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I had the quiet and, out of the quiet, music rose.

 

I’m reading the Stories and Essays of Mina Loy. I look at a lot of photographs of Leonora Carrington’s paintings and sculptures. The way is illuminated by the women who came before, who saw strength and light in themselves and kept going. The path is foggy and we are very cold. Then there is only me, puttering through the icy fog, slowly, making sure of my footing on the slippery ground. This is what making art is. This is what making a life is. Is making love like this? The eroticism of a snowstorm. Last night, I was walking alone in subzero temperatures in my dreams. I was sleeping soundly, but dreaming, so a part of me was awake to the sounds and sensations of the dreamworld. The dreamworld is made of lightly connected dots that stabilize into images in the sleeping eye. I saw a wolf in the fog. It was a lot of fog, dense and bright at the same time, like northern lights swooping over the northern sound like wings. The channel erupted with smoke and canon fire. The Bay grew silent in the gathering storm.

 

I was thinking about feeling guilty and feeling the pain of the world and personal responsibility, where they connect, where one of them ends and the other begins, because they form a pattern and the way you conduct yourself within this pattern determines your fate. Determines whether you are successful or depressed. I think a lot about what it means to take care of myself first, not in a selfish way but in a sustaining and generative way. I think about being depleted. I feel depleted. I am exhausted. I am full of energy. The polar magnets of existence.

 

Days and dreams. You held me in certain harmony in the bell of your palm/hands/translucence. –this thought while paging through Loy’s stories, I felt you, your presence

 

Our nest, our subconscious rules the boat, water a divine force.—maybe, a divining rod.

 

The bell is at the center of things. The light is at the center of things. The soul is at the center of things.

 

We rest and have our being forever and ever more. The bulb. The fortress. The filigree on the autumn window. The bell and the Vajra. Nirvana. Letting go of all that ails us. A mantra, chant, trance, opening, descending, ascent, Orpheus, Icarus, the sun, the mountain, the jewel, the theremin. The difference between a and the. When one becomes important. Music. Music and light. Patterns in the thread of light, in the minuscule strings of being—the body, his body emotion as physical presence, as rock and bone, as words and movement. Emotion is physical, the motion of a hand, lips, language, nerves—  coordinating response and lettering of the anchor, and ancient trellises. The mind is physical. The mind and heart are also ethereal. We occupy space and time that exist beyond us, other worlds, multilevered neurolinguistic pathways through physical and non-physical space. We are aware of dimensions beyond ours, in our bodies and consciousness. We know everything that everyone has ever known and we know nothing.

 

We rest in the center of things. Lately, I have given up the edge—  in a certain way. The edge is still there but it makes itself known in gentler, and also fiercer dimensions. There is a place of rest in my life now that wasn’t there before. I had been consumed by stress, or what they used to call the vapors, or nerves. There is so much stress and pressure to continue to do things all the time, to barrel through even when your mind and body and heart are exhausted beyond themselves—  becoming entrances into other beings, ghosts of themselves, even though armored in defenses. Defenses are exhausting too. Insomnia plays a part in the whole of this non-rest and it pushes the human body to its limits without real emotional or spiritual or intellectual gain. I’d argue with that. There is some strange gain there, a perch from which we, embellished and adorned, watch the procession of madness in the streets. We are the madness and the streets. We are the throng and the crowd and the glittering eyelashes that look like birds. We mimic the sound of birds in our sleep.

 

In order to reach new ground or old ground, the ground of our being that is always there, like a stone, we must rest. See the light burning through the periphery of the eyelids as the eyes close. That is fire, and rest, and dimension and hope. That is the ethereal wing of the field. The eyes close on a momentary death, darkness we control but do not control. All of the fears of childhood and adulthood present in one lowering motion of eyelids. Morion. Schists. The equivalency of being. The natural shape of things—  areas, errors, broad views, landscapes of unknown lands, the periphery of which is autumn. Then winter. Our passages in boats. Our legs floating. Water or land. We move forward in the gut of things, into a future that feels like the past only sometimes and then it feels like itself, like a concascadent present, coiling in on itself like so many black beads, like the fortune of the subatomic, non-gravity-bound. We are fortunes like that—  desperate, confident coils, breathing, fog, water, disaster, lumen field.

 

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We grow up with stories of what it is to be men and women. The illustrious goals of humans and sex and masculinity and femininity. I started writing this post the day the story hit about CNN’s coverage of the Steubenville case but couldn’t muster enough hope or light to finish in a way that wouldn’t be a total downer. There is enough evil and apathy (at direct opposition to empathy) in the world to sustain a lifelong despair and depression, so how do we move through this and still have hope? How can people behave this way, with such disregard for another person’s humanity? Why didn’t these boys know this was wrong?

