Friday, March 20, 2009


Reading back through my posts, one would be forgiven the conclusion that Maria is a happy Nudist. Yes, on the inside...otherwise, I appear conventionally dressed. :)

But Spring officially arrives today, and I'm, off with the layers!

Pretend with me, for a moment, that being alive is a clear pond on a still day. The water is clean and reflective.

In the morning, there is a small stirring near the bottom...perhaps a fish waking up, a very distant earthquake, or an identity in search of food. The ever-changing sediment on the bottom of this pond swirls a bit, creates a small cloud. A careful observer may see this happen; a human mind may speculate as to the cause of this disturbance. However, the sediment settles again, to all intents and purposes a solid bottom of the pond.

Later comes a thirsty animal who drinks from the edge.
A silent bather wades in, creating a storm of mud with each step.
A scientist arrives with glass tubes and measuring devices.
In the heat of the sun, raucous children jump in, laughing and hollering, turning the water almost completely opaque.
A fisherman makes a few casts before dusk...rumor has it there are big bass in this pond.
Bats swoop in the very last light above the water, mosquitoing.
A breeze comes up after dark, ruffling the surface.
A poet wanders by, and sings an ode to the moon, who is clearly floating there...
Lovers delight in their shadowy kissing reflections while sharing some wine on the bank.

Pond visitors come and go; pond dwellers do their thing; the pond remains, unconcerned that it is a home, a beverage, a bath, a puzzle, a recreational cooler, a possible trophy fish factory, a cafeteria for winged rodents, a series of ripples, an inspiration, a sexual still is, silent in the dark, sparkling in the light, tossing in the storm. In between, all disturbances settle naturally. Clarity returns.

Our pond does not call itself by any name, and is quite happy to be a plan, a memory, or hearsay. Clarity or opacity do not affect the fact that the pond "exists". Pond is supremely undivided from its banks, creatures, purposes or reflections; there is no line between its existence or nonexistence. If not a pond, then a puddle--or a footprint in the sand, or a dream, or a mote of dust. None of these, all of these.

Our pond will equally support a duck and seamlessly open itself to a diver. It is equally deep and surface, earth and water. It is the expression of any number of needs and wishes, instantly fulfilled.

Today, we are the wish of the first day of Spring, granted.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Matter of Life and Death

A long time ago, I took self-defense lessons with a private instructor. In my youth, I experienced more than my fair share of "attacks", which left me with a lingering fear and a tendency to flinch in the presence of aggressive males.

I am a bit under average height for a woman, medium-framed and well-muscled. Solid, my mother used to say. Not a lightweight, and relatively strong. My instructor, though, was somewhere around six-two, built and maintained in successful martial-arts and street-scrapper fashion. Before I signed up, I watched him effortlessly pick up and throw heavier men than himself. He was the kind of alpha male I was most afraid of, in many ways.

I knew I had to somehow overcome the fear my body had learned in the past, and "Sifu" was more than willing to get to the point. After very minimal lessons in technique, he informed me that we were going to "spar", and that he would not be too easy on me. I was equipped with all the safety gear, but this did nothing to ease the intimidation I felt when facing this man across just a few feet of wooden floor.

Our first couple of sessions, he chased me all over the place, patiently pointing out how I could have blocked this punch or kick and landed a few in return; but one day, when I was good and warm from my attempts to dodge him, he began to aggressively hit and taunt me. It got more and more merciless, this attack. I ended up in a corner, trying not to cry, in full female panic mode. He was almost yelling, like my worst nightmare--"C'mon, Maria, what's the matter? Are you afraid to be hit? Are you? What are you afraid of...pain? What--are you going to cower?!"

And he hit me again, hard enough to momentarily disorient me. All at once, I was angry, and went after him, uncaring anymore about what hurt and what didn't. I unleashed all kinds of wild swings and kicking, which he easily blocked (while laughing). My burst of rage-fueled energy was short-lived, and after only a few minutes, I had to stop. Embarrassingly, I cried a bit, anyway. I was shaking, and felt both stupid and exhilarated.

My instructor smiled big, nodded, patted me on the shoulder. Yes! Good! Finally!

