating the same problems. We’re going to keep living the same collective story and nothing’s going to change.
Thomas: I saw these practices come together. You mentioned this on the introduction. I love the line from the hermetic tradition, from The Emerald Tablet, “As within, so without.” It goes on, “As above, so below.” As within so without, et cetera. If we don’t genuinely transform from within, we’ll keep creating the same world without. How do we do both of those? How do we genuinely transform from within so that we can do powerful work together to change the world? In Christian terms to “build the kingdom?”
Charan: It’s so interesting because without even studying a lot of this stuff, these type of things used to always come to me. I used to always think, what if this outside world is just a reflection of what’s going on in our hearts? I would always think that and I don’t know why I would think that, I just kept feeling what if that’s the case? Then I would also tell people, imagine that in your heart there’s a well and whatever is inside that well is what is going to be shared with the world and what will come back to you as well.
Charan: If your well, if there’s darkness in there, there’s fear in there, that’s what’s going to come out. But if there’s love and there’s joy in there, that’s what will come out and that’s what will come back to you.
Thomas: Absolutely. Yeah.
Charan: I think it’s interesting, because these truths are taught in all these different facets of life, like in Buddhism or Hinduism. But even in the LDS tradition, there are different versions of the exact same thing, right? So it’s like, how do we collectively discover these truths and internalize them? How have you been able to do that? Because you’re the mix of both worlds. You’ve got to figure out a way to blend them all together and work it all aligned.
Thomas: Well yeah, it’s an interesting question. I mean, I love my Christian and LDS roots. I’m also grateful for their global education I got, because learning how to meditate in different traditions, including the Hindu tradition, Buddhist tradition, et cetera, I really learned the fundamentals of what is meditation. I learned that oh, actually human beings seem to have been doing this forever. There’s no point in human civilization where there wasn’t this rich, meditative contemplative tradition.
Thomas McConkie Talks About Meditation and Prayer
Thomas: Once I got the fundamentals down, and I took a new look, I looked at Christianity with new eyes, I realized this whole tradition is meditative. But it’s gone a little bit underground. It’s especially been… Since I moved back from China about 10 years ago, I thought, wouldn’t it be amazing if locally in our own communities we developed our own expression? What does meditation and prayer look like to us in this parts of the culture? I’m still just really captivated by that question.
Charan: Well, that’s a great question. What does it look like to you?
Thomas: Well, what it looks like to me? We’ve touched on the very heart of it which is in terms of principles, there are two basic movements to a life of meditation. Sometimes we stay around here, praying always. What that looks like is we have to learn how to transcend. That means, in the language we’ve used, we got to learn how to walk outside of the movie theater and get quiet. If we’re just stuck in our stories all day, we won’t be open, we won’t be receptive to higher inspiration.
Thomas: We have to figure out how to be really open to that higher intuition and inspiration. Once we receive something, once we receive something genuine, we have to learn how to express it in the world. It’s not enough to just get a download from God or the universe;, we have to build it. I think what the universe gives are blueprints kind of thing. The plan doesn’t come pre-built. That’s what we’re here for. We got to learn to build it. To me, that’s the essence of the practice. We open ourselves to inspiration. We act on it, we manifest it. We build it together. That’s the shorthand for what it’s all about.
Charan: Well, I love that, because it’s a very active process. Sometimes when we look at meditation and stuff, people have the idea of saying, oh, then we don’t do anything. We just be still and we’re quiet and contemplative and we don’t do anything. But that’s not it at all. It’s one part.
Thomas: Yeah, that’s right.
Charan: We got to get the stillness. Feeling full and whole ourselves and then we go out and we do.
Thomas: Exactly just like you, a moment ago, you said what if the outer world is a reflection of our inner world? They’re actually the same thing at the end of the day. It’s the same thing. What we think of as being really passive in meditation, actually being very passive in meditation is being very active. Because if we’re passively receiving those blueprints, it’s what brings about all of this activity. We learn to bring these opposites together. That’s another principle that’s really unique to my tradition that I’m grateful for, this sensibility around there’s an opposition in all things. A meditation prayer practice is about how do we bring these seeming opposites together, inside, outside, active, passive, et cetera. Some quite an adventure.
