Stream in the Night Garden

I write.

I write I.

Not about I, not to express I.

I write as I.

I write as I am.

I write as a state of being.  I feel a rhythm in my heart. I catch images with my mind, feeling a Life Stream grow and develop spontaneously, from tone to beat to image to symbol to a collection of symbols to a collection of symbols dancing together, twirling around and in and out in between each other, flashing new colors and heat, splashing around in the hot vibrant mind’s sun, cooling down in the moonlight, hiding in the night garden with the fireflies, and then catching glimpses of my hand holding a pen spreading inky symbols across the page, on fine lines, with fine lines and dots and slashes and curls. I AM WRITING. I am connecting. I am at once timeless. I am. I am at once a spontaneous eruption of Life Water in my heart – sometimes cool, sometimes scalding hot. At once connecting Life Water with the splashes of ink on the page, in the rhythm, in the life, in the fruit, in the seed, in the flesh so warm and silky and open, wanting to be touched, wanting speech, the tongue, speaking sex, writing sex, writing the thread that pulls it together close, into a garment, in context, meaningful and useful. And safe. The raw fibers have a home now. The wound is healing as the needle of writing collects it, and winds it through fabric of all colors and textures, designing my soul. Creating my soul.

Écriture féminine. Writing from the inside. I am, at once, I and writing. The tricky part is staying… staying in it. Staying as me, as Life Itself, and writing as me, writing as Life Itself.

What does it say? What does the Stream say for me to write? I do not know, until I write. It’s the peace that passes understanding, this living water, for the woman at the well. It is writing without fear. It is being. Writing as Being. Such a fragile and vulnerable state. You can slip out of it so easily; pulled out before you know what’s happening, and then you realize you are writing from the outside. Concerned with diction, word choice, readers, including yourself. Being is still present. I am the one who has slipped away.


The Neuroscience of Memory

An event happens.  There’s a reaction to that event.  The reaction then becomes part of the memory. Then new events trigger memories of that first event (together with the reaction), and new reactions are created.  Layering is underway.  Do that for twenty years and you’ve got a very rich picture of the initial event.  I use the word “picture” on purpose because you are dealing in images.  Memory is an imaginal world. When you start writing it down, as in a memoir, describing the details, accounting for the event and all of the subsequent responses using carefully selected words, you’ve now added the dimension of language into the mix, a filter.  As you share your story, there are now other people’s responses considered along with the language of the event.  A memory is not like a file in a cabinet or a box in an attic where a wedding dress is stored that can be pulled out at any time, the contents looking exactly the same as when they were placed there originally. No, the mind is plastic.  It changes from day to day, hour by hour, “bird by bird.” 

At this moment, I am remembering my father. The day before he died, when I knew he was dying, my thoughts of him were alive and light, even around the hard memories of times I was hurt by him, of times he said or did something that affected me emotionally in a negative way, of times I watched him struggle to remember where the car was parked, or struggle to remember the word to identify the bird he was pointing to in the bird bath (the Alzheimer’s in full swing).  Even those memories were alive and fresh as I worked with them in my heart and mind, unpacking details, analyzing how the details related to other details and events, forming an essence of Dad in my mind and how our relationship changed over the years, months, days.  How it was still changing.  When he died on October 16, 2003, the shock (or was it trauma?) of that event evoked a plethora of profound feelings of loss and grief that are now forever associated with all memories of my father.  Any memory of a past event involving my father comes hooked with memories of images of death rituals in the days and weeks following his death, including the day of his memorial service that contained a lifetime of photos the eulogies of myself and other people, sharing our stories of our relationships with him.  Emotions of profound grief accompany those images. It is visceral. I cannot think about the day he took me to see the Texas Rangers play the California Angels in Arlington stadium in 1973 without also thinking about the images from his memorial service in 2003 and the crush of emotions both events evoke.  My memories of my dad, no matter how light and fun the events were, are permanently weighted with the gravity of grief.  The weight of death. The memories of my dad alive and the images of the death rituals are integral.



