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.

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.

Moses, Another Guy With a Dream

This past week, the world marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech. Stirring words from a modern-day Moses. Like the biblical patriarch before him, Dr. King did not live to see his people reach the Promised Land. Nevertheless, his vision shook a nation.

As an archetype, Moses is a symbol for someone with a single-minded focus, someone who wasn’t afraid to buck the tide and 12 - Hanged Manact contrary to what was expected. In this way, he becomes a representation of The Hanged Man (Key 12 of the Major Arcana of the Tarot). This card shows a man hanging upside down, often suspended over water. The card is associated with the element of Water, the planet Neptune, and the Hebrew letter Mem (shown in the lower right of the card). In divination, it commonly indicates a period of delay or things in transition. Patience is the watchword.

In the Western mysteries, This card is used in meditation so that we can know the will of God, and become an instrument of that will. It requires us to act contrary to the rest of the world, with its materialistic emphasis. Let’s see how Moses fits the archetype.Moses red sea

Moses is frequently paired with water in the Bible. He is set adrift on the Nile by his mother, to be discovered in the rushes by the daughter of Pharaoh. He is raised up in Pharaoh’s court, destined to become a prince of Egypt (why, Disney, why?). However, God intervenes as a burning bush (Fire, the antithetical element to Water) and turns the world of Moses upside down (clever, huh?). Actually, the letters that spell out Moses (Moshe in Hebrew) tell the story quite clearly. Moshe is spelled Mem-Shin-Heh. The Tarot cards for these letters are The Hanged Man (12), Judgement (20), and The Emperor(4), respectively. Laid out Hebrew-style, right to left they look like this:

4 - Emperor 20 - Judgement 12 - Hanged Man

When we do this work of telling stories, interpreting interactions among cards, we most often work backwards (left to right). So, the story goes like this: A royal person (Emperor) encounters Fire (Judgement is associated with that element), is turned upside down, and starts acting in accordance with Divine will – at odds with the material world.

Moses’s association with water continues throughout his life. The first plague of Egypt involves Moses turning the Nile blood red. On his way out of town with the Israelites, he parts the Red Sea. When they are withering away in the desert and Moses asks God for assistance, he is instructed to bring forth water from a rock. Finally, Moses does not get to cross the River Jordan to enter the Promised Land. Water forms his final barrier.

(OK, so why didn’t he get to go into the Promised Land? Because he struck the rock twice when bringing forth water, and God told him just to command it. That Old Testament God was a stickler and wanted strict obedience. I’m sure Moses turned out OK in the afterlife, though. He did appear with Jesus during the Transfiguration, if you remember your New Testament.)

Moses is the model of a person who puts his own will aside (except for that rock-striking business) and molds himself to God’s will, or the dictates of the Higher Self.

Please realize that there is no need to espouse any religion in order to gain benefit from this practice with the cards and letters.”God” can be replaced with “Higher Self” and any of the cards is a psychological archetype, a part of our collective unconscious, free for any of us to work with, non-denominationally.

All that’s required is a bit of knowledge, a questing mind, and a desire to benefit from what reveals itself.

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.

The Misunderstood Tower

There are several cards in the Tarot deck that can stand your hair on end. Getting them in a reading can send chills up the spine. One of these cards is The Tarot, number 16 of the Major Arcana. Usually, there is lightning, falling figures and masonry – disastrous looking stuff. The interpretations given in Tarot cookbooks are much better, talking about disaster, a shaking to the core, etc. However, these initial impressions can miss the mark.

Thinking about The Tower in an esoteric way can ease these concerns. In its most central energy, this card represents Mars. Think of Mars as pure force, dynamic movement, and reproductive energy. It is the gas, if you will, of our actions. Without Mars, we would be essentially inert.

In the card (this depiction is from the Haindl Tarot Deck), the tower itself is an edifice of false belief, error, an opinion at odds with the ultimate reality of Spirit. The falling figures are those beliefs themselves, the erroneous “knowledge” and “understanding” put up by the personal ego for its own use. The lightning is the illumination of Spirit, bringing insight and exposing the erroneous beliefs for what they truly are.

When looked at in this way, The Tower is a wake-up call from Spirit. This card is asking us to evaluate the way we are looking at ourselves, or a given situation. It is urging us to contact our Mars force and direct its considerable power in another direction.

Self-examination is the hallmark of personal growth. Unless we can take a long, hard, honest look at ourselves, advancement along the spiritual path is virtually impossible. Fortunately, Spirit is extremely willing to help if we show the motivation (Mars) to pursue our own growth. The lightning starkly shows where we are mistaken and brings us the energy to change those beliefs or ways of acting that are interfering with advancement along the spiritual path.

Using The Tower as a meditation is extremely helpful. With the card before you, allow the imagery to merge with you. Enter the card and become it in all its details. See and feel yourself as the tower, or the figures. See the flash of lightning striking the tower. Feel its loving, cleansing strength. Invite the lightning strike and ask it to cleanse any beliefs or behaviors that are impeding your progress along the path of spirit.

With practice, The Tower becomes a welcome influence. When you see it in a reading, it will no longer be frightening. It will be a reminder that Spirit is with you, helping you, guiding you.

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)


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.

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?