I am telling this story to illustrate, in part, a mental-emotional-physical "turning" in my life that I instinctively attended to, sensing great value. After my "breakthrough" session, I was in a position to see what was actually in front of me, instead of the ghosts of my ancient fears. I never became a highly-skilled martial artist, but I did learn some useful things, and actually got under my teacher's guard a couple of times. He was quite proud of me, I could tell. :)

Most important was what happened after class, when I went home to regular life. A multifaceted understanding was unfolding during that period, in which I deeply experienced my own fear, my "protective" ego in action, and my perceived limitations as a female human. Ultimately, when I got all the way down to the bottom of it, what I was facing was my own mortality. That is, my physical fragility and strength, pleasure and pain, and the eventual or sudden cessation of this kind of knowing. We call it "death".

I became aware that, although I could heal "violation" or physical wounding, I had to someday deal with the type of change I had zero control over, zero answers to. Any serious emotional meltdown or depression I could recall was over the hidden thought of ceasing to exist. It was as if the idea of death was some kind of underlying whirlpool, waiting for the day that I was too tired to keep my head above water; I just knew I would be pulled down into something that hurt terribly, that I couldn't stop. Immersing myself in potential "nonexistence" was a way for me to view the "grim nothingness" more clearly.

I really didn't buy the idea, you see, of life-after-death, or the continuation of an egocentric self (most people's idea of a "soul"). But being a brief, random flash of biological "stuff" didn't feel right, either, considering that I had already glimpsed an intelligence and order to being that was inexplicably beautiful and recurring. Birth gave me plenty of chances to face the "reality" of death. What I see in retrospect was that I was also being given plenty of chances to face the reality of life.

Still, uncommon events left me thinking--even in the midst of my own obvious experience--things like, "This can't be real!"

Eventually, it was no longer about the reality of life or death, but about the reality of reality. I probably missed being "hit by a bus" by only a step or two on several occasions, while deep in blind thoughts concerning what reality is.

The resolution to my puzzling was (if my vision had simply become aware of itself at the time) in the form of a brilliantly silly woman, oncoming buses, guardian angels and teachers (or the like) who were thankfully on the alert when I was not. But busy as I was, formulating "answers", the Reality of Life/Death shrugged, and gave me a hug (which I thought was a bruised shin).

Fortunately, Reality is the most patient condition. It can afford to be, as it is incredibly wealthy, ageless and equalizing. It holds up Life and Death, comedy, tragedy and everything in-between; it presents itself as all forms of experience tirelessly. Should an "answer", in the form of a strong ego, demand the stage, Reality steps gracefully forward as just that, and plays the expected part.

Blessedly, it is also the very instinct that leads us to face our deepest and most aggressive fear, the question that leads to its own resolution. As we expand into what we are, we find that we have less to confront...perhaps not even "death", which now seems an awful lot like "life". I understand the concepts these words represent, but what my current experience is has nothing to do with either.

I read a legend, once, of an Aikido master who became as transparent as a pane of glass and as light as the wind. A fly, it was said, could not land on him. I marveled at that, and dismissed it as fanciful. Now I can understand the code, and choose my flies. :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Broken Nutshells

Although I tend to write just for the heck of it these days, it was recently brought to my attention that I should attempt to clarify myself for those who don't know me well.

I do like to urge people to "wake up" in various ways...but I don't consider myself to be a teacher of anything, simply because I have no method or curriculum that I can lay out for someone to follow. Life is the teacher and the teaching. Any number of methods will do, until a student exhausts methodology and gives up the chase, whereupon he or she finds that perfection exists exactly here and now. (There I go again, being paradoxical!)

For anyone interested and wondering, I will attempt to cram the reason for my "wake up calls" into a nutshell:

1. The saints, sages, mystics, wizards, alchemists, shamans, witches and all great historical teachers and mythic figures are
right. They put their reputations--and often their lives--on the line throughout history, because something touched them so radically that its expression became imperative. They assert that there really is a "deeper" layer to life, residing in plain sight, far more powerful than anything we could individually own, rife with meaning, magic and all kinds of heaven. Yes, there is a reason to get up in the morning!

2. The "discovery" of this depth has nothing to do with earning, chasing, denial, education, status, or any kind of social, political, financial or spiritual position. It is one hundred percent "free", available at all times and indeed, comes into (or out of) the world with us.
All of us.

