My Two Great Teachers of 2016

I’ve heard people say that 2016 really sucked. Well, we lost lots of amazing musicians and artists, the weather wasn’t great, there was Syria, the refugee crisis, the abysmal U.S. presidential campaign season, and lots more. OK, so it’s not on people’s list of favorite years. I gotta tell ya, my 2016 was one for the books, too. But last year was perhaps one of the greatest of my life, due to the presence of two remarkable teachers, one spiritual and one physical. Let me tell you about them.

(This is a bit long for a post, but there’s a lot to say. I think it will be worth your time.)

The first teacher showed up in April, on the 12th, to be exact. Coincidentally, this is the final day of the Asterian (Sidereal) astrological year, which I think is significant, given what happened. (You can find out more about Asterian astrology here and here.) I had been on an intensive, at-home meditation retreat. I was going at it six to eight hours a day for several days. The method I was using was Light and Sound, a method I had been initiated into several months before, meditating about an hour each day since that time. Progress had been gratifying, and I was hoping to “pop through” into an Awakened state during this retreat. That is, I was hoping without hoping to become Enlightened. The word Enlightenment has some baggage, and lots of misunderstanding, attached (Buddhist pun intended) to it. That’s something for another post, though.

Suffice it to say, I was in it to the hilt. And I’ll be damned if it didn’t happen. I achieved my Awakening, and I have been forever changed. I’ll tell you about it sometime, but the experience isn’t germane to the current discussion, so I’ll save that for later, too. Now, for the teaching part of it. This experience taught me to still my mind. It no longer intrudes. It has become the tool it is meant to be. I understand suffering at an entirely new level, and my compassion for others has skyrocketed. I have learned that we are truly all One. Also, I have learned to see impermanence, the transience of all things. Nothing lasts, but the All is eternal. (You can’t help talking like this once It happens. All dichotomies have dissolved at the level of spiritual vision. It’s indescribable. It’s incredibly beautiful. Everything is.)

OK, on to my second teacher. I was extremely fortunate to encounter the first before the second, as it made things a whole lot easier. In August, I was diagnosed with amyloidosis, a life-threatening illness. This insidious illness is rare (estimated incidence ranges from one in 100,000 to one in a million – I mean, I’ve always been an outlier, but this is ridiculous!), and it has an unknown cause. What happens? Well, cells in the bone marrow start putting out tons of misfolded proteins. These buggers settle in the organs, like the heart, kidney, liver, and digestive tract, gradually gumming up the works and leading to the failure of the affected organ(s). They can also settle in other tissues, like the tongue, salivary glands, body fat, etc. Untreated, the disease progresses rapidly, and death usually occurs in a couple of years. The other outcome is that I was forced into retirement from my psychotherapy practice, but as you will see, it led me to another purpose.

While not strictly a cancer, amyloidosis is treated very much like its cousin multiple myeloma, another bone marrow disease. I was lucky enough that, the disease having been identified relatively early in its progression, none of my major organs had been strongly impacted. Actually, the big tip-off was my very enlarged tongue. Macroglossia, as it’s called, is a symptom that occurs in fewer than one-third of cases, but its presence has probably saved, or at least greatly extended, my life.

Treatment is a bundle of fun. I was fortunate to qualify for an autologous stem cell transplant (Your own stem cells are collected from your blood, and put back into you at the appropriate time during treatment. Since you are your own donor, rejection of the transplant is not a problem.). Add onto this a regimen of chemotherapy and three-plus weeks of hospitalization. Oh, and there’s a follow-up year of chemo as well. Improvements in the condition don’t show, however, for many months into treatment, and a return to “normalcy” is a couple of years after that, as the body rids itself of the accumulated amyloid deposits. So, it’s kind of a big investment in time, energy, and resources.

