A young child dreams of seven white geese marching down a street. All the people the geese walk past fall down dead. Surprisingly, C. G. Jung suggests that this is a favorable dream, that this is nature, via the dream, introducing the young child to the world of time. Everything passes. To the child’s world of timelessness, still bathed in the myths and depths of the collective unconscious, life and death are introduced, including her own awareness of herself as a mortal being in this world.
Life in this world is a bipolar affair. We all grapple with it. At one pole we feel our link to the timeless, as we often live as if we have forever! Though we may negatively judge this ‘slothful’ attitude, it nonetheless is a link to infinite life in timelessness, as an energy body or spirit. At the other pole is the truth of aging and mortality in a physical body, observed and experienced in fading life within and all around us.
At the beginning of every day the Shamans of Ancient Mexico say: “We are beings who are going to die.” This is their intent to keep their awareness fully present to their limited time and opportunity for life in this world. We are all beings saddled with the bipolar conundrum of life and death.
What Jung highlighted in this young child’s fall from innocence was the introduction of change, which happens when we enter life in time. Everything passes in time. Accepting this basic truth helps us to feel and release a wave of sadness. The pain of loss will eventually pass. In the world of time things mature and change and new possibilities for life will arise.
If we are gripped by a craving or passion, we know, if we hold on, that the compulsion will eventually pass. We may not be ready yet, we may still be too attached to the timeless pole of our being that accepts no limitations, but eventually we may be ready to inhabit our corporeal reality and accept the limitations of life in the body.
The great advantage of life in time, in a physical body, is that we are freed to complete our unique experience of life, what Jung called individuation. In time we unfold into the discovery and fulfillment of all that we are. We begin new things, be they careers, relationships, gardens, or books. We can nurture and live the course of these engagements to completion because in time, for better of worse, everything passes.
In time we can answer the questions of our ancestors and pose new ones for ourselves. To fully individuate in our life in time we must recapitulate. If we leave fragments of our lives unknown to ourselves we will not be able to integrate the full knowledge of our journey and we will leave behind questions that must be answered before completion. Perhaps this is the basis for reincarnation, bardo life, or time in purgatory.
My wife Jan lived in Sweden for several years during her twenties. She always felt she went there to fulfill something unfinished in a past life, to connect with and live out unfinished business with people who had once been very important to her. She was welcomed there with open arms, loved unconditionally, and she loved fully and unconditionally in return. She fully embraced being Swedish, learned the language quickly and fluidly, and did all things Swedish like a true Swede. When it was done, it was done. Time to move on and return to life in present time.
My first wife, Jeanne, also completed unfinished business, though she did it in spirit form, after her physical death, reconnecting with the birth mother she never knew in her life as Jeanne Ketchel. It was the completion of her lives on earth, her final chapter in space and time, described in the final chapter of The Book of Us, channeled through Jan.
For although everything does pass in time, that which is not fully realized must be completed somewhere, somehow before we are fully freed to move on in timelessness. As everything passes, as we complete our many paths of individuation, we enter infinity, enriched by our lives and ready to explore new paths of heart, in and out of time.
We are animals who know that we are going to die. Our animal compatriots who share the planet with us have no thoughts about life beyond life. Life beyond death, or infinity, is a human obsession.
Infinity is what the word says: the absence of finiteness, life beyond the limits of space and time. Though in today’s world this kind of “spiritual focus” is often downplayed as simply wishful thinking, certainly beyond reason, experiences with infinity appear everywhere in everyday life.
Take for instance the simple act of going to sleep at night. All animals that live in a body, and for whom night is the natural time of rest and rejuvenation, go to sleep at essentially the same hour every night. Human beings, however, often suspend time and live in consciousness into the wee hours of the night, whether it be in reading, interacting with screens, thinking, playing music, creating, or fearfully refusing the dread of dying to the day and facing the darkness of the night. As the night progresses and one remains awake, one enters the altered state of timelessness, impervious to the needs of the finite body that must somehow function the next day.
Others make their forays into infinity through massive accumulations. This can take the form of hoarding where the limits of space are suspended and one lives with unlimited stuff. This can take the form of vast accumulations of wealth, wealth way beyond the realistic needs of many lifetimes. Such insatiability, an active pursuit to continuously possess more, touches the limitlessness of infinity.
Falling or being in love is a powerful suspension of space where lovers meet in the experience of oneness, a timeless union that touches the wholeness of infinity. So powerful is the nectar of this infinite experience that many simply cannot commit to a finite relationship because once limitation sets in, the sparkle of infinity dulls and one is prompted to go in search of it elsewhere.
