Why the Shades of Awakening Online Series Matters


From July 10th to 12th , 2015, there will be a rather unique conference happening, the Shades of Awakening Online Series. Created by Dabney Alix (see dabneyalix.com) this free event brings together twelve speakers who will talk about the relationship between so-called mental disorders and spirituality. As I´ve been making videos and researching this topic since 2007, this is a huge deal for me!

Some of the speakers, such as Emma Bragdon and Paris Williams, have posted here on Mad in America. However, most others have been working at our cause in different parts of the world, in their own way, like I am here in Sao Paulo, Brazil. And what is that cause, exactly?

As all of you on Mad in America are aware, being labeled with a mental disorder can be devastating. However, for a few of us, we immediately recognized our “disorder” as a breakthrough – a re-ordering of the psyche, if you will. As it turns out, in most cases where this re-ordering takes place, there tends to be a very powerful “spiritual” component. Now, the word “spiritual” is a very broad term that is interpreted in many different ways, so let me be more specific.

The spiritual experiences I’m talking about are direct mystical experiences. They include things like (1) heightened senses (enhanced taste, smell, vision, touch and hearing),  (2) a feeling of ecstasy, (3) an overwhelming sense of oneness similar to what is called Samadhi among Hindu mystics, (4) feeling that you are dead or dying, (5) that you are a saint or messiah figure of some kind, (6) that you are in a cosmic conflict between good and evil, (7) that you are here to save the world, (8) that you are being tested by God, etc.

In my own anomalous experience of 1996, my own sense of ecstasy and oneness was so powerful, that I thought I’d died and was heading for Heaven (or some sort of Nirvana). Wanting to arrive in a pure state, I took off my clothes in a hotel ballroom. Even when the police arrested me, I still thought they were taking me to Heaven. I would go on to spend four nights in the psychiatric hospital before I was released, unmedicated. I never had another relapse.

Sometimes these experiences happen to people who identify as being religious; however, the vast majority of the people who have contacted me to share their mystic encounters do not. Of the hundreds of people I’ve met online, most see themselves as having a non-religious spirituality which is much more personal and flexible. However, I have also met a number of former atheists – people who could no longer remain attached to their atheistic beliefs after having such a powerful direct mystic encounter.

Ironically, for the deeply religious people that I’ve met online, their spiritual experiences are often troubling and very difficult to integrate. To paraphrase one guy who wrote me, “I thought I was Jesus, but I’m not Jesus. So it must have been the Devil who did this to me.”

As for me, after I had my breakthrough, I simply thought that I was given a divine blessing that no psychologist or psychiatrist would ever understand. I was mistaken regarding the last part. There was one psychiatrist who completely understood everything that happened to me. His name is Dr. Stanislav Grof, one of the founders of Transpersonal Psychology.  In his book, The Stormy Search for the Self (1992), Dr. Grof described all of the details of my experience, as something that is commonly misdiagnosed as schizophrenia (today most are diagnosed with bipolar one – mania leading into acute psychosis). I would go on to read six of Dr. Grof’s books, each one describing an extraordinarily all-encompassing model of the psyche, with tremendous space for many anomalous experiences that psychiatry would simply pathologize.

In a nutshell, for Grof, each of us has a non-local consciousness which begins with our own slightly paranoid, self-centered ego, but extends to encompass the entire Universe. At its deepest levels, all life, past, present and future is interconnected in a divine matrix which each of us has access to at any time through various practices. Even today, many people look at these ideas with great skepticism, but for me, they are entirely validated by my own life experience.

Dr. Grof would refer to the sort of spiritual crisis that I had as a “Spiritual Emergency,” a term which has been touched on a few times here at Mad in America, but, in my opinion, not nearly enough.


Because, if Grof’s breakthrough ideas are not included in the discussion, how are we supposed to come up with new solutions to today’s mental health crisis? Mad in America does a tremendous service to the world, by focusing on what’s wrong with the current mental health system. However, when it comes to the solutions side of the equation, I don’t see much leading edge thinking. While the often-mentioned approaches of the Soteria model, Open Dialogue and even Cognitive Based Therapy (CBT) bring some very important components to the table, I don’t see any of them leading to a revolution in our mental health system, as they have all been around for decades, and to date, have met with limited success, at best.

In speaking with some of the more active people in the anti-psychiatry/Mad Pride movement, I’m aware that some people have been turned off by transpersonal psychology and even the concept of Spiritual Emergency as “just another label.” Some people have taken exception to those in the transpersonal movement who have made a clear distinction in separating Spiritual Emergency from those who did not have a “breakthrough”…  the so-called “mentally ill.” My research online indicates that this criticism is justified (I used to think that way myself). Particularly in the ´90’s, the distinction was common among transpersonal psychologists. However, in reality, many people (especially labeled with bipolar disorder) have a mix of spiritual experiences with other experiences that they see as much more paranoid and frightening. There is no true line dividing a “spiritual” experience from an “acute psychosis” – and Dr. Grof is aware of that.  His more recent books help to clarify this misconception.

