Saturday, March 21, 2020

My Significant Other is the Kosmos - Darker Than Any Mystery Part 6: Walk on the Wild Side


I do yoga exercises on a regular basis.  If I had my way I would follow this practice every morning, though circumstances and personal distractions tend to intrude from time to time.  This is not a strict Hatha Yoga practice in the traditional manner.  The intention is simply to keep myself limber;  a good physical state to maintain given that my art and work require maximum flexibility.  But there is a secondary, and perhaps more interesting, benefit that I have found from this daily morning habit.  These exercises are slow and graceful, allowing me to focus away from my chattering thoughts and toward the actual functioning of my body, in the moment.  In the last year or two a new sense has been revealed to me - the sense of how surprising the whole thing is, this body we inhabit.

For instance, there is an exercise that focuses on balance.  Standing, I lift my right foot backward, grasping the ankle with my right hand as I stretch my left hand to the sky, holding that pose to the count of twenty breaths.  At times I just can't seem to find the balance point, but often it is almost effortless, and as I stand poised on one foot it can seem almost... miraculous!  How do I do that??  It's as if I pull away from myself and just observe in amazement (and I don't mean how amazingly special I am, just how amazing it is).  This sense has started to carry over into other aspects of life.  Have you ever been involved in a mundane task, say folding your laundry, and suddenly wondered how you're doing this, effortlessly?  I have.

Sometimes when I'm engaged in art making the same sort of thing happens.  I pull my attention away and observe my body in action, simply watching the events unfold as my shoulders sway, my arms twist and bend, my hands and fingers in a complexly coordinated dance with the thread; all as if I wasn't even there.  Even now as I write, pen in hand gliding over the college-ruled page, I'm baffled how this all happens, how my hand smoothly translates my thoughts into the physical reality of visual word symbols arranged in sentences, then paragraphs, all meant to allow completely immaterial thoughts to materialize in a manner that will allow them to de-materialize and enter your awareness.

Of course, most of the time I take it all for granted, but these moments of detachment and wonder come over me regularly these days, and this is new.  It's kinda humbling, and at the same time delightful, like a child watching a pinwheel spin in the breeze.  When I catch myself in this state at the laundromat I can't help but smile.  Perhaps this is a bit of what some call beginner's mind.  And if that is so, isn't it ironic that I had to get well into my sixties to discover this beginner's mind?


I recently re-read a book by Dorothy Walters - Unmasking the Rose: A Record of Kundalini Initiation.  I first stumbled upon this memoir during the early period of my own initiation, a time when I was in a determined search to understand what had happened and still was happening to me.  Dorothy's recounting of her experience in the form of contemporaneous journal entries and occasional commentaries on them was a great help to my gaining at least the beginning of some clarity about my predicament.  Later I discovered she was living not far from me, and so I contacted her via email to thank her for publishing the account of her experiences.  She invited me to meet with her over tea, and we have since become friends.

It's been at least ten years since I initially read the book, and re-reading it brought some amusing surprises.  The first was an impression that this must be a second edition, since so much was unfamiliar; I assumed she had added new material.  I was wrong: this was the original.  It finally dawned on me that of course it seemed new - at the time of my first reading I was simply incapable of absorbing much of what she was plainly relating because my own experiences had not developed enough to take it in.  I was literally blind to it.

The second surprise was amusing in a different way.  As I finally closed the book at the last page I could only chuckle at the presumptuousness of my own attempt at writing of the energies in this blog, a realization that it was all there in her book, clear and precise and deep, and how could I possibly add anything to the subject???  A humbling moment indeed.

Yet here I am, scribbling on a college-ruled notebook because... well... I have to explore this mystery on my own, have to further clarify it for myself, and just as importantly for you, my readers.  Spinning webs of interlocution seems to be almost instinctual to us humans, and me being one of us humans, I apparently can't help myself.

In the book Dorothy breaks up her account into five sections, one of which is titled 'Walking in the Two Worlds'.  This phrase struck home to me; I am indeed walking in two - better yet, three - worlds.  In one I pay rent, I chitchat, engage in political and philosophical discussions, laugh and joke with others, commiserate over troubles.  In other words,  the public face of who I am among all with whom I come into contact.  But there is a second world running parallel alongside this public face, the personal world I've been tentatively trying to share in this blog - the mysterious world of the energies that have become my constant companion and, apparently, my invisible evolutionary engine.  Call it Kundalini, call it Orgone, call it whatever you like; this dog has grabbed me in its jaws like a stuffed toy, and it won't quit shaking.

