Sunday, November 23, 2008
Tabla and Sarod
This ecstasy just won’t go away. In fact it’s building, building on itself and everything that has gone before. It is the coming of synchronicity as the norm, where you can’t get away from the interconnectedness of everyone and everything, no matter what you do or don’t do; yet in responding to the currents around you and within you naturally, like the 95% improvised classical Indian music concert tonight with tabla and sarod, you find that all choices are right, and the flow has carried you over 24 hours and more to your friend on the boat to give him the final push of recognition and acknowledgement of his own true genius, and in being there you recognize also the beauty of the bubble of the boat and its presence in the real world, i.e., the ocean ... and not only that but realizing that better than a swim in an artificial pool back in the city is a detour on the way home, to the summer swimming church where even today in late November the parking lot above the trail is full, and down by the water the sunny bluffs are taken with people sitting in homage, and there you find your spot before the shimmering silvery wavelets, and the luminous green moss, and the living rocks, and find your peace and stillness and knowing and oneness in presence of all this, and still it continues back up the trail on an ankle now suddenly free and healed, winged at heel ... on to town just in time for group practice, where again the immersion in music and waves has given you that frequency to hold, and it’s so big and so deep that everything is allowed, accepted into it, yet it’s also tight and focussed and dedicated enough to dance with clear measure in concert with the others, and of course now without effort, but simply attention and more knowing, and with that - but not too much - your eyes can close again for a moment and you can drift with it where it wants to go, and it drifts you where you want to go, which is everything in that ongoing flow ... so to the university where you zone out and refresh for ten minutes and then go to greet your friends there waiting, not only the two you were expecting but a handful more, and all saying midway between sets that we should have known to bring our other friends there, to share in that moment of joined creation.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Relationship, Emotion, and Spiritual Practice
Are you at war with feeling? No, if you listen to the body. The body tells you what it needs. Really what it needs is relaxed breathing - fast, for exercise, or slow, for meditation. In relationship, there is also a matching of breath, a harmonizing of intention, a lifting of awareness from the single body to the dual body, to the all-body of love still greater than one or two.
Still, your focus begins with one. One love, inside, from inside, healing first the wholeness of self, freeing the feelings of past hurt and success to flow into and out of present time through the breathing body, the very form of time.
Did I say “healing success”? Yes, if success is the wound that takes a toll through stress and imbalance, compromising health for one-dimensional rewards. Pride used to be called a sin. Was that just church propaganda? It’s really just logic when the body’s inevitable demise is accounted for. The fall of pride is simply inescapable reality. Therefore to remain within the boundary of pride is to hide in denial. On the other hand a balance of pride and humility is only natural: a reflection of life’s urgency for full potential while the time is ripe.
You come back to present feeling. Are you feeling lonely, unwanted, weak, depressed? These are all conditional, and can be breathed away into the past from which they originated, or the future which is so feared or misunderstood. Are you feeling gladness and joy, anticipation and relief? Fine, while realizing also that these things if dependent on temporary causes, will pass away with the changing winds of time. If rather independent, or arising from life itself - gladness for the fresh breeze off the ocean, joy at seeing friends in a few minutes, anticipation over the promise tomorrow holds, relief in the overcoming of obstacles - these feelings are not yours because of personal circumstances, but rather scents of life itself, lent to you for the savoring.
The practice is the remembering, or the means of remembering, that there is more to life than your present feelings and preoccupations. Beyond your current emotional state is communion with others, sharing and harmonizing feelings you all have; and beyond and below this ground of relationship is the ground of being itself, which connects each of you not only to each other, but also to your more central self, the body breathing free, the soul liberated to larger life and the emotion of such liberation.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Personal and Transpersonal Emotions
Just after midnight. This journalist's deadline is extended, as you have come to expect from someone riding other waves and journeys. In this installment the issue of feelings arises. And I am here not just to do the usual tapdance around the subject with fine-sounding phrases.
Actually as I write I must say the urge to accomplish too fat birds with one stone - the expression of feelings and wider publication - forms a dual purpose with power: as I rise to the occasion with strength and inspiration. But then in the next breath I relax into the winter sleep, forgetting your presence on my doorstep. Have I not yet invited you in? When you say How are you, how am I (feeling, that is ...)?
At the moment I can identify ...
neutral ... but that's a cop-out.
sad ... but that's really just tired.
inspired ... by pipe dreams.
empowered ... but that's an illusion of egocentric politics.
content ... but that was earlier this evening.
happy ... depends how you define it.
I come back as I once did long ago to a kind of Buddhist understanding that most human emotions (start with the powerful ones like fear, greed, love, and joy) are usually attached to our desires and aversions; these distract us from truer, more lasting states of tranquility, which are available to us through spiritual practice and awareness.
On the other hand, Pema Chodron (When Things Fall Apart) came along when I needed her most, after a sudden marriage breakup, teaching me to make the best use of those emotions that were arising in that situation.
