Saturday, April 30, 2011

Active Beauty

Eventually, I'm going to write a book on what it is to be a "Sensual Contemplative". I adopted the description immediately upon reading the following passage from my friend James Corrigan's book, An Introduction To Awareness, while in the bathtub one morning:

It is interesting to note that so-called Transcendentalists--poets, essayists, and philosophers--have historically been the most minutely detailed and intimately connected observers of, and celebrants of, life; rather than the most geekish analyzers of its 'transcendental' structure. One thinks of a Whitman, Emerson, Thoreau, or Dickenson, not as engineers hard-pressed to reverse-engineer existence, but rather deeply contemplative and sensual individuals who wanted nothing more than to savor and celebrate the intricate flavors of, and their curiosity toward, existence. Their goal was not to "get to the bottom" of it, but to fully engage it, in contradistinction to those around them who saw themselves as separate and apart from "Nature".

I remember getting an "aha" chill from my head to my toes, in spite of the hot water. Never mind all the distinguished company--I knew I had found the taste of my own calling in James' adjectives. Full engagement does seem to be the point of living, here.

Writing about it is sometimes incredibly difficult. A million repeated attempts still can't capture the essence of This in its entirety--all I do is split myself a million times--and a certain astonishing loveliness lies in the fact that I can do just that, and remain whole.

I'll save the most juicy stuff for that book. But beauty has been much on my mind, so let me do a quick, loose sketch...

Sensuality is "bodying" in awareness, of and with all available senses. Sensuality is commonly associated with "sexuality" (the advertised variety), and although everything sexual is indeed included in what I am trying to describe, there is a deeper, wider field of experience in which genitalia are but minor conduits of erogenous energy. The world, in fact, is full of an intimacy both erotic and altruistic, desiring and giving at once, born when one is willing to be a union of total fullness and utter individuation.

There is heightened physical sensation, as well as deep sensitivity to shifting thought/feeling arising in and through cells and organs. I think of this motion as a sort of energetic language, in which all elements of oneself are in flowing communication--local physical organism, environment, and beyond--as far "out" or "in" as one is willing to extend. Boundaries between the sense-pathways loosen, and a kind of synesthesia (joining of senses) can happen.

Contemplation is far more than thinking or mentally processing data. It is intricately entwined with sensuality in that it is actively listening, tasting and opening within the field, the entire presence of self-in-moment. It dilates and contracts like the pupil of an eye, effortlessly, unplanned. Logical thought happens, a pale shadow of the larger intuition and cross-languaging going on. Ideas appear, but always shimmering with the countless threads connecting them to everything else. Contemplating is being completely present to what is. What is, in spite of all the varying elements, is one, incredibly obvious non-thing.

A "sensual contemplative" could simply be a human with a superhighway between the left and right hemispheres of the brain...or a mystic shaken out of the slumber of illusion...or a madwoman. All of these descriptions seem apt at one time or another. None of them can touch the act, the fact, the sacrifice and celebration of being, here. The point of all this deep feeling is the sheer beauty of it. Beauty is always the "trigger", the attraction, the embrace.

Again, I'm speaking of a different order of beauty than smoothness, symmetry, or waist-to-hip ratio. I'm talking about the sensation and awareness of beauty that precedes and outlives a judgment call. I'm talking about the gorgeousness that is literally in the eye of the beholder, a touch so deep that one is what one sees, hears, feels, smells--"I" and "That" express the same beauty...which is, after all, what we are. It is an active, dynamic principle, rather than a static wish or image "over there".

Full engagement--with suffering, joy, humanity, spirit--happens when I am subsumed in this beautiful ongoing stream, where the past is gone but always here, transforming, and the future never but always here, transforming. The motion is so eternal that it's still. The space behind is so vast that it allows for a perfectly earthy, intimately felt sense of location that I tend to call "me". How can this be? I don't know. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Give It Back

Most of us are running a virus in our mental/emotional background--a piece of malware, really, working its way into almost every waking moment. Fully implanted by the time we are teens, the directive is: Get something out of life.

