Sunday, March 20, 2016

Why Do We Have to Die?

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”  Lao Tzu

I have the dubious distinction of having "died" three times, experiences I definitely don't recommend; and obviously, I didn't really die because I wouldn't be talking to you now. What I did do was to survive three "Near Death Experiences," each one completely different from the other; and since my book about it, How to Survive Life (and Death) was published, I've found myself answering a lot of questions about what death is, what it's like to die, and to the point of this piece: Why do we have to die?

Well, apparently I came back to give you some good news, and some bad news, all based on my (painfully obtained) understanding of it. The good news is that we don't really die, spiritually speaking, we only die to this life of flesh and bones and blood (but many of you suspected as much, I'm sure). The bad news is that we do have to die – our souls seem to require it. On top of that, we have to die in a number of different ways, none of which are all that pleasant, and all of which seem designed to accomplish the same thing. Here's what I mean by that:

If you've ever been around a loved one who's dying, or if you've ever been gravely ill or injured yourself, you know that there's no bluster left in your game in those moments. No claim to fame or fortune remains at all relevant in that grounding bubble of unfortunate reality. What's realized then is a state of absolute humility, where there's no longer any external importance attached, no pretense of "winning"–even though you really are, in a way, because you're free. That state of absolute humility is really a state of grace. You are reduced to the simplest condition of egoless selfhood – the state of simply being who you really are.

Counterintuitively, from that point on everything becomes possible, because in a way, you're starting over. In the grand–call it cosmically spiritual–picture, this happens in a big way when you actually physically die (reincarnation-wise, that is). But first, let's look at the other ways, the other "deaths" our souls require. Let's consider the 'living deaths' that also cause us to regenerate a new, unavoidably more authentic life. Let's look at the difficult times that lead us to be "born again" in this life.

When we witness the death of our family or friends. When a lover or spouse has a change of heart, and decides that they have to leave us and move on to their own new life. When a job or serious expectation we have suddenly, unexpectedly vaporizes – these are all "deaths," of a sort, that cause us to reconsider who we thought we were, and to consider anew who we may have to be from here on. Each death of this sort opens us up, strips us down, and makes us teachable about how we can change and improve our lives on that most important spiritual level – unattached to the material definitions and expectations that have failed to make us happy.

When we learn those hardest-of-all lessons – that our material, ego-based outsides aren't what's really important; when we "die" to that superficial sense of ourselves, and let go of who we thought we were, we instantly expand into Consciousness, and it suddenly becomes possible to become who we all authentically are not as separate, searching individuals – but instead as loving, giving, creative, contributing pieces of a divine wholeness. Expressions of a single, love-based reality.

Now, let's get back to when we actually die physically. According to the Tibetan Buddhist monks (who really do know all about this stuff), if we don't learn these lessons on a spiritual level, and continue behaving like human animals, delusionally feeding from one desire to the next, we'll be reincarnated as a wild beast, most likely. In the meantime, we'll destroy ourselves, each other, and our planet. Quite a setback on either count, you can be sure.

When I had my experiences I lost my earthly body, and I lost my material identity, but I never lost Consciousness. Instead, I was folded into it. In two of my three NDEs, a new life effervescently expanded around me, I was liberated from the constraining limitations of the material life, and seemingly anything became possible. 

So, I'm afraid we do have to die to this difficult form – in a number of difficult ways. That's the deal here, this is a difficult life. But if we, in a way, embrace death – our many "little" deaths and our one "big" one – they will liberate us to our new, unimaginably amazing and wondrous potential, in this life or our next.

And that (I have learned, the hard way) is why we have to die, and have to keep dying. Our souls require it to merge us into our greater life in Love and Consciousness – into a life beyond our wildest dreams.

"Without a dying to the world of the old order, there is no place for renewal, because…it is illusory to hope that growth is but an additive process requiring neither sacrifice nor death. The soul favors the death experience to usher in change."
James Hillman, Suicide and the Soul

Read a related article: Suicide and the Superficial Self, at Gaia's "Spiritual Growth."

