As you see, bolder formatting is temporarily gone from this site. I’ve stripped it down while making changes, but also to symbolize my current state.
In meditation this morning, the theme of faith arose. Unkind thoughts were present – an argument I’ve been having with someone for as long as I can remember… feelings of injustice, betrayal, silencing. But, rather than get deeper into the argument, I could see how it had affected my trust levels in relationships, and how much of ‘me’ it had defined.
I would say, “I’d let it define”, but that wouldn’t be accurate. It is more like, my quest to resolve or escape it has, both knowingly and unknowingly, defined key interpretations.
As can happen in meditation, I could experience the argument as an object of attention, one of various, a wheel spinning off in the corner somewhere, bigger or smaller, taking up more or less space. And I could ask, “Help me let this go.”
Who was I asking? Who was the I, asking? Worthwhile questions, but distractions in this context, because more important is the asking itself and the imagining… the feeling of the possibility of that wheel no longer spinning so fast, defining so much.
I think this imagining, at the point at which ‘I’ runs out, or intersects, is faith, and where across religious/spiritual disciplines and schools of thought, there may mustard seed sized agreement. It is a bit like a blank slate itself.
I’ve been rather (overly?) ‘thought’ful in my writing here of late. So much has been on my mind that I’m not sure whether or how to talk about, and until I am sure, I’ve decided to try to work it out in other ways.
Retail work has been the most surprising of those ways… getting on a train I don’t step off of for hours, setting aside worries and all other options/choices. Goodbye, scrolling Twitter until I think, “What time is it?”, Goodbye, “looking for something to watch on TV.” After having a flexible schedule for many years, this structure feels incredibly freeing to me, comforting in the way I imagine weighted blankets are comforting to people who liked to be tucked in at night as children (not me – I always needed a leg or at least foot outside of my blanket).
Choiceless, in a good way.
I’m fairly suited to the kind of work I’m doing, thankfully, at least in most ways, on most days. I can get the sort of ‘hit’ of feelings of youth that I imagine some people get from watching a sport they played in high school.
With this one decision (and the company’s decision to hire me), I solved at least three big puzzles that were fast becoming problems prior: weight gain (I’ve lost 8 lbs. so far and hit my 10,000 steps mark almost every day); eye-to-eye starvation (Most of my daily conversations had become typed or mitigated by social media, which is way too comfortable a zone for me, not being especially verbal); and, putting my ethics into practice.
That last one is hugely important, so let me elaborate…
In the Taoist ox-herding tale, there is seeking and striving up the mountain, and a time of retreat that can look like one has finally arrived. My spiritual life–alongside, but sometimes consuming, the rest–has been a mix of those modes: lots of (almost constant) study, retreat, giving up whatever seemed in the way of devotion–‘working’ to trust the flow and truth of insight and intuition. To that end, unimaginally wonderful friends and teachers have appeared all over the mountain as I’ve wandered … people deeper and happier than any I’d before encountered, sharing similar longings and a language of play-beyond-words… celebrating the enoughness of ‘what is’.
Finding these places, these people, has often felt like validation of my deepest needs and calling, and of course, one would want to stay… would want to do whatever it took to stay, including bring others along. On the mountain I learned of a million bright and open eyes, countless ways of seeing and being seen, and how to find thin places where distance, manipulations and lies, have no meaning at all, present no barrier (“How can a mantis block the road?”).
Yes, like visiting Heaven, or, more comfortable imagery for me: a land of Buddha fields.
As I traveled though, I always suspected there might come a time when my go-to’s would no longer work… when I wouldn’t be able to retreat and study myself into a blissful mind palace state of grace over and over again. Truth be told, as much as I have loved and desired that, I have also wanted to be drawn from… to serve… to pour myself out completely so that I could really rest, “one day.”
And lately, I simply show up to meet the moment. I don’t control where I am or who I encounter, for hours of most days, and often can’t fully classify a good day from a bad. I am ‘snapped out’ of my story-telling and ruminating, over and over again until that movement works its way into my body, giving my mind to whatever the apparent situation may draw out. It isn’t exactly that I’ve come down from the mountain nor left the quest behind, but that all those books and sutras and sessions and endless audios have become a kind of inward architecture… more perhaps, Rumi’s Guest House.
“Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
(Coleman Barks translation)
There may be a shift here, from reading to being read, which I like to think may be a true culmination of practice, moving into living lucidly, spontaneously as true default… inhabiting a certain quality of mind. I’m still a little concerned I’ve managed to find just a new way of avoidance, but it seems to be where/how the aliveness has moved, sweeping me into a new phase of exploration.