I’m a couple of months into follow-up chemo, and just over 100 days post transplant. Things are going as well as can be expected, though I have to avoid crowds and wear a mask whenever I venture outdoors, or anywhere else for that matter. My immune system is being relentlessly knocked down by the chemo, as it eliminates the malfunctioning plasma cells. In the hospital, my immune system was brought to zero, as my transplant took hold and replaced my completely destroyed bone marrow. I’m like a newborn! By the way, the irony isn’t lost on me that Enlightenment is also a rebirth. The aggravating thing is that I will have to be re-inoculated against everything, and my smallpox vaccination scars may as well be tattoos for all the good they do me. But through all this, I have remained remarkably even. I haven’t been seized by fear or anxiety, and go through the weekly chemo-poisonings on an even-keel. People have noticed, really!

Disease as teacher. Quite a concept. I have no fear of death. (Enlightenment saw to that.) I have learned to value each moment for the perfect expression of creation that it is. I am at peace with whatever outcome occurs, though I have chosen to pursue continuing to live, as a physical choice. You see, I think I have more to do. I guess it’s part of the reason I’m writing this, in fact. My purpose now is to spread the information, and to offer hope that anyone can reach a pinnacle of spiritual development. I’m here to help.

It’s already helping, too. Even without my trying. The fact that I have this illness, and that I am navigating it as I have, has impacted the people with whom I have come into contact – family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, even Facebook friends. They are examining themselves, their relationships, and their reactions to the physical world and its happenings. The most amazing part is that I haven’t done anything, directly, to influence them. It’s their simple observation, coupled with their desire to take action, that has made the difference. I am only a tool of Grace, the Cosmic, whatever you’d like to call it.

The teaching and learning continue every day. As I teach, I learn; as I learn, I teach. The smooth ebb and flow of the nurtuing energies of the Universe. It’s a beautiful thing.

An Encounter with the Mystical Along the Way

Last May and June, I walked a portion of the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James) in northern Spain with my brother-in-law. We walked along the Camino Frances, to be technical about it. Yeah, that was a while ago, so why am I writing about it now? The Camino is like that. It is like a fine wine that mellows with age. It takes some time to process through you, and lately I’ve been thinking about the experienceleon cathedral more and more. It becomes deeper with each passing day. As a bonus, there are plenty of opportunities to experience the mystical while walking the Camino. Here is the story of one of my encounters.

We started our journey in León, a major city where several of the Camino’s paths converge. The cathedral there is grand, a magnificent structure, built on the site of Roman baths. It is over 1000 years old. But this wasn’t the place where I was to have my experience. Beautiful and awe-inspiring as this cathedral is, there is another, more modest one in the city of León — the Cathedral of San Isidoro.

grailIn this cathedral is a cup, one that is said to be the Holy Grail, the cup Christ used at the Last Supper. Granted, there are about 200 cups in Europe that are claimed to be the Grail. Some even feel that the Grail is not a literal cup at all (DaVinci Code, anyone?). Regardless, when in Rome, er, León . . . the thing to do is to go to San Isidoro and visit the cup.

Now, I won’t go into the provenance of this particular cup. It can be found here if you are interested. The innards of the cup (sans the gold and gems added later) are of simple origin and the right age. Definitely a must see item for me. The cup is in a museum adjoining the cathedral. In the museum are ancient manuscripts, some tombs, other medieval bric-a-brac, and the cup. This relic is in a room of its own, enclosed in a glass display case. “No photos!” we were told by museum personnel. There was even a guard of sorts in the Grail’s room. But, you know, that guard couldn’t stay in that room forever. I’m probably going to hell for this (add it to the list, I suppose), but I got a couple of pics while he was gone. The miracle, though, actually occurred when I first set foot in the room where the cup is housed.

How to explain it? As soon as I was in the presence of the cup, I was hit with a wall of Sacred. So strong was the power of the energy in the room that tears began to stream spontaneously down my cheeks. I was filled with a sense of ecstasy that lifted me out of the mundane and into the numinous. I was hooked, like a planet, orbiting the cup’s case, circling and circling. Other visitors came and went, but I stayed and stayed. I finally tore myself reluctantly away to look at the rest of the museum.

I think about this experience often. However, encountering the mystical can happen at any time, in any place. You don’t have to be in the presence of the Grail, or whatever that cup is, to feel the presence of the Divine. I had felt it before my Grail experience, and I have felt it since; but, wow, what mojo that cup in San Isidoro has!