There's a third world I'm walking in as well, but I'll come back to that later.  What's interesting here is that feel of the differing yet parallel worlds Dorothy so simply and clearly enunciated.  This world of Kundalini is astonishing, bewildering, incredibly intense; yet my feeble attempts at communicating the experience seem almost trivial and pointless.  It took three years from its inception for me to get up the nerve to share it with anyone!  There is something about it that is simultaneously deeply personal and profoundly impersonal, a dichotomy that is impossible to explain.   Over time I've slowly opened up quite a bit, yet I've found there are very few who are receptive, much less understanding.  Outside of Dorothy I've personally met only one person who has started down the  path into this mysterious world, and she was introduced to me by Dorothy!  I've often thought, if I could just share the experience with this or that person it would rock their world, turn them around, open them to new possibilities (in fact, in the Hindu tradition there is a method for doing this, labeled Shaktipat, which involves a Guru or Master transmitting the experience to a disciple, often through the laying-on of hands.  I can't do this, and even if I could I would likely defer). 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not feeling sorry for myself.  On the contrary, I'm grateful and excited; and to be honest I feel undeservedly blessed.  But this world of Kundalini I'm inhabiting, of coursing bodily energies, of real personal transformation despite my myriad failings, does not sync well with the rest of the external world.  And that's a shame.  And thus, I walk in the two worlds...  oh wait, I said three worlds, didn't I?

To be continued...

Monday, March 2, 2020

My Significant Other is the Kosmos - Darker Than Any Mystery Part 5: Filling the Vaccuum


Not long ago I was in a conversation with someone who had read My Significant Other is the Kosmos, the book I had self-published 6 years ago.  I was relating to him some of the evolution of my experiences since the time of publication, and I could see from his expression that he was, in that moment, just beginning to 'grok' what that tale was pointing toward.  As I concluded he paused and simply asked, "Does one have to suffer so much for this to happen?"  He was obviously referring to the deep and painful existential crisis I had passed through preceding the arrival of the energies (you may remember at the time suicide was looking a bit warm and fuzzy to me).  All I could think of to say in reply was that it was absolutely necessary for me, and for more than a few whose accounts I had read of, though not for all; but beyond that I had no clear idea.

His question has indeed been something I've often pondered over.  I can only speak for myself here concerning the need for suffering, yet with the aid of hindsight and a recent unexpected insight that came to me I may be able to offer up an explanation that resonates with some.

The surprising insight appeared just after I had written the first draft of this posting. a draft that was disappointingly rambling and incoherent, even if it did hold the germ of the idea I was aiming at.  It came in the form of yet another dream: in that dream I was at work in an outdoor setting adjacent to a museum.  A scissor-lift was needed for the museum, and I spotted one parked in the middle of a bridge high over a river.  I got into the lift with the intention of moving it into place, but as I started the machine it somehow went into reverse and quickly backed off the edge of the bridge into thin air.  I found myself falling straight toward the water below.  I didn't panic; rather, I simply prepared myself for the impact.  What I didn't prepare for was the fact that I was wearing a heavily laden tool belt, and when I plunged into the waters the weight of the tool belt dragged me down - I couldn't swim back to the surface.  As I was desperately trying to undo the belt, sinking ever further into the depths, I realized I was done for; then I realized I was dreaming.  I woke myself up.

This was a disturbing way to start the morning, and the dream haunted me throughout the day.  It just made no sense, had no apparent connection to current events in my life.  It wasn't until the next day, after I'd gained some distance from the frightening nocturnal event, that the light bulb turned on.

Some context is required here.  In the period before my existential crisis I was working at a museum, running the exhibition installation department.  An unfortunate series of events led to a work of art being damaged.  My immediate supervisor, who was not inclined favorably toward me to begin with, took that opportunity to justify firing me.  Now, we've all been fired at one time or another, and we've all bounced back.  But a curious thing happened within my psyche; something that, once again, is obvious in hindsight but was opaque to me at the time.  It seems that the museum work I was doing was a major factor in my personal identity, more than I admitted to.  I took great pride in my competence.  The yanking out of that piece of myself was the catalyst for a startling domino effect: one after another the dominoes that formed my identity, my sense of who I was and why I was in the world, simply began to tumble down in a ghastly dance, and I could only helplessly watch the catastrophe unfold.  By the time the process worked through to its finish my personality was simply emptied out ( and I assume not in the sense the Buddhists point to).

I guess I was ripe for it.  However, the extent and swiftness of this emptying caught me by surprise like a kick in the gut, and I was clueless about how to move forward.  Painful indeed.  Of course I was at first desperately pointing my finger outside myself as to the cause of this predicament, but after a period of time it became apparent that it was indeed all on me.  So I grudgingly came to own the mess that was my life, and there I began the slow crawl out of the black pit.

But this wasn't yet the onset of the energies.  I was still emptied out, still bewildered; but the kick-in-the-gut pain of it had relaxed.  To borrow a dream image a friend related to me once, it was as if I had been cast out into a broad and endless ocean, no shore in sight in any direction (and certainly not that further shore of Buddhist fame).  But I had owned my predicament, and because of that I could at least tread water - after all, the tool belt had been jettisoned.  Which was the irony the dream of the fall from the bridge pointedly illuminated - my identity, symbolized by the tool belt I often wore installing museum exhibitions, had been dragging me underwater, drowning me.  And now it was gone.

That was the necessary condition for the emergence of the energies - because I was emptied out and defenseless something new could enter and begin the process of refilling.  And it was on that fateful August morning that a mysterious force rushed into the vacuum...and it felt like unbound fullness.

To be continued...