In which it really doesn’t matter where you go, because there you are.

Recently, maybe within the past couple of years, the Inner Guru appeared. Or maybe, to put it another way, I became capable of delving into mySelf enough to hear what the seers tell us has always been there. Or by the Guru’s grace — certainly not through my own merit or work — I’ve gotten enough dust off the mirror.

I have no idea how this came to be, but there it is. I can’t even describe my wonder and gratitude nor how utterly close and familiar the Inner Guru is. It sounds exactly like my own thoughts, it just knows shit I don’t, and regularly, if I’m sincere about wanting to know, dumps very large, entire concepts into my skull too subtle to be codified in language. I’ll just be riding my bike with questions about how and why and what for, and BOOM, there it is: I now know something I didn’t a moment before. It’s heart-breakingly loving and sweet and awe-inspiring and miraculous, and other times I forget completely about it. Because I’m human. Which is to say, my ego is still ascendant enough to make it impossible to sustain the wonder that will eventually destroy it.

I work retail in a gigantic industrial building with concrete floors and beeping forklifts and cutting equipment and horrible lighting and multiple incoming lines that ring incessantly. It’s a mile away from my apartment, over a giant interstate overpass not really designed with pedestrians in mind, and I often have to walk both to and from work, as well as untold miles inside the building each shift. I’m in my mid-40′s and my feet never stop hurting and don’t seem at all inclined to acclimate to my non-desk status. My bicycle has a flat tire and I don’t have access to a compressor — well, I do if you count that gas station a mile away in the opposite direction, but I’m not inclined to walk the thing that far to fill it up only to discover it’s a fast leak.

Anyway, I’m being scheduled more hours than I want and my feet hurt and the roads are scary and indelicate and the job is loud and indelicate and I’m exhausted all the time and my brain is buffeted with noise and the ugliness of modern American values and my ego is all up in this trip about how much I’m suffering and how I’m not comfortable and not getting what I want but truth be told I actually like the job when I’m doing it and a lot of the people seem really great and there’s climate control and anyway you have to do something and I’m working on my humility and getting to serve and I’m trudging my tired aching body down these sidewalks on my way to a job I don’t want to go to that’s just going to make me more sore and more tired and more wiped out from the sheer volume of input and I’m spinning around and around in my head just trying to solve this whole suffering thing because it’s not lost on me that these are truly first world goddamned problems and finally about halfway across the overpass in the hot sunshine and choking exhaust I just give up and ask, “How the fuck do I feel better? What do I do?”

And the Beloved within promptly replies with, “Sit here [and on "here" there's the indication of the heart center], and let the organs of perception and action operate themselves.”

Sit in the heart and witness. Let perception and action do themselves. There are, after all, entire laws of nature that define their behaviors. You are not them. They are not you. Let them do what they do. Understand?

Well, yeah. I do. Sort of. I do know that. Or I know about that, which is not the same thing, of course. I’ve read the Gita dozens of times, in as many different translations. But I still don’t know what the fuck the three gunas really are. Or what my dharma is. I mean, lower-middle-class white chick who drinks and sleeps a lot can’t be Dharma, can it? Even in Kali yuga it seems unlikely.

And so I’ve been trying to do that for a couple of weeks now. Trying and trying. Trying to figure out how replicate that spacious, contented silence I experience around Amma, thinking a lot about dispassion and what it really means, trying to quit bitching at my boyfriend about my feet and my fatigue and irritation at being scheduled 35 rather than 20 hours a week (because I really do believe you should treat your lover better than the strangers that are your customers and coworkers), trying to step back from my identification with and habit of having preferences that are, essentially, random and irrational. Doing japa and trying to serve and trying, just trying. And suffering at the jitteryness of it, like a radio station out of range, at my inability to not feel so sorry for myself.

Remember Ram Dass? That book Be Here Now? I bought a used copy at Powell’s Books when I was in my early 20′s. It was even signed. I enjoyed reading it, and kept it for a really long time because I thought it brought me some kind of importance, having a signed copy of Be Here Now, for fuck’s sake, but really my main takeaway from it then was that drugs are okay and you need a guru but you’re not cool enough to, like, go to India and find one, because you’re provincial and you didn’t go to Harvard like all these LSD trippin’ Western devotees. I have no idea what I might take away from it if I were to re-read it now, beyond nodding energetically at the part where he says the guru comes when the devotee is ready. Hell, I’ve still never gotten to India, but Mother came to me.

