Truth

I know I’ve hit the truth
when the tears come.

“Out of perfection
nothing can be made.
Every process involves
breaking something up.
The earth must be broken
to bring forth life.
If the seed does not die,
there is no plant.
Bread results
from the death of wheat.
Life lives on lives.
Our own life
lives on the acts
of other people.
If you are lifeworthy,
you can take it.”
Joseph Campbell, “A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living.”

confirmation

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I was confirmed as a Lutheran in the spring of my 14th year by my father and the church.  “She doesn’t talk about it much, but I know her faith is there” said my mother.  In the absence of real inspiration, I was going through the motions, doing what I was supposed to do.  Neither agreeing nor dissenting, I allowed the spaces to be filled in by the tradition in which I was raised.

My *real* confirmation as a living, breathing, feeling, bleeding human began three years later on the rooftop of a building on the Tijuana coast.  In a most painful of ceremonies, I listened to a man – whom I trusted and loved, whose job it was to guide and shepherd me into a fuller, deeper faith, a man whom I went to with questions and doubts – I listened to him tell me I was going to hell if I did no take his word for it and follow with blind faith.  As I listened to his confirmation of my eternal damnation, the part of me that cannot be damned grabbed hold of my heart, ripped it from my chest, and ran with it.

It ran to the edge of the building, and jumped, holding my heart close, diving into the ocean, deeper and deeper into the depths.

waves of
grief
confusion
fear

I fell into a void that left me resigned to the possibility of an eternity in hell, until I recognized that I was already there.

Weeping, wailing, gnashing my teeth, the tension between self-evidence and the unyielding false-truth that was impressed upon me ripped me apart.  No where to turn, I turned inward.  I stepped into the darkness, the unknown, the great fog of the mystery of life, alone, as we all must.  I cauterized the torn edges of my emotions; tied tourniquets around the profuse bleeding of limbs dismembered.  The most important work I did was to carefully, surgically remove the splinters of shattered trust buried deep in my heart.

My world was collapsed, and as I sought out other religions, traditions, and teachings to answer the ultimate questions gnawing at my marrow, it quickly became clear that nothing would suffice.  Nothing fit.

My saving grace came in a book.  “Read this,” she said, “I don’t normally lend it to people, but it seems right to lend it to you.”  This book contained no answers; it told no stories and made no claims.  Instead it quietly reminded me what I already knew: you are the answer.  Permission was granted to listen to the voice in me, the one no one else can hear; to once again – or perhaps for the very first time – read the scriptures written on my heart.  This book gave me back to myself.

As I read, the part of me that cannot will not be damned, heard the whispering call.  It stirred in the depths of the ocean and rose to the surface with my heart, now expurgated of all things holier-than-thou, in its hands.  Only the naked and the sacred remained, bleeding in the moonlight.

My reclamation of this un-damn-able part was yet another confirmation, and an initiation.  Witnessed by the sky above and the earth below, I confirmed myself as a seeker, doubter, questioner.  A, not-going-to-take-your-word-for-it-have-to-taste/touch/smell/feel-it-for-myself-er, a path I continue with every inhale.

olly olly oxen free

olly olly oxen free

I yell into the recesses of my heart and mind.  Into the dark places, the unseen places, the quiet, warm, rumbling places.

olly olly oxen free

I whisper to the characters, parts and pieces, and memories in my soul.

It’s safe to come out now.  The game is over.  I cannot find you, no matter how I mine or seek.  You have won.  I admit defeat.  I step aside, head hanging in a humble gesture of helplessness.

Hello
she says, the one who sees
the one who sees, but not from up above.  No.  Her seeing is not the eagle-eyed surveying wide-angle.
Mostly, she whispers, I see in the dark.  I’m crouched down, in the roots, it’s dark, warm, wet, muddy.

how do you see? confounded, I ask.  With a candle?  A flame? A flashlight?  Headlamp?

No.  I see with my body.  The shiver up my spine.  The hairs rising on the back of my neck and arms.  The burst of flames in my heart.  The warmth in my belly.  The heat in my groins. The tears in my eyes.  They are my compass, my map.  My body is the divining rod that finds the core of the matter.

Don’t go there! They told me.
It’s not safe.  You’re not supposed to.  It isn’t allowed.
We’ll cut off your hands, rip out your tongue, poke out your eyes.  You’ll see too much, they threatened, and if you don’t stop, we’ll be forced to kill you, burn you, rip you to shreds.

