Dreaming The Dark: Technologies of Immanence

March 10, 2017 § 3 Comments

jefferson-muncy-visions[“Visions” by Jefferson Muncy]

“Magic is the technology/psychology of immanence, of understanding that everything is connected.”

~ Starhawk, “Dreaming the Dark: Magic, Sex & Politics.”

Before advertising stole our souls and scientific materialism denied its existence, dogmatic religious institutions held our souls hostage. The result has been a continually morphing and adapting form of systematic soul erasure in the Western world.

Author & activist Starhawk calls this “removing content.” She notes that it allows for power relationships in which human beings are exploited, and for a worldview that results in the exploitation of nature, because the inherent value of being has been denied.

Compartmentalized Sanity by KingaBritschgi[KingaBrit]

“I call this consciousness estrangement,” Starhawk details, “because its essence is that we do not see ourselves as part of the world. We are strangers to nature, to other human beings, to parts of ourselves. We see the world as made up of separate isolated nonliving parts that have no inherent value. Among things inherently separate and lifeless, the only power relationship possible is manipulation and domination.

“As we become separate, and are manipulated as objects, we lose our own sense of self worth, our belief in our own content, and acquiesce in our own exploitation.”(Dreaming the Dark.”)

In this worldview emptied of spirit, a tree becomes merely timber to be measured in feet, given value only by its profitability; not its being, its beauty, or its part in the larger ecosystem.

Considering that Western society sees virtually nothing as sacred, it’s easy to see why we are poised on the brink of collective self-destruction.

[Robin Wood]

And so an effectively soulless society is created, inhabited by shells who struggle to see their own value beyond doing & having. A sense of nonreality permeates our lives. As my dear poetry mentor, Barry Spacks, once phrased it: “Waiting to arrive, we’ve been here all along.”

“We live our lives feeling powerless & inauthentic—feeling that the real people are somewhere else, that the characters on the daytime soap operas or the conversations on late-night talk shows are more real than the people and conversations in our lives; believing that the movie stars, the celebrities, the rock stars, the People Magazine-people live out the real truth and drama of our times, while we exist as shadows, and our unique lives, our losses, our passions, which cannot be counted out or measured, which were not approved, or graded, or sold to us at a discount, are not the true value of this world.”

[“Blessed Art Thou” by Kate Kretz]

Starhawk notes that estrangement permeates our society so strongly that to us it seems to be consciousness itself. Even the language for other possibilities has disappeared or been deliberately twisted.

“Yet another form of consciousness is possible. Indeed, it has existed from earliest times,  underlies other cultures, and has survived even in the West in hidden streams,” Starhawk notes.

“This is the consciousness I call immanence—the awareness of the world and everything in it as alive, dynamic, interdependent, interacting and infused with moving energies: a living being, a weaving dance.”

img[Victor Tongdee]

“Magic is a word that makes people uncomfortable,” notes Starhawk, “so I use it deliberately, because the words we are comfortable with, the words that sound acceptable, rational, scientific, and intellectually sound, are comfortable precisely because they are the language of estrangement.”

She details that magic can be very prosaic—a leaflet, a lawsuit. Anything that changes consciousness at will. It can also be esoteric—inner work, interacting with the cosmos at large. At its heart, magic is moving energies.

“Ironically, as estranged science and technology advance, they have begun to bring us back to a consciousness of immanence. Modern physics no longer speaks of separate, discrete atoms of dead matter, but of waves of energy, probabilities, patterns that change as they are observed; it recognizes what shamans & witches have always known: that matter & energy are not separate forces, but different forms of the same thing.”

42-46209404.jpg__800x600_q85_crop

Starhawk defines: “To say something is sacred is to say that we respect, cherish and value it for its own being.”

In a world stripped of sacredness, it is a revolutionary act to see the innate beauty and value in being—one’s own and others’—to cherish & respect, to view life with reverence. When we remove the veil of Western materialism, the world comes alive again; and anything is possible.

This paradigm shift—from viewing reality as composed of separate, isolated, nonliving parts; from seeking power-over-–must be replaced by a worldview that acknowledges the living ecosystem of our dynamic inter-connectivity, to seeking power from within.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the survival of our species depends on it. And change starts within. Like seeds, we dream in the dark earth, but inside us we hold a blueprint for blooming.

So let us feel into our own aliveness today, let us expand our attention to include our own being; let’s look for it in others, in animals and plants. The world is shot through with immanence… for those who care to see.

ashes to snow, elephant, gregory colbert, empathy art[Gregory Colbert, “Ashes & Snow” series.]

If you liked this post, check out:

Beyond Division: Studies in Bliss”

“Unveiling The Mystery of The Higher Self”

Connectivity Through Form”

Carl Marx described man as being estranged from his Gattungswesen (“species-essence”). 

Fantasy, Reality & The Wabi-Sabi of Self Love

October 18, 2015 § 9 Comments

By Tai WoodvilleAneta Ivanova, ode to the seaAneta Ivanova, “Ode to the Sea.”

Loving ourselves is a daily practice.

We often think of self-love as a state of being — either we have it or we don’t. But I have learned through much struggle over the years that self-love is actually a verb, an action. It is a choice we make anew each day to take care of ourselves, to believe in ourselves & to treat ourselves with dignity, kindness & respect. When we see the dignity in ourselves it is easier to see & honor it in others.

In my life I have loved—and at times been obsessed with—perfection. Like so many who appreciate & feel moved by beauty & art, I become easily attached to symmetry & consistency.

fibanocci spiral

In the Platonic tradition there is a realm of ideal forms. This mental plane is a source of great inspiration & imagination, a place of pure potential. Yet when fantasy meets reality, we often feel disconcerted by the discrepancy.

We judge our lives, ourselves as ugly.

edward honaker, depression photographs, struggle, angstEdward Honaker

We as humans are conceptual architects. We are constantly constructing our relationship to reality—and thereby reality itself—with the story we tell ourselves. We build frameworks & points of reference. But we must watch not to build prisons.

I find my negative judgments & consequential emotional pain most often centers around where the real meets the ideal & falls short. But I am beginning to suspect that, rather than conflicting opposites, one is the spirit of the other.

self-love, roses blooming inside silhouette, double exposure, flowers

The ideal is the grandest possible vision of a thing, but how it shows itself in physical reality is what makes it interesting. It becomes the wabi-sabi ideal, a beautiful expression of organic process, the real in its most thrilling sense: alive.

We must learn to love the real because we are real.  And when we are kind to ourselves we are kinder to others.

1-hannover-double-exposure

Aneta Ivonova, “Hannover.”