3. The tone and feeling of this depth seem to bear the characteristics that we instinctively know are in the best interest of human and all other life--everything, actually. Compassion, clarity, insight, wisdom, appropriate action, creativity and all the qualities we recognize and respect as "good" and "healthy" are hallmarks of this state of being. Yet, it is
personal, nothing like we think or imagine paradise to be, nothing bland or conventional in any way. Much spicier, actually; full of adventure.

4. Do I really need to list another reason?

5. How about a certain amount of x-ray vision? :)

All kidding aside, there are obviously tremendous reasons to explore this Mystery. Any one will do. If you are desiring to stare It in the face, however, understand that fame, fortune, power, sensation and security have nothing to do with that vision. Any and all of these conditions may or may not exist, and are, in fact subsumed in It. If you want fame or fortune, better to outright and honestly pursue those things for their own sake, rather than in the guise of a seeker or dispenser of wisdom.

The names of the Deep are varied: God, Ground of Being, That Which Is, Great Mother/Father/Spirit, The All, The One, The Source/Force/Field, Love. It doesn't matter what a person calls It or how an acknowledgment arises. No name can contain what is the ultimate reality. Neither can the idea "ultimate reality". Nothing can catch it, because it is the underlying condition of anything at all. Naming it is somehow redundant, and has been likened to such things as "putting legs on a snake".

As a matter of fact, adopting a pursuit with the idea of "catching" it or attaining a state somehow equivalent to this (merging with God) is a distraction. Better to adopt things because you like and enjoy them. Seekers inevitably find the "real thing" when they begin to actually love what they are doing, whether it's meditation, prayer, marathons, service to others, gardening, whatever. Heaven and the blissful forgetting of yourself go hand-in-hand.

Why is this so?
The self that we typically cling to out of habit and fear is just a thought, a thought exactly along the lines of "It's a nice day, today"; in the same way you don't need a thought to tell you what your nice-day experience is, neither do you need a self-thought to tell you what you are.

When a person ceases to be interested in the "storied" version of themselves (usually after thoroughly investigating these thoughts and stories to see where they go), the tendency is to just be, real and unselfconscious. This doesn't mean the brain turns to mush and goals can't be set or predictions made. But all the straining and constant restlessness and dissatisfaction go away. It becomes natural to step into and flow with the river, rather than standing on the bank or in the middle while pushing, pulling, or otherwise fighting it.

In psychological terms, there are a couple of ways the mind is used. One way is to focus on thoughts "about" life. The other way is to "step back" and let the mind relax into its natural, open state, where experience is both subject and object and no division is necessary. Allowing the mind to remain relaxed and open in the face of heavy traffic, rude people, illness, potential war--even negative thoughts of its own--without taking refuge in and elaborating on some spontaneous, defensive thought...ah, therein lies the trick. The only thing necessary to surrender is any adjective you might use to describe yourself, which you actually

In scientific terms, whatever we choose to isolate in the universe is only separate by convention. Nothing has an absolutely independent existence; everything can only be described in terms of everything else; each object's "field" ultimately includes the entire universe, and what this
is defies absolute description. (See "hologram", "quantum" or "puppies".)

In mystical terms, when a baby is born and looks upon the world, The Deep gazes upon itself in a brand-new way, creating a fresh reality in that moment. There is no doubt or question about what this is--it is obvious as it unfolds. The doubting and questioning generally come along with our education, which tends to steep us in partial assertions and explanations, as well as incomplete answers to our human curiosity. Still, That Which We Are never leaves, is always there in completeness. It is closer than skin, than a heartbeat, than a thought. It is the most absolute, basic reality to our being...the most simple and complex love, ever.

Anything else I can say lapses into highly metaphoric, personal, experiential stuff--just like painting a picture of a naked, winged woman. A viewer might ask, "Is that supposed to be an angel...a goddess...what?"

I don't know. That's up to you. :)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Elemental Woman

Wisdom tells me I'm Nothing.
Love tells me I'm Everything.
Between the two my life flows.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mystery Lover

I had a very Catholic upbringing, complete with bouts of parochial school and catechism (Sunday school). I rebelled from about age seven, when I argued with the priest about a piece of doctrine, which stated that babies who died unbaptized would not go to Heaven, due to the "stain of original sin" upon their newborn souls (a brother was born on my seventh birthday, and this idea was both terrifying and disgusting).

