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Week of November 10th, 2016

Thank You For Making My Life Better

Sometime in the next 24 hours, try saying this to someone (but only if you really mean it): "Thanks for making my life better."

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Dear Readers -

One of my main reasons for being on planet Earth is to help minimize and alleviate the world's suffering -- among my fellow humans as well as among the animals and plants and spiritual beings with whom we share this realm. My day-to-day actions are motivated not just by my yearning to feel fulfilled and authentic, but also by my passion for influences that generate practical compassion.

To that end, I support Hillary Clinton for President. Either she or Donald Trump will win the job, and in my estimation she's more likely than he is to reduce the world's suffering and generate practical compassion.

P.S.: Bernie was my first choice, and I hope that he and the movement he has energized will work their magic on President Clinton in the coming years. I am part of that movement.

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My book
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia is available at Amazon and Powells.

Below are excerpts.

I cheerfully celebrate the mantra, "I don't know." It's a source of power, a declaration of independence from the pressure to have an opinion about every single subject.

It's fun to say. "I don't know."

I love to let go of the drive to have it all figured out: "I don't know."

I exult in proclaiming the only truth I can be totally sure of: "I don't know."

I empty my mind and lift my heart: "I don't know."

I use it as a battle cry, a joyous affirmation of my oneness with the Great Mystery: "I don't know."

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"In art and dream may you proceed with abandon. In life may you proceed with balance and stealth."

- Patti Smith

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Keep two pieces of paper in your pockets at all times. One says "I am a speck of dust," and the other, "The world was created for me."

- Rabbi Bunim of P?shiskha

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What do you need to kill off in yourself in order to tune in to the beauty that's hidden from you? What worn-out shticks are blinding you to the blessings that life is conspiring to give you?

Which of your theories may have been useful and even brilliant in the past but are now keeping you from becoming aware of the ever-fresh creation that unfolds before you?

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"Even though I'm often in a mess, inside me there's still a calm, clear, harmony of music."

- Vincent van Gogh

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You're a gorgeous mystery with a wild heart and a lofty purpose. But like all of us, you also have a dark side -- a part of your psyche that snarls and bites, that's unconscious and irrational, that is motivated by ill will or twisted passions or instinctual fears.

It's your own personal portion of the world's sickness: a mess of repressed longings, enervating wounds, ignorant delusions, and unripe powers. You'd prefer to ignore it because it's unflattering or uncomfortable or very different from what you imagine yourself to be.

If you acknowledge its existence at all (many of us don't), you might call it the devil, your evil twin, your inner monster, or your personal demon. Psychologist Carl Jung referred to it as the shadow. He regarded it as the lead that the authentic alchemists of the Middle Ages sought to transmute into gold.


Astrologer Steven Forrest has a different name for the shadow: stuff. "Work on your stuff," he says, "or your stuff will work on you." He means that it will sabotage you if you're not aggressive about identifying, negotiating with, and transforming it.


The shadow is not inherently evil. If it is ignored or denied, it may become monstrous to compensate. Only then is it likely to "demonically possess" its owner, leading to compulsive, exaggerated, "evil" behavior.


"The shadow, which is in conflict with the acknowledged values, cannot be accepted as a negative part of one's own psyche and is therefore projected -- that is, it is transferred to the outside world and experienced as an outside object. It is combated, punished, and exterminated as 'the alien out there' instead of being dealt with as one's own inner problem."

- Erich Neumann, Depth Psychology and a New Ethic


The qualities in ourselves that we deny or dislike are often the very qualities that we most bitterly complain about in other people. So for instance, an old friend of mine named Mark had a special disgust for friends who were unavailable to him when he really needed them. But I was witness to him engaging in the same behavior three different times, disappearing from the lives of his friends just when they needed him most.


"Whatever is rejected from the self, appears in the world as an event," said Jung. If you disown a part of your personality, it'll materialize as an unexpected detour.

Everyone who believes in the devil is the devil . . . .


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Read Dissident Horoscopes for Samhain (and Halloween) Insurgents -- by Job Disney, Rob Brezsny's only partially evil twin:

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Here are three of our deepest spiritual aspirations, which we invite you to steal for your own use:

1. to develop the capacity to thrive in the midst of raging contradictions;

2. to be discerning as we protect ourselves from people's flaws while at the same time being generous as we celebrate their beauty;

3. to refrain from dividing the world into two groups, those who help and agree with us and those who don't.

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Brainwash yourself before someone nasty beats you to it. Study the difference between wise suffering and dumb suffering until you get it right. Commit crimes that don't break any laws. Visualize Buddha at the moment of orgasm. Build illusions that make people feel so beautiful they can't stand to be near you.

Pretend to be crazy so you can get away with doing what's right. Sing anarchist lullabies to homosexual trees. Love your enemies in case your friends turn out to be jerks. Review in detail the history of your life, honoring every moment as if you were conducting a benevolent Judgment Day. Eat money. Suck gravity. Drink the sun. Dream like a stone. Sing in the acid rain.

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May a good vision catch me

May a benevolent vision take hold of me, and move me

May a deep and full vision come over me, and burst open around me

May a luminous vision inform me, enfold me.

May I awaken into the story that surrounds,

May I awaken into the beautiful story.

