Parallax

Searching sails
In the night
I branch out towards
This tiny light
It seems so small
It might implode
And maybe if
I reach its node
The knowledge of
The world itself
Will bless us with
A timeless breath
A sigh so strange
We can’t foresee
This breath is real

This breath is me.

The ‘Oasis’ of Self-Inquiry

Whose stories are you telling? And why?

Self-inquiry is so much more important now than I ever could have imagined. I take it so dead-seriously these days that I catch myself off guard.

I used to hear the term ‘journaling’ and scoff a little bit. Mostly because I didn’t have the time to do it (or so I told myself), but also because I was a bit jealous of these people who did have time and did take it so seriously.

Earlier in my life, I latched onto the idea and image of journaling steadfastly – I wanted so to be a writer, and how else would I get there then diligently writing the accounts of one’s own life, every day without fail? Duty bound to the written word, and eventually left with a large stack of journals and pen scratches as evidence. Credentials.

Yet inevitably, those old journals of mine from middle school and high school didn’t quite stick as a habit. I became bored with them and barely ever wrote in them regularly. But I was living in the outside world then – I was scribing my daily traverses, but of course it was boring: I was not turning my attention as inward as I should have.

The inward motion makes a difference; it moves mountains and carves universes. It is fluid and ever-changing. Reflecting on the outward side of things, without the inward motion, only reinforces tropes and boxes of cultural and personal constructs that are already evident.

Once I was in college and testing the waters of asking myself deeper questions through writing, journaling – or as I have come to call it, ‘personal essaying’ – finally found its proper niche in my life.

Writing in self-inquiry has taken its place as the rightful oasis it always was and could be. It is NOT the “palace of intellect” or “shrine to craft” like I assumed it was in my youth. No… it is much more modest than that, as it humbles yet enriches me every time I do it. To dip my pen in and drink deep of the waters I find, thirst quenched in surprise and awe, as I hadn’t realized I was parched in the first place.

In this way, self-inquiry is really, really important. And I want to stress that to all people I know and all people I don’t.

As you write, or think, or meditate, or talk your way through hard, tough questions, take care to not repeat the stories you’ve been told previously. Don’t regurgitate. Don’t just reflect back what the world wants and what culture has told you is important. Take the world and bend it through your most important lens – that of your heart.

Whose stories are you telling? And why? 

In a way, I think this sums up my budding interest in Buddhism, and how I feel about it a nutshell.

To me, it is applying self-inquiry to your life to root out those voices that are telling your story for you. That are whispering in your ear the script of what’s already been written; thoughts already outlined and feelings already validated.

Self-inquiry is a path, a road, to understanding and recognizing the true You that exists regardless. The true You that has always been there, the shining kernel at the center of your outward persona and self-constructs.

I want myself and my loved ones to ask these questions of themselves and look deeper, to know that luminous self underneath all the horrible muck that we tell ourselves. The muck that society / family / culture / friends / gender roles / media / and even their own inner critic (the most formidable voice among these) spews at them every day and in every moment. To see and recognize each of these voices and see how they influence our lives and our decisions. To see how these voices are not them. They are not You.

Whose stories are you telling? And why?

“Tell them stories” has always been one of my favorite  “this is the meaning of life” quips from a fiction book series that I’ve ever read, from the third book in the ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy by Phillip Pullman. This quote jumped out at me when I read it.  It was one of those truth-y moments that lies with you for the rest of your life.

Stories are a mainstay in our culture and they define us as humans; a unique attribute of our consciousness. And we have the power to harness and tell the stories that we want to tell.

So in a way, Buddhism to me is a vehicle of self-inquiry from which we gather and amass tools and skills to hear and tell the stories of our true self – to hear and tell the stories of the heart.

An oasis that lies within.

A Rejection of the ‘Reactionary Self’

Uncertain and quiet, I still just don’t know.

Lately I feel like I have no authority to be espousing my opinion on the internet, to post blogs, or even to write privately because I feel contaminated.

A deep-seated feeling of perpetuating something that’s not genuine. Of creating something that’s not bore of myself but merely a reaction of external and incongruous things. Something that in the end is just word garbage.

(And as I pointed out in my first blog post here, this was one of my prominent reservations that held me back when I started blogging.)

We all know that pure and unadulterated “reactions” are not always virtuous or the right idea/thought/feeling to hold onto or to emulate.

Perhaps this explains my relative lack of blogging and writing, perhaps not. But it does explain why I have started and stopped MANY different essays, none of which are posted here, and helps to explain why I never felt comfortable doing so.