However, at the same time, it is also a mistake to assume that all anomalous experiences are alike. Some people have very disturbing experiences in which they find it simply impossible to function in daily life without psychiatric medications. Others, like me and Dabney Alix, will have an easier time integrating, and feel grateful for our experiences. My research online suggests that the vast majority of people will find themselves somewhere in the middle of these two extremes examples.

I believe that for many people currently medicated for life, the potential for “breakthrough” exists, but in our current culture, reaching that breakthrough is very difficult.

This is why the Shades of Awakening Online Series is so important. To be blunt, I think the Mad in America culture is missing something. If we are to create a truly profound revamping of our mental health system, then we need to not only rethink that system but to rethink who we are as human beings! Are we simply biological entities moving from one transaction to another until we die? Or is there more to it than that? Are the only parts to this puzzle, Science, (Anti) Psychiatry and Community?

In the Shades of Awakening Online Series, you will meet twelve people who have had to struggle with these sorts of questions. As I’ve met almost all of the speakers, I can assure you that they all bring deep personal experience to their talk. No, we don’t agree on everything, but I think it will be very beneficial to have greater recognition of the “awakening” potential of “mental disorders” brought into the discussion here at Mad in America, and in the anti-psychiatry/Mad Pride movement as a whole.

As for me, I’ve taken Grof’s work and run with it. After producing over sixty videos about the healing potential of bipolar disorder, my new project, BipolarAwakenings.com introduces a new intensive healing retreat for people who are interested in exploring their own internal anomalous experiences as a path towards deep healing.  I’ll write more about that another day.

For more details on the free Shades of Awakening Online Series, go to www.shadesofawakening.com.


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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Sean Blackwell
Since 2007, Sean Blackwell has been researching and teaching about the spiritual dimension and healing potential of bipolar disorder, through his YouTube channel, bipolarORwakingUP. His videos graphically illustrate subjects such as spiritual emergency, transpersonal psychology, and the evolution of consciousness, always demonstrating how these themes relate to transcending the bipolar condition. His book, “Am I Bipolar or Waking Up?” describes his own “bipolar awakening”, subsequent hospitalization and complete recovery, which happened in 1996. His latest project, The Bipolar Awakenings Healing Retreat is designed to help people who are currently medicated work through the subconscious, bio-energetic material which is at the root of their disorder. For more information, please see www.bipolarawakenings.com.


  1. Very best wishes on this, Sean. I watched the brief video on this conference, saw that Kimberley Jones is on the panel. I’ve known her for a few years and have worked with her on a few occasions, super great spirit and person! And a gifted healer, no doubt.

    While it rightfully challenges the norm, I so appreciate any efforts to raise the level of consciousness to new and enriching perspectives such as these. I think they open the doors to new options.

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      • It’s a time of global transformation. I believe these new perspectives will level the playing field. Everyone who walks the earth has the capacity to channel light and raise the energy of the planet, should this be one’s desire and focus. That’s a conscious choice and intention anyone can make at any time.

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  2. Thank you Sean, I think what you’re saying is very valuable and rings true for me. For me, my ‘psychotic episodes’ contained mystical elements, but I think what’s more salient for me, is that they also brought information about personal and collective trauma. I feel like I, and people who experience psychosis or spiritual emergency, are like vessels, and when ‘psychosis’ surges through us, it is a force from our collective experience as people trying to heal not only the individual psyche, but the collective through the transformation it leads to in a person, when this person is supported in the right way. i was born in the usa, but my heritage is bangladeshi- a deep theme in my psychotic episodes is intergenerational trauma. because of these experiences, i am awakening to the impact that the genocide in 1971 in bangladesh has had on my family and me, and how important it is to talk about the wounding, and how important it is for me to talk about psychosis as a communication of personal and collective traumas that are being pushed down, silenced and are in dire need of being heard for our health as people, and a mobilizing and healing purveyor of spiritual energy and wisdom for healing us as a whole. if we are all interdependent than the profound healing that can happen for the individual who carries a message for us as a collective encourages the health of the community as a whole.

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    • Thank you Naas,
      I think your insights are wonderful. They remind me of Grof’s stories about working with people in Germany, using Holotropic Breathwork. Time and time again family history and guilt related to the events of World War 2 would surface. When taken into breathwork, people could see how the events of decades earlier were influencing their relationships today. When we do this Online Series again, I’ll be sure to mention you to Dabney!

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  3. I agree, thank you for all your work, Sean. I do need to put Grof’s books on my reading list. And, like you, my entire “bipolar” experience related to spirituality, not mania nor depression (until I experienced the drug withdrawal induced super sensitivity manic psychosis, or what seemed like ‘God speed’ to me at the time). But that was actually really cool, it was about a oneness with all within humanity.

