In this interview, Julian Lennon shares stories from his remarkable life, reflecting on both tragedy and joy. He talks about the loss of his mother, Cynthia Lennon, and the profound impact it had on him. He also describes the moments of immense happiness he has experienced, including his work with the White Feather Foundation, which he founded to help indigenous communities around the world, and shares his vision for himself and for humanity at large.
Learn more about his remarkable work at https://julianlennon.com/
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Cosmic Consciousness With Julian Lennon
A Conversation With Deepak Chopra And Julian Lennon About The Religious Experience, Infinite Love And The Return To Innocence
In this episode, I have the distinct pleasure and privilege of having a conversation with Julian Lennon. I’m looking forward to sharing this conversation globally with all of you. I met Julian in England, in London. He lives in Monaco. Are you there in Monaco?
Yeah. Although we’ve got the weather from England so that’s okay.
Your history is easily available on the internet. Everybody can read about it, as did I, but share a few thoughts with you, my memories. I want to ask you some questions and especially share with our audience your projects. Let me give you a little bit of background about myself and my connection to your world. I was seventeen years old when I entered medical school. When I was about ready to graduate in the year 1969, the Beatles were in Rishikesh with Maharishi Mai Yogi.
I was not familiar with meditation at that moment but in India, the medical school was somehow affiliated with Harvard and other international institutions. I, at the age of 18 or 19, was part of a controlled experiment on LSD. I experienced what I call non-local reality. Peppers came out the same year as I was having my LSD experiences.
Fast forward to 1980 when I was in the US, I was going back to India on a vacation. I was at the airport. I saw the news of your father’s assassination. I can share with you that I remember the exact moment and how my heart felt the anguish of the world losing a genius. Your relationship with him has been chaotic and also beautiful at the same time.
That was my first experience of immense sorrow. Many years later, I wrote a book called Quantum Healing. Out of the blue, I got a call from George Harrison, who wanted to meet me and came to Boston where I was living at that time. We became very close friends, Olivia and John. Danny was a little kid at that moment. We traveled all over India together. I got to know Danny, Olivia, and George. George passed away also. I just only met James McCartney. I know Danny well. I met Stella and we started a program together for mental wellbeing. Bottom line, I have some links to you and your family.
You know us all more than we know ourselves.
I’d like to start this conversation with one question. Your life is public. It’s on the internet. Anyone can check it out. I’d like to start with one question. What are some of the happiest memories that you have in your entire life, including your childhood? What are some of the most tragic memories? That’s who we are, a bundle of memories.
How we handled all of that as well. Let’s start with the tragic and then move forward with the positive. As it’s public knowledge, most people have a good understanding that when Dad fell in love with Yoko, he moved out and it was my mother and I for years on our own. She had several jobs and we had enough money to put me through school, clothes, and food. She was the be-all and everything for me. Sadly, I lost her, in physical form, years ago. That was the toughest, by far the most difficult feeling of loss, sadness, and confusion.
Tweet: She was the be-all and everything to me and for me, and sadly, I lost her in physical form. That was the toughest and by far the most difficult feeling, along with loss, sadness, and confusion.
I knew it was coming but I was still hopeful that there may be a way through it. We always hope that there are possibilities. Sadly, there wasn’t. One thing that was important for me that I’ve always taken from her is that under fire or any circumstances, she’d always been gracious, never aggressive, and never a hard word about anybody, no matter what she’d been through. That was one of the main things that I took away from her and her life. Secondly, I know Dad’s important. Everybody expects me to say that maybe Dad should be next on the list but I was much in love with my grandmother as well. My mother’s mother was a major part of my life.
You were named after her.
No, not that grandmother. It was my mother’s grandmother, Lillian Powell. Julia was Dad’s mother. I can’t say it’s a regret but a certain sadness to it is that my grandfather from my mother’s side passed away before I got to meet him. My grandmother, Dad’s mother, passed away so I never got to meet her too. There’s an emptiness and a longing there to a certain degree because I always loved that sense of family, that community and feeling. My life was so disjointed in that regard.
Dad was a huge part and influence. His loss was tragic. It affected me immensely primarily because I was getting to know him again as a teen, as an adult. We started having decent conversations about life on the phone in my early to mid-teens. That was beyond a doubt, tragic. There have been lots of dear friends and other relatives who have passed so early in their lives. For me, the saddest point is not getting to know these people deeper and further and more about their history.