Charan: No, I think it’s so fascinating and amazing, because first off, one of the things I discovered when I got into acting was, I noticed in me that there was a need for me to book parts. When I was first getting into acting, especially in LA and frankly during those times, I wasn’t booking anything. I was trying so hard. I would go into the audition and I would just bomb it, just bomb it all the time. It was getting depressive. But then I started realizing, wait a minute, is there some sort of need in me to book a part? I’m I defined by that? Do I need that for me to be successful in life or to feel happy about myself?
Charan: Again, for lack of a better word, I didn’t even realize it was meditation. I didn’t even think it was meditation, but I started going deep within myself and praying and feeling, you could say God’s love for me. I could feel this flow of energy and this joy in me. I was resting in the moment, you could say. The truth was, as I was doing that, I found that I was so complete and whole. I needed nothing on the outside to give me a sense of completion and wholeness I was feeling.
Charan: Then I remember going to auditions and laughing because I was like, wow, before I would feel this desperate need to book this audition. But I don’t have that need at all. I’m going because this is a great opportunity and it’s fun but whatever happens, doesn’t matter. I’m feeling so good about myself already. It’s great. Funny enough, when I was in that space, I was always booking. They just kept coming to me. Gigs just kept coming. I wasn’t chasing after anything. I thought that was an interesting lesson I learned and I’ve definitely applied that same principle to life right now.
Thomas: Absolutely, it’s a beautiful testimonial of one of the principles of prayer meditation. When we’re in a place of fullness, we do things out of a sense of fullness, not out of neediness. People can feel or grab the energy when we’re feeling desperate and I need you to complete me. Nothing repels people more than that. But when we-
Charan: [crosstalk 00:21:39]. I’ll tell you that for sure.
Thomas: I’ve had experience of that, too, but when we tap into this inner wellspring of just… It’s just like this fountain ever on. There’s no end to it, then people feel our generosity and they’re like, I want to be around you. I want to work with you. I just want to hang out. It changes everything.
Charan: It really does. It’s so great. Let’s talk a little bit about how this course came to be. I’m so curious because you’re like… I feel like this need, this desire to actually enlighten people.
Thomas: Totally, Lower Lights, the company I formed, it’s a nonprofit organization and a community. It just grew. You described just the scene of booking gigs in LA. For me, it was moving back from China and just opening my door, literally to my home. Anybody could walk in on a Wednesday night and I’ll teach you what I’ve learned over the last 20 years kind of thing. It just grew and grew and grew into a community and an organization that I run. I’m really passionate about it.
Thomas: Then another foundation, the Faith Matters Foundation, they approached me and they said, “Hey, what if you just tried to put this all into a curriculum? It’s an online course. Anybody anywhere can do it.” So I took on the challenge and I just went deep into myself. I thought what are the principles? What are the most important aspects of this transformative journey that I could lay down on some video for people? This was my attempt to do it. I look back on it a week from now, a year from now, 10 years from now and be like, I could do better.
Thomas: This is my best attempt to now and I’m excited to share it with people to help them get a glimpse of just what a wealthy inheritance we all have as human and spiritual beings. There’s just so much potential and possibility. To be a human being is just a miracle in and of its self.
Charan: It is miracle, man. It’s funny because… People, it’s not that they’re put off. They’re just in awe, but I am a pretty happy guy. It’s refreshing for people to see that, but they’re like, wait, why are you so happy? I’ve had this question happen to me before. People ask me this. Why are you so happy? I just am. I just feel like this insane amount of joy. I still feel the magic in the air. Like that awe that you had as a kid. I still have a lot of that, those tendencies and I try to share that magic with people as much as I can. They’re a little confused, but then they’re like, okay let’s go for it. Let’s have fun.
Thomas McConkie Talks About Learning How to Learn
Charan: I don’t know, it just makes me happy. It makes me feel like I’m alive. But in your course, how would you say… What do you say are the main principles or like… Give me a bullet point of certain things that you’re discussing there that you’re like, these are important things for people to know.