    I’m white, but I share a birthday with MLK Jr. and am disgusted by white society’s historic, and in some circles, continuing disrespect of the blacks. My dad had taught me to be proud I shared a birthday with MLK Jr. while he was on loan from the bank he worked at, to the National Urban League, to assist Vernon Jorden in helping turning that organization around financially. MLK Jr. had a brilliant wisdom. My daughter has a big equal sicker on her current Apple, because I taught my children to respect all people as equals, too.

    I grew up in NY, and half my friends were Jewish when I was a child. So when my family moved to the Midwest and a local doctor’s wife told my mother it was unseemly for the bank president’s daughter to befriend the Jewish children, I told my mother that woman was an anti-Semite. My mother agreed, and joined the Jewish center in town. Kudos to my mom for her attempt to quash anti-Sematism in our new Midwestern city.

    I recall a part of my drug withdrawal induced “psychosis” / awakening to the story of my dreams was about the whites’ abuse of the “redskins.” One of the universities I graduated from was nicknamed the Redskins, so I was of course against the whites supporting those continuing abuses.

    My father was a physics major at Northwestern, prior to getting his graduate degrees in business and economics, and going into the banking industry, back when there was some semblance of ethics within that industry. He was working on a book, prior to his death, that looked at what physics was learning about reality and the possiblity of an intelligent designer, or God. The physicists are finding that the concept we’re all connected is what their research indicates.

    Therefore, logically, treating all others as you’d like to be treated is what is best for humanity as a whole, which is my belief. But this is the opposite of the current mainstream psychiatric industry’s belief system. Here’s a YouTube blogger’s video who seems to harbor many of my concerns. Both in regards to what I hope results in the importance of our inter connectivity, thus an understanding of the oneness and mutual respect necessary within all of humanity someday. But also into who are actually the root cause of the problems within our society, which is the greed only inspired bankers and governmental officials (in other videos of his). Only evil governments advocate belief in psychiatry’s chicanery, historically and still today.


    What if Jesus’ theology of treating all others as you’d like to be treated, respecting God, and the Holy Spirit (which I personally believe is a voice of reason based upon the compilation of the wisdom of all souls) is true? I can’t yet prove my gut instincts, but I can medically prove psychiatry’s complex iatrogenesis against me for belief in the Holy Spirit. Psychiatry has no science behind their beliefs, and other areas of science are contradicting their claims, not to mention so are their own findings, when ethically researched and reported.

    I agree, Sean, a completely new approach is needed. I look forward to the conference, and hope many here will join in the conversation. My last ten years of research seems to indicate all psychitric illnesses today are either a medicalization of normal human experiences and behaviors, or iatrogenically induced illnesses cause by psychiatry’s supposed cures.

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    • Thank you Someone Else!
      I think, near the end you touch on an important point related to Mad in America. There are no scientifically proven genetic roots to these disorders, and yet, in many cases, it’s obvious that something very serious is happening to the person in crisis. I think it’s a mistake to simply tell people, “There’s nothing wrong with you, go home.” There are deep traumatic patterns and existential issues to unravel. We need to take these “disorders” seriously, as an an opportunity for radical transformation – almost like a software upgrade.

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      • I don’t even like calling them “disorders,” because this term wreaks negativity and iatrogenic havoc upon one so labeled. My experience was and has been more like an awakening, which has it’s good and bad aspects, but I consider it more like a calling by God, which is not a “disorder.”

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        • I see your point, but even though I call my website Bipolar Awakenings, I still use the word disorder because episodes of “mania” , “psychosis”, or even depression can have devestating consequnces to a persons life, even in an ideal setting – so we need to approach these issues is a somewhat cautious way. For me, the words “disease” or “illness” are where the real stigma lies, and both words are wholly inaccurate.

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      • What about a shamanistic crisis model? Maybe all a person in crisis needs is another person who has experienced his/her crisis before to guide and protect them. If I’m not mistaken in old cultures people undergoing such crisis were either under the protection of a shaman and/or put in a place of solitude (“safe place”) where they had limited ability to harm themselves or others but could work through the crisis. These were often in nature/ in isolated shacks and so on so they also limited the sensory stimuli, which could prevent the person from being overwhelmed. Maybe reproducing this kind of approach is what we need?

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        • What you describe is basically what I’m doing down here in Brazil. I’ve already made 3 videos on my Bipolar Awakenings Healing Retreat. However, I do my best to peel away the more new age associations, rituals etc. Also, there is no emphasis on anyone having shamanic powers. The shamanic process is within. I like to think of it as “peer shamanism”.

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  4. I too experienced every one of the “mystical experiences” on your list. After coming down to earth, I swallowed the medical line that these profound insights were nothing but biochemical imbalances of the brain. Every so often I’d remember how “delusional” I had been, and I’d feel a flood of acute embarrassment. As a pragmatic atheist I didn’t have the language or mindset for any kind of spiritual awakening. Now I’m less sure. So many people have reported similar experiences, it doesn’t seem right to dismiss them all as the result of wobbly brain chemistry.

