Wednesday, August 25, 2010

That Spark

Now might be midlife, or at the very end, or in a new beginning.
I suspect it's all of the above.

In the middle of events large and small, registering on my personal scale like tiny wobbles or major earthquakes, I contemplate how I want to experience this humanity. I have no illusions, anymore, of control. No matter how much knowledge my "worldly" self has accumulated, or how open I think I am to change, life does what it does. No point in making other plans!

So there is joy and freedom, pain and loss, all the states in-between. But I like to define, if only for my own amusement, what I am attracted to, what works for me, what sort of north star I can create to act as a kind of guide. I am aware of my totality...but life on Earth is a gift, much more than some kind of trial-and-error, hard-knock education! It's full of juice, verve, and fascinating facets. It's like a gargantuan box of magnetic refrigerator poetry...maybe an endlessly flexible plot generator. It isn't a condition one must endure--it's an adventure!

Amidst all this marvelous stimuli, there are powerful things that draw my eye, my ear, my heart, my attention...and they all seem to have an extra vitality, a flowing energy, in common. This is a human condition--we prefer what is obviously "alive" to what we feel is "dead". Beyond what our biology may dictate, however, there exists a certain "spark", a musical feel, a texture of welcome in certain people, places and things. It isn't necessarily youth, socially-sanctioned beauty or history-approved quality that I'm speaking of, either. There may be an air of relaxed energy in a neighborhood that appeals to my curiosity, or the color vibration in a painting, or an intelligent, answering curiosity in a pair of eyes. It's difficult to pin the attraction to any fixed formula or combination of elements.

The inevitable result of such contact is a heightened awareness which reaches for more and more detail, while a simple and joyous space opens up to make room for good things. Engagement brings quality to the fore, somehow...all the good things in life that have always been free, as a matter of fact!

Vitality is not necessarily "actualized" in people with money, perfect health, long memories or white teeth. I have seen vitality bloom in terminally ill patients when they cease to identify with their disease; I have heard it deepen the voice of someone declaring her personal passion. I have even felt the vitality in granite come across in long, slow waves, like an ancient echo. I had to be there, though, immersed, experiencing...not collecting "experiences" to save in a file, somewhere--not trying to shore up some shaky idea of who or what I might be, or what I should be doing, instead.

In order to contact that spark, I must be willing to swim in the bloodstream of life, even when approaching a powerfully beating heart at breakneck speed! In other words, I must put my typical opinions and judgments aside, and risk becoming part of what I experience, whether by gentle meld or head-on collision...I must allow it to color me, take away some of my lines, reconstruct my thinking, and touch me in places I didn't even know I had.

This seems to nourish and deepen whatever the energy is that I am at the core, adding to my own life-force in an almost magical way, allowing me to perceive (that's right!) even more vitality. The concept of entropy seems to have no hold in such a vital universe, except as a kind of holy (still vital) mess. The deeper I go, the more Living I am. The more this aware-ing energy expands, the more radiance is apparent in even the dead, the plastic, and the over-used. Crazy as it may sound, we can kill this planet and ourselves in a blaze of utter stupidity, but we can't kill its vital source. For the life of me, I don't know how I came to this conclusion, but it seems to resemble a fountain of youth and eternal optimism in the center of my very soul. (I am so grateful!)

I am not denying the fact that I can look around this big stage and find the attempted squelching--almost everywhere, it seems--of emotional intelligence, creativity for the highest good, and loving genius by those humans who feel terribly threatened by the potential loss of imaginary control. Nevertheless, beauty continues to run rampant through the hearts and minds of a healthy underground--a really big (possibly growing) sector of humanity, even within war-torn places and violated forms. These people are balanced realists who understand that the Light carries at least as much weight as the Dark, with the added advantage of understanding the Force which supports both. It's automatically a beautiful vision, and an unceasing principle for those who have fallen in love with Being, no matter what the outcome may be. Hopeless romancers of Bliss, sneaky peacemongers and dedicated liberators of Mind will always be out there, fouling the long-term plans of the creativity-impoverished (and egomaniacal dictators). Whatever evil collective is in fashion cannot "absorb" these vital, bright spirits!

That which is so deeply alive as to be Life Itself is perennially "outside" our common understanding. Still, it can be "accessed through" experience in which it "speaks" to the heart like a wordless language, by direct communication. I have to trust, extend my hand, adopt an attitude of willingness that arises immediately out of the admission of the inherent limitations of my personality, my ego. It's as if I must acknowledge the most fumbling of selves in order to talk to the Self of Grace. In so doing, we instantly recognize each other as the Beloved. Sparks fly, indeed...just as they do in curiosity's gaze, seeing Itself in another.

