Ten years ago, if someone would have told me I'd be doing shamanic healing work, I'd have laughed at them. I do serious work, I'd have told them. I meditate, do deep energywork, systematically analyze and remove the Untrue from my body/mind/heart/spirit. I don't play head games, do make believe, conjure up fairy tales around talking animals. But then I woke up to the fact that it's all a head game, every single thing we believe is reality, the western and the eastern, the Matriarchal Age, The Patriarchal Age, The New Age, all of it. And I saw the machine that makes it appear so real: mass consensus.
This mass consensus? Wildly popular, but not so reliable. Mayan priests sacrificing hundreds of people a day, the kings personally opening up a small vein as a show of fealty to their gods, because their gods needed blood to survive. Soulmates. Western medicine pharmaceuticals as clinically proven effective method for the treatment of chronic disease. Women, cattle, and people from foreign lands bought and sold to be used as organic machines. Buy Green. Placebo as another word for wishful thinking. All you need is Love. Cancer is born at the nexus of environmental factors, heredity, and poor self-esteem.
Mass consensus, like a virus, propagates itself by saturating us with interpretations, of stories, from the moment we're born, continuing throughout our life, layering on the latest update in the tales called reality, the newest flavor of faux presented as fabulous and/or cutting edge. Why? Because we're built to find meaning at the confluence of our six senses and the ever-evolving consciousness existing in all three brains - the grey matter housed in the skull, the central nervous system, and the digestive tract.
Of course, there's the hard-wiring. The physical/energetic chains of DNA carrying the coding for things like the ability to store fat, or protection of our progeny coded into behavior via hormones like oxytocin. Or the neural mapping we're born with that adapts as we grow, like mistrust of strangers. (There's actually a large portion of the brain that is used for face recognition, which is why we generally feel more trusting of human faces like our own, like we've grown up with, and less trusting of different species.) A behavior like mistrust is the result of a chain of neural connections that rose from animals having more of this short bit of programming surviving to bear offspring more often than those that didn't. And if this behavior is reinforced during childhood, it's ramped up in different ways, and viola: racism, sexism, xenophobia, speciesism, etc.
All living beings are born with and develop hundreds of thousands of these small "programs", programs that are part of survival (survival defined as permission to be one of the select organisms that gets to breathe and eat and cruise around long enough to propagate). Supposedly, humans are at the driving tip of evolution, with the pinnacle of humanhood - a kind of Human Adulthood - made up of qualities we value as most highly evolved, a kind of Higher Programming, such as kindness, selflessness, humility, joyfulness, humor, emotional intelligence, etc.
And from what I can gather, from my own experience, what I've witnessed, Waking Up/Enlightenment is breaking out (or being ejected out) of the programming, all of it. Here, the rubber meets the road, the Human meets Beyond Human. And at this place, a few years ago, at this edge of Human, where hardwired programming is seen for the intellectual and emotional coding it is, I found myself dumped out on the front lawn.
And for a very very long time, I sat there on that front lawn, sat there and wondered: what the f*ck happens now? When all of "reality" is finally seen as only story, as something we all got together and made up, what the heck do you do? How do you eat? How do you keep a roof over your head? How do you interact with the billions of humans crawling all over this planet, with their varying hardcore beliefs in This or That portion of the made up story? What's the point in any of it? There's no more striving for dominance or mating for biological superiority or even trying to make the world a better place. So what do you do? Do you just lay down and die?
There was no one for me to ask. The ability to connect with other humans, even so-called Enlightened Folks, had been severed (by Fate? Life? God? I've no clue - only that it did, that it dang skippy did) I could hold no conversations, sign up for instructional classes, read applicable how-to books, throw myself on the mercy of Seasoned Teachers. I spent several years looking for something, anything, anyone. Then I Got It. There was only one direction left: Inward.
And so I turned inside and asked: so what the f*ck? What the freak is going on? What the heck do I do with this body, this mind, this time? And in a series of alternating hilarious and horrifying 3-D experiential images, what I saw was story, all the story collected inside of me, clinging in clumps to organs, crackling like downed power lines along nerve pathways, tucked away in tiny packets, hiding amongst the fat cells. And at this point, I picked up the only remaining tool I had left to go ferret these stories out, the tool known currently as shamanism, which is a Siberian word for "one who sees in the dark" but what really just means Someone Who Heals By Telling Stories.
This delighted me! So perfect, so full of Yes! Because I love stories. I'm obsessed with them. I have been all my life. Seeing them, hearing them, creating them, passing them on. Stories? Really? The last piece is about simultaneously observing, deconstructing, and swimming in the stories? Awesome!
Because I'm built for stories. To read, to tell, to watch, to write. Observe: I have a memory of a past life (although I'm not sure whether past lives exist, only that I have memories of dozens of what appear to be past lives). In the memory, which is no more than a few moments, I'm walking through a forest, but not as I would now. In it, as I walk, I'm reading the forest, as if it were a book, listening to it as I would to a person telling me an intricate tale of adventure, every single seemingly minute aspect telling me a story about what happened yesterday, the year before, what the present story of the forest is. I can tell from the color of the bark on the tree what precise time of year it is, what the rainfall has been like, the quality of sunlight. The sounds, of birds and wind, the rustle of branches and forest floor, tell me who is there, what they're doing. All of it, the layers of sights, smells, sounds, the feel of the soil underfoot, all of it like words, sentences, chapters, full of meaning that connects deeply inside of me. In the memory, it's thousands of details, bits of data, and I'm assimilating them all in a hot second, because that is what I do automatically, after living my whole life in the forest. I know the language of the forest, and I read each new moment, eagerly and efficiently, with an open mind and heart and body.
