Friday, November 07, 2008

Know I Am With you

My child,
As faith and the certitude & strength it brings
Is in such short supply in this dark & confused time,

I will send you signs that even an eyeless cave-fish could not miss.

Did I not bend that thin streamer of night-cloud
Through a trio of right-hand turns and then 
Speed it across the face of that full Hawaiian moon for you?

I will give you signs that penetrate
The mundane scrim of things --

Did I not send that meteor storm 
Across the volcano's night-sky
Carving a hole in the earth's heavens 
To reveal other heavens beyond?

I will turn the world upside down
And shake loose the change in
The pockets of your soul.

Did I not salute you with 
A synchronized squadron of manta-rays
That morning off the Wailea beach?

Did you not see the lava-tube dormitory
Full of slumbering sharks?

Did you miss the spinner dolphins that
Circled you and your paramour
As your clumsy land-adapted bodies
Canoodled in the waters of La Perouse Bay?

At the Jungfrau,
Did I not give you a hawk, hunting,
Where no prey was to be had
But your doubt?

Have I not brought you safely back 
From every harebrained precipice
From which you've opted to dangle?

Miracles are the weave!

Sharpen your vision down to the place where
When you unwrap a packet of the mundane,
You perceive the grains of the miraculous pouring out.

When you learn to look with such eyes as these,
You will know that each stitch of the world shines
With the magic your ancestors kept as companion,
And you will know that I am with you always.

Move with strength and grace
In both body and mind,
Shine with humor,
Suffer with dignity,
Persevere with courage,
Dance with passion,
Let failure spur renewal,
Love with ardor...and acceptance,
Feel your mortality, and
Let the eventuality of death
Animate your living with beneficent ferocity.

Watch with your best eyes,
Listen with your best ears,
Open your heart, and know:
I was with you before your beginning,
I am with you now and always will be, 
Even beyond the end of earthly things.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Sometimes It's a Mystery

Sometimes the meanings of our dreams is readily apparent. Sometimes it takes some noodling around before the meaning comes to us. And sometimes, the implications go in so many directions, or lead straight into such an obdurate brick wall, that they remain opaque:

"The Nefarious Duo and their Bounty Hunter" (April 30, 2008)

I am in a seemingly-endless house. Rooms and hallways ramble on and on without end -- or a discernable pattern of organization. I can see the outside through windows, etc., but there does not seem to be any way to actually get outside.

This is my wife's family's house. My wife in waking life is also my wife in this dream, although she is wearing another body and her name here is Ariana. She is taller and leaner in the dream than she is in waking life, and her hair is different, too -- it is long, straight and black. But her green eyes are the eyes of my wife in waking life.

The whole aesthetic of the house and the people in it is very Addams Family / "The Nightmare Before Christmas", with perhaps a dash of "Beetlejuice" added in. I am there, my wife is there, her parents are there, my brother & sister-in-law are there, and my three young nieces are there. Everyone including myself is wearing different bodies remodeled along the lines noted above.

We are all preparing to leave the house. I don't recall where we were going or why we were leaving. I know we were going to be away for a long time, maybe forever, although I don't think we were actually "selling" the house.

I am wandering around the house, sort of a remembrance tour before leaving. A lot of the rooms have been emptied of their contents, or the furniture has cloths thrown over it, ghostlike. I go into a room and surprise a stranger and his wife. Their habiliments and demeanor resemble ours, but their bodies are dessicated and leathery, almost mummified -- they are both missing their noses.  He is wearing a dark brown, closely-cut suit on his long, rangy body.  She is wearing the sort of shapeless conservative dress English women of a certain age wore perhaps in the 1930s.  They are hiding and waiting for us to leave so they can occupy the house. I know that if they take over the house, they will pervert/change it to suit themselves -- the room they're hiding in is already starting to change, to be slightly corrupted/morphed to suit their more decomposed nature. He reminds me of a less sinister/dangerous version of Mr. Vandemar from the Neil Gaiman novel "Neverwhere" (a very nasty fellow indeed!). They are definitely inimical, but not an urgent or mortal threat.

They spend a few moments trying to convince me that they're friends of my mother- and father-in-law or somesuch thing. Although I see through their lie, I play along and leave them there alone in the room.

I want to find my wife Ariana and tell her about the nefarious duo, and wander rapidly from room to room -- without luck. I finally catch sight of her down a long hallway and through a few rooms. She's walking the other way, hand in hand with her best friend, who has evidently dropped by for a final farewell before we leave. I call out and run after them but they don't hear me. They walk up a staircase. By the time I reach that spot I cannot tell where they have gone from there.

I turn around and go back downstairs, figuring I can talk to my in-laws instead. On my way to them, I pass back through the room where I left the nefarious husband-and-wife duo. There is a colossal tussle going on.

A third person is there. He is evidently a bounty hunter of some sort and the pair are his prey.  He looks much like the husband, but he is taller and leaner, more decomposed (e.g., the husband and wife are missing their [rotted out] noses but still have eyes -- the bounty hunter's eyesockets are empty, although he doesn't appear to be blind).  His suit is a dark green-grey. 

The bounty hunter has the nefarious duo pinned down onto the floor. The husband is on the floor face up, and his wife is lying on top of him face down. On top of the two of them is the bounty hunter, facing downward. He is moving his arms so quickly the eye can barely keep up, wrapping thick chains around them and fastening the chains with ginormous iron padlocks, tying them up like a package. At one point, the nefarious duo try to break free -- the husband pushing the wife up off of him (along with the bounty hunter, who's lying on top of the wife). The chains stretch like rubber but do not break. All three of them are yelling and screaming imprecations and curses at one another. As the husband tries to break the chains, blue and bright purple bolts of electricity course through and around the chains (and the nefarious duo), zapping the husband and wife in an attempt to finally subdue them. It's an utterly hair-raising tableaux.

The husband's attempts to break out gradually wilt under the electro-shock and the verbal assault of the bounty hunter, who slowly forces the two of them back down onto the floor. The chains then tighten up like constrictor snakes and after a final, triumphant cry from the bounty hunter, there is a flash of light and the trio disappears, leaving the room suddenly, deafeningly silent.

They have left behind two cloths -- more than wraps, less than blankets. One has a pattern of alternating wavy red & white lines. The second has a more complicated pattern which I cannot recall perfectly. I pick up 3 possibilities when I try to remember: (i) A series of blocky patterns, as if a Jersey cow's splotchy hide had been roughly pixelated, (ii) A random-ish dot pattern, or (iii) A sort of crude triptych telling the life history of Mr. & Mrs. Nefarious Duo.

I take the two cloths into the room where my mother- and father-in-law and the rest of the family are (minus Ariana and her best friend). I fill them in on the story and then show them the cloths. My mother-in-law (who in waking life has an expertise with textiles) has the idea to put them up together against the light and see what visuals emerge when the patterns of the two cloths combine. Hopefully this will give us some clues to help solve the mysteries of the day.

As we are doing this (pointing out interesting bits of the combined patterns), the phone rings in waking life and interrupts the dream.

(I welcome comments and ideas. Naturally, this dream is eminently ripe for re-entry and dreaming on to a conclusion. More on that as it develops!)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Dream Journal -- "Madmen & Other Conjurers" -- 7/25/02

Dreaming can be excellent practice for waking life. We have the opportunity to prepare for many of the tests Spirit sends our way by pre-living them in our dreams. I will not say exactly what scenario the following helped me be ready for, but I'll say that when we learn to face fear and the unknown in the dreamworlds, courage comes more easily in the waking worlds.

"Madmen and Other Conjurers"

I am in a funky cafe-type performance space located out in the woods. The place is pretty full in anticipation of the evening's performance. People are finishing up their dinner and then a space is cleared (tables moved, etc.) and the two performers enter the room. One looks a lot like Joaquin Phoenix but rougher around the edges. The other fellow is slighter and a touch feminine. "JP" is holding a small apparatus like that used to control a puppet or marionette. The clear implication is that the second fellow is going to be the marionette. The apparatus is energetically connected to an ancient-looking Roman-style iron helmet (with the T-shaped opening for the eyes and nose in front). JP holds the helmet it front of him at head height, and the second fellow slips underneath it and then rises to his full height, sliding his head into it. The two of them begin to sway back and forth a little, and then #2 closes his eyes, concentrating fiercely. JP starts working the controls of the apparatus deftly. Suddenly, #2's face begins to change inside the helmet, becoming the color and texture of a plaster-of-Paris bust of himself. When the transformation is complete, there is a click/crack -- like vertebrae splitting -- and the body of #2 falls insensate to the floor, headless. The head/bust slides down out of the helmet slowly and floats up towards the ceiling, bobbing gently around the room.

The audience give out a shocked collective gasp of fear. This performance has taken a very odd and scary turn. #2's body levitates back up into an upright position with the stump of the neck under the lower edge of the helmet. There is a further cry of shock and amazement from the crowd as #2's eyes appear in the horizontal slot of the helmet -- and then his head blooms out from there until he's whole again. He raises his arms up in a gesture of both challenge and supplication. He is also projecting a sense of fear and dread. He closes his eyes, and the flesh-to-plaster bust transformation recurs, as does the head/body split, followed once more by the head/bust taking flight to join its twin up near the high ceiling above the frightened audience. A humming in the air seems to be coming from the two heads as #2's body rises up again underneath the helm.

JP seems edgy or frightened, not so much of the goings-on but of the possibility the restive audience may attack the two of them to stop the performance. The people in the room are on a razor edge of fight/flight reactiveness -- the air is electric with the energy of it, and the humming coming from the floating heads.

The duo perform a third transformation, and when the third head joins the first two, the floating busts begin to whisper and gibber freakishly. This galvanizes the audience into a panic. People rush out of the room, knocking over tables and each other in their haste to be quit of this terrifying display.

