Stanislav Grof

Website, Holotropic Site
"If I am the father of LSD, Stan Grof is the godfather. Nobody has contributed as much as Stan for the development of my problem child." --Albert Hofmann, the discoverer of LSD-25
Stanislav Grof, PhD is a Czech psychiatrist widely known for both his psychedelic therapy experience and for his holotropic breathing program. The promising the results of psychedelic research Grof began in 1956, along with his personal LSD experiences, convinced Stan to devote his remaining career to the exploration of 'non-ordinary states of consciousness', specifically states that can bring a person healing from previous traumas and spiritual growth. In the early 1970's, with LSD research largely ended, Stan and his late wife Christina developed a specific model of holotropic breath work - combining breathing with music and body work - to induce these same non-ordinary states of consciousness, a model which has since been built into the Grof Transpersonal Training program by teachers Tav and Cary Sparks. Stan Grof now spends most of his time teaching and writing and is currently a Professor of Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in the Department of Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness in San Francisco, CA, and at Wisdom University in Oakland, CA.
"In one of my early books I suggested that the potential significance of LSD and other psychedelics for psychiatry and psychology was comparable to the value the microscope has for biology or the telescope has for astronomy. My later experience with psychedelics only confirmed this initial impression. These substances function as unspecific amplifiers that increase the cathexis (energetic charge) associated with the deep unconscious contents of the psyche and make them available for conscious processing. This unique property of psychedelics makes it possible to study psychological undercurrents that govern our experiences and behaviours to a depth that cannot be matched by any other method and tool available in modern mainstream psychiatry and psychology. In addition, it offers unique opportunities for healing of emotional and psychosomatic disorders, for positive personality transformation, and consciousness evolution." --Foreword to the MAPS edition of LSD: My Problem Child (October 2005) by Dr. Albert Hofmann
What's been helpful: Stan Grof's hands-on experience with psychedelic psychiatric therapy has made him an valuable resource in these days of a re-emerging interest in psychedelics. His interviews appear in numerous documentaries on the subject, including Little Saints (posted here) and The Substance: Albert Hoffman's LSD (not yet posted but recommended for a good tour of LSD's history) as well as on websites, podcasts and YouTube channels. Stan Grof is a perfect example of the accomplished, open-minded scientist I find of interest these days, men and women pushing, pulling or dragging their selected disciplines into new connections with our expanding understanding of consciousness and reality. Dr. Grof's comments are always quiet and measured, yet full of obvious intelligence, experience and humor; a good example is this SAND presentation, Proposal for a Radical Revision of Psychiatry, Psychology & Psychotherapy. And if you've caught my earlier posts on psychedelic art, you'll understand why I was delighted to discover another trove on Stan's website - of his own work! (NSFW) Then I found out about his latest book, HR Giger and the Zeitgeist of the Twentieth Century, and it immediately went to the very tippy top of my summer reading list. What will an LSD-informed psychiatrist who produced those images have to say about the work of HR Giger(?!)..... wow, you can't even make this stuff up.

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Chris Fields

Website

(From Dr. Fields' website) "What is information? What makes it meaningful? What is memory? What are objects? What is time and space? What is causation? I mainly work on these questions from a scientific perspective, with the aim of developing predictions precise enough to be tested experimentally. It seems to me that all of these questions revolve around the single question: "what is a boundary?" Hence all of my work, including my investigation of the boundaries of scientific disciplines, attempts to understand how boundaries are drawn and what they look like. I mainly work on these questions from the perspectives of physics (some background on the physics of boundaries) and cognitive neuroscience (some background on the cognitive neuroscience of boundaries). I've also explored this question of boundaries using visual art."
"I think there is a definite pressure building in the scientific community toward the idea that awareness has to be a fundamental assumption. That we really do have to drop this business of awareness per se being generated by a particular organization of neurons … or a particular organization of something else, any kinds of material objects…We should have dropped this whole business of material objects in the early twentieth century. It became very clear in the early twentieth century that there aren't any material objects. … There can't be if any of our science is correct." -- Chris Fields in How Close is Science to Understanding Consciousness? (SAND)
What's been helpful: As I've written about before, one of the first videos I encountered post-awakening was from SAND (Science and Nonduality) titled How Close is Science to Understanding Consciousness? In the video, a panel comprised of Chris and four other scientists discuss this topic under the facilitation of teacher A.H. Almass. The video had me hooked at once, hungry as I was for discussions on the nature of consciousness, but I especially noticed Chris' contribution. I'm not sure if it was the combo of sandals, surf shirt and Santa beard or if it was the clearly articulated yet complex ideas ... it was probably the shirt. But what I came to appreciate about Chris' presence generally is how it speaks of a community willing to look beyond traditional academic definitions of expertise when bringing discussions about consciousness to an audience. SAND does a good job of curating their content and I appreciate how they are using their stage to showcase independent scientists working in the field of consciousness research, especially when it brings forward voices like Chris Fields. SAND appears to host most of his video content - I especially liked the ideas Chris discussed in this presentation at SAND 2016. But if you'd rather dive into details about such topics as 'unitary quantum theory as a formal framework for a theory of consciousness', then you simply must check out his website (whew!).

