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January 29, 2005

"Through the Light" by Mellen-Thomas Benedict

Dear Friends,
This is so amazing. Read on....
Marianne
-------------------------------------
In 1982 I died from terminal cancer. My condition was non-operable.

I chose not to have chemotherapy. I was given six to eight months to live. Before this time, I had become increasingly despondent over the nuclear crisis, the ecology crisis, and so forth.

I came to believe that nature had made a mistake - that we were probably a cancerous organism on the planet. And that is what eventually killed me. Before my death, I tried all sorts of alternative healing methods. None helped.

So I determined that this was between me and God. I had never really considered God. Neither was I into any kind of spirituality, but my approaching death sent me on a quest for more information about spirituality and alternative healing. I read various religions and philosophies. They gave hope that there was something on the other side.

I had no medical insurance, so my life savings went overnight on tests. Unwilling to drag my family into this, I determined to handle this myself. I ended up in hospice care and was blessed with an angel for my hospice caretaker, whom I will call "Anne." She stayed with me through all that was to follow. It lasted about eighteen months.

THE LIGHT OF GOD

I woke up about 4:30 am and I knew that this was it. I was going to die. I called a few friends and said good-bye. I woke up Anne and made her promise that my dead body would remain undisturbed for six hours, since I had read that all kinds of interesting things happen when you die. I went back to sleep.

The next thing I remember, I was fully aware and standing up. Yet my body was lying in the bed. I seemed to be surrounded by darkness, yet I could see every room in the house, and the roof, and even under the house.

A Light shone; I turned toward it, and was aware of its similarity to what others have described in near-death experiences. It was magnificent and tangible, alluring. I wanted to go towards that Light like I might want to go into my ideal mother's or father's arms. As I moved towards the Light, I knew that if I went into the Light, I would be dead. So I said/felt, "Please wait. I would like to talk to you before I go."

The entire experience halted. I discovered that I was in control of the entire experie

nce. My request was honoured. I had conversations with the Light. That's the best way I can describe it. The Light changed into different figures, like Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, mandalas, archetypal images and signs. I asked in a kind of telepathy, "What is going on here?"

The information transmitted was that our beliefs shape the kind of feedback we receive: If you are a Buddhist or Catholic or Fundamentalist, you get a feedback loop of your own images. I became aware of a Higher Self matrix, a conduit to the Source. We all have a Higher Self, or an oversoul part of our being, a conduit. All Higher Selves are connected as one being, all humans are connected as one being. We are literally the same being. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. It was like all the love you've every wanted, and it was the kind of love that cures, heals, regenerates.

I was ready to go at that time. I said "I am ready, take me." Then the Light turned into the most beautiful thing that I have ever seen: a mandala of human souls on this planet. I saw that we are the most beautiful creations - elegant, exotic . . .everything. I just cannot say enough about how it changed my opinion of human beings in an instant.

I said/thought/felt, "Oh, God, I didn't realize." I was astonished to find that there was no evil in any soul. People may do terrible things out of ignorance and lack, but no soul is evil. What all people seek, what sustains them, is love, the Light told me. What distorts people is a lack of love.

The revelations went on and on. I asked, "Does this mean that humankind will be saved?" Like a trumpet blast with a shower of spiraling lights, the Light "spoke," saying, "You save, redeem and heal yourself. You always have and always will. You were created with the power to do so from before the beginning of the world."

In that instant I realized that WE HAVE ALREADY BEEN SAVED; this is what the "Second Coming" is about. I thanked the Light of God with all my heart. The best thing I could come up with was: "Oh dear God, dear Universe, dear Great Self, I love my Life."

The Light seemed to breathe me in even more deeply, absorbing me. I entered into another realm more profound than the last, and was aware of an enormous stream of Light, vast and full, deep. I asked what it was.

The Light answered, "This is the RIVER OF LIFE. Drink of this manna water to your heart's content." I drank deeply, in ecstasy.

THE VOID OF NOTHINGNESS

Suddenly I seemed to be rocketing away from the planet on this stream of Life. I saw the earth fly away. The solar system, whizzed by and disappeared. I flew through the center of the galaxy, absorbing more knowledge as I went. I learned that this galaxy, and all of the Universe, is bursting with many different varieties of life. I saw many worlds. We are not alone in this Universe.

It seemed as if all the creations in the Universe soared past me and vanished in a speck of Light. Almost immediately, a second Light appeared. As I passed into the second Light, I could perceive forever, beyond Infinity. I was in the Void, pre-Creation, the beginning of time, the first Word or vibration. I rested in the Eye of Creation and it seemed that I touched the Face of God. It was not a religious feeling. I was simply at One with Absolute Life and Consciousness.

It would take me years to assimilate the Void experience. It was less than nothing yet greater than anything. Creation is God exploring God's Self through every way imaginable. Through every piece of hair on your head, through every leaf on every tree, through every atom, God is exploring God's Self. I saw everything as the Self of all. God is here. That's what it is all about.

