I don’t believe in beliefs but if I did one might be that our brains secrete thoughts the way our other organs secrete hormones or neurotransmitters. They’re not really good, bad, or ugly, that was just a catchy title that squirted through.
Sometimes I’ll secrete a thought that seems like a fantastic point of departure to a faraway land–an eccentric is a pioneer turned inward-– and I’ll wait on the dock with it and enjoy its company while it rattles around looking for a happy home in a photo, journal or blog.
Other times I’ll have a judgement disguised as an observation–people who wear leather vests are lost in a haze of Harley noise, bourbon, and cigarette smoke–so I’ll add another repentant thought over the top to cancel it out: I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you.
Still other times I will think something prideful about how thoughtless I am–Wow, so quiet. Like a cat or a zen master. Oops wait, they don’t think that.
Less frequent but more fun are the times when I consciously take advantage of the mind’s infinite innocence and naivete and slip it a placebo–Sting is on his way over for breakfast.
I cleaned my apartment in just under an hour this morning with that one perched on my shoulder.
What is your relationship to thought? Can you say me what your next thought will be?
“If suffering made a sound we would hardly be able to hear ourselves think.”
–Master meditation and grief teacher and poet Stephen Levine
The last thing a fish would invent is water. In the same way the last thing I noticed I was addicted to was suffering.
It was everywhere, I was soaking in it. My body was wafting a feeling tone of bone-weary sadness and lethargy from every pore. The pain body took up occupancy then slimed every square inch before bolting all the windows and doors to make sure my identification with it, as it, was complete. Its jangled and spiky vibes were systemic, pernicious. As Adyashanti would say, I was “Velcro’d”.
Where I was was off. If I was there, even I wished I wasn’t. Kids would go find another room to play in. Dogs would growl. Even my body odor smelled like it belonged to someone else.
Have you ever tried to out-affirm, out-pray, deny or step over that kind of pain? To stuff a steamer trunk of %dc# like that into a space no one would recognize? There is nothing more pathetic and painful than watching someone do that to themselves. The heart knows the truth.
So, you might ask, how did feeling like Eeyore become my drug of choice? Who knows. All I know is it did feel familiar, in the sense of family, or ancestry or at least collective. Like the uh-oh you get in your gut when you step off the plane onto the tarmac of a war-ravaged country. Its not really personal until you make it so. Then the parasite of suffering sucks up to a new host.
Looking back, I can see how I was continually gathering evidence of not enough, animating it with my attention, fertilizing it with the foods I ate, the way I held my body, even the way I breathed. My first few breaths of each morning were puffed into this gloomy little ghost, the rest of the day spent idly stroking it with two fingers…one of encouragement, one of dread. And I was so proud of that angst, protective of it as mine, my special artistic and intuitive sensitivities and pessimistic proclivities. As if brooding made me European and mysterious instead of just an annoyingly brooding American. Pride and shame together make a kind of emotional epoxy.
So how did I get unstuck from the addiction to suffering?
I’ll tell you: merging onto the highway today (which takes time in an old 4 cylinder Subaru) I realized that what I thought was “being in my heart” was actually a lie: I was leaking energy to my feelings and giving my power away to my feelings of separation. Compassion had turned to wallowing, self-care to neuroticism.
Today I chose to let go of wanting to be controlled by that feeling, and instead to re-claim and re-direct my energy and love to someone else that can truly benefit. In choosing to cut that cord, I feel my energy rise, spine lengthen, and heart expand.
If I get caught by that feeling again, I can rest in knowing that feeling is arising in or on that which I Am, and not the other way around. And if I really look deep within, I can’t find anyone home to actually take posession of that little package of pain.
And that is a huge and blessed relief.
“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”—Leonard Cohen
“You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees through the desert for a hundred miles repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”—Mary Oliver
Denying the soft animal of your body makes it sad and can also make it sick.As Carolyn Myss says, “if you don’t have passion you do have symptoms.”
The main reason I love helping people fully express themselves is because I know how much it hurts not to.What a painful lie it is to feel invisible, voiceless, separate.
Here I Am. Here You Are.
If its some random chaotic accident, why not make it a happy one? If it is an expression of Divine Intelligence or cosmic grand plan then might as well shoulder and savor the responsibility as best a mortal can.
There is not a dang thing we can do or undo to change it.
So, be here reverently or resistantly but pretending not to be here hurts and being non-reverent is kind of ugly.
Here belongs. You belong.
Its a miraculous sleight of hand that we could even think that “something is wrong,” or, “I’m not good enough” when you consider that:
The odds of you finding and reading this post are probably similar.
Thank you for reading these words.
18% of the world, about 1.2 billion people can’t read at all much less own a computer.
Feeling lucky yet?