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Ram Dass

Website, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter

Ram Dass (aka Richard Alpert) is a (former) Harvard professor, spiritual teacher and author who initially became known for his role in shaping the counter-culture movement of the 1960's - first as Professor Alpert, who helped stage both the Harvard Psilocybin Project and Good Friday Experiment (and got fired from Harvard for his troubles) and later as Ram Dass (re-named by Hindu guru Maharaj-ji), who went on to create numerous foundations and projects devoted to serving the spiritual growth of others. His 1971 book Be Here Now is still considered by many a 'must read' for the spiritual explorer and the 1964 book The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (with co-authors Tim Leary and Ralph Metzner) is still an important reference manual for psychedelic psychonauts. Today, 87 years old and still dealing with challenges related to an earlier stroke, Ram Dass continues to teach from his home in Maui, often sharing his thoughts and preparations for dying and death; his new book with co-author Mirabai Bush, Walking Each Other Home, explores this topic with conversations and meditation.
“You are loved just for being who you are, just for existing. You don’t have to do anything to earn it. Your shortcomings, your lack of self-esteem, physical perfection, or social and economic success – none of that matters. No one can take this love away from you, and it will always be here.” --Ram Dass
What's been helpful: I heard a lot about Ram Dass before I heard anything directly from the man himself; case in point my post on The Harvard Psychedelic Club (which I'd highly recommend), a book devoted to discussing the cultural importance of four men during the 1950's and 60's - Ram Dass, Tim Leary, Huston Smith and Andrew Weil. Come to think of it, I'd be hard pressed to think of a teacher who hasn't referred to Ram Dass at some point - either his teachings or this counter-culture role. Of course all these references got me curious, which is why I recently took time to watch the 2013 documentary, Fierce Grace, and learned a bit more about why Ram has been such an influence on so many who are in turn influencing me. Ram Dass' devotion to and interest in the lives of others shines through in this film; there are several glimpses of how powerfully his presence has affected and helped others, along stories of how perfectly placed he was to be center stage during the heyday of the psychedelic 60's. But more interesting to me personally were the moments throughout the film where Ram shares the details - both hard and humorous - about living with the physical and mental challenges resulting from a massive stroke in 1997. Ram Dass has long taught on the subjects of aging and dying and this interest has been brought into sharp focus by the recent years of his life. I look forward to reading and listening to his open-hearted and experienced teachings on this topic as I prepare for my own (physical) death in the coming years.

... "We're all just walking each other home." ...

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Helen Palmer

Website

Psychologist, teacher and author Helen Palmer is the developer of the Enneagram model which profiles nine distinct personality types - the Perfectionist, the Giver, the Performer, the Tragic Romantic, the Observer, the Loyal Skeptic, the Epicure, the Protector and the Mediator - the idea being that understanding our 'type' helps us clarify what we observe about ourselves - and others - and in turn this clarity helps us let go of rigid thinking and responses. (Want to discover your Enneagram type? Here's the test.)
“It is important to stress the ways that people are different from each other, because so much of the suffering that we experience in our relationships with other people is caused by the fact that we are blind to their point of view.” ― Helen Palmer, The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and Others in Your Life
What's been helpful: Until recently, the sciences that had most excited my sense of curiosity about 'the unknown' were along the lines of astrophysics and quantum mechanics until I became aware of the deep influence of philosophers and psychoanalysts on the thinking of many of the very scientists constructing these new models of reality. Helen Palmer is another such example - a psychologist and teacher who is informing the thinking in her field with a deep spiritual awareness. In this short SAND presentation, Our Intuitive Capacity for Spiritual Wisdom, Helen's personal stories and professional expertise combine for an interesting teaching on how to use the tools of psychology to observe self. And I recognize in her Enneagram model many of the same types of egoic conditioning patterns discussed by other teachers, making this another of the tools we can choose from as we seek understanding during our inner journeys. Helen's 2014 ConsciousTV interview, Relationships Matter - The Enneagram Tells Us How, is another good introduction to the Enneagram model and how it developed.