In this life, by the age of thirty-one, I'd become the type of Serious Granolahead who was pointedly going about erasing her story, because she was told and she believed stories were bad and unelightened and stupid and a ruse. There was a rigidity to it, thundering judgment about every single tale coming out of my mouth, ridicule for the sorts of tales other people told. My way was the best way, the only way, and other people were deluded, less than. I was more spiritual, would be enlightened first. They were still telling themselves silly stories of The Sky God or Archangel Michael or The Ancient Alien Arturis from the Pleiades who gave them accurate information on what vitamins and supplements they needed to take. I was beyond all that bullsh*t, and I righteously displayed my sneer to those I deemed Sadly Lost In Their Story.
Then, six years ago, the time release bomb began going off, lighting up every single aspect of this story called Katherine, this world called the twenty-first century, this nothing called Enlightenment, this fallacy called reality. It broke me down in ways that peeled my brain like an old potato, shattered my heart like a shorted out light bulb, tore my mind apart as if it were cobwebs, wracked my body with illnesses, injuries, painful structural misalignments. Save for enough of a sliver to stay alive, it destroyed every single aspect of my living, what I knew as reality. And when, in exhaustion and defeat, I let go, when I finally stopped fighting and let freefall take me, where I ended up was loosely draped across the remaining timbers of my structure, this life and personality known as Katherine. What was left was a kind of elemental way of being in the world.
I'd done thousands of shamanic journeys, visualizations, meditations, etc., over the past 25 years or so, but they were never more than a kind of spiritual weight-lifting, designed to Power Me To Enlightenment. But after The Bomb, I began journeying for survival skills, as a way to literally get info and insight on how to stay physically alive after The Kaboom, after all ties with other humans were cut off and I had no way to get help outside myself. And it turned out that shamanic journeys were in perfect alignment with how basic, how elemental my experience of living felt. The basic premise of journeying is that you close your eyes, listen to drumming, and let it take you where it takes you. Behind your eyes, out of the darkness rises color, movement, then story. It is the story of you, of the world, of the ancients and the aliens. It's fascinating and magical, and it's practical and cut and dried. It's a place to go for answers.
I do the Shaman Thing because at it's core, it's straightforward story, told in a way that any brain can wrap itself around. It's birth and death, sensation and intuition, sun and moon. It's animals and people and strange and beautiful hybrids. It's visions of past lives that fit so precisely, so intricately as a mirror to the present that it's breathtaking. It's the dark forces of living that try to f*ck with you, spiders with thick sticky webs and snakes with deep fangs. It's light forces of Yes beaming love and sweetness, smiling skeletons, spiders that show the web of All Life and your place in it, caduceus snakes that twine together to show how duality works, or the ouroboros eating its own tail to reveal secrets of renewal and re-creation.
Of course it's created story. It's the remaining bits of Katherine connecting to the stories of all Creation. It's taking vibration (a quality of energy like whirring or imbalance) and translating it into a material that can be worked with while still cruising around as a human (stories!). And from this elemental place I operate out of, it's the simplest, most straightforward connection between the Nothing and Being On This Planet.
I don't identify much with people anymore. When I get a shock of recognition, I'm most often looking at my nettle plant, or into Emmaline's sparkly eyes, or at one of Malcolm's dastardly deeds, or at a bee pulling nectar from a flower, or feeling the sun on my face. But I no longer have contempt for people. The sneer is gone. I feel an incredible love for them (even as I still may feel a bit skeeved at particularly noxious ego runoff they fling around, but this is only because of those leftover chunks of stored past inside of me, and they're less every day, and it sort of feels like an occupational hazard, like being a nurse and encountering bodily fluids, no way around it, it's just the dealio).
I do the Shaman Thing because it acts as an outrageously effective translator. It's a place to go for answers, have a few laughs about What The Heck Is Really Going On behind this thing we called the world. I also do it because it utilizes the odd mix of expertise I've developed that still remains - the psychic ability, the energywork healing skills, the knowledge of both holistic and scientific languaging and images - intertwining them in a way that enables me to make a living (which we all need to do), contribute to the Yes (which is fun, like dancing), learn more about the Human Adulthood of evolution (which is fascinating). Mostly, though, I do it because it's the only thing left to do that I can do. Everything else has fallen away. Hiveworld, psychic readings, this blog, life with kitties, soul retrievals: it's all the Shaman Thing.
Supposedly, enlightenment means the end of story. But from the (supposedly) enlightened folks I've met, read about, their story goes on, even if they're not attached to it anymore. And for now, the story of Katherine is elemental, pared down, growing more simple and straightforward every day.
Integral Shamanics. Standing in the world, but diving into the worlds behind it. Soul retrievals using a hybrid of shamanic reality and high-technology. Resident feline power animals and those furry and feathered and scaled friends who meet me in shamanic reality. Doing deep transformative work with film makers and house painters and psychologists and restaurant managers and government agents and stay at home moms and mortgage brokers and accountants and writers and healers and stylists and carpenters and on and on and on. Who knows why we end up with what we have left? This, for now, is what's left in this life. The Shaman Thing.
Slowly, bit by bit, the world is falling away, but what's still showing up is the Shaman Thing. When Katherine is completely ferreted out, smooched and said adios to for the final time, the shell that remains will probably be the Shaman Thing. I'm so grateful. Because it come with tremendous freedom and versatility, but mostly because it's so much dang fun . . .
