Sunday, April 23, 2023

Want OR Need?

     AS we become increasingly able to sense, and thus 'step back' from impulsive behaviours - when this stepping back is our spiritual practice - we'll begin to see when what we're about to do, has little or no bearing on what actually needs to be done for our own & often others' immediate & long-term benefit. Impulsive wants include: checking our digital devices MANY times a day - including the most inappropriate occasions; 'anxiety eating' - I know this one well; rearranging furniture in one's room, immediately before exams - I've done this more than once!
ur conditioned, compulsive busyness is a type of bypassing - futile attempts to escape psycho-social dysfunction - and/or - avoiding the call to spiritual maturation, through activities that - under normal contexts - have survival benefits. But if we become serious about this practice, then choice gaps become increasingly regular & obvious, and increasingly we'll choose wisely, realizing & focusing on what we actually need, AND gain freedom from our past negative conditioning that drives us toward wants

hat loaded, triggering word, 'spiritual' keeps popping up! But if we're able to set aside 'exclusivist' rhetoric (
HIGHLY recommend: Rami Shapiro. “Holy Rascals. Advice for Spiritual Revolutionaries.” Sounds True, 2017), then we can handle David Rosmarin's definition: Spirituality involves any way at all, of relating to that which is perceived to be sacred, or set apart from the physical world, something metaphysical, something greater than just the mechanics.” If we're blessed with the bandwidth to handle this inclusive definition of spirituality, we might possibly remember (HIGHLY recommend: Tobin Hart. “The Secret Spiritual World of Children: The Breakthrough Discovery that Profoundly Alters our Conventional View of Children’s Mystical Experiences.” New World Library, 2003), or at least sense, how we're all "spiritual beings having a human experience."

    Spiritual aspirants can be broadly classified into four psychological types: the predominantly emotional (The Path of Love: Bhakti Yoga), the predominantly intellectual (The Path of Knowledge: Jnana Yoga), the physically active (The Path of Work: Karma Yoga), and the meditative (The Path of Meditation: Raja Yoga). There are four primary yogas designated to ‘fit’ each psychological type.
    ... these categories are not airtight compartments. Indeed, it would be psychologically disastrous for anyone to be completely emotional, completely intellectual, completely active or completely meditative. Each yoga blends into the next; each yoga balances & strengthens the others.”
The Four Yogas

    Too often, our understandings have been limited by culture, religious debate, & the human tendency to put ourselves at the center.” Richard Rohr


     So our 'human limitations' may have us shut down & run for the hills simply from reading the word 'spiritual,' 'psychological,' or 'yoga,' - or even 'Richard Rohr,' because "he's a Catholic!" - OR - because "he's no Christian! - sounds just like one of them Buddhists!!"
those who earnestly travel a spiritual path might be totally confused by an equally earnest traveler with a very different 'psychological type' eg between a strongly intellectual type and a strongly emotional type. These two may well speak equally passionately, YET very differently of their experience, and perhaps also behave somewhat differently. So there is tremendous need for humility & an open mind-heart - both of which appear to be held up in container ships just offshore.

    "wisdom doesn’t come from building clever structures or thinking things up. It comes from being ground down, because the only way to get to the truth is to let yourself be cracked open so that the truth can get to you.”
Peter Kingsley “A Book of Life.” Catafalque Press, 2021.


    “All that is necessary to awaken to yourself as the radiant emptiness of spirit is to stop seeking something more or better or different, and to turn your attention inward to the awake silence that you are.” Adyashanti 

    “Bringing order to clutter, I begin to see, is ... about balancing the twin poles of spiritual life: cherishing life & holding it sacred, while knowing that it will pass away. It’s about learning to care for the things & people that are precious to me — and, when it’s time, freely letting them go.”    Anne Cushman

“There is a light in this world, a healing spirit
more powerful than any darkness we may encounter.
We sometimes lose sight of this force
when there is suffering, too much pain.
Then suddenly, the spirit will emerge through
the lives of ordinary people who hear a call
and answer in extraordinary ways.”
Mother Theresa

Saturday, April 22, 2023

No Worries Old Friends!

    Serious, skillful, regular meditation practice gradually & progressively ensures awakening - an endless process which is usually very different from what we had initially hoped for, yet is what we needed. "But meditation is not for everybody."
    Many older folks are rigidly stuck in a closed loop of negative thought patterns. Most of them have no interest in meditation or any other deeply meaningful spiritual practice, but might be open to one or two sessions of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy.

