Thursday, September 27, 2007


He took my elbow. I could feel the warmth of his fingers pressing through the gauzy fabric of my blouse. I thought it would be warm that day, but it was chilly, instead, and my nipples were prominently on display, announcing "I'm cold" or "I'm hot" to those who saw me, depending on their interpretations of my erect status. His breath was warm, too, as it flowed over my neck and ear. "You're trembling," he said. The low, intimate tone sent a convulsive shiver down my spine. The hair all over my body prickled, and warmth glowed in my core. The waves of cold from the air battled the heat radiating from within. I wanted him to take me to bed and warm me up. I wanted to feel the brands of his hands cradling me, coaxing the coals of my passion. He pulled the chair out for me and I sat, and the waitress handed me a menu, and I sighed, knowing it contained nothing that would satisfy my hunger.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Words have power

Words have power
and language is mightier than time
intoxicating as wine
second only to the moment
which can be captured in words
and relived
like the memory of sex.

I have power over words
the music of them flows from me
creating symphonies of sensual immediacy
entrancing you
conquering you
enflaming your imagination
stopping the flow of time
doling it out

Words cleave your mind
my voice driving a wedge
between the higher-functioning halves
penetrating deep into the limbic brain
calling forth that aroused tingle
in your pelvis.

You want my words
you swallow them as they drip from my lips
thirsting for the power of my voice
for the bounce of verbs and adjectives
across the playground of your mind.

Yes words have power
the power to create language
and language the power to create problems
and the problem you have now
is the world of fire in your loins
and what must be done to conquer it.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

'self' as a function of 'being'

Enlightenment struck my mind like lightening as I sat on the cheerful orange-red couch, looking into the care-worn face of the woman I was paying to coach me through the 'grieving process'--a process which seemed so simple on paper... In that moment, the two halves of my brain split open like a flowerbud erupting. With exquisite clarity, I awakened to the realization that I had a fixed conception of who I was, who my True Self was. I had this idea that my Self was something that existed somewhere, that it was a thing. And I recognized that most people I knew subscribed to this notion of the 'thingness of self'.

In examining this concept, I found that there were defining moments in my life that seemed to reveal something about me, sometimes good, sometimes bad. I could find myself in a set of circumstances and know, based upon my past experiences and my understanding of who I was as a result, that it was something I could or could not handle. A bully could push another child down and I would fearlessly walk up to him and give him a push back and belittle him. Why wasn't I afraid? Because I knew myself as someone who could withstand a bigger bully than any I would ever find in the school yard (my father) and I knew myself as a protector of those smaller than myself (my sisters). I knew myself as smart and my sisters as pretty, because that is what others said. I knew myself as kind because I found myself unable to intentionally harm another. I knew myself as unlovable, despite all the people in my life who said they loved me, because when I was a girl my mother left me, and if my mother left me, surely there must have been something wrong with me, because your mom is supposed to love you always, no matter what, right? Grandmother told me that a young lady must be cool, calm, collected, cultured, poised, refined, and intelligent, and she did her best to raise me up as such, and for the most part, I self-identified as those things. It was a comfort to know who I was in the uncertain, ever-changing mess that life was.

A few years ago, I found myself experiencing a profound dissatisfaction with who I was, and what's more, a stubborn resistance to changing. I found myself saying "That's just how I am" and "I've always been that way", far too often, using those words as a barrier between my self and the dangers of questioning the nature of that self. Four people I loved died in as many years, and my inability or unwillingness to process and share my pain and grief created a gulf between myself and the living. Eventually, it was my recognition that the stress-response and coping mechanisms I had developed prior to adulthood were hopelessly outdated and needed changing that caused me step outside myself and seek help and open my mind to 'new' ideas.

"I feel lost, I don't know who I am anymore,"
I told my therapist. "I used to know who I was. I need help finding myself, finding better ways to cope with death and stress."

"What if there is no True Self?" My therapist asked me. "What if there is no Self to find? What if the only way to cope with stress is to accept the inevitability of loss and let your old Self die?"

And so I began an inquiry into the nature of the 'thingness of self', and in time that inquiry led me to consider that 'self' is not a static thing, but rather, that 'self' is a function of 'being'. By this, I mean, the self is a function of who we are being in the present moment. And it just so happens that, for much of my life, who I was being was my past. Who I was being was the self I had constructed, the Shining Tower of Self built with stones labeled 'smart' and 'strong' and 'resilient' and 'kind', and in its shadow dwelled all the things about myself I had rejected. The sea of life pounded at this foundation--at the thingness--of my self, and I did battle with it, resenting the intrusions of uncertainty and change and loss.