I would love to be able to ask my mother or my father any of the questions about life, what they went through, how they felt, and all of these things. I have some memories but I’ve always had a pretty bad memory. The next thing I can rely on is the written word. There are some things but there are always questions that you want answered. Unfortunately, until maybe the next realm, or if we all meet again, then, I’ll get to understand a little deeper and further.
Moving on to the more pleasant things in life, one of the things that I’ve said that was one of the most memorable, the most joyous, and the most peaceful moments in my life was when I was in South America. I was in Columbia. On behalf of my foundation, The White Feather Foundation, we were working with another organization called the Amazon Conservation Team. We were trying to help the Kogi down there buy back their land. We were on a visit for a few days up in the Sierra Nevada.
At the end of the 2 or 3 days, we all came down to the waterfront which was their original land before the Spanish came centuries ago, and tried to get rid of everybody. They ran into the hills for protection but they were fishermen originally. The group heard some amazing stories about their past, beliefs, history, and so on. There was a moment at the end of the last day in South America, in Columbia with them. We were sitting on an empty beach. Maybe there were 1 or 2 people you could see in the distance, 1 mile or 2 away but the sun was setting. It was me and the Kogi. We were sitting on the beach with a fire in front of us.
There was the sea and the sun was setting slightly behind us. There were no phones, no computers, no nothing. We couldn’t even speak. We couldn’t communicate in the traditional sense of language. It’s only purely by gesture and expression. We all sat there on these little chairs. There were some logs around the fire. The sun went down. All you could hear was the waves and the rustling of the wind in the palms. There were no electric lights there so all the stars came out at night. The crossover between that and the evening was so beautiful and probably one of the first times that I’d seen nature at its best from that transition from day to night.
There were about 3 or 4 of them sitting to the side of me. There was a moment when we looked at each other with nothing but love in our hearts. We smiled and nodded. I thought about nothing else, except being there in the present moment with them. I have to say that I was overwhelmed by the simplicity and the beauty of that moment in time. It stuck with me ever since. It’s a very fond memory, one I cherish immensely because it’s a place I carry with me.
Although I’d like to physically go back and experience that again, it would never be quite the same but it’s that place in my heart. We did a ceremony too, which was quite amazing. We were in a big circle with everybody that was there. There were several center stone pieces. They said to everybody, one by one, “Go to the center. Think of all the evil, hurt, or pain that you’ve ever felt or witnessed in your life. Let it go, flow, and get out of your system.”
The other thing, whenever I remember this, it brings joy and a smile to my face, because it did have a profound effect. They said, “Put all of the love that you feel that you’ve ever felt that you want to give out into the world.” People were crying all over the place. It was such a release and such beauty. All you wanted to do was hug everybody and save the world, starting locally and hopefully eventually reaching the masses to try to have a positive influence and positive movement in the world. That’s partly why I started The White Feather Foundation to slowly but surely make a change in whatever way I could.
Cosmic Consciousness: That’s partly why I started The White Feather Foundation—to slowly but surely make a change in whatever way I could.
That is probably number one on the list. Other times of joy would’ve been growing up, there being a few moments with dad that I recall, simple things like being a child on the rooftop of a sunroom, building a balsamic wooden plane with a rubber band and a propeller, and flying it off into the sunset. Simple moments that are clear in my head but bizarrely from a third-person perspective, not from mine. I’ve had a lot of experiences like that where I’m not seeing it from my perspective. Moments in time, this weird photographic memory of moments of hurt, pain, and suffering but also of happiness and joy.
The other times that I’ve felt that simplicity would be set on a sailing boat. To me, it’s breathing that fresh air and being one with nature in some capacity. The other time which is partly the reason I got into photography too is when you’re on these long-haul airplane flights that we have to do so often. More often than not, most people would be asleep. I’m staring out the window. I’m watching the clouds at sunrise and sunset.
Those particular moments, which is why I started taking photographs of clouds predominantly because it was either a moment of full-on contemplation about who we are, where we are, what we are doing, where I am at, what this all means, or it’s that moment of thinking of nothing. Being in that moment of seeing such beauty in front of you. That moment only lasts once. Everything only lasts once for a split second and it’s gone. Nothing can be recreated ever. It can’t. It’s a fact.
