Brigit Anna McNeill’s Prose on “Winter”

“We are approaching the threshold of winter.

Life is being drawn into the earth, painlessly descending down into the very heart of herself.

And we as natural human animaljessicaboehmanearthpic.jpgs are being called to do the same, the pull to descend into our bodies, into sleep, darkness and the depths of our own inner caves continually tugging at our marrow.

But many find the descent into their own body a scary thing indeed, fearing the unmet emotions and past events that they have stored in the dark caves inside themselves, not wanting to face what they have so carefully and unkindly avoided.

This winter solstice time is no longer celebrated as it once was, with the understanding that this period of descent into our own darkness was so necessary in order to find our light. That true freedom comes from accepting with forgiveness and love what we have been through and vanquishing the hold it has on us, bringing the golden treasure back from the cave of our darker depths.

This is a time of rest and deep reflection, a time to wipe the slate clean as it were and clear out the old so you can walk into spring feeling ready to grow and skip without a dusty mountain on your back & chains around your ankles tied to the caves in your soul.

A time for the medicine of story, of fire, of nourishment and love.

A period of reconnecting, relearning & reclaiming of what this time means brings winter back to a time of kindness, love, rebirth, peace and unburdening instead of a time of dread, fear, depression and avoidance.

This modern culture teaches avoidance at a max at this time; alcohol, lights, shopping, overworking, over spending, bad food and consumerism.

And yet the natural tug to go inwards as nearly all creatures are doing is strong and people are left feeling as if there is something wrong with them, that winter is cruel and leaves them feeling abandoned and afraid. Whereas in actual fact winter is so kind, yes she points us in her quiet soft way towards our inner self, towards the darkness and potential death of what we were, but this journey if held with care is essential.

She is like a strong teacher that asks you to awaken your inner loving elder or therapist, holding yourself with awareness of forgiveness and allowing yourself to grieve, to cry, rage, laugh, & face what we need to face in order to be freed from the jagged bonds we wrapped around our hearts, in order to reach a place of healing & light without going into overwhelm.

Winter takes away the distractions, the noise and presents us with the perfect time to rest and withdraw into a womb like love, bringing fire & light to our hearth.”

  • illustration by Jessica Boehman
  • words Brigit Anna McNeill
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Sunday Chuckles

I am a fan of NASA’s Facebook page because they post such amazing images of our solar system and beyond.  So this morning, they posted this fantastic image of Jupiter up close and personal; and it got personal to a few folks out there which made for some much needed laughter.

nasalodo987.jpg  NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration

 “Inkblot test!    What do you see in this image by NASA’s Juno Mission to Jupiter? We keep finding new shapes hidden in Jupiter’s swirling clouds. Look closer: https://go.nasa.gov/2qMt8ih

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To which the viewership responded in hilarious fashion:

  • Scott Dew I see our lord and savior Cthulu
    • ( according to Urban Dictionary: “A character in Lovecraft’s tale ‘The Call of Cthulhu’. Cthulhu is a monstrous entity who lies “dead but dreaming” in the city of R’lyeh, a place of non-Euclidean madness presently (and mercifully) sunken below the depths of the Pacific Ocean.Cthulhu appears in various monstrous and demonic forms in early myths of the human race.”)
  • Марио Колев Here come the religious people, even if their god is fictional….
  • Daniel Harden It’s a lady giving a Velociraptor the Heimlich.
  • Liz Gaffney Air quality in Los Angeles right about now due to fires. (So sorry California.)
  • David Jobling I’m not religious but I can see the full nativity here, which is a bit of a head trip.
  • Arun Krishnarayan A Bird of prey on the right and Gandalf with a bad cold.
    And at the bottom is a shark with a wide open mouth & woman lying face down in the middle.
  • Saranda Tessera The only true god is Zeus.  Scripture tells us so. Anyway the picture of Jupiter (Latin for Zeus) is breathtaking. What a chaotic creation.
  • Steve Parkinson Keep your sky pixie nonsense off scientific fact pages please.

