What would make someone with fame and fortune leave it all behind?
Henare O’Brien is an internationally known self-development coach, who, along with his wife Kate, are known as “New Zealand’s Leading Transformational Success Couple and leaders in the field of transformational change.”
Henare has been trained and coached by Neil Donald Walsh (Author of ‘Conversations With God’), and Jack Canfield (America’s #1 Success Coach), and is in direct contact with such luminaries as Wayne Dyer, Louise Hay, Brendon Burchard, Jack Canfield and T. Harv Eker.
After literally having had enough of fame, fortune and the good life, Henare retired from professional basketball at the peak of his career, earned a degree in education and set off on a ten year, nearly $1 million journey to find out who he really was.
During this time, he looked for answers by consulting with some of the world’s most popular trainers and spiritual teachers, but, in finding that they were all imperfect human beings with their own flaws and shortcomings, he became disillusioned, eventually turning to what he had initially avoided; his own personal calling to become a shaman.
Whether you believe in spiritualism or not, this interview is a great one, because we can all relate to what Henare learned in the process of his journey, and how he continues to “climb the next mountain” on a daily basis.
Henare, What is your definition of a spiritual teacher? What does that mean in layman’s terms?
A spiritual teacher embraces all of one’s self – the light and dark. They can teach and live through both, not only in their teaching but in the personal life we live away from the public person. It means relaying deeper truths in life covering not only what people want to hear, but what they may find personally hard to do.
Now how did you get there from where you were as a professional basketball player in New Zealand? That is quite a trip, both literally and figuratively! Why did you quit playing?
I had it all. Fame, money, girls and friends, and the pain I was running from kept popping up. It got to a point that no matter how much I got I still felt not enough.
At the time, it wasn’t a pain that I could explain. It was actually a physical pain in my chest. So there was no semantic, cognitive, or medical way to explain it. All I could feel was this burning sensation in my chest at times.
It was like something was being communicated in my body that I wasn’t able to interpret in my mind. So naturally I went off and did the things that I thought would compensate for that, but the feeling grew in intensity as I tried to cognitively understand the feeling.
That’s the interesting thing now. Feelings are not to be understood, they’re to be felt. I didn’t understand that at the time. I wouldn’t allow a feeling that was intense in intensity to be felt, so I tried to overlay it with the strategy of the mind.
Did you go to any doctors to see what this pain was?
Yeah, so the irony, I had no idea, I was in the basketball fraternity which was a culture of more – of bigger, stronger, faster. I had no concept or idea of what to do. So I ended up secretly going to see a very refined psychologist. And the kind man at the time basically listened.
He actually looked like he was more troubled than me to be honest, and later on, I found out he was. But at the time, it was just an opportunity to speak some of the things I wasn’t able to communicate in the domain of basketball.
So, the psychologist came up with no diagnosis or anything? He wasn’t able to help you at all?
The help he actually gave me was being available to actually hear some of the things I was not able to speak in my life. Meaning, he was there to hear some of the things I hadn’t been able to communicate previously.
And that led to your retirement from basketball?
Yes. I was feeling totally fulfilled. In my life, I had everything that a person in the world could desire. I had women, I had money, I had fame. I was fulfilled to the brim, and that was the problem. I was filling myself up with things that weren’t real for me.
It was the intensity of the pain in the body that was the contradiction of the life I was living. So, with everything I had attained, in most times I was in… I would call it a ‘biological high’ with being with beautiful women, with having more money than I could spend, with being around very beautiful looking people, on television, traveling the country in five-star hotels.
Those levels, that biological feeling of achieving was very high. But then, on the opposite side of that, this feeling of intensity and hate, not only inside my chest but inside my head, was a contradiction and paradox to actually what I thought I was experiencing.
Was it anger?
It was anger. It was frustration. It was so many things that I wasn’t expressing. They were being pushed into the intensity of the feelings I was experiencing.
So you were unhappy at the time even though you had everything…
Well, if you were to ask at the time, I would have said I was totally happy. But the evidence and the intensity of the feelings was so much so that at times I wasn’t. I was actually happy most of the time but when that feeling came it was an indication that it was unhappiness there as well.
So you would get these feelings of anger and frustration and you didn’t know where they were coming from, right?
Not cognitively, no.
So then what caused you to go into depression and how did you overcome it?
Pretending not to know it was there. Doing everything else besides being with the thing that was coming through me.
I never overcame it. I learned to love that it was part of me. The problem comes when we try to overcome and reject parts of us by doing everything we can to eliminate it. That is a form in this world of insanity that in personal development we encourage at times. To get rid of that thing we feel doesn’t serve us.
A spiritual teacher never encourages elimination, but more integration, and so I found a way to love the fluctuating parts of me when I became whole, by loving that it was there.
So where did you go from there?
I quit at the height of my career and left to find myself. I quit because I needed to know who I was. I spend the next ten years finding it out. I probably spent between $500,000 to $1M traveling the world, going to the best teachers, buying the best books. Just libraries and libraries of information and trying to find out from people that I thought knew.
