Stephen Gray interviewed by Robert Phoenix

Returning To Sacred World With Stephen Gray – Sep 27,2010

On the evening of Sunday, September 27, I answered the telephone to begin a long and winding conversation with Robert Phoenix on the cultural paradigm shift and in particular the role of sacred plants in this journey of awakening and healing. Listeners may find some very engaging and useful information about how individually and collectively we can work with these plants and nurture them successfully as they take a greater role in the consciousness transformation process underway. Clicking on the link above or here: “Returning to Sacred World With Stephen Gray – Sep 27,2010“, will take you directly to the audio interview.

Robert proved to be a skilled interviewer, keeping the questions focused and allowing me all the time I needed to fully explain the issues as I understand them. I recommend Robert’s internet radio station Free Association Radio for some very interesting interviews on similar topics as well as astrological forecasts and other juicy tidbits of information.

I should tell you that it was a two hour conversation. You could save a little time at the beginning by going to about the 9 minute mark where the actual discussion starts. As always, I welcome and encourage comments and questions and will do my best to respond to all of them. Please also help support this vision by sharing the link for the interview with your own contacts. Thank you, Stephen.

P.S. On the subject of fascinating and informative interviews, don’t forget to check out the interview I conducted with Ronin Niwe, one of the new breed of non-native ayahuasca ceremony leaders who are learning from the traditional masters and bringing this remarkable medicine out in the larger world with respect and humility. I have it here on my website in both audio and text versions.

Ayahuasca: a Remarkable Healer

Peruvian Shaman with Ayahuasca Vine

Although my main practice is the peyote prayer meetings of the Native American Church, the researcher in me is drawn to periodically explore the teachings of other medicines as well. I have a particular fondness and respect for the ayahuasca medicine. For those unfamiliar with ayahuasca, there is no shortage of information online and in books on the pharmacology, history, and current use of this Amazonian brew. There’s also a chapter on ayahuasca in my book Returning to Sacred World: A Spiritual Toolkit for the Emerging Reality (O Books, Nov. 2010.) In that chapter I give a more detailed description of the brew, its effects, and its ritual use. Suffice it to say here that the brew is made from a combination of at least two plants which work in tandem to produce the psychoactive effects.

Ayahuasca is very close to my heart. I’ve imbibed it ten times as of this writing. Though I suspect I’ve barely scratched the surface of its potential, I have already had a number of very powerful and beautiful experiences with the brew. I’m feeling especially inspired at the moment since I recently participated in a weekend event that included two consecutive nights of drinking ayahuasca. I believe I’m beginning to understand its genius.

The ceremony leader, also referred to as the shaman, the curandero, or the ayahuasquero, plays a very important role in the success of the work. The man guiding this particular weekend event, Ronin Niwe, encouraged the participants to understand that ayahuasca will always relate appropriately to each drinker. It will show you where you are at that moment. In that sense it’s like an enlightened Buddhist teacher, who, traditional teachings say, functions as a clear mirror to the student.

Again, for those unfamiliar with ayahuasca and its cultural context, this suggests a living presence of some sort. Those experienced with the plant, and especially the indigenous people of the Amazon who’ve been using it since who knows when, will readily say that indeed, this is the case. Ayahuasca is described as a spirit, a being. It’s often, but not always, experienced as a feminine spirit, and also a serpentine entity.

Ronin was a good communicator and a good listener. He encouraged us to express our intentions. What did we want from the experience? What did we need help with in our lives? In the intention-setting discussion that immediately preceded the drinking of the brew, Ronin worked with each participant to hone his¹ intentions until they were clear and uncluttered.

According to Ronin, the ayahuasca spirit will respond to that intention during the several hours of one’s time in her embrace. This appeared to be true in my own situation and was also confirmed by the others in the sharing sessions that were held in the morning after each encounter with the medicine. Though it wasn’t always clear to each of us at first, with some probing and nudging by Ronin, for most of us it gradually became clear that the plant spirit had indeed responded to our intentional requests.

I’m fascinated by the deep intelligence and creativity of ayahuasca in this respect. Ronin cautioned us to enter the experience with intention but not expectation. As the weekend progressed it became increasingly clear to me how we tend to clutter our minds with analysis and speculation. Ayahuasca appears to cut to the chase, to hone directly in on the heart of the matter. If you have a fixed idea about how she will respond, you may well miss the actual teaching or healing. In fact, it looks like she often doesn’t even require us to consciously realize what has happened. Ayahuasqueros will often tell you she is a healer and that she does her work regardless of how much we recognize and understand what is occurring.

