Jamie Catto is the founder member of Faithless, the highly successful world music band. Jamie is also a life-challenging personal coach and business coach who believes everyone one of us is ‘a wise guru in charge of a mental patient.’ His workshops are designed to shake up our life and confront the perceptions of who we think we are. One participant describes him as a ‘foul-mouthed, passionate, present, witty, musical wizard!’
You can find out more about Jamie Catto through his website www.jamiecatto.com
You can also listen to Jamie Catto on my Embracing Your Mortality podcast, on Friday 2nd April
Sue: Welcome Jamie. It’s been around twenty-five years since we last saw each other, so it’s great to catch up again! I wanted to start by asking you when you first became aware of who you were as a person.
Jamie: I was really young – around seven at the time. I remember standing in the high street in West Hampstead and realising that I had consciousness. I remember being incredibly exhilarated and half terrified by it. Recently, it feels as if has all come full circle for me. I was listening to the inspirational teacher, Rupert Spira talking to a woman who was feeling insecure about her relationship. It was something in the way he said that yes, she was right to feel insecure about it. He spoke about how this wasn’t fantasy, it was intuition. It’s not that her relationship was going to necessarily end next week, but if she was basing her feelings on stability and security on a relationship her natural intuition should be warning her to feel insecure, because relationships are insecure things. Human beings change their minds, and they die. We’re all going to have to let go of each other. It’s the same with money. The same with status. Spira then said, ‘I suggest you start deciding what you can depend on. What is stable in your life?’ In his other videos he speaks about the only stable thing is one’s sense of self. I don’t mean the ego trip of self-cherishing and grasping here. I mean the thing that is behind everything; that just sits and is.
Sue: It’s that deep connection with ourselves?
Jamie: Yes, I tell people it’s about connecting to that sense of being you’ve always had since you were a little child. All your sensations, thoughts and feelings come and go within that stable constant sense of self.
Sue: I think a lot of us don’t have that feeling of stability. We’ve never connected to it, because we don’t know how to. Are we talking about the relationship with the soul or with the spirit, or maybe both?
Jamie: I guess you could call it lots of things. Personally, I stay away from words like that because I think they can exclude some people. I really want to bring peacefulness and intimacy not just to people who are interested in self-development (they are well catered for by a million other teachers), but to those who are ripe for intimacy and what we’re talking about. It’s about allowing oneself to have those edgy feelings, and not always being a comfort addict. It’s also breaking out of thinking that edgy feelings must be wrong and, ‘I need to get rid of it.’
We need to be curious about the world and about self-care without it having to be, ‘I’m on a path.’ I love working with people who have all the intelligence for it, and not in rejection of it, but are in rejection of either religious or new age terminology. Those are the people I’m really interested in.
One of my curiosities about this planet is how many people are just living from the ego – they don’t see anything other than them as an individual personality and their survival. I’m not judging this or against it, just observing it. And, then there are other people who are lucky enough to have the finances or resources to be able to explore beyond just survival and have a sense of needing to do some self-development or deal with their childhood issues. But I am amazed by how weighted it is towards the first group, which is more than 90% of the people on the planet. I really want many more people to open up – to have the experience of joy, connection, intimacy and potential that human life can bring. I feel that I’m going to have a much better chance of reaching more people when I remove the [spiritual] lingo.
Sue: I guess one of the main issues is that most people don’t actually know how to listen to themselves. That’s why they are so outward looking for someone else to fix things. We’ve actually forgotten to put our hands on our heart and just listen to what’s going on inside.
Jamie: Yes, it’s so simple really. There’s a brilliant book by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk who was nominated in the 60s for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King. He has these lovely, very short How-to Books, such as how to eat; how to fight; how to sit. The one I read felt like a transmission; it was like a thunderbolt into my head. On one page it just says the first thing you have to do is STOP, especially when you’re living in a society that can’t stop and goes on fighting.
Sue: Yes, we’ve all been given the wrong rule book from the beginning…
Jamie: …which tells us, ‘don’t look vulnerable. Don’t stop. Be busy all the time. This is so Yang and patriarchal. It’s time we turned to the more yin aspects, which is about stopping and being, and being impacted and listening and being curious and empty, and allowing oneself to be moved, just like when we dance and move to the beat of the music.