[Every time we come face to face with fear there is a moment -- sometimes swiftly passing, sometimes it seems to stretch endlessly out -- where we choose to fall back, to run away, or we choose to stand fast. When it's our own fear, we must stand on the razor edge between giving in to or facing fear -- until we act one way or another. It takes presence of mind, courage and exquisite balance to hang in that moment, know what is happening, and then choose to be courageous. That balance is hard to come by usually, but the more we practice the better our balance gets. When the fear in question belongs to one or a number of people around us, the moment of truth comes in recognizing that this clutching fear isn't our own, and letting its sticky tendrils slide off of us without dragging us down into the panicky maelstrom those around us are drowning in. This act takes less pure courage, but it still requires presence of mind and balance. And indeed it gets easier the more times we do it. In this moment of my dream, the situation combines a little of the first and a lot of the second sort of confrontation with fear.]

For a long moment I am pulled and panicked by the goings-on and the reaction of the audience. I hold myself separate from the fright of those that ran out of the room and their fear leaves with them. My mind clears a bit and I realize that my own fear is minimal. Whatever JP and #2 are up to, I sense no danger in their display. I am the only person other than the two of them left in the room.

JP looks sardonically around the empty space, and then over at me as he begins to conjure the fourth transformation. The scene goes slowly dark. As the vision fades completely, I am considering pulling up a chair and watching where the performance is going. (End)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Prayer for Thanksgiving

As we give thanks for our many and various gifts this day, let's remember Wabanaki Algonquin writer Big Thunder:

"Give us hearts to understand;
Never to take from creation's beauty more than we give;
never to destroy wantonly for the furtherance of greed;

Never to deny to give our hands for the building of earth's beauty;
never to take from her what we cannot use.

Give us hearts to understand
That to destroy earth's music is to create confusion;
that to wreck her appearance is to blind us to beauty;

That to callously pollute her fragrance is to make a house of stench;
that as we care for her she will care for us.

We have forgotten who we are.
We have sought only our own security.
We have exploited simply for our own ends.
We have distorted our knowledge.
We have abused our power.

Great Spirit, whose dry lands thirst,
Help us to find the way to refresh your lands.
Great Spirit, whose waters are choked with debris and pollution,
help us to find the way to cleanse your waters.

Great Spirit, whose beautiful earth grows ugly with misuse,
help us to find the way to restore beauty to your handiwork.
Great Spirit, whose creatures are being destroyed, help us to find a way to replenish them.

Great Spirit, whose gifts to us are being lost in selfishness and corruption,
help us to find the way to restore our humanity.

Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the wind, whose breath gives life to the world,
hear me; I need your strength and wisdom. May I walk in Beauty."


Monday, November 20, 2006

Practical Dreaming #8 -- Dreaming the Future

Our dreams are full of information about our lives. Sometimes we are offered psychological insights into ourselves. Sometimes we will dream a deeper understanding of a relationship or a knotty problem with which we're confronted. Sometimes we dream the future. Sometimes these dreams of the future are warnings that allow us to sidestep peril (as one woman I know did: having dreamt a very particular tableaux that preceded her getting into a car accident, she took a different action in waking life when that tableaux presented itself -- the other car smashed up as she had dreamt, but in the waking event, she avoided mishap herself). As in Dream Theater, when we re-enact someone's dream in waking life, we can change the ending of a dream that is unsatisfactory. But of course we must first open to our dreaming, and then resolve to remember our dreams and bring them back to our waking lives.

As with any human faculty or talent, some people are more gifted than others at dreaming the future. I know dreamers who routinely bring back cues to their future -- or the futures of people around them. (A woman I know [whom I hadn't seen in six months] told me of her dream that I'd met my future wife. As it turns out, I'd begun dating her about three months prior.) I myself do not commonly have dreams of the future (although in recent years the pace has been picking up a bit) -- my talent seems to lean more towards being a scout or guide for others (in addition to traveling on my own behalf). But I have had blockbuster dreams about the future that have knocked me flat.

Traveling in Malaysia after college graduation (1988), I had an utterly vivid dream wherein I flew back through the night to visit the sweetheart -- my first true love -- I'd left behind (she had 1 year left at school). We had been writing letters back and forth in the 3 months I'd been gone and I was looking forward to seeing her in Australia for Christmas. When I flew up to her on the campus -- she was attending an outdoor concert of Javanese gamelan music -- she greeted me happily but grabbed my hand instead of embracing me and led me out into the trees that skirted the performance area. She launched into a monologue about how great our relationship had been for her after a number of failed romances, and how it had been healing for her to be with me. As she continued speaking, I sort of stopped listening to the words and heard the meta-text behind them: she was breaking up with me. When I hove back into my hearing mind, she was finishing up with "...but we'll be friends, right? Say we will!" I assured her we would and she hugged me sisterly-like and scurried back to the show, sitting down with her new beau (a guy I knew, actually). I staggered off in shock to find a restroom (all that astral travel and no potty-break, y'know?) but when I went into the bathroom the urinals were mounted on the walls and the sinks on the ceilings. Everything was utterly out of whack.

I awoke in a sweat, hearing the muezzin calling the Muslim faithful of Penang to the early-early prayer, and couldn't get back to sleep. So I wrote the dream down in my travel journal -- my first dream journal entry, although it'd be 12 years before I'd know it was such.

The next month, in Sydney, my travel-buddy R and I strode up to the house where we were supposedly meeting his girlfriend and mine. I hadn't heard from my sweetie since the week of the Malaysia dream, and was filled with misgivings. L greeted us at the door, giving R a huge hug and smooch. My girl was nowhere to be seen of course. L handed me a letter and I said, "I know what's in this letter." L couldn't figure out whether to be weirded out or consoling, so she just gave me a quick hug and led R off for some I-haven't-seen-you-in-four-months-sex. And yes, the letter contained the monologue I'd dreamed -- in content if not word-for-word. And yes, when I questioned L later, my sweetheart had taken up with the fellow I'd dreamed her with. Their romance began the week I had the dream.

Sometimes it's that clear and mindblowing and (nearly) immediate. Sometimes it's muddier and longer in coming to fruition. I dreamt I found a cat that had been hit by a car and the middle portion (side-to-side) of its head split open (across the seam of the mouth). About 9 months later my wife's cat Carmella was diagnosed with cancer in the mouth and throat. And 1 day short of the year anniversary of the dream, Carmella succumbed and passed on.

Not all dreams of the future are Things To Avoid/Fear. Right now, my wife is having dreams about the two of us co-hosting a radio talk show. She never seems to remember the exact things we discuss (though we discuss politics, spirituality, consciousness, culture...uh...everything) but when the show ends friends of ours tell us we were great. I have been sniffing around for an opportunity to get back on the air (I did a dynamite show with a friend of mine back in college) for a few months now; I am only too happy to change my dream to accommodate her dream. So of course, dreams of the future can plant a seed in our waking consciousness which, with proper care and feeding, can grow into a waking reality.

But first we must catch our dreams on the wing. Before you go to bed tonight, say aloud "I will remember my dreams" and hold that thought in your mind as long as you can as you drift down into sleep. Bring back the juice and gifts the dreaming has to offer. You can't be rich without them.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Dream Journal -- August 2001 -- "Adelphoi"

In this dream I am walking through a lightly-wooded area. There is clearly a habitation of some sort up ahead as I can hear the various sounds of human life -- children shouting and laughing, a hammer pounding away on something, a dog barking and so forth. Eventually, the woods end and I emerge into a clearing perhaps 200 yards across. There are stables off to my left and several outbuildings/sheds. At the center of the clearing is a large 2-story building. Sure enough, a group of a half-dozen kids is playing tag, running all over the place. A man in his mid-forties is up on the roof of one of the outbuildings working on the shingles. A shepherd/collie mutt is racing hither and yon with the children, barking excitedly.

I stride forward towards the central house and am met on the porch by a woman in her late twenties/early thirties. She smiles warmly at me but does not speak and simply leads me into the house and shows me around. There is a large kitchen and dining-room that seats perhaps thirty or so people. Adults in the kitchen are hard at work making what looks like dinner. They cutting up vegetables that my guide makes clear have been grown on the surrounding land. The dining-room is decorated with the artwork of children. Adjacent is a classroom-looking space with dry-erase boards and projection/AV equipment. Down the hall from there is an den/library with "Shhh!" signs hung up. There are locker-room-type shower/changing facilities and an adjacent laundry. My guide leads me up the stairs at the rear of the structure.

On the second floor are offices and a few guest rooms. We go out onto a veranda and in the distance my guide points out the vegetable gardens (several acres' worth) in the distance. There are also buildings for livestock and, interestingly, a baseball diamond.

Then she leads me back into the house, down the hallway and pauses outside a door and gestures me past her into the room. I walk by her, and turn left. In the room in front of me a 60-ish woman is sitting on the windowsill outlined by the late-afternoon sun. When I enter she is gazing out the window, but turns her head towards me and -- her head in silhouette and wearing a halo of the sun's white disk -- says clearly "Adelphoi."

When I awoke I was very excited by this dream. It had such a depth of waking reality to it, and the community I had toured a sense of purpose, peace and satisfaction. I researched "Adelphoi" and it is a Greek word referring to a faith community, specifically a group of Christians living together as a community. While I eschew any particular organized religion, I have been yearning for a place in an intentional community of like-minded people -- people living a spiritual and conscious life.

