Posted by: Michael George Daniel | November 12, 2007

Modern Mystic

About a year ago, I started developing a workshop meant to be offered to the community. The workshop was called Wake Up! Lifenergy Workshop. The name simply came to me and I used it. I didn’t think too much about what it meant until sometime later. Thinking about it, and reflecting on the impetus for my own personal journey, helped me to perhaps understand what it was that my intuition and instinct were telling me. Having had a rather profound experience of waking up myself, I came to belief that in general, people in our American culture are asleep. This is certainly true for other cultures, to some extent or another, for the tribal instinct goes deep, but my experience is American. The nature of this sleep that I experienced personally and therefore projected on to everyone else has to do with our deep consumeristic conditioning. At the age of forty-five, the natural questions about ‘is this all there is’ and ‘what is the meaning of my life’ appeared with a vengeance. I feel fortunate to have been reading folks like Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson and Neale Donald Walsch. I discovered Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Moreover, there was some books quite specific to the changes that I was innately feeling. One was The Seasons of a Man’s Life by Daniel J. Levinson, the other a classic, The Road Less Traveled by M. Scot Peck, M.D., and finally, Peter Block’s book The Answer to How is Yes.

If it was Levinson, Peck and Dyer that helped me see the conditionings driving me, it was Block that helped me do something about it. His book taught me a very simple lesson. It undid something that had been with me for as long as I tried to make a living in the so-called business world. In corporate America, I had been called ‘idealistic’. At the time, being young and naive, I had thought this a liability. Beneath this initial reaction lived generations of conditioning about how one is supposed to get along, what one needs to do to make a living, to have security, to be successful. In the corporate business world, idealism did not belong, pragmatism did. But Block suggested something different, that idealism was an asset. This was an amazing shift for me. As I learned about intention from Dyer and aligning my values with my life from Csikszentmihalyi, I started to see my idealism as something that couldn’t be ignored if I wanted to improve the congruence of my life. If I wanted my energetic output to have coherence; working for things that had deep meaning and value for me as an individual and not what the rest of the world, my family or my peers told me. And Block went a step further. He points out our rational basis for all that we do, the need to understand how something is going to work, before we act on it. His point, that if it is important, we have to act. We can’t wait to see the whole process laid out before, we can’t expect guarantees, we can’t assume we will know how we are going to get from A to B. We must simply begin. And so I did. That was two years ago, when this consulting firm was formed, and more importantly, when I myself began to form. It is not about the corporate entity, I have only too recently begun to realize, it is about who I am, and what I choose to do with my life energy.

So Wake Up! Lifenergy workshops start out as a realization about the degree to which many of us are asleep to deeper values. These values, come to find out, at least for me, relate to what is going on in the world like war, violence, hunger, poverty, environmental degradation and injustice. I began to tap vast reservoirs of energy. It is this sense that helped me intuitively coin the phrase ‘Lifenergy’.

But these workshops, given for free for several months at the local bookstore, changed over time. I was soon introduced to Hank Wesselman’s books, SpiritWalker, Visionseeker and Medicinemaker. These books chronicle Wesselman’s journey into shamanism, from the persona of an academic anthropologist to someone he termed, a Modern Mystic. In Medicinemaker, Wesselman describes his awareness of a growing segment of the population concerned with justice and ecology. His lengthy description of the characteristics of a Modern Mystic are summaraized here:

· Not affiliated with organized religions, nor are they associated with cultlike groups.

· Tend to gather in temporary local meetings and workshops in which they network with each other an acquire information and experience about such esoteric and practically useful subjects as chi kung, Reiki, psychic healing, hypnotherapy, an shamanism, to name a few.

· Disperse back into the wider society, where they utilize what they have learned to benefit themselves, their families, and their communities.

· Of vital importance to the well-being of Western society.

· Possess a strong sense of social justice and are deeply concerned about the quality of human life at all levels, both nationally and internationally.

· Strong support for women’s issues

· Concerned with the safety and well-being of children and the elderly

· See human relationships as clearly more important than material gain.

· Social tolerance, personal individualism, and spiritual freedom are highly valued ideals

· Rebuilding of neighborhoods, communities and families are major areas of concern.