    You may be interested to know that a lealet on schizophrenia written by the Royal College of Psychiatrists describes a spiritual aspect to psychosis. Unfortunately it is classified as “delusion”. Here’s what it says…

    “It may suddenly dawn on you that at last you really understand what is going on. This may follow weeks or months when you have felt that there has been something wrong, but that you couldn’t work out what it was.”

    I was amazed to read such an accurate description of my own experience, but I felt it lacked something. I wrote to the RCPsych to suggest that they move the paragraph from the “Delusion” section and instead have it as a stand alone paragraph adding…

    “This experience has been described by some as the beginnings of a spiritual awakening or epiphany. Once recovered from the acute psychosis, it is sometimes viewed as a positive aspect of the turmoil, leading to greater insight and personal growth.”

    Their response was not encouraging.

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    • Their responses rarely are, but that’s exactly what it was for me. I returned to my life with renewed energy and a lot more confidence. I worried a lot less and was never struck with debilitating depression again. My salary increased 300% in 3 years!
      I think the thing that bothers me the most about psychiatrists, as a whole, is not their reliance on medication, or even their professional coldness. It’s the lack of scientific curiosity! I mean, they are supposed to be scientists! I wish more of them would act like it.

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        • I was one of the lucky ones. I NEVER needed to take psychiatric medications, other than for a few nights in the psychiatric hospital. I never relapsed and never saw a psychiatrist or psychologist after my episode. That was 1996. I’ve had a few very blessed spiritual experiences since then, but none left me “delusional”. I was never hospitalized again.

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  5. Nice article, Sean!
    I agree that MadinAmerica is short on positive options and long on how/why the current paradigm of mental healthcare is not working. (But that is a role they are fulfilling very well.) Also agree with the need to put more attention on the phenomena of spiritual experiences and how they can be a doorway to increased wellbeing.
    Essentially, we need to develop more positive options for optimizing mental health.

    One option that has been mentioned briefly in Robert Whitaker’s books and MadinAmerica is cultivating a meditation practice. This can not only offer more stability (to all of us) but increase the possibility of accessing higher levels of consciousness more frequently. That opens the doorway to increased creativity to apply to the problems of the day and more compassion and wisdom to enrich personal life and all our relationships.

    Also, let’s remember: Grof is not the first MD to speak about the healing potential of non-local consciousness. Larry Dossey, MD (for one) has been very articulate about it–even suggesting an “Era 3” medicine that incorporates non-local consciousness in theory as well as practice. Most MDs who see this option–and there are many–advocate a daily practice of meditation. See RussellRazzaque.com for ideas on a new training for psychotherapists–currently being researched in the UK– that includes 3 components: open dialogue, peer support and mindfulness meditation. Russell is a pioneering psychiatrist who works within the National Health System…Change is happening! See

    Thanks again for writing the article and stimulating more conversation about spiritual experiences and mental health! I’m trying to do the same on “Integrative Mental Health for You,” IMHU.org, a website dedicated to positive options for optimizing mental health…that stresses the value of spiritual community and non-sectarian spiritual practices.

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    • Thanks Emma!
      I’m somewhat familiar with Larry Dossey, as I read about called Transpersonal Medicine some years back. I think he had a chapter there. I do think Grof’s Transpersonal approach to healing mental disorders has lots of cross-over with this Era 3 approach you are talking about. I recall the supporter of a woman I was working with in Finland, who was a professor at a nursing college. She told me that among the nurses, they recognized that when cancer went into “total remission”, that is was always after some sort of emotional/spiritual catharsis. To me, that taps into the sort of transpersonal work that needs to be done regarding mental disorders.

      I also think we need to distinguish between strategies for Coping, Recovery and Healing. Like Russell, I know Dr. David Lukoff is a big fan of using Mindfullness Meditation to help people with disorders. But, to me, Mindfullness sounds a lot more like a strategy for coping or recovery than healing, as it is not designed to root out trauma. In fact, it creates a mental and emotional detachment from trauma, if I understand it correctly (I took one course on it). That’s why, on my healing retreats, I focus on Vipassana meditation along with a practice very similar to holotropic breathwork (I’m not certified yet). Both are known to bring truama to the surface and purge it from the system. In a nutshell, no truama, no disorder. Used in combination, for an extended period of time, the results are powerful and dramatic, for those who have the capacity to enter into the deeper process. But I’ll read Russell’s book and see what he has to say.

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  6. In 2004, just as I moved into a significantly stress-free phase in life, a spontaneous kundalini awakening began its course. I had no idea what was happening, and having studied nothing much outside of Judeo-Christian scripture, had no frame of reference for what was happening to me. I had enough of an education in psychiatry to know that I would have been diagnosed as schizophrenic with auditory hallucinations (no less tactile ones).

