Shamanic call: Sun stare, thorn climb, blue rose

I have retitled this as Sun Stare to avoid conflict with native groups who believe that my experience was not a sundance and/or the term sundance is exclusively native.

Now I will get to my September, 1991 mystic sun stare/thorn climb/blue rose vision first manic episode, at the age of 27.5, or 2.5 solar cycles, 2-7 days before new moon, with onset 2-3 days after an M-class solar flare. I'll subdivide this page later, or add more navigational jumps. If you are only interested in the sun stare and blue rose vision skim over the first few paragraphs and jump to Sun stare. It is written in a rather dry prosaic first person style which might put people off more than a third person account or mystic poem/story laden with glorious symbolic imagery would, but some like facts.

In early August of 1991 I was back in Newfoundland, and experienced a stellar folk festival, including the last time I heard Newfoundland fiddler Emile Benoit (last album was Vive la Rose, named after a Belgian folk song) live. I think he used to swirl the chi at concerts as well as I do or better, since on one occasion when Figgy Duff was on stage I felt something and turned around and there he was dancing. I thought of his music while on the thorns (later).

Not long after I returned to Vancouver I and some friends caught an amazing near-sunset outdoor concert from Sarah McLachlan, at the PNE bowl, Aug. 28, 1991. During her set a formation of dark birds wheeled by in the background, reminding me (now) of some "mermaids" (humpback whales) I had heard on the Southern Avalon in the summer of 1983, also backed by birds and a mystic sunset. Anyway, Sarah's voice flowed through me like a river, leaving me buoyed up later, but not hypomanic yet.

That week I was busy planning orientation activities for the UBC grad student centre, including a big concert with celtic rock band The Stoaters, plus hoping to have some geophysics Ph.D. thesis work ready to show my supervisor. This stress and associated sleep deprivation also contributed to the intensity of the mystic manic episode, later.

Then on the afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 31, 1991, I walked down the hill to deliver a deposit cheque for my fall Iyengar yoga class to my new teacher, Gioia Irwin, who I had not met before except by phone. When I met her it seemed as though there was an energy about her (not visual), a lightness, and this transferred to me --- after I gave her the cheque I bounced up the hill. This I have come to realize was a proximity-induced raising of kundalini, or shaktipat, though in some cases it is more sudden, and can even manifest like an epileptic seizure. In this case it was one of many factors (including music) and was gradual. But it is well known in the Kundalini literature that such shaktipat awakening of Kundalini can trigger or be equivalent to a manic attack. I wonder if some of other such cases still living have cycles similar to mine, most bipolars do not.

In the evening of Aug. 31, 1991, there was a crack or two of clear sky lightning, just after sunset. Such flashes have occurred at the start of two later waning crescent hypomanic episodes as well. One morning of that week, about Sept. 3, there was another flash through my curtains, but that was probably a reflection of sunlight off moving glass. I postulate that clear sky lightning flashes result from ionospheric activity 2 to 3 days after an M-class or larger solar flare.

That evening (Aug. 31) I had an excellent seafood meal at a Greek restaurant and then dragged some friends to a multi-media performance concert at the Pitt International Gallery. This had art on the walls, performance poetry, improvisational jazz, and two rock bands: Zza Zza & the Angels (or Limos?) and Rockaway Revue, to whom I did some ecstatic sweaty dancing to 3 a.m. This creative stuff and dancing was another factor in the manic trigger.

After the multi-media performance art/rock show, I went home and took a shower and then, in the early hours of Sept. 1/91, a shower of ideas began. At first all were good and related to my grad centre orientation plans, but then after a day or two I was trying to write down too much and implement too much for that year by myself. The ideas expanded in circles to healing problems with the campus and then to establishing a grad student run think tank to solve many of the problems with society. I put some of this in a slightly garbled memo to the university deans and president, and after that my supervisor talked me into setting a psychiatrist's appointment for Friday September 6.

As it turned out, not all my ideas that week (Sept. 1--5) were bad; my concert organization resulted in the most successful event in the history of the UBC grad student society, on Sept. 13, but I missed it since by that time I was in hospital.

Then on the late morning of Thursday, September, 5, 1991 I awoke refreshed and feeling that all was right with the world, that a new age was at hand; that all the people who were in for "20 years of boredom" (to quote Leonard Cohen) were coming back, and that there would be a meeting at Vancouver's nude Wreck Beach of lots of hippies/celts/pagans/new-agers/gypsies/etc later that day.

That day I saw beautiful linkages in all my music and books, and left them strewn around the apartment. I played stuff such as John Lennon's Instant Karma/Give Peace a Chance/All we are Saying from the Shaved Fish LP. I put on every button I owned, then decided they looked too gaudy and took them off. I then left my watch/keys/wallet there, left my apartment door wide open (and at the time the building front door was unlocked) and an incredibly long orientation week event listing on my GE answering machine, and then walked off towards Wreck Beach.