My notion of God did not appear to match the traditional one; when I asked how a supposedly loving deity could deny a brand-new child the comfort of heaven, the only answer the priest had was that it was all a "mystery".

Oddly enough, as I got older, I held on to the feeling that there was some kind of God that churches never quite got right. This was partly due to the fact that my personal universe was insanely "magical", full of experience that church, parents, teachers and science could never satisfactorily explain. I had a highly developed critical thinking ability and a love for science--but I was torn straight down the middle between the temptation to be either atheist or religious. I tried to go back to church a few times during my teens, thinking there was something I was missing, that there may be something to the "mystery" that I could figure out with advancing adulthood.

All I learned was that I fully appreciated the sensory delight of a High Mass at midnight on Christmas in a cathedral...the incense burning, the waves of sweet voices, the banks of candlelight, the solid feeling of devotional oneness emanating from the people...that, not doctrine, affected me to the core. Indeed, the sermon seemed terribly hollow in the midst of all the deep red splendor, as if somehow, the human congregation should look and listen, but not touch something as profound as a virgin birth.

I felt that somehow, religion missed the point.

Today, there is a Mystery much more vast than the pale shadows I encountered during years of living and feeling my way through. I don't go to church, because it is not necessary, but I fully understand the desire to somehow find a way to unite with God, or Spirit, or the Ground of Being.

Whatever we name the Ineffable, we continue to call it, seek it, long for it. Initially, we do this in an attempt to get out of pain. Those of us who hang on through much darkness and what mythologists might call "testing", might--and might not--be rewarded.

That is the story.

Wisdom says, seek and ye shall find; persist and the treasure is yours. All the seeking, though, is an educational process meant to turn a human around to take a good, long look at things as they are...that is, things as we are. How we are is exactly how "things" are.

Not to sound blasphemous, all my friends and loved ones with the belief that we are created by a Superior Engineer, like machines or artifacts--but one day, you wake up and find that you are God. Not God-the-idea or the label or the Absolute we can never reach. Not an idealized experience "of" any of these thoughts. Not a sterile, removed and infinitely educated God, or an invisible substance in each object; not a theory or a doctrine or a philosophy or an insight. And, this is no "accident".

I knew this long ago. I knew it and hoped I was wrong; I was afraid of it, because it certainly sounds to a trained Catholic ear like the utmost egotistical belief. I actually ran from experience that was downright revelatory. Now I see, of course, that the timing was all perfect, the pain and fear all necessary. Because I like to think, I had to be repeatedly humbled into dust. Not that thinking is's just that we can't explain Ultimate Being with a word or phrase, or even a whole divine book. We can't explain it at all.

It isn't necessary to describe this kind of "awakening" in religious or metaphysical terms with capital letters. But the discovery really is a great treasure in terms of the story of one's life and the meaning within, in the sense that it "undefines" existence and breaks the bounds of all perceived limits. There is a sense of incredible relief and freedom, but that isn't it; there is an ongoing love and intimacy with all experience, even the "negative".

What this translates to is this:

I felt something missing, which had already found me.
I was looking for my home when I had never left it.
All the time I judged myself, I was beyond compare.
The love I cried for was crying through me.
All the hope I ever held was a distraction from fulfillment.
The face I sought never left my field of vision.
The touch I craved has been inescapable all along.

Some fear, control or taboo in this culture teaches that we are somehow disconnected from our essence, an essence that is "higher", more loving, understanding and knowing in every conceivable way than our human experience; that this, here, is some kind of rehearsal for what's real; that there is no way we could possibly know God, divinity being that which is unattainable in the end.

The only "unattainable" thing is a mind standing apart from itself. A more vicious and futile circle cannot be imagined.

I have heard about "cosmic consciousness", or a union with Divine Nature, being the ultimate destiny and the ultimate impossibility.