The myriad of addictions of our time are actually spiritual attempts to reach infinity in material form. Take food. The pleasure of food intake without restriction, without boundary, gives entree into the limitless joy of infinity. To drink without limit, to suspend time, drinking through the night without limit, is to enter countless worlds of dreaming possibilities within the confines of a world that is still limited by the 24 hour cycle of day and night.
The preponderance of drug addictions in our time is directly proportional to the hegemony of reason over our lives, which so shuts down an active connection to explorative spirituality. Drugs in their many forms offer experiences beyond the limits of the body, in forms that range from euphoric stupor to access to superhuman abilities of physical prowess, from transcendent communication and creativity to energetic travel and experience unrestricted by bodily inhabitation.
Obviously, these many attempts to experience infinity in human form stress and can kill the human animal that contains the consciousness that seeks to experience MORE. They do demonstrate, however, the human spirit’s quest to experience its infinite potential no matter how spiritually impoverished our lives may be.
The Shamans of Ancient Mexico, appreciating this instinctual human need to realize spiritual potential while in human form, squarely call out to and embrace their intent to experience their full potential. That spiritual intent naturally appears in dreaming and in magical experiences in everyday life.
If we can merely suspend judgment and open to what happens to us everyday, as synchronistically magical, we will indeed find our way to human infinity, safely, soberly, and fully.
A man was angry all the time. He drank every night to numb his anger. He wanted to change so he decided to meditate. His intent set, he got up early in the morning, took a shower and sat at his desk. Before long his consciousness left his body, taking him out of his apartment and the city he lived in. It withdrew further and further from the earth. Soon he was in outer space looking down at the world, seeing it in its entirety as his awareness expanded and expanded. He entered infinity and experienced the endlessness of it and the knowledge that he was part of it all, that all life was energetically connected and infinite. When he returned to his body he was a changed man, his perception of life and the world transformed forever. Even so, he knew that in order to hold onto what he had learned, to keep experiencing himself as infinite, he had to shed his anger. Even though he had experienced the light, he knew he still had to face the darkness within.
Not everyone has such an experience when they sit down to meditate for the very first time, but many meditators eventually have this same kind of experience, the experience of the self as energy, interconnected to and a part of all energy. During such experiences the issues of the self pale in comparison to the ecstatic experience. If we are to truly evolve, however, the angry man was right; we must face our darkness.
Last night I dreamed. I was traveling on a train beside the ocean. There was a voice speaking throughout the dream, instructing, chanting a calming mantra, saying that meditation must happen all the time. From the train window I could see a small island with a Greek style temple on it not too far from the coast. I could see that it was possible to get there and I desired to go, but each time I saw the temple the ocean was churning up gigantic waves, fierce and threatening. Many times throughout the night I rode this train. The scenario was always the same. I’d hear the voiceover, see the temple and wish to be on it, notice the dark and threatening waves impossible to traverse. I’d get off the train and enter a large hotel where a gathering was taking place. A lot of people were there, walking around, keeping their energy to themselves, not talking or interacting. Everyone was meditating where they were. I did the same. Outside the vast windows of the hotel I could see the churning ocean and the temple on the island. The voiceover still said the same thing, “Meditate all the time.”
When I woke up, I knew that the message in the dream was that in order to get to the temple we must endure the struggles that we are faced with, the darkness within—the churning ocean. Just like the angry man who wished to change, deep inner work is necessary in order to attain and maintain the transcendent experience—the temple.
During my recapitulation this was exactly what I learned. In spite of the most amazing experiences that literally cracked through reality and presented me with the most stunning view of my life and the world, I knew I still had to face my deepest secrets and challenges if I was to have full access to my energetic self and be able to actually live as the changed being I was working so hard to become. Having a deep and meaningful spiritual practice was as important as doing my recapitulation and, in fact, became the perfect companion to the shamanic work I was doing. It was essential to the entire process.
The true work of recapitulation is reconciliation with the fragments of self, healing the wounds of life, and even lifetimes, so that the true self, the spirit, may finally take its rightful place as the true self in the world. The goal of my recapitulation was to find the means to live from my deeply spiritual self all the time. I could only do that by giving that spiritual self a practice that was as deeply meaningful as the recapitulation. And so, my lifelong practices of yoga and meditation deepened as a result, becoming the prefect companions to my shamanic work.
