Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Waaaay East of Eden

(This week's entry is excerpted from my upcoming book "Be: A Radical Understanding of Self and Universe", currently a work in progress.)

A long time ago...

When I am about to begin my shamanic work, I call in the compassionate spirits of the directions. When I look and call to the East, I refer to it as the “land of the dawn, source of new beginnings”. In a way, it is the direction of the emergence of the New.

Normally, we look from East to West. We follow the arc of the sun across the sky as it tilts to the South (for those of us in Northern Hemisphere) and makes its way to the western horizon. But what happens if, instead, we direct our consciousness to go East and stay East? Keep going?

It feels to me like going back in time. I go back into what was new last month, last year, last century...

If we go East long enough, we find ourselves in the Garden of Eden, that mythological, paradisaical place of our first sentient “awakening” - the beginning of our awareness of “self” and, with it, the great separation of ourselves from one-another and from God. Books can be written about this moment, this place.

But what happens if we keep going East from there? What is East of Eden?

Human consciousness begins to become vague. It “de-separates”. It looks (viewed with time going in reverse) like human consciousness is dissolving back into God. Before we were human, and had our human brains and human thoughts and human words, we...weren't. God did not have this kind of “vehicle” through which to experience the Creation. God did not have this kind of voice for creative expression. There was nobody to cut and polish the emerald. No one to quarry the marble or carve La Pieta. No one to create the beautiful Roman font or carve it on the frieze of the Roman Forum.

So God expressed him/herself through the cycles of life and culture and relationships among all the animals and plants.

Further East, though. Further. Waaay East.

Walking back through the Hebrew creation myth, out of the darkness, God created Light. And thought it was good.

But wait. One more step back. From the Gospel of John: “In the beginning, there was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God.”

Before there was Light, there was the Word. Before there was Light, there was “information”. Where was that “information”?

I humbly submit: it was in the Void. The Void was not (is not) empty in the way we think of a void being “empty space”. The Void was/is full of...information. Some kind of meta-information, proto-information out of which everything can be constructed. An information “field”.

What happened next was the combination of Information, plus Intention (God said, “Let there be Light...”).

We call that moment, in science, the Big Bang. I don't think that's accurate. I think it's more likely the “Big Bloom”. Our universe is unfolding. Infinitely unfolding. Scientists call it the “expanding universe”. But we have this notion that the “in between” space, that space between the galaxies, between the stars, between the planets, even the space between the protons and electrons inside our bodies, is “empty space”.
It's not. It's the Void. That very self-same Void out of which, when God thought, “Hey, let's have some light!”, light spontaneously appeared.

Confounding physicists earnest desire for that space to be empty, recent scientific probing has discovered evidence of...something...lurking in that empty space. Physicists have a placeholder term for what seems to be hiding there - they call it "Dark Matter" or "Dark Energy", which they cannot detect but have a sneaking suspicion is what makes up more than 95% of the mass of the Universe.

We're not living in a universe that is the buckshot fired from a shotgun shell, spreading and slowing and becoming more random. We're living in a Universe that is like a flower, with the potential for infinite bloom-lets to bloom within its bloom. Our Universe is one big fractal blossom, with every space within it full of infinite potential for the spontaneous emergence of “more”, perhaps even as much “more” as another whole Universe, or an infinite number of other Universes.

Interestingly, that is one of the interpretations of the “meaning” of quantum theory. One interpretation of its weird properties implies that with every decision of “quantum significance”, additional universes are brought into being, even though, because of our limited consciousness, we can only perceive the one we're in. Again, I am not making this up. Quantum physicists are.

So. What is waaaay East of Eden? Infinite potential. And that same Infinite potential exists in the space between the sub-atomic particles in just ONE of your body's atoms.
As surely as there is a universe “out there”, there is a universe “in here” - inside of you – that is no less real, no less powerful, no less magnificent and wondrous. The full potential of the Void is there, within you. You just haven't said, “Let there be Light” yet (...and the neighbors thank you).