Ronin reminded us that it’s all energy. When we can tune in directly to the energies we’re working with, or that are working us over, we can better align ourselves with ayahuasca’s work. Near the end of one of the ceremonies, as I lay reflecting while the medicine gradually let me go, I sometimes thought of the plant spirit as a poet. It doesn’t necessarily ‘think’ in the rational, left-brain style that so many humans do. It can teach in a great variety of ways: feelings, memories, visions, physical healing through purging, ferocious blasts of energy, gentle invitations to inner stillness, contact with entities . . . if you’re reading this and you’ve had some experience with ayahuasca, I’m sure you could add your own shortlist of ways that she teaches and heals.

I want to point out that, as I understand it, the ayahuasca spirit doesn’t do the work for you. That may be self-evident to many. I bring it up because—and I know this from personal experience too—there’s a tendency for many of us to bring along what Buddhist teachings call a theistic mindset when working with ayahuasca. Theism is described as the illusion that anything outside of ourselves can save us, as it were. The thinking, generally not conscious, is that if we acquire the ‘object’ of our desires, we will feel better. The object of our desires can run from longing for an ice-cream cone all the way to what my old Buddhist teacher labeled “spiritual materialism,”² where we harbor the illusion that the teachings, the practices, and in this case the medicine itself, can save us.

The way I understand ayahuasca’s work at this stage of my education is that it can shine a light on previously hidden knowledge at almost endless levels, from the intensely personal to the universal. As I said earlier, the medicine spirit appears to respond directly to our sincere requests and intentions. If we can surrender to it, the medicine can help us release old wounds, open our hearts, and show us new possibilities. The important qualifier here—and again, I say this based on years of experience with this and other healing/teaching medicines—is that the intensified, clarified condition brought on by the medicine tends to fade back to one’s normal equilibrium state. She gives us the information, she shows us the possibilities, then she leaves us with the ongoing responsibility, and the choice of course, of bringing the learning onto our daily walk.

An example of this for me in these recent ceremonies relates to my request for help in calming my mind. I had had a lot going on in the months prior and for whatever reasons, my normally active mind had been racier than at other times. I spoke to the medicine spirit and asked her to help me tame this wild mind. She appeared to respond to that intention. During both of the ceremonies, and especially the second one, I experienced moments of deep stillness and peace, sometimes accompanied by visions representing and emanating that peaceful energy.

But then I didn’t get to walk away dusting off my hands and saying, okay, we’ve got that one taken care of. In the weeks following, I noticed the busy mind trying to take over the workshop again. What has shifted perhaps is the realization and recollection that that bedrock, unconditioned peaceful place is always there and can be accessed, or surrendered to. It’s as though the medicine spirit is saying, “Okay, here’s what’s possible, it’s real, and you yourself have the tools to open to that understanding and manifest it in your life.”

In the chapter on ayahuasca in my book I mentioned earlier, I’ve gone into some detail on the crucial issue of how to nurture this and other medicine spirit paths as they become better known and spread their influence. I’d also refer you to the interview I did with Ronin Niwe that’s posted on this site both as an audio clip and in text form. I want to say here that if the spread of ayahuasca is done right, with great respect and knowledge, I believe it can help a great many people and can be instrumental in ushering in the consciousness transformation so urgently needed on this planet. It does require courage and there are definitely people who are not ready for this kind of healing and awakening work. However, I’ve certainly seen a lot of—how to describe them?—regular, fairly ordinary people who have drank and benefitted from ayahuasca.

Until the use of ayahuasca—along with other similar medicines—is much better understood and accepted in the mainstream cultures, this growth will be primarily like that of a mushroom that extends itself through a mycelial network just below the surface. At this point in that growth process it’s up to each interested person to find his or her own way to make contact with this loose network. If I could offer any helpful advice at all to people not yet connected, perhaps it would be to clearly state your intentions to the universe. Doing some study and research on the internet and via books would also bolster the likelihood of realizing the intention.

As always, I offer these thoughts in the spirit of the prayer for the healing of the planet and all that implies. And also as always, I warmly invite comments and questions.

Notes:

1. Given the painful history of male domination on the planet, it’s unfortunate that our personal pronouns default to the male gender. In this case, it really was all men. Five of the ten participants were involved with each other in a men’s group. Since they had presumably already ploughed some ground together, the result was that the level of sharing very quickly dove beneath the surface to reveal deeply personal concerns. I believe this in turn influenced the ayahuasca experience, to some degree at least, since by the time we drank the medicine, our intentions had all been laid out nakedly.

2. I’m referring to Chögyam Trungpa, a brilliant and influential Tibetan Buddhist teacher. One of his books is titled Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism.

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.

