Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Longest Nights

Winter Solstice just passed us here in the Northern Hemisphere. It's one of my favorite seasonal markers, even with the cold, dark and damp. I enjoy the turning-in, the introversion, the sleeping trees; I love the seeking of fire and body heat and soft blankets. Hibernation can be a wonderful thing for Maria.

I have have seen much unfolding in this heart of mine (which also happens to be this heart of yours!). Lots of learning, growing and shedding going on. The last few seasons have shown me some beautiful insights, as well as shadowy recesses that never enjoy the greening of summer, and (to my initial dismay) never will...just as some places on this planet will never touch the light of day. Some wounds may or may not heal when you leave them alone, when they are left to do whatever it is that they do. Some scars never fade. It is, as they say, what it is.

This isn't meant to be a despairing message, however. I grew up in and out of a psychological (and sometimes physical) war zone, so it isn't a sermon on acceptance, either. Accept, don't accept--it's all the same to the Great Whatever. It takes you as you are. There is no need to earn your way into happiness, prove your mettle, express your gratitude. It took years and years for this understanding to sink in all the way. No one has to apologize for being here. There is no right way to live a life. I cannot judge a single human being--including this one--not because of a moral issue, but because it's an action that carries no weight at all. It's a waste of energy, in my humble opinion, an opinion that changes exactly...nothing!

As I mature, my interest seems to lie more and more with honesty. Brutal, lovely, heartbreaking, life-expanding honesty. If I could have consistently lied to myself and gotten away with it, I probably would have. It turns out that, in the long run, and for the sake of everything, honesty is the best policy--again, not because the universe is "moral". There are degrees of honesty, all with their accompanying discomforts and releases. There was a time when I lied to myself because I knew no other way to survive. This is, somehow, a very honest thing, in an immature way. Comes a time when it no longer serves, and the carrying of illusion gets very difficult. Drop a layer. The new perception serves until it doesn't--and repeat. I have no idea if this ever ends.

I don't know how it is that those layers fall, but it seems a ripeness is in order; they certainly don't leave before everything is ready! Then, in a rush, or with an inaudible sigh, or in complete stealth, things have changed. Maybe subtly, maybe drastically, but new worlds are available to view. Honesty most definitely supports this process, aids it, and makes the seeming transition "cleaner". Eventually, there is a feeling of loving presence, a reflection of strength and vulnerability bouncing off any conceivable thing, finally enfolding all things. It is, of course, a further opening of the heart.

At this time in life, I am in a very interesting place. It's a place with not much room for "I", literally and metaphorically. In many ways, the most common image of Maria--the self-image--has been challenged and pushed, more and more, into a corner of itself. This Maria is representative of some original wound, some terrible violation (or a few), and presents typically as a bundle of reactivity, anger and pain. Over the years, well-meaning therapists have counseled me to "repair the self-esteem" and "heal the wounded child" with all the love and understanding my parents couldn't give me. Also, I should stand my ground, demand respect and consideration, and stop picking up wounded birds. Yeah. I should do this because Maria deserves a good man, time off, more help, and self-respect. Alright--I get that. Still, something is not ringing true in this advice, anymore. It seems trite, redundant and no longer fitting, and I suspect the shifting of another strata. It's as if we have taken the repair of the ego as far as it can go. Been there, done that.

More and more, there is a detachment, an objectivity waking up in place of the wounded creature, where a spastic mind once held sway. I was taught that detachment was a way of avoidance or not caring. This turns out to be true, but not in the way I assumed. What I have lost interest in is the outcome of the story (they all end the same way, right here), and in the quest for something better. Contrary to how this may sound, it isn't as though I have "given up". It's more that the structure disappeared, the race was called off, and I found that what I had signed up for was not any of this, after all. In fact, there is no real thing to admit defeat, no real person to be shamed, or to claim victory. I cannot know what this really is.

I've educated myself fairly well in most things "spiritual", and so of course, the concept of the Void, the illusion of the personal, the world of maya all make intellectual sense to me and balance the seeming solidity of everything quite nicely. And being an expert at coping, I've learned to "be objective", or philosophical, about most things. It never really occurred to me on a visceral level that I would wake up one morning viewing my familiar body in my familiar field of vision with all its sensations as something...not foreign, exactly, but unassumed. Something as natural as that tree outside, and as impenetrable, unknown, and in that sense, unfamiliar. A mystery. Nothing I can improve, run from, or seek to fulfill. Fulfillment is suddenly a laughable idea. A completely unnecessary-anymore-idea.

And this body, in its utter innocence, owns nothing, claims nothing. It has no thoughts (I don't know what does). It has its own way of speaking and is completely unconcerned about what happened when I was five. This realization is startling.

There are feelings, emotions, and they act of their own accord, without any meddling on my part, without my interference. They don't lash out and destroy anything. Nobody gets hurt. No planets are pulled into my orbit. Even if they did, that would somehow be okay.

