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week of December 18, 2014
What's the most important question for you to ask today?

My book Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia
is available at Amazon and Powells.

You are a genius. Maybe not in the same way that Einstein and Beethoven were, but still: You possess exceptional capacities that are absolutely unique. You're a masterpiece unlike any other that has ever lived in the history of the world.

Furthermore, the precise instructions you need to ripen into your genius have always been with you, even from the time before you were born. In the words of psychologist James Hillman, you have a soul's code.

You might also call it the special mission you came to Earth to carry out; the divine blueprint that contains the open secret of how to be perfectly, unpredictably yourself; the master plan that is your heart's deepest desire.

Would you like help in deciphering it? The Divine Intelligence Formerly Known as God is always on call, ready to help. It's your birthright to ask Her a specific question every day about what you need to do next to express your soul's code; it's also your birthright to receive a response.

The divine revelation may not be as unambiguous as a little voice in your head. It might appear in the form of a TV commercial, an odd dream, or an encounter with a stranger. It could be demanding and difficult, delivering information you'd rather not have to deal with. Or it might show up as a clear and simple feeling of knowing exactly what to do, and it could be easy and fun.

What's the most important question for you to ask today?

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Take inventory of the extent to which your "No" reflex dominates your life. Notice for 24 hours (even in your dreams) how often you say or think:
"No."
"That's not right."
"I don't like them."
"I don't agree with that."
"They don't like me."
"That should be different from what it is."

Wherever you find that NO is a habit, a reflex, a conditioned compulsion, consider the possibility of rebelling against the habit, reflex, or conditioned compulsion with a big red YES.

What would it be like for you to say "YES" at least 51 percent of the time?

Invitation: Say "YES" aloud 22 times right now.

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Thank you for creating your own fantastic reality. It inspires me to make my own.

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Featured emotions of the week: compassionate ecstasy and ecstatic compassion.

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From Pema Chodron:

"This body that we have, this very body that's sitting here right now in this room, this very body that perhaps aches, and this mind that we have at this very moment, are exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, and fully alive.

"Furthermore, the emotions that we have right now, the negativity and the positivity, are what we actually need. It is just as if we looked around to find out what would be the greatest wealth that we could possibly possess in order to lead to a decent, good, completely fulfilling, energetic, inspired life, and found it right here."

—Pema Chödrön, "The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving Kindness"

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Below are more excerpts from
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

Have you said a prayer of gratitude any time recently for the fact that your feet remain steadily on the earth? Gravity is giving you the same gift it always does, pulling on you with neither too much nor too little force.

You should be glad for its versatility, too. It's working for the heavenly bodies with the same tender attentiveness it bestows upon you. As all the other planets do, the Earth relies on gravity's genius to keep orbiting the sun in its ancient hallowed groove, thereby providing you with all of the favorable environmental conditions you need to live.

Magicians of the Western Hermetic tradition say that gravity is actually a form of love -- the irresistible attraction that all things have for each other over even the vastest distances.

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You can listen to the excerpt below right here.

Thousands of things go right for you every day, beginning the moment you wake up. Through some magic you don't fully understand, you're still breathing and your heart is beating, even though you've been unconscious for many hours. The air is a mix of gases that's just right for your body's needs, as it was before you fell asleep.

You can see! Light of many colors floods into your eyes, registered by nerves that took God or evolution or some process millions of years to perfect. The interesting gift of these vivid hues is made possible by an unimaginably immense globe of fire, the sun, which continually detonates nuclear reactions in order to convert its own body into light and heat and energy for your personal use.

You can't live without the sun's inexhaustible flood of unconditional love. Every move you make depends on it. Luckily, it never fails you.

Did you know that your personal star is located at the precise distance from you to be of consummate service? If it were any closer, you'd fry, and if it were any farther away, you'd freeze. Is that just a happy accident? Or is it a sign of favor -- a big, broad hint, from a cosmic intelligence that adores you?

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Of the many things that have gone right for you during your time on Earth, the most crucial was your birth. As you crossed over the threshold, trading the warm dark sanctuary for the bright noisy enigma, you didn't die! It was a difficult act of high magic that involved many people who worked very hard in your behalf. The skills they provided in helping you navigate your rite of passage were in turn made possible by previous generations of threshold-tenders who bequeathed their expertise.

Months before that initiation, a more secret miracle bloomed: Your life began as a single cell, spawned by the explosive fusion of two highly specialized bundles of chromosomes. How could that tiny package of raw material have possibly grown a brain and liver and heart and stomach over a period of a few months? What inscrutable genius guided and oversaw the emergence of your fully formed infant body, that virtuoso creation, from the slimmest of clues?

"Something unknown is doing we don't know what," said astrophysicist Arthur Eddington about the universe. And we are the beneficiaries.

P.S. You have continued to grow since your birth, with millions of new cells continually blooming to replace the old ones that are always dying. At this moment, you're host to about 50 trillion cells, and each of them is really a sentient being in its own right. They all act together as a community, implementing the monumental collaboration you call your body.

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Late at night when there's no traffic, stride down the middle of an empty road that by day is crawling with cars. Dance, careen, and sing songs that fill you with pleasurable emotions. Splay your arms triumphantly as you extemporize prayers in which you make extravagant demands and promises. Give pet names to the trees you pass, declare your admiration for the workers who made the road, and celebrate your sovereignty over a territory that usually belongs to heavy machines and their operators.

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Go to the ugliest or most forlorn place you know -- a drugstore parking lot, the front porch of a crack house, a toxic waste dump, or the place that symbolizes your secret shame -- and build a shrine devoted to beauty, truth, and love.

Here are some suggestions about what to put in your shrine: a silk scarf; a smooth rock on which you've inscribed a haiku or joke with a felt-tip pen; coconut cookies or ginger candy; pumpkin seeds and an origami crane; a green kite shaped like a dragon; a music CD you love; a photo of your hero; a votive candle carved with your word of power; a rubber ducky; a bouquet of fresh beets; a print of Van Gogh's Starry Night.

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This perfect moment is brought to you by the imaginary lightning bolts you can fling from your fingers any time you want to.

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Below are more excerpts from
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

You can drink a glass of water. You can spread butter on a slice of toast. You can wash your hair and prune your plants and draw infinity signs on a piece of paper. Your hands work wonderfully well! Their intricate force and sustained grace are amply supported by your heart, which circulates your blood all the way out to replenish the energy of the muscles and nerves in your fingers and palms and wrists. After your blood has delivered its blessings, it finds its way back to your heart to be refreshed. This masterful mystery repeats itself over and over again without you ever having to think about it.

Contemplate the unfathomable prowess of your digestive system. Countless chemical reactions have to unfold with alacrity in order for it to work as well as it does. The gastric juice has to be composed of just the right mix of pepsin, rennin, mucus, and hydrochloric acid. The bile and pancreatic juice must arrive at the right spot and at the right time. The enterocytes in your small intestine always have to remember anew how to carry out their uptake of ions, lipids, and peptides. How can they possibly be so good at knowing exactly what to do and when to do it?

The circulation of blood and the conversion of food into fuel are just two of many alchemical feats that the secret intelligence within you takes care of. Thousands of other exchanges and transformations and syntheses are ceaselessly working their wizardry inside your body without your conscious participation.

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What causes happiness? Brainstorm about it. Map out the foundations of your personal science of joy. Get serious about defining what makes you feel good. To get you started, I'll name some experiences that might rouse your gratification: engaging in sensual pleasure; seeking the truth; being kind and moral; contemplating the meaning of life; escaping your routine; purging pent-up emotions, doing practical work that helps others or that serves your high ideals. Do any of these work for you? Name at least ten more.

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When many people talk about their childhoods, they emphasize the alienating, traumatic experiences they had, and fail to report the good times. This seems dishonest -- a testament to the popularity of cynicism rather than a reflection of objective truth.

I don't mean to downplay the way your early encounters with pain demoralized your spirit. But as you reconnoiter the promise of pronoia, it's crucial for you to extol the gifts you were given in your early years: all the helpful encounters, kind teachings, and simple acts of grace that helped you bloom.

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In Homer's epic tale The Odyssey, he described nepenthe, a mythical drug that induced the forgetfulness of pain and trouble. I'd like to imagine, in contrast, a potion that stirs up memories of delight, serenity, and fulfillment. Fantasize that you have taken such a tonic. Spend an hour or two remembering the glorious moments from your past.

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Mark Morford explains why militant optimism is essential to fighting back against entrenched power:

"The system isn’t nearly as powerful as it wants you to believe. It is, in fact, far more feeble, fallible, terrified (just ask the GOP). It’s also changing by the minute. It can change again in a single act, law, cultural tipping point. Happens all the time. For better, for worse. It’s happening right now.

"This is why the Ferguson protests, or Cosby’s belated takedown, the #‎YesAllWomen phenom, the onrush of legal gay marriage or even Obama’s China environmental agreement, health care battle or immigration plan, are all so vital. They snap us back to attention. They nudge the disruptive energy awake. And they remind us of the most important takeaway of all:

"Want to help keep the system as it is? Believe all is lost. Want to ensure the system’s eventual, perpetual, ongoing annihilation? Believe the exact opposite."

Read Morford's whole essay

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Below are more excerpts from
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

Take inventory of the extent to which your "No" reflex
dominates your life. Notice for 24 hours (even in your dreams) how often you say or think:
"No."
"That's not right."
"I don't like them."
"I don't agree with that."
"They don't like me."
"That should be different from what it is."
Then retrain yourself to say "YES" at least 51 percent of the time. Start the transformation by saying "YES" aloud 22 times right now.

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You don’t have to be anything you don’t want to be. You don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations. There’s no need to strive for a kind of perfection that’s not very interesting to you. You don’t have to believe in ideas that make you sad or tormented, and you don’t have to feel emotions that others try to manipulate you into feeling.

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I kick my own ass and wash my own brain.
I push my own buttons and trick my own pain.
I burn my own flags and roast my own heroes.
I mock my own fears and cheer my own zeroes.

Nothing can stop me from teasing my shadow.
I’m full of empty and backwards bravado.
My wounds are tattoos that reveal my true beauty.
I turn tragic to magic and make bliss my duty.

I honor my faults till they become virtues.
I play jokes on my nightmares
till I’m sure they won’t hurt you.
I sing anarchist lullabies to lesbian trees
and love songs with punch lines
to anonymous seas.

I won’t accept gifts that infringe on my freedom.
I shun sacred places that stir up my boredom.
I change my name daily, pretend to be nobody.
I fight for the truth if it’s majestically rowdy.

Gravity fucks me and I fuck it back.
The sun is my sex slave, the moon smokes my crack.
I pump up my conscience with idiot laughter.
I’m living happily, in love ever after.

I brag about what I can’t do and don’t know.
I take off my clothes to those I oppose.
I’m so far beyond lazy, I work like a god.
I’m totally crazy; in fact that’s my job.

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Americans Believe Violence is Worse than Ever; When in Reality U.S. Violence is Lower than Ever

"Here’s a narrative you rarely hear: Our lives are safer. This message is so rarely heard that half of all respondents to a recent YouGov poll suggested that the violent crime rate had risen over the past two decades. The reality, of course, is that it has fallen enormously.

"The decline in violent crime is one of the most striking trends over recent decades; the rate has declined roughly by half since 1993.

"To be precise, the F.B.I.'s count of violent crimes reported to law enforcement has declined from a rate of 747 violent incidents per 100,000 people in 1993 to 387 incidents per 100,000 people in 2012, which is the most recent year for which it has published complete data. This reflects the fact that over this period, the homicide rate has fallen by 51 percent; forcible rapes have declined by 35 percent; robberies have decreased by 56 percent; and the rate of aggravated assault has been cut by 45 percent. Property crime rates are also sharply down.

"These trends aren’t caused by changes in our willingness to report crime to the police. We see an even more significant decline in violent crime in data derived from surveys asking people whether they’ve been the victims of certain crimes over the past year. The National Crime Victimization Survey reports that the rate of violent victimizations has declined by 67 percent since 1993. This reflects a 70 percent decline in rape and sexual assault; a 66 percent decline in robbery; a 77 percent decline in aggravated assault; and a 64 percent decline in simple assault. This survey has nothing to say about the decline in homicide, for obvious reasons."

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Some historical perspective that forms the context of what we are seeing in Ferguson:

"In the American South, white slavers imprisoned African Americans on their plantations, forcing them to live short, harsh lives in extreme poverty, working without any compensation, constantly subjecting them to regular beatings and threats of violence. Female slaves were often raped by white male slave owners. Well into the twentieth century lynchings of blacks in the southern United States were not only common but were social events where white families would bring the children and a picnic lunch, and take pictures of the hanging, to be made into commemorative postcards.

"On average, an African American man, woman, or child was hanged, generally by a white mob, once a week, every week between 1882 and 1930, as police actively participated or stood by and condoned the murders. Lynchings continued until the 1950s, as thousands of black Americans were hanged for offenses like “disputing with a white man.” (A much smaller number of whites were lynched as well, often for taking the side of a black person.)"

Read more from this article.

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Report: Black Male Teens Are 21 Times More Likely To Be Killed By Cops Than White Ones

“The 1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data show that blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police,” a new ProPublica report explains, noting that if whites were killed at the same ratio there would have been another 185 white deaths, just during that three-year period, just of those in that narrow age range.

Read more.

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When you're an aspiring master of pronoia, you see the cracks in the facades as opportunities; inspiration erupts as you careen over bumps in the road; you love the enticing magic that flows from situations that other people regard as rough or crooked.

"That which is not slightly distorted lacks sensible appeal," wrote poet Charles Baudelaire, "from which it follows that irregularity—that is to say, the unexpected, surprise and astonishment—is an essential part and characteristic of beauty."

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Below are more excerpts from
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

You can also listen to an audio recording of the excerpt below, You Are a Prophet.

Here's how it starts: Your imagination is the single most important asset you possess. It's your power to create mental pictures of things that don't exist yet and that you want to bring into being. It's the magic wand you use to shape your future.

And so in your own way, you are a prophet. You generate countless predictions every day. Your imagination is the source, tirelessly churning out images of what you will be doing later.

The featured prophecy of the moment may be as simple as a psychic impression of yourself eating a fudge brownie at lunch or as monumental as a daydream of some year building your dream home by a lake or sea.

Your imagination is a treasure when it spins out scenarios that are aligned with your deepest desires. In fact, it's an indispensable tool in creating the life you want; it's what you use to form images of the conditions you'd like to inhabit and the objects you hope to wield. Nothing manifests on this planet unless it first exists as a mental picture.

