Attn: Mme. Mosquito

Dear Madame Mosquito,

Hello. I am new to the north Florida area and was not aware that, upon establishing residence here I also signed up as a blood donor for the females of your species. I am, admittedly, unaccustomed and ignorant of how matters such as these are conducted in this area and so I thought I would write you to officially notify you and your sisters that I am revoking my permission and formally withdrawing my status as a blood donor to your species. The purpose of this missive is certainly not intended to insult you or your kind or to make any judgments as to your species or its continued existence. From what I understand, the general geographic area in which I now reside is quite populated, and I imagine that even without my assistance, you and your people will have no difficulties finding sustenance elsewhere.  If you would please hastily communicate my new donor status to the rest of your female family members operating in my area, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you for your time, attention, and rapid adherence to my instructions.

Most sincerely,

jess

P.s. If I might be so bold as to offer one piece of constructive feedback regarding your operations: It might be wisest, concerning the continuation of your species, to inform your family members not to stick or have multiple blood draw technicians working on a single individual. Because of the skin irritation that results from the sticks of your people, those in my species tend to become angry, seek revenge, and then plot the death of you and yours.

P.p.s. I noticed that those blood draw technicians who sought me out seemed particularly interested in the area of my feet and ankles. I am not certain whether you notice this hyper attention to this certain area to lead to negative consequences, social or occupational dysfunctioning, or personal distress among your family members; but, if so, I happen to work in the mental health industry and would be happy to refer you to a professional who specializes in fetishes.

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Universal Truths: Hinduism, U2, and Kushiel

Yesterday was a rough day for me. In the midst of this massive transition/transformation/internal rewiring and reconstruction, it’s normal that not every day is one blessed by epiphanies and insight. Sometimes it just sucks. Yesterday was one of those for me. I felt grumpy, cranky, restless yet with no will to actually do anything, tired, etc.

I think I mentioned during some post recently (it might have been one of the many that I’ve started writing and then ended up trashing so if you’ve been actively reading and are feeling confused right now, don’t worry – it’s not you) that I was reading The Bhagavad Gita shortly before we moved and I had to return my library books. I picked up a different copy of it here from our local library within the past week and read the 40 some page preface and the first few chapters yesterday. Reading through the preface, I felt like I was chewing gravel at first – there was so much to take in that was designed to help guide readers in understanding the Gita, but the amount of information and its conciseness were enough to make my brain hurt. When I got to the actual text of the Gita, I resonated with Arjuna’s frustrated and urgent pleas to Krishna to simply give him one straight answer instead of advocating for one practice in a moment and then a totally different in the next. Action? Non-action? Knowledge? Renunciation? Wisdom? Service? Which is it?! At the end of the evening, I set it down, not as frustrated as I’d been in my previous reading of it, but not much at ease either. Terms and concepts swam around in my head in a dizzying and noisy swirl – dharma, karma, non-attachment, renunciation, action, selfless service, etc., and a part of me sighed in sorrow at feeling how far I am from any of those goals.

One of the most incredible people I’ve met on the planet is a man who I’ve had the honor to train with in some shrink practices. He frequently said at the end of each session/meeting that we learned and were taking away with us far more than we realized. This morning, I found that to be true with my reading of the Gita yesterday. Sore from a fitful night of sleeping, I went out on the patio with my coffee and settled in to my meditation time that I’ve just recently retaken up.

As I sat in my chair and breathed, I allowed my thoughts to travel as they would. It went something like this: I had waited until I was awake for 1/2 hr before having my first cigarette of the day. I thought about having quit smoking recently and my lack of long-term success due to not having taken any measures to replace that activity with one that accomplished the same purpose (under the extreme stress of the eviction, I got crankier and meaner and more irritable – particularly with our kids – and so, though I could have continued abstaining, I had no immediate way to fix it, and I started again in order to avoid the wrath of my wife). Would increasing my daily meditation time be beneficial, I wondered?  Then, I thought of the Gita and Krishna’s explanation of renouncing sense-objects (material things and desires). An image popped into my awareness of catching a ball thrown to me by my ego – a sense-object – and my gently releasing the ball from my hands and rolling it away from me. I remembered that, in meditation, the point is not how long one can remain quiet and centered, but rather the committment to and practice of drawing attention back to center after it starts to wander. I recalled that one of the sense-objects Krishna particularly advocated release of was other people. I remembered that when I read that line, I knew that would be a challenge for me. But this morning, as I thought about that, I recalled a section of Kushiel, a fabulous fictional book I read a while ago about a sexual masochist, and the main character’s vow to love her partner with “an open palm.” It was the same thing that Krishna advocated – that non-attachment to others. From there, my thoughts led to how the rest of my family is faring with the stress of everything we have going on right now – in particular my Beloved. I recalled my tendency to take on that which is not mine and wondered if I was doing that with her. It was at that point that something settled within me. Rather amusingly, my mind drew parallels from the Gita to some U2 lyrics, “We’re One, but we’re not the same.” My Beloved and I are One, just as I know (though not yet in my belly) that everyone is One; yet, we are still different people. Just as the Gita pointed out. As I began remembering other snippets of lyrics, I saw further parallels. “Love is a temple, love a higher law, Love is a temple, Love the higher law,” and “One Love…One Life, You got to do what you should.” I inwardly chuckled as I heard Bono singing in my mind about these Hindu concepts and practices endorsed in the Gita – the Oneness of all people, united by the Self that is Divinity; the recognition of a higher law and instruction to focus on that alone; the concept of dharma and how it is important to follow our own individual dharmas (doing what we should).

