You Sly Universal Virus, You Psychedelic Mushroom Cloud at the Center of All Our Brains

“A Prayer for Us,” by Rob Brezny

his is a perfect moment. It’s a perfect moment because I have been inspired to say a gigantic prayer. I’ve been roused to unleash a divinely greedy, apocalyptically healing prayer for each and every one of us—even those of us who don’t believe in the power of prayer.

And so I am starting to pray right now to the God of Gods . . . the God beyond all Gods . . . the Girlfriend of God . . . the Teacher of God . . . the Goddess who invented God.

DEAR GODDESS, you who always answer our very best questions, even if we ignore you:

Please be here with us right now. Come inside us with your sly slippery slaphappy mojo. Invade us with your silky succulent salty sweet haha.
Hear with our ears, Goddess. Breathe with our lungs. See through our eyes.

DEAR GODDESS, you who never kill but only change:

I pray that my exuberant, suave, and accidental words will move you to shower ferocious blessings down on everyone who reads or hears this benediction.

I pray that you will give us what we don’t even know we need—not just the boons we think we want, but everything we’ve always been afraid to even imagine or ask for.

DEAR GODDESS, you wealthy anarchist burning heaven to the ground:

Many of us don’t even know who we really are.

We’ve forgotten that our souls live forever.

We’re blind to the fact that every little move we make sends ripples through eternity. Some of us are even ignorant of how extravagant, relentless, and practical your love for us is.

Please wake us up to the shocking truths. Use your brash magic to help us see that we are completely different from we’ve been led to believe, and more exciting than we can possibly imagine.

Guide us to realize that we are all unwitting messiahs who are much too big and ancient to fit inside our personalities.

DEAR GODDESS, you sly universal virus with no fucking opinion:

Help us to be disciplined enough to go crazy in the name of creation, not destruction.

Teach us to know the distinction between oppressive self-control and liberating self-control.

Awaken in us the power to do the half-right thing when it is impossible to do the totally right thing.

And arouse the Wild Woman within us—even if we are men.

DEAR GODDESS, you who give us so much love and pain mixed together that our morality is always on the verge of collapsing:

I beg you to cast a boisterous love spell that will nullify all the dumb ideas, bad decisions, and nasty conditioning that have ever cursed all of us wise and sexy virtuosos.

Remove, banish, annihilate, and laugh into oblivion any jinx that has clung
to us, no matter how long we have suffered from it, and even if we have become accustomed or addicted to its ugly companionship.

Conjure an aura of protection around us so that we will receive an early warning if we are ever about to act in such a way as to bring another hex or plague into our lives in the future.

DEAR GODDESS, you psychedelic mushroom cloud at the center of all our brains:

I pray that you will inspire us to kick our own asses with abandon and regularity.

Give us bigger, better, more original sins and wilder, wetter, more interesting problems.
Help us learn the difference between stupid suffering and smart suffering.

Provoke us to throw away or give away everything we own that encourages us to believe we’re better than anyone else.

Brainwash us with your compassion so that we never love our own freedom more than anyone else’s freedom.

And make it illegal, immoral, irrelevant, unpatriotic, and totally tasteless for us to be in love with anyone or anything that’s no good for us.

DEAR GODDESS, you riotously tender, hauntingly reassuring, orgiastically sacred feeling that is even now running through all of our soft, warm animal bodies:

I pray that you provide us with a license to bend and even break all rules, laws, and traditions that hinder us from loving the world the way you do.

Show us how to purge the wishy-washy wishes that distract us from our daring, dramatic, divine desires.

And teach us that we can have anything we want if we will only ask for it in an unselfish way.

DEAR GODDESS, you who just pretend to be crazy so you can get away with doing what’s right:

Help us to be like you—wildly disciplined, voraciously curious, exuberantly elegant, shockingly friendly, fanatically balanced, blasphemously reverent, mysteriously truthful, teasingly healing, lyrically logical, and blissfully rowdy.

