The Narrow Gate

When telling a friend on Sunday afternoon that I was going out to Vegas, I admitted that I considered it a sign that I have failed. Through all of my writing, begun anonymously out at Zaadz ten years ago and now openly here at WordPress, my hope has been that others would learn to do the things that I do.

He was irked, stating that other people pray as well.

But that’s not what I do.

I can’t document my experience. It started four days before my departure, and still continues. Time went into a blender. My body went forward on a linear track, moving through space into encounters that bridged to events earlier and later. Threads become tangled ever more densely, cresting with unforeseeable intensity.

It’s that tangling of threads that I am compelled to relate.

I knew what the outcome was: Paddock sitting with the gun in his mouth, gazing intently inwards beyond the metaphor of flesh to discern the personality that had broken his will. The flash of gunpowder blew a hole in its spirit, freeing the captives it had gained through violence.

But how to reach that moment?

The victims’ memorial was one pathway, but it also focused a wall of hatred against him. I did beneficial work there: in the first dark hours of Monday morning, rubbing the spasm-wracked back of a man mourning the stranger that he had tried to pull to safety, answering his repeated “It just sucks” with the tender mantra, “but you don’t.” Finally he opened his grief to me, and I gasped. When breath returned, I reassured him “Wow. Very good. That was good.”

As I fell asleep back at the hotel, I found again that moment of liberation, gathering the traumatized souls into my heart.

Waking at six, I pulled up the press reports to locate the Route 91 concert field. It was just kitty-corner from the hotel at the intersection of Las Vegas and Mandalay boulevards. In the days prior, I had visualized entering the field and kneeling before the stage. That seemed the most direct route into the trauma.

But faith communities were another possibility. I queried for Catholic churches, and learned that the diagonal through the field running away from the hotel ended at the Church of the Sacred Redeemer.

Expecting an early mass, I dressed and hustled down to the street. The concert field was inaccessible, cordoned by crime scene tape and guarded by officers in vehicles with flashing lights. I took the long way around to the Church, down Reno Blvd, hesitating at the cross walks to figure out how I could get through the cordon. The church yard was festooned with crime scene tape, but the schedule promised a mass at 12:10.

Backtracking, I felt the first deep surge of trauma as I walked up Reno. Catching my breath, I stretched both hands up to the sky. “Here. Here. This is where it hurts.” Washing the responsive grace slowly downwards, I found gratitude among the people and stretched back up to the heavens again.

Carrying grace and gratitude with me, I followed the hotel staff as they entered the Mandalay, stopping under the corner where the matte finish of the cladding betrayed the location from which the shots were fired. Stretching my hands up, I touched him again in a moment of calm in the days before the tragedy.

I took a shower and ate breakfast before heading back to the victims’ memorial. Chance encounters threatened to distract me: a young lady in a bright red dress standing in front of the elevator leading to the 32nd floor; two women at the table next to mine talking about blogs and event speakers; a blackjack dealer catching my eye as I tried to find my way back out to the parking structure.

I was anchored to the moment when the shooting stopped.

Heading back out to the victims’ memorial, I took more time in the sunlight to look at the faces, re-arranging the beads, signs and flowers to ensure that each was visible to the passers-by. A platoon of police officers endured stoically while tourists took selfies. Having finished my devotions to the fallen, I stepped forward to ask whether any of them had responded to the event.

I wasn’t surprised that none had, and normally would have disengaged, but the pressure that drove me brought me to ask of the man bearing insignia of rank “If it makes sense to you, would you represent them to me?” They looked askance, and I backed away. “That’s all right. I’ll walk by the concert field later.”

So I went back to the hotel. Feeling fatigued, I bought a cup of coffee and meditated to Snatam Kaur’s Jap Man Sat Nam and Ong Namo.

Then it was time to go to church.

The police SUV almost sent me away. I approached the officer to ask whether they had “shut them down.” Laughing, he replied “Far be it from me to shut down the Lord. Mass will be at 12:10.”

I entered and walked the perimeter of the interior, taking in the sculpture. I settled first in the back corner, furthest from the field, amid the icons of Christ. But a voice told me that I needed to be as close as possible to the external cross. So I moved all the way to the front, next to the statue of the Holy Mother bearing the infant Savior.

The service began with an apology from the priest. They had indeed been shut for the last week, giving up their offices and parking lot to the police and FBI while they did the crime scene analysis. The Paschal candle was lit in memorium of the victims, and the gospel would pay homage to the Good Samaritans that had done so much to prevent greater tragedy on October 1st.

And thus the gate opened to tears.

I can only bring back snippets. Sending the message into the panicked crowd that they should “run toward the cross.” Feeling Paddock, abandoned and demoralized, in the hours before the shooting started. Rallying those fleeing to “see each other” so that God might know how to marshal energy to guide the bullets away.

