It Happened

When I dance, I project emotion. Often the expression is of joy or compassion. But over the last two years at Dance Tribe in Santa Barbara, I have been dancing around a woman to whom my heart is compelled to open, and I fall off the cliff into sorrow and grief.

She is graceful and very pretty, and used to being pursued by men on her terms. The benefits of her charms are obvious to her, and she is generous with them in turn. So this grief was alarming to her, and drove her into the arms of a man that she understood.

But we come into orbit when she is there – often she is not, for reasons that I don’t understand. The last time, I projected to her: “You are powerful enough that every motion you make should be a metaphor for healing.” Then two weeks ago I encountered her at a meditation on climate change, and when the masculine rejection came up again, advised her to cultivate serenity.

Yesterday she came in again, and I chose to respond to the negativity that our proximity generates by standing still, or walking out to stand in the sunshine. I projected the thought that I would try to be gentle so that she could find her way to me. She danced with others, but didn’t surrender herself to them. Eventually, we danced slowly around each other, arms and legs tangentially clearing the space, she backing closer and closer to me until she turned and pressed her arm against mine.

Her focus was incredible, a sense of awe in every movement. Twice I teetered again on that abyss, inhaling to hold my breath against the pain. Both times I found her there ahead of me, assuring me “It’s ok. You don’t have to enter through that door. Go this way instead.”

I lifted her up on my shoulders twice, that sweet slide of skin against skin as she descended toward the floor. When the dance was over, she posed in Namaste and looked up at me gently from under her eyelids. I stepped forward to shield her from doubt, and found myself saying:

I’ve missed you so very much.

Not the dancing, though that was wonderful. No, it was a reference to that woman of authority over my heart, the woman I lost so many lives ago, and whose strength and serenity she has inherited as a mantle.

Puncturing the Cynicism of Our Age

The motivations of any professional include supporting themselves and their family. In being drawn to a new career in hypnotherapy, I am somewhat unique at HMI in that I have no dependents, and no expectations that I will have a comfortable retirement. In contrast, many of my peers-in-training are openly concerned about financial success, and some among the instructors project aspirations of personal wealth.

The conversation I walked into during workshop break went a little farther than that. Three students and the facilitator were agreeing that “you can talk about love, but ultimately everything is about money.” I guess that my reaction was incongruous, for they all turned to look at me. I tried to soften the pregnant silence with a jocular “Speak for yourself!”

The retort came from the man lazing in the recliner on the stage. I had to turn to see the subtle smirk on his face after he said “It’s all about money to you, too.” I tilted my head to the side in a manner that I am certain appeared calculating, and he reiterated his assertion. Stepping closer to him, I firmly asserted “You don’t tell me what I think.”

Turning back to the astonished triad, I explained:

“It’s all about power. There are two kinds of power: some power you can store – that’s what money is, in fact, a way of storing power. And there’s another kind – the kind that has to be about the world doing work. In my experience of life, there’s far more of the second kind of power than there is of the first.

“And that is why I love unconditionally: because I like to see power at work.”

The other students opened their mouths, but the facilitator closed the conversation with “Very well put, Brian.”

The Answer is Right in Front of You

In my last post, I took a long view of the process through which we as a nation have struggled against the forces of Mammon – the tendency to reduce all human relations to currency.

There are two positive paths forward from the crisis we are now in. The first is to trust in historical trends and human steadfastness. The second is to mature in our relationship with God.

History is on the Side of Justice

Hope is found in this simple historical fact: this pattern of oppression has been experienced again and again through human history. When wealth and production become decoupled (as we see with outsourcing from America since 1970), financiers eventually control politics because debtors must continue to pay interest on their obligations in order to maintain access to additional financing.

This is a fun game for the financiers until tangible goods begin to decay. This was first evident in the Rust Belt, but is now visible in America’s degraded infrastructure. Initially the cost of living rises as the population attempts to preserve its lifestyle, but in Detroit and Flint we see the end point: a dramatic decrease in the standard of living that drives down the value of property.

