Category Archives: nature

2020 Vision

… is a joke that’s going to get old real fast, so I’ll try to use it quick before that happens.

A free-to-download version of the Kali Yantra from kalibhakti.com, empty of color and ready to receive your preferred reality.

I was going to write about the terrifying prospects we face in the next year and the next decade, and the way they’re battering mental health all over the planet. But you know about all that. What do we do with it? Here are a few musings.

Some interesting takes on how to cope with this apocalyptic Anthropocene era have crossed my screen in the past week. One was the “post-doom” concept espoused by Michael Dowd: “Post-doom: what opens up when we remember who we are, accept what is inevitable, honor our grief, and invest in what is pro-future and soul-nourishing.”
https://www.postdoom.com/

I heard about this in an interview by Steve Bhaerman, the alter ego of my guru Swami Beyondananda. 
https://omtimes.com/iom/2019/12/michael-dowd-post-doom/

It reminded me of the beautiful Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Inner Light,” in which a probe from a long-dead civilization causes Picard to experience the existence of a man who lived near the end, as the planet was being roasted by a malfunctioning sun. The people knew that soon there would be nothing left of their world, but they managed to retain their joy in living despite unimaginable tragedy.

Next I was introduced to “rewilding” by Micah Mortali, interviewed by Tami Simon:
https://www.soundstrue.com/store/weeklywisdom?page=single&category=IATE&episode=14107
Rewilding is a term for conservation efforts to return land to a wilder state, including the reintroduction of large predators, but Mortali was talking about human beings reconnecting to our natural environment, knowing ourselves as animals that belong within it. When Simon asked him how he would suggest that we deal with climate change, he said something I thought was striking and potentially very useful: we should go outdoors and be with nature, and pay attention, and the Earth will teach us what we need to do.

Mortali also pointed out something that it totally obvious but that people forget all the time, that we grew out of the primordial soup of this planet and we are entirely part of her, not separate. The dichotomy of “man” and “nature” is false. Thinking further, then, how is it that nature has led herself to a situation in which one segment of life on the earth threatens to destroy all the rest along with itself?

I remember that when I was a kid I heard adults talking about a time to come, not too far in the future, when the world would be shaken by earthquakes, terrible storms, upheavals of all sorts. They spoke as if this were inevitable and as if everyone knew it would happen. I have never been able to track down whatever they based this belief upon. Nostradamus, perhaps? At any rate, dang, here it is. I think I’ve always subconsciously expected it.

I was also exposed, from early childhood, to Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future, in which humanity would go through a period of worldwide crises (around the 1990s, in the Star Trek canon), then emerge into an age of peace, enlightenment and prosperity. He is not the only one to imagine this, as far as I know. My impression is that it forms a strong thread in the current human psyche.

Can we say that, logically, whatever is happening must be what is supposed to be happening? And will we create that golden age that is supposed to show up afterward?

I would love to think that God/the Universe/Mother Nature will take care of us and allow us to survive, along with taking care of all the other creatures. However, we know there have been repeated mass extinctions, where nearly all life was lost. This is something Earth has done from time to time, and no doubt will do again. Then things continue in a different form. I think often of the Hindu concept of the Kali Yuga, when things go downhill and are destroyed, to make way for a new cycle. I think also of the goddess Kali (which I just found out is a different word from the above) who performs the necessary act of destruction, without which creation cannot occur. While looking up other information for this post, I became fascinated with reading about her.

I am beginning to consider that Kali may be a perfect image for our time and our response to it. Though she is fierce and bloody, Kali is also the most loving of mothers, in her guise as Kali Ma, symbolizing the ground of being that underlies all that is. She is ultimate darkness not because she is evil but because she embodies all possibilities; she is the void which can give birth to all reality. As the force of Time, she both brings everything into being and causes everything to pass away.

If you have been reading my work for a while, you may remember a book that describes encounters with the Goddess in her dark form, Waking Up to the Dark. https://elenedom.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/review-waking-up-to-the-dark/ It seems that She, like any loving mother, stands ready to discipline her children when they get out of line, but also as our mother, she will not abandon us in our time of need.

So many people perceive deities and entities of various sorts that are either working to protect us and back up our efforts, or are doing their best to sow discord and undermine anything positive we manage to produce. (I have encountered a range of beings myself, but for the most part they’ve been of the helpful type.) Some feel a certain complacency about things being monitored from behind the scenes, while others may despair in the face of evil forces they think are overwhelmingly powerful, controlling us without our having any choice. But even the most fundamentalist among us believe that humans must take responsibility for carrying out the will of God. I am very much a proponent of “the Lord helps those that help themselves.”

I submit that whatever cosmic beings are working for our good or ill, or their own, we are not separate from them. In the end all of reality is made up of the thought processes of One Mind. We are no more nor less important than the other myriad components of that Mind.

A while back, as I told you, I asked my friend Fryderyk if there was any help from the spirit world coming to us. ‘I wondered if they have any involvement with trying to help our dire situation on our dying planet. He said, firmly, that this is the responsibility of those who live on the planet at present, that we wanted and intended to be here and deal with this, that it is “your burden.”’
https://elenedom.wordpress.com/2019/09/17/things-you-can-do-when-youre-dead-and-some-you-cant/

As hard as it appears, this is the logical conclusion. We are here, at this time, because we wanted and needed to be here. We are the ones willing and able to take on the greatest challenge humanity has faced. We may feel utterly inadequate to the task, but it is our task.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We have to be. There is no one else.