I encourage everyone to develop a spiritual practice. If you desire to fully experience and embrace your spiritual self, to live as a changed being, from that place of deepest truth, then a spiritual practice is imperative. A spiritual practice will accompany you through life, bringing you constantly back to experiences of yourself as an energetic being, bringing fulfillment of our deepest interconnectedness. (In fact, if everyone was doing a deep spiritual practice all the time our world would surely change, but that’s another blog!) Meditation, as instructed in my dream, can be done all the time. It’s simple and everyone can do it. It doesn’t take equipment or a gym pass. It only takes mindfulness.
For instance, right now I am sitting and writing this blog, but I am also meditating. I am writing; I am only writing. I am mindfully focused only on writing and honing the message of this blog. When I get up, I will focus on getting up. Perhaps I will say: “I am getting up now. I am walking away from my computer. I am breathing. I am walking.”
These are mindful messages to the self that cancel out the constant thoughts that circulate and defeat us. At the same time that I am doing this mindful thought-erasing activity, I am also mindful that at another time I will examine those other thoughts. I will find out where they come from, how they came into my head, who said them to me, and why I still carry them. I will face what is dark and disturbing within myself, mindfully, just as I mindfully remain present in my daily life, focusing on everything I do throughout the day. To have peace of mind, I must constantly and mindfully work on myself. But to remain a balanced and present being, sometimes it’s appropriate to have a calm mind, and at other times it’s appropriate to pay attention to the mind and confront our issues and thoughts. As our mindfulness practice grows we become better able to manage our minds and maturely handle what comes to challenge us.
A practice of mindful meditation is the perfect way to gain balance. To periodically shift our thoughts away from negativity, we simply state what we are doing, over and over again. As the voice in my dream said to me during the night: we can meditate all the time. We might say: I am sitting at my desk working now. I am eating now. I am reading now. I am driving now. I am walking now. I put my foot down, I breathe and I walk, one step at a time, mindfully. I am walking.
A mindfulness practice offers the opportunity to gain balance and calmness even in the midst of turmoil. If we do it often enough, we eventually do it without even thinking. We can turn off bad thoughts by introducing mindful thoughts.
I am good. I am writing. I am breathing. I am love. I am sending you love.
Intense emotional encounters with rage, desire, joy or love are encounters with powers greater than our ego selves. Whether we seek out or seek to avoid these encounters, they require tremendous ego-forging to successfully receive or withstand the energetic intensity of their impact.
The ancient Greeks were well aware of the otherworldly origin of these higher power emotions, assigning many to the gods and goddesses on Mt. Olympus. Many Greek myths capture the intensity of human seizure by such higher power emotions in romances between the gods and mortals.
This ancient respect for the non-ordinary human origin of intense emotion, with its volatile, ecstatic, and overwhelming impact upon our human selves, is largely lost to the modern world. Now the lone ego self, or rational self, is given the daunting task of owning and managing emotions of great intensity.
Following ancient tradition, Jung’s psychology assigns the numinous energy of intense emotion to the ego’s encounters with the spirit self in the realm of the archetypes of the collective unconscious. This dimension of the psyche exists outside of the parameters of everyday space and time, in the timelessness of eternity. The ego, in contrast, was born in the world of ordinary space and time. Encounters between these two worlds are highly charged energetic exchanges.
For example, to be seized by love is, for the ego, an inner encounter with the archetype or Greek god of love—Eros—who pierces the ego with a numinous arrow of otherworldly spirit energy that then flows into the ordinary confines of human interaction. Some egos, under such seizure, are unable to approach the ‘object of their desire,’ collapsing in frozen awe or feelings of unworthiness. In instances where contact is made, rarely can an individual or couple withstand the energetic impact of the encounter for too long, as the relationship inevitably slips into the stasis of the ungodly boredom of the mundane, into the ordinariness of everyday life. As the light of the divine spark dims, a couple is challenged to search inwardly for divine connection and human partnership.
Sexuality, as Freud and William Reich researched, is itself an interaction between ego and spirit energy. The ability to channel the highly charged spirit energy of orgasm requires the ego to relax its controls and constructions of ordinary reality to physically receive and commune with the divine energy of orgasm. Alexander Lowen spent his professional life developing Bioenergetics, physical movements to forge the ego’s ability to channel and receive spirit in ecstatic release.
The act of simply going to sleep similarly challenges the ego self to release control and receive spirit contact with its energy body in dreaming. In dreaming, the body self is completely immobilized to allow for this encounter.
In native American vison quests, the ego/body self is contained within a circle, bearing the tension of limitation, as it forges a vessel to receive a visitation from spirit self.
Christianity and Buddhism likewise engage physical stillness and limitation as the means of achieving divine encounters. Christ bound to a cross, bearing the tension of human suffering, is the context for divine connection. Buddha similarly bears the tension of the onslaught of human illusion as he sits in utter stillness, preparing to receive divine enlightenment beneath the bodhi tree.
