Beginnings

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

Its Spring here where I live in western North Carolina in the United States. In my yard early flowers are blooming, the grass has been growing and was cut for the first time yesterday – what a wonderful smell. The trees have mostly leafed out and everything is that beautiful shade of light green. Today the sky is a cerulean blue and I can hear lots of birds singing this morning. I feel like I live in a magical world on days like this one.   The world is coming alive again after a long winter’s rest. The cycle of life begins – the wheel turns.

Endings precede beginnings. In nature we accept Winter which brings harsh weather and cold, dark days. In our own lives, we have difficulty seeing endings as simply part of a cycle. Most of us experience personal, emotional Winters as the days and years pass on by. It helps if we can stop in the midst of a tough lesson and realize “this” is simply part of a cycle – an ending. The sooner we can let go and accept what is, the sooner our suffering will end. We tend to cling to our comfort zone – what’s familiar, even long after it serves us well. Change can feel like hell sometimes.

And, as Neale Donald Walsch says in the above quote, “Life begins” once we can step into a new place, both inside and outside. Spring has arrived.

Namaste.

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The Leap

The Leap

The Psychology of Spiritual Awakening

By

Steve Taylor 

Excerpts

Introduction

This book describes how I came to learn that spiritual awakening is far from uncommon. It describes how I came to learn that it doesn’t just happen to Eastern sages but to seemingly ordinary people in all walks of life.

I began to detach the concept of awakening from religious and even spiritual traditions. I began to see it as a particular state of mind and being that could be interpreted in terms of spiritual traditions but didn’t necessarily belong to them.

Throughout history, the shift into wakefulness has often happened to people who were part of religious or spiritual traditions, and so it was usually interpreted in terms of those traditions.

Different spiritual traditions explain and interpret this shift in different ways, emphasizing different aspects. It’s as if they offer different views of the same landscape, magnifying, filtering and selecting certain features. But when the shift occurs outside spiritual traditions – that is, in people who don’t have a spiritual background and so don’t have a ready framework within which to interpret it – it’s as if we’re given a view of the landscape itself, in a more naked and unconstructed state.

There’s a great deal of confusion about enlightenment – partly because it has been interpreted in so many different ways .  Many people have an impulse to wake up but, because of this general confusion, they aren’t completely sure where they’re heading or where they should go.

. . . the original state of human beings was one of natural wakefulness, in which people experienced the sacredness and aliveness of the world around them and felt a strong connection with nature and the whole cosmos.

However, beginning about six thousand years ago, a “Fall” occurred. This was a shift of being, the development of a new kind of human self, with an intensified sense of individuality and a new sense of separateness. For the first time, human beings experienced themselves as separate from nature, from their own communities, and even from their own bodies. For the first time, they experienced themselves as individual entities living within their own mental space, with the rest of reality “out there,” on the other side.

It caused a massive upsurge in brutality, conflict, and oppression. It gave rise to hierarchal societies and constant warfare between different groups. It led to the oppression of women and a new, repressive, guilt ridden attitude toward sex.

Our ancestors lost a sense of nature’s sacredness and aliveness, a sense of connection to the cosmos, and the awareness of the spirit-force pervading everything. We “fell” out of a natural state of harmony into a state of anxiety and discord.

Spiritual awakening is, in some ways, a reversal of this process. It means undoing the pathology of separateness and duality and regaining the sense of connection and harmony that earlier peoples experienced. However, at the same time, spiritual awakening entails a “leap” into a new state of being.

In many ways, awakened individuals experience a higher-functioning state that makes life more fulfilling, exhilarating, and meaningful than it may appear in a normal state of being. As a result of this internal shift, they often make major changes to their lives. They begin new careers, hobbies, and relationships. They feel a strong impulse to make a positive contribution to the world, to live in meaningful and purposeful ways, rather than trying to satisfy their own desires, enjoy themselves, or pass the time.

We examine the evidence that this collective Leap is already under way and suggest that what we know as wakefulness could be the next phase in the evolution of consciousness on our planet. In other words, awakened people may be prematurely experiencing a state that is latent in many other people – and in the whole human race collectively – and that will become more common as time goes by, and will one day become the norm.

Our own conscious efforts to awaken are important to intensify the shift that is already under way. Our own personal evolution will contribute to the evolution of our whole species.