 

While I don’t want to get overly exercised about these metaphorical ages, this very complicated explanation of the Yugas has some fascinating information about cataclysmic events within known historical periods. I think we can all agree that, one way or the other, the path of the Earth and life on it is more cyclical than linear.  
https://grahamhancock.com/dmisrab6/

 

https://www.hinduhumanrights.info/kali-as-the-yuga-shakti-the-power-to-create-a-new-world-age/
The gorgeous depiction of Kali with a tiny dragon on this site was made by Mei Huang: http://www.meihuangart.com/#/illustration/

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Katie Does Grief Counseling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most people, and maybe animals too, feel better if they know their deceased loved ones are OK.  In this sweet story, given to me by someone who has lived with many fine dogs, a beloved pet takes it upon herself to deliver the news of her death:

Katie Scarlett

My partner and I found a German Shepherd/Blue Heeler puppy on Central Avenue. The puppy was trying to lick water from a puddle and tossing her head back with each lick. I ran to pick her up and saw that a very tight flea collar had grown into her neck. We rushed her to the vet and had it removed.

We named her Katie Scarlett because of her strong will to survive. Katie was severely dehydrated and malnourished. We thought she was about 3 months old, but the vet said she was closer to 6 months old and severely deprived of care.

Katie became the sweetest, most gentle dog we had ever known. She was so careful with our grandkids, cats and other dogs. She was fiercely protective of our home and our family.

When her fur finally grew back, Katie was a beautiful brindle girl. We affectionately called her our “Jamoca almond swirl girl.” She slept on the foot of our bed for 15 years. We took her to work with us, camping, hiking, and swimming in the lakes, ponds and rivers.

As Katie aged, her hips began to cause her discomfort. We found alternative treatments so she could live life to the fullest pain free.

At the end of her 15th year, mobility once again became an issue. My partner knew that Katie was beginning her transition to the other side. Katie had always loved to sleep late, but she began to rise early and stare out the windows at the sky. It appeared she was seeing things not available to us.

My partner needed to go away for a few weeks and she was fearful that Katie might pass while she was gone. She spent time with Katie letting her know how deeply she would always be loved and how cherished she would always be. She told Katie if she had to leave, it would be okay. She assured Katie that we would miss her terribly but we would be okay and we would all be together again someday.

A week after my partner left on her trip, Katie left her tired earthly body behind. I was devastated and did not want to ruin my partner’s trip by sharing the sad news. I saw no need to tell bad news in a hurry.

Katie handled that for me. Late that evening, my partner called in tears. She told me Katie had come to her room and laid on the foot of her bed. As she reached to touch her, Katie flew away.

We do not die. We will all be together again. This life is but one of many. Katie was one of the very best blessings I ever received. I will be so happy to be with her again.

— Judy Talley

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What Is This Qi Stuff, Anyway?

(Written for my colleagues on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Day, 10/24/18, and posted on the website of the New Mexico Society for Acupuncture and Asian Medicine.)

The field is the sole governing agency of the particle. — Einstein


There is a school of thought that seems to be gaining currency in our profession lately, which says that the concept of Qi is nothing more than a quaint misunderstanding of what the ancient sages were really writing about, and that our medicine is really all about the nervous system and other purely physical aspects of the body.

This is simply not true.  In an apparent effort to align their work with biomedical science, these authors are actually ignoring a great deal of that same science, not to mention the experiences of myriad practitioners and patients. 

Let me start with typical human perceptions of the energetic field surrounding the body, the manifestation of Qi we think of most often.  While Qi can be complicated to pin down in terms of exactly what types of energy and what frequency ranges are involved, close to the body it’s very simple to perceive and to demonstrate. 

When I am scanning for active points or disturbances in patients’ bodies, the person on the table often says, with surprise, “I can feel exactly where your hand is!”  Of course they can, as this is a normal human ability.  When patients ask me what Qi is, or what is meant by Qi Gong, I have them try a very simple exercise: Hold your palms near each other, about a half inch apart.  Notice what you feel. A kind of pressure, a bit like the feeling of trying to bring two magnets together with the same poles facing?  Warmth?  Tingling?

Nearly everyone can perceive this immediately.  I’ve tried this exercise with hundreds of people when I’ve given presentations to groups, and only a couple have ever said that they didn’t feel anything. 

When I used to teach Reiki, I introduced the concept of the human biofield with another simple exercise.  One person would stand facing a wall, eyes closed.  Another person would walk up to them from the back.  The first person would raise her hand when she felt the presence of the other one.  This would happen consistently when the two were about four feet apart.

But although those effects are consistent and reliable, science likes objective, numerical measurements with instruments.  There are plenty of those to be had as well, and many of them have been done by researchers right here in the US.  That’s been going on for decades.

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to meet the biophysicist Beverly Rubik, who has spent 40 years studying the human biofield, and was part of the group that coined that term.  Her current work is largely in the area of biophotons, the weak but important light emitted from the body in the ultraviolet range.  Among other things, she has studied the changes in biophoton emissions involved with healers and healees, showing that more light is emitted from the hands of healers when they are doing their work.  One instrument she uses to detect biophotons is the Bio-Well gas discharge visualization camera, which is available commercially and has clinical applications that could be useful in an acupuncture office.

She stated at the conference that as a child she could feel energy, but that “it was educated out of her.”  The biofield, she said, is proposed to be “a high-speed wireless communication system, a bridge between the mind and body.”

