What are We Really Doing with the Symposium

Note: This article is written for and from the perspective of those some 2000+ people around the world who have embraced Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream symposium as part of their contribution to mid-wife the global shift in consciousness.

What Are We Really Doing with the Symposium?

Has the time come to address more directly what I have sensed we are doing with the symposium? Namely, if we are about waking up, then we are talking about a change in consciousness—our own and humanity in general, and perhaps the entire Earth community is also engaged in some evolutionary shift in tandem with the human. After all, if everything is connected then surely, as the Apostle Paul says in Romans “…the whole of creation is in labor until the sons of God may be revealed.”

If this is the true bottom line and measure of our work, then should we not bring forth this narrative of consciousness change more explicitly and not leave it as an assumed background thread in a presentation where the impact it could make is diminished?

After all, we and the people we are serving have a spiritual thirst. When we give out less than what the emerging being really needs, the spiritual power in what we do is not fully released.

Two books I’ve read recently shine their own particular light on our identities as facilitators, awakening Earth citizens and cosmological beings. One is Andrew Harvey’s The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism and the other is The Translucent Revolution by Arjuna Ardagh. Both cite prophecies of the religions and wisdom traditi0ns of many cultures as well as formal and informal research on consciousness trends across many populations globally. They conclude that humanity has reached the borders of the long foretold millennium, that period in human history when significant numbers of us are breaching a threshold into integral consciousness, precipitating a “tipping point,” (to use a term popularized by Malcolm Gladwell) that ushers in a new epoch in human being and human knowing.

This new narrative, or way of experiencing ourselves and our beingness in the universe, is unfolding throughout the human community. It is not the province or privelege of a special few enlightened people. In fact, I have met many people of differing political, cultural and religious backgrounds that all share come kind of awareness that “something’s up” in the world, that we are in trouble; that things must change, and that the very nature of their lives has and is changing. Whether or not that change is interpreted as positive or negative depends on where one is standing.

We focalize the tremendous energy inherent in this shift toward unitary consciousness first in ourselves before we can really embody it for others to perceive and resonate with. A transformation of human consciousness is a process of awakening to a new identity, softening the small sense of self bounded by our own wants, beliefs, prejudices into a sense of participation with something far larger. From the perspective of the old human, the new identity is really no-thing.  It is unrecognizable as self as we now understand self, because this new being is clothed in none of the family, cultural or even species-made garments we are accustomed to.

Simply asking yourself “What Am I?” and then sitting with a quieting mind to contemplate the response, one might feel oneself peering into a void, listening for a sound that does not come—as we sort through the usual mental chatter that has little substance or staying power.  Do that kind of enquiry enough and you come to both the frightening and glorious epiphany that “I am nothing.” Our existence as separate selves—with all our pains, demands and stories—is a fiction.  The flip side is that we also are everything, and in that moment feel at the cellular level a divine oneness with all things and a  fulfillment, if only for a moment, of a God-type of love and the “peace that passes all understanding.”

An incredible freedom awaits us in this initiating point in human evolution. We’re going through a painful birthing, where the small me and all the things we grasp out of fear or greed are being loosened as we emerge into this much vaster cosmos. Here the work of living is not done by “me” but in flow with the greater energies of the universe that have always born the trajectory of our lives.

The question we face as symposium facilitators is how do we bring this story forward within a mixed group of people, many of whom may be at very different points in their personal evolution. There is no one simple answer as to how, since this depends on who you are in the moment and the people you are with.

A for myself, I am striving to find a common language that would bridge all differences, a deep well of compassion in myself in which I can embrace the whole room, and a weaving together of various cultural narratives about this transformative time which greatly amplifies the feeling of importance held in the Eagle & Condor Story. In addition, I also believe there are exercises we can offer to participants which help to bring home this consciousness shift more directly, and assist people in discovering how “the great turning” is already manifesting in their lives.

