Iboga Update

I’ve written two other essays* on my website about iboga, one of them my personal experience as a participant. There’s also a very informative interview in audio and text versions with Sean and Steve, the two iboga ceremony leaders I’ve been coordinating events for during the past couple of years. Since writing the essay on my own experience with the ceremony, I’ve now been an assistant at another half dozen and have seen close to eighty people go through the weekend. It feels like it’s time for an update.

The core issue I’ve learned more about in these past couple of years has to do with the challenge of understanding how to work with and benefit from the iboga plant in this context. On Sunday, the last day of each ceremony, participants share their feelings with the group. Sean and Steve encourage them to listen to the others as the talking stick is passed around the circle, without thinking ahead to what they’ll say. Then they’re asked to keep it simple, spontaneous, and from the heart. From mentally correlating those reports, along with later email exchanges and conversations with people who have gone through the ceremony, a clearer picture is beginning to take shape.

I can imagine that my understanding of the mysterious and wonderful ways this medicine interacts with us and promotes psychospiritual growth may evolve if I continue in these roles. At this point I want to share my current understanding because I’ve observed that it often isn’t easy to make sense of how the medicine is doing its work. Although there’s a core functioning principle, the particular way it plays out varies widely from individual to individual. With some people it’s very clear. With others it’s occluded and enigmatic.

With entheogens such as ayahuasca, peyote, psilocybe mushrooms, cannabis and others, the descriptor “nonspecific amplifier” is appropriate. The medicines can open up the channels that already exist as unrecognized potential or in muted form. When set and setting are optimal, the amplification function powerfully clarifies and in that way promotes healing and awakening. But unlike some of the other medicines, iboga appears to have a very narrow—you could even say disciplined—intention and focus. Ayahuasca for example, according to experienced journeyers, can show you just about anything under the sun and beyond. Iboga, again as I understand it, is like a psychotherapist or clear-mirroring spiritual master. You tell the doctor what’s going on and the doctor goes to work.

And now here’s the nub of the issue and the reason it can be tricky to understand and learn from an encounter with iboga. Most people come to it looking for solutions to their discomfort, their unhappiness, anxiety, confusion and so on. Buddhist teachings sometimes round these various descriptors into one Sanskrit word: “dukkha.” Dukkha is often translated as suffering but maybe a more user-friendly description would be to think of it as a basic, ongoing, root dissatisfaction. The Buddha is reported to have said, “I have taught one thing and one thing only: dukkha and the cessation of dukkha.”1

Coming to an iboga ceremony with hopes for solutions to core issues is well and good. However, and this comes from repeated observation that includes my own self-reflection, these core issues are often very hard to recognize. There’s a reason we are where we are. We’re driven by patterns that go way back, very possibly even prior to this particular incarnation, but certainly to the very beginnings of this life. The legendary Czech psychiatrist Stanislav Grof supervised over five thousand LSD therapy sessions and found that a great many of his patients, uninfluenced by him, went directly to traumas that developed in the womb and during the birth process. This of course is psychic material that gets embedded long before the child has any cognitive grasp of the source of his or her discomfort and alienation.

We arrive at the ceremony carrying these buried, unrecognized wounds, or imprints. Some readers may balk at the suggestion that their wounds are unconscious. You may think you know what you’re working on and you very well may be correct. First off, I’m speaking generally here. Second, I think most of us have at best a partial picture of old material that’s getting in our way. Sometimes we see our behavior clearly but we don’t know why we keep repeating the same behavior patterns when triggered by certain situations. We haven’t penetrated to the roots.

Tell me if you think this next statement is on the mark. If we knew the insides and outsides of our obstacles, if we were very clear about them and able to articulate them, if we had released the blocked, troubling emotions surrounding them, they would no longer be issues of any major concern. Put the other way around, the unrecognized and unreleased energetic imprints and stories we haven’t been ready to look at determine our current degree of freedom from confusion and suffering. Expressed in yet another way, we have blind spots. If we could see them they wouldn’t cause problems, or they would at the least be well on their way to losing their hold on us.

So generalizing again, we may come to the ceremony with a sense that all is not right, we may think we’ve narrowed down the investigation, but we’re not quite sure. A key component of it is that we’ve formed a narrative about ourselves, and it often includes some idea of what we think we’re working on. But iboga knows the truth and can pinpoint exactly where the problem lies. When we come with this often unconscious material, and we think we have some idea of where to look or how the insights and healing will appear, we don’t see what’s in the polished mirror that iboga holds up to us.

I’ve seen this phenomenon repeatedly. It often manifests during the ceremony. Someone hauls herself up off the mattress and shuffles over to the ceremony leaders. “I’m sure it’s not working for me. It seems to be working for everyone else but me.”  Sean and Steve never answer that concern with rational arguments. They just gently tell the person that it’s happening even if they can’t see it. You just have to relax, pay attention, and not judge. During the Sunday morning sharing session it’s common for people to say they have no idea what just happened. They might have been expecting something very dramatic. They might have been expecting iboga to show them a movie reel of their past traumas or whisper a clear solution in their ear.

But there’s nothing going on except ourselves and our relationship with stillness. Again, there are reasons we haven’t been ready to see the obscuring material, and just having it amplified and mirrored back to us isn’t necessarily going to bring change. It’s no new-age cliché to say we are completely responsible for ourselves. We’re always choosing our state of mind, our degree of realization. With iboga we really have to release all expectations and concepts, embrace beginner’s mind, the don’t know mind, and be willing to be changed.

Then there is the time following the weekend ceremony. Sean and Steve refer to the whole situation as a thirty-three day ceremony—three days at the ceremony itself and another thirty days where reflection is still very heightened and sharpened. The good news, I should point out, is that regardless of whether or not we have any conscious recognition of what we were shown, iboga is doing its work. The say it pulls up the roots of the core obstacles. These pulled-up roots will present themselves to us as we go about our lives. It’s very similar to how basic bare-attention type mediation functions. You hope to learn to recognize the mindstuff that arises, see it as phenomena in some essential sense separate from who you are, and let it go, dissolving out with the breath, repeatedly.

But again, recognizing this is a challenge for most of us. Along with my observations and post-ceremony exchanges with participants, I watched myself get caught into “going solid” on the material. The main issue for me, I have finally come to see over time, has something to do with getting caught up in mental speed and busyness and creating some tightness around all that. As with the great majority of us, there has been a compelling fear of emptiness, of no self, egolessness. Instead of catching the root material as it rose up in the weeks after the ceremony, I took the bait and took on some new responsibilities. There was nothing “wrong” with that per se, but I did eventually come to see how those were unconscious attempts to fill the space and avoid the stillness that Sean and Steve speak of often.

This essay is directed in part at those who have been through an iboga ceremony, although the main points are applicable to anyone working with similar amplifying medicines or are on healing/awakening paths altogether. Those first few weeks after the ceremony are often crucial. People sometimes write or call me during that period with a concerned narrative that things aren’t going well. I’ve learned to recognize that that’s exactly what is supposed to happen for those people. As Sean and Steve like to say, the ceremony didn’t happen, it’s happening. The fortress has been shaken up. The old unhealthy patterns are amplified and manifest as what Buddhist teachings call “heightened neurosis.”

