Let Go of the Stories that Bind You, Grab Hold of the Universe

End of a Cape Beach Day

Today was the first of my three day long healing class. It’s a two year program that meets at the change of every season and this session marks the end of the first year. An eclectic program mainly informed by our teacher‘s studies with the indigenous people of Peru, the class has taken me further into an experience of energy healing than my previous work with Reiki every allowed me to imagine.

One thought I want to share before I drift off to sleep (kind of funny how having been exposed to tons of new energy can make you exhausted). It is actually something I would have expected to pick up at a yoga retreat or in a workshop on Eastern thought because it is all about attachment.

I think Westerners’ most common negative reaction to their first introduction to Buddhism is rooted in a wariness of any philosophy that directs adherents to avoid attachment. What kind of life would it be to walk around refusing to care about anything or anyone, right? I understand that this is a gross misreading of one of the Four Noble Truths, though I admit, beyond the little epiphany I had today, which had nothing directly to do with Buddhism, I know relatively little about that path.

In class we were discussing the images and impressions that we as healers might receive while working on a client. Our teacher cautioned us against putting too much stock in those stories because, without a great deal of experience, it is very difficult to tell if those visions are refractions of the healer’s state of mind. In the same vein, she suggested that any information we get about our own or others’ past lives should be valued for the themes and the real emotional stuff contained within rather than be savored for their fascinating plot turns and exotic characters.

At first, I was sort of disappointed to be told that as soon as we begin to sharpen our intuitive skills we should ignore a lot of the information we receive. As a reader and writer of fiction, I was dismayed to think about tossing out all of those perfectly good stories!

Then the idea began to take shape in my mind and I was able to absorb the wisdom at the core of these warnings. Rather than limiting our experiences as healers or as spiritual seekers in telling us to forget the juicy stuff, we are actually being passed the keys to a much greater kingdom.

If we had the chance to connect to all of the energies that swirl around at the level of the Soul and tie us to the Divine, why would we decide to play it small? When we get stuck in our own little stories we choose the narrowness of one human lifetime over the infinite potential of the Universe. Getting trapped in our own narratives, be it during a healing session or during meditation or prayer, keeps us from experiencing true consciousness, real awareness.

The reason to pursue non-attachment is not because we fear having possessions or getting too close to other people. The reason to try to attain non-attachment is that only by walking away from our own little dramas can we truly connect with God.

Does putting it this way sound as foreign as when a monk in saffron robes describes it? Like I said, I am entirely too sleepy to string sentences together and I may not be doing this idea justice. Somehow if I think about detaching from the mental junk that ties me down not because it is bad to have desires but because it’s all just static that keeps me from deepest wisdom, I become a lot more relaxed about just letting go.

Isn’t a chance at getting a glimpse of Divinity worth sacrificing a few lousy childhood memories or knowing that you were once reincarnated as a tribesman in the Amazon or the Pope in Rome?

MORNING AFTER SYNDROME WISDOM: Looking back on this post (I thought as I was going to sleep that I was missing something), I want to make sure to say that our stories are still important, it’s just that we cannot get exclusively caught up in the details. We need to mine our own stories for deeper truths, for the real threads that create the tapestries of consciousness.

Also, I also understand that though I borrowed the concept of “attachment” from Buddhism, it has very little to do with that tradition – I think it is more spun by a 21st century Western spiritual seeker ethic (oh, wait, that’s me) than anything else.


My Witness is Shaped Like a Bottle of Guinness

A new visitor, Lauren from Earthy Yoga Mom, made a brilliant comment on my post from yesterday about the “Woman at Head of the Table.” She offered that this Woman, a being she has met in meditation in the form of her “inner Buddha,” actually is transcendence. Lauren says that this transcendent force “has all of the wisdom I need to respond to whatever random challenges my mind is manufacturing.” Perhaps she was telling me that I don’t have to discount the Woman at the Head of Table as a mere human resources lady just because I want to connect with an other-wordly part of myself that talks to God. This is a comforting concept, and one I am very grateful to consider.

With all of the different sources of spiritual knowledge out there, it is easy to be overwhelmed by which strategy or symbols or prayers I should employ on any given day. I tend to forget that so many of them are using a different vocabulary to move you to a similar point along the spiritual journey. Once I allow the Woman at the Head of the Table to be like an “inner Buddha,” then I can associate the Woman that helps me in daily life with a seemingly more sublime power, the Witness, the being that presides over the dialog of my soul.

Stephen Cope talks at length about cultivating the “Witness consciousness,” the pure awareness that is always there, watching, and which serves as a calm in the mind’s worst storms. I conceptualize this Witness to be like Lauren’s little Buddha. It’s meant to be a metaphysical entity, not a person or a place. The thing is, I always picture my Witness as a bottle of Guinness. Yes, Guinness, as in really dark beer.

When I was studying in Ireland in 2001 a huge music festival called Witness was being advertised everywhere. Guinness was the sponsor and every beer mat and bus stop was plastered with advertisements that featured the silhouette of a bottle and simply the word “Witness.” I worry about the queen who rules my mind and instead turn to a container of stout for spiritual guidance! (I am sure that Guinness has surely lead to its own sort of spiritual revelations, but that is for a different blog on a different day).