Be sure to allow the presence of the Divine in your life, especially in the ordinary things. Your spirit will soar, and your existence will be forever enriched. (And, if you’re ever in León, make a beeline for San Isidoro. You won’t regret it.)

I-Doser’s a Dozer

For those of you who haven’t heard of it, I-Doser is an app that purports to mimic various mental states, from those induced by drugs like ayahuasca and peyote to deep meditation and near-death experiences. All via mp3. Seriously. You can grab this for your smart phone or visit their website (which I’m not going to link, because . . . well, you’ll see). The people at I-Dose refer to these recordings as “digital drugs.”

I have been interested in the usesRobert Monroe of sound for consciousness manipulation since the early days of Robert Monroe and the Monroe Institute. Monroe’s books inspired me during my high school and college years. His research into binaural beats and their ability to influence brain waves was so groundbreaking that the Army used the technology to train its psychic spies – or should I say uses, because, in spite of what official sources say, the program continues.

In any event, the Monroe Institute has a variety of on-site training programs for the general public, as well as an extensive line of recordings one can buy to assist with meditation, relaxation, productivity, etc. They are a fine outfit, and I heartily recommend them. However, as with any technology that shows promise, a number of slap-dash imitators have jumped on the bandwagon. It is my opinion that I-Dose is one of those imitators.

Go to YouTube and you will be able to find middle-schoolers freaking themselves out listening to “Gates of Hades,” “Cocaine,” “Hand of God,” etc. So, curious me, I decided to get the app and give a couple ofgodhand things a try. Hmmm, Hand of God looked good. After all, I’m a spiritual kind of guy, so off I went to meet the Creator, headphones in hand. All I can say is that this recording was a pathetic attempt to induce a state of awe and holiness. I almost laughed several times during the experience – not out of bliss, but because it was actually comical. It was exactly what a middle-schooler would produce if trying to get a feel for what it was like to meet God. Just poorly done. The dose called Absinthe was just as lame, not taking me anywhere. I was more bored than anything else, wondering when the damn thing would be over. In fact, I found no use in any of the several offerings I tried. I believe that almost all of the reactions displayed in the YouTube videos are expectancy or placebo based performances. Thank goodness I didn’t shoot lots of cash on this experiment

There’s a way around all this, gentle reader. Some true personal exploration via a meditation practice will get you all the consciousness expansion you need. However, I won’t start preaching here about actual drug use. I have no problem with those adults who wish to use drugs, while doing no harm to themselves or others. It’s your business. But if you want to find God? Meditate, and take the effects you experience and apply them to your everyday life. Want to escape what you see as your meaningless existence? Meditate and find purpose. It’s more long-lasting than drugs too.

Remember, poor imitators of legitimate technologies aim only to separate the unwary from their money. Beware I-Dose and others like them.

By the way, let me tell you this. I have truly seen/encountered the Creator in meditation, and the impact is life-changing. I would recommend that over wasting time and money on things like I-Doser.

As the old song goes: Ain’t nothing like the real thing, Baby. (Thank you, Marvin and Tammi)

A word of caution. Binaural beats can indeed influence consciousness and are not recommended for anyone with a seizure disorder or severe psychological problems including, but not limited to, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or severe depression or anxiety. If you have any of these conditions, check with your healthcare provider before you try binaural beats.

Horsin’ Around With Astrology

I’ve always felt that I was an Aries. But being born on a cusp day, I noticed from early on that, half the time, popular astrological reckonings placed me in Aries and that, the other half of the time, I was placed in Taurus. As a youngster I found that pretty confusing, but something deep inside me said, “Aries. Yup, definitely Aries.” That is, until about 30 years ago, when I had my first professional astrology reading. “There’s no such thing as a cusp baby,” I was told. “You’re either an Aries or a Taurus, and you, sir, are a Taurus.” By almost half a degree, I learned. So, I tried on my Taurean persona and got it to fit. Stubborn and loyal? You bet. Also, I had Sagittarius rising, which is why, as I explained to my wife, I always need to sit on the aisle.