Back to present time: I'm skirting again - after even contradicting those emotions I so briefly affirmed. But here I am at least expressing. And if the flow of words is heady and ungrounded, so be the nature of my feeling, as it grows in power again at the very pace of thought and the music of the words playing their way on to the page.
It's kind of like blues vs. jazz -- with blues representing the more raw and direct expression of those human feelings most arising from attachment, and the jazz evolution finding, as it were, new kinds of emotion in the sheer possibilities allowed by freedom and transcendent form. Think B. B. King compared to John Coltrane or Miles Davis.
Besides, it's not me that is the subject of your interest; it's sharing concern about those things that move me. Politics? Well, there's your rage (my rage, actually). If I express that . . . ranting doesn't carry anyone very far. So I have to transform it, into research and networking, to the extent I can act on it all all. Otherwise there is denial; and distraction by myriad masks; yet I still give Buddhism top marks for putting it all in larger, all-embracing perspective.
Personal emotion has again to do with attachment, yet it is very real. For me to express such with you, however, when we have no intimate personal connection, would be inappropriate: it would be the one-sided rant, or like reading over the shoulder someone else's gushing report from summer camp. Or I could portray it (channel it, you might say, from my own experience as well as others') in the form of fiction, drama, or lest I forget, poetry (the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recollected in tranquility --Wordsworth).
I guess I'll have to leave it at that for now, to catch some of the latter.
What Wordsworth expressed in his poetry were the kind of feelings I would call transpersonal: those feelings of communion with nature and with people who live as integral parts of the natural fabric. And in music, again (which is a form of natural energy) it is possible to access states of feeling that are beyond the realm of simply personal experience. In fact I would say that it is only when we are free from the grip of personal emotions such as lust and affection or anger and jealously, that we can be open enough to receive the transpersonal emotions such as compassion or righteous indignation (think Jesus vs. the moneylenders, or Martin Luther King, Jr., or more recently, Congressman Dennis Kucinich with his fiery speech to the 2008 Democratic Convention, "Wake up America"
You could say that a great blues artist such as B. B. King also is able to transcend the personal and tap into universal human emotions. In such a case it might be true that the impulse for a song comes from or is enriched by the depth of personal experience, yet in the performance of art that personal feeling is raised to a higher power by the power of music itself, by the invocation of a spirit of communion between artist and audience and also between nature and art. The joy we feel in the presence of a waterfall or crystal stream, or even red-leaf maple dewed with sun-jewels along a city sidewalk, surely transcends whatever issues and emotions we are facing in our personal lives. Such a transpersonal emotion is not an abstraction, however; it is the very essence of our feeling to be alive.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Second Person Singular
Polarity: the fullness of ideas, plans, projects and projections, under natural influence; vs. the simple emptiness of reality, unclouded ... unecstatic except by a finer more subtle clarity, and moved deeper not by karmic fear but by opening to the way it is.
On the side of the Dreamer and the Dreamed, you come to the knowing that this is a horizontal evolution, the single phase gathering charge to a series of sparks to come, a dreaming into play by dreaming your way full of your way, and yet empty. When this polarity is complete, and the fullness and the emptiness dance in clear union, within as without, the union is whole and thus ready for re-union with another such whole. Otherwise the imbalanced fullness/emptiness, whether too vain or too humble, too busy or too lazy, too pushy or too laid-back, presents a flawed match to another except by complementary co-dependence - where each seeks the primary union still and tries to fit the other into it. In the balanced re-union of two whole, internally balanced unions, is a higher order of duality dancing together.
The above model might be criticized, however, as idealistically androgenous. A person with yin and yang 50/50 is perhaps not likely going to be as sexy as one who is “all man” or “all woman.” Yet maybe gender attraction doesn’t depend on a balance of fullness/emptiness, which has more to do with the spiritual side of yang/yin than the erotic side. What we might idealize is a partnership of two spiritually balanced, ego-neutral individuals who nevertheless are attracted to complementary physical and personality traits in one another.
While you grow and balance and gather charge in this phase of singlehood, you recollect that you also received gifts and lessons along the way of previous phases of relationship, and in each case came to an end of the positive learning environment. Maybe it goes back to the problems above, regarding imperfect unions, the flawed attempt to complete with another what is not yet complete in oneself. In any case the experimental union finally dissolved or fractured, or you might say became transformed, in a kind of quantum leap to the next level of learning, in the next relationship or phase of singlehood.
How is it assumed that the “jump” to the next classroom is vertical and not just through the garden gate, so to speak? And what is to say that we are moving at all? Maybe it is simply a succession of experiences and people coming to us, to cohabit the world we call ours.
Again, in either case, I believe the learning is cumulative. We do repeat mistakes, and develop strange habits of bouncing between the same kinds of obstacles or kinds of mismatch, if we are slow learners who do not reflect and choose otherwise. Eventually we get what it is we need to survive each step, each test, each challenge and opportunity. Or we don’t survive, and that brings us to a whole new territory.