Everything is made of light; everything is alive.

THE LIGHT OF LOVE

I rode the stream directly into the center of the Light. I felt embraced by the Light as it took me in with its breath again. And the truth was obvious that there is no death; that nothing is born and nothing dies; that we are immortal beings, part of a natural living system that recycles itself endlessly. I was never told that I had to come back. I just knew that I would. It was only natural, from what I had seen.

As I began my return to the life cycle, it never crossed my mind, nor was I told, that I would return to the same body. It did not matter. I had complete trust in the Light and the Life process. As the stream merged with the great Light, I asked never to forget the revelations and the feelings of what I had learned on the other side.

I thought of myself as a human again and I was happy to be that. From what I have seen, I would be happy to be an atom in this universe. An atom. So to be the human part of God ... this is the most fantastic blessing. It is a blessing beyond our wildest estimation of what blessing can be. For each and every one of us to be the human part of this experience is awesome, and magnificent. Each and every one of us, no matter where we are, screwed up or not, is a blessing to the planet, right where we are.

So I went through the reincarnation process expecting to be a baby somewhere. But I reincarnated back into this body. I was so surprised when I opened my eyes, to be back in this body, back in my room with someone looking over me, crying her eyes out. It was "Anne," my hospice caretaker. She had found me dead thirty minutes before.

We do not know how long I was dead, only that she found me thirty minutes before. She had honoured my wish to have my newly-dead body left alone. She can verify that I really was dead. It was not a near-death experience. I believe I probably experienced death itself for at least an hour and a half. When I awakened and saw the light outside. Confused, I tried to get up to go to it, but I fell out of the bed. She heard a loud "clunk", ran in and found me on the floor.

When I recovered, I was surprised and awed about what had happened, I had no memory at first of the experience. I kept slipping out of this world and kept asking, "Am I alive?" This world seemed more like a dream than that one. Within three days, I was feeling normal again, clearer, yet different than ever before. My memories of the journey came back later. But from my return I could find nothing wrong with any human being I had ever seen. Previous to my death I was judgmental, believing that people were really screwed up. Everyone but me.

About three months later a friend said I should get tested for the cancer, so I got the scans and so forth. I felt healthy. I still remember the doctor at the clinic looking at the "before" and "after" scans. He said, "I can find no sign of cancer now."

"A miracle?" I asked.

"No," he answered. These things happen . . . spontaneous remission." He seemed unimpressed. But I was impressed, and knew it was a miracle.

LESSONS LEARNED

The Great Mystery of life has little to do with intelligence. The universe is not an intellectual process. The intellect is helpful; but our hearts are the wiser part of ourselves.

Since my return I have experienced the Light spontaneously, and I have learned how to get to that space almost any time in my meditation. You can also do this. You do not have to die first. You are wired for it already.

The body is the most magnificent Light being there is. The body is a universe of incredible Light. Spirit is not pushing us to dissolve this body. We don't need to commune with God; God is communing with us in every moment.

I asked God: "What is the best religion on the planet? Which one is right?" God said with great love: "I don't care." What an incredible grace. It does not matter what religion we are. Religions come and they go, they change. Buddhism has not been here forever, Catholicism has not been here forever, and they are all about to become more enlightened. More light is coming into all systems now.

Many will resist and fight about it, one religion against the next, believing that only they are right. When Godhead said, "I don't care," I understood that it is for us to care about, because we are the caring beings. The Source does not care if you are Protestant, Buddhist, or Jew. Each is a reflection, a facet of the whole. I wish that all religions would realize it and let each other be. It is not the end of separate religions, but live and let live. Each has a different view. And it all adds up to the big picture.

I went over to the other side with a lot of fears about toxic waste, nuclear missiles, the population explosion, the rain forest. I came back loving every single problem. I love nuclear waste. I love the mushroom cloud; this is the holiest mandala that we have manifested to date, as an archetype. More than any religion or philosophy on earth, that terrible, wonderful cloud brought us together all of a sudden, to a new level of consciousness.

Knowing that maybe we can blow up the planet fifty times, or 500 times, we finally realize that maybe we are all here together now. For a period they had to keep setting off more bombs to get it in to us.Then we started saying, "we do not need this any more." Now we are actually in a safer world than we have ever been in, and it is going to get safer. So I came back loving toxic waste, because it brought us together.

These things are so big.

Clearing of the rain forest will slow down, and in fifty years there will be more trees on the planet than in a long time. If you are into ecology, go for it; you are that part of the system that is becoming aware. Go for it with all your might, but do not be depressed or disheartened. Earth is in the process of domesticating itself and we are cells on that Body.

Population increase is getting very close to the optimal range of energy to cause a shift in consciousness. That shift in consciousness will change politics, money, energy.

What happens when we dream? We are multi-dimensional beings. We can access that through lucid dreaming. In fact, this universe is God's dream. One of the things that I saw is that we humans are a speck on a planet that is a speck in a galaxy that is a speck. Those are giant systems out there, and we are in sort of an average system. But human beings are already legendary throughout the cosmos of consciousness.