The book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is now available everywhere, but ask for it it at your local bookstore!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Life, Death, and Baby Boomers––an Excerpt

"I'm not afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens."
                                              Woody Allen 

When I mentioned the quote earlier that Life doesn't happen to you, it happens for you, I think that without a doubt the same is true for death. Death doesn't happen to you, it happens for you (unless you are eaten by a crocodile; that could not possibly be for you). We're all part of a much bigger set of ongoing considerations––the big picture I'm asking you to see as the context of your life. 

In particular, we need to escape that one self-centered cultural definition that's leading us so far astray––that death is our obliteration. The sad, absolute cessation of Life. The final chord of a sonata that starts wonderfully well, but ends in a dirge. That idea that we only have "one go-round," "one shot at it," and then "the party's over." There's a selfishness (a "sinfulness") in that definition that prevents us from living well, from showing up for each other with the proper compassionate presence. It's a self-centeredness that insists we should be getting something we want out of it all and each other when, instead, we could be forming true partnerships with one another––an understanding global fellowship of shared human experience––and creating a sane stewardship of life here on Earth. When we can get ourselves over this delusional assumption of self-importance, we can create a much less "sinful," more evolutionarily responsible, way of living.

If we know we're missing the mark with the cultural definition of death––one that leads to the fear of losing what we want to hang on to and the "I've gotta get mine before it's all over" approach––then what is a more realistic definition? What's the proper direction in which to aim our lives? Well, Shakespeare's always good for a few spiritual bull's-eyes, like this one: Death is a consummation most devoutly to be wished! So we can see death as a lifelong goal that we struggle to attain––one that we want to meet with preparation, with humility and honor, and with open-hearted promise. It is our matriculation of sorts.

Speaking from my own experience, death is an expansion into transcendent being, for crying out loud. We need to restore death to it's rightful place as a sacred ritual of passage. Let's get kind of Egyptian with it again. Don't mourn me; send me off with an open heart and a song!  This party is definitely not over.
It's absolutely essential that we show up for each other with this positive, life-affirming definition of death as a continuation of always being present. Contrary to what Woody Allen might request, you must never take a raincheck for anyone's dying. (That's the only "must" in the book.) While we supposedly have much busier lives than ever, that's just an illusion caused by technology. The really important parts of our lives are still what's really important. Put the business aside. What technology is best suited for is efficiently arranging our lives around those important people and occasions, so that we can maintain close contact with the loved ones involved in all of our momentous life events––making the appropriate reservations, booking the trip, and being there; contributing whatever you possibly can; showing up in a way that honors Life's real connections of the heart; bringing Love right up to the surface, front and center where it belongs. Again, it's not about me; it's about we.

Notice how when we're "coming to the end" of our time in this life with someone we love or for ourselves, just how precious and how special that remaining time together suddenly is. How intensely focused our love and appreciation for each other becomes in those few moments that are left. We need to try to treat each other that way all the time, and grow spiritually together in that kind of Love. We need to recognize the eternal in each other, always. That's what's really important here; everything else is a distant second place. These may be lofty ideals, granted, but pursuing them throughout our lives is time well spent, and leads to a sense of fulfillment that can never be matched in any other way.

From the time we reach that more adult perception we start to come upon as teenagers, to the time we lay ourselves down, our essential spirit remains generally young and energetic––especially in pursuing our passion for Life. It's just our bodies that atrophy, that break down and require costly repairs––or that just quit running. Our spirits, our eternal selves, always feel youthful. They're always ready to keep growing upward and onward, and so they do. That essential part of us can only collapse under the weight of selfish self-centeredness and that oppressively off-the-mark definition of death––and the negative effect it can have on the last third of our lives––when we permit those attitudes to define us as limited.
The truth is that we always have that unflappable, limitless hope that comes along with youth. Just scratch the surface and, like Love, it's always there. We've also got all that blind faith that we don't hardly notice enough even to take for granted when we're young. And, although it seems somehow harder to come by as we age,  there's also more evidence of that faith as we grow older. Hope, and faith are real working spiritual mechanisms that are always alive, and always will be in all of our lives.  And if you just add grace to those two, then you've got my three favorite names for girls.