And as I did so, I grew more rigid. I clung to a way of being that was defined by what had worked for me in the past. I am these things, I told myself, I have these qualities, and I will survive this--I will not be undermined. My stubborn attachment to this sense of myself basically lead me to pretend that everything was fine when it was not. Eventually, the tension created between the circumstances of my life, and the person I was trying to be, made things unbearable for me. I was trying to force the reality of the moment to fit into the mold of the past so I wouldn't have to change.

And one day I stood at the top of the shining tower of self, and I bared myself to the agony of my being, to the agony that who I was being was creating in me, and something happened. For the first time in my adult life I was truly present to the moment, and to my experience of it, and in that moment of transcendence I understood. I understood that who I was was a function of who I was being, and that I was free to choose to be another way, and that I had nothing to lose by embracing each and every moment of my life as it came. I had nothing to lose because the past was dead and I had been living in and being in the past, and in doing so was denying myself life. I once mourned the loss of my innocence, of my wonder, of the magical thinking of childhood. Today I experience wonder and joy. I know innocence when I am not reliving the past in the present moment. And I have embraced 'magical thinking' -- I have learned to think in terms of what is possible -- no matter how improbable -- and pull it toward me, to live it, to live as if it is not just a possibility, but a reality.

Because if who I am is not set in stone, then I can be whoever I want to be. And if who I am is not set in stone, then neither is my future. Anything I want out of life is possible if I am true to the moment, and living in the moment, and being who I want to be, each moment, every moment of my life. So, if I want to know who I am, I have only to examine how I am being. And if how I am being is out of sync with who I want to be, well then, its either time to revise my expectations of who I want to be, or, its time to bring my actions in line with who I want to be, so as to avoid unnecessary anguish and suffering. Who I am (for myself and others) is truly a function of who I am being in the world.

And speaking of being, right now I am being very lazy. I should be packing, not babble-writing.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Confessing an inauthenticity

I spent 12 hours in a workshop yesterday. Friday I was all jazzed about going there, about hearing about what everyone was up to. But Saturday morning I had this pall hanging over me. I felt down, suppressed, contained and constrained. When I tried to examine why I was feeling that way, I touched upon the issues of my mother's death 6 years ago and my sister's imminent death sometime in the next 6 months. I sat down and wrote the blog entry for September 8th, titled "Death, peace, and beauty" as an attempt to work through what I was thinking/feeling, but what I ended up doing was rationalizing and deciding how I should think and feel.

I was being completely inauthentic, because I was evading allowing myself to feel what I was feeling. For some reason I've always found intense emotions personally dangerous, and with regards to my mother and my sister, there is such a swell of emotion that if I even so much as crack the hatch on those feelings, tears well in my eyes. So I wrote up this elegant little lesson to myself about what was appropriate for me to think and feel about the situation, hopped into my car, and drove to the worshop. And the closer I got to this workshop that I had been looking forward to, the worse I felt. I was positively glum when I got there, and when someone asked me how I was, I said "I'm here, but I don't want to be."

The woman I sat next to asked me what was going on. I told her. She asked me how I was feeling. I told her I was feeling sad, angry, resentful that I had no choice but to accept that my sister was going to die. She said to go with those feelings. Tears filled my eyes. I was appalled as a couple slid down my cheeks. I rarely cry. I hate crying. I shook my head and said, "No." She asked, "Why not?" and I answered, "Because it won't make any difference." She said, "You're being inauthentic. You won't even honour those feelings. Be with them. Be present to them." And then we were interrupted, and I was grateful. The tears subsided, and I did my best to be present to what was going on in the workshop: a discussion about self-expression and leadership, about integrity and personal power, and creating successful community projects.

Early on, someone expressed that she had a real breakdown in progress on her project: she was stuck. So the leader of the workshop coached her by asking her some questions. And the questions resonated with me, and I answered the questions she asked in my mind, and as I did so, I made some powerful connections. I had not spoken to my mother in the five years before her death. It is one of the very few regrets in my life, and it had a profound impact on me--I told myself never again. Today, my sister is very sick, and she won't talk to me. Oh, she will say hello, and when I ask her how she is doing, she says fine, but that is it. If she cannot find someone else to hand the phone off to, she tells me she has to go. She doesn't want to talk to me because she is mad at me about what happened a year ago when I tried to have her involuntarily committed to medical care. She saw it as me trying to take over her life and humiliate her. I saw it as me trying to save her life, trying to prevent her from deteriorating to the point she is at now: the point of no return. So she is still angry with me and her illness comes with a form of psychosis when it reaches the advanced stages, and her periods of lucidity and connection with reality of her condition are fewer and farther between. And the overlap of the anniversary of our mother's death and the hopelessness of my sister's situation in conjunction with the life-coaching questions brought about a breakthrough.

A breakthrough in recognizing the inauthenticity in nearly everything I'd been thinking and feeling about the entire situation...

