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Parables For The New Conversation (Chapter 24: The Map)

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The following is a chapter from my book ‘Parables For The New Conversation.’ One chapter will be published every Sunday for 36 weeks here on Collective Evolution. (I would recommend you start with Chapter 1 if you haven’t already read it.) I hope my words are a source of enjoyment and inspiration for you, the reader. If perchance you would like to purchase a signed paperback copy of the book, you can do so on my production company website Pandora’s Box Office.

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From the back cover: “Imagine a conversation that centers around possibility—the possibility that we can be more accepting of our own judgments, that we can find unity through our diversity, that we can shed the light of our love on the things we fear most. Imagine a conversation where our greatest polarities are coming together, a meeting place of East and West, of spirituality and materialism, of religion and science, where the stage is being set for a collective leap in consciousness more magnificent than any we have known in our history.

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Now imagine that this conversation honors your uniqueness and frees you to speak from your heart, helping you to navigate your way more deliberately along your distinct path. Imagine that this conversation puts you squarely into the seat of creator—of your fortunes, your relationships, your life—thereby putting the fulfillment of your deepest personal desires well within your grasp.

‘Parables for the New Conversation’ is a spellbinding odyssey through metaphor and prose, personal sagas and historic events, where together author and reader explore the proposal that at its most profound level, life is about learning to consciously manifest the experiences we desire–and thus having fun. The conversation touches on many diverse themes but always circles back to who we are and how our purposes are intertwined, for it is only when we see that our personal desires are perfectly aligned with the destiny of humanity as a whole that we will give ourselves full permission to enjoy the most exquisite experiences life has to offer.”

24. The Map

One day the arborist and the scientist were rappelling down the steep southern face of the mountain in the middle of the island of Allandon. They came upon the mouth of a cave and stopped on a ledge that protruded from it.

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“I have always wanted to explore this cave,” said the arborist, still catching her breath. “I’m curious about the mysteries that it holds.”

“So why haven’t you?”

“Well, it’s so dark and so vast,” said the arborist looking inside. “I suppose I’m worried about getting lost.”

“Well this must be your lucky day,” said the scientist. “It just so happens that I have extensively explored this very cave.”

“You have?” she asked with excitement.

“Yes, and I have even made a complete map of all its nooks and passageways.”

“Really! You are my hero!” exclaimed the arborist. “If you don’t mind, I’m going to go in to look around.”

The scientist started searching through his backpack for the map, but on finding it he looked over and saw that the arborist had already unhooked her lines and ventured deep into the cave.

“Wait!” shouted the scientist into the cave. “Don’t you need the map?”

“Certainly not,” the arborist hollered back, “you’ve already given me what I need!”

We are all on a path of growth. We are never compelled to walk this path, but if we want to experience the rapture of living authentically, we need to be open to where it leads. In a way this puts us between a rock and a hard place. If we resist growth, we suffer from the weight of unexpressed passion and unfulfilled desire. When we embrace growth, we face the growing pains that come with it. There is no way to avoid them. And if there were, life wouldn’t make sense. The context for striving towards anything would be gone, and moving forward would actually feel like sitting in the same place, stagnant, until the end of time. Buddhism puts this right up front in the first of its sacred truths: Life is suffering. When we recognize this truth as more of a cause for celebration than commiseration, we go a long way towards understanding the Buddhist ethos.

In order to grow, we must expand beyond the borders of what we know. We have all had some experience of the deep satisfaction that results from moving into new realms and expanding our field of play. The world is infinitely more captivating when we penetrate into the unknown than if we simply remain in the known. Yet to some extent we continue to be afraid of the unknown. We are literally scared of the dark. And so we are afraid to truly live, because it is in the darkness that our light really shines. At every moment of the day, wherever we are, something novel, amusing, unusual or fantastic might occur to us, if we were open to it. If we could find the courage to remove the self-imposed blinders and be truly present to the world as it is, not just as we know it to be, that’s when life becomes fun—an adventure worthy of story books.