Well, Ram Dass is still writing and still pointing the way, even after a stroke. I bought Polishing The Mirror and read it and the advice to just sink into Self, to just keep gently coming back when you lose your shit, reminded me of something really important. Mainly that YOU ARE NOT DOING WELL, LITTLE SEEKER, WHEN YOU ALLOW YOUR EGO TO CONGRATULATE YOU FOR STOICALLY ENDURING YOUR SUFFERING. You’re not purifying, you’re not burning karma, you’re just feeling smug that you have decided — because that’s what happened, you decided — you’re miserable and you’re not bitching about it. Is this really a good use of time? Of your life?

And today I had to get up earlier than I wanted to, and when that irritation started I just sank below it, didn’t judge it, just sat in my heart and let it be. And my feet still fucking HURT but instead of thinking “my feet hurt” I just observed that there was pain and that it was okay and I didn’t have to engage my ego in having preferences about it, I just let it be what it was. And I kept gently returning to the heart while doing my morning stuff of coffee and eggs, and didn’t get involved with the whole OH MAN I REALLY DON’T WANT TO GO TO WORK AND I’M TIRED AND MY FEET HURT AND I’M TOO OLD FOR THIS SHIT AND WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME THAT I CAN’T GET A JOB MORE FITTING FOR A 45-YEAR OLD TECH WORKER, even though I certainly tried to get involved, oh fuck yes I did, habits die hard, and I sat in the heart while walking to work and didn’t do the martyr thing (much), and the weather was gorgeous and I nearly got lost in the flowers I don’t think I’ve ever even seen before in front of that giant Alianz building even though I’ve walked down that long block dozens of times. And at work I tried to see the souls inside the humans I interacted with rather than the meat.

And it was much less tiring. I mean, my hips and feet still hurt, but I’m just letting that exist rather than investing in it. It just is. And I came home and took a nap. And I have the next two days off to be quiet and NOT WALK TEN MILES IN SIX HOURS. And I had a few moments of really deep light and love, just walking around in the biggest of the big box stores doing my little job/doing my little practice/being here now/sitting in my heart, witnessing, letting the organs of perception and action operate themselves.

I mean, it’s not continuous, but it turns out you don’t try to do it, you just Yoda that shit. When you realize you’ve stood up, SIT BACK DOWN. IN THE HEART. That’s it. No judgement.

There are some great meditations in the book. There’s an expansive meditation that’s really great (reminds me in part of the original IAM technique), and the one on the breath I’m doing like japa, of course, because I rarely ever formally sit for meditation but tend to just do the techniques that attract me while engaged in activity, which Ram Dass actually discusses — maybe some of us just are spiritual debutantes by nature. I mean, it’s never been lost on me that it’s better to dig one deep well to get the water rather than a hundred shallow ditches, but I’ve never been able to want regular formal practice even though I would self-describe with utter sincerity myself as having been applying practices in earnest in non-formal ways at least since I meet Mother, if not long before (albeit in stumbling, sophomoric ways). I even ask Mother every year to help me keep a formal practice, and the desire just doesn’t arise.

But years ago I prayed to always be reminded to do japa, and my prayer was answered. There were many, many little nudges to do japa. Now it goes on by itself half the time I’m awake. It’s often going when I drift off or wake up. I also have a little thing I do to sort of… wipe thoughts away, but I don’t know how to describe it. It just occurred to me at Amma a couple of years ago, and when the mind-thing is just freaking out and chattering and not being at all useful I can wipe it clean. It’s often only for a split second, but that’s better than nothing. Especially when your head’s being a jerk.

And now I’m going to go drink wine and read period romances. Because I’m human. A human being, and a human doing. Dying the cloth, dying the cloth.

Om Namah Shivaya.


UPDATE: Here’s something I found today on meditation, and maybe it’s not always sitting with the eyes closed and the spine straight:

In which there’s a very long-form piece about love. (Originally posted here, but since I wrote it I decided I’d like a local copy and moved it. So here it is.)

A year ago, if you’d asked me if I’d ever been in love before, I would have said yes, of course. I mean, I’m a divorced grown-ass woman, aren’t I?

