Amanda Kovattana

Middle-aged musings in interesting times

Monday, March 28, 2011

On Watching Japan

An astonishingly short piece. Written, as usual to save own life, but in this instance I have help.

On the way to visiting my family in Thailand, I often travel on Japan Airlines and stop at Narita airport. Thus Japan is a part of going home for me. In studying Asian culture and modern development, I have read much about life in Japan so felt a kinship with her people. I had respect for their education system, public healthcare system (the best in the world) and the high quality of public transportation was enviable. So to watch such organization and well thought out systems turn to piles of splinters filled me with compassion. Astonishing really to see such an exemplary example of modern living so easily destroyed. Yet how familiar it was to the precariousness of my home in earthquake country here in the Bay Area.

Natural disasters will strike. We know that. We also know that the human population is such that we are densely packed everywhere especially in coastal regions. We know that these densely packed regions are built to resist nature not flow with it, but there is only so much resistance we can build into concrete structures. When natural forces overcome them, the washing away of entire cities has the haunting inevitability of a Greek tragedy. Add to that the even greater hubris of nuclear power plants sitting on unstable fault lines and it is all too clear what a folly our manmade systems are. Thus I felt that Japan was bearing such suffering for all of us really.

When the shelter in place orders were given for those within 20 miles of the broken nuclear power plant, I felt trapped. Looking around the house I wondered if we would have enough food for the length of time it was going to take for the Japanese people to weather this ordeal. Would they have clean water? Clean food? Not likely. What was this karma Japan had with radiation? I felt this power plant disaster would render the country a closed nation. We would want nothing to do with Japan if that would keep the disaster from affecting our lives. These thoughts haunted me for days.

I searched the faces of others in my day to day travels looking for the shell shocked gravity I felt at this folding up of a country. I couldn't quite trust myself not to break into a rant at the slightest opening, with clients, with other Asian faces. I tried to hold the story lightly, but it only made me feel more isolated. At home my partner and brother-in-law, tuned into CNN kept me updated with breaking news. I joined them sparingly subjecting myself to the fever of impending nuclear meltdown. Where was the transformation in this story? Would this just be another terror of the week and then we go back to what we were doing?

Nearly a week after the tsunami, a contact passed along a letter from an American woman in Sendai describing how the people were coping. It was such a beautiful picture of cooperation and neighborly kindness that I took to heart this little bit of humanity in the face of such overwhelming devastation. The writer reported all the things people were doing to make sure everyone had food and water; how she found food left on her doorstep when she came home; how men in green caps walked around checking that everyone was safe; how people said this was just like the old days when everyone helped each other.

That Japan was still able to remember its humanity and the old way of doing things comforted me greatly. In a BBC account of old people sheltering in a school where there were inadequate supplies, an elderly man said "We're okay. We sit together and talk or read. Everyone has the same as everyone else now. Nothing." I was very moved by those sentiments.

The American woman's letter soon popped up elsewhere, on Facebook, passed along in e-mails and now Ode magazine hosts her ongoing letters on their blog, so much do her accounts help to heal the overwhelm. (Look for her name in the byline: Anne Thomas.) She spoke so directly and so articulately to my search for transformation that I offer her words, from the closing paragraph of her first letter, rather than paraphrase her:

"Somehow at this time I realize from direct experience that there is indeed an enormous Cosmic evolutionary step that is occurring all over the world right at this moment. And somehow as I experience the events happening now in Japan, I can feel my heart opening very wide. My brother asked me if I felt so small because of all that is happening. I don't. Rather, I feel as part of something happening that is much larger than myself. This wave of birthing (worldwide) is hard, and yet magnificent."

How amazing that she spoke of a Cosmic shift, a worldwide birthing. I knew nothing about this woman, why she was living in Japan, what her life was about, yet she seemed to have tapped into exactly the same vein of thought that I had just discovered using almost the same words. And she was describing her days with such a vulnerability and simple power, that I found not only her words to be a balm and a comfort, but the very idea of words themselves to be a comfort. Here just one woman offering her own experience and observation was enough to bring comfort to so many; it poured into me an intense appreciation for the power of words.

