Sunday, January 23, 2011

Only A Dream

Last night I dreamed you had a small, dark-haired boy to care for--but you couldn't, because you were busy with other, less important things. 

I came to your city when you called me, asking if I could take the child and his routine for a day. Of course, of course! I would finally see your face, and couldn't wait for the moment when you would see mine. So we planned a complex route and a good time, a time when our meeting would be "safe", unlikely to unravel or offend the intricate patterns and tightly-capped relations you had established for so many years. We would meet at the end of the day, after school and daycare and some event. I managed to go to the right place at the right moment, found the child, and spent the day falling in love with him.

In the afternoon we met at a large social function, a birthday party filled with other children and well-heeled adults with watchful gazes. I pretended to be nothing, the nanny, the hired help. We left the little boy for a few minutes at play, and faced each other in an outbuilding, far in the back. I put my hands on either side of your face and said, "Look! I am so happy to see you!"

We embraced; I stepped back, to look at you. There was a mask over your face--a strange, eerie, expressionless thing that covered all but your mouth. I reached up to remove it, but you stopped my hand. "I'm sick," you claimed, "and too flawed. I can't let you look in my eyes."

There was a movement near the half-open door. A woman stared in at us, about to bring down your house of cards, judging by her expression and the speed at which she hurried away. You saw her, too, and immediately panicked. You urged me to crawl through a window, to get away at all cost, to abandon the property. I protested. I wanted to say goodbye to the little boy; I wanted to tell the truth, to stop hiding in the shadows. I left, in the end, after extracting a promise to meet in a different place, soon.

I spent some time in the city, which was old and golden, somehow; eventually, I met you in a building and a room of your choosing. There were other people there, but I found you at once, with your mask. Again, I tried to remove it. You seemed to have difficulty breathing. Again, you refused. You pulled me into your lap for another, more intimate embrace, but the mask disturbed me, and I pushed away and stood. For the first time, I noticed that we were in some kind of bordello, and that all the couples were masked or painted so heavily that features could barely be discerned. The golden light had faded, and a bare, electric bulb hung from the ceiling. I walked around the room, fascinated and disgusted with myself, until I came to the chair where you sat, uncomfortably, shifting as if the cushion was full of thorns. 

I said, "I am not a prostitute."
"I'm sorry..."--the tone was dejected--"I only wanted the fantasy. I just wanted the fantasy!"

"I am not a fantasy." I laughed. You reached for me and I felt a mix of crushing disappointment and immense tenderness. I put my hands on either side of my bare face. "Take care of your child," I told you. "Take care of your health. Learn to love what's real."

Who are you?

Meaning and Purpose

I'm in a middle-ageless funk, a huge pool of loss with no bottom, a nest with the twigs blowing away in a cold, cold wind. It's a perfect place for existential angst of every variety. What's worse is that there is no story I can weave fast enough to fill the gaps--no sparkling distraction to keep my gaze off the dissolving structures I used to stand on. Sad times.


There is something very...oh, words are failing me. There is something real that I can't define about watching every effort get immediately sucked into that freezing maelstrom out there/in here. The Earth, the Story, the Mind, she is a-changing, and there is nothing I can do in the face of such momentum. So I stand still. I surrender. It's not as if I have a choice.

I am learning about my "will", about the meaning of persistence (a temporal fight), and the seeming waste of personal energy it is to continually beat my brain against my own walls. I say "seeming", because there really is no such thing as a waste of energy, no matter what opinion arises. As I throw one more pebble into the mother of all chasms in my life, I realize that each action happens just so, exactly on cue, with precisely the force necessary to remind me that making myself into anything is futile. And perfect.

So I'm standing in the shower, wondering what to do with myself once I get done with all the dailies. Is there something to look forward to? What state should I attend? Should I make a huge change in routine, or resign myself to my fate, or leave everything and everyone behind? Maybe I should just continue to "work on myself"--you know, yank all my issues into a ruthless psychological glare (with high-powered magnification). At the very least, this makes me believe, for a minute, that I'm doing something worthwhile and, perhaps, rewarding. Somehow.