But for most of us, the imagination is as much a curse as a blessing. We're often just as likely to use it to conjure up premonitions that are at odds with our conscious values. That's the result of having absorbed toxic programming from the media and from our parents at an early age and from other influential people in our past.

Fearful fantasies regularly pop up into our awareness, many disguising themselves as rational thoughts and genuine intuitions. Those fearful fantasies may hijack our psychic energy, directing it to exhaust itself in dead-end meditations . . . .

Read or hear the rest.

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Here's a letter sent to the Beauty and Truth Lab by a pronoiac researcher named Risa Kline:

DEAR BEAUTY AND TRUTH LAB: The chemo treatments burned out all the math skills in my brain, which were already pretty meager. On the other hand, they awakened my ability to feel perfectly at ease while in the midst of paradoxical situations that everyone else finds maddening and uncomfortable. The chemo also made me ridiculously tolerant of people's contradictions, sometimes even their hypocrisies, and freed me to enjoy life as an entertaining movie with lots of interesting plot twists rather than as a pitched battle between everything I like and everything I don't like. I guess I could say that my cancer helped turn me into a pronoiac! - The Chaos Artist Formerly Known as Risa Kline

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There is no God. God is dead. God is a drug for people who aren't very smart. God is an illusion sold to dupes by money-hungry religions. God is a right-wing conspiracy. God is an infantile fantasy favored by superstitious cowards who can't face life's existential meaninglessness.

JUST KIDDING! The truth is, anyone who says he knows what God is or isn't, doesn't really know.

Now read Adolfo Quezada's prayer, then confess what you don't know about God. "God of the Wild, you are different from what I expected. I cannot predict you. You are too free to be captured for the sake of my understanding. I can't find you in the sentimentalism of religion. You are everywhere I least expect to find you. You are not the force that saves me from the pain of living; you are the force that brings me life even in the midst of pain."

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Possible names for the cult we could start:

Born-Again Pagan Church of Amazed Anarchists

The Ism-Free Sect of the Love Butter Congregation

Flaming Jewel Temple of Living Outside of Time

The Tempestuous Temple of Sacred Uproar and Rowdy Blessings

First Church of the Last Chance

Magic Order of Educated Rapture

The Polyester Pagoda of the Palpitating Pulpit

Any others?

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Alert, relaxed listening is the radical act at the heart of our pronoiac practice.

Curiosity is our primal state of awareness.

Wise innocence is a trick we aspire to master.

Open-hearted skepticism is the light in our eyes.

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Below is an excerpt from
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

One of life's great bounties is its changeableness, which ensures that boredom will never last very long. You may underestimate the intensity of your longing for continual transformation, but the universe doesn't.

That's why it provides you with the boundless entertainment of your ever-shifting story. That's why it is always revising the challenges it sends your way, providing your curious soul with a rich variety of unpredictable teachings.

Neuroscientists have turned up evidence that suggests you love this aspect of the universe's behavior. They say that you are literally addicted to learning. At the moment when you grasp a lesson you've been grappling with, your brain experiences a rush of a natural opium-like chemical, boosting your pleasure levels. You crave this experience. You thrive on it.

So the universe is built in such a way as to discourage boredom. It does this not just by generating an endless stream of interesting novelty, and not only by giving you an instinctive lust to keep learning, but also by making available an abundance of ways to break free of your habitual thoughts.

You can go to school, travel, read, listen to experts, converse with people who think differently from you, and absorb the works of creative artists. You can replenish and stretch your mind through exercise, sex, psychotherapy, spiritual practices, and self-expression. You can take drugs and medicines that alter your perspectives.

And here's the best part of this excellent news: Every method that exists for expanding your consciousness is more lavishly available right now than it has been at any previous time in history.

Never before have there been so many schools, educational programs, workshops, and enrichment courses. Virtually any subject or skill you want to study, you can. You don't even have to leave your home to do it. The number of online classes is steadily mounting . . . .

Read the rest of this essay.

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If you would like to make a contribution to me via Paypal, here's where to go:

Tip Jar for Me

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Below are more excerpts from
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

Notice how you feel as you speak the following: "The strong, independent part of me resisted the embarrassing truth for a long time, but I finally came to accept that I'm someone who craves vast amounts of love. Ever since I surrendered to this need, it doesn't nag me all the time, as it used to. In fact, it feels comforting, like a source of sweetness that doesn't go away. I never thought I'd say this, but I've come to treasure the feeling of having a voracious yearning to be loved."

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A common obstruction to a vital intimate relationship is what I call the assumption of clairvoyance. You imagine, perhaps unconsciously, that your partner or friend is somehow magically psychic when it comes to you -- so much so that he or she should unfailingly intuit exactly what you need, even if you don't ask for it.

This fantasy may seem romantic, but it can undermine the most promising alliances.

To counteract any tendencies you might have to indulge in the assumption of clairvoyance, practice stating your desires aloud.

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According to Jewish legend, there are in each generation 36 righteous humans who prevent the rest of us from being destroyed. Through their extraordinary good deeds and their love of the divine spark, they save the world over and over again. They're not famous saints, though. They go about their business anonymously, and no one knows how crucial they are to our well-being.

Might you be one of the 36? As a temporary experiment, act as if you are.

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The renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma once came to the home of computer pioneer Steve Jobs and performed a private concert. Jobs was deeply touched, and told Ma, "Your playing is the best argument I’ve ever heard for the existence of God, because I don’t really believe a human alone can do this."

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Below are more excerpts from
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

As an experiment, I invite you to say this twice a day for the next ten days: "Novel intuitions are now erupting from my smart heart, awakening me from any trance I've been ensnared in. I am hereby breaking and escaping obstructions that have hindered my ability to express my soul's code. My unique capacities are being liberated, my potentials activated."

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In response to our culture's ever-rising levels of noise and frenzy, rites of purification have become more popular. Many people now recognize the value of taking periodic retreats. Withdrawing from their usual compulsions, they go on fasts, avoid mass media, practice celibacy, or even abstain from speaking. While we applaud cleansing ceremonies like this, we recommend balancing them with periodic outbreaks of an equal and opposite custom: the Bliss Blitz.

During this celebration, you tune out the numbing banality of the daily grind. But instead of shrinking into asceticism, you indulge in uninhibited explorations of joy, release, and expansion. Turning away from the mildly stimulating distractions you seek out when you're bored or worried, you become inexhaustibly resourceful as you search for unsurpassable sources of cathartic pleasure. Try it for a day or a week: the Bliss Blitz.

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The greatest gift you can give might be the gift that you yourself were never given. Give that gift.

The most valuable service you have to offer your fellow humans may be the service you have always wished were performed for you. Offer that service.

An experience that wounded you could move you to help people who've been similarly wounded. Heal yourself by healing others.

+

“Nothing’s going right in my life. I feel anxious and paranoid all the time. My relationships are a mess.” In my line of work, people make confessions like that to me.

My first response is usually something like this: “Do you habitually gobble junk food near bedtime, steal a paltry five hours of sleep per night, gulp two cups of coffee and no breakfast in the morning, then bolt to a workplace where you get no sunlight or exercise and sit in an uncomfortable chair?”

They often reply, “You must be psychic! How did you know?!”

My point is that many psychological troubles stem from our chronic failure to take good care of our physical needs.

Name three things you can do to promote pronoia in yourself by taking better care of your body.

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The following isn't from my book, but from Robert Anton Wilson:

"The underlying principle of Robert Anton Wilson's philosophy is 'I know I'm wrong, I want to be less wrong.' This is very different to now, our current internet culture, where the underlying philosophy is 'I'm right, and I want you to know that.'

"And if you go onto any internet discussion, or debate, or things like that, you find people declaring certainties loudly, people with very fixed positions that they can express in 140 characters, that they hunker down and defend, and don't listen to anything else, and attempt to drown out all the others.

"That's so different to Robert Anton Wilson: he believed -- hang on, the word 'believe' is difficult with Bob -- he thought that what you believed imprisoned you, he thought convictions create convicts.

"His philosophy can be called 'multiple-model agnosticism.' That's not just agnosticism about God, that's agnosticism about everything."

http://tinyurl.com/mqg2kme

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Below is another excerpt from
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

SHADOW SCHOOL

You're a gorgeous mystery with a wild heart and a lofty purpose. But like all of us, you also have a dark side -- a part of your psyche that snarls and bites, that's unconscious and irrational, that is motivated by ill will or twisted passions or instinctual fears.

It's your own personal portion of the world's sickness: a mess of repressed longings, enervating wounds, ignorant delusions, and unripe powers. You'd prefer to ignore it because it's unflattering or uncomfortable or very different from what you imagine yourself to be.

If you acknowledge its existence at all (many of us don't), you might call it the devil, your evil twin, your inner monster, or your personal demon. Psychologist Carl Jung referred to it as the shadow. He regarded it as the lead that the authentic alchemists of the Middle Ages sought to transmute into gold.

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Astrologer Steven Forrest has a different name for the shadow: stuff. "Work on your stuff," he says, "or your stuff will work on you." He means that it will sabotage you if you're not aggressive about identifying, negotiating with, and transforming it.

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The shadow is not inherently evil. If it is ignored or denied, it may become monstrous to compensate. Only then is it likely to "demonically possess" its owner, leading to compulsive, exaggerated, "evil" behavior.

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"The shadow, which is in conflict with the acknowledged values, cannot be accepted as a negative part of one's own psyche and is therefore projected -- that is, it is transferred to the outside world and experienced as an outside object. It is combated, punished, and exterminated as 'the alien out there' instead of being dealt with as one's own inner problem." -- Erich Neumann, Depth Psychology and a New Ethic

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The qualities in ourselves that we deny or dislike are often the very qualities that we most bitterly complain about in other people. So for instance, an old friend of mine named Mark had a special disgust for friends who were unavailable to him when he really needed them. But I was witness to him engaging in the same behavior three different times, disappearing from the lives of his friends just when they needed him most.

+

"Whatever is rejected from the self, appears in the world as an event," said Jung. If you disown a part of your personality, it'll materialize as an unexpected detour.

Everyone who believes in the devil is the devil . . . .

TO READ THE REST OF "SHADOW SCHOOL," go here.

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"All I ever wanted in life was to make a difference, conquer the universe, travel the world, meet interesting people, find the missing link, fight the good fight, live for the moment, seize each day, make a fortune, know what really matters, end world hunger, vanquish the dragon, be super popular but too cool to care, be master of my own fate, embrace my destiny, feel as much as I can feel, give too much, and love everything."

- Tatsuya Ishida

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Some people put their faith in religion or science or political ideologies. Novelist J.G. Ballard placed his faith elsewhere: in the imagination. "I believe in the power of the imagination to remake the world," he wrote, "to release the truth within us, to hold back the night, to transcend death, to charm motorways, to ingratiate ourselves with birds, to enlist the confidences of madmen."

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"The Way of Abundance is all too often misconstrued as a shallow sense of 'getting what one wants,' 'eliminating the negative,' or 'being free from pain.' Even the often-touted 'manifesting your dreams,' offers a psychological disposition that generally remains fixated around manifestation as 'the project of me.'

"But the 'project of me' can never be enough, for it does not meet 'the other,' and real living involves meeting. The touch and contact with all of life, the full freedom of non-separation, the completeness of full relationship, and the radiance of compassionate ecstasy is what we are inherently hungry for."

- Rick Jarow,

Alchemy of Abundance

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Think about your relationship to human beings who haven't been born yet. What might you create for them to use? How can you make your life a gift to the future? Can you not only help preserve the wonders we live amidst, but actually enhance them? Keep in mind this thought from Lewis Carroll: "It's a poor sort of memory that only works backward."

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Below are more excerpts from
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

I invite you to consider making these pledges:

I pledge:
to push hard to get better and smarter,
grow my devotion to the truth,
fuel my commitment to beauty,
refine my emotions,
hone my dreams,
wrestle with my shadow,
purge my ignorance,
and soften my heart—
even as I always accept myself
for exactly who I am,
with all of my so-called foibles and wobbles.

I pledge:
to wake myself up,
never hold back,
have nothing to lose,
go all the way,
kiss the stormy sky,
be the hero of my own story,
ask for everything I need
and give everything I have,
take myself to the river
when it's time to go to the river,
and take myself to the mountaintop
when it's time to go to the mountaintop.

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Unconditional, a poem by Jennifer Welwood:

Willing to experience aloneness,
I discover connection everywhere;
Turning to face my fear,
I meet the warrior who lives within;
Opening to my loss,
I gain the embrace of the universe;
Surrendering into emptiness,
I find fullness without end.

Each condition I flee from pursues me,
Each condition I welcome transforms me
And becomes itself transformed
Into its radiant jewel-like essence.
I bow to the one who has made it so,
Who has crafted this Master Game;
To play it is purest delight;
To honor its form -- true devotion.

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More poetry by Jennifer Welwood.

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An interviewer urged the Dalai Lama to discourse on how to cultivate lovingkindness. His Holiness said, "That may be too much to ask. How about if we just work on getting the 'kindness' part right?"

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Aldous Huxley was the renowned 20th-century intellectual who wrote the book *Brave New World,* a dystopian vision of the future. Later in his life he came to regret one thing: how "preposterously serious" he had been when he was younger. "There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet," he ruminated, "trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly, my darling . . . Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply."

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PRONOIA RESOURCES

The coming era of unlimited -- and free -- clean energy.
"Solar power has been doubling every two years for the past 30 years -- as costs have been dropping. Solar energy is only six doublings -- or less than 14 years -- away from meeting 100 percent of today’s energy needs. Energy usage will keep increasing, so this is a moving target. But inexpensive renewable sources will provide more energy than the world needs in less than 20 years. Even then, we will be using only one part in 10,000 of the sunlight that falls on the Earth."

A message from comedian and prophet Bill Hicks

At the Cloud Appreciation Society, you can vote for Cloud of the Month and see the gorgeous art that Gaia creates on a regular basis:

More lovely, turbulent, unpredictable clouds.


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Below are more excerpts from
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

Behind your back, your imaginary friends are plotting with your inner child to overthrow your guilty conscience.

Meanwhile, your future self has time-traveled into the past to enlist the spirits of your ancestors in a secret plan to unlock your sleeping genius.

There's more: The superhero you used to fantasize about being when you felt most helpless has been brought to life by the mad scientist in your psyche's basement. Allies you never imagined you had are gathering there to offer their support.

There's no way you can prevent all of these plotters and schemers from giving you a big crazy dose of assistance.

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As much as we might be dismayed by the actions of our political leaders, pronoia says that toppling any particular junta, clique, or elite is irrelevant unless we overthrow the sour, puckered mass hallucination that is mistakenly called “reality” including the part of that hallucination we foster in ourselves.

