Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Divine Potluck part 2--Showing Up

In my previous post, I mentioned accountability and dreams and lucidity almost in the same breath. By way of further explanation, I have to give you a bit of background and tell a story or two.

I often have lucid dreams (in which I become conscious of dreaming while in the midst of one). Anyone who experiences a fair amount of this can hardly resist making the comparison between these dreams and regular, waking consciousness. There have been several occasions when I woke from a lucid dream, unsure if my waking was yet another part of the dream, or...? Where did the dream end and "reality" begin? The fact that I wasn't sure, even for a minute, was unsettling.

Perhaps as a result of these experiences and many other non-induced "altered states", I have a great respect for dreams, as much as I respect "normal" consciousness. Sometimes even more so, since dreams speak quite directly, bypassing our usual duck-and-cover filters. I have shared the same dream with another person, as if we showed up in a different reality at the same time, describing it to each other the following day; I have had precognitive dreams, "remote viewing" dreams, and instructional dreams in which the purpose of particular plants, events and visions were explained clearly. Dream symbolism often bleeds over into everyday consciousness, if I don't pay attention to some message, as if life suddenly has a "theme" that I need to be aware of.

The point is, no matter when, where or how consciousness is altered or changes on its own, there is always a single factor, present and aware through waking, sleeping, world-jumping or time-traveling. It is the designate reference known as I, me, this, here, now. There is always this "awareness", which both defines and is defined by endless "states", but is statelessness itself.

No matter what you are inclined to feel about the fuzziness of dreams or the sharpness of normal consciousness (or vice-versa), it is nonetheless true that you, and you alone, are at the bottom of all your experiencing. You happen to "belong to" a universe that is absolutely encompassing and totally penetrated by all possible universes, belonging to any "I" anywhere and anytime. So what we cherish as our assumed security and privacy, our secret vices and powers, are actually not bounded or hidden as we would like to believe. A self may deny until death, and often does, but original Self is quite aware. God knows no distance.

In spite of this and along with this, the opposite is also true. No "other" can see or experience things from exactly your unique perspective. Each apparent individual person, place or thing in your world is an appearance, dreamed up by you and defined by you. Every act, no matter how redeeming or repulsive, is committed by a character within you, an appearance "of" you. Your singularity, in this sense, is complete.

Young children, sages, shamans and other "medicine people" understand this kind of dreaming without question. Such openness is incapable of denying reality for the sake of a self-image. To be clear, "reality" is exactly what appears in the sensual field, in all its beauty and ugliness, bliss and pain. By simply accepting it for what it is, we accept an invitation to a feast--in which "fulfillment" needs no explanation.

One of the first sparks of "accountability" was thrown out several years ago in my world by a Native American medicine woman, whom I'll call Carla. She was on a mission to tend to some "unreleased" spirits on a mesa near my home. She had seen this place in dreams, and through a series of events, ended up as my guest for a few days.

Carla was under five feet in height, and seemed almost as round as she was tall. She had great Presence, like a planet unto herself. She didn't say very much, but what she did say carried a gravitational pull. In a pause between her thoughts, one could almost feel the turning of galaxies. I was initially skeptical of her "title", but honored in spite of myself to have her there.

We had several conversations, the most memorable of which was about the prophecies of her people involving cataclysmic events on Earth. She told me, in a simple and symbolic way, that her ancestors had foretold a "great white wave" of people that would sweep from the East coast of this continent to the West. Once this wave reached the West coast, it was said that it would turn back upon itself and begin to destroy itself and the land. This would be followed in time by earthquake and flood, fire and storms. People would die and the population would thin out and disperse. But all of this, she said, was in preparation for a "new tribe", one that was rainbow-like in color, and which carried the "old ways".

(I must note that this conversation arose from a discussion of a series of recurring dreams in which I was traveling through a landscape transformed by water along a no-longer familiar West Coast. So her descriptions were chilling, to say the least.)

I shook my head at the 'great white wave' analogy, remarking on the greed and ignorance of some of our esteemed forefathers. Carla looked at me, wide-eyed and serious. "No," she said. "It was our fault."
How could that be? What did she mean?
"It was our fault," she insisted, "that white men came in the spirit that they did. It was the fault of us medicine people."
She explained that it was the work of the medicine people to care for the spiritual health and well being of the land, as well as the tribe; that there were "points of power", of energy, connected across the earth like veins or roads, one to the other. The medicine people failed to do their job, she said, when they began to care more about what men thought of them than the land. The energy turned "negative", and the greater body got sick, allowing a kind of dark force to come in.

I asked Carla if these foretellings existed before the time of the onset of this illness. "Long before", she said. I asked her if the coming events were fated, set in stone. Or perhaps they fulfilled themselves...

She smiled, explaining that there are many possible futures, and that the prophecies exist as warnings and opportunities to remember "the old ways", or what is vital and important to human beings in relation to the world. They are dreams that haven't happened all the way, yet, that can be changed...up to a point. At the time we had this talk, she reckoned that the point of no return had come and gone, and the tribes, she said, were already making preparations. She was very adamant that I teach my children the "ways" (which she insisted I knew), and that they weren't just lodged in the natives of the lands, but in everyone.

"You don't have to be an Indian," she told me, "to know. People just ignore. That's all."

There were lots of things we talked about that I glossed over back then, as concerned as I was with the vividness of my "water" dreams and her descriptions of a tough future for us all. I was focused on the survival aspect of this information, naturally, and fear. The events around her visit were nothing less than surreal, and took a really long time to process. The fact that she considered herself to be responsible, both generally and personally, for the condition of the land--it somehow bothered me, and I didn't understand it at the time.

Since then, there has been plenty of digestion and assimilation. The "theme" of responsibility comes around again and again, through wisdom of various cultures, and other storylines in my life. There were shadows that I did not want to believe I had anything to do with, though they showed themselves all the time; there were things I would dismiss that reappeared, things I would run from, only to somehow crash right into them again.

They did not resolve when I declared that I was ready to "put up with" them. They hung around when I tried to wait it out. They laughed when I felt I was going to outsmart them someday. They endured easily through all the methods I tried and the tricks I pulled and the explanations and justifications I came up with. They were completely unsympathetic to my "martyr" routine, completely unimpressed with my rage.

But the minute I saw that they are here because I am, this shadowland underwent a transformation.

A new kind of language opened up, and my former enemies, from the bothersome to the frightening, became my allies and teachers. I realized that all my dire problems were simply my own reactions to my fears and my projections. Even when anger or grief or confusion was directed at me by another person, I saw clearly that I was the emotion, the circumstance around it, and that I could not ease the conflict from the position of being outside of, or in opposition to, this distraught appearance. This is my dream.

It was a shift in perspective, and more. It was the truth, finally. It was resolution. I didn't have to "deal with" these things, anymore. My job was simply to remain clear and hear everything out. My task was not to decide who was right or wrong or what should be done; all I had to do was wait, not create defensive characters with big mouths. But I had to wait in the spirit of responsibility, not tolerance or suffering. There is always a "telling" going on, exactly as in a lucid dream; some direction, some appropriate action is unfolding in which I remain aware, one foot in the actual.

Often, when people are ranting and I am listening, what is going through my heart are things like "I'm sorry", heartfelt compassion along with the knowledge of this pain; and "I love you",
not directed at the personality before me, but at the Beloved who is speaking to me. If at any time I am drawn into the drama, the story, and I think to myself that "I have a solution for you, if you will just listen", then I have just abdicated responsibility. I have just cut myself off from what's authentic. I have just decided that this is not my doing, that I am not accountable; I am now a conquering or victimized character, believing it is real.