That’s why so many people can’t live without dancing – it’s the only time in your life when you relax and let it do you. It’s the same when you laugh, or you cry or when you smile. It is happening to you. You don’t laugh on purpose. You get moved by laughing. Those are where the treasures of life are. But our whole culture is brainwashing everybody to be more youthful and to control everything – how you want to strategise, how you want to do, do, do, busy, busy, busy. It’s totally out of whack.
My whole job as an activist and as a spiritual master (smiles) is to bring the yin back into balance. This doesn’t mean getting rid of the yang, but to bring the listening and the stopping and the curiosity back. It only takes a moment of turning towards that stuff on the inside, and it rushes to meet you. It’s not like it’s a big difficult thing; it wants to be felt.
Sue: Why do you think it’s so difficult to do this?
Jamie: It’s difficult for women as well as men in my experience. A lot of women are very yang in how they manage life, very simply because we live totally identified with the ego and the mindset of, ‘I’ve gotta protect myself; I’ve gotta be the best; I’ve gotta make everyone think I’m nice.’ I’m not rejecting the ego here. Of course, it’s central to life – the feeling of being me – but it’s about not letting it rule everything. For most people, it’s main agenda is to protect us from all risks of exposure. The risk of looking stupid, the risk of danger, the risk of anything that’s going to hold me back from being the most powerful.
When you’re coming from yang, you think you’re in control. I’m affecting reality because I’m doing, doing, doing. It’s the side of the will that the ego loves because it believes it’s limiting all risk, and that feels as if you can control what’s going on inside you.
Sue: This is why it’s so vital for us to stop and listen to ourselves.
Jamie: Yes, it’s about letting go of control.
Sue: I am wondering if it isn’t so much about control, but about hanging on in there by our fingertips because life is so terrifying. You can’t stop because if you do, you think you’re going to die.
Jamie: It’s perceived control. I don’t think it’s real control. If it was real control, it would work. I think it’s pretty much proved this kind of control doesn’t work but it’s a bit like the belief that money will buy you happiness. We know it doesn’t as you can see what happened to people like Elton John. Yet we still act as if it does. We’re just clinging onto the belief, ‘When I have enough money, it’ll all be okay.’
Sue: You talk a lotabout being authentic – of coming from the authentic self. What does that mean to you?
Jamie: Actually, I don’t really like using the word ‘ego’ because it sounds as if I am trying to get rid of the ego – that the ego is a bad thing. We’ve got to change our whole framing around this. To come to earth and to be an individual, you have to have an ego. It’s not the enemy. It’s only the enemy when it takes over and becomes everything.
But, because the ego has a terror of being exposed, to look stupid, to become emotional, to look ugly and get laughed at or shamed, we wear masks that very much limit how we are able to show our whole selves. We don’t want to look vulnerable because we might get rejected. We don’t want to look needy because it’s ugly and uncool. We don’t want to look greedy or sometimes sexy because we’re trying to get attention – everyone’s got their different list of things they mustn’t be seen as. But we are all those things. So, we’re in a bit of a predicament when we’re running life by this egoic self-cherishing thing.
Sue: How do we work with the ego then?
Jamie: We hide around three quarters of ourselves through fear of being exposed. I’m all about connection and intimacy. I think that’s what being a human is all about, connection. Dr Gabor Mate, the trauma and addiction expert, says connection is the opposite of addiction. Safety isn’t the absence of threat, it’s the presence of connection. I truly believe that.
Sue: What does connection mean to you?
Jamie: Well, I want that connection. I want that intimacy – being deeply connected with my kids, with my life and with nature. This is the most fulfilling, happy, joyful enriching parts of being human. Removing all risk and hiding away three quarters of who I am to not risk anything is the opposite of connection. It stands in the way. So that’s why I want us to inch by inch take off our masks. I am not saying they need to be ripped off all of a sudden. It’s just little by little beginning to share, for example, ‘I felt vulnerable this morning,’ or it could be saying, ‘I’ve been feeling depressed recently.’ For some people, that would be the most massive thing to say.
Sue: Yes, I can see that is a huge step for some people.
Jamie: You know, everyone usually says they are ‘fine’. ‘Fine’ is so superficial and it’s lonely.
Sue: Do you think everybody is called to become authentic? Do you think that this is part of the human condition?