Yes, says the one who sees nodding slowly, eyes glistening.
My way of seeing is often scorned and rejected.  It isn’t measurable or containable or predictable.
You left me here, down in the dark nascent underworld of truth, a thousand voices murmuring, a thousand hearts beating.  Grief and death colluding to burst through your dams, promising to inundate you one day with the fertile depths of your soul, demanding to be seen and felt.

And now, she says,
the one who sees, seeing me so clearly
you’ve disassembled the dams, brick by brick, and walk freely into these places unseen.  Into the grief and death and darkness.  Willing to feel your way through the shimmering mud. Welcome back.  Welcome home.

You don’t have to hide any more, she says
olly olly oxen free.

i vow to be generous, and not stingy

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On Friday, I head to Minnesota to celebrate my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary. 60. Wow. My little mind can’t even begin to comprehend a relationship of that length; I’ve been alive for less than half that time.

Inevitably, my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents – whom I only see every few years – will ask me what I’m up to in life. The *safe* answer: “Oh, I quit my job running the gymnastics program a year ago, and now I’m doing administrative assistance for a few people, from home. Yeah, the flexibility and freedom are great!” I enjoy what I do and the solo entrepreneurs that I have the opportunity to support and interface with are kind, friendly, and doing amazing work in the world.

And, my work is not the area of my life that is most alive for me. I’m in a state of continual – perhaps even constant – change and transformation. My life and my self are being blown apart open again and again through Zen practice, relational practices, therapy, plant medicines, and relationships. Will I dare to share any of that with them? Can I let go of my judgments that they can’t handle that? That they’ll think I’m a weirdo? That I need to make myself smaller and more “digest-able” for them? When, really, what I’m afraid of is feeling different, and separate from the people who birthed me, and ironically, it’s by not sharing any of my actual self that I perpetuate my feelings of separateness. Vicious circle.

A few weeks ago, I was officially initiated into Zen practice through the Jukai ceremony. Jukai means “receiving the precepts,” which are, most simply, a code of ethics for being a decent human being. No killing, no sexual misconduct, no lying, etc.

This morning, as I sat drinking my tea and journaling about my upcoming trip, asking myself what I will divulge to my extended family, I was suddenly reminded of one of the precepts. “I vow to be generous and not stingy. Especially with the Dharma.”

My life is my dharma. Am I really going to keep it held in close because I’m afraid? Am I going to “be stingy” because it’s more comfortable? Or, will I take a risk? Generously disclosing my heart and soul? Will I give my family the opportunity to actually know and see me? Or, continue to hold them at arms length, the armor up strong and solid, “None shall pass!”?

I’m putting a stop to that vicious circle. I might not share everything – perhaps the plant medicines can wait for the next visit! But I vow to be generous, and not stingy.

dreams

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I dreamt of domestication. Mine.

Don’t sit like that; sit like this. No! We don’t eat that. Tame your hair. Wear these clothes. Feel these feelings. Think these thoughts. Take this path. Walk like this. Say these words. Here’s the line. Here’s the boundary within which you can play. Color within the lines. Stay on the trail, the wild is fragile, and it might kill you (what?!).

Everything I do is wrong. I can hear it in their voices. The frustration, the dissatisfaction evident and clear.  I fumble along, wanting to do it better and wanting to scream, “NONE OF THIS MATTERS!”


Dreamt of a bear, hunting and killing humans.
“What were you doing?” I ask.
Trying to get your attention.
Why?
I have something to tell you.
Then tell me. Please.
I’m feral. I’m what you will become if you tame and domesticate.


Dreamt of a wolf, standing over me, trying to make friends. I kicked him away.
I’m sorry, I say.
Thank you. And, don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere. I’m here. Even when you can’t see me, I’m here, standing guard. When you’re ready you will take your place and walk next to me.


