My name is Stephen Gray. I’ve been a lifelong student, teacher and researcher of spiritual paths, in particular Tibetan Buddhism and the peyote ceremonies of the Native American Church. I’ve studied and practiced several other modalities in the healing and awakening fields. I’ve also devoted much time and love to music as a teacher, singer/songwriter, and composer of music for healing and spiritual work under the artist name Keary. Returning to Sacred World is my first book and as of this point the culmination of my life’s work. I’ve also written several feature articles for leading magazines in the field. Issue #77 of Shaman’s Drum magazine has an 8,000 word essay by me titled Walking With Grandfather Peyote and other Sacred Plants. Issue #66 of Sacred Hoop magazine has one titled Heart of the Great Spirit. Reality Sandwich, the popular website founded by Daniel Pinchbeck, has an article by me titled When Prayer Meets Medicine. It came on in late 2009 and should be accessible in their archives. Those interested in more information about my own journey will find it further down in this introduction. What follows is a brief summary of the ideas on this site and in my book.
Our species is faced with a clear and urgent choice: either we engage in some serious waking up and reconfiguring of who we are and what we’re doing here, or—I’m sad to say it—we’re likely headed for a series of deepening catastrophes. Of course no one really knows what’s going to become of us anyway. Even if the veils fall away quickly for a great many of us, the biosphere may have passed the tipping point and be hurtling us toward drastic survival challenges. I’m sure your imagination can fill in the gruesome details on that subject.
What we do know, I believe passionately, is that the planet cannot much longer survive the kind of mindless materialism and spiritual disconnectedness that has dominated recent history. I’m cautiously optimistic however, and this is a central theme of my work. Though still below the horizon of most people’s sight lines, there is a growing and strengthening determination rising from all corners of the planet to heal the wounds and awaken our slumbering souls. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, and there can no longer be any meaningful debate about the urgency of the planet’s circumstances.
These ideas are explored in depth in my forthcoming book Returning to Sacred World: A Spiritual Toolkit for the Emerging Reality. One of the key premises of the book and this growing intention is that we are capable of manifesting our best ideas. The more minds come together in one purpose, the greater the chance that that intention will be realized. And if that statement is true, then the intention, the prayer, and the activity of everyone can make a difference.
Although stephengrayvision.com is not about me, some of you may be wondering who I am so I’ll give you a little biographical information. I was born in 1949. You can do the math. I suppose that makes me an elder in some respects. I’ve certainly been around the spiritual block a few times. I started university in 1968, a tumultuous period of social upheaval that produced great interest in spirituality among my contemporaries, especially the spirituality of the Orient. Of course much of this interest was provoked by unexpected and sometimes ego-dissolving experiences with psychedelic drugs/plants like LSD, mescaline, peyote, and yes, even the humble cannabis plant.
Those two interconnected themes—spiritual practice and sacred plants—took firm root in my life at that time and have remained central to my journey and my work ever since. One of the main themes in Returning to Sacred World is the idea of syncretism: “the combining of different religions, cultures, or ways of thinking.” An important aspect of the vision for global healing and awakening is to learn from each other, to learn from each others’ traditions, and sometimes even to incorporate each others’ ideas. We’re actually building new forms as we go.
My personal journey has paralleled the syncretic path of learning. I’ve gone deeply into several fields of study and practice over the years and tested the waters of a few others enough to get some feel for them. For many years my main path was Tibetan Buddhism. I was a student, meditation instructor, and teacher in what was then known as Vajradhatu International, now Shambhala International. The man behind that organization was Chögyam Trungpa, a brilliant and at times controversial Tibetan wisdom master. I knew him, I loved him, and he changed my life.
In the 1990s my Buddhist practice began to dovetail with my long-held interest in the awakening potential of psychedelics, or entheogens. Through a chance encounter with Terence McKenna and his wild and brilliant ideas, I was stimulated to pursue the use of spirit/medicine/teacher plants in ritual contexts. The long and the short of that ongoing inquiry led to a connection with the Native American Church (NAC.) For the past seven years (as of 2009) I’ve been a committed and frequent participant in the all-night peyote medicine, prayer meetings of this barely organized but thriving religion.
There’s an in-depth chapter in my book on the peyote medicine and its use in the NAC. I’ll just say briefly here that through those ceremonies I’ve learned a great deal about the heart, about the reality of Spirit presence, and about the potential of prayer, or compassionate intention, to manifest remarkable benefit in the material world. That practice has helped fuse the brilliant teachings of Buddhism with powerful direct experience in the medicine space—testimony for the potential of the syncretic approach. There’s much to be gained from the carefully considered meeting of different healing and awakening traditions.
I’ve also worked with other plants and a couple of synthesized chemical configurations for spiritual understanding. I have, for example, followed Terence McKenna’s admonition to “sit down, shut up, and pay attention” with psilocybin mushrooms. I’ve also worked a little with ayahuasca, including a journey to Peru in July 2008 to participate in the Fourth Annual International Shamanism Conference in Iquitios. Even the oft misused and misunderstood cannabis plant has the potential, when used skillfully, to open the heart, soften the ego, and stimulate the imagination.
I’ve also been involved in music throughout my life . I’ve spent many years teaching music to children, and among other things have composed three cds of music for meditation, for journeying, for accompanying yoga, reiki, and other healing work. This music is listed under the artist name “Keary” and can be found at the website keary-reedsong.com as well as cdbaby.com and iTunes. As of this writing (Oct. 2009) I don’t have any listenable samples on this site but I hope to do that before long.
May the prayers of the awakening hearts be realized, Stephen.