"Life" is our interaction with various facets of self--people, places and things. As we move through the world and it moves through us, we habitually try to add objects and concepts to "me" which represent security, sensation and power. Once we are able to find food, shelter, clothing and some basic form of affection, we want more safety, more experience, more respect. We want wisdom, too, if it promises greater comfort and better feelings. Because--god forbid--we might miss out, not fully actualize, be alone forever, have bad teeth, etc., etc. We will cease to exist, and then all will be lost! Seize the day, kill that time, and leave a legacy--or else.

Generally speaking, we don't get the kind of attention and reassurance we prefer from trees, rocks or the wind, so we try to get it from our fellow humans. If security, sensation and power were physical commodities like water or clothing, we would fiercely compete for them. They exist only within us. Still, we try very hard to "get" these feelings from other people, as if security was a fence someone could build, or power a cloak of self-confidence someone could wrap around our shoulders (there, there!).

Crazy--almost everyone is seeking like this. We're trying to grab something from each other that doesn't exist. No one has this stuff--not one! Security, sensation and power are spontaneous, natural, holistic expressions which, like love and trust, can't be bought, stolen or forged. The belief, however, that the world (an "other") is something to be used, to prop us up, make us cooler, hotter or more immune to mortality is deeply embedded. We think of relationships as investments, as something we do in hopes of a big return for our time and trouble. Meanwhile, our partner in this crime is hoping for an equal return. I ask you--how can you give what you don't believe you have? How can you get a "state" of being that is only sourced in you, and which, furthermore, you have zero control over?

When we are fourteen, or sixteen or twenty (and beyond), there is a terrible hollowness inside that holds the cusp of adulthood, the myths of our parents and culture and all the intensity of Being combined. Steeped deeply in the viral division solution, we are too young, perhaps, to directly face all that fear and longing, and so throw it outward, hoping to somehow catch a miracle of beauty, of raw strength and approval from that oceanic condition we live in, but feel so separate from. Cast. Cast. Cast. We may land just enough to keep us fishing, to fortify the belief that something will come along to really care for us, grant us what we never had, bring us healing and balm for our loneliness. We hope, before we die, to get that elusive Something out of life.

This hopeful, desperate youth within us never goes away. Ever. We learn, in time, to be well-adjusted, to manage it, dumb it down, numb it out. Most of us divorce this wild creature, on some level, as it is simply too problematic, emotional, and occasionally self-destructive. We think we are adults, until in the depths of some argument with reality--usually someone we love--out comes the most rebellious, immature drama we could ever hate! (Ah. Thought I was rid of the brat.)

Not ever. But with proper care, the brat can grow up, becoming a mysterious ally. Eternal Spring is the heart of this creature...a well of passion, a sparkling morning to get you through a very dark night. Proper care? All your love, immense patience, that wisdom you thought would get you somewhere. This is the place to plant it.

Take your wild child for a walk and feel what it is to let sensation be given. It is nothing she needs to wring out of the woods, the rain, the air. There is nothing, anywhere, better or other than this. Sit with him and feel the power of this kind of vulnerability, the fact that direct and thorough love is inescapable. Let her understand that security lies in the freedom of being a shifting point in a whole field of them--all equal, all relevant, all valid, all illusory. Remind him that here he is, even in all emptiness.

It's futile to spout platitudes, because wild creatures need the holism of synesthetic language. They want to understand in their bones, in their loins, in the very reason they are present. So in order to demonstrate the important fact that the "Love (Life) you take is equal to the Love (Life) you make", ask your coltish one about its gifts...the things she resonates with, the things he must do to express all that pent-up passion. Does she want to paint? Does he want to drum? Write, swim, act, sing, dance, say, do, what? Listen. 

Honor this courage by doing just that thing...safely, respectfully, with intensity. In other words, make Life--not for attention, not to prove anything, not to get anywhere. Just put the notes, the cells, the colors and steps out there, in the void, like a painting made of sand...for no reason, other than the listening to the longing of your buried heart. Afterward, take the time to notice that here you are, even in all fullness.

Do it again.

Eventually, there will be no distance between the giving and receiving, Spring and Autumn--no imaginary hollow to fill with stuff, no justification for the beauty you do and see, no avoiding the inevitable pain or joy. There is a purity and efficiency here, not conducive to viral invasions of the psyche. Spacious fullness, with a well. :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Is This Trip Really Necessary?

