Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Glimpse of a Stranger

I had just turned the corner, leaving the humid bathroom to billow steam in my wake, and I took another few steps, passing the short wall between the bedroom and kitchen. It was there, on the paneled gray wall of my bedroom, that I first glimpsed the stranger. She was naked and glistening, as through a towel had not fulfilled its duty. Small beads of water clung to the ends of her curling brown hair, they stayed on the tips, threatening to drop, threatening a free fall at any minute and a plunge to the linoleum below, but they never seemed to release their hold. In the long rectangular mirror that affixed itself to the wall like an open window to another realm, I saw a stranger.
I had almost missed her, I had passed by quickly, barely making eye contact, but in those brief, almost incalculable moments, I witnessed a stranger in my home, and I returned to the window. They were eyes I have never seen. Droopy and slightly sad…how long had she been crying? After a momentary glance, I almost remembered a girl like this, where had I seen her? Was it the same skinny, long face? No, it couldn’t be, this one’s much more pale. Isn’t this the girl with a collection of eccentric clothes that spill from her closet like oozing rainbows? No, it can’t be, this girl is too thin, the clothes would hang from her like unkempt rags on a maypole. Maybe it’s the same girl that lives in a converted garage, in the small space that has turned a Korean family into landlords. Maybe she listens to the sounds above, to the ever-present noises of their life…to their booming TV, always in the midst of an action film, to their garage door opening as someone backs the minivan down the driveway, leaving to purchase more of life’s material essentials. Is it her?
If I stretch my mind like an unbaked pretzel, I can almost remember a time when we might have been friends, perhaps even shared the same warm bed and soft lover. But his person… there is nothing familiar in her almond shaped eyes. Her pale lips are nearly invisible among the angles of her face...she looks so sad. Has she always been like this?
Is this stranger always at my side? Driving with me to the supermarket on dark, cloud-filled nights, grabbing a fistful of Kleenex while tears escape like convicts in a jailbreak or laughing with me after a long session of love making…am I this stranger? She is in my home, but could this, in fact, be her home? Who is the stranger? Who is the one thinking? Which one of us is writing? Which one of us is gazing at the stranger…her or me? Could we be the same?
I have her dreams and curse her parents. I know the names of her long-lost friends that never call, memories of working at Baskin Robbins and laughing at a coworker who collected calculators. Why do I think I know this person? I share her memories, but, who is she? Her eyes are slightly wide in alarm, her face betrays her fear. Is she dead, or struggling within a rock? A rock that has all the illusions of life, a life submerged in hard soil and buried beneath a condo complex, but yet, she can look out her window and see rain.
The stranger grabs a lipstick from the bathroom, she puts a thick coating on her lips. She rubs a little pink blush on her face, like an out of focus image whose lines begin to merge into shapes, the stranger begins to fade. Now, she is a little more familiar. But is the stranger gone? Or just buried a little deeper in the soil? Another mask hides the inconvenient truth, another masks hides the pain of reality. Do you want to accept the illusion or face the fact?
You are an illusion. I AM an illusion. I am a stranger. You are a stranger. I coat it with makeup and clothes, with stories and memories and hopes and desires, but I am living within the body of a stranger. Shall I become a part of the circus, forgetting my character, forgetting that I am confined within a rock that keeps a thousand chains around my neck, holding my heart captive? And yet, I think I can drive anywhere. I think the ability to take a plane ride makes me free.
The lipstick is another layer of delusion, a way to comfort the discomfort when confronted by the stranger. A stranger that leaks out of every pore, every open hole, every fleck of brown within the iris. You can see it. That stranger is here, now. Right in front, naked and tattooed, a skeleton with breasts that moves as the earth turns, every second, but does not feel a thing. She does not feel it all shifting, she does not know that it all stays the same. She knows nothing, and she stares at herself, wide eyed and scared.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rising Demons

The demons are playing in the pools again, the abandoned waters where many children have drowned. They are long neglected waters, growing algae and fungus, a heavenly breeding ground for tadpoles and mosquitoes that feast on dead skin and coagulated blood. And, unlike swimming pools that have boundaries defined by concrete and steps and diving boards, these waters are uncontained. They are endless, stretching north and south, starting at my feet and plunging beyond my imagination. Beyond the voyages of Jacques Cousteau, higher than the furthest solar system. They are depths beyond measurement. They are heights beyond calculation. The pools are all I see, and even more clear than the black waters are the open mouths that just barely peak over the water line. The waters they lurk in are as thick as molasses, made even thicker by the ink of my fear. Purple flowers dot the murk, their presence in the blackness is a lifeline between despair and the memories of work, a glimmer of the beauty that can emerge from death. But most of the time, I cannot see the blooms, they are hidden by other life forms that are not so forgiving. They are the demons who feed on my sweat. Their long, nimble tongues miss my clit and instead, gather the salty drops of my fear. Their feeding does not release me from the trembling or worry, they allow me to reel, allow me to cry; they play with my pain like maniacal children in a park of carcasses and chewed bones. They like the taste of my tears, like cheap wine mixed paranoia and salted with tears. These are winos of the highest order. Boozers and drunks. Pure addicts. They cannot live without my doubts. Without my anxiety, they shrivel like vampires in the sun, only unlike the undead, their death is not eternal. Their ashes may drift in the wind, sometimes for days, other times for a few fleeting seconds, but no matter where the current has taken them, they can smell me in the air. In Paris, blowing across the steps of the Louvre or perhaps in the middle of the sea, cavorting with whales and mermaids; no matter how far away, they are triggered by my stumble. They smell my salt and the sudden rush of darkness that wrestles anything else to the ground. My altered mind, my anxious heart…they come running. Within the time it takes to blink, their forms coalesce once again. Quick and hard, their dark mouths take shape. Like a flash of brilliant lighting, something moves within them, giving life to their ghastly forms. They wait silently at my heels for a time, within the first moments of my fall, they wait patiently like a puppy learning to beg, waiting for the scraps of its master. But then, as the seconds pass and I begin to fall further into the pit, they start to nibble at my heels. They lick my toes in small circular patterns. Sometimes there are just a few, other times, dozens, each vying for a feast of my despair. And as the first tear falls, they are climbing up my calves like skilled mountaineers, scratching the smooth skin of my toes with sharpened nails and small metal tools. There is plenty for all. Each angry beat of my heart moves into an open mouth, each salty drop slides across their tongues like delicious nectar from a flowing well. They are ravenous, but always patient. My blood is never enough, but when the waters within are still, they don’t cry out. They wait, silently, always alert, always ready to come to my heels, to come to my cries, and delight in the earthly splendor of my recurrent pain.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Brush With Real Contact

Nuuuutthhhhiiiinnnnggg eeeehhhhveeeerrrr haaaassssss haaapeeeened. I pronounced each word with extreme intent. Longer, more thorough syllables than I had ever spoken, never had I focused on the journey of sounds, so subtle and overlooked. Like the beautiful mountain I can see looming over me outside my bedroom window, yet I never really see it. I don’t notice it because its always there, there’s no novelty in its large, booming form and its shrub covered face never seems to change, so close every day, its enormity escapes me. And these words, the thousands of words I speak every day, I have never before paid attention to their short lives…from beginning to end. They are born, cease, and then are born again, every time I wiggle my tongue and shape my lips.
Even now, as I can hardly speak, my voice taken by germs, I move my mouth in the shape of their expected form. Barely a whisper, Nuuuutthhhhiiiinnnnggg eeeehhhhveeeerrrr wiiiilllllll haaapeeeen. My soft pink tongue, barely used in the past couple of days, presses against the wet roof of my mouth, in the space right behind my top teeth. A deep breath moves inside my lungs as the almost imagined sound of the "ugghh" mounts and then, the finale, my tongue finds itself between the space of my upper and lower jaw, right below my front teeth, disturbing the outward flow of air and producing a subtle hissing sound. It all ends in the back of my throat, as the thickest part of my tongue reaches up and makes soft contact with the space at the back of my mouth. I feel it all…as long as I keep noticing, as long as the tenuous thread of my attention moves seamlessly though the center of each word.
With each second of claimed attention, the light between us shifts. Sometimes, a slight haze creeps between us, in the tangible space that only my attention can bring forth in this small house. To my amazement, my absent voice is not missed. Because of its absence, I have become clearer in intent and with this, there is a space for him to come. Like a slow moving spiral, each inflection and shift of my tongue brings him closer. His two dimensional picture emanates light from behind his head. Radiant yellow lifts his image off the page and, slowly, ever so slowly, it appears that we are here, together, face to face, eye to eye, in clear contact. And then, sometimes, he retreats…then, comes forward, like a game of catch, where the ball is my attention, and maybe his. Then…waves of violet blue, mostly hazy, but distinct clouds that spring from his face. Last night, his face became a bumpy, pebbled surface, so strange, so strong, I felt myself recoil.
In my mind, I hear the words. I think them, I feel them, I imagine their shape and implications. In my mind’s eye, I see blackness…a circle of blackness like an enormous pool filled with even darker water. Is he but a drop? Is he all of them? One? Do I speak to them all now? Is it all of them that rush to my words and attention, ready to meet me as far as my body will allow? I vaguely see their forms, shapeless and as colorful as ghosts, manifest in a reality I cannot remember. With colors and light, he is not he, he is more than one. He is something else, a drop of water spat back into the eternal ocean. A breath inhaled, then exhaled, sent into the atmosphere, into a realm of colors that my eyes can see only sometimes.
I am sitting, my ass pressed into a hard wooden chair, yet I am floating, tethered, yet somewhere above this little white body. But perhaps I am here, in this garage, without a body, without this tongue that still rolls in its attempt at syllables, and as I feel the shift, I focus on the words more intently. They are my map, my guide and my ropes.
I look at this picture, at a man that is my grandfather, yet never was. A man of my DNA, a being set adrift. And within his body, within the grandfather I never knew as a man, is a being that is me. A being that is you. In the middle of the night, he told me he was leaving. In the deep hours of darkness, he woke me from sleep with a punch to my heart and I knew, in the calm certainty of the half conscious, that he had left his body. While his machine began to decompose under a thick pile of dirt, the Being hovered around us. The space above the coffin became blurry and misty and clouded my vision and swirled like heat rays off of black pavement. I traveled to be close.
And when my mind wanders, as I read the prayer…as I perpetually criticize my current life and plan my next meal, I feel him drift from me. The light between us is nothing but the florescent hue from my continuously buzzing lamp. I am talking to a photo, a photo of a man who looks slightly insane, with bulging eyes, one slightly larger than the other.
And the moment I realize my fall, the second I begin to concentrate on the movement of my tongue, on the sounds of the words, on the meaning of the sentences and his eyes staring at mine, then the being reemerges. It comes back with the force of a strong wind, like a burst of colored light that waited for me to receive its return. It is there, for me. It is here, for me. Here…yet needing my attention. Here…yet invisible until I really look. Here…yet waiting for my heart to open. Here…needing the life of my breath. Here…as a gift. You meet me where I am. You are here when I am here, absent when my mind is elsewhere. While my armor was down, weakened by coughing fits and diseased lungs, we met. We met here. The same as always. Here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Book

