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Mindfuck

I was slogging away in the triple digit Nevada heat when I received one of those phone calls we don’t want to get, yet keep the ringer on all night so we don’t miss. A long-time friend of mine was beaten and left in the desert. He died in the hospital.

I collapsed in the dust amid my scattered tools. I sobbed, choked on despair. I was slammed by that irrevocable sense of loss—the emotion of death—of some palpable, human sensitivity being ripped away. I wanted to vomit but could only cry in the middle of a construction job site.

My co-worker offered me a ride home. I tried to make jokes—it’s my last defense against the devastation of tragedy, but I just kept thinking of that goofy kid, a kid who got caught up in some bad shit, but a kid struggling to breathe, blasted by the sun, bones broken, lips split. I couldn’t wait for the numbness that inevitably follows such emotional output.

It was all bullshit. I found out, after about an hour, that it was somebody’s fucking prank. Never have such diametrically opposed emotions shared space in my mind and body. Intense rage coupled with extreme joy. The re-contextualizing of reality brought about by a death coupled with deep shame at having been hustled. I was a sap, a rube, a fool, and I wanted very much to meet the author of this lie, and have a frank and violent discussion about his antics.

What a mindfuck. I was numb the rest of the day like I’d gone to a funeral, but I had no reason to feel that way. I’ll take this kind of resurrection any day over the death of a friend, but believe me: it is a thoroughly enervating experience.

I’ll say this. To those of you yet untouched by death and illness and all the shit that breaks us or engenders empathy in the human soul, think twice before posting some false bullshit that people might take seriously. Think of people’s mothers if nothing else. Maybe imagine your mother hearing that kind of news. Or imagine one of us who cares catching up with you in person.


The God I Know

I did some time in Sunday school when I was seven or eight years old, in a flaky, New Age Christian church of some kind. I’m told I connected Jesus Christ to black widow spiders by some no doubt tenuous thread, but I don’t recall that. I do, however, remember the “teacher” asking us to draw a picture of the most powerful weapon. Bam! Mushroom cloud. Atomic bomb. Nailed it (don’t bring up nails around Jesus…) Right? Wrong. Trick question. The dude said the most powerful weapon was love.

Depending on how he or possibly she worded it, I think that is a terrible analogy. The question was probably what weapon eliminates all enemies (or at least I hope it was), but that and my mother getting remarried are the only childhood memories I have of church. I steadfastly rejected religion through my teen years and into my twenties, when I began attending services here and there at different churches.

My girlfriend took me to a predominantly black Baptist service, and I enjoyed that because they played their music live and loud. The drummer was just getting down. Once it came time to hug strangers and tell them how much they are loved, my social anxiety sky-rocketed well past heaven. Another time I found myself sitting alone in back of a service listening to the guest speaker, who also painted beautiful pictures of angels as light and color. She seemed to be speaking directly to me—every statement applied directly to my struggles and resonated deeply with me. I’ve always been embarrassed by public displays of grief, yet I cried uncontrollably through the entire service. I went to a handful of funerals, one of which disgusted me completely, steering me back toward my anti-religious path.

I consumed myriad kinds of hallucinogens, in sometimes dangerous amounts. These experiences definitely broadened my mind, but they never answered the God questions for me: Is there one or more? If so, does it or they give a fuck about us?

In 2016 I joined the Satanic Temple—a non-theistic “religion” that combats the oppression of people by Christians using the very tools employed by the church. The Satanic Temple views Satan, as I understand it anyway, as a literary figure symbolizing the eternal rebel. Well, all that was right up my alley, but I don’t think that stuff has anything to do with my beliefs concerning actual deities. Taoism and Buddhism were/are also attractive to me because of their lack of Gods.

Strung out, heart-broken, and damn near ready to give up, I had the good fortune to be invited to a traditional church that was totally foreign to me as well as illegal for me to attend. During the first service I experienced a presence FAR greater than myself that I can only describe as divine. Every element of that service was complexly sacred, resonating with my spirit and my life on innumerable levels. It was beyond comprehension. Afterward I felt reborn. I knew no fear. My heart had been healed. I had communed with divinity and been blessed by its touch. I’ve been allowed to attend three such services, and every one connected me to that divinity and left me feeling rejuvenated in spirit, mind, and body. The only church in which I’ve ever seen God is illegal for me to attend in a country that prides itself on its religious tolerance and freedom. Really though, I wouldn’t have it any other way.


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.


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.


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.


Further, Darker Experiences with DMT

Last time I wrote about DMT I had nothing negative to say about it. Well, I feel I should amend that somewhat; my second experience with it was nothing like the first.

I had the rare privilege of being invited to several religious ceremonies that were actually life-changing for me: I was a skeptic going in and each time felt the presence of something divine or awesome, definitely greater than me, sentient, and something which I could not help but be humble before. A friend of mine, who invited me to these proceedings, warned me against mixing medicines—a warning I treated like most warnings and ignored. That, my friends, was a mistake.

I met up with my homie and decided to partake of the DMT foregoing any ritual. I hit the DMT, which tastes like the asshole of a burning tire by the way, and immediately felt like I was completely naked, exposed, vulnerable, vomiting, and dying. I fucking thought I was dying, and I’m not going to lie, it terrified me. There were no celestial beings to welcome and teach me this time. Luckily, I was still aware of my trusted friend’s presence. I don’t know if this was the case for sure, but it seemed at the time like the only way my spirit could find it’s way back to my body and I could continue living was by that presence guiding me back.

