Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Looked for My Self

Often when we hear the masters speak about emptiness, stillness, awareness, pure space, openness, etc. our minds can create a copy of it, a concept….
Bentinho Massaro, Insights into Awareness- a collection of articles

I wrote what follows a few weeks ago. By the end of it I was so disgusted I never posted.
Now I realize it was kind of a nice letting go, a nice STOP.
I gave up trying to see that an “I” does not ultimately exist.
Giving up proved to be a nice stepping stone.
So, let me post that old inquiry now. Failure is good and it went like this:

The Looking
A friend keeps urging me to “just look and see.”
I’ve been meaning to ask exactly what she means by those words, realizing you must be pretty knot headed if you’ve reached the point of needing “look” and “see” explained.
Dick and Jane could do it.
Spot, the dog, could probably even do it.

And, it’s not as if I haven’t tried.
It’s just that is hasn’t led to any huge revelation.
Recently, I copied her instructions down leaving room for me to try and “Look & See” at each step of her description. Below her words are in bold.

i looked for my self, within the direct experience of the present moment.

OK, Present Moment.
Who’s sitting here? Body, mind, thoughts, fingers – none of that is me.
That’s the vehicle I drive.

I am what is here all along, all along, birth to death.
I am who feels the typing, the wind, the anxiety…
“What” is far more accurate. That is obvious.
“What am I?”

There is a gap, a huge, huge gap, between me and everything else.
I am on one side. All That is on the other.

The gap seems to warrant attention, more so than the now ancillary “me”
It’s as if the banks of the river (me and that other) are not the essence of the river (the gap).
The banks are not what you really need to notice, not when the River seems more real and water is the river’s essence.

And the Gap?
What is the Gap?
The gap is nothing, yet the word is totally misleading.
This nothing almost pulsates with so many unspeakable qualities.

The gap is what holds everything: both “me” and All That Other.
I never really noticed that!

Attending to the gap is like dropping water on a dry sponge.
Instantly there is expansion, twisting, a spreading out in all dimensions.
The Gap is all pervading.
The Gap comes out my eyes, except it’s no longer shaped liked Gap.

In some Klein Bottle twist of Nothing - Gap is Everything:
“I” as individual am Gap.
“All That” out there is Gap solidified.
Gap is Nothingness become alive.

Maharishi told us once, “Never try to bridge the Gap.”
Now, I think you have to fall into It.
Let It swallow you.

And still, I am a “me.”
‘Cause I drive around inside this body, mind, thoughts, feelings.
A “Me” walks through this oceanic Gapness, curled back upon and through itself becoming something out of nothing, just as much Me as the sparrow over there.

… Or, maybe I’ve read too many books and all I’ve come to is a concept, not direct experience.

i looked for the looker.

And I found the “non-orientable” Klein Bottle of Creation
which is the Looker (me) and the Looking.

But see, this is what my friend said:
and what was found?
there's nothing there. it isn't A nothing, that is somehow experienced.
it is instead that there is no findable me.
everything else is right here.

I’m not sure that it matters.
But, I do like the picture of the Klein Bottle that I labeled.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Shamanic Happenings

Wisp, Karen Cleveland

Wisp is a forest that requests a reconsideration of the human relationship to nature and… threads the supernatural through the everyday.
Karen Cleveland

Last night I went to see my friend, Karen’s, exhibition for her MFA. It astounded me. She had created a forest that she then invited you to enter. You could hear the wind, as well as tree frogs. Within a stump you discovered a gently throbbing light. You bumped onto branches and webs of lace. You stood before a tree, the bark bursting into a dozen pieces, even as it defined an internal space of emptiness. It was stitched together with threads of gold and red and buffalo gut.

But what moved me most was the painting of Leaf Gather.
Here was the benevolent cousin to a beast I had met just the previous night.
I had pulled him out of Evie as we did “energetic bodywork.”
He was a seven foot tall roaring, red-eyed, fanged embodiment of her disease: a tangle of grief and fear and rage, as well as chemicals and cancer.
I hadn’t expected to pull him out. But there he was.
I was stunned to then see his sweet cousin in Karen’s painting.
But, there he was.
Leaf Gather, Karen Cleveland
No one told me when I started my Taoist practice that it was actually shamanic.
They only spoke of energy.
Well, surprise. Energy can take on consciousness and form.
Think of humans. Think of devas. Think of the internal beasts that haunt us.