I know that we cherish and strive to capture those moments and feelings again. They’re fleeting. The reality is moments like that and having amazing and close friends and people around you. If you have family, we all seem to learn a little too late which is sad but it’s okay because at least we’re learning. We hope to pass that on, not to waste time, as such to love, live, and be in the moment.
You’ve been reading reflections from Julian Lennon. As I listen to you, Julian, what you are describing, I feel, is a longing we all have. Whether we call it a religious experience, a spiritual experience, experience of cosmic consciousness, it doesn’t matter what the label is but it is also a feeling of immense love because when we say non-duality and all these philosophical and religious terms, it sounds almost unreachable.
When we say love, everyone understands. What you described is a love for existence more than anything else. We are part of that existence. As you were speaking, I also recalled that there are at least three famous Beatles songs that are inspired by you in a sense, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Hey Jude, and there’s a third one.
Good Night was the other one.
If Julian Lennon hadn’t existed, those songs wouldn’t have been there. That’s one way to think about it. Chaos, creativity, suffering, and happiness go together. There are complementarities. You can’t have one without the other. Thank you for sharing that so eloquently. Your main passion seems to be The White Feather Foundation. Let’s talk about that and then a few of the other things that you’re doing.
I had a song called Salt Water which was environmentally orientated and dealt with humanity as well. It was number 1 in Australia and top 10 around the world, except for America. We didn’t get released properly there. I was in Australia doing a lot of promotional work and playing live. I’d arrived at this place called Adelaide. I was in Adelaide in a hotel. I was summoned downstairs by the hotel saying, “Excuse me, Mr. Lennon. There’s an aboriginal tribe down here and some news crews.”
I thought it was one of those pranks that people play when you’re on the road. I didn’t think about it. They called up and said, “This is very serious. Please, there are several people down here, aboriginal tribes and news crews. They want to see you.” I got a little dressed up and came down in the elevator. The elevator opened, and on a semi-circular platform, were all these people.
I was a bit taken aback and quite shy, and a little anxious about this. I didn’t know what it was about. There was a friend of mine that had been working with some of the indigenous tribes, the Morning people in particular who had lost their land and several other things in life to the government, and all the issues that they’ve gone through.
My friend brought me onto this plinth and said, “Julian.” Iris was the elder, the boss of the Morning Tribe. In the middle of this semi-circle, she walked up to me with a male swan’s white feather about GA big. She said, “Can you help us? You have a voice.” In my head, I was thinking, “What is this? What does this all mean? Do I continue being a rock and roller, or do I step up to the plate and do something?” I didn’t know the background or the history of these people but I learned quickly. I said, “Yeah. I’ll do it for the children. I’ll do it for all of them.”
The weird and eerie thing about this whole scenario is the moment she handed me the white feather, I got goosebumps. Dad had told me. I couldn’t tell you where, when, or how old I was but it was something he said to me that I thought was weird and didn’t grasp at the time. He said, “If something ever happens to me, the way in which I’ll let you know that I’m going to be okay and we’re all going to be okay will be in the form of a white feather.” When I received the white feather, I flipped a little bit inside. I thought, “That’s a calling.” I’m sorry but in my world, that’s undeniable.
Tweet: My dad said, “Listen. If something ever happens to me, the way in which I’ll let you know that Yoko and I are going to be okay, we’ll be in the form of a white feather.”
I spent the next ten years making a documentary about these people with my friend, the Director Kim Kindersley. There was another film that he’d been putting together called The Gathering, where 80 elders from around the world from indigenous tribes had come together around a fireplace. Although they couldn’t communicate directly, they were sharing their stories of the troubles, difficulties, pain, and suffering that they’d been going through for decades, if not centuries, if not far more than that. It hit me. We made this documentary about the Morning in principle but was inclusive of all the others that we were dealing with all the other indigenous tribes.
It was called Whaledreamers, where the whale was the totem of the Morning people. We didn’t have any money to promote it but we were able to show it in one of the smallest rooms in Cannes at the festival. We won about eight little independent film awards. We were happy with that. I’m thinking, “This is reaching and touching people.”