I'm back to walking again, and I remember why I stopped. I convinced myself it was because I felt sick, and I did, I felt sick and exhausted. But mostly it was because of the emotional funk that rose up out of my subconscious when I walked. It almost always processed itself out by the time I arrived back at my house, but that first mile or two of rage, sorrow, confusion, craziness? Not much fun. Maybe something inside of me decided that I could only handle one battle at a time - food addiction or stored emotional past - not both. Or that could just be the bullsh*t talking. No way to know for sure of course.
But the back pain always keeps me motivated to exercise. I can't go too long without doing some weight lifting and cardio, even with the miracle that is Art and his whirring machine of pain relief. So I'm walking again, and last night's walk showed me something that stopped me in my tracks, literally standing still on the sidewalk in the leafy suburb I live in, the nice, comfortably upper middle class folks jogging and biking and walking around me. It was one of those epiphany moments, one of those moments where a hundred thousand Intellectual Knowings all of a sudden transforms into full body-mind-spirit consciousness. It was a direct line of something from my childhood, carried through into adulthood, that I'm in the final process of dismantling:
The belief in "boundaries".
The backstory: the extreme emotional distance my mother treated me with in my childhood shifted when I reached mid-teenage years into a relationship of listening to her, trying to help her solve her problems. For the next 15 or so years, to keep her attention, I made myself available to her anytime she needed it, usually as long phone calls, sometimes several times a week. This translated into how I lived out my other relationships, by believing my most valuable function was to listen to people's problems, to be nice to them, always flexible, never complain, never say no.
Translation: no boundaries, stunted sense of self.
What I developed to cope with this was anger and energy vampiring. The energy vampiring was what my mother was doing to me, which I only realized when I was in my early thirties, and what I turned and did to folks around me, which I only realized about seven years ago, right before I headed off for the back-to-college extravaganza when I was 38. I'd choose the strongest, kindest people I came into contact with and attach to them, usually a "teacher" of some sort - a therapist, spiritual practitioner/guru, or mentorish folks, but also with close friends. The anger was used to shove people away when the weight of their need became too overwhelming and exhausting for me. I collected lost souls, first just folks I met as my life unfolded, and then clients. It was what I did with my mother - let them call me at all hours of the day and night, spend hours and hours listening to their problems, trying to help them do a Grand Life Remodeling Project.
I keep writing and deleting the next paragraph, writing specifics about my relationship with my mother, how it ended. But it isn't right to put it here, and it isn't helpful for me energetically to write it. Whatever demons she faces are her own, and my perspective on them is utter bullsh*t. None of this is a blaming of her or anything I believe she did or didn't do. This is the dismantling of Katherine. No one else. Period.
The important part for me is that this energetic pattern with my mother translated all over my living, and really kicked into high gear when I began seeing clients for holistic work in the late 1990's. I allowed, and even encouraged people to become dependent on me, because I believed I could help them, but also because I believed that being of assistance to other people was my only valuable function. My sense of boundaries was so tenuous that when clients wanted to see me socially, I went along with it, even though it just meant that I no longer got paid for session work, and instead did sessions over dinner, or with cocktails, which seriously, seriously, was not fun for me, what felt like my life force being suctioned out of me via my eyes and ears and center of my chest. But I didn't believe I had a choice. I believed that if someone needed me, I had to be there, sublimate whatever issue and feelings I had, and be open, kind, generous, loving.
The direct link between the pattern with my mother and how it played out with clients and intimate relationships was that with all of them, if I ever tried to pull away, or tried to change the dynamic into something with more balance, these folks expressed denial that anything unbalanced was happening, then judgment of me for what I felt, then pure rage unleashed at me as punishment, contempt, acts to destroy or discredit me.
Those three patterns of energy coming at me - denial, judgment, rage - kept me locked into the No Boundaries pattern for years, for decades. But when I read the Jed McKenna books, something clicked into place, and I could see the pattern for what it truly was. And most importantly, I could see my role in it, my part, how I kept it all going, and why. The why? Because I was afraid I had no other worth than my ability to be of service to other people, and that if I denied people they'd leave me, and if everyone left me I'd be alone.
But back in 2008 it began heating up, and with The Hoon's death it reached conflagration. One by one, I stopped doing things for people, and guess what? All my fears came true. I denied people, they left me, and I was alone.
But I stayed with it. To face the fear. What was this being alone? What was this no social life, no friends, no support system, no assistance? And the longer I stayed with it, the longer I saw that with only a few exceptions, all of relationship is built on fear. All of it - family, friend, work, community - all of it erected as a scaffolding around the fear inside of us. Of dying. Of being sick. Of missing out. Of being uncomfortable.
As I went through this process, I was continually offered "friendship", offered assistance from teachers/gurus/mentors, but I understood I had to reject it, reject it all, even small assists, completely, absolutely staying away from any temptation to energy vampire off of another person. And also, people from my past kept showing up, coming back around for another pass. They wanted things to be like they used to be, they wanted me to be a holistic practitioner like I used to be, or they showed up as absolute replicas of past folks, Life enticing me to pick the pattern back up. And I did. Again and again and again. I can't even begin to express how hard this last part was, how actively angry people got at me, the browbeating, the sanctioning, the punishing that came at me in person, through email, over the phone. A daily, often hourly onslaught of angry, needy, sad humans, an avalanche of emotion and demands, judgment, rage, and self-pity screaming that it was my duty to fix Their No, my fault that they felt the way they did.