The revolution begins at home. If you overthrow yourself again and again, you might earn the right to help overthrow the rest of us.

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I hope you can obtain the Avatar Elixir stashed in the golden obelisk in the underground fortress beneath the glass mountain. It will allow you to produce the “triple-helix” energy that will give you the power to cross freely back and forth through the gateway between universes.

Then wild beasts will obey your commands. Rivers will become your allies. Every star in the sky will shine directly on you.

And if for some reason you’re not able to get your hands on that Avatar Elixir, you may be able to achieve similar results by drinking a bottle of beer stashed in the lower left rear section of the beverage cooler at a convenience store within five miles of your home.

Magic might be wherever you think it is.

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This perfect moment is brought to you by the mummified middle finger of Galileo's right hand, which is on display at the Museo di Storia del Scienza in Florence, Italy. May it inspire you to flip the metaphorical bird at anyone who proudly embodies the kind of high-level idiocy Galileo had to endure.

See Galileo's mummified middle finger

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Below are more excerpts from
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

It's Bad Luck to Be Superstitious

Review in painstaking detail the history of your life,
honoring every moment as if you were conducting
a benevolent Judgment Day.

Forgive yourself of every mistake except one.

Create a royal crown for yourself
out of a shower cap, rubber bands, and light bulbs.

Think of the last place on Earth you'd ever want to visit,
and visualize yourself having fun there.

Test to see if people are really listening to you by asserting
that Karl Marx was one of the Marx Brothers.

Steal lint from dryers in laundromats
and use it to make animal sculptures for someone you admire.

Fantasize you're the child of divine parents
who abandoned you when you were two days old,
but who will soon be coming back to reunite with you.

Meditate on how one of the symbols of plenitude in Nepal
is a mongoose vomiting jewels.

Once a year on the night before your birthday,
say these words into a mirror: "It's bad luck to be superstitious."

Start a club whose purpose is to produce an archive
of controversial jokes and obscene limericks about beauty, truth, and love.

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Pronoia doesn't promise uninterrupted progress forever. It's not a slick commercial for a perfect balmy day that never ends. Grace emerges in the ebb and flow, not just the flow. The waning reveals a different kind of blessing than the waxing.

But whether it's our time to ferment in the valley of shadows or rise up singing in the sun-splashed meadow, fresh power to transform ourselves is always on the way. Our suffering won't last, nor will our triumph. Without fail, life will deliver the creative energy we need to change into the new thing we must become.

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Many people sincerely think that they will be called before God to account for themselves on Judgment Day. If you yourself have held that belief, you can stop worrying about it. The fact is, according to a survey of over 800 dissident bodhisattvas, urban witch doctors, sacred agents, and undercover geniuses, that you are called before "God" on "Judgment Day" on a regular basis.

Since you still exist, you have apparently passed every test so far. "God" obviously keeps finding you worthy. You shouldn't get overconfident, of course. But maybe from now on you can assume that although there may be a world of pressure on you, that pressure is natural, merciful, and exactly what you need.

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"The sign of a beautiful person is that they always see beauty in others."
— Omar Suleiman

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"If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change." - Dalai Lama

"If Buddhism proves some aspect of science wrong, science will have to change." - the bodhisattva disguised as a homeless man in the Safeway parking lot

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Below are more excerpts from
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

PLAYING EASILY IN THE DEEP

"We are fully human only while playing, and we play only when we are human in the truest sense of the word." - Rudolf Steiner

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"'Approfondement' is a French word that means 'playing easily in the deep.'" - Tom Robbins

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"The ancient Greeks knew that learning comes from playing," writes Roger von Oech in his book A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative. Their word for education, paideia, he says, was close to their word for play, paidia.

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Psychiatrist Stuart Brown has proposed this simple definition: "Play is spontaneous behavior that has no clear-cut goal and does not conform to a stereotypical pattern. The purpose of play is simply play itself; it appears to be pleasurable."

In a study of 26 convicted murderers, Brown discovered that as children, most of them had suffered either "from the absence of play or abnormal play like bullying, sadism, extreme teasing, or cruelty to animals."

Brown's work led him to explore the biological roots of play. "New and exciting studies of the brain, evolution, and animal behavior," he wrote, "suggest that play may be as important to life—for us and other animals—as sleeping and dreaming."

- Stuart L. Brown, "Animals at Play," National Geographic

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"How much courage is needed
to play forever,
as the ravines play,
as the river plays."

- Boris Pasternak, "Bacchanalia"

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"You can't know fire unless you play with it," says Mark Finney, a math whiz who develops computer models for fighting forest fires.

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Western science and religion have differing views on how the universe was created, but they agree that it happened a long time ago. The mystery schools of the West, on the other hand, assert that the universe is re-created anew in every moment through the divine erotic play of God and Goddess. They say that if we humans treat lovemaking as an experimental sacrament, we can attune ourselves to the union of the two primal deities and, in a sense, participate in the ongoing creation of the world.

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"As a free deed, meditation is naturally individual, uniquely our own. It is where we most fully become ourselves. Its practice is also always individual.

"There are no rules. Just as every potter will elaborate his or her own way of making pots, so every person who meditates will shape his or her own meditation. No two people will do a given meditation in exactly the same way. The same meditation practiced daily will be different every time.

"Every meditation is experimental. One never knows what is going to happen. Improvisation is essential . . . Meditation is something to play with . . . There is no 'wrong' way of doing the meditation, except not doing it!"

- Christopher Bamford, Start Now!: A Book of Soul and Spiritual Exercises

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Monitor the calm, gentle, sweet spirits in your life for the possibility that they may act as agents of deception or passivity. Be inspired by the creator gods and goddesses of ancient myth, who playfully forged millions of beautiful things using wind, mud, tears, and lightning.

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You are a mutant deity in disguise -- not a Buddha or a Christ exactly, but of the same lineage and conjured from the same fire. You have been around since the beginning of time and will be here after the end. Every day and in every way, you're getting better at playing the preposterously amusing master game we all dreamed up together before the Big Bang bloomed.

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American author Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) expressed his mission in the passage below. I aspire to be like him!

I am to invite men drenched in Time to recover themselves and come out of time, and taste their native immortal air.

I am to fire with what skill I can the artillery of sympathy and emotion.

I am to indicate constantly, though all unworthy, the Ideal and Holy Life, the life within life, the Forgotten Good, the Unknown Cause in which we sprawl and sin.

I am to try the magic of sincerity, that luxury permitted only to kings and poets.

I am to celebrate the spiritual powers in their infinite contrast to the mechanical powers and the mechanical philosophy of this time.

I am to console the brave sufferers under evils whose end they cannot see, by appeals to the great optimism, self-affirmed in all bosoms.

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FATE BAIT

Sometimes we have a strong sense of what our destiny is calling us to do, but we don't feel quite ready or brave enough to answer the call. We need a push, an intervention, a serendipitous stroke -- what you might call "fate bait." It's a person or event that awakens our dormant willpower and draws us inexorably toward our necessary destiny; it's a thunderbolt or siren song or stage whisper that gives us a good excuse to go do what we know we should do.

Do you have any ideas about how to put yourself in the vicinity of your fate bait?

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Here's how cartoonist Matt Groening feels about love: "Love is a perky elf dancing a merry little jig and then suddenly he turns on you with a miniature machine gun."

Here, on the other hand, is what composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart believed: "Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius."

Which do you vote for?

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Below is another excerpt from
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

To hear it as a spoken-word piece, go here.

GLORY IN THE HIGHEST

Thousands of things go right for you every day, beginning the moment you wake up. Through some magic you don’t fully understand, you’re still breathing and your heart is beating, even though you’ve been unconscious for many hours. The air is a mix of gases that's just right for your body's needs, as it was before you fell asleep.

You can see! Light of many colors floods into your eyes, registered by nerves that took God or evolution or some process millions of years to perfect.

The interesting gift of these vivid hues is furthermore made possible by an unimaginably immense globe of fire, the sun, which continually detonates nuclear explosions in order to convert its own body into light and heat and energy for your personal use.

Your hands work wonderfully well. Your heart circulates your blood all the way out to replenish the energy of the muscles and nerves in your fingers and palms and wrists. And after your blood has delivered its blessings, it finds its way back to your heart to be refreshed. This wondrous mystery recurs over and over again without stopping every minute of your life.

You can smell intoxicating aromas. You can hear provocative and soothing sounds. You can taste a thousand different tastes. How is any of this possible? You can think thoughts any time you want -- big, wide, colorful thoughts or tiny dark burrowing thoughts. You can revel and wallow in great oceans of emotion. What colossal secret intelligence or improbable series of fabulous accidents conspired to bestow these superpowers upon you?

TO READ AND HEAR THE REST OF THIS PIECE.

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Thoughts on true skepticism versus pseudo-skepticism:

True skepticism does not carry an undertone of anger, ridicule, and derision. It is even-tempered, clear-minded, and full of equanimity, satisfied with showing what's illogical or incorrect in the argument it critiques.

A true skeptic does not use emotionally charged language in an effort to portray the person whose argument he's critiquing as a stupid fool.

A true skeptic has no attachment to proving that she is smarter than and superior to the person whose argument she is critiquing, but rather is content to have her argument win the day purely on the strength of its elegant reasoning.

A true skeptic is willing to consider the possibility that there is some merit, however small, in the argument of the person he's critiquing. He is not afraid that acknowledging this merit will undermine the absolute truth he purports to possess.

A true skeptic is not consumed with the certainty that she is always right. In other words, she resists the temptation to become a fundamentalist.

A true skeptic has a respect for the fact that many questions don't have final answers. She recognizes how much about the world is mysterious.

A true skeptic is skeptical of his own skepticism.

A true skeptic is as likely to be a woman as a man. (97 percent of the pseudo-skeptics are men.)

A true skeptic shows humility, in the spirit that Carl Sagan demonstrated when he said this: "An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence.


"Because God can be relegated to remote times and places and to ultimate causes, we would have to know a great deal more about the universe than we do now to be sure that no God exists.

"To be certain of the existence of God and to be certain of the nonexistence of God seem to me to be the confident extremes in a subject so riddled with doubt and uncertainty as to inspire very little confidence indeed.

"A wide range of intermediate positions seems admissable.

"Considering the enormous emotional energies with which the subject is invested, a questing, courageous, and open mind is, I think, the essential tool for narrowing the range of our collective ignorance on the subject of the existence of God."

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Homework: Write essays on one or more of these topics:

1. “How I Used My Nightmares to Become Smart and Strong”

2. “How I Exploited My Problems to Become a Spiritual Freedom Fighter”

3. “How I Fed and Fed and Fed My Monsters Until They Ate Themselves to Death”

4. “How I Turned Envy, Frustration, and Smoldering Anger into Generosity, Compassion, and Fiery Success”

5. “Why Perfection Sux”

-from my book The Televisionary Oracle.

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Some people put their faith in religion or science or political ideologies. English novelist J. G. Ballard placed his faith elsewhere: in the imagination. "I believe in the power of the imagination to remake the world," he wrote, "to release the truth within us, to hold back the night, to transcend death, to charm motorways, to ingratiate ourselves with birds, to enlist the confidences of madmen."

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Here's another excerpt from
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

What is the "soul," anyway? Is it a ghostly blob of magic stuff within us that keeps us connected to the world of dreams and the divine realms? Is it an amorphous metaphor for the secret source of our spiritual power? Is it a part of us the rational mind can't pin down and control, ensuring that we remain accessible to the numinous?

Yes. And also: The soul is a perspective that pushes us to go deeper and see further and live wilder. It's what drives our imagination to flesh out our raw experience, transforming that chaotic stuff into rich storylines that animate our love of life. With the gently propulsive force of the soul, we probe beyond the surface level of things, working to find the hidden meaning and truer feeling.

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"If you need to visualize the soul," wrote Tom Robbins, "think of it as a cross between a wolf howl, a photon, and a dribble of dark molasses. But what it really is, as near as I can tell, is a packet of information. It's a program, a piece of hyperspatial software designed explicitly to interface with the Mystery. Not a mystery, mind you, the Mystery. The one that can never be solved."

P.S. Here's Robbins' conclusion: "By waxing soulful you will have granted yourself the possibility of ecstatic participation in what the ancients considered a divinely animated universe."

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As part of the Beauty and Truth Lab's ongoing crusade to wrestle the English language into a more formidable servant of the ecstatic impulse, we're pleased to present some alternate designations for "soul." See if any of the following concoctions feel right coming out of your mouth: 1. undulating superconductor; 2. nectar plasma; 3. golden lather; 4. smoldering crucible; 5. luminous caduceus.

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"I tell you the more I think, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people."

-Vincent van Gogh

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Pablo Neruda says: "To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life. But to feel the affection that comes from those we do not know, from those unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers and our weakness -- that is something still greater and more beautiful because it widens the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things."

- as reported by Lewis Hyde in his book "The Gift"

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While you commune with us here at the Conspiracy to Commit Insurrectionary Beauty and Smart Love:

Your favorite phrase is "flux gusto"

The colors of your soul are sable, vermilion, ivory, and jade

Your special emotion is skeptical faith

Your magic talisman is a thousand-year-old Joshua tree whose flowers blossom just one night each year and can only be pollinated by the yucca moth

The garage sale item you most resemble is an old but beautiful and sonorous accordion with a broken key

Your sweet spot is in between the true believers and the scoffing skeptics

Your sacred fungus is yeast and your soil of destiny is peat moss

The shape of your life is oval with soft dark sparks

Your lucky number is 3.14159265

Your lucky phobia is arachibutyrophobia, or the fear of peanut butter adhering to the roof of your mouth

Your holiest pain comes from your yearning to change yourself in the exact way you'd like the world around you to change

from my book The Televisionary Oracle

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Here's another excerpt from
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

LET'S MAKE MORALITY FUN

Are you turned off by the authoritarian, libido-mistrusting perversity of the right-wing moral code, but equally reluctant to embrace the atheism embedded in the left wing's code of goodness?

Are you hungry for a value system rooted in beauty, love, pleasure, and liberation instead of order, control, politeness, and fear, but allergic to the sophistry of the New Age?

Are you apathetic toward the saccharine goodness evangelized by sentimental, superstitious fanatics, but equally bored by the intellectuals who worship at the empty-hearted shrine of scientific materialism?

It may be time for you to whip up your very own moral code. If you do, you might want to keep the following guidelines in mind:

1. A moral code becomes immoral unless it can thrive without a devil and enemy.

2. A moral code grows ugly unless it prescribes good-natured rebellion against automaton-like behavior offered in its support.