At the culmination of the Jewish wedding ceremony, as divine energy pours into a couple, they forge a vessel of deeper commitment in human relationship by shattering a glass, in remembrance of the bearing of tension at the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. In marriage, the ego self must bear the tension of suffering, as it makes contact with the divine, in joyful energy of union. The ego must be tempered to receive successfully the divine energy of joy.
Even the most modern of psychotherapeutic approaches boil down to forging the ego’s ability to suffer the influx of divine energy. In DBT therapy and Neuroplasticity, where the brain develops new channels to handle higher power emotional energies, treatment requires the ego self to learn to practice mindfulness. In mindfulness, we develop the ability to stay still and present—to manage and channel appropriately—encounters with highly charged spirit emotions.
Vedantic science developed yogic practices to enable the ego and body self the ability to become still and successfully receive contact with the deepest spirit self, the Atman that lives beneath the bliss sheath. In other words, this translates as union with the infinite self in the space and time of ordinary human reality.
The ultimate goal of all spiritual and shamanic practice is: to enter infinity with consciousness, to be able to bear the tension of divine contact without dissolution, to continue the infinite journey beyond human life in full awareness. For this purpose, we are afforded a life in this world.
Everyday life in this world offers us many opportunities to forge the ability to enter infinity with consciousness. As we bear the tension of the reality in this world, we also practice bearing the tension of forging contact with infinity. We practice how to receive it, withstand it, flow with it and, ultimately, to become it, with awareness.
For the past several months I have enjoyed a major infatuation with a delicious variety of chocolate from The Grenada Chocolate Company. It’s simply the best chocolate I’ve ever eaten. It’s organic and it’s affordable! This past week, I discovered its true energetic origin and now know why it has resonated so deeply with me, for its creator was a man of integrity, energetically aligned with what’s right, with the same spirit of intent that I fully embrace in my own life and work.
Unfortunately, I am sad to say, Jan sent me the obituary for Mott Green the other day, founder of the Grenada Chocolate Company, who recently died a tragic death at the age of 47. This man lived and actualized the values of our world to come, a master stalker of needed change. I encourage all to open to his journey—it’s an inspiration.
Here is the New York Times obituary for Mr. Green:
Mott Green, a Free-Spirited Chocolatier, Dies at 47
By WILLIAM YARDLEY
Published: June 9, 2013
Mott Green, who emerged from a hermitlike existence in a bamboo hut in the jungle of Grenada to produce a coveted Caribbean delicacy — rich, dark chocolate bars that he exported around the world with the help of sailboats, bicycles and solar-powered refrigeration — died on June 1 in Grenada. He was 47.
He was electrocuted while working on solar-powered machinery for cooling chocolate during overseas transport, said his mother, Dr. Judith Friedman.
Mr. Green was born David Friedman, and grew up on Staten Island. He became Mott over the course of many years of visiting and eventually living in Grenada, where residents had a distinctive way of pronouncing his nickname, Moth. He later took Green as his surname to reflect his environmental interests.
Mr. Green tended to flit about as a child, but with focus: he built go-karts using lawn mower engines; he ran the New York City Marathon when he was 16; he dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania just months before graduation — accepting a degree, he felt, would be capitulating to a corrupt social structure — and he spent much of his 20s squatting with a community of anarchists in abandoned homes in west Philadelphia, where he “rescued” food that restaurants had planned to throw away and distributed it to homeless people.
He was eventually drawn permanently to Grenada. When Mr. Green was a boy, his father, Dr. Sandor Friedman, the director of medical services at Coney Island Hospital, taught there each winter, often bringing his family along.
Mr. Green founded the Grenada Chocolate Company in 1999. Its slogan was “tree to bar,” but that did not capture the breadth of the endeavor. Working with small cocoa farmers in Grenada and as many as 50 factory employees during peak operations, all of whom earned the same salary — and probably more than he did — Mr. Green dried cocoa beans in the sun; built, maintained and powered the machinery to make chocolate; packaged the finished product; and cobbled together an international network of distributors, including volunteer cargo cyclists in the Netherlands.
In 2011, the company received recognition the State Department for its “contribution to the sustainable growth of rural economies by establishing Grenadian products in international markets; pioneering agrotourism; outstanding environmental conservation efforts; and promotion of organic farming.”
In 2008, 2011 and 2013, the Academy of Chocolate in London awarded silver medals to Grenada’s dark chocolate bars. A documentary film about the company, “Nothing Like Chocolate,” directed by Kum-Kum Bhavnani, was released last year and has been shown at film festivals.