May the wondrous story find me;

May the wildness that makes beauty arise between two lovers

arise beautifully between my body and the body of this land,

between my flesh and the flesh of this earth,

here and now,

on this day,

May I taste something sacred.

?David Abram

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?Your job," my philosophy teacher Norman O. Brown once told me, "is to find the holy in the mundane, and, failing that, to create the holy in the mundane."

What's the secret job you do -- the one hardly anyone knows about?

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Here's my request to anyone who greets my posts about good news and glad tidings with fierce reminders of how messed-up everything really is. My request is that the next time I offer some really BAD, depressing news, which I do periodically, that you counter my thrust by reminding us of some wonderful, life-affirming thing that is unfolding in the world.

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Jorge Luis Borges said that Judas was actually a more exalted hero than Jesus. He unselfishly volunteered to perform the all-important villain's role in the resurrection saga, knowing he'd be reviled forever. It was a dirty job that only an egoless saint could have done. Jesus suffered, true, but enjoyed glory and adoration as a result.

Let's apply this way of thinking to the task of understanding the role that seemingly bad people play in pronoia.

Interesting narratives play an essential role in the universal conspiracy to give us exactly what we need. All of us crave drama. We love to be beguiled by twists of fate that unfold the stories of our lives in unpredictable ways. Just as Judas played a key role in advancing the tale of Christ's quest, villains and con men and clowns may be crucial to the entertainment value of our personal journeys.

Try this: Imagine the people you fear and dislike as pivotal characters in a fascinating and ultimately redemptive plot that will take years or even lifetimes for the Divine Wow to elaborate.

There is another reason to love our enemies: They force us to become smarter. The riddles they thrust in front of us sharpen our wits and sculpt our souls.

Try this: Act as if your adversaries are great teachers. Thank them for how crucial they've been in your education.

Consider one more possibility: that the people who seem to slow us down and hold us back are actually preventing things from happening too fast. Imagine that the evolution of your life or our culture is like a pregnancy: It needs to reach its full term. Just as a child isn't ready to be born after five months of gestation, the New Earth we're creating has to ripen in its own time.

The recalcitrant reactionaries who resist the inevitable birth are simply making sure that the far-seeing revolutionaries don't conjure the future too suddenly. They serve the greater good.

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Abraham Maslow's definition of *real* listening: to listen "without presupposing, classifying, improving, controverting, evaluating, approving or disapproving, without dueling what is being said, without rehearsing the rebuttal in advance, without free-associating to portions of what is being said so that succeeding portions are not heard at all."

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?The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates: considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artists; a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain.?

- Ursula K. Le Guin, "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas"

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I think that the percentage of good things occurring in the world far outnumbers the tragic, miserable, horrific things -- maybe 85 to 15 -- and yet the tragic, miserable, horrific things get a disproportionate amount of credit and attention.

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In my value system, it is immoral to complain without ever praising; it's immoral to criticize without also identifying what's working well.

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"The shamanic faith is that humanity is not without allies. There are forces friendly to our struggle to birth ourselves as an intelligent species. But they are quiet and shy; they are to be sought, not in the arrival of alien star fleets in the skies of earth, but nearby, in wilderness solitude, in the ambience of waterfalls, and yes, in the grasslands and pastures now too rarely beneath our feet."

- Terence McKenna, "Food of the Gods"

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News Flash: The zodiac isn't wrong. Your sign isn't changing. Ignore the misinformation that has been rumbling around the Internet.

Every year or so, another astronomer erupts into the mainstream media with a portentous announcement about how, due to the precession of the equinoxes, the astrological signs are no longer aligned with the actual constellations. Often the supposed 13th constellation, Ophiuchus, is also invoked as a further proof of how delusional astrologers are.

What it means, according to these fake "experts," is that astrology is invalid. Most of the people who think they're Tauruses are actually Aries. Most Scorpios are really Libras. And so on.

A typical offering was from Parke Kunkle, a board member of the Minnesota Planetarium Society. "When [astrologers] say that the sun is in Pisces," he speculated, "it's really not in Pisces." His erroneous supposition swept through the Internet, including stories on Gawker and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, among other places.

I understand that scientists like him would prefer not to lower themselves to the task of actually doing research about how astrology works. But if they're going to question its foundations, they should at least learn it well enough to know what they're talking about.

Here, briefly, is the lowdown on what certain astronomers are too lazy to find out for themselves.

The astrological signs are not defined by the constellations you see in the sky. In antiquity, when both astrological and astronomical thinking were based on insufficient data, the names of the constellations happened to be paired with the astrological signs. Today, those pairings are no longer in sync: Astrological signs do not line up with the constellations in the same way they did way back then, due to the precession of the equinoxes.

Modern Western astrologers understand this perfectly. It's irrelevant to their work because the information upon which they base their hypotheses does not involve a study of distant stars or constellations. Rather, their data have to do with the movements of the planets in our own solar system within a zone of influence defined by the relationship between the Earth and Sun.

The key demarcation points in that relationship are the equinoxes and solstices. At the Northern Hemisphere's vernal equinox, which occurs on about March 20th of each year, the Sun enters into the sign of Aries. At the Northern Hemisphere's summer solstice, the sun enters into the sign of Cancer. The locations of the constellations are irrelevant; the "influence of the stars" isn't considered.