When I look back, it's so clear that the onslaught was occurring to force me to build strong boundaries. It was about keeping folks out so that I could see clearly how to draw a distinct line between them and me, between what they were choosing to do with their energy and time, and what I no longer was. I wasn't responsible for anyone outside of my own skin. And more than that, I couldn't actually do anything for anyone outside of my own skin, not in and of myself.
And I did get to the place where I kept everyone out. With the exception of a small handful of folks on an extremely limited basis that Life showed me was about immediate survival, everyone was out, every single one. And what I began to notice was a sort of drip method of interacting, small bits here and there that felt clear, true. They appeared to quickly fade into funk again, and I'd back away, but I began to get better at recognizing the signals for me to move closer to someone/a situation, and to back away from them/it.
And I discovered that there is no Good Person or Bad Person, only Energy Occurring Now, In This Moment. And so rather than having Friends, Acquaintances, and Non-Friends/Enemies, everyone outside of my skin stands alone, to be moved closer to or moved away from based on the ongoing energy present in the moment of Now. It's a dance of following the Yes. A dance whose choreography is created by something way way outside of my mind, though the mind stores and runs the programming of this human life, with the heart as the instrument the energy plays on, and the spirit interpreting the seeming mundane plodding of a life into both the vast expression of Yes and the tiny grain of sand it is.
There's a decent flow going right now. Still bumpy, still pocked with blank spots and exploding mines, but there's a groove. I can have conversations with folks, go to the movies, assist clients, help someone climb their own looming mountain. I can reach out for help, get it, give something in return, leave. Someone can reach out to me, I can give assistance, they offer something, then leave. Sometimes I give then receive nothing, but only if it feels true. Sometimes they receive then give nothing, but only if it feels true. No good, no bad. No right, no wrong. No rules. Just dance.
And last night I saw the pattern and thought: That's It, the epiphany solved the pattern, it's done. But then I wrote this post, and in the process of writing I saw the next step: dissolving the boundaries.
First there was no boundary. Then there was a boundary. Now it's about removing the wall between Self and Other, not to merge and lose myself, but to allow Life to have me flow wherever it wants me to, letting the new strength inside of me keep me "safe", Life doing the attracting and rejecting for me, me just following along, content to let Life take me down the river of my living.
I have no arrogance that I'm done with this stuff. I can only taste it right now, just the merest hint of its magnificence. But I'm at that Beyond 51% Place, that point of no return, not because I can't go back, but because I see too much truth to want to go back.
And so apparently this is why I still write. Sure, some sort of arrogance that says: record the steps. But also because it continues to clear the path for me. Before I wrote this post, I thought the breakthrough last night was about erecting boundaries, but now, after writing the post, I see that it's about seeing that there is no need for anything as bulky and clumsy as boundaries.
This is what writing has been and still is for me: spiritual autolysis. It's not the only thing I use, but it still has strong function and utility and flexibility and groove. And that's all that matters . . . for now . . . Yes.
So party on, party peoples. May this find you deep inside the awareness of your own choreography, that dance that is yours and yours alone.
As you sit there, wherever you are on this globe, whatever year and day and moment it is for you, a cup of coffee, tea, beer, wine, smoothie, water beside you, how you are alive inside your body, your mind in whatever state of aware, awake it is, remember:
You are gorgeous. You are full of love and light. (We all are.) You are also full of sh*t. (It's okay. We all are that too.) Hopefully, yours comes with kitties. And green growing plants. And the embracing of sun and moon and night and day and dark and light. Your soul's work is to see that your caacaa is compost. Nothing to be afraid of. Turn the sh*t into fertilizer. The directions for doing this are inside of you. The next step is whatever is lighting you up. What's harassing you via mind or experience? What reoccurring thought or pattern keeps arising in your living? Start there. I swear to you: all you need is inside of you. You don't need anyone to fix you or solve your problems. All you need is to say, to pray:
Thank you Life for my life . . . thank you for this situation, this person that I may not understand now, that may be causing me pain, suffering . . . thank you . . . I trust you . . . thank you for making the next step so obvious via so much energy, so that my attention cannot be moved away . . . thank you for giving me courage to keep facing this . . . to hold my gaze squarely on This Moment of Now . . . so that I can't help but see the truth . . . thank you Life . . . thank you for my life. . .
Let me just start this post out with something that some of you have already noticed: comments are open. Feel free to put your two cents in, add a link, share your perspective. And why are comments back open here? Because it's time . . .
My obsession, inquiry, into stories continues. And part of that has been to open back up to folks around me. I've been reading blogs again, and twittering, putting a huge revamp of my blogs into motion, preparing to fold them all into one so that I can better communicate, and be open to communication from others, and increase transparency into the different aspects of my living, as well as increase unification. I'm even responding to emails, and answering the phone more often than not.
For a while, for a few years, I shut down to most stories. I didn't want input, didn't want to hear other folk's stories. I'd woken up to the fact that we're all screaming chimps, and for a while, I had to shut everything and everyone out til I could get a better sense of what the heck was going on.
What I came to understand was that I held some false beliefs around what I have to do, what is necessary. I believed that if someone spoke to me, I had to listen, and that it was rude not to answer the phone, or return emails. I had serious problems with the word No, as in saying no thanks to folks, and moving on, or saying no thanks by simply remaining silent.
I came to realize that there are lots of folks who like to scream, who are either oblivious to the fact that they're screaming or who revel in their noise level, think it's funny or pithy or unique. And I also realized that all I have to do if I don't like the screaming is walk away, or turn away, or simply hit the delete button.