Thomas: Yeah, I’ll run through… I’m going to find, if any are interesting we can talk more about them, but where I started in the courses, we have a very recent and western notion that the way to learn things is through concepts and ingesting ideas to the mind. That’s a great way to learn. We should still do that but what about the way the heart learns? What about the way the body learns? Can we learn how to learn from more parts of ourselves so that we can be more?
Thomas: Even the way we approach learning, it’s a body-mind-spirit kind of approach different than what we learn in schools. That sets the foundation and from there, I talk about just the classic principle across all cultures. We need to learn how to really study the mind. If we’re going to go deep within ourselves, we have to learn to let the mind be very still and that for us… It’s like an image I love. I can’t remember when… It’s something like the deep-field photograph from the Hubble Space Telescope was taken years ago. They took this super powerful telescope and they just shot it at a small piece of sky and left it there for days. But the telescope was so powerful, and it rested there so steadily that after a few days, they got this image back of just countless galaxies.
Thomas: Yeah, it’s an amazing photograph. It’s really a pinnacle of human achievement to actually image that. But to me, it’s a metaphor for if we learn to study the mind and just gaze at what we love, and what we care about most, that’s how we receive deep revelation and inspiration to live the kinds of lives we’re meant to live. We need to learn to concentrate would be the simple way of saying that. Then from there, I build on that, how do we concentrate from the heart? How do we live a life from the heart? I call these heart skills. We all have them. We’re all geniuses at it, I believe, as human beings. But we’re not necessarily brought up in a divinity school to learn how to really hone the instrument of the heart, and so on and so forth.
Thomas: I guess one more thing I would mention is I’ve been doing research in developmental psychology now for about 10 years. This modern science tells us a lot about what nutrients are very vital to us as adults at different stages of our growth and our development. I really bring that to bear on the curriculum as well. I think for most people that’s quite surprising to learn about, wow I’m an adult, I thought kids develop but then when I hit adulthood, we’re all just adults but really we know of more stages in adulthood now than we used to know about in childhood. That’s how sophisticated the mind is in our ongoing development. I weave that all together and I hope that it sparks people’s imagination.
Charan: Well it’s so great because like you said, we have been taught to learn from the mind. That’s how we study things and do things. But opening up your heart, opening up your body, opening up to say, hey this is how… Your body experience this this way, or your heart experiences this this way, I think it’s a beautiful way. But the interesting thing is, you are helping people relearn how to experience life differently.
Thomas: For sure.
Charan: And experience life in a much more full way and a much more joyous way. I truly believe that what people are really looking for more than anything is to have more life right now. That sense of joy, that sense of energy right now. We do all kinds of things. We buy a new car or we get a new house. We seek for all these different things to fulfill that inner need of life and joy right now, right?
Charan: It’s cool. I mean, I’m not negating any of those things. Those are great and hey, if those things bring value to you then that’s fantastic, right?
Charan: At the same time, the truths of finding that life in us doesn’t cost money. It requires work, but it doesn’t cost money. It’s something that can be done right here, right now. Activating those things within you can help you feel that life, enjoy right now.
Thomas: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, just to stop on that. As an example, I totally agree. We were born to be joyful. What is it that obscures that basic nature and basic disposition to be joyful? For example, I need to buy a new car right now. Let’s use the car example. Many of us will go through life making this mistake that it’s getting that new job or getting into that new relationship or buying the new car. Whatever that will make us happy. But if we look really closely at that, we realize okay if the relationship were the thing that I needed and was going to make me happy, then I should be just as happy a year later, 10 years later, 50 years later. The car, my new iPhone, I should be just as happy in 10 years from now as I am today.
Thomas: But when we look closely, we realize wasn’t the iPhone that made me happy, it was that moment of I acquired something and I felt this relief of calling off the search. For that split second, I stopped searching for something outside of myself. I felt this inflow of joy. We make the mistake, we think it was the thing that made us happy. So we get more things, right? Part of this practice is to just fall back behind all that drama. To let go of that story of acquiring. Realizing that if we can just fall behind it all, there’s just this inner spring, this wellspring of joy, and there’s no beginning or end to it. That’s where life starts.
