Ishtar Howell is a meditation teacher, monk, gardener, intuitive, and writer. His childhood was filled with weird and mystical experiences. Then, at age 13, he experienced an NDE, which, shortly thereafter, propelled him on a spiritual path. At 18, he learned a meditation practiced called the Ishayas’ Ascension, and entered an ashram centered on the practice, spending long periods of time in meditative retreat, putting in long hours of service work, and teaching meditation classes around the world.
In 2008, he left his monastic organization and then took an extended break from meditation teaching and attended University. The years lived outside the semi cloistered environment of the ashram were challenging, but ultimately led to a more deeply anchored Presence. Subtle barriers fell, opening to the experience of the world as the Self. This process continues to unfold and expand.
Since 2014, he has served as a trail guide on the path, helping people cultivate Awareness and relax into Wholeness that is already here. He is works as an evolutionary astrologer, helping people connect with their guiding myths and soul music.
Please enjoy my conversation with Ishtar Howell.
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Follow Along with the Transcript – Episode 133
Ishtar Howell 0:00
From the time I was in my crib, I was having various spiritual experiences. I was seeing ghosts seem to be having interactions with some of them, maybe seeing other types of beings.
Alex Ferrari 0:24
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Ishtar Howell 0:58
I'd like to welcome to the show Ishtar. How are doing Ishtar?
I'm doing very well Alex!
Thank you so much for coming. Thank you so much for coming on the show you have a unique, I mean, we all have a unique life story. But yours is you've walked the Your journey has been interesting to say the least. It's it's starting at a very, very young age. So my very first question to you is, sir, what was your life before your spiritual awakening before? You know before the near death experience and all that? And I know that's not a lot of time either before that, because you were very young when it happened?
Yes. Well, yes, but 13 years before that happened, it was an interesting combination of Midwest normal. And, and, and way the hell out there. And they were they're right next to each other. And I, you know, you kind of accepted life that you're born into. And that was pretty much all I ever knew. So, for instance, at the same time that it would seem, and I was always very skeptical, and I think my parents were raising me to have my two feet on the ground, and to do my best to be a critical thinker. But you know, at the same time, from the time I was, in my crib, I was having various spiritual experiences, I was seeing ghosts seem to be having interactions with some of them, maybe seeing other types of beings. More important than that, I think, was basically I was kind of naturalistically meditating. And of course, I didn't know that I was meditating. But, you know, for instance, the way I used to go to sleep, which was very, very pleasurable, I would basically do this kind of breathing technique, which, and I would breathe, then hold it, let it go. And while I was doing this, I would feel this beautiful honey, like current running up my spine. And, and I, you know, just just relax me completely. And I would send it into different parts of my body. And then when I was ready to kind of leave, I would let it go off the top of my head, and I would go with it. And sometimes I would remember where I went. And you know, remember it the next morning. And sometimes I'd just go off into, you know, regular sleep from that. So, things like that were going on, I remember, I have memories that I'm not supposed to have, which I discovered when I took my senior year, AP Psychology class, and it's like, you're not supposed to go back before to what 2.5? And I said, Well, it seems that there's an aberration here. Because I remember my mother, I remember being changed, my diapers being changed. And, you know, knowing which family member I wanted to be doing it. Also, depending upon what mood they're in. And sometimes, you know, when it was my mom, I usually preferred but when she was in sort of a foul mood, I'm like, Oh, God, brace yourself. Because it would be a little bit for, you know, yeah, but so we have things like that, that little, little things like that. And then, you know, kind of the, there was a sense of unity of sense to the consciousness. And that unit of sense was was there even when I was getting my knee and crying or I remember having temper tantrums, but there was this sort of deep, quiet space that that, you know, a certain amount of my awareness would sort of be more than and I would basically watch myself having these temper tantrums. And other times I would experience my awareness being in this body but also my mother's body, my sister, my dad, the chest of drawers, the curtains, the everything in the room, and when I would let myself explore into that it was just a really beautiful, pleasurable experience.
So so this is all happening before your new turn. 13. So no one's teaching you this, nor have you had any exposure to this. This is all instinctual, all coming from you.
Yes, yeah. So it's, you know, there were No, um, you know, like being teachers coming in saying whispering things in the crib, as far as I remember, this, you know, this is this is very naturalistic type stuff. And, you know, obviously at that age, you're not thinking of it as spiritual or whatever, you just kind of it's just happening and you're just going with it and, you know,
And just just, you're just rolling with whatever you're given, because at that age, whatever it whatever is presented as normal is normal.
Right! Right, exactly. And of, you know, then maybe kind of what started going down to hill at about age six, or seven. And my Pete, the kindergarten teacher at the parent teacher thing said, told my mother, he's got a great personality. And I, this was the first time I've actually I actually remember clocking that word, and being curious about what that meant. And so on the walk home, I was asking my mom, what's a personality? You know, what does she mean by that? And she went on explaining that to me, in some depth, she was very interested in psychology, she later get a master's degree and become a therapist. And, and so for some reason, a light bulb went off when she was described it as like, Oh, I gotta get me one of those. And so, you know, I'll call this like, supposed to be fun thing I'll never do again, but probably will. But so then I don't know, I it was it was a period of when she would come and dress me in the morning. Because I was being babied, I was the baby of the family, so you need to treat it like a little kid longer. Of I would, I would tell her what I would create my personality for the day. And I would say like, today, I'm gonna be afraid of this and basically make myself elaborate. backstories. And, you know, kind of an each day I could, you know, I could take it up, put it on, take it off. And it was it was great. And, and, you know, eventually after first grade, which I had a terrible time, I started to kind of get get stuck in one. And I use that ability as sort of a defense mechanism. I told my sister, I know how have a better time at school, I just, I will I will put up, I will show people what they want to see. And so then they won't bother me. And I'll be and she said, No. She said, Don't do that. You know, she's my older sister. So she's looking out for me. But seven years old, she said, You're gonna forget who you are. And I was like, no, no, no, I've got I've got this covered Sis, you know. And then I remember a year later, I was eight. And my parents, I had a problem. They just said, Just be yourself. And I asked him like, What the hell do you swear? Actually, what is that? What do you mean by that? And I went off in a huff. And then I told my sister to all sit you were right. I completely I don't even know. Pay for me. It's all. Yeah, exactly. You know, like, I was really frustrated. And but you know that? Yeah,
That's fascinating. And so you've had a very interesting life up to the up to the next question, I want to ask you, which is your near death experience? Can you talk to me a little bit about your near death experience? Because I've never had I've spoken to a lot of people who've had near death experiences, but never one as young as you. So I'm really curious about what a perspective of a 13 year old was, in the in that experience.
