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.

From Grief to Power

A friend was offering a sermon on his birthday yesterday, dwelling on the contradiction between his grief over all the things that we are losing in this era, and the joy he finds in seeing his community interacting. When I had the opportunity to speak, I offered:

Grieving is the prequel to the opening of the door of our heart to a spirit that would otherwise be lost.

That opening is not easy, because the expression of Darwinian selfishness has left so many of them traumatized. But once they have settled in to the experience of being cherished, they look back into the world they have departed and reach out to those left behind, giving them assurance, strength and guidance.

“They” are trees, flowers, fish, birds, mice, whales, children: anything living that is being displaced by a disappearing or polluted ecosystem.

Over the years my conscious welcoming has gathered quite an entourage around me. From that community of displaced souls I draw my power, power that is expressed in the t-shirt I started wearing six months ago to dance celebrations. Across the shoulders are a right and left hand framing a head and a heart. The words are:

DANGER
Angel Gateways

They just want to be friends.
Please play nicely.

Santa Barbara Treasure

I took the first of my five necessary day trips out to Santa Barbara today. “Necessary” in the fiduciary sense because I bought a ten-trip Amtrak Surfliner pass that expires on September 6. “Necessary” in the personal sense because the move out to Port Hueneme has separated me from the dance communities down in the Santa Monica area, and if I don’t dance, I think that I’ll curl up and die. The nearest substitute is the Santa Barbara Dance Tribe that meets at the Gustafson Dance Center on Sundays from 11-1.

I thought that the weather was auspicious for the 4-mile pedal up to the Oxnard train station, but the fog burned off early, and my clothes were pretty damp by the time I pulled in to the station. Fortunately I had a number of shirt changes in my backpack, so the ride out to Santa Barbara wasn’t unpleasant.

Once in Santa Barbara, the sun was a little less harsh, but it was humid. The three mile ride out to the dance studio was up a slight slope, as well as going under the freeway in a couple of places. The footpath routing algorithm in Microsoft Maps also left me in a cul-de-sac at the bottom of a hill that carried the road over the freeway. Again, I was soaked with perspiration when I arrived.

The celebration was really nice. Two moments in particular stand out. The most energetic of the women danced joyfully with a number of men, and then settled to the floor to rest. I had been moving through the gathering, and found myself in her vicinity when the DJ put on Etta Jame’s At Last. The lady had settled on her shins, hands swaying gently in the air over her head. I swooped past her in a low lunge and then spun around behind her, and the air around us burst with energy.  She accepted my attention as I filled the air around her for the next two minutes, smiling at me once or twice, but she didn’t get up on her feet.

The second was towards the end, when many of the dancers had settled to the floor to ground the energy we had raised. I found myself scooping the air on one side, reaching up and out to gather in the messages that were waiting for me, curling my arm over my head before pulling them into my heart, and then doing the same on the other side. It wasn’t easy – just a lot of sorrow. When I had taken as much as I could bear, I lifted my hands to the heavens, and felt something enter from above, providing my heart with the responsive energies it needed.

I couldn’t schedule the bike passage for the mid-afternoon train back to Ventura, which left me six hours to fill until the 6:59. So after the dance I pedaled back down to the train station (fortunately mostly downhill this time). After checking my backpack, I backtracked to the Neighborhood Bar and Grill, where I had a great veggie burger and honey wheat ale.

The train station is only a few blocks from the beach, so I rode down to the shore and took the bike path up the strand. Santa Barbara has an art walk every Sunday. A lot of what I saw was touristy, until I came to Yin Ping Zheng’s booth. The work was classic Chinese brush calligraphy and painting on rice paper. On the edge of the booth, a typical vertical nature study caught my eye: a cluster of starkly colored peonies – deep red, yellow and pure white demanding the eye’s attention – anchored the bottom of the strip. They were subdued from above by a delicate pink cluster, annotated in the classic Asian style. The obvious contrast of masculine and feminine energy also seemed to suggest the contrast between Western and Asian art.

I ended up buying this piece and another that also displayed Zheng’s unique sensibilities. The second is a panel of ungrounded bamboo poles, rendered in rich green but punctuated by black-fingered leaves with white speckles (snow?). Two sprays of pink blossoms enter the frame in the upper left, cupping a featureless moon set against a pale ground of blue-white snow. I noticed the calligraphy on the right side, and Zheng shared that it was the last line of a poem that offered the moon’s witness and solace to two lovers sundered by distance.

Zheng is devoted to his art, and as we waited for BofA to pre-authorize the purchase, he talked about his training, confirming my sense that he was attempting to introduce strong Western color to add tension and dimension to the introspective style of Chinese rice paper painting. He also kept offering concerns that his devotion was not earning him material rewards – a point that resonates deeply with me.

