Peter Occhiogrosso is the author of 5 nonfiction books, and a coauthor, collaborator, or ghostwriter of 20 more books, all for major publishers like Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Doubleday, and Hay House. In recent years his books have focused primarily on spirituality, the nature of consciousness, and world religion, as well as health and medicine. He has also coauthored books by public figures as disparate as rock icon Frank Zappa, best-selling spiritual teacher Caroline Myss, yoga master Mark Whitwell, and sports medicine expert Vijay Vad, MD, of New York's renowned Hospital for Special Surgery. Three of the books Peter coauthored have become New York Times Best Sellers.
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John Lennon's Parting Gift
Forty years ago, my generation experienced a shock, the expanding waves of which have never quite subsided. Response to the murder of John Lennon on December 8, 1980, was extreme in the beginning, with reports of several suicides by distraught fans. In the midst of mourning her loss, Yoko Ono made a public appeal to John’s fans to stop killing themselves. In the years that followed, John became one of a handful of public figures whose absence seems especially painful in retrospect because we could use their voices and leadership in a time of enormous turmoil. Although John had used his fame to call attention to the mounting militarism in the world (“Bed Peace,” “War Is Over if You Want It”), much of the press had taken him to task, especially in the years he took a sabbatical from the music world from 1976 to 1980 to raise his second son, Sean. He had been attacked for investing some of his wealth in an organic farm in upstate New York and heirloom dairy cows, as well as his egregiously macho behavior with women—which he had acknowledged with remorse. And yet his final work, Double Fantasy, was a public statement of his re-entry into life and love and devotion to his new family. He had even taken to calling himself a “house husband,” and what could be more anti-macho than that?
After publishing a cover story on Yoko that hit the stands on Dec. 3, I wound up meeting John just three days before he left the planet. We spent only a few hours together in the middle of the night at a recording studio where Yoko was overdubbing vocals for what would be their final song together, “Walking on Thin Ice.” The John Lennon I encountered that night was utterly unlike the self-centered ogre depicted in the media. Years before I would read, in the works of channeled wisdom known as the Seth Books (published during that same era), that we create our own reality by what we focus our attention on, I witnessed John creating a new reality for himself. I wrote a brief account of that meeting at the time, but outside of the Soho News, and an unpublished memoir of my years working there, the full details have never appeared before now.
Dying Every Day:
Exploring Life and Near-Death Experience with Reincarnate Buddhist Lama Mingyur Rinpoche
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, the 44-year-old Tibetan meditation master who has been a rising star in the Buddhist world for over a decade, has taken his teachings to a new level. During a wandering retreat in India that began in 2011 and lasted more than four years, he nearly died from food poisoning, and had what was clearly a near-death experience, or NDE. But, because he had spent years studying the Bardo Thodol—popularly known as The Tibetan Book of the Dead—he was prepared to meet his NDE head on.
Many dozens of books have been written about NDEs since the term first entered our lexicon in 1975, but none so far like Mingyur’s new book, In
Love with the World—A Monk’s Journey Through the Bardos of Living and Dying. I have been fascinated by Mingyur as a meditation teacher for some years, but I’ve also been researching the NDE literature, and when I was able to secure an interview with Mingyur about his new book, it allowed me to delve into both areas of interest. In my 7000-word interview, Mingyur talks about his experience and his new book, as well as what he has learned about what he calls “dying every day.” While working on this story, I went to Minnesota to take a weeklong retreat aimed at learning more about recognizing the “nature of mind” from Mingyur and his remarkable team of instructors. What I found was a teacher as flexible and engaging as he is full of sparkle and wit, and who was able to open for me some of the inner workings of the meditation process that I had been chasing for years.
During this interview, we discussed how his study of the Bardo Thodol helped him stay in awareness even as his body’s senses continued to dissolve and he edged closer to physical death. What makes Mingyur’s account stand apart from the many other books recounting NDEs is the way he connects the Tibetan concept of the bardo—the gap, or “in between” state, that we enter during the dying process—to the smaller gaps that happen in everyday life. If we can learn how to understand the bardos of everyday living and dreaming, we can prepare ourselves to cope with the more complicated and potentially disorienting experience of physical death that we will all face someday.
Circles of Belief - The World’s Spiritual Traditions and Beyond
In the more than 30 years since I began to write about spirituality and the world’s religions, the spiritual landscape has changed in many ways, and the publishing world has evolved as well. For that reason, I’m choosing to publish my most recent work as a Kindle eBook, entitled Circles of Belief: The World’s Spiritual Traditions and Beyond. My goal is to reflect the interconnected nature of the planet’s wisdom traditions along with the many related fields of spirituality that cannot be categorized as “religion” per se. In my previous books—Once A Catholic (1987), Through the Labyrinth (1991), and The Joy of Sects (1996/2006), I have described the beliefs and practices of the major religions and their offshoots—including Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Judaism, Kabbalah, Christianity, Islam, Sufism—as well as the wide range of beliefs and practices categorized loosely as the New Age.