Yes, yes it is. I know because it has happened, is happening, will happen. I know only from the place where nothing is actually happening. From here, no. Not necessary.

Thought is the god, the prisons, the palaces, the amusement parks! Questions, answers, constructs, deconstructing. Seeking. Growing. Dying. Exhilarating, exhausting.

(Just now, the music in the background of my typing: Mind can't comprehend the magnitude of the moment...)

...So it builds, and destroys, and through the replaying of these stories, creates a journey I can call "my life". Never mind that when I turn the spotlight of thought upon itself, I can't find it. Not a trace. People say, "This book/house/life is a product of my thinking, my imagination." Languaging and imaging, plus some kind of physical manipulating, makes stuff, and more thinking...or so the story goes.

Well, all the thinking in the world can't explain itself. Standard thought eternally avoids the holy-jumping-off-place, where the journey takes a sudden dive into the void. Usually, it's some kind of sales pitch that resists the pull to the edge, armors and defends its position. Sometimes, a line of thought hardens into a philosophy or religion. Even if the bars of such a cage were once relatively easy to escape, maniacally devoted followers will have fortified it beyond all recognition. It hangs like a desperate, temporal monument to eternity on the edge of The Edge, until it goes the way of all such dead ends.

When thinking matures, it tends to simplify, for efficiency's sake. It may begin to consider itself, to entertain its own paradoxical nature, notice its creation of and dependency upon duality. This is a slippery place. Thinking begins to doubt itself as the font of all wisdom, the healer, or the pioneer. It isn't as special as it once believed, and, in fact, seems to be born to create problems with one hand, which it must solve with the other. The place where thinking is most useful is in the realm of practical being--how to get from point A to B on a map, how to add up the phantom digits of currency in exchange for a meal, how to make a comfortable bed for a tired body. Thinking, it turns out, is a great innkeeper, but a lousy psychotherapist, shaman, or relationship advisor.

Intellect is, however, a Way. Thinking can invent and lead itself to the gate, and take the final step through it...into dissolution. The gate is beyond any moral or spiritual position, and is indeed a kind of "positionless position". Standing in that invisible entrance, no position can really describe love, dreaming, trees or war. It can't locate a beginning or end, because it can never get outside itself. It can only ceaselessly divide. As great a muscle as thought may be, it is only, and always, thinking.

Then what? What a thought!

A leap to a death. The church falls off the edge. The angel opens her eyes, and becomes a holistic emptiness in the middle of a drinking-in, pouring-out dream. The broken pieces of thinking lying around are like interesting fossils--beautiful, judgmental structures, fear-based, love-based. They have nothing to do with discovering where she has always been. 

Fresh thoughts appear, generous and innocent. What is this sight that is the start and finish of a nautilus? Is it thinking, dreaming or both/neither? Suddenly, thinking is poetry, pilgrimages to its own vulnerability, forays in which the rest of itself--body, heart, world--are not only invited, but reveled in. There's no packing armor anymore, no unsafe territory, no looking out for an enemy, no competition among different forms of mind. Thinking and feeling are choiceless as weather.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

An Aria

I love me.

There are many ways to indicate what seems to be a person, experiencing a vague condition called "life". One can say this, here, now, being. Some people say "I am", which is redundant. (Of course "I" is--so much so, that it isn't!) But "I" is tall and often cold. A better word--a more intimate, curvy, non-statuesque and familiar one--is me. 

To put this in the proper context, think of me as an ultimately universal term for everything encountered in the course of a day. Look at me. Feel me. (Does that bring on a feeling of discomfort? Do I really need to capitalize me, turn it into Me? Whatever works!)

Suspend descriptions like "couch", "cramp", "wall", "dog", "human", "thinking", or "it" for a moment, and call it me. Me, me, me, me, me, me. Are you singing, yet? Everything experienced is me, regardless of how you feel about it, your opinions around it, the stories you tell...those, also, are me.