Crop Circles: a Beautiful Enigma

At the risk of being filed by some readers under F for flake, I feel compelled to address the issue of crop circles. It’s just too bizarre and mysterious to ignore. Most people have by now heard of these crop formations—”circles” doesn’t begin to describe most of them—and most are happy to put the story down to some eccentric folks having a good one on the rest of us. The information in this post may be familiar to those who’ve looked into this phenomenon. For that group this essay may offer a few interesting insights and perhaps a confirmation of what you already know or intuit to be true. Those less familiar with the crop circle phenomenon may find some thought-provoking information here. For those without the time to do a lot of reading on the topic, I’ve done the work for you and you’ll find a detailed yet concise summary below.

The connection may seem tenuous between crop circles and other topics addressed at the Returning to Sacred World website; such as shamanism, Buddhism, meditation, 2012 issues, and the sacred plants like ayahuasca, peyote, and psilocybin mushrooms. As I see it these topics are all inextricably bound together. There’s a consciousness transformation underway on this planet and most anything that points in that direction or aids in the manifestation of the vision is worth considering.

In any case, here’s what’s fascinating about the crop circle phenomenon. As much a brain-shock as it is to the modern conceptual framework, the fact is that if one makes even a relatively cursory examination of the available information, it’s very difficult for people with a corner of openness in their minds to fit the facts neatly into a box labeled “Made on the sly by human hands.” There may yet turn out to be some stunning rational explanation for these formations, but it hasn’t appeared yet—not by a long shot—and none of the so-called hoaxers have demonstrated that they can create anything remotely like the genuine article.

So why do I bring this up on a website devoted to the vision for enlightened society? For starters, the formations are often very beautiful when seen from the air, as with aerial photographs. Many are complex and sophisticated in concept and execution. Formations are populated with little-known symbols and obscure theorems based on Euclidian geometry. There have been large, accurate representations of complex mathematical configurations and fractal formulations like the Mandelbrot Set and the Julia Set. Five new mathematical theorems have been seen so far.

But beyond all that, there’s the distinct possibility that we’re being shown something remarkable here, something whose intent is to rattle our operating paradigms. Like the Tibetan Buddhist sand mandalas, the crop formations are created with no hope of permanency, celebrity, career advancement, or remuneration. They almost always arrive in the wee hours of the night when the crop is developed to just the right height and are erased by the farmer’s combine within days or weeks.

Perhaps they’re saying to us: “Look friends, here’s something lovely for you, something symbolic and maybe even information-laden, and you can’t explain it. We’re showing you in a playful fashion that what’s going on around here requires you to open up your reality framework. You need to wake up and see that the world is alive with information far more vast than you have allowed yourselves and each other to contemplate. The momentum of your misunderstanding has brought you to a precipice and now you need this information, you need to let down your guard and pay attention without prejudice. The future of the planet depends upon it.”

Without expanding this essay into a book on crop formations it would be impossible to do full justice to the complete picture. But perhaps I can tease you with a few facts that may lead you to question the quick dismissal of claims regarding the non-conventional genesis of these creations. There are numerous books, movies, websites and other sources of information created by people who have made a serious study of the phenomenon. What follows is a brief summary of some of the key facts involved.

The patterns are as large as 1,000 feet (about 300 meters) across.* They are made with great precision and often with incredible detail. Even the circles themselves are often slightly elliptical, a shape that is said to be much more difficult than an exact circle to measure and produce accurately. Just looking at some of the many crop formation photos available online would demonstrate their grandeur and precision far better than if I attempted to describe any of them here. One of the most telling pieces of evidence is that typically the plant stalks are not broken or crushed as would be the result of any kind of roller or vehicle moving over the field. According to one of the researchers, the stalks “appear to be subjected to a short and intense burst of heat which softens the stems to drop just above the ground at 90°, where they harden into their new and very permanent position without damage. Plant biologists are baffled by this feature…”1

Farmers have often seen steam rising from the laid-out stalks. Significant quantities of surface and subsurface water are found to have evaporated under the “floor.” Researchers have found distinct changes in temperature, composition, and crystalline structure in the soil and the crops within the formations. Close-up photos reveal elaborate swirling patterns in the laid-out stalks matching the fundamental vortex pattern found often in nature—for example with shells, sunflowers, and even galaxies. The swirled patterns have up to five interwoven layers of stalk within a radius of just a few feet.

A whole range of unusual events and phenomena have been associated with the formations. They alter the local electromagnetic field and result in the malfunction of a variety of equipment, including cellphones and cameras. Car batteries have been drained. Compasses are bewildered and can’t locate north. Odd lights have been seen by many night-watchers shortly before the patterns are discovered. There are frequent reports of headaches and other unusual pleasant and unpleasant physical and mental anomalies. The list goes on.

