If Jesus returned today he wouldn’t burst through the clouds on four flaming horses wielding a mighty sword to smite the wicked and whisk the righteous away to Paradise Everlasting. No. He’d have a booth at the Conscious Life Expo at the Hilton near LAX airport, between a guy who promises to recharge your chakras and a booth offering to tell you the truth about the alien presence on Earth.
In fact I spotted three Jesuses last Sunday when I went to the Conscious Life Expo. Two were dressed in flowing white tunics, while the other wore jeans and a T-shirt. The two in the tunics kept craning their heads around to see who was looking their way. But it’s hard for even Jesus to get noticed in a place like this.
Spread across multiple conference rooms and auditoriums throughout the hotel, the expo was home to a host of mystic crystal salespeople, anti-vaccination crazies, loving and compassionate energy healers, pet psychics and gurus of every kind.
I saw booths where they hawked angelic reiki, trance channeling, singing bowls, quantum energy healing, spiritual cruises to Croatia, crystal light beds, and, of course, the very Truth of Life itself. The Truth of Life people were even kind enough to give me a little paper bag to carry around all the other pamphlets and paraphernalia I collected as I strolled around the place.
But the saddest booth of all had to be the one with a sign they probably printed out at their local Staples store and glued to a piece of poster board announcing that the World Teacher had arrived. The poor old World Teacher was apparently not flashy enough to stand out among all the rainbows and energy jewelry. Everybody just seemed to pass his booth right by.
I really don’t think Jesus of Nazareth or Siddhartha would have stood a chance at the Conscious Life Expo. People would be too busy attending lectures about UFOs to pay those guys much mind. Even if they did sit and listen for a minute or two, it wouldn’t be long before they’d get distracted by the next thing.
I have a little pet theory about gatherings like this. It’s something I could never prove, and yet I think it explains a lot of what I see. My feeling is that, while 75% or so of the folks renting out space at a place like the Conscious Life Expo are either delusional or outright frauds looking to make a quick buck from suckers, maybe a quarter of them are sincere people who’ve had some kind of genuine spiritual experience.
These folks put in their time at some ashram or zendo somewhere, they delved deeply into the mysteries of practice and, at some point, they gained a little bit of insight and wisdom. I’ve been there. I know just how awesome and exciting those glimpses can be. You really do feel like you have at last unlocked the secret keys to the very Universe itself and stepped into the presence of God Almighty. If you have even the least bit of compassion for your fellow humans, you feel inspired to trumpet your discoveries from atop every soapbox in every park in the land and thereby usher in a new era of peace, joy and unspeakable bliss.
If you are gifted with the ability to present yourself well, or if you just happen to look like Jeffery Hunter in the role of Jesus in the 1961 Technicolor epic King of Kings, all the better. With a little bit of hard work and determination you can parlay your insights into a lucrative career and attract a cadre of followers to help you spread the word.
It must be kind of annoying, though, to end up in a booth at a place like the Conscious Life Expo trying to get noticed amongst the noise. I couldn’t see a whole lot of difference between the Conscious Life Expo and any of the many Monsterpaloozas, Wondercons, Star Trek conventions or other sci-fi geek fests I’ve attended. You got your cosplayers dressing up like their favorite characters, in this case Jesus and Buddha rather than Mr. Spock and Chewbacca. You got your marginally famous speakers, in this case alien technology experts and guys lecturing about Unconditional Self Love Mastery (!) rather than George Takei and Jolene Blalock. You got your booths selling swag, in this case incense and crystal skulls instead of Millennium Falcon model kits and, well, crystal skulls.
I know what it’s like at places where geeks gather. While there’s a sense of welcome comradery at being with your “own kind,” there’s also a bubbling well of jealousy seething just below the surface. You’re so used to being the only kid on your block who knows anything about Ultraman that when you meet someone else who might possibly own even more plastic kaiju figures than you do, you’re just looking for a reason to brand him a big phony and a wanna-be.
I’m sure every World Teacher at the Conscious Life Expo secretly thinks every other World Teacher he’s forced to share a panel discussion about Love and Grace in the Coming Millennium with is a poseur. I’m sure every guy passing out pamphlets claiming that consciousness is a field of information in the holographic mind thinks the guy in the next booth offering divine healing experiences is a flake.
I wonder what the hotel bar was like after the expo closed down each night. I wonder if all those Jesuses managed to get laid — and not in the tomb of Joseph of Aramathea either!
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Registration is now OPEN for our Spring Zen & Yoga Retreat March 18-20, 2016 at Mt. Baldy Zen Center, Mt. Baldy, California
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Check out my podcast with Pirooz Kalayeh, ONCE AGAIN ZEN!
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I’ve got a new book coming out soon! Stay up to date on its release schedule, my live appearances and more by signing up for our mailing list on the contact page!
Starting February 24th, my publishers are running a contest on Goodreads to give away 2 copies of my new book!
February 28, 2016 Houston, Texas Houston Zen Center
March 5-6, 2016 Austin, Texas Austin Zen Center
March 9, 2016 El Paso, Texas Eloise Coffeeshop/Bar 7:00pm
March 18-20, 2016 Mt. Baldy, California SPRING ZEN & YOGA RETREAT
March 25, 2016 Venice, California Mystic Journey Bookstore 7:00pm
April 7, 2016 San Francisco, California Against The Stream
April 8, 2016 San Francisco, California San Francisco Zen Center
April 22, 2016 New York, New York Interdependence Project
April 23, 2016 Long Island, New York Molloy College “Spring Awakening 2016”
June 2, 2016 Los Angeles, CA The Last Bookstore 7:00pm
September 9-11, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland 3-Day Retreat
September 16-17, 2016 Dublin, Ireland 3-Day Retreat
September 22-25, 2016 Hebden Bridge, England, 4-Day Retreat
September 27, 2016 – Wimbledon, London, England – Talk and Q&A
September 29-October 2, 2016 Helsinki, Finland, 4-Day Retreat
October 7, 2016 Berlin, Germany Zenlab
October 14, 2016 Munich, Germany, Lecture
October 15-16, 2016 Munich, Germany, 2-Day Retreat
October 23-28, 2016 Benediktushof Meditation Centrum (near Würzburg, Germany) 5-Day Retreat
Every Monday at 8pm there’s zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Beginners only!
Every Saturday at 10:00 am (NEW TIME!) there’s zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. Beginners only!
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One of the main ways I make money when I’m not attending weirdo new age expos is through your donations to this blog. I won’t get any of the recent Angel City Zen Center fundraiser money. I appreciate your on-going support!