19. The Question of Consciousness and the Unfolding of the Universe


Paris, France—May, 2019. On a sunny late-May morning in Paris, France, I found myself meandering from my hotel, through the city’s bustling boulevards, around it’s dizzying traffic circles, and along its quaint quiet rues. Lost in the revelry and awe at being in one of the world’s most beautiful and grandiose cities—not to mention being a writer and a hopeless romantic—I leisurely made my way to the Picasso Museum, fully aware of the fact that I was living in the embodied dream of my 17-year-old self.

As Parisians made their way to work and sightseers busily transitioned from one point of interest to the next, in sidewalk cafes throughout the city, locals and tourists picked apart their pain, sipped on espressos, slurped on café au laits, and smoked cigarettes—all the while playing chess, conversing with friends, looking into the eyes of lovers, scribbling into notebooks, and pounding away on keyboards in the hopes of becoming Paris’s next Proust, Camus, or Hugo. With me at the center of the mystery, all around me life was happening.

A short time later, I was once again on the move. While observing all the plaques, museums, statutes, and memorials that commemorated Paris’s most celebrated leaders, artists, writers, painters, poets, and politicians, within me arose a reductionist thought: What is it that unites all these people?

The answer that was returned to me was choice.

What future generations would celebrate about these people were the choices they made and the courage it took to make them—especially when they had no idea what the outcome would be. Instead, they operated on a feeling, a vision, an internal barometer the likes of which Bob Dylan called destiny. “Destiny is a feeling you have that you know something about yourself nobody else does. The picture you have in your own mind of what you’re about will come true.”

With thoughts as such ruminating in my head, I entered the Picasso museum to see a joint exhibition of Pablo Picasso and Alexander Calder, two titans of 20th century art. As I eyed the works of these masters of form, dimension, and color, it dawned on me that the choices they made were not always about the subject matter, but rather informed by the empty space—or the void—in which they existed.

“Each time I begin a painting, I have the feeling of leaping into the void. I never know whether I’ll land on my feet. Only later do I evaluate the effect of my work,” Picasso said.

Perhaps this is the simplest and most profound statement about the intersection of life and art.


Trusting the Process

Every day, every minute, every second we have a choice—how to live, how to react, how to love, who to love, what to learn, where to put our focus and attention. Whether speaking about art or life, choice is the seed that sprouts the dreaming and creative process. The proper condition to make that acorn of an idea into a great oak is the courage to revisit that dream.

There’s a certain archetype that has no other choice but to be creators. These are people possessed by an other-worldly drive to express through art the feeling of what the intersection of consciousness and the physical world engenders. This is not to say that learning to trust the process and learning to trust their choices is easy. To trust this process is to trust that you will bring back something from the nothingness of where all possibilities exist. This is the process of creation, as well as the purpose of meditation—to lower the noise of the external world to uncover the truths of the internal world. For Picasso and Calder, their art was their meditation, and every time they disappeared into the void, they returned with form, lines, colors, contours, and dimension.

At some point or another all great artists have had to trust this process of losing themselves in the void, for in that merging, in that dissolving of the individual consciousness with the universal consciousness, we pull into being patterns of energy that already exist. These patterns of energy and information are then processed through the physical vessel of the body and transmuted into form, ideas, creations, relationships, careers, health, etc.

To trust the process is to not know where you will end up, but rather to take the first step of a journey into the unknown. In art, this is the journey of laying the first word from pen to paper, playing the first note of what becomes a song, or sweeping the first brush stroke across a canvas. In this forward momentum of creation, an alchemy occurs that transmutes being into expression. As I said in the epilogue of my book, A Curious Year in the Great Vivarium Experiment, “The mystery conspires to support us when we’re living in our truth, and the world more than ever needs truth.”

But how do you get to that truth? The missing variable in this formula is commitment, the thread that strings together the choice to the dream.


The Intersection of Art, Life, and Expansion

What art and life have in common is that they are both processes whereby we extract form from the formless. You can’t do this without commitment, for it’s commitment—which at its root level is focus—that causes an idea to grow and expand. This is why the expression, “Where attention goes energy flows,” exists. Do you need empirical proof?

All you have to do is observe the arc of an artist’s life. Think of the young girl or boy who began sketching images in a notebook and ended their career painting on canvases that filled museum walls or the ceilings of chapels; sculptors who started with a ball of clay or a stretch of wire and ended up creating giant installations in public spaces; or writers who began observing their surroundings in the privacy of their journals and by the end of their life had produced volumes of work. So what is the reductionist thought that ties these people together? Expansion. Each artist had the courage to expand into greater aspects of themselves.

For a visual of what this means, imagine a stick figure of yourself with a balloon drawn around the head. This is ‘you’ and your limited self. Now imagine a much greater circle around the figure consuming the entire page—and imagine it’s always expanding. This is your unlimited self. The space between the limited and the unlimited is the void—it’s the unknown, unmanifested potential, the space each of us are called to expand into.

Whether you’re expanding through the choices you make that are in alignment with what Dylan called your “destiny,” or dreaming of your greater self with your eyes closed in meditation, its only by moving into those unknown spaces—spaces that most often make us uncomfortable—which is precisely the reason you should expand into them—where the new experiences exist that expands our consciousness and awareness, not to mention fuels a fuller, more interesting, more rewarding life.


The Secret They Don’t Teach You in School

The secret they don’t teach you in classrooms is that the unseen world rules the seen world.

What they also don’t teach you is that what you are seeking already exists within the void as frequencies and energetic patterns—the void being the quantum field, or the place from which all things arise. You only need to bring your consciousness to it and match the frequency of that energetic pattern to bring it into being. To achieve this is a constant process of addition and reduction, which in itself is a process of refinement. It’s for this reason that if you want to create something new in your life, you have to continue to revisit the dream with all of your being, for it’s through this process of refinement that you raise your body’s frequency to match that new future or creation.

Within this circle I spoke of earlier are infinite circles that represent greater levels of awareness and consciousness, and at all times, that circle is expanding. Just as science tells us the universe is expanding, so too is the nature of the human spirit and the collective consciousness. The choice is ours whether we want to expand with it or remain in the comfort of our known, predictable self—which keeps us in a known, predictable world. 

In those ever expanding layers of consciousness exists the future manifestations of our dreams, but for many of us, a great deal of fear exists in the dream. Why? Because to dream is to risk. The limited self says, “What if it doesn’t work?” But the unlimited self says, “But what if it does?” The latter is the voice of the 17-year-old self, the fearless voice of youth—unencumbered, unshackled, not bound by static, limitation, or barriers. If you revisit that second voice enough times, the “what if” becomes “it will” or better yet, “and so it is.”

So let’s wrap this up, shall we?


The Unfolding of the Universe and the Question of Consciousness

The universe unfolds through the question of consciousness, and seeing as I am apparently a reductionist, as far as I can tell, there are only three questions, the first of which arises in our first moment of awareness. They are:

1.     What is this? (This is human consciousness looking outward and observing the physical world)

2.     Who am I? (This is human consciousness gazing inward and looking for its relation to the physical world)

3.     Is there more? (This is the question that expands human consciousness, and consequently, the universe)

It’s my postulation that there is always more, and in that "more” a better world awaits us. But we are living in a time where we can no longer afford to be complicit and complacent. We have to consciously create that new world, and it’s up to each and every one of us to do our part to expand into it.

Six years ago, when I took off on the journey that would later become my book, while living and volunteering in India for three months, I once asked Sam LaBudde, a scientist, activist, and winner of the Goldmund Prize, how to make a difference in the world. His reply was something that has never left me, so I’m going to share it with you now.