I sat back on the bed, reclining more fully into the arm that held me up. It was late morning and the light filtering in through the blinds of the small rectangular window was soft with the promise of a sun filled day. I had just realized something very large and a sense of awe had come over me akin to looking up at the star filled night sky and sensing the enormity of it all and my very small place within it. My words were stolen with the impact of the realization.
"Everything we know about Jesus comes from the book. There are no other sources that verify his existence."
I saw the bloody bodies on the path made by the crusaders. I saw the witches burning and the missionaries in the tropics. I saw the abortion clinics in flames and men strapping bombs to their chests. All of this, and so much more…all starting with a book. The written words of scribes cast two thousand years ago.
The planet we live on, amongst countless stars and endless phenomena, is the source of many questions. Why does the moon cover the sun in a total eclipse? Why does the earth sometimes shake and why did my sister die under piles of broken bricks and mortar? Why does the sun come back every morning?
Humans need a reason for the mystery, an explanation for the unseen. The answer most often given is God…God’s will that decided it, God’s will that made it happen. God is the answer to the unknowable. The answer to the questions that burn and consume. Without an answer, the enormity of the Universe is lonesome.
The mechanical impulses of birth, copulation and death are too gray and stark. Humans need a reason. A reason to be good, a reason to be clean, a reason to exist; otherwise, what is the point of the suffering? The supposed word of God has been used as a foundation for all endeavors.
Circumcise your males…because God wills it. Bury your dead in three days, because God wills it. Abandon your olive groves and pyramids… because the real God wills it. Vote for this man… because God wills it. And always, it is the masses following the words of the few.
The ancient rabbis were considered to be the most educated among all the people, and perhaps they were. They used the idea of God, the threat of God’s wrath, to control large masses of illiterate peasants. Judaism has over 400 rules of hygiene and all of it is directly practiced and enforced under the permanent threat of the fearsome wrath of God.
In the United States, there is a huge political force of Christian fundamentalists who do as they’re told. They follow the word of their preachers who are supposed to be in direct contact with God. They follow an ancient book written for a distant time and a different people.
The believers follow the interpretations of rabbis and priests, but it is still a book. Is there direct experience with something like God? Is there real evidence in their lives of the promises that the Bible prescribes? Religion is a set of dead answers to living questions. They provide the comfort we seek, the final death to our sense of yearning and the hope of a clear explanation to all the mysteries of the Universe. The word is considered absolute, the modern interpretation easily molded to fit into specific current ideology.
We do not ask for faith. We ask for an open heart to experience the Absolute without interpretation or ancient dogma. We do not want to believe. We do not want to have dead answers, we want to drink deeply of the living questions.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Ship and its Maintenance

The ship is afloat upon a buoyant ocean. In a thousand points around it, the sea rises into small sharp peaks with white foamed caps and then falls back suddenly into the dark blue mass that extends endlessly in all directions. The ship is large and elegant, shaped in a style from the eighteen hundreds, with a wooden hull and white sails which are presently full and heaving with the soft wind. In the air is the sound of muted thumping which comes from the subtle beating of the wind on the thick woven canvas. Taught ropes come from every direction, attaching the mizzen to the main mast to the foremast.
There are a few people aboard, a captain and his crew. In the captain’s quarters, there are piles of maps and charts for the stars. He knows his way well and when he talks, one eye is always on the horizon. This ship is afloat, upon the conglomerated mass of fish below the surface, above the worlds of kelp and deep sea canyons and mountains. But the vessel is not resigned to move only upon water, it has the capacity (when the moment is ripe) to sprout tiny wings from the main mast. Then it can venture into the vast atmosphere above, unconstrained by the laws of gravity. The wings have shown themselves only occasionally, seldom enough that some of the travelers often forget their ability to fly. They wait invisibly for the precise conditions to arrive, when every passenger is ready to be transported to another place above the clouds.
For the ship to stay afloat upon the choppy sea and voyage to the intended direction, all parts of it must be in working order. The sails must be patched and free of holes, the hull and the floorboards must be sealed and polished. Before they can fly, they must do the bare minimum and stay afloat and, sometimes, even this is hard for the small crew. This ship requires continuous attention and more so, continuous ambiguity. It sails among pirates and sharks, it moves past hostile lands fearful of foreign voyagers and upon an ocean ready to swallow the vulnerable without a drop of regret.
The crew have figured out a small weapon, a way to remain invisible even though they travel through the day and the night. A simple secret passed down through many generations, they have learned to keep silent. They keep their intentions quiet, they keep their ability to fly hidden, they keep their desired location a secret. Their course and wings depend on their accumulated energy, and as long as they keep their energy aboard the ship, the ship stays afloat. By revealing too much, the ship begins to leak. And with the leak, the ship sinks, ready to be received by an unforgiving sea.
The journey to wakefulness is a seldom navigated path, only the voyager whose skin can grow used to the salty spray and whose heart can learn to flower among the desert of ocean and open sky…only such a person will learn to avoid lustful mermaids with spiraled hair and hungry sharks eager to taste warm flesh. Our partners in this voyage live aboard an invisible ship, a small space between ourselves and no one else, which voyages into realms unknowable by most humans . This constant quest requires the containment of our energy. To preserve our energy, to contain it and mount it, is essential in order to build ourselves so strong that our wings can sprout and move higher than normal bodies usually venture. The easiest, the fastest way to lose energy, is to speak about our work with anyone other than our direct partners. The mermaids will ask and the night sky filled with stars will seem innocuous, but all of these will leak our energy into the normal human world and they will only serve to bring the precious ship down. Through an open leaking hole, dirty ravenous fish may enter, chewing upon the soft interior and bringing the safe dry space further into the dark waters.
We strive for lightness, we work for levity and accumulated energy. Keep silent. Keep your appearance and speech as utterly normal and vague as possible. It will only be the naïvely intuitive that will softly ask permission to enter. By speaking with anyone else, you dilute the power of the shared group, you leak out into a world of hostility and sarcasm and human misunderstanding. Preserve the strength of your will, of your attention, of your group. Keep silent.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Discipline

