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Week of August 15th, 2019

Fate Bait

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."

FATE BAIT is 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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For years I've been in a hermetic mode, working on creating new books. (Not done yet!) But I'm emerging from my pastoral sanctuary to do a poetry show in New York City on Friday, September 13.

I'll be opening for two amazing poets whose work thrills me: Ariana Reines and CA Conrad. As an added aspect of crazy goodness, my daughter Zoe Brezsny will join me in opening the show.

Here's the info.

(And in the meantime, check out Ariana Reines' sensational new book.)

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Here's a link to my free weekly email newsletter, featuring the Free Will Astrology horoscopes, plus a bunch of other stuff, including good news, lucky advice, and tender rants. It arrives every Tuesday morning.

Read past issues of the newsletter.

Sign up here for your free subscription.

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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.

"Before we can receive the entire truth about anything," said my teacher Ann Davies, "we have to love it."

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To be the best pronoiac explorer you can be, I suggest you adopt an outlook that combines the rigorous objectivity of a scientist, the "beginner's mind" of Zen Buddhism, the "beginner's heart" of pronoia, and the compassionate friendliness of the Dalai Lama. Blend a scrupulously dispassionate curiosity with a skepticism driven by expansiveness, not spleen.

To pull this off, you'll have to be willing to regularly suspend your brilliant theories about the way the world works. Accept with good humor the possibility that what you've learned in the past may not be a reliable guide to understanding the fresh phenomenon that's right in front of you. Be suspicious of your biases, even the rational and benevolent ones. Open your heart as you strip away the interpretations that your emotions might be inclined to impose.

"Before we can receive the unbiased truth about anything," wrote my teacher Ann Davies, "we have to be ready to ignore what we would like to be true."

At the same time, don't turn into a hard-ass, poker-faced robot. Keep your feelings moist and receptive. Remember your natural affection for all of creation. Enjoy the power of tender sympathy as it drives you to probe for the unimaginable revelations of every new moment.

I'll quote this gem from Ann Davies again, because it's the foundation of my life: "Before we can receive the entire truth about anything, we have to love it."

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You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.
—Buckminster Fuller


We have to encourage the future we want rather than trying to prevent the future we fear.
—Bill Joy


The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.
—Dan Millman

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YOU CAN'T HAVE IT ALL, by Barbara Ras

But you can have the fig tree
and its fat leaves like clown hands
gloved with green.
You can have the touch
of a single eleven-year-old finger
on your cheek, waking you at one a.m.
to say the hamster is back.

You can have the purr of the cat
and the soulful look
of the black dog, the look that says,
If I could I would bite
every sorrow until it fled,
and when it is August,
you can have it August and abundantly so.

You can have love,
though often it will be mysterious,
like the white foam
that bubbles up at the top of the bean pot
over the red kidneys
until you realize foam's twin is blood.

You can have the skin at the center
between a man's legs,
so solid, so doll-like.
You can have the life of the mind,
glowing occasionally in priestly vestments,
never admitting pettiness,
never stooping to bribe the sullen guard
who'll tell you
all roads narrow at the border.

You can speak a foreign language, sometimes,
and it can mean something.
You can visit the marker on the grave
where your father wept openly.
You can't bring back the dead,
but you can have the words forgive and forget
hold hands
as if they meant to spend a lifetime together.

And you can be grateful
for makeup, the way it kisses your face,
half spice, half amnesia,
grateful for Mozart, his many notes
racing one another towards joy, for towels
sucking up the drops on your clean skin,
and for deeper thirsts,
for passion fruit, for saliva.
You can have the dream,
the dream of Egypt, the horses of Egypt
and you riding in the hot sand.

You can have your grandfather
sitting on the side of your bed,
at least for a while,
you can have clouds and letters,
the leaping of distances,
and Indian food with yellow sauce like sunrise.

You can't count on grace
to pick you out of a crowd
but here is your friend to teach you
how to high jump,
how to throw yourself over the bar, backwards,
until you learn about love, about sweet surrender,
and here are periwinkles, buses that kneel,
farms in the mind
as real as Africa.

And when adulthood fails you,
you can still summon the memory
of the black swan on the pond of your childhood,
the rye bread with peanut butter and bananas
your grandmother gave you
while the rest of the family slept.

There is the voice you can still summon at will,
like your mother's,
it will always whisper, you can't have it all,
but there is this.