    I scoured the internet for months trying to figure out how I went from very high functioning to nearly incapacitated with empathic hypersensitivity, having conversations with voices, experiencing vivid visions, etc., and how to fix myself. I was directed to buy a book on Qi Gong, and mastered qi gathering, the microcosmic circulation, and macrocosmic circulation in weeks, along with astral projection. I was meditating three hours at a time, often more than twice a day (Mindfullness Meditation would not have helped). About six months into my quest, I stumbled on the term “kundalini” and said “check” on just about every item on the symptoms list. About two months after that, I shed myself of myself, merged with God, returned to “reality”, then a few weeks later experienced shamanic death.

    Since then, through a long journey, I have successfully returned to a high functioning life, however it’s one in which I never mention the voices I hear or shamanic work I do when asked by the voices I hear. I have yet to be successful in finding peers. Those in the metaphysical community are, so far without exception, repugnantly morally compromised. The kundalini “support” networks aren’t much better.

    The two others I have met in different stages of kundalini/spiritual awakenings had definitive traumas that caused the onset. Mine expressly did not. The intensity of their experience paled compared to mine, and neither had “merged with God” or experienced shamanic death.

    Today I intermittently abandon trying to figure out how consciousness is architected and engage my mind in life “busy work”. Being engaged in “busy work” doesn’t stop the clariaudience, nor does it stop the sporadic vivid visions and tactile experiences, or requests from the voices to help someone I could not have known needed help. At the end of the day, as best as I know now, enlightenment is overrated. It will be interesting to hear what the transpersonal psychology professionals have to say.

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    • Hi Pumpkin Pie,
      It sounds like what you are bumping up against is a transpersonal or even a “New Age” community that doesn’t recognized how destabilizing spiritual experiences can be. Is that what you mean by “moral repugnance?”
      Also, I know a number of people who fully accept and feel blessed by the spiritual dimension of their experiences, and yet choose to remain medicated because they enter into states in which they cannot function without the meds. Do your experiences go that far?

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      • Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my lengthy, if not somewhat whining post.

        What do I mean by moral repugnance? At the end of the day, you are either serving yourself or serving, for lack of a better word, God. The “New Age” community is vastly focused on self-glorification and receiving remuneration for spiritual work. They exalt themselves, and by selling the sacred, they desecrate the sacred. I have met many who are a case in point that there is no prerequisite for honor or integrity when one pursues acquiring spiritual power.

        I never would have asked for or sought out what I have received. I would not wish the devastating separation that occurs after merging with God on anyone. During the first few years after I was blind-sided by something I never knew existed, I could not have worked, and fortunately I didn’t have to. Among other things, I learned to work with possessions. A few years after I experienced it, I read about being energetically “rewired”, which was literally physically excruciating at times. I never sought psychiatric help because I knew better, so I was never medicated. I now live a very busy, engaged life that is void of anyone I can speak about my ongoing spiritual experiences, including calls to service to others via clairaudient communication.

        In all my reading, one of my favorites regarding spiritual emergencies such as a kundalini awakening is Marja S’s correspondence with Deepak Chopra at
        http://kundalini.se/en/articles/public-letter-mr-deepak-chopra. In particular, I found her closing quote from Gopi Krishna’s “The Awakening of Kundalini” (which I also read):

        The only safe way to cosmic consciousness is the unselfish way, or as it also is recommended in Bhagavad Gita, Nishkama Karma, selfless action as service to God. One can’t jump from childhood to adulthood on the physical plane, and one can’t become a “being of love and light” if one has selfishness, darkness, left in one’s thoughts.

        For those who require medication to function because they are unable to control or manage the altered states of conscious, I am curious about the triggers for onset of the spiritual emergence, if there is a typical range of duration from onset of the spiritual emergence to return to full, non-medicated functionality, and if any semblance of any sequence of stages in spiritual emergence has been identified. I am looking forward to hearing what the transpersonal psychology professionals have to say.

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        • I relate so much to this post and Sean’s website. My own experiences began through a crisis in 1984 and for the following few years I “time travelled” met and interacted with beings from many multidimensional levels of existence.

          But one thing Pumkin Pie has mentioned which is not apparent in many writings about this is the two huge events that occur at some stage and that is ” A Shamanic Death” and “A Merging with the All/God” the former felt like being dismemberd limb by limb and organ by organ and I was totally aware throughout this albeit minus the pain but aware of the energy. The latter incident of merging with the All/God was ecstatic and no words can describe it.

          Another important point this post stressed was the commercialisation of “spiritual awakenings/living in the present moment etc.” Eckhart Tolle, who I lived with as a close friend prior to his spectacular rise to New Age Guru and the current commericialisation that has built up around his teachings. Quite the reverse to his nature and humbleness he was living in when I was with him. I feel blessed to have experienced this friendship at a time immediately following the above described experiences, but also prior to his rise to fame. This has taught me to be aware that even being “realised” does not prevent corruption of the teachings. I do hope this information is not perceived as a personal attack, it is not and I honour all he has undergone, I am merely pointing out “commecialisation” of what needs to be freely available at all times in the name of evolution is something to be aware of.