For her, discipline used to be synonymous with punishment. In the world of the little girl, discipline was her mother with furious eyes and steaming anger quickly approaching her with a large wooden spoon. With every swat on her fleshy buttocks, her first understanding of discipline was etched.
When she began school, discipline took on a new dimension. It meant studying over books and doing homework. At first, she didn’t think the work was too hard and she liked filling out the answers in the appropriate lines. There was a sense of satisfaction in completing her assignments, a wholeness in the activity her young self enjoyed.
In middle school, the concepts became more difficult. It required an effort, the work required studying and practice and review. She tried her very best to get good grades, she wanted the praise of her parents when the report card was sent home, she wanted to see their smiles, their approving nods and hugs.
Then came high school, harder still, demanding even more effort. She struggled with her geometry class, all of the formulas and angles and numbers, it was all so conceptual and none of it came easy…she fought to understand it but her effort did not result in good grades. She remembers the day she brought home the first "D" on her report card. She thought it would be the end of the world. She imagined the look of disappointment in her mother's eyes and the gruff tone of her father's voice. "No! Not a D!" Maybe they would go get the spoon again. Walking home that afternoon, she berated herself for not trying harder.
To her surprise, her parents, although not pleased with her grade, were understanding. Perhaps sympathetic from their own memories of geometry, they encouraged her to try her best and to not bring anything lower than a "C" on future report cards. She was stunned by their reaction. She interpreted their understanding as a license to goof off. There were no consequences, no beatings, not even a harsh tone from her father and because of this, because there was no punishment, any sense of self discipline she had once had to get good grades flew out the window.
She spent the rest of her time in high school doing the minimum amount of work required to get a "C" on her report cards. She developed a consistent habit of giving the least amount of effort and energy to her tasks and skated just above the rim of failing. Even today, she recalls bragging to her friends that all she had to do was listen in class and she could get a "C" on a test. She never took one single book home. She didn’t study or spend her weekends trying to grasp the difficult texts of literature or the new ideas presented to her in classes. She took pride in her lack of effort. She wore it like a pretty new dress, with her head up and chest out.
Not any more. Instead of the badge of honor, she holds the memories of her past like the painful glimpses of a diseased relative. She thinks often of her moment of realization back in high school, the moment her machine smiled and took over and battled down the weaker part within her that wanted to work and complete tasks and feel the palpable sense of wholeness before beginning on the next project. That day of the "D," her machine won, the lazy and sloppy machine won. Sometimes she spends whole afternoons imagining what would have happened if she had tried harder…she probably could have gotten all "A’s." Maybe she could have gone on to college and become a doctor. If she had made different choices, maybe she could have been better able to provide for herself and her family. Maybe she could have avoided living in cockroach ridden apartments and living off Kraft Macaroni & Cheese made without the milk and butter, made with only water.
But snapping out of her afternoons of despair, she remembers that looking back with regret is only another way to avoid the work of the moment. There is no way to affect the lazy machine of the past, but now, she can begin to rein in the deeply ingrained habits of half-hearted effort and learn the delicate art of true discipline.

She might never be a doctor or a lawyer, she might never have a high paying job or a lavish house in the hills, but the material benefits of a lifetime of good grades would not bring her any closer to wakefulness. The obvious consequences of lazy habits and bad grades were monetary, she did manual labor and assembly line work, and came home to a crumbling apartment. It is not the financial reality of her life she needs to change, but the deep negative habits of laziness, learned young and practiced often.
Her machine will fight and the undisciplined robot must learn to push through the desire to goof off or fantasize about a future that never was. The work begins now. New habits are forged with sweat and persistence and, sometimes, a rapidly beating heart. Discipline does not come naturally or easily. It is a delicately crafted inner art form that can take years and lifetimes to master, but each step taken today is an effort in the right direction. Slowly and delicately, she can begin to move towards a new kind of discipline, without fear, without the weight of past failures, without the promise of future delights. Somewhere beyond these barriers, the real work begins.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

From The Grave

The long wooden coffin sat six feet in the ground, regulation depth. It was made of a pretty light wood, not at all glossy, with deeper colored wood grain running from top to bottom. On either end of the coffin was a triangle, a kind of light embellishment. The base of the triangle was parallel to the end of the coffin’s edge and the pointed crown faced into the center of the long box. Within the two triangles, separated by five feet of smooth blond wood, the wooden grains ran perpendicular and created a beautiful juxtaposition of shapes. On top of the coffin, in the space where the heart center might be if the body’s head was closer to the blacktop drive and the gathered mourners in black, was a wooden star of David, which was about the size of a man’s outstretched hand. The coffin was simple and humble and made of matter easily absorbed into the earth. The female rabbi stood beside the rectangular hole, facing the small group that had their backs towards the empty cemetery drive, empty except for the limo parked five feet away and the four other midsize cars that stood parked and silent. The rabbi wore an outdated dress from the early 90s, made of mostly purple fabric that had abundant square swatches different colors and multiple pockets. She led the people in prayer. Twenty voices lifted into the air, a low mumbling of vowels and consonants…
Yit'gadal v'yit'kadash sh'mei raba….
Their eyes were fixed on the small piece of cardstock that the cemetery officiate had handed them.
They said it in unison. The left side of the card was in Hebrew, the other was the phonetical translation of the prayer into English letters.
I did not say the prayer, the words had no more meaning than if I had been watching a Korean soap opera. I did not fall back into the pleasant embrace of a half hearted ritual that I had memorized twenty years ago. I heard the prayer buzzing in the background and I heard the sobbing of the widow on my right. Someone handed me a box of tissues and I wiped some fallen tears from her eyes. I held the box of Kleenex with both hands and stared at the coffin. I let my gaze soften and focused on the feeling of pain and energy that radiated and pulsed in my chest. I looked at the box in the ground, containing a man, a Being in transit. I saw a box just a little below the surface of the earth. "The EARTH!" I thought to myself. And the feeling of amazement and wonder coursed through me. This is the earth. It seems like such a simple statement, such an ordinary fact, but the realization that we are indeed upon a sustainable mound of soil and magma and liquid fire that continually transforms itself felt infinitely more real as I looked at the box which contained my grandfather. I felt the ground under my thin shoes a bit more distinctly. The smallness of our state hit me like a loving hand and my mind quieted.
The cut ground was a rectangular hole surrounded by a bright lawn of green grass dotted by simple whitish-gray headstones. At the far end of the open grave was a pile of soil, the mound of rich earth just waiting to be returned to its rightful place. To make room for the coffin, the soil had been cut in an inverted triangular shape, so that the perimeter closest to the surface was larger than the smaller space which held the body. Long sticks of thin metal rebar held the neatly severed earth from tumbling. In moments when the mourners paused and the rabbi took a few breaths, I heard small chunks of earth break from the holds of the rebar. Small bits of soil fell and broke across the wooden coffin, making pretty, delicate thumping sounds as the pieces scattered across the smooth wood. The little clusters spoke to me, singing soft lullabies of the living soil that awaited. The earth was barely patient enough to wait for the mourners to finish their chants and return to their waiting cars, it yearned to fill in the gaping hole. To move to the lowest point, the point of least resistance, the point of stability, is the Law of Falling, and the soil would not follow the wishes of the humans that had gathered to cry.
The earth, though patient at times, calmly breathing even after cement has flooded its surface, is ultimately without mercy. Its compassion is objective. There is no sentimentality sprouting from its folds. We come forth though its devices and nutrients, we come from its stone and water and air, and to it, we return, like lost little children finally coming home to sleep.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Work Relationship

The human experience is filled with varying qualities and degrees of relationships. There is the earliest contact between mother and child, between siblings and with pets, between friends, between lovers. All of these relationships make a dent in the pliable mold of skin and organs- although it is not the only thing that changes us, they certainly represent a large influence over our life. And once we are walking and talking and know how to bathe and feed ourselves, if we are so lucky, we will discover another kind of relationship. It is a working relationship. It begins with two people who consciously decide to go on a journey together. Since we begin blind and naïve to our habits and sleeping state, the relationship begins in a state of intuitive trust. A baby clings to its mother’s breast without asking for references, it just latches on, trusting it will be guided and cared for. A work relationship between adults begins in this way as well, with trust and an intuitive sense that this is the mysterious path to tread.
This is a delicate state, akin to the small sparks of twigs and crumpled newspapers which begin a great breathing fire. Each step along the path is taken slowly, with tenderness and strength. Piling too much thick pine wood on a slowly lighting fire could smoother the flames, too much lighter fluid could cause an explosion, while waiting too long to add the larger logs could also extinguish the mounting flames. It is a delicate balance, a fine razor’s edge.
A working relationship is maintained by constant devotion. Devotion to the constant work, devotion to the master who guides with all their ability, devotion to the objective of a waking state, devotion to honesty and keeping an open heart, devotion to transforming our negative habits into things of beauty that have the power to affect more than we normally understand.
It requires renewed trust when the moment feels bleak and the machine spins in turmoil. It requires renewed attention and focus each moment of the day when our thoughts drift into identified and distracted states. It requires self sacrifice: sacrifice of ego and image, sacrifice of personal glory and lifelong habits. These are not things we do once and then forget about it, like conquerors on deserted shores. These lessons and struggles continue throughout our lives, and each day we must sacrifice, sometimes more than once a day, for as long as breathe enters and retreats from our body.
A work relationship is the bond of people with a common objective. To reach the waking state is a test of endurance and practice and growing will. The people we work with are our partners in this practice. Together, as our energy mounts, we move higher in the labyrinth, holding hands and pushing higher still, we climb not knowing what comes. But we can only rise if the relationship works. If all partners are open, without barriers and machine masks. These artificial walls obstruct the flow of energy and love. They keep the relationship at its most base and human level, and at this level, we are asleep.
While some human relationships can continue to exist with lack of attention- like estranged parents and adult children- the working relationship cannot continue to function with neglect and unspoken aggression and distance. Negative emotions and manifestations, which are completely common and accepted in the world, like sarcasm and eye rolling, rudeness and harsh tones, all of these, while practically the norm at a typical family thanksgiving dinner, can destroy the working relationship. Machines will react to each other. Barriers will grow tough and impenetrable. A distracted moment, a careless sentence, a shrug of the shoulders; as small as they might seem, they can break a strong contact. It can shatter an elevated space. By constantly acting out our negative emotions, we can quickly forget what we are working towards and simply dwell in the sleeping state. The working relationship will always require more than what we are used to giving, it seems un-normal, and it is. It is absolutely special and tender, hold it with all the love you possess.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Model Of Talent