Jamie: I don’t know everybody. But, from the small percentage of people I’ve seen on the planet, they seem to thrive more with connection and authenticity than without it. I can say that, but I don’t know about the seven billion different individual experiments happening on this planet – that includes thieves, murderers, rapists, things I would never do. You know, there are people I just don’t understand, but that’s their experiment; their way of trying it out. So, I don’t know that everyone is called to connect. There could be a huge amount of people who have come to Earth to be like, ‘Oh, I’m going to go down to experience a total lack of connection and see what that’s like.’ Who knows what these seven billion different versions of God are trying to experience. Not all of them will fit into our lovely fluffy version.
Sue: No, I guess they don’t. But it seems to me that even people who have very difficult lives and have done some pretty unpleasant things may have had a massive love of music or art, or they may have had a pet they loved, or children they loved which sort of takes them out of the role of whatever they were doing, because behind everything they did, they too were connected in some way.
Jamie: I would agree with you on that.
Sue: You talk about the importance of play, so I wanted to ask you about it.
Jamie: I’m all about efficiency. It’s just more efficient when people are laughing. They are more relaxed, more open. They are also quicker to laugh at themselves rather than hide themselves so that’s why stand-up comedians like Michael McIntyre are the prophets of our age. He talks about so many universal things that no one ever talks about, but everyone can laugh at themselves anyway.
Laughing at ourselves is the first step to healing, because you’re acknowledging, ‘Oh yeah! I’m like that too!’ And, we can laugh about it together. Suddenly, we all have permission to enter territory of immense healing. So, playfulness for me is like people laughing about this Headfuck FM radio station we have going on in our head, with all our protection and all our strategies and ‘self-cherishing,’ and it never stops. But everyone laughs about it in the group because we all can acknowledge we’ve got this mind thing going on. You can start doing some quite deep work when you begin observing your radio station and talk about it in a fun way. For example, seeing what our own DJs are trying to tell us such as, ‘Mine is telling me I’m going to have an argument with my boss later!’
It becomes a game rather than ‘let’s meditate and observe our thoughts and let them pass like space between the breath.’ You know, that feels like a ball ache! I think it just puts more pressure on us actually to do something, and you have to do it really well because it’s spiritual. People get confused about this because if you’re sitting and you know you’re not meditating due to a racing mind, it makes you feel useless and you believe you’re not a spiritual person.
Sue: I know that one with meditation!
Jamie: That’s why I love teachers who teach from the middle of who they are, such as Ram Dass and Pema Chodron. They use their own melodrama and therefore you go, ‘I’m like that too!’ We all feel included. But when teachers teach from on high, it feels like you are looking at an unattainable horizon and you feel excluded from it. My whole business is about inclusion.
Sue: I notice on your website that you talk about being really connected with Chiron, which to me means the wounded healer. Could you say more about this.
Jamie: Chiron is the wounded healer so all of us who are trying to go out in the world to help people by teaching things or offerings things, the reason we do it is because we’ve been sent down into the depths. Some people get sent down in the depths and never come back. Some people get sent down in the depths and very luckily meet someone who helps them, or they read the right book, or just come back with a jewel in hand which they can share with other people.
In my own experience, I had decades of panic attacks, which were really extreme – vomiting, diarrhoea, shaking. I was really debilitated by them to the point where I wanted to kill myself because I just couldn’t do it anymore. Yet now, I’m really good with helping people with panic attacks because when they talk to me they know they’re talking to someone who f*****g knows what hell smells like. You could look at our woundedness as empathy training. That’s what the wounded healer is all about. It’s like our wounds often set us up for our superhero training for being a healer or a helper of some kind.
Sue: I agree we have to know our own suffering to help other people who are suffering.
Jamie: When I work with people one-on-one I very much direct them towards understanding that they may be having a hard time at the moment, but a year from now, they will be sitting where I am, saying this to someone else.
You know, all the people who come to me for one-on-ones, as far as I’m concerned, are coming for training to become a healer and that’s what shamans do with people who are having a tough time. They show them that the tough time they’re having is actually a blessing.
Sue: Do we ever go beyond the wounded healer?