To reiterate: Western astrologers don't work with stars or constellations. Their focus is our solar system. They study the patterns of the planets and the moon as they pass through 12 zones defined by the relationship between the Earth and sun. Those zones have the same names as constellations because of a historical quirk, but they are unrelated to the constellations.

When Parke Kunkle triumphantly says, "There is no physical connection between constellations and personality traits," as if he has finally stamped out the delusions of us astrologers, he doesn't realize that we agree with him completely. We don't deal with constellations.

There aren't ever many corrective articles in the mainstream press -- most publications are content to let their un-fact-checked stories stand as if they were gospel -- but the New York Times and the Daily Beast did have the journalistic integrity to make a correction to Kunkle's nonsense.

s My astrological colleague Deborah Houlding has a cogent response, too .

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My book
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia is available at Amazon and Powells.

Below are excerpts.

Alert, relaxed listening is the radical act at the heart of our pronoiac practice.

Curiosity is our primal state of awareness.

Wise innocence is a trick we aspire to master.

Open-hearted skepticism is the light in our eyes.

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Some of your illusions seeped into you before you learned to talk. Others sneaked into you later, while you were busy figuring out how to become yourself. Eventually, you even made conscious choices to adopt certain illusions because they provided you with comfort and consolation.

There's no need to be ashamed of this. It's a natural part of being a human being.

Now here's the good news: You have the power to shed at least some of your illusions in ways that don't shatter your foundations.

Here's one way you could begin the process, declare this intention at noon every Sunday for the next three months: "I am calling on all the power I have at my disposal, both conscious and unconscious, to dissolve my illusions."

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Invitation: In a contemplative state, contact the highest source you know, and ask this question: What do I need to become aware of that I wouldn't even know to ask about?

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I wish you joyous and mysterious eruptions of profound gratification and gratitude.

I wish you fluid insights and "ah-ha!" revelations that lead to cathartic integrations on a regular basis.

I wish you the ripening of lucky trends you've worked hard to earn, resulting in the kind of healing that allows your generosity to flow.

I wish you captivating yet relaxing adventures that enable you to weave together diverse threads of your experience, inspiring you to feel at home in the world.

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"Enter each day with the expectation that the happenings of the day may contain a clandestine message addressed to you personally. Expect omens, epiphanies, casual blessings, and teachers who unknowingly speak to your condition."

- Sam Keen

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One of my favorite Facebook Teammates, Danielle Egnew, says:

1. I am not interested in what is wrong. I am interested in what is RIGHT.

2. If you have solutions, I'm interested. Come share them with me. I will share mine with you.

3. I've gone bored with shock-jock cynicism. I refuse to sacrifice further IQ points at the altar of the lowest common denominator.

4. FEAR is not my University.

5. Providing a shoulder to cry on is part of my human design.

6. Lies are boring. Us-against-them is boring. Mean, insulting, cutting, bullying, defensiveness, nastiness -- boring, boring, boring...ZzZz...

7. I'm not interested in distracting myself with the illusion of limitation.

8. Debates are for the undecided. I'm happy to discuss.

9. Consensus is my religion.

10. Love is the language of God.

11. I am at peace in the knowledge that at any given time, someone will be completely unhappy with my perspective.

12. I don't need to be "in control". I *do* need to be aware.

13. I'm awake. In this awareness, there can sometimes be pain, loneliness and fear.

14. This awareness does not define reality, but the state of my own reality in that moment.

15. There is nothing on this earth that love cannot heal.

16. I am designed to radiate love. And so are you.

17. I assume the best, as I'm simply not interested in the worst.

18. I do not mistake hyper-vigilance for provision.

19. Anger is a symptom of pain.

20. Love is my bottom line.

Danielle Egnew is here.

My Facebook page is here.

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"Give us this day our daily hunger," prayed French philosopher Gaston Bachelard. It was his personal variation on the "Give us this day our daily bread" line from the Lord's Prayer.

Proposed experiment: Ask the Divine Wow or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or your Higher WildSelf to furnish you with a steady flow of strong, righteous desires.

Say this: "Give me this day my holiest longings."

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Even if you don't call yourself an artist, you have the potential to be a dynamic creator who is always hatching new plans, coming up with fresh ideas, and shifting your approach to everything you do as you adjust to life's ceaseless invitation to change.

It's to this part of you?the restless, inventive spirit?that I address the following: Unleash yourself! Don't be satisfied with the world the way it is; don't sit back passively and blankly complain about the dead weight of the mediocre status quo.

Instead, call on your curiosity and charisma and expressiveness and lust for life as you tinker with and rebuild everything you see so that it's in greater harmony with the laws of love and more hospitable to your soul's code.

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"I think the whole world's gone mad."

"Nah. It's always been like this. You just don't get out enough."

?Neil Gaiman

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One of life's great bounties is its changeableness, which ensures that boredom will never last very long. You may underestimate the intensity of your longing for continual transformation, but the universe doesn't.

That's why it provides you with the boundless entertainment of your ever-shifting story. That's why it is always revising the challenges it sends your way, providing your curious soul with a rich variety of unpredictable teachings.

Neuroscientists have turned up evidence that suggests you love this aspect of the universe's behavior. They say that you are literally addicted to learning. At the moment when you grasp a lesson you've been grappling with, your brain experiences a rush of a natural opium-like chemical, boosting your pleasure levels. You crave this experience. You thrive on it.