She looked directly into the camera, with a smirk on her face and the faintest hint of a singularly raised eyebrow, and she said "I’m the strongest model here, it’s Add Imagemy face on the wall this week. I had the best picture last week and right now, I know I’m the best, so yeah, I think it’ll go great at the photo shoot tomorrow."
She had done well last week. In a photo shoot which involved disguising every part of the body but the eyes, her eyes and expression came though with the utmost clarity and force. Out of all the other models in the competition, it was she who went into the camera lens, bringing herself into the small tube, communicating to the photographer and future observer with all her fierceness and beauty. She projected herself out like a laser and brought herself to into the material world of magazine ads and lipstick commercials. And at elimination, the judges praised her work and photo and told her she had a real talent…a natural talent. Those comments solidified her own ideas and hopes, that she was indeed already a great model. And all the other girls who had been in the same photo shoot looked at her with wonder and wanted to know how she had done it. They wanted to do it too.
When the next photo shoot was scheduled, she walked into the well lit studio with her head up high and a confident swagger in her hips. She knew she was the best, as had been proven last week, and this week, she was sure she would deliver as well, she had talent after all. Looking into the future, she knew she would win the entire competition and would soon begin modeling all over the world. She was the next star. When her turn came for the photo shoot, she did her thing. She looked into the camera and tilted her head and projected strength. She switched positions and used her legs and arms and played with some angles. But the model coach on set was not giving her any position feedback. After the first couple of frames, he said she didn’t look intense or strong and with these first biting comments, she began to sink. With each new pose, instead of hearing "beautiful…these look great," she heard silence and felt the exasperation coming from the coach and the photographer. Each click of the camera deflated her more until she couldn’t wait until it was all over. They tried to give her a couple of tips. "Turn the left arm more, lift your chin…" but nothing seemed to bring the magic. What was she missing? She had no idea. She was doing the same thing she did last week. Why wasn’t it having the same effect? "last frame!" called the coach, practically rolling his eyes as he said it. She knew he was mad. She hadn’t delivered and hadn’t impressed and she didn’t know why.
She wass young and had only really modeled in the mirror of her room when she found herself alone. But she came to the competition with the hopes of doing more than that. She wanted catwalks and Gucci and to work with the best photographers. She wanted gorgeous pictures and a new career. But she was young and inexperienced. She had never really practiced her moves and her "walk." Modeling was all new. They told her last week she had talent. Shouldn’t talent always be there? she wondered. If I had it last week, where had it gone this week? In effect, she had stumbled into one amazing photo. She had no idea what she had done right. How exactly had she held her head? What had she been thinking about when the camera clicked?
She could not retrace her steps, and thus, what they called talent was merely a chance encounter with the perfect light, expression, and timing.
Time and practice lead to true knowledge. Knowledge does not need the label of talent. It is beyond talent. Knowledge is knowing how to hold your head for the camera at just the right angle. Knowledge is knowing the shapes your body can contort into and still appear beautiful and interesting. This is not talent, it is not inherent. It is practiced and perfected. Day after day, it is examining what works and improving what doesn’t until you don’t need a mirror or another set of eyes or a coach. It is feeling it from within, knowing its every shape and subtlety. With deep knowledge, you can perform despite the weather or illness or stress. You know it. It is not a mysterious god given talent. It is direct and practical experience, crafted and made flawless over years of solid work.
If you show your work and someone says you have no talent, set the statement aside, shift your attention back to creation and keep on working. If you show your work and someone says you have talent, do exactly the same.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

An Image with No Fault

The small round table was set with a red table cloth and mismatched pink and tan place mats. There were two white plates of food upon them, cooling hotdogs oozing with mustard and crumpled napkins on the side. Sitting across from each other and bathed in the stinging white light of afternoon, they began their meal in an intimate silence. As he took a sip of his chocolate drink, he asked her,
"Did you bring the lesson notes for today?"
"Ah, no," she replied, looking out the window and vaguely noticing the cars passing by on the wide street outside.
"Why not?" he asked in confused surprise, his usually smooth face wrinkling.
Avoiding his eyes, she said, "ah, I only had a couple minutes to get dressed, and I wasn’t even sure if I would need them…and I didn’t want to carry them around with me all day and…I don’t even know which lessons you’re talking about…"
Stopping her words with a raised hand and a sharper tone, he said, "yes, you do…and you knew we would need them today."
"no, I don’t know which lessons you really mean and some of them are in the computer and I have that with me but I have only been practicing the other lessons for a little while and I wasn’t sure if we would need them because you didn’t tell me to practice them until a couple weeks ago and…."
Tears began streaming down her pale white cheeks. She looked out the window, afraid to speak, afraid to look at him and make the moment worse with her confused and defensive words. Maybe they wouldn’t even have a lesson now, she worried.
"Why didn’t you bring them?" he asked again, in a tone slightly louder than normal but that was still calm. A hint of a smile teased at the corners of his lips and a glimmer of mischievous glitter played in his eyes.
There were tears reddening her eyes and she had a crumpled wet tissue buried in her hand, she said, "I forgot them." Loudly, clearly and looking right at him.
"okay… why didn’t you just say that?" He looked relieved.
Stumped, she said quietly, "I thought I did."
"No," he said laughing, "you said everything but that."
And she saw that she had. She had walked out the door of her small studio in the early afternoon slightly angry and impatient, wondering how she could possibly complete her task within an hour. She had not thought ahead and remembered she needed her lesson notes for later in the evening. She had forgot them. It was simple and true. She had been occupied on half a dozen competing thoughts and shallow emotions and had forgotten the notes.
But admitting this, admitting clearly that it was she who had messed up, she who had forgotten, was admitting that she had been wrong. And to acknowledge this, this simple fact, was to go against a strong current that ran the length of her. To her machine, she is a flawless self, a golden ego which is free from fault and guilt.
When something goes wrong, it happens because of an external situation; it had nothing to do with her carelessness or inattention or unexposed anger. No, it comes from beyond her flesh. It comes towards her, from people, circumstance, words, society…it all comes towards her and it is them that cause her struggle. Problems come from the outside to her, not the other way around. In her carefully crafted image, her forgotten lessons notes arose from hastily given instructions and limited time and unclear plans and difficult requests. Her bouts of depression and anger arise because of unfair circumstances and harsh tones and the harsh ways of the world. Her life would be smooth and lovely, if it were not for those others who work against her and hate her and keep her sad. This idea of a flawless vessel keeps her protected. It is insulation against the strong currents beyond her control, it is the barrier between the reality of her actions and the truth of their consequences.
The faults of others are so easy to see. Watching any reality TV show, the habits of each character are easily identifiable: the man who always wants to win strength challenges and brags with aggressive confidence to the camera, yet each week, time and again, he is the first to lose momentum and give up. And as easy as it is to see the flaws of those around us, from the person across the dinner table and the grocery clerk who never says hello, it is just as hard to see the weaknesses and flaws hiding within oneself. The images are thin as glass, lacking any substance or true emotion, but it is strong as any metal and more than that, it is even harder to shatter because we protect ourselves from its destruction. To destroy it, to expose it as a flawed image is destroy ourselves, what we fervently believe to be ourselves. Our ego, our sense of self, our identity, our IMAGE is really all we know, and we cling to it, like a drowning man to a floating piece of wood, we cling to it because it is all we know. Without it, without our mask, without our image, without our face, what are we?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fueling The Habits

Sitting at her desk, she practiced her writing exercises as she did every morning. Long before the sun ever poked above house covered hills, she arranged long descriptive sentences into tight paragraphs, molded flowery stanzas and simple quotes into colorful stories. As the darkness began to give way to a brilliant, full blue, she paused to think of the next line. She looked out her window into the brightening backyard. The large space was nearly bare except for a lone wooden chair and a gray shed in the corner of the rectangular yard. There were overgrown shrubs that creeped in from the neighbor’s yard, but in her own, there was nothing but hard, smooth concrete land. At the point furthest from her window was a red hued wood fence, behind which was a tall wall of eucalyptus trees that blocked the view of the twinkling city lights below. She looked out, and as her mind freed itself from the thoughts of her writing, new thoughts began to crowd in. They were familiar thoughts, more aptly described as recurring worries that she rehashed day after day, year after year. Their forms did not change, their content, nor their frequency. Hour after hour, she wondered and worried about the same things. She felt the same jealous thoughts. She felt the same anger, the same desire for revenge, the same need to cry.
She sat at her desk, looking out the window, and now, tears were reddening her eyes. A salty droplet left a wet streak across her cheek. Alone in her room, she was filled with anger and sadness. Her body was hot and sweaty and a headache lingered at the horizon of her consciousness. Nothing had really happened to her within the last couple of minutes, nothing external. She did not get a phone call with bad news. Her neighbor had not hit her car. Her landlord had not evicted her. She had not had a fight with a friend. To any outside observer, nothing had happened. There was no external event that warranted the desperate need to cry and her elevated pulse. She had not really even moved, and yet, her energy had completely changed.
In a brief instant, she had paused and drifted into an unstructured realm of floating thoughts that quickly turned into other ideas and then, just as swiftly, morphed into recurring uncontrolled thoughts. They moved in and out of her mind like wisps of passing clouds. Their entry had been in the moments of her inattention. While her mind was off her work, it began to fill with less intentional thoughts. Gone were her poetic lines and colorful descriptions. Her attention had drifted from her creative task and, as it did so, she had begun to devote more and more of her attention to her endless series of worries. The more she thought about them, the stronger the thoughts were and thus, the bodily sensations grew stronger within her. She was overcome with sadness. And with each tear that escaped her eyes, with each suffering thought, her negative emotions grew stronger.
Like a blazing fire that begins with a small handful of thin twigs, each small worry fed the cauldron of negative emotions. Each small jealous thought added a little more strength and fury and soon, she was overcome with sadness and grief and bitter hatred. She fed it to herself, small bit by small bit, letting it grow in strength until it was impossible let it go. If she had noticed the first distracted negative thought, she could have redirected her attention to her work. Caught quickly and early it would have been easier for her to regain her focus, but a raging fire takes tons of water and ample time to extinguish. She had fed her negative emotions with her thoughts, bathed them in her attention and allowed then to consume her from within. Although she sat in the same place, with the same trees and light and view, she now had a large dark hole to climb out of.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Spiritual Warfare

