Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Emergence


I went to Spirit Rock a couple of weeks ago.

Sometimes I retreat out of curiosity – to see what can be seen from silence and intensive meditation practice.

Sometimes I retreat for community – to be with people who sit quietly, companionably, as another messily pounds away at an emotional barrier.

This time, though, I went out of need.

In recent months (and months) my meditation practice has led me to deep and wide pools of fear. Fear of loss. Fear of mistakes. Fear of inadequacy. Fear of failing my loved ones. Fear of not becoming what I most desire.

It’s hard to hold a fearful heart open. It’s hard to see clearly through filters of fear. It’s hard to love in the face of fear.

* * *

Snorkeling in shallow water over a tiny section of the Great Barrier Reef, I’m floating over a mosaic of colors and textures – whites, yellows, oranges, reds, purples, blues, greens. Anemones. Hard corals. Soft corals. Seaweeds. Fish. And giant clams (some of them not-so-big). The giant clams anchor the hinge of their shell deep in the reef, the sides of the shell extending upward, concealing all but the mantle’s edge.

Set like sparkling decorations, all along the fringed edges of the mantle are iridescent blue dots – light-sensitive patches that serve the clam as eyes. As I drift above a clam, my body obstructs the sun, my shadow darkening the clam’s day. Though it has grown far too large for the shell halves to close entirely, the two shells draw toward one another nonetheless, insufficient shielding contracting away from the threat of dark shadows in daylight.

* * *

So for the past months (and months), I’ve felt contracted. Agitated. Unable to open fully. Each time meditation takes me deep enough, I find the same fear pools. I practice. I work. I try to open to it, allow it. I find neither key nor door.

So retreat.

* * *

As I have come to expect, the first day is very hard. The mind jumps from one fragment of conversation, one shard of thought, to self-evaluation, back to the breath. From memory to analysis to reawareness and the breath. From physical pain to fear that it will worsen to despair to reawareness and the breath. From cramping muscles to planning ways to shift to alleviate the cramps to dismay at not holding still to how motion might affect those sitting on either side of me to reawareness and the breath. And so on.

As the first day moves into the second, I get up early. Very early. I make my way through the coastal mist and darkness of still-hours-away dawn to the meditation hall. I light the candles on the altar, and I sit. The body refreshed from sleep, the cramps and aches and pains are manageable. The mind is quieter. There are moments when there is more to the breath in and the breath out than I’ve ever imagined. But by the end of the first hour, the aches and pains crescendo. I struggle to keep the attention on the breath, finding both conscious and subconscious mind trying to problem-solve away the back pains. I concede and go outside for walking meditation. It is raining steadily. I find a sheltered space beneath the eaves. And I walk slowly slowly, sharing the attention of motion and balance with the breath. The fears of mind and body arise. I’m aware of the mist-laden darkness of night, unabated by stars or moon, yet not entirely imperceptible. I remember reports of cougars in the hills. I feel the pressure of body on the sole of my foot as I take another step. I pause at the edge of the eaves to turn. First I breathe the darkness, the mist. One curtain of mist shifts, only to disclose another behind it. I turn and walk.

I return to sit again. Same pains return, faster, sharper. I continue to struggle to find a solution to them, trying to dispel the pain. I change position. Wiggle. Make imperceptible shifts of breath and muscle engagement. The pain grows. I feel the right rhomboid muscle cramp solidly. The top of the right trapezius begins a burning sensation where it connects just below the occipital lobe of the skull. I weep. For the umpteenth time.

Sigh.

After a complete morning of this, unabated, I meet with Mary Grace Orr, one of the teachers leading the retreat. We talk about my current state, the continual arising of fears, home life, my current meditation practice. The frustration I feel. I tell her I’ve been stuck in this dark night for months. She asks some questions. I respond.

Mary Grace tells me she doesn’t think I’m stuck, just going through a hard transition. She recommends I moderate my vipassana practice by starting or ending with several minutes of metta – of lovingkindness meditation – directed exclusively toward myself. I groan, audibly, and remark that I’d rather do anything else. But the truth is, I’m willing to try anything. Even that.