One of the features of crop formation creation most difficult for rational reductionists to explain away is the ways and means of their actual construction. Nothing is trampled. No one has ever been seen creating one that fits the profile of “genuine.” No equipment or other evidence has ever been inadvertently left behind. Many have camped around fields with a history of formations—video cameras and sound equipment trained on the field—but have found nothing and seen nobody, even when a new formation is discovered in the morning. The formations are usually created in the hours between 2 and 4 a.m. and a number of reports have shown that they are done very quickly. One well known example is that of a pilot who flew directly over the Stonehenge monument at dawn and spotted nothing whatsoever out of the ordinary. Fifteen minutes later another pilot flew the same route and clearly observed a massive pattern some 900 feet in diameter with a 149 individual circles.

A highly skilled and prepared team just might be able to replicate the general surface appearance of some of the formations—after many hours of exhaustive measurement and meticulous labor in broad daylight. But such activity has never been observed. And then they would be extremely hard-pressed to recreate the technique by which the stalks are bent without being broken or crushed, and would find it nearly as difficult—and immensely time-consuming—to interweave the stalks in such complex and precisely layered configurations. I challenge you to find the people who could and would design and create these elaborate and often very beautiful formations year after year in multiple locations without ever being caught or claiming authorship.

It’s an unsolved mystery at this point, and again, perhaps a jolt to our attachment to the rational, material conditioning so predominant in the modern world. As I’ve described in the book Returning to Sacred World and as reported by a great many of the Earth people and the new explorers of traditional spiritual paths and medicines, the world is alive and communicating with us in a great variety of forms. It’s time for humanity to come out of the caves of blinkered mechanistic perception and open up to the living intelligence reaching out to us and pulling us toward the truth of who we are and what we are capable of envisioning and accomplishing. I’ll give the last word here on this topic to Richard Tarnas:

“Above all, we must awaken to and overcome the great hidden anthropocentric projection that has virtually defined the modern mind: the pervasive projection of soullessness onto the cosmos by the self’s own will to power.“2

1. Freddy Silva, lovely.clara.net/education.

2. Richard Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche, 41

*The tram lines that mark the fields are said to be generally between 55 and 80 feet apart. The formation in the photo at the top of this post, as an example, would then be roughly between 170 and 250 feet in diameter. As I said, there are many photos available online and in some of them you can see people walking around. That gives you a sense of the scale.

Signs of Awakening – Part A: Personal

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.

An 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.

Visionary Quotes

Note: I’ll be adding quotes here on an ongoing basis. Some may include commentary, like the article  “On Service and Cannabis,” which you can see by scrolling down a little farther on this page.

Scattered Bits of Wisdom:

“Genius is eternal patience.” Michelangelo

Only connect.” Somerset Maugham

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go and do that. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman (I saw this on an email, don’t know the source)

“Since things neither exist nor do not exist, are neither real nor unreal, are utterly beyond adopting and rejecting – one might as well burst out laughing.” Tibetan Nyingmapa master – Longchenpa Rabjampa – C14th

“All thoughts vanish into emptiness, like the imprint of a bird in the sky.”  from the Sadhana of Mahamudra, by Chögyam Trungpa, 1968

“Emptiness  becomes luminosity.” Another Buddhist teaching I picked up from Chögyam Trungpa on the core truth that when we have been able to get out of our heads, emptying out the complex tapestry of beliefs and concepts we use to filter  “what is” and shape it into some imagined story we employ to protect ourselves, we may relax and open into emptiness. I take this statement as a reminder to have confidence in the emptying, faith that reality is in that direction and though the ride may get bumpy, emptiness becomes luminosity. I don’t honestly know if I know much about that luminosity. Something about experience feeling real and the crispness of that.

“Practice non-action. Work without doing. See simplicity in the complicated. Achieve greatness in small things. Lao Tzu

“Capitalism always was socialism for the rich.” Slavoj Zizek (from an interview on democracynow.org, Oct. 15/09)

In the aboriginal universe there is no past, present, or future. In not one of the hundreds of dialects spoken at the moment of contact was there a word for time. There is no notion of linear progression, no goal of improvement, no idealization of the possibility of change.”  Wade Davis, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World, 2009, p. 158.

“holiness does not dissolve, it is a presence/ of bronze, only the sight that saw it/ faltered and turned from it./ An old joy returns in holy presence.” Dennis Levertov, from the poem Come into Animal Presence.

“All boundaries are conventions, waiting to be transcended. One may transcend any convention if only one can conceive of doing so.” from the movie “Cloud Atlas” (2012)

On Entheogens, cannabis included.

