Mindfulness and Mobile Devices

By Sunny Chayes

Often what comes to mind when I think of my iPhone is how mindful it really isn’t. I think of the many times the person with whom I am sharing a meal has picked up their phone to make a call or look something up on the internet or to return a TEXT. Sadly, I also must consider the times I have done it to others.

As our minds are being sucked ever more deeply into the electronic never world, is it possible that these same little mobile instigators could possibly help us recover some of the precious mindfulness that is lost to them? A slew of mobile app developers thinks so.

Here are some suggestions. If we are going to spend some time, and potentially some money, on mindfulness apps, you might consider these.

Headspace and Calm: (https://www.headspace.com), (https://www.calm.com/)
We are lumping them together because they are both wonderful apps that offer very similar things. While there are subtle differences between what they offer, both are lovely. Many reviewers say that it comes down to the meditation guide’s voice that one prefers. Headspace uses the Buddhist trained, proper English voice of Andy Puddicombe while Calm uses the well-regarded female voice of Tamara Lovett. Both have free/trial versions of the app, so it may be great to try them both for a week at a time. Both apps are beautifully designed, yet very far apart in graphical taste. If you are visually driven person, you might find your preference of aesthetics to be your main decision driver.

The Goodness: For guided meditations, they’re beautifully effective for a combination of ease-of-use and quality.

The Drawbacks: Pricey compared to other options.

Perfect for you If: You are looking for a meditation app which provides a curated, high-quality guided meditations for adults or children, and you are not particularly price conscious. Price for full version – $12.95/mo for Calm, $12.99/mo For Headspace.

Insight Timer: (https://insighttimer.com/)
If you are a fan of guided meditations, but don’t enjoy paying the premium price, Insight Timer is your app. The trade off here is that Insight Timer is an open platform for seemingly anyone to post a meditation. It is up to you to choose wisely. The brilliance of the open platform is that there are literally thousands of meditations to choose from and many of those are extremely high-quality. A premium version of Insight Timer allows you to download your favorites for offline use and the app also offers premium 10-day courses ranging from “Learn to Mindfully Manage Stress and Anxiety” to “Heal Through the Power of Sound.”

The Goodness: The best app around for a large selection of guided meditations without the premium design and hand holding.

The Drawbacks: Requires a bit more investment of time to get what you are looking for.

Perfect for you If: You are looking for high quality guided meditations and don’t mind spending some time searching for teachers or meditation guides that suit your tastes and needs. Insight Timer is entirely free for the basic version. Premium — $4.99/mo and 10-day courses are $4.99 each.

Vibe: (https://vibe.me/)
The Vibe app takes a different approach to mindfully enabling your device. This app focuses on providing daily guidance in addition to meditation. The company has recruited a fairly impressive group of ‘thought leaders’ in mindfulness and spirituality who guide users with “light touch messaging” throughout the day. The messaging includes a daily post, short meditations and periodic reminders of the daily post called “Vibes,” which pop up a few times during the day. According to the app’s website, this method of integrating a single mindfulness principle into your life each day can have profound effects on happiness, well being, even quality of sleep with minimal time commitment from the user. The app also includes a basic meditation timer for those who already know the basics of meditation.

The Goodness: Perspective-changing daily guidance from thought leaders in mindfulness and spirituality.

The Drawbacks: It would be great to see a solid library of guided meditations with this app. I understand the guided meditations will be coming soon. In the meantime, perhaps combine with Insight Timer for guided meditations.

Perfect for you If: You are a busy person and want to advance your mindfulness with less time per day. Free 7-day trial and then $2.99/mo.

Muse: (https://choosemuse.com)

If you struggle with meditation (Inside secret – most of us do. It’s part of the process) and feel that you just can’t quiet your mind enough to find your inner peace, then you might want to check out Muse. Muse is not primarily an app — the centerpiece of this technology is the biofeedback headband which doubles as a headset (for sound). The headband works with the Muse app which effectively runs the device. When you meditate with the headband, Muse plays meditative sounds such as birds chirping, as well as listens to the activity in your brain. If your brain is too active (sometimes called “monkey brain”), the built-in headset provides an audible change in the sounds to something less calming, such as traffic or loud waves crashing. As you return your mind to a meditative state, the app provides the positive feedback to the brain in by returning to the gentler, more meditative sounds.

The Good: Tests have shown that the Muse actually works in helping people relax more quickly into a meditative state.

The Drawbacks: If you are serious about learning to meditate, learning to coexist with your thoughts is largely the point. Depending on a crutch might be counterproductive.

Perfect for you if: You are beginning to meditate and struggle more than most with monkey brain, this might be the shortcut you are looking for. $200 on Amazon.

How lovely it is that these creative companies used what is so ubiquitous in our culture to connect us deeply within ourselves. How cool is that?

About Sunny Chayes:
Sunny Chayes is an Author, a Sacred Social Activist, Host of The Sunny Chayes Show enjoyed on IHeartRadio, ITunes, ABC Talk/News, Mindalia TV and UBN Radio and Chief Strategic Partner and Feature Writer for Whole Life Times. http://www.YouTube/sunnychayes

Rise Up, Heathen Priestess: She Lives in the Wilds

By Danielle Dulsky

Our human divinity is bone-deep, lit by the red light of our souls’ truth and sourced straight from the cosmic womb. I have an insatiable hunger for Her fierce mother-love, as I believe all members of our global collective do, and I am calling out and calling on all wild Priestesses of our world to join me in Her resurrection. I am howling from the dark depths of every forest, and I am crooning a siren’s song from every body of water I can find. I am seeking you out, the wild woman who is through making apologies for her own divinity, the Witch who is handcrafting her own religion stitched from her own truth, and the blessed incarnation of every human being who can still feel Her. I will speak to you directly, for you are a Wolf-Woman of my bloodline and we share the same language, the heathen Mother Tongue of the wild word.

I hereby vow to validate your experience, your spiritual autonomy, and your magickal agency as we walk this misty and uncertain path together, and I will not ask you to sacrifice anything you know to be sacred. I do not assume that your life matches mine, and it is the uniqueness of our lived experiences of Her that will truly nourish the divine feminine in us all, rather than the bland and bleached homogenization of the Goddess experience.