I walked east on W.4th, then through Jericho Beach (folk festival site), then Locarno/Spanis Banks East/Spanish Banks West and towards Tower Beach, a few hours before sunset. But I didn't make it to the (watch)Tower Beach, let alone Wreck Beach.

Sun stare: A few hundred meters east of the first tower I began gradually stripping off as I proceded forward. First went my nice Banff centre sweatshirt, then brand new runners and socks, then my sweatpants, then finally about a hundred meters east of the first tower (around the bend so the tower is not visible, I think), I dropped my few-month old red glasses in the shallow water to be completely naked (well outside the nude beach area) and with out of focus vision of anything more than a few inches away. During the stripping process I chose my path carefully, as if it had symbolic meaning --- i.e., it mattered whether I went around a log or over it, under a net line or over it, and so on. Also I symbolically linked land and sea by tossing a floating object into the trees and a beach rock or log into the water.

Just before this there was brief vision of a number of spirits, like a stream of blurry spirits flowing by, one with a western hat. I rarely (almost never, except for this day/night) have any visions, and interpret this as those who had done something like this before.

This stripping, and the sun stare (next), was also witnessed by a few people on the beach, including an old fisher.

Then I waded out to knee or hip deep water. It was near high tide. I then began a "call to the sun" with little leg movement but arm gestures at the sun, and some noises, perhaps a chant of some kind. I don't remember if I had Sarah McLachlan's song Into the Fire ("I shall stare at the sun, until its light doesn't blind me") in mind but may have, at least subconsciously, though that was only one factor, and I had not thought of her much all week, if at all. I certainly did not have that song in mind when I set out that day. The next line of the song ("I shall walk into the fire...") I now (1997) interpret as related to coming out of the solar low forsaken/wilderness year, the ashes of the Hindu cremation ground, into new creativity.

I then began staring at the sun, a white throbbing disk, when the time was not much more than two hours before sunset. Normally I would have sneezed to avert the eyes, but this time did not. (Luckily I did not have my -11/-10 diopter lenses on, so any focus formed well off the retina.) Instead I stared intently until it seemed that my entire being was extending out and calling to the sun and even beyond, in some sort of tunnelling effect, I think a glimpse into higher dimensions, and sort of as if you placed two mirrors facing one another and peeked inside, that sort of curved tunneling (which also looked like a divine curved horn of oil with its wide mouth towards me). I was caught up in a powerful mystic experience. It was as if there was a higher dimensional unfolding, as if the 3 dimensions tilted or dimpled somehow and there was a wraparound effect, as if there were giant butterfly wings folding in around me. I, a mere mortal, grabbing at the skyhook, was then overloaded and blacked out for an instant. I fell forward into the water and came to almost immmediately, and with back arched and chest up floating as if in the upward-facing-dog pose of the yoga sun salutation (inhaled and chest up so I wouldn't drown). So that was sort of baptism by nature in a way, and possibly extension to my higher dimensional form that I have gradually learned to use some I think (and may continue to gradually learn to use) later and as a result I think I may have some special abilities though some of those are episodic, and I have yet to prove objectively that I have special abilities, but to me, subjectively, they appear to work at times. Some discussion of such will go in the section avatar-1's, avatar-2's, Yoginis, devis, and soul when I complete that section, it currently isn't there yet but may be by the time you read this. But note that I have no divination ability, even though in the past I have thought I did.

This was observed by a few people, including an old fisher, who then got me to pull on his net (perhaps for luck? or I may have imagined the request) but seeing that I was not much good at it (my brother James would be better), he gestured me away. Perhaps he was Musqueam but I suspect Greek Canadian.

Also as I began up the hill away from the beach, leaving my clothes and glasses behind, I put my hand on a pair of flip-flop beach sandals that someone had left on a rock, and a young couple told me to leave them, to get my own stuff. But I stupidly did not go back for my stuff or forward along the beach to the nude Wreck Beach, but straight up the sandy, not thorny, slope towards (supposedly) the grad centre where I wanted to get (naked :-]) before sunset.

My eyes were not damaged much if at all, probably partly because the pupils closed up a bit, partly because it was two hours before sunset and not high noon, partly because a full sun disk is actually less damaging than an eclipse sliver, and partly because my eyes are so bad that, with my glasses off (they were), the focus formed well in front of the retina. I don't recommend anyone else trying this "sun stare" unless he or she is inspired and also very short-sighted like me.

So anyway, on the hill I could not see much, but that was just because of my lack of glasses (plus later the dark night of two days before new moon).