The little bitty human being of Earth/Gaia is legendary. One of the things that we are legendary for is dreaming. We are legendary dreamers. In fact, the whole cosmos has been looking for the meaning of life, the meaning of it all. And it was the little dreamer who came up with the best answer ever. We dreamed it up. So dreams are important.

After dying and coming back, I really respect life and death. In our DNA experiments we may have opened the door to a great secret. Soon we will be able to live as long as we want to live in this body. After living 150 years or so, there will be an intuitive soul sense that you will want to change channels. Living forever in one body is not as creative as reincarnation, as transferring energy in this fantastic vortex of energy that we are in. We are actually going to see the wisdom of life and death, and enjoy it. As it is now, we have already been alive forever.

Here's to life! Here's to death! Here's to it all!

Mellen-Thomas Benedict is an artist who survived a near-death experience in 1982.

Dr. Kenneth Ring has said, "His story is one of the most remarkable I have encountered in my extensive research on near-death experiences."

Posted by mwblog at 2:37 PM

January 20, 2005

The Ponds

Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets. My friend Robert sent this to me.

Enjoy ...

Marianne

The Ponds

Every year
the lilies
are so perfect
I can hardly believe

their lapped light crowding
the black,
mid-summer ponds.
Nobody could count all of them --

the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch

only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world
is perfect?

I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided --
and that one wears an orange blight --
and this one is a glossy cheek

half nibbled away --
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
unstoppable decay.

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled --
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing --
that the light is everything -- that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.

~ Mary Oliver ~

(House of Light)

Posted by mwblog at 9:48 AM

January 16, 2005

As we honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dear Friends,

As we honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I share some words about him from my book THE HEALING OF AMERICA. Many of us in our own day are seeking to balance, as he did, our spiritual and political passions.

"On the last Sunday of January 1960, Dr. King resigned from his job as pastor of his Montgomery church. "On that day," wrote his biographer Stephen Oates, "King went from being a preacher with an interest in civil rights to a movement leader with a deep and abiding religious fath." For years, King had struggled with the question of how far the religious person should go, entering into worldly affairs and political dialogue. Ultimately, Dr. King felt he could not be true to his religious calling unless he were to make a stand for political change, for what he saw around him was unjustified and unnecessary human suffering.

Dr. King said: "The gospel at its best deals with the whole man, not only his soul but his body, not only his spiritual well-being, but his material well-being. Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial."


Bodies die, but ideas remain living as long as there are people to love and embrace them. May all of us embrace Dr. King's commitment to a world where love reigns supreme for all humanity. In him, we have a light to guide our way and words to always inspire us. May we heed his legacy, that his ideas might live forever.

May he rest in peace.

Amen

Posted by mwblog at 9:29 PM

January 6, 2005

Where's the Miracle in a Tsunami?

The tsunami brings spiritual questioning to the fore of our consciousness. We grasp for some higher understanding to match the depth of our grief. And we find it.

First there is the Law of Divine Compensation, which purports that no matter what the darkness, God's light is larger. Yet where is the light within such a horrible tragedy as a tidal wave killing over a hundred thousand people?

That light emerges from the incredible outpour of love that followed.

In the days after the tsunami hit, we experienced the love that would literally save the world. It was palpable everywhere, as millions of people hugged their kids a little longer and tighter and more often, having been so tragically reminded that nothing - absolutely nothing - can be taken for granted. Least of all, life itself. Heartbreak opened our emotional floodgates, as true, authentic compassion became the routine rather than the exceptional response to human suffering. The tsunami made us get it. And in that, there was a gift. The specter of death had taught us the value of life.

With the tsunami, we were suddenly jolted back to our right minds -- where the ultimately meaningless preoccupations that normally dominate our lives were pushed to the background where they belong. What loomed large was love itself. And ever since, we have been freer. Freer of the forgetfulness, the distraction, the petty arguments, the insignificant pain. For pain of true significance and horrifying meaning had landed in our midst, and had etched its message on our hearts forever.

It is said in A Course in Miracles that God has a plan to every problem the moment it occurs. And what, I have asked myself, was God's plan at the moment the tsunami hit?

His plan, I believe, is that each of us become someone fundamentally different, someone capable of wisdom, insight and compassion and intelligence beyond what we have displayed before. For there are lovers, and there are commited lovers. We have loved the world in a non-commited way, and now we are being challenged to change that. The tsunami is not the only example of huge amounts of human suffering. Are we commited enough to admit that?