I had already encountered Dr. Rubik’s work in a 2016 online course, “The Science of Energy Medicine,” given by the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology.  Here are some quotes from her presentation there:

‘… I see the biofield as a complex dynamic standing wave within and around the body. Let me tell you more. You’re already familiar with the concept of standing waves from musical instruments, for example a wood instrument, a clarinet. There’s a standing wave when it’s being sounded, or the plucking of a string in a violin or a guitar. Once again, a standing wave is vibrating and rendering sound. Not only sound standing waves are possible. There are also electromagnetic standing waves, too.’

‘There was one main prediction from the biofield hypothesis, and that is that if we can shift the biofield, we can change the physiology and chemistry and move the body, the body mind, to a new steady state….’

Experiments have consistently shown that intention is of great importance in causing measurable energetic effects: ‘I come back to that old principle of Oriental medicine. Where mind goes, chi, or energy, flows, and the blood and flesh follow.  This is the bottom line when it comes to how we can heal ourselves. We must change our minds. Then there are shifts in the biofield, and then the flesh and blood is the slowest to change overall.’

You might wonder why, after four decades of work like this, the science of the biofield is not more familiar, even to those of us who deal with it every day. Dr. Rubik gave some reasons why it is not: ‘We have certain challenges in biofield science. We are dealing with complex dynamical fields that are actually very low-level that become difficult to measure and we have to use a variety of tools. There is no one singular tool that you can grab off the shelf that’s ready-made to look at the biofield, but rather a collection of different tools to understand and probe the biofield through different windows.

‘There’s also very little funding and no concerted effort. Unfortunately, the NIH has dropped the ball and it is not a lead agency. We have no leading organization that’s making a concerted effort to forward biofield science or its understanding in the frontiers of medicine, and I’ve long been an advocate of something I call a Human Energy Project [along the lines of the Human Genome Project].’

Here is an article in which Dr. Rubik gives a lucid overview of methods of measuring the biofield:
https://www.faim.org/measurement-of-the-human-biofield-and-other-energetic-instruments

Another researcher who started measuring the biofield, even earlier, was Valerie Hunt, who began as a scientist with no knowledge of or interest in esoteric or energetic matters.  She eventually developed new instrumentation that could detect immensely higher frequencies than had been measured around the body previously, in the range of hundreds of thousands of cycles per second.

‘My academic background is as a neurophysiologist, and I was also a registered physical therapist. I was working in electromyography and electrocardiography, and I was interested in the patterns of electromyographic energy in the body that were related to emotions. Eventually, I established a pattern of emotions connected with neurological energy. In the process, I was the first researcher to have a telemetry, electromyography instrument. This was when the first astronauts went into space. They had to have monitors of their basic health — the heart rate, the blood pressure, and the galvanic skin response — sent from space. They did this using telemetry, which is a radio frequency instrument system. It would send a signal on an FM frequency down to the earth, where NASA would record the FM frequencies and know what was happening to the astronauts.

‘When I heard about this, I got in touch with NASA and the young scientist who had first made that telemetry instrumentation, and I had him build for me the first telemetry electromyography instrument. This meant I could test a person using an FM frequency, a radio frequency, process the data through my instrumentation and record it. And when I did this I found the electromagnetic energy field.

‘This was in early 60’s, and I thought, “Oh my God, what have I got here?” So I brought in researchers from the university’s chemistry, physics, and engineering departments. I said, “What have I got, an artifact?” And they kept saying I didn’t, that my equipment was working fine. They tested everything, and finally I realized I was dealing with a new kind of energy in the body.’

https://healthontheedge.wordpress.com/2012/01/28/the-human-energy-field-an-interview-with-valerie-v-hunt-ph-d/

Dr. Hunt famously worked with the healer Rosalyn Bruyere, and was able to correlate her perceptions of the human aura with the readings made by her instruments.  In addition to making measurements of the biofield, she was able to create practical applications for healing.  She was still going strong on a number of projects when she died in 2014.

All of these electromagnetic emanations from the body are relatively weak.  How do we explain the much more extreme effects that can be produced by well-trained Qi Gong masters and some others?  That’s not at all clear, but the effects are incontrovertibly there.  For example, a fascinating series of trials by Mikio Yamamoto in Japan was reported by Lynne McTaggart in her seminal book The Intention Experiment, involving a master doing tohate, in which the master could push another person back several yards through sheer force of will and Qi, while the other was trying to resist.  The master was isolated in an electromagnetically shielded room on the fourth floor of a building, while his student was placed in a similar room on the first floor.  Neither the distance nor the shielding prevented the effect; in nearly a third of 49 trials, the master was able to knock the student back.  (p. 53)

A nonexistent energy could not visibly, objectively move a body. 

Probably quite a few of us have felt a more mundane version of this kind of effect, being pushed back from the treatment table when a blockage in a patient suddenly released, maybe even feeling that we were “knocked across the room” by a considerable force.  How can the biofield, which seems so feeble when measured, create a force like that?  I don’t know of anyone who has answered that question in terms of biophysics, and it is urgently begging for an answer.  There has to be something more to Qi than the types of electromagnetism we have detected in and around the body so far.

At the conference where I met Dr. Rubik, I had an unusually dramatic experience of being strongly tapped between the eyes by someone who was not physically present.  It didn’t hurt, but it knocked me back a little, and everyone in the room saw that.  Some years ago, such a person pushed my whole body a few inches sideways on my chair.  You can’t help but be impressed when an invisible force moves you against (or at least without) your will.

The other issue with explaining Qi solely as a matter of electromagnetic fields is that electromagnetic effects rapidly diminish with distance, but Qi has no trouble at all being transmitted across any given amount of space.  The tohate experiments are a particularly vivid example of that, but many of us do remote treatments that are effective in a quieter way.  What, precisely, is being transmitted?  Or is that the wrong question?

