collaged art
Artwork by Nico Krijno

East Forest on Why the Answers to Our Future Are Already Within Us

We are at a pivotal time in history—and there’s more opportunity in this moment than we realize 

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DoubleBlind Mag

Article by East Forest
Published on

DoubleBlind Mag is devoted to fair, rigorous reporting by leading experts and journalists in the field of psychedelics. Read more about our editorial process and fact-checking here.

We live in a sea of information sickness. Today, a human receives as much information in one day as the average person did 500 years ago in their entire lifetime, according to a study published in the International Journal of Communication. The dominant narrative that grabs our attention is one of fear and widespread collapse; through algorithms of amplification, social media, infotainment, and an increasingly polarized news cycle, we are pushed to distraction and, often, despair. It feels like we are at a pivotal time in history. We find ourselves in a monumental transformation of our civilization, and while our current ways of living are increasingly proving unsustainable, I believe that there is more personal opportunity in this moment than we typically realize.

I had the chance to connect with philosopher and activist Bayo Akomolafe during the pandemic via my podcast, and I continue to unravel a concept he presented: That we are in a process of “composting.” On the face of it, many of our trusted systems—healthcare, government services, the education system—are, indeed, falling apart, failing, and dying. Yet, perhaps, in the breaking down there is also a fertilization, and as Bayo fondly calls it, a becoming. “Maybe,” as Bayo says, “the invitation is still being made.”

collaged art
Artwork by Nico Krijno

Another mentor of mine, Court Johnson (the speaker in my song “10 Laws”), likes to say that the “soul sets up the lesson until we learn.” In this thinking, perhaps our collective soul is setting up a lesson or opportunity with increasing loudness as the doorways of change continue to open wider and wider.

This unique time is manifesting as a concrescence of pressures, global in nature, forcing us to finally choose. But choose what? Who is choosing? In our culture, we often carry the belief that someone else will fix our problems. We hold an outside-in mindset. As individuals, we usually feel separate from one another and the world around us, inconsequential and unable to affect change.

We may feel like a listless ship sailing nowhere, yet what if we accept the notion that our hands are on the wheel, whether we like it or not? If this is the case, we might as well pick a direction to point the vessel. We may not be able to control the seas or storms around us, but we can choose a horizon to move toward, a set of stars to guide our way. In essence, we are already choosing unconsciously unless we consciously choose to choose.

I am not opening the timeless and broad discussion of free will as many before me and many who have yet to come can debate this issue more eloquently. I am simply speaking of cultivating our ability to make choices in our daily lives: choosing how we react, observing what lights us up, or noticing what we strive for. Whether or not one believes we have free will, being human is to make a series of choices every day.

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Choice initiates causes and effects. Picking a direction is like tossing a pebble into the water. When you make a choice, you are dropping a cause into the ocean, creating effects or ripples that move outward. Those ripples invariably bounce off of other conditions, undulating back, and, thus, we get the feedback of life. These echoes form a conversation with the Universe built from our choices. The choices we make, small and large, are the mechanisms by which we shape the world that we live in.

READ: Goodbye, Ram Dass, We Love You

collaged art
Artwork by Nico Krijno

I feel that all collective change originates from the inside out, one individual at a time. Societal tides shift by combining individual currents. The answers to our future will not come from newsfeeds, social media or upcoming legislation. Instead, they are already within us, waiting to be heard, endlessly blossoming. Using your heart as your compass, you can learn to navigate by a set of stars of your choosing. The ability to forge this constellation of guidance is done through a process of inner discovery.

Choices made from the mind are different from those made with the heart. To know is different than to Know. The former is about an intellectual “knowing,” a knowing with our head-mind, while the latter is about a deeper visceral Knowing, a Knowing that transcends doubt and comes from the heart-mind. We can develop practices and rituals that open up the airwaves of the heart-language to Knowing, to allow the role of discernment from the mind to blend with the trust of the heart. I believe that as collective pressures create cracks in the concrete of old ways, a newness is already breaking through that we can midwife through a process of introspection. By learning how to listen within, we are making opportunities for our intuitive heart-mind to be heard—we can create the invitation to be spoken to.

