Sunday, November 25, 2012

Humbling Experiences and the Freedom of "Being Nobody"

Despite their shared etymology, there's a big difference between humility and humiliation. Humiliation is a condition experienced by a damaged ego, humility is a precursor of transcendent growth. Recently, Nature (in the form of a hurricane) humbled us here in New York City, but the surge that might sweep away everything of apparent value just serves to shine the jewel of the human spirit.

"Water finds it's power by seeking it's lowest point." 
Zen saying

 In the wake of the great storm so much has been lost that recovery might seem hopeless and impossible, but as that destructive wave strips the coast of every boardwalk and building, it's evolutionary erosion reveals the heart of transformation that is:  Having "nothing."  Being "nothing."

No one is much, really...yet everyone is everything, really. We're important to ourselves and to each each other because we are each other. I feel sorry for those who suffer, and although it may not seem like much consolation if you are one of them (and as silly and insensitive as it may sound), this is the moment that you can grab ahold of your bliss without anything getting in the way.

Everyone can look back over those experiences when Life humbled you in some unimaginable way and notice that immediately in the wake of that destruction there was a peace and simplicity – when being "tore up from the floor up" revealed the truly humble, sacred ground where the seeds of your life's greatest transmutations were planted. 

We've been told this, over and over, through the whole of "wisdom scripture" that there's a special place of growth and realization reserved by Creation for those who have been "broken open" to the potential of The Divine. It's a particularly easy landscape to see then because there's so little left to block your view. What tends to be right in front of you is what unconditional Love makes constantly available – there are people there to help. The slate is cleared for one to realize what's important in life. Morning always follows the Dark Night of the Soul.

Sure, a nice house is nice to have, and actually not any more impossible to replace than it ever was to get. A million bucks is good to have, but if it was in cash under your bed, it might have been swept out to sea too. If you have great material wealth, you're defined by it; your efforts are divided by the need to manage it. If you're famous, you have to work at odds to protect your privacy, and to promote your own fame – to "re-up" the very ego that kicks you when you're down, as you will be again at some point. The hurricane is coming for all of us at one time or another.

There's a lot more to this life than what meets the eye, the mouth, the hands, the body, the intellect and ambitions. We're working towards something largely unknown but widely suspected, and more and more widely understood as these lives and life lessons enlarge our collective consciousness.

"Blessed are the poor, for yours is the Kingdom of Heaven."
Yeshua, The Gospel of Thomas, 54

Then it helps to recognize that fear as something of a friend; a necessary passage you'll survive. In fact, as counterintuitive as it seems, it may be there to help. Loss of possessions becomes the opening for for even greater acquisitions of previously unimaginable fulfillment. After all, what else is there to lose? You're alive – reunited with the truest, simplest foundation of our being.   

"Water flows continually into the ocean, but the ocean is never disturbed: Desire flows into the mind of the seer, but he is never disturbed. The seer knows the peace that becomes clear when desire is forgotten. He lives without expectations and selfish needs: Free from ego, free from pride.
Krishna, The Bhagavad Gita 2:70-71

When our will is squashed by circumstances beyond our control, this level of humility is forced upon us; but really it's a gift, a tool – an esoteric mechanism that we can employ – a "reset button" that's guaranteed to make life much easier, more enjoyable, and more meaningful in any and every moment. It's the true touchstone to Grace that's available anytime we release our material demands and desires, and become willing to treat ourselves to the possibillities that exist when everything of "value" has been swept away by the storm of a lifetime.

If we can get in touch with that real humility any time that life seems hardest (I AM nothing without You), then just visiting that purest, most elemental ground of being is always guaranteed to turn everything around.

As someone who has even "lost their life," I can testify that it may be the only way to find a better one.
That is how we start to become every life and every day – as "nothing"...and as "nobody." 

Read about this and much more in the latest book: How to Get to Heaven (Without Really Dying), Wisdom From a Near-Death Survivor, from Llewellyn Worldwideand the first book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and BeyondBoth are available everywhere – but ask for them at your local bookstore!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Freedom From the Prisoner's Perspective; Beating Conundrums

The other night I was watching the Yankees game and a televised political debate at the same time, switching back and forth, when I began to notice something strange happening. As the Yankees kept striking out, and the political misrepresentations kept piling up, a powerful feeling welled up inside of me, moved to center stage, and started directing my thoughts and comments with unwanted authority. It was a feeling of acrimony, of aggravation, of anxious agitation...and I'm still only on the "A"s.