So the universe is built in such a way as to discourage boredom. It does this not just by generating an endless stream of interesting novelty, and not only by giving you an instinctive lust to keep learning, but also by making available an abundance of ways to break free of your habitual thoughts.

You can go to school, travel, read, listen to experts, converse with people who think differently from you, and absorb the works of creative artists. You can replenish and stretch your mind through exercise, sex, psychotherapy, spiritual practices, and self-expression. You can take drugs and medicines that alter your perspectives.

And here's the best part of this excellent news: Every method that exists for expanding your consciousness is more lavishly available right now than it has been at any previous time in history.

Never before have there been so many schools, educational programs, workshops, and enrichment courses. Virtually any subject or skill you want to study, you can. You don't even have to leave your home to do it. The number of online classes is steadily mounting . . . .

Read the rest of this essay.

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A common obstruction to a vital intimate relationship is what I call the assumption of clairvoyance. You imagine, perhaps unconsciously, that your partner or friend is somehow magically psychic when it comes to you -- so much so that he or she should unfailingly intuit exactly what you need, even if you don't ask for it.

This fantasy may seem romantic, but it can undermine the most promising alliances.

To counteract any tendencies you might have to indulge in the assumption of clairvoyance, practice stating your desires aloud.

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?Beauty is not a luxury but a strategy for survival.?

- Terry Tempest Williams, Finding Beauty in a Broken World

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My book
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia is available at Amazon and Powells.

Below are excerpts.

To achieve what the Zen Buddhists call "beginner's mind," you dispense with all preconceptions and enter each situation as if seeing it for the first time. "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities," wrote Shunryu Suzuki in his book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, "but in the expert's there are few."

As much as I love beginner's mind, though, I advocate an additional discipline: cultivating a beginner's heart. That means approaching every encounter imbued with a freshly invoked wave of love that is as pure as if you're feeling it for the first time.

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Aldous Huxley was the renowned 20th-century intellectual who wrote the book Brave New World, a dystopian vision of the future. Later in his life he 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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"I overcame myself, the sufferer; I carried my own ashes to the mountains; I invented a brighter flame for myself. And behold, then this ghost fled from me."

- Friedrich Nietzsche, translated by Walter Kaufman

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Book review by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat:

Rob Brezsny has written "Free Will Astrology," the most widely syndicated feature in North America's alternative weeklies, for years. He is a truth-seeker, a buoyant optimist, a true believer in love and optimism, a child at play in the wonderland of life, "a master of rowdy bliss," and a writer whose imagination is wild and untamed.

Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia is a revised and expanded edition of the radical and life-changing manifesto he wrote in 2005. With great zest and an inimitable creativity, Brezsny sees the present moment as the perfect moment:

"In the New Earth we're creating, we need lusty compassion and ecstatic duty, ingenious love and insurrectionary beauty. We need radical curiosity and reverent pranks, voracious listening and ferocious thanks."

Instead of the gloom and doom message which is so prominent in the media, Brezsny suggests "the cause of zoom and boom." Throughout this extraordinary book, he celebrates many of the qualities we have incorporated in our vision of Spiritual Literacy: imagination, wonder, gratitude, reverence, play, beauty, compassion, connections, mystery, and more.

Instead of a negative and toxic view of the world, Brezsny contends that the universe is basically friendly. This means we don?t have to live our days in paranoia; we can choose instead to align with pronia: "a mode of training your senses and intellect so you're able to perceive the fact that life always gives you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it."

He hopscotches even further: "Evil is boring. Cynicism is idiotic. Fear is a bad habit. Despair is lazy. Joy is fascinating. Love is an act of heroic genius. Pleasure is your birthright. Receptivity is a superpower."

Proving his point in an awesome segment in the book titled "Glory in the Highest," Brezsny presents a few of the everyday miracles which we overlook, the positive qualities we possess in abundance, the special wonders of this age, and the varied gifts and services provided by strangers we do not even know.

There's a common perception that tales of carnage, revenge, horror, mayhem, and tragedy are more real and engaging than stories of triumph, liberation, and reconciliation.

Brezsny's Beauty and Truth Laboratory proclaims that succumbing to pop nihilism propagated by the media is toxic for our spiritual health and well-being. Instead of watering the seeds of violence within yourself, take a break and savor the joy of a small moment of silence or pleasure. "Bow down to the greatest mystery you know." Or "pick blackberries naked in the rain."

In The Pronia News Network, Brezsny delivers up a treasure trove of quips, quotes, snippets, and epiphanies for all of us who are sick and tired of all the bad news that surrounds us and threatens to sink us in a sea of despair. Here are bits and pieces from Brian Swimme, Gandhi, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Krishna Das, Ken Wilber, Emily Dickinson, and many more positive voices with good news to share.

We were also mightily impressed by the many informal and creative spiritual practices suggested in the paperback. Here are a few examples:

* "Take an inventory of the extent to which your "No" reflex dominates your life. . . . Retrain yourself to say "YES" at least 51 percent of the time."

* " 'There are two ways for a person to look for adventure,' said the Lone Ranger, an old TV character. 'By tearing everything down, or building everything up.' Give an example of each from your own life."

* "Salvador Dali once staged a party in which guests were told to come disguised as characters from their nightmares. Do the reverse. Throw a bash in which everyone is invited to arrive dressed as a character from the most glorious dream they remember."