Yes, I was sad and angry and resentful--but not about her death. No. I could accept that she was dying, that she had made her choice a year ago. I was at peace with her choices and mine. No, what I was upset about was the fact that I was facing another situation in which someone I love is dying and because she won't talk to me, yet another person I love will die and there will be unresolved issues and bad feelings and no closure. I've made it about me, not her. I've made it about my loss and my frustration and my feelings of helplessness, instead of about her. And then to avoid being honest with myself, I wrapped it up in more acceptable packaging: my sister is dying and I'm terribly saddened by it.

Something clicked when I recognized this, and while I still have those feelings, and while I still feel stuck and unwilling to allow myself to really be present to how I am feeling and who I am being and the impact it is having on me and on her, I feel fairly certain that I'll connect with my real feelings and work it out soon, and be able to read yesterday's blog entry and honestly say "Yes! My sense of connectedness with myself and others is the measure by which I understand the the beauty of life and the beauty of death. I am at peace."

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Death, peace, and beauty

So.... my mother died six years ago, just before the September 11th attack. I was struggling with grief and guilt and travel arrangements when the towers fell, and the national decent into an orgy of televised mourning and sabre-rattling derailed both my grieving process and my attempts to get to Hawaii to deal with my mother's remains. It was 10 days from her death before I successfully reached Hilo. It was 4 years from her death before I successfully grieved her.

Today I mark her death with surprising equanimity, considering all the 9/11 and Osama bin Ladin / al Qaeda media coverage. I've made my peace with myself, with her, with the past that came between us. I carry within me now a whole new sense of self-acceptance as a result of that peace-making: the roles of the unfit mother and the ungrateful daughter were not true to who we were, but they were real to us in the context in which we experienced each other. It is a powerful thing, being able to make such distinctions.

In laying her ghost to rest, I finally grew up.

I am applying the lessons learned the past two years toward dealing with my sister's situation. She will live to see her 38th birthday next month. Most likely, anyway. I am finding it difficult to live powerfully in the face of her suffering, but where I can, I am choosing not to focus on the helplessness which this situation is engendering in me. I am an adult now, truly adult in my emotions and thought processes and actions. I accept--no, I choose--What Is. And having chosen What Is, I am at peace with it. I am at peace with it, and that peace creates an opening to create a future in which I remember my sister as a vital woman who lived a full life, instead of one in which I continually mourn her as someone who died much too soon.

My relationships with others, my sense of connectedness, is the measure by which the beauty of life is understood. And the beauty of death.

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

What does "sensual immediacy" mean

I've created a yahoo group called the Sensuous Storytellers Society. I'm just getting it started, and I decided I wanted to write some essays and materials for the group. This is the first one:

What does "sensual immediacy" mean?
It means the compelling experience of the senses in the present moment.

There is nothing more immediate than this. Our bodies are our sensory array. Our bodies provide input to our minds and brains (notice I distinguish between the two) via our senses. Humans come equipped with senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and it is through them that we experience the world, and through them that our mind determines what Reality is.

We have been bombarded since birth by sensory input. Infants sleep so much partly because they need sensory down-time. They need to learn how to sort out the meaning of what their senses are telling them. As we grow older, we learn to filter out sensory 'noise'. Our minds are constantly disregarding signals from the brain. We don't notice the hair touching our ears. We don't hear the pervasive hum of electrical appliances. We don't notice everything in our field of vision. We no longer smell the shampoo in our hair or the cologne we applied this morning, even though others can. But even though our minds become accommodated to certain sensory threshholds, our senses still send those signals to the brain.

In this modern, Western civilization, we live more and more in our heads. We live more and more in a state in which our minds are filtering-out what our senses are telling us. We live in environments we have created to insulate us from noises, from brightness and darkness, scents, and physical discomfort. We sit for hours in front of televisions and computers, experiencing 'reality' through the two senses of sight and hearing, letting our minds simulate the rest. We are growing disconnected from our bodies, from our world.

And with that disconnection from our bodies, we are disconnected from others--there is very little opportunity or interest in genuine intimacy. We come into contact with others, but do we really touch them? Do they really touch us?

I want to re-awaken people to the sensual immediacy of life, to the human expericience of the world. I want to encourage people to bite into a piece of fruit and experience it with all of their senses, and take their time about it. I want to see more people laying in the grass, experiencing the dappled sunlight, the cool, moist air, and the prickle of the blades. I want to encourage couples to lay together face to face, arms and legs entwined, looking into each other's eyes, breathing each other in, knowing what it is to just be with another, and truly experience them.

Sensual immediacy is about the information our senses provide Right Now, and about truly experiencing what our senses tell us, rather than letting our minds filter it out. Being open to the sensual immediacy of life puts us in touch with our bodies and our environment, awakens us to the intimacy of sensual experience, and enhances the quality of our lives. So, knowing what sensual immediacy is, and being able to communicate it somewhat effectively, how can I not try to encourage others to try it for themselves?

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