In this podcast episode, Jamal delves into his personal journey of questioning the purpose of life and religion. Growing up with parents who struggled and suffered, he couldn't understand why their devout faith didn't seem to address the roots of their trauma. This led him on a journey to discover what was real and what wasn't, eventually stepping down from his position as a pastor to deconstruct his belief system.
Jamal Jivanjee is a best-selling author, podcaster, and full time life coach. As an author with over twenty years of experience working with people in various stages of personal struggle and challenges, after traveling to many cultures around the globe, and now as a full-time life coach, Jamal is passionate about serving individuals, couples, companies, and groups on the path toward enlightenment, wholeness, and liberation.
By helping to identify and clear energetic systems of belief that create fear, disharmony, and disease, Jamal seeks to restore awareness of the ever present and unitive divine flow of abundance, good will, and love that exists for us all physically, mentally, and spiritually.
In this podcast episode, Jamal delves into his personal journey of questioning the purpose of life and religion. Growing up with parents who struggled and suffered, he couldn't understand why their devout faith didn't seem to address the roots of their trauma. This led him on a journey to discover what was real and what wasn't, eventually stepping down from his position as a pastor to deconstruct his belief system.
He shares how his upbringing shaped his perspective on life being a struggle and how becoming a young father made him question the worth of trading his life away for a paycheck. The host also discusses how religion became his drug of choice, distracting him from himself and leading him to become a pastor in an attempt to help people heal. Through introspection, he realized that abandonment and not feeling like enough were two main pain points that influenced his relationship with God. This episode is an honest exploration of one's personal journey towards self-discovery and finding meaning in life
00:00:00 Life Coach And Author Living In Los Angeles Surprised By Record Snowfall In San Bernardino County
00:05:13 Hiking Through Deep Snow For Survival
00:06:27 Reflections On Resilience And Life Expectations
00:10:03 Pen Pal Love Story: How My Parents Met Without Ever Meeting
00:12:31 Unlikely Love Story: A Muslim Man And Catholic Woman Exchange Photos And Meet In Europe, Maintaining Their Faiths Throughout The
00:14:48 Becoming A Corrections Officer To Provide For My Daughter
00:18:31 The Search For Meaning And Roots Of Trauma In Faith And Life
00:20:31 Working In A Prison With No Law Enforcement Background: Overcoming Challenges At 19 Years Old
00:22:53 Mini Riots During Count Time In A Medium Security Prison
00:27:20 Discovering The Goodness Of Humanity: A Corrections Officer's Perspective
00:29:21 Abandonment And Not Enough: A Personal Journey To Becoming A Pastor
00:30:48 The Importance Of Personal Healing Before Helping Others: A Story Of Divorce.
00:33:42 Realization Of The End Of A Relationship
00:35:33 The Impact Of Divorce On A Friend's Sense Of Security And Stability
00:38:03 Understanding And Grace In Homelessness
00:41:57 People Only Want To Know The After Story, Not The In-between Stage
00:46:11 Acceptance And The Future
00:48:00 Acceptance And Learning From God In The Current Season
00:49:49 The Importance Of Life's Challenges And Experiences
00:54:09 Ways To Connect With The Speaker And Key Takeaway
The podcast episode features an interview with Jamal Jivanjee, who discusses his parents' interfaith marriage and his own journey with religion. He shares that his mother was a devout Catholic and his father was a devout Muslim, but later converted to Catholicism.
Jivanjee also talks about his personal struggles with abandonment and feeling like he was never enough, which led him to become a pastor. The transcript ends with Jivanjee providing information on how to contact him through his website.
What would it be like to go from being married and in what seems like a good relationship to divorced and homeless? I don't think anyone ever expects to find themselves in a situation, life like that yet. That was where Jamal found himself at a point in his life. Maybe it was the lowest point in his life. We're gonna explore that today.
So, welcome to the show, Jamal. Thank you. It's such an honor to be on the show. I've been looking forward to this conversation. That's awesome. And for those who are those who are tuning in um recently after the release, um Jamal and I were gonna record earlier, but he got buried or his town got buried under about eight ft of snow legitimately, eight ft of snow. And so we end up having to reschedule. So I've been really looking forward to this as well.
Awesome, appreciate your flexibility. We are surviving for sure. That's good. Yeah, you're not in your normal recording studio. So, um you know, before we dive into your story, uh kind of where are you at obviously currently? Right? Very currently, you're, you're staying with a friend there who's, who's taking care of you during this, this kind of difficult time here. But uh just letting people know where you're at, what you're doing presently and then we're gonna explore your story and see kind of how you got to this place. Yeah, totally. My wife and I live in a little mountain community about an hour and a half east of Los Angeles and southern California.
That's where we reside full time. And, um, I'm a life coach by profession. I'm author, podcaster. That's currently what I'm doing. It's awesome. And when we hear Los Angeles, like, we don't think about snow and winter, you know, it's not something that sort of comes to mind. And yet here you go, is this like a record snowfall, like as, as San Bernardino County, ever seen this much snow?
Well, you know, where we live in the mountains, so Los Angeles doesn't get a ton of snow, but we are actually about, were over a mile high, you know, so we're over 10,200 ft. It's kind of, you know, give or take some and there's a lot of mountain communities and it's typical for us to get snow during the winter. We get all the seasons. But this, yeah, we have our area where I currently live, we have never, there's not in recent history, have been any record of 91 inches of snow. I mean, that's like, like eight ft of snow.
Um, yeah, cars completely submerged. It was just too much for the community to handle without extra help. Yeah. I mean, were you like climbing up the second floor window to get out of your house or like what was that like?
Well, well, we had a, I mean, there was a lot, we had a tree fall, um trees. So we lived in the middle of a kind of a National Forest area. So with that kind of snow, you know, a lot of the trees will break. So we had trees falling, one fell on our cars actually on the driveway. We're in block the entrance, our cars thankfully were submerged in snow. So it fell on top of the snow. So we, we're not yet sure if it caused how much damage it caused, but it took out the power lines. So we lost power, we lost communication, uh cell phone coverage, all of that is dependent upon power and internet because we don't have natural cell coverage here where we live.
