Unrealized Self

Kauapea "Secret" Beach, Kaua'i

I have attained nothing from total
- Buddha

What is "I"?

Fundamentally, "I" is a perspective.  "I" is a facet of harmonic energy in temporal association with dynamically ordered matter.  "I" is body, ego, personality, intellect, indoctrination, and emotion added to a singularity in Consciousness.

I seem unable to describe more precisely the basis of "I" who is writing this.  One difficulty is that there are multiple dimensions of "I" - many likely beyond the mind's ability to understand.  Of course, language is partially to blame, too.  Words aren't adequate to describe that which the mind is challenged to understand; sentences create only metaphors in an attempt to transfer interpreted abstraction from one mind to another for re-interpretation back to abstraction.  So, with even my native language failing me, it's a daunting task to consider what I should write next.

To complicate things further, the mind's experience doesn't correlate with what I'm trying to say.  The mind masquerades as me and ego tends to confirms the mind's assertion of self.  We are trying here to use the mind to understand self when it regards itself as self.   Ego concurs with the mind in believing that what I've created in myself somehow defines who I am.  It can be difficult to hold the realized self apart from what the mind tells us.  The very fact that I am intellectualizing this is counter-intuitive, if not self defeating (pun intended).

Of course, we can be very zen-like and stop at saying there is no self and nothing to understand or explain.  We really could and that would be perfectly fine.  I think we are equally correct to inquire into the the experience of self and to attempt to understand it better.

Even accepting a non-dualistic interpretation of pure awareness as self, there still remains an apparent need to distinguish our experiences.  The "I" is a differentiated experience - we are more than 'One' undifferentiated blob of consciousness floating throughout the universe.  There is a self that has a limited experience - and is capable of, at least having an illusion of, driving a car, flying a plane or throwing a stone.  So, apparently layered over the fundamental non-dualistic "I", there appears to be distinguishing features that differentiate the individual.

I'm discovering good reason for gurus, prophets and poets to leave such topics cryptic and vague.  Even with some of the rhetorical and intellectual bases covered, I might do better to quit after describing the Polihale experience (see Kaua'i-realized).  I'm about to go beyond interpretations that I feel confident to be true and correct - departing from linear rationality to describe a state of metaphorical noesis.

Late at night, during a 13-hour meditation under the near-full moon on 'Secret' Beach on the Northeast side of Kaua'i, I engaged what seemed to be an energetic (non-physical) entity.  The experience seemed purely intuitive, seemingly originating from a source higher than intellect.  It was different from the awareness experience at Polihale.  This was an awareness of a differentiated energetic state of "I" that seemed to emanate from distinguishable locales within consciousness.

As I sat with it, I encouraged it to enter my experience and even made an odd attempt to make myself permeable to it.  I gradually felt myself incorporated by this other being.   It felt like it entered me rather than me entering it, though it was likely just my perspective.  It brought with it an expanded life force that was resonate with the being of "I".  It was comfortable and calming - it seemed to be a higher frequency, expanded "I" that was able enter the mind/body while in its state of meditation on the beach.  The frequencies merged into one and I consciously tried to hold it in an expanded self.

I knew somehow that it was the one known prior to me as I'dia.  I've been aware of its presence and close association, though it had until then seemed like a separate entity.  This time it felt like it was part of the "I" - somewhat like an energy level that had been available, but not occupied by my own awareness.  It seemed to take the form of an energy field within a discrete frequency structure.

I have noticed other energetic forms that seem associated with the "I".  It's clearly important to be highly selective about which ones to incorporate.   Most seem like discrete life form energies that are attached to my own discrete life form.  Some seem beneficial while most seem to clutter the field - there seems to be a benefit to clearing them.  Some forms seem aggressive and stealthy and will try to incorporate into a sort of parasitic relationship.  This one was different in that it seemed harmonic with my being and connected to the root self.

We accept the fluidity of the biological structure with cells, molecules and fluids in a state of constant recycle.  We eat plant and animal parts to build and maintain our physical bodies.  It seems that the fundamental life energy structure is fluid, as well.  Thus, I seemed to incorporate the energy force known to me as I'dia and hold it as a part of "I" in much the same manner that one acquires nutrients in order to grow.

I am that I am - a metamorphic perspective of Consciousness.  

Hawaiian Vacation

Na Pali Coast, Kaua'i

I wouldn't want you to think that I spent my entire trip investigating subtle life forms.   The Oahu portion of the trip expanded from a planned 6 days to 8.  We visited an energetic medicine clinic that resulted in large (15 ml) injections of naturopathic solutions under the skin to be followed up with 10 more weekly injections.  We also enjoyed a deep ceremony on the North Shore as the surf pounded the beach.  This area had been a "jumping off" point for centuries - a place where natives would go to die. Needless to say, the space felt highly sacred.