I went about my day looking for places where I could work similar magic with words—to comfort a friend who was having a hard time, or to further a message of compassion, humor or mutual experience. This woman who had become an accidental writer for so many, filling in a needed void, had made my own meandering writer's life meaningful, had reminded me that the observations of one person could be just exactly the medicine the world was looking for. And, that what we did mattered, whether in the simple kindnesses of the events she described or the witnessing and reporting of it.

I took comfort in this cosmic evolution of one corner of the world. When I woke from sleeping, even if just a nap, I felt such a sweetness at still being alive and safe that every day became a gift.

Then I went out to buy cans of food to stock our emergency supplies box.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

What Color Is Your Prophecy?

In light of the unfolding disaster in Japan, it seems in bad taste to speak of prophecies (too much like those endtime blogs). This piece was intended to be a light-hearted chapter of my personal journey at a 2012 event two weeks ago. That being said, the lens I was gazing through does have an uncanny perspective on such catastrophic disasters.

As I entered the Fred Flinstone structure that characterizes the convention center in Palm Springs, I was intensely curious about what kind of people would come to The Prophet's Conference on 2012. It was odd enough that I was there. Such an expedition into the high dessert for a weekend of lectures by speakers dispensing insight into the Mayan prophecy required serious wu wu credentials.

I did have a journalist's curiosity and, having reported mostly from the doomer's corner concerning planetary demise, I thought there might be interesting parallels in the prophecy corner.

I discovered the event because a teacher I was following was speaking at the conference—Alberto Villoldo. (How serendipitous that it wasn't far away; I could make it a business trip and visit our renters.) Catherine had introduced me to Villoldo with his book "The Four Insights: Wisdom, Power, and Grace of the Earthkeepers". Since she had not managed to make a Buddhist scholar of me, she decided I should follow a spiritual path of some sort so we would have something heart based to talk about. She thought a path of shamanism might do. The book did indeed resonate with my pagan leanings and introduced to me the Shamanic path of co-creation with the universe.

I had abhorred other "create your own reality" books, especially "The Secret", which had dumbed down the message into a materialistic 24/7 cosmic shopping channel. Villoldo's book reached beyond wants and goals to a place where I could find an underlying motivation that had meaning for me. His techniques took the co-creation part far from vision boards and affirmations on post-it notes. He allowed me to tell my own story, not only in terms of the present, but into the future. I found this approach to be a powerful focusing tool.

It was the other less academic speakers who gave the conference a particularly wu wu flavor. One, James Gililand, would be presenting information about his contact with extra terrestrials, UFOs and other paranormal appearances. There was also Little Grandmother, a young white woman who had garnered a following via the internet with youtube videos of herself dressed in buckskin sitting with her Tribe of Many Colors and delivering a prophecy that she claimed was being told to her by spirits. I found her presentation strangely compelling.

"We were not going to be allowed to destroy the planet", she told her viewers. Spirits of the ancients from the Other Side and extra terrestrials were standing by to help. To invite this help she was asking us to shift into our intuitive feminine nature and make our decisions from our heart and not our minds. We would then recognize the proper helping spirits. (If not we would presumably be sloughed off like so much head lice.)

These were the speakers who would get me into trouble with my reality-based community. Having built my reputation on a scientific, fact based approach to generating solutions to our planetary problems, this sudden switch to such fantastical material appears a bit psychotic. Plus a group of Native Americans were quite unhappy with the borrowing of their ceremonial traditions and misrepresentation of their teachings in Little Grandmother's presentation, adding a decidedly politically incorrect component to the event I was supporting with my money.

The friend who alerted me to these cultural complaints had sent me a link denouncing Little Grandmother as a fraud. We had a heated discussion in which he told me that to entertain such dubious material was as addictive as drugs, possibly resulting in permanent loss of sanity as had happened to a friend of his when he was young.