He told me that you need to find that one thing that you absolutely, positively can’t stand about this world and do something about it—whether that’s homelessness; child abuse and the deplorable acts of removing children from their parents at the US border; poverty; human or civil rights violations; animal abuse; the destruction of the ocean and the plastic that poisons it; the destruction of the rain forests; climate change; gun control; autism; the lack of courageous leaders; the lack of compassion in the world, and so on and so on.

“If you don’t know how to do it yourself, then find someone who does and join their cause,” he added. At the time, I was volunteering for MC Mehta, perhaps the world’s most important environmental lawyer and the inspiration behind my book’s character JD Singh.

Here’s the deal folks: Humanity has been asleep at the wheel for too long. It’s time to wake up and get involved, so I am asking you to become a reductionist in your own right. Find out what that one thing is that infuriates you about this world and do something about it. If you’re afraid to step into that, ask yourself these questions: What voice will I have answered to when the future—when history—comes calling? Will it be the voice of the limited self—the one who operates out of fear and contraction? Or will it be the unlimited self—the voice of courage whose nature it is to expand into the greatest aspect of yourself?

Life is a canvas, and it’s time to paint your most beautiful picture, not only for yourself, but for the evolution of humanity. This is not a time in history to think or act small. If you don’t know what that “thing” is yet that calls you into action, I can tell you that you will find the answer in silence, stillness, and the breath.

In the inhale is the ask, in the exhale is the listen.

Find time every day to be still and stay awake to the kumbhaka, the space between the inhale and the exhale. This in-between space is the void, the place from which the universe speaks to us.

It’s also the place from which Picasso and Calder created their greatest works.


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18. Quantum Strings and the Victory of Awareness


Estoril, Portugal—May, 2019. As I waited for my girlfriend by the pool at the Palácio Estoril Hotel—a place where kings, queens, dukes, duchesses, dignitaries, artists, creators, and writers of all shapes and sizes have been staying since 1930—I had to take several deep breaths so as to not completely lose control of my emotions—which I was on the verge of doing for reasons that were at once incredibly simple and simultaneously complex.  

Reason 1. Quantum Strings

As we neared the Palácio Hotel in the late afternoon the previous day, at the exact moment I turned left and my line of sight beheld the royal, palatial structure, the song Raconte-Moi Une Historia by M-83 began playing. It immediately transported me to a very specific moment in Baja, Mexico, within a very sensorial experience, within a very tumultuous and fiery relationship.

But what actually had me on the verge of tears the following morning was the fact that when I hit random on a playlist of more than 200 songs, Wait by M-83 filled my headphones. This was the song I shared with my girlfriend prior to my ex-girlfriend, within a very loving and supportive relationship (I know, it’s sordid and complicated).

While yes I am a writer, and yes I am always searching for the narrative, I found it cosmically mystical that not only were these songs representative of each respective relationship, but I had never before put together the fact that they occurred back to back on the same album—in the same order of the relationships…and I’d never even listened to the album before.

At the heart of the great mystery is an impeccable sense of humor, irony, and perhaps most importantly, design.

As attendants brought cappuccinos, mimosas, and terrycloth bathrobes to guests lounging by the pool, it was as if via these songs, the higher selves of both of these women—the selves that exist outside of time and space—called out to me through time to wish me well on my journey. At the same time, it was as if my own higher self whispered, “Look how far you’ve come.”

In the transcendental moment where my past and present unexpectedly collided, through the firing and wiring of neurological networks that existed in the past, combined with a series of chemical reactions that culminated in the production of oxytocin in the present, my body produced the correlating feeling.

If that feeling had a voice, it may have said, “All there is in this life is the love you make, the love you share, and the love you leave behind. To love is to surrender to the mystery and to know that things are happening for you and not to you. If it were easy all the time, you’d never learn anything. Sometimes life is messy, and sometimes it’s beautiful, and sometimes it’s confusing and painful, but this is the human experience and this is what you signed up for. It’s via your life’s trials and tribulations you learn what it means to be human, the power of resilience, and the transformative power of love. And it’s through this inward journey of awareness—the journey into the heart of self-love—that the alchemy to transform the world occurs.”

To be human is to be complex.  

In that moment, an awareness within me shed light on how both relationships were catalysts for my soul’s journey, delivery mechanisms fueled by the accelerants of joy and suffering. The purpose of their design was to bring about growth, awakenings, expansion, and the eventual peaceful surrendering of who I was, the pain I caused, the pain I experienced, and the mistakes I had made as a result of the knowledge I lacked at those times in my life. They were aspects of the Yin and Yang, the totality of which brought me into greater degrees of wholeness and an understanding of myself that I otherwise could never have experienced. If it were not for these spiritual teachers and the lessons garnered from them, I would never have grown into the man I needed to become in order to be traveling around Portugal with the woman who I was currently with.

The songs were what I called in my book, A Curious Year in the Great Vivarium Experiment, quantum strings. Although I’ve evolved the notion since the book’s publication a year prior, the way I see it is that quantum strings are energetic threads spanning through time and space to connect the internal journey of our life. They consist of moments, experiences, interactions, or thoughts at specific times in specific places designed to rouse us out of our unconscious slumber. They do so by calling us into the present moment so we can take an inventory of who and where we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re headed. Existing as signposts, serendipities, or synchronicities in our external world, they’re created for the human mind by an intelligence greater than the human mind, and are only accessible through the awareness of—and immersion in—the present moment.

Try as you may to explain your experience of a quantum string to someone (or to relate to another person’s experience of a quantum string), because of their indelible personal nature and the fact that they exist outside of language, time, and space, when trying to communicate your experience of them to another, you can only begin to hint at their relevancy and mystical guiding force in your life. Why? Because their nature combines your past and present so you can reflect, analyze, and plot your future trajectory.

In other words, quantum strings are designed for you and only you.

Reason 2. The Victory of Awareness

On this mid-May morning in Estoril, Portugal, as I peered out through the lens of Tim Shields, a personality housed in a body—the vehicle of which provides the senses that enable me to experience and explore this physical, three-dimensional reality—at the intersection of my senses and the external world, I found myself asking: How is it that I came from such a lack and fearful mentality to now be in Portugal with such a beautiful, smart, funny, successful woman? How is it I am living my dream of traveling the world as a writer and exploring the mystery through the pen? How was it that—unbeknownst to me in the present moment—the following week I would be going on an all-expense paid, itinerary-less, work-related road trip (which would find my counterpart and I driving from the French Atlantic coast, across the Pyrenees, to the Mediterranean Sea) with a virtual stranger to write about the experience?

As far as I could tell, what had delivered me to that moment at the Palácio Hotel’s pool was a combination of two things: 1.) Relentlessly pursuing the dream of my internal world, and 2.) The letting go of the thoughts and habits that were no longer in alignment with the dream.

Beyond walking away from a high-paying corporate job and desperately trying to conform to worlds or places where I didn’t fit in, the most important aspects of the self I needed to surrender were the stunted thoughts and blocked energies that held me back from experiencing my greatest potential. At least in the present moment, I was living within the alignment of what I chose to be my life’s purpose, and in doing so, I had transformed from the person I was a decade prior, a year prior, and even a day prior into my present-perfect consciousness.

What that looked like was me being me and me doing my thing, which was the embodied evolution of the person I had been since the dream was engendered at age 17—an aspiring writer, curious about the world, and engaging myself in the mystery through the written word; trying to learn more deeply what it means to love; trying to heal my wounds so that I may be of better service to others and the world; and surrendering to, and trusting in, wherever this delivery mechanism called life was transporting me. Since my first moment of awareness, the only absolute that existed in my life was that I—whoever or whatever the consciousness of this I was—was at the center of the mystery. 