What if I am God, on the other end of this equation, seeking to "devolve" into our commonplace world, trying to appear as solidly and humbly as possible in the form of rocks and tar and sunflowers, kisses, the common cold, beast, human, all form I am, brushing my teeth, touching your hand, raking the yard, arguing with the boss, crying late at night in loneliness or grief, laughing at the silliness of commercials. I am seeking, too, to be absolutely whatever my form is (human, in this case), which means experiencing life through senses-- whether bird or lake or babe-in-manger senses. I want to be, fully, whatever it is. When I succeed--that is, when you stop pushing me away--we meet in the middle, and I show you heaven. Nirvana. Bliss.

Nowadays, when I (Maria) run a line between the Absolute and myself--when I insist that we are subtly apart (God gets schizophrenic), It is my best friend and most intimate lover, less than a breath away, closer than my skin. My "other" Self. Joyous to type, dream, eat, have a backache. Oh my god, we get to emote, to live, to tell stories...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Flip Side of Negativity

There is a difference between optimism as a reactive response to pessimism, or negative thinking, and authentic stability and faith. It is akin to the difference between feeling like "I can cope, I think", and feeling the deep, abiding worthiness of being.

People get understandably miffed at Pollyanna-like attitudes in the face of genuine loss. One can only listen to so many well-meaning statements-- "Don't worry, you'll find another house/girlfriend/job/hamster/philosophy...everything will be ok!" (What if I don't want a repeat of the same? I'm looking for ANSWERS! An end to loss, an end to pain! I want OFF the stupid ride!)

I can't tell you how many times I felt that way, and how many times I've heard this from people I care for. It is true that "the only way out is through", so an investigation of pessimism and negativity is ultimately worth the agony.

So, what exactly is this feeling of struggle, entrapment, fear and pain? What is it that wants to dictate my actions, that has me stockpiling defenses and justifications for my behavior? Why do I still feel so insecure, even as an adult who knows how to deal with the basics of life? Why can't I find happiness? Why, when I think I have it all figured out, and I have the right person, place or things to guarantee contentment, do I somehow end up right back in miserable, negative angst?

The obvious answer is that happiness can never be guaranteed by the conditions "out there". There is no stability, no permanence in the flux. Everything rises and falls. A person must somehow find an "inner" stability that does not depend on the environment. We have all heard the trite wisdom about finding real love and contentment within oneself, first, before that genuine state can be found in relation to others or the world; there are endless self-help books, methods and world views to explore (this can be quite an adventure, when viewed as such). We have also heard that we cannot be too "attached" to things and situations in life...but it seems to be natural to be attached, to fall in love or lust, or some kind of desire. To attempt a detachment from life feels patently false.

After a while, all the hunting and finding seems to be adding more and more stuff to an already overburdened self. Anything you "find" is obviously external to you, and again, part of the fickle flux. Inevitably, the search must end, and the disappointment can be brutal. The constructs begin the coming-apart process, and feelings of hopelessness or meaninglessness are common. Our myths are full of references to the "darkness before the dawn". Where, then, is the damn dawn? Anger often sets in, and a kind of rejection of the world. This is good, as long as the "rejection" is consciously undertaken. I am not my feelings. I am not my thoughts. I am not your ideas. I am not my ideas. I am not...what am I?

This "stripping down" is another healing, a shedding of false identity and patterns that no longer serve. If it is taken to the end, we face a dark and yawning void, and may conclude that we are absolutely Nothing.

Let me assure you, and not as one of those pesky "optimists", that we are sitting in the light at the very moment we despair of ever seeing it.

At this point of bottomless crisis/opportunity, we can do what is typical, and reach for another idea, or method, or hit, or distraction, and hope that this time, the band-aid will staunch the arterial flood. Or, we can can be still and feel what is welling up. It's only our lifeblood, the stuff we are afraid of, in denial of, and walled against. It's the ultimate broken heart, the ultimate sacrifice--and oh yes, it ends in death. But not the death we think we know.

There is another level to pain that contains what heals us. The "holy leap", or the "sitting in the fire", seems to be necessary for most of us. (That's the part of the story where we boldly go where no man has gone before, facing the monster, the demon, the black hole, the unexplained.)
But there is a caveat in this scenario. We cannot win the battle by fighting what we already know. We cannot pretend to understand this battleground in terms of all the things we've defined in the past or anticipate in the future.

