There's a jackhammer in the distance, outside my window. My darkened smartphone makes watery drip tones each time an e-mail wants me to look at it. I hear big trucks pulling up in front of the corner supermarket to unload shrink-wrapped palettes of canned black beans. There's an ambulance siren on the horizon, wending its way to King's County Hospital. The Q train downstairs is running on time.
I suppose that pipe in the street needed to be fixed. I was waiting for an e-mail (just not that one). I love those beans. I hope that person on their way to King's County will be alright. Later, I'll just miss the Q train into Manhattan...
Our world is a hugely complex, elaborately interconnected place, driven in a loosely syncopated way by needs and desires, options and inventions. If we allow it, it can feel like it's driven by our fears...but then those are inventions too. Look at it quietly, and what becomes obvious is the profound underlying effectiveness of our cooperative shared Being. The understanding and appreciation of each other's lives, of our interconnectedness; of one another's common Reality.
With this simple, stripped-down worldview, it becomes ap-parent how well everything works when left to the sweat and intention of the great majority of humankind. Do you need any-thing? Is there something that I can help you with? More people all the time resonate with this simple impulse, whether they let it be their main source of motivation or not. Everywhere you go everyone is in some stage of realizing it.
As unique as we all are, we are all the same thing here in this place; and that awareness is steadily, and rather gracefully crystallizing our world now, without any big fuss. And it's only this growing presence of shared Being, the impetus of unifying con-sciousness, that can change so huge and complicated a mecha-nism as our collective life has become – and change it relatively quickly. Ironically, it starts at the very simplest, smallest level; at the level of each of our understandings.
"Without an inner change [humankind] can no longer cope with the gigantic development of the outer life."
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine
Predictably, corporate media will continue to insist that people identify with an obviously unsustainable system, even when people plainly know better. By limiting coverage of expanding global awareness, they suggest that even when we join forces to effect change (Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring) we're ineffective, and that it's more practical to maintain the unworkable status quo. If we each personally buy into those messages, they'll come true (but still won't be real). If we don't, and each personally choose a sane and reasonable path, we naturally return to our increasingly cooperative state of shared Being; and merge into a real entity of immeasurable power and direction. We simply engage lightly and kindly in the chaotic machinery of life.
At that "small" level of personal understanding, we find and empower our true Reality, the authentic world rising up around us. As the delusional world of the conglomerates starts to come apart at the seams, and everything starts going wrong (like now), something very big is going right. The layer of misinformation we've been fed so long is dissolving on the surface of this rising awareness; the conscious, co-creative impulse that instant communication and sixth-sensory awareness has already been nourishing at a much deeper level. We've already crossed that threshold. The singularity is here.
We know we can't continue in this fossil-fuel based world, wasting half the food we produce, poisoning fresh water, funneling wealth and resources to a few tortured individuals. It simply won't last. It will have to change.
When the systems used to manage the anachronisms (crony capitalism, television, corrupt politics) break down, they only serve to starkly define the true nature of the problem – the destructive backwardness of a selfish minority; and to enhance and solidify the unification of conscious Being arising in the world.
Could it really be – that rising honesty and ethics will defuse the fearful urgencies of the corporate elite? What would happen if they were all suddenly brought back down to Earth (kicking and screaming)? Not much, really. We'd merge right back into that un-derlying force of cooperative Being that's growing so powerfully through our our selves, our communities, and our world. Nothing would erupt in total chaos. We wouldn't be at all lost without their leadership. The world would simply become a more cooperative place, whether they like it or not (and they won't); where we re-cognize unconscious entitlement as being incompatible with our authentic nature.
Honestly, isn't everything actually being dictated to us all on a much larger scale, by systems that we're only a relatively small part of? Something far greater than any of our changing institutions or desires. It's obviously not this horizontal materialistic delusion (what Hindus call maya), where we feel constantly coerced to reach outward for solutions – it's a multi-dimensional Reality that's available to everyone from the inside out; that each of us can realize by simply living one another's life, humbly and compassionately. That's what being human is so good for.
Twenty years from now we could just as easily be using liberated Tesla designs, thorium reactors, tidal turbines, and solar energy. We could be conserving irreplaceable resources; eli-minating food waste; stewarding the environment and wildlife; making war obsolete (oops! –it already is...). We're capable of Being all that, and if we can keep our head above water, we probably will be sooner than later.
If you think this is a magical impossibility, may I point out to you (again and always) that we're all floating on a planet in outer space, engaged in a simultaneous realization of the magical nature of our reality.