This selection is excerpted from the chapter "A Baby Boom Goes Boom," from  How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide for Happiness In This World and Beyond based on the observations of a three-time near death experience survivor; available now from Conari Press.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm grateful to sit here…and I'll miss it till Spring…with gratitude for the holiday.

Monday, October 19, 2015

A "How to Survive Life (and Death)" Excerpt from the Chapter "The Last Time I Checked (Out), I Was in Arizona"

Perhaps the scariest, but most awe-inspiring (and comforting), realization I finally reached—long after all my bumps and bruises had subsided—has also been the hardest one for me to wrap my head around and to actually learn to live with. It's the part I mentioned earlier that has to do with really never getting any privacy (in a way that has probably crossed everyone's mind at one time or another).
Years later, when I came to the point where I could turn the corner on all the pain I'd suffered and caused in my life, I was hit by something I'd known all along—something very, very moving: Someone had been with me each time I nearly died. Someone had gently shepherded me away from my wrecked car; someone had shown me those scrupulously selected scenes of great significance from my life; and someone had gently, but forcefully, pushed me back into this life to tell you what I'm telling you now. I've realized now that it was one someone—my guide, my guardian, my angel—whom I have finally come to know personally (like a lost and loving aunt). I'm certain that we all have one, and that we are all receiving that same kind of personal attention. We are never alone.
Now, we all know why that's scary. I mean, really, somebody's watching me all the time? That's right. But it's no big deal because, fortunately, I'm not particularly important, and neither are you. Nobody is, yet everybody is.
And "all the time" is nothing really. I believe that our angels observe us from a perspective apart from time. I believe they can see every one of those life moments eternally, as they happen, like discreet panes of time suspended in space—in much the same way that those moments can suspend themselves in our memories. All of this is happening now. All of it has always been happening now, and always will. Being human makes this impossible to see. Yet, in our hearts, each of us knows the cause and effect of all these moments strung together, especially when we concede to this intimate exposure of the truth. We know the parts of our lives that need mending, the edges that need smoothing, the loose ends that need to be bound.
Who really wants a witness to all their stuff, regardless of how forgiving that witness may be? It's been said that "your sickness lies in your secrets"—your misdeeds, selfishness, hostile thoughts, and all that stuff we "safely" hide in our little compartments. Being human makes us want to believe that no one can see it written on our faces, or veiled in our desires, or behind our actions. But, of course, they do. That's who we are, on the outside. The question is, who are we really; and who are we going to be? Those self-revealing secrets shouldn't cause us fear, because we're actually keeping them so we can learn from them. Life doesn't happen to you. . . 
Our angels (and angelic people) immediately forgive our misdeeds because they, too, know them so well. In this way, our fears can be dissolved into the reality of that profound intimacy—that shared knowledge of our greater selves. The Sufis call it fana, the dissolving of the human self into Eternal Love. That's nice, isn't it?
I think it was a great Swami named Maharshi who said that we don't fear death because of the painful end of life. By that time, many of us are ready for it. What we're never ready for is that painful accounting for what we've been up to, that golden interview. It's an embarrassment we naturally wish to avoid, again. So death is a blissful relief, but it can be made even more blissful by the way we live.
All of this helps me describe the hidden, but always available, "technology of the heart" that I've been talking about. It's all part of that greater reality that we're actually occupying—the realm of the spirit that constantly enfolds, supports, and directs us—and to which we and all of Life belong. But you already knew that.
 Still, I hope they haven't been watching everything. . .

