494. Damien Echols

Damien EcholsDamien Echols is an artist and New York Times bestselling author of “Life After Death“. In 2018, he published his first book on ceremonial magick: “High Magick: A Guide to the Spiritual Practices That Saved My Life on Death Row“. He has been a practitioner of ceremonial Magick for over 20 years and leads classes on Magick across the country. He spent over 18 years on death row in Arkansas for a crime he didn’t commit before gaining his freedom in 2011. Upon release he, along with Peter Jackson produced the documentary film “West Of Memphis” which chronicled his legal battle. During his time in prison he was ordained into the Rinzai Zen tradition of Japanese Buddhism. He lives in New York with his wife and three cats.

Other offerings:

Damien’s site: damienechols.com

Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.

493. Rev. Bill McDonald

Rev. Bill McDonaldON A MISSION: TEACHING THE POWER OF LOVE & FORGIVENESS

Rev. Bill’s life has been a spiritual journey, spanning slightly over 7 decades. His whole life has been a mystical trip in search of gurus, the paranormal, and self-discovery. He has written about his many spiritually transformative experiences and “near-death-experiences” including supernatural events during his combat tour of duty in the Vietnam War. In his books, he has shared some incredible spiritual events that are beyond both common understanding or explanation.

His autobiography “Warrior: A Spiritual Odyssey” takes us on a life quest for love, understanding, forgiveness, and enlightenment. His follow-up book “Alchemy of a Warrior’s Heart” continues that mystical journey including four trips to India for even more profound experiences with holy men, miracles and his personal relationship with the Divine. What he knows for sure after all these years is that the only thing that is truly real is LOVE.

He is an author, an award-winning poet, international motivational speaker, artist, film advisor, veteran advocate, a Vietnam War veteran (Distinguished Flying Cross, The Bronze Star, The Purple Heart Medal, 14 Air Medals, The Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, etc.). He has spoken around the world including Germany, England, Wales, Bolivia, and India. He has been involved with a dozen films and documentaries. (Such as: “In the Shadow of the Blade”- showed on the History Network and “The Art of Healing” shown on PBS TV)

Rev. Bill has been on over 800 radio and TV shows over the last 18 years and has stories about his life featured in over a dozen books by other authors and in hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles. He has had articles in such diverse publications as “Parade Sunday Magazine” and “The Self-Realization Fellowship Magazine” as well as military magazines and new age magazines. His YouTube Channel has over 70 videos and had gotten over 550,000 views in its first 18 months.

He speaks publicly about the need to forgive and power of love. His mission in life is to inspire others to seek the Divine and he does that through his personal stories of his own life experiences.

He is a seeker but not just for himself. His “mission” is to allow others to experience his journey through his stories. He has had many near-death and near-death-like–like experiences and encounters with the supernatural. He is a friend to many – including famous celebrities and people in power positions in life but he treats everyone the same whether they are homeless or the President or a CEO. His beliefs are simple: There is but ONE GOD – and our only mission is to LOVE & SERVE ALL.

Rev. Bill McDonald was born In San Francisco and raised in California, Oregon and Hawaii. He graduated from San Jose City College with an AA Degree in Labor Management and later from The University of San Francisco with a BA degree in Public Service Administration. He spent over 30 years working for the federal government and retired in 2001. He has spent his time since then working for 5 different non-profit organizations helping veterans while serving the purpose of world peace. He works with PTSD veterans and is a unpaid lobbyist for veteran issues in California. Has also has worked as a volunteer chaplain in Folsom Prison and worked for a time answering phone calls for The National Suicide Hotline. His life is filled with service. He has been married to his high school sweetheart Carol, since 1970. He has been living in Elk Grove, California since 1979.

Additional books by William “Rev. Bill” McDonald:

Bill’s guru, Yogiraj Gurunath Siddhanath

Bill’s email

Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

The story of Anamika Borst‘s owl, referred to towards the end of this interview: click here.

Interview recorded March 2, 2019.

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.

484. Ishtar (Thomas Howell)

Ishtar (Thomas Howell)

Ishtar (Thomas Howell) is a meditation teacher, Ishaya monk, gardener, writer, and intuitive astrologer. A sense of himself as Presence was a pronounced feature of his life until about age 7. At age 13, he was in a car accident that took his mother’s life, and initiated an NDE that brought about a profound experience of Samadhi that in the subsequent months he experienced right along with an intense process of grieving. After the Presence faded, he longed to return, resulting in an energetic spiritual search. At 17 he began a regimen of meditation practices and ascetic disciplines that included waking to cold showers at 3 AM, fasting, and 6 hours of daily meditation practice. Longing to find his path, he encountered a practice known as the Ishayas’ Ascension, an effortless and deeply pleasurable form of meditation, which he quickly recognized as the path for which he’d been searching. Several months after learning Ascension, he found himself living on the Oregon coast in a monastic environment dedicated to the practice.