Always, without fail, there is some kind of "good" change or healing that comes out of these encounters. I am not helping "other people" in this space. I am attending to myself. And because deep attention leads to natural "right" action, the process is greatly simplified, and energy goes where it needs to go, unconfused.

It's easy to think that life just happens and we are along for the ride. It's sometimes appropriate to act as if this is true. However, everything that shows up in your reality is put there by you. If we must have a self, then we need to take it to maturity in order to understand the deeper language of being. We are not victims of circumstance, in actual fact. If we dream that we are, there will naturally be a great deal of disconnection, in which we turn away from this "hidden order" of reality.

I have spoken about this "accountability" in the light of a problem-solving "skill", but this hardly touches the heart of the matter. It is actually a willingness to be open...not just to shadows, but to light, intense and hidden beauty in a life we dismiss as "common". When your own hand is felt in all of creation...when you realize how you gather from the dream you are waking up in, and combine all the "ingredients" in ways which fascinate you, and present your creation at a gathering collected by yourself...there is much gratitude and appreciation and real love. There is no more waiting for crumbs to fall, or for recognition, or companionship.

You are invited.

Divine Potluck

I believe it was Alan Watts who characterized two basic camps in the field of philosophy as "partisans of prickle" and "partisans of goo"...that is, people who lean toward sharp definition and hard science, and those with a softer, more oceanic focus.

If I had to describe myself as a philosopher--which I'm not (in the traditional sense, anyway)--I would have to say this brain weighs in equally on the right and left, making me a romantic logician, or a practical mystic, or a creative realist, get the idea.

I don't know exactly why, but I have an impulse, a faint sense of urgency, which prods me to attempt to express the unsayable. Like most "starving artists", I put my stuff up for sale, but know without a doubt that this isn't about selling a product or even an idea. These "discoveries" are free and tailored exactly to the particular affections of the individual, whether they prefer active dissection of thought or warm bathing in metaphor. The universe speaks your language.

Does this universe have anything of significance to say? Oh, yeah. We all feel it somewhere, that sense of worthiness and purpose; that this isn't just a random soup in which we are the floating vegetables. There is something cooking, some recipe we contribute to, and some nourishing thing which is divine, like manna, served up with words of wisdom and encouragement. We bring the ingredients, compare seasonings and methods, and don't even mind doing the dishes because the company is so good and love the only point.

(Well--that was pretty gooey!)

To really "get it", taste it, or hear that voice of life clearly, though, we have to give up our partisanship altogether. Being bipartisan is a leap, like using the word "and" instead of "versus". Resolving conflict through the creation of entities that are "both" is often necessary in the land of metaphor.

In the spirit of the feast, this artist is hardly starving, but rich beyond compare with an overflowing cup of life. It's from this place that I write to you. I enjoy the care and feeding of the being--mine, yours, ours. I know that to make Divine Soup, we need sharp instruments of dissection as well as the warm simmer time. We need education and dialogue, pointing and listening and stuff to chew on; then comes digestion, assimilation and yes, elimination. Compost, you understand. Divine compost. :)

Why do I keep returning to that word, "divine"? Because the direct truth, reality, or absolute is sacred. Not in the standard, surface religious sense...more in the sense of sacrum, that triangular bone at the bottom of the spine, the posterior of the pelvis. A base of support and creation. The root of it all.

The verb "divine" means to seek, as well as to see or find by some method of divination, or "foresight". The adjective "divine", of course, means holy, or of the gods. It is interesting that to "find and see what is sacred", one must acknowledge the connection, the spine, running from the root to the inner eye. Embodiment is a natural and complete acknowledgement in itself.

Another fun word in this game is sacrifice, coming from the Latin sacer (holy, divine) + facere (to make or do). So to sacrifice is to "make holy". I would take that one step further and define sacrifice as an admission of the sacred, the origin, what already is.

We use the word "sacrifice" today almost exclusively in the sense of giving up something precious, usually to gain something that is perceived to be of higher value. Typically we sacrifice money or time or Ben and Jerry's (ouch), to get some kind of good feeling, or better health, or social acceptance. All well and necessary and natural. However, some of us desire to experience deeper layers of being and wider understanding. Some are hungry for more than the crust--and these folks are gluttons for punishment, I think...because it isn't too long before it is understood what kind of sacrifice is demanded by divinity.

Ultimate sacrifices are legendary, of course, running through the myths and tales and great holy works of every culture. We are content, for the most part, to leave all this hard labor to the heroes and icons, having a natural desire to avoid great loss, extreme persecution or even bodily harm. Life speaks to us, however, through our metaphors and stories--not only of vast psychological and emotional shifts, but of bottomless origin which is here, which is intended for exploration. There is always some sacrifice in the road, some thing which must be given, some offering made which involves the letting-go of something. Forever. Not as a bargain, not as a stopgap measure, not as a temporary salve.

The divine demands nothing less than the most ingrained, habituated, precious belief you hold. Yourself. That is, the begotten self, the symbolic self, the victimized or heroic self, the self in pursuit of truth, justice and so forth, the self which will change the world or who can't, the self who nobly sacrifices for the cause.

I did not say that Divinity demands that these causes and activities should cease or desist. I said the belief in--the idolization of--the selves who make and do these things is what is at stake. Nothing less than a handing-over of what you think you know, will do.

Divinity delights in storytelling, in words, language, symbol, drama. It could be said that It is the play in its entirety, from conception to finish. The author, the production, the characters and setting and dialogue. The point. The moral. The questions raised. Comedy, tragedy, the works and workings. To make any element of the play and process of being into a sort of "golden calf" is not against divine law; but it does have the natural consequence of "division" and a certain kind of loneliness and confusion. A dis-ease. It always feels better not to be lost in a story, to have one foot in something real and pure instead of planted in another pile of--golden elimination. :)

This real (non-sterile) clarity and openness is well-known and described in many ways: Emptiness, ground of being, void, all, the one-that-is-zero, creative space, source, etc., etc. Gooey people might call it flow or love or song. Structured people may think of it as silence, cessation of thinking, or alpha. Experiencing it may involve feelings like clearing, stopping, flying, grounding, contemplating, absenting, asking and receiving. Being aware during a series of these thoughts and feelings is often called "transformation"--moving from one form to another. What is this "thing" that does the moving? A decent metaphor might be "pure awareness", really, doing its shapeshifting dance.

To exist as this pure awareness is like having a most intimate relationship with "God", or the Clarity of Many Names, or the Ideal Growing Medium. A person can "unfold" or "enfold" divinity to the point that, well, he or she is divine. There is no difference between God and anyone, between the divine and its process; to say anything about it, though, is to step into the stream of creation, so to speak, rather than being its potential.

I realized somewhere along the way that truly effective problem-solving only happens at that empty point before becoming the stream of the world. Authentic creation takes place where I am "zero", before I am some thing. If I use an existing thing, a self, as the crux of solution, healing, or understanding, it sounds and feels a bit like an echo in a hollowness. I am bouncing off walls of some kind. I am perpetuating a problem by identifying with it.

But to be at that point of all possibility requires that I sacrifice myself--clear the board of all script, notions and characters. I have to approach truth with no protection and positively no sneaky ideas of righteousness. I must become no thing at all. And if I carry emotion, it is necessary to release, release and release until I am undone, and quiet. When I've dropped it all, I see the connection, become the spine, and clearly hear, see or feel whatever is given. It may be the next step in the story, the perfect resolution to something, the launch of healing, or the vision of some piece of art.

