Saturday, June 27, 2009

Beauty and the Bliss

It delights me to no end when I see people of all ages and all walks of life, from all over the place, come stumbling out of this paradise with wildly submissive eyes and permagrin.
The pictures can never do it justice.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Feisty Teachers

When I was in high school, I had a fabulous Creative Writing/Psychology instructor who would frequently bring mysterious items to class. One week, the item might resemble a small piece of a tractor or kitchen appliance; the next, some strange device from the bottom of an obscure artisan's work box. But the "thing" was inevitably out of context and unrecognizable. She always asked us to guess its identity, and would respond in the negative to each failed attempt...Wrong. Nope. Not it. As if! Come on, you jokers--can't you figure it out?

We students were encouraged to make a detailed examination and take notes on what we noticed. I'm fairly certain that no one ever correctly guessed what these alien oddities actually were. If so, Teacher would never let on, because they were prompts for essays in which we were required to create a name, history and use for each object.

The majority of us got into the spirit of the game, and the resulting presentations ranged from hilarious to deadly serious, depending upon the personality of the author. There were a few people, though, who so resented being "wrong" that they dropped the class. Their feelings of injury or insult prevented them from having fun and exploring the multilayered meaning in such an exercise. A few of us ran with it, however; I will be grateful to this teacher always for letting me know, in a hands-on fashion, that "failure" is a gateway and "wrong" means "new".

I probably don't have to point out that there are a series of lessons here which have everything to do with the quality of Being. Each lesson tends to build upon the last, and in the end, constitute a great set of tools for the art of living. Speaking very simply, a partial list could be something like this:

1. Anything out of context becomes fair game for an artist or a contemplative thinker/feeler.
2. What anything (object) actually is has everything to do with our (subject) relationship to it.
3. A relationship is an activity in which we and Whatchamacallit define each other.
4. That relationship changes constantly, in reality, and so do the subject/object roles.
5. Hey...could this mean we are an open-ended process of creating and defining meaning?
6. ...And that all of our definitions are arbitrary, including this one?
7. What is this process? Is it consciousness? Awareness? God?
8. Crap. I just defined it as an object. Wrong!
9. Ok. Not wrong, just anything. Or anything.
10. I guess there's nothing to be said!

(Enter either existential angst, or a glimmer of...)

11. Anything in context can also be fair game for an artist or contemplative thinker/feeler! Sweet freedom! :)

Of course, we create the context, the meaning, the intent of anything. Whether we call this creation "conscious" or "spontaneous" does not matter to the process itself, which has us at this "end" and wherever our attention is focused at the other. That focus is often like a laser beam, typically narrow and storied (explained) by tradition, by habit, by fear. We often use this laser as a weapon, in an attempt to eliminate anything challenging to our current perceptions of ourselves and the world--as if that world were somehow separate from what we are.

But to the same degree that we "subjects" are attached to our plans, schemes, goals, fears, ideas, words, concepts and feelings of superiority or inferiority, etc., etc., the "object" of this relationship--which can be called, for lack of a better name, "Life"--is detached, and could care less. This is very unsettling. It creates an interesting tension, which can be destructive or creative the way a glass is either half-empty or half-full.

Those of us who feel and investigate this particular tension within ourselves are often called "seekers". In the beginning, we attempt to resolve this discomfort by looking for a venue that matches our established personality, notions and ideas. In other words, we put on a different mask, which may convince us that we are changed, at first. But eventually, a challenge comes along and we find, to our dismay, that we are the same old frightened being underneath. We may simply change tactics, change faces, again and again until we realize that we've adopted a demon (fear) who builds these masks. Or, we can become so defensive that we are like a giant comic-strip robot with a metal face, with those fully developed lasers for eyes--which attempt to destroy everything "not me".

Dropping the mask means being fully willing to be "wrong"--and to admit that, on some level, one knows the truth and must take responsibility for being "right". Ten years ago, I thought I had things all figured out, and was busy defending my ideas. I believed I was standing my ground. What Maria was actually doing was shifting from foot to foot in a desperate attempt to escape the pain of the gravel beneath the bare soles (and bare soul). The gravel was not circumstantial, was not a test, was not anything but sheer, bullheaded obstinate clinging to belief and unwillingness to be wrong (resistance, in psycho-spiritual terms).

