Into the wild

I could write a thousand-word review about this movie. I could call it the Walden of our times. I could tell you how it is an ode to the beauty of America as The Constant Gardener was to that of Africa and Spring, Fall, Summer, Winter… and Spring was to that of Asia.

I could tell you that its five chapters, Rebirth, Adolescence, Manhood, Family, and The Getting of Wisdom, form a remarkable portrait of renunciation and self-discovery in the mystical journey. I could tell you how it reminded me of my teacher’s wise counsel to me when I was “hell-bent” on getting enlightenment as soon as possible. (And, of course, I just did.)

But there’s something about profound experiences that demands a restraint of the tongue, a savoring of the sublime, and a respect for silence, so that the fewer the words, the better.

You see, watching Into the Wild is a sacred act. It is prayer. And, as prayer, there is nothing to say afterwards but “Thank You,” or “Amen.” Thanks to Trev for pointing me to this inspiring, but insightful and honest examination of one man’s incredible journey.

You think that…

I recently saw a video of Eckhart Tolle teaching at the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland. One of the stories he shared was of another teacher, Byron Katie, who was visiting some patients in a cancer ward. She stopped in a chatted with a very depressed woman who had a massive tumor on one of her legs.  The prognosis wasn’t good; she was probably going to die.

Byron Katie asked her why she was so depressed and said, "I don’t see what the problem is."

Needless to say, that angered and depressed the patient even more.  "Here," she said, throwing off the sheet, "Look! My right thigh is twice the size of my left!"

"Oh, " Byron Katie said, "Now I understand. The problem is that you think that your right thigh should be the same size as your left!"

And for the first time in months, the woman with the cancer laughed.

Isn’t it interesting how insignificant most problems shrink when viewed in just the light of the present moment without  that odd imaging we call the  "future?"

Journaling

I’ve kept a journal at several key times in my life, but never really threw myself into it until 1998, when I read The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. If you’ve never read the book, well, you should. I don’t want to go into my "frimmin‘" superlatives here, but The Artist’s Way is a book that truly changed my life. It’s largely a workbook, filled with exercises to do. Unlike other spiritual self-improvement workbooks,such as Brezhny’s Pronoia, these exercises aren’t meant to entertain you by reading about them… they are really meant to be done, and the more of them you do, the more you will discover about yourself and the more you open up to Isness.

The primary exercise of The Artists’s Way is journaling, specifically a style of journaling Cameron calls "morning pages," writing out exactly three pages by hand, at the very beginning of the day, keeping the pen moving… no censorship, no editing, no revision, no effort to record the previous day’s events. The only goals were complete honesty and stream-of-consciousness itself. Morning pages is essentially letting your soul "take a dump" just as your body does. 

As for the other exercises, a group of friends and I regularly met to discuss them and do them. More often than not, though, I was the only one who did them, and (surprise!) I was the one who benefited most. The effects were tremendous. Really, the me of of 2007 2008 is pretty different from the me of 1998. The Artist’s Way had a part to play in that.

After a year or so, I began doing the morning pages less faithfully, and although I still journaled sporadically, when I started blogging, my private journaling virtually came to a standstill.

One of the reasons why I’ve been blogging less, is that I’ve started journaling again. My style of journaling now isn’t morning pages, per se, but it is just as uncensored and spontaneous. What I do now is carry my oh-so-trendy little Moleskine notebook with me almost everywhere I go. When waiting for someone or something, I have time to write a little. After a meal, I often have time to write a page or so. (Moleskine pages are pretty small). Sometimes I’ll make several little entries in a day. Other times, I’ll go several days between entries.

Is it dangerous to keep my most private thoughts and feelings in a concrete form where they could easily be read by others?  Not really. Since I started journaling again, it’s been in Esperanto!

Demiurge

Sometimes I think I really must be mad for keeping this blog. Not just because I’m trying to write about what can’t be written, but to do it publicly! Yet, when I feel that no one can possibly understand what I’m saying, seems to be when people understand me best. It’s strange, but freeing. So here’s a teensy story about something I did recently and what I learned from it.