It is called warfare. And in this battle, there are only two sides. Simple categories delineated by minds that refuse to go beyond the shallow pools of right and wrong… they choose to ignore the multicolored rainbow that colors our landscape and instead, focus on black and white. The complex world in which we live is broken down to its most base, and in this realm of right and wrong and good and evil, without room for the complex variance that speckles the human existence, they dwell and feast and grow angry. I can see the thick invisible circle they have drawn around themselves. Their confidence vibrates with tiny red beads and their temples pulse with fear and blood. With their tinted eyes and the solid rock in their chest they call "truth," they wish for but a simple moment. Just a couple of minutes to reveal our errors and their Truth.
But no one can really KNOW. Truth is subjective, the very nature of it is porous. As slick as water through fingers, it slips and morphs within time. I once asked my mother about god. When I was a little girl, I asked how children decide their religions. It was a one line answer and she looked at their daughter, who barely reached her hip and said children usually become the same religion as their parents. And so it is assumed, what my mother believes, I will believe. Whatever faith my parents have clung to, I will cling to. I am from the chosen people. We value education, we were slaves in Egypt, we did not kill Jesus. We marry people like us, we raise out children to go to temple and eat challah bread and go to college and marry other jews. We did not kill jesus, even though they will throw stones at us and say we did.
Perhaps this passes as truth for some, but among the billions of people who also cling to their beliefs, who hold on just as strong to their Truth, no one can really be certain. They can kill people or convert them, they can subject a population to religious laws, but only a blind faith in their rightness is certain
I can surround myself with others who share my views, people who think like me and believe in god the same way, we can compound our ideas and inflate our egos. We can sing songs together and talk of the coming Armageddon, but objectively, we are a group of humans that have chosen to believe in the same set of assumptions and interpretations from a very old book. For thousands of years, there have been other groups of people that have done the same thing, most have felt they had truth on their side. People believed in the formation of the earth from the mouth of a slithering Anaconda. There are people who believe in a blue-skinned god with many arms. The minds of humans are warped and beautiful, and there is no shortage of religious variance. So how can one person claim the Truth? Out of all the myths and stories that dot our history, how can one group claim dominance? Most people claim the truth and all of them are wrong. It is an egotistical assumption. It is faith. While the outlets of this human trait are very obvious when talking of religion, we all have this tendency. I lived with a man who thought he had formulated the best way to wash dishes. In his opinion, it was the fastest, most efficient way which produced the cleanest results. Any attempt to change the washing technique by other housemates was met with a brutal argument. He believed his method was right, therefore, everyone else was stupid and wrong. Why didn’t we just do what he said? But there are many ways to reach clean dishes, if that is the ultimate goal. What bothered him was that people would choose a different way, despite the knowledge of his perfected technique. Religious fundamentalists cling to the unchangeable idea that they have found the perfected truth…theirs is the only way to understand god and the universe. In their teachings, it is their way, or the one road down to hell, where a cruel demon waits to deliver their deserved punishment.
This is what I must understand. I do not know what is real. I do not know truth. There are many ways towards an open eye.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Struggle in a Hole

I write with a vague sense of dread. I listen for a ringing bell, but there is a silence thicker than sludge which coats my ears. The telephone is silent, I wait for a presence on the other end. A familiar voice that often calls me back to the land of softness and kisses. But with each second that passes, I slip a little father into the deep hole. I recognize this dark pit like the smell of tortured death and sticky blood; my chamber of cobwebs and singular hatred, it’s windowless and cold. It is a space of hollowed dank earth and composting life, but I cherish this hole, despite the offending smell of urine and rot, I find my way back here in seconds, even when I’m miles away. After hours of soft lovemaking, despite drops of crystal bliss, one word can light the way to this hole. The fall is fast and the landing is even harder. From the bottom I look up, barely aware of life outside. Haven’t I always been here? Feasting on fat worms and drinking the piss of ghostly demons. As I wait for the phone, each typed word is an attempt to crawl out. When my fingers pause, I slip…so I try to move fast. Can I transform this lurid form? or will it take me over, transforming the pretty girl on top into the monster that hides in her caves. With a word she is blackened with pain. One misinterpreted silence sends her down, her home awaits. Puddles of mud are her mirrors, and she chokes on the mangled images. There is no room for love here, just a tender bed of pain, made of nails and her own lost flesh. In this place she makes yellowed curtains from joy, and cakes out of hope.
But I cannot make the phone ring, the man does not answer, he does not call. I worry about the labored breathing I heard twelve hours ago. The small black phone jiggles and lights up, but perhaps his eyes are closed, lost in the soft blue shades of his dreams. Answer my call. I put myself in your vision, a small girl holding a little yellow flower. I see you reach out with a long, slender, white arm; pushing the stem into your beard, you smile and say thank you. The flower moves in the wind like a pinwheel, harnessing the strength of the wind, you grow taller. Like a windmill stuck into a leafy black brush. Oh my love! Can you hear me calling? I try to grab the sides, try to grasp tiny bits of life on the edge of my favorite black hole. The landscape is vast and flat, an arid land of long-yellowed grasses and a red-black sky. Like the colors in a negative, nothing looks real. Matter is white, while the air becomes more heavy cloaked in colored blood. Moment by moment I drift. I am looking down into the deep hole. Now, I lay on my back, amazed how far I have fallen. Now, I am climbing out. I am falling in, I am climbing out. I am far away, I am moments from slipping once again. There is no constant, just the ongoing battle, the struggle to stay out and the desire to fall in. I hear the inner record that makes me lose my balance, I see the ground begin to sway… I take the deep breaths that help me stay above ground. The negative mantra plays, the careful steps dig me out. On and on, the tug of war continues.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Kitchen Nightmares

They send him pleading letters. Within, the words are desperate and begging for help. Begging for guidance. The problems are mostly cloudy, rolling ambiguous shapes that never seem to point to a definite solution. They are not sure exactly what is wrong, but their restaurants remain empty, and each day, new worry lines etch their marks within the soft folds of weary flesh. Their hearts are burdened with thoughts of bankruptcy, home repossession, guilt and pain. Their worries are marked by heart attacks and restless nights. In this state, the restaurant is a temple of gloom, and those that work and eat there are poisoned by its desperation and deepening failure. After fitful nights, the owners wake up, seized with the burden of another day. More of the same. And so, in a last measure of self preservation, in an attempt to resurrect themselves from the pit that they have learned to call home, they write to him.
Like a gleaming messiah, he shines and comes to them with sincere wishes for success. It’s his love of food that makes him move. His supreme respect for taste and pleasure. He comes to help, he comes to ignite passion and integrity. He comes, demanding personal responsibility and a desire to change. His authority is based on a lifetime of accumulated knowledge and on his undeniable success. Restaurants, TV shows, adoring food critics; he has succeeded in this business. He has knowledge.
And they write him for help, and if they are lucky, he comes. He comes with an open heart. He comes to see, to identify the problems and the very bad habits of these establishments. As he observes, he notices the flaws, the rotting food in the fridge, the lazy wait staff, the nervous manager, the cluttered atmosphere, the over complicated menu, the owner who invests all his money in white china. As the teacher begins to identify the problems, the owners, the cooks, the staff- they begin to resist. Many of them fight back. They argue…they become identified.
It is mostly the owners that resist. Even though they begged for his help, now he is here, criticizing their home, their dreams, their work, their identity. And as their sense of self is called into question, as they reel from the criticism which they take as a personal insult, they fight against him. They walk off the job, they yell and cry. They hate the man that has come to help them. The man who has nothing other than their future success on his mind. Yes, he hopes for a good show, for good ratings, lucrative advertising, good pay, but first, he comes to save a failing dream. An idea that had been put into action without a plan. It is his hope for them that keeps him there. During the name calling, during the childlike tantrums of adults, he stands, grounded in his mission.
The owners knew there was a problem, it was why they wrote for help. Their mounting debt and empty restaurants were the symptoms, but when the root of these problems are discovered and brought up to the sunlight, it is these same problems that they resist changing. The owner who clings to his plates, the owner who cannot stop trying to do everything. The owner that clings to the outdated decor. If they can see past their egos for a moment, if they can take his advice, if they use his advice, they usually see results. They see increased sales, compliments on the food and a returning sense of humor.
The teacher has walked this path before, many times, and he stands firm, rooted and waiting for a moment of insight to rupture the ego; within this space changes can be introduced. And sometimes, when the results become as obvious as day and night, there is a moment of true realization, and a new way of being emerges.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Egos that Flee from a Sinking Ship

