Wonderful Walter Cooke

Walter, The Priest

Walter A Cooke in the 1990'sIn the Michael system Walter is a 2nd level old priest and when talking about his spiritual/psychological traits and life he will often tell people that he is an old priest because it explains a great deal about him.

Walter really didn't become interested in spirituality until his early 40's right after his divorce from Ginger, his wife of 19 years. An emptiness and a need to find a sense of purpose and better knowledge of who he was is what propelled him out of his marriage. But getting divorced didn't fix the problem. So he began his search.

His path has taken him through the human potential movement, all sorts of metaphysics, self hypnosis, life in a spiritual community, channeling of every sort and variety, meditation, rebirthing, Zen Buddhism, non-dualism and The Work of Byron Katie.

Handbook to Higher Consciousness by Ken KeyesHe began with astrology and Jay Arrigo, a jazz pianist and would-be guru who had a Thursday night group at his house. Much of Jay's stuff was based on Ken Keyes' Handbook to Higher Consciousness. It's a great book if you've never read it. Walter was so enamored of it that he gave Sara a copy of it the morning before their first date, hoping she'd love it as much as he did--she did, that's just one of the many things they had/have in common. The basis of the book is The Twelve Pathways to Higher Consciousness.

Jay did a weekend workshop called TEA (Total Emotional Acceptance) that was a wonderful mélange of guided meditations, eye gazing, lectures on abundance and a final intense rebirthing session with Jay providing the background music on the piano. Walter woke up the next morning feeling better than he had in a very long time--maybe since he'd been a kid. He felt free and calm and wanted more of it. He assisted in a couple of weekends including the one that Sara did and loved. They were on their way.

But wait, what about astrology? Walter is a Taurus with moon in Sagittarius and Capricorn rising. He was just starting to read about astrology when he met Sara in a hot tub at Fair Oaks West, a singles apartment complex in Sunnyvale, CA. The first thing he said to her was, "What's your sign?" and of course the whole hot tub broke out laughing because it was such a worn out pick up line in 1978. Sara however had always been interested in astrology and had learned a great deal from one of her graduate school roommates. She gave the laughing crowd a dirty look and said, "Some of us are still interested in that stuff. I'm an Ares, what are you?"

When you look at both of their charts one thing really jumps out: they both have Venus at 4 degrees Taurus. This kind of conjunction means they like the same things, have the same taste and living together is really easy--and of course after over 30 years they'd agree with that.

Walter continued to be interested in astrology and relationships for years. He even wrote a computer program to predict the birthdates of your 'perfect lover.' It was a basic program Walter Cooke and Sara Schurr Crystal Ball 1979that ran on his first home computer--one with 8k of memory and a cassette deck for storage--yes Virginia, before floppy disks and hard drives there were cassette tapes.

In 1979 a bunch of his music friends did Lifespring, a human potential training a bit like EST but softer, kinder and with lots of music and dancing. Walter took a friend to a guest event in August 1979 and loved the environment full of people hugging each other and apparently very intensely connecting with one another. He and Sara did the Basic training in October 1979, the Advanced Training (called IPE at the time) in November 1979 and the three month TC (Training Coordinator) program from December 1979 through March 1980. It was a time of rapid growth and self discovery and it truly changed both of their lives. Besides that they got to do a lot of dancing and have tons of fun.

Meanwhile, Walter and Sara were taking meditation and past life workshops and spending weekends at Getting in Touch, a clothes optional retreat center in the Santa Cruz mountains--there is nothing funnier in the whole world than watching middle-aged people play volleyball with no clothes on! They took Getting in Touch with Your Psychic Self with Ann Armstrong, a wonderful psychic from the Sacramento area, and a Esalen-style massage course. They were also reading every woo-woo book they could get their hands on: Edgar Cayce (Lemuria, Atlantis, earth changes, past lives and alternative healing), Ruth Montgomery (Lemuria, Atlantis, past life stuff and walk-ins), Messages from Michael (a channeled psychological system) Robert Monroe (Out of Body experiences) and The Magic of Findhorn and The Findhorn Garden (about Findhorn, a spiritual community founded on guidance and dedicated to attunement to nature). They also were busy listening to tapes by Dick Sutphen on past life regression, self hypnosis and opening to psychic abilities. Do you see a trend here?

In the spring of 1982, Walter did a workshop with Peter Caddy, one of the founders of Findhorn. He asked Peter whether there were any spiritual communities in the US like Findhorn and Peter said the only one he knew of was Sirius in Massachusetts. Walter was very drawn to the idea of community and read everything he could get on the subject.