Jamie: As much as I love everything we just said, I have fallen into the trap often of glorifying and glamorising the wounded healer to the point where I’m a little bit too addicted to my melancholy. There are so many albums I’ve made in the last three last years which have been very sad, full of yearning and longing, as if it makes what I’ve been through a bit special. So more recently as much as I want to carry on being a wounded healer in the positive sense, I’m also making music now, which doesn’t keep promoting this yearning, longing wounded archetype.
I also want to have, in parallel, the lovely, joyful magician leaping around and having fun – stuffing his face with cake, dancing under the summer skies and sort of you know f*****g in the woods. So, I want to incorporate the joyful wild parts of life that don’t necessarily fit with the wounded healer in the way that you might expect. I need to start letting myself have the cake a bit more and enjoy the now of joyfulness rather than this long journey of yearning.
Sue: But don’t you think that you have to go through that journey of yearning because in my own experience, it was the yearning that took me on the path of the wounded healer. I desperately wanted to find out about who I was, about my broken relationship with myself and the world.
Jamie: Yeah, I hear you. But I’m not sure it has to be that linear – that you have to go through this one to get to that one. It might be that you can just do them all at once.
Sue: What do you mean by that?
Jamie: You can have the part of you that’s yearning on a Tuesday and on the same Tuesday have the part of you that wants to dance wildly and eat the cake. They’re all coexisting together.
Sue: This sounds like an expression of grief – one minute you’re raging on the floor in despair, and the next you can be laughing your head off.
Jamie: Yeah! It might be grief, or it might be just coexisting all the different fragments and jigsaw pieces that are my life.
Sue: I guess it’s kind of finding the pieces of the jigsaw and making your own picture of whatever’s going on.
Jamie: I’m not saying no to that, but I’ve got a big question mark around it. I think that maybe finding meaning might be the problem. When you look at the Course of Miracles, it actually starts off by removing meaning. For instance, when we get upset with people, it’s because we’ve added a meaning to what they did that may or may not be true. They come back late from work and that means ‘they don’t love and respect me’ – or maybe it doesn’t.
Maybe they were working late because they wanted to finish off all their work so they could fully be with you for the evening. It’s about our assumptions – that’s the meaning we’ve added to their actions. Most of the ways I upset myself in my life is not why something happened, it’s the meaning I attached to it, which means I’m not worthy of life. I don’t matter. If you take away all those meanings, life could be a much more peaceful place.
Sue: That’s a very big call though isn’t it? I think there’s two levels of meaning by the way. I think what you’re talking about is the everyday interpretation of meaning, and then there’s this deeper call to meaning to do something that gives back to the world. To me, that’s a very different form of meaning.
Jamie: It’s definitely true, just from a selfish point of view, service is a good thing to do. You feel more powerful; you feel better about yourself; you feel more valid. When you give to others, something pours into you from above. For a lot of people who suffer from depression or anxiety or mental illness, the best thing you can do when you’re so self-involved in your own melodrama is to just give to someone else. That’s why it’s so great for narcissists and also having kids! Suddenly there’s something more important than you in the world.
I’m up for service and I live my life in service. But I don’t know if it’s doing any good. I mean this planet is the planet of limitation. Maybe people come to earth to have all this adversity and have all this disease and conflict. Maybe we’re not supposed to be creating a Shangri-La utopia.
Sue: I agree that this life is here to challenge us beyond what we can imagine. So, like you, I can’t imagine the point of life if we were all just having a lovely time. It’s the challenges that gives life it’s edge and for me, gives my life meaning and purpose.
Jamie: Yeah, but my answer to this is, truthfully, I have no f*****g idea! I know moment to moment how I feel. For example, I know I love books. I feel a sense of peace when I connect to them. I know I love my kids. I know I love the feeling of sunshine and blue skies. I’m not against rain, but there’s just something about walking out in sunshine. I know that when I realise I’ve been helpful to somebody, that feels good.
The fact is, we’re constantly changing; constantly having our mind opened for some reason or we read a sentence, or we have one of those moments where life changes again. Sometimes I could do with a bit of permanence. I feel like I’m tired of the impermanence at the moment. I’d love to be given a house and be told, ‘this is where you’re going to live now till you die.’ But ultimately life is all about impermanence and if you can’t accept that, you came to the wrong planet.
Sue: Yes, it is a tough one. I have certainly experienced times of great impermanence and times of great permanence. Both have fed me, but the reality underlying all of it is the fact that everything at some point is going to come to an end.