Still, a life of fun is not without a certain amount of anxiety. If we reflect back on our greatest moments, we would remember that anxiety has always been present. What monumental achievement was not preceded by butterflies in the stomach? What euphoria did not rise out of doubt and uncertainty? And in the grand scheme of things, what gives being alive the potential for such unmitigated joy but the fear of death? We have anxiety precisely because as humans we have self-consciousness, which gives us the power to act, to choose. The anxiety fuels our sense of responsibility to make choices that help us continue to grow and evolve. If we ignore it or avoid it, not only do we miss out on all the fun, we are actually choosing to be other than who we really are, to walk a path that is not our own. This leads to depression and despair, which unlike anxiety actually makes it more difficult for us to act. Anxiety calls us to make our move. It ignites the transition from reflection to action. As philosopher Peter Koestenbaum notes,

In any endeavor, how do you feel when you go from one stage to the next? The answer: You feel anxious. Anxiety that is denied makes us ill; anxiety that is fully confronted and fully lived through converts itself into joy, security, strength, centeredness, and character. The practical formula: Go where the pain is.

Many of us have become so used to avoiding our own darkness that we actually conspire with each other to live life on the surface, and pretend together that our darkness doesn’t exist. When we are struck by those impulses of anxiety that lead us into our darkness, we may try to soothe one another until they go away. But somewhere inside us we may suspect that these impulses are the calling of a vital life. If we wait until the stillness of our deathbed to confirm our suspicion like Ivan Ilych, we are likely to look upon the missed opportunities of our life with similar deep regret.

The good news is, the opportunity to truly live is always here now, whenever we are ready to explore darkness rather than avoid it. When we reframe our life as a journey of personal evolution rather than simply a struggle for survival and comfort, all the difficulties we are beset with are much more meaningful, and can in fact be celebrated.

In the introduction to the Star Trek T.V. series, the climactic line before the starship races towards us is “…to boldly go where no one has gone before…”. This idea excites us, even if many of us would not join the crew of a real Starship Enterprise if one were launching off tomorrow. But we wouldn’t really even need to. Each one of us is going where no woman or man has ever gone before, because of our unique nature and perspective. We each bring a different pair of eyes on the visible, a different mind to every action, and so the experience itself is always unique, and adds an important entry into the ledger of our collective consciousness.

In the end, it is our struggles in the darkness that will be the foundation of what we have to offer the world. When we are able to move through our darkest places, that is when our experience can inspire others. Is it any surprise that people who speak powerfully to alcoholics in an AA meeting were alcoholics themselves? Is it strange that cancer survivors are the ones that have the ear of others battling the disease? Why is Nelson Mandela the voice of peace and forgiveness, but for his ability to transcend resentment and the desire for revenge, and forgive the captors who had imprisoned him for countless years?

When we are faced with darkness in our lives, troubles, difficulties, scary but necessary choices, it can be helpful to draw inspiration from stories of others’ heroism. After all, we really are all in this together, and becoming inspired may be the best way to honor the great models of bravery and heroism. As Joseph Campbell notes in The Hero with a Thousand Faces:

We have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us—the labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; and where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.

Heroism is not the absence of fear and anxiety. It is the willingness to get on with our journey and act in the face of fear. Stories of heroic redemption and glory help us believe that we too can be brave. They help us believe that when we honor our yearning to leave a relationship we are not doomed to be lonely for the rest of our lives. They help us believe that if we act on the desire to speak up to our boss we will survive the repercussions. They help us believe that it is worthwhile to reach for the stars, and risk everything for our greatest dreams. And when we choose to be inspired by these stories and act on our inner impulses, we are taken on a journey that may eventually go on to inspire others in ways we could never imagine.

I am reminded of a story I heard a few years ago that continues to evoke awe and amazement inside me. Bethany Hamilton was an aspiring young surfer who was competing by age 11. In 2003, at age 13, while surfing off Kauai’s North Shore, she was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark, which tore off her entire left arm at the shoulder. She lost 70% of her blood trying to make it back to shore and needed several surgeries to survive.

