Al Jeffery is a meditation teacher, therapist and community-builder helping people all around the world restore connection in their lives. With diverse passions and interests, sitting down with Al Jeffery for a chat is an adventure into the unknown and inspired.
We spoke to him about success, the importance of connection, his rituals through 2020 and one of his many projects: the Bloom Self-Reflection journal (currently being gifted with all orders from the Kin store).
Who modelled the idea of success for you growing up?
As a 12-13 year old I was reading the autobiographies of people like Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Tony Robbins. Specifically Richard Branson was someone that I really looked up to and modelled a lot in my entrepreneurial pursuits. That really helped catalyse me into my entrepreneurial career, and while that cultural narrative of success lead me astray for many years, as I matured and became a late teen I saw how a commercial or capitalist Western view of success wasn’t really serving me.
I studied martial arts since the age of 6 years and watched my Sensei, who was just incredibly humble, make play a big part of his life and work. There was never a moment that he was on the Dojo floor and not smiling and playing and it didn't mean he was any less impactful, or reached any less people. His way of being in the world, while incredibly authentic and incredibly grounded, was tethered to play.
So I suppose I saw another way of success, of what success might look like if we tend to the inner world.
Those two models of “success” are quite different. How do they both influence how you live now?
Over the last 10 years or so I’ve done a lot of therapeutic work, and have tended to trying to understand my own inner life. I’ve learnt how in many ways my entrepreneurial endeavours were a great avoidance mechanism for the shame and lack of worthiness that I felt growing up queer in a straight world.
In my teenage years navigating my sexuality, looking into the screen and working on a project was my safe place. There I found a great sense of purpose, and did do a lot of incredible things, but also understood, and really started to see how a lot of it was actually rooted in shame, not enoughness, and fear.
That’s not where I want my work to come from. Now self-inquiry helps me to understand the energy or impulses behind my work in the world so that I can act in a way that is in greater congruence with my own integrity. I want my work in the world to be in alignment with my own sense of truth, with real authenticity.
Self-inquiry helps me iron out those creases. For example, I may be attracted to a project not because it is in alignment with what my soul wants, but because I feel shame or loneliness and want to belong. I don’t want to create a project from that place, so I might then go back and tend to that part of myself so that the work can come from a place of congruence. That for me is my creative process.
A lot of your work is focused on connection to community and self. Why is connection so important?
I feel my story is just a fragment of our story.
When I was 14 I started working with a Buddhist teacher and started to become very aware of my own inner dialogue, my own inner experience and identity, and found it fascinating that I can relate to and know myself to be a certain way on the inside but on the outside that didn’t seem okay at all.
I realised straight away that parts of ourselves feel not enough, not okay, not allowed. We're all not included in some way and we all don't include all of ourselves in some way.
We just have to look at the mental health statistics all around the world to see this real swing towards a scary level of loneliness and lack of meaning. So, lack of connectedness on many layers, to ourselves, to each other, to meaning it's kind of an existential crisis that we are in collectively.
I feel much of this is rooted in our disconnection from our ecology, from the breathing Earth - from our greatest teacher, our original elder. And much of it stems from Western philosophy, that Descartes philosophy, “I think, therefore I am” and that everything is a projection of the mind. Which is true to a degree, but when we start to think like that we start to separate ourselves from the environment that made us possible in the first place - and that is never going to work.
What lessons has 2020 taught us about connection do you think?
One of the things I found beautiful was in the first wave of Melbourne lockdown when we had to start being 1.5 meters apart. I noticed my body’s beautiful and profound desire to just hug people. As soon as we had to catch ourselves, I started to notice that impulse a little more and recognised the body’s inherent desire for closeness and intimacy.
It showed us how neuro-biologically wired we are for connection, for intimacy, for proximity, for community. That was actually quite beautiful.
It highlighted the aspects of ourselves that is dependent on others and the web of life around us. It also invited us to reflect on how we are independent and how we meet our needs ourselves in healthy ways.
While we are sovereign individuals, we are deeply dependent on a web of life.
Talk to me about some of your rituals. Did they change this year during lockdown?
I'm very comfortable in my own company. So I actually really enjoyed this time. My inner hermit had the time of his life, for much of the time! But there were definitely weeks where zoom was no longer novel and what I missed wasn’t the talking to others, but dancing with others!
So most mornings I would dance with myself and allow myself to feel inside my body. “Where is it a little bit clunky this morning? Where does it needs more attention?. I allowed it to be a real practice and really noticed the ways that emotions would come up. Anger was one that came up a lot in lockdown. I had to find ways to let that out - such as sitting in the car yelling or writing a bunch of “fuck you” letters!
There was also a lot of grief, which I imagine we all had our own flavors of during lockdown.
Tell us about the Bloom Journal. What do you hope it helps us to achieve?
I've always believed in a world of 7.8 billion teachers. We’re all candles to be lit up, not buckets to be filled. We are teachers for ourselves and for each other and sometimes all we need is our own platform that holds and supports us in coming back to our own wisdom and compassion.
We created Bloom to be very simple, accessible and empowering. A little sacred garden for people to come home to themselves with a new sense of compassion, and a new sense of clarity. My hope is that people stand a little stronger in their feet, hold themselves a little lighter in their chest and maybe live with more clarity in a way that's aligned with them.