Something Beautiful is Happening Today

A person posed with an ecstatic expression, behind whom is blue sky and cloud.
Photo by Jaie Miller on Unsplash

Awake. Tongue tracing crisp
contours of air. Skin warmed,
eye illumined, red and green
cells fueled by the teacher
of generosity, whose passion
daily enters our world, meets
the land, generates newness.
Though your tears blur light
into halos, new needles green
from pine. Your breath offers
another chance to love, though
a thicket of thorn encircles you
and the brush of softness causes
your teeth and fists to clench.
The land is an altar upon which
to dedicate your bones to joy.
The wind gathers your tension
from the effort of forcing sense
upon the mystery of another day.
The river whispers the victory
of yielding, leading you to dark
space beyond any lover’s touch—
the relentless play of the heart.

On Wisdom

This space has lain silent, though it continues to speak with the archives of posts. Blogging was useful to me as a discipline of creating something weekly and putting it in front of an audience, of believing in my words and my process of exploration enough to make it available to anyone with an Internet connection. How many people clicked on the posts mattered less, though some posts were surprisingly popular and I continue to be pleased with how often my Jungian Beyoncé writings continue to get clicks. This past year, however, I felt less passion about blogging.

Ouranos, photo by Antigone059

When I think about the Internet, I think it is in some ways a venue to observe our collective consciousness. One can read one’s Facebook feed and see the “trends” of thought and conversation, the dialogues that seem fixed, the outraged responses and the outraged responses to the outraged responses. I associate this with the astrological meaning of the planet Uranus, with its associations with community, intellectual debate, and revolutionary thinking. Astrological Neptune is association with the ocean, the spiritual realms, dreams, illusions, and in my view the collective unconscious. In Greek myth, Ouranos is castrated by Kronos (Saturn), and his phallus thrown into the ocean (Neptune), which results in the birth of Aphrodite (Venus).

My interpretation is that the potency of our airy, conscious discourse is lost when we are unable to sink into the oceanic depths and connect with the unconscious influences there. Love makes possible, and is made possible by, the joining of our rational and irrational minds. And here I’m lost in airy analysis when I’m trying to say that I become weary by the constant dialogue and analysis made possible by the Internet. It’s exciting and feels important, it spurs anger and the desire to write and communicate, and at the same time it can be lacking in depth. We are at a point where it is possible for an event to happen in the world and less than two hours later have five different opinion pieces about why the event happened and what it means about us as people. There is not time for deep reflection and integration in which we can say something truly original, something that would truly move our conscious conversation forward. Instead we are reacting to each other based on the assumptions we already have.

Therapy is like that. I’ve come to notice that “analysis” often happens too early and ends up being a rehash of assumptions we’ve already made, the assumptions that created the situation. “I’m feeling uncomfortable. It’s because I don’t like my job.” That has some truth, and yet that does not move us toward anything. We learn nothing new about the discomfort and we get no insight into what might change that would make the work experience better. What helps move forward is to sit with our discomfort, to try to listen in a new way, to notice the stories we always tell and acknowledge that maybe they’re not the entire truth. Maybe these assumptions are dried leaves of our mind that need to be shed so that we can lay bare and fallow for a time, being with that emptiness and not-knowing, to make space for something truly new to grow from within us.

—-

I’ve written all of this and noticed that I titled the post “On Wisdom,” because I thought to say more about the oddness of the rhetorical box I’ve created for myself with this blog. I’ve enjoyed writing about therapeutic process and trying to communicate psychological insights in ways that are fresh, accessible, yet challenging to pop psychological assumptions that I think are unhelpful. At the same time I’ve not appreciated how this platform and that approach necessarily narrows the scope and loses nuance. What I have learned as a therapist is that every person needs to hear something different, even if their problems look superficially the same. We are all on a unique trajectory of growth and have unique histories that shape that growth. One person needs to hear, “You are not your symptoms. It is time to live the life you want even if it doesn’t feel right.” Another person needs to hear, “What you are experiencing is not your fault. You have an illness that is out of your control.” For both of these people, one message would be liberating while the other message would be a cage.

Or, in other words, there is a story about a Buddhist master and a student. The student comes to the master to complain. “Your advice is contradictory. You tell me to do one thing one day, and the opposite the next.”

