Here are some more sacred geometry mandalas I’ve been working on recently! Feel free to download and use as aids for contemplation & meditation. I’ve found that when I focus on the center of the mandala the whole thing starts to ebb and do strange things to my visual field, and I get a sense of peace, like the mandala is transmitting its harmony to a deeper part of my being 🙂
The 17th Gene Key
Opinion -> Far-sightedness -> Omniscience
As my core wound, this one’s a tough one for me. The twin shadows here are opinion and judgment. I often find myself getting judgmental about other’s judgments. Or opinionated about others’ opinions. And then I get self-judgmental about my own judgment. Because I have this opinion that I shouldn’t be opinionated. And I think that’s kind of what the Core Wound is like… it’s a snake chasing its own tail, the Ouroboros.
Because, as Richard says, it’s not about being empty of all opinions and judgments and ideas and beliefs. It’s just about non-attachment. It’s the nature of the mind to investigate and work with concepts. But when we get wrapped up in our opinions and identify with them, feel the need to defend our ideas and attack the ideas of others, then we’ve lost sight of the essential. And that’s really all it is. We’ve become short-sighted, we’re more focused on being right than being happy. We’ve become identified with the mind rather than simply using it as an impersonal tool to navigate life.
Opinions, to me, are really the death of progress. They’re such a burden! When you really believe you know something, in a way, you’ve killed it. You’ve reached a dead end, your mind isn’t open anymore, the world is the way it is and you’re not really open to seeing it change. And we all suffer from this to some degree, however subtle. We’ve been conditioned to look at life this way, as a fixed package that doesn’t really change in any meaningful way from the time you’re born to the moment you die. And so many people are just waiting for others to catch up to their perception, and realize that they’ve been right all along. I know this has been true for me. And to some degree, it still is. But I don’t feel that this is the end of the line. Life has surprised me and will continue to do so, I’m sure of it!
So there’s a little prayer that I think is useful. A prayer for an open mind. Lord, God, Universe, Mother, whatever, show me what I’m missing. Reveal to me my blind spots. I open myself to seeing things in a new way. I open myself to facing my own fears.
Because that’s what it’s really all about, when you really investigate. A fear of not-knowing. Or even a fear of knowing! Sometimes we don’t admit our own insights to ourselves, because it means other people could challenge us, could get offended and angry! God forbid 😉 But the mind is such a powerful tool, and it’s up to us to learn to use it in a way that will make the world a better place. To sharpen the mind into the Zen sword it can be, dismantling falsity and illusion wherever it is found, but guided by the heart of compassion. I think that’s the illustrious goal of the 17th and 18th gene keys.
I’ve found that when you look at life through the mind, the future always appears, in some way, a burden. There’s the 1st gene key and its shadow of entropy, this sense that in the long run everything is doomed. That old age, should you be lucky enough to suffer it, is a descent into decrepitude and dementia. You spend your whole life slaving away to take care of all your responsibilities, only to find that there is no freedom at the end of the line, only the tides of the great Ocean that pull you under and devour you forever.
Wow! What a bleak picture!
And what I found is that through the 17th shadow, not even Paradise is very appealing! After all, wouldn’t an eternity of anything get unbearably boring? Eating porridge with silver spoons and listening to angels harp on the same boring harmonies forever? No dissonance, no sex drugs and rock n’ roll? Nothing to rebel against, no drama to keep things lively? And presumably we have to suffer this eternity with our relatives, with Mom eternally bringing up embarassing incidents from when we were kids and Dad still letting us know we could have accomplished more. I mean, wouldn’t you run out of things to talk about? So many people seem obsessed with the notion of their personal identity living forever, but is it really what we want? Aren’t our personal identities rather limited?
