following fear into the star-stuff of my cells

Frederick Walker, The Woman in White, 1871 Tate Gallery

 

This post is an attempt to explain why I’m a dedicated follower of fear.  For as long as I can remember (and that’s probably way further than your lifespan dear reader), I’ve been keenly curious and unafraid of a good adventure.  So it’s surprising that I was so slow to arrive at the threshold of my body’s dark knowledge.  Needless to say, the Shadowlands had good reason to be well-hidden from my agenda…
But once the bellyflop into the deep occurred, the implications of the free-fall of fifteen years ago could at last percolate down and settle in the cells.  I am writing this in the midst of another dive – a somatic meditation retreat, which I think of as a pre-death trauma detox.  For the most part I’m avoiding the screen, but this pressed to be posted.


We hear it so often:  To be happy, to be spiritually liberated, to be … (insert personal agenda), we must choose between love and fear.  And the ominously silent insinuation is that choosing fear is definitely not the way to go.

My platitude-sensitive antenna start to hum; a dictum like this is demands scrutiny.

A good place to start is by being clear about what one actually is, i.e. the nature of one who could claim to make such a choice.  If there’s still a belief in a separate, solid-state self, (which is a bit like admitting that you believe the world is flat and climate change is a myth), then you’ll believe there’s someone who can make a choice of this kind.  You’ll believe that this mental object called “me” can adroitly and wisely select between other mental objects (fear and love) in order to become a happier mental object.  To the imagined self – the chooser – love and fear are inescapably conceptual.  And what follows won’t make a smidgin of sense.  (Click X now.)

However, if you’ve sniffed out the falsity of an independent me thing, you’ll find it slightly incoherent that these two concepts, with their inherent duality, are so commonly presented as an either-or option.  It sounds like an invitation to reconstruct a fresh version of a self – one that will either make the right choice (good work!) or get it wrong (see how hopeless you are?).  You’d be right to want to sniff out the truth of the matter.

Let’s start with love.  Having experienced the mind-shattering absence of anything that could exist as an independent ghost-in-the-machine, you’ve already noticed the sweetness, the benevolence that floods into the space vacated by that phantom.  You’ve realised that that very sweetness is the Love (big L) you always imagined was elsewhere.  (Hiding behind the façade of your spiritual teacher, your partner, your lover; waiting at the end of your seeking, your arduous practice-project…)  You’ve woken up to the fact that it’s always been there;  that it’s your inescapable fundamental state and that it has no opposite, only a limitless wardrobe of apparent disguises.

Repeat – Love has no opposite.

Which means: Fear is not the opposite of, nor an alternative to, Love.

So let’s look at fear.  We’re told that humans are born with just two innate, hard-wired fears: fear of falling, and fear of sudden loud noises.  All other fears are learned, and these are the ones I speak of here.  I’m not talking about natural, normal reactions to any kind of physical danger.

I experience psychological fear as a contraction within my body.  It’s a tension, a more or less subtle holding-on – sometimes so subtle that it escapes awareness – those who have encountered the consequences of heart tension know about this.

Unlike the changeless Love discussed above, which isn’t an experience but the space in which experiences arise, any experience will always have an opposite.  If the cramping experience had an opposite, what might it be?  Wouldn’t it be the absence of any contraction triggered by recent or ancient memory?  Wouldn’t it be an open and accepting gesture towards my life?  Towards whatever the universe is throwing in my face right this minute – regardless of how it conflicts with my stitched-together idea of how it should be?

Fear is a re-action posing as a new sensation.  When I learned that after the age of six or seven we never experience a new emotion, but endlessly experience a replay of those established in infant-hood – albeit dressed up in fresh scenarios – I was shocked.  I realised that since I’m well over the age of six, any experience of fear will always be a re-action.  A re-enactment.

Another shocker came with this:  98% of what the body knows is unavailable to our conscious awareness.  Meaning that – for the most part – I don’t know what I’m afraid of and why.  Which makes it tricky to talk about “not choosing fear” – let alone being “honest” with myself.  Gulp.