Interestingly, the Void within you is not actually separate from the Void “out there”. It's all the same fabric. It permeates everything and is within and around everything, in full measure.
When I think about this notion, I get light-headed. I experience a bit of vertigo, and my consciousness seems to be less tethered to my body. My body also undergoes a transformation – it becomes more permeable. More like a sponge, with the mystical Void passing through it. With every breath or motion, I become aware of the gargantuan spaces between the sub-atomic particles of me. I realize that I am, by volume, vastly empty of “things” and vastly full of “Void”. To be a bit more precise, the human body is no less than 99.99999999999% Void. And, depending on one's interpretation of the nature of a proton (is it made of quarks?), then we're actually 100% void. Everything we are, feel and perceive is a “field effect”.

No BBs or billiard balls at all. None. Just “points of energy expressing themselves together” in a field.

Kind of like a symphony of instruments creating a wall of sound you can feel.

As perplexing as this language sounds, and as mystical as it sounds, this is the nature of the reality you live in, as understood and described by modern physics. And as understood and described by mystics and wizards and shamans and holypersons of every stripe and color and from every culture and age.

Interesting. Very interesting.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanks Giving

Happy Thanksgiving!

I was thinking about that simple phrase. I saw something I had not seen before.

I have always thought of "giving thanks" as a way of expressing appreciation for something. I have always thought of it primarily as, in a way, an obligation in return for a gift. The other side of the quid pro quo.

I owed it.

Not in a mean-spirited, coerced way or anything, but it was always, on its face, an act of "re-balancing".

This year, I saw it as something else. A gift in its own right.

I've started to see the gift in things a bit more this year. When I wrote about the gifts in my imperfections, for example. In my Spirited Conversations dialog with Sonya Bibilos, I reflected on the natural state of the child being a kind of gift to the mother. And more directly, Littal, one of the women that leads our New Moms support group, referred to "giving birth" during a conversation about her pregnancy, and it struck me: Giving birth is a gift. Not just an obligation or a release or an inevitability. Not "Having a baby (come out)", but "Giving birth (as a gift)".

Which brings me back to Thanks Giving.

Giving thanks is giving a gift. To see it as fulfilling an obligation is to miss an entire dimension of its power.

Think about it. How have you experienced giving thanks? Have you expressed it as a gift? How have you experienced receiving gratitude? Has it moved you?

Gratitude is a sacred, precious, and powerful gift. Give it often.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Egg Magic

by Gina Carosella

Recently, I was reminded of a particular joy from my youth: stone eggs. When I was younger, any stone that had the classic egg shape -- be it a river rock smoothed by nothing more than time and chance, or a carefully selected piece of hematite or agate cut and polished -- was obviously the home of some fantastical creature.

Large eggs contained, beyond a doubt, dinosaurs. Tiny eggs hid faeries. Brightly colored (or particularly shiny) eggs held the most fantastic creatures of all -- dragons.

There was no limit on what could be concealed by that smooth exterior, no doubt as to the perfection of the baby inside, just waiting to hatch into my new best friend.

I could not help but exclaim over the miraculous potential of these simple ovoid rocks.
And while they never physically hatched, they certainly didn't disappoint. Each new egg would delight and fascinate for weeks, some hatching a new imaginary companion every day, some serving only as a reminder of the faithful pet that now trailed after me just out of sight. Old shoe-boxes became beds where the mineral treasure and their ethereal contents could rest; handfuls of pebbles and the occasional leaf became nourishing meals for hungry infants.

So when I stumbled onto stone eggs while searching listings for polished minerals to offer here at Firefly Willows, I thought, "why not?" and ordered some.

I was absolutely delighted to find, when they arrived, that they still have that magic.

From the earthy, mysterious Tiger Iron to the graceful smoke-and-cream Picasso Jasper, each egg sang with potential. Surely the clear-quartz eggs, with their fractures and cracks and bubbles, would hatch delicate sylphs and dancing pegasi? With their rich colors and sharp striations, how could anything but a tiny, tiger-striped dragonet come from the Tiger Iron? Unless, of course, it was an actual tiny tiger?