For awhile, back in the 70’s after I had my first shift in consciousness, I could see what I called angels. There was a “devotion angel” floating near the ceiling of the cathedral I attended. There was a “birth angel” cradling my sister-in-law as she gave birth to Evie’s brother.

At the time, I had no conceptual framework for such perceptions and thus adopted what I read in the Findhorn Garden:

By the springtime of our second year at Findhorn, the Landscape Angel told us that our garden was becoming more unitied and whole, and that as this took place, an angelic being, a sort of guardian angel for our area, was forming.
I believe that any unit, whether it be a farm or a community, a couple or a nation, has an overlighting presence that in some way embodies the various levels of energy used within that unit.
The Angel of Findhorn is a composite being, “born” from the substance of our thoughts and ideals, the radiations of the land, and the energies of the higher selves of not only humans working on the land but of all the animals and plants there…
Dorothy Maclean, The Findhorn Garden

This compositeness is shown so well in Karen’s image.
And just as angels can be born, so can beasts.
These dark cousins can arise from the energy of our thoughts and fears of disease, the drugs used to combat and kill, and the energy of cells that run amok.

Now, a strict non-dual stance might argue, “All that is vacuous and empty. See that!”
But, practically and usually, what we first notice is the physical.
And if we’re lucky, we can see a bit more subtly into the level of energy.
So lets start there.

And guess what? It all works out.
After I pulled the beast from Eve, it was really obvious that he/it then filled my body.
I stood and took a bow, asking of my Teacher, Wong Loh Sin See, “Please Teacher help this to leave my body.”
Spontaneously, I started whirling qigong style, roaring with the beast’s roar. And after a minute or so I noticed that the beast had broken into packets, leaves, of energy.
That’s when the words of Scott Kiloby came to mind.
And the rest was just like this:

What’s happening in the body? …
Let the pure raw emotion just fill your body, just fill the space of awareness.
Let it just absolutely overwhelm you, the feeling itself without any label on it so it’s not fear overwhelming you.
It’s the pure energy, the vibration filling up the air, filling up the space of the body. And there’s no desire for it to go away. We’re not even witnessing it…without any label… the emotion has nowhere to go but to simply dissipate or change itself into awareness.
Kilobit, Painful Emotions ~ minutes 3:45 – 7:30 (scroll down page)

Curiously, and of course, this sounds to me simply the reverse of the process of creation that Dorothy Maclean explained.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Listening: Song of the Day

True listening goes far beyond auditory perception.
It is the arising of alert attention, a space of presence in which the words are being received… That space is a unifying field of awareness in which you meet the other person without the separative barriers created by conceptual thinking.
And now the other person is no longer “other.”
Eckhart Tolle

When I was a kid, I loved to sing along with the refrain of a popular song:
“One ton amara. Oooh-oooh-oh. One ton amara.”
I had absolutely no idea what I was saying.
But, the tune was sweet. That was enough.
Today, when it came on the radio, I saw it written out on the navigation screen:

Immediately, I had this epiphany.
“It’s about Gauntanamo!”
And I was rattled just a bit - a song of beauty and now Gautanamo a prison.
Such a juxtaposition! How could that be?

And then, for the first time in my life, I listened to the words that had always been there.
Words from the life of a real man, a poet, soon to die for freedom:

I am a truthful man
from the land of the palm trees
and before dying I want
to share these verses of my soul.

My verses are soft green
my verses are also flaming crimson
my verses are like a wounded deer
seeking refuge in the mountain.

I cultivate a white rose
in June as in January
for the sincere friend
who gives me his honest hand.

And for the cruel one who would tear out
the heart with which I live
I cultivate not nettles nor thistles
I cultivate the white rose.

With the poor people of this earth
I want to share my faith.
The streams of the mountains
pleases me more than the sea.
José Martí

Saturday, March 19, 2011

One Moment

A jay flies one way
a jet another, criss-cross
altitudes apart.
A robin stands silhouetted gull-like
branch becoming beach.
Overhead crows harass a hawk.