“Pot removes the clothing of the mind, the literal habits of thought. The panic when we resist is like holding on to the last garment being pulled off us. We are naked before pot, and what we see first is ourselves.” Jeremy Wolff, “Thots on Pot” p. 387 in The Pot Book, ed. by Julie Holland M.D. 2010

On Service and Cannabis: The following is from an interview in the Toronto Globe and Mail from September 17, 2009 with Alannis Morissette, well-known singer, songwriter, actress. In this first quote she was referring to her work on the television show Weeds.

On Service: “But it’s really showing up with a vast amount of humility, and your talent in your back pocket, and being there to serve – as long as I have the orientation toward service, I can’t go wrong. Any other orientation might get me in trouble.”

On Cannabis: “I’m a huge legalization fan. I think marijuana has done so many positive things for so many friends of mine, some of whom were physically ill, some of whom wanted some emotional support.”

Now a few thoughts of my own: It might not be as odd to combine these two quotes on service and on cannabis as some of you may think. Some of the most heartfelt and satisfying experiences I’ve had with that plant have come when I’ve focused on friends and sent good thoughts to them. It’s usually easy to stir the heart doing that and rouse some compassion. Those moments often result in a phone call, a visit, or even just a few more prayers.

Cannabis’ influence has also triggered a lot of interesting ideas for projects I’ve been working on over the years. Yes, I know what some of you may be thinking on this topic: “Sure, great idea at night, trivial or incomprehensible the next day.” Of course you have to test the ideas in the light of day and of course they don’t all stand up. But I’m testifying that I’ve received quite a few that have passed the sobriety test and made it into my work in teaching, music composition, writing, and other life forms. The caveat on this is—to paraphrase a line from Alan Ginsberg—if you create stoned, edit sober.

In fact, thinking of others, or what may also be termed prayer, is a common feature of all the plants I’ve worked with. I’ve written at length in my book Returning To Sacred World: A Spiritual Toolkit for the Emerging Reality about my experiences with the peyote medicine in the Native American Church and the remarkable power of prayer. I’ll probably write some blogs entries on that topic as well. But no matter what my condition or the environment, like Alannis, I find that if I can remember to think of others and how to benefit them, good things often come of it.

On Art, Spirituality, and Creativity:

My work is an attempt to show spirit as the one universal force beyond the confines of cultural and religious differences. Martina Hoffmann. (Martina Hoffmann does stunningly beautiful and powerful paintings often inspired by her visions from ayahuasca experiences.)

If while composing I become afraid of the music I am writing, I know that I have arrived at the extreme place where I want to be. When fear arises, I’ve reached the threshold between the known and the unknown. If I’m able to continue composing while tolerating the fear, I will be writing music that is new to me. Keeril Makan (Keeril Makan is an associate professor of music at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a recipient of the Rome Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship.)

The visible world is no longer a reality, the unseen world is no longer a dream.” WB Yeats

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh is one of our great human resources. He is a Vietnamese monk who became deeply involved working to alleviate the massive suffering visited upon the Vietnamese people during the Vietnam War of the 1960s and 70s. His activism resulted in exile and he settled in the U.S. from where he has taught and written since. Here are a few from him I’ve appreciated. These are from the following interview: “In Engaged Buddhism, Peace Begins with you” by John Malkin, Shambhala Sun July 2003, online:http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=1579

“Small enlightenments have to succeed each other. And they have to be fed all the time, in order for a great enlightenment to be possible. So a moment of living in mindfulness is already a moment of enlightenment. If you train yourself to live in such a way, happiness and enlightenment will continue to grow.”

“It is possible for you to enjoy every step that you make.”

“The practice can be done every moment . . . If the present moment is good, then the future will be good because it’s only made of the present.”

“You have to learn how to help a wounded child while still practicing mindful breathing. You should not allow yourself to get lost in action. Action should be meditation at the same time.”

John Malkin: What did you learn from being in the United States during that time?

Thich Nhat Hanh: The first thing I learned was that even if you have a lot of money and power and fame, you can still suffer very deeply. If you don’t have enough peace and compassion within you, there is no way you can be happy.


When Prayer Meets Medicine

wooden path

Like many of us in the western world, I grew up in a family that went to church on Sunday mornings. In my particular family it was the Anglican Church in central Canada. Prayer was a core principle of the teachings that came down to me as a child and a significant part of the Sunday services. I recall sliding off those wooden benches onto my knees several times during every service. And at home there were a few years when my mother made sure I said my prayers before bedtime every night.