I acknowledge that touch, today. :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Give It Up

Posted throughout the not-so-hallowed halls of memory are gold-plated admonitions to "let go and let God", "sacrifice and surrender", "offer up your life in service", and similar spiritual maxims aimed at gaining a "higher" sort of understanding.

None of these bits of advice ever sounded like much fun to the sensitive, rebel child within. She gets her feathers ruffled quite easily, you see, but is also charming, a bit roguish, and admirably brave--like a female stowaway on a pirate ship in a romance novel. :)  She is a wonderful underground spy for the Resistance (pick your cause), and has made a career out of being a sort of "devil's advocate". Drawn as she may be to Big Love, a life of service smells like the starch in the old school uniforms, and sounds like a bunch of hard, puritanical work--maybe even a type of authoritarian control psychology aimed at the hapless masses. (No, thanks. I have my own way of serving, and it doesn't involve passive cheek-turning. So, there!)

As is often the case with such spitfires, however, she can be very lost and deeply depressed. So much underground energy goes into wandering the valleys of Emotionally Burning Questions that she often finds herself burnt-out and washed-up somewhere, imagining all of life as meaningless and herself as pointless (and you thought all of this stuff vanished with adolescence!).

Lately, I've been hanging out with the redheaded nomad (I? I, who? Don't ask!), due to the realization that she is someone I can never entirely disown, in spite of the fact that she is high-strung and very, very difficult. I confess that I haven't respected her point of view, and this disrespect is akin to abandonment--which immediately brings out the most un-charming aspects of this facet of the Great Diamond, resulting in a fight. Sigh. I hate fights.

All summer long, I have been collapsing back into myself--all "parts" of self--and have found her company again and again. During an episode of deep depression, I heard her say sadly, "I don't know how to love, really."

An instant protest arose, but before I could give it voice, I paused. This sounded less like self-pity and more like a truth...and was odd, coming from such an egotist. After a moment's consideration, I agreed.  Of course she didn't know how to love...not by herself, not so alone! All she knew was how to separate, discriminate and consider all things in the light of her own interest. Real love was not in her job description.

This simple admission sent me spinning into a vortex of insight. It was not my task to fight with, change, teach, or otherwise attempt to alter these legends of my own mind. I was only to see and feel them (and everything else) exactly as they were, and then...

(Before I go any deeper into this little story, let me clarify the "I" that I am speaking from. During these times when I am "being with" my deepest feelings and thoughts in an attempt to understand some kind of inner turmoil or excitement, I tend to step back and away--more, more, into a very fine and observant self--perhaps the barest feeling of "I" that is known. Instead of declaring, I listen; this is the point where I feel like a gate between opposites, a transition space--that liminal place I have often tried to describe.)

I felt my little rebellious and tired identity fade away, and suddenly I began to coalesce around "letting go". The words just appeared, along with a tide of information. I fell into it, allowing it to flow.

I could tell you that I saw God...but that wouldn't be entirely true. I did, however, sense an epic Presence within and without. Part me, part impossible to be, considering that It was the source of Being, all of it, and can therefore never be subject to scrutiny! Slippery character, this God/dess. 

Anyhow, I intimately understood this Unselfish Self for a moment, and saw that we humans "cheat" our Most High, our Spacious Lovingness, when we hang on so tightly to experience in our bullheaded, unconscious way. I don't care if you think of God/dess as an actual deity, perhaps on a different plane of existence, or simply as your highest and wisest self...either way, there is a circular, rhythmic movement to the whole process of manifestation, in which the mysteriously sacred is necessary. All things arise from no-thing, and return to the no-thing--all sensual and extrasensory events. This goes on whether we feel it, or not--but when we consciously and lucidly offer up experience to That which we cannot, a hugely charged energy appears. It's almost as if a circuit is completed when we observe Vast Openness accepting, without question and with the utmost alacrity, whatever it is that we are feeling, doing and being in the moment.

Did I just suggest offering something up in service to...Whatever S/He Is? Yes, I believe I did. Denying our wholeness is insane; denying our individuality is also insane. Lest this sounds like crawling on one's knees down a gravel road, let me assure you that giving the moment over in this way is more like cosmic sex. There is a vast difference between whatever myself-in-the-moment is and the Three-Hundred-Sixty-Degree Light; realizing this, opening my hands, a conscious unity occurs...impossible to sleep through!

When I'm in the dark depths of an argument with my mouthy inner gypsy, I believe that I'm trying to get rid of her--actually, I'm tying her to me with any loose string I can find. I am identifying with this character and her dramas and perceived flaws, effectively damming off that lovely give and take of the Tao--the very give/take which adds a deep breath of life, and so much dimension and interest that no identity can hold it. But when I catch myself arguing, resisting and dictating, the very recognition is a letting-go, a releasing back into the river of Being.

