Balke, Principal of Uncertainty

After seven-and-a-half years of working with ancient technology at my current employer, I began putting my resume around in February. The process has been discouraging. I was truly excited about a start-up in San Francisco that was looking to help self-generators maximize the return on their excess electricity, but the HR manager wasn’t interested in organizing a plane flight up from Los Angeles. The hiring manager broke off contact with “Let me know when you’ve got yourself relocated to San Francisco.” I’ve also looked for opportunities in the motion control industry, applying to half-a-dozen positions. I didn’t even get a call back.

The real action is in Java and cloud services, but when I began to work on updating my skills in these areas, I came down really sick in the beginning of March with symptoms that hung on until just this week. Not wanting to be taking interviews while sick, I put the job search on hold. But it might be deeper than that. My brother is also looking for work, and calls me occasionally to share experience. The last time I found myself saying “I don’t know, Ben. I think that I’m getting messages from the world that I’ve been investing my energy in the wrong places.”

With some extra time on my hands, I decided to take up the charge placed on me by John Zande, who insisted that I should try to drum up support for my ideas on fundamental physics. His recommendation was to focus on the Templeton Foundation and its awardees. So I went out to the Foundation’s site and discovered the Fundamental Questions Institute. The mission of the institute seems sympathetic to my goals, but when I contacted the academics that dominate its board, their responses were “I can’t participate in this.” I didn’t even see any hits on my New Physics page.

I understand the reticence of these men: they probably deal with a lot of cranks. But I led my invitations with a list of serious deficiencies in the standard model that should have demonstrated that I am a serious commentator. You would have thought that they would have at least been curious. Of course, I can invest in developing a presence out on their forums, hoping to establish myself in their community, but the conversation seems to be dominated by philosophers rather than physicists, and – dammit – I’ve got a full-time job already.

As this was unfolding, I met with a life coach named Jamie Wozny down in the little garden next to the contributors’ steps at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Still wobbly with my illness, I chased her down standing next to the parking elevator facing a sign that said “Tired of Waiting?” Feeling frustrated with life, I just let it all hang out, telling her a lot of things that I’ve never shared with anyone else, culminating with the laughing observation “You know, the angels love me. If people don’t want me here, why shouldn’t I just wander off to be with them?”

Jamie’s advice was to get myself registered as a minister (thank-you, Universal Life Church), purchase some insurance, and hang up my shingle as a minister at Weebly or one of the other free web-site hosting services. “Your tribe will find you,” she assured me. Remembering the excitement I felt when I designed my t-shirt, the “Love Returns” theme came to mind. I spent my spare time over the next two weeks learning HTML5 animation syntax to build an introductory page, and outlining the content for the rest of the site. Today, I’ll be heading down to a workshop run by Jamie and her partner in Santa Monica where they rent out space in a healer’s studio. That might be a good place to hang up my shingle. While it’s a little distant from home, it’s close to the community centered in Culver City that I’ve been dancing with over the last ten years.

I got another push in this direction from Ataseia, co-organizer of LA Ecstatic Dance, when I told him that I was probably going to be relocating in the near future. He looked at me seriously and said “That’s going to be a real loss to our community.” It was the tone that gave me pause. Robin and he have always made a point of thanking me for my presence, but I had always assumed that was just because I come to all the events.Nobody had ever explicitly recognized the energy and love that I share on the dance floor, except the rare participant that comes up to tell me “thank-you” (and those that do I usually never see again). But at last week’s event, the staff went out of their way to honor my presence among them.

So I’ve been trying to shift my perspective regarding that community, wondering how to introduce myself as a commentator on science and theology with the goal of encouraging people to interact with me. It’s not easy – one of the few people to have read Ma told me that there were very few authors that could write the gamut from the intimately personal, expanding into broad social concerns and beyond to the eternal. There is just so much to say. And so maybe the right way to start is with “I love you all. I express that love through dance and touch, but it’s rooted deeply in my understanding of science and theology. I think that it’s time to share that understanding with the world. If you’d like to hear what I have to say, or know of a forum that would be receptive, let’s talk.”