    "I think the Greeks had a more subtle understanding of drugs: we tend to either celebrate them or condemn them. They called them ‘pharmakon,’ and a ‘pharmakon’ could be either a blessing or a curse, a poison or a medicine. Whether it’s one or the other doesn’t depend on the drug so much as the context in which it’s used and the reasons for which it’s used. The drugs aren’t inherently good or evil; it’s very contextual. And that’s a subtle idea. It's about set & setting. Set & setting definitely affects all drugs.

    Psychedelics offer people benefits, particularly as we age. We become more deeply mired in the grooves of habit, the older we get. We have developed a set of very sophisticated algorithms to get us through the day, get us through arguments with our partners, get us through how we do our work — it all becomes kind of habitual, and very efficient for that reason But there’s a trade-off — habit dulls us to reality. Habit helps you get stuff done, but habit cuts you off from experience, fresh experience, from seeing things with fresh eyes. ... maybe psychedelics are wasted on the young. I know lots of young people who’ve had very powerful and valuable experiences. But I think they have a unique benefit to people as we get older and as we’re thinking about death, as we’re thinking about these spiritual questions, but also as we’re set in our ways and as a result, losing contact with experience. On psychedelics, there’s a kind of cleaning the doors of perception that’s going on.
    There’s a wonderful metaphor that a Dutch neuroscientist working in London gave me. He said, ‘Think of the mind as a snow-covered hill and your thoughts as sleds going down that hill. Over time, the more runs of the sled, the deeper the grooves, and it becomes very hard to go down the hill without getting drawn into the grooves. They become attractors. Think of psychedelic experience as a fresh snowfall that fills all the grooves and allows you once again to go down the hill, along another route, any route you want.’ I thought that was a beautiful metaphor."
Michael Pollan and Katherine May - The Future of Hope 4 - On Being with Krista Tippett :  EXCELLENT Interview

    “It’s important to note that the kinds of problems psychedelics seem to be effective with, have a lot in common. They’re all at the end of the spectrum where people’s thinking becomes too rigid, too trapped in deep grooves of habit, whether mental habit or behavioral habit, people in these loops they can’t break out of.
    And what the psychedelics seem to do is give a real jolt to the system that gives people the kind of perspective on their lives that can actually break the mental habit
    And it needs to be accompanied by lots of therapeutic intervention … these are guided ... People are very carefully prepared in advance, told what to expect, how to deal with difficulties if they come up because frightening things can happen, especially if you’re facing your mortality. And then during the experience, the guides are with you the whole time. … the idea is to basically give you a sense of safety. So you can surrender to what can be a very disturbing set of mental events. And then after the session, you come back, usually the next day … and you have an integration session where you tell the therapist what you saw, what happened, what you’re puzzled by, and with the therapists, you try to come to some interpretation of what’s happened and figure out how you can take the lessons, the insights, and apply them to the conduct of your life." 
Michael Pollan & Chris Bache EXCELLENT interview :


Sunday, April 16, 2023

Beyond Our Wildest Dreams

“The art of peace begins with you.
Work on yourself and your appointed task in the art of peace.
Everyone has a spirit that can be refined,
a body that can be trained in some manner, 
a suitable path to follow.
You are here for no other purpose
than to realize your inner divinity
and manifest your enlightenment.
Foster peace in your own life
and then apply the Art to all that you encounter.”
Ueshiba Sensei, founder of Aikido
“Although the final breakthrough is not in our power,
yet we move toward this end
when we strive for the open mind.
Striving for this objectivity is a difficult movement,
it means leaving behind mental constructs & security blankets
that, until now, we never knew we had…
I know of no other path
than that of the open mind
which leads to this end.”
Bernadette Roberts, contemporary Christian mystic
    It's useful to practice sincerely asking oneself, 'How open-minded am I?' Most of us proudly insist that we're open-minded AND YET "can't" let go of our rigid, long-held ideas (personal/group ego) that keep our mind/heart/life/soul fossilized, and which make no sense at all spiritually or scientifically. When anyone challenges our rigid ego structure, we react aggressively, emotionally, "out of character," and - at the time - believe that our emotional over-reaction is justified & reasonable - life-saving even. After we've calmed down, we might be embarrassed about our weird, childish outburst. And yes, even elderly, well-educated professionals are prone to this. 
    Most of us are, to some degree, psychologically & spiritually wounded & stunted. But instead of recognizing this as a call for psychotherapy & deeper, more meaningful spiritual practice, we instinctively run & hide, angrily branding anything of depth & real significance "too deep, confusing, unscientific, unsubstantiated, subjective, etc," and sink back into the familiar grim 'ordinary unhappiness,' assuming that this is 'as good as it gets.' We simply cannot see when woundedness locks us into a 3-year old's level of maturity who yells, 'I hate you Mommy & Daddy! I'm running away from home now!'