The hardest part of this sacrifice is the realization--over and over again--that I am one hundred percent responsible to and for everything in this life. If it shows up in my life, it is of me. I did it, and I did it to myself. I am this; I am all of this. And furthermore, I know nothing about it. I know it, but knowledge about things is transitory.

Mind is a metaphor for "divine intelligence", which is thoroughly knowing things as they are, before language. That is to say, knowing myself as I am, undivided. Even the bad stuff, the terrible nightmares. Admitting this aspect is immediate compassion, humility and non-judgement. This isn't a moral standpoint; it's simple common sense that an original painting, a clear word be sourced in and upon a clean medium of expression. Pretending that some things in my awareness are "not me" may be useful for life experienced on the surface, in the play, before the feast; but when it comes down to truth, I am accountable for every iota of what appears in my world.

This is my dream, you see; I am the dreamer. I prefer lucidity, even if it is occasionally painful, even if I suffer a burn in my own kitchen.

How does this all play out?
Next post.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I See You

It is said that what sets humans apart from the animals is the ability to self-reflect, to think about ourselves as individuals in relationship to the world, other creatures and life in general. We have certainly spent our history theorizing and philosophizing and asserting this school of thought or that. We (my inquisitive self included) are fascinated by our own reflections.

There seems to be a widening interest in getting beyond mechanistic models of philosophy, in part brought about by cutting-edge physics and a world that is so complex, it is increasingly difficult to keep track of all the causes-and-effects. It is more and more obvious that all of life is a giant field of apparent "parts" that blend and merge in an astonishingly holistic way; our relationship to all of this can no longer be thought of as purely objective or subjective when we affect the whole in the way that we do, while in turn being affected.

Still, there is a "relationship", because of this tendency to think of ourselves as separate. This amazing and beautiful ability has allowed us to reach both creative heights and terrible, destructive depths in our range of being (simply referred to as "good' and "evil"). Never mind why this is; debates always rage on that subject. As a matter of fact, debate rages, in general, about everything in our world.

This stems from taking a personal position of some kind. Nothing wrong with that; we are equipped with the ability to discriminate for security, sensation and power, all wrapped up in survival and decorated with "higher" emotion and purpose. But our self-reflection becomes a hall of mirrors if we are not aware of this process. Practicality gives way to varying degrees of unhealthy thinking and behavior when we spend all day responding to responding, bouncing from one self-idea to another. One minute high, the next low; motivated one day and despondent another. The general belief is that we are victimized by moods, or other people, or circumstance.

I experienced some in-depth learning about this kind of belief-and-behavior cycle when I lived with someone who was diagnosed with what is known as Borderline Personality Disorder. This individual was quite charming and functional on the surface, a sort of social chameleon who appeared to be very adaptable. But over time, I came to know a different person altogether--someone horribly empty and in pain, grasping at identities and situations in an effort to feel like someone. To belong. He needed a structured environment, all the while resenting it; he had no idea what to do with freedom when it came. He tried on personas like clothes and would attempt to dominate others in his environment with whatever the latest set of ideas happened to be. Always, upon destruction of his attempt to force a relationship with the world and various people or things, he would collapse into a victimized, childlike and dependent pile of needy insanity, followed by outbursts of rage and suicidal despondency.

Psychiatrists and psychologists explained to me that this way of being stems from an extremely abusive or unstable childhood, in which a "stable personality" is somehow not allowed to develop in the normal way. The sufferer gets stuck in a sort of pre-developmental mode, "borrowing" traits and characteristics and coping methods from others while never really incorporating a unique personality of his or her own. Seeking stability, the Borderline will do anything to "adopt" a sympathetic partner or friend, with whom a complete "merging" is attempted. Usually, after a while, this results in an attempted "distancing" by the perceived object of fulfillment, which totally panics a Borderline into extreme mood swings and psychotic behavior, and often violence against self and other.

There is no cure, they said, although years of intensive therapy can result in improvement. Borderline Personalities seem to lack the ability to deeply reflect upon the self and thus take responsibility for their own behaviors. Their predicaments are always the fault of someone else. As adults, cognitive "restructuring" appears to be particularly difficult for these people, even though they are often highly intelligent or logical.

That was the scientific, medical/psychological opinion. Metaphorically speaking, my relationship with this man went down the black hole of his starving soul when I finally understood that there was nothing I could do to make it better, and that I was at great personal risk while attempting to "hang in there".

Later, when I had time to reflect upon this tragic situation and what I may have learned, I realized that I had experienced, up-close, an extremely vivid example of exaggerated "normalcy". We all, at one time or another, go through periods of neediness and a sense of being somewhat "lost", unsure of exactly who we are or what we want. We have all thrown a tantrum, inner or outer; we have most likely reacted out of proportion to a situation at least once or twice. We have probably tried to emotionally manipulate someone, consciously or not, successfully or not. Chances are pretty good, if you are reading this, that you've stood on the edge of your own abyss and looked down, if only to scare yourself.

There is a fine line between healthy and destructive emptiness that I'm sure I have spent time walking. I acknowledge this fully; I think, perhaps, I may have been drawn into relating so closely to potential destruction because I needed to really see the monster, in my face, so to speak. Looking around at people in the world, I am continually surprised (really) at the rampant body-mind-spirit illness that passes for usual. It is as if we stumble into perfect freedom, but feel it as a terrible vacuum that nothing can fill. We continue to look "out there" to people, circumstances and things to heal us and complete us; seeing ourselves as divided, all we find are reflections that turn out to be unreal. All I have to do to affirm this craziness and scare the hell out of myself is turn on the news. The reflection does not seem, in spite of all our advances, to be improving; not only are the mirrors endless, but they are spinning. How nauseating.

So given the state of the culture and the current uncertainty, how does a person thrive? How can we stay mentally "stable", somewhat rational and even compassionate while in the midst of fight or flight, or even as an "objective witness" to unraveling lives?

My answer is to take a deep breath (or twelve), and stand for a moment in the basics--what is most basic is always a good reference point.

Assuming that physical survival needs are covered, or perhaps beyond hope of being covered, all that is left is your relationship to life. I'm speaking of emotional and psychological well-being, here.

Let's say that the map somehow got torched, the predicted route to fulfillment turned out to be a scam, and the very stars relied upon for emergency navigation seem to have fallen from the sky. You can't see your own reflection. This is good, this is an opportunity! We use reflections, you see, create them as landmarks--but the truth is, when the winds of change ruffle the surface, the reflection vanishes in a blur. You are transparent, not a mask, a gorgeous emptiness. There is no concrete road or permanent city for your soul. You suddenly see yourself as the place and time in which you dwell...and then as nothing but the capacity for various places and times. You are no less than the possibility of endless ways of travel, of being, of relationship with being.

I realize that this is a scary scenario for most, as it plants us in a place completely unknown. But the unknown need not be negative. Many people spend their lives fearing various forms of cessation, as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death (thanks, Alan Cohen!). This results in a most miserable form of numbness. We feel for a reason. Fear is something to use for practical purposes, like when you need to avoid a large vehicle or animal bearing down on you. Otherwise, fear is a signal to look deeper.

The reason I feel it is important to get down to the invisible bottom of yourself, to actually expose yourself to the place where all division dissolves in a sort of clean "meaninglessness", is to understand that you are actually ok when you are this free. Maybe even more than ok. You are still breathing, still with yourself, and able to see the illusions of the world--and thus, your own--very clearly. Spending some time as pure potential, you will see your ingrained, habituated personalities materialize on the spot when there's even an imaginary threat to the defensive existence of those same personalities. You will watch these characters create the very circumstances they claim to guard you from. This can be downright funny.

