Saturday, May 20, 2006


Tonight I am grateful for sag chicken, extra spicy. Mmmmm . . . chicken.

I also grateful for synchronicity. I had no idea that this week's Tarot post would tie into the Mark Gafni issue, but it did -- and well.

And I am grateful for Remember the Titans, a great illustration of the Blue meme in action, with a touch of Green human rights and equality thrown in for good measure.

What are you grateful for?

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Tarot as Mirror of the Psyche: The Hermit

[Please see the Introduction to this series for a brief synopsis of my approach to working with the major trumps of the Tarot. I am hoping to post a new meditation each Saturday. I use meditation here in the philosophical sense of the word, meant to denote an open-ended, free-form exploration of an idea.]

(Disclaimer: The Hermit is nearly always depicted as male, but there is no reason this archetype cannot be female. I refer to the card as masculine throughout, but please remember that it could be feminine.)

With the first seven cards, we traversed the pre-egoic stages of consciousness evolution as the Fool makes his/her journey toward transcendence. The second set of seven cards documents the evolution of the ego. The Hermit is the archetype that will guide the Fool along that path.

If we are to believe Jung, and there is little reason to doubt him on this topic, the human quest for meaning is the drive (maybe even instinct) that propels the development of the psyche, and especially the development of ego consciousness. The archetype so often associated with the quest for meaning is the Wise Old Man, the Senex, or the Hermit of the Tarot. The Hermit is the archetypal personification of that instinct.

In myths and fairy tales, when the hero gets lost or gets into trouble, it is often the Wise Old Man who saves the day with his guidance. Think of Yoda in the Star Wars movies, or Morpheus from The Matrix trilogy. Sallie Nichols (Jung and Tarot) correctly points out that this is true in our dreams as well. There is very often a wise figure who can lead us toward an answer if we are smart enough to follow (for variations on this theme, please see my article, "Listening to Raven: The Shadow's Role as Guide" at the CG Jung Page).

We might see the Hermit, then, as the emergence of a Higher Self, an internal Wise Old Man one can turn to for a non-attached perspective untainted by ego needs. Psychology also looks at this part of the psyche as the observer self, and good therapists seek to develop this capacity in their clients as a way to foster mindfulness.

The absence of a functional observing self, as we have so tragically seen of late, can allow a person to commit acts that might otherwise seem untenable. It can also leave a person seeking answers outside of oneself, either through the guru or through organized religion, and more often now, through a "spiritual advisor." All of these can be safe and effective methods of accessing meaning, and all of them can have serious shortcomings.

The fact that these methods are so prevelant means that few of us have made contact with the "guide" within, so we project that archetype of our psyche onto an external person or group. A fellow blogger, Jay, has recently written on the need for spiritual seekers to find the guru within as a way to avoid abuse by "teachers."

The Hermit stands as the reminder that this is an archetype we all carry in our psyches. In the development of the Fool, the Hermit shines his light of wisdom and experience on the path, illuminating the next steps. The Hermit provides an intuitive guidance, directing our young ego in the direction s/he needs to go to reach her/his potential.

One of the key elements of the Hermit is his isolation. He is free from the distractions of other voices, but he is also alone. That isn't to say that he is lonely, only alone. Here is what the Osho Zen deck has to say about this card, which it has aptly named Aloneness:

Loneliness is a negative state. You are feeling that it would have been better if the other were there - your friend, your wife, your mother, your beloved, your husband. It would have been good if the other were there, but the other is not. Loneliness is absence of the other.

Aloneness is the presence of oneself. Aloneness is very positive. It is a presence, overflowing presence. You are so full of presence that you can fill the whole universe with your presence and there is no need for anybody.

That aloneness is the source of wisdom, the quiet that allows the "still small voice" to be heard. Other decks, such as the Tarot of the Old Path (pictured above: The Wise One), refer to this card in terms of the wisdom the Hermit possesses. Some decks simply call the card Wisdom. All of this is in recognition that we can only access our wise higher self in isolation from the world.

As life gets more complex for the Fool, s/he'll need to have recourse to this inner source of wisdom. If more of us had access to this source within each of us, we would not need to project this part of ourselves onto others, and we could honor the guru within.

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Creative Spirituality: The Meta-Shaman

Once upon a time, in the waiting area at a muffler shop in Tucson, I thought I had a bright idea. I thought it would be very cool to modify Beck and Cowan's vision of the "Spiral Wizard" to be more of a "Meta-Shaman." So, having nothing better to do while the mechanics smoked cigarettes rather than replace my little muffler, I jotted down a whole bunch of notes and typed them up as soon as I got home that evening.

Now, several years later, I wonder if there is anything to the idea. I think that it might fit in with the Creative Spirituality project that Jay launched on his Pagan Bodhisattva blog and at Zaadz. So, lacking any sense of value for these notes, I'm posting them here. If you find a thread of something useful in here, leave me a comment, please.