Again, there are reasons . . . We really didn’t want to surrender those patterns that were natural reactions to the forces unleashed upon us and once protected us but now no longer serve us. There’s a struggle going on. Something in us is being pulled toward the light and something is resisting. That creates turmoil. The only advice, surprise surprise, is not to judge, not to fix the story, and to practice nurturing relaxation and stillness of thought as often as possible on the cushion, the yoga mat, and in the daily walk. Things will shift. Great Spirits, however defined (or undefinable,) love us unconditionally and continually invite us to enter in.

Footnotes:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dukkha

Post Script:

* The first essay I wrote about iboga on the website was titled Iboga: The Holy Wood Which Cares for Us. This phrase was borrowed from a book called Iboga: The Visionary Root of African Shamanism. When I was collecting talk titles for the 2013 Spirit Plant Medicine Conference, I sent requests to the presenters for titles. When Sean and Steve didn’t reply for quite a while I used that title. Later they took a look at the conference website, saw the title and told me it didn’t fit their view of iboga. They said it works so powerfully because in some key sense it doesn’t care. It just mirrors impeccably. When I thanked them at the end of their presentation at the conference I got a big laugh out of them by saying, “Thank you for that brilliant explication of the Holy Wood which doesn’t give a shit.”

Never Separated

I was hiking through a forest last summer and delighting in the beauty surrounding me. At one point my attention focused in on the leaves on the trees and a few thoughts came to mind. Perhaps you’ll take a little mind ride with me here and consider the existence of a leaf for a few moments.

It grows out of its mother to play its part for awhile in a brilliantly conceived and awe-inducingly complex set of bio-chemical processes. Then we give it a name. “Ah, a leaf.” Now, in our mind’s conception of it, the leaf appears to have some sort of independent existence to carry that name. Of course we also break the naming down into more specific descriptive categories: maple leaf, birch leaf, alder leaf and so on.

But as we can readily observe, in some essential way that leaf  was never born as we think of birth into separate existence. The umbilical cord to its mother is never cut throughout the days of its growth and maturity, until . . . still beautifully engaged in the bio-chemical dance, the mother stops feeding her children. Without its mother milk the leaf begins to die, or so it appears, and now we have more adjectives for it: a dying leaf, autumn leaves, a pile of dead leaves on the ground.

Did the leaf really die? On some level yes of course. The lifeblood ceased to flow through it and it fell to the ground where it will soon disintegrate. But what if, instead of thinking of this process as one of dying and death, we saw it as part of a continual process of transformation? Instead of, “Ah, a pile of dead leaves” how about, “Ah, a pile of transforming leaves.” Or maybe we could deconstruct our conceptualization and labeling even further with, “Ah, parts of this entity we call a tree, which is itself an inextricable part of a larger interdependent whole, is transforming more dramatically right now.”

If you accept that the leaf was never really a separate entity, nouns and adjectives notwithstanding, by “dying” it hasn’t ceased to be part of the symphony. For example, maybe its materiality now enters the earth around the tree and provides nourishment for it, or for a young sapling in the vicinity.

Of course you could just as plausibly run through this sequence in regard to the tree itself. In the most obvious way, the tree is never separated from the ground around it. In a somewhat less obvious way, at least to us non-scientists, the tree is a visible presence in a completely interconnected, interdependent ecology of earth, water, air, sunlight and who knows what other elements of art and science and as yet unrecognized brilliant design constituents.

You’ve probably surmised by now where I’m going with this. As I sat in the forest enjoying the beautiful visual display and contemplating leafness, my thoughts turned to us humans. Tricked by our apparent physical separation from our surroundings, too clever for our own good, we’re seduced by the conviction of our  separateness.

But aren’t we really in the same situation as everything else in form? Inextricable component of a living and constantly moving dance of energy and information. Yes, the umbilical cord seems to have been cut. Yes, we can move around more independently than the trees, but seen with a certain kind of vision, we’re no more separate. We are just as much a part of an interdependent and contiguous environment as anything else in form.

One of the most striking confirmations of this understanding I’ve come across is the experience of the neuro-scientist Jill Bolte-Taylor. She gave a talk on Ted TV that should still be there when you read this.  http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html

Jill had a massive stroke that all but completely shut down her left brain. Although the two hemispheres are in constant communication, the left brain again, in case you forgot, is the hemisphere that deals primarily with the known, with logical, rational, linear thinking, with concept formation, belief etcetera. The right brain processes direct information, the larger, holistic, interconnected picture, what we might call the unknown.

With her left brain processing almost totally out of the way, Jill was unable to get  hold of its library of information—all the basics of learned identity like her name, her phone number etc. etc. But this clearing away opened the portal to a profound experience. She looked at her arm and could not see where it ended and where the atmosphere around it began. This perception then extended much farther as she began to realize her connectedness to all. Though her left brain did eventually reboot, the experience had a profound, life changing effect on her. She concluded the talk by suggesting that the experience of interdependent interconnectedness is the ground of reality surrounding us and that we are all capable of making the choice to open up to it.

Though I don’t intend in this essay to get into a discussion of how the rest of us can access this kind of state, I’ll offer the observation that for many of us seekers it has to do with presence, with learning to relax into and trust nowness, beyond the brain as it were, or perhaps more accurately, beyond the limiting control of the left brain. Buddhist teachings call it the discursive mind and describe it as the action of ego—a continuous and overlapping process of mental activity that functions to obscure  the underlying reality. Through our presence-encouraging practices we gradually, in most cases, learn to slow down the speed of mind and settle into—again using Buddhist terminology—emptiness. That somewhat daunting word just means emptiness of the obscuring, cluttering, concept-addicted discursive mind, in favor of clear, unfiltered perception of things as they are in each moment.

Another way of describing this experience I’ve found helpful lately is to envision everything as energy—patterns of energy, constantly flowing, shifting, evolving patterns of energy. Ego is equated with struggle, with trying to force our virtual, imaginary version of life onto these self-existing patterns of energy.

Another relevant Buddhist teaching on this issue is that of effortlessness. It doesn’t mean laziness or lack of effort. It has something to do with surrendering the struggle and resistance and recognizing, aligning, and harmonizing with the existing energies. I also like to think of this as learning to settle into the still center, a place many of us have visited briefly at various times that keeps calling us back. This is the place that provokes phrases like “the peace that passeth all understanding.” That’s a good one. It implies that if you can ‘understand’ it, that ain’t it.

If you’ve read my book or any of my other writings you know that I can’t help relating all this back to the planetary condition. Again, by many accounts and much evidence, we’re in an unprecedented time of karmic completion and extremely rapid change. As a lot of us see it, there is a kind of download underway in which unenlightened, dysfunctional views and behaviors are being challenged, overturned, and healed. A new, saner set of morphic fields is being introduced and is spreading rapidly around the planet, though not to all at this time of course. The transformation is seeping down through various levels. There’s an image of walking in a fine mist. We don’t realize we’re getting wet but eventually we discover we’re soaked.

By way of concluding, it seems that we’re all in the same situation, beguiled and befuddled by the illusion of separateness, with the promise before us of awakening to our true nature as interpenetrating points of  living light dancing in harmony with the ever-flowing energies all around us. I suggest that this is an understanding whose time has come on this planet. Let us pray brothers and sisters.