It seems that it may be more important to look at the end rather than the means as we try to move along the spiritual path. I could spend all sorts of time critiquing the vehicles that get me into those places of stillness where real wisdom can be gathered, but maybe I should use the symbols that I have been given and trust that they will fall away when I actually arrive in that transcendent state to which I hope I am headed.

Or maybe I should just relax and buy the Woman at the Head of the Table a pint…

Wise Woman Working

When faced with the impossible problem of what I want to be when I grow up or who I want to be for the next twenty minutes I often panic at the multiplicity of options. Sometimes I am crushed when I realize that whatever path I choose will inevitably eliminate a host of other equally attractive, urgent possibilities. So often I become completely mired in all that I cannot do; I just freeze up and let the night dissolve into television for fear I might waste time chasing after the wrong star. I suppose this is one reason why many passionate people who really want to affect positive change end up being stymied by the weight of their own potential. The vastness of the universe, with all of its beauty and ugliness, is devastating in its scale and the abilities of one person seem laughably inconsequential.

Of all the causes that call to me but do not seem to fit into a single lifetime, I think I have finally distilled my raison d’être to one articulable goal: I want to be a wise, wise woman.

For some time I have been sitting behind my eyes, watching as I move through the world, keeping an inner score card. My awareness has been heightened and I surf from epiphany to epiphany, so often conscious of this phenomenal world with its limitless possibilities. But I constantly find myself forgetting all I know about the life of the soul and the love of the Divine and the power of healing. The epiphanies all turn to dust as I find it impossible to practice all that I know when I am confronted with another unenlightened day at work or a quiet night when I am too tired to think.

And so I am ready to introduce a second stage to all of this shouting about revelations: it is time for Wise Woman Working. The pursuit of wisdom seems a relentless one that takes dedication and conditioning. At the same time, I think there is a need to let the world pass through you and allow the knowledge to pool at your feet, but I think that certain groundwork must be laid first. All those books I have read, all the classes and seminars I have attended – their brilliance dulls and I just find myself becoming an enlightenment junkie dying for a new hit. Wise Woman Working is about practicing what I have heard preached and letting all those lessons marinate until they are not airy-fairy icing, but the real sustenance one can build a life upon. It is about living through these flashes of insight and distilling them to their essential stuff so that I can blossom into being that wise, wise woman who contributes something to this miraculous, fucked up world.

Thanks to Those Who Inspire Creativity and Delight

Sailboat skyThe wise, wise Painter of Blue at Art of the Spirit posed the question:

“How much natural creativity would flow out of us if we just opened completely to the One?”

Immediately I felt the power of that question, the way in which, if followed to its conclusion in the depths of my being I might reveal a new face of possibility I had never dared envision. At the same time, perhaps because her site is graced with such amazing artwork, I could only imagine fulfilling that vision with a paintbrush in hand. Though I suspect that buried somewhere inside me there may be a creature who could fill canvases, she is generally too afraid of making a mess and spoiling a perfect white plane with mistakes and wasting money on paints and paper. This fear seems to be related to the same sort of mysterious trepidation that made me afraid of ruining my shoes when I was young, causing me to leave too many trees unclimbed and too few mud puddles explored.

Of course I know that deciding that such a flow of creativity did not apply to me is just another way that I obstruct the flow of the Divine through my life. I was able to only see my chosen mode of expression – these written words – to be instantly limited and less. Words are cheapened currency – used to curse and abuse and sell fabric softener and describe nuclear missiles. Instantly I longed for a more profound method of conveying whatever it was that the One was trying to say through me, because clearly I had chosen an inferior medium. It had nothing to do with a basic refusal to just open myself up and listen, to become liberated from distractions like my addiction to my own inferiority. No, no, I just careened off in the direction of all I ought to have done: should have stuck with dancing, or the violin of the flute or the saxophone, or invested myself more in art classes, or reveled innocently in nature when I had the chance. And off I wander down a path of regret, negligently slamming the door of my heart shut with a thud that reverberates all the way back into this gloomy past of my own creation.

But I can spot such foolishness and avoid such wasted thought, right? I am too smart to be enticed by such dark detours now that I read the right books and dabble in a new vocabulary of the soul. Sure.

If I have learned anything so far is the intense difficulty and absolute simplicity of opening myself to the One. The process can be forgotten the instant I leave the books or meditation chair. So today I am going to try something simpler and less plagued with the wisdom of the ages. I take a cue from Christine Kane who talks about delight.

