Diary: Asthma, Acting, and Anxiety

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I am hoping to write my way into being able to breathe again. For these last few nights my asthma has been so bad, that, come evening, only by lying stretched out on the floor on my side, can I breathe with enough ease not to send myself into a panic.

Needless to say, this posture is rather limiting as to the kind of activities it permits; I can easily fall asleep, or visualize worlds sprouting out of the carpet; I can drink, and feel my hyper-active thoughts blur into a softness – a sort of lounge of comfortable discomfort, where all the visitants are too intoxicated to realize they are reclining languidly on devices of torture, reading the complete works of Oscar Wilde with their heads impaled on spikes.

Then my emotions and fancies flow freer because they are not attached to PANIC’s maniacal reigns. I reflect on all the sensations I want to experience –all the things I want to pursue, and be pursued by – not to look on the escarpments of pine forests on the side of the Blorenge as piddling flicks from God’s artistic wrist, but as something I can actively encounter and be soothed by.

But, at the moment, soothing things are hard to come by. Locked into an agoraphobic paralysis, one of the few places I feel actively safe is upon my bedroom floor. Whenever I feel PANIC push her needling, catecholaminic fingers into me, I comfort myself by thinking – “So long as I can get home, I’ll be fine – so long as I can lie down on my floor, without worrying about maintaining my composure for the sake of professionalism, all will be well”

To a man accustomed to being fearless, this has all been very debilitating. The idea of going anywhere unaccompanied distresses me, and yet, I long to be able to wander freely again with equal depth.

These panic attacks began three week’s ago – the week before I was due to go onstage in ‘Hello Dolly.’ I ended up being incapacitated for a whole rehearsal, and a friend had to comfort me as I was tazered by the universe, convulsing and writhing on the floor, before explosively sobbing from sheer nervous exhaustion.

Come the week of the show, performing was the last thing I felt like doing. My confidence was completely undermined – I was terrified that I would stop breathing, or collapse from panic on the stage, and the whole show would have to be cancelled due to my debility. Almost every night, prior to my actual appearance on stage, I felt certain I wouldn’t be able to go on, and that I would have to live forever with the humiliation of having ruined a show everyone had put so much effort into.

I was so desperate, that I tried to make a deal with my personal spirits, praying fervently to whatever gods or goddesses would listen: “Please – I don’t care what you do to me once the show is over – ruin me – destroy me if you like – kill me even – but please let me get through the show – please let me do a good performance, so I don’t let anybody down.”

This is not the first time I have uttered such a prayer. Three years ago, cast to play Fagin in Oliver!, I developed asthma. I was so terrified at feeling my ability to breathe had been wrested from me, that I was every day convinced I was going to die. And likewise, I prayed “I don’t care if I die – just let me live until after the show, and I will die a happy man.”

It’s amazing to think just how important these shows are to me; that I would be willing to die for them – that they are milestones of danger in the tapestry of my mortality – when to all others they are just transient pieces of entertainment.

But to me, they are more than just pieces of entertainment: they represent my strength and endurance – my willingness to sacrifice myself totally for the good of the world, even if it be but a trifling thing. Many bombs of happiness have been detonated by things that to others would seem but trifles – the lingering of a kiss – the touch of a hand when one needs it most.

And in the hope that I will be able to do many more such shows, I pray that I will be able to go on breathing. And for those who enjoy said shows as well, I hope you will pray for me too!

Diary of a Mystic: The Tiger

Tiger

Good meditation today. I managed to throat sing and chant with a far deeper resonance and endurance than I have done for well over a week. Produced some truly majestic sounding overtones, and still feel as though my understanding of the mechanics of the production of these frequencies is growing ever deeper and unconscious. Chinese chanting, and  Tuvan chanting too.

I used Tara’s Mantra, and the tantric technique of imagining myself with her female body, allowing great cosmic energy to penetrate my vagina. Worked on bringing this energy into all my chakras, and especially the energy channels along my spinal column which I still feel especially need more work.