Right, right. Well, in, in my case, I'm actually very grateful that I had seemed to have some preparation for that. That's an important part of, of the story to relate, in the sense that the night before, I'd actually had the night before, while playing baseball, I had my arm broken by a particularly hot fastball right there. And so I was, you know, we got an x ray and I knew it was broken. And that was my boohoo story was I'm going to miss half of half of all a baseball season or something like that. And and while I was talking with my mom before going to bed, we just talked about normal stuff. And it just flew through my mouth through it flew out of my mouth without me thinking about it. Nope, no filter, are you going to die soon. And, and it was kind of it actually kind of shocked her and shocked me a little bit, which which was also unusual. My mother wasn't particularly, she's quite unflappable with things like that, that would be something that would bother her and she was in pretty good health. It was it was my dad, we were usually worried about in that way, you know, too many bologna sandwiches, but as you do in the Midwest, anyhow, of so you know, you know, she kind of let it slide off, and so did I. And she said, now, I'm gonna be around for a while. I'll always be there. If you need me, and it's like, all right, and I just went to bed and the next morning I woke up like a cartoon character, springing suddenly from sleep into waking and breathing really quickly and heavily. Just as my parents were passing by the door and I asked them, I told them, like, I have something important I have to tell you. And then when I went to retrieve the message wasn't there. And I was like, oh, like God, but I can't remember what it is. And I was, I was so distraught that I couldn't remember this, this thing that they like, had to call me down for about five minutes. And this was like the second to last day of the school year, usually a day that you really enjoy, because you know, no homework, and you know what to go. And so they call me down, they went off, that was last time, I saw the two of them together as as my parents, and then I went to school and did the school day thing and came home and we dropped my sister off at her new workplace, which was out of the edge of town. And just as we were driving out, to make a left turn across one of those divided highways, it seemed that we were, you know, an uneventful crossing the road because there was a visible car that was nowhere near going to hit us. But apparently, there was a car hidden right behind that which, which just started to put on their old accelerator at just at the at the worst time. And as we drove, I was going to talk to my mother, and there was a big old gray Lincoln. Like, you know, just about a few inches, probably from my mother's car door. And instead of, you know, instead of freezing in fear, or having my adrenaline go up at all, I was completely calm, calm sort of descended. And I had time for two thoughts. And the first one was, of course, oh, shit. And the second, you know, as you well, yeah, and I just figured this was the end, I was absolutely certain this was it. You know, this was this was the end. And so the second thought was kind of taken me into this very deep place of consciousness as if I was going down, uh, well, in my mind. And was basically I really thought this one was going to go more than 13 years. That was that was I was like, confused at this. There was a derivation, there's a change in the script. And you know, that I was, really, this was going a while. And then right after I thought that this was even before the impact, so I never thought of my experience as a new death experience for years. Because I had watched that film Flatliners from the 90s. And I thought, No, that's a near death experience. You know, it's like, I wanted one of those except for the ghost kid. You know, like, that seems like a very stressful update when we're dating ourselves again, here.
Absolutely. I have no idea. I've never seen that movie don't nor do I understand what you're talking.
Oh, I don't know what I was talking about.
There's a fantastic movie. Back in the day.
Yeah. So so, you know, a lot of stuff happened before the car impacted us. And that must have been just a split second. I mean, it couldn't have been that long at all. But it felt like a lifetime transpired in that moment, because as soon as I, you know, thought, um, you know, we thought this was going more than 13 years, immediately, it was a very physical sensation, almost later on, parts of it felt like an orgasm in its power and existence as well. Yes, ecstasy, because the life review started to happen. And font, you know, this was actually something, you know, my whole life went back from that moment, to birth, like a tape, with every little frame, and complete clarity. And this, which was interesting, because I had heard about those as a kid. And I was, I was always curious if that really happened, I was very skeptical. I was like, how could you have that much experience and, and just that bit of time, and sure enough, every every single moment only in the, in this case, there was also a sense that I was in contact with this vast, deeply objective, perfectly objective aspect of myself or aspect of God or whatever, I didn't have any Boxford for that. But it was a it was a part of consciousness that I had been familiar with as a kid. And, you know, as I got older, and more of an ego, I didn't like it all the time. Because they would come in and say, like, yeah, that's a bad idea. Like, yeah, I'm gonna do that. That's, that's what I'm gonna do. And so isn't it. But this time, I was completely happy with being in touch with this thing, because we went through my whole life. And every, every place where there was pretense, or fear or lying, or someplace where I was, you know, where I would nowadays say, where I was resisting life, where I was running from God, writing from consciousness was was was completely seen and forgiven. And it was, and it felt as if physically, it felt like I had been living with some kind of sin, but extremely heavy covering on me, even in a fairly non traumatic life. You know, and I did have that thought come in as part of the process. It's like, wow, I've probably been 13 and I've been in a nice place. How could you have all this crap? So it was being taken off of me, and felt so wonderful with each step. And then we got to the end. And as we went back actually also, each scene became more and more suffused with, with essentially what felt like a golden light. And like a lot of other people, I wasn't just experiencing the life from my individual perspective, I was experiencing it from both the individual perspective, other people's perspective, and a cosmic perspective, which seemed to encompass all of them simultaneously, there wasn't any confusion about this, there was no effect, it was the clearest experience that that I could remember for a long time, if at all, to that point. And so when it finally came to an end, I was, you know, basically, there was no difference from that, that realm or whatever it, you know, that I was experiencing there than everything I was looking at. I remember looking at the my mother's shoulder, the dashboard of the car, the man in the Lincoln car, his car, the sky, everything was was filled with, with this light, you know, a kind of light that that's beyond, beyond light. And I had this complete realization that everything was actually made up of love the whole time. And I was completely i was the most alive that ever been in that moment of just being done. It was it was just, it was beautiful. And then, you know, bam, we got hit pretty hard.
