Week of October 21st, 2021

Your Body Is Your Oracle

Your body is your oracle.

—Brooke Underwood


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YOUR SOUL A MILLION YEARS FROM NOW

In my dream last night, I told a woman I know, "Your soul will still be alive a million years from now."

In tonight's dream, I will tell you the same thing about your soul.


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TRY AN EXPERIMENT?

Is the world a dangerous, chaotic place with no inherent purpose, running on automatic like a malfunctioning machine and fundamentally inimical to your drive to find meaning?

Or are you surrounded by helpers in a friendly, enchanted universe that gives you challenges in order to make you smarter and wilder and kinder and trickier?

Trick questions! The answers may depend, at least to some degree, on what you believe is true.
Formulate a series of experiments that will allow you to objectively test the hypothesis that the universe is conspiring to help dissolve your ignorance and liberate you from your suffering.


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SHAPESHIFTING PRONOIA THERAPY

Experiments and exercises in becoming an aggressively sensitive, thunderously receptive, ethically mischievous Master of Mutant Intimacy

1. As a boy, renowned Spanish matador Manolete was a sissy. He rarely played outside, preferring to be near his mother as he read books and painted pictures.

Psychologist James Hillman explains this by suggesting that the youthful Manolete had already sensed his destiny, intuiting that one day he would be alone in the ring facing down angry 2,000-pound bulls. His childhood behavior was a way of marshaling his strength and shielding him from the enormity of the challenges he would seek out one day.

Is it possible that what you have considered a weakness or vulnerability has actually been preparing you to express a signature strength?

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2. Six miles from Maui is a Hawaiian island that tourists never visit—Kaho'olawe. The U.S. Navy seized it in 1941 and used it as a target range for decades. After years of protests by native Hawaiians, the Navy finally stopped bombing and began a clean­up campaign. In November 2003, it formally turned control of the island over to the rightful owners.

"You can get a feel on Kaho'olawe of what it was like to live on Hawaii at the time of our ancestors," says Native Hawaiian Davianna McGregor. "We can practice our traditions there without it being a tourist attraction. It's one place we can go to be in communion with our natural life forces."

Each of us has a personal version of Kaho'olawe: a part of our psyche that has been stolen or colonized by hostile forces. To grow bold in exploring pronoia, you'll need to take back yours.

How can you take back yours?

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3. During my years in college, I enjoyed watching the evolution of Richard, a shy geek in my creative writing classes. Long before he penned a single good poem, he was a bohemian art poseur.

On his backpack there was a button with the image of rock poet Patti Smith. He often wore a T-shirt bearing a quote from poetry icon Allen Ginsberg, and he was never without his book of Rimbaud poems.

Everywhere I went I saw him scribbling ostentatiously in his journal as he chain-smoked clove cigarettes.

To my surprise, Richard's work gradually began to match his persona. By sophomore year he'd spawned some evocative poems, and soon after he graduated, he published a fine chapbook. In his development I witnessed a perfect example of the saying, "You become what you pretend to be."

Your assignment: Decide what you want to become, and start pretending to be that thing. Or else: Be careful what you're unconsciously pretending to be, because you just might become it.

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4. In his book Starbucked, Taylor Clark says there's a woman who goes to a Seattle Starbucks every morning and orders a "decaf single grande extra vanilla two-percent extra caramel 185-degrees with whipped cream caramel macchiato."

Maybe her request seems overly fussy and demanding, but it could be a good act for you to mimic.

Try this: For a given time, say 12 days, be equally as exacting in asking for what you want. Assume that you have a poetic license to be extremely specific as you go about your quest for fulfillment.

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5. George III was King of England from 1760 to 1820. During the last years of his reign, he gradually became more and more detached from reality, talking to himself for hours on end and addressing trees as if they were people.

When he first began losing his mind, his servants and assistants made a conscious decision to help him feel more comfortable by acting eccentric themselves.

Their collusion with George's pathology is an extreme example of a situation that all of us are at risk of. Our associates and loved ones may fall into a rhythm of going along with our odd ideas and bad habits, encouraging us to continue doing what we probably shouldn't do.