Not to scare you any more than the idea of being watched all the time, but in the context of my last moments in Arizona, it is clear to me that there are real consequences to being bad—both now and later. It just simply is not good. Being self-centered, cruel, violent, even just unconscious will deliver us to a "darker" place, in this life or the next, than where we might be able to live otherwise. How much darker is up to you, what you've done in Life, and how hard you're willing to look at yourself–and don't fool yourself, everything is accounted for.
It comes as no surprise, does it? There simply are better ways to live and better ways to die, and one has everything to do with the other. And as I've found out about ways to die, exiting on a bad note is not the best way to get there. 
The way this physicality is imbued with life energy—the means of our animation and of our sensual awareness—is all achieved by a pretty particular set of forces. And it won't do to go about releasing it all willy-nilly, or without some consideration and some proper well-deserved reason. It may require effort. 
Personally, along with the very clear lessons I've learned through my own experiences, I find a lot of resonance in the wisdom of the ancient masters when it comes to the possibilities for our future, our past, and our present. And how can you go wrong with the good old ancient masters, for crying out loud? So, as best I can (and preposterous as it may seem), I'm going to try to describe what the three "fatal" experiences I've had have taught me about what may actually be the best way to go about "dying"—which (at the risk of sounding like a broken record) I don't believe is really dying, but actually just changing forms from this matter into a form of energy that grows out beyond our current constraints into an entirely different dimension of being. 

I hope that, by now, you see that this is the central message of this whole book—what my experiences taught me and what I want to pass on to you: Simply that there's nothing to fear about dying. It's really a logical and beautiful culmination of Life, and quite a fluid process. And once you get past the rough patches you may have to cross to get there, you'll see, as well, that there is no Death. 

The book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is now available everywhere, but ask for it it at your local bookstore!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

How "Polishing the Mirror" Helps You Reflect the Miraculous

Although I'm an avowedly non-violent kind of guy, it's not beyond me to ruthlessly torture a metaphor along with the best (or worst) of 'em, and seeing as this is a session that requires lots of spiritual elbow grease–nearly everyday–you have my permission to cover your eyes. You won't need them to look into this mirror.

"Our life is shaped by our mind, for we become what we think."
                    Buddha, The Dhammapada 1:1

In Zen Buddhism, where meditation is called sitting zazen, they use this marvelous house-cleaning metaphor of "polishing the mirror" when they talk about how to think about not-thinking. It's like this: If the way we think is just an incomplete reflection of a greater, more blissful consciousness (based solely on how well-connected we are to it), then the best way to perceive more of that blissful Source is to do some housecleaning, so to speak – starting with the "inner mirror" that serves as our doorway into the unimaginable potential of Life.

That mirror stands for the surface of something unfathomably deep, that we can only reach into through the center of our imaginations. In the reflection that we are, we see ourself only on its surface. We wish to feel ourselves more a part of it, to become more a part of it, and sometimes we can momentarily reach down into it, but we, ourselves, are what's reflecting that profound reality so poorly. All of the fogginess and flaws are a result of own conscious, and subconscious designs. The obscurities are of our own making.
 So, it stands to reason, that if we can improve the quality of the reflector, we'll improve the reflection.

To start that process, we need to sit in stillness and roll up our 'inner sleeves' to ready ourselves for housecleaning. Everything goes better when it's picked up a bit – straightened, inventoried, and organized. Most–if not all–of the mess on the surface of the mirror are simply our thoughts. Thoughts about who we are, about what we don't have, or what we think we should have – what we think we need to be happy, and to feel whole. We need to stand back a bit, and clean up our streaky, smudgy thoughts.

"The deluded, imagining trivial things to be vital to life, follow their vain fantasies and never attain [bliss]; but the wise, knowing what is trivial and what is vital, set their thoughts on the goal, and attain [bliss]."
                     Buddha, The Dhammapada, 1:11, 12

In a recent article ("Sitting in the Wilderness," at The Mindful I tried to simplify the three "temptations," met and overcome, by both Jesus and The Buddha as they sat and faced their 'devils' – temptations that can stand in quite nicely for the substance that clouds our internal mirrors – the content of most of those surface-obscuring thoughts. Simply, they are: 
1) The deep wish to control things to be just the way we want them to be.
2) The superficial, or material, or physical desires we desire to have gratified, and 
3) Our fears – usually having to do with numbers one and two.