I saw a stripped tiger. In China, the Tiger is a symbol of autumn, whiteness, the lungs, decay and death. It is the protector of the West, and it’s element is metal. This metal is the alloy of transformation. Like a mineral, it can be manipulated through fire, purified, and then eventually solidified into something else. It is the element of deep and lasting change, as opposed to something fleeting and ephemeral that can easily snap back to its habituations.

In Chinese astrology, the tiger is also representative of Aquarius. Thus, he is gregarious, powerful, innovate, eccentric yet sometimes conservative, lively yet sometimes reckless and impulsive, and also, quite often, promiscuous.

The symbolism of the tiger is said to be based in anger, aggression, personal power, strength and vitality, as well as representing the sudden, swift, and unpredictable. Given our closeness to entering into Aries, I think it is a good warning to channel that fiery strength in a positive way, and not to be allow it to make you destructive. Arians have a lot of personal power, but can be very quick to anger and conflict. It is a warning to keep that power under wraps, so that I control it, without it ever defeating me. Using my personal power in the most beneficial way. Being spontaneous as opposed to being impulsive. Being prepared for the unexpected – but also acting in a sudden and unpredictable way, so as to overcome others.

The bear also made another appearance, but we already explored his symbolism recently – solitary and withdrawing. Both of these creatures are loners by nature (I think) so perhaps it is an encouragement to enjoy being single and going it alone? The appearance of the ant recently was certainly very significant, as I have been very productive and industrious these last few days, able to be quite persevering, unemotional and prolific.

POEM: Somebody Else’s Throat

Twin_Flame

My feelings are a mystery to me

Where do they come from?

Where do they go?

Visitors and thieves

Who break into your home

But how do I know

They are not its architect?

Your name is corroding me

Nailing itself to my brain

Reciting itself over and over

Like the ghost of a mantra

To what do I owe this

Scorpionic obsession?

Will it pass with the

Waning of the moon?

Or is it an affliction

More deeply rooted?

I cannot fault it

This obscure despair

To want nothing from you

But to always want to see you

Regardless

It seems so unavoidable

Yet I’d hate to think

My energy towards you

Could ever do you harm

Will you let me help you?

Must I lurch in the shadows

Like a hidden uncle?

Not knowing anything at all –

When will my heart answer

These appalling questions?

Why you?

Why now?

I feel so strong

But your very presence

Renders me pathetic

And puppy-like

There is no logic to this

None at all

Emotions pouring out of me

Like a waterfall

The sweetness of heart energy

Cascades down my tongue

I could run from these feelings

But they’d only pursue me

So I must face them head-on

The envy, so unfounded

Is hardest to tolerate

It isn’t you –

It’s the divinity you embody

If I communicated this to you

Could I make myself understood?

My heart feels like a well-spring of tears

That I haven’t learned to cry

How can I make sense of it?

How can I make sense of it?

This abominable storehouse of secrets

I must keep hidden from everyone

Here I am

I am your father

What does that mean to you?

I cannot understand it at all

I cannot understand it at all

If only I could

Disrobe myself of this time

Disrobe myself of this body

Then you would recall

My everlasting face

Sweet, sweet girl

Don’t you know who I am?

Stuck on an airplane

I dream of lying in your lap

As you caress my hidden face

You always did love your daddy

Come sit on my knee

And I’ll tell you tales of

Ancient China

Outer Space –

All our favourite old haunts

Dipping in

And dipping out

Availing myself

Of the weakness of weaknesses

I do not understand it

I do not understand it at all

Sitting in the bunker

Alarms going off overhead

Taking off your dress

We’re alone

Nobody can see us

How many times

Have we been torn apart like this?

Your face –

It’s really my own, isn’t it?

I can see it more and more

The more I look at it

Living in the jungles

Of Borneo, Brazil,

Ancient rainforest

Long before the tumour

Of civilization was born

Living with you

Calmly in the woods

Making medicine

And practicing the path

Of warrior-hood

The framework of life

Is making itself clear

The clues – the spoilers

Are everywhere

Will I ever be able to tell you?