A lot of my thoughts lately have resembled ‘rants’ of some kind and have been rather depressing and deflating to re-read (even to myself).

In a large sense, they are pure reactions to the pain and grief and anxiety and frustration of the people and situations that surround me and share this life. I’m mixed up in them and these myriad worlds of feeling right now, and therefore do not feel a ‘divinity’ or true connection to my writing space as of late.

The other ‘Me’ that catches words – not creates them.

When I’m writing for myself, I’m elated – because this means I have no agenda but to push my own buttons. But when the world is constantly pushing my buttons for me, I am stuck reacting to them and not my own. I have no thought energy or emotion left for the good stuff: The personal and inner journey.

This one takes effort, too. Much more effort than off-the-cuff reactionary thought.

And after crying and fretting at the news all day, sometimes I don’t want to delve down to the inner recesses of my being. I don’t relish opening up a crisp notebook with empty, white pages staring back at me.

Instead I just want distraction.

I think many of us are feeling this right now. Like a suffocation under chaotic clouds. Disbelief and bewilderment of the swirling, vaudevillian world we are suddenly witness to, manifesting before our eyes and before our children’s eyes.

But my inner voice keeps telling me that my reaction to all this is my choice – and that it is so, so, so important. I’m not sure how, but it is.

My heart swells and whispers to stop reacting and start Being. To stop getting caught in the swirl around me, and to create my own swirl. My own message. My own energy.

To connect to the message and energy that reside at the heart.

This or that tragedy. This or that anarchy. This or that doomsday proclamation of pressure and sadness. This is not you. It is not me. It is not Us.

This isn’t what we truly want. It’s energy gone wild. And I’m reminding myself – and maybe you – not to fall into it.

Be the rock in the swirl. The loving rock that observes and sees all things, accepts them as they are, and lifts them up to know the love that you feel so deeply. The love that exists so infinitely and without condition or borders or feelings or thought.

We are all so cataclysmically loved that we feel torn apart sometimes. But maybe that is ok.

The seams are coming undone. Power for power’s sake is getting ripped with cracks and slivers of truth, and is buckling under the weight.

We crave honesty. We crave connection and spirit. No more fakery. No more facades.

Feel the seams rip and love them all the same. Whether apart in pieces or together as a whole, we need to cover it all in love and fly.

Intonation

Enshrined
Entombed
Inside the womb
I sputter and break the spell

It’s hard to say
It’s hard to stray
But I’ll try my damnedest to dwell

Outside my thoughts
Inside the swell
Of Being’s greater good

To practice
To be
To strictly not need
To stratify all that I could

I seek to wonder,
I search to seek
The trials and pathways ahead

I don’t want to despair
I want to repair
The damages here and unsaid

Stout and round
I speak and expound
The stillness that sits to stress

To ask
To sail
Upon the swales
A sweetness we’re yet to undress.

 

 

Finding ‘Home’

What is the difference between Good and Evil?

Are they just labels that we assign each concept, or are they concepts that transcend our mere understanding?

And how can I know the difference between the two in this utterly confusing present?

This feels like a silly question to ask since there seem to be so many examples of good and evil in the world today – even asking this question feels unfathomable. But the more I lean towards a limitless inner world and trying to erase the lines of separation around me, I tend to believe that these two labels – these two lines in the sand – are causing far too much trouble than they’re worth.

They are both just energy – but in how we direct this energy, in how we assign it, in how we nurture it, it will manifest very differently. The ultimate agent is ourselves.

 

I know, I know
You can bring the fire
I can bring the bones
I know, I know
You make the fire
My bones will make it grow.

 

This is a lyric from the song “Hometown,” by Twenty One Pilots. To me, these lines represent that any of these forces – good, evil, or countless others that we label – can be invited in, be planted and channeled within us. And from within our mere flesh can be grown. Fostered in our bones.

‘Evil’ is a name we attribute to bad things that happen to us in this world, a force that we negatively associate with. A malicious, chaotic energy. A life-removing energy. ‘Good’ is the name we attribute all that we feel positively about, a force that is uplifting, kind, and benevolent. A loving, life-giving energy.

But these are both just forces of energy to which we ultimately assign a name. And there is nothing in our power to stop either from existing except for this: To nurture the energies that give life, and to ‘let be’ the energies that don’t.

 

A shadow tilts it’s head at me
Spirits in the dark are waiting
I will let the wind go quietly
I will let the wind go quietly

 

We cannot stop the wind. We can only let it blow past us. US being the indomitable beings we are – the pure, open awareness; the calm within the storm. We can know the storms that tumble and rumble will pass. We can have faith in our hearts that these storms, winds, energies and forces beyond will always bother us, and will always blow past.

