A Letter to Andy

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OH, Andy; where to begin? Do you even like me calling you Andy? Is there even a you or a me to call or to be concerned with this? Oh, these questions of ours.

I started this blog almost a decade ago while exploring Christianity and more specifically, Christian mysticism.

Whatever one might call it, theosis or Nirvana or what have you, is what I’ve been seeking for any number of years in my life, literaly since I was a teenager.

And I’ve not been very good at it at all.

What’s apparent to me now is that the vast majority of my interest in Christianity and Christian mysticism was ultimately the investment of social capital- I could become Christian, explore mysticism in Christian language, and have an easier time socially by belonging to the dominant religion.

Otherwise put, by being Christian, I could do my thing safely. People wouldn’t question me or my religion (outside of the atheist/skeptic community).

However, and there is the however, I’ve experienced, essentially, hurdle after hurdle with Christianity. First the encounter with Gnosticism, which is great except that there are literally fewer Gnostics than even people of other minority religions, so I spent years with some weird hope of “one day” living near a Gnostic Church without understanding the full implications of all the other complications that would arise in my life in order for that to happen.

I eventually settled on the Episcopal Church after worrying for no reason for literally years. That lasted the greater part of a year and faded away into its own thing- I too easily became entangled in the mire of “But are they doing this correctly?”

Maybe this is my version of the guru telling me to build the same house over and over and then telling me to tear it down and move it a few feet or whatever and then eventually, presto, Enlightenment.

For what it’s worth, I despise that story/parable/whatever the hell it is. Not all parables are created equal, and some of them may be illustrating a point which also still quite wrong.

Also for what it’s worth, in saying all this and leading up to the point I’m going to make, I don’t regret my involvement with Christianity or the Episcopal Church. Andy helped to make that all make sense to me. There were heartfelt and meaningful experiences of Christ and Mary and Sophia.

But that doesn’t excuse or erase the true underlying issue, which is that I had a low self-esteem, a deep need for community and self-acceptance, and that my life generally involved trying to survive in the on-going war with my anxiety and unresolved emotional issues.

And another difficult truth I’ve faced lately is that understanding Ultimate Reality or attaining Nirvana can help one to sort out the psychological shit, but it isn’t, in and of itself, a panacea or psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, working on one’s self, is categorized in a different “training” in Buddhism.

Which is where I’m going with this.

My entire pursuit of Christian mysticism was due to the particularly bad advice of a particular person who’s no longer in my life and never will be again. The bad advice was to pursue mysticism within the framework of my own cultural background.

And this sounds like good advice until you realize that most Christians aren’t interested in mysticism and don’t actually have any knowledge of how the mind works.

Avoiding Buddhism as “too foreign” sounds like a good idea until you realize that enough competent teachers speak English and are able to communicate the Dharma and that there’s a such thing as “skillful means” and that Buddhism has adapted to various cultures for thousands of years and that there’s a whole movement knowledge as the “Pragmatic Dharma” that gets to the nitty-gritty of understanding how to attain Nirvana and that what we’re getting with Buddhism are the “high” teachings and not folk Buddhism (but folk Buddhism has a place and is useful, and I myself would embrace such).

How’s that for a really long sentence?

Moreover, how’s that for the fucking point?

I’m not here to fuck around anymore. I’m not here to listen to someone’s bizarre, highly-theoretical-yet-completely-unproven opinions du jour. No, give me practice. Let me meditate. I’m going to train.

Maybe one could call me a Buddhist; I’m not sure. But I’m going to break out the impermanence or the transience here- it’s time to start a new, different blog. It’s time to get serious. The experiences in this current blog serve to remind me of beautiful, transitory experiences that faded from mind with time.

Things have to change this time on the fundmental level of reality.

So, I’m closing this blog. Or better yet, I’m leaving it up, but I’m no longer updating it; I’m going to start a new one, start fresh, have the break, the “gap” in reality, and maybe that will help me to focus on things.

Thanks, Andy. I want to make the joke, “Andy was Buddhist first! This is all his fault!” Of course, that’s not true; I heavily flirted with Buddhism in high school, but still.

Maybe we’re both being swept along by Reality.

I’m tired of all the gunk.

Time to change.

Steve

Crone Encounter

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Lately, my practice has been helter-skelter thanks to a barrage of reasons, including distraction on my part by other things that I think are going to give me pleasure and do not.

My meditation last night led me into a visualization of a Goddess, but she was in a Crone form; dark skin and white hair, leading me around a forest. I can’t remember if she imparted any kind of particular knowledge to me, but image-wise, she wore a cloak, and she stood between our ideas of a witch or sorceress and a goddess, and I’m glad I ran into her.

Steve

Phases

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Spirituality, mysticism, the spiral path, whatever you might call it, well…certainly at this point I’m aware I was misled in childhood to think that religion was somehow static.

No, indeed, it is dynamic and fluid, ever changing and morphing and bringing me to greater and greater insight, plunging me deeper as I move through phases again and again.