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Rupert Sheldrake

Website, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter

Five years ago the well-known TED / TEDx organization kicked up some controversy by taking down the TEDx videos from two speakers under guise of policies against 'pseudoscience', yet failing (to my knowledge) to present any compelling examples of such in either presentation. Not surprisingly, BANNING (!) the videos had the effect of generating attention, protests and petitions until TED reinstated the content - all of which served to bring much attention to the work of author Graham Hancock and biologist and former Cambridge professor, Dr. Rupert Sheldrake... Oops.
“I am all in favor of science and reason if they are scientific and reasonable. But I am against granting scientists and the materialist worldview an exemption from critical thinking and skeptical investigation. We need an enlightenment of the Enlightenment.” --Rupert Sheldrake, 'The Science Delusion"
What's been helpful: Though Rupert Sheldrake has a list of books and academic achievements under his belt, the greatest benefit of running into Hancock and Sheldrake early in my post-awakened state was simply hearing two well-educated and well-spoken professionals rip a hole in the fabric of traditional scientific thinking. Though their theories had been dismissed by 'establishment' as pseudoscience, I could hear for myself that both men seemed to be making a reasonable case with clearly presented evidence. Was it really necessary for TED to be the 'adult' in the room and take away the information before we hurt ourselves with it? (Clearly this type of censorship just pushes ALL my buttons.) But the whole affair, especially when reading about it three years later, after all sides had weighed in and new evidence had emerged in support of both theories, was a good reminder of the unseen forces shaping the ideas that will be 'allowed' in any commercial forum.

While the whole TED thing prompted me to pick up some of Hancock's books, I didn't become familiar with Sheldrake's work until I started listening to the 'Trialogues', a series of wide-ranging discussions with Rupert Sheldrake, Terence McKenna and mathematician Ralph Abraham (available on Rupert's YouTube channel). I haven't yet fully unpacked Sheldrake's theories on morphic resonance fields but his newest book, Science and Spiritual Practices: Reconnecting Through Direct Experience has made it to my summer reading list for the positive reviews coming from the nondual community. A quick peek reveals the book is yet another invitation from an experienced fellow traveler to experience the divine through a number of spiritual practices - meditation, gratitude, relating to plants, ritual, singing/chant, connecting with nature and pilgrimage to holy places. Sheldrake's unique take on this message is to present the scientific findings that validate each of these practices as bringing measurable and beneficial changes to the mind and body of practitioners. (Look for a post in the "Books" section this summer.)

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Format Gallery

Wrapping up this round of posts on the arts with a few more, beginning with these short video clips in which six teachers share their perspectives on the role of art and the artist in society. Teachings of this type have deeply informed my mindful journey back into the world of form and have helped me to glimpse the larger human story embedded in all works of art and creation.

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Terence McKenna
'Art & Artists'
"I have great hope now for art produced by the interaction of human beings and computers."
Deepak Chopra
'The Role of the Artist in Society' (excerpts from the documentary 'Mythic Journeys')
"The artist is the social conscience of a society."
Dr. Carol Becker
'Art's Role in Society'

"Society has to be able to observe itself … and what allows a society to do that are the producers of art and culture"

Eckhart Tolle
'On Conceptual Art'

"The moment you give it your complete attention, every little thing is alive and miraculous and beautiful."

Jordan Peterson
'Why You Need Art in Your Life'

"A real piece of art is a window into the transcendent."


Rupert Spira
"'Why Make Art?'
"The purpose of art is to take the senses on a journey back to the source of perception, which is pure awareness."

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Format Gallery

What happens to our sense of ‘me’ after death? Does our consciousness reincarnate in another form to live another life? How should we prepare for our death – and what does that even mean? Insights of the type shared by these six teachers in this video gallery helped me discover a new perspective from which to grapple with such questions about the transformation that is death.