One of the Picasso Jasper eggs seemed to call out more strongly than the rest, and at first, I couldn't imagine why; after all, it was mostly white on one side, mostly grey on the other, hardly the most exciting patterning. But with its pale belly and dark back, it seemed cheerful, almost playful -- which made perfect sense, once I realized that of course it would hold a dolphin or two! Or maybe, just maybe, a smooth and smoky cat with a Cheshire grin. Or a grey wolf pup, ready to sniff out adventure.

What will you find, hiding in these eggs? What new friend waits to tempt your inner child out of hiding?

I hope you'll take the chance to find out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NaNoWriMo at Firefly Willows

Last Friday, a crew of crazies(...err...that is... "aspiring authors"...) showed up at Firefly Willows for a NaNoWriMo "write in" - a few hours of honest-to-goodness, focused, productive writing time.


It was MAYHEM in there! I was out at the desk, developing a flyer (when I really would have rather been writing my book...!), as, with the passing of time, I realized just how boisterous it was in the studio workspace.

I peeked my head in and asked, "Everybody doing OK?"

((Sudden silence accompanied by sheepish grins...))

One young woman was there with her art supplies, ostensibly to provide inspiration and support for her friend who was writing.

I asked the artist to draw "the event". So here it is. NaNoWriMo at Firefly Willows, compliments of Kiva. (Why does she have three hands? Dunno. You'll have to come in this Friday to find out!)

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. Write-ins are at Firefly Willows on Fridays in November, 6:30-8:30 PM

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Microsoft vs. Jesus

A Most Challenging Teaching

My wife and daughter had made a valiant effort to upgrade our Quickbooks software. Together, they poured over bulletin boards, tips, online support bulletins, and other esoterica. They sat through hours of downloading a big glob of software to replace/repair another big glob of software (the .NET framework, for you geekazoids), in hopes that the problem would go away. According to Intuit, that was one potential source of the problem.

No luck, however. And, to make matters worse, there were other software updates that would not install - in particular, a security update for Microsoft Office.

Though I have sworn off being the "help desk/IT guy" for others (including my mother-in-law, so you know I'm serious), I could not bring myself to ignore this problem and/or just take the shop computer to some other tech guy without looking at it myself.

I have worked on myself very, very hard, and for a long time. I have done deep introspection and exhumed long-buried skeletons. I have "peaced out", according to my own sons.

And yet.

I have to question the depth of my transformation when, within 30 minutes of sitting in front of this problem, I began to feel rage.

Rage at the appallingly bad software and system constructs of Microsoft Windows.

Rage at the ridiculously inadequate self-help tools and absurd trouble-shooting tips offered by Microsoft itself.

Rage that ANY company, much less one that is so wealthy and stocked with so many highly intelligent people could tolerate such an abysmally, shockingly atrocious user experience.

Rage at the time wasted not just by me, but, no doubt, by thousands upon thousands of others just like me (or worse, because they might have even less of an opportunity to actually FIX the problem, and would resort to formatting their hard disks, reinstalling and in some cases repurchasing software, and getting their computing resources back into functioning trim).

That's a lot of rage.

Now, let me be clear. This missive is not really about how disgustingly awful I feel Microsoft products are, although it feels good to write this all down.

In fact, it's about how thin my veneer of inner peace seems to be in certain places. And the fact that it feels good to rage at this giant, faceless monster of a company.

Why does it, still, after all this self-work? Why is my calm so thin in spots?

I occasionally have dreams and daydreams about situations in which I am weak and largely helpless in the face of some bullying force. Sometimes its just some thugs threatening me or my family. Sometimes it's a post-apocalyptic gang of vandals intruding on my carefully tended vegetable garden or commune. The scenarios vary.