It was the advent of the internet and how that was coming along and websites. I thought, “Let’s put a website together so we can promote the film and anybody can donate towards this.” The idea of the foundation was at the time, I thought, “If the film’s going to make any money, I want to give whatever I can back to the indigenous.”
The only way legally to do it back then was through a foundation, hence The White Feather Foundation. The website was a shopfront to sell the documentary to try and raise donations for them as well. We weren’t a foundation at that point. It was a way of passing the money through to help and the vehicles so to speak. Eventually, people started writing to me saying, “Can you help us with this problem?” I was going, “I’m not a foundation. I did my thing.” I started hearing other horrendous stories.
I started delving and trying to read everything that was being sent to me. I thought, “If I’m going to make this a real foundation, I need to follow my heart on this. I need to focus on the things that I feel empathetic and passionate about in that realm.” I was fortunate enough to work with an organization called Charity: Water, which is amazing. Scott Harrison, his wife, and his team were astonishing. We did a couple of campaigns. We deal with clean water campaigns. We were in Ethiopia at the time. That was an amazing experience for me.
I was in Kenya, as well as South America. The camera was with me in tow all the time so I could tell the stories and so that I could remember everything. The other elements that we deal with are health and education. I put a scholarship together when my mom, Cynthia, passed away. I thought, “I’d love to have something that people can remember her by if they don’t know from the past.” Not everybody knows all the stories, or who was married to who, when, and where. Just because I thought that she deserved the grace that she’d lived her life in, I set up a scholarship in her name through The White Feather Foundation.
Initially, we started helping girls in Ethiopia, Kenya, and around the world with health and education to get them through colleges and universities. The stories that I heard at that time when I went to the schools and health clinics was that we want to be educated so that we can come back here and protect our people, the people that we love, the villages, the towns that we love, and where we come from. That fits into the whole protection of indigenous cultures and their land, which is part of the other thing that The White Feather Foundation does around the world.
Thankfully, with a lot of great NGOs, it’s about supporting the NGOs that we love and believe in, and know that make absolute change. The reality is The White Feather Foundation for a good number of years was just me and one other person. We’ve never been a big foundation and we’ve survived on donations from the public. It’s been amazing. We survived. We trickle on. One of the main things is a lot of people and situations get left behind. With all the bigger charities, a lot of people slip through the cracks.
We pick up the pieces a little bit of the people that get left behind. I’m quite happy being in that spot and helping people in that way. On a more personal level, I don’t know if The White Feather Foundation will ever become one of those. I don’t know if that’s me. That’s a different thing, the galas and everything else. We did one gala many moons ago but it was the organization alone to put something that together. It’s time, money, and effort. It was a unique experience. I’m quite humble. I want to do what I can when I can.
Cosmic Consciousness: A lot of people and situations get left behind with all the bigger charities. A lot of people slip through the cracks, and so we pick up the pieces and a little bit of the people that get left behind. I’m quite happy being in that spot and helping people in that way on a more personal level.
Our special guest is Julian Lennon. He’s an entrepreneur, a musician, a songwriter, a film producer, and a film director. He is involved in many philanthropies. He’s a philanthropist. You can look him up. Julian, as I speak to you, it seems to me that you have these traits of compassion and empathy that must have come from your mother. It seems that part of you is very much your mother but yet the creative part of you is also your father.
They both met at art school so they were both creative. The best quote that I ever heard about myself, I’m not sure if it was my mother who said it, but it was in fact. She said, “Julian is like me in the week and like his father on the weekends.” That used to be very true but I’ve calmed down a little bit.
You also had a film that you executive produced called Kiss the Ground. I was indirectly involved in that film and met some of the people who were filming that. You are known for your photography. What are your projects? You’ve been on tour.
Not tour as such, I released an album in 2022 so there was a lot of promotion with that. No live performances. I’ll probably get around to that at some point but I do love being behind the camera. That’s my favorite place to be so I can breathe.
Remember, the album was called Jude.
Yes. The critics have been kind to me. It was an album that was put together. It was a five-year project of songs from many years ago and new songs. The project came together during the process of COVID. Funnily enough, I’d had this scenario where my first name originally was John.