So that evening, I start with metta, then sit in vipassana misery during the evening. But I notice an unexpected resistance inside myself to practicing metta. Resistance is interesting whenever it arises, because it signals that there’s something already trying to occupy that mind-space.
* * *
I dream that night. I'm working in an industrial harbor, and I'm assigned to go retrieve some equipment that is needed. I start off. It soon becomes clear that I'm going to have to go through the canals to get where the equipment is. I begin wading, chest-deep. The water is filthy.
I look to the banks of the canal, and I see raw sewage pumped into the water. My dreaming mind thinks, "Great. Shit. Just great." But the fact is, I'm a parent. I've dealt with fair quantities of it in my life. Not hardly pleasant, but no reason to stop. I press on.
The thought occurs to my dreaming mind, "At least there aren't any alligators here."
I swim-wade around a bend in the canal and see a very slightly cartoonish-looking alligator slide off the bank and into the dark waters.
"Shit and alligators," my dreaming mind says, "shit and alligators." And I push on.
* * *
Just then I awaken. It's 4:20 a.m.

I return to the meditation hall. I practice metta, then vipassana, sitting for most of an hour. When the pains begin to arise, I practice metta. Then in the spirit of metta, I give myself a break and walk slowly through the darkness down the hill to the dining hall, where I fix some herbal tea. Then I walk back to the meditation hall and resume practice. By mid-morning, my mind is a curious blend of quiet and muscle-pain-shouting. I repeat metta phrases. The pain continues.

I go to lunch, then return. The pain resumes, amplified.

So after metta, I allow the pain to become the center of the vipassana practice. I evaluate for a moment whether the neck or the back hurts more. I decide that it’s the neck. So I allow the sensations of the neck to become the focus of my attention. I watch them. Surprisingly, they are not constant, but rather pulse with my heart, with my breath. Sometimes they feel like burning, sometimes like aching, sometimes like tightness, sometimes like cramps. For a few moments, they dull, then brighten.

And after most of an hour, something happens. My conscious mind is aware of a kind of subconscious shift. I can’t tell you exactly what occurred subconsciously, but consciously I realize that I’ve stopped resisting the pain, and that something deep that had been anchored to there being a way to become free of the pain has released, and now accepts that the pain is a part of the constellation of experiences of this meditation practice. "Shit and alligators," my mind says. The pain is just shit and alligators. It is most surely is not gone. Still there, just as bright as ever. But suddenly I’m aware of all the other stars in the sky of awareness, as well. And I’m ok with that.

I’m not free from pain. I’m free in pain.

Never expected that.

More tears. This time, of relief from the excruciation of resisting what is.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dawning body awareness

A few weeks ago, I stood sun-lit on hard, wet sand in a deep redrock canyon, the edgewaters of Colorado River washing over my feet. I drew my body into Virabhadrasana 2: a deep lunge, right foot forward, the sole pressing into the sand, right knee at a right angle; left foot back, angled open and slightly forward, the leg straight from the hip, the outside edge of the left foot building a deep, still pressure wave of sand behind it. My shoulders were square over my hips, torso open, spine vertical; arms extended wide: right forward, left back. My head was turned forward, eyes focused upriver, just beyond the edge of the nail of my right, middle finger.

* * *

Yoga asana – the physical aspect of yoga – is the conscious forming of embodied patterns. Mind working with matter that responds to it, feeds it, becomes it. Is it.

There is an essential integrity of the mind, that sees everything outside itself as object, and body, that just feels and senses, sometimes feeling both sides of a touch sharply, sometimes less clearly, sometimes only one side, sometimes that, dimly.

But whatever objectifying lines the mind draws to cordon off the world like a crime scene, the senses nonetheless reach awareness. Emotions, too. Thoughts are not unique.

The classical yoga postures, and some of the newer ones too, are patterns, old trails traced in new bodies each generation. Yoga teachers familiarly tell fretful students that all they need do is practice and all else will come – mindfulness, peace, liberation, clarity. Just practice. But how, I’m asked and I wonder, can simply putting your body into shapes and holding them, breathing them, singing them, panting them, chanting them, gasping them, being them – how does that do anything except exercise (and that quite oddly) muscles to the point of trembling fatigue?

* * *

On the river trip, to cool off, to clean up, even just to play, I’d walk into the river. Almost everywhere we went, the river was the very definition of placid – flat, calm, slow, smooth. The river flows through most of Meander Canyon at about 2 miles per hour. Ankle-deep, it’s a gentle caress. Knee-deep, a swirl around my shins. But once I’m halfway in – waist deep, my body squared to face upstream, the river presses me downstream. I lean into it slightly. We oppose each other, we support each other. But in up to my waist, if I ignore the river’s slow push, I’ll lose my footing. As I work my way deeper, the slow, slow, slow press of river equals my own strength. To go deeper, I have to turn my body sideways to the stream – aligning myself to present a narrower profile to the current that then slips easily around me.