I must acknowledge that real shamans are not very fond of us westerners calling them shamans, a word that actually comes from a Siberian tribe (the Tungus) and is not found anywhere else. But Mircea Eliade, among others, made the word a universal name for spiritual traditions that involve ecstatic experiences of alternate realities.

That said, here are my rather brief preliminary notes.

Navigating the Spiral:
An Introduction to Meta-Shamanism

THEORY: The central theme of meta-shamanism is replacing the traditional images of the axis mundi, around which all shamanic traditions are constructed (often a mountain or a tree, but also a tent pole or sometimes a ladder), with the spiral from
Spiral Dynamics as defined by Beck and Cowan, based on the pioneering work of Clare Graves. In this theoretical construct, the spiral becomes the axis mundi for the post-postmodern world. Meta-shamanism offers a vertical orientation along the spiral, with horizontal expansion within each of the Memes (the capital denotes reference to a "values meme" rather than a simple meme) being possible. In fact, vertical expression within each Meme is also possible, depending on the spiritual orientation of the specific Meme.

Meta-shamanism presupposes and, in fact, requires a working knowledge of some form of developmental model of psychological, moral, emotional, and spiritual evolution. While Ken Wilber's model is one of the most comprehensive systems available, the model offered by Spiral Dynamics is simpler and, in some ways, more appropriate to the work demanded of the meta-shaman.

Using the Spiral Dynamics model, only a person who has reached second tier consciousness (Yellow or higher) is qualified to be a meta-shaman. Those who are in any of the first tier Memes (Beige through Green) are incapable of seeing any reality outside of their own Meme, and therefore are incapable of navigating the Spiral. Ideally, the meta-shaman would be Turquoise or beyond.

Where the shaman in traditional societies moves vertically from the Meme in which s/he resides (most often Purple, Red, or Blue), the meta-shaman moves vertically along the whole Spiral, accessing the necessary energies, values, or traits of any given Meme as needed to solve the current situation. Within the Meme accessed, the meta-shaman is able to move within the horizontal or vertical orientation of that Meme as needed.

HISTORY: Traditional shamanism began during the Purple period of human evolution (late
Paleolithic to early Mesolithic), when Blue was the leading edge of human consciousness. A shaman in this period could have access to second tier consciousness (psychic to subtle) as a peak state, but not in any kind of stable way. The person who could name and communicate with -- and win concessions from -- the spirits/gods was very powerful and very important to the well-being of the tribe.

In Wilber's system, the shamanic realms are the mythic and magic stages of human consciousness development, which transcend the purely Purple level of Spiral Dynamics. He goes into this in detail in Up From Eden. Many of the world's major religious traditions grew out of cultures that practiced some form of shamanic faith. As a prime example,
Vajrayana Buddhism, which developed in Tibet, is a mixture of the imported Mahayana Buddhism and the indigenous Bon tradition, which is distinctly shamanic.

Traditional shamanism remains largely unchanged in the present day among those cultures that have not been exterminated. Neo-shamanism (as in New Age circles) is a regressive attempt to re-ensoul a world that has been stripped of meaning through the flatland dominance of the hard sciences (the right hand side of Wilber's four-quadrant map of the Kosmos). Neo-shamanism suffers the classic trap of the pre/trans fallacy (as first identified by Wilber), in that it mistakes a previous level for an advanced level. In a world that has been stripped of soul and Spirit, anything that feels like soul or Spirit, even if it is from an earlier period of human evolution (the spirits and gods of the Purple Meme, for example), is elevated to the level of the transcendent. The
Romanticist longing for simpler times (return to Eden or childhood innocence) as a higher state of being is a classic example.

The meta-shaman recognizes the entire Kosmos as a manifestation of Spirit, the source and destination of the manifest Universe. The gods, goddesses, and spirits humans have recognized throughout their history remain alive and valid within each of the vMemes that spawned them.

ECSTASY: The special skill of the traditional shaman was the ability to enter into ecstatic trance and, within the trance state, to traverse the various "worlds" defined within the Meme in which s/he resides (an advanced state within a lower stage). Shamans were "technicians of ecstasy" according to Eliade. The trance-state, and its mastery, was the defining characteristic of the traditional shaman.

Meta-shamans are capable of selecting, through a conscious process, the Meme required at any given time. Within the selected Meme, whichever form of consciousness transformation is appropriate to that Meme is accessible, whether it's the trance state of the traditional shaman in Purple, or the nature mysticism of the Green Meme.

APPLICATIONS: It seems that the meta-shaman might be an amazing peace broker. S/he might also be a healer, incorporating intuitive energy medicine (
Caroline Myss), allopathic medicine, and the "folk" medicine of indigenous peoples. Or this person could be a more traditional spiritual counselor, working much as a priest or therapist. The potential applications are endless.