I suppose that it would have been easier and certainly less risky to continue to stand on that particular turf, perhaps developing callouses and intense avoidance skills. Thankfully, the time came where I broke under my own pressure and let go of everything...and I do mean everything! Mask, megaphone, magnifying glass--all filtering or funneling devices fell, and I discovered that I was very, very Wrong. In the admission, this stunning defeat became sacred and passionate, and it was only then that I could clearly understand how very right this all was, how perfectly designed and executed by a Whole much greater than the sum of any parts.

It's tough to get to this admission, especially when one has already suffered the exquisite social torture of isolation, ridicule and so forth lavished on those who dare to step off the beaten path, create a new one, or--in the way of one of those Damn Sneaky Natives, walk without creating a path at all. (Voodoo, I tell you!) There appears to be a big investment in being different, spiritually rebellious and all that. There is a psychological payoff in the attention an ego gets, however negative.

Total and real healing is much less dramatic by soap-opera standards, because the Shift can never be adequately expressed in words. The narrow, laser-like focus widens into a suffusing light--after that, one is immediately aware when that great source is being concentrated for personal use. Nothing wrong with sharp, bright, defined spotlighting, one comes to understand...but it is a candle in the heart of the sun, and we are perfectly free to choose. One light is not "better" than another. The meaning is not in the method, or the style of vision...but in the fact of Light Itself, as it is eyes, image and eternally impossible to define as either!

Far from accomplishing a cushy blanket of detachment, surrendering to this suffusion lights things up from the inside so that self and other are experienced as equal, no matter the variety of expression. Life can no longer be divided up as if personal preference or disgust had any effect whatsoever upon gravel, laser beams or tractor parts. Opinion creates a kind of false surface upon which feeling beads up into little balls of experience and drops off; honest and open awareness absorbs and distributes energy in a natural way. Much less wounding, much more space, endless capacity for healing and re-creation. Vastly different from the status-quo.

If you are a "seeker" and find yourself barefoot and painfully baresouled upon the gravel path through the Orchard of Potential Delight, I urge you to pay attention and lay down your highly sophisticated arms. Feisty teachers are probably around every bend, handing you foreign fruit that looks green and tastes bitter or sour. Don't deny your hunger for that sweet freedom. Please read all the signs. Understand that you are in the right place at the right time, and that when everything you think you know is ripped out of your hands and off your back, you will be sufficiently open-palmed enough to catch the perfectly ripe peach as it drops willingly, unexpectedly, where it belongs.

You just had to ripen, is all. :)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Digesting Weeds

The Pacific Northwest is living up to its drippy reputation today. The rampant weeds in my garden are unabashedly procreating right outside my window, and here I am, making them semi-famous.

I love gardens of all kinds, from the formal and aesthetically managed to untouched, wild Edens. Presently, I live in a house and yard which are mildly shabby--one of those situations in which I see so much potential, but lack the time and money to bring out the best features. Perhaps, at some point, an increase in these resources (or a new kind) will allow me the things I need to recreate my lot. Right now, the only thing I can do is to keep the place up to the best of my ability and hack down the weeds when I can...that way, should we get a dry season this year, the house has less of a chance of burning down in a fire. Or so it is written, in the city code.

In case you don't already know, weeds are a reality which, like love, always wins. It does not matter how much herbicide, what kind of barriers or methods of pulling one uses to control the endless green spread; it takes a mere moment in the big picture for them to return. I have observed people in full battle-gear, armed to the teeth with horrible poison, stomping and spraying any signs of unapproved vegetation in the first blush of Spring. Ah, people, trying to wax the earth. Good luck! She is the Queen of green hairiness. All the plucking and primping can't disguise her true nature, for long.


A gardener surveyed her claim, which the bank gave her legal title to occupy...for now. In the spirit of the story (and experiencing an incredible urge to stop moving), Gardener had jumped through all the expensive hoops to arrive here in this once-manicured place on the map. In her well-developed mind's eye, she saw vegetables and flowers and herbs, a greenhouse, some breathing room. Also, much work. But it was worthy work. And with a little luck, the place could be made attractive, and in a few years could be passed on to someone also willing to do the bank-circus routine. Finally, she could make one last move to a couple of acres nearer the woods, or ocean, or both.

This was the story which Gardener knew, deep down, could never, ever be that simple...but being optimistic and having nothing but this life, she began the work. And it was good. It was in addition to all her other jobs, but it was still real and satisfying as creation had been for her since she was born.