Here, from the ACEP course, is Gary Schwartz attempting to deal with this issue:
‘Now, how do we explain effects that are taking place across 3000 miles or in London, which is what, 6000 miles from Tucson [where he is based]? Or Sydney, Australia, which is even further. Electromagnetic field effects are insufficient to explain that kind of data because the intensity of electromagnetic fields decreases with the square of the distance, and they are modified by all kinds of objects in the environment. That’s one reason why you need to consider higher level or more sophisticated theories of physics to be able to explain this.’

‘To say that a quantum field is involved in distance, which it may very well be, for example, does not mean that the electromagnetics are not involved in proximal things. You can have multiple layers of mechanism being operative at the same time. That’s why I use a staircase for the explanations so people can see this. The problem with skeptics and probably most of us is that we don’t look at the whole picture.’

So at this point, we are very clear about many aspects of the human biofield— which we can call a manifestation of Qi— but there are large and crucial holes in our understanding.

To be continued….

 

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Another Human Being’s Identity Is Not Yours to Dictate

(Rant Advisory! I am as upset about this as if it pertained to my own child, or to me.)

So very often I am reminded of the old song that goes “None of us are free if one of us is chained.” It adds, “And if we don’t say it’s wrong then that says it’s right.”

Sometimes the chains are kept locked by those who think of themselves as far beyond bigotry or intolerance.

In the past week I have encountered two attacks against transgender people that appeared on the surface to have some higher intention. Both were warmed-over versions of old arguments.  One came in the form of a supposedly spiritual look at gender identity through the lens of reincarnation, and the other purported to be a principled defense of the rights of women by a feminist group.

GIVE. ME. A. BREAK.

I could call out the “spiritual” thinker by name, but I’m not going to, because his presentation is not just his own but represents a turn of thought that is all too common. It’s been used against gay people, too. The idea is that if you are not comfortable twisting yourself to fit into a gender-binary, heteronormative life, it’s because you were a different gender in a previous life, and either through confusion or through willful stubbornness, you are still clinging to identification with that gender. If you persist, you are stupid and bad. You should just get over it and move on, and then you’ll be fine.

This is the exact same paternalistic crap promulgated by religious groups who insist that God made you either male or female and that’s that. God doesn’t make mistakes, and so if you don’t feel right in your body, you are going against God, and therefore you are sinful and bad.

I’ll get to the so-called feminists later. First, I want to take a look at exactly what God/nature/biology did make. Because we do have some actual facts to work with.

While it would be nice to have human reproductive biology all wrapped up in a neat, understandable package, the more we learn, the more we see that things are complex and fuzzy. “Male” and “female” are not definite categories with hard edges. I’m sorry if someone dislikes this, but it’s reality. Some easily accessible sources of information follow.

http://www.isna.org/faq/ten_myths/rare
According to this, about 1 in 2000 humans are intersex. Another source estimated 1.7% of births. That’s a lot of people. Some may never realize they are anything but typical male or female, or may only find out late in life. One person I’ve read about was a seemingly ordinary middle-aged man with a bunch of kids, who had an abdominal surgery and was found to have a uterus in addition to his full set of male reproductive parts.

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001669.htm
There are a variety of possible intersex conditions, with varying appearances and health considerations, briefly summarized in this article.

If that’s not enough, take a look at the fascinating case of the guevedoces. A few weeks ago I learned about them in an excellent PBS program, Nine Months that Made You. In the Dominican Republic, about one in 90 boys have this condition, which has also been found in Papua New Guinea. They have XY genotypes like “regular” boys, but they lack an enzyme that is needed to develop male genitalia in the womb, so their parents think they are girls and raise them that way. At puberty, they have the usual surge in testosterone and become obviously male all of a sudden. Of course, they were biologically male all along.
http://www.pbs.org/show/9-months-made-you/
http://www.newsweek.com/rare-condition-causes-girls-become-boys-puberty-374934

So are we clear now that external genital configuration does not equal gender? Likely we’re not clear at all and I’m still going to get a big argument from those who insist on a binary world, but in that case, they’re going to have to register their objections with God, because this is the way nature is put together. A religious and/or spiritual viewpoint, it seems to me, would have to say that there must be a good reason for things to be this way. A purely materialist viewpoint would say the same— that nature has shaped human bodies and brains in a dazzlingly diverse variety because it’s been helpful to our survival.

Some might then point out that transgender people are not the same as intersex people, and that most probably have clear male or female genotypes or phenotypes. But there appear to be differences from cisgender folk in those cases too, albeit subtler ones. As far as we can tell, transgender people have brains that function more like the gender they say they are rather than the one indicated by their genital apparatus— though this too is complex and a bit fuzzy.
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-there-something-unique-about-the-transgender-brain/

Here is a link to another useful PBS program.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/growing-up-trans/
What struck me most about it was that the kids decidedly look like the gender they say they are. That’s not a hard scientific fact, but to me, it reinforces the concept that there is a physical basis for being transgender.

I don’t pretend to understand much about these aspects of our biology, nor how they fit with how we become who we become when we enter a new life on this planet, or what choices we have or don’t have about our embodiment. My conjecture is that gender exists as a spectrum so that we can experience every permutation of it, but that’s not fact. What I know for sure is that it makes no sense to tell others how they feel inside themselves— either how they do feel or how they should feel. It’s illogical and it’s just plain mean. And when it’s coupled with a holier-than-thou or more-enlightened-than-thou message, it’s positively sickening.