Principles of the Paradigm Revolution

I suspect that if you’ve found your way here it’s abundantly clear to you that the juggernaut of the current dominant paradigm is not going much further on this planet. That conceptual framework has at its core the belief that the material realm is all there is and that we are no more than separate egos disconnected from the whole. Largely as a consequence of that belief structure, Mammon, the false God of riches and avarice, has come to hold much of the world in his tight-fisted grip. This dominant paradigm long ago lost contact with the living Gaian mind and with our embededness in the all-encompassing web of life. And, to restate it, there is an extremely strong and clear case to be made that this way of seeing life is on the cusp of making the planet uninhabitable for the foreseeable future.

Here are a few ideas that many of us see as the operating principles for an urgently needed paradigm shift. This is a very incomplete work in progress and readers are warmly invited to add your own ideas or to comment on those offered here. Some of these principles could also be seen as components of a kind of manifesto for the emerging sacred reality.

1. The Earth is our mother and we are her completely dependent children. It goes without need of elaboration to say that she keeps us alive every second of every day. It’s impossible to overstate how precarious her health is at this moment. For any skeptics in the room who may scoff at the previous sentence as another example of doomsday thinking, I want to say that the basis for such a statement comes not from lack of faith in life but from a deep and fiery commitment to life. It arises from abundant evidence, from knowledge, from individual and collective intuition, and directly from the Spirit when it’s given voice through deep meditative states such as those invoked through the intelligent use of entheogenic plants.

When a beloved parent or other close relative or friend is seriously ill, many of us step up and devote ourselves to that person, sometimes even taking long leaves from our jobs and moving to other places to attend to the sick person. Our primary responsibility now may be to see our mother in that way and to give ourselves over to her healing.

I offer no dogmatic or reductive prescription for this work.  As I see it, the healing work can and does take many forms. In fact, if you were to start at any website devoted to any version of this work and follow the links to related sites, it’s likely the trail would be all but endless. There are many many groups and individuals working to heal the wounds, redress the imbalances, and uplift and beautify the world through every possible sphere of activity: human rights and social justice; environmental; mind/body/spirit teaching and healing; art; food production and distribution; urban design, etc. etc.

The inner paradigm shift required of us now is to learn to step down from our isolated ego-encased misunderstanding of life and allow the ever-present truth of our interconnectedness with each other and with all of life to enter the fabric of our consciousness. For most of us it’s a long journey that challenges us to “quell outer, inner, and secret obstacles”¹ before we can arrive at the trust in life that gives us permission to relax and open our hearts. This leads to principle #2, which could also be seen as a corollary or underpinning foundation for principle #1 above.

2. Healing at all levels must be humanity’s primary mission for the time being. Just as our mother is ill, so are we all wounded and stunned by the ignorance and aggression we see around us, as well as the toxicity and dangerous fragility of our planet and of the collective human enterprise at multiple levels. Buddhist teaching uses the word “samsara” to describe the deluded state of mind that sees itself as only a separate ego. That state of mind dominates worldly activity on this planet and has resulted in untold suffering. If you could peal back the surface layers of the personality, even those who don’t particularly see themselves as suffering are harboring wounds and confusion and typically have no idea of the potential depths of unconditional peace, love, and joy that can be realized in the human form.

3. Following from the previous principle, there is a dawning understanding which intuition and observation tell me will become much more widely and deeply understood in the years to come. That is that our capabilities for healing are far beyond what has been generally recognized and accepted in the mainstream societies. With the right mindset and knowledge, just about any physical or mental condition is amenable to healing. The currently understood laws of physics fall far short of this potential. The primary guiding principle here could be boiled down to the old homily “mind over matter.” Another statement I’ve always liked is writer Philip K. Dick’s comment that “Matter is plastic in the face of mind.” Based on my experience around healing environments where people invoke the intercession of Spirit, I would also express this idea as “Spirit over matter.”

At this time, the majority of people would probably slot this potential into the realm of magic, or simply deny its reality altogether. However, the people who understand the mechanisms at work tell us that it’s not magic at all but rather the knowledge of the underlying structure of reality that allows this kind of intervention. Anyone who looks beyond the conventional consensual reality and does a little digging will find that the evidence is abundant. There are healers who know that it’s possible to see illness of all kinds and in many cases to be able to invoke the intercession of Spirit, move the energies around, suck out black spots, pray away infirmities, receive insights into the needed healing plants, and many other means and methods.

The encouraging news—though it still hasn’t made itself felt in the mainstream discussion forums—is that a major paradigm shift is well underway in the field of healing. We’re beginning to see evidence of a whole new view of healing work rising up all over the place and influencing more and more people. I could—but won’t—stretch this essay out into near interminability with examples to back up this assertion. I have seen and personally experienced some of this work. I’ve also heard a number of reports and testimonials from highly reliable sources regarding individual and group healing work, seminars, and workshops which indicate the gradual seeping of the power of Spirit-infused intention into both the alternative and mainstream healing professions.

If you want to be skeptical be my guest. Obviously, opportunistic charlatanism can rear its ugly head wherever there’s money to be made and especially in the complex realm of human health. Caveat emptor always applies. Again, the point is that this new—at least for the dominant cultures—understanding is spreading like mycelia just under the surface. Time will tell of course. I suspect we’re extremely close to an almost quantum leap forward in this part of the paradigm shift.

4. We the people have the power. This follows from the previous point but leads further, into the world of business and electoral politics. I’m convinced that without the blind complicity of the majority, the power elites are powerless. But to put it bluntly, we’ve been duped. Maybe you and I do not personally feel like we’ve fallen for the great hoodwink, but don’t forget that in the U.S., after eight outrageous years of transparent incompetence, manipulation and bald-faced lying by the Bush Jr. administration, nearly one third of those polled still approved of his presidency. And in 2010, the influence leaders of the Repugnicant Party can still get a large minority of people to believe that the fox in the hen house is their best friend and supporter.

It comes back to the dysfunctional and dying paradigm introduced in the first paragraph above. Although most of us can be tempted to some degree by the big G of Greed, there are power elites who seem to think that acquiring and maintaining control of vast wealth is their only salvation. The damage caused by their machinations and manipulations has been and continues to be unbelievably harmful and heartbreaking.

At the level of nations, democracy is a sham, a shell game. These elites not only do not believe in democracy, they actively and at times violently oppose it whenever it appears to threaten their strongholds. Not that the United States is by any means the sole culprit, but as the most powerful empire on the planet that country offers prime evidence. You could run your finger around a map of the globe and find dozens of countries where the U.S. has directly or indirectly interfered in a nation’s internal affairs to stop nascent democratic movements and keep or put into power leaders friendly to the agenda of mega-corporations. Even when they don’t take such extreme measures, the meddlers are working overtime behind the scenes to influence and pressure governing bodies in every way they can.

