See Which One Fills Up Faster

I remember the very moment I fell in love with writing. I was young, not quite a teenager, and my imagination was splitting the seams of my skull. I could alleviate this pressure somewhat, as well as occupy my time alone (and I was a lonely child), by conducting large scale battles between tiny, imaginary soldiers. I don’t remember what these soldiers were—no doubt gargoyles, ninja-vampires, and beasties of that nature—but I remember seeing them vividly. I picked up on language quickly, and soon enough was able to manifest some of that experience that had been previously confined to my head.

The first thing I remember writing that I liked was about a wizard strolling into an encampment and making warriors drop their swords because the hilts had grown red hot with a wizardly flourish. Pretty cliché stuff, yes, but not to me, not at the time. To me writing about that magic was a magic in itself. It was pure joy. I was delighted. The possibilities were fucking intoxicating. I could create anything I could imagine, and my imagination was snorting and virile as a young bull.

That love affair with writing has been a difficult one, however. I remember someone in high school saying to me, with a hint of jealousy, that writing came so easily to me. Oh, how wrong that person was. Because I had a knack for it, I felt responsible for developing it as much as possible. And I don’t care who you are: learning to write well is hard. If you don’t think it is, I’d wager you’re not pushing yourself. In fact, at times I was so focused on trying to write well that I lost the joy of it. This magical pastime that I thought I loved because it gave me such delight was suddenly a maddening burden. I have always felt compelled to write, though I have not always written. This state is one of discord—I feel guilty about spending my time engaged in non-writing activities. My angst builds, I berate myself for being lazy instead of just getting to work and that spiral adds to my other spirals. Once I discovered the sweet oblivion of alcohol it was a wrap.

I’ve always considered myself a writer, even when I wasn’t writing. Kind of like a non-practicing Christian or something I guess. When I am writing, especially when I’m writing in a disciplined and frequent manner, I feel like I’m utilizing my time the best I can. When I’m not writing, I feel like I am wasting valuable time. As I approach my mid-forties, I realize how limited that time really is, and I regret how much of it I have squandered on hangovers and recovering from psychotic drug binges. Regret is useless, and I don’t engage in it often, but when I do it’s because I’ve lost time with my children or my writing.

I have recently renewed my commitment to the art of writing, which had become very difficult. So difficult I felt I’d lost the ability to do it well, and the joy that stems from that. Watching your dreams die is bleak indeed. However, I haven’t given up yet. I kept writing whatever I could, sometimes just a few chicken-scratch repetitive thoughts in a journal. If I couldn’t rub two thoughts together enough to write due to black depression or apathy then I’d read. Reading is brain food for writers. Eventually, I started building stories again. Parts of them anyway.

Tonight that persistence has rewarded me. I caught a creative wave rolling out of the ether and rode that bitch with the almost-forgotten childhood joy of imagining. I’m as happy and fulfilled in this moment as I am when I spend time with my children. And bothers and sisters, it is a god damn refreshing breath from that wasteland sensation of inevitable failure. I wish each and every human being the experience of absolute joy in whatever endeavor he or she engages in (provided you’re not hurting anyone in the process—if you are I hope the world around you corrects your error and quickly). I think the planet could definitely benefit from a little more happiness, and a little less suffering. But you know, wish in one hand, shit in the other…..


Mary Jane Meditation

Meditation tends to improve my life in almost every aspect. Despite that fact I rarely sustain a disciplined, consistent practice. I recently started meditating again, and have kept up an (almost) daily practice for about two weeks. I intend to improve my discipline and cultivate a daily practice.

Although my born-again practice is essentially in it’s infancy, I had an inspiring experience the other night. I’ve been doing a “spherical breathing” meditation, which in the past has been interesting to say the least. I wasn’t feeling much from the practice, but I kept doing it because I know it works, even if I don’t feel I’m doing it well. I’m going to sidestep the whole discussion about “successful” meditation (some teachings affirm that each sitting is the perfect practice.) Sometimes in the morning my mind would even drift so much that I would stop focusing on the fourteen breaths I was doing and start thinking/dreaming about people or being at work or other distractions. It seems my mind doesn’t like being told what to do, even by itself. I’ll admit that even though I don’t think one should pursue a goal necessarily while sitting, I was becoming mildly frustrated and decided to try a little experiment.