          I am excited about Seans work and looking forward to the upcoming Shades of Awakening, but I do reserve a concern that as people/causes gain popularity maintaining the integrity of these events/people when “money” becomes a driving force requires heightened awareness and discipline.

          I have recently had personal experience of this. I wanted to attend the recent Spiritual Awakening Conferences at Mundlsey Norfolk in the UK that Emma Bragdon was involved in and as a pensioner living quite a distance from the conference centre I e-mailed the organisers and requested if a concessionary rate was available for me to attend this conference as it would have cost me $800 with travel and accommodation. I e-mailed twice and never received a response. So I question are these things only available for those easily able to afford them? Shamanic/Spiritual experience make no such division between rich or poor, but looking at the whole “commecialisation” of spiritual teachings I am holding my breath.

          I am involved on the peripheries of the Bi-Polar paradigm whereby those involved are refusing to look at or investigate any other perspective than the “illness/medical” model. They rely on funding to support their organisations, again a potential corrupting influence that can prevent evolution of understanding.

          I offer all my experiences free and two books I’ve written describing the above and more A New Human and A Multidimensonal Paradigm are the only things I charge for and have run many free readings of these and when requested am prepared to give talks, book readings etc on an expenses only agreement.

          Well done everyone for all the energy put into grounding wisdom that has been lost through the ages, we need to re-make and shake up this current reality into the vision that many of us hold of a world fit for

          A New Human.

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          • “Well done everyone for all the energy put into grounding wisdom that has been lost through the ages, we need to re-make and shake up this current reality into the vision that many of us hold of a world fit for A New Human.”

            Really beautiful and right on. I see it happening, as we each travel the path of our own personal transformation, each and every one of us in our own unique way.

            Perhaps finally, we will realize the most practical value of increasing our capacity to love, rather than chasing fame, glory, or riches, in order to ‘feel better about ourselves.’ Heart based consciousness is the substance which holds power and value in the new world, and from which all things are created. Thanks for your eloquent comment.

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          • Thank you Avril,
            And part of your concerns related to corruption, are part of the reason I focus on the spiritual relationship to bipolar disorder. I think if you concentrate on promoting ideas and not promoting yourself, you are in good shape! Still, it can be tricky…

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  7. Cross-posted to articles by Bonnie Burstow and Sean Blackwell :

    There is no place for psychiatry in spiritually transformative or exceptional experiences – perhaps no place for psychiatry anywhere. I had a spiritual ’emergency’ triggered by an encounter with a shaman. I exhibited no bizarre behaviour. I was not depressed. I was anxious and couldn’t sleep. When I did sleep, I had regular and highly accurate precognitive dreams. I took a benzodiazepine.

    When I stopped taking it, I started trembling and my sleep got worse. No one recognized benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome and I was diagnosed with agitated depression. I was treated aggressively with 35 different drugs in an eight-month period. I took them out of desperation – I would have done anything to stop the horrendous agitation I now know to be ‘akathisia’.

    Those who once took an oath to do no harm, were ignorant of drug effects/withdrawal effects/side-effects/adverse effects, recognized them as proof of escalating mental illness, medicated them, and expressed satisfaction at having ‘unmasked’ a long-hidden mental illness. I was described as an ‘excellent candidate for ECT’ and forced to have 25 rounds of bilateral ECT. The damage is profound. I have no memory of at least 25 years of my life, and live with neurological and cognitive problems – and clenched fists.

    An elderly clairvoyant’s words: “What the hell happened to you? You were a totally healthy person and doctors have turned you into a piece of shit. There are nine spaces in your energy field – all from pharmaceuticals. Your doctors should be jailed.” “You are in this mess because consciousness isn’t taught in schools. You are here to help people. You can help people by telling your story.”

    My book about consciousness, high sense perception, energy healing, and orthomolecular medicine is in the works. I will publish my medical records and the words doctors used to describe and ridicule me. I will tell the stories of the women who were hospitalized with me – some of whom were murdered by ECT. Most of them had no mental issues at all. Most of them had undiagnosed physical problems which had been treated with antidepressants, and the adverse effects of those antidepressants were then treated with ECT.

    Since when did thyroid problems, gluten intolerance, a kidney not filtering properly, an inner ear problem, an exposure to a toxic chemical , a vitamin B12 deficiency, adverse drug reactions …. become psychiatric disorders?

    I am anti-psychiatry – I have no choice. And yes, ECT does cause memory loss.
    Remember – energy sensitive people are exquisitely sensitive to pharmaceuticals.

    How about a website ‘Psychics Against Psychiatry’?

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    • Sorry to hear you’ve been through so much hell. I tend to stay out of the meds discussion now. When people want to do a retreat with me, I’m open to working with them regardless of what psychiatric drugs they are on (or not on). The same thing regarding addictions. I’ve come to learn that I can work with people who smoke marijuana, and get good results as well. Harder drugs, I’m not so sure.