· Clear understanding of the importance of physical, mental, and spiritual balance and harmony.

· Value simple, natural living as a high ideal

· Well-informed and environmentally savvy.

· Active, almost ritual respect for nature.

· Express a deep concern for the survival of the environment and, by association, ourselves.

· View shamanism as a potential means for increasing awareness of our intimate relationships with nature and reversing the progressively devastating trends of industrialized humanity.

· All are seriously concerned with stopping corporate polluters, with reversing greenhouse warming, and with discovering the limits to short-term growth so that we can achieve the ling-term ecological sustainability upon which the future of humanity depends.

· Understand that everything and everyone is part of a pattern and thus interconnected.

· Deeply committed to achieving the direct, personal transformative experience of the sacred: it is really this that defines them as mystics.

· Believe in the existence of more than one level of reality.

· Believe in non-ordinary realities, the subjective dream world or spirit works, where the laws of physics and cause and effect may not work in the same way.

· That some individual have the ability to enter or journey into these alternate realities to accomplish certain things and gain help, direction, and knowledge from the inner sources of wisdom and/or spiritual entities that reside there-a belief that reveals why shamanism is a major area of interest.

· Shaman’s time-tested methods for achieving altered states of consciousness can be learned and practiced, even by nontribal Westerners in contrast to the years of rigorous training often required in many of the contemplative disciplines.

· Belief in the existence of spirit helpers and spirit teachers, who, in turn, are thought to provide the seeker with power and knowledge, protection and support, that one cannot access on one’s own.

· Profess belief in some form of universal, godlike consciousness, and Jesus of Nazareth is seen as an important teacher, whether or not the seeker is actively Christian.

· Spiritual or mystical power, is an invisible essence of force that pervades everything in the universe and that can be highly concentrated in certain places, objects, and living beings: is analogous to the mana of Polynesians, the chi of the Asiatic peoples, the num of the !Kung San, and the Force of Obi Wan Kenobi.

· Understand that everyone can learn how to access, accumulate, and focus this power, and that one’s health, well-being, and success in life are all dependent on being able to increase and maintain one’s personal supply of it.

· Belief in a personal energy body – the aspect of the self that carries this power as life force and which provides the etheric pattern around which the physical body is formed.

· Some psychics and traditional healers can manipulate the energy body, seen as crucial in accomplishing healing, a skill that many in the modern mystical movement have personally experienced.

· It is believed that this personal energetic aspect can be perceived by some as an aura, and that it can be enhanced through the energy centers that Eastern thought calls the chakras, or meridians.

· Feel a genuine distance from and disaffection for Western allopathic medicine.

· Express strong interest in alternative health care strategies, including meditation as well as shamanic, holistic, Ayurvedic, and herbalist healing techniques, to name only a few. Most see these strategies as adjunct to, rather than as replacements for, Western medicine.

This list also parallels a concept called Cultural Creatives from a book by the same name written by Paul Ray and Sherrie Ruth Anderson. The description of a Modern Mystic spoke deeply to me. The Modern Mystic Workshop was born. We have been developing them since. From the earliest days, I also discovered Andrew Cohen’s work as it is available through the website, What is Enlightenment? Many of the articles have provided important guidance and learning in terms of how to frame these ideals of mine. It was never enough to look at energy, efficiency or renewable sources, by themselves. It was never enough to see the broader social and economic frames the energy issues resides in. It was never enough to study spirituality, get religion or learn meditation. So the lens through which I viewed this journey of mine kept pulling back. I felt like I was getting somewhere when I read, on Cohen’s website, articles about evolutionary spirituality and authored by people like Tom Huston or featuring interviews with or the ideas of Brian Swimme. In addition to pulling far enough back to view the entire universe, these ideas encompass the whole history of it, as well as give us a platform for projecting forward. Where is it all going? The result is a grounding in a purpose, an essence of the universe. One man’s definition of spirituality. It is only with the perspective that we can begin to tackle the more earthly issues.