So, yeah, it was. So we had to hike out on foot and we hiked for about five miles actually. To get to, Um, you know, a place where there was power and then we were able to get a ride to a family's home that lives about 20 minutes away in a nearby town. So this is already like, kind of like a crazy story, right?
Um, hiking out and, and you're hiking up five miles on foot with no cell coverage. So, I mean, that, that's a little bit hazardous like those. I mean, I live in Canada.
We get like some pretty serious winter but, You know, it would be extremely rare for us to get like a 91" of snow to, you know, and I, we live just east of the mountains in Alberta, Canada. But, um, so you're, you get like kitted up and you're like, all right, like we have to leave because we have no power. Was there any like radio or anything like that or how did you know where to go or what direction to go?
Well, the day before we ventured out, this is when the storm ended and we were just kind of assessing with the situation and we were gonna walk. So we were without power, but we were gonna walk into the little town as we were walking into town, we ran into some neighbors who informed us that the grocery store that the main grocery store for the town we live in had totally collapsed, the ceiling or the roof had fallen in. So that was eye opening, that really kind of gave us some impetus like this is, you know, sometimes you're not sure how bad something is until you, you see kind of see the results of the storm like that. So when we heard that we knew we need to get out of here, um So we walked up the road just to the point where we did get a little bit of cell coverage and we were able to make arrangements to, to get to somebody's home who did have power. And another part of our town, it was that hike was about three miles and we knew we would have to, we're gonna have to walk because they were not able to plow the roads that, you know, the car, cars were completely submerged up to the roof and snow. So there was no driving.
We knew we had to hike. So we prepared a couple of carry on luggage is, um, that my wife and I were gonna carry and then we put a couple backpacks on and carry on and we hiked and all that snow to get to safety man, like how, you know, like sinking up to your waist or deeper. And snow is you're trying to hike through this or were you and was like fairly fluffy snow or is it coastal like wet snow?
I was a little bit, you know, it was fluffy for the most part it was heavy. Um, we we, in some places we were, you know, we would be waist deep and, you know, but we were trying to stay on the tracks like in the road where, you know, some four wheel drives or, you know, vehicles had kind of made a little bit of a track. We were able to kind of get into those grooves and, and bulking that and that was, that was more helpful, but it was a challenge for sure. It was character building experiences, man.
Uh, because, you know, you don't wanna, I mean, of course, I'm just thinking here you're up in some mountain community and whatnot. You don't want to get lost in the woods either as you're trying to find your way out. So, um, yeah, we were, we were on, you know, we, once we got off our, our road that we live on, there were some, some more of the main roads and a little bit more possible. Good, good. Well, that, that's already like a pretty cool.
I mean, I say it's a cool story. I mean, it's not a fun experience to go through, but, uh, let's call it a character building experience. But, you know, we already know that you're, you're very resilient guy just from the, the life you've already lived. And so, um, let's, let's rewind the clock a little bit here and kind of go back to how things, how things started for you.
You know, because I think probably when growing up, maybe we have this idea of what our life is going to look like. You know. And did you, what was that like for you? And did you have an idea of what you thought your life was going to turn out? Like what? That's, that's a great question, you know, growing up, I always like to kind of, you know, talk about my parents for a little bit because they obviously as all of us, their parents shape us. But my dad, you know, grew up in East Africa, Little Island off the coast of East Africa. And um originally from, from India, Indian heritage, my mother grew up in Ohio and the Midwest or Eastern part of the United States. And both of the of, of my, both my moms families, my mom and my dad's families, they a lot of history of just generational poverty um and struggle. So when I was born, when I came into this world, I was always aware, I was always had questions.
I was, I was like to say, very observant from the earliest that I can remember. I always wanted to know the question why I was always asking the question, why. And so observing my dad and observing my mother, I was picking up, I picked up on this, this, this sensation or this idea that life was a struggle. And so I actually envisioned that for my life struggle, that life was gonna, and that's the messages that were, you know, consciously, sometimes, but a lot of the unconsciously was delivered to me was that in order to make it in life, you have to, you have to work really hard, you have to struggle. It's not easy. And if you work really hard, you may survive, possibly just survive, not thrive and survive. And that caused a lot of banks. And I didn't know, I didn't know what to do with that.
That was a, it's kind of the backdrop in the way I life the world. Um And if I may ask, what island was it that your dad grew up on? He grew up in Zanzibar, which is part of Tanzania now. Yeah. Yeah, because I was thinking, um, off of East Africa there, there are a few places where Indians, um, went and, and settled, actually quite a few, including South Africa as well.
I spent some time living in South Africa and, and maybe a lot of people don't actually realize that, but there's actually a fairly sizable population there as well. Uh How did he, how did he, if I may ask, how did he end up in Ohio? How do you not meeting your mom?
It's a great question. They were, um, my mother and my father both belonged to this international organization back. It was the late sixties.
Um, and they, there was this guy who was from Ohio, he traveled the world and was really, um, kind of moved, it seems, you know, struggling folks in the third world that was struggling and he wanted to connect people just relational e to the, you know, people, you know, in Africa and in Asia and these places to, he wanted to connect the western world too, you know, more remote places. And so he started this organization, um, really a Penpal organization to connect people and he thought that was the best way to have needs met. So, um my, my, he put out an ad in the East African newspaper. My dad eventually moved from Zanzibar to Kenya and settled in Mombasa, Kenya. Um And my dad was reading the East African newspaper at the time and he saw this little ad and he wrote to the ad said that, you know, write to this address if you want to pen pal. So he wrote to his address.
My mother was recent, recently, had moved to Columbus, Ohio, which is the big city for her. And I was working at a job and somebody had brought in a little radio and had it in their little cubicle. And she heard a commercial on the radio says if you would like a pen pal, write to this address, same guy, same organization. So she wrote it on the same time and that's how they got paired up and they wrote to each other for about six years. They were pen pals and that's, that's how my dad you know, and he proposed in a letter, eventually he proposed they never met. She accepted. Wow. That, that's pretty remarkable.
