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In the last post I wrote about how one of Joss Whedon’s favorite narratives is that of a scrappy band working together to avert an Apocalypse. I said that I wished he would venture forth beyond the Apocalypse and imagine adventures on the other side.

It occurred to me that Firefly started in that direction.  It was set 500 years in the future. We are told the Earth was “used up” and humans had moved out into the galaxy.

When it first aired, I dug it. It had lots of potential. And I knew that Joss’s shows need time to really get going, so I was looking forward to it becoming even better. That said, I was also disappointed. What was awesome were Joss’s usual interesting, quirky characters, the almost poetic dialogue, and the masterful storytelling. The setting, however, I found less believable than Buffy or Angel. It seemed like a tired old vision of the Future. I am seriously bugged by Sci Fi which is basically just the 20th Century with flying cars, space ships, laser guns , and robots. At the end of the first and only (half) season and in the film, “Serenity” the “future” started to get interesting. Alas.

I believe it was Daniel Quinn, author of “Ishmael,” who said, “I’ve only made one prediction about the future, and that is if humans are still around 100 years from now, they will live very differently and think very differently than we do now.”

The “think very differently” part is what is so hard to imagine. Just like a medieval person couldn’t really imagine the way a modern person thinks and sees the world, its impossible from our level of consciousness to imagine the future consciousness. (Unless we have had some peak experiences, spiritual experiences, or psychedelic experiences.) The characters in Firefly were really just contemporary folks projected 500 years into the future.

I think that Joss got it partially right. He focused on the existential freedom on the other side of The Big Birth. His vision of outer space with infinite worlds to explore is an image of nearly limitless freedom and opportunity for creativity and exploration. But, there is more than bigger freedom on the other side. There is a a much bigger way of thinking, of seeing, and loving. Basically, what would the global community be like if a billion people were as evolved as the Dalai Lama? What if that kind of consciousness, that kind of compassion was the norm? Think of all those scientists, businessmen, leaders, teachers, engineers, parents, etc., operating from that level of consciousness? That’s the Sci Fi series I want to see.

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I’ve been getting to urge to revisit Joss Whedon’s work. Recently, I watched the season 6 finale to Buffy, a few Firefly episodes, and last night: “Epitaph.” Epitaph was the episode of Dollhouse that Joss and Company made when the cancellation of Season One seemed certain. It’s about the Apocalypse.

If you’re a fan of Joss, you know the Apocalypse is a frequent theme of his.  I suspect that his upcoming blockbuster, “The Avengers,” will contain apocalyptic elements as well. His favorite narrative seems to be: a band of flawed, but decent friends work together to overcome impossible odds, and to defeat some form of “The Big Bad” in order to avert an immanent Apocalypse.

It strikes me that this is also the narrative of The Lord of The Rings. It is also the narrative of World War II. Maybe it is the narrative of our times. Who or What is The Big Bad? If you look at Joss’s work, it is typically narcissism run amok, and all the usual suspects: fear, hatred, greed, and lust for power. That seems about right.

Interestingly, in Joss’s work, once the current Apocalypse is averted, it’s mostly back to business as usual until the next one slouches forth. “Epitaph” (which is excellent by the way) is exceptional in that it is post-Apocalyptic. Everything has collapsed. Humans appear to be doomed. Yet, there is hope. There is the possibility of a New Beginning. A a scrappy band of survivors fights for the Future, for the possibility of “Safe Haven.”

I would love to see Joss continue in this direction. It’s time for him to turn his bright mind and imagination to life after the Big Shift that is happening. There are the slightest indications of such a vision in “Epitaph.” There are hints that “Save Haven” is a more wise and loving community of humans than the pre-Apocalypse folks. This is basically what needs to be imagined: a global, all-inclusive community of humans who are much wiser and more loving; living,working, and playing together harmoniously. What would that look like?

In an excerpt from his new book, “Strength to Awaken,” Rob McNamara makes a compelling case for the necessity of “Integral Practice.”

While practice cultivates greater preparation and engagement resulting in the refinement and development of yourself, the skills you possess and the capacities you can enact in your life, there is a catch. You only refine the dimensions of yourself that you are engaging in practice. So while you may be incredibly focused upon one area of your life, another equally important dimension may be stuck in habituation. While this may result in a high degree of competence in one area, if central dimensions of you are not refined through practice inevitably you will find yourself lacking essential competencies for addressing the true demands of the full scope of your life.

Integral Practice is a technology that addresses these inherent limitations of practice by engaging all of the major dimensions of yourself. By engaging all of these facets you will be able to unfold, develop, refine, and actualize your larger potential with greater efficiency.

I like the way McNamara talks about practice as preparation. Certainly, Integral Practice can be seen as an excellent way to prepare for all the challenges we are currently facing and will face as we journey through the Big Birth.