Since moving to New Paltz last Summer, my wife and I have been seeking out Good People and Community -- and we have had success (more on that and community in general in posts to come). However, this dream takes the idea to an entirely different level. A group of perhaps 10 families living on a large-ish chunk of land together; each family has a simple bungalow/cabin/cottage in which they have the bare necessities (sleeping quarters, toilet); a larger central building encompasses most of the indoor life of the community -- meals prepared and served/schooling of children/"entertainments" such as television and "communications" like internet and so forth/infirmary/business offices/guests rooms -- are all located in the main central buildings. The members of the community have a complementary set of skills: physician, teacher, animal husbandry, farming, managing the business end of things, techie ("computer husbandry"? ), carpentry/plumbing/electrician, and not leastly healing arts (massage, acupuncture, Pilates, herbs/aromas/nutrition et al.).

The end of the petroeconomy is coming; our current way of life is near the end of its (oily) rope and soon not just the cars we drive but the fundamental organizing principles of our lives will undergo vast changes. (To what extent these are wrenching and abrupt remains to be seen...) If you don't know about Peak Oil then I suggest you get some basic knowledge of it. I highly recommend The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler. It's a fine primer on the ways our world will change when Peak Oil converges with Climate Change. For my purposes here, suffice it to say that soon we will not be driving an hour to/from work, and we will not be trucking/flying in produce from across the continent or apples from New Zealand. Wal Mart will crumble (YEEHAW!) because long supply lines from China will no longer be feasible. Commerce will become much more localized, as will food production -- and communities will have to reorganize around that fact.

I had the above dream long before I knew of Peak Oil or knew how imminent Climate Change was. I'll point out that I had this dream the month before 9/11 -- which among many other meanings for me is a potent point of demarcation between the World That Was and the World That's Coming. (If you read my Keeping Vigil posts, you'll remember the very first thing I said when I saw the second plane hit the WTC was "The world just changed...")

The Dreaming was laying down a vision for me, a sight of things to come. Note that the vision did not include dire portents or cataclysmic carnage (although we have seen many of those in the last five years, and there are surely more to come). No: what spirit showed me was the way through all that. A vision of hope -- which when misplaced is humanity's greatest vice; properly engaged, hope is all that gets us through the dark, sometimes.

I'll write more of this in time. For now, I merely wanted to put the dream out there, for myself and for whoever is reading. Also to allow anybody who's interested to follow the threads I laid down above re Peak Oil and Climate Change. And lastly, I wanted to make the point that if we put all our focus and energy on the negative aspects of the coming times, all we guarantee ourselves is a good view of the wreckage. But if we think about our options, and act intelligently (and keep our eyes and ears open to the guidance of Alpha/Omega), we can find our Way Through. (And not only Huge Earth-Shaking Tempests, but whatever blocks we encounter tomorrow in our so-called "mundane lives".)

Dream strong, everyone -- Tim

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Listen to Rumi...#2

I avoid those who would hand me a set of rules which God gave them, and by which I am supposed to live. It's not that I don't believe that the Divine Ultimate speaks to us; it does. It's not that I don't believe that the Alpha/Omega has wisdom for us which enriches our lives; it does. It's not that I don't believe in rules, or self-discipline; I do. But I do not believe That Which Made It All bothers with behavioral minutiae; Spirit is not a quibbler.

(Don't start with me #1: "Well don't you believe in the Ten Commandments? Thou shalt not kill? Honor thy father and mother?" C'mon. If you need the Divine Ultimate to tell you not to commit murder, then we have a whole 'nother set of issues to discuss. Don't start with me #2: "What do you have against religion?" Nothing at all. What I'm against is somebody else trying to slather me down with *their* religion, and judgments thereof. )

Spirit is not a quibbler. Spirit doesn't care what we wear when we pray, or where we are when we do. And I believe that when we're in true communion with the Alpha/Omega, what we feel and learn isn't the stuff of Aphorism-a-Day desk calendars. Listen to Rumi:

(from "Moses and the Shepherd", translated by Coleman Barks)

God began speaking deeper mysteries to Moses.
Vision and words, which cannot be recorded here, poured into and through him.
He left himself and came back.
He went to eternity and came back here.
Many times this happened.
It's foolish of me to try and say this.
If I did say it, it would uproot our human intelligences.
It would shatter all writing pens.

Be conscious. Treat the people you meet with respect. Help them if they need it, if you can, and if they can accept your help. Fall in the love with the world and everything in it. Love and respect yourself. Fall in love with Spirit. Remember you're not the first person who's been here, and that you're not the last, either. Learn and teach. Share. Laugh hard, and often. And die knowing you're going back to the place you came from.

Listen to Rumi...#1

Don't confuse Religiosity with a true relationship to God, or Spirit. Don't confuse the menu for the meal, or the map for the road itself. Think less of commandments and more of confabulation. A spiritual way of living shouldn't limit you, it should unlock your life.

(from "Moses and the Shepherd", translated by Coleman Barks)
(God's voice)
You have separated me from one of my own.
Did you come as a Prophet to unite, or to sever?
I have given each being a separate and unique way of seeing and knowing and saying that knowledge.

What seems wrong to you is right for him.
What is poison to one is honey to someone else.

Purity and impurity, sloth and diligence in worship,
these mean nothing to me.
I am apart from all that.
Ways of worshipping are not to be ranked as better or worse than one another.
Hindus do Hindu things.
The Dravidian Muslims in India do what they do.
It's all praise, and it's all right.

It's not me that's glorified in acts of worship.
It's the worshipers! I don't hear the words they say.
I look inside at the humility.

That broken-open lowliness is the reality,
not the language! Forget phraseology.
I want burning, burning.

Be friends with your burning. Burn up your thinking and your forms of expression!
Moses, those who pay attention to ways of behaving and speaking are one sort.
Lovers who burn are another.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Practical Dreaming #7 -- Cultural Renewal

We are, in too many ways, a culture of mere consumers.

As the saying goes: "The business of America is business." Over the last 40 years, and in an accelerated fashion in the last 5-10, the focus of the business of America has become providing services to individuals. Once upon a time, America created things -- from cars to medical equipment to ideas. Nowadays, American car manufacturers are in big trouble (and most of our heavy industry is simply gone already), we are missing the boat on the next great evolution of medicine (stem cells/biotech/et al.), and the greatest Idea in decades -- the internet/web -- has largely been appropriated to pimp Things to people in a more efficient and invasive way.

Once upon a time, if you asked 100 Americans what "America" meant, you'd probably get 100 answers which, within a certain variance, would be roughly equivalent to "freedom, justice and opportunity." If you asked today, you'd have a lot less of that and many more answers approximating the idea of "you can get anything you want if you work hard enough." (Note that the latter answer differs from the idea of "opportunity" in that it's concerned solely with the Getting of Stuff [with apologies to George Carlin]).

To futher illustrate, I believe that 20 years ago if you'd asked 100 non-Americans what they admired about America, you would have heard things like "the freedom to live (worship, etc.) the way you want" (if you asked a Shia living in Iraq), "the Americans promote freedom and justice" (if you asked someone living under Soviet-sponosed rulers in Poland or Czechoslovakia) or "Americans help where there is need" (if you asked someone who'd experienced Peace Corps volunteers or disaster relief and so forth). If you asked 100 non-Americans today what they admired about America, you'd get a lot of people saying flat-out that they do *not* admire America, and those that had something positive to say would probably cite our lavish standard of living. Our Stuff.

Our American culture has been atomized down to the level of the individual. We are urged to pick and choose this product and that, clothing and foods, cars and telecommunications providers, all of whom (we are endlessly reassured) do nothing but lie awake at night considering our unique desires and needs. Certainly, we all need Stuff. Without my car I couldn't get to work (60 miles from home). Without my cell phone, I couldn't do business -- and those 3 hours a day commuting would also be a wasteland of lost time. I certainly can't circulate in public without pants. My (longish) hair would become a matted mess without shampoo. And without our several-hundred-CD collection of music (and iTunes), my wife and I would have a danged hard time hosting our monthly Booty-Shaking parties. And those sorts of parties oughta have wine, and tasty nibblies. Not to mention aspirin for sore day-after muscles.

The big mistake -- the fatal ego-error that is at the heart of the illusion (what Buddhists call Maya ) -- is to become self-identified with our Stuff. It's a common malady...and we are energetically encouraged to do so by almost everybody who has something to sell, which in our service-economy culture, is almost everybody. The omnipresent hype and marketing to our every whim -- the pimps have a ho' to suit every sensibility -- is an endless pull outward; we are urged to look beyond ourselves for affirmation and satisfaction. And the further we are drawn away from ourselves, the less affirmation and true satisfaction we find.

(Parenthetically -- our culture endlessly cultivates and reinforces the idea that one of the most important pieces of Stuff is a Winning Companion. Whether that means boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, or HotHot Saturday Night Hookup, an entire range of billion-dollar industries litter the landscape, each in some way insinuating that if you're not using their product [shampoo/clothing/car/cell/makeup/pushup bra/diet product/age-defying unguent/internet personal service/etc.] then your Quest for a Winning Companion is doomed. Can we agree that there's a strong social stigma attached to singlehood -- not to mention the genuine emotional ache of loneliness? And again, please note that the Search for a WC takes us on a journey looking outside of ourselves for satisfaction and affirmation...)

In the endless pursuit and (temporary) enjoyment of our Stuff (on the way back around to the beginning of the endless Lust/Acquisition/Enjoyment/Boredom/New Lust cycle), we are distracted from paying real attention to What's Going On -- which is one of the main reasons why What's Going On is, in too many ways, so utterly, stupefyingly sad-making.

While we are each and all most definitely individuals, we are not meant to live isolated lives. In the atomized universe of consumer culture, Stuff is marketed as the means of connection. But Stuff is transient, ephemeral and shallow -- and people who are identified with their Stuff, ditto. In a world full of those sort of people, we all die a slow death of soul starvation.