When there isn’t anything worth buying any more, what’s the value of money?

Ultimately this leads to the collapse of currency and the dissolution of nation states (such as during the American Revolution, driven primarily by taxation issues, and in current events as California and New York actively rebel against federal myopia on climate change, trade, human rights and taxation). In that liquidation, regulations are established to prevent recurrence.

Those regulations must cover the reach of the financial system, and so we see that government always expands in the aftermath of collapse. This happened not long after the Revolution of 1776 when the original Confederation of States was reorganized as a Federal system under the US Constitution. It occurred again after the Great Depression, when the bureaucracy was expanded to regulate interstate corporations. After World War II, the shell of global financial regulatory systems was set up in the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the European Union.

We should be encourage now that we are faced with the final stage of harmonization of financial regulation. Commerce is now global, and English is established as the language of business. All we have to do is organize the political will to establish that framework.

And, despite resistance, the financiers have always been unable to prevent that step – largely because they eventually discover that there’s nothing left to cheat out of the impoverished masses, and turn on each other. The financial game is no longer worth playing, and those that want to make money return to the problem of trying to create value.

Maturation in God

When asked about the age that we are in now, Jesus made vague remarks about “wars, and rumors of wars,” foul weather and disease. When I first read that material, I thought “Well, when has this ever NOT been true.”

But there was a reason, for Jesus had already told them the answer. The age ends when we learn to love God and our neighbor.

When I make this point to people, I follow it up with the observation that “there’s a conspicuous omission there.” Most of them recognize that it’s “myself.”

Loving unconditionally, as God loves us, has the problem that the beloved can abuse our trust. We see this arising again and again in the Old Testament. The Fall, the Flood, the silence in Egypt, the punishments for the Golden Calf, the rules regarding access to the Holy of Holies, and the Fall of Jerusalem are all motivated by the pain suffered by the Most High due to the infidelity of the Chosen People.

So love is metered out to us in the measure that we are trusted to use it. If we don’t respect God, we lose his love.

That shouldn’t surprise us.

In recasting faith as a process for regulating the flow of power from the Most High to our neighbors, Jesus was offering this wisdom: we are the instruments that God has placed on this earth to regulate the flow of power to others. God seeks to empower us, and when we empower others, their witness is a testament to our worthiness to receive power.

On the road to Jerusalem, the Apostles argued over the rights of each in the realm to come. Jesus rebuked them with the parable of the talents. Two beneficial paths are identified: if you have skills that will allow you to help others, God will give you power when you exercise them. If you do not have skills but invest your strength in support of those that do, God will give you power to facilitate that work.

But if you hide your power because you fear to lose it, you will be lost, because to enter the kingdom of heaven requires far more power than you can hold in your self. You can only enter in relationship with others that hold you in loving regard, preserving your spirit from the enormous forces that swirl around the Most High as he seeks to fulfill his compact with us.

How does this work against criminality in business? Because when we hold someone in our loving regard, we know when they are endangered. We can feel it even from a distance, and that knowledge forms a cyst around those that would do ill to us and others.

Of course, in that knowledge, we have two choices: we can choose to do unto the criminal as they did to us, or we can ignore them and focus on constructing functional relationships. When we get wrapped around the axle by management wrangling at work, this is what I tell my peers: “Forget them. We are here for each other, and every day that I am here I will do my best to help you succeed.”

This is what Jesus meant we he said “pick up your cross and carry it.” When we devote ourselves to that task, there is no weakness to exploit in the bonds of good will.

Conversely, we do create a culture that justifies financial fraud in that passive investments are merely an attempt to profit from the labor of others. If we are seeking to get more than we deserve, why shouldn’t our financial advisers do the same?