Every day, I desperately search for a mental place, a state of mind in which to rest assured that I am above reproach, that I am not responsible for the misfortunes or pain of others or myself. If and when I reach that state, and am convinced of that, I then look further for evidence to convince me that I am actually improving the lives of others.  And then, even further, I listen closely into the voices of those others for notes of gratefulness, perhaps even desires to reward me, evidence that I am appreciated.  I am seeking evidence, from others, that I am above reproach and always doing the right thing.

This must sound ridiculous. I am almost embarrassed to write it down.  But I if I am honest, this is the back story that guides my life and decisions every single day, providing a framework for my worthiness, my raison d’etre. Even the smallest, most infinitesimal, insignificant decisions are made within this framework.  Could it be that my entire reason for being is based upon the premise that all my actions and decisions need to be above reproach?  Is it superficial?  Or is it more common than we realize?  And then what does knowing this really mean to me?

The fact that I wrote “ridiculous” means that I’ve been judging myself on this premise my whole life. And I am unconsciously laughing at myself for thinking this way. Then there’s the compounded judgment that I wouldn’t have to think this way if I was, in fact, above reproach!  You may be thinking that it is unrealistic to think that I – or anyone – can be above reproach.  Yet, this is the standard of moral perfection that I was raised with from the evangelical community’s Bible readings from the letters of St. Paul:

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.” (St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians 2:14-16).

This verse is not qualified. It does not say to do your best. It is an expectation: be “blameless and innocent,” “above reproach.” I have internalized it. It has become part of my moral fabric.

I don’t think I believe that this line of believing is helping me to improve. But…. What if it is? Instead of fighting the teaching because it feels so judgmental, do I need to accept this as an integral part of the growth cycle of human self-development as a child of God? And (as a child of God) is self-development the ultimate goal? Or is the ultimate goal to be aligned, completely in sync with the guiding energy of the Universe, the guidance that is directing ME specifically, through my Angel, through God?

A ton of assumptions here.  What is the essential motivating kernel? What drives me really?

Here is what guides me: the search for peace, satisfaction, gratitude, acceptance, freedom. I am seeking a feeling.  I want to feel that I am in the right place and doing the right thing.  I want to feel that that I have provided valuable service to the world, that I am accepted for who I am and for what I do and for the decisions that I make.  I want to feel blameless.

Rocky Vineyards

I am grateful for visionaries like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who have inspired scores of people to hope for and achieve change for human rights, supporting the American ideals and beliefs (and laws) that all people are created equal. I am grateful for the visionaries who have done this – who do this – peaceably, staying firm in resistance and true to the visions of their hearts and minds. This approach of building inner resolve and strong character, influences the people who come into contact with them, then inspires the acts that change the world.

I am reminded of the vines in the winemaking industry, the vines that struggle. These vines that struggle have roots that work hard to reach deep into the earth, past dry, rocky soil, negotiating the crowded roots from other vines planted closely together, in an effort to access the deep layer of soil where the rich nutrients live. These are the vines that produce high quality grapes for superior wine, yielding smaller productions, but with complex and concentrated flavors.

On a personal level, when I encounter challenging struggles (emotional, physical, spiritual or political) in the rocky, dry, unforgiving soil of criticism, boredom, discrimination and loneliness, I am forced to reach deep into my heart and mind for the nutrients that will nourish my ideas and inspire solutions. As I endure, and learn to adapt to the struggle, I begin to observe new levels of resilience, kindness and wisdom.  When I open my heart to struggle, it strengthens, and my decisions to act are made with a wise and efficacious resolve.

Modern culture would have us believe that there’s an easier, quick way to secure a stable, committed and meaningful character. I do not believe there is. Just like the grapevines, it’s the struggle that produces unique, concentrated, exquisite results, not compulsive, reactionary displays of power.  And strangely enough, knowing this, I can make peace with the struggle, and therefore do my part to change the world for the better.