 Our fears are the basic filmy schmutz (that's Yiddish) that "as through a glass darkly" obscure the perceptions of our brightest potential – and they should be the easiest to simply wipe away, seeing as how most of our fears aren't even real. The shadows they cast over the way things appear to us are largely the product of our own negative imaginations. Most of what we fear comes and goes with little or no real consequence, and even when it does impact on our life, it is still just life – doing what it will do. Usually, we learn our greatest lessons that way.

Polishing that inner mirror puts us directly, 'palm-to-palm' in touch with the surface of a magical ocean of underlying support and serenity. There's a quality of contact with the depth of all that potential that allows us to see through the fears to the calm sanity and intelligence that stands behind them, and beneath everything. You gain a purpose that lets you patiently wipe away the default negative thoughts that obscure your underlying potential – feelings that you don't measure up, or resentments against others (who are simply doing their best to reflect consciousness too). A crumpled-up newspaper, and ammonia works well.

And then, as long as you're making things up, make up something wonderful; visualize the miraculous for yourself and others. That ought to lighten up your life quite a bit, and allow you to reflect the sanity that lies at your true Source.

There, in the clarity of that improved reflection, we realize the funhouse mirror distortions our ego causes us to see – the illusion that we're much taller or broader, that our head is so much bigger than everyone elses (when really, we're all just about the same size). It's not the mirror that causes the distortions, it's our pride, our ego. Smooth that surface out flat with a calm, deliberate, repetitive circular motion, until the reflection invites you in – beyond your ego illusions. Feel the freedom of becoming that truth that lives beneath your projections.

"To identify consciousness with that which merely reflects consciousness, this is egoism."
                      Patanjali, The Yoga Sutras, II.3

There will always be little surface smudges, and underlying distortions, but the more you experience the sense of transcendent being – that expansion of consciousness into our deeper dimension of being that occurs when we lose "our self" in the act of polishing, the greater ease you'll experience in every other moment too, and the better you'll feel about how well you can reflect your true potential.

With the mirror cleaner, you need never obsess on the flaws again, because you'll see, clearly at last, that your reflection is something of unimaginably great beauty. You are a perfect expression of the greatest, deepest, and most beautiful mystery of all…a perfect expression of Life's Consciousness that all of this world can only merely reflect. 

Sit, and if you "polish the mirror" patiently, soon you'll be able to step right into it, and into a whole new world, where all you need is to simply be who, and what you really are – a beautiful reflection of the miraculous.  

The book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is now available everywhere, but ask for it it at your local bookstore!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Are Women (Spiritually) Superior To Men? A Call To Action!

In a recent article for GaiamTV about the Gnostic myth of Sophia, I explored the ancient ascendence of the "Feminine Divine," and was reminded of a piece from a while back that managed to ruffle a few feathers. It was this particularly touchy question I asked back then, that still begs to be asked, I believe – especially when we consider the worsening conditions of our embattled planet, and their causes and propagators.

In posing a provocative question like this, I realized that I needed to be more careful and considerate–gentle, in fact–in order not to evoke con-frontational reactions. Asking it in a more appropriate way requires that I get in touch with my feminine side, the part of me that's more conscious to the sensitivities of other people (in this case, mostly men). And as it turns out for me, getting in touch with my feminine side is the best way to do a lot of things.

It probably comes as no surprise that the question in question is the title of this piece, namely: Are women spiritually superior to men? And if so, why? 

Most feathers are ruffled by my answer, both then and now, which is simply: Yes, they are. I believe women are generally superior to men in terms of their spiritual alignment, so to speak, and that there's plenty of evidence to support that belief – and that the spiritual inferiorities of men implied are the subject of continual denial, at tremendous cost and consequence to all of life on our planet.

The clear-cutting of virgin rainforests, dumping toxins into the environment, commercial eradication of endangered species, conscious obstruction in developing clean energy sources, and profiteering from war and acts of terror are pretty exclusively–with very few exceptions–in the domain and by the designs of men. Approximately 90% of murders are committed by men. If any other single group of people were responsible for such mayhem, there'd be quite an uproar.

Denial is the acceptance of ignorance as truth, through the force of will.