The eternal sense of frustration that we humans seem to have comes from trying to do things that are impossible and devoid of real meaning. We attempt to live in contradiction to ourselves, like this: When a "negative" feeling happens, the first thing we do is adopt a confrontational stance by trying to split ourselves apart from this feeling, to contain, control or objectify it, somehow. In other words, we attempt an escape. We throw up an "I" that is afraid, victimized, insulted, angry, superior, etc, etc. In this way, we try to turn the unknown into something "known" and familiar. We ring off the battleground with the same old fences, and call up the same old opponents as the cause of our current turmoil. We do it again. And again.

This happens so quickly that we never question it, and simply feel like a creature backed into a corner, one that must now deal with the chemistry and emotions of something attacked and suffering. It's like repeatedly putting your hand on a hot stove and accusing the stove of causing the pain. But psychological pain begs to be understood. Not avoided, not explained, not acted out ...entered.

We finally do, defenseless. In that moment, there is a shift. Suddenly, what we're looking at, out there, is our own insides (or as my friend James poetically put it, "God's Guts"). We now fully experience the self as the "awareing" of life. We are That.

Fear dissolves, and curiosity, gratitude and clear understanding arise. It becomes quite obvious how our security-seeking creates insecurity.

We cannot escape the unknown, standing, as we are, on the cusp of the unknown becoming ourselves. We ARE that process, every second of every day. And as much as we delight in making up stories for our fear that seem to make sense, this is not really knowing ourselves.
We can't taste the theory of cause-and-effect, or touch abstractions as a substitute for experience. These are beautiful compliments to life, in the same way that paintings and poems are complimentary by pointing to that which is much larger than their form.

Here is our reality: We are not free to experience any moment but this one, right now.

This is it.

We cannot enter honest joy by holding a sketchy representation of it in memory--or an anticipation of some future joy--while what is joyful is present. Nor can we deny a current sadness by "trying" to be happy. In this way, we keep the possibility of real joy at a distance. We don't really know what feeling good is unless we ARE feeling good. And a person never feels good while running away from feeling bad, because the running is the bad feeling.

So stop. Roll in the horror, surrender to the grief. Shake in fear. Now, let it leave.
Will it be back? Who knows? Perhaps, in a different form...but, let it go. Stretch out in the peace and emptiness of its wake. No need to relive it or replace it with anything.

I never said this was easy. :)

But if you feel the urge to really know reality as something other than a thing to struggle with, or a definition, or a theory or philosophy, you must be willing to fully enter into it, feel it and be it. What this bestows is a genuine optimism, an active acceptance that views reality as it is before the imposition of personal agenda. The natural manifestation is a deep trust in one's own process undivided from the whole; reality turns out to never, ever be what we think.

You see, we ARE our awareness and everything in it; the very nature of this awareness is to be one with what it knows. Mental activity that fights this actually runs counter to what is true, and results in pain of some kind.

An undivided mind is the definition of peace and security. A divided mind cannot know unity. Division, however, is just one more "thing" abstracted from the whole--one more temporal appearance of an "I". Not a problem. There is no actual division...just convention. Beyond conventional wisdom, the Great Undivided manifests as creative action that could be called "Love", right there on the light side of fear.

Surrender. :)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Now Is a Good Time To...

Let go.

This post is dedicated to a sister in Nevada, who inspires me with her honesty in her quest for the Real. :)

This is Daylight Savings weekend, and we get to set clocks an hour forward, thus getting up earlier for work and school, if we have such schedules to abide by. In the news this morning were various articles on the benefits and drawbacks of this clock-changing routine. People actually argue over clock time and how we should manage it, as if there wasn't enough, already, to spat about! As if we can actually "add" or "subtract" at either end of the day. As if hanging on to the light (or the dark) makes us more secure.

Anyone who has stumbled into the Present and spent any length of time there (haha!) can't help but shake the head or roll the eyes just a bit. Not everyone has the luxury of a flexible schedule, though...right? Of course not.
We are prisoners of social consensus...aren't we?
But we are tied to our decisions...correct?
Only as long as we want to be.