Meanwhile, the story shifted; demands were greater and resources of the traditional type, less. One day, Gardener realized this physical Home Sweet Home was one last story she needed to release. Perhaps the imagined end of the tale would all come true, and perhaps not; peace was most imperative, regardless. She sat on the porch railing and alternated crying with deep breathing until things were clear.

Vision regained, she went into the garden and shoveled and planted. She got on her knees and pulled weeds without gloves. She pulled them out of the lettuce and the onions, because otherwise, they took over and crowded out the frailer, cultivated plants. Pulling without gloves forced/allowed a contact that, in the mental picture, she wanted to do without; it was painful, and she believed she had too much pain, as it was.

Something loving happened, though, in the stability of kneeling on the ground, down amongst the insects and dirt, the decomposition and birth that the garden and Gardener personified. There was a vast variety of growth--millions of beings in her hands, which suddenly held the power of life and death. Bare fingers felt the life-force in the small plants she pulled, gently, from their birthplace. A yank in the heart accompanied each sacrifice. Without protection, there was no escaping the reality of this.

The bodies were put in piles and removed to the compost bin. Mulch was applied as a form of birth control. Still, there was comfort in the fact that wilder plants inherited the earth, in the end.

Around the edge of the garden were taller, often ignored weeds with deeper roots. Most of the time, these were eventually topped with some weapon, but today they would be killed. No gloves, in spite of the spiny stems. Not that Gardener was a masochist (or a sadist), but she was on a reality roll, and stopping to fetch things would be a distraction.

There was something in her that remembered how to cull these plants, exactly how to grasp the stems near the base to bend the small, hairlike spines down so as not to pierce the skin of her hand. How to pull firmly and steadily in such a way that the roots surrendered their after the other, the air redolent and fingers sticky with their milky blood. Aeons, she had been at this work, this maintenence and emotional untangling.

In the end, there was a kind of calmness, an acceptance while she washed away the signs of struggle with dish soap, made tea and looked at a few tiny wounds. The hands, like life, were not so pretty. She didn't shield them enough in case of dirt, germs, paint or fire, as it was written somewhere that she should.

There were still endless prickly weeds to be pulled and probably some more suffering to do. Once in a while, when she was tired, Gardener wished fervently for a magic spell to make things cleaner and easier and more like apple-scented chamomile and thornless roses, rather than scratchy mazes in which one was likely to end by crashing into some kind of holly-blackberry-poison oak thicket.

Now there were dishes to be done and the bank to deal with and an allergy pill to find, as her eyes were starting to itch from all the stirred-up pollen. Damn. The rest of the weeds would have to wait for another if they could be eliminated!

In the afternoon came a phone call from Gardener's brother Scholar, who lived in another state. It was always wonderful to hear from him; at the moment, his mix of scientific cynicism and outright silliness was like a balm to the war-wounds of the mind. She listened as he explained that he was making a diet and nutrition presentation for a class at school, and he wanted to talk about wild edible plants...could she recall any? His internet searches had turned up information, he said, not specific enough.

Let's see...purslane, cattails, dandelions...miner's lettuce, watercress...dock, birch, pine, fern...
Not enough stuff for his region, said Scholar, which was fairly arid and very high above sea level.

"Did you do a search for your state?"
Not exactly...okay, doing one now.

Gardener listened to him making noises on the computer and mumbling...and then came a surprised affirmative when he found the information he was looking for. She chided him affectionately. He was insanely smart, but only used a computer out of necessity.

"Well, what do you know," he exclaimed. "Prickly lettuce! No way! Hey, Sis, you know that weed--the tall one that grows everywhere with the spiny stem--? It's edible."

Gardener's gaze drifted down the steps of the front porch, where she happened to be sitting with the phone, to one of the skinny, spiny plants she spent so much time dealing with, currently growing between two bricks in the front walk.

"You mean the one that makes the yellow flowers on top--the one that grows in every freakin' crack of anything--that weed?"

"Yeah! Lactuca Sapporia...aka Prickly Lettuce. Full of vitamins...slightly bitter..."

She stared at the small weed with new respect. Pulled off a leaf, tore it in half, looked at the milky sap. Put it in her mouth and chewed. Lettuce, with a faintly bitter aftertaste, not unpleasant. Sheesh. Wow.

Of course.


Suffering is love in disguise. There is a polished, beautiful, uniform kind of thing promoted as love, much-hyped and sold as beneficial. For those with an impoverished immune system, that kind of fruit is deadly poison.

