Trading Security for FreedomDec 29, 2023
On behalf of Geshe Tenzin Zopa, Emily, the boys, and the whole Gradual Path team we’d like to thank everyone who supported us this year through involvement in courses, pilgrimage, one-on-one sessions, patronage gifts, and subscribing to our platform.
We are growing our mandala steadily and attracting earnest seekers interested in authentic teachings of Tibetan Buddhism fused with the latest developments in psychology. Not only does your support make it possible for us to develop our programming, offerings, and service to others, but your level of engagement inspires me to seek new horizons and constantly evolve. I rarely ever lead the same course or pilgrimage twice as I'm always pushing myself to discover a new horizon for us.
As we approach 2024 I’ve been reflecting on the highlights and salient lessons from the past year. I hope you’re also celebrating your steady gains, learning from our collective missteps, and making the necessary spiritual adjustments for the next leg of our journey.
As most of you know, for the past several years I have been on a lunar or inward journey of shadow work and transformation, as opposed to the much more masculine, solar journey, of outward expansion, metaphoric conquest, and communal networking. Both are necessary and complementary; it just depends on the timing dictated by your personal astrology and the stars above. What kind of journey have you been on?
RETURN WITH ELIXIR
This period of inward reflection gave me the headspace and time to write my new book Return with Elixir, which will release in the fall of 2024. If you’re interested, here is my book's SYNOPSIS. I’m happy to say that my mentor Tibetologist Robert Thurman wrote a brilliant foreword with his trademark wit and eloquence, which was bookended and complemented by an equally poetic afterword by mythologist Phil Cousineau, a direct student of Joseph Campbell. Never one to be overly confident in my writing, I struggled with dyslexia as a child and missed out on the joy of reading growing up. But this past year Elixir changed that and me. Rather than resist the writing process and my fears of failure, I leaned in with my editor Alice and my wife Emily’s support and faced my limitations. I was surprisingly taken for a ride by my unconscious into intense and uncharted waters which included visionary experience, and even, for the first time, the joy of writing.
The second half of the book takes on a more memoir-style as I chronicle the real-life adventures of the Wizard of Bali, Tjok Gde Kerthyasa, and me as we make our way through the pandemic lockdowns, up sacred mountains for pilgrimage, submerge in frigid waters for ritual purification, and dream out loud about the future of our civilization over an open hearth in his medicinal garden. It's because of the urge to discover led by Elixir that I relocated my family to Bali, and volunteered for mythological death for a chance at rebirth. Every ounce of my cultural conditioning told me I was crazy to give up the familiarity and security of my job, home, network, friends, and family in New York City to venture into the unknown. "What about your kids and your mortgage?", reasonable people would ask me. “What about my soul?”, I would reply. You see, while life was good on the outside, I was restless and yearning for more meaning on the inside. If I had refused the call to adventure to play it safe, something deep within me would have shriveled and died.
TRADING SECURITY FOR FREEDOM
It wasn’t just me who set sail for distant shores, so many others around the world faced their fears during the cosmic sea change we are amidst, giving up secure jobs in traditional settings to become digital nomads, small business owners, upending and downsizing their lives, and shifting priorities towards living a more mobile, independent, and meaningful life. And if it wasn't a physical move they were after, people took advantage of the archetypal period of transition to ditch an old habit, addiction, relationship, or worldview that hadn't served them for some time. When people say things are impossible, never listen to them, they know only their self-imposed limits in an inconceivable world. No sense of security is worth our bondage, we are designed for adaptation and freedom.
While much of my rebirth process is still ongoing, I can tell you without hesitation that what has materialized thus far in our life has been equal parts harrowing and awe-inspiring. I have never felt so lost, or free. Never more unsettled, yet alive. You see trial and treasure come together, they are two sides of the same coin, and you can’t taste reward without risk. Return with Elixir might not be destined to be a national bestseller, its outward metrics of fame and fortune are irrelevant to me. What is crucial is the life-affirming message the book espouses; that we should heed the whispered wisdom of our soul calling us home, read the tea leaves and stars above, decode synchronicities and prophesy, and make the necessary sacrifices to rediscover our purpose and place in the larger context of our civilization in collapse and reboot. Elixir is a guide for our rebirth, but the journey and destination are uniquely your own. When the book releases, I know it will open doors for you where you have only felt walls. The question will be, do you have the courage to walk through?
PILGRIMAGE TO JAVA AND BALI
By far the most impactful event of this past year came with our group pilgrimage to Java and Bali led by Geshe Tenzin Zopa. I’m always so grateful he and the pilgrims allow me to curate a new tour each year to a different destination and trust me enough to jump in on an adventure that often includes unexpected challenges as well as miracles. In case you missed it, in my last few blog posts I wrote about "The Stupa, Symbol of Unity" that emerged while we were on pilgrimage, then wrote "Broken Beyond Repair or Already Free?" as I reflected on the metaphor the stupa represents in our everyday lives. Last month I wrote about "Working with Tradgedy: Where Science and Buddhism Converge" as I watched in horror with you all at the ongoing death and devastation in the siege on Palestine. Surely all of this is leading us towards finding a middle way between extremism and violence so that we can remember our dignity, reclaim our humanity, and rebuild this world.
The symbol of the stupa is perhaps the most significant harbinger for the new year to emerge out of 2023 so I want to keep it central in our minds and hearts, as it reminds us of our ever-present Buddha nature, the fact that we are powerful and creative creatures capable of change, and as a result there is always "Hope in the Dark Night" as I discussed at Green School Bali that we can heal ourselves and reconstruct a better planet. We need to focus on this empowering message and vibration and do everything we can to resist the tangled net of fear and distraction being cast by governments and legacy media. Our sovereignty as individuals and our unity with others despite our differences are being consistently threatened by corrupt leadership the world over. This shows us exactly where we need to invest our intention and energy, lest we succumb to further polarization, fragmentation, and authoritarian control.
TOWARDS UNITY AND ALIGNMENT
To this end, and after a year of quiet incubation, I am ready to emerge from my lunar journey next year with a new program, a new book, a new pilgrimage, and a renewed investment of energy in our service project to support the Tsum Valley Rachen Nunnery to keep those who resonate with this message, aligned. I hope each opportunity allows us to go deeper into our process of transformation so that we can also contribute a more meaningful vibration to the collective field.
In the meantime, here’s a little contemplative exercise:
Think of one word to describe the world right now. Next, think of one word to describe the world you want to live in.
Now, ask yourself what YOU plan on doing next year to avoid contributing to the former while investing in the latter.
We each contribute to the collective field, and while we cannot shift the entire matrix alone, or all at once, we can and must each make a relative impact locally and gradually. It is our responsibility to find within us and draw out, the right energy, vision, and effort for this time of collective rebirth.
Once again, my warmest regards to everyone for your efforts to awaken your mind and rebuild our planet, one breath at a time.
Sending you all my best wishes,
A Twelve-week Coaching Container for Spiritual Rebirth with Dr. Miles Neale.
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