Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Waiting Pool

When I was a small child I remember one summer visiting cousins and learning how to dive.  I stood in the hot sun with my toes curled on the lip of the pool, crouched and ready, hands held at my chest in a position of prayer shaping the head of the arrow I would become when I finally got the courage to spring into the water.  And like an arrow that is already lodged in its target, I couldn’t back up or step off. 

Days went by and I held my position.  They called me to lunch, made me wait an hour, told me to come home for dinner.  I slept.  Then I went back the next day, and the next.  The tension would build, bring me to the brink of accomplishment, and my body would thrill with adrenaline as I thought, “Now!  I’m going to do it now!” But at the last second all that forward momentum was met by a brutal wall of fear, forces colliding in midstream, and I remained frozen in place.  I was helpless to move forward or back. 

Then one day I did it.  Pushed off from the edge of the pool, knifed my body into the water and emerged victorious, screaming, “Did you see?”  But no one had.  These triumphs are often private because anyone who might have cared gave up days (or months or years) ago, sick of watching someone who appeared to have turned to stone.  But I made them watch as I repeated it again, and again, and again.  Thousands of dives into the water completing each and every aborted action that had built up in my nervous system during my endless hours of readiness. 

It’s helpful for me to remember this because there are parts of me that don’t move, unable to go forward or back.  Some of these parts have been poised and ready for generations, others for a day or so.  I have spent much of my life judging these places as failure, staring at the Medusa in the mirror and turning to stone, ignoring the aliveness in waiting for the right moment for conception to take place, for the arrow to pierce the veil. 

In my lineage there is endless betrayal and sadness, trust broken time and again.  Lately I am thinking of it all differently.  What I am struck by is the part of me that never leaves the side of the pool, that is willing to stand there disappointing myself over and over and over, all the while storing energy for that moment of personal best, most likely witnessed by no one, when I will finally break free.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Ego Made Me Do It

Anyone on a path of self development will at some point have been told, “It’s just your ego.” The ego is always there, several steps ahead of you, waiting to co-opt your higher intentions and use them to keep you enslaved to a world of illusion and suffering.  Like the body, many traditions have taught that the ego is something inconvenient and base, something to recognize as lowly and transcend.

Most people I know would never say, “The Devil made me do it,” at least not with a straight face.  But we talk about the ego as if it’s an evil mastermind thwarting us, degrading us, always besting us in ways we are helpless to outwit.  It keeps us from our goals, robs us of our successes, ruins our relationships and knocks the ball of wisdom out of our consciousness every time we’re about to touch down into enlightenment.

I smell sulphur.  We’ve found ourselves a new scapegoat. 

Who gave it this power?  Who defined it as the Great Obstructionist?  I call it the ego, as if it’s something that happens to me.  Recoiling from the sting of self hate, I can scream at my ego and say, “See what you made me do?”  But like all the causes of suffering I blame on circumstances I actually created, this dog answers to me. 

Maybe the ego is just neutral material waiting to express all of my unconscious beliefs in a three-dimensional Sensurround display.  But I felt something else in there. Perhaps – well, of course I’m projecting, but when I felt into it, there was an underlying goodness, a nobility and dignity that had been betrayed.  Like a junkyard dog who has been trained to be vicious, you can only be cruel to yourself for so long without creating a monster, and that natural capacity for devotion becomes a servant who hates your guts. 

I don’t know if the relationship can be repaired, but from now on I’m going to treat my ego like a good dog.  I will reward its loyalty, share my food, give it a bath and pick off the parasites.  I will let it sleep in the warm house.  Instead of  “my ego, “ I will call it my Virtue, and every time I notice it doing its job, I will recognize it as something wondrous.  

I feel like I’m in love. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Apartment 9A

My mother, Lois Runanin

Last night in the thickest part of my sleep I dreamt I was about to receive an important message.  Others were with me as I sat forward, straining to hear, lucid and aware that this was the response I sought.  The woman delivering the message whispered, “9A.”  Everyone around me mobilized to act on this, but I sank in disappointment.  I held up my right index finger to stop everyone and said, “I know what this is.”  9A was my mother’s apartment, the place I left.  9A is the Sad House. 

There is a terrible grief in the inquiry when I find... exactly what I expected to find.  Apartment 9A is the target I can’t miss.  No matter where I launch myself from, a force more personal than gravity grabs me and drags me back “home.”  I could no more avoid it than I could jump off a cliff and land on the moon. I woke up feeling leaden and let down, and even tried to forget the dream, not bothering to record it.  But it stayed with me.  It was an important message. 

This morning I wondered, what if this is not what I think it is?  Maybe I’m not being asked, again, to sift through the ashes of my childhood looking for meaning.  Maybe everyone else in my dream knew something I did not, and I’m being drawn to this place repeatedly because it is a portal, a gate.  My conscious mind thinks it knows exactly what 9A is, and so it masquerades as unimportant, surrounded by a deadly lack of curiosity, imprisoned in futility and defeat.  All roads lead there, eventually, and then give up.