How much more creative could I dared to be if I let myself truly feel overcome with delight at:

– kittens finding new comfortable contortions to sleep in
– snoring creatures in my bed (husband included) who just prove to me I am surrounded by trusting love
– a stretch that makes me sigh “ahhhhhhh”
– an unexpected letter from a friend
– the smell of snow
– the glow of the rising sun on my tea kettle
– discovering a new love of classical music and cellos
– the poem that suddenly makes everything clear
– nicknames
– a smile of recognition in a face I barely know
– those free flowing moments of joy when I forget I am on any sort of a journey at all

Obstacles, Legendary and Otherwise

All Legendary Obstaclesimageafter.com

All legendary obstacles lay between
Us, the long imaginary plain,
The monstrous ruck of mountains
And, swinging across the night,
Flooding the Sacramento, San Joaquin,
The hissing drift of winter rain.

All day I waited, shifting
Nervously from station to bar
As I saw another train sail
By, the San Francisco Chief or
Golden Gate, water dripping
From great flanged wheels.

At midnight you came, pale
Above the negro porter’s lamp.
I was too blind with rain
And doubt to speak, but
Reached from the platform
Until our chilled hands met.

You had been travelling for days
With an old lady, who marked
A neat circle on the glass
With her glove, to watch us
Move into the wet darkness
Kissing, still unable to speak.

– John Montague

At yoga class tonight when my teacher spoke of obstacles and dancing with them rather than boxing with them, I thought first of the new limitations thrust upon me by an activist sciatic nerve. As I tried to breathe through the frustration that flared with each twinge in my right leg, I remembered the line that started Montague’s poem: “All legendary obstacles lay between us.” My dear friend Perspective slowly overcame the drama I was creating about being a blighted creature forced to wrestle with something as cantankerous and enduring as this mystery pain coiled in my hip. I came to realize that this was not an epic malady but another lesson, another opportunity for growth. No trauma seemed to have set off this affliction that I am trying very hard not to see as a betrayal of the body, so can only assume that some unprocessed emotion has been lodged in the small of my back.

Looking at this poem I am tempted to move beyond that wonderful first line and read it as an allegory for the self and the soul. The restless speaker is caught in the distraction of life even as he eagerly awaits the Beloved. Such distances separate them as to seem insurmountable even as he never gives up hope for their reunion. That doubt and elation he feels when he finally encounters her is the same that we all experience when we finally realize our greatest desire, to stand before the soul, all full of prayers that we are worthy and that this will be a perfect love. I dare read the old woman who accompanied the Beloved to be a spirit guide, a guardian angel, the one who watches from on high and protects us on the journey across what can appear to be unscalable mountains and infinite plains.

Suddenly sciatica seems to be less of a concern…

Breathless Beginning

On this delicious rainy October day I prepare to settle into the darker, colder time of year when my mind finds the greatest freedom. There is so much less pressure from the tyrannical sun; body and soul have been granted sweetest reprieve and are permitted to retreat within.

There, it only took two sentences before I had to say it: soul. That term/concept/universe is one of the many with which I have recently begun experimenting and exploring. Other such vocabulary words that need to be examined, stripped down, unlearned, dragged through a Merriam-Webster-style examination, and critically and lovingly recast and transformed:

Goddess. God. Divine. Prayer. Meditation. Reverence. Spirituality. Sacred. Saint. Guru. Mystic. Blessing. Belief.

That list will most certainly grow and it may take a few dozen lifetimes to even begin to appreciate even the vaguest truths of such ideas. But perhaps this new medium will be a start.

In the last six months or so I have embarked upon a new journey that has shaken the core of a young woman who thought she was a well enough established dissident. Certainly she was (and so remains) a hypocrite who weeps at the fate of the polar bears even as she find carpooling to work with her husband too inconvenient; who occasionally declares in hushed tones her desire to be a minister and dedicate her life to serving others an hour after she gripes about the ridiculous needs of infantile colleagues; and who has generally lived out the American capitalist dream, albeit tinged with hearty doses of guilt. She prided herself on moving beyond the radar of the typical even as she remained firmly rooted in the world.

Back in high school I would sit through mass and then whine that I was blessed with the “spirituality of a rock.” I wasn’t celebrating my sense of stability; I was talking about feeling utterly unmoved by hymn and host and homily. With a handful of kindred spirits at a Catholic university, I threw off the mantle of childhood religion and gleefully announced my witchiness. We amazed potential suitors with our flowing dresses and wine soaked sacred circles and we scared more than a few professors into giving our pagan-flavored term papers great grades. In the years following college through all of the depression that seems to accompany one’s first steps into contemporary reality, I noncommittally called myself “spiritual” – talking to the moon and speaking to the Goddess on behalf of the losers in the cruel game of automobile versus squirrel.

Then, this past April I attended a conference and met Rumi and Teresa of Avila and Ramakrishna and the Buddha all on the same day. Risking all related cliche, I will say that the sky opened and hints of a universal spirit have since infused a new sense of wonder and a desperate need to find purpose. An aspiring writer trapped in a day job who continues to court countless existential dilemmas, I declare myself The Girl Who Cried Epiphany in order to start a conversation about the words listed above and to start untangling the mystery of what I am supposed to be doing here anyway. At this point, the fact that anyone might read this is more than a bit terrifying, but I have to feed the savage beast within that seems to yearn for an audience and if it gets me writing every day that is more than enough reason, right?