As women of the wild, we deserve our own holy books, our own teaching tales, and our own venerable verses of validation. The spiritual wisdom of the feminine has always been born of lived experience, and the hooded Crone in all of us knows that her truth, her cyclical ways, are unique to her and her alone. The her-stories I offer here have merit only in their meeting with your own life; they do not stand alone as immutable truths or a step-by-step path toward any lofty and permanent healing goal, nor do they assert any secret mysteries that I alone am privileged to know. Without their soul-specific relationship with your memories, passions, woundings, and core values, Priestess, these verses are only words. Without your willful exploration of how the feminine archetypes I discuss in this heathens’ bible live and breathe within your own psyche, their names remain merely the default teaching tools used by outmoded traditions that have long required feminine shame to survive.

The women who have been locked inside the books they called good deserve liberation from their externally imposed immorality. We must unlock the cages in which they have been contained for so long, trapped behind the iron bars of judgment and dismissal. We women of this evolving world are tasked with their redemption, for they are we. We share the scars of every woman who has been condemned to ever be spiritually imprisoned, and, in these pages, I offer all the primal feminine technology this Witch has in her toolbox to dismantle the indoctrinated beliefs that continue to limit our spiritual autonomy; divorce our bodies from our spirits; and fence in what is, by nature, untamed, heathen, and wild.

The roots of the word heathen run far deeper than its derogatory, godless connotation; it is believed to come from the Germanic word meaning “dweller on the heath, one inhabiting uncultivated land.” To be heathen means to belong to the wild, to take our lessons from the natural world, and to be nourished by what we fundamentally are rather than what we are told we must be. Let me distinguish here between Heathenry, a polytheistic neo-Pagan religion for which I have much reverence but to which I do not belong, and the eclectic pre-Christian landscape of our ancestors. To be heathen is to remember the rawestessence of our worth, what is most authentically human about this flesh-and-blood body we find ourselves in, and what is left when our most carefully constructed psychic temples, those long-held belief systems that once served us so well, crumble into dust. Every one of our bloodlines is rooted in an Earth-based tradition if we only follow our lineage back far enough, and every one of our souls longs to come home to the wilds.

About Danielle Dulsky:
Danielle Dulsky is the author of “The Holy Wild” and “Woman Most Wild”. She is an artist, yoga teacher, energy worker, and founder of Living Mandala Yoga teacher training programs. She leads women’s circles, witchcraft workshops, and energy healing trainings and lives in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Find out more about her online at www.DanielleDulsky.com.

Excerpted from the book “The Holy Wild: A Heathen Bible for the Untamed Woman”. Copyright ©2018 by Danielle Dulsky. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com

Fat Man Blues

Review by James Garside

Would you sell your soul to the Devil? At what price? How about if you knew you were dying and didn’t have long to live? It’s not like the dead have anything left to lose. But if the Devil’s so interested in your immortal soul that he’s willing to offer you anything in return then maybe, just maybe, someone’s getting fucked on the deal.

Hobo John is a terminally-ill English guy, with a troubled past, whose bucket list is all about the blues. He’s a blues aficionado on a journey across Mississippi to see what is considered by many to be the birth place of the blues. Delta Blues came from the Mississippi Delta and is one of the earliest styles of blues music.

On a drunken night in Clarksdale Hobo John enters into a Faustian pact with a devilish character, called Fat Man, who makes him an offer that he can’t refuse. In exchange for his life, which is at its end anyway, he must cross over to the afterlife of the Mississippi Delta to record blues artists both famous and unknown from the 1930s.

It’s a real ‘devil at the crossroads’ moment but, unlike Vegas, what happens at the crossroads doesn’t stay there. To begin with Hobo John has a blast hanging out with the souls of dead musicians but working for Fat Man is dirty business, with untold consequences, and there’s always a price to be paid.

There’s much more to the story, including twists and turns that I don’t want to spoil here, but the plot isn’t really the point. It’s all about the music. You don’t have to be a blues fan to enjoy the story but you’ll sure as hell learn a lot about the blues along the way.

Robert Johnson fans will especially get a kick out of it as they catch references to songs like “Crossroad Blues,” “Me and the Devil Blues,” and “Hellhound on My Trail.” Legend has it that in the Deep South in the 1930s Robert Johnson met the Devil at the crossroads and sold his soul to become the greatest Delta Blues artist that ever lived.

The author may spit at me for saying this but, at least structurally, the book has much in common with Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. In that book the story is used as a way to give you a history of philosophy whereas here a similar conceit is used to give you a taste of the blues. Just enough to wet your whistle — like drinking whisky straight from the bottle.

Richard Wall writes like a motherfucker. I mean that in a good way. He’s clearly passionate about the blues and has a deep knowledge of music history and blues lore. I’d love for the novel to be released as a dramatised audiobook with an accompanying soundtrack featuring Delta Blues songs hand-picked by the author.

Fat Man Blues is a wild ride. It’s violent and bloody in parts but the writing is tight and visceral and remains faithful to, and worthy of, the music that inspired it.

You can buy the book here ( or here in the U.S.) and check out his other work at richardwall.org

About James Garside:
James Garside is an independent journalist and writer. You can find him at his website jamesgarside.net and chat with him on Twitter.

The Instrument of Freedom

An excerpt from The Meaning of Happiness by Alan Watts

We have examined something of the meaning of unhappiness, of the war between the opposites in the human soul, of the fear of fear, of man’s consequent isolation from nature, and of the way in which this isolation has been intensified in the growth of civilization. We have also shown how man is intimately and inseparably connected with the material and mental universe, and that if he tries to cut himself off from it he must perish. In fact, however, he can only cut himself off in imagination, otherwise he would cease to exist, but we have yet to decide whether this elusive thing called happiness would result from acceptance of the fact of man’s union with the rest of life. But if this is true we have to discover how such an acceptance may be made, whether it is possible for man to turn in his flight into isolation and overcome the panic which makes him try to swim against the current instead of with it. In the psychological realm this swimming against the current is called repression, the reaction of proud, conscious reason to the fears and desires of nature in man. This raises the further question of whether acceptance of nature involves just a return to the amorality of the beast, being simply a matter of throwing up all responsibility, following one’s whims, and drifting about on the tide of life like a fallen leaf. To return to our analogy: life is the current into which man is thrown, and though he struggles against it, it carries him along despite all his efforts, with the result that his efforts achieve nothing but his own unhappiness. Should he then just turn about and drift? But nature gave him the faculties of reason and conscious individuality, and if he is to drift he might as well have been without them. It is more likely that he has them to give expression to immeasurably greater possibilities of nature than the animal can express by instinct, for while the animal is nature’s whistle, man is its organ.

