Category Archives: Journal

Touching base with Center

So what is “getting back to Center” anyway? After ploughing through “Schild’s Ladder” (for dear boy Derek) the question is raised. So here’s the deal… A piece of music “appears” in your “mind” (or “heart” or wherever you experience the Voice). Listen, obey it. Find it, play it. There lies your “essence” (Gurdjieff’s language here). Or a part of it at least. Recipe: Touch base with this tone/sound/note of yourself now and then, and you will maintain continuity with WhoYouAre, now and forevermore. As simple as that. Do it with traditional meditation or with Sibelius’s Fifth, which is what I did just now. Just…LISTEN…to the cues from within. Follow that little pinprick of your star….

The Denial of Death

This should be the name of every workout gym. Having upped the number of yoga classes I’m now attending I’ve been half-conscious that this renewed effort is in direct proportion to an underlying awareness that my days are numbered.
Reading Ernest Becker’s 1973 book, “The Denial of Death.” A thoughtful if still male-oriented interpretation of Freud’s genius. And so I go to the “Y” this morning more aware than ever that everyone here, young and old alike, is working on the same project: How Not To Die. From the gaily patterned tights and shorts to the intensity of the workout, everyone sweats off the reality and realization of death.
How do I react to this new level of unveiling? Look what’s happening in my heart center: the release from repression to a new (if tougher) level of awareness feels like the casting off of chains, a freeing. Yes, I will be in the grave – sooner rather than later at my age – but what is “I”? Surely not just the body, or even the physical brain.
So…to the challenge of “How long can I live?” I add the task, “What am I?” And the project continues…

Pump up the volume

When was the last time you saw this movie? Did you ever see it? Watched it from NetFlix tonight. Long time since 1990, when it came out, and Wyn and I first watched this tale of teen entry into political consciousness. Drama’s as dramatic as ever. Technology changes hardly matter. It’s the message the implodes within the heart; I was torn in two. Between the exhilarating hope of revolutionary change born in the 1960s to the dark violence of post-911 global terrorism, I found myself wondering, What currently compels us, as a species? Is the zeitgeist now at work of God or demon? Knowing that the alchemist believes they are one and the same.

Kyrie eleison.

Silent Retreat, "The Listening Heart," March 9-16, 2016

Learned “by heart” during time alone in my cabin at GilChrist, Three Rivers, Michigan, with the half-formed idea of keeping this with me as a talisman of the “higher emotional center” (Gurdjieff) or “Chesed (Merciful God)-consciousness” (Kabbalah). Rilke’s poem somehow captures the nature of the work required (at least of me) by this intense and challenging venture into “the Listening Heart” :

“I am too alone in the world, yet not alone enough to keep every hour holy. / I am too small in the world, yet not small enough to be simply in your presence, like a thing — just as it is.

I want to know my own will, and to move with it. / I want, in the hushed hours when the nameless draws near, to be among the Wise Ones—or alone.

I want to mirror your immensity. / I want never to be too weak or too old/to bear the heavy, wavering Image of you.

I want to unfurl. / Let no place inside me hold itself closed / for where I am closed, I am false / and I want to be clear in your sight…”  – Rainer Maria Rilke

Impressions

#1. My cat does her morning business outside the litter box, which she has today deemed unsuitable to her needs. I watch myself move through: instantaneous anger, awareness that I have contributed to the event (pumpkin, a deliberate laxative, in her food), pity for her two-brained dependence on my care, and an attempt at “teaching” as I offer bits of the damage under her nose and simultaneously deny her request to sit on the couch with me.

#2. A Colorado friend worriedly emails me an article about multiple shootings in Chicago. We are supposed to rendezvous there next month. I send him an article from the Atlantic discussing the larger issue of race and powerlessness, and contemplate the many instances of random violence that have erupted around the country in recent months.

#3. Disturbed and overdue for my morning meditation, I closet myself for the ritual and take in a personal question with me. To my surprise, given my multiple concerns, I go into the inner space in minutes. For the duration I am suffused with the experience of the total body-being and love – “passion” is a better word but still not exact – which has visited me with increasing frequency in recent weeks. The brief sense of an angel around. Mind momentarily distracted by how such an angel might be painted. Redirect to the breath. My concerns and the particular question I brought to the session have been assuaged and answered.