Somehow, the awareness of this lightning-fast letting-go is what allows experience to be full and complete.

It's almost as if (dare I say it?) the Absolute "needs" completion, needs "me" to be transparent and freely offering of everything that comes via Maria, in order to be whole. Otherwise, God stays distant and unfulfilled. Experience is not thorough, but seems partial, trapped in a whirlpool or eddy that I can only call a sleeping self. From a point of pure observation, that self is an illusion, a clenched knot that can never understand knots.

I don't feel the entirety of myself as long as part of me is hanging on, trying to make rising and falling experience "me". And the longer I stall, the more frozen and cramped I become. In a sense, I've been trying to "protect" my interesting characters, keep them still, somehow, in time and space, fearing their demise, on some level. But sacrificing my crazy child, letting Universe take care of her, somehow brings her a newly balanced kind of life, in which her fiery nature is appreciated for what it is...destructive, sometimes, but only in the interest of a greater good that she will be eternally unaware of.

Perhaps it's the religious varnishing and hard, wooden-pew feel of "dedicating" or "devoting" that disguises its incredibly practical and downright sensual nature. Relaxing into all aspects of what I am is an ongoing project, the most worthy one I can imagine. 

All these thoughts are meaningless, you know, except as gifts back...with my thanks!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fertile Lucidity

There's an old, fruitful, bumper-sticker saying: "Question Reality."

Being a frequent lucid dreamer (dating back to the era of said bumper-sticker, or young childhood), I really get this, man! :)


There are times when I am so "awake" in a dream that my physical awakening is experienced as another part of the dream. When this sort of boundary-blurring happens often enough, one really can't pin the "self" exclusively to a name, address or occupation in Anytown, USA, planet Earth. There is just so much more going on, here! Dream-worlds (as in the previous post) become as relevant as "consensus" reality to learning, growth and understanding. Consciousness is naturally examined--what is this "me" that seems to be the only consistent space in this multiverse? Why, upon thorough examination, even during "unconscious" periods, does a clear, endless potential for Everything still exist?

After a while, even though there remains an obvious, sane, logical distinction between things like imagination, dreams, and normal waking life, there is also an admission (sometimes grudging) that a deep and undivided unity exists here, now, everywhere, everytime. In the primal language I use when talking to myself, I simplify and do away with terms like "dream world" as opposed to "real world" experience. There is no difference between the two, actually. (Yes, I realize this heresy can still get me institutionalized, or at least shunned. It used to be such a deep fear, that I had myself professionally evaluated and declared "rational", several times!)

Paradox gets more and more comfortable, and the idea of oneself more and more flexible. Far as I can tell, this is a never-ending process to the curious. Simultaneously, a bottomless, open kind of gravity is revealed as the only real thing...a thingless thing, a boundless situation. I say "gravity", because it resembles a great pull, a call, a falling-in-love, a waking through the thick sludge of confusion into the realization that, hey, I am here to participate in this dream! That's what my hands, feet and vital organs are for, as well as the much-practiced daily mind, and all the thought, memory, judgment, observation, vision, feeling, embroidering and deconstructing going on within, without and beside the Super Condensed Endlessness that I am. Hiding in a miserable corner is like trying to stifle God/ess's heartbeat.

(Did I ever think that I could love this One Life and its infinite facets from a place of "safety"? Really? Did I ever imagine that this education would be easy--that I would get to always respect myself, my actions and the good intentions of my parents, cultivate an unquestionably wholesome image, and be the 24/7 dispensary of aid to the needy? Huh. How silly.)  :)

These days, I seem to be running on a new frequency that appeared, meteor-like, in my summer sky. A kind of meditation lights up out of nowhere to find me, regardless of my schedule for the morning or evening. It's a no-nonsense consciousness-altering that demands I sit down right now, shut up, and give myself over to the falling-up kind of gravity that clears the way to the Real. It is almost never convenient, and I can't plan it. Nor can I argue with it anymore. Resistance isn't just futile--it's egoistic pettiness, because these extremely lucid sessions answer longtime, pressing questions about why I compulsively act or feel in certain ways, what these feelings and events mean in the context of my storied life, and how I should handle them practically when they arise.

Not only that--I am thrown into a swirl of symbolic images and memories to consider, both painful and benign--as well as being fed (literally) a stream of bliss that seems to pour down through the center of my body until I am absolutely alight with gratitude. Interestingly, as beautiful as the rapture is, it's no more significant than the memory of my forehead meeting the corner of a coffee-table when I was nine, or the anticipation of my own physical death. They are all highly lovable features of this landscape, to which I am both incredibly attached and, somehow, immune. Paradox, again.