Now, to the lawsuit filed by the Women’s Liberation Front, or WoLF. It’s the bathroom thing again, same as the extreme right’s fearmongering, strangely enough. They are insisting that “men” in women’s restrooms are a threat to women’s safety. I’m not going to rehash the reasons why trans women are no threat to cis women in this context (or anywhere else, really). You can find those all over. I’m only going to point out that trans women are not men. In their brains, the part of the human body that matters most, they are women. So denying ordinary human rights to those women cannot be feminism. Not in any way I can recognize it.

The latest post on WoLF’s Facebook page, in reference to the rule allowing kids to use school facilities consistent with their gender, states: “Girls’ rights to personal privacy and freedom from male sexual harassment, forced exposure to male nudity, and voyeurism have been eliminated with the stroke of a pen.” This makes my stomach churn. I am of course not a trans girl trying to navigate high school (which is hard enough for the rest of us), but reading this, I can viscerally relate to what they experience. It is terrifying. To be just a kid and know that others assume you are a sexual predator, when all you want to do is attend PE class and not get beaten up… to be hated and censured by “righteous” people one has never met… it boggles the mind and even more the heart. Imagine being, say, a second grader, too young even to have a concept of voyeurism or anything like it, having no idea why people are saying these terrible things about you.

(Please note that I don’t mean to ignore trans boys.  It’s just that WoLF seems to be targeting trans girls and women specifically.)

WoLF’s lawsuit clearly contradicts two of their main stated goals, and they seem to have no clue that this is the case. The home page of their website says: “WoLF is a radical feminist organization dedicated to the total liberation of women. We fight to end male violence, regain reproductive sovereignty, and ultimately dismantle the gender-caste system.” The total liberation of women has to include ALL women, not just the ones who look a certain way. Dismantling the gender-caste system (a laudable goal) has to mean completely dismantling, so that no gender is discriminated against.

Why should we settle for anything less?

 

It’s a great song:
http://www.altheaknight.com/None-of-us-is-free-if-one-of-us-is-chained
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JC2mmeA9CA8

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More Healing Mandalas from CJ, and Her New Book on the Wolves!

Mandala055I am beyond delighted to tell you that CJ Rogers’ first book, Raised By Wolves: A Pack Odyssey has been published and is now available.  It tells the story of her first four years of living with and learning from the wolves.  She has a great deal more still to say about the couple of decades between then and now, and further books are in the works.

http://www.amazon.com/Raised-Wolves-Odyssey-CJ-Rogers-ebook/dp/B01BUI0TTM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458078390&sr=1-1&keywords=cj+rogers+wolves

You may remember that CJ is known as the Jane Goodall of wolves.  She knows them more intimately than perhaps any other human on the planet.  If you have any interest in wolves themselves, the development of early human societies and our relationship with canines, or the natural world in general, you will find a lot to think about here.

When I introduced you to CJ’s fascinating artwork a while back, for some reason I was unable to access the website that houses many of her mandalas, and all I had to show you was a few poor-quality photos.  Here is a look at the huge bounty of designs she’s done, including some new ones:

http://www.cjmandalas.com/

CJ was describing to me how life-saving this process of drawing mandalas has been for her during times of the most extreme pain and illness.  She has highly recommended that I try it, but my little attempts have not resulted in anything much so far.  Maybe you’ll have more success yourself?

CJ doesn’t have web access in the area of rural New Mexico where she lives, but please feel free to contact her through the website, and the message will be passed on to her.

 

 

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Review: Waking Up to the Dark

rose at Notre DameWaking Up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age
by Clark Strand
New York, Spiegel & Grau, 2015

In the vision exercise called palming, you attempt to see complete darkness. The idea is that when the eyes and brain are struggling to see, the muscles overwork and the optic nerve is constantly irritated, so that even with your palms blocking out all light, you see persistent flashes. It can be a challenge to relax and let the darkness happen, but when you stop trying to see, you become able to see more clearly.

What would it be like to let complete darkness happen? What would happen if we turned out all the lights? What would it be like to truly rest?

Clark Strand’s thesis is that artificial lighting is the fundamental evil behind every form of human trouble, and that before electric lights came into use, humans did truly and deeply rest, reaching a state of grace every night that we rarely if ever experience in the modern world.

I had already heard of this, that people used to go to sleep early in the evening, wake and go about quiet activities for two or three of the wee hours, then sleep till dawn. Apparently there are many written references to the “first and second sleep.” There was also a fascinating experiment, described in the book, in which subjects were kept away from all sources of artificial light for a month, and they soon developed that same pattern of sleep.

Although it is still common to wake in the middle of the night, most usually at 2 or 3 am, now people are typically held to a schedule where this becomes a vexing and draining problem, and they lie there anxiously staring at the ceiling. Strand writes that this time has been called the “Hour of the Wolf” because of that distress, but he sees it as the “Hour of God.”

Throughout his life, Strand has awakened and walked outdoors during that hour, in all settings and all weathers. Even as a child he did this, and he claims that he has never gotten into any serious trouble. He never takes a flashlight— it seems that his vision is exceptional. He experiences darkness as a friendly and nurturing presence.

I can relate to this, even though it is more natural for me to reach the Hour of God simply by staying up till then, not by waking after a period of good sleep. When I was little my mother, also a night person, taught me not to be afraid of the dark, and told me that it was comforting and peaceful. I took that feeling in early, and I still have it. I partake sometimes of that clarity that Strand talks about, where suddenly thoughts come together in a new way, answers click into place, and poetry may arise out of the depths. Of course I am often doing this in an environment that includes electric light, so it is not quite the same thing.