I find little recreational value in marijuana, but I have noticed, in the past, that it enhances, among other things, my sensitivity to the movement of energy in my body (if this discussion is irritating my fellow skeptics out there, I recommend breaking off now.) Due to the availability now of high-grade yesca I usually have some around even though I’m not even a little bit of a stoner (at least not anymore). So I took one hit and ran through the practice twice.

The second time I did the breaths, all the visualizations were far more intense, strong enough to stimulate physical sensations, which I associate with the movement of energy or chi in my body. The last breath of the technique involves moving a focused ball of energy from one’s third chakra to one’s fourth. When I did this I had the vivid experience of both physical and internal ascension. After the breaths are completed, the practice involves unregulated breathing and just being, adopting a yielding mindset, feeling sensations of flowing energy, and fostering an emotion of complete compassion So I did just that.

I was immediately overcome with a deep sense of real fear, the origin of which was hidden to me. In hindsight, I realized this was probably the same fear I recognize as general angst and social anxiety. The fear was as intense as the rest of the experience, but I resolved to sit there, just be, and stay compassionate. I accepted whatever was going to happen to me, whatever I was afraid of, was going to happen, but for that one moment, I was in no danger and didn’t need anything I didn’t have. That acceptance, which arose from compassion, soon dissolved all fear. I realized in that moment that love and compassion are antidotes for fear. The threat of love being lost can cause fear, but that’s not love born of acceptance

I hope this doesn’t sound like so much rambling. The experience was profound for me, but such experiences are by their very nature difficult, sometimes impossible, to couch in language. I think the weed gave me a boost, inspired me some, but I know it’s not the key for me. I repeated the experiment the next night, and had nowhere near the same experience. I feel it’s probably best to return to as sober a practice as I can manage. I’ve learned the hard way there are no shortcuts to anything worth taking a lifetime to practice.


Thinking About Love

I’ve fallen in love—the real kind of love, the step in front of a bus to save you kind of love—four times. One of those times led to marriage (and consequently divorce). I haven’t been able to stop loving anyone I’ve really come to love, and not for lack of trying. For eight years after my divorce I felt what I thought was absolute hatred for my ex-wife. During a short sabbatical in Reno’s jail (where they’ll leave the light on for you), I realized for the sake of my children, I had to set that burden down. When I did I eventually saw it for what it was: not hatred but deep emotional injury that I dressed up as anger and tried to ignore, which is much like drawing eyes on an abscess and pretending it’s a friendly little head growing out of your arm.

Another of these loves, also wounded by her past, repeatedly fled me, believing me to be unfaithful and dishonest, which I was neither. I’m no psychologist, but I felt like maybe because of her past, she couldn’t bring herself to believe that I actually loved her. Perhaps the betrayals she’d suffered so early in life and so intensely were too much to ask any person to overcome.

What I am struggling with is this: is it enough to love and be loved? I have yet to experience a relationship lasting over four years, so I really have no answers. Can your love for someone be a detriment, an affliction that will harm you more than heal you in the end? And if that is the case, is that real love? I know relationships can be bad for our lives, but can a truly loving relationship (I mean where the love is flowing both directions, or however many directions one is into) be detrimental in the long term? The first example that comes to mind is the classic abusive relationship, but I discount that immediately because if a person is abusing his or her partner, I’d argue the love is not flowing both directions.

This is a purely philosophical discussion as far as I am concerned: right now I am more single than Adam with all his ribs. But if one of the three people who reads this has any answers, right or wrong, I’d love to hear them. They might come in handy some day.


The Way of the Water Spirit

 
 Let me flow like water sublime
           rolling over and around             
                  knowing no obstacle
                         only ever-changing possibility
              drifting with the Tao on the tides of yang and yin
           no hesitation
               cascading into void
                     carving through stone itself
       down                                             
           down                         
                 humbly flowing
             to a stillness so perfect
          the whole world, reflected, cannot mar me
                with its passage overhead 

Drabble No. 1

Despite what one may find in the dictionary, apparently a drabble is a story that is exactly one hundred words long, not counting the title (I don’t think.) I wrote my first drabble and submitted it, and the editor was kind enough to give me the reasons why it was not accepted. I applied the advice as best I could and revised the drabble, which I present here to you.

