Updates on the Emerging Reality

I spend a fair amount of time maintaining vigilance on the planetary journey on numerous levels. I try to stay somewhat cognizant of new developments in spiritual work, economic conditions, new social forms, visionary ideas, climatic changes and so on. I particularly watch for indications that, as the title of my book says, we are Returning to Sacred World.

In this series of posts I intend to report on events and developments at these multiple levels that point toward the emergence of the new reality. Please don’t be dismayed by this first one. In general I’m looking for positive developments. But what may appear to be negative developments can also be interpreted as positive if we understand them in the context of wrenching change leading to a rebirth of sanity on the planet. There’s an interesting image or metaphor for this. I may have heard it first from Terence McKenna. If we imagine someone who has never seen or heard of the human birth process, he might mistake it for a death. There’s blood everywhere and a lot of screaming. I think we can expect to see some of that during these transitional times.

April 8, 2010. This is one of those developments that appear at first look to be negative. Please take a little walk with me here while I work up to the phenomenon in question with a little background. A basic teaching of Buddhist psychology tells us that much of the energy of the mind dominated by ego, in the world of confusion or samsara , is focused on creating and maintaining the illusion of security, stability, and permanence. My old Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa called it the cocoon, an apt metaphor that creates a vivid image of the condition of the ego. Common sense shows us—and if we’re paying attention we can see it functioning in our own lives—that when the ego is threatened, it’s going to freak out. Anything that pokes at the cocoon causes the ego to panic. Its stability is highly conditional on things seeming to go its way. The ego forms a tight portrait of how the world is and should be. It perks up when events around it appear to conform to that portrait and tends to lose heart or become depressed when they don’t.

You’ve probably noticed that the world is changing rapidly in almost all spheres of activity, from the biosphere to the human community. From the point of view of the emerging reality, much of this is good because it’s necessary. Many of the old certainties were unhealthy and in the way of our spiritual evolution. For the past several decades and for some time in the years ahead, healing at every level, from the individual to the planet, is a central focus. So, for example, maybe you used to assume that homosexuality was an afront to God, a sin, an aberration. This was a part of the tight little picture you had that told you who you were and how things were supposed to be. Now you look around and see that gay people are being granted legal and moral respect. They can even get married. If you are fully in the grip of the fearful ego, that kind of change shakes your world. It’s bewildering. You feel like you’re losing control and that’s ego’s red alert.

We know that the fearful mind is not a skillful mind. When we’re afraid we don’t think clearly. Our choices are knee-jerk choices. We desperately scheme to try to regain that stability, that certainty. When the changes are happening on multiple fronts we might expect to see an increase in irrational behavior. Sure enough, there are some distinct indications of just that. The particular development I’m thinking of here is the rise in of right-wing, Christian militia groups, specifically in the United States, though there may be similar events occurring elsewhere as well.

The Spring 2010 issue (#137) of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s intelligence report has an article by Mark Potok called “Outrage on the Right.” The report claims that there has been a 244% growth in the so-called “Patriot” movement, 363 new groups in 2009 alone. From the report: “Broad-based populist anger at political, demographic, and economic changes in America ignited an explosion of new extremist groups and activism across the nation.” The report also notes that the number of “Hate Groups” rose 54% from 2000 to 2008.

As I suggested above, these disturbing statistics may very well be indications that the change that must come to this planet is well underway. The more the ground becomes unsettled, the more likely those who have no real relationship with their own minds, their own natural inner Buddha if you will, will freak out and look for targets and sources of blame, control, and comfort blindly and desperately. If indeed the old order is giving way rapidly, this is inevitable.

I believe that the only sane attitude the rest of us can take about such developments is to remain in the still center of sanity as much as possible, to move from the chi and to do our damnedest to radiate love and peaceful mind. As I’ve spoken about often in other writings, there’s a very good chance that directing our prayers toward healing these wounds can have a powerful impact on conditions. There’s a compelling case to be made for us to keep our eyes on the prize and not indulge in negative, doubtful, fearful thinking.

February 2011. There are a remarkable number of compassionate and visionary initiatives blossoming on the planet right now. As has so often been said, necessity is the mother of invention. It’s also the mother of commitment. As the frivolity quotient diminishes for many of us in the face of a deepening crisis and transformation process, more and more people are seeing that they can change the world  in tangible ways. Maybe such ideas and initiatives will in fact overwhelm the blindness and cruelty at some point with tsunamis of creative, healing energy.

One of many such brilliant schemes is a program called Witness. The current spokesperson for this program is the musician Peter Gabriel. I don’t know if it was his original idea or not. Their website is http://www.witness.org/. As Mr. Gabriel has explained it, the intention of Witness is to get cameras into the hands of as many oppressed and abused peoples around the world as possible. The view is that there are far too many unrecognized and unvalidated acts of cruelty and injustice committed against individuals and especially against groups of people. I believe Witness is particularly attempting to distribute  small, inexpensive devices that can record video.