One Islamic Perspective

It is Christmas evening, 2009 and here I am contemplating more about the themes of this blog and finding a growing awareness of the evolution toward unity consciousness which I believe characterizes the times in which we live.

Here’s a few good web sites to review in this regard:

Sufi Islam

Jewish Mystical Tradition

Tibetan Buddhist-Shambhala Warrior

Christian-The Millenium & the return of Christ

Hindu-Epoch of Kali Yuga, or the end times of decay

I am particularly impressed with an article, The Globalisation of Consciousness, by Peter Yiangou, an architect in the UK, who gave a talk on at Berkeley in 2007 starting with the Sufi mystic Ibn Arabi’s contribution regarding unity to the understanding of our times.  He concludes “Our generation faces the choice consciously to participate in the preparation for what is to come next, allowing our descendants to be present for a possibility which we can barely imagine – the globalisation of consciousness when both unity and diversity, spirit and body, are celebrated in a single vision by the many as the One, and the One as the many.” Yiangou gives us a rare and valuable historical perspective on the meaning and great import of our times which I find both inspiring and enlightening.

Transformation: No Pain No Gain

This past 12 months I have been blessed…yes blessed..with a whole series of challenging situations. First, in January 2008, my wife of 15 years and I decided to live in separate houses, without any sense that we might ever get back together.  My next great challenge was a diagnosis in December of prostate cancer–slow-growing and small in size, but cancer nonetheless.  Then as January, 2009 came around–after a very good 2008–revenues for the organization I direct fell precipitously, causing us to reduce all staff salaries and consider laying people off.

As I contemplate all this, I say “thank you” to all the wisdom teaching, inner work, meditation and practices like yoga and qigong that have kept my heart in peace and helped my overall sense of well-being to not be diminished. Each challenge brought its own test to deal with a range of emotions and thoughts (anxiety, anger, resentment, apathy, escapism). But simply being mindful in the moment, and knowing that all these negative states are like clouds passing in the sky, there came a deeper sense of inner ease that grew throughout the year.

It is said that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  Another way to think of this is like an athlete–to reach peak performance, you have to stretch and go beyond what you think you are capable of.  I also like the term St John of the Cross gave us: the dark night of the soul.  If we do not have those dark nights that challenge us to the very core, I am convinced that our growth will be limited.

Life is wonderful like this. It seems we get just the right challenges to make us bigger, more courageous, compassionate and wise people. And my life over the last year is no exception. My wife and I are re-uniting and now have a wonderful, deeply loving relationship. I’m right in the process of reviewing my lifestyle choices in food, work hours, stress levels that play a role in cancer, and am pursuing a natural/organic mostly fruit & vegetable diet, and planning cutting out work & volunteer situations that cause me to over-commit. We are also right on top of our financial situation in my organization and have all the resources we need to weather well this current economic downturn.

I likewise view the global economic crisis  not really as a crisis, but as an opportunity to re-evaluate, reduce, become simpler and appreciate again the basic things that life are all about.

It’s all in our attitude. We say “no pain no gain,” and this comes from a view that something unwanted from one perspective, is painful, or a hassel. On the other hand,  what is thought of as painful or undesirable is just that–a thought. Adverse thoughts when clung too and strung out into a whole story determine much of the reality–the drama–we experience.  Saying to ourselves “Oh my God, how terrible it is that I no longer have a wife,” or ” I might die of the big C,” or “I’m going to go broke” powerfully affects our state of mind and quality of life.

Why not instead ask “What good can come from this?” or “How is what is happening now just perfect for me?”  I believe this is not mental manipulation, but a truer assessment of what we would call unfavorable situations.

The fact is that real faith is about seeing everything in life as a sacred blessing. There is no “good and bad.” Those are just colors we add to experience.  Can we go beyond duality, and just say “thanks” for what is?