You will also be in a prime position to watch your various positions contradict each other, blowing the illusion of faithful ideals completely to pieces. When this kind of subversive activity goes on outside of our awareness, lifelong inner wars can tear us apart (as well as those who live with us). Becoming aware saves us, and our loved ones, from the worst kinds of hypocricy.

This is more than just reflecting upon personal motivation and behavior, which is always justifiable one way or another. I'm talking about feeling what you are without any of the habits, crutches or identities you hide behind. Are you these things? Are you sure?

At the bottom of the stripping away, there is one of those pregnant pauses, one of those seasons in-between. I think many of us with a certain "calling" seriously consider the option of retiring from the "normal" world, at this point. Any option becomes feasible and any path valid. But that is the point of this experience. Whether you decide to go live in a cave or go back to kids, dog and nine-to-five (or garden and cabin off the grid), there is the realization that you have seen through what you used to think was "yourself", and you have become nothing less, as pure potential, than all of existence. Not only are you nothing, you are everything--but with a different relationship to both of these concepts. As a human being, you will always create a self with which to process the raw universe. But now the self is deliberate and attended. The self is mature. The self, although still able to feel pain and joy and the full scale of emotion, feels each thing in full--there is a certain pain to joy, and joy in pain.

Rather than trying to live in dichotomy, a balance comes about where it is understood that the creation of one thing also brings about its destruction. Every decision brings its opposite into being in some way. This turns out to be not just acceptable, but the basis for honesty, empathy and compassion. All people, being the artists that they are, have a unique "style" in which this maturity is expressed. That kind of expression is authentic, not based on a reactive, defensive or victimized "persona". An energy and light follows this awareness wherever it goes, whatever it does.

When a human becomes this intimate with the self--when it is seen that there was no true escape in the first place--it is also understood that one is never lost. The hands of soul open, willing to experience the full depth and breadth of sensation and meaning in its myriad forms. Life becomes a kind of beloved with a body full of pressure points and erogenous zones; even a light touch brings an unfolding response and an invitation to explore a bit more and a bit more. I have a knot, right here, she says. Oh yes, I can feel it. Do you see what I mean? Oh yes, I really do. I hear you, I feel you. I'm there.

This is the essence of unforced and undefended relationship. It's easy to see the universe as one's own extended body, where even the vaguest contact is felt and noted somewhere as an underground conversation. The "language of the gods", someone said...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Fully Empty

I find myself always returning to the cycles and seasons of nature in the quest for descriptive metaphors for what it means to live a fulfilling life. Of course. I am nature.

A timely email from a most excellent friend set off several rounds of pondering and feeling. He has spoken often of his instinctual reaction to concepts like "emptiness", "meaninglessness" and "nothingness", words that get tossed around a lot in "nondual" circles. He explains that these terms feel somehow negative (not life-affirming); being, to him, feels like something, rather than nothing. There is a difference, he points out, between seeing life as meaningless and understanding that we "author" our own meaning.

Nonduality is an "in-between"--or maybe, "all-encompassing"--place that curious people find themselves in when they truly understand that all our speech and descriptions of the world are only representations of something we cannot quite grasp with language. In other words, the concept "water" is not wet; to understand wet, you have to experience it. The mind can go on and on about "wet"--how it's caused, where it ends, the structure of it and how it is that we feel it at all. Unspoken in all this is the opposite of wet--dry. Of course, in order to recognize "wet", we must have a passing acquaintance with "dry". Nonduality is the recognition that all dichotomous concepts are actually "one", not-two...a one so vast that there is nothing to compare it to. A "one" that is both "all" and "none". Whew.

Essentially, all of our descriptions of being must, in essence, be relative to something else. All comparisons are not "fact", when a fact is simply an opinion about a thing which exists in this holistic world before, and without, any kind of speech. So in that sense, there is really nothing one can say about life. There is no absolute truth. We don't "know" what this is, really. We can only use words to "point" at the ungraspable. (Yes, I recognize that these statements are absolutely meaningless.) :)

Is this understanding, profound as it is, "enlightenment"? Is this the end of the chain, the ultimate goal? Not here. Indeed, dwelling in the nondual, it is easy to see that the "goal" of realization is just another mental trick. (This thought, by the way, is yet another.) A person's enlightenment--that is, how much light is seen, burden dropped and freedom experienced--depends on what is done with this vital information. Vital. (Life-giving.) Because life does go on after insight. Things still get built in reality, and things die. Debating the meaning or meaningless of living is fun, to be sure, but does not change the core of living.

So it's understandable to ask, "What's the point? What's the point of getting the point, if there is no point?" Haha!

I often think that a "natural human" would have no need of a philosophy to deal with life...because life is not something to be "dealt with". A person could live simply as life, with all its varied terrain; laugh and cry when the mood strikes, work, play, run when needed, sleep when needed. I realize that few of us have the luxury of being this "primitive"; that living in today's world is complicated, etc., etc. We are brought up, now, without the understanding that our language is a tool, meant to be used as both an aid to unfolding and a brush we use to paint our astonishment at what we create. Because when we apply words and concepts to the raw and elusive "stuff" of being, we are actively forming it. That is what we do. It's a kind of magic that we completely take for granted. The magic lies in noticing that we are both the artist and the formation.

To express a fuller understanding of emptiness, I might point to exactly this season, and a tree in my backyard. The tree lost its leaves, and is now barren (I say this because I have a mental picture of this tree when it was green and ruffled). Examining the branches, I can almost see them responding to the tiny bits of increasing sunlight, right at the tips, where there is a swelling. Something pregnant is going on around here. Even in the dead of January, under a layer of ice, I have a choice as to how to feel the world. Is it dead, done, finished? No, it's dormant. How do I know? Because I have expanded with being to include many seasons of observation.

In spring, there will be more swelling and then blossoms, in a short burst. Then they will wither. Are they dead, done, over? No. They are transforming. They are pregnant. Soon there will be fruit--more swelling, falling, withering on the ground (if not enjoyed by me). Is it finished? No. It is pregnant with new trees.

An intellect attempts to draw lines between the seasons of this tree, to map and predict the blossoming, fruiting and falling. Useful, because I want pears in autumn. But the Heart (no, not the valentine organ--deeper) understands the nonlinear, continual pregnancy involved in treeing. In seasoning. In lifeing. In being. Every pause is a pregnant one, even though an intellect might insist that it's meaningless. What we feel to be death, barrenness, absence, is the fertile ground of presence. At exactly what point does winter become spring? Does winter "go dormant" when summer is here?

How we ultimately state such presence is up to us. More to the point is how we ultimately choose to live it. There is a space that opens up when we see the machinations of the mind for what they are...that space is not meant to be "the end", but is again a pregnant opportunity to actually inhabit our very presence. To be truly in the moment, which means carrying the understanding of the longer moment of "winter", wrapped in a year, a lifetime, an aeon, a thinking, feeling, expressive human body.

Instead of denying the fact that we think and label and create stories, why not jump into that process with abandon, knowing all along the transitory nature, the beautiful seasons, the seemingly endless dormancy of such acts? Go ahead and build the church on a flood plain. The sacred nature isn't in the structure, how well it resists the weather, how many generations it stands. It is in the act of building it, of attending to the creation, the life and the death of the thing; some warm summer's day, a child will leap from a wide and mossy sill where the stained glass used to be, into the surrounding lake, fulfilling yet another sacred purpose in this silent being.