So call it sanity. Call it unified consciousness. Call it spiritual evolution. Call it Sat (Being), Chit (Awareness), Ananda (Bliss). Call it what you like – it's still just the same impulse that makes a wildflower grow and blossom, right up between the tracks of the Q train.
"Our present world is conditioned by our present mode of consciousness; only when that consciousness passes from its present dualistic mode...will the new creation appear, which is the external reality of which our world is a mirror."
.................................................................continued from Part One
Once you were out past Los Feliz, past Atwater, it was best to stay off that narrow little old Pasadena Freeway with it's non-existant on-ramps, and head right on up into Highland Park, if you could find your way. Out there on the other side of the Golden State Freeway, the roads trickle and spill uphill into the landscape you can see from Chavez Ravine, from the cheap seats at Dodger Stadium. This was really a lot like the canyonland I came from, the winding roads up to the little hilltops like where the Bobos' house sat, at the back of a circular driveway on top of it's own little hill near Mt. Washington. It was one of those white ranch-styles. White, glittery rock halfway up the sides to white painted frame and windows with white wooden blinds. White crushed rock in the planters. White trim and a black door, with a withered wreath on it, and a WELCOME mat.
I nervously rang the bell, and Mrs. Bobo nervously answered, holding her other hand like she had a lit cigarette in it. She was a small black woman, mid-sixties-ish, delicate, wearing large-framed glasses and dressed comfortably in slacks and a shirt, with a scarf tied around her hair, over her head. She asked me in and sat me in the white living room, white walls, white furniture, a cherry wood bowl full of large, white marble grapes. I felt like an interloper right away, like I had no right to be there.
There was a palpable energy of injury in the air, and she immediately began talking to me—rather out of context it seemed—about things I didn't understand, things that I knew weren't any of my business. My God, I realized, this woman's husband has just died and she's in terrible pain. I tried to be as agreeable as I could be, sipping the coffee she'd offered me, and uncomfortably agreeing with her about everything she said.
She was making me look underneath, you know—under the cover of her life—the thirty or forty years she'd spent married to a traveling latin jazz star. I wasn't at all ready for it, for the intimacy, for the exclusivity. She looked steady into my eyes and spoke like I knew just what she was talking about—like she was telling me something as familiar to me as it was to her. And then I began to believe that it was familiar, looking into that particular wound, and that this was a private disclosure meant only for the two of us and the commensurate spirits there in the room with us.
I uneasily assumed some of her injury as we shuffled through the box of photos, a box full of their life. She stopped to tell each of the stories accompanying the shiny, curling black and white photos and faded kodachromes, few of which would serve my actual purpose for being there. Blurry moments at sunny cafés. Hasty group shots at family occasions. Party goers mid-conversation. And then I realized, thiswas my purpose, to be present as she made her careful in-ventory,before she could put the box away.
I picked out a few photographs that might work, but not very well—my original intentions had been gently taken hostage by sharing the trauma of this stranger who sat before me, her hands quietly shaking. Now she seemed to be speaking in directions where I didn't belong, that I didn't understand, about how none of it was right, how all of it was such a shame, how a boy ought to respect his mother.
"He never showed her the proper respect...he never did!" She said, and I realized that it wasn't her dead husband she was talking about anymore, or was it? "She's my best friend, you know...we've been best friends for years," she said, "Mrs. Gaye...I was over there last night, you know. Lord, such a sad, sad thing. Such a shame for a boy to do that." Like I knew...
It was April 3rd, 1984, and I remembered that just two days before, Marvin Gaye's father, the elder Mr. Marvin Gaye, Sr., had shot and killed his son, the iconic soul singer whose voice had played such an important part of a lot of our lives, and whose "What's Going On?" album was the smooth, profound soundtrack of a country's wounded soul. Drugs and alcohol and ego were the drivers of this tragedy, like they were for so many. Mrs. Bobo and Mrs. Gaye were the very best of friends, and had been for years, and suddenly the true size and shape of that wound I'd been witnessing became clear to me... Can I Get a Witness?
"He should have shown her the proper respect," she said, as she led me back out to the door, and sent me back down the drive, back down the little road wrapping around the hill, spilling me out onto San Fernando Road, past the Eagle Rock turn, past Forest Lawn, and on up the valley towards home.
The portrait didn't come out all that well—it was sufficient I suppose. Colorful and certainly accurate, but not one of my best. The program was printed, the festival happened, and finally one day I called to check Mrs. Bobo's address, to send back the pictures, and to see if she'd like the original painting I'd done, as a gift.
