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Joyce's Celebration, My New Heart,

Tao & Christianity

Dear Friends and Family,
The celebration of Joyce's Life will be held outdoors in the Crystal Stone Circle on June 28, 2008, surrounded by the flowers and garden terraces that Joyce so masterfully designed. (Nice photo of

Joyce at the Stone Circle Heart-Warming, 2005:

 Joyce requested this event be held in early summer so that everyone could enjoy the lush fullness of the garden. It's an opportunity to feel Joyce's presence in the garden landscape she so lovingly infused with her essence. There will be a Soul Release ceremony for any aspects of Joyce that still need to move on.

Part of Joyce's ashes will be scattered in the gardens by ceremony participants. The remainder will be offered to the Caribbean Sea next winter. I intend to mark the third eye of a passing dolphin with her ash, who will then swim her vibration into the pulsating golden heart of Greater Mother Earth. Multitudes of fish will sing the hallelujahs. Hula dancers as far away as the South Pacific will feel the wave of undulating love, and sway their hips a little faster.

If you come, you will undoubtedly experience some similar magical moments. 
                   Michael Takes It On The Chin

Please allow me to shift the focus for a moment. We need to talk frankly.
I do have one concern at this event - and that is whether you will recognize ME.

I was in Holland teaching a few weeks ago. Something happened. I got badly cut. It left my face virtually unrecognizable. When I walk the streets of Asheville, old friends pass by without noticing me. I'm not sure whether it's a tragedy or a comedy - it's very hard to judge the radical alteration of one's own face.

I'm speaking of the Demon Barber of Amsterdam. Without even a wince, he brutally massacred hundreds of gentle hairs growing peacefully in the private garden on my chin, known as my beard. 

I hadn't seen my chin in nearly 40 years. Afterwards, gasping into the mirror,  I could not even recognize myself. So I certainly don't expect you to pick me out of a crowd. To remove any uncomfortable social moments from Joyce's Life Celebration - "Who is the one to console, dear?" -  I've enclosed a photo taken shortly after the deadly deed. 

You will note that there is actually three days worth of stubble in this photo. I couldn't remember how to shave....and hadn't yet got up my courage to try a sharp blade near my throat.

The question: who actually inspired this act of wanton nakedness? 

I believe this was Joyce's doing. When women want to change themselves, they change their hairdo. Well, as you know from my earlier letter, Joyce has a new leverage point, deep in my heart. So there was no fight.
Of course, that letter about her heart essence jumping into bed with mine has got a lot of my friends, wondering: how am I REALLY doing? 
Of course, I miss terribly Joyce's physical presence as a lifelong friend and wonderful companion. There are big holes in my life and our home that were left empty with her passing. Marriage is like a vast civilization; it is not easy to quickly dismantle its psychic and emotional infrastructure. I am letting it dissolve naturally, so I don't find myself trying to squeeze some other Goddess into Joyce's unique shoes.

But to be honest, I don't feel the deep loneliness, grief, or sadness at her death that I expected to, after 25 years of sharing. I'm sure it's because my old heart does not really exist anymore.  I continue to experience a completely new vibration from our integrated (androgynous) heart union. My power to feel in my heart center has been growing spontaneously every day, and is causing all kinds of other shifts to happen. I'm still quite amazed.

After a month, I have a more clear perspective. Our heart fusion was not really about my or Joyce's personal desire to continue loving each other. That love was only a pre-requisite for what happened. Rather it was an opportunity for our immediate higher level of Self, call it whatever you like - our oversoul, our soul collective, our stellar minds - to experiment. 

I've been closely tracking my internal changes in feeling, and the new feelings are not coming from what I recognize as my personal self. I'm getting clear signals it was the Greater Self that wanted to explore a new way to manifest. I believe our Greater Self decided to use our love and close spiritual relationship to have some new experience of itself in physicality. 

Why do I believe this? How to describe such a subtle experience?

For me, the experience changes. Sometimes it is like trying to steer a car from the backseat - while some invisible force has its foot on the gas pedal. Unnerving big surges of power come at odd moments. I try to keep the car on the road....I mean literally keep the wheels touching earth. The surges are like spiritual wheelies.

At other times it is like a big river, flowing smoothly and unstoppably from my inner heart space, out into my physical space. It flows uni-directionally, primarily out my chest/forward into the world. I've concluded that it is my androgynous (male-female balanced) heart fusion experience with Joyce that energetically holds open an internal portal. The yin heart fire- yang heart fire equilibrium is what allows the spiritual juice to flow in more easily. 

The Taoist tradition gives me the language to describe this, cosmologically. One possible interpretation: when male and female heart essences are held in stable equilibrium, it holds open the gate that is called xuan guan, the Gate of the Mysterious or Dark Female. This portal is the Taoist way to describe the birthing mechanism of creation - the infinitely deep, dark womb whose yin-yang bellows ceaselessly births the formless into form. It's the neutral space between Heaven and Earth. Humans have the capacity, through spiritual cultivation, to open wider that Gate.

In the body, the Taoists often locate the portal where Heaven enters our Earth/body as "the moving chi between the left and right kidneys". It's called the mingmen, or Door of Life. The inner heart space is a higher octave of that portal. The heart is the center of feeling where the vertical tension between heaven and earth is resolved/redeemed by human love, acceptance, and forgiveness.