Do you think this sounds simplistic? Really? How often each day do you do things you don't want to? Spend time and energy with people you don't want to be with? Do things out of obligation, fear, because that is what nice, decent, mature people do? I understand why you do it, even though you don't want to, because when I stopped, people got very, very, very piss*d off at me.
I discovered that needy people will cry that you are mean and withholding for not listening to them, doing things for them. Aggressive people will insist you've misunderstood them. Angry people will blame you for their rage, say that you've made them mad. I discovered that opting out was a lot harder than I ever imagined, and came to a deep understanding why this is so.
Human culture (and all cultures, sure) is built on interdependency. Things are built interwoven one into the other, and it's very difficult to separate yourself out. I tried. I tried to leave. But in order to eat, you have to work. In order to work, you have to work for or with other folks, and in order to do this, you have to fit into their acceptable worldview in some way. No one will give you cash for being crazy. Not really.
And again, this may sound simplistic, but I found that the secret to this was simply walking away from the angry, the needy, the aggressive. And as I left, they screamed that they'd make me pay, that they'd refuse to give me things, that they'd make survival, one way or another, difficult for me. But I discovered that I'd rather die alone and broke and hated than to continue to seek or accept assistance from a screaming chimp. And for a long time, it was just me and the kitties here listening to the crickets. And I got used to the quiet. And found a lot of solace and depth and Yes in the silence.
And then in the past few months, an awareness of something magical, amazing, quiet, practical began emerging: I'm making a living, both financially and emotionally, slowly slowly surrounded by more and more folks who take a stand to live the Yes, who laugh at how full of sh*t we all are, and who are less interested in DRAMA and more interested in stories. If you think they are the same things, look again. They are radically different, even as maybe they reflect similarly from within the spectrum of consciousness.
But of course, I could be wrong about all this. Maybe enlightenment for me was just one more step further, some sort of deep rejection of this interdependency. Maybe the solution was to go out to the front lawn, lay down, and not get up. But instead, with this realization of connectivity, I went out and got a job, a regular 8-5 cubicle job, which I'd never had before, and which I loathed, but which has turned out to be profoundly awakening in terms of what is and isn't needed for survival.
I discovered what I'm not done with in this living called Katherine. I still have story to live out, with writing and growing food and tending animals and letting go of the rest of the patterns and sharing what I know and making folks laugh and applauding when I find someone flying and soaring and making magic. I need other folks to survive, and found that I want to pour my energy and time and love and effort into these magical folks and what they're trying to do in their living. And little by little, some of these magical folks turn and see the Yes in this living called Katherine, and pour their energy in, which creates more energy in me, which I in turn pour into more folks of Yes. Magic!
And I'm okay with all of it, the Yes and No and chimps and magic and pain and cash and meds and kitties and the delete button and answering a million billion emails. What Life wants, I want. And I trust that what is in front of me is Yes. Always. Even as I acknowledge that I also have the choice to say no thank you. And opening up comments is part of that. If a screaming chimp shows up, all I have to do is delete. But I don't mind. Because the Tribe of Yes will also show up, and say howdy, and plant a flower, and sit for a spell and have a cup of joe.
Hello, Tribe of Yes. It's good to be alive, isn't it?
I think I've felt a little too nervous to post. Too superstitious. It all still felt too dang scary. Like I was crossing over an abyss, high in the air, scuttling along across a six-inch wide plank, praying my fat ass wouldn't send me flying. it really didn't feel like the time to stop and share. But it does now. I'm still on the plank, but I've got a bit of a groove going on, and my heiny is even shaking to the beat of some distant drum, and I think I hear a sax, and life is really good.
I'm down 11 pounds. But that's not really the point, just the side effect. The point is that I'm not in agony any longer. My hands aren't ragingly rashy, my orifices aren't teeth-grittingly itchy, and I only look like I'm going to give birth to a single rather than a quad of bouncy baby yeast monsters.
I'm not eating any meat, or dairy, except for plain whole milk yogurt once or twice a day. I'm having an egg or two a week. I'm drinking a protein shake a day, a really high quality whey one, made with watered down vanilla almond milk and a tablespoon of yogurt. No solid food at night, except for a small amount of berries with yogurt. I snack on fresh ground almond butter with celery. I'm eating lots and lots and lots of vegetables. Lots of them. And I take the rinds and ends and leftovers and boil them for 3 hours and make veg broth, which I drink by the mugful through the day when I'm doing a "liquids only day" which has been happening a couple of times a week. I drink plain scalding hot water throughout the day. And yes, okay, coffee! High quality organic with vanilla almond milk and stevia, because I really just love how 6 am feels when I'm rocking the caffeine and writing as the sun comes up . . .
And of course all this is just what I've found has been working for me. For someone else, it'd be different. As in partially or totally or something more or less or other. And this is also the point. None of this is coming from any other place than inside of me.
And of course that was the turning point, this realization of turning away from outside influence, going in for the next step on the path. There was one distinct moment where I asked myself: why isn't this working? What is the cause of the suffering? What have I been doing over and over and it's not working and I keep hammering away at? And instead of yet again trying to figure it all out, I stopped and I prayed:
Thank you, Life, for bringing me this health stuff. I know I keep f*cking it up with trying to control it, trying to make it go away. And I'm here, letting you know, that I give up, and I give it to you, because you always take such good care of me. You turned the cancer thing into such a good time, such release, and so I'm giving this one to you too. Let me know what you want and I'll do it. And if you want to smite me sooner than later, I pray for the grace to go out with humor and surrender, eyes wide open, laughing and joyful and letting go into the pain, if pain continues to be part of the program.
