Why I love telling your stories (too)

Some of my best thinking has been done by others.

— Ken Blanchard

They buck me up — your stories. They inspire me to get my dragging buttocks off the ground when I get knocked down.*

There’s no greater teaser to the mystery at the heart of our lives than other people’s experience. Another’s experience cajoles us out of mental complacency. Knowing the experience of another keeps me alert — open — in a could that be possible for me too mode.

Then there are the insights. The people you know are riddled through with insights into life, like worms of a higher order. You just have to ask. And listen. They’ll wriggle their way out.

For example. This seems a simple enough truism, does it not, expressed by Corina Pelloni in a back and forth email Q&A we’re doing:

What I was saying is that I had a spiritual awareness before I was aware of that awareness as spiritual…

To someone else that may be ho hum, to me it was electrifying. Now I am keenly interested in those seminal experiences for which we had no context at the time and perhaps still don’t.

Corina is a slip of a woman, just under thirty-something, though she’s elfin enough to be asked for I.D. every time she orders a drink, I’m sure. Yet she opened my mind to this idea of awareness before understanding . . . . 


* I get up again! (Chumbawumba reference.)

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The difference between me and the enlightened

When I was a child of five, six, maybe seven I was beaten up by this nasty kid across the street, Tommy Pace. It might have only been a few times . . . the memory may loom larger than the events.

One time I received a pummeling all the way back to my house. Upon entering, my hysteria upset my Dad who shoved me back outside to face him again — and then locked the door behind me. That’s one way to find out you’re on your own.

We moved away when I was nine . . . . 

I returned to the area after college to work in my Dad’s tire store. I was muscular now — lean — I’d just worked on a ranch all summer and then biked from the Colorado mountains to the Louisiana swamps. I swam daily, I ran daily — I was ready for Tommy.

I found myself driving to the old street. Not that I was going to pick a fight. I’d just read three books on Gandhi the previous year! Voluntarily. As in not for school.

But . . . if in that Billy Jack, Kung Fu Kwai Chang Caine spirit I was forced to defend my pure self — why, I pitied the fool who would let loose that inner ferocity.

These were my background thoughts — it quickly became evident my larger self thought this ludicrous.

I didn’t think in terms of forgiveness back then — but I was overcome with the utter silliness of my fantasy revenge.

So, the difference between me and the enlightened? Many years. 

It took me many years to let it go. The enlightened don’t have to let something go, for in the moment they are pervaded with understanding. 

Now I think of the whole arc of the story with fondness. That was likely the first thing I let go in my life — voluntarily.

My work is to whittle that gap down to some years, then some months, and then some days. At some point — one can anticipate, one can hope — I will be peace and understanding in the moment.

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What does this love crap mean anyway?

If I move from anger at you to frustration with you, love moved me

If I move from frustration to annoyance, love moved me
If I move from annoyance to ah what the hell, love moved me
If I move from ah what the hell to who knows what he’s got going on, love moved me
If I move from that to acceptance, love moved me
If I move anywhere up the chain of negativity to positivity, love moved me
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Moments that go unrecognized until their purpose becomes clear

Can you recall those early experiences beckoning you toward something you couldn’t name? In later years you might cast your mind back and smile in recognition . . . oh yeah, that’s when my first stirrings toward real friendship began, you might say, or toward becoming a sexual being, or a social being, or anything that became vitally important to you later.

Corina Pelloni revealed a most special version of this type of incipient experience in an email recently — which struck me powerfully precisely because I do not recall having them myself, certainly not until later in life.

But then again everything about Corina is precocious, as we forty and fifty-somethings discovered when young Corina joined our Dreamers Club, a monthly personal and spiritual share-fest — so I shouldn’t be surprised.

Then — suddenly — in the writing of this piece! — I had a rush of memories, from early years, from as early as three, four, five, confirming exactly what Corina speaks to below.

Now in quiet moments I’ll be having fun mining my memory for experiences such as these.

Here’s Corina:

When I was a small child, I lived in an area filled with natural beauty and, since I was a solitary kid, I spent a lot of time in it alone. I could spend a whole day in the woods. I could walk across town lines following a stream, but I liked to be in the pastures when the sun was going down. 