The “evil” energies and malicious thoughts will always be there, but we have a choice to let them go. To let them be. To remain the observer of these forces rather than the grower of them. And when we recognize love and a life-giving energy – we can invite it in.

We are the vessel from which any and all things may come or not come – it is our individual and collective choice.

This is the pivot of our free will, the crucial choice of what we will grow in our bones. Often gone unrecognized and bogged down in the minutiae of everyday life.

*

As these ideas and forces whirl about us, and I fret about making mistakes and nurturing concepts that are not ‘Good’ from within myself, my heart reminds me to look unflinchingly inside: To re-route all things through my heart and examine how those labels are assigned and who did the assigning.

The door of the heart is open, always unlocked with a simple request; a simple recognition. A reminder to me that the lock and key that I imagined there had never existed in the first place.

 

Where we’re from, there’s no sun
Our hometown’s in the dark
Where we’re from, we’re no one
Our hometown’s in the dark

 

This lyric might ultimately mean something else, but for me it speaks of the Heart. That in this darkness of within, the cavern deep, there exists the illumination we seek. It is Home, and it will steer us true.

When we are in love, and acting from love, we will make the right choice – and let the wind go quietly.

 

Zenith

Seeing stones and sills go by
I see these things and start to cry

So many notes are gone and missed
I reach to feel them, shores to kiss

I greet You and I rise up tall
I want to search the Garden’s sprawl

To wander freely, touch what’s true
To love as greatly as You do.

“Language-twisting-twisting”

Words are always following me. They hang above, trailing me wherever I go. Constantly composing, re-forming, re-stating. Once I have a moment of peace or silence, they flood me like the deluge…. An onslaught of compositions, essays, poetry, and random statements.

I am used to this constant internal narrative. It’s been there for me all along, so it’s all I know. Constant and normal. But I do have to work to keep it productive and not obsessive. Once I open the gates to the flood, it is hard to retain balance. To find the prior equilibrium. I’m working on it, but it is an ongoing battle. A battle I enjoy, really, so I am at least thankful for that!

The more I write these thoughts and think things out in words, the more I find it’s not really about the words at all. The individual words, meanings, or technical skill. It’s not even about the literal story. No… it’s really only about conveying a concept. Communicating a feeling. Incepting pictures to the hearts and minds of others and to myself. The words themselves are meaningless, but together with intention and imagination they create, transform, and build.

Feeling these concepts in my writing, spirited and soulful concepts, is the goal. I hope I am on the right track. It feels good, and moves me passionately, so I think I am stepping in the right direction. The pictures of the soul are so much more communicative than any human written piece could aspire to be. Transformative, intimate, touching. These pictures are the ones I reach for and hope to glimpse.

Amazonian shamans have a distinct relationship with words. They talk and describe their spiritual journeys and ayahuasca dreams in far-reaching metaphors that seem nonsensical to the outsider – but they make perfect sense to them. They tell us that this is the only way one can know the unknowable and examine the unseen. To get close. To glimpse.

They describe this as tsai yoshtoyoshto, which means “language-twisting-twisting.”

In his wonderfully readable memoir about his studies in the Peruvian jungle with indigenous peoples, The Cosmic Serpent, author and anthropologist Jeremy Narby posits why they must speak in twisted language – the “language that is double and wrapped around itself.” The shamans use their koshuiti, or particular song they sing, during their hallucination dreams in order to communicate with what they are seeing. They say:

“With my koshuiti I want to see – singing, I carefully examine things – twisted language brings me close but not too close – with normal words I would crash into things – with twisted ones I circle around them – I can see them clearly.”

Here, we could infer that normal language does not let us know these concepts adequately. We need the metaphoric meaning, as this is the only real way to see. Mental pictures cannot be described in mere words. They are concepts, feelings, pictures that reach beyond and within the self.

I have been writing my poetry stream-of-consciousness style for a while now, and I am only just grasping the pictures and concepts that it conveys to me. When I write, I try to let it flow unhindered, and it naturally comes out in rhyme. I’ve decided not to fight it – indeed, maybe rhyme is the best way of seeing the universe?

I will heed to the “language-twisting-twisting” as it shows me what I cannot see in this rationalistic, brain-based world. It shows me the language of the heart…in singsong.

*

I want to know, but feel unrest.
I want to formulate the best.
And so I must take my time…

Pyramids are built in rhyme.