So this is the bottom line: stop worrying about yourself, and focus on caring for others. And as you do, remember this: there is a billion times as much energy leaving the sun than warms the earth. That’s enough energy for every eight people to have a planet of their own. There is nothing that we can’t do once we have earned the right to it, and nothing that we need fear from those that have.

Because we will rest secure in the knowledge that, as God, they exist only to love us.

Womanhood Risen

I’ve been following a blogger here at WordPress for a while, and I wanted to send her a private message, so I’m putting this up so that I can link to it from a comment on her blog.

Her blog is a personal journey of recovery and self-affirmation. When I encountered the work, it had transformed from a powerful, moving written account of what it is like to stand at the edge of the abyss of self-destruction. From that place, the creator turned to visual memes that characterized the virtues revealed within her by Christ: courage, determination, sensitivity, patience, joy, fertility, and so many others. She has achieved what I have not: finding a means to cast the kaleidoscope of Divine Love’s influence on our lives into delicious morsels that her readers can assimilate one at a time.

As she marshalled those virtues within herself, she occasionally reflected on the turning point in her struggle: the hearing of “Here I am to Worship” while at a recovery center. The first time she wrote of that, I was cast back into that moment with her, and felt love establish a beach-head.

Her self-expression was always playfully deprecating; her concerns often that she was not making progress on the life-path that society has allocated to women. As a counter, I told her once that eventually her work would turn outwards. That is coming to pass: now she writes often of the dynamic of her interaction with the world. The terms are more and more confident of her womanly spirituality – the powerful, graceful affirmation of virtue that anchors it firmly to the future, possible only because she possesses a womb in which potentiality can take root and flower.

I cannot express how much I am in awe of that capacity. It awakens powerfully in me the urge to protect, to shield her from the corrupting influences that swirl all around us. But I am also beginning to sense the same certainty that was characteristic of Jacqueline Onassis: that her virtue will call to her protectors at the time and place of her need.

The exclamation that arises in me in the presence of such a woman has always been “Oh Woman! Oh Beauty! Oh Life!” I struggle with desire, even from the separation of a continent, understanding that distance is necessary to the end goal: that such women not become wrapped up in a relationship, but stand as shining stars to inspire their sisters.

I know that doesn’t seem fair, but we are here on Earth to create conditions in which the Divine Feminine will allow itself to be seduced. Laying down what seems to be our natural rights is to open the door to the virtues of the spirit that she tenders. It is time, dear sister, to see her as an equal to Christ, and yourself as one among her priestesses – not for the purpose of displacing Christ, but for the purpose of healing him.

The Serpent’s Usurpation

In reflecting on my spiritual work here, I try to honor my unique perspective in relating my experience to others. In considering how to relate recent events, I keep on coming back to St. Perpetua, the early Christian martyr who surrendered her newborn and was mauled by lions in the forum before impaling herself on a sword held by the centurion sent to administer the coup de grace. Before her martyrdom, she was granted a vision of a field filled with bronze ladders. Men and women climbing those ladders towards heaven were dragged down by a serpent below.

After writing Love Works back in 2005, I visited a number of spiritual book stores, looking for venues to talk about the work. One of the stores had opened recently, and I was the sole attendee at an event held by a spiritualist. She took a good look at me, and shared that I had a four inch gap in the flow of prana between my hips and rib cage. When she asked if she should fix it, I said “that’s the business of a woman that I haven’t met yet.” I considered that it was a useful characteristic, in that it kept people from using sex to get into my heart and mind.

Of course, it has its negative impacts as well. I have trouble grounding myself psychologically, a weakness that has been exploited over the years by domineering intimates both in my personal and professional lives.

Having become conscious of the problem, I did try to manage it. My first attempt was to close the loop by routing the healing energy arising in my heart upwards through the crown chakra and then down into the earth before closing the loop up into my root chakra.