The great wash of energy rising from the cross, flooding across the field to enter through the open window to freeze Paddock with the proof that Christ had not abandoned him. The melody of “Amazing Grace” harmonized tenderly by the pianist, and the shocked hope of his realization that it was never too late.

And so it was finished.

As I left, I took the priest’s hands and stopped to pray:

Dear Father in Heaven: bless these hands, that those they touch may receive comfort and healing. Bless the mind of this man, so that his words may relieve confusion and bring faith. May all he encounters be inspired to open their hearts to the love that emanates from the Most High, and so receive grace and salvation.

To which, backing away, with a voice almost breaking in grief, he responded “Please keep praying for us.”

Fire From on High

Were the bullets like the angry fists that pummeled your growing body?

Was the scurrying below meaningless, like the gambling that you used to hide your pain?

…but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die.

[NIV Gen. 2:17]

Is that the only escape from the sorrows of this world? An escape into death?

Was that the truth you wished to communicate before you took your own life?

Oh, dear brother, why were you immune to the Lord’s promises? Did no one tell you?

I will give you a new heart and a new spirit. I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

[NIV Ezek. 36:26]

For now you have fallen prey to the illusion of death. The savior reached out to you with a healing embrace, but instead of receiving that gift, you chose to bear arms.

Hurricanes to Hell

I first heard the claims from a Mormon colleague at work. The constellation Virgo was overlapped with some planets creating a configuration of twelve lights in the sky. On Monday night at Bible study the parallels with Revelation 12 (in which the Sacred Mother descends with twelve stars in her tiara) were elaborated further: one of the lights was Jupiter, which exited the constellation on September 23rd, the basis for claims that the seven-year trial of tribulation was now under way. Only one element was missing: the simultaneous descent of the dragon. The claim was that NASA had somehow “blocked out” that part of the sky, hiding one-third of the stars (the dragon’s tail?).

I kept on stating firmly “The stars in Revelation are angels,” but the speaker wouldn’t listen, doggedly pursuing the story, repeating “But there’s more.”

Given this propensity to seek material evidence of God’s forthcoming intervention, I find it wondrous that nobody has linked the first letters of Harvey, Irma and Maria to spell out “HIM.” Santa Maria is also Christ’s virgin mother. Powered by the sun and arriving in hurricane form, she struck Puerto Rico at night – I’d assume hiding a full moon.

For those that followed the video series out at Love Returns, we know that we’re well past Revelation 12, close to the seventh bowl in Revelation 16. I won’t support that claim here, however, for there’s something revealed more directly by the tragedy in Puerto Rico.

Samuel was the first to warn God’s people concerning the limitations of government, and the Resurrection itself must be taken as repudiating all earthly powers.

Puerto Rico is a potent support for the argument that government is destined to betray our hopes. As a center for drug manufacturing, the island had a successful economy until about 2005, when Congress ended tax credits that benefited pharmaceutical companies that manufactured there. Shipping goods from an island nearly 1000 miles from the mainland is expensive, and the factories soon closed, kick-starting Puerto Rico’s descent into poverty.

Maria devastated an island already on the verge of collapse.

Why did Congress end the tax credits? A hurricane is a dramatic event, focusing our awareness of tragedy, but many communities in rural America are facing similar circumstances. Corporate American has off-shored their jobs, and constricting government payrolls are knocking the legs out from under small town economies. Into that misery the pharmaceutical industry is pouring a torrent of opioids.

The anger of rural America delivered the White House into the hands of a petty tyrant. In tweets to his sycophantic chorus, Trump attacked the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital, stating that her incompetence was the reason that FEMA hadn’t been able to deliver aid to 3.5 million American citizens facing slow death from thirst, hunger and disease.

Trump’s cruelty was triggered by the words of Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, recorded earlier in the day criticizing the Administration’s characterization of the relief efforts as “wonderful.” Mincing no words, she pointed out that people were dying, and that if an effective response was not mounted immediately, the federal government would find itself presiding over a genocide. Clearly suffering from trauma, Cruz characterized Trump’s attitude as that of one consigning citizens to “die like animals.”

But of course.

It is not government that delivers us dignity. Government is not worthy of our faith. It is only in God that we find the strength to suffer in dignity. Facing death, it is only to the faithful that certainty is given that we possess a spirit intended to receive infinite love.

So, please, Mayor Cruz: don’t pray to government. Pray to Him, for it is the lack of Him that has brought us to this impasse. The physical and social forces that brutalize the poor are huge, and far beyond the capacity of governments to overcome. Security, dignity and grace are found only in God.

Bringing Water

At the homeless camp on Saturday morning, I met a Puerto Rican woman who testified that she was processing the Hurricane Maria tragedy as “God’s will.”

This breaks my heart.

My greatest fear is that the victims of the recent natural disasters will see it that way – that God has brought ruin upon them.

