#23 - Rest In Pride, Don Howard. Your Power of Love Radiates Brighter than Ever!
Don Howard Lawler October 3, 1947 - October 13, 2019 (Ascended)
My friend and SpiritQuest grad Martin and I are collaborating and building a new SpiritQuest website. I was inclined to keep the old biopark.org as it is. There's something nostalgic about the site being so pristinely preserved and frozen in carbonite (Han Solo style) for the last couple of decades. However, Don Howard was adamant that we needed a new website, and when The Maestro instructs you to do something, you do it!
As I was looking over our work in progress on the new site recently, I realized changes were in order to reflect Don Howard's ascension. It was bizarre to have to change some of the tenses of the verbs when describing Don Howard and convert them from the present tense to the past tense. Why do I say that? Because he's certainly still with us. Nonetheless, and to make it abundantly clear to people unfamiliar with our work, I wrote, "Don Howard transitioned from his body on October 13, 2019. His spirit is very much alive at SpiritQuest Sanctuary, and our team is utterly devoted to continuing his life's work."
If you were expecting some all-encompassing eulogy about Don Howard, I regret to inform you that you've come to the wrong place. There's no way I could do that in one piece. I also haven't had sufficient time to digest it, as the last 96 hours have been a real whirlwind. After living what felt like several lifetimes in a day back to back to back, I knew I had to pen something and send it out expeditiously. I couldn't justify delaying the news about Don Howard any further, especially for people that aren't up on social media.
I intend to write a series of reflections about Don Howard in upcoming editions of this newsletter. Candidly, I could write my next 10,000 updates about Don Howard and barely scratch the surface. By way of disclaimer, I am simply not nearly a gifted enough writer to express my overwhelming sense of appreciation for Don Howard. You would need a Shakespeare, an Angelou, a Tolstoy, an Austen, a Hemingway, or a Morrison to even attempt to do it justice.
First things first. As I mentioned in my last update, we started a new GoFundMe for Don Howard's medical expenses, and for any remainder to go to Don Howard's family. In connection with the campaign, Don Howard wanted to be totally transparent and express that there would be a substantial possibility that he would pass away before some of the new funds would be used for his medical expenses. In accordance with Don Howard's wishes, we made it very clear that in the event that there are any excess funds, those funds will go directly to Don Howard's Peruvian family - his wife Reyna, his son Howard Jr., and his daughter Selva.
While there are immediate medical expenses to pay off through the distribution of these funds, the timing of Don Howard's departure has created the opportunity for the better part of this fund to support his family during this transition. As Saryon, a sensational SpiritQuest graduate who set up this GoFundMe explained, we cannot understate the importance of how much that support means to his family and how much it would mean to Don Howard to honor him in this way by helping his family. Without Don Howard around, his family is undergoing monumental change. Reyna, is currently training at a local hospital during the day and taking classes during the evening. She has another year or so to go, and is not deriving any income from the hospital during the training phase. Howard Jr. is currently studying at a local university. Selva is the Maestra of our Huachuma mesadas (ceremonies) and co-facilitator of our retreats. Without going into more details, this is understandably a very difficult time for all of them.
Those of us who have organized this campaign feel certain that a number of you would want to honor Don Howard by helping his family collect a bit of a nest egg to get them through this challenging time as they write a new chapter in the book of their lives without Don Howard present.
If you feel called to contribute, contribute again, and/or share the link, we would be enormously grateful. Here is the link: https://gf.me/u/vsiunj
Given the degree to which Don Howard was struggling so mightily with his health, and how his quality of life was so abysmally low these last handful of months, his transition and ascension is a real blessing.
Don Howard had told me and others that he envisioned dying the day of a Huachuma mesada. And wouldn't you know it, he passed on a day when we had a Huachuma mesada (and a full moon, no less). I would chalk this up to mere coincidence, but Don Howard didn't believe in coincidences, and therefore, neither do I. This was how he wanted to go, and was how he was meant to go.