Lately I have been reducing the intensity of light as much as possible, though; I started that even before reading this book. One aspect of that was my purchase of a Kindle, essentially an electrically-lit book. I’d been reading e-books on my laptop, and both the heat and the light generated were irritating at night. The Kindle is much gentler that way, and besides it uses less power.  A little way into the book, which I was borrowing, I decided to buy my own copy, and perhaps ironically, I bought the Kindle version, thinking how much Strand would disapprove of this self-lighting of his book. Yet, this allowed me to nestle in my bed, wrapped securely in the dark, like a child reading with a flashlight under the covers, instead of being flooded with the light I would need to read a print book.

(It must be noted that Strand’s book, even if only in print, could not have been produced or distributed without electricity and lighting.)

As valuable as Waking Up to the Dark is, in some ways it goes seriously wrong. Strand mentions teaching his kids about our prehuman ancestors, and he has apparently read a great deal about them, but it seems to me that he has missed some important understanding. If I read him correctly, he believes that the introduction of fire into our caves was the beginning of our sense of separation from the rest of Nature, and the hubris that causes us to want and expect dominion over her. (He even states, based on someone else’s book, that fire is responsible for the fact that humans reproduce year-round. I would be extremely surprised if there were any evidence for this, especially since our close primate relatives also mate at any time of year despite an utter lack of firelight.) The use of fire far predates the existence of Homo sapiens. Can we confidently attribute a modern human imbalance to people who were a completely different species, beings we know next to nothing about? What kind of hubris would that be? Strand also seems to ignore the fact that even now, people in traditional cultures feel themselves to be part of the natural world, co-equal with other creatures, not set above them. That must have been the norm everywhere in the relatively recent past, up till no more than a few thousand years ago.

I find it a bit confusing, too, to be told first that modern electric light is the root of all evil, and then that the trouble started even with ancient firelight. Discrepancies like this may stem in part from the fact that this book is based on years of recorded experiences, during which Strand’s ideas must have evolved and shifted. Strand reports that his wife, Perdita Finn, wove the book from material in his 59 notebooks about rising to walk at night. Perhaps a few threads were crossed or twisted in the process.

The last part of the book is focused on something that, despite my not-entirely-different experiences, gave me rather a turn. I referred to Nature as “her” above for a reason: that is what Strand encountered, or rather, who. As he progressed with his exploration of the depths of night, at some point the darkness itself, the Yin principle one might say, began to visit him in the form of a beautiful young woman, three-dimensional, visible, audible, and solid to the touch. When he first saw her, her lips were sealed by a creepily evocative X of black electrical tape, which she wordlessly pleaded with him to remove. Sometimes her appearance would change. He recognized her as Mary, Isis, Sophia, Diana, the Shekinah, the Queen of Heaven, and especially the Black Madonna. In all cases, She is the personification of Earth and Nature, the Mother we all come from and who we ignore at our peril, the feminine essence that so many human societies have suppressed with desperate force.

When Strand realized it was time to understand Her destructive and terrifying aspects, he discovered an image of Kali. He describes the Hindu view of the Kali Yuga, a stage of destruction that is necessary in order for a new cycle of creation to take place. He sees this as natural and inevitable, but at the same time, he believes that we are bringing it about through our insanely imbalanced technological way of life. Turn out the lights, he says, and all will be well, because we then will understand how we should live and we will save ourselves and the earth.

But here is another source of confusion. “The night is a natural corrective to that most persistent and persuasive of all illusions: that human consciousness is the reason for the world.” (p.96) I understand what he means, but human consciousness is, at the very least, the reason for the world that we experience. There is nothing more fundamental than consciousness. Further, our consciousness is not separate from that of the planet and its other inhabitants. This is the very same interconnectedness that Strand says we will experience if we turn off the lights. Are human thoughts and activities truly in opposition to Nature and the Earth, or are they the working out of the path and destiny of the planet and actually in divine order? Complex arguments could be made about this. I tend to think that if something, anything, is happening, no matter how dire it looks, it is part of the overall Plan and would make sense if we could see the big picture.

A healer I know replied to this question by saying that Earth and its inhabitants are being hampered and interfered with by entities who benefit from our confusion and strife. A lot of people see things this way. I am much more aware of entities who do their best to help, but just because I don’t perceive a particular thing, I can’t prove that it’s not there. I do think that we are more than capable of screwing up massively on our own, even without anyone working to make it worse for us. And I have a hard time imagining anyone or anything more powerful than the Goddess herself. Even if She is only a concept, a construction of the greater Mind of humanity, as my materialist friends may postulate, She is a concept with immense energy, perhaps more than we have ever completely understood. “My body is the body of the world,” She said to Strand. “Your body is one with that body. What could there be to fear?” (p. 124)

On the more hopeful side of this idea of harmful entities, someone told me the other day that a channeler she knows had been told that as of the end of 2014, the “good guys” had removed a whole lot of those beings from our planet, and there was a big positive shift going on because of it. She used Pope Francis as an example of movement in the right direction. I don’t know— I’d like to think that’s true, but I don’t see much basis for it. Meanwhile, I await further guidance.

Which may have arrived already, two weeks ago, on the day I started writing this.