I have wondered what makes humanity so selective in its capacity to discern catastrophe. Yes indeed last month's tsunami was a catastrophe, and the world's concerted effort to serve the suffering has been both commendable and appropriate. Yet such collective and concerted compassion is not just called for in the face of one isolated tragedy; it is the only authentic, righteous way of life on any given day. The hard and painful truth is this: for millions of people living on this planet, every day is a catastrophe. From AIDS victims in Africa, to citizens of the Sudan caught in the struggle of their civil war-- and yes, to both soldiers and civilians in Iraq - life itself has become catastrophic. Where is our concerted knowing, our collective response, our deep grief for those who suffer through experiences that are just as catastrophic as the tsunami yet more convenient to ignore?

Those who died in last month's tsunami did not die in vain. For in their dying they helped to awaken a distracted and slumbering humanity (what symbolism, that the tsunami hit while we were literally on vacation). The only hope for the future of the world is that humanity will experience a change of heart; that we will awaken to the sanctity and fragility of life; and we will dedicate ourselves -- as we are dedicating ourselves now to the tsunami's victims -- to all who suffer and grieve and so need our aid.

And thus the miracle, if we choose it: that death itself can bring forth a greater life.

Marianne Williamson
Jan. 06, 2005

Posted by Marianne at 5:26 PM

From Your Plan to God's Plan

Excerpt from The Gift of Change

An underground revolution is sweeping the hearts and minds of the people of the world, and it is happening despite the wars and terror that confront us. This revolution is a fundamental change of worldview, and it carries with it the potential to reorganize the structure of human civilization. It brings a basic shift in the thoughts that dominate the world. It wages a peace that will end all war. It is a global phenomenon that will change the cellular structure of the human race. To those who are part of it, who feel called to it, its reality is a growing if not obvious truth. To still others, it’s a lofty but ridiculous notion, a preposterous and silly idea.

Yet no social revolution of any import emerged because everybody woke up one day saying, “I get it! I get it!”Such revolutions emerged instead from what anthropologist Margaret Mead described as “a small group of concerned citizens.”Not only are such groups capable of changing the world, according to Mead, but in fact, they’re the only thing that ever has. And they are doing it now.

A spiritually attuned counterculture is already in our midst. It is marked not by clothes or music, drugs or sex, as was the counterculture of the sixties, but by the internal attitudes of those who perceive it. They make suggestions and comments that are just a little bit wiser; they bring new insights into areas previously locked down by the status quo. They see some star in the sky that not everyone is seeing. And in their presence, we start to see it too.

Signing Up for Duty

We sign up for duty, for participation in this revolution, through a sincere desire to be used by something larger than ourselves, for the purpose of healing the world. It doesn’t even matter if we don’t call that “something larger”by the name of God. For some people conspire with God who do not yet believe in Him.* It is ultimately not our belief but our experience that matters.* God has no ego by which to be insulted if we do not get His name right.

But whatever name we call Him, we come to realize that we are the army, but He is in charge. He cannot use us to change the world deeply until first we have been changed by Him. To surrender the world to Him, first we must surrender ourselves.

The change begins with a shift in the lens through which we perceive the world. It grows within us to affect not only our own lives, but also the lives of those around us. It leads us to connect with others who are similarly undergoing a transformation of their ego structures, from an old perspective to something new. And through our individual and collective efforts, divinely inspired, we will turn the world around in time. Just when we thought all hope was ended, hope will reappear.

For those of us who are cynical; for those of us who are too tired now; for those of us who are weary of the way things always go; for those of us who used to care but are too busy now just trying to get by, there is a change afoot. It begins in the heart. And as it rises to the surface, it will change all things.

Imagine that god has asked you if He could use your hands and feet, to go where He would have you go and do what He would have you do.

Imagine that God has asked you if He could use your mouth, to say what He would have you say and to whom.

Imagine these things because He has.

“Many are called, but few are chosen” means that everyone is called but few care to listen.* The call goes out to all of us, all the time. None of us has more or less capacity for contributing to the salvation of the world.

Choosing to serve God, we are choosing the path toward God’s greatness within us. When we see people who are clearly letting the spirit work through them—who have found their genius, their power, their passion—we are not seeing some special force at work that chose them over others. The power did not choose them so much as they chose it.

Those among us who have achieved the most have achieved only a fraction of what all of us are capable of.* The “gifts of the Holy Spirit”are waiting for all of us, when our lives are dedicated to God’s plan.

Every morning, we have a choice: Will I seek out God’s plan today, or will I go about my day as a slave to my ego’s agenda? To choose God’s plan is to choose the option with the best opportunity for turning your life into a conduit for the miraculous. As soon as we start asking Him how we can help with His plan, rather than just asking Him to help with our plans, everything will be better for everyone.

We’re here to be teachers of God—that is, those who demonstrate love. God has a plan for the salvation of the world, called “the plan for the teachers of God.”* His teachers come from all religions and no religion.* There is nothing to sign up for, no worldly organization or institution to belong to. It simply refers to a stirring in the heart, which then activates an internal guidance system already present within us. If we askhow to help, He will show us how to help.