I'dia, Lili & Lauryn
The Kaua'i portion stretched from 7 to 11 days due to the graceful state of mind it supported.  The mostly unspoiled beauty of Kaua'i is what the sentient experience is all about.  The island was conducive to enjoying its beaches, waters, roads and trails.  We meditated at the Hindu shrine.  We swam and snorkeled at several beaches around the island and danced the hula.  We rented a plane and flew around the island to view the rugged Na Pali Coast, Waimea Canyon, numerous water falls and the like  -  much of it not accessible by auto.  Kaua'i never expressed such subtle grace and beauty on prior trips.  Perhaps, the "I" observed from a different perspective on this one.

Scene at Hindu Monastery
Lauryn Dances Hula
Ke'e Beach
Waimea Canyon
Manawaiopuna "Jurassic" Falls
Kilauea Lighthouse
Poipu Beach
"I" is "Pilot in Command"


Polihale, Kaua'i

"You see yourself in the world while I see the world in myself.  To you, you get born and die, while to me, the world appears and disappears."

- Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj

As the waves washed ashore with the brisk night wind along the northwest coast of Kaua'i, I walked alone for miles on the sand under the stars and half-moon in the sky.  Then, having been drawn to a silent blinking light emanating from the point, I was sitting last night under the navigational beacon on the dunes of Polihale while the dim light of the moon reflected from the surf.

After some time, awareness of my physical form dissolved into the environment.  I saw, I felt - I was - the sandy beach and ocean waves of Kauai's coast.  My face buffeted softly by the wind, I looked out in a subtle state of pure illumination.

Then, I was aware of Kaua'i looking back.

I was on the inside looking out - Kaua'i was on the outside looking in.  I could even see what it saw.  With playfulness, I could switch my perspective from the inside looking out or the outside looking in.  There was only a thin, barely detectable, haze between our physical forms and a clear window through the eyes by which we could view out - or in.  What was surprising was that the view was much the same - I was in  Kaua'i and Kaua'i was in me.  My consciousness seemd tuned to that of the island's.

While the Zen-ish concept of no-self seems overly simplistic, it was fascinating to experience the intertwined relationship between self and surroundings - the lack of an impermeable boundary.  What was even more exhilarating was to experience the consciousness of what the self had until then understood to be inanimate surroundings.

Dogmatic self-realization seems more readily available today than in prior centuries - at least at an intellectual level.  We have within our collective knowledge a reasonable understanding of the relationship between matter and energy, galactic birth and death, and our inconspicuous place within the infinity.  Perhaps, what was striking about this experience was that it happened within awareness rather than intellect.

We are much like the waves on the ocean - every wave a part of the ocean - forming and dissipating in temporal beats - each wave impacted by the whole and by the 'others'.  Contrary to a strict interpretation of no-self, each has a place in space and time.  We are awareness encapsulated in matter.  We each have our own experience.  Within the vast ocean of energy, humans and countless other life forms arise to witness their perspective.  Yet, if one were able to see the total spectrum of illumination, the individual forms might not be distinguishable without careful attention.  The separation between the one and the many is more like an ocean current than a boundary.

The Disconnected Semiconscious

This article is unfinished

There are no others.
                                    - Ramona Maharshi

Carl Jung described what he called the collective unconscious - that realm just beyond our conscious awareness that seems to tie us together.  It exists within our culture, or past cultures passed forward, feeding off our personal unconsciousness in a self-sustaining cycle of persuasion.  Because it exists at the subconscious level, it can be very difficult to catch.

Those of us who are not psychologists might need a little background.  According to Jung:
"In addition to the personal unconscious generally accepted by medical psychology, the existence of a second psychic system of a universal and impersonal nature is postulated. This collective unconscious is considered to consist of preexistent thought forms, called archetypes, which give form to certain psychic material which then enters the conscious. Archetypes are likened to instinctual behavior patterns. Examples of ideas such as the concept of rebirth, which occur independently in various cultures and ages, are advanced as evidence for the collective unconscious. It is felt that there are as many archetypes as there are recurring situations in life, that when a situation occurs that corresponds to a particular archetype, the archetype presses for completion like an instinctual drive; resistance to its expression may result in neurosis. The existence of archetypes is demonstrated in the analysis of adult and childhood dreams, active imagination, psychotic delusions, and fantasies produced in the trance state."
"Archetypal images expressed in religious dogma in particular are thoroughly elaborated into formalized structures which, while by expressing the unconscious in a circuitous manner, prevent direct confrontation with it. Since the Protestant Reformation rejected nearly all of the carefully constructed symbol structures, man has felt increasingly isolated and alone without his gods; at a loss to replenish his externalized symbols, he must turn to their source in the unconscious.  The search into the unconscious involves confronting the shadow, man's hidden nature; the anima/animus, a hidden opposite gender in each individual; and beyond, the archetype of meaning. These are archetypes susceptible to personification; the archetypes of transformation, which express the process of individuation itself, are manifested in situations. As archetypes penetrate consciousness, they influence the perceived experience of normal and neurotic people; a too powerful archetype may totally possess the individual and cause psychosis. The therapeutic process takes the unconscious archetypes into account in two ways: they are made as fully conscious as possible, then synthesized with the conscious by recognition and acceptance. It is observed that since modern man has a highly developed ability to dissociate, simple recognition may not be followed by appropriate action; it is thus felt that moral judgment and counsel is often required in the course of treatment." (ref: Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Vol. 9, Part 1. 2nd ed., Princeton University Press, 1968. 451 p. (p. 3-53)).
Jung went on to state that synchronicity was a product of the collective unconscious.   Since individuals are connected through the collective unconscious, events may synchronize to seemingly unrelated events.  Thus, Jung's collective unconscious is a realm we all tap into - as place where our deities and icons originate.