Reverence for life: Mind without thought

Am I aware? Do I notice life beyond the framework of my own culturally constructed perception? What if I could see the forest as through the eyes of a chimpanzee, as Jane Goodall tried to imagine working with the chimps in Gombe, Tanzania.  I read her account one day following David (a chimp she observed and which related to her easily) where he was in a tree and she simply lay on the jungle floor gazing up through the tree canopy without thought. The pristine space of an empty mind–empty not just of the everyday, second-by-second inner chatter and uncontrolled ramblings of the mind–but totally blank.

Not only to have respite from the chatter, but more the space in which to see what is–I mean what Buddhists might call the “suchness” or “isness” of things.  What a thing is in and of itself might be apprehended more clearly before and apart from any human-made attributions which come from languaging. Jane noticed that with the arising of language (this is a tree), the very application of language to define reality creates a distance from the “isness” of something. For the thought-word is but a symbol pointing to something else.

And what is that something else?  Actually, if we’re honest with ourselves, we will realize that we don’t know what “something else” is. Rock, tree, bird, ocean are all words pointing to realities that, in their totality, remain mysteries. Describe water–cool, warm, moving, tastes good, hard to hold in my hand. If you had never seen water in your life, and then stepped into a pond for the first time, how would you describe or experience it? Embracing, cleansing, death-making, playful?

I have a sense that as we go beyond the useful, but in an essential sense, the artificial boundaries of language and the perception it shapes, we enter into the highly fluid realm in which all things can be experienced through relating to them as having some essence, which we experience within ourselves as spirit, or numinosity or life-like quality. When we say the world feels sacred, my sense is that comes from this perception of autonomous life or spirit in each thing–like the rock, the tree, the bird, the stream is a “being” different from me but, at the same time, feels kindred in having its own “being” like me. Dr. Albert Schweitzer called this experience of intuiting the essence of things as a reverence for life.

Surely, awakening has at all times, and today is no different, involved such a realization. But can we make the space to let the world of mind go?

What if God Walked in the Door?

What if God walked in the door? Would you recognize Him? Fanciful question? Perhaps.  But let’s consider what I really mean.

Miracles are happening all the time. They’re so ordinary we don’t even recognize their miraculous nature–that’s just the way things are. But every now and then, we see their true colors.

Like, for example, the very fact that I’ve been running an organization which, for 18+ years still exists and supports me and many others, against all odds. The Heritage Institute, a program of continuing education for teachers, functions in a market dominated by goliath institutions, where Heritage is a small David–and yet we continue to survive. Why?  I can only think of one word. Grace. And, of course, smarts are involved–but the inspirations we’ve had for new programs and administrative innovations, well where do they come from but “someplace else.” Such is the nature of revelation. Good ideas don’t come from the small self, but from a bigger mind.

More mundane examples abound–like the time my wife and I bought our house on Whidbey Island in July 1999. We got in the car on a Sunday morning, and drove from Seattle to the Mukilteo ferry without stopping at one light, arriving just in time to get on the ferry before it left. That began a day of similar graces–all signals that the move to Whidbey was in the flow of what was right for us. 

All of you reading these words know what I mean. We all have had flow moments, or times that just when we thought our luck was about to run out, something or someone intervened and we were saved. Or Perhaps we lost or failed at something, only to discover later, it was no failure or loss at all, only the wonderful discarding or dissolution of something that needed to go from our lives. 

If you can truly say that everything in your life is just perfect–even the divorces, the death of a child, an auto accident that left you paralyzed–then you not only know there are no accidents, but that all things can be seen as contributing to our higher unfoldment. 

I don’t mean that bad things were meant or destined to happen to us. We simply go beyond good and bad when we make meaning and grow from everything, without attachment or reaction to life events.

But do we have the eyes to see, the heart to accept this tremendous reality? That’s the question.

Imagination & the Sacred

I just returned from two weeks away at some marvelous events.  Some of you may have heard of The Great Mother conference which has been put on my American poet and catalyst for the conscious men’s movement Robert Bly.  Bly is quite a man and a terrific poet with great depth and heart. This conference which has been going for 34 years is a real treasure for anyone who loves poetry, as I do.