From beneath the protection of a sun umbrella, as I scanned the manicured grounds, the edges of the pristine pool, and the towering facade of the hotel, the final reason why I was fighting back tears was that for the first time in my life, a new voice had risen up in protest to overtake one of the most destructive, unconscious forces in my life. Instead of the voice (which was really a feeling) causing me to think I was an imposter at the hotel (which was nothing more than a programmed thought of lack and unworthiness, completely unfounded in reality), the voice said, “Why not me?”

The victory was in the awareness of the voice that percolated up to ask the question. “Why not me?” was the echo of the fearlessness of youth, a voice that was fueled by passion and the unencumbered connection to a dream in which there was no barriers or static. Over the course of time and life lived, however, wounds and self-doubt inflicted by self-judgement enslaved that voice. It was only in the daily, conscious revolt of meditation (which means to become familiar with, or bring awareness to) that the greater voice of the 17-year-old self who had the gumption to declare “Why not me?” rose up.

As the wind began blowing one page of my notebook over the other—one day at a time, one experience at a time, one page at a time, one word at a time—as the haunting chorus of Wait reverberated through my headphones, I hid my tears behind the tinted lenses of my sunglasses, only to taste the salty release of the lacrimal gland as it reached my lips. For most of my life I had been pushing, forcing, and fighting my way through it. The struggle was not an external one, but the adolescent punk rock-fueled fight against the fear and contraction with which the ego and the limited self sought to domineer the unlimited self.

But from what I now knew and had the tools, strength, armor, and awareness to fight back with was that the battle was against an invisible enemy whose fortress was built by one limited thought and one limited belief at a time. To conquer those self-imposed limitations was how you moved the needle and gained territory in life’s ultimate game of Risk.

To achieve things in life, you can certainly work harder. This definitely helps in some arenas, but to achieve our greatest strides as human beings requires us to surrender what no longer serves us so we can be in closer alignment to our higher self or soul’s purpose. This requires us to become an open channel for the creative energy of life to flow within and all around us. As energy beings, we can either be a conduit or an impediment of this energy, after all—we are nothing more than blooms of consciousness in physical matter.

If one were to dissect our human, physical existence down to its most elemental core, through the process of reduction, all you’d be left with is I AM, which is the further reduction of Descartes’, “I think, therefore I am.” As I said in several previous essays, including On Becoming Conscious (or) The Pylon and the Pier, my own interpretation of I AM is that it is the individual aspect of the universal consciousness waiting to be informed and directed. This is the power of freewill and the evolutionary gift of humanity.

Through my own my subjective experience of life, what I interpret reality to be is nothing more than a freestanding piece of tinfoil or a ball of Play-Doh clay. Our life is the raw materials of unmanifested potential just waiting to be shaped and formed by the courage to dream and the will to match it—the will being the energetic force behind awareness and intention.

This poses an arresting, poignant, and pivotal question: Will you intentionally create something with your ball of clay and impose your force on that sheet of tinfoil? Or will you be drifting through life unintentional, unaware, and asleep? And if you do choose to intentionally create, will it be solely for you, your tribe, and the people who think, act, and look like you? Or will it be for the greater good of humanity?

The evolution of mankind is the evolution of our thoughts.


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17. Everything in its Right Place


“The seeker is he who is in search of himself. Give up all questions except one: ‘Who am I?’ After all, the only fact that you are sure of is that you are. The ‘I am’ is certain. The ‘I am this’ is not.”

-       I Am That, by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

As I flew high above the vast empty wastelands of northern Mexico’s deserts, there was nothing I could do but surrender and trust. For someone who has a secret desire to control things, I seem to have an unhealthy way of throwing myself headlong into the unknown.  

I was closing the door on an eight-month chunk of hard-expat living and learning in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; hard living not in the typical pickled-expat way that eventually leads to cirrhosis of the liver, but in a way that deeply entwines winter’s long nights and stark beauty. It is, after all, the dormant, internal functions of winter that enable spring to unfold verdant discoveries in blossoms and blooms.

High above the Earth, who I was as a man in my 40s felt no different from anyone I had been since I was 17. In my mind, I was a kid on a flight, in transition from one thing to the next, hoping the gamble would work out, and turning to the written page to navigate my way—all the while documenting the journey of my physical existence notebook after notebook. Despite the deeply-grooved tracks and well-worn neural pathways that wanted me to remain in the adolescent hopelessness of my past, or the fear and anxiety of an uncertain future, like all of my life’s greatest journeys, I sensed I was on the precipice of great adventure. 

It was in this manner I was on my way to Seattle. From there, ten days later I had a one-way ticket to New York, and from there I was headed out to parts unknown. I was betting on an opportunity falling into place that would bring me to Europe, but if that didn’t work out, I was a man without a plan, especially since my apartments in Mexico and Seattle would soon be occupied. I had other possibilities, but at the time they only existed as unmanifested potentials.

From where I was sitting that afternoon in seat 21F, my perspective afforded me the awareness that everything I had just experienced for the last eight months—the zeniths of joy and the nadirs of despair—were just external reflections of what needed to shatter within me in order to become more awakened. And by awakened, I don’t mean in the Buddha way or the millennial woke way.

I simply mean I was more free from my past.

This new found freedom was the result of sitting long enough in the fire of one of my life’s more uncomfortable incubation periods. We all pass through these anxious seasons where we find ourselves thinking, Is this it? Is this all there is? But by sitting in the fire, and consequently burning down old parts of the self that no longer served me, I was now free to step into the next evolution of my soul’s incarnate journey.

At least in the present moment, age, experience, and the passage of time demonstrated to me how each time life breaks our hearts, it’s just a reminder to take off another layer of armor, to love bigger, and to be more courageous in our vulnerability and open-heartedness. Like a hurricane wiping out a coastline, when your heart gets crushed—in whatever inevitable form that might take—eventually you have to rebuild. If you’ve gained wisdom from the storm, when it comes time to rebuild, you fortify your structure; not in a walled-off way, but in a way that provides a stronger foundation to better weather life’s next storm. It’s for this reason vulnerability and open-heartedness are critical in this moment of human evolution—because vulnerability and open-heartedness don’t build walls, they remove them.

I had a situation recently where how I was operating in the world was called into question, and this caused me to momentarily shrink in the face of my vulnerability. The passive assault on my character was at first startling and rattling, followed by aggravating and infuriating, followed by observing and pondering. In this story arch, I was strong-armed into paying closer attention to my life’s script, juxtaposing the story I had written many years ago on the cusp of being a young man versus who I had become as a man. It was in the third part of the equation—the pause (which creates the space to observe and ponder)—that I found gratitude towards this person for forcing me to look more deeply within, for it was in the mirror of their unconscious affront that I was forced to take an internal inventory. In doing so, the evidence I found in my external world only propelled me to stand more steadfast in my worth and the vision I held for my life’s journey.

What was called into question by this person—whom by the way I love, admire, and respect—was the idea of hard work, because what this person’s idea of hard work looked like was very different than mine. I eventually realized it was because my way of being in the world fell outside of her construct. Simply put, my work as an artist and a writer looked very different than how she had been spending 10-14 hours a day for the previous three months.

I could have taken offense to this lack of understanding, after all—it’s lack of understanding that’s at the root of all wars, both within and without—but instead I took it as an opportunity to get more clear on how I intend to write the next chapters of my life.