And now dear God of Gods, God beyond all Gods, Girlfriend of God, Teacher of God, Goddess who invented God, I bring this prayer to a close, trusting that in these pregnant moments you have begun to change all of us in the exact way we needed to change in order to become the gorgeous geniuses we were born to be.

More power to you

Oh, but one more thing DEAR GODDESS, you pregnant slut who scorns all mediocre longing:

Please give us donkey clown pinatas full of chirping crickets,

ceramic spice jars containing 10 million-year-old salt from the Himalayas,

gargoyle statues guaranteed to scare away the demons,

lucid dreams while we’re wide awake,

enough organic soup and ice cream to feed all the refugees,

emerald parachutes and purple velvet gloves and ladders made of melted-down guns,

a knack for avoiding other people’s personal hells,

radio-controlled, helium-filled flying rubber sharks to play with,

magic red slippers to contribute to the hopeless,

bathtubs full of holy water to wash away our greed,

secret admirers who are not psychotic stalkers,

mousse cakes baked in the shapes of giant question marks,

stories about lightning strikes that burn down towers where megalomaniacal kings live,

solar-powered sex toys that work even in the dark,

knowledge of secret underground rivers,

mirrors that the Dalai Lama has gazed into,

and red wagons carrying the treats we were deprived of in childhood.

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From Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia, Revised and Expanded: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings

Categories: Earth-based Religions, Great Quotes, Healing, Poetry Sundays, Sex and Sexuality, Spirituality | 1 Comment


I’m not sure who said it. Probably my acupuncture physician, but my memory is a bit vague; for all I know, my friends have been saying the same thing for months or years, and I’ve only now capable of hearing them. But this is what I heard: “I don’t think you’ve believed that things can actually change.”

Substitute “things can actually change” for “you can lose weight” or “you can regain your health” or “you can create a different sort of life for yourself” or “you can become unstuck,” and you’ll have a picture of the loop I’ve been in for a very long time. Actually, though, I have believed things can change: they can always change for the worse. And I’ve believed that things can change for the better, but not because I had anything to do with it—I am that which fouls up plans, or ruins a good thing, or starts off hopefully and resolutely only to fail once again.

I’ve written about my struggles with depression. I was a moody kid, certainly, but the deep, dark, despairing kind of depression didn’t hit until college. I think that’s the time most people who have schizophrenia start becoming ill; I’m guessing it has something to do with changing brain chemistry. Mine started in my freshman year, and seemed to cycle almost with the moon. Since then I’ve learned that many people suffer greater depression around the new moon, just as many people experience insomnia around the full moon.

In my junior year I had some kind of depressive break. I spent my days curled in a fetal position on my bed, chewing on the chenille balls of the bedspread, weeping uncontrollably. I would venture out only after dark, and walk the mile or so into town to find something to eat, because I certainly wasn’t going to go to the dining hall to reveal my condition to my friends.

This lasted two or three months. Reading T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets and a couple of Gerard Manley Hopkins poems, notably “Carrion Comfort,” over and over, aloud, almost chanting them, making them into a mantra or a magic spell, were the tools that helped me regain a modicum of sanity. When I finally approached my best friend in college and summoned the courage to tell her what I had been through, she chastised me sternly for being self-indulgent, and told me she never wanted to see me in that sorry state ever again.

About ten years later I learned that she had just come through a year of depression, and that her husband was bipolar. I desperately wanted to be compassionate, to think that perhaps her extreme reaction was because the idea of my depression triggered a profound fear in her, but all I could think was: Ah. Now you know what it feels like. Now you understand.

The depression came and went over the years; after that major college episode, it was no longer on a tidy calendrical schedule. When it came, it was bleaker and more profound, and when it went, I was at least able to cope with daily life, though it was never true happiness. I never quite got up to that level again.

