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.

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.

Working for God

Before I went on vacation, the company owner told me that I was responsible for my own anxiety.

I thought about that while I was on the road on Wednesday. I have several reasons to feel anxiety at work, but late that night, as I struggled to find the peace of sleep, I realized that they were all attempts by others to poison public perception of my conduct.

Putting those anxieties aside, then, what I was left with was this: standing in the door of my colleague’s office, telling him that I despite three books, a web site and three blogs, I have failed to build any interest in the truths that have been entrusted to me. That, and the images of the destruction wrought be hurricanes Harvey and Irma, with the fear that many would believe that God had forgotten them.

And I saw myself going to the camps of the displaced with boxloads of my Love Returns t-shirts for the children. The message was simple: the waters of death and destruction had risen against you to drown your faith, but the waters that Jesus offers are the waters of life. You are not forgotten – you are beloved.

The sermon on the boat in Galilee also came to mind: not from the perspective of Peter, but from the perspective of the fishes that hid from the nets all night until Jesus commanded Peter to let them down again. The vision was of children hiding under blankets in the corner when their parents came to look for them. When the children don’t show, the teacher sends the parents outside. The children remain under the blankets until the teacher goes to the door to tell their parents to “Try again.” Then the little class rushes forward to happily embrace their parents.

With these visions, all the negative thoughts vanished.

But I woke at 5 AM. Entering the town that the retreat I was attending was located at, I drove up Interstate 80 for ninety minutes, past Rocklin and almost to Truckee. Following the directions, I found myself at the supposed destination in the middle of an empty stretch of road. Checking my e-mail notices from the retreat, I learned that it was actually outside Sonora, almost four hours away.

Having left early, I was still going to make the first Thursday session, but I felt foolish and ashamed. I pushed that aside and focused on my good fortune: I was still going to be there early. As I approached Rocklin, I began wondering whether there wasn’t a reason this happened. As I entered Rocklin, I decided to search for some Christian music on the radio, and found AirOne. After a few songs played, a notice came on: AirOne was looking for two big data analysts to work in Rocklin.

Those that have been following this blog will remember that I had been taking courses in this field through eDx last year before I started the video series at Love Returns.

No prize to those that predict that I’ll apply. It’s the only way to clear up my deepest anxieties.

Weather Watch: California Weird

As has become the pattern in Southern California, September has brought triple-digit heat to inland areas. Kevin reports triple-digits in San Jose, but it was Greg’s report that made me pause: triple-digit heat in Berkeley. Berkeley!

Port Hueneme has been spared the worst. I’ve been crediting Hurricane Lidia – though you’d think that overcast would cover more of Southern California. Along with the cool air, we’ve had some fantastic sunsets:

LidiaSunset

Many will recognize these clouds, of course: warm, humid air condensing as the sun sets, with rain overnight, and possibly thunderstorms.

So I guess that I shouldn’t have been surprised this afternoon.

It was hot at 9AM in Oxnard, forcing the passengers under the overpass while waiting for the train to arrive. The bike ride through Santa Barbara to Ecstatic Dance was also sweltering. After the dance, the gentle slope toward the shore was a relief, and after lunch a cool breeze blew in my face as I rode down to the Art Walk.

After a quick stop an John Grandfield’s booth, I found a wonderful surprise at Steve Richardson’s booth. He found inspiration in the legend of the Black Madonna, and I bought two pieces that I’ll write up after he brings them down on Tuesday. While I was talking to Steve, Mandy Starr was packing up her booth, looking at the gray wall heading down from the hills. Steve and I teased her, but she had the right idea.

Guessing that the Art Walk would be rolling up, I rushed down to Neal Crosbie’s booth. I had just arrived when the rain started. It was a downpour reminiscent of a Hawaiian squall. I tried to help Neal keep the water from splashing on his work, and then realized that my bike was getting soaked – along with the backpack in the basket. I had just pulled it under the tarp when the wind hit, the gust blowing over most of the stands.

It was a funnel: dirty water came down in sheets. Half of the tarp blew off, and we were both soaked to the skin in ten seconds. I tried to hold the tarp down over the art as Neal loosened the stays. With the art covered, we were left unprotected in the deluge. Two minutes later, the black, foamy water was up to the curb. In retrospect, it was shore water lifted by the funnel and thrown back onto land.

Neal was stranded, his wife having taken the car in to work that afternoon, so I abandoned him to find some cover. While I didn’t see any downed power lines, a number of anchor cables had snapped off the poles. The entire downtown area was without power. This was a typical scene:

WaterFunnelAftermath

I passed one young lady walking in a single sandal. She had been on the beach when the funnel hit, and the second had blown into the harbor. I had word from Steve later that they fished fifty-six people out of the water – I would guess many from overturned boats and kayaks.