Okay, that's all I have. If it seems worthless, hack away at it. If there might be something in here worth pursuing as a kind of practice, I'd also like to know that.

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Morning Wisdom

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You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

~ Franz Kafka

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Friday, May 19, 2006


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I have a hard time with the notion that we draw things to us that we need -- people, jobs, illnesses, and so on. At one level it makes perfect sense, but then my rational brain intercedes and waves the bullsh!t flag and, since it mostly runs the show, I dismiss such thoughts. Rational brain wants direct cause and effect, not karma, not intention, and not some mysterious power of psyche.

But then something happens that makes me reconsider the limitations of my little mind, which looks more and more just like my little ego.

Earlier this week, I had some nasty food poisoning. I wrote about the side effect here -- the emergence of my vulnerable child from the closet in which he was locked, with duct tape over his mouth to keep him quiet (kids are to be seen and not heard, or so I was taught).

That was a major step forward for me in itself. But what has followed has been a lot of the undoing I posted about this morning. It seems to come in waves when it comes, and it usually signals the sloughing off of old skin in preparation for new growth. It happened when I moved here from Seattle, and it happened big time when my sister and mother both passed away last summer.

When I am in this space, I feel like a raw nerve -- anything can make me cry. My emotions, which are normally so unavailable, are on the surface, and they can feel overwhelming. But I try to stay with the feelings when they come up, more secure in the knowledge that if given space, they will fade away as they are acknowledged.

The more mindful I am, the easier the process is. And then, one day, it will have stopped while I wasn't looking. But I will be left with more space in my life, fewer things standing in the way of my higher self. I'll be more calm and less reactive. I'll feel more grounded.

But not yet.

Right now I'm in the nigredo, as the alchemists call it. The chaos is an essential part of the process of coming undone.

Still, what I am left with is the awareness that my illness, physical as it was, might also have been something I needed in order to launch the next stage of my growth. My brain says, "Naw, bad food causes food poisoning. I didn't do this to myself."

But I still don't know what I ate that caused it, only guesses. What I do know is that I got sick for no good reason, and that being sick has opened me up in ways nothing else has. And that the opening is exactly what I have been seeking for more than a year.

Kira suggested that maybe my body was purging itself in order to clear the way for new information. She tends to see most or all sickness as an emotional thing before looking to the physical. I always do the opposite. This once, I have to concede that she may be right. I have no better explanation.

So today I am grateful for the mystery that is the bodymind. And I am grateful for the outcome of this week's illness. And I am grateful that I can admit that I don't have all the answers, even though it hurts to do so. :)

What are you grateful for?

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A Child Shall Lead Us . . .

A lesson on forgiveness . . .

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Video: Costa Rica Commercial

This seems to be a travel ad for Costa Rica -- minus the text or pitch. Beautiful images. It's been added to my list of places I must see.

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Manifesto: Coming Undone

I wrote this essay a couple of years ago and have worked on it ever since. It has made the final round at a few magazines before being rejected. So, I decided to post it here. It's a manifesto of sorts -- a statement of my life's mission and purpose as I now see it.

Coming Undone

In 2002, I moved from the lush, fertile rain forest of the Pacific Northwest to the hot, dry desert of the Southwest -- Seattle to Tucson. I moved for love: for love of a woman, for a chance to learn to love more deeply, and with the hope that the hot desert sun would burn away the barriers to seeking my soul’s passion.

Making the move was a willful act of undoing. I gave up a stable, comfortable life, with all the boredom such a life entails, to start over again in a strange land. I took a $15K a year drop in income (a situation which has since resolved itself), gave up a small but intimate circle of friends, and released my hold on the stability of having my life down to an automated routine.

And it’s working. My capacity for love has significantly deepened with the presence and support of my partner. Her love and witnessing have made the process much easier. Together we create a synergistic energy for growth and healing that astounds us both and leaves us grateful to whatever forces brought us together.

From this foundation, we are undoing our wounds, dismantling old, unhealthy patterns of behavior. We each have come undone. But within the alchemical vessel of our relationship, we are contained, held safely, able to surrender to the undoing -- to the purification.


Everything comes undone. Change is the one constant we can never escape. Yet we struggle to maintain our youthful appearance, keep alive dying relationships, and delay all forms of change as long as possible. We try to push the river uphill, as the saying goes. But what if we allow the undoing -- knowingly release our hold on who and what and we are in order to become someone new?

Allowing oneself to be undone is a way of living best exemplified in the prayer, “Do with me what Thou will.” To allow the undoing is to surrender to forces greater than the ego, greater than the finite “I” who holds so tightly to its sense of identity. It is to recognize that ego is not the most important aspect of self, that there is a greater power. The reward for this surrender is alignment with a higher purpose, allowing our lives to be directed in ways we could never imagine on our own.

