Video Games and Enlightenment

After a minimal (yet invested) experience in my youth of playing Donkey Kong and Mario Kart on my older brother’s Super Nintendo – I noticed a few parallels between video gaming and the progression of life:

Check Points

On a recent revisitation of a place I once loved when I was there the first time – a nature reserve – a very new feeling happened.

The GPS took me somewhere unfamiliar, but it was determined to be correct. Where was that visitor center? And the tall grasses that wind into beautiful trails? Rather, it was a country road that went past farms and an empty cattle corral.

Driving to a point to turn around, a series of dogs in varying sizes came out to greet me with barks. And then there was Kathy J –

I asked her where the reserve was, and she said it was right here, her arms stretched wide. Quite the backyard, she said. You can park next to the cattle corral, and the hike into town is beautiful.

I thanked her, and parked next to the wood fence, and walked into what must be the backside of the reserve. I hiked to the top of the hill. Looked up, saw the sky, and I felt –

an exactness of a pushpin being inserted into a map. Immediately to the ground. There – she did it. She made it to the right place at the right time (both seemingly random). Check point. She will not have to experience all that terrain again, in the next time.

Thank you.

 

Bosses

At the end of each level, we encounter the Boss – big, bad, and mean. We use our skills learned thus far to combat and defeat the Boss. Often, it takes a few times. So we lose, then go back to the beginning of the level, jump around and learn and reach the boss again, only to gather more skills on how to react and respond in order to move forward.

This seems to be like our efforts to step out of our patterns (such that those in relationship bring to light). We go through the journey, then reach that moment when we are fighting or something is triggered when we can do something different, or calculate from the skills we have gained in our past experiences. If we don’t “defeat” the Boss, then we go back and start again, always learning more as we move forward, and always working on this path until it is ready to change.

 

Leveling Up

A handful of years ago, at a Yoga Nidra class at Esalen Institute, I reached a new state of consciousness.

It lasted for about 20 minutes after the class. I walked through the garden, heard people talking, saw the colors. Accepted everything with no discussion in the head. It was a belonging of life to the body and senses, with everything aligned.

Later, I realized this was a sort of “Leveling Up” for me.

In the sense that, there are times when we experience something that completely changes our understanding or being. Something where we know what is possible, and the world will never really be the same for us again.

It is like after completing a level on a video game, and then continuing to the next. It is a new landscape, new perspective, new experience – we are excited to see this unfamiliar space and meet it with excitement. And then, it becomes familiar as we live it, and we keep learning, and keep leveling up when the time is right.

 

 

Flag Day

Waking up this morning I made some coffee, tuned the kitchen radio to NPR, and began assembling the pink and green Indian fabric to sew as binding onto the quilt.

“Live from NPR news…in southern California hundreds have turned out to protest in the name of Robert Fuller, a 24-year-old black man who was found hanging from a tree near City Hall in Palm Dale on Wednesday.”

No. No. No. This is not ok. I know none of this is ok or has been ok – I feel it – but this is what tears me right now. The image of a black man hanging from a tree, just yesterday.

I hear the words “suicide,” “lynching,” “no autopsy,” “hate crime.” It is unknown whether it is a suicide or a murder.

The news goes on to talk about an autonomous neighborhood in Seattle that the police evacuated, the shooting of another black man in Atlanta, the budget cuts to universities due to the corona virus, and the Oregon governor presenting a virtual graduation speech. I thought her words would inspire, but she called to graduates about the change that needs to happen in the world. As if they are our only hope now, and all this is their inheritance.

I go out to a park, but everything is too busy. There is a car with an out-of-state license driving too close to me, and I feel angry. He passes me, disobeying a traffic law.

I pull over into the nearest parking lot, a Mexican restaurant, and cry. I’m so mad. I’m so mad. Where did this thinking and feeling start today?

With that image this morning. That image of grief and hate, and a life gone, hanging from a tree.

Collecting myself, I unexpectedly turn off into Barnes & Noble to get a journal. I stand in the aisles, feeling lost. Not know what to get, what not to get, to leave, to stay.

I take a book, and a journal, and stand in line.

The woman in front of me in line walks to the cashier. She has on a mask, and a soft southern accent with a stiff and frail and aging body.

“Do you have plans for the rest of the day?” the cashier asks, a new book resting between the two women.

“I worked the early shift, so I am going to get some food and go home… and read.”

Somehow – somehow – witnessing this interaction helps. It is Simple. Real. Kind. Human.

I walk into the grocery store next, waiting behind a mother and son so as not to get too close, and notice the groups of flowers next to me. Big, gorgeous, pink roses – $15 for a dozen.

Before cashing out, I return for a bundle.

The cashier is a young man with tattoos, a handkerchief hanging below his nose, and a tired voice.

“How are you today?” he asks.

“Hanging in there,” I said (only now, as I write this, do I see that word). “How are you doing?”