Even so, man does not like to be put down to the place of an instrument, however grand that instrument may be, for an instrument is an instrument, and an organ does what it is made to do as subserviently and blindly as a whistle. But this is not the only consideration. It may be that man has a wrong idea of what his self is. In the words of the Hindu sage Patanjali, “Ignorance is the identification of the Seer with the instruments of seeing.” Certainly man as instrument is an obedient tool whether he likes it or not, but it may be that there is something in man which is more than the instrument, more than his reason and individuality which are part of that instrument and which he mistakenly believes to be his true self. And while as an instrument he is bound, as this he is free, and his problem is to become aware of it. Finding it, he will understand that in fleeing from death, fear, and sorrow he is making himself a slave, for he will realize the mysterious truth that in fact he is free both to live and to die, to love and to fear, to rejoice and to be sad, and that in none of these things is there any shame. But man rejects his freedom to do them, imagining that death, fear, and sorrow are the causes of his unhappiness. The real cause is that he does not let himself be free to accept them, for he does not understand that he who is free to love is not really free unless he is also free to fear, and this is the freedom of happiness.

About Alan Watts:
Alan Watts (January 6, 1915 – November 16, 1973) was a British-born American philosopher, writer, speaker, and counterculture hero, best known as an interpreter of Asian philosophies for a Western audience. He wrote over 25 books and numerous articles applying the teachings of Eastern and Western religion and philosophy to our everyday lives.

Excerpted from the book “The Meaning of Happiness: The Quest for Freedom of the Spirit in Modern Psychology and the Wisdom of the East”. Copyright ©2018 by Joan Watts and Anne Watts. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

The Life You Were Born to Live

By Dan Millman

Author Jack London once proposed that “It takes hard writing to make easy reading.” The Life You Were Born to Live took some hard writing. It was born from twenty small pages of handwritten notes, taken from several lectures given by an unusual mentor in 1985. Eight years passed, bringing experiences and insights from hundreds of personal life readings — eight years before I began teaching the system to small groups of helping professionals — eight years before those twenty handwritten pages expanded into a 500 page book to clarify and focus earlier work of many esoteric traditions.

One key element of this book is the section on spiritual laws specific to each life path for individuals born between 1750 and the year 2000. These laws, expressed as guiding principles, can help anyone overcome the hurdles on their own life path. So it is not only a book providing insight, but also action. Most people who read about their life path are astonished at the accuracy of the material. Especially when it makes no scientific sense how the date of one’s birth can provide a doorway to accurate, reliable insight into the core drives and qualities of one’s life.

As I explain in the Preface of the new 25th Anniversary Edition: We all share an innate desire for meaning, direction, and purpose — a desire as important to our psychological growth as eating is to our biological survival.

Yet few of us consciously recognize that we even have a specific life path or purpose. Meanwhile, our potential and destiny call out to us, sending messages through dreams, intuitions, and our innermost longings — hidden drives that define our personality, shape our careers and relationships, and influence the quality and direction of our life.

Until we recognize and live in accord with our underlying purpose, life may feel like a puzzle with missing pieces, as if there’s something we’re here to do but we can’t quite grasp it. As actress Lily Tomlin once quipped, “I always wanted to be somebody, but maybe I should have been more specific.” Lacking these specifics, we work and rest, eat and sleep, make money and spend it, and experience our share of pleasures and difficulties, even as clarity about our life purpose eludes us.

Over the years, I’ve written a number of books about the peaceful warrior’s approach to life — facing our inner battles with courage, compassion, and higher wisdom. The Life You Were Born to Live, one element of my work, presents the Life-Purpose System, a tool for insight and a map that reveals your life path up the mountain you’re here to climb and the most direct route to reach the summit.

The Life-Purpose System enables you to expand your awareness of not only your path but the paths of friends, loved ones, clients, colleagues, and others. The insights and guidance provided can help psychotherapists, physicians, physical therapists, bodyworkers, social workers, managers, teachers, coaches, and other helping professionals enhance the effectiveness of their ongoing work, adding a measure of compassion and insight.

Beginning in 1985, I applied, tested, and refined this system by working with thousands of people. The system’s strength lies in its relative simplicity and directness, and its demonstrated effectiveness over time. The enthusiastic responses I’ve received inspired me to write this book and to expand and revise it.

Many systems of personality typing exist in both psychological and spiritual traditions. While self-analysis can generate the impulse to change, the Life-Purpose System provides the means — namely, specific spiritual laws keyed to each life path to help us transform our health, our relationships, our work, and every other facet of our life.

For the 25th Anniversary Edition — the first major revision since the original publication — I’ve added new life-path information to include all those born in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. While the original edition addressed the thirty-seven life paths of those born in the twentieth century, this edition includes all forty-five life paths now possible. I’ve also added new insights about those working single-digit birth numbers, which only began appearing in the new millennium, and I reveal more about the origins of this particular system and how I came to share it with you. Other refinements reflect the added knowledge of twenty-five more years of real-life experience of many thousands of individuals working with the system. Even those familiar with earlier editions of the book can gain new insights.

The Life-Purpose System has illumined my life and the lives of many others, bringing new levels of clarity and compassion. I trust that this book will bring fresh appreciation and empathy, generating an impulse to make a positive difference for friends, family, and maybe even our planet. In the meantime, may this book guide you toward the fulfillment of your personal destiny — the life you were born to live.