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Alan Watts
"A Happy Death"
In this 8-min excerpt from one of his many lectures, Alan invites us to embrace the other half of the natural rhythm that is death.

"You can only die well if you understand this system of waves… that you are just as much the dark space beyond death as you are the light interval called life. These are just two sides of you because 'you' is the total wave. See, you can't have half a wave. Nobody ever saw waves which just had crests and no troughs. So you can't have half a human being who is born but doesn't die; half a thing. That would only be half a thing."

Shakti Maggi
"Nothing Dies, The Endless Kaleidoscope"
Though the video quality is less than ideal, Shakti Maggi's concepts on death and 'reincarnation' (my term, not hers) come through with the loving clarity that is her hallmark in this short 4-min. video.

"The body, it is simply a movement of energy arising from the stillness of your being …[during death, this movement] will be simply receding back into stillness."
Adyashanti
"Death: The Essential Teachings"
In this 5-min. video, Adyashanti describes how the process of aging can lead to the wisdom and freedom of letting go.

"But certainly, enlightenment is absolutely intrinsically linked with death. There is no deep lasting liberation without death, without dying before you die, without the psychological self giving way. They're intimately linked; you don't get one without the other. They're absolutely linked together."

Rupert Spira
"What Happens to Awareness After Death"
Rupert explains why we experience different states of awareness and offers a description of 'reincarnation' (my term, not his).

"Remember, the body is an appearance in the mind. So when the body dies, just a particular localization of consciousness disperses… Consciousness doesn’t dissolve."


Terence McKenna
"Life And Death"

A 6-min lecture snippet in which Terence comments on the origins of the body and exploring the after-death space with psychedelics.

"So I think what biology is, is the intrusion into 3-dimensional space and time of hyper-dimensional objects. And the other clue to that, that seems an argument for it, is that we do have this thing called 'the mind' but we can't find it anywhere. It doesn't seem to be anywhere… [at death] I think probably these objects retract back into hyperspace - higher space ... we clothe ourselves in matter but we are not matter and so to actually complete a human cycle of existence, you have to go into death. It's where you came from..."

Eckhart Tolle
"How Will You Experience Death?"
In this short excerpt from a radio interview, Eckhart talks about a choice the consciousness will face after the body's death.

"What is left is simply consciousness. Temporarily, perhaps, it will still have - not a physical form but exist as a separate form … the choice may be there of taking on another body or of removing yourself completely. There are many people now - those who are ripe for realization - if you sense within yourself, you will feel whether or not you want to live again."

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Jude Currivan

Website

Jude Currivan, Ph.D., is a cosmologist, futurist, planetary healer and author. She has a Master’s degree in Physics from Oxford University specializing in quantum physics and cosmology, and a Doctorate in Archaeology from the University of Reading researching ancient cosmologies. Jude has traveled to more than 70 countries, worked with wisdom keepers from many traditions, and been a life-long researcher into the scientific and experiential understanding of the nature of reality. The author of five books, her latest is The Cosmic Hologram: In-formation at the Center of Creation.
(on studying both archeology and cosmology) "... I never saw a disparity between the two. What I saw was a different language. And I also saw a bit of a sidetrack over the last couple of centuries when science, which was sacred science ... chose to look into just the physical realm. And there's almost a schism between that wholeness, which is what cosmology's all about, and the literal physics of the physical realm. And we've gone down that route - and it's a route that's brought us amazing technologies - but it's a route, in a way, that's also dismembered our collective psyche. And I feel now we're on the verge of remembering who we really are and I'm very excited... I wanted to write the latest book, The Cosmic Hologram 60 yrs ago because what it's sharing is how I've experienced 'realities' all my life but I couldn't write it until now because the evidence wasn't there until now... What the science is showing is what the ancient spiritual awareness has always been; that all that we call reality is intimately, fundamentally, innately interconnected... It's truly revealing that the deepest nature of reality is indeed unified." --Jude Currivan, from the SAND video 'The Emergence of Consciousness Evolution'
What's been helpful: Like many of the other scientists SAND invites, Jude Currivan is an exceptionally articulate and engaging speaker who expertly intertwines recent discoveries from the physical sciences with ancient wisdoms. As I've written before, it's the sciences that reignited my own curiosity about the nature of consciousness so it's a delight to encounter (yet another!) teacher who speaks to the emerging alignment between scientific and spiritual models of reality. Though I can sense the message of interconnection various discoveries are revealing, I rely on these spiritually-aware scientists to turn my intuition into understanding by unpacking the specifics and Jude does so in a way that's both entertaining and informative. Jude's website hosts only a small amount of content but there are numerous YouTube interviews available, as well as her five books. Besides the video linked above, another of my favorites is this 25-min. presentation from SAND, Break Down or Break Through ~ enjoy!