I believe a shift is also well underway in this sphere and again, is a central element of the overall healing process. Though clearly I can’t prove it, I suspect the invisible hand of Spirit is helping us heal ourselves and our planet before we waste this incredibly brilliant creation. The curtains are being drawn back to expose corruption at all levels. As a prime example, for the past thirty to forty years we have seen one exposé after another of hypocrisy and abuse from representatives of the churches. Here in Canada we had years of painful discoveries of abuse in the Church-run schools. Lately of course the Catholic Church has been facing the fire for rampant sexual abuse by priests in multiple countries. Through these exposés we see that—with due respect to genuine Christian teachings and the actions of good-hearted people everywhere—the primary function of the Church has been control.

Developing this idea of sham democracy further, I would suggest that the latest version of this corrective healing process seems to be in the realm of political and economic power directly. With appalling events like the global financial meltdown of 2008, everyone is shown in stark relief the real motivations of those who control the flow of the almighty dollar through institutions by the likes of Goldman-Sachs and their ilk and the hand-in-glove collusion of government in this enterprise.

The idea that the people have the power is a central element of the vision for the emerging reality. It meshes with the truth of our interconnectedness, with the reality that the walls that appear to separate us so solidly are an illusion. A core tenet of The Native American Church says that when united as one heart, people are capable of just about anything. When extended into the larger world, this idea provides the foundation for the manifestation of the best idea. To put it succinctly, this understanding proclaims that we are fully capable of collectively manifesting our best ideas.

At this dangerous moment on planet Earth, any more limited idea is insufficient. There’s an excellent six-part series on youtube called Native American Elders Speak. These elders speak in straightforward language with a ring of authority that seems to rise up from the Earth itself. One of them, Oren Wilson, makes the almost painfully obvious point that we are now reaping the results of the intentions we have sown. There’s no more wiggle room. This leads to the next principle of the emerging reality.

5. I believe it will become increasingly clear to greater and greater numbers of people in the years ahead that there’s a fundamental equation at work. There are several ways to say it, probably all a bit clichéd and obvious: you reap what you sow, thought/intention creates reality, etc. The main reason this insight is likely to take hold in the larger society follows from the previous points in this essay. Again, there’s no more wiggle room. Events are circling in upon one another at an alarming rate. It’s not a game. We are right now reaping the consequences of the intentions of those who have had the opportunity, the means, and the talent to manifest those intentions in the world. The rest of us are on some level complicit in our disempowerment.

The logical conclusion of this fundamental equation ties back into principle #4 above regarding the power of the people. Our past and current individual and collective intentions have brought us to a breaking point. Our only hope is to have faith that our wisest, most compassionate intentions are ultimately stronger than the soulless pursuit of power and wealth. The best ideas are stronger because at the core they are in alignment with reality. They are in some sense effortlessly aligned with the primordial, unconditioned, eternal reality. We appear to be going through a purification process and the “no more wiggle room” hypothesis posits that, as a general principle, only that kind of aligned, awakened intention will survive this transit.

6. This one should be right near the top of the New Bill of Rights. We the people have the inalienable right to cognitive liberty. The days of the patriarchy are coming to an end. We are witnessing the grudging but inexorable death of the paternalistic control-based mentality that treats the people like children or like idiots incapable of taking responsibility for ourselves. The shift in thinking required for this particular element of the revolution to take full hold is that the powers that be and a lot of the rest of us have to radically rethink our evaluation of the potential for wisdom in the human species.

If it doesn’t look that way right now as we observe the banalities and absurdities of so-called popular culture, I believe that’s mainly because of the mindset of mutual group imprisonment. If you were never taught that you are at core an awakened being with vast creative potential, you are quite likely to live down to that expectation. If you were never trusted to see life directly for yourself you probably never learned to. We have to trust the root unconditioned goodness of humans.

There’s a Buddhist view of the potential for transmuting unenlightened thinking and behavior into enlightened mind and activity. It’s another fundamental equation. The force of the energy moving in one direction, however neurotic and unaware it appears, is equal to the potential for transforming that energy into awakened activity. Addictions of all kinds, for example, can be seen in this light, as essentially misdirected energies that can be transmuted into life-enhancing creative energies. For those interested in exploring this principle in more depth, take a look at the chapter in my book Returning to Sacred World called “The Worst Horse”

The right to cognitive liberty is the foundational principle for any number of versions of freedom of expression and behavior. One of the most important at this moment involves the use of sacred plant medicines. I count myself among those who hold the conviction that Spirit-infused, visionary, healing plants are here and available for some very important reasons. Though I won’t go into it here, a little research on your part would reveal that plant medicines such as ayahuasca, psilocybe mushrooms, peyote, iboga, and a number of others harmonize extremely smoothly with our existing brain chemistry. To take a particular, and particularly relevant example, DMT, or dimethyltryptamine, is the primary psychoactive ingredient in ayahuasca and in its pure form considered by some researchers to be the strongest psychedelic on the planet. DMT is found in the pineal gland in our brains, and according to researchers such as Dr. Rick Strassman and others, may be implicated in a host of non-ordinary states, possibly including mystical experiences of divine union.

The bald fact is that with respect to cognitive liberty and the use of visionary plants, the authorities and mainstream opinion leaders in today’s societies are coming from places of fear, ignorance, and control and are standing in the way of spiritual tools and healing medicines that have remarkable potential to shift the dominant paradigm away from the primitive and arrogant assumption that we are the entitled top dogs granted unrestricted sovereignty over an unsentient planet in a soulless cosmos.

7. Art, or perhaps it should be called Sacred Art, is central to the vision for the paradigm shift. Before writing this section I thought I’d do a quick check of the Oxford Dictionary to see what they had to say about the word “art.”  They didn’t even come close. Here we’re talking about the most all-encompassing implications of that word. It includes the attitude that everything is sacred. It includes the view that art is to be found in the smallest of daily experiences. It includes gratitude, praise, and celebration. It includes channeling visions and voices of the Muses, of Spirit. It includes releasing the mindset of struggle and harmonizing with the larger patterns of life.

Art is especially intertwined with the principal of nowness. Living fully in the now, as I understand it, has to do with mindful, aware, relaxed presence in this very moment. It has to do with relaxing out of control mode and beginning to align ourselves with the energies around us. When we can allow ourselves to awaken into nowness, I think we begin to notice a kind of natural, unconditioned hierarchy of values.

My old Buddhist teacher used to talk about choicelessness. I believe the concept of the Tao has a similar meaning. Choicelessness doesn’t mean that there’s only one way to do things. It means that there are ways to do things that feel right because they are in tune with Spirit, with the natural, creative movement of energy. When we’re present enough to tune into that kind of feeling perception, we’re much more likely to fall into harmonic patterns. The universe, or the interconnected flowing grid of energy and intelligence, tends to lubricate those aligned patterns. Ego is in some sense the opposite of art understood in this way. The more intensely we insist on our own habitual, conditioned ways of seeing and acting, the more we block out awareness of the flowing patterns of the Tao. And, as I pointed out back at the beginning of this essay, that way of experiencing the world is damn close to destroying it.

Ideally, culture reaches a point where the creation of all varieties of form and infrastructure is aligned with the Tao. That’s what’s meant by the centrality of art in the vision for enlightened societies. When that happens we’ll see societies where everything we do and create uplifts, awakens, brings joy, and honors life altogether.