I was 52 not 22. The bigger danger for my soul was to become so skeptical that I could no longer believe in anything at all.

All that my study of known reality had done for me was root me in despair that the momentum of our exploitative social and financial systems would doom the human race while our attempts to save ourselves with our brains would continue to bury us in technological hubris. I wanted to believe in something else for a change. Or everything. Believing in everything would at least cover all the possibilities. 2012 would soon be upon us; this would be my last chance to entertain any of the 2012 prophecies and wonder what to make of it.

Plus my mother wanted to know.

Family Prophecies

Readers of my memoir of Thailand are familiar with my family story of a psychic American friend who would spend the evening summoning spirits to entertain my parents. My mother had seen her own coffee table move across the room—and back—during one such session. It left a lifetime impression that tempted her beyond her science based education. She was fond of books describing alternate narratives i.e. Chariots of the Gods (evidence of aliens helping us build civilization). We both read the Shirley Maclaine books. As a family, one of the few movies we saw together was 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Every so often, she would recount the story of the coffee table to new friends. One of the spirits had predicted that my family would emigrate to the United States and since we did end up here, it added punch to the story.

My father being Thai had no reason to discount any of the spirit information and neither would I, having been similarly raised with a family fortune teller, a healthy respect for spirits and a personal history explained by past lives that outranked any psychological explanations when it came to sexual preference. Reincarnation was a given throughout my life though it had faded from view somewhat in the face of Western culture and Western Buddhists who had stripped such "faith-based" belief from the teachings. (Nor did I protest too much this borrowing and neutering of my native traditions once I realized that American Buddhism was what was keeping it alive.)

2012: The Optimist's Club

I came late to the party. The first time I heard about 2012 was only 4 years ago. An intense young Canadian traveling with me through Northeast Thailand on a tour of sustainable, organic farms showed me a hefty book called "Return of Quetzalcoatl". The book was driving the decisions he was making in his life (for the better). Thus I came to sense that an increasing number of young people were taking 2012 seriously.

Apocalypse type stories had no appeal to me, but I was to discover through Alberto Villoldo that there were teachers who took 2012 seriously as a passage of transformation, of rebirthing.

The first time I heard the concept of a cultural paradigm shift was from Joanna Macy, a well respected American Buddhist teacher whom I had seen giving a presentation, alongside peak oil guru Richard Heinberg, on preparing for peak oil on a psychological level. She was convinced that the culture had already made significant strides towards The Great Turning, as she called it, as more people than ever were aware of how our lifestyles impacted the planet and had jumped on board the path to sustainable technology.

The teachers speaking at The Prophet's Conference were doing the same positive transformation work, some more certain than others that the 2012 paradigm shift would include extra curricular events on the actual date. Most thought the prophecy was already underway.

Geoff Stray, a Brit who spoke the first day of the conference, spent an hour reeling off a couple dozen prophecies both ancient and modern. Not only the Mayan calendar, but the Hopi, South African, Maori, Hindu and Tibetan all had 2012 prophecies. So did the Judeo Christian Islamic religions; he showed how the date was calculated. He also described the contemporary reports of individuals who had undergone near death experiences, drug induced shamanic journeys, out of body experiences, remote viewing, lucid dreaming and alien abductions all naming 2012 as the time of their prophecy, completely unaware of the date before.

There was the prophesy about the reversing of the earth's polarity causing serious planetary catastrophe that I'd already heard described on the history channel episode on 2012, plus increased earthquakes and disasters. More fun was the simultaneous triggering of a dormant enzyme in every human brain caused by a reduction of the geomagnetic field brought on by increased solar flares. Also predicted was increased psychic ability. (I could have seen that coming.) And for the UFO crowd, the switching on of alien implants in previously abducted humans. I bought his pocket guide to keep track of them all.