Will you ever be able to understand?

To reveal to you all that I am

And to have you do the same –

I cannot tell what layer

Of truth or delusion this belongs to

But I keep returning to it

Like a satellite in orbit

I would like to say your name

To have it all revealed

To have it all seen

But I have to accept

That no one else

Runs at my speed

And it may take time

For you to be ready

For the unpreparable truth

Oh, what obscure desolation!

What impenetrable turmoil!

I must put down this pen

Before it impales me

Your tongue always talking

From somebody else’s throat

Anchored in the Infinite

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For a long time, I was very hostile to the notion of worship. While I had embraced spirituality, and had no doubt as to the existence of divine beings all manifesting from the supreme source of The Way, the notion of worshipping any of this made me feel uncomfortable. I saw it as a form of subjugation and belittlement. In a very Zen way, I reasoned ‘If we are all already God, then what is there to worship? I would just be worshipping an externalized form of the selfless self from which I emerge – and wouldn’t that be delusion?’

To a limited degree, the answer to this is ‘yes.’ But that is not the point. As I came to realize through the concept of ‘expedient means’ posited by the Buddha in The Lotus Sutra, a practice or teaching is only important insofar as the effect it has on the consciousness of one who receives it, or puts it into action. If you want to know the efficacy of a thing, look at the fruit it bears. Don’t get distracted by differences in methodology – just observe the results they enable people to obtain.

So what benefits does worship enable one to obtain? One of the biggest obstacles to enlightenment is the ego. The ego is the part of us that always says ‘ME FIRST – FUCK EVERYONE ELSE!’ It is the part of us that consider our own needs, being, and consciousness to be greater, and more important than that of any other being. These beliefs may not always be conscious – but if we look at the way these unconscious beliefs govern our lives, we will begin to see the ego’s trademark influence.

However, in worship, prayer, and devotion, this mentality is rigorously opposed. When we stop focusing on our own importance, and searchingly admire that which exceeds us in scale, greatness, age, wisdom, and goodness – anchoring our thoughts in infinity, instead of within our own limited span of concerns –then we begin to loosen the bonds of self-attachment. If we make a habit of anchoring our minds in such away, we can eradicate our selfishness altogether.

Many of us will already have had some conception of this feeling, spiritual or atheist. Many are drawn to the sweetness of relationships, savouring the selflessness we momentarily taste, when we love someone so much, we will place them before ourselves. Others feel the same way when confronted with suffering, the vastness of space, or the immensity of unfathomable mountain ranges.

But, even the best of lovers are fallible – even the longest-lasting of mountains and worlds are essentially destructible. So, focusing on that which is indestructible, on that which is infallible, and beyond all doubt, we find something eternally reliable, that can never let us down, for it will never go away. Never there, yet always there. Ever lost, yet always found. There is no subjugation in this – only the subjugation of the ego mind – the false self. The arguments my intellect had put up a barrier against worship was just my ego trying to defend itself. Ignorance can sound very clever and reasonable when it wants to.

So, what is worship? Anchoring yourself in the infinite. It is only when we are able to comprehend our own tiny fragility, that we can become a vessel for the full power and resource of the universe.

Poem: Civilized Wilderness

London

A pigeon, crouched,

Meditating on a table

In these ruins

Of civilized wilderness

I’ll take whatever I can get

After a weekend of seeing things

Inundated with sensation

What a relief it would be

Just to do Nothing

Be Nothing

And see Nothing

Non-being beckoning to me

Like an inn to a weary traveler

Out of the silent planet

London leaves me

Cold

Cold

Cold

Blog: Totem Poles and The Unity of Life

 

 

Totem

This week, I had the privilege to visit The World Museum in Liverpool, where an entire exhibit on the third floor is devoted to preserving artifacts of ancient cultures all around the world. On this magical and spiritual journey, I was able to look directly into the eyes of African dance masks; tremulously admire Congolese idols used for black magic and sorcery; and regard with wonder the fold-out books of a hieroglyphic Mayan ‘dream book.’ I came face to face with statues of Vishnu and Ganesha; priceless suits of samurai armor; Buddhist hanging scrolls and Tantric deities straight from Tibet; and beheld with awesome fear relics that were never meant to be witnessed outside of ancient secret societies and mystery schools.