Meanwhile, in a humble, prickly form forgotten by our culture for the most part, is a lesson in what nourishes us, spoken in the incredible, synchronous language native to the Real...sent through lines in the heart of the sky, for my continued edification and astonishment. Just in case I ever forget, and believe that love appears as safe, tested, approved or nicely the suffering, Gardener! Taste it. Get to know it. Listen. It is offering itself to you.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Blind Intelligence

"In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists." --Eric Hoffer

In this experience, there is no such thing as a time without change.

There is a seamless openness underneath time which never changes, in which ideas like "time" and "change" are subsumed. Keeping communication alive between this "generator" of reality and the structure arising within it--otherwise known as "normal life"--allows a full, flexible range of response and action in a human being.

Our best descriptions for this full response-ability lie in words like optimism, persistence, tenacity, adaptability, compassion, or faith. These qualities are all related to a kind of intelligence which is cleanly accessed through instinct and intuition, but muffled by resistance.

Resistance is an attempt to maintain a seeming shape or boundary in the face of change. The boundary may exist in the form of a set of ideas (I am sure I am correct) wrapped in emotion (because I have earned it and am justified) and physically represented, or as just a comfortable habit or routine (this is the "real me") assumed to be permanent. Sometimes, resistance can be very, very subtle, in the form of "denial", which is a self-imposed sort of blindness adopted in the belief that sight hurts too much--or even kills. It's a fear-based, numbing psychic blister which is occasionally necessary for healing, but almost always dissolves on its own, if not maintained artificially by an "unhealthy" (incomplete) point of view.

We are like plants in that we have our times in the sun, when the soil seems optimal and nourishment flows, and a level of at least semi-comfortable, functioning growth is enjoyed. Things go "our way" for the most part, and it feels pretty good. Unlike anyone in the leafy kingdom, though, if a shadow arises where there once was light, or our preferred form of nourishment is cut off somehow, we tend to spend time hurting and resenting this change...often blaming, denying, and bemoaning our perceived loss of power or sustenance. We attempt to stand firm in our "knowledge", our conditioning (whether positive or negative), and our insistent feeling that we are RIGHT, while conditions and things "out there" are WRONG.

We defend our boundaries with education, with traditions, with what we think we have invested in our pursuit of peace and happiness. We fence ourselves with ideas about what kind of people we are, what ideals we hold, or how things should be according to our version of the truth. We can do all this while denying feeling hurt, defensive, uncertain or threatened (especially if we have an ego invested in appearing strong, certain, peaceful and wise).

A plant, however, is the other end of the sun. So it feels and responds immediately to lengthy shadows by reaching and turning, growing in a different direction. A plant does not question the sudden absence of the source, of course, lacking the apparently complex ability to reason. It responds in a fashion we tend to call "blind", but is actually the expression (on the surface) of unfettered and uninhibited connection. Below the surface, in a place before our nouns and verbs, the sun, plant, earth and water were never disconnected. They are all one motion. One action, perfectly still.

I am not suggesting that plants are "correct" and we humans are not. I am not debating whether we should or should not behave the way we do or react the way we do. Our thinking minds quite naturally discriminate in the same way a plant quite naturally grows toward the light. We obviously have a tremendous capacity for fear, resistance and all the things we call "suffering"; one could examine the whys and wherefores forever without altering this undeniable fact.

But coexisting immediately with our pain is the fact of our bliss. I am speaking of a "stable" bliss which has nothing to do with being right, or the successful defense of an idea, or security and power...all of these are lovely, temporary highs which, being temporal forms, all inevitably die. Bliss, freedom, and enlightenment (or any other opposite of darkness and density one can imagine) are not what we dream of while we are desiring to get out of whatever it is we are currently experiencing or denying. Escape, relief or cessation are also non-permanent states.

There is, directly inside our suffering (or anything else we experience), a kind of love and security which is somehow completely independent and inclusive. It is the basis of everything. It transcends all opposites. It is very clear and complete. It doesn't fight with or refuse any condition. It knows no distance or resistance. Your soul springs newborn from it every moment, as it has always existed. It is so all-encompassing, in fact, that there is nothing to compare it to--and in that sense, it cannot exist.

The utter inability to accurately describe this Intelligence with words does not make it null, void or irrelevant to is simply too universal to be owned or contained.