Yet surrender is a bad word in our culture, a sign of weakness. How foolish are we. Surrender is the key to undoing what is in order to make space for what can become. Surrender is an opening to the sacred, an entry into the liminal space between past and future. This moment, right now, if we can be fully present to it, is our doorway into sacred space. We practice mindfulness as a tool to enter into the present moment, to awaken our ability to surrender to now.

I am learning to surrender, and with each lesson in mindfulness I come undone in my sense of self. Old patterns are falling away. But mostly I reside somewhere between who I was and who I am becoming.

In fact, the more I am able to practice mindfulness, the more fluid my sense of self becomes. Sometimes the intense gaze of introspection acts as a heat lamp, melting old patterns of behavior and perception I have used to define myself. I sit on my couch, staring at the desert outside my window, reflecting on some aspect of my life that troubles me, and the deeper I look, the less it seems anything other than an illusion. Some days I feel everything I know about myself is an illusion. On other days I feel so solid and static that growth seems out of the question.

The process is not void of anxiety. There is a certain amount of fear and uneasiness inherent in living in liminal space for any length of time. But I have chosen this for my life. I am actively seeking to be undone, and it actually feels quite liberating.


A few years in the desert and I am humbled. When I leave the city and walk in the Santa Catalina Mountains, I am amazed at the subtlety of the desert. Where the land of the Puget Sound area was lush and vibrant with life and foliage, the Sonoran Desert is a million pale shades of green. Life here isn’t conspicuous--it’s harmonic, hidden, difficult to see. Everything blends, perhaps a result of the intense sunlight burning away distinct lines.

This is the effect hiking in the desert has had on me. I am less defined. I am undone. I came to Tucson with a hope that this phase of my life would be my metaphorical 40 days in the desert. As I walk among saguaro and ocotillo and gaze at the high Santa Catalina Mountains to the north, I am reminded how small I am. In humility, I feel an opening. I have drawn my symbolic circle in the sand and I wait, hoping the voice of Spirit will whisper in my ear.

In ways only the soul can fathom, I believe in the old stories. I believe Jesus went into the desert to hear the voice of God, but was instead tempted by Satan to renounce his path. I believe he had to face the demons within him to be free to follow the life of Spirit. He sought light and found his own personal darkness. In contemporary terms, Jesus had to integrate his shadow self so he could freely practice the loving-kindness we seek to emulate in our own lives.

In the intense desert light of these last few years, my shadows have no place to hide. I become more full with their presence -- and lighter, more energized. If I had known the desert would undo the defenses that maintain my shadow, would undo my internal boundaries, I would have been afraid. But I would have had even more reason to make the move.

Looking at the darkness within is never easy. However, I can never fully be undone if I am not willing to embrace all of myself -- the darkness and the light. It can be frightening to see those parts of myself I have kept hidden. I have been terrified and ashamed of some aspects of myself. As much as I am capable of kindness and compassion, I am equally capable of cruelty and selfishness.

But there is also light within the shadow. I am rediscovering compassion, the tender heart of the warrior that I have kept hidden from the world. Coming undone is challenging and disconcerting, but I am grateful that in coming undone I have found within my shadow some qualities I never knew I possessed. I did not know I can be deeply moved by the world if I simply allow myself to be present to my feelings. I have that warrior's heart, and I am learning to cultivate the tenderness that marks true strength.

I also did not know I had the fierceness to fight for the life I want, a life of service and purpose. But I do have that fierceness, and it serves both my becoming and my sense of what is right and wrong in the world. There can be no undoing without the fierceness to stay with process no matter how out of control I might feel.


Several years have now passed since I began this process. My life has changed in ways I could never have imagined back in Seattle. I still don't know who I am becoming or how my life will unfold in the future, but I am much closer than when I wandered into the desert for the first time.

Several times I have consciously chosen to allow Spirit to direct the path my life would take, to truly surrender my life to a purpose greater than my ego's desires. Sometimes I have been puzzled, unclear of what I was supposed to learn from a given outcome, and at other times I have been rewarded with situations that allow me to express myself in soulful ways.

I am still seeking opportunities to come undone. Recently I was presented with a situation where I had the option to hold tightly to who I have always thought myself to be, or to release that version of myself and allow room for change. In the moment I froze, clinging to an old, safe, worn-out definition of myself. But I awoke the next morning with a sense that I don't have to be confined to that old self, that I can continue to undo him and make room for a newer, more fluid sense of who I am.