Toward the end of my two years in Vermont I slipped into a depression. When I realized I was actually planning my suicide, trying to decide who should take care of my dog and how to minimize the horror and clean-up when my body was found, I decided I needed to seek professional help. My doctor prescribed Wellbutrin. After four weeks it finally kicked in, and I woke one morning feeling balanced and happy and at peace. Three hours later I broke out in hives all over my body: I was allergic to the medication. Then we tried Prozac. It gave me seizures of the jaw that made me bite my tongue badly during my sleep. My doctor decided that SSRIs didn’t work with my brain chemistry, and hoped that herbs and diet would solve the problem. They helped, and moving back to Florida a couple of months later to take care of my mother (not to mention all that good sunlight) helped even more.

Then I started receiving acupuncture—not expressly for the depression, though that was certainly one of the concerns. Within a month I felt much, much better; within three months I could no longer  access that level of despair even when I tried. And no more depressive episodes of the kind that had so bedeviled me for three decades. It’s been a remarkable transformation.

But this year, after Mom’s death, I’ve come to see that I still have the behavior patterns of a depressed person, if not the feelings. And now I realize that I also have a depressive belief system: the bedrock certainty that no matter what I do or how hard I try, nothing will ever truly change for me. That I am Sisyphus.

I’m reporting all this because I think that old belief system may be changing. Slowly, by increments perhaps. But I’m starting to believe that change is possible, that bodies and mindsets and circumstances are maleable, that I have more power over my life than I think I do. It is not, alas, a straight-line improvement. There are days when I think everything is possible and others when I still think nothing is. But the overall direction, I believe, is one of opening up, of seeing light, of thinking Yes, maybe. Maybe there’s hope.

Categories: Brain, Depression, Healing | 10 Comments

Sitting Shiva

A friend was checking in with me today—how things were going in Mom’s absence. I told her I was behaving as if I were grieving or depressed, but wasn’t generally experiencing the associated emotions of grief. Doing laundry only when I have nothing left to wear. A kitchen in greater disarray than it has ever been. Plants dying. Mom’s beloved plants, and I can’t seem to make myself water them.

She said, “It sounds like you’re sitting shiva for her. You are telling yourself—telling the world—that No, life does not just ‘go on.’ Sometimes it stops. You’ve stopped. You’re even creating symbols of death all around you. You are sitting shiva.”

In Judaism, shiva is the week-long period of grief and mourning for the seven first-degree relatives: father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, and spouse. Appropriately, the word shiva means “seven.”

When you sit shiva, everything stops. You don’t leave the house, you don’t wear shoes in the house, you don’t study the scriptures except for those dolorous books of Lamentations and Job, you don’t bathe for pleasure, or do laundry, or cook for yourself. You don’t have sex, you don’t conduct business, you don’t listen to music, or watch television, or go to the movies.

You cover the mirrors, too. This was originally in response to the belief that spirits could become trapped in mirrors. Today, the ancient practice is continued under the premise that mirrors encourage vanity, and shiva should be a time of inner reflection. I think it’s more so that you don’t have to see what you look like after you’ve been crying.

But just the realization that this goy boy has been sitting shiva for his mother—not seven days, but halfway through the seventh month now—seems to have empowered me considerably. I’m about to go put a load of dishes into the dishwasher and make dinner. And I’m going to water some plants out on the porch. It’s entirely possible they’re too far gone. I know I don’t have to keep them up for her sake or anything like that. I just think I’d like to help something live again, if I can.

Categories: Death, Healing, Judaism | 7 Comments

Notes from . . . well, not necessarily the Dreamtime

I’ve been waking up lately with my head crammed with a bunch of disjointed thoughts. That in itself is not unusual; my head is a confusing place to navigate through. But they don’t fit neatly into a single blog post, and there’s not enough in any one of to make a post on its own, so I hope you’ll pardon the disjointedness.

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I lost fourteen pounds last week.

I’m not, it turns out, a big proponent of weighing oneself religiously as a gauge to determine dietary success or loss. I’ve seen myself gain weight even when being scrupulously faithful to my plan, and lose weight when I’ve cheated. And gaining weight, or losing little or nothing, when I’ve struggled so hard, does nasty things to my emotional state. So I weigh once a week at most. When the weight loss slows down (it’s always fastest at the beginning of a diet, and always fastest with very heavy people), I may drop back to once a fortnight or once a month.

