An Ordinary Disaster
Brothers and Teachers
E07 / Essence, Intuition, and Penetrating Divine Illumination with Robert Ellis

E07 / Essence, Intuition, and Penetrating Divine Illumination with Robert Ellis

Your individual essence, paths and quests, adventure, depression, intuition, decisions and choices, the three essence questions, cancer, not having to be a father, and personhood.

This conversation is part of a series of interviews with various brothers and teachers, including many fellow writers, all of which are part of the body of work surrounding my book-length memoir An Ordinary Disaster—one man's proof that we can all learn to listen to ourselves, and to act upon the inner voice of our self, our sanity and our soul.

Today, I'm talking with master coach Robert Ellis, who is the founder of the Coaching From Essence program and of his community of coaches called Futurosity. I met Robert through a close friend of mine who's also a fellow entrepreneur, and I immediately felt his strong, clear, warm presence and his focus on the unique essence of every individual person.

As I was editing this episode, I was struck with this realization about love. In the past, I've often confused the feeling of appreciation of love in the present with a desire to feel that feeling for an infinity of time. What I mean is that, feeling love, my heart aches to expand that feeling into the future, because that seems like the only possible direction that it could expand. What I realized just now, is that the reality is that love is already infinite in the present, and so, my fantasy of its possible expansion in time is often just a distraction from the greater appreciation of love in the present moment.

...and that is a big part of why I'm doing this series of conversations—to take the opportunity to get to know men that I love and respect more deeply…and Robert is certainly one of those men.

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Show Notes

We all have a unique essence—we all have a natural way of being in the world that is good. This essence is also our unique medicine (read Toko-Pa Turner for more on this). Most everything when we’re growing up conspires against our essence, and so what most of us do is create a life that is an accommodation to those circumstances, and we create a false self. At some point this false self breaks down. This dark passage can be the “dark ally.” If we won't go to our demons, our demons will come to us.

The difference between a path and a quest. Getting from A to B. For a lot of people, the path to “B” (the goal) comes from the past—and isn’t congruent with who they really are, or could be. Often—like when we are journeying out of darkness—what you actually want is something better than you can imagine. This is a journey into the unknown—an adventure. This is a quest—moving into the unknown, deliberately.

Depression. “What if I’ve been broken all along, and didn’t know it?” Every good quest begins with a question—and his question was, “how can I be whole-hearted?” He needed to build a relationship with his own essence.

“I think of gratitude as the beginner's practice. The first practice is to be grateful for the good things that you have. The advanced practice of gratitude is to be grateful for everything that you have.”

The practice of generosity helped me to restore my relationship with myself.”

How does he think about discipline? “…discipline is more path- like behavior. B is not a goal because we don't actually want B. We don't want the best thing that we can imagine. We want something better than we can imagine. …discipline is of dubious value. What we need instead is courage and action.”

“Most of us settle for a bonsai dream.”

“begin before you're ready” or “just ready enough.”

“the more you go on the journey, the more the journey draws you.”

“…if you do the work, success is assured. …and by work, I just mean that you're on your quest.”

Intuition… The difference between decisions and choices. How “decide” means “to cut away,” and choose means “to taste” (Latin gustare). When you make a decision, you're saying yes to something, but you're also saying no to something else. “I feel more affinity for decisions than I do for discipline.” Some possibilities are shiny objects and that can lead you to being what I call opportunistic—So how do you decide which possibilities are right for you? “The more congruent I am, the more that feels like intuition.”

So, how do I decide? I ask myself what I call the Three Essence Questions: 1) will this create a life I love? 2) is this my best way of serving from my essence? 3) who will I become?

“The journey that I've been on is from self- interest status- seeking, scarcity and survival, to what I think of as essence, abundance, service, and trust. …What I'm trying to do is create a life that is big enough for my essence to express itself.”

For me, expression is part of my essence. To speak myself into being. That was the light that fed the flower that began to bloom into what eventually began to feel like abundance, and gratitude for everything.

“Writing is a really good discipline. It's a good essence practice because the challenge is to write something that's true.” — this also points out that another way of thinking about “discipline”—in addition to courage—is simply “practice.”

“…the reason I didn't want kids is it was too scary. I was afraid I wasn't enough. I didn't think I could take care of anybody else.”

While I certainly think of myself as a man. I think of myself more as a person.

When I do [change my mind], I get to be right again.

The difference between something that you want and something that you want to want. “I don't have to be a father.”

“Penetrating Divine Illumination is the idea that just in the way you experience the healer, you feel better before you even take the medicine.”

To me, love feels like breathing colorful attention, and how these men I’ve been talking to are beacons of love.

You can find Robert, his Coaching From Essence program, and his community of coaches called Futurosity at

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Love reading?

You might enjoy some of my other writing on the subjects of masculinity, fatherhood, adventure, depression, intuition, and coaching — in particular What is Intuition?as well as these books:

Toko-Pa Turner, Belonging
Nassim Taleb, Antifragile
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

…stick around — I’ve got some questions for you…

  1. What’s your understanding of your own unique essence?

  2. Have you had your own dark passage of the soul? How did you get through it and what did you learn?

  3. Have you ever had a hard time with decisions? Does this distinction between “decide” and “choose” make sense? Does it help?

  4. What does love mean to you? Is there a way that you visualize or conceptualize it?

  5. Are you a parent? What was your journey to parenthood—or not—like?

  6. Who are some of you favorite examples of people who embody positive masculine energy?

And finally, please don’t forget to let me know that you enjoyed this piece by smashing that cute little red heart ❤️down below ↓↓↓

An Ordinary Disaster
Brothers and Teachers
This show is a series of conversations with and about people who embody positive presence, talking about identity, addiction, depression, adventure, intuition, love, relationships, gender, sexuality—and becoming ourselves as much as possible. It's also an effort to honor people who who have been teachers, who I love and respect, and who I want to get to know more deeply. In short, a way to highlight people doing and being good in the world.