Falling Asleep, Longing to Awaken

What we wake up from is essentially a state of sleep – a state of constricted, limited awareness, and of discord and suffering. This state is so familiar to us that we assume it’s natural and normal, and we take it for granted. But, in fact, this state is aberrational, even pathological. It’s a kind of madness that we confuse with sanity simply because we experience real sanity so rarely.

There are different degrees of sleep, just as there are different degrees of wakefulness. Some people are more asleep than others, just as some people are more awake than others.

The main aspect of this experience [being asleep] is our sense of separation and disconnection.

One of the strangest characteristics of our sleep state is the associational chatter – the endless stream of images, memories, anticipations, reflections, and snippets of information – that usually runs through our minds when we don’t occupy our attention with external things. It seems to be a quirk of our strongly developed ego. It also seems to be related to our sense of ego-isolation and the constrictedness of our sense of self, almost as if our thoughts become restless and agitated in response to the atmosphere of anxiety and lack of space.

. . . we spend much of our time in a state of abstraction. Rather than live in the world, we live in our minds. We perceive the world dimly, through the mist of our thought-chatter and filters of pre-existing concepts. Rather than live in a state of mindfulness, genuinely experiencing the reality of our sensations and perceptions, we live in a state of elsewhereness.

The internal mental atmosphere of the sleep state is a negative one. It’s a dark, dank, and oppressive place, the mental equivalent of a small room with no windows and hardly any light.

. . .our ego-separateness creates a sense of lack, of “something missing,” as well as a sense of isolation.

In our sleep state there is also fear. Our separateness creates a sense of vulnerability and insecurity, of being threatened by the world and by other people. There is also usually an underlying fear of death.


OK, I think those are enough quotes to give you a sense of this book.  All the above excerpts were taken from the introduction through page 16!

Different types of awakening, the aftermath of awakening, what it means to be awake and collective awakening are explored in detail.  Waking up is our gift to ourselves and to the world.

Namaste.

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What’s Real?

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.” – Albert Einstein

We are taught from an early age what our parents, teachers, religion and/or society believe is real. As we age we may challenge some of those basic teachings and form others we integrate into our own, adult worldview. So, here we are today with some firm beliefs about our world and what’s real and what’s not.

I’d like to ask you to examine all those basic beliefs – all the things you are sure you know.

Many people don’t believe astrology is real. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I am a practicing astrologer – I’ve studied astrology for many years. It’s a very complex subject and difficult to learn. When I’m reading a chart for a client I let everything I’ve learned run in the background and read the chart from an intuitive space. Since intuition comes into play, does that make it less real? As you can see from the above quote, Einstein held the intuitive mind in high regard. I can assure you astrology is very real. Science cannot explain it. And, it is very real.

Many people are studying consciousness these days. Legitimate academic studies using scientific models. Many believe consciousness is the ground underlying all that is. While scientific methods are used to study it, science cannot explain it. Yet, most of us would acknowledge it is very real. Something is there even though we have a difficult time even articulating what it might be. Religions may talk about god, usually conceived of in some human, though other worldly way. Science may look for it in the cosmos or in particle accelerators. That something common to everything. Is it real?

The definition of real is: actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed. Which brings me to imagination. It’s the most curious thing to me that we normally don’t think imagination is real. We imagine our way through life every second of every day. Where do we believe all those thoughts come from?

I would suggest that intuition and imagination have a whole lot to do with consciousness. A “sacred gift” – very Real. All the rest comes from our “faithful servant” – the rational mind – sort of our onboard computer. Great at processing information – not who we are – not Real.

Namaste.

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Challenges

“Life always gives you what you need.” – Eckhart Tolle

We all have our comfort zone. You know that place where life seems to rock along. You are comfortable, happy, contented and maybe every now and again wonder if there’s more. Life has a way of presenting us with challenges – it’s how we evolve. Challenges are a necessary part of our growth. Remember the first day of school, learning to drive a car, your first date, sex the first time with another person! The first day of your first job. I’m sure you can add to the list of challenges – times when you were definitely out of your comfort zone.

When we look back on all those times, we can usually smile and see it all as a part of growing up or simply growing. When we are in the midst of those new experiences, they can be incredibly frightening. Anytime we are in uncharted waters it’s scary.

Spiritual awakening is found right in the middle of those challenging situations – they act as a catalyst for a shift in consciousness. You may find every challenge, every obstacle that life seems to put in your path is an opportunity for becoming present – living in the Now as Eckhart Tolle says.