When I got back to the train station, I discovered a downed light stanchion and fallen tree over the near tracks. I walked my bike into the stall in the men’s room and wrung out my clothes. My train ticket was soaked with muddy water in the bottom of the bike basket, but fortunately the water had not reached my spare shirt.

The station crew cleared the rail blockage and the north-bound rolled in around 2:45. I biked back to the Art Walk to check on my friends. The oil painters hadn’t lost much, but Ping’s rice-paper water colors were a complete loss from exposure to the filthy water.

Arriving back at the station around 3:30, I looked up the tracks to see the north-bound stalled just outside the station. Blocked by fallen trees, it backed up, and around 4:40 become the south-bound 1790. I don’t know what happened to the north-bound passengers in Santa Barbara, but I arrived back in Oxnard around 6PM.

I’m supposed to be up in Pinecrest for the Soul Play Fall Fest from 9/13 to 9/19. I’m hoping that things will have quieted on the weather front. Greg says that temperatures in Berkeley are supposed to drop back into the 70s by mid-week. But I remember several years back when SoCal had temperatures in the 90’s into December. I’ll keep my fingers crossed, but without expectations. Just as long as I don’t find myself driving into a forest fire, I guess that I’ll be all right.

Understanding Emptiness

Having discovered a central role for women of grace through my interpretation of Revelation, I was hungry for more insight. It arrived for me at Thunderbolt Books in Santa Monica, in the form of Judith Simmer-Brown’s Dakini’s Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism.

As I explained at Love Returns, Unconditional Love cannot judge, for to judge would be to reject experience that must be understood to bring healing. This is the central tenet of Buddhism: the acolyte must avoid attachment to phenomena, seeing them clearly without judgment, and use compassion to transform experience. This principle is called “emptiness.”

Christianity struggles with this wisdom, for it foretells of an era of universal love guided by Christ. When people hurt others, Christians categorize them as “fallen,” as among the goats the Jesus separates from the lambs in the Last Judgment.

Being the least subjective of our great religious traditions, in my reading of Dakini’s Warm Breath, it appears to me that Buddhism has advanced most closely to the underlying nature of reality.

Dakinis originated in Indian Buddhism as carnal demons that protected nature from exploitation. Perhaps understanding that Humanity was going to place itself in opposition to nature, they originally sought to stifle spiritual development. In Tibetan Buddhism, this changed when enlightened persons projected their commitment to compassion and honor for all aspects of reality. Discovering a partner in those practitioners, many dakinis took cause with them, becoming defenders of the wisdom teachings from corruption. Having removed this impediment to relation with the divine feminine, Tibetan masters then encountered the Great Queen Prajnaparamita.

The parallels with the Book of Revelation are too obvious to ignore. The carnal dakinis would be Whore of Babylon; Prajnaparamita would be the Sacred Mother. Indeed, Simmer-Brown explains:

So, she who manifests as Prajnaparamita is the Great Mother of all the buddhas of the past, present and future.

Parjnaparamita has specific characteristics that allow her to serve in this role. She is space. She “shows the world for what it is.” and she “reveals the thoughts and actions of other beings.”

In Love Works, I advanced a model of spirit that explains these characteristics. The primary duality of existence is self and other. To have compassion, we must preserve our self. That is the gift of space, without which all phenomena would collapse into a single point. Space is not empty, but a lattice framework that supports the evolution of spirit.

When an event occurs, space does not transform the event – it does not seek to interpret or change the event. Those that seek the truth are given access to that history, while those that serve the self must fight against the resistance marshalled by the truth.

All events unfold into spirit. To those that do not impose themselves upon the world, instead choosing to negotiate win-win outcomes for all beings, those thoughts are freely available. Those that work for selfish ends trap themselves in their materiality, and so are cut off from this source of wisdom.

As Simmer-Brown explains, the Buddhist knows this through experience, but has no answer to “Why?” The Christian relies upon the promises of Christ, and answers “Why?” with “Because God loves us.”

In the first hundred pages of Simmer-Brown’s beautiful, wise and compassionate treatise, her teachers emphasize that the dakini is the root of Buddhist practice. The bodhisattva is a practitioner of “skillful means” that propagate the dakini’s wisdom. This seems to deprecate the masculine role.

At Love Returns, I offer this: Love seeks to create marvelous relationships. In a wounded world, to do so it must divide into two parts: a masculine part that changes and a feminine part that preserves what is good. Neither is superior or subordinate. Eventually, they unite, and our division from love is healed. Masculine virtues will continually invent new experiences, but only under the guidance of feminine virtues that prepare space to receive those manifestations.