The terrain in the Northeast is different; very hilly and rocky. The original farmers in that area made stone walls everywhere just to get the rocks out of the way so the livestock wouldn’t trip and their plows wouldn’t catch. 

The farms up there are small, not like the ones down here in Florida or the rest of the South. The treeline is always close, and because of the hills the horizon is closer as well. 

The pasture was a fun place to walk and climb trees, but the setting sun turned it into a masterpiece. The way it slanted through the trees and painted the ground, the way it made all the distant trees look taller. On the ground, the scrub disdained by the cows contrasted wildly with its own shadow because every green thing was lit up with gold and the air had this wild crimson highlight. It was a magical time. 

I remember it for the breathtaking physical beauty of it, but also for the effect it produced within me. It made me want to melt or explode or evaporate. I wanted the boundary between myself and the environment to disintegrate completely so that I could be in it, of it, see it from every angle and have all of it within me at the same time. I regretted my human smallness then and wanted something greater, more whole, more inclusive.

As a shy, over-sensitive kid with very poor social development, this was not a feeling I could share with anyone or experience in the company of others. Nor was I informed enough at the time to refer to any experience as a spiritual experience. I know now that it was, that the dissolution of the separate self which I craved is the final goal of all spiritual journeys. 

A lot of years later, a lot of books and classes and thoughts later, I can apply in retrospect terms such as ‘spiritual experience’ or ‘pivotal moment’ or such to different times in my life. 

These moments can go unrecognized until their purpose becomes clear. 

Consciously so or not, I think it is all there from the very beginning. I think when some self is purposefully on a spiritual journey, it is a journey of re-discovery of what is eternal, and what is eternal has always been there.

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The stream of voluptuous experience

There’s a stream of voluptuous experience that I enter from time to time. 

Hombre, that is the place to be, flowing merrily within the stream of engagement. Actions fulfill themselves. Wishes bring wonders that speed me along to their fruition. The world feels like a big, warm smile.

There’s also that other stream — you know the one, the one that makes you wince, even despair — but we won’t talk about that one today. That one recedes the more I enter the other . . . . 

Mujer, how do we slip into that stream of voluptuous experience? A thousand thousand ways, each of us must find our own ways in.

Here are some of the ways I’ve found entry:

silence
movement
opening my eyes to the presence of another
conversation that matters
saying yes to what is significant
saying no to what is inconsequential
laughter
love, which always makes the heart light

For others, it may be this:

for Paul, the piano
for Kelly, Luca
for Brian, the angels
for Holly, articulating the body
for you, you know your ways, your portals into the Flow

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On quitting the work you once loved

Recently Dave Beck shared with me a sheet of paper with accumulated thoughts about a life well lived. He — and others — had been asked by a family member to jot down some life thoughts for her turning-21-year-old son.

First off, what a wonderful idea, family member! Gather the accumulated wisdom from close friends and family to help inspire a young adult as he embarks on his own separate journey. 

I’m a proponent of mining the minds of those around you — frequently there is gold there. Cobwebs too, but those are easily cleared.

This one thought from Dave, on work, leapt out (oh, and also this cryptic line: “Women — I’ll get back to you on this.”).

He notes this for his nephew: 

Finding what work makes you happy isn’t the only thing. It’s also realizing when the love affair is over and that it’s time to move on.

More? Sure, here you go

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What am I creating today?

If you can worry, you can dream. 

— Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

There’s an Abraham-Hicks motif that I like to remind myself of, about how your thoughts have creation power and ultimately solidify — in some form — into your experience.

Many have spoken in a similar fashion. Their version goes (somewhat) like this: 

Whatever you are thinking is like planning your future. If you’re worrying, you’re planning your future. If you’re happily expectant, you’re planning your future. If you are filled with dread, you are planning your future. In essence, observe your thoughts to find out what you are planning for yourself.

The sculptor David Langley told me that for many years he awoke each day to this thought: What do I have to worry about today?

After he caught himself repeating this defeating mode of inquiry every morning, he decided to train himself into a different mode. Here’s the new question he poses for himself each morning: What am I going to work on today?