"The universe exists in order that the experiencer may experience it and thus become liberated."           Patanjali

Suddenly I realized that somehow I'd just taken myself from a relatively serene state of mind to a discombobulated tangle of self-centered sensations – spontaneously arising opinions, judgments, perceived injustices – all the product of having momentarily attached myself to these two televised events. If I hadn't been watching I presume I would have been fine, calm and at-ease within that very same moment.
So as well as I could (after the shows were over) I returned my self to it's former tentative state of serenity, relaxed and refocused my mind on other, less aggravating thoughts, and made a note to try and not do that anymore. You'd think I would know by now, but they can come so automatically, those waves of thought and sensation, can't they?

It's in the nature of our sensory experience itself that I spontaneously respond to outside stimuli that inspires certain thoughts, which evoke certain feelings, and then engages a cascading circuit of thoughts and feelings that usually makes me want to do something about it, when there plainly isn't much I  actually can do – except maybe to calm down again. But why do I always have to go the long way around again? Where does this willingness to get myself all worked up again come from?
I called a mentor (whom I like to call Fascinating Ray), told him about this all-too-common loop I'd just taken again, and asked why I can so often condemn myself to that circular confinement, as opposed to remaining in an easier, less agitated state. He told me something that reminded me exactly why I call him with these questions; in essence he said this:

In the body-mind-spirit trifecta we experience in this life, there's an underlying intuitive sense of being stuck in this form, for the time being, subject to the electrochemical, physiological machinations of thought and feeling that "this flesh t'is heir too." It can feel like a kind of sadness, anxiety, dissatisfaction, or longing to "return to the garden," so to speak – and what's more, it's true – it arises from a subliminal reality, the innate understanding that our spirits can function on a much broader energetic level – lighter and freer – than simply being a human being allows us.
So, sometimes we unintentionally carry with us this "perspective of a prisoner," and part of our challenge in this life is to avoid being defined by that truncated view, and to allow our greater (spiritual) potential to be our friendlier guide through life. The trick in escaping that perspective, that self-created prison, lies in becoming aware of the thoughts and feelings that promote it; and also in recognizing when we might be taking on that role ourselves, sometimes intentionally, feeling like we need the excitement and anxiety to provide us with some kind of sensory encouragement.

"All life is a play of universal forces. The individual gives a personal form to these universal forces. But he can choose whether he shall respond or not to the action of a particular force. Only most people do not really choose – they indulge the play of forces."             Sri Aurobindo

Ray went on: There can only be limited growth when we're in prison, you know. There isn't the requisite space and variety of influences necessary to allow your world to expand in a healthy, balanced way; and so your world gets smaller, hemmed in by uncontrolled cascading thoughts and feelings. ("Isolation is a darkroom where your negatives are developed"). You repeat behaviors that don't really work, and eventually prove to be [destructively] defining, like 'em or not.
The cause of this self-imposed confinement is usually due to what a Buddhist might call "attachments," or "selfish cravings" – the identification of ourselves and our sense of well-being with some special interest or need that we feel is being threatened, has been slighted, or that might go unfulfilled. In short, the imaginary ideas of how we want to control our world that really end up controlling us:
People don't do things the right way; my ideals are under attack; there's a fundamental injustice at work in the world...some of which may really be the case, but unless we escape that mentality, that "prisoner's perspective," we'll never be able to muster the vision to find any meaningful solutions. To grow out of our imaginary, and real conundrums. We'll be stuck stacking up those blocks around ourselves, driven by that drumbeat, wondering why our world seems to be getting smaller, instead of evolving beyond the attitudes of confinement that this body-life often insists upon.

