Category: Living Outside the Lines (Page 1 of 5)

Welcome to my Tron-world

When I felt the call to learn more about my relationship to energy work, the person who could help me appeared. But I didn’t know just how much the lines of space and time would blur.

Can you read between the lines?

I decided to stay during fall in the southern California desert because I was attracted by the emptiness and isolation—it felt like the place to process and integrate a year full of learnings. It was also the perfect controlled environment for a self experiment. I intended to explore my relationship to energy work, and I knew that meant going to the fundamental bits—the quantum-level—on myself. The process was incredibly meaningful because I the learnings would expand upon my body of self knowledge, and I could give that to others.

I drew up a work-personal time schedule so that I could be on when I needed to be on (to work, socialize, life) and I allowed myself to be fully present when I was off (to witness, process, integrate). I had to strictly control my schedule to allow for the full experience of being off. I was going to have energy healing and spiritual guidance from Atasiea, a reiki master and spiritual guidance counselor whom I had met in Guatemala during an ecstatic dance retreat in January. He had facilitated a shamanic dance session there that helped me go deep into my own body and high into my mind to let go of toxic thought patterns that were controlling me. I felt the power of energy work through that exchange with him. And sometimes, all it takes is one powerful exchange with one person to really cause things to shift.

Atasiea, whose chosen name means “one-ness”

Hold that thought.

I was in the library one afternoon in November, months after Guatemala and near the end of my sessions with Atasiea, when I was reading over an essay that I have been working on for almost (literally) 3 years. The essay had been stuck in a can’t-quite-finish-it pattern. The writing process for the piece usually entailed my staring at the essay’s pages on my laptop screen and my mind going blank. But I had some kind of a breakthrough while I was in the desert. I felt a shift in my intellectual body. I was able to finish the essay.

As I sat in the library, surrounded by stuffy bookshelves and nondescript taupe-painted concrete and bulletin boards offering community announcements, it was quiet. A couple of people reading newspapers and a woman shelving returns were the sum of action around me. I wanted to connect with the words in the essay. I set the intention—the fundamental of establishing an energetic connection. I did a subtle plug-in (feet on the ground, focus on my breathing), and I felt my visual perception shift into Tron-mode—my field of vision starts to look like the 1980s Tron movie. The boring bookshelves turned into cases full of neon beams of light, and the books on them became crystals. I felt a bit like I was in The Library of Babel (by Borges, the Argentinian writer’s concept of a hexagonal, bee-hive shaped infinity library). The idea of the interconnectedness of all of the ideas, writers, and me to them was so immediately apparent and (good kind of) overwhelming. It was a connection that had been previously blocked. And I felt like I was a part of this vast network that, through the act of writing, pull ether into material and with that, create our world because information is our world. I felt a deep sense of satisfaction, too, because the ability to finish the essay aligned with what I feel I am uniquely created to do: be a bridge between worlds by using words. Help people expand their sense of selves and worldviews using language, story telling, and information. Turn worlds inside out for all to see.

Hold that thought.

My desert experiment with Atasiea and his healing sessions happened over the phone. They usually entailed me lying down on my bed, surrounded by my crystals and journal, speaker phone on. I was physically in the desert; he in LA, his base. But through our conscious co-establishing of a connection on a quantum level, the time and space between us became irrelevant. We started each session with a grounding, connecting our being to the skies and the Earth, invocations and prayers, and then, a full hour and a half in what I call “sacred space.” We achieved this through reiki (prana—life force exchange) and channeling (receipt and transmission of knowledge from a higher dimension). Sometimes it felt like I was deep inside my body, and other times it felt like I was out of my head and somewhere, another time and space completely different, somewhere else. I relived scenes from years ago by remembering things that I had forgotten or stuffed inside. I re-collected energy that was stuck in that time and space.  I talked out declarations of power and sovereignty over thick karmic patterns that kept me from making conscious, co-creating choices. For all the times that I shoulda-woulda-coulda, I did.

Using imagination-intuition-the liminal sacred space is really trippy. I said, “Whoa, WTF?” a lot, often to a chuckle by Atasiea. “I know, right?” he usually replied with his soft California accent. “This fifth dimension stuff is legit.”

The after effects, how I felt post-healing sessions: tired. Bone tired. I spent hours afterward resting in the camper, full 360-degrees of vast open desert space, mountains, isolation. I wrote a lot about it, too, in my notebooks since documenting and sharing has become part of my core body of work. The details of the sessions are important only to me. But their evidence is the change in the way that I am; a change in my patterning—a break in patterns that felt embedded at my core. The was I felt after the entire experiment: changed, and lighter somehow.

I believe my ability to turn on Tron-mode (which is what my field of vision looked like [interspersed with memories and visual symbols] when I was in sacred space) is the result of energy work that I did with Atasiea.