Part of the story I have been writing for most of my life, and the one I will continue to write, is that I don’t have to play by society’s rules. Why? Because I say so. But more aptly said—because I am answering to the unknown path of the calling. Critical to setting out on a path less traveled is the surrendering to, and trusting in, something greater that is guiding me, protecting me, and calling me forward. If you’re on this same path, you know it’s not an easy one.

This begs the question, what is it to trust? To me, it is to venture upon a path you cannot see, to a destination you do not know, on a journey in which you can’t rely on others to light the way. Instead, you must be your own guide by generating the light from within. To successfully tread upon this path is to trust there will be terra firma beneath every step, even when you can’t see the next one in front of you.


Within the spiritual and creative class (a term coined by the American economist and social scientist, Richard Florida), how I live my life is in some regards quite conventional: I am dedicated to pursuing an internal vision that I imagine to be the greatest expression of myself. Outside of these class structures, however, in life’s more prescriptive avenues, I am an anomaly. There’s a part of me that longs for that perceived stability and security found in routine and building the vaulted walls of 401(k)athedrals, but like anyone else who is living by an internal compass, I have no choice but to obey this more vociferous, more dominant aspect of the self that answers not to a boss, but to the calling.

Personally speaking, the purpose of this more dominant aspect of my self is to lead me into the caverns and underworlds of my life, to move through its uncomfortable layers, and into the places and spaces where very little light enters. Ultimately, this leads to the inner-most labyrinth of the self. Perhaps as my life progresses and I move further into this labyrinth, I will find there is no self. As a friend suggested, perhaps I am only an aspect of consciousness observing consciousness itself,

If I can bring light to those dark places, and if I can navigate my way out of the labyrinth, then I will have completed what Joseph Campbell called “The Hero’s Journey.” The purpose of this quest is to bring back meaningful knowledge, information, and wisdom acquired on the journey so that the greater good may benefit.

As a writer, this is the fulfillment of my life’s work and mission. First, my work is to overcome the fear of diving into my life’s muck and mire in search of pearls of wisdom. If I can apply this wisdom to myself, then I can share it with others. Second, my mission is to translate light, frequency, and energy into story so as to lead others to their truth. Just as each has their own path upon which to walk, this is the path of my soul’s journey into the heart of my own human healing.

The gamble I am betting the farm on is that if I can prove as a living example that the revisitation of the dreams and intentions of the internal world (i.e., directed consciousness) manifest in the outer world, then I can teach the lessons of the journey through story. The most important aspect of this story is not about the destination, as Dr. Joe Dispenza says, but about who you become in the process. If I am going to write about these truths, I need to live them.

As I said in my book, A Curious Year in the Great Vivarium Experiment, “The world changes through two things—story and consciousness.” I know from experience there is a certain strata of people who on a daily basis are undertaking this same journey of healing and soul work. They are the tides who are raising the buoys of human consciousness, first by bringing healing to themselves, then to their families, then to their work, followed by their communities. The journey into healing our unmet needs and unconscious wounds of childhood, as well as the perceived wounds inflicted upon us by others, is the most important journey (and the hardest work) any of us will ever undertake, for this is how we change the world. We don’t change the world by conquering men and women, squashing rivals and competitors, or stealing resources from far off lands. No, if we acted in more noble, more selfless ways we would find there’s plenty to go around.

We change the world by conquering the enemy within.   

The way I see it is you can look at your life in one of two ways. The first is as a series of lessons where you are the hero of a great journey, and the second is as a series of mistakes and arbitrary happenstances where you are the victim. (This has taken me a long time to learn.) Both stories are born out of the perspective and narrative we chose to weave around our life’s happenings and events. It’s from these happenings and events we build the stories of our lives, and it’s our stories that define us, for better or worse.

Personally, I think the journey of life is just a series of events and interactions designed by a higher, more knowing aspect of ourselves. The purpose of this journey is to create intersections of ideas and collisions of people who force us out of our comfort zones. It’s in the exploration of those outer, less known aspects of our being where we find the space to grow, evolve, and step into expanded versions of ourselves, that is—should we accept the challenge—rather than remain in the safe cocoon of the past and predictable known.

To accept the challenge is to step into the unknown, whether that’s moving to a different country, switching to a different career, or journeying into the very heart of love itself. No matter what facet of your existence you apply this litmus test, to not accept that challenge is to remain on a linear, predictable path—void of soul growth, expansion, love, and the greater self that calls the limited self to emergence. This is the journey of transformation, and to transform is to move or change from one state of being, form, or awareness to another. Therefore, acceptance of the challenge is to allow disorder and chaos into our life so that it may transform into grace and good fortune—all in the name of our individual and collective evolution.


As I step into a new adventure and close the door on eight months in Mexico, my time there was filled with as much joy, expansion, and grace as it was with uncertainty, frustration, and disorder. But I wrapped myself in the chrysalis and sat in the fire, and although you can’t witness it in my external presence, in my internal world, once again the phoenix has taken on a new form, a new being, and a new awareness.

Beyond forging a deeper trust with this internal guidance system and stepping further into the unknown, I am also stepping further into the idea of I AM. It’s my postulation that if you declare “I AM” within the alignment of your words, actions, and thoughts—or mind, body, and spirit—the universe will conform to the declaration of your courage. At least this is what I am attempting to prove to myself, and thus share with others. This is what the journey of the calling is all about, which is also at the heart of what my third book is about. When you accept the calling, you have no other choice but to follow the unknown path upon which your soul leads you.

Of course at the human level, you always have a choice. We call this free will, but if you recognize and accept that the human experience is about the evolution of the soul—that greater aspect of our self that is only limited by language—then you have to trust the personalized inner-guidance system that most often only speaks in whispers, signs, serendipities, and synchronicities. This is the path of the peaceful warrior, and the path of the greatest expression of our human selves.

Speaking of expression, perhaps the current epidemic of modernity is that the majority don’t feel free or safe to fully express themselves, whether that’s at work or in a relationship, in their religion or sexuality, in their despair or joy, or in their victories and defeats. The tragedy in this repression is that at the most elemental root of human expression is the need for connection—the need to be in communion with someone, to be understood and recognized, and to receive the validation that we are not the only one who is experiencing the inner turmoil, tumult, and confusion that arises through the human experience.

That shared internal journey of consciousness is what unites us, creates compassion—and when the physical journey ends—returns us back to unmanifested potential, the source from which all things arise. If we were all engaged in this idea, that we were all one and part of the same source energy, it’s my belief we could finally bring peace and prosperity to the entirety of this planet.

This is my declaration of I AM.

Feel free to comment below about, declare your I AM, share if you feel so inspired, or simply say hi. Also, I just began a newsletter I will send about once a month. If you’d like to receive it, please sign up at my website.

Finally, the opening quote to this essay opens the first of three parts (Spirit, Body, Mind) of my book. To learn more about my book or watch the book trailer, please visit: https://www.acuriousyear.com/.


16. On Surrender, Resilience, and Self-Love


“What makes the desert beautiful,' said the little prince, 'is that somewhere it hides a well...”

-       Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

From a distance, the desert is uniform and monotonous. Up close, however, it’s hearty, resilient, and complex. What first made me fall in love with it was that much like life, the more you pay attention to it, the more it unfolds.


Whether it was fate, destiny, serendipity, or the product of my own creation, after one of my life’s more uncomfortable seasons, I found myself living at the edge of El Charco del Ingenio, San Miguel de Allende’s high-desert botanical garden. At 65 hectares (160 acres) and an altitude of 1900 meters (6,200 feet), it’s home to more than 100 butterfly species, 156 bird species, and 550 plant species.