In Circles of Belief, while incorporating much of the historical background of those traditions brought up to date, I focus more intensively on developments in the spiritual realm that have occurred outside the major traditions within the last hundred years or so. While I describe how New Thought and Theosophy grew into the revolutionary movement of the New Age, for example, I’m writing for the first time about the rise of significant phenomena such as “Spiritual but not Religious,” secular nondualism, and the many forms of “evolutionary spirituality” based on meditation practices.
At the same time, I write about a major development occurring along the interface of science and spirituality that can be characterized as a debate over whether human consciousness exists outside the brain—an issue with both scientific and spiritual significance of the first order. In a lengthy final chapter devoted in large part to this ongoing dispute, you will read about the relationship between quantum physics and spiritual beliefs; the study of out-of-body and near-death experiences; after-death communications including the role of mediumship; past life and life between lives regression; rebirth and the accurate recall of previous lives by children under the age of six; and other evidence suggesting that what some call the soul or spirit or buddhanature, and others identify simply as consciousness, continues beyond physical death.
Although the majority of mainstream scientists, atheists, and academics currently deny this possibility, a number of highly respected researchers, scientists, and medical practitioners have been accumulating evidence that life endures after the death of the body—a continuous existence that is substantially different from both the afterlife taught by Western religions and the concept of reincarnation as understood in the Eastern traditions. To my mind, this is the burning question of the day, one whose answer can have significant implications for how humanity responds to its current perilous condition. If we genuinely understand that our core essence will return in future lives—rather than arriving to stay in some mythical heaven or hell, gaining rebirth based on our current social class, or ending in unconscious nothingness—I believe the planet as a whole would take a much more enlightened approach to social and environmental justice. As the visionary Aldous Huxley put it in The Perennial Philosophy: “The politics of those whose goal is beyond time are always pacific; it is the idolaters of past and future, of reactionary memory and Utopian dream, who do the persecuting and make the wars.”
You can read an excerpt from Circles of Belief here>>
Inside Out: Exploring the Out-of-Body Experience an interview with William Buhlman
Photograph: Victoria Hall Waldhauser
To my mind, the most important question facing philosophy, spirituality, and physics today is whether consciousness can exist separately from the brain, and so from the body. If that is true—and a mushrooming body of evidence, both scientific and anecdotal, suggests that it is—then simple logic would compel us to acknowledge the existence of an afterlife of some kind. It doesn’t have to consist of the heaven and hell of Western monotheism, or the virtually endless cycle of rebirths taught by most Eastern religions. Like energy, our consciousness—including some form of what we have done and learned along with personal memory—cannot be destroyed but only transformed, and so, it must continue to exist somewhere. And if that’s the case, it behooves us to understand the nature of our nonphysical being, how it functions, and whether we can learn what it’s like to navigate the nonmaterial dimensions firsthand before our physical death sets us loose in the astral wilderness with no GPS.
The evidence suggesting that consciousness exists separately from the brain comes in many forms. Millions of near-death experiences have been reported over the past few decades, during which people who were clinically dead were still “conscious.” Many credible accounts of an afterlife dimension have been channeled and published. Out-of-body experiences, or OBEs, can be similar to NDEs, except that you don’t have to almost die to have one. William Buhlman is perhaps the foremost authority on OBEs. He has been exploring them for some 45 years and has been teaching about them, and how to initiate them, for several decades. In my interview for BestSelf, I ask William about his own experiences and why he believes OBEs are so critical to our spiritual life.
To hear me reading my piece, and download the podcast click here.
Sacred Journaling with Karma and Rebirth - Dates TBA
Sometimes we get so caught up in the minutiae of everyday living that we forget to pull back and look at the bigger picture. The same thing can happen with Journaling: if we don’t expand our view, we will end up focusing on the same old problems. Do you sometimes feel like you're just repeating yourself in your journal writings?
But, what if we knew with a high level of likelihood that our consciousness will not only survive physical death, but also continue evolving on another plane of reality? And, moreover, that how we progress there will be based on how well we comprehend the impact of our actions in this life?
Karma, the ancient Sanskrit word for “deed,” refers to all our mental and physical acts and their consequences—not only in this life but in the past and future as well. Do you sometimes sense that the work you’re doing now is an outgrowth of what you achieved in other lifetimes or dimensions?