Playtime

Jenna hated her sister more than Satan’s witches did the rising sun. She pictured that pretty, frail wretch, letting the black ache swallow her. She savaged the mane of her plastic horse with a sharp, steel comb, picturing bloody scratches scribbled across the canvas of her sister’s pale flesh. She let hatred chew on her guts, singing a malevolent lullaby. She watched as the shadows grew around her, strangling the weak light bleeding from her small, white candle. She stabbed the toy horse again and again, reveling in the cries of pain from the room next door. Her sister’s room.


What I Keep Forgetting

Today has been an interesting day, a kind of culmination of thoughts and energies. I’ve battled depression all my life, even as a child. Sometimes I deal with it well, other times, uh, not so much. I have quite a set of tools for dealing with afflictive emotions in a healthy manner, but one of those emotions is often apathy, and an apathetic man is not prone to picking up tools, much less using them.

But today I remembered to change the on-going negative dialogue in my head to a positive one. I spent some time meditating about a goal I want to achieve soon, and then I took action to cement my intention. I felt significantly better. Part of that meditation was remembering things and people I am grateful to have in my life. Gratitude is so powerful to combat feeling low—remembering all that you’ve been blessed with rather than focusing on what you think you need. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you probably have everything you need. If you don’t, I hope you soon do.

Congruent with this positive thinking was a martial arts class I attended. I was uke in an Aikido demonstration this weekend, and the person performing the techniques in the demonstration also taught the class tonight. My friend and sempai says, “Martial arts are a metaphor for life.” I believe this to be true: the principles taught in the arts of combat apply directly to living. In tonight’s class, we practiced “riding the energy” of the attack. This isn’t a concept I want to go deeply into as far as the martial applications, though I’ve included a low-quality video of the Aikido demonstration that displays this concept fairly well.

This concept of “riding the energy” applies directly to dealing with depression too. Instead of resisting what life throws at you, including a chemical imbalance in the brain, one can learn to blend with these circumstances—ride the energy of them—and redirect that energy into a positive outcome. In my case, I recognize I want to change my living situation. Instead of feeling hopeless and consequently begin my negative self-talk, I acknowledge my discomfort as imbalance or disharmony in my life, and take steps to change it. Just this change in thought has already made me feel better, thus making it easier to achieve my goals. What I keep forgetting is to stay aware of my mind, and in control of it. Left unchecked it tends to lead me to unpleasant situations. If I keep training, meditating, and writing, then I’ll keep remembering how to keep my life in check. I’m grateful I have these tools and opportunists to draw on when things start feeling bleak. If you watch the video, I’m the guy getting tossed around for most of it. I wanted to post the video, but WordPress wouldn’t allow it, so I uploaded it to YouTube and provided the link.

https://youtu.be/IC4WZ_wUUts


Secret Garden

My grandfather on my mother’s side always had a green thumb. He loved to grow plants. I have fond memories of his humid greenhouse bursting with flourishing fauna. It seems he’d passed this love of growing on to one of my uncles who, as a teenager, attempted to grow some clandestine pot in the attic.

If you’re a parent, you know how un-sneaky your kids can be when they think they are being sneaky. My grandparents couldn’t help but hear him clambering around in the attic. He’d disappear and they’d watch cracks appear in the ceiling when he occasionally missed a rafter as he shuffled about in the cramped space.

My grandfather, rather than confront my uncle and lecture him, waited for him to go to bed one night and did a little clandestine planting of his own. He swapped out the pot seeds with those of radishes, and listened each night as my uncle tended carefully to his plants. As the family story goes, he took excellent care of those radishes. My grandparents very much enjoyed observing him meticulously tend to his plants, and I can imagine them biting their lips in stifled laughter.

I don’t know how long it took my uncle to figure out he wasn’t as sneaky as he thought, but I imagine he endured a hearty mix of anger and embarrassment. I only hope I can parent my soon-to-be-teenage children as creatively as my grandfather did with those radishes.