I have no idea if Bono ever read the Gita. Regardless, what I’ve been noticing recently is the thread of Universal Truth that surfaces in the tapestry of so many different spiritual systems. The semantics might be different (Hinduism and Buddhism call it non-attachment or renunciation, my studies of Witchcraft use the word “surrender,” numerous other paths discuss “letting go,” or giving “it” to god, etc.), but the concept remains the same. After playing connect the dots with these passages of the Gita and everything from pop music to fictional books about sexual masochism and simply sitting in the midst of it all and breathing, I feel much calmer. And when I feel my chest tighten in regards to some outside thing, I am going to try to remember to take a deep breath and simply release that ball from my grasp and breathe again.

No opinion necessary

There’s a Buddhist parable I read at some point I think in one of Eckhart Tolle’s books that describes a man who won a gorgeous sports car in a lottery. All of his friends and family expressed their joy and excitement to him, informing him enthusiastically of how lucky and fortunate he was. His response to them was, “Maybe.”  Not long after he had won the car, he was driving it and got into a horrific accident in which he suffered multiple injuries and was taken to the hospital. Upon meeting him in the hospital, his friends and family shook their heads and looked at him pityingly saying how upsetting this was, how unlucky and unfortunate for his new car to be totaled and for him to be laid up in the hospital. His response: “Maybe.”  While staying at the hospital, there were severe storms that led to a landslide during which his house was nearly destroyed. Again, his friends and family exclaimed how fortunate he was to have been in the hospital and not at home during the accident. His response, again, was, “Maybe.”  I remember the first time I read this story, I was in awe of this man’s lack of attachment and his absolute clarity and wisdom that led him to know he didn’t have the whole picture and therefore shouldn’t make judgments.

I began reading Buddhist and Hindu philosophy and texts first when I took a “non-Western mythology” course in undergrad. I found both spiritual paths fascinating, and hey, how often do you get to use the phrase that describes the Hindu religion, “polymorphous monotheism” (I’ve always liked big words). While I didn’t sell my books back after the end of that college course, I also didn’t pick them up much. Until, that is, I was in an Eastern metaphysical type shop a few years later and was absolutely struck dumb by a resin image of who I learned later was Green Tara. I had had no idea that there were goddesses in Buddhism. By that point, I’d begun solitary study of Witchcraft and Paganism, but was still piecing together what my beliefs were (as if that’s something that ever really stops…).  I looked Green Tara up and discovered she was the Buddhist goddess of compassion. I learned about how she’d been told by a learned monk that she was so close to enlightenment and wasn’t it such a shame she’d been born as a woman because if she were a man, she could achieve enlightenment in that very lifetime. I read about her declaration to that monk and the Universe that she would only become enlightened in the body of a woman and about her steadfast pursuit from that point on to become enlightened. I chuckled at the idea that the monk had hit what we lovingly refer to in my family as the goddess’s “fuck you” button. I read about how Tara, according to varying texts had anywhere between 21 and over a hundred different forms. Over one hundred different forms of compassion. As I type this, I just need to sit with that, and I welcome you to sit with me. I don’t know about you, but I tend to focus on just two forms of compassion – the squishy, comforting kind and the tough-love variety. Over a hundred.

I frequently forget that I don’t see the whole picture. At best, I have a fraction of a sliver of it, and there is so much I don’t know and don’t see.  How much the Goddess and God must adore me to patiently and lovingly listen to me bitch about things not being the way I want them to be when who knows what They have protected me from by imposing on me what, when it comes down to it, is some slight discomfort, inconvenience, and ego bruising! It is so much easier for me to complain and, like a three year old, stomp my feet and wail instead of trusting that, so very unlike me, They know what They’re doing, and They always have my highest and best interest in mind. And what if everything that has been taking place this past year and especially the past few months is really in my best interest to experience?  What if it is a manifestation of one of over a hundred forms of compassion?  What if I were to stop looking at the situation with my physical eye balls and even if I can’t see with my inner eye, trust that compassion and unconditional love are there at the root of it all?