The master nods. “Imagine that you are standing at one side of a bridge that has no rails, and you are helping a blind person to walk across it. When the person veers too far to the edge on the right, you yell, ‘Go left!’ When the person veers too far to the left, you yell, ‘Go right!'”

My intellectual focus on opposites, polarities, and dualism is in this spirit. My hope is to help people find their own Middle Way, which necessitates recognizing and accepting the opposites within us. This is so simple to write but in practice there is not a set of consistent, reliable codes to follow. Yet writing blog posts, I struggle to represent that, as often the topic of a blog post is “How to go right when you’re veering too far to the left,” which may be terribly bad advice for the people veering too far to the right. I could become more complex, but then my blog posts would be like this one, approaching 1,000 words, and thus unlikely to be read or shared by people on their lunch breaks.

All of this to say: I have ended my practice of weekly blogging for now, and have returned to writing longer essays and fiction to encourage me to reflect more deeply, research more, and think more critically about what I want to say.

Poem: This maddening itch in my heart is like–

This maddening itch in my heart is like–

by Frank Vincentz
  • poison woven into tissue,
    sepsis radiating from the site
    where unspoken words putrefy
    in anger and hope, toxifying
    blood, anxious for salve.
  • dreams and wishes withering
    under reality’s hot sun, lost;
    an empty hole in a brick wall
    betraying its completion;
    absence yearning for touch.
  • desire unnamed, the chafing
    of which tears the hole wider,
    fraying thread and loosening
    buttons until the entire fabric
    compels thorough refashioning.
  • a deep wound beginning to heal,
    pain throbbing and dissolving
    per some strange rhythm, work
    which scratching would undo,
    requiring patience, toleration.

 

forgetting a home you’ve never known

The Spirit of Phinney Ridge

Children
you are alien
upon me,
travelers pausing,
eating the flesh
of other lands,
drinking the water
of other streams,
wearing the skin
of other herds,
ignorant
of the names
of my beasts
and leaves.
You circle
without end
forgetting
a home
you’ve never
known.
What you imagine
among the stars
dwells within
this space.
Align to me,
orient
to the shadows
cast upon me.
Dissolve
your fences.
Root down
in my soil,
my sorrow,
my dark soul.
Feed from me,
sleep in me,
love on me,
surrender
your dead
to me.
Nourish me
with tears
and blood,
lay words
like stones
upon my back.
Be chilled
by my grief,
warmed
by my laughter.
There is no I
apart
from you.
Join your eye
to mine.

– A. Rella

Layers of Being Within the Moment

“I’ve got nothing to say.”

This is a mental habit, an automatic thought that arises when it’s time to sit down to write. Another automatic thought is “I don’t know,” which has a far more expansive field of meaning—“I don’t know” arises in response to many questions and demands.

On another layer is the emotional quality of feeling stuck, feeling stifled somehow, suggesting another truth. Some part of me felt the wish to show up to writing, and if there is a longing to write, there must be something to say. Yet that urge to express something has met with the leaden habit of resistance, “I’ve got nothing to say.”

The anxiety that emerges is, in my observation, often what happens when resistance blocks energy seeking expression. Anxiety is the longing to act rubbing against a refusal to act. If the longing cannot overcome the refusal, anxiety grows larger and more intense, or burns down into a dull depressive flame. Energy wants to move.

On another layer is the physical experience of standing here at my desk, looking at the screen, feeling the keys under my fingers, noticing those feelings of anxiety and stuckness. Somewhere in my gloriously biological brain, synapses are firing and moving closer together, braided into a new configuration, a complexity that yields new insight and activity. For whatever reason, as a human, I am not content with the contents of my brain. Some drive seeks to forge new connections, prune connections that lead to suffering, to find a new truth amidst the information my senses constantly receive.

The Ba (Soul) Returning to the Corpse

On another layer is what might be called the soul, the Self, the psyche, a part that is highly contested and difficult to find if you’re looking for it. This part seems a totality that is and is separate from the whole. When I dream, my waking mind’s rigid habits of thought relax and my mind’s eye opens to how this part of me, this psyche, perceives the world: A symbolic, non-rational, and profoundly deep and complex experiencing. It is here, I think, that the impulse seeking expression has its origin. Here are the muddy roots, the nourishing dark decay.