By the summer of 1982, Sara began to hear a voice while she meditated, which she called her guidance. Walter, not to be outdone, sat down with one of Dick Sutphen's hypnosis tapes and began to do automatic writing. For the next several years, they ran their lives based on the combined advice from these two sources. Almost immediately, Walter asked his guides where he and Sara should go next. And what came back was community in Massachusetts. They did their research and the only one that they could find was Sirius, the one that Peter Caddy had mentioned in his workshop. So they made arrangements to go to Sirius for a one-week visit.

In that one week, it became very clear that they were supposed to move and live in the community. They got permission from the community members to become prospecting members and rented a house across the street from the community's main piece of property. They went home, sold one of their cars, all their furniture and most of their possessions including nearly all their books and records and packed up and moved in less than two weeks. They drove cross country in a week to start a new life in spiritual community. Sirius was founded on the idea of attunement to nature, meditation and consensus governance. Sara and Walter called it 'spiritual boot camp.' Here they were challenged to get clear on what they really believed and what was important to them. Walter likes to say that his process was one of learning to accept each member individually and then to accept the community and its process as a whole.

They spent a year and a half at Sirius before their guidance let them off for good behavior since they had expected to be there for 2 years. During that time Walter read the Ra Materials and Law of One books which made a huge impression on him and he and Sara did the Opening the Heart Workshop at Springhill, a weekend workshop the combined spirituality, chanting, music and deep psychological work.

When it was time to move, Walter took out his pendulum, hung it over a map of the west coast and asked where they were to go next. Oregon, which had come up in Sara's guidance rang loud and clear--especially Bend and Eugene. The problem with both those places was that there were no jobs so they ended up in Beaverton, a Portland suburb instead. After sharing a house with 4 or 5 other people and eating dinner each night with 35 or 40 people, their little apartment was an oasis of calm. They organized a spiritual 'sharing group' that year and while it didn't draw a lot of people it gave them a place to meet other people on the path. They went up to Breitenbush Hot Springs for a weekend. It was just taking form as a community and sadly it was clearly not a place for them. The year in Beaverton was mostly R and R and a time of consolidation of what had been learned in the past few years.

Dropping Ashes on the Buddha
Sometime in that period Walter began reading Zen Buddhism. Finally in about 1985 he came across Dropping Ashes on the Buddha by Zen Master Seung Sahn. This was the first Zen book where he could really understand what was being said and sit and think about the teaching stories and 'figure them out' over time. The final chapter is the story of Seung Sahn's enlightenment and it was the key to understanding his teaching for Walter. There is truly more to Zen than 'the wall is white.'

He's loaned this book out so many times that he's on his third or fourth copy by now. If you're looking for a great book on Zen he highly recommends it. If you're really nice to him he'll even loan you his copy that is autographed by Stephen Mitchell who compiled and edited it.

In 1986 Walter revisited A Course In Miracles. His friend, Bob Sonneman, had given him a copy back in 1978 and while he'd read it, he hadn't gotten a whole lot out of it. Now he was actually ready for it. Each morning he would sit in his chair overlooking the garden and read a page of the text. He had the daily lessons on little 'holy cards' that he kept in his pocket. He got a watch that beeped on the hour and when it beeped he'd whip out the card and read it and follow the instructions--in his office, during design review meetings, anywhere. To this day, his favorite lesson is number 3, "I do not understand anything I see in this room."

A Course in MiraclesHere is an excerpt that he particularly loves from the introduction to the Text:

"This is a course in miracles. It is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary. Free will does not mean that you can establish the curriculum. It means only that you can elect what you want to take at a given time. The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love's presence, which is your natural inheritance. The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite.

This course can therefore be summed up very simply in this way:

"Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.

Herein lies the peace of God."

During this same time Walter discovered Ramtha, Mafu and Lazarus 3 channeled entities who were producing tapes and videos. The 1980's was a hot time for channeling and here in Seattle it got to the point where we joked that every time you turned over a rock you would find another entity. Ramtha came to Seattle in the fall of 1985 and Walter and Sara along with their friend, Patricia, took the 4 day workshop that was offered. It fried their brains and they got higher than kites and wanted more. So they bought set of videos of another 4-day workshop. They were delivered to Patricia's home by UPS who left a note on her door that said, "Ramtha's in the bushes" because the deliveryman had hidden the package in the bushes next to her front porch. "Ramtha's in the bushes" became an on-going joke between them for years. The three of them spent a whole day watching the videos and were barely functional when they got done, it had stretched their minds so much.