"Emanating from the finest ether, these souls become the prison-house of the body...but when once they are released from the bonds of the flesh, then, as though liberated from long servitude, they rejoice and are borne aloft."                 Josephus, describing The Essenes' beliefs

It's right, in a way, to naturally want to identify myself with my team or my cause; it's part of what Joseph Campbell would call "the metaphysical impulse to transcend the delusion of separateness." It's a wish to be a part of something larger than myself; to effectively contribute to a worthwhile cause for humanity, to be of service; and to identify and share with others who believe what I believe, and give themselves to the ideals I'd wish for myself and others to experience in this life. Notice, none of what I really wish for has very much to do with winning, or with even being right.

That's where beating it does come in – by answering with a different kind of beat: call it to heartbeat it; using the shared heartbeat of the joy and creativity alive within us all, and in the world. That's what I had to do – open my heart to escape the corner I'd painted myself into. I needed to stop my thoughts, and liberate my heart to gain that freedom, that grace.

"There's no problem that acceptance won't help solve" is an axiom I don't naturally react well to, probably because it's so painfully obvious. The more elaborate my entanglements become (or I make them), the less likely I am to escape them. I need that open-hearted freedom. I need to change, to escape that "perspective of a prisoner." It's my choice, really...I could just turn off the TV, and actually do something about it; starting with accepting, relaxing, letting it be, and letting the world roll right off my shoulders...

"If an earthquake opens the prison walls, do you think an escaping prisoner will complain of the damage done to the stone and marble work?"

Read about this and much more in: How to Get to Heaven (Without Really Dying), Wisdom From a Near-Death Survivor  from Llewellyn Worldwide available direct on this page, or online. The first book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is available the same ways – but ask for it it at your local bookstore!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Three Mediums to Live With

That word, medium, takes on several meanings when you're exploring inner worlds – drifting between dimensions, as we apparently can do if you follow Don Juan Matus, Erwin Schröedinger, Shivas Irons, or Sonia Choquette. All really excellent teachers in their own right. 

The first sense of it, having to do most simply and straightforwardly with scale, can also be the most difficult to comprehend personally. Naturally, we all know that we're much smaller than some things and much larger than others, but it's our uniquely human perception, by way of our "ego interface," that complicates the simplicity of our real relationship to the Universe. Our ego always wants us to imagine ourselves as being the center of everything; which obviously isn't the case.
We're only the center in the sense that our senses intersect where we are. We see it, feel it, hear it, etc., here in this place, with this body. The rest of the Universe really can't be bothered; so that can be a problem when we feel we've been gravely misunderstood, unacknowledged, slighted, or otherwise "victimized," and the like – or if we have indigestion or an achin' back.

Thanks to folks like Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, and Michio Kaku, we know that our field of being is regulated by our relationship to a variety of other fields that determine the nature of our physical reality, and describe the state we're taking.  Our form and the forms around us; the energies that affect ourselves and our material world; the direct physical "realities" of our mass and our velocity (...which in my case tends to become greater and slower as I accumulate "data"). 
Even the magical beauty of Quantum Physics can't explain the medium in which all this funny action takes place, that is, in part how the elegance of String Theory came about, so we might simplify all of this in a physical way by saying that everything issues from a "zero point field," or what was, in an archaically accurate way, referred to as the "ether."

Seeing as we like elegance, perhaps there's a elegant theory of everything that describes our human experience: A medium which can contain and promulgate our less tangible characteristics and abilities, namely the ability to sense, to emote, to perceive the nature of our sensory being – in short, all the stuff about life on earth that physics can't hope to describe. I think I'll call that medium the field of Love.
You might not like the rhapsodic, idyllic connotations of the word, so you may want to substitute something else, like creation or reason;  but I like Love as the foundational energy field animating our experience because it can so suitably describe the creation of everything that's of value in our perception.
 Love is the field from which our creative passions, interests, and accomplishments arise. Where our unique human-ness comes from. It's where, in a way, we all come from; within (or without) in which we experience our most meaningful experiences and relationships to the world; and what we struggle to return to, in spite of ourselves, our whole lives long.
When we recognized Love as our field of origin, being, and purpose, it's easy to see that the realization of it as our #1 elemental energy can also clearly provide us with the answers to all of our problems.