In a circumstance where most people would feel justified in turning to a life of fear, shame, and self-pity, Bethany chose to do what I consider the quintessential heroic act: She decided to get over herself. In other words, she put aside her Ego Self and chose to live from her Dao Self. And she seemed to do so almost immediately. What astounded me was to hear her talk about losing her arm with such aplomb, while maintaining a cheerfulness and equanimity rarely seen in anyone, let alone someone of her age and circumstances.

Bethany even said that she was glad this happened to her, because it enabled her to share with others the profound experience of feeling part of something bigger than herself. Her identification with the part of herself connected to the divine—which I call the Dao Self—made it possible for her to deal with this tragedy with such grace and apparent effortlessness. When I first saw her, a slender left arm conspicuously absent from her side, I could not help but be immediately struck by the utter conviction she had of her own wholeness. It inspires us to believe that, in the face of our limiting beliefs of ourselves, we too can be and feel whole.

Bethany’s confidence that she would be surfing again was unwavering. Her attitude and love for her sport could not help but give rise to heroic action in the world. She returned to the water less than a month after the incident, and unbelievably, only eight months after losing her arm, she placed fifth in the U. S. National Surfing Championships.

Traditionally we have looked at heroic acts as the victory of good over evil, like the slaying of the dragon that leads to a life lived happily ever after. But actually life holds a more subtle challenge than that. If our heroic struggle in life were captured as a holographic video game, it would be more than our ‘good’ guy trying to kill the ‘bad’ guy. The ‘bad’ guy would be a part of us. We could never kill him, but we had to find a way of dealing with him to reach paradise. We would want to push forward, but the ‘bad’ guy would always try to hold us back. And he could attach himself to all our skill and even our thinking, until we had trouble discerning who we really were. This is our challenge.

In our world of duality, of yin and yang, darkness comes from light and vice-versa. Even the most heroic actions in the world displace both light and darkness, and yield results that are both good and evil, positive and negative. It is only when we change our state of being, when good embraces evil, when the Dao Self loves the Ego Self, does our act move into the realm of the truly heroic and does our consciousness rise up to the next level. If we look at all things dark as simply crying out for light, then there is no longer a need to annihilate the darkness. Besides, there is no way to annihilate the darkness. It shows up again and again, in different forms, until finally light is shed on it. That is when it disappears.

The heroic act brings inner transformation and moves us ever closer to a clear perception of the outside world as only a game, a context for an internal change. For every heroic deed moves us up the evolutionary steps of consciousness, where we drop some of our arrogant, self-centered illusions, and realize ever more profoundly that the joke is on us.

The same can be said for the path of humanity as a whole. The elevation of the Ego Self to prominence in Western Civilization need not be condemned as a horrible mistake or a wrong turn. Maybe we are not on this planet, as the Eastern mindset might suggest, only to move as quickly as possible to a unity with the Dao. Physicists tell us that the physical universe is in the process of expanding, while biologists note that the nature of living things is to become more complex and diverse. Perhaps in the larger plan our current mission is to continue to sophisticate our uniqueness rather than simply contracting back into the source.

From where I stand, it does not seem for now that we are ready to shed our individuality just yet. Indeed, in the new conversation, we are just coming into a greater appreciation of it. Despite the devastation and alienation that Ego-Self domination has brought to the world, perhaps it was a necessary step in the evolution of consciousness. In fact, it has even been said in some circles that we are on the leading edge of consciousness in the universe, expanding into new territory, where the growing complexity of our individual minds is helping us find a way to move towards greater diversity and greater unity at the same time.

The more complex our mind gets, the more conscious we become as individuals, and the more exquisite the experience of life becomes. We as individuals become clearer, more refined channels for the light of the Dao. The darkness of the Ego Self becomes more translucent and, at the same time, goes further into the background as the context for the experience of life rather than the experience itself. From this powerful place our senses come alive, and our appreciation grows for everything around us, the sights, the sounds, the shapes and textures, the tastes and fragrances of life. Such, I believe, is what the next level of consciousness promises to bring.