And of course, everything changed. At every junction, every place where a seeming choice arose, I asked my solar plexis: Yes? And if yes was indicated, I flowed in that direction. On and on, over even the simplest actions. And so much magic began materializing all around me that there was no doubt what the dealio was: Surrender is the way to go, baby.
There's so much I could write, but I want to get going on my novel. I let myself sleep in until almost 8am this morning, snuggled in with all four of the kitties, and it was luscious, but I didn't greet the day with coffee and the novel's tribe. And it's calling to me. Can you hear it too? But I'll leave you with this:
For a couple of months, I've heard-felt a pulse, a push, and it went like this: you need to dance, you need to move your body in a non-structured, non-"exercise" fashion, you need to shake that ass, you need to f*ckin find your groove again, you need to break free of the prison of inflammation and funk and No like those trolls did in The Wiz when they came out of their gnarly twisted costumes by simply unzipping them and flowing out into the world. But standing in the living room, the music thumpin, the cats starin: nuthin but No.
Then a week a ago I met a chick who'd just moved to town. Really cool chick that founded this amazing urban church in Denver. We've hung out some and she's super chill and hilarious and smart. And she's started up this dance thing in town with the amazing dancer who founded this dance troup . Improv movement. Cool tunes. $5. And last night I went. And it freakin rocked the Casbah. Everything from My Morning Jacket's voyage into electronica to Michael Jackson to Mad, Mad World to shamanic trip-hop. Magic. Behind the pain and the funk and the inflammation, the aching back and swollen belly and crampy pancreas, I felt that luscious flow of body, that connection to the Yes of movement that used to be an ever present part of my living. So Life willing, guess where you can find me every Friday night forward for a nice long while?
So Life is so very very good . . . Emmaline snoozing in my lap, caramel coffee in my cup, the day stretching out before me . . . Yes . . .
Comments are open . . . add your energy into the Yes . . . if you need some Yes, take some, if you have some extra, leave some, all is good . . . :)
I came home early from the retreat. It was a three-day thing, and I was there for about twenty-four hours. It just didn't make sense to stay.
I met David and heard him speak about his waking up, heard Bruce speak about trying to get spiritual films made in Hollywood. I had conversations with both of them, got a sense of who they were. I also got to meet and hang a bit with Chuck, who lives in NC too, who reads this blog, who I've exchanged two and three line emails with for the past few months, and who is in a very similar period of withdrawing from the world.
It was an amazing retreat. 65 people in a lodge in the woods. Plenty of delicious food, available all thru the day, including gluten-free (which touched my heart more than you can possibly imagine - that these folks I'd never met took such good care of we four or five gluten-intolerant individuals). The whole vibe of the thing was so elevated, and I don't mean plush and catered and high-end. It was very rustic, very scaled down. The cost for the entire weekend, Friday 4pm to Monday 9:30am, meals and lodging included, was $52. Bunkbeds dorm style in rooms. 2 bathrooms shared by all 65 (though probably half the folks stayed in area hotels to sleep). The food was good, and simple. Lots of fresh veg and fruit, cold cuts, chili, snack foods, such an incredible abundance of nourishing foods, lots of interesting things that people brought to add to the stockpile - Ethiopian coffee, clementines, almond milk - I even brought a coop-baked gluten-free cake with the words "Open Your Eyes" written in icing as a little semi-private joke for Chuck and I. Signs for everything from bathrooms to food labels to which doors to use were written with a sharpie on torn out notebook paper, fastened with scotch tape. The lodge was well-used and smelled faintly of many adolescent campers come and gone. The bunks were thin mattresses on wooden boards. It was perfect.
All of the speakers flew in on their own dime, and for no speaking fee. There were at least four fully awake beings present, and a half dozen or more people who appeared really really close to it. There was no "teaching", no selling of method or tool or viewpoint. Folks stood up in front of the group for an hour and a half and offered something up. They talked about how they had woken up, what led to it, the flavor of it, what they believed contributed to it. They spoke about other enlightened people, people they'd lived and worked closely with for many years. They were all hilarious and warm and intelligent and present.
The people in attendance were all grown ups. Cheerfully waiting their turn for the bathroom, being incredibly respectful and quiet in the co-ed bunkrooms. These were the sort of folks who regularly turned to people they didn't know and smiled and said Hi, my name is - - - and shook your hand gently. At no time did I see trash left behind either outside, in the bathrooms, or in the meeting rooms. The dishes were always done, trash emptied, spills cleaned up. Everyone had a styrofoam cup that they wrote their name on with a sharpie and then reused. Everyone also reused their water bottles, filling them up with from the Brita filter. No one hogged the Q & A portions of the talks, or took the floor to tell stories about themselves. There were no big emotional scenes or catharting.
And the folks who headed up the weekend, who facilitated the food and organization of things, were utterly, completely chilled, relaxed, and cheerful. There was no anxious running around, no pushing for time, no resistance to anything, just a smiling, gentle, laughing flow from one thing to the next.
So why in the world did I leave? Why, after years spent in a companionship desert would I walk away early from such a gathering of fine fellows?
Several things occurred to show me what the my deal was. And what I needed to do.