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Thomas Merton's notion of what makes a saint doesn't have to do with being a perfectly sinless paragon of virtue. The more important measure of sanctity, he said, is one's ability to see what's good and beautiful in other people. The truly holy person "retires from the struggle of judging others."

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If you want your personal chart done, I recommend a colleague whose approach to reading astrology charts closely matches my own. She's my wife, RO LOUGHRAN. Her website is here.

Ro utilizes a blend of well-trained intuition, emotional warmth, and technical proficiency in horoscope interpretation. She is skilled at exploring the mysteries of your life's purpose and nurturing your connection with your own inner wisdom.

In addition to over 30 years of astrological experience, Ro has been a licensed psychotherapist for 17 years. She integrates psychological insight with astrology's cosmological perspective.

Ro is based in California, but can do phone consultations and otherwise work with you regardless of geographic boundaries.

Check out Ro's website.

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Often a sweetness comes
as if on loan, stays just long enough

to make sense of what it means to be alive,
then returns to its dark
source. As for me, I don’t care

where it’s been, or what bitter road
it’s traveled
to come so far, to taste so good.

—Stephen Dunn

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My old teacher Norman O. Brown used to say, "The proper response to poetry is poetry." In that spirit, I reply to Stephen Dunn's poem with one of my own:

a honeyed tang arrives
a consoling gusto
a dreamy grace

as if consigned to our care
for a brief embrace
not to be cradled or hoarded

only redeemed for a glimpse
of how much fun it is
to be alive

and then released
so it might rejoin
the shadows
from which it sprung

I'm not mad
it can't stay forever
not sad it may have
roosted in desolate welcome
or marinated in wild grief
on its way to me

am only grateful
it chose me
for a while

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excerpted from Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings

The 19th-century poet John Keats said that if something is not beautiful, it is probably not true. But the vast majority of modern storytellers—journalists, filmmakers, novelists, talk-­show hosts, and poets—assert the opposite: If something is not ugly, it is probably not true.

In a world that equates pessimism with acumen and regards stories about things falling apart as having the highest entertainment value, pronoia is deviant. It is a taboo so taboo that it's not even recognized as a taboo.

The average American child sees 20,000 simulated murders before reaching age 18. This is considered normal. There are thousands of films, television shows, and electronic games that depict people doing terrible things to each other. Netflix alone is the most potent and inexhaustible source of violent imagery in the history of the world.

If you read the news, you have every right to believe that Bad Nasty Things compose 90 percent of the human experience.

The authors of thousands of books published this year will hope to lure you in through the glamour of killing, addiction, self-hatred, sexual pathology, shame, betrayal, extortion, robbery, cancer, arson, and torture.

But you will be hard-pressed to find more than a few novels, films, news stories, and TV shows that dare to depict life as a gift whose purpose is to enrich the human soul.

If you cultivate an affinity for pronoia, people you respect may wonder if you have lost your way. You might appear to them as naive, eccentric, unrealistic, misguided, or even stupid. Your reputation could suffer and your social status could decline.

But that may be relatively easy to deal with compared to your struggle to create a new relationship with yourself. For starters, you will have to acknowledge that what you previously considered a strong-willed faculty—the ability to discern the weakness in everything—might actually be a mark of cowardice and laziness.

Far from being evidence of your power and uniqueness, your drive to produce hard-edged opinions stoked by hostility and cynicism may be a sign that you've been brainwashed by the pedestrian influences of pop nihilism.

Before the onset of pronoia, you may feel fine about the fact that you generate much of your dynamic energy through anger, agitation, discomfort, and judgmental scorn. But once the pronoia kicks in, you may naturally want more positive feelings to be your high-octane fuel. That will require extensive retraining. The work could be arduous, delicate, and time-consuming.

Are you truly ready to shed the values and self­images that keep you locked into alignment with the dying civilization?

Will you have the stamina and inspiration necessary to dream up bigger, better, more original sins and wilder, wetter, more interesting problems?

Do you realize how demanding it will be to turn yourself into a wildly disciplined, radically curious, fiercely tender, ironically sincere, ingeniously loving, aggressively sensitive, blasphemously reverent, lustfully compassionate master of rowdy bliss?


What might 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 acerbic 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?

It's not enough to terminate your stale mental habits just once. The price of admission into pronoia is a commitment to continual dying. You'll have to ask yourself rude questions and kick your own ass again and again.

