is a corridor
in my catalog of skillful means
So far, to recap:
- Death as an ally
- Unclinching, lightness of being
- A high level of unbotheredness about everyday things and clarity about reactive attachments and external opinion
Living more vividly
Time and time again I get fed up to the max with the mundane. With mediocrity in myself and my world. Lately, I often find I’ve muddled through a perfectly good day. As if I were killing time. Being too sensitive to slight variations in mood or energy and reading them as disincentives to engage in the myriad of pursuits available to me. I also second-think, become distracted and continually discount the beauty of flow in engaging with tasks that, while they may not seem of deep mystical significance, are nevertheless invitations to engage the day and potentiate my time. As nerdy as they may appear, and I’m really judging this from somewhere allegedly more “cool” … these avenues of discovery, learning and exploration are as valid and lead as deeply into the fabric of the world as anything more ostensibly “spiritual.” Know one thing to know all things as a sage once remarked.
So the skillful means here is to engage totally with what I am pursuing without, at least during the course of the day, sidetracking or second-guessing its relevance to the bigger picture. The bigger picture is to live vividly and with flow. Not waiting to be gob smacked by some metaphysical lotto of privileged experience.
I’ve relocated mentally and physically many times in this life. And while I believe, and have confirmed, that wherever we go, there we are; that it’s not so much the location —it’s what we bring with us (or what we leave behind)— there is still value in a locale to elicit dormant capabilities and insights. Be this locale an altered state, a different country, a physical practice or just an excursion beyond the comfort zone.
But there has always been a bordertown on the fringes of consciousness that attracts me like no other. Sometimes it seems I have a whole life there I have forgotten. People I know and things I’ve done that will not be ignored, for long. It’s more home to me in many ways than whatever this place is now where I spend most of my time. The “wall” that’s being politicized currently is an interesting metaphor on how we think we should isolate ourselves from these unruly aspects of being. And where our borders should properly be constructed.
There are several ways to get to bordertown. Dreaming is a big one. And it’s where I often encounter this whole sense of another life I’m living in parallel. But its most powerful aspect is as an overlay, a dimension of this reality. Chroma. And it encourages living a little sideways from the consensual. Through magic, through intent. But most directly through taking a bit of time during the day to sink into the mind and open, with intent, to other ways of touching the world; unfolding an array of internal senses that are feeble in the light and atrophied with neglect. But which show a nuance to reality that enriches the fabric of existence.
Mortality, for example. I’m suspicious of this one. A part of me has absolutely no problem with it however it turns out. Blink out of existence, then who is to worry? Continues? Enjoy the adventure. Why worry either way? I have zero concern about whether or not I’ve adhered properly to some religious doctrine. And zero motivation to leave any sort of legacy or regard to how I might be remembered.
Another part of me is suspicious that previous part might be in denial. Suppressing fear or anxiety by disassociation of outcomes. Yet another part questions the suspicious part with, “so what is your suggestion? worry about it until the inevitable happens anyway? Appreciate the moments?” The appreciation and gratitude strikes a chord. It resonates authentically. And the inevitable breakdown, I’d like to do that with grace. And I’d like it to be a short transition. I’d like to keep my bearings if the adventure continues. And I think it will. That resonates as well.
This leaves me with the recognition that this ending stuff might be huge. That if I carry on oblivious to what’s coming, I might miss some real opportunities and squander a lot of precious resources on things that don’t matter. As long as I can keep the horizon of death in view, it can be a tremendous ally. And as with life so far, I also like to look down the road for clues on how best to prepare. Not to the extent of sacrificing today for tomorrow, but for investing in skills that are handy across contexts.
The skills I think most important here and now, from this vantage, are for one: the ability to let go. I have this baseline of tension that seems to run quite deep. I think it’s built on a bedrock of layers and layers of protective insulation where protection was freezing parts of my being, making pieces rigid to resist impact and hanging on tightly to things I didn’t want to lose or have stolen from my soul. It was building a little fortress to secure a foothold in the world.
To let go of this is to sink in order to fly. In its most physical sense, this is relaxation. In the mind, lightness of being.
The next skillful action, number two: is learning how to sink without panic. Sinking is accepting whatever I am feeling and thinking without trying to “should” it or change it or judging myself for the feeling or thought’s unbidden arising. To start understanding through this the reality of impermanence. Of the temporal nature of selves.
The third skillful means: is to question and review some very old and very deep ways I’ve been contracted to think and feel. By circumstances of my culture and my timeline in evolution. Ways parts of myself have been programmed and how best to leverage parts of myself that are free to help wake up.
