Sex, Drugs and Lama Chants

"Where are your mushrooms?"

"I don't think I have any, " I told her.

"Are you sure? I can see them. Where are they - the freezer?"

"Oh, those ... how did you know?"

"I know. Would you like to brew a tea with the mushrooms?"


"Yes - of course. We have 3 weeks - there is no time to waste."

My friend is a shaman medium - a petite and frail woman of French, Russian and Persian ancestry who is fluent in at least 6 languages. Her accent shifts with her mood, but it is most often a very feminine French. She held her hand to the small bag -- a shamanic test I'd seen her do several times for food. "These are very gentle. They should do nicely."

The brew was made with green tea, raw ginger, lemon and honey. Meanwhile, the house was prepared. Candles were lit, doors closed, and the entire house was smudged with smoke from smoldering sage. A CD of Tibetan Lama chants was selected.

Lili cleared and opened the container. She spoke softly, "Surrender to presence." I returned a puzzled look. "That's what the guides just told me," she explained.

As we sat on the sofa for a short time, her face began to distort as she continued to talk. It became difficult to follow what she was saying. "What's going on? You drank as much as I did." Lili is half my body weight and I had watched her drink the same amount as I. Yet, she continued to talk coherently as her face changed into what appeared to be a succession of tribal faces, followed by a succession of grotesque figures. All seemed benevolent. I had a sense that physical form was unimportant -- that guidance might come in many forms. "Why aren't you affected like I am?"

"This is what I do," she replied.

"You set this up," I mused as if I had been tricked into this.

"Are you sure? I just showed up in a form that is pleasing to you and that you would accept. You set yourself up."

"I have to keep my eyes open or I'll go off in the bright colors."

"That's the healers clearing your spirit."

I heard the name "Elijah" very clearly and I repeated it. But, Lili assured me that she had not spoken it. "He's here," she said. "You heard him. Others are here, too ... St. Michael, St. Francis, the aboriginal healers and Illuminara. Some amazing and powerful guides are here for you."

"I don't see them."

"In time, you will. It's a matter of tuning to the vibrational energies. You are a medium."

"I could be a medium?"

"No. You can't become what you already are. You need to heal and cleanse and you will tune into the vibrations. It's time for you to go upstairs."

I went upstairs to lie down. In time, Lili was kneeling by the side of the bed with her head bowed. "You look like an angel," I said with admiration.

"I am an angel," she replied.

I closed my eyes. When they opened again, Lili had risen to stand above me -- this time, not as an angel, but as a witch doctor in trance with arms stretched over me and hissing like a snake about to strike its prey. "Why don't you lie down," I said. "I don't need all this attention."

"Are you sure?" she asked. "Are you really sure of that? Some incredible guides have come to offer their support." As she bent down to look at me, her face appeared as Joan of Arc, then Mona Lisa, then Mother Mary - there were others I can't remember or didn't recognize - all feminine.

"You're Mother Mary," I said astonished. Her face looked like pure, sweet love.

"Yes, I am."

"Oh man, I must be in real trouble if they sent you."

She chuckled at the suggestion.

I am not Catholic and had only a very light Christian upbringing. I now identify as a secular Buddhist though, in fact, I don't feel committed to any belief system. There is no reason that Mother Mary would be expected to appear as a manifestion from my own mind. However, I saw her clearly and felt her pure, radiant love.

"I channel the energies - it's a matter of tuning to the vibrational energies. They showed up for you. The medicine helps you to receive it."

"I don't really need all this."

"Are you sure? One of your problems is that you feel unworthy. But, it's time to go beyond that. There is work to be done."

"Gawd, I must really be lost if all this is showing up for me. I must really be in trouble," I said, not ceasing to be amused with myself.

"I've never seen so much energy show up so early," Lili said brushing aside my amusement. I wondered why. "You have a disconnect between masculine and feminine -- this manifests in your spine. You are at a point where things could go in either direction. We want to bring you back. You must step up. You must decide to do the work."

There were journeys to past lives -- triumphs and failures -- a collapse and a higher remembering of it all. Lili was the warrior with me in the forest, the mother of my children, my slut, and the Virgin Mary.