I hear the thinking, and I don't remember if I washed my face. There is a deep, restless, furious churning going on. I want to run around the block. I am anything but content. I am not happy. I don't even know, for god's sake, what happiness is, anymore.

Some time later, drying my hair with a towel, silence falls inside. My thoughts dissolve, and I watch them, and I am still the same, still the same. No matter what I fill myself with or throw away or grieve over or welcome, I am still the same. Water doesn't drown it, fire can't burn it, earth can't bury it and air can't breathe it! Whatever this is stays undisturbed, untouched. Tension and laxity, suffering and joy all share the same vast, spaceless space.

This is the point where I touch what's real. I fall in. There is a baseless, non-reactive equanimity, with a tendency to delight in Itself. I am that, underneath all of the thinking and feeling, inclusive of both. It does not relieve any pressure--pressure loops out of and returns to this. No relieving, and no necessity for it--but both pressure and release are completely viable options. I can "waste" my energy in suffering and finding the end of it. I have all the room I need. It may furrow my brow even more, but there is no furrowing This...I may as well draw a line in the water.

What does this mean? I don't know. To what purpose? No idea. When I cease trying to find and do the "right" thing, the correct Maria, the appropriate response, I am free to be anything, anywhere. So much freedom--nothing holding me down, no mistakes, nothing to regret. I can't even fathom this, it's so simple.

But there is a direction--yes, this is true--there is a leaning into joy, into senseless delight, into pointless contentment. It's a deeper, wider thing than emotion, than the brief ups and downs that stories are so full of.

This, too, leaves no trace. If I try to hang on to that invisible ship cutting a wake through endless seas, it becomes a piece of flotsam in a swirl of foam.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Surfing Wisdom

The ocean is probably my favorite metaphor for life in general. It covers--well, almost everything. :)

With rising water and violent seas all over the place right now, people I know are talking about sinking, swimming, drowning or trying to come up for a gulp of air. Some of us just float. Some are trying to figure out how to enjoy the ride. I have recently found myself in what I used to refer to as "The Washing Machine of Life"--which is a mental/emotional/physical set of circumstances that resemble being sucked underneath a big wave, tumbled ferociously until there is no sense of direction, dragged across the bottom (and any protruding objects) hair-first, and force-fed sand and seawater to choke on (and potentially vomit up) later.

What I just described is an amateur attempt at body-surfing, or simply being caught in a strange current or extra-big wall of water. Yes, I speak from experience. :)

Early this week, I talked to my younger brother, who used to spend quite a lot of time board-surfing near San Diego, back in the day. I was in the middle of crying out my own ocean, walking around in tight circles with the phone pressed to my ear, explaining how I was simply overwhelmed with Everything. Too much, I said. Can't breathe, I said. Goddammit, when will this end?! Aaaaargh! I can't do this anymore!

My brother listened well, as he always does (bless his bright, shining light!), and dropped a piece of advice, which I will paraphrase here:

"I know you've body-surfed,'s usually in shallower water, and when you get caught in a wave and tumbled, you sort of expect to be spit out on the beach, or close to it. But when you're out in deeper water on a board, and something happens so that you lose it, the wave tumbles you around underwater--but sometimes there's no bottom. If you try to swim out of it (and I know you're good at swimming out of things), you can be swimming in the wrong direction, because you don't know where 'up' is. People can panic and sometimes drown. So when that happens, the best thing to do is relax and go limp. Go limp, because you will float to the surface."

A hush fell inside of me for a moment, which is always a good indication that I am paying close enough attention that wisdom can penetrate the chaos. I laughed a little. Go limp.

I took it to heart, and for the last several days, have repeated it like a mantra in those moments when I felt like my mind was breaking and lungs were bursting. Of course, it's about relaxing and trusting in a natural buoyancy to bring me to a place of vitality and sanity. Going with the flow, the Tao, the natural way of things, the greater will, the uncommon sense of a larger picture. Trusting is incredibly difficult when it seems that your very existence is threatened...everything in a person wants to fight. But I have done all I can do, to the best of my ability, in the most responsible ways now...letting go.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Do The Work

Times are tough...they have been for many people, for quite a while, myself included. Situations are changing so rapidly that it's difficult for many to meet survival needs, much less those of a "higher" order.