While there are hate-filled people planning ways to sow violence and destruction on earth, God has a blueprint for creating peace on earth. It’s not a physical blueprint, but rather a plan that exists in His Mind, pieces of it ready to be downloaded into the mind of anyone who asks to receive his or her part. Each of us carries maximal potential to be used by God to heal the world.

He has a plan. And it cannot not work.

~Excerpt From The Gift of Change by Marianne Williamson (pg 199-202) Click here to order now.

Posted by mwblog at 1:56 PM

From Your Plan to God's Plan

Excerpt from The Gift of Change

An underground revolution is sweeping the hearts and minds of the people of the world, and it is happening despite the wars and terror that confront us. This revolution is a fundamental change of worldview, and it carries with it the potential to reorganize the structure of human civilization. It brings a basic shift in the thoughts that dominate the world. It wages a peace that will end all war. It is a global phenomenon that will change the cellular structure of the human race. To those who are part of it, who feel called to it, its reality is a growing if not obvious truth. To still others, it’s a lofty but ridiculous notion, a preposterous and silly idea.

Yet no social revolution of any import emerged because everybody woke up one day saying, “I get it! I get it!”Such revolutions emerged instead from what anthropologist Margaret Mead described as “a small group of concerned citizens.”Not only are such groups capable of changing the world, according to Mead, but in fact, they’re the only thing that ever has. And they are doing it now.

A spiritually attuned counterculture is already in our midst. It is marked not by clothes or music, drugs or sex, as was the counterculture of the sixties, but by the internal attitudes of those who perceive it. They make suggestions and comments that are just a little bit wiser; they bring new insights into areas previously locked down by the status quo. They see some star in the sky that not everyone is seeing. And in their presence, we start to see it too.

Signing Up for Duty

We sign up for duty, for participation in this revolution, through a sincere desire to be used by something larger than ourselves, for the purpose of healing the world. It doesn’t even matter if we don’t call that “something larger”by the name of God. For some people conspire with God who do not yet believe in Him.* It is ultimately not our belief but our experience that matters.* God has no ego by which to be insulted if we do not get His name right.

But whatever name we call Him, we come to realize that we are the army, but He is in charge. He cannot use us to change the world deeply until first we have been changed by Him. To surrender the world to Him, first we must surrender ourselves.

The change begins with a shift in the lens through which we perceive the world. It grows within us to affect not only our own lives, but also the lives of those around us. It leads us to connect with others who are similarly undergoing a transformation of their ego structures, from an old perspective to something new. And through our individual and collective efforts, divinely inspired, we will turn the world around in time. Just when we thought all hope was ended, hope will reappear.

For those of us who are cynical; for those of us who are too tired now; for those of us who are weary of the way things always go; for those of us who used to care but are too busy now just trying to get by, there is a change afoot. It begins in the heart. And as it rises to the surface, it will change all things.

Imagine that god has asked you if He could use your hands and feet, to go where He would have you go and do what He would have you do.

Imagine that God has asked you if He could use your mouth, to say what He would have you say and to whom.

Imagine these things because He has.

“Many are called, but few are chosen” means that everyone is called but few care to listen.* The call goes out to all of us, all the time. None of us has more or less capacity for contributing to the salvation of the world.

Choosing to serve God, we are choosing the path toward God’s greatness within us. When we see people who are clearly letting the spirit work through them—who have found their genius, their power, their passion—we are not seeing some special force at work that chose them over others. The power did not choose them so much as they chose it.

Those among us who have achieved the most have achieved only a fraction of what all of us are capable of.* The “gifts of the Holy Spirit”are waiting for all of us, when our lives are dedicated to God’s plan.

Every morning, we have a choice: Will I seek out God’s plan today, or will I go about my day as a slave to my ego’s agenda? To choose God’s plan is to choose the option with the best opportunity for turning your life into a conduit for the miraculous. As soon as we start asking Him how we can help with His plan, rather than just asking Him to help with our plans, everything will be better for everyone.

We’re here to be teachers of God—that is, those who demonstrate love. God has a plan for the salvation of the world, called “the plan for the teachers of God.”* His teachers come from all religions and no religion.* There is nothing to sign up for, no worldly organization or institution to belong to. It simply refers to a stirring in the heart, which then activates an internal guidance system already present within us. If we askhow to help, He will show us how to help.

While there are hate-filled people planning ways to sow violence and destruction on earth, God has a blueprint for creating peace on earth. It’s not a physical blueprint, but rather a plan that exists in His Mind, pieces of it ready to be downloaded into the mind of anyone who asks to receive his or her part. Each of us carries maximal potential to be used by God to heal the world.

He has a plan. And it cannot not work.

~Excerpt From The Gift of Change by Marianne Williamson (pg 199-202) Click here to order now.

Posted by mwblog at 1:56 PM

January 4, 2005

A New Year's Reflection by David Spangler

Dear Friends,

This piece is by my friend and colleague David Spangler. His work has enriched my life for years ...