“About the same.”

He bags the items, the pink roses go in last. I yank one, hoping it gives easily from the banded bunch, and it does.

I hold the big, pink, aromatic rose to him.

“Here you go,” I say. “Thank you for your work.”

I feel an out-breath or a smile or surprise behind his mask, and everything lightens again – for a moment.

And these moments add up, right? That’s where change actually happens – in a moment.

Revolution

re – a prefix, occurring originally in loanwords from Latin, used with the meaning ‘again’ or ‘again and again'”

return (re-turn)

release (re-lease)

review (re-view)

repair (re-pair)

respect (re-spect…as in per-spect-ive, spect-acles…to look again)

react (re-act)

renew (re-new)

revolve (re-evolve)

revolution (re-evolution)

Construction

A first house that I bought, three months before the word “pandemic” became official, is snuggled into a street filled with 1980 ranch-style homes. It is one of the first streets on the east side of Bend, now surrounded by new subdivisions and a park, which used to be a nursery for pine trees managed by the Forest Service.

Drive half a mile down the street, and there are still barns and horses and goats and tractors on the road. Thank goodness for that.

There is also construction. Both ends of the street are being turned into two-lane roundabouts to help manage traffic. The large machines vibrate in constant rhythm between 8 am – 5 pm, but ceases on the evenings and weekends.

I go for walks in the evening during this quiet to the former nursery, and pass through the zones of construction and the closed sidewalks. Over the dirt tire treks and stilled orange machinery, paused in repose and stillness.

Looking into the pits of where there will be sewers, I see below the Earth into the layers of large rocks. I had no idea.

It changes each day, what is happening, but for now I can stand in the middle of the soon-to-be-made roundabout, now a layer of flat gravel above strata of rock thousands of years old, holding us up, looking at the mountain view, with nothing at all moving around me other than the clouds above.

It reminds me of the times when I was young, going to the construction site with my parents when they were building the house. All the space between the bones to see the trees and the sky and such a breath of foundation.

It is the making. The silence, the quiet, the stillness, before we all start going in circles again.

 

Well, it has been some time my friends.

Sometimes it is.

I am drinking a Zarabanda, listening to Ryan Adams at Carnegie Hall. Forty-two songs, three hours and 36 minutes. His strumming guitar and wailing harmonica, and his soul, will make you laugh out loud and break your heart. If you’re anything like me, that is.

And, I know you are.

Excellent! Here appears a blog post topic: how we connect.

I once asked a friend the meaning of life as we drank at a local dive bar. Death, he said. The conversation tilted into the fact that life is what we make of it. We are all connected. The meaning of life? It’s all in here, I thought. It’s all there, he said, pointing to a wood fence next to us.

It made perfect sense at the time. It still does.

 

“Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly

let it cut more deep.

Let it ferment and season you

as few human or even divine ingredients can.”

Hafiz

 

There are many more telling poems to show how we connect – how we are all the same – but, this one resonates for me right now.

Just like Ryan Adam does. Breaking my heart, into such beauty, and such sorrow.

That, I know, we all feel.

 

A Path

The day after Halloween, I tried to find a new walking route: Larkspur Trail.

Driving around, road construction blocked my way to the senior center, where the path supposedly starts. I wound my way to Pilot Butte instead, where the trail ends.

I still couldn’t find it. So, I started wandering around the criss-crossing dirt tracks along the lower part of the butte, until finding an asphalt path to follow.

The grass vibrated in the breeze, like notes coming off a page. I felt sticks and soft Juniper branches and squished dried berries between my fingertips, and I looked into the sky. I saw bark peeling and felt the sun and wind and saw life, and felt it.

I sat on a rock for awhile.

          

I turned around and followed the asphalt path back, coming across a sign near the parking lot “Larkspur Trail.” I found it, although unexpectedly and from the backside. I was where I had wanted to be, and didn’t even know it.

Sometimes we can’t get to the path, until we are coming back from where we started.

It’s as confusing as it feels, until you recognize that this path is exactly where you are supposed to be, whether it is Larkspur Trail or not.

Then it all becomes completely clear.

 

*(See The Head and The Heart, Rivers and Roads)

Dualities Cont.

Ok, you guys ready to go deep with me? Because we are going to Hell.

But first, let’s go to Heaven.

***

I was praying, asking God to reveal his word to me (this is a long story that deals with a family bible, a lock of hair, books of spells and poems – but also a sign for me to stay and hear the word of God).

So, I finally asked.

Underneath my eyelids, I saw typed words flash.

and

and then (yes, I kind of chuckled at this one)

and then there was light. And it was good.

I ran to my bible and opened to Genesis:

“In [the] beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

The bible opens with a duality. In fact, creation was made in duality. Water and land, light and dark, sun and moon, man and woman.