Monday, February 16, 2009


The following thoughts are not politically correct. Feel free to substitute "she" for "he", or vice-versa. :)

As a human female, it seems I am both biologically wired and socially conditioned to find and maintain connection. That is not to say that males don't want love and understanding. We all do. But women seem to be more adept than men at weaving great stories of lifelong love and intimacy, which we attempt to fulfill. We tend to "build" family, build identities based upon our ideas of what family and relationship and various kinds of intimacy should be. Sometimes we do it consciously, but it is an underground drive, for the most part, only attended (usually in a reactive way) when some element of our relationship strays outside of boundaries we have unconsciously set.

When this happens, there's a "problem". Most men I know recognize, and perhaps fear, that moment. She wants to talk. She wants to address. She wants him to conform more closely to her ideas. Most of the time, she can't adequately express what the "problem" is, because she hasn't followed it to its source; she simply feels a terrible or vague wrongness somewhere, one that she expects her mate to understand. Unless there is a huge issue wrapped in alcohol, infidelity or some other form of abuse, he is generally confused. Out of love or care or dread, he bargains by soothing or doing whatever he can to smooth out the surface of the situation. It's perhaps the best he can do. Most men don't sign up to be a counselor when they enter a relationship. They aren't experts in the feminine psyche. And we females, for the most part, aren't either...just caught in an emotional pattern.

(Again, by saying "male" and "female", I'm not ignoring or disrespecting same-sex relationships or atypical roles; I could just as well say "passive" and "aggressive", or just "different"...pick your dichotomy.)

I am a long-time veteran of both gender and general misunderstanding. I don't want to address the terrain of that field any further here, except to say that it's a "fact" of life, and there are thousands of good books on the subject (most of which, I've doubtless read). They are full of solid advice on understanding, compromising and overcoming all the difficulties in relating to someone who isn't "me". All of this education has its place, to be sure, and is very valuable for anyone without the luxury of a Tibetan cave retreat in hard times. :)

Once again, as always, I would rather look at what happens when we get tired of emotional terrorism--planting bombs and running for shelter, spending life in a steel bunker pretending to negotiate with the enemy, blowing ourselves up over and over in the name of love. This isn't just a gender phenomenon--it's human. It isn't just a war with an "other"; it's war with ourselves. After many years of swinging from what we imagine is bliss to conflict to truce to devastation of one kind or another, it seems that the only answer is total and utter retreat and refusal to relate. Or die trying.

There isn't one person of my acquaintance who carries no wounds. Anyone reading this has matured in a time of war of some kind. We have grown up reactive and touchy and volatile, or trying to avoid those that are. As a consequence, we defend; we create a template of personality to filter raw connecting, to keep ourselves safe from pain, to make some kind of order out of what we believe is chaos. The frightened child, the numbly conditioned animal within is always on the alert, always trying to gain an advantage and seeing the entire world in terms of its own survival.

But it isn't real.

I came to this understanding by degrees. I became conscious of the dynamic long ago, but only the bare surface of it; even then, I believed in my defensive characters enough to feel that I had to somehow compromise with them. They terrified me. I was convinced that I needed them, that I somehow could not handle life without their warnings, their plans, the structure they provided and told me was essential.

Of course this sounds crazy--it is! Virtual reality, and virtual relationship, is felt to be safer, preferable to direct experience. Even worse, many of us believe that such living is what life is. We live and love through a pattern of personality that we recreate for every single encounter, every single assessment of incoming data--like a machine or a computer. As if a computer could actually feel.

We believe we are in relationship when in fact we are neighboring states, busily patrolling our own imaginary borders and alert for the first signs of incursion. It's a draining enterprise with no real victory, full of cold conflict, hollow actions and no substance.

Last Valentine's Day, I saw plenty of couples out on the beach for a day of walking, sexual contact or fighting (or all three). I saw quite a few hearts drawn in the sand while the other stood tolerantly by. I noticed a few bitter rock-kickers and shell-throwers. I saw dogs happily destroying the sentiments under their feet in the quest for the stick or the wave. I felt one or two really contented people out of all of them around me.

I'm not sure why, but I no longer envy the young and in-lust, and I am tired of bitterness. I can't honestly explain the wide-open territory I find myself in today, except to say that, from this place, I can clearly and starkly see the personality, the mask, through which I played out the dramas of my relationships and other aspects of life. In the initial stepping back, coming out of the role I had carried, I was literally startled to find myself whole, find myself staring from that perspective at a kind of plastic version of myself who, somehow, no longer had the last word.

I saw that she was a skin, a limitation, an outgrown method. And she knew that I knew, and didn't even attempt to fight. She just left. This time, I let her go. I was vulnerable and empty and completely without a plan, or a desire, or a way to redraw the borders. Standing with myself no longer meant guarding, but just being...who I am. And that is a kind of love that can never be negotiated, won or lost. It can't be contained, it can't be a container. It's packed with more electricity than my hottest encounters (really!), more live juice than I know what to do with. So I don't attempt to know anymore.

This applies to every type of relationship and structure apparent to me in what I call "my" life, this individuated dream. I no longer want to predict how these things will rise or fall...there is no need. But I must tell you, this isn't a gooey logic, or a soft and fuzzy way to "cope". There is just truly nothing to cope with. I have never actually been abandoned, betrayed or otherwise compromised. My perceived wounds simply found expression as characters in a play that I used to explain hurt, or fear, as Maria the anti-hurt, or anti-fear. Perpetuating the same illusory conditions, naturally.

In this story, in order to speak at all, I must define myself as a particular cresting ripple on the big ocean of life. There is no shortage of definition out there...each person that I contact has a name for me, a comfortable role that I fill (or not). But none of these stories between us are true in and of themselves. Recognizing a social or emotional contract or description for what it is does not make it null and void; it does present the ultimate range of choice, however, as to how to live your perfect freedom. The love that we are is exactly that.

I am truer to myself when I say that I am not what anyone thinks or assumes I am, nor what I assume my character to be. Somehow I have become most comfortable as the matrix of the give/take cycle, something indefinable and quite aware of the temporary nature of what most people call "love". There is not a damn thing I can do about it, either. I can't change minds or the world or my own heart; relaxing into that fact is the most loving thing I can do. All appropriate action comes from there. All real love...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Getting Intuit

I love words, signs, symbols, the flow of language, old maps, and any form of art. I love that humans are somehow driven to use the raw energy of the universe to imagine the workings of it; to express what they think and feel, and to emote the most primal responses.

And like lots of curious people, I have always been fascinated with what's underneath. My parents worked in engineering; my mother used to say, when I was a child, that I had a "mechanical inclination" because I had rapid, logical troubleshooting ability when confronted with minor problems like broken radios or bicycles. Perhaps. But not only did I want to know how things worked, or why, I wanted to know what they were "made of". Not plastic, metal, muscle or bone; obviously, there was something underneath that...and that. As I grew up, I exhausted the sciences as holding real answers to my questions, because they dissolved into abstractions of life, processes, matter. I didn't want abstractions, theories, frameworks, systems and such, although I understood that these things "defined" life as I knew it.

I wanted to know what life is. No one seemed to have that answer--or rather, the answers varied according to the conditioning, profession, personality, fear or enthusiasm of whomever I asked. It wasn't too long before it dawned on me that I was looking for the answer, something ultimate. My experiences in living demanded that I revolve around that. What is this? became my sun. Every event was passed through that light. I didn't want to know things about life, I wanted to know.