Which is to say, I’m moving out of the “Pagan” phase and into a Christian phase again.

What am I trying to learn? What am I being taught? I wish I had more insight. I wish I could sit and meditate, but I can’t. My mind is focused and tied up to so much else.

But life is sweet currently, lovely in a way that perhaps only Spring can bring. Maybe it’s the season, or maybe it’s something else.

I want to know.

Steve

And Now, Fullness

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In December, I had the most powerful experiences of Emptiness, and yet…yesterday, I had the totally opposite experience, the experience of an unending FULLNESS of Reality, pushing through and bursting forth with meaningfulness.

The FULLNESS of Reality appeared to me in a more feminine form, and I’m inclined to refer to It as a Goddess, and specifically, the Goddess Aphrodite. This is surprising to me as I’ve had an affinity for Aphrodite previously, but she didn’t seem to necessarily appear directly in my life.

My husband and I went out for a Valentine’s Day date one day late, and we stood by the ocean as the sun set prior to attending a local play. This is where I most strongly felt the power, the absolute FULLNESS and knowing that things will be well, that all is good, that even in the most terrifying moments, Reality isn’t totally horrifying.

I have no idea what’s going on. My Buddhist phase got knocked out- as I predicted it would. It’s not that I’ve rejected Buddhism; far from it, as it seems to guide me and underlie a great deal of my experiences and thoughts. But…just wow.

Worthy to note is that I’ve returned to doing the Tarot Meditations from Stephan Hoeller’s book- this time, however, I’m doing the meditations for two weeks at a time, so that’ll take up most of the year. The goal isn’t to rush through but to sincerely absorb and psychically “build” the paths in the Tree of Life.

Let’s see what happens, shall we?

Steve

Finally, Freakin’ Vibrations

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Without having the particular experience of something, the explanations in Buddhism can seem kind of obtuse.

Even though the Noting Meditation seems bizarre to me, I’ve still been doing it because, well, it’s a good idea to give it a go.

So tonight, I was doing Concentration Meditation instead, and I got into what was probably the 3rd Jhana. I’m reluctant to claim 4th Jhana at this point because my visualizations don’t really come to a vivid, stable image, and that’s supposed to be a 4th Jhana characteristic, but it may also have to be built up.

Anyway, I didn’t exactly switch to Insight Meditation, but suddenly, I stopped trying so hard, and I started experiencing vibrations.

The vibrations aren’t terribly strong, and in some ways, they aren’t what I expected- it was more a sense of what it’s like to be in the ocean, with the waves rising and falling and be moved around by the current of the water. That’s what the experience was like, and it continued, though the currents weren’t from any one particular direction, and they were CONSTANTLY changing. So, impermanence was definitely something I experienced, but impermanence seems to be something I live through in daily life anyway.

So, yeah, I’m sticking with this Buddhist meditation thing because it’s for real.

Steve

Crash, perhaps?

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I dunno if I crashed into the Dark Night or what happened, but at some point in time yesterday, I ended up exhausted. Almost two weeks of being able to access the awareness of the Buddha Nature/kundalini energy/whatever the heck it was, and here we are.

Earlier, it was more difficult to turn again to the Buddha Nature and such; and it’s possible I’ve entered a Dark Night, but it’s largely difficult to tell because again, I have no clue what’s going on with Vipassana.

I’m trying the Nothing Technique. I really am. But perhaps I don’t understand the theory or something; I can seem to just pay attention to my senses instead, and that seems to be easier. Noting seems like it causes me to think in the middle of meditation, and I’ve also learned the technique in question is a relatively new one, only developed in the last 100 years or so.

So…yeah. I’m still giving it a fair shot, though, to see if it works, to see if it can get me to a deeper level of reality where I can feel through the vibrations and such.

At moments, when I focus now, my mind can find a great deal of silence.

What’s happened?

But through it all, I’ll sit through it and try to be okay with it and just accept what happens.

Steve

 

 

Just Now

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Being somewhat at the end of this particular experience, it’s still “fresh,” as it were.

I was looking up information the instrument used in Tibetan Buddhism known as the “vajra.”

Outside, I suddenly heard wind chimes, and then…I remembered something. But what I remembered is impossible to describe, except that suddenly the mind was still- the mind stopped, no thinking, no song in the back of my head, and the front of my head felt kind of numb and then RELIEVED.

So, this seemed like the exact opportunity to investigate the Three Characteristics of Reality (impermanence, suffering, no self), and I went for it. To the shock and awe in many ways, I had this sudden realization that these things, in a way, are what give reality meaning. The lack of self is what allows for the Buddha Nature to endow things with meaning- it’s all garbled sounding at this point, but I could see directly into this, especially with situations in my past.

In the moment, staying here, it was more difficult, but I did experience phenomena “just where they are” as Daniel Ingram says, and a sense of separation between me and everything else was gone (even though I didn’t just MERGE into all things and disappear).

So…wow.

More signs that I’m on the correct path, perhaps?

Steve

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