If you’ve ridden with me this far you just might be thinking I’ve gotten a little idealistic here. If so, my response to you is to restate my conviction that matter is plastic in the face of mind and that if we could only have confidence in “the possibility of possibility” as Bishop Desmond Tutu once put it, we are completely capable of manifesting our best, most aligned, most awakened visions on this planet, especially when we can join in one united heart to manifest our intentions.

1. This is a phrase from the Shamabhala meal chant I learned in my days with the Buddhist/Shambhala community founded by Chögyam Trungpa.

The book: Returning to Sacred World

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I’ll be updating this post periodically with news on the progress of the ideas and activities associated with my book, Returning to Sacred World: A Spiritual Toolkit for the Emerging Reality. It was published in November 2010 by O Books. It’s available at Amazon. Clicking on this link at amazon.com should take you directly to my book page.  If you’d like to help the book and the ideas it contains get a good start in life, I would ask you to buy it on Amazon and write a review. Some of you may even get yourselves established as what Amazon calls a “top reviewer.” Reviews by top reviewers are given more credence in Amazon’s complex system. To see some reviews and endorsements as well as a summary of the contents of the book please go to the page on this website called The Book.

As well Amazon and perhaps other online sites, you can also order the book directly from O Books. The other thing you could do as a supporter of this vision, in terms of helping the book to have a good life, would be to contact a bookstore in your area that sells spiritual/metaphysical/new age books and, if they don’t already have the book, ask them to order it. Some of you may be so kind as to contact me with suggestions of book stores in North America I might contact myself to offer book signings, talks, readings etc.

Thank you and may the human community awaken to the full realization of the creative harmony awaiting us. Stephen.

Signs of Awakening

I’m going out on a limb with this topic and perhaps risking accusations—including from myself—of hubris. A long history of practice and study, however dubious at times in its effectiveness, has brought me to a place where I believe I know a little about whether one’s spiritual work is having the effects one would hope for; that is of course, waking up and all that implies. What follows is a series of observations based in large part on my own experience.

Part of my motivation for writing this has been the observation that spiritual practice in itself doesn’t necessarily transform people. In particular, I’ve been a little surprised to have encountered a very small minority of people with experience with sacred plants—or entheogens—such as ayahuasca, psilocybin, peyote, and others, who appear to be still in the grip of their self-importance. Similarly, in my experience with Tibetan Buddhism, some with many hours of meditation behind them don’t reliably comport themselves with humility and warm heart.

I intend this post to be a work in progress as my own awakening unfolds. I also invite readers to add their observations on the topic. My hope is that some of those observations would find their way into this discussion. So here’s my unfinished list of signs that one is making progress on the spiritual path.

1. Becoming less opinionated: When asked how he knew he’d experienced enlightenment, the Buddha is reputed to have said,  “This solid earth is my witness.” It wasn’t about belief and we can assume he said it with a smile and without any need to browbeat the questioner into agreeing with him. Opinions are so often associated with ego, with ego’s need to solidify it’s hold by seeing itself as right or as superior, and typically by impressing this rightness upon others. I doubt that you need reminders about this but if you do ever feel the need, try tuning into one of those right-wing talk shows or foaming-at-the-mouth ‘news’ outlets in the U.S. A small dose of the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck will quickly refresh your memory of the hot, empty rhetoric blowing through the airwaves.

Of course there are plenty of issues to get hot over on this planet and I’m certainly not speaking against passionate and compassionate expression aimed at healing injustice and fighting against ill-considered ideas. The problem is that in the egoic state we have a need to believe that our view of the world is the correct one. This is how we think we’re protecting and maintaining ourselves. As we learn to relax into the ongoing stream of life, as we learn to trust in life, or you might say, trust  in Spirit, the need to be right tends to diminish in intensity.

It’s been said that the competitive person doesn’t know himself. Competitiveness is of course deeply ingrained in the majority of us and not easily weeded out. I watch that feeling as it arises on occasion. The checkup we could give ourselves is to observe our state of mind/body and see if we’re getting tight as we engage in debate, disagree with someone else’s opinion, or try to convince others of our point of view. Of course arrogance and smugness are also obvious signs of a soul caught in the grip of opinionatedness. The irony is that far too often there’s an inverse relationship between the intensity of the opinion and its relationship to reality. In simple terms, there’s opinion and then there’s reality and opinions are typically a grid thrown over and obscuring reality. As W.B. Yeats wrote in his famous poem The Second Coming, ” . . . the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

2. Sense of humor: We’re not particularly talking about jokes and puns of course. My old Buddhist teacher spoke of the spiritual journey as one of gradually gaining a panoramic perspective. The opposite state of mind to that is what in the Buddhist community we used to call “going solid.”  As we relax out of our struggle, maybe we start to see how funny our seriousness has been. Without callousness toward the struggles of others, we may also find their seriousness funny. Perhaps the great cosmic joke is that our oh-so-serious struggle wasn’t necessary at all.

As we loosen up we might begin to take greater delight in our world, in the moment to moment experience of moving through the material world. Humor and delight, or you might even say joy, are bosom buddies. Humor in this sense also means to be of good humor and if I’m not mistaken, the spiritual awakening that sees through obstacles and releases them inevitably brings an increase in good humor.

Relaxing into panoramic perspective allows you to see the humor in day to day encounters. Maybe you’re having a fight with your partner. You’re falling prey to the same old hooks and patterns. But then you catch yourself and relax on the spot. At that point you might say something that lets the air out of the beast for both of you, or just have a laugh at the absurdity of your games and sword fights.

3. Humility: See numbers 1 and 2 above. Less opinionated, more delight and humor, more humble—all close relatives. I notice it in association with a softness, the felt presence of my heart. When I feel that humbleness I notice I’m more present, more compassionate, not needing anything from situations. It’s as though you just become part of the stream, not self-absorbed in your own place in it. Buddhist teachings talk about forgetting the self and just being fully present in any situation.

In my experience, the increasingly frequent presence of humbleness is a good sign that you’re being “worked”—that your mind is being tamed, that you’re relaxing into Spirit. Humbleness is kind. I don’t know about you but I can usually read it in people. And I’m not talking about people putting themselves in small boxes of politeness and self-deprecation out of fear of offending, need for approval, or lack of self-esteem. I’m talking about people who no longer need to impress others, people who are coming from their hearts. When the heart awakens, that is automatically humbling. And almost ironically, humbleness is real power because it’s not conditional upon ego’s perceived success or dominance. A lot of energy gets wasted maintaining self-importance.

One of the observations that confirms for me the potential benefits of the plant medicines is that I’ve seen that quality in many who have worked with plants like ayahuasca and peyote for a long time. The plants ask you to surrender to something bigger than your ego. The softening of surrendering to that something opens the heart and helps put you into an authentic relationship with the world.

4. Spacious mind: See all of the above. The relaxing that comes with not struggling so fiercely against one’s demons, not needing to control oneself and attempt to control energies around one, and from allowing the heart to open, also allows the discursive mind to slow down. The Buddhist description of the discursive mind—confirmed in direct experience—is that it acts to avoid acknowledging anything that threatens ego’s illusion of a separate self and the survival package one has put together. The overlapping busyness of mind throws up an obscuring screen which keeps out the awareness of big mind and of the shadow material that needs to be released to allow relaxing into big mind. This discursive mind is ego’s primary tactic.