The Key Keeper visits me next. Keys jingling in a ring.
Why are you here? I ask
You want to unlock your memories, yes?
Yes.
I have the keys. The price is your blood.
How do I give you my blood?
Once you start, there’s no way out. There’s no going back. No numbing, no pain-relieving, no comfort, no solace, no escape.
Okay. Let’s get started
I’m not sure you’re ready. You answer too fast, pretending you have it all together. Nothing can hold you together, not superglue, secrets, love, or money. You are falling apart.
Key Keeper? I ask. Where are you?
Your liver. Your liver is the first key.

why this fundraising campaign matters to me

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I’m a member of the Integral Center.  The morning the building flooded I walked in as I do nearly every morning to sit Zazen.  Something smelled… suspicious when I walked in.  Damp, musty, dank.  With the torrential rain from the night before fresh on my mind, I walked downstairs, and came toe to toe with a few feet of water.  I grabbed my phone, dialed Robert (the building director),  fed him the less than pleasant news, and headed back upstairs to do my meditation.

I’ve spent many hours over the last couple of months hauling shit-soaked items out of the flooded basement, disinfecting the salvageable items, and helping alongside a team of people putting together this fundraising campaign.

But why?!  Why is this building, the work that’s done in it, and the community it houses, worth my precious time and energy?  And your donation?

Because of this:

Last week a new romantic relationship that I was excited about and eager to continue, came to a crashing halt.  I felt heartbreak, grief, confusion, anger, sadness.  In the past, when I’ve been faced with these particular experiences, I tend to withdraw; to lick my wounds, heal myself, and reemerge, shiny, polished, and whole.

This time, I decided to try something new.  I asked for help.  Thursday morning I sent out a Facebook message to several of my closer friends in the Integral Center community, asking if they would join me that evening to offer support and love.

And, wouldn’t you know it, they did!  These friends rearranged schedules, missed things, found child care, and carved time out of their busy lives just for me.  Just.  For.  Me.  I couldn’t believe it.  It was the most precious gift, and the perfect salve for my aching heart.

Through the practices done here, the community that shows up, the transformation and growth opportunities, and the relationships that form out of all of those, I’ve learned that I don’t have to take care of myself.  People want to be there for me, I just have to give them the opportunity to be.

In the growing epidemic of isolation, the Integral Center is like a lighthouse, shining love and connection out across the world.  And I mean this literally.  People come from all over the world to be in and to learn how to create the kind of community that we’re creating.  The kind of community where people can be fully themselves; where people can ask for help and receive it; where people genuinely and deeply care about one another; where people can struggle and mess up; where people can show up however they are, without having to cover up, or hide what’s going on for them.

It’s real.

It’s alive.

And it makes real, visible differences in people’s lives.

In my world, that’s something worth supporting, however I can.

Here’s how you can help:

visit the crowd funding campaign at IndieGogo, and donate.  Even small donations, $5, add up.

Watch for updates from the Integral Center website (integralcenter.org) and the facebook page.

Spread the word!  Share this with friends, family, neighbors.

antidote

I write.  Every day.  25 minutes at least, usually more.  And, I love it.  I get to explore my interiors, see what’s inside.  What will I discover?  What will I find?  It’s like a playground, a museum, with nooks, crannies, and corners full of treasure and excitement.  No filters, no editing, just raw me.

Yesterday I didn’t want to write.  I was scared, overwhelmed, barely holding it together.  I didn’t want to loosen the knot in my throat because I was pretty sure my head would fall off I would be unable to recover.  So I didn’t.

Today, despite the resistance, I forced myself to write.  

It feels like there are razor blades, broken glass, quick sand, land mines hidden in my interiors.  I don’t know what I might step on, run into, set off. 

Two nights ago…  In bed sobbing.  In the bath tub, sobbing.  Begging for it to stop.  It hurts so much, I’ll do anything to make it stop. Please, please.  Anything. Seriously.  I need relief, release from this, whatever it is.  Make it stop.

With no relief in sight, I rode the wave.  I suddenly understood why people might kill themselves, harm themselves, drink, do drugs, pull their hair out.  It just hurts so much.  I wanted the antidote, the method to pull the venom out so that I could carry on.  

The only antidote is my tears.  This venom is relentless; it’s taking a lot of tears. 

what hearts do

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There’s a tornado raging in this heart of mine.  Opposing winds creating a whirlwind, a vortex, a smattering of things flying every-which direction.  A spiral of destruction, devastation, annihilation.  Ripped and wrenched apart.  Torn loose from the foundation, spun around,  shot out the side, the top, landing in new places, before unseen, unheard.  Heart broken apart by hundred mile an hour winds.

For what?  Why?  What’s the reason?  The purpose?