Jung's terminology comes from the perspective of the human experience in conscious awareness.  Yet, from the realm of the larger consciousness, we tend to exist in a rather unconscious (semiconscious) and uncollective realm - the realm of mind and ego.  Jung's collective unconscious seems to equate with the outer boundaries of the greater (God) Consciousness.  Separated from the human mind and it's ego, this realm is removed from our ordinary experience.

Hindu tradition describes our individual egos as like islands in a sea that are connected beneath the water at the sea floor.  We look at each other and think we are separate entities.  The outer world is the illusion (Maya). It has no reality of its own. Our individual egos (jivatman) are individual souls. But they, too, are an illusion. We are all actually extensions of the One (Atman or God), who allows bits of himself to forget his identity, to become apparently separate and independent, an individual. Yet, we are never separate. According to Hindu tradition, we wake up when we die to realize that we were God from the beginning.  When we dream or meditate, we sink into our personal unconscious, coming closer and closer to our true selves, the collective unconscious. In such states, we are especially open to "communications" from other egos. Synchronicity makes Jung's theory not only compatible with para-psychological phenomena, but actually tries to explain them.  The doctrines of the Kabbalah describe a similar oneness posing within a sea of individual illusions.

The link between the conscious and subconscious seems to be via imagery and intuition rather than intellect.  We don't seem to be able to understand the subconscious, but we access it through dreams, meditations, and entheogens.  This seems to be the basis of Freud's interest in dreams.

Perhaps, we in Western culture have it all backwards: consciousness may be the illusion while the unconscious is the reality.  Perhaps, the unconscious is our higher self.  Are the archetypes of religion based glimpses into another realm?  Could our dreams be real and our reality a dream?  Perhaps, the archetypes and deities are real and we, our egos, are the fabrication.  Perhaps, consciousness and unconsciousness are related dimensions of our being.

Religious deities appear to be archetypes manifested by the collective unconscious.  Our subconscious desire to align with our illusions of "good" motivates us to triumph over our illusions of "evil".  Our political leaders are archetypes of what we have chosen to be elected - whether or not they bear semblance to the actual person elected.  Elections of leaders (JFK experience) - the Camelot years of the whitehouse were, in retrospect, a carefully orchestrated illusion that bore little semblance to the the actual egoic characters of those involved.  Buddhist meditation.  (Channeling)

The common question is whether or not archetypes have a basis in reality -- assuming we can be at all objective about reality.

Within the collective unconscious is a common image of a better world, a loving god, and a perfect family; a belief that good will triumph over evil; a fear of being attacked by a wild animal; a common enemy.
Does it serve us?

Frustratingly, such things can not be explained fully by rational thinking.

As importantly, archetypes become lifeforms that embody us.  We're run by these entities of illusion from the unconscious level.  The ideas taught to us in school or by our parents easily hide in our subconscious and arise later to embody us.  We act on them as if they are a part of us.  It's important to notice them and identify them as they become indistinguishable from reality.  I think it is the essence of many things we call spirit - the unconscious feeding us bits of vague information that is aligned with a story or other thought process.

We need to stay aware of where are messages are coming from.  Do they represent a collective ideal to be manifested or are they a form of suppressive misinformation?

According to Joseph Campbell, "The highest concern of all the mythologies, ceremonials, ethical systems, and social organization of the agriculturally based societies has been that of suppressing the manifestation of the individualism; and this has been generally achieved by compelling or persuading people to identify themselves not with their own interests, intuitions, or modes of experience, but with the archetypes of behavior and systems of sentiment developed and maintained in the public domain." (Masks of God: Primitive Mythology, pg. 240)

The collective unconscious tends to give us powerful images to admire and even hold sacred.  This is the realm of the gods and icons of good and evil.  The symbols that are brought back into consciousness are powerful.  Yet, they are often distorted and misused in consciousness by religious and political systems.  The symbols we see in the subconscious are often not matched in the conscious.  We often don't like what we see in our illusion of reality.