Concretely, this means questioning very basic assumptions like: is there any reason to feel upset about anything? How is that useful? And this doesn’t mean trying to be coldly logical about everything, it means questioning how feeling bad, which is certainly not my preference, is used in ways usually not in my best interest. To research what agenda these feelings serve. Because in any given scenario I act more resourcefully without these “triggers.” And I do not subscribe to the belief that we need to be punished, or punish ourselves, in order to behave or be motivated to do good. I have a moral compass without this, thank you. No one has bound me, I want to sustain the realization that I am already free.
And other sundry thoughts…
a little era
Bathtub reading: The Demon’s Sermons on the Martial Arts. A graphic novel of an old classic.
Riffing with the laws of Newtonian physics through code. Physics of motion in particular, functions of forces at play. Studying equations through immersive programming. Ultra casual games and eye mesmers are the theme. Also, novel insights and elicited potentials. Maybe sneaking bits onto facebook’s instant game platform. In the meantime, populating outposts that circumvent the big app stores on clipper ships of emerging tech called Progressive Web Apps; installs on devices’ home screens directly from an indie page.
Attempting to synthesize the sound of a water drop. Or something of a similar signature. Studying its form in sound through the spectral lenses of frequencies and time. The last time I did this was with crickets. And with throat singing. Long overdue, I love the kaleidoscopic microscope of visual FFT. And sculpting waves.
Collaborating on a mobile application for the hearing impaired, which works across mesh networks. These are created ad hoc, in small groups, and spurn reliance on upstream “providers” and infrastructure for peer communications.
Regimes of microdosing and nootropics. And developing practices to open communication channels with the inland sea of subconscious, perhaps the deeps beyond. There are other things on my mind, but I haven’t posted in a bit. And Hogwarts is back in session, winter break is over, witches.
“The moment I found out magic was real. That was the moment that I discovered who I am.”
-Magicians. Season 4, Episode 1
- I enjoy flow more than happiness. Flow has a very specific meaning, a task that’s appropriately challenging, employing skills I enjoy mastering and the activity absorbs my attention in an enriching way. Sometimes this may be learning just the right difficulty of material.
- The less I like people, in particular, the more I seem to like them in general. There’s probably a section in the DSM-5 about this… that recommends strong pharmaceuticals and adult supervision.
- Meditation keeps me sane.
- My posture reflects my state of mind and my metaphysical status of alignment, presence, connection, sinking, expansion, confidence, and relaxation. It’s a physical koan I puzzle on during waking. My stance in the world is always changing and it’s my anchor into the now and portal into my psyche.
- My conscious awareness is but a fraction of being; learning to communicate with the larger field is part of my life purpose.
- There is nothing missing in our lives except the imaginary pieces in cookie cutter shapes of our acculturation. To be content is the greatest wealth imaginable.
- Preventing a creeping numbness of being requires my constant vigilance. Sometimes I feel like I’m passed out on the floor and something keeps shaking me awake saying “Don’t sleep! Don’t sleep!”
- Most of what I write is superficial drivel but it helps my process.
- It’s a far greater stretch to posit an imaginary world outside our head, that we can never know, other than its reconstruction through senses relaying data to the inside of our heads … than to just go ahead and admit that it’s all in our heads in the first place and realize our heads may be bigger than we think. Or rather, our heads exist in a continuum of consciousness much larger than our local eddies of identity. But it’s all the same stuff man.
- I agree and support the construct of gender fluidity, we are evolving, that is our nature, I see it as a springboard, not a stopping point of identity. Polarity is a system of propulsion. Hegel cinches this.
- “Blood is thicker than water”, is a biological construct at work deep in our evolutionary brain, telling us our genes are more important than others, thus we should sacrifice our higher faculties, common sense and true feelings to protect its propagation. But in fact, “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.” as quoted and noticed by Richard Bach in Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah …and recognized by many others before and since.
- Many things tend to stay in the same place. My room doesn’t re-arrange itself while I’m sleeping. The streets outside my door usually head off in the same directions. But magic has to be rediscovered anew each day. It’s seldom in the same place. But it’s worth finding, and seeking it out in most mundane of circumstances develops … abilities.
I inventory this moment
niggling irritants like transient itches
the lay this day feels stodgy with vectors
finding excursion within
“…the ability to return voluntarily on a regular basis to that deepest level of reality – the Tao – as if it were a rejuvenating spiritually scented bubble bath.”