You know, my wife and I, my wife from Australia and from, from Canada and we, we met and we had like a long distance sort of relationship, but we had the internet now. It wasn't, it wasn't as good as it is now. Like, you know, we didn't really have high quality video calling, but we had Skype where we could do audio calling over the internet. It was still a little bit Laghi. This was back in the early two thousand's.
But, You know, I think I just hide that because, you know, here we are like we're talking video, the 21st century video recording a podcast. This amazing technology here, they're writing letters to each other which you would write a letter and wouldn't get a reply for, I don't know, six weeks, eight weeks, something like that. How long it took?
Yeah, it was, you know, air mail, you know, I still remember the envelopes, the blue ones, airmail um and air mail and then sometimes by ship. Um it would take sometimes a letter, you know, they would get one or two a month from each other. That was about it.
Yeah, that man, that's something that's, that's a really cool story though. And so they, they ended up falling in love and, and uh and how like, like honestly like serendipitous almost you know, like, how, how random is it that, like one person reads and add, another person hears a radio ad and somehow they get matched up to write letters, like, you know, I'm not sure your thoughts on Divine Providence. And I'm like, man, it feels like that was one of those things was, like, meant to be. Oh, absolutely. And they, they had that sense as they were writing because my dad, you know, he was, comes from a devout Muslim family and it's really kind of not done.
You know, my mother was a devout Catholic. She actually wanted to be a nun before they got engaged. So, the fact, I mean, it was almost, it was so unlikely but when they were writing to each other they had this sense that they both knew each other, that this was right. Eventually he proposed and, uh, and she accepted without having ever met or even spoke on the phone. So they sent photos, do they even know? Yeah. I think they had exchanged photos and this, by this time they had been writing, you know, for six years. So they have a good sense of, of, of who they were. Yeah. And, uh, she, she applied for him to come and she ended up meeting him in Europe. And then, because I guess the immigration rules were, he had to, at least I've met. So she, at that point and so she went over to Germany to meet, he made his way from Africa to Europe and she met him there and then applied for him to come and, you know, the rest is history. That's quite something. And so did he, did both your parents maintain their, their faiths? Like, did he maintain his, his Muslim faith and your mom maintain your Catholic faith? Yes. So my mother maintained her devout Catholicism, um, all her life.
Um, my dad, you know, maintained he was a very devout Muslim and he eventually, in his later years, uh converted to Catholicism, which is the whole story in itself. So that's very unlikely. But he did. Yeah. But growing up, we grew up, I grew up going to the mosque on the weekends and then Catholic schools during the week. So I, that was also something I was curious about, you know, always asking questions, you know, what are the differences here? How do you know who's right?
That kind of thing. Yeah, that's the kind of questions you would find yourself asking. Well, how do you know who's right? Because dad believes this and mom believes this and you both like, really believe with all of your hearts and so on.
And, you know, and so even that would would, I guess, kind of shape your perspective. But, uh, yeah, so you talked about, you know, but both of them maybe came from a place of struggle. And so that was that sort of messaging, that sort of energy was kind of imparted on you sort of growing up and, and whatnot. So you had this idea that, well, life is gonna be hard. I'm gonna have to work hard and, and maybe I'll get lucky and, and kind of make it, you know, and so, um as you get out of high school, where did your life go from there?
Well, out of high school, um I became, you know, it was kind of repeating history on my mother's side. So I became a dad, I was, my girlfriend, became pregnant. Um so I literally had a daughter on my 18th birthday. We had the same birthday. So she was born, I was a senior in high school and I graduated um with within a month of that. So my daughter was born in May, I graduate in June. So I needed a job. I was a young dad.
I needed to try to figure out how to provide for my, for my daughter. Um So I ended up becoming, it took about a year, but ended up becoming a corrections officer, got a job in the state penitentiary. Um And that's the whole story in itself and then end up working there for about 4.5 to 5 years. Um And that was instrumental for me for sure. Yeah. So, and that's something I'm not quite sure how old you are. What year was when you were graduating? 1983, graduated class of 93. Very okay. So, again, things just sort of like the time and whatnot and how did you, how did your parents respond to you? Father? Ring a child? And I believe, I guess I'll be out of wedlock at that time. Absolutely. I was out of wedlock.
I had, my teenagers were filled with like a lot of, lot of struggle they, you know, interpreted that as a lot of rebellion. I was really angry, confused, searching person, you know. And so I had went through, you know, and for my, for my dad's perspective was very shameful what I was doing, how I was living. My mother just, just was exacerbated.
She didn't know what was wrong with me. But I was looking back at that period of my life and I could see that there was trauma that I was coming to the surface and I just didn't know how to deal with it or even understand what it was. Um But I was, I was always somebody that wanted, I was never okay with just going through the motions. I wanted to experience life the way it was. I wanted to get to the root of things. And I was always asking questions. And so for, for, for a long time, I just felt stuck.
I didn't realize like life seemed like a joke. You know, we're here to slave away and grind away so we can earn money so we can pay the bills. But for what, what's the main purpose here? And this existential angst or anxiety of living never seemed to leave. Um And so that was a backdrop and that was, that was, that was a struggle that they could see, but they didn't understand it, you know, and, and, and in the same way I didn't understand it. So I was looking into it. Yeah. You think about both under sort of maybe Islamic culture and, and Catholic culture where, where sin is seen as incredibly shameful. And um I'm not Catholic, I've had Catholic friends growing up, but, you know, they offer it often seems like there's like a burden of guilt and shame laid on people too, bring them into compliance if you will. Um It doesn't seem like a healthy ways.
I am a Christian for the record. I don't wear on my sleeve and walk around pronouncing loudly or anything. But it just seems like a really, really difficult way to try to shape any kind of spiritual relationship when it starts with this heavy burden that's like, you know, filled with shame and guilt and whatnot. And so, you know, I can imagine both of them though, having been raised in those environments, obviously, then watching you struggle with this and then they're, they're not doing this in malice or, you know, it's, it's more a case of they're, they're just going from what they learned. And so interesting as we look back now and reflect on, you know, kind of how our parents, how they were raised, how they were, shaped, how their experience, um, shapes our experience.