Of course, somewhere in the story I learned that the closest and most fertile ground for mining what I needed was myself. Sometimes with delight and sometimes dread, I tore this self apart. I put it under the intellectual, emotional and philosophical microscope; I'm sure I put various people through all kinds of hell in this process, because I was so ruthless about trying to understand what and why I was. Blindly, I created my own pain and anguish to explore. Now the dynamics are obvious, but then I usually believed I was somehow marked for trauma.

I couldn't have asked for a finer or more relevant education. :)

Somewhere in the midst of all this self-exploration, I'm sure I was like Narcissus, in love with the reflection of myself, feeling a kind of false power that arises when encountering the esoteric layer that few seem to aspire to (with good reason). There was a kind of "high" associated with that. I knew, saw, felt and experienced what many couldn't or wouldn't...then I fell into the very surface I used to gaze at life, at this locality of life called "me". I drowned, and never recovered, thank any deity!

Probably the most important lesson I have absorbed thus far in my (now) endless education is that there is no absolute answer or ultimate experience. Questions and answers about what it means to be are no doubt "necessary" for intense communication and expansion. But there are endless ways to quest and find, completely outside of the intellectual realm or the traditional spiritual circles. This is because what we are already is its own absolute knowledge, in which all the seeking and finding appear everywhere, like weather.

In human relationship, the deepest heart, life or essence of it can only be experienced by some form of honest contact with the other person. Relationships end because people unconsciously enter them with a set of expectations--images, symbols and a form of language to contain and construct the relationship, to make it comfortable and stimulating and secure. We want it explained, defined and fully understood, so that we can "see" it.

Usually, what we're seeing is a mental map that is much too narrow to ever define what "you and me" fully is. Before long, things change, and we find ourselves fighting with our own (or the other person's) ideas about living and relating; we tend to be inflexible, because that self-image can feel like the only thing we have that's "true". Changing a firmly embedded idea can feel like some kind of death. We are extremely reluctant to redraw or do away with the lines.

Along with our inner story about how things should go are emotions, which are physical, biochemical responses to our own thought process. Emotions are responses to what we perceive. What we perceive is often what we wish or what we fear, but not the actual state of affairs. Emotions are reactions--natural and wonderful or tragic to experience, but they are not the essence of the trip--just a physical picture of what we happen to be thinking or believing.

Generally, two people combine mental maps and emotional response and call it a relationship. An idea relates to an idea, a self-image to a self-image. When it ends, we may say that it somehow "just wasn't real". No wonder. While all the shuffling and negotiation and currency exchange is going on, what is real is almost universally ignored, in favor of the drama of maintaining what we believe. In the fallout, which can range from mild disagreement to complete separation, we feel the gap, a hollowness that we can't seem to fill. Words no longer work and emotions drop through it like stones. Something is missing.

Alas, we use the same set of equipment to relate to life in general. We hold up a false self constructed of ideas and reactions to ideas, insisting that life fit neatly into this package for our consumption (there's that word again!). When it doesn't, we react further with despair, aggression or withdrawal of some kind. Something is missing.

There is nothing wrong with all the equipment we are using. Our mental processing is astonishing, as well as our emotional depth. The problem is that we confuse these tools, symbols and representations with the reality of ourselves. We assume that the map is the terrain, and that our reactions to events are the events. We come to live only by a sort of mental and emotional shorthand, while the vastness of what is goes unnoticed. Something is missing...there is a gap.

Gaps are uncomfortable to humans conditioned by rules, lines and walls. Gaps are too--well, open--somehow indicating incompleteness. We rush to fill them. They feel like vacuums, which nature is supposed to abhor. Gaps indicate a weakness in our defense systems. Gaps may mean periods of no sensation. Gaps are things we can fall into like traps, leaving us powerless. Even worse, gaps, by nature, aren't filled with anything! The mind can't represent this emptiness with anything because it's so damn empty. There is nothing to stand on. Scary.

At the least, these spaces feel pointless, and at the most, like abject terror of the unknown. But letting go of the impulse to fill the gap brings about a revelation...which is: I am the gap.

I am the space in which the maps are drawn and accepted or rejected. I am the space in which perception and emotion happen. I am the gap "between" myself and other, as well as a kind of space which never opposes thoughts, emotions, people, relations or "solid" objects, but is actually characterized by these. Conversely and equally, I am a kind of singularity, entity or point characterized by space.

This is not a mere mental exercise or emotional state. It is a "positionless" position, literally "standing under" either side of a dichotomy. It is subsurface and invisible. It has no qualities, yet includes any. It can only be represented, never really grasped, except by surrender. Surrender is not an issue when one is both sides. There is nothing to lose. Surrender is actually a perceived shift in a story. In reality, there is nothing but gap, and nothing missing.

When the walls of identity fall, all of life rushes in and escapes, at the same time. Actually, nothing is happening that hasn't happened all along. Nothing is attained, no glory added. But there is a Feeling...not to be confused with an emotion. It is, rather, the feeling of openness that is the potential for all kinds of feeling...and any kind of being in the form of facts, relationship, time, subject/object, anything and nothing. It is described sometimes as "oceanic" or "cosmic" because it feels at once completely enveloping and completely freeing. Complete. Nothing missing.

When I fell into this borderless pool, I immediately grasped one of the first bubbles arising: "Wow--but what is the practical value of all this?" I can laugh now, but in my life story at that time, it was a landmark question. When the bubble burst, a word came...intuition. Yes. A word for that "feeling of knowing" which seemingly has nothing to do with surface events. A kind of knowing not bound up in facts of a particular space and time, but free to move and explore like some preternaturally divine extension. We all are that, but mostly would rather not speak the language, as full of honesty as it is.

The practical value of truth is self-evident to anyone interested in what's real, anyone tired of emotional games taken as the totality of existence, or of chasing down the promise of cheese, only to run into another dead end. Believing in a series of selves and worlds to fight is an exhausting task. Watching selves at play as the art that they are, however, is somehow energizing. It is much less life-threatening when you admit that you are the which point, your more hostile aspects simply exit without much fuss. The primal response, then, is mostly awe, or joy, from a matrix of freedom. The emotion is love independent of image. The action is immediately giving; the direction creative. Purpose? Obvious. :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Skinny Dipping

We humans are very, very creative. Our busy minds spend a lot of time building fortified stories and thirsting, usually unnoticed, as we go through the routine of a day. I'm an occasional art teacher; almost every adult student comes to me saying that he or she is "not talented", as if creativity was some kind of elite gift. No. It's our nature, our essence. We begin to create the second we come to consciousness after sleep, when we instantly reconstruct a self in which to "deal with" the world. All day long, millions of mental connections are made, remade, changed and shuffled. Through this process we give, take, build, destroy. It is quite effortless; even when we think we are doing nothing, we are beating hearts and growing hair. And when the body rests, we continue in a subtle motion...repairing, rebuilding, dreaming.

An "artful" life is simply a life attended. Showing up for our own process puts us at the gates of heaven, so to speak, which are always open, even in the midst of turmoil, creative drought and meaning-famine. Everyone is invited. It takes nothing special to get there and is nothing like we imagine. Charting a path to the gates, in fact, is the long way around, and a common distraction from understanding our real location. Once we wake up to that location, though, we take the scenic route all the time, for the view. :)

When our stories come to their natural end--that is, when our assumptions, plans, structures and definitions fall apart, we have not failed. We are being issued an invitation of the highest order--an opportunity to really see, to experience directly the entire banquet of what we are. To imagine failure, and then scramble to maintain the status quo of a dessicated and claustrophobic life, is to once again deny an expansive beauty and natural meaning. But that's ok. Eventually, it finds us, in the end.

Why wait?