A Few Poems

 
 
 Breakfast

 on my knees
 sickly genuflecting
 biting a needle
 pinching a cotton
 I prepare to receive
 my daily sacrament
 communing with a false god
 omnipotent for all I know
 I pray that isn't so
 
 
                             Doing Dishes 

                            This grin cracks
                    in the mirror
                         like an old plate
                      used too long
 
 
                      Ceramic teeth—jagged shards—
            clatter-dance ‘round a blood-rust stain:
                  the drain agape and unsated—
                  a silent throat of slime
                 where a painted flower façade  
               finds relief in the breaking 
 Kamikaze   
 
 I fly my love like a kamikaze
  grasping at divinity through reckless devotion
 knowing it always ends in flames
    and smoking ruin
 
 

If I Had a Lover

If I had a lover
She'd be ethereal and free
She'd dance among the midnight sprites
And sing sacred songs to me

If I had a lover
Her beauty would mesmerize
Gleaming like the moon and stars
Bejeweled in nighted skies

If I had a lover
She'd be soft of heart and kind
At her touch the most tangled knots
Of sorrow would unwind

If I had a lover
No longer would I grieve
For in her loving, laughing presence
At last I'd find reprieve


More God Talk

I wrote this January 17th, 2017, but I wanted to include it now because it is semi-relevant to the last post. Here ya go:

“And my god is a frail god and very thin-skinned and sensitive.” –David Cross

I have been or am a skeptic, an asshole, a solid cat, a childish prick, an inspiration, and a disappointment. In other words, I’m just another human like you, presuming you’re a human. I have my doubts sometimes. And as said human (and skeptic), I’ve had a rocky relationship with religion and religious folk. But I’ve recently had several humbling experiences during which I was in the presence of something awesome (that’s awe-inspiring to you slang aficionados like myself, but whose intelligence I’ve just insulted—I warned you in the opening sentence: I’m a dick.) That “something” was sentient and terrifying and compassionate all at once, and I don’t pretend to understand it, but it was definitely a higher power. I didn’t expect it to be there, in fact I had my usual doubts, and I didn’t “kind of” feel it. It was in my face like a celestial gangster. And I’m not trying to convince anyone or defend it. It doesn’t need defending. I’m just speaking with those who’ll listen about something important to me.

Those who know me might understand how this shakes up my world view. And, this is me choking on a lifetime of rebellion, but Christ (as in Christ consciousness) refuses to be ignored, despite all my efforts to keep that troublemaking rebel out of my worldview. I think I would’ve liked the guy personally, but damn, I’ve had an ass-full of Christians. Not the good ones, you’re cool as hell, or, uh, heaven, but the others. You know who you are, especially the God Hates Fags knuckleheads. Enjoy your visit to Reno at my brother-in-law’s funeral? Thank you to the bikers who held up American flags at his veteran’s funeral to block the family’s sight of the Westboro Baptists, and revved their bikes loud enough to drown out those jackasses. All the lawyers in their stupid army didn’t make them feel safe that day. My heart and thanks goes out to you all, even the dude sporting the SS hat in the newspaper picture. I’m sure we wouldn’t see eye-to-eye on much, but thanks man. I guess God Hates Reno now, too. Who didn’t know that?

I set out to write about a concept in martial arts called the indomitable spirit, and this is what came out. I thought I was off topic, but I realized I’m not. I recently lost that indomitable spirit. I was real close to broken, on the verge of hopelessness, consumed with apathy and barely able to function despite being physically healthy. Having the experiences I did reached into me, laid bare my deepest sorrows, and healed me with unrelenting and unconditional compassion. Good news—I got my indomitable spirit back.

I’m human, like most of you, so I’ll never be fixed, but I’ve been able to start putting the past where it belongs, which, by the way, is not in the future. And, like a cliché quarterback millionaire, I have to say it’s all thanks to that God thing-whatever you want to call it (I think God can probably take a joke, fuck he/she/it seems to pull plenty of cosmic pranks…), and my family, friends, and gifted mentors.

So the point of all this rambling? I’m not sure, just some stuff I wanted to express. I guess I mainly wanted to encourage people to understand that the path they’re on is the only one they can walk, and if someone criticizes you or doesn’t agree or whatever, smile, give ‘em the finger, and let them trip on their own stones. I’m sure you’ve got plenty of your own to deal with without their judgement. I invite your comments or whatever. If you read this, thank you. If it pissed you off, then at least I know it’s effective art. Namaste motherfuckers.