Bob decided he really needed to stop at DaVinci’s Pizza after Nia class, and I decided I really needed to work on this post, so by way of organizing my thoughts, I started to tell him about the visitations from the Blessed Mother in her many forms. I was about to open my mouth to say that Strand saw her as Mary when the sound system suddenly broke into “Silent Night,” the section that goes “round yon virgin mother and child.”

It was October 6. Everyone knows businesses don’t start playing Christmas music till Halloween! This was obviously a mistake, and was immediately replaced by some very ordinary hip-hop. Or it wasn’t a mistake at all, and it meant that She was listening.

Synchronicities have been coming thick and fast lately. I had my laptop with me, and I opened it to find an email from Steve Bhaerman, my dear old Swami, describing how he had lost his voice right at the beginning of his tour of the Southwest. He concluded that he needed to shut up and listen. “You need to listen to that still small voice inside… that’s still small, because you DON’T LISTEN. You need to stop the endless rat-a-tat-tat of thoughts, and listen to the silence.” Listen to the Silent Night. In the dark.

One might wonder where the Father and the Son in their own various guises fit in with the story— those in whose name the Mother’s lips were misguidedly taped shut. They haven’t gone away, but as Strand points out, fathers cannot produce sons without mothers, no matter how much the patriarchal religions would like to deny mothers their due. Yang cannot exist without Yin, as we all know, and there is nothing so Yang as our current America. Swami Beyondananda, who always travels with his wife, says that when a society is based only on masculine energy, we have a stag-nation, so we need the feminine energy to make a doe-nation in order to create the imagi-nation that builds the world.

When I read Strand’s chapter about the apparitions of Our Lady, as usual it was very late at night. I put down the book and turned in, and I could feel myself as partaking of that essential feminine principle, being, in myself, a source of creation. This principle lives in males as well. I’m not sure that we have to turn off the physical lights in order to find Her within ourselves and return to our Mother, whom we have never really left.

*******************************************************************

The photo above was taken when I visited Paris in the fall of 2010.  A rose– symbol of Mary.  Growing behind the cathedral of Notre Dame– Our Lady.  In the dark.

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Filed under history, nature, spirit communication, spirituality

Identity and the True Self

By Mike Luckovich. http://www.gocomics.com/mikeluckovich/2015/06/02 (I did my best to look into getting permission to use this cartoon, but could not find out how. Go Comics does allow free sharing on Facebook etc., so I hope this is OK.)

 

 

So much has happened in the past couple of weeks! Looking at the news optimistically, despite the horrifying attacks that have occurred, I see tremendous opportunities for healing in the national conversations about race, gender, and sexual orientation. That is, the fact that we’re having the conversations at all is extremely positive.

I usually try not to jump into any of the rings of the media circus. I am way behind the news cycle with this post, because I’ve been cogitating for quite a while about what I want to say. All the headlines lately have to do with identity in one way or another, and that’s my subject today. It’s complicated, as you know, and I’m afraid that someone may come away from reading this feeling insulted or minimized, which is certainly not my intention.

I started on this back at the time earlier in June, which seems like ages ago, when everyone was talking about Caitlynn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal,* and we were endlessly treated to analyses of those two cases of identity change. I don’t normally pay any attention to celebrities-for-celebrity’s-sake; it wasn’t that long ago that someone had to explain to me who Kim Kardashian was, and I wasn’t clear how Jenner was related. (Argus Hamilton quipped that before Dolezal identified as black, she identified as a Kardashian-American.) But there has been some real usefulness in the confusion people have been expressing and in their attempts to work their way through it.

It seems like the group mind has concluded that it’s pretty much OK to change your appearance and who you say you are in order to fit with who you feel you are on the inside, but that it’s not OK to lie. That’s fairly simple. There’s nothing simple about identity, though.

The fact that same-sex marriage is now legal and recognized in all 50 states (Lord, what fun it is to type those words!) is one sign that our view of human identity is more flexible and tolerant than it used to be. The lowering of the army of northern Virginia’s battle flag in some Southern states is another. The burning of African-American churches—six of them in four states in just the past week— following the murders at the church in Charleston is a sobering sign that the opposite is still true.** We have a long, long way to go.

From a biological viewpoint, race is nonexistent, and gender is fuzzy. Each of us contains multiple lines of ancestors and multiple genetic potentials. Why shouldn’t identity be large enough to contain those multitudes? I am so accustomed to switching roles in the course of a day or a week that it’s hard to imagine being limited to existing as any one thing. I wonder if we can or will get to a point where being intentionally multiple will be seen as normal.

In the matter of race, it seems inevitable; there are more and more mixed-race people all the time (all of us are mixed-race, of course, but I mean those for whom it’s an overt identity), so surely everyone will get more and more used to that. Genetic studies have shown how closely everyone on the planet is related, and that fact will most likely become more widely known.

With regard to gender, I wonder what would happen if our concepts of male and female expanded enough that a boy who feels like a girl could be comfortable remaining identified as a boy while expressing feminine aspects without restriction. That is, I wonder if trans people would feel less pain and less need to transition if society got over the idea of gender being binary and opened up the possibilities. But I am fortunate in that my own identity is not painful and is not being forced on me in any way, and I cannot speak for anyone else.

I read an impassioned essay from June 9 by Fr. Robert Barron, who strongly criticized trans people for saying that they are mentally one thing and physically another.+ He wrote that the Church has always seen the material body as good (which doesn’t sound to me like the Catholic Church I was brought up in), with identity being a characteristic of the body and not just the mind. “Moreover, the mind or will is not the ‘true self’ standing over and against the body; rather, the body, with its distinctive form, intelligibility, and finality, is an essential constituent of the true self.”