* * *

As I understand Albert Einstein's insights, matter is simply one manifestation of energy; time and space are two ends of the same stick; and – with the insights of general relativity – matter/energy shapes space/time. Every experience we have is a manifestation of energy transforming in, while simultaneously itself shaping, both space and time.

* * *

Yoga asana is about consciousness perceiving and responding to energy. And energy, as anyone who’s ever stubbed a toe against a rock (pretty dense and stable as far as forms of energy go) can attest, is not the same everywhere, all the time. It forms. It flows. It concentrates. It dissipates.

As I stand in Virabhadrasna 2, I feel three distinct axes of energy. A kind of dense, stable strength rises from the connection with the cold, wet sand at the soles of my feet. A kind of elevating verticality comes through the crown of my head, downward. And my heart expands outward in five directions at once; head, hands, and feet.

I’m not the first to find those energy channels. Virabhadrasana 2 was created by human awareness finding those channels – the pose is an expression of them.

That wasn’t obvious to me the first time I moved into the pose. That day, whenever it was, my attention wasn’t focused on the energy alignment of the pose, about which I knew and perceived nothing, but rather on assembling the verbal instructions into body language. And it wasn’t the second day I did the pose, either. But after a dozen, or maybe a dozen dozen dozen times, I began to become aware of those lines of energy. Noticed them not as lines of zappy, jittery electricity, but rather as a kind of energetic ease, fluid power. Prana. At first, I didn’t take any thought of them – just a random sensation in a body filled with random sensations. But going back to the pose again and again, resting in it’s trembling exertion, settling my jumpy mind, the energy lines became more distinct, like stars in a darkening sky.

Why’d it take me so long to notice?

* * *

The third day on the river, we paddled into the heat of midday, then beached the canoe on a mudflat. After slogging through the mud to dry land, we hiked a winding trail through the verge of willows and beetle-killed tamarisks. We made our way up a low cliff to some ruins – a couple of ancient granaries nestled under a high outcropping of sandstone. After a bit, I climbed out along the same shelf, looking for more. Dad stayed behind, sitting at the base of a pictograph of hand outlines in spattered white – an adult-sized right and left, and a child-sized right and left, the child’s right hand missing the fourth finger. I strayed upcanyon for longer than I’d planned, finding no other ruins in that direction, returned and then struck out around the other side of the promontory. Eventually, I worked my way back to the pictograph and my Dad. He’d been sitting quietly there, noticing. And in noticing, he’d found pottery shards, white flint chips – things I’d never seen.

* * *

Yoga was my first introduction to meditation.

Or rather my second, as I’d noticed the unusually clear and lucid mind-focus that arises in rock climbing years earlier. Though the word “meditation” carries so much baggage that it’s hard to believe anyone ever actually ventures to try it out, it really just starts with noticing. Yoga’s like that too, after you get started; not a thing to be completed – more of a practice. After you get the pose instructions more or less settled into your body, yoga’s first the intention, then the motion into a pose, the awareness and noticing while in the pose, the new intention, and the motion out of the pose into some other. Intention, body, motion, and awareness.

And awareness is subject to an awful lot of refining. The more you persist at it, the finer the details that become evident.

Like my Dad’s seeing the pottery shards and flint chips on the ground where I saw only gravel.

With time, through dozens of dozens of dozens of repetitions, those energy axes of Virabhadrasana 2 settled into my awareness.

And for kicks, I’ve tried variants of the pose that mess with those lines and aligns. And I got what I got – a sense of the absence of alignment, the tension of not being in that posture, that way, that Tao.

Like turning my body square to the flow of the river. Opposing energy directions, rather than aligning with them.

It isn’t a sin.

It’s just turning counter to the river’s flow – it’s being out of alignment. To my sense now, it feels incomplete, like an [url=http://guitar.ricmedia.com/Chords/Minor-seventh-sharp-five/audio/c-minor-seventh-sharp-five-chord-voicing-2.mp3]unresolved augmented seventh chord.[/url] Sometimes, the best part of a piece of music is the tension of that unresolved chord, the awareness of mind patterns and cravings that it apocalypses. Sometimes, it’s the whole: the engendering of tension in the quadriceps strength of a deeply lunged knee, or the evershifting balance of the grounded leg in dancer’s pose, or the just-this-side-of-painful ache of extended hamstrings in a seated forward bend, all resolving to stability: the lunged leg straightening, the balance calming as the second foot reaches the earth, the hamstrings releasing as the torso rises out of the forward bend.