Presence

Seeing seething, seeping wounds
Bandaged more than their cocoons.

Breathtaking, worldly, in delight
Something broken, fangs in spite.

Carrying burdens with their back
Cracking barrels, stumbling track.

Ambitions high amidst the air
Spinning yarns, caressing care.

Eyes want truth in light and thought
Hands wrought iron, sow and sought.

Be with the mystery, comforting space
Beyond the matter – it’s not a race.

Upshift

I feel like I’ve been in an incubation period. Insular and isolated. Not by any specific day to day circumstance, but by my own inner need. Some form of metamorphosis.

This is, I realize, a very grand term to apply to my own personal growth, and rather presumptuous. But what else emerges after a period of incubation but some form of life, put together out of the immortal slime of potentialities?

I personally need these times of introspection greatly, not only because I’m an introvert and recharge in silence, but for the need to be alone, without distraction, just to make sense of things in general. To make sense of the entirety of life, in thought and in emotion.

When I read books I usually come to a point when I need to put them down and psychologically gnaw on the new ideas and let them percolate. Allow them space in my own psyche to simmer and assimilate. As such, sometimes I get halfway through a book, or even three-quarters, and I have to put it down to think. Then, unsurprisingly, I have a hard time picking it back up again as I let too much time elapse for mindful thought. It should be no surprise that given this predilection, I have seven books in progress right now, not counting three or so kindle books.

(This specifically applies to non-fiction; I tend to race through and lose myself in fiction books, to the detriment of all other pursuits. In this way I am very careful and cautious about introducing fiction titles to my life.)

This start and stop nature is frustrating, but as I was reading this evening and trying to revel in a large chunk of personal time in which to really sink my teeth into a book, I got fidgety. My mind’s own thoughts started to outweigh the words on the page. I had no choice but to put the book down. I could not concentrate on a single concept any longer.

I have to upshift my focus – yield to the unrelenting vastness that bubbles over and in.

When dealing with new concepts, ideas, histories, facts, spiritual themes, and even other more mundane areas of life – I absolutely lose my narrowed focus after a time, and can only gain it back and reign it in with great, great, great effort.

Introspection and rest are the only ways to gain this back without a fight. My conscious attention to details, to information gathering, becomes exhausted and I have no choice but to stop and open the aperture to bask in a larger picture of light.

So maybe this little incubation period is a necessary thing that is leading me to wonderful places; maybe it is just a resting place, to gain back energy. Either way, writing is a way to structure some of the unfocused thoughts that stream around in my unconscious opened aperture. Much needed therapy and a welcome outlet.

My “hibernation” of mind, and slow down of blog posts, are both reflections of the busy-ness of the holiday season and the uptick in general of ideation that I have been subject to in the past month. Ideation that has forced me to put the book down and gnaw and percolate.

As much as incubation is necessary, I look forward to less information gathering and more information formulation in the coming year. The pendulum swinging back from its moment of rest.

I’ve said a few times in entries here that I sometimes feel like a conduit of thought – a mere single point of light emanating out of another, grander source. Just repeating and processing what I receive. This feeling has not subsided – it has only grown, and provided a substantial foundation for my personal philosophy and spirit.

Cheers to the 2016 New Year – to new thought, upshifted focus, and the general expansion of heart.

To Know Thyself

Starting this blog was putting myself out there in a big way, and while part of me was exhilarated, the other half was screaming to pump the brakes. But I made the decision, ignored the introverted and fearful part of my brain and jumped into the pool, arms open, into the deep.

I have no regrets and I’m enjoying this more and more. Using this space as a collection point, a place for gathering and keeping. An opening of my heart in order to share it with the world.  But I have to remind myself that while I love this space and the engagement that exists here, this was not my ultimate goal.

In essence, I do this so that I may know myself.

I truly, really, deeply, do not think well out loud through speaking, or through just thinking alone. I must write it out. For some reason this is the only way I know myself and the depths of my feelings and opinions and thoughts.

If I’m conflicted on something, putting pen to paper helps me sort it out and ask the right questions. If I’m in love with something, the written words flow and express so much more eloquently then anything spoken.

In these writings, in these words on the page or screen, these moments are sacred spaces for which I have entered into my own Self – if such a thing exists. Into the cavern that waits inside so patiently. So willingly. Stilled waters bursting with life.

I’m glad I found it. I’m glad I recognize it. I’m glad I can know myself even better than I could have imagined. Greatness is in this space, and I am only just glimpsing it.

I encourage you to follow your heart, follow it faithfully into the dark so that you may find that light – your guiding star – within.