I went to put some new fire under my poetry writing, which has proceeded sporadically over the last 15 years.  I love to write and have come to appreciate with even greater clarity the absolute importance of enlivening the imaginative soul; for it is in honing our sensitivities for beauty in all its forms that we gain a consciousness supple enough to feel deeply into the nature of things. 

I have a vivid image of Thursday night at the conference with the meeting hall full and on stage was Robert Bly, Rumi translator and poet Coleman Barks, sitar player David Whetstone, table player Marcus Wise and cellist David Darling. The musicians were playing incredibly inspired refrains as Robert and Coleman read or recited from memory one poem after another for almost two hours. 

I dare say I was drunk with spirit–certainly reflecting the tenor of the ecstatic poets being read–like Hafez and Rumi.  During the week I felt myself becoming so saturated with heart that I had to take off and visit nearby Damriscotta for a respite. Such is the way it is for those of us living on planet Earth in the time/space Ken Wilber defines as flatland–a land devoid of the sacred and sense of soulful present. In other words, few of us are accustomed to the Presence of the divine, of deep soulfulness, since we live so much of the time on the surface.

There is no doubt in my mind that we cannot have the world we want without a culture of inwardness that honors the human imagination and its capacity to access the divine in all its forms. God and the sacred world are not reached through rational, linear thought. Faith is not an act of will or determination-those are moral attributes–but comes from the courage to imagine the unseen. Knowing without knowing, our heart becomes the fertile soil for for the upwelling of deep spiritual feeling in which lies a “sense” that “something out there” exists beyond my complete understanding.

As we enter stillness, and feel into the nothingness of pure consciousness itself, we sense sense some part of ourselves so vast and beyond self and, curiously, at the same time so intimately ourselves. “Tell them that “I am” sent you” was God’s revelation to Moses when Moses asked at the burning bush how he should describe to the Israelites the God of heaven and earth. God was revealing the God in Moses to himself, and that revelation requires an exquisite sensitivity to the soil of the soul.

That’s why Moses was asked to remove his sandals for the “ground on which you stand is holy ground.” We remove the deadness from our souls when we unburden our feeling nature with the everyday cares of this life, and let our hearts soar into the beauty and truth of the moment, however that arises.

Where is the burning bush in our lives? It rests in the capacity of the heart to perceive imaginatively, like what happened to me one night at 3am when I was living in Bellingham Washington. The year was, I think, 1979 and I had just had the year before a spiritual awakening. I was looking out our window at Bellingham Bay and noticed how bright the moon shimmered on the water. Genesis came to mind: “And the Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the deep.”  Why I held that phrase that moment as a possible literal truth, I don’t know, but it occurred to me briefly that the Holy Spirit was, in fact, out there on the water, reflected in the moonlight that evening.

Then, all of a sudden the Spirit hovering over the water came right into the living room, and I felt a most tangible and powerful, numinous presence about two feet to my left and in front of me–so powerful, in fact, that I literally fell to my knees sobbing like a baby. When I regained a measure of composure, I found myself wondering “What is this,” shortly after which I heard an inner voice–not my voice say: “I’m here,” and then ” I love you.”

This was none other than the presence of Christ Himself, and that presence has stayed with me until today. 

Did I make this up?  Is this just a case of overactive imagination? Am I, and people like me, crazy for thinking we can communicate with a divine presence? To all these typically skeptical questions I would say “Yes and No.” Yes, I did use my imagination but not in a way we think of as “making up.” It’s more like I was willing to entertain a notion, to make my intuitive capacity available to experience something beyond what we can touch and see. And in that receptive mood, my senses were able to take my mind by the hand, so to speak, and say “Come with us to this place and see for yourself,” not with an actual seeing or hearing, but with an even more powerful perception of our inner being–so that we “know that we know” beyond rational causes. 