I am gratified that my publisher, New World Library, encouraged me to make significant revisions and updates to the new, 25th Anniversary Edition of The Life You Were Born to Live. The number of life paths has increased from thirty-seven (for those born before 2000), to forty-five life paths, including relatively rare one-digit birth numbers for some children born after the year 2000. I’ve also written sections about what makes these single-digit numbers unusual, and how that relates to so-called “master numbers.”

If you are new to this work, and have healthy skepticism, I only ask that you keep an open mind. I also refer you to my website — www.peacefulwarrior.com — and to the free Life Purpose Calculator, which will reveal your birth number (and the birth numbers of friends and loved ones), and provides a few words about your life path — the beginning of greater insight and compassion as you discover the life you were born to live.

About Dan Millman:
Dan Millman, former world-champion gymnast, coach, martial arts teacher, and college professor, is the author of seventeen books published in twenty-nine languages and shared across generations to millions of readers. His internationally bestselling book “Way of the Peaceful Warrior” was adapted to film in 2006. Dan speaks worldwide to people from all walks of life. He lives in New York City. www.PeacefulWarrior.com.

From the book, “The Life You Were Born to Live — Revised 25th Anniversary Edition”. Copyright © 1993, 2018 by Dan Millman. Reprinted with permission from New World Library. NewWorldLibrary.com

Astrology in Different Cultures

Do you guys remember when I shared “Astrologically Inspired Cocktails”? Well it turns out an astrology website in Australia did and reached out to me. They were like, hey, that’s a fun little infographic you shared. We’ve got one about astrology in different cultures, are you interested? Duh, of course I was and here we are.

So a big thank you to the folks at Astrology.com.au for the cool looking infographic to share! You should check out the full article on their site!

Astrology in Different Cultures

What is Perceptual Intelligence?

An excerpt from Perceptual Intelligence: The Brain’s Secret to Seeing Past Illusion, Misperception, and Self-Deception by Brian Boxer Wachler, MD

I’ve seen different definitions of Perceptual Intelligence (PI), but I like to think of it as how we interpret and occasionally manipulate our experiences to distinguish fantasy from reality. PI relies heavily on our senses and instincts, but it is frequently influenced and distorted by our emotions and memories. Just as with other forms of intelligence, some people have higher PI than others. However, PI is an acquired skill. It begins with awareness and requires practice before it becomes habitual. So you may find yourself initially overreacting to a situation or circumstance, but with proper knowledge and a different perspective, you may start to ask yourself: Am I interpreting the situation correctly and making the best possible choice?

In their excellent book The User’s Manual for the Brain, authors L. Michael Hall and Bob G. Bodenhamer write, “The problem is never the person, never the experience, never what we have been through. The problem is always the frame, always the mental movie, always the higher frames running the movie.” It’s how we interpret what happens to us. If a bird with good aim uses my head for target practice, I could either get ticked off or say, “It’s good luck!” (which I learned from my Brooklyn-born dad).

When we have a vague memory of a painful incident, what purpose does it serve? Why bother keeping that potentially incorrect perception of the event when you can make something good come of it? This is where the sniper ability of Perceptual Intelligence comes in. A well-developed PI can identify and take down a faulty idea that tries to sabotage you. Having high PI is recognizing that your mind is more plastic than you think and can be molded and reworked as needed. PI can be improved, just like any other skill, such as driving a car, playing a sport, or learning an instrument.

Many people have survived traumatic incidents and made life decisions based on these experiences. Their perspectives on these events shaped their lives in either a positive or negative direction. It was not the incidents themselves that determined the outcomes; it was the individuals’ perceptions of the incidents and how they reacted afterward that formed their future. The “heroic” survivors we see on TV or read about in books merely applied principles of PI, whereas the “victims” remained immobilized.

Sharpening Your Perceptual Intelligence
As I’ve said, since PI is a learned skill, it requires practice before it becomes a habit. Someday you may find yourself initially reacting unfavorably to a situation. Rather than jumping to a negative interpretation, you can catch yourself and ask: Is this the best choice? If not, you can tap into your PI, change your perspective, and achieve a more favorable outcome.

My main objective in writing this book is to help you find your aha! moment regarding how you perceive and react to the world from the inside out. It is my sincere hope that, as you follow me on this journey, you will discover a heightened and enlightened understanding of the mystery that is human perception and make better decisions based on what your senses and intuition are telling you. In the chapters that follow I will reveal to you how understanding and maximizing PI is the key to what lurks behind your thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. You’ll learn about (not necessarily in this order):

• Why some people can’t resist “cat poop coffee” at $100 a cup
• How the brain helps us make sense of the world
• When the mind is healing us and when it’s doing more harm than good
• Why we hold on to our illusions
• Why we feel compelled to “return a favor”
• What is really happening when we see aliens in the middle of the night
• How low PI helps us enjoy art more
• Why some people see Jesus in their cornflakes
• How inflated PI can influence the PI of the masses
• Why some athletes and teams are winners and others chronic losers
• How reciprocity hijacks our perceptions
• How celebrity personas manipulate us
• How Mark Twain’s thoughts on masturbation reveal his high PI
• Why Kim Kardashian West has so much social impact
• How cults brainwash people with low PI
• Why our perceptions of time are so often distorted
• When to listen to your gut

A hundred years from now, we may not even recognize the science that is being practiced today. We will almost certainly have completely mapped the brain by then, yet we may still be no closer to understanding how we perceive the world. In the future, as with today, we will continue to perceive. Somehow, every day we will convert the inconceivable into the conceivable, as do all living things in their own inimitable way. As you’ll see in the next chapter, it all starts with the human brain.

Fasten your seatbelt and brace for impact.

About Brian Boxer Wachler, MD:
An expert on human perception and the author of Perceptual Intelligence, Brian Boxer Wachler, MD, has pioneered treatments in vision correction and Keratoconus, published eighty-four medical articles, and delivered 276 scientific presentations. He is the first choice of many doctors for their own eye treatments. He is the medical director of the Boxer Wachler Vision Institute in Beverly Hills and a staff physician at Los Angeles’s famed Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Fid him online at www.boxerWachler.com and www.perceptualintelligence.com.