Today's versions of beauty, truth, love, goodness, justice, and liberation will pass away. To keep abreast of the latest developments—to cultivate tomorrow's versions of pronoia—you will have to immerse yourself regularly in the waters of chaos. Your relationship with pronoia will have to be a never-ending improvisation.

The dream of a steady-state utopia is anathema to Beauty and Truth Lab researchers. We're allergic to any paradise that resembles a spotless shopping mall within the walls of a gated community in heaven.


Pronoia is fueled by a drive to cultivate happiness and a determination to practice an aggressive form of gratitude that systematically identifies the things that are working well.

But it is not a soothing diversion meant for timid Pollyannas strung out on optimistic delusions.

It's not a feel-good New Age fantasy used to deny the harsh facts about existence. Those of us who perceive the world pronoiacally refuse to be polite shills for sentimental hopefulness.

On the contrary, we build our optimism not through a repression of difficulty, but rather a vigorous engagement with it. We understand that the best way to attract blessings is to grapple with the knottiest enigmas.

Each fresh puzzle is a potential source of future bliss—an exciting teaching that may usher us to our next breakthrough.

Do you want to be a pronoiac player? Blend anarchistic rebelliousness with open-hearted exuberance. Root your insurrectionary fervor in expansive joy instead of withering hatred. Enjoy saying "no!" but don't make it the wellspring of your vitality. Be fueled by blood-red yeses that rip against the grain of comfortable ugliness.

—the above is excerpted from my book Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings

available at Powells

available at Amazon

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Listen to my spoken-word piece "Shadow Blessings"

Here are the lyrics:

Life is a vast and intricate conspiracy that's guaranteed to keep you well supplied with blessings.

What kind of blessings? Ten million dollars, a gorgeous physique, a perfect marriage, a luxurious home, and high status?

Maybe. But it's just as likely that the blessings will be interesting surprises, dizzying adventures, gifts you hardly know what to do with, and conundrums that dare you to get smarter.

Novelist William Vollman referred to these types of blessings when he said that "the most important and enjoyable thing in life is grappling with a complicated, tricky problem that you don't know how to solve."

Sculptor Henry Moore had a similar idea. He said, "The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. And the most important thing is -- it must be something you cannot possibly do."

So in other words, pronoia does not guarantee that you will forevermore be free of all difficult experiences.

It doesn't ask you to pretend that everything is sweet and harmonious all the time.

On the contrary, when you embody the spirit of pronoia, you build your optimism by loving your challenges, not repressing them.

You know that your problems are gifts from the Goddess that are designed to make you smarter and wilder and kinder and trickier.

You welcome each fresh puzzle as a potential source of your future bliss, as an exciting teaching that will usher you to your next breakthrough.

Now here's a spell to commit pronoia, written by psychotherapist Jennifer Welwood. I invite you to say it:

Willing to experience aloneness,
I discover connection everywhere;

Turning to face my fear,
I meet the warrior who lives within me;

Opening to my loss and pain and ignorance,
I remember who I am and what I'm here for.

Surrendering into emptiness,
I find fullness without end.

Each condition I flee from pursues me,
Each condition I welcome transforms me

and becomes itself transformed
into the blessing it always was.

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Listen for free to two hours' worth of my music and spoken-word stuff at my Soundcloud site

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I have thousands of opinions still—but that is down from millions—and, as always, I know nothing.

—Harold Brodkey

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Every man or woman who is sane, every man or woman who has the feeling of being a person in the world, and for whom the world means something, every happy person, is in infinite debt to a woman.

—Donald Winnicott

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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood."
—Karl Popper

"Nothing worse could happen to one than to be completely understood."
—Carl Jung

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Attention, please. This is your ancestors speaking. We've been trying to reach you through your dreams and fantasies, but now we're taking a more direct route.

So listen up. 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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When they say "Go with the flow," what "flow" are they talking about?

Do they mean the flow of your early childhood conditioning? The flow of your friends' opinions? The latest cultural trends? Your immediate instinctual needs?

When they say, "Go with the flow," are they urging you to keep doing what's easiest to do and what will win you the most ego points, even if it keeps you from being true to your soul's code?

Consider the possibility that there are many flows to go with, but only one or some of them are correct for you. Do you know which?

Maybe it's the one flowing in an underground cavern, far from the mad crowd.

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Know that joy is rarer, more difficult, and more beautiful than sadness. Once you make this all-important discovery, you must embrace joy as a moral obligation.

—André Gide

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