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Shakti Caterina Maggi

Website, YouTube, Facebook

After studying with Bodhi Avasa, Shakti Caterina Maggi began helping others awaken to their true nature as One Consciousness in 2003 and currently offers retreats and meetings in Italy, Europe, and online. “The opportunity to meet what we are, and to embody it in everyday life, is the very meaning of life itself – not as human beings who seek God, but as the Divine itself experiencing itself through the human experience.” Shakti began to hold true satsang in 2011 and more recently, partnered with therapist Giusi Carrera to create seminars exploring non-duality in the world of therapy. Though based in Italy, Caterina also offers a number of teachings for English speaking audiences, which are found on her YouTube channel.
"When you firstly see what you are, Silence or Nothingness, this revelation appears as a window opening to the Reality of Being. When the window opens up you see to be this Silence in which everything appears. All is suddenly shown in its clarity: you see that you yourself are the background of Life itself and all that appears is an experience that is manifesting from and as your Being. When you firstly see what you are, Silence or Nothingness, this revelation appears as a window opening to the Reality of Being.When the window opens up you see to be this Silence in which everything appears. All is suddenly shown in its clarity: you see that you yourself are the background of Life itself and all that appears is an experience that is manifesting from and as your Being." --Shakti Caterina Maggi from her post Integrating Awakening and the Mind's Pendulum
What's been helpful: About all I know so far of Caterina's teaching is what I've seen in the few videos appearing recently on the SAND website after their 2017 conference in Italy - but that's been enough to make me a fan. She has such an open and loving way about her as she teaches, especially when taking questions from her audience. Though she's based in Italy, it looks like she's started offering more retreats stateside and I highly recommend all the videos (and articles) posted on SAND (and her website) to anyone in need of a little Italian-accented balm for the psyche. A few more of my favorites: The Crisis of Waking Up, Embodied Awakening and The Disappointment of Love and Love

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Matt Licata

Blog, Website, Facebook

Matt is a psychotherapist, spiritual friend (to all), writer, and teacher based in Boulder, Colorado. Over the last 25 years, Matt has trained in psychological and spiritual methodologies and practices, in North America, India, and Nepal. His work incorporates Western developmental theory, depth psychological, as well as contemplative, meditative, and mindfulness-based approaches to personal and interpersonal growth, emotional healing, and spiritual transformation. Matt recently published his first book, The Path is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You and writes frequently for his blog, A Healing Space
“When your inner world is on fire and you are burning for resolution, it is tempting to conclude that something has gone wrong, that you have failed, that you are flawed, and that you are unworthy of love. The questions are surging, the longing is unbearable, and you are still aching to find some relief. You are exhausted, but this is no ordinary exhaustion. It is sacred. It is the end of one world and the beginning of another. Stay close. In these moments, which may always arise in the heart of an open, sensitive human being, slow way down. Touch the earth, look up into the sky, listen to the song of the unseen. Dare to consider that things are not always as they appear. Today may not be the day for answers, but to finally let your heart break open to the vastness of the question. You are not a project to be solved and you were never unhealed. With eyes wide open, see that you could never lose the way. The unfolding of the heart is the work of a lifetime and there is no urgency on the path of love.” ― Matt Licata
What's been helpful: I came across Matt's posts on the SAND website and found his writings full of good pointers to the compassion I needed for the experience of losing my (nonexistent) egoic self - for losing the stories I thought brought purpose to life. As Matt writes in his post, The Path is Everywhere, "this (awakening) journey will inevitably require an encounter with the darkness and will thus not be all that popular. There are no quick steps...". I now look for Matt's posts, knowing they'll provide warm encouragement for continuing to face 'the darkness' that holds the feelings of confusion, frustration and failure that I and many others will intermittently encounter after answering the call to awaken. Here are links to a few more of his SAND posts: It's OK to Allow Yourself to Fall Apart, The Disappointment in Waking Up and Transforming Fear Into Your Ally

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