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    • I like your idea of a website “Psychics Against Psychiatry.” I knew that the haldol I was forced to take had left me with significant harm two decades later that remained unhealed. A healer trained in kinesiology doubted when I said this to him but agreed after he checked me energetically and treated me over several months in many ways that included nutritional advice that is still valid and useful for me today (another two decades later almost). I will post some about my own experiences in a reply to the main post.


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  8. Onya Shaun for being a shining light in a realm of frustration, damage, deceit, and disablement. Thank you for looking at connections, trauma, pain, and able-ness.

    Been a fan for a long time – have seen your vids, read your book. Hope to see more of you light shining on the MIA community.

    I will tune in as I can but being in Australia, this is a huge commitment to be there live. I’d love to hear many of the talks. Thanks for participating in a project that brings hope to many.

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    • No worries Mate!
      All of the conversations in the series are pre-taped and will be available for anyone to listen to for free until Tuesday, July 14, 2015.
      So if you miss one, relax! It will be there when you wake up.
      Also, for paid packages, you can download the talks, plus a few other goodies.
      Thanks for following my stuff, Jan Carol!
      There will be more from me on Mad in America in the future!

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  9. Sean,

    I’ve been a big fan of your videos for many years and am thrilled to see your presence on MIA.

    My first psychotic episode occurred on March 23, 1996 and it was not until I sought help through an MD who practices Orthomolecular/Functional Medicine that I found a path to recovery through detoxing and a multimodal use of complimentary therapies.

    The underlying encephalopathy was linked to past exposure to lead/chemical exposure in the work environment and an abscessed tooth.

    As a mental health advocate, I focus on drawing attention to the many underlying medical conditions and substances that can induce psychosis and be misdiagnosed as bipolar/schizophrenia.

    While the spiritual components of psychosis were truly something incredible to experience and process as a gift, my connections felt the extreme pain and suffering of others that results in harm to our society.

    Recently, there were three tragic incidents here in the Tampa, Florida region involving young men between the ages 23-25 who had a “history of mental illness”.

    These cases included a man who brutally killed his mother and 9-year-old niece, a man who threw his 5-year-old daughter off a bridge and another who decapitated mother.

    We can not turn a blind eye to the harm caused by individuals who are in a psychotic state and we must recognize there are many medical conditions/substances, including psych meds, that induce psychosis.

    Widely-publicized cases like these support main stream mental health advocates who push an agenda that supports the current Medication Management Monopoly. Because mental disorders can involve public safety, psychiatry has become an unregulated power-base of authority in our country.

    A best practice standard of care that focuses on testing for and treating underlying causes will help to dismantle the power-base of psychiatric authority that controls and undermines the spiritual-based components involved in experiencing an unexpected altered state of mind.

    I hope that more individuals involved in MIA will support a unified advocacy agenda that supports Best Practice Assessment of Psychosis.


    Kind Regards,
    Maria M.

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    • Hi Maria,
      Of course, I agree with you that the darker end of these experiences and the potential for harm need to be taken very seriously. We had a guy here in Brazil that killed three women, cooked them, made pastries with their meat, and sold them to his neighbors! This is clearly not what I mean by someone in a Spiritual Emergency.
      I have a video series addressing that very subject (#20-22).
      However, any attempt to address this very important issue doesn’t get much support here on MadinAmerica. “Who are you to decide who has the potential to be dangerous and who doesn’t?” “You’re just switching one set of labels for another.” are common criticisms. And, in truth, the challenge is that the situation is not black & white – more like 50 Shades of Grey.
      I will say however, that your suggestion for “A best practice standard of care that focuses on testing for and treating underlying causes” is, at best a dream, as there are no scientific tests. However, I do believe that my wife and I are treating the “underlying causes” with our healing retreat. Largely based on the work of Dr. Stan Grof, we are getting quite good results.

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  10. Hi Seán

    I find your philosophy very interesting and you present your ideas beautifully. Your messages open my mind.

    I often think myself, and believe exactly how I came to my standstill and then how I eventually started getting a leg up. CBT worked for me because my problem at that time was withdrawal syndrome – and it’s good for withdrawal syndrome.
    By that time my original grief had softened as a result of bonding and sharing with other people like me.

    I now think that Recovery knowledge is a bit like an Open Dialogue in that it’s important to investigate and experience all angles. The first video I saw of yours on YouTube ‘blew my mind’ in a good way.

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    • Thank you Fiachra!
      Nice to know that I blew your mind! 😉
      Many recovery approaches are talked about here on MIA, but I don’t see much related to a deeper form of healing that truly goes beyond recovery. From what I’ve seen, holotropic breathwork is an essential tool, and yet it is rarely discussed. I’ll be talking more about it in a future posting.