Self-Renewal & The Art Of Transformation

May 10, 2014 § 15 Comments

serpents, http://www.unique-design.net/library/myth/serpent.html[Lawrence Turner Design]

“Whenever there is a strong lock used there is something extremely precious hidden. The thicker the Veil, the more valuable the jewel. A hoard of treasure is guarded by a large snake; do not dwell on the hideousness of the snake, contemplate the dazzling and the priceless things you’ll discover in the treasure.”   ~ Rumi 

“Men may rise on stepping-stones of their dead selves to higher things.” ~Alfred Lord Tennyson

“Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” ~ Romans 12:2

Just like a snake, we must periodically shed our outgrown psychic skins.

http://ericasodos.wordpress.com/2012/12/, snake shedding skin

During a time when this need is pressing, the snake becomes uncomfortable. From the outside he may appear sick—his skin dull & ragged. He feels— he knows!—something is wrong & has to change. Something must be done! Intuitively, he begins the shedding process by rubbing his deadened dermis against rough surfaces. It is painful, but he feels compelled. When he is finally free of the outdated layer, he is more luminous & vital than ever!

This natural process reflects our own need to periodically embark upon an inner journey of self-renewal.

Taylor James, human metamorphosis, site credit: http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/human-metamorphosis-15-pics[Taylor James, “Human Metamorphosis”]

When it’s time for a sloughing off of psychic weight—outmoded belief systems, behaviors, situations—we are alerted by a sense of palpable emotional discomfort.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture of distraction, where the numbing of emotional pain is par for the course.

shutterstock_71677819, http://marycrimmins.com/our-ways-of-numbing/[Mary Crimmins, “Our Ways of Numbing”]

Television, comfort food & alcohol are some popular forms of socially acceptable self-numbing. However, those modalities are at least straightforward, in that they are acknowledged as being distractions.

More insidious, because it is rewarded & ennobled, is the “busyness” phenomenon. Because productivity has tangible positive results in one’s life, it’s also an extremely good cover story for not doing much needed inner work.

If we feel emotionally uncomfortable within ourselves & dive headlong into (outer) work, we may feel temporarily better because we are not engaging with the difficult emotions pressing at our awareness. When we come home, we’ve worked hard & are, understandably, tired. The last thing we want to do is engage with challenging questions & uncomfortable emotions. So the “I-worked-hard-I-deserve-it” syndrome sets in—we flip on the TV or the computer, grab a beer—& maintain a vicious cycle of almost unrecognizable escapism that can go on for years.

information-overload, site credit: http://socialmediastrategiessummit.com/blog/the-new-consumer-how-social-media-has-impacted-consumerism/

“For many years,” relates blogger Gabby, in her post “Escapism As A Lifestyle.” “I worked two and three jobs at a time to make ends meet. A few weeks ago, I quit my regular weekend job. It was such a relief to know I wouldn’t be working weekends anymore. I did not expect the panic that would invite itself to my table and have coffee with me in the morning. For me [it had been] a means of escaping. Being so busy I didn’t have the time to look at myself and think about what I really want out of this ‘one wild precious life’.

“I panicked and started filling up my life with other things, just to keep me busy. It took only about two weekends of this before I realized what I was doing. Which is good, because not all that long ago, it may have taken me years to figure out what I was doing.”

escapism_by_kokopa, site credit: http://kokopa.deviantart.com/art/Escapism-371012430[“Escapism” by Kokopa]

Unshed psychic skins begin to take their toll. We feel a vague sense of discomfort that may be hard to name. Perhaps we feel anxious or disconnected from a certain aliveness we recall having once felt, but we’re not sure how to get it back.

“Numbing vulnerability is especially debilitating,” notes Brene Brown, “because it doesn’t just deaden the pain of our difficult experiences; numbing vulnerability also dulls our experiences of love, joy, belonging, creativity and empathy. We can’t selectively numb emotion. Numb the dark and you numb the light.” (“Daring Greatly: How The Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms The Way We Live.”)

hiding-photodream-art, site credit: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/hiding-photodream-art.html[“Hiding”]

Everything living requires renewal. Our cells shed automatically, but our emotional life requires more intentionality. If we don’t consciously process our feelings—heal our old emotional wounds, address our pain & pressing questions—we begin to suffocate under their weight.

Unfortunately, the signs of needing self-renewal mimic the symptoms of depression & anxiety—human experiences which modern psychiatry is all too eager to label a condition, prescribe pills & call it a day.

pills like candy

The blogger of “Spiritual Emergency” writes about her experience of what a traditional western worldview would categorize as schizophrenia, which she processed through a mystical-transformative-shamanic lens. Noting that this approach empowered her to find her true self & center, she observes:

“Mainstream reductionist psychiatrists […] by and large presume that if an experience (such as chronic depression) is unpleasant, it must be stopped or band-aided, but because an experience is painful or difficult, it doesn’t necessarily follow that’s it’s not valuable, or therapeutically worthwhile as a ‘wound which heals’.”

Solar System byTill Gerhard, site credit: https://www.frieze.com/issue/review/altered_states_of_paint/[Till Gerhard, “Solar System“]

There are many times in my own journey when, if I had regarded my feelings of emotional discomfort—or “anxiety & depression” as we commonly define them—as simply a chemical imbalance & not the voice of a buried aspect of myself trying to come through & tell me what was untended in my life, I would never have found that next “trapdoor” into a deepened, expanded level of being.

In our lives, we periodically come across what appear to be ceilings in our personal-growth & sense of wellbeing. They always, however, contain trapdoors. You just have to keep feeling around for where the door to the next level is hidden…

http://www.jodyrobbins.com/hotel-el-ganzo/

Releasing old pain is an essential aspect of the art of self-renewal.

For me, finding that trap door has involved radically honest self-reflection & the willingness to face & experience my unresolved emotional pain head-on. We have to keep in mind that having emotional pain does not make us defective, it makes us human (at least, humans of this current un-enlightened age of Earth).

“Grieving is an intrinsic part of the healing process,” notes psychotherapist Daniel Mackler in “Grieving The Ultimate Loss: Your Imperfect Parents.” “Everybody suffers loss, right from the beginning. The primary loss is the fact that no parent, at least no parent who is not fully enlightened, is perfect. Grieving is long, painful, and confusing, but richly rewarding. Life is not complete unless all traumas are unearthed, grieved, and thus resolved. Those who fail to complete this process live forever in a limbo of partial misery, stuck unconsciously in the past and unable to escape […]

“Most believe that a healthy life feels no pain. This is why the majority are insane. Avoiding all pain is not healthy. Grieving is horribly painful, and totally necessary. Grieving is beautiful.”

http://impressioniartistiche.blogspot.com/2012/12/massimiliano-gasparini.html#.U2g1916Cbq0[Massimiliano Gasparini]

A heart-healing excercise I’ve found helpful is to, in a manner of speaking, go to my heart & “knock there” to see what needs processing. This involves first finding/creating a peaceful, meditative & relaxed state, then putting one’s attention on the area of the heart.