"That picture was the worst thing I ever saw," she said on the phone. "No thank you—I do not want it. It looked nothing at all like my Willie. Just send me back my pictures." So that's what I did.
It had really just been on account of one phone call, that day in L.A. Just a little ride to the edge of the box, and a peek underneath it's lid.
The lessons of my three near-death experiences (don't try this at home) pointed me in 3 different directions, each of which can lead you to realize that Heaven isn't a place, but is a state-of-being that you can occupy here & now! Due out March 2018, available for pre-order, from Llewellyn Books.
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I survived three very different near death experiences, and I don't recommend it, but I'd like to give you what I've learned about life (and death) the easy way, in my fun (but serious) book, designed to defuse whatever fears you have, and pass along the lessons I learned the hard way, available now at all major book sellers, from Conari Press
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The art and writing of Robert Kopecky, author of How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide to Happiness in This World and Beyond,and the upcoming How to Get to Heaven (Without Really Dying).
Art, Faith, and the Koko Lion is a uniquely spiritual blog from the author, illustrator/designer, and 3 time "Near Death" survivor, consisting of:
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I've spoken at the International Association for Near-Death Studies World Conference, the Wisdom of the Near-Death Experience Symposium, and more; and have written for Beliefnet, Innerself, New Buddhist, Soul Life Times, Reality Sandwich (Evolver), and more.
Don't Be Put-off By This (Spiritual), It's Really Fun to Read Reading List
A Course in Miracles
A Joseph Campbell Companion (ed.)
A Practical Guide to Know Yourself -Maharshi
A Return to Love -Williamson
Bases of Yoga -Aurobindo
Being, Consciousness, Bliss -Fitzgerald
Black Elk Speaks
Christ the Yogi -Ravindra
Crest-Jewel of Discrimination -Shankara/Prabhavananda, Isherwood
Ethics of the Sages Pirke Avot -Shapiro
Finding the Hidden Self: The Shiva Sutras -Worthington
Food For the Gods -Berry (ed.)
Gnana Yoga -Vivekananda
Good Life, Good Death -Gehlek
How to Know God: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali -Isherwood/Prabhavananda
I Am That -Maharaj
Infinite Life – Thurman
Jesus and Yahweh – Bloom
Jung and the Lost Gospels – Hoeller
Man is Not Alone - Heschel
Misquoting Jesus -Ehrman
Not Always So -Suzuki
Parallel Worlds -Kaku
Power Vs. Force -Hawkins
Quantum Shift in the Global Brain -Laszlo
Real Magic -Dyer
Rebirth and Karma – Aurobindo
Science and the Akashic Field -Laszlo
Suicide and the Soul – Hillman
Teachings of The Buddha -Kornfield (ed.)
The Bhagavad Gita -Easwaran
The Bhagavad Gita – Gandhi
The Book of Secrets -Chopra
The Captain's Verses -Neruda
The Dhammapada -Easwaran
The Divine Matrix -Braden
The Enlightened Mind -Mitchell (ed.)
The Essenes -Manitara
The Essential Mystics -Harvey (ed.)
The Essential Rumi – Barks
The Field -McTaggart
The Future Evolution of Man -Aurobindo
The Game of Life -Shinn
The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead – Hoeller
The Gospel of Thomas -Leloup
The Great Path of Awakening – Kongtrul
The Hermetica -Freke/Gandy
The Hope -Harvey
The Medium, The Mystic, and the Physicist -LeShan
The Original Jesus, Buddhist Christianity -Gruber, Kersten
The Passover Plot -Schonfield
The Power of Myth -Campbell
The Power of Now -Tolle
The Sacred Power of Huna -Morrell
The Secret Teachings of All Ages -Hall
The Soul of Rumi -Barks (trans/ed.)
The Spiritual Roots of Yoga -Ravindra
The Spirituality of Imperfection -Kurtz/Ketcham
The Tao of Physics -Capra
The Tao te Ching -Lao Tzu/Star, Mitchell, Rosenthal
The Three Pillars of Zen -Kapleau
The Undiscovered Self -Jung
The Upanishads -Mascaro (ed.)
The Way to God -Gandhi
When Things Fall Apart -Chodron
Your Sacred Self -Dyer
Zen Mind, Beginner Mind -Suzuki
A,F,&tKL Around the Web
Look for the dancing blue elephant by the river when you're surfing the internet at sites like Gaia.com, Soul Life Times, The Mindful Word, Reality Sandwich, Spiritual Networks, Twitter, and others, for blogs from the files of A,F,&tKL
art (animation & illustration) and heart (spiritual & scholarly) websites and blogs