As you work through those obscurations and discover you don’t have to resist, you don’t have to keep patching the fissures in that wall, the need to fill the gaps with thought diminishes. A good sign that your practice is working, in the long term, is to find that you can drop the thinking mind more readily and just be empty in the now. If my experience is at all typical, I see that it comes and goes. Maybe you release some things and settle down. But then later some new layers of material start to bubble to the surface and at first you may fear being swamped by them. The mind becomes compulsively active. I see it as my job to observe the mind in action and when I notice it’s harder to allow the space I make the tentative assumption that there’s something I need to look at, or something that’s challenging me to open further. Times like that remind me to get my butt back on that meditation cushion more often and to work harder to allow more frequent gaps in the thinking mind in the “post-meditation” experience.

Landing on spacious mind also softens the boundaries between self and other. If you don’t need to defend yourself against perceived threats to the ego, you can relax and open your heart toward others, invite them in a little more. Chögyam Trungpa taught us to renounce, to let go of, anything that makes us less accessible to others.

5. Gratitude and appreciation.  Yes, that’s right, see all of the above again. Does this seem too obvious? Perhaps it’s worth mentioning since I’ve noticed a gradual change in this regard in my own life. As my healing and awakening journey has progressed, I find that I’m generally able to appreciate things more. Life in general and in the particulars feels more precious to me than it used to.

Appreciation and gratitude go hand in hand with the opening of the heart. We find ourselves more easily touched by the world, more intimately related to the world. It’s also probably safe to say that a deepening relationship with the world would generally lead to a stronger desire to care for and help the world in some way. Buddhist teachings talk about the commitment to benefit all sentient beings. Of course we all have to find our own ways to do that. It need not be reduced to any simplistic notion of saving the world or a fixed program that says you must contribute to charities or teach in an African village. No doubt there are a great many ways to benefit, from the largest to the smallest and from the most direct to the least direct. The foundation is intention.

I also find soulfulness is more important to me than ever. With music for example, I have no time for music that lacks it, but I recognize and appreciate its presence when I hear it, even in the simplest of music. Similarly with people, like the humbleness mentioned earlier. When I see someone whose heart is open and soft, someone who exudes natural, authentic presence, I’m moved and inspired by that.

6. Becoming less judgemental:  Carl Jung and others have done a pretty good job of nailing that one. Buddhist psychology has also made that issue clear with the concept of projection. I believe it was Jung who coined the term “the shadow.” The shadow is everything in our minds that is unconscious, repressed, undeveloped, and denied. One of the wonders of the human mind, a law of its functioning, is that the shadow material is unconsciously projected onto the world, onto others.

When you experience negative thoughts toward someone, what you could call a judgemental feeling, you can pretty much count on the fact that the shadow is at work. It’s anything but easy to see this and take responsibility for your own mind. Attitudes of blame and victimhood are central to this issue as well. But as you uncover that material through spiritual practice and healing work, it gradually loses it hold over you. As you see this material and accept yourself as you are, the projections tend to diminish.

Most of us humans, I think it’s safe to say, are making judgements much of the time and much of that judging takes place at a subliminal level where we may not even be aware we’re judging. Just to clarify, when I speak of judgement I don’t mean what I would call discriminating awareness. There are a great many more or less neutral discriminating judgements we need to make throughout our days and weeks. The problem with the kind of judgement being discussed here is, probably among other things, that it tends to block and numb energy. People who know a lot about how mind and energy function talk about how “it’s all energy.” When we can allow energy to move unobstructed and be awake to and in harmony with the flow of it, life itself flows much better. This is also not about being passive. Like, you don’t just stand there like a victim when someone in your space is running aggressive, manipulative, harmful gestalts. But foggy numbness and passivity aren’t the opposite of judgementalness. They’re the opposite perhaps of sharp mindful awareness and clear seeing.

7. Complaining less: See the discussion above on the shadow. Moving from projection, blame, and victimhood should be reflected in a general diminishment of the tendency to complain. At the very least you might find yourself complaining with a sense of humor. Complaining also carries that sense of struggle. You’re fighting with your world. You’re projecting your own dissatisfaction onto the world. In general, complaining tends to be self-justifying and ego aggrandizing.

Not to say that there aren’t things to bitch about. We’re surrounded by ignorance and lack of awareness every day and the machinations of the movers and shakers in such worlds as the political and the economic can provoke an understandable outrage. I think we just have to be on the watch for our outrage and our critiques not to be in service of ego justification.

8. A sharper bullshit detector: Having an effective bullshit detector is not necessarily a symptom of an awakening soul. Some pretty hard-assed and cruel people also can see through others. For many of us though, our own neuroses—our fears, naivety, lack of confidence and so on—tend to obscure our clear view of others. My old Buddhist teacher used to talk about egolessness of self and egolessness of other. It seems that as you learn to relax out of the struggle to maintain ego and land on the solid earth, you also see situations around you more clearly. The awakened heart is a very astute observer. It registers the authenticity of people and events. It feels the soulfulness quotient.

9. Seeing past “this” and “that”: This is another way of talking about some of the issues already addressed in this essay. It’s about letting go of control. We tend to spend a lot of time judging experiences and attempting to get everything happening the way we want it. The counterpart to that attitude, it should be clarified, is not passivity. It’s more a statement that you can fall into the flow and pattern of energy, appreciating things as they are and working with those energies. This is also about allowing ourselves to experience and even revel in the unknown. We can step out of our safe, habitual patterns. Life becomes a lot more interesting and enjoyable with that attitude. Everything is sacred world and surprises can occur at any moment. It’s also a big relief not to have to put so much energy into choosing one experience over another.

10. A sharper sense of feeling and a deepening compassion. I’m not talking here simply about emotions. Everyone is coming from somewhere along a continuum from having a habitual style that’s very emotional at one end of the scale to being almost completely unemotional at the other end. In Buddhist understanding, styles anywhere on this scale can be problematic. We’re talking about learning to relax out of one’s own solidity and habitual style to feel the world more deeply, more sharply. My old Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa used to speak of mixing joy and sadness together, of being touched by the world. This is about being able to feel things beyond yourself. Does that make sense?

The great good news is that feeling the world more vigorously and at more refined levels is actually completely natural to human beings. It’s not about adding something to who we are. It’s about releasing the obscurations, the mindstuff that creates veils of self-protecting numbness. It’s a relief, and encouragement, a joy even, to find oneself opening up like that, being touched by the world. It tends to give our lives meaning.

(Imaginary) Interview With God


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Don’t worry, I’m not turning into a megalomaniac or a fire-and-brimstone preacher claiming to have a direct line to a personal God. What follows is a somewhat playful but nonetheless sincere attempt to imagine what such a conversation might entail on issues of planetary and personal consciousness transformation. It contains direct and indirect references to Buddhism, Native American spirituality, 2012, meditation, sacred plants, crop circles, and prayer. It may help to put a few things into perspective.

Stephen: Good morning. Thank you for seeing me.

God: No problem, always willing to help out.

S: Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?

G: As I said . . .

S: We humans have so many ideas and opinions about what God is. Can you clarify any of this confusion for me?