Crrrrssakkkk….the sudden breaking of glass as a dark shape lands on the windshield of a tiny blue car. As the fleshy body hits the solid mass of glass, she thinks to herself, "I think I’m getting hit by a car now." Her back lands on the windshield. Her eyes are open and she notices the blue sky above. How long does she stare at the sky?
It is such a pretty morning, it’s a sunny California spring day. She sees the sky, as though she’s never quite noticed it before. It’s blue. It’s open and wide. "I think I’m getting hit by a car now." Her brain gives her some sensible information. It’s objective, without worry or fear, just information. She is being hit by a car. It’s something that she has heard of, something she’s seen on TV, and it’s happening to her.
She looks at the never ending ceiling of earth. slightly hazy, but still clearly blue in the early morning. Where is time? Her brain is unguarded, left alone in this moment. The many "I"’s (the multiple egos that usually pull her in all directions) have fled, and her brain is slow to comprehend what is happening.
With the sudden impact upon her body, all sense of time is assaulted, revealed for its true transitory nature. At this moment, time reveals itself for its falseness.
Time…the great perception. Without an "I" to perceive it, any "I", it moves like clear molasses through a vacuum of images. Mistakes happening within fractions of measured time, yet being felt as though through the eyes of many years.
The many I’s have scrambled like a group of confused chickens…have they been hit? Has one of them been hit? The windshield of the dirty car has broken into a thousand tiny fragments, revealing the blue hue of an objectively clear pane. The driver, a small brown woman, has her mouth open, herself not quite understanding the nature of the shape blocking her view. And the shape, the body of a tall woman, designed by nature to work fields and bear children, is observing the blueness of the sky. With the impact, the driver hits the brakes, the girl flies forward, landing on the pavement. Her head makes contact with the ground. "On no, am I dead?"
She wonders. She lays still with her thoughts. She cannot answer her question. There is no "I" to respond. Who is asking the question? The brain? The personality that wishes to keep breathing? Time has abandoned her. No, it is the many I’s that have left, and in their absence, she does not feel time. She lays on the hard earth, paved long ago with black tar. She asks herself: "Am I dead?". In the silent absence of time and under the endless blue sky, there is no answer available.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Elephant in the Well

In late August 2008, a baby elephant fell into a well in north central Sri Lanka. The concerned villagers knocked down a section of the cement well so the elephant could escape. After crawling out, the elephant began charging the very villagers who had rescued it.
I’ve fallen in…into the realm where words define all shapes. Where I truly believe I am Me. I’ve been in here for years, swimming in small circles within this cage. Between breaths I look up and see the sky, I see the people in rags that peer over the sides, throwing down bits of food and small orange flowers. I keep swimming, never quite dying, but never really living. The walls are high….cool and smooth stones form the walls of my circular home. I keep paddling, knowing no other way. There is nothing to grab onto, no crevasse in which to burrow. I’ve fallen into the largest of holes, the water is at my neck, and if it rains, I’ll be covered for sure. I look up from the bottom of a towering well, the light of day is bright and visible. Above, I can hear a few voices, faint and singing soft melodies. They have sent down an orange flower, cradled in the beak of a small song bird. The sky changes, I see blue, then clouds of red, then wisps of passing rainbows. But I am at the bottom, in the hole of water dug deep into the red earth.
My falling…it happened without thought. I cannot remember another way. Was it my first breath which began the fall? I am in deep murky water, and yet, those that offer me help, those that break the walls so I may run and breathe…it is those people I run to destroy. I do not run to the poachers or the politicians, I charge towards the ones closest to me, the ones that still clutch rocks and hammers they used to break me free. These are the ones near my feet, the ones I can kill with a breath. Within me I just cannot see the people that have sacrificed a part of themselves so that I might touch land once again. After their work, after their gifts, I run towards them with all my force, unable to control my habits of the wild.
Truly, I am unaware of my self. I run to kill the first threat. Just a baby, but I see danger everywhere. In the smiling man, in the song I cannot sing. In the fog as it rolls towards me, bringing disguised shadows and darker fears. I am drowning in the waters of my own creation, but I am unable to see the glittering plates stacked high with gifts and knowledge, held by the most beautiful of hands. Take your freedom and use it they chant. But the quest for water does not leave. Thirst deeper than my mouth, thirst deeper than the most water-less of deserts creeps, and I go looking for the watery filled wells. It is my habit to fall. Sometimes I wait for a willing hand, but will they come again? If they do, this time, will I remember their sacrifice?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Whore of Nothingness

It is the moment that makes itself known. The timeless chamber that is both wide and deep, kept clean and soft by the waiting whore that watches the space. She stands alone beside the great opening, mouth wide and red, moist and dripping. Her long black hair swirls above her, moving like a slow tornado within an underwater kingdom, radiating with the calmness of fluttering stars. Black winds move about her with an air of caution, not the kind humans recognize as fear, but with the reverence reserved for contained power. The currents move in and curl, twirling with the prettiness of invisible smoke, shifting and sprawling like a thousand tongues at work. Licking, covering their symbols with the juice of desire. Their utter devotion is what makes them salivate, forcing themselves to cover their great god with gifts of attention. Within the open portal, the whore moves along the periphery. Like a lady in waiting, wearing the darkest gown of soft black silk. There is nothingness surrounding her, open land and air, all painted shades of black, yet she seems to wait in a contained sphere with the sprawling trees that resemble oaks, but come from another place where names are meaningless and everything is known or taught through intuition. It is there, where the heart is the ruler of people, and the toilers bend over daily, accepting their true nature as false; where they lower themselves in gratitude, accepting their humbling like obedient servants to an almighty power. Extending beyond the horizon, rows and rows of them are kneeling, the great moon is full of power this evening, and the light of countless centuries burns down upon their exposed necks with the coolness of a smothered fire.
The light enters her, with the softness of a warm kiss and the harshness of a terrible rape; moving together in truth as they enter, rocking her center, stuffing her with all that comes from elsewhere. She goes flying back, yet remains still, altered with each step she takes around the portal. Around she walks, from above, she is a flowing black creature made of light and rain, from below, a towering goddess composed of fire and stone. She stops at each of the four rocks laid about the portal, one for each point of the cross. At each point, she stops, bending to kiss each one. She waits for another entering. The whore lifts her dress, exposing the fatal whiteness of her flesh amid the glowing darkness surrounding her. With nothing below, she readies herself for the energy approaching. It comes screaming with a silent voice, painting the black world red with invisible colors. Her heart quickens, her womanly opening expands to accept the gifts. And like a glowing sword, she feels the nothingness move inside. Pushing itself with the force of nothing, with the strength of all, without words and sounds, devoid of any tangible attachment. She radiates from the inside, with the heat of a million worlds, a thousand words and places that have been stripped and condensed to pure energy. They are inside and she pushes the gifts into the darkest depths within, her eyes are wide, her mouth open and wet, her flesh is sticky. She is the whore, the vessel of nothingness.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Present In Between

I look up at the pink tiles, wet with the spray of warm water from a leaking shower head. The small rectangular cube is illuminated by a single light above, its golden glow makes shadows of the falling water droplets and the one thin, glistening body that stands in the center, doing its best to avoid contact with the tiles.
Is this mine?
Is this me?
I look to my left, the tan plastic shower curtain. With slightly squinted eyes, I slowly turn my head to the right. Strangeness invades. This is a body I clean, with warm water and soap…I do what I have been taught, the necessary steps to maintain this body. But this is simply that…a body, a biological machine that needs to be scrubbed clean from time to time, to prevent the accumulation of pungent smells and flies.
But the tiles seem unreal.
No, they seem too real.
Small pink squares, line after line of them decorate the interior of this stall. Blue bottles, plastic jars and razor blades. An array of soaps and scrubbing devices. I know these instruments, these objects, but they are strangers of plastic and colors.
Startled, yet manifesting calmness, I continue in a progression of learned habits. Soap lathering, hair scrubbing, face washing. My brain asks, "am I here?" And I am, in this exact moment of alert attention, surrounded by the new vision of wet tiles and billowing steam, something is here.
The human, the cynic with all the answers, has been tucked aside, momentarily silenced by a flowing river of crystalline liquids and fast moving currents. Something new and startled emerges, blinking into the warm mist and bright light. The moment laughs and tumbles, spins and skips like a dandelion running on the breeze. The body holds steady, with soapsuds and streams of water cascading off mountainous pink nipples.
And the seconds roll out like a never ending line of marching soldiers, meeting the future with a series of soundless explosions and colorless paintings. The endless wheel in motion, made of sewn body parts and purple ribbons, it turns and turns, moving like a backwards clock. The past and the future forever maintain their stations on the periphery, along the gentle curving arcs that create the sides and roof; the only constant is constantly moving. Past and future melt together, fusing at the juncture which touches earth. Rolling so quickly as to be barely recognizable, the present blends with the movements that reach both in front of and behind it.
The water continues to run, quickly finding its escape from the moment.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Heart Shaped Stone