I slip out of mind
somewhere near the heart
in the corridor of breath
anchors below, infinity above
the sides expand embracing
a space in the between
exploring an unfolding
deep familiar longing
sinking further down into
tinged now with anger
slicing at every clinging
cord fastening, securing
of that floating island of garbage and tinsel
slum dreams of hope
no spiritual bubble baths here
the mind doesn’t fanthom
found in the body
disposable debris of thought
A whiff of rosemary to clear the mind. My coffee cup, like lifting a barbell, solid enough to serve as a makeshift weapon should zombies pour over the windowsill next to my desk. Music I’ve never heard flows from tabletop speakers, a compilation somebody made for “Sunday Afternoons” and the first track playing is from Pink Floyd’s album: Endless River.
It’s the third day of the new sleep schedule. Lights out at 11pm. Lights on: whenever. Ten to twelve hours so far, catching up from the trip, perhaps. Or sullen protest to the new regime. Slowly waking up to dream recall, but still missing many an opportunity to record due to laziness and their memories evaporate.
Recently beginning to appreciate the connection between things. Which, at first, I thought only applied to external reality. However, while trying to gain more lucidity in dreams, it appears one must gain more lucidity during the day as well. Dreams are part of the fabric of life. Conversely, I realize, the importance of dreaming more while awake. The conscious mind lives so superficially. A small boy on the corner with a dog. A conscious mind notices just that. Meanwhile, in a larger plane of awareness, which encompasses consciousness but not vice versa, there exists a fabric, rather than a thread, of perceptions. The sad look in the eyes of the dog, the holes in the sweater, the shy fingers poking through and playing with frayed fabric, the red mottled with Rorschach stains, the memories evoked unfold in wisps and strands of unnameable feeling fragments.
Another whiff of rosemary. An interval of quietude within and areas of body checking in. Not with problems or discomfort but with a pleasant fullness, relaxedness that usually comes with a good stretch. I am grateful for this and thankful. It will not always be so.
An old man at the restaurant keeps staring at me. Maybe in his late 80’s, early 90’s. Finally, I looked up and held his gaze, smiled and nodded hello. His eyes sparkled. Clear, vividly present, in a manner. He was slight of frame, his pants were too loose, working down a bit in his chair. He wore a soft flannel shirt and directed a stream of rolling mumbles towards me, animated. I caught something about “where are you from” and answered, “Colorado. How about yourself?”
He continued to talk in long rounded, subaudible mumbles, I could barely pick out a word or two. I scooted a little closer and tried to make conversation, asking him about his cane. It had an interesting grain. He was a bit hard of hearing too, so I repeated it louder. He started in on an exposition of its qualities, origin, utility…I think. I caught no words this time. But he seemed to enjoy talking to me, so I decided there was more than one way to have a conversation and smiled, giving him my full attention, just being there with him in the moment as company.
His companion, an older lady, but a decade or so younger than him, got up to pay and he got up to come over to our table, continuing the thread. As he got close to my chair, I apologized, confessing I was having trouble hearing him well due to the noise in the restaurant. His companion approached and helped him pull his pants up high, fixing his shirt. She too was hyper-aware, of his condition, of things going on around them and told me it’s not just that he’s hard to hear and mumbles but that he jumbles words as well. She was from Poland.
While she was explaining and he was talking I noticed he was very aware of Rumiko’s hat that she had hung on a corner of the empty chair he stood at, and was very careful not to bump it or disturb it. I wished them well as they left. Wondering what all he said, but feeling we had a nice conversation, of sorts.
Later, we wandered back home, through street stalls set up with curious wares for Easter. One with a lady from Syria, who looked like she had a lot on her mind, selling sweets and baklava. Another stall run by a happy fellow, not from Ecuador I think, maybe Peru, selling a variety of stones and crystals, little stuffed dolls of witches riding broomsticks and stirring cauldrons and crucifixes of Christ with the words I.N.R.I. engraved.
One booth had samples of coffee. As I sipped, I received a detailed explanation of the magical properties of this elixir. This time the problem wasn’t hearing, but my still rudimentary grasp of the language. It was organic, healthy, had amazing healing properties, you could make just adding hot water or milk, maybe a little sugar. But you needed a monkey. Or something like that. In any case, I dreamed I purchased 4 bags (they are kinda small) last night, so on the way to lunch today I need to make a stop.