Again, you might say this life has been just another larger phase, and after a time of grieving, and taking stock, and then paying dues or taking a vacation, you might try your luck again. Maybe as the other gender this time . . .
Between the polarity and the dreaming, when the stillness has cleared and the dreamer and the dream are one, shines the nurturing grace of Imix, the divine chalice and holy grail, the all-embracing Source. She doesn’t require these conditions of balance and equilibrium to offer her love and forgiveness. She gave life and she will receive it back again, without prejudice.
So let polarity flash through the night; let the dreamers have their dream awhile. You will find your way home one day, dead or alive. Or she will come to you . . . if you are not too vain, busy, or pushy; too humble, lazy, or laid-back to receive her.
--more second person singular--
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Bank
"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered." - Thomas Jefferson, 1802
Sunday, November 09, 2008
From Savior to Same-Old
That didn’t last long . . .
It is a cruel irony that Obama’s first act, after the most uplifting progressive victory in America’s history, was to appoint as Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, a former Israeli citizen and currently “a super-Likudnik hawk, whose father was in the fascist Irgun in the late Forties, responsible for cold-blooded massacres of Palestinians....He favored the war in Iraq, and when he was chairing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006 he made great efforts to knock out antiwar Democratic candidates” (source). "A further contemptuous message is widely rumored to be forthcoming -- the naming as 'Special Envoy for Middle East Peace' of Dennis Ross, the notorious Israel-Firster who, throughout the 12 years of the Bush the First and Clinton administrations, ensured that American policy toward the Palestinians did not deviate one millimeter from Israeli policy" (source).
Of course it has been tempting to overlook or pretend we didn't hear Obama repeatedly pledge unconditional support of Israel, increased war in Afghanistan and Pakistan and a hard line towards Iran. Yes, the election was a massive victory for hope. But now it appears we were all being played to support an ongoing imperial agenda that persists in lionizing Israel and demonizing independent interests in the Middle East, all for the greater cause of controlling oil in the region.
... not to mention the even bigger picture of conflict with Russia and China - watch "The Men Behind Obama."
Thursday, November 06, 2008
not just doing it for fun
or profit but for something
and then, not getting stuck in
that well either
but being in earth, of earth,
and her people. I would tell
the officer of death, “Breathe.”
Because not breathing
we all forget and get lost
in the shuffle of deck chairs
the stuff of conventional politics
and if rescued by pirates,
forgetting to breathe again
even after the rape,
even when there is nothing
left but slavery
we hope that in 144 years
we can be president
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Empire and Democracy
Now the challenge is to become the real democracy in the world that US leaders have been crowing about for decades while overthrowing democracies as a matter of policy, if they didn’t like their stance on business. At home the US government has developed the Orwellian face, offering one-way communication to its congress with threats and to its citizens through corporate media monopoly; squandering lives by the thousands and the treasury wholesale while calling war “liberation” and occupation “freedom”; and orchestrating the rape of the natural and monetary wealth of other nations around the world.
How strange it will be now to suddenly broadcast to the world hope instead of fear, good sense instead of subtrefuge, brave intelligence instead of willful ignorance. This “Barack Revolution” will surely give other global powers pause. Will this emperor effectively turn his country from a rapacious bogeyman to a humane republic? That might be too much to ask of a country founded and weaned on conquest, genocide, and slavery. Yet the magnitude of today’s leap from slavery conveys at least an awakening of a people to outward embrace, beyond narrow bounds of race, color, creed or even, we might imagine, nationality. Is America, so quickly united, so quickly ready also to open its arms to the diversity watching with cautious optimism from beyond its borders?
What message does this triumph of democracy and equality convey? Can it still be converted into a slick slogan for continued imperial expansion? Unlikely now, since the medium is the message, and the medium of this election victory proved something new in recent American politics: that the people sufficiently aroused to care will amount to a greater force than all the president’s men and henchmen - even those with two stolen elections already in their pocket who were gamely banking on just one more.
That glum force of resistant conservatism, of course, is the first and ultimate obstacle to true global friendship in democracy, because they want no part of it still. In fact they’re probably more scared and distrustful than ever. And I can hardly blame them. Because after all, now the other “bad guys” out there (there must be some, perhaps not even trained or labeled that way by BushCo) will be wondering, “Okay, if America now goes, like, truly democratic, what kind of message does that send to the people that we want to keep down in our own situation?” I’m no foreign policy expert (think Sarah Palin) but Saudi Arabia and China come to mind.
Of course this whole ironic reversal of roles in the world vis a vis authoritarian rule vs. true democracy presupposes one important thing: a disengagement from the interlocking corporate interests which have all but taken over government to this point, at least in America and its client states. Even the supposedly independent states like Thailand or Nigeria have their own versions of this corruption of power by the heavily vested wealth of business interests. In America it has reached an extreme marriage of convenience and of contrivance, to the point that only a massive electoral mandate as we have just witnessed might rise to the occasion to start undoing these undemocratic bonds.
For America the addict of power and wealth, illusion and denial, it is a long road to recovery. Let us rejoice in the first step.
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