I still need to be undone in as many ways as possible, to be stripped of years of pain and self-doubt. When I made the move to the desert, I needed to get to the bedrock of who I am, to that deeper self who is always a witness to my life. I needed to become completely undone, to surrender to Spirit and allow myself to be molded into a tool to serve a higher purpose, whatever that may be. I now make my living helping other people become more healthy and in charge of their lives. The more I work with other people's pain and fears, the more I have access to my own and can work to undo them.

I'm catching glimpses of how my life can be aligned with Spirit, but I am not there yet. I am still undoing myself, and being undone. I am grateful to the process, wherever it leads. And like the Hanged Man of the Tarot, I remain suspended in liminal space, in a state of surrender to the mysterious powers of transformation that mindfulness can unleash.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


I am more grateful than ever that I normally am extremely healthy. There's nothing like a little illness (food poisoning, in this case) to make health seem like such an amazing thing for which to be grateful.

I am also grateful for low-carb butter pecan ice cream. It was the only thing I could keep down for two days. I guess this is payback for never having had my tonsils out.

What are you grateful for?

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The Golden Rule

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Karen Armstrong (History of God, among other brilliant books) was on Charlie Rose last night pushing her newest book, The Great Transformation : The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions. The book looks at the Axial Age as the origin of all the world's major religious traditions. Karl Jaspers named the period from 800 BCE to 200 BCE the Axial Age because during this one period, all of the major religious traditions flowered.

From Wikipedia:
The word axial in the phrase Axial Age means pivotal. The name comes from the German word Achse, which means both "axis" and "pivot". Due to a mistranslation, the term axial has become standard.

The term axial or pivotal is appropriate as ancient Greek philosophy which grounds the politics of the West and additionally via the Platonic strain is with the Bible one of the legs on which Christian theology stands flourished during this era. Rome which, of course, has had a large impact on the West took the Greece of this era as a model. Buddhism which had and has a large impact on world history was founded by Siddhartha Guatama who lived during this period. Confucianism, too, arose during this era. Confucianism was the dominant Chinese worldview until the advent of Communism and arguably still is.

Hinduism also flourishied at his time, as well as the beginning of Taosim and Jainism. The origin of the monotheistic tradition also stems from this period.

Armstrong's new book traces the development of all of this, and I'm guessing she looks at what conditions may have contributed to this flowering of faith.

One thing she mentioned in the interview was that all of these religions developed in reaction to a perceived violence in the given culture. Each of these traditions was a reaction against a violent world, and each religion has at its core one simple teaching.

She used this story:

A pagan approached a Rabbi and said, "I will convert to your religion if you can state the entire teachings of your faith while standing on one foot." The Rabbi stood on one foot and said, "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary."
The Golden Rule. It's that simple, says Armstrong.

She argues that this is the core teaching of all the world's major religions, no matter how differently it might be stated by each one.

What do you think?

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Morning Inspiration

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Let us dig in our gardens and not be elsewhere;
Let us take long walks in the open air . . .
Let us bathe in the rivers and lakes . . .
Let us indulge in games . . .
Let us be more simple: simple and true in our gestures, in our words, and simple and true in our minds above all. Let us be ourselves.

~ Robert Linssen, Zen Page-A-Day Calendar (May 17, 2006)

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Humor: Men's Rules

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Most men can be real twits sometimes (yes, women, too, but that's a different post). Most of the guys who will read this are trying to change that. We want to be more sensitive, more vulnerable, more emotionally honest, and much less "manly" than what most Americans feel is normal. We want to be whole people, not cliches.

So, with that in mind, here is a little humor on the male worldview (notice how the rules are all numered 1):

Men's Rules

1. Learn to work the toilet seat.
You're a big girl. If it's up, put it down. We need it up, you need it down. You don't hear us complaining about you leaving it down.

1. Sunday sports, no, driving range trips.
It's like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Just let it be.

1. Shopping is NOT a sport.
And no, we are never going to think of it that way.

1. Crying is blackmail.

1. Ask for what you want.
Let us be clear on this one:
Subtle hints do not work!
Strong hints do not work!
Obvious hints do not work!
Just say it!

1. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question. That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

1. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it.

1. A headache that lasts for 17 months is a problem.
See a doctor.

1. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument.
In fact, all comments become null and void after 7 days.

1. If you think you're fat, you probably are.
Don't ask us.

1. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.

1. You can either ask us to do something or tell us how you want it done.
Not both. If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.

1. Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials.

1. Christopher Columbus did not need directions and neither do we.

1. ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings.
Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.

1. If it itches, it will be scratched.
We do that.

1. If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing," we will act like nothing's wrong.
We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.

1. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.

1. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is

1. Don't ask us what we're thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as baseball, guns and ballistics, or monster trucks.

1. You have enough clothes.

1. You have too many shoes.

1. I am in shape.
Round is a shape.

Thank you for reading this. Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight; but did you know men really don't mind that? It's like camping.