The "point" of all this seems to be (still, and even more) the increasingly visceral sensation of utter clarity that both outlines and inlines any feature of any dream. I am astonished at its depth--rather, I become a kind of awe that breathes. I am not capable, in that "place", of calling this seemingly dumb and self-destructive mortal coil inferior to a "meditative state", or spiritual bliss, or even an actualized human. There is no hierarchy--just equal differentiation, an endless spectrum of points in the great web to emphasize in the service of creation.

Emphasize, I must; create friction, I do...because the other end of myself is absolute peace, silence, absence of presence--perfect shadow to anticipation, music, the growing of structure. Admitting the union of these two is a sublime occupation, consistently fulfilling. Certainly not boring.

A friend told me, yesterday, that I should devote my time to being a "Traveling Muse" (in exchange for chickens, butter, art supplies or whatever else I need). What a lovely, poetic thing! What fun! I could point out different kinds of meaning for someone to mutate into their own perfection--and I could do it through much more than the written word--you know, essential, experiential things like walking, eye contact, tasting the wild, experimental dancing, drawing pictures in windblown sand creativity.

Does that seem impractical? Like some weird dream?
Feel again! :)

Thursday, August 12, 2010


I asked to see my subterranean self--the ancient one, the essential part that carries the smell of toadstools, the feel of old leather and scratchy wool, and somehow reminds me of things like the antique, green-bound, scarily-illustrated copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales that I read with terrified fascination when I was a child.

One thought, the decision, and there I was, craning my neck to look into the black eyes of the guardians of my underworld. There were two of them--tall, slender, immensely strong. They were colored like the earth, stretched like the stone pillar behind them. I was standing at a branch in an artery, looking down two veins filled with darkness.

I was instantly afraid. The tall beings smirked. "What do you want?"

I knew they knew why I had come here, but there was some kind of protocol to follow. "I want to see this," I said. "I came here to look at this world."

They laughed outright. "Go away. You are a mere novice! You aren't ready for this."  They looked knowingly at each other, and threateningly at me. I mustered all the defiance I could. There was some anger mixed in with the papery fear.

"I'm not leaving." I would have crossed my arms, if I found them.

These sentries obviously considered me to be a scathing upstart of the worst kind; still, they seemed to admire my stubbornness, on some level. The one on the left--the elder, by my reckoning--finally gestured toward the right-hand tunnel (with...a spear? Sheesh!). "You think you're ready for this? Fine. Go ahead. We warned you!"

I felt myself moving down into the darkness, followed by mocking laughter. No one told me that this would be so difficult!

I expected monsters, scaly creatures, weird things with sharp teeth. Instead, I found a kind of carnival scene, and a stage illuminated with colored lights. Masked and costumed performers came out to sing, mime, juggle and ride unicycles, by turns and together in a confusing kind of play. All at once, a woman appeared in trashy Burlesque, singing a bawdy tune and doing a drunken kind of dance. I stared in fascination at the roaring approval of the audience. The woman, to my embarrassment, turned her attention to me, included me in her song, tried to beckon me to the stage. I looked into her made-up eyes under their obviously false lashes, and saw desperation, weariness and a certain kind of strength which, for some reason, I was meant to see and acknowledge.

I was horrified by the memory that I had come here to see myself--and was, indeed, in full exaggeration, feathery boa and all.

I continued on my way, stopping at scene after scene featuring the same woman in different guises--some more believable (and forgivable) than others. The plays, the age of the female star and the tragic or comic situations all varied widely. They could be viewed in a glance as morality tales; the point, however, was not to glance, but to really look. What I saw, again and again, was the tackiness of the sets, the highly amateur quality of the painted scenery and the garishness of the lighting...all thrown out in public like a brilliantly cheap distraction...always cloaking a subtle beauty, a knowingness behind the body, a deftness in the movement and story. I always found it. Each time, it was like finding a snowball in hell--an astonishment and sheer gratitude for the saving grace, the real miracle.

It seemed like a long journey; eventually, I found myself standing, once again, before the Earthen Beings. I was tired, not a little depressed, somehow, by what I had witnessed, and edging toward discouragement. One look at my face, and the obnoxious guardians burst into laughter. I was heartily sick of their attitudes.

"Come on, guys, show me some love," I implored (whined!). "This is the hardest thing I've ever done!"