And, I mean, there's a whole other world to be explored when it comes to, like, intergenerational trauma and things like that. That might have to be a separate conversation. But just, just to connect some of those dots. And you go, oh, I get it now. Like they were doing the best they could with what they knew at the time. Sure. Absolutely. They totally were. And, you know, and then there is the idea that they think they approach life with is, you know, um that God is somebody that, you know, they wanted to know that there's more to this life, this life was almost a precursor to the next life. So if we can get through this, we can survive and just make it in the next life will be, that's really where living is, you know. So it was almost like, and I picked up on that and I just, I couldn't understand that. How could this life just be a throwaway in order? Like looking forward to the next life as opposed to, is there? What's the point of this? And I can never get to the root of that. Uh And uh their struggle, their suffering, I could see the trauma that they had and their faith as devout as they were.
This is just my perception. It didn't seem to touch the trauma. It didn't seem to address the roots of their trauma and I was interested in getting to the roots. And so, but I just didn't know. So if it wasn't, if it wasn't their faith in what was it? And that led me in my own journey eventually. Right? Yeah. Yeah. So your daughter is born and you realize, okay, I gotta, I gotta like, man up and take some responsibility here.
You made a commitment. You said I'm gonna, I'm gonna do my best to provide. I'm not running away from this responsibility and you get a job as a, as a corrections officer. Like at 18, I was 19.
Actually when I, when I started working in the prison. So it seems like awfully young to be. What, what, what prison was it?
Well, it was, it was in Ohio and it was a minimum, medium security was a state penitentiary. So basically when somebody is convicted of a felony, they would get sentenced to whatever time they were going to do. So that's, uh, that's the prison I worked at. So there was obviously a number of prisons, but I was, I worked at a minimum medium security prison.
Um, and it was, it was a life changing experience for me. The only reason I got the job that I have an older brother is a year and a half older. He, he actually got a job as a corrections officer before.
I did and the reason he and myself got the job because my dad actually knew somebody who was kind of high up in the, in Ohio. They call it the state title of that department is called the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. So somebody who worked in, at the corporate level, he knew somebody, they put, got my application pool and I got an interview. I was really not qualified.
Most of the folks that worked there had a law enforcement background. They were either, had, had, got a degree in criminology or they worked in law enforcement. I had none of that. So it really was not qualified for the job, but it was instrumental and providential. I believe that. Yeah, that end up working there.
Oh, man, I think like, and, and I mean, I guess it's probably good you weren't thinking dumped into a max security with like the most hardcore of human beings and criminals at 19 years old kind of thing. But you're still walking into environment with incarcerated individuals who have committed crimes and, You know, if I may, like, I think still relatively young and naive at 19 years old, you know, what was it like when you kind of walk through there? Maybe got a bit of a tour before that, before you, like, accepted the job or something or? But you walk in your first day on the job and what's it like? Well, we went through an academy, um, you know, to, to try to prepare us and, you know, I'm sure that that helped a little bit. Um It was just overwhelming. I remember feeling very overwhelmed. Um the idea of needing to control other human beings to try to make them, do, make them follow the rules.
You know, our job as corrections officers was to maintain security of the institution. But you realize, I mean, we were, you know, give you an example in the dormitory and this was in a dormitory setting. You would have, you know, a dormitory would have 500 inmates. There would be four corrections officers that were in charge of overseeing 500 inmates. So the ratio is not, you know, so it's an illusion in many ways of control, but you did have to maintain a certain presence to, to get, you know, to, to be able to, for, for guys to respect you and listen to you and for you to be able to do your job.
That was extremely taxing because one of the things I realized pretty quickly is that you don't actually control other people. You know, I don't know what you're I was like, I don't know about your physical stature. Like, are you, you know, are you a big fellow, small fellow like small um, so five ft five, you know, probably, you know, at the time I probably weighed 100 and £50 you know, so small, not small guy, not the most imposing presence and you think? Oh man, I've gotta, I've gotta maintain some semblance of order here. What was your kind of like first challenging encounter with, with an inmate? Oh, my goodness. Well, my first challenging encounter was probably, I feel like I didn't have, I'm sure there were others, but I just don't remember them at the time.
My first, the one that comes to mind is we had a little mini riot situations. So, you know, um we had count, they had to count on our shift and we counted at least three times a shift. And when there was, when it was count time, everybody had to be, you know, in the minimum, minimum, medium security prison, it was kind of like the military where there's barracks, you know, a dormitory, you would have bunk beds and everybody had to be on their bunk. You know, when, when it was count time everybody was supposed to be locked in. You would have these, these, They call them bays.
Each bay has housed about 5050 guys. And then there would be these crash gates that would be, you know, these big gates that would lock these guys in. So everybody had to be locked down. And when you went to count, you would open up the gate and go in and you'd be in a bay and count the guys. And then when you're done, you'd lock the gate against everything. Everybody's locked down. Well, during count time, one time and we were going through counting. And after accounts over your, you have to make, you have to tell guys if they have every inmate has a job to do in the prison. So certain guys were supposed to go to the, to the chow hall, the kitchen to prepare food. And so we knew who those people were, was our job to make sure that they were notified that they had to go to work after count was cleared. So we did our account and then woke the guy up and he was asleep in his bed and he said, you know, you know, you have to go to work today. So when accounts cleared, you know, you need to be waiting at the door and he just looked and he goes, I'm not going to work today, which was not, not something that they could just do. And so to make a long story short, this developed really quickly into a conflict.
Um, so when we tried to put handcuffs on him to take him to the hole, so the hole was like jail within jail. You know, you couldn't refuse a direct order like that. He ended up getting violent with us and started attacking, well, I was just myself and my partner was with me and he started attacking us and this was a big fella. I mean, he was, you know, probably, you know, six ft tall over £300 big guy. And he was, we were, you know, outmatched and we were in the middle of the bay when this happened. So we're surrounded by 50 guys in here. And so there's a lot of commotion, a lot of yelling and then all of a sudden he decides to run out of the bay and he runs down the hallway running away from us. And so we have to go after him. So my partner runs after him and all of a sudden I see him jump on.
