Monday, February 28, 2011

The Currents of Quality ...


Lake Willoughby, 20 seconds
Originally uploaded by Zeb Andrews

Further exploration of Quality in the Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance have found me titilated ( a word I NEVER use !) -- like feeling tiny fibers on the very edges of my physical body that touch my auric body that touch the densities in the space all around me.

This was ever present during an early morning conversation today with W, my longest standing friendship (we've known one another since I was 15). He and I can go years without talking, without emails or any form of contact and then, like our talk today, we re-connect without a tinge of awkwardness or discomfort, just an easing in to where we left off, as if the pause button was simply re-tapped to bring us timelessly back into whatever discussion we were previously having.

These currents of Quality were vibrant as my friend shared a poignant story with me about his beloved, who he will be legally marrying over Memorial Day Weekend in D.C. -- an event that I will be attending and finally getting to meet his other half in person. I asked how they met and he shared about the fact that they were the only single men on an African safari trip and wound up being roomed together. They became close, stayed in touch (my friend lives and works in the Middle East; his partner is in the States) and then 7 months later, my friend's mother becomes very ill. He flies to the States and has a brief layover in the State where his now partner lives. In route, he is informed that his mother has died. He has no clothes for a funeral. He relays this message to his partner. It is early evening on New Year's Eve and the likelihood of anything being open is slim. When my friend lands and arrives, he is met by his partner who has managed to find him 2 suits, 3 black ties, and 2 pairs of shoes to choose from. He has also finagled a tailor to remain open on New Year's Eve so that my friend can have the suit of his choosing altered so that he can present his best self at his mother's funeral. My friend makes the statement: "I simply have no words to describe the way this man loves me." It was in that moment I closed my eyes briefly, just aware of the vibration in the room, all around me. It was not emanating from me, nor from my friend on the phone, but rather it just was ...

I shared with my friend that no words were necessary to describe this love; the love, instead, had described itself.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Non-questing of Quality ...


Castle of Beynac - 1
Originally uploaded by Ben Heine

I am reading the cult-classic philosophy book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It's the homework assignment for my advanced study class in our non-dual healing school. I tried reading this a little over 20 yrs ago when I was newly sober and nothing in it made sense. Sporting a different set of lenses (and aquiring another 2 decades of life wisdom) I am both delighting and wrestling with the concepts the narrator proposes as ways of looking at the world, which include the notion that everything we see is not real because each thing is a construct of our mind. Still having trouble wrapping my brain around that one.

We were assigned this book because it is the perfect companion, I feel, to our non-dual work -- with a particular emphasis on Quality.
What resonated with me in this book is the idea that Quality is neither objective nor subjective but instead is a 3rd entity. We have practices and healings in the body of our teachings which enable us to experience this "3rd thing" . We get to "it" by not questing or efforting but rather in "allowing". It often involves the holding of 2 things simultaneously, which gives way to a 3rd thing arising. This is what the author, Robert Pirsig, is suggesting through his primary character's stance about quality : to hold the idea of objective and subjective will allow for a 3rd entity to surface --- this is Quality and it cannot necessarily be defined concretely or identified sensorily. It is akin to what my teacher sometimes refers to as "is-ness".

I chose the photo for this entry in an attempt to experience the 3rd entity of quality. An objective viewer who looked at this for photo excellence would certainly deem it, I believe, as having quality. The subjective eye which is drawn to the ethereal beauty of how the photographer captured this scene would likely find this to be quality.
So ... I stood in front of this photo and held and nested these opposing forces: objective quality and subjective quality, using the words: "composition" and "beauty" . After a few minutes, the photo disappeared from the experience. A wave, a rush of feeling went from my toes, expanding my chest area ... this was still the after currents of the subjective experience of its beauty ... and then, a shimmering stillness ... the sensation I experience when engaged in impersonal movement or in the midst of a healing.

It was essentially effortless to do this. All that was required was a willingness to experience, be witness to what bubbled up to reveal itself. It lasted but a few moments, perhaps not even 30 seconds.

There is no longer an object that is my focus as I write in this moment. There is a lived experience that occupied this space that is lingering. I feel the pulsing of Life here. There is a movement that is greater than this space that I have had my big toe in.