I even feel some of that here, coming back to my fingers. Dare I hope?
And dare I hope that just situating myself where Life seems to want me, might also matter to ‘the world’ – a ‘coming back’ gesture of belief in Basic Goodness… a better collaboration?
A family of cardinals has been visiting the little second-story balcony of our rented apartment since February. Only one wears the bright red that clearly signifies *cardinal*, with the other three more brown-toned, often fluffed and lively in their chattering. One of the brown-toned cardinals sports bits of orange too, as though going through a protracted transition phase. I can watch them for hours on end, delighted.
Setting out seeds and creating a rather lush space filled with plants and places for them to perch on has attracted a lot of my attention over these months, along with blue jays, doves, and mockingbirds into the space. An especially daredevil black and white cat whose whiskers frame his face into a quite pompous expression also finds his way up high, lounges about, observes the goings on below. I’d bring him in but for the vehemence the mere sight of him brings out of my loudly barking dog.
Just a few days ago, a tiny ladybug flying high in the air and landing onto the large floppy leaf of what we always called an Umbrella, caught my eye. (I’ve since learned the tree also goes by the name of Octopus, thanks to the blooms it shoots out, which look like red tentacles.) The sight was so unusual that I noticed a tangibly different texture of attention occur in me, a deeper stopping of spontaneous appreciation. It felt like a question mark rather than a simple noticing, but no question formed.
It may have been a signal, and a more significant gift than I was aware of at the time, because when I arrived home after work yesterday, the entire tree had been removed without notice, instantly replacing our treehouse-like view with the neighboring complex’s unbearably uninteresting parking lot. I handled it better than I would expect myself to, strangely.
What this means for our humble but wondrous menagerie is hard to say, but I hope that I’ll be able to somehow mimic the shade for a while.
I do wonder if the signal given is that it is time to Go.
So, I’ve been doing shadow work–contemplative work which includes intentionally going into the emotional places I’d rather (and usually do) avoid, and searching around in there to see, “What still hurts?”
Basically, it’s a check up.
In the same way, I have a shoulder issue which bothers me occasionally, but only when and if I’m doing certain things. I can go a long time without thinking about it, but when I see my doctor, we move the shoulder this way and that to find out whether improvement has taken place.
It simply isn’t useful to check it all the time, because part of healing includes not aggravating the injury. Obsessing would in fact be a sign that it is in need of something further in the way of intervention.
Same with the emotional body. If you neglect these appointments, you can have flare ups of what some have deemed “the pain body”, who will emerge from a blind spot and wreak havoc in your life!
The feedback I’ve received during the tests and prodding included in this emotional check-up has been mixed. On the one hand, general inflammation is nowhere near as debilitating as it has been at various points in life, and specific discomfort areas have proven manageable enough to ‘get on with the show’ so to speak.
Yet, there is still deep pain in some areas, things that need addressing, people who present as enemies or obstacles to happiness in one way or another. There are memories that still hold the patterns and frequencies of fear.
I’m fortunate to be able to schedule this work… to have learned how to mostly do that, and now, I need to map out and schedule the follow-up treatments, which include spending direct time with those people and memories. Most can be addressed out of my home first-aid kit, with technologies like EFT Tapping, what I’m calling prayer, lots of walking, and nature bathing… tangibly moving through.
At a deeper level, all can be addressed by tapping into a sense of timelessness. Meditation is the only way I know of there, or some ‘flash moments’ of writing and/or painting.
But the timelessness I mean is different than one might suppose – timelessness that would allow one to relinquish their need for validation or justice or understanding, or even improvement at all. Rather, the timelessness I’m turning to is active, fulfilling, not invalidating any need, including for justice, as less important than ‘cosmic viewpoint’ or some such.
This timelessness is compassion, is the nectar of Bodhicitta, the promise of transforming experience of life in ways beyond even cosmic fathoming.
I feel I’ve been prescribed a deep-dive exploration, and surprisingly, it isn’t one that requires getting rid of so-called baggage to undertake.
Why Citipati, above? I’m not sure. Somehow I have the sense that these graveyard dwelling wrathful deities can impart some key. They seem to be the guardians of this first leg of the journey…
I spent a lot of Fathers’ Day watching films, beginning withRocketman as a promise to my daughter, who loved it so much that she paid to see it three times. Then, wishing to make comparisons, I rented Bohemian Rhapsody., which I’d walked wide circles around before, failing to imagine how anyone could do Freddie’s story justice.