It passionately wants you, however. It already is what you are, but is fulfilled like a closed circuit in the thorough human surrender and acknowledgment of itself. It delights in the return of the prodigal mind, reaching a new dimension of experience in which to play. That new expansion of sight is well worth the unflinching stare into the unknown, which we deeply sense must be attended... even at the risk of getting burned, or failing, or seeing nothing. Standing at the very edge of ourselves is the only drama actually innate to us, the only way to understand true intimacy, trust and confidence.

Resistance is futile, as they say. Resistance is a lump of sugar in the ocean.

When the resistance dissolves, so do the artificial boundaries which are both the result and genesis of fear. The ability to discriminate or choose, separate or individuate does not go away; in fact, a genuinely unique expression is finally allowed to unfold. We taste things in a complimentary manner--like salty sweetness.

From this natural spaciousness, it is easy to see that resistance to conditions "out there" was also repression of things "in here". These actions, we find, were not so much unnatural or immoral as just unnecessarily tedious--the tunneled detour, the excruciatingly tight squeeze that may not kill a person, but certainly makes it difficult to take a deep breath!

And now...circulation returns, and the tingle is immensely painful and pleasurable. A glow suffuses the world. Sensitivity opens up, as if nerves we never knew we had are communicating with...with...this. Awareness is heightened because we realize ourselves as the expression of everything and anything we experience.

I am this. There is no distinct and independent "me" in this awareness process. I am nothing but intelligence--information, the capacity for it and the energy carrying it--also the why, and the how. This is it! I really am the center of the universe!!

Yes--but that's one last catch, which will fail, thankfully, to hold the very last gate. And when the gate stands open--indeed, is falling off the hinges from disuse--I am an eternal beginner, a student of raw innocence, continually coming undone in what I weave, dying into what I birth.

One would think that this would give being a sort of thick, dreamlike, unreal quality. But it is never more real, more clear and sharp. Everything is full of intention, with the goal in a constant state of fulfillment. I don't know, with my thoughts, how this can be.

I no longer believe that I must maintain any gaps or blocks between the sun and its blossoming.
We can all see in the dark...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Knowing Nothing

Tell me all your thoughts on God?
'Cause I would really like to meet her.
And ask her why we're who we are.
Tell me all your thoughts on God,
'Cause I am on my way to see her.
So tell me am I very far -
Am I very far now?

--Dishwalla, "Counting Blue Cars"

This morning I was feeling wrung out and rather disgusted with the general state of affairs around humans. I took the dog and ran away to a place in the woods where there are hardly ever any people, and I can let the dog and myself off the leash for a bit.

Upon arriving at the gate to the old logging road, I noticed a truck parked off to the side; I'm not the only one who ignores the gate, walks around and hikes up the hill. But there were crude cardboard signs, duct-taped to each and every window of the vehicle, which warned, "PRIVATE PROPERTY. DO NOT DISTURB."

I noticed the fallen pine needles and rain-spotted dust on the truck, and figured it had been here for some weeks. I continued around the gate, and when I reached the top of the slope where the two-track road takes a bend, there was another car parked in a wide spot with a small, dilapidated camping trailer, as well as a second trailer covered with a blue tarp. And buckets, and junk, bags of trash, propane bottles, a firepit. Lots of evidence that someone was living here--not just camping.

I called the dog closer and continued. The scene was disturbing on several levels, kicking up little storms in my thinking process. There are more and more people living on BLM land, you see, because they have no place else to go. Signs of the times, pointing to me, because I could conceivably be in this exact situation in the not-so-distant future. Not such a big deal (and I would respect the land much more than these occupants did). But I could feel the despair hanging in the air. I had come here to escape the same feeling, hanging around inside my house.

I climbed until I was breathless, until I came to a level place in the road where the surrounding trees were at least a hundred feet tall, and I could see through them to the next ridge over, across the river. I spun around in the road and said to the trees, "Tell me all your thoughts on God...", and waited for the inevitable response.

It came within moments, the rhythmic silence, punctuated by occasional birdcalls and small rustlings and pebbles shifting under the dog's feet. I gave in to the urge to dance in the middle of the road while a faint mist fell. I explained that I was angry somewhere, and sad, and I made my steps hit the road hard enough to bring home this emotional point. The trees nodded wisely and urged me to continue. So I swayed my arms to express how much I longed for some ease. I said I didn't really want to feel my angst and the frustration of the lonely, unemployed, lost people all around. I didn't really want to feel anything. The wind called me a liar. A red blossom opened up in my belly, and my throat I danced down the road, back the way I came, and then ran the rest of the way, past the silent trailers with the people inside being very quiet, all the way down to the river.