The way I’m seeing Integral Practice lately has a different emphasis. It seems to me that the the immanent Birth, or the Beginning Time has an inevitable quality. At some point, the baby is going to be born, one way or the other. That coming “Newborn” is an attractor. It is pulling all of us towards it.

The Beginning Time exerts an encouraging force that works to heal our old wounding. It works to free us from unconscious habits that hold us back. It works to enable us to thrive and to enrich The Big Family that is The Whole Biosphere/Noosphere. And I see Integral Practice as effective tools for this Work. I see it as an excellent means to a Beginning.

In other words, Integral Practice is being called for (with increasing intensity) by the Future that wants to emerge.

Trials of Birth

A friend who read my first entry was struck by the sentence: “actually birth can be quite hellish.” Back to back references to Hell seemed pretty intense. When I wrote that, I was thinking about the four stages of the birth process as identified by Stan Grof.

Here’s s an excerpt from a recent talk Grof gave, concerning 2012 and the archetype of the apocalypse.

Psychospiritual death and rebirth is one of the most prominent themes in therapeutic work using holotropic states. When the age regression in the process of deep experiential self- exploration moves beyond the level of memories from childhood and infancy and reaches the level of the unconscious that contains the memory of birth, we start encountering emotions and physical sensations of extreme intensity, often surpassing anything we previously considered humanly possible. At this point, the experiences become a strange mixture of the themes of birth and death. They involve a sense of a severe, life-threatening confinement and a desperate and determined struggle to free ourselves and survive. (Grof)

In many of these Psychospiritual death/rebirth experiences, the Hell archetype emerges. Basically, “Hell” corresponds to the 2nd phase of birth when contractions start, but the cervix hasn’t opened yet. Here there is immense, crushing pressure, heat, and a sense of confinement with no way out. When people experience this in psychedelic, near death experiences , or other intense non-ordinairy states, it feels eternal. It feels like a kind of endless torment.

The good news is that this stage actually does end. The bad news is the third stage is typically, extremely difficult. In the third stage, the cervix opens and you begin the epic struggle to move through the birth canal. In non-ordinairy states people experience this as a struggle to survive and escape incredibly intense turmoil. It is a life and death struggle to get free. Grof describes it:

As I mentioned earlier, this (stage) is related to the stage of birth when the cervix is open and the fetus experiences the tedious propulsion through the birth canal. This stage is associated with the emergence of the shadow side of human personality – murderous violence and excessive or deviant sexual drives, scatological elements, and even satanic imagery. It is easy to see manifestations of these aspects of the death rebirth process in today’s troubled world.

We certainly see the enormous unleashing of the aggressive impulse in the many wars and revolutionary upheavals in the world, in the rising criminality, terrorism, and racial riots. Equally dramatic and striking is the lifting of sexual repression and freeing of the sexual impulse in both healthy and problematic ways. Sexual experiences and behaviors are taking unprecedented forms, as manifested in the sexual freedom of adolescents, premarital sex, gay liberation, general promiscuity, common and open marriages, high divorce rate, overtly sexual books, plays and movies, sadomasochistic experimentation, and many others.

The demonic element is also becoming increasingly manifest in the modern world. Renaissance of satanic cults and witchcraft, popularity of books and horror movies with occult themes, and crimes with satanic motivations attest to that fact. Terrorism of the fundamentalist fanatics and groups is also reaching satanic proportions. The scatological dimension is evident in the progressive industrial pollution, accumulation of waste products on a global scale, and rapidly deteriorating hygienic conditions in large cities. A more abstract form of the same trend is the escalating corruption and degradation of political, military, economic, and religious institutions, including the American presidency.

If the world is in the throes of the third stage of birth, this points to the imminent arrival of the 4th stage which is coming out into the big wide open. Here you are finally free. Typically this is experienced as the most profound release, relief, joy, and ecstasy. And of course: a sense of a fresh, new beginning.

The Beginning is Near

These are the Beginning Times.

Of course, these are also the the End Times.

Many conventional structures, organizations, institutions, processes, theories, beliefs, mental models, and worldviews are failing. All around us they fail, some just fizzling out, others crashing and burning spectacularly. So, its the End of a lot of stuff. It is also the Beginning of a lot of new stuff.

What it comes down to is that we are all in a birth process. The forces of history, technological progress, and the Evolution of consciousness exert tremendous pressure on us, pushing us out into a new life, a new way of experiencing, and a new way of thinking.

The good news is that our new life will be much bigger and better than the old life.

The bad news is that it hurts like hell being born. It can actually be quite hellish.

This blog is about being birthed through these Beginning Times. We’ll explore practical ways to work with the process, to facilitate it, and to make it easier. This Blog is about transformative practices (like meditation, yoga, and parenting) and how they relate to and serve The Big Birth that is happening. This Big Birth is happening on a Macrocosmic scale to the Whole Biosphere and Noosphere. And it’s happening on a very personal scale. Each of us must go through our own Birth.

Stay Tuned.

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