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  11. Hi, I am bipolar. My mom is also bipolar (undiagnosed/unaware and completely in denial) my diagnosis has helped me understand a lot about my past, it has helped me understand my mom better and come to terms with some of the things that happened growing up with her. I found your “bipolar or waking up” videos when I was going through my psychosis and it helped me through a very difficult time. I am past the psychosis, so its easy for me to think I’m fine now, but in the past few months, I’ve been hearing from multiple people that I have not been myself lately, I’m acting different, I’m mopey all the time or I’m always angry at them… To the point where I completely blew up at my boyfriend and we almost broke up. I have seen my mom destroy so many relationships beyond repair until nobody is left because nobody knows how to deal with her and she can be very hurtful. I am afraid I’m doing the same because I see so many of these patterns in my own behavior. I am terrified of the psychiatric industry, I have had doctors bully me into taking medication which gave me horrible reactions. I went back to counseling when multiple friends told me they were concerned, and he is supportive of alternative treatments… I feel like I am doing everything I can, but sometimes I just want to die and I think I should just check myself into a mental hospital or be medicated so I don’t hurt the people I love anymore and end up losing them. I feel like I ruin everything, and I don’t want to do that anymore but I don’t know how to just turn it off or make it stop, and it’s not fair to expect everyone else to put up with it. The videos helped me through my psychosis, but they don’t address the long lasting issues that come later, there are no answers for these things. The shades of awakening talks were very interesting to listen to, but some of the subject matter reminded me too much of the fake shamans and spiritual advisors who took advantage of my mom and what little money she had… It’s a little frightening for me. When my mind started to cross over into the spiritual world, I had to make the decision to come back because that is not my place yet. I had to decide that this is where I exist and where my body lives, so this is where I need to survive. I can’t let my mind go to that place because its not my time to die. When my body dies, I will be a part of that world but I can’t exists in both. I miss seeing those things, and it makes me sad that I can’t see that anymore, but there are other frightening things that I never want to experience again. The shades of awakening interviews discussed being called as a healer, but I don’t know how I could possibly heal anyone when I haven’t even healed myself, and I can’t even tell if I’m well. How can I help anyone heal when it takes everything I have just to get through each day?

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    • I understand your pain and frustration, even with some of the more “new-agey” elements of the conference. If there was something I could have changed, I probably would have liked to see more attention focused on people like yourself, who are really struggling, and even those who are medicated for life, through no choice of their own. I think Victoria Maxwell did a good job of representing that voice. As for me, I don’t particularly identify with the idea of everyone with a disorder being “called” to be a healer. It puts too much pressure on some people. You need to take care of yourself as best you can. If you ever get to the point of feeling like you are in a much better place, then maybe you reach out to help others. But not until then. Thank you for your feedback!

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      • Thank you for your quick response. When researching and trying to understand what happened to me and why, or what I can do to get better, I find two opposite ends of the spectrum; strictly psychiatric must be medicated, or hippy new age energy work, etc. I have found very little middle ground or anything outside of this range of thought, it seems like these two ends of the spectrum are in conflict with each other, and I don’t feel that either extreme has helped me. Are their any resources you could direct me to that are open to an honest discussion of mental illness challenges and treatment that do not impose one sided ideas?

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        • I think you have to first concentrate on yourself. Introspection is what one needs. Some people use meditation techniques for that, I have never thought they would agree with my personality until a friend made me realise I’m using “mindfulness” without knowing what it is.

          What you need is self-acceptance. Not hating yourself, not loving or liking yourself -just accepting yourself for who you are. Everything else grows from that. And don’t be afraid of chaos. “Cognitive dissonance” is supposedly a bad thing but being in two or three or a hundred minds about one thing often only means accepting and internalizing the complexity of the universe.

          I wish you could find a guide through it. But even without a guide it’s possible to got through it and emerge a better fuller person on the other side. That’s what crisis are for. I wish we had a more understanding society and a after environment for that.

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  12. Hi Sean, I have just finished watching the videos and reading your free book. I have sent you a few emails as I am blown away by the sychronicities I found while reading! Hope you get time to read and reply, I know you are busy and I’m sure the reply will be timely. Just want to share that at the start of my journey 8 years ago I read 80 books in three months including Paramahansa Yogananda! My awakening was exactly as you detailed in your videos. hope to speak soon. moira

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  13. I want to make a couple of comments. First, thank you for bringing this to MIA, or bringing out this dimension generally. I have lived a lot of the things you describe over a long period of time, and in ways that are integrated with my everyday life. For me, the situation of forced psychiatry itself was the final trigger to a death of self, but it took me decades of searching and healing to find meaning in and of the chaos. It is still happening but takes a different form. And the death was not completed then but also continued over time.

    Second, there are aspects of spiritual experience that cannot be discussed outside a particular context, and the privacies and separations involved in this need to be both respected and honored in some way. I do not find any psychology particularly useful, and I identify most closely with feminist lesbian practice as a self-declared witch. There is a politics to this as well as a simple separation, and I want the reality of female autonomy and separate healing/knowledge spaces to be part of the vision of the survivor movement(s) including in terms of how we deal with, and understand, spiritual experiences.

    All the best,


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