It’s my birthday tomorrow, which is my way of justifying the extravagance of the purchase. But I did so with honest pleasure, and was gratified  that Zheng accepted my stumbled expression:

Thank-you so much for being here today. It added a special aspect to my day to have had the opportunity to buy two such beautiful works of art.

Zheng has a blog out here at WordPress, but it only has one photo. I’m too tired tonight to unroll the pieces to take pictures of them, but I’ll get some details posted on Tuesday night.

Let’s Talk Science and Theology

My friend Jamie Wozny told me, during a career coaching session, that I should “try to keep it simple.” As I drove down Wilshire away from LACMA considering the forty years spent studying physics and religion, I whined to myself, “But it all seems simple to me.”

To bridge that gap is why I dance. At the last nightclub that I frequented, the manager came up to me one night and said “You know, I’m noticing that wherever you are, that’s where the people tend to gather.” A Persian woman came up to me one night to say “You don’t know how good you make us all feel.” Just this weekend my friend Mary Margaret, as we lay all akimbo after rolling around on the floor together for ten minutes, admonished me about viewing myself as an old man, “You really should love yourself more. Others would benefit from the experience of your joy.”

The problem is that most people take the energy that comes out of the heart and direct it downwards to the sacral chakra, the focus of passion and pleasure. I try my best to be disciplined, because otherwise I would just be a slut, but the people that come to LA Ecstatic Dance and the Full-Contact Improv Jam do love to touch and be touched. For many, it’s an opportunity to mix masculine and feminine energy without the complications of a relationship. I’ve benefited from that willingness as I try to figure out how to unlock the feminine graces, but I still find it difficult to withstand the impulse to rest my hand over a woman’s womb as she arches backwards with her hips resting on my thigh. Nobody has slapped me yet, so I surmise that I’m giving in to what they want.

I attempt to patch things up afterwards, just consistently raising energy from the fourth chakra – the heart – up to the sixth chakra. While the latter is associated with the pineal gland and known as the “seat of intuition,” physically it rests right over our cerebral cortex which is the part of the brain devoted to higher reasoning.

Realizing that somebody was peeking into my childhood, I woke up at 3 A.M. with a sinus headache. It’s drying out here in Southern California, and the grass is disintegrating. I eventually dragged myself out of bed to rinse my sinuses with Alkylol.

After crawling back under the covers, it occurred to me that the sinuses sit between the sixth and fifth chakras, the latter being the throat chakra that focuses communication and creativity. I always struggle to engage others in conversation regarding the matters that demand so much of my attention – sometimes to the degree of a painful burning in my throat as emotion wells up from my chest.

In considering Dante, Santayana elaborates Dante’s metaphor of theology as his lost love Beatrice, their happiness frustrated in part by his flirtation with philosophy. This matches my own experience: theology does seem to rise from the heart, while science – the most mature expression of philosophy – rests in the mind.  In the modern era the two camps of heart and mind have chosen to dispute with each other.

Between them we have the voice that wisdom teaches us to reserve for the truth. I have spent my life on this problem – the reconciliation of those two warring camps, each holding half of the truth. If anybody knows of an opportunity to engage with others in dialog on those problems, let me know. I’m willing to travel.

Presenting Ourselves

When Parashakti runs her Dance of Liberation workshops down at LA Ecstatic Dance, she begins by facilitating the pairing of spirit buddies. While my first experience with her was pretty intense, more recently I’ve been working in service to others. That means that I am chosen, more often than choosing, when she finally says: “Look around and find a spirit buddy, someone close to you. Once you’ve found them, describe your intention for this dance.”

So I pivoted slowly and found myself hooked on the eyes of the really pretty woman, standing tall enough to almost cover my chin. Another gentleman tried to step between us, but she raised her hand to gesture to me.

I’ve never heard such a strongly worded statement of intention. It went on for nearly ten seconds as she spoke about preparing herself in this year to let love flow through her and into the world around her. I brought it to a close by holding my hands over her shoulders and then lowering them until they hovered over her chest, encouraging my angels to fill her heart to the brim. “Thank-you,” she murmured.

“That’s my intention.” Parashakti then told us to stand back-to-back. Feeling that I wasn’t quite connecting with my partner, I tilted my head back until it contacted her crown. She nestled in a little more closely.

I had been right behind her as we danced a circle earlier in the ritual, and had noticed her hands moving as though warding the space around her head. Asthe blindfolds went on, that image came back to me, and after the closing circle thirty minutes later, I told her that I had received something to share with her.