It’s 2:26pm and I’m still in my pajamas. Dinner out with friends last night, ate something sketchy, many trips to toilet subsequent. Was planning to fast tonight, from 6pm to 6pm tomorrow. Decided just to start early, counting from 9pm last night. There’s a little girl, lives down the hall from us. Never knew much of her story, but today the ambulance came for her Mom who has stage 4 cancer. The Mom who adopted her, the one with the cancer, is living here with the girl’s biological mom and they are all staying for two months. They cook a lot in their apartment, and we usually smell garlicky-butter goodness as we pass their door coming back from our roundabouts downtown. Other people living here are more mysterious. One couple lived for a while in the apartment next door. He played the flute everyday outside his front door; his wife approached me one day, having forgotten where she lived, saying she had to return a sweater to me. But it was her husbands. She had my name right, which was odd, as it wasn’t the same as her husbands. The sweater was her husband’s though. The architects from France all moved out, when the money dried up for the tram construction. The money is back now, but they haven’t returned.
The tram work is now right outside our window. They work unpredictable hours. Sometimes at 3 in the morning. A lot of manual labor. One day, after a heavy rain, a worker was bailing water out of a deep trench with a can the size of a drinking glass. Took him several hours.
Guayaquil is a dangerous place, we keep hearing. We have become recently acquainted with a couple living there. They are Japanese, have a young son and live in a gated community. But the wife is fearful. She heard from a teacher, a neighbor, that two children were found last week dead, their eyes and organs removed. They suspect gangs. I searched the online newspapers, in Spanish, but she was right, nothing was reported. Just the high profile case about the two girls from Argentina. We have no plans to visit, either Guayaquil or Quito except maybe the airports.
Each night I’ve been going out to the central park, two blocks from here to sit on a bench and smoke a single cigarette. After years of smoking, quiting, switching to vapes, stopping, smoking only on vacation, etc. I decided that for now, I enjoy smoking, but my body is less resilient than it once was, so I limit it to one a day. Five days of the week. Go through about a pack a month. On the bench I watch people. Some are friendly, we greet each other. One guy I walk past on the way, usually standing outside his restaurant, has started to holler “Hola familia!” I replied “Trabajando duro!” last night, which is like “working hard!” But he’s really not. But he kind of is, standing out there all the time…
A lot of making out goes on in the park. Young couples without privacy at home, with no car. Some break dancing over under the pavilion. Many nights the pavilion is taken over by the police band, who come to practice. I’m pretty sure. But they get scattered applause after each set, even with several wonky notes. Occasionally the big red tourista bus pulls up, double decker, open seating on the top, a smattering of people disembarking. Sometimes I can see the moon in the Andean skies which are usually overcast at night.
Miko’s operation for removing her cataracts went seamlessly. We had both done at once. I guess that’s not the usual procedure, but they accommodated our request on the fly (we thought we were having both done, they had assumed we were doing one then another a week later, as is the norm.) She’s enjoying her new vision, unfettered by glasses and contacts. Her eyes are still converging for distance sight, we have an appointment in a couple of weeks when it should be stabilized but so far she’s happy with the results.
Spanish classes, intermediate now, are in full swing again. And other than accidentally calling the teacher a monkey, our progress continues.
Yesterday(?) was the Spring equinox and Miko made an interesting observation that here it’s always equinox. The sun rises and sets the same time everyday on the equator with very little variation. Which gave me that kind of “aha!” moment. And I started thinking about cycles and how they influence life and perhaps escape from the problematic ones depend on where our vantage points lie. And some recent experiments that seem to shift my linear perceptions a bit into more spatial ones when I move my “awareness-from” down to my heart or below my belly button… and then my philosophy circuits switched back offline…
I’ve been experimenting with new types of fruit and posting the logs on facebook, so I won’t repeat it here. Wasn’t sure I was going to publish this or not, but it’s been a while…
Well Miko left for Paraguay on Wednesday and I’ve been left to my own devices for a bit. I’ve mostly been staying out of trouble. As far as you know.
Walking back from an expedition to pick up some sausage for some beans and franks (had a craving) I got something that says it’s bratwurst but looks like an anemic hot-dog and I’m not sure whether to cook it or not, but all that aside, and back to the story. I passed back through the Plaza de Flores to smell the flowers. It’s like walking through a botanical garden. The plaza is in front of a monastery of cloistered Carmelite nuns called the Carmen de la Asunción. There’s a small doorway where they sell this mythical drink called “agua de pitimas” which shocked me that I actually understood it to mean water of a little more, from the native Kichwa term “piti” which means little. I knew those classes would come in handy some day.
So I paid my 50 cents, which goes to the nuns, “dulce or sin dulce?” he asked. “Dulce, por supuesto, gracias.” I couldn’t tell what all was in there… lemon verbena, chamomile, rose water…but it did make my head feel kind of funny. Probably the sugar.