March 20th at 10 AM PT/ 7 PM CET

Spirituality, Ageing, Dying with Karen Voorhees


When Mark Davenport, my late husband and co-founder of the Wisdom Factory, started his Facebook Group “Masterminding Integral Ageing”, he hoped to connect with people who were able to see life from an integral perspective and explore the possibilities with him.

Since then we have explored different ways of ageing with many people, in our private lives and on our shows. How might the integral worldview allow a sustainable, “second tier” way of ageing to emerge? And how might we best use our remaining time on earth?

Spirituality is certainly one option in favor with integral folks. What kind of spirituality? Let’s explore this topic with Karen Voorhees!



Karen Vorhees Timestamps

0:00 Intro Heidi to Karen and to the topic

1:00 KAREN INTRODUCES HERSELF: Her ageing body, retirement, travelling for being with their ageing parents in hospices. Her spiritual practice and integral studies helped her with all that.

4 There is no difference between birth and death. It is a passage. The ability to be present.

5 Heidi about the topic: you cannot avoid to be reminded of death when you get older. Talks about her past of work in the countryside and how it changed in time.

7 K: expecting to live as long as we do now is very new. Her background as an historian. 9 Overcome il denial which only increases the suffering. Death as defeat and failure is a horrible position!

10 Experience with a person which was deformed by plastic surgery. How tragic. Makeup for seeming to be younger? Heidi shares her thoughts.

13 Young girls with makeup: we always want to be different, in any age. Karen: Media make us more insecure and sell us products we do not need!

15 Spirituality: that is who I am. Ageing is a chance for self acceptance. Karen about her travel with her mother.

19 People under 35 and offer 60 are pushing forward into Integral . “The geeks and the geezers

21 K: the influence of the spiritual path. Before hospice movement dying people were kind of abandoned. Now she is present for what is happening without trying to change it.

23 Attention is soul energy. Kaaren talks about her experience with her mother.

31 The fear of death. Heidi talks about her show with Mirko Weinreich: psychedelics take away the fear.

33 Michael Pollan Book on Psychedelics, drugs coming out of the shadows, gets decriminalized. Some drugs are public health problems (alcohol, nikotin), while other drugs are health fostering – but are forbidden.

37 Heidi: cultures with suppress a lot need some beer to be able to overcome the blocks. Abuse is the problem and self control needs to be developed. Karen: Levels of self-control with every stage of development. We have to learn new self control skills on every level without repression: transcend and include.

41 Karen: Projection on others – happens when we are not in control of our own drives. Examples. Shadow work is necessary. Emotions are energy and can be transmuted into higher orders.

43 Fear of death: sit with it without repressing, allow it to come up, it is not easy. “What am I really afraid of?”. Many levels below the surface.  Higher levels of conasciousness without shadow work: we will take that shadow up with us: time to overcome our denial of ageing, death, dying. Start with being present: Spirituality.

46  Challenges with new technology. Karen: You cannot program consciousness, it is not a byproduct of the brain. No one can put a soul into a machine. All 4 quadrants co-arise, they all co-evolve with the progress in science and technology, it won’t be limited to only one quadrant.

49 Who is programming our machines? A philosophical question. Algorithms decide in our material world. Gtting older we should learn the new technology? Karen: individual decision. She likes self-driving cars when we are too old for being allowed to drive! Karen’s predictions.

54 Heidi’s situation in Italy – you need a car! Karen will find a marketer for me and people who would love to stay here! Karen: Internet connection we humans become the nervous system of gaya. People will be able to live in a lovely place and don’t need to be in the city for work! The “sea ranch” set up their own broadband access and more people come into that area. They might take care for us?

58 New level of connectedness: provide some value to other human beings. Basic income?  Taking care of ageing people would be possible more easily and much more. A plaidoyer for the new technology.

1:00 Karen: Europe is further in pushing into second tier the 7th transformation of humanity

1:02 The older we get the more time to grow up! Heidi talks about her experience with Mark’s death, Being in the present moment. A stressful but enriching experience. Her father died when she was 27, later this helped her to be helpful to others.

1:06 Conscious Dying series helps to get orientation and inspiration


There’s a saying in integral circles: “It’s lonely at the top”. That doesn’t mean we arrogantly consider ourselves better than others. The point is that at each step up in the levels of personal development, fewer people have jumped up there. Therefore, the more you develop yourself, the fewer people you find to connect with, and talk about the things which are of deepest interest to you.
“Integral” is the 7th stage of development. Even in our Western societies, the majority of people are somewhere in the previous stages.