Don Howard's favorite vision on Vilca was one in which he ascended to a room of venerated Spirits that were each wearing incandescent, glowing, neon robes. His underlying takeaway was that when the day of his human life expires, he will ascend to that room and be honored by those Spirits, and it will be his turn to don (pardon the pun) that marvelous, bejeweled robe. Well, this past Sunday was Don Howard's enshrinement day!
Our mesada on Sunday was spectacular. Under extraordinarily difficult circumstances - just a few hours after her father's death - Selva conducted an impeccable mesada. That's now the second mesada that she's led. Don Howard was so right that she has such natural gifts when it comes to being a Huachuma Maestra and holding space, and she beautifully carries on her father's legacy in her own unique way.
The energy for the whole day and night was off the charts. There was zero doubt that Spirit was shining down on our group, and the amount of celestial, heavenly love we soaked in was sublime.
After the opening phase of our Mesada, our group departed the Sanctuary and took a boat ride to find a spot to interact with Mother Nature. After quite the extensive search, we finally found a small sliver of a remote and secluded private beach. Members of our group described that beach as being like Heaven or the Garden of Eden. The finest beaches in the world in Hawaii, Greece, or Thailand wouldn't have been able to hold a candle to our tiny island of beauty and wonder.
If ever there was a place and time in which Don Howard's expression, "You don't find Heaven; you realize it" resonated, this was that place, and this was that time. Everything about it was perfect. Don Howard once explained to me that, "Of course there's intelligent design." He wasn't referring to some fundamentalist creationism dogma; rather, the intelligent design becomes evident in everything once we slow down enough and still our minds enough to witness it. It was abundantly clear to our entire group that there was a supremely intelligent design in every aspect of what was unfolding all around us.
Huachuma shows you unvarnished reality in such a natural and stunningly magnificent way. There’s nothing artificial about Huachuma as it opens the doors of perception. It doesn't add anything that isn't already there. Huachuma facilitates tuning into that frequency of consciousness. It’s hard to see and drive if you have a dirty windshield. Huachuma thoroughly cleans the windshield. More than anything, on Huachuma reality is the vision and vision is the reality. Huachuma is all the more effective after first going through a cycle of Ayahuasca. Combining those two plant medicines in that order was an invention that Don Howard created, and it's a special combination indeed.
As my friend Martin remarked to me, not only did we experience a paradise of infinite delicious present moments, it was a paradise of infinite delicious and nutritious present moments. The Selva Huachuma experience is no empty calorie affair. Golly, how I so wanted others to drink in that hearty lifetime in a day with our phenomenal group!
At one point in the afternoon, it started raining for about 10 minutes while the sun was still brilliantly shining. A gorgeous, completely full rainbow sprouted up between the banks of the Amazon. Amazingly, somehow the rest of the Sky, and the beach, and the grass, and the trees, and the water, and a party houseboat that slowly made its way up the river all looked every bit as impressive and special as the full arching rainbow. Many of us sensed that the raindrops were tears from Heaven. I reasoned that while the Upper World gained such a tour de force of a spiritual being, even the Great Spirits of the Upper World recognized the profound sadness that humanity was experiencing with the loss of Don Howard. Accordingly, we were showered with a refreshing and cathartic cry from the Heavens.
As my friend David expressed, throughout the day and evening, it felt like the Upper World was full-on rejoicing to receive Don Howard, akin to a scene in a Star Wars universe in which a jubilant celebration is conducted to honor the ascension of a Jedi Master.
Our group collectively gathered to watch the sunset, and played a handful of songs to add a soundtrack to the viewing experience. The final song we played was Hans Zimmer's "Time", from the movie Inception. Speaking of Time, the song seemed to last several ages of the Earth. Meanwhile, it was as if every aspect of creation felt duty-bound to radiate the best parts of themselves, paying their own unique tribute and respects for Don Howard's ascension. When the sky couldn't get more outrageously magical, with clouds morphing into condors with flapping wings, or into faces that smiled back at us, it seemed to suggest to us, "Oh, you think that's impressive? Well, check this out!" and it would transform into something that somehow impossibly one-upped its predecessor. At the very end, one beautiful star started radiating in the night's sky. It didn't take a genius to connect the dots as to who was waving back at us. There was not a dry eye in the house.