Marianne


Now and Then
A New Year's Reflection by David Spangler

janus.gif

New Year is that time when we look back in retrospection and evaluation of where we have been and forward in hope and anticipation of where we may be going. This two-fold vision is reflected in the name of the new month, January, for Janus was a two-faced god, the god of portals and thresholds, of coming in and going out, of past and future held simultaneously in a single, encompassing perspective.

Standing between old and new years, between what has been and what could be, we form our resolutions for the future in a spirit of possibility and potential. Why make New Year's resolutions if there is no hope of change at all? If the past is a momentum that is impervious to transformation, why bother?

At New Year's we celebrate the sense that we can step outside of the normal flow of time, touch a creative and visionary source within us, and shape the world afresh. But this hopefulness is not confined just to some brief moment somewhere between December 31st and January 1st. It is, in fact, a characteristic of any threshold moment, such as a birthday or an anniversary. And if we pay attention to such things, we can find that presence of potential and transformation, new birth and new beginnings, available to us each moment. It only takes a shift of perspective to realize that this moment, as the old saying goes, is the beginning of the rest of our lives. Who is to say that that beginning cannot take us in a wholly new direction?

I experience the power to make this shift from being embedded not in an eternal Now but in a flow of time. It comes from being Janus-like, paying attention to past and future. Rather than limiting or binding me, I see this flow as something that informs and energizes me, generating a creative and liberating energy. It seems to me the power and presence of my soul is found in time, rather than outside of it.

There is a spiritual teaching—technique might be a better word—which says we should live in the present moment. We should hold our consciousness in the midst of an "eternal Now." Of course, in one way, this is obvious. What other moment can we live in except in the present? But one can ask, what is the present? How long does it last? Is it a minute long? A second? A nanosecond? We are all familiar with the subjective expansion and contraction of time. If I am happy and doing something that I enjoy, the present goes by so much more quickly than if I am engaged in boring drudgery or in an unpleasant situation. I am convinced that eternity exists in a dentist's waiting room where the present seems to extend itself endlessly, while perversely that same present collapses itself into the shortest possible package when I am happily with a dear friend.

Just when does Now become Then or Then become Now?

The Problem of the "Eternal Now"

I have always found the teaching or technique of the eternal Now problematic. Like many such ideas, I find it can have unintended consequences. It sounds so sensible and intuitive, the "spiritual" thing to do. Yet, when I practice this state, drawing my attention away form anything having to do with yesterday or tomorrow and being fully focused upon what is happening in the present, I find a diminishing of my creative and spiritual powers. I feel narrowed, not expanded. My soul seems further away to me, less rather than more accessible. The "eternal Now" disempowers me.

This is cause for exploration. What is happening here? Of course, it could be something as simple as that I am doing the exercise wrong! I may be missing some crucial ingredient that would turn the experience around for me. At the same time, though, I have often found over the years that some aspects of spirit are counter-intuitive. For example, I have found that I can often experience my soul more powerfully in the midst of specificity and particulateness than in a consciousness of universality and that the sacred can feel closer to me in the ordinariness of daily life than in states of meditation.

A good friend of mine, Caroline Myss, says that one reason people do not heal from illnesses is that their energy and attention are locked up in the past. They are constantly rehearsing their biographies rather than experiencing their lives in the present. Others say that one of the reasons we experience so much tension and stress in our lives that prevents us from accessing the blessings of spirit is because we worry and think too much about the future.

I believe both these observations are true. I have seen this phenomenon myself in working with people, and I have experienced it within myself. But, I wonder, are we really dealing with time here or with something else. Is it the past or the future that are at fault?

It seems to me that what binds us in these limiting and disempowering ways is not time itself but something I might call "imaginal time."

Imaginal Time

The past exists for me as memory. Numerous studies have proven over and over just how unreliable memory can be, especially if the event being remembered was unfamiliar or occurred under stressful conditions. Even listening to a married couple discuss past events can show how differently individuals remember the same events. The memories are imaginal reconstructions.

We find this phenomenon most dramatically revealed in the form of false or manufactured memories, such as with people who "remember," often in great detail, physical abuse that never actually happened to them. (Of course, such memories may not be "false" at all but "borrowed," taken on psychically from someone else or even from an earlier lifetime, and molded to fit into the subject's own biographical history. This can represent a working out of traumatic energy through being a "surrogate sufferer," but that is a whole other story. And it is just as likely in a given instance that the memories truly are false, woven from something other than real life experience.)

Such imaginal construction is even more apparent when dealing with the "Then" of the future. If I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow, I have no idea what may happen during that time. I may have a good idea based on past experiences and my overall sense of health, but if I say that this or that will happen, that the appointment will be short or long, and so forth, I am really just imagining. Anything could happen. I might unexpectedly even be whisked directly from the doctor's office to the emergency room of a hospital, something that happened to a friend many years ago when a routine examination discovered a life-threatening heart condition that she knew nothing about.