At least the comments made me chuckle. 🙂

Our minds constantly associate familiar memories to objects and items that we are unfamiliar with in an attempt to identify the threat or safety of them before we proceed further in encountering them. And likewise, if you want to see something that others may not see in a burnt piece of toast, you will do so mainly because you are looking for it no matter where you look.

Unimaginatively I see an amazing image of Jupiter’s atmosphere with wild weather interactions.  (But I totally concur about the lady giving a Velociraptor the Heimlich–it’s clear as day.)

The River of Feelings

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“There is a river of feelings within us, and every drop of water in that river is a feeling. To observe our feelings, we sit on the bank of the river and identify each feeling as it flows by. It may be pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. One feeling lasts for a while, and then another comes. Meditation is to be aware of each feeling. Recognize it, smile to it, look deeply into it, and embrace it with all our heart. If we continue to look deeply, we discover the true nature of that feeling, and we are no longer afraid, even of a painful feeling. We know we are more than our feelings, and we are able to embrace each feeling and take good care of it.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh
Photo: © Yvonne D. Williams

For some reason this Thich Nhat Hanh quote stuck in my head when I read it because I know what he is referring to—I’ve felt it myself—the stepping out of intense feeling, no matter how painful it may be, and simply watching it flow over us as we remain sitting on the bank in silence before the enormity of the water passing through on its journey elsewhere.

If you aren’t sitting a part from it on the bank, that “River of Feelings” is a flow we continually ride—sometimes in a kayak gliding above the water and sometimes in an inner-tube with half our body immersed into it.kayakriverswirl67.jpg

So for us to say that we do not “feel” something emotionally is to say that we are riding the kayak as we skim the waves while still feeling the froth of turbulence. We may bob around a bit with emotion, but we’ve elevated our heads above the water and as long as we remain upright, we know that we won’t drown.

Inversely, when we are immersed in the feeling, we become the feeling and may struggle for our lives; clinging tightly to our inner-tube to keep our heads above water—for fear it drowns us with wave after wave of intense, gut-clenching emotion.

tube on river67Grief is an inner-tube type feeling. So is rage. It’s easy to be swamped when you immerse yourself in those feelings.

Some would say depression is such a feeling, but I believe that depression isn’t really a feeling as much as it is the result of losing the inner-tube completely and accumulating body fatigue from continually treading water without relief in sight.

So what is the difference between riding the kayak and sitting on the bank?

The kayak provides an experiential option for riding the feelings we naturally have during the course of our lives. It gives us buoyancy and distance from the worst of the emotional waves sloshing about us.

The bank is an entirely different perspective on emotional impaction. From the bank you do not participate in the feeling, you only observe it as it comes and goes, and try not to judge its rightness or wrongness; its power or onriverbank45.jpgaffectation on you.  You acknowledge it as it impacts you and note what is being felt, but you let it go—you let it move on and away without clinging to it—without wallowing in it or calling it back to re-experience, over and over.

It’s not easy sitting on the bank and observing your own river of feelings; and sometimes it’s hard to even find a kayak from which to navigate the powerful river of emotions that we feel.  At times when life takes a tumultuous turn for us, we feel fortunate enough to simply have that inner-tube to help keep our heads above the overwhelming waves.

What I think Thick Nhat Hanh was saying in this quote is that observing from the bank (meditation) is the far safer option for dealing with intense feelings, because it allows the greatest perspective on the river of emotion itself that we must experience over the course of our lives.

As humans, we will have good days and bad ones—people will come to us and then leave us through disagreements, grievances or death.

During the course of our lives, we make efforts to achieve or acquire what we do not have, and those efforts are sometimes successful and sometimes not.

We love and we lose love.

We agree and disagree with others, and feel both great joy and great fear at many aspects of life, including our own mortality.

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But during the course of our lives, that river of feelings flows on and on, over familiar ground or new ground—but it keeps moving onward until we individually feel no more and merge again with the Great Ocean of Consciousness that logs “all feelings” as simply a part of the living experience.

So keep your inner-tube always handy, and find a kayak when you can do so to keep your head higher above the waves; but if possible, try instead the view from the bank for its safer, broader perspective, and simply allow that emotional river to flow on by without judgment or clinging.