G: Ah, going right to the heart of the matter. Not a simple question at all. I’m appearing to you today as a wise and kindly older friend for the purpose of making you feel comfortable. Perhaps you could say this is a temporarily configured pattern of the primordial intelligence. You could also say I’m speaking for the Source, but defining that is another matter altogether. I am a voice of the awakened and you are my brother, but you don’t fully understand that yet. I would advise you not to worry about conceptual understanding. In some ways you already know since you and I are of the same essence. In truth, God is nothing you can define or label. There are levels beyond levels beyond levels. Just keep paying attention, keep opening, relax and enjoy the ride, and all the information you need will be revealed as you’re ready to receive and make use of it.

S: Can you tell me anything about the qualities of this Source energy?

G: There are two completely different kinds of responses I could give you on that one. The first is to say again that you have to discover it for yourself. Otherwise it remains a concept in your head, and if there’s one place where a great many of you humans spend far too much time, it’s in your heads. Having an idea of God in your mind is not only not helpful to you, but as you’ve seen on this planet, can also be most harmful. To help out a little however, I could also say it has something to do with eternal creation fueled by something akin to what you call love. We create with unbounded love. We create with a smile. We’re never short of ideas, patience, or hospitable impulses.

S: Why has there been so much suffering on our planet? If we were created with great love and intelligence, how did we manage to make life so miserable for so many for so long?

G: Well first, from where I sit, it hasn’t been long at all. Pockets of humanity scattered across the historical—and what you would call pre-historical—landscape have lived with lines of communication open to the Source. But as a planetary community, you’re just getting started and you’ve hardly begun to realize what you can do with these minds and bodies of yours. More importantly, we’re creators, not control freaks. Our design for this place—and everything else we do—has always been to make it beautiful and interesting. You are completely responsible for your choices. We watch closely and we’re available to help at all times. We know what you’re capable of and as wise educators we grant you complete freedom to learn what you need to learn so that you can find out who you really are. If we interfered too directly, you’d remain as children and would never learn the lessons required to grow up, to wake up.

This is not to say there’s any limit to what we can do. Everything you experience in the material environment is a temporary manifestation of an idea. If we felt it was necessary to dissolve the canvas and start fresh, that could be arranged. I’ll confess I’ve had moments of temptation. But it’s not our style. We like to release our creations and see what they can do for themselves. Being surprised is one of our greatest joys. I’m not sure that answers your question about how humans managed to create so much suffering and I’m not sure it’s necessary to know all the ins and outs of that. I’ll just say that in many places, humans allowed themselves to forget who they were. In this state of ignorance and disempowerment, they also allowed others to manipulate and control them. Fortunately, this is changing rapidly now. There are encouraging signs that more and more of you have had enough of that misery and are starting to realize what you’re capable of accomplishing.

S: Thank you. That response brings up so many questions in my mind I hardly know where to start. For example, why do you say “we?”

G: Well, again, you can’t pin God down to anything specific that you can label. There are emanations of awakened mind in a multitude of forms. As I said, without direct experience, any concept you come up with doesn’t mean much. For many of you it would probably be best if you even gave the word “God” a rest for awhile. There are plenty of beings with different interests and areas of expertise. Many of them have nothing to do with your planet and many of them are intensely interested in your journey. I say “we” because a lot of us are available to you if you can find a way to dissolve the veil enough to make contact with us. We can and have appeared to people in a great variety of costumes, from subtle intuition to apparent coincidences to visible representations of anything from the play of light to animal and human forms.

An example of the kind of observable involvement we’re enjoying these days is what you’ve labeled crop circles. There’s nothing heavy-handed about them. Everyone is free to believe whatever they like. Most people assume that some clever rascals are responsible for them, since their programming doesn’t admit of any other possibility. But if your mind is not completely fixed and you look into the manner of their construction, you’ll see that these formations couldn’t have been made by people on the ground. They’re created with a few quick but precise brush strokes, almost always in the darkest hours, and sometimes instantaneously. If you tried to replicate this work, you might at best be able to create a very rough approximation with a group of skilled workers over several days.

In truth, these little gems of art and design are playful offerings devised by some of my friends in the spirit world. They appear in part to tease you awake. If you’re open to our intent you’ll see we’re showing you that there are things you can’t fit into your existing programs. They’re also gentle reminders of impermanence. Beautiful and symbolic images appear out of nowhere and are erased by the farmer’s combine within days. Nothing to cling to or capitalize on. Your Buddhist sand mandalas have a similar intent.

As a last point regarding your question about why I say “we,” I wish to remind you that we are also you and that the invitation to join us in this limitless creative adventure is always there.

S: How do we do make that contact?

G: Ah, another loaded question. You’ve been puzzling over that one since the dawn of self-reflective consciousness. For starters, there’s no shortage of assistance. A good number of you have indeed been able to cross through the barriers, and some have come back with useful information. Anything that dissolves the barriers you’ve erected in your minds is fine with us. Don’t waste your time listening to people who claim they have the only or even the best system, especially if they denigrate other methods of opening the doors. The most important point is that you have to allow a gap in the fear-based, continually overlapping mental busyness that keeps the barrier firmly in place. You just need to learn how to surrender your fearful resistance and open into that space. Most of you have deep-seated fears about losing control and being overwhelmed. This is understandable but unfortunate and most importantly, unnecessary. Yes, the ego must give way of course, but we’re not talking about a passive experience. You are being invited to enter the flowing patterns of creative energy and dance gracefully with those patterns. When you join the party you’ll see that what you’ve been afraid of losing has actually been a great burden to you and your brothers and sisters here.

Some of you have natural abilities in this way. But since the conditioning has been so intense and unremitting, most have to work at it. You can benefit from any activity or practice which slows the speed of your mind and brings you into the present or that shocks the monkey out of its unexamined, habitual patterns of thinking and behavior. When you ask about making contact, I would also say that we have excellent hearing for clear, sincere, confident, and compassionate prayer. Effective prayer is simple knowing how to ask, knowing how to speak from your heart with conviction.

S: I’ve been very interested in certain plants that seem to have the potential to dissolve the barrier. These plants are highly controversial, even among many who are sincere and committed to the awakening process. Are medicines such as the psilocybe mushrooms, the peyote cactus, the ayahuasca brew, the iboga root and others helpful?

G: I could refer you back to my answer to your question about how to make contact and leave it at that. You already know the answer to that question my friend. However, since I suspect you’re going to want to share this around when you get back, I’ll elaborate a little. We have left numerous clues and forms of assistance by the roadside, and as I said, anything that works is fine with us. Did you think it was a meaningless coincidence that there are plants all over the planet which are highly compatible with your brain chemistry, fit smoothly into waiting receptors, and are extremely fertile sources of transformative information and assistance? These plants you mention are powerful and direct methods of dissolving the barrier. I’m delighted to say that some of my closest associates have long been lovingly involved with them.

You know as well as we do though, that they’re not for everyone and that they’re far more likely to work for you if taken with the utmost respect and care, among others of similar intention, and under the guidance of those with experience. It is we who have placed these medicines there for you, and if conditions are right, there is no question that they can open the doors of perception. They’ve been cast along your paths because the blanket of conditioning is so thick that strong medicine is often required to cut through the layers. If you’re able to surrender to their power, these plants can temporarily dissolve those layers of obscuration and allow you to receive information from our side of the veil. Then you might be able to hear and benefit from the healing and teaching spirits who are happy to come through. When approached properly, the plant spirits can show you just about anything you need to know and can be of great assistance on your journey of awakening.