That lovely or annoying person over there--me, being me; your irritation, also me. The fact (me) that you (me) can't possibly ever understand, truly, what is happening within that person's psyche (me). Change (me), permanence (me), grass, hungry, ouch, ahhh, ?, !, wtf (me). Cellular me, galaxied me, science-math-art-language me, sex, drugs and rock-n-roll me. Oh, and fear, bliss,

Not to emphasize me too much...but, in me, all things appear. Alone, they are me; collectively, me...with a background of me. Me is all there ever is, was, or will be. There is so much me that me cannot be special in any way, while all especially emphatic conditions are also, very comfortably, me. Are you sliding into "not me" yet? That's ok. "Not me" is also me. So is me-ness. There is nothing, actually, other than me.

So, wherever you go, there me is.

This is a fun game, even though terrible things (me) are happening along with the sublime (me). Death (me), birth (me) in time and space (me and me). Supersaturated in me, is this me.


Alright. Now that I-you-he-we-she-they-it-this-that is firmly established as ME, me can play at being silent, not saying me. Sssshhhh.

Even still and unmoving, me doesn't go away.

Just being--even less--me. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

To Join

A couple of days ago, during the afternoon, there was a spontaneous lull in the craziness. I went outside and discovered sixty-five degree sunshine--the first! Walk time! It was wonderful--felt like energy and vitamin D were just pouring into a dry-sponge self.

Blue. Green. Daffodils, tulips. Lawnmowers going, kids playing outside...the meter-reader guy smiling and waving. Then the dirt road into a patch of woods on the edge of town, the cooler hollows still holding puddles, trees muffling all sounds but themselves in the sparkling clean breeze. I was hitting the point where everything was thoroughly warmed up, stride relaxing, animal-self taking over. This is often where I sink into full attention. Senses sharpen, and I am less a conductor and more a note in the symphony.

I smelled the leftover dankness in the woods from the last months of rain...familiar, mushroomlike, composting earth. I love it. Suddenly there was a new topnote, a flash and flutter of sweetness. What was that...? I halted in the road, remembering the exact scent from somewhere in childhood. Brain tried to name it, giving up in just a few seconds...some fairy-flower, I'm sure, throwing itself upon the little gust over the ridge, swooping down to tantalize me. An emotion arose, love-delight-longing, as powerful as the scent was delicate.

After a moment, I continued down to the end of the road, turned around, retraced my steps. Coming back into the shaded hollow, there the perfume was again--pure and fine as a spiderweb, here and gone.

I wanted to share this. I wanted to look at another human and say, "What IS that? Did you smell it?"

My desire began musing about itself. 

I headed toward home, thinking/feeling, while I rolled up my sleeves for the liquid sun. The contemplation is old: How it is that aloneness is so total. Even if another human had been present, he or she could never know this experience in exactly the way I do. Sometimes, I feel sad about that. In another sense, aloneness is complete to the point that it can't even really be.

But sharing--I miss it. Sharing is what fills in the spaces between the bones of my life, the way leaves fill in the canopy of a tree, rounding it out, sending things skyward, communing in waves, touching, dancing, or growing still in the twilight. Sharing adds untold dimension, unimaginable (on one's own) depth. It's what we do, whether we believe it or not, deliberately or accidentally. It's one of the reasons I babble to myself with this mediating screen. We get as close as we possibly can from our single-point perspective--if we got any closer, we would vanish. Still...

There are many "levels" of being, as anyone with any imagination or sensitivity can attest, all interacting and sharing with each other. I roam the range from not entertaining any concept of aloneness or togetherness at all, to "I love this unity, including myself", to "wow, there really is no self!", to "I want to remember kissing, dammit!" All these states are present from time to time, and don't create as much havoc as they might have long ago. They all make patterns in something ineffable, with varying degrees of feeling/thought.

When I arrived back at the house, I found my son restlessly seeking car keys.

"It's SO beautiful outside, I'm giddy!...What's wrong?"

"Nothing", he replied, "everything. I don't know. Can I go for a drive?"

"Sure...(he was almost snorting and pawing!)...let me guess...testosterone volcano, nowhere to go?"

Sigh. "Yeah."

"Just wait," I teased, as he left the room. "It's almost sundress weather."

"Then I'll be pissed," he growled/laughed. 

I wanted to say Oh, just love it, love it while you can, painful as it can be. Precious longing, irritating itch, cherry-blossom fever. On one hand, a search for security, sensation, power. On another...the illusion ends, desire changes form, comes and goes, temporary as springtime. @)~>~~~