So this was all happening before you got hit. Yep. Wow. So you, you this happened in that, that split second or two before? You see the car and there. So that's interesting. I haven't heard that before. In a near death experience where you it happens almost preemptively.
Yeah. Yes. Yes. Yes, exactly. That's why I never categorized it as an as an NDE, you know, actually reminded me of when I watched that Warren Beatty film. Here's another one having can wait and his angel pulls a metal off of his bicycle before he gets hit. But he was he wasn't gonna get hit. His angel made them made the mistake. But I was reminded that I was like, Oh, they just, you know, they just wanted me. You know, cool to survive this accident because I whacked my head really good. I remember so
So then. So after you got hit, there was no more near death experiences. No more mystical experiences or spiritual experiences. After you got hit. Everything happened prior to the accident.
Oh, I mean, it happened after I was after they took me out of the car, too. Oh, yeah. So you were still so you were out during that time as well? Oh, yeah, I got I got cast. And then it was a big whack no bruise which which is still strange to the statin I had a broken arm from the day before but the only injury that was aggravated was I had a broken middle finger on that arm. So for part of the summer, I went around with a cast that was shaped like this, which which was actually kind of indicated, you know, my mood in a lot of ways. But no, no, you know, I came to with the sound of the seatbelt Ding ding ding going in my mother's labored breathing and the people using the big skill saw taking the doors off of our car to get us out of there and then pulling me out and you know, really skillfully putting me on the gurney and being very careful in case I had spinal injuries. You know, they did a really good job for the both of us and they got us into an ambulance very quickly. And you know, they're asking me my name and, and I was saying, like, I have no idea what my name is. But that's my mom over there. That's all I couldn't because I was really concussed. And then in the ambulance of I had that phenomena happened where I, you know, they had my neck strap down, I was seeing that through my eyes and answering the questions of the EMT as best I could, but I was also floating at the top of the ambulance looking down on the whole scene. And it was simultaneous. And then you know, my mother called my name out twice, you know, asking and I said I'm okay, twice. And the first one, I don't think she registered but the second one she did. And because after after that her breathing went from this kind of labored breath, I think really struggling to stay inside a just a broken body and then went into this very calm measured, kind of letting go we were we were in the ambulance together. And I had that weird of dual consciousness, dual perspective thing going where it was in my body, but also kind of at the top of the ambulance. And my mother called my name twice. And I into both calls. I said I'm okay. And the second one she registered and not i Not only because her breathing changed and become a very calm breathing as if, as if she was just letting go. Because she knew that I was fine. And that, you know, her last job was done to make sure I was okay. Which actually, it's in some ways more than all the mystical experiences before and after, in some ways, in some ways that actually touched my soul, the deepest, that singular moment interaction in whenever I had challenging times later in life, I would remember that, and I would, I would remember, the strength of the parent staying in their dying body, to make sure that their child was okay. And so that would give me the strength to do a lot of difficult things, and a lot of great things that were hard to do. So, you know, that that actually touched me. practical terms more than most things, I also felt heard go. And, yeah, yeah, interestingly enough, when, and, you know, I've always been very skeptical of this, too, you know, careful not to frame things in ways that maybe are not how they are. But when she called my name there was it says, if her voice was in me, you know, that there was no sound coming from a separate place, reaching the separate person, there was a real unitive sense of the communication, even I felt her as if overlapping with me to a certain degree up at the top of the ambulance. And when when she kind of when a breathing changed, I felt her in the sense go off. It's almost felt like a like a breeze. Find me in some way. And at the time, I didn't, you know, wasn't got this concussed 13 year old, I was not interpreting that as, I'm not gonna see my mom again, alive. Body, I thought now that we're gonna get to the ambulance, maybe in the hospital, I'm gonna patch this up, you know, life, life will go on maybe. And, you know, that didn't happen.
No. Next thing that we're in the hospital, she's in the behind several rounds of blue curtains and the den of voices of doctors over there. And they're trying to save her, I'm out because I guess I was they knew I was, alright, I'm still on a gurney, because they wanted to check to make sure my spine was okay. But I'm on the gurney. And, and then my sister is there. And she's crying because she's thinking that, you know, both her mother and younger brother might be maybe kaput, and then dad came out and give us the bad news. And you know, that that hit like a, like a medicine ball to the gut. And, you know, it's kind of a blur of sadness and crying and shock, you know, being led out of lead out of the hospital, the good hearted ladies from the Lutheran Social Services, offering, offering hugs, I really wasn't quite in the I wasn't a space for both for at the time, but I know they were meant meant very well. And, and so then we were driven home by my dad's best friend. And you know that the next two days were kind of a blur of, of grief in some ways. But then, after the blur of grief, it was very interesting. I had, again, it was sort of this dual experience, like happened earlier in childhood, when we now it's a young teenager who was in grief for his mother. So I would have all the, just like Elisabeth Kubler Ross laid out the stages of grief, I was going through the ball, like a textbook, you know, through through that summer, and but at the same time, there was a silence that was, that was just always there that it couldn't shake. And at first, I thought this was shock. And I would be thinking, like, Man, this shock is pretty good. You know, I'm glad for the shock, you know, because it's this vastness that was not really in my body, but in my body, but everywhere. And when I would, I could somehow like dip into it, like, it was some kind of a substance like a lake. And I could go deeper into it. And whenever I would do that, I started to find that waves of bliss would flow up through my body, like they had when I was much younger. So I was having kind of having fun with that treating it like a phenomena is very curious about this relationship between going into this big silent thing and and all this going on and then why would go into that I would also this kind of love would pour into my heart and wrap around the people that I was with or the things that I was looking at and it was very interesting and all that was going on, though at the same time that it was as if a waterfall of grief and the different emotions were running through my body very unobstructed, you know, just just, you know, anger as well as you know, saying like, I didn't exactly believe in the God at the time. I didn't have any religion. But I said if there's a God, you know, fuck you, right my mom punching the wall. Even when I was punching a wall there this is weird quietude that was that was in the background, which I was like, okay, yeah, I couldn't shake it I haven't you tried to shake it? Because I want to see, can I shake this thing? You know, and I couldn't it's like I couldn't have it. I couldn't get away from the joy that was in there too. And I didn't express it to people.
