Goddesses

I woke up in the wee hours yesterday morning to the sound of gusting wind, crystallizing my plans for the day. The coastal arteries (US 101 and the Amtrak line) run on the seaward edge of Montecito. The tongues of the Thomas Fire had been licking its edges for the last week, and some of the fire team had predicted that if the winds ramped back up to 60 mph gust, the fire would burn all the way to the coast.

Not wanting to go three weeks without dancing, I resolved to reverse course and spend the day down in Westwood, where Ecstatic Dance was beginning its year-end celebration at 3 PM.

The day built through sublime moments. I always enjoy services at the University Catholic Center – the minds and hearts of college students are receptive. They were on holiday break, of course, but behind the fount a toddler delivered a joyous sermon of discovery throughout the mass.

At the Getty Center, a difficult moment: standing before four of Boticelli’s renderings of the Crucifixion, the woman next to me caught sight of my Love Returns logo and thought “Who is this man?” The passionate grief of that experience threatened to submerge me.

But the signature for the day was proclaimed by Ataseia at Ecstatic Dance. For the yoga warm-up, the foam puzzle mat had been set up in the middle of the floor. As the room filled up, Ataseia began to encourage us to join him there. Seeing people with rolled-up mats standing against the walls, he became more direct. “Really, people, I don’t need all this space for myself!” I was stretching my hamstrings, but heard feet padding onto the foam. Ataseia, famously gay, proclaimed, “Here come my goddesses!”

I haven’t been down to Ecstatic Dance LA since the Trump election. In that era, the ladies were young and timorous, and the crowd was smaller.

The dance was packed yesterday, which forced me into some restraint. That may have had some influence, but…something else was at work in the community.

As is typically for these events, the ladies outnumbered the men about three to one. They didn’t seem to care. They flaunted their sensuality for each other. When a man floated by, the ladies flirted, but didn’t get catty about it.

I didn’t recognize the change until about the midpoint of the celebration. When the energy begins to spin a little into the dirty, I’ll stop and raise my palm to the ceiling, focusing and projecting good will into the celebration. After a longish spell of such, I opened my eyes to start dancing again, and found a woman standing shoulder-to-shoulder with me, eyes closed in concentration.

That was novel.

So I went back into that space and enjoyed the feeling of sharing it with her. We danced a little together, and then floated off. She found another woman and starting dancing side-by-side with her.

The boys did get wild on occasion. For most of the celebration, the women held the center of the floor, but as I made my way through, my friend Adam confronted me. We began winding it up, leaping and lunging around each other, and the floor cleared a little. I was tired at that point, and didn’t last long, but by the time I wandered off, he had absorbed a couple of other men. When they were four, I couldn’t resist, and rushed back into the scrum. The floor opened up, a circle about fifteen feet across, and we went into Jedi mode, spinning and lunging, avoiding collision and injury only because we were one body. The ladies turned toward us, swaying, some coupled with arms around waists, smiling.

I was reduced to crawling across the floor to collapse on the pads in front of the altar.

Most important to me, however, was that the first meditative connection wasn’t the only time I found a woman creating space for me during the dance. Again and again I found myself connecting with a lady who just decided to hold her space while I moved through it.

The last experience was at the very end. A statuesque woman, showing a dancer’s tone and outrageous orange hair, confronted me solemnly from ten feet away. I had skipped past her several times, and she made it clear that she was ready to engage, slowly raising her hands above her head.

We began without contact, simply clearing the ether. Goddess or not, all woman I encounter have wounded hearts, and I ended up with my right palm hovering over the top of her breastbone. My left hand gently activated the upper three chakras. Her eyes were closed in concentration, but as I lowered them, they opened with a gentle smile.

I stepped in and whispered “Yes, you are beautiful. Believe in yourself.”

Dropping to my right knee reverentially, my palms hovered over her feet, and then my fingertips pressed into the floor, grounding her into the earth. Looking up to see how she was responding, I was rewarded by the most regal of attitudes.