We can also fall into the habit of looking to people, places, things or circumstances for fulfillment, protection or happiness. Anytime we expect the world out there to make us happy we are placing an impossible demand on it and setting ourselves up for perpetual frustration. Instead allow the world to help you become more conscious.

Many of our challenges – personal and collective – have been created by human unconsciousness, either our own or that of other people. If we can shift our view we realize our life is not determined by what happens to us, but by how we respond to what happens.

It seems to me life is like being in school. As we encounter challenges, it sometimes helps to stop and ask ourselves: what is the lesson here? I signed up for this class and clearly I have something to learn because this is way out of my comfort zone. With a little inner exploration, we can bring the light of consciousness to the situation and fully integrate the lesson that’s up. Our comfort zone has just expanded. We are a little more conscious and a little more awake.

Namaste.

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Exquisite Paradox

“The most exquisite paradox . . . as soon as you give it all up, you can have it all. As long as you want power, you can’t have it. The minute you don’t want power, you’ll have more than you ever dreamed possible.” – Ram Dass

Power. We all want to think we are powerful beings. And, viewed one way we are. We are made of stardust, magical creatures, filled with love, here to evolve. The power I’m thinking about is different.

Our minds have the illusion they are in control of our lives. For years I honestly believed if I was smart enough, worked hard enough and followed all the rules, then I would be powerful, happy, content. Again, viewed one way that illusion was an ok way to live. When I woke up from that illusion, I realized I had truly been living in some kind of dream world. I met a therapist somewhere along the way who suggested I might want to consider “waking up and living more authentically.” I honestly didn’t know what she was talking about. That was many years ago. I’ve been “waking up” ever since.

“The minute you don’t want power, you’ll have more than you ever dreamed possible.” How can that be? What aspect inside each of us wants power? Usually, it’s a part that was wounded as a child or wounded somewhere along the way. A part that feels really afraid or ugly or stupid or ignored and believes that power will offer safety and love. So, once that part can feel safe and is lovingly integrated into all of who you are, the whole world opens up. Now you can live fully and authentically from your loving heart.

We can soothe that power-hungry part of us with the guidance of a good therapist; meditation; inner child work; spending time alone in nature; and, many, many other ways help is available. It’s the greatest gift we can give ourselves and the world – a peaceful, loving heart. And, “you’ll have more than you ever dreamed possible.”

Namaste.

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Beginner’s Mind

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” – Suzuki

When we are in a state of not knowing what to do or what will happen, it can be scary. Easy to get into a fearful place. Making decisions can be difficult. It helps to remember courage is a conscious choice to act in spite of being afraid. In certain situations, we simply can’t know all the facts. There is no right decision based on analysis since all the facts are impossible to know. Most tough decisions fall into this category.

It can be a should I go or should I stay decision – is it love or not. The heart refuses to be analyzed. Or, should I leave this job for a new one – lots of unknowns. Am I saving enough money? Am I saving too much money and not having enough fun? You get the idea.

That’s where the fear comes in. Our mind is sort of short circuited – it knows there is no way to come up with the “right” answer. Now what?

It helps if we can stand back and see we are at the threshold of creation. Can I let go – let go of my desire to think my way through this situation – and tune into my heart and my intuition and simply trust the knowing inside? Beginner’s mind is an attitude of openness, curiosity, lack of any preconceived notions and opening to many possibilities.

It also helps to realize that no decision is probably the worst thing. That means fear has paralyzed us. Our mind wants to hunker down and do nothing. That won’t work long term, we can’t live in a box. At some point, hopefully, we let go, trust our heart and go for it.

It’s easier to recoup from a decision that didn’t turn out exactly as you wish than it is to recoup from a lifetime of fearful inactivity.

Namaste.

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Life Is Like Music

“For unless one is able to live fully in the present, the future is a hoax. There is no point whatever in making plans for a future which you will never be able to enjoy. When your plans mature, you will still be living for some other future beyond. You will never, never be able to sit back with full contentment and say, ‘Now, I’ve arrived!’ Your entire education has deprived you of this capacity because it was preparing you for the future, instead of showing you how to be alive now.”

And

“Life is like music for its own sake. We are living in an eternal now, and when we listen to music we are not listening to the past, we are not listening to the future, we are listening to an expanded present.” – Alan Watts

Alan Watts was a British philosopher who interpreted Eastern thought for a Western world. He died in 1973. Wisdom certainly does stand the test of time.