It was in fact a little surprising, to have felt such strong possessiveness over Mercury’s story, since roughly calculating the hours I’ve spent listening to Elton vs. Queen, the former would easily run circles around latter. This is mainly because his music has permeated key events of my life to a greater degree, often through the instruments of musical friends.
I didn’t fall in love with QUEEN until I was into my 30s, but THEN it was, “Oh, wow.”
Freddie is clearly the more tragic figure, also the more naturally flamboyant, which makes him delightful to watch. But, importantly, he is not alive to validate nor invalidate what has been done with his life story, so is also far more vulnerable. I can’t help but think he might have added nuance to a few needed places in the film, such as regarding the tenderness of relationships other than with his first, female, love.
So I didn’t want to like the film.
However, in the end I must admit that both films were sufficiently tender with their subjects. Artistry-wise, I mostly liked them differently, with what I disliked hinging upon the handling of the music itself.
That Bohemian Rhapsody was lip-synced should have been a problem but wasn’t, because Rami Malek’s physical embodiment felt so genuine that I wasn’t put off by his lip-syncing at all. I felt that not thinking about the music, a la “I like (or dislike) this better than the original, etc.”, kept my attention with the story. I was also already a fan of Malek, thanks to binge-watching Mr. Robot during a time I desperately needed that immersive distraction.
On the other hand, I would describe what was done with Elton’s story and catalog of music as “translatable to stage.” Choices made to adjust to the pace of the story and Taron Egerton‘s voice, make total sense when putting the concept itself at the fore, and Rocketman is definitely more conceptual. Think Across the Universe with a bigger budget. I’m a fan of Across the Universe, and covers of Beatles music generally, but there isn’t a single Elton cover I deeply like, even when sung by artists I value; his voice is simply fused with his songs for me.
Today I did find THIS playful rendition:
The presence or absence of fathers in shaping a life, features prominently in Rocketman, and must have been the main story Elton wanted to tell as the hook into understanding his longings… the depths he sank to, the fits of ego that possessed him. Longing has shaped many artists – to be reached for and loved, seen and known.
My longing has been to make sense of everything in some cathartic way, to turn the puzzle inside out. It is the fairy tale of finding (or being!) a magic key that once turned, makes ‘it all’ always to have been worthwhile. It is some version of karma, but without punishments and rewards… something like, true character revealed, and that being a good thing.
I’ve had experiences of this kind of flip in vision-dreams before. Once the curtain falls, everyone bows, acknowledging the roles that they played and why, with even the villains deeply appreciated. In my last dream of this sort, I encountered my once step-father, the night that he passed away. He was surprised and delighted to find me there (whatever ‘there’ means in this context) to see him off, since we’d shared tragic history.
When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.
– Totally Fake Buddha Quote
Addiction features prominently in both musicals too… addiction to whatever can stop the consuming pain of a primal need unfulfilled, such as for that of a present and approving father. Or the pain of looking for knowledge that can’t quite be filled in… understanding you would have had to have received from the get-go, or early along the way.
Therefore, we will always require the kindness of others. We will always need others to empathetically imagine us as though we had been given all those pieces – to see the ways in which what is missing makes us the wonderful beings we are.
The tragedy for those who become famous may be to reach the pinnacle of achievement in the world and find it ‘still not enough’. No matter status or stature, the answer is never ‘out there’.
Today, after a full night of tossing and turning, I felt it… a spark of innocence floating in the air. It seemed very real, yet somehow not of the same universe or substance as the rest. I watched, my inner vision locked in on the hint of the glimmer, as just like the Good Witch’s bubble in The Wizard of Oz, it grew bigger and bigger; there, yet also not touching anything else.
I asked myself, which is the dream? It didn’t feel like an angel I was wrestling with last night, more like the baggage of a thousand lifetimes, but surely I awoke to some kind of gift.. a new opening of mind or sense of liveliness and freedom through which the wonders of life may flow more freely. Or at least, my awareness of them…
When I first began meditating. I met a monk (who was or wasn’t – it doesn’t matter) in a virtual world who, listening to me talk about my spiritual experiences and visions, cautioned me not to become too enamored, a la Narcissus with his reflection. He suggested I instead consider the taste underlying the experiences, and let that taste spread out, permeating into the rest of life.
While I don’t think I missed the point entirely, it would be a long time before I could see that not owning personal experiences, not holding them too tightly would enable growing wings.