Excerpted from the book Perceptual Intelligence: The Brain’s Secret to Seeing Past Illusion, Misperception, and Self-Deception. Copyright ©2017 by Brian Boxer Wachler. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

Spidey Saves the Day!

By Bob Batchelor

All lean muscles and tautness, a new superhero bursts from the page. Swinging right into the reader’s lap, the hero is masked, only alien-like curved eyes reveal human features, no mouth or nose is visible. His power is alarming: casually holding a ghoulish-looking criminal in one hand, while simultaneously swinging from a hair-thin cord high above the city streets. In the background, tiny figures stand on rooftops, looking on and pointing in what can only be considered outright astonishment.

The superhero is off-center, frozen in a moment, as if a panicked photographer snapped a series of frames. The image captures the speed, almost like flight, with the wind at his back. The hero’s deltoid ripples and leg muscles flex. Some mysterious webbing extends from his elbow to waist. Is this a man or creature from another world?

The answer is actually neither. Looking at the bright yellow dialogue boxes running down the left side of the page, the reader learns the shocking truth. This isn’t a grown man, older and hardened, like Batman or Superman, one an existential nightmare and the other a do-gooder alien. No, this hero is just a self-professed “timid teenager” named Peter Parker. The world, he exclaims, mocks the teen under the mask, but will “marvel” at his newfound “awesome might.”

It is August 1962. Spider-Man is born.

Spider-Man’s debut in a dying comic book called Amazing Fantasy happened because Stan Lee took a calculated risk. He trusted his instincts. Rolling the dice on a new character meant potentially wasting precious hours writing, penciling, and inking a title that might not sell. The business side of the industry constantly clashed with the creative, forcing fast scripting and artwork to go hand-in-hand.

In more than two decades toiling as a writer and editor, Lee watched genres spring to life, and then almost as quickly, readers would turn to something else. War stories gave way to romance titles, which might then ride a wave until monster comics became popular. In an era when a small group of publishers controlled the industry, they kept close watch over each other’s products in hopes of mimicking sales of hot titles or genres.

Lee calls Marvel’s publisher Martin Goodman, “One of the great imitators of all time.” Goodman dictated what Lee wrote after ferreting out tips and leads from golf matches and long lunches with other publishers. If he heard that westerns were selling for a competitor, Goodman would visit Lee, bellowing, “Stan, come up with some Westerns.” This versatility had been Lee’s strength, swiftly writing and plotting many different titles. He often used gimmicks and wordplay, like recycling the gunslinger Rawhide Kid in 1960 and making him into an outlaw or using alliteration, as in Millie the Model.

A conservative executive, Goodman rarely wanted change, which irked Lee. The writer bristled at his boss’s belittling beliefs, explaining, “He felt comics were really only read by very, very young children or stupid adults,” which meant “he didn’t want me to use words of more than two syllables if I could help it…Don’t play up characterization, don’t have too much dialogue, just have a lot of action.” Given the precarious state of publishing companies, which frequently went belly-up, and his long history with Goodman, Lee admits, “It was a job; I had to do what he told me.”

Despite being distant relatives and longtime coworkers, the publisher and editor maintained a cool relationship. From Lee’s perspective, “Martin was good at what he did and made a lot of money, but he wasn’t ambitious. He wanted things to stay the way they were.”

Riding the wave of critical success and extraordinary sales of The Fantastic Four, Goodman gave Lee a simple directive: “Come up with some other superheroes.” The Fantastic Four, however, subtly shifted the relationship. Lee wielded greater authority. He used some of the profit to pay writers and editors more money, which then offloaded some of the pressure.

Launching Spider-Man, however, Lee did more than divert the energy of his staff. He actually defied Goodman.

For months, Lee grappled with the idea of a new superhero with realistic challenges that someone with superpowers would face living in the modern world. The new character would be “a teenager, with all the problems, hang-ups, and angst of any teenager.” Lee came up with the colorful “Spider-Man” name and envisioned a “hard-luck kid” both blessed and cursed by acquiring superhuman strength and the ability to cling to walls, just like a real-life spider.

Lee recalls pitching Goodman, embellishing the story of Spider-Man’s origin by claiming that he got the idea “watching a fly on the wall while I had been typing.” He laid the character out in full: teen, orphan, angst, poor, intelligent, and other traits. Lee thought Spider-Man was a no-brainer, but to his surprise, Goodman hated it and forbade him from offering it as a standalone book.

The publisher had three complaints: “people hate spiders, so you can’t call a hero ‘Spider-Man’”; no teenager could be a hero “but only be a sidekick”; and a hero had to be heroic, not a pimply, unpopular kid. Irritated, Goodman asked Lee, “Didn’t [he] realize that people hate spiders?” Given the litany of criticisms, Lee recalled, “Martin just wouldn’t let me do the book.”

Realizing that he could not completely circumvent his boss, Lee made the executive decision to put Spider-Man on the cover of a series that had previously bombed, called Amazing Fantasy. Readers didn’t like AF, which featured thriller/fantasy stories by Lee and surreal art by Steve Ditko, Marvel’s go-to artist for styling the macabre, surreal, or Dali-esque. It seemed as if there were already two strikes against the teen wonder.

Despite these odds and his boss’s directive, Lee says that he couldn’t let the nerdy superhero go: “I couldn’t get Spider-Man out of my mind.” He worked up a Spider-Man plot and handed it over to Marvel’s top artist, Jack Kirby. Lee figured that no one would care (or maybe even notice) a new character in the last issue of a series that would soon be discontinued.

With Spider-Man, however, Kirby missed the mark. His early sketches turned the teen bookworm into a mini-Superman with all-American good looks, like a budding astronaut or football star. Lee put Ditko on the title. His style was more suited for drawing an offbeat hero.

Ditko nailed Spider-Man, but not the cover art, forcing Lee to commission Kirby for the task, with Ditko inking. Lee could not have been happier with Ditko. He explained: “Steve did a totally brilliant job of bringing my new little arachnid hero to life.” They finished the two-part story and ran it as the lead in AS #15. Revealing both the busy, all-hands state of the company and their low expectations, Lee recalled, “Then, we more or less forgot about him.” As happy as Lee and Ditko were with the collaboration and outcome, there is no way they could have imagined that they were about to spin the comic book world onto a different axis.