The primal imprints of my early experience were laid down in the cells long before there were words to describe anything, and proceed to map out my experience, decade after decade.  Without my conscious awareness having a clue.

And so it goes for all of us.  Until something moves us to inquire.

What moves us?

Since we’ve awakened to our abiding nature as Love, we must concede that Love moves Itself.

There’s nothing personal involved:  It happens by itself.  It happens for itself.  And it happens exactly when It wants to.

It delivers an impeccable invitation to enter into an unabridged encounter with things we’ve been working all our life to avoid because the associated pain was/is unbearable.

If fear is in my face it’s because Love is fishing for a lost child’s pain – a pain unique to this matrix of experience and potential, yet universal to all humanity.  And since Love is inescapably present as the shining awareness that knows my fear, I can turn towards this fear (or grief, or rage) without ever leaving Love.

I say, “Welcome!” to fear.  I plump up a cushion for it in my heart.  I stop.

I notice the instant impulse to act out habitual, conditioned re-actions.  I desist – or at least press the pause button.  I’m interested;  having been informed that we are ignorant of the knowledge hidden in the cells, I’m curious.  Who wouldn’t want to explore?

I turn towards the sensation that is visiting me – in dreams, meditation and daily interactions.  I turn my breath, my awareness, my sensitivity and my curiosity its way.  I don’t give it the label “fear” or spell out a story about it.  I refuse to be tempted to fix it or lean into it or accept it or imagine any outcome.

So here I am, just looking, with the impartial gaze of whole-body awareness.  As though I’m looking through the eyeballs of each of the 37.2 trillion cells in my body.

I watch what happens.  I pay attention when those long-stifled echoes from the emptiness of my body begin to whisper.

Love clears its throat.  And when it knows I’m truly committed (not furtively checking out the exits) it speaks loud and clear.  Its language is felt rather than heard, sensed rather than known.  It reorganises this neurological field and in so doing recreates my relationship to the world.

And further – since it’s evident that my body has no borders – it completely recasts my relationship with and as the Cosmos.  Slowly but surely, I come to view this work as an offering made by the Cosmos for the benefit of one’s fellow-beings, the Earth, and the Cosmos itself.

Out of my mind
and into the star-stuff of my cells
I’ll follow the angel called fear
so resplendent in her costume
borrowed
from Love’s limitless wardrobe.

The angel called fear.

Allons-y!

 


Image: Frederick Walker, The Woman in White, 1871, gouache on paper. Tate London


(love loves a vacuum)

 

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Seule 1896.  Oil on cardboard. H. 31; W. 40 cm  © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay)

 

xxix

God came to visit

she snuck in as a ‘flu bug

oh – what an honour!

 

xxx

resting in retreat:

with no idea of ‘body’

can illness be found?

 

xxxi

gutted and legless

I’m utterly emptied out

(love loves a vacuum)

 


Image: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Seule 1896.
Oil on cardboard. H. 31; W. 40 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay)


nothin’ left to lose …

I’ve had an encounter with an ear worm. You know, those catchy tunes that keep playing in your mind ad nauseam.

It’s amazing the lengths tic-toc thinking will go to, to ensure some activity is going on. I’ve found the only effective antidote to be a kind of meditation where you just plonk yourself down (or not) and cast attention in the worm’s direction without any intention to “stop” it. Brain worms loathe the light of attention.

This worm was fun (for a while), as my mind played with the lyrics. I jotted a couple down before returning the wriggler to sender, from whence it has failed to return. Maybe it’s back in Janis’s pocket…

 

Janis Joplin, 1970

“Freedom’s just another word
for nothin’ left to lose.”*

Love is just another word
for when you disappear.

 

Peace is just another word
for right and wrong conjoined.

 

Heaven‘s just another word
for no one left to choose.

 

More stanzas on the nondual theme, anyone?

 

[Later – they just keep coming… ]

 

Me is just another word
for God knowing Itself.

 

Joy is just another word
for thankfulness enthused.

 

Praise is just another word
for wonderment expressed.

 

God is just another word
for What’s beyond all words.

. . .