WIthout further preamble -- a dream I had not long ago:

"So Glad to Be Back in the Terrible Terrible World" (September 8, 2006)

I am attending some sort of convention, held in a hotel conference room. The room is full of professional-type people, well-groomed and spiffily dressed. The room is full of little kiosks and display areas which are moodily lit for maximum emotional and sensual impact. Each of the areas is arrayed to best show off the charms of a particular "new" or "improved" or -- best of all! -- "revolutionary" new product.

In one kiosk Taco Bell is touting its latest creation, the Winged Taco. It's exactly the same as any of the billions of tacos humanity's been throwing back for ages, but on each side of the shell a couple of triangular corn chips stick out to the side like, well, wings. Various public relations and marketing types are gathered around oohing and ahhing appreciatively, throwing out suitably fawning praise. "This changes the whole industry!" -- "It makes the taco look like it's going fast!" -- "Look out Mickey D's!" -- "Does it come with chipotle sauce?"

Another display cubicle is home to the new Scratch'n'Sniff iPod cover. It comes in an evidently kaleidoscopic array of colors and flavors. Has your iPod lost its sex appeal? Well slap it into a Sweet Cherry S'n'S cover! Protects your Tech and smells good too! And for the kiddies' iPod, we have Gummi Covers! Move over Gummi Bear, there's a new snack in town! Keep your kids entertained *and* satisfy their sweet tooth!

Subway is across the room, premiering their new Submarine Sandwich to general acclaim. You see, it's not just another sandwich on a long roll ("bor-ring!") -- it's served up on a roll shaped like an actual submarine!!. "This changes everything!" -- "And look! Cute little pickles sticking out of the torpedo tubes on the front of the submarine!" -- "Look out Mickey D's!" -- "Can I get it with chipotle sauce?"

Coca-Cola, not to be outdone, is hyping the debut of its Coke Revolutions. It's got zero calories, comes in no-caffeine and triple-caffeine versions, contains 14 vitamins and antioxidants, a mysterious Chinese Herbal Youth Elixir, a libido-boosting root extract from the Amazon, micro-particles that clean your teeth while you drink it, and gingko biloba to make you smarter. "Whoa! Red Bull is DEAD!" -- "Call it 'Dead Bull'!" -- "Look out Pepsi!" -- "Hey look, the 36th ingredient on the list is Artificial Ersatz Chipotle Essence!"

The Gap is there, with jeans made from a new material so stretchy that you can actually fit a second person into them with you (and the ads blaring from the plasma screen on the back of the kiosk -- featuring attractive young hipsters dancing two-by-two at the sexiest, most playful and, goldangit, super-funnest house party ever -- play that up to lascivious effect).

Sprint is there, pushing the Personal Phone. You enter your vital stats -- and the stats of who you're looking for in the Winning Companion department -- into your phone, and every time you come within 10 feet of someone who matches you, both of your phones start to ring. "How did anybody ever find a sweetheart *before* this?!" -- "Look out Verizon!" -- "And!" [note: phones like this have been sold in Japan for years]

The room is abuzz with a manic energy: the excited desperation of addicts needing a fix. The dark optimism of the time between having scored a bag of smack and sticking the spike in a vein. This time, yeah...this time I'll get as high as I used to.

I can penetrate the energetic haze, though, and see through to the shadow place where each of the people in the room knows in their hearts that none of this is really going to make anybody happy. It isn't even going to get anybody high.

The knowing of which, however, doesn't keep them all from braying on about how fantastic it all is, how astonishing, how extraordinary.

It is a room full of hollow people waving around bundles of dirty rags sprinkled with glitter. Hens clucking over nests filled not with eggs, but stones.

I turn on my heel. I am set on leaving this building. I walk out of the exhibition room and down a hallway to a door marked "EXIT". I press on the lever that opens the lock and the door swings outward, revealing an alleyway leading out to a city street. It is near dusk, or dawn. The alley and the portion of the street I can see are empty of people and traffic.

The air outside -- in contrast to the exhibition hall's air conditioning -- is hot and humid. In the distance I hear the low white-noise purrumble of City. I can smell bus exhaust, and trash. Outside the door, the world is distinctly unclean and unsanitized. But I don't hesitate.

I step into the alley and head for the street. The hot, damp air wraps itself around me and I start sweating. I reach the street and turn left and start walking up a hill. On either side, I pass shops and restaurants -- all empty. I encounter no one.

But in the distance, beyond the edges of the usual sensory horizon, I can feel life going on. I feel the wars in which America is currently embroiled. I feel the environment tilting out of balance. I feel people -- carrying on with their lives, some clueless, some only too aware of the wars, some fighting like hell to heal the planet and some running like hell for the hills. I feel the whole glorious despairing ever-rising imbroglio that is life in this world. And behind it all, I can feel the knowing that people have that a better world is possible -- and the deep undeniable yearning for it. And I feel my own hope.

Glad to be free of the prison of illusion that the exhibition hall was. Glad to be alive. Glad to be back in the terrible, terrible world.


For many years, up until recently, this country had been pushing forward the definition of what it means to live free and follow your own path. The 60s and the many social movements and evolutions that swirled through it largely meant well, I think, but got hung up on narcissism. Freedom got defined down to simplistic self-centered terms. When the spiral should've led upwards and outwards to embrace everything, it flatlined instead and turned inward. Community fragmented. Many old social institutions waned in significance. The American Dream stopped being about the pursuit of happiness and became a nightmare treadmill -- the pursuit of things.

Before the advent of mass media, the stories that entranced the imagination of one's community were not movies or TV shows, but tales told by storytellers. A group gathered and hushed, and the teller spun a tale with the spoken word. Because they were local, the stories often included people you knew, or ancestors of members of your community. The too-common tendency of mass media to produce brain-starving claptrap would never have flown then; a storyteller who wove dumb or boring stories -- or told fine tales poorly -- would shortly be out of a job. In Celtic culture, the seannachie ("shenna-key") was a respected member of society, and it was an honor to have one in your home (or local pub). They would transport their audience for hours at a time with the power of the spoken word -- and the imagination of the audience. And the spells they wove bound cultures together. Mytho-poetic tales connected the past to the present day -- and steered a society into the future. Without its roots, a tree cannot reach its branches up to the sky. Without a connection to a past, without a sense that our current station is part of a journey we share as a culture, then as a culture we are each on our own separate road to no particular common destination. And if that is so -- what exactly is our "culture" about?

Certainly, within our society there are any number of fine associations and organizations -- affinity groups like churches, political organizations, community service groups and so forth. They enrich the lives of their members in important ways. But the modern tendency to seek out like-minded peers and associate for the most part only with them leaves our culture fragmented.

But everybody dreams. Anyone can tell me a dream in five minutes. For a short while, they become a storyteller, spinning a tale of their soul. They speak, I listen. They animate their dreams with the wind of their breath and I learn something about their inner self -- the self that may not be evident when I pass them in the street, or see them at work, or sit next to them on a 747 traveling from La Guardia to LAX.

I've listened to the dreams of clients, co-workers, bartenders, the man next to me at the sushi bar, people on commuter railroad, and women I've just met on a first date. Together we go beyond "nice day, huh?" and form an actual connection. It humanizes both of us to each other, opens hearts and minds, clarifies courses of action, and engages the soul-energy that too often sits around dormant as we navigate the hurry-sick currents of daily life. They put down their iPod, or potboiler novel, and actually *talk* to somebody. Actually connect. I am routinely staggered by how lonely people are, how hungry for contact. They're often surprised that somebody is really listening to them.

I therefore propose a Dreaming Culture. We will counteract the deadening effects of omnipresent media and consumer gluttony by putting aside our Stuff and asking people: "Had any good dreams lately?" Because when we asked someone that question, we are also saying (with thanks to Frank MacEowen): "How is it with your soul?"

When we ask these questions, and patiently sit, looking that person in the eye, we still the clamor of Stuff Culture and push it aside, making room for a Culture of Soul. Where soul is paramount and honored as such, fear falls away. Ennui and consumerism withers. Cynicism and its discontent begin to melt. We connect in ways our spirit cries out for, and we grow in understanding and respect for one another.

Let us begin...

[For the purposes of sharing dreams with one another, Robert Moss' Lightning Dreamwork is an excellent, quick and respectful way to go about it.]

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Practical Dreaming #6 -- Dreaming the Future -- or -- "Auntie Em! Auntie Em!"

I was down at the Jersey Shore a few weeks ago with family, just hanging at the beach and doing whatever. For me, doing whatever at the Shore always includes daily naps. I love that afternoon siesta. Let the hottest part of the day sliiiide by as I snooze comfortably. And I dream my heinie off when I nap.

Here is an excerpt from a dream I had while napping on the afternoon of July 11:

"I'm at the studio, and working with two clients when I look out the window to the south and see a tornado forming and touching down not far away."

"The studio" is the Pilates studio my wife and I manage. It's located in Briarcliff Manor, NY -- about two miles North of Sleepy Hollow, NY. And on the afternoon of July 12th, in Sleepy Hollow, this happened. Yow.

When I dream the future, it's usually in a symbolic fashion and I don't put 2 and 2 together until after the fact. This is pretty straightforward, eh?

Related to this story is the fact that I totally forgot about the dream until yesterday, when i was reading back through my dream journal and saw the date on the entry. Holy moley! Just goes to show what a crucial tool and resource your dream journal can be.

I'll be interested to see if there are follow-up precognitive dreams of this sort, of if this was an anomaly. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Don't Call it "Real Life"

Language shapes reality. The words we choose to describe the world around us, and the way we use those words, shapes the world. I hope we can stipulate this as a given, since I'm not a semiotics professor. If you don't believe me, just ask Goebbels. Ask the billion-dollar industries that prey on the insecurity of women (and, increasingly, men) regarding their appearance/age. Ask the American Neoconservatives: "fear bomb terror fear terror evildoers fear Vote Bush/Cheney!"

