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Week of October 14th, 2021

Your Story Is a Sacred Treasure. Your Body Is a Sacred Temple

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

—Mary Oliver

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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


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


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.
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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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.


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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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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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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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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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
Thrill Witch
Rowdy Gusto
Bliss Mutator
Silky Banger
Phoenix Nectar
Mucho Gusto Coco Loco
Mango Sucker
Pain Killer
Fire Keeper
Wobble Binder
Wish Crayon
Pearly Thunder
Gut Stormer
Storm Tamer
Free Sigh

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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.'"


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."


"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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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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Our own personal happiness is impossible and hollow unless we are also in service to others. With this in mind, I propose an extension of the Bodhisattva's Vow.

The Bodhisattva Vow: "My own personal quest for illumination is incomplete, and my own personal enlightenment is meaningless, unless I am also in some specific way devoted to easing the suffering of others."

I suggest we take this Vow a step further and say, "My quest for illumination is incomplete, and my enlightenment meaningless, unless I am also in some specific way devoted to the goals of easing the suffering of others and helping them experience joy and pleasure and liberation and meaningfulness."

A cornerstone of this Extended Version of the Bodhisattva's Vow is that we are committed to providing the fundamental needs of all humans beings—their food, shelter, medical care, money—so that they have the ability to expand into joy and pleasure and liberation and abundance.

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Some religious traditions preach the value of banishing or renouncing your desires. I do not subscribe to those traditions, so I will never urge you to banish or renounce your desires.

I prefer to encourage you to cultivate excellent desires. Here are a few I highly recommend:

• a desire for interesting riddles and fascinating challenges that excite both your mind and your heart;

• a desire for comrades who enjoy your specific idiosyncrasies and eccentricities;

• a desire to attract ongoing encounters with nonstandard beauty so as to always ensure a part of you remains untamed;

• a desire to help create a world in which everyone gets the food, housing, and health care they need;

• a desire for good surprises and unpredictable fun;

• a desire for group collaborations that enhance the intelligence of everyone in the group;

• a desire to keep outgrowing what worked for you in the past and a desire to ceaselessly explore and invent new approaches to being yourself;

• a desire to be playful and creative with your libidinous energy;

• a desire to help cultivate the health and beauty of the natural world;

• a desire for revelations and experiences that steer you away from thinking and acting like the machines you interact with so much;

• a desire to keep reinventing and reinvigorating your relationships with those you love;

• a desire to keep refining and expanding your ability to learn from non-human intelligences;

• a desire to keep refreshing your quest for freedom and deepening your capacity to be free;

• a desire to move your body in ways that delight your soul;

• a desire to help eliminate bigotry, misogyny, plutocracy, racism, and militarism.

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CONDUIT MAGAZINE: Can you say what you mean by "Free Will Astrology"? It sounds like an oxymoron.

ROB BREZSNY: My approach to astrology is different from some mainstream astrologers. when I first began writing the column many years ago, I didn't like astrology columns, and I didn't like a lot of the ways astrology was practiced.

Then as now, astrology in the hands of many practitioners tends to make people afraid of the future, fills them with ideas about there being some sort of fixed destiny that they're being pulled toward and that they're helpless to resist. This kind of thinking was and still is repulsive to me.

I didn't like astrology columns, because they were watered-down versions of the complex art of astrology, which was practiced, after all, by groundbreaking psychologist Carl Jung.

So when I first got the opportunity to write an astrology column, I decided that if somebody was going to do it, it might as well be me—someone who was trained in poetry, loves language, and respects the free will of the people who might read my work.

The bedrock of my practice has always been the idea that the planets may impel, but they don't compel. A study of the configurations of planets shows us the archetypal forces that are coalescing, dissolving, and becoming active in our lives. That can instruct us on how to use our free will to best activate the best versions of those archetypal forces as they coalesce and dissolve.

So for me, "Free Will Astrology" conveys the notion that we have far more power than we might imagine over the way that we express the bigger forces at work in our lives.

My aspiration is not to condemn my readers to a particular fate that they can't avoid, but rather to show them the options that are available: the higher level, the mid-level, and the low-level ways in which they might express the archetypal forces, and to nudge them in the direction of finding where the highest-level expression of those forces might be.

Read more of this interview.

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"I see that the life of this place is always emerging beyond expectation or prediction or typicality, that it is unique, given to the world minute by minute, only once, never to be repeated. And this is when I see that this life is a miracle, absolutely worth having, absolutely worth saving.

"We are alive within mystery, by miracle."

—Wendell Berry, "Life is a Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition"

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Want to learn more about the difference between your fearful fantasies & your authentic, accurate intuitions?

Listen to my podcast.

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Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

—Arthur C. Clarke

The supernatural is only the natural of which the laws are not yet understood.

—Agatha Christie

Any technology that does not appear magical is insufficiently advanced.

—Barry Gehm

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Reverence is one of the most useful emotions. When you respectfully acknowledge the sublime beauty of something greater than yourself, you do yourself a big favor. You generate authentic humility and sincere gratitude, which are healthy for your body as well as your soul.

Please note that reverence is not solely the province of religious people. A biologist may venerate the scientific method. An atheist might experience a devout sense of awe toward geniuses who have bequeathed to us their brilliant ideas.

What about you? What excites your reverence? I invite you to explore the deeper mysteries of this altered state of consciousness.

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How can we outwit and escape the numbing trance that everyday routine seems to foster? What can we do to stay alert to the subtle miracles and intriguing mysteries and numinous beauty that surround us on all sides?

Some possibilities:

1. Make it a daily practice to refresh the ways we perceive the world. Can you imagine what it would be like to change how you use your eyes?

2. Scan for opportunities to play and for creatures that like to play. Test the hypothesis that playing is a prime strategy for liberation.

3. Assume that the entire world is a constantly changing source of oracular revelation that has meaning for us—perhaps a meaning we have never before realized or understood.

4. Experiment with what happens when we use empathy and intuition to imagine how animals and other people experience life.

5. Don't take things too seriously or too personally or too literally.

6. Expose ourselves to provocative myths and intriguing symbols. Seek out stories that bend and twist our beliefs. Be open to exploring events and phenomena that elude rational explanation.

7. Give our unconscious minds the message that we want to feel deeply.

8. Cultivate a willingness, eagerness, and receptivity to being surprised.

9. Others?

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"Having very broad and abstract goals may maintain and exacerbate depression. Goals that are not specific are more ambiguous and, therefore, harder to visualize. If goals are hard to visualize it may result in reduced expectation of realizing them, which in turn results in lower motivation to try and achieve them."

—Researchers at the institute of Health, Psychology, and Society


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