    “We become disabled, unable to function in areas of our lives that evoke feelings we’ve never learned to tolerate. Turning away from this primary pain creates a second, ongoing level of suffering: living in a state of contraction & constricted awareness.”
John Welwood

    “Are we training in how to distract ourselves from inner discomfort or anxiety? Are we training in numbing ourselves in the face of fear, or training in waking up? Training in opening the heart, or training in shutting down?” Gaylon Ferguson

    “We are no longer in a period of history when the inner journey is solely about our own liberation: it is about taking part in a global shift in consciousness. It is about preparing us to act, with compassion, on behalf of this planet & the beings around us." Lama Willa Miller

    I invite you to listen to : - a profound, 55-minute interview with Chris Bache PhD - an intelligent, brave, well-educated, wonderfully wise, well-balanced, grounded explorer of consciousness, with profoundly useful experiences to share with those who are on a meaningful spiritual journey. I base this on having watched at least 5 of his long interviews, and reading his impressive, well-written 2019 book, “LSD and the Mind of the Universe: Diamonds from Heaven.
Ervin Laszlo, in the foreward, states that readers "must be willing to entertain three premises:
    That there is an intelligence behind the things in the universe,
    That there is a purpose exhibited by this intelligence, and
    That it is humanly possible to access some elements of this intelligence and learn some of its purpose."

    Notice how Laszlo writes "entertain premises" - curious & open-minded as in serious science & serious spirituality. Bache does not recommend anyone else use high-dose LSD. My own interest is in how his carefully-conducted psychedelic-mediated experiences closely overlapped with & confirmed the spiritual experiences of past & present serious meditators / contemplatives - mystics, saints, as well as average meditators like myself.
    This interview
provides ample opportunities to observe where you are open-minded - AND - where you remain stuck in your reactive, armored 'small self' / Eckhart Tolle's 'pain body.' 

    When I find myself full of fear or desire, I remember that I am dealing with a brain and nervous system that has been hard-wired for millions of years for these emotions. Then I apply one of my favorite mantras, ‘I’m perfectly human.’ When I sit in meditation as a human being rather than as an individual, I feel I am part of a collective effort on the part of our species to right itself, to find a new sanity. As Robert Thurman says of meditation, ‘It’s evolutionary sport.’ In the light of that big perspective, I thank you for being on my team.” Wes Nisker

    "contemplative practices allow the egoic mind to drop of its own accord, and for you to experience something greater – that direct experience of the vastness of which we are a part." Rabbi Rami Shapiro

    “Spiritual practices are methods that can begin to soften our stance toward our self, toward life in general, and to open us to what transcends the habitual. They are invitations to become intimate with the wisdom of silence and stillness.” Dorothy Hunt. “Ending the Search. From Spiritual Ambition to the Heart of Awareness.” Sounds True, 2018. 


Thursday, April 6, 2023

Where Science and Sacred Meet

    As individuals & as groups, we cling to habitual opinions, beliefs & behaviors for decades past the time we became aware of irrefutable evidence in favor of far better alternatives. There are many reasons for this, perhaps most commonly, we're far more interested & invested in our comfort / status quo & our personal / group identity / ego than in truth eg 'my country - right or wrong.'
    And yet we look back and laugh at surgeons who
in 1846 vigorously & effectively opposed the science proposed by Dr. Semmelweis that they must wash their hands before delivering babies & performing surgery.
Churchill quipped, “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing after they have tried everything else.” Most of us are fiercely proud, quick to rationalize our behavior, despite all evidence to the contrary, AND desperately slow to change!
    But we
CAN always CHOOSE to learn & evolve!

    Below is a short transcript of an excellent lecture by William A. Richards PhD, whose 2015 book, “Sacred Knowledge: Psychedelics and Religious Experiences” was described as: "An inspiring testament to half a century of scientific research and personal exploration into the responsible, beneficial use of psychedelic substances. William A. Richards's work is visionary, personal, and transpersonal, instilled with kindness, deep humanity, and quiet wisdom."