S: Thank you. You said that you don’t like to interfere too directly since we have to make the journey for ourselves and learn from our mistakes as well as our successes. But you also said that you’re willing to help at all times. What kind of help do you provide that doesn’t interfere with our own learning process?

G: Good question. Two thoughts come quickly to mind. First, as I suggested earlier in our conversation, nothing in form is solid. It’s all highly malleable. Your Buddhist teachings have understood this quite well. I don’t know if the word “illusion” is completely accurate. On some level what you see does exist, but again, only as the temporal manifestation of an idea with the appropriate engineering applied to it. For example, without ears do you have your music? Without eyes do you have your colors? Without noses can you smell your flowers? Without taste buds can you taste your food? These are all specific technologies designed for this particular local environment and completely interdependent with all other form on your planet. Indeed, I sometimes wonder why you aren’t all walking around in a state of awe at the brilliance of this beautiful work of evolving art.

So what you label “matter” presents no obstacle to intention applied with skill. Don’t worry. I’m working up to the answer to your question. You just need to be clear on these principles first. The complementary part of my answer to this question of how we can help has something to do with readiness and appropriateness. If you have an accident and lose the ability to walk, it may be that there’s an important lesson involved. Perhaps the limitation of movement forces you to redirect your energies in ways that serve your education and benefit the whole. On the other hand, the accident may have been completely random, or you may have already learned what you needed to and have work to do which you can accomplish more successfully without the wheelchair.

Strange as it may seem to most of you, any infirmity is amenable to healing. Individual intention can be powerful medicine, group intention even more powerful. If you get a group of people together who can step out of themselves and place all their attention on a particular prayer—especially when the barriers have been softened through your spiritual practices and medicines—there are very few limitations to what can be accomplished. That’s where we come in. We support and amplify your intentions. When you know how to ask for help there are beings with the knowledge to effect the healing.

S: Can you say anything about what is going to happen here on Earth in the coming years and decades? Are you optimistic about our chances for creating a world that does your vision justice?

G: Ah, more questions far too large and complex to fit into a simple container. I’ll try to give you a little something you can take away though. I could say there are two distinct levels to how we see things—the absolute and the relative. First, as I told you a little while ago, we like to be surprised. Your future isn’t written in stone. Right now it’s a white-knuckle ride with an uncertain outcome. Second, even if we did know for certain, we wouldn’t want to give away the ending. At this exact moment I would say it could go either way. As you might say, the planet’s karma has ripened. You are being severely tested now—not by us but as an accumulated result of your behavior and degree of spiritual ignorance over the course of your history, in conjunction with a few other forces and factors far too complicated and overlapping to explain.

On the absolute level everything is perfect. We’re not going anywhere and time is irrelevant. It’s always and forever now and the possibilities are limitless. On the relative level, you break our hearts all the time. We weep for you. We cheer you on. We’re always waiting for even one of you to see through the veil and discover the truth of who you are. I will say that if you are going to avoid the most drastic possible outcomes in the near future, a good many of you are going to have to wake up fast and exert all your energies with great confidence toward healing the wounds. Fortunately, you are completely capable of doing just that.

S: Do you have any guidance to offer about how we can best help each other and the planet at this time?

G: You do like to ask complex questions with no simple answers don’t you? How does that saying go? Something like, “Physician, heal thyself.” That’s the foundation. An awakened soul walking around in a human body can’t help but be a blessing. Just helping people cheer up, just being kind and thinking of others—these are simple things with immense benefit. I would, however, offer a piece of cautionary advice for those working to heal themselves. Keep your eyes on the prize and don’t obsess about your personal problems. There are worlds beyond your mind. We see people get lost down the wormhole of their own case and forget that it’s about relaxing, stepping out from that self-absorbed self and joining the community of awakened hearts. If you focus as often as possible on being fully present, thinking of the welfare of others, and sending out kind and peaceful energy, most of your own healing will take care of itself.

So although it’s important to build that strong foundation and develop clear vision, please don’t wait for enlightenment to strike before helping each other out. I can’t tell you what to do. There is no shortage of need for assistance on this planet. Just look around and respond to situations as they arise. If you begin to act on a good idea with the right intention, we’ll be there to support it and help it grow into something beneficial. The fully formed idea may even surprise you. And you know, contrary to rumor, we’re not omniscient. We are often informed and delighted by what you little wizards come up with.

S: I assume you’ve heard of 2012 and all the speculation and prophecy surrounding it. Is there anything to it?

G: Well, like I say, I don’t want to spoil the story. Also, you folks get so easily seduced by an idea that it can get in the way. If you have a concept in your head about what you’re looking for, what you’re expecting to see, there’s a good chance you’ll miss what’s actually happening. You remember I told you earlier in our conversation that the planet’s karma has ripened. That is true and in that sense there is something to the idea of breakdown and transformation. There are a lot of factors in play right now that haven’t come to complete fruition. You may see a kind of quantum leap in the next few years where many of these energies and developments interact at much more intense levels. And even if the year 2012 brings no grand upheavals and transformations, it must be obvious to you by now that sooner or later, and probably sooner, the trajectory of your thinking and activity is going to have to undergo some major recalculation if the human community is to survive and thrive in the times to come.

Again, I would like to encourage you by saying that this transformation is entirely possible. As one of your fine thinkers put it, there’s nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. So take heart, have confidence. What are your best ideas? I want to encourage you by stressing again that your capabilities are far greater than almost all of you have realized. When I spoke of healing through the power of shared intention, I meant also to imply that when enough of you put your minds together with the intention of healing your world, it will happen.

S: Thank you very much for that encouragement. I know how easy it is to lose heart.  No more questions are coming to mind right now except to ask if you have any final words of advice that I could take away with me today. And of course I hope I’ll be able to speak with you again.

G: You are always welcome. The door is always open. You, Stephen, have seen for yourself that it’s only you who keep it closed. And please remember, it doesn’t have to be a formal visit. Our whispered guidance is available whenever you can still the disturbed waters and allow something other than your own thoughts to come through.

Final words of advice for today?  Perhaps I could send you off with a couple of reminders. First, keep your mind completely open about how and where this guidance can appear. Judgements, beliefs, and expectations disable your receptors. Information can come from anywhere, at any time, in any form. Second, the Earth is your mother. You are completely dependent on her every moment of your lives. But many of you have taken her for granted and become seduced by illusions of independence and self-importance. You’ve discovered all these things you can do in the material realm and invented all these toys to play with. Some of the toys are very clever and some may yet evolve into tools that benefit the whole. But your world has gotten dangerously out of balance. You’re in this trouble now at least partly because you’ve forgotten to honor, thank, and take care of that which has always taken care of you: the air, the earth, the water. Now your mother’s health is failing and you need to devote yourselves to her healing. Indeed, caring for the Earth at this time is an essential component of your awakening.

S: Thank you very much.

G: No problem. My door is always open.