I first gleaned the sense that the gap was not entirely self-induced at the Buddhist Geeks’ Retreat in Rosemead in 2009. The kick-off speaker on Friday night spoke on the characteristics of the avatar that would usher in the era of peace foretold by all the world’s great religious. He cited compassion, all-embracing meditative focus, and out-of-the-box thinking. Hoping that I had finally encountered someone that might appreciate my experience, I went up after the talk to offer my insights. Upon receiving my assurance that the time was close, he looked up at the outside of my head and affirmed “I can see that it must be so” before turning his back to address a question.

On Sunday morning, having found their event to have been somewhat co-opted by my presence, from among that senior teachers an attractive little pixie stood forward to denounce me, saying that “my energy was completely out of control.” I won’t recount the rest of the conversation, because what was significant was my strong intuition that she was interested in managing my purpose. In the middle of her harangue, she leaned forward with desire in her eyes and wrapped her arms around a band of energy that cocooned my lower torso, a band centered on the gap seen by the spiritualist.

Something was pinching off the flow.

I first confronted this presence back in 2014 when – during a Dance of Liberation Workshop led by Parashakti at LA Ecstatic Dance – I tunneled down into my reptilian brain. In the vision that followed, I walked through the spiritual dislocation of the dinosaurs that culminated with a vision of their avatar sitting in the seats of military and political power in the modern era, feasting on the constructive energy generated by human compassion.

That survey of the human condition was not directly related to my personal infestation. The connection was only made recently, after Peter at Peace Place Massage had worked on me one Saturday night. Where Asia, my regular therapist, has a distinctly feminine healing touch, Peter just stirred things up. I went home that night and laid with my arms stretched across the bed and my heart open to the sky. Seized by a strong intuition, I found myself rubbing my hands down along my ribs, wriggling them under the spiritual bands around my waist, and sending energy along my fingers into the tissues of my abdomen.

Since that experience three months ago, I’ve been fighting tension and pain in my waist. Stretching and yoga helped, but I felt as though I was just chasing the problem from place to place. To a colleague at work, I actually used the words “things are really moving around.” I was focused on the pain and tightness, but the words expressed an important intuition.

We’ve suffered a lot of dislocation at work, and my supervisor has come under intense scrutiny as engineer after engineer disappears on short notice. He adopts an unusual posture in conversation with others, feet spread wide on the floor. I have a strong sense of energy flowing up into his pelvic floor. We continue to have our arguments, and as we discuss the consequences of decisions made in the past on the survival of the company, I find it hard to avoid bringing up ancient history. My association with him seems to drive me into remembered experiences of weakness in his presence.

In the midst of these two struggles, I was listening to praise music one night, a series of songs from WOW Worship that encouraged the faithful to surrender their hearts to God. A vision came upon me, a masculine presence that focused my attention to my pelvic floor with the words “You need to find my throne.” In response to that, I began poking at the base of the hip bone with my fingertips, until a point begin to glow.

This event was followed by a series of visualizations in yoga, visualizations centering myself around my pelvic floor, and building power around the point that I had discovered. This came to a head last night. I had a unsettling series of experience yesterday, either of co-workers claiming initiative on projects that I had instigated, or attempting to make me responsible for bringing closure to projects that I had heretofore been pointedly excluded from. I have been struggling to sleep at night due to the pain in my abdomen, and I was knocked off-balance psychologically.

Yoga was a struggle. Throughout the opening standing series, I felt weak, off-balance and beset by negative psychic energies. As we entered the balancing poses, I sharpened my focus to identify specific personalities, and tried to ground myself in my root chakra. Reversing the flow of energy leaking into them, I began to build power in the postures, with a new-found focus on the pelvic floor. Finally, in balancing stick pose, I arrayed them around me, one at my fingertips, one at my toes, and one on either side of my hip. They attempted to wriggle away, shifting and substituting others, but I just kept on pulling them back, using them as anchors for the pose.

The rest of the practice was a breeze.