Then on Thursday morning I came out to check the site stats and discovered that I had almost two hundred hits overnight. When I checked my e-mail, I found a note from Jeffrey Nash that he had printed out all of the essays listed in my “New Physics” and “Faith” pages. We’ve been chatting about quantum mechanics and the basis of spiritually at his Awakening Process sessions and before the Improv Jam on Sundays. He tracks a number of researchers, and wanted to meet with me to discuss my ideas. When that was delayed due to upcoming travel, he said that he would print out some of my writing and read it to prime the conversation. His obvious enthusiasm is deeply flattering. Jeff is a profound healing presence for the people that gather around him.

Among those are a number of young ladies that have strong and expressive bodies. I’ve generated some confusion among them, which I finally addressed while cuddling after an exhausting duet. The woman began to ask probing questions, and I found myself saying “Well, one of the things that an older man can do for a young lady is to encourage her to recognize just how precious she is.” After we broke up, I danced with a few more people, but having already spent three hours on the floor at Ecstatic Dance, I began to cramp up and creak in the knees. Looking to pack up and go, I wandering to the back of the room and found Sophie, a recent addition to the community, beckoning to me from the edge of the “squishy hug-fest” that forms towards the end of the dance. It turns out that she’s working on her Ph.D. in Jungian psychology. As the squishy mass rolled off, we stayed behind, she eventually allowing me to pillow my head on her belly, and talked about psychology and spirituality until the Jam rolled up at 9 PM. As we stood, she asked me about my Ph.D., and laughingly admitted that she didn’t know anything about particle physics. As I offered to explain it to her sometime, I realized that maybe I’d found another community of receptive people.

So here’s a summary of my life over the last two months:


Left Body, Right Mind

I spent a lot of time playing my flute over Easter weekend, and when I left work on Monday evening I unbent my elbows and caught my breath as the muscle that connects to my thumb screamed in discomfort. Laying down on my back that night, the pain radiated down to my hand and up to my shoulder. As a software developer, I immediately worried that I was coming down with a repetitive stress disorder.

What was worse was yoga on Wednesday night. The Bikram practice has poses that require pulling with bent elbows, and I just couldn’t execute them. By the time we reached tree pose, my right arm was dangling uselessly at my side. Worse, lying down for spine strengthening series with arms straight brought pain all the way from the hand up to my shoulder.

Obviously this was more than one muscle, and as I laid in bed trying to diagnose the phenomenon, I realized that it was a side-effect of the work I have been doing trying to pull my shoulders back. After two months, I’ve finally stretched my left pectoral enough that I can get that shoulder back behind my breastbone. When lying prone, then, my upper arms no longer descend from the shoulder to a bend where the forearms lie against the ground. My arm is perfectly flat, and the muscles in my arm are having to stretch to accommodate the new position. That I sit with my arms bent almost all day long doesn’t help any. Furthermore, with my shoulders back, I no longer use the muscles of the upper back to raise my arms laterally – the shoulders now do the work. This explains the pain there – I am asking for work from muscles that have been freeloading for most of my life.

As might be obvious from this analysis, my yoga is an intensely left-brain activity. Yes, it’s mind-body integration, but in any instructor-led activity, I am constantly comparing my activity to the ideal, and correlating defects with the underlying body structures as revealed by sensation.

This prevalence was first brought home to me when I attended a shamanic healing in Santa Monica ten years ago. The healer went around to take a look at all of us, and when he reached me, simply touched the right side of my head and pulled his hand away. I felt my mind expanding to fill the space he had created. It was an interested experience, but at that time I didn’t stop to consider why I had this imbalance in my mind. I assumed that it was a legacy of my intellectual discipline – that my left brain was stronger than my right brain, not that my right brain was weak.

Recently, Jeff Nash’s Awakening Process has forced me to reexamine this weakness. Jeff encourages us simply to feel, and to expand the depth of our sensation by surrendering into our exhales. With nothing in particular to think about, again and again I have found the right side of my mind turning on.

