Sunday, October 15, 2006

If you act as you think - the missing link - synchronicity

-The Police, by album of the same name (I have to confess that going to the new Discovery World in Milwaukee this weekend and seeing an exhibit of old Atari machines made me realize that I spent a few langorous and fat summers listening to this album in the basement of my parents house, playing endless Tetris. Ah. The laziness of yuth).

I went to Frugal Muse last week and sold off the first set of a series of books I have kept around for years, hoping I would renew my interest in myriad topics: French film, European history, theater. These are certain things, once well-known topics like no longer fitting clothes, that may fit me again one day, but the fact is there are books I actually need now (like another copy of Brenda Ueland's 1938 classic on "contemplative writing" called If You Want to Write) in order to teach and prepare to teach and continue to grow. It felt good to turn in over 40 books and even though I only "got back" 6 for the same price (trade in, along with a couple of snuck in cd's like The Police, Synchronicity), they are books I have either read and know I will use, or books I have been waiting to read and Know I Will Read Soon. Funny how knowledge can be such a burden - or unread knowledge, in this case.

My mother always warned me that my smartness would only cause depression. This certainly appeared true in her case, and not just to her (to us as well), however, this weekend I experienced some things that showed me I can cut short overdeveloped IQ and listen to instinct in the flash of a moment. I have experienced this a great deal outside of actual emotional in-the-moment situations, in meditation, and then in situations while on the slowed-down retreat world of Dathun this last summer (one month of mostly silent retreat in Colorado) but to do it while working on love, for instance, in the moment, is so hard. And I can't say that I "got it in real time" but just noticing was enough to console me that I am with me now, most of the time, not off somewhere else like I habitually had been for so many years, just like mama taught me to do.

My parents travelled a great deal - as well did their parents, and as well do I. While travel in itself is far from problematic, I cannot seem to shake (after having spent the weekend in Milwaukee) this feeling that the division my mother felt between her mind and heart wasn't healed by traveled, rather, further severed her connection to herself. Travel can be shaky that way. It seems to have something to do with timing, which Virginia reminded me lately (when I told her that my favorite line lately has been from Overlap by Ani DiFranco: "either you don't have the balls or you don't feel the same") is crucial to a lot of things - love in particular. Or not love. My parents had that one down, but that could neither heal nor eradicate deep, existential unhappiness. The timing of travel for me varies a great deal, as it may have for them, too, sometimes healing, sometimes killing.

Watching Rivers and Tides (a docurama on Andy Goldsworthy, I heart Andy Goldsworthy!) tonight, I felt this incredible loss in fall, this incredibly beauty in knowing that we will die. The only thing we don't know really is how or when. Why is it that we pretend we won't die? My mother, and all of us, taken by surprise. My father, with so much warning but little preparation (how can you really prepare the heart for losing a father?). And the leaves while walking Roscoe tonight, turned to turds by his bruising paws and grasping jaws and, well, his own excrement alongside, under, on top, mixed into my plastic bag hand. Erika and I joked about making excrement art, about making cairns like Goldsworthy makes, that will stay frozen all winter in our backyard. What else to do with poop but laugh?

How to stay in time with timing? We make such effort as humans to link everything up just right, just to find out that the few pitfalls we had so carefully healed up (or heeled ourselves against - just saw Open Season this weekend with my nephew, and I am thinking of the beavers and their damned dam) are not the only weak spots after all. We are made of weak spots, this is part of the natural variation of our existence, and I am slowly learning to not flinch when I either discover new ones or uncover old ones now that the stronger weak spot previously protecting this new found one is healed. Just when I thought I had figured how out to determine (I gave up on scientific determinism years ago, lord knows why I am still clinging to it emotionally.) the perfect lover, the perfect job, the perfect friendships, it's as if the lake I am living on turns into a mountain and the cake falls suddenly in the oven. It seems the only way to synchronize with organized chaos like that is to open the oven door and eat it as a cracker. Or give it to the wildlife outside. They, too, have a winter for which they must steel up, and
to go

Sunday, October 08, 2006

I know there is strength in the differences between us, I know there is comfort where we overlap

-"Overlap", Ani DiFranco

Lately, a league of ex's and old friends gone awol, by my cause or mutual, have reappeared at my doorstep, one by one (though there was one week when three appeared!). This is something that would have disgruntled me greatly in the past, but instead was cause for (though cautious) curiousity. It's been a real Saturn Return Year, full of all kinds of completing cycles and brand new beginnings, and somehow the appearance of open-ended endings seems appropo.

This weekend Erika and I participated in the Madison Area Open Art Studios, for which I did a shamefully small amount of promo, due to being in Toronto and being exhausted most of the week back. We got a pretty good turn out, regardless, and I got a lot more attention/interest to not only my work but my classes than ever before. In fact, I even made back money, and then some (usually I just cover expenses on this weekend), and quite a few of the folk coming by were looking just for me (usually they happen to notice my work but came mainly for Erika's). It was very reaffirming - a week and some of confirmation that my work can be spiritually significant and the teachings run deep, and a weekend of more of same, plus a bit of commercial/artistic blessing from the public.