The fateful day sales figures finally arrived. Goodman stormed into Lee’s office, as always awash in art boards, drawings, mockups, yellow legal pads, and memos littering the desk.

Goodman beamed, “Stan, remember that Spider-Man idea of yours that I liked so much? Why don’t we turn it into a series?”

If that wasn’t enough to knock Lee off-kilter, then came the real kicker: Spider-Man was not just a hit, the issue was in fact the fastest-selling comic book of the year, and maybe that decade. Lee recalls that AF skyrocketed to number one.

The new character would be the keystone of Marvel’s superhero-based lineup. More importantly, the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man transformed Marvel from a company run by imitating trends into a hot commodity. In March 1963, The Amazing Spider-Man #1 burst onto newsstands.

Fans could not get enough of the teen hero, so Lee and Marvel pushed the limits. Spider-Man appeared in Strange Tales Annual #2 (September 1963), a 72-page crossover between him and the Human Torch. And in Tales to Astonish, which had moved from odd, macabre stories to superheroes, Spidey guest-starred in #57 (July 1964), which focused on Giant-Man and Wasp. When The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 appeared in 1964, with Lee dubbing himself and Ditko “the most talked about team in comics today,” it featured appearances by every Marvel hero, including Thor, Dr. Strange, Captain America, and the X-Men.

Spider-Man now stood at the center of a comic book empire. Stan Lee could not have written a better outcome, even if given the chance.

All this from a risky run in a dying comic book!

About Bob Batchelor:Batchelor, who teaches at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, is the author of more than 25 books, including “Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel” (Rowman & Littlefield, September 2017, adult trade, retail $22.95). Amazon: http://amzn.to/2q4lNYe

A lifelong comic book fan and noted media resource, he has been an editorial consultant for numerous outlets and been quoted in or on BBC Radio World Service, Today.com, Columbus Dispatch, msnbc.com, The Miami Herald, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Dallas Morning News, Taiwan News, Associated Press, The Guardian, and The Washington Post.

Batchelor is the author of “Mad Men: A Cultural History”, “John Updike: A Critical Biography”, and “Gatsby: The Cultural History of the Great American Novel”, among others. He is a noted popular culture commentator and editor.

Spiritual and Broke

I’ve been given the opportunity to share the Introduction to Jennifer Noel Taylor’s upcoming book “Spiritual and Broke”. I know my curiosity is piqued for the book’s release.

By Jennifer Noel Taylor

Chapter 1: Spiritual and Broke?

I believe that if we do what we love the money will come… So today I played with kittens, basked in the sun, and went to a movie.
Now I Wait…

Negative Net Worth

Have you ever had a moment when you looked at your life and wondered, “How did I end up here?!”

I asked myself this very question numerous times, especially when it came to money.

How did I – an intelligent, level-headed, college-educated woman – end up incredibly broke? Or more specifically, how did I end up with no money, copious amounts of debt, and no savings?

Let me describe my previously pathetic state of financial affairs… First of all, my checking account was on life support; my balance was so pitiful that my bank levied a fee for having an account balance below their arbitrary “minimum daily balance.” In essence, the bank charged me money for not having enough money! Second, I had accumulated $35,000 of credit card debt. My interest alone rivaled the average monthly food bill for a family of four. On top of this, I had taken out a business loan for $100,000.

Now one might argue that a business loan is not necessarily a bad thing. But in my case, this loan wasn’t happily funding any sort of growth. Nope, not at all. This line of credit was the only lifeboat keeping my business afloat; without it, I would have closed the doors. And, I almost forgot, I had an auto loan and an “interest only” mortgage. (By the way, no lender in their right mind should have loaned me the money to buy a house; I managed to obtain this mortgage, back when banks loaned money based on “stated” income!) Finally, I had absolutely no savings. This means, I had no ability to handle unanticipated expenses such as car repairs, a sudden dip in business, or a visit to the dentist. Not to mention, I didn’t have money saved to pay for a vacation or even a trip to see my family.

Like many people, I was living pay check to pay check. Now don’t get me wrong, I had a fairly decent lifestyle. I paid an interest only mortgage on a house that I loved. I drove a car that I enjoyed. I invested in my health with organic food, a gym membership and even a personal trainer on occasion. And sometimes, I splurged on a sparkly pair of shoes. But my pleasant life came with an emotional price tag: I always felt extremely stressed about money. I had no savings and $135,000 of debt (not counting my mortgage and auto loan!) So this means, I actually needed to earn money to be broke. My negative net worth was frightening!

All of my financial troubles all began when I quit my “real job” to pursue my true love in life: energy medicine. In my former life, I was a software developer and although I didn’t love my job, I did have a reliable paycheck with benefits. And despite the fact that I was financially solvent, I was emotionally bankrupt. I always felt disillusioned at my job. I knew that I was put on earth to do something much more meaningful than write software in a lonely cubicle all day. So when the opportunity came about to work with energy medicine, I immediately took a leap of faith and quit my job. I became the CEO of a Quantum-Touch – an organization dedicated to teaching energy healing around the world. I loved my new role because I loved helping others and I was extremely passionate about the philosophy behind energy medicine. I wholeheartedly believed that love is the foundation of all healing. So I wanted to share this passion with the world and Quantum- Touch was my vehicle to do just that!

At the time, I was naively under the impression that if I followed my Heart, the money would come. So, I was dismayed to discover that this wasn’t true for me… at all. Following my heart did not create the financial abundance that I was so eagerly anticipating. Like I said, what did come was lots of debt and stress about money. I was working so hard to help others, yet I felt like a martyr for the cause. I talked about the power of love, but behind closed doors, I was angry at the Universe (or God/Goddess/All That Is.) I felt betrayed. I believed that the Universe should reward everyone who has the courage to share their love with the world. Unfortunately, in my case, I was sorely mistaken!

I was spiritual and broke.

A Caged Butterfly

Although I loved honoring my true calling in life, when it came to money, I really felt like a victim. When I contemplated how to repair my negative net worth, I felt like I only had bad choices – unhappy, heart-wrenching choices I really didn’t want to make. I felt trapped between a rock and a hard place, like a caged butterfly.