I think about my old therapists, and wonder if they would find some "dissociation disorder" in this point-of-view-which-isn't. I've never been more sane. :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saule, Sol, Gold, Go

I used to know a young prospector who spent hours in creeks and rivers, looking for that elusive chunk of luck--the big payoff, the proof that all the pain and expense and hope was worth it. He had the fever, the bug, the addiction to the search. He searched so hard because he knew that occasionally, someone did strike it rich, find a vein of metal shining like the sun, even in the shadows. Precious, precious stuff. 

After a while, the hobby grew too expensive and time-consuming. There were heavy flakes, glimmers in a pan, tiny nuggets here and there...and there was occasional peace, under the water with a dredge running, or communing with a brave trout. But the reward that was supposed to come--the marker, the end of the search, a fist-sized treasure, held up for all to see--it never happened. The adventure was abandoned, the urge to hunt taking other forms. Seek, and you shall find...what? Accolades? Comfort? Escape? What? Have you found it? Are we there yet? Can we control it, is it pleasurable enough, are we safe?

It is said that water seeks its own level. Perhaps it's more accurate to say that water surrenders into itself. It falls up, falls down, pools, rushes, sits in silence, roars in waves. It vaporizes, powerless, and condenses to take over the world. It remains frozen for eons, uncomplaining. We are mostly water, and earth, fire, air and the rest, all having no problem cooperating in the form of a human. We are burning, evaporating, calcifying this very moment. Lightning beats our hearts. Something moves, we change, and yes--the process we tag "mind" will seek, seek, and seek some more. Incredibly restless and creative Mind. So full of its own luscious self, casting shadows on everything it sees, every other part of itself...not conscious, asleep and dreaming of success in love, in finances, in the good fight, whatever it is at the moment. Advancing, retreating, screaming, cowering. Rejecting. Coveting. Trying this method or that, this recipe, this formula, taking these steps. Looking at itself in horror, in joy, in defeat. Confronting its own death...unable to understand, calculate, reframe such a thing. There is death, there is no death. Off/on--what is this, really? What am I, really? Am I real? What the hell is "real"? What about this--and this--and this?! What an annoyance!

Something happens--an overload, an exhaustion, an experience of suspension. Ahhh. Yes. Peace. This is it. The payoff. Look! Here's the payoff! Right? Eureka! Breakthrough! I know the way! 

Oh, little brain. Here come the shadows, and the light dims. Iron pyrite, fool. This way looks like it might get us lost again. It's gold we want, right? Light in solid form? Learn to recognize it (says some prospector with a long beard, missing teeth and a mule). It gleams, even in shadow. It loves, even in pain. You have seen it, it has seen you, and neither can forget. Onward. Up that canyon, down that ravine. Follow the river, she will show you. Stop being so damn mean to that mule. She will show you. No, you don't need a new, shiny pickaxe!

Prospecting is lonely, full of hard work, and according to lots of intelligent folks, unnecessary. I understood the seeker of my acquaintance very well, more than I cared to admit, even though we were mining different things, through different mediums, with different goals (or so I believed at the time). My seeking was somehow better than his, because mine was on a "spiritual" level. My search had value higher than his. Mine was somehow justified, and his was not. Oh, little brain!

I don't know if he ever found what he was looking for, but now I realize that he went about the growth and death of himself in exactly the right way, for exactly the right reasons, and that I can never know his story. I can only know this one, and not even that.

So, what happened?

Well, I lost all the maps, my mule wisely sought greener pastures, and I was forced to carry all my own stuff. Very hard work, I can tell you. By that time, people's opinions of my adventures ceased to matter. I followed the river, anyway, because--I realized that I loved it. Or it loved me. Either way. 

I found more and more gold, ironically--and just as ironically, it lost its value--that is, the value that others placed upon it. However, my appreciation of the mining process deepened to the point that it was more play than work. There was beauty in the landscape, in the looking, the finding, even in disappointment and the occasional injury. Consequently, I was content with less and less. One day, I quit searching. People thought the gold was pretty and full of amazing value, so I gave it away. I was surprised to find that I enjoyed this. And along came my old friend Mind, who whispered, "Hey, Eureka! I found the way!" 

I laughed until I thought my heart would break. I made a good, nourishing meal for my restless friend (happy chewing, Sweetheart!), and went to sleep like a good animal. In the morning, gold was everywhere--just everywhere, like a messy fairytale...or a gripping mystery. There was the body, the heart, even the mind, gleaming in the shadows. Aladdin's cave was the kitchen, an old lady, a man burying himself in porn, the cat stretching, frozen fog around the moon, the primitive, the futuristic, oil paint, a coffee spill on white tile (again). The voice of Precious says I love you, leave me alone, I don't know, I hurt, this is it, watch out, don't leave, get out, I have no opinion...the heart contracts, expands, feelings wave, stomach growls. Decisions are made, seemingly by everything at the same time, and things move. There is no identifying this, but words go around and full I'm empty, so empty I'm full. The thought of death shines like a rising sun. 

Get a mule, polish your pan, get to work...or not. It's worth it. Even finding nothing...perhaps especially, finding nothing. A river loves you.