Once we know where to find light and where to find dark, we can begin to draw.

Once we know the lines of energy in our skin and thoughts and muscle and intention and organs and bones and emotions and sinews, we can begin to practice yoga.

* * *

The assemblage of atoms and molecules and proteins and structures and energy of a human stands at the edge of the Colorado River, breathing quietly and seeing a slow-to-retire bat dancing on the ripples of air above the river that itself reflects the bat’s silhouette against a brightening sky and fading stars. The human feet press into the riverwet sand, connected to the grains by the plunging shape of gravity-carved space, twisting itself toward matter. The human feels simply a draw earthward, and shifts his weight slightly, realigning the sensed mass of his body to the vertical planes of femurs and spine, which changes, ever so slightly, the shape of space that he is.

Connected.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Tripping through prana

I lie down in savasana, arrange my arms and legs. I adjust the position of my shoulderblades. Readjust my head to reduce the bend of my neck. Open my eyes once more, then close them, drawing the gaze inward to the space between my eyes.

Darren Main begins calling the breath instructions. Heidi, assisting him, moves through the room.

Five breaths in, I’m curious.

Five more, no change.

Five more, I feel a tendril of difference, of opening. I register the briefest sensation of aversion and fear. I choose to allow it.

Five more, and a sense of elation arises, lightness.

The breathing continues, but the opening moves to the foreground.

A slight tingling at the tip of my nose.

Nadis in the thumbs and forearms energize and brighten.

A sense of the separation of being high.

Darren calls for five deeper breaths, then, on the exhale, hold until the need for new breath.

At the fifth, breath enters deeply, then out. Then I move into the upward lift of navasana.

Everything ignites. Blazes upward.

St. Theresa.

* * *

Breath brings me back to earth.

Then draws the heart higher.

An image of matsyasana, fish pose, arises in my mind.

My heart lifts, spine arches.

Root bandha engages. Navel bandha locks.

The throat widens and prana moves out with each exhale. I draw the chin toward the chest.

* * *

Heidi presses her thumb into the center of my forehead.

The trembling in my arms and heart cohere into rapid pulsing.

The light coming through my eyelids flashes bright/dark, then pulses.

The sounds of Heidi’s breath penetrate my sensory rock concert.

Then I realize she’s reaching out to me with the sound of her breath. Suggesting.

My mind slowly thinks to match her breath, but there’s no purchase for the mind on the self-driving breath.

Heidi’s thumb slides up the forehead, toward the hairline.

All mind connects to her thumb, focus narrows to it, tendrils of mind, of wanting, wrap around the connection, wanting more. Wanting.

Trembling and pulsing grow to all.

Heidi releases and the mind hears her moving to a nearby person.

* * *

The connection gone, the grasping remains.

Darkness, disappointment, rejection, suffering, anguish all arise. Grasping at loss is all.

The body twists and contorts, spams.

Sobbing.

* * *

Heidi returns, now in first aid mode. Her touch channels the prana.

A dark phase of matsyasana emerges. Hands clenched. Resistance increases.

Heidi’s breathing re-enters my awareness.

Opposition.

She unpeels my fingers from my fist.

The mind sees her calm.

The body arches toward the ceiling.

Then entirely quiet.

Mind quiet.

Body moves into stillness.

* * *

New cycles of breath.

New openness.

Badda konasana. Mula bandha, Uddiyana bandha, Jalandhara bandha all lock.

Then release.

More savasana.

Quiet mind.

Gentle witnessing awareness emerges.

* * *
The first time I participated in a pranayama workshop with Darren Main, I felt like the experience was more than mildly dangerous.

From a flatlander’s perspective, it seemed to me to be simply hyperventilation and the disorientation and high associated with it, resulting in some laughter, some sobbing. And though I categorized it and labeled it so, how could that really be as dangerous as I felt it was? With time, I became more interested in the connection between breath and emotion and joy and sorrow that was apparent from the experience.

So by the time Darren came back a year later, I decided to try it again.

Second go-around, less dramatic, less worrisome. Similarly interesting. I was more curious.

Sometimes, three’s the charm.

* * *
Like the first two experiences with pranayama, in my third just last week, I again experienced the loosening of the grip of the conscious mind that results from hyperventilation. But rather than shifting into seemingly random emotional or mental states, this time there was enough mindfulness beneath the conscious mind to hold the order and openness.