I’ve been in love a dozen times or more, haven’t I? I’ve had that wonderful flush at the beginning, and the horrible heartache and tears at the end, and the various shades of really good to merely okay to this-fucking-sucks in between. I’m an old hand at this shit. Been there, done that.

So much so that I weighed the pros, as I understood them, of being with someone versus the cons, and came to the only logical conclusion:

Fuck relationships.

(more…)

On God

October 21st, 2012 | Posted by Mush in Introspection | Spiritual - (3 Comments)

In which there are quotes from some favorite non-fiction in my library.

The truth is that we are all inclined to flatter ourselves – despite our daily experience to the contrary – that we spend our time thinking logical, consecutive thoughts. In fact, most of us do no such thing. Consecutive thought about any one problem occupies a very small proportion of our waking hours. More usually, we are in a state of reverie — a mental fog of disconnected sense-impressions, irrelevant memories, nonsensical scraps of sentences from books and newspapers, little darting fears and resentments, physical sensations of discomfort, excitement or ease.

The mind seems to be intelligent and conscious. Yoga philosophy teaches that it is not. It has only a borrowed intelligence. The Atman is intelligence itself, is pure consciousness. The mind merely reflects that consciousness and so appears to be conscious.

The external world, even in its most beautiful appearances and noblest manifestations, is still superficial and transient. It is not the basic Reality. We must look through it, not at it, in order to see the Atman.

PatanjaliHow to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali
by Swami Prabhavananda, Christopher Isherwood, Patanjali

 
(more…)

Science and technology.

November 17th, 2010 | Posted by administratrix in Introspection - (2 Comments)

In which there’s a quote.

Do you know how to make a match from scratch?

Could you grind lenses for your glasses? Do you know how to make guns or bullets? How to refine ore, how to make aluminum? Could you build a battery? Do you know how to wire an electrical circuit?

How about penicillin, do you know how to make that? Or sulfa drugs, could you make those? (more…)

In which I tell you about my weekend. And the crazy fluctuations in my state of mind. (Seriously, watching your mind do whatever it does is EVER an exercise in weird.)

Friday night I went out and got drunk for no good reason. I hadn’t intended to get drunk, but I was sitting at the bar having a really nice conversation with one of the regulars and Amy kept pouring the way she does, and, well: shit happens. Saturday I had to get up about three hours earlier than I usually do and if it was a little rough, well, that was my own damn fault, wasn’t it!

Curt & Shelly came and picked me up and they gave me an egg biscuit and hash browns from McDonald’s the very minute I sat down in their ride (and OMG I srsly LOVE THEM for that). The drive to the Benton Franklin County fairgrounds was uneventful; we didn’t need to be there early because it turned out there wasn’t going to be a sound check after all. I was, hangover-style, a little agro that I’d had to get up when I did. We milled around aimlessly instead. Steve bought me a coffee. I love him, too.

At noon, Romagossa Blu kicked off the festival with a bang, and then Vaughn Jensen went up and smoked. Coyote Kings went on at 1:30 and three songs later I went up and joined them.

UnTapped

Playing festivals is great. The stages are huge, the crowd is way into what you’re doing, and there are actual professional sound people at the board. Monitors! Lights! No schlepping!

There was a wedding on stage directly after our set. I got to sing ‘At Last’ for the happy couple, then bluesman Billy Stoops officiated the marriage of (our friends and fans) Nancy and Steve right there in front of everybody. It was cute.

After the set I changed into comfy clothes and promptly started drinking the free beer from the craft services tent. I spent most of the day backstage because I could (UnTapped doesn’t take your VIP pass away after you finish playing, like other festivals sometimes do) but I did wander around enough to have seen absolutely everything. UnTapped has tons of beer and wine makers and lots of food and a scattering of other vendors. It’s a really cool festival.

A few of the NW players I met told me they’d heard of me, which was, as you can imagine, immensely gratifying. I was encouraged to move to Portland; I was encouraged to start my own band. In short, I got a lot of ego stroking, but – because the mind is a terrible thing – I somehow managed to feel self-pity anyway.

I know, right? WTF, Mush? Fun blues festival, stage time, free beer, beautiful weather, good friends, and my internal dialog is fux0red. This is what happens when one doesn’t deliberately choose the upside.