3. A moral code becomes murderous unless it's built on a love for the fact that EVERYTHING CHANGES ALL THE TIME, and unless it perpetually adjusts its reasons for being true.

4. A moral code will corrupt its users unless it ensures that their primary motivation for being good is because it's fun.

5. A moral code deadens the soul of everyone it touches unless it has a built-in sense of humor.

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"Every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other people, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving."

- Albert Einstein

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"Why is it so hard to find a soulmate?" asks psychologist Carolyn Godschild Miller in her book "Soulmates." Her answer: "Because most of us are actually searching for egomates instead. We place the most limited and unloving aspect of our minds in charge of our search for love, and then wonder why we aren't succeeding. To the degree that we identify with this false sense of self, and operate on the basis of its limited point of view, we aren't looking for someone to love so much as recruiting fellow actors to take on supporting roles in a favorite melodrama."

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None of us is in danger of losing sight of the world's suffering. Every form of news media, art, and entertainment relentlessly barrages us with reminders. The rebels and iconoclasts offer an alternative truth that sometimes rises above the nihilistic propaganda: that the world is beautiful, that humans are miraculous, that we are doing amazingly well as we carry out this impossible experiment called life.

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"Love the earth and the sun and animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and the crazy, devote your income and labors to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence towards the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and mothers of families, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency, not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body."

- Walt Whitman, "Leaves of Grass*

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I want to call your attention to one of the few NC-17-rated pieces in my book Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia. It's called "THE ORGASMIC ROOTS OF PRONOIA."

"THE ORGASMIC ROOTS OF PRONOIA."

If I quoted from it here in the newsletter, however, it would trigger all the spam filters that lie between me and you, preventing the text from reaching you.

Instead, I will give you
a place to read it online.

PROCEED WITH CAUTION! This material has graphic references to love, lust, tenderness, bliss, and rapture.

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If you would like to make a contribution to me via Paypal, here's where to go:

Tip Jar for Me

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IMPOSSIBILITIES

"Everything that can be invented has been invented."
- Charles H. Duell, Director of US Patent Office, 1899

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"
- Harry M. Warner, Warner Bros Pictures, 1927

"There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom."
- Robert Miliham, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1923

"Heavier than air flying machines are impossible."
- Lord Kelvin, President, Royal Society, 1895

"The horse is here today, but the automobile is only a novelty - a fad."
- President of Michigan Savings Bank advising against investing in the Ford Motor Company

"Video won't be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night."
- Daryl F. Zanuck, 20th Century Fox, commenting on television in 1946

"Space travel is utter bilge."
- Sir Richard van der Riet Wooley, The Astronomer Royal (1956)

"Rail travel at high speeds is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia."
- Dionysius Lardner, English scientist (1793-1859)

"While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially it is an impossibility."
- Lee DeForest, American inventor (1873-1961)

"Guitar music is on the way out."
- Decca Records turning down the Beatles, 1962.

"If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can't do this."
- Spencer Silver, originator of Post-It Notepads.

"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction."
- Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology, 1872.

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."
- Western Union internal memo, 1876.

"Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote."
- Grover Cleveland, 1905

"Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools."
- 1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard's revolutionary rocket work.

"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."
- Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929.

"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."
- Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre.

"The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon".
- Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria, 1873.

"640K ought to be enough for anybody."
- Bill Gates, 1981

"Such startling announcements as these should be deprecated as being unworthy of science and mischievous to its true progress."
- Sir William Siemens, electrical engineer, upon hearing Edison's announcement of a successful light bulb.

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
- Ken Olson, president of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.

"I believe all the music that can be written has already been written. We're just repeating the past." - Tschaikovsky in a letter to his brother

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Below is an excerpt of a piece from my book: UNHAPPY HOUR.
(Hear me perform the whole thing)

You're invited to celebrate Unhappy Hour. It's a ceremony that gives you a poetic license to rant and whine and howl and sob about everything that hurts you and makes you feel bad.

During this perverse grace period, there's no need for you to be inhibited as you unleash your tortured squalls. You don't have to tone down the extremity of your desolate clamors. Unhappy Hour is a ritually consecrated excursion devoted to the full disclosure of your primal clash and jangle.

Here's the catch: It's brief. It's concise. It's crisp. You dive into your darkness for no more than 60 minutes, then climb back out, free and clear. It's called Unhappy Hour, not Unhappy Day or Unhappy Week or Unhappy Year.

Do you have the cheeky temerity to drench yourself in your paroxysmal alienation from life? Unhappy Hour invites you to plunge in and surrender. It dares you to scurry and squirm all the way down to the bottom of your pain, break through the bottom of your pain, and fall down flailing in the soggy, searing abyss, yelping and cringing and wallowing.

That's where you let your pain tell you every story it has to tell you. You let your pain teach you every lesson it has to teach you.
But then it's over. The ritual ordeal is complete. And your pain has to take a vacation until the next Unhappy Hour, which isn't until next week sometime, or maybe next month.

You see the way the game works? Between this Unhappy Hour and the next one, your pain has to shut up. It's not allowed to creep and seep all over everything, staining the flow of your daily life. It doesn't have free reign to infect you whenever it's itching for more power.

Your pain gets its succinct blast of glory, its resplendent climax, but leaves you alone the rest of the time.

If performed regularly, Unhappy Hour serves as an exorcism that empties you of psychic toxins, while at the same time -- miracle of miracles -- it helps you squeeze every last drop of blessed catharsis out of those psychic toxins.

Pronoia will then be able to flourish as you luxuriate more frequently in rosy moods and broad-minded visions. You'll develop a knack for cultivating smart joy and cagey optimism as your normal states of mind.

Now let's get you warmed up for Unhappy Hour . . . .

READ (and hear) THE REST OF THIS PIECE

See me perform "Unhappy Hour" at The Marsh theater in San Francisco.

Or buy the book Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia

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EVERYONE'S A NOBODY . . . AND NOBOY'S PERFECT

Some of my readers complain when I quote a public figure they consider a bad person. Once I cited philosopher Bertrand Russell, and a woman from Austin berated me: "Russell was a terrible father! How dare you give him any credence?"

Another time I invoked the wisdom of ex-U.S. president Teddy Roosevelt. "What possessed you to quote such a militaristic bully?" wrote an outraged emailer.

Recently, some readers of FB became enraged when I quoted William S. Burroughs and Carlos Castaneda. "Terrible men!" they said.

Last week, some readers were miffed because I quoted the evangelical pastor Rick Warren in the Pisces horoscope.

Here's how I respond to these grumbles: If I refused to learn from people unless I agreed with everything they had ever said and done, I would never learn from anyone.

Furthermore, I don't necessarily agree with every nuance of every quote I cite. They may teach me, rile me up, and provoke me to think, but that doesn't mean I endorse them 100 percent. What's more likely is that I question some aspect of their thought.

What about you? Have you set up your life so that everyone is either on or off your good list? If so, consider the possibility of cultivating a capacity to derive insight from people who aren't perfect. Have fun learning from people you partially agree with and partially disagree with.

Here are examples of some of the other people from whom I have drawn important teachings and inspiration despite their sins:

Thomas Jefferson and George Washington owned slaves until they died, and Benjamin Franklin owned slaves most of his adult life.

Dr. Seuss had an affair with another woman while his wife was suffering from cancer, and his wife subsequently committed suicide.

Einstein cheated on his wife and treated her horrendously.

William Blake lived in absolute filth.

Edgar Allan Poe married his 13-year-old cousin when he was 26.

One biographer of Carl Jung said Jung was a racist, an anti-Semite, and a misogynist.

Martin Luther King Jr. cheated on his wife.

The painter Peter Paul Rubens married a 16-year-old female when he was 53.

D. H. Lawrence didn't include a single laugh, chuckle, or grin in the entirety of his literary work.

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MORE PRONOIA RESOURCES:

States That Slashed Their Prison Populations Have Seen Disproportionate Drops In Crime, Too.

Lessons From the Low-Tech Defeat of the Guinea Worm

"The corporate answer to the food crisis has been to introduce genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in an effort to expand crop sizes and yields. However, on a local level, scientist Joe Breskin has found a solution for dramatically increasing vegetable yields in greenhouses, doubling the length of growing seasons and feeding more people for less money -- all while using cutting-edge energy efficiency techniques."

A compendium of pronoiac news.

(Note: I endorse these because I like them. They are not advertisements, and I get no kickbacks.)

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You have at least a million relatives as close as tenth cousin, and no one on Earth is any further removed than your fiftieth cousin.

With each breath, you take into your body 10 sextillion atoms, and, owing to the wind's circulation, every year you have intimate relations with oxygen molecules exhaled by every person alive, as well as by everyone who ever lived.

Right now you may be carrying atoms that were once inside the lungs of Malcolm X, William Shakespeare, Joan of Arc, and Cleopatra.

(Source: Guy Murchie, The Seven Mysteries of Life

Here's the accompanying photo by Fernan Federici

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As I stood by the creek at dusk, the silhouette of a woman in a kayak flowed my way. The last crease of the orange sun hovered on the horizon behind her. I spied the reflection of the first star shimmering in the violet water before I saw it in the sky.

The temperature was balmy. A translucent spider floated on a mild breeze at the end of an airborne silk strand. Nine geese in v-formation trumpeted as they soared overhead.

The woman drew close enough for us to see each other's faces, and addressed me. "We win!" she exclaimed jubilantly, standing up in her kayak and raising her arms. Her announcement delivered, she paddled away.

Here's the accompanying photo by Ro Loughran

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I invite you to think about your relationship to human beings who haven't been born yet. What might you create for them to use? How can you make your life a gift to the future? Can you not only help preserve the wonders we live amidst, but actually enhance them?

Lewis Carroll: "It's a poor sort of memory that only works backward."

Image by Dietmar Voorworld

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The Divine Awkward in me honors the Divine Awkward in you

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"Freedom is in the unknown. If you believe there is an unknown everywhere, in your own body, in your relationships with other people, in political institutions, in the universe, then you have maximum freedom." - philosopher John C. Lilly

Photo by Fernan Federici

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Great work of art: the 89-year-old face of Lauren Bacall

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Here's another excerpt from
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

WHAT IS PRONOIA?
To hear this piece, go here.

OBJECTIVE: To explore the secrets of becoming a wildly disciplined, fiercely tender, ironically sincere, scrupulously curious, aggressively sensitive, blasphemously reverent, lyrically logical, lustfully compassionate Master of Rowdy Bliss.

DEFINITION: Pronoia is the antidote for paranoia. It's the understanding that the universe is fundamentally friendly. It's a mode of training your senses and intellect so you're able to perceive the fact that life always gives you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.

HYPOTHESES: Evil is boring. Cynicism is idiotic. Fear is a bad habit. Despair is lazy. Joy is fascinating. Love is an act of heroic genius. Pleasure is your birthright. Receptivity is a superpower.

PROCEDURE: Act as if the universe is a prodigious miracle created for your amusement and illumination. Assume that secret helpers are working behind the scenes to assist you in turning into the gorgeous masterpiece you were born to be. Join the conspiracy to shower all of creation with blessings.

GUIDING QUESTION: "The secret of life," said sculptor Henry Moore to poet Donald Hall, "is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. And the most important thing is -- it must be something you cannot possibly do." What is that task for you?

UNDIGNIFIED MEDITATIONS TO KEEP YOU HONEST: Brag about what you can't do and don't have. Confess profound secrets to people who aren't particularly interested. Pray for the success of your enemies while you're making love. Change your name every day for a thousand days.

TO READ AND HEAR THE REST OF THIS PIECE, go here.

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Here's another excerpt from
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

SHADOW BLESSINGS

Life is a vast and intricate conspiracy guaranteed to keep you well-supplied with blessings. What kind of blessings? A gorgeous physique, perfect marriage, luxurious home, high status, & $10 million? Maybe.

But it's just as likely that the blessings will be interesting surprises, dizzying adventures, gifts you hardly know what to do with, & conundrums that dare you to get smarter.

Novelist William Vollman referred to these types of blessings when he said that "the most important and enjoyable thing in life is grappling with a complicated, tricky problem that you don't know how to solve."

Sculptor Henry Moore had a similar idea. He said, "The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. And the most important thing is -- it must be something you cannot possibly do."

So in other words, pronoia does not guarantee that you will forevermore be free of all difficult experiences . . . .

Read or hear the rest.

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There are at least three kinds of darkness:
1. pathology and evil;
2. the mysterious unknown;
3. the shadowy, unripe parts of our psyches that are on their way to becoming more interesting and useful but are still awkward and inarticulate.

You can help prevent outbreaks of the first kind of darkness by developing a closer personal relationship with the second and third types.

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Here's the homework I gave my readers: "Guess what age you'll be when you finally know exactly who you are."

In response, a woman named Bridjet wrote this: "I hope I NEVER completely know who I am! I love discovering new mysteries about myself; I love to change as everything else around me changes. It's one of the most beautifully thrilling things about life -- that the only constant is change. If I ever know completely who I am, it'll be a sad day -- because it will mean that I haven't changed in a long time, that I've become stagnant."

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"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." That's the opening sentence of Charles Dickens' bestselling novel "A Tale of Two Cities." The author was describing the period of the French Revolution in the late 18th century, but he could just as well have been talking about our time -- or any other time, for that matter.

Of course many modern cynics reject the idea that our era could in any way be construed to be the best of times. They obsess on the idea that ours is the worst of all the worst times that have ever been.

Here's my request: Even if you are one of those cynics, be rebellious and come up with five reasons why this is the best of times.

If you like, you may balance your testimony with a litany of why this is the worst of times.

More from Dickens:
It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness . . .

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Why is it so hard for Westerners of the last century to feel the intimate presence of the divine intelligences? Every other culture in the history of the world has had a more vital connection with the realm of spirit.

According to poet Gary Snyder, California's Yana Indians explained it this way: The gods have retreated to the volcanic recesses of Mt. Lassen, passing the time playing gambling games with magic sticks. They're simply waiting for such a time when human beings will "reform themselves and become 'real people' that spirits might want to associate with once again."

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As someone who loves science, I understand why scientists get impatient and riled up about those who reject the overwhelming evidence for evolution and human-caused climate change. I, too, am disturbed about the damage done by fanatical believers who not only insist on cultivating their ignorance, but also want to foist it on others.

But I am far less sanguine about the scientists and science-lovers who wax arrogant and authoritative as they dogmatically dismiss all "alternative medicine" as pseudo-science that can't possible work . . .

I am perplexed by the scientists and science-lovers who assert with an angry omniscience that there are absolutely no concerns, none, never, about the safety of genetically engineered foods . . .