The first was meeting David. A few years ago, back when I was in my last semester of grad school up in New York, he invited me to come down with a dozen other people to spend the weekend with him, hear about what it was like for him to live life fully awakened. At that very time, I was going thru an intense portion of waking up, or shedding, or realization, or whatever you want to call it. In hindsight, it was most likely what is called The Dark Night of the Senses, but the label doesn't matter. What counts is that after several years of slow, methodical sloughing, the remaining bulk of "spiritual" stuff still present inside of me was being jettisoned in a stark, harsh relentless manner. There was anxiety and depression, despair, hopelessness, and suicidal darkness, but there was also rage. An incredible amount of rage.
I now understand that the rage was a kind of emotional rocket fuel, what was needed in order to finally break free of the bullshit and waste and delusion that was my spiritual search. (You know how guys wake up with morning wood? I woke up for four years with morning rage, which wasn't nearly as fun as wood appears to be, but is a lot more productive, kinda :)
And so David's invitation came as I was deep in the midst of raging she-devil rejection of any and all spiritual teachers trying to get me to learn their method, adopt their perspective, give them guru props via my energy, time, and cash. The trajectory I was on was driving me deep inside, to a level where the only council sought was Life, the only teaching, thru the living. So I essentially told David to stick it up his God hole, and I went back to burning my house down. He emailed me hundreds of pages of his writing, and I didn't even bother to read it, just dumped it in the trash. He sent a few polite, straightforward emails. I blew it off.
Until about a year ago, when I became weirdly obsessed with him. Not in any real way, stalking his website or sending him emails or such, but in my mind. Over and over I'd see a mental image of him. It went on for a week or two, til it finally hit me that gmail saved all emails, and I went and retrieved the documents he sent. And read them. And reread them. Then sent him an email. And he responded. Then another. And another. Nothing lengthy, nothing intricate, but what they opened up in me was the sad, sad story, that emotionally charged save-me dynamic that I'd always had with my teachers. But instead of buying in, he leveled one last email at me, then essentially disappeared.
The email wasn't such a big deal, by all outward appearances, but in it was one line, and that line leaped off the screen, and bore a hole right through my head, where for the last year, the ego has been draining out of. It was the line in bold that did it:
You are simply trying to control things WAY too much - c'mon. That's the first lesson out of all of this. Finally, for chrissakes, will you just give up your illusion of control once and for all? Anything can and will happen. That is what is scaring the shit out of you and keeping you from proceeding. Anything. At all. Especially THE thing - whatever it may be - that frightens you the most and got this whole ball of personality building/dismantleing seeking started in the first place. You can't control anything. You still are acting as if you can. Let the possibility of the 'worst' coming about out of your grip and sit with the fact that YOU HAVE NO SAY IN ANY OF THIS AT ALL, and never have, and never will.
So the f*ck what.
I haven't really had contact with him since, except for a brief exchange of emails where I was in horrible pain and begged him on several occasions to speak with me on the phone. But he said he was going out of town, or was too tired after teaching an evening class, or wanted to watch American Idol. After the last one, getting that on his food chain, my "problems" were less immediate than the latest episode of AI, I began laughing hysterically, laughing and laughing until I too was more interested in directing my attention and energy toward tv than to my "problems" after which all of my "problems" disappeared as I finally realized that there are no such things as problems, only the changing of the angle in which issues of a living are looked at. (Please take a moment to let this sink in. You have no problems. There doesn't exist such a thing. There is only an issue arising that must be dealt with in some manner, and how to deal with it, Life shows you very clearly.)
And so back to the retreat - meeting David was the reason I signed up for it, why I went. I haven't been to a spiritual meeting in almost four years, and the idea of hanging out with spiritual seekers gave me a head cramp, but I felt strongly driven to meet this guy, the guy who helpfully shot off part of my head, and then ignored the bleeding, all of which assisted in me seeing there was no head, and therefor no blood either.
And so I met him. I sat down beside him, introduced myself, said hi, and we chatted for about ten minutes. Ten long, uncomfortable, weird minutes. He barely made eye contact, and the conversation consisted of a sort of small talk - surface chat about kitties and his retreat I hadn't attended, even about the diagnosis I received a couple of weeks ago, no depth to the talking, just sentences skittering by. The couple of times he did make eye contact, his eyes were luminous, full of humor and love. I wanted to spend more time with him, but it just didn't click, and so other than "hi" a few times when our paths crossed in the small lodge, we didn't speak again.
I hung out with Chuck, and it too was a sort of brief truncated connection. There really wasn't anything to talk about so we just sat next to each other a few times, spoke a few sentences here or there. I was simply grateful for his presence. My brother. The look in his eyes alternating between crazy joy and clawing desperation. That look I know so well, but usually from the inside looking out. When we parted ways - he was leaving early too - we hugged one another, two drowning people in the middle of the ocean, surrendered to what is coming, scared here and there, the fear coming and receding in waves, but no longer panicked, and often deep inside tunnels of gorgeous wonder, awe, pointless joy.
Mid-Saturday, one of Richard Rose's intimate students stood to speak about his time with Rose, and to read some of Rose's poetry. I cried during his whole talk. Partly because the poetry carved at my heart with it's images of the horrible luscious truth and beauty of the world. But mostly because as I listened to this gorgeous wreck of a man, in his late fifties, and in so much obvious pain in his living, I got how much he loved Rose, with all of his heart, and how much Rose loved him too, how dedicated Rose was to meeting him where he stood, how he never shut him out, or turned him away. And I got: Rose was as Awake as a person can get, and this broken man tried as hard as anyone possibly could, and if these two things didn't produce enlightenment, then what hope do I have with any of these teachers, these awake beings that roam this earth?