My (admittedly not accurate) perception was that the musicians got younger as the day went on. In the early afternoon we had guys pushing 60 but the kids in the headliner’s band all looked like they were still on the fresh side of 30. I was having, in the back of my mind, one of those completely negative “since I wasn’t headlining at 26 it follows that I suck” thought processes. Why? It’s stupid, but lemmie tell you what: all that crap about the negative psychological effects of unemployment? Appears to be true. After not getting yet another job, I’m having a glass-is-half-empty crisis in the form of a really insidious “I’m totally mediocre” mental litany.

It doesn’t help that this is my second long-term bout of unemployment in the last five years, either. Stupid job market!

I met a metric ton of musicians, including the superawesome Miriam (of Portland band Miriam’s Well) and her bandmates; Chicago tenor player Eddie Shaw and his son Vaan (who is a really cool dude); trombonist Ed Earley; and the headliner, Hamilton Loomis (who was not only a smokin’ musician but a really, really nice person), to name a few.

Loomis’ set was not at all what I’d call blues; his has been described as a “blues-rock-funk-groove-soul band,” and he did charts that broke down into funky Stevie Wonder grooves, charts that were pure rock, charts that were pure soul. It occurred to me that from here on out, it’s all meta. Every song will contain shades of every genre that’s ever gone before, and descriptors like “R&B” and “pop” and “blues” will go the way of the dinosaur. Listeners will be expected to understand music from a global perspective that spans the whole of recorded music.

In other words, it’s so meta it’s actually like this: I have some cheesy pop in my library that features a raga in the bridge, house with a gypsy violin in it, and funk with a banjo solo. There’s really no reason I can’t do R&B-soul-blues-jazz-rock and still get booked at blues festivals, that’s all I’m saying.

Applying this meta concept to the idea of “work”, I’m realizing that my bad attitude is stupid. I’m online all the time, so I know that very little can truly be monetized. All this free information on the Internet is there because people want to do it. They try and try and try to monetize and the vast majority of them fail; overall they do this shit for the love of it. Free ebooks, free TV series, free how-to videos, free games, free lessons, free recipes: some people manage to be offering the right thing at the right time and they break through to monetization, but most of them don’t. And that’s okay.

I do what I do for the love of it: I sing, I take pictures with old film cameras, I publish thousands of words online per year, I share recipes, I comment on tech. These things are fun, and I don’t need to feel guilty – or mediocre – about not turning them into money.

I have this belief that life is structured like this: there’s this job thing you do, and it pays your bills. You do not love it. You’re very fortunate if you like it. It takes up much but not all of your time, and it subsidizes the other things you do. Some people get paid a lot to play at whatever they play at and they don’t have to do the job thing. They are rare and special, and I am not one of them.

That’s my job meta. I don’t like it, but I don’t think I’m eligible to transcend it because it seems that if I was I already would have. So, I believe that I need a job, and I don’t have one, and it’s messing with my head. Since I can’t through any amount of effort on my part cause a job to exist, I need to do something else meaningful to structure my time.

Tomorrow I’m going to visit the WorkSource office and find out what options are available. I’m ready for some options. I’m a displaced worker, I guess, since there aren’t any ISP support gigs around here and I’m 41. I think I might be eligible for grants and scholarships.

I think I’d really like to go back to school. I’d much rather be in class than on the job market since the endless rejection, poverty, and uncertainty is, um, starting to bug the shit out of me.

I mean, sure: I love having nothing but free time. Who doesn’t? I like eating when I want, sleeping when I want, playing guitar when I want, going out when I want: it’s fun. I read all the time, I can meditate whenever I want, or do push-ups and crunches when the mood strikes rather than when I have to. The freedom is great, but apparently I just can’t stop worrying about what will happen. What will happen when my benefits run out? What will happen ifone of the minimum wage jobs I apply for actually offers me a position I really don’t want?

Anyway. Sorry about the digression. All the pics from the blues festival are here, if you want to check them out.

My next gig isn’t until July, but we’ll be playing The Pastime at the Ritzville Blues Brews & BBQs festival, which should be a total blast.

In which I spent all day in my fucking room.

