Reaching Into the Universe

Out of town for Integral Spiritual Experience

ISE logoA good friend and I are headed to Pacific Grove for the Integral Spiritual Experience Year 2. Last year's daily schedule was a bit grueling, so I don't expect to be posting until the week after January 2nd.

Grueling or not, last year's first ISE was also the most well designed event I have ever attended. Ever. I'm told that's thanks to the work of Diane Hamilton. Leave it to a Zen master to get something organized.

Happy New Year to all, and see you in 2011!


Performance: Gush

Gush flyerGet ready for Gush: three weekends of dance curated by Joe Goode!

Perhaps you've heard of Goode or even been to one of his shows, such as the well received Traveling Light. I first saw Goode's small experiments in song & dance in 2008 and concluded that I would see anything this man touched.

So, Thursdays through Saturdays, January 13–29th, we have the opportunity to see three different dance companies and Joe Goode Performance Group will be performing each night. Also performing are Ledoh the first week and AXIS Dance Company the second week.

Tickets are $25–30, and the venue website is offering $5 off for advance tickets with coupon code "Gush", valid until 1/12/11.

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Holiday gift: healthcare! from Karma Clinic Network

What better gift than the gift of health? But when was the last time your doctor gave you medical treatment as a gift?

Dr. Aumatma Binal Shah does just that, along with a number of health-related practitioners. I met Aumatma at an Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream Symposium and learned that she was operating a gift-economy health care clinic called Karma Clinic.

What is gift-economy? It's a system where goods and services are given and received as gifts rather than exchanged for other goods and services (as in barter economies) or money (as in market economies). At Karma Clinic, you can receive treatment as a gift, no strings attached. You are welcomed to make a gift to Karma Clinic if you feel moved. The clinic is sustained on these gifts alone.

Since its inception Karma Clinic has expanded into a network, with services ranging from bodywork & yoga to coaching & acupuncture from practitioners located in East Bay, San Francisco, and North Bay. The network model means you can contact any of the practitioners you are interested in directly, rather than having to get a referral from the clinic, and you can see them in various places other than Karma Clinic's Oakland location.

Karma Clinic has also branched out with a Berkeley satellite project. Twice a month Karma Clinic transforms hip eatery Himalayan Flavors into a gift-economy drop in clinic. Not only does this provide more opportunities for clients and patients to see practitioners, it gives practitioners another venue in which to give their services. Many practitioners who aren't in the Karma Clinic network participate in this satellite clinic. To get on the email list to be notified of Karma Clinic dates, send an email

As if all of that wasn't enough to keep a person busy, Aumatma is one of the driving forces bethind Himalayan Flavors' new Ambrosia Juice Bar. With flavors like Pomegrateful and Sweet Date With a Monkey, Aumatma draws on her training as a naturopathic doctor to offer drinks that are both delicious and healthy. But the most unique offerings are the herbal teas. With ingredients ranging from passionflower to astragulus, these look like real medicine, not your average Wild Berry Zinger.

So, eat, drink, and be merry this holiday season... and don't forget to gift yourself with health and good self-care.

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Grandma, the planet, life

GrandmaBoth this and yesterday's post are in honor of my grandma, who died a year ago today.

Last December I had just gotten home from the final day of Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream facilitator training when I received the last call I would ever receive from her. It was to tell me she was in the hospital and not doing well. I drove up to Sacramento that night; less than three weeks later, she died on December 24th, 2009. It was somehow fitting for her, a woman who was so Christian, to pass away so close to Christmas.

The ensuing tumult and long transition—that I'm still making—into a world without her has thus far prevented me from engaging with the ATDCTD symposium the way I had envisioned. My grandma was the most important person on the planet to me. She was the first person after the doctor to hold me when I was born. She was the rock of our family and my ultimate safety net. She was always there for me, and now she's not. I'm getting a helluva ending to my Saturn return and it feels like everything in my life is changing.

I've been empowering the story that this is for the best, that the end of this transition will find me in a better place to fulfill the intent with which I took the facilitator training: to do my part to help heal the planet. My grandma, a Southern Baptist Christian, would understand this as "doing God's will." Above all, that is what she wanted me to do in this world.

I wish she had lived to fully understand and celebrate that with me. Discerning one's call and following it is something to share with those close to you! I did try to talk to her about it, but my own understanding of it all was so new, and my ability to speak about it in ways that made sense to her also new.

In the year or so before she died, we were just beginning to bridge some of the deeper gaps between us as I learned more and more how to translate things into the language of her perspective, how to meet her where she was at, thanks mostly to tools like NVC and Spiral Dynamics. These efforts did result in what was possibly the most wonderfully authentic conversation we ever had. I'm grateful for the things I've learned if only for that single conversation.