Language shapes reality. The words we choose to describe the world around us, and the way we use those words, shapes the world.

Often, when people discuss their dreams, they do it in a pooh-poohing manner: "well, it was only a dream."

Dreamtime is not the random firing of neurons, and dreams are not the brain merely processing excess stimuli left over from the day.

Dreamtime is the other half of our soul's existence. When the body sleeps, our spirit is free to travel in other worlds, places and times. We meet up with aspects of ourselves, deceased relatives or friends, and other spirits which some call angels, others name faeries, and still others call -- somewhat less poetically -- non-corporeal entities.

Dreamtime helps us remember where we came from -- and where we will return. In the midst of our embodied, all-too-hurried and distracted human experience, we have a daily opportunity to be reminded of our deeper immortal nature. Put out your hands and catch a dream...

All this is preamble to the title above: Don't Call it "Real Life." As in, "oh yeah, I had this crazy dream where I was talking to my great-grandfather and he was telling me he was proud of me. It'd be nice to think he's proud, but it's not like he's telling me that in real life."

Ack! Please, when you consider your dreaming life, don't disrespect the energy, information and wisdom to be found there by calling its counterpart "real life." When you consider your Dreaming Life, call its counterpart Waking Life.

Calling it "real life" cuts the umbilical to your essential immortal universal self.

Calling it Waking Life immediately implies and references your existence Elsewhere -- call it what you will: "heaven," "the Otherworld," "Nirvana," "That Place What Wuz Before Anything Else Wuz." As the poet David Whyte puts it: "To remember that other world in this world is to live in your true inheritance." Remembering that other world honors the part of yourself which is embodied with the rest of you, but can leave the flesh behind to explore, frolic, learn and remember in that crucial Elsewhere.

Calling it "real life" disrespects and devalues anything that cannot be weighed, seen, touched...and chopped into tiny pieces by the so-called rational mind.*

Calling it Waking Life reminds us every time we say it that before long we will be sleeping again, and again ranging out into the beyond in search of information, contact or just plain adventure.

Calling it "real life" sinks us deeper into the illusion that this physical life is all that there is for us. This existentialist nihilism creates the sort of despairing materialism which induces people to try and fill themselves with food, booze, sex, and Buying More Stuff.

Calling it Waking Life merely names it what it is -- no more, no less.

So tonight -- set your intent to remember your dream as you lie in bed ready for sleep. Hold your intent as long as you can as you drift off: tell yourself you will remember your dream. And when you awaken, write it down and find a way to honor it (this can be as simple as just telling a friend the dream, or more elaborate if you feel so moved). And when you do honor it, say out loud to yourself: "I've brought a dream into waking life." Then, feel inside yourself for the pulse of your mojo.

It'll be bumpin'!

* Don't get me wrong: the rational mind has any number of lovely qualities and has brought any number of wondrous things to be -- antibiotics, to name just one. But over the last five hundred years, the Tyranny of the Rational over the intuitive mind has given us a world so far out of whack as to threaten the very existence of our species. Balance, balance, balance!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Some Thoughts on Lady in the Water

I hope this Sunday finds you well and dreaming your life into action. I wanted to put up a quick post because the new M. Night Shyamalan movie seems to be getting routinely excoriated by reviewers and I had a very different experience when I saw it on Friday night.

I won't address all the issues the critics are having with it (although I will note two things: first off, M. Night and Disney had an unhappy divorce after he released The Village and as a movie critic I suppose it never hurts to be on The Mouse's good side, and secondly, in the movie itself, one of the characters is a movie critic who is portrayed as something of an uptight loser). I just want to talk about why this film moved me and why I think dreamers might enjoy it.

The film is an allegorical fable. The characters are archetypes of the human family (whereas the critics are savaging the film for being full of "boring stereotypes" -- don't they know an allegorical fable when they see one? [grin]), and the community they comprise comes into contact with the Otherworld in the form of the Lady of the title. I won't give away any more of the story, but I will say that Paul Giamatti is excellent -- I think he's one of the best actors working today. And the fine supporting cast is full of actors you know by face but not necessarily by name (lots of "oh yeah: him!" moments [grin]).

The film evoked the following thoughts for me:

1. Without magic, the world is small, dull and incomplete.

2. Humanity *needs* the power of story to help understand its place in the universe -- without myth/story, meaning drains out of things.

3. While we are ultimately responsible for healing ourselves...

...4. We cannot do that healing work in a vacuum; we need our community around us in support.

5. The Otherworld is right here in front of our noses -- if we look with the right eyes.

6. Every one of us has a unique and indispensable purpose for being here.

7. Help is right here with us all the time -- if we're brave enough to ask for it.

I have no idea who among you were already planning to see the film. If you dislike M. Night's work, then don't bother seeing this one. If you're on the fence, I urge you to see Lady in the Water. When my wife saw me after this film, she asked me how it was and I said, "It was beautiful."

If you do go see the film (or have seen it already), please post a comment by clicking on the "comment" link at the bottom of the entry.

And if you are going to see the film, do it soon. If getting gutted by the critics equals bad box office, it won't be in theaters long. But who knows? Maybe tomorrow we'll find out it did big numbers and people are buzzing about it. Like I said, humanity has a need for myth. And as Dreamers, we are wisdomkeepers and storytellers, and our dreams are the stuff of myth.

I will post more of my thoughts on this later, especially if I get comments on this post. Dream strong...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Dream Journal: June 29, 2006 -- "The Theater of Hilarious Havoc"

I am walking around in a really lame museum with my family, bored out of my head with the displays. A middle-aged paunchy guy walks up to me and says "You oughta check out the much more interesting exhibit upstairs!" He leads me up a stairwell which opens into a large high-school type of auditorium. The seats in the back half of the room have been removed, leaving just the floor which is canted upwards towards where my guide and I stand, taking in the action.

It seems as if at least three separate productions are taking place. I recognize a MacBeth (the Weird Sisters are doing their cauldron thing for MacB and Banquo), a Tempest (Caliban is slithering around on the beach) and a Midsummer Night's Dream (poor Bottom is walking around bumping into the scenery). The casts overlap and spill into the audience seating area, and the action continues beyond and behind the "audience" to fill the room. I say "audience" because there's no telling what persons sitting in the chairs are actually there to watch, and which might at any moment pop up to shout "The King hath happily received, MacBeth / The news of thy success!" Instead of trooping "offstage," characters happily hop down from the apron when they're not in the immediate action and take a seat (or sit in someone's lap) and start chowing down popcorn and heckling the performers. I say "offstage" because it shortly becomes clear that there is no offstage. All the world's a stage, and this is the Theater of Hilarious Havoc.

I begin to walk, slowly, amazed, down the middle of the clear area at the rear of the room and try to take it all in.

Just behind where the seating area ends, I spy a woman in an elaborate faery outfit (or is it simply a faery?) playing chess against herself with an oversized board and pieces (perhaps 4' square). She is writing out her moves and announcing them grandly before sliding the pieces about. The moves she is making with the chess set have no evident link to the moves she is writing out and saying aloud.

One of the MacBeth "swordfights" has spilled off the stage and onto the seats. Yes: onto. The combatants trip nimbly about on the tops of the backs of the chairs, swinging away with their claymores and epees (one fellow is brandishing what appears to be an oversized sopresatta). I say "swordfight" because the action bears no more resemblance to actual life-and-death mayhem than the dance-cum-"gangfight" in West Side Story . It's clearly much more about exploring the fun to be had leaping from row to row as the audience members dive out of the way (or reach up and pinch a passing butt cheek) than it is about trying to hack one's opponent limb from limb.

Bottom, on his way from the stage (where he has recently been part of an exuent ) is striding purposefully up the center aisle, evidently keen to procure some popcorn from the cart that is manned by what can only be described as a male centaur is ludicrously shabby drag. However, Bottom runs afoul of the swordplay and has his donkey-head dislodged by the fellow with the sopresatta. This reveals his inner head (some kind of 50's B-movie robot-looking thing) which is in turn dislodged to reveal a human head, which in *it's* turn is knocked loose to head at all.

At this point, I'm about maybe a third of the way into the room and five feet behind the last row of seats. The action is all around me. Bottom, scuffling around on the floor, blindly trying to retrieve and replace at least one of his heads, is helped to his feet by a beheaded Bangquo (he is holding his severed, animate head under one arm and pulls Bottom up with his other). Banquo (roaring "Off with ye! Headless is MY gig!!") spins him around and, kicking Bottom in the, ah...bottom, sends the unfortunate fellow out through an open side door leading out of the room into a hallway.

I decide to get some popcorn (it smells delicious) and settle in for a bit. Banquo waits equably in line behind me and we enjoy the scene. Once we've both procured our snack (the centaur [chewing on a cigar stub: "Call me Babs"] isn't charging for it) , Banquo and I stand side-by-side (as his free hand feeds the mouth on his head) and make commentary on the proceedings.

As a squadron of unidentifiable raffish-looking fellows swing onto the stage on ropes suspended in the wings stage left (slamming into Birnham Wood, which is marching on Dunsinane from stage right), I remember I've left my family downstairs and they're probably wondering what happened to me. (Hmm...I suppose I should wonder, too...) I bid Banquo goodbye (an awkward moment when I try to shake his hand and he's got his head in it) and head back down to the Museum of the Dull.

But -- Great Day in the Morning! I'll be coming back.