What a joy to talk with people you connect with as your peers, who see the world from a broader perspective, who are able to discuss controversial things without needing to protect or defend themselves against “offenders”, as so many people do. How enlivening when people are able to jump over their own shadow, at least to some extent, and can take a meta-perspective on themselves and their being in the world!
Thanks to Integral Life, a number of us have found each other and started a discussion group. One of the interesting members who showed up there is Karen Voorhees. I immediately wanted to bring her into our Conscious Ageing series. It was so interesting for me to talk with her – and hopefully for you to listen to us!


Three things shaped Karen in a big way when she was fifteen: the publication of “Lord of the Rings,” the first “Star Trek” series, and the Summer of Love. She became a flower child, then then morphed into an egghead with a passion for scholarly truth.

Just as she was completing her Ph.D. in Medieval cultural history she began meditating and discovered that there are levels of truth beyond the intellect. She bailed out of academia and into the not-for-profit world.

Today she channels her passion for truth and beauty into her creative writing. She has a vision of a glorious future for us—provided we don’t freak out over our apocalyptic current events and blow it too badly—and is hard at work packaging her vision into entertaining fiction.



On Being the Bad Guy

Excerpt from the writer’s journal of Karen Shearer Voorhees

October 30, 2016

It’s the day before Halloween. How appropriate. I’m kind of spooked. It’s supposed to be a good thing for a novelist when a character in her story takes on a life of his own. But really.

For the past six months I’ve been hammering away on two chapters in the middle of my novel “Shadow of the Earth,” set eleven thousand years ago. This section is the central hinge in which the stone-age protagonist Embe agrees to become the first ever High Priestess for her people. Her antagonist Batumivir has largely dominated these chapters. Now this big, strong, scary barbarian war-lord has come thrusting into vivid life in my mind and he’s trying to dominate me. It’s been hard work setting boundaries and enforcing them.

Just now over breakfast at my favorite local deli he took it to a new level. As soon as I got back home I headed straight here for my computer. That’s what this document is: the record of our encounter and the bargain we’ve negotiated.

Batumivir-in-my-head picked up the ongoing inner dialog as soon as I’d finished placing my order. He insisted yet again that he’s really not the bad guy of the story I’m struggling to tell. He said he was, or should have been, the romantic hero.

“Dude, that’s just not the way it happened,” I replied. I did this silently. Even here in Berkeley, the open ward, talking aloud to yourself in public minus visible devices is considered A Bit Too Much.

In my mind’s eye Batumivir’s head tilted up and his eyes narrowed; his usual argumentative pose. “Come on. Be fair. Out of all the possible versions of our story in all those parallel universes, you picked the one that made Embe look best and me look worst.”

My coffee arrived. Fortunately, the waitress knows by now that when I roll my eyes it’s not at her, it’s at some thought process of my own. “I didn’t choose the plot in “Shadow of the Earth” I replied inwardly as I tore open a packet of Splenda. “Embe did. It’s her story and she insists it happened this way.”

“Well, I’m insisting. And I don’t take no for an answer.” Now he was wearing that toothy grin that makes Embe go weak in the knees in Chapter Six. It makes me a little wobbly too, if I’m going to be honest, and he knows it. His smile broadened.

I’ve learned by now how essential it is to enforce my boundaries with him. “No way. Embe and I already let you have that whole bonus chapter in the middle of  the story. That’s what we agreed to and that’s what you get. Period.”

He’s learned by now that when I draw a line like this, I keep it. But he still didn’t give up. He turned the full blast of his forceful charm on me as I sat there sipping. “Listen, honeybunch, here’s what I want from you. I get it that you’re going to tell Embe’s story her way. I only want you to tell one of the other versions as well. Write her version, then write mine. A version I get to approve, just like she’s getting now. Fair’s fair.”

“I can’t think about a second novel now!” I protested. “I haven’t even finished the first draft of “Shadow!”

That began a negotiation that continued all the way through my breakfast. It continues even now, as I sit at home typing this. Batumivir drives a hard bargain and he’s a much savvier negotiator than me, but bottom line, I have the better hand going in.

And I think I see how this can work. I could sure use his help with the last third of “Shadow.” In this part of the story he turns viciously on Embe. He earned what happened to him at the end of the story and he’s not going to like dealing with it. But he needs me, absolutely, if he wants his version of the story told at all.

So here’s the deal we hammered out over two potato latkes and a side green salad. I’ve agreed that after the first novel is finished and out the door, assuming I get that far, I will tell a second, different version. It will be a continuation of the alternate-universe story that branches off briefly in the sixth chapter of “Shadow of the Earth.” He’ll help write that second novel in the same way Embe is helping now with “Shadow.” In this second version he will indeed get to be the romantic hero. Sort of. But first he will have to cooperate with Embe and me on the rest of “Shadow,” even through the gruesome parts toward the end: his narcissism, his alcoholism, his brutality, and the paranormal horror when he is possessed by that demon of cruelty.

How very appropriate that he and I are negotiating this agreement at Halloween.