One moment in the backyard
The beauty almost hurts.

My backyard is actually fenced in. There are some trees, a creek behind, a deck above.
You can hear traffic on the Interstate a couple miles distant.
The block I live on ends at the train tracks.
This is city and suburb inside “The Perimeter” of I-285.
And yet… so much is right here.
Why go anywhere?

Mr. Bluebird started a nest last week, only to abandon his effort.
Bennie and I may have been too noisy.
A couple days ago two jays started a nest way high in a pine.
They gave up too. Close observation suggests that may have been a case of incompetence. They seemed to knock more twigs out in one moment than they could collect in half an hour.

But, I am sure that somewhere nests are being built.
Nature never gives up.
Nature seems to never be impatient.

I Like This

First you awaken from Life, then you awaken as Life itself.
Adyashanti, The Impact of Awakening

Two Points:
1. Last September I told Adya that it felt to me like I had become stuck in the Witness. What I meant by that was it feels as if I am watching the world on a screen. I am here and across this wide gap of Awareness lies Life.
2. Because of this gap, this witnessing, the phrase “The world is illusion” has great resonance with me. …with me, me me: an individual with paradoxical familiarity with unboundedness.

I asked Adya what to do and he replied that I would have to discover for myself how to “witness from the heart.”
I can’t say I have been very successful with this undertaking.

Last week I came across a beautiful young man, Bentinho Massaro. He has a very simple, direct approach; an approach that often stops my mind in its tracks or reduces me to tears beyond all reason.
In this video, although he does not phrase it in terms of witnessing, he offers a practice for seeing the unity of life which carries this description:

In order to 'loosen' the identification we often have with Awareness being some kind of state, or the sense that it has a location, we can practice by saying to everything: "This is Life", until it is experientially apparent to us, that nothing is not-life, and therefore, everything is of the same essence.

You might also like to download his free ebook.
I am reading it slowly, very slowly, on my backyard deck in these beautiful Spring evenings in Georgia.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Chemo: One Way to Do It

I learned to really hate IVs. And get annoyed with anything going through it. Especially chemo.
I hate chemo. I really hate chemo.
My Cytoxan was a 24 hour drip. The first 6 hours were fine, after that I felt horrible.
I felt like I was dying inside.
And eventually it was over, I counted the hours…

I got the VP-16. Awful stuff too. Really awful.
I felt so very very dead.
I had to remember that if I felt really shitty I still had to be alive.
And I was.
Every time I puked I remembered I was alive. I was alive, and I was going to beat this little booger…and I hated every minute of it…

When I got home I could barely move.
For days I could barely move. I could drink, but barely eat. I could breathe, but barely walk.
But I felt pain, and I was alive…
I realized, as long as I maintain homeostasis -- I'm not going anywhere.
So I made a checklist in my head:
• Am I breathing
• Is my heart beating
• Do I feel any real pain, or do I just feel like shit
• Am I capable of telling someone I feel like shit
If those are true, I am alive. And I'm fighting. And I knew I was going to make it.
Dave’s Happy Little Hodgkin’s Website

From the first with Evie, I have tried to read up on the literature for a broader view of what to expect and what to do. Sometimes, I found such disturbing information that I’d pass it along to my brother and just wait a bit before telling Eve.
When I Googled “Hodgkins, mobilization, stem cell transplant” I found both literature and Dave.
I didn’t tell anyone about him. It felt better not to know.

This week, Monday through Thursday Eve gets the VP-16.
She told me last night it’d be fine if I shared our experience so far.
It may help someone else some day.
So here we go:

When Evie, Mary and I began meditating together last August our intention was to give Eve the skills she needed to deal with her cancer in a spiritually grounded manner.
Having relapsed from conventional treatment, having supplemented that therapy with the best complementary medicine we could, we found that wasn’t enough.
Eve wanted to dig deeper.

Mary and I wanted to pass on our Taoist teachings which consisted of three parts:
1) Meditation: to cultivate the ability to “allow everything to be as it is.”
2) Guided Movements: a form of spontaneous qigong helps unblock energetic imbalances.
3) Intuitive Reading: a way to develop ones natural ability to gain insight into a situation via intuition.