Was it? You know, what do you believe that it was almost a gift that was given to you to kind of deal with this process?
Yes, well, in a way, yes. In another way, I kind of, especially that I had some kind of pre cognition that it was going to happen. That that helps a lot in the sense that I was not a stranger to pre cognitive experience. Just there was, I had no experience that was related to such a major thing before, but that, that helped me get through it. Looking back. And not, not even long after looking back, I realized no, that was my, that was kind of my initiation. You know, that was my, as hard as it came as a lesson. That was my, yeah, that was, that was the the fire I you know, I had a sense that at some level of my being, you know, like, my mother and I got together before the lifetime and said, like, Look, if you know, if, if plan X, you know, has to happen, this is what it's going to be like, and that was just, it was just a very sense that that was the case. And years later, I realized it was in shock that I was going through, at least not all of it. Initially, yes. But later, I realized it wasn't shock. It was it was Samadhi. And, you know, that kind of hung around for most of the summer. I mean, it wasn't there. Sometimes it'd be there very deep, sometimes a little bit shallow, but I was there, I could still be like a jackass teenager. And, and you know, goof off with friends and you know, whatever, say a lot of stupid stuff. As a 13 year old does. But it faded. And so I went to school year, again, eighth grade, and, and socially and academically, I got a lot of things that I had wanted for years, this course was very empty and hollow. And I was trying to be the person that I was before I was trying to resume the life that I had before. And it was like, you know, like trying to put on shoes that were two sizes too small. In a sense, it was painful. I want it to be not only for myself, because it's very goal oriented before but for my dead mother in a sense for my dad for my whole family. I wanted to live up to who they wanted me to be certain degree people played some it just was not going very well internally at all. And so I remember Yeah,
Well, first of all, I want to thank you so much for being so honest and forthcoming with your story. And it was painful to go back into that, that time of losing your parents and and then just, it's just such a seems like such a confusing time for you. Because at one side, you've lost your mom at the other side, you're discovering your spirituality, you're discovering these things that are happening to you. It must have been you must have been in turmoil, how did you deal with it on a psychological basis, because on a spiritual on a spiritual basis, I get I get the, you know, I've been meditating for a long time I understand the bliss, the feeling of love and when you go deep into a meditation and and that's kind of what you were doing in many ways without you knowing it, it's in some ways, but having to deal with that, and the anger and the and all this stuff at the same time added at the level of a 13 year old, let alone an adult. It would be difficult for an adult to do this, let alone a 13. So psychologically, how did you deal with this? These stressors both on both sides?
Serial girlfriend's that's actually partially true. That's actually true.
Yeah, it's a distraction. It's a distraction.
You know what I say? No, but I say these in these interviews so not exactly a distraction. But what these interviews because I had a lot of lovely people in my life and if I think about eighth grade through about my sophomore year of high school, usually I like to issue a blanket apology to everybody I ever interacted with innocence. No, that's But besides that, no, it was actually very wonderful. I'll the summers were always good for me. Because for some reason, in the summers, I would cram as much self discovery and transformation as I could into those three months. And one in the summer after eighth grade. I was. You know, initially I was trying to get back to whatever that thing was after the car accident. And my brilliant Scorpio mind decided that Oh, it must have been your proximity to death. So we got to scare you, buddy. And yeah, well, you know, cars at very slow speeds. I have people who were a little bit older, who were adults, golf carts friend had golf carts on their property. And we got a gun. And so the last one, I quit that it was when I almost like I think broke, like, almost broke my left arm, because I jumped out. And instead of knowing that I should roll, I tried to land on my two feet. And then I had a split second of like, Oh, that was, you know, and it was, you know, on to. And then I quit that because I thought, Oh, my dad's going to be really upset if I break my arm from jumping off a golf cart, because I'm trying to have a near death experience.
