I had a near-fatal heart attack June 22, 2016. Every day since then, I’ve registered the presence of death many times and in many ways — without trying to do so — breathing easier as this happens, feeling my heart softening and brightening with such visceral recognition. And when the memory of June 22nd surfaces — daily — I am again stirred to gratitude for still being here. And for what is happening to me. I have an ongoing sense of being restructured energetically — like I’ve been rewired. I’m not engineering this, and have no mapping for what’s happening. There’s a subtle sense of soft, silky electricity …..
If we can speak of cancer having an intention, it is not to kill but to avoid being killed, whatever the cost. As such, cells infested with cancer are smitten, to take some poetic licence, with immortality aspirations. Paralleling this is contemporary culture’s commonplace denial of death and accompanying dreams of unlimited growth, whatever the cost. Normal cells, in stark contrast to cancer-ridden cells, are programmed — literally and precisely programmed — to die when they become dysfunctional or unnecessary. The term for this is apoptosis. Once it is activated in a cell, the internal networks of the cell are shut down and a series of enzymatic reactions are …..
Familiarity — how familiar with it are we? Sometimes I’ll be talking with someone, and my sense of familiarity will vanish — and not gradually but in a millisecond. Across from me will be sitting a uniquely embodied sentience, gazing at me as if nothing could be more natural, gesturing and emitting sounds that somehow still make a certain sense to something in me — something that seemingly operates all by itself, even as what’s left of everyday me wonders from afar how I can possibly come up with any response, let alone a fitting one. What immediately follows is that I don’t feel myself generating any response — instead, …..
It’s my first time in an ambulance. I’m in extreme physical and existential agony. My upper left chest, my left-side ribs and arm are massively aching with a deadly intensity. The paramedics are very quickly working on me, to determine if I’m having a heart attack. I am, they say. I am groaning, crying, enduring, too squeezed and crushed to scream, teetering at a very dark edge, unable to breathe or make any movement on my left side — it’s as if an enormously heavy steel boot is pressing down on my left chest. Only a few minutes ago I was standing in front of our house, slammed …..
Once Life’s inherent insecurity has become inescapably obvious to us, regardless of the myriad ways we have of securing and comforting ourselves, we find ourselves at a precipice of realization, with one hand on our fear and the other on our longing to be truly free. That edge, that psychospiritual dropzone, asks not for negotiation, recoil, or premature leaps, but for steps leading — however haltingly — to a radical reevaluation and eventual embracing of insecurity. Such an embrace is no small thing, requiring as it does that we — right to our marrow — turn toward what we ordinarily would be strongly motivated to turn away from or …..
If we’re going ahead with a certain endeavor and are cut off from or otherwise oblivious to the child in us as we do so, that child — that indwelling locus of innocence, vulnerability, and prerational attunement — may be activated enough to snare our attention, including interrupting or derailing what we’re attempting to do. There’s no deliberation in this, just raw, desperate need taking over, amped up with supportive rationalizations and related self-talk. The stop-neglecting-me desire that’s going on behind the scenes and the desire to proceed with our project are two quite different forces, far more oppositional than symbiotic or cooperative, setting up an internal conflict that …..
Paralleling and distracting us from our suffering is an abundance of dysfunction in spiritual drag. This includes spiritualized greed (think so-called prosperity consciousness), spiritualized escapism (dissociation masquerading as transcendence), spiritualized narcissism (the you-can-have-it-all deification of me-ness), and other forms of spiritual bypassing — meaning the use of spiritual beliefs and practices to distract us from our pain, our relational hassles, and our developmental challenges. And at the same time, there coexists a highly functional — and, not surprisingly, far less popular — spirituality, one that neither exploits nor bypasses, but is robustly grounded in deliberate intimacy with all that we are. In this spirituality, love, awareness, …..
Many of us are attached to believing that everything happens for a reason. But many things actually happen, arguably including incarnation, simply because various factors have, through their mutual intersecting and interactions — that is, through their inherent interrelatedness, overlappings, and cross-pollination — made such manifestation inevitable. Each of these factors has its factors, and so on, back and back and back, in surpassingly complex contingency. This, all put together in a causal context, makes for something far more real than “a reason.” We may not want to fully acknowledge the contingent nature of whatever arises — including us — trying instead to assign some kind of meaning …..
Know your conditioning inside out. This means being very familiar with your personal history, recognizing whatever wounding you carry (and how you tend to compensate for it), seeing how and where your conditioning has made your choices, and how and where it is still running you. Breaking your conditioning’s grip on you won’t erase it, but will put you in a position where you’re not at its mercy, being able to relate not from it but to it. You’ll likely need the help of a good therapist to do this well. A good place to begin is to take a reactive pattern you have and — when you’re not feeling …..
Our inner critic is like a mosquito. Mosquitos can be irritating when they get close, and may even overwhelm us when they get really close, filling us with their buzzing and sucking and irritating presence. But when we deal skillfully with our inner critic, it becomes not much more than a mosquito on the far side of the room, almost out of hearing, not able to mess with us, not able to shame us. When your inner critic kicks in, what’s immediately helpful is to name it as such: “My inner critic is here” (or state the name you have given it). Then take a few deep breaths, softening your belly, …..