I worked out, I surfed intensely and endlessly for nothing, I folded some laundry and didn’t fold some other laundry. Except I did go out – I walked my dog. Twice. She’s old. Like, 13 or 14 old. We didn’t walk very fast.

I made lentil soup, like, totally without a culinary net if you will, just throwing stuff in the pot willy-nilly. It came out fucking brilliant. So brilliant I put the recipe on the Internet. Soup is so my bitch. I obsessed about the food I didn’t eat. Dieting is like a form of voluntary insanity. I used to think it required discipline but now I think that you just have to go fucking nuts to not eat all the awesome food you have access to. The body just wants to eat good stuff all the time. It’s hard-wired to eat good stuff all the time. It’s like it wants to make up for the past ten thousand years of not having constant 24/7 access to chile rellenos and walnuts and falafel pitas and goat’s milk fucking brie.

I didn’t really think much about getting a job, but there was like this sort of sub-thought pulse in my head that implied over and over like a mantra that I ought to be doing something with myself, as if it were in any way possible to be both alive and not doing anything. Pshaw. I mean, like, my best unemployed friend, the drummer in my band? Even he got a fucking job this week. People have jobs. Or jobs have people. Either way, at least a job provides fodder: one can always either bitch about work or fume about not being able to bitch about work. Did you dig that awesome colon back there? I totally use punctuation like an employed person, don’t you think?

Thing is, I don’t want a job. I want income. I feel like this is a riddle I must solve and I suck at riddles so I just feel lazy and common about it. I have all this time right now and I should be producing something awesome but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what that something is. Maybe this life of mine is creatively barren. I can’t gestate anything bigger than 3000 words at a time but if you give me nine years I can give you a blog chockablock full of unrelated styles and aborted directions totally full of the win. Oh yes I can. Just call me in 2019! You have my number.

Every time G’ma leaves the house she turns the kitchen radio on to this easy listening jazz station out of the Tricities and holy fuck I’m sure he’s a nice guy but Kenny G is the worst sax player of all time and I cannot figure out how he ever got famous. Was it the hair? Because I really think that the prettier you are, the more likely the world is to forgive you for being juuuuuust slightly less good than you fucking ought to be at blowing that shiny horn. In addition there’s a new Simply Red song built on top of Hall & Oates’ I Can’t Go For That and both times I’ve heard it I have felt weird, like the 80′s were riding a bicycle over my musical grave.

The guy at the Zen lecture I went to last Friday told us to listen, to listen intently and with our whole selves, as if to hear a pin drop. He didn’t have any pins but we listened anyway.


This entry was an exercise in writing somewhat like this guy.

Epiphany.

November 4th, 2009 | Posted by administratrix in Admissions | Introspection | Whining - (6 Comments)

In which every time I go to New York, I have some sort of revelation about how unhappy I am. This is a very long post; YHBW.

The last time I was in New York, I’d gone to sing on my friend Barbara’s a capella album. I went because I was invited, not because I’d decided to check out New York. But when I got there, I had an amazing and transformative week.

My then-husband was off in Colorado at the Telluride Blues & Brews festival. I’d been to that festival before, and while it is hella fun, lemmie tell you what: it ain’t no fucking New York City.

I loved every single second in the city but I kept having the recurring thought, each time I was transcendently happy with what I was experiencing, that my husband, if he’d been sitting next to me, would not have dug it. I realized that he would not have liked the food, the company, the conversation, any of it.

In short, I finally really grokked that my husband and I were utterly unsuited. Add to that the observation that I’d been panic-free the entire trip (save for the episode I had my last night there, when I thought about having to return home), and I’d had a life-changing breakthrough: I wasn’t sick, I had a panic disorder. I had a panic disorder because I was deeply unhappy. I was unhappy because I hated my life: my husband and I had nothing meaningful in common and I was emotionally, intellectually, and socially starved. On Maslow’s chart I was essentially hovering between the bottom two states, with no hope in sight of ever going any higher. Ever again.

This was a revelation to me (although perhaps not to those around me) because I honestly hadn’t allowed myself to know how miserable I really was. I had been trying to count my blessings, I’d been trying to make the most of my choices, and I was trying to honor both my wedding vows and the terms of my mortgage. It just turned out that, after trying both, I didn’t like marriage or country living. Not even a little.

