On Integral Alchemy

The familiar image of the alchemist that has come down through history is that of an old, bearded man with long robes bent over glass flasks in a medieval laboratory, preparing a secret concoction that would turn lead into gold. This may be quaint and charming, but it isn’t really what alchemy is about. This is not to deny that medieval alchemists were, in fact, preparing secret concoctions in their laboratories, but to highlight the deeper reality beneath the surface appearance of things. Alchemists knew that the secret substance, the so-called magical “philosopher’s stone,” was their own transformed consciousness. Unless they had gone through inner alchemy, as a process of purification by fire to eliminate all of the heavy, leaden aspects of their own personality in order to achieve a (golden) state of enlightened awareness, there would be no corresponding change in the material world, or in the chemical substances they were experimenting with in their laboratories.  (more…)

The Stages of Awakening

Integral Alchemy: A Guidebook for Phoenixes
Chapter 2: Awakening Within the Dream
(ii). The Stages of Awakening

What I share with you is not a textbook narrative of awakening, but a personal mapping that came out of the insights of my own experience, as there can be no other barometer of truth. But I do not believe that it is a singular or unique experience, and I’ve witnessed it enough times in others to discern a clear pattern. You can think of these stages of awakening as the journey of one person in a single lifetime, but also as the stages defining a single, peak experience – many of my meditations, breathwork sessions, and ayahuasca journeys passed through these stages, one by one, like falling dominoes. And I believe that on a larger, macrocosmic level this is also the journey that humanity is on, collectively. It’s because this is the pattern of the evolution of consciousness, the way awareness naturally ascends on a scale of frequencies, so it is inevitably mirrored in many overlapping levels of experience. (more…)

The Burning Tower: Crisis as Catalyst

Integral Alchemy: A Guidebook for Phoenixes
Chapter 2: Awakening Within the Dream
Part (i): The Burning Tower: Crisis as Catalyst

Many years ago, in what seems like another life, I used to have weird, hypnagogic reveries, as if I was waking up from an uncanny dream in broad daylight. It was an eerie, slow-motion awareness of being awake but still trapped in the strangeness of the dream landscape. In my most memorable walking dream, I found myself in an attic apartment on the 6th floor of a very old building in Berlin on Chorinerstrasse, looking out the slanted window. The vantage point seemed much higher than I knew it was, and I saw tiny insect-people on the street below, moving not in a straight line with purpose, but in a chaotic scramble of habituated fear. I smelled something burning, and began to walk around in a panic, going from one room to another, but there was no door leading outside. I intuited that there must be some hidden passageway, but I didn’t know how to find my way out. And then I suddenly realized in a flash of clarity: the burning was coming from within. I understood that I was being challenged, symbolically, to make a leap out the window into the abyss of an unknown future, and to let go of the obstacles that kept me stuck in that sealed Tower of my own mind: my sense of self-identity, which was mostly a mask to interact with others; my attachment to my personal history, my possessions, my fears, my walls of protection, and even my dreams of the future. (more…)

The Collective Scream … of Freedom

On January 1, I had a dream of a collective scream that resounded as powerful earthquake bringing down a tower of lies and heralding a new freedom, the likes of which we have never experienced before. It came to me as a vision in between a half-awakened, lucid dream and a trance-like, psychedelic meditation. And it was, for an instant, very real – like a soft blanket you grasp in your hands for comfort. I share the personal context out of which it emerged, to make the vision clearer to understand. And also to mirror it back to you, so that you can better discern your own experience in its reflection. (more…)

I am the you in me

Integral Alchemy: A Guidebook for Phoenixes
Prologue: I am the you in me

I see you in your darkness, and I behold you in your boundless light. I come from your present and future past, from all that you have been, and from your hopes and dreams. I have been calling you for a long time, but your ears have been deaf to my song.

You have found your way to me after a dark night of the soul. You have journeyed through many unravellings and rebirths on the surface of your inner world, but you know this one is different. This is the night that will not wait upon time. Although you come before me with a humble request, I cannot promise to deliver you into the light. But I can sit with you, for a while, as you learn to light your own candles. And it is possible that your night may get darker still, before the dawn appears.

You cast your gaze outward, but you already know the answer you seek, even if it’s only a vague premonition of the untold question. Do you remember those fateful words from the Matrix, which seemed to herald the irreversible moment of the only choice that ever matters? The decision to give up the comforts of illusion for the unforgiving landscape of reality.