It would’ve been John Lennon Jr. if you had kept it.
If I’d have lived in America, yes, probably. Mom used to differentiate us when it was dinner time or tea time as a kid. Mom would shout, “Junior.” It’s all first-world problems. I’d had all these scenarios especially when security came into full play. In America, if you’re going for meetings, you’d go up to the front desk and they’d want to give you a sticker to go upstairs, and it would all say John Lennon. Also, at the airport with the boarding passes and the passport. There would always be smart quips and some idiotic comments that followed me for many years.
I’d been going through this process and finally deciding to call the album Jude, initially from Jules. Paul’s original story is that it was Hey, Jules. He preferred sonically Hey Jude. In 2020, I was going through many changes. The time out for COVID was quite a good thing for me. I turned inward and I wanted to find that place of peace, calmness, balance, and happiness. I decided in 2020 to change my name by default to Julian. I didn’t want to lose John. I switched John and Julian.
Instead of John Charles Julian because Charles was my grandfather, my mother’s father, it’s Julian Charles John. With the passport, boarding passes, and stickers, I thought, “I’m finally Julian.” I was tired of being the second John so to speak. Finally, I was Julian, Jules, and Jude. I wanted to take ownership of that. I thought, “I feel like me.” I can’t explain that to you but there was something in changing my name and calling the album Jude. That was very special.
I didn’t think I was going to make another album again. I’m happy that I did in the end. It’s out there. It’s a good example of what I can do as a songwriter because rather than a performer, I feel much more at home behind the scenes, writing, recording, and producing. Going back to Kiss the Ground which was an amazing film that’s become a platform worldwide, there’s a part two out called Common Ground. It’s a little more of an intimate look. It reflects on the first film in the way that it shows you how regenerative farming is. It shows you how great it is doing traditional farming in that regard compared to the mass factory farming that goes on.
Tweet: There was something about changing my name and calling the album Jude that was very special. I didn’t think I was going to make another album again. I’m happy that I did in the end.
With Common Ground, it’s more of a personal take because it’s out in theaters all over the US with small screenings all over the place. It starts on a personal note with a few well-known celebrities that you would all know, Laura Dern, Jason Momoa, and several others, writing a note to their children about the future. It takes on a heart-wrenching perspective.
The first film was an overall overview of America predominantly. This one’s more about a personal position and thoughts and how things have progressed. There’s a third one in the pipeline, which is an overview of the world situation. Fingers crossed, that will impact the first film, and hopefully, the third if that truly comes about, which I will try and help as much as possible, will make a change for good.
Julian, we are coming towards the end of our conversation. You said some wonderful things. Before we finish, I have a question and also a reflection on something that I want to share with you. I entered my 77th year in 2023.
You look fabulous
Coincidentally, I had lunch with Laura in New York. Another coincidence. Here’s a practice that I do, which I’ve found useful. It’s a reflective meditation but I want to share it with you because you might find it useful too. The reason I’m sharing this with you is you said, no moment will ever be recreated. Every moment is unique, which is so true. What I do at night before I go to sleep is recapitulate my day in my imagination, on my mind, or in my consciousness. I got up, went to the bathroom, meditated, and did yoga. “I met so and so, this, that, and the other.” I then tell myself, “This was a dream. It’s over.” I let it go.
I then go through another practice and I recapitulate my life, which you did for me with your life. I see my childhood, parents, mother, father, and schoolmates. All that is also a dream. As I drift into sleep, I ask these dream characters, particularly my parents who’ve been deceased, if they would answer my questions in the middle of the night in my dream world. I started to have a very intense relationship with my parents who’ve been long gone and exist only in the dream world, knowing that the world we are living in is also a dream world. Every day is a dream.
If I asked you what happened to your childhood, you’d say it’s a dream. What about yesterday? It’s a dream. What about this morning? It’s a dream. What about five minutes ago? It’s a dream. You hear these words. They don’t exist. Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “Our life is a dream. We are asleep but we wake up sometimes, just enough to know that we are dreaming.” I’m sharing this with you in case you want to communicate with your parents. You can do that as I do. That’s a technique. I wanted to share this with you because you brought this up. Thank you.