My partner starts, starts pounding on my partner's attacking him. So I run after him to assist, but I forgot to lock the gate behind me. And when that happened, um we had a, we called a rapid response team that comes and to try to subdue the inmates. So this rapid response team was coming down the hall. So it looked like 10 corrections officers jumped on this guy to get him down to get him handcuffed.
When these other guys saw that they thought he was getting abused. These 50 guys ran out and was preparing to, they were going to kill you and developed into a little riot situation and they surrounded us and I literally thought that was going to die that day. So that was because you're outnumbered and you, and it's so interesting the observation you like maintain this illusion of control when it's like really if the people, if they if they decided to sort of rise up with their numbers, you know. What are you gonna do? Yeah. There's, there's, it's an illusion for sure.
Well, I realized at that moment that what I had been doing was I was trading my life away for a paycheck. You know, and I realized at that moment it's like my life like this suddenly did not seem like, like what I had always said, I wasn't going to do, which was to leverage my life for survival, which is what I witnessed my parents doing growing up, I found myself in that moment confronted with is my, what is my life worth? Yeah. And uh you know, really challenged that, you know, I had to ask that question. So the turning point, no kidding. And so, so during this time working, were you maintaining a relationship with the mother of your child?
Yes, we end up getting married. So we ended up getting, getting married. And so I was a, was a husband, young father. Absolutely. Yeah. But eventually it leads to you being divorced. Um How, how did that when you, when you got married, did you go into it?
Thinking, you know, okay, this is going to make it work. Like marriage is gonna make this work. We're going in this for life. Like there's this idea that okay, this is, this is my life partner or what was the idea going into it? So my, my thought going in when I got married. So I got married, had a child when I was 18, got married right around 19.
Right around the same time I got the job as a corrections officer and a lot of that was done because it was the right thing to do. That's what I was taught. And I actually had become a convert to Christianity at the time, an evangelical Christian really wanted to do to do what was correct. And people were advising me this is what you need to do. And so I was doing all of that was doing what I knew to do. But one of the things um so working in the prison, I began to understand something. Now I saw it first in other people, but I began to understand, I always tell people, I'm a firm believer in the goodness of humanity, but I didn't always believe that it took me working in a prison to actually come to that conclusion.
People said, well, that's crazy. How did you come to that conclusion? Working in a prison? And what I saw in a nutshell was I realized that everybody has a story and behind that story, you know, so is, you know, is who they actually are. But most people never actually meet who they are, they never come in contact with who they are.
They're just living out of this story, whatever that story is. And so for the guys in prison, all that behavior, all that, you know, you know, we lock these folks away and call them criminals and these are bad people. But the more I worked in that prison, the more I realized I started to hear their stories learn their backgrounds, I realize this is just a story. It's not who they are. And I saw that in other folks, but I didn't realize that I also was living out of a story. And so my story had two main pain points and one of them um is abandonment, the sense of, you know, just being abandoned. Um And a lot of that has to do with the dynamic that I had with my own mother.
My mother had, had went through a ton of abuse growing up, had never really dealt with it. She was profoundly depressed as when I was a child, I just remember her, you know, being in and out of depression, sleeping a lot, having a lot of health issues. So that really affected me because I always felt like I was on the verge of losing my mother. I never felt like I could connect with her and never felt like she was there for me. So there was one of the main pain point was abandonment. Yeah. The other, the other issue that kind of came from my dad's side was never enough.
So, so abandonment and then not enough, this was that these were two main pain points that so when I approached um you know, God, my relationship with God, it was always through that lens of need to do more, be more perform better. So this um led me into leaving a job as a corrections officer and becoming a pastor did that, went to college study, you know, got the degree went and then became a church planter and actually became a pastor. And I was on this quest to help people, to heal people. Um I got a lot of that inspiration from my time as a corrections officer because I developed a real hunger for people and helping people see beyond their own story. And I did this work for almost 20 years as a uh well, I was, I was an actual pastor in that position for about five years, but often on, you know, um since the time I became a convert to evangelical Christianity to the point of my divorce was almost 20 years. And I did not realize I would have said this, but I didn't realize that that a lot of the things I was trying to do for folks out here folks.
I was trying to bring healing to and help people change and uplevel their life. I didn't realize that um you can only do that to the degree that you've experienced that yourself. And so I was really on the run for myself. And so eventually that all came crashing down. And it was when I went through the divorce. So I, um, I, I never had an intention to, you know, I was till death do us part.
That was my intention. But yeah, it was a slow process of beginning to see through some of these belief systems that caused me to actually start facing what was going on in here, which eventually led me to the divorce. Yeah. And so along the way, I guess your, your, your wife at the time, uh was, was sort of witnessing, observing this transformation sort of taking place. Kind of question you have, what was your, was your wife religious as well?
She was, yeah, she, she, you know, you know, you know, really went along with, with my journey, became the pastor's wife, did the whole thing. Um But really the question of who am I? Right. That was a question that she was asking.
She always felt in the shadows of that. That was a question I was asking myself, who am I? And the more we asked that question, the closer we got to our pain because in order what I've discovered is in order to really discover who it is that you actually are. Um, you have to go through because you are on the other side of that story, wherever that story is, you are on the other side of that.
Well, I didn't realize that. So I was getting closer and closer to the pain. The more I deconstructed my belief system because um to me too, and this is probably a whole other conversation, but religion became my drug of choice. It became the thing that distracted me from myself. So the more I could focus on what I was doing to help people to build the church, to serve God, whatever that was, it distracted me from this, what I was, what was this deep sense of for it was this foreboding sense of uh doom that, that I had lived with my whole life and I didn't know what to do with it. So when I started deconstructing that and walking away, eventually stepped down from my position as a pastor because I was on this road to discover um what's real, what's not. And as I deconstructed a lot of the belief systems, it lead me closer and closer to my own pain points and that, that's what caused the marriage to unravel eventually. Yeah. And, and maybe this is a pointed question, I guess, but do you, do you see yourself as being the driver of this kind of unraveling? You know, and I mean, I'm trying to ask the question without judgment, but with observation, I guess, do you observe like this, this journey that you're going on of discovering yourself and getting closer and closer to your pain and what not being sort of the driving factor to the marriage dissolving? At what point did you know it's over?