To me, this is the heart of the creative process and explains the redemptive power of the arts, to lift us off the material plane and help us enter into the presence of the sacred in which we are able to enter eternal truths and sense the connectedness of all things.  It is from this place that the world becomes whole in our being, and we start to walk with greater dignity and reverence for life. 


The Practice of Mindful Stillness

 Do you have a way to  become quiet within yourself each day? During the day do you let that stillness remind you to be mindful or observant of your thoughts and feelings as you live life? If you do, then you’re taking some good steps on the path to awakening. If not, you may be more troubled and bound up than necessary with the the incessant nature of your thoughts and feelings, unable to easily get enough distance from them to simply rest in the goodness of your own inner being. 

The mind can be a wonderful tool when it is made subject to the heart, our awakening being. For most people, however,  much of the time their minds run out of control. A stream of thoughts and feelings runs so far in the background that they are not even aware how much thinking process goes own outside of awareness. It is this undisciplined thinking–what the Buddhists call “monkey mind”–that causes personal, and ultimately family, community and world suffering. The only way to tame “monkey mind” is to notice it, and in so doing to achieve enough distance from thoughts and feelings that they begin to lessen their grip and no longer run our lives. It’s the difference between you having your thoughts and feelings or them having you. 

Eckert Tolle in A New Earth   has given us an excellent description of this suffering saying that most people’s identity is derived from the contents of their minds and emotions, and not the essential nature of mind which is pure, content-less awareness. Mental and emotional contents form the basis of our identities, the ego or small self. We humans form our identities, likes, dislikes, values, fears and prejudices based on culture, family, personal experience. Our Identities and personal experience of reality on a day-to-day basis remains fairly predictable within a certain range of experience, unless significant change or stress upsets our equilibrium. It is during these periods of stress–and sometimes trauma–when transformation is possible. Otherwise, without some sort of discomfort and unhappiness, we are more likely to remain “fat and happy,” as the saying goes.

The scientific term for this state of balance is homeostasis which is found in all biological systems and is necessary for the continuance of life. Just imagine how counterproductive constant turmoil would be! So, the status quo has its purpose so that trees can get rooted and grow, for example. But in the human realm, the mindset of humanity that has served us through the millenia up until now is precisely what must transform for the species to enjoy a generative future. We’re at a turning point in human consciousness, and all of us are feeling the stress of the world unraveling. We’re being pushed into disequilibrium, toward change.

In my personal life I cannot imagine how I would cope with the busy-ness and stresses I feel each day unless I had some kind of way to ground, be quiet and reflect. This has now become so routine in my life that when I travel I have to work extra hard to keep my balance. 

Many people I know have some way to stay physically or emotionally and spiritually healthy, but that is not the norm in American and other industrial societies. Health reports show us to be increasingly overweight, unhappy with our work, stressed, in conflicted relationships, socially isolated, disenchanted with our institutions and political leadership, not well connected to our communities and living with a feeling that our lives our absent purpose.

This is the time in history for personal responsibility–to realize that we make our own world through how we think. The truth of that statement would be recognized by many people today. But understanding and doing are two different things. You can know what to do that is good for you, but if you are not disciplined enough to put your knowledge into practice, you’re just on  a head trip. Buddha, Christ and all the great spiritual guides make similar points in their teaching.  You won’t really know the path unless you walk it. The wisdom that liberates the mind comes from experience, not books or simple hearing of the truth.

Lao Tzu said “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step.” But what keeps us from really committing to that first step?

Here’s some common excuses I’ve heard from many people, including myself from time to time.