Take note, I'm speaking in patently general terms, because there clearly are, and always have been, amazing male spiritual leaders through-out human history; and there are many men everywhere, full of Love, who possess expansive, compassionate consciousness. Still, in the broad context of the damage done to our planet (and our potential) that predominantly male intellect and energy causes, we really need to consider what it is that's missing in so many men, and what we can possibly do about it, before it's just plain too late. 

Exploring these attitudes, one has to become infuriatingly anecdotal. I don't like having to parade out a bunch of stereotypical characteristics as defined by "evolution" and history to make the point, but I trust that the shared experiences of Life (and honest intentions) will justify the effort at increasing some awareness about this issue that just isn't talked about enough.

So here goes: The average man's psychic concerns often tend to be of a less conscious, and more physical or material nature. Forgive the clichés, but (as usual, clichés often exist largely to soften the painful reality of our spiritual faults) men are traditionally regarded to be more dominant, forceful, willful, proud, stubborn, ingenious, competitive, emotionally unavailable, and willfully dismissive than women. They often have a persistent need to be right (even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary) as well as the need to feel "in charge." Unfortunately, most of these characteristics run directly counter to human spiritual perception.

Women (by the same stereotypical turn) possess those same qualities, but at a far lower volume. Instead, they tend to be more gentle, nurturing, acquiescent, considerate, cooperative, tenacious, empathetic, emotional, intuitive, and engaging – all characteristics of a greater spiritual connection. Characteristics of a higher consciousness.

Ego is the enemy; Compassion is the cure.

Men often operate primarily by ego and intellect, which have their place, but can be very problematic, as many of the most impulsive, violent, and destructive courses of action are demanded as spontaneous responses by ego, or are otherwise extremely "well reasoned" – that is, relying entirely on intellect. Peculiarly, many of the most destructive ideas are very well thought out.

Women are more often guided by compassionate identification, and what may be called intuitive intelligence – both of which are solid bedrocks of spirituality, so much so that they are the two essential components most men need to acquire to ever hope to become whole. You may say they're the dot in the Yang side of the Tao symbol.

We also tend to suffer from patriarchal definitions of human progress, whether  culturally, like in our financial system, resource management, energy produc-tion, and political structures; or scienti-fically, like the [largely male] misconcep-tion of Darwinism as a "survival of the fittest" that can mean survival of the most selfishly impulsive, instead of as the evolutionary reality that it demonstrates, that is: survival of the most cooperatively adaptable.

From health and biomedical sciences, to the search for a Unifying Theory, man (men) consistently ignores the single most important factor in humanity's true successes – spiritual consciousness – especially critical since it's the actual answer to all of the world's emerging crises; as well as questions of origin, overall well-being, direction, and purpose.

Is it because women are really interdimensional portals, so to speak – mediums of divine passage and actual living channels to the Source of Life? Is it this completely different wiring – a more intuitive, Right Brain connection to our shared spiritual reality that women come by naturally, and the collective male ego's inability to recognize, respect, and utilize it that's led the world into it's present chaotic state? The answers seem painfully obvious, but haven't always been so overlooked. 

Here's where the Gnostic myth of Sophia (Wisdom) becomes so meaningful. In the past, The Divine Feminine has been recognized as the key to our collective story; and the feminine [Mother] nature has been respected and served, with more balanced results for all.

In Sophia's search for greater union with the Source of light, she accidentally gets stuck in the chaotic realm of macho earthly demigods she inadvertently brought to life (especially Yahweh, "God" of The Bible fame), and she must slowly and painfully climb her way back up through layers of destructive, arrogant self-will, surrender, and renewed purpose to reunite with her higher self, and become whole again in heaven. There, after leaving consciousness on earth in the form of Eve, she is reunited with her male twin in a kind of sacred, balanced androgyny. In this sense, like all of us in a way, she becomes an exile in this chaotic world, seeking reunion with her true Source and direction, that can only be found by the merging of our opposites.