Ah, yes, men . . . .

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Can America Be Saved?

In These Times has a good article on the growing divide in this country between the increasingly fervent Christian nationalists and the also increasingly vocal liberal secularists. This is an issue that is hard to get people interested in because it is slow in its movement. Most of us will notice little change in our lives as the right takes over, until one day they have complete control and America has become a theocratic state.

The article shows that the smallest "red states," when combined, have seven more electoral college votes than New York and Massachusetts combined, yet with nearly equal populations. Is it time to redesign the electoral college or do away with it altogether? The system, as currently designed, gives more weight to conservative worldviews. Can that be fixed?

This is really a battle between Blue meme authoritarianism and Orange-Green progressive liberalism. It's a battle that has been going on for at least a decade and will only get more acrimonious before it gets better. Please see the article on the sidebar, Who Owns God? (Part One, Part Two, Part Three) for an overview of the conflict as reflected in American politics the last few years.

This is from the In These Times article:
After all, the heartland has no claim to moral authority. The states whose voters are most obsessed with “moral values” have the highest divorce and teen pregnancy rates. The country’s highest murder rates are in the South and the lowest are in New England. The five states with the best-ranked public schools in the country—Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey and Wisconsin—are all progressive redoubts. The five states with the worst—New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Mississippi and Louisiana—all went for Bush.

The canard that the culture wars are a fight between “elites” versus “regular Americans” belies a profound split between different kinds of ordinary Americans, all feeling threatened by the others’ baffling and alien values. Ironically, however, by buying into right-wing elite-baiting, liberals start thinking like out-of-touch elites. Rather than reflecting on what kind of policies would make their own lives better, what kind of country they want to live in, and who they want to represent them—and then figuring out how to win others to their vision—progressives flail about for ideas and symbols that they hope will appeal to some imaginary heartland rube. That is condescending.
Please read the whole article and then let's discuss it in the comments.

This is a huge issue that will effect all of us, especially those of us who seek an integral worldview. The Blue meme can't tolerate an integral view, so we, along with the Green liberals, will be targeted by their narrow definition of reality. What can we do to soften the Blue meme's need to rule the world? Recognizing the need for the Blue meme, how can we help it to be more healthy and less authoritarian?

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006


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Today I am grateful for a slow day at work. I needed the rest. I feel a bit better, but my stomach still feels like it was run through a meat grinder. Yeah, that good.

I am most grateful that Kira is back in town after almost a week in Cleveland. I missed her.

As a little reminder to appreciate the simple pleasures of life, here is a poem by Jane Kenyon, who died several years ago of cancer.

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.
from Otherwise, 1996
Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minn.

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Can Paganism Ever Be Post-Personal?

Jay's Creative Spirituality pod at Zaadz has an interesting discussion about whether or not pagan practices can ever be transpersonal, especially when one considers that most pagan traditions stem from the Purple and Red meme periods of human evolution. Even now, most pagan traditions are regressive in that they try to revive Purple meme magic and animism. Jay suggests, and I agree, that this need not be so.

What follows is my attempt to suggest that there is way to determine where such practices might fall on prepersona/personal/postpersonal spectrum. It was posted to the pod this morning.
Before becoming a mostly full-time Buddhist, I was heavily involved in shamanic studies, Wicca's twin brother, so to speak. I think of both areas of study as essentially pagan (pagan mostly meaning non-Christian to many folks).

Regarding this: Thats pretty much a litmus test for a pre/trans theory of wicca - was it created, or was it 'passed down'?

I would argue that the real test is different:

1) Does the belief system rely on a pre-rational belief that spells and incantations can change manifest reality? Does the system worship gods and goddesses as individual entities existing in time and space? If so, prerational or prepersonal.

2) Does the belief system see “magic” and other forms of devotional acitivies as methods of affecting interior change, i.e., reprogramming the psyche in some way? Does the system view gods and goddesses as manifestations of interior states, of human traits writ large? If so, rational or personal.

3) Does the belief system see ritual and other forms of devotional activities as methods of accessing archetypal energies, what Wilber might view as involutionary forms? Does the system view worship of archetypal forms (gods or goddesses) as ways to transcend ego consciousness and experience transpersonal states beyond the confines of ego and personal concerns. If so, post-rational or post-personal.

4) Does the belief system allow for the experience of all three? If so, then integral.

That's my first-pass take on this issue. Is this worth refining into a more coherent statement?

Any thoughts on this would be appreciated, either here or at Zaadz (if you are not a member, yet, why not?).

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Bono Talks to Eddie Izzard

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Along with Steven Wright, I think Eddie Izzard is one of the funniest people on the planet. Matthew Dallman posted a link to this yesterday, but I want to repost it for those who might have missed it. Bono, as part of his role as guest editor of the The Independent, interviewed the notorious cross-dressing comedian on the topics of what makes a performer perform and dictators. It's a good interview. However, if you have never heard Izzard, you'll be missing his dry humor and his thick accent, which are part of his charm.