How I found myself living there was that shortly after New Year’s Day, my former landlady decided to reclaim the spacious, modern loft she was renting me. With the snow birds from the north flocking in droves to central Mexico’s most artsy town, finding a comfortable place to live, without the added high-season inflation tax, was proving to be all the more challenging. Seeing as my last few months of 2018 were full of turmoil, unrest, and uncertainty, like a beaten-down pugilist, I lacked the fight to go on. When you have no more fight left in you, you have one of two choices; surrender or die. Due to my commitment to self-preservation both as a human and an organism, the latter was not an option.

Down but not out, through grace and good fortune my friend and guardian angel of San Miguel de Allende, Linda Hampton, offered me stay in the casita on her property. While it was a bit outside of town, it wasn’t exactly uncomfortable. I had my own spacious casita, access to her kitchen in a home adorned with art, three dogs to love me unconditionally, and a pool by which to lounge…What I could not have known in my moment of surrender was that my time at Casa del Linda would serve as a safe place to rehabilitate, and that the unexpected gift of the desert would be a propellant for healing and awakening.


Originating from the northeast corridor of the United States and having spent the previous 18 years in the Pacific Northwest, I had never experienced the terrain, climate, or energy of a high desert. The desert is a place of extremes where the temperature can swing from -1°C (30°F) before sunrise to 49°C (120°F) in the late afternoon. During the course of a day, as the sun arches from the eastern to western horizon and the corresponding light saunters across the stark, arid landscape, the desert becomes a character in a novel who evolves in unpredictable ways. To add to its mystique, when the summer rains ascend, the desert transforms from an Ansel Adams photograph into a Monet painting. It took me almost no time to realize that the energy the desert provided was an endless fountain of healing and inspiration, and that the more I visited it, the more its elegant, cooperative beauty would unfold before me.

As a writer, the greatest tool I have in my toolbox is the power of observation. Observation is not only what colors a story—it’s not only what reveals the wounds, motivations, or psychology behind a person or character’s actions—it also marks the passage of time. How? Time is the passage of weather, seasons, people, lovers, blossoms and blooms, and the emergence (and thus hibernation) of insects, amphibians, and mammals. It is further marked by the birth of children, the death of loved ones, the upheavals of political events, the revolutions that inspired them, and the social movements that push society forward. To live at the edge of a high desert botanical garden, and to be able to visit it at a whim, gave me the luxury to observe my external life and the passage of time eternal, while juxtaposing it with my internal life, and the passage of time ephemeral.

One day while traversing upon a path, I observed crickets mating, which I found to be steely, focused, and meditative, while on another day I observed butterflies mating, which I viewed as poetic, ecstatic, and majestic. Other days I observed vermillion flycatchers, curved-bill thrashers, and monarch butterflies cutting through the air in sharp angles and dramatic movements, all dancing in the embodied expression of the same energy that created me.

Over the course of three weeks, I watched a steady procession of leafcutter ants (which, in addition to being the largest and most complex animal society on Earth beyond humans, is also the only species beyond humans able to make its own food) go about their business in service of the queen. Like a well-organized army, they were ranked from the grunts, who marched in a line, sometimes carrying things 20 times their weight, to scouts who patrolled the perimeters, to the larger ants who defended their nest from foreign invaders. Observing the tiny creatures, I thought about how all of us are in service to someone or something, and how just as I am a greater intelligence marveling at the simplicity and complexity of this lower life form, so too is there probably a greater intelligence observing humans and thinking the same.

Equally as curious were the survival mechanisms cactuses had adopted to evolve over countless millennia—how many have learned to grow their roots in nutrient-lacking soil and how some, such as the garambullo, the prickly pear, or the barrel cactus, learned to grow from the cracked walls of canyons. Others, like the nopal—a staple of Mexican cuisine and whose varieties are as vast as the North America apple—have grown massive spikes due to their edible (and thus vulnerable) interior. And still others, much like some people, invite you in with their beauty, yet get too close and you receive a prickly, thorny rebuke.

The paradox of the desert is that it is at once harsh, arid, and sunbaked, while at the same time quiet, peaceful, and giving. In its understated, and perhaps under-appreciated way, it is abundant with life. If one were to look upon the desert from high above, you would see one living, breathing organism, and yet if you drilled down from the level of its flora, fauna, and aviary species—all the way down to the level of lichens, bacteria, fungus, and the corpuscle—you’d find hidden treasures and symbiotic relationships as vast as the stars. As an example, when the Spanish conquistadors appeared on the continent in the 16th century, the color red—a symbol of wealth, power, and status—was everywhere. What they soon learned from the Aztecs was the dye that created the color came from a tiny white insect called the cochineal. The cochineal lives on the pads of the prickly pear cactus, and without a trained eye, it would look like nothing more than a white blemish. When dried and crushed, the minuscule, nondescript creature produces a rich, red dye. Behind silver and gold, this dye became the area’s third largest export. By the 16th and 17th century, the result was that the cochineal launched Spain on a path towards becoming a global economic superpower, created a red craze throughout Europe, and went on to revolutionize art history.

From competition to cooperation, in the mirror of the desert I could see the entire spectrum of humanity. Simply by observing the desert, I was learning about my life, and as I did so, in the mirror of nature’s intricate beauty, the learnings of my own journey were being magnified.


When you close your eyes and connect into the energy of a place or space, it whispers to you. As the desert is a place full of history, lore, and the transitions of people, plants, and ideas, it has many things to share, but you must become still to hear it.

On my first day in the garden, I sat beneath the shelter of a mesquite tree and did just that—I closed my eyes, let go of all thoughts, and focused on the tingling sensation within and all around me. That sensation is the commingling of the outer and the inner—the energy that inhabits us and the field of energy in which we inhabit. This ubiquitous energy is always present and available to us; most of us just haven’t been trained to put our attention on it. As I sat there beneath that tree, the stillness enveloping me, I heard the desert whisper: How fitting it is that life has delivered you to the edge of the high desert, after all, what speaks more to resilience than that which grows in the desert?

As I continued to focus in on, and connect to, the energy around me, I expanded my own field of energy into the space around my body. In doing so, my focus was no longer on my body, but on the field of energy around it. This is, after all, the energy that holds the universe together, so logic has it that it must possess a greater degree of knowledge, information, and intelligence then I can access on my own.

As I did so, the thought entered my mind, I wire my brain for the mystical. It was peculiar because I did not think this thought, rather, it downloaded to me. Not one to doubt the information, I placed my attention within my head, purposely feeling the unification of both hemispheres of my brain fire and wire in the name of the mystical.

Curious by the information I received, I decided to play with this energy by furthering my inquiry. As I cleared all thought and moved into trance, I asked the question: What energy do I need to tune into? Whether voiced by the desert or my own subconscious, as if an echo bouncing off canyon walls only to return to its source, the answer came back to—self-love.

Dumbstruck by the reply, as soon as the thought entered my consciousness, it multiplied with the rapidity of an algal bloom. Self-love is a subject I have been pondering, working on, asking to know more intimately, and desiring to awaken to. To truly love one’s self is to accept the limitations and shortcomings of our humanity (which in certain areas of my life, I’ve been challenged to come to terms with), while stepping into and embracing the limitlessness of our divinity (which, the acceptance of this responsibility, can also be challenging by its daunting nature).

In that moment, it became my personal understanding that this is what it means to awaken to the I AM—the universal key that unlocks all doors of creation. I AM is the power of the Word merged with the power of Directed Consciousness. It is the unification and alignment of the mind, body, and spirit within the declaration of self. Stated more simply, we become the totality of what we say, think, act, and feel.