I know—easier said than done—but it IS possible to do it. Trust me on this one.

 

The VICTIM or the WORLD

“So the question is fundamentally, do you define yourself as a victim of the world, or the world?”  – Alan Watts watts meaing oflife56.jpg

Here in this short video narrated by Alan Watts,  he asks “What does it mean to spiritually awaken?”

video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7blUYJm6i-c

“So then, here’s the drama. My metaphysics, let me be perfectly frank with you, are that there is the central Self, you could call it God you could call it anything you like. And it’s all of us. It’s playing all the parts of all beings whatsoever everywhere and anywhere. And it’s playing the game of hide and seek with itself. It gets lost, it gets involved in the farthest out adventures but in the end it always wakes up, and comes back to itself. And when you’re ready to wake up, you’re gonna wake up. And if you’re not ready, you’re gonna stay pretending that you’re poor little me.”   – Alan Watts

Alan Watts is always interesting to hear; and his take on enlightenment is more direct and sometimes more cutting than the often gentle approaches of Eckhart Tolle or Deepak Chopra.  But Watts is usually pretty clear and concise in his talks.

watts univers quote.jpgHe gets to the point quickly, but with more ‘attitude,’ I guess you could call it, than the others. (Some might call it an ‘entertainer’s ego’. Others might say he simply loved to poke fun at others who claimed to be “enlightened,” as well as poking fun at himself for his “polished spokesmanship” on the many subjects that he discussed.)

His online biography is interesting and quite colorful. He died in 1973 at the age of 58, but his influence lives on in all the YouTube videos that are broadly shared throughout social media. He has presently entered a resurgence of popularity for his sharp frankness and critique of religious institutions in general.

His second video listed here is called “How to Wake Up”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAQ4FuKlY9g

I personally find it helpful to sample all the flavors of enlightenment that others offer to us. Perhaps our own personalities respond best to one over the others.

To me as an energy worker, the feel of listening to Watts is not as peace-inducing as Tolle’s more soft and gentle approach.  Watts affect is more like stepping naked onto the shower floor and then turning on the water—where the first blast sprayed from the showerhead is cold and shocking before the warmer water rises through the pipes.

But in the 1960’s and 70’s—during the rise of the ‘Flower Children,’ he was the man to hear.

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Eckhart Tolle on “The Dark Night of the Soul” Experience

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mpybTfz6rU

tollemictalk.jpgIn this short video, the questioner asks about his personal experience with ‘the dark night of the soul’ (which I thought was the most powerful part of this video and the main reason that I listed it here) and his sudden spiritual awakening because of that complete reality break.

The questioner then asks Eckhart about that ‘merging into Allness’ experience that he was suddenly immersed in where he lost his sense of identity and watched himself and his thoughts as they arose, as though they were separate from him.  Eckhart briefly mentions his own DNOS experience and then comments on the aspect of mind expansion into Allness and total awareness.

Eckhart then comments with a well-used quote on the nature of awareness itself: “The Tao that can be spoken of is not the true Tao.”

Awareness is indescribable, incomprehensible.  We experience only minute portions of the pool of total awareness.  Our personal comprehension of awareness pertains mainly to sensing our own life experience—how we perceive the world around us and ourselves in relationship to that world and to all the aspects of it, living and non.mysssarknightquote653

The thoughts we have about our personal experience are only our ego trying to make sense of its existence within the matrix portion of awareness that our human sense-making organ (our individual mind) can comprehend.  When we surpass our personal boundaries and tap into the Greater Awareness, we no longer THINK—we simply observe and ride the flow wherever it goes.  We don’t compare experiences for goodness or badness. We simply observe them as they arise.

We input without judgment or expectation or anticipation or attempts to define anything.

It can be an amazing experience of peacefulness and lovingness.  And it can also make you feel like you are losing it completely.spiritawaken67

So I like to temper my descriptions of the spiritual awakening or the Kundalini awakening experience with bits of how disruptive it can also be to your normal daily affairs and relationships.  If you listen to Eckhart, it took him years to come back to our mutual-consensus reality, and even then it was never fully back to the life that he once knew.  He was forever changed—for the better maybe, but let me tell you from my own experience, getting to that BETTER may not be an easy slog.