What seems invariant is my response. Aggression. Anger. Fury. I cast evil spells on them. I hit, hurt, and kill them. The idea of letting them live only passes through, to be replaced by, "Well, they'll just be all the more angry because you have humiliated them, and they'll be back with even more malice, so you might as well end it right here, right now."

Where does that come from?

Jesus said, "Love your enemies". Even as they were nailing him to the cross, he was offering love and forgiveness to them. He was willing to die at the hands of the unworthy and ignorant. He was willing to have his beautiful, magical, valuable life destroyed by thugs.

To do so requires a perspective that in the face of violence, no violence offered in return (turn the other cheek) is a better option than fighting back (an eye for an eye). That dying and/or enslavement is better than killing (or hurting or maiming) to preserve one's ability to live free.

That takes a lot of guts. And a lot of love.

I'm not there yet.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Power of Ritual

Theatre for God and Creation

I had a powerful experience this weekend. I participated with a group of Wiccans in a ritual celebration of Samhain. (Samhain being the Celtic word for what we now call Halloween). Wow. At first, it felt like "open air theater". And then it became much more profound. I was reminded that Theater evolved out of Ritual, and suddenly, profoundly, I understood why.

The event itself was challenging for me. We've been conditioned to see the world through a particular lens, and while we talk about openness and tolerance of strange ideas, (or even ideas we proclaim as not so strange), to actually place oneself into the world-view of another, and actively participate, is another thing entirely. Especially when that world-view requires that you let down your guard and be intimate with the the world in a new way.

In other words, it's one thing to root for your friend's baseball team because you're visiting from another city. It's another to participate in a Samhain ritual with a coven of witches.

And I admit that I was a little anxious. How much of this whole shebang was I really up for? How much of myself would I be able to give to it? And it was expected to last six hours. (Six hours?! Hello? When was the last time you went to church for six hours straight?)

But all this is prelude. I went. I participated meaningfully, and as the time passed, I entered the ritual more fully and willingly. The ritual had many parts, including honoring the elements, the cycles of the year, and the ancestors.

But the centerpiece for me was the ritual re-enactment of the Sacred Hunt, where the hunter becomes one with the prey, and through the process understands what it means to sacrifice oneself, what it means to die and return to the arms of the Goddess Mother, and what it means to be reborn on the other side of Death.

I have been facing, experiencing, and interacting with Death quite a bit lately, as a kind of "personal adviser" to my healing and spiritual work. This very sophisticated (dare I say "elegant"?) force in the Universe has been incredibly instructive and stunningly illuminating.

So this ritual was relevant for me on many levels. It was a challenge to be fully present, it was an opportunity to explore new ground, and it was another window into the teachings I've been receiving.

But what was MOST powerful was the "meta-experience". I experienced, for the first time, the real power of ritual. I've heard the words about why we do ritual, the role it's supposed to serve in connecting us to the past and all that. But those words never really had any weight or consequence for me. I think it's because I never really had a handle on the utility of connecting with the past.

Now, I do.

When I re-enacted a story that has been played out countless times over the past 25,000 years - The Hunt - and attempted to understand what was sacred about it, to see it in sacred terms, with sacred truths to be mined, something deeply and powerfully magical happened.

I felt the nature of reality, the fabric, very deeply that night. It was like a flowing drapery or cloak, a shifting, velvety fabric draped across the universe, with the folds and creases as our experiences.

Through the ritual, I found that crease, that fold, that vein in the fabric of creation that has been worn and polished over 25,000 years. I felt the continuity and connection with all of history and all of creation in that experience. The Hunt is such a powerful current, because it was/is so essential; it was like touching a fundamental harmonic of the song of creation. And for me, my perception about the nature of the world and the nature of reality was transformed.

I learned sacred truths. I participated in a community, creating something special. And I could go on and on and on about what I learned. But it was because I touched reality in a new way that I learned. I was able to harvest so much. It wasn't the ritual that taught me. It was the way ritual brought me into contact with deep reality that taught me.

That was Magic.