You're on your own, is what I heard. And I felt it too. I got that there was nothing any of these teachers could offer me, not really, not anything that I can't get on my own.
And then the final nail in the coffin of the retreat for me: a conversation with Bruce Rubin, this amazing dude who wrote and continues to write deep, insightful movies, and whose eyes were so kind and bright and intelligent and gentle. We talked about his different movies, themes of love and waking up, death and opening your eyes. I didn't mention that I wrote, but did say that for a few years I'd been an actress, but that I was too sensitive for the business end of it, that even the art of it wasn't worth what the business of it cost, and that I'd made spirituality the main focus of my living. And he looked at me and said: I made a decision early on that I wanted all of it - the money, the career, the art, the wife, and the spirituality - mostly people use the search for spirituality as a way to avoid having a full life - but until you have an absolutely full life, when you get that none of it really satisfies you, you don't face that moment that is unlike anything else - and there's a huge difference between having it all and setting it down, and letting go of something you've never really had in the first place. And with that he drifted off, and I stood there with a weird feeling in my heart, a feeling that grew into a realization when he mentioned it again during his talk: it's a cop out not to live the achievement-filled, successful, full life.
And then I remembered another deep reason why I've pulled so intensely away from the world of spiritual seekers. Why I don't get the whole Enlightenment scene anymore. The popular belief is that enlightenment is a sort of cherry on the top of a successful life. Wealthy, married, surrounded by all the Yes objects of modern living, yet still not happy, and so finally, enlightenment is turned toward. All of which is absolutely radiant. And yet it isn't the only way.
For this life, this living that "I" sit in, the turning was away from success in the world, the belief that any of it would make me happy, the letting go of the pursuit of soulmate and cash and career and even the concept of happiness. I have failed at every single thing I've attempted in this life. There has been nothing but the most brief of successes, of flows of money, of connections with soulmates, of seeing hard work and faith and inspiration and drive pay off. For this life, the turning was about giving up hope, about refusing to spend one more hour believing that a full, ripe fruit falling from a tree was any better than a dried, shriveled fruit slowly blowing away on the wind. But popular culture, especially the hardcore spiritual seeker set don't agree.
And at this retreat, where every single speaker was male, where the audience was comprised of not more than 15 women in a crowd of 65, I, as a 43 year old fat chick, single, working a 31K social work job, surrounded by kitties, no longer interested in pursuing a Big Life as determined by modern ideas of success, understood: you will not find what you need here. And I looked around at all of the beautiful, gorgeous folks around me, their keen awareness and intelligence and depth, the group of them the likes of which I'll most likely never again encounter in this lifetime. And I went to my bunk, packed my things, walked to my car, and began the two and a half hour drive home.
Because my ashram is now whatever is around me. I don't need to go anywhere. My teachers are everyone. I don't need to find a special one, even an enlightened one, as if some of their Awake would rub itself into my skin. I don't need to seek out the company of fine fellows. The felines I find myself with are so very, very fine. There is nothing that I need that I don't have. The enlightenment will be found inside the living, where it always has been, and always will, no matter who comes for it, no matter who it chooses.
I'm so grateful to have met so very many tall, tall folks this weekend, so very many highly evolved beings, perched on the very edge of what it means to be human and to know you are One. And I'm grateful for the folks I'll be with again come Tuesday morning, the humans who live on the sharpest edge of survival, whose energy and motivation and lifeforce is spent daily on finding food, shelter, meaning. I'm grateful for the kitties, Emmaline and Malcolm and Jacinta and Wallace who keep me simple and pure and light and awake to each moment as they play and lick and eat and poop and stretch and purrrrp and race about the house on flying paws. I'm glad for the people still taking care of me, in the small ways I can take in, who accept with open hearts the tiny crumbs of companionship I have to offer anyone anymore - my sister, Kelly, my coworker in HiveWorld, Sean, Chuck, my landlords, you lovely readers.
There is so very much ego left to burn in this living I'm in. And I may or may not become fully awakened in this life. But it doesn't matter to me anymore. Whatever slivers of wanting it that were still embedded in my brain have been pushed out. All that's left is the living, the waking up each morning and doing the next thing to be done, whether it's writing or getting a PhD or having sex or eating cake or having my cervix removed.
Enlightenment never was and never will be up to me, in my control, or even something I can fail at. There is only the continuing surrender into life, into the Yes that removes all of the hard edges of a living, turns even cancer into the sweetest, most precious, loving act of kindness.
And it's that way for everyone. God doesn't care if you have an Oscar, or have found your soulmate, or are admired by your peers, unless these are stones that you absolutely feel to turn over, and peer under. All Life cares about is you coming home, realizing that you and Life are one and the same, and that you are already home.
Because it's all precious. Every grain of rice. Every bent nail. Every cherry blossom. Every piece of fruit. It's all perfect. All of it . . .
There have been many many times over the past few years that I've asked myself: is this holistic stuff I do genuinely assisting people or is it more of the shell game, just one more expression of New Age Pap? I still ask myself this question at least once a week, and I still don't have a confident answer.
I'm pretty maniacal about backing up my computer info. I specifically bought my ibook with a superdrive so that I could burn dvds and make things easier. But when my hard drive crashed a couple of weeks ago, it crashed hard, and when I looked around, the last time I backed up my info was over a year ago. Seriously. 13 months ago.
I haven't been on a date, or been part of a couple, in almost three years.