How does it feel? Often, our first response is that we feel nothing. Don’t let this deter you. We live mostly with protectively blocked heart chakras, because our world is harsh & our culture does not encourage inner excavation as the essential part of life’s journey that it is. Keep inquiring. Meditate on the heart & eventually you will begin to receive impressions. What psychic swords are still stuck there?

3 of swords heart

Using symbolic imagery like this is useful. Just as our subconscious communicates with our conscious mind in symbols, so, too, the heart speaks.

Try mentally pulling a psychic sword out of your energetic heart. Who, or what experience, put it there? Asking yourself these kinds of questions can be very useful in identifying the areas of one’s emotional life which need attention. By attention, I mean simply confrontation (identifying & feeling the emotion). This alone will start the process of release & consequently, healing.

Heart in Hand by: Małgorzata Wielek-Mandrela, site credit: http://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-Heart-in-hand/389735/1545830/view[Małgorzata Wielek-Mandrela, “Heart In Hand.”]

The idea of the heart as the locus of man’s emotional life is not accidental. Mystical traditions of both East & West have long embraced the idea of a heart chakra. In today’s climate of materialist cynicism, it’s all too easy to see the heart as simply an organ whose function is to pump blood to the rest of the body.

As with everything, there is an exoteric function to the heart & an esoteric one. The invisible life of the heart is a very real thing. It is truly the compass for our life’s direction. And too often unhealed emotional pain—like a snake’s unshed skin—blocks our connection to our greatest resource.

personal-transformation, site credit: http://www.thechangeblog.com/personal-transformation/[From “6 Steps to Personal Transformation”]

Clearing the emotional cobwebs, which block connection with our internal compass, is a key step in self-renewal.

I am also a strong advocate of art therapy & the cathartic value of creativity. It’s a myth that some people are creative, while others are not. Creativity is inherent in human nature. Some people may have nurtured specific modalities & refined their skills for particular crafts, but everyone can self-express if they simply allow themselves the space to play.

Creativity_Nithyananda, site credit: http://www.projecteve.com/effects-of-and-remedies-for-scatterbrain-creativity/[Nithy Ananda]

Creating a painting, song, collage, poem, short personal essay, etc. expressing the feelings you’ve unearthed in your heart work is richly rewarding. It’s as though one has coughed up one’s pain & caught it in the butterfly net of art, wherein it is transmuted into something positive. Transmutation is a powerful act.

It can be particularly rewarding if you continue to craft a piece from a rough, private catharsis to a polished, artistic offering. My book of poems, “Pollen,” is largely a result of processing my father’s untimely death & the consequent existential crisis that ensued. When readers write to tell me that the work has moved them & helped them with their own process it is doubly rewarding. Like oysters, we can transform our painful sand grains into luminous pearls. Thus is the redemption of art.

oyster, pearl, http://www.livescience.com/32289-how-do-oysters-make-pearls.html

Once the initial malaise has begun to clear through processing, intentional visioning—identifying meaningful goals—is a helpful step to continue momentum.

Vision boards are popular these days for a reason…They’re fun! Compiling representative images of your goals in an inspirational collage is a greatly constructive form of play. More tangible & exciting than a list.

Another method is to work “backwards” by writing down the ways you wish to feel, and then making note of what actions & activities promote this feeling.

vision-crane-fire-postcard-image-vision-boarding, site credit: http://loveyourlifevisionboarding.com[Vision Boarding]

So if you’re feeling stuck, don’t worry! It’s simply time for an internal house cleaning. And Spring is a natural season for it.

If you’re feeling lost, do not lose heart. While it’s true life does not, as is commonly bemoaned, come with instructions, you come with a compass—your own inner guidance system, the heart. The connection has just likely been muted & clogged with unprocessed emotion. A little catharsis & honest self-reflection, followed by constructive action, will do wonders.

If you’re feeling depressed, don’t buy the hype; our society is so afraid of unpleasant feelings, it has instilled in us an unhealthy fear of challenging emotions. Depression, like physical pain, is just our system alerting us that something requires attention. Modern culture is pathologically fixated on happiness, with an equally pathological rejection of unhappy feelings. This is a recipe for disaster! Ironically, the only way to reach true inner peace & wellbeing is to traverse the psychological labyrinth surrounding the proverbial treasure.

These are all simply symptoms of the need for self-renewal, rejoice! And enjoy the journey.

Taylor James, human metaphors is, site credit: http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/human-metamorphosis-15-pics

*Psychologist Daniel Mackler’s website of insightful essays on self-healing is a great self-therapy resource. 

Related articles:

“Navigating the Dark Night Of The Soul,

“The Modern Vision Quest,” 

Soul Retrieval.”

Wabi-Sabi: The Beauty of Imperfection

March 31, 2014 § 29 Comments

By Tai Carmensite credit: www.mindful.org/in-your-life/arts-and-creativity/wabi-sabi-for-artists-designers-poets-philosophers

“Wabi-Sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent & incomplete.” ~ Leonard Koren

“Wabi is the beauty that springs from the creative energy that flows in all things, animate or not. It’s a beauty that, like nature itself, can appear with dark and light, sad and joyful, rough and gentle.” ~ Makoto Ueda

“Beauty is radiant and tactile, not airbrushed.” ~ Joe Hefferon 

The term Wabi-Sabi represents a Japanese aesthetic philosophy that embraces authenticity over perfection.

Characterized by asymmetry, irregularity, simplicity, economy, austerity—modesty & intimacy—wabi-sabi values natural objects & processes as emblems of our transitory existence. Rust, woodgrain, freckles—the texture of life.

grandmothers-hands-todd-fox, site credit: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/grandmothers-hands-todd-fox.html

Developed in the 15th century in reaction to the lavish, ostentatious ornamentation of the aristocracy, wabi-sabi centers around three principals: “nothing is perfect, nothing lasts, and nothing is finished.”

“The initial inspiration for wabi-sabi’s metaphysical, spiritual, and moral principles come from ideas about simplicity, naturalness, and acceptance of reality found in Taoism and Chinese Zen Buddhism,” notes Leonard Koren (“Wabi-Sabi For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers.“)Axel-Vervoordt, site credit: http://designtraveller.blogspot.com/2011/02/wabi-sabi.html

Though the concept of wabi-sabi is vast & elusive, most agree the closest Western translation is “rustic.”

“Wabi” refers to stark, transient beauty, while “sabi” denotes the poetry of natural patina & aging, with undertones of yūgen—profound grace and subtlety. Age, damage & natural processes are not seen as flaws, but as deepening & enriching an object’s beauty & profundity.

site credit: http://www.shohin-europe.com/ARTICLES-wabisabi.htm

It is not only natural process that wabi-sabi celebrates, but subtlety & suggestion.