The mind is an expert organizer and manager, and the psyche is fertile chaos, an uneasy partnership. Disconnected from its roots, the mind becomes enamored of its own rationalizations. Our stories harden and our beliefs about ourselves and the world become fixed. Often these stories and beliefs are the strategies we use to manage or avoid these deeper experiences that threaten to overturn the mind’s certainty.

We think we are engaging in intellectual discussions when we are really arguing because we feel judged or unsafe and the emotional part of us is closing down. We ignore emotions that are not what we think we should feel. We engage in habits of thought and action that shut us down, block our self’s expression, and sometimes actively hurt us because our mind believes these habits are necessary for survival.

We can liberate the mind and sink deeper into the Self. We can become skeptical of our own rationalizations and stories, and we can look to what emotions lie beneath, what bodily sensations, what stirrings of the soul. We can allow room for the non-rational, those images, practices, or beliefs that are mind cannot easily contain and integrate. We need these experiences to keep ourselves from becoming stuck and blind in our mind’s self-perpetuating cycle. We need the things we do not understand to invite us to continue going deeper, forging those new connections, seeking what lies beneath.

The Lion and The Stillness

Strength, Visconti Tarot (15th Century)

I keep an oracle on my desk, a pot filled with challenges, and the one I drew said to deal with something that I’d been avoiding. I felt annoyed and swore at myself for having left this oracle in the first place, a trap waiting to spring. If I dig deeply enough beneath the habits of avoidance, postponement, and procrastination, I eventually find dread.

Dread is the lion at the mouth of the cave wherein my life’s energy and purpose is trapped. The lion shows up as anxiety, fear, even anger. The lion is something I do not trust, something dangerous and feral that stirs in me the immediate urge to resist. Why on earth would I want to go face a lion, even if the most precious treasure lies behind him? What would I do when I face the lion, unprepared and ill-equipped as I am to fight?

Instead of facing the lion I find other ways to spend my time, knowing all the while that he keeps what I desire. I check Facebook for hours, I go buy a box of cookies and eat it all, I sleep a lot, I exercise excessively, I work a thousand hours per week, I get into petty arguments on the Internet with people who do not exist in my daily life, and all the while in the back of my mind I know there’s a lion who’s guarding the only thing that truly matters to me.

In my imagination I’m a badass warrior who takes down the lion with one blow, or I’m such a glorious being that the lion immediately bows before me. On the other end, in my imagination the lion devours me in one gulp, or strips me apart bit by bit. For all my fear, I don’t know the lion, I only know my image of him.

When I decide, finally, that I can no longer survive in a world where I allow this lion to control what’s mine, I turn and walk toward him. Not knowing what will happen, the anger and dread rise within me and all I can do is keep breathing and seeking stillness. The lion returns whatever energy is directed toward him; he terrorizes the terrified; he assaults the angry; he devours the anxious. What I can do is breathe deeply into stillness. The anger is there, the fear is there, and I am there, breathing in stillness and breathing out softness. Each breath is a spell on myself, a spell to become something soft and supple, something that can adapt to the moment but move forward.

From this stillness emerges something quiet and profound. A love that reaches across the space. Eyes meet and still there is anger, still fear, still stillness, and I am there, breathing with it all and walking forward, and the lion is there, approaching me. When we meet, the lion’s mouth opens and within is the cave wherein my energy and purpose is kept. When we meet, I am fully myself and more than I was before.

The lion is always waiting.

Buddha under the Nagas, Nong Khai, Thailand — by jpatokal

In honor of all women and all feminities

Seven Forms of Het-Heru

Lady of the Universe

You in whom spirit is housed
and given sustenance pour
bliss and suffering from manifold
udders, streaming milk across
ink-oceans blooming with galaxies.
In jubilation, all beings honor You.
Eternal recurrence is Your crown,
the twelve patterns of all seasons.

Unable to find source artist—if known, please notify me.

Sky-Storm

Western terror, You scatter
tiny nations that choke
the land of HeruSet. Cobra
of Ra, You strike the enemies
of Ma’at without justification.

You from the Land of Silence

Hollowness of bone, deep
tone of silence emanating
from the great still sky; You
offer Your beloved the secret,
the emptiness of wisdom.

Bright Red

You are Ra entering the chamber
of sleep and sex, unveiling mystery
to craving hands and eyes starved
of sensuality: the delight of mocha
skin, cords of hair falling like rope
to lift supplicants from their longing.