Back at the Sanctuary and at the end of the Mesada, Selva - Don Howard's daughter and prodigy - stood at the Axis Mundi. I was positioned directly to the right of her. I've been told that the person who stands at the Axis Mundi (i.e., the place where the energies unite and converge - the feminine and masculine energies; the Upper, Middle, and Lower World; think of it like the line between the yin-yang, and the point of perfect balance and harmony) dictates the energy and the balance of the entire Mesa. If the person at the Axis Mundi is struggling or feeling imbalanced, the Mesa can feel like it's rocking like a boat that is navigating through a gauntlet of nasty chop.
When Selva was at the Axis Mundi, however, there was an equanimity to everything. Moreover, I truly tapped into and felt the love Don Howard felt for Selva, and the love that she felt for her father. I am not underestimating this description in the slightest by saying that it was a full out, cosmic supernova. Without sounding brash, it takes a good amount for either Ayahuasca or Huachuma to completely floor me. Nonetheless, this all-encompassing love energy absolutely staggered me, and I had to take a knee. For about a minute, I both witnessed and felt that degree of pure, unconditional love between a supremely proud father and his daughter who admires him and is so utterly devoted to his example and path of service, and I thought my body was going to spontaneously combust with love. Although I very much want to live, that would've been a phenomenal way to go out!
Selva and I taste-tested the batch of Huachuma prior to the retreat to ensure that it was calibrated correctly. It was, and was also plenty strong! We reported back to Don Howard after living that Huachuma lifetime in a day. In one of my final conversations with him, he saliently observed, "Once you really see the beauty in the world, you'll never let it leave you."
Well, Maestro, we've really seen the beauty in you and your life's mission of service to humanity and Mother Earth, and we'll never let it leave us.
While in some sense it's the end of an era, it's not the end of an aura. Don Howard's indelible imprint will motivate me and many others for the rest of our lives. And if you want to know where Don Howard's spirit resides aside from the hearts of so many people who so thoroughly love him, you need not look any further than Selva.
Don Howard battled challenging and bizarre health setbacks for a long time, heroically refusing to give in. His health fluctuated wildly in his last handful of months. The process of any person's gradual decline is rotten and hard for anyone to accept (he informed me repeatedly, "I didn't sign up for the long, slow decline"), but what’s even more difficult is when the uncertainty level is through the roof. Nobody wants to sign up for going through - or having a loved one suffer through - the ups and downs of that kind of white-knuckle roller coaster ride. And yet, I never once saw or heard him complain even though his body was slowly eating itself. In fact, he told me that learning more about the scope of his work as messages of love and support poured in from countless people across the globe, and how their work with him has both aged well and exported well, made him "actually grateful that I'm sick." In seeing how he handled himself, when issues with his health presented themselves on the degree of difficulty scale of 10 out of 10, I didn't just like Don Howard…I wanted to be like Don Howard. Did I like his attitude through all of this? I loved it.
When a person achieves greatness by the agreed-upon standards of society - you win Wimbledon, you win an Academy Award, you win the Nobel Prize in Physics - people correctly label that person as great. However, I would respectfully add one more definition of greatness to that mix. When a person achieves greatness by continually demonstrating goodness, they have done something much rarer and far more worthy of admiration and praise. Don Howard not only was, but continues to be, a model for that in my life. I constantly marvel about his tower of service and his unyielding quest to keep raising the bar of being of service - for his family, his friends, humanity, and Mother Earth and everything in it - and take copious notes as I strive to match that in my own life.