Human rights advocates have long criticized the treatment of small cocoa farmers, and, particularly in Africa, the exploitation of child workers by buyers and exporters who sell cocoa to big chocolate companies. Despite international protections put in place in 2001, a 2009 survey by Tulane University found that nearly a fourth of all children ages 5 and 17 in cocoa-growing regions of Ivory Coast had worked on a cocoa farm in the previous year.
Mr. Green set out to address such issues by dealing directly with small growers and by keeping the processing and packaging of chocolate within Grenada. In the process, he appears to have created the only chocolate-making company in a cocoa-producing country.
“My progression,” he told D magazine in Dallas for a 2012 blog post, “was activist, love Grenada, love cocoa, love machines and tinkering, making chocolate, and doing it all without hurting the land.”
David Lawrence Friedman was born on April 15, 1966, in Washington. His family moved to Staten Island shortly before he turned 2.
He was the valedictorian of his class at Curtis High School. He was accepted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but chose Pennsylvania instead. He dropped out in the spring of 1988, his senior year.
“He was repulsed by the prison of privilege,” Tim Dunn, a friend, said in an interview. “He was looking for real life. And he found it.”
Mr. Green spent several years after college as a kind of master tinkerer, forager and activist among homeless anarchists in Philadelphia. He helped route electricity into abandoned houses for squatters, and he converted a Volkswagen bus to run on electricity. He helped develop a free lunch program that is still in place. He later moved to the East Village in Manhattan and made solar-powered hot-water showers for a group of squatters there.
By the mid-1990s he had moved to Grenada, where he initially lived in a remote hut he had built himself. It, too, relied on solar energy, in part to power Mr. Green’s passion for music.
“You’d hear Ella Fitzgerald coming out of this bamboo house in the rain forest,” his mother recalled.
Mr. Green developed a taste for cocoa tea, a local favorite, and that helped draw him out of the jungle and into the concerns of cocoa farmers and workers. Joining with a friend from Eugene, Ore., Doug Brown, he studied chocolate production in San Francisco. Working in Eugene, the men restored old machines from Europe and built new ones themselves. By the late ’90s they had shipped everything to Grenada. Mr. Brown died of cancer several years ago.
The company struggled for many years even as it won recognition. Mr. Green lived at the factory the whole time, sleeping in a workroom.
It moved into profitability just a few months ago, thanks in part to its recent opening of a shop in Grenada that sells treats made from its chocolate. Grenada’s chocolate bars are also sold online and at stores in various countries. In the United States, they are sold at Whole Foods stores in Manhattan and other retailers scattered across several states.
Last year the company delivered tens of thousands of chocolate bars to Europe on a sail-powered Dutch ship, the Brigantine Tres Hombres, operated by a company called Fairtransport. A team of volunteer cyclists in Amsterdam helped handle distribution on the ground.
Mr. Green called it “the first carbon-neutral trans-Atlantic mass chocolate delivery.”
In addition to his mother, a clinical psychologist in New York, Mr. Green is survived by a brother, Peter. Sandor Friedman died in 2004.
Dr. Friedman said she and several other people involved with the company were meeting this month in Grenada to develop a plan for keeping it operating.
“A lot of people now talk about paying for the actual cost of food or fair food and stuff like that,” said Alexis Buss, a friend from Mr. Green’s days as a squatter. “He wasn’t doing it to be trendy. He’s always been that way. He was just doing it because it made sense.”
So ends the obituary. As I pondered Mr. Green’s death, I found myself caught in a moment of crisis of meaning, a glitch, which granted me access to a deeper truth: We are all beings who are going to die. Our life’s work, no matter how good and valuable, is but a castle on the sea shore, soon to be washed away by the waves of infinity.
The Shamans of Ancient Mexico encourage us to indeed choose a path of heart, and to live it to the fullest, to live it impeccably, but not for a moment to be fooled by the self-importance of permanence. No structures can withstand the impermanence of change. Our structures or casings are vehicles to dip into life and gather experience and lessons, but in the end, the real trick is to learn to ride the ever-changing waves of infinity, and that requires learning how to let go when the gig is up and be ready to catch the next wave.
What we carry with us is the experience and love of all life lived, but beyond that we take nothing. And what we leave behind will blend forward into new life, perhaps an even better blend of chocolate, done right, impeccably, with care for all involved, energetically resonant with what’s right. Thanks for your gift Mott!
Chuck Ketchel, LCSW
If interested in knowing more about Mott Green, here is a detailed article published in SideDish.