I am amazed by the scientists and science-lovers who pontificate with unskeptical certainty, with a despotic and doctrinaire condescension more befitting a religious fundamentalist, that all so-called paranormal phenomena is impossible, that all consciousness stems solely from the activities of brain chemicals, that there is and cannot be any such thing as a "soul" or non-material intelligences or life after death.

Ideas about evolution and human-caused climate change may come as close as we humans can approach to absolute truth about the material world. But those other things I mentioned don't belong in the same category. To vehemently insist that they do is not warranted or logical. And it's certainly not scientific.

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In Plato's Theaetetus, the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates spoke derisively about people who are eu a-mousoi, an ancient Greek term that literally means "happily without muses." These are the plodding materialists who have no hunger for divine inspiration and no need of higher insights about reality. They mistakenly believe that in order to be real, a thing must be perceivable by the five senses. They aren't trustworthy.

"Socrates argues that the invisible world is the most intelligible and that the visible world is the least knowable, and the most obscure." - Wikipedia

One of the worst consequences of religious fundamentalism, in my opinion, has been to give justification to the rise of militant cults of plodding materialists who are eu a-mousoi.

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"You have more freedom than you are using," says artist Dan Attoe.

I hope that taunt gets under your skin and riles you up. Maybe it will motivate you to lay claim to all the potential spaciousness and independence and leeway that are just lying around going to waste.

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"Maverick biologist" Rupert Sheldrake thinks there is a big problem in science, caused by those who employ it as a belief system, rather than using it as a method of inquiry. He thinks science is being held back by the former, and in his book *Science Set Free* he offers the "ten dogmas of science" that he thinks need to be treated with more suspicion than they currently are:

1. That nature is mechanical.
2. That matter is unconscious.
3. The laws of nature are fixed.
4. The totally amount of matter and energy are always the same.
5. That nature is purposeless.
6. Biological inheritance is material.
7. That memories are stored as material traces.
8. The mind is in the brain.
9. Telepathy and other psychic phenomena are illusory.
10. Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works.

The "science delusion" is the uncritical belief in these dogmas, treating them not as beliefs but as truths. Science is much more fun, much more interesting, much more free, when we turn these dogmas into questions.

Read more here.

See the book Science Set Free.

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Here's another excerpt from
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

"Welcome to the Beauty and Truth Lab"
To hear the song, go here.

Welcome to the Beauty and Truth Lab.

We're coming to you live from your repressed memories of paradise, reminding you that you can have anything you want if you will just ask for it in an unselfish way.

Welcome to the end of your nightmares, beauty and truth fans!

The world is young, your soul is free, and a naked celebrity is dying to talk to you about your most intimate secrets right now.

Just kidding.

In fact, the world is young, your soul is free, and at any moment you will feel a flood of ecstatic compassion for salamanders, oak trees, clouds, toasters, convenience store clerks, and even the ocean itself.

I'm your host. My name is the Sacred Janitor at the Edge of Time, and I'm proud to announce that this is a perfect moment.

It's a perfect moment for many reasons, but especially because you are on the verge of finally figuring out exactly what it is you really want more than anything else.

Bravo! Viva! Whoopee! Oooo Eureka! Hallelujah! Abracadabra!
Bravo! Viva! Whoopee! Oooo Eureka! Hallelujah! Abracadabra!

The Beauty and Truth Lab's experiments are brought to you by the pine trees whose seeds are so tightly compacted within their protective covering that only the intense heat of a forest fire can free them and allow them to sprout.

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My most recent book is
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia. It's also available here.

Here's an excerpt:

RECEPTIVITY REMEDIES

Alert, relaxed listening is the radical act at the heart of our pronoiac practice. Curiosity is our primal state of awareness. Wise innocence is a trick we aspire to master. Open-hearted skepticism is the light in our eyes.

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To achieve what the Zen Buddhists call "beginner's mind," you dispense with all preconceptions and enter each situation as if seeing it for the first time.

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities," wrote Shunryu Suzuki in his book *Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind,* "but in the expert's there are few."

As much as I love beginner's mind, though, I advocate an additional discipline: cultivating a beginner's heart. That means approaching every encounter imbued with a freshly invoked wave of love that is as pure as if you're feeling it for the first time.

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To be the best pronoiac explorer you can be, I suggest you adopt an outlook that combines the rigorous objectivity of a scientist, the "beginner's mind" of Zen Buddhism, the "beginner's heart" of pronoia, and the compassionate friendliness of the Dalai Lama.

Blend a scrupulously dispassionate curiosity with a skepticism driven by expansiveness, not spleen.

To pull this off, you'll have to be willing to regularly suspend your brilliant theories about the way the world works. Accept with good humor the possibility that what you've learned in the past may not be a reliable guide to understanding the fresh phenomenon that's right in front of you.

Be suspicious of your biases, even the rational and benevolent ones. Open your heart as you strip away the interpretations that your emotions might be inclined to impose.

"Before we can receive the unbiased truth about anything," wrote my teacher Ann Davies, "we have to be ready to ignore what we would like to be true."

At the same time, don't turn into a hard-ass, poker-faced robot. Keep your feelings moist and receptive. Remember your natural affection for all of creation. Enjoy the power of tender sympathy as it drives you to probe for the unimaginable revelations of every new moment.

"Before we can receive the entire truth about anything," said Ann Davies, "we have to love it."

. . . To read the rest of "RECEPTIVITY REMEDIES," go here.


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The Ancient Greeks' 6 Words for Love. Looking for an antidote to modern culture's emphasis on romantic love? Maybe we can learn from the diverse forms of emotional attachment prized by the ancient Greeks.

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Here's another excerpt from
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

THE OUTLAW CATALOG OF CAGEY OPTIMISM

(Here is the complete text.)

Psychiatry and psychotherapy obsess on what's wrong with people and give short shrift to what's right. The manual of these professions is a 991-page textbook called the DSM-V. It identifies scores of pathological states but no healthy ones.

Some time back, I began to complain about this fact, and asked readers to help me compile material for a proposed antidote, the Anti-DSM -- a compendium of healthy, exalted, positive states of being. As their entries came in, we at the Beauty and Truth Laboratory were inspired to dream up some of our own. Below is part one of our initial attempt at creating an Anti-DSM-V, or as we also like to call it, "The Outlaw Catalog of Cagey Optimism."

* ACUTE FLUENCY. Happily immersed in artistic creation or scientific exploration; lost in a trance-like state of inventiveness that's both blissful and taxing; surrendered to a state of grace in which you're fully engaged in a productive, compelling, and delightful activity. The joy of this demanding, rewarding state is intensified by a sense that time has been suspended, and is rounder and deeper than usual. (Suggested by H. H. Holiday, who reports that extensive studies in this state have been done by Mihaly Cziscenmihaliy in his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.)

* AESTHETIC BLISS. Vividly experiencing the colors, textures, tones, scents, and rhythms of the world around you, creating a symbiotic intimacy that dissolves the psychological barriers between you and what you observe. (Suggested by Jeanne Grossetti.)

* AGGRESSIVE SENSITIVITY. Animated by a strong determination to be receptive and empathetic.

* ALIGNMENT WITH THE INFINITY OF THE MOMENT. Reveling in the liberating realization that we are all exactly where we need to be at all times, even if some of us are temporarily in the midst of trial or tribulation, and that human evolution is proceeding exactly as it should, even if we can't see the big picture of the puzzle that would clarify how all the pieces fit together perfectly. (Suggested by Meredith Jones.)

* AUTONOMOUS NURTURING. Not waiting for someone to give you what you can give yourself. (Suggested by Shannen Davis.)

* BASKING IN ELDER WISDOM. A state of expansive ripeness achieved through listening to the stories of elders. (Suggested by Annabelle Aavard.)

* BIBLIOBLISS. Transported into states of transcendent pleasure while immersed in reading a favorite book. (Suggested by Catherine Kaikowska.)

* BLASPHEMOUS REVERENCE. Acting on the knowledge that the most efficacious form of devotion to the Divine Wow is tinctured with playful or mischievous behavior that prevents the buildup of fanaticism.

* BOO-DUH NATURE. Dwelling in the blithe understanding of the fact that worry is useless because most of what we worry about never happens. (Suggested by Timothy S. Wallace.)

* COMIC INTROSPECTION. Being fully aware of your own foibles while still loving yourself tenderly and maintaining confidence in your ability to give your specific genius to the world. To paraphrase Alan Jones, Dean of Grace Cathedral: following the Byzantine ploys of your ego with compassion and humor as it tries to make itself the center of everything, even of its own suffering and struggle.

* COMPASSIONATE DISCRIMINATION. Having astute judgment without being scornfully judgmental; seeing difficult truths about a situation or person without closing your heart or feeling superior. In the words of Alan Jones: having the ability "to smell a rat without allowing your ability to discern deception sour your vision of the glory and joy that is everyone's birthright."

* CRAZED KINDNESS. Having frequent, overpowering urges to bestow gifts, disseminate inspiration, and perpetrate random acts of benevolence.

* ECSTATIC GRATITUDE. Feeling genuine thankfulness with such resplendent intensity that you generate a surge of endorphins in your body and slip into a full-scale outbreak of euphoria.

* EMANCIPATED SURRENDER. Letting go of an attachment without harboring resentment toward the stimuli that led to the necessity of letting go. (Suggested by Timothy S. Wallace.)

* FRIENDLY SHOCK. Welcoming a surprise that will ultimately have benevolent effects.

* HIGHWAY EQUANIMITY. Feeling serene, polite, and benevolent while driving in heavy traffic. (Suggested by Shannen Davis.)

* HOLY LISTENING. Hearing the words of another human being as if they were a direct communication from the Divine Wow to you.

* IMAGINATIVE TRUTH-TELLING. Conveying the truth of any specific situation from multiple angles, thereby mitigating the distortions that result from assuming the truth can be told from a single viewpoint.

* IMPULSIVE LOVE SPREADING. Characterized by a fierce determination to never withhold well-deserved praise, inspirational encouragement, positive feedback, or loving thoughts; often includes a tendency to write love letters on the spur of the moment and on any medium, including napkins, grocery bags, and skin. (Suggested by Laurie Burton.)

* INADVERTENT NATURE WORSHIP. Experiencing the rapture that comes from being outside for extended periods of time. (Suggested by Sue Carol Robinson.)

* INGENIOUS INTIMACY. Having an ability to consistently create deep connections with other human beings, and to use the lush, reverential excitement stimulated by such exchanges to further deepen the connections. A well-crafted talent for dissolving your sense of separateness and enjoying the innocent exultation that erupts in the wake of the dissolution. (Suggested by Sue Carol Robinson.)

* JOYFUL POIGNANCE. Feeling buoyantly joyful about the beauty and mystery of life while remaining aware of the sadness, injustices, wounds, and future fears that form the challenges in an examined life. (Suggested by Alka Bhargava.)

* LATE LATE-BLOOMING. Having a capacity for growth spurts well into old age, long past the time that conventional wisdom says they're possible.

* LEARNING DELIGHT. Experiencing the brain-reeling pleasure that comes from learning something new. (Suggested by Sue Carol Robinson.)

* LUCID DREAM PATRIOTISM. A love of country rooted in the fact that it provides the ideal conditions for learning lucid dreaming. (Suggested by Kenneth Kelzer, author of The Sun and the Shadow: My Experiment With Lucid Dreaming.)

* LYRICAL CONSONANCE. Experiencing the visceral yet also cerebral excitement that comes from listening to live music played impeccably by skilled musicians. (Suggested by Susan E. Nace.)

TO SEE THE REST OF THE EXALTED, POSITIVE STATES, (GO HERE.)


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Here's another excerpt from
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia. It's from the piece called "Subterranean Pronoia Therapy."

1. Declare amnesty for the part of you that you don't love very well. Forgive that poor sucker. Hold its hand and take it out to dinner and a movie. Tactfully offer it a chance to make amends for the dumb things it has done.

And then do a dramatic reading of this proclamation by the playwright Theodore Rubin: "I must learn to love the fool in me -- the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries. It alone protects me against that utterly self-controlled, masterful tyrant whom I also harbor and who would rob me of human aliveness, humility, and dignity but for my fool."

2. The greatest gift you can give might be the gift that you yourself were never given. Give that gift.

The most valuable service you have to offer your fellow humans may be the service you have always wished were performed for you. Offer that service.

An experience that wounded you could move you to help people who've been similarly wounded. Heal yourself by healing others.

3. No matter how holy and good, everyone in the world has a portion of the world's sickness inside them. It's known by many names: neurosis, shadow, demon, devil. Many people try to deny that it inhabits them. Others acknowledge its power so readily that they allow themselves to be overwhelmed and distorted by it.

At the Beauty and Truth Lab, we take a position between those two positions. We accept the fact that the evil is part of us, but treat it with compassionate amusement and flexible vigilance. Our stance is partly that of loving parents and partly that of warriors.

Once you make a commitment to explore the mysteries of pronoia, your shadow will try to play tricks on you that it has never tried before. How will you respond? We recommend an aggressive, tender, improvisational approach. Be ready for anything. Avoid both blithe excesses of tolerance and grave fundamentalism.

4. Philosopher William James proposed that if our culture ever hoped to shed the deeply ingrained habit of going to war, we'd have to create a moral equivalent. It's not enough to preach the value of peace, he said. We have to find other ways to channel our aggressive instincts in order to accomplish what war does, like stimulate political unity and build civic virtue.

Astrology provides a complementary perspective. Each of us has the warrior energy of the planet Mars in our psychological makeup. We can't simply repress it, but must find a positive way to express it. How might you go about this project?

5. In his book *The Thought of the Heart and the Soul of the World,* psychologist James Hillman writes: "The question of evil refers primarily to the anaesthetized heart, the heart that has no reaction to what it faces, thereby turning the variegated sensuous face of the world into monotony, sameness, oneness."

What would you have to do in order to triumph over this kind of evil in yourself?

6. "The problem, if you love it, is as beautiful as the sunset," wrote J. Krishnamurti. "The obstacle is the path," says the Zen proverb. What frustrating puzzle do you love the best?

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Here's another excerpt from Pronoia.

HOW IS ENLIGHTENMENT LIKE A MILLION-DOLLAR VACATION HOME?

For some seekers, spiritual enlightenment is the ultimate commodity. They believe that through diligent meditation and self-­improvement, there will come a day when it will no longer elude their grasp. Breaking through to the singular state of cosmic consciousness, they will forever after own it, free and clear. Permanently illuminated! Never to backslide into the dull ignominy of normal human awareness!

Here's what I have to say about that: It's a delusion.