Because, sweet heart, that’s what hearts do.

They break and they burst.  They crack and crumble.  They shatter and collapse.

Because they aren’t actually ours.

This heart, beating here in my chest is not mine to have and to hold, to cherish and keep safe.  No.  It is meant to be given away, piece by fragmented piece in every moment, with every breath.

It is not a vessel for storage.  The heart is a muscle, a pump that runs the circulatory system.  Things don’t remain in one place; they circulate.

I am simply a traveler through the chambers of this heart.

It is not mine; it is not yours.  These rooms are meant to be passed through.  Linger, only for a moment, to take it in – the taste, the texture, the temperature – for it will never be exactly this ever again.  And then, let it go, again and again

because it’s not yours to hang on to

not mine
never was
never will be
always was
always will be

You aren’t yours to hang on to.  You’re a vehicle.  A point in space and time where all of these things collude in a miraculous, beautiful, unique, perfect way.  You are a confluence of streams.

So let them flow through because, really, what else is there to do?

free fallin’

A few weeks ago…

I love this cover
He tells me.

I first heard it when I ended things with my ex-wife.

I’m a bad boy
Cause I don’t even miss her
I’m a bad boy for breakin’ her heart.

I didn’t even miss her.  I felt free.  Relieved.
He says.

This morning…

I was just wondering how you’re going to break my heart, he says.
Funny, I respond, because I’m pretty sure you’re going to break mine.

Every time I’ve felt this way, this free falling, couldn’t-stop-it-if-I-wanted-to, out of control kind of love; the kind of love that is so big I couldn’t possibly possess it.  No.  I could never *have* it; it has me.

It has me.

He doesn’t have it; he can’t possess it either, and he certainly can’t possess me.  It has him too.  It’s bigger than the both of us.  It’s the Love that brought the Universe into being, that multiplied into the earth, water, trees, birds, squirrels, mountains, bears, whales, mosquitos …

Every time I’ve felt this kind of love, even just a taste, it’s ended with me crying on the bathroom floor.  Shattered, devastated, utterly heartbroken.

How could it end any other way? I used to wonder.  You open your heart, you let someone in, you give it to him to hold and cherish, and at some point, she will drop it.

It will break.

It might be a tiny crack, a little chip, or a fault line so deep it hits the core.

No matter the size, it’s utterly inevitable.
Immanent.
Impermanent.

I was trying to hold on to this Love, because I thought it was about the person I was in love with.  I held on to the object of my affection, to the being inspiring these loving feelings in me, fists clenched tight in a white-knuckle grip.  I was afraid that if I let go, the love that it inspired in me would slip away too.

So I held my heart close and tight, protecting and shielding it, with a death grip so strong I almost strangled it; nearly cut off the blood supply to this vital organ.  I was holding on for my life, certain that if I let go, if my heart was dropped, cracked, broken, I would die.

The funny thing is, each time my heart’s been broken, some part of me walks right into the fire, willingly sacrificing itself to provide the space and the nourishment for whatever is next.  These parts died so that others could live.

Driving home tonight…

She’s a good girl
Loves her mama
Loves Jesus
And America too

I start singing along, flooded with these moments, these conversations, these feelings, this Love.

And now I’m free
Free fallin’
Fallin’
 

Tears stream down my face.

I can feel the free fall.  My heart is already broken; the moment I surrendered to this Love, its fate was sealed.  It broke, cracked, fell apart.  My whole being is the sacrifice and the resulting aliveness is proportionately vast and vibrant.

And now, rather than holding a death-grip on love, the gesture is one of offering up, open handed, and unattached.  It’s not about him.  He might be doing his part to touch it, wake it up, to whisper words of encouragement in its ear.  But really, it’s been in me all along because it’s in everyone and everything.

Here is my heart, laid out upon this operating table.  Will you please help me break it?  I’ll use the scalpel; you try the chisel.  That isn’t working?  Let’s try the jackhammer.

I’m fully submerged in this love, head to toe, diving ever deeper into unimaginable fathoms, further and further still.  It has me.  I’ve inherited this immense opportunity to share this ocean of love.

My heart cracks open and a whole ocean pours out.

Here’s a drop for you, one for you, and another for you.  Don’t worry, a drop is enough; in that drop is the whole ocean.

flow. flux. freedom.