Putrefactio

“This…corresponds psychologically to a dark state of disorientation. The decomposition of the elements indicates dissociation and the collapse of the existing ego-consciousness. It is closely analogous to the schizophrenic state, and it should be taken very seriously because this is the moment when latent psychoses may become acute, ie., when the patient becomes aware of the collective unconscious and the psychic non-ego.” – Jung, The Psychology of the Transference, Chapter 7.

With my experience nearly the entire month of December, I can relate. Ego-deflation now alternates with ego-expansion. Alchemy is my only roadmap. I watch myself watching the Watcher.

"When I began to understand who I was, I considered myself free."

“When I began to understand who I was, I considered myself free.”–Albert Woodfox, African-American, age 69, upon being released after 45 years in state custody, nearly all of it in solitary, at Louisiana State Penitentiary, called Angola. (New York Times, Feb. 20, 2016)

How many of our species, by ignorance and choice, die unfree, even outside prison walls?

"Suffer the little children…"

“When I don’t know what to do, or have a question or am confused about something, I become very quiet and go inside and ask my Guardian Friend–I call him that, he’s my Friend—What should I do, how should I think about that?”

“I go inside myself and ask the Spirit to come to me. (?) I feel the Spirit in my whole body – in the heart.”

Two intelligent, articulate children, not quite yet “young adults,” said these things to me, most freely, and unselfconsciously, in First Day (Sunday) School today. Perhaps because they are from another, simpler culture? perhaps because they have experienced love and acceptance in their lives? perhaps they’ve actually taken their previous, evangelical bible studies to heart?

I scarcely dared breathe. How unused I am to such innocence. I have the useless wish to shield them from our culture.

Western Sufi dancing?

Tried contra dancing for the first time last night. Enthusiastically e-mailed a friend today:

I’m wondering, providing one has the stamina and is without ulterior motives (such as meeting people, picking up a new love interest, body building, etc.) if this might be a Westerner’s version of Sufi dancing. After 8 minutes or so of continuous dancing – even dance-walking – through the various figures, the mind seems to leave the planet. If the individual’s body were familiar enough with the patterns that the mind could let go, I suspect mind-body-feeling would begin to work in sync  instead of separately (as they usually do). Who knows? Maybe Joy/Peace, even Enlightenment would happen. Either that or I’d die on the floor rather than forsake the line and immediate partner.

O Great Allah Mande!

Will have to step up the yoga hours per week to build stamina. If only these local dances were offered weekly instead of every 2 months!

Teachers

Gurus are relatively easy to find in India. So says Yogananda in his Autobiography of a Yogi. Yet rooted in midwest North America by family and career, I’d despaired of every finding a teacher open to mystic needs. A Buddhist saying says, when you’re ready for your guru, he will come to you. And for all practical purposes that’s how Rob came to me.

For two and a half years I was at a standstill. In my meditation, writing, music, art, retreats and workshops—activities I’d promised myself for years I would undertake full-time as soon as I retired. Now I was. Three decades and a full library devoted to Western Hermeticism provided a satisfactory home base for my world view. Psychology, earned at the spousal side of a clinical psychologist, had given me an owner’s manual for the psyche. What was missing was the gnostic experience: first-hand experiential knowledge of the Ineffable.

Ten years ago I met Chris, an American Tibetan Buddhist and personal guide who offers retreats and counseling to show crazy-busy people how to relax in body, mind and spirit. On that particular morning-long two years ago, after a free association session with her, I walked out into the daylight and found myself gazing into gold- and rose-colored world, a world of a gentle hue yet unearthly intensity. The indescribable blessing, the specific sense of Presence, stayed with me for three days. I went home, researched and painted the Catholic image of the Sacred Heart for a week. Then the world settled back to Dull-and-Normal, as anticipated. But this time I noticed an edge, an antsy impatient longing at the back of my heart that told me something inside had opened. And I had no idea what to do with it. I floundered, experimented, and stayed stuck.

Two years later, a casual word from a friend, an arranged meeting, and there was my new teacher. It was G. I. Gurdjieff, disguised as a chef de cuisine at a local high-end restaurant. With Rob’s instruction (strict), guidance (clear) and new language (at times confounding), I would come to find in “the Work” the third leg of a stool which finally began to lift the everyday mental sluggishness to new states of self awareness and consciousness.

I now have five teachers, Chris, Rob, Gurdjieff, son Derek (who has always been able to talk “soul” with me), and Wyn, now from another dimension.

Seek, and ye shall find—eventually.