The Inner Cauldron

Feeling bored. Ennui. I seek people to distract me. Which really means that I crave a connection within, with my Inner Spirit. I’m longing to retreat into my Inner Cauldron, where I’m absorbed into the fundamental energy of the universe, the life force, the spiritual energy in the pulse of life. Love. As I age, I want that more and more, to be aware of it more and more. When I enter the Inner Cauldron I find all of my connections there. So I need to spend time with my intuitive spirit, my hunches, urgings, impetus, sadness, eroticisms…. Spend time with the core, the essence of me, then out of the essence emerges true love, for myself and others. All of the relationships I seek (I need) are those that develop when I am connected to the life force.

I have never appreciated human character and integrity as much as I do right now. I feel (intuit) how vital the development of character is to fulfilling a life as a human being. I am aware of, understand and appreciate the perspicacity I experience from living, acting, thinking, breathing, according to my own code of ethics: recognizing the code, then responding to life in accordance with that code. I am forging a life one decision at a time, evaluating the consequences of those decisions, stretching and strengthening the code, then making new decisions, with new consequences, evaluating them… and the cycle continues. It’s not a linear approach: it’s making decisions in accordance with the code, but at the same time, making decisions that show me what my code is. It’s a fascinating process.

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the essence of humanity is spiritual. It is presently alive, not what should be. Consciousness. Money can’t move that. Sex can’t move that. Not even art or music can move that. Life – the good life – is the “stark horror and beauty of what is.” (Betty Meador.) It’s “the peace that passes understanding.” (St. Paul.) It’s “the truth that sets you free.” (Jesus.) It’s “a mind worthy of immortality, a mind that cites its own fate to prove truth.” (Seneca.) Freedom within. It is what it is and it’s all so beautiful. I am The Knight of Infinite Resignation. (Kierkegaard.)

Again and again, I have lived out decisions from activities that have brought me to the edge of my personality and psychic experience. I’ve let myself go and have gone to the edge. And there at the edge, a part of me dies before I come home to where the larger part of me lives. So whenever I venture out and lose touch with it again, I will eventually recognize the home that is me inside that no amount of (or quality of) association “out there” could ever do for me. It’s a dance, yes. But my Inner Partner leads.

I feel secure in this moment, held and loved beyond measure. I believe. And am infinitely grateful for all I have and all I have become.

Obstacles to My Heart

In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius wrote: “Our actions may be impeded, but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

What does this say about my relationship to my personal writing? Especially when I am blocked? How do my blocks to writing become the way to writing?

Break it down, starting with my deep-seated belief that only writing that is produced when I am fully connected to my heart’s and mind’s center – to my Core – is valuable. If I am writing, and I am not convinced that I am connected to that deepest Core, it’s not valuable. If I am writing thoughts and feelings, or describing images, but perhaps am not feeling fully engaged with my essence, and am even remotely distracted, it’s not valuable. I entertain this belief. Therefore, I believe that I am capable of writing shit.  Which means that I have imposed limits on myself, and on my writing, limits on when and what I should write.  My limits tell me that I should only write when I’m in the Stream.  I should only write when it’s “valuable.”  But then it’s no longer a free experience, but a painful struggle, to get to the Stream first, then write.  So I am stuck. I don’t know if I should be writing at all. So I don’t. I can’t. Blocked.

But what if the way I get to that Stream is through the ACT of writing?  Even if (especially if) that writing is a struggle, that it’s effort, and it’s hard to stay focused when the words that I see forming on the page, angrily and heavily, are short staccato fragments without any real rhythm?  Does that writing have any value?

Well I know that writing from the Block doesn’t feel good. The ink sputters from my pen in scratchy letters, forming words on rough pulpy paper, in irregular patterns of size and form. It’s quite unattractive.  It is dry and smoky, like the end of a day in which I’ve inhaled too many cigarettes. I am reprimanding myself for giving into my physical addictions to distract me, to blow a cloud of nicotine waste over my tender bloody heart in an effort to desensitize it, to stop it from bleeding, tearing, breaking, crumbling apart.