No matter your belief, we can all agree upon the limitations of language when it comes to energy and the greater mystery of the universe. As someone whose personal mission statement it is to translate light, frequency, and energy into story so as to lead others to their truth, at least in this moment of my life, my job was simply to walk around the desert, observe the mystery, let it consume me, and articulate it as best I can.

And so it was I came to a deeper understanding that to awaken to the I AM is to know that all possibilities exist as energetic potentials in an immaterial field of information called the quantum field. In the first law of thermodynamics, the total amount of energy in a closed system (in this case, let’s call this closed system the totality of all that is, both visible and invisible, material and immaterial) cannot be created nor destroyed, but it can change from one form to another. To take this one step further, in physics, through the observer effect, simply by observing something we alter it. So the I AM is the ability to alter matter/reality through consciousness simply by observing something into being. Allow me for a moment to boil this down.

If you were to remove all the elements of this complex bouillabaisse, leaving only its liquid broth, the reduction you’d be left with is the creative process. The first step of the creative process is to dream. The second step is to fill in that dream as if it were an image in a coloring book. The third step is to keep revisiting that dream, each time filling in this image more and more until, metaphorically speaking, it transforms from a 2-dimensional idea on a piece of paper into a 3-dimensional hologram. To make the leap from the coloring book to quantum physics, that hologram is the pattern of the dream that already exists (beyond the speed of light and beyond the visible light spectrum) as light and information the field. The more you revisit or observe that dream, or the pattern of the dream, the more you slow it down. As the pattern of light and information slows down below the speed of light, division and polarity occurs, which is where the dream begins to take form as matter, experiences, events, serendipities, or synchronicities. Let’s look at this another way, but before we do, it’s important to remember what Einstein said: “The field is the sole governing agency of the particle.”

No matter how novel your flash of brilliance might be, when you come up with an idea, you are connecting with the energy of something that already exists in the field. The more you connect to this idea, as you observe it, circumvent it, and move through it—as you connect with the feelings of what the fruition of this idea might feel like—you begin filling in a mental image of something that already exists as a potential. The more you focus on this potential, the more you bring form to it—and the more you bring form to it, the closer it comes into existence. As an example, imagine looking up into the infinite lattice of the night sky. Then imagine that every star is an atom of potential. The more you focus in on a specific portion of the sky, as you apply your imagination and attention, you begin to cluster the atoms until all the sudden a form appears and you see Orion, Cassiopeia, Leo, Cancer, Taurus, Ursa Major and Minor, and so on and so on.


Although invisible to others, for months my internal world felt like dice in a Yahtzee tumbler. The challenge was not necessarily due to a broken heart or that the vulnerabilities I shared might have been exploited. That was simply a catalyst to confront the well-rooted legacy stories of my life.

For months, perhaps a year, a new self had been calling out to me, and yet I—the free-willed human being—resisted it. Resistance, whether found in an engine or the heart, is eventually going to wear down the machinery that evokes the function. If this resistance is found in the heart, the result is likely going to be lot of unnecessary pain. That pain is the result of friction caused by fear—and that brand of fear is the manifestation of our resistance to the soul’s expansion into the new, unformed edges of our being. To push outward into the unknown and often uncomfortable dimensions of the self is what it means to be initiated, and if we are paying attention, every initiation we pass awakens us to I AM.

And so in carefully observing all that the desert was reflecting back to me, I was forced to make a decision; surrender my legacy stories or remain living within the limitations of their confines and contours.

With the fervor and unconscious desperation that the cactus clings to the canyon wall, so too have I clung to my life’s legacy stories. Now it’s important to note here, dear reader, that these stories are not necessarily based in reality. Life is a series of concurrent events. Some are joyful and some are painful, thus we attach to them a corresponding emotion—and emotions carry meaning. The more we revisit these events, the more they become etched in our memories, and the more they become etched in our memories, the greater the stories we attach to them.

When we gain some distance and emotional freedom from the inciting or source incident of our pain, perspective allows us to see its service as one of life’s most important tools for awakening. Through this mirror, I realized my pain was, and has always been, the crack in which the light enters. On one hand, the awakening that commanded my attention was the fact that I was not my stories. On the other hand, the awakening that was calling me from my past to my future was that resilience is having the strength to keep going when you can’t see the road ahead. It also means having the courage to keep pushing up against those stories until—like when we confront the demons of our imagination by looking them square in the eye—the fictitious nature of that which once haunted us is revealed, thus igniting an energetic process of reverse osmosis. In the absence of the void these stories once filled, I was awakening to the I AM.

While sitting beneath that mystical mesquite tree, I felt a deeper trust than I had in a long time. In recognition of the calm within—the result of grace and the pendulum swinging from internal turmoil to a cathedral of peace—I breathed more deeply into the moment. As I released myself further into its gentle embrace, it dawned on me that peace is the alignment of our physicality with our higher-self (or soul) within the paradigm (or physical dimension) of time and space. The deeper I moved into this epiphany, the more it peeled back like the layers of a fresh artichoke waiting to be lathered in liquid butter. Similar to what I expressed in my book, once again—without doing anything but simply living, being, and showing up—an old form that no longer served me was effortlessly molting.

In the absence of that which no longer served me was my naked, liberated soul, eager to undertake the next expansive chapter of my journey, a journey whose design would take me closer to that which I desire to know greater—the source of the mystery—myself. After all, the source energy of the mystery is experiencing itself through my corporeal existence.


It is not only the desire, but the intrinsic nature of the soul to experience growth and expansion. These two aspects of life occur via our senses, those visceral portals through which we learn what it means to be human. In this context, life then is not only an awakening, but a remembering of who and what we are—the truth being that we are souls (or consciousness) embodied in a physical vessel, the purpose of which is to poke about the physical world classifying, dissecting, learning, and looking for clues that help us remember the singularity from which we were engendered.

As a form of energy, the power of the soul—which is the individual aspect of the universal consciousness—is that it is has been granted the autonomy to direct its energy. The byproduct of this autonomy is free will, which means that from within the physical form we have the freedom to direct this energy however we choose. The discoveries we make, as a result of the choices we take, can form the path back to eternal, divine love—the highest of all frequencies. Love heals, love forgives, love unites, and love creates oneness and wholeness.

When we are in a state of wholeness, everything we need is already within us. As we awaken to this truth, when we as a collective realize we already have at our fingertips all we need to serve, expand, and uplift the collective—when greed and the stockpiling of resources is eliminated, when we realize we all came from the same source energy—we will finally know peace on Earth. In achieving this degree of peace, the human species will evolve into something greater, and it will move into an an entirely new evolutionary period, the likes of which will seem like the science-fiction of yesteryears. In this new reality, what today might be categorized as a miracle may simply be something we take for granted as the pointed focus of the individual mind in the service of the universal conscious—or said another way—in service of our fellow men, woman, and children of Mother Earth.

In this historical evolutionary moment of becoming, like the pylon and the pier, you are being called to surrender that which no longer serves you so as to awaken to your greatest potential. This means having the courage to share the gifts with which you’ve been bestowed, and that means standing in the expression of your own truth, not in opposition—which is the device of many religions and politics—but in an addition to the whole. This will require you to be responsible for your own healing, which requires you to move beyond survival into creation.

As more and more people become responsible for their own healing, because consciousness is a wave, at some point we will reach critical mass, and the change we desire will come with increased frequency.

Then, much like the tillandsia, an airplant I observed that grows on the underside of some trees found in El Charco del Ingenio, perhaps human beings as a collective can evolve from the parasitic mindset that has grasped our species for many millennia, to an epiphytic mindset, after all—the epiphyte does not take from its host, but rather it lives in harmony with, and contributes to, the whole of its ecosystem.