My last sense of the word is very personal. It has do do with how some of us are especially gifted, and how all of us might be magically enabled – even beyond our wildest expectations. For this, I'll resort to personal experience. My Wife, Sue Pike, "The Animal Talker®," is a medium and spirit channeler that people all over the country listen to on the radio, and call for help with discovering what their animal partners are thinking and feeling. This is all stuff that years ago I wouldn't have bought into, but I'll tell ya, the jury is definitely in on this for me; there's just too much amazing evidence I've seen over the fact, it's daily.
Some people have an uncanny knack for accessing the field of being that enfolds and connects all life on earth (and apparently elsewhere as well...). They've been given, or have developed a sixth sensory capability that likewise can't be described by science, but can be reliably measured and replicated using scientific methods. I't just true, and that's all there is to it. And here's the interesting thing that most of these mediums (including my wife) tell us – that anybody can do it. And in the case of my wife, it comes from allowing it to exist with an open heart. It comes from experiencing the medium of Love.

When we turn off the serial processor in our heads, identify with the state of consciousness that exists beneath our thoughts, then engage the world with the parallel processor in our heads, enabled by way of an open heart, we can experience a sixth-sensory state of being. You might cal lit intuition. You might call it having a voice in your head, other than your own. Whatever you call it, it can help you to create a life whose purpose and direction is clearly drawn, and gracefully experienced. 

Check out Sue's site

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! 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Spiritual Evolution and Limited Political Choices (or, How Ayn Rand is Crazy...)

It's almost that time again, isn't it? That time when we get the opportunity to exercise the one definitive right we all have as Americans, the one personal action we can take to have some effect on the nature and direction of our government – namely, to vote...but it's difficult to know how to go about something so temporal in as spiritual a way as possible.
The exercise of our spiritual beliefs and goals when it comes to politics is already a tough enough nut to crack, especially given the myriad constraints of the system we're part of. One such constraint, for example, is that I live in New York, so it doesn't really matter whether I vote or not. The Electoral College system guarantees that the state I live in will send it's votes all in one direction (that's one reason I live here...).
Another constraint of great consequence is that all our votes go in more or less the same direction, being as we have a kind of "Good Cop, Bad Cop" single-party system at present. But as the votes go more or less towards the same pro-corporate (largely pro-military, pro-"capitalist") concerns, our spiritual practices can come to bear in those ways that they go less  towards the same concerns.

Often, when bringing spirituality into play in what have now become largely pop culture contests between two faces on the same mask of Janus, one might hear a sort of twist on Taoism (probably the second verse of the Tao te Ching) – the idea that there is no "good" or "bad,"  there simply is what there is; and while it is true that there are no problems that absolute acceptance won't resolve, this painfully "realistic" axiom is actually suggesting more the point that both the good and the evil go down with the ship – not the idea that it's pointless differentiating between the two.
Here it's good to introduce what's probably the number one rule for maintaining one's spirituality all the time (not just with politics...). About the most troublesome thing a human mind tends to do by default, I believe, is to label everything it perceives (I know my "thought organ" always wants to). It's hard not to look at something and say: That's spoiled; that's pretty; that's unattractive; that's plastic; or whatever may (or may not) apply. This renders the subject into a diminished egoic category – usually a more comfortable, lesser-than entity, rather than allowing the truth about it to be the result of a rather complex personal process of discovery. 
Using what the Hindu call sakshi – that is, becoming an open-hearted, objective (non-labeling) witness to people and events, we can observe characteristics like "good" and "evil" with the insight needed to deal with them with more understanding. We might see those same characteristics at their foundation, as "compassionate" and "angry," for example. Evil does exist always in some form of human egoism, as the deliberate or not-so-deliberate motivation for self-centered gratification of one kind or another – as a selfish entitlement, a righteous justification, or a response to simple fear. 
By avoiding those motivations for our political actions (and the specifics of our present contest), and embracing the intention at the soul of our system, we should vote for what we truly believe in our hearts, regardless whether those principles are supported by a giant political party, a smaller one, or only by the write-in line on your ballot or the box marked "none of the above." For a person on a spiritual path, of course these principles include equality, integrity, ecology, compassion, tolerance, willingness, short, where there is Love. Let your unencumbered heart guide you.