She was the object of a lot of masculine attention during the open dance, and I half expected her to avoid me. But forty minutes in she took a break for water, and gazed pointedly at me. I guided her into a corner, leaning in close to block the pressure of the music, and began, “Our culture projects a lot of ideas that negate a woman.”

“What?”

Not sure whether she was just buying time to process what I had said, I repeated myself. “When you were dancing next to me before the ritual, I noticed you doing a lot of work with your hands around your head, as though you were warding things away.” Stretching my right hand to touch the heavens, “We tend to look to each other for validation, but there is a source of eternal truth.” Hesitantly, I moved my hand closer to her crown, gauging her reaction. “I was offered a message from them: they want you to know that they are reaching out to you.” She just gazed at me, frozen. “When I went through this process, I had to surrender my thoughts and let my heart guide me.” I reached out with my left hand, palm upwards, and envisioned cupping her heart in it. “I had to let my heart energy rise until it merged with my mind.” Raising my left hand until it was just under her chin, I concluded “The heart guides the head, and the head protects the heart.”

I was shirtless and slimy with sweat, so she embraced the air around me, murmuring “Thank-you, thank-you so much,” fleeing and returning two or three times before returning to the floor.

She continued to be popular on the floor, mostly among the younger men that I can now only join briefly in frenzy. I worked the room in my usual manner, spreading joy and tenderness where it was accepted, but really wearing down at the end. As the afternoon drew to a close, I sat on the floor to down dinner, watching as she was intercepted by man after man. Getting up to change clothes for Contact Improv, I came back to sort through my backpack and offer my gratitude to Ataseia. She passed by and I caught her eye. “One more thing.”

She didn’t hesitate. “What you said earlier explained a lot to me about myself as a woman.”

Thinking of her confidence on the dance floor, “Yes, I could see that. But the challenge is hanging on to it. We have to stay focused on them. They have their own purpose, and if we fail in our devotion, they tend to wander away.”

She leaned into the frame of the closed doors, hands clasped before her. That wasn’t what she expected. But her lips offered a gentle bow of curiosity.

“You projected a great deal of positive energy into the room today, but when you began to dance with a man, it turned inwards. I could see you winding inwards, and the source of that energy was left adrift.”

She stopped to reflect, and voiced her agreement.

“If we want to hang on to them, we can’t do that. We have to present ourselves, and wait for the other person to open to us in turn. It’s not a winding into, it’s an expanding through.” She looked uncertain, so I reached out to cup understanding in my right hand, brushing it gently across her.

“I’m not sure that I understand.”

I stepped back. “I present myself. All of myself. And if you respond, I come closer, not directly, but slowly spiraling as my angels introduce themselves to your angels. It’s not always pleasant – some things really don’t belong together. But that’s what we do here. You danced with a lot of people today, as did I. We gently join our personalities, and then the magic happens. We go out into the world and draw upon our shared wisdom and energy.

“But we shouldn’t make too much of that. We need to stay devoted to ourselves, waiting for that encounter to which all of us announces ‘yes!'”

She raised her hand tentatively to demonstrate her understanding. Her eyes narrowed as my entourage resisted her, and I caught them sending “Not without our permission.”

We embrace twice, and she departed with a wistful “Maybe I’ll see you next time.”

“I look forward to it.”

Healing Time

I’ve been working my way into the LA Full Contact Improv community since last November. The experience is markedly different from LA Ecstatic Dance, which is guided by facilitators and DJs. The Improv Jam is introduced by Jeffrey, the organizer, and occasionally accompanied by the astral strains of the resident guitarist, but the goal and tenor of the experience is open-ended. People glide, skip, spin and roll around the dance floor until they feel a connection. Between friends, that may advance immediately into an embrace, unfolding through a lift or tumble with bodies entwined. For those yet to be awarded that intimacy, there’s a slow inward spiraling that concludes with a gentle touch. For me, that induces a sudden stillness while muscles feel their poise, broken by a release into a caress or the playful exploration of flexibility and strength.

With another recent newcomer, I explained that the challenge I often face in managing this engagement is getting people to let it feel good. Rolling over one another can be like a mutual full-body massage. Having gotten into that space with another dancer, I stilled suddenly as I felt a tension release from deep within him, and I muttered into his ear, “There can be healing here.”

So when Jeffrey announced at last week’s closing circle that he would be offering a facilitated healing experience every Friday night at 8:30 and prior to the Jam on Sundays at 4, I was prepped to jump right in.

It turned out to be really rewarding.