The fact is, the nature of perfection is always mutating. What constitutes enlightenment today will always be different tomorrow. Even if ­you're fortunate and wise enough to score a sliver of "enlightenment," it's not a static treasure that becomes your indestructible, everlasting possession. Rather, it remains a mercurial knack that must be continually re­earned.

If you want to befriend the Divine Wow, you must not only be willing to change ceaselessly -- you have to love to change ceaselessly.

Lucky you: All of creation is conspiring to help you live like that.

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CERTIFICATE OF EXEMPTION FROM ENLIGHTENMENT

This document certifies that _____________________ is immune to the lust for enlightenment and is exempt from the need to seek enlightenment.

This document also certifies that _____________________ has seen through the fraud of the enlightenment con game and is excused from further clawing and scraping to own a piece of that specious reward.

This document further certifies that _____________________ is free from the temptation to be consecrated as enlightened by any guru, saint, holy person, or religious organization that claims the right to do so.

Finally, this document certifies that _____________________ has already been enlightened a million times in a million different ways anyway, and that seeking even further enlightenment would be redundant and even greedy.

To ensure the continued validity of this document _____________________ vows to regularly renew these three understandings: that it is impossible to ever reach a complete and permanent state of enlightenment; that there is no single state of awareness that constitutes enlightenment; and that since the nature of reality keeps changing, the nature of enlightenment keeps changing as well.

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TO SEE THE ABOVE CERTIFICATE AS IT APPEARS IN THE BOOK, GO HERE.

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Some people who haven't actually read my book "Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia" suffer from the delusion that I think we should repress or ignore our negative emotions. I don't, of course.

If you don't have time to read my entire book and find out my real ideas about the matter, check out this short article (not by me) that is largely aligned with my perspective:

"How To Turn Negative Emotions Into Your Greatest Advantage"

Excerpt:

1. Anger can be fueled into creativity.

2. Struggling with adversity can profoundly alter your perspective.

3. Working through shame can help you cultivate compassion.

4. Pessimism can make you more productive.

5. Envy can spur you to become better.

6. Loss can lead to gratitude.

7. Negative thoughts and emotions present an opportunity to cultivate mindfulness.

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Here's another excerpt from Pronoia.

CRIMES THAT DON'T BREAK ANY LAWS
(To read the entirety of this feature, GO HERE.)

We are psychically assaulted by dangerous images and sickening words every day. The media relentlessly blast us with their trendy doom and gloom fixation, generating an endless onslaught of messages about how bad life is and what a mess the future will bring. The entertainment industry force-feeds us insipidly paranoid scenarios that keep our fear reflexes chronically throbbing.

Is this acceptable to you? It's not to me.

Our eyes and ears are constantly scalded by blistering harangues to buy stuff we don't really need. The sacred temples of our imaginations are pounded ruthlessly by smart bombs whipped up by evil advertising geniuses in their Madison Avenue laboratories. Our ability to envision the astounding intricacy and richness of the web of life has gotten hijacked and hooked on decadent fantasies about new possessions that would allegedly make us happier.

I for one am no longer willing to absorb the dazzling psychic toxins that sting and sap and wound our lust for life. I reject the epidemic obsession with big bad nasty things and flashy trite empty-hearted things. I say it's time for us to rise up and fight back -- to reconsecrate and regenerate our imaginations. Here are my demands.

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DEMAND #1: I demand that Amnesty International launch a crusade against a grievously unacknowledged form of terrorism. I call this crime against humanity the genocide of the imagination.

DEMAND #2: I demand that you refuse to be entertained by bad news. I demand that you seek out and create stories that make you feel strong and joyous and enigmatic.

DEMAND #3: I demand that *People* magazine do a cover story on "The World's 50 Sexiest Perpetrators of Beauty, Truth, and Love."

DEMAND #4: I demand that you learn the difference between your own thoughts and those of the celebrities who have demonically possessed you.

DEMAND #5: I demand that you wear underpants on your head and dance naked in slow motion whenever you watch TV movies about tormented geniuses who supposedly create great art but treat everyone in their lives like crap.

DEMAND #6: I demand that the sadomasochist storytellers disguised as journalists give prominent coverage to the startling fact that the world has become dramatically less violent since the end of the Cold War, and that we are currently living in the most peaceful era the human race has ever known. I further demand that the worshipers of cynicism who pretend to be clear-seeing news writers acknowledge that death rates from cancer are declining; that rising rates of intermarriage are helping to dissipate ethnic and religious strife worldwide; that Americans' IQ scores have been steadily rising for a long time; that the number of people living in poverty in the developing nations is declining dramatically; that the world is steadily becoming more free, and is now the most free it has ever been; and that the miracle of your breathing transpires about 10 million times a year, even though you never have to will it to continue.

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I have more demands, but I want to make sure you know that your imagination and the imaginations of everyone you know are at risk. And who's responsible? Who are the perpetrators of the genocide of the imagination?

TO READ THE REST OF THIS PIECE,
"CRIMES THAT DON'T BREAK ANY LAWS,"
GO HERE

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Here's another excerpt from Pronoia.

HEALING SHOCKS

Many of us are essentially asleep, even as we walk around in broad daylight. We're so focused on the restless narratives and repetitive fantasies unfurling in our heads that we only dimly perceive the larger story raging in all of its chaotic beauty around us.

To have any hope of permanently breaking out of our fuzzy trance, we require regular shocks. A single jolt might cause us to briefly come to attention and see the miracle of creation for what it is, but once the red alert has passed, we relax back into our fixation on the dreamy tales our mind never stops telling us.

In the course of its conspiracy to shower us with blessings, life does its best to provide us with a steady flow of healing shocks. But because it tends to err on the side of tenderness, its prods may be too gentle, allowing us to ignore them. Gradually, life will up the ante, trying to find the right mix of toughness and love, as it encourages us to WAKE UP!

But our addiction to the phantasmagoria is tenacious. The stream-of-conscious narratives and ever-bubbling fantasies, even when they're racked with torment and terror, are perversely entertaining. And so we may avoid responding to the kind shocks for so long that life finally has to resort to stronger medicine. Then we might get sick or lose our job or muck up our closest relationship.

It doesn't have to be that way . . . .

READ THE REST OF THIS PIECE -- and listen to it, too

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BONUS

You may also be interested in reviewing the long-term horoscopes I've written for you. They discuss your possible destiny for all of 2014. To see them, GO HERE.

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More from Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia:

Dumb pain is the kind of pain you're compulsively drawn back to out of habit. It's familiar, and thus perversely comfortable.

Smart pain is the kind of pain that surprises you with valuable teachings and inspires you to see the world with new eyes.

While stupid pain is often born of fear, wise pain is typically stirred up by love.

The dumb, unproductive stuff comes from allowing yourself to be controlled by your early conditioning and from doing things that are out of harmony with your essence.

The smart, useful variety arises out of an intention to approach life as a beautiful, interesting game that's worthy of your curiosity.

I invite you to come up with more definitions about the difference between dumb pain and smart pain.

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PRONOIA'S VILLAINS

According to Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges, Judas was actually a more exalted hero than Jesus. He unselfishly volunteered to perform the all­important villain's role in the resurrection saga, knowing he'd be reviled forever. It was a dirty job that only a supremely egoless saint could have done. Jesus suffered, true, but enjoyed glory and adoration as a result.

Let's apply this way of thinking to the task of understanding the role
that seemingly bad people play in pronoia.

Interesting narratives play an essential role in the universal conspiracy to give us exactly what we need. All of us crave drama. We love to be beguiled by twists of fate that unfold the stories of our lives in unpredictable ways. Just as Judas played a key role in advancing the tale of Christ's quest, villains and con men and clowns may be crucial to the entertainment value of our personal journeys.

Try this: Imagine the people you fear and dislike as pivotal characters
in a fascinating and ultimately redemptive plot that will take years or even lifetimes for the Divine Wow to elaborate.

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There is another reason to love our enemies: They force us to become smarter. The riddles they thrust in front of us sharpen our wits and sculpt our souls.

Try this: Act as if your adversaries are great teachers. Thank them for how crucial they've been in your education.

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Consider one more possibility: that the people who seem to slow us down and hold us back are actually preventing things from happening too fast.

Imagine that the evolution of your life or our culture is like a pregnancy: It needs to reach its full term. Just as a child isn't ready to be born after five months of gestation, the New Earth we're creating has to ripen in its own time. The recalcitrant reactionaries who resist the inevitable birth are simply making sure that the far-seeing revolutionaries don't conjure the future too suddenly. They serve the greater good.

Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.


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BE YOUR OWN SAVIOR

Some Christians believe Jesus will come back to fix this corrupt world. Certain Jewish sects propose that the messiah will soon appear on Earth for the first time. Among Muslims, many predict the legendary Twelfth Imam will return and bring salvation to humanity.

In India, devotees of Vishnu expect the avatar Kalki to arrive on the scene and carry out a series of miraculous redemptions. Even Buddhists prophesy Maitreya, the chosen one who will establish universal peace.

My divinations foretell a very different scenario. I suspect that the whole point of our spectacularly confounding moment in history is that each of us must become our own savior. And if we hope to accomplish that, relying on our best amateur efforts, we will have to stop waiting around for a supposed professional to do our work for us.

Franz Kafka had a view that's not necessarily mutually exclusive with mine: "The messiah will come when we don't need him anymore."

Let's also consider the evidence offered by William Blake, as quoted in *Poets and God* by David L. Edwards: "Jesus Christ is the only God. And so am I. And so are you."

One more clue, this time from Deepak Chopra: "Every person is a God in embryo. Its only desire is to be born."

- Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

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I invite you to write down brief descriptions of the five most pleasurable moments you've ever experienced in your life. Let your imagination dwell lovingly on these memories for, say, 20 minutes. And keep them close to the surface of your awareness in the next three days.

If you ever catch yourself slipping into a negative train of thought, interrupt it immediately and compel yourself to fantasize about those Big Five Ecstatic Moments.

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What were you doing a year ago today? Check out my horoscopes for this time of year in 2013 and see if my oracle was applicable to what you were going through:

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More from Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia:

LETTERS TO THE BEAUTY AND TRUTH LAB

DEAR BEAUTY AND TRUTH LAB: I've wrestled all my life with fear. But lately it's been even worse than usual. My personal demons seem to be winning, or at least getting the better of the fight. I think it's related to the fact that when I caught wind of the idea of pronoia, I started working hard to lose all my illusions. Now I'm thinking maybe that was a mistake. Perhaps I needed my illusions to keep the demons at bay? - Crybaby

DEAR CRYBABY: Hang on. This is the toughest part of your struggle. It may seem that the illusions you dissolved were the main barriers safeguarding you from your demons. But what's more likely is that those illusions were food for your demons. Very soon now the demons will have devoured the last of their fuel and will start to starve. If they don't die off, they will at least fly away in search of other nourishment.

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DEAR BEAUTY AND TRUTH LAB: Two months ago I met the first person with whom I am completely psychic. We fell deeply in love, of course. But it turned out that neither of us was ready or able to fulfill the potential of our connection because we are nowhere near as profoundly in love with ourselves as we are with each other. The good news is that through my love for him, I have intensified my desire to learn to love myself. The bad news is that we can't really be together as fate intended until we upgrade our self-love. Can you offer any consolation? - Lucky Yet Unlucky in Love

Dear Lucky: We appreciate your sage caution, but also offer this alternative view from actress Tallulah Bankhead: "If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner."

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DEAR BEAUTY AND TRUTH LAB: Lately I've been practicing an evangelical kind of pronoia. In addition to proceeding as if the universe is conspiring to help me, I'm extending that assumption to my fellow planeteers. I'm meeting people and visualizing realistically wonderful futures for them, filled with interesting opportunities or at least fertile riddles.

For instance, yesterday I saw a morose woman staring blankly into space at Starbucks as if she were the loneliest person ever born. I visualized her falling into a deeply engaging conversation with a new friend, and feeling emboldened by that encounter to be proactive about seeking out people who stimulate her. Two days ago I saw an unruly kid acting crazy at the grocery store. I visualized for him a future of uncompromising individualism creating unique approaches to old problems.

This evangelical push is a real stretch sometimes. (It's a challenge to visualize a positive future for, say, a homeless panhandler.) But I like how it makes me feel. Maybe it's no coincidence that my physical health has markedly improved recently. And it seems to be making me more highly attuned to the sometimes subtle blessings that life does bring into my vicinity -- blessings I might have missed in the past. -Architect of Empathy

DEAR ARCHITECT: At the Beauty and Truth Lab, we work on the hypothesis that all of us are affecting each other all the time, either by direct contact, via telepathic contagion, or through the culture we co-create. If even 25 percent of that hypothesis is true, why not be a beacon of blessings, constantly broadcasting images that promote health and well-being? People just might live up to our expectations, just as easily as they can live down to them. Plus, as you noted, it has a tonic effect on the one who acts as a beacon of blessings.

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DEAR BEAUTY AND TRUTH LAB: You asked us readers this question: "The spiritual teacher A. H. Almaas believes that a genuinely creative act is always motivated by generosity. If that's true, how do you explain all the ego-obsessed 'geniuses' who treat everyone like dirt even as they churn out their supposedly brilliant art?"

Here's my answer: Those aren't really geniuses, and what they make isn't really brilliant art! It may be popular art, and it may earn a lot of money for the fake geniuses, but it's not brilliant. The truth is, many of the richest and most famous artists are those patronized for their ability to fetishize, glamorize, and trivialize our cultural pain. You can apply the same statement to supposed geniuses who apply their talent to the pharmaceutical industry or nuclear weapons. Creative and intellectual energy applied to cruelty, domination, and meanness is always stupid.

The true geniuses recognize that cooperation is a stronger evolutionary force than competition. They know that the only appropriate application for intelligence is to find ways to make us all feel stupendously good as much as possible. - Malian

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DEAR BEAUTY AND TRUTH LAB: My mom calls me fat but feeds me pork rinds. My strongest supporter is a person I want to wrap up like a mummy, shove into a canoe, and push into the middle of the lake. My exuberant imagination has taken me hostage, violating its own principles. I'm so ambivalent and indecisive about everything that even my addictive nature can't figure out what to be addicted to. I'd embrace my contradictions if I could, but they've got me surrounded like a pink-haired, cross-dressing SWAT team frothed up on multiple espressos. Can you point me in the direction of the pronoiac exit from this circus-like hell? - Crazy Crank

DEAR CRAZY CRANK: We detect a lot of wit and style in your meditations. Maybe that's the purpose of the limbo you're in: It's an opportunity to build your skill at being lively and feisty and smart no matter what your outer circumstances are.