I was in this large, circuitous exhibit mostly by myself, with the pregnant silence only occasionally interrupted by tribal drumming and chanting bursting out of the speaker system. As in the Egyptian exhibit at Bristol, I once again had the mystical experience of being confronted with a spiritual presence far greater than myself, overwhelming me with raw emotion. This presence commanded great awe and respect, and I was repeatedly moved to press my hands together, bow, and chant, in order to properly express my deference.

But, overwhelmed and humbled though I was, nothing could have prepared me for The Totem Pole. As I rounded the corner, and was confronted with a deific figure towering above me, its face frozen in a martial rictus, I was so frightened that I had to retreat for a moment to sit down, and stitch back together the thread of my courage.

Composure regained, I tentatively re-entered the room, building myself up to it by looking at the other exhibits. But towering at between 15-20ft tall, it really was the proverbial elephant in the room, commanding every part of my being to kowtow to it with my attention.

The totem itself was a chimaerical hybrid of human, animal, and spiritual elements, effortlessly fusing a man, a killer whale, a serpent, and two mythical giants into one single, phallic entity.

Once I observed this unity, my fear began to subside. Despite its fearsome appearance, I realized that the pole was not an apotropaic structure, but a potent symbol eloquently depicting the holographic truth of the ineffable unity of all things. Man, Nature, and Heaven are not separate from one another, but are one another, interwoven so that all things are within them, and they are within all things – a true hologram.

This truth was so evident to the Native Canadian artist, Richard Hunt, that I was amazed to learn that the human head on top was actually a self-portrait. These animals, these ancestors, these myths were so much a part of him so as to actually constitute his very being.

If only we were all so in-tune with the world as to recognize it as our being, and to recognize our being as the world.

Lost Technology of the Mind

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It occurred to me that much of what we consider to be our civilization’s culture has largely been architectural in nature. All the wisdom, learning, accomplishment, folly, history, and vanity of our culture has been stored and encoded in buildings; infusing every library, temple, pyramid, castle, and palatial structure.

But, since the invention of the internet, despite the mass-production of useless gadgets, gidgets, and geegaws, much of our culture has become digitized. It’s no wonder that so many technophiles gush over the internet, almost as if it were a god, when it contains such an infinitude of information: some practical and inspiring; much of it trivial and disturbing.

But say the internet were destroyed, and electrical technology as we now understand it became a lost concept – what would our descendants make of our culture – so much of it able to be condensed onto wireless tablets and iphones?

We face the same dilemma when look back to the mythological ancestors of The Golden Age. These people had no need for buildings, pyramids, libraries, and especially not digital technology. They didn’t need buildings, because they were capable of regulating their own body temperature and living in harmony with their environment. They didn’t need such buildings as pyramids and temples, for they lacked vanity, and saw the universe as their temple. Accepting impermanence, and living at one with creation, what need did they have to create? They didn’t need libraries, because their consciousnesses were capacious enough to record everything. They would only need hear or observe something once in order to remember it for all time.

And, most of all, they did not need digital technology, because they were in possession of the spiritual technology of the fully awakened mind. A technology we all still possess, and are capable of using, though most of us are wholly ignorant of that, or reluctant to put in the work to awaken it.

Though this might sound like an absurd fantasy to most of you, it is worth remembering that many such abilities are still with us today, or were prominent in only the recent past.

The Australian Aborigines went nude throughout all seasons, even during the winter, for they were capable of controlling their internal thermostat. Yogis capable of remaining indifferent to even the most extreme of weather conditions have long been recorded. Anthropologists have long been amazed that illiterate tribal peoples were able to convey long accounts of their history, mythology and pre-scientific knowledge without changing so much as a single word. For us, literacy is considered a touchstone of civilization. But, to our ancestors, writing was a considered a backward step, in which we added an element of artifice into reality, presenting a barrier between ourselves and the truth.