Move on to Chapter 25…

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Consciousness

A Spiritual Perspective On Smoking Cannabis: An Important Viewpoint To Consider

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    In the video below, Sadhguru shares his perspective on smoking marijuana and why it's not truly needed to achieve the feeling one may receive to do it.

  • Reflect On:

    I'm not saying there isn't medicinal value and that we should outlaw this plant, I'm saying we have a very large societal challenge, just like with alcohol, where we are not facing our inner challenges and are using substances to cover them up.

I was having a conversation yesterday about something that has always been a reflection point for me. Since I was a kid, I was never drawn to substances, even alcohol. I always felt great, high even, when just being.

As I got older and I finally tried cannabis for the first time, and then a few more times after that as years went on, I started to realize it actually brought my state of being and clarity down. The tough part was trying to explain that to others when having conversations about how these substances don’t produce a true experience of higher consciousness, but more so give you a glimpse in a sense.

Before we go on, I want to bring something up. The challenge with this topic is that we tend to get very emotional and rigid about it. Not only that, but we aggressively try to lump people into FOR or AGAINST cannabis. I’m not here to do that. I’m simply creating a reflection point as my desire is to help shift consciousness and empower us within to create a world where we can truly thrive. So for a moment, set aside your own hard coded beliefs and just be open to what this article is shining light on.

Societal Cannabis Culture

For the most part society either breaks down into people who judge cannabis as a drug that is for ‘stoners’ and are very against it. These people tend to believe there are no positives to cannabis. On the flip side are the people who feel cannabis is an amazing wonder plant that can do no wrong, and that the “highs” it provides expand the mind and we experience peace.

The truth is, cannabis has good aspects and not so good aspects to it. And while the positives can be really helpful for a very small subset of people on this planet, smoking it is one of the worst ways to use cannabis health wise. Not only that, society is using its medical benefits to turn attention away from the addiction many users have to it. This is a tough pill to swallow and makes many people aggressive and angry when I bring it up, but it’s true. In a big way, but not all the time, we are using cannabis as a society to help cope with feelings deep down that we want to shut off or hide from. As a note, we are also using food, TV and other things in the same way, but right now I want to focus on this reflection.

Cannabis can assist people with autism, people who have seizures, and in some cases it may have helped people cure cancer. There are benefits that can come from this plant being used in a proper medicinal way, but we must remember to look at the downsides that come from regular cannabis use that many simply don’t want to acknowledge.

A Note On Legalization

First off, I do not believe the plant ever needed to be illegal to begin with. In fact I’ve done much research on how it became illegal and it really had more to do with protecting an industry more than anything else.

That said, there is something to consider here that many of us aren’t looking at too clearly when it comes to what legalization really means. It means that powerful people are going to be the ones who profit most from it, that’s why it’s becoming legal. Not only that, but the reason it is taking so long is so they can get in place the many aspects required to make sure they achieve what they want: stripping medicinal aspects out of the plant profiles, controlling the seeds, and ultimately feeding society cannabis focused solely on creating a THC based ‘high’. This is no different than controlling alcohol and feeding it to society in the ways we currently do.

The cannabis industry is worth over $40 billion, making it the second-most-valuable crop in the U.S. after corn. As stated in a powerful article by GQ, “And even though weed is still federally forbidden, it sounded like whoever was behind BioTech Institute had spent the past several years surreptitiously maneuvering to grab every marijuana farmer, vendor, and scientist in the country by the balls, so that once the drug became legal, all they’d have to do to collect payment is squeeze.”

Humans should be able to make choices as to what they want to do to themselves and their bodies i.e. smoke cannabis or consume alcohol, but I believe greater education needs to be placed behind both and ultimately: we must start looking at the real reasons as to why we use both of these substances so often.

Looking At Cannabis Differently

I see that in many ways the use of cannabis is making the average user numb, in the same way alcohol does. I’ve used cannabis before, in a number of ways -smoking, edibles etc. I’m not saying the feeling is the same for every single user, but I’ve also been around thousands of cannabis users in my lifetime while they were high and you notice the same ‘vibe’ virtually every time. Perhaps there are varying degrees, but for the most part it numbs us out and sometimes quiets the thoughts to create a calmness. Is this like meditation? No, but it can be confused as that. I know, I’ve been there too.