In our specific system at present there's a peculiar conflation of misunderstandings at work beneath many of the policy justifications coming out of the  "Bad Cop" side of our political system. One is that Darwinism is not really the survival of "the fittest," but instead the survival of the most cooperatively adaptable. The "winners" in that skewed system are limited in their ability to act responsibly by what defines them. Capitalism (especially in a corrupted form) works very well for the institutions of finance, but ultimately not so well for the heart of humanity. We can do better.

That could serve as a general guidepost for cast-ing your ballot – which candidate's policy benefits money, and which benefits people? Or put more simply in a spiritual sense, who's true intention is to benefit the health of the planet, to com-passionately address the needs of the greatest num-ber of people?

Another prevalent mis-understanding is that the underlying logic of philoso-phers like Adam Smith or Ayn Rand is at all sane, given their bases upon presumptions of the ego's self-interest – inarguably the cause of the most destructive insanity at work in our planet's past or present. A more likely possibility is that both of them were deeply spiritually damaged. Not sane.

 For example, Ayn Rand's rejection of altruism in favor of "individual responsibility" simply makes spiritual evolution impossible. There are just too many people that can't cut that particular mustard, and (in my opinion) you simply can't find a spiritual solution while lacking as absolute a sense of compassion as you can possibly manage. Stand back from the planet with a little sakshi, and you can see we are clearly all responsible for one another. After all, we were all originally "communists" our communal, tribal origins indicate that the whole takes care of everyone in a manner that doesn't reward any member so much that they feel separate from the rest.
When you observe Ms. Rand with sakshi, you see a deeply damaged person, not someone whose philosophy you should base your life decisions on. In a clip from Anthony Baxter's excellent new documentary, You've Been Trumped, Donald Trump's reply to the members of a local Scottish town board when they wanted to know where he got his facts about the ecological and cultural impact of his proposed development on their ancestor's unspoiled lands was: "I AM all the facts you need." That is the pathological disease of human ego, and a pretty decent definition of evil as well. 

In answer to the question: Can things change in the direction of what is better for the planet, and the most people? The "fact" of our current president may actually be all "the facts you need." If you feel limited to picking either the "Good Cop" or the "Bad Cop," I hope that helps your decision.

"It's the metaphysical impulse to transcend the illusion of separateness..."
Joseph Campbell

Friday, August 3, 2012

God Bless You, Mr. Eisenstein: Invisible Bridges to Spiritual Evolution

In watching Charles Eisenstein's kindhearted and thought–provoking TED New Haven talk (I am a fan), I was again struck by that age-old difficulty that our form presents us in coming to terms with our apparent duality; the schism dividing the nature of our tangible material being in relation to our less physically tangible spiritual self. 

The possessor of inspirational intelligence, Mr. Eisenstein suggests a very rational, and a somewhat mystical, alternative to both the obvious "real-life" demands of our day-to-day material existence, and those elusive, "unprovable" ideals of an underlying spiritual reality; namely by taking part in giving. By becoming part of that circle of unconditional concern for your fellow human beings – the approach to Life, the action that some might call "compassionate consciousness."  
It's an idea that while certainly not original is one that becomes original to each of us (over and over and over...) when we experience it's significance for ourselves.
Having had the great [mis]fortune of surviving more than one "near-death experience," I've found myself (unintentionally) quite certain of the spiritual reality that underlies, enfolds, informs, and probably precipitates all of this success-seeking, rent-paying, toe-stubbing material existence – what the Hindu call maya, the illusional surface of Life. For me, proof of the unseen is not an issue 
While being hit on the head very hard has most likely permanently excluded me from thinking at a level anywhere near Mr. Eisenstein's, it was probably what I really needed – an experience that (painfully) proved the existence of a reality that's magically extra-dimensional in every sense – physically, spiritually, and conceptually. To those less identified with their thinking, I suppose this is called Faith. 