So be careful with your own spiritual awakening practices. Make sure you have a support team around to help you back from your space launch so you don’t burn up in the atmosphere on reentry.  Yes, some ‘dark nights of the soul’ (if they don’t kill you) can lead to kundalini awakening and reunion with the Oneness and Allness from which we emerged. But they can also be grueling, gauntlet-running, sanity-testing, limits-of-your-endurance experiences that are handled best if not faced alone.  ramdassdark night.jpg

I think in today’s world the hazards of sudden spiritual awakening are more broadly understood than a few decades ago, but there are few who have not personally experienced it for themselves who will ever relate to how bad it can get before it gets better. So if you are going through your own ‘dark night of the soul,’ look for others who can best help you through it.

That’s why I’m writing about it now.

 

On the Nature of Consciousness

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In this video Deepak Chopra, MD, and Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD., were discussing “the Nature of Consciousness” in front of a large in-house audience. https://www.facebook.com/1975293189394717/videos/2006140909643278/

Kabat-Zinn was talking about his parents who, through their own careers and pursuits, kabatzinnport.jpgboth held very separate views of what reality meant to them, and how he, as a child and then a man, used his parents’ disparate reality views to steer his own late-adolescent life into the subjects that he pursued during his academic endeavors.

If you are into meditation or meditative philosophy, you are familiar with Jon Kabat-Zinn, whose first book that I read way-back-when was Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life.

These two were talking about many of their early-academia influences such as quantum physicist David Bohm and religious scholar Huston Smith, and the Indian mystic/intellectual/philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti whose subject matter included psychological revolution, the nature of mind, meditation, and how the group psyche must evolve to meet the needs of this world now awakening. “I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. … The moment you follow someone you cease to follow Truth.” Jiddu Krishnamurti

So basically during this conversation between Chopra and Kabat-Zinn, I’m chopradialog.jpgcomprehending that all these previous influential thinkers mentioned by them provided the scaffolding from which each of them constructed their own personal views on life in general, and showed them how best to perceive and interpret this reality experience for themselves.  They each created their version of reality through the influence of others who had previously affected them in some way—a newly shared perspective perhaps—a new way of thinking or considering the world around us.

And while I’m writing this, I realize that I’m doing the very same thing in my blog posts—I’m charting the history of my early influences and how my personal philosophy now reflects those influences and the thoughts first expressed long ago by others. Perhaps most of us are mere synthesizers of other’s original thought.  Possible, I suppose.  Or there is NO original thought, just periods of time in which that thought surfaces for consideration from various humanpreceiverconscious.jpgreceptors of consciousness who interpret it in their own ways.

So back to the nature of reality and consciousness: Here you have two meditation masters discussing the process and benefits of meditation, but also how reality is a personal creationan intention of how you focus your consciousness.  Okay but…..

 So what is consciousness?  (I thought that’s what they were suppose to discuss but didn’t.)

What is consciousness?  Wow—that’s a tough one (which must be why they didn’t get into specifics), other than to say consciousness is awareness of self and the greater surroundings.

Awareness is simply sentience—the ability to feel, perceive, or experience.

But interpretation of that awareness is what shifts the perception to judgment or opinion, and makes for subjective reality, which is how each of us interprets the reality experience for ourselves.

the-nature-of-human-consciousness.jpgSo then does that mean that the nature of consciousness is simply the aware observer observing that whatever is, IS? 

Or is consciousness an infinite ocean of Allness from which our meager perceptive abilities can sample only droplets at a time without flooding our sensing mechanisms (blowing our minds)?

I think Eckhart Tolle referred to this previously somewhere, that consciousness is NOT a “thing”—it is EVERYTHING—ALLNESS—the Source of us individually and ALL other possibilities.

Consciousness is that infinite, ever-present ocean—ever churning, ever pulsing, ever being, wave after wave, in indescribable vastness and indeterminable immensity—substance, void, material and non, presence, imfiniteocean56.jpgessence, simply ALL possibilities both imaginable and inconceivable.  

