In the introduction to JP Sears "Meditating inNature," video, he blurts that he hates "being outside." Then he kicks a deck chair while hummingbirds chirp in the distance. "So many bugs," he groans, as he shoos away several of the tiny winged creatures at "peace distance."
Is it amusing? Confusing? Are you laughing because you’ve been on a spiritual retreat and had the same feeling but didn't say it because you wanted to be yogic?
JP, a South-Carolina yogi, has become a cult hit because he recognizes the inherent humor on the spiritual journey and embraces it as an essential part of the trip. So for all of us still stuck in traffic on the bridge to bliss —and that’s pretty much everybody—maybe the speed bumps are best dealt with by (en)lightening up. There’s the gift of real wisdom in JP’s words, but it’s packaged in a delightfully satirical wrapping.
The character JP assumes in his videos is an earnest, soft-talking hippie in a lilac-colored T-shirt, a headband holds a flower in his flowing ginger hair. His YouTube channel "Awaken with JP," boasts 366,584 subscribers and counting, with many of the 190-plus videos reaching over 6 million views. Turns out that lots of NY yogis are in that gang.
“I would definitely be delusional and pretending to be more intelligent than I am if I were to say it was premeditated or even strategic,” he says. “The comedy stuff has grown and taken on a life of its own, opened up other opportunities. The sheer amount of people reached is humbling and surprising.”
His onscreen persona "gestated himself into creation,” says JP. “Sharing perspective about anything through the lens of my character is something I’m very happy to do, as long as it’s speaking from my heart.”
A lover of the comedic side of life, JP finds it easy to slip into that perspective.
“It’s as natural as wearing my own skin, because the character is very much a part of me,” he says. “That part of me, being comedic and satirical, has been alive almost as long as I have! I don’t need to find the character, he finds me, ten seconds before I go on stage or make a video.”
JP likes to introduce himself as a "professional redhead." "It's expressing that what was once a curse as a child, is a gift as a grownup," he says. "Red hair as a child is something that made me feel different, alone. And now, it's something that works for me to help me feel connected to the world around. It makes me feel unique, and paradoxically for me, when I can embrace my uniqueness, that's what helps me connect to the collective. Also, when people ask what I do for a living, to say I'm a 'professional redhead' tends to make for a shorter conversation!"
When choosing a topic to tackle, JP first looks to matters that he is personally “deeply entrenched” in. “For example, if I find I want to be more non-attached physically to my practice, I’ll make a video about that.” (Check out the “Bad Yogi” Series.)
Many of the videos and pictures on JP’s Instagram poke fun at the very human desire to get recognition for our health and fitness pursuits. There’s pics of him downing a giant green juice, doing a warrior two by the ocean at sunset, or proudly posing in a shirt that proclaims “Spiritual as Hell.” The Official Awaken with JP Website takes it further, offering the free “ultra-serious bonus” download 'How To be More Spiritual Than Your Friends."
"There's a fun element in posting that because it taps into the Zeitgeist of the health culture, where we do something healthy and want to get noticed for it."
With the popularity of the video series soaring, JP has a book on the way, How to be Ultra Spiritual. "The writing process was a rite-of passage for me," he says. "It really pushed me, and there was a deep beauty of creativity I tapped into, farther than the videos."
There's also talk of bringing the character to TV. "It may become a little something, and it may become absolutely nothing. It's an unknown at this point," he says philosophically. "And to profess my ultra-Buddhism, I feel pretty unattached to 'does it go somewhere or not'. I get delusional about plenty, but that's not one of my delusions! Making videos online the way I've been gives me tremendous creative satisfaction, and working with a team for something for TV would be a creative challenge. I don't think I need it, but it would be welcome and I'd enjoy it."
It's not about the outcome, says JP, though he notes it's sometimes a challenge to embody. "I remember making my first Ultra Spiritual Video in October 2014. My girlfriend at the time was behind the camera, and I remember saying to her: 'I don't give a shit if anyone watches this, I'm amusing myself!' Some days and some projects I do better with then others. Do I have some attachment to the book doing well? Yeah. However, if it never sold a single copy, I'd still have so much inner fulfillment from the journey.
Thus JP's suggestion to us all, "embrace the journey, the process, and amuse yourself along the way!"