Was given the beautiful present of attending an evening performance of Chanticleer, San Francisco’s beloved men’s choir, at St. Ignatius church.
Beginning with medieval plainchant, the choir’s praise of Christ and Santa Maria flowed down the centuries and, in the midst of all the frenzy of consumption and “manufactured” holiday cheer surrounding us, I felt joined with the audience in giving thanks for the real gist of this Christmas thing:
Jesus was born. Our savior came. Thank you, Holy One!
Then to the Unitarian-Universalist Church last night, which sort of sidesteps worship of Christ (as my step-mother Maric commented, “The baby got thrown out with the bathwater”).
Yet, the other real point of Christmas was there — community gathered in the heart of winter to confirm love, peace, and joy in an uncertain world.
I am grateful to the good folks of San Francisco and my adopted family for showing me that the spirit of Christmas continues. It’s been nourishing.
You probably won’t be finding any of this in your Zen master’s upcoming teishos, but it is nonetheless worthwhile to get caught up on recent neurological studies of meditation and its impact upon the brain, an organ which has revealed itself to be far more plastic, adaptive, and regenerative than was ever suspected in those golden years of brain science that brought us the frontal lobotomy.
There are a number of good books on the subject now, but I particularly enjoyed James Kingsland’s Siddhartha’s Brain: Unlocking the Ancient Science of Enlightenment. Kingsland, a science journalist for the Guardian, writes with classic English skepticism while simultaneously embracing his own dharma practice and arguing for the deeply transformative affect of meditation practice on the fundamental neurology of the brain.
Kingsland’s approach is to travel back in time and, drawing upon modern scientific evidence (which has been “enhanced enormously through the use of new brain-scanning technologies such as fMRI – functional magnetic resonance imaging”), envisage that neurological transformation as it unfolded in the brain of Siddhartha Gautama based upon the colorful accounts in Buddhist scripture.
A collaboration between a clean technology scientist, an anthropologist working among native communities in the high Amazon, and a budding novelist and student of mythos (guess which one I am!), Sacred Soil takes a multidisciplinary approach to the phenomenon of biochar soils — an elixir for the Earth that can contribute significantly to the restoration of the planet to pre-Industrial levels of atmospheric carbon by 2050, as well as helping us “go native” to our planet again!
U.C. Davis anthropologist Stefano Varese calls it a “jewel…a breath of pure utopian air” and Daniel Pinchbeck calls it “A visionary manifesto and a pragmatic, solutions-oriented approach to how we can heal our connection with the Earth;”
Ian Baker, in his Introduction, states, “The highly qualified authors of Sacred Soil show us a way forward toward restoring our garden planet, shifting the Earth’s carbon balance from the oceans and the sky to the soil and living vegetation, where it can nourish our hearts, blood, and bones and ensure our collective thriving. It is up to all of us to act on this knowledge.”
I pray this work not only makes an empowering and enduring contribution to the revisioning and retooling of our planetary relations with all species that so many of us are working so hard to achieve, but that it is also nourishing for the heart and imagination of its readers.
Perhaps the finest review I received for Sacred Soil came from my Dad in the Native American Church, Bob Boyll, who told me after reading an advance copy that it gave him hope for the future. I know my prayers for my daughter Maitreya’s generation are woven into this book. Please, buy it and spread the news!
“There are an increasing number of psychospiritual drug narratives that centre around ayahuasca and the Amazon, and while they all retain a great number of similar threads, Robert Tindall’s The Jaguar the Roams the Mind stands out from the crowd… For the scholar of pharmacography this is an excellent example of ayahuasca literature and, for the general reader, it is an illustrative and engaging story that probes both mind and culture.”
Rob Dickson’s beautifully crafted review of The Jaguar that Roams the Mind just out on Psychedelic Press UK!
Just in case the review piques your interest, the book is available here.
“I very much enjoyed reading the shamanic analysis of two of my own favourite books. The use of plants in the Odyssey, and the idea of an “intensified trajectory of consciousness” in Tolkien, and the phenomenological idea of presence in song and story, were all fascinating and thought-provoking, and while their analysis did not err too heavily on the theoretical, there is enough to give the reader a grounding for both historical ends of the texts as being part of a single analysis,” writes Rob Dickens in his review of The Shamanic Odyssey: Homer, Tolkien, and the Visionary Experience in the webzine Psychedelic Press UK.