There is no moral imperative. Life is infinitely patient. Even a tiny curiosity coaxes off the first veils, reveals the first signs that stunning love and divinity are everywhere, underneath all the imaginary clothing. This kind of intimacy requires nothing more than a willingness to remain open, vulnerable, knowing nothing. No rebuilding. No substitution. No chasing the tail of the mind. No polishing the facade. No mining the past or repaving the future. No damming the river. Shhhh. Open.

The turmoil calms, and a mere glimpse and whisper is enough to send us diving for the heart, for what's real.

Out of that comes a different relationship, an undying devotion, raw talent and true purpose. The stuff of dailiness continues, but the burden is dropped and a lightness is felt. Choices are infinite and actions aligned with the current of life instead of against it. The full range of experience is at last revealed as having been there, all along, as naked being. We were just hiding, denying, running for cover. Fear of pain, fear of our own demons...just plain, corrosive, habitual fear keeps us from looking too hard at that which is sacred, lest we turn to stone; from speaking its wordless name, in case we are annihilated on the spot; and from touching the current directly, because it might take us away.

My loves, that is the point. That is the reason. Therein lies the passion.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Am I What I Eat?

One of the commonly accepted labels for people in developed countries is "Consumer".
Not "Contributor" or "Creator", even though we do as much producing as we do consuming. Yes, even stingy people parked on the couch in front of the TV eating a McWhatever create at a base biological level, as well as on invisible planes not socially or scientifically recognized. (If it exists, then it is a valid function of the whole.)

But thinking as a "consumer" and buying into that particular cultural, political and economic paradigm says much about our state of mind and how vulnerable we are to the desperate straw-grabbing that tends to follow the illusion of identity starvation. This fiesta of fakeness seems to be coming to a close on a large scale. Do you think we will learn anything?

Last week I had a mysterious physical ailment that completely vanished my appetite--for food, for wasted energy and shallow speech. So I spent the weekend without all that, watching myself go through mild withdrawals and initial mental thrashing around. Sometimes, when I get too enmeshed in the sticky surface of the pond of life, some blessed subsurface event grabs me and yanks me back into the deep, where I breathe differently.

What I find underneath is simply a crystal-clear view of what is. The pond scum is purely fictional. We unconsciously "build" the stories of our lives, assuming that every thought and resulting feeling are some kind of gospel. If there is no "coming to", our reactions to what we think become endless; soon, we react to reacting. To reacting. We lose sight of any honest, real, authentic response. We lose response-ability. Our thoughts become sub-representations of labels of assumptions of facsimiles. And we experience virtual misery.

Sometimes a mental fast is planned--extended camping trips, perhaps, or voluntary simplicity of some other kind. More often, it is unplanned. Spontaneously, a person realizes through a series of events that he or she does not actually "own" a child, a relationship, a reputation, a house, a job. In spite of our best efforts, the child becomes a criminal (or a missionary); the relationship implodes (or succeeds); truth leaks, bubbles pop and systems crash. All of a sudden, everything is "out of control".

You bet. It is. We can't even control ourselves--especially when we set out to do just that. It's a sneaky process, wherein we create a "better self", one that will forever be uninhabitable because it is simply too small. It is a mere sketch of what it is to be truly alive.

Our "consumer" culture tells us that if we first mentally create an ideal self-and-environment, then buy what is necessary to cultivate that image, whether it's an education, surgery, approval from the boss, or the latest spiritual book, then happiness is ours! Our appeal, money, influence and security will just grow...and grow...and if we die at all, it will be from too much sex with gorgeous young things. This is, of course an exaggeration and a generalization. But the language, line, and plot is embedded in our conditioning. Even if we "reject" a corporate or political culture, or some other opposing ideal or force, we still tend to believe there must be something we don't have that prevents our contentment. Maybe we just don't have the "right" person, body, job, or government, we reason. Maybe we need to work harder, deny ourselves more or love ourselves more.

Well, more is not the key. Feeding a "self" does not bring fulfillment, as long as that self remains an idea you believe must be built upon. Even a little stepping back and honest attention can reveal the true nature of the ticky-tack, cookie-cutter manufactured self. Now you see it, now you don't; the guarantee turns out to be bogus and the shelf-life nonexistent. It's easy to be addicted to it, fascinated with it in the same way we can get lost in an "escapist" novel or "reality" show. Whether our self-image is godlike and high-maintenance, or evil and frightening (or both), it still is nothing but smoke in our eyes...unless...we really look, really feel the potential of smoke. Because everything that exists is valid.

In reality, I own nothing, control nothing, gain and lose nothing. I experience myself as nothing more than awareness--even less than, and far more than that. When a self-image appears within that space, it is instantly recognizable for what it is; there is no confusion about what I am. It exists, in a way, as a contrast, as the smallest end of a telescope. I use it when I want to get a bigger view of a particular spot. But I am neither a permanent eyepiece, mirror or lense--I am all that, and the vision that enjoys a telescope, and the sweet spot searched for.

To be continued. :)

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Living in-between worlds grants access to the languages of all of them--and more importantly, the freedom to synthesize these languages into sometimes startling insight.

Last night, in a dream, I was reclining on something soft--I think it was a kind of cushion, in the grass--on a warm afternoon. I saw in the distance a young white mare. I appreciated this, because a white mare in my dreams is always significant (think sacred, like white buffalo or stag).

To my surprise, she made her way toward me. Usually, you see, she stays in the distance. I wanted to stand up when she reached my side, but I was too tired, and apologized for that fact. She dropped down, horse-fashion, right next to me.

I was shocked, a little scared, and honored. She asked me if I would give her a massage. She said she, too, was tired. I was afraid that I didn't know the proper method to massage a horse, but the mare indicated that she would guide me. She said, "Put your hands on my shoulder."

I did, tentatively. "Your entire hand," she instructed.

Upon relaxing my hands on her soft, satiny hide, there was some kind of warmth transmitted, a shifting. I felt the muscle under the skin, and she became like a child, leaning into me, contented. I realized that I could almost see the underlying anatomy of this creature with my hands. Still, I was hesitant. How deep should I go?

"Over the bone", she said, referring to a scapula-like I pushed, and the skin and muscle was so pliable, it was strange. I could feel through everything, almost to her heart.

To my amazement, I felt something--foreign, not right, out-of-place. It seemed to have some kind of life of its own. I was horrified, and immediately pulled back. The mare turned her head and looked at me directly. "It's like a parasite," she said. "Don't be afraid. Feel it."

I swallowed my squeamishness and reached back into the place where the entity lurked. I felt it, felt the toughness of it. It was something in a spiral, something mindlessly living, something that was finished curiosity got the best of me, and I ran through the catalogue of weird parasites in my mind, trying to identify it as I explored its outline...and then it vanished. Dissolved.

This was good. I knew it had been somehow incorporated in the correct way; I was a little disappointed that it was gone before I could "know it" with my mind, classify it somehow to my mental satisfaction. The mare thanked me, with her shining health and companionship, and the way she rested with me. "We can take a nap now," she sighed. I began to drift in perfect bliss...on into this world, where I am now typing these words.

I could spend all day translating this dream into English; it can be applied to personal, national or even universal stories, shaping meaning that ranges from interesting to paradigm-shifting. If you experienced this dream, it would be entirely yours, a message just for you. Personal myths and signs let go, though, make their way in multiple forms through the entirety of reality.