They exchanged a look of disgust, and I was aghast at what I had just said, and the tone I had just used. Quickly, I tried to find a way to save the situation. "Ok," I amended, "then show me how to be a more loving person." There. I waited. Silence, while they stared at me, at my soul.

In the silence, I felt their disapproval, and an odd thing--encouragement.

I wondered why such an intention, put forth in a much more sincere way, was not earning their respect. All at once, there was the rank redundancy of the play, the terribly obvious strings of ego at work--and as it is meant to do upon recognition, the whole thing collapsed in a heap. I stood in complete humility before these guardians of the gates to my own heart. I had nothing to hide, anymore, nothing left at all to present but this. This. Even an apology would have been a colored light.

The elder one nodded, and the other smiled kindly with his whole body. "In order to be more loving," they said, as if explaining how one and one makes two in certain realities, "you must be willing to accept love."

Pure love, they intoned as their now-spearless hands brought me back to a surface. This love. You, Love.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Unprotected Love

I have a twisty history that maps out like a rutted mountain track. There are switchbacks, washouts and turnouts with a view; there are experimental forays into wilderness with dead ends and cold camps. Rarely does my road slide gently across an easy meadow. It refuses to be paved. Travel is seasonal and somewhat perilous.

Over time, I've learned the technology to cut a much simpler, more direct route through my terrain that could care less about water sources or contour-hugging. I've developed an arsenal of coping skills that I can call upon--a Transformer-like ATV with climate-control, advanced weaponry and armor. Boulders in the road? Trees in the way? Canyons opening up? No problem. The most fragile inner child could take on the worst conditions, the most horrendous emotional storm in relative ease, locked inside an impervious skin...

It is an option. I suppose building such a thing is sometimes necessary for survival, in the long run. But here's the downside: the virtual, two-dimensional vision I must use to peer out at the world from my fort-on-tracks is limiting, to say the least. All my other senses are rendered useless in the recycled air. When I speak, my voice stops at the padded titanium walls. I can only pretend that there's nothing out there to hurt, that my determined speed is my only concern, that the offerings left along the way by animal, vegetable, mineral or stardust are worthless to my cause.

When conditions get difficult, I sometimes climb into this thing where it's parked (top secret location) and play with the controls. It's so nice and safe, in there! I have a certain fondness for the skill--no, the incredible ingenuity that went into the implementation of my mobile bomb shelter, my ultimate freeze-out weapon. Yeah, go ahead ruthless world, rotten people, sickness, divorce or death--give it your best shot! Can't touch me!


A similar skill has me flying through a sterile dream, high above any topography--observing with a mental lens that burns to the bottom of life with breathless accuracy. This is how one goes to the stake with dignity...when it is understood that absolutely everything is yet another concept thrown up by left-brains on crack. There is, in this scenario, no me to touch--a valuable (but partial) truth, a mask so finely rendered that it really looks like the face of serenity. In this way, while I am busy tying my hands, I can place my gaze far, far away from the heat, from the present moment, from any kind of pain. 

There are, of course, many other emergency fallback measures--less sophisticated, but effective in a pinch--such as wrapping myself in the barbed wire of anger or cynicism, or the poison ivy of self-pity. Hurts more, but creates a good distance.

At the beginning of this summer, I made a conscious decision to abandon these skills, wonderful as they can be, and just walk...through fire, ice, whatever. I wanted to go deep into the wilderness of myself, the mountains, the oceans, the unexplained craters so old that they are visible only from inner space. I took my real, physical body--the soft and vulnerable one, the one alive to touch. I had no plan, no map, no radar. My watch stopped. My expectations, when I tried to use them, turned out to be a pile of rust. My approval ratings took a dive. The inner voices screeched in fear, as if I was an astronaut heading for a new galaxy without my spacesuit. In a way, that's exactly how it felt. I didn't take a helmet, knee pads, mouth guard, oxygen, bear-spray or aspirin. What an idiot, said my inner parent. You will catch a disease!

As I headed out, I threw back over my shoulder, I am the disease. (I only half-believed it--but it sounded good!)

So, what happened? Are my dream-theories, my meticulous safeguard-methods all wrong? Did I forget where I parked that tank? No.  My inner child is just as whiny as ever, and her parent just as strictly concerned...but wait a second...I have to catch my breath from all the laughing, wipe the monsoon off my face from all the crying, and sit down because my feet hurt. From dancing, not running. The mark on my forehead is where I planted it on the ground in utter humility. The inside of my soul is abraded, and healing into something not-quite-familiar, but good.

The stuff simmering over there on the fire is a brew of gifts that I want to share...but they need to cook a little longer, I think. Meanwhile, have some tea, some wild mushrooms, a big hug. I love you all. :)