So there is an imaginal past and an imaginal future. On the occasion when I may advise someone to "stop living in the past" or to "stop worrying about the future," it is this imaginal state to which I am referring. I am asking that person to stop living in his or her imagination of the past or future—his or her thoughts about what happened or what might happen.

Time as Narrative

This imaginal past and future actually have very little to do with time per se, except as clock and calendar time provides a structure for the imagination. Imaginal time has more to do with our sense of ourselves, our sense of who we are, our boundaries, our vulnerability, our power, our meaningfulness. It is often constructed in a narrative form, looking less like the formal entries in a log and more like the arc of dramatic events in a novel. When we say, "This happened to me," we are usually not simply reporting on an event the way a disinterested and objective witness might do. Instead, we are living through and describing a story in which we are the main characters.

Thus, if I worry about what the doctor may find during my appointment tomorrow, I am not thinking about the future as a temporal phenomenon so much as I am thinking about how the story arc of my life is going to unfold in the next scene. The dramatic power of narrative gives this imagination a "stickiness" or a compulsion that is very different from a simple report. "Tomorrow, at 3 p.m., I see the doctor," does not carry the same enthralling power as "Tomorrow, I see the doctor. Omigosh, I wonder what she'll find when she examines me? I think I'm ok, but what if something is wrong I don't know about? What if I end up in the hospital?"

I'm being overly dramatic here and belaboring what may seem to be a simple point. But the difference between past and future on the one hand and a narrative arc on the other, some scenes of which occur in the past while other scenes occur in the future, is real and has consequences upon our consciousnesses. The narrative arc has a power to attract and hold our attention. It captivates the personality, which, after all, is the part of us most concerned with and immersed in the roles we are playing. One reason it is so alluring and compelling is that the narrative arc provides definition; it can tell us who we are, or at least whom we are as characters in our own stories. This is extraordinarily attractive and powerful. We can see this by the ways in which people will hold on to painful memories and fears of the future—memories and fears that cripple their creativity, their relationships, their sense of worth—rather than surrender the narrative arc that contextualizes these psychological elements and provides self-definition.

Living in the present does not necessarily free us from this inner narration. The story we tell ourselves can be just as compelling as a one-act play as a three-act one involving past and future. It is howwe live in the present that makes the difference.

I can actually live in the moment quite easily if I choose not to think or concern myself about causes and consequences. Like a child, I can just take what comes, without attempting to evaluate or interpret it. This way of living can certainly reduce tension. I need not be troubled by the past; I need not worry about the future. But this present is just as imaginal as what I may have experienced before. To say that there is only the present and that past and future do not exist or have no part to play in my life is as much a story, as much an interpretation of life, as to say that either past or future have the power to completely rule and shape my life.

I do not find cutting off past or future is a way to live in an eternal Now. Time, to me, is not something that can be amputated in this manner. It would be like cutting off my right and left arms so I can be more centered and aligned in my torso. In both instances, I lose part of my capacity to engage with my world.

Time as Ecology

Time is less like a river to me, flowing from the future into the past. It is more like an ecology, a living wholeness filled with interconnections and symbiotic relationships (as well as parasitic ones!). In this sense, living in the "eternal Now" is a capacity to engage that wholeness. It is to inhabit the whole ecology, not just parts of it. Then time becomes a creative ally, an invocation of our creative spirit.

What brings me to the experience of an "eternal Now" is not a mental decision to ignore past and future nor is it the product of a meditative technique. It is love that works for me, a love for the whole ecology of time. It is an embracing of the past, present and future with love as three aspects of a deeper mystery of being.

To love the ecology of time in this way means seeing it as more than a prop or a setting for my self-defining narratives. It means seeing it as a presence. What do I mean by this? What is this like?

Well, let us go back to considering the New Year's ritual of making resolutions. This may seem like an empty or silly ritual, since common wisdom tells us that such resolutions are hardly ever kept (though I don't know if anyone has ever done a scientific study of the efficacy and duration of New Year's resolutions to support that common wisdom!). But for a moment at least, when we think about such declarations of change, we may feel, as I said earlier, that they are possible. We may feel for a moment a power that lets us inhabit time not as a victim but as a co-creative partner, that past and future can work with us as allies. The one supplies momentum, experience, wisdom, while the other brings possibility, potential, inspiration, and the evocation of emergence. The past is a storehouse of riches while the future is a mall filled with stores where such riches can be spent!

In those magical moments when I succeed in touching and merging with my soul and its perspective, time collapses for me. It does not collapse so much into an "eternal Now" as much as into a co-creative relationship, into a field of generative wisdom, power, and the delight of discovery. In this field, what we think of as past, present and future are all equally capable of changing and transforming. This field deepens the vitality, the life, and the emergent qualities of the whole ecology of time, not just one part of it.