Wind of Change

I had a dream of watching myself within a dream. I was with my parents, in our old apartment in New York City, looking at a broadcast of the fall of the Berlin wall on television. My father had tears in his eyes, and I saw a stream of half-forgotten memories reflected in his aging face, of the arrests, and the hunger strikes, and the struggle for a dream of freedom. He grasped my mother’s hand and said “Mamicuto, se va prabusi peste tot. Si in Romania noastra.” (Little mother, it will collapse everywhere, even in our Romania). I closed the television and told my parents I was going downstairs into the streets to see it for myself. As I climbed down the stairs of the apartment building, I kept hearing the Scorpions song, Wind of Change, playing in the background of my mind, in a loop:

“Take me to the magic of the moment
On a glory night
Where the children of tomorrow dream away
In the wind of change” (more…)

Stopping the World

7. Stopping the World

I decided to travel to San Cristobal on the suggestion of American friends. My arrival met with a series of mishaps, which forced me to look beyond the apparent shitiness of circumstance … to find the golden lining behind it. Being tired of hotels, I had booked a flat through airbnb, but discovered upon arriving that it was misdescribed due to language barriers, and was really a room in a shared flat with a couple. And the internet had just crashed. My hosts were very apologetic, offered a refund, and the next morning drove me into town at a cafe with WIFI to search for an alternative. I reserved a small studio on the scenic hillside through booking.com, but when I got there, the owner apologized that it was unavailable because the previous renter called to say he was stranded for a couple of days in another town, and his possessions were still inside. He recommended a B&B of a friend, on the other side of town, until the situation could be sorted out. I sat in his garden, exhausted and drained by the whole experience, and from carrying my luggage around, and just allowed myself to cry through the desperation of not being in control … of life. I decided there was nothing to do except surrender to the unknown, and instead of searching online for yet another place, I asked my intuition to guide me to whatever was best. (more…)

The Underworld of Sacrifice

6. The Underworld of Sacrifice

I find myself in Mexico, for reasons I can’t explain … and still don’t know. It’s as if a strange, dreamlike trance has brought me here. After leaving Peru, I had planned to stay in San Francisco and the Bay area for some time. But I spent a week feeling completely disconnected, drifting through my new environment, and watching, like a spectator of a film noir, as all my plans for where to stay and what to do came crashing down. I began to feel an uncanny resistance – or not exactly resistance, but more like a sadness in my heart that I could never live in the US again after a 20 year exile – and I just knew I had to leave. I also knew that my life in Europe had come to a close, and I did not want to return – so I was in a weird limbo of uncertainty. I sat on park benches watching people carrying on with life, going deeper into my own feelings of anxiety, until they settled and cleared. I asked in meditation to be shown what my next step is, but didn’t get any answers. So I sat with the silence. The next day two friends from Berlin and one from Romania mentioned Mexico in their messages to me, and there was an ad from Interjet for a flight from SFO to Cancun for $60 that came up several times in my Facebook newsfeed for no reason, which all seemed too strange to be mere coincidence. I decided to take it as the answer I had been waiting for; I booked the flight, and left two days later. (more…)

Awakening through the Global Crisis

We are loosing the battle. But this is good news, because the battle cannot be won, on its own terms. The battlefield only reveals our own folly and despair. To enter the battle is to abide in a polarized world of anger, blame, hate, and conflict, a world of duality conjured out of a dream of separation. Its foundation is fear. And the only way out is through integrating our own shadows, which comes from embracing the fear to the very limits of its discomfort, in order to transcend it. Only then is it possible to get up and walk away. And walking away isn’t an escape; it is a real engagement, in whatever form it may take.

The Gaian Mind

Dreaming Awake
5. The Gaian Mind

I decided to spend a couple of weeks in Cusco before leaving Peru; I knew that during those 3 days I stayed when I first arrived, I had not given the city a chance, and that I had to look deeper at the source of my own resistance. I rented an apartment just on the other side of San Blas, near Calle Recoleta, in a modern residential area away from the historic center and tourist crowds. During the first days I sat on benches in the main square, Plaza de Armas, which was known as Huacaypata or the place of crying during the Inca empire because the nobility cried during their ceremonies … and I people watched, a lot. Or meditated with my eyes open, observing both the streams of life passing before me, and my reactions to it. It was uncanny, like I was there but not there, seeing it from some other eyes outside me – I still felt an afterglow of my last ayahuasca journey, already now in the distant past, like I was two beings living life in overlapping dimensions at the same time. (more…)