Scene from “Tron” (1982)

And I was working with the fundamental bits of my being—at the quantum level—a place that seems far away from reality, which is me, a thirty-something girl who is writing this and sitting at her laptop with a dog on her lap.

Now let’s combine some thoughts.

What do fundamental bits mean anyway? What are embedded patterns? What does quantum level mean anyway? Western science says it’s where particles that create our physical reality are. The particles can connect instantly, as in, they operate outside the flow of time as we understand it at other levels. Quantum level is atomic. And there’s a theory that DNA molecules—the building blocks of our physical reality—are held together by entanglement at the quantum level. These ideas hold up to Eastern philosophy, providing belief systems that expound the interconnectedness of all things; that our separations between objects are illusions created by our limited physical methods of perception. Frontier research in fields like parapsychology shows that we are moving toward an entanglement of Western science with Eastern philosophy as we continue to generate data that support a worldview that includes the conscious interaction of mind, body, and spirit.

It is said that reiki affects a being at the DNA level. And it has been suggested that information from events and memories from previous generations create a sort of genetic memory that can alter DNA. So when you’re doing reiki (and other forms of deep energy work), you are literally affecting the fundamental bits of of your physical being that creates your vessel to experience reality.

Where this all leads: the practical application of theoretical stuff; I feel that energy work is where we can literally meet theoretical physics in our own life. This is how personal growth and development expand worldviews. Before Guatemala, my worldview on energy work was that it was powerful but weird. It was woo woo. I felt like it was something that I should be doing but just couldn’t. It was as if I had lacked some kind of permission by myself to practice energy work freely (and it’s possible that a lot of this was inherited ancestral memory—stuff I inherited but didn’t actually create). Regardless where the stuff came from, it got shifted. I moved some creative, emotional, and intellectual blocks out of the way.

Information flowing in bits

The visual experience that happened at the library is what happens for me when I practice reiki. I stop picturing the person (or animal) that I am working on; that also means that I stop physically seeing myself when I work on myself. I stop looking through my eyes (I usually close my eyes at the start of a session. This helps me turn my gaze inward.) A space full of colors and shapes emerges. It is the same space that I accessed during my camper healing sessions.  I sense the energy through the establishing of intention/connection, and flow starts: soft streams of things to say or images that appear in my mind. As I mentioned, all it takes is one powerful exchange—one precise conversation, moment of validation,perfect  facilitation of sacred space—with one person to really cause things to shift for you inside.

I feel like my desert experiment was a success. And the essay that I finished was an exploration of the way mind and matter interact; the reason I wrote the essay was because I want to question the way that reality can be constructed. And I want to speak from experience when people have profound experiences doing and receiving energy work.

Welcome to my Tron-world.

Acting out consciousness expansion

They say the desert makes characters, and at a recent performance art workshop in Joshua Tree National Park, I felt myself becoming one.

Bashir and Shamu at Cap Rock for Artists’ Tea

Part of living in the Southern California desert area includes allowing lots of travel time to make it across the long distances of sand and rock. I still hadn’t embodied this as I raced along the roads in 29 Palms, then into Joshua Tree National Park. I hoped my cell service didn’t cut out before my Google navigation app brought me to Cap Rock, the location of the Sunday morning program Artists’ Tea, where artists give talks on their work and process, and presenters and attendees are provided tea and snacks. That Sunday morning’s program included Bashir Naim and Shamu Azizam, performance and experiential artists who live in Twentynine Palms (the same town I am living in during my desert sabbatical).

I had eyeballed the map online last night and thought “Twenty minutes at best,” but nearly forty-five minutes later (and fifteen minutes past the scheduled start of the workshop), I was anxious and feeling silly for not having left earlier and mentally sussing out the person who schedules events deep in the Park at 9am on a Sunday morning.

I arrived, got out of my truck, and approached the group of ten people who sat in folding chairs in front of a giant, sand-colored boulder.

“Am I in the right place? Is this Artists’ Tea?” I asked.

“You sure are!” said a friendly, soft spoken man. He stood at the propane camp stove that set on a pop-up table. He was heating water. He asked me, “Would you like some tea? Cookies? They’re vegan and homemade. Also, grab any open seat you like. My name is Doug.”

I realized the workshop hadn’t started, so I relaxed a bit as I looked around at the small butterfly chairs and camp stools arranged in a semicircle on the hard sand. A few Joshua Trees and weirdly shaped granite boulders dotted the otherwise empty landscape. I didn’t see the workshop leaders (whose picture for the event on Facebook showed them wearing bright red masks with horns).

Bashir and Shamu in masks

“Our artists haven’t arrived yet,” said Doug from his position at the camp stove. He didn’t seem too phased about the lateness on my part (or theirs).