“Wabi-sabi is underplayed and modest,” details Robyn Griggs Lawrence, “the kind of quiet, undeclared beauty that waits patiently to be discovered. It’s a fragmentary glimpse: the branch representing the entire tree …. the moon 90 percent obscured behind a ribbon of cloud. It’s a richly mellow beauty that’s striking but not obvious, that you can imagine having around you for a long, long time…”

Leaves Explored, by: Byron Jorjorian, site credit: www.byronjorjorian.com/detail/6504.html

Intentionality is key.

“Wabi-sabi is never messy or slovenly,” adds Lawrence. “Worn things take on their magic only in settings where it’s clear they don’t harbor bugs or grime. One senses that they’ve survived to bear the marks of time precisely because they’ve been so well cared for throughout the years.” rural oak bowl by holzfurhaus via etsy

To find beauty in imperfection is not intuitive to the Western mind.

Not only have we been raised in a consumeristic culture that values the new & the flawless over the old & the damaged—from objects to people, an obsession fed by airbrush-heavy advertisers—but our entire Western worldview is based on the ancient Greek philosophies of symmetry, proportion & idealized beauty. Not acceptance of what is, but glorification of what could be.

Townley-Discobolus, site credit: http://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/date/2012/06/03, ancient greek sculpture,

Wabi-sabi finds beauty & value in what is. 

It is, Lawrence notes, “everything that today’s sleek, mass-produced, technology-saturated culture isn’t. It’s flea markets, not shopping malls; aged wood, not swank floor coverings; one single morning glory, not a dozen red roses. Wabi-sabi understands the tender, raw beauty of a gray December landscape and the aching elegance of an abandoned building or shed.

“Wabi-sabi reminds us that we are all transient beings on this planet—that our bodies, as well as the material world around us, are in the process of returning to dust. Nature’s cycles of growth, decay, and erosion are embodied in frayed edges, rust, liver spots. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace both the glory and the melancholy found in these marks of passing time.” (“Wabi-Sabi: The Art of Imperfection.”)

wabi-sabi, buddha face, site credit: eimagination.blogspot.com/2012/07/wabi-sabi.html

In this modern age we find ourselves increasingly alienated from the real.

The texture of life is more & more digitized. We are programmed to seek newer, sleeker, faster technologies—bombarded with images of younger, smoother, more mannequin-like faces as the height of beauty.

Julio Cesar Gomez, site credit: http://www.juliocesargomez.co/75582/673662/gallery/plastic-beauty

It is a ripe time to recall & explore the ancient wisdom of wabi-sabi.

As Billie Mobayed famously noted: “When the Japanese mend broken objects they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.”

bowl, cracks filled with gold, Japanese, wabi wabi

In an age when broken things are sooner thrown away than honored for their history we can apply this beautiful concept to ourselves.

Though our hearts may bare metaphorical fractures, in the light of our acceptance & reverence, we fill its fissures with gold. For what is more valuable than experience?

Though classically based in art, architecture & landscaping design, it seems natural to apply wabi-sabi principals to our own & others’ humanity. site credit: http://journeytoixtlan.tumblr.com/post/17125919365, wabi wabi beauty, freckles beautiful

Through the wisdom of wabi-sabi we can again begin to appreciate the texture of life—as expressed through human authenticity & natural process.

Perfection has a hallow ring next to the real.

site credit: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/523613894147062572/      

 

*If you enjoyed this post, you might also like: “Authenticity & The False Self”  

Transformation, Destruction & The Inner Apocalypse

December 21, 2012 § 10 Comments

Tai Carmen

mayan apocalypse, 2012, transformation, rebirth, cosmic

“Apocalypse does not point to a fiery Armageddon but to the fact that our ignorance and our complacency are coming to an end. Our divided, schizophrenic worldview, with no mythology adequate to coordinate our conscious and unconscious — that is what is coming to an end.” ~ Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That

“If there is an Armegeddon it is within each of us.” ~ Robert Ghost Wolf

I write on the eve of the Mayan Apocalypse, Dec 21st 2012 — a date they are calling “the most anticipated date in history,” which has been gaining power and momentum in the collective mythic imagination for literally decades.

2012 has become a cultural phenomenon, far exceeding any basis in Mayan history, expressing, rather, our own collective sense of dread — that we are heading for destruction, and change of a radical nature is needed if we are to survive.

Cognitive_Transformation by Ben Tolman, www.bentolman.com/__full_by_bentolman

Archeologist, anthropologist and author Michael D. Coe was perhaps the first to put forth an apocalyptic interpretations of the ancient Mayan codices, writing in his 1966 book The Maya:

“There is a suggestion … that Armageddon would overtake the degenerate peoples of the world and all creation on the final day of the 13th [b’ak’tun]. Thus … our present universe [would] be annihilated [in December 2012] when the Great Cycle of the Long Count reaches completion.”

Since then, apocalyptic prophecies have proliferated exponentially, leading up to the fervor of the 2012 phenomenon. The film industry has capitalized off this fear/trend with a mounting plethora of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic movies. Post-apocalyptic video games like Fallout abound. New Age bookstores are exploding with 2012 material. Youtube features a veritable frenzy of 2012 videos…

2012_movie-poster-01

Yet actual modern day Maya and Mayan scholars insist that the end of the ancient calender simply signifies the end of an era, known as the thirteen ba’kt’un (each ba’kt’un being equivalent to 394.26 years.) It is the end of an age of man, what the Maya called the fourth world.

Ricardo Cajas, president of the Colectivo de Organizaciones Indígenas de Guatemala, states that the date does not represent an end of humanity, but of a new cycle, which “supposes changes in human consciousness.”

2012 mayan pyramid

According to a diverse group of indigenous peoples’ creation myths, from Mexico to New Zealand, there have been three failed worlds before our current age (could these legends refer to lost continents such as Plato’s Atlantis?).

The Hindus believe that earth goes through four world  cycles, or ages of man, which repeat indefinitely. Most interpreters of Hindu scriptures believe that earth is currently in a Kali Yuga cycle,  a dark time marked by destruction and degeneration in human values, known as “the age of the demon” or the “age of vice.” Eventually, the Kali Yuga will evolve into three more cycles, each one improving, until we reach a Golden Age.

Kali, Kali Yuga, site credit: http://nightmaremode.net/2011/11/playing-the-apocalypse-part-i-13705/

“We Hopi believe that the human race has passed through three different worlds and life ways since the beginning,” details Hopi Elder Dan Evehema. “At the end of each prior world, human life has been purified or punished by the Great Spirit, or Massau, due mainly to corruption, greed and turning away from the Great Spirit’s teachings. The last great destruction was the flood which destroyed all but a few faithful ones who asked and received a permission from the Great Spirit to live with Him in this new land.”

Chief Dan Evehema, site credit: www.ilhawaii.net/~stony/chiefdan.htmlAccording to Chief Evehema, the famous rock inscribed with Hopi hieroglyphs (Hopi Prophecy Rock) foretold both world wars and indicates an upcoming time of choice, where humankind will be offered a choice between the path of the heart and the path of the intellect and materialism.