Like the people around me in the dream, I got excited and went to work.  I wondered who my mother would have been if her grandfather had not molested her, if her mother hadn’t been insane, if her father hadn’t been the kind of man who sent all five of his children out to choose the willow switch he would beat them with, if her first love had not had his head blown off in World War II.  I looked at a picture of her and saw a familiar angry disgust.  Where did she land when she fell off a cliff?  I suspect it was a place remarkably like Apartment 9A. 

In the tarot, the number nine is associated with the ninth sphere on the Tree of Life, yesod, the unconscious.  The letter A stems from the Hebrew letter aleph, considered to be a maternal letter in the Western mystery tradition, that which breathes primal air into life.  It is also the letter assigned to the Fool, stepping out from the moon with nothing but instinct and the need to move, as yet unhindered by cherished laws of gravity.

We get hurt, and our bruises solidify into belief, coding into deep parts of ourselves the expectation that we can only create what we know.  Generation after generation only proves to itself what it already believes, and aliveness is forced to go dark, the purview of lunatics and fools who dream themselves awake.  

From Tarot of the Spirit
I felt 9A move through my system like a homeopathic remedy, a small dose of the sad poison that can numb me to love and to joy.  Rather than the water I swim in, it became a wisp of something held separate, an apart-ment, and my immune system held it until the fever passed and it remembered where it belonged.  I felt the Fool’s lack of definition fall through what had seemed like inevitably solid ground and found myself somewhere I hadn’t expected to be, at peace. 

It’s so easy to forget that this is how it can be.      

With love,

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Only Spacelings Need Apply

When I was in first or second grade I started a club called “Spacelings.”  It was spring, and we took old chenille bedspreads and cut them up into little girl-sized capes.  We used magic markers to emblazon them with mysterious and unearthly symbols.  Then, donning these alien artifacts with pride and awe, we all ran down a steep green hill in Central Park together screaming, “Spaaaaaaceliiiiiiiings!” The pounding of our little feet hitting the ground made our voices choppy, like motorboats.  The cotton strings we’d sewn barely kept the capes attached to our outflung arms that were held aloft by the wind that we were creating ourselves as we hurtled down the hill with no concern for our safety.  Everyone was welcome, even boys, because the more of us equipped and flying down that hill screaming, the greater the magnitude of the force we generated with our glee.

I have adopted this as my business plan. 

Years ago, I dreamt of a tree that represented a network that could go anywhere in any world.  It was brand new, and something I felt I’d been building since the beginning of time. It was necessary because the old network was haunted with demons of misinformation, ghosts of past experience that would always misdirect us back into just the place we were trying to leave. 

In my dream this tree was near completion.  But before I was tempted to feel special because I had done such a wonderful thing, it became clear that this is what we’re all doing, building grids and access points to the truth of what we are. Those pinpoints leading to the Mystery are everywhere; we just need to connect the dots.  The timeless sense of this task made me understand that this purpose was hardwired into a level of self beyond what can be tinkered with by any human desire.  It’s my job.  It’s my cape. 

I know in my bones that what comes next for us all can only happen when we reclaim our interconnectedness, when we stand together in the liminal place between what we’re made of and what we create. This intersection is where it all gets designed, and from here there is nothing we cannot build.  We are designed to function in this way.  When we stand here together, we stand everywhere.

I’m shy to the point of tears to say this, but I’ve built something, and I so want people to come play with it, to fly down the hill screaming with me, just because we can.  Anyone can join, but you have to bring your own cape.  

With love,

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Measuring Stick

I’m moving in a week, and I spent all of yesterday going through the very scary place that is my garage.  I was doing pretty well until I shifted a box of sporting equipment that hadn’t been used since our last move six years ago.  Behind it, wedged into a corner and warped beyond repair was my son’s height measuring stick, the one with the cheerful train at the bottom and the different markings:  Ari at 2, 2 and a half, at 5, at 8.  Without knowing how I got there, I was standing in my driveway sobbing. 

We bought this house when our landlords neglected to let us know they were in foreclosure, and we were forced to leave a home we’d grown to love.  To console Ari, I told him we were buying a house so we’d never have to move again, that we could plant trees and watch them grow, and his children could come and we’d build them a swing.  Michael had just been diagnosed and we were full of hope that we would find our way through the maze of his cancer, and my mother had just died.  It was my mother who bought the little train measuring stick.

So much information in such a simple piece of wood.  Everything I’ve lost was there -- all the potential, everything we thought we were building as a family, my mother’s support, the unquestioned devotion Michael and I had for our son, and Ari’s sweetness and innocence at 2, 2 and a half, at 5, at 8.  Michael did not survive, Ari -- a little angry -- has gone off to college, and I’ve sold our house. 