Charan: Dude, that is deep man. That’s deep. The thing is… I love that, though, because it’s true. Before the acquiring, there was the search, right? The search stem from feeling, oh maybe I was never good enough so I’m searching for something. I need something. But when you realize when you call the search off, because you’re like, whoa, I am fulfilled. I am fulfilling the joys right now, the search stops automatically.
Thomas: Then back to connect the dots, then you’re in that place where you were booking your gigs in LA. It’s like, if I’m not searching for anything, I’m already full. If I’m already full, I’m good. No matter what happens, I’m good. Then life starts working in a way. It starts flowing in a way it never did before. Because we’re already free.
Charan: So really, in a sense your course can help people set them free?
Thomas: That’s all I want. That’s what I want to share with people. I’m limited. I can only share it as well as I can share it, but I do my best to share it in the way I know how and hope for those who find it they’ll take something from it.
Thomas McConkie Talks About Living in an Uncertain World
Charan: No, that is so great. That’s fantastic. So, shifting topics a little bit, entrepreneurs and creators right now, as they’re creating in a world that’s so uncertain, full of anxiety, full of stress, full of worry. Maybe some dream that they had fell by the wayside because COVID took those dreams away. How would you help people like that? How would you help them to release that anxiety? I’m asking you so many questions I apologize. Answer this and then I’ll ask you the next one.
Thomas: Well, sure. I mean, my experience… I’m classified as a social or even a spiritual entrepreneur. I don’t know about this titles, but I’ll say in my experience, this happened almost 10 years ago where I was just in one of those states of being very present and open, I got this… I had this impulse. But it was like a revelation really that I received. It said, go and read this book. Actually for those listening, you know what it was. It was actually the Doctrine and Covenants, which is cornerstone body of scripture in the LDS faith.
Thomas: I got the download, I got the blueprints, and I was like, “I’ve read the D&C; I don’t want to read that again.” Immediately my mind jumped into, That’s stupid.
Charan: That really came back [inaudible 00:33:30].
Thomas: But the glimpse was powerful enough. I’m like, well, just in case, I’ll do it. The more I got into it, my life just started to open up from there. I just started to see new things. What I learned in this process, this eventually turned into a book I wrote. It became the organization I founded. The lesson I learned was, we tend to be very judgmental about the personal inspiration we receive. We have judgments about and think… We’re like, No one’s going to care about that if I do that. That’s not that big of a deal. I want to start the next Airbnb. I don’t want to go read some books.
Thomas: We might not realize it, but we’re just addicted comparing ourselves to other people’s success. But if we go really deep, right to the heart of our soul, and we receive inspiration that’s just for us, whatever life we end up living will be boundlessly joyful. That’s what I learned. It was like, being an entrepreneur was synonymous with being willing to be myself.
Thomas: That’s what it’s been for me. I believe if people really come to be themselves, they will feel successful beyond their wildest imaginations.
Charan: That’s so interesting you’re saying that, because I remember even when COVID hit, I was doing a lot of praying and meditation and stuff. I don’t know, I was like, I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know what my direction is. I’m so confused right now. I’ve kept getting inspiration… Funny enough, I kept getting inspiration to go and have more fun. I’m like, What? Okay. No, I need to find work. I need to find a job. That’s what I need to be doing. The inspiration was like, Nope, go have more fun. Go do it. I’m like, All right. What do I do for fun? I had to think about it for a second.
Charan: I really enjoy playing tennis and so I was like, I’m going to go play tennis; that’s fun. I started hiking more because that was fun. I started thinking, Why is it so important that I have more fun? I realized, when I’m having more fun, I am way more authentic. I’m not trying to convince myself, I’m not trying to be anything other than who I already am. I’m just having fun. I’m enjoying the moment and resting and having a great time. Interestingly enough, while I was having fun and doing all those things, I suddenly thought, Hey, why don’t I just start interviewing people on Zoom? Just having a fun time, it’ll be great. I can just get to see what people are up to.