However, something else clicked when that feeling of claiming ownership of experiences fell mostly away. Even to tell a simple personal story began to feel pointless or indulgent. I often felt guilty, or like I was lying. My context was way too wide.
Yet, that’s how people converse. It is normal to ask about someone’s past or hopes for the future. Locating one another in time and space seems necessary to further connection.
So it felt for a while as though I’d undergone surgery, but the wrong part had been removed, leaving me unsure how to interact with the world. Thankfully along the way I found other ‘spiritual types’ who felt this way, and more patience to wait for that phase to pass too.
It was then that the insecurities of childhood and fears of adulthood reappeared with brand new ferocity, and wow, such deep feelings of regret. I suppose now that what happened is that I hadn’t had to deal with those fears and inadequacies for a for a while amidst my blissful romance with meditation and spirituality, and was caught off guard to find the wounds still there, still un-healed.
Doesn’t that sound similar to what people describe in romantic relationships? So much can be covered initially, by awe and newness.
I think that’s what the spark of innocence that greeted me this morning means to remind me. That although my field of perception may feel full of the beasts of doubt and fear at times, I can recognize that they aren’t ‘me’ or ‘mine’. That there are muses of clarity, too. Now I want to see and converse with them all, hear the strange and wonderful things they have to say.
Sometimes when I write a post here, something comes up on twitter that speaks so closely to it that I find it hard to leave out. Today it was,
“…to arrive at that beautiful ancient innocence which consists of the ability to plunge into dream…”
-Albert Camus, Youthful Writings; “Essay on Music,” , 1932 – quoted by Rubynola82
What comes to mind too:
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice. meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whatever comes. because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
Summer has arrived in Spring, as it always does here in Miami. It is a terrible season in some ways, the sun so intense that I try to time walks in the evenings, even to the mailbox. No doubt though, it is beautiful. For any would-be photographer, the quality of light and the brightness of everything is astounding. On the water, stars glisten well into the evenings… a dance of pure magic.
At least once between now and September, I’ll cover myself in light clothes and powerful sunscreen, don a large ridiculous hat, and risk what I pray will be just a quick dip in health ‘this time’, to capture a little of the show. For a few days I’ll drink more water, eat more vegetables and fruit, take every vitamin, get to bed on time. For a few vivid pictures, I’ll plan to afterward pass through the days of self-judgement when the weakness sets in, try to remember the promise I made to myself, not to panic but to let it pass.
As it does, almost always.
Those without chronic illnesses can’t imagine the wear self-condemnation can entail. One can hide from others, but not those who show up there ‘in the mind’, wearing one’s own face, speaking in one’s own voice. “If you had…” “If you had not…” It was the glass of wine this time, or the sugar, or the garden stroll too early or late in the day. Maybe the unforgiveness … Yet perfection of behavior is never guarantee that the general cycles would not be much the same.
I’ve mostly avoided writing and stories that delve into it as central, just as even when in the most serious times I avoided support groups (although, Life serendipitously brought me into support groups through work, which has been beneficial). Maybe this was foolish. Maybe it would have been wiser to, as Ellen Mains does in her book Buried Rivers, work to integrate it all into the path all along – not editing it out of the internal dialog, allowing the conversation.
“Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed… it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love and battle and jealousy among the prime themes of literature.
– Virginia Woolf, found in a completely wonderful and worthwhile post fromBrainpickings
I do love the sudden afternoon rains in summer though, especially when occasionally they stretch into hours. The air turns suddenly cool, the edge off the harshness. It feels like permission to breathe, permission not to worry. Whatever I’m ‘supposed to be’ working on to make up for gives way.
I often stop to imagine that the rain is cooling the waters of the Atlantic that begin to boil this time of year, brewing monster storms.
The truth is I’m worrying way too much these days, doubting decisions and feeling ill-equipped. Sometimes all my tools and strategies of positivity – feeding more to the happy wolf – turn on me. “If you’d only do the affirmations…” “If you add more meditation…” “Be more grateful…” All fine and indeed wonderful things to do.
But those are still do-ings rather than knowing nothing is missing, and actions flowing from that. The silver linings really ARE there. ‘Miracles’ do continually occur. Life has never seemed easy, after all, but like the spring-summer setting in all around me now, it has always been astoundingly beautiful.
So I’m driving along when it hits me: “Belief systems are effects, not causes; everyone has the wrong end of the stick.”