I highly recommend:
Eddie Izzard - Dress to Kill
Eddie Izzard - Glorious

For those who are multi-lingual, his DVDs often have the same show done with Izzard speaking French.

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I simply could not sit at the computer last night to do a gratitude post. And aside from being marginally grateful to still be alive, I wasn't feeling a whole lot of gratitude anyway.

I was SICK yesterday, and when I say sick I mean I slept most of the day, puked my guts out to the point that I couldn't eat or drink, ached all over, and felt like I was going to faint whenever I stood up. Food poisoning is so much fun (at least that's what I think it was). I feel slightly better this morning, but very weak from lack of food and dehydrated from, well, you know.

One interesting thing came out of this experience, but first let me preface the realization with some history. I am horrible about asking for help. I am very much a "do it myself" type. This includes times when I really need help. I feel like I am imposing or asking too much, or whatever, so I just won't ask, even when people want to help. I have been sick as hell, with a 103 degree fever, and just toughed it out alone, just me and my hallucinations. The stupid part is that there is part of me (a subpersonality) that feels proud for withstanding so much on my own, wears it as a sign of courage or strength or some dumbass thing. I think this stems from having been on my own for most of my life, at least since I was thirteen. I don't feel there is anyone to count on, so I don't even let myself feel the need or the want of having someone help me. And stupidly, I feel strong for being so alone.

Well, yesterday in the midst of my suffering, I really wanted someone to take care of me. I wanted someone to fix me some chicken noodle soup (a flashback to early childhood, I think, since that is what my mom used to do when I was sick). I wanted someone to just comfort me and tell me it was all going to be okay.

I have never felt that need in my adult life. Or I should say, I have never let myself feel that need. When we are weak and vulnerable, it is often our inner child that expresses needs for help and support. My inner child has been locked in the closet with duct tape over his mouth for more than 25 years. So imagine my surprise to experience his presence yesterday.

I know I talk about this stuff a lot, but for me this is where the fire is in my inner work. Getting some access to my inner child is, right now, the mission in all my work, no matter what angle I take. This is part of what Wilber calls "regression in service of the ego." I need to heal some wounding that occurred in the lower fulcrums before I can safely move any higher in my development. Not doing so will put me as risk for the kind of personality disorders we witnessed in Gafni and in Wilber's response -- different forms, of course, but in both cases there is a glitch in lower level development that allows them to be spiritually advanced but interpersonally underdeveloped. That combination is dangerous. I want to teach someday, and I don't want to be one of the teachers who is abusive in any way, or insensitive, or ego-focused, or anything else.

So, the point of this long explantion is that I am grateful for the breakthrough that occurred in the midst of my breakdown. Having that experience of my inner child feels like an enormous step forward in my work.

What are you grateful for?

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

More on Marc Gafni

Being first to respond to something always has its risks. Having been away from my computer all day (more on why in another post -- oy . . .), it turns out most people think Wilber's ego and need to keep the image of II clean have gotten in the way of doing the right thing. Matthew Dallman was especially hard on Wilber, and as much as it pains me to say so, I think MD is right to a certain extent.

I also agree with Tuff Ghost -- Wilber has a history of associating with questionable teachers. Many point to Andrew Cohen as the example with the most support. Cohen is horrible, and many use that to condemn What is Enlightenment? as well. If the magazine were merely a tool of Cohen's enormous ego, I might agree. But there are a diversity of teachers and traditions presented there. I guess I side with ~C4Chaos on that score.

Back to Wilber. I still think that Wilber is doing the best he can to help his friend and appear to be offering some kind of stern but compassionate response. That said, I think he is failing in many ways.

MD is right that a ten-point-plan is rather egotisitical. And he may have been overboard in accusing the associated Jewish groups of firing up the Mean Green Meme, but I suspect there is probably a whole lot of hating going on. Moreover, I think Wilber should be extending himself to the victims more than to Gafni. After all, part of Gafni's prestige (that put him a position of power necessary to become an abuser) comes from being associated with Wilber and II, especialy after the previous allegations.

Having just now read Gafni's statement, I think any anger being expressed is justified. It's all about him, much as Wilber's statement was all about Wilber and Gafni. Neither response paid necessary respect to the women who were damaged by Gafni's actions. They'll get their day in court, but who is going to get them the best therapsits available to guide their recovery? Who is going to set up a committee of the finest psychologists available to make sure their treatment is effective?

Wilber has more explaining to do.

Thanks to everyone who has explored this issue in their blogs, including Jay (here and here) and ebuddha (here and here), who I neglected to mention above.