And I’m not even crowing about these fourteen pounds: it’s mostly water, which my body accumulated in response to the inflammation caused by the reaction to bread, and in response to the high levels of salt and sugar I consumed during the funeral trip. Continue reading

Categories: Body and Mind, Death, Depression, Dreams, Food and Diet, Healing | 4 Comments

A Decent Funeral

Lots of family and family-of-family; a couple of neighbors; a few very dear friends of mine; a few family friends of my brothers. Flowers were tasteful, but (in keeping with my mother’s wish, who always said, “If they didn’t care enough to send me flowers when I was alive, I sure as heck don’t want them after I’m dead and can’t appreciate them!”) not overabundant.

The embalmer did as good a job as humanly possible, but she still looked nothing like herself. Which was just fine: that simply wasn’t her, there in that casket. I put a few items into the casket that she wanted to be buried with — a stuffed polar bear, a photo, a birthday card my niece had already bought her — and brought her wedding ring, which she wanted to be buried with. I thought it would be no big deal getting the ring on, but her hands were nicely locked together, so it was as if she were being particularly obstreperous when I was struggling with them. Once the ring was on, her hands wouldn’t go back together properly — one arm kept flopping to her side after a few moments, which was both ghastly and hysterically funny. It was a Chuckles the Clown moment for those of us standing around the casket.

Continue reading

Categories: Death, Family, Healing, Nature, Spirituality | 4 Comments


In the seventh grade, we were taught Modern Math. My teacher, a man with a thick Southern accent whose face looked like one of those dried apple dolls, thought my grasp of the theoretical stuff was good but my basic arithmetic skills were lacking a bit, so he didn’t want to promote me to Algebra. My father marched down to the school and straightened him out. He never revealed the content of their discussion, but I secretly hoped some brass knuckles were involved.

I excelled in Algebra. Almost pure theory. Geometry set me back a bit, because we were dealing with three-dimensional space. Trig, in the tenth grade, was monstrous. I forget what we had in the eleventh grade, but it was full of polynomials and advanced trig and things that made my brain freeze up.

One thing I took with me along the way, though, was the concept of vectors, and even now I’m not sure I’ve got it quite right.* When you define three-dimensional space graphically, you use a Cartesian coordinate system, with x, y, and z axes.

It’s days like this when I think I’m actually not geeky enough, or I’d be able to explain this better. Please try not to laugh into your corn flakes. You’ll get milk up your nose. Continue reading

Categories: Body and Mind, Brain, Dreams, Healing | 3 Comments

A Power Cord to the Transcendant?

by Jeffrey Weiss, DallasNews.com

The psilocybin mushroom was a tripper’s choice back in the 1960s. Actually, it was the herbal head-trip drug used by millennia of shamans long before the psychedelic ’60s. It was supposed to help get the mystically inclined into the right frame of mind, to enhance feeling of spirituality. Does it? Researchers tested the drug on 36 subjects in 2006. Thirty of the 36 attended two separate 8-hour drug sessions, at two-month intervals. On one they received psilocybin, on another, methylphenidate (Ritalin), as a control since it’s well known that it’s not a drug that boosts spiritual feelings.

Then researchers talked to their subjects at two months. And again a year later.

Here’s a nugget of the results published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology : Continue reading

Categories: Body and Mind, Brain, Healing, Shamanism | Leave a comment

Jungle Fever

The chattering classes are heading to the Amazon in search of esoteric highs. Are shamans the new shrinks?

by Clover Stroud
The Sunday Times
September 9, 2007

At a dinner party in Gloucestershire, Lucy, a mother of three, is regaling her guests with details of her last trip abroad. She has honeyed limbs and high-maintenance hair, suggestive of regular villa breaks in Ibiza or Tuscany. But earlier this year, as a 40th-birthday present to herself, she went to Brazil for a 10-day guided retreat in the Amazon, where she underwent a series of plant rituals involving the powerful hallucinogen ayahuasca. “It was as far removed from taking normal party drugs as you can imagine,” she says, eyes glittering. “It was frightening and extraordinary.”

