Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Apocalypse - Rob Brezsny

But it’s nothing like the end of the world visualized by any of the usual suspects. It’s different in four ways.


It has been going on for decades and will continue to unfold for many years. Sudden, sensational punctuations arise now and then to expedite it, but for the most part it ferments continuously in the background. Most days bring no emergency that is beyond our capacity to bear, but the cumulative effects of the transfigurations that relentlessly weave themselves into our lives have turned every one of us into heroes whose courageous endurance dwarfs the valor of legends like Gilgamesh, Odysseus, Arthur, and Joan of Arc.


Here’s the most extreme evidence: Few of us have registered the fact that we’re in the midst of the largest mass extinction of life on Earth since the demise of the dinosaurs. This is the conclusion of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, a professional society of 5,000 scientists. Think of it: About 40 animal and plant species are dying off every day–a rate unmatched in 65 million years. Shouldn’t this be a recurring headline on the front page of every major newspaper?

But the work-in-progress that is the apocalypse is not always cloaked. Now and then a riveting event transfixes our collective emotions, driving millions of us deep into a visceral encounter with the ongoing collapse. For a brief interlude, the covert, slow-motion upheaval explodes into plain view. In recent years, no event has done that more dramatically, at least for Americans, than the mass murder on September 11, 2001.


The English word “apocalypse” is derived from the Greek word for “revelation.” In the esoteric spiritual traditions of the West, “apocalypse” has also come to denote a great awakening.

The apocalypse we’re living through can be described by all three meanings of the word: as the end of the world, a revelation, and an awakening. Disintegration and renewal are happening side by side; calamity and fertility; rot and splendor; grievous losses and surges of invigorating novelty. Yes, the death of the old order is proceeding apace; but it’s overlapped by the birth pangs of an as-yet unimaginable new civilization.

The devastation and regeneration often have no apparent link. But in the case of 9-11, they seemed to be meshed. I received many e-mails from people testifying about how the terrorist assault was a weird kind of gift. In the aftermath, their petty worries evaporated and they stopped wasting time on low-priority, dead-end desires. Roused by an electrifying clarity of purpose, they began to live the life they’d previously only fantasized they wanted. And they had direct perceptions–gut-level, intuitive gnosis–that We Are All One.

It’s as if millions of people had a simultaneous Near Death Experience and harvested the epiphanies that typically come to those who have peered over to the other side of the veil.

Here’s another example of catastrophe and regeneration arising from a single set of events, suggested by Caroline Myss in her book Energy Anatomy. China’s invasion and occupation of Tibet in the 1950s resulted in the exile of the Dalai Lama, which ultimately brought that great soul’s influence, along with his elegant brand of Buddhism, to the entire world with a breadth and depth that would never have happened otherwise.


The sweeping but gradual revolution, the agonizing decay of the old order and breathtaking bloom of the new, are framed in the storylines of your most intimate dramas. Again and again over the years, you’re pushed to a brink that challenges you to either rise to the occasion or else surrender to demoralizing chaos. The crises may come in the form of divorce or illness or job loss, or even in less dramatic events like a misunderstanding with a friend or the inexplicable waning of a once-passionate dream.

Seeded inside each of these personal turning points is the crux of the evolving global apocalypse: You get to choose whether you’ll adjust by taking a path that keeps you aligned with the values of the dying world or else a path that helps you resonate with what’s being born. In effect, you get the chance to vote, with your entire life, for which aspect of the apocalypse you want to predominate.

* * * *

The apocalypse is being brought to you by the time you dreamed you signed the Declaration of Independence with your non-dominant hand as you ate fresh Peruvian figs flown to you on the backs of albatrosses.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Amazon Exclusive: A Personal Note from Gary Zukav

I wrote Spiritual Partnership: The Journey to Authentic Power to try to get out of my own cage. I wanted, and needed, to connect with people, not just reach them, but really connect for my own well being and hopefully for theirs as well.

I have learned that the difficult times in my life are not because of other people, they are because of me. They occur because of parts of my personality that are painful to experience. When I am with someone who brings them up in me, that is a painful time, but I know that it is not about the other person when I feel angry or impatient or irritable. It is about me, and so I am intent to use my experiences with others to learn about me so that I can change me because I am really tired of trying to change other people. And not only am I tired of it, I don't want to. It doesn’t feel good. I know deep in me that it is a wrong path for me to take, and I feel that it is a painful path for anyone to take.