When I was driving north at the start of my vacation, I was struggling against the fear and anger that was being mounted up against me at work, and finally overcame it with this vision: traveling to those displaced by natural disasters with the simple message: “The waters of death and destruction have risen against you, but those are not the waters that God sends to you. I can’t offer you food, clothing, or shelter. Instead, God sent me to tell you this: the waters of life will pour down upon you that thirst. Remember all those left behind, and send to them the strength of God’s love. Let his waters be the resource they need to prepare for your safe return, just as Jesus left to prepare a sanctuary for those that have faith in the Father.”

I have a strong need to realize this vision. If anyone has any connections that would facilitate that process, please let me know. I will pay for travel.

Self Reclamation

The centerpiece of my vacation was attending the Soul Play Fall Fest. Soul Play is a conscious living, dance and spiritual awakening experience held in the Sierras between Yosemite and Lake Tahoe.

I have been re-reading Louis Cozolino’s The Neuroscience of Human Relationships. Early in the book, he explains brain laterality. The right side of the brain integrates our individual experience to identify threats and opportunities. It is emotional, intuitive, non-verbal and non-linear in its reactions. The left side of the brain abstracts experience to seek patterns and commonality.

With this re-iteration, I was shocked by the realization that I have spent most of my life in the left side of my brain – to the extent, in fact, that I have difficulty thinking of myself as an individual.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been seeking to reclaim the right side of my mind. The most immediate side-effect has been a hardening of my boundaries against women (many of them sympathetic to my plight) that have been seeking to manage that part of my mind.

My first hope was that Soul Play would stretch and shake up my personality, facilitating the reclamation of the individuality rooted in the right side of my brain. As that progressed, I hoped also to find a safe container in which to begin restructuring my experience of women.

I was conscious of the risks. Among the gypsies of the conscious living movement, sexual experience often tends to what Christian moralists would consider “licentious.” Within the movement itself, sex is viewed as a joyous celebration of the sublime gifts of our materiality. Spiritually it is seen both as a reward for virtue and a method for its propagation. That sounds pleasant, but I have yet to find a community for whom it is that simple. People – no matter how enlightened – will compete for love.

So I wasn’t certain what to expect. That expectation was fulfilled, for the outcome was, well, unexpected.

Naturally, my engagement with women began on the dance floor, and progressed rapidly into healing. On the first night, I found myself sitting on the floor, a woman laid out over the inside of my right thigh as I probed for the source of pain in her hip. This continued into the first full day of sessions, dominated by contact improv and movement lessons.

But I want to focus on the breakthrough experiences, and the first of those occurred on Saturday morning. Parmatma Cris is a Brazilian yogini and tantrika (female practitioner of Tibetan tantra). Her offering, Movement Alchemy, was physically the most challenging of the courses I took. The exercises emphasized circular movement of the feet, hips, shoulders and arms that had to be carefully coordinated to conserve balance. This was described by Parmatma as generaion of “spirals” with our bodies.

After the frustrating warm-up exercises, she had us sit on the floor and led us through breathing exercises. The first was simple: inhaling while arcing the chest up and back, and exhaling into a deep forward curve. This advanced with circular motion of the sacrum, shoulders and arms.

The breakthrough came at the end. Abandoning the complex spirals, we were asked to swing our heads around in a circle, allowing our abdomen to follow its motion, inhaling on the upward stroke and exhaling as we fell forward.

This may sound uncomfortable, and indeed I paused after a couple of minutes, feeling dizzy and nauseated. Parmatma interrupted her instructions to order “If you feel dizzy or like throwing up, keep on going. It’s only your habit patterns trying to preserve their control. Most people don’t throw up, but if you do, that’s fine.”

So I went back to it, picking up the pace at her suggestion, and finally felt a shift in the right side of my brain, as though fluid was moving into it.

In that part of my personality, I saw a cluster of woman that had taken possession of my core personality two thousand years ago, in an act of violence that I have been hiding from others for most of my life. Confronting the methods and effects of that spiritual rape, I began sobbing and weeping uncontrollably, until one of the other students bent toward me to offer support.

“No. I’ll be fine.”

Parmatma paused for us to cool down, then pulled over mattresses so that we could all lie together with our heads pointed toward the warmth of the fireplace. I tried to relax, but the memories leaked back in, and I began sobbing. Her right index finger touched the middle of my forehead, cool and soothing, and then the rest of her hand draped itself over the right side of my head.

Namaste, sweet tantrika, sweet dakini. Blessings be upon you in your journey of peace and compassion.

What’s Your Medium?

Facebook, created by Mark Zuckerberg and other lonely undergrads as a distributed system to rate and stalk girls, is anti-social media. That may seem harsh, but while some use it to organize charitable events, that must be set against Facebook’s unregulated distribution of propaganda (such as Russia used to help Trump gain the White House) and monetization of every site and post through targeted advertising.

The Holy Spirit, the original world-wide-web, joins people in bonds of love. That is social media.

Allocate your time accordingly.