It’s Spring here where I live in the mountains of western North Carolina. The migrating birds are coming back. There is an ongoing party of birds at the feeders outside my office window pretty much any time of the day. They are hungry this time of year. Hungry for life. Time to mate, build nests and raise their young.

The daffodils and other early Spring flowers and trees are blooming. Sure signs the dark of Winter has cycled off for another year and the warmth and light of Spring is here again. It amazes me how well animals and plants in the natural world have adapted to their lives. They naturally live in the now. This day, this sunshine.

How much of our time do we spend in the past and the future and how little time do we spend right here, right now? Real life, this moment, sort of slips right on by most of the time without us even being present. The reason I think is that most of us are not living in a now that makes our heart’s sing. We don’t want to be “here.” We do the responsible thing. Balancing head and heart, desire and responsibility is a lifelong challenge. In our society all too often the yearning of our heart is relegated to the future. I’ll be happy and do what I truly want – someday. We lose balance today.

Consider practicing living life just like you listen to music. Tune into a “song” that makes your heart sing. Gardening, time by the ocean, walking in the woods, creating, talking with a child, playing catch with your dog, enjoying friends, feeling the sun on your face, your own personal favorites! Learn how to be alive now and listen to your heart in this moment.

Namaste.

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The Spring Equinox – Ostara

In pagan times people celebrated the path of the Sun from high in the sky and warm to low in the sky and cool – the seasons. In this way they honored the growth cycle of crops – planting, tending, harvesting and allowing the land to rest. Many pagans saw time as one eternal whole. The god is born of the eternal goddess, dies, and is reborn.   A life well lived was lived in harmony and rhythm with the cycles of the earth. These celebrations are thought to have existed for 12,000 years, maybe longer.

The Spring Equinox – Ostara (o-STAHR -uh) – is March 20, 2017. The days and nights are equal – a magic time – the veils between the worlds are thin. To astrologers this is considered the true beginning of the New Year. The first day of Spring when the Sun moves from Pisces, the last sign of winter, into Aries, the first sign of spring. When light again triumphs over darkness.

In many cultures the spring equinox myths concerned trips the deities made to the underworld and their struggle to return from the land of the dead back to earth. When they do eventually return to the world of the living, they have a new life, both literally and figuratively. This idea of life renewed plays heavily in the symbolism of the holiday. Some ancient cultures honored the goddess of spring – Eostre – for which the Christian holiday of Easter is named. The Norse and others honored their virgin goddess and celebrated her mating with the young god. The child of this union was born at Yule, the Winter Solstice.

You can see many parallels between the old pagan rituals and modern Christian holidays. Whatever the early Christians couldn’t stamp out, they adopted as a holy day with their own twist.

Eggs have been associated across all pagan cultures with this holiday. New life, fertility. The darkness of winter is behind us and the life of spring has come to us again. Birds lay eggs in the spring. The yellow/orange yolk of the egg was a symbol of the sun god – the shell, a symbol of the goddess and taken together a symbol of rebirth.

The tradition of decorating eggs is also very old. Originally sacred symbols were drawn with bee’s wax, then the eggs were dyed naturally and the wax removed. They were considered powerful amulets bringing wisdom and strength.

Mostly this equinox was celebrated as a new beginning – new life. The darkness of winter is over. The sun god shines again. In honor of this mystical time and your own soul, consider tuning in – what is ready to be born in your own life. The gods and goddesses are calling!

Namaste.

 

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Food of the Gods

Food of the Gods

The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge

A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution

By

Terence McKenna

 

I recently read this book originally published in 1992 while doing some research on psychoactive plants and their use in healing and spiritual traditions. I was the right age in the 60s and 70s but missed the whole psychedelic experience. Terence McKenna was a big voice in the 90s advocating for legalizing marijuana and other plants that had been used in ancient rituals since the beginning of life on earth.

In this book, he makes a case for his theory that human evolution is tied to the availability and acceptance of the use of psychoactive plants. That might at first sound like an “out there” claim. His theory is worth considering. So, here are some excerpts from the introduction.

Psychoactive plants have been on the earth for a very long time. Logically, we can assume that animals and early humans consumed the plants. The psychoactive compounds in the early human diet directly influenced the rapid reorganization of the brain’s information processing capacities and could well have been responsible for the emergence of human self-reflection. We know that human brain size suddenly increased. These plants could have enhanced our information processing activity and environmental sensitivity and thus contributed to this sudden expansion.