Later in the evening, I went outside to sit alone in the hot tub under the moon and stars. My thoughts passed by various women I've known. In particular, I thought of Karen -- my ex-wife who I knew since we were about 10 years old. I have carried a great deal of anger towards her for the way she handled herself. "They're scared and they'll sell you out every time," my attorney had informed me of his experience with women facing divorce. Yet, that night I saw her pain -- the vision of a woman who longed and deserved to be loved but, instead, was discarded and abandoned. I saw a clear vision of her face contorted with grief -- confused as to why she'd been left alone when she had grown up so pretty and popular and worked hard to fit the mold of a good wife, a good person. I felt compassion for her. I remembered a lot of disconnect with other women, too -- betrayals, fear and mistrust. The feminine and masculine are so disconnected in our times -- yin and yang fighting against its one self.

The journey continued 2 nights later. That time, the medicine was a shaman brew from the Brazilian jungles. We were with Santo Diame at a home in Marin, singing hymns with women on one side of the room and men on the other. I experienced a lot of resistance to the fundamental religious foundation but, after the struggle, was able to surrender and appreciate the beauty that is present in all forms of love expression. I'll write more about this later.

The experiences were too many and profound to describe in this simple blog. What seemed most important was the opening to love -- a sweet celestial love that is beyond language. I remember a plaque I had on my desk as a child, "God is Love." I suppose that could have been the better title of this story. -- But, would you have read it??

We Are Not (Yet) 'One'

I worked as a volunteer at Spirit Rock Mediation Center yesterday. I thought that I might be writing today about "Secular Buddhism" as taught very well by Stephen and Martine Batchelor. However, something else disturbed the force -- something appalling and hypocritical. I deeply respect this organization, but I know it can do better than this.

I stood in the small office during lunch break when a woman came up to ask where she might sign up for the day-long event on Sunday. The other volunteer in the office turned quickly and said, "I'm sorry, it's for P-O-C." I don't think she actually spoke the letters -- it was more as if she mouthed them, "P-O-C".

"What's POC?" the woman asked.

"People of Color," was the whispered response. The woman looked perplexed.

"You're kidding," I blurted as I looked to the events coordinator to tell me that this wasn't so.

"It's for people who self-identify as a person of color," she explained in a mildly apologetic tone.

"I'm Jewish," replied the woman, as if it were a credential for such situations.

"You're cheeks are blushed -- maybe you just need a little more sun." My simplistic solution was dismissed without appreciation.

Apparently, in castrated Marin County politically-correct speak, a "self-identified person of color" translates to "a person who has feelings of separateness based upon the level of pigment in their skin." There also seems to be a component of wanting to be with one's own kind, again based on pigment. This sense of skin tone-based separate self is now reinforced as a Dharma gate for some activities at Spirit Rock. What an enlightened society we pretend to be -- or should it be "they"?  Dualism gets confusing.

I watched as a woman was turned away from Spirit Rock because of the color of her skin! The only option given to her was she was pointed to the "Suggestion Box" and told that she might state any objections there (she walked away instead). To add to the irony, this woman was just coming off retreat. There is always that "come back to reality" that hits one in the face when one comes off retreat, but this woman was hit with it before she even left the Spirit Rock grounds.

Separateness doesn't stop there. Regularly, yoga classes are restricted for women only -- a Y chromosome constitutes a hinerance to yoga practice at Spirit Rock.

If "self" is a delusion, are "POC-self" and "XX-self" special cases? We know the answer, of course, but we have to whisper it - it doesn't pass the test of light. The political issues have undercut the underlying social values. You'd think that those who self-identify as Buddhist would find a more enlightened approach to offer those who self-identify as separate. 

I love Spirit Rock and I appreciate the dedication and insight that so many teachers and staff offer to the adaptation of Buddhism to western culture. But, somebody doesn't appear to get the concept of non-duality and an open sangha -- somebody's not minding the store -- somebody's a hypocrite.

This can be fixed easily. Let's not segregate self and community by unskillful attachment to delusion and duality. It's quite simple and might appeal to those who self-identify as enlightened.