Well, you know, I think I think, um, there was a point where I left where, you know, we had this huge blow up and end up believing that, you know, and my wife and I both agree that you need to get away. You're going through something really deep here and you need to, you need, she was like, I need the space and you need space to get clear. So I went away for a couple of weeks to and stayed with a friend, you know, different state we were there. And it was, at that point, I knew um that this wasn't, we weren't coming back because she was very clear. She just said, I'm not whatever we had before. Like we can't go back to that. And I didn't know what, what else to be at that point. So at that point, I knew it was and I had this sense for a long time that a lot of the motivation for our life, even our marriage was out of obligation or duty. We did things because it was the right thing to do, but not because it was a desire. We, you know, we were not in touch with ourself who we actually are and what our desires were. So therefore, the decisions we made were based out of a whole other framework of duty. I always say that that gas, that gas tank will run out quickly. It will, were there any other Children in the picture? So just my daughter, we just had one daughter. Yeah. And so at the time the divorce she's had, she, like, left home and got together for a number of years. Yeah. She was, uh, she was over 18.
So, I mean, she was probably around 20, something like that. Yeah. Okay. Interesting. And, and of course I'd be curious, like, what's her as an observer? And I don't know if you've had conversations with her about, you know, because I think you're a very heart centered guy and I think at some point you definitely want to sit down with her and let me explain what kind of took place here.
Give you, give you an idea, at least what took place. Absolutely. So this was a process, you know, explanation for she, it really affected her because she grew up in, you know, her friend circle growing up, you know, she was the only one that had parents that weren't divorced and she kind of prided herself on that. Like when my parents, you know, they're committed to each other, they stay together. Um, she felt a sense of security and stability in that. And then when we, even though she was an adult, when we split up, it really, it really affected her and she couldn't understand it. She was like, who are you guys?
And, you know, and she was, I don't know who you are and then therefore, I don't know who I am. And, um, that's because we spent a lot of time living out of who we were, not, not who we were. And so I can understand the confusion that caused her. Yeah, fascinating again. I mean, I just think all human behavior is really, really quite fascinating and, but I think you would have been maybe well positioned in one sense to kind of help go through that with her as well.
You know, and what a, what a learning and growth experience and imagine overall going through that, that it had a positive impact on your relationship in the future. Oh It, it was, it was transformative because the more I learned because in this process of, you know, going into this dark place and myself and facing my own pain points and losing my marriage, losing my relationships, ultimately losing everything. Um I was, I had to do the work. I didn't, my path out of that was learning radical self acceptance, learning to, to see the, the, the pain points that I had been running from. And I learned to see where they came from.
I began to understand that a lot of these weren't even mine. They came from my, my history, my parents, they're going back generations of, of trauma and a lot of this trauma was not even mine, but it had been put on my plate. And now I was, I had built an entire identity around it. And so I started to have a lot of grace for myself. And what I've realized is that forgiveness or having grace for other people.
It's not really an issue if you can have forgiveness and grace for yourself, because everybody is simply a mirror of you. And so a lot of the points of, of conflict that I had with my daughter growing up were really she was marrying back to me. Uh dynamics of my life that I was unable or unwilling to address. The more I could have grace for those dimensions of my life. The more I started, what started to happen was I understood her and had grace for her and there was no agenda to fix her or make her anything other than what she was. And, but that was also what I needed and I was wanting to give that to myself. Yeah. And so part of your story is that you ended up homeless and I guess homeless has got quite a broad term. Um There's everything from like addicts in the street who maybe for a number of years, what was, what was your experience of homelessness? Yeah. My great question. My experience of homelessness was um staying with friends on sleeping on their couch. Uh literally without folks who said, said, hey, you can stay.
I mean, I had no place to go, no resources, no, no ability, no, my profession, everything was gone at that point. Uh Because of the angst I was in, I really was, I was in a, you know, in a, probably a two year depression where getting out of bed was just, um, was a tour, you know, I had to will myself to just get up in the morning and to face the day. And so, and during that time I had just beautiful people in my life that just saw me and I consider them just the grace of God and they said you can stay and they let me have my process. And so that that was homelessness for me. Yeah, quite something. And, and uh well, I guess what a testament to the power of others showing you that same grace that you had begun to learn a little bit about showing yourself, you know, in, in my work, I speak a lot about compassionate self awareness being the foundation of transformational change. And absolutely, you know. Um so then at some point though, you come out of this depression and you go okay.
You know, because the way that I viewed depression, remember there was someone who had quoted um you could think of depressed as deep rest and I was like, it's kind of interesting and I was thinking about man, if you spent so much of your life, like trying to be something you're not, you've just become drained, everything feels so hard. And it's like your nervous system, even biologically speaking, goes into this state of like protection going. We have to heal and rejuvenate and recuperate. And so it's this low energy state and we, we look at it as like depression and whatnot. And I mean, I'm not trying to, I do have a psychology background, but I'm not trying to be psychological professional here for those listening, but I just love the thought exercise of this like part of it being to allow us to go through this place of recuperation, rejuvenation. And, you know, I think about the world that we live in, it's very hedonistic and we're encouraged to engage in a lot of emotional anesthetics to not give place to these difficult emotions, not give space to them. But from what you're describing, maybe what I'm hearing if I'm hearing correctly is that you had people who maybe didn't try to fix you or necessarily lift you out of that, but we're beside you as you experience that rather than trying to alter your emotional state because they were uncomfortable with where you were at. Absolutely, totally. You know, I had a coach come into my life during that period and he said, you know, what you can't feel, you can't heal what you don't feel, you don't heal. So what is it that you're feeling? And I just, the question of what am I feeling? And it was always, and what does that make you feel? And what does that make you feel? And what does that make you feel and getting to the root that deep that, you know, you know, to the, to the core of that was really where I started to, you know, and I did not like the roots of that and I was confronted with, okay. So you don't like that part of you that feels this broken or it feels this affected or vulnerable.