The explosion of ignition that came first was elemental.

But what I find most interesting now is how clearly I felt then and remember even now the grasping for more of the fireworks, the reaching out, wanting, clinging to Heidi’s touch, and then the huge wave of darkness that followed the separation, the clinging with nothing to hold onto, the completeness of misery and unhappiness. Complete and utter dukkha.

So now – back to pranayama. I think I understand its potential a bit better than I did before. Yes, it involves changing the body’s chemistry. Yes, its effects can be rightly characterized as unstable. But at a finer level of granularity, for me this time, it reduced the energy usually drawn by the thinking mind, increased the energy channeled through the body, and increased the brightness of my feelings to Klieg lamp levels.

At that level of brightness – where feelings/sensations were all in all – I saw more clearly and sharply both the grasping of wanting more that impeded my experience of what was happening, as well as the inundating darkness and suffering that came from the grasping once the wave of experience subsided.

Not only is it clear that that Buddha guy knew what he was talking about when it came to that Second Noble Truth, it’s also clear that in the trippy altered mind state of that pranayama practice, what is see-able is not always as random as I’d guessed.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Nothing holy; all emptiness

Have you ever had the sense when you walked through a doorway, or the space between two trees or, really, anywhere, when you just noticed that your body – maybe your eyes or your brain – were not exactly yours, but rather were a particular concentration of consciousness occupying a particular place, and as you walked through that place, that very location in the universe became more aware because it was occupied by the arrangement of matter comprising your mind/body, but really, you weren't different in kind from the molecules of air that your face nudged out of the way, but the fabric of the space that held first those oxygen molecules and nitrogen atoms and the rest also later held, just as gently, the protein chains and water-based solutions and calcium deposits of a conscious body/mind, just as gently letting go of them as they moved on, but before they did, for just that tiny moment, that place in space/time was aware of itself?

* * *

Buddhism is profoundly confusing.

Bodhidharma declared to Emperor Wu: “Nothing holy; all emptiness.”

The Diamond Sutra makes the same point, a bit more elaborately: “Form is emptiness; emptiness is form. Form is not other than emptiness; emptiness is not other than form.”

When I first encountered each of these teachings a few years ago, I found them quite off-putting. How could emptiness be anything other than nihilism, a demon that had nearly done me in in prior years? I chewed on that for a time, and then I set it aside, unable to make heads or tails of it.

* * *

My next encounter with emptiness occurred during my first retreat. I was on a four-day yoga-
and-meditation retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center, a place in the Colorado high country run by Tibetan Buddhists in the Kagy├╝ lineage of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. I wrote about it here. My memory now is that I found the sitting parts of the retreat very hard, with back pain and discomfort and a sense that I really didn’t know what I was doing. I recall thoroughly enjoying the yoga practice (an easy comfort zone for me then), but trying out the meditation nonetheless.

About halfway through the retreat, the meditation teacher, David Nichtern, taught us the Three Characteristics – the three basic insights that arise at the beginning of the meditation path – and not coincidentally, the three experiential doors that stand at the end of the meditation path, as well. Those three characteristics, he said, were suffering, impermanence, and no-self or, he said, “emptiness.” By then, I’d come to understand something about suffering, and my back pain during that retreat was more than enough reminder of it. I thought that I got the notion of impermanence reasonably well. But emptiness/no-self – that triggered my by-then usual aversive response: “Don’t understand it; don’t get it; I’m doing ok; things are getting better; best not to think about it.”

Yep. I’d replaced the nihilism demon with an aversion-to-nihilism demon.

In hindsight, I think that I wasn’t really whole-hearted on that retreat. There were half a dozen reasons for it, but that’s the gist of it.

The meditation hall at Shambhala is situated in a small valley between a range of high foothills that are, themselves, nestled up against the east side of the Rocky Mountains. As the place is run by Tibetan Buddhists, there are strings of sunburnt and faded, tattered prayer flags scattered about, wherever a breeze might re-embody their devotion. In particular, I could see in the distance, prayer flags stretching up the slopes of the nearest high crag. In a kind of escape, I rose early one morning and climbed through the ebbing darkness. I worked my way up to the base of the crag, first along a roadcut, then along a plainly-evident trail. This was classic, dry Ponderosa montane environment.

From the top of the low mountain, the rocky crag rose another 75 feet or so. I scrambled up, found a level spot on the east side of the crag, just below the top, and sat.