“Modern man is out of balance because he lives in a left-brain dominated society,” asserts the Hopi elder, “leading to imbalance and conflict, and ultimately to destruction.”

Listen_To_Your_Heart_by_Carouselhorses site credite: www.carouselhorses.deviantart.com/art/Listen-To-Your-Heart-55457988

We find ourselves in a runaway culture of technological advancement, where authentic human connection –to the earth and one another — threatens to be left behind. Isolation and distraction abound. As Daniel Pinchbeck, author of Breaking Open the Head, says, “We live in a culture where everything tastes good but nothing satisfies.”

Violent outbursts, like the recent tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre and the stabbing of 20 school children in China — bizarrely, on the same day — create a disquieting atmosphere of building tension and mounting darkness. It’s as though we are experiencing a dark night of the world soul.

apocalypse, apocalypse dreams, www.rockpubano.blogspot.com/2011/03/visoes-do-apocalipse.html

“A dark night of the soul,” writes Erin Reese in her post of the same name, “primarily occurs when the old self-image is ready to go. This is the outdated identification of who you think you are – the ego structure. When the self-image becomes calcified in any way, a dark night of the soul comes rumbling in like storm clouds.” (For more, check out Parallax’s Navigating the Dark Night of the Soul.)

Astrologically Pluto and Uranus have been, and continue to be, influential.

Uranus, Pluto, site credit: www.tarot.com/articles/astrology/about-uranus-square-pluto“The effect of Uranus is to shatter old outworn forms so as to allow new life to be born. Pluto is the Lord of the Underworld in the Roman archetypal pantheon. In traditional astrology Pluto represents the eternal cycle of death and rebirth. In the Egyptian pantheon Pluto is Osiris, the God of Regeneration; Uranus is Wadjet, the Great Awakener. The long lasting square between these two astrological giants [during 2012 and for the next few years] suggests that we have only just begun our journey of incredible transformation and change.”(Astrological Insights.) 

earth from space, site credit: http://www.writeonnewjersey.com

“Uranus represents change, invention, revolution, and higher awareness,” details astrologer Jamie Partridge. “It’s effect is shocking, unpredictable, and erratic. Pluto represents globalization, destruction, transformation, and renewal.  It’s effect is grinding, ruthless and extreme. Both of these planets are distinctly non-personal and emotionless, yet their effect is dramatic and deeply felt. The square is the most challenging of the planetary aspects, representing tests and challenges. It’s effect is stressful and frustrating.”

site credit: www.weheartit.com

I wouldn’t include an astrological analysis if I hadn’t felt the truth of these interpretations in my own life. So many people in my life tell me they feel it too: that 2012 was one of their most intense, full years. Many have had very hard years, while others have had intensely wonderful years. Most of us have had a mixed bag of extreme highs and lows. Few people found 2012 to be “just another year.”

caterpillar-emergingFor many, a pressure is building. The need to burn away all that is false (a trait associated with Pluto.) Many I speak with seem to be going through an emotional-spiritual purge or some kind of shadow work at the moment. I think many of us feel innately that it’s a good time to purify and detoxify (look for tips on this in future posts!). Many feel pushed to their limit and filled with a desire to restructure their life. Old behaviors which no longer serve us are becoming increasingly uncomfortable. I realize this doesn’t apply to everyone, but it strikes me as significant that so many people I know are experiencing one or all of these things right now — more than usual, it seems.

And so the 2012 phenomenon, the so-called Mayan Apocalypse, can be seen as an expression of our personal and collective discomfort with old existing structures and outmoded patterns of behavior. When Dec. 21st comes and goes and the world remains in all it’s chaos, we will be left with the anti-climatic but significant realization that there is no escaping ourselves.

Let’s die to the past through this inner apocalypse  — harness the intense energy of this time  and use it for personal rebirth and transformation. We are collectively craving it. But it can only start with each of us, individually, and it can only take place in the present, right now.

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Starseeds, Cosmic Consciousness and the Galactic Generations ~ Part 1

August 11, 2012 § 22 Comments

By Tai Carmen

Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can. Because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star-stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself. ~ Carl Sagan 

We are stardust ~ billion year old carbon. We are golden ~ caught in the devil’s bargain. And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden. ~ Joni Mitchell

Long before man went to the moon, he looked up at the stars and pondered his place in the cosmos.

Many a soul has looked up to the shimmering panorama of the night sky and felt a kinship, perhaps with a certain star or constellation. Many experience a sense of longing, as if some key to their existence might be hidden there.

It’s not just a poetic line. In a very real way we are made of stardust.

All the elements necessary to create life — carbon, nitrogen, iron, to name a few–were first forged in the nuclear furnace of a stellar explosion. And so every atom in the human body came, originally, from a dying star, propelled outward into the universe.

Countless books, movies, songs and legends reflect our sense of kinship with these burning bodies of celestial light, so seemingly different from our own bodies of flesh and bone…From radio hits about being “all made of stars” to Native American oral traditions, which describe human origins and helpers from the heavens.

In the past century, we have witnessed a renaissance of human thought, now aided by the information age. At the same time, we have seen an incredible amount of bloodshed and suffering. Is it getting better or getting worse? Apocalyptic prophesies abound. But so does talk of an awakening.

Over the past half century, connected with this idea of awakening, the terms “Starseed,” “Starborn,” and “Star Children” have become a part of the fringe cultural dialogue.

The idea has formed within this multi-generational conversation that some souls are “not from here.” Many mystically inclined would argue that none of us are spiritually “from here,” and the starseed concept is compatible with this idea. The theory goes that these souls, the starseeds, have incarnated more often in other solar systems; that earth is not their home planet.

According to Scott Mandleker, Ph.D., author of From Elsewhere: Being ET in America, recurring themes among starseed identified individuals include feeling alien to contemporary human culture; disconnection from, and even disgust with, accepted norms…a deep spiritual longing and the sense that, not only is there more to life than meets the eye, but that they have a mission to fulfill. The word “mission” seems to be a trigger word for starseeds almost without exception. Many have had extra-dimensional or ESP encounters, which have affirmed their sense of differentness and sensitivity.

There is usually a strong connection with nature and the stars, an interest in space, science fiction, other worlds, ancient cultures, environmentalism and human potential…perhaps even homesickness for a place they’ve never known in this life.

Many starseeds feel they have chosen to forget their other worldly origins in order to grow up on human terms and blend into the culture — though most feel the intention was to eventually “wake up” to their true calling as paradigm-pushers and ‘spiritual beings having a human experience,’ (as the Pierre Teilhard de Chardin quote goes.)

Though in some rare cases, starseeds feel they’ve been exiled to earth, the majority feel their intergalactic mission stems from the compassionate desire to help nudge humanity onto the path of its destined awakening.