* Lyrics from Me and Bobby McGee, by Kris Kristofferson


Image: Janis Joplin, whose version of this song was her only number one hit. It was included in the album Pearl, 1970. Source: Wikimedia Commons


 

(it’s not just old age, either)

 

Echoes from Emptiness: Backyard Bauhinia

 
Under a new moon, at the turning of the earth towards summer, I sit at my table out on the deck, the candle flickering as the last stragglers of the bat community head over east, and I, a being once so addicted to “everywhere-but-here”, a global gaddabout of the first order, so easily seduced by salubrious memories of living and working and loving in Europe, North America, India, the Homeland (Aotearoa New Zealand), always ready to go – go – go now, am wallowing in a ridiculous contentment that consumes all desire to spend precious energy fleeing the inexplicable luxury of just this.

How, when my inhalation blesses me with the fragrance of Jasmine, Lavender, Wisteria, Orange and Mango blossom and I am giddy with double delight* at the excessive glory of the huge Bauhinia in my backyard, could I pine for any other clime?

How, when Kookaburra, Currawong, Magpie, uncountable Lorikeets and a host of unidentified cheepers and warblers chorus so insistently at 4am could I wish for a dark, cold, silent dawn elsewhere?

How, when greeted, like this morning, with a sky of powder-blue that throws the Border Ranges and Mount Warning into a chiaroscuro of subtle tones of silver, could I long even for those beloved Alps of my childhood?

I bless the land life has brought me to. It wasn’t my call, and it hasn’t always been easy. But I know beyond a shadow of doubt, it was, and it is, exactly where I need to be.

I am at last able to say – I love I love I love this sunburnt country.

And the weird thing is that it’s not about Australia at all.

I am simply and hopelessly in love.

 


Image by yours truly: Bauhinia blakeana – also known as the Hong Kong Orchid Tree. More info here.
*Treble delight actually – the tree is a dynamo of insect activity, and the Rainbow Lorikeets never draw breath.


“sunburnt country” – lifted from Dorothea Mackellar’s poem: My Country.


perhaps it is time?

 
Photo art by Christoffer Relander
 

would you believe me
if I assured you that
you can never be too old
(or too young)
to meet the unborn
deathless Bright
that is your actual identity?

would you believe me
if I whispered that you
and the world appearing
within that radiant
Knowingness
are inseparable
except in thought?

would you believe me
if I said, No, it is not
too late
to turn in, to dive down
into your immensity
and feel loved again by
your own shy Life?

if your days feel deadened
by weariness and futility,
if your world seems fragmented
and full of pain,
I implore you: please
don’t believe or not believe,
but glance, with thoughts
on hold,
at the ever-present invitation
to check this out for yourself
 
perhaps it is time?

 


Multiple exposure portrait by Christoffer Relander


whatever It is

Echoes from Emptiness - Black Hole 7 by Fabian Oefner

 

whatever It is
that delivers these words
(unreachable by mind’s intent)
through this form

that’s what I pray to

 

whatever It is
that cracks open this heart
(circumventing mind’s cynicism)
to bathe me in bliss

that’s what I call love

 

whatever It is
that heals this weary wounded body
(unaided by any out-sourced effort)
restoring it while I sleep, oblivious

that’s what I hold sacred

 

whatever It is
that births and sustains creation
(immeasurable by mind’s technologies)
unfindable, yet apparent wherever my senses alight

that’s what I bow down to

 

whatever It is
that is moved by grace
(which is just another word for the unwordable)
to pray, to bow, to melt into the sacred

that’s whatever It is

entertaining Itself

 


Image credit: Fabian Oefner


three haiku for the road ahead

Leaving Cloud Mountain

 

xxii

How to heal a heart:
stand alone, drop your stories,
fall in love with this.

 

xxiii

When my aloneness
smiled with simple contentment
love loosed its wild song.

 

xxiv

Now that I’m clueless,
emptiness dances naked
wherever I gaze.

 


 

Life moves. It’s taking itself off the mountain and into the marketplace again. Who knows what will unfold? The only thing I’m certain about is that gratitude and fulfillment go with me – one’s my left leg, the other my right…

three haiku from cloud mountain hermitage