There are many other essays and probes in this endlessly inventive work that we haven't even mentioned in this brief review. Suffice it to say, this is a rollercoaster ride that surprises, entertains, and edifies in equal measures. It is the perfect resource to lift your spirits and send you on your way rejoicing!

- Book review by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

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Potential code words for your Dream Incubation Experiments:

vorfreude : (n.) the joyful, intense anticipation that comes from imagining future pleasures

numinous: (adj.) describing an experience that makes you overwhelmed yet fascinated, awed yet attracted?the powerful, personal feeling of being viscerally inspired

ostranernie: (n.) encouraging people to see common things as strange, wild, or unfamiliar; defamiliariaing what is known in order to know it differently or more deeply

smultronst?lle: (n.) lit. "place of wild strawberries"; a special place discovered, treasured, returned to for solace and relaxation; a personal idyll free from stress or sadness

rasasvada: (n.) the taste of bliss in the absence of all thoughts

firgun: (n.) the act of sharing in or even contributing to someone else's pleasure or fortune, with a purely generous heart and without jealousy

(Words gleaned from

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How can we influence people to stop their extermination of nature? How can we motivate people to stop committing genocide against animal species? [Choose Method A or Method B or a blend of both.]

Method A.

1. Nag people with scientific data that shocks them into acknowledging how much harm human activity is inflicting.

2. Shame them about the sin of bequeathing their descendants a damaged, impoverished planet.

3. Badger them to dissolve the unethical greed that leads them to consume so many of the earth's resources and produce too much waste.

4. Criticize them for being too stubborn and ignorant to change their destructive habits.

5. Goad them with financial incentives to do the right thing even if they don't want to do the right thing.


Method B.

7. Express smart love for the interconnected web of life.

8. Celebrate the fact that there are other forms of consciousness and intelligence besides just the human kind.

9. Embody the hypothesis that spending time in wild places enhances one's mental hygiene and physical health.

10. Value the feminine as much as the masculine.

11. Cultivate the art of empathy, and demonstrate how to make it work in everything you do.

12. Show what it means to think with your heart and feel with your head.

13. Stay in close touch with the Mysterium, the other real world that is the root of the material world.

14. Vow to bring the I-Thou dynamic to bear on all your relationships.

15. Be as curious about intimacy as you are about power.

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"I call the high and light aspects of my being spirit and the dark and heavy aspects soul.

"Soul is at home in the deep, shaded valleys. Heavy torpid flowers saturated with black grow there. The rivers flow like warm syrup.

"Spirit is a land of high, white peaks and glittering jewel-like lakes and flowers. Life is sparse and sounds travel great distances."

- The Dalai Lama, as quoted by James Hillman in A Blue Fire

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My book
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia is available at Amazon and Powells.

Below are excerpts.

Dear Co-Conspirators: Congratulations on having such ambidextrous brains and hearts. Due to your ever-growing ability to blend supple rationality with robust intuition, you're not falling prey to the inane strains of insanity that are going around. Instead you're achieving glorious victory after glorious victory over the fearful fantasies that pass for normalcy.

Best of all, you're increasing your mastery of the art of paradox; more and more you're attuned to the amusing fact that when the mythic shifts hit the fan, the apparent opposites turn inside-out and trade places. The rot prepares the way for the splendor. The chaos becomes the source of the rejuvenation. The end of the world mutates into the beginning of the world.

Please accept the thunderous applause of my one hand clapping. The people who take everything personally and seriously may not recognize your ingenious work, but we connoisseurs of the liberated imagination do.

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"Objection, evasion, joyous distrust, and love of irony are signs of health. Everything absolute belongs to pathology." So proclaimed Friedrich Nietzsche in *Beyond Good and Evil.*

Note well that he used the adjective "joyous" to describe distrust, not "cynical" or "grumbling" or "sour."

The key to remaining vital and strong while questioning every so-called absolute is to cultivate a cheerful, buoyant mood as you do it.

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Sometimes hope is an irrelevant waste of time, even a stupid self-indulgence. Let's say, for instance, that I'm intently hoping that a certain disagreeable person I've got to communicate with won't answer when I call on the phone. That way I can simply leave a message on his voice mail and avoid an unpleasant exchange. But it doesn't matter what I hope. The guy will either answer or not, regardless of what I hope.

But there is another kind of hope that's potentially invigorating. Let's say I hope that we humans will reverse the environmental catastrophes we're perpetrating. Let's say that my hope motivates me to live more sustainably and to inspire others to live more sustainably. Then my hope is a catalyst.

I invite you to give two examples from your life about the two kinds of hope.

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People ask me what they should do now that Mercury, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto are all retrograde. Here's one possible answer: Stick to drinking low-fat water; avoid the high-fat H20 whenever possible. Likewise, inhale only the kind of oxygen that's low in cholesterol, and don't allow your eyes to take in fatty landscapes or other calorie-rich sights.

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"Lama Surya Das, the ?Buddha from Brooklyn,? is one of the handful of Westerners who have been teaching meditation for decades. And yet, he says we?re doing it wrong.

Lama Surya Das says there are other ways to meditate besides those that are currently popular: "So many people seem to be moving narcissistically into self-centered happiness-seeking and quietism, not to mention the use of mindfulness for mere effectiveness," he says. "True meditation generates wisdom and compassion, which may be very disquieting, at least in the short term."