Those who know me, likely know that duality and contrast is something that has been in my conscious the last handful of years (Everything Changes, Everything Stays the Same and Middle Ground). It continues to dig deeper within me, because it is my creation, and its existence is how I am whole.

Finding the edge, sitting on the cliff, is where I am now. Not jumping off, and not running away, but sitting on this edge and getting to know it. This is where we often find one another, ready to jump or turn back.

Where the dualities meet – that edge – is the “in between” and steadiness I will be exploring my whole life. It is where the ocean meets the sand, where the sky meets the horizon, where I meet the divine.

**

Ok – now to Hell.

Right and wrong, control and no control, choice and no choice are concepts that have been swirling around in me lately like the Barn Raising Dance in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

So, I sat down on the cliff’s edge and checked it out.

Right. Ah, yes, being right and doing the right thing. It’s like skipping through a field of flowers. But, you are always running, always moving, always looking back. There is somehow an element of hurt here. Always worried about continuing to do the right thing and afraid of doing something wrong.

And then you do. You do something wrong and are sucked into the netherworld of fire and blame. There is the vision of what you want – just out of reach – but you can never do the right thing to get it. You can never get what you want and you are doing everything wrong and it is your fault.

That is Hell.

**

In America, I think the definition of success is getting what you want. Here, you are conditioned that you can have ANYTHING you want, and if you get it, then you are successful and you will be happy. (Go Anthropology degree!) But, I choose not to live like that anymore. Want, need, keep, have, get, control. That is my hell on earth.

Which brings us to control and no control. I’m hoping this will wrap up the blog post nicely, but I am not quite sure at this point.

I control because I am afraid. So if I get what I want and try to control it, then it will stay how I want it and I will be doing things right and that will make me worthy of having what I have and everything will stay good (so really, it goes back to worth).

If I don’t take action, if I don’t take control to get what I want, then I am not worthy because I am being passive.

What bullshit. The words even contort around each other in confusion and force and pain.

So, where is the edge between control and no control?

I might have to jump off the cliff a few more times before I find it. But, it’s how we learn to fly. Or, it’s how we learn to sit at the edge. Again, and again, and again. I am just so grateful that I can even see the edge.

THIS IS WATER (If you have not seen this, I would highly recommend it. Or, even if you have, please watch it again.)

Edges into Infinity

 

and then there was light. And it was good. 

A Place Beneath The Surface

Bikram yoga once saved my life. I got really into it, practicing the 26 postures nearly every day in a 106-degree room, and for an hour and a half my mind stopped. I took advanced courses with Bikram himself. Then, everything changed.

I moved to Hawaii. Without a car, there was little opportunity to go to the nearest studio half an island away. I told this to one of my yoga teachers before I left. She said:

“It’s ok, something new that you need will come to you.”

And it did, in the form of scuba diving.

Scuba diving saved me, too. Dropping beneath the waves into a still presence, moving with the surge, and becoming familiar with a world that I didn’t know to be possible.

Then that changed. Scuba diving was also meant to leave my life in its frequency and intensity after returning to the mainland – I didn’t need it like I used to, but I couldn’t recognize it at the time.

Instead of appreciating how it changed the way I moved through the everyday world, I held onto needing the activity to solidify my identity. I started making expectations and goals and demands – I need to dive at least once a month or twice a year, or something like that. When I hung on, it didn’t make room for change, and it ended up hurting other things instead.

I still carry what yoga and diving gave me. They taught me stillness and beauty, showing me a place to drop down beneath the waves. It doesn’t have to be in the yoga studio, or under the water’s surface – it can be at any moment.

It is not so important for me to force doing these activities anymore, but rather to love them whenever they occasionally pop into my momentary life. It’s one of things I wish I had known earlier, but could never have.

I recently got a job that will take up many of my evenings, including the nights of my coveted meditation classes. There is change again in the air, but now, I can recognize it, and open instead of close to it.

What space, what room, to see what will come next. It’s actually rather exciting.

“An Ocean In Between The Waves”

I have been seeing things, lately.

            

Plucking my eyebrows in the mirror, I look into my eyes. I get really close to the reflection of a blue iris, almost touching it, and notice my pupil adjust. I pause, and connect with love, feeling divine light explode in my chest (I feel it, I am it). When I do this, the black of my pupils expand. They dilate, letting in more light. They dilate, letting in more light. I see a physical response to love in my body. I cry.

I once see the trajectory of jets, of the paths they would take, moments before they actually did. Looking through a window at white-laced streaks across the blue sky, I see their futures open instants before they took them.

A thick and contained drop of water captures my attention. It rests on my car windshield and catches the sun. I see it move across the glass as my car turns. And then, I see the world reflected through it. Through the underside of the water drop, I see the trees pass upside down. I see this water drop’s whole moving world reflected through itself.

Our bodies are 60% water.

          

This is what I have been seeing, lately, when I’m not looking.

Rather than what I usually do, a looking without seeing.