There is a real endearing charm to Mr. Eisenstein's pensive onstage struggle with this faith, a sincerity and naîveté that's maybe a bit more touching to those who've suffered a few more slings and arrows. I'm grateful, on his account, that it only seems to require small things to set his remarkable mind to work on finding ways to bridge the gap, when it apparently takes incomprehensible demoralization for some of us; though what you might be lucky to see while peering into that abyss is the incontrovertibly quirky intelligence and order alive in the universe. You see Love – which appears to me to be what Mr. Eisenstein is struggling to express.
  So while I don't at all recommend near-death as a solution to bridging that awkward gap between the harsher physical and cultural realities of material life and the blissful recognition of The Divine inherent in a fully spiritual life, perhaps I can augment Mr. Eisenstein's excellent start on a solution with these suggestions that arise from this simple "alternate" reality: 

We are spiritual beings learning through physical experience; we are designed to overcome the barriers presented by the physical (assimilating sensory experiences) and realize our spiritual nature; there are bridges – invisible spiritual mechanisms (choices) – built into our physical experience that afford us passages to our spiritual evolution. 

Here are a few that seem to work to bridge that gap:

The Giving he mentioned: Compassionate consciousness (altruistic effort, like charity and volunteerism), often referred to simply as service (responsible parenthood, being a good friend, etc.), is clearly one of these bridges. It is the singular most effective means to experientially overcoming the sense of separateness we develop while sitting and thinking about ourselves and our life situations. 

With selfless service, we are immediately attached to universal intelligence by the lightest of all yokes – the attachment created by contributing to the cycle of  well-being with no regard for reward or recognition. We almost immediately escape the harsh realities dictated by our ego; and lighten and align our karma. (Karma Yoga)

Unconditional kindness is another one of these mechanisms that engages us with Life at a spiritual level by giving us heartfelt identification with others; the warmth and support that we respond to ourselves when it is unconditionally shown to us. It is being unconditionally kind to ourselves. Of course, with kindness there's no exploiting, manipulating, or participating in killing of any kind. (Karma Yoga)
Honesty – intellectually, and in what you might think of as a constant variation of (appropriately restrained) confession is a rather visible invisible bridge. You'll have few of material life's complications to fear, because you simply never add to them. Your motives remain those of a seeker of truth and wisdom. You become seen and known as a person who is resolutely trustworthy, whose intentions are of the highest order  – and that sounds pretty spiritual, doesn't it? (Gnana Yoga)

Conscious contact with Source Energy: The personal attachment and conscious surrender into the energy and intelligence alive in the Universe, regardless of whether we personify that power in popular traditional ways, or form our own concept of it as a field or other force. In this way, we surrender (as a strategy) into the power that energizes and directs our being, recognizing the limited control that the choices we make give us over our lives. You become aware of all kinds of beauty; the inherent divinity in nature; and realize that your actions in Life can be devoted to this Source of creation – to Love. (Bhakti Yoga)

And finally, Humility (as Mr. Eisenstein so sincerely demonstrates). Not humility as described by Screwtape ("Hell's definition" in C.S.Lewis' The Screwtape Letters) as a form of self-deprecatory ineffectiveness, but instead as a subtle sense of reality and connection. As an extraordinary underlying energy that filters all of your Life experiences, and provides an intuitive ideal to live by with purpose and grace. We've all experienced this powerful kind of humility as a truth-bearing, holistic force in Life.

Giving is a very important bridge, to be sure, and to an agnostic it's a major break-through. I don't pretend to know the designs of the Universe, only to have experienced the effectiveness of these invisible (visible) mechanisms in my own life, and in the lives of those I'm close to; but I do know this: You deserve the life that you have – with your difficulties most often defined by whether you travel these bridges towards the spiritual, or away from it. All of it is magic.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Eluv's Ultrasounds, For da Soul!

It's fundraising time at WMNF, the Tampa public radio station that's home to our fav-orite "music of the spheres," Ultrasounds, hosted by the wonderful Eluv on her ex-cellent show that airs Thursday nights at 11 PM. Here she is, with my wife Sue Pike, The Animal Talker®, doing one of their reiki/sound healing sessions (...and hear Sue's animal messages every third Thursday on Ultrasounds, at about 11:15 PM)!

Contribute to the cause of spreading joy and gentle sanity by dropping a coin or two into Eluv's Ultrasounds Tip Jar on WMNF Radio.  Help keep her cool calming voice and super-serene selections beaming out across the universe!