Charan: It was a personal thing I was doing just for the fun of it. That led into now me being the host of the Lemonade Stand podcast. Something that I was not even searching for, at all. It just came to me very naturally. So authentic, being very authentic, was the key to this whole process.
Thomas: Totally. Exactly and it’s so nonlinear. If you went and got an MBA, they would not tell you that if you want to start your next business, you should play more tennis. But that’s what unlocked your life. Part of this course and part of the teachings and trainings that I offer at Lower Lights, it’s really with this intention to help bring people back to themselves and to listen deeply, to read the scriptures of their own lives, so to speak. What is my life telling me to do right now? It’s hard to create from that place. It’s vulnerable, because no one’s ever gone that way before. There’s no evidence that I’m going to be successful at it. It’s also a scary path to walk, but we can do it together.
Thomas McConkie Talks About Anxiety and Depression
Charan: Yeah. Absolutely. You mentioned it being a scary path. What are some of your own struggles you’ve had as you’ve been building this business?
Thomas: Well, I mean, I mentioned the moment I got this glimpse of I should do this. I’m like, Oh, that’s a stupid idea. Who cares about that? Just this thought of, It’s not big enough; it’s not grand enough. That was a challenge. Speaking of stories, speaking of the roommate who feeds those lines, I think my story was… Because I was working in human rights before, I want to solve global problems. World hunger, that’s noble. Human rights, that’s noble. Reading the Doctrine and Covenants in my little neighborhood and teaching meditation, that’s not noble. But it was my willingness to be small that, actually, was the doorway into bigness.
Thomas: Not living big in terms of, there was a neon sign flashing that “Thomas McConkie is amazing.” Big like… Spiritually big. My presence felt big and I felt blessed continually. The need to be big was a real hang-up for me that I had to just work through and let go. Now being small is big and I love it.
Charan: That’s amazing man. I love that. Where do you think anxiety, worry, depression comes from? I mean, I get there’s the issue of you could have an actual chemical imbalance. That might not be anything you can really do other than medication. I understand that completely. But I think there’s a lot of people that really do suffer from… Overly being stressed, overly anxious. Not having a heart that’s open. Maybe their heart has been hurt so much it closed and that’s it.
Thomas: I appreciate you mentioning the medical perspective because there… I think there are a lot of important perspectives on where depression, anxiety, et cetera, come from. Let me offer one perspective that I think is relevant to us in this conversation. I think of a teacher named David Deida who wrote, “Our ungiven gifts clench as stress.” Our ungiven gifts, our unoffered gifts, clench as stress. Meaning, if I’m not giving the best of my unique self to the world, then part of me is just going to know that and I’m going to clench as stress. Something in me is going to say, You know what? Each breath you’re wasting, each day you’re wasting, you’re not giving what you were put here to give.
Thomas: In the world of perspectives on anxiety and depression, I find that a powerful remedy to that particular kind of stress is to give the best of ourselves and be honest about what we feel we’re here to give.
Charan: Man, I love that. I love that, because it’s like… Understanding who you are, understanding that, oh my gosh, I’m capable. I know I’m capable of so much more and I’m not able to share it, that would definitely fill me with a sense of angst and anxiety and stress up… Makes me not able to sleep at night, right?
Thomas: Yeah, you’re a living example of that. I know just from the interactions we’ve had, you exude that energy of “It’s not good enough to have a job.” This is a privileged conversation by the way. For some people, they don’t have the luxury or the privilege to ask, What is work really? But if we have the privilege of asking what work is for them as entrepreneurs, our job is to create the work we love. Because we don’t want to withhold that from the world. We have spiritual gifts to offer the world. Entrepreneurship enterprises are our way of creating our unique offering in the world, in the marketplace, and blessing people with that. That’s how I look at it.
Charan: That’s a great way to look at it. It really is because the thing is, it really is all about creating, right. When you’re authentic with yourself and creating that what you were meant to create, you really feel the sense of joy and the sense of well being and the sense of yes. Thank you, this is it, this is why I was here. Right?
Thomas: Exactly. People’s offerings will be different. Some people will build an organization that will go global and make billions of dollars and that’s a blessing. Other people will just cultivate a garden in their backyard. They will put so much heart and soul into it that the entire world will fill that heart and soul. We’re called to build different things, but we’re all called to build.