So the answer is both hard, and easy. Men, who possess the compassionate consciousness of Sophia, must work on instigating a psychic shift in their less conscious brothers, and ally themselves with women who are already there, so to speak. Women must gather in the sanity and clarity of their own Feminine Divine, truly emerge from the shadow of unconscious men (particularly those who tend to seek wealth and power), and assert that divine energy and connection they possess, in remaking more spiritually-based ethics. To start changing hearts and minds. 

The growing understanding of a kind of sacredness of transgenderism, increased discrimination in health and purity of food and water sources, a more equal distribution of the earth's resources to all of "God's Children" – even petty cultural realizations like the rejection of social media hook-ups as spiritually degrading – all of these are the purview of Mother Nature, and at the heart of a new Feminism, where women can shine their light on the darker corners of modern maleness. 

The recipe for saving the world lies in this "Sacred Androgyny." Women must locate more of their "macho" insistence, and willfully assert the power inherent in their true, divine direction (Wisdom); and men must learn to concede to the compassion of intuitive intelligence, and educate less conscious men about their blindness to their own destructive tendencies. This is a call for real unity, within each and every man and woman.

And here's the thing – we gotta start right now! To merge those two sides into one, and dramatically expand spiritual consciousness, if we want to save the world as we know it. 

"When you make the two into One…and say: Mountain move! It will move."
                         The [Gnostic] Gospel of Thomas, Logion 106

The book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is now available everywhere, but ask for it it at your local bookstore!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Feminine Divine – The Myth of Sophia, at GaiamTV

"...for it's only in the feminine–the channel of creation into the world–that humanity finds the power and compassion necessary to overcome the darkness of ignorance."

The book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is now available everywhere, but ask for it it at your local bookstore!

Monday, June 29, 2015

"What is Consciousness?" On Consciously Speaking, Co-Hosting with Michael Neeley

Find out about how I came to my ideas about our relationship to Consciousness in my book, How to Survive Life (and Death)from Conari Press, based on my three near death experiences and what I learned about living (and dying) from them. It's available everywhere books are sold (so ask for it at your local Mom n' Pop bookshop). 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Thank You! For More Than 100,000 Visitors!

A milestone was very gratefully surpassed this weekend – Thank You! To all of my readers, and curious others. Cheers&Blessings!

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Art of Dying 5 at the New York Open Center – A Review

We live in a rather confusing time when our commercial and cultural institutions willfully force us forward towards a difficult future, while insisting on remaining ignorant to our past – or our actual present. 
Fortunately, along the same timeline, there are spiritual institutions springing up everywhere – evidence of the deep wave of consciousness being newly perceived in our world…once again, and always. These schools are providing us with opportunities to reestablish ourselves in the deeper real and miraculous world we occupy. To reach back and realize a limitless potential that's been constrained and monopolized by materialism and technology for far too long.

One such school is the New York Open Center, in Manhattan, which last month hosted "The Art of Dying 5: Spiritual, Scientific & Practical Approaches to Living & Dying," a conference devoted to everything we are currently learning about death and dying, everything our ancestors knew, and everything our current culture apparently tries to hide, make us forget, or inappropriately profit from.

Brilliantly curated by Messrs. Ralph White and Tom Valente, and expertly produced by the staff of the Open Center, the three day event featured a range of expert speakers, qualified to address every aspect of our (inevitable) sacred passage: from the care of those at the end of their lives, and options for their more consciously humane treatment; to possibilities of the 'afterlife,' as suggested by 'near death' and 'end-of-life' experiences, and the timeless wisdom of the Tibetans; to explorations into the very nature of consciousness itself, and our relationship to it, in this life and  beyond. All profound and necessary topics which can pull our myopic, self-obsessed culture back towards the more graceful state of being, and "ending," that's been understood and practiced by ancient and indigenous people the world over for thousands of years.

For me, some brief highlights, gleaned only from the plenary sessions and the talks I was able to attend (among a terrific menu of choices), included:

The opening keynotes by Robert Thurman, expert teacher of Tibetan Buddhism (and his following seminar on "The Tibetan Book of the Dead"), and psychotherapist Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul;  both of which introduced us to the larger ideas of death, the life of the soul, and the obstacles to our understanding the subject that have been unconsciously advanced culturally, in the light of our growing need to return to a kind of sacred practicality. 