So I sat down. And waited. There was some friendly back and forth banter among the group, and I could tell that they were locals, resident creative types. I wasn’t quite awake (I had rushed to get there and didn’t have my morning coffee) and I wasn’t quite self assured (although I had been in the area for two months, I still felt very much like a tourist, so part of my daily interaction involved a huge amount of distance and observation before interaction).

It took me a few minutes of sitting down to realize that the sun was blazing. I had sunglasses but not a hat. My head was on fire. I occupied myself with trying to find the right angle of shade from a nearby Joshua Tree, but that wasn’t happening. The trunk’s branches sprouted spiky leaves in tufts. It didn’t make shade. I knew there was a beach umbrella in the back of my truck, a bright rainbow-colored one, and I thought twice about drawing attention to myself by using it—but I didn’t want to be uncomfortable so I went to get it. I sat down on the mini-fold-up stool with my oversized shade maker. A few people looked at me and smiled. I felt like a crazed New Yorker in the desert surrounded by chilled-out Californians.

Around half past nine, a small, four-door car pulled into the parking lot.

“Here they are!” said Doug.

I turned, watched two young-ish looking people get out of the car, one holding a duffel bag. As they walked up and through the semicircle, they introduced themselves as Bashir and Shamu. Their voices were soft and sweet. They didn’t look like the event picture, but what could I have expected? They were wearing masks in it.

They helped each other unload the contents of the bag onto the picnic table: a latex spike collar, a gold lame piece of fabric, the red horned mask. Additional pieces of costumes from their drag acts. Then they looked at the group, thanked us for coming, and briefly spoke about their backgrounds in dance and performance art.

I couldn’t believe the difference in the demeanor of their arrival versus mine.

“Oh, right,” Bashir said. “We should do introductions. But I don’t want you to tell me who you are. Announce your presence here by making a sound or noise.”

I thought it was a cute and unique direction. There were some chuckles around the group, but everyone did just that. I made a scratchy noise. I’m not sure where it came from; it just seemed to come out of me.

The mood of the group was already light, but then it turned jovial. I suddenly felt like I was in an adult play group.

As I sat and listened to their vision for the workshop (to encourage us to create characters based on landscape in the desert), I felt myself mentally sliding into the role I occupied at that time: a wound and cranky tourist with a huge and showy umbrella, sitting in the serene desert on a sunny Sunday morning. I thought, “What would this character need to overcome the situation?” and immediately I knew:  confidence and self assuredness in their actions.

I shifted my gaze to the props on the table, so I’m not sure who (Bashir or Shamu) said, “Performance is consciousness expanding. We get to be that person (or have a role or act through whatever we desire) to have the experience we desire.” I started to drift into the heart of the statement, felt myself vibing with what he was saying. He continued, his words melding with my growing enthusiasm. He was saying something like Create a persona that is powerful. Put that on. Own it. And once you have that memory, it enriches who you are. That expands your consciousness.

Props on the table

I straightened up in my fold-up stool. I straightened my bright, showy umbrella. I made my name-noise quietly to myself. I noticed that I felt less anxious than when I had arrived.

We were invited to come up to the table, pick up a prop, connect with it, see what it made us want to do, and then, perform it out. I found myself drawn to the spiked collar which, when I connected with it, wanted to be put on my thigh (not neck). I felt myself wanting to move, and I explored that. My motions were sharp and jarring, like the leaves on the Joshua Tree. And when it came time to perform¸ I felt my heart start to race. I almost passed the opportunity because I didn’t want to make a fool of myself—but the character I assumed in the desert is one who was as unapologetic as blaring sun and bleak, sprawling landscape. I stood, did my jerky-inspired motion—and much to my surprise—dropped down to the earth. I did a series of backward rolls, rubbed my hands all over the ground and kicked up dust, shook my booted foot violently then got up and gracefully, calmly, smoothly sauntered back to my pop-up camp stool. Yes, I meant to do all of that.

A few members of the group clapped. As I sat down, I felt proud. I re-grabbed the umbrella, which felt smaller, less ostentatious, (I realized)  was actually kind of perfect. I wondered why I had made such a fuss. And as I watched the next group member perform, my inspiration grew.

Moral of this post’s story: go for it.

The more I reflect, the more I realize how silly the anxiety made me think. Beach umbrellas are MADE for sandy environments and bright skies. I believe it was simply the act of holding the oversized umbrella that made me janksy. (I eventually found a way to wedge the pole in the grill behind me, so I wasn’t holding it the hole time.) But this a great opportunity to deconstruct anxiety, notice how it influences our thoughts, and acts as a sort of anti-imagination: it makes us think small versus BIG.