When I came to I was fully clothed, and had not vomited, but was definitely still reeling in the fear of death. Unpleasant as the experience was, it was still informative. That little taste of death made me, a somewhat self-destructive person, realize how much I really wanted to live. It also taught me that these powerful medicines and sacraments are not to be played with. They are life and death and should be treated accordingly. I’ve done a great deal of hallucinogens over my life, and I consider those separate drug experiences. While the uninitiated may think these medicines are just drugs, I disagree. They are literal sacraments; they plug you into the divine, which has been rough for me each time, but completely rewarding in the long run. They are not short cuts by any means.


I See…I See…

About six or seven years ago I took my kids to see the fireworks on July 4th. Rancho San Rafael Park was absolutely packed. I had one child riding on my shoulders and the other, who has difficulty walking due to a stroke—especially back then, stumbling along beside me. The deepening nightfall made it increasingly difficult for my son to walk without falling on his face, so I finally found a few cubic feet of space and decided to stop before my son broke his ankle.

The whole crowd was standing, and I had my youngest child still on my shoulders so he could see the fireworks. That’s when I heard the mewling, annoyed voice.

“Thanks for ruining the fireworks for my family. Now my kids can’t see anything.” I was already irritated by the situation, and these complaints did little to alleviate that.

“You could just ask me politely to move,” I responded, making no attempt to mask my own rancor.

“My family got here early to pick out a nice place to sit so my kids could watch the fireworks, but you show up at the last minute and block our view. Thanks for ruining the holiday for my kids.” I turned around to face this woman, actually calculating how fast her husband might respond after I socked her in the face. I wouldn’t have done such a thing, most likely, but the fact that I thought about it at all shows I was not handling the situation or my emotions very well.

That’s when my youngest son intervened.

Perched atop my shoulders, he waved his hands over my shaved head, stared at it intently as if looking into a crystal ball and said, “I see…I see…an angry woman.” It took everything I had not to laugh out loud. He instantly diffused the situation. My thoughts of violence vanished and the “angry woman” even apologized and offered us cookies. It was a good thing there was someone present smarter than the adults to keep things from getting out of hand. One of the many blessings of children is that they remind us not to take ourselves too seriously.

IMG_20190513_202917


Beware the Sand Shoveler

Sand Shoveler

I have a friend who is a hard-working carpenter. He’s compassionate and generous to a fault. He’s quick to laugh and easy to get along with. Because he’s dealt with a good deal of adversity in his life, he possesses empathy for people who walk difficult paths.

About a month ago, this friend of mine was shoveling sand into the back of his truck to repair a water line at his home so his family could have water. He was parked in an area designated for just this purpose—people come and get sand. I don’t know if the cops were called or just happened on the scene, but a sheriff arrived to investigate what the media described as “suspicious behavior”. The sheriff patted him down and discovered he was carrying knives—also known as tools. Carpenters carry tools; they’re weird like that. My friend was compliant and handed over his knives, and when he was searched the sheriff discovered my friend was in possession of small amount of narcotics. Due to the cowardice and incompetence of the sheriff, things quickly got out of hand.

The sheriff had my friend interlace his fingers and put them on his head, which he did, and the cop took hold of him. Back pain and construction go hand-in-hand, and the sheriff repeatedly forced my friend, who was being otherwise compliant, into a position that caused his back to spasm, forcing him to adjust his posture. My friend asked this thug to stop hurting him, and tried to tell him he couldn’t hold that position. The officer, despite being in no danger, felt threatened by this and took my friend to the ground and proceeded to strike him repeatedly. Perhaps he forgot his job was to serve and protect (and de-escalate), not pretend he’s a fucking cage fighter against someone who can’t even protect himself without risking great consequences. The sheriff punched him something like seventeen or eighteen times, and at no point did my friend attempt to fight back. All he did was try to stand up—a natural enough reaction when another human being is savagely beating you.

The media had a slightly different take on the situation:

That’s when, the deputy reports, the man became uncooperative, broke free and ran, leading the deputy after him. That led to a struggle during which the deputy was unable to free his hands to call for help.

“That’s when our Good Samaritan came to the rescue,” Sheriff Balaam says. “She observed the violent nature of the struggle and immediately called 911 so that dispatch could advise other responding deputies about the urgent nature of the situation.”

There’s several problems with this interpretation. First, my friend told this hooligan where he lived. His truck was parked there. Why would he run? Where would he go? The only reason this gangster in blue couldn’t reach his radio is because his hands were occupied trying to smash in my friend’s face. If he felt threatened, he could’ve asked my friend to sit down until other officers arrived, and he would’ve done so.

I’m not only sickened by the complete lack of the officer’s ability to control the situation while dealing with a compliant person, but I’m disgusted by the media and the police and the so-called “good Samaritan” damn near breaking their collective arm patting themselves on the back for averting near disaster. Fuck each and every one of you. All you averted was a working-class family man from providing water for his family. Yeah, he had some drugs on him. Did he break an unreasonable law? Yes. Should it be up to the government to regulate what we put into our bodies if we’re not hurting anyone? Fuck no. And should citizens be beaten instead of restrained by incompetent officers? I don’t think they should.

I recognize police have a difficult and dangerous job, but I also think that because of their position, they have a duty to conduct themselves in a professional and civil manner. An officer, like any human, should protect himself when in danger, but I would hope they would be able to discern the difference between a compliant person and an actual threat.

My buddy took it all in stride. Whenever people asked what happened to his face he told them the truth—not such good publicity for the cops. His sense of humor gave birth to the Sand Shovler—a heinous, dangerous deviant who should be avoided at all costs. Beware the Sand Shoveler. Luckily, we have the police to protect us from such horrors.