Thus, the human experience nearly always falls short of the greater consciousness.  The human collective seems to average out our collective personal consciousnesses.  Our electoral systems might be illustrative.   Here we are influenced by things such as media and other social networking or propaganda.   The results can be disturbing to many until we realize that our elected leaders are often a manifestation of our average and rarely our the ideals we strive for.    Yet, we can't escape the collective -- we are all part of it.  To raise it, we must not only raise our own consciousness, but also that of the collective.  We are in this together and can not escape our involvement in the collective.

Human consciousness that we experience generally originates from the mind.  It is poorly equipped to perceive the greater Consciousness that actually ties us together.

That Which Can't be Named

The nameless was the beginning of
heaven and earth;

The named was the mother of the
myriad creatures.

Tao Tê Ching
D.C. Lau Translation

I've wondered often about the origins of life.  There were some provocative classical experiments demonstrating that amino acids (protein building blocks) could be created in the lab by passing an electrical discharge through a flask containing methane and ammonia - a condition created to model lightning strikes in Earth's primitive atmosphere.  More recently, pantetheine was created by heating a mixture of pantoyl lactone, beta- alanine and cysteamine -- all three believed to have been present on the early Earth. Pantetheine is related to coenzyme A, essential for protein formation and used by every known organism to assist in a variety of chemical reactions.  Extrapolating from such results, it seems plausible that complex organic molecules might thus have evolved from simple molecular building blocks which then might have undergone a molecular evolution into more complex molecules that would ultimately support simple life forms.  From simple life forms evolved more complex life forms.  Further suggestions of the molecular basis for the origins of life include the auto-assembly of viral proteins in vitro and, more recently, the successful transplantation of a synthetic bacterial genome into a recipient cell.  Such experiments have lead to the concept of a "primordial soup" of molecular building blocks that might have given rise to primitive life forms spontaneously.

It's easy to extend the paradigm of evolution back to include inorganic matter.   Evolution at the quantum mechanical level can be observed readily both in nature and in the laboratory.  Nuclear fusion reactions power the stars and produce virtually all elements in a process called nucleosynthesis.  Our physical bodies are composed of stardust.

Evolutionary theories don't attempt to account for intelligence or will and are often offered as an alternative to a theistic concept of god.  Still, they fail to reconcile the requirement for the many extremely rare events that would be needed in tight synchronization with a very large number of other extremely rare events.  How does one reconcile the chicken and the egg paradox?  While there would be lots of time for such events to occur, it's difficult to accept that stochastic events are entirely responsible for the evolution of physical life forms.

Consider a different perspective.  Perhaps, physical forms of life arose via transformation from everything rather than evolution from nothing.  It's more than a semantic distinction.

The primordial universe -- a void without boundaries, without a beginning in time or an end, empty of physical form -- would still be a closed energy system.  The amount of energy per square unit of measure would be very low compared to dense regions in our physical universe.  Yet, this resting universe would still hold infinite energy in infinite space, even in its lowest unperturbed state - the state of zero point energy, postulated by Einstein and Stern.

Zero point energy is the ground state of a quantum mechanical physical system.  Yet, it is not a state without energy.  It is the energy contained within a vacuum.  It is not static as, according to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, the energy state would be in constant flux -- a vibration of enormous magnitude when manifested on an infinite scale of the infinite vacuum.  Such an infinite energy reservoir seems likely to have been the primordial soup from which all manifestations of the physical universe and of life arose.  This primordial universe would be undifferentiated in form and function.  Yet, the infinite wave forms might hold a consciousness.  Each vibration might hold a memory like a vibrating guitar string memorializing that it has been plucked.  Fractal resonant nodes might hold the intelligence of the universe.

Such an intelligence would be as infinite as the energy field from which it arises.   Yet, it would possess few distinguishing features - pure consciousness without definition.  The energy potential for everything we observe manifested in our present universe would be contained within the infinity of this unmanifested state.  In esoteric terms, it was (is) the universal consciousness, the godhead, the One.

Matter would condense from the immense fluctuating energy field of the unmanifested universe - perhaps in an event arising from a singularity to form an entire material universe, as predicted by general relativity.  Perhaps, matter came into existence out intention of consciousness; perhaps it was set in motion by stochastic events evoked by perturbations of energy, as if massive shifts in energy were orchestrated by an algorithm in a manner similar to that of a complex fractal.  Irrespectively, though temporal in space and time, the appearance of matter would provide a basis for distinction within the void - the beginnings of definition within the universe.  From the background zero point energy, darkness was separated from light.

