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.

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.

Why Is the Devil Laughing?

Did you ever notice how, in the movies, the bad guy is always laughing?

(Apologies to the late Andy Rooney for this opening line)

It made me wonder. After all, you see it all the time. Eventually, though, it occurred to me that since bad guys are a representation of Evil, and hence the Great Deceiver himself (a.k.a. the Devil, Satan, Old Nick, Mephistopheles, Beelzebub, etc.), I think they take their cue from him. I’m sure you’ve encountered this business of the laughing Devil somewhere. A poor schlub is going to Hell for some reason or another, and the Devil is standing there laughing his tail off at him.

How can a being who is theoretically condemned to eternal damnation be so friggin’ jolly? I mean, ensnaring souls and poking those unfortunates with a pitchfork for all time must get repetitive and boring. One can get giggles out of that kind of thing for only so long, I would imagine.

I believe that there is an answer for this archetype of the Laughing Devil, and that answer lies in the symbology of the Tarot. In the Major Arcana of the Tarot, The Devil is card number 15 (picture at right). It is associated with the astrological sign of Capricorn, and therefore with Saturn, the planet of limitation. Some even see Saturn as oppressive, which it can be under certain circumstances. However, it is primarily linked with material manifestation, for without limitation, nothing could take form.

The Devil reminds us how easy it is to be ensnared by the illusion of the physical, placing us in a prison of our own making. The primary message to us is to look beyond illusion to the essential spirit underlying all things. This is the ultimate cosmic joke – that what we perceive is “how things really are.”

The realization to be grasped is that The Devil is actually God in disguise. We can undo that disguise by turning the pentagram in the picture right-side up, so that the proper order is restored.

The human faculty associated with The Devil card is mirth. It is important for us to see the humor in the everyday and, by seeing beyond, to approach the Divine.

So, now it is easy to see why the devil is laughing. He gets the joke! It seems that the deeper meaning of the symbol has been misunderstood, even perverted, into the laughing devil, or bad guy. In actuality, the archetype of The Devil wants us to join in and enjoy the joke that is being played on us by our senses. This is one of the crucial elements to understand in order to travel the path of enlightenment successfully.

Laugh it up!

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.

The World Dancer

Today, let’s really get down to earth. There’s no better way to do this than to spend a little meditation time with Tarot Key 21, The World. This card is associated with the Root chakra, our intimate connection with physical reality.

Aligned with Saturn, the planet of limitation and materialization, Key 21 has plenty of symbols that indicate limits. This is good because, without limitation, energy would be unregulated and never get organized enough to become anything material.

Look at the card. The World Dancer in the center, not unlike Shiva – as Nataraja – dancing to prepare the world for a new existence, is confined within the wreath of actuality. Her legs are in the shape of the number 4, the number of the material world. The dancer has in her hands the two great currents (yin and yang, lunar and solar) that balance to bring fulfillment. She has all the ancient elements at her command as well. These are represented by the symbols of the fixed signs of the zodiac: Taurus (bull), Aquarius (man), Scorpio (eagle), and Leo (lion), which are also the four creatures drawing the chariot of God in the book of Ezekiel.

Her color is blue-violet, the color of the Central Channel of esoteric Buddhism. The Central Channel is the place from which each of us arises. Face it, she has what it takes to make things happen in the world. Meditate on the card to bring yourself a feeling of groundedness and connection to the everyday.

Thank her too, because without her solidifying energies, there wouldn’t be, well, us or anything else.

Nine Miles to Freedom

Nine Miles to Freedom

In Nine Miles to Freedom, a benevolent Oversoul describes a process of spiritual evolution and emphasizes the fact that each of us is part of a larger entity whose development depends on our progressing along the Paths described in the book.

Not only are the Paths described in detail, but practical exercises and advice are also given to assist us in our evolution. The Oversoul comments on a number of topics as well, including angels, prayer, the use of color in healing – even television, the current financial crisis, and the 2012 phenomenon.

Ultimately, this is a book of hope for our future and a reaffirmation of the importance of each existence. Nine Miles to Freedom is a valuable companion for anyone truly interested in spiritual development.