    Psychedelics, wisely and responsibly employed, really are valuable tools in the exploration of consciousness, akin to the telescope in astronomy, or the microscope in biology. Sometimes I have felt like Columbus, having just landed in the West Indies with his primitive maps, and then having somehow been placed in a supersonic jet and shown the vistas of the entire new world, stretching far beyond the wildest fantasies of his imagination, and leaving him almost speechless, with a profound sense of awe. Sometimes, when sitting silently beside research volunteers, when their everyday consciousness has been transcended, and mystical experiences are occurring, it is no exaggeration to say that I humbly feel as though I am sitting beside the Buddha under the Bodhi tree as enlightenment is dawning, or sitting beside St. Paul on the road to Damascus, or beside Isaiah during his temple vision.
    What we are beginning to study here, on this frontier where science & sacred are meeting, truly is profound in its magnitude, its vivid intensity, and its potential relevance. With the best experimental designs we can devise, as we begin to probe this multifaceted field, we are at best novices with very limited conceptual tools and linguistic frameworks.
    I think of Alan Watts’ suggestion: that one reason we have tended to avoid this field of inquiry arises out of the taboo of knowing who you are. That we tend to fear too much knowledge about the mysteries of our own being.
    As I know many of you appreciate, it is common for volunteers, under the action of psychedelics in relatively high dosage, to report phenomena that do not appear to arise from their personal life histories, and that entail different perspectives on time & space. Experiences that call into question some of the most basic assumptions that undergird our normative consensual definition of reality, and the manner in which we customarily define ourselves [self-concepts], and orient ourselves in the world [worldviews]. As expressed by Thomas Kuhn, whether as scientists or philosophers, we really are in the midst of a major paradigm shift at this point in history.
    It is clear that there indeed is a multidimensional cartography of inner space, with many discrete alternate forms of consciousness, and they seem to form a continuum that is influenced by dosage, by personality structure, and the capacity to relinquish ego control, and by the growing edge of a person’s unique personal & spiritual development. Simply expressed, the continuum begins with mild alterations of perception; may deepen to unravel the psychodynamics of personal life; may deepen further to invite participation in visionary or archetypal dramas – the realm of mythology, as presented by Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung; and may deepen even further, into transcendental realms of awareness, in which the everyday self or ego is encompassed into unitive mystical dimensions of mind that usually are experienced as profoundly sacred & eternal. In addition to these stages, there are many unique states of consciousness, about which we know very, very little.
    Although we like to think spatially, and attempt to speak a language that may correlate to phenomena encountered in consciousness, with neuronal structures and biochemical activity, to some extent, it continues to make sense, at least to me, to stress that the experiential content of a particular foray into the world of alternate states is to be found not within the drug, but within the human mind itself. What the human mind is continues to remain a tantalizing mystery, especially as there is good reason to question the reductionistic philosophical assumptions that have tended to prevail in the community of Western scientists, in spite of quantum physics. It is time to take a fresh look at the writings of philosophers such as Henry Bergson, who viewed the human brain more like a television set that receives processes, limits, works with the information, than as a primary source of mental phenomena. Perhaps psychedelic drugs still may be understood simply as skeleton keys that provide access to other realms of human consciousness. The experiences reported, therefore, are not ‘in the drug,’ but rather in and through the mind of the person who is experiencing.
    Now there is a lot of ignorance & lore here, even among those who possess a reasonable personal cache of psychedelic experience. All too often, a person has taken a particular dose of a particular substance, had a particular experience, and then concluded that whatever occurred is ‘what that substance does.’ It is highly probable that even if the person took the same dose of the same substance at another time, there would be a different experience to report, even if it further revealed and extended the themes encountered earlier. The major substances with which I have worked appear to differ from one another not in terms of the experiential content they reveal, but in terms of factors such as required dosage, rapidity of onset and termination, and duration of action. If any particular molecule has a higher probability of facilitating a particular state of consciousness, that only will be established in time, as well-designed, double-blinded research projects are implemented. Does Mescaline produce more vivid colors? Does the DMT in Ayahuasca really produce more images of anacondas? Is the onset of Psilocybin more gentle than LSD? Only patient research will provide the answers we seek."

    Psychedelic Psychotherapy: Insights from 25 Years of Research - William Richards : - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED 56 minute lecture


 Neil Young, performing John Lennon's "Imagine"