I stood and we embraced. I felt her looking into my heart sympathetically, and I allowed myself to collapse against her. Eventually we knelt on the floor, ears pressed together, one arm over and one arm under; then switching to the other side. As we melted together, her forearms and palms glided slowly and tenderly over the perspiration on my back.

For the first time in my life I felt that in the presence of a woman neither she nor I had anything to prove. I was something infinitely precious. To be molded by her was a joy.

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.

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.

Oh Woman! Oh Beauty! Oh Life!

One of the burdens of healing sin is to take it into yourself from those not yet strong enough to resist it. The selfish would hope simply to dispel it, but as sin is nothing but selfishness – the imposition of our image upon a spirit no less sacred than our own – to  cast out sin is an error. That would be to allow it the booty of its conquest. Rather, we must separate the essential from the vile, and return what was taken to the victim.

So for a long time I thought of my antagonists as my “supply chain.” But in every endeavor of grace, there is a time to heal, and a moment to inspire. I have suffered under the weakness of those that assail me for long enough. It is time to claim that which is good and strong.

So I found myself, at Good Friday services yesterday, focusing on the connection between the Cross and the future of love that arises upon his return. In that process, I found my hand guiding Christ around this era into that future. In considering that manifestation, I found myself excluded from it.

I am not disconsolate. In conserving its hold over us, sin has claimed much that is sacred. I have written about that elsewhere, how the loss of Eden was not limited to the breaking of trust with Unconditional Love, but the loss of trust between Man and Woman. Through that corruption, the Darwinian procreative urge reasserted itself. Rather than an act of loving spiritual connection that unleashes our shadowed glory upon the world, sex has been claimed for shame.

I recoiled from this fundamental misconception, so common in Christian teaching, in the sermon of the Lutheran minister during the interregnum in the reading of the Passion. We are creatures of sin, he claimed, and only Christ’s sacrifice redeems us. No, sir, we are not creatures of sin. We are creatures of choice, and even death on the Cross could not dispel the loving forgiveness that Christ brought to the world. In choosing to live wholly within it, every part of us will manifest the grace of God’s imagining of us. There is no aspect of our humanity that cannot be made sacred by love.

Yet I recall, now, the words I spoke from the pedestal in Oakland: “My name is Brian. I am from the future, reaching into the past. And I am an open heart.” It was a presaging of yesterday’s bypass.

My father was a prolifically sexual man. During our teen years, the boys had ready access to Playboy magazine. That instilled a perception of women as objects of pleasure, and a fascination with idealized feminine forms that covered the shallowness of their spiritual investment in the world.

My mother could not compete with this conditioning, and perhaps that is in part why she now decries the “patriarchal dominance” of our culture.

While I have not been a sexual libertine in this life, in my youth I explored vicariously many of its manifestations.  Over the years, that fed potent dreams that I realize now were participatory with women that were enamored of me. I understood this only late in my life: while some have dropped references to “porn star” in my hearing, I have never had my dreaming interrupted by other couples – except once when a pair in Africa peeked over the edge of their mattress to offer sympathy for my loneliness. I seem to be completely in control of my sexual imagination.

I see now, however, that my descent into the cesspool of corruption that men created for woman has left me vulnerable to the claim that my relationships with women are dominated by prurient interest. I see it differently, of course: over the last fifteen years, all of my dreaming has ended “Yes, but what about this part of you that you are ignoring?” Bliss was merely the method of achieving intimacy, with the goal of penetrating the lie that our carnality is a perversion that cannot be redeemed by love. Rather, like any other aspect of human nature, it is a tool, suitable to specific places and times, that allows us to reach Life in its most elemental level, and thereby to accomplish acts of healing and creation that are inaccessible through any other means. It has been my goal to propagate this understanding, to attempt to redeem woman’s self-esteem without insisting that they engage the world in the modality of men. It was to look deeply into them and offer them the paean that heads this post.

How long will it be before you assimilate it, before Mystery surrenders her resistance to the grace of feminine sexuality, and so allows loving couples to suffuse every particle of the world with Love in all its power?