Starseeds, without fail, intuit the civilizations from which they’ve come have moved beyond earth’s current state of divisive turmoil into a phase beyond war, disconnection and bloodshed. For this reason, starseeds invariably find themselves looking to serve humanity, choosing vocations which center around healing, teaching, human potential, the arts, environmental assistance and social outreach.

Most feel their own path of awakening, their spiritual journey, is of utmost importance in order to truly live the new paradigm they wish to exemplify.

Though the stuff of science fiction, and many would say wishful thinking, the phenomenon has been felt by so many isolated individuals, unprompted  — only later to be united by a website, a conversation, or a book — that it truly deserves some investigation by the open minded among us. And it could be science fiction itself is a product of productive starseed types, exploring inner worlds which lead them inevitably to worlds beyond their own.

The most common take on this intuitive knowledge is that these interstellar souls have come as artists, visionaries, dreamers and pioneers of thought to assist in humanity’s impending rebirth, to act as midwives through the inevitable labor pains.

Psychedelic icon Timothy Leary may have been the first to use the word “Starseed” in his short work, “Starseed: Transmissions from Folsom Prison.” 

He penned “Starseeed” while serving time on charges of marijuana possession, for which he was issued a 95 year sentence — an unheard of amount of time for the crime committed. While officially held on drug charges, at the hearing the judge remarked: “If he is allowed to travel freely, he will speak publicly and spread his ideas.” (Jesse Walker, “The Acid Guru’s Long Strange Trip.”)

President Richard Nixon had earlier labeled Leary “the most dangerous man in America.” (“Tim Leary, Pied Piper of Psychedelic 60’s.”) To have the president of the United States call a pacifist author-philosopher by this title should tell you something about the repressive state of affairs in which free thinkers find themselves.

Yet the irrepressible psychedelic spiritualist continued his work from jail, writing in 1973:

This signal is being transmitted from a cell in Folsom Prison, which is the Black Hole of American society […] Some cosmologists suggest that Black Holes […] may be passageways to another universe, just as the manholes in Paris lead to a world beneath the street. Well, the maximum security prision is a fine place from which to scane the universe […]

“Out here, beyond good and evil, one sees America in pain, injured nervous systems propelling robot-bodies in repitiuous, aimless motion along paths labeled rights and wrong…”

Yet Leary remained fiery with optimism:

“The entire universe is gently, rhythmically, joyously vibrating. Cosmic intercourse. This is a message of hope and interstellar love from the Black Hole. Irrepressible optimism. Yes, it is true that repressive pessimists now control planetary politics. This is a larval phase.”

At this time, Leary had begun receiving what he believed were telepathic messages from outer space, presumably the genesis for “Starseed.” He began to see man’s true means of spiritual transcendence as coming from the stars:

“[…].certainly the anticipation of ‘saucers’ transporting humanoid bodies is naive. It is more likely that extra-planetary contact will be received by the instrument which was designed over three and a half billion years ago to pick up electro-magnetic vibrations. The human nervous system itself […]

“This message of neurological resonance can be censored, imprisoned but cannot be crushed because it comes from within, from the DNA nucleus inside each cell, from the evolving nervous system. The Higher Intelligence has already stepped on planet earth and its script is writ within our bodies, emerging in every generation.” (  Click this link to read the full piece online.)

(He did end up getting an early release, after five years, and resumed his energetic career, this time with emphasis on man’s place within the cosmos.)


To take the Starseed Test, click here! (Normally, I don’t put much stock in these test, but this is a good one, composed by licensed psychologist Scott Mandleker, author of From Elsewhere: Being ET in Americawhich we’ll examine in the next installment of the Parallax starseed series.)

Click here for PART II

The Art of Seeing: Third Eye Perception & The Mystical Gaze

July 11, 2012 § 157 Comments

By Tai Woodville
 

““The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” ~ Matthew 6:22-44

“No wonder once the art of seeing is lost, Meaning is lost, and all life seems ever more meaningless.” ~ Frederick Franck

“Our whole business in this life is to restore to health the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen.” ~ Saint Augustine

Every one of us has had a moment where ordinary life becomes shot through with clarity, intense presence and visual potency. A person, animal or perhaps a plant — a scene of startling beauty or realness — seems to take on a luminous dimension, lit from within with living essence. For a moment, all of life feels that much closer, more charged and meaningful.

As artist Ernest W. Watson, said, “There is a vast difference between looking and seeing.” It can be said that in these radiant moments we are truly seeing, through the lens or the eye of the soul.

The concept of the third eye appears in a wide gamut of mystical traditions, including Hinduism, Taoism, Tibetan Buddhism, Jewish and Christian mysticism. The third eye — also known as the blue pearl, the inner eye, and the sixth, or ajna, chakra — is traditionally associated with psychic experiences, divine seeing and the higher visionary realm.

It has been called a gateway that leads to inner realms, and other worlds; a personal vortex.

The pineal gland — a small endocrine gland nestled between the two hemispheres of the brain — is considered by many to be the physical counterpart to the spiritual third eye. Up until 1958, when Aaron Lerner discovered that the rice-grain-sized gland transformed serotonin into melatonin and regulated wake/sleep patterns, it had been regarded by the scientific community as very likely vestigial.

French philosopher Renee Descartes called the pineal “the seat of the soul,” postulating that the gland interacted in some way between the eyes and the brain, acting as the chief interpreter of vision…an idea developed  hundreds of years before by the father of the Scientific Method, the ancient Greek physician Herophilos. Through his pioneering anatomical dissections, Herophilos theorized that the pineal glad was an interfacing organ that gained man access to the spiritual worlds.

This theory is compatible with the ancient Eastern belief, from Hindus to Taoists, that the luminous sphere witnessed in the inner eye region is in fact the same tunnel through which the human soul exits the body.

If you want to develop your third eye vision, you can do so by taking a few moments out when you are calm and relaxed, closing your eyes and focusing your attention within, specifically towards the spot between your brows.

The undulating sparks which can sometimes be seen behind closed lids, or in total darkness, are called phosphenes — characterized by seeing light when no light is actually hitting the retina. Keep focusing on the third eye region whenever you have a few minutes to dedicate to the exercise.

Don’t strain, just casually return to this practice when you feel like it. Over time, you may begin to have some interesting experiences.

Happy travels in inner space!

*Please share your experiences with the third eye in our comments section! (Under title.) There, you will find notes on practical application and learn about other reader’s experiences—as well as the author’s—with third eye visioning.

Also, see related posts:

“Inward Bound: Exploring The Fractal Matrix.”

“The Mind’s Eye.”

 

 

Rites of Spring: Rituals of Renewal

April 8, 2012 § 6 Comments

By Tai Carmen

That men may rise on stepping stones of their dead selves to higher things.

Lord Alfred Tennyson 

The Spring Equinox — when the sun lines up with the earth’s equator — is rich with rituals of renewal, and marks the first day of Spring for those who live in the Northern Hemisphere.