Well, what you're witnessing and one of the things that had caused me such pain in my life and I didn't know what to do with was I had this deep seated belief that people when they got to know you, this was reinforced in my time as a pastor. Even that people didn't really want to know you. They wanted to know a certain image of you. So if they could see you in a certain way, then that you would be a celebrity, they would love you. Everything was great, kind of like they wanted to hear the, they wanted to know the after story, right? Who are you after?
Which they love your podcast. They want what they didn't really want to know you in the in between stage, right? They didn't really want that. And, and, and I, I was always faced with these relationships where when somebody would see those vulnerabilities, they would ditch me, they would leave me. And I always felt that my biggest fear was don't let people in too close because the people who you let in clothes are dangerous because they will leave you and this, this wasn't conscious, this was an unconscious to this, this angst around abandonment and lack of meaningful deep connection. Wow. So what ended up happening was is that I realized that um other people were simply mirroring back those once they saw this, this quote unquote vulnerable part of me and they would reject me.
They were actually just bring back my own rejection of myself in these areas. And I didn't realize that it was key for me to accept the vulnerabilities, the ways I had been affected as a child affected by a conditioning of never enough or not, not there, not there when I can't show up for you when you need me to show up for you. That that was the dynamic with my mother. So I had to, I had to really learn to have radical compassion and acceptance for those dimensions of myself. And it was amazing that as I started to do that, literally, all my relationships, it was almost like magic began to reflect that, you know, and, and I think of an observation here because I, I went through this and I mean, it's still a journey and maybe still a journey for you as well because again, some people get the idea that, you know, maybe with the work that we do that you must have it all figured out like man, every stage of life gives you something, something else to try to navigate. But it was this idea of like this exchange of energy between people. So I had a sense of self loathing towards myself and maybe, maybe you experienced something similar. And so every relationship in our encounter that I would start to form or get into again. And there was this, maybe this assumption they must see me the way that I see myself because it feels so real to me. So I imagine that they must feel that too. And that introduces this sort of awkward, uncomfortable, negative energy into it and undermines any potential relationship we might have. But as, and I think if I'm understanding correctly, you know, maybe I'm sharing a similar experience, but as I began to accept who I am and the struggles that I have and, and not, and realize that, hey, I'm not actually a worthless, horrible human being for being a struggling human being and became ok with the fact that I struggle that all of a sudden this tension started to disappear, relationship, started change, conversation started to change. And I think that's maybe a different perspective or, or similar perspective. What you're describing here as you come to this place of acceptance no longer is this sort of negative energy coming into an interaction when they realize that you are comfortable with where you're presently at, even if it's where you don't want to end up. Absolutely. So now it's okay to be in your presence. Absolutely. Absolutely. That was key. That was a major turning point for me and, and so there was another sort of another thread here that my train of thought just went off the tracks. But anyways, yeah, I love this observation just around.
Oh, it's this question here. I wonder if we're afraid to accept ourselves as you presently are because we're afraid that in the place of acceptance we won't change. Oh, that's a big one. Right. That's a big one because it feels like if I acknowledge this, this is the way it's always gonna be, right. Um And yes, that, that was, that's a major one.
I don't think it's always conscious. But again, I, and I was, you know, I've had many conversations obviously now as a coach, you know, have these conversations, I was having a conversation with somebody about acceptance around a really, really difficult physical condition they were going through and uh it elicited this response of I will never accept this. And I said, okay, why, why? And the response was, well, I'm not gonna live the rest of my life like this. I said, oh, I said, I'm not talking about how you're gonna spend the rest of your life because that's, that's the future, right?
I'm not talking about the future. I'm just talking about, is this happening right now? Are you experiencing this right now? And how are you with this right now? Are you in a resistive posture towards this right now?
Are you in and allow a pastor of letting it be what it is. Because, you know, if we talk about where is God in this, you know, and where is God and had somebody in, in this dark period? Because I was very much, I would say a victim kind of this victim mindset was very rampant during this season of my life where I was, you know, homeless and, you know, just trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces. And I had a had a friend say, you know, I know you feel like what happened to you is unjust.
I was blaming everybody. I had all these had the names of all the folks that had wronged me and, and she said, I know you feel like everything is unjust. But um what you're experiencing, where is God not working with you in this right now is God not present with you in this situation. And I never actually it was a shift in thinking to go, what was me? And these people are bad and these people causing all my pain. But to the question of how is this for me? What is God doing in this in this season right now? And it was a whole different frequency of thinking. And that was also a game changer for me. And I started to realize, oh, there's a lot happening right now and if I can accept doesn't mean I have to like, it doesn't have to feel acceptance doesn't like. But if I can accept it, I'm not resisting because again, what you resist persists, but you can allow you allow yourself to be in a, an acceptance mode of it, then you are allowing it to teach you what it is to teach you. Yeah. So you reference God, I don't know if you're still referencing the Christian God. Are you still a Christian now? Practicing? Well, perspective on spirituality?
That's a great question. Um I don't know that I would, I would have a label. I mean, as far as Jesus is concerned, I've never been a bigger fan. Um I am a huge fan.
I love what Jesus taught. I resonate with the teachings of Jesus more now than I probably ever have. But I don't know that I understand God in the same way that I did in my past. I don't know that um I could be defined as a Christian at this point in my journey, but it doesn't mean I disavow that um the faith that, that can be found in Christianity, but I don't see Christianity and Jesus as synonymous with each other. Yeah. Well, Jesus actually, uh kind of fought against the religious world this time.
Yeah, the religious order. And, uh so, you know, and just think about what you're sharing because I had this, this, this thought as well. Um You know, because you said something really profound, this idea, like I don't want my life to just be a throw away. Even if there is an afterlife, I can't picture this.
Like, there has to be a reason we are here and it's like, and there's a reason we go through these experiences, you know, and I have my own story. And of course, this, this episode is not about my own story, but just to, just to say I would not choose the experiences I went through, but I am who I am today because of what I went through and I would not take them out of my past. And when I realized that, you know, this idea that somehow we're supposed to go through life on easy, oh Gods in my life, I'm just gonna, life is gonna be easy and cruising and happy. And that it's like, no, no, no, no, you can't.