So great achievements are not just visible, tangible things – great monuments and landmarks that we create to ejaculate onto our own egos. The greatest landmarks and achievements are internal and exist within. They can only be witnessed by those who’ve developed the eyesight to see them.

So, which type are you more interested in? Are you willing to do what it takes to develop and nurture the insight?

Nourishing the Mind

Food brain

I was reading Liu I-ming’s commentary on the hexagram ‘Nourishment’ in the I Ching, when I was struck by his definition of what nourishment really is:

“Nourishment is what is beneficial to body and mind – 

What is not nourishing is not beneficial to body and mind.”

I was very struck by his insight that nourishment is not restricted to the vitamins and nutrients we gain from the food and fluids we consume. It also refers to anything that we actively allow to enter into our consciousness. The nourishment of the body and mind are not separate. You cannot nourish one without nourishing the other. You cannot harm one without harming the other. They are completely unified in every way.

The insight I gained from this is that the wholeness of our happiness is hugely influenced by what we allow our minds to eat. Just as many people eat themselves into sickness by nourishing themselves with fast food, chocolate, and sugar, how many of us think ourselves into sickness by nourishing our minds with conflict and hatred, manipulative media stories, negative conversations, and films and TV shows espousing violent, divisive, and materialistic values?

It’s very easy to shrug off all of these things as being too marginal to have an effect on us. It’s just entertainment, right? But the culture we imbibe – the books we read, the films we watch, the sources of information we trust – ultimately determines our wordview, and, in due course, how we respond to that world. If you are repeatedly exposed to media glorifying violence, anger, resentment, jealousy, revenge, and conflict, such behavior begins to seem to be permissible and reasonable to your mind. Monkey see, monkey do doesn’t turn off just because we’re being passive. If you fill your mind with bad things, you will be more likely to do bad things. Corruption doesn’t spontaneously appear in a pristine mind – the seeds of the idea have to be placed there by an external precedent that seems to justify it.

Conversely, if we feed our minds with positive content, we will bear the fruit of positive actions. Buddhists refer to this practice as ‘planting the seeds of the Buddha Mind.’ Likewise, positivity won’t arise spontaneously in a corrupted mind. You have to plant the right content into it, before happiness takes root, and weeds out suffering.You can’t grow an oak tree by planting a landmine. So, if you want to be happy, don’t feed your mind with the mental equivalent of psychological fast food. Nourish your mind with that which is likely to benefit it. Then wholeness can be achieved.

The Evolution of the Gods: The Need For Otherness

Shinto

Man’s imagination of the gods has changed as he has changed.

I was just sat in the bath, reading C. S. Lewis’s ‘Out Of The Silent Planet.’ The protagonist describes the nightmarish fantasies that race through his head as he contemplates the beings on the planet he is to alight on. But he realizes that all of his nightmares are drawn from earthly sources. Nothing can prepare him for the horrifying ‘Otherness’ of what he is to face.

And it is this ‘Otherness’ that has gradually disappeared from religious imagery, as man has lost touch with his own ‘Otherness.’

The ostensible quest for Civilization has largely been man’s ignorant attempt to surgically remove all trace of ‘Otherness’ from himself and the planet. In so doing, man has gone from being a wholly unified being, into an apathetic, detached, and largely purposeless being, like a limb that has been cut-off from its body.

At the heart of this ‘Otherness’ is Nature.

In the earliest of religious art, Man and Nature are in Harmony, because man has not yet set himself apart from Nature. He IS Nature. The idea that he could be anything else is not only inconceivable but delusional.

Therianthrope

The earliest surviving religious art is that inscribed by Shamans on the walls of caves. They are typically populated by therianthropes – beings that are part-animal, part-human, representing the shaman’s ability to metamorphose into animals during rituals and out of body travel – a perfect symbol of man and nature being so fully ONE, that they share the same body.