I have no more words ...

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Difference Project ...


El├ęgance
Originally uploaded by krysmo

I have been on an extended writing hiatus. Busy schedule, full life and not much in the way of real contemplative time. Not too shabby on one hand; a noticeable void on the other hand. Not devoting time to writing is like taking off from the gym because I walk a lot in between appointments. There is a difference between the two realms. Writing for me is a necessary pausing -- to reflect, to dig in and around, to reach, to explore. There is intention and I am very present.

I watched a video 2 days ago posted on my non-dual healing teacher's website, enlightment online, http://www.en-on.com. He makes a suggestion to the audience to do something for a week --- to let people be exactly who they are. On the surface, sounds like a no-brainer. But, if I get very honest and real about this proposition, it is a very uncomfortable, scary undertaking. Because this alcoholic has expectations of how things and people should be. And when they are "different", I can get squirmy and anxious and feel my history being activated.

Nonetheless, I have embarked on this mission.

You are to do this with a co-hort, someone you can be accountable to so that you each may share your progress, your struggles and your observations of how you are allowing for difference, letting people be themselves. My co-hort is another alcoholic, who I have come to know well in my local AA community.

Yesterday was Day 1 of the Difference Project.

My first opportunity was sitting in a classroom meeting 8 students at a new university that I have began to teach at this semester -- a social work seminar class to accompany their field placement experience. The first person I met was a Latina young lady. I watched her size me up. I watched myself do the same back. Another Latina woman sat next to her. They began to converse in Spanish. I felt a pang of discomfort, then judgment and paranoia: "This is what these people do when they're around non-Spanish speaking people. How rude ! I bet they're talking about me." As soon as I caught wind of my stinkin thinkin, I settled back down into myself and remembered the mission of this project. When I could do this, let these women be who they are, I felt a wide smile form inside. The "left out" feeling literally left. I took in their chatter with curiosity. They smiled back at me from time to time. And then, they began to talk in English and included me. What an interesting shift...

Several more students entered the space. Two white young ladies accompanied by a white male. He darted about very quickly and I watched him chug-a-lugging an energy drink. Another judgment popped up: "He's all hyped up on that stuff, what a handful he's gonna be." Again, I stopped. Paused. "Let him be ..." An African American woman entered very bubbly and extended her hand to me. It was a warm exchange. Lastly, another white girl and an older African woman came in. The African woman had a very thick accent. Another wrinkle in my system was here: "It's gonna be hard understanding her and they can be so pushy. I worked with plenty of them." I literally in my head said to myself: STOP. RIGHT. NOW.

And I began class, having sorted through my judgments and places of non-acceptance, seated on my tush of welcoming difference.

The class unfolded beautifully. There was a richness and an aliveness that my teacher said we would surely experience if we gave this project a go. Each person was indeed a mystery that I wanted to unwrap. I wanted to be surprised. I felt open to receiving each one.

I learned the most from the African woman. She had a great deal of invaluable life experience that makes her an asset to her current field placement. I was pleasantly surprised to see the struggle of one of the white girls and the white male, as I would often expect them to be the ones to excel through my biased, prejudiced lenses. I was tickled to hear the eloquence of one of the Latina girls as she spoke in broken English; while her speech was not perfect, her understanding of the clientele at her field placement was spot-on.

The same kinds of experiences continued to happen during my night class. I giggled aloud and was connected in ways to these students that I had not yet allowed myself to because of how their difference became a barrier rather than a gateway.

Lastly, I was the most challenged to be steeped in this mission in a text exchange with the woman I love last evening. To fully accept her where she is. To simply receive and hear her as she briefly shared how she is working through something, which could not yet be shared with me, because it is not yet known to her. I rode out waves of my history and our history in relationship. Not straying from the mission of this Difference Project, I stayed open and curious. "Let her be quiet. Let her find her way. This is not personal. This is not a rejection. This is not her abandoning connection to you. This is her journey. She runs, then returns. Let her go..." And that is exactly what I did.

I look forward to seeing the unraveling of the mystery that she is too.

And, I can't wait to see who and what today brings my way ...