There is an intensely telling scene in the movie Contact, where Jodie Foster's character, Ellie, is chosen to take the only seat in an alien-designed, space/time-wormhole-traversing machine.
The machine's specs were decoded by humans and built to exacting standards--except that a seat was added, into which the "traveler" must be strapped. I can't exactly remember the justification for this tiny change--safety? Comfort?

During the trip through the wormhole, the seat begins to vibrate and shake so violently that Ellie becomes afraid for her life, and makes the decision to release herself (against the sage advice of her supervisors outside the machine, who warn and threaten, etc.). The second she is out of the confines of the safety harness, the shaking and terrible noise stops, and a sudden peaceful suspension happens. As she turns to look at her former seat, if I remember correctly, it is shaken to pieces while she remains astonishingly safe and silent.

The rest of the trip unfolds in spectacularly beautiful fashion, as was intended. It lasts 18 hours, Ellie's time; when she returns, the scientists insist that it never happened, that she never "went" anywhere. However, what she saw and felt was absolutely real to her. She spends the rest of the film struggling with her experience as opposed to that of the scientific and governmental witnesses, and comes to some life-changing and reality-shifting conclusions...great movie.

My wish for everyone right now is a deep and ongoing release of everything that is thought to be so essential to fulfillment...especially the war against a struggling and frightened identity. Let go. It's the very grasping after peace, security and humility that forms conflict, fear and control issues. It's the clinging to ideas about how things should be, how people should act, and what ought to happen that shakes us apart at the foundations.

Letting go of the habitual and manic grip on reality as we believe it should be is an opening experience like no other, and allows What Is to function naturally. It does not take away goals, personal will or decision-making ability. It does, however, restore all the things we stifle when we try to do everything through our fear...things like love, security, contentment, appreciation, or a good reason to get up in the morning.

A most direct way to let go is to relax into the present moment. Forget the clock, forget what everyone says, forget what you are "supposed" to do for just a few minutes. Even those of us who are "experienced" in meditation (and so forth) lose contact, because we all have busy lives and the demands of family or mind. The only time there ever is, ever, is now. Let it take your mind, and you will understand that the past and future don't exist except as ideas unique to you. Let it have your body, and you will understand what your actual physical needs are. And let it turn you inside-out, to expose your heart to your own sight, and you will see what it is you honestly feel. Let all these things be, as they are, without chasing or avoiding. Just watch. Relax and unfold.

Where is your security? In the nonexistent future? In the ideas in your head? Is your safety in your possessions, your plans, the company you keep? What do you tie yourself down with? What dark trenches do you crawl in for fear of exposure? What bright light do you cast yourself in when you fear you won't be seen?

It is true that you need x, y, or z. It is also true that you do not need x, y, or z. Please notice this fact and grant your own freedom, the ability to make clear choices that will lead you to the fulfillment of your actual needs. Maybe you don't need to feel constantly late by the clock, constantly in need of stimulation, constantly in conflict with the human race. Perhaps it is true that you are much gentler or stronger than you believed, much more gifted, much more able. Perhaps you can trust, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, in the wisdom of a hidden world. Perhaps there is "secret" knowing--not esoteric, but experiential. Maybe it's part of your blood and bones and imagination. Maybe it is speaking to you and through you. Maybe what it's saying is spread out before you in plain sight.

Maybe you don't need an identity to contain it in.

Could be you are this knowing.

I point this out, not because of some moral justification that letting go is right, better, or even necessary. The truth is, what you hold most dear and what you believe will save you will ultimately be taken away...either during the course of, or at the end of, your physical life. Spending time in the present (and thus in Presence), consciously releasing the accreted self, is the contemplative practice of allowing a kind of grace and ease to have its way with you.

Trust's never what you think, and always an adventure. Resistance is, in the end, futile. It makes for a confusing journey. Think about the possibility that you are actually, currently, not stuck in time, or anything at all. That should you step in any direction, the world will obligingly move just so, just for you; if you absolutely must have a jagged edge to cling to in mortal terror, life selflessly provides it for your experiential pleasure.

Deep breath. :)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Phoenix Thriving

An apocalypse, like beauty, is in the eye and mind of the beholder.

It seems "things" are being shaken and "times" are getting harder. It has become necessary for many people to adjust to a different standard of living. Those on the lookout for gloom and doom are probably right, to the same degree as those who see nothing but a chance for new beginnings.