But tides run deep, and it's tough to feel strong some days, even when I have joy for so many new things. Friday marked a year since I put Scotch to sleep (my twenty-one year old kitty, longer in my life than my mother!) and the week was a constant battle toward the anniversary matched only by my dire need to crash all day Friday, met with fierce resistance in the form of nervous breakdown trips to Woodmans and meanness toward myself in most ways possible. New relationships are blossoming in all of the old relationship reworkings, and drama around both finally put me in bed, where I should have been most of the day anyway, having good cries, leaning on phone friend shoulders and taking mini naps when my eyes dried up.

It's a hefty transition, and ongoing (when is life *not* transition?) but also lighter than it seems it should be somehow. I feel, even in a premenstrual mourning day like Friday, like I have witnessed enough endings and beginnings now, truly been present for enough, that I can sense, just barely taste, that all things do end, truly. It doesn't always help, honestly, but it is a way rather to somehow explain the strange comfort I take from life now, *in* it's up and down-ness. I am no longer reaching out into midair and hoping to find flesh, rather, seeking the warmth where I know is reliable and strong, in good friends, in relationships even though stagnant, still somehow strong. And I have gotten better at seeking out new worlds, discovering, exploring, on the basis of mutual curiosity. One of the ex's told me last night that he knows his desire for self-knowing and growth never matched mine, and still doesn't. Of course, I imagine his degree of self-aggression doesn't pace mine either (wink), but who knows. A new friend and I reached a place tonight that broke a degree of consistent misunderstanding and cracked a code between us, proving we were closer, overlapping even, where we had both though we were so far apart.

Tonight, the sun set and I was inside, missing it, watching tv with a glass of wine, and dinner, alone. It was lovely. There is no set here. No logic to my weekend or the way my feelings work. There is small comfort in moments of clarity, which then can seem much less clear in a day. But when they happen, I am actually here, for the first time ever. I get more present every day, for all of it, and I am grateful. This is where life and I overlap.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


I noticed today, checking my email, that the backlog of emails in my Inbox didn't count toward what I really wanted - *new* email. Email I hadn't read before. Email that, even if it, too, sat unanswered for a couple of days after it's novelty (in a justifiably email-oriented way) ran out quickly.

This is not the first time I have noticed my weakness for new stuff. When I was leaving Rainbow, I noticed quickly that even getting free books had counted as "new" - I don't have to actually purchase anything (and I have nothing to back this up but it does make me wonder if perhaps consumer impulses are not just a search for new-ness with cash attached because we are a cash to commodity based society). Just having something new was worth it. But, and here's the "sad" bit - no matter how much I had wanted it (and frequently I would get books from reps I had really, really wanted for as long as a two years' wait!), I didn't want it as much after it was no longer new, which doesn't last for long. Talking about switching Miksang to digital, we talked about this a lot this last week - how it's easy to get perfectly functional projectors and laptops for affordable prices so long as you buy the necessary parts now, as high turnover means stuff really drops in value immediately. Of course, obselence is more a burden than a boon, but for now, it's helpful-seeming.

But a desire for new-ness is not a "problem". First of all, if I lose interest in something it reflects to me that perhaps I wasn't so interested in the first place. I wish I could say I have exercised this well in relationships in the past, but hey, that kind of stuff takes a bit more learning. I have certainly learned it, forcibly by being on a more limited budget lately and also through contemplative practice and meditation, on a material level, or at least, how to be aware of it (eg if something loses value quickly...). And on the inverse, I have discovered what happens when I really really commit to something - an action, a philosophy, an object. This kind of commitment, faith, is not something I would say was modeled well for me in my childhood, but I know I have thirsted for it. And today the acknowledgement of that dedication was noted and matched beyond my expectations.

John authorized Maxine and I both to teach not only Level 2 of Miksang but Level 3. This was not the original plan, because although Maxine has been studying with him for years and knows Level 3 well, I just learned it this week for the first time. Even with Maxine, John noted that Level 3 isn't totally developed yet, not like the previous levels, and no one else has ever been authorized to teach Level 3 (limited folk can even do Level 2). I was blown out of the water, and not looking at Maxine at the time, but I think she was too. And yet, it makes sense. It's right to put eggs where they are safe, and she and I are dedicated to these teachings, wholly. This makes us "full teachers" - there is actually nothing more in the literal Miksang path he could give us now, though there are things we'll be fleshing out. After that is Absolute Eye, which is much more zygote, and as we discovered over many lunchtime conversations this week, we're less and less sure it is Miksang, in a literal sense.

This is very new. All of it is new. For awhile, I was afraid that if I did teaching long enough I would tire of it. And of course that is a possibility. But this isn't a new book, and in fact, these teachings aren't even new, though their packaging is. There is a sense of rootedness, connection that I have in these teachings to a whole lineage, and not just Shambhala. A contemplative lineage: haiku, ikebana, calligraphy. It is because we are both there that Maxine and I got authorized today to teach so far. In the car on the way back to my friends' houses, I told John I was completely taken aback at first, then realized immediately that I would be fine. "I learn best by teaching." I said to him, and all he said was "That's right", meant in so many ways.

This is a new stage for Miksang. This fall marks 20 years since it officially began. John only realized that recently. Now is the time, for what we are not yet sure, but for something starting with this. For new things.

And most of those books *do* get read, for what it is worth. When I was a kid, I used to re-wrap my presents after a few weeks, after the new-ness had faded, then pull them back out again a few months later. They were new all over again. This is how I feel teaching every time I do it, only I never have to put it away. It is always fresh, always there, always new. And so am I.