I sat on a rock near the water so I was facing downstream; it felt like the rushing went right through my back, and I could watch myself drift with the current to the place where my vision ended. The river is glad to do all this carrying of dead thoughts. It knows exactly what to do, exactly where to deposit all the future nourishment of earth and hearts. I sat there until I was free from ideas of freedom. I watched the dog go through his manic chewing of fallen branches until he tired himself out.

Now...this is what I know, without any doubt, today, since giving in to the dance. There is a higher use for ideas, words, art, feelings, being, and god. Our perception and descriptions and explanations emerge spontaneously to dismantle themselves--that is the ultimate "right action" in these events. When the longing for freedom breaks through your chest like some monster in a movie, you can bet that the sweet pain is freedom, itself, disguised as something you can't seem to find.

When you come up with the ultimate name for your god, you can be assured that what is forever nameless has spoken.

When you assert your own awareness as proof of your experience, you have just pointed out how incredibly busy you are establishing the imaginary density of yourself.

When I insist that I am tired of feeling, that is the strongest feeling there is, continuing its long, long journey.

Peace and blessings to all the loved and unloved, as this is the state of grace we were hungry for!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Full Contact

The emergency continues as I look around from this little perspective. In other words, something unknown is emerging, and people are waking up grumpy from a disturbed sleep. Somehow, that blue pill just isn't working so well, anymore.

Yes, I know it hurts and it's scary and things feel out of control. But it is only the parameters of a nightmare that you are feeling. Persistent shutting down of an organism--avoiding, denying, medicating, distracting, doing anything not to feel (or trying to feel something false)--brings on a sense of the terrible.

Someone told me recently that, in his experience, a majority of people either don't know at all what they are feeling, or can't "figure it out" unless the feeling is a primal response. I see that, too. Many say that they "don't know what to feel", as if there is some properly named emotion matching any given experience. They say this as if feeling is too hard, too painful, too time-consuming, like benching four hundred pounds or eating your spinach or cleaning the garbage cans. As if feeling, the verb, is something in which we need to be schooled, rather than the natural flow of Reality.

In fact, we do know what it is that we feel.

Depression is avoiding full contact with oneself, not giving the psyche permission to take a dip in the stream of experience. Doom and gloom and negativity are excellent distractions from what is real. So is the more obvious chasing of a sensational high, an altered state or an ideology. A gun-toting nationalist with a bunker in the backyard knows what's right, just like a vegetarian meditating on world peace, a scientist measuring coral loss off the coast of Australia, or a public official manipulating perception. We all know what's right, and how to stay firmly on the banks we establish. As a result, what is real and full often slides right under the radar. This is the waking nightmare of loss we find ourselves in conflict with--the same circumstance which every great sage has seen in beautifully tragic, multidimensional detail, beginning in the local self.

So what is full contact?

It involves our tenderness coming face-to-face with our brutality. Not in a general, detached or sanitized sense, but in the deeply messy, individual you and me. Not through the mediation of religion, philosophy, doctor-patient relationship, income level or summer vacation. All of these circumstances are like the roping-off and decorating of the space where a legendary duel is rumored to take place...and where the contenders somehow never show up.

This, right here, is the venue. This, right now, is it. Inside of you is a character that fully understands the profound implications of causing the slightest harm to anything--who believes in intimate connection, in nurturing and peaceful resolution, in making love and not war. An educated, empathic caregiver, a retreat leader, a respecter of dolphin and human and spider rights.

And in the opposite corner of you is a detached killer. Oh, yes. One who knows the reality of the dregs of society, being a seasoned veteran of what people are capable of when they feel threatened--who would never admit to feeling threatened, but fully allows a righteous anger. This is a person who believes there are lines meant to be drawn and defended at all cost, who knows that a show of strength is what really gets attention, who stares unflinchingly at the images of the polar bear dispatching a seal pup on the Discovery channel.

I suppose some would say these are extreme examples...I think they're fairly moderate, actually. We are incredibly attached to our visions of ourselves, and also so detached that blindness is a normal state.

In the typical "safe distance" of an observer, what we see as we attend this fight is the aggressive person chasing the passive person around--a persecutor doing the chasing and a victim doing the running. Occasionally, the bully gets tired and the pacifist makes a cunning and outwardly non-violent leap for the throat. But, from this angle, the rounds are endless. Somehow, it always becomes a draw.