Are your allies refraining from busting you or calling your bluff, when they probably should? Bust yourself. Call your own bluff.

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6. "Why, I don't even respect myself, I tell ya," said comedian Rodney Dangerfield. "When I make love, I have to fantasize that I am somebody else!"

Experiment with just the second half of that formulation. While you're making love, fantasize that you're somebody else.

But do it because you care deeply about yourself—so deeply that you want to transcend your customary reactions and expand your identity. Do it because you dare to awaken to previously unknown possibilities of who you might be.

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7. There was an indignant uproar after revelations in 2006 that James Frey's best-selling "memoir," A Million Little Pieces, contains fabrications. He hadn't actually lived all of the experiences he depicted therein.

Hearing about it prompted me to ruminate on whether there's any such thing as a completely accurate account of any person's life. My conclusion: no.

In every autobiography and biography ever written, the author imaginatively strings together selectively chosen details to conjure up artificially coherent narratives rather than depicting the crazy-quilt ambiguity that actually characterizes everyone's journey.

If you and nine writers set out to tell your life story, you'd produce 10 wildly different tales, each rife with subjective interpretation, misplaced emphasis, unintentional distortions, and exorbitant extrapolations from insufficient data.

As an experiment, choose some day soon to celebrate the malleability of reality. Regale listeners with stories about the time you worked as a pirate in the Indian Ocean, or rode the rails through Kansas as a hobo, or gave a down-on-his-luck CIA agent sage advice in an elevator.

When you call to get pizza delivered and the clerk who takes your order asks your name, say you're Brad Pitt or Paris Hilton.

When someone you're meeting is annoyed because you're late, say you couldn't help it because you were smoking crack in the bus station bathroom with your mom's guru and lost track of time.

If asked how much education you have, say you have three PhDs, one each in astrobiology, Russian literature, and whale songs.

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8. Sometimes the best gift you can give your ego is to tell it you're not going to be its slave anymore.

You say to it, "I'm tired of being whipped around by every one of your ever-shifting little needs, and I'm sick of having to kowtow to your inexhaustible demands. I want to be free of your insatiable craving to be appreciated, recognized, and adored. Go away and leave me alone. I'm just going to be who I am without worrying about you at all."

Delivering this message may stimulate a healing crisis. Your ego could be temporarily rendered numb and irrelevant by its near death experience, and you'll get to go off and do what your soul wants to do. Ironically, this often results in you attracting adventures that make your ego very happy.

Tell your ego you won't be its slave for a period of three days.

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9. If a cow is given a name by her owner, she generates more milk than a cow that's treated as an anonymous member of the herd.

That's the conclusion of a study done by researchers at Newcastle University in the UK. "Placing more importance on knowing the individual animals and calling them by name," said Dr. Catherine Douglas, "can significantly increase milk ­production."

Building on that principle, I suggest that you give everything in your world names, including (but not limited to) houseplants, insects, cars, appliances, and trees. It will help you get more up-close and personal with all of creation, which is an effective way to cultivate pronoia.

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10. Sometimes we have a strong sense of what our destiny is calling us to do, but we don't feel quite ready or brave enough to answer the call. We need a push, an intervention, a serendipitous stroke—what you might call "fate bait."

It's a person or event that awakens our dormant willpower and draws us inexorably toward our necessary destiny; it's a thunderbolt or siren song or stage whisper that gives us a good excuse to go do what we know we should do.

Do you have any ideas about how to put yourself in the vicinity of your fate bait?


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RADICAL AND REVOLUTIONARY

If it's inaccessible to the poor, it's neither radical or revolutionary.
—Jonathan Herrera Soto

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FREE WILL ASTROLOGY

"Esoteric astrology teaches that anyone whose future can be predicted by any means is living like a robot. It assumes that some people are more robotic (predictable) than others; and that further implies some of us have more free will than others."

—Carolyn L. Vash, Noetic Sciences Review


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BE READY

You Reading This, Be Ready
by William Stafford

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life––

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?