At a later stage these same plants could have been a catalyst in the development of imagination.

The Garden of Eden, eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. This symbol or metaphor has been given many meanings by the philosophers and spiritual teachers of our time. What if it is a symbol for our consumption of psychoactive plants that gave us knowledge of the transcendent, helping us understand our origins and place in nature?

McKenna traces human advancement from these earliest of stages up to today. He shows how the acceptance or not of psychoactive plants shaped each of the cultures he has studied.

Why, as a species, are we so fascinated by altered states of consciousness? What has been their impact on our esthetic and spiritual aspirations? What have we lost by denying the legitimacy of each individual’s drive to use substances to experience personally the transcendental and the sacred?

The suppression of the natural human fascination with altered states of consciousness and the present perilous situation of all life on earth are intimately and causally connected. When we suppress access to shamanic ecstasy, we close off the refreshing waters of emotion that flow from having a deeply bonded, almost symbiotic relationship to the earth.

When asked how frequently he used psychoactive plants, he said once or twice a year. He was serious in his belief that if we each had a spiritual altered state experience, it would shift each of us and therefore shift the way we live in this world.

A sharp distinction is drawn between psychoactive plants, occurring naturally, and manufactured drugs and alcohol. Alcohol because it is legal and widely used as an escape mechanism is a product of the dominator culture. Rather than expanding consciousness and giving an experience of the transcendent, it imprisons and dulls.

He feels fundamentalist Christianity and their values have corrupted our government. The government acts as an enforcing arm for the values of right wing fundamentalism. The right is currently determining our food and drug preferences.

We have lost the ability to be swayed by the power of myths, and our history should convince us of the fallacy of dogma. What we require is a new dimension of self-experience. The age of imagination is dawning. The shamanic plants and the worlds that they reveal are the worlds from which we imagine that we came long ago, worlds of light and power and beauty that in some form or another lie behind the visions of all the world’s great religions.

We must reject the image of ourselves as that of a creature guilty of sin and hence deserving of exclusion from paradise. Paradise is our birthright and can be claimed by any one of us. Nature is not our enemy, to be raped and conquered. Nature is ourselves, to be cherished and explored. Shamanism has always known this and has taught the path required allies – the hallucinogenic plants and the mysterious teachings that lie in the nearby dimension of ecstatic beauty and understanding that we have denied ourselves.

So, there you have it. McKenna has some very interesting ways of looking at the world. Many of his lectures are on YouTube if you want to explore him and his ideas further.

I am a strong advocate for personal freedom of choice. I agree with him that if I choose to have a spiritual, conscious expanding experience which a naturally occurring plant can provide, then I should be able to legally have that experience.

And, I agree with him that the religious right is way too mixed up in our laws. Whatever happened to the separation of church and state?

Namaste.

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You Are The Sun

north-carolina-blue-ridge-mountain-autumn-sunrise-burning-sun-crests-mountains-lights-up-sky-above-as-seen-434218861You are the Sun and the Moon and all the planets. In the old days, they were all Gods, calling to us – calling us home – to ourselves. The Sun calls to that part of you that is your will, who you really are inside, the real you, your power urge and self-expression. It’s the part of you that gets you going and energizes you.

Where I live the back of my house faces East, I watch the Sun rise every morning from my porch. I can totally understand why people worshipped the Sun many lifetimes ago. We go from the darkness of night to the gently approaching dawn. The early dawn is often times spectacular. Then the Sun with all its warmth and brilliant light greets us at the beginning of a new day as it rises from the mountain range.

It occurred to me this morning as I was drinking my tea and watching nature’s morning show, the Sun is a powerful symbol of life. It fills us up every morning with a renewed sense of the joy at being alive. I don’t know where I came from or where I’m going. I’m starting to figure out who I am – sort of. In this magical sunrise moment – this Now – it doesn’t matter at all. I can simply feel the warmth and hear the Sun God calling me home to my true self. Yes, the Sun does speak. Did you ever notice how many birds just love to sing at sunrise?

Consider taking a moment as you begin each day to consciously feel the warmth of the Sun and its symbolic meaning – life, your unique, one of a kind life – is being celebrated by the Gods. The Sun is always there supporting you and reminding you of the pure joy of being alive on this beautiful blue planet.

Namaste.

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