So literally trying to go back to having a near death experience, because you associated spirituality with
Something like that. I mean, that wasn't even calling you to do it. But then I walked into Thank God, I went to this metaphysical bookstore with my sister because I did not have interest in such stores. Because all I could see was the outside. It's a incense and weird, shiny wintertime things. Sure. And that wasn't my vibe, but I went in because I was a very dutiful younger brother, you know, just I, you know, gonna go where sister goes. And I went in the back and I just picked up some books at random. And, and one of them I opened up and it was kind of on Yogi's and and I've opened up to one page where they were describing different Samadhi experiences. And I was reading as about what in the world that because what they were describing was essentially what what I had been experiencing, sounded very similar. And so I was in that bookstore, for when when I ever I could be for the next two years. And I had a kind of a tacit arrangement with the owner. What by tacit, of course, I mean, there was no arrangement, but it kind of felt like there was. So I could read, I would read all the books, I would not buy them. But every like once a month, I would get money from my dad to buy like a talisman. And so I'd go buy like a talisman. And as long as I didn't damage any books, I felt we were good. And he just let me stay there and read all the books and I went to tons of stuff. And some of it I didn't really understand very well, but you know, it still made up made it go at that. And then you know, I was sent some in very interesting spiritual friends into my small town, one of them with my friend Pam, and she was a transcendental meditation teacher, but also kind of a local clairvoyant. And she gifted me a psychic reading for my birthday. But mainly she just talked and had this presence about her. And, and I noticed the thing in her was very similar to what I had been feeling before, which, which I keep me in. Then I met a friend named Austin, but tons of interesting experiences with that would take two hours of an interview to go through those. But things were wild around Austin synchronicities and strange happenings. And but but most importantly, that presence was with them, too. And so, you know, I was kind of I was I was getting in their presence and, and I knew I had to meditate. But I was also scared of it, in a sense, and I didn't have good instruction, I turned down TM instruction, which is probably good because that my soul, my heart said, you know, it is for you, but it's not not this lifetime, is basically what it says like, Okay, I won't, I won't do it. And then I, eventually, after three, four years, in high school, I started meditating regularly, I opened up that box, which was, to me a little bit like a Pandora's box, I had, there was this deep desire in me that I couldn't quite put words to, but sometimes I would call it the crazy monk, for lack of a better term, and I felt if I open that box, there's no turning back. I had the sense that if I let myself let this thing that this thing within me rise up, that being who I was, I would have to take it to its completion. Otherwise, it wouldn't be worth it. So I kind of artfully kind of tried to not open it, but you know, have my cake and eat it too, to a certain degree. And then, at one point, I was just no, we gotta dive in, we have to do this. And so and so I did. And I started meditating six hours a day with my techniques I've learned from a book and techniques I learned from people who'd come through town, not necessarily always the best techniques. I was taking cold showers at three in the morning. And in a waking up, and then doing three hours of meditations and yoga and Qigong and doing more in the evening. And just like, we had to do it. You had to do it. Yeah, it was all in I had to be Yeah, yeah. So and, you know, I somehow like happens to a lot of people autobiography, Yogi, so you have a lake over there. That book came into my life. I think it was my brother in law, my future brother in law. We brought it up, if I remember correctly, and I devoured that thing that reading that book, for the first time especially, was essentially like I was in satsang, with some grand being who lived in my heart. and reading the pages, it's as if there's this beautiful love that was pouring through my body and pouring out of my heart. And I remember getting to a point in the book where Yogananda promised, you know, whoever prays to Baba Ji, you know, like, it's a blessing to hear it. No. Yeah. All right. Yogananda. You didn't? You didn't know I was gonna be reading this because I'm gonna be Yeah, I'm asking. I'm asking a lot. And Right, right. Yeah, yes. Yeah. So yeah, I remember praying one night. And here again, I've always been skeptical of this, too. But I prayed one night when I was in my deepest meditation. In that particular session, I said, Okay, all right. And I sent this prayer from my heart, you know, you know, to Baba Ji. And right after I said that, this the sensation of like a, a ball, pleasurable ball coming down to my crown, happened, it was so delightful at random in the back of my head. And random is fine, and ran into my heart. And there's kind of an audio auditory feature to it, which is like, you know, pay attention to the frequency. You know, because I was basically asking, Could you help me show me to my path, and I thought it might be in one of the kriya yoga schools, but when I got the, when I got the brochure from the Ananda community, as soon as I saw it, my mind said, sex scandal. And I was right. You know, like my Grandma Grandma like that one because they had good teeth. And I was, you know, it's just like, No, no, please, there's something. There's something wrong in the state of Denmark here. And I was sending to different monasteries and anything I got it wasn't quite it didn't have a certain music about it. It didn't. I knew it wasn't my my spiritual home. So that's why I prayed to Baba Ji, because it wasn't being able to do it on my own very well. And then a few couple days later, I was coming home. And, and my, my soon to be brother in law was on the front stoop with my sister. And he said, Hey, one of the ascension classes we were going to go to got canceled. There's one in Minneapolis this weekend want to come of and you know, as as as I was walking home, and as he said that that same frequency from the other night, but the building in my head. And I basically found myself saying yes, and which was strange, because I'd become very, I become a little bit infamous for saying no to everything, you know, that that interfered with my rigid meditation schedule? No, no, no, no, no. And saying yes. Was was at that moment was was odd. And yeah,
It's fascinating story. So fascinating, my friend, because I mean, you're literally explaining the process of how a 13 year old or even actually a younger person goes through a major experience. And then you're you're literally detailing. You're trying to figure out how to get back to that feeling. Because at the age of 13, there's just no, you got nobody around. You don't have a guide, you don't have a Google, you don't have anybody. And you're just like, is it should I go on a golf cart and try to die again, maybe that's it. And he's, like, literally, that's hilarious, and terrifying all at the same time. But you eventually found your way into an ashram, where, for my for my understanding, you stayed there for many years. What was life like inside the ashram and this kind of monk like life that you started to lead?