The paradigm of the last decade or more has been to think in terms of belief systems (programming packages from childhood and current environment), then to examinine, expose, and consciously replace outdated thinking with new. But lately I notice a lot of us giving up on overtly changing others’ thinking by reasoning and argument, aware that thanks to media filters for one thing, we are truly living in entirely separate worlds. Words, even words communicated in the same language, often mean completely different things.
Yes, I do worry that resistance fatigue in itself is part of authoritarianism creeping in.
Perhaps one thing left to do, is go even deeper. When I think about my own belief systems, they often are much more about resonance than something I was convinced of. Or, if I was convinced, I was already drawn into listening. I’m drawn to teachings that feel like good music to me, that affect me energetically. I’m drawn to people who remind me of what I want to be, and be doing… people I feel sparked by. It was a tiny photo of people sitting at a small make-shift desk in an airport, embedded in a random article about deportations, that sent me back to school for paralegal training, for instance.
Beliefs are not irrelevant, but there has always been a sense of not quite hitting the right spot when trying to get at things by working with past traumas and limitations in some logical way. This must be true on a larger scale as well? Things like EFT Tapping and Myofascial Release have shown me how much more effective it is, to go deeper than thinking, then deeper than even ‘patterns of thinking’. Then, the screwy thinking comes up and shows itself and you can deal with it, or say goodbye. 🙂 Meditation has always been about this, but personally I was too disconnected from BODY for a long time.
Anyway, just some thoughts this Saturday morning as I get ready to move my body outside into the uncharacteristically GORGEOUS weather.
I felt restless. The beautiful day was calling me out into the flow of it all, and I needed to clear my head.
We passed each other in the hallway, hesitating to go by. Then turned, at the exact same time, to more politely say, “Hello.”
For five years in this apartment complex she has been one of the only friendly souls toward me, although a few have smiled at and snuggled my dog, and recently I’ve been making more connections. She however, has always smiled at me, has always asked about my day, my plans and thoughts.
Whatever I’ve said, she’s always cheered me on. “I know you’ll do it.”
I guess she can tell that it hasn’t always been easy, that sometimes I feel dragged down by the responsibilities and puzzles I’m juggling (mixed metaphor intentional), but that I’m still ‘showing up’ for life. Perhaps she relates to me, remembering when she first moved to America from another country many years ago. Newly divorced with two sons, she went back to school and became a translator for the court system at just about the age I am now, a job she genuinely loves.
Today, she was wearing a tigers-eye coordinated suit, fancy but not pretentious. I was attuned to the colors because I was about to drive to a small crystal shop that holds weekly yin yoga classes on a “show up and pay” model. I was definitely not fancy, in fact I’d just changed because my daughter had strongly expressed earlier, that I must have gotten dressed with my eyes closed.
So here’s the heart of this post…
While we were talking, there in the hall of this far too beige apartment building on this gorgeous Florida day, I felt my heart open in an unusual way, and found myself inquiring more deeply about her life and family. She misses her grandchildren lately; though they live nearby, she hasn’t seen them in a month or more. I asked, although I already suspected, that it was a matter with her daughter in law keeping her at a distance. Then I surprised myself to tell her something that I myself hadn’t integrated and *known in full* until sharing it with her.
(Paraphrasing) I said, “When the kids were little, I was very sensitive to feeling like I wasn’t doing a good job. I was hyper-aware of every movement, wanting to do everything perfectly and cover all the bases. Back then, *everything* reflected back at me, my own inadequacies. It has taken more than 20 years to know that was rarely true.”
She relaxed a lot, and started nodding, saying that she really does think her daughter in law is a great mother, and doing everything well. She respects her, although she sometimes gets the impression that her daughter in law feels intimidated by her resourcefulness… that she’s able to sew and cook and learn just about anything she sets out to. She’s isn’t offering help to be critical, it is just her way of things.
“It is really something going on with herself, something she needs to work out,” I said, “but I can tell you thatwhat I really needed was validation.” It is always hard to describe these things, but I had chills during our conversation. I knew that some shift of perspective was possible for both of them, and that things would get better.
I felt better too. I can’t go back in time and speak up for myself, or accept the guidance some of the elder women in my ex’s family tried to give me when much younger. I can’t be the woman I am now, then. Still, it heals a sore spot deeply embedded in my tissues, to suddenly expand in vision that way, so clearly, ‘on the spot’ for the sake of someone else. Sometimes I feel rootless and aimless, but this was a reminder that indeed, we’re all needed in this life, this world, even when finding it hard to affect the seemingly bigger things.
I love that feeling. And actually the little moments are what spark hope that the bigger things can be affected, too.