My heart tells me that our destiny is a potential, and it requires that we choose it. That may sound like a paradox, but that is the language of the heart. It is true because I choose it.

You get to decide which way to point your ship. One path may appear at the outset to offer a near-term destination on an existing map. Another direction might offer mostly a feeling, in which the map can never encompass the territory. You cannot see beyond the horizon that you are drawn to, but by clearing away the noise obfuscating your heart-compass, a Knowing is revealed that is more than enough to steer with.

By learning to listen to our internal landscapes, we take charge. As we clear away the layers of noise, we can hear that which is already there. So how do we listen? How do we set the stage to choose? We give ourselves over to something tender and unseen, inviting the unknown. We meditate. We find repose. We cultivate being versus incessant doing. We walk in nature. We observe and encourage wonder. We listen to music with our full attention.

We create—anything. We do one thing at a time. We accept the miracles and synchronicities that happen to us, big and small. We ask for help. We serve. We practice: yoga, breathwork, free-writing, singing, creativity, devotion, psychedelic insight, and exercise. We engage with a therapist. We play with ritual and ceremony. We volunteer and live in the receiving and giving of gifts, energetic and beyond. We forgive; we apologize; we tell the truth. We trust that a becoming is underway and follow our excitement and joy. We pause.

We listen without judgment. In this process and practice, we invariably move from choices of I to choices of Us. The recognition becomes that of interconnected beingness, revealing one choice. And that choice is to love. We engage in this co-creative conspiracy of awakening from the inside out and discover that the way out of our collective mess is in. We lovingly remind ourselves, as my friend Court likes to say, that “all choices are valid, and everyone graduates.”

It is also important to recognize the imbalance of opportunities and support for everyone to be able to employ the full bandwidth of individual choice. Whether it be barriers people face due to socioeconomic disparities, racial politics, gender or a myriad of additional systemic oppressions, we don’t all have equal access to personal development. The ability to explore our own hearts and consciousness is a fundamental human right. And for those consciously exploring their inner landscapes, a self-check to avoid engaging in spiritualized, narcissistic bypassing is asking yourself the degree to which your actions are ultimately helping others. We are all within the same depths of one great ocean of creation, and self-reflection should ultimately work to balance the inequities that stand in the way of universal support for inner work.

READ: The Function of Awe

collaged art
Artwork by Nico Krijno

When engaging in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, our interior work should not be avoided or seen as trivial—internal equanimity is a primary step toward healing our own wounds so that we can step out from a place of truth and peace. Doing ‘service work’ internally is the first step to serving others externally. When we heal and love our individual wounds, we also avoid wounding others. Self-examination and social good can be like kindred spirits in which an individual act can ultimately become a social act.

The Dalai Lama speaks of self-reflection as a catalyst for action. He describes how we are not meant to be indifferent. There does exist in the world a great deal of imbalance and social injustice, and we can each choose to do our part to balance the scales. As we connect with our own energetic web of reverberating choices (the undulating ripples of cause and effect), we find ourselves in an ocean of interconnectedness. The illusion of separateness, the illusion of there being a separate self, dissolves. Invariably our attention shifts toward service and a desire to benefit and love all beings.

The rawest constituent ingredients of this concept were illuminated to me by the spiritual teacher Ram Dass when I had the blessing of sitting with him while recording our collaborative album, Ram Dass. Before we had spent much time together he offered me his purest presence, complete and resolute, fully open to our shared moment—“Loving Awareness,” as he calls it. It was the greatest gift he could have given me and was also a powerful teaching. We all have the option to choose Loving Awareness.

The real beauty of our incarnation is that we get to choose—and the gift is that it’s up to us. One by one, we can return home to see the loving energy of creation within, and, in this revelation, we can choose the world that wants to be.

DoubleBlind Magazine does not encourage or condone any illegal activities, including but not limited to the use of illegal substances. We do not provide mental health, clinical, or medical services. We are not a substitute for medical, psychological, or psychiatric diagnosis, treatment, or advice. If you are in a crisis or if you or any other person may be in danger or experiencing a mental health emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency resources. If you are considering suicide, please call 988 to connect with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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