A few inspiring sources:
I have accumulated a lot of nice photographs and sometimes, despite all and even during all, my meditating, will hatch a good idea or two. When these thought forms and little energetic dopplegangers pile too high I begin to feel menaced and overwhelmed by my equivalent of what Spaulding Gray used to call his “Monster in a Box” –a 1600 page and still growing unfinished novel that he carried around in a huge cardboard box next to his writing desk like a kind of cancerous creative sidecar. For all I know it is buried next to him now still throbbing with promise.
To keep that little creative “Mini Me” at least life-sized if not smaller, I set a challenge to myself to do a portfolio review and delete the four weakest images from each of my photo galleries. That got me thinking about curating vs collecting and the clarifying power of a discerning no. A compassionate and loving respectful no, an open-hearted no, the kind that Steve Jobs, King of the Delete Key, alludes to when he says “I am as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.” Put another way, he is as proud of the no as he is of the yes.
A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble. ~Gandhi
How often do you do a life review? When was the last time you said no?
Curate as a verb actually means to “be in charge of”, and is one of the most underappreciated skills and talents in the arts and in consumerist American culture. Those disciplined choices, all that “negative (no) space” , make the difference between a fine art museum and a warehouse of stacked canvases. Even more importantly, curating makes the difference between all these little creations and choices being in charge of us and us being in charge of them.
As an online reputation consultant, I frequently remind clients that saying no is the difference between having a recognizable identity and brand niche and being tossed into the brand bargain bin (picture Williams-Sonoma vs Walgreens).
Curating is a different mind-set and skill-set than creating. That is why there are writers and editors, artists and museum curators. Until I have my own agent or editor, I have to set aside time and head space specifically for one or the other. Trying to both at once is stultifying to the creative process and not quite rigorous enough for the curation. I generally put a piece away for weeks to months and come back to it with fresh eyes and perspective for a more critical review.
Ansel Adams said that “twelve significant photos in any one year is a good crop.” I still aspire to that kind of discipline, even in these Google Image and stock image crazed times where sheer volume and keyword density appear to reign supreme commercially.
Its not that there is something wrong with collecting–every curated body of work has to start with a collection, after all. It is when we use a collection as defense, and a kind of insulation or padding to feel safe that we begin to serve it instead of the other way around. There are areas of my life where I curate and areas where I collect. I’m noticing that the areas I curate are the areas where people can most readily connect and relate to. I tend to collect in domains of life where where I feel insecure or uncertain, interior, private backwater eddies, subconscious material that hasn’t quite taken shape yet or that I haven’t felt clear enough to shape yet.
As an empathic, intuitive and introverted person I can spend a good length of time in that murky cloud of creative chaos and the momentum and solitude of it is fertile soil for the next creation. But as much as I like my alone time I realize its not so healthy to stay in the output mode and all the clutter it generates indefinitely. It has an infinite incessancy, and I feel like an industrious creative little beaver, that must keep gnawing wood or its front teeth will grow too long for its mouth and pierce through the tongue. Meanwhile my creations pile.
Then I know it is time to curate again, time to clear the creative cache. When I want more clients and clearer head, I clean my car and throw away papers.
It is a personal regenerative cycle that informs the next evolution of creation and gives me at least the illusion of doership in whatever it is that life is expressing through me.
Fundraiser for Amma Karunamayi with musicians/performers Amy Arani, Judy Piazza, John Bagdasarian, Michael Reidinger and friends and a delicious indian dinner to support Amma Sri Karunamayi’s upcoming visit to Southern California.
Befriending silence is like having a whale whisper in your ear
or sharing a sandwich with a planet.
A humbling and ridiculous mashup.
Only grace can make you feel both so precious and tiny.
You don’t even need to make the first move.
Silence is already there. And here.
Dissolving aloneness into all oneness with infinite patience.
Might as well stay still.
When it takes you, you want to share it,
the hushed moment.
But moment is all there is,
a moment in a moment in a moment.
Maybe you can feel it between these words.
Maybe you too are a friend of silence.
When we meet
we’ll greet each other with the space inside.
Maybe it will quietly smile.
I photographed the Thacher School Gymkhana once again this year, and found myself again in awe of the skill, grace and poise of these young citizens, and pining for a horse to adopt for a year and a chance to return to high school.
Gymkhana is a term used in the United Kingdom, east coast of the United States, and other English-speaking nations to describe an equestrian event consisting of speed pattern racing and timed games for riders on horses. These events often emphasize children’s participation and may be organized by a recognized Pony Club or a 4-H club.
In most of the western United States, this type of competition is usually called an “O-Mok-See” (also spelled O Mok See or “Omoksee”) competition, a term derived from a Native American phrase meaning “games on horseback.” However, the term gymkhana is used in California. This event was held here in Ojai, CA.