On New Year’s Eve, I happily cursed "God." (And happily told him I loved him too, but that’s another story.) What was interesting was the rightness I immediately felt about it. For I while, I considered this the union of opposites, yin and yang, action and rest, blessing and blasphemy. God encompasses all, nicht wahr? But the word Demiurge came to mind soon after.

What was the "God" I lost when I had the "empty holodeck" experience?

What was the "God" I wanted to be free of?

What was the "God" Meister Eckhart prayed God to destroy?

If there’s one useful concept from Gnosticism that applies to those on the path today, it might be the Demiurge, though not in a literalistic way as many of the Gnostics apparently did. Gnostics believed there was a false God, the Demiurge, who erroneously thought himself the Source of all, and who demanded worship and sacrifice. Christ came to show us the way to the Father and escape the Demiurge. There’s something to that… False gods are the greatest bane to humanity. All concepts of God tend to be Demiurge.

Cast off concepts of God, and what is left? Nothing that can be imagined, nothing that can be named, but only what is always there, all the time.

It’s easy to show (facetiously, at least) that atheists and monotheists and Zennists believe in exactly same true Creator.

Atheist: God doesn’t exist. (Nothing created the Universe)
Theist: What came before God? Nothing. (Nothing is the ultimate Source).
Zennist: Emptiness is the true nature of everything. (Nothing is ultimate reality.)

There something about that Nothing. Even atheists, monotheists, and Zen practitioners can see that Nothing or No-thing is the real Power, the real One, ever-present, and with all the power to make Everything appear. Images and forms, mental or physical, are not that.

The God who can be cursed
Is not the eternal God
(with apologies to Lao Tzu)

An atheist, a monotheist, and a panentheist

An atheist, a monotheist, and a panentheist walk into a smoke-filled, crowded bar. The bartender is at the far end, but the atheist can’t see him through the haze. Finally the atheist declares to his monotheist friend, "There is no bartender." He turns away from the bar, and takes out a bottle of Dasani he brought with him.

The monotheist diligently looks for the bartender through the smoke, catches a glimpse of him, shouts and waves to get his attention, and orders a Scotch whiskey. After relishing a sip, he chides his atheist friend. "You foolish unbeliever," he says. "You don’t see the Bartender because you turned away, but just ask him, and he’ll hear you and give you anything you want. In just a moment I developed a  personal relationship with the Bartender, and this fine Scotch is proof." He turns to the panentheist for additional support and asks, "isn’t that right?"

The panentheist says, "Who cares? I’m stoned just from breathing the air in here!"

Merry Subversion!

I’m having a subversive Christmas. I’m thinking about the subversiveness of the Christmas story.

Why subversive?

Spirituality is by its nature subversive… it sees significance and meaning beyond the material… that something is going on behind the "seen". Awakening (what I usually call mysticism) is even more subversive; it sees the interior (subversive!) way as of primary importance for the individual for experience God. The way of peaceful warriors is more subversive still: for us, it’s a challenge of (subversively!) transforming the world by allowing ourselves to be transformed.

Subversion, subversion, subversion! The arrival of the Teacher was announced to a few. Most simply weren’t interested. The presence of living Teachers today is of interest only to a few: most could care less. Yet the Teaching persists, and it’s so subversive, you can’t even grasp it with your mind. That which you think you know is the first thing that must be subverted for the seed to take root.

Nine months before this subversive birth in a smelly barn away from the eyes of the world, something else subversive happened. A messenger (angelos) privately, (subversively!) told Mary that she would become pregnant when "holy breath" (pneuma hagion) and "the power of the Highest" (dunamis hupistou) overshadowed her. (Lk. 1:26-36)

Mary immediately understood the subversive direction of this future birth:

He has shown the power of his arm,
He has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones
and exalted the lowly.

The hungry he has filled with good things,
the rich sent empty away… (Lk 1. 51-53)

Just try saying that at a presidential inauguration, and see how long to takes the Secret Service to react! It’s subversive, and it’s not what the powers of this world want to hear, period.