I encourage this type of reflection & exploration during during EVOL ceremonies. Sometimes the guided meditation prompt will allow-ask-explore you to be different versions of yourself. I say that that can be the you who has successfully manifested your desire—“What would your life look like then?” Sometimes I say to simply imagine a different scenario, and I do this because the faculty of imagination wanes in our adult years. It’s as if we lose the ability if we don’t use it. It’s as if acting, performing, just going for it are shamed. What I’m encouraging here is to find spaces to also perform what you’re imagining. Go for it. Take the person/vision/character you work with a guided meditation and be it. Have the experience that is tugging at your emotional body. Then embody it.

And if more people did, we would help others, too. Expand consciousness. It’s infectious. The experiences grow and we grow.

 

Post photo credits: Artists’ Tea Facebook event.

Mindfulness and culture making

I was at the Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico over the summer for a seminar on spiritual practices, mindfulness, and wellness. The resonance of what I was encouraged to explore still informs my daily interactions.

The spacious, airy room was inviting; the colorful wall hangings and yoga mats complemented the soft, neutral colors of the wall. Sarah Bunting, the Student Services Coordinator, sat in circle with us, greeting our seminar group of approximately 50 people. Her job was to make sure that we were all well situated for the week ahead. As she spoke, explained the Institute’s principle and guidelines, she placed her hand over her heart, looked at each one of us. She conveyed her gratitude to all of us for being there, her joy at being able to share the kinship and respect for Dr. Lad and his work. At the end, she offered us an idea to sit with throughout the week: we were there to make culture together.

Make culture.

That statement really caught my attention because it’s not one that is used every day. At first glance, I observed that our natal cultures (of those attending the seminar) were varied, but what lay beneath that?

The Ayurvedic Institute was founded in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the 1980s by Dr. Vasant Lad, an Ayurvedic doctor from India; the Institute was meant to be a hub of practice around the teachings of Ayurveda, a body of knowledge that informs of principles for living in balance and harmony. Dr. Lad—his presence was warm, and his teachings were genuinely conveyed with love. The way he transmitted the principles of balance, imbalance, subtle energetic bodies and metaphysical concepts was accessible and immediately applicable. Every time that I looked around during a lecture, the room full of attendees appeared to be deep in communion with his words and presence.

Dr. Lad

Every day, at the start of lectures and at the end of them, we chanted a Sanskrit mantra that honored the beauty of the community and the teachings. We took 2-hour lunch breaks between sessions. We didn’t use cell phones in the buildings, and only took pictures of diagrams that Dr. Lad drew when he invited us to do so.

It was a curated way in which we interacted with each other.

The point was that if you didn’t go along with this, you could disturb the experience for others and you would be asked to leave. The container would be broken. The rules we were given weren’t meant to be fatalistic and rigid—I hope that I am conveying that duly here—but rather, these are all things we did to ensure we achieved the same collective end: a healing, whole experience. The culture we created during the week facilitated mindful and meaningful connection to each other while being in the presence of an incredible teacher. That was the point of the seminar.

Contemplating culture against a beautiful sunset backdrop

I hear a lot about “co-creating” our experience in the transformative dance scene and self-growth communities that I am a part of. Somehow, when phrased like that, the ask seems transient. Like, once the event or experience is over, the next won’t necessarily require to co-create. The events must come with directions. Maybe that’s just part of the embedded, hardwired narrative I employ as an American—that I don’t usually co-create. But the idea is not different from “making culture”—it’s just that the intimate setting of 50 people from around the globe who converged at the Ayurvedic Instiute made the ask of co-creation seem less transient, more necessary, because that’s what Dr. Lad inspired. I’m finding that “my culture is to co-create”—even I don’t call it as such.

Essentially, this is what we do, even when it’s just between two people. The exchanges that we have on an individual level allow us to make culture every day. The mindfulness we bring to those exchanges reflect a culture that values the space-holding for another person.

And while culture connects you to an identity, the power in that identity lies in your ability to change it; to let it go; to reconstruct the identity in a manner that serves you, and with that your community. Making culture is mindfulness in action.

Proudly displaying my certificate of completion

On the last day of the seminar, there was a joyous if not muted mood among the attendees. We knew we had spent a transformative week together, and I believe many of us were considering how to keep up the spirit of the Ayurvedic Institute—how to implement dietary, lifestyle, and other changes for optimal health and balance. How to incorporate breathing, yoga, and meditation as Ayurveda suggests for each individual. Most of all, how to keep up the mindfulness in our interaction with the external world, knowing the sense of community that can immediately be stoked when we agree to act toward a common experience.

As I was leaving, I ran into Sarah. I knew it would be one of the last transactions I had with her. I wanted to profess my gratitude for her support and guidance during the week. We locked eyes in a comfortable way. It was a feature of interacting with her that I came to expect. It felt good, too, in the manner of validation that I had her full presence.

She touched her heart after hearing my offering of gratitude.

I touched mine when she said, “Thank you.”

That has become second nature for me—that when I am connecting with someone deeply, or being given deep sharing—I touch my heart. It’s become part of my practice to honor others. It is my culture.

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