There may well be people around who grew up in a similar environment and made a deep and true connection with the power of prayer. I certainly did not get it and in general I think something crucial was missing. It’s no shocking insight to point out that despite its Christian face, the culture we were embedded in in mid-twentieth century, white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant North America was deeply under the spell of the scientific-materialist worldview. In stark contrast to a great many traditional, indigenous cultures—and notwithstanding the great anthropomorphized eminence in the sky who was reputed to be watching our every move—we were not taught to believe in the reality of spirits in the world around us, much less that we could actually communicate with them and ask them for assistance. I doubt many of us believed with conviction that anything real at all could come from praying. As the Native Americans say: in the white, European religions people go to church to talk about God, whereas in their traditions people go to church to talk to God, to talk with God.

So I said my prayers at night but I had no assurance or confidence that anyone was listening. And, like many of my peers, as I moved through adolescence I came to think of religion as irrelevant to my life. But I’ve always had a spiritual yearning and when I heard about the religions of the Orient while in university I was immediately interested. That interest eventually led to a long engagement with Tibetan Buddhism, particularly as taught by the brilliant “crazy wisdom” guru, Chögyam Trungpa.

The word “prayer” wasn’t in general use in that Buddhist environment, but there were a lot of chants. The chants were verses, paragraphs, shorter and longer passages—most of which had been translated into English—which were employed to accompany a variety of events and practice sessions. We read them aloud together, recited them from memory, and included them in our private practices. These chants were reminders of the power of the truth (Dharma,) invocations of wisdom energies, pleas for the banishment of negative forces, and stories of the achievements and dedication of great masters. The chants were also expressions of devotion and gratitude to these masters and to the wisdom of the teachings, as well as appeals for the awakening and blessing of all sentient beings.

Again, though we recited the chants with sincerity and passion, I don’t believe many of us had confidence that we were doing more than strengthening our own commitment, compassion, and devotion. The great majority of us were, after all, still under that rational/reductionist spell. With the possible exception of a few unusually sensitive practitioners, we still had no means and support for gaining access to a living spirit world. Our Buddhist teachings even led us to be suspicious of granting credence to external phenomena of that nature. And many of us were recovering theists who tended to take literally the presentation of Buddhism as a non-theistic religion.

During the years of my most active involvement with Buddhism, I’d stayed away from psychedelics, even from cannabis. Although many would have admitted that their earlier use of substances like LSD sparked their interest in spirituality, the prevailing view in the community was that psychedelics offered only a false, artificial enlightenment and were of no value, or worse, on the path of awakening.

But I never did lose my curiosity about the enlightening potential of psychedelics, and a cover article/interview with Terence McKenna in the L.A. Weekly in 1988 or 1989 triggered a revival of that interest. This was exciting new information. I was living in Los Angeles at the time and I drove up to Ojai to hear McKenna talk that weekend.

After a few dubious attempts to breach the far shores alone following McKenna’s “take a heroic dose of mushrooms, then sit down and shut up” approach, I began to think I might negotiate these deep waters more successfully with skilled guidance in a ritual context. As intention often seems to go, one connection led to another until about seven years ago I was given the phone number of a highly respected elder of the Native American Church. This man, Kanucas, invited me to join them for one of their all-night meetings.

My inspiration for going to that first meeting was the idea of combining these two passionate interests in my life: entheogens and spiritual practice. I thought I was going to get help from the peyote plant. I hoped it would deepen my meditation practice and help me work through whatever obstacles to awakening remained in my consciousness.

What I didn’t know then but began to see even in that very first ceremony I attended was that these were prayer meetings and that I’d stumbled upon a stunningly different approach to prayer than anything I’d previously encountered. I’ve gone to a lot of meetings since then and I’m still learning what’s really going on and what’s possible.

Maybe it would be helpful to give you a brief description of the environment and form of the meetings. Most meetings are held at someone’s request. That person is then called the sponsor of the meeting and determines its purpose. The possible reasons for a meeting are many. It could be anything from a birthday to a baptism, an expression of gratitude for somebody, or a request for healing.

The meetings are usually held in a tipi. They typically start around 9 or 10 in the evening and continue to anywhere from about 9 until noon the next day. A crescent moon altar made of sand is built and a fire started before the participants enter the tipi. After a few introductory words from the person running the meeting, known as the roadman, the sponsor is called upon to explain the reason for the meeting. That reason then becomes the “main prayer” for the night and the participants are expected to direct their prayerful intention toward that purpose for much of the night. In the hours before dawn we’re also invited to pray for those close to us in need of help and for ourselves.

As it is in numerous indigenous cultures, tobacco is considered a powerful sacred medicine and is used to pray with in various ways during the ceremony. At the beginning of the meeting a pouch of tobacco and a packet of corn husks cut a little larger than rolling papers are passed around the circle. Everyone rolls one of these and begins to pray on behalf of the sponsor. Shortly after that the peyote medicine is also passed around the circle.