This document records our bargain. In writing this I am planting the seed for my second novel, assuming I get that far. When I save and close this file I will return to work on “Shadow of the Earth.” I will try my level best to get it written and published and distributed in the coming years, making notes for Batumivir’s version along the way as ideas for it crop up.

Will there be a market for the second novel? Batumivir-in-my-head is sure that’s a yes. He takes it as given that all the women who read “Shadow” will fall in love with him, in spite of what he does in its later chapters.

“Your bloody arrogance takes my breath away,” I tell him.

He’s laughing at me. Ye gods, he’s going to be a bear to work with. And there’s something else coming up around this too. We’d better tackle it now, as I sit here typing this, because it’s going to make or break the deal.

“Batumivir, if this is going to work, you will have to take responsibility for the things you did in Embe’s version of the story,” I warn him.

That wipes the smirk off his face. Now he’s glaring at me.

I take a deep breath and continue. “Your narcissism was the main reason things got so ugly on most of the life tracks you shared with Embe across all those parallel universes. Whenever things didn’t go your way you blamed someone else. You never acknowledged responsibility for the consequences of your own deeds. That has to change. Are you willing to work on it?”

“Don’t throw that psycho-babble at me!” he snarls. Then he surprises me. “I’ve spent eleven thousand years in karmic counselling, working on this shit. Don’t rub it in my face, all right?”

“Um, all right,” I say cautiously. “How do you want to deal with it?”

“I’ll tell you as we go along,” he throws at me.

“Um. All right. But I will be straight with you if something isn’t working for me. I’ll expect you to listen when I tell you why. Then we’ll figure out a way forward together. Deal?”

In my mind’s eye he’s trying to stare me down. I stare back. He can’t do this without me and he knows it.

“Deal,” he finally says.

OMG. What have I gotten myself into?

November 1, 2016

It the Dia de los Muertos, the day after Halloween. Ay, carramba. The situation with Batumivir has evolved, big time, since I made the previous entry in this journal two days ago. Both Embe and I are now in love with him outright. He knows it and he’s gloating, the cocky bastard.

And he was in love with Embe all along! She/I have finally seen that. Some things about the plot of “Shadow” that were puzzling me have now snapped into place. This is why Batumivir was so obnoxious. He was like a seven-year-old boy who keeps pestering a girl in his class. He’s smitten and this is the only way he has to show it. She just thinks he’s being an insufferable jerk. I’m going to have to revise the second half of Chapter Six accordingly. Well, actually, this insight is going to affect the entire second half of the novel.

At the same time, it’s still as true as ever that Batumivir was a primitive and highly predatory guy, determined to dominate all around him. Especially any woman he considered “his.”

And I now have a much clearer understanding why Batumivir turned on Embe so horribly toward the end of “Shadow.” When she maneuvered him into swearing he would never touch her, to him that rejection was a catastrophe, triggering his abandonment issues from early childhood.

Yes, Batumivir, I’m throwing more psycho-babble at you. But be honest. Doesn’t it fill a deep, aching need in you to be seen and accepted at this level? Isn’t this what you’ve always wanted?

Okay, big guy, I get it that this is scary for you. It’s scary for me too. Remember, I’ve come a long way myself. When Embe first shared her story with me twenty-five years ago, I hated you. I mean hated. Now I’m in love with you too. I can see how the second novel, the one where you get to be the good guy instead of the bad guy, could turn into a compelling love story, if rough and over-the-top.

November 3, 2016

Seems like there’s another tectonic shift every second day.

During my walk down North Shattuck Avenue today, for the first time ever I tried seeing my world from Batumivir’s point of view. Unlike Embe-in-my-head, who is exuberant and garrulous when I ask her what she thinks of our world today, he didn’t have anything to say. Mostly he just seemed stunned.

Apparently Batumivir-in-my-deep-psyche has spent the last two days consciously facing what he did to the woman he loved above all others on earth. He’s really gotten it that facing this, and working it through, is the price he will have to pay if he wants me to write “his” version of the story, in which he and Embe end up mated happily if tempestuously, and rule their region together as its lord and lady.

No wonder he’s stunned. Big gulp for me too. I’m going to have to be him in my head and heart and imagination, from time to time, in order to write both my first and my second novels. This is going to be way intense.

OMG. What have I gotten myself into?

Blood Moon

The Dying Priestess Has A Vision of Her People’s Future

Every realization of depth comes with a terrible burden. Those who are permitted to see are simultaneously saddled with the obligation to communicate that vision in no uncertain terms—that was the bargain.

Ken Wilber, “One Taste”

I know I will die in two days. I know where, and how, and who will drive the knife blade into my heart as the next full moon rises. This is not why I tremble. I tremble for you, my people. What will become of you? Before my last breath leaves my body, I pray that you will catch this story my spirit is struggling to tell, and hear my warning.

Download the full excerpt here