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James Lawer, MA, MDiv

James Lawer, M.A., M.Div., has graduate degrees in theatre and divinity. He studied with and was initiated into tribal traditions in North, Central and South America as well as the indigenous (Druid) traditions of Great Britain. After years of fulltime hospice work with HIV/AIDs patients, he has devoted himself to teaching participatory spiritualities rooted in place (earth centered spirituality), to helping people integrate along four realms of healing (self, community, nature, ancestors), and to facilitating the inspirational journey from consensus reality to preternatural awareness via awakened (“lit”) mind. James is on the Board of Directors and a Certified Instructor with the Cuyamungue Institue, in which he teaches and facilitates organic ecstatic trance states. 

Two Dried Leaves

He is a faculty member and mentor at the California Institute of Integral Studies CPTR Program, an Advisory Board member for the Center for Optimal Living Psychedelic Integration Program, and a founder and teacher of the Druid College, teaching direct experiences of nature in New York City and in Maine.

"In Joshua 6:20 (the fall of Jericho) it states ”the walls came a tumbling down.” Never mind, for the moment, the devotion to destruction by the edge of the sword that ensued. Instead, look to the opening of the chapter: “Now Jericho was shut up inside and out…no one came out and no one went in.” Such a revelatory expression of the concretized divisions between cultures and religions with which I was raised! And then, without trumpets or shouting or hordes of tromping masses, but instead in utter stillness, the walls fell. 

In the 1980s my full-time work was regarding HIV/AIDS, teaching, counseling, burying, dealing, as gently as possible, with vile uncompassionate prejudices, setting up the East Bay AIDS Food Bank, traveling and consulting across the US and Europe on that highly divisive human subject. It happened one Friday that I was in my office in a Christian church. That same Shabbat evening I was sitting on the bima of a Jewish synagogue, there to teach the congregation. The next day, given the strains and stresses of my work, I went to relax in one of my favorite places, a Buddhist prayer garden. No one else was there. The very large prayer wheels, 8 feet tall, easily moved to my touch. I sat down on a bench to breathe in the sunlight. Suddenly a garden cat leaped into my lap, curled up and fell asleep. Oh! It struck me, I have been in a Christian church, a Jewish synagogue and now in a Buddhist meditation garden, and I have felt the divine equally present in every single place. The quiet purring of the cat, the moment of being transfixed in the sunlight, the stirring of the prayer wheels—suddenly the walls between the spiritual paths of the people “came a tumbling down” in my soul. I wept.

In 1988 I was in Berlin, both West and East, lecturing for three weeks. One day I crossed the border into East Berlin and gave several presentations. Uwe, a beautiful young man from East Germany who had traveled an hour to attend, attached himself to me and we talked. That night, I had to cross over the border before midnight. I slipped through the gates just as midnight fell like Thor’s hammer. I turned to look at Uwe to wave goodbye again, when suddenly the solid metal doors slammed shut between us. The rupture in our parting is among my most painful memories. One year later the wall fell.   The wall broke into my memory with the glorious sounds of Beethoven’s 9th. “And the walls came a tumbling down.” The people wept. Uwe, 27 years later I still remember you."

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