A rousing retelling by Eben Alexander, M.D., of his remarkable near death experience, and the Harvard-trained neurosurgeon's follow-up seminar on "Transcendent States of Conscious Awareness," where he ventured into one of the conferences many strong areas – the exploration of consciousness as a kind of field that we participate in, through whatever form we happen to be taking. (This is one of my favorite themes, having experienced Consciousness in this way myself, a few too many times perhaps…)  
This exploration of Consciousness, as it is related to by 'near death' and 'end-of-life' experiencers was beautifully expounded upon in excellent presentations by the Dutch physician Pim Van Lommel, whose many years of hospital-based research into the phenomenon of transpersonal (out-of-body) consciousness provide powerful evidence for the skeptic; and as well by Dr.Peter Fenwick (the author of the book bearing the same title as the conference), a neuropsychiatrist with stacks of data from his hospice studies in the UK and Holland, proving likewise profoundly convincing that our lives do carry on beyond "this mortal coil." 

Along with the establishment of The Art of Dying Institute, the Center and it's conference designers offer a Certificate in Integrative Thanatology, which enables recipients to learn how to further explore and exercise a range of options in compassionate end-of-life care – including the "Working With the Dying" tools and techniques of becoming an end-of-life "doula," or compassionate mediator to the terminally ill and dying, as practiced by another excellent presenter, Henry Fersko-Weiss.  

The compassionate options for end-of-life care were also provocatively and comprehensively explored in presentations by both Judith Kennedy Schwarz, R.N., with "Suffering & Choice at the End-of-Life," focusing on 'death with dignity' options, like Voluntary Stopping Eating and Drinking (VSOD), and assisted suicide; and Stephen Ross, M.D., of the NYU Psilocybin Project, with his talk about the efficacy of psychedelic palliative therapy, death anxiety, and addiction treatment.

With all the risky, and what could (or should) be criminal forms of potentially killing ourselves that this crazy culture encourages us to participate in, from poor diet to motorcycling to Second Amendment insistence, it's particularly crazy that this culture criminalizes the act of actually killing ourselves (in a responsible manner), when called for by protracted and undignified end-of-life conditions. Ms. Schwarz's talk shined a light on this fallacy of our 'freedom,' and called for solutions that have already been proven effective where they've been made legal.
Dr. Ross' presentation was also very provocative in it's exposure of how really effective psychoactive drugs (like LSD or psilocybin) can be in the treatment of depression and death anxiety by giving the recipient a sense of the the ineffable an experience and lasting connection with a spiritual reality that practically eliminates all of the fear, and much of the pain that dying can bring us. Ironically, these harmless, non-addictive drugs are a crime to possess or prescribe, while the two most destructive drugs statistically, alcohol and nicotine, are legally available (and advertised) everywhere. (Watch my FB, Twitter, and GaiamTV pages for an upcoming article on this subject for GaiamTV)

The fear, greed, and collective ego at the root of the destructive cultural ignorance these two talks exposed are exactly what the Open Center stands to confront and reform with programs like those featured at The Art of Dying 5 Conference, and in many of their other course and event offerings.

Probably the most meaningful moment (in a weekend that played like one long meaningful moment), came when Mr. White asked the audience how they came about their interest in the usually-to-be-avoided subject of death and dying. Somewhere in the neighborhood of two-thirds of those attending were people who worked with the dying – people who gave of themselves to carry out this sacred pact we are all called upon to be present for, at some time in our life (or death). It's a sacred pact that the Open Center certainly kept in this all too short, very meaningful weekend. 

I look forward to the next incarnation of The Art of Dying 6; and give my eternal thanks to the staff of the Open Center for extending me a special invitation. 

You can find out about the nature of my own involvement in my book, How to Survive Life (and Death), from Conari Press, based on my three near death experiences and what I learned about living (and dying) from them. It's available everywhere books are sold (so ask for it at your local Mom n' Pop bookshop).