Last night, our beautiful, amazing, and brilliant ten year old was throwing an attitude around and not following the bed-time directions that we’d given her. When her momma called her out to the patio where the three of us adults were and she tried to explain her rebellious actions, my wife, ever a reminder to me of the Momma, informed her that at that point, she was not interested in her opinion – just her obedience. I adore our little cherub-faced 10 year old and she has an incredible talent for pushing all my buttons in ways that make me want to just shoot right up out of my skin. And Momma frequently shows me how much she and I are alike. As crazy as she some times makes me, how much more crazy do I drive the Momma with my complaining and whining and bitching and moaning and not following directions and, and, and…? 

So I’m going to try something. I’m going to try to trust that Momma has my back, that She and Papa not only will take care of me but are currently taking care of me. I am going to try to keep from bitching and whining and tantrum-throwing and pissy-opinion giving and instead quiet myself so I can listen  to Momma and Papa’s directions. And then, crazy of all crazinesses, do my best to follow them.

Manifesting Mondays: A new foundation

This cool, Florida morning finds me on the back patio again. Above the canopy of trees over my head, the sun is shining brightly in a near cloudless sky and dapples the ground in patches here and there. Some of our kitties are playing in the leaf-covered yard, attacking twigs and chasing faeries perhaps while others are lounging for a morning nap. Birds are singing to each other, and I remember the two owls serenading one another the other night on the roof. I breathe in gratitude and inwardly allow myself to unclench my Self. How amazing it is to have so recently experienced the harshness of resisting my experiences with the eviction and to be deposited by the Goddess and God to this place. 

Almost every time I’ve come to this blog to write since its inception, I’ve tried to be or sound eloquent and wise and have been more focused on that rather than on simply writing from who and where I am. I’m done with that now and am reclaiming this space and taking it back from myself.  My life seems like a big tangle of lessons – right now, more so than ever. And while I’d like to be able to be writing from a place of having figured them all out (or hell, even just one or two of them), that certainly wouldn’t be authentic and it’s nowhere near where I am. I’m writing from in the thick of it all, not after I figure it out and clean it all up so it’s neat and pretty.

 One of my favorite shrink people ever is Abraham Maslow. His hierarchy of needs parallels both the basic chakra system and the association of elemental needs I’ve learned from my Teacher in my studies of Witchcraft.  A couple days ago I spoke with my shrink supervisor on the phone about our situation – a conversation I had not looked forward to at all. I was a mix and mess of internalized guilt and shame, my thoughts were scattered and the only thing I could think of that I needed to let her know was that I would mail her the keys to my office and repay her for the supervision meetings I owed her for as soon as I could. She’s been an incredibly patient and understanding woman for the duration of my working with her (for which I am enormously grateful), and she reminded me of Maslow’s hierarchy during our conversation. Her suggestion to me was to focus on those basic needs, the ones I have learned to associate with the element of Earth: a place to live, a job, food for me and my family. Inwardly, I groaned. At best, my relationship with Earth for the past few years has been strained.

When I consider my relationship with each of the elements, I think I’ve taken Earth for granted more often than not. Growing up, all the Earthy things were just there. I think I grew up assuming they would always be, and I never really let go of that unTruth. Both of my parents’ element is Earth, though they tend to default to a contrary state.  Unknowingly and quite naturally, I imagine I adopted their values and used them to build my own foundation with the element of Earth, an unstable one riddled with cracks and rot. I wonder about the past couple years and the work I’ve been doing with Earth and the (understandably) little progress it feels that I have made. Perhaps Momma and Papa decided that it would simply be easiest and best for me to just start over. In many ways that’s what this feels like – a condemned building that’s just been razed. The ground is now being tilled and leveled so a new foundation can be built.

So today, on this Manifesting Monday, I choose to manifest for myself a new foundation for my relationship with Earth, one that is rooted in gratitude and reverence. What do you choose to manifest for yourself today?

Extreme makeover: internal edition

This is the third time I’ve sat down to write a post here today – technically the fourth if you count realizing that my first attempt would be better off as two separate posts. Each time, I’ve ended up deleting what I’ve written either before or shortly after I publish it because it just wasn’t what it was supposed to be. Of course I have no idea “what it’s supposed to be” looks like (that would be too easy, right?). Have you ever had days like that?