Geoff's presentation was tempered by Daniel Pinchbeck, a journalist and author of Return of Queztacoatl (the book my traveling companion was hauling around). Daniel was a thirty something journalist, who found his path through the use of hallucinogenic plants guided by South American shamans. He slouched deeply into his chair and habitually cocked his head to one side when standing at the podium. I nicknamed him The Pinchbeck of 2012, but his cerebral intensity was comforting. He was my bridge between the peak oil and climate change doomers and these intuitive based Paradigm Shifters.

Pinchbeck claimed that a balance between head and heart was the best approach for helping to shift the physical world from destructive, monolithic systems to sustainable, local, regenerative ones. His 2012 movie interviewed innovators I had already heard at Bioneers. He said we were undergoing a wisdom revolution. The agriculture revolution had taken 3,000 years, the industrial one 300 years, the information revolution only 30 years so it was entirely possible that a wisdom revolution would take a mere 3 years. I was totally behind this idea given the Internet and social networking. He was working on a social networking site to connect people to planet saving projects and invited us to join it.

Of the nearly 200 attendees, most were middle-aged women not social networking sorts. They were on the shy side, but friendly enough when approached; many women friends together, many lesbians. As a way of chatting people up, I asked individual attendees which speaker had brought them to the conference. I made friends with a Pinchbeck fan sitting near me, intently reading a 2012 book. Many said they came for Keisha Crowther the young woman prophet who had been given the name Little Grandmother by a Native American shaman (though he turned out not to have permission from the proper authorities). When I posted my pictures to flickr her picture got the most hits by a large margin; clearly she was the celebrity of the 2012 party.

She barely made it to the stage. I was afraid she might collapse like Sissy Spacek playing Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner's Daughter. But Keisha stayed upright, gaining strength as the connection with the audience poured energy into her. She talked about being violently ill that morning as a result of being the target of hatred. (A small group of Native American protestors had greeted us that morning.) She explained the misunderstanding surrounding her initiation as a shaman, how it had tested her ego (and helped her dispense with ego), how she had agreed not to do any more Native American ceremonies. There is a statement to this affect on her website. (She also shut down her Tribe of Many Colors online forum the day before this appearance.)

Stripped of the buckskin and ceremonial paraphernalia, Keisha appeared in chinos and an argyle sweater vest. She was still passionate about saving "our mother earth" and inspiring others to do so. Her vulnerability was genuine and I had no reason to doubt that she was internally driven and was speaking from an intuitive based knowledge though she emphasized that she was just an ordinary person like us. Apart from earnestly telling us to love ourselves first, and how wrong it was to hate people just for whom they loved (no wonder she had a lesbian following), she added a little extra bit.

"You know those hunches you have about things, that you then talk yourselves out of. Stop doing that," she said. I put that in my pocket.

I would meet other intuitive based people as I continued to make eye contact and ask people questions. One told me she was a grief counselor; When I asked her what kinds of therapies she used, she told me about sound therapy. How a crystal bowl played close to the solar plexus really opened her clients up to working with her. She pointed to one about the right size that was sitting on the display stand of the crystal bowls booth. She thought sound therapy would totally work with hoarders and urged me to try it. There I thought; I just justified my continuing education deduction.

Another, a lesbian Rabi, told me how her guides had directed her to take a certain workshop over another, thus normalizing for me the use of personal spirit guides. When I told her I wrote reports of my journey to my readers, she asked me if they were real people. Oh yes I assured her. Some even write back.

The Visionary Road

On Sunday Barbara Marx Hubbard, a veteran New Age thinker since 1966, described a scenario that I had already begun to formulate. This would be a media generated phenomena since so many of us are globally connected by instant access to breaking news. Witnessing a catastrophe such as might be prompted by a natural disaster or act of injustice, would create a moment of shared global pain leading to mass empathy, mass revelation and mass introspection which would then open our collective eyes. We would see that we weren't alone and that would create receptivity for a simultaneous, synchronization of technology and social systems that work.