At the crux of the Tao Tê Ching is the concept of opposites.  Darkness must exist in order for there to be light; low must exist in order for there to be high ... ugly for beautiful ... weak for strong.  Those things that can be named exist only in contrast to something else.  Yet, for this primordial consciousness, there would not be such contrasting attributes by which to discern within the void.  In the language of the Tao, it was the essence of what can't be named.  Definition would have evolved only out of points of distinction.  Without distinction, intelligence would not be required or available.

I can only imagine that a universal consciousness would have noticed the physical manifestations and, in some way, preferred them to what may have been the monotony of a nameless existence within the void.  Imagine a great consciousness awakened to experience its own definition.  Perhaps, the realized "mother of the myriad creatures" then chose to experience this brave, new universe more fully by defining further the contrasts within it.

Shamanic Vacation: Postcards

... always keep in mind that a path is only a path. If you feel that you must now follow it, you need not stay with it under any circumstances. 
- Don Juan

After a weekend of ceremonies in Ventura, we finally made it down to Long Beach to pick up the rented RV.  Three weeks of meandering our way to Denver lay before us.  The plan was to head East from LA for two days in Joshua Tree, then on to the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and the Rockies.  But, plans are subject to change ...

Joshua Tree Retreat Center
Joshua Tree

I'd been wanting to spend time at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center - a mystical place in the high California Desert, east of Palm Springs.  The buildings were designed by Frank Loyd Wright and his son back in the 40's to blend with the desert environment.  Despite their age, they still provide an inspirational shelter for large and small groups of visitors to the Center.  There are several energy vortexes identified on the property, but no one I talked to was able to tell me what they are or how they are identified.  Lili claimed that she could feel one, but wouldn't explain what she felt.  It's in the middle of a desert so you have to be OK with hot sun, dust, cactus and sage brush to enjoy it fully.  The people who run the place are wonderful and we had the place pretty much to ourselves for a couple of days

Bhakti Fest
I had an idea about spending a biblical 40 days in the desert in solitude and meditation, but a voice inside me knew it wasn't meant to be.  I noticed flyers around the Joshua Tree Retreat Center advertising "Bhakti Fest OMmersion" - a spiritual festival.  We had only planned to spend a couple of days in Joshua Tree before moving onto the Grand Canyon.  But, as stated previously, plans are subject to change.  The festival came to us and we couldn't refuse.  So, four days of kirtan, yoga and chanting in a small outdoor venue stretched our stay to over a week.  Friends from LA drove out to join us.  It was really quite nice.  It would have been a mistake to miss it.

Kirtan is a style of spiritual chanting of hymns or mantras that is repeated by back-up singers and often the audience. It's a beautiful, if repetitious, musical style of prayer that originated in India.  The venue took on a bit of a rock-style flavor with the addition electric instruments and colored stage lighting, but the tone was of a much higher vibration.  It is a celebration of spirit.

One of my favorite performers was Wah!, a female performer who claims to be channeling the goddess.  She seemed to have a little more diva energy than the other performers (she's channeling the goddess, after all), but her music creates a portal to other realms.  My delight with her performance might have been influenced by Lili having brought several dried mushrooms for me to chew on just as it began.  I laid back and entered a celestial realm on the night of the full moon.

There was lots of yoga and ethnic veggie food, too.  Unlike the rock concerts of my earlier days, this event left me feeling healthy and light.  The small crowd was warm and loving.

Joshua Tree National Park

Another Year Wiser

I'd planned to spend my birthday in Havasupai Canyon - a beautiful oasis I'd visited on my raft trip through the Grand Canyon during college.  But, again, plans are subject to change.  Havasupai was still closed for the winter by the Indian tribe that runs it - temps were still below freezing at night.  Too bad ... I remember it as an amazing oasis of emerald green water falls that empty into the brown, sand-ladened Colorado River.  

So, still in Joshua Tree and filled with the spirit of the festival, we took the RV into the National Park for the night.  We woke up at 3 AM - the time of my birth (as nearly as Mom remembers), drove to a vantage point and brewed a sacramental tea.  It was cold and windy outside, so we stayed in for a short ceremony before going back to sleep.

Later, we drove to another area of the Park called Baker Dam where a small lake was created for cattle ranching use.  We brewed and drank more tea before heading out for a spontaneous hike in the wilderness.

I was seeking solitude for some deep meditation.  It wasn't easy to find.  There weren't a lot of people, but it seemed that the few who were there were blindly following us.  I found a solitary rock to sit and, within only a few minutes, someone came to sit on the rock next to me.  Then came the kids who apparently saw that this was the place to be. We decided to head out into more challenging terrain.  Off the trail, through the brush and up the side of a steep rocky ravine.  Can you believe it??  Someone followed us -- and someone followed them!  So up and over the top we continued -- very steep, very rocky -- no one was going to follow -- I was determined to find my birthday hermitage.