When we began, we hoped Eve would simply learn to not let her anxious mind run away with her.
A freaking mind only adds an additional layer of stress to the heavy rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.
None of us imagined Evie would have such a capacity to go so deep so quickly…
Or how shamanic a path we were on.

The World is Brahman, So is Chemo

The night before Evie was to begin the high dose chemo, the prelude to her stem cell transplant, we met for our usual meditation. We did a couple rounds and then fell into talking about the fear she felt about the chemo.

We’d talked before about having the attitude that these powerful drugs were being used to heal; how we could drop the image of their being toxic poisons. And yes, that was the attitude she had adopted.
But, it’s one thing to try to have a belief in your head.
It’s something else entirely, to see.

So I asked, “Would you like to do a reading on etoposide?”
This drug, also known as VP-16, was what she would start on Monday.
I explained, “Every form in Nature has a corresponding intelligence and consciousness; a deva. You can meet them with an intuitive reading.”

A momentary wave of fear passed through Evie’s eyes.
I felt a similar jump inside my belly.
Did I really want to have a face to face with some drug that can kill you?
We stared at each other for a moment wondering.
Then Evie smiled and nodded. Let’s do it.
So we sat and faced each other, took a bow, and closed our eyes.

I was about to mentally request a reading, when another thought jumped in, “You know the request has already been made. It’s out there. It’s started….” Yah yad, yah yad!
My mind was in a jumble, when suddenly this deep base voice boomed out of the darkness,
“Patty! What are you doing?”

Like a bunny in the headlights, I froze.
In front of me there was a shining, flat, large, metallic slice of something for lack of better words looked like a piece of Swiss cheese:  holes and squiggled lines running between the holes.  Only there was nothing organic tastey here.
It was planar, crystal, shiney.
It was the deva of etoposide, and apparently I’d pissed it off.
I was a scared.
Then, immediately to the right a small, exact replica asked again, this time in a higher, less intimidating voice, “Patty, what are you doing?”

I was flooded with recrimination and embarrassment.
Who was I to ask Eve, “Do you want to meet the Deva?”
I was ashamed of my arrogance.
And then another and another, smaller, higher voices took up a cacophony of,
“Patty, what are you doing?”
I lower my head, almost in tears, offering the only explanation I could give.
“I only want to help Evie.”

Immeditaely, all the shining dancing voices of etoposide erupted in tinkles of laughter,
“That’s all we want too!”

Something in my heart broke open. I felt a wash of complete letting go of the fear and worry I'd been carrying in my heart for days.
And as tears streamed down my face,
I saw that there was absolutely no differentiation between my love and desire and etoposide’s.
This was not a poison. It had been conceived and created simply from the desire to help.
I put my hands together and gave thanks for the reading.

Eve and I then shared our experiences.

Eve described that as she’d taken her beginning bow, she felt a drop of water roll down her nose.
That single drop fell silently onto a sheet of glass-like water sending out a ripple.
There was peace and beauty and she basked in that.
Then, the water began to churn into a steam.
There was a roar. A steam locomotive drove across the water. Power and commotion erupted:
Sometimes, it takes a most powerful force to do the work that needs doing.
This is etoposide.

As we talked, I realized that the different sizes of the voices I had heard were the etoposide crystals, identical in structure but of many sizes.
What shocked me about Eve’s water image was that she’d obviously picked it from my mind.
The day before I’d written a blog post about Brahman.
In working on that I’d found a Wikipedia picture with the caption,
“Impact of a drop of water in water: a common analogy for Brahman and the Ātman.”

Wikipedia explains further that,
“Brahman is the universal Spirit ... the origin and support of the phenomenal universe.”
What I had been blogging about was the non-dual teaching: “The world is Brahman.”
And this was the essence of what I'd seen with all the etoposide voices:
There is a seamless identity between my love and desire for Evie and the Universe’s.

Next day, I went online to dig up that Wiki image for Eve. So here it is.
I also checked out the Wiki entry for etoposide.
Well, guess what looks like a slice of Swiss cheese :
                                                        Etoposide molecular structure.