Not surprisingly, music is a central element of the ceremonies. There’s a large body of Native American Church prayer songs. If you’ve heard the peyote song recordings of Primeaux and Mike you’ll have a rough idea of what they’re like. The songs are considered to be the wings that carry the prayers and are sung through much of the night. A set of instruments consisting of the roadman’s staff, a gourd shaker, a sage stick, and a water drum move around the circle. Everyone who knows some songs sings a set of four with or without the accompaniment of others. When the medicine takes effect and the energy really gets rolling, especially when there are a lot of experienced singers, I’ve often found the songs to be impossibly rich and moving. As one elder described it to me, when it’s really clicking the songs begin to sing the singers.

The water drum is a key player in the power of the prayer songs. As part of the planning for a meeting the roadman generally asks someone to “carry the drum” for the night. I’ve been told by elders that the drum is a living spirit. One drummer told me that he sometimes sees the energy moving out from the drum, carrying the intention of the singer.

The fire is also referred to and treated as a living spirit. The fire person for the night tends it with great care. The long, split logs are always kept in the same arrow shaped configuration and as the night progresses the coals are gradually formed into particular shapes, often a large bird like a phoenix or eagle. The roadman and other experienced members have occasionally reminded us to pay close attention to the fire. They say it has things to show us.

I said earlier that this environment introduced me to a radically different way to pray. As well as the potent mixing of music, medicine, and prayer, the other key ingredient of those meetings which struck me so forcefully was the way people pray. There are no books, no liturgy, no memorized prayers. From the start I was deeply moved and impressed by the eloquent, straight-from-the-heart talk I’ve heard again and again. People just express themselves. For example, around about dawn, the wife or close female associate of the roadman goes out to get a bucket of water and a ladle, then returns, places the bucket close to the fire, and kneels in front of it. She is given a tobacco to roll and begins to speak. These monologues or prayers often go on for close to an hour and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been moved to tears by the waterwoman’s words. One elder, Susan, who carries the female lineage for her people, told me that when she’s doing that morning water prayer she often has no idea what she’s saying. The words are just coming through her, sometimes even in the old languages that she somehow has to intuitively translate on the spot. One morning after a meeting she said that during one of those prayers she felt the distinct presence of perhaps hundreds of her female ancestors leaning over her and supporting her. When Susan told me that, another woman sitting nearby said she’d been at that meeting and seen those women lined up behind Susan.

One of the essential teachings of the Native American Church is that a prayer is greatly potentiated when all those present can settle their minds and bodies fully, get out of their heads, and enter into a concentrated shared focus—one mind. Kanucas has been sitting up in these meetings for over forty years now. One night he told us that when he was young it was all experienced participants who could stay still in mind and body for the whole night, often not even getting up to take a pee. He said that, with the assistance of Grandfather Peyote, that undistracted focus and intention could accomplish just about anything. As the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick wrote, “Matter is plastic in the face of mind.”

I’ve seen a lot of instances of the effects of prayer now, and over the years have heard many first hand stories of remarkable healings. I’d like to share two of those stories with you. One night a young Native man, known to some of us as Wild Willy, told me he’d had a bullet lodged near the base of his skull for a couple of years. Surgeons were unwilling to attempt removal because of the bullet’s delicate placement and the fear it would cause serious damage if moved. The bullet wasn’t deep enough to be life-threatening in the near term, just embedded enough to cause bad headaches and other unwanted symptoms. A special healing ceremony was held for Willy, accompanied only by a few of the most experienced elders. All ate generous quantities of the peyote medicine, smoked prayer tobacco, prayed and sang hard, and performed other healing rituals. Willy was wearing a small medicine-bundle pouch hanging from a cord around his neck.

The ceremony lasted all night and in the morning he noticed the pouch felt a bit different. He then reached in and was astonished to find the bullet. If it helps the skeptics at all, I want to make it clear that this was in no way a commercial or public transaction. The elders who confirmed the story had nothing to gain from any fabrication or exaggeration. In fact, the general rule of thumb in that environment is that it’s unacceptable to charge money for this kind of healing work.

The other story comes from another Native man named Norman, who has told this story several times in ceremonies I’ve attended. His daughter, about twelve years old at the time of the event, was in a serious car accident and was taken immediately to hospital. When Norman arrived she was on life support. The doctors told him that her spinal cord had been damaged and that she would be permanently and severely brain-damaged and paralysed, if she recovered at all. They asked his permission to remove her from life support. Norman hastily arranged a prayer ceremony for that night and invited only a handful of experienced elders and friends.