Since I am very much aware of the existence of human beings who are not currently living in bodies, I find this point of view astonishing. I wonder what in form Fr. Barron imagines humans to exist in his version of heaven, where physical bodies must be irrelevant. I don’t mean to say that the mind should be set against the body, but it is clear that the body cannot be the “true self.”

Speaking of a council that was apparently convened in Rome the week before, he said that he was particularly bothered by “the claim that the secret council was calling for a ‘theology of love’ that would supplant the theology of the body proposed by John Paul II.++” Christians espousing a theology of love? Shocking! Certainly no basis in the New Testament. No idea where they could have gotten such stuff.

If I had the chance to converse with Fr. Barron, I might ask him how his body-centered spirituality deals with the fact that the body is always changing and does not have “distinctive form” or “finality.” The many, shall we say, gifts of middle age put this fact in front of me every day. For example, my vocal range has changed enough to cause a new label to be applied to my voice, one that feels like it doesn’t belong to me, and I am trying to gracefully let go of the old one. It would be silly to get overly involved with concepts of having to sound a certain way or having a certain hair color or even being a certain height, because those are going to be different, and sooner rather than later. My mother, at age 90 1/2, has been expressing surprise that her body is changing so quickly and dramatically. My elderly patients and friends often say things like that, but add that they feel exactly the same on the inside as they always did.

On the spiritual level, none of our outer identifiers, the things other people see when they look at us, have any real meaning at all. I don’t have to tell you that body shape, size, color and the like are not who you really are. But let’s go a bit further. Some philosophers say that there is no “real you” at all.

Brian Hubbard, husband of Lynne McTaggart, wrote the book Time-Light, describing his theory that what we think of as our personality is nothing more than an accumulation of experiences we have not sufficiently understood, that stick to us and make us “time-heavy.” He claims that he got over his persistent depression by letting go of the past and returning to a state much like that of a small child.

Brent Phillips, a healer and teacher whose work I encountered a few months ago, is one who insists that the you that manifests in the physical world is only a kind of fictional character— he likes to use Harry Potter as the example. When you look further and further inward, he says, you find that “no one is home.”

I have been very uncomfortable with this concept that there is nothing and no one at the center of a person. Not because I particularly want to cling to my own existence; in fact, I feel empty of it much of the time, as if there is someone talking and doing various things, typing this right now, but “I” am not particularly identified with that being, and even the “I” that is observing its activities does not feel fundamental. The problem is that I, whatever I that means, directly experience a something in a human being, some irreducible spark behind all those characters in their shifting roles. That something exists in animals as well. At the core of all is an awareness. That is what’s home.

A long time ago I heard a talk by the Dalai Lama in which he was asked what the nature of consciousness really is. I remember him saying that it is a “luminous I.” Now I can’t find that quote anywhere, but I’ve found standard Buddhist references to consciousness as being “luminous and knowing.” Consciousness is the thing that illuminates, meaning that it lights its objects so that they can be apprehended, and it is the thing that knows, independent of what is known. At least, that is my best effort at understanding this. And the awareness that is found at the center of everyone is the same awareness that is found at the center of everyone else. This gets tougher to grasp. If one follows along through Phillips’ teachings, it becomes apparent that he too is talking about this universal awareness, not truly saying that there is no one home anywhere.

Universal awareness has found a staggering variety of ways to express itself, and I find that to be a tremendous joy. The “luminous I” is free to manifest as any physical appearance, any set of interests and talents, any gender or sexual orientation. The objective human mind sets limits, but in reality there are none.

 

*For those who have been living on Mars or who may read this in the future when these names have faded into history: Caitlynn Jenner is the name of the person who used to be the Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner before she transitioned. Rachel Dolezal is a white woman who changed her appearance and identified as black, and who led a chapter of the NAACP before she was outed as white by her parents.

**http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2015/06/26/string-of-nighttime-fires-hit-predominately-black-churches-in-four-southern-states/

+http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/article/bruce-jenner-the-shadow-council-and-st-irenaeus/4785/
Fr. Barron uses Jenner as a reason to attack his real target, Gnosticism, which he trashes viciously, and which he appears to understand poorly, as seen in his use of the term “the Gnostic heresy” at this late date. It seems, also, that he has more of an issue with dualism than with Gnosticism; he conflates the two, and this is misleading. But all that is a subject for another day and probably a very long post.

++ http://www.jp2.info/Theology_of_the_Body.pdf
Here is a summary of Pope John Paul II’s “theology of the body.”  I had not heard that term before, but I was all too familiar with his resistance to contraception and to any kind of sex outside of marriage (not to mention an equal role for women within the church).  I always admired John Paul II overall, but he went much further than I realized with these ideas, which seem to me to dismiss and denigrate the body’s biological needs just as Catholicism has done for centuries.  I am deeply saddened by words such as this:  “Therefore, in such a case, the conjugal act, deprived of its interior truth because it is artificially deprived of its procreative capacity, ceases also to be an act of love.” “If the procreative aspect of conjugal union is excluded, then that truth of the person and of the act itself is destroyed.”   There is no room at all for those who are anything other than heterosexual and monogamously married, nor even for those of us who have been sterilized for medical reasons or who have undergone hysterectomies!  This does not reflect the reality of nature on this planet.
  And for a celibate old man to suggest that since I had a tubal ligation in my late 20s, in all these years my husband and I have not experienced “an act of love,” is beyond offensive.  I am well and truly ready for a theology of love to replace this one.

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Filed under human rights, nature, politics, spirituality