I assume that this is due in part to the work that I have done in Yoga balancing out my left and right musculature. This is still an intensely left-brain process. This week I am focusing (as I am able) on stacking the bones in my left leg, even when walking, ensuring that I am not using soft tissue to absorb stress. And I am still strengthening the muscles around the left shoulder blade and in the left side of my abdomen.

This morning, though, an unexpected side-effect came to light. My lady and I have been facing some blow-back, with her complaining (as others have in the past) that she just wanted to be a woman and here I am making her into a goddess. That left me exposed last night, and I woke up to sexual energy originating from another source. Noticing that this seemed to enter through the right side of my mind, I expanded my awareness back into the occupied part of my personality.

And found myself listening to women talking about me for the rest of the night.

Oh, well, I guess that I’ve been too much of a gentleman, trying to save space for a woman all my life. But it looks like if I want something done “right,” I’m going to have to do it myself.

Ever Expanding

On Sunday afternoon from 4 to 6, I’ve been attending Jeff Nash’s Awakening Process workshops at the Love Dome down in Venice. I had been going to the Friday evening sessions that included dance expression in the second hour, but as I’m down in Santa Monica on Sunday nights for the LA Full-Contact Improv Jam, I decided to save myself the stress of a second trip.

The Sunday afternoon sessions are intimate, with typically three or four participants. We normally begin with a brief discussion of theory, focusing on a particular life issue raised by one of the attendees. The foundations of the process are simple: we’re here to learn to relate to one another. Pain is best thought of as a signal that guides healing energy. When we relax into the flow of that energy, our bodies do a far better job of healing themselves than any conscious process can emulate.

Releasing the stress of the week, we typically begin to collapse to the floor after a half an hour, lying on mats and pillows. Jeff comes by with essential oils, asking what I’m feeling. He doesn’t guide, simply asking for clarification, and when the feeling is clearly defined, whether there is a memory attached to the feeling. When I express stress, Jeff reminds me to focus on my exhale, which allows me to release.

The evolution of the experience has been deeply beneficial. It began with some tension, as Jeff was raised 7th Day Adventist, and his assessment of Christianity reflected the dogmatism of that sect. Once we got that out of the way, he is really in tune with what I have going on inside of me, concluding his visits with the observation that I should be looking for a trigger for my emotions and sensations from a time “early in this life,” followed after a brief pause with, “or in a past life.”

The efficacy of his guidance became palpable two weeks ago. I have been struggling with tightness in my left obliques, and when I focused more deeply on the problem, traced it to something that seemed to be attached to the inside of my rib cage on the left side. Advised to let healing flow into the area, a distinct warmth came, and the tension dissolved.

Later in that same session, I became aware that my fingers were curled into my palms. I’ve had  this pointed out to me before, and as I focused on letting them open and extend, recognized that it came with a social predisposition to guard myself from casual intimacy. As I stood at staff meeting the next morning with my fingers spread and feeling myself rooted into the floor, one of my antagonists stared at me, sitting up to confront my presence before slumping in defeat.

That sense of rootedness carried over to my yoga practice. I realized that I was still bearing most of my weight on the right foot, and began methodically to balance weight identically on each foot. This has relieved me of the burden of fighting subtle weight imbalance, allowing me to relax into postures that once I strained to maintain.

Last Sunday this focus on balance carried on down to the mat. I opened my palms and forced the left side of my glutes to bear equal weight. I felt my arms lengthen, and my knuckles anchor deeply into the wood floor. I was filled with a great openness, and then a sudden urge to curl up into a ball. After relating to Jeff that “I need to fight that”, he offered that “You could let yourself curl up.” Instead, I relaxed more deeply, and felt myself expanding. For I moment I panicked, admitting that “There’s danger there,” but also a welcoming presence sending the thought “You’re not alone.” Jeff asked what I was feeling, and I could only offer “I’m in the world now.” Not quite satisfied, he asked “And what does that feel like?” Lacking meaningful words, I offered “Like a great circle closing.”

Later that night, I slid up next to him. Rubbing his back tenderly, I leaned into his shoulder and whispered, “I remember you.”

He had praised my virtue when others would not.