I considered going back to the “real world” and getting a normal job again. On one hand, I would yet again enjoy a nice steady paycheck. I could perhaps slowly dig myself out of my massive and almost unfathomable financial hole. As an added bonus, I would only be responsible for myself – not an entire community with employees, vendors, contractors, and other liabilities. This idea seemed extremely tempting at times, yet in my heart, I knew I couldn’t do it. I would be going back to feeling unfulfilled and miserable at my job. I knew I had a purpose on the planet, so I felt that getting a “real job” would be selling out. I would no longer be following my Heart.

I would be sacrificing my soul for money.

Cutting back expenses seemed like the more obvious choice, but this just didn’t work either! Every time I tried to lower my expenses, I felt like I was depriving myself of things that were essential to my well-being. Organic food is more expensive (strangely enough) than fast food, but I needed to take care of my health. Like many healers, I am extremely sensitive to the energy of my environment, so I spent a lot of money on a nurturing place to live. I bought a new car every five years because I didn’t want to risk breaking down in the middle of nowhere. Even if I could manage to reduce my expenses for few days, I would feel deprived, like I was suffering on an overzealous crash diet. My feeble attempts to save money would most often result in a rebound sending spree.

So, rather than make these sorts of tough decisions, I rationalized my debt. I believed that my debt really didn’t matter because someday, my ship would come in. Sooner or later, the Universe would reward me for all of my hard work – eventually, I would receive the abundance I so greatly deserved. I had fantasies of going to the bank one day, and proudly writing a substantial check to pay off all my debt. I dreamed of the day that my money worries would be a distant memory. Essentially, I was treating my debt as a way to buy time. I was waiting for the Universe to deliver on the debt it “owed me” for having the courage to follow my Heart. Yet, there was only one problem with this rationale: the money never came.

Year after year, nothing changed; I always remained spiritual and broke.

Misery Loves Company

I was certainly not alone in my financial despair; I wasn’t the only spiritual entrepreneur who had money troubles. I met others in the exact same situation – spiritual and broke. I encountered many people who were following their Heart, yet frustrated and angry by their complete failure to make ends meet.

I’ve talked with multiple life coaches who were living out of their cars or “couch surfing” – unable to afford a place to live. I’ve encountered healing practitioners, who, like me, had no savings and hence no resources to handle unexpected expenses. I’ve crossed paths with sincere entrepreneurs who were living their passion, yet extremely stressed about taking care of their family, loved ones, or employees. I’ve loaned money to conscious entrepreneurs who had a beautiful vision but no funding. (Sadly, these loans usually turned into gifts.) I’ve met other business owners who maxed out their credit cards to fund their mission. And like me, they discovered that their mission never paid them back.

Financial Alignment

I remained spiritual and broke for many years … until I had an “Ah Ha” moment at one of the lowest points in her life. I realized the key mistake I was making with my mission and my money. Once I had this awareness, I began a journey that yet effectively turned my finances around.

In just three years, I paid off all of my debt; I no longer feel burdened by $135,000 of unsecured financial baggage. Also, I established a savings account with adequate funds for emergencies or even a vacation! I now consistently save money each month. My net worth went from insanely negative to comfortably positive. More importantly, I fixed my finances without any feelings of deprivation or sacrificing my well-being. During this time, I never felt like I was embarking on an unsustainable financial crash diet.

And above all, I no longer feel stressed about my money (or lack thereof!)

In this book, I describe exactly what I did to turn my finances around. Now, I want to clarify something… Although I have a positive net worth, I’m not a millionaire (not at the moment, at least!) So I’m not qualified to teach someone how to make lots of money in the stock market or buy that million dollar house of their dreams. Frankly, I don’t feel I can lead people to a place that I’ve never been myself.

Therefore, the focus of this book is not about creating massive amounts of wealth. Instead, this book is a practical (yet painless) guide to financial alignment: a harmonious co-existence between our Heart and our money.

In a state of financial alignment, any stress about money is just a distant memory. We can easily pay our monthly expenses with money left to spare. So we consistently (and comfortably) save money every month. We have a year or more of expenses saved. We have no unsecured debt.

In other words, we have the financial support necessary to pursue our true calling in life.

As I discovered, just following my Heart wasn’t enough; I needed to take additional steps, beyond the leap of faith, to create financial alignment. Like I said, I hate feeling deprived, so my financial turnaround was possible because I didn’t feel like I was suffering in the process.

We don’t need to sacrifice our soul to make money. Conversely, we don’t need to sacrifice our finances to follow our Heart! We can do both. We can create financial alignment doing what we love.

Every great achievement was once considered impossible.
H. Jackson Brown Jr.

About Jennifer Noel Taylor:
Jennifer Noel Taylor is an energy healing practitioner, self-help motivator, and the CEO of Quantum-Touch, Inc. She has dedicated her life work to helping people discover the healing power of their love.

Jennifer graduated from Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo, CA) with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science and a Minor in Philosophy. After graduation, she started her first job as a Software Engineer at a big company in San Diego. Like so many people, she felt incredibly trapped and depressed at a job that paid the bills but didn’t align with her true passion in life. She innately knew that she had a purpose and felt keenly aware that she was not following her true calling in life.

To cope with the social isolation and depression she felt at work, she studied bodywork and alternative healing. She attended the International Professional School of Bodywork, Esalen Institute in Big Sur, and the Maui Academy of Healing Arts. While working on people, she started to feel the “energy fields” emanating from people. She became fascinated by energy healing and studied various energy healing modalities, including Reiki.

She met Richard Gordon, the founder of Quantum-Touch as his lecture on Maui. She fell in love with the vision of Quantum-Touch and received a very clear message from the Universe that energy healing was her true calling. Shortly after training in Quantum-Touch, she quit her job, took a leap of faith, and finally followed her Heart. She took over as CEO of Quantum-Touch in June 2002.

As CEO of Quantum-Touch, she continues to promote optimal wellness by helping people connect more deeply to their love. Not only is Love the basis of all healing but it also is the guiding force behind the business itself. Her business practices include spiritually rewarding jobs, loving service to the world, environmental responsibility, and financial abundance. Quantum-Touch has grown from a regional U.S company to a Multinational corporation.