The first white heart shaped rock that tumbles past my legs makes me think of you. Instantly, I reach into the cascading water at my feet. Moving past, with an objective force that never dies, never loses its purpose. The little heart slips from between my fingers, hitting the ground with a bounce, then gliding on, just a hair above the stone filled landscape. I plunge into the waters, my fingers search for it. Beneath the weight of clear liquid, I open my eyes; the salt of heavy water does not sting, but I am solid in my purpose, only the single vision of your presence pushes me forward, searching for a gift. Submerged to my hips in warm waters, I am amid calm and tumultuous movement. It does what it must, what it knows without thought. Without teachers or cues, the waves push in and out, in and out…in and out. A constant… they move with the moon, caressing the weather, soothing the heat, screaming with the gathering of dark clouds. Entwined until the last bomb extinguishes all, until the planet freezes or blows again into the smallest of particles.
Will I laugh, lost in the blackness of your chin, among the shadows created by a myriad of twisted vines? Will I cry, devastated by the loss of your warm arms? Will I transcend the ideas of simple emotions, my thoughts disguised as truth? Will ideas fade into the nothingness of light I have heard of but cannot remember?
Matter, water, spirit, blending into the strangeness of a forgotten invisible flower. I dwell in the land of stones, multicolored rocks with the letters of your name spelled upon them. But to the remains of my mind, they are simple symbols, devoid of meaning. I see only curved lines, or perpendicular arrows that intersect. There are no sounds in this land, no language that I can hear.
When will the stones begin to talk? What must I learn to receive their gift?
An old cotton skirt hangs off my hips in shreds. Barefoot, I climb small hills of tiny rocks. At each crest, I see a thousand other mounds in each direction. I walk over them gingerly, the pebbles in my pocket create a subtle symphony for my steps, matching the rhythm that forces itself from my body. My bare breasts jiggle with each movement, dark from the sun, they give homage to the light each morning at daybreak. A wanderer in the desert landscape of a thousand stones, I journey, with only a memory to keep me sane.
The water, the heart shaped stone…did you ever have it within your grasp?
Or was it only an attempt quickly washed away by an incoming wave?
Does it sit upon your altar, or within the shrine made of mermaid bones and silken fish tails, where tiny teeth and lost jewels create the mandalas that decorate underwater graves?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Seconds Without Memory

She wakes from her slumber in a bed of soft synthetic fabric. Like an enveloping cloud, she wakes without thoughts. Location, existence, reasons…they are words without answers. Letters without meaning or a hint of worry. There are no words for bed, no syllables for shelter, no letters strung in a line that reveal the meaning of sleep. She wakes blank and clear, a silent moment of utter stillness. Like the suspended silence that surrounds a tightrope walker, she hangs in absolute nothingness. The clear light of the void is all around, and she feels its softness, its utter lack of sound and movement. The quiet around her is present in every muscle, consuming every cell, enveloping her body like blankets made of vapors.
Then it all comes back, like a flood of anxiety and thoughts, a panic rush of anger and disgruntled memories. Oh yes…I remember the reasons to be mad. I remember everything that is wrong, all the tiny incidents I consider problems…it’s all thick and heavy. There are concrete shapes and form, vivid colors and tangible smells…everything is reduced to its simplest form. There is no battle, the worries take over without a word in protest. They wrap like thick vines around her limbs, nearly suffocating her with their invisible grasp…she nearly forgets there was another way.
The next night she sleeps, she goes to bed a little sad, yet content to close her eyes and drift quietly to the netherworlds. She dreams of mountains, made of rocky sand-colored cliffs that jut from the land. She sees a long vertical flag waving from a resting point high upon the mountain. Wind battered and sun drenched, the torn sides move like tiny red tentacles attached to one greater and more powerful. She dreams of cozy wooden rooms stocked with quilted blankets and a fat raccoon that has burrowed itself in the floorboards among the birds nests that also hide below ground. Her mother introduces her to a self-described healer- the person who may be able to cure her of the raccoon that lumbers through the hallways at night. On the massage table, she remembers she shouldn’t be touched. None other than her master may lay a finger upon her, she remembers, and she watches the reaction of her new-found raccoon healer to these news.
And the girl wakes. It’s dark, only the sound of the leaking faucet calls out in the night. The heater has long since stopped working, and all the pigeons are burrowed somewhere until dawn. She opens her eyes to the darkness, her heart is open in the stillness of pre-dawn. She lays, without words or thoughts, only the mutating shapes of her dreams linger, and even those are quietly evaporating like silver dust on the heavy breath of an approaching monsoon. Her mind is still, for the first time in hours, there is nothing moving, nothing thinking…and then the gates suddenly spring open and she remembers.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Secrets of Birds

And still, the wind blows softly against my skin, tempting me to run and play with the colored birds of the dark night world. "Play with us," the birds cry in their often misinterpreted language. High coos and flittering decibels of deeper chords, they sing with the fluidity of the ocean. How was my ear tuned to their sound? The earlier encounters with their larger friends prepared me slightly for their visit.
One day I sat, watching the green grass grow, feeling an ant discovering the soft valleys of my body. It was then, when I rested my attention on the almost silent world that moves and shifts beneath my inattentive gaze, it was then, under the loyal sun, who glows and beams so often in this land dotted with hills and wooded valleys, here, while the clouds moved lazily by my dot of a body, while the earth continued to tilt and turn, while the frenzied activity and buzz of human life whirled by at a sorry pace, here, to me, the birds came.
Their brethren told them of my wishes, of my desires. How the first ones could read my thoughts, I will never know. But they knew. And they spoke to me as only small winged and feathered creatures can. They dropped their long feathers for me to gather. They gave me material for costumes and sacred dances. "Here," they said, "have us, take us and plant us in the ground."
One stands now, by the Valarus, watching it grow, watching it feed on the food of water and minerals. I planted the feathers, I hung them from mirrors and strung them around my neck. They decorated my ears and tickled my lover’s nose. Their gifts showered like golden rain, and I opened to accept their offerings. "To me?" they discovered me, they came from shadow worlds with trees made of puppets and people made of snow. I envied they journey, their ability to move and shift, voyaging from one landscape to another without losing sight of their goal.
"Bring me back," I wanted to shout, but I could only smile, moving slowly and smiling shyly as they dropped their coverings and became naked. Beneath their quills, I saw emblems and symbols. Etched in glittering raised lines made of blood and gold, their markings were clear, containing a mystery beyond my imagination. I stared, in utter confusion, in awe, in wonderment. These markings, lacking verbal clarity, yet shining with the magnificence of other worlds; of teachings that cannot be explained.
My mind screamed for explanation, but my heart kept me still, my mouth remained shut while my words were shoved into my deepest caves. I was not allowed to ask. They were not allowed to tell. Only the mystery made itself clear, and I drank its beauty. My mouth open, my chin wet, I lapped at the beauty of the other, I cried for the clearness of the strange.
"Yes," they said, with wordless cries and soundless laughs, "let yourself feel, there is no answer…only eternal questions."

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Time Slipping Away

The moon is up, and my body remembers it’s the time for sleep. With a gradual aching pull, my eyelids begin to close in, taking my sight with them. We want to shut down! my limbs scream. Still vertical, still typing, still thinking, "not at this hour!" they shout louder. And one by one, each muscle decides to give me another reminder, they dose out the pain. First the fingers, then the shoulders…it’s a mutiny. They want sleep. Its time to turn off the lights and let the factory doors slam behind me as I exit. But a piece of me lingers in the deserted hallway. Something has splintered from my shadow and it remains behind, slowly spinning in space.
The clock reads close to midnight. These were hours once devoted only to sleeping, but day has not passed and the people of air still move in and out, calling my lungs home for a mere second. And each task is a lifetime. A brief bit of time to throw everything within the cauldron. To sing and move with all the passion that begs to slip out through orgasm. Each 6 minute cycle is calculated. What do I choose to do with it? Sometimes I think about lunch, sometimes I worry, sometimes I decide to get angry and remember injustices perpetrated. And sometimes, I remember to work.
Amidst the superfluous thoughts that knaw at my attention, I remember to breathe deeply. And then, I’m gone, lost in a place where body and mind wander among two separate worlds. We appear together, an image of unity, but most of me is elsewhere. The land has no name, no distinguishing features or melodies…and it sucks like an ever hungry void. Insistent on consuming every tree and thought, every movement and sound. And my body moves without me. It dances, sings, performs…it seems so normal, a picture of unity…but the "me" that lives through attention, dwells in the land of other and then and yesterday.
And then, a jolt of awakening…here I am, in this room, in this body, at this hour. It is now, in this small lifetime. In the 80 years I may be lucky enough to achieve, in the six minute experiment that requires the whole of me. The question is…what shall I do with this time? Pretend to sing, pretend to work and dance and move while a large part of me spins along the human wheel of emotion and desire? The wheel only moves in one direction…it passes the same obstacles, the same thoughts, the repeating fears and jealousies. Over and over, I decide to relive them…and each time, my blood boils and tears flow with familiar pain. When the timer sounds, I realize the moments are over and I was absent for their escape. It was faded concerns that swept me up and spat me out. My small 6 minute lifetime, over before I decided to pay attention.
Each day, I repeat the same mini life-death, and each day, I realize when it’s too late that I’ve been lazy, I’ve been careless and inattentive and the moments have passed while my mind was busy focusing on imaginary sufferings. These little lives that I abuse. These little lives that I take for granted. They will not continue forever, they greet me with opportunities and I squander the time. It could end tonight and I wouldn’t have made an inch of progress. Each day I forget, but each day I must remember.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