It was a peaceful afternoon.  Lili performed shamanic dances for me while large birds circled overhead.  I sat in meditation on a rock, watched and absorbed the desert environment.

As it got later, Lili asked me how to get back and I replied something to the effect that "it's all down hill from here".   I led us through what I thought would be a short cut - it looked like easy-going - down through a ravine.  But, half-way down, the ravine was blocked by a slide of large boulders.  I was able to scramble over them, but Lili had to navigate over, under, and between them with her short legs.  As we continued, the boulders got larger and larger and things became dangerous.  But, faced with the option of scrambling back up the ravine, we continued onward over larger and larger boulders -- and eventually to safety.

"It should be right around this hill", I assured her.    But, it was one of those very rare times when I was wrong as around the hill, there was another hill - and around that one, another hill.  In the desert, they all looked the same.  It was getting dark and the howl of coyotes in the distance - seemingly inviting us to their version of a birthday dinner - added to the intensity of the drama.   "No way ..." I sighed to myself as we rounded hill after hill.  I didn't want to admit that we were lost.  We didn't have warm clothing or flashlights.  The stage was set for us to play the role of stupid tourists lost in the desert and never found.

Lili says that at that point she asked her spirit guides to help me just as I turned to try another way.  I noticed some wheel tracks that made a U-turn on a trail going in another direction and reasoned that the wheels came from a road.   We followed the wheel tracks for a mile or two before finally reaching a parking lot.  Yet, it wasn't the lot where we'd left the RV.  There was only a single car parked there and we noticed a solitary figure hiking down another trail towards it.  It turned out to be a park ranger named Josh (as if for Joshua Tree) out hiking on his day-off.  A nice guy, though perhaps a little weary of those in the role of stupid tourists, he gave us a ride back to the RV as the sun set over the hills.

Sam's Family Spa, Palm Springs

Finally, already a week behind schedule following the festival and b-day, we headed down to the outskirts of Palm Springs to an RV resort where we enjoyed natural hot springs and full hookups for 2 days before heading East to Arizona.

The Sedona Vortex

View from Airport at Sunset
Montezuma's Castle
I have a fond memory of flying a Mooney into Sedona a few years ago en route to crossing the Grand Canyon.  The small airport sits on top of a mesa that overlooks the town.  Landing there feels a bit like what it must be like to land on an aircraft carrier.

The Sedona landscape is expansive.  The area is a dried ancient sea bed with monumental red rock pinnacles, once islands, spiraling high into the sky.

This time, the town seemed "touristy" with a fleet of pink jeeps running tourists everywhere we looked.   We were still looking for solitude.  An odd guy at a crystal shop who claimed to be a tour guide told us about a place out of town where we could park the RV.  He offered to meet us there and show us the power vortexes, places of UFO sightings and such. We found the place on our own, but wanted to be alone and didn't take him up on his offer.  The following day, Lili received a text message from him inquiring if we were interested in "swinging".  It was time to move on.

The Lost Dutchman

Superstition Mountains
Heading South through Phoenix, we made our way to the Superstition Mountains.  This is Apache territory and the site of the legendary Lost Dutchman Mine.  The mountains are very beautiful in a way  very different from the Sierra and Cascades of California, Oregon and Washington.

Natural Stone Walkway
We started out for another spontaneous hike early in the morning with just a water bottle and a few pieces of fruit to sustain us.  I didn't expect that we'd go very far.  But, the trail got more and more interesting the farther we went.  It also got steeper and steeper.  About a third of the way up, Lili gave up and said she'd wait for me to return.  I think the memory of the Joshua Tree hike was still too fresh in her mind.  I left her at an incredible natural stone walkway - it was much steeper than the picture to the right indicates.  Soon, I was scaling straight up the side of  the mountain as I clung to boulders and scrub branches.

Take a step back and say "cheese"
There were a few others on top when I finally reached it.  One fellow was legally blind.  I don't know how he did it, but it wasn't his first time up there.  He displayed amazing awareness as he walked along the edge of a shear rock cliff several hundred feet high to the chagrin of his buddies.  He even pointed me in directions where he thought I might like to go.  Others were poking around various rock formations and caves - the lure of a gold mine is irresistible.  As far as I know, the mine remains to be found.   However, the 360 degree view made the effort worthwhile.

Peyote Way

About 28 miles down a wash-boarded dirt road in Southeastern Arizona lies a 160-acre homesteaded parcel of  desert covered with sage brush and mesquite.  From the road, there's little to distinguish the property from the 100's of square miles of desert land that surrounds it other than a large sign of hand-made tiles that seems to make a statement about the legal standing of what lies beyond.  If one looks closely, it also advertises "Spirit Walks by appointment".  What lies beyond is something both unique and sublime in my experience.