The work was not accomplished like, yes, those times are nice. Yes, they're an important part of life. But the real work is not accomplished when we're just walking down easy street. And I think about a poem and I wish I could recall the author.
Maybe the author is unknown and I'm not gonna quote the whole thing. But the premise of it is, you know, I walked a mile with, with it was I walked a mile with pleasure and, you know, we laughed the whole way. But at the end of it, I didn't remember a single thing that was said. And then I walked a mile with sorrow and not a word was said. But at the end of that mile together, it was something really, really profound. So anyone listening, if you, if you know it, man, I'm gonna have to go look at that poem. But it was, it's this really profound poem. Like I walked a mile with, with sorrow.
I'm gonna have, I'm gonna Google that and see if I can find it. But yeah, that's really profound experience. So, and I share that to say, for anybody who might be struggling going through something really, really difficult right now, it's natural for us to, to want, like you said, we want to resist it. We don't want to go through it.
It's not in our nature to want to go through hard experiences, but the ability to see that you phrase in a beautiful way. Like why is this happening for me? What is this doing for me? And I think about this life is like the preparation ground for the next we're, we're being, we start out at a certain state and then through life and through experiences were molded and shaped to prepare us for the next life. And that's all of a sudden gives us life meaning and purpose in, in my eyes. That's beautiful. Well said, well said, I love that.
Well, Jamal, there's, there's so much more that would be amazing to explore in your story, but we're, we're out of time today. Um, you know, actually we didn't even get to marrying the woman of your dreams. Maybe we'll just allow just, just a minute to, just briefly into that. How did you, how did you meet this woman? Well, I actually did a pilgrimage. Um, there was a thing called, it's called the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.
It's a, it is a 500 mile walk that starts out in Southwest France and cuts across Northern Spain. And a lot of people do it for a lot of different reasons. Um It's a, it's a great, I say it's a great extended meditation.
You're literally walking 500 miles. Takes uh you know, if you do it from start to finish, it can take you about 30 days. So I did that um took me 30 days and it was on that path um that I got in touch with my desire to be in a committed relationship again. But I never actually, it was one of those. It was an intention.
I set on that journey. I didn't start off. I didn't go on the camino thinking that was, I discovered that that was a desire I had on the Camino and it was on the Camino that I met her.
She actually lived about an hour from me in Southern California, but I met her in Northern Spain in this little village out middle of nowhere. I met her for five minutes. I never even considered that this was anything and it wasn't until much later after I came back from the commune.
Oh, that a relationship developed. And then I realized that I had actually Um met her 20 minutes after I had wrote down the words of this intention on the camino of this is what I desire. Um so this whole story in that how that developed, but that's how I met her. I met in Spain and the Camino. Amazing. Yeah, I interviewed a lady back in episode 70 something or other named Kathleen Donnelly Israel. And after her husband passed away at 70, she went and walked the Camino and then at 75 went and did it again. So it seems like it's quite a quite a profound, profound journey. So for those, yeah, for those who are listening, who are just really intrigued by your story, they're like, man, I want to, I got to know more about Jamal.
I love listening to this guy. You know, there's something to, it may be interesting working with you. Where can they find you? How can I get? Yeah. Thank you for the question. I think probably the best way for people to get in touch with me is through my website and that is my first and last name. So Jamal dot com. Yeah. Yeah. The book and podcast and I'm active on social media, but all those links are there at the website. That's awesome. And the thing I always like to close out with is, you know, if anyone's listening to your story, you know, what is one nugget you would like them to take away from this conversation today.
Well, you know, I would say and this is something I didn't mention in my story. But one of the, one of the major catalysts that pulled me out of my depression was I did something I did some research. I was compelled to start looking cause I really was, I was suicidal.
I wanted to die. And I started, I heard, I heard a voice one day that literally in my head, this voice said, if you want to die, and I look at this voice as being the divine voice but said, if you, if you're so intent on dying, why don't you do research on people who have died and look up their stories. And so I started listening to people who've had near death experiences and I kept hearing over and over and over again.
Folks who had near death experiences, they all would come back and be resuscitated. These are folks who are clinically had died and had experiences beyond their, their life. What was communicated to them was, it's not your time.
You're here, you're alive because it's not your there is still work for you to do and there's still things that you're here to learn. It's not your time. So that, that literally saved.
That's one of the things that saved my life, I realized I'm still here because my life matters because I have, there's something I'm here to do. There are things here to do and there's things I'm here to learn. So a long way to answer your question is if you're listening to this episode right now, just the encouragement that I would give you is um, you're here for a reason, you're here on purpose. Um And there are, there are things for you to receive.
There's things for you to give and uh life is life is that it's, it's about receiving. It's about giving us like a breath. It's inhalation, exhalation and you are here and only you can receive what you're here to receive and only you can give what you're here to give. And so you're here on purpose and just know that your purpose isn't lost.
You don't have to find it is actually discovering you. All you have to do is show up each day and there's a lot more that we can say about that, but just know that you, you are here right on time. I love that, Jamal. Thank you so much for bringing generous this time to thank you for being open and sharing your, your story.
It's truly been a pleasure. Oh, thank you for having me. I've really enjoyed the conversation.
Thank you so much for tuning into between the before and after. If you've enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and leave a review. Because that helps this podcast to reach and inspire more people. I love exploring the stories that take place between the before and after the powerful experiences that shape who we become. And I love human potential. I love the possibilities that lie within us. So whatever you may be up against, I hope these stories inspire you. Because if you're still here, your story is not done yet. So keep moving forward.
Author/ Life Coach
Jamal Jivanjee is a best-selling author, podcaster, and full time life coach. As an author with over twenty years of experience working with people in various stages of personal struggle and challenges, after traveling to many cultures around the globe, and now as a full-time life coach, Jamal has discovered the common roots of human suffering along with the sustainable solutions required to help people become liberated and empowered. Jamal is passionate about serving individuals, couples, and groups on the path toward enlightenment, wholeness, and liberation.
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