So what will be conceived in you, when holy breath fills you, and your delusions are overshadowed by the Highest power? What or who will you give birth to?

Heroes

 

Heroes title

 
 

I almost feel like I’m coming back to life after being gone awhile!  For the last three days, I’ve been on a "detox" diet, eating vegan, avoiding sugar, limiting caffeine, and exercising.  I already feel a vast difference… I have more energy and better concentration, and my mood isn’t just lighter—I feel an incredible optimism.

Earlier this fall I got hooked on NBC’s show Heroes. (I’ve got a bad habit of missing the first season of good shows… happened to me with Lost, too.) This week I began watching the first season episodes to catch up… still only about ten episodes through it, so no spoilers, please!

Why I mention both of these together is that both of them fit together in my life now. When I lost weight a long time ago, I remember feeling almost unstoppable, like I could do anything. There’s something in this massive tale of people discovering abilities that they didn’t know they had, that resonates with my own discovery of strength and joy that I’ve forgotten I had.

Of course, Heroes resonates strongly with me as a spiritual metaphor. It’s about spiritual warfare, the work of bodhisattvas versus the forces of destruction, fear, violence, and ignorance. This is something that’s coming back to me as well… for quite a while now, my sense of mission and purpose had been receding. Now it’s resurging. Heroes isn’t fiction. It’s spiritual reality. There really was a Spider-Man in New York. The one I know didn’t sling webs or swing from buildings, but he did jump into any fight at a moment’s notice with the goal of saving both the victim and the aggressor, and whenever possible, prevented fights from even starting.  His name is Vernon Kitabu Turner, and now he trains others in the way of the spiritual warrior.

There really are Isaac Mendezes.. . prophets who paint the future they see, presenting the challenge to change it.

There really are Peter Petrellis… persons who catch the spirits of others. One word, which might come from you or from me, might be enough to make them soar into discovering the cure for AIDS, or to bring peace to a war-torn land.

There really are Claire Bennets… people so resilient, they can return day after day to stresses that would tear up most of us.

There really are Hiro Nakamuras… people so filled with delight and wonder they might seem not to take much seriously… except their place in the mission of saving others and saving the  world.

And of course, there really are Jessicas and Sylars… people who will use any means possible to seize money and power.

So…
What kind of hero are you?

At any time…

A Zen master (I don’t remember who) once said, “at any time, it is possible for anyone to exchange the radiant mind of the Buddha, for that of a demon.” This is true. Sometimes it’s a trigger: one word, one action, can “set us off.” Other times it’s subtle and difficult to know just what provokes the reaction, (although personally, I like Eckhart Tolle’s explanation of “the pain-body.”) It happened to me last week, by all accounts, a pretty darn good week for me. Yet by the weekend I was feeling a vast amount of anger to someone who had not wronged me in any way at all.

Anger! Eventually I asked my teacher for advice, and he had me meet him at MacArthur Mall. If any of you have seen Peaceful Warrior, what happened next had a few similarites to the scene where Socrates asks Dan to meet him on the bridge. (Yes, I did meet him on a bridge on the mall’s highest level, and no, he didn’t throw me off). What he did do, was make me look at the people. Even though I was so angry, I didn’t want to see, I saw what I described yesterday as the windsocks revealing the wind. There was just Spirit—flowing everywhere, manifest by the forms It was animating. Spirit was flowing all around me. The proof was people were walking past. Kids were laughing. Tots were thrilling with delight in attaining the status of being bipeds. Adults walked, talked, shopped, complained, smiled, frowned.

For too long I had troubled myself by the emptiness of the holodeck, in my glimpses of looking past the program. But the fact is that I’m here, and there is nothing for me to do in this except interact with the program. It’s running for me. And it’s running for you, and for everyone else. But it’s only this character that I have any control over. And with through him, I interact with the whole; a universe appearing, full of beings made of the same stuff I am, feeling the same things I feel or have felt… Myticism is a heck of lot less “mystical” than I thought.