Charan: Have you ever heard of Coral Castle? Have you heard of this?
Charan: I’m going to butcher the guy’s name. I feel bad even saying this. He’s this gentleman from Hungary. Back in the 1900s something, he was engaged. He was going to be married. He happened to be a stonemason. Small guy, really small guy. I mean, I think he was 5′ 6″ or so. Maybe weighed a little over 100 pounds. He was a very tiny person. Anyway, I think his name was Ed and a last name that I can’t pronounce, unfortunately. But he was going to be married. Then the night before, she called it off.
Charan: I don’t know if it was the parents that made her do it. She was a young girl. She was only 16. He was 19. I don’t know what it was. But he was devastated of course and he left. He left Hungary and moved to America, moved to Florida. He said he’s going to build a castle for her. Okay. He’s going to build a castle for her. He built this beautiful rock castle. I think ’til to this date, no one knows how he did it. Because the rocks each weighed six to 30 tons and it’s just one guy.
Charan: They don’t know if he had extra tools and stuff, but he was able to physically put these rocks in place in such perfect orchestrated designs and it’s so intricate. You can actually go and visit Coral Castle right now. I remember looking at him like, “Wait, what? How did he do this?” He had designed this door in such a way that it was balanced so perfectly that you could push it with one finger and it would easily spin on its axle. There was a point when he had to move it to a whole different location. He had a guy come with a huge truck bed and said, “You need to leave. I will take these rocks and put them on top of the bed for you.”
Charan: The guy came back and all these rocks were on top of the bed and he’s like, how in the world is this little guy moving these rocks that there’s no way you could lift. There’s just no way you could physically lift these rocks. He was pretty secretive about how he did it. He would work at night so no one could see him. He had the sixth sense about him that if anyone ever saw him, he would immediately stop working and stop doing what he was doing. He had this little black book that he was writing all these notes in and he would say stuff like, “I know how the pyramids were built. I understand that.” I’m like, What does he know? How does he know what he knows?
Charan: He had this ability to, I don’t know if it’s manipulate rock or the stone or however he did it, to make this beautiful castle for his princess. Unfortunately, never came and he ended up passing away and he kept the secrets with him. That was his contribution to the world. That’s what he did. It was a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Thomas: Here we are a century later magnetized by it. There’s still power and it’s alive.
Charan: Still alive.
Charan: So your offering to the world, it may never die. It may never die. If you can keep that… If you can keep your life in it and keep pushing it forward, that’s awesome, right?
Thomas: Yeah. Totally.
Thomas McConkie Talks About Finding Joy Amidst Chaos
Charan: I’m just going to wrap up with a couple questions. With this year being so uncertain, we have this big quarantine that came up, how do you personally find joy amidst all the chaos?
Thomas: Yeah, great question. Well, I feel really fortunate to have invested a lot in my own kind of spiritual life leading up to 2020. A really deep…, I’d say, principle and learning from this practice that I’ve been involved in for so many years is that what we call happiness is really only happiness if it’s beyond conditions. If our happiness is based on a condition, like “I feel happy about the numbers in my bank account; I feel happy about the status of my relationship, my reputation,” that’s not really happiness, at least in my own lexicon.
Thomas: The only real happiness is independent of conditions. It’s getting back to this place you and I have been speaking from and pointing to this whole conversation, if we can learn to rest within ourselves in that deep wellspring of truth and joy and life itself. Then the conditions like a kaleidoscope, they just tumble around us and they change. They’re always changing. The chips are up, the chips are down, but there’s an abiding sense of peace and joy in our heart. We know how to meet conditions when they’re very difficult. This year is quite difficult for many of us. We know how to celebrate when there’s cause to celebrate.
Thomas: I felt just a deep sense of peace and gratitude for the abundance of life lived from the heart this year. Even as my heart aches and breaks, the loss all around me. It’s been a little bit of how it’s impacted me.