And those people you consulted with – you found out in the end were all human with their own weaknesses and that disappointed you?
Yeah, so not one of them proved to be the full person I was searching for, that they were portraying in the world. It was very disappointing at the time until I realized that it wasn’t about the disappointment with them, but the disappointment that I was still doing the search like I searched in basketball.
I didn’t realize that just meant going into another way of searching. So I had convinced myself – you know how the French say “The more things change, the more they stay the same?” – So I had used personal development as a vehicle like I had used basketball, except I had shifted my focus into an area that I thought was helping me. So I was tricking myself. I was trying to see my own reflection without a reflective surface.
That’s beautifully put Henare, thank you. So how were you eventually able to seek out and connect with all of these luminaries in your bio? You were able to meet them because you were a professional basketball player, right?
Not at all. The basketball where I played in New Zealand wasn’t in a relationship with the luminaries we are talking about. I went and traveled the world and found them. It must have been a calling. I sat with them sometimes. Some of them I didn’t know who they were, and it led to where we are now.
What I did, like the first one, the biggest trip, I went on that trip with Dr. Wayne Dyer in Europe. On that trip, I not only got to know him but Brendon Burchard was also on that trip. We became friends. And Louise Hay was there, and many of the famous people in the personal development industry. And through that, it gained me an access into their world of personal development on a more intimate level.
How did you meet Wayne Dyer originally?
A year before, I was going to a course, a personal development course and by chance, someone had put a CD of his in the car as we were traveling to it. From there I thought, “Man, this guy is interesting.” Then I flew to Australia, spent some time listening to him. Then after that, I spent a lot of money travelling with him through Europe with a small group of people.
So you were able to connect to him because you were in the same city he was in at the time?
I charted it right down to be in the same area as him, in personal proximity for an extended period of time.
Did you bump into him one day or how did the initial meeting happen?
I was standing on stage talking about something. We were in Croatia and I was on stage talking about something at the Hay House, and Wayne was there. We had a hug and then afterward we talked for a little bit and then that sort of started our relationship. Not so much with him but with his girlfriend at the time and his family members, his children.
Now through all of this, it seems as though you were avoiding your calling as a Shaman. Why were you avoiding going down that road, and what made you finally accept your calling?
The road of the shaman is accepting the dark in oneself. We are in a world that shows a polished image, so re-entering this world required me to give up all ideas of who I am and enter a world when the spirits can be seen and helped to cross over.
Think of the movie, Inception, wherein the constructs of the mind see the intruder. This is how the spirits see a shaman as an access back to this world. BUT if a persona cannot accept their shadow/child/darker self, then they will never be in the completeness of the way life occurs in polarity for us all.
We are now caught in this when we try to teach people how to live their lives, while not having a life that is perfect ourselves. One must die to oneself to be in this world. All ideas in there fall over.
So in regards to our phrase, “fall down seven times, rise up eight”, from your own experience, what attitude do you have about overcoming adversity and setbacks in life?
I have the philosophy of living the experience. Most people put quotes up on the internet to make them feel good, but feeling good is not a breakdown which occurs when we have a real opportunity to grow.
So in that real opportunity to grow, which is called transformation, when we are challenged, resistant, confronted or confused, we all start to think we should go back to the safety zone, we should go backwards, away from the thing that will bring us transformation.
Most people will turn away from the transformation because of what they have to deal with to see themselves through it.
There’s a guy who won the Nobel Prize for coming up with the theory of dissipated structures. Basically, he said that when electricity comes, before it hits the light bulb, it hits the period of jiggle where the molecules have to actually change to create, to turn electricity into light.
That jiggle is transformation. In the human experience, then for us to gain any understanding and ability growing past what we already know, we have to allow ourselves to jiggle to turn into the light.
If you look at statistics, I think the current statistics are that 97% of people don’t achieve the goals they set out to do for themselves. Meaning that 97% of people, at the jiggle, turn away from what they are wanting to create.
So most people are then forced into a crisis where life will show up to them as something they have to get out of. But what I’m saying is that if you can create a crisis in your identity by going through the challenge, the resistance, the confrontation, and the confusion, you can actually design your own crisis to get you a transformation in life that goes far beyond being in a fit.
So every time you had a setback in your life, what steps did you take to overcome them?
That’s the problem. In the challenge, confronted, confused, resistant, there is no strategy. There is nothing that has worked. Everything at that point is unusable because there is not one piece of information going into transformation.
So if I was to say to you, I did this and this and this, that would not be the truth. The truth is, as I entered the storm, I had no idea in all strategies, including NLP, Ontological, teleological, knowledge.
All those types of understandings fell away because there was no one knowledge of me entering this storm. So entering this storm, in that point of growth, I really can’t explain what happened, but coming through the other side, I felt a new freedom, and knowing that I was able to ride it out and not turn back but turn into it. That is the structure of transformation.
This is why it is hard to do because, at the point of growth, people will rely on the systems and structures they have learned before the transformative moment. And the problem is when we are trying to bring our knowing to a new transformation – that knowing is the number one thing that causes us not to have the transformation.