Well, for most of my six and a half years with this Ashram and our satellite centers, for five and a half of those years, it was my own little Shangri La, essentially. Although it could be wild, and I'm not without criticisms for groups like that, but it wasn't, you know, it was far from a bad cult. I used to call it my benign cult, even when I was in mice. And people were like, Yeah, I think that's accurate. You know, that's an accurate designation, but I thought it was like, oh, yeah, I'm in a benign call. I got it was magical. Just even arriving at the door of the place. After a night on a Greyhound bus from Seattle to the Oregon coast. getting picked up it's actually funny how they picked me up they were picking up scaffolding I ended up like, burrowed into the scaffolding into Pakistan. And I love that so like this is exactly how I want you to show up at the monastery there needs to be some hardship and I was planning to like like sleep out in the woods outside their building until they admitted me I thought this is This must be what they're going to do this is you need to show commitment to the to the path you know, that was like my wiring, no such hardship like that, to my chagrin, but they did stuff me into scaffolding so I guess is that of and but it was magical. It was meeting it was having the sense of, of I would meet people and my whole spine would be lit up. And they would be such an electricity in my spine. When I would most of the people that I met beautiful, and I wasn't one necessarily prone to becoming overexcited like that. So that's why I also kind of took it to to be more meaningful. And I was a very skeptical person and skeptical people when I meet them, but my goodness, and then it was like being x rayed. Especially one of the main teachers, she had a powerful presence. And I remember, it was, I was pretty frightened, kind of in that good for me that good frightened play, but still kind of like having the sense of that, that this woman is in me from the inside out. This is not like not in an invasive way. They've been psychically attacked before and that was yet but I felt this woman, in some ways was new me more than I knew myself. And that was intimidated. And somehow I made it through my interview on the hot seat, I don't know how I did. And I stayed around three months in three months, and I thought it was the runt of the meditative litter. And I was thinking, Oh, my God, like, I don't think I don't have any silence compared to all these folks around me, I better give this up and go back live a normal life, go back to Wisconsin and I went to, I went to my sister's wedding, which was back home. And boy, when I got there, I just, I could feel the silence of it actually built up to my practice. I felt so still compared to my environment. And so much magic and synchronicity was happening. So I went back and I was much more comfortable. When I went when I went back. And it's just magic. One of the other magical things was a year before I got to get this year before I was went to the monastery before I started meditating, like as much as I was. I was I was in the Walmart, and I just It came to me to ask the question of the universe, like, Gee, where am I going to be a year from now? Because I was trying to figure out like, what college to apply to, and all these other things that you, you do. And I just think, where am I going to be a year from now? And so my surprise and answer was brought back to me. And a picture in front of me with a narrated voice was was in my mind and said, well, actually, you're going to be working in a with a bunch of monks and a mostly vegetarian cafe. Many of them will wear all white clothing, you will start out as the dishwasher, but then you'll be trained to do all the jobs up until chef and then it was done. It was done. And I said, you know, basically said, Oh, that's not likely. Just kind of throw it back over my shoulder. And then, you know, my last, the last question to me on the sort of the phone interview, to come down for a visit to this Ashram was the fellow said, Oh, by the way, we might have a job for you. We're about to buy a vegetarian cafe. You know, maybe you could be the dishwasher. And then that memory came back. And I didn't say anything, because I thought I was gonna jinx myself if I said, oh, like, that was the vision I had, I thought he think I was making that shit up or whatever. I was a little bit frightened to say that. But then, you know, most of them like, yeah, that's crazy that that cafe was just wonderful for it was perfect. I mean, it was a dream.
So are so you're in the ashram, you're there for six and a half years. And then you decide to leave and go into the real world out of your beautiful, beautiful, you know, Shangri La that you're in. So how did you deal with the real world hitting you after? Because I mean, I, I mean, I have problems coming out of a deep meditation sometimes and walking into the real world. I'm like, after a couple hours, I'm like, I'm walking out. I'm like, What is what's what I email off? Like it disorient the head, you know what it's like after six and a half years of that. So how did you deal with it?
It was it was the best thing I could do. And the worst times, and I certainly made it harder than I needed to, but I'm looking better. I'm quite glad that I had some suffering because in some ways, I didn't really have much suffering in my life. I didn't feel you did. I was
The whole thing. Throw that out there. And you inserted that thing at 13. That pretty, pretty intense, sir.
Yeah, I know. I know. I was just with all these like 50 year olds in the ashram and they're telling me about their Oh, corporate life, man. What did that was like, you know, they'd be Oh, the kids, you know, the divorce is like, wow, these are grizzled veterans of life here. I'm just, you know, just a bright eyed, bushy tailed kid here. But yes, that's right. No, I Well, part of it was difficult in the way that I felt. I had to leave the community, because I did choose to leave and I'm glad that didn't kick me out. And then I had the grace to actually pull myself up, but for the last year, I'd become a malcontent. there and really, it was, I was a year past my expiration date, and I should have pulled myself out before. So I was having these beautiful unitive experience. It's starting to happen just continuously when I was teaching in Michigan at a satellite center fires and it was just, I was sleeping three hours a night and waking up with just bliss all the time and then I was out on one of these late night walks I used to take and my heart basically said, no, what you need to do, you need to get yourself kicked out. I was like what, you know, get get yourself kicked out, you know, do you know leave. And I was like, when everything's going so well. And I was just again, I was trying to, like, not go with that, because it seemed like the worst thing to do. But I knew actually, at the time, I didn't know it was true, I heard the truth. And I knew what it was getting at. I had, I was using, not as much as maybe I knew some people do, but I was using affiliation with a group of people, you know, with spiritual teachers with a sense of tradition. I was using that as a crutch. And, and that cry, and my heart was basically telling me, you know, that this, this crutch is no good. You need to dispense with the crutch. I think I would have had an easier time if I left, right then and there. But I didn't of course, and then I started kind of getting into arguments, which is good with with people. And I was seeing I think the culture did change in my group. From the time I started to the time I left, when I started there all sorts of idiosyncratic characters who put it that way, who who were not like groupthink people. But I did see the people who were more averse to groupthink one by one they believe. And and, and so I guess it was it was my time. And And thankfully, I'd made myself a covenant or a deal years before, which is basically like, if you ever find yourself being a malcontent, for like, a long period of time, that's your sign that you need to remove yourself. So I kept my, my deal. And I was asking that to teach the practice anymore. Actually, they took my teacher's manual, they didn't actually ask me not to teach. That's another thing. And that was kind of a blow. You know, and I was very quickly I had this sense of being, I was now on the outside of this insular community. And that was hard. It was like losing a family like was your second family. And I made life harder on myself than I needed to on the outside. And if I had, if I hadn't been kind of punishing myself, in a way, I would have had an easier time that said, Boy, it was hard going to Portland, Oregon, a great city, I love it. And it was my home for many years afterwards. But it was weird. And I needed to do this, but you know, I would be in crowds. And everyone was just thinking all the time. And I had been trained basically to be in the silence. And if you can't find the silence, then use the meditation techniques to to reorient yourself. And that was, you know, boom, boom, boom, it's very focused. And I was just kind of going around, I was just like, What in the world, you know, it's different than your community and you're kind of semi cloistered, I would go teach classes and so that people come in education classes, they're self selected to be kind of have some of that orientation. But you know, kind of spending time with people with a very different life orientation was was kind of like, ah, you know, and one of the things I did also miss was our ashram had this culture of very free expression. You could, you could basically say what you want it mean, not going out of your way to hurt somebody's feelings, or something like that. But you could, you could express what was coming up with you without worrying about so much about somebody taking it personally. Which was beautiful, and you would hold the same space for another person. And for some reason, we just could do it. And usually, there'll be multiple people there if it was, you know, sticky to someone and I love that actually. But no such luck in sort of the pocket important, I found myself, I found myself and
That's so so fascinating, too, because, you know, I've, I've seen other monks, you know, who come up publicly to teach and things like that after they've left their ashram or their monastery and there is a culture shock there's especially if you've been in inside the walls for a long time and and then also you have the the other issue of having to leave and how you left and as you were saying, The being discontent or malcontent? That's exactly what happened to me when I was at a job that was paying me obscene amounts of money. And I was I was like, I've made it I'm good. I'm making money. But why do I hate my job? Why do I hate being here? And I was at it was probably about six months over my ex expiration date till, until all of a sudden, the universe sent the new supervisor who and I who didn't do that get along with me.