You can learn more about the author and her upcoming book, “Spiritual and Broke” at her website http://jennifernoeltaylor.com/.

Deconstructing Gurdjieff: Introduction

By Tobias Churton

Caveat Lector*

Biographers of Gurdjieff are faced with a serious problem: the extreme scarcity of authentic independent documentation of Gurdjieff’s life both up to his appearance in Moscow in 1912-13 and between that time and the Russian Revolution in 1917. Gurdjieff was at least forty years old in 1917, his mind, self-appointed destiny, and fundamental attitudes already fully shaped by previous experience. As regards factual support for that experience, Gurdjieff’s name finds its way into barely a handful of official documents, themselves not wholly reliable. Seismic tumults from the collapse of the old Russian Empire, aggravated by the twentieth century’s immense conflicts and totalitarian vandalism, have sundered and fragmented the historic continuity that might otherwise have yielded collaborative resources from the Caucasus and Transcaucasia regions in which Gurdjieff grew up. Gurdjieff destroyed his own papers during a protracted personal crisis in 1930. We have no volume of Gurdjieff ’s letters or diaries, however slim, to consult. Personal reminiscences of followers, often highly subjective, are frequently at variance with one another and with verifiable facts.

Self-perceived as a man apart, a kind of spy in a confused, damned world, Gurdjieff persistently objectified the human beings around him; the first thing Gurdjieff ’s most influential follower P. D. (Pyotr Demianovich) Ouspensky noticed about his teacher in Moscow in 1915 was that Gurdjieff was always acting. Gurdjieff was many men and appeared in many disguises. Was he hiding something, or was he hiding from something?

In the Introduction to Meetings with Remarkable Men, written after 1924 and published after his death, Gurdjieff explains that part of his purpose in writing the book is to save himself future trouble in having to answer questions from interlocutors concerning his life and, especially, his beliefs. He complains that such questions have been vexatious to concentration on other more pressing matters and regards these questions merely as ones put by “idle curiosity.” Those interested in his personal life are described as “shameless idlers.” To satisfy their curiosity he has nonetheless, “in revising the material destined for this series [he means this book]” decided to present it “in the form of separate independent tales, and to insert in them various ideas which can serve as answers to all the questions often put to me.” The questions put to him are, he says, to do with the “remarkable men” he has encountered; “marvels” seen in the East; questions of the immortality of the soul; whether or not man has free will; the cause of suffering; the credibility of “occult and spiritualistic sciences”; the nature of hypnotism, magnetism, and telepathy; how he first became concerned with such questions; and what then led him to the system practiced in the institute bearing his name.

Gurdjieff, conscious of writing a “new kind” of book, deliberately shaped and reshaped elements of his life and imagination as illustrations or parables of his system. He dramatized ideas. The ideas might be real but individual characters may not be, though their behavior may be truthful regarding human nature or Gurdjieff’s ideas of ideal or misguided action, observed from experience.

The cooked-up book is what the dramatist Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) would call a lehrstücke, a “learning-play” or experimental teaching piece wherein actors adopt roles, postures, and attitudes that exceed conventional distinctions between stage and audience, between idea, image, event, and reality, fact and fiction. Brecht famously declared, “Realism does not consist in reproducing reality, but in showing how things really are.”

In the case of Gurdjieff’s book, Gurdjieff is principal actor as well as narrator, and elements of his experiences, fantasies, prior reading, and thoughts–and what he considers the fantasies and expectations of his readers–play the parts; Gurdjieff “sings their tune.” We can see why Gurdjieff has most appealed to actors, dancers, musicians, painters, impresarios, and storytellers, those especially conscious of the role of symbol and its encoding in artificial forms of address. Artists get or “cotton on” to congenial aspects of Gurdjieff, whereas more prosaic, sometimes troubled minds–perhaps his principal following–struggle with it all, often for years, perennially taking the “black devil” too literally, perhaps too respectfully.

Gurdjieff’s idea of science was that of the ancient Magi, not the modern classroom. He barely ever disguised his loathing for what today is called, without irony, higher education. I personally suspect he had a chip on his shoulder about never having graduated from university, so vehement were his repeated digs at “wiseacreing,” an ungainly word (in translation) that occurs with tiresome, arguably obsessive repetitiveness throughout all his writings and talks; followers have picked the word up and scatter it like buckshot from on high at critics. Gurdjieff was a “university of life” type of graduate, cynical about cynics. Perhaps to lend authority to conviction, he even invented from the store of reality and myth the archetypal sacred university of wisdom–the Sarmoung Brotherhood–a body of such exalted spiritual purity and genuine universality of insight that its denizens would never soil their elegant hands with the muck of modern education reliant on paper qualifications and bookish memory learning.

Unlike the professional talkers and establishment-acceptable pundits, the self-taught apparently polymathic, autodidact Gurdjieff could turn his hand to anything and persuade people to do things they never dreamed of doing. He was the man you’d think you’d want in a real crisis. He talked the talk because, as far as he was concerned, he had walked the walk. Unfortunately for historians and biographers he mostly fictionalized the walk. He didn’t want people to follow his footsteps, but to find their own.

Gurdjieff’s “Men” are remarkable insofar as they have recognized that the true value of life comes only when that life consciously acquires mythic dimensions, when one, with feet on the ground, has yet traversed the stars and touched the beyond. Remarkable men have seen something unremarkable men have not. Such men should engage our attention. Was Gurdjieff himself one of them?

*“Reader Beware”

To learn more click here.

About Tobias Churton:
Britain’s leading scholar of Western Esotericism, Tobias Churton is a world authority on Gnosticism, Hermeticism, and Rosicrucianism. An Honorary Fellow of Exeter University, where he is a faculty lecturer, he holds a master’s degree in Theology from Brasenose College, Oxford, and is the author of many books, including Aleister Crowley: The Beast in Berlin and Occult Paris. He lives in the heart of England.

Deconstructing Gurdjieff by Tobias Churton © 2017 Inner Traditions. Printed with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions International. www.InnerTraditions.com