Lucy’s experience is symptomatic of a collective search for a complete wilderness experience as a panacea for our troubled souls. “I went to the Amazon because I felt my whole life needed shaking up, and I just didn’t know how to do that in England. I had everything I wanted, in terms of a stable marriage, lovely kids and a nice home, and although I knew I shouldn’t feel dissatisfied, I did. I wanted to reconnect with myself and the way I live before I got much older.”

Deep immersion in a faraway jungle is the latest fix for those stuck in the cultural, spiritual or personal malaise that besets many in the 21st century. Having an extreme psychological experience such as ayahuasca at the same time makes it all the more desirable. The Brighton-based writer and therapist Ross Heaven, author of Plant Spirit Shamanism, has been leading trips into the Amazon for 10 years. “In the 1990s, only real new-age devotees had heard of ayahuasca, but the sort of person going on retreats has changed dramatically,” she says. “I’m taking a trip in October that will include account managers, business professionals, a media figure, a conventional doctor and a nurse. People are getting turned on to the fact that in the Amazon we can learn something about the wisdom of native culture and the psychological healing aspects of the plants there, while also gaining from personal exploration and creativity.”

It was inevitable that we would find a faster, harder, more esoteric replacement for yoga. As eastern mysticism starts to look a bit, well, passé, people are looking elsewhere for their spiritual kicks. They now have a desire to immerse themselves in an extreme environment, which is why the Amazon has never been as hot as it is now. Sting and Madonna first swung our global eyes to the rainforest in the 1980s. But then we forgot about it as we turned our gaze back to organic vegetable boxes and carbon footprints.

Now, once more, the Amazon is gripping our attention: the interest in ayahuasca is emblematic of a growing fascination with tribal life. A rumbling collective disquiet suggests that we’ve got it all wrong, and that it is those naked men in the jungle — whom we might once have dismissed as savages, or patronised by buying their handcrafted tables for our fashionable lofts — who have actually got it all right. Could it be that such tribes might hold a key to global salvation? Shamanism and ayahuasca are slipping into the spiritual dialogue of the chattering classes where once there was ashtanga and kabbalah. Continue reading

Categories: First Nations, Healing, Nature, Shamanism | 2 Comments

Quest for a Miracle Cure

These parents believe horses and shamans can unlock their son’s autistic mind. This is their journey of discovery

by Tim Rayment
The Sunday Times
September 9, 2007

A child is born, and the child seems blessed. He lives in the richest nation on Earth, at a time of greater wealth and understanding than any in history. The infant even has interesting parents: one British, one American, each a little famous in their own right.

But then something disquieting happens. Perhaps this was your child, too.

He starts to go backwards. First he loses his language, then he enters a solitary hell. He turns away when touched and arches his back when held. He lines up his toys in rows, and seems afraid of things that should hold no fear. He appears not to notice you, and his indifference makes you feel snubbed.

Soon the real heartache starts. You see other children play together in a sandpit while yours is to one side, obsessively pouring and repouring sand through his fingers. Sudden firestorms run through his nervous system, making him scream in panic and pain. Later, in the calmer years when he is four or five, other children’s attempts at friendship are rebuffed. This is not because your child wants no companions: the truth might be that he yearns for them. But he is mystified by social interaction, and conversation makes him nervous, as he has no idea how to respond. So he turns away with a distant expression, seeming cold and weird. This is autism. Your lovely offspring looks condemned to what, in 1943, Leo Kanner first described as “extreme autistic loneliness”, and many readers of this magazine will know a family that is affected. In the UK, 1 in 100 children is on the autistic spectrum.