I had a Jyotish reading (Indian astrology) some years later, but it was by a very muddled practitioner and the reading didn’t make much sense. All I gleaned from it was that it was different, but it was not clear how it was different. Thankfully, that situation has been resolved by an astrologer/researcher named Jade Sol Luna, who traced the Indian approach back to its roots – in Greek thinking, no less. You see, when Alexander the Great did his thing of trying to conquer the known world, he stalled out in India. Fortunately, however, Alexander’s astrologers had come with him and they left their stamp on the Indian brand of astrology.

The Greek influence was subsumed under the Jyotish stars, until recently. Now, Asterian astrology dissects the entwined approaches to make a system that is accessible to Western minds. Turns out that I am an Aries after all. I knew it!

You see, astrology as it is reckoned in the West uses a tropical approach. In other words, it is linked to the seasons. What it comes down to is that the first day of Spring, March 21st, is the first day of Aries. So, according to popular, Western astrology, the Sun enters Aries on March 21st. Always. Well, that was true a couple thousand years ago, but not anymore. Nowadays, the Sun as seen from Earth is still in Pisces on March 21st. This is due to the precession of the equinoxes, a wobble that the Earth has in its rotation. For those unfamiliar with the term “precession,” here’s an explanatory link.

What this means astronomically, and astrologically, is that from Earth, the Sun is slowly moving backwards through the constellations of the zodiac. Failure by the West to correct for this means that the true position of the Sun (and all the planets) as viewed from Earth is more than 23 degrees different from the positions stated by Western astrology. That means that most people who think they are a given sign in Western astrology were actually born when the Sun was in the previous sign as viewed from Earth. Asterian and Jyotish approaches take this wobble into account and cast charts accordingly. This is called a sidereal approach to astrology.

It gets even more subtle. Within the twelve familiar signs are 27 others. That means that there are colorations of each of the main signs, which introduces another layer of specificity. So in my case, not only am I an Aries (the ram), but I am also Dioscuri (these are the horse gods), the animal of that sign being a horse. And guess what? The Dioscuri are loyal but can be stubborn, too. Also, the horse yearns for freedom and open spaces, so the aisle seat thing still applies as well, somewhat to my wife’s chagrin.

I’m still adjusting to this new horse suit, but the fit feels pretty good. This new-but-not-so-new system of astrology bears a serious look-see. My Asterian astrology reading was easy to understand and mind-blowingly accurate. I feel as if I’ve come to a new appreciation of who I am. Very exciting.

See you around the stables, or out on the range.

Uh-One and uh-Two and uh- . . .

What activity can get you tossed out of a casino, but can give you tons of information in a Tarot spread? Why, counting cards of course.

If you’re at a blackjack table and the management suspects you of counting cards, you could very well be escorted unceremoniously off the premises by large men with names like Vinnie and Rocco (for example, remember 21?). But, use counting in a Tarot spread, and a new world of interpretation opens up. The practice was a standard with the Golden Dawn, and it has been carried on with organizations that have evolved therefrom, such as B.O.T.A.

Warning: this technique is not for beginners, but for those readers with a comfortable familiarity with spreads and interpretation.

First off, you need to know the code. In the minor Arcana: 2’s through 10’s count as their face value; aces count 11 (beginning of a new cycle of ten) or 5 (the fifth element, quintessence), depending on the spread; court cards count 4 (for the base elements), though Pages count 7 (messengers of the Elohim, the “Seven who stand before the Throne”).

The major Arcana are a different matter entirely. It depends on their associations. Here goes, so hang on: Those associated with astrological signs count 12 (Emperor, Hierophant, Lovers, Chariot, Strength, Hermit, Justice, Death, Temperance, Devil, Star, Moon); most associated with the planets count 9 (Magician, High Priestess, Empress, Wheel of Fortune, Tower, Sun, World); while those associated with the “Mother letters” of the Hebrew alphabet, even though these cards are associated with planets, count 3 (Fool, Hanged Man, Judgement).