In An Empty House

The machine remembers the feeling easily. Like a forgotten song that conjures up memories of an almost forgotten past. She sits in a cold house. Despite its lack, it’s still a better refuge than the last one. She finds it hard to work. Unfamiliar smells, uncomfortable seating, worries that nip at her mind like a merry-go-round of maniacally smiling horses. She hugs the heater, which sporadically spring to life whenever it’s abused.
Living in the detritus of others used to be a constant. Moving in with the roaches when any space became uninhabited. That was life. A constant of cloudy moments, never quite comfortable, never quite having a comfortable bed in which to sleep or a place to eat. Machine comforts.
She pines for an illusion of safety. And she sits, finding it difficult to work, difficult to concentrate on any task. She is cold, hungry, tired. She wants to sleep, curl in a tight fetal ball and drift as if there was no work to do. But she doesn’t. She cannot. She remembers the words, she hears the voice speaking… "you work in whatever space you find yourself in…we work if we’re happy, we work if we’re sad. We work."
So she pulls her face from the carpet, makes herself write an intention in her little book, a manifestation of her Will. Yes, she will write. She will begin to move her energy and push it beyond the place her machine wants to dwell.
And despite the machine’s current situation, this time, it is very different. Now, she has a constant beacon. The one thing that does not change within the constant shifting of the universe. The very strange world, where there is both no change and constant change. This existence that offers us a delusion of time, where nothing happens or ever will, and yet, this sense that there is no constant. And both are correct. And both are barely understood in her child’s brain. She clings to the glimmer, the shiny sparkles of glittering dust that make sense. I think I get it…just barely, she smiles.
She types, she tries to capture the slithering words that move like snakes up and down her fingernails. They climb up the ladders she has laid out, thick and made of wood, the footless creatures avoid the splinters at every rung, red and black, green and brown, they move silently, fast as clouds on a ferocious day. Move! Demons! Run as if the alarm is ringing. Dance upon the hot coals I have laid before you…burning and smoking, simmering upon the cauldron of knowledge I stir forgetfully each day. The wooden spoon clangs against the metal, adding yet another sound to the gamelan melody that circles the sphere.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Heat

The passing of time, the greatest lie ever taught in school…perhaps it was never even learned, just an assumed vague notion that was counted by birthday parties and breasts. It is the dispersal of energy. I move, my body jerks forward with the force of a small plastic wind up toy. My right foot lurches awkwardly into the street, the conversion of energy. Another link within the great chain of events. There is no cold…with all the times I have used this word, complaining of rain, dreaming of the golden sun while I cursed the fog…but it does not even exist. It is only the absence of heat…no more real than my many clouded delusions.
Do I understand the news?
Cold does not exist!
And yet, I can become less hot. My vibrancy can diminish, my warm tea turns into the same temperature as the room. I lie in bed, drooling upon my pillow, I am the same temperature of the room. We share the same passivity, the same lack of exuberance.
We are all just here. Our atoms move at the same rate, bouncing at a regular speed. The same rate the universe will one day be resigned to. A tepid bath of atoms, dancing the same uninspired tune.
And yet I can hear the notes that fill the air. My mind interprets the melody and I begin to move. First one arm, then the other. My hips cry out and all of me stands up, all of me begins to spin. My body warms as I swing, as I jump, my heart pounds with ferocious fervor. Around and around I reel…
I hear a knocking at the door, the viscous crawling of atoms not quite moving at my accelerated speed. I regard them with cautiousness. I take precautions and put on my armor. Armed for battle, I stand still. Feeling my heart, sensing the energy that moves up and down every available channel. Each center is more than warm. Each center is alive and moving. But the pull to lukewarm calls. The tired feet below me beg to sit down, and standing there, I know the chair is the first in many steps towards cooling… toward the entropy my atoms wish to find and then forget. I resist as I fall.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fruit Holder

The words struck hard and deep. The expected mechanical reaction appeared quickly: tears, fear, an instant urge to pick up the phone and hear a soothing voice. Time, the great immortal nothingness within which I dwell. I perceive the great waves but for a brief moment…then, the fear kicks in and we journey back into bed, back under the covers, where I rest. Warm and cozy, but with an uneasy fragile tranquility. But the words stay, like an unusual taste upon my tongue, a new fruit, different than any others in the market.
Among wheelbarrows of apples, oranges, green grapes and promises of sweet, juicy refreshment…there is a lady, disguised as a man. She opens her coat and reveals the translucent spherical fruit. The size of cherries, they hang from two thin green threads, each strand hanging from her nipples like jeweled grapes from a vine. Within the small fruit, I see flashing pictures and flickering colors. Each little ball a world within itself, displaying its own show, its own version of reality. Faces morph from one to the other, colors blend and turn into futuristic vistas of silver and gold. I watch, I stand still before a dozen clear fruits projecting images above the flesh of a woman with a bearded face. The streets are crowded, housewives and young girls navigate the thin alleyways, doing their best to avoid collisions with other housewives at every turn. They carry bananas and fish, watermelons and household cleaners. None carry the clear flickering fruit. None look in our direction, none see a man-woman with an open red coat, revealing elongated breasts and strands of fruit universes. A glass coating seems to cover us. I feel no heat from the sun, no cool breeze of the ocean wind. There are people on the periphery of my attention, but there is no sound. No voices from moving lips, no barks from the roaming stray dogs, no cries from the many babies strapped to sturdy backs. The woman-man watches me, holds my eyes with her own. He looks up, into the direction of the would-be warm sun. The small fruits begin to synchronize…the various flickering lights and images slowly begin to all turn a delicate shade of blue.
They begin to pulse, slowly at first, but glowing faster, moving in more rapid intervals by the second. Light blue, dark blue, light, dark, faster and faster, the colors pulse interchangeably, become more ferocious and alive. Ta, Ta, TA...they move to an inaudible beat while the colors morph into an electric blue brilliance, the color moves so quickly it seems to be stagnate, one extended color of brilliance; but it vibrates with a radiance that has reached into the depths of my heart and pulled out the silent kernel that has been watching attentively.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Wishing For Death

It all wants to spill forward. The tears have rushed to my eyes in a moment of panic. The tidal wave began in softness between my legs, and now, it has swelled, pushed forward by the long, strong movements of your rhythmic force. Up my spine it has traveled, passing cords and vertebrae, tabs and disks. Up and up, reaching my head, wrapping around the front of my hair. On its descent, it rushes to fill the space of my eyes, it sits, like a suicidal woman on the edge of a building, waiting, flirting, tasting the air, tempting the fall.
The journey, when done right, is a circle…I have much to learn. It traps itself in my head, a prisoner of my stillness, captive in the cave of non-movement. The cause of headaches, the seed of anger and frustration. But remember, the gentle movements in and out, the softness of love caresses me from the inside, the magic carpet of a ride taken together. Can I stay? when thousands of tiny hands scream for me to join them in the lower depths? In the pools and dark red rivers of discontent and frustration…the unused energy left to run its natural descending course. Fields of strawberries left unwatered, cactus beds and posies…all withering, perhaps never existing at all.
In those moments, I choose the ultimate defeat, I make the most selfish of choices. I wallow and dance with the black suitors I carry. Drinking wine and champagne while the rest of us wonder where Lydia has gone? When is she returning? A deep breath in and we send the energy up again, I watch it wrap around my head, drip down my tongue and return once again to the wet hole where it began. Up, and around. Then again, up and around. Like a thousand beams of a thousand currents, alive with electric colors and sparkling past minute matter. Push, push it down, along my tongue, above the torso and it descends, down, down again. Squeeze… back up.
Move it…or it will move you.
Push…or I will be carried away to the farthest reaches, where only sadness sings a warbly song. Where whales dance but find no mates. Inhale and up, exhale and down. It’s energy that wants an end.
We want a death.
We want a resting place.
And this small part, this almost silent life, hidden and quiet, yet all seeing…this is the force that caresses me into staying. It wants something more. Much more than what we are used to. Much more than we think we can handle. Much more than we ever imagined. Greater than any television, religion, society…bigger and more magnificent than I can remember.
Hold still. Feel. Move. Push. Use. Flow.
MOVE.
Up and down, back around. Relax and move.
There is no time for censuring, no time for second guessing and perfection. Do it, and do it well. With love and devotion. With care and attention. Caress each movement like a lover’s cheek, slow and attentive…carefully.
I watch these hands move, the vehicle for something that attempts to flow. The unnamable that wants to speak. Sticks in the river, blockages of thought and kernels of identification. Stones bulge from the icy water currents that trickle over packs of tiny sticks. We push to move.
The mermaids wait in the lagoon, far from the waterfalls and side passages where I often linger. The caves here are usually dark, illuminated only by the glowing whites of your eyes. Gold moves from you…towards me. The chamber you create is awaiting my return. Aglow with candles and soft light, warm as your embrace, I run towards your home, panting and screaming along the deserted streets that radiate beneath the yellow fire of street lamps and squawking crows.