At such moments, I don't feel removed from time but more deeply in it, more fully and creatively engaged with it. It can feel "timeless" in the same sense that it can feel timeless when I am doing something I truly love and enjoy that engages me creatively on many levels of my being. But I think it is more accurate to call this a state of love and engagement than a state of timelessness. I am more present, to be sure, but I am present across the whole spectrum of time rather than just in that ambiguous slice of it I call the "present." The past ceases to be just something I "remember" and the future is not something I "predict" or "imagine." They become sources of gifts and energy. They become part of the vitality, part of the metabolism, of creative incarnation. In an ecology of time, they become like the fertility of the soil or the richness of the biodiversity, all of which enhance the life that is and the possibilities of new life emerging.

Beyond the Paths

My personal narrative arc is like a path through the landscape and ecology of time. It divides the land up and restricts where I can go and what I can do. Not that a path cannot be useful, but there is a difference between walking a path and inhabiting a terrain. But standing still in an "eternal Now'" that turns that path into one of those "scenic overlooks" one finds in National Parks (life as a succession of Kodak moments!) is not the same as inhabiting the terrain either.

The way out of time, I have found, is paradoxically by going into time, embracing it creatively and holistically. The way out of my self-defining and often self-limiting narrative arc is not to shrink the stage and eliminate the number of scenes but to expand both. Then I am on more stages and in more narratives than I was before. I go beyond my own story to participate in the stories that fill the world around me.

Inhabiting the whole ecology of time gives me a broader perspective of my own past and future. The path of my narrative arc usually takes me past a few, familiar memories and a few specific worries and images about the future. But my past is made up of more than just a few events strung like exhibits along a nature walk, each bearing its label: "This is when I broke my leg." "This is when I entered college." "This is when I met my wife." But my past is also made up of small growths way off the beaten path of my memories.

If I have a narrative arc that tells me I am a failure, and I arrange my ecological exhibits so I see all the events of failure as I walk down memory lane, then that past will only confirm my failings. Chances are it will project into my future as well: once a failure, always a failure. But I have not always failed. Way off in a corner of my ecology is a plant that grew from a successful paper I once wrote. Over there is a tiny animal that embodies a time when I successfully helped a person. There is a clump of bushes that arose when I went beyond my shyness and asked a girl out for a date and we had a good time together. There may be hundreds of such places in my ecology, memories and events that I don't look at or look for because I feel bound to walk the same old path through my history. But if I stepped into the whole terrain of time, I can find these nourishing plants and creatures and from them gain a whole different perspective on myself. I may even construct a new narrative, or at least not be so bound by the old one.

Time as Formative Force

If I think of the past as a field of energy, then it is not dead and gone but very much alive right now. And it is a dynamic field, one that is constantly evolving and changing. The fact is that my memories do not define nor limit my past. The past is not a record of historical events but a rich ferment of energies and consequences that are dynamic and unfinished in nature. The past is a formative force. I can bind this force about with selected memories that support my particular narrative interpretation of my life and force it to act within certain constraints. But if I just sit with my past as a presence without attempting to remember specific events or attempting to tell my self particular autobiographical histories, I find myself in the company of a powerful living energy, one that offers itself as my ally in shaping my life and personhood.

I think of the past as a creative force in my life, something much more than memories. The future likewise is an evocative force, inviting me towards more possibilities than my usual narrative arc may perceive or admit. If I think of the future as a field of generative energy as well, then it is very present, not as prophecy or a foretelling of events but as an open space inviting me to fill it. The past whispers in my ear, "This is that from which you are forming yourself," but the future says, "This is what waits for you to form it. This is what helps you explore what it means to be a dreamer of visions and a shaper of worlds."

In both cases, past and future become allies to the potentials and potencies within me. They enable me to see myself as a formative force within the world.

Now and Then

Janus, who gives his name and potentials to the first month of our new year, stands at the threshold between an ending and a beginning, a past and a future. But he does not close the door to either, insisting that only the narrow strip of the threshold itself has reality or power. He flings the doors open, looking in both directions, inviting a relationship, a blending, between them. He is a catalyst that brings the formative forces of past and future together like reagents in a transforming alchemical reaction. He is a guardian of the ecology of time that can yield more treasures in its wholeness than it can as a particular fragment. In this he is a symbol of the soul in all its creativity and coherence, its unity and power. He is the soul not in its timelessness but in its timefulness.

May the blessings of Janus be with you this year and usher you not just into an eternal Now but into an eternal Now and Then.

More David Spangler website
Copyright 2004 David Spangler

Posted by Marianne at 4:29 PM

January 3, 2005

Tomb Time ... a poem

This poem was written by a friend


Tomb Time

Go to hell, sphere of fear
that surrounds the light within me.
I must retain my bravery
to unlearn
so I can truly know
the process of purification
dissolving everything but love
from my mind.
Go to healing, my heart,
my hurt is showing.
The ego has done its damage,
only the Spirit penetrating deeply
can be the medicine I need
in the form of mercy,
honing me to humility
to teach me
the beauty of the sky after the storm.


Gordon Neumann
1/4/2005

Posted by Marianne at 8:54 AM