The group prayed all night for the healing of the girl and in the morning sent Norman off with a number of prayed-over objects and a small amount of the medicine. Arriving at the hospital, Norman asked to be left alone with his daughter. He placed the objects around her, put some of the medicine on her lips, and prayed hard. After some time the machinery she was hooked up to began to act up and a staff member came running into the room saying, “What have you done?” As Norman told us, within an hour his daughter was off life support and breathing on her own. She was eventually able to resume her education and has now completed high school.

I’ve learned from my experience in the Native American Church and from the comments of experienced elders like Kanucas that there are several key factors in the ‘success’ of a particular prayer. First, it takes great confidence and conviction. Second, you need to be specific about what you’re asking for when you call on the Spirit to help out. As the saying goes, be careful what you ask for, you might get it. Third, there are often complex forces at play. The mysterious ways in which the Spirit moves may bring changes that aren’t obvious or don’t appear on an expected timeline. It may take years for the prayer to take effect and Spirit may have other ideas for what the recipient of the prayer needs at any particular point.

A brief anecdote about my cousin Ross may help illustrate this. Ross called me out of the blue after we hadn’t seen each other for nearly thirty years. During the course of a brief stopover in my city, he told me he had Hepatitis C. I arranged to sponsor a healing meeting for him. What Ross didn’t tell me (or those at the meeting) was that he had also been deeply in the grip of alcoholism for many years.

That meeting took place three years prior to this writing and until recently I had assumed that Spirit’s intention with Ross was to get him away from the booze, since he never again took a drink after that night. Meanwhile, the hepatitis, while showing signs of improvement, did not seem to be going into complete remission. But just recently, after I’d had no contact with him for another year and a half, Ross again appeared in my life, announcing that new tests showed absolutely no evidence of the hepatitis and that he’d never felt better in his life.

The fourth key factor to consider regarding the effectiveness of our prayers is that we can’t interfere with anyone’s karma, agenda, or desires. We can only ask the Spirit to help the recipients of our prayers with what they want and need for themselves. They have to ask the Spirit for help with the same degree of confidence and conviction felt by those who are praying for them.

I want to return briefly to this meeting of prayer and medicine. A wealth of anecdotal evidence suggests that prayer can have remarkable, even miraculous effects. Clearly, it doesn’t require the admixture of plant medicines for prayer to work. With enough shared intention and confidence it may even be that we can help heal the planet and put it on a sane and sustainable path. The medicines, or entheogens, are sometimes called non-specific amplifiers. Healers in traditions that work with these plants often say that they greatly strengthen the effects of their prayers and healing efforts on behalf of the patient.

I participated in some ayahuasca ceremonies outside of Iquitos, Peru last summer with an ayahuasquero named Percy Garcia. Before the ceremony got under way one night, Percy told us that he has a relationship with eight spirit doctors whom he calls upon to guide him through the ceremony. Someone asked him if he could contact them without drinking ayahuasca and he replied that, yes, he could, but that with the medicine in him the connection was much stronger and clearer. Kanucas has told us a few times that when he eats the peyote medicine he calls upon the Spirit and the Spirit talks to him. He’s said more than once that he means that literally. The Spirit tells him how to work with particular situations and individuals throughout the night.

So it seems that we in the modern societies have a great deal to learn at this time. The message coming from indigenous spiritual traditions, from the Earth peoples, from the plant medicine peoples, is that we’ve cut ourselves off from a potentially life saving knowledge: that the world is alive in ways far beyond our current conditioned understanding, that we need to reestablish that connection with the Spirits, with the living Gaian mind in its many forms. If we can find skillful ways to combine the visionary, teaching, healing medicines with our intentions, with our prayers, a whole new landscape of possibility opens up.

I’d like to leave you with one of my favorite little passages, from a Native American elder and healer named Wallace Black Elk: “So I pray for you that you obtain the same power I have. You and I are no different. It’s just that understanding. You just drifted away from it, just walked away from it for thousands and thousands of years. That’s how come you have lost contact. So now you’re trying to find your roots. They are still here.”1

1. Wallace Black Elk and William S. Lyon, The Sacred Ways of a Lakota. New York: Harper Collins, 1990, 14.

Friends: This article is adapted from ideas in my book Returning to Sacred World: A Spiritual Toolkit for the Emerging Reality. This version was written for realitysandwich.com, a great website that’s loaded with articles, resources, and links on the general theme of consciousness transformation. My book is expected to be published in November of 2010 by O Books and if not found in your local bookstore will be available at Amazon and other online retailers. I believe passionately in these ideas and of course would like to see them find their audience. There are so many books in the catalogues these days that any help you can provide by asking your local bookseller to order the book would be most appreciated. Thanks, Stephen.