There's always there's always an instrument if you don't take care of it on the inside, give it something.
And they came in and they looked at the numbers like why is this guy being paid so much more than everybody else in this department, we got to get rid of this guy. And they figured out a way to get rid of me and I was blindsided. And the but two, I think three days later, I had another freelance job. And then three months after that, I opened up my own company, and the rest is history in the in the filmmaking post production space, so but it was all needed, but it's, you look back only with time you look back at your life and you analyze what happened and when it happened, you're like, if that guy wouldn't have showed up, I would have probably stayed there longer than I did. But I was actually doing things to try to get myself fired. I was literally I was I was sabotaging I was being a complete as I was being arrogant. I was like I need to get out of here at four, I'll get all my work done because I'm so much better than everybody else in the department. Things like that was a you know, it was as my Yeah, when he's at that time. 20s Yep, it was in my 20s at that time. It was fascinating. But yeah, so as you were saying that that just came back into my head. I was like, Yeah, but and it's a lesson that people listening should really understand is that if you are unhappy, truly unhappy where you are in life, and this could be spiritually this could be in your, in your job in your marriage and relationships with friends. If there is an unhappiness that's persistent, that stays with you for a long time, that's someone some that's something telling you, you need to change the situation for yourself, or yeah, if you don't, forces will start coming into the picture that will push you out and it's gonna get more unpleasant.
God. Yeah, the universe. The universe has a coterie of Apollo Clowns with their crew up that will, that will like you know, pull you hither and yon, wherever you need to go.
It's a poke first, it's a whisper first, and then it's a touch on the shoulder, then all of a sudden, the sledgehammer will start coming out and you're like, oh, okay, I needed to.
I was so glad, though. You know, one thing that had been bothering me about myself, actually, in my monastic times, was the sort of the one of the cultish tendencies is this with any group is this kind of inside outside? Dynamic, right? This kind of this kind of intense insularity, and whenever I would catch myself, you know, in that space, or speaking from influenced by that kind of this, the God is a little bit more in this monastic group in the spiritual teaching or this practice than it is out there. I would feel really uncomfortable, I'd want to go like, take a shower with Scotch Brite. And get it you know, it's like, maybe you you know what, ooh, that's there. And I could, but I couldn't shake it really well, that was it was interesting. It was a very, it had some fairly deep roots. And so the mechanism for shaking it was me, going out going to university, being in the world and being all I think all a lot of the things that I had judged, and going and getting that done myself, right. And, and the end, that's why I'm so grateful. Because I that did the trick, I guess I needed I needed the brick wall. At that point, I was having trouble learning the lesson in a more elegant fashion. And it's not like as, as as we do. Yeah. And it's funny enough, it's not like I am that now that wasn't a drinker wasn't really doing drugs wasn't having bad relationships, or anything like that was just like, not being myself, you know, I've decided to purposely be muting and not letting the Holy Spirit flow through. And that was just that was pain. That was painful. So I'm glad for it.
So it seems to me from our conversation is that there, that there's things that that life has in store for you. And there has to be certain things that happen to push you in that direction, it doesn't seem like you're going in the elegant fashion, whether that's a 13 year old experience, whether it's this experience, I'm sure you've probably had a few other ones in your life as well, that have pushed and pushed you along the way. And I think we all get a little bit of that, but yours are pretty extreme.
It say the least. Well, no, Alex Yeah. For me, it was like a mix of both. There's some things I was like a wunderkind and there's other things I write, um, as a stone.
There's so much more advanced spiritually at such an early age or having mystical experience, you understand meditation. So you have a lot of these things that we all search for, that people search for, and you've had it. But yet the simple things that we might have figured out, you're just like, now, I'm not gonna go down that road.
But give me something so everybody does, right. It made me a much better teacher, though. When I went back to teaching and I wasn't I was actually going to honor had even deference even though I was critical of certain aspects of the organization. I was I was very deferential. I was very appreciative of everything I was given. So I wasn't going to teach again, if that was part of the deal. And but when I finally did come back to it, I was I was so much better than I had been before that you found your I was, yeah, and it was just some magical years that it you know, when I when I came back to it, it was just, it was seamless. I had, yeah, yeah.