You can also pick up some Ultrasounds for yourself, Eluv's incredibly beautiful ambient music for healing what ails you, like my favorite above – just  one of many available.
Cheers&Blessings, everyone! 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Weeds, Season 8: Growing a New Opening

Airing now for the Season 8 of Showtime's off-beat comedramady Weeds, are the new RSA-style animated opening credits very gratefully designed, directed, and drawn by yours truly; working along with my associates at IdeaRocket Animation, Will Gadea, and the very talented Irish After Effects wizard, Jonathan Parson at Mute Grab, the piece recaps the history of the show's storyline, up 'til this, the final season. It was a pleasure to work with the folks at Showtime, and with my IdeaRocket compadres. Check out this Studio Daily article, and have a look at our finished product:

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Love and Rattlesnakes: An Important Message From The [Animal] Kingdom of God

Life can be a lot like juggling cats, very challenging, rather complicated, and a little dangerous. I'm not much of a juggler, but I love cats. (Especially our miracle-cat, Max.) And if you want to grow, you've got to give it your best. It's like that acronym for God – Grow Or Die. It doesn't mean you really die (none of us really do); it means you just never really live.

When I think of human evolution, I think of spiritual evolution. What other kind of evolution is there for us now – the A.I. singularity? Cranial input jacks? Our thumbs getting very pointy from years of texting? That would make picking your nose a lot easier, too.

We say,  "He behaves like an animal,"  when we describe someone who's motivated by ego gratification (unconsciousness) rather than by spiritual growth, but that's got it absolutely backwards. Animals behave just fine on their own. They live in a state of grace in being, in "God's Kingdom." They're constantly showing us how to do it – especially the animals that have grown spiritually alongside each of us, the ones that aid and direct our lives. They are our karma partners.
There was an elderly woman named Dottie, who lived next to us up on the Upper Delaware. She'd spent years and years by the river, and knew that world very well. After her husband died, as her closest companion there was a six-foot black bull snake with whom she shared that stretch of riverbank. It may sound a little strange to you, but it wouldn't at all to an Indian or a mystic. They sat together for years. He was the old woman's protector. One stormy night, I (terrified) had to save him from some deer netting I'd put up myself, and was amazed by his willingness, extraordinary power, and real, pure beauty.

After Dottie passed, a resentful daughter-in-law killed the great snake. Since that day, the area has been visited by increased numbers of timber rattlesnakes, likewise beautiful in their own right, but certainly not cozy compañeros. The men of the area – "real men –  beer-drinkin,'  meat-eatin' men who hunt and kill animals just for fun, and because "they like the way they taste," have had a field day killing rattlers since (a crime). 

I had to stop such a killing just the other day, and my manly scaredy-pants neighbor said, "Just wait 'til he comes to get you. You saw him ready to strike. He's not your friend, he wants to kill you!" I had to point out to him that he doesn't want to kill you, you want to kill him. Getting ready to strike isn't an attack mode for a rattlesnake, it's a defensive position. Humans have massacred rattlers in numbers that have put them on the Endangered List, not the other way around.

Perhaps I'm preaching to the converted here again, but maybe not when I say this:  Our spiritual evolution requires us to absolutely respect the divinity of all living things. Many of us intuitively glean this lesson from the role our pets play in our lives – that they are our link to The Divine Source of Being, our evolution, if you like. Then we can extend this grace to the animals we unconsciously, indirectly kill and eat; and stop doing that. If we don't, we can only grow so much. Our evolution stagnates, locked in this world of blood and bone and ego.

What difference can it really make in your life, to stop [killing and] eating animals? It's hard to describe exactly, but it's a lot like Love (which is what it is) – you can't put it into words very well, except to say that it's wonderful. It's liberating. It brings presence and meaning to Life in a way that you'd never have imagined it would. It's really living, consciously – and sharing the grace that animals know by nature.