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Your Story Is a Sacred Treasure

Your Body Is a Sacred Temple


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Therefore, dark past,
I'm about to do it.
I'm about to forgive you
for everything.

—Mary Oliver


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A HEALTHY EGO IS BEAUTIFUL

Jeff Brown describes "Patriarchal Spirituality" like this: Those ungrounded and inhumane "spiritual" models that have been fostered by emotionally armored, self-avoidant men.

These models share some or all of the following beliefs:

* the ego is the enemy of a spiritual life

* the "monkey mind" is the cause of suffering

* your feelings are an illusion

* your personal identifications and stories are necessarily false

* witnessing your pain transforms it

* your body is a spiritually bankrupt toxic quagmire

* the only real consciousness is an "absolute" and "transcendent" one

* stillness and silence are THE path

* isolation is the best way to access "higher states"

* there is no "self"

* meditation is THE royal road to enlightenment

* enlightenment actually exists

* formlessness over form

* the ultimate path is upward and vertical

* real spirituality exists independent of our humanness

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In fact, most of the above is a blatant lie.

Here are more accurate hypotheses about the nature of human life:

* A healthy ego is beautifully essential to healthy functioning

* The monkey mind is fed by the monkey heart (the unresolved emotional body)

* Many of our identities and stories are fundamental to who we are, where we have been, why we are here

* Healing your pain transforms it; watching it is only a preliminary step

* Our bodies are our spiritual temples

* The only "real" consciousness is one that integrates all that we are and all that this is

* Stillness and silence are only one path; many people prefer movement and sound

* There is no "higher" state (we aren’t birds). But connection may be the best way to access deepened states

* There is a magnificent self; the work is to align it with your sacred purpose, not to deny it altogether

* Meditation is not THE royal road; it’s one road, and it is not any more effective than embodied movement and emotional release as a clarification and transformation tool

* Enlightenment does not exist; enrealment does. (Be real now.) And it’s a relative experience, changing form as we and this changes form

* We are form, and we are here to in-form our humanness

* If there is an "ultimate path," it's downward (rooted) and horizontal

* There is no distinction between our spirituality and our humanness

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The wool has been pulled over our eyes. Men who were too unhealthily egoically to admit that they couldn’t deal with their humanness, their feelings, their trauma, had to find a system that smokescreened their avoidance. They found it. It’s called "Enlightenment." It’s also called "Spiritual Mastery."

And it usually involves leaving the world, in one form or another. This way, they can convince themselves and others that they have mastered the one true path.
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In fact, Enlightenment is just a construct that is intended to avoid the multi-aspected nature of reality.

In fact, they are mastering nothing. They are merely fleeing their fragmentation, their confusion, and the fact that they don't know how to find their center in the heart of the world.
Don't be fooled. They know less about reality than day to day people. They know less about reality than those who live from their hearts.

What we need now are models that lead us back into our hearts, into relatedness, into a deep and reverential regard for the self. Those models may invite us to detach in an effort to see ourselves through a different lens, but they will not leave us out there, floating into the eternal emptiness and calling that a life.

Detachment is a tool; it’s NOT a life.

The models we need will then invite us back into our bodies, back into our hearts, and back into relatedness with each other. (No more "enlightened" masters sitting in caves while the women of the village bring them food. If you can’t find your transformation in the village, you haven’t found shit).

They will invite us to integrate what we find "out there" with who we are "in here." They will invite us to embody the now, rather than to pretend we have found it in the heart of our dissociation.

It’s time to co-create spiritual models that begin, and end, within our wondrous humanness.

It’s not "out there," dear friends. It’s right here, inside these aging body temples.

The inimitable Jeff Brown, who authored the piece above, is here.


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YOU'RE EXEMPT FROM PURSUING "ENLIGHTENMENT"

How Is Enlightenment Like a Million-Dollar Vacation Home?

For some seekers, spiritual enlightenment is the ultimate commodity. They believe that through diligent meditation and self-­improvement, there will come a day when it will no longer elude their grasp. Breaking through to the singular state of cosmic consciousness, they will forever after own it, free and clear.