It is a mystifying disorder. But on a farm in Texas, a British father thinks he has found a way into the mind of his autistic son. The boy has learnt to talk thanks to his relationship with a horse. He can quell his tantrums, express his feelings, even do maths and spelling — all because of a horse. He is the Horse Boy, and the loss of his symptoms is a challenge to conventional thought on how to handle his condition. Continue reading

Categories: Animals, Brain, Buddhism, Healing, Psychology, Shamanism | Leave a comment

The Shaman Is In

A tiny Amazonian village mixes traditional healing and modern medicine

by Andy Isaacson
Utne Reader, September / October 2007 Issue

At an intertribal gathering of shamans held last spring deep in Amazonia’s northern fringe, a stout elder from Brazil’s Waura tribe offered an impassioned plea. “Please,” he urged fellow healers from Colombia and Suriname, “don’t let the medicine die.”

His appeal did not fall on deaf ears. In Kwamalasamutu, Suriname, where the shamans convened, an innovative model is leading the effort to preserve centuries of indigenous medicine by integrating traditional and Western practices into a thriving community health care system.

The cooperative nature of the effort is evident across the soccer field from where the shamans gathered. In a concrete building, a former missionary organization provides free primary health care, while next door, in a thatched-roof clinic, shamans wield medicines brewed from leaves, vines, and tree barks.

Five mornings a week, villagers trickle into the traditional clinic seeking remedies for a range of common complaints, from yeast infections to diarrhea. The shamans might look at the tendons of patients’ fingers or peer into their eyes before turning to the bottled elixirs they keep in a solar-powered freezer. Or the shamans might refer them to their neighbors for treatment.

So far, three other rural villages in southern Suriname have built similar clinics, replicating a cost-effective model for indigenous health care that’s been hailed by UNESCO and the World Bank and was one of 10 finalists this year for the prestigious Seed Award for innovation in local sustainable development.
Continue reading

Categories: First Nations, Healing, Shamanism | Leave a comment

Acupuncture Poetry?

I had an acupuncture appointment yesterday. My head felt about two sizes too small, and whenever I bent over and the blood rushed to my head, it was a most unpleasant experience.

Despite my weight, I rarely have high blood pressure, and when I do, I can generally feel it: a tic in my left eye when I’m under stress, or this shrunken head feeling. So I asked my brilliant acupuncture physician to see what she could do.

Jennie, bless her heart, stuck needles in my skull and forehead and my right ear. Most people don’t mind having their ears needled; I guess my ears are especially sensitive, because I tend to whine whenever she has to needle me there. Yesterday was no exception.

So she went looking for these self-adhesive magnets that she sometimes uses in my ears instead of needles (which have the added advantage of staying with you for several days), but the stickum wouldn’t stick. It is dreadfully humid down here right now, which may have had something to do with it. So we were stuck with the needles, as it were. The first needle was inserted into a ridge in my right ear. “That’s the hypertensive groove,” she explained.

Sounds like a song, I said.

Today she sent me this:

The Hypertensive Groove
by Jeannette Westlake, AP, OMD

My nerves are twanging like hot jazz guitars,
My head is pounding like a drum.
I’m as dizzy as Gillespie and I’m seeing stars
My pressure’s up over 300 millibars

I need that hypertensive groove
Something’s got to move
Those little tacks might help me relax
Acupuncture’s groovy, baby, to the max

When my pulse has got a syncopated beat
And I can barely struggle to my feet,
When I’m light-headed, and my face is red,
The cuff is pegging and I feel half-dead,

I need that hypertensive groove. . . .

Anyone care to set it to music?

By the way, everything is back to normal, blood pressure-wise. She’s a miracle worker.

Categories: Healing, Humor | 5 Comments

Damp Heat

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), health is defined as being in harmony or in balance. If a body is healthy, it is able to resist pathogens, or those agents that produce disease. When the flow of qi, one’s life force or energy, is unimpeded, there is harmony, balance, and good health.

When there are qi blockages — too much or too little qi — there is an imbalance, which can lead to disharmony and disease.

TCM has identified six pathogenic factors, also called the Six Pernicious Influences, the Six Excesses, and the Six Evils, that cause disharmony in the body. And boy, are they doozies.

Continue reading

Categories: Food and Diet, Healing | 11 Comments

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