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Pema Chodron: Six Kinds of Loneliness

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From the July 2000 issue of Shambhala Sun comes this teaching from Pema Chodron on the six kinds of loneliness. This is a good teaching for me -- I'm not real fond of staying with tough feelings. But through reading Chodron, I am learning to breathe through tought stuff and stay with the feelings. Surprisingly enough, if I can do this, the feelings fade away rather quickly -- and without the lingering bad taste of choking them down.

Six Kinds of Loneliness

Pema Chödrön

To be without a reference point is the ultimate loneliness. It is also called enlightenment.

In the middle way, there is no reference point. The mind with no reference point does not resolve itself, does not fixate or grasp. How could we possibly have no reference point? To have no reference point would be to change a deep-seated habitual response to the world: wanting to make it work out one way or the other. If I can't go left or right, I will die! When we don't go left or right, we feel like we are in a detox center. We're alone, cold turkey with all the edginess that we've been trying to avoid by going left or right. That edginess can feel pretty heavy.

However, years and years of going to the left or right, going to yes or no, going to right or wrong has never really changed anything. Scrambling for security has never brought anything but momentary joy. It's like changing the position of our legs in meditation. Our legs hurt from sitting cross-legged, so we move them. And then we feel, "Phew! What a relief!" But two and a half minutes later, we want to move them again. We keep moving around seeking pleasure, seeking comfort, and the satisfaction that we get is very short-lived.

We hear a lot about the pain of samsara, and we also hear about liberation. But we don't hear much about how painful it is to go from being completely stuck to becoming unstuck. The process of becoming unstuck requires tremendous bravery, because basically we are completely changing our way of perceiving reality, like changing our DNA. We are undoing a pattern that is not just our pattern. It's the human pattern: we project onto the world a zillion possibilities of attaining resolution. We can have whiter teeth, a weed-free lawn, a strife-free life, a world without embarrassment. We can live happily every after. This pattern keeps us dissatisfied and causes us a lot of suffering.

As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don't deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity. To the degree that we've been avoiding uncertainty, we're naturally going to have withdrawal symptoms'withdrawal from always thinking that there's a problem and that someone, somewhere, needs to fix it.

The middle way is wide open, but it's tough going, because it goes against the grain of an ancient neurotic pattern that we all share. When we feel lonely, when we feel hopeless, what we want to do is move to the right or the left. We don't want to sit and feel what we feel. We don't want to go through the detox. Yet the middle way encourages us to do just that. It encourages us to awaken the bravery that exists in everyone without exception, including you and me.
Read the rest here.

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Video Poem: Billy Collins

US Poet Laureate Billy Collins reads his poem, "Forgetfulness," with animation by Julian Grey of Headgear.

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Ken Wilber on Rabbi Marc Gafni's Sexual Misconduct

[If you are linking here from another site, please also see my update on this topic. Thanks.]

Apparently things have been moving quickly on the Rabbi Marc Gafni case, so much so that I just heard about it this morning on the Ken Wilber blog. Yet these allegations seem valid and, more importantly, they are not new (see below).

Here is Ken Wilber's response, which seems about as balanced and compassionate as humanly possible, given the situation.

On Tuesday, May 9th, 2006, three women from Bayit Chadash, a spiritual community in Israel headed by Rabbi Marc Gafni, filed complaints of sexual misconduct against Gafni with the police. Upon reviewing relevant testimony, the steering committee of Bayit Chadash decided to remove Marc Gafni from the Bayit Chadash staff. (See below for the formal announcement.)

Subsequently, rumors have been rife. After long conversations with many of the concerned parties, I have come to the following conclusions. At this time, these are my personal opinions, and are open to immediate revision in light of any further evidence. Marc Gafni is a close friend of mine, but in circumstances like this, friendship decidedly takes a backseat to ethics and justice. In my opinion, the viewpoint that takes the most number of perspectives into account is the more likely to be the better moral judgment, with the Basic Moral Intuition the ultimate guide.

These are my conclusions at this time:

1. There is substantial truth to some of these allegations.

2. This has caused something of a feeding frenzy for the mean green meme, which is understandable but I believe inexcusable. Frankly, some of these have reached pathetic portions.

3. Nonetheless, there is some truth to these allegations because of grave wrongdoing on Marc’s part, and I believe this wrongdoing is due not just to bad judgment on Marc’s part, but to a pathology or dysfunction affecting Marc.

It goes on from here. Read the rest.

Here are some links that suggest Rabbi Gafni has a history of questionable behavior, which would be obvious to anyone who thinks about it. Sexual predators develop over time.

The Awareness Center: It's hard to say how much of this is true -- they are really out to get Gafni.
Luke Ford: An in-depth look at Gafni's life.
More from Luke Ford's blog: Gafni's questionable claims of education.

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