The ashram life brought about a rapid acceleration of growth, leading to ever more consistent experiences of Silence, in closed eyed meditation practice, while cooking in the community’s café, doing service work, and planting gardens. After going through a 6-month intensive Teacher Training program, that involved 12-16 hours of closed eyed meditation a day, he began teaching classes around the world, and living in various regional meditation centers around the world. Seeming, miracles, wild manifestations, witness consciousness, and celestial perception were frequent occurrences, as Awareness slowly but surely saturated more and more of life.

In 2008, he left his monastic organization and then took an extended break from meditation teaching. The years lived outside the semi cloistered environment of the ashram were often challenging, but ultimately led to a more deeply anchored Presence. Subtle barriers fell, opening to the experience of the world as the Self. This process continues to unfold and expand.

Since 2014, he has again been teaching Ascension and working as a spiritual guide, giving people a reliable practice with which to cultivate Awareness and assisting people in relaxing into Presence as a constantly lived experience. Since 2015 he has also been working as an intuitive Astrologer, with a primary focus on helping people align more completely with their soul’s purpose. More information can be found at these websites: ascension-meditation.com and awakenedlightastrology.com.

Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

Interview recorded October 30, 2018, in Sedona, Arizona

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.

483. Thomas Hübl, 2nd Interview

Thomas Hubl
Thomas Hübl

Thomas Hübl is a modern mystic, spiritual teacher, author, and systems-thinker. His work integrates the essence of the great wisdom traditions, scientific knowledge, and his own personal experience. Thomas offers a unique approach to life as a ‘mystic in the marketplace’ and helps people to attain a deeper level of self-awareness and personal relationship and to transcend a ‘culture of the personal’ and a self-centered worldview. Through his work, people from all walks of life learn how to become a living expression of spirit and how to participate in ‘we cultures’ through an embodied inner and outer connection.

His teachings combine transformation through the integration of trauma, somatic sensitization, advanced meditative practice, and a deepening understanding of cultural processes. Since 2004, Thomas’ leading-edge work has spread worldwide through workshops, multi-year training programs, and online courses. The non-profit ‘Celebrate Life Festival‘ brings together more than 1,200 people every year and has showcased a wide network of experts in various disciplines, through dialogue and exchange. In 2008 Thomas founded the ‘Academy of Inner Science’. This provided a framework for dialogue between the inner science of consciousness and the external scientific-academic exploration of life.

Over the years Thomas has also organized several major healing events, aimed at healing the Holocaust’s cultural shadows. Thousands of Germans and Israelis have been brought together through these processes. In 2016 Thomas and his wife Yehudit founded the non-profit ‘Pocket Project‘, with the aim of exploring collective trauma and shadow work and integrating this through large-scale group processes. A global organization has been launched, intended to research and explore specific aspects of local traumatization. This applies both to past traumas and also to current conflict zones. Thomas was born in Austria in 1971 and now lives in Tel Aviv, Israel, with his wife, the Israeli artist Yehudit Sasportas and their daughter Eliya.

Website: thomashuebl.com

First BatGap interview with Thomas.

Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

Interview recorded October 27, 2018.

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.

470. Sarah Taylor

Sarah TaylorSarah is an actor, writer, stand up comedian, and a spiritual/creative mentor and healing practitioner living in Los Angeles.

As a child, creativity and spirituality were at the forefront of her life. The lived experience of unity faded as trauma and stress from a troubled home edged out this awareness. But as Sarah began to discover singing and acting, she was hooked on the transcendence they evoked.

Creativity became her church.

She studied acting, graduated from California Institute of The Arts, and moved to Los Angeles. She began to question who she was and an impending initial awakening was thwarted by getting on a heavy dose of antidepressants. Overmedicated, misdiagnosed, and frozen in a suspended state for roughly a decade, Sarah eventually got off all medication and began a quest for truth.

An anxious, atheistic insomniac who simply wanted to get a good night’s sleep, in 2007 she took up meditation, immersed herself in Buddhist practice, and got way more than she asked for. She immediately began having deep, altering experiences on the spiritual path. She displayed an ease and familiarity with meditation practices, most notably those of Padmasambhava. At this time, Sarah began teaching meditation to other anxious artists as well as at companies.

She soon began undergoing a series of profound awakenings, which included Kundalini energy, intuitive abilities, and dark nights of the soul that uncovered old trauma to be healed. Even though she was studying Buddhism, there was not much support for this transformation and Sarah was lost for a while.

While navigating this radical shift in identity, she was working and creating as an actor and writer/stand up comedian, performing nightly at the comedy clubs in Los Angeles. She fell in love, too! Eventually, a settling, clearing, and integration of these shifts began to take place.

In 2016, Sarah awakened into unity with a deeper dissolution of who she had taken herself to be, abiding in a revelation of her true nature, delighting in being nothing and everything at once. A deepening and a maturation continue to unfold.

Sarah mentors people who are committed to the path of the modern, creative mystic. She leads women’s circles, retreats, and meetings, and sees people one-on-one.

Her writing and performing continue to evolve. Her humorous memoir, The Divine Mess: A Journey Through Love, Los Angeles, and Enlightenment is in the works, as is an hour-long live show.

She lives with her husband, dog, and cat on the Eastside of L.A.

Website: sarahtaylor.org

Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.