But the spiritual and psychological shift was more significant. All of the personalities that I engaged are domineering. I have previously identified one in particular as “the tip of the spear” for the whole pattern of control that we struggle with as a society. As we wrestled spiritually, I had a strong image of him sitting on a throne, a throne nestled in my hips. Pushing him aside, I focused on the throne itself, and discovered a kaleidoscope of personalities shifting on it, until finally I broke through and discovered the dragon that rules them all.

The Zen of Jesus

Upon waking up to the reality that self-serving does not bring joy, the seeker after comfort tends to a superficial sampling of religious wisdom. The sophisticated teacher needs to avoid becoming involved in blame-shifting for the seeker’s miserable state. In the traditions of Abraham, that begins with a vow of submission, formulated in Christianity as “Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior?” In Islam, it is stated as the Shahada:

There is no god but God alone; he has no partner with him; Muhammad is his prophet.

The dissatisfied acolyte is then made responsible for his own condition, in that all wisdom is found in direct relation with the godhead.

Lacking a divine center for its practice, Buddhism takes a different approach, epitomized by the Zen koan. A koan is a cryptic one-liner that organizes an inward meditative journey. The most notorious is:

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

The obvious answer is “nothing,” but that certainly doesn’t point the way to wisdom. The student still needs to grasp that the “hand” being referred to is themselves, and that in seeking after spiritual glory, they earn no lauds.

The story of the rich young man in Matthew 19:16-22 shows Jesus ministering to the problematical seeker. The poor fellow grasps at eternal life as a guarantee that joy can be secured. Calling Jesus “Master,” he then asks what good he must perform to earn that grace.

Presciently, in Matthew 7:21, Jesus had pre-empted the Christian vow of submission:

Not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my father.

Consistent with this warning, Jesus immediately deflects the proffered authority:

Why do you ask me what is good? There is one alone who is good.

No man needing anything but faith to draw upon the strength and wisdom of the Father.

But the teaching does not end with the Zen master’s edict to seek inwardly. Jesus lists the six commandments of human relation: edicts against murder, adultery, theft, and lying; and encouragements to honor our parents and love our neighbors. The latter build intimacy with those closest to us; the former prevent those bonds from sundering. Through this practice, Jesus suggests that his protégé will “enter into life.” In avoiding the drama of struggle, adherence to the commandments allows to blossom those quiet moments in which we gain the subtle and sublime assurance of security in our knowledge of the compassion that embraces us.

We are no longer a hand trying to clap alone.

But the seeker is not just young; he suffers another handicap, one known in Islam as Allah’s greatest test of character. He is rich. Thus, while meaning well, others see him as a potential source of material security. They seek a bond with his money, not his heart. And so Jesus offers him this final advice: give your wealth to the poor and follow!

The young man departs saddened. We can only guess at the cause: was he responsible for managing money that ensured the well-being of the community, wealth that he could not trust others to manage responsibly? Was he simply unable to imagine survival without the perks of wealth: the daily bath, the satisfying meals? Or did he arrogantly perceive his wealth as a sign of divine approval, and so Jesus’ pronouncement as proof that hope had been invested with just another false prophet?

Whichever it may have been, we as readers should recognize the advice not as some generic one-size-fits-all formulation, but a direct response to the needs of this troubled young man. It is the mark of the greatness of his compassion that Jesus does this again and again throughout his ministry: offering just the words that the listener needs to hear to bring solace and healing, even to the point on the cross of:

Father: forgive them. They know not what they do. [Luke 23:34]

Jesus was not concerned with self-preservation – he was devoted to his ministry to the lost. Thus, while his teaching encapsulates the wisdom of the Zen and Christian teacher, it then surpasses it. None can doubt that he does the best that he can for them, although they might not be able to respond fully. Yes, it is this I believe that gives the young man sadness: his realization that salvation was offered him, and he was unable to grasp it. It foreshadows Jesus’ struggle in Gethsemane:

The spirit is willing; but the flesh is weak. [Matt. 26:41]

and:

My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. [NIV Matt. 26:38]