For the last fifteen years, I’ve been interpreting my spiritual experience through a model of physics that leads me to the conclusion that we have three kinds of experience available to us:

  • an experience of “life” that binds spirit to body, allowing us to wrestle with selfishness,
  • existence in pure spirit that frees us from the constraints of space and time, but limits our capacity for growth, and
  • release into a realm of unconditional love that seeks only to facilitate and safe-guard our relation.

So imagine my reaction when Jeffrey explained last night that we live in a material reality in which we struggle with our “me”-ness, navigate slowly into an astral realm of pure knowledge, and finally surrender the pursuit of goals to experience godhead.

This wisdom, offered in what seemed to be a Vedantic framework, came with a set of practices. They are unusually constrained: rather than engaging the deeply rooted powers of the Chakras, we began by opening the meridian gateways at our fingers and toes. Jeff then asked the group to offer whatever insights arose. We listened in witness as we “time traveled” with the speaker, offering our shared energy as support. Jeff asked whether the speaker could see that the emotion of the experience was itself the gateway to healing.

A young man last night, struggling with his conditioning, led us into an analysis of self-actualization and karma. Jeff shared his past frustration in trying to create outcomes through his practice (which allowed us to time travel with him – that was nice!), before realizing that he was forcing his experience to conform to his ideas, rather than the other way around. Subtle wisdom, and it didn’t sink in immediately, so I offered:

The reason that we suffer with each other in this life is because we are missing parts. Trapped here in our bodies, we can’t reach the source, so we try to steal them from each other. When we surrender our self-concern and focus on healing another, we are able to serve as a conduit for missing parts. True power and freedom arrives as we become accepted as a trustworthy provider of parts.

My intimates all complain that my writing is too abstract. I complain that they won’t open their hearts to me. I think that I’ve finally found a method for bridging the gap.

And even better, I left with ears full of the testimony of others that have found comfort and strength there. Come one, come all!

Being Atypical

I met a new friend today who blogs as Anonymously Autistic. She writes honestly and openly about the challenges of adapting to the world of conventional interaction. I have had my own struggles in this regard. After listening to Amythest Schaber’s testimony of a life spent learning to love herself, the following experiences came to mind. I don’t know if they will resonate with those that are autistic, but I offer them in that hope.

When I went through the darkest part of my life, I went through six jobs in eight years. Job six was a bail-out from my scientific peers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. It required me to move away from my sons, which was difficult for me.

The interview was not attended by one of the program principals, who was away on travel. He actually drove down Interstate Five to my house (rather than flying) to converse with me. He said something unusual at the time – he said that I have “presence,” comparing me to the great singers that he had worked with as a member of the San Francisco choir. It was the first time anyone had been that direct with me.

The team I had joined worked with a community of information security specialists in the federal government. When the director brought her team out for a program review, we gathered at a winery so that they could meet me (I had not completed my security clearance, and so was not part of the review). When we had been introduced, we collected around the table and my friend, noticing the reactions of the team, suggested “One of the characteristics of autistic people is that they have trouble with personal boundaries.”

Both characterizations surprised the hell out of me. I have since recalled the young lady in college that, after our introduction, held on to my hand and laughed, “You are incredibly dense.” When I protested, she clarified, “No, not stupid, just – DENSE.” In fact, I didn’t encounter somebody that could roil my waters until after I was forty.

Amythest talks about dancing with her hands, and I think that I know what she is talking about. When I was in junior high school, at the dances I would enter into a trance-like state, dancing with an energy that the other students found hilarious if not disturbing. I have since learned to manage that focus. The way that I characterize it, to those that ask me how I dance as well as I do, is that my Higher Self is looking down on me. I actually don’t know what the heck I am doing, and could not possibly reproduce it later. But afterwards people go out of their way to tell me that I am a great dancer.

The point that I am working towards is that when I became aware of how much spiritual energy I was managing (that “density” mentioned by the coed), I spent a couple of years trying to organize it. I began to have burning pains in my sides (often reported by those with shingles) and burning at the base of my skull. When I focused on those side-effects, I realized that I was trying to channel spiritual energy through physical constructs that were simply incapable of handling the load. It was like trying to run 30 Amps of current through a wire rated for 20 Amps. In that instant, I simply shifted the flow out of my brain, and began to work directly with the spiritual structures that generated it.

Amethyst talks about the enormous depth of the love that she feels. My experience causes me to wonder if she isn’t an angel trying to squeeze herself into a representation that people can relate to. Part of that includes forcing her to engage them in the normal way. If she’s in any way like me, however, that’s just not going to work. There’s too much energy in her soul, and it overwhelms her physical apparatus. She needs to find things like ecosystems and cultural moires to channel it into.