Let me ask you this. Let me ask you this, then, why do we have such struggles finding our purpose? You know, I mean, all of us do, it took me. It took me the better part of 40 odd years to figure out what I wanted to do, or what I was here to really do, which is what I'm doing currently. And, but I picked up so many tools along the way, doing other things that benefit this part of me that I couldn't do this without that. So it's kind of like it's a beautiful master plan that I had no idea about walking through, but it takes some people don't find it in a lifetime. They don't find what they're happy with. They like I think it's Robin Sharma that the author who says most people are, most people die at 20 and are buried at 80. And I was like, Oh, that's so powerful because they just go down the road that there shouldn't be going to. So why do you think that? Why do you think that we have struggled to finding our purpose?
Well, I mean, we're not exactly helped along I mean, when we diet you know, who I you know, I actually the great late great alternative historian John Anthony West. I agree with his assessment of a so called civilization, that we live in shiny barbarism, he called it and and we're not exactly help, we're kind of taught to go in every other direction. But back back into our source unless we're incredibly lucky. Right? We're, there's so much pressure and momentum, the other direction to materialism, some of its material. And some of those things are helpful in the practical sense, but we're not exactly as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi would say, like, we're taught to ABC and 123. But we're not taught how to go back to the sources and, and, and, and you know, the source and that's exactly it. If we were we if we go back to the source, if we go into these deeper strata of consciousness, I should define what I mean by that. But if we if we start to experience being totally at peace in the in that kind of peak experience state in which worry about the future regret about the past appears and we start to cultivate that, then a lot of the the miasma of, you know, self recrimination, we just, we have so much going on in our head that isn't useful. A lot of those habits start to fall away. And when they start fall away, we have deeper clarity. And with that deeper clarity, also, we start to be able to actually hear these, sometimes some of the most beautiful parts of ourselves were buried in childhood even but much before 20 They were buried before age four. Right? And and as we start to actually kind of distress the intensify, because, yeah, you know, most of us are kind of are like that, without knowing it. That stuff, it becomes easier and easier to actually hear what what our soul is trying to say, or what your heart is trying to say, or putting in different terms, what's buried deep down in the shadow portion of the psyche. And that's been one of my favorite parts of like watching people go through spiritual growth with meditation, or is the path I'm familiar with was watching people discover, like, you know, hidden talents, and realized like, Oh, my God, I love this as a child. And why did I put it away? Now what and then all of us have seen beautiful blossoming well past the age of 40? When people think like, oh, I can't, I can't, I can't turn it around past here, you know, you know, stick a fork in me I'm done or something like that. But it doesn't have to be. It doesn't have to be so. So I mean, that's part of it, though. The weight of the weight of society, the weight of conditioning is usually what I think of as the primary deterrent to actually knowing who we are.
I mean, Colonel Sanders started KFC at 65.
We were both thinking of Colonel Sanders, you actually I have Harlan on my mind.
That's, I mean, I'm, I'm vegan and plant based, but I gotta give it to him. I mean, you gotta he's, he's an inspirational story, to say the least.
Well, you know, I mean, he might be a bit of a brick wall guy too. There's a lot of grit, grit, grit, grit, grit, grind, grind, grind, grind, grind, grind, kind of like Lincoln, you know, failure, failure, failure, failure, failure. All of a sudden, you're the you're the president of the United States, right.
I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all of my guests. Yeah. What is your definition of living a good life?
Wow. That's beautiful. Actually, that's a very difficult question. I never even think about that. Well, my definition of living a good life is, is basically living as much in the present moment as you possibly can. More define more than the present moment, living in that space that's timeless. And when you live from that timeless space, then funnily enough, you don't become less of an individual, you know, you don't become you know, suddenly beige and, you know, having no characteristics you often people become more eccentric in a sense. They become who you know specifically who they who they need to be. And and so if you can then live from that place in which you're You're singing the song that's basically been been put to you. That's beautiful. That to me is living Dharma. Our Dharma is a song. Our purpose is a song. And then you're in. That's wonderful. So
What is your mission in this life?
To that song? No, that's very circular, isn't it? Well, what I take joy in, besides Chai, and curry, you know, apart from chai and curry, I love I love helping people know, you really actually can't, nobody can really do that much and helping another you can do like a little bit. And then it's, it's always up to up to them. But I love kind of being around when people are discovering the song within themselves. I love encouraging people to, you know, break through whatever they need to break through to relax more than they're comfortable with relaxing and discovering that within themselves. So that I think is my purpose.
And what is the ultimate purpose of life?
Singing Kind of funny. That's the end of yellow submarine that yes, that's right. Yeah, with the blue means let's try to do it in the same inflection. But, but kind of in that sense. I mean, I could say something very abstract, which is, which I think is true, which is to, you know, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi used to say, live 200% of life. What he really meant by that is, if you could discover that infinite Stillpoint that, you know, is formless inside you. That's, that's, that's an incredible boon, but you're not done yet. Then the next thing is to also allow the love that if you could put that forth, if you could give the formulas of form, we call it love, or we call it God, to flow through you fully, completely. That's 200% In a sense, so to me that that's really the purpose to to be a channel of love.
And where can people find out more about you and the work that you're doing, sir?
Well, I've got websites. What I know is that I probably have to edit those websites. But you know, you view public out there, you know, but I have a couple of websites. One of them's a meditation website, and another of them is for one of my less reputable professions, which is as an intuitive astrologer. And so in in those two professions, as meditation teacher and intuitive astrologer, I basically feel like I'm, I'm tackling the two sides and a sense of, of that, infinity, I'm helping people to find the formulas and I'm also helping people to reconnect with their, with their dharma, their true purpose with the astrological work. So
Alex Ferrari 1:03:04
Ishtar it has been an absolute pleasure and honor talking to you, my friend, it has been an adventure to say at least I feel like I've gone through your life's path as we've talked through this conversation in a wonderful way. The highlights of it, like the highlights and the the ups and the downs. And we've really kind of got an idea of your, of your journey, and I appreciate all the work that you're doing in the world trying to help as many souls as you possibly can. So I appreciate you as my friend. Thank you so much.
Ishtar Howell 1:03:29
Thank you, Alex.
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