 

 

This is just one of many exercises in how to deal with horror and horrific things that we don’t even understand, much less can incorporate into our worldview. There is balance somewhere in seeing the evil in the world, the ingrained social prejudices and hatreds and rampant misogyny and racism that dictate so many interactions and media and relationships, and living a life of social consciousness, kindness and, yes, hope. We have our own private and lonely despairs and miseries and then, out the window or on TV or at the restaurant, there is the despair and loneliness and alienation of the world. We waver between two poles in the sociogeography of time and place and childhood and adulthood and the stories we’ve been told, we’ve embodied, we’ve carried out—body, sensuality, stories and stories, cultural structures, office buildings, lampposts, subways, dinners, stoves, bathroom mirrors, kitchens, aprons—hope and despair, love and alienation, connection and isolation. The integrity of the needle of the compass attuned to empathy and compassion and the connection of all beings needs to be consciously maintained.

 

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We plummet hard into hell and live there, our own private holocausts and extinctions, not sleeping for years, living in consuming fear and staying there, not seeing a way out of our terror. How do we integrate what terror means, how do we deal with what we know exists in the world, into a life lived in relative peace and fortune? I have always wondered about that—that suspect tension between one life and another, the line that can so easily break, if one were to sneeze. It’s that fragile, the boundary between a free person and an imprisoned one. I have always felt this connection, as painful and debilitating as it sometimes is, where compassion and empathy descend into a hell in the body, something I feel in my bones, a consuming shiver under the skin that haunts the whole body from within, the reaching of the dead and buried and tortured and captive into my life, into my awareness, this awareness being a form of life itself, and it leaves bruises and memories and ghosts that follow me around on bright days and ask me to listen to them and to be with them and to somehow find healing and forgiveness and redemption.

 

There is something—translucent, indefinable, but I long to define it—that always pulls me out of this depression and despair. I am hoping that, in my own healing, I can help heal the world. Thich Nhat Hanh says that our own peace is the world’s peace. But first we have to find our own peace. If we are hopeless and despairing, there is something in us that is not looking at the world as it is. We are living in dark illusion. There is beauty and love and strength and compassion and empathy and kindness in the world. So we look at everything, which is hard to do when faced with horrors and injustices. To deal with our own terror and anguish, our own desolation, to face it with courage and openness, even if we feel it might consume us whole and we’ll never come up to see light again—to feel our hearts as they break, over and over again, and to allow ourselves to feel the connection we have to every living being in the world and universe, this is powerful, this conducts an electricity of change and creates a stronghold for true power to emerge into just and kind and fair actions. It starts with our hearts and our bodies and what we choose to think and say and do in each situation. Even in the midst of our own pain, we can be kind—to ourselves and to those around us. The simple, yet challenging act of noticing how we feel, consciously turning our awareness to our emotions, our body, how it feels, and letting our thoughts just be—not attaching to the stories we tell to both comfort and terrify ourselves—moves mountains. We must teach this and weave it into our social fabric, make it part of our curriculum and narrative.

 

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A note about these photographs—I took these self-portraits while thinking about all of this, so thought I’d post them here. I was thinking about the body and what the body knows and what emotion and empathy and story and moving through pain looks like and feels like.

 

 

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In this season of so many of us going home and visiting with our families, many of our emotional triggers get engaged. It helps to pause and go inward, checking in with yourself to maintain your boundaries and center. The holidays are filled with expectations and needs. Are you expecting anything from others that you do not expect from yourself? What do you find yourself wanting from others? In what situations are you angry or disappointed? Think and meditate on what your needs are in your relationships. Fully be with them, acknowledging them, giving them as much room as they need to be seen and heard. Then ask yourself, how am I unskillful and unsuccessful in meeting these needs for myself and giving to myself? How am I skillful and successful in meeting my own needs? In what specific ways do I do this? Then widen the awareness and ask, how can I give to myself, to my loved ones, to others in my community, to the world?

Have a wonderful, love-filled, joy-filled, peace-filled holiday!

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When we have hard mornings, hard nights, generating love and peace and goodwill may seem next to impossible. We read the news, stand in lines, have a harsh interaction with a coworker, argue with someone we love, and feel exhausted, tense, anxious and over it all. This is precisely when it is most needed to connect with the deep well of hope and peace every one of us has in infinite store. There is a backup generator in each of our psyches, patient, enduring, like an eternal light reminding us always that we have a choice in every moment to live with an open heart, one that generates light and peace and love. This is not an easy road some days, but in order for our world to heal, and for each of us, including animals, trees, mountains and deserts, to heal, it is the necessary way. From this well of infinite peace come the actions that will restore balance and health in ourselves, our lives and our world.

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