For this is what I ask, and what they resist. Not simply bliss, but a reaching through into the world, and to command pleasure and consummation as an act of healing. It is this that Mystery seems to fear most, and whenever I come close to manifesting it with a woman, the most vile images and paranoid thoughts invade the relationship.

In this Easter’s meditations then, I gather that the hoped-for manifestation will not come in my lifetime. I have spent my manhood on my hopes for you, ladies. It is time for you to make them your own. For until one of you matches strength with Christ, his strength cannot be received by the world.

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.”

Whitenessing the Truth

My response to Sera Beak’s “Redvolutionary” theology has been pretty passionate, and I’m planning a post on programming to let things cool down. But before I do, I’d like to elaborate the claim that I made yesterday: “There’s so much more for you than that.”

Perhaps the most popular spiritual autobiography at the opening of the 20th century was that of the “little flower”, St. Terese of Lisieux. While I was at first disturbed by Terese’s testimony to desire to die so that she might embrace Christ, I have come to understand that her recorded life was probably a last parting from those that were bound to her in family, in particular her father.

What was she releasing herself into? The answer is given to us in her revelation of a vision: Terese found herself in the company of three veiled women. One of them, Teresa of Avila, was the founder of her penitent order, and a woman who famously experienced an erotically ravishing love from Christ. Teresa parted her veil for the daughter of her grace, and Terese reported being bathed in the purest light. With an embrace, Teresa offered this paean: “Christ is well pleased with you.”

Why do these women hide their light from us? I offer a parable in that regard in Golem. We here on earth are a mixture of grace and corruption, a mix that cannot be sundered easily. When the pure light of truth shines upon us, the corruption must flee or be destroyed. The light is veiled because, as Moses was warned in Exodus, those not prepared to receive it will by destroyed by its power.

With the saints encountered by Terese, so it is with Christ [NIV 2 Peter 3:9]:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

And so to experience life in the fullness of its beauty. Can you imagine, ladies, what it would be like to have souls passing through the healing cauldron of your womb, not in a brief spasm, but as a steady stream that grows into a mighty river?

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

[NIV Rev. 22:1-2]

Please follow me here: Eve had her own gifts to tend, and to share them with men was never going to work. You, O woman, were meant to manifest the Tree of Life.

Women: Being Loved by Christ

When Jesus first taught in the synagogue in Jerusalem, his neighbors received him with skepticism verging on outrage [NIV Mark 6:2-6]:

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

This contrasts with the events just prior with a woman who had bled for twelves years, and was healed simply by touching Jesus’s clothes. Shocked by the experience, the woman hid in the crowd, but Jesus persisted [NIV Mark 5:33-34]:

Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

How does this work, spiritually? The aura that forms around the head of a saint is generated by souls pressing against their minds in the hope of discovering meaning and purpose. Meaning and purpose are discovered most readily in the saint because they have surrendered themselves to love of the world, and the world in turn reveals itself to saint’s examination. It is as said by Tagore:

Power said to the World, “You are mine.”
The World kept it prisoner on her throne.
Love said to the World, “I am yours.”
The World gave it the freedom of her house.

The saint looks into the world and sees its spiritual needs. Among the souls that surround the saint are such that can fulfill those needs. The saint has the privilege of facilitating the union of the two parties. But where the party in the world (the soul currently “living”) seeks instead power, the union fails. The souls choose to remain to the company of the saint. That saint, honoring the compact of their company, accepts them back.

Spiritual union can be ravishing, having many of the aspects of intercourse. For this reason, Catholic nuns once referred to themselves as “brides of Christ.” But the union can be a tenuous thing. If Jesus had not been present to voice his approval, would the hemophiliac woman have maintained her cure?

When I encounter woman struggling with this dynamic, I offer the encouragement, “Believe in yourself!” There are angels in the air wishing to enter into you to heal the world. Yes, it feels wonderfully sensual, but you don’t need sex to receive them. You don’t need the approval of a father. Spirits becoming angels yearn only for the spiritual union we know as “Christ” that found its steward when Jesus took up the cross. To receive them, you need only their approval, an approval gained most powerfully through a commitment to love and heal the world.