Do you need help editing/writing your book? Or do you simply need a writing coach/accountability partner? And of course I’d be remiss by saying if you like the ideas in this piece, then you will like the ideas in my book. Check out the book trailer now.

14. Excerpt: Chapter 9. The Indian Night

The courtyard where Thomas found himself looking back through time.

The courtyard where Thomas found himself looking back through time.

This excerpt from A Curious Year in the Great Vivarium Experiment, is from “Chapter 9. The Indian Night.” The excerpt is bookended by songs from the soundtrack to the book. The songs are A Curious Year Part I and A Curious Year Part II, both written and performed by my nephew, Jack Shields.

Just like the books begins and ends in the same place, so too does the soundtrack when played on repeat.

If you want to hear the song from the soundtrack that the name of this blog is based upon, click here.

13. On Becoming Conscious (or) The Pylon and the Pier


It was the Friday after Thanksgiving in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, so instead of treating it like a regular workday, I decided to take off on a long run. My intention was to begin running into a new future, to run my way out of the subterranean hole I had fallen into, the likes of which I had not known since my mother passed away and my house burned down.

As I ran along the narrow sidewalks of Ancha de San Antonio, I turned left towards Parque Jaurez, ran up the north side of the park, and began running the stairs near the Paseo del Chorro. While ascending the stairs, a peculiar, unexpected thought popped into my mind: “Good things are about to happen to me.”

Now before I proceed, Dear Reader, if you are going to trust me as your narrator, I feel I have to admit something to you. Before I had time to fully register the thought, “Good things are about to happen to me,” meaning before the thought had time to register, assimilate, and/or entrain with my body—before the thought had the time to create a corresponding neural network for its existence, and ultimately it’s manifestation—like a bartender at closing, I threw that thought out on its ass and shut it down as quickly as possible.

The extermination of such a thought was an all too familiar act of fear, contraction, and limitedness, albeit an unconscious one. Nonetheless, in the same way malware affects the function and effectiveness of a computer, for a large portion of my life these unconscious programs have been running in the background of my awareness. There is a silver lining, however. I am happy to report that as soon as I shut that thought down, a moment of self-awareness occurred. I simply observed my thought. By observing the thought, I was able to bring forth from the darkness of the unconscious the light of a new awareness. What does that mean?

New awareness is expanded consciousness, so to combat the negative voice that so rudely interrupted my future, I consciously began repeating in my mind over and over, “Good things are about to happen. Good things are about to happen.” In repeating this mantra only a few times, like the moment when grinding gears on a bike finally shift into gear, the energy of the consciousness that produced the thought, “Good things are about to happen to me, clicked into my being. In that moment, I allowed myself to feel the energy of my future—and I can tell you it was as refreshing as it was titillating.

In that elevated, expansive state, I transcended an old form, an old pattern of the person who fell into darkness. Like any training or practice, while I would need to continue working on embodying this energy every day, every time I made the effort to embody it, I was pushing tinfoil. This self-awareness (or awakening) was a tear in the seam of an old form and pattern I have clung to for most of my life. Why? Because to a certain degree it’s safer to live in the known—a somewhat linear, predictable path that doesn’t require me to stretch outside of my comfort zone.  

To bring the light of consciousness to the dark corners of the unconscious was a moment of triumph for mind over matter, because it was not actually my consciousness that shut down the thought of “Good things are about to happen me.” It was the old habits, old forms, old patterns, and old wounds—unconscious programs that exist in the body as feelings, reactions, and emotional triggers. The summation of these repeated patterns causes the body to function as the unconscious mind. Perhaps at this moment you are thinking, If I stepped out of the paradigm of the known and stepped into the paradigm of the unknown, what could happen? The answer is infinite possibilities of rich, abundant, experiences in love, career, family, connectedness, and so on. Perhaps you would agree we could call this the fruition of our dreams.

According to the quantum model, if I step out of my resting or baseline state of being (the known) to embody and/or become the energy of my future (the unknown), then I am casting an electromagnetic signature into the quantum field, an infinite field of information that exists outside of time and space where all possibilities exist as energy and frequency. Therefore, when you become the frequency of your future self, a self which already exists in the field, as you connect with the energy of your future self, you pull possibilities towards you. This is, as Dr. Joe Dispenza says, how you become a vortex to your future. It’s also the truth of who and what we really are; consciousness animating matter.

And so as I embodied the thought of my future (that is to say, who I was becoming and who I could become), because thought is energy, that thought expanded the energy and frequency of my future into my body. This is the process whereby we heal. It’s also the process whereby we create, but are they not one in the same?

What all of this adds up to is that if we are to evolve as human beings, we need to surrender the old, limited ideas and aspects of ourselves that no longer serve us. This is the power of consciousness becoming awakened. It is what enables us to be energetic snakes and butterflies in human flesh. To not become aware of the unconscious programs that run our life is to live as a diminished potential of our highest self-expression.

The unique aspect of humanity that gives us domain over all other animals on the Earth is the power to become awakened. This power is our divinity—that greater aspect of humanity that calls us to be something more, that calls us as consciousness to evolve through the physical experiences of our senses. To say this more simply, the mind can train the body to be its servant. This servitude arises through heart and brain coherence, the unification of which turns the body into an instrument of higher consciousness. Like the snake, it’s this ascension into higher states of consciousness that allows us to molt old parts of ourselves, and like the butterfly, what allows us to transform from one state to another. As we do this over and over, it is not the physical that is ultimately molting and transforming, it is the internal—it is the individual aspect of consciousness in service to the transformation of the universal consciousness. Let’s look at this in a slightly more down-to-Earth way.

For a moment, let’s think of the old self as the remaining pieces of a decrepit pier whose utility has passed. Piece by piece, while time has dismantled the pattern of what was once a pier, a single pylon stands obstinate, clinging to what it understands to be its nature and form. Rather than surrender to the tides, it becomes an immovable force by which nature, in this case water, must circumvent it. This remaining pylon of the pier clings to the idea of itself as a pier because it is a safer, more known way to exist in the world. But if we want to evolve as individuals, or even continue existing as a species, it’s time to let go of the limited constructs that no longer serve us.

We only need to turn on the television to see that the outdated constructs of the old world are falling away around us. It’s important to remember, however, that our global external reality is nothing more than a reflection of our individual internal reality. The old is falling away so something new can be born, but birth is not an easy process.

What is being born is the awakening of a new planetary consciousness, but global awakening begins within each individual. In this moment of history, all of us are being called to surrender old ways, old patterns, and antiquated concepts of being so as to step into the new consciousness that is being birthed. I not only see this happening in my own life, but I feel it…and still the internal battle rages within as I cling to old ideas of self. I cling to the last standing structures, the last patterns, the last remaining vestiges that represent my old, limited ways of being. It is not an easy process, but a necessary one.

If we are to let go of these old forms, we must first ask of ourselves: If I am not the pylon and no longer the pier, then who am I? Who will I be if I step out of the patterns and prison of my own making and thinking?

The answer is I will become freedom itself, and within the limitless energy of freedom, I am free to create any life or reality I desire.

Like to read? Check out this list of some of my my favorite books.

Like to listen? Check out this narrated excerpt from Chapter 9 of my book. It features music from my book’s soundtrack. This song, People Zoo, also from the soundtrack, is why I named my blog People Zoo.


12. A List of My Favorite Books (that come to mind)

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

I carried this 900-page novel with me throughout India for three months, which added quite a bit of unnecessary weight to my pack. (Pro Travel Tip: Bring a Kindle or eReader.) Every time I picked up this book, after reading the first paragraph I had to put it down. Why? Because I was so busy volunteering, writing, and creating, that I knew if I started reading the book, it would overtake my life. This book has one of the best opening paragraphs I’ve ever read. I love the language Roberts uses, the scenes he creates, and the sentiments he expresses throughout the book.