Spiritual partnership is a partnership with another person or other people who feel the same way. It is a partnership between equals for the purpose of spiritual growth. So when my spiritual partners and I have difficult interactions, we do not point fingers at each other, we try our best to respond instead of react, and to support one another in doing that also. Spiritual partnership is a new kind of relationship, a different kind of relationship. We do more than talk about hair styles, life styles, car styles, children, and work. We do all those things too but those conversations take on a different meaning. While I am having them, I am noticing what I am feeling. I'm noticing if anything gets triggered in me and if it does, I pay attention to it, especially if I am becoming upset because those are the experiences that keep me from loving. They keep me apart from people.

For a long time I thought that if I could change people enough, and get some that were just right around me, it would be easy to be loving, but it doesn't work like that because everybody has parts of her or his personality that are loving and also parts that are not loving. I would say the not-loving parts are the frightened parts of the personality, the parts that are angry, jealous, vengeful, feel superior, feel inferior, etc. And when these parts become active, and this always happens sooner or later, that's when the learning potential begins. Of course, it also begins when the loving parts come out, the parts that are grateful, patient, appreciative, content, etc. Being a spiritual partner means really wanting to support people because you see when they are in pain how they might learn from their pain, too, if they're open. If they’re open.

My focus is on changing myself because I know that other people can’t change me, but I also know that each of my spiritual partners wants to change himself or herself, too. He wants to find and challenge the painful, destructive parts of his personality and cultivate the constructive, blissful parts of his personality, and so I assist him whenever I think I see that they might be active. I don';t just say "This is what is happening in you, and this is what you ought to do." I ask her if she is open to looking at something that I think I might be seeing. For example, some parts of my personality that I have become very familiar with over years feel superior, entitled, impatient, and don't really care about the needs of others, but not everybody is like that. One of my spiritual partners feels a need to please other people when a frightened part of her personality is active; to see them smile or value her because of what she can do or give. So when I see that part come out in her behaviors and thoughts and attitudes, if she is open I will help her see them. And there are specific ways, very helpful ways that we can assist one another. This book gives them to you.

Once I started this book I kept writing because it felt so good. I love it when creativity begins to flow and I can think of a better way to express something--a story, or a metaphor, or a process. I love that experience of sharing. The more I stretched myself to think, "How can I say this in a way that is not by rote? How can I not take refuge in what I know how to say but really communicate in an even more meaningful way?" the deeper my understanding of spiritual partnership became and the stronger my ability to share it. One idea lead to another, one chapter lead to another, and after a few chapters I began to see an outline for the book, and that outline became WHY, WHAT, HOW, and WHO. That';s how this book unfolded.

There is a saying that people teach what they really need to learn. Doing this in a heart-felt way has worked well for me. I can tell that I am becoming more able to connect with people because to my surprise I have become interested in them. Let me put it this way, I am aware now, much more aware of how important people are to me than I have been in the past. I like hearing their stories. I like hearing what is happening in their lives. For example, Linda Francis, the spiritual partner I live with, and I met a couple on a plane and found them to be wonderful. He told me that he has pancreatic cancer and that he and his wife were going on a cruise to Mexico. When he learned that his illness was terminal, he realized that he could spend his last days in a hospital, but that didn't sound inviting to him. Or he could spend them really living his life, and that invited him. That is what he is doing. What I really like about him is his aliveness, his interest, his interest in me and his excitement for what I am doing. He is as grounded as he is delightful and vibrant. He said, "I am a little afraid of what it will be like to die. I am not sure about that. I know I am going to get sick. I have done my homework on pancreatic cancer. It is an ugly way to die, but I feel so alive and so grateful for every moment." In the little time we were together, I learned about myself as well as about him, but mostly I enjoyed myself and I enjoyed him, and I feel that he enjoyed himself and he enjoyed me.

So those are the kind of experiences that are coming into my life now. And I also know that when it comes to spirituality, I am not special. If I can create authentic power and spiritual partnerships, you can. If I can make the journey from an angry, drug-using, sex-addicted, motorcycle-riding, angry--did I mention angry?--young man to someone who is now enjoying becoming an elder, anyone can. As I began to open my heart up many wonderful role models came into my life over the years, men and women who have opened their hearts or are opening them, and they are still coming. Perhaps I can be one of those role models for you, and you can be one for someone else. We are all opening our hearts, but it is not a matter of opening your heart and, there, that's a done deal. It is a matter of continuing to open your heart moment by moment. This book is about that, and how to do it.


Gary Zukav

It is Through Them

Whenever I catch sight of others,
By thinking, "It is through them,
That I will reach awakening,"
I'll look with sincerity and love.

- Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Great Turning - Joanna Macy