Farmer Turned ASMR Star: How This Man Promotes a Culture of Spirituality to the Youth
An 84-year-old retired farmer found himself in the spotlight after being branded as an unlikely YouTube star for his meditative videos about faith and spirituality.
John Butler, who lives in the quiet county of Derbyshire, England, was an organic farmer — one of the first of its kind in the country — in the 1970s. Meditation had been a practice and lifestyle for him for over 50 years.
He recently found his niche in the online community thanks to a trend called ASMR, which stands for “auto sensory meridian response.” ASMR refers to the tingling sensation one can get from soft sounds, sometimes lulling them to sleep.
In Butler’s case, this sound would be his quiet, soothing voice — accompanied by topics of life, wisdom, and spirituality.
“I’m not religious or anything, but this man is very wise and he always thinks before he speaks,” a viewer commented on one of his videos. “His voice is so gentle and soothing, and it’s almost impossible for anyone to dislike him.”
Butler’s big break was an interview in a YouTube channel called Conscious TV, where he conversed with producer Iain McNay about “discovering stillness.” As of July 2021, four years after it was uploaded, Butler’s feature video is still the most popular on the channel, garnering over 2.6 million views.
After the overwhelming success of the interview, Butler was encouraged to start his own YouTube channel. He called it Spiritual Unfoldment with John Butler, named after a book he wrote in 2008.
Butler said that he was wholly unprepared for the fame. “I think if I was a younger man I would have been more excited about it,” he told BBC News. “I’d never heard of YouTube. Hardly knew what [the] internet was.”
‘Feet on the Ground’
Butler’s insights on life and spirituality are based on both contemplation and experience. In his earlier years, he grew his crops in the Lincolnshire Fends, being one of the forerunning organic farmers of the country. His work as a farmer no doubt contributed to his nature-based philosophies and reverence for the world.
But depression and a rather painful heartbreak prompted Butler to do some soul-searching. He began to take long trips to different parts of the world, which, little by little, left a significant impact on him.
“I’d been through a great love experience then, which didn’t work out but it completely took over,” he shared with the Derbyshire Times. “I couldn’t go on living as I had been previously. So, I left my farm and wandered off not knowing what to do with myself.”
Soon enough, Butler discovered what meditation could do for him and for others. He wrote several books about it, describing in detail all his discernment about the practice.
Butler himself, as his site reports, is not wholly subscribed to a particular religious tradition. He does relate many of his teachings to Christian principles, mainly because of his upbringing and his closeness to his local parish church.
But his personal beliefs speak volumes about his spirituality, and to him, the soul of the individual is keenly connected with the natural world.
“I have always loved nature. I have always thought of it as my first teacher,” said Butler. “I think there is no better teacher. I am not one for following human answers.”
One of the things he tells his followers repeatedly is the motto: “Feel your feet on the ground — listen and look.” To Butler, being present and connected with the world brings a sense of stability, which is necessary for one’s spiritual health.
“Connect with the ground and become aware of the depth of stillness that is beneath our feet, which supports us [and] bears us through all our trials and tribulations, in sorrow and in joy,” he said in one of his videos, called “The common sense guide to meditation,” which has had over a million views.
“Even if you're in a high-rise apartment — doesn’t matter, the principle is the same. The floor beneath your feet of the ground, or the naked earth beneath your feet, is still at least in relation to the agitation, which is such a feature of our minds. Immediately it stabilizes you, doesn’t it? It brings in some confidence,” he said.
Young People to Butler: ‘Thank You for the Clarity’
Despite his unfamiliarity with the online world, the farmer-turned-YouTuber used the platform as an opportunity to teach people about faith and meditation — two things that helped him find his way at a time where he felt lost.
“So many people have this problem with an agitated mind, a restless mind, and because one instinctively seeks for some sort of balance, people look for rest or peace,” he said. “If something in my voice conveys that restfulness, then thank God for that. I don’t know quite how it happens.”
Even non-religious people are finding comfort in Butler’s wisdom. Or, if not his wisdom, his gentle, calming voice.
“The situation in the world right now… it’s pissing me off and [it’s] hard to believe, but after humbling myself, I realized [that] beauty is still around us at all times. And we have so much more than that,” a YouTube user had commented on one of his videos.
Another user — reminiscent of Butler himself in his youth — showed gratitude for Butler’s spiritual insights. “I am a young man who struggles a lot with being present and invading negative thoughts,” he said. “Thank you for the clarity.”
So what does all the stardom mean for Butler? “I’m just quietly glad to be able to share what I love,” he said.
Check out ‘Spiritual Unfoldment with John Butler’ here.