Jamie: I’ve been around a lot of death in my life, especially sudden death of friends. I do get that the ego is the thing that definitely dies – and maybe other stuff carries on, but we don’t really know. That’s why Ram Dass recommends you connect to other channels – or the spirit, because that carries on. If you don’t connect with those channels, then when death approaches, you’re going to be f*****g terrified. But if you do connect, you’re going to have a chance of looking at it like an onward adventure. That’s how he talks about death.
Sue: What do you feel about death yourself?
Jamie: I don’t know. Sometimes I think it would be a relief. In my film with Ram Dass, he says Emmanuel, who is a disembodied spirit, tells him there’s nothing to fear and death is like taking off a tight shoe. I’d like to think of it like that.
And, you know, when I’ve really been in a huge panic attack or depressive anxiety to the point where I just can’t function, I do wish I had a switch in the middle of my forehead, and I could switch life off. This is not about having thoughts of suicide. I’m not thinking, where can I get some pills or razor blades. I’ve never had a suicidal thought like that, but I have had thoughts of, ‘If I had a switch in my head, I’d switch myself off now. This is too much. I’m too lonely or too anxious or I’m too frightened and I can’t handle it.’
Sue: When you’ve been in those spaces, what’s helped you to get out of them?
Jamie: Being so exhausted that my body fell asleep after all the vomiting and sweating. It didn’t have any more energy left. But that’s not the healthiest thing to do. You know, I’ve got the biggest bag of tools ever and sometimes they work, for example, getting into a hot salt bath, and doing breathing techniques. Also, calling people I know who love me to talk me down – that could be a therapist or healing person or a friend. Then there’s making sure I’m hydrated, putting my bare feet in nature and dancing to get the body moving. But sometimes none of these work and you have to accept what’s going on. You’re in a black bin liner sliding down a f****g snowy hill with no brakes. It feels a bit like you’ve taken acid and then when it starts coming on that you wish you hadn’t. Sometimes the angels come and save me, and it feels as if they have touched me and I just burst out laughing.
Sometimes you can’t do anything about the pain – you know it’s coming – but rather than resist it, it’s about fronting it out and telling it, ‘All right, come on then! Take me!’ This means it doesn’t have the adrenaline and fear chemicals of the resistance to work with so it can’t get its momentum going.
Sue: In my own experience, it’s also allowing myself to sob, scream and cry. I find that really helpful in dealing with pain like this.
Jamie: Yes, most of those collapsing things for me have been backed up tears. Having a good cry is one of the best antidotes. That’s why I keep a YouTube list of weepy clips of soldiers coming back from the war; people being nice to other people; fathers and sons together.
Sue: When you strip away everybody’s differences and actually really get down and dirty with the human condition is which is painful and yes, joyful too – if we accept that, I think it makes life easier.
Jamie: Definitely. I was telling my students, if you can put your hand up and say I am a human who is willing to feel some of my uncomfortable feelings, you have a whole different life. We live in such a comfort-addicted culture that most people think every pain means something is wrong. I have a process which we call Schlumph. This is when we’re feeling a negative emotion and we say, ‘I’m feeling Schlumph.’ Schlumph doesn’t have any meaning associated with it. It’s just this feeling today!’ It’s about giving people permission to say it’s okay to feel pain. You are not a failed human being because you’re feeling pain. You’re just part of the human condition. There’s a great line my therapist said to me when I was talking about the pain of a breakup and the pain of loneliness. He just went, ‘Yeah! How human this is.’
Sue: Is there anything you would like to say about the changes that are happening in the planet and how we can help ourselves go through the chaos?
Jamie: Well, two things. One is, have an internal life. Be willing to feel yourself on the inside rather than always been focused on the external. Find a time, at least once in the day – even if it’s for three minutes – to stop what you’re doing and just put your hand on your heart and notice how you’re feeling on the inside and say hello to yourself.
But the main thing is, and I want this for the whole planet, really watch and observe your self-talk. If you can just do that, you don’t have to do anything else. So, see if you can treat yourself how you would treat everyone else. Don’t talk to yourself in an exasperated or insulting or disempowered tone of voice. Don’t talk to yourself in the way that you wouldn’t talk to your kids. If you can manage to make one tiny millimetre of a change with this, I think the planet would be transformed.