See now why it’s not for beginners? Anyway, here’s how it works. Take any spread you prefer, though the process works best with spreads that have at least six cards (to keep it interesting). After the usual interpretation, take the cards and arrange them in a circle. Start at the first card as is recognized by the spread. Always start any count by counting the card you are on as 1. For instance, if the first card you count from is the Six of Wands, start the count with this card as 1. Then count in the order of the cards of the spread until you reach 6. This is a card of importance to the Six of Wands and should be interpreted within the sense of the Six of Wands. Taking that new card as 1, count its value and interpret the card landed on, etc. Since the cards are in a circle, eventually you will land on a card that has been landed on before. This signals the end of the cycle, and the count. However, this card assumes greater importance, having been touched twice.

Side note – In ten-card spreads, like the Celtic Cross, count Aces as 5 instead of 11, since counting them as 11 will always cause them to count back to themselves.

Sound confusing? Lay out some cards and give it a try. You can also count in the opposite direction to gain “the other side of the coin,” for a reading.

And don’t feel limited. You don’t have to start at the first card of a spread. After all, this is a circle of cards. Say a particular card has caught your attention. That could be the starting point for a new layer of exploration. The possibilities are endless, as are the opportunities for depth in a reading. It proves immensely satisfying for both the reader and the querent.

All I can say is that this entire process goes to show what we’ve already known about Tarot readings. Every card counts. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

Celebration?

Soap Box Time.

Just a couple of days ago, on May 1, 2011, it was announced that a U.S. special forces mission had succeeded in killing Osama bin Laden. The latest bogeyman of all bogeymen has been dispatched.

How does one react to such news? After all, this person had been the posterboy of terror for ten years.

It looks like some chose to react by whoopin’ it up, chanting “U-S-A !” in that obnoxious way favored by sports fans, and in general acting like they’d just won the lottery. I take it that these people were pleased by the news.

Celebrating death? Giddy with excitement that one of our species has bitten the dust?

Look, relief I can understand, or a sense of satisfaction that justice has been served in some fashion — but the displays that broke out across the country seem beyond the pale. Granted, he was a bad guy, and bad guys deserve comeuppance. However, I felt sad to see the way people reacted. It’s not a sporting event. I believe that the “in yer face” attitude is beneath what we stand for as a nation. To turn it around, how did we Americans feel when we saw the (largely staged) videos of people dancing in the streets after the World Trade Center buildings came down? Think our own spontaneous two-stepping endears us to others?

So maybe we’re even now? Perhaps ahead? Great! Can the wars end???

But look at us. We’re a nation that loves the Ultimate Fighting Championship, The Real Housewives of (fill in your favorite city/county/state), and foolish, tiresome displays of bravado at every touchdown. In short, we are a nation without class, and it simply shows our distance from true Spirit. Reactions such as those shown in response to bin Laden’s death are not the signs of a spiritual people, or an evolved people.

Where does that leave us as moral guardians or examples, I wonder.

I was frankly embarrassed to see it and to call myself an American at that moment. I am not an apologist for what evil has done. I just don’t want to see evil itself mirrored in our reactions to the elimination of a tiny bit of it.

Agree with me or not, it doesn’t matter. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

King

On Martin Luther King Day, I would like to share something I noticed. Please come along for the ride.

The initials MLK are the transliterated Roman letters for the Hebrew מ ל ך which, amazingly, means king. It’s pronounced melek, as Hebrew is read right to left. (Also, the ך is the form of the letter כ that is used when that letter ends a word.)

But wait, as they say in infomercials,
there’s more . . .

The three Tarot cards that are assigned to these letters are as follows:

  • The Hanged Man (Key 12) is assigned to Mem (מ)
  • Justice (Key 11) is assigned to Lamed (ל)
  • The Wheel of Fortune (Key 10) is assigned to Kaph (כ)

OK, so what? Well, consider the meanings of the cards themselves. The Hanged Man is often said to represent transition and sacrifice. During a Hanged Man time, one is asked to persevere, realizing that the desired end may be a while in coming. Justice represents the law, and bringing things into balance. Justice says that what is right and just will come to pass. The Wheel of Fortune is all about cycles and things coming in their proper time. It is often a fortunate card, showing movement toward better times.