I had felt that way about the Arizona shooting of Gabrielle Glifford and others. Glifford was such an attractive woman and rational, someone we could relate to. An archived news interview of her went viral; it showed her cheerful determination to continue the work of democracy despite threats of violence from Palin supporters. This quickly made her into a symbol of democracy. As the story continued with the moment-by-moment coverage of her recovery, her character achieved heroic proportions. The morning she was moved to the rehabilitation center the newsmedia followed with helicopter shots of the lengthy motorcade accompanying her ambulance. The message was clear—we are not letting anything else happen to this woman or to our fragile democracy. We will not let the country be run by thugs directed by vitriolic talking heads. Glenn Beck lost a million viewers that month.

Barbara called the newsmedia our collective nervous system raising our sense of connectivity and our vibration quotient and offering a feedback loop for our awakening. Thus she saw 2012 as reason for celebration of a birthday of this new sensibility. The name of the conference "2013: Day One" reflected this invitation. She warned us that crisis precedes innovation, that there would be no awakening to the desire to create a higher order without a period of disorder. She pointed out that it was easy to see everything that was wrong with the world, but much harder to see the emerging New Paradigm because it has never existed before. Hmmm. Seeing the positive emerging paradigm was actually a subversive act! It was in defiance of the dominant doomer perspective.

I took notes furiously. The material from these speakers was so dense that I was glad to have Swami Beyondananda simplify it for me.

"The Shift is hitting the fan," he punned. "You may be asking why is this Shift happening to me, but Shift happens." In his more serious incarnation as Steve Bahrain, he explained that because people have not connected to the divine it had allowed the 3Ms to take over—money, materialism and machines (and Monsanto). Pinchbeck, too, had said that because we had no cosmology we hung onto ego. Now he was witnessing a lifting of the veils with so many mystery schools opened and ancient systems liberated from secrecy. In order to develop this evolutionary awareness, he advised, we had to be aware of both the old story and the new and program in the new.

At the end of the day, several speakers assembled for a panel to discuss alien intervention. James talked about how, as more people became able to receive help from extraterrestrials, the ETs would reveal themselves. His videos showed the lights of UFOs flying in; one had seemed to greet the camera with a flashing of their high beams and two had a playful crossing. He said that he had told newsmedia when to come to photograph them and the UFOs had indeed shown up. People came to his ranch to learn how to meditate and put out good vibrations to invite the ETs to show themselves. (The friendly ones sensitive to good vibrations.) Alberto said he and his indigenous friends had seen UFOs but his friends said they were waiting for the ones that didn't come in "buses". Barbara (who had no experience of UFOs) agreed that it made sense that in order to welcome ETs we had to give off a friendly vibration. All agreed that a critical mass of aware people creating receptivity would allow ETs (and other helping spirits) to penetrate our neo-sphere, the thinking layer of the earth.

Before I left the conference I stopped to talk to Freddy Silva (a crop circle expert), who had given an amazing slide show of ancient sites and power spots all over the world, showing how they created electromagnetic forces with the placement of their pillars or their placement of stones on power spots. This archeological technology of the ancients was designed to enhance human potential, he said; a heightened psychic or creative ability say. I was terrifically drawn to this Feng Shui on steroids and the relationship between these temples.

He was leading a tour of Stonehenge and other sites near Glastonbury in July. I asked him if I would be able to touch the stones at Stonehenge. (They are roped off 100 feet out.) He assured me that we would have complete access to the site for our sunset visit. That alone was worth the price of admission, he added. I was sorely tempted. I hadn't been to England in 20 years and I had been looking for a good excuse.

As I drove out of Palm Springs, I felt the fog of doubt burn from my mind and my normal equanimity replaced by an emotion I rarely felt—impatience, impatience with my own lack of narrative with no particular goal (no prophecy of my own) pulling me. All I needed was a good story. I could see myself creating the new paradigm, now, just from what I could observe and intuit.
Contemplating such a reality made me feel slightly unstable and giddy as though I should carry a warning label:
"Caution I am making this Shift up."
I had, however, tasted a new sensibility and was eager to see how I could make it stick.

Also posted to the Energy Bulletin

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