Let's say we are sick of this (I am!). Let's say we have a nagging hunch that this state of affairs is not expressive of our potential, and we become more interested in living to the deepest and highest dimensions of ourselves. Instinctively, we know this involves more than being a spectator to our fruitless battles. It involves something other than gear and armor and defensive/offensive strategies, or just causes and rights and Utopian dreams or spiritual sacrifice.

Let's step into the ring.
No, we aren't the wise referee (sorry!). Let's get really close to the contenders...closer...hey, that might be sweat and blood and tears...but stay with me. Get between them. Do not, under any circumstances, duck. Feel the insane force of a balled-up fist coming at you like a train. And feel the sucking vacuum of fear that pulls it along. Feel the rage at the sniveling, weak and sickeningly unrealistic victim, while feeling the terror of yet another seemingly senseless attack on a species, a planet, yourself.

Feel all this at the same time. That sensation is your heart opening to the reality of being. Now stay there, between. Be that.

If you can take the risk and find the courage, something truly unexpected happens...a paradox in which the hardened, merciless warrior walks away from an insult, or a die-hard pacifist brings a quick end to the life of a hopelessly suffering animal.

An intelligence and sight can emerge, without the need for intense crisis. The "right" behavior isn't something to be believed in--it's something that one feels, from a deep and undeniable place. It is not clothed in rationality or emotion, good versus evil or any other dichotomy. It has no flag or icon. It carries no experience, and yet is the capacity for any. If it turns one way, you sense the brilliant white flower of surrender. The next moment shows the deep, black roots of death. Neither view is the correct one. Both, however, are "right".

From a position in which we fully admit and feel all of our terrible fragility and incredible strength comes the necessary trust and faith in this moment to both show us what is real, and to "choose" the appropriate action (or non-action). The truth is, we know what's good for us and what isn't; we know what love actually is, as opposed to what we wish it could be. We are both warriors and poets, trembling and resentful in the face of loves we can't get away from because we fear them.

We are a love so vast that it only recognizes itself in the midst of full, unadulterated and ungloved contact. It grows out of itself and becomes flesh, form and substance so that it can define and demolish its own being. What used to be a fight becomes a dance, a ritual, a season, a birth, an expression, a motion. Time. Space. Recognition.

It is only fully understood when I am willing to stop confining myself to merely promoting the conflict, or recording it, or training for it, or betting on it--and I actually become both the one I most favor and most detest. In that moment, everything meets the senses and "makes sense".

It doesn't always hurt, you know. Bliss is the same side. :)

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Real Effects of Heat and Time

Some kind of fire lures me into a hot, scented bath on a hot afternoon,
almost June (against my own advice).
I slide in with a half-glass of merlot, into the bubbles and the place where
luscious, mutual moments bloom in silence, where no other eye can see and perfume goes

Is it real?

I hold the first sip and let a drop rest on my bottom lip for the tingle...melting into my throat,
the wine becomes an oak leaf from the more arid climes of California.
My touches are nine years old and are pressing, folding the tough leaf in half
until it snaps, releasing dusty green leather scent.

I burn my left hand badly, that year, on the steel griddle of a campfire, branding my palm and freezing
my fingers with pressure.
The sharp points of the leaf become a lance (against Mom's advice), bringing on the pain,
releasing the immobility I can take no longer.
I cool the wounds in their wet cloth by holding my hand in the wake
of landscapes rushing by the car window.

Still on the desert's edge, the next swallow becomes a native's acorn grinding lesson,
white flour ignored for a festival day. The air is filled with a scent like bitter almonds.
I know before the telling that the sharpness must be rinsed away in a stream,
again and again, leaving pale sweetness and nourishment behind for the bread.
Late summer.

A deeply royal hue in the glass even now stains my tongue. Enduring oaks are
colored just so, and salty summers stretched out in the blood between my new first grandson
and me.
I know now this bright, ageless yearning is never to be quenched as thirst can be,
but bathed in
against my own advice.
Each moment adds a tint to the purity, who holds them in her mouth while her feet
cool on the tile beneath the bathtub faucet, whose heart wide open sees an impossible color
made of many layers, some flavored with deserts and oceans.

This is how time works the gates of soul, how the art of love passes through in kisses,
in tears, in primal sighs and acorn bread. At three I was an old woman; and as mother
of a mother of a father
I will still be in lust as Persephone
wrapped in a winter blanket.

That's how real
this is.