This dream is utterly RIPE for re-entry and exploration. It operates on so many levels and is so rife with possibility for learning, scouting and just plain fun that it is worth several excursions just to see all what is there. I already have done dream re-entry, which involves shamanic drumming for 10-15 minutes to go back into the dream and travel deeper into it (I joined the cast of Midsummer's Night and had low tea with Oberon and Titania, among other experiences). But it also begs for sleep-time re-entry, where I'll lie in bed with the lights out and re-imagine the dream as vividly as I can and with as much detail as possible before falling asleep.

More on this dream later...

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Keeping Vigil -- Part IV -- The Fire in My Head

My first drumming lasts 20 minutes or so. I watch the flames move and lick. The capital "I" me begins to fall away and my energy expands and unfolds as I become less myself: the ego relaxes its grip and the essential soul of who I am -- who and what I have always been, and always will be -- comes to the fore. This is the Ur-self, the self that was before there was a flesh named Timothy Duncan McCallum. This is the self that is not identified by its job, or residence, age or nationality. The most purely spirit self -- and in a way, the most human.

After this opening, I set the drum aside and simply sit for a long time. Empty of monkey-mind thoughts, empty of worry, empty of hurry to have anything happen. It is a sweet contentment and I'm aware of it as I rock very slowly and gently forward and back, my hands clasped in front of my knees which are drawn up in the front of me.

I become aware of the idea that my ancestors have kept vigils like this since the first fire. Sit, watch. Tend the fire as it burns. I sense an enfolding support when I consider that I am only the front of a line of McCallums, Chadimas, Cassidys and Schwenkas stretching back into the unseeable distance. The support isn't quite love, not quite approbation or admiration. It is more like: It's Allright, and Welcome to the Fireside, Tim.

For a moment Mr. Ego comes lurching up from where he's been relaxing (thinking about what a fine, fine thing it is to be a self and endlessly self-fascinated with one's selfdom) to say "Oh *SURE*! It's all DANDY! 4000 dead, a City in flames and a War to Come! Just FANTASTI--"

I take a quick, sharp and deep breath, which throws Mr. Ego off balance, wondering if there's something the matter with His Self. As I exhale long and slow, I visualize him sloowwly falling back down to a horizontal position -- and out of the conversation.

I rise to throw more wood onto the fire. In the afternoon I had dragged a number of fallen trees (or large branches shorn off of huge trees by wind or storm) to the side of the fire circle. To create fire-sized pieces I have to break the larger pieces down into manageable lengths. It is hard work, but pleasant to feel the power in my body as it levers branches off of stumps or cracks them over a knee.

As I'm about my work I note the sound of a large jet of some sort passing overheard, headed south. It's low -- on landing approach? Hmm. Stewart Airport in Newburgh? Over the course of the evening, as another and yet another jet passes by on the same course, I eventually figure it must be military transport aircraft, heading to the Air National Guard base at Stewart. My government is already moving its armies around the board -- working logistics out for the invasion of Afghanistan that would come the following month (and then of course, Iraq...and now Iran?). Welcome to the Empire.

Ego's words -- "War to Come!" -- echo in me. But they ping through and find no purchase in me at that moment. I'm seeing now the wisdom in this simple vigil. Sit, watch, listen, tend the fire. Clear the mind, open the heart. Human minds and souls and greeddesperationselfishness create so much agony and so many problems. But the solutions will never be found while the mind is wound up tight, full of hurry sickness, thinking first and foremost of itself, the veil of illusion (what the Hindu or Dharmics call maya) wrapped tightly around the eyes. No: the only way forward out of the maelstrom is to ground myself in the true reality of things, to remember who "I" was before my grandfather was born. Without that essential connection to the greater truth, all my efforts (and anyone's efforts) only take me deeper into the illusion that I am separate from the world around me and the people in it. Away from the unity of all things.

There in the deep woods of the Catskills, the veil fell and I reconnected to the essential source. And began to weep out the week's sorrow, anger and hopelessness.

After a time I felt emptied and purified. Again I drummed, slipping deep into the play of the flames in front of me, catching glimpses of ancestors and friends and loved ones. Down, down into the mandala of fire, each stem and licking tongue of it one of the lashes on the eye of God, peering back into me as I peered into it.

Finally my arm gave out and I wondered how long I'd been drumming, how long I'd been swimming in the flame, how far had Earth spun back towards dawn? A crackling crash in the brush about twenty yards away from me made me jerk my head to the right.

All night long, at well-spaced intervals, I heard animals moving through the underbrush behind me. Judging by the sounds they made and the fact that there were always at least two of them, I had pegged the sounds as deer wandering through on their nocturnal feeds. But this was different. Only one set of sounds, and much larger and not delicate like deer.

I sat for a moment trying to pierce the darkness beyond my firelight but saw nothing. Again the soft, rolling crash of something large moving through the low brush.

I found my flashlight and beamed it over to my right where the sounds continued. As soon as I swung the light towards it, though, the sounds stopped. Whatever it was had frozen. I scanned back and forth a bit with the beam but it didn't penetrate the leafy wall. After a minute or so, I gave up and turned the light off. With that, the sounds began again. I whipped the light over again, thumbing it on -- but of course, whatever it was stopped moving.

Aw hell, then, I said to myself. I shut the light off and left it off as the slow-motion crashing began once again. It was moving in a semi-circle from my right to my rear, being cagey about staying out of range of the firelight. The sounds changed once it was almost directly behind me -- from twig-snapping pops and crackling to a slick-snick of something on stone. I turned, shining the light towards it and was rewarded with the view of a black bear's behind as it climbed up a portion of the rock face. When I hit it with the beam it turned, blinked, and then continued on, disappearing down into a hole in the rocks.

Ahhh, home for the night. Have a nice vigil, two-legs.

I was glad I hadn't brought food.

As I turned back to the fire (noticing it needed to be stoked), my serenity returned, and deepened. I was a child of the universe, after all. Darkness not a threat, alone in the woods not a threat, bears not a threat. Safe in the belly of the world.

I fed the fire, I sang the bear a song, I danced for myself and whoever or whatever was watching -- and then I sat once more and awaited dawn.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Keeping Vigil -- Part III -- Light the Fire

I'm sitting in my office on a Tuesday morning, going over an order with a vendor. She asks, "can you hang on a minute?"

I say sure. She puts me on hold. I'm treated to some bland music. I put her on speaker, and turn to check my e-mail. The sun, streaming in over Queens, is beating on my right shoulder through my window on the 43rd floor. The mind-numbing tunes end and my vendor says

"Do you have a tv in your office?"

"Yeah, sure," I reply.

"Better turn it on. Plane crashed into the World Trade."

I zip down to the 42nd floor conference room and turn on the tv. Other people are already beginning to gather as I rotate the set so it's pointing out the glass wall into the office proper. We all watch the second plane hit and the excited "ohmygod what's going on" buzz dies. A second later I think the world just changed , and a second after that I say it out loud into the general silence.

About half the gathered crowd is now turned to look out the south windows. From our perch on East 53rd we can clearly see both towers smoking away. The view is only too good when the towers come down later that morning.

On the Saturday morning following, I set out for the Catskills from my little cottage in Putnam County (1 hour north of NYC). I knew where I was going, but the physical location was less important than the soul-location I was headed towards.

I intended to sit out overnight, deep in the woods, alone and without shelter or food, and simply tend a campfire. My raw soul and cracked heart yearned for deep quiet, and in sitting out all night, I hoped to make space for my anger and sorrow to manifest -- my spirit was too full of both and heavy with the exhaustion of bearing them since Tuesday the 11th 2001. Just before 9 a.m. on that day, the world had lurched and come to a standstill. I needed to sit out on the land and see if I could feel the Earth turning again.

Several summers prior, I had the happy honor of being best man at my friend E's wedding. Disdaining the traditional stripper-bar bachelor party, he wanted to go camping instead. I scouted some locations, finally settling on a not-too-difficult trail not far from Phoenicia, NY, that was secluded enough that our hooting intoxication would be unlikely to disturb anyone with two legs. E and I headed up the trail fairly early that weekend, intending to locate a campsite that everybody could set up at once they arrived. We were about 75 minutes up the trail when we dropped our packs and bushwhacked off to the left, thinking we had found a likely spot. It turned out to be too small for the four tents we were figuring on, although nicely situated near the edge of a precipice looming over the valley down below. The view was lovely, but inebriated revelry that close to a dropoff such as that was not a wise idea. We went back to our packs and continued up, eventually finding our spot another 45 minutes along.

That September Saturday morning, driving up the New York Thruway, I was thinking about the first spot we'd found. And hoping I could find it again.

I had a late lunch at a diner in Kingston, then headed north until I reached the trailhead. I hauled my pack out of the car. It contained a couple of tarps, a blanket my Grandmother Chadima had made me, about six liters of water, some ritual objects and the means to make fire. To it I strapped my drum and beater and headed up. I recognized the spot immediately, but when I hiked off to the left to find the actual site, I convinced myself I was mistaken and got back on the trail. Ten minutes later, I unconvinced myself of my mistake and turned around. Maybe the light was different (it was later in the summer, after all). Second time, I located the spot near the precipice and, shucking my pack off, stood for a few moments taking the place in. It is a cut into the steep, rocky hillside about 15 yards wide. In front, a forty-foot drop. Perhaps ten yards behind me, the mountain began its ascent again. Secluded, lonely, perfect.