There are two days each year when the daytime and nighttime hours are approximately equal — each being 12 hours long. One occurs between March 19 and 21 (the Spring or Vernal Equinox) and the other in September. These dates have strong ties to religious celebrations throughout the world.

“The Christian Easter is destined to fall roughly around the same time as the Pagan Easter [vernal equinox] due to its association to the Judaic Passover [marking the liberation of the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage] which is also fixed by the lunar cycle,” Andy Paciorek explains in Strange Lands.

“Both festivals could be said to reflect new life, either Christ’s return from the dead or the blossom and birth of Spring. So it was not much of a stretch for the ascending Christian Church to merge both festivals. This is known as ‘assimilation’ and was a habit frequently employed in those times … to ease and encourage rather than force the conversion of heathens. ”

The modern English term Easter can be traced back to the ancient pagan goddess, Ēostre  for whom the German month of April is named. Eostre represents the sunrise, springtime, fertility, and new life, as do her symbols — hares and eggs. Hares because of their plentiful reproductive capacity, and eggs because all life starts with an egg. And so the tradition of eggs and rabbits as symbols of Easter is rooted in emblems of European folklore.

“The Easter Bunny is not actually a ‘bunny’ or rabbit at all, but is actually a hare,” details Andy Paciorek. “The hare was the sacred animal of Eostre (or Oestra or Ostera), the ancient Teutonic Goddess of the Spring Moon. At the time of the vernal equinox (March or April) the hares are famed for going ‘mad’…”

“The association of rabbits, hares, and the moon can be found in numerous cultures the world over,” notes Terri Windig in “The Symbolism of Rabbits and Hares,” “ranging from Japan to Mexico, from Indonesia to the British Isles. Whereas in Western folklore we refer to the ‘Man in the Moon,’ the ‘Hare (or Rabbit) in the Moon’ is a more familiar symbol in other societies.

“In Chinese folklore, female hares conceive through the touch of the full moon’s light (without the need of impregnation by the male), or by crossing water by moonlight, or licking moonlight from a male hare’s fur. Figures of hares or white rabbits are commonly found at Chinese Moon Festivals, where they represent longevity, fertility, and the feminine power of yin.

In Iran the Spring Equinox is celebrated with Nowruz — known as “the Persian new year” and meaning “new day.”

As with Passover, house cleaning is a part of the preparation, stemming from the old belief that cleanliness helps keep evil away (quite sensible.)  On the day of Nowruz everyone dons new clothes and families visit one another. Along with other symbolic items, such as sprouted barley representing rebirth, painted eggs signifying fertility and abundance are prominent in Nowruz traditions.

Hindus celebrate the Spring festival of Holi, known as the Festival of Colors, at the end of the winter season, on the last full moon day of the lunar month (February/March).

Marked by bright colors evoking springtime and fresh life, Holi has roots in Hindu mythology associated with good triumphing over evil. Social caste taboos are relaxed, joy and mischief are encouraged, and no one expects polite behavior. The rich and the poor, the young and the old, women and men all celebrate in the streets together, dousing one another with water and colored dyes.

“Taking the superstitions and rituals of the spring festivals as psychological symbols, we can appreciate the importance of personal renewal,” muses Jonathan Young in his article “Symbolism of Spring.”

“Putting on new clothing could represent the possibility of developing a new aspect of identity or finding a fresh sense of purpose. Spring might well be the appropriate moment to don new clothes, in a figurative sense, and claim an underused side of ourselves. A personal ritual for this month could be deciding what crops we want to develop in our lives so that we have a flourishing summer ahead.”

In Winter, we cocoon. We hibernate; dream. Symbolically, in Winter we gestate, go inward — a metaphorical death. In Spring, new life sprouts forth from the dormant earth and we are reminded of our own capacity to bloom.

What bulbs have been dreaming in the dark earth of your subconscious? What behaviors do you want to shed like winter runoff? What creative, personal or spiritual fruits would you like to bare in the upcoming year?

Creative Connections & The Science of Inspiration

March 29, 2012 § 9 Comments

By Tai Carmen

“The creative act is a letting down of the net of human imagination into the ocean of chaos on which we are suspended, and the attempt to bring out of it ideas.” ~ Terence McKenna 

The creative spark — that incandescent flash of insight known as a breakthrough — is known for being unpredictable, elusive and mysterious. Yet over the past few decades, cognitive psychologists have been studying the various neurological processes behind creativity.

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Research led by Mark Beeman and John Kounios has identified where the flash of insight comes from when a creative problem has been solved.

“In the seconds before the insight appears,” explains Jonah Lehrer, author of Imagine: How Creativity Works, “a brain area called the superior anterior temporal gyrus (aSTG) exhibits a sharp spike in activity. This region, located on the surface of the right hemisphere, excels at drawing together distantly related information, which is precisely what’s needed when working on a hard creative problem.”

 

Michael Michalko, author of Creative Thinkering, agrees: “Creativity comes from observing the relationships between objects and making metaphorical-analogical connections […]

“If one particular style of thought stands out about creative genius, it is the ability to make juxtapositions between dissimilar subjects. Call it a facility to connect the unconnected that enables them to see things to which others are blind.

Leonardo da Vinci forced a relationship between the sound of a bell and a stone hitting water. This enabled him to make the connection that sound travels in waves.”

Researchers of brain function have found that certain factors increase the likelihood of receiving an insight. For instance, subjects exposed to a short comedic video boosted creative solution performance by 20%.

Interestingly, studies conducted at the University of Illinois at Chicago found that drunk test subjects given word problems outperformed their sober peers by 30%!

The insight puzzles given were ‘remote associates,’ in which a person is asked to find an additional word that goes with a triad of words. For example:

Pine Crab Sauce 

(the answer is below the picture)

(The answer is “apple” — pineapple, crabapple, applesauce.)

Why would subjects exposed to comedy score higher than peers not treated with a laugh? The same reason drunk subjects outperformed their sober peers.

“The answer,” according to Lehrer “involves the surprising advantage of not paying attention. […] We might be focused, but we’re probably focused on the wrong answer.”

Creative blocks occur when the logical left hemisphere of the brain has reached an impasse with its linear, systematic approach; interrupting its frustrated obsession with the wrong questions can free up the right hemisphere to supply the essential fresh connection. Relaxation helps.

“This research,” expounds Lehrer, “explains why so many major breakthroughs happen in the unlikeliest of places, whether it’s Archimedes in the bathtub or the physicist Richard Feynman scribbling equations in a strip club, as he was known to do. It reveals the wisdom of Google putting ping-pong tables in the lobby and confirms the practical benefits of daydreaming. As Einstein once declared, ‘Creativity is the residue of time wasted.'”

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 So next time you’re hitting your head against the wall of some creative problem, give the left brain a break and take a shower, play a game, drink a beer, watch a comedy video, take a nap or take yourself on a walk.