What struck me deeply in the dream was the "hands-on" factor, the intimacy of healing...not a horse, but myself, my own story. My sacred white mare does not "need" intervention from an ego. But in the eternally generous way that archetypes have with the sleepy sides of myself, she offers the mythic region of her heart for my exploration--no, insists that I quell my fear enough to literally feel a draining problem. To facilitate this learning, she makes herself mild, unthreatening, light enough not to crush me. In the resulting comfort and permission to snuggle, she tells me, somehow, that I don't need to know the given name of the dis-ease, or what kind of damage it could do if not explored, or where it goes when it dies. She simply reciprocates love.

I still feel this animal under my hands. I feel a kind of awe at inner workings of all kinds. Therein lies the truth. Elements of the dream-story will continue to speak, like they do, for a long time. But part of this, I can't vocalize...because it must also be "languaged", completed, by you. :)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

End of the World

I have to give this a nod. Then we will be focusing on other things.

There is plenty of ongoing evidence to suggest that life may be getting difficult soon, if it hasn't already, on pretty much every level for most of us. The global financial snapshot is terrible; social unrest appears to be on the rise (like lava, in a few places, and possibly sea levels). The plot is thickening, and this is just the news! Never mind precognitive dreams, which are featuring lots of heaving earth and not much Eden. Yet.

The collective psyche, the big dream, appears to be getting nightmarish. There are stories of personal and national disaster, pending wars and even planetary destruction. It's enough to make a person sick...if bird flu hasn't already nailed you!

Thanks largely to the internet, it's almost impossible to be in denial about world events anymore. It is also possible to be overwhelmed and downright scared. Our stories create our experience, both personally and collectively. When structures start falling, it's easy to react with fear and to attempt to predict the future in any way you can. But spending all your spare time trying to imagine your way out of the demise of your relationship, bank account, home loan or job has limited benefit. Yes, it's good to picture a worst-case scenario, so commonsense responses can be allowed and implemented. Do what you can to ease concerns in a practical way, whatever that means to you. And then...let it go.

The truth is, if you insist upon thinking in terms of "the future", some creativity and flexibility are called for. Imaginary futures are multiple; conversely, no future exists, except perhaps as a possibility. As many sages have pointed out, now is all there is. In the face of all the frantic storytelling we do when panic begins, I am advocating a drastic return to simplicity.

In other words, if you are hungry, cold or homeless, seek out food, clothing and shelter. If you are furious, find a non-destructive way to express that energy. Be pro-peace instead of anti-war, for example. It's pointless to violently blame people for the mess we're in. Please give what you expect to receive--basic things, like aid and respect.

If you have done everything practical you can think of, and you are still hungry, cold, homeless and in despair, chances are good that you lose nothing by dropping the despair. There is always something beautiful to be found, somewhere, even if it exists (you may believe) purely in your mind. Look for it. Appreciate it.

Oddly enough, and contrary to popular belief, a real absence of hope is not a direct road to hell. When things get really bad, natural health points toward shedding layers of built-up conditioning and unconscious patterns. "Hope" is a word used mostly to express a desire to stay in the status-quo. At the most basic, real level, there is no such thing as hope--just a simple and spontaneous instinct toward health and growth. When the body experiences illness, it doesn't sit around saying, "I hope I feel better." It gets busy on repair, with or without medical intervention, the best way it knows how. (We can and do thwart that process with our deep unwillingness to be conscious of why we are sick in the first place.)

Sometimes, dropping artificial hope is shedding the "psychology of previous investment", which entails a desperate clinging to a former way of being because of the amount of time and energy spent "getting there". Admitting that life just isn't the same, accepting that fact, is not a passive defeat or lack of optimism. It is, instead, touching the stream of what's real. A former hope of staying within a particular comfort zone gives way to a new, clear space where anything is possible, and fear no longer runs the show. The mental cup, holding everything you thought you knew and everything you took for granted, tips and spills its contents so that there is room for something less restrictive.

In that bare moment, something more than hope is is faith, sufficient in itself, not dependent on anything "out there". It's the simple acknowledgment of the way it is, and the fact that no amount of pessimism or fear makes any difference. Some people say there is such a thing as "healthy" fear. My experience is that, when fear crosses a line between defensive behavior and positive action, it is no longer fear. The energy becomes something else entirely, with a different trajectory. An expansion happens, like a good flood. Things get done, with the intention of assisting the welfare of all concerned rather than the welfare of the self-image.

There are days where I have to consciously "strip down" to this simple faith over and over again...but not many, fortunately. I have become very comfortable with what I truly am; consequently, the beauty of this life, even in hardship, is evident whenever I care to look. Standing outside in my dormant garden, I look at the line between shadow and sunlight, moving, melting frost by infinitesimal degrees. The planet is turning in a relative way, unconcerned with the human political situation. My heart is beating and brain functioning in just such a perfect manner. That's all.

Duality, dichotomy, is always 50/50. The story of this life is just as beautiful as it is ugly, just as good as it is evil, and equally plotted and spontaneous. That's the way we must speak of it to have any balance in the psyche. Underneath the story, no balance is necessary, because there are no edges upon which we teeter or thin threads to hang by. There is a terribly simple, timeless, nonlinear, inexplicably open embrace.

When all else fails, even before then, let it have you.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Feathers are composed of the same stuff
as stars in the night
in the sea
in your eyes.
We hold our angels at bay,
forgetting how
the sky reaches all the way down
to surround and explore the ways
of our bodies.


Something unfolds between birth and death which includes birth and death.

Something much larger than the life of a person, place or thing speaks through these perspectives, communicating with itself in a spontaneous way. It is subextra--underneath and beyond what we are, as well as fully being what we perceive we are. I have felt this all my life.

The best dwelling-place, for me, is in-between, on the threshold of all liminality. Yes, this identifies me as a permanent nomad, persistently unlabeled, not gaining or losing. But the view! The view is incredible. There was a time when I felt forced into being here, like some kind of underpaid gatekeeper; now I understand that I am a gate, a keeper and destroyer, a source and destination. Freedom lies in seeing the many roles, playing them consciously while dreaming out a life.

So I make art, write, and do lots of ordinary household labor. I love many people, and have been lured, swept and sometimes bludgeoned into a passionate affair with being. I cannot escape or deny this fact; I can no longer pretend to be a victim of circumstance or a suffering creature, because even when pain happens, it comes with a secret kind of joy, and one more key to healing.

Currently, there is a tremendous amount of upheaval going on in the world, and thus in the lives of almost everyone I know. It looks and feels very much like a terrible crisis on many levels, and it isn't easy to negotiate without a map. But it's the lack of guidelines and the falling of structure that must happen, at times, when radical rebirth is called for. A new chapter is being written in our collective story, even while some dark goddess is setting fire to the pages in the serious historical tomes of humanity.

(Here, Sweetheart. I have more fire, in case you need any...oh, and water, too!)

This isn't about trying to neutralize dramas, suppress the humor or cook out the rawness of our human experience. Metaphorically speaking (which is what speaking is all about), I hold an outpost in nondual territory. But I can't use this understanding to deny the appearance of the full range and tone of emotion, of thinking, of being in a multidimensional way. I know that I am silent space for everything and anything, which means I'm both. I don't just know in my head--I know in my body, my senses, and in the bigger senses of this world. Sometimes, not being too fascinated with opinions that suddenly manifest keeps me fluent in underground languages which are rich in beauty, resonant in tone. But opinions happen, like waves, and crash into incredibly detailed patterns on the beach. None of them are voided or unworthy. Not one is more correct than the other, to an ocean.

The end of a crisis is built into the crisis itself; the crest of a mountain begins in the valley. I'm here to hike, swim, think, and otherwise illumine and connect us in these interesting times. I have no idea what form the muse takes or when she appears; my job is simply to keep gates open and bridges clear.