I drank a lot of water and set to gathering wood and stones. Wood for the obvious reason, and stones for making a ring to contain the fire. I guessed it was about five o'clock (I don't wear a watch). When I had a large pile of stones, I found one that spoke to me and made it my cornerstone. I then hunted one down that fit nicely into one side of the cornerstone and mated them together. Then I looked until I found one that fit into the other side of the cornerstone and placed it so. Most of the rocks I was working with were pretty flat, and I continued until I had a full ring about four feet across and maybe three inches high. Again, I looked for a stone that spoke to me and, selecting it, searched for where it fit into the first ring. I continued this process (going out to look for a stone when none that I had gathered seemed to fit in the spot I was working) until I finally had a ring of four or five levels about a foot high, fitted together by intuition and sweat. I drank another liter of water, rubbed citronella oil on my clothes, ears and neck until they burned dully and I hawked and spit at the reek (I'm not a big fan of citronella scent -- but even less a fan of commercial repellents). Then I started to crack branches and logs, either with my bare hands, or by leaning them up against large rocks and leaping on them with all of my 200 pounds (only belatedly wishing for a hatchet). When I was satisfied I had a decent supply of firewood, I sat down, drank more water, and...sat.

With the end of all my activity, it got pretty quiet. The sun was going down behind the ridge behind me and so I was already in shadow, although there was still that gray-blue twi-light. Shadows were soft to non-existent. The day animals were hushed, and the night animals were not yet stirring. I wondered if -- today -- I was a day animal or night animal. I set out a tarp and placed my blanket on top for sitting. I set my drum near the blanket, and an amethyst and a crow feather on the stone ring. I put the fire-makers next to the crow feather, and closed my pack and set it off to the side. The hush was getting oppressive.

Without the weight of media saturation that blankets the senses in the City (only augmented by the rage and muted hysteria of those first post-911 days in NYC) or the do-do-do of my first hours on the mountain, the anger and sadness I'd been hauling around began to well up from inside me.

On September 12th, I'd gotten up around 4:30 a.m. (couldn't sleep) and to my girlfriend's astonishment and annoyance I dressed for work. The trains were running, I could get into Manhattan. And I couldn't bear the thought of a day in front of CNN poking through the rubble, physical and otherwise, the attacks had left. I was in the office early enough to watch the sun rise over Queens and the darkened City. Darkened, but still there -- still alive. I walked the halls of the office -- empty desks...missing persons...the dead...their surviving friends and familymygodmygodmygod I broke down in the kitchen trying to make coffee. I could feel the flood behind the first tears and stifled sobs and couldn't bear to let it out there in the cool sterility of the environment. I cleared my throat and growled violently, forcing the softer emotions down and away.

The lid I'd mostly kept on it all week was now off. And it was coming to swallow me as the night was swallowing the day. I bolted.

Back to the trail I went -- as fast as I could through the brush and stepping over fallen trees and the larger stones. Once I reached the trail I turned right and half-ran down the side of the mountain. Wind rolling down the mountain blew in my ears and I felt more than heard the thud-thud-skip of my boot-shod feet skidding down the trail. I was about a half-mile down the trail -- maybe five minutes' flight -- when I misjudged a footfall in the failing light and took a full-length spill onto my hands and knees, sliding five or ten feet until I lay flopped on my face near a curve in the trail. I felt my belly on the earth, dirt on my hands and cheek. I was quivering with energy, panting out breaths that couldn't seem to fill my lungs. I let out a roar.

fear and fear and frustration and self-pity and sadness for everyone the dead the survivors the living the maimed and soul-burnt and parentless children whose motherfathers were now ash or crawling into the bottle and rage rage and rage for all the reasons those wicked desperate men did what they did to the World Trade to all those people to me the world and the next madness would be worse worse worse I roar I Roar I ROAR I ROAR I ROAR I roar...

I coughed and gasped for breath after the initial wind of it had blown through me. The ragged edge of my breath shook me and my vision swam and came back into me. My dirty hands framed a small patch of earth a foot in front of me that I could only just make out -- my thinking mind came back into myself then and I saw the light and dark had switched places. Where before the shadow was merely stretching across the light in the landscape, the night had now come and daylight was only afterglow -- a pale memory of sunlight. Faded as my courage -- thin as my hope for the world which had stopped turning. I heard a line from a song I knew:

"Every day -- you crawl into the night -- a fallen angel with your wings set alight"*

Get up, lad.

I still can't breathe, but I push myself up a bit and fall sideways from my hands and knees and, twisting, land on my ass.

Get up, man. Get back up that hill and light your fire.

I gather my legs, drawing harsh breaths, shaking sweat from my face, and stand. I brush my wild hair back from my eyes, wipe some leaves and dirt from near my eye.

Light that fire.

The voice, accented in soft Scots burr, gets my legs pumping and I start back up. I feel more than see my way into the gloaming. By the time I've retraced my steps it's close to complete dark, but fortune smiles: at the place I'm to leave the trail there is a fallen tree for a landmark, and there is the glimmer of daylight clinging to that spot as the fallen tree has left a hole in the leaf-canopy for the last shreds of light to penetrate. The hundred-odd yards back to my camp is much slower going, tripping and staggering along through the underbrush. I reach the place, though, and am glad I set out my matches and tinder that afternoon. Locating them by feel on the stone ring, I put the matches in my pocket and blindly snap twigs and make a stack I can light with a match. I wait in the dark for a pause in the night-breeze and strike a match, cupping it carefully. I remember feeling the coolness of the earth under my knees sinking through my jeans into my body as I created heat and light with my hands. The match edge hoves up next to a slender twig and its glow dulls before catching. I find more thin sticks and break them into short lengths and add them as the fire begins to grow.

Soon enough, I have a roaring fire. I have no need of its heat, but its light is most welcome. I push fear back thirty feet to the edge of the glow. Into that circle will come my sadness. I have more than enough to fill the space.

I turn a slow circle, surveying what will become my world for the night. The rock-face behind me will guard my back, the trees all around will keep vigil with me, the valley in front of me yawning open: the future to come. I set my blanket closer to the flames, and sitting, gather my drum to me. My eyes, and ears, hands and drum; night-watch by the fire. Tis enough. Eyes fixed on the flames, I lean in, holding my bodhran** against my chest with my left hand. I bring the tipper up in my right, and begin to drum.

(I will conclude the Keeping Vigil series of posts in part IV -- finishing up the tale of that night on the mountain -- as soon as waking life allows.)

* Afro-Celt Sound System / "When You're Falling" -- yes, I know, those aren't ACSS's actual lyrics -- what, Spirit isn't allowed to improvise? [wry smile]

** A bodhran ("boo-rawn") is a simple frame drum of Celtic design. A tipper is the short stick used to strike the bodhran.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Keeping Vigil part II -- Trial by Fire

All true initiations are solitary trials. Certainly they may occur in a group or social context (from the common such as a Bar Mitzvah to the more extreme example of the Sun Dance), but in the end an initiatory experience is one that not only expands our understanding, but expands our understanding in a way that changes us . And we don't change in groups. We change one at a time, on the inside.

Mentors and guides appear when we need them and when we're ready to hear their teaching. Keep your eyes peeled every day -- you never know what unlikely character may show up with something to impart. These spirit teachers, and friends/relatives will all be sources of information and guidance. As we incorporate the things we learn we begin to walk our lifepaths in new ways -- indeed as we sharpen our vision with the help of those around us, we see our path more clearly (or for the first time [grin]).

But there is a difference between knowledge and knowing. As Morpheus tells Neo in The Matrix : "there is a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path."* Eventually, we have to get our knowledge from our head to our heart -- to get out of thinking about what we believe and into living what we believe.

The Medieval Alchemists called it "The Refiner's Fire." In the exoteric (or open) portion of Alchemical philosophy, the Refiner's Fire was that which would remove the impurities from the substance being worked. In the esoteric (hidden) portion, it was the divine force working upon human fallibility or shortcomings to remove impurity or weakness, leaving behind a more divine essence. In other words, when God wanted to help us get closer to Him, he cooked us [grin]. Leaving Medieval philosophy (and its androcentric deity) aside for a moment, let it be enough to say that in initiation we undergo trials that challenge us to overcome doubt, fear and/or the limits of our physical endurance to reach a state of clarity and higher understanding. Just as importantly, if we meet our trials and overcome their adversity, our clarity and understanding *sticks* to our souls in a way such that we cannot live in a manner contrary to it.

To put it another way, under the pressure of an initiatory trial, things we merely know become things we embody -- deep in our bones -- and after we have passed through the trial, we stand on the Earth with new legs, see the world with new eyes, hear the words of others with new ears, touch those around us with new hands...and speak with a new voice.

This is not to say initiation is a pleasant process -- it usually hasn't been for me. Our trials can take the form of learning to stand up to an overbearing parent / boy-girl-friend / spouse / boss, enduring a time of depression, loss of a job, death of a loved one, or the end of a relationship. Of course, it can also take a form we choose -- vision quest, a large creative undertaking, and so forth. But whether or not we choose it, the initiation truly does not begin to occur until spirit turns up the heat and pressure -- and we have to dig into ourselves for courage and strength in ways we never have before. Frankly, if you don't discover something new deep inside yourself, then I doubt it was an initiatory experience at all. And as I see it, any trial we get through using only our own strength is the pale shadow of initiation. In true initiation, we call on strength from outside ourselves. When we ask spirit for help, we get it, and draw closer in relationship to spirit. To paraphrase a Muslim proverb: "When you take a step towards spirit, spirit takes two steps towards you."

In part III, I'll share a tale of my own trial by fire, and my most important solitary spiritual practice.