My grandma never believed the world would get fundamentally better. She believed in a rather static human condition that would persist until the second coming of Christ. I don't think she believed that the world would continue to exist after that. I don't believe those things, and have mostly chosen to act as though the world can fundamentally improve.

I do not know which opinion is true or false. What I do know is that those who subscribe to a relatively unchanging human condition seem to have given up without really trying. I prefer to take a cue from Robert Anton Wilson's 8th Basic Winner Script which says, "In the province of the mind, what is believed to be true is true, or becomes true within certain limits to be learned by experience and experiment." If the human condition is to be changed dramatically, it will only be done by those who haven't already decided that it's impossible.

Besides, there may be reason to think otherwise. In Ascent of Humanity, Charles Eisenstein traces the entire history of the present human condition and presents a compelling case that separation—from the mind/body split to our addiction to technological control of nature—has been the core mistake humans have been making all along. We've been making it for so long that it almost feels like an unchangeable part of human nature, but that's an assumption worth challenging. What if separation were in fact the root of the global problems we now face? Could we not successfully envision and live into what Eistenstein calls the "Age of Reunion"?

Whether she believed in its possibility or not, my grandma could at least imagine a better world. She died not having seen that better world. Will we have that same experience or a different one? How much effort are you willing to put into seeing a better world before you die—better because you helped create it as such.

The first step is simply to accept that it could be possible. The second is to realize that there's only one way to find out: try. My grandma understood this as in the words of Mother Teresa: "We are not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful." We may not succeed, but we must at least act as if we can.


Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream

When I first heard about the Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream Symposium, I went to the website, decided it didn't look integral enough, and forgot about it… until I heard Lynne Twist, co-founder of the Symposium's parent organization The Pachamama Alliance, speak at the Green Festival.

She inspired me to check it out, and after attending my first symposium I realized that it was good enough, being continually improved, and more importantly it is already here, now. I'm not aware of any fully integral programs for educating and mobilizing the public to solve global issues—yet!—but right now you can search for symposia to attend all over the world!

And while the Symposium is not explicitly integral, they've got the Big Three covered—the program focuses on the interconnections of three crises the globe now faces: spiritual fulfillment (I), economic and social justice (We), and environmental sustainability (It). Not only does the Symposium cover them, it gets that the three arise together and thus these issues are not actually separate issues.

The arc of the Symposium addresses all three as it covers

  1. Where we are now—what do these crises look like?
  2. How we got here—how did they happen?
  3. What's possible—can we change them?
  4. Where do we go from here—how do we make the change?

The intention is to awaken people to the global crisis we all find ourselves in, but more importantly to awaken a sense of themselves as an agent of change in resolving that crisis. In short, you have a role in the global crises that you may not have been aware of and thus a role you can take consciously in undoing them.

What I like most about the Symposium is its shamanic origin. This bears mentioning given recent discussions regarding the importance of shamanism in solving global problems. The Pachamama Alliance was created in response to a call from an indigenous, ayahuasca using tribe in the Amazon. Looking to protect their way of life, the shamans had seen that what needs to change is "the dream of the North", the cultural programming and assumptions that result in the erosion and destruction of our bodies, minds, spirits, communities, and planet. The biggest threat to indigenous populations is US and our unsustainable mindsets, beliefs, practices, and policies. The biggest threat to everybody on the planet, including ourselves, is us.

Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream is about changing that, starting with YOU when you sign up and attend a Symposium.


Perverts Put Out is now taking reservations

horehound stillpointI've mentioned Perverts Put Out before, but haven't written about it specifically. Until now.

What is PPO? It's a kinky, pansexual literary reading. Some of the most perverted things I have ever heard, or heard about, I heard at PPO. It's curated, so the quality of the readings is always high, sometimes stellar. The inimitable Dr. Carol Queen usually co-hosts. And best of all, the best queer San Francisco poet alive today, horehound stillpoint, nearly always reads.

And for the first time I've noticed, they are taking reservations. I don't know what that means, but I suggest that if you think you want to see the next show, RSVP now!

Here is the announcement:

It's time again for...PERVERTS PUT OUT!
Your Happy Effin' New Year Edition!

Saturday, January 8, 2011
7:30 pm
The Center for Sex and Culture
1519 Mission Street
$10-15 sliding scale

Have you recovered from the bumpy ride of 2010 yet? No?
Let Perverts Put Out be your year-end chaser! We'll
kick those holiday blues out the door and ring in the
new year with some of our infamous, patent-pending
blend of dirty words and deep thoughts.

Featuring fabulous folks like Greta Christina,
Gina DeVries, horehound stillpoint, Kirk Read,
Lady Monster, Philip Huang, Sherilyn Connelly,
Hew Wolff, and your effervescent host Simon Sheppard.