The 17th gift is far-sightedness, so it’s really about looking far. It’s about recognizing patterns, so it’s about fractals. It’s about metaphors. It’s a really incredible gift, this ability to see how the same patterns are playing out in what appear to be wildly diverse avenues of life. Really they are all governed by the same principles. And one of these principles is that we influence our lives through our beliefs and attitude, whether these are conscious or subconscious. We live in the realm of our own perception, and that perception can change. Sometimes arduously, with a long process of de-conditioning, and sometimes suddenly, in an unexpected illumination. This is the process of evolution. It proceeds gradually, until a point where a great shift is catalyzed. Like the slow movement of tectonic plates suddenly resulting in an earthquake or volcanic eruption. The 17th gift sees the Tao, the flow of life that moves beneath the myriad manifestations.
That’s what the Gene Keys and the I Ching are all about. That’s why the I Ching is called the book of changes, it’s not a static structure but a universal pattern that life breathes into, dances through, and brings to life in a billion trillion similar and yet perfectly unique forms. And when you see that, really truly see it, in all its glorious beauty and mystery, can you really go on believing that life is a game of chance where everyone inevitably loses? Isn’t there a bit more going on behind the scenes?
As I’ve experienced the gift of the 17th key, it begins as a feeling, a sense of harmony and being at one with the flow of life as it goes through the challenges of growth and into the bliss of blossoming, and this feeling wraps itself in the garment of forms, geometries that illustrate harmony, balance, crystalline integrity. When Buckminster Fuller, one of the great geniuses of the 17th gene key, contemplated the mysteries of life, he concluded that there had to be an opposite and complementary force to entropy, and he called it syntropy. This inexplicable tendency of life to create patterns of greater and greater complexity, which nonetheless operate according to the principles of simplicity and least effort. Syntropy is the crystallization of life, its self-organizing intelligence. Unlike entropy, syntropy is much more difficult to quantify and analyze. It just seems to come out of nowhere.
Syntropy operates on the principle of synthesis, which is a process whereby two or more things come together to create something altogether new, which encompasses the previous elements but also goes beyond them. It’s why the essence of being human is a poetry, and not the wild chaos of being a billion buzzing atoms, each with its own momentum and characteristics. And it’s why the essence of a culture is something at once intangible and yet distinct, and not just the wild chaos of a million people each with their own agenda and story. It is both! Entropy and syntropy are both true, they balance one another and create this dynamic story of evolution that we are all a part of.
So the 17th gift, which is far-sightedness, opens up a dimension of life that is not perfectly logical or quantifiable. This is the domain of heart science, of knowing first and thinking afterwards. We know there is this mysterious harmony operating behind the scenes, because we have felt it at work in our own lives! This is what happens when we drop our opinions and look at life as children once more, we notice the mysterious presence of an underlying harmony. A dynamic harmony that challenges us and rewards us, comforts us and surprises us. A harmony that encompasses shadows and gifts both. A harmony that we help to create by trusting it. And yet even if we don’t trust it, it’s still there. It remains, hidden in plain sight, waiting for the day that we open our hearts and just surrender to it.
When I think of growing older, I think of the great crystallization of wisdom. I think of all the challenges of my life, like the chisel hitting the marble slab, carving out a blessedly unique individual, appreciative of the light and dark both. I think of being able to share not just my experiences, but what they’ve taught me. I think of coming into deeper and deeper communion with my own essence, the way a wine reveals its own uniqueness as it ages. I think of surrendering and dying into the flow of life, so that my personal identity becomes more and more soft and loving as the underlying reality shines through… that I am life! I am the mystery, ever-changing, ever-dying, ever-reborn. And everything in this realm of experience, however pleasant or unpleasant, is just that, the infinite manifestation of life which we all are.
And I pray that humanity will follow me. That the chaos and turmoil and doom we face are only a passing childish folly, born from our confusion of who and what we are. And as we relax, learn to trust, learn to love, we will all gain that wisdom of age, of knowing we are home in the world, that we are the world. The at times gradual and at times sudden dissolution of separateness.