So I left New York after a deliriously happy and fulfilling week, and went home knowing that if I were to survive some shit seriously had to change. Within the year I had separated from my husband and moved back to town. What followed then was a period of fucking off and being selfish, followed by a period of being responsible again.

Five years later I’m having regular panic symptoms again, and once again I’m trying to attribute them to physiological anchors – I wrote a post about my luteal phase less than two weeks ago, didn’t I? Well, I don’t know if it’s perimenopause. I think I might just be really fucking unhappy. Again.

(more…)

In which I realize something!

You know when someone says, “Say ‘Irish wrist watch’ fast three times!” and most people try to and proceed to totally mess it up?

Well, I don’t. I can say all kinds of awkward shit really fast three times! And I just realized that this is entirely due to all the pronunciation and diction one learns inadvertently when studying classical voice, which I did in high school and junior college.

Irish wrist watch! Irish wrist watch! Irish wrist watch!

In which there’s, like, not much.

Apparently my brain is broken. I mean, I’m doing stuff – making bentos, knitting a hat, doing Xmas shopping online – but I can’t think of a single thing to write about. All my creativity is going into my tweets, I guess… there is a lot to be said for brevity (pun intended).

This dearth of stuff to write might be due to what I’m reading, which is pretty much nothing. In the past week I’ve consumed few nice sci-fi shorts and some cheesy erotica, but not enough to get my brain going. (I can tell I’m not reading enough when my in-use vocabulary drops to twelve single-syllable words.)

In keeping with the aimless, disjointed tenor of this entry, here are a few unrelated items:

- I want to buy a tiny little Christmas tree and hang tiny little lights and tiny little ornaments on it, and then plug it in and stare at it. For about nine hours. In the dark. With a cup of hot chocolate. Yeah.

- I need to figure out something to bring for the potluck tomorrow. Suggestions, anyone?

- Since I can no longer read anything more than ten feet away, I’ve decided it’s time for new contacts and some glasses. I have an eye appointment on Monday. It’ll probably take about two hours because I’m 40 and have astigmatism and floaters, which means A FULL EXAM WITH PRESSURE TEST AND DILATION. I seriously hate having my eyes dilated, but I’ll get to pick new frames for the first time in twenty years.

- It’s so slow at work today that I can barely keep my eyes open. But I’ve noticed that if I pick up my knitting, the phone will ring within eight stitches.

- Freaked out about the number of hits I get from people googling “my little pony porn,” I googled it myself. And it’s this. Naw, just kidding! It’s actually a game where you try to determine if a name belongs to either a My Little Pony item or a porn star. While I understand why my site is the first hit when people google the phrase (because GOOGLE IS MY BOYFRIEND), what I can’t figure out is why everyone’s googling it IN THE FIRST DAMN PLACE.

In which I ponder my reactions to my life and wonder at the key to joy.

During the last few years of my marriage, when I was depressed and boxed in and miserable, I developed a form of aversion to complacency. (In my defense, at the time my complacency was nearly killing me: I had an unsatisfying relationship, I felt trapped, I had no career to speak of, no artistic outlet, limited spiritual outlet, a day-to-day schedule focused on cooking and cleaning that I loathed, and a hideous panic disorder because of it all.) I’d been in that state for years and had been so busy convincing myself that I had a great life that I was going nutso.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve always been an optimist. I’ve always been happy with what I have, be it ever so humble. But. I have finally learned that I am not only an optimist, I am someone capable of making herself sick pretending that she likes a life she really doesn’t.

I love change. Always have. I love travel, I love new jobs, I love new friends and new experiences. The past two years of my life have been change-filled: I left my marriage, I moved across the country, I traveled a lot. It was wonderful.

Now, though, I’ve been living in the same room and working the same job for a year. I’ve had the same boyfriend for six months and we’ve settled into a routine, a schedule. (I sleep at his place on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The rest of the week he drops me off at home around 11 or 12 and I sleep there. I’m home on Saturday and am supposed to do my laundry and knitting and surfing and lazing around then.) I’ve been playing with the same band long enough that I’m bored of playing the same songs, I’m bored of the same mistakes, I’m bored of the types of audiences we pull because they’re all ten years older than me.

See, listen to me! My life is awesome and all I can do is bitch. Somewhere deep inside I can feel myself panicking a little: am I really happy or do I just think I am? (more…)