Early in 1986, Walter's wife, Sara, began to voice channel. Since Walter was the one who was so interested in channeling and had been reading channeled material for years and years they had both assumed that he'd be the channel. They had done all sorts of meditations and invocations over the years to get him started and nothing much had happened. Then spontaneously Sara was the one to open to the process. As a result Walter now got to spend time most evenings talking with Aranya, an ascended master, and the 3 angels Sara channeled. He carried a card around in his pocket to write down questions so that he'd always have something to ask them about. Aranya turned out to have many attributes of a Zen master so now Walter had his own personal master to work with.

While Sara practiced doing small public sessions for friends, they continued to rent Ramtha and Lazarus videos from the local New Age bookstores. The spent most of the summer of 1986 watching them. Finally in August 1986, Sara's entities announced that it was time for them to start hosting public events. Walter invited some of his friends from work and 12 years of monthly public channeling events began. Walter never missed an event. He sat through hundreds of hours of channeling while still pursing his reading in Zen, crop circles and other interesting stuff. In fact, Sara stopped reading New Age and spiritual materials and it became Walter's job to stay on top of the trends and read all the latest stuff.

Also in the 1986-87 time period Walter did an intensive course of rebirthing sessions with our friend, Patricia. This included a session in a hot tub using a snorkel with Sara channeling Aranya that was particularly powerful. He did a workshop with his friend, Dave Munger, where they did rebirthing to music and they got to draw a mandala of the experience. His consisted of a big I AM with rays of color and light coming off of it. It hung on the wall of his closet for years to remind him of what he saw and experienced in that session.
With the advent of the world wide web a whole new set of resources appeared. Walter discovered that Shepherd Hoodwin, a Michael Channel, was offering to channel your Michael over-leaves for a relatively small fee. [He still offers a full chart with no interpretation for $40]. He mailed off photos of himself and Sara and this is what he got back. He was right; he really is an old priest!

Walter Cooke and a flock of swans in EnglandWhen he and Sara went to England in 1994 he had Sara take a picture of him with his 'flock' since he never really has much of a 'following' to minister to and these swans clearly had taken a liking to him.

In 1995 or so, Walter discovered non-dualism. He began by reading Nisargatta's book I am That. This is not an easy book to read and it was slow going but very compelling. Walter kept at it, wandering through the writings of Ramana Maharishi, Papaji, and Gangaji. In the process of exploring the websites on the rapidly proliferating web of 1999, he came across mention of Byron Katie and downloaded a copy of her 'little book' that covered her basic 'teaching' including some wonderful quotes that he entertained Sara with while she cooked dinner one evening.

A month later, Sara stumbled across Katie's process called The Work again and realized it was what she was looking for next as a spiritual process. She began doing The Work on a daily basis and when Katie came to town for a weekend workshop in January 2000 they went to see her and both were hooked. They volunteered at all of Katie's events in Seattle for the next 5 years. In December 2001, they flew to LA and did the 5-day New Year's Cleanse at Malibu.

Doing Inquiry Circle one evening at the Cleanse Walter had a huge opening while inquiring as to the veracity of "I can make a mistake." He realized the absolute insanity of that and glimpsed that which is truly beyond words. He has never been very able to put it into words, the best he can do is this: "It is as if I looked in and saw the nothingness and realized my own nothingness. It was as if I looked over the edge...I was inside and I looked over the edge and saw the nothingness that was everything. And instantly I started laughing and crying, sort of stunned beyond words." This was not the first time that Walter had broken into bouts of laughing and crying. Sara calls it "Walter going off" because he has been doing it for over 20 years. He has been known to do it out of the blue even while driving and can never tell her what it's about but this particular opening was particularly powerful and memorable.

Loving What Is by Byron KatieSara did The School for The Work in March 2002 in Sedona and Walter stayed home and went through his own very intense process without her. He did The School in October 2003 in Sedona while Sara assisted. They both assisted at the March 2003 School in Joshua Tree. They returned each year for the New Year's Cleanse through 2004. The Work has become an integral part of their daily lives. Walter just finished with Jury Duty and came home and said, "Once again, I discovered that reality is always kinder than my thoughts about it"--something straight out of his experience with The Work.

If you want to learn more about The Work he highly recommends reading Katie's book Loving What Is and/or listening to recordings of Katie facilitating The Work. There are lots of resources on her website, www.thework.com

Walter currently is practicing living in the now and waiting for life to serve him up the next wonderful adventure.