Your Name Flourishes through Skill

Inspiration given to disciples,
not the amateur’s flourish,
but those who listen daily
and attempt Your work anew.
Blankness and raw material
is Your temple within which
pen, brush, or chisel textures
and imprints color and motion,
revealing Your secret name.

Lady of the House of Jubilation

Stand, children of Nut and Geb,
for every moment offers you joy.
Blessings on She who loves
and opens her breast to your
weakness, your bitterness.
Even after years of famine,
the harvest will return. Tears
of salt and dust will change
to the storm-song of laughter.

Mistress of the East & West

Dual-headed Het-Her,
Your arms trace the path
of Ra’s barque across space,
opening the gates of return
and emergence, wiping
clean the keening mouths
and soothing restless hearts:
waking to die, dying to wake.

NOTE: I had not planned to post this poem, but in light of the recent horrific event and the renewed conversation about misogyny’s poisonous influence in culture and role in perpetuating violence against women, I decided to offer this in honor of all women and all feminine people by celebrating this particular Goddess, also known as Hathor. As a male-identified person, I see my role as helping to reconstruct masculinity and maleness to create a more just and safer culture for people of all genders. 

Further reading:

Dear News Media: UCSB shooting is a hate crime

If I Admit That ‘Hating Men’ is a Thing, Will You Stop Turning it into a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?

Teaching Positive Masculinity

Against Patriarchy: 20 Tools for Men to Further Feminist Revolution

Dude, It’s You

To Eris

Eris, Goddess of Strife by VP-Manips

Subtle Twin, whose hand stirs
the cauldron of space,
twinkling chaos in grace:
unlock the closets, unrust
neglected doors, unseal
and spill what we may clean.
When Shame and Conflict
drop in with armfuls of beer,
let us laugh at predictable
outbursts, thoughts kneading
problems into dried-out clay
while the body screams
its longing to smash
through the hard crust
formed around the heart.
With silence filling the temple
at the center, may our minds
abandon certitude for joy,
finding solace in You,
God Who Shakes the Snow-Globe,
Monster Beneath Each Bed,
Goddess Who Is Left Off Every Invitation,
Joke That Breaks the Peace,
Blunderer Into the Wrong Conversation,
Missent Email,
Whisperer Of The Wrong Name at the Wrong Time,
Most Holy Malapropism,
Deleted Text Message,
Forgotten Person on My Friendslist Who Posts Embarrassing Comments,
Roaring Fart During Solemn Proceedings,
Innocent Question That Reveals What No One Wants to Address,
Lie Accidentally Named.
May every sickening secret
soak in Your antibiotic light.
Save us not from lost integrity,
but as we stumble, help us
lift in pride of self-acceptance
unembarrassed honesty,
admitting every crack and slip.

Odes to Time

To Linear Time

Blessings on you, highway
between birth and death
upon which experience
can flower and wither.
Finite currency, ever-depleting
account, the hoarding
of which bankrupts,
the wise spending
of which enriches.
Through you we receive
the gifts of variety,
multiplicity of sensation,
feeling and thought,
the complex textures
of Being offered to life.

Through you we learn
the powers of ending,
discernment, and priority,
savoring what already
is becoming lost.

Neheh and Djet, sometimes translated as “Time” and “Eternity”

To Cyclical Time

Praise to you, spiral galaxy
interlocking orbits
recurrence of season
and history reminding
us nothing is complete,
only refreshing its form.
Through you forgotten
lessons are relearned:
the old births the new,
the new restores the old.
Depth of meaning,
unfathomable purpose
rotating and shifting,
unfolding patterns
informing the cosmos.
Our eyes constellate
disparate stars, touching
every consciousness
that perceived a shape.
Each moment contains
eternal expanse.

Advice for a New Year

Ignore perfect answers.
Perfect, instead, mistakes.
Befriend and tend your shame,
that nuzzling beaten pup
whimpering through thin bars,
mutt tongue licking your heart.
Notice the traps you set
For friends and enemies
To prove trustworthiness
Again. Watch as they fail,
disappointed to your
expectations, or spend
your strength to help them win.
No problem having problems.
No worrying worry,
no fearing future fear.
Try hoping hopefully,
enjoying joyfully.
My father gave advice
About taking advice:
“Just say ‘Thank you,’ and do
whatever you want to.”