For humans, consciousness refers to our material processes of being alive and aware of our surroundings, including the awareness of ourselves.

But consciousness in general is indefinable and indistinguishable from what we refer to as God or Source.

No wonder Chopra and Kabat-Zinn avoided the details on the nature of consciousness in that hour discussion.

 

The Pretender

Sure, I could SO go there!

The obvious reference to this title would be the brooding hulk occupying the oval-office desk chair; when he’s not on the golf course, that is.anatomymiraclebookcov.jpg

But I was actually referring to a Jonathan Miles book I had just completed called Anatomy of a Miracle: A Novel*—The True* Story of a Paralyzed Veteran, a Mississippi Convenience Store, a Vatican Investigation, and the Spectacular Perils of Grace (with TRUE being the questionable descriptor in this story because it is, after all, a novel—meaning a work of fiction).

So my biggest question at the end of the story was is the book actually based on verified facts or is it simply fabrication pretending to be based on actual accounts?  I still can’t determine that, but I’m guessing it is fiction that reads like fact because we want it to do so.

jonmilesauthor.jpgAs the NY Times review suggested:  “…the genre that Miles is aping applies fiction’s methods to real-life stories, “Anatomy of a Miracle” offers the Victor-Victoria frisson of watching a novel impersonate a work of journalism impersonating a novel. It’s a difficult balancing act that Miles for the most part pulls off, and his book is best appreciated as a highly entertaining literary performance.”

Personally, I thought it was an astounding character study exploring the ulterior motives of everyone involved in the telling of a paralyzed vet’s miracle of suddenly rising from parkinglotstorefronthis wheelchair after four years of confinement to it–and doing so in the parking lot of the Biz-E-Bee convenience store in Biloxi, Mississippi while he waited for his helicoptering sister, Tanya, to purchase their daily smokes, beer, and Cap’n Crunch.

I’m always in awe of a skilled writer, and Miles is so gifted: intellectually, philosophically, and linguistically. He makes me want to study his techniques for topic exposition and subject exploration—how he carefully weaves the plotline into the unraveling research directions of the phenomenon; not to mention what an amazing perceiver/recorder of human nature that he is.

Then I went to the Amazon reviews of his book and was astounded by the depth or more appropriately, lack thereof, in the reviewer’s comments on it, and thought can people really be that shallow that they missed the point entirely?

biloximisscar.jpgA novel is far more than plotline. This was social comment all the way. Anatomy of a Miracle was an astute observation on what makes an unexplainable, sudden change in the human condition considered a miracle—with the word “miracle” implying an intervention by a force greater than ourselves.  Even the Vatican gets involved in considering the incident as such primarily because of reasons far too shadow-dependent to call it a holy vindication of God’s possible hand in the healing process.

But what does this sudden life change mean to the protagonist who has supposedly received this amazing proof of God’s Divine grace now bestowed upon him? And how vetchairflag.jpgdoes it likewise affect all those closest to him? As the camera pans out from the now-standing vet with the twitching legs, to how everyone around him interprets what has happened to him, and most importantly—how each proximal character determines in their own way what this supposed miracle means to each of them—how others try to use this strange phenomenon for their own personal motives—use it as their own vehicles to a personal lifestyle change for themselves also—use it to substantiate their own faith or belief in the possibility of miracles existing; and how this phenomenal  situation benefits/affects individuals, institutions, and cultural trends in general as it becomes simply the commercializing of miraculousness.

money god miracles.jpgOne of those key questions seems to be:  “What’s the quantity of dollars you can make from a miracle, directly or peripherally?

The other key question seems to be “How can I personally cash in on that guy’s ‘miracle’?”

I called this post “The Pretender” not because the protagonist faked the miraculous regrowth of his spinal cord that allowed him to stand up out of that wheelchair in the Biz-E-Bee parking lot, but because during the process of all those people so closely scrutinizing his life, he finally stood up for the person that he was pretending NOT to be all those years prior.

He simply stopped pretending to be something other than who and what he was. That was a miracle in itself.