My brain feels a bit like a house in the midst of being completely remodeled. Walls have been scraped back to the dry wall while others have been out and out sledge hammered away, but the edges aren’t cleaned up yet; there’s exposed wiring that has yet to be rewrapped here and there; primer and paint cans are lined up over there but not ready to be used yet; there’s a saw horse that’s been knocked over in that corner with a circular saw right nearby; plastic drop cloth covers the ripped up flooring yet to be sanded down; and, the whole place certainly doesn’t feel very habitable at the moment.

See, my family and I were evicted from our apartment (I keep wanting to write ‘home’ but Momma keeps reminding me that’s not Truth) several days ago. It wasn’t the traumatizing event it could have been (for which I am immensely grateful) – we knew it was coming and had prepared for it as much as was feasible.  After unsuccessfully trying to find another place to live in the Atlanta area, we hauled our selves and our belongings down to Jacksonville, FL where L’s (my wife’s husband) brother had beyond graciously offered us his house to stay in while he and his wife, who are in the midst of divorcing, aren’t living there while they prepare to sell it. The experience has been one of turning my world upside down (again – I hadn’t realized I’d been due for another one of those apparently) and upending a whole mess of stereotypes, beliefs, and values about money and what has value on their heads.

In the midst of all this, and now that I’m done with my temper tantruming and kicking and screaming about it (I think), I can see that I have experienced Momma and Papa’s guiding it to work out ‘just so.’ I don’t know why this happened the way it did, I don’t know what will happen in 60 days when our guarantee of housing from L’s brother is currently set to expire or what we’d do then and where we’d go.

But here’s some of what I’ve come to know through this experience:

  • nothing that has True value is tangible or concrete
  • appearances are remarkably deceiving and should not be trusted
  • wisdom is found some times in the seemingly unlikeliest places and people and I need to pay closer attention and be more open-minded
  • when I resist what I am experiencing, I make things exponentially harder for myself
  • when I allow myself to become attached to that which does not have True value, I open myself up to the opportunity to experience unnecessary pain and difficulty

So, as I sit here and write, I remind myself that 1) I am resilient, and 2) the purpose of remodeling is to make something stronger and better than it had been before. Instead of trying to take over or direct the remodeling project myself, I am going to try to ask Momma and Papa where They would like to lead me, where I am meant to be, and what is in my highest and best interest to be doing right now.

Manifesting Mondays…

I’ve visited a couple happy blogs (The Wild Pomegranate, Leaves of Wisdom – both on my blogroll) on my regular rounds that have “Wishcasting Wednesdays” (which I love and think is fabulous). I’m definitely a proponent of casting wishes, so I will probably hop on that collective wagon at some point soon, but Momma has given me alternate instructions in the mean time: Manifesting Mondays.

I have been an absolute mess recently. It’s a miracle that this post has contained as many coherent sentences (I make no promises about paragraphs or that I will agree with anything I have written in as short as 12 hrs) as it does so far. It is so damn noisy in my head that I am driving myself crazy. Things are rough chez moi at the moment. Earlier today as I was reading The Bhagavad Gita I found myself beating myself up for not “getting it,” for being “too attached,” for not being “wise enough,” etc. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve thought within the past several weeks how I have not been handling all the circumstances going on around me “as well as” I would like to. I’ve been spending far too much time (again) in my own head which, in my experience, is so very not good for me (I don’t think it’s good for anyone to be honest, though I do recognize we have varying thresholds and I am not in a place to be throwing any stones ever, really, but especially right now).

Part of the problem, as I see it currently, is in how I’m thinking what I’m thinking and the dynamics I’m creating. It’s all dichotomous and leaves no room for growing – as in the process. I believe that every experience I encounter is an opportunity to learn and to grow, and very diffiult circumstances are incredibly rich with those opportunities. Yet, I’m inevitably sabotaging myself when I set up things in my head so that there is no room for process, no room for the act of growing. 

In light of all that, I had the idea the other day to create Manifesting Mondays. My intention with this pursuit is to focus on one thing that I would like to manifest – whether inside myself, in my environment, etc. Here’s where I’m going to give myself a little peptalk. I am a Witch. I am a vessel for the Divine and an instrument of the Goddess and God. I have within me the ability to recreate my Self and my world in every second that is. Part of my daily practice of living my spirituality is to strive to determine where imbalance exists in myself and my world and to create balance in its place. One of the ways Momma and Papa have given me to do this is to manifest.

Today, on this first Manifesting Monday, I choose to manifest grace within myself: grace for myself to be allowed to move through the process of growth; grace in the place of that balance of setting appropriate expectations for myself while being understanding and compassionate; grace to rise up and meet me within me when I do fall short so that instead of just tossing in the towel, I breathe and get back up to try again; grace to help me connect more with who I truly am in these crazy times instead of drifting further away from me.