Various kinds of death, cessation and pause happen in spacetime; it's part of the Nature of the big flux that life is. But when we are trying to meet bills that seem insurmountable or adapt to living situations that have become stressful--when we creatures of habit believe we are trying to "cope" with change--it can be difficult to see the big picture, or to feel our way through winters of destruction.

What comes first--a clear view, or the perception of something beautiful? Are they two aspects of the same event? They do seem to beget each other, as well as the creative urge itself and that elusive blossom called "meaning". Out of Winter, Spring is born. Out of the ashes, a new bird rises.

I don't need to point out that ashes precede new growth, or that every event runs its cycle. There is no such thing as unchecked expansion in the physical universe. Eventually, all things give way to the next phase. We know this. However, we struggle mightily in the heart and mind to stay firmly in familiar mental/emotional territory. When we reach a certain level of comfort, we try very hard to keep things "the same", sometimes even when we are in great pain, choosing to throw our lot in with what we know so well, rather than face change.

I have spoken often about what happens when we identify ourselves as, or with, separate things (the essential belief that we are accidental scum on the surface of a dead rock in space). The word "identity" comes from the Latin identitatem, meaning sameness. We use our identities as placeholders, markers which we assume to always be the same, unmoving in the flux. In truth, our identities rise and dissolve like waves over the course of a lifetime--and even many times in the span of one day. We literally create them on the spot, like electromagnetic brain-ghosts.

In our sleeping culture, we also believe that our identities are what set us apart and make us unique as individuals. We have spent a lot of time and money chasing ideals and standards of beauty, intelligence and wealth in our quest for fulfillment. But what we usually pursue is nothing more than a manufactured social "uniqueness", one that is based on the mass-production of consistent humans and products. Certain limits are laid out for us from which we are "allowed" to choose. Clothing, food and housing are homogenized and superficially varied versions of what is promoted as acceptable. Much diversity has been lost, due to our clamoring to keep up with, be like, or pander out of fear to someone or something other than what we are. This tendency is not lost on those that aspire to control wealth and gain political power. After a while, we don't notice that the flavor has been bred out of tomatoes, curiosity banished from educational models and celebration from our high holy days. Even excesses have become blandly violent and cynical. A certain numbness permeates our virtual worlds.

If we are indeed "consumers", we have certainly not attended to what we take in or how we do it, and thus have no idea how to really enjoy the things we are privileged to have and experience.

On another end of the spectrum, behind and before our unconscious grasping, life functions as something suspiciously like ecstasy (ex stasis, meaning out-of-place, moving, not static). When a non-vital identity is released, a beautiful motion is perceived and apprehended in openness. A deep joy suddenly becomes the basis of all that is. What is seen and felt within this change is a genesis. Life in all things--an aliveness that enfolds even the attempted clinging to a dead identity. I am moved.

Ritual is beauty when it is a conscious repetition of a pattern; it elevates what could be mere duty, obligation or blind habit into art, because it creates meaning for us. Unconscious reaction loses its meaning over time, becoming frozen by our lack of deep attention.

Along comes the fire of a large-scale global, social or personal meltdown. We are granted a space in which our habitual identities are suddenly open to question. There is a precious opportunity to come awake and turn the gaze upon the gaze...and what we find there is a most authentic and uniquely beautiful being.

I have met many people who claim that they just "aren't creative", or are "untalented" and have "no artistic ability". The creative talent they use to artistically pull the wool over their own eyes is quite evident to me. :)

When I tell them that I just can't buy that line, I see in their haunted and vulnerable selves a tiny flash of knowing, real knowing. It might grow, or it might disappear for a while longer. I find it sad that people feel they need some kind of permission to claim the very nature shining out of them. What we are is to create; what we are is to make meaning out of the raw material of being.

We are indeed One, and even less and more than that. But we are not an oppressive generic universal. We are active origin, the heart of the volcano, the soul of the world, writing our story.

Someone said, "Organisms that adapt to difference, live."
I would add, organisms that find meaning in change and difference not only live, but thrive--even when the going gets rough. They are the beauty of regeneration, taking itself to new heights, reworking the clay of manifestation.