I think of the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life. To me, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is the Tree of Duality. Eating its fruit brings us into the illusion of separateness. And with this come shame, fear of rejection, guilt, repression, denial. And this is the world we live in. It is the world of debt and entropy. Our leaders, spiritual and political, go on preaching separate-ness. And our economic systems go on preaching debt and poverty. But the time will come when we re-discover the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life is the Tree of Light, of Unity and Love and Prosperity. When we eat from the Tree of Life we recognize that all life is precious and sacred. We recognize that we are kin to all life. We recognize that we are here to serve life and serve unity. Everything else is just the veil of opinion. When humanity as a whole discovers the Tree of Life, our leaders will preach peace and understanding. Our economic systems will ensure that everyone has enough, and a little more! We will see that freedom and happiness are not just our rights, they are our true nature! They are the essence of who and what we are.
And of course, both Trees are here already. We never really left the Garden. As Christ says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within.” It is right here, right now, waiting for us to recognize that we are already home. This, I think, is the true meaning of Omniscience. It is nothing more or less than the ability to see that you are already Home.
Hi, my name is Tom and I’ve lived all over the world. That always seems to be the most interesting thing about me when I introduce myself to people. Everyone wants to know where you’re from. Well, in my mind, I am from many places, and I am not from anywhere. I am a wandering spirit, as are we all.
I was born in Israel, just like Jesus. Not to draw any implicit connection, but you know, just sayin’. It’s not a bad place to be born. This was just before things got really heated over there, but anyway I don’t remember too much about Israel. We moved by the time I was 2 years old. My parents are not Jewish nor military folk. My dad was an adventurous software engineer, and these days he’s an adventurous manager. He wanted to travel, and travel we did.
My parents are both from Belgium. This is how I usually phrase it. I don’t say that I’m from Belgium. Not that I have anything against Belgium. My bloodline is from Belgium. But only for a while. If you trace it back, century after century, it goes on branching and wheeling across the world and eventually, I guess, into the Ocean, and back to the stars. But my spirit is from many places. For my spirit, discovering different cultures is like remembering the many masks I have worn throughout time and space. Does that sound cosmic enough?
I’m a pretty cosmic kind of guy. To me, what is happening nowadays, this whole globalization business, is pretty cosmic. I like to look for the highest potential in everything. There’s a lot that is not perfect about globalization. But to me the hidden gift of globalization is the ability for every individual to remember their universal nature. To realize that every culture, every language, is just a different way of expressing essential human themes. And at the heart of these is the pair of longing and embodiment… longing for home, and embodying love. Because love is our home.
One of the shadows of globalization is that it seems to be creating a world where money rules everything, and we’re all becoming the faceless agents of a system beyond anyone’s control. A system driven only by profit, that is draining the world’s resources and exploits those unfortunate enough to find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s like a great virus that covers the richness of humanity in sheathes of materiality. But maybe this virus is a necessary devil, acting as a carrier for a global communication network that can birth a new consciousness: that of all humanity as one global family. That’s my dream. That perhaps we can all awaken to the fact that we are all united and our only real purpose is to serve one another. That everything else is just a distraction.
For the last 14 years I’ve lived in the United States. Before that I lived in Taiwan and Belgium. In the States, I’ve lived in Virginia, North Carolina, Chicago, and California. I loved going to school in Washington DC. I didn’t like school in Virginia. I didn’t like North Carolina either, I was very rebellious and North Carolina felt far too conservative for me. I wanted to leave as soon as possible. Chicago was my relief from North Carolina, my great hub of culture and sophistication, but in Chicago I felt cut off and isolated. The city felt cold and hostile, although it had its moments of beauty.
But looking back, I spent a lot of my life feeling isolated and cut off. I was an introverted kid, I spent a lot of my time in books and in thought. I had a mean narcissistic streak, and felt like others couldn’t relate to me. But I don’t think I tried too hard to communicate my feelings to others. They were too obscured in complex ideas about the world and why, ultimately, it was a meaningless and hopeless place. Deep down, I was probably kind of depressed.
I ended up studying Philosophy in Chicago. I’ve always been fascinated by the big ideas of mankind. The big bang. Quantum theory. Theism vs. atheism. The meaning of life (42, incidentally). Death. And one avenue into many of these contemplations was psychedelic drugs. I loved taking drugs. They put me into an entirely different world that most people didn’t understand. Like the gateway into Narnia! I felt that in one night on mushrooms I had more thoughts than the average person had in a year. I thought about things most people would never care to think about. And it felt so… strange! They were like nothing else I had ever experienced.