Sacred Journaling is an ideal way to monitor our daily actions in light of how they reflect on our spiritual development. It’s not about merely recording events and passing emotions, but also exploring our actions in relationship to what we came to Earth to learn and ultimately to accomplish. Journaling helps us discover how those actions will determine the level of spiritual growth we can achieve in our next life, whether on the other side or in a rebirth into this physical life.
At the same time, Sacred Journaling provides a key to understanding the source of much of the tension and anxiety of day-to-day living, and serves as a tool to relieve it. If our life is simply a midpoint on a growth chart that extends indefinitely into the past and future, and if we are here primarily to learn through the crucible of physical existence, then journaling is an ideal way to monitor our actions—call it karma in the making. Challenges that we evade during our physical life will continue to face us after we transition to the nonphysical. Our hard-earned spiritual growth, our development of love and compassion, won’t be lost just because our body and brain stop functioning. This knowledge provides us with an extraordinarily optimistic way to view the ups and downs of everyday life.
In his groundbreaking book, Schwartz shares how to utilize a new way of thinking in our everyday lives, allowing us to transcend our limitations and open ourselves to infinite possibilities. The Possibility Principle explains how we can live the life we choose, free from the wounds of our past and the limitations of our beliefs and thoughts. Drawing from his vast body of research and dozens of client success stories, Schwartz shows us how to break through communication impasses, create resilient relationships, build authentic self-esteem, and overcome anxiety and depression. Filled with profound and applicable insights, The Possibility Principle, written with Peter Occhiogrosso, will galvanize you to become the author of your life’s script.
Sarada’s spiritual journey is indicative of the current evolution of consciousness. While working at a demanding job, raising two daughters, and helping her businessman husband heal from heart issues, she began exploring deep meditation in the Indian tradition. After she had profound Kundalini experiences, she sought out an advanced teacher from India and has worked with her for years. I met Sarada five years ago, and recognized the authenticity of her spiritual journey. I subsequently worked with her to create and shape the manuscript that became Home at Last, and helped her find an appropriate publisher as well.
Her book explains specific landmarks that we encounter during the journey toward enlightenment, based on the author’s direct experience. Sarada lets readers know what they can expect when confronting the mysterious, awakened inner force called kundalini. It explains how our outlook and goals change radically as kundalini directs our day-to-day life. Part spiritual memoir, part meditation handbook, Chiruvolu’s writings are clear and accessible yet contain profound spiritual insights covering:
The nature of prana, or vital life force, and how to increase its presence.
The process of transmitting pranic energy from teacher to student.
Detailed information on the roles of diet, exercise, and training the mind in preparation for the journey of realization.
The physical and psychological challenges one can expect during the extended process of awakening.
Possible impediments to raising the energy, and how to transcend them.
How to adapt to living and working with this powerful new energy in the context of everyday life.
Interview with Yoko Ono
Soon after the album Double Fantasy, the historic collaboration between John Lennon and Yoko Ono, was released in the Fall of 1980, I had the opportunity to interview Yoko at length about her pioneering—and widely underrated—career as a conceptual artist. In my cover story for the Soho News, Yoko talked about her childhood in Japan during the war; her career as a conceptual and performance artist and musician before she ever met John Lennon; and how her life changed, for better and worse, after her marriage to John.
Meeting John Lennon and Frank Zappa
- John Lennon and Frank Zappa - Peter Occhiogrosso
- John Lennon and Frank Zappa - Peter Occhiogrosso
I had the good fortune to meet two of the seminal figures in rock and roll history—
John Lennon and Frank Zappa—under very different circumstances.
I first met Frank Zappa in 1986 when I interviewed him for my book Once A Catholic. The following year, when I coauthored his autobiography, The Real Frank ZappaBook, I spent 3 weeks visiting Zappa at his home in the San Fernando Valley, meeting his wife Gail and his entire family—Moon Unit was 20 and Dweezil 18.
Frank Zappa Interview IS HERE!
In 1987, at the peak of Frank Zappa’s long career as an innovative musician and outspoken social critic, I interviewed him for my book Once A Catholic. Frank spoke with candor, high intelligence, and just a touch of anger, about his Catholic upbringing, the difference between religion and spirituality, Gregorian chant, catechism class, and music as sculpted air. As far as I know, this is the only time he ever discussed his religious upbringing and his feelings about spirituality at length in print. My book (which also included interviews with George Carlin, Martin Scorsese, Mary Gordon, and Jimmy Breslin, among others) has been out of print for some time, but I’ve decided to make this long-lost interview with Frank Zappa available once again for his countless fans around the world.