As it turned out, though I didn't know, the point where I stopped for the sun stare is below the thorniest hillside along NW Marine Drive (not far east and slightly down the hill from the Museum of Anthropology) in Vancouver's Pacific Spirit Park. Blackberry (actually they may be a similar species with thicker vines) thorns spill from out onto NW Marine Drive at the top to down about 2/3 of the way to the beach. The top is now cut back a little for a bicycle path but is easy to spot, lots of thorns, near/above the first residential street intersection with Marine Drive as you go down, not the first patch of thorns as you go down NW Marine Drive but a much bigger patch with perhaps 5 m of extent next to the bicycle path; in fact I am more sure of the top location now than the bottom.

But at the bottom it was a sandy slope, and I had no indication of the pain in store my naked body. As I started up the sandy ground gradually got steeper and then more overgrown and slightly thorny. Eventually I admitted to myself that I wouldn't get up to the grad centre by sunset and thought I would be left behind in some exodus, having opened the way. (But no, we were all left to work towards heaven on earth.) I then did a mini-stare-at-the-sun, this time through a leaf, with a much slighter upper samodhi/kundalini surge effect (no lower chakra shakti surge, which developed since). On the way up some tree sap fell on me and I ate it.

After that it gradually got dark, and I progressed on upwards. It got thornier and thornier, but I felt that this would be over soon, this must be the worst. Eventually I came to one clay/sand area with few thorns, a hollow with lots of thorns above it, and there felt kind of paranoid that the military were out to get me. I hid there, pretending to be a rock or tree, and waited, cold and alone for all noises to cease. I was cold, and in an attempt to stay warm I masturbated but I forget what woman I fantasized about. I doubt it was Sarah McLachlan since I didn't fall for her until 1992. This attempt to stay warm didn't work very well (I remained cold and the orgasm was rather weak). I slept briefly, then went onward, around 3 a.m. I would guess. Before I went on I was "air fiddling," sending some Emile Benoit tunes to the new moon (actually it was two days before new moon, it was early Sept. 6 and new moon was early Sept. 8) and the ocean, my left hand the sky, right the ocean, me in between. [words in the sky, music in earth, me in between, song to give birth]

As I went on it got even thornier, a complete covering of the hillside with overlapping thorny vines, with thorns spaces so than a finger could not grip the vine between them, and blunt enough that they pierced the outer layer of skin but not much further, so I did't lose much blood. But both hands and feet had to be supported up the steep hillside on thorns, and it was actually less agonizing to stay stuck on them than to move a limb up from one set of thorns and place weight on the next set. It felt like an evolutionary stairway to heaven; I felt like a salmon caught in a net and at one point said out loud or just thought silently "let this atone for the deaths of the Beothuck people."

Every time I thought I was over the worst, suddenly there was more (else I would have turned back long before). For a while I was actually screaming a bit, but it being near 4 a.m. (I think) nobody came, except I heard dog (Coyote?) footsteps approaching the thorns and then receding, once. (This was under Raven new moon skies [actually it was two days before new moon].)

Eventually I got near the top, and just before the top had a clear vision of a glowing blue rose, of a colour blue that is partway from sky blue to sea blue, but is closer to sky blue. At the time I did not know or think about the mystical significance of this, but just admired it briefly. I did not touch it because it was the only one, and tried to smell it but if there was any smell it was very delicate.

This rose was not a fuzzy or moving image or in the mind's eye or closed eye vision, but actually growing right there in front of me, three-dimensional and sharp, the clearest vision by far of any I have ever had (I don't have visions, usually) if it was a vision (i.e., if another observer there could not have seen it and a camera there could not record it). I saw it clearly from close up, just inches away from my eyes and I forget if it was clear close up and fuzzier at a distance due to my lack of glasses or not.

Since this I have thought about it a bit but not talked too much with others about it. The mystic blue rose (like the one in the song Bright Blue Rose on Christy Moore's The Voyage recording) is I think an important Sufi symbol. In Christianity there is the rose of Sharon, and also the blue dress of Mary. The rose is an important symbol in Ireland. But for me the blue rose symbolizes the living planet, the earth, Gaia (who some call Mary).

However, I am not associated with any religious organization nor do I intend to start one. My current individualistic/eclectic spirituality is described on deities and beliefs and its subpages. I also try to live by my non-religious messages, on my main messages and derived messages, but they are non-religious messages and I do not consider them part of my individualistic/eclectic spirituality working theories.

Oh, and for some the blue rose could symbolize the fragrant blue Krishna, or equivalent to the blue lotus. Originally I called it a blue flower, since I knew there were no blue roses, but it did look more like a rose than lotuses I have seen pictures of. I suspect the words for lotus and rose in some ancient (or even modern?) Indian language/dialect and/or Romany are similar in pronounciation at least, and would appreciate knowledgeable comment on this.