My tender, bloody heart…. What is that?  Why is it tender? How did it get bloody and messy?  One minute it is strong and healthy and radiant, glowing with a thrumming glean of pulses and simple hues. The next I notice that something has caused a slight rupture, a tear…. There, over there on the right, a hairline fracture, small but distinct, a dark, smoky, sooty tear causing irritation and inflammation, tenderness and bleeding…

How should I respond? I don’t know. The truth is, I don’t want to respond. It’s too much work, my heart is too needy.  I say to it, “Why didn’t you take better care of yourself and not allow yourself to get hurt?!” I’m pushing it away, turning away; it’s ugly, I don’t love it, I don’t want it.  The elegant, beautiful heart that I loved so much just a minute ago has now been compromised by an ugly rupture filled with insecurity and sadness.  I don’t feel sorry for it.  I reject it. I blame it for the state it’s in, and don’t want anything to do with it anymore. It wasn’t strong enough! Pathetic!

And who do I see walking towards me? It’s my brash, obnoxious ego (“Ms. Ego” to you), agreeing with my disappointment and self-criticism, wasting no time flinging insults.  She immediately gangs up on my heart, and I’m with her, I’m all in.  In fact I want nothing more than to sneak off with Ms. Ego and partake in childish, mind-numbing, destructive behavior, piling up even more insults, more smoke, more decay….

But wait, would I really?  Could it be that my heart is still my essence, no matter how it may look to me in this instance, in this temporary perspective? Could it be that Ms. Ego is just a petulant child exuding coldness and that the trace fracture across my heart is temporary, and actually interesting, because now I see that it wasn’t caused by Ms. Ego at all?  It was threatened by her and erupted from the inside, from the depths of me, because it heard my voice and wanted to be seen, heard and known.

I see that now:  Ms. Ego is pursing her lips, snarling even, hair all crazy, holding a martini, flashing a candy-apple red manicure and giving me her best tough-sexy-bitch glare.

I turn away from Ms. Ego.  I turn fully back to my Heart, still holding itself, tender and bloody and sooty.  But as I focus on her, and on the rupture, with compassion and interest, a funny thing happens.  The tear seems to stir a little, there’s activity, sparkling sonnets of light flash around like little fireflies. They are enchanting. I am wanting to draw closer, closer to my Heart, my essence, to the wound, to the new beginnings that seem to be forming, heralded in my light and fusion and color. I see delicate streams of blood orbiting my heart. I see sparkling light grow brighter and denser. The light and the color are SO mesmerizing that I cannot look away! I’m thoroughly captivated! And suddenly I realize that I too am surrounded by crystalline light and warm gushes of beauty and melodic vibration, singing the most compelling harmonies I have ever heard.

There is no “I.”  There is no Heart. There is no sooty, dark rupture.  There is certainly no ego. It is all beauty and all love. There is no distinction of an Other. We are one.

Tears release, cleansing and pure, and bring me back into time and space. Adapted. I pick up my pen and I begin again, from within my stronger, more mature Heart, who knows me as I know Her. I write, I love, I am grateful. We are stronger, we are deeper together, we beat together in meaningful resonance.

And Ms. Ego? She’s still at the bar on her second martini, trying to hide a broken red nail.

Ego is the Enemy

Ego is the enemy
You wonder why you can’t break free
You tie your life to friends and things
Ego is the enemy

You’re losing ground with all you see
It’s not your personality
You’re living someone else’s dream
Ego is the enemy

You walk the streets you’re dressed to kill
With attitude you scrape the sky
And scoop the stars for your private screen
Ego is the enemy

It sells you out with impetuous greed
It shines, distracts, hooks, disappears
It leaves you dry and wondering
Ego is the enemy

The one you want is in the deep
Your heart knows why you’re living
The stars within are a shining sea
Ego is the enemy

Thank you, Ryan Holiday, for your inspirational book,
Ego is the Enemy, Portfolio (June 14, 2016).