This extraordinary tale is based on Gregory David Roberts’ life, which included escaping from a maximum security prison in Australia and hiding out in the slums of Mumbai, India. That’s when the story really gets good. I’ve never read a 900-page novel, and I can’t imagine there’s one more engaging. There are so many lines in this book I wish I wrote. You won’t want to put this one down. Here’s the first paragraph: 

"It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realized, somehow, through the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me or to forgive them. It doesn't sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it's all you've got, that freedom is a universe of possibility. And the choice you make, between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life."

Narcissus and Goldman by Hermann Hesse

When I was younger, people used to ask me, “Well, what do you want to write about?” At the time, I would just say, “You know, life,” as if they understood what that meant to me. What I didn’t know at the time was that I was trying to express an ever-growing, ever-expanding feeling within me—and that if I didn’t express it, it would destroy me. It was that feeling that called me into the world to search for my own expression of it. This is at the heart of my own book, a book which required me to go out into the world to live and discover in order to express it. For me as a writer, my 15-month odyssey was a journey into heart of my self in the hopes of discovering something about the heart of the universal self. That’s why beyond Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce, and On the Road, by Jack Kerouac, Narcissus and Goldmund is probably one of my life’s most influential works of art.

Published in 1930 and written by German-Swiss author Hermann Hesse, it’s the story of a thinker (Narcissus, a young, brilliant scholar at a cloister school) and Goldmund (an artist and one of his prize students). Goldmund wants to be like Narcissus and live a cloistered life of the mind, but Narcissus shows Goldmund his life is about discovering his own heart, a heart that is meant for the world, not meant the cloister. Goldmund leaves the monastery and has many loves and adventures as he searches for the meaning of life, or rather, his own meaning of life. Along the journey, Goldmund awakens to his own artistic talent.

The Tender Bar by JR Moehringer

This is a touching, beautifully written, masterly crafted coming-of-age story that I’ve probably read three times. As a young boy, J.R.’s father abandoned him and his mother. His father was still in his life at a distance, however. His father was a New York radio, so as a boy J.R. would sit on the front steps of his Long Island, New York house and listen to his father’s voice on the radio. In his absence, the main male figure, his uncle, was a bartender at a bar on Long Island. This is the story of a boy who’s trying to become a man, his romance with the bar in which he was raised, the characters who inhabited it, his acceptance to Yale, and ultimately his journey towards becoming a New York Times journalist. This is one of my favorite books.

Becoming Supernatural: How Common People Are Doing the Uncommon by Dr. Joe Dispenza

According to the quantum model, all disease is a lowering of frequency. That’s why Dr. Joe, a friend and mentor, teaches meditation all over the world through the lenses of neuroscience and quantum physics. As his students learn to tap into the energy of the quantum field, the results are magnificent transformations and healings of biblical proportions. His cutting edge research is uncovering what was formerly known as truths by ancient cultures and what today could be labeled as “woo-woo.” At his workshops all over the world, as his students learn to tap into the field, and individually and collectively create more coherent energy, his students are healing themselves of Stage IV cancer, past traumas, anxiety, genetic disorders, MS, lupus, and much, much more. “Science is the new language of mysticism,” says Dr. Joe Dispenza.         

Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back) by Jeff Tweedy

I am a sucker for rock autobiographies, especially ones where we can learn about an artist’s successes, struggles, and what they had to do in order to overcome themselves. Honest, vulnerable, raw, funny, and authentically Jeff Tweedy, this book catalogs his humble mid-west upbringing, the birth and destruction of his first band Uncle Tupelo, and the rise of his band Wilco. Along his life’s journey, he intimately comes to know tragedy, loss, and addiction, which he works hard to uncover its root causes. He writes with humor, humility, insight, and aplomb, and the audio book is especially enjoyable. In fact, I finished the audio version in three days and then listened to it again. What is great about the audiobooks is hearing conversations between Tweedy and his wife and Tweedy and one of his sons. I especially like this quote from the book:

 “I think artists create in spite of suffering, not because of suffering. I just don’t buy it. Everyone suffers by degrees and I believe everyone has the capacity to create. But I think you’re one of the lucky ones if you’ve found an outlet for your discomfort or a way to cope through art.”

My entire reading list could be autobiographies by musicians , artists, and writers, but alas—in the name of diversity, I had to make some choices. I chose this book because it is the most recent one I have consumed. Other notables include: Life, by Keith Richards, Scar Tissue, by Anthony Keidas, Just Kids by Patti Smith, The Universal Tone, by Carlos Santana, Beastie Boys Book, by Adam Horowitz and Michael Diamond.

Lit by Mary Karr

Author of The Liar’s Club and The Art of Memoir, Mary Karr is a master of the insightful memoir. In this memoir, we follow her decent into alcoholism, the many ways in which it destroyed her life, the surprising course of her resurrection from its grip, and how it affected her career as a writing professor. This is another book where I wish I had written some of the lines she wrote. Someday I would love to sit across from Mary and discuss the craft of writing and the writing life with her over tea.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Published in October, 2000, when I first read this book I was disappointed in the second half. The first half is a memoir of his life, which included not remembering writing Cujo because he had a plethora of booze, pills, and cocaine in his writing desk. I wanted to know more about the writing life. We know the rest—he overcame his addictions to become one of the most successful commercial fiction writers ever.

When I read this book again years later as professional writer, I realized just how important the second half of this books is for both wannabe and experienced authors, which is why this is a book I recommend to my writing coaching clients. It is a meditation on both writing, the writing life, the publishing world, and the nuts and bolts of writing.

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

Three pivotal events at age 17 defined who I would become in the future.

  1. On September 29th, 1991, I first laid pen to paper when I began keeping a journal.

  2. An incredibly powerful mushroom trip at a Grateful Dead concert awakened me to a greater level of consciousness, awareness, and the connectedness of the human experience.

  3. This book.  

    After years of Catholic schooling, at age 17 this book was my first introduction to eastern philosophy, which I would later major in during my days at university. While I haven’t read this book in decades, I do remember that it’s profundity is its utter simplicity. It awakened me to the notion that there’s a much more simpler way to exist and flow through life, and this way is to be like water—to take the path of least resistance. This is the way of the Tao.

The Secret History of the U.S. Government's Investigations into Extrasensory Perception and Psychokinesis by Annie Jacobsen

There was another war besides the Cold War between the United States and Russia. For more than 50 years, the United States government has been performing experiments in ESP and psychokinesis, the purported ability to move or deform inanimate objects, such as metal spoons, through mental processes. These experiments were performed throughout all branches of the U.S. intelligence agencies and military services, including the CIA, DIA, NSA, DEA, the navy, air force, and army—and even the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The players these government programs hired were involved in locating fugitives, freeing hostages in high profile, international cases, and even discovering the infamous Russian submarine that the movie The Hunt For the Red October was based upon. It’s a fascinating read and a look at some of history’s biggest events through new lenses and unlikely ways.

The Book of Knowing and Worth by Paul Selig

In 1987, a spiritual experience left Paul Selig with the ability to be a clairvoyant, making him one of the foremost spiritual channels working today. Whoever or whatever is speaking through Paul, it is a wisdom beyond religion and beyond the ages. As one of seven channeled works, this book will be powerful for whoever chooses to internalize the empowering message found within. It’s also worth noting that this book was a winner of the 2014 Nautilus Award, which represents "Better Books for a Better World" and the Silver Award in the category of Religion /Spirituality: Other Traditions.