Shortly after the blue rose vision I came to the final clump of thorns, a hedge-like mass spilling out onto the grass next to NW Marine Drive. I could not get over this steep clump by lifting one leg first since it would have caused my genitals to be hooked, which I wanted to avoid. So I had to do a salmon leap forward onto my belly and scramble on all fours over the clump. I made it!

The instant my tortured feet hit wet grass it felt like heaven, but then I had to move, and walking even on wet grass (and then on pavement) was agony, so I went back to hell. Without my glasses I could not read street signs from very far. The pole lamps looked like balls of light, unfocussed and glowing, or tree ornaments, or glowing insect eyes. I wandered from door to door a bit (like the hero in Rawlins Cross Wild Rose song), drank from an outdoor tap (which was designed for a garden hose but didn't have one attached when I drank from it), initially went up the hill toward UBC but then turned around and went off on a side street.

It was a grey morning, like the grey fairyland of celtic myth, pre-dawn, and there was no sign of life, even no natural sounds, just some of distant engines on the water. I began to believe that everyone else had "gone on" and left me behind in a world devoid of good sounds. But then I heard an early morning shakuhachi (or native) flute player and wandered that way. However his or her gate was a complicated one to my naked eyes, like a closed Nitobe Garden inner/outer gate (actually Nitobe Garden gate is simpler, this was like the wood-bounded path between the Asian Centre and Nitobe Garden gate plus Nitobe Garden gate). So I went next door, where there was a fountain in the yard, and plonked myself down on the outdoor carpeted doorstep between two large potted plants. Later the homeowner asked me to go away or he'd call the police; I asked him to call me an ambulance, and he did, and they took me to UBC hospital not far away.

In the Emergency ward I had the thought my hands were converted into healing devices by the acupuncture effect of the thorns, and tried to get up to help a woman suffering from bee sting reaction. But staff restrained me gently, and wheeled me off to the mental health ward. My first night there, when they closed the main doors I felt caged and paranoid and placed one hand under the tap, one in the toilet, envisioned a river running through me, and invoked Gaia to protect me.

Also for the first few days my thorn-damaged hands recieved mini-shocks from metal cutlery, so I had to wrap it in a paper towel. I think this was some kind of acupuncture/chi effect, due to the natural acupuncture effect of the thorns, and may be why many Asians do not use metal cutlery, but instead other materials.

I was fine after a few days, but stayed in for a few weeks while they gradually built up my lithium.

I forgot to mention a few things about the five week hospital stay.

In addition to the tingling when I picked up metal utensils, I also was a vegetarian for the first few days, then reverted. (Since then I have gone back to a lacto-ovo-pisce-vegetarian diet, from Sept94 to now.)

In the drawer of the room I was first admitted to, a previous patient had left a copy of the third book in Fred Pohl & Jack Williamson's The Starchild Trilogy. This book, Rogue Star, is partly about intelligent stars, and I found this a spooky coincidence given the sun stare episode.

My doctor's name was D. (David, I think) Irwin, so the same last name as my yoga teacher.

In my room after the first day or two I began practicing some basic yoga asanas, including the shoulder stand. After the first week or two I was allowed out around campus during the day by myself. I missed the first yoga class, but after that hospital staff allowed me to go off campus on a bus to my yoga class, then back to the hospital for the night, and even kept my supper for me. I don't think they were supposed to do this but it sure helped. My yoga teacher Gioia Irwin probably didn't know that for the last few weeks of Sept91 and the first class of Oct91 I was in mental hospital. Since I had to rush off after class I didn't get a chance to tell her then. Perhaps I should have phoned her from hospital. Later I did tell her that I was on lithium, and experienced occasional waning moon highs, but not muh about my mystic experiences, sparks, tingling, etc. I owe her a long letter soon. For those in Vancouver I highly recommend her as a yoga teacher.

Earlier in my narrative I mentioned how the pre-dawn hours of Sept. 6, 1991 were grey, like the cold grey fairyland mentioned in the recording by the Irish band Deanta (who I haven't heard yet) and also in the partly fictional book The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. When I was picked up by the ambulance I had slept twice, once amidst the thorns and once on the doorstep, and was under the impression that it was Saturday, not Friday. Hence for a while I thought there was a missing day.

When in the hospital, not long after coming mostly out of it with the aid of Ativan and Haldol and lithium, I wrote an "AGU Abstract" (American Geophysical Union fall meeting Abstract) supposedly for presentation at the December fall meeting in San Francisco. It combined Gaia theory, the collective consciousness and the theory of an intelligent cyberspace, and said that humans could act as white blood cells in healing the physical problems of Gaia (environmental problems) and provide self-counselling strategies to heal the mental ills (social problems). This I called "SocioEnvironMental Health" or something (I have it somewhere). But my supervisor and friends gently dissuaded me from sending it in (actually by the time I had access to mail/etc. I had no intention of submitting it).

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