Horus

This type of depiction carried on into early civilizations – the most obvious being in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Central America – though it’s most immediate and intimate associations with shamanism were beginning to erode. Spiritual experience was becoming less of a communal thing, and more segregated – a relationship with the divine/nature/otherness, that you now needed a priest or official to mediate.

Jesus

As this state of affairs continued, and mankind came to see nature and shamanism as two elements that were counter to the acquisitive needs of society, the wild, and animalistic otherness in religious art comes to be more and more marginalized, until it reached its peak in monotheistic religions, where iconography is either reduced to humanistic depictions of saints or god-men, or the complete eradication of iconography all together.

Pan

But man could not rid himself of this Otherness completely. So, old depictions of the divine or godly were turned into demons. (Think of the horned heads of so many pagan gods, and the modern-day signature horns of the devil). This campaign was so effective, that, to the modern-day view, most depictions of ancient gods look terrifying and demonic. Even angels, which once would have been full bird men, are now reduced to just having their wings.

But, not all religions lost their vivifying Otherness. In surviving shamanistic peoples – such as the Native American Indians – they have been retained. And, in the East, they are still in full swing, such as in the multi-limbed deities of India and the strange Tantric Gods of Tibetan culture.

Tibet

When man denies this Otherness in himself – whether in his Psychology, Spirituality, or Culture – he makes himself sick. By denying the strange, and inconceivable side of life, he makes himself one-sided – a spiritual amputee – cut off from all that sustains him.

As proof of this need, we can look at the changes that have occurred in fiction and popular culture. More and more people are drawn to the wild, supernatural worlds conjured up in Horror, Science-fiction, and Fantasy, because they reach an untapped side of their being, that their culture no longer nourishes or acknowledges.

X files

The problem is, even these fictitious augmentations don’t fully satisfy. Because, for as long as Otherness is seen as something fictitious, made-up, and untrue, and not a basic part of our reality, we will always feel in someway estranged and unfulfilled – strangers in our own existence.

Reality and Transcendence need to live side by side.

Until Otherness is Other no more.

Meditation: Heaven and Hell

hell_vs_heaven_by_i_r_s

We are all familiar with the concepts of Heaven and Hell. Heaven is a beautiful place of eternal peace, happiness and bliss. Hell is a domain of endless torment, pain and suffering.

But Heaven and Hell aren’t places we go to when we die – they are places that exist within our minds, right  here, right now. Heaven and Hell are states of mind. They are not things that an omnipotent, judgmental deity imposes upon, but things that we choose for ourselves.

In this regard, meditation is all about enabling yourself to have a heavenly mind, whilst weeding out all those emotions, thoughts, and habits that make it a hellish mind.

Buddhists, Taoists, and mystics of all traditions are all in accordance in the belief that our natures are fundamentally divine, blissful, and peaceful. If we can just rid ourselves of the clutter and negative habituation that obscures that nature, then it will shine as clearly as a flaming conflagration. Like a window that is too dirty to see through, we clean our minds, until they become clear to the point of invisibility, the perception and the perceiver of that perception becoming one in a moment of joyous bliss.

So that we know how to enhance the one, and reduce the other, let’s look at the individual characteristics of the heavenly and hellish minds.

The Heavenly Mind is:

  • Receptive
  • Selfless
  • Open
  • Aware
  • Peaceful
  • Tolerant
  • Patient
  • Non-judgemental
  • Perceptive
  • Wise
  • Sane
  • Harmonious
  • Clear
  • Balanced

The Hellish Mind is:

  • Closed
  • Selfish
  • Hostile
  • Vicious
  • Insecure
  • Vengeful
  • Hateful
  • Defensive
  • Judgmental
  • Intolerant
  • Imbalanced
  • Negative
  • Pessimistic
  • Doubtful

If you can, in meditation and your daily life, actively cultivate the qualities of the Heavenly Mind, and do what you can to uproot the foundations of the Hellish Mind, then you will be that much closer to realizing Heaven on Earth.