If egregious acts are recorded and distributed, the hope is that there is then the possibility of bringing justice and redress to bear upon the situations. Mr. Gabriel claims that Witness has already had some significant successes. Please check out the website listed above and contribute in any way you can.

February 2011: As I write this on Feb. 9,  hundreds of thousands of people have been gathering in Cairo’s central Tahrir square for over two weeks. It’s far too soon to tell what will come of this determined action, but whether or not a new, just order is born in the short term, I have  a strong sense that these events are indicators of something in the air which cannot be stopped. The protests in Egypt were immediately preceded by an equally remarkable upheaval in Tunisia which resulted in the banishment of the corrupt and hated ruling family. Now there are distinct signs of unrest in several neighboring countries in the middle east; Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and perhaps others.

The central problem for a very long time has been the ability of small, brutal elites to control and manipulate the people. I predict that this time is finally coming to an end. For whatever reasons—worldwide connectivity via communicative technologies; the inevitable arrival of a time of karmic completion; a stage of maturation in the species; the intentions, prayers, and activities of good people everywhere; the influence of Spirit; the unfolding of unknown energies and forces within, on, and beyond the planet—it appears that the energy and impetus of righting cruel injustice and outrageous repression is rising to the surface and will sooner or later—quite possibly sooner—sweep much of the world. Watch out USA, your people are still somnambulent and confused but you’re on the list too. The extreme imbalance of wealth in your country will not go on forever. If enough of the misled actually figure out who their real enemies are all hell could break loose. As the saying goes, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

December 12, 2012 (or 12/12/12, and for those who like numeric patterns like this, a little after noon today the clock struck 12:12, making the whole list: 12:12,12/12/12). Also, of some passing interest says I with tongue in cheek, we’re nine days from the supposed end date of the Mayan calendar, although according to Johan Calleman in his book The Mayan Calendar and the Transformation of Consciousness, the end was actually in October of 2011 with a kind of resonance wave carrying through until December 21, 2012.

One way or the other however, there is little indication that anything particularly dramatic is building to a climax that could peak this month. I first heard about this 2012 thing from Terence McKenna over twenty years ago. At the time I found it an intriguing idea that resonated with my sense that the dominant trajectory had to be headed for disaster. No doubt placing some hope in the transformative potential of the time also supported a longing for change that I understand as both a genuine compassionate prayer for the realization of our potential and a projection of my own unfulfilled longing for awakening.

Although I never fully embraced it as a literal and specific prophecy for an exact time, in recent years, as this meme gradually crept into the mainstream, the whole idea has felt increasingly out of step and even ridiculous, especially where there is any hope of salvation or where it’s seen as the end of the world. These hopes and fears appear with some frequency and I believe are always unrecognized projections that come from the confused mind of ego crying out in the darkness for release from its own grasp.

Though I haven’t dug into any of the scholarly studies lately, I hear intimations here and there that there is no consensus among researchers about the end date of the calendar anyway. I’ll confess though that there’s a tiny superstitious corner of my brain somewhere that still wonders if some event of significance will occur on the solstice. Given the power of imagination and the widespread awareness of December 21 in many parts of the world, I wouldn’t be surprised if the electrical energy of collective thought itself produces something observable. (I’m getting a kick out of writing this nine days in advance because the question, at least on any level that most people can see, of whether anything will occur on “the day” will be answered toute suite)

Regardless of the appearance of any kind of game changing event or energy this month, in a very real sense that is not the important point at all. The point, as many have been saying in different ways about various facets of the issue, remains that a radical shift of direction, intimately tied to a radical consciousness transformation, is going to be essential for the future not to look extremely bleak. The ongoing corporate coup continues unabated and if anything with greater willful ferocity than ever, even as the evidence piles up daily that our blind material rush is destroying the planet. I have a deep faith in the underlying intelligence within and all round humanity and a strong sense that crises can bring out hitherto untapped resources, but neither I nor anyone else can know how this story is going to play out in the short term.

Perhaps the most meaningful and useful concept associated with the 2012 meme is about that. It’s one more reminder, maybe a morphically resonating meme from the dreamtime, that humanity has reached the completion of a cycle and may be ready to undergo the drama of the birth process. As others have pointed out, if you didn’t know what a birth was and you saw one happening you might think something terrible was unfolding with all that screaming and blood. So brothers and sisters of  the Spirit, let’s be as real as we can, let’s keep breathing and not judging, and let us have confidence in the indestructible reality of awakened heart and the vision for enlightened society. Embracing the truth and celebrating our oneness in the Spirit might be a good way to ring in the new era.

One thing I do believe is that January 1st is not the beginning of the new year. The cycle of life turns on the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, a night when visionaries have told me the star nations are particularly attuned to us and appreciative of our sincere efforts to honour the occasion. So Happy New Year.

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.