Then we might extend it even further, out past the whales and wild dolphins, the great elephants, and zebras and koalas and all the cute fuzzies, on to all those not-so-cuddlies like rattlesnakes, and dare I say, even crocodiles. Then we can stop all the needless killing, and begin to live.
My wife is Sue Pike, The Animal Talker®, and yesterday not long after we received the bad news that our eighteen-and-a-half-year-old shaman-cat, Max, has incurable cancer and won't be with us (in this form) much longer, she did a meditation to channel a message from the animals for a radio show she does each month. Maybe you'll forgive my pontificating up to now, because this is the real pay-off to this whole's what the animals said to her:

When you are frustrated, allow and accept our Love. When you are sad, love us. When times are hard, love us. When your heart feels closed, allow and accept our Love.
We're always here for you. Call on us as pets and friends to connect you to The Divine, and allow it. Their Love is pure, learn from it. If no animal is in the household, visit one and feel their Love and connection to The Divine. Then Buffalo came in and said:

No one can topple your authentic self. Remember to be grateful for all that you have.
Goat said: Keep walking step-by-step towards your goals. Love each other on the journey.
Then all the animals said: We are more than our bodies. You are too. Please keep our Earth clean. We love you.
Of course, Max has always said those things to us, he is, after all, a shaman-cat, and our karma partner, now and always. But I imagine that when all the animals say that to us, that includes the rattlesnakes.

 "I do not see a delegation for the four-footed. I see no seat for the eagles. We forget and we consider ourselves superior, but we are after all a mere part of the Creation...The elements and the animals, and the birds, they live in a state of grace. They are absolute, they can do no wrong. It is only we, the two-leggeds, that can do this.  And when we do this to our brothers, then we do the worst in the eyes of the Creator."
                                   Oren Lyons, to the United Nations  (1977

Read about this and much more in the new book: How to Get to Heaven (Without Really Dying), Wisdom From a Near-Death Survivorwhich can be purchased on this page or online, along with the first book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond – or ask for them at your local bookstore!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Animation Design in Flash! Fun BGs & Characters

It's fun to build a throng of Flashy fans and devotees, populating a plastic Everytown, U.S.A, occupying Flash's world of layers and to see'em bigger.

Here's our jubilant crowd of up-close enthusiastic small-town pan fans and well-wishers, rushing past as you pass...'s a funny little smattering of distant sidewalk onlookers, and a rather anonymous mulling mid-range crowd...

...and here's where we started – with a typical, fun cartoon street, which Flash's plasticity can give an activity all by itself.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day, You Beautiful Earth You!

When I was a kid, there was no environmental movement to speak of. There was very little awareness or consideration of what the exploitation of our global resources might lead to. Everything seemed to be such a long ways away, and it appeared that there would always be plenty to go around.
The world has gotten a lot smaller since then. More "right sized," in fact, in the sense that so many more of us are aware of the real circumstances we're generating; the way our combined consciousness is shaping the conditions we can see so easily around us on our little planet. Our little planet that's everything to us.
Years ago, when I was a much less positive person, I drew underground comix in a very sarcastic vein. I thought I was making valid points that people needed to know about. Sometimes I was even accidentally a little prescient (see above pre-global warming comic...edited for the faint of heart). Now I recognize that just actually doing something about it, even if it's just the little I can do, makes much more sense than publicly complaining about it.
So how's about today let's everybody start by taking the original Outdoor Life Conservation Pledge, (adapted for global application)? Raise your right hand, Global Earth Scouts, and repeat after me:
I give my pledge as a [an American] Human Being to save & faithfully to defend from waste the natural resources of my [country] planet - its air, soil, and minerals, its forests, waters & wildlife.
Now, all we gotta do is do something about it, big or small, do something about it – today, and everyday, if at all possible.
Here's the link to a cool American Experience playing this weekend, all about how the environmental movement came to be.
Some good action agencies, The National Resources Defense Council; Environmental Action; World Wildlife Fund:
Thanks, and Happy Earth Day everybody!

Codename: Kids Next Door – More 2x4 Tech Weaponry!

The KND had a never-ending need for new and specialized weaponry; here are a few of the more popular and often-used mayhem-makers that Numbah 2 cooked up in his junkyard lab...

The Phlazer was one of the first 2x4 weapons I "invented," a homemade light amplifying blaster that I'm not sure, but it just might really work...

...the Gumgunner (those gumballs hurt!)

...the Razorgun, for getting into close shaves. Adults with facial hair, look out!

...and Numbah Three's favorite, the Teddyzooka...nothing like getting a teddy bear right smack in the kisser!