I have seen so many implosions/explosions--relational, financial, psychological--that I am sometimes tempted to give up. I want to to crawl to the back of a dark cave, pull the wool over my eyes and turn the light out in my heart. Forever. Leave me alone, you angels and demons. Go away. I want peace, and silence, and some kind of eternal, effortless love wrapping me up in perfect serenity until I leave this crazy planet (hopefully soon). I want warm fuzzies, fearlessness, butterscotch voices and less wrinkles. Now.

This is what I think when I am exhausted, when under the influence of the invisible toxin dripped into my brain many years ago during various childhood traumas (and a couple of adult ones). When we try to deny our conditioning, it sneaks up to steal any ease or contentment while slashing balance to pieces. Fighting it all just pulls us deeper, and traps us in the same old patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving.

The paradox is that, even while we are worn, grooved, etched and grained, we are also brand new and empty of patterning in any given moment. Reaching the "state" where this is more than a mental concept can be (in the absence of brain injury or psychoactive influence) quite difficult. It seems like a fantasy, to be able to be in any way fresh, free of attachment or aversion (and the place where one becomes the other). It feels as though there is some kind of barrier between the deepest sense of self and Everything Beautiful and Good.

There is. As long as we need one, there will be one. Like some kind of flaming sword, it comes up to protect us when we get too close to our own imaginary edges. Why? Because the beautiful and good is only half like our reactionary Utopian visions, our pendulum swings away from rudeness and violence and insult to innocence. The beautiful and good is also contained in the ugly and evil, the entirety of our experience, as painful as it may be at times. Until we can comprehend and admit this, the walls stay up, and access is denied...access to all of ourselves, and thus our Self.

There are many kinds of "work" to be done, on many different levels of being, if a person is truly interested in meeting the entirety of Self unashamed, and seeing the actual boundlessness of experience. The work always involves a meeting of oneself in various forms--the mind, the body, the emotions, and "out there" as the world. None of these elements are truly separate, and so activity in one always involves activity everywhere else. Methods vary as much as life forms, so it isn't necessarily the path through the mind/body/spirit/world that matters, but the attention paid to the movement, itself. The point, as they say, is in the journey, in the unfolding.

Attention rediscovers a sensitivity that is open and curious rather than stunted and hostile. Attending is like walking a pattern with full awareness of your feet on the lines, knowing that you hold that pattern, can see the pattern, and have the freedom to make a different one if and when it is right. It is being in full relationship to everything you encounter, within and without. All we are, actually, is this sensitivity, this sensing of Self. To be in full relationship, we operate from a clean place, a pure place, an identity unconfined to any small self-image we may carry. Every time we notice a thought, feeling or action, we are coming from spaciousness, from what is unaffected.

It may seem as though the more of ourselves we see, the more cluttered chaos there is to "deal with". But the truth is, the more of ourselves we are able to see, the clearer and simpler we get--because we are shedding identities like skins. Soon you see the goatskin over there and the angel-dust on the other side, right next to the kid who hates spiders and the teenage lusty gypsy. They are your family, your growth-rings, and you know them. But this knowing sensitivity is unfettered by these or any other "guest" in your house. They are dressed up in stories for you, whose only task is to meet them all equally. That's it. You don't have to try to be what you already are. Attempting that is what creates confusion.

For me, spaciousness takes over in fits and starts, concurrent with the degree of attention I am. Going through a rather hellish year in which I felt rejected in every possible way brought me into spotty, rough, and finally direct contact with hidden wounds and sneaky pain from long ago--stuff I was holding silently, children active in my psyche that I was ignoring in an emotional back room. I think, perhaps, that I was trying to set things (life) up so that I could safely see them. Instead, I had to see them to understand my own safety.

I can be backwards, like that.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Full Access

Echo of the beloved voice:

"Give me all of your pain and disappointment, joy and contentment--all of it. I will take it, but give it all! Hold nothing back to make a new self of. Give me your life and yourself. Give it all, and I will take it."

It's the last demand, the last instruction, the last signpost in the Great Mystery. It's the funniest trick God/dess ever played on Itself. Yes, it was all necessary. :)