"'Quiet your mind' or 'calm and clear your mind' are instructions I hear way too much," he says. "Some teachers actually encourage people to try to stop thinking, when in fact meditative awareness means being mindful of thoughts and feelings, not simply trying to reduce, alter or white them out and achieve some kind of oblivion."

"The anti-intellectual meditators, thought-swatters and imagination-suppressors have long ruled meditation-oriented circles in the West," he says. "But authentic meditative practices can enhance and even unleash the creativity and imagination.'

You don?t have to quiet the mind to do many of the types of meditation he proposes. They don't involve trying to find a quiet 'moment of Zen' apart from the messy, noisy world of work, family and children, but rather inviting all of the noise into meditation.

These thoughts are from an article by Jay Michaelson in

Lama Surya Das's new book.

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My first invitation: Weed out the wishy-washy wishes and lukewarm longings that keep you distracted from your burning desires.

My second invitation: Refuse to think that anyone else knows better than you what dreams will keep your life energy humming with maximum efficiency and grace.

Third invitation: Say this out loud to see how it feels: "I know exactly what I want. I know exactly what I don't want. I know exactly what I kind of want but I won't waste my time on it because it sidetracks me from working on what I really want."

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"Difficulties illuminate existence, but they must be fresh and of high quality."
- Tom Robbins

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"When one has not had a good father, one must create one," said philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. What does that mean? How might you go about "creating" a good father?

Well, you could develop a relationship with an admirable older man who is an inspiring role model.

You could read books by men whose work stirs you to actualize your own potentials.

If you have a vigorous inner life, you could build a fantasy dad in your imagination.

Here's another possibility: Cultivate in yourself the qualities you think a good father should have.

Your ideas?

Even if you actually had a pretty decent father, I'm sure he wasn't perfect. So it still might be interesting to try out some of these ideas.

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Dear Beauty and Truth Lab: Help! My old Buick's transmission is dead, my credit cards are maxed, my kid's got to see the dentist real bad, and the one-speed bike I ride everywhere is about to collapse. I'm working two low-paying jobs already, although I just applied for a more lucrative gig as a strip-club dancer, only I'm having so much mysterious pain in my joints I'm not sure how sexy my gyrations will be. Please clue me in to some tricks that will help me keep a pronoiac attitude in the midst of the mess that is my life. - Pickled

Dear Pickled: Here's the first thing I want to tell you: Pronoia does not assume that material comfort is a sign of divine favor. The universe is an equal-opportunity provider, conspiring to shower blessings on every one of us in the same abundance. But while the blessings may come in the form of money and possessions, they're just as likely to consist of other gifts that aren't as concrete.

Here's a hypothetical example. Let's say you have the gift of feeling at home in the world no matter where you are. The universe has determined that it's the exact skill you need in order to fulfill the specific purpose you came to earth to carry out. Having a prestigious job and big salary, on the other hand, might be exactly what you don't need.

The question of what gifts are essential revolves around your precise role in the universal conspiracy to perpetrate blessings.

The second meditation I'll offer you is a passage from the Gospel of Matthew: "Whoever has, shall be given more and more, while whoever has nothing, even what he has will be taken away from him."

Pronoiac translation: Whatever you choose to focus your attention on, you will get more of it. If you often think of everything you lack and how sad you are that you don't have it, you will tend to receive prolific evidence of how true that is. As you obsess on all the ways your life is different from what you wish it would be, you will become an expert in rousing feelings of frustration and you will attract experiences that assist you in rousing frustration.

If, on the other hand, you dwell on the good things you have already had the privilege to experience, you will expand your appreciation for their blessings, which in turn will amplify their beneficent impact on your life. You will also magnetize yourself to receive further good things, making it more likely that they will be attracted into your sphere. At the very least, you will get in the habit of enjoying yourself no matter what the outward circumstances are.

Bear in mind that you are a great wizard. You can use your powers to practice white magic on yourself instead of the other kind. The most basic way to do that is to concentrate on naming, savoring, and feeling gratitude for the blessings you do have?your love for your kid, the pleasures of eating the food you like, the sight of the sky at dusk, the entertaining drama of your unique fate. Don't ignore the bad stuff, but make a point of celebrating the beautiful stuff with all the exuberant devotion you can muster.

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Do play soccer in bunny slippers at dawn in a supermarket parking lot with a gang of Vipassana experts who have promised to teach you the Balinese monkey chant.

Don't decorate your thigh with a slipshod tattoo of the devil pushing a lawn mower.

Do wear a T-shirt that says, "Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most."

Don't glide into a bar, scout around for the person whose face has the most pain etched in it, and ask that person to come home with you.

Do shake your fist at the night sky as you call out, "I defy you, stars!"

Don't pile up framed photos of old flames in a vacant lot and drive a monster truck over them.

Do write a cookbook filled with recipes you've channeled from dead celebrities.

Don't gaze into a mirror and spout, "God damn you, why can't you be different from who you are?!"

Don't lie on a floor surrounded by wine-stained poetry books, crumpled Matisse prints, abandoned underwear, and half-eaten bowls of corn flakes as you stare up at the ceiling with a blank gaze, muttering gibberish and waving your hands as if swatting away demons.

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Below are more excerpts from Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings.

Everyone's my teacher. Everywhere I go, I'm a student. Everyone is in some way my informant, my revelator, my direction connection to the Divine Wow.