Studies show, this is a bona fide part of the creative process! The insight hiding in the superior anterior temporal gyrus of the brain needs a chance to offer its fresh connection.

“If you’re trying to be more creative,” concludes Lehrer, “one of the most important things you can do is increase the volume and diversity of the information to which you are exposed. Steve Jobs famously declared that ‘creativity is just connecting things.’ Mr. Jobs argued that the best inventors seek out ‘diverse experiences,’ collecting lots of dots that they later link together.

“Instead of developing a narrow specialization, they study, say, calligraphy (as Mr. Jobs famously did) or hang out with friends in different fields. Because they don’t know where the answer will come from, they are willing to look for the answer everywhere.”

“Original ideas,” agrees Michael Michalko, “inevitably are created by conceptually blending subjects from different universes into something new.”

The Modern Vision Quest

January 12, 2012 § 15 Comments

Each of us has a calling, a unique voice, a song we must sing, a vision we must enact. ~ Circles of Air, Circles of Stone

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live. ~ Norman Cousins

Traditionally, the vision quest is a sacred right of passage in native cultures. It signifies a turning point in life taken to find oneself and one’s direction.

Usually done in conjunction with some consciousness altering practice — traditionally, fasting, sleep deprivation or the use of natural hallucinogenic drugs — the young initiate would go out alone into the wilderness, after much preparation by elders, to seek communion with the forces of the spirit world.

Often the period of return to the tribe was marked by sacred celebration, a ritual or a tribal event, such as a drumming ceremony, in which the repetitive rhythms induce a meditative state of prayer, spiritual receptivity, connectivity and communion among participants.

It was an opportunity for young initiates, or older participants seeking insight or transformation, to connect with the sacred within themselves, the tribe and the world.

We have no modern equivalent. Or more specifically, our modern equivalents are stripped of the sacred; debased. For example, going to college and venturing out into the world of newly-freed freshman to drink, dance and party is largely considered a rite of passage. But what visions can be found in a night of binge drinking?

Yet, we yearn for this type of self-expression. To unleash the inner animal and find self-renewal. We thirst to connect with something greater than ourselves, to engage our fellow man and find our direction. While there exist retreats to guide one through a modern vision quest, these are always a gamble. Apart from being expensive, operators have been known to get in over their heads, as happened to James A. Ray in 2009, wherein three participant deaths occurred as a result of a botched sweat lodge ceremony. As with many self-help practitioners, the line between the shaman and the charlatan is often difficult to ascertain.

Because of this ambiguity, and the inherent risk of trusting a stranger with your life — particularly a stranger who stands to gain monetarily from your acceptance of their authority — I propose an alternate solution to express this ancient desire in the modern age: Create your own vision quest.

This can be done in a multitude of ways. The simplest option is to give yourself a day for self-reflection wherein time is taken in solitude in nature to go inward and reconnect with the earth. Running water is particularly stimulating for introspection, as it creates a meditative soundscape of soothing white noise, not to mention energetic properties of movement and cleansing. Even if your nearest creek or river can be found hours outside of town, it’s worth the trip: simply removing oneself from one’s context is a source of renewal within itself.

The ocean, too, is tremendously healing, as most people can agree. A day spent alone at the sea can yield great self-renewal. Salt water specifically has therapeutic properties both on a physical and energetic level. Once alone with the  sea, woods or river, one can ask oneself the big questions one may be avoiding: what do I want to do with my time on this earth? What do I have to give? What do I want to be doing?

If you stumble upon a thought which excites you, pay attention. As writer-mythologist Joseph Cambell famously said, follow your bliss. And as the great Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran said: ““Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights. But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart’s knowledge.” Go there & ask. If pain comes up, address it. The pain is the dragon that guards the gold.

I find it helpful to ask myself questions I feel I do not know the answer to, and see what comes. Something always comes. Writing these questions & this process down can be tremendously helpful in crystalizing the inner jumble of thoughts.

If you have an open enough mind, try asking a tree or a bird for advice — though it’s likely just our own self projecting an answer onto the other, new insights can be achieved by this kind of reshuffling of one’s typical thought process. You may be surprised by the answers you receive.

If self-analysis just amps up your angst, go for a more meditative non-thought approach. Equal clarity can be gained by a restively blank mind. The simple act of taking time out for oneself and journeying out into the natural world is restorative, nurturing that aspect of self unengaged by modern past times.

Relax your mind and every time you have a new thought, label it “thought” and let it go. Tibetan Buddhist monk and writer Sakyong Mipham, author of Turning the Mind into an Ally, recommends labeling the specific kind of thought. I.e. “memory,” or “fantasy,” or “worry.” You may be surprised by how often one’s thoughts are pointlessly and compulsively reliving some scene from the past, or falling into a projected fear or fantasy about the future. Once we begin to break our thinking down, we can better understand and control its mechanisms.

These are mini-quests we can take at any time. All it takes is a day free of obligation, the desire to rediscover one’s inner sense of direction and the commitment to finding some beautiful spot to think, or not think. In a similar vein, a mirror meditation —consisting simply of the prolonged facing of oneself in the mirror, in solitude, while lovingly dealing with whatever mental-emotional issues arise —can do wonders for breaking open the shut down parts of the self.

So often we look in the mirror only to asses and self-critique. A quick cursory glance on the most superficial level. Yet prolonged gazing into one’s own eyes can yield wonders of self-discovery.

It is the eyes which should be focused on. Don’t focus on flaws of complexion or compare your face to a magazine image of false perfection. It’s easy to do, but you are not using the mirror for meditation if your mind becomes engaged in this direction, you are using it for its profane purpose and adding to the problem, not the solution. The mirror meditation is a sacred tool in the quest of return to the self, and must be used as such.

Also, we can create our own communities of questers.

One fun and powerful way to embark on a modern vision quest is to do it with friends. Gather together a group of like-minded individuals, who share your goal of self-renewal and inner questing, pool your resources and rent a lake house or a cabin in the mountains for the weekend. The day can be dedicated to solitary journeying — everyone goes off into nature and does their own thing, whether it be journaling, meditating, or simply an introspective hike.

In the evening, everyone returns to the group house to share their day’s experience and storytell. Music and dancing are primal keys, particularly in conjuncture with a day of quietude and meditation. Apart from having therapeutic properties, intimate dance parties are among life’s joys. It’s not the same at a club, where you have to watch your physical space and may, despite your best efforts, still have your appearance in mind — this kind of movement in a safe space with friends and lots of room is more akin to dance therapy. If you throw your all into an hour of dancing out the demons, I promise it will leave you feeling luminous.

In a world so full of possibility, yet so often perceived on the go, creating this kind of intentional space to journey, together and alone, supplies a much needed psychological reboot to the modern dreamer.

*For a modernized version of traditional soul-retrieval check out the post “Soul-Retreival.

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