I’ve never been to the top of a Colorado mountain when there wasn’t a wind blowing. On this one, it was mild – a steady pre-dawn breeze. I looked east. I was high enough that I could see all the way out of the mountains to the high plains beyond Fort Collins – a long, flat horizon. The sky glowing.

Six or seven birds sailed through the space above the valley, suddenly turning that space, which I’d been looking through, but never seeing, into a specific place of dimensions, the birds, a passing thought carried on the breeze, disappearing behind the crag.

The breeze pressed against me, around me. I breathed, and it entered. Exhaled.

* * *

I wrote some time ago about my experience with lovingkindness meditation. I worked out my own formulation of the prayer: May I be healthy, may I be happy, may I be peaceful, may I be clear.

Clear is the word I use to remind me of the transparency I felt sitting on that crag – clear – the light of the rising sun shining through the transparent sky, through my body/mind. The breeze pressing on its way past me, through me. Not capturing, not converting, not insisting, not nothing, but no-thing.

* * *

Sitting on the crag was free and freeing. Liberation is nothing more than the simplest clarity.

Form and emptiness.

* * *

The yoga students start on their backs, shoulderblades drawn together and shifted down the spine toward the hips, holding firmly the space between their hearts and the earth. I call them through a slow and easy first series of sun salutations. We begin the second series with Warrior 2.

“Allow your vision to focus on the tip of the middle finger of your right hand.”

“Shift your vision from that fingertip to your right eye in the mirror in front of you.”

“Now back to the fingertip.”

“Holding that focal distance, allow your right hand to drop, and see the space your hand no longer occupies. See the space. Not through it, but just it.”

* * *

Years and years ago, I and a colleague walked through Central Park one morning. We were talking about consciousness, and as we walked we stepped onto some of the rubbed-smooth granite patches exposed above the lawns there. He remarked, “I think the rocks have an awareness of their own.” I disagreed, convinced that if it were so, it was a kind of consciousness inaccessible to me.

But now? As for me, I’m beginning to think that everywhere and everywhen is aware, just as aware as "my" body is. I just tend not to notice awareness much, except when it manifests in a form that interacts more or less readily with us. Rocks? Aware? Sure. Awareness is just aware. If it's awareness of a rock, it doesn't have much to communicate with, doesn't have much to remember with. What makes humans tick? We're evolutionarily complicated assemblages that have developed memories and communications and elaborate sensory devices. And we're aware. Not two different things, because everything has an inside to it – the aware part – and an outside to it – the part we can (in part) perceive through senses.

* * *

We do not walk upon the ground. We are as much the fabric of existence as the ground we walk upon, as the thoughts that fly through our minds like birds carried on the wind, as the water crashing down mountain riverbeds as spring run off, as the air we breathe, as the space through which we move.

Awareness, this exact instant, is all in all in all.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Disappearing and Reappearing

It's been a bit since I posted.

As you might have noticed, if you've read much here in the past, my practice (my habit? my karma?) has been to write from a particular stance, a particular view from a particular position -- geographically, conceptually, all that.

A while ago, it became increasingly clear that writing from that stance was a reinforcement of ego. It was bolstering the I/Me/Mine of the writer. Nothing wrong with that, per se. But that practice was making it harder to see beyond the I/Me.

German scientists recently reported success with a cloaking technology -- they managed to create crystals that coated a bump on a bit of gold so that the bump couldn't be seen. A kind of cool ability, when you intend it to happen.

Maybe I've discovered that my writing had turned into a cloaking technology for my ego -- but not only did it conceal it, the very act of concealing it bolstered it.

So every time I started to write, it soon became apparent that I had actually been writing.

It was funny, in a way. Once awareness of my own ego-capture would arise, the smaller I would resume the essay, usually along a tangent, only to have the process repeat.

As you might imagine, the actual words that get generated in such a process are pretty awful.

Rather than argue, I practiced contentment.

* * *

Then, after going blog-silent for six months or so, the urge to write arose again. The dilemma that had sent me into silence was right there where it had been left, still needing attention. Maybe it was the time to be deliberate, maybe it was movement in other aspects of life, maybe it was just a thinning of karmic build-up, but now -- today -- it feels like there may be ways to write that are simultaneously conscious of the self who is speaking, the world spoken of, the inextricable unity of them both, and the beautiful emptiness of all three.

At any rate, it's time to try.

Thanks for being patient.