It’s a very paradoxical thing. I have people on personal development come to me and they said, “Tony Robins didn’t work when I was going through my crisis.” I said, “That’s designed not to work, that’s what the crisis is. You have to drop everything at the door of transformation and walk through it, mate.”
“What about my NLP? I”m a master practitioner. It didn’t work. I tried to NLP myself through the transformation.” I said, “You have to drop it there at the door of transformation. You have to drop everything.”
All strategy, all personal development, all spiritual concepts, at the point of transformation need to be dropped like clothing, so the person can make it into their own understanding, which is unique to each person.
Is it hard to do? Yes. Does evidence dictate that most people won’t? Yes. Because we have to question inside who we are. We have to ask the question, “Who am I, to myself?”
Yup, I know for myself, when I had my crisis, that’s what happened. I guess because that formed me into a new being after I experienced it. So now I come out the other side. As I look back, I can see exactly what you’re saying is true, for me.
This is the trick. Each transformation is like climbing a new mountain. But at the bottom of the mountain, what happens is then we get attached to the transformation that we just had, and it can last for 10, 20, 30 years thinking that we’ve totally transformed in all areas of our life.
But if we look forward, we’ll notice that there’s always another mountain.
The thing is, when we have transformations, believing that the past mountain will be the knowledge that we’ll have to transfer to the next mountain needs to also be dropped at the next point of transformation. And that’s why people get attached to the strategies and structures, is because any work you have done previously will need to be dropped at the new mountain.
And the concept I came up with was when I was thinking about the Buddha, and thinking about the actual, how nature cares, and that one of his precepts was that everything isn’t permanent. There is an ever flow of ever changing. Life is constantly moving at the physical world.
And I thought to myself, That means that if it’s ever changing, and ever growing, and ever moving, then when we climb the next mountain, I’ll need to drop whatever I need to know to go through the next stage of my transformation.
Do I want to drop it? Most probably not because it brought me money, it brought me certain amounts of fame, it could have brought me understanding, it could have brought me intellectual knowing. I’m in one of those phases right now. On this call, I’m heading up this new mountain and like this morning with my children and my wife, I really wanted to cause an intentional argument with them.
This overwhelming feeling and desire to cause an argument with them would remind me of a life I had previously learned, because life at the moment is pretty good. Our businesses have grown exponentially, we are able to talk to many luminaries, we got voted into the transformation leadership council by Jack Canfield.
But the transformation for me is dropping it, so I can walk through and be the father and husband to my wife and children that I always dreamed I can be.
So you are talking to me while I’m heading up a new mountain. I think that it’s a travesty when teachers try to teach people that they’ve finished their learning.
I think that’s a sad thing in the industry – nobody in the industry is actually showing the new mountains that they’re climbing. They’re showing the end result of the mountain, but no one is actually showing the climb anymore.
I asked a guy who was a consultant to Oprah, who’s got hundreds and thousands of followers, I said to him, “Could you please tell me what you’re actually and literally going through in this moment, in your life?” And he said, “Oh no, we can’t do that.”
I said, “Why can’t you do this?” “Because I’m not going through anything.” And I realized this guy was pretending, pretending not to know as a human being that he still was traversing new mountains.
It was a sad fate that in his fame, he wasn’t in a position to actually tell the people what he was experiencing. Now talking to him personally, he had sexual issues, he had wife issues, he had leadership issues, but he wasn’t willing to share.
So when I see him on Facebook and on YouTube now, delivering information to people about how they should live their lives, he’s living in a paradox, not living it fully himself, and that’s what me and Kate want to bring. Not only the inspiration, but, “hey look, I’m going up another mountain”.
I’ve driven this business out of pure willpower and passion, but it’ll be nice to enter a spiritual stage of vibration or joy. That’s something new for me. And at the door of my transformation, this morning I wanted to make a mess, I wanted to linguistically tell my children the way they’re not dealing with their lives, and I got angry at my wife this morning because she was the one not listening to me.
When I sat on this call and reflected, I realized that it was none of that, it was actually me, not dropping all of the stuff I could have dropped.
– An appropriate ending to our short time with Henare, this interview reminds us that personal growth doesn’t come to us in times of prosperity. It happens in times of adversity. Because that’s when we are tested, when our character is forged out of pain, frustration and despair. This is what happens to all of us, and Henare reminds us that as human beings, we must go forward through the “transformation”, and never having experienced this new level of understanding, we must drop what we “know” to get through it, because this next mountain we have yet to climb is unknown.
The one thing we can retain though is the understanding that we can get over the next mountain because we have experienced conquering a mountain before, and we know we are strong enough to get over the next one no matter what. The problem comes when we stop climbing, either due to fear or “settling” for the easy way out, and that’s when we get stuck in life. This is when we get stuck in an unacceptable living situation, an unacceptable relationship, or an unacceptable job or career that doesn’t fulfill us.
So if we welcome adversity as a friend instead of an enemy, then we can grow into the people we are meant to be. We believe that this understanding forces Henare to keep looking for that next mountain, which is what he is all about, and we find that inspiring.
What do you think? Please comment below