Patrick and Laura, new friends from BhaktiFest, arrived ahead of us.  They were on their spirit walk as we drove in after dark.  We'd begun a 24-hour fast required for our spirit walk so no dinner that night.  We crawled straight into bed in anticipation of our own walk the following day, Easter Sunday.

We were greeted separately in the morning by Annie and Matt, who operate the Peyote Way Church of God, a "non-sectarian, multicultural, experiential Peyotist organization," and got our first look at the place.   Matt showed us around - the guest house, the pottery workshop, the greenhouses where the peyote is grown, and the 4 sites on the property where the spirit walks take place.  There were stories ... and stories and more stories -- all interesting and fun, but I've agreed to not repeat them here (I'm sure Matt will tell you if you go there).  I gained an appreciation for the medicine after seeing the care required for propagating the small cactus.  Matt explained that it takes 7 - 8 years for a plant to reach maturity and that each dose required the tops ("buttons") of 14 or 15 plants.

Lili and I selected separate sites for our walks - each is meant to be a personal experience.  Lili selected the site nearest the guest house in an open field - I chose to go up the hill further out back surrounded by mesquite-covered hills.   We all met in the kitchen around 4 PM.  By then, we'd fasted for about 25 hours and were anxious to begin.  There were papers to sign -- joining the church was a legal requirement -- and I relinquished the keys to the RV as a pledge that I wouldn't be driving off in the middle of the night.  Annie placed 2 jars of "tea" each brewed from 21 grams of dried peyote on the table - green in color with some odd-looking things floating in it.  She mentioned several times how bad it tastes and how we would have to drink it slowly or risk getting sick.  She made it sound so awful that I wondered why anyone would do this.  Why was I doing this??   We then took both jars of tea down to Lili's site where I made sure she was setup around her campfire pit before I left her to her own experience.  We agreed that I would return after moon rise -- sometime after 1:30 AM .

Son Tristan,  Rev. Anne, Lili, & Rabbi Matthew

Then I took my jar of tea to the site I'd selected.   Matt had set up the fire pits with small piles of wood - there was a single lawn chair under a canopy near the fire pit and a bottle of water.  I was ready to go, but I hesitated as Annie's description of the taste and nausea replayed in my head.  I delayed things to run to the top of a hill and gaze at the sun as it set over distant desert hills.  Then I returned to my site, lit the fire and sat in my chair contemplating my jar of tea.

Sign at Entrance to Property
I opened the jar and cautiously sniffed its contents.  It didn't smell too bad.  I tasted it.  "It's not as bad as Anne made it sound." Slowly, I sipped more and more and leaned back to enjoy the fire as darkness set in.  Finally, I was enjoying the solitude I'd been searching for.

I emphasize (again) that such journeys are done carefully and with clear intentions.  Many believe there is spirit contained in plant medicines such as peyote, which has been used for centuries by Native American cultures in religious ceremonies.  Regardless of whether the mechanism is spiritual or pharmacological, they seem to quiet the egoic rational mind to allow for openings into more subtle realms of consciousness and experience.  Similar states can be attained without medicine through various forms of meditation.  Yet, in my experience, the medicines accelerate the learning process by showing the mind where to find the openings.  

I glided gently into the subtle realm of peyote.  The senses were elevated and the mind expanded as I gazed into the fire beneath the big star-filled sky.  I struggled to not anticipate what the night might bring.  It's a vibration - a state - a refuge.  I spent time journaling on my laptop and writing a letter.  I felt family ties.  At one point I felt restless and  I walked in the dark down to check up on Lili.  An assumed guardianship created a need to make sure she was OK.  I didn't want to disturb her, so I just peaked through the brush to watch her poking at her fire with a stick before I returned to my spot.  

It was a subtle ride - peacefully traversing the void between the physical realm and higher consciousness, pressing up against the membrane from either side.  I meditated, wrote and searched for answers.  It seems that they're close.  I'm learning to navigate the void.  What are the clues that will lead me home?  What can I bring back with me?   My mind seeks to comprehend the Mystery while it bathes in the illusion.  There seems an urgency to bring the images of consciousness into the realm of space and time. 

A big moon rose in the early morning hours, but I waited some time before going down to join Lili.  I startled her when I finally joined her.  She had been sick for much of the time, but she handled it well.  She sees the spirits that I don't see - gentle, silvery beings, according to her - much like the Indian paintings.  "Look for them in the empty spaces," she advised.   We tended the fire until after sunrise.    