But my experiences weren’t always pleasant. Sometimes I touched a deep hopelessness, a feeling that life was a meaningless charade where we all pretend everything is fine but deep down we all know it is doomed. At other times I would become aware of a presence that seemed so powerful it would overcome me completely, and for it to enter Tom would have to die. That was the most terrifying.
As I continued to experiment with psychedelics, these experiences became more and more frequent. Something wanted to take over, and I struggled to hold onto the reigns, even as the absurdities of my life were highlighted for me. I felt like an actor who refused to read the lines the director handed me, and instead stumbled around on stage foolishly and self-consciously.
This was also accompanied by a feeling that my friends and other people around me weren’t real, they were also just actors playing out their roles. This made me feel crazy, and then I became afraid that I would be seen as crazy and terrible things would happen to me. I was on a bad trip, folks. And it would have kept getting worse if I hadn’t, somehow, found it in myself to surrender.
If there is a message to my story, it is all captured in this word–surrender. I feel that it is perhaps the most profound thing we, as human beings, can do. To give up our need to control life. To trust. To let go of our ideas, our beliefs, our reason, our faith and our doubt. All of these can be ways that our minds go on attempting to control life. To give up our tendency to complain or blame others for our problems. To give up our tendency to judge others and ourselves. Essentially, to give up all the noise in our heads that keeps us from just being in the present moment, and becoming the silent witness of what is happening.
Surrender. I feel that I surrendered to two things simultaneously. I surrendered to a higher power and I surrendered to my physical experience. Before that happened, I never could have understood how deeply connected those two are. Our bodies are always having some physical experience, but we spend most of our time distracting ourselves from how our bodies are feeling. We move around, we go around doing things, we talk to each other, we drink and eat and sleep. But we usually spend very little time just sitting, closing our eyes, and feeling what’s going on with our bodies. It gets uncomfortable very quickly. I think most people realize this when they take psychedelics–it’s pretty uncomfortable to be in a body. Even when your body is perfectly healthy, it’s still liable to have all kinds of aches and pains just from sitting still. And when you’re high, it feels even stranger. You sweat for no reason, it just feels damn weird. You feel like a spirit that’s been thrown in a strange cage of bones and flesh and fluids. The body is weird!
But what does that discomfort have to do with a higher power? Well, as I said, most of our minds’ activity seems to be about distracting us from the present moment. Our minds are very future and past oriented. So much of our time is spent complaining about the past or anticipating the future. We work jobs we don’t like looking forward to when we get out of work. We go on vacation to places where we can go on distracting ourselves, with food and drink and this and that. And if anything happens to snap us out of our distraction, we get frustrated! And along the way, we develop a strong sense of who we are. We identify with our beliefs, with our behavior, with where we’re from, with what we’ve done, with what we like, and so on. But what happens when we start to just sit with the discomfort of the present moment? All that stuff starts getting burned away.
The ego starts getting burned away. When we surrender to the present moment, to just sitting with ourselves and reality as it is, all of our thoughts about the past and future and ourselves start to get burned away. They don’t serve any function anymore. There’s just this moment and the sensations going through the body, which are all impermanent. And there is the consciousness that is witnessing the body, witnessing the present moment. The consciousness that has always been there. The consciousness that was there when Tom was born, when Tom became 12, when Tom became 21, the consciousness that is here right now. But this consciousness has not always been Tom. Tom is an idea that appeared in this consciousness at some point. There is no point in tracing where this idea came from. But there is great value in seeing that it is an illusion. It is a useful illusion. A beautiful illusion, even, at times. But it is still an illusion. And the truth is far greater. The truth is that I am consciousness. I am not my beliefs, not my thoughts, not my deeds, not my past. I am not where I’ve lived, who I’ve known, or what I’ve done. I am consciousness, just as the deer outside my house is consciousness, my girlfriend is consciousness, my parents are consciousness, and you are consciousness. We are all consciousness, and consciousness is all there is. And this is beautiful. This is unifying, harmonizing, and it is peaceful.