Permanently illuminated! Never to backslide into the dull ignominy of normal human awareness!

Here's what I have to say about that: It's a delusion.

The fact is, the nature of perfection is always mutating. What constitutes enlightenment today will always be different tomorrow. Even if ­you're fortunate and wise enough to score a sliver of "enlightenment," it's not a static treasure that becomes your indestructible, everlasting possession. Rather, it remains a mercurial knack that must be continually re-­earned.

If you want to befriend the Divine Wow, you must not only be willing to change ceaselessly—you have to love to change ceaselessly.

Lucky you: All of creation is conspiring to help you live like that.

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Certificate of Exemption from Enlightenment

This document certifies that

____[your name here] __________________________

is immune to the lust for enlightenment and is exempt from the need to seek enlightenment.

This document also certifies that

____[your name here] __________________________

has seen through the fraud of the enlightenment con game and is excused from further clawing and scraping to own a piece of that specious reward.


This document further certifies that

____[your name here] __________________________

is free from the temptation to be consecrated as enlightened by any guru, saint, holy person, or religious organization that claims the right to do so.


Finally, this document certifies that

____[your name here] __________________________

has already been enlightened a million times in a million different ways anyway, and that seeking even further enlightenments would be redundant and even greedy.


To ensure the continued validity of this document,

____[your name here] __________________________

vows to regularly renew these three understandings: that it is impossible to ever reach a complete and permanent state of enlightenment; that there is no single state of awareness that constitutes enlightenment; and that since the nature of reality keeps changing, the nature of enlightenment keeps changing as well.


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SACRED ADVERTISEMENT

Your inexhaustible capacity to enjoy life's open-ended
invitation to change is brought to you by the film Destino, which was a collaboration between surrealist painter Salvador Dalí and Walt Disney's team of animators. It was begun in 1945 and completed in 2006.


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LET'S MAKE MORALITY FUN

Are you turned off by the authoritarian, libido-mistrusting perversity of the right-wing moral code, but equally reluctant to embrace the atheism embedded in some of the left wing's code of goodness?

Are you hungry for a value system rooted in beauty, love, pleasure, and liberation instead of order, control, politeness, and fear, but allergic to the sophistry of the spiritual bypassers?

Are you apathetic toward the saccharine goodness evangelized by sentimental, superstitious fanatics, but equally bored by the intellectuals who worship at the empty-hearted shrine of scientific materialism?

It may be time for you to whip up your very own moral code. If you do, you might want to keep the following guidelines in mind:

1. A moral code becomes immoral unless it can thrive without a devil and enemy.

2. A moral code grows ugly unless it prescribes good-natured rebellion against automaton-like behavior offered in its support.

3. A moral code becomes murderous unless it's built on a love for the fact that EVERYTHING CHANGES ALL THE TIME, and unless it perpetually adjusts its reasons for being true.

4. A moral code will corrupt its users unless it ensures that their primary motivation for being good is because it's fun.

5. A moral code deadens the soul of everyone it touches unless it has a built-in sense of humor.


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THE TRUE SAVIOR

Some Christians believe Jesus will come back to fix this corrupt world. Certain Jewish sects propose that the messiah will soon appear on Earth for the first time. Among Muslims, some predict the legendary Twelfth Imam will return and bring salvation to humanity.

In India, devotees of Vishnu expect the avatar Kalki to arrive on the scene and carry out a series of miraculous redemptions. Even Buddhists prophesy Maitreya, the chosen one who will establish universal peace.

My divinations foretell a very different scenario. I suspect that the whole point of our spectacularly confounding moment in history is that each of us must become our own savior.

And if we hope to accomplish that, relying on our best amateur efforts, we will have to stop waiting around for a supposed professional to do our work for us. We should also shed our addiction to believing in the possibility of any kind of magical intervention.

Franz Kafka had a view that's not necessarily mutually exclusive with mine: "The messiah will come when we don't need him anymore."

Let's also consider the evidence offered by William Blake, as quoted in Poets and God by David L. Edwards: "Jesus Christ is the only God. And so am I. And so are you."