Put it all together and we have a man whose sacrifice and perseverence led to a righting of injustice and a movement toward a more hopeful time. Kind of sums up Dr. King, don’t you think?

It’s always a delight to explore what Tarot has to say. It is amazing in its ability to put forth deeper meanings. Tarot always rewards serious study.

Happy MLK Day.

It Doesn’t Matter What You Do

It’s been a while, so I thought I’d write about some of the stuff that’s been on my mind.

One matter that has occupied my attention has been the belief that it doesn’t matter what you do. Sounds nihilistic, I know, but I don’t mean it like that.

Here’s the deal. There are lots of things to “do” in this world, and I’m specifically referring to occupations. Some hold high prestige, other not. Take refuse collection, for instance. This is one of the most important jobs in modern society, yet it is held in low esteem. After all, who wants to be a sanitation worker? But without them, we’d be in deep . . . you get the point. Where’d your civilization be then, huh?

Anyway, I don’t want to get too far off point. What is really important is not what one does, but how one is. Each of us has a life purpose, and it is our duty to seek it out and follow it. This is essential for our soul’s sake. Living and being in accord with one’s purpose is what makes each moment holy, not how much cash we have or how much other people envy us or think that we are cool. A person living his or her life’s purpose is approaching enlightenment. Ultimately, that’s what matters. At least that’s my opinion.

Seek it out. Live it. Embody it. The rest, as they say, is just window-dressing.

What A Fine Fallow

Farmers know that it is advisable to let a field lie fallow occasionally to rest the soil. Intensive planting and harvesting will only exhaust the land, and lead to inferior results. This is an example of the role of cycles in nature and, by extension, in ourselves.

It is an important, if often underestimated or forgotten, principle of esoteric study that one cannot make constant progress. It is essential to allow study and practice to incubate in order to blossom at full potency. Those who feel that they are constantly reaching greater heights and states of accomplishment are building their castles on a sandy foundation. It is an illusion. Their structures are certain to collapse upon themselves, leaving them with nothing but shadows of their imagined glory. There is no substance to such practices.

The Tarot card often associated with cycles is the Wheel of Fortune. This is the card of the Third Chakra and the planet Jupiter. The card reminds us to respect cycles and to understand that they are part of the cosmic order. Respecting cycles includes an appreciation for those times when no progress seems to be made in our practice and spiritual development. This is merely a time of resting of the spiritual field – a period of germination of previous practice which is moving inexorably toward a greater level of understanding and functioning on the spiritual plane.

Take a lesson from the Wheel of Fortune and see that all is unfolding as it should. Meditation on this truth will yield fruitful results.

Mystery, Mastery

I don’t know about you, but I get occasional bolts from the blue. For me, it’s almost like hearing something; it pops into my head as if it were being spoken to me. Hallucinations, perhaps?

(I won’t get into it now, but it is my opinion that all symptoms of what we call mental illness are really normal phenomena carried to an extreme in frequency, intensity, and/or duration. For instance, we’ve all had the experience of asking someone if they had just spoken to you when in fact they had said nothing. Seems to me that you just had a hallucination.)

Back on task now – I had one of those bolts that other day. A voice said, “Move from mystery to mastery through the power of YA.” Of course, it was a play on the two words, whose spellings differ by those two letters. However, the implication is potentially profound. Let me explain.

YA is a shortened form of the tetragrammaton, the four-letter Hebrew name of God. It’s the one usually transliterated as Yahweh or Jehovah. The two Hebrew letters used to form YA are yod and heh.

In the Major Arcana of the Tarot, each card is associated with a Hebrew letter. Yod is associated with the Hermit, and heh with the Emperor. These two cards are manifestations of power, with the Hermit being internal and the Emperor, external.

What’s the message? It seems that taking the mystery, an understanding of which is arrived at via the Hermit consciousness, and transforming it into mastery, via the Emperor consciousness, is the path of making the spiritual manifest in the physical world. In other words, if one can take deep spiritual truths and live them day to day, then mastery is truly achieved.

Who says that all hallucinations are bad?