Below is a video of a perspective on cannabis I feel is very important for us to consider. Let me be clear, I’m not saying there isn’t medicinal value and that we should outlaw this plant, I’m saying we have a very large societal challenge, just like with alcohol, where we are not facing our inner challenges and are using substances to cover them up. I am inspired to help create a world where we can truly empower ourselves form within, move beyond our mind and egoic challenges that help us grow and do just that – grow. But if we continually bury our challenges in substance, we won’t.

I believe it’s time we come to the uncomfortable truth and face the fact that as a society we have not done the greatest job in encouraging one another to truly explore, express and move beyond many of the emotional challenges life’s experiences have provided us, that are there for our growth. Think about it, do we want to just cope through life? Or do we want to truly move beyond our stuff? There is SO much suffering we can prevent by making it a societal norm to work through our challenges on a deep level. This is where I believe we must go.

Note: You can try meditation to help calm the mind and move more clearly through challenges. Here are more tools as well.

Lost relationships, divorces, losing jobs, feeling unloved, lack of confidence, depression etc. All of these things are not here so that we can use bandaids everyday to cover them up and get through them, they are here for us to learn more about ourselves, grow and evolve as people and as a society. To create a world where we can truly thrive. To get there, we must begin to face our challenges.

I made this choice 10 years ago when I started to discover meditation and inner reflection, and although I wasn’t a user of substances like alcohol or cannabis, I would use food to cover up my emotions or I would distract myself with TV, whatever worked. But I can share from experience, the incredible changes that come from shifting those stories within and gaining true empowerment will change everything in your life, and everyone can do it.

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Consciousness

New Moon In Virgo: Efficiency & Practicality

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We are having a New Moon in Virgo on September 17th. This is initiating a 29.5 day lunar cycle and new wave of energy for the coming month; however, the astrological configurations mentioned in this article will be more prominent over the following two weeks. This cycle will include a Full Moon in Aries on October 1st/2nd.

Virgo season began on August 22nd/23rd, nearly a month prior to this Lunation, and will end on September 22nd/23rd when Libra season begins. However, his New Moon will still carry some of its Virgo themes into the first eight days of Libra season prior to the Full Moon.

This is a good period of working with and co-creating with the energies of this sign. Virgo is associated with productivity, duties, service, health, cleanliness, and purity. It is organized, adaptable, conscientious, skillful, orderly, punctual, diligent, efficient, analytical, detailed, discerning, precise, and practical.

Virgo is about problem solving, adjusting to changing conditions, and coming up with solutions. Negatively, this energy can be cynical, fussy, high strung, and perfectionistic. It can also be exorbitantly mentally oriented as well as overly critical and discriminating.

Mars began its retrograde a week prior to this New Moon which will last until mid-November. This energy is a significant part of the current astrological backdrop. Generally it is a time that can ultimately help to facilitate a change in how we apply ourselves in certain areas of life, however, the retrograde period itself can bring frustrations and challenges that help with that process. You can read more about this Mars Retrograde here.

New Moon Trine Saturn & Quincunx Mars Retrograde

This New Moon is in a tight trine with Saturn in Capricorn which is transitioning out of its retrograde at the end of the month. This can be a good period for operating in a responsible, cautious, orderly, productive, realistic and practical way. However, considering that Saturn is finishing up its backwards motion, these next couple of weeks are generally better for getting things sorted out and prepared as well as perhaps focusing on tasks that you have already been working on.

It is possible that in late September and in early October, we can experience some sort of shift, or change in gears, that can take things into a different direction. Saturn will be in a square with Mars Retrograde at that time, and we may have to contend with limitations and obstacles that can affect how certain things move forward.