Charan: No, it’s beautiful man. This week’s been a pretty interesting week. Good week for me too. Two days ago, I lost my really good friend. We knew he was going to pass away. He had cancer. It was just a matter of when. But this guy, he’s a bit older than me. He directed me in a movie and that’s how I got to know him, we became friends. We kept in really good touch and stuff, but always positive, always optimistic. Felt like he’s going to beat the cancer. He’s a fighter, he was so great. Even when he had conscious breath in him, and he was able to just do what he could do, his daughter sent me a picture of he and her, and he was smiling. He was looking at the camera and smiling. She even said that he remembered me and everything.
Charan: It’s just so crazy, because it’s weird to think he got to this point where just a year or two ago, I was having full conversations with him and everything was really great. Made me realize, when you are in that space, that wellspring of love that joy, it does not matter what conditions you’re going through right now. That abiding peace and that joy, can sustain you, can lift you up.
Thomas: Yeah, beautifully said. My heart to you and your friend and his family. But I’m so inspired by what you said. When we’re living in this space, not even life or death as conditions can affect it. That’s my sense of that. But I’ll find out soon enough when I die. We take this with us.
Charan: Yeah, exactly. Hopefully, we’ll get a lot more.
Thomas: Yeah, I’m hoping for some more good years, but we never know what comes after this very moment.
Thomas McConkie’s Advice to His Younger Self
Charan: Exactly. It’s awesome. I guess final question, Thomas, and thanks again. Seriously, this has been so enjoyable to have this conversation with you. Final question would be, what would you tell that 18-year-old self that was just struggling with so much anxiety and depression? What would tell yourself that was even younger than that, that hadn’t even discovered meditation yet?
Thomas: Yeah, thanks for that. The words that arise immediately and out of my own wellspring is I would tell that 18-year-old that grace is breaking you open. It feels miserable. The suffering is immense. It’s actually a grace that’s breaking you open and preparing you for more blessing. That’s been a truth of my life.
Charan: That’s so great man. It’s so great. Any miracles you can share with me? Anything that as we wrap this up, I figured we should leave on a really positive note. Anything to you like, yeah, this has been the greatest miracle for me.
Thomas: So I’m reminded of a story where one of my great teachers who I revere, he was giving a talk to his students. Someone asked the same question like, “Hey Roshi.” That was his title in that tradition, “Hey Roshi, perform a miracle for us.” He looks over, he says, “You stand up. Now sit down. There’s the miracle.” All he was doing with this amazing childlike wonder he was showing us, What’s not a miracle? Is there anything you know or feel in your heart or see around you or live that isn’t a miracle?
Thomas: That’s what is in my heart right now.
Charan: The beautiful thing is you recognize that.
Thomas: I try to. I think more and more moments I do and I’m still practicing with the moments I don’t.
Charan: It’s great. It’s funny because… I went to the doctor yesterday and like, when they’re saying, “Hey, can you lift your arm? Can you do this, can you do that?” Without any thought I was able to do that. Then I thought, that’s a miracle. How is it that I can just move my hands and my feet and say what I want to say? It’s a miracle.
Thomas: Totally. Yeah, well, we’re talking entrepreneurship in this conversation. What is our greatest capital asset? A deep wellspring of wonder and joy. If we have those things, everything we create will bear that same sense. Everybody will smell it. Not just now but hundred years from now. If we create something with joy and wonder, that joy and wonder is for everybody. It’s a part of the commons.
Charan: That’s so great man. That wellspring… This is what I’m going to be thinking about for the rest of the day. [crosstalk 00:52:51] ever abundantly and never stops.
Thomas: Indeed. Yeah. Well, thanks.
Charan: Thomas, you’re the best, man. I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with me about this. I feel very honored to get to know you and to go through your course. It’s going to be so great. Thanks again, man. I really appreciate you taking the time.
Thomas: Yeah, me, too, Charan, it’s been a delight.
Charan: All right. Take care. Thanks so much for listening to the Lemonade Stand podcast. We hope you enjoyed this episode. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on whatever platform you use to be alerted when we release new episodes. We’d also love to hear your feedback and reviews and if you or someone you know has an awesome Lemonade Stand Story, please reach out to us on social media and let us know. Thanks so much and have a great day.