Lili's Spirit Walk Site

New Mexico

Very Large Array Telescope, NM

We headed South and East into New Mexico - Silver City and Sante Fe.  We were behind schedule so we weren't staying too long in any one place.  Near Socorro, I noticed a sign for the VLA (Very Large Array) Telescope and exited the freeway impulsively to investigate.  The facility was forty miles away, and at less than 10 mile to the gallon in the RV, one considers such side trips carefully.  Here Lili delighted me as she declared herself to also be a geek -- "I love this stuff," she said.  

So we continued to a high plateau (nearly 7,000 feet elevation) - a seemingly perfect site for the installation.  The array consists of 27 antennas - each about 80 feet in diameter.  They are on railroad-style tracks to allow for varying the configuration of the array with a span of up to 22 miles.  The massive array acts as a single large radio telescope for exploring deep space.

We weren't able to visit the control rooms, but we were able to get up close to an antenna and view some of the results of their work in the visitor's center.  The facility was obviously expensive to build - budgets are more restricted now than when it was built in the late 1970's.  It was impressive.  It seemed a bit of a "white elephant" though I expect good research can still be performed there.  


Elk Herd in San Isabel National Forest
Arkansas River near Salida
Campfire Ceremony at Mueller State Park
Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs

Red Rock Amphitheater near Denver
View from the Stage

Shamanic Vacation (Extended Version)

Indian Hot Springs
Three weeks sounded like a long trip when we planned it, but it was over too soon.  We had already extended the rental for a couple of more days of camping west of Colorado Springs and were by then staying for several days at Idaho Springs in the Rockies west of Denver.  Soaking in natural hot springs might have been a nice conclusion for such a journey.  The spa offered pools of natural hot water in underground caves - it doesn't get much better than that.

But, it just made us all the more reluctant to return home.  So, ... the plans changed again.  I booked another RV in LA and we flew in from Denver.  We had so many bags that we couldn't get it all on the plane in one load - so we made two - in fact, there are still bags left in a garage in Denver.
Pismo Beach

Shortly, we found ourselves back in the familiar RV lot south of LA.  We loaded up and headed up to Ojai where we stayed with friends on a large estate for several days.  We've considered moving there and wanted to get to know the area and the people.  Then up the coast to the Bay Area for a ceremony and to take care of things at home.  Then down again to Asilomar before heading East to Lake Isabella in the southern most region of the Sierra and on into Death Valley.   

Lake Isabella
Death Valley

I'd been thinking about spending a biblical 40 days alone in the desert.  There was probably a rite of passage component to the idea around a desire to dig deeper.  So, as we entered Death Valley, I imagined what it would be like to do it there.  But, on the barren soil, in the heat, wind and dust, the image seemed a lot less romantic.  I was already struggling to think of what we might do there.  I'd seen Scotty's Castle and the signs that tell us we're below sea level years ago and Lili wasn't interested.  We powered through the Park in not much more than 40 minutes.

$5.69 /gal at Stove Pipe Wells! 
Now, as I write this, the 40-days-in-the-desert thing seems again like a good idea.  Perhaps, you'll read about it here someday - it should be good stuff as I chronicle each of the 40 days. :-)

Leaving Las Vegas

I used to go to Las Vegas a couple times a year for the big tech conferences.  I'd enjoy the free bourbon and craps all night long while I rationalized that I was working.  I wasn't a big player, but fish come in all sizes.  I had my platinum player cards and credit lines at a few of the casinos.  Show a little leg and they'll let you think you're a very important guy - comp'd meals, comp'd show tickets, comp'd or cheap rooms and, of course, lot's of  free bourbon.  If you play their game, they will play yours.  I enjoyed it, gamed it and never got too hurt.

I was looking forward to returning.  On this trip, however, the energy seemed dark and archaic.  We saw a great avant garde circus act at Caesar's, but I found no fun wandering through the grand facades amongst the seemingly unconscious, mostly inebriated, swarms of people.  It felt like a destination amusement park, manifested on the dark side of human consciousness, pandering to tarnished and uninspired illusions of value.  Did LV change?  Oh no, it must be me!

Again, it's just a perspective.  It's a little hard to write about it without seeming judgmental or obvious.  It's an interesting study of the recessed regions of the human psyche.  The artificial environment illuminates the darker facets of human nature that are mostly hidden within the mainstream bounds of Western culture.  It provides a place for otherwise healthy people to go to blow off steam or for those needing a cheap dose of grandeur.  It enforces few restrictions and offers lots of opportunities to indulge the shadow of human nature within the context of gaming and tired hedonism.  So, while it serves the purpose of allowing people to stretch their boundaries, IMHO, what goes in Vegas, stays in Vegas should be our mantra as well as theirs.


In all, it was about 6 weeks of doing pretty much whatever we wanted to do.  Plans changed frequently and it felt great to have the degrees of freedom that allowed us to flow with the changing landscape.  Now ...

I just can't wait to get on the road again!