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I invite you to write down brief descriptions of the five most pleasurable moments you've ever experienced in your life. Let your imagination dwell lovingly on these memories for, say, 20 minutes. And keep them close to the surface of your awareness in the next three days.

If you ever catch yourself slipping into a negative train of thought, interrupt it immediately and compel yourself to fantasize about those Big Five Ecstatic Moments.

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If you'd like to commune with the spirit I bring to the Expanded Audio Horoscopes, tune in to my free podcast, "Fear Versus Intuition." It's a meditation about the difference between your fearful fantasies and your authentic, accurate intuitions. It's here.

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"Healing mantra for the day: May I feel all I need to feel in order to heal; may I heal all I need to heal in order to feel."
- Marguerite Rigoglioso

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Below are more excerpts from Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia, two twisty healing stories with pronoiac themes:

(For more stories like this go here.)

Story #1
CONVERSATION WITH ETERNITY

Beauty and Truth Lab researcher Firenze Matisse traveled to Antarctica. On the first day, the guide took him and his group to a remote area and left them alone for an hour to commune with the pristine air and unearthly stillness.

After a while, a penguin ambled up and launched into a ceremonial display of squawks and stretches.

Firenze responded with recitals of his favorite memorized poems, imagining he was "engaged in a conversation with eternity." Halfway through his inspired performance of Thich Nhat Hanh's "Please Call Me by My True Names," the penguin sent a stream of green projectile vomit cascading against his chest, and shuffled away.

Though Firenze initially felt deflated by eternity's surprise, no harm was done. He soon came to see it as a first-class cosmic joke, and looked forward to exploiting its value as an amusing story with which to regale his friends back home.

Beauty and Truth Lab researcher Michael Logan was the first person to hear Firenze's tale upon his return from Antarctica. "You might want to consider this, Firenze," Michael mused after taking it all in. "Penguins nurture their offspring by chewing food -- mixing it up with all God's enzymes -- and then vomiting it into the mouths of the penguin babies. Perhaps you weren't the butt of a cosmic joke or some Linda Blair-esque bad review, but in fact the recipient of a very precious gift of love. Who knows?"

Now Firenze has two punch lines for his tale of redemptive pronoia.

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Story #2
FLIP-FLOP THE TRAUMATIC IMPRINT

Beauty and Truth Lab researcher Artemisia had just begun menstruating, and was suffering from debilitating cramps. Massive doses of ibuprofen were not relieving the distress, so she went to her regular acupuncturist, Dr. Lily Ming, to get relief.

Dr. Ming had Artemisia lie down on the table and proceeded to insert 10 needles in her belly and hand and ear. Then Dr. Ming introduced a treatment that Artemisia was unfamiliar with: She lightly pounded the nail of Artemisia's left big toe with a small silver hammer for a few minutes.

"Why are you doing that?" Artemisia asked.

"It is good for the uterus," the doctor replied.

Indeed, Artemisia's cramps diminished as the doctor thumped, and in the days to come they did not recur.

After the session, as Artemisia prepared to leave, the usually taciturn Ming started up a conversation. Artemisia was surprised, but listened attentively as Dr. Ming made a series of revelations. The most surprising was Dr. Ming's description of a traumatic event from her own childhood.

During the military occupation of her native Manchuria, a province of China, she was forced to witness Japanese soldiers torturing people she loved. Their primary atrocity was using hammers to drive bamboo shoots through their victims' big toes.

The moral of the story: Dr. Ming has accomplished the heroic feat of reversing the meaning of her most traumatic imprint. She has turned a symbol of pain into a symbol of healing.

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(For more twisty healing stories with a pronoiac theme, go here.)

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Here's another piece from Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

I'M A STAR, YOU'RE A STAR
(To read the entirety of this feature, GO HERE.

You're a star -- and so am I. I'm a genius -- and so are you. Your success encourages my brilliance, and my charisma enhances your power. Your victory doesn't require my defeat, and vice versa.
Those are the rules in the New World -- quite unlike the rules in the Old World, where zero-sum games are the norm, and only one of us can win each time we play.

In the New World, you don't have to tone down or apologize for your prowess, because you love it when other people shine. You exult in your own excellence without regarding it as a sign of inherent superiority. As you ripen more and more of your latent aptitude, you inspire the rest of us to claim our own idiosyncratic magnificence.

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Tibetan Buddhist teacher Geshe Chekawa (1220–1295) specialized in bodhicitta, seeking enlightenment not for personal gain but as a way to serve others. On his deathbed, he prayed to be sent to hell so that he might alleviate the suffering of the lost souls there.

As you explore pronoia, you will discover that like Chekawa, you have a huge capacity to help people. Unlike him, you'll find that expressing your benevolence doesn't require you to go to hell. It may even be unnecessary for you to sacrifice your own joy or to practice self-denial. Just the opposite: Being in service to humanity and celebrating your unique power will be synergistic. They will need each other to thrive.

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The Golden Rule is a decent ethical principle, but it could be even better. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" presumes that others enjoy what you enjoy. But that's wrong. There are many things you'd like to have done unto you that others would either despise or be bored by. Here's a new, improved formulation, which we call the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as they would like to have you do unto them.

Using this improved formula is not just a virtuous way to live, but is also the best way to ensure the success of your selfish goals. The rituals and spells of various occult orders purport to be supercharged techniques for imposing your personal will on the chaotic flow of events, but I say that practicing the Platinum Rule outstrips all of them as an exercise to enhance your potency and happiness . . . .

TO READ THE REST OF "I'M A STAR, YOU'RE A STAR," GO HERE.

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It's time for the Freethinkers Festival. To celebrate, feel free to indulge in any of the following festive acts:

1. Declare your independence from anyone who tries to tell you, either subliminally or directly, who you are or how you should live your life.

2. Declare your independence from your past, especially memories that oppress your sense of possibility and self-images that inhibit your urge to explore.

3. Declare your independence from peer pressure, groupthink, and conventional wisdom.

4. Declare your independence from beliefs and theories that hinder your ability to perceive the raw and unruly truth about new experiences.

Any other festive acts you'd like to suggest?

- Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

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You've heard of passive smoking, which occurs when the burning cigarette wastes of smokers snake into the lungs of innocent bystanders. Now poetry scientists at the Beauty and Truth Lab have identified a phenomenon they call second-hand depression, wherein victims inadvertently absorb the misery and cynicism of people who are spewing out negative emotions.

Be especially careful to protect yourself against that contamination. Refuse to be poisoned by the lazy blather of out-of-control naysayers.

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Here's another excerpt from Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

EVIL IS BORING
To read the entire text of this piece, go here.

To hear a shorter audio version, go here.

When an old tree in the rain forest dies and topples over, it takes a long time to decompose. As it does, it becomes host to new saplings that use the decaying log for nourishment.

Picture yourself sitting in the forest gazing upon this scene. How do you describe it? Would you dwell on the putrefaction of the fallen tree while ignoring the fresh life sprouting out of it? If you did, you'd be imitating the perspective of many modern storytellers, especially the journalists and novelists and filmmakers and producers of TV dramas. They devoutly believe that tales of affliction and mayhem and corruption and tragedy are inherently more interesting than tales of triumph and liberation and pleasure and ingenuity.

Using the juggernaut of the media and entertainment industries, they relentlessly propagate this covert dogma. It's not sufficiently profound or well thought out to be called nihilism. Pop nihilism is a more accurate term. The mass audience is the victim of this inane ugliness, brainwashed by a multibillion-dollar propaganda machine that in comparison makes Himmler's vaunted soul-stealing apparatus look like a child's backyard puppet show. This is the engine of the phenomena I call the global genocide of the imagination.

At the Beauty and Truth Lab, we believe that stories about the rot are not inherently more captivating than stories about the splendor. On the contrary, given how predictable and ubiquitous they are, stories about the rot are actually quite dull. Obsessing on evil is boring. Rousing fear is a hackneyed shtick. Wallowing in despair is a bad habit. Indulging in cynicism is akin to committing a copycat crime . . .

To read the rest of "EVIL IS BORING," go here.

To hear a shorter audio version, go here.

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Steal This Image from PRONOIA

"I am totally opposed to all duality"

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What if there's no contradiction between being your idiosyncratic self in love with your life and serving others with the best gifts you have to give?

What if exploring your inner world to activate your personal genius dovetails perfectly with fighting to recreate the soulless culture we're embedded in?

What if working on your own salvation makes you a more effective force in liberating others from their suffering?

- from Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia

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Are you turned off by the authoritarian, libido-mistrusting perversity of the right-wing moral code, but equally reluctant to embrace the atheism embedded in the left wing's code of goodness?

Are you hungry for a value system rooted in beauty, love, pleasure, and liberation instead of order, control, politeness, and fear, but allergic to the sophistry of the New Age?

Are you apathetic toward the saccharine goodness evangelized by sentimental, superstitious fanatics, but equally bored by the intellectuals who worship at the empty-hearted shrine of scientific materialism?

It may be time for you to whip up your very own moral code. If you do, you might want to keep the following guidelines in mind:

1. A moral code becomes immoral unless it can thrive without a devil and enemy.

2. A moral code grows ugly unless it prescribes good-natured rebellion against automaton-like behavior offered in its support.

3. A moral code becomes murderous unless it's built on a love for the fact that EVERYTHING CHANGES ALL THE TIME, and unless it perpetually adjusts its reasons for being true.

4. A moral code will corrupt its users unless it ensures that their primary motivation for being good is because it's fun.

5. A moral code deadens the soul of everyone it touches unless it has a built-in sense of humor.

- from Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia

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From an article about me:

"I have witnessed this growing narrative of the world as lost, as terrible, as a miserable pit of ugliness," Brezsny said. "Most of what's reported in the news, probably 95 percent, portrays human beings as corrupt, ugly, depressed, sad, sick. And that has never been my perception. My perception has always been that yes, there's a lot of suffering, but primarily people are really happy to be alive.

"So one of the passions that I felt was to ask people to at least consider the possibility that life is a lot better than they imagine."

That's what Pronoia is about -- furnishing 888 tricks for becoming a "master of rowdy bliss," according to the book's back cover. It's not a matter of becoming a Pollyanna-ish ninny, as Brezsny explained it to me. It's more like welcoming experience on all its frequencies, even the difficult ones, and considering that the universe continually gives you what you need, if not exactly what you want . . .

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE

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Acquiring problems is a fundamental human need. It's as crucial to your well-being as getting food, air, water, sleep, and love. You define yourself—indeed, you make yourself—through the puzzling dilemmas you attract and solve. The most creative people on the planet are those who frame the biggest, hardest questions and then gather the resources necessary to find the answers.

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Tip Jar for Me

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My most recent book is
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia. It's also available here.

THE MYSTERY OF YOUR THIRST

Imagine this scene. You're really thirsty -- so dehydrated that you're feeling faint. Yet here's the weird thing: You're walking along the bank of a wide river that's so clear you could see the bottom if you looked.

But you're not looking. In fact, you seem oblivious to the surging force of nature just a few yards away.

Is it invisible to you? Are you so preoccupied with your suffering that you're blind to the very source that would end your suffering?

Up ahead you see a man. As you approach, you realize he's holding a bottle of water. You run to him and beg him to let you drink. He readily agrees. Gratefully, you guzzle the precious liquid, then thank him profusely.

As you walk away, he calls after you, "By the way, there's a lot more water over there," and he points to the river.

Do you hear him? If you hear him, do you believe him? Or do you keep walking, hoping to find another person with another bottle somewhere up ahead?

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Think globally,
but act locally.

Plan for the future,
but act in the present.

Dream of all the masterpieces you'd be thrilled to create,
but work on just one at a time.

Lust for every enticing soul you see,
but only make love to the imperfect beauty you're actually with.

Allow yourself to be flooded
with every last feeling that bubbles up from your subconscious,
but understand that only a very few of these feelings
need to be forcefully expressed.

Be passionately attuned
to all the injustices and hypocrisies you see around you,
but be selective when choosing which of those you will actually fight.

- The Televisionary Oracle

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My book THE TELEVISIONARY ORACLE has been reprinted and is also available as an e-book:

Hard-copy book

Kindle edition

Read the first four chapters

See the cover

Read the review in Rain Taxi

Excerpts from that review:

"*The Televisionary Oracle* is a powerful example of how ancient mysticism may just be the best tool for revolutionary action, both for the individual and the society."

"What's amazing is how Brezsny's prose remains invigorating in the transition from weekly astrology to larger scope writing. The prose is still poetic, circular, almost dancing, combining the narrative voices of Anais Nin, Tom Robbins, David Ignatow, and a host of ancient mystics."

"Other New Age, spiritualist novels lead the reader to take a fresh look at the world by ignoring the economic and corrupt nightmares of capitalism and its pollution of culture. But instead of looking away and pointing to a daisy field or deities seated upon fluffy clouds, Brezsny alternates his world-as-an-illusion, 'utopia ahead' narrative with insightful cultural critique."

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QUESTION. How can an intelligent, educated person possibly believe astrology has any merit?

ROB BREZSNY. Many of the debunkers who're responsible for trying to discredit astrology have done no research on the subject. They haven't read smart astrological philosophers like Dane Rudhyar, don't know that seminal astronomer Johannes Kepler was a skilled astrologer, and aren't aware that eminent psychologist C.G. Jung cast horoscopes and believed that "astrology represents the summation of all the psychological knowledge of antiquity." The closest approach the fraudulent "skeptics" usually make to the ancient art is to glance at a tabloid horoscope column. To match their carelessness, I might make a drive-by of a strip mall and declare that the profession of architecture is shallow and debased.

That's one reason why these ill-informed "skeptics" spread so many ignorant lies. For instance, they say that astrologers think the stars and planets emit invisible beams that affect people's lives. The truth is, many Western astrologers don't believe any such thing. Astrologer Richard Tarnas says it well: Just as clocks tell time but don't create it, the heavenly bodies show us the big picture but don't cause it.

Here's another hoax spread by uninformed scientists: http://bit.ly/VCsmjT

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QUESTION. Because you pack your column with doses of humor and wild imagery, some people think you don't take astrology seriously.

ROB. On the contrary, I think this proves how much respect I have for astrology -- I mean REAL astrology. Not astrology as a superstitious belief system that generates boring predictions in dead language about trivial events that only our neurotic egos are obsessed with; but rather astrology as a mytho-poetic symbol system that expands your imagination about the big cycles of your life, liberates you from the literalistic trance that the daily grind tends to trap you in, and opens you up to the understanding that you're much more beautiful and full of potential than you've been taught to believe.

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QUESTION. You have said that you believe in astrology "about 80 percent." What's up with the other 20 percent?

ROB. I use the same 80-20 approach with every belief system I love and benefit from: science, psychology, feminism, and various religious traditions like Buddhism and Christianity and paganism. I take what's useful from each, but am not so deluded as to think that any single system is the holy grail that the physicists call the "Theory of Everything." Unconditional, unskeptical faith is the path of the fanatic and fundamentalist, and I aspire to be a rowdy philosophical anarchist, aflame with objectivity and committed to the truth that the truth is always mutating.

Read More: http://bit.ly/167qJ3j

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QUESTION. But don't you risk playing the same role the tabloid astrologers do: enticing people to take on a superstitious approach to life and seducing them into believing their fate is determined by supernatural forces beyond the influence of their willpower?

ROB. I call what I do predicting the present, not forecasting the future. My goal is to awaken my readers to the hidden agendas, unconscious forces, and long-term cycles at work in their lives so that they can respond to the totality of what's happening instead of to mere appearances. I want to be a friendly shocker who helps unleash their imaginations, giving them the power to create their destinies with the same liberated fertility that great artists summon to forge their masterpieces.

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QUESTION. How do you write your column? Do you use actual astrological data, or just go into a trance and let your imagination run wild?


READ THE REPLY TO THIS QUESTION, as well as the rest of this Q & A.:

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Listen to my song "World Kiss"

Excerpt of the lyrics:

All of creation is alive and conscious, and all of creation deserves our burning, churning, yearning love. All of it. Not just the people and creatures and things that we personally find beautiful and helpful and interesting. But everything. All of creation.

If we want to become the gorgeous geniuses we were born to be, if we want to give back as many blessings as we are given, we've got to be in love with every single part of the Goddess's extravagant masterpiece.

And so we can't possibly be mere heterosexuals. We can't possibly be mere homosexuals or bisexuals.

If we want to commune with the world the way the Goddess does, we've got to be Pantheosexuals -- we've got to be experts in the art of Polymorphous Perverse Omnidirectional Goddess Diddling. Anything less is a lie, an obscene limitation.


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Here's another excerpt from Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia

A SPELL TO RE-GENIUS YOURSELF

Although we are all born geniuses, the grind of day-to-day living tends to de-genius us. That's the bad news. The good news is that you have the power to re-genius yourself.

I've created a ten-minute ritual you can use to jump-start the process. To get yourself in the mood, say this out loud right now:

"I am a genius" . . . .

READ THE REST OF THIS PIECE (and listen to it, too)

+

If you'd like to see the Youtube videos of me performing "A Spell to Re-Genius Yourself," go here:

Part One

Part Two

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Here's an excerpt from my essay and podcast: "You Are a Prophet":

Your imagination is the single most important asset you possess. It's your power to create mental pictures of things that don't exist yet and that you want to bring into being. It's the magic wand you use to shape your future.

And so in your own way, you are a prophet. You generate countless predictions every day. Your imagination is the source, tirelessly churning out images of what you will be doing later.

The featured prophecy of the moment may be as simple as a psychic impression of yourself eating a fudge brownie at lunch or as monumental as a daydream of some year building your dream home.

Your imagination is a treasure when it spins out scenarios that are aligned with your deepest desires. In fact, it's an indispensable tool in creating the life you want; it's what you use to form images of the conditions you'd like to inhabit and the objects you hope to wield. Nothing manifests on this planet unless it first exists as a mental picture.

But for most of us, the imagination is as much a curse as a blessing. We're often just as likely to use it to conjure up premonitions that are at odds with our conscious values. That's the result of having absorbed toxic programming from the media and from our parents at an early age and from other influential people in our past . . . .

READ and HEAR the rest

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What if there's no contradiction between being your idiosyncratic self in love with your life and serving others with the best gifts you have to give?

What if exploring your inner world to activate your personal genius dovetails perfectly with fighting to recreate the soulless culture we're embedded in?

What if working on your own salvation makes you a more effective force in liberating others from their suffering?

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Check out this collection of Dreamtime art by indigenous Australians on my Tumblr page:

Dreamtime Art 1
Dreamtime Art 2
Dreamtime Art 3
Dreamtime Art 4
Dreamtime Art 5
Dreamtime Art 6


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Dear Readers:

What nourishes you emotionally and spiritually?

I'm not talking about what entertains you or flatters you or takes your mind off your problems.

I'm referring to the influences that make you stronger and the people who see you for who you really are and the situations that teach you life-long lessons.

I mean the beauty that replenishes your psyche and the symbols that consistently restore your balance and the memories that keep feeding your ability to rise to each new challenge.

I invite you to take inventory of these precious assets. And then make a special point of nurturing them back.

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My most recent book is
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia. It's also available here.

Below is the text of a spoken-word piece based on a text in the book. You can listen to it here.

GLORY IN THE HIGHEST

Thousands of things go right for you every day, beginning the moment you wake up. Through some magic you don’t fully understand, you’re still breathing and your heart is beating, even though you’ve been unconscious for many hours. The air is a mix of gases that's just right for your body's needs, as it was before you fell asleep.

You can see! Light of many colors floods into your eyes, registered by nerves that took God or evolution or some process millions of years to perfect.

The interesting gift of these vivid hues is furthermore made possible by an unimaginably immense globe of fire, the sun, which continually detonates nuclear explosions in order to convert its own body into light and heat and energy for your personal use.

Your hands work wonderfully well. Your heart circulates your blood all the way out to replenish the energy of the muscles and nerves in your fingers and palms and wrists. And after your blood has delivered its blessings, it finds its way back to your heart to be refreshed. This wondrous mystery recurs over and over again without stopping every minute of your life.

You can smell intoxicating aromas. You can hear provocative and soothing sounds. You can taste a thousand different tastes. How is any of this possible? You can think thoughts any time you want -- big, wide, colorful thoughts or tiny dark burrowing thoughts. You can revel and wallow in great oceans of emotion. What colossal secret intelligence or improbable series of fabulous accidents conspired to bestow these superpowers upon you?

READ AND HEAR THE REST OF THIS PIECE


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MAKE ROOM FOR MORE

Is your schedule too rigid to allow magic to seep in? Then mutate that schedule, please.

Is your brain so crammed with knowledgeable opinions that no fresh perceptions can crack their way in? Then flush out some of those opinions.

Is your heart so puckered by the stings of the past that it can't burst forth with any expansive new invitations? Then unpucker your heart, for God's sake.

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YOUR SOUL MATE?

If you bury your face in your tear-stained pillow and beg God to please send you your soul mate, please don't slur your words in such a way that they sound like "cell mate."

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Below is another excerpt from Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

MIRABILIA REPORT
(Mirabilia: events that inspire wonder, marvelous phenomena, small miracles, beguiling ephemera, inexplicable joys, changes that inspire quiet awe, eccentric enchantments, unplanned jubilations, sudden deliverance from boring evils; from the Latin *mirabilia,* "marvels.")

* The National Center for Atmospheric Research reports that the average cloud is the same weight as 100 elephants.

* The seeds of some trees are so tightly compacted within their protective covering that only the intense heat of a forest fire can free them, allowing them to sprout.

* The average river requires a million years to move a grain of sand 100 miles, says science writer James Trefil.

* Thirty-eight percent of North America is wilderness.

* Anthropologists say that in every culture in history, children have played the game hide and seek.

* With every dawn, when first light penetrates the sea, many seahorse colonies perform a dance to the sun.

* A seven-year-old Minnesota boy received patent number 6,368,227 for a new method of swinging on a swing.

* A chemist in Australia finally succeeded in mixing oil and water.

* Some Christians really do love their enemies, as Jesus recommended.

* The closest modern relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex may be the chicken.

* Kind people are more likely than mean people to yawn when someone near them does.

* The most frequently shoplifted book in America is the Bible.

* There are always so many fragments of spider legs floating in the air that you are constantly inhaling them wherever you go . . . .

READ THE REST of MIRABILIA REPORT here: http://bit.ly/zWK11D

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PROTEST THE DULLNESS

"It is respectable to have no illusions -- and safe -- and profitable and dull," said author Joseph Conrad.

Taking our cue from his liberating derision, I propose that we protest the dullness of having no illusions. Let's decry the blah gray sterility that comes from entertaining no fantastic fantasies and unreasonable dreams. How boring it is to have such machine-like mental hygiene!

So I invite you to celebrate your crazy ideas. Treasure and adore your wacky beliefs. Study all those irrational and insane urges running around your mind to see what you can learn about your deep, dark unconsciousness.

(P.S.: But I'm not saying you should act on any of those phantasms, at least not now. Simply be amused by them.)

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Here's a description of my relationship with the concepts in the book Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia

THE HONEY AND VINEGAR TASTERS

John Keats wrote that "if something is not beautiful, it is probably not true." I celebrate that hypothesis in my book Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia. I further propose that the universe is inherently friendly to human beings; that all of creation is set up to liberate us from our suffering and teach us how to love intelligently; and that life always gives us exactly what we need, exactly when we need it (though not necessarily what we want).

Dogmatic cynics are often so mad about my book's title that they can't bring themselves to explore the inside. Why bother to actually read about such a preposterous idea? They accuse me of intellectual dishonesty, disingenuous Pollyannaism, or New Age delusion.

If they do manage to read even a few pages, they find that the blessings I reference in the title are not materialistic fetishes like luxurious vacation homes, high status, and a perfect physique. I'm more interested in fascinating surprises, dizzying adventures, challenging gifts we hardly know what to do with, and conundrums that compel us to get smarter and wilder and kinder and trickier. I also enjoy exposing secret miracles, like the way the sun continually detonates nuclear explosions in order to convert its own body into heat, light, and energy for our personal use.

But I don't take the cynics' fury personally. When I suggest that life is a sublime mystery designed to grow us all into strong, supple messiahs, I understand that's the equivalent, for them, of denying the Holocaust. They're addicted to a formulation that's the opposite of Keats': If something is not ugly, it is probably not true.

Modern storytellers are at the vanguard of promoting this doctrine, which I refer to as pop nihilism. A majority of journalists, filmmakers, novelists, critics, talk-show hosts, musicians, and pundits act as if breakdown is far more common and far more interesting than breakthrough; that painful twists outnumber redemptive transformations by a wide margin, and are profoundly more entertaining as well.

Earlier in my life, I too worshiped the religion of pop nihilism. In the 1980s, for example, I launched a crusade against what I called "the global genocide of the imagination." I railed against the "entertainment criminals" who barrage us with floods of fake information and inane ugliness, decimating and paralyzing our image-making faculties. For years, much of my creative work was stoked by my rage against the machine for its soulless crimes of injustice and greed and rapaciousness and cruelty.

But as the crazy wisdom of pronoia overtook me in the 1990s, I gradually weaned myself from the gratuitous gratification that wrath offered. Against the grain, I experimented with strategies for motivating myself through crafty joy and purified desire and the longing for freedom. I played with ideas that helped me shed the habit of seeing the worst in everything and everyone. In its place I built a new habit of looking for the best.

But I never formally renounced my affiliation with the religion of cynicism. I didn't become a fundamentalist apostate preaching the doctrine of fanatical optimism. In the back of my wild heart, I knew I couldn't thrive without at least a tincture of the ferocity and outrage that had driven so much of my earlier self-expression.

Even at the height of my infatuation with the beautiful truths that swarmed into me while writing Pronoia, I nurtured a relationship with the awful truths. And I didn't hide that from my readers.

Yes, I did purposely go overboard in championing the cause of liberation and pleasure and ingenuity and integrity and renewal and harmony and love. The book's destiny was, after all, to serve as a counterbalance to the trendy predominance of bad news and paranoid attitudes. It was meant to be an antidote for the pandemic of snark.

But I made sure that Pronoia also contained numerous "Homeopathic Medicine Spells," talismans that cram long lists of the world's evils inside ritually consecrated mandalas. These spells diffuse the hypnotizing lure of doom and gloom by acknowledging the horror with a sardonic wink.

Pronoia also has many variations on a theme captured in William Vollman's testimony: "The most important and enjoyable thing in life is doing something that’s a complicated, tricky problem that you don’t know how to solve."

Furthermore, the book stops far short of calling for the totalitarian imposition of good cheer. I say I can tolerate the news media filling up half their pages and airwaves and bandwidths with poker-faced accounts of decline and degeneration, misery and destruction. All I seek is equal time for stories that inspire us to adore life instead of fearing it. And I'd gladly accept 25 percent. Even 10 percent.

So Pronoia hints at a paradoxical philosophy more complex than a naive quest for beauty and benevolence. It welcomes in a taste of darkness, acknowledging the shadows in the big picture.

TO READ THE REST OF THIS ESSAY, GO HERE.

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MORE PRONOIA RESOURCES


A Happy Life or a Meaningful One -- Do We Really Need to Choose?

"Plastic shopping bags, an abundant source of litter on land and at sea, can be converted into diesel, natural gas and other useful petroleum products, researchers report."
Read more.

"From an evolutionary standpoint, selfishness in humans is not beneficial."

"Why Are We More Optimistic About Ourselves Than About Our Society? It's easier to be hopeful about our individual futures than our collective ones because we have more control over them. But the two are inextricably linked." Read more.

"To My Friend the Climate Defeatist: Here's Why I'm Still In the Fight
It is good to mourn for what's being lost. But giving up just gives the fossil fuel industry what it wants." Read more.

10 Formerly Homeless People Who Used Rock Bottom As A Springboard To Greatness. Read more.

Unleashing Empathy: How Teachers Transform Classrooms With Emotional Learning. The secret to learning self-awareness, cooperation, and other “social and emotional learning” skills lies in experience, not in workbooks and rote classroom exercises.

A new treatment for hepatitis C "cured" 90% of patients with the infection in 12 weeks, scientists said: The study is a "major breakthrough" and marks a "turning point" in hepatitis C treatment, said experts.

The Majestic Lofoten Islands in Norway. Photo by Daniel Korzhonov.

5 Habits of Highly Compassionate Men
"Having compassion leads to increased happiness, freedom from gender stereotypes, and better relationships with others."

10 Things Creative People Know
"Everyday creative activities like knitting and cooking can boost your levels of serotonin and decrease anxiety."

"More solar power was installed in the United States last year than the previous 30 years combined, and the per unit cost of solar power is falling so rapidly it’s soon likely to drop below that of coal." - Robert Reich

Unphotoshopped images of 32 beautiful places.

On Wednesday, March 27th, Texas got almost one-third of its electricity by harnessing the wind.

The rate of childhood obesity has dropped 43% over the last decade, and sales of sugary soft drinks and cereals have plummeted.

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