Essentially he’s asking, what am I going to create today . . . ? It’s a line of inquiry that propels him into the day with creation power at his back.

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On the impossibility of helping sometimes

I scrambled to save this tiny lizard from itself, first found stuck on the underside of our cleaning sponge at the rim of the kitchen sink. From there it leapt to the ground. Humanscale, what would that be? A thirty-story leap?

I went to scoop it up — it managed to elude me and find the throw rug. It scurried to a ripple in the fabric, curling tightly underneath. Finally I transported it to safety outside. There, the dog got it.

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Even in my erotic dreams I’m evolving

My dream mind has a way of protecting my everyday self from its explorations. Let me give you an example.

When my dream goes fantasy sexual — beyond Ann, as there are many that plow this ground too, so to speak — all of a sudden my dream self is single, unatttached, without a hint of the existence of our marriage. I don’t know how this is accomplished so convincingly, this calving off of the psyche, but it is convenient for the narrative I suppose. Doubly convenient when I awaken and recall of the dream storyline trickles back to me.

This dream of a few days ago was different. Ann was in the dream and oddly, weirdly, unexpectedly — she’s not one I think of in waking reality — so was Nicole Kidman.

We seemed to be on a volunteer vacation, in an environment reminiscent of an ashram, where we tended to very young children, the orphaned and the dispossessed I believe. This is as elevated as the dream gets, the rest resides in the lower chakras, if you speak that language. If you don’t, focusing on the term lower should help if you’re lost in translation.

Nicole Kidman supported the compound and was there managing all of our interactions, us being the staff and those of us who were there volunteering. All the women were topless, including Ann and Nicole, wearing sari skirts. This is a dream, so you’ll just have to go with it. It all seemed quite natural, in the way Tahiti seemed natural and sensual to Westerners when they first arrived there.

An arrangement had somehow been made between Ann and Nicole — with the understanding between all of us that we had an open marriage — for Nicole and I to get together, intimately, at some point very soon. So there we were, doing our work at the mission, with Nicole and Ann floating about, among others. I remember gazing at them, thinking how lovely each was . . . but then coming to the realization I couldn’t go through with it . . . my love and attraction to Ann were too overpowering . . . 

The dream ended there. I awoke marveling at how even my dream self evolves. It was no longer the dream self of my randy youth who’d remained at the party for too long. 

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Today’s hero: The man who jumped in

Today’s hero is Paul Kaufman, for epitomizing this theme in action, of jumping in where you’re needed.

This week we had our season kick-off event at the art gallery — and in the first hour had an overwhelming crush of people flow in. Howard, serving wine and water at our minimalist bar, was swamped. (It wasn’t just any water, by the way — it sparkled!) People stacked up. Then Paul Kaufman — a guest — jumped in.

Paul is a realtor and could easily have remained in the social swirl with fellow guests, seeking connections, gaining contacts. It would have made business sense to do so. He could have had a chatty good time, viewed the art, imbibed a bit, yawned and gone home for a pleasant sleep.

Instead, for more than an hour he stood side by side with Howard dispensing wine and water and good cheer to the party goers, to keep the people flow flowing.

I think of the time I was a stranger in a strange land — somewhere far from home, unable to find my way in a convoluted area — when a local hero of the moment hopped in his vehicle and drove in front of me as a means of directing me through too many twists and turns to remember. That has happened several times to me out West, where dirt tracks and crazy curvy roads abound — someone will pop into their truck to steer you in the right direction.

I think of the time my brother and another man rushed to the side of a massive, heavy-set fellow on crutches and in leg braces, to physically support him so he could ascend the steps to the viewing platform at Chimney Rock in the Carolinas. It was one arduous step after another, with the man in leg braces exclaiming loud cries of encouragement to himself with each step attained. A cheer erupted from the dozens of onlookers when this trio climbed onto to the platform.

Thank you heroes of the moment, for jumping in where someone is needed. It needn’t be you, but you take it upon yourself and make it your mini-mission to be of service — you grace our lives with your examples in action.

Thank you, Paul — there was no applause for you when you finally stepped away last night — the people you served had no idea you’d nimbly scooted in to lend assistance. We celebrate you here, now.

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