I cried until I was done, then put the stick on the pile of things going to the dump.  A friend asked, “Did you at least take a picture?” but I didn’t need to.  If I’d taken a quick photo with my phone, it would have ended up in the digital garage that is my computer.  What will last forever is the memory of recognizing that stick and knowing what it represented; in that moment all the love we shared was transferred to my body, each cell holographically storing the image.  I can make all the copies I want.  I am that stick.

This morning I looked at the trees I love all around this house and for a moment I became their patience, their capacity to witness and record everything around them without needing to interfere.  I felt their encouragement to walk through life this way -- loving, aching, celebrating, and enduring beyond smaller lifetimes.  I stood tall and let my life be measured against this stillness, tolerating the marking of events like the carving of initials, or the occasional hanging of a swing. 
Odd to feel grateful at a moment like this. 

With love,

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Chihuahua Medicine, Grandmother and the Infantile Ego

This week, as a summer job, my son is taking care of our friends’ four dogs: three chihuahuas and a pug/spaniel mix with digestive issues. This means that in the dream that is my life, I’m spending a good deal of time negotiating with the needs of little raw nerves.  There’s nothing extraneous on these animals.  Barely any hair, no fat, just the trembling, uninsulated response to absolutely every sound, movement, smell, emotion, or need around them.  It’s fascinating; nothing is hidden.  I watch amazed for  extended periods of time as raw experience ripples through their tiny bodies.

Alone, they would expire.  They need to be swaddled and snuggled, sheathed in warmth and love.  They bundle together on soft things, preferably something much larger and warm-blooded.  Unenhanced by other mammals’ seductive allure, they seem to be the perfect representation of nature’s raw need for connection, that root part of us that needs desperately and doesn’t have anything to offer in return except the palpable relief of being saved from the terrifying overwhelm of isolation.  They don’t know how to buy love the way we’ve been taught; nobody told them it had to be earned.

I had a vision a while back of the liminal place between what we come from and what we do with it.  A Grandmother sat tending a fire in a cave, though the night sky above was open space.  I handed her a crying baby, the child of a young friend, and immediately the infant settled, went from squalling need to serene awareness experiencing everything around her with limitless wonder.  All of creation drew a deep breath of gratitude, and Grandmother smiled and told us to go be grownups. 

My life hasn’t been working lately, and all roads of inquiry as to why lead back to this place, the part of me that is designed only to connect, the circuit fallen away from the motherboard that makes it all run.  I’ve sat bewildered by my inability to respond, wondered what I needed to do or become to make it all better, not realizing that this part of me does not have the equipment for any of that.  Without this piece in place, nothing is as it should be. 

Life thumps us and parts of us go missing, dislodged from where they are meant to be, essential links in the grid between matter and spirit.  Dissociation, soul loss, winked-out lights in the DNA chain; such terrible and bewildered sadness.  All aberrant behavior can be traced to this infantile ego exposed on a hillside, not wailing for fear of attracting predators. 

But we are designed to self repair.  In every cell is the instinct to seek the warmth and light that has temporarily gone out of us, if we would only remember it is ours by definition. Lives spent in shame-based scheming and strategizing may have taught us otherwise, but this love is our birth right, and like anything that is truly ours, we need only claim it.

So I’m here on my couch surrounded by these gentle little dogs, cherishing their shameless pleasure in the comfort offered by soft blankets and a warm body.  I think I’ll just close my eyes and breathe with them for a while, then see what I can do about this business of being a grownup. 

With love,

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What Can I Get You?

Crow Mother, Her Eyes, Her Eggs ~ Meinrad Craighead
Last night I dreamt I was part of an espionage team on a mission that had gone terribly wrong.  We were in danger, and we broke into a dusty old mansion with heavy curtains over the windows, planning to regroup and prepare for the next assault.  Each of us proceeded to do what we do, what we were trained to do, but everyone was shaken and frightened, not sure we were going to survive what was coming. 

Then someone brought in the Specialist.  She was an older woman, Eastern European, with a helmet of dyed black hair.  She was plump and wore a short sequined tuxedo jacket with tails, and spangly tights, like a magician in Vegas.  Her overly made-up appearance seemed laughable, and a younger woman on the team sneered and said, “The fuck is she gonna do?”  But the guy standing next to her smiled and said, “Just watch.”  

The Specialist proceeded to set up and begin tending bar with a quiet professionalism and dignity.  As we looked on, enthralled, it became apparent that she was doing much more than tending bar, that she was a practitioner of great power and skill, and she was not serving what we at first thought.  The younger woman watched with open admiration and said only, “Wow.” 

The Dark Goddess.  She is not serving cocktails and she is not in service to the caricature that is her disguise.  The truth of what she serves is frankly a little scary, remembering that she has been called in because we are in danger and she is here to get the job done.  

If you were foolish enough to catch her eye and she asked, “What can I get you?” would you place an order?  Would that be wise?  Is there a single thing you could ask of that kind of power that would not have consequences?  For me I think I’ll just stand off to the side and watch.