* For anyone out there who thinks quoting The Matrix is cheesy, well, just ask me about my Shamanic Interpretation of The Matrix sometime...when you have a free hour or three...[smile]

Keeping Vigil Part I -- Into the Dark

"Into the Dark" (2/15/02)

in my dream
we fill a room
two dozen of us
eight candidates for initiation
and for each of us
two mentors -- proud we have come this far and
hopeful what they've taught us
can take us further tonight
when we will travel alone

we twenty-four open the circle
raise the spirit
fill the room with blessings
soon we eight will have need of that juice
for courage and perseverance and
the sharp edge of intellect
to cut our way through
our mental bindings

we twenty-four sing
we twenty-four dance
we twenty-four gather tight
in collective soul-hug
silent, knowing the moment has come

we divide into eight threes
share a few blessing moments
then part
they to await our hopeful return
we eight to go delving deep
then find our hopeful way back

the house has a back porch and
the back porch perches on a cliff
leading down down to darkness and
silent solitude

we eight gather our packs with last
glances, nods, smiles at
they who readied us for this
then step to the edge
each of us grabbing our own rope
leading down down to darkness and
silent solitude and
stepping off the railing
we rappel down

we eight can spy each other in the blackness
around us for a moment or two as we push off
the wall in front and let the rope play out
between our hands

the darkness grows heavy
near-palpable and
we eight lose sight of each other
as we continue down each of us
into the same canyon below each of us
to our own canyon entire each of us
our own trial our
own path

finally my feet strike the canyon floor
in the dark I didn't see it coming up at me
my eyes begin to adjust to the Stygian black
but it will be some time before I can find my way
find my way forward to
find my way back

I recall one mentor's advice to
Be Fierce
and the other's advice to
Open Your Heart
balancing the two
I step into the dark

Monday, June 19, 2006

Naughty Beasties -- or -- Hold the Boundary

Let's start with an entry from my dream journal:

I'm Not on the Menu ( November, 2002)

(towards the end of an afternoon nap in bed next to my then-girlfriend "K")

I'm coming up out of sleep but get to a certain point close to waking and do not rise any further. I can hear sounds but can't open my eyes. In fact I cannot move my body at all. I become aware of a presence close to my energetic body. It is mature, powerful and neither friendly nor inimical. I'm seeing it as anthropomorphic, featureless and a pure matte black in color. There was no physical sensation but energetically it felt as if it was running its hands over my etheric body, trying to find a way in, a way to get *at* me. I'm not afraid, just annoyed that it's trying to mess with me. I fight to move my body but can't -- not even a flicker of an eyelid. At this point, in a dialog without words, we communicate. It tells me it's not letting me move and I get the impression it's trying to scare me. I respond, essentially, by saying I'm not going to frighten, whatever you are. I may be paralyzed, but *you* can't get in, so f*** off. [pause -- it continues looking for an avenue of sense of being safe does not waver] F*** OFF! At that moment, K moves next to me in her sleep and her arm brushes against mine. The physical contact breaks the paralysis and I come fully awake and move.

I immediately forgot the entire episode (which is why the entry in my dream journal only has the month and not an exact date). It was several weeks later when I read a thread about psychic attack/energetic vampirism in an online forum that the whole memory of it came swimming back -- intensely so: the sensation of the black entity attempting to get *into* me, my sense of safety snug in my energetic shell, and my righteous anger at the attempted intrusion.

One of my mentors and I had a conversation about the whole thing, and he had two main thoughts: 1) the black entity was attached to K and thought perhaps I'd make an interesting/tasty co-host and/or 2) these sorts of beings are part of the larger ecosystem. They live, travel and feed entirely on an energetic plane. The more aware we are of our energetic body and the attachments thereto, the more likely it is that we'll know when somebody/something is trying to get at us. (And, parenthetically, how interesting that I forgot the whole thing until my memory was jogged. Maybe these sorts of entities can induce us to forget their feedings [the way tick's saliva numbs us while it feeds]. Why would a farmer bar the henhouse door if the fox can make him forget his chickens keep disappearing?)

The first suggestion didn't resonate to me. I'd been intimate with K for months by then and if she'd had something like that glommed onto her (or stopping by regularly for an energy snack) I feel like I'd have sensed it. The second idea seemed likeliest. These beasties are out there, and we're part of their food pyramid. It thought maybe it could get lunch, and if it could scare up a side order of paralytic fear, all the better. But I held my boundary/shield, didn't panic, and I either drove it off or it figured I was more trouble than it was worth.

I offer all this up merely to make a few important points. 1) There are Naughty Beasties out there, and they can be genuinely evil in their motivations/actions or merely look upon us the way we (most of us) look at cows: food. We won't meet them on the streets or at the supermarket, but in dreaming we may cross paths with them. 2) If we can't defend our energetic boundaries, they will take advantage of us. Just think: if your personal boundaries are soft or ill-defined, plain ol' people have a field day running roughshod over you. Do you really think a creature that looks at your energetic body and sees a nice warm bowl of soup has better manners than people? 3) Not every naughty beastie you come across is necessarily dangerous. Many put on fearsome masks and lay on the thunder'n'lightning to fool us into being afraid [see my next point] -- but underneath the bluster they're pipsqueaks trying to trick us into giving away our power. [I once dreamt that a man in a business suit {complete with devil-tail hanging out of the back} had me cornered in a dark passageway, looming over me. In an imperious hiss he said "Everyone's soul belongs to someone and *yours* *belongsssss* *to* *meee!*" For a moment I wavered. Then I reached up and tore his suit in two from side-to-side, leaving him standing in stripedy-hilarious long underwear. I then conjured into my hands a six-foot-long wooden spoon and smacked him right in the ass. He shot about four feet straight up into the air and ran off clutching his heiny. Never got a lecture about who holds the title to my soul from him again...] 4) Courage is of paramount importance. Fear undermines our confidence, drags the mind down to an animal fight/flight state, and saps the energy we would use to defend ourselves. 5) When confronted with a potentially scary situation -- call on the Light, or deity or angels or however you conceive the divine. We all have helpers available 24/7, in dreaming and in waking life. They are there but we have to ask for help. They're ready to help. They *want* to help. That's why they're with us! Get your helpers on the scene for support and get righteous with whatever it is that means you harm. And righteous does *not* mean holier-than-thou -- clearly, when I was trying to get the naughty beastie to scarper off, I was expressing my righteous anger by using the f-word. No points for me in the eloquence category, I guess, but full marks for vehemence! And being safe is far more important than etiquette, no?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Eros / Consciousness / Creativity

Eros, as defined by Wikipedia (an awesome online user-created and maintained encyclopedia) has several meanings. In addition to "romantic or sexual love" it means "the desire to create life" -- it "favors productivity and construction" and "battles against the destructive."

Eros love might best be defined as promoting well-being by affirming that which is valuable or beautiful (Thomas Jay Oord).

I've been thinking about Eros a fair amount lately -- most specifically as it pertains to consciousness and the creative principle. Let's define the creative principle as being the crystallization that occurs at the intersection of consciousness and...well, I was about to write "matter and energy" but since old Einstein proved matter and energy are two aspects of the same thing, I'll say it's the "crystallization that occurs at the intersection of consciousness and energy."

Which is to say, consciousness and energy come together to create everything that is.

Which thought leads me directly into mulling how my consciousness helps to create everything that is. Certainly, my consciousness is merely a drop in a vast sea (consider the Sufi advice "Give up yourself, O drop, and gain the ocean!"), and that vast sea surely a mere drop itself in the vast Sea of Seas. Even so... I'm not trying to steer the entire multiverse from here inside my cranium -- but I do not doubt that the energy of my consciousness interacts with everyone and everything with which I come into contact.

The ancient Celts (and those moderns who are in touch with their spiritual roots) saw the world and everything in it -- animate or not -- as alive. As my kinsman and fellow walker between worlds Frank Mac Eowen writes in his poem "The Old Celtic Way of Seeing": The old Celtic way of seeing / is perceiving and relating / to the world / as a matrix / of living energy." Of course the Celts were hardly alone among the ancients in this basic orientation to the world around them.

In opening my mind to this relationship, the entire world takes on the energy of Eros for me. I consider the world around me as the world considers right back at me. An energetic relationship opens and the more conscious I am of it, the stronger the flow becomes. It becomes an erotic relationship. Not sexual per se, but in the give and take of energy it is an erotic, creative act. If a woman sits naked on a bed in her room alone, she is a naked woman on her bed alone in her room. Put someone who appreciates naked women in the room with her, and !zap! the energy begins to flow. There's no flow until there's someone else in the room. The energy has to travel -- it's not alive and therefore useful until it moves (just like electrical current in a circuit). Without flow, there is no life.

If I consider the world, its stones and streams as inanimate, I am cut off from it. If I look at a tree and see firewood*, or consider birds only when I find their poop on my car's hood, I am divorced from the world. If I disregard the other animals in my neighborhood (skunks, coyotes, deer, bears, possums, foxes and otters to name a very few) then I am living in a world bled of its riches. Consider the poverty of life experienced by zoo animals. Depressing, no? And it is a short, short step from ignoring all this to opting out of any meaningful relationship to the people around me. When all the world's just a resource to be exploited or an annoyance to be shut out, well the people in it become commodities and/or irritants.

No -- to be truly alive is to be aware of all my surroundings and of the creatures therein. True riches are everywhere around me, if I know how to look. To paraphrase the movie "The Abyss": "you have to look with better eyes."

As all that exists is created in observing and being observed, all existence and being consists of an act that is inherently erotic. When we shift our consciousness out of the overstimulated yet mundane world of so-called modern culture and look with the same eyes our ancestors used, we become adepts of erotic consciousness -- lovers of the world and those in it. We become co-creators instead of consumers -- acting in true relationship to the world and those around us, acting in a collaborative way to literally make and re-make the world -- active and not passive: getting into the juice and coming alive instead of letting life happen to us. We move back into our true place in creation -- the place in which we were created to be, in right relation to the world and each other; we return to a place of equilibrium. And as much illness -- physical and psychological -- is created by imbalance, we are healthier for it. And so is the world.

* (with regard to seeing trees as nothing more than firewood) Don't get me wrong: we need to be warm when it's cold outside -- I'm going to spend the weekend felling some trees and making firewood for the Winter. But I'll be keenly aware of the life I'm taking and humbled thereby, which is to say conscious about it.