Julian, I hope to see you again. I’m coming again to England for a conversation at Oxford Union. Maybe I’ll run into you, or I’ll come and see you sometime in Monaco. You travel all over the world. Before I let you go, for the next few decades of your life, what is your vision for yourself and humanity at large? We are living in troubled times with what’s happening in the Middle East, Ukraine, and everywhere. Your father wrote Imagine. I’m asking you, what are you imagining?
Bizarrely, this is initially on a personal level. I’ve written songs and sang songs and even sang Imagine for Ukraine. I’ve put the love out there through music. I’ve certainly been doing that through the documentary work as well. I had New York Times bestselling children’s books and trilogy, which I loved. A couple of years ago, I tried to get those made into a little animated series to get that out into the world. Not one of the major companies was interested. Funnily enough, I had a meeting. There was a little film company called Compassionate Film out of the UK. They said to me, “We’d love to bring the children’s books to light in an animated way.” That is happening so that’s beautiful.
There’s been a lot of admin in life which tends to block a lot of the creativity. You get stuck behind the numbers and the words sometimes. My goal in 2023 has predominantly been to get the admin organized so well that in 2024, I begin a year of nothing but creativity on every level. That will be inclusive of spreading as much love as I can and helping as much as I can through whatever medium is presented. I’ve covered a lot of ground already but I’m still open to more. Mainly the thing from my perspective is helping from a personal level. If the personal can also feed into the media and a bigger resolution, then that’s my goal.
Cosmic Consciousness: I think I’ve covered a lot of ground already, but I’m still open to more. That’s mainly the thing from my perspective is helping from personal level.
What better way than to work with children or bring the message through children.
As the old saying says they are our future. That’s it. Those are my goals. That’s big enough for me to deal with. That’s for sure.
My special guest has been Julian Lennon. Check out our conversation and give us your feedback. Thank you so much, Julian, for joining me.
My absolute pleasure. I hope to see you again soon.
About Julian Lennon
Born in Liverpool, England, Julian Lennon began his artistic trajectory at a young age with an inherent gift for playing musical instruments. Those abilities would soon broaden into the cinematic and visual arts. As an observer of life in all its forms, Julian developed his personal expression through such mediums as music, documentary filmmaking, philanthropy and fine art photography.
Julian’s musical melding of uplifting introspection and thoughtful social commentary with refined hooks has made for a compelling seven-album body of work. His debut, Valotte (Atlantic), yielded two top ten hits—the title track and “Too Late for Goodbyes”—and was nominated for a Grammy for “Best New Artist.” He went on to have #1 singles on the U.S. album rock charts. Internationally, one of his most popular songs, “Saltwater” charted successfully around the world, topping in Australia for four weeks and reaching #6 in the U.K. In 2022, he returned with the critically acclaimed album, Jude (BMG), his first commercial release in over a decade.
His arrival in the fine art photography space began in 2010 with his debut exhibit, “Timeless,” at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in New York City. Since then, he has exhibited works across the U.S. and in several countries worldwide including Belgium, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Italy, Japan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. In 2020, he became the inaugural photographer featured in the prestigious Aston Martin Residences in Miami. In 2021, he partnered with Portia De Rossi’s General Public Art to bring a collection of his photography to Restoration Hardware.
As a New York Times Bestselling author, Julian’s Touch the Earth children’s book trilogy educates young readers about environmental issues through journeys on the White Feather Flier. As a follow-up to that series, he returned with The Morning Tribe, for middle-grade readers in the fall of 2021. It was inspired by his work to help defend Native lands. That same year, he won the World Literacy Award for his significant contribution to the promotion of literacy.
A noted philanthropist, Julian founded The White Feather Foundation nonprofit in 2007 to help preserve Indigenous Cultures. Since then, the organization has expanded to help projects worldwide in the areas of Education, Health, Clean Water and The Environment. In 2015, in honour of his late mother, he launched The Cynthia Lennon Scholarship for Girls. Since its inception, it’s awarded 55 scholarships to underprivileged girls across Africa, the U.K. and the U.S. Julian was named a Peace Laureate by UNESCO in 2020. He was also an executive producer on the award-winning 2020 Netflix documentary, Kiss the Ground, about the positive impact of regenerative agriculture, and its 2023 sequel, Common Ground.
Learn more about his work at https://julianlennon.com/