  • “I’m so busy, I just can’t seem to find the time.” 
The busiest people always find time for the things they feel are important. So this is a question of beliefs. What if I told you that cultivating stillness in your life was simply THE MOST IMPORTANT THING you could do for yourself and the world? And what if you really believed that? Consider, then, your thoughts about how important caring for your heart and mind are. 
  • “When I take time to be quiet, something always interrupts me.”
At first, there will always seem to be something that gets in the way of being quiet. It may be your children, your spouse or a neighbor making noise, or (more likely) your own rampant thoughts. You’ll need a certain amount of determination to find or make your own space where there can be relative quiet. Also, don’t trip yourself up with thinking the environment has to be without sound altogether for you to get quiet inwardly. It’s possible to have even a deep interior experience when sounds are present, as long as you don’t fixate on the sounds and wish they were not there. The wanting something to be different than it is causes subtle resistance in the mind which is the basis for stress.
  • “When I take time out to be still, nothing happens and I wonder if this is doing any good at all.”
That’s just the point. Nothing is supposed to happen. People with this thought often come to stillness with an agenda that something ought to be happening. They want an immediate payback or proof that taking a time out for themselves is going to be worthwhile. This shows doubt and impatience. If you have similar concerns, simply note them in your mind “Oh, I seem to be impatient,” or ” I notice I’m doubting that this will work,” and then just carry on anyway. The minute you become aware of these states of mind, they begin to lose their power over you.
  • “It’s great to take time out, but I often feel guilty that I should be doing more.”
If you’re driven to be active and doing most of the time, do a check up on your sense of worthiness. Many women I know suffer from low self-esteem where the only way they got recognition for their worth was through what they could do for others. Love conditioned upon what one does for others is no love at all, but a form of manipulation and control. Recognize that false love and the false doing for what it really is.





Presence & The World We Want

Let me explain why I think presence in the way I define it is so central to individual happiness, social well-being, environmental sustainability and global cultures of peace. 

As I make clear in my book–Educating for Humanity: Rethinking the Purposes of Education–the problem in society and in schools is that we are disconnected from our deeper selves. That core disconnection underlies all other disconnections, causing social injustices, conflict, materialistic appetites, environmental destruction and the entire  spectrum of suffering on the material plane. Until we feel through our inner being a profound communing with all people, beings and life itself, we will continue to trample on each other, on other life forms and Earth our home. This hunger for connection to the largeness in life, is also a hunger for meaning and for the liberating power of imagination when dynamically linked to the great source of all inspiration. 

At the center of all personal crises and of the current world crisis is a spiritual crisis. The religious traditions have been a source of division in failing to touch the formless, mystical core for which all peoples yearn. and, therefore, in not seeing what is universal about their rendering of the ultimate that would create common cause with other traditions.  Presence has been known up till now in its various manifestations as God, Allah, Christ-mind, Buddha-mind, but too few religious leaders (much less their followers) have perceived and honored the spiritual heart common to all humanity. Different cultures at different times perceived a unity, either seeing it as transcendent (as in theistic religions) or immanent (as in indigenous beliefs), but the perception was limited by culture and what was known of the world in that time.

Religions and ideologies which have been a source of meaning and connection for millennia are now needing to broaden their perception of ultimacy and begin to reinterpret the truths of their tradition in light of the integral world as we know it today.  Physics, biology, ecology systems theory and many disciplines have shown the interconnected nature of reality, but our religious, political, economic and educational institutions perpetuate a divided world where competition and domination reign and bring us to ruin.

We now face a globalized world confronting life-threatening issues that cannot be addressed except through exceptional global cooperation and understanding–and this will only occur through the emergence of a planetary consciousness.    

That unity is and has always been there. Humanity is now being called to take the next step, move out of cultural, national, species and even planetary isolation, opening heart & mind to the oneness in all. 

In this light, the presence we need today to teach, parent, love and live life on planet earth is one which is wide open to everything that is, and the only way that can happen is if we surrender to the moment. We can wonder in these darkest of times how such presence can survive in any part of our personal and professional lives, much less environments like public schools which–troubled as they have been–are now suffering even more under the pressure of No Child Left Behind.

What I do know is that in the deepest darkness, any light is tremendously bright. We should not forget that an unsustainable system by its very definition simply cannot last. The world is changing.