Author and speaker Rob Bell joins Mindrolling to talk about his new book and how he helps others live life with a deeper level of appreciation and love for each other.
Rob Bell is a pastor and New York Times bestselling author of Love Wins, What We Talk About When We Talk about God, The Zimzum of Love and his most recent book How To Be Here. He and Raghu discuss their common practices, barrier dissolving experiences, and how applying practice can help us overcome our greatest challenges.
The Art of the Sermon (Opening) – Raghu introduces Rob’s work and spiritual path. Rob shares the story of being presented with the opportunity to give his first sermon. That day, Rob came to understand that his purpose was to create a space where people can encounter that which transcends the senses.
” I think I grew up with this sense, that I know there is more. There is something bigger happening here. Beyond my own tastes, I need a space or a tribe that can help me give language to it and access it.” – Rob Bell
In his childhood, Rob had a sense that the religious practice he grew up in was only a taste of a deeper experience he desired. Since he stumbled into the art form of the sermon, Rob’s understanding and experiences have continued to open up and grow ever deeper.
Rob’s Yoga (17:45) – After college, Rob used his first job working at a church to reach out to those in the community who were the most underserved. He asked to have all the suicide calls forwarded to him, to be the one visiting criminals in prison that no one else wanted to see, and volunteered to be the guy who takes care of the people who need the most compassion and attention. This practice is known as Karma Yoga in the Hindu tradition.
Rob’s practice began with seeking the full human experience, trying to see the highest and lowest moments it has to offer. Rob discusses how exposing himself to the depth of human experiences shaped him and his understanding of things.
Change of Perception (20:30) – In 1999, Rob founded the Mars Hill Bible Church. The megachurch quickly grew and was holding services for more than 10,000 people at times. All the while Rob was questioning the tradition that he grew up in and deconstructing his beliefs.
“Ever so gradually I began to see that a good tradition catapults you beyond the tradition. That there are all these images and practices: contemplation, meditation, Eucharist that are there to help you connect with the infinite. That of which nothing deeper can be conceived.” – Rob Bell
After discovering the common thread that runs through the perennial traditions, Rob began to reconnect with his tradition from a very different place.
Learning how to “Be Here” (24:20) – In his book, How to Be Here, Rob speaks about how our busy lives leave us with a full schedule and an empty heart. He talks about how being in the moment, and nowhere else, is the key to overcoming this problem.
“In some ways, the book is me setting out: How do you do you live differently in this modern world… Without just moving up on a mountain somewhere and detaching. How do you live, present in the midst of all this?” – Rob Bell
Raghu and Rob talk about his philosophy and the life-changing moment that brought Rob to this understanding and into an altered state. Rob’s experience gave him a glimpse of what was possible in life. He also understood that he had not done the work yet to stay in that state of being.
Dissolving Boundaries (30:50) – Raghu describes how similar Rob’s experience is to the stories told by those who encountered Maharajji in India. This type of experience comes in many different guises, be it near-death, trauma, psychedelics, or religious practice.
Rob talks about how many people he meets that have these boundary dissolving experiences but did not know what to do with it. Their mind could not rationally explain it, and they are afraid to share it with anyone. As a result, the experience gets put to the side. Unfortunately, that experience is exactly what needs to be explored.
You’re All the Way Out (36:20) – It was important to Rob to show the contrast between a static and dynamic understanding of the universe. For many people, the world just is. This perspective is very spatial, as in, you need to go out into the world and find a place.
“Let’s do it differently! Let’s rescue people!” – Rob Bell
That perspective is very different than seeing that the world is unfinished and we participate in the ongoing creation of the world. It is surprising how many people have felt that they have a purpose, but have been told that they should not pursue it. With his book, Rob hopes to help people see the universe as a dynamic ongoing reality that they have the power to create for themselves.
Addicted (44:00) – Raghu brings up our addictive behaviors and tendencies. Rob notices this most acutely with our relationship to smartphones. Every time there is an absence of stimuli we reach for our phones. Before we had a device to fill these gaps, our mind had space to calm and wander. Rob is curious whether or not we will begin to see data that shows a correlation between this constant stimulus and changes in our physiology.
Part of why we have this addiction is because of boredom. Meditative practice is an excellent way to deal with this kind of boredom. During meditation, you meet boredom quickly and learn how to be with boredom in a way that is more comfortable.
Cynicism (50:10) – Another topic in Rob’s book that hits close to home for Raghu is cynicism. Often, cynicism pretends to come from a place of wisdom and experience, but actually comes from a wound.
“Cynicism points out all the ways soething can go wrong, how stupid it is, and what a waste of time it would be. Cynicism holds things at a distance. Analyzing, and mocking, and noting all the possibilities for failure.” – Rob Bell, How to Be Here
Raghu laments the level of cynicism he has held in the past. He was reminded by Rob’s book of how we think that cynicism is funny, but it is not. Instead, cynicism has a detrimental effect on our soul. Some people use cynicism as a point of pride. However, when you start probing, it comes out that there is some pain associated with it. They hold what hurt them at arm’s length to keep it from hurting them again.
You can find more from Rob online at robbell.com where you can check out films, new events, and Rob’s podcast “The RobCast.” Be sure to follow Rob on Twitter and check out his newest book, “How to Be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living.” To hear more podcasts with guests from a Christian background, check out Father Michael Holleran’s chat with Lama Surya Das and Reverend Alexander MacPhail’s visit to Mindrolling.
Photo via Patheos