P.S. We're taking reservations! Send e-mail to to get your name on the list.

Please feel free to forward and/or  repost.
Keep track of this and other shows  at:

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DADT repeal: overdue

combativesSome Marine says of DADT repeal, "I think if they wanted to change the policy, now was not the right time to do it, if at all."

You're absolutely right, Captain. Now was not the right time, "now" was WAY overdue. It would have been much better to repeal it a long time ago. Heck, it would have been best not to have enacted the policy in the first place.

Unfortunately, your fearless leaders did not do what would be best, or even what would be better. They enacted an unconstitutional policy, and then they dragged their feet on repealing it until almost the absolute last minute, until forced to act by the specter of a federal court ruling that would have set precedents helpful to the gay rights movement.

I will countenance no blame cast on gays and lesbians for any fallout from this situation. If you want someone to blame, you've got politicians from Clinton through today to blame for it. Any trouble the military will have with this transition is the result of not doing things right in the first place, and then being inexcusably slow to correct the situation. As the class of citizens harmed by this policy, it is NOT our fault that those who would harm us have dragged this situation out for so many years.

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What does green really mean?

"Do I see anyone around me whose work is their joy, whose time is their own, whose love is their passion?"

Passion FlowerThis quote from Ascent of Humanity has stuck with me. It would seem to point to a need to go beyond questions of sustainability—after all, many people sustain their dreary work lives for decades or a lifetime—but I think it points to the need to get really clear on just what we mean when we say sustainability.

If green means spiritually fulfilling, physically healthy, economically & socially just, and environmentally sustainable, then don't issues of joy, autonomy, and passion find a place in there somewhere? Because that's the only kind of green I'm interested in.

Here is the full context of the quote:

As for my intuition of magnificent possibilities for my own life, well, my expectations are too high. Grow up, the voices say, life is just like this. What right have I to expect the unreasonable magnificence whose possibility certain moments have shown me? No, it is my intuitions that are not to be trusted. The examples of what life is surround me and define what is normal. Do I see anyone around me whose work is their joy, whose time is their own, whose love is their passion? It can't happen. Be thankful, say the voices, that my job is reasonably stimulating, that I feel "in love" at least once in a while, that the pain is manageable and life's uncertainties under control. Let good enough be good enough. Sure, life can be a drag, but at least I can afford to escape it sometimes. Life is about work, self-discipline, responsibility, but if I get these out of the way quickly and efficiently, I can enjoy vacations, entertainment, weekends, maybe even early retirement. Listening to these voices, is it any wonder that for many years, I devoted most of my energy and vitality to the escapes from life? Is it any wonder that so many of my students at Penn State look forward already, at age 21, to retirement?

Ahh, a man after my own heart.

We can't achieve the desired exterior transformations of sustainability—environmental care, physical health—without also transforming their corresponding interiors: the cultural injustices engaged in by, and bankrupt beliefs held in the hearts and minds of, every single one of us.

Everything has to change: the it, the we, and the me, the you. We cannot effectively call for change in the world "out there" without also changing ourselves and how we relate to one another. It doesn't work, which is a lesson my grandma taught me by never learning it herself.


Let’s get naked

StreakersPerhaps the most glaring piece of ignorance in Lauren Smiley's article Overexposed comes from Smiley herself when she claims that the gay men of the 70s & 80s Castro have by now “grown up, settled down, and had babies.” Actually, Ms. Smiley, most of them died of AIDS.

Eclipsing Ms. Smiley’s offensiveness and insensitivity is her apparent lack of understanding that AIDS was a major factor in how things got to be the way they are today. As a friend of mine, Woody, points out in the online comments on the article, “Without my gay brothers dying, many apartments would not have been available for conversion to TICs or Condos and more men might have been able to fight those forces which evicted them.” This damage was exacerbated by the homophobic politics under Reagan.

Smiley treats the current state of the gayborhood as a given, disconnected from that history—a history of gay struggle in the face of those who would suppress that which is different. Perhaps it is that history, not gay sexuality, that makes the Castro attractive to others who are different.

Perhaps the mostly straight naked men come to the Castro not because they expect that we will enjoy looking at them but because they expect us to know something about the importance of being allowed the freedom of living your life when you’re not harming anyone else even when other people don’t understand or like it. That’s what this issue comes down to: some people just don’t like it. That’s not good enough. If it were, Crocs would be illegal in the Castro by now.

What about the kids? I have as much patience for people who think naked bodies harm children as I do for people who think gay marriage should be illegal because God said it’s a sin. Flawed beliefs backed by emotional irrationality are not a basis for good public policy, no matter how much you want them to be.

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I’m related to this man


But only by marriage 🙂

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