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The other day, as I poured my heart onto the pages of my journal, I found myself writing the adage, “this, too, shall pass” as a way to assuage the less than comfortable emotions, feelings, and sensations I was sitting with.

loneliness
unworthiness
resignation
grief
fear

“Don’t worry,” I said to myself “eventually, these feelings will diminish.  You won’t be here forever.”

No sooner had I penned those words than I felt sorrow at their truth.  These feelings will pass!  They aren’t going to stay with me.  That means they all pass!  None are permanent.

At the same time I felt relief.  I won’t feel this forever, I will move through it and into something new.  The sorrow and relief felt bittersweet; and I’m not sure which was the sweet side.

I will never be here again.

The simplicity of that statement feels profound.

I will never be here,
right here,
ever again.

It’s so simple and obvious that I take it for granted.  In its wake, I feel both absolute comfort and utter devastation.

Each moment, with its unique influences, feelings, sensations, interactions, communications, is entirely fleeting.

Profoundly alive,
and acutely dead.

Finite, limited, contained,
and, infinite, boundless,

more vast than we can imagine.

And everyone holds within themselves and about themselves entire universes of moments.  We’re standing in a blustery blizzard of moments, both unique and collective; individual and shared.

Like snowflakes, no two are the same.  They fall away, melting and disappearing if we try to cling to them; merging with the drifts in the hills or the stream running through them; getting caught in our eyelashes, melting on our noses or our tongues, recycling into something new and different.

And more often than not, we’re so stuck in our heads, that we don’t see the beauty dancing before us.

Instead, we’re busy.  We occupy ourselves lamenting the past, remembering the “good old days,” or, inventing the future.  Rarely do we sit with what is, as it is.  It can always be different, we think, better, more interesting.  We weave stories and scenarios in our heads that cloud our minds, confuse our senses, and often leave us disappointed with what is really here.

My sitting practice makes this frighteningly apparent.  I sit down on my cushion every morning, and in seconds, I’m whisked away into a memory, a movie scene, a problem at work or in a relationship, a dream, fantasy, or story.

My mind zips into the future, fantasizing about and creating new moments that have yet to be experienced, wondering what will happen, if I’ll finish my to-do list, what I’m going to eat for breakfast, who I’ll talk to today.

And then, just as suddenly as it began, my mind stops, and I remember what I came to the cushion to do.  I take a few deep breaths, feeling my body on the cushion, my back tall and straight, hearing the birds chirping outside the win–

And then I’m gone again, lost in my mind, trapped by it’s habits, thoughts, and processes.  Like a shark that has to keep swimming to stay alive, my mind has to keep thinking to stay alive.  “I think, therefore I am!” it screams.

And it should scream; I’m killing it.

Every time I notice that my mind is running like the wind, and I stop, gently releasing its grip and control on my awareness, and choose to just sit here, it dies a small death.

Every moment that it dies is a moment that I get to live, fully engaged and participating with the world as it is.  When my mind stops, empties, I’m available for so much more.

What do I want more of?

You know those moments that seem to go on forever, and are over in an instant?

You’re so engrossed in something or someone that everything else stops?  You lose all sense of space and time and simply exist.  No thinking, no planning, just instinct.  You flow from one movement to another, one position to the next, evoking a yogic dance that unlocks a universe of possibilities, of creativity, birth, death, emergence.

That’s what I want, in every moment.

Flow.  Flux.  Freedom.

Awareness.
Availability.

So, I break my mind.  Slowly, gently, and with love, layer by layer, day by day, moment by moment.  I resist its impulses, its drive to keep me safe and small, to create comfort and stability.

Because I am so much more than my mind.

It is a useful, necessary, and amazing part of me, and it is only a part.  My mind cannot possibly hope to contain the fathoms of this vast being, of this human in process.

“This too shall pass…”

I say that not as a way to disengage, to step back and separate myself from the discomfort of my experience.  No.  Instead, it’s a reminder to make myself fully available to what is here, because pretty soon, it won’t be.

Savor every moment.  Painful ones.  Pleasurable ones.  Moments that last forever, and moments that pass in the blink of an eye.  Suck out all of the juice; taste each flavor; feel the textures, temperatures, and sensations.

What else is there?

Let me respectfully remind you
Life and death are of supreme importance
Time passes swiftly by and opportunity is lost
Let us Awaken.
Awaken. Take heed.
Do not squander your life.