And in the space of seeing this, something else becomes apparent. What becomes apparent is that there is a force moving through all things. I see, with more and more clarity, that I am not the source of my actions or my deeds, any more than I am the source of the sensations in my body or the things I witness externally. In fact, everything is just happening, and if I can do anything at all, I can surrender to what is happening. I can surrender to the flow of life through me. I can surrender to the sensations I feel. I can surrender to the situations life brings me. And in this surrender, there is a sense of communion. A sense that I am coming into harmony with the source of all of this.
And it’s also a sense that Tom is dying. Not that my body is dying, but that identification with the body is dying. That identification with thoughts is dying, so thought patterns that used to be very strong start to unravel. Thoughts like “this is good” and “that is bad.” When there is just consciousness observing and embracing what it sees, these thought patterns start to unravel. And so the sense of Tom unravels as well. The whole flavor of life changes. And it’s wonderful! It’s liberating, and peaceful, and full of love and beauty.
So when I tell my story of living, I start to tell a story of dying. As one of my spiritual teachers said, “The art of living is also the art of dying.” Because we all die eventually. And they say that the wise are those who, rather than despair, use this realization as the fuel for their desire to find what is deathless. Because saints and sages of all traditions have told us there is a deathless. And it is not a matter of faith, it is a matter of inquiry into your own being and realizing the truth for yourself. As we realize this, on a collective level, all the divisions of religion and creed will drop away.
When I tell my story, I always find myself drawn to what I consider to be the essential. My girlfriend has a different style, she loves to chronicle events and people and use the stories to share her wisdom. I just go straight to being. I don’t think that one is right and the other is wrong. I don’t think it’s wrong to be interested in the every-day realities of material life, to highlight the dramas we all play out. I just know that my spirit just wants to rest in this truth–we are all consciousness. And we don’t need anything else! We can just be consciousness and sip the divine tea of freedom.
This is also why I love tea ceremony. It takes being and turns it into an art. When we sip tea, we sip being. We meet as one and leave as one, and the ceremony reminds us of our unity.
I love my parents, I love Belgium, I love God, I love Jesus and the Buddha and Lao Tzu and Mooji and Goenkaji, I love my brother and my girlfriend. I love the US and Santa Cruz. The more I lose myself, the more I love, because I don’t need anything to be any particular way. I just accept and embrace everything as it is. And if an impulse arises inside me to make an adjustment, to fix something, to change something, to protest something, then I embrace that as well. Because I see how everything is a part of the whole, and the whole goes on changing. And sometimes the changes come through us. It’s a beautiful paradox that cannot be understood, only lived.
Life is a beautiful paradox that cannot be understood, only lived.
When all’s said and done, this isn’t my story, it’s our story. That gives me hope. I look forward to a day when we encourage our kids to meditate, when we hold compassion in greater esteem than knowledge. I pray that my life can be a pure light of illumination for others, and that together we heal the wounds of the world through the depth of our surrender.
OK, I think that’s enough for today. I hope this finds you all well, inspired, peaceful and loving. May all beings be released from suffering. May we all be supported in walking this holy path. May we have fun too!
Another project Bird & I completed recently, an artistic rendition of the mantra & yantra of the Goddess Durga.
Durga, like Kali, is a fierce manifestation of the Goddess. She was summoned to defeat an undefeatable demon. We all face an undefeatable demon, from time to time, and Durga gives us the strength to face, embrace, and transcend this demon. Whether it manifests as an addiction, grief, an egotistic tendency, etc., Durga can help us move forward.
The most important thing is our intention and willingness to go through the fire of purification. If our spirit is ready and willing, all the power of the universe is at our disposal. That doesn’t necessarily mean the process will be easy, but it will be possible, and if we persevere we will come out the other side reborn.
This mantra can be very powerful if used properly. Many blessings on your journey!
Here’s a sweet healing song Bird & I made for our friend Jamie 🙂