One more clue, this time from Deepak Chopra: "Every person is a God in embryo. Its only desire is to be born."


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YOUR BRAND NEW NAME

In some spiritual traditions, devotees attempt an arduous process of self-transformation as they retrain themselves to perceive the world from God's point of view. If they succeed, they're honored with an initiation ritual and given a new name to consecrate their altered state.

I have the same problem with this custom that I have with the idea of enlightenment: Once isn't enough. Just as anyone in his or her right spiritual mind has a duty to keep claiming fresh varieties of enlightenment until the end of time, so should the initiations and renamings continue forever.

In my opinion, these considerations apply to you. You may not have sequestered yourself for years in a mountaintop monastery, and you may not have risen every morning at 5 a.m. to say prayers for hours, but you are an authentic devotee who has undergone equivalent ordeals.

Your spiritual transformation has unfolded as you've dealt with the challenges of daily life during our epic moment in history, when unprecedented levels of annihilation and resurrection are the norm.

You have earned the right, therefore, to enjoy enlightenment after enlightenment and initiation after initiation and renaming after renaming.

I invite you to get started with a do-it-yourself initiation ceremony. It doesn't have to be long and complicated, and you can create it yourself. As an example of what you might do, here's a ritual that some Beauty and Truth Lab's initiates have performed:

1. Eat a pinch of dirt to declare your solidarity with Mother Earth.

2. Burn a five-dollar bill to purify your relationship with symbols of wealth.

3. Kick yourself in the ass to affirm your ongoing intention to discipline your shadow.

As one of your initiatory rewards, consider adopting a fresh alias during this and every initiation you carry out in the future. You can abandon your existing name if you want, or simply add your new tag to the current mix.

To celebrate the occasion, I invoke on your behalf the inspiration of all shedding things.

Your tree of power will be the eucalyptus, whose bark peels away to reveal fresh layers beneath. Your lucky symbol will be the molting snake.

Your sacred insect will be the silverfish, which bursts through its exoskeleton as it grows a new and bigger one.

Your role model will be Japanese artist Hokusai (1760–1849), who had such a passionate commitment to reinventing himself that he celebrated 60 births, each time giving himself a new name.

Below is a list of titles and names you might want to steal for your own use. Feel free to dream up your own, of course.

Wild Face
Shadow Wrestler
Kiss Genius
Goal Thwacker
Boink Worthy
Fizzy Nectar
Rumbler
Thrill Witch
Rowdy Gusto
Bliss Mutator
Silky Banger
Phoenix Nectar
Mucho Gusto Coco Loco
Mango Sucker
Pain Killer
Fire Keeper
Wobble Binder
Earthshaker
Wish Crayon
Pearly Thunder
Thumper
Gut Stormer
Storm Tamer
Free Sigh


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"TRY TO BE A LITTLE KINDER"

One of the leading intellectuals of the 20th century, Aldous Huxley, wrote more than 20 books, including Brave New World.

In his later years he made a surprising confession. "It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one's life," he wrote, "and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than 'Try to be a little kinder.'"

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Later in his life, Aldous Huxley came to regret one thing: how "preposterously serious" he had been when he was younger. "There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet," he ruminated, "trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly, my darling . . . Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply."

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"When Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh was invited to the San Francisco Zen Center, the students asked him what they could do to improve their practice. He had entered a monastery at age sixteen, was an ordained monk, and had endured the horrors of the war in Vietnam. I imagine they expected some rigorous prescription for deepening their spiritual life.

"Thich Nhat Han's response: 'You guys get up too early for one thing; you should get up a little later. And your practice is too grim. I have just two instructions for you. One is to breathe, and one is to smile.'"

—from True Refuge, by Tara Brach.


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Cultivating Excellent Desires

Whether it's your time to gather your strength in the shadows or exude your lust for life in the sun, fresh power to transform yourself is on the way.

Life always delivers the creative energy you need to change into the new thing you must become. You can count on it! So be alert for it. Be receptive to it.

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