The animals, too: They are my confidants, my beloveds, my spirit guides.

And yes, the plants! My godparents, my role models, my advisers.

I vow to gleefully shut up and listen reverently on a regular basis.

Playful, mysterious intelligences surround me in every direction. I'm available!

(Yes, to you, too, wind and sun and sky and mountain and rivers and oceans and rocks: I greet you daily as my family members, my agent provocateurs, my fellow celebrants.)

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Dumb pain is the kind of pain you're compulsively drawn back to out of habit. It's familiar, and thus perversely comfortable.
Smart pain is the kind of pain that surprises you with valuable teachings and inspires you to see the world with new eyes.

While stupid pain is often born of fear, wise pain is typically stirred up by love.

The dumb, unproductive stuff comes from allowing yourself to be controlled by your early conditioning and from doing things that are out of harmony with your essence.

The smart, useful variety arises out of an intention to approach life as a beautiful, interesting game that's worthy of your curiosity.

I invite you to come up with more definitions about the difference between dumb pain and smart pain.

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"We create ourselves by what we choose to notice. Once this work of self-authorship has begun, we inhabit the world we've created. We self-seal. We don't notice anything except those things that confirm what we already think about who we already are.

"Meditative traditions refer to the observer self. When we succeed in moving outside our normal processes of self-reference and can look upon ourselves with self-awareness, then we have a chance at changing. We break the seal. We notice something new."

- Margaret Wheatley

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"There is a saying that when the student is ready, the teacher appears," writes Clarissa Pinkola Estes in her book *Women Who Run with the Wolves.*

But the magic of that formula may not unfold with smooth simplicity, she says: "The teacher comes when the soul, not the ego, is ready. The teacher comes when the soul calls, and thank goodness -- for the ego is never fully ready."

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"Some people have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy."

- Abraham H. Maslow

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California Governor Jerry Brown signed six new gun-control bills into law.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves ruled that Mississippi's anti-LGBT "religious objection" hate law is unconstitutional.

NASA putting the Juno probe into Jupiter's orbit after a 1.8 billion-mile journey.

The Department of the Interior issued a rule making it harder for coal companies to dodge royalty payments and shortchange taxpayers when mining on public lands.

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson blocked the state of Kansas from cutting off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood.

Justin Trudeau was the first Canadian prime minister to march in an LGBT pride parade.

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I invite you to say any or all of the following lines out loud:

I love everything about me

I love my uncanny beauty and my bewildering pain

I love my hungry soul and my wounded longing

I love my flaws, my fears, and my scary frontiers

I will never forsake, betray, or deceive myself

I will always adore, forgive, and believe in myself

I will never refuse, abandon, or scorn myself

I will always amuse, delight, and redeem myself

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Attention, please. This is your ancestors speaking. We've been trying to reach you through your dreams and fantasies, but you haven't responded. That's why we've commandeered this space.

So listen up. We'll make it brief. You're at a crossroads analogous to a dilemma that has baffled your biological line for six generations. We ask you now to master the turning point that none of us have ever figured out how to negotiate. Heal yourself and you heal all of us. We mean that literally. Start brainstorming, please.

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Love thrives when neither partner takes things personally, so cultivate a devotion to forgiveness and divest yourself of the urge to blame.

Love is a game in which the rules keep changing, so be crafty and improvisational as you stay alert for each unexpected twist of fate.

Love enmeshes you in your partner's unique set of karmic complications, so make sure you're very interested in his or her problems.

Love is a laboratory where you can uncover secrets about yourself that have previously been hidden, so be ravenously curious.

Love is never a perfect match of totally compatible saints, so don't let sterile fantasies seduce you away from flawed but fecund realities.
Love is not a low-maintenance machine, so work hard on cultivating its unpredictable organic wonders.

Love is not a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hollywood, so don't let your romantic story be infected by the entertainment industry's simplistic, sentimental myths about intimate relationships.

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"The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change," said psychologist Carl Rogers.

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We are dissident bodhisattvas rebelling against all those forces that feed fear and ignore love.

We are spiritual freedom fighters rising up to protect nature and foment peace and demand justice.

We are subversive mystics stoking the cool blue fires of poetry and lobbying for the liberated imagination.

We are militant ecstatics invoking the transformative powers of pleasure to sanctify and beautify our one and only Earth.

We are mutinous purveyors of grace who redistribute the wealth so that all creatures may have the means to thrive.

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The world is young, your soul is free, and you're smart enough to fall in love with every experience you have.

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The ancient Greeks had a variety of names for different kinds of love. Here are some, according to Lindsay Swope in her review of Richard Idemon's book Through the Looking Glass.

1. "Epithemia" is the basic need to touch and be touched. Our closest approximation is "horniness," though epithemia is not so much a sexual feeling as a sensual one.

2. "Philia" is friendship. It includes the need to admire and respect your friends as a reflection of yourself?like in high school, where you want to hang out with the cool kids because that means you're cool too.

3. "Eros" isn't sexual in the way we usually think, but is more about the emotional gratification that comes from merging souls.

4. "Agape" is a mature, utterly free expression of love that has no possessiveness. It means wanting the best for another person even if it doesn't advance your self-interest.

I invite you to coin some additional new words for other kinds of love.

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"Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love."

- Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History

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I'm not doing personal horoscope readings, and haven't done them for years. There's too much other fun work to do! Writing my column! Creating audio horoscopes! Authoring books! Recording music! But during the time I did do personal readings, I gave a set of guidelines to those who enlisted my services. I'll provide them below. Maybe they will be of use to you if you're ever shopping for an astrologer to do your chart.

When I do a personal chart-reading, it's crucial that I talk WITH you, not AT you. I perform my best service when I'm in dialog with you. It's also important that I not set myself up as a fount of divine wisdom. For me to act like an all-knowing expert tends to shut down your access to your own hidden sources of knowing.

I've been wary of certain styles of fortune-telling ever since a fortune-telling astrologer told me when I was 19 years old that I was going to die at age 23. I spent that whole year of my life looking for omens of death in my dreams. During the last week before my 24th birthday, I cowered in fear and barely went out of the house.

I survived, of course, and vowed that in my own role as "fortune-telling astrologer," I'd never plant seeds in people's psyches that made them feel they had no control over their destiny. Good astrology doesn't cripple your willpower, but rather pumps it up.

One of my favorite ways to describe the kind of work I do is to say that I predict the present, not the future. In other words, I try to home in on the unconscious patterns and invisible forces that are coming to bear on you now. My job is not to show off my psychic powers by, say, giving you the numbers you should play to win the lottery or revealing when your future soul mate is going to discover you in the checkout line.

I want to help you read your own mind by uncovering secrets buried in your subconscious. I want to inspire you to figure out what part of your own long-term cycles you're in. I want to conspire with you to get to the heart of your highest potentials. Our main goal is not to find all the answers. It's about framing better questions than the ones you've been stuck on.

Astrology isn't a fixed set of strict formulas. It's a gaggle of evocative symbols that should stimulate your imagination and challenge you to create your own true myths. I want us to seize the poetic license to imagine all sorts of wild ideas, some of which can be taken at face value as wise suggestions (but not final solutions), and some of which may be ways to jolt you out of your ruts.


The reading I'll do with you consists of two sessions: the exploratory session, which is always by phone, and then the main reading. During the exploratory session, I get to know you a little better and find out what you want out of your reading. Because a chart can be read on so many different levels, this first step is crucial.

During the exploratory session, I'll ask you to give me four questions or issues you want to have addressed during your reading. Please think about these beforehand. This is an important part of the process that is emblematic of my approach to doing a reading. I don't want you to be a passive sponge, attributing to me a kind of divine expertise. I expect you to participate with a strong and passionate quest to uncover new ways to look at your life.

During this exploratory session, I'd also love it if you can tell me an important dream or series of dreams you've had. They'll help further focus our investigations into your mysteries. But if you don't have any dreams to bring, don't worry about it.

The main reading itself usually lasts one and a half hours. If we've had a good exploratory session, I'll probably come into the reading with some strong intuitions about where to go and how to proceed. But I encourage you to interrupt me, question me, or add your own input at any time during the process.

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In her book Women Who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Est?s suggests that we all need to periodically go cheerfully and enthusiastically out of our minds. Make sure, she says, that at least one part of you always remains untamed, uncategorizable, and unsubjugated by routine. Be adamant in your determination to stay intimately connected to all that's inexplicable and mysterious about your life.

At the same time, though, Est?s believes you need to keep your unusual urges clear and ordered. Discipline your wildness, in other words, and don't let it degenerate into careless disorder.

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Can a stretch of land be a person in the eyes of the law? Can a body of water?

In New Zealand, they can. A former national park has been granted personhood, and a river system is expected to receive the same soon.

The unusual designations, something like the legal status that corporations possess, came out of agreements between New Zealand?s government and Maori groups. The two sides have argued for years over guardianship of the country?s natural features.

Chris Finlayson, New Zealand?s attorney general, said the issue was resolved by taking the Maori mind-set into account. ?In their worldview, ?I am the river and the river is me,?? he said. ?Their geographic region is part and parcel of who they are.?

MORE . . .


Bolivia is set to pass the world's first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans. The Law of Mother Earth, now agreed by politicians and grassroots social groups, redefines the country's rich mineral deposits as "blessings" and is expected to lead to radical new conservation and social measures to reduce pollution and control industry.

The country, which has been pilloried by the US and Britain in the UN climate talks for demanding steep carbon emission cuts, will establish 11 new rights for nature. They include: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.

Controversially, it will also enshrine the right of nature "to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities."

MORE . . .

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"How does my spiritual practice and daily life serve the earth? How does my spiritual practice and daily life affect the poorest third of humanity? How will my spiritual practice and daily life affect the generations to come in the future?"
~ Starhawk

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Below are more excerpts from Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings.


I'm not talking about what entertains you or flatters you or takes your mind off your problems.

I'm referring to the influences that make you stronger and the people who see you for who you really are and the situations that teach you life-long lessons.

I mean the beauty that replenishes your psyche and the symbols that consistently restore your balance and the memories that keep feeding your ability to rise to each new challenge.

I invite you to take inventory of these precious assets. And then make a special point of nurturing them back.

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I hope you can obtain the Avatar Elixir stashed in the golden obelisk in the underground fortress beneath the glass mountain. It will allow you to produce the "triple-helix" energy that will give you the power to cross freely back and forth through the gateway between universes.

Then wild creatures will seek out your influence. Rivers an