From the beginning of Lifenergy Workshops, this history of the universe perspective was deemed necessary. I did several readings from articles on What is Enlightenment. One of the themes that emerges in some of these articles is a personal perspective offered by the author in context with the subject of the article. This resonated with my own efforts to write more about this inspiration, the energy driving me forward. To write to sort out the jumble of thoughts in my head, the mixture of energetic enlightenments gleaned from so many wonderful contemporary authors. In one important instance, Maura R. O’Connor wrote in introduction to a piece called Awakening to Total Revolution that I thought would be good to read. Of course I was drawn to the awakening reference during these early days; indeed I was researching examples of the meaning of ‘Lifenergy’. But it was the introduction that offered a brief, moving passage that I have used in workshops since.

“What does having the right to the pursuit of happiness mean when genocide, starvation, and environmental breakdown are facts of life all over the planet?…where, I asked myself, is the lasting evidence of this idealistic revolution in the world today? These were the questions that plagued me on April 27, 2001. There I at behind an over sized desk at the Bank of Scotland, a sleeping computer and silent telephone in front of me. It was casual Friday, the day of the week when everyone returned from lunch slightly intoxicated, and from somewhere within the humid, airless room I could hear the sound of a bee trapped inside and beating against a window. I wanted to scream Luckily…I had..a copy of WIE [What is Enlightenment]…and I now eagerly opened it in an attempt to escape my surrounding. Randomly, I began to red an article called “Awakening to Total Revolution: Enlightenment and the World Crisis” by the social activist and spiritual teacher Vimala Thakar…It would be difficult to overestimate the effect reading this article had on me that one spring day. This woman’s incredible conviction and the truth of her words seemed to bypass my mind completely and resonate in an infinitely deeper place; once there, they stirred something in me that I hadn’t even knows was asleep. The experience felt alchemical, earth-shattering, impossibly inspiring. Whereas hours before I had doubted that solutions or answers to my questions even existed, I now had proof that there was a purpose in life greater than I could have imagined. Hiding my face behind the computer, I began to cry with something like profound relief.”

At one time, on several occasions, during my own metamorphosis, I had literally dropped to my knees and wailed from a great, deep place. I do not know why, but O’Connors last line gives me a clue. Part of me was able to be detached during these times; I observed this strange, intense display of emotion and pondered it. There was no rational explanation. Nothing was being accomplished, nothing was changed, nothing was solved. Yet, there was feeling, an awakening, that somehow I knew represented important progress. I am always moved by O’Connors passage and ability to put this moment of catharsis into words. We need more moments like this happening around the world.

I haven’t yet accomplished such a feat with a Modern Mystic workshop, and don’t know if that would be a good idea. But we do bring people together to hear about such experiences, and share stories about them. Another example that we use to close workshops comes from an article The Never-Ending Upward Quest by Jessica Roemischer, an article about Spiral Dynamics and written about in my post of the same name. In this article, Roemischer describes an episode in her life where she finds herself in the bucolic setting of a farmhouse overlooking an organic Vermont farm. Pieces of her life have fallen into place. But as she looks out over the landscape, she realizes something is undone.

“So I raked, I mowed, I weeded, I t ried to find ultimate meaning with my partner, but nothing seemed to appease this inner restlessness. One afternoon, I drove to Boston to hear spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen speak. The haunted, restless part of myself rejoiced at what was revealed: a higher purpose and untold possibility. And back at the farm, I became even more unsettled. One morning, I was standing in the kitchen next to the maple syrup cans and had a vision: a funnel of pure energy was pulling me headlong into it. I looked out at the trees. Nothing could be more beautiful than our new farm. But no matter how pristine was my own small corner of paradise, no matter how wonderful were the personal Life Conditions I created for myself, the world was in desperate shape, and those larger Life Conditions seemed to be generating an undeniable calling, a higher purpose that was coming from way beyond all my Green ideals, from way beyond my relationship, from way beyond the maple trees, and from way beyond the mountains. No matter how beautiful this place was – and it sure was beautiful – it simply wasn’t enough. Having turned forty, my midlife crisis took the form of an inner imperative: I had to follow this calling, for the sake of life itself.”

I couldn’t agree with her more.

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