I spoke with two of my friends at our last retreat, Martin and David, and we collectively reasoned that the real sign of a Shaman's Shaman, or the absolute pinnacle of Shamans, is her or his versatility. They serve different roles for different people. For some people, Don Howard truly was an extraordinary human being/wizard. He was the real-life Gandalf the White, only better. For others, he was a walking, talking book of wisdom, and they would jot down every word he uttered. His expressions and phrases were always original and brilliant. Other people admired his ability to say the right thing at the right time to the right person. A sizable group of people told me they didn't sense anything superhuman about him, but were grateful that he was a "regular guy" to them that was hilarious, caring, and humble. Some people cherished his acute knowledge of ancient history, ethnobotany, or environmental advocacy. Others adored his generosity and the path of heart and unconditional love that he walked. What some people found most impressive about Don Howard isn't anything that he's said or anything that he's accomplished. They say that it's his pauses, or his silences, that have had a profound impact on them. The way he could make the most piercing of eye contacting and immediately read your soul like a book. Or the way he would come down to breakfast in the morning at the Sanctuary and gaze out upon the Momon River and surrounding Amazonian landscape with the exuberance and wonder of a child laying eyes on something for the very first time.
Diogenes the Cynic perpetually traveled around the sunlit streets of Athens, lantern in hand, in search of an honest man. Diogenes looked for that honest man although claimed to have never found one. He contended that he only encountered rascals and scoundrels. All Diogenes needed to do was bump into Don Howard and that would've stopped his little philosophical gag dead in his tracks. During his final days, I read people's birthday well wishes and comments to Don Howard. While Don Howard told me how touching each tribute was, he would typically add at the very end a tag like "Well, they don't know my shortcomings", "They don't know my failures", or "I know myself better, I know my faults." Lest we forget, Don Howard was human. He had a physical vessel, and it struggled considerably the last several years of his life. He enjoyed delicious food, dancing, wrestling, Star Trek, Star Wars, a nice walk, being out in nature, or having a deep conversation with friends for hours upon end. He had an ego, although he polished it and put a leash on that dog. In short, despite being Gandalf the White to so many people, he never stopped being a human being either. More than anything, he was a fully integrated human, which we can all strive to become. The humanity that he exhibited and the common humanity he saw in each and every person is a model worth replicating.
Don Howard was so utterly devoted to service, and his feats of audacious aspirations have been passed along to all of the members of the SpiritQuest familia and have been sewn into the tapestry of humanity and Mother Earth. It's important to note the distinction between aspirations and desires. Don Howard followed his aspirations, and not his desires. Desires, Don Howard said, can lead a person anywhere or to do anything.
His life’s work and vision has been like a bolt of lighting that positively electrified the entire world. ⚡️⚡️⚡️ When Don Howard was recently asked about what he hopes his legacy will be, he contemplated the question. When he eventually answered, he said, "I hope people say...there's a guy who did his best." As he courageously soldiered on notwithstanding all of the physical ailments in his body, I asked him why he pushed it to such a limit. His response? "A pressing need for service," Don Howard explained to me. Needless to say, no one would dare suggest that he didn't do his best.
Rest In Pride, Don Howard. We can only imagine how much you enjoyed your spiritual ascension. It’s virtually impossible to think that anything could’ve been more sublime than the Huachuma mesada that Selva so flawlessly led. And yet, there’s no doubt that your spiritual ascension was a celebration on an unquantifiable scale commensurate with deep appreciation and recognition for your life of service, and a showering of cosmic love upon you that you so richly deserve. By the way, that radiant robe looks glorious on you, Maestro!
The plot thickens and grows richer by the day. We're all not done by a long shot with you now on the Other Side, Maestro, and anyone who thinks otherwise hasn't been paying attention and may need to repeat some coursework at the Don Howard University of Higher Consciousness. Don Howard told me that he would always be there in ceremony with me, and for the first time, I got to experience him in ceremony on the Other Side. It did not disappoint!
“There’s always more,” as Don Howard would say, and we look forward with great interest and reverence to the continued unfolding.
And as one final reminder, here is the link to help support Don Howard's family during this trying time: https://gf.me/u/vsiunj
Warriors' hearts beat as one 💚 -Parker