This New Moon is also in a quincunx with Mars retrograde which can reflect annoyances, tension, or conflicts that may require adjustments and adaptability. Issues that come up may be at odds with our needs or the way we want to express ourselves. This energy is the strongest on the 19th/20th but can also be more noticeable on the day of the New Moon.

New Moon Square Lunar Nodes, Mercury Square Jupiter

This New Moon is also in a close square to the North Node in Gemini opposing the South Node in Sagittarius. We may be at odds between the past (South Node) and the future (North Node), beliefs (Sagittarius) and facts (Gemini), our immediate aspects of life (Gemini) and the world at large (Sagittarius).

However, the focal point should be the North Node in Gemini and expressions of the South Node in Sagittarius energy should be serving that focal point and not be the emphasis. The rulers of the Nodes, Mercury (Gemini) and Jupiter (Sagittarius) are also in a tight square with each other at the time of this New Moon. This can reflect tension between these two sides and potentially conflicts between ideas, viewpoints, and opinions.

Jupiter is in the limiting Saturnian sign of Capricorn while Mercury is better placed in Libra, the sign of diplomacy, seeking common ground, considering different needs/perspectives, and fairness. Mercury square Jupiter can be good for learning but it can also be excessive when it comes to information and we can more easily be mentally scattered.

Mercury Quincunx Neptune, Then Square Pluto, Saturn & Opposing Mars

Mercury is in a quincunx with Neptune which is strongest on the 18th/19th. This energy makes it harder to integrate or juggle our intuitive, creative, imaginative, compassionate or spiritual expression with our mind, communication, tasks, and thought process. Issues pertaining to lack of boundaries, flakiness, delusion, escapism, intoxication, may come up.

Mercury moves towards a square with Pluto which is strongest on the 20th/21st. Our thoughts and communications can be deep, powerful, penetrating, investigative, raw, real, and potentially intense. This can also reflect obsessive or compulsive behavior, suspicion, fears, anxiety, or conflicts pertaining to power or authority.

Mercury then moves to a square with Saturn (22nd/23rd) followed by an opposition to Mars retrograde (23rd/24th), creating a t-square formation in that time period with the separating Pluto energy (20th/21st, mentioned above) tied into it a bit. This can be a time of obstacles, delays, communication issues, pessimism, and conflicts while we can get more easily irritated or angered. Circumstances may come up that can be pushing us to be more cautious, realistic, or responsible.

This period is the beginning of Mercury’s pre-shadow period in which it will be returning to another square with Saturn. Some of the issues or developments that occur at this time may be connected to things that will play out during the retrograde (October 13th/14th until November 3rd/4th) and weeks surrounding that period. It will also be the Equinox and therefore this energy is imprinted into the following three months in which it can manifest in other ways/areas separate from this initial period.

Making Intentions & Things To Consider

What can you do to be more practical, productive, and efficient? Is there anything you can or should implement to improve your health and functionality? What have the circumstances, developments, or challenges over the last week (leading up to this New Moon) shown you in how you should be applying yourself? Do you need to implement stronger boundaries? Do you need to be more adaptable? Are you clinging to the past or are you willing to take steps to help you grow? What aspects or details of your immediate life, surroundings, or relationships do you need to focus on more and what excesses or broad aspects of your life are getting in the way of that?

These are just some examples of what to consider or focus your intentions on at this time. However, it is good to reflect on anything else that is coming up for you. It is generally best to make any intentions within the first 24 hours following a New Moon. The exact moment it will occur is 11:00am Universal Time on September 17th. You can click here to see what that is in your time zone.

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Consciousness

Why We Get Into Fights When Sharing Information

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We’re in a time when mainstream media and traditional conversations are failing to address a number of important topics within society, anything from current events to politics and so on, and this is birthing a great deal of ‘alternative conversation’ that often stems from alternative media.

But with this, comes to the common ‘fight’ between various ideas and ideologies that is much more avoidable than we often realize. I wanted to share a quick tid bit from a recent episode discussing how we can reflect to develop better communication and connection faculties that can make a big difference in how we communicate important ideas that are emerging without creating such huge divides ad tension.

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