I continue to experience a widening and a deepening in my inner heart space.  I can see, from the direction of "flow", that this widened portal is not designed so I can leave this life more easily. It's not a handy escape route to liberation elsewhere. Rather, it's to facilitate Spirit in its penetration and conversion into Matter. This Spirit-Matter flux is what the alchemical meditation process is designed to investigate. Skill with that is how I can even notice what is going on.

But the Matter cultivated by inner alchemy is not ordinary Matter; it is Primal Matter. It is infused with neutral force (Original Breath, or yuan chi). The constant polar exchange between Spirit and Matter is at the heart of all alchemical work, east and west. The infusion of neutral force  – neutral describes any "unconditional" or non-personal virtue such as divine love, compassion, mercy, grace, etc. –  is what permanently reduces suffering. 

Suffering is caused by the extreme polarization of male-female, good-evil, rich--poor, powerful-weak, etc. Add some neutral energy into the mix and you feel some bliss rising in the midst of your suffering, or laughter through tears, or any paradox you choose. Of course, many spiritual traditions are working on this; Taoist alchemy just makes it conscious in a particular and embodied way.

I chose not to get into the complexity of Taoist cosmology in my earlier letter on  "shijie" - practicing liberation from a corpse.  I felt it might distract from the immediate event. But Christian-influenced readers of my letter were naturally somewhat confused as to how to integrate my experience into their religious belief system. It may help to know that the 12 Zodiacal beings of Western astrology are equivalent, in the Chinese calendar, to the 12 Terrestrial or Earthly Branches reflected in the sky. These 12 calendrical "Gods" are actually the "faces", the phases or functions of what religion would call God. These are the 12 oversouls that unfold the yin-yang (expanding-condensing) and five phase cycles (sacred directions) of creation.  In the Taoist Way, all 12 are integrated into an underlying primordial Oneness. 
Tao has no single Deity ruling everything, no ruling God in the sense many Christians talk about God as a Supreme Being. Rather the Tao focus is on the unifying process of the Life Force that rules this Cosmos, which is viewed as a natural being of which we all are part.

The Tao (as I accept it) is a processual Way that regulates through three streams of consciousness - at the highest level, identified by what is commonly called the Three Pure Ones. This Three-in-One deification has complex layers of resonance with numerous trinities: Heaven, Earth, and Humanity; with Spirit, Mind, Body (as shen/chi/jing); and with negative-positive-neutral (yin-yang-yuan) currents of the Life Force. 

These trinities allow for a smooth yet dynamic continuum of human experience. Things move in circles or spheres; there is no clear dichotomy between the divine and the mundane as you might find in Plato or in most forms of Christianity, the saved and the sinners. For Christians, think of the parallel to the Tao trinity as Father-Son-Holy Ghost. The Taoists simply map out the relations between the Holy Trinity, at every level of existence, down to the hairs on our physical body. Tao cosmology is extremely detailed - the 12 faces of God become the 12 "officials" or acupuncture meridians that rule your physical body.

If you want to explore the closest Taoist approach to Western religion, check out the Process Theology movement, designed to bridge the Immanent and Transcendent split in Christianity. See Jews are into it also. Joyce got great satisfaction in her final days in reading process theologian/Jewish priest Harold Kushner's old classic, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. The thesis is that God is omni-present, but not omni-potent. The Free Will has been spread around....into us, into cancer viruses, everything in this Cosmos. The book helped Joyce release some Catholic-bred sense of childhood guilt at not healing herself of some unnamed sin.

But what about bridging the Christian notion of a single "soul" and the Taoist notion of a "soul team of five vital organ spirits"? It's actually pretty easy to bridge. I suggest you read the books of a strongly Christian writer Peter Novak. His Lost Secret of Death: Our Divided Souls and the After Life is a good place to start. Original Christianity is his followup. Or first check the website: to get a fast glimpse of what is known as 'binary soul" theory.

Novak's wife died from suicide at age 27, and his grief and curiosity about what happened to her drove him to explore what all the ancient and modern religions of the world believed about the afterlife. What he found out is that ALL the ancient religions had a multiple soul theory for humans, i.e. an earth-bound soul and a heaven-connected soul, sometimes (as in the Taoist case) further divided into more sub-soul aspects. Even early Christianity drew a distinction between an earth-based Soul and a heaven-based Spirit, that got erased during early Church politicking over the nature of Christ. 

Among other modern religions, only some Buddhists have tried to erase the soul itself, that only Emptiness is real. I guess we'll all know the truth when we cross the finish line....:)

What is relevant here is that at death, the earthly and heavenly souls don't necessarily integrate. That creates very different post-death experiences, as Peter Novak documents from his extensive research into all the past-life, near-death, and reincarnational literature. 

This need to integrate the earthly and heavenly aspects of the soul is what lies at the heart of my and Joyce's path of Taoist internal alchemy meditation. It's a specific kind of spiritual cultivation that makes the soul integration process conscious and intentional to very high levels, and speeds it up. Of course, other spiritual paths achieve integration in different ways, even if its not labeled as such. But making it conscious offers greater freedom of choice, as I unexpectedly found out. Binary soul theory could allow for Joyce's decision to merge her heart essence (the heaven-connected aspect of her spirit) with my heart, after she left her body.

I think that is enough food for thought, until some of us meet on June 28. I'm sure, after I spend time in the incredibly powerful Taoist Holy mountains on my China Dream Trip